Monday, 16 June 2014

Maple Pecan Muffins

My next bake of the summer combines the ongoing theme of British baking as well as a Canadian flavour. You don't know how hard I just laughed when Blogger told me that was misspelled. It's a Canadian flavour not a Canadian flavor!

The recipe is from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook (an American inspired British Bakery) and I'm determined to try more of these recipes as the ones I've tried previously were slightly lacklustre. The recipe said to mix with an electric mixer but I thought it would be better to do them by hand. Muffins can very easily be over-mixed which leaves an unpleasant texture after baking.

Maple Pecan Muffins (from Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, makes 12)
-2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup sugar
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1 1/2 cups buttermilk
-1 egg
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
-5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
-1 2/3 cups shelled pecans, chopped
-12 pecan halves to decorate
-3/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl and mix by hand until evenly dispersed.

In a larger bowl, add buttermilk. egg, and vanilla and whisk by hand. Slowly add the flour mixture, mixing between additions.

Add melted butter and beat. Then add half the maple syrup and all chopped pecans and stir until evenly dispersed. (I found the mixture at this point to be quite wet and doughy)

Evenly spoon the batter into the cupcake liner, about 2/3 full. drizzle remaining maple syrup on top and garnish with a pecan. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden or a skewer inserted comes out clean.

(before going in the oven)

 Now I'm 98% sure I under-baked the muffins as they were not golden but when I pressed on the top with my finger it did spring back. I did also overfill them (my bad!). I can honestly say that regardless, they were moist and not over-mixed and deliciously sweet.

Okay, so looking back on the photo in the cookbook, I really regret not waiting until they were golden.

The End.

 Anyone else cringing from how bad that ending was?
Just one more thing I'll regret.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Cath Kidston Inspired Cookies

I have never been one to have creative ideas of my own. I have always replicated other designs and while I wish I was waking up at 2 a.m. with the perfect design idea that I just have to write down, for now I will stick to doing what I do best and with that continuing to develop my cookie skills and piping technique.

The theme of this summer so far has been "The Great British Bake Off" and where my last post was a recipe from the show this one is more inspired. I was looking to create some beautiful, floral, spring cookies and who does spring florals better than Cath Kidston. During my research phase I came across some beautiful cookies and hunted them down here by Icing Land.

Also in my research was icing recipes and techniques. In the past I've found the stiff peak/soft peak technique was a lot of effort and mess. I also found that often the stiff peak icing would come separated and often get pulled off the cookie. A lot of the cookie gurus tend to stick to one icing consistency to pipe and flood, all from one piping bag. I found this recipe by Sugarbelle (one of my favourite blogs) that has definitely replaced my old recipe.

Royal Icing
-2 pounds icing sugar (in Canada we have 1 kg. which is fine but will require a bit more water)
-5 tablespoons meringue powder
-2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract (or other flavouring)
-1/2-3/4 cups warm water

With a paddle attachment, mix the meringue powder and icing sugar.

Mix half the water with the vanilla extract.

With the mixer of its lowest speed slowly add the water (staring with the vanilla mixture) and continue until it forms a thick honey-like consistency.

On medium speed whip from 2-4 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. (I found that 2 minutes was too much with my mixer on 6, so be careful not to over whip).

The whipping was probably the most important change in the recipe for me as it really helped the icing increase in volume. I don't think I will ever have to make more icing again. Another technique I tried to incorporate (but didn't quite hit the nail on the head) is the 10 s. rule by Sweetopia (a fellow canuck) where when you slice the surface of the icing it should take about 10 s. to smooth over.
The polka dot cookies were the simplest to create. I piped and flooded the cookies with a pink icing and immediately after used white icing to pipe dots (as evenly as possible) on top. This is a wet-on-wet technique and creates a smooth finish. 

The rose cookies were slightly more complicated because the base was not a simple/freehand shape. In the past I've used a transfer technique which works well if you can do them the day before. See my tutorial here. In this case I decided to try something new. I took an image of what I was trying to create and cut out the centre, making a simple stencil from printer paper. Now this isn't a perfect stencil by any means but with the wetter icing, the stencil could be easily removed with disrupting much the shape. For a quick fix, it worked well to make sure I had an even, symmetrical base. The flower design however was done freehand (but could also be done by transfer for a better finish) and while it was by no means perfect, the abstract rose design still looks pretty darn good.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Shortcake Biscuits with Salted Peanut Caramel Filling

(Once again, ignoring the break that was taken). Time and time again I've complained to everyone I know as well as the internet that baking in student housing is less than ideal. When I realized I would need to move again this year, I latched myself on to a particular townhouse complex and begged and pleaded several other students (also strangers) until I could guarantee myself a room in one of these. Why? The kitchen. I have stainless steel appliances, a microwave I could fit in and...wait for it...a dishwasher. My kitchen aid also fits quite nicely on the granite counter top. 

So I am now living here for the summer and I'm hoping to be able to dedicate myself more to the blog and really try and improve my knowledge and baking skills.

On the day I moved in I got a text from one of my friends who is also baker. She was commenting on how she couldn't wait for the Great British Bake Off to start up again. That got the wheels turning in my head and I realized to kick off the summer, I had to bake something from the show. Naturally, the bake wasn't "perfect" but I learned some new techniques and of course you're reading this post so you know what to look out for.

This recipe is of course from the only season I have never watched, the first, so I couldn't watch the show for reference. 
Caramel Peanuts
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 tbsp water
-2 tbsp salted and halved peanuts

Arrange the peanuts on a baking sheet.

In a saucepan, add the sugar and water and stir until it resembles a a wet sand. 

Cook on medium heat until it boils and turns a golden brown colour. Do not stir.

Pour the caramel over the peanuts. I would use a spoon and drizzle the caramel rather than pour straight from the pot. I got a large blob which once cooled and broken into pieces resembled the above photo. The peanuts mostly cam detached from the caramel and the caramel was too thick and sharp to eat. 

(usable pieces I was left with)

-1 cup butter
-1 cup sugar
-2 tbsp peanut butter
-1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat over to 325 F.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add peanut butter until combined. 

Sift in flour until the mixture comes together as a dough. I found it to be gritty and greasy. Cover the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes. (Reading the recipe over, I realized I forgot this. So it might be the difference to getting a better consistency in the dough.)

Flour the work surface and roll and cut 24 biscuits. I found the recipe made much more than this.

Place on a cookie sheet, either greased or lined with parchment paper. Wrap in cling film and chill for another 15 minutes. Despite the recipe not having a leavening agent, this recipe is not like a typical rolled cookie. They didn't necessarily rise, however they did expand so make sure to space the biscuits a fair distance apart.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden on the edges.  Let cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

-300g dulce de leche
-1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
-1 tbsp salted peanuts, chopped
-additional 75g dark chocolate for garnish

Bring the dulce de leche to a boil on medium heat. This part was omitted from the recipe. (Was this a technical challenge?!) After looking up a similar recipe this was done so I assumed this to be the case.

Remove from heat and add salt and peanuts. Set aside to cool.

Spread the filling on half the biscuits and use the others to make a sandwich.

For garnish, melt dark chocolate and drizzle it over the cookies.Finish with the caramel peanuts.

Ready, set, BAKE!