Moist Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting

I can not proclaim to be a good baker, I can bake, but I could never claim it to be my favourite past time. But when it comes to special celebrations, I do like to create a cake of some sort. This year, for Justin’s cake, I went with something very simple. Nice moist chocolate cupcakes, with caramel frosting. I am not a huge fan of sweet things, so I tend to tone down on the sugary side when it comes to baking.

The secret to a really moist cupcake or cake, is fat. Souse oil instead of butter, and buttermilk instead of milk. That way, it will always be a winner. This one, I didn’t have buttermilk, so I used full cream milk.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting
(makes +- 40)

Ingredients For Cupcakes
1.5 cup cocoa
4 cup flour
4 cup castor sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
4 egg
2 cup good quality coffee
2 cup full cream milk
2 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

Caramel Frosting
2 cans caramel treat
250ml fresh cream

Method
Preheat oven to 180°C and line cupcake trays with cupcake liners.

Sift all dry ingredients together 3 times and place into your kitchen aid bowl

Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla extract and beat well, until well incorporated. Slowly add the boiling hot coffee

Fill the cupcakes liners until ¾ way full

Bake for 25 minutes.

Test if ready, prick cupcake with skewer and if it comes out clean with no mixture on, then the cupcakes are ready.

Cool completely before icing.

For the frosting, beat the cream until soft peak, add the caramel treat and beat until smooth and all incorporated.

Apple Marmalade with Rosemary & Vanilla Infused Vodka

I got a couple of packets of apples from one friend, and a bag of oranges from another…I thought well, how could I combine these two…my mind went straight to marmalade…but I wanted something different…so I thought about the vodka flavours I have been infusing, trying to come up with the perfect welcome cocktail for the wedding in January…all these thoughts brought on this…

Apple Marmalade, with Rosemary & Vanilla Infused Vodka

Firstly, you have to infuse the vodka, and let it stand for at least 3 days.

½ cup Vodka
2 Rosemary Sprigs
Place vodka and rosemary together in a glass bottle, and keep in a cool dark area

½ cup Vodka
1 Vanilla Pod, split
In a separate jar, place vodka and vanilla together, and keep in a cool dark area

Let infuse for 3 days, remove the rosemary and vanilla and pour the two flavours together. I let the combination infuse for another day.

If you not going to cook with it, add a can of Sprite and you have a beautiful refreshing drink.

Apple Marmalade

1kg Apples (mixed) – Peeled, cored & sliced
1 large Orange, sliced, seeds removed
1 Large Lemon, sliced, seeds removed
2 cups white sugar
1 cup Rosemary & Vanilla Infused Vodka
2 Sterilize Jars (Read Tandy’s Post on how to quickly sterilize glass jars)

Place the citrus slices in a pot and pour 1 – 2 cups of cold water over, just until covered. Bring to a boil, add apples to pot, add more water, just to make sure apples are covered so they do not discolour.

Bring back to a boil and reduce head, let simmer until reduced by ¼, add the sugar stir until dissolved and let reduce until at least half, and your citrus slices are soft and sticky, stir gently occasionally.

Remove from heat, pour in vodka and leave to cool.

For the scones, follow this link to my Easy Peasy Scones

And while I am about it….Lavender & Lime has a regional & seasonal challenge for the month of September…this will be my entry…oranges being my season ingredient!

5 Days of French Toast Memories – Day 3

The Tease

The memory that brought this recipe on, I was just fresh out of high school, myself, my mom, a good friend Lianna, and her mom went one Saturday morning to the RedBerry Farm in George, and had such a blast picking strawberries, you don’t have to take everything you pick, but we did. We went home, belly’s full of strawberries, and packets of strawberries, ready for my Dad to WOW us with ideas of what we could all do with our treasure.

The best part about this recipe is just how diverse it is. I used strawberries simply because they are slowly making a proper appearance again, and I absolutely love these little balls of red, juicy, sexy happiness. I shared this with my good friend Chris-Mari, over wine, chit chat and laughter….exactly how food should be enjoyed!!

The common garden strawberry that we use is actually a hybrid species that is cultivated worldwide for its fruit. I love how it can be utilized in so many different ways, from something as simple as Strawberries dipped in Chocolate for a romantic night or a Strawberry and Chocolate salad dressing, preserves, used fresh or frozen, pie filling, ice cream, and of course mixing with Chantilly cream to fill my French Toast.

If you, for some reason, don’t like strawberries, you can use blue berries, or kiwi fruit, cherries, chocolate, pomegranates, grilled peaches….the list is endless! Be creative!

Inspiration of the Day: Don’t let the fear of striking out stop you from playing the game

French Toast stuffed with Strawberry Chantilly Cream

2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 drops vanilla essence
4 thick slices of brioche
1 punnet strawberries
250ml fresh cream
3 tsp castor sugar

Whisk together the eggs and milk
Whisk Cream with sugar and vanilla essence to make Chantilly Cream, add some sliced strawberries to cream.
Cut a slit into the thick slice of brioche, and fill with cream and strawberry mixture
Soak the brioche in the eggy mixture and fry off until golden brown on both sides.
Serve with a nice dollop of the Chantilly & strawberry mixture, and a drizzle of honey (or chocolate, if you have time, make a decadent strawberry compote which will add so much great dimension to this simple dish)

For the Brioche, I used Gordon Ramsey’s recipe, (www.gordonramsay.com)

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2/3 cup (150ml) tepid milk
2 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for dusting
3 ½ cups bread flour
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs, beaten

1) Whisk the yeast into the milk with a teaspoon of sugar and set aside until it starts to froth.

2) Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt into a large bowl set on a damp cloth to hold it steady. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs and then mix in the remaining sugar. Make a well in the center then pour in the yeasty milk and all but 2 tablespoons of the beaten egg. Mix to a dough and shape into a ball with your hands.

3) Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and has an elastic consistency. Place the dough ball in an oiled large bowl and turn the dough to coat it with oil. “Proof” the dough by covering the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.

4) Punch down the dough, then knead until smooth. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about a 1/8 inch (3mm) thickness. Using a 2 inch (5cm) cutter, press out 40-48 rounds, rerolling if necessary. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Tomorrow…The American Flight French Toast

Quick and Easy Scones

I had to make scones today for a kid’s party and although I did not use this recipe today, it did remind me of this easy peasy quick recipe that anyone can do! It’s a great way to enjoy a quick Sunday afternoon tea when you have unexpected guests.

Easy Peasy Scones made with Sprite

4 cups self raising flour
Generous Pinch of salt
125ml fresh cream & 125ml half buttermilk mixed together
1 can Sprite

Sift flour and add salt
Slowly add cream & buttermilk, the mixture should look like coarse crumbs
Add sprite to crumb mixture, slowly mixing in the liquid. Knead lightly– careful do not over knead
Roll out dough onto floured surface and pat down. Using a dough cutter, cut your required size.

Bake in a preheated oven 190 C for about 12 – 15 minutes.

Malva Pudding Cupcakes

Yesterday I managed to catch up on some of the challenges that Lavender & Lime set out for the fellow bloggers…I did a Citrus Curd Sweet Pastry Tart followed by a Onion, Bacon, Sage and Gorganzola Tart…just as I was posting, an email came through that a new challenge has already been set out! The new challenge – Malva Pudding. When I saw it, I knew immediately what I wanted to do!

Now…baking is not my strong point…I will never classify myself as a pastry chef…but because its my weakness in the kitchen, I tend to want to do more and more of it, to practice…I believe its important to be able to do every aspect within the kitchen environment.

Malva pudding…and to but this politely…is definitely not my favorite thing to make…or eat…I find it boring and bland…and every second restaurant and their mother has this one their menu…and 9 out of 10 times, it’s the one you get from the supplier, all you have to do in microwave it for 1 minute, through some cream or custard on it and vola. I have gone out of my way to try and test and see what works…although malva pudding is pretty much the same, no matter how you make it…I find that I need to somehow make it less boring…and bring some spunk to a boring old classic…and with that thought in mind, I made:

Malva Pudding Cupcakes

The Cupcakes

1 egg
1 cup self raising flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup milk
4 tsp melted butter
1 tsp white wine vinegar
4 tbsp apricot jam

Preheat the oven to 170 C and grease a muffin try (I made 6 large ones, or you can make 12 small ones)

Cream egg and sugar together until pale, thick and fluffy

Sift flour and bicarb together

Add half milk and half flour to the egg mixture, blend well

Add remaining flour and milk to egg mixture, mix until smooth

Add melted butter, vinegar and 2 tbsp apricot jam to mixture

Divide the batter between the muffin holes. You looking at filling it about half to 2/3rds

Bake for 30 minutes

Remove from oven, poke holes in with a skewer stick, and pour the sauce over the top. Let cool. I made a hole in the middle and filled it with more apricot jam for extra taste.

Sauce

1 cup cream
100 g unsalted butter
125g sugar
30ml brandy

Melt butter in a hot sauce pan over a low heat
Add sugar and mix well
Add brandy, and mix well until bubbles form
Add cream, and mix until smooth

Icing

Cream
Vanilla extract
Icing sugar (depends how sweet you want it – omit this if you don’t like to sweet)

Whip cream until soft peaks form
Fold in the icing sugar and vanilla extract.

Onion, bacon, sage and Gorgonzola Tart

Trying to catch up with Inspiration’s challenges, I know I am slacking behind, its just been a very crazy time for me…today I did the tart challenges…firstly, I did the sweet tart challenge when I made a Citrus Curd Sweet Pastry Tart, and now, with the savory tart challenge, I made the following…

Onion, bacon, sage and Gorgonzola Tart…

BUT!!!

You guys all are all very much aware of how I don’t do the recipe thing very well, unless it’s baking, and then of course I use the “proper” measurements. When it comes to cooking, I tend to just throw things together, until I get my end result. So sorry again!!

For the crust:
(I used the same crust as I did for my sweet tart, I just omitted the sugar)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Method

Double sift the flour and salt, set aside
Put the butter in a mixer and beat until softened
Bit by bit add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated. (beat at a low speed, you do not want to over mix, otherwise your butter will separate)
Add flour all at once and mix just until it forms a ball. (don’t over mix, you don’t want the pastry hard when baked)
Flatten dough into disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes

For the filling

Onion – chopped
Bacon – chopped
Sugar
Salt
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh Sage – finely chopped
Large egg
Double thick cream
Simonzola cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Olive oil

Fry up the onions in the olive oil until translucent, add the bacon, fry up, season with salt & pepper
Add a splash of balsamic vinegar (I used my Verleque Mushroom Vinaigrette)
Toss in some fresh sage, remove from heat
Crumble the Simonzola cheese into mixture

Place mixture into pastry crusts that have been baked blind.

Top with grated mozzarella cheese

Mix cream and eggs together, and pour over mixture, place in the oven for 10 minutes

Citrus Curd Sweet Pastry Tart

Today, my posting was inspired by Fired-up Cooking. She has some great ideas on her blog, run on over and get some ideas for gourmet foods you cam make on an open fire! Just love her blog!

Last night I woke up at about 1:45am…which seems to be my new party trick, which I hate BTW! And I started thinking about lemon curd…well the thought started with lemon meringue, and how its been a while since I did a good lemon meringue…but then I started going into the thought of although a classic, it was a slightly more boring option…then I though about Inspirations blog with regards to her challenges, which I have not been able to get around to doing…and I fell asleep again…logging on this morning I saw Fire-up Cooking’s home made lemon curd…I knew exactly what I wanted to do…between Fire-Up & Inspiration, I was going to make a lemon…something, with some sort of sweet something like tart…and this is what I came up with…

Citrus Curd Sweet Pastry Tart


Sweet Pastry Crust

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Method

Double sift the flour and salt, set aside
Put the butter in a mixer and beat until softened
Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
Bit by bit add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated. (beat at a low speed, you do not want to over mix, otherwise your butter will separate)
Add flour all at once and mix just until it forms a ball. (don’t over mix, you don’t want the pastry hard when baked)
Flatten dough, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes

Citrus Curd

Ingredients

6 large eggs
80 ml fresh lemon juice (using the bottled lemon juice will not give the same result)
80ml fresh orange juice
300g white sugar
8 tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature) cut into small pieces
1 tsp lemon zest – finely chopped
2 tsp orange zest – finely chopped

Method

In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended.

Cook, whisking constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes pale in color and quite thick, this will take an average of about 10 minutes (done on a gas stove, so please watch your mixture rather than judging it by 10 minutes)

Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps.
Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted.

Add the zest, cover, and let cool to room temperature before filling the pastry crust.

Now, I just assembled the two together, which was rather easy! You will need a pie / tart pan with removable bottom. I used my quiche pans, they work perfectly!

Roll out your pastry on a lightly floured surface; keep lifting the pastry so it does not stick to your working surface. Gently lay pastry in your pan and press into the bottom and sides. Roll rolling pin over top again to get rid of any extra pastry. Prick bottom of dough. Cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 190 C and place rack in center of oven.
Bake blind for about 10 minutes, or until you notice the crust is dry and lightly golden.
Let cool down completely before you add the filling

Once the crust is cooled down, fill with the lemon curd mixture, cool in a fridge until ready to serve.

Now…I thought I would give you a few tips…and useless info…so your weekend starts with a burst of knowledge!

When working with lemons, they should always be at room temperature for you to get the maximum amount of juice out. Alternatively, just place in microwave for a few seconds.

Thick, bumpy textured cold lemons give the maximum amount of zest.

The lemon Zest (yellow outer rind of the lemon) contains the fruit’s flavor and perfume.

Curd is often confused with pie filling, or with a meringue filling…however, its neither, as a curd contains higher portions of juice, thus making the flavor much more intense.

The curds texture is much smoother, and creamier than a pie filling.

Traditionally curd, which originates from England, is a dessert spread, it should be served with scones, or bread.