Sunday, 26 June 2011

Apricot Almond Meal Muffins

I had almond meal in the fridge (apparently, you’re supposed to keep it in the fridge due to its high protein level) that I wanted to use up.  I also had some agave nectar that I recently picked up (on sale!) as I’d always been curious to how it works in baking.  I also had some apricots…and extra flax meal.  See where this is going? A baking session that used ingredients that I already had and wanted to use up!   The result was muffins that are not too sweet and very filling.  Nice with jam.

Apricot Almond Meal Muffins
Inspired from here.
Makes 6 muffins.

1 cup almond meal
¼ cup flax meal
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs – room temperature
¼ cup melted butter – cooled
2 Tablespoons agave nectar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons juice (I used pineapple, but any juice would work)
3 Apricots – 6 slices and ½ cup of diced

1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Fill muffin tin with cups or oil and flour to prevent sticking.
2.       In a small bowl, whisk almond meal, flax meal, and baking soda. Set aside.
3.       In a larger bowl, beat eggs with butter, agave nectar, vanilla, apple cider vinegar, and juice.
4.       Mix in the dry ingredients until combined.
5.       Add the diced apricots.
6.       Fill muffin tins with batter and top with apricot slices.
7.       Bake for 17 minutes. Let cool in baking pan for about 15 minutes before removing.

Verdict: Agave nectar seems like a versatile ingredients that can be used to naturally sweeten many dishes.  I am looking forward to experimenting with it some more!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Lemon Chiffon Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting and Spun Sugar

It’s Father’s Day and I wanted to make my dad a treat instead of purchasing a gift because these days he feels he has all the material things he needs.  But we could all use a delicious treat, right?  Well, my dad prefers not to eat butter, so I opted for a butterless, and thus light and fluffy, ensemble of a dessert. 

I have made this lemon chiffon recipe numerous times, and I think I’d have to say that it is my favorite cake – light yet moist texture, great flavor.  Not to mention the frosting – also my favorite.  As a decorative topper, I made spun sugar decorations.   I wonder if my dad will like it…

Lemon Chiffon Cupcakes
Adapted from here.
Makes 11 small cupcakes

Ingredients (I halved the original recipe)
1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon of cake flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup + 2 Tablespoon sugar
1.5 large eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 cup vegetable oil
2 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoon water
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest (1 lemon)
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1.       Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place cupcake liners in baking pan.
2.       In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and 1/3 + 1 Tablespoon of sugar.
3.       In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until foamy.  Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks.  Gradually add remaining 1 Tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks.
4.       In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, oil, water, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla.
5.       Add the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.
6.       Fold 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the batter.  Then, fold in the rest.
7.       Spoon into the lined muffin tins.
8.       Bake for about 13 minutes.
9.       Cool on wire rack.

Batter components


Before baking

After baking

Marshmallow Frosting
Adapted from here.

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 egg whites (I used 4 teaspoons meringue powder and 4 Tablespoons of water as a replacement)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.       In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until soft-ball stage (see for definition)
2.       In a large bowl, combine egg whites and vanilla.  Beat until soft peaks.
3.       Gradually, and continuously, pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites while beating.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks (7 minutes – will stiffen as it cools).
4.       Add food colouring of your choice.

Spun Sugar
Adapted from here.

1/3 cup light corn syrup
¼ cup sugar

Ahead of time – tape 2 long stir spoons about 60cm apart on the counter (see photo)
Have sheets of parchment paper ready

1.       In a small saucepan, combine ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Continue to boil until it turns golden.
2.       Take off heat and stir in food colouring.
3.       Let rest for 3 minutes.

Technique 1: dip a fork into syrup and quickly drizzle it back and forth over the 2 spoons so that the syrup makes threads over and between them.  Carefully remove threads with your hands and mold into desired shape.

Technique 2: dip a spoon into syrup and drizzle designs on parchment paper.  Wait until it cools to break into pieces.

Technique 3: dip a spoon into syrup and drizzle it over the back of an ice cream scoop (or ladle) over parchment paper for a rounded finish.  Wait until it cools before removing.

Prep for spinning sugar

Remove from heat at this stage of golden colour

After adding food colouring

Technique 1: draping the sugar

Technique 3: drizzling the sugar over an ice cream scoop

Result of Technique 1
Results of Technique 2
Result of Technique 3

Cupcake assembly
I piped frosting onto the cupcakes using tip #847.  I placed various spun sugar decorations on top.

Verdict: My dad was very surprised and seemed to really like it (he ate 2 right on the spot!).  He said that the spun sugar decorations gave the cupcakes a nice variety in texture.  Success, and well worth the effort!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Fortune Cookies with Sprinkles


My friends and I were going to Las Vegas for a double bachelorette party and I wanted to make us something fun to snack on during the ride to the airport. I decided on fortune cookies since I could write fun “fortunes” for all the gals. I also wanted them to be pretty, so I experimented with sprinkles. They were fun cookies that hyped-up the anticipation for the upcoming weekend of partying!

Fortune Cookies with Sprinkles
Makes 24 cookies
Adapted from here.

¼ cup + 1 teaspoon butter
3.5 egg whites
¾ cup + 1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup + 1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoon sifted all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons + 1.5 teaspoon cream
3-4 Tablespoons water
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Write “fortunes” on small slips of paper (6.5 cm x 1 cm ish)

1.       Preheat oven at 380 degrees Fahrenheit.
2.       Grease baking sheet with oil.
3.       Melt butter in the microwave.
4.       In a bowl, beat egg whites and sugar on medium speed for 30 seconds.
5.       Beat in four and salt.
6.       Beat in the melted butter, cream, and vanilla extract.
7.       Beat in 3-4 Tablespoons of water to thin out batter.
8.       Pour 1 tablespoon of the batter onto the baking sheet (4 in total max.  I found that 3 was better).  With a spoon, spread batter into a thin circle.
9.       Sprinkle decorative sprinkles onto the circles.
10.   Bake for about 5 minutes (until edges are golden).
11.   Slide a spatula under a cookie and flip onto a tea towel or cutting board. Place a “fortune” in the middle of the cookie.
12.   Fold one end over and press onto the other end (covering the “fortune”).
13.   Press ends together over the edge of a cup to make the classic Fortune Cookie shape.
14.   Place in a muffin tin to keep its shape as it cools.

Note: Forming the cookie (step 11-13) should be done quickly, before the cookie hardens.
     Using cotton gloves will ensure that your fingers do not get burned!

Cotton gloves and pre-written "fortunes"
Before baking
Step 1: Place fortune in the middle of cookie
Step 2: Fold cookie over fortune
Step 3: Fold cookie over cup rim to make classic shape

Step 4: Place cookie in muffin pan to cool
The brides-to-be!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Two Tier Vanilla Birthday Cake with Meringue Decorations

This cake got a little out of hand, mostly because I didn’t have 3 pans of the same size…only 2.  My friend Rica asked me to make a birthday cake for her daughter who was turning 1 year old.  She just wanted a vanilla cake with raspberry jam filling big enough to feed about 12 people – nothing fancy.  Well, I am always looking for opportunities to practice new cake decorating techniques, and this time was no exception.  I planned out a cake with fluffy frosting and meringue decorations covering the cake.  Well, this turned into a 2 tier cake upon the realization that I did not have enough pans.  Oh well, hope you like your super fancy cake birthday girl!

Vanilla Butter Cake recipe from here.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe from here.

Meringue recipe adapted from here.

Raspberry Jam - store bought

1.  Make cake the day before and freeze it for easier decorating.
2.  Pipe meringue decorations and bake ahead of time. I used tip #2D for the dollops, and #104 and a flower nail for the roses.

Piped meringues before baking.

1.  Cut out a cardboard circle the size of the second tier and place the cake onto the cut out, sticking it in place with a dollop of buttercream.
2.  Before filling the cakes with jam, pipe a buttercream rim around the cakes, so the jam does not spill out.
3.  Apply a thin crumb coat to both bottom and top tiers and place in freezer for a few minutes to set.
4.  Apply final buttercream layer onto both cakes.
5.  Cut 5 straws to the height of the bottom tier. These will support the weight of the second tier.
6.  Evenly distribute and insert the straws into the bottom layer.
7.  Place the top tier onto the bottom layer.
8.  Decorate with meringues.

Bottom layer of bottom tier.

Bottom layer of top tier.

Bottom tier crumb coat.
Top tier crumb coat.
Support straws cut to size.

She got the top tier all to herself!