Monday, October 25, 2010

♥ Cupcakes ♥

Absolute LOVE!
A picture like the one above will make me forget all my worries and simply smile. Cupcakes are something so simple, yet so sweet and filled with joy. Whether you’re a child or an adult, at a wedding or another function, well-decorated cupcakes will get everyone excited! 

Baking cupcakes from scratch may seem a bit intimidating. Most people run into the shops to grab readily-baked cupcakes. The other large majority of people run to the shops to grab a pre-mixed cupcake recipe where you simply add oil, water and eggs. Very few actually take the time to create these little magical cakes from scratch. Well here is something that may take your fear or laziness away:
‘One cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour and four eggs plus one cup of milk and one spoonful of soda.’
That was the earliest ‘cup’ cake recipe. Simple, right? Now that we have all gained some baking confidence from reading that, it’s baking time!! 

Now, for our little lesson of the day, where does the name Cupcake actually come from? Apparently…
“The cupcake evolved in the United States in the 19th century. A "cup" cake back then was not necessarily a small cake, they were only called this way because the ingredients for them were measured in cups instead of weighed, as had been the custom before. There was a shift from weighing out ingredients when baking, to measuring out ingredients, which was revolutionary because of the tremendous time it saved in the kitchen.

Additionally, cups were starting to be used to bake in. This was done for convenience reasons because hearth ovens (an oven whose floor is made from stone or masonry) took an extremely long time to bake a large cake. Needless to say, the ‘cup’ name had a double meaning because of the practice of baking in small containers, including teacups. Gem pans, early muffin tins, were common in households around the turn of the 20th Century and cupcakes were then baked in those.”

The cupcake recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan's lovely book: Baking From My Home To Yours. She presents the recipe as a large party cake (which I made a few months ago), but you can choose to make cupcakes instead, which is what I did. The Result?...absolutely delicious!

For the Cupcakes
2 1/4 cups cake flour 
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tsp grated lemon zest
1 stick/8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature 

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
2. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
3. Put the sugar and lemon zest in another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
4. Add the butter and beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, or until the butter and sugar are very light 
(if the butter isn't at room temperature, you may need to beat longer like I did. I had to beat for a full 15 mins, don't stick to the time if it hasn't been creamed properly, use your experience/feeling. You know it's ready from the pale colour and when you can still feel the sugar in the butter if you rub the mixture between your fingers. If it feels just like butter, it's over-beaten. This is to aerate the cake so that it will rise and not be rock-hard!).
5. Add in 1/3 of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
6. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
7. Add the rest of the milk-egg mixture beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
8. Finally, beat for a good 2 minutes to ensure it's thoroughly mixed and well aerated. 
9. Divide between cupcake holders and bake for 15-18 minutes in a 180C oven (160 fan-forced). 
10 Once baked, let cupcakes cool completely on a rack.

For the Buttercream
1 cup of sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Put sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl, and fitting the bowl over a pan of simmering water, whisk constantly for about 3 minutes, until the bowl feels hot to the touch. The sugar should be dissolved and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove bowl from heat.
2. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is cool, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the butter on stick a time, beating until smooth. 
4. Once butter is in, beat on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, about 6-10 minutes. It's okay if it curdles or separates during this time, just keep beating and it will come together again.
5. Gradually beat in the lemon juice on medium speed until it is all absorbed, then beat in the vanilla.
6. You should have a shiny, smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pumpkin, Spinach & Feta Muffins

It’s about time I put up a new recipe hey! I make sure to bake something at least once a week and since I haven’t blogged for a few weeks now, I have a back-log of posts. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means you’ll need to visit my blog more often in the coming weeks as recipes will be popping up non-stop!

This week I can present you with some savoury muffins (my first ever savoury recipe post…how exciting!).

Spinach & Feta Muffins from Heidi’s 101 Cookbooks (one of my favorite food websites. If you have not checked it out yet, it is a must if you are a lover of healthy recipes). Such a simple recipe and when you combine two amazing vegetables (like pumpkin and spinach) and add some cheese, there is a good chance you’ll end up with something yummy J A little tip: The next time I make these muffins, I will sauté two onions and throw them into the mix to add some extra flavour.
I thought I’d research some health benefits of these two vegetables. I came up with the following:
Spinach: Amongst others, spinach can improve eyesight, strengthen muscels and bones (as we all know from Popeye!) and help prevent heart disease. “Among the World's Healthiest vegetables, spinach comes out at the top of our ranking list for nutrient richness.”
Pumpkin: FULL of antioxidants! “Low in fat, butternut squash delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems.”
Needless to say, these two veggies are GOOD for you so eat plenty and try these muffins J

Pumpkin and Feta Muffins

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups / 9 oz / 255g cubed pumpkin or butternut squash, 1/2-inch cubes
salt and pepper to taste
1 large handful of baby spinach, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds kernels
3/4 cup / 1 oz / 30g freshly grated Parmesan
100g / 3.5 oz / 1/2 cup cubed feta
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup / 180 ml milk
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
Preheat oven to 405F / 200C, with rack in the top third. Use the butter to grease a 12-hole muffin pan and set aside.

Sprinkle the olive oil and some salt and pepper over the squash. Toss well and turn onto a baking sheet or roasting pan. Arrange in a single layer and bake for 15 - 25 minutes or until cooked through entirely. Set aside to cool.

Transfer two-thirds of the squash to a large mixing bowl along with the spinach, parsley, sunflower seeds, Parmesan, two-thirds of the feta, and all of the mustard. Gently fold together. In a separate bowl beat the eggs and milk together and add to the squash mix. Sift the flour and baking powder onto the squash mix, top with the salt and a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper and fold together just until the batter comes together, be careful not to over mix.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, filling each hole 3/4 full, top each muffin with a bit of the remaining squash and feta (see photo up above). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops and sides of the muffins are golden, and the muffins have set up completely. Let cool for a couple minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack. I like these muffins cooled a bit, served just warmer than room temperature.
Makes 12 muffins.


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