Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Easter Sugar Cookies

Happy Easter everybody! Well, Happy Easter in a few days at least. I can say that this is possibly the most I have ever looked forward to Easter, which is quite sad considering the reason. My placement is closed on Friday and Monday, meaning I have two days off work, which means that I have two whole extra days to devote to school assignments! Am I excited for that? Yes. Is that depressing? Incredibly.

And while I was looking forward to creating this batch of Easter cookies for a couple of lovely ladies who asked to order some after seeing my Whoo do you love? Valentine's Day and Kiss me I'm Irish! St. Patrick's Day sugar cookies, I was also dreading it. Don't get me wrong, I love love love making cookies, it is just a very busy and stressful time for me. And considering I don't know when to stop (i.e. too many cookies and colours), it just adds up. But now that I'm finished, I'm tickled pink with the set and very pleased at how they turned out. I used ribbon roses for the first time AND got to try out my Kopykake projector that just came in the mail last week! Can you tell, can you tell? Well... the only thing that I used it for were the fonts for 'Happy Easter' but I'm super stoked about it. In fact, I couldn't stop staring at how beautiful my writing came out. Already my KK is a win in my books.

That writing is just beauteous. Yup, beauteous. Aside from those though, I think the bunnies were my favourite, they were so cute with their little pastel sprinkly tails! And here they are all packed up and ready to go tomorrow!

If you are interested in the cookie recipe that I use, check out my post on Baby Shower Cookies. For an added spring touch, I changed up the flavour of my royal icing just a tad: I used 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and closer to 2 teaspoons of orange extract. Yum! I actually enjoyed it a lot more than my normal recipe.
Check out my post here on Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes to see what I made for Easter last year.
Have a fantastic Easter weekend everybody! Chocolate Caramel CupcakesChocolate Caramel Cupcakes
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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hidden Gold Cupcakes

Well, St. Patrick's Day is less than two days away now, what are every body's plans? I know what mine are: stuck at home and locked in my office, forcing myself to get some serious school work done. And so since I can't enjoy the holiday, I'll enjoy these amazing cupcakes in honour of St. Patrick.

What's so amazing about them do you ask? Well, to start off, there is a delectably light and airy vanilla cupcake made with buttermilk, topped with a perfectly balanced American buttercream, and when you think that's not enough, well let me just tell you, there is a perfect little 'golden coin' sugar cookie nestled into the frosting. But wait! That's not all, surely you must be wondering where the 'hidden gold' is. Well, that hidden gold is deep within the cupcake, in the form of a luscious vanilla pastry cream! Yum! Now if that all doesn't convince you that you need to make these babies, the fact that I had 6 individuals tell me that it was the best cupcake they had ever had in their life, and 2 marriage proposals- from women! should sell you over.

Despite all the components (minus the cookies), these cupcakes come together really quickly. Two pieces of advice: make sure that you don't let this batter sit and that it goes in the oven right away, and when I say only fill them 2/3 full- only fill them 2/3 full. While I was thoroughly impressed by the texture and flavour of these cupcakes, I must admit that I had a bit of trouble the first round; the cupcakes came out a little flat and had spread [horizontally] quite a bit, and they had gotten a little more brown than I would have liked. This didn't affect the taste, they just didn't look as pretty- certainly not as pretty as Glorious Treats'. I have a few theories for why this may have happened (old baking soda/powder, filled too full, uncalibrated oven temp, etc.), and so I am looking forward to my next opportunity to make them and test some of my theories. Either way, they were wonderful.

Pastry Cream:
1 cup 2% milk (if you only have 1%, add a small amount of cream)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 egg (just estimate, when cracking the egg, I try to take half of the white and then break the yolk,   taking half of that as well)
2 tablespoons corn starch
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cupcakes (makes 14-15; however I doubled the recipe. To only make 14-15, reduce pastry cream and buttercream recipes by half):
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
1/2 cup buttermilk

American Buttercream:
1 1/2 cups softened unsalted butter, or 3 sticks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 cups sifted powdered sugar
1-3 tablespoons buttermilk, depending on stiffness preference

To make pastry cream:
In a heavy saucepan, stir together the milk and 2 tablespoons sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

In the meantime, in a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolk and 1/2 egg. Stir together the remaining sugar and cornstarch into the egg until smooth. When the milk comes to a boil, drizzle it into the egg mixture in a slow thin stream while whisking quickly to temper the eggs (slowly bring them up to temperature and avoid cooking the eggs). Once all of the milk has been incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan. Slowly bring to a boil, whisking constantly to ensure the eggs don't curdle or scorch on the bottom.

When the mixture hits a certain temperature, it will thicken rapidly. At this time (often when it boils), remove from the heat quickly. Whisk in the butter and vanilla, until the butter is completely melted and blended in. Pour into a heat-proof container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill completely before using. When ready to use, whisk the cream thoroughly to loosen it up and break up any clumps.

To make cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds. Add sugar and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add vanilla and oil and beat until combined.

Add half of the flour mixture and mix on slow. Add half of the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Repeat these steps until all the flour and milk is mixed in. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is mixed in.

The batter will be very thin; this is normal. Fill liners no more than 2/3 full. Bake cupcakes for 12-14 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Cool in pan for 1-2 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely on rack.

To make buttercream:
Place the butter into a stand mixer bowl and using the whisk attachment beat butter until light and creamy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the salt and vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the powdered sugar in 2 separate amounts, mixing until combined both times. Allow the icing to be beaten for an additional 4-5 minutes to help make it fluffy. Depending on how stiff the icing is at this point, add in enough buttermilk to thin it to the consistency you would like. I used about the full 3 tablespoons. If you don't have buttermilk, heavy or half-and-half cream works as well, but I find that the buttermilk helps to cut the sweetness down a little bit. Beat the icing again for another minute until thoroughly combined.

Sources: pastry cream adapted from All Recipes; cupcakes from Glorious Treats; buttercream from Sweet Treats & Healthy Eats- Cherry Chip 'Rose' Cupcakes Pin It

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kiss Me I'm Irish!!!

“But the greatest love - the love above all loves, Even greater than that of a mother - Is the tender, passionate, undying love, Of one beer drunken slob for another”... said one Irishman. Not your fancy? How about, "God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world"... ok ok that might be rude. "May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light, May good luck pursue you each morning and night,"... that one's better! Why all the Irish sayings? Well St. Patrick's Day is coming up of course!! And tis a day to be celebrated. Really it just makes me want to speak in an Irish accent any time I think about it and makes me think that I should get totally inebriated- neither of which are good ideas.

I whipped this batch up on the weekend because I was dying to make some more cookies, and I never made any for St. Patty's last year! These really took no time, as they were all pretty simple. The idea for the leprechauns came from Sweet Sugar Belle, and was made with a repurposed wedding cake cutter, found here. I kept the top two tiers of the cake intact, but cut rectangles out of either side of the bottom tier to make the face of the leprechauns. Unfortunately, the sugar pearls that I used for the eyes of the leprechauns bled into the ivory icing :(, so I'm now just saying that they're either hungover leprechauns or they're leprechauns that got into fights because they were drunk and obnoxious. Either way.

Of course I had to use the saying "kiss me I'm Irish," and my idea to use lips instead of the word 'kiss' camefrom my Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies made last year (not sure where I saw the idea for it in the first place). For the little gold coins I used a large piping tip to cut them out (as I didn't have a circle that small), and I was able to get the gold appearance by using Wilton Color Mist. Even though I used a nice golden yellow as the base layer, it still required several layers of gold mist to get the nice gold sheen.

To find my sugar cookie and royal icing recipe that I use, check out my post on Baby Shower Cookies! Pin It

Thursday, March 7, 2013

African Coconut Curry Soup

Ok so I know I haven't been living up to my 'Healthy Eats' portion of my blog lately... I apologize. I think I may have mentioned this months ago, but with school being pretty busy I haven't been all that creative when it comes to making dinners. I often just make an easy favourite of mine and call it a day. And frankly, it's sooo much more fun to come up with a yummy dessert on my time off than a full dinner.

I have ALSO noticed that taking pictures of food that is not pretty, or frankly just ugly, is fricken hard!! And I'll be honest, this soup isn't that pretty looking. I'm sure if I had superior photography skills and a decent camera I could get it to look nicer, but with what I'm working with, this is the best that I could do. With cupcakes, I can take a dozen photos and each one will look good (well- sometimes), but with this soup, I had to take picture after picture, and I'm still not happy with the end result.

Regardless of how this soup looks though, it was delicious, and something that you could seriously whip up in 10 minutes. I couldn't get enough of it, and was so disappointed when Sean reminded me that he's not a fan of curry and wouldn't be trying any. Oh well, his loss!

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion (about 6 ounces), chopped
1 medium red bell pepper (about 6 ounces), chopped
1 jalapeƱo chili, seeded and finely chopped (optional, I did not use any)
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups vegetable broth. divided 
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
1/4- 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste (I added more than this) 
black pepper, to taste
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
3/4 cup cooked white or brown rice
In a medium stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and chili (if using) and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir frequently to prevent burning for 1 minute. Add 3 cups of broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, curry powder, parsley, salt, and black pepper; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until vegetables are cooked.
In the meantime, cook rice as per directions on packaging. Use the remaining 1 cup of broth to cook the rice in, and if more liquid is needed, top up with water.
Once rice is cooked and soup has finished simmering, add the cooked rice and coconut milk; heat through until everything is nice and hot and ready to serve.  

Source: slightly adapted from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen, found through Epicurious. Pin It