Monday, July 30, 2012

Pina Colada Cupcakes

Mmm, what could possibly be better than enjoying a hot summer day on the beach with a frosty pina colada in your hand? Nothing that I can think of, but since I am not on my way to the beach today, this is the next best thing, pina colada cupcakes! I've been wanting to make pina colada cupcakes for quite awhile now, but was waiting for the right time and weather. Well that time has finally come along! The weather is beautiful, hot but not unbearable, and since I have a little time off before the big move, I was able to whip these up in between packing. Sean went to a cottage on the weekend with a bunch of friends, and I sent them along with him. I have to admit though, I'm wishing I kept a few behind for myself!

These cupcakes are fantastic. Moist and delicate, very easy to make, and the pineapple, coconut and rum flavours really shine through! It truly feels as if you're drinking (eating?) a pina colada. Delicious! I was a bit nervous looking at the recipe because it calls for so much liquid, but they came out perfectly. One thing I might change is to either omit the shredded coconut and opt for coconut extract, or perhaps try to chop up the coconut a little smaller. Sean and I both agreed that it added a slightly funny texture (because of the strands), but when it came down to it, they didn't really bother me because it tasted soo dang good!!

I know I say this fairly often, but if you like pina colada, you really need to try these! One of the best I've made yet!

Yield: 20 cupcakes
1/3 cup - half coconut rum and half dark rum (2 1/2 tablespoons each)
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup pineapple juice (use reserves from drained pineapple)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup + 3 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut 
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained (about 1 can, reserve liquid)

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
12 oz. cream cheese (1 1/2 packages), room temperature
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
3 tablespoons cream of coconut
1 teaspoon coconut extract
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line tins with cupcake liners.

In a small bowl, combine the rums, coconut milk, pineapple juice, and vanilla. Set aside. In another small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition. Once all eggs are mixed in, beat for an additional 20 seconds at medium speed.

Add half of the flour mixture into the sugar-butter mixture, and mix until just combined. Mix in the rum mixture until just combined, followed by the remaining flour mixture. Fold in the coconut and pineapple. The batter may look slightly curdled, this is okay and should be taken care of with a little additional whisking.

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cupcakes bounce back when lightly pressed.

For the frosting: beat the cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the powdered sugar, 2 cups at a time. Mix in the pineapple juice, coconut cream, coconut extract and salt. Beat until well combined, another minute or so. If icing is too stiff, add a teaspoon more pineapple juice until reached desired consistency. If icing is too runny, add more powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.

Source: slightly adapted from The Cupcake Project

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chocolate & Toasted Coconut Covered Coconut Marshmallows

Wow, I apologize for the enormity of the name, but I really don't know what else to call these babies! Chocolate and Toasted Covered Coconut *home-made* Marshmallows says it all. I've been wanting to make this creation for several weeks now, ever since I saw this post on Bakerella on making various different flavours of marshmallows. The peanut butter and jelly ones definitely caught my eye, but I wanted to try out the coconut chocolate combination first.

I had made marshmallows once a few years ago, but I forgot how easy and fast it is! All it is, literally, is softening some gelatin, boiling some sugar, corn syrup and water to a certain temperature, and then beating it all together until it reaches the right consistency! The most difficult part of the whole process is spreading the very sticky warm marshmallow goo into a pan without getting it everywhere, including your face *ahem*.

I chose to use a bittersweet chocolate to coat them, because the marshmallows are pretty sugary on their own. The bitterness of the chocolate evens them out a bit, and the toasted coconut gives some wonderful texture.

Somehow though, dipping into chocolate has never become easy for me. I always find whatever is on the stick is trying to slip it's way off, and the coating is uneven. It was probably even more difficult with these marshmallows, because they are SO light and fluffy, they are basically a cloud that melts in your mouth! What I ended up doing was keeping the toasted coconut on the pan that it came in, so that I could place the chocolate coated mallow to rest on the coconut. I took a small steel spatula (you know the kind that you use to smooth cake icing) to coat all of the sides except for the back, which I was holding with my fingers for extra support. I finished the back off after I placed the mallow on the coconut. By doing it this way, you can smooth the chocolate out and really decide how much chocolate you want on the mallow.

Yield: Approximately 20 large rectangular mallows (more or less depending on how big you cut them)
2 1/2 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin (about 1 1/2 packets)
1/2 cup cold water, divided
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
nonstick spray
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon shortening

Place 1/4 cup of the cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer, an sprinkle the gelatin over top for it to soften. In the meantime, combine the other half of the water, sugar, corn syrup and salt into a small saucepan, making sure to have a candy thermometer close by. Cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches a temperature of 240 degrees F (5-10 minutes). Once the temperature is reached, immediately remove from the heat.

With the whisk attachment on the mixer moving at low speed, add the hot liquid in a slow and steady stream down the side of the mixer bowl. Doing this helps a) to cool it down slightly, and b) to avoid it getting hit by the whisk and whipped around. Once all the syrup has been added, crank up the mixing speed to high and whip until the mixture is very think and has cooled, but still is warm. This should take about 12-15 minutes of mixing. *You can do this with a strong hand mixer; I made marshmallows the first time with a hand mixer. However, be prepared to have a tired arm afterwards.

While the mixture is whipping, combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk together. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 8 x 8 pan (with shortening or spray) and thoroughly coat the pan with the sugar-cornstarch mixture, reserving what is left. Once the marshmallow mixture is finished whipping, spray a spatula with nonstick spray and spread the mixture in an even layer into the prepared pan. Sprinkle a layer of the sugar-cornstarch mixture over top to coat lightly. Let the pan sit, uncovered or at least 4 hours or up to overnight before cutting.

Remove the marshmallow slab onto a cutting board. Use a pizza cutter or cookie cutters to cut the desired shape. At this point, if you want plain marshmallows, dip the pieces in the remaining sugar-cornstarch mixture to prevent sticking.

Layer a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Evenly spread 1 cup of shredded sweetened coconut. Toast for 5-10 minutes, or until a nice golden brown is achieved. Remove and let cool.

Add 1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon shortening into a heat proof bowl. Heat in the microwave at reduced heat for 1 minute. Stir the chocolate and shortening, and return to microwave at 30 second increments until a smooth melted chocolate is achieved. Be careful not to overheat! Once you have scorched the chocolate there is no going back and it must be thrown out.

Use popsicle sticks, candy sticks, or whatever you have on hand to insert into the marshmallow. Dip, or spread the chocolate onto the marshmallow and lay the chocolate coated marshmallow onto the bed of toasted coconut.

Let harden, at least 1 hour or 1/2 an hour in the fridge. Serve and enjoy!

Source: adapted from Food Network via Annie's Eats

P.S. These are seriously delicious. You should make them. Pin It

Monday, July 23, 2012

It's Twins! Cookies

I made these cookies several weeks ago; one of my most dear friends got the pleasant surprise (slash absolute shock) at 5 months along that she not only has 1 baby inside her, but 2! And to top that off, there's both a boy and a girl! I think, naturally, it took her a little while to process the fact that she was having twins, when her and her husband had believed for over half of the pregnancy that there was only 1 child. But now, she's due any day (in fact she's past her due date and scheduled to be induced on Wednesday) and is ready as ever to get those babies out! I don't blame her: her pregnancy has been quite difficult for most of it and now her belly is so huge it's difficult to get comfortable in just about any position.

I was honored when she asked me to be a Godmother to one of the children, especially because I live in another country (her in the USA, me in Canada), although we're not too too far from each other. I had already been planning on buying some gifts and sending them in the mail, and to make it extra special I chose to make some sugar cookies for her, as she's always commenting on how much she wants my baked goods!

These were really quite simple, although I've never had to make that many colours! I think there were 9 or 10 in total. For the soothers I used a Christmas ornament cutter, the babies just small circles, and the baby bottle a trimmed candy cane cutter. I was a bit disappointed in myself because I thought I made 2 baby bottles, but it turned out I forgot. And I'm happy to say that all arrived in perfect shape, no broken cookies. I made sure to use a lot of padding- some of the padding was baby wash clothes- and to put them in a box inside a padded bigger box.

If you're interested in making sugar cookies and/or royal icing, check out my post here.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

This is the story behind the zucchini loaf: A couple days ago, I was lying around watching 'Bake with Anna Olsen' and she was doing an episode on 'vegetables', which included a zucchini loaf. Anna Olsen often inspires me to try and make something, and as I was watching this episode I realized that I had some leftover zucchini from earlier in the week (I made Angel Hair Pasta with Bread Crumbs and Zucchini and a Tortilla Soup).

Anna Olsen's zucchini loaf wasn't chocolate, so I set out in search of a double chocolate zucchini loaf that would be moist, not too rich, and not sugary enough that you couldn't eat it for breakfast. I found this recipe; however, there turned out to be a kink in my plans. When I went to start making the loaf, I realized that I did not, in fact, have lots of leftover zucchini. I only had half a small one. My plans were foiled! Luckily, we were going grocery shopping later that day and I decided that leftover zucchini or not, I would be making the loaf!

Quick breads are really quite simple, and they're given that name for a reason. No need for a stand or hand-mixer, and everything can be put together and in the oven in a matter of minutes. And while I absolutely adore our stand-mixer, I relish in the times that I don't have to lug the heavy beast out.

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup grated zucchini, packed
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8" pan.

Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder in a medium sized bowl. Add the zucchini in and toss to coat. *Apparently coating the zucchini in the flour mixture helps to keep the moisture in the zucchini.* Set aside.

Combine the oil, white sugar, brown sugar and eggs in a small bowl. Whisk together quickly for 2 minutes, until the mixture is slightly fluffy (work those muscles!). Add vanilla and sour cream and whisk until combined.

Combine the liquid mixture with the flour mixture and slowly stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips until distributed evenly.

Pour into the greased loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until when a cake tester pick is inserted it comes out clean. Let the loaf rest in the pan for 5 minutes, and then remove and have the loaf sit on a cooling rack until completely cool.

*To help keep quick bread loaves fresh, first wrap in a layer of waxed paper, and then in aluminum foil.

Source: slightly adapted from Our Best Bites

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Angel Hair Pasta with Bread Crumbs and Zucchini

Lately, I've been a little uninspired in my cooking. I'll blame it on the heat: it makes me lazy and not want to put effort into something that will most likely require me to work in my kitchen, which is one thousand times hotter than my living room, where I like to lounge 2 feet away from the fan. As it was that time again to create a grocery list, I pulled out my cookbooks to find something to make for the week. This dish didn't grab me from the get-go. The ingredients were too simple and I imagined it to be flavourless. And bread crumbs on pasta?? Who does that? Add carbs to more carbs with no sauce? It made no sense to me.

However, it stated that this made for a nice and light summery dish that is easily paired with a salad. I chose to make a Beet, Bean and Feta cheese salad to accompany it (not seen here). I wouldn't have to buy many ingredients for it, and I do like zucchini quite a bit. So I gave it a shot! And was pleasantly surprised! Simple and light, just as the cookbook suggested, it is a satisfying dish for a hot summer evening. I made a couple adjustments to add some more flavour, and if you are more health conscious than me, you can sub in whole wheat noodles... although I'm not sure they have whole wheat angels hair. I couldn't even find angels hair and settled for spaghettini noodles.

Yield: 4-6 servings
2 slices whole wheat bread
10 to 12 ounces angel hair pasta
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 small green and/or yellow zucchini, sliced in 2-inch lengths
1/4 cup dry white wine, vegetable stock, or water
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
lemon wedges, for serving

Pulse the bread in a mini food processor until they become fine crumbs. In the meantime, start a large pot of water boiling for the pasta.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wide pan, and add the bread crumbs. Cook over medium-high heat until they turn toasty brown and are crisp. Set aside. At this time, add the pasta to the boiling water and leave in until cooked to al dente.

Heat the remaining oil over low heat in the same pan used for the bread crumbs. Crush the garlic with the back of a wide knife, and add to the hot pan. Saute the garlic for a couple minutes, until golden brown. Stir in the zucchini and wine/stock and season with salt and pepper (you will need a fair amount of salt, as zucchini and pasta are bland on their own). Raise the heat to medium and cook until the zucchini is tender crisp, about 4-5 minutes. When done, remove the garlic cloves.

Combine the pasta and zucchini in a large bowl. Top with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese, and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Serve while hot.

Source: slightly adapted from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes for Canada Day

I hope everybody's Canada Day was wonderful! As for myself, I took the day off from work and had a fantastic time sitting in my friend's backyard, catching up with pals, enjoying a few drinks and eating good food before visiting some more friends and then seeing the fireworks! The fireworks in the captial are truly a sight to see, although I think that last year they were much better. Either way it was still one of the best days yet this summer that I've had- probably just because I finally had an opportunity to get together with a lot of friends. Doesn't happen too often with my schedule and the schedule of my friends.

So a week or two ago one of my co-workers got me to thinking that I haven't even made a basic vanilla cupcake. He keeps edging me on to start a cupcake business (not happening anytime soon!) and I thought... how on earth can I do that when I don't even have the basics down? And thus, the idea to make vanilla bean cupcakes Canada Day style arose! And by Canada Day... I mean red and white. It also gave me the opportunity to try a frosting recipe that I've been wanting to make for quite awhile. You know, the one that calls for heating milk and flour to create a thick sauce, and then adding it to butter and sugar? Ya that one. Well... it didn't turn out exactly how I was hoping. Don't get me wrong, it's still yummy, but it doesn't compare to some of the Buttercreams I've made. And it being so hot in my apartment, it took a long time to set up and was very runny. Almost like marshmellow fluff. However, putting the frosted cupcakes into the fridge was a quick remedy. Because I don't think I'll use that recipe again, I'm not going to post it.

The cupcakes themselves were a big hit. Wonderfully light and fluffy, while still being moist. Finding that consistency for a chocolate cupcake is easy, but I've noticed it's much harder for a white/yellow cake. I was super excited when I stumbled across this recipe and realized that it called for both butter and oil, in equally small proportions. I've wondered about combining the two of them for quite some time, but didn't know how to go about finding the right measurements. What made these cupcakes extra special is seeing the little vanilla bean flecks throughout them... I just think that adds an special touch!

Yield: 16-18 cupcakes
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup full-fat sour cream
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line pan with liners.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean. Smush (is that a word?) the vanilla beans around with the back of a spoon to break them up and help infuse the vanilla flavour into the sugar.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the vanilla bean sugar and mix until well combined. Add the butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract until smooth. Once this is done, add the mixture into the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.

Slowly add the milk and mix on low until just combined. The batter will be pretty liquidy, but that's as it should be!

Fill cupcake liners until just over 1/2 full. Bake for 14 minutes and test to see if they are done by inserting a toothpick. It took mine about 13 minutes. The cupcakes should appear white, not golden brown. Remove from the oven once done and remove them from the pans after a couple minutes to cool completely on a cooling rack.

Source: The Cupcake Project

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