Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

October 2, 2009 1 comment

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcake

I’m not sure if this says more about my shopping than my cooking habits, but I seem to be forever coming up with ways to use up leftover mascarpone. Of course, depending on how you look at it, this isn’t a bad thing since these new inventions are usually sweet treats.

Overwhelmed with new cupcake recipes and techniques this month, from my recent book purchase, and a feature in this month’s Sainsbury’s Magazine, I drew inspiration from these and elsewhere, but ended up going my own way. In this case, these are plain vanilla cupcakes with a light and creamy strawberry-cheesecake-esque topping. Sometimes, I do think that vanilla cupcakes are the way to go, if you’re adding a good frosting, since, if nice and moist, they offer a comfortingly bland yet satisfying backdrop to a delicious topping. Although, having said that, on any given day I’m equally likely to make flavoured cupcakes that complement their frosting – one of the best things about these pretty little treats is they’re so adaptable, to what you have in the house, to a special event, and not least to your current mood.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

This is a fairly standard cupcake mixture, which made enough for 9 muffin cases, my preference for cupcakes, but would equally, with the cooking time adjusted, make 12 smaller but perfectly formed cakes in standard cases. The frosting is, of course, adaptable – cupcakes seem to be the thing right now, and I reckon more recipes I see seem to call for a cream cheese frosting, so mascarpone wasn’t much of a stretch, since I had it anyway, and although I think this adds more of a cheesecake-yness, if you will, you could use Philadelphia-type soft cream cheese, full fat please, if you so wish.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcake 2

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes (makes 9)

  • 100g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 100g self raising flour

For the Strawberry Cheesecake Frosting

  • 125g mascarpone (at room temperature)
  • 50g butter (at room temperature)
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons strawberry jam
  • a little pink food colouring (optional)
  • 2 digestive biscuits (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line 9 holes of a muffin tray with muffin cases (or 12 holes with smaller fairy cake cases).

Put the butter and sugar into a bowl, and cream together until pale and fluffy, with an electric handwhisk or mixer.

Continuing to beat, add an egg, until incorporated, then a spoonful of the flour, incorporate, then the final egg, and incorporate that too. (Adding the eggs one at a time, with a spoonful of flour between, reduces the chance of the batter curdling.) Finally, add the vanilla and milk and beat some more.

Add the flour, and mix in well, but briefly, either with your mixer on a low speed or by hand, since overworking the batter once the flour is added may affect the rising of your cakes.

Divide the mixture between the waiting cases, ensuring they are not more than two thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, checking at 20, until the sponge is lightly golden, springs back if you gently touch it, and/or an inserted skewer or similar emerges clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cakes are cooling, or even while they’re baking, make your frosting. Put the mascarpone, butter and icing sugar into a bowl, and beat together, slowly at first, and even if completing the job power-assisted, I would start of with a spoon to avoid the dust-cloud of icing sugar you may otherwise get. Once combined, turn up the mixer and continue beating until quite light and fluffy.

Force the jam through a sieve with the back of a spoon, and then scrape the now bit-free jam from the reverse of the sieve. Add this to the frosting, beat it through, and then taste, and add a little more jam if you think you need it. If you wish to add a little pink food colouring, do so now, and again beat, until you have an even colour. If your frosting seems too runny, add a little extra icing sugar, and then chill in the fridge until your cupcakes are completely cold and ready to be iced – this will also help the frosting firm up a little after all of the beating.

When you’re ready, top the cupcakes with the frosting. Bash, whizz or otherwise pulverise the digestive biscuits into crumbs, and scatter over to decorate. These will keep in a sealed container, in the fridge if its warm, for a couple of days, although do please bring them back to room temperature to eat. 

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Lime Cupcakes

September 25, 2009 1 comment

Lime Cupcake

I recently treated myself to the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, sold mostly on the pictures of the amazing cakes within. When I googled it, I was intrigued by the mixed reviews of this book all over the internet, some people rave about it, others complain they cannot get the recipes to work.

Admittedly, the cupcake recipes are unusual for the seasoned baker – no creaming of butter and sugar, and ingredients in different amounts (as opposed to the usual equal parts flour, sugar, eggs and butter). However, the book promises, if you follow the instructions, you’ll end up with the desired result.

With baking, it’s best to follow instructions anyway, as it’s a little more science-y than other cooking, and I usually follow instructions at least the first time, before I start playing with flavours and the like. Here, the only change I made was to substitute lemon for lime, as I had some limes that needed using, and I do love the flavour of lime.

The recipe said I would get 12 cupcakes from the mixture, although I only got nine, and even then was worried these wouldn’t fill their cases on baking since the mixture looked a little scant – the cases should be two-thirds full. However, I did get flat-topped cupcakes, something I wouldn’t have achieved if I’d tried, so they would have been good for runny, glace icing. And the shortfall was lucky really, as I suspect the frosting recipe wouldn’t have stretched to 12 either.

Lime Cupcakes Uniced

It’s also worth pointing out, for us in the UK, you need the larger paper cases for these, the ones sold as ‘muffin cases’. Well, who could complain about bigger cupcakes anyway? The end result was good – nice moist sponge, sharp yet sweet lime frosting (which I would definitely adapt and use elsewhere!) – so overall, I’m pleased and can’t wait to make more from the book.

Recipe based on The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook’s Lemon Cupcakes

Lime Cupcakes (makes 9)

  • 120g plain flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons lime zest
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 120ml whole milk
  • 1 egg

For the lime frosting:

  • 250g icing sugar, sifted
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons lime zest
  • a couple of drops of food colouring (optional – I used a touch of yellow)
  • 25ml whole milk

Preheat the oven to 170°C, and, as ever, ensure your baking ingredients are at room temperature. Especially the butter. Place 9 muffin cases into a cupcake/muffin tray.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, lime zest and butter in a mixing bowl, and beat, on a fairly slow speed, with a handheld electric whisk (or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle or beater attachment) until everything is combined, and you have a kind of sandy consistency.

Still beating, gradually add the milk. When incorporated, add the egg. Continue to mix for a minute or two more, until everything is smooth, but don’t overwork it. While you’re mixing, you may need to push in any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a silicone spatula.

Spoon the batter into the cases until they’re two thirds full at most. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touch. A cake tester or skewer poked in the middle should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool in the tin for five minutes before placing onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat together the icing sugar, butter, lime zest, and colouring if using, again using either an electric whisk or a handheld mixer, on a slow to medium speed, until well mixed and coming together. With the mixer on a slow speed, add the milk slowly, and when everything is incorporated, turn the mixer up to a high speed. Carry on beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, for at least five minutes, but, apparantly, the longer you go, the lighter and fluffier the frosting gets.

When the cupcakes are completely cold, spoon the frosting on top. Allow the frosting to set a little before serving.

The World’s Best Hotel

September 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Hotel Chocolat, let me count the ways in which I love thee…

Well, firstly, there’s my Chocolate Tasting Club solid selection box which arrives through my door every month, and I’m, along with the OH, steadily working my way through the latest package of goodies which arrived last week.

Secondly, there’s your amazing quality chocolates, including your high cocoa percentage milks and your seriously tasty darks.

Thirdly, there’s your Rocky Road mini slab. Enough said.

And you’re kind of ethical too. Well done.

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A Bit of a Different Sweet & Sour Sauce

September 24, 2009 1 comment

Sweet & Sour Sauce 2

Continuing with the sweet & sour mini-series I seem to have going today, this is the first of two sweet and sour sauces. This is the one from Chinese Food Made Easy that goes with the original Sweet & Sour Pork recipe. It’s different from the traditional, but really light and refreshing, and goes very well with the slightly spicy crunchy coated pork. Do try this, but if you prefer the usual, orange coloured, tangy, sugary style sauce, then try this too.

I used to find it difficult to find Shaoxing rice wine, not having a good chinese supermarket nearby, but have discovered Waitrose sell one as part of their ‘Cook’s Ingredients’ range, but dry pale sherry is a perfectly fine substitute.

Recipe from Ching-He Huang’s Chinese Food Made Easy

A Bit of a Different Sweet & Sour Sauce (serves 2)

  • 125g tinned pineapple (in natural juice, not syrup)
  • 125ml pineapple juice (from the tin is fine!)
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (freshly squeezed is best, but I have used the bottled stuff)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • a pinch of ground white pepper

Put the pineapple, pineapple juice and lime juice into a blender, a blitz, but not too much, until you have a smooth-ish sauce – I like mine a little ‘pulpy’.

Transfer to a saucepan, bring to the boil and then simmer for 2 minutes or so, until the sauce reduces and thickens a little. Season to taste with the soy sauce, rice wine and pepper. Simmer for a further minute and then serve with crunchy coated pork, chicken or turkey, over egg fried rice.

Chinese Takeaway Style Sweet & Sour Sauce

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

There are lots of different recipes for sweet & sour sauce, and I’ve tried lots of variations in a, possibly a little sad, mini-quest for perfection, by which I suppose I mean one that best approximates my favourite takeaway’s sauce that I can easily make at home. While I’m certainly not saying this is the definitive sweet & sour sauce, I think it’s pretty good. Drawing inspiration from all over, not least this recipe, this is quite a good approximation of the thick, sticky orange sauce we all know and love.

Ok, the list of ingredients is quite long, but stick with it, it’s worth it, and you may have most of the storecupboard stuff in anyway if you cook Chinese food a lot, or will end up amassing it if you plan to. I’ve suggested pineapple, red peppers and water chestnuts to make a chunky sauce, but play around as you wish. Tinned pineapple is fine, and water chestnuts you can buy either tinned or vacuum packed. In both cases, I’ve successfully frozen the leftover contents of the packages for use another time.

Chinese Takeaway Style Sweet & Sour Sauce (serves 2)

  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 x 2cm piece root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 4 tablespoons pineapple juice
  • 1 tablespoon soft, light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons clear honey
  • 2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
  • pinch of salt and ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour, stirred well into 4 tablespoons water
  • 50g pineapple chunks
  • 50g water chestnuts, sliced
  • 1 small red pepper, cut into chunks

Heat the toasted sesame oil in a small saucepan, and then add the garlic and ginger. Stir fry for about 30 seconds. Add the soy sauce, vinegars, ketchup, pineapple juice, sugar, honey and sweet chilli sauce. Stir everything together well.

Season with a pinch of salt and ground white pepper, and then simmer for a minute or so. Stir in the cornflour mixture, and stir, over the heat, until the sauce begins to thicken a little.

Add the pineapple, red pepper and water chestnuts, and cook for 1 – 2 minutes, until everything is heated through. Serve with crunchy coated pork, chicken or turkey, over egg fried rice.

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Sweet & Sour Crunchy Coated Pork (or Chicken, or Turkey)

September 24, 2009 2 comments

Sweet & Sour Turkey

Returning, once more, to Ching-He Huang’s Chinese Food Made Easy, this is the first meal I cooked from the book. Everyone loves sweet & sour, no? So, this is my adaption of this recipe, and I think the crunchy coated meat would work in a number of dishes, so I’ll post separately two ideas for a sweet & sour sauce.

Recipe adapted from Ching-He Huang’s Chinese Food Made Easy

Sweet & Sour Crunchy Coated Pork (or Chicken, or Turkey) (serves 2)

  • 2 pork loin steaks, fat removed, or 2 chicken breasts, or 2 turkey breast steaks
  • 6 tablespoons dry roasted peanuts, or the same amount of whole roasted soya beans and a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of ground white pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons ground nut oil

Place your meat between two sheets of clingfilm on a suitable surface, and then bash with a rolling pin or other appropriate instrument until it’s about half the thickness it was. Cut the meat into large chunks (or leave as whole, large steaks if you wish).

Next, make the crunchy coating for the meat. Tip the peanuts and chilli flakes into a mini-chopper or food processor, and a pinch of ground white pepper, a blitz to a coarsely ground coating.

Pour the coating onto a plate or shallow dish, and then firmly press each side of the meat pieces into the crumbs until well coated.

Heat the ground nut oil in a large frying pan, or wok, and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until thoroughly cooked. Serve with this fresh modern take on sweet & sour sauce, or this more traditional takeaway-style one, and egg fried rice.  

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Egg Fried Rice with Tomatoes

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Egg Fried Rice

I just love Chinese food, with its wonderful flavours, and quick, easy cooking. I’ve already talked about Ching He-Huang’s Chinese Food Made Easy, which, I think, is a fantastic book, and has encouraged me to try some Chinese cooking at home, and the results have always been great. Cooking Chinese food at home really isn’t too difficult, and much better for your waistline and wallet than ordering takeaway!

I’m going to post a couple of sweet & sour recipes later, but thought I’d start with egg fried rice, as it is my favourite side dish to a Chinese meal, and really goes well with sweet & sour! This recipe is adapted from the Beijing Rice in Chinese Food Made Easy. I’ve reduced the amount of rice, and I think what I’ve suggested is enough of a side for two people, although I haven’t reduced the amount of seasoning, particularly the toasted sesame oil, as this is simply one of my favourite flavours – by all means reduce the amount slightly, or increase the rice up to about 400g, as my preference is for this rice is to have it really flavour-packed, if a touch oily. By all means, change the vegetables too. I love the crunch of the spring onion added in at the end, so my recipe calls for more than the original.

When making egg fried rice, you need to have cooked rice, and its easier to do this the day before, but do bear in mind you need drain it well, cool it quickly, refrigerate it and ensure it is fully reheated. If that all seems like a bit of a hassle, then you can cheat! This rice, and others like it, are designed for microwaving but are basically little packages of cooked rice, in a little oil to stop it sticking, that stir fry really well. I use it all the time, and would use one 280g packet in place of the 300g cooked rice in this recipe. It’s best to break it up in a bowl before you add it to the wok.

Recipe adapted from Ching-He Huang’s Chinese Food Made Easy

Egg Fried Rice with Tomatoes (serves 2)

  • 1 – 2 tablespoons ground nut oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 300g cooked jasmine rice
  • 3 tomatoes, de-seeded and sliced
  • 2-3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2-3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • pinch of ground white pepper
  • 4 – 5 spring onions, finely sliced

Heat a wok until very hot, and then add a tablespoon of ground nut oil. When the oil is hot, add the eggs and scramble for a minute or two, until just cooked. You should probably remove the eggs at this point, and set aside to be re-added later, but I’ve never bothered and haven’t really noticed it being overdone.

If needed, add another tablespoon of ground nut oil to the wok. Tip in the rice, and stir fry for a minute, then add the tomatoes and stir fry for a further 3-4 minutes.

If you’ve removed the egg, stick it back in at this point. Season, to taste, with the soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and pepper, and then add the spring onions. Give everything a final stir, and serve immediately.

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