Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chocolate Cherry Macaroon Tart

The theme for HHDD#15 organised by TriniGourmet is tarts. While I have a serious aversion for working with pastry, I was going to try and overcome this. I was all prepared to try and fail, learn from my mistakes, start with frozen pastry and move on to become brave enough to make it from scratch. You get the picture...

So I went in search of recipes. I started with Donna Hay's latest book Simple Essentials: Chocolate, the same one that I sent Peabody as thanks for her Snickerdoodle recipe. There were two tart recipes and both didn't require pastry! Yay! So much for trying to conquer my fear...

I chose this one because it was for 6 individual small portions. However, I couldn't find the little tart tins with removable bases. I had to make a large one instead. The original recipe was for raspberries but I much prefer cherries so here it is.

Chocolate Cherry Macaroon Tart

Macaroon Shell (makes 6 3-inch tart shells or 2 8-inch tart shells)
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar

3 cups or 200g desiccated coconut

Cherry Chocolate Filling (fills 6 3-inch tart shells or 1 8-inch tart shell)
4 oz or 125g dark chocolate, chopped (I used one with 65% cocoa)
1/2 cup cream
2 eggs
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs flour

1/4 tsp baking powder
7 oz or 200g cherries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven at 280F. Combine the ingredients for the tart shell, divide it between the tart tins and press firmly over base and sides.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the macaroon shells are firm and browned then remove from oven.
Increase oven temperature to 320F. To make the filling, put the cream and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside. In a separate
bowl, beat the eggs and sugar to combine well. Sift in the flour and baking powder, stir in the chocolate mixture. Spoon into the macaroon shells and top with the cherries (if using frozen cherries, no need to defrost).
Bake for 25-35 minutes until the filling is just firm. Cool in the tins before removing to serve.

Verdict: The chocolate filling is rich but the cherries go very well with it. The macaroon shells add an interesting texture and overall, its a great tart - easy to make and everyone loved it! This is better eaten on the day it is made. If refrigerated overnight, warm in the oven before serving.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Very Chocolate Cupcake

My godson's mother had tasked me with making cupcakes and the dessert cake for her son's 3rd birthday party. She requested for chocolate and a jungle green theme. She also added that my godchildren have recently discovered the joys of peanut butter.

Not being so adept at icing or frosting jungle animals, I told her I could do the chocolate and peanut butter part. I spent quite a bit of last week experimenting with the various recipes in my collection and the one from Dorie's book wins hands down.

Dorie starts the recipe with an introduction that suggested saving this not very sweet, close crumbed cake for adults as kids may not appreciate it as much. I adapted it slightly and figured that with the sweet frosting that I was going to add on, I couldn't go wrong pleasing both adults and children.

In addition to the chocolate cake, I also used my banana cake recipe since it would go well with both a chocolate and peanut butter frosting. I mixed the cake and frosting recipes to get 4 different combinations for the cupcakes which I then decorated in a variety of designs.

The cupcakes were a hit at the party. I think everyone loved the idea of having an individually decorated cake all for themselves. There was a cotton candy machine at the party and I had a ball of a time fulfilling a childhood fantasy of creating huge puffs of those pink sweets. Here's a shot of the cheeky birthday boy Ryan, flashing a grin with a mouthful of pizza.

Very Chocolate Cupcake
makes 15 cupcakes

1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp instant coffee powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven at 350F. Cream the butter until pale before adding in the sugar and beating until fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time until well combined then add in the vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Add the sifted mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and stir in the melted chocolate with a spatula until incorporated. Scoop into cupcake liners.
Bake in the oven for 22-25 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups icing (confectioner's) sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 tap salt
2 tbs creme de cacao

1 tbs milk

Cream the butter then sift in the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the creme de cacao and milk then combine well. Add more milk a little at a time to get the desired consistency. Spread or pipe over cooled cupcakes. Decorate as desired

Peanut Butter Frosting
makes about 2 cups

1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups icing (confectioner's) sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs milk

Cream the butter and peanut butter to combine then sift in the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the milk and combine well, adding more a little at a time to get the desired consistency. Spread or pipe over cooled cupcakes. Decorate as desired.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dutch Apple Cake

I've been reading and re-reading one of my latest buys Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters. Its become my current favourite because the of the love and care that has gone into putting it all together. Each recipe is accompanied by a note of its origins, whether from family or strangers. There are insights and memories from the Brass sisters (who look so cute on the cover) and this is a truly a collection of wonderful recipes that have been passed down through the years. I'm also entering this for WCC#20 Show and Tell.

The recipes are old fashioned baked goods that have been tested and adapted for today's kitchens. The ingredients are simple and readily available in any pantry so one can whip up something on a whim, just like this recipe. I've adapted it for cupcakes but should have used up all of the apple topping because the presence of apple could have been stronger.

There are also lovely pictures of antique recipe books and journals, baking equipment and kitchen tools. As a result of this book, I've been inspired to look out for and start collecting antique or retro cake plates!

Dutch Apple Cake
makes 18 cupcakes or a 9-inch cake

1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk

2 tbs sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tbs butter
3 apples, peeled and chopped

Preheat oven at 350F.
Cream the butter until pale before adding in the sugar and beating until fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time until well combined then add in the vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the sifted mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions. Scoop into cupcake liners, about 2/3 full or into a lined cake pan.
Toss together the ingredients for the topping and spread it all out evenly over the top of the batter.
Bake for 25 minutes for cupcakes or approximately 40 minutes for the cake.

Verdict: Its a very moist cake as promised but I should have used up all the topping as mentioned earlier. The recipe recommends for the cake to be served the day it is made but it can also be frozen once it has completely cooled.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Lemon Yogurt Cake

This is the speediest and most reliable recipe I use. No need to wait for butter to soften, don't even need to take out the stand mixer, just some elbow grease will do. Its adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini's Gateau au Yaourt a la Framboise.

It results in a lovely moist cake that can be eaten plain for breakfast or dressed up with frosting for tea. I love making this because its leaves me more time to play around with frosting and decorating when making cupcakes.

This time, I covered the cupcakes with a simple cream cheese frosting (half of the recipe found here), sprinkled coloured sugar and topped it with a lime flavoured cupcake-like jelly sweet.

Lemon Yogurt Cake
makes 18 cupcakes

1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tbs baking powder
1/4 cup ground almonds
1 lemon's zest

Preheat the oven at 350F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the wet ingredients, beating well. Sift in the dry ingredients and sprinkle in the zest. Stir well to combine. Spoon into cupcake liners (1/2 full for cupcakes, 2/3 full for muffins).
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops are just turning brown.