Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Carrot-Pecan-Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I have been making carrot cakes for a very long time now and each time I bake them, I have tried to customize it to the perfect taste I love. You can find a lot of recipes online, but to be honest, they are either too oily or too sweet. This time a friend of mine wanted these for a party at her place and after successfully baking two unsuccessful recipes, I ended up making these cupcakes and they were perfect! I have added pecans instead of the traditional walnuts (somehow "S" doesn't like the oily taste walnuts have), made them with vanilla-orange-lemon sugar (for more flavour), used a bit of fresh grated ginger and instead of pineapple, this time I used dessicated coconut. For the cream cheese frosting I used a splash of cream along with butter and cream cheese. I sometimes omit the cream cheese totally and use mascarpone instead. I would say this icing is to die for, so its worth taking the extra effort of making it. I also made some marzipan carrots to decorate it just for fun. I was amazed at how friends at the party thought I have used blanched baby carrots!
Carrot-Pecan-Coconut Cupcakes (Makes 12 Med size)
Plain Flour - 150g
*Sugar - 150g (or light brown sugar)
Grated Carrots - 150g
Oil - 150ml
Baking Powder - 1/2 tsp
Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp
Ground Cinnamon - 1/2 tsp
Ground Clove - 1/4 tsp
Mixed Spice - 1/4 tsp
Grated Ginger - 1 tsp
Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp
Raisins - 25g
Dessicated Coconut - 50g
Pecans chopped - 75g
Eggs - 2
Preheat the oven to 180C. Beat the eggs and sugar until pale. Add oil, Vanilla extract and beat for a minute or two. Stir in the grated carrots and  ginger, beat well. Sift the dry ingredients twice and toss the nuts, raisins and coconut. Slowly add the dry ingredients in three goes into the wet and fold until well incorporated. Divide the mixture into muffin tins, lined with paper cases, until 3/4 full. Bake for about 20-25 min or until skewer inserted in the centre comes off clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack completely before icing.
For the Cream Cheese Icing
Cream Cheese - 200g
Soft unsalted Butter - 50g
Fresh Cream - 60ml 
Icing Sugar - 150g (use upto 300g if you need sweeter icing)
Vanilla Extract - 1tsp
Beat the butter and sugar until light (you will be covered in icing sugar so try adding a little at a time). Add the cream cheese, vanilla extract and fresh cream and beat slowly till peaks form. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe as desired over the cooled cupcakes. Decorate with marzipan carrots or pecans. This can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, but do bring it to room temperature before serving to enjoy the luscious smooth icing.
*To make the vanilla-lemon-orange sugar, whizz the zest of a lemon and orange in a mixer and mix with the required quantity of vanilla sugar. Use immediately or else might form lumps. 
Verdict: This is one of those cakes that never lasts in my house. Absolute favourite of "S"s, he even wanted this for his birthday. This has even managed to convert a friend who is a complete chocolate cake lover. If you cant be bothered to make the icing just the warm slice of cake with coffee or a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on the side is absolute heaven. But the gorgeous creamy icing really compliments the cake.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: September 2010 Challenge: Get Creative: Decorated Sugar Cookies

This month's Daring Baker's challenge was to be creative with sugar cookies. The lovely Mandy from What the Fruitcake was the hostess this month and challenged all the creative minds to make a straightforward sugar cookies recipes by Peggy Porschen and decorate it with home-made or shop bought royal icing.
September has been a crazy month for me. Among many, I finally managed to join the Course I wanted study, got the car I fell in love with, started baking cakes for clients instead of just baking random stuff for friends and so on! So, to summarize my crazy time this month I have made a melange of cookies in heart, flower and round shapes, decorated them with love themes,  flowers and fancy designs. I baked these cookies on Thursday while I was baking carrot & black forest cake for a friend, getting a 3 course meal ready for a dinner with another set of friends and car hunting. On Friday I caught the Flu bug and after initially dropping the idea of royal icing I decided to take up the challenge and got it done. I simply could not give up the DB challenge. If the lines are not straight and lack finesse blame my shaky hands ;-).
I have used dessicated coconut and vanilla in the cookie dough to give them more flavour and have used shop-bought royal icing in different colours to complete the challenge.

Sugar Cookies (slightly adapted from Peggy Porschen's recipe)
200g Unsalted Butter
370g Plain Flour sifted
30g Dessicated Coconut
200g Caster Sugar
1 Large Egg
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Cream the butter and sugar until pale. Add the vanilla extract, coconut, egg and beat till well combined. Add the flour and beat on low till the mixture comes together. On a floured board knead slightly till it forms a ball of dough. Roll this out between parchment paper and refrigerate for up to 1 hour. Using a cookie cutter cut out desired patterns and place on a baking tray. Chill them for another 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C. Bake the cookies until the edges are a golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let them cool. Once completely cool frost the cookies or store them in an air-tight container for up to a month.
Royal Icing:
315g – 375g Icing / Confectioner’s Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
2 tsp Lemon Juice
Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and grease free.
Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
Beat on low until combined and smooth.
Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.
Decorating Your Cookies: Flooding
Flooding” a cookie is a technique used when covering a cookie with Royal Icing. You outline the area you want to flood which helps create a dam.Then fill or flood inside the area you’ve outlined.
Decorating Your Cookies: Royal Icing
The most important thing when it comes to decorating with Royal Icing is the consistency.
There are two ways of flooding your cookies. Some like to do the outline with a thicker icing and then flood with a thinner icing. Some like to use the same icing to do both which saves time and you don’t have to have two different piping bags for each colour you’re using.
The Same Consistency Method
Mix your royal icing according to the recipe/instructions. Drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing and count to 10. If the surface becomes smooth between 5 & 10 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency.
Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, do the 10 second test, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc. To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 10 second test
Two Different Consistencies Method
Mix your royal icing according to the recipe/instructions.
Separate into 2 different bowls, one lot of icing for outlining, the other for flooding.
For the outlining icing, drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing.
If the surface becomes smooth at around 10 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency.
Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, count to 10 seconds, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat. To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 10 second test.
For the flooding/filling icing, drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing.
If the surface becomes smooth at around 3-4 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency.Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, count to 3-4 seconds, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.
Tip: To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 3-4 second test.
Packaging and Storing
Once fully decorated, allow cookies to dry for 24 hours in a cool and dry area. Stack cookies in an airtight container, from largest cookies at the bottom, to smallest and more intricate at the top, with parchment or wax free paper in between the layers. Store in a cool and dry area with the container’s lid firmly sealed. Will last for about a month if stored this way.
Thanks for hosting such a beautiful challenge this month Mandy. I don't think I have ever bothered to decorate cookies like this ever (maybe once drizzled melted choc on chocolate cookies). I am definitely making these again as Halloween and Christmas treats for friends. They are easy to make, fun to decorate and will melt the strongest of hearts.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Chocolate Chilli Macs for MAC Attack #11 - Long ago and far away

Living far away from home and  relatives means visiting them in summer breaks. So year after year we would go and visit mum's and dad's family, have a blast with my cousins, nieces and nephews. Indian Summer means gorgeous mangoes = my despicable confession = climbing trees with cousins and stealing from neighbour's trees, even if there are a decent amount in our home. There is something about stolen mangoes! 
Amidst all this  family meeting and greeting there is always a little sweet something involved and to our  delight, it mostly was chocolates. Back then, the only ones we grew up eating in India were milk chocolates by Cadbury's or Nestle. Obviously now I have a matured taste and love dark chocolates and exotic brands. 
This month's Mac Attack challenge was to create a Mac inspired by a childhood summer memory. My memories of childhood summer are of hot Indian summers, luscious juicy mangoes, climbing trees, falling-off trees, street food, Indian ice-creams, spicy curries and loads of chocolate. So here I present to you my Chocolate Chilli Macaroons with a Choc-Chilli Ganache no feet but still fabulous. Have found feet before but something about the weather here :-(.
Chocolate Chilli Macaroons
Ingredients (adapted slightly from David Lebovitz recipe)
Egg Whites 30 grms
Caster Sugar 20 grms
Powdered Sugar 55 grams
Ground Almonds 30 grams
Cocoa 2 tsp
Chilli Flakes 1 tsp
Preheat oven to 140C. Blitz the powdered sugar, almond powder and cocoa for a minute in a processor. Whisk the whites until frothy and add the cream of tarter, granulated sugar a tbsp at a time until peaks form. If you invert the bowl the peaks should not slide down the bowl. Fold in the almond-cocoa-sugar mixture in three goes breaking the mass and gently folding. Fill a piping bag with this mixture and pipe small rounds onto a parchment paper. Sprinkle the chilli flakes on top. Let it sit to form a skin for at least 1 hour. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, let slightly cool and transfer to a wire rack.
Chocolate Chilli Ganache
Lindt Chocolate with Chilli - 50 grams broken into pieces
Heavy Cream 3-4 tbsp
Heat the cream and pour it over the chocolate and whisk. Let it cool before piping onto macaroon shells. 

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Leek-Potato-Spinach Frittata and a Cake

Going out with girl friends is always fun...more so for "S" as he gets his favourite meal, some me-time in his couch ,his laptop, Tele playing some weird flick and a bottle of beer. So last week when I had a day-out planned I made him his favourite Fritta and also left him with a box of this very summery Raspberry-Blackberry-Amarretti Cake (have shared the pictures below) that I made for a dinner with friends. 
Frittata (Italian) is a dish similar to omlettes with any kind of filling like vegetables or meat. Italians also make Frittatas out of left-over pasta. Unlike omlettes you can serve them hot or cold and are perfect picnic food. They can be cooked in a frying pan on stove or can be cooked half-way on stove and then finish-off under the grill or in oven. I used Prestige oven proof pan and baked it in the oven with some cheese on top. This recipe is very forgiving so add or omit any vegetable or meat you like.
For the Frittata
Free  Range Eggs - 5
Cream - 1 tbsp
Cream Cheese - 1 tbsp
Potato - 1 cubed
Leeks - 1 sliced and washed thoroughly
Bell Pepper - 1/2 chopped
Spinach - a handful chopped
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan - 1/4 cup
Olive Oil Oil - 2 tsp
Sauté the vegetables along with salt and pepper in olive oil until the potatoes are slightly cooked. Taste for seasoning. Let it cool slightly. Preheat the oven to 180C. Meanwhile whisk the eggs with cream, cream cheese, salt, pepper and add the  cooked vegetables to this. Heat 1tsp of oil in a non-stick pan and pour this mixture and cook it until slightly done. Sprinkle some grated parmesan over the top and bake this in the oven until skewer inserted comes out clean. If you do not want to use the oven flip the frittata onto a plate and slide it back into the pan and cook the other side till done on the stove-top. 
Verdict: "S" enjoyed his frittata and swapped it for his breakfast cereals and also had it for lunch. He liked the subtle onion taste from leeks, wholesomeness from the potatoes, spicy kick from the peppers, creaminess from eggs and cheese. I do not eat eggs in any savoury form to give you a verdict, so have to go with "S"s comments. But I loved the cake. I have also made a Chocolate Amaretti cake before but this time wanted to make use of the summer fruits and it tasted divine. Crunchy and sweet from the Amaretti cookies but perfectly balanced with use of berries. To satisfy the naughty side of me I added a handful of chopped chocolate and a dash of Amaretto liqueur for extra-kick!
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