Sunday, February 26, 2012

Vanilla Cupcakes With Blueberry Filling

Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes. ♥
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Oops, I did it again ...

... second time in a week because these Vanilla Cupcakes are SO good. :) This round, just for fun, I swirled some blueberry sauce in. Verdict? I still prefer plain. My daughter and helper, though, really liked this version. Not surprising, since they thoroughly enjoyed the cream cheese/blueberry combo I made for Atayef.

Right now, I am looking for a light, not-too-buttery frosting to pair with these delightful cupcakes, and I have been told I should go with swiss meringue buttercream. So yes, that's on my to-do list. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, you can find the recipes for these cupcakes here:
- Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes
- Blueberry sauce

Have a good week ahead, everyone!

The "crime scene". Blueberry sauce everywhere!
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla heaven, is what these cupcakes are. I am telling you, these are my favourite cupcakes from now on! The intensity of vanilla was amazing and the texture, simply unbelievable. It was so good I wanted to cry, I kid you not. In fact, I tweeted it immediately because I just couldn't contain myself.

Now I finally get the hype surrounding these cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery. They are so, so good! My only hope is that in the not-too-distant future, I will have the chance to taste the actual ones at Bleecker Street to see if I am on or off the mark. ;) Aside, one of my friends got to try them and loved them so much, she downed 3 at a go! I am so jealous. *sniff*

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Now, let's talk about the cupcakes. First, excuse my ugly, lumpy frosting! Boo hoo. I always, always frost the cupcakes immediately but this time, I had to refrigerate it for a short while to run an errand, and when I came back, some parts had hardened slightly. What a chore it was piping lumpy cream out of a pastry bag! :( But you know what? When I make these again, I will likely skip the frosting altogether because they good enough to be eaten plain. I am in love with the cake, not the cream. :)

To really pack the vanilla flavour in these cupcakes, you must use good quality vanilla. There is simply no other substitute. I used my precious homemade vanilla extract and sugar (which I love with all my heart) and the taste was exquisite.

They look simple, no? Wait till you taste them!
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Another thing, the frosting I used was plain ol' vanilla buttercream ... not the one from Magnolia Bakery. Their original recipe calls for a whopping 6 to 8 cups of icing sugar, and that was enough to make me recoil in horror.

Also, I have seen not-so-good feedback about it - "too sweet" being the most common one (ooh, what a shocker). So, I stuck to a regular buttercream frosting which, of course, did not wow me in the least. Why? Because I am just not fond of buttercream! But but but, a cupcake needs frosting to be photogenic, so what choice did I have? ;)

Anyway, I decided that for this post, I will only blog about the cake. You can choose whatever frosting you think will work for you, or follow the recipe to a 'T' and use Magnolia Bakery's *gasp* ultra-sweet version (warning: the cupcakes are already very sweet!).

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Adapted from Food Network

Yields 12 cupcakes
- I halved the measurements and converted everything to metric. Please refer to the recipe link for measurements in cups.

- 85g self-raising flour*
* I did not have any, so I made my own using these estimates: 85g plain flour + 1 1/4tsp baking powder + 1/8 tsp salt
- 70g all-purpose plain flour
- 113g unsalted butter, softened
- 170g caster sugar (140g is just right, in my opinion)
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (or vanilla bean for even more intensity)

1. Preheat oven to 170°C (350°F).

2. Line muffin tins with cupcake papers.

3. In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

5. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.

6. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4* full.
* I found that 2/3 full works much better ... those which I filled to 3/4 full actually spilled to the sides during baking. This batter rises quite a bit, so it's best to err on the side of underfilling.

7. Bake for 20 to 25* minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
* At the 20-minute mark, reduce heat to 160°C (325°F). The tops of the cupcakes should be lightly golden.

8. Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Tadah ... cupcake heaven! My poor girl ... always being interrupted while eating. She took a bite and I hollered, "Hold it! I need to take a shot!" Lol.
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Friday, February 17, 2012

Pumpkin Gnocchi

I seldom cook these days. I am too busy, and there is hardly any need to. My daily meals consist mostly of tofu, veggies and eggs. Occasionally, I have some seafood, but that is usually when I dine out. So my helper does all the cooking now, including for my kids (one-dish stews, fried rice, pastas). She says I am easier to cook for than them, because I can eat the same old dishes everyday for the past year and not get bored. I thought that was hilarious! ;) She doesn't like meat either, so we're a match made in heaven. As long as we have our tempeh and greens, we're happy.

That's why all my recent posts have been about baking, although I love cooking so much more! Well, when I do cook, they are dishes that have either piqued my curiosity or are which my helper doesn't know how to. Like this Pumpkin Gnocchi. Some time ago, my grandma gave me a HUGE pumpkin, and after churning out this tomato-based pasta sauce, I had to think of what I could do with the excess.

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Since I had some success making Ricotta Gnocchi, I decided to move my lazy self into the kitchen and try this pumpkin version. Verdict? I much prefer the ricotta one. OK, I am such a cheese person, it's not even a fair comparison to begin with. But hey, the Pumpkin Gnocchi wasn't bad at all! If you like pumpkin, go for it. It's got that sweet and savoury combination that comes with marrying pumpkin and parmesan. And of course, what can possibly go wrong when you drench anything with a glorious sage brown butter sauce? :)

(from Trissalicious)

- 500g pumpkin, cut into chunks
- 1 egg
- 150g flour (more for dusting the board)
- Freshly ground nutmeg
- 30g grated parmesan cheese
- 10 sage leaves, picked
- 50g butter, unsalted
- Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large steamer, steam the pumpkin until soft, around 25 minutes. If the pumpkin feels a bit wet, dry it out a bit by placing it in a large pan over a low heat to remove some excess moisture.

2. Use a potato ricer* to mash the pumpkin in a large bowl then add the egg, flour, nutmeg and parmesan cheese (add some salt and pepper to taste). Using a fork, mix the ingredients together, the mass will look quite sticky. You can add more flour at this point but doing so will make the mixture much more dense and heavy which is not what you want. Remember also to handle the dough as little as possible.
* I used a wire-meshed sieve.

3. Flour a wooden board and line a tray with baking paper. With floured hands, take a large tablespoon of the gnocchi mixture and roll this into a ball and place it on the baking tray. If you want to shape the gnocchi, use a gnocchi paddle or apply some pressure to the gnocchi balls using the back of a fork.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and then lower the heat to a medium boil. Drop the gnocchi pieces and let cook until they start floating to the top. Remove from the water and place on some kitchen paper to absorb the water*. Keep warm.
* I did the extra step of browning my gnocchi so that they would be crisp on the outside. All you need to do is, after removing them from the salted water with a slotted spoon, place them in a non-stick pan (no oil needed) and let them brown nicely on both sides. Don't move them around too much. Once done, arrange them on a plate and drizzle your accompanying sauce over.

5. For the sauce, heat the butter until nicely browned and smells nutty, then add the sage leaves. Pour the browned butter sauce and sage leaves over the gnocchi and serve immediately.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lemon Almond Madeleines

I'm keeping my word and sharing today's recipe, which I had promised in my earlier post. I was happy to see Daiso restock their madeleine moulds, and I bought a few more to bake these. It's very easy to scarf down one after another of these moreish French cookies, so it makes sense to make a big batch at a go.

Now, if you are apprehensive about making madeleines, let me assure you that it requires less time and technique to make them than some cakes do. What's most important is to use a light hand when folding in the flour, and to keep the batter chilled before baking. Observe these, and a light, airy treat is yours to enjoy.

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One thing to note, though. The original recipe (link below) comes without the lemon zest - it was simply called Almond Madeleines. However, I found the eggy taste and smell a bit too overwhelming and decided to add lemon zest the second time I made them. I'm glad I did. Just a teaspoon not only masked the eggy-ness, it also added fragrance and depth to the flavours. You can use orange zest if you like ... anything citrusy goes beautifully with the nuttiness of the almonds. :)
PS: Like chocolate? Here's a great Chocolate Lemon Madeleine recipe.

In true French fashion, I served these to my children for their le quatre heures, nevermind that it was the weekend and there was no school. After all, we should never skip our meals, tea time included! ;)

These madeleines may not have the prettiest imprints, but what the heck, they taste great! And at $2 a mould (buy more!), one can hardly complain.
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(adapted from Art of the Home)

Yields 24-30 madeleines

- 6 eggs
- 150 grams (about 10.5 Tbsp) of softened unsalted butter+extra to butter your madeleine moulds
- 170g caster sugar
- 170g flour, sifted
- 100 grams finely ground almonds (I used 120g)
- 1 tsp lemon zest (or more, if you like)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Confectioners sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Combine flour, baking powder and ground almonds in a bowl. Whisk to mix well and set aside.

2. In another bowl, beat soft butter and sugar until creamy.

3. Add in eggs one at a time at high speed. You want to get a pale yellow mixture. Add lemon zest.

4. Add flour-baking powder-ground almond mixture in 2 to 3 additions, folding gently with a spatula. It is important not to overmix. As long as the ingredients are combined, stop.

(Left) If you are using teflon moulds, you're lucky. But for people like me - using stainless steel moulds - make sure you grease every crevice and cranny like your life depended on it. Yes, even around the rims of each "shell". This will ensure your madeleines come out whole. (Right) The hump is to madeleines what feet are to macarons.
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5. Using a spoon, carefully scoop batter onto greased madeleine moulds. Allow the madeleine batter to rest in the fridge (use a cling wrap for cover), as this will relax the gluten and give a light texture. Also, it helps in giving your madeleines those knobbly humps.
* Note: I was short of time, so I chilled the batter for only 20mins (and uncovered, at that!) but thankfully, the humps managed to appear, as you can see.

6. Pre-heat oven to 200°C (390°F) and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes or until golden yellow on the top and golden brown on the bottom. Start monitoring at the 10-minute mark, it can go fast and overcooked madeleines turn out dry instead of light and airy.

7. Gently loosen the madeleines using a small silicone spatula or a knife. This should be easy if you have greased the moulds. Place on cooling rack (hump facing up otherwise you’ll marks on your madeleines) or plate.

8. Dust with confectioner's sugar if desired. I skipped that and went straight to photography. When I finally tasted one (still warm), all I could think of was, "Ahh, France!"

My hand model groaned and protested when I asked her to hold still. She wanted to eat in peace. Ooops! :p
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