Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Best Chocolate Cupcakes

The Best Chocolate Cupcakes

I mean that title. I've made a lot of cupcakes in my day and this recipe is by far the most wonderful. Cupcakes are all the rage in Ireland at the moment and despite looking beautiful and having tasty frosting, the underlying cake is generally dry, flat and bland. I've lived here long enough to learn never to use Irish or English cupcake or cookie recipes, they're just not the same. So this is a good ole Yankee recipe that requires a little bit of corn syrup. I know you can get it at Fallon and Byrne in Dublin, so I suspect regional specialty shops would be able to acquire it as well. If you need to substitute I would use half the quantity of golden syrup.

Anyway... enough jabbering... let's make some cupcakes!

Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 1.25 tsp baking soda
  • 1.25 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 lb icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Sprinkles, chocolate, eggs, to decorate (optional)



Pre-heat oven to 150C/325F.  Line two 12 cupcake tins with cupcake liners.

Whisk dry ingredients together.  Add wet ingredients and beat with a mixer until batter is smooth.  Spoon batter into prepared pans and bake for approximately thirty minutes. They should be nicely risen and a toothpick should come out clean.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting.

Cream the butter, vanilla and corn syrup.  Slowly add in the cocoa and sugar and beat at a high speed until fully combined. Add cream and beat until smooth and fluffy.

Once cupcakes are cool, frost them liberally and decorate as desired. Yum!



Link Parties: Sunday Showcase, Sweet Indulgences Sunday
Friday, June 10, 2011

Sublime Strawberry Shortcake

I had an absolute abundance of strawberries last weekend and ended up making 13 jars of jam, 4 bottles of strawberry syrup and a couple of jars of Indian spiced strawberry chutney.  It was great fun.  Of course we had a good few strawberries leftover that needed to be enjoyed as well.  What better way to enjoy strawberries than with a light and fluffy vanilla shortcake and luscious vanilla whipped cream?

Strawberry shortcake with strawberry coulis and vanilla cream


Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp sugar
To serve:
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups hulled strawberries
Pre-heat oven to 375F/190C.

Combine the flour, 1/3 cup sugar and baking powder, lifting it high to aerate.  Crumble in the butter with your fingers until it resembles small breadcrumbs. Add in the egg yolks, cream and vanilla extract and mix until it forms a ball.  

Roll out the dough to 3/4 inches thick on a floured surface.  Shape into a circle. Slice the circle in half twice then split those halves so you have eight segments.

Brush each segment with melted butter and sprinkle with the sugar.  Bake for about 15 minutes until they're beginning to brown and are firm-ish.

To serve, whip the cream to desired consistency adding vanilla and sugar towards the end.  Serve 1/4 cup strawberries, a dollop of cream with one shortcake. The perfect summer treat!

Parties: Sweet Tooth Friday, Sweets this Week, Foodie Friday, I'm Lovin It Friday, Friday Favourites, Fantastic Friday, Fun with Food Friday,
Thursday, June 9, 2011

Roasted Pepper and Feta Frittata

This is a delicious and quick lunch or brunch recipe that is perfect for having the girls around or for a lazy Sunday morning after church.  It comes together quickly and tastes sublime.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup roasted peppers* (I like a mix of colours)
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 12 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • salt and pepper
Preheat broiler.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over a medium heat.  Add onion and saute until translucent.  Add peppers and cook until heated through.  Mix Italian seasoning with eggs. 

Pour eggs into mixture.  Using a spatula, gently lift the sides of the omelet to let raw egg flow underneath.  Continue to do this and cook over a medium-low heat until egg has almost set.

To finish cooking the egg, place the skillet under the broiler until egg completely sets and puffs up a bit.  Sprinkle the feta on top of the frittata and pop back under the grill until cheese begins to melt.  Season wih salt and pepper and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil before serving.  

*You can use jarred roasted peppers or roast your own by putting peppers directly on  flame if you have gas or on a grill pan or under your broiler until they blacken on all sides.  Pop into a bowl and cover with cling film and let them sit for fifteen minutes, this makes the skin easy to remove.  Remove skin and deseed and you are ready to use them.

Parties: Full Plate Thursday, Recipe Swap Thursday

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

No Knead, No Work, Artisan Bread

As I sit here typing this I am enjoying a nice cup of tea and a slice of homemade sour dough bread with some rich French butter and strawberry jam I made this past weekend.  The butter and jam are nice, but the bread... the bread is sublime.  People are constantly amazed at my "ability" to produce bakery-perfect bread at a moments notice with little to no effort.  I would have thought the secret it out by now, but it seems that is not the case.  So in case you aren't aware how you too can make amazing artisan bread in five minutes a day, let me share with you the book that changed the way we eat!


I can count on one hand the amount of times I have bought bread since buying this book over a year ago.  It has saved us so much money as now I can bake fresh bread any time I want. 

The premise is simple.  There is a master recipe which is a simple mixture of flour, salt, yeast and water that you make up and keep in your fridge.  When I say make up, I do not mean knead!  I literally stir it together in a large container (see left) and let it rise and flop for about two hours on my counter, then toss it in the fridge.  The sour dough bit comes from remaking the mixture without washing the container, the bread truly gets better with each batch.  
Challah made with brioche dough
Boule dough stored in fridge
I use the master recipe for boule dough for a variety of breads including but not limited to pizza dough, sandwich bread, pita bread, naan bread, cinnamon rolls, baguettes, sticky buns and strombolis.  The book also includes many other master recipes that work in the same way such as rye bread, brioche (another staple here on weekends) wholemeal bread and so on.  As someone who grew up in continental Europe, I can tell you honestly that this is authentic tasting bread that truly impresses everyone.

Caramel Pecan Rolls proving
If you want to give it a try, the master recipe is available here with a significant bit of background and suggestions on tools.  The only thing I use that they recommend is a bread stone, but that's something I had already. I somehow manage just fine without all the other "essentials" and just a wooden spoon to mix my dough! 

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  It's perfect for someone adept at making bread as they will be able to use this new technique with their standard recipes with some practice.  For people terrified of yeast breads, it's an even better investment as the time and cost involved is negligible... let me repeat... NO KNEADING!!! :)

I'd love to hear from people who've used the book successfully and am also happy to answer any questions you may have!

24/1/12 Note: There is now a UK version of this book which uses both Imperial and Metric measurements as opposed to the "cup" system of the original US book. I prefer cups to be honest, it's just easier to scoop what I need instead of weighing, but I know a lot of European cooks don't feel comfortable with this method, so hopefully this new edition will be better! :)
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

Growing up my mother always had me on a diet. I joined Weight Watchers for the first time when I was ten years old. I wasn't even fat. So naturally this gave me a food complex. I was never allowed anything nice and didn't even taste Kraft Mac and Cheese until I was about 17 and babysitting. I was floored. It was so yummy and I couldn't believe my Mom had been holding out on me.

I've searched for the perfect home made version for years, preferring my food not to have day-glo in it. But nothing ever really compares to that first bite. I've given up trying to recreate orange chemicals and accepted that this is just a lovely and comforting pasta dish. Perfect for the gloomy weather we had yesterday. This is a mix mash of many different recipes and I find it works well for us, but also reheats well which many recipes don't do. It is fattening, but it's also full of protein and in moderation it's a luxurious treat.

Ingredients
  • 1lb macaroni
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 cups grated cheddar
  • 1 cup grated parmesan or gruyere
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • Handful of cracker crumbs or buttered breadcrumbs.
  • Dash nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Cook the macaroni half way through, for about 5-6 minutes in a large pot of salted boiling water.

While it's cooking make the bechamel. Melt the butter in a large pot and add the flour. Stir for a minute or two then slowly add the milk and cream whisking the entire time. It will thicken as you bring it to the boil. Once it boils, remove from the heat.

Add a dash of grated nutmeg and pepper to taste. Hold off on salting until you've added the cheese as Parmesan can be quite salty.

Slowly stir in the cheese cup by cup. Once it's all incorporated, taste and season.

Drain the macaroni and add to the sauce. It will look as if there is too much sauce and the pasta is swimming in it. Remember it's only half cooked and will expand further in the oven.

Butter a casserole dish and pour the macaroni and cheese into it. Top with bread or cracker crumbs and additional Parmesan if desired.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until bubbling and golden brown on top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.




Tip Junkie handmade projects
Saturday, June 4, 2011

Meal Plan for the Week of June 6th



Yes, I'm a little early, but I don't anticipate much time at the computer over the next three days. Everyone is home on Sunday and Monday and we're having a barbecue at friends tomorrow.  I am making key lime pie and some sort of side salad, yet to be decided.  They're British and have warned us that their barbecues are very simple compared to our American ones!  This should be an adventure!  The weather remains glorious, thank God!  I look forward to a lovely long weekend.


Monday*
Breakfast - Sticky Pecan Rolls
Lunch - Pizza
Dinner - Mongolian Beef, Rice, Broccoli

*Kids have no school and hubby took vacation, so everyone is around on Monday.


Tuesday
Breakfast - Cereal, juice, fruit
Dinner - Souvlaki

Wednesday

Breakfast Cereal, juice, fruit

Thursday
Breakfast - Eggs and Toast

Friday
Breakfast - Oatmeal, juice, fruit
Dinner - Spaghetti and Meatballs with Garlic Bread

Saturday
Breakfast - Waffles
Lunch - Pizza
Dinner - Roast Chicken with Ham, mashed potatoes and glazed carrots

Sunday
Breakfast - Apple Puff Pancake
Lunch - Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup