Coconut cupcakes

This is the second time I've made these cupcakes, I thought coconut wasn't a universally appreciated flavour in desserts but surprisingly no-one has turned one down.  I do think of these more as grown up cupcakes though, maybe its the coconut flavour or maybe the fact that the usual sugary sweet frosting has been replaced with sophisticated, silky smooth Swiss meringue buttercream.

I love Swiss meringue butter cream, it takes a little bit more time and effort than other icings but its worth it! Plus leftover egg yolks always equal lemon curd in my house, and homemade lemon curd is a very good side effect.  Actually on that note, lemon curd Swiss meringue buttercream is also really good! I'm yet to try a chocolate variation but I'm sure its only a matter of time.

Coconut cupcakes

Recipe by Martha Stewart
Makes 12
1 1/2 cups plains flour minus 3 tbsp
3 tbsp cornflour
1tsp baking powder
160g salted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk
4 egg whites
2/3 cup dessicated coconut

Preheat oven to 170oc (this is for my electric fan oven, adjust temperature for your oven) and line muffin tray with muffin cases. 

Sift together flour, cornflour and baking powder.

Beat butter until light and soft, add sugare and beat for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy.  With whisk on low speed add a third of the flour, beat until combined, followed by half of the coconut milk, third of flour, half of coconut milk, third of flour.

In another bowl whisk the egg white until they start to become foamy, then gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks are formed.

First fold 1/3 of the egg white into the cake mix, then the remaining 2/3.  Gently stir in the coconut.

Divide the batter between the muffin cases and bake for approx 20-25 minutes until lightly golden and springy to touch.  Cool on a wire rack.

Coconut Swiss meringue buttercream

Recipe adapted from The Brown Eyed Baker
1 cup granulated sugar
4 egg whites
1 cup salted butter, cubed, room temperature
1/2 cup coconut milk

Whisk the sugar and eggs together over a bain marie.  Heat the mixture, whisking regularly until it is hot to touch and the sugar is dissolved (or until 150-160oc if you want to use a sugar thermometer).  Remove from heat and transfer to larger bowl.

Whisk with electric whisk until stiff glossy peaks are formed and the mixture is cool.

Add the butter 1-2 cubes at a time, beating after each addition until all of the butter is incorporated, continue beating until the buttercream is smooth and satiny.

Add the coconut milk and beat again until a smooth satiny texture is obtained.

Swiss meringue buttercream can be a little bit tricky.  When adding the butter in will go through various stages until you get the perfect frosting you are aiming for - when you start adding the butter it is devastating to see the lovely meringue deflate and turn back to liquid, then there is the scary scrambled egg stage, but if you just keep beating you will in the end be rewarded with silky smooth, creamy frosting.  If in doubt put it in the fridge for a bit then  take it out and beat some more.

Do not store cakes frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream in the fridge, the frosting solidifies and it not good.  Swiss meringue butter cream holds up very well in heat.  If you make the frosting in advance and store it in the fridge will need to bring up to room temperature and give it a good beating before you use it.

Frost the cakes and decorate with flaked coconut.



Malteser Cupcakes

I made these for my daughter's Brownie coffee evening, they were very well received.

The chocolate cupcake is the recipe I always use, its based on a recipe from Hummingbird Bakery, its quick and easy; makes nice light cupcakes, that keep well and most importantly taste good.  

I used chocolate Horlicks powder in the icing for that delicious malted taste.  It worked really well, I ate could have eaten this icing by the spoonful! Because I added the powder directly to the buttercream it also added a slight texture, it was lovely and Malteser like.  However I'm aware some people might prefer their icing smooth so next time I may try mixing the Horlicks with some hot water/milk first. 

Chocolate cupcakes

Based on recipe from Cake Days
Makes approx 16 cakes

80g salted butter, room temperature
280g caster sugar
200g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
1tbsp baking powder
240ml semi skimmed milk
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 170oc (this is for my electric fan oven, adjust to suit your oven).  Line a muffin tin with muffin cases.

Rub the butter into the sifted dry ingredients until it resembles sand.

In a jug lightly whisk together the milk and eggs.

Add the milk and eggs to the bowl and beat on a low speed until combined, increase the speed and beat until smooth.

Fill the muffin cases 2/3 full and bake for 18 mins, until springy to touch.

Cool on a wire rack.

The original recipe states to mix the butter into the dry ingredients using an electric whisk, because of the small amount of butter used I found this very messy - flour everywhere, and prefer just to rub the butter in by hand.

Don't be concerned by the liquid batter, its supposed to be like that.

Malteser buttercream

150g salted butter, room temperature
175g icing sugar
175g milk chocolate
64g Horlicks chocolate drink (2x32g sachets)

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt, leave aside to cool

Beat the butter with an electric whisk until light and fluffy, add the other ingredients one by one, beating well after each addition until a delicious light buttercream is obtained.

Try not to eat too much from the bowl otherwise you'll be left with naked cupcakes!

The ratio of icing sugar to butter is much lower than in other buttercream recipes, this means the chocolate maltiness is not overpowered by sugary sweetness.  The chocolate helps keep the icing firm so the extra sugar isn't needed.

Frost the cupcakes and decorate with maltesers.

Baking days

I've done a lot of baking this week, as well as the Homemade Oreos I made Malteser Cupcakes and Coconut Cupcakes for a Brownie Coffee Evening and a Lemon Cake to take to work.  The cupcakes were well received but I think I jinxed us to an exceptionally busy shift with my provision of cake at work, it didn't get cut until 4pm as that was the first time any of us had a chance to sit down (the shift started at 7am!) - by that point I think we were all so hungry and need of a sugar boost anything would have done.

I enjoy all cooking and food but baking is a bit special.  It was the first kind of cooking I did as a child, I can even remember some of the first cakes I made, I must have been around 8-9.  I recall a Ruby Wedding anniversary cake for my grandparents, I wanted it to have red icing but after copious red food colouring it was still just very bright pink.  Then there was a birthday cake for my little brother, chocolate with mint buttercream, complete with green food colouring and jelly sweet decorations.  I think my love of baking is inspired by the love of the people I bake for.  Of course the creativeness, the delicious end product and the potential to show off all have a little bit to do with it; but mostly its an expression of love for my family and friends.  I firmly believe food tastes better when it is made with love.  Aww!

Recipes to follow.

I have been reading food blogs for ages and I always enjoyed reading the blog challenge round ups to see how different people interpret the various themes,  When I decided to write this blog I was looking forward to entering some challenges myself, and this recipe I've been wanting to try for a while meets the criteria for two.

My daughter is a big fan of Oreos so I was keen to try a homemade version and see how they matched up. The biscuits were tasty, however I wouldn't say they had the very distinctive taste of Oreos.  Apparently black cocoa is key to this taste, I plan on trying it out soon!  This is the first time I have ever used vegetable fat in my buttercream, I deliberated over including it but felt it was necessary to keep the filling firm and stop it squidging out of the sides of the biscuits when they're bitten into .

I am entering my homemade Oreos into: 


We Should Cocoa was created by Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog, I think this will be a popular challenge for me - a great excuse for more chocolate in my life (not sure how well it will fit in with #2, #7 and #15 on The List mind!).  This month's challenge is hosted by Rebecca at BakeNQuilt who has chosen the theme of Cookies in honour of her favourite holiday treats.

AlphaBakes was created by Ros from The more than occasional baker and Caroline from Caroline Makes; Caroline is hosting this month's challenge.  The random letter generator came up with O this month.

Homemade Oreos   

I'm not sure where this recipe is from, I just have a list of ingredients written down, on searching the internet I found quite a few similar recipes but if anyone knows the original source please contact me so I can acknowledge them.

170g plain flour
45g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
250g sugar
150g salted butter
1 large egg

Using an electric mixer beat all of the ingredients together until it forms a dough.

Then roll the dough into into 2 logs approx 5cms in diameter, wrap them in cling film and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Preheat the oven to 170oc (for electric fan, or whatever is equivalent for your oven) and slice the cookie dough logs into 0.75cm thick rounds, space out on a lightly greased baking tray - they will spread a little and bake for approximately 10 minutes until edges are starting to feel firm. Transfer to wire rack to cool, they will crisp up as they cool.

For the filling
50g salted butter
50g vegetable shortening
200g icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk fats until soft then add icing sugar and vanilla.  Pipe into the centre of the bottom biscuit and flatten with the top biscuit.

Enjoy, with milk of course!

I'm wasn't stingy with the filling but I had quite a bit leftover, I think this recipe could be scaled down by a third.  I ended up with about 20 homemade ores.

This is based on a recipe taught to me by a lovely woman in India, she called her dish a biryani but after reading a bit more about Indian cookery I think it probably more of a pulao.  A biryani involves layering partly cooked rice and meat/veg and then baking it together; in a pulao all of the ingredients are cooked together in the same pan.

I made this dinner to use up some fruit and vegetables I had, there are lots of variations.  I love to add pomegranate seed to the raita.  For a 'using up what's in the fridge' dish it was incredibly satisfying and there was plenty left for 2 lunchboxes for work.

The two spice blends I used in this meal were bought in India; biryani masala is easy to buy/make.  The fruit masala has a very distinctive tangy taste.  I think in this spice blend that is mainly from the use of black salt. If looking for a similar blend I think a chaat masala including black salt would be a good bet.

I really enjoy learning about spices and their different properties.  I've had a couple of wow moments where I've attempted to recreate flavours from India using recipes online which include spices that are new to me; for example adding amchoor powder to potato parathas took me right back to breakfast at our lovely guesthouse in Delhi.

Vegetable Pulao

inspired by Rekha
Serves 4
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1 onion, chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, chopped
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1 large potato cut into 1.5-2cm cubes
Small head of cauliflower cut into florets
1/2 cup frozen petit pois
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp biryani masala

Heat ghee and add cumin seeds, mustard seeds and asafoetida.  Fry until mustard seeds pop.

Add the onion and fry until soft and translucent. Followed by the chilli, garlic, ginger and cashew nuts.  Fry for another minute or so - be careful to avoid burning the garlic.

Stir in vegetables and rice and cook for a further minute.  Finally, add water and ground spices, cover with lid and simmer for approximately 10 minute until the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked.  Occasionally you may need to add a little extra water depending on your rice.

While the rice is cooking you can make the raita.  I would never have this with dish without the raita, I love the contrast between the hot spiced rice and vegetables and the cold, slightly tart yoghurt, and sweet fruit; and the soft cooked rice and vegetable and crunchy cashew nuts and apple.

Fruit Raita

250g yoghurt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fruit masala
1 tsp sugar
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 large banana peeled and chopped
salt to taste

Mix the ingredients together, chill until needed.

A trip to India is the perfect remedy to childhood fussiness with food! Since returning home the difference in C's eating is amazing.  I wouldn't say she was overly picky before we went, she was good with veggies but didn't like dishes with sauce and wasn't great at trying new foods.

When we were there she was pretty good, she did try new foods but she also had days which were very bread based.  Since coming home however she willingly tries new food, no persuasion or bribery required, and eats food I would never have imagined a year ago.  One of her new favourite foods influenced by our time in India is paneer.  Paneer is a hard Indian cheese, its non melting and has a very mild flavour making it a great vehicle for Indian spices in curries and tandoori dishes.  Its seemingly pretty easy to make, just milk and lemon juice; although I'm yet to have a go because its also pretty easy to pick up from the supermarket!

Paneer and peas is one of our favourites, I always use petit pois rather than garden peas as I love just the little bursts of sweetness against the spicy tomato sauce.  I've tried several variations but this is the one I make most often, I really enjoy the slight bitterness the fenugreek adds.  If its just the two of us we eat this accompanied by chapatis.

Mattar Paneer 

(adapted from this recipe from Lisa's Kitchen, I love Lisa's blog!)
Serves 3-4
1.5tsp cumin seeds
1tsp mustard seeds
1 onion, chopped
1-2 green chillis (depending on personal taste), finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
1.5tsp ground coriander
1tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp paprika
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
225g paneer, cubed 
1.5 cups frozen petit pois
1/2 cup full fat yoghurt
1tsp garam masala
1.5 tsp kasoori methi, crumbled
small bunch fresh coriander, chopped

Heat oil or ghee until hot and add the cumin and mustard seed, cook for 30-60 second until mustard seeds start to pop.  

Add the onion and cook for around 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Then add the chillis, garlic and ginger, cook for a further minute and stir in the ground spices.  After another minute of cooking and stirring add the chopped tomatoes and a couple of tablespoons of water.

While the tomato mixture is cooking, heat some more oil or ghee in a frying pan and fry the paneer until golden.

When the tomatoes have cooked down to reduce the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients, cook for a further 5-10 minutes.

Serve and enjoy! 

I fry the paneer before adding it to the dish because I like the texture better this way, it is personal preference and the paneer can be added raw if that is your preference for taste/timing/health reasons.  You can fry the paneer before starting the dish put it into hot salted water until needed.

If you use reduced fat yoghurt it is more likely to curdle.  I would avoid this by tempering the yoghurt i.e gradually bringing it up to the temperature of the pan by adding the hot component to the yoghurt a little at a time and stirring it in - as opposed to adding the cold yoghurt straight to the pan.

#1 Go to India

When I first began to compose The List right at the very top was India.  The trip was already in the advanced planning stages, money was saved and annual leave was booked.  But still I couldn't quite believe it was going to happen, I had longed since my early teens to travel, in my head I loved travelling, in reality I'd never been outside of Europe, the longest trip I'd had since my daughter was born was a week in Lake Garda and I'd only been on a plane without another adult once.  Although I never admitted it to anyone I held off booking the flights because I was a little bit scared, scared that it wouldn't happen, scared that it would and I would hate it!

The fear hit me a bit again when at 1am on the day of our flights in February, less than 2 hours after I had finally finished packing and went to bed, and 2 and half hours before the alarm was due to wake us for the taxi to the airport.  I heard the words that can have a mother jumping out of bed before she even realises where she is "Mammy I'm going to be sick!"

Eek is this a sign?!  

However despite the less than perfect start, and on very little sleep we were sat on the plane at 6.20 am, and just after midnight local time, after being interrogated by the immigration officer as to how I could possibly have a child if I was unmarried, we left Delhi airport and entered the crazy place that is India.

The 36 day trip was fantastic, and I can firmly say I love travelling. 

What's not to love?!