Friday, June 20, 2014

Sleepless - (Vanilla cupcakes with Coffee Butter-cream)

I have a cold. A really bad one. And last night, I just couldn't sleep. I tried to for a while, tossing and turning, but gave up at around one in the morning. And what does a girl like me do when she can't sleep? She reads, of course.
I read The Memory Keeper's Daughter and finished it. I had just under half of it to read.
It's a beautiful story.....mesmerizing. A story of just how one lie affects human relationships and ruins people's lives. It's not just the lies but also the misunderstanding.
The thing is, I wouldn't have liked that kind of story a few years ago. I was more into stuff like Harry Potter and kids' stories because I was a kid. I didn't understand what I used to call 'the grown-up" kind of stories so i didn't like them. But now I do. I understand. Not everything but some of it and for now, that's enough.
Even books like Harry Potter are different now. I can see past the humor and the funny situations and really see the deeper, almost hidden meaning. But they're not hidden, the're right in front of you. It just takes a certain something, maybe age and maturity or a change in perspective, I'm not really sure what it is, to see those meanings. To see what the writer is really trying to say.
My father always did say that literature was away to gain new experiences, ones you could never dream of experiencing in your own life or ones that you may, later on. And he was right, as always. I'm realizing that now.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Coffee Butter-cream.

These vanilla cupcakes with coffee butter-cream weren't my idea. I saw them in Diary of a Teenage Baker and thought they were perfect for the occasion. My father asked me to make a batch of cupcakes to take to work. I'm all for seizing the moment so I said I would. It was the perfect opportunity to try out this coffee butter-cream. I figure it would be something adults would like since they have a thing for coffee.
I also happen to know my parents don't like lots of frosting on their cupcakes so i only spread on a little. 
The amount this recipe makes enough for 12 cupcakes if you pipe it but will do for 24 if you just spread it on as I did.

Recipe - Makes 24

First make two batches of my Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes found here and let them cool.

1 tbsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp hot water
1 tbsp vanilla
250g ( 2 cups) icing sugar
220g/7 oz soft, unsalted butter
2 tbsp milk

In a small bowl, stir together the coffee, water and vanilla until the coffee has dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Beat the butter with an electric whisk on medium for about 1 minute until soft and fluffy. Beat in the icing sugar one cup at a time with the mixer on low. Increase the speed to medium and beat for a further 3 minutes before adding in the coffee mixture and milk. 
Scrape down the side of the bowl and beat for another 3-4 minutes at medium speed.
Frost and decorate however you like.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The ultimate Yellow/Vanilla cupcake

These cupcakes are either called yellow or vanilla cupcakes.They are moist and buttery with the with the perfect crumb. They will give you the satisfaction of pulling out a perfect tray of cupcakes out of the oven every time ( provided you do little work).
I cannot stress this enough. The butter and sugar must be creamed together really well.This will incorporate air and help them rise. To ensure they are light and not tough, do not overmix the batter once the flour has been added.

The Ultimate Yellow/Vanilla Cupcake (Makes 12)

188g (1 1/2) cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
150g (3/4 cup) sugar
125 ml (1/2 cup) milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
113 g (1/2 cup, 4 oz) soft,unsalted butter
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180C ( 350F ). Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and soda into a bowl and set aside.Separate the eggs and put the whites into a large bowl.
Cream the butter and sugar till really light and fluffy, for about 3-4 minutes with a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer.
Add the eggs yolks,one at a time, beating well before each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients, followed by the milk and then the rest of the dry ingredients. Be careful not to over-mix or the cupcake won't be as light (trust me,I would know).
With a large whisk, beat the egg whites until they are foamy and holding soft peaks. Wi
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cups. It's about 1/4 cup of batter per cup.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops of the cakes spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Leave to cool for 5 mins in the tin before taking them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Frost and decorate however you want :)

Here are some step-by-step photos to help you through the process.

Cream the butter and sugar until really light and fluffy.Can you see how fluffy this is? If beaten properly the mixture will fall easily off the spatula.

Beat the egg white until they are foamy and holding soft peaks. Fold in lightly.

Once the egg whites are folded in the batter will be velvety and slightly thick.

Enjoy the perfect cupcake!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sisters - (Brown Butter Brownies)

Sisters......I have two. Both younger and both extremely annoying.
Having said that, they do support my addiction of baking one hundred percent mostly because they get to eat whatever I make. They have absolutely no desire to help me clean up or anything but once the smell of whatever I'm baking fills the house, they're around.
Honestly, they're like food critics, giving their opinion of what i make. It's useful , no doubt, but annoying. They also place orders and decide what i should make. Sometimes I ask them and sometimes they ask me.
This was one of those times.....

Last week, the moment I had some free time my oldest sister sidled up to me and asked "akki (which is how you say "older sister" in Sri Lanka) can you make some brownies?"
And I was like"sure, why not?"
I didn't oblige right way because I wasn't in the brownie mood.But i sure am now.
My sister isn't home right now so i'm waiting to see the look on her face when she comes home and sees a pile of freshly-baked brownies on the table :)

Brown Butter was something I'd heard of often, but never actually used in a recipe. So when I saw that Lynna from Hearts in My Oven had posted this recipe last week, I was overjoyed! I get to kill two birds with one stone, make myself and my sisters extremely happy while trying out a recipe with brown butter.

Brown Butter Brownies via Hearts in My Oven
Makes 9-16 squares

113g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
70g (1/2 cup) all- purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
100g (1/2 cup) granulated white sugar
100g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
60g (1/2 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
30g ( 1 oz) semi-sweet/dark chocolate
80g (1/2 cup) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line a 8x8 inch baking pan with grease-proof paper or aluminium foil.
In a small saucepan, over medium heat melt the butter. Whisk occasionally until it turns amber, giving a "nutty" aroma(the butter will foam quite a bit) and there are brown specks at the bottom of the saucepan. Pour the butter into another bowl and leave to cool.
Melt the chocolate however you want (i normally do it in a bowl over a pan of simmering water).
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt, the sugars and the baking powder in a bowl. Stir in the eggs and the vanilla, followed by the melted chocolate and the butter.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and spread it out.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Let the brownies cool completely in the tin before cutting them either into 9 squares if you want large ones or 16 squares if you want smaller ones. Either way, they are delicious!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Wasting time - (Passion fruit Mousse)

The week after exams was something I learnt to treasure last year, after doing my Ordinary Level exams. Nothing beats the lazing around, doing whatever you want and simply wasting time.

It's not that I always study. I waste time watching tv when I'm supposed to be working ( don't tell my parents!). But when you're really up against it, with exams looming ahead, wasting time is sort of like a guilty pleasure. No really, you do feel incredibly guilty about not revising. In short, when exams are close you are compelled to study which makes the days after exams complete and utter bliss......

Passion fruits are abundant in Sri Lanka at this time of year. We normally make a drink with the pulp, a little sugar and water but it's nothing special.This is though. It's my attempt at recreating this utterly delicious mousse I had at a hotel last year. Words fail to describe it.
The acerbic fragrance of the passion fruit cuts through the creaminess, creating a really tangy, light mousse.

Passion Fruit Mousse
Make about 1 1/4 liters

200 ml of passion fruit pulp
190 g caster sugar
6 eggs, separated
1 tbsp lime juice
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) double cream
3 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin
1/2 cup water

Beat the egg whites until foamy and holding soft peaks then whip the cream to soft but firm peaks.
In a small bowl, pour the 1/2 cup of water over the gelatin and leave till it becomes spongy. Stand the bowl in a larger bowl of hot water and stir until dissolved.
Beat together the passion fruit pulp, egg yolks, sugar and lime juice in a big bowl and mix in the dissolved gelatin. Fold in the cream and then the egg whites.
Pour the mousse into into individual serving glasses (how many you can fill depends on the size of the glass) or into one big bowl.
Leave to set in the fridge for about 3 hours.

Once the mousse is set, you can spoon over some more passion fruit pulp. You don't have to though. :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Feeling free - (Amazing Chocolate Cupcakes)

Exams are finally over.I can stop holding my breath and relax .
No more intense revision,no more frustrating questions to answer and problems to solve.
The results will come, all too soon, but till then I'm putting all thoughts of exams out of my head...... with a chocolate cupcake. What more do you need?

The messy pile of textbooks and notes on my desk has been removed, and replaced with recipe books.
All facts and equations I've been cramming into my head the past few weeks are gone, and replaced with ideas for new recipes. I can finally get back to the kitchen. Life is good!

I wanted to start making a mess in the kitchen right away and stuff my face with something delicious. These choc cupcakes are just that.The cake is intensely chocolate-y and the frosting is divine.
I am in chocolate heaven.

One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes from Martha Stewart
Makes 12

45 g (3/8 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
94 g (3/4 cup) plain flour
150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
90 ml buttermilk (I used 45 ml yogurt and 45 ml milk)
90 ml warm water
1 1/2 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
1/2 - 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line a muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. 

Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.

Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and beat with a wooden spoon(you don't need to use an electric whisk) until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. 
Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 18-20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely before icing.

Ultimate Chocolate Frosting adapted from Brown-Eyed Baker
Frosts 12

170 g soft, unsalted butter
75 g (2/3 cup) icing sugar
45 g (3/8 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp golden syrup
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 ounces/110 g chocolate (milk or dark- I used dark)

Melt the chocolate, either in a microwave or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.Leave it aside to cool slightly.
In a food processor, process the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add the corn syrup and vanilla extract and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then add the cooled chocolate (it's really important that its cooler and not hot) and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 one-second pulses.
Frost the cupcakes as desired. (I just spread the frosting onto the cupcakes and swirled it with a palette knife)

(The frosted cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

I added a few chopped pistachios on top. What do you think?

Note: I didn't have any buttermilk so I substituted the amount needed with half yogurt and half milk.
 Check out this article on buttermilk substitutions.