Monthly Archives: May 2013

Conquering yeast… Or not

As indicated by the disproportionately high number of sweet recipes on this blog, cakes and desserts are my forte.  Yeast, however, is my nemesis.  Despite numerous attempts, I have only ever managed to successfully bake one thing involving yeast.  (A super-delicious stollen, since you ask.)  I think I just need to take the time to learn the basics of baking with yeast so that I can look at a recipe and tell if it’s likely to work out or not, and have a rough idea of how to tweak it.  This lack of knowledge is compounded by a lack of confidence.

Random RecipesConsequently, when I saw that this month’s Random Recipe challenge was “bread” – randomly pick a recipe from either a specific bread book, or the bread section of a cookbook – I may have let out an expletive or ten.  I don’t have any specific bread books, so I randomly picked cookbooks until I found one with a bread/yeast section: Baking – 100 everyday recipes.  I duly picked a recipe randomly and ended up with mango twist bread.  Which sounded totally delicious so I was rather excited. Maybe this time the yeast and I would get on and I’d successfully manage to produce a loaf of bread.

This was supposed to come out as a fairly tall loaf, not a short, wide, splodge.

It wasn’t to be.  Blaming the recipe might sound too easy, but I really don’t think it was particularly reliable.  From the very first step (before even adding the yeast), the contents of my mixing bowl did not match the descriptions given in the book.  The dough ended up extremely sticky, even after adding plenty of extra flour.  The two strands of dough that were supposed to be twisted around each other to give a pretty shape basically merged back into each other and there were no strands or twists in sight within about five minutes (photographic proof below).  The dough did not rise as much as it should have, and it didn’t quite bake all the way through either, despite being very browned on top (which granted, could be a simple oven problem, but I do know my current oven quite well now, so I’m hesitant to lay the entirety of the blame on it).  And to top it all off, it didn’t even taste of mango.  Basically, it was an all-round fail, so I won’t be sharing the recipe.

Hmmmmm.  Doesn't look promising.

Conquering yeast will clearly have to wait for another day.  At least I tried though, right?

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world.

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Alcoholic sunshine in a cupcake

Baking with SpiritFalling off the blogging radar (i.e. – not really having time to blog) means that over the last few months, I haven’t been participating in the various blogging challenges that I usually join in with.  One of my favourites is Baking with Spirit, hosted by Jan over at Cake of the Week.  (Would saying that it’s my favourite make me sound like an alcoholic?)  After missing several challenges, I was all set to participate last month – I’d set aside time and had recipe ideas and everything – but had forgotten to consider that crème de framboise might be a little difficult (read: nigh on impossible) to come by in rural NZ.  After that total fail in planning on my part, I was terribly excited when this month’s alcohol of choice turned out to be “Limoncello.”  I love the stuff.

Woohoo, I'm back to Baking With Spirit!

I actually don’t know if limoncello is any easier to find in rural NZ than crème de framboise, but I circumvented the issue by making my own over the weekend (and I’ll post the recipe soon).  Yesterday was the birthday of one of my labmates so I had her round for dinner and decided that limoncello cupcakes would make an excellent celebratory end to the meal.  Lemon cupcakes with limoncello drizzled over them after baking (you wouldn’t want any of it to bake out…) and topped off with a cream cheese and white chocolate icing (with limoncello added, of course) and all washed down with a small, digestive glass of limoncello – now that’s a great way to bring some sunshine into what was a cold and tempestuously grim weather day.

Alcoholic sunshine in a cupcake

This post actually should have gone up yesterday evening, but the aforementioned foul weather won out and we were treated to a powercut for most of the evening (though thankfully not until after dinner had been cooked), so my plan to blog (or do anything else requiring electricity, like… writing a thesis) had to be abandoned.  Instead, we huddled under blankets, polished off a few more of these cupcakes and drank limoncello and G&Ts by candlelight.  Hopefully my late entry will be forgiven – sorry Jan!

This is what we were missing during the powercut: daylight.

Limoncello cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes
Cupcake recipe adapted from The Great British Bake Off
Icing recipe slightly adapted from Domestic Sluttery

I used home-made limoncello, which isn’t too sweet, so these have a very lemony flavour, but this may vary depending on the limoncello that you use.  I just went for simple two-tone icing to fancy the cupcakes up a bit, but they can also be decorated with lemon zest or white chocolate shavings (or both).  They are best eaten the same day or the next day, but will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.  Whilst not super alcoholic (by my standards), do remember that none of the alcohol gets baked out in this recipe, so perhaps not ideal for children.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
1 lemon
100ml whole milk
125g unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
200g all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
About 90ml limoncello

For the icing:
Yellow gel food colouring (optional)
150g cream cheese, softened
35 ml limoncello
150g white chocolate

Directions

To prepare the cupcakes:
1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C.  Line a muffin tray with 12 paper cases or set out silicon muffin moulds.

2.  Zest and juice the lemon and set aside, separately.  Stir ½ tsp of lemon juice into the milk and set aside.

3.  In a large bowl, whisk the butter with an electric whisk until creamy.  Add the sugar and lemon zest and whisk together until light and fluffy.

4.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs together with a fork.  Add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 tbsp at a time, whisking well after each addition.

5.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl and stir together.  Fold ⅓ of the flour mixture into the butter with a large metal spoon or a spatula, followed by ⅓ of the milk mixture.  Alternate adding the remaining thirds of flour and milk mixtures, and on the last addition fold together until nearly incorporated.  Add 3 tsp of lemon juice and stir well.

6.  Spoon the batter into the prepared paper cases or silicone moulds.  Bake for 25-28 mins until golden and the tops are just firm to the touch.  Allow to cool for 2 mins in the tin or moulds before turning out onto a wire rack.

7.  Whilst still hot, poke holes in the top of the cupcakes (I like using pointy chopsticks for this) and spoon about 1½ tsp of limoncello over the top of each cupcake – do this slowly so that a maximum amount of limoncello soaks into the cupcake rather than running over the top and down the sides.  Allow to cool fully.

To prepare the icing:
8.  Once the cupcakes are fully cooled, prepare the icing.  If you want to pipe the icing onto the cupcakes (as opposed to spreading it over), prepare a piping bag with your chose piping tip (I used a Wilton 1M tip).  If you want two-tone icing, paint three stripes of yellow gel food colouring up the inside of the piping bag.  Set the piping bag in a tall glass (this will make it easier to fill) and set aside.

9.  In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and limoncello until smooth.

10.  Melt the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the water doesn’t reach the bottom of the bowl), stirring regularly until the chocolate is smooth.  Add to the cream cheese and whisk together until the icing is smooth.  Either spread the icing over the cupcakes with a knife or transfer to the prepared piping bag and pipe onto the cupcakes.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

Kumara, cardamom & chocolate cake

Goodness, it’s been a while since I showed some signs of life, hasn’t it?  I previously mentioned that things were likely to be a bit quiet as I knuckled down and got on with this whole MSc thesis-writing lark,* however  I didn’t quite expect to more or less completely disappear from the online world (with the exception of Instagram – have I ever mentioned my addiction?).  A scheduled post about one of the best cakes ever (shameless plug, what?) not going up several weeks ago (let’s pretend that I didn’t only just notice today) rather helped to reinforce this absence.  I am, however, still alive and kicking.  I’ve been baking, too, to de-stress a bit and take a break from thesis-writing.  I just haven’t had the time to take any half-decent photos or write recipes up.  Or collate any Sunday Smiles posts either for that matter.

Bet you'll never guess what kind of cake this is…  Oh wait.

AlphaBakesWhilst Microsoft Word and Excel get their act together, unfreeze and stop repeatedly crashing on me (I’ve had a fantastic morning…), I thought I’d share this utterly amazing kumara, cardamom & chocolate cake with you.  Anybody thinking that kumara is some terribly exotic, amazing new ingredient that’ll be impossible to find in a normal shop, it’s just the Kiwi (and Australian I think?) name for sweet potato.  Rather conveniently, the challenge letter for AlphaBakes happens to be “K,” so I’m sending this cake in as my entry to Caroline Makes, this month’s host.

Cake in progress

After a classic case of forgetting to check a recipe for quantities before going shopping and consequently overestimating the amount, I ended up with some surplus orange kumara the other day and decided that some cake was in order.  I dug out a recipe that I’ve had bookmarked since last year, and threw some chocolate in, just because I could.  I added some cinnamon in too, since I’m actually incapable of not adding cinnamon to pretty much everything during autumn and winter (in spring and summer I only add it to about 50% of everything…  I might have a cinnamon problem).  The cake came out wonderfully moist and utterly scrumptious – the combination of kumara and cardamom was a pleasant discovery for me.  The cake also happens to be gluten-free, but you’d never guess it (I feel gluten-free baking has a reputation for rather heavy and dry results, but I haven’t dabble much with gluten-free, so I could be wrong).  Suffice to say, the lab loved it.

This totally wasn't my breakfast.  Ahem.

Kumara, cardamom & chocolate cake

Serves 10-12
Adapted from The KitchenMaid

I’m rather liberal with spices, so if you’re not into strong flavours, you may wish to reduce the cardamom down to 3 tsp.  I’ve yet to locate good quality dark chocolate chips (with more than 70% cocoa) that aren’t overly sweet, so I prefer using good dark chocolate and just chopping it up myself, however if you do have good dark chocolate chips, feel free to use them.  This cake also works as loaves or mini loaves (great for breakfast…), though the baking times will have to be adjusted (probably around 50 mins for two loaves or about 35 mins as mini loaves, though don’t hold me to that).  The drizzle is, of course, optional.  The cake will keep for a few days in an airtight box.

Ingredients

For the cake:
450g orange kumara (sweet potato)
150g dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)
300g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
6 eggs, room temperature
225g ground almonds
4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

For the drizzle (optional):
100g icing sugar
¾ tsp ground cardamom
Just under 1 tbsp boiling water

Directions

To prepare the cake:
1.  Preheat the oven to 205°C/fan 185°C.

2.  Scrub the kumara and pierce the skin several times with a fork.  Place on a baking tray and roast for about 40 mins until there’s no resistance when a knife is inserted through the thickest part.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool until it can be handled.  Peel the skin off and mash the flesh in a small bowl with a fork – you should have around 325g of cooked flesh.  Set aside.

3.  Reduce the oven temperature to 195°C/fan 175°C.  Line the bottom of a 24cm round cake tin with baking paper.

4.  If using chocolate and not chocolate chips, chop the chocolate up and set aside.

5.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy, then add the vanilla extract.  Beat the eggs in, one at a time, adding about 1 tbsp of ground almond with each egg (this will help prevent the mixture from curdling).

6.  Add the remaining ground almonds, the spices, baking powder, salt, mashed kumara and chopped-up chocolate and stir together with a spatula or spoon.  Evenly pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1h-1h10, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (if the cake starts to brown a little too much on top, just cover it with aluminium foil).  Allow to cool for 10 mins in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

To prepare the drizzle:
7.  Once the cake has cooled fully, add all the drizzle ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together until smooth.  Pour into a freezer bag, snip a small corner off and drizzle over the cake.

Enjoy!

Also makes an excellent breakfast in mini loaf form…  I'm all about cake for breakfast, doncha know.

*Heavy sarcasm alert.  It’s anything but a lark, just in case anybody was unsure.

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Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods