Sunday, August 30, 2009

Martha Stewart's Raspberry Marble Cheese(CUP)cakes

My favourite cheesecakes are the ones you get in Starbucks - White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake, althought I think its moreso beacuse in Paris, cheesecakes do not exist! Quel sacrilège!
So anywhos, it had been ages, almost a year back when I made cheesecakes, and so thought could try out testing a recipe from Our Lady of cooking/home living/entertaining/styling/and the list goes on , ladies and gentlemen --- Martha Stewart......(applause applause!!)
 In her book Martha Stewart's CUPCAKES, there is a pretty recipe about making the cheesecake.

The recipe follows: makes 16 cups

3/4 cup finely ground sweet crackers (or non-salty ones) - I used Petit Lu Caramel
1 1/2 tablespoons butter (unsalted and melted)
3/4 cups sugar + 2 1/2 sugar
125 grams fresh raspberries
450 grams cream cheese
pinch of salt

2 eggs at room temperature
2 tablespoon tequila

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line the cupcake tins with liners.
  • Mix the crakers with the butter and 1 1/2 sugar. Press 1 tablespoon of the mixture firmly into the bottom of each cup. Pop into the oven for 5 minutes, and then cool on a wire rack.
  • Purée the raspberries in a mixer untill smooth. Pass this mixture through a wire mesh colander/sieve. Remove as much liquid as possible without retaining too many seeds. Mix in 1 teaspoon of sugar.
  • Beat the cream cheeese on high speed for 5-8 minutes untill fluffy. Be sure to scrap down the sides of the bowl to ensure even beating.
  • Add remaining cups of sugar in a slow and steady stream. Add the salt and tequila untill well combined.
  • Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1-2 minutes between each addition.
  • Spoon 3 tablesspoons of the mixture over each cupcake tin. Add 1 teaspoon of prepared raspberry purée in a few dots. With a wooden skewer or toothpick, swirl the sauce around in the cup to achieve the textured finish. 
  • Create a small bain-marie by taking a roasting pan or a large lasagne dish. Put the cupcake tins in this pan and pour hot water in the large pan, the water should reach 3/4 of the cupcake tins. 
  • Bake for 22-25 minutes, rotate the pan halfway through and 10 minutes to ensure even cooking. 
  • Once done, cool and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. 
  • Remove from the tins just before serving. These small bites of heaven taste great with fresh fruits.

Back to cupcakes!

And it was time to get back to the original passion, CUPCAKES!

I had a little farewell party for a friend's mum, and thought of making simple cupcakes. As pineapple upside downs are my friend's favourite, I thought of making those for him. I read a lot of recipes (as always) to make sure I have the right one, and did find a good one in the book I have: 500 Cupcakes by Fergal Connolly.

I will soon update the recipe, but for now, the pictures are all I can give ;)

Pineapple upside down cupcakes with Vanilla cream cheese frosting
Recipe makes 12 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes - 
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla / pineapple essence

For the Topping:
1/2 can pineapple pieces
1/4 cp butter
1/3 cup brown sugar

For the frosting:
1/4 cup butter
 125 grams cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 175°C. Grease the cupcake tins with butter and flour. 
  • At the bottom of each cup, sprinkle 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 tablespoon butter and line some pieces of pineapple. I like to use pineapple rounds, so that they fit perfectly into the cup.
  • Mix up all the cupake ingredients in a large bowl, beat with an electric mixer or a hand beater or roughly 3-4 minutes or untill silky and pale. 
  • Spoon out the batter on top of the pineapple mixture and bake for 25 -30 minutes depending on your oven. 
  • Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes.
For the Frosting:
  • Beat the butter and cream cheese on low speed untill creamy and fluffy. Add in the sugar spoon by spoon making sure it is well incorporated into the batter. 
  • Add the vanilla essence and beat for 5-7 minutes untill well blended. 
  • You can either use a piping bag or just spoon out the cream cheese frosting onto the cupcakes. Make sure the cupcakes aren't hot or even slightly warm. 

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dark Chilli Love

As they say, pratice makes you perfect! Although I have a long way to get to perfection, but one can dream..
And so the Macaronia continues...

After my successful attempt at the macarons, I wanted to try out some different, and maybe daring flavours, as making regular macarons, well, its boring and anyone can do that! So I started thinking about making chocolate macarons, especially because I had just bought the 'great' Van Houten dark chocolate powder. Then began the quest for finding the best chocolate macaron recipe, which I found through my bible blog/site of Syrup and Tang which by the way is the best guide to making macarons. Although I must say I had posed a few important questions to the owner Duncan Markham who never replied :(
On his site, he mentioned a French Chocolate Macaron recipe cited by David Lebovitz. Amazing and fool proof was the recipe and the guidelines were perfect and meticulous.

Of course, I always have the urge of trying something new and different, and thought of giving this recipe a little twist shall we say. I added some spice and made a different ganache instead of the routine chocolate ganache (which I am sure is great as well). the ganache I made was a raspberry Thai chilli ganache, very easy to make and leaves that tangy spicy taste lingering for minutes!

And so here it goes:

100 gms powdered sugar/confectioners sugar)
50 gms almond meal (finely powdered almonds)
25 gms Van Houten or any other unsweetened cocoa powder
2 egg whites (at room temperature)
Lemon Juice - few drops
65 gms sugar

For the Ganache
3 tbsps raspberry preserve (I used a Bio type, but anything goes)
1 tbsp Thai chilli sauce (the hot n sweet types)

  • Preheat oven to 180°C. Line the baking trays with parchment paper, draw the little circles for the macarons if you like.
  • Grind together confectioners sugar, almond meal and the cocoa powder for 30 seconds. Pass this mixture through a fine sieve.
  • In a very clean bowl, add the egg whites, squeeze in a little juice of lemon or a pinch of salt. Whip the egg whites in a standing mixture (as I don't have one of these yet, you can use a standard hand held beater as well). Beat the egg whites while adding bit by bit the 65 gms of sugar. Beat the egg whites till the strong peaks are formed, normally I beat for 3-4 minutes.
  • Carefully fold in the dry mixture in batches, make sure not to break the egg whites, but rather just swirl the mixture around, with a very light hand. 
  • When you don't see any traces of egg whites, and when the mixture turns glossy and falls easy, stop mixing. Take a piping bag with a 2 cm plain nozzle, and fill in the mixture. 
  • Pipe the batter on the parchment paper, make sure to hold the piping bag 90° to the parchment paper. Pipe in on the pre-made circles or make 1 inch circles while keeping 1 inch apart each piped macaron.
  • After you have finished piping all the batter, tap the underside of the baking tray to get rid of the air bubbles. If you aren't too comfortable with this, then tap the baking tray slightly on your working counter. Let the mixture rest for 20 minutes at least. 
  • Bake for 15-17 minutes. At the end of the 5 minute mark, the so called feet should have been formed, as mine!!! As each oven has its own temprament, I suggest nudging the so-called feet of the macaron, and if they move reluctantly, they are done.
  • Take out the tray once the baking is done, and take off the parchment paper and place on a pre-cooled surface. After a couple of minutes of cooling off, remove the macaron from the baking sheet. If they do not come off easily, try scraping them off with the back of a knife. Leave the macaron to cool further on a wire rack.
For the Ganache:
  • Simply take 3 tbsps of the Raspberry preserve and add in 1 tbsp of the Thai chilli sauce
  • Take the reverse sides of two macaron and layer them with the above made ganache. And Voilà, there are ready. For better tasting macarons, try to wait for 12-24 hours before munching on them

Monday, August 24, 2009

Macarons Thé Vert Bergamot

Macarons are a tricky dessert, they are light pastries with a layer of ganache in between (however I would term them as miniature cookies!). The egg whites are what make them light, almost like meringues only that in the macarons you have almond flour (so those of you with nut allergies and calorie count mania - keep away!).
Please do not confuse the Macarons with the Macaroons - which are anglicized lard loaded heavy coconut teeming cookies. Brr..
The French cuisine being royal and awe inspiring is where the origin of Macaron comes about. They are not an easy task, as I had mentioned in my previous post, and take time, effort and lots and lots of you know what.. Patience!

The Bergamot Green Tea Macarons I made, were crunchy on the outside, with a softer milder inside. The ganache was made with white chocolate (I am not a big fan of!) and green tea.

Here is the Recipe for my recipe of the Macaron Thé Vert Bergamot (Macarons Bergamot Green Tea).
(Makes 20-25 macarons)

Almond Meal / Powdered Almonds - 65 gms
Icing Sugar - 80 gms
Bergamot Green Tea - 15 gms
Sugar - 40 gms
Egg White (one) - 50 gms
Green coloring

For the Ganache:
Cream - 35 gms
White Chocolate (broken into pieces)- 65 gms
Honey - 10 gms
Bergamot Green Tea - 1 tbsps

  • Heat the oven to 180°C. Line the baking tray with parchment paper, if you are as organized as I was, make 2 / 3 cm circles with 4 cm space in between them. 
  • Blend the almond meal, tea leaves and icing sugar in a processesor, making sure the mixture is well blended and fine. Then pass this mixture through a fine sieve, making sure that there are no lumps left. 
  • For the egg whites: make sure the bowl you use is extremely clean. The egg whites should be at room temperature, before you start beating, add a few drops of lemon juice or a pinch of salt. Beat on a medium speed, and slowly add the sugar spoon by spoon. Increase the speed after a minute, beating on high speed for 4 minutes or untill strong peaks have formed. Make sure that the eggs hold firm peaks, like a bird's beak! Before stopping the beater, add in a few drops of green color, use very little as a pale green looks nice, we don't want food to look radioactive! Beat for an overall 5 minutes as else the whites will break. 
  • Sprinkly the dry mixture spoon by spoon over the egg whies. Blend this mixture very slowly with a spatula, just bend and not beat, else the whites will flop over. 
  • While mixing you should be gentle making sure not to overmix, as you'd rather have an undermixed batter than a cakey overmixed batter. Normally, I turn the spatula in 30-40 circular motions depending on the quantity. 
  • The best way to know whether the batter is ready, is to look for these signs:
    • When you started off, the batter was firm and was holding its shape. After mixing for subsquent minutes, when you lift the batter it should fall in ribbons, should be shiny and satiny. 
    • You should not be able to see any of the egg white.
  • Fill in this mixture in a piping bag and use a 8-10 mm round tip. Pipe blobs of batter on the circled baking sheet, make sure you are holding the piping back perpendicular to the sheet. Pipe in just about enough to cover the circles you made, or if you were lazy, pipe the size of macaron you would want remember that the batter usually spreads about 1 cm.
  • Leave the piped batter in a dry warm place for minimum 20 minutes so as to develop a thin cover. 
  • Place the tray in the middle, keep another tray below the with the macaron. 
  • Within 5 minutes the feet will start forming, and at the 7th or 8th minute if the macarons start to brown unevenly, rotate the baking tray. Bake for another 3-4 minutes, however, another trick to check if they are done, is to softly push the macaron, if the feet move a bit. 
  • Remove the tray from the oven, take off the baking sheet and place on a wet surface for a couple of seconds so as to stop the baking process. You can do so by placing the baking sheet on a wet piece of cloth flattened out. 
  • After a couple of minutes, peel the macaron off the sheet and place them upside down on a wire rack. If they do not peel or come off easily, pop them back into the oven for a couple of minutes.
The Ganache:
  • Boil the cream and the honey, add in the green tea leaves and boil for a minute.
  • Add the white chocolate pieces. Whent he mixture is uniform, let it cool.
To finish the assembly of the macaron:
  • Smear small portions of the ganache on the underside of each macaron and stick two undersides together. 
  • Cool the prepared macarons for 24 hours at least, as they taste better.. 
And as they say you have to always wait for the good things!

Finally! The Feet have formed..

No, I am not preggers, and welcome to the world of Macaroonia (that's Macaron and Mania for the slow ones!)
So I've heard three's a lucky, and finally it happened. My third batch of Thé Vert Bergamot Macarons are successful! I cannot believe it, I want to jump for joy but I guess it's a bit late in the night.. Still, weeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa..
Am too exhausted to type out the recipe, which by the way, cannot be found online (at least I hope so :D)! Hopefully I should have it up here soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Macaron Quest

Macarons what are they all about? If we thought cupcakes were bite sized pieces of heaven, then macarons could be labelled on the same lines, although I would say they are a tad more refined. It's maybe because the French are so fussy about this delicacy, and they have the right to be, as making it is an art, and eating it shows you the world of taste & pleasure.
Paris, the land of food, fashion & follies is home to some of the finest party houses, the foundations for the exquisite food culture in this city. Ladurée with their magnificent tea room on Champs Elysées, Pierre Hermé of the Fauchon fame and now has his elegant collection  in a few corners of the city - these institutions have nutured the tastes and guarded tradition yet experimented with diffused falvours and wonderful concotions when it comes to these teeny mouthfuls.
My interest for making these delectable piece of food and art came about when my friend Xavier mentioned of trying to make them at home! Of course, he did not succeed, and nor did I!
Making macarons is tougher than I thought, or even imagined. I had read a dozen blogs, seen many a videos as well, hoping that the magic of making them would descend down on me! But nope,nothing could measure up to what every one prepared me for.
So, for now, my quest for getting the macaron right is still on!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

62 years of glory to India

15th August marks the freedom of Incredible India, 62 years of struggle, wars, democracy, economic growth and independence.
I decided to make my first batch of official cupcakes, those based on the three principal colours of the Indian Flag.
For those of you who aren’t aware of the Indian Flag and the relevance of the colors, here’s a brief explanation to the three horizontal equally proportionate bands and the navy blue wheel:

Deep Saffron: courage, sacrifice & spirit of renunciation
White: purity & truth
Dark Green: growth, faith & fertility
Navy Blue Wheel: called the Dharma Chakra – the 24 spokes denote life in movement & death in stagnation
(Source: Flag Code of India: Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. Of India)

According to the colors on our flag I made:
Orange - Cinnamon Cranberry Cupcakes with Grapefruit Frosting
White – Coconut Cream Cupcakes with Coconut Cream cheese Frosting
Green – Cucumber White Tea Cupcakes with Mint Frosting

Cinnamon Cranberry Cupcakes
Recipe makes roughly: 6-8 cupcakes
1/2 cup flour
3/4 tsps baking powder
3 tbsps unsalted butter (softened)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp orange flavour (fleur d'orange)
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 tsp cinnamon powder

1. Heat oven to 175°C, line up the muffin tins with cupcake liners.
2. Sift together baking powder, salt & flour & cinnamon powder.
3. In a large bowl, cream butter for 2 minutes, then add the sugar and beat with an electric beater for 3 minutes. or until pale & fluffy. Beat in egg & orange flavour. Divide dry mixture into three portions, add the dry mixture & milk in alternate batches, beating slightly. Mix until just well incorporated.
4. Fold in the cranberries.
5. Use a ice cream scooper to put the batter in the muffin cups. Bake until pale golden, for 20-25 minutes. Turn out onto a rack and cool for 15 minutes.

Make sure the cupcakes have thoroughly cooled, else you will have the frosting sliding off!
Ice the cranberry cupcakes with the Grapefruit Frosting, and enjoy these crunchy tangy cupcakes!

The Orange Frosting :)
This is a butter cream frosting with a hint of grapefruit, its pretty simple and you can substitute it with orange or lime to get an Orange or Lime Frosting.
2 1/2 tbsps Butter
3 cups icing sugar
6-7 tbsps grapefruit juice
smallest pinch of salt
2 tbsps grated grapefruit rind
Icing colour - Orange

1. Place butter in a mixing bowl & cream it for a minute.
2. Add in sugar one cup at a time (make sure you sift in the sugar before, or you can sift it even during this process) with 2 tbsps of the juice. Keep adding the sugar and juice until the right consistency is achieved.
3. Add in the grated rind and salt and beat on high speed for 1 minute.
4. Take a small portion of the icing color (I used the paste variety) on a toothpick/knife and swirl it in the mixture. Make sure to take on just a teeny weeny bit, as the colours are very potent and can make the butter cream turn out a fluorescent orange :D Mix once again to get the right colour.

Before piping the cupcakes, make sure they have cooled down. Use a butter knife or frosting knife to ice up the yummy Cinnamon Cranberry Cupcakes!

The Beginning

This first post marks the beginning of journey that I trust will take me new heights.. To venture into the realms of baking and more so, creating cupcakes.
Cupcakes: the current rage, the ubercool food to be seen eating and treating, the revolution of food mania.
I have been contemplating of pursuing a passion, an urge to do something creative and feel the excitement and zest to be good at the art of baking. With the birth of the cupcake renaissance comes my fervent desire to make them, bake them and most of all to FROST them to perfection. Noted this will not be as easy eating these divine treats, as constraints like work and my travel schedules and not to forget limited resources and miniature spaces in Paris will take away most of the patience and energy I can muster, but I am confident that this process is going to be fun and fruitful!