Monday, October 29, 2012

An Easy Cheat to a Tasty Treat - 20 minute cinnamon buns

Last week I was speaking about the importance of taking me time; to bake and relax even when you are very busy. I stand by this position and I believe that it is possible to make time for the important and mentally healthy things in life. That said, sometimes you can only make a little time ;)

Therefore I shall explore something fast but delicious that will simultaneously fill the need to bake and eat delicious home cooked food within a short period of time. I humbly present to you my 20 minute cinnamon buns!

The first thing you will need is dough in a can. I have explored some options based on region. In Ireland and the UK the 'Jus-Rol' company have recently released a selection of products (thin crust pizza, crusty rolls, rustic white roll) that all include a cylinder of dough preserved in a can. In the US/Canada the 'Pillsbury' company do a similar set of products (pizza crusts, breads and also whole wheat options) that involve dough in can.

Side-note: I am not claiming that these are the healthiest thing ever as all these doughs involve some preservative that I will only eat once in a while, but hey we are making cinnamon buns here, health left the building 10 minutes ago and no-one cares because....

Quick and fun Cinnamon Buns

1 Can         pre-made dough
50g            muscovado brown sugar
25g            granulated white sugar
2-3 tbsp     ground cinnamon
30ml          cream/melted butter

1 - Preheat your oven to 190'C/375'F/Gas Mark 5. Take your can of dough and open on a clean working surface/board

Open can of dough

2 - As you can see, from the above photo, the dough inside these cans is rolled. The second step is therefore to CAREFULLY unroll the dough, it will be delicate and it is important to stretch it as little as humanly possible during this stage so easy does it.

Mine was mildly stretched but as little as I could manage
3 - Sprinkle and spread around the sugars and then sprinkle on the cinnamon. Pour on the cream or melted butter and spread around. There is no need to spread too much as the rolling will spread this and the resulting sugar fat mixture can clump and leave some areas bare if over worked

4 - Carefully and slowly roll your dough back into the cylindrically shape from whence it came but now with added yum

5 - Cut into 1 inch discs and arrange inside a cake tin or baking tray with raised sides. Place your raw buns close to form a larger bread of connected buns and keep the sides of the buns soft and delicious but leave some room to expand during cooking.

Almost there now, you can almost taste them can't you?
6 - Bake the cinnamon buns for 10-15 minutes at the center of your oven. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack (remember hot sugar = not worth it). Then enjoy with or without frosting!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Spiced apple mini eclairs - a little bite of seasonal joy

I love this time of year. The changing colour of the leaves, the chill in the air, everyone wearing hats and scarves and getting to wear wool tights. It's an exciting season! There are also so many wonderful culinary delights to explore; freshly picked apples, pumpkins, squash and big beautiful sweet potatoes. That said however, it can also be quite a hectic time. The start of school and college, sports clubs and societies getting into full swing, protecting your house/car/health/kids for the winter and of course the many wonderful holidays to prepare for. It can feel like you are running from one thing to the next and it's wholly possible to miss many of the beauties that are on offer as you go. 

I think it is important to take a day or at least a few hours to yourself and immerse yourself in all that the season has to offer. It was in this very spirit that I embarked on my latest baking project. Following a brisk and energetic walk in the park where I admired the many colours of the leaves and inhaled the wonderful scent of cold air, I was inspired to capture some of the tastes of the season in a tiny sweet bite and eclairs are something I haven't made for a while. They also require some time and concentration which is perfect when one is determined to experience me time. The outcome was even better than I had expected. The sharp apple contrasts perfectly with the creme patissiere and the salted caramel rounds out the experience. Needless to say it is ill-advised to eat too many but if I'm honest that didn't stop me. Ah well, guess I'll just have to take another walk.

Just one won't hurt!

Spiced Apple mini- Eclairs

Choux pastry
 300ml water
115g unsalted butter
130g  plain flour
pinch of salt
4 eggs

Apple filling
4 cooking apples
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves

Creme Patissiere
3 egg yolks
50g white caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp plain flour
300 ml whole milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
75ml double cream

175g White Sugar
175g water
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 200'/400'/Gas mark 6. To make the eclairs put the water and butter into a saucepan and heat until the butter has melted. Bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and mix in the flour and salt. When the mixture has formed a dough, return to the heat and continue to mix for a minute of so to dry out the dough. Remove from the heat and gradually add one egg at a time, mixing thoroughly and quickly to ensure that the egg doesn't have a chance to cook before it is mixed in. Your arms will hurt doing this but persevere - it is worth it. Once all the eggs are in, scoop your mixture into a piping bag and pipe little 2" lines of dough onto a lined baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes and do not open the oven until they are done as this will affect the rise.

To make the apple filling, peel and chop your apples and mix the pieces in the lemon juice as you go to preserve the colour. Put your apple slices into a dry saucepan and put the spice on top. Do Not Mix yet. Let the apples start to stew and release juices for a minute, then mix. Continue to mix and heat until the apples have achieved the appearance of apple sauce. Remove the cloves and blitz with a hand-held blender to ensure all the lumps are gone.
  • You will notice there is no sugar in the apple filling. There will be enough sugar in the rest of the recipe and the tart taste works well so trust me.

To make the creme patissiere, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light and fluffy. Bring the milk and nutmeg to a boil in a pan. Mix the corn and plain flours into the eggs and beat thoroughly. Once the milk has boiled, carefully pour about 1/4 of it onto the eggs and beat thoroughly. You can then pour this egg and milk mixture onto the rest of the milk. Continue to whisk and heat for another few minutes until the consistency is thick but smooth. Place in a clean bowl covered in cling-film which you push onto the surface of the creme. Once cooled, whip the cream and fold into the creme patissiere.

Start the caramel as your piping your eclairs, it will help you to avoid the tempting mix. Using two piping bags fill one with apple and one with creme patissiere. For the apple bag top it with a small injection piping nozzle and use a wide nozzle for the creme. Inject the nozzle of the apple bag into the end of the eclair and pipe along the bottom on the eclair, repeat this with the creme and you will feel the eclair fill up and become heavier. Keep an eye on the caramel and swirl if necessary. Repeat this process with all the eclairs and leave to stand.

When the sugar has turned a golden brown add the butter and salt and stir until incorporated. Spoon over the eclairs just before serving. Enjoy

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Low Fat, Low Calorie Cupcake to end all cupcakes

The title of this post is bold. I am very aware of that but I stand behind this cupcake. It is my baby and it took some making but it is for everyone I have every met, known and loved who like my baking but have to say no because they are trying to eat healthy. These said same people usually give out to me for making too many delicious goodies that they cannot resist but subsequently regret when face with a pair of skinny jeans.

 To be fair they are complimenting me and I do appreciate it but I feel bad too. As a fellow workout and health food fanatic (50% of the time) I understand how they feel and I want to ease any guilt associated with enjoying my creations and hence..... the 80kcal cupcake.

80kcals!! Frosting and all
There is no mad mystery to this cake though. It's a simple alteration to a recipe that Alton Brown actually uses in his cupcake episode of 'Good Eats,'- Chiffon. This is not the cake recipe that most people use,or that I would normally use but it is perfect for health conscious individuals as it contains less flour and butter than most cakes.

The frosting is a meringue frosting and again this is a favourite among healthy types for it's use of egg whites. I injected some of my homemade strawberry jam into the centre for a little extra flavour and moisture in the centre. The overall theme was strawberries and meringue as these were made for an 'End of Summer,' party.

Strawberry and Meringue guilt-free Cupcakes

  • 150g flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 5/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 75g Caster Sugar
  • 10g Stevia
  • 60ml cup water
  • 60ml  melted butter
  • 1.5 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Preheat your oven to 170F/325C/Gas Mark 4. Then sieve together your flour, baking powder and salt. Seperate your eggs carefully and then beat the yolks with the stevia and 50g of the sugar until it is light and ribbons. Add the butter, vanilla, flour mixture and water and beat until incorporated.

In a seperate clean bowl, whisk together the egg whites and cream of tartar until you have soft peaks. Slowly pour in the 25g of sugar until it has been fully dissolved. Then add this meringue mixture to the rest of the ingredients and fold in. Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for 20-30mins.

Meringue Frosting  
  •  5 large egg whites
  • 5/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 8g Stevia
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp strawberry flavouring
  • 30ml water
Put all the ingredients in a heat-proof bowl and beat with an electric mixer. Heat a saucepan half full of water until it has reached a simmer. Submerge the bottom of your mixing bowl and continue to beat. Remove from the saucepan when all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Continue to beat for another 15 minutes until the mixture is light and smooth, like a normal meringue. Be careful not to over-beat (as you can see, I took it slightly slightly too far in this picture.)

Assembling your cupcakes and finishing touches

Once your cupcakes have cooled. Inject a small amount of home-made low sugar jam into each cupcake.
Almost there, resist the urge to dig in!

Then pipe a peak of meringue onto each cupcake and toast this using a blow-torch or even a carefully watched grill! Dust your cupcakes in a finally sprinkle of icing sugar and then stand-back and admire're eating them already?! Fair enough ;)

Nutritional Info - 1cupcake = approx. 80Kcals, 10g carbs, 2.5g protein & 100% awesome

So.........that went well......but I'm back with a bang!

At the start of the year I said that I would try to post more regularly and......yeah....that didn't happen =/ Finishing this doctorat...