Monday, December 28, 2015

Red Velvet Cupcakes

These cupcakes where the grand finale to my Christmas baking session. I brought them along for the family Christmas dinner at my dad's yesterday. And now that the festivities are over, I must say that this year, it was particularly lovely with the two babies Julia and Fynn around. They both played along really well and seemed to enjoy it. My mum always tells me that the year I was born, she had been looking forward to Christmas so much and, apparently, I then spent the evening crying under the Christmas tree. But Julia, to our great joy, really had a fun time. We'll have a few quiet days at home now until the new year starts and I am so curious what it will bring. Have a good start everyone and see you in 2016.

(from the fabulous "Cake Days" by the Hummingbird Bakery) 

For the sponge
120g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
2 large eggs
20g cocoa powder
40ml red food colouring (such as Dr Oetker)
1 tsp vanilla essence
300g plain flour
1 tsp salt
240ml buttermilk
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the frosting

100g unsalted butter, softened
600g icing sugar
250g full-fat cream cheese (such as Philadelphia)

Coloured sprinkles, to decorate (optional)
One or two 12-hole deep muffin tins

Preheat the oven to 190°C and line a muffin tin with muffin cases.

Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Break in the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition and mixing in the scrapings from the sides of the bowl.

In a separate, small bowl, stir together the cocoa powder, food colouring and vanilla essence to form a paste. Add the paste to the batter, mixing thoroughly until the paste is completely incorporated.

Sift together the flour and salt in another bowl, then add the flour to the batter in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk and mixing thoroughly after each addition. Lastly, in another bowl, mix the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda together by hand and add it to the cake batter, mixing it in until it is fully incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the paper cases, so that they are two-thirds full, using any remaining batter to fill up to four more cases in another tin. Place in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed. Allow the cupcakes to cool for a short while in the tin, then place on a wire rack to cool completely before you frost them.

Using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment, and mixing on a low speed, beat the butter and icing sugar together until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is sandy in texture. Add the cream cheese and mix together slowly until everything is incorporated, then increase the speed to medium and beat the frosting until it is soft and fluffy.

Cover all cupcakes with 2 tablespoons of the cream cheese frosting, smoothing it down with a palette knife and making a swirl in the middle of the frosting for a decorative finish. Sprinkle with whatever decoration you fancy. I used crushed candy canes and sugar stars. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Brownies

It's true: children make you realize how time flies. It's the 24th of December and our little daughter is 9 months old already. Julia is healthy and happy and she's conquering her world on all fours now. She has already spent a considerable amount in the kitchen with me and I'm looking forward to baking together with her. But for now, I'm just really grateful for having had a wonderful - demanding, but wonderful - year full of discoveries.

I was thinking about 2015 lately and I realized that I haven't baked a single batch of brownies in the past 12 months. And as I cannot let this year go by without having had a proper brownie, I decided to bake brownies for our annual family Christmas feast. These here are wonderfully rich with a melt-in-your-mouth texture, some crunch from the walnuts and a festive flavor from the spices. Perfect to please a crowd. And with that, I wish all of you a merry Christmas and happy holidays.

(Original recipe in German here)

200g dark chocolate
50g milk chocolate
250g butter
100g walnuts, coarsly chopped
150g flour
0.5 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon or gingerbread spice mixture (I used gingerbread spice because I just love the smell of it)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 eggs
200g sugar
icing sugar, for dusting

Line a brownie tin (about 25x25cm) with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

In a saucepan, melt dark and milk chocolate together with the butter on low heat. Stir occasionally. When everything has melted, set aside and let cool a bit.

In a bowl, mix the flour with the salt, the spice, the cocoa powder and the walnuts. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat sugar end eggs with an electric mixer until pale, thick and creamy. Then, add, the melted chocolate and mix well. Fold in the dry ingredients and mix until all is well combined.

Pour your mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Let cool in the tin. Cut into squares and dust with icing sugar before serving.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Eggnog Biscotti

I managed to bake one batch of cookies this year! I'm not a big pro with the cookies, but, somehow, I've always had a thing for biscotti and they just never fail me. I really adore these. The freshly grated nutmeg makes them smell amazing and they look pretty with the glaze, don't they?

(from here)

280g all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
85g unsalted butter, room temperature

133g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon rum
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs

For the glaze:
28g unsalted butter, softened
120g icing sugar
generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
about 1 tablespoon whole milk

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper.

Biscotti: in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in vanilla, rum and nutmeg. Beat in eggs one at a time. On low speed, mix in the dry ingredients and mix just until a dough forms.

Divide dough in half and shape each half in a log about 15x5cm. Place the logs about 7.5cm apart onto prepared sheets and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and let stand for 20 minutes – leave the oven on. Line another large baking sheet with baking paper.

Slice biscotti into little less than 2cm slices. Place slices onto prepared sheet and bake fo 10 minutes. Turn all slices carefully, and bake for another 10 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheet over a wire rack.

Glaze: whisk butter, sugar and nutmeg until mixture starts to get creamy. Add milk gradually, whisking until drizzable consistency. Drizzle biscotti with glaze and set aside until glaze is dry, about 20 minutes.
Biscotti can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days – without the glaze they last even longer.

Makes about 20.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Corn Flakes Crispy Cakes

Here comes the ultimate kids' treat for Christmas! Many of you might know these, but there's a twist to this recipe here you might not have guessed. I've rediscovered Nigella Lawson's old TV shows lately and in her version of these (she calls them "chocolate crispy cakes"), she uses butter and mars bars for the coating. What you end up with - and I'd like to quote Nigella on this one - is a "tremendously good goo. A kind of chocolate stickiness ribboned through with caramel and still having the chewiness of nougat… Can't really be improved!"

(from here - I recommend watching the whole video! It's big fun!)

50g mars bars
50g butter
70g corn flakes

(I doubled the amount)

Prepare enough mini-muffin paper cases. To be honest, I didn't count them, but you'll end up with enough to feed a bunch of people.

In a medium saucepan, slowly melt butter and mars bars. Do this on a low heat. Be patient - it'll take a moment. Then, stir in the corn flakes and mix well until they are covered with the butter-chocolate mix.

Then, transfer spoonfuls into the mini-muffin cases. Let cool in the fridge for at least an hour or so.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cinnamon, Walnut and Apple Granola

By now, making granola has also become a Christmas tradition. I like to hand it out as a gift in little glass jars with a pretty ribbon on it. This year, I slightly adapted Ella Woodward's Cinnamon and Pecan granola and I think, the combination really fits for Christmas.

(adapted from this recipe)

Makes one large container of granola.

2 and a 1/2 cups of oats
1 cup of walnuts
1/2 cup of almonds
1/2 cup of flax seeds
1 cup of pumpkin seeds
1 cup of sunflower seeds
1 cup of dried apple, diced into small pieces
3 tablespoons of coconut oil
3 tablespoons of maple syrup
3 teaspoons of cinnamon

You can use any kind of cup.

Place the walnuts and almonds in a food processor and pulse for about 30 seconds so that they are partially crushed. Then add them to a large mixing bowl with all the other dry ingredients, except the apple pieces and cinnamon, and stir together.

Next, melt the coconut oil with the maple syrup and cinnamon on the stove or in a small saucepan. Once it has dissolved into a sweet liquid add it to the dry bowl and mix well. This should form a delicious oaty nutty bowl, which is slightly sticky.

Place the mixture into a baking tray and bake for about 30-40 minutes at 180C, until crunchy. During this time you’ll need to stir the mixture to ensure that every bit of the granola gets nicely toasted and the top doesn’t burn.

Once the granola is cooked perfectly remove the tray from the oven and allow it to cool, then stir in the apple pieces. Store the granola in an air-tight container to keep it wonderfully fresh and crunchy.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

White Chocolate Fudge with Fleur de Sel

I haven't baked any Christmas cookies yet and I'm not so sure that I will. But, I've started to make some edible gifts this weekend. This recipe here is easy and fabulous. I'm sure we all agree that the combination of caramel and salt is delicious. It was the addition of white chocolate that drew my attention to this recipe. Funnily, I'm not usually a big fan of white chocolate, but I immediately thought that here, it would work really well. And it did!

(to read the original recipe in German, click here)

2.5dl heavy cream
250g sugar
80g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
fleur de sel

Line a brownie tin (about 20x20cm) with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, bring sugar and heavy cream to the boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 30-40 minutes until the batter thickens and has got a brown, caramel-like color. Take away from the heat and stir in the white chocolate. Keep stirring until the chocolate has melted.

Immediately pour your batter into the brownie tin. Let cool in the fridge for a few hours. Then, cut into squares.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

Last weekend, it was particularly foggy. The kind of weather that calls for comfort food. Most people would agree that a mug of hot chocolate definitely belongs to the category of comfort food. And so I thought, hot chocolate cupcakes would do the trick. And they really do taste like a cup of sweet hot chocolate - wonderful!

(from one of my absolute favourites: Cake Days by The Hummingbird Bakery)

For the dough:

240ml milk
25g chocolate powder (the kind you use for hot chocolate like Banago or M-Quick from Migros)
80g soft butter
280g sugar
240g flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a 12-mould muffin pan with paper cases. With the recipes from this book, I usually end up with about 15 cupcakes.

In a small saucepan, warm up the milk and dissolve the chocolate powder. Set aside and let cool.

In a bowl, mix butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt with an electric hand mixer on low speed until you have a fine crumbly batter.

Mix chocolate milk and eggs and add to the cake batter in three additions while constantly mixing. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula from time to time. Mix until you have a smooth batter.

Fill your batter into the prepared cases. Don't overfill them or they will spill while baking! Two thirds is fine. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes. Check with a wooden skewer whether they are done. Let cool completely after baking.

For the frosting:

60ml milk
30g chocolate powder
500g icing sugar
160g very soft butter

Warm up the milk and mix with the chocolate powder. Let cool In a bowl, mix butter and icing sugar with an electric mixer on low speed until you have a powdery batter. Slowly add the chocolate milk while constantly mixing. On high speed, mix until you have a fluffy batter.

Spread the frosting on your cupcakes with a palette knife and decorate with sugar pearls… whatever you feel like or fits for the occasion.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Pear and Chestnut Cake

This weekend, I thought that it was about time to get started with Christmas baking. So I gave this cake here a festive look and added some colorful sugar sprinkles. It would have been absolutely fabulous just the way it was, though. The cake batter consists of a mixture of all-purpose flour and chestnut flour which gives it a full and nutty flavor. The pears and the yogurt render it wonderfully moist. It was the perfect treat for an afternoon with the whole family.

(from The French Market Cookbook by Clothilde Dusoulier)

80ml olive oil
200g brown sugar
2 large eggs
240ml plain yogurt
85g chestnut flour
140g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
0.5 teaspoons baking soda
600g pears, cored and diced
2 tablespoons brown sugar for sprinkling

for the icing (optional):
about 100g icing sugar
a splash of milk or lemon juice
sugar sprinkles

My notes: I used about 100g chestnut flour and 125g all-purpose flour. And I only used about 450g pears and thought that this amount was quite sufficient. This cake would be fabulous without an icing or dusted just with icing sugar.

Preheat the oven to 175°C and line 25cm diameter springform pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, beat together the sugar and the eggs. Add the yogurt and the oil and beat until all is well combined. In a second bowl, combine the flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda, stirring with a whisk to remove any lumps. Fold the flour mixture and diced pears into the yogurt mixture until no trace of flour remains. The batter will be thick, avoid overworking it.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and level the surface with a spatula. Sprinke the remaining sugar across the surface. Bake until the top is golfen and a knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Let cool completely. Then, if you want to add an icing, combine milk and icing sugar and pour over your cake, sprinkle with sugar pearls or whatever you fancy.

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