CH#3: Cranberry Bliss Cupcakes

November 30, 2007 at 2:47 am | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 26 Comments

cranberry bliss cupcakes

A couple of months ago, my cherry lime rickey cupcakes were chosen buy Quirky Cupcake Laurie as the winner of the first-ever Cupcake Hero event!  What an honor!  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to come back and defend my title for last month’s clove edition.  I did make two different types of cupcakes for it and both were awful!  Well, I’ve put that mess behind me and come back with a vengeance for this month’s event with a cranberry theme.

My inspiration for these cupcakes is the Cranberry Bliss bar that Starbucks sells around the holidays.  Yes, even in Australia you can find these in the display case at this time of year.  If you are a seasoned Cranberry Bliss bar eater, you will probably recognize me for the fraud that I am.  I have never had one…don’t even know what’s actually in one.  So this is a loose interpretation, containing things that I think are blissful with cranberries!

cranberry bliss cupcakes

I seem to be a fan of filled cupcakes lately (there were the rickeys, the Bostinis and the linzers), and I knew I wanted to make a cupcake that would be filled with Thanksgiving-style cranberry sauce.  I actually even used my leftover sauce for this!  The bar from Starbucks has a cake or cookie base that looks to contain brown sugar, so I went poking around for a brown sugar cupcake recipe.  I found one from Nigella, the beautiful Domestic Goddess, for burnt butter brown sugar cupcakes.  I liked the sound of that–brown butter gives beautiful flavor to baked goods.  I also liked that the batter is quickly blitzed together in the food processor…not a lot of technique involved there.

cranberry bliss cupcakes

The Bliss bars also appear to have a white chocolate topping, so after baking and filling my cupcakes, I frosted them with a white chocolate whipped ganache, into which I had folded toasted pecans and dried cranberries.  I sprinkled some toasted unsweetened coconut flakes and more dried cranberries over the top to finish.  Lush!  The tart cranberries really balance out the sweet frosting and cake.  And the next day, cold out of the fridge, OMG!  My brother declared the cold cupcake to be “f-ing amazing” (please excuse his language).

I don’t find the pictures of cupcake insides to be all that appealing, but here’s a picture of the “guts” anyway…

cranberry bliss cupcakes

Thanks, Laurie, for another fun event!  Can’t wait to see December’s theme!

Cranberry Bliss Cupcakes makes 12 regular-size cupcakes

-Make and chill the cranberry sauce filling (recipe below).

-Bake and cool a batch of burnt butter brown sugar cupcakes (recipe below). 

-Make the white chocolate whipped ganache frosting and flavor it with pecans and dried cranberries (recipe below).  

-To fill the cupcakes, use a small knife or round cookie cutter to cut a plug out of the center of each (going in from the top).  Save the top bit of each plug.  Fill each cavity with cranberry sauce filling.  Cover with the top bit so the filling is not exposed.

-Top with whipped ganache and garnish with lightly toasted unsweetened coconut flakes and more dried cranberries.

Cranberry Sauce Filling– makes about 1 cup

just under 1/2 cup sugar
just under 1/2 cup water
2 t orange zest
pinch of salt
6 oz whole cranberries, fresh or frozen

-Bring sugar, water, orange zest and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepot.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and add in the cranberries. 

-Simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cranberries pop. 

-Transfer to a nonreactive bowl and cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate until using.

Burnt Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes makes 12 regular-sized cupcakes
modified from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess

1/2 cup plus 2 T unsalted butter
3/4 cup self-rising cake flour
3 T sugar
5 T brown sugar (I used dark, but light would be fine, too)
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla bean paste (can substitute vanilla extract)
1 t baking powder
pinch of salt
2-3 T milk

-Preheat the oven to 400°F/205°C and line a muffin tin with paper cups. 

-To brown the butter, put it in a small saucepan on medium heat, leaving it until it turns light golden and has nutty-colored brown bits on the bottom (will only take a couple of minutes).  Take the pan off the heat and pour the butter into a bowl or cup, scraping the brown bits (if you have accidentally gotten your butter too dark, strain it, leaving the dark sediment behind). Let the butter begin to solidify again, but you need it to remain soft for the cupcakes.  You can do this by either leaving it at room temperature, which will take awhile, or putting it in the fridge for about 10 minutes.   You want it to be the consistency of regular softened butter.

-When the butter is solid but still soft, put all the cake ingredients except the milk in a food processor and blitz to a smooth batter. As normal, add the milk down the funnel, pulsing sparingly to form a soft, dropping mixture.

-Divide among the paper cups, and cook for 15-20 minutes.  FYI, this does not make much batter, and the cups will not be very full.  Don’t worry, as the combination of self-rising cake flour and baking powder give it a lot of oomph in the oven.  They should rise to normal cupcake size!

White Chocolate Whipped Ganache with Pecans and Cranberries makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes

7.5 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
7 T butter, very soft
handfull toasted pecans, cooled and roughly chopped
handfull dried cranberries

-Put chopped white chocolate in a medium bowl.  Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepot.  Pour hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes to begin to melt.  Gently whisk chocolate and cream together to form a perfectly smooth ganache.

-Cover and refrigerate for about 45 minutes, until the ganache  is cool and begins to firm up, but is still soft enough to whip.

-By hand with a whisk, whip until fluffy frosting consistency.  Whip in the soft butter, piece by piece.  If it starts to look split, chill it a couple more minutes and it should come together with a few more strokes.  Don’t overbeat the frosting, however, or it may make it too firm.

-Gently fold in pecans and dried cranberries before topping the cupcakes.

Daring Bakers in November: Tender Potato Bread

November 26, 2007 at 12:00 pm | Posted in daring bakers, events, savory things, yeast breads | 60 Comments

potato bread

Ahhh…finally, today is the day when I can reveal my experience with the latest Daring Bakers challenge– it is something I really look forward to every month.  This go-around Tanna from My Kitchen in Half Cups had us roll up our sleeves and bake bread!  She chose a recipe for tender potato bread from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.  This is a book I have on my own shelf, so I was extra-excited to give the bread recipe a try.

Besides being true to the base recipe, we had to knead the bread by hand (I hadn’t done that in forever!) and it had to be savory.  But other than that, Tanna really encouraged us to play around with the shape of our bread and the flavorings used.  I did cut the recipe in half, which is my usual MO, because R and I can’t (or shouldn’t) eat sooo much bread.  I used the maximum amount of mashed potato suggested by Tanna (16 ounces for a full recipe, or 8 ounces for my half recipe), and I can say that kneading the dough was definitely a sticky process.   But it wasn’t impossible on a well-floured surface…as the additional flour was worked in, I could feel the dough gaining structure and becoming easier to handle.

potato bread--focaccia

I split my dough into one small loaf and one small focaccia.  I kneaded some grated aged cheddar and cracked pepper into the loaf portion just before placing in the pan for its second proof.  The cheese bread was soft and had great flavor.  I still have half the loaf in my freezer, just waiting to be eaten with a bowl of soup.  The dough made for a fantastic focaccia as well– I put olive oil, olives, rosemary and Maldon salt on mine.  It had a nice, crisp bottom crust from baking it on a ripping-hot pizza stone.

Thanks Tanna for giving us a good break from the sweet stuff.  If you are afraid of yeast, don’t be– bread-baking is a truly satisfying experience!   You won’t believe how delicious warm homemade bread is!  If you want the recipe for the basic potato bread, look here on Tanna’s site.

potato bread--cheese 

And before I go, I’d like to wish a very happy birthday to Daring Bakers!  This not so-little-anymore group turned one this month.  Started by Lis and Ivonne, just two buddies wanting to make their own pretzels, the group is now more than 300 strong!  To see how we all interpreted this month’s potato bread challenge, take a look at The Daring Bakers’ Blogroll.

DB whisk

Taste&Create III: Sushi with Sushi Day

November 18, 2007 at 12:30 pm | Posted in events, savory things | 6 Comments

sushi- crunchy shrimp roll

I am always drooling over the fantastic things that you make, photograph and write about on your blogs.  There are probably hundreds of recipes that I’ve seen on other sites that I’d like to try myself someday.  Unfortunately, sometimes I need a kick in the seat to do things.  Well, Nicole from For the Love of Food has come up with a food event called “Taste&Create“, pairing up food bloggers to try out each other’s recipes.  How perfect! 

Nicole paired me up with Allison from Sushi Day.  Sushi!  I love sushi!  It is something that I get intense cravings for that must be satisfied quickly.  But uh-oh.  Sushi is also something that I’ve always gone out for, and never tried to make myself. 

Allison has a lot of great info on her site to get a grasp of the basics of sushi-making, and a lot of great ideas for combinations, many of them inspired by trips to her favorite Japanese restaurants.  While I am crazy about unagi (eel) and anything involving raw tuna, I decided to play it a bit safer for my first foray into sushi-making and make her Crunchy Shrimp Roll.  I also knew that both R and my brother would happily devour anything with tempura shrimp and avocado.

After picking up a bamboo rolling mat at a local Japanese grocery, I had to read up on preparing the rolling mat and how to roll maki sushi.  And I needed to start with some sumeshi, or sushi rice.  Slightly sweet and vinegary, I think the taste and stickiness of the sumeshi are what’s responsible for those sushi cravings I get every couple of weeks.  Then I had to fry off a few pieces of tempura shrimp, following Allison’s instructions for how to make tempura, before prepping my scallions and avocado.  Assembling and rolling the maki wasn’t hard at all, thanks to Allison’s step-by-step photos and advice.

So there it is, my very first maki roll!  Not too bad looking, and certainly tasty!

sushi- crunchy shrimp roll

Since I had prepared a lot of rice and had extra pieces of tempura shrimp and avocado, I also went ahead and made Allison’s Spicy Tempura Roll as well.  Its zippy, peppery kick made it another big hit at the dinner table!

sushi- spicy tempura roll

Thank you Allison for teaching me how to make sushi myself– armed with my rolling mat, I will be back for more!  And thank you Nicole for hosting such a cool event!

Raspberry Cheesecake

November 15, 2007 at 5:16 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, cheesecakes, sweet things | 25 Comments

raspberry cheesecake

For my final project with the homemade graham cracker crumbs in my freezer, I decided to bake cheesecake.  It had been forever since I had made or even eaten cheesecake, and luckily Philly is sold over here, so it sounded like a good plan.  And I thought I would make it pink by adding some raspberries.

raspberry cheesecake

I started with a recipe for blueberry swirl cheesecake from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2, which I’ve made several times and particularly like because the mixture comes together lump-free in the food processor.  Then I added a vanilla bean to the cream cheese mixture, changed the fruit swirl to raspberry, changed the base and changed the baking method.  Now is it my own recipe?  I think so.

raspberry cheesecake

Raspberry Cheesecake- makes a 6-inch cake

Note:  If you want some extra sauce to top your finished cheesecake, make a double batch of the raspberry swirl sauce.  Then use half in assembling your cheesecake and save the remaining half in a jar in the fridge for when you serve the cake.

for the base:
2-3 T unsalted butter, melted
2 T  sugar
1/8 t cinnamon (optional)
pinch of salt
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

 for the raspberry swirl:
110 g fresh or frozen raspberries
2 T sugar
small splash of water

for the filling:
300g cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup plus 2 T sour cream
1 egg
1/2 cup superfine sugar
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean

-for the crust: Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.  Combine melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, salt and crumbs in a bowl.  Press into the botton of a 6-inch springform pan and bake for about 10-15 minutes.  Cool crust slightly.

-for the raspberry swirl:  In a small pan over medium low heat, gently cook the raspberries with the sugar and water until the berries begin to break down, the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has thickened a bit.  Squish up the berries a little and push the mixture through a sieve to remove the seeds.  Set aside to cool.

-for the filling:  Process the cream cheese in a food processor until smooth (don’t forget to scrape!).  Add the sour cream, egg, sugar and vanilla bean seeds and process until smooth and fully combined. 

-to assemble:  Brush sides of the springform with a little softened butter.  Wrap the outside of the pan with a double layer of foil.  (The cake bakes in a water bath, and doing this will help keep water from seeping into the cake as it cooks.)  Pour the filling over the graham cracker base.  Drizzle the raspberry sauce over and swirl gently with a butter or pairing knife.  Create a water bath by placing the cake tin in a slightly larger roasting pan or baking dish.  Carefully pour hot water halfway up the sides of the springform.  Bake at 280°F/140°C for a little over an hour, until the edges look set but the center jiggles slightly.  Let cool on a rack, then cover and refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Stop the Traffik: Toot-toot

November 7, 2007 at 3:21 pm | Posted in events, other stuff | 7 Comments


So I didn’t mention this before because I felt a little weird tooting my own horn, but the white chocolate and almond tartufi I made won last month’s Stop the Traffik chocolate competition, hosted by Rachel from R khooks.  I didn’t think I could be more excited when I heard the news a couple weeks ago, until today when I received my prize in the mail! 

Stop The Traffik prize

Rachel sent four bars of fairtrade chocolate and a beautiful card (maybe she even took the photo herself?)!   I am holding both a milk and a dark bar from Monoprix Gourmet and mint (yay!) and almond bars from Alter Eco.  I have never tried any of these, so I’m looking forward to getting down to business and doing some sampling.

Thanks so much, Rachel, for the chocolate bars and for hosting the event!  I’m sure it’s helped to open a lot of eyes to the issue of forced labor in cocoa farming and chocolate production.  And if you have a second, please check out Stop the Traffik’s site for more information on “Traffik Free” chocolate and where to find it.

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