Posts Tagged ‘Fun Stuff’

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. 


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.


August 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Scones with Cream and Jam

I had been intending to make some scones for some time, and, enjoying the good weather whilst I could, thought the bright sunshine of this last weekend leant itself well to cream tea in the garden. There are so many recipes for scones out there, and this recipe is from BBC Good Food – it’s a ‘storecupboard recipe’, (that is to say, a recipe for which you, or me at least, are likely to have everything you need at home anyway), which attracted me, because if it worked it would probably become a standby recipe and I could whip up a batch at any time.

Well, work it did – these really did rise, and were absolutely delicious. I did think they were very slightly undercooked, which was actually quite pleasing, but by all means add a few minutes to the cooking time. My local supermarket didn’t have any clotted cream in, so I had these with extra thick Chantilly (vanilla) cream spooned on top of a thick layer of strawberry jam. The original recipe states this will make 8, although I only achieved 7, but perhaps my dough was a little thick, and I didn’t measure my cutter to check it was the called for 5cm, so it may have been a little larger!

Scones (makes 6-8)

  • 350g self-raising flour , plus more for dusting
  • good pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 85g butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 175ml milk (or 175ml buttermilk, and omit the lemon juice)
  • 1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  • squeeze lemon juice (the purpose of this is to slightly sour the milk, mimicking buttermilk, which is often used in scones but less likely to be a store-cupboard staple for you)
  • beaten egg, to glaze
  • jam and clotted cream , to serve

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Put the flour into a large bowl with the salt and baking powder, and give everything a good stir to mix.

Add the cubes of butter, and rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.

Pour the milk into a jug, and warm it in the microwave for thirty seconds – it should be warm, but not hot. Add the vanilla and the lemon juice to the milk, and leave it to stand for a minute. It’ll curdle a little, but that’s the point, don’t worry!

Stick a baking sheet into the oven to get hot.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, and tip in the milk mixture. Combine everything quickly with a cutlery knife, until you get a dough – it’ll be quite sticky.

Flour a surface, and tip the dough onto it. Dredge the top of the dough with some more flour, and flour your hands. Fold the dough over a few times until it’s a little smoother and a bit less sticky, then pat it out into a round about 4cm thick. Try not to overwork the dough, as the scones won’t rise as much.

Dip a 5cm round cutter (preferably not a fluted one – the scones will rise better) in a little flour, and cut out four scones. Press the dough back together and cut out another four. Brush the top of the scones with a little beaten egg, and carefully place them onto the hot baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes until risen, and golden on top. Eat just-warm, or cold, on the day of baking, spread with generous amounts of jam and clotted cream. Once they’re cold, you can freeze them if you like. To eat, defrost thoroughly and then refresh them in a 140°C oven to refresh.

For fruit scones, stir in 85g plump, moist sultanas when you add the sugar.   


Categories: Recipe, Sweet Treats Tags: , ,

Cheese Bites

August 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Our friend likes donkeys. Well, she’s an animal lover and finds donkeys particularly adorable, and who could disagree. We’d found a donkey cookie-cutter in my favourite cookware shop just before her last birthday, and rather than give this to her as a gift, since baking is pretty much an alien concept, I thought I’d put it to use in my own kitchen, and some freshly baked donkey-goodies would make a much better gift. Since more sweet treats, in addition to the pile already planned, seemed a little defunct, I decided on something savoury and came across the Cheese Stars in the ‘Feeding Babies and Young Children’ chapter of Nigella’s How To Eat.

Firstly, let me say there is nothing ‘babies and young children’ about these – they’re very delicious, moreish, and go great with dips, like a home-made red pepper hummous. Obviously, you don’t need a donkey cutter – the original recipe calls for stars, you could made rounds, or cut the dough into long cheese straws.

So, with another birthday approaching, and poor donkey languishing in the back of the baking cupboard, I cooked another batch and they really are too good not to share. I’ve made some slight changes to the additional recipe – I use mature Cheddar instead of Red Leicester, because I prefer it, always have it in the house, and it gives, I think, much more flavour than Red Leicester. It doesn’t, however, give the bright orange colour that Red Leicester would. I’m not too sure if this is a loss or not! The quantities I’ve used are double those in the original recipe, because once you’ve tasted one you’ll want to make sure you have plenty, and I’ve complicated the method somewhat. The original recipe calls for simply mixing the ingredients together, but I rubbed the butter into the flour, a la pastry making, which gives a good end result. Finally, you don’t need to leave the dough to rest in the fridge, but I find it rolls out better rested.

Cheese Bites (or Donkeys, or whatever) (makes plenty)

  • 100g self raising flour
  • good pinch cayenne pepper
  • 50g soft butter (i.e. butter at room temperature)
  • 150g grated mature Cheddar (the coarse side of the grater should be fine!)
  • 40g freshly grated Parmesan

Rub the butter into the flour, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the cheeses. You shouldn’t need any liquid to bind this together, it will be crumbly at first but just knead and squeeze a little and it will come together.

Split the dough into two balls, squash into fat discs, wrap each in clingfilm and stick it in the fridge for half an hour. (Splitting into two just makes this easier to roll out.) Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly oil a couple of baking sheets.

Dust a surface with flour and roll out the dough to about 2.5mm thick. Cut out your bites, clumping together the scraps of dough and re-rolling as needed. Arrange them onto the baking sheets, and cook in the oven for 8-1o minutes. (8 was enough for my oven, and don’t forget they’ll continue to crisp when cooling.) Transfer to a wire rack.

Categories: Other, Recipe Tags: , ,

Ginger Fudge Cupcakes with Fudge Icing

August 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Fudgy Cupcakes

I love cupcakes! Well, actually I love all cakes, but cupcakes are so easy, and it’s really simple to make them look fantastic by decorating them in different ways. The combination of brown sugar and vanilla in these little beauties evoke the flavour of fudge, with a kick of ginger in the background, while the icing really does taste like the cakes have been spread with fudge. I piped on the icing (photo to follow) using a star nozzle to make these look pretty, although you could just spread it on with a knife and swirl it around a bit for a different look. But don’t be afraid of piping – it isn’t something I’ve done a lot, but if I can manage it with my lack of both patience and dexterity, it shouldn’t be a problem for you.

As with all baking, ensure the ingredients are at room temperature before you begin.

Ginger Fudge Cupcakes with Fudge Icing (Makes 12)

  • 100g soft butter
  • 100g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  • 30g golden syrup (or about a tablespoon)
  • 100g self raising flour, sifted
  • 2 eggs, beaten

For the icing:

  • 50g butter
  • 100g light muscovado sugar
  • 60ml double cream (4 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted
  • Small pieces of fudge to decorate (optional) (or perhaps even small pieces of crystalllised stem ginger)

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a 12 hole bun tin with paper cases.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. The easiest way to do this is with an electric whisk, although you can use a wooden spoon and elbow grease.

Beat in the ginger, golden syrup and vanilla until  combined, then add the beaten eggs and a spoonful of flour, and beat again until well mixed.

Gently fold in the flour, lightly mixing until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases. Don’t worry, the mixture will go far enough! To ensure even cakes, I added two teaspoons (and in this one instance I mean a spoon you stir your coffee with, rather than a precise measuring instrument!) to each case, and then started again adding a third. Gently shake the tray to level the mix, and then if any cases look a little emptier than others, top up with any remaining mix. 

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes (you may need an extra minute or two, my oven seems quite ferocious) until well risen and brown – remember these contain brown sugar, so will naturally look quite ‘well done’ compared to normal vanilla cupcakes. Cool on a wire rack.

You need to make the icing when the cakes are cooled, and right before you’re ready to ice the cakes – once it is made, it will set fairly quickly, and if you make it in advance you’ll end up with a solid lump of frosting stuck in your pan! (Please don’t be put off – it’s really worth it!)

Melt the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, add the cream and milk, and simmer for five minutes. Keep watching the pan, and gently stirring, so the sugar doesn’t get too hot and burn – you really want a gently simmer, barely bubbling. It will look quite dark at this stage, but don’t worry, the icing sugar will lighten and give it a more fudge-like colour. Stir in the vanilla extract

Remove from the heat, and beat in the icing sugar. You’ll need to beat it quite well, until it’s smooth, to get out any lumps. You’ll have a much easier time if you sifted the icing sugar first. You want quite a stiff mixture, but if it gets too stiff, add a tablespoon of boiling water and beat it some more.

Spread (or pipe!) the icing over the cakes, pushing in the fudge chunks (if using) as you go, and allow to set a little before tucking in. These’ll keep well in an airtight container for a couple of days, particularly if your icing completely seals in the sponge.

Fudge Cupcake

Cheesy Baked Bean Pasties

August 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Inspiration for cooking comes from many places, and I pick up ideas wherever I see them – some of the supermarkets give away a magazine, which although, somewhat obviously, are partially a nicely presented adverts, have some great ideas for meals. Made with pizza base mix rather than pastry, I guess this is a pasty-calzone hybrid type affair, but either way this is a delicious, easy lunch or supper, and is from a recipe in and old edition of ASDA magazine.

Cheesy Baked Bean Pasties (makes 4)

  • 1 pack pizza base mix (290g) (this might be divided into two portions inside – use both)
  • 1 400g tin baked beans
  • 150g mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 50g Parmesan, grated

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Make the dough as per the packet instructions, allowing the dough to prove as directed.

Empty the baked beans into a sieve and drain away most of the sauce. Transfer to a bowl, add the cheddar and sweet chilli sauce, and give it a good mix.

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions, and roll them into 15cm (6″) rounds. Spoon the baked bean mixture into the middle of the dough discs. Brush the edges of the dough with a little of the beaten egg, and then fold the dough over to make a semi-circle shaped parcel, pressing down the eggy edges to seal.

Place the parcels on a greased baking tray and allow them to rest for ten minutes. Then brush with the remaining egg, and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes or so before eating.

Categories: Mains, Recipe Tags: , ,

Jam Tarts

August 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Sometimes you just need a good, old fashioned, home made treat. And these are the best kind of treat – they’re easy (ish, depending on how you feel about making pastry), and also shop-free (although this may or may not add to the ‘treat-factor’), in so far as I generally have the wherewithal for these in the house.

So, late night craving for something sweet fulfilled, this is what I did. The pastry recipe is borrowed from (where else?) Nigella’s How To Eat, although I did make it by hand rather than in the processor, as suggested, as the machine in question is still on my Christmas list.

Jam Tarts (makes 12)

  • 120g plain flour
  • 30g icing sugar
  • 80g butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 egg yolk (freeze the white!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 12 generous teaspoons of your favourite jam

Sieve the flour and sugar into a bowl and add the cubed butter. Rub together until the contents of the bowl resembles breadcrumbs, and there are no big lumps of fat left.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk, vanilla and cold water together. Add to the flour and butter mixture and stir together. You’re aiming for everything to come together into a doughy ball, and you may need to add a little more cold water, a drop at a time, to achieve this. A little kneading might be necessary to bring everything together, but don’t bash it around too much. When you have a ball of pastry, flatten it a little to make a disc (it will chill quicker), wrap it in cling film and pop it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 180°C, and very lightly brush the holes of a 12-hole jam tart tin (I’m sure this isn’t its primary purpose but not sure what it’s called. Yorkshire pudding tray? You know the one.) with a little vegetable oil to stop the tarts from sticking.

Remove the pastry from the fridge. Lightly flour the surface and your rolling pin, and then roll out the pastry until it’s about 1/2 a centimetre thick. (Or thereabouts – no need to get your ruler out.) Cut out circles to fit the holes in your baking tray – I used a 6cm circle cutter. You should be able to get 12 if you’re making them a similar size to mine, although you may need to squeeze all of the dough back into a ball and re-roll.

Gently place each circle of pastry onto the tray and push down in the middle to create your little tart cases. Add a generous teaspoon or so of jam to each, trying not to spill over the edges of the pastry or you may end up with sticky, burnt bits of jam.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, checking after 10, until the edges of the pastry begin to turn golden. Leave to cool in the tray for five minutes, then carefully remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack. These are delicious a little warm, but you don’t need me to tell you that the jam will be extremely hot when they come out of the oven, so try and resist the temptation to eat them right away.

Categories: Recipe, Sweet Treats Tags: , ,