Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Cupcakes

I find Easter really stressful. All the people and the crowds and the existence of traffic in our quiet little town - it's all just a bit much for me! That said, I love that all my friends are home and we all get to catch up with people we haven't seen for a while. Anyway, when my friend Jess organised her usual catch up barbie on Easter Saturday I quickly put my hand up to make something sweet to share. I knew instantly that it would help with the stress levels getting ready to head out on Saturday night - pity it didn't save our night when things got crazy but that's another story!
What would Easter be without some baked chocolatey goodness!?
As usual, it's really easy! I got the recipe from

Preheat the oven to 180c and line two 12 hole muffin tins with paper cases. Melt 200g milk chocolate in the microwave (use one minute zaps, stirring in between with a metal spoon). Using electric beaters or a mixmaster, beat 200g butter and 1 cup caster sugar until pale and creamy. Add 3 eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the slightly cooled chocolate and mix until combined. Add 1 1/4 cups plain flour, 1/4 cup cocoa, 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarb soda and mix in using a spatula or wooden spoon (it can get a bit messy if you do this bit in the electric mixer - I get impatient, turn it right up high and end up with flour all over me!). Once that's all mixed in, stir in 1/2 cup milk until combined. Put the mixture into the cases, filling them about two thirds full so that you get a nice even top to ice. Pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them - I had mine in for right on 20 minutes and they were a bit overcooked.

Try and resist the temptation to eat them as is - the frosting makes them even better!
To make the frosting, beat 100g butter with an electric mixer until really pale. Gradually add 1/3 cup cocoa, 3 cups icing sugar and 1/4 milk in batches, beating well between each batch until combined. Spread the frosting over the top of each cake and top with a little Easter egg. And you're done!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lemon Shortcake

This is one I've been sitting on for a while, waiting for an excuse to make. I promised Aunty Trace she could choose any cake she wanted for her birthday and this is the one she picked. I was really excited to try it out and very happy with the result!

Happy Birthday, Traco!
Ok, so mine didn't turn out anywhere near as neat as the picture in my book but it still tasted pretty good! Before you set out on this one, be aware that it does need to set overnight so you'll need to start a day in advance.

The first step is to cut 8 x 20cm circles out of baking paper (just use a cake tin to trace them out) and preheat your oven to 180c.

Using an electric beater, mix 180g butter at room temperature, 3/4 cup caster sugar, 1 tsp finely grated lemon rind and 1 egg at room temperature until pale and creamy. Sift together 2/3 cup plain flour, 1/4 cup self raising flour and 2 tbsp cornflour and mix gently into the butter mixture. Divide the mixture into 8 eight even portions.

Grab two baking trays and put a baking paper circle on each. Now, this is where it gets tricky! You need to spread a portion of mixture onto each circle. I used my flat icing blade and kept dipping it into warm water to prevent sticking. Make sure the mixture is spread evenly and right out to the edges and then pop the trays into the oven for around 4-6 minutes. I found that I was getting carried away spreading the mixture onto the discs and almost forgot a couple of times that I had them in the oven so make sure you keep an eye on them because they can go from not-quite-ready to I've-stuffed-the-whole-thing very quickly! Once they're golden brown, remove them from the oven and cool on a wire rack then repeat until you've got 8 big biscuits.

Once the biscuits have all cooled (it won't take long) you can put it all together! For the filling, whip 600ml of cream until soft peaks form and then gently fold through 175g lemon curd. You can just use store bought stuff but I made my own - it's really easy. Just pop 2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks, 3/4 cup caster sugar into a saucepan and whisk them together. Then add 1/3 cup chilled unsalted butter and the zest and juice of 2 lemons and whisk over a low heat until it boils and thickens. Place one biscuit on a plate and spread with 1/2 cup of the lemon cream filling. Top with another biscuit and repeat until all the biscuits are used, finishing with a layer of the filling. Pop it into the fridge to set overnight.

Then we make a lovely lemon syrup to go over the top! Peel 1 lemon and cut the rind inro thin strips. Juice the lemon. Place the rind in a saucepan, cover with boiling water, bring to the boil and drain. Repeat this another two times. Place the drained rind into the saucepan and add 1/2 cup caster sugar, the lemon juice and 1/2 cup water. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, turn the heat up to high and boil for 2-3 minutes or until the syrup thickens. Set aside to cool and then pour over the cake.

And you're done - enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Muffins and more muffins

It was back to basics in the kitchen today. I had a thumping headache but I'd planned to make some muffins - some for me and some to pop in the freezer for Claire to take back to uni next time she comes home - and thought it an easy enough task. As I'd expected, the measuring, mixing, and sugary smells coming from the oven were all I needed to shift the headache and the dread of the weekend ending.

Double Choc Chip and Apple Crumble muffins - simple but delicious!
I have a real love of baking muffins. They're so easy but so satisfying and I've been baking them forever. I'm sure that my first ever cookbook was a Family Circle 'Muffins' book from my beautiful Nanny. Over time I've tried all sorts of different muffin recipes but I don't think you can go past the classics which is why I chose these ones today - double choc chip and apple crumble.

From my experience, pretty much all muffins are made the same. You mix together the dry ingredients, make a well, pour the wet ingredients in and mix until just combined. So, dry ingredients first...

Double Choc-Chip
1 and 3/4 plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tbsp baking powder (I was a bit alarmed at this big amount but it all turned out ok!)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup choc chips (a. I used dark choc chips b. the recipe said 1/2 a cup but...!)

Apple Crumble
1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda

Mix it all together, make a well in the middle and then add the wet ingredients and mix until just combined (overmixing will leave you with tough muffins and nobody wants that!)

Double Choc-Chip
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Apple Crumble
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

The choc chip ones are ready for the oven now. Divide the mixture amongst the cases in a 12-hole muffin tin and put them into the oven at 180c.

For the apple crumble muffins you'll need to peel and chop two medium sized apples and stir them through. Divide the mixture amongst cases in a 12-hole muffin tin and top them with the crumble mixture. To make the crumble you just need to put a 1/3 cup plain flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tbsp brown sugar and 30g chilled butter into a food processor and whiz to combine. Then just sprinkle the crumble generously over the 12 muffins and slide the tray into the oven.

Both of the trays will need about 20 minutes. Use a cake tester just to be sure.

And it's as easy as that!