Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Red Velvet Cupcakes

To me, Red Velvet Cupcakes are just pure indulgence. The soft, dense crumb is so smooth and luxurious. The hint of chocolate against the sour notes of the cream cheese icing is balanced well. And the colour, well the sensational boldness of the red is an eye catcher every time. Pretty much I feel like royalty in the presence of Red Velvet Cupcakes! 

I made these as a practice run for a party that is coming up, and I must say I am super impressed by the recipe. I used a recipe from Joy of Baking and although it didn’t make many, they were so divine it was probably a good thing because between me and D we ate them all in a day. 

At the time of decorating I couldn’t decide between a round or star piping nozzle but now I think the star one looks better. In hindsight I would try to use less icing on the cupcakes as I went a little overboard and I don’t want to the icing to overpower the cupcake itself but just compliment it. I also added sprinkles for decoration but I am still undecided as to wether I will use them for the party I guess it will depend on what papers I use.

This recipe calls for Cake flour which isn’t exactly readily available to the home baker but there is a way you can substitute it. Basically Cake flour has less protein than bread flour and so for every cup of Cake flour you need, use 3/4 cup plain flour + 2 tbsp corn flour.

All in all this recipe is dead easy and the finished product is gorgeous. Give it a go and you won’t be disappointed.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Adapted from Joy of Baking, icing adapted from Baking Better

What you will need

1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup or 57g unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp red food colouring
1/2 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp baking soda

250g cream cheese, room temperature
125g butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups icing sugar

What you will need to do

Preheat oven to 175*C and line 12 muffin tins with cupcake papers. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, beat butter until soft then add sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined. Scrape down bowl sides and add vanilla, beat until well combined.

In a small bowl whisk buttermilk and red food colouring. Mixing slowly, add the buttermilk and flour mixture alternately until just combined. In a small cup combine the vinegar and baking soda and let it fizz before adding it to the cake mix. Fold in quickly.

Divide the mixture between the 12 cupcake papers and smooth over the tops with the back of the spoon. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 18 - 23 minutes or until tops spring back when touched or toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes then remove and place on wire rack. Make sure they are completely cooled before icing. To make the icing, beat the butter until soft then add the icing sugar. This mix with be pretty stiff, add the vanilla and salt and beat until creamy. Add the cream cheese and mix until just combined and you cannot see any lumps. Don’t over mix or your icing will become liquid. I let my icing cool in the fridge for a bit to harden up a bit before piping but you can pipe straight away. Fill a piping bag fitted with your preferred shape and pipe swirls of icing onto the cupcakes. Finish with sprinkles if desired.

Sweet Caramel Bread Plait

* I have just realised that when making these I actually tried a variety of shapes and the main one pictured isn't actually a plait! Hehe oops! To make that one, use a 300g ball of dough and after letting it rest roll out to a rectangle shape not too thin. Spread caramel over and roll up from one short end to the other. Make cuts about 3/4 through the roll about an inch apart all the way down the roll. Holding the first piece, take the second and turn it over to the opposite side, alternate each piece down the roll keeping the edge that is still in tact on the bottom. That was not the greatest explanation ever but if you don't understand and you really want to just contact me :).

I have been meaning to make some bread at home for a while now. I have been learning so much with my apprenticeship that I want to try it out at home (without all the commercial machinery at work). When I made the caramel last week I thought it would be a perfect chance to try a sweet bread dough with caramel filling!

I made two variations of plaits when I was baking this, a 3 strand plait and a 4 strand plait. I also mixed it up a bit a put some cinnamon sugar inside some of the strands instead of caramel. A 3 strand plait is pretty straightforward, you put strand 1 over strand 2, then strand 3 over strand 2 and repeat. A 4 strand plait is a little bit more tricky, you put strand 4 over 2, 1 over 3 then 2 over 3.

Sweet Caramel Bead Plait

What you will need

1 quantity caramel
500g plain flour
250mls cold water
50g caster sugar
10g instant active yeast
30ml oil
5g bread improver
5g salt

What you will need to do

In a bowl of a stand mixer place the flour and water. Using a dough hook attachment, mix for one minute on slow then leave for 20 minutes. Place the sugar, yeast, oil bread improver and salt into the bowl with the flour and water and mix on slow for another two minutes. Increase the speed and mix until the dough is soft and smooth. This might take a bit of grunt so if your mixer can't handle it, take the dough out and kneed until soft. Roll dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic. Leave bowl in a warm spot for an hour to increase in size.

Take dough out of the bowl and punch down on a floured surface. Cut dough into 9 equal parts. Roll each part into a small ball and place on a bench or tray covered in plastic for another 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, come back and roll out 3 balls of dough into long rectangles. Spread a thin layer of caramel onto the surfaces. Roll up the dough tightly to form 3 long rolls. Connect the rolls at one end and pinch together. Plait the strands and pinch together at the end. Place on a tray lined with baking paper and cover with a tea towel. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Leave all plaits on their trays covered with tea towels for another 30 minutes or until a small indentation is left when you gently press on the dough. Preheat the oven to 220*C and once it reaches temperature place a tray into the oven. Toss a handful of ice onto the bottom tray in the oven and turn heat down to 200*C. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden on top. Remove from the tray and cool on wire rack. Brush a small amount of caramel that has been warmed in the microwave over the top of the plait for a nice glossy shine. Repeat with all the trays of plaits.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Caramel (Dulce de leche)

I'm not doing a valentines day post, it is not really an event of high importance in our household. Sure it's nice to be spoiled for a day but when you are in a loving relationship, every day is like valentines day ( awwwww cheeeesey!)

I decided to try new recipes this year and to challenge myself in the kitchen, so this week I kept that in mind and decided to make caramel. I've always been scared to make it from melting sugar in a pan for fear of burning the sugar or myself and destroying my pans. So when I saw this recipe for caramel on SBS Food Safari I knew it was the one for me. It didn't involve melting sugar (YAY!), instead it used milk and sugar boiled until it thickened and caramelised.

This recipe is so easy, it uses few ingredients and its pretty hard to stuff up. The only down side to this recipe is that it takes a very long time. I didn't time myself exactly but I know it took at least an hour to make and that whole time you have to be there stirring the mixture. I even thought that maybe I had done something wrong and it wouldn't turn out but then you finally see it start to thicken and change colour and EUREKA you have caramel (an hour later).

This caramel can be used as a sauce for desserts, a filling for sweet pies, pastries and chocolates or simply eaten on its own! 

Caramel (dulce de leche)

Adapted from SBS Food Safari

What you will need

1 litre full cream milk
230g caster sugar
50g brown sugar
1/4 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp vanilla

What you will need to do

Place one cup of milk, the caster sugar, bicarb soda and vanilla in a saucepan and on medium heat stir until all is dissolved. Cook while stirring until the mixture starts to turn caramel in colour.


Cooking and bubbling...

Caramel colour change! Now add another cup of milk and the brown sugar, still stirring.

When it starts to thicken add another cup of milk and continue cooking and stirring.

As it thickens some more add the last of the milk and turn the heat down to medium-low. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture darkens and thickens.

When it is ready you should be able to see the bottom of the saucepan when stirring. Take off the heat and continue to stir for another minute or two.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cranberry Lime Spritzer

Hey guys and gals, I apologise for my lack of focus last week but I was living it up in Perth! Holidays are the greatest aren't they?!? Exploring new places, eating out for every meal and most importantly NOT having to worry about work (and getting up at 2am).

So the eating out is good and all, but it has its downfall in the way of weight gain :(. My clothes were a little snug on the trip back so I've decided to lay off the sugar for a bit. But when I got back into the daily routine I missed the lazy, relaxed vibe of holidays so decided to make a spritzy (sugar free) summer drink to recapture the vibe.

Cranberry Lime Spritzer

What you will need

2 cups sugar free lemon squash soft drink
2 limes cut into quarters
2 shots diet cranberry cordial
2 hi ball glasses

What you will need to do

Put one lime in each glass and muddle to release juices. Add one shot of cordial to each glass. Place a small handful of ice in each glass. Pour one cup of soft drink in each glass, pouring onto the ice to create distinct layers. And you are done, enjoy guilt free!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Salted Milk and White Chocolate Chip Biscuits

All week I have been getting so excited for our trip to Perth and we are finally here! This city has impressed so far with its beautiful parks and friendly people, they even put on a fabulous fireworks display for Australia Day. In the days leading up to our departure I made about a zillion lists of things to remember to do or pack before we leave and I am proud to say my organisational OCD paid off. I managed to find time to make these deliciously sweet and salty biscuits, with the intention to keep some for the trip, but the reality that they were devoured within a few days.

The wonderful thing about these cookies is that you can really taste the salt but it only brings out the sweetness of the chocolate and makes it so much more delicious. I used to omit the salt from my chocolate chip biscuits out of pure ignorance thinking "why would anyone add such a savoury ingredient to a sweet treat?" I am a lot wiser now (but only slightly less ignorant). Try these biscuits and you will never leave the salt out of a sweet dish ever again!

Salted Milk and White Chocolate Chip Biscuits

(Recipe adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker)

What you will need

2 cups flour minus 2 tbsp
2 tbsp corn flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp salt
170g unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate chips
200g white chocolate cut into chunks

What you will need to do

Preheat oven to 180*C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Sift flours, baking soda and salt into a bowl and set aside. Beat together melted butter and sugars. Add eggs and beat until creamy. Add vanilla and flours and beat until just combined. Stir in chocolate. Take out dough and place on a large piece of plastic wrap. Wrap dough up in a log shape and place in freezer to firm up.

Once firm, remove from freezer and slice into biscuits about 2cm thick. Place on trays and bake for about 15 minutes or until slightly browned on the edges. Remove from oven and cool on trays.