Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wedding dress cupcakes

This weekend I was celebrating the upcoming nuptials of a good friend of mine. It's lovely to see two people that are so wonderful together getting married. This is one of those couples that serve as almost a way-mark for a healthy relationship. In fact I know more than one inspirational couple that got engaged recently. This particular friend is a brilliant combination of practical, hard-working, optimistic and well-balanced and I don't mind telling you that on several occasions during my relationship I have considered what she might do in any given situation when making choices. So now I'm gushing a bit but it is sweet to see people getting their happily ever after.

In celebration of this wonderful occasion I wanted to gift my friend with a special treat and, when asked, she specifically requested red velvet cupcakes. Therefore I present my red velvet wedding dress cupcakes...

The cream cheese frosting has the perfect texture and finish to look silky smooth on the outside while sitting like the skirt on a dress that has been put down and it bunched up on itself.

You will need:
Gum paste
short lollipop sticks
pearl 100s & 1000s
thing ribbon ( in your choice of colour)
a flower press
a rolling pin
corn starch
thick icing and a piping bag
a cutting tool
a ball ended tool
Cake simmer sprinkles
a small paint brush
+ ingredients as listed below

The red velvet cupcakes

275g Plain flour
25g Good quality cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
115g butter (at room temperature)
150g white caster sugar
150g brown caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 whole egg + 2 egg yolks
200ml milk
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp Natural yoghurt
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
2 tsp red food colouring

1- Preheat the oven to 170'/325'/Gas mark 3.
2- Sieve together the flour, baking soda, cocoa and salt.
3- In a separate jug whisk together the milk, yoghurt and lemon juice. Then add the vinegar and let it sit.
4- In a third bowl, or a stand mixer (I know we're making lots of washing up here!), beat together the butter, sugars and vanilla essence
5- Add the eggs and a tiny bit of the flour to the eggs and beat until smooth
6- Add the red food colouring to the milk mixture. (Side note: this WILL look disgusting-don't be put off).
7- Slowly add the milk mixture and the flour mixture to the sugar and eggs, alternating.
8- Line your muffin tin with cupcake papers and fill each up to half way with mixture and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the sponge springs back when pressed.

The key to my cream cheese frosting has been documented here and the recipe is simple

260g cream cheese
100g Butter
600g Icing sugar

Whip together the butter and cream cheese, beat in the icing sugar slowly and chill before frosting.

For these particular cupcakes I only chilled the frosting for c.10-15mins because I wanted it too be less firm and to droop over itself like the folds of a dress.

Now onto the bodices. For the bodices I used a 50/50 ratio of fondant to gum paste. I then molded them by hand, which was very entertaining as they look like Eva from Wally as you mold them.

To mold the bodices, take a 1" diameter round of fondant mixture and form a cyclinder. Then using a ball ended tool start to push up one side of the top and form a crevasse as seen here. Push down the centre to form a heart shape on the higher part and then smooth the whole thing out.

Then insert a short lollipop stick into the base

Then on the back slice a shallow line vertically running in line with the stick and then push the sides in so that the line is visible but does not cut in.

Using the icing pipe tiny dots, one of each side of the cut line down the back of the bodice. While they are still wet stick a pear 100&1000 onto each dot and let this dry

Mix together some gum paste and red food colouring and then roll out the coloured gum paste dusting it with corn starch to prevent sticking. Then cut tiny flowers with your flower press cutter.
Dust off the corn starch and leave to dry. Then you can add colour accents with more food colour and a little paint brush.

With your icing pipe a tiny line around the middle and stick on your ribbon. Then use the flower to decorate the ribbon and again leave this to dry

Finally to assemble, pipe your frosting onto your cupcake in a spiral from the center until you have reached the edge and then build up to a peak. Then sprinkle the 'skirt' with some cake simmer sprinkles. Finally insert your bodice into the center and then present to your bride to be, yourself or a couple friends and enjoy =)

To my bride-to-be friend/s, wishing you all the happiness and joy that your marriage deserves

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fluffer-nutter Blondies - my love affair with marshmallow continues

The heat is on around here the last week or so. I hesitate to call it a heat-wave because the temperature hasn't really gone above 30'. However, everyone is feeling it, mostly because it never really heats up here. Whenever it does I am reminded of living in the states during the summer. The heat, the humidity, the sound of crickets and the glow of fireflies. I'm even nostalgic for the hum of the air-conditioning and the whir of the fan. During the height of the summer in America I slept with both the air-con and the fan on, which when combined with the crickets and the constant purring of my little furry friend mad for some noisy nights, but I loved it!! Nowadays I sometime replicate that sound with noise maker apps on hot summer nights and I sleep like a baby.

So with the combination of heat and humidity this week and the opportunity to attend a party in the house of someone who grew up state side, I knew I would have to bake something truly evocative of that fascinating nation. I found inspiration in the blog of not your mommas cookie but decided to go with a different recipe for ease of handling and the outcome was somewhat addictive.

Wanna bite?

To make these I started with a basic blondie recipe and then added reeses peanut chips and mini marshmallows to give the fluffernutter flavour. Other recipes call for peanut butter in the batter but I find that peanut butter is such a strong flavour that it overpowers the whole blondie. However the affect of the chip is that some bites taste of peanut butter while others have that delicious treacle essence of brown sugar.

Fluffer-nutter Blondies

300g soft brown sugar
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Salt
110g unsalted butter
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla essence
90g mini marshmallows
85g peanut butter chips

To decorate
Marshmallow fluff
chopped peanut brittle/chopped peanuts

1. Preheat the oven to 170'.
2. Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth
3. In a separate bowl sieve together the flour, salt and baking powder.
4. Add the egg yolks and vanilla to the butter and sugar, beat together
5. Beat in the flour mixture.
6. Once the dough is smooth, add the marshmallows and beat vigorously.
7. Add the chips and beat one final time.

8. Line a bread tin with greaseproof paper and spread the dough evenly
9. Bake for 50 minutes, remove, slice, seperate the slices and then bake again for another 10 minutes

10. Cool on a wire wrack before decorating with marshmallow fluff and peanut bits.

11. Oh...............and enjoy =)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Want smore biscuit cake?? (Lactose free)

For years and years I have been making versions of chocolate biscuit cake for a variety of events, The ingredients vary based on the recipients (e.g. adding Moro bars for someone whose nickname is moro, pronounced differently) but essentially the process remains the same; chocolate, biscuits, condensed milk and a couple of other essentials. The problem is that not everyone can handle condensed milk and why should a lactose allergy keep anyone from enjoying the craving fulfilling taste sensation that is ewwy gooey!!

Therefore I present for your dietary restricted enjoyment..........

Lactose-free Smores biscuit cake (adapted from Eric Landlard's honeycomb squares)
(makes 24)

225g Butter
4 tbsp Golden syrup
4 tbsp Granulated Sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
400g Dark Chocolate
300g Rich tea biscuits
300g Digestive biscuits (ensure these have no milk whey powder - eg Jacobs low-fat ones)

50g Dark Chocolate (melted)
3tbsp Marshmallow fluff

Melt the butter in a saucepan, while you break the chocolate into little pieces and crush the biscuits in a plastic bag. You want there to be a mixture of large chunks and lots of crumbs.

 Once the butter is melted add the sugar and golden syrup and stir until all the sugar has disappeared and the mixture is starting to bubble up the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate.

Mix thoroughly until all the chocolate has melted and then add the biscuits. Mix thoroughly until all the biscuit is covered, then cut up 100g marshmallow and mix thoroughly.

At this stage you will be very tempted to just eat the whole thing with a spoon, the chocolate is so shiney and melted, the marshmallows will be slightly melted and I won't lie to you.....I took a sample or two..... to quality test it of course ;)

Line a roasting dish with cling-film and pour in the mixture. Cover with cling-film and wrap tightly before chilling in the fridge at least an hour or over-night if possible.

Remove from the fridge and melt the final 50g of dark chocolate. Turn out the biscuit cake and plate upside down. Spoon out small chunks of marshmallow fluff and smear over the top. Using a tiny piping bag dribble the melted dark chocolate over the top. Then slice and as always enjoy =)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Macaroons - (almost) sugar free and so tasty that even coconut haters will fall

Normally at this time of year I want to make nothing more than home-made jam and macarons. This year is no real exception but some days need something different. This week I went to a BBQ and brought some delicious double chocolate chip cookies but I also wanted to bring something a little healthier and decided to go for macaroons.

Coconut is extremely healthy. It's reportedly antiviral, antibacterial and anti-parasitic. The oils in coconut are excellent for hair and nail growth. It's chock full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It's also known for anti-aging and antioxidant properties. So all in all, there's an excuse there for anyone to eat it.

These macaroons are really easy to make and almost sugar free. They went down such a treat at the party that I didn't manage to save any, but photos will follow, because trust me I will be making more.

(Almost) Sugar-Free Coconut Macaroons

500g Shredded coconut
100g Ground Almonds
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp Caster Sugar
10g Stevia
250g 60-70% Dark Chocolate

Preheat the oven to 160'C. Beat your egg whites and cream of tartar until peaks form. Slowly beat in your caster sugar and stevia and continue to beat until you have formed a stiff peaks. Mix together the coconut and ground almonds and then fold into the meringue. Scoop into 1/2 balls on a cookie sheet and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the outside it nicely brown and crispy. Then cool on a wire rack. 

Melt 3/4 of the chocolate over hot water, once the first part is melted, remove from the heat and add the rest of the chocolate and mix until melted. Dip the bases of the macaroons in the chocolate and smooth with a spatula before drying upside down on the wire rack. Once the chocolate has set, serve and enjoy =)

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...