Vanilla cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese and mascarpone frosting

vanilla cupcakes with white chocolate frosting

 

Christmas arrived early this year along with these cupcakes.

Don’t you think they look festive with its contrasting soft cream and ruby red colour?

Its flavour is redolent of everything that is Christmas; you can taste Christmas in a single bite. White chocolate…red currants…and cake!

I stumbled upon some fresh red currants at the supermarket and I just bought them feeling excited yet not knowing what I would do with them.

Since I always associated white chocolate with red currants, I decided to go with these cupcakes. I like the extreme tartness of red currants (yes, I have an unusually high tolerance for all things sour) but others might not think so. The sweetness of the white chocolate balance off the sourness of the red currants.

I always believe in using quality chocolate especially when you are making a simple chocolate dessert – like a chocolate cake or chocolate mousse. There is no place where bad chocolate can hide. I think this is even more so in the case of white chocolate.

I know some people would say that they don’t like white chocolate because it is too sweet. It is true even for myself; white chocolate would not be my first choice if you ask me to pick a chocolate.

Nevertheless, I find that it works beautifully in baking like in this cream cheese and mascarpone frosting or a white chocolate ganache with raspberries.

While white chocolate does not have cacao mass like milk or dark chocolate,  it is made with cocoa butter (a derivative from making cocoa powder)  which makes it extremely creamy and melt in the mouth. A good white chocolate should contain a good amount of cocoa butter without addition of other fats like palm oil. I like to use Valrhona Ivoire which contains 35% of cocoa butter.

Now for these cupcakes, I use Magnolia bakery’s vanilla cupcake recipe but adapted it slightly. I have added the scrapped seeds from half a vanilla bean for that extra bit of luscious vanilla.

Now, if are wishing and hoping for Christmas to come a tad sooner, why not make a batch of these cupcakes? You can have your little own Christmas in September…

 

vanilla cupacakes with white chocolate cream cheese and mascarpone frosting 3

 

Recipe: Vanilla cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese and mascarpone frosting
Makes 12 regular cupcakes
Adapted from Magnolia Bakery cupcakes

Ingredients:
110g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
170g caster sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scrapped (optional)
118ml full cream milk
155g all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda


Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celcius and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

2. Start by creaming the butter with a paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth. Add in the caster sugar and beat until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Add in the eggs, one at a time, as well as the vanilla extract, beating well after each addition. Add in the scrapped vanilla bean seeds, if using.

4. Add in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the milk. Start and end with the dry ingredients. With each addition, beat at low speed until the ingredients are incorporated. Do not overbeat. Scrape down the batter in the bowl every once in a while to make sure that the ingredients are well-combined.

5. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners filling them about 2/3 full.

6. Bake for approximately 20 minutes in a 170 degrees celcius oven. The cupcakes should be golden brown and it should spring back to touch, or until a cake tester inserted into the cupcake comes out clean.

7. Allow the  cupcakes to cool in the tins for 10-15 minutes before removing them onto a cooling rack. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting them.

White chocolate cream cheese and mascarpone frosting
Enough to frost 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:
125g cream cheese, room temperature
50g mascarpone cheese, room temperature
90g unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
40g icing/confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
65g white chocolate, chopped (I use valrhona Ivoire 35% white chocolate)

Method:
1. To make the frosting, begin by melting the white chocolate. You can do this over a bain marie (over a pot of simmering water) or in the microwave. If you are using the microwave, please be very careful. Do this  in 5-10 second intervals, stirring after every interval until it has melted. Be careful not to overheat it as it will become grainy and unusable. White chocolate burns quickly than milk or dark chocolate!

2. Beat the cream cheese with a paddle attachment until soft and creamy on medium speed. Then add in the mascarpone cheese and butter and cream till well-incoporated.

3. Add in the sifted confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract and beat at low speed until combined.

4. Add in the melted white chocolate, slightly cooled and mix until well-combined.

5. Fill the frosting in a piping bag with a piping tip (I used a closed star tip and wilton 1M) to pipe my cupcakes.  Top the cupcakes with a stalk of red currants.

*Storage: Keep these cupcakes in the refrigerator once they are frosted. Bring them to room temperature before serving. They can be kept for a few days but of course, they taste the best once they are made.

vanilla cupacakes with white chocolate cream cheese and mascarpone frosting 2

vanilla cupacakes with white chocolate cream cheese and mascarpone frosting 1

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Cherry pecan friands

cherry pecan friand

I love receiving parcels in the mail. It makes me happy to unwrap brown boxes big or small, tearing away the brown paper packaging to unwrap the surprise inside. Of course, not all parcels are created the same – some are my (guilty) online purchases but nonetheless, they are fun to unwrap and to physically hold.

Sometimes, I would even rip open my sister’s parcels (with her permission, of course) because I  like the feeling of unwrapping new things.

Recently, I unwrapped a loosely wrapped brown packaging tied up with strings to these two wooden plates. I love them right from that instant.

The other moment was when I opened one in a medium sized pure white box that unveiled a cherry red beauty.  That box contained my early birthday present from J and let’s just say that it made me very happy.

***

When I want to make someone’s day, I usually do it in the form of food gifts. I made these cherry pecan friands and packed them neatly in a box for my sister and secretly stashed it into her lunch bag.

It probably is not quite the same as opening a brown box to a set of earrings or a new blouse, but I know that it made her day when she found these friands at work the next day.

These friands are one of my favourite things to bake especially on lazy and rainy days. They don’t take too much time and effort at all and everyone can make these without any specialty equipment (see my tip on pitting cherries with a pastry piping nozzle).

I used fresh cherries that are still in season, dried sour cherries and pecan nuts from Michigan that was bought for me. Instead of using my usual ground almonds in these friands, I used hazelnut meal this time.  You can easily interchange the nut flour used for friands to complement that fruit/topping that you are adding to them.

These cherry and pecan friands are really delicious to munch on, warm or not. Would you be happily surprised to open a box containing these friands?

cherry pecan friands baked

Recipe: Cherry and pecan friands (financiers)
Makes 12 rectangular ones (the ones I make are rather big)

Friands/financiers are mini French cakes. The original flavour of friands is nutty from the buerre noisette. I used fresh cherries, dried sour cherries and pecans for these but feel free to substitute other stone fruits, dried fruits or nuts. Otherwise, they make really lovely afternoon tea cakes even when they are plain.

Ingredients:
230g egg whites, room temperature
260g caster sugar
110g all-purpose flour
170g ground hazelnut/hazenut meal
160g unsalted butter, cubed
pinch of salt
12 fresh cherries, pits removed*
12 dried sour cherries
12 whole pecans, lightly toasted

Method:
1. Prepare beurre noisette: Place the cubed butter and dried lavender into a small pot. Place on a stove with medium fire. Heat the butter and swirl the pot occasionally. The butter will start to melt before the the milk solids (white) start browning. The butter will have a golden brown colour. Set aside to cool, allowing the lavender flavour to infuse while you prepare your other ingredients.

2. In a bowl, place sugar, flour and ground almond, salt together. Whisk the dry ingredients a little. Add in the beurre noisette (including the brown sediments and dried lavender).

3. Add in the egg whites slowly while whisking till incorporated. You do not need to create too much volume in the egg whites. \

4.  Spoon the batter into your moulds (I used rectangular silicon moulds), if you are using aluminium moulds, do grease your moulds with melted butter to ensure that the friands do not stick after baking. Add in a cherry, a sour cherry and a pecan to each of the friands. Bake in a preheated 190 degrees celcius oven and bake for 15- 18 minutes (depending on the size of the friands), or until golden-brown and it springs back slightly to touch.

5. Allow them to cool to room temperature before serving. You can dust them with some icing sugar if you are serving them to friends for tea!

*Tip for removing the pits of cherries: Remove the cherry stalk. Then use a plain piping nozzle ( I used size no 10) to pressed down the center of the cherry and push the pip through. No need to buy a cherry pitter!

cherry pecan friand 3

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Blueberry almond crumble cake

Blueberry crumble cake

 

The weather here has been a little erratic – raining one moment and sunny the next. It is hard to make any concrete outdoor plans without preparing for possible disappointment.

On the day when J and I were going for an outdoor film festival, we were half-prepared to just can the whole thing if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Thankfully, that evening was enjoyably windy unlike many other evenings, and with a stoke of luck, not a single raindrop throughout the night.

The film we watched was “A touch of sin” by Chinese director Jia Zhangke. This film weaves together parallel stories of four characters in contemporary China; it won the best screenplay at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film was pretty good though the themes were a little dark and disturbing. A little weird to be munching on our little picnic (food, dessert and beer) with so much violence on the screen.

***

I have been baking a lot with berries in recent days as you can probably see. The bounty of summer berries seem here to stay for a little while more and it is time to make full use of it.

This blueberry crumble cake is a dead-easy cake to throw together and still rewarding enough for a lazy afternoon (picnic) snack or a sweet Saturday breakfast.

It was both my afternoon snack as well as breakfast the next morning and I can’t complain (not one bit).

The almond meal not only lends the cake a wonderful almond flavour, it keeps the cake extremely moist which makes it a forgiving cake to bake (even if you over-bake it slightly, it would still be moist). It is J’s favourite kind of cake. He generally loves all cake with almond/hazelnut meal in them.

I added a crumble on top of the cake which makes the almond cake a little more of a delight to eat with its nice and sweet crumbly bits. You can always choose to skip making the crumble topping but believe me, it doesn’t take too much effort for that satisfying crumb.

I hope there is better weather where you are for some outdoor picnic fun and food.

 

blueberry cumble cake slice

 

Blueberry almond crumble cake
Makes a 9 inch round spring-form cake

This is a lovely cake to have for an afternoon tea. You can replace the blueberries with other types of berries like  raspberries, blackberries. Strawberries may give out more liquid and make the batter a little wetter. If using frozen berries, use them straight out of the freezer. Do not thaw the berries before using.

Ingredients:

For the almond cake:
140g unsalted butter, cubed
70g brown sugar
70g granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract (optional)
140g ground almond
140g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
240g fresh blueberries

For the crumble:
90g unsalted butter, cubed
90g all-purpose flour
90g granulated sugar (you can also use half brown sugar and half granulated sugar)
2 tbsp rolled oats (optional)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a 9 inch spring-form cake tin with parchment paper and grease the sides of the tin.

2. Prepare the crumble first: Mix flour and sugar together. Then add in butter cubes and using your fingertips, rub in the butter into the dry ingredients until you get a coarse breadcrumb like texture. It is okay if there are few bigger lumps through the crumble mixture. Add in rolled oats, if using, and mix through. Keep this in the fridge to chill down while you prepare the cake.

3. Cream the butter and both types of sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well before adding the next. Add in the vanilla and almond extract.

4. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and almond meal into the mixture in one or two additions and mix until well-incorporated. Stir in the blueberries into the cake batter. The cake batter is pretty thick but that is the way it should be.

5. Transfer the cake batter into the cake tin. Use the back of your spatula to level the top to make sure the cake surface is even. Using your fingertips, break up the crumble into clumps all over the cake. Bake at 180 degrees for about 1 hr to 1 hr 10 minutes or until a cake skewer comes out clean. The cake should look golden brown.

6. Transfer the cake onto a wire rack and allow it to cool in its tin for about 10 minutes before removing it from the tin. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar and a side of crème fraîche. The cake taste best when it is still warm though it is still very good at room temperature.

bluberry crumble cake 2 blueberry crumble cake 2

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Mini berry pavlovas with mascarpone cream

mini berry pavlova cover

I know many Singaporeans are not very fond of meringues because they think of meringues as overly sweet blobs of baked egg whites.

I can see where they are coming from especially if they are trying to eat a 5-inch blob of meringue on their own.

That happened to my cousin when he chose to order a huge meringue along with his coffee one day while we were at a cafe. He wasn’t one with a sweet tooth so I was surprised by his choice. Perhaps he didn’t know what it was exactly or he was just attracted by the colour of it.  Needless to say, I think he only took a few bites of it, leaving most of it behind.

I think meringues are best when they come in miniature form – not only do they look more adorable when they are small, they are just about the right portion to taste delicious.

If you are still not convinced about meringues (mini or not), there is one more thing that may change your mind about them – mini pavlovas.

mini berry pavlova (1)

Pavlovas make a perfect dessert;  it is a delicious end to a heavy, rich meal. The balance in this simple dessert makes it so right, you will have trouble finding fault with it. The crisp exterior of the baked meringue giving way to a chewy center, with a luscious smooth cream, usually topped with fresh fruits like berries that counters the sweetness very well.

I made a few adjustments to a traditional pavlova – using mascarpone cream instead of chantilly cream, adding a drizzle of raspberry coulis to give it a little more acidity and making them small and easy to eat.

These are delicious and pretty yet incredibly easy to put together making them the perfect dinner party dessert. All the components can be made in advanced, and/or multiplied for a big group, and easily assembled at the end of the dinner for an enjoyable dessert.

Since these mini pavlovas are so light (after all, it is free from chocolate, butter, starch), your guests will be thanking you for this especially after a huge dinner of roasted leg of lamb, pasta and roasted vegetables.

I know that I would be making more of these for a post-dinner treat especially while the berries are still in season.

piped pavlova nests

mini berry pavlova (4) copy

 

Recipe: Mini berry pavlovas with mascarpone cream
Makes 20 small pavlovas (7 cm in diameter)

The meringues can be made up to a week in advanced and stored in an air tight container between sheets of baking parchment to separate them. The meringues should remain white as you bake them – if they start to colour (turn brown), your oven is too hot! Turn the temperature down! The texture that you are aiming for is a crispy exterior, giving way to a chewy center when you bite into it.

You should eat this dessert immediately once you assemble it as the mascarpone cream will start to soften your meringue.

For the pavlovas (meringues):
120g egg whites (from about 3 large eggs)
210g caster sugar (superfine sugar, do not use coarse sugar for meringues)
raspberry coulis (you can make this on your own or use storebought)

Method: (Swiss Meringue method)

1. Preheat the oven to 130 degrees celcius. (I use a fan-forced oven for this to ensure there is even heating but you can use a convection oven.)

2. Whisk together egg whites and sugar in a very clean stainless steel bowl. I use hot water to rinse it through to remove any grease and wiping it dry. Place bowl over a bain marie and whisk together whites and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved. You will get a smooth, warm and slightly cloudy liquid. Remove from heat.

2. Transfer the warm mixture into a clean bowl of a electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat for about 10 minutes on high speed until you achieve glossy white mixture with firm peaks. Firm peaks are reached when you you see straight peaks when you lift up the whisk attachment and it does not droop back into the bowl. If you are using the raspberry coulis, you can drizzle the coulis on the meringue. Do not fold but simply just scoop or pipe the meringue onto the baking sheet.

3. You can choose to spoon the meringues onto a baking sheet and use the back of a spoon to make a grove in the center or pipe them using a star nozzle. I made both versions.

4. Lower the oven temperature to 100 degrees celcius and bake for about 1 hr 45 mins to 2 hours until crisp and dry. The ones with the swirled raspberry coulis will take a longer time to dry out.

Mascarpone cream

To fill 20 pavolvas

You can adjust the proportion of the recipe for the no. of mini pavlovas you are assembling. In this case, it is best to make the amount that you need as this mascapone cream does not keep too well beyond a day or two.

Ingredients:
250g mascarpone
250ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp icing sugar, sifted

Method:

1. Bring the mascarpone to room temperature. Whisk the double cream to soft peaks.

2. With a paddle attachment, cream the mascarpone until soft and smooth. Add in the vanilla extract and icing sugar and mix until well-incorporated.

3. Fold the whipped cream with the mascarpone.

Raspberry coulis

Makes more raspberry coulis than you need for this recipe but you can always store it for future uses (to serve with pancakes and ice cream)

Ingredients:
200g raspberries (fresh or frozen)
50g granulated sugar
a squeeze of lemon juice

Method:

1. Place raspberries, sugar and lemon juice into a pot and cook at medium low heat until raspberries fall apart. Stir it every now and then. Allow it to thicken to desired consistency ( It shouldn’t look runny)
2. Pass it through a blender. Use a fine-mesh sift to remove the seeds/pips. Transfer it to a air tight container and chill it down (it thickens as it cools). You can make this in advance and store it in the fridge for up to a week or freeze it for other uses for up to a month or two.

To assemble:

1 punnet of raspberries
1 punnet of blueberries
(You can use other berries like blackberries and sliced strawberries too)
1.  Top the pavlova with mascarpone cream, raspberry coulis and fresh berries.

2. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar if you like. Serve immediately after assembling.

mini berry pavlova piped mini berry pavlova (3) copy raspberry coulis copy berry pavlova

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Raspberry and pistachio tart

raspberry and pistachio tarts

 

 

A couple of year ago in Paris, while walking to Jardin du Luxemburg, we stopped by Gerard Mulot to ogle at his beautiful desserts and pastries. Amongst the cakes we picked up, there was this particular pistachio and raspberry one that stayed etched on memory; it was art made with a pistachio macaron, a pistachio dacquoise and fresh raspberries. It was beautiful.

It was a particularly cold and grey autumn morning. The trees were on the verge of becoming bare with a few orange-brown leaves here and there. We sat on a cold black bench facing the pond. I remember the messy affair of eating the cake from the box . The flavours were unforgettable.  The pistachio and raspberry meld together like they are meant to be.

On a recent day, I started thinking about that particular cake. Even though I can remember how I particularly like that cake, I can only vaguely remember it’s components (I’m sure that wasn’t all) –  a pistachio dacquoise, pistachio macaron and fresh raspberries. In any case, I just decided to make my own interpretation of a dessert with raspberries and pistachio.

I really like how this one turn out – a crumbly tart base, a pistachio chewy cake centre, a rich and smooth pistachio crème mousseline with fresh raspberries. It works like magic but I think I would be giving magic too much credit.

There is just something about the different textures of pistachio that goes with that burst of bright acidity from the raspberries.

I can feel Paris drawing closer with each bite of this tart.

Oh yes, I’ll be revisiting this beautiful city once again this autumn. This time with my best friend. Did I mention how much I love this city? I’m more than psyched!

I recently finished reading “A moveable feast” by Ernest Hemingway (beautiful book) and it made me picture all the rues of Paris,  le métro,  les jardins like I always have been living there all this while.

” There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it.”

— A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

I certainly can’t wait to be returning…

Paris  was is worth it.

 

raspberries and tarts raspberry and pistachio tart cross section

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frangipane tarts raspberry and pistachio tarts 2

Recipe: Raspberry and pistachio tarts
Makes 7 x 4.5 inch tarts

I love the combination of raspberry and pistachio – it works so beautiful and their colours of red and green is just as eye-popping. You will have leftover pastry dough from this recipe which you can freeze and use over the next month.


Ingredients:


For the Pâte sucrée (Sweet shortcrust pastry):

250g all-purpose flour
125g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, cut into cubs
fine zest of 1 orange (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
60g egg (about 1 large egg)

For the pistachio frangipane:

100g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
100g caster sugar
125g eggs, room temperature
50g ground pistachios+
50g ground almonds
44g all-purpose flour

For the pistchio crème mousseline:

250ml milk
50g egg yolks
50g caster sugar
30g cornflour
30g pistachio paste
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g unsalted butter, cut into cubes, room temperature
green food colouring, optional

To assemble:
fresh raspberries
pistachio nuts, chopped roughly

+ I shelled pistachio nuts before grinding them down in my food processor to the consistency of almond meal.

Method:

1. Prepare the Pâte sucréePlace flour and caster sugar into a big bowl.  Whisk to distribute evenly. Add in cubed butter and rub butter with the flour and sugar mix till fine breadcrumb consistency.

2.  Add in egg, vanilla and zest till mixture is just combined. Alternatively, you could opt to use a food processor for the first two steps. Be very careful not to overwork the dough.

3. Roll out the dough into a flat disc, cling wrap it and let it rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes or overnight.

4. Dust flour sparingly on the dough  and work surface. Roll dough to approximately 3mm thick. Transfer the dough into the tart tins.

5. Place a sheet of crumbled parchment paper over the top of the tart shell and weigh it down with baking weights or uncooked rice/beans. This will prevent the sides of the tart from sliding. Another tip is to bring the tart dough slightly over the edge before baking.

6. Blind bake the tart shell in a 180 degree celcius pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes before removing the baking beans and baking the tart shells for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

7. Prepare the pistachio frangipane: Using the paddle attachment, beat the cubed butter and caster sugar until pale and light. Add in the eggs and continue to beat until incorporated.

8. Add in ground almonds, ground pistachio, and flour and mix until well-combined.

9. Fill the tart shells with the pistachio frangipane (about 2/3 full as the frangipane will expand when baked) and bake in a 180 degrees celcius pre-heated oven for about 15- 20 minutes until frangipane is golden brown, and springs back to touch.

10. Prepare the crème mousseline: To make a crème mousseline, start by making a pastry cream. Measure out all your ingredients before you begin. In a pot,place milk into a medium size pot (big enough for all the ingredients).
11. In the meantime, whisk egg yolks with sugar in a separate bowl until well-combined before adding the cornflour. Whisk till mixture is well-combined.
12. Place the pot of milk under medium heat. When the milk starts to boil, take the milk off the heat and pour it into your egg mixture. At this point, whisk quickly to incorporate the milk mixture (before it cooks the egg mixture).
13. Pour the milk and egg mixture back into pot (under low heat) and whisk continuously (as if your life depends on it!) This step is crucial to prevent lumps from forming in the crème patisserie.
14. Ensure that you whisk the egg and milk mixture until you achieve a smooth, thickened paste. Allow the pastry cream to cook for at least 2-3 minutes before taking it off the heat. You should see one or two large bubbles forming. That is an indication that the pastry cream is done. Whisk in the pistachio paste and vanilla extract.
15. Using a scrapper, transfer the pastry cream onto a tray lined with cling wrap. Cling wrap the pastry cream. Cool it down in the fridge before using it.
16. When the pastry cream is cooled, whisk it using a paddle attachment. Add in the room temperature butter, a few cubes at a time and beat till light and fluffy. Add in a drop or two of green food colouring if you would like your pistachio creme mousseline to be more green.

17. To assemble the tarts: Spread a thin layer of creme mousseline onto the tarts. Then, using a saint honore piping tip to pipe a squiggle in the middle of the cooled tart. Line the sides with fresh raspberries and finish the tart with a sprinkling of chopped pistachio nuts.

*Tarts are best eaten on the day it is made. Keep refrigerated after it is assembled.

 

raspberry and pistachio tart 2

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