Playing with Puff Pastry

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D’you remember, a while back, where I had leftover puff pastry and leftover cream cheese icing, and I made a thing? Well.  I did it again. I had some leftover cream cheese icing from the Pie’s Spider-Man spice cake, which I had chucked in the freezer to keep.  There’s almost 2 cups of this stuff.

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I had also chucked in there some strawberries that I had stewed when they were on their last legs, so they were pretty much freezer jam.  There’s about 3 cups in here I think.

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Then I bought some puff pastry.  So this thing had to happen.  First, I preheated the oven to 375°F and lined some baking sheets with parchment paper.  Leave your puff pastry in the fridge until you need it or it will be soggy and hard to work with.

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Then I cracked 2 eggs into the cream cheese frosting (you can find the recipe in here) and beat it until it’s smooth.

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I laid out the puff pastry (pre-rolled, woo!) and cut it into 9 squares.

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I put a teaspoon of the cream cheese batter in the centre of the square and followed it up with one of fruit.

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Then I pinched the corners together and sealed it as best as I could (which turned out to be not very well) and bunged them in the oven for about 12 minutes, until the pastry was golden and the innards were solid-ish.

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I set them on a rack to cool.  This made 18 of them.

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I still had plenty of cream cheese and strawberry stuff left and the oven was already on, so I added them together and chucked in about half a cup flour plus 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

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I scooped that into cupcake cups, and baked those for another 12 minutes, until the centres came out clean when tested with a toothpick.

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Those also went on the rack to cool.

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And now I have dessert for our softball team, made from stuff I had in the freezer!  One of the people I fed it to dubbed the pastry bits “Jammy Fantastics,” which I kind of like.

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Strawberry White Chocolate Cupcakes: The Cheater Edition

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Because General Zod has now figured out how to crawl around his parents’ condo, Atlas had to do some quick reorganizing to get certain things away from his little graspy fingers, and as a result, she unloaded a number of pantry items on me when she ran out of room. One of these items was a box of cake mix.  I don’t normally use cake mix, but I hated to waste it, so I came up with these cheater cupcakes the other day.  They were both a success and somewhat of a failure, as I’ll show you in a minute.

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I started by chopping up some delightful fresh local strawberries, about 2 cups’ worth.

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Then I preheated the oven to 350°F and lined my sole muffin tin with cupcake liners.

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I only have the one muffin tin at the moment, though, and the cake box makes 24 cupcakes, so I decided to experiment.  I put the other 12 liners in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan and wedged them together with parchment paper.  I figured they’d come out slightly misshapen, probably more square than round.

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Then I prepared the cake batter according to the box instructions.  I did add an extra shot of vanilla, just for flavour.

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Then tipped in the strawberries as well as a package of white chocolate chips.

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I scooped the batter into the cupcake liners and baked them for about 24 minutes.

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They came out nice and brown.

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And the others came out like this.  Whoops.

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While they cooled I whipped up some cream cheese icing: 1 cup butter, 1 250g package plain cream cheese (both at room temperature), a dash of vanilla, and 2 cups icing sugar.

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Then I used the icing to cover up my mistakes!

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I sprinkled on a bit of coloured sugar I had lying around, and gathered some fresh lemon balm from my herb garden.  A half strawberry on top adds the finishing touch.

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And this is my attempt at the other ones.  NAILED IT.  At least they tasted good.

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Rosa’s Baby Lavender and Earl Grey Cupcakes

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This weekend Mags threw a post-partum baby shower (a “Sip ‘n’ See”) for Ryder and Rusty’s new little one, Rosa.  Because the colours of her baby room are gray and purple, I decided to stick to the theme and make Earl Grey cupcakes with lavender icing.  Sounds fancy!

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I adapted the Earl Grey cupcake batter from Oh So Very Pretty and chose the Lavender Mascarpone frosting from Kitschy Girl’s Guide and I’m so happy with the results (I made three dozen, so they had better be good!). For both the cupcakes and the frosting, you need a little bit of time beforehand to prep your infusions, so you might want to do them the day before if you’re in a rush.

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For the cupcakes:

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Microwave or gently heat 2/3 cup whole milk for about a minute.  Plop 4 bags Earl Grey tea (or the loose equivalent, if you’ve got it) in the milk and let that steep for 30 minutes.  I pretty much just left mine like this until I was done doing everything else, including washing the dishes and walking the dog.  So like, an hour.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a muffin tray with cups.

In a bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cup cake flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together 3/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup butter.

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Add in 2 eggs, 1/3 cup sour cream, and 3 tablespoons vanilla.

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Slowly mix the flour mixture into the liquid, alternating with the steeped milk, until just combined.

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Scoop the batter into your cupcake liners so that they are half to two-thirds full and bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre cupcake comes out clean.  Set them on a wire rack to cool completely. These are puffy cupcakes.

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For the icing:

Start with the lavender syrup.  In a small saucepan on medium heat, dissolve 1/4 cup granulated sugar in 1/2 cup water.

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Lightly grind up 2 tablespoons lavender flowers.

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You like my new mortar and pestle?  It was a Lee Valley birthday present from Krystopf and Atlas.

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Toss the lavender into the syrup and bring the whole thing to a simmer for about 3 minutes.  Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool completely before straining out the flower bits. I may have missed a few.

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In the chilled bowl of an electric mixer (chill your beater, too), start whipping up 1 cup heavy whipping cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Slowly add 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and keep going until the cream has formed stiff peaks.

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Add in 1 cup room temperature mascarpone and slowly drizzle in your cooled lavender syrup.  (I mixed in a bit of lavender gel paste food colouring to the mascarpone to give the whole batch of icing a pale purple colour).

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This icing is so luscious and lovely I want to actually rub it into my skin. I don’t know why.

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Shove the icing into a piping bag and have at it with your cupcakes.   Feel free to sprinkle the tops with crushed lavender or purple sugar or whatever floats your boat. The icing was a little too warm in these shots so it’s a little runny, but as long as it’s cold you’re golden.

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Banana Buttermilk Cupcakes

Happy birthday Doodle!

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In this country, buttermilk is only available at the larger grocery stores in 1-litre cartons.  So after we made buttermilk pancakes the other day, we had 3 1/2 cups of buttermilk left to deal with.  I know that some people drink it as a beverage, but I can’t quite bring myself to do that.

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I found this recipe from Canadian Living, and, as I happened to have some bananas handy, I figured I’d give it a try.

So.  Grab two nice soft bananas (not overripe, but sweet enough) and mash them up with a fork.  This will give you about 3/4 cup mashed banana.  And if it gives you more, then just roll with it.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a standard muffin tray with cups.

With an electric mixer, cream together 1/2 cup butter and 3/4 cup packed brown sugar until they’re pale and fluffy.  If you think you’ve beaten them enough, just hold off for another minute or two.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

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Add in an egg.  I didn’t want to put this one in because the speckles were so pretty.

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Alas. So long, fella. You were a good egg.

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Now work in your banana, as well as 1 teaspoon vanilla.

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In another bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.  Pour yourself 1/2 cup buttermilk.

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Add the flour slowly, alternating with the buttermilk.  You’ll want three additions of flour to two of the buttermilk.

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Spoon that glorious banana-y-ness evenly into your 12 liners and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the centre cupcake comes out clean.

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The recipe didn’t give me any options for icing (though the Pie and I think either a mild lemon icing or a mocha cream cheese, or even straight Nutella would work really well), so I decided to do a dusting of cinnamon sugar.

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In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

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In another bowl, melt 1/4 cup butter.

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While the cupcakes are still pretty hot, paint the tops with butter. Despite what the picture shows, it’s easier and tidier to do this while holding the cupcake upside down over the butter bowl. But I only have so many hands.

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Then dip each cupcake into the sugar so the tops are entirely coated.

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I actually coated each one once, then, after the butter had permeated the sugar a bit, dipped them again. Then I let them cool completely on a wire rack.  So tasty, with a nice crunchy top!

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(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

The Pie is kicking butt and taking names with the Memorial University Geographical Society (MUGS) this term, and he volunteered me to be the official caterer for the group.  Last week MUGS held two open houses.  For the first, I whipped up a batch of Miss Awesome’s espresso cookies (because all undergrads need a little caffeine) and a batch of margarine chocolate chip cookies (with Caramilk inside each one, à la the Rolo cookies).  For the second, I decided to create two dozen of these cupcakes.

While chocolate and vanilla actually go quite well together, most people consider them to be opposites of each other.   As this is a geographical society, why not have the chocolate and the vanilla represent both poles on our planet?  Sure, it’s a stretch, I know, but bear with me.  Both of these batter recipes contain buttermilk, which is one of my favourite baking ingredients, and they both come from Baking Bites.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two muffin tins with cupcake liners.

For the Chocolate Cupcakes:

In a large bowl, whisk together 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together 1 egg, 6 tablespoons water, 6 tablespoons buttermilk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

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Alas, I forgot the melted butter in the microwave until it was too late.  It looks so sad and neglected.

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Pour your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk like crazy until you get no more floury bits floating around.

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Fill 12 of the muffin cups with chocolate-y batter. It’s easy if you use a spoon.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

For the Vanilla Cupcakes:

In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup room temperature butter until fluffy.

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Beat in 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract until the mixture is smooth.

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Pour in half your flour mixture and stir until almost combined.  Add in 1 cup buttermilk and mix again, then the rest of the flour mixture, and beat until all the ingredients are combined.

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Fill the other 12 muffin cups with that batter.

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Bake the cupcakes for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the centre cupcake comes out clean.

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Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before using a fork to remove them to a cooling rack to cool completely.  I wish now that I had used large cupcake liners instead of medium ones.  Ah well, what’s done is done.

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For the Frosting:

Nothing says holy-crap-this-frosting-is-awesome like ganâche (well, at least, if you’re ME because I’m weird like that), and for me this is the easiest thing in the world to do.

Start by chopping up about 6 ounces each of dark and white chocolate.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Plop the pieces in microwave-safe bowls and pop them in the microwave.  Nuke ’em on medium power, stirring a few times in between, for about 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is smooth and liquid.  The white chocolate will likely melt long before the dark does, so keep an eye on it so as not to burn it.

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Stirring the whole time, add 1 cup room temperature whipping cream into each chocolate. The warmer your cream, the less lumpy your ganâche will be, but the longer it will take to set. Keep that in mind.

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Now, because I want something a little firmer than my usual ganâche, I’m going to add some icing sugar.  Start with 1 cup icing sugar and add more until you come to the consistency you like.  Chuck the frostings in the fridge for a bit to set.

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For the Writing Icing:

I was originally going to write on these cupcakes using store-bought piping gel, just because the results are easy and predictable.  It then occurred to me, however, that I’d purchased these gels to make a cake for the baby shower for a co-worker’s first child.  This was like three jobs ago, in a different province, and I think the little girl is five years old now.  It might be time to get rid of those.

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Instead, I decided to make a sort of royal icing and pipe it on myself.  So I started with two small bowls filled with 1 cup icing sugar each, a few tablespoons water, and some food colouring.

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Add a little bit of the water to the icing sugar and stir until you get a good consistency. Likewise, add some food colouring to the mix.

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I think this looks so weirdly neat.

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Add more icing sugar or food colouring until you reach your desired colour and texture and set those aside.

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Remember that this type of icing is kind of like a non-Newtonian fluid, so its physical properties might not be exactly what you expect.  AHA!  SCIENCE!  I like to sneak in a little learning on you now and then.  Sorry.

Assemblage:

Start by smearing your ganâche on your cupcakes, dark for the chocolate, and white for the vanilla.  Or the opposite.  Whatever floats your boat.

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Grate a little bit of dark chocolate on the surface of the vanilla cupcakes, and a little bit of white chocolate on the chocolate cupcakes.

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Looks pretty, right?  Now we’re going to de-classy it a little bit.

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Spoon your coloured icing into a piping bag and start writing.

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You probably don’t want to write MUGS on your cupcakes.  Unless you do. In which case, why?

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Store them in the fridge to keep them fresh, and enjoy them as you will.  I think they look a little like Franken-cupcakes, but the Pie likes the look of ’em, and he’s the boss.  I have no idea how they taste, either, because there weren’t any extras.  But I can only assume that they are passably tolerable, just like everything else I do!

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes