Monday, April 19, 2010

Take 2 of One-Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes... in Cake Form!

It's final exam season now, and one of my favourite ways to procrastinate is by looking at food blogs, which in turn makes me want to eat. I happened to be looking at Annie's Eats and the delicious treats on her site made me drool inside, so I decided to whip something up. I made some more ganache yesterday to use up leftover heavy cream that was expiring soon, and I wanted to use it as a glaze so I decided to make the one-bowl cupcakes again. Halfway through mixing the batter, I decided I was too lazy to spoon the batter into individual cupcake liners, so I pulled out an 8-inch square pan and poured the batter straight in without greasing or lining with parchment paper (sorry, I was just being way too lazy). Also, this time I used buttermilk as per the original recipe.

(I apologize for the picture quality!)

I was worried that it would result in a different taste than the previous one I made using yogurt, but overall the taste and smell were identical to the cupcake version. However, I don't think this recipe works as well in cake form because it's a lot better in smaller portions, and the cupcake version develops a lovely crust (like muffin tops) which is missing in the cake version. I also found it to be a little greasy, and I think I prefer cakes with butter, which this one lacks. I'll try an actual yellow cake recipe next time, which I imagine would taste better as a large cake (as it should).

Chocolate Macarons

Two weekends ago, I made something I'd been dying to make for a long time - Parisian macarons. (Read about the difference here) Even though macarons have been popular for a long time, I'd never heard about them until sometime last year. I made a mental note to visit some local bakeries that sell these, but I never got to try them until I went on vacation to South Korea last August. They were sold at the food section of high-end department stores, and on one of my trips to these stores I finally decided to try an assortment of flavours.

Doesn't the assortment look pretty and inviting? Unfortunately I didn't like all of the flavours, especially the more unusual fruity ones. However, I recall loving the "safe" flavours like chocolate, coffee, and orange.

Since macarons are too pricey to purchase regularly on a student budget, I decided to make my own. I know that they can be tricky to make, so I made sure to read up on the different techniques, as well as little tips that would make a difference. For my first macaron experience, I decided to choose a flavour I love, which is chocolate. (What else, really?) I found a simple and seemingly foolproof recipe on David Lebovitz's blog. I made sure I read up on lots of macaron-making tips, and I found a great post with helpful step-by-step pictures here. Also, a few months ago, I had put in a request for I Love Macarons at the public library, and the book came to me right on time. With so many resources to turn to, what could go wrong, right?

I wish I could say following instructions carefully will guarantee successful macarons! Let me present you with the pictorial evidence of my creation:

OK, that does not look so bad for a first-timer, right? I was so excited that they had feet! Actually, those macarons above were from my "good" batch, which had a chance to dry properly before I popped them in the oven. The first batch I made looked more like this:

Needless to say, that first batch was not successful, with cracks everywhere and no feet. They looked more like double chocolate cookies than macarons! I analyzed these two batches for the taste, and I noted that the edges were a little too crunchy (too long of a baking time?), but the insides had the right amount of chewiness, and the chocolate flavour was good. The ganache tasted good too, although I should have waited until it was firmer before using it. Obviously my macarons failed in the aesthetics department; I definitely need round tips (I only had star tips which were useless in this case, so I used a plastic piping bag without any tips) and I need to work on my piping skills. And I should probably let my future macarons air dry properly so I can get those pretty little pieds forming. I'm not sure if there was something wrong I did while whipping the egg whites or folding the dry ingredients in, but next time I will definitely be more careful.

Meanwhile, here is the recipe I used. I trust David Lebovitz's recipes; even though my macarons did not look pretty, you can bet that they still tasted great. I can't wait until my next macaron adventure!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Accidentally Awesome One-Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes

For some reason, I was on a baking roll last week and baked 4 times within 7 days, which never happened before. On Saturday I took a shot at making macarons, and I had leftover ganache, so the next day I decided to make something to use it up. Since I didn't have the greatest success with my macarons (more on that on my next post), I decided to practice my piping using the leftover ganache on some cupcakes. The only easy cupcake recipe I had was Martha Stewart's recipe for one-bowl chocolate cupcakes, but I didn't feel like having more chocolate so I thought I'd do some experimentation and turn them into vanilla ones.

The only kinds of cupcakes I've ever made prior to this have been all chocolatey, so this was new to me. At first I thought it would be as simple as just taking out the cocoa powder out of the recipe, but since the amount was quite crucial to the consistency of the batter, I had to replace it with another dry ingredient, and I chose to use plain old flour. The recipe also calls for buttermilk, but I didn't feel like making some (by adding some vinegar to milk), I used the plain yogurt leftover from making the upside down cake in the previous post. Yogurt works just as well as buttermilk in creating the moist texture of cakes, and I'm glad I used it because the flavour really came through. Since I wanted a strong vanilla flavour, I added more vanilla extract to the batter. I wish I had vanilla beans; I think that would be a nice addition to reinforce the vanilla taste.

As I was mixing the batter, I really wasn't sure how these cupcakes would turn out, although I knew it couldn't be all that bad since I didn't change too many things. Fortunately, what came out of the oven really blew me away! The cupcakes were very moist and had the pleasant smell of yogurt and vanilla, and it was sweeter than I expected even though I used less sugar than what the original recipe calls for. The absence of the overpowering chocolate really let the other ingredients shine.

Since my original intention was to practice piping on these cupcakes, I did just that, and I must say I need to practice a lot more. But regardless of how ugly they may look, they still tasted awesome, and I found the ganache to be a very nice contrast against the plain vanilla flavour of the cupcakes. This mistake is definitely a keeper!

Accidentally Awesome One-Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes
adapted from Martha Stewart
makes about 17 cupcakes

Dry ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
scant 1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

Wet ingredients:
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup plain yogurt
3 tbsp canola (or vegetable) oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

2. Sift together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add all the wet ingredients, and mix until smooth. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure everything is mixed well.

3. Pour the batter into the muffin tin, filling each liner about 2/3 full. Bake for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean. Let cool completely on a cooling rack.
Chocolate Ganache
recipe from David Lebovitz

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp light corn syrup (I used Lyle's Golden Syrup)
120 gr chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 tbsp butter, cut into pieces

Heat the cream with the corn syrup in a small saucepan. When the edges of the cream start to boil, turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth, and add the butter. Cool before using.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Banana & Chocolate Chip Upside Down Cake

I LOVE chocolate. I dislike most candies, so ever since I was little, the only sweets I would eat have been mostly chocolate. I also love bananas; I bring them to school every day as part of my lunch. When David Lebovitz blogged about his upside down banana & chocolate cake, I knew I had to try it. I waited until I had bananas that were ripe enough, but I only had 2 in such a condition, so I had to get a bunch more of extra ripe bananas from the store. Luckily I was able to find some amongst a sea of still-green bananas!

This cake was very easy to make, and no mixer was required (my favourite kind of recipes!). I used plain yogurt instead of sour cream because I needed yogurt for another recipe I wanted to try, but I don't think it would have made much of a difference. The result was very moist and full of banana flavour with chocolate chunks studded in every bite. Although my sister complained that there was a little too much chocolate (absurd, I know), my boyfriend & I loved it. It was good on its own but I can imagine it would be even better served with vanilla ice cream, as per David's suggestion.

Banana Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake
makes one 8-inch (20 cm) square cake
recipe from David Lebovitz

For the topping:
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
3-4 ripe medium bananas
a few drops of lemon juice

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs
1 cup banana puree (about 2 bananas)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (80 g) chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

1. Make the topping: place brown sugar & water in an 8-inch square cake pan. Warm the pan on the stove top over low heat and stir until sugar is thoroughly moistened. Simmer for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.

2. Peel and slice the bananas in 1 cm slices. Arrange them on top of the melted brown sugar. Sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice.

3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

4. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl, making sure there are no lumps. Mix in the granulated sugar.

5. In a separate bowl, mix together the butter, eggs, banana puree, yogurt, and vanilla.

6. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until almost combined. Do not overmix. Gently fold in the chocolate pieces.

7. Scrape the batter into the pan over the bananas, then use a spatula to carefully spread the batter evenly.

8. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake feels just set in the center when you touch it.

9. Cool the cake for about 20 minutes, then run a knife along the edges of the cake to help it release from the pan. Invert the cake onto a serving platter.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I'm so excited to finally be able to document my baking experience in the kitchen! However, before I can start posting what I make, I need to find a camera to use to take the photos, since my cellphone camera just won't do. So for now, I'll start off by posting a list of recipes (with their Internet sources) that I have tried since I first started baking "regularly", which was at the end of 2008. I've also indicated the recipes that I like enough to make again in the future in italics. This list is not exhaustive; I have made things in the past using recipes from various cookbooks and other non-Internet sources but I didn't keep track of those, unfortunately. Eventually, I'll create my own recipe index comprised of the entries of this blog.

Black-Bottom Cupcakes
Chantal's New York Cheesecake
Matcha Chocolate Cake
One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
Red Velvet Cake
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Tuxedo Cake
White Chocolate Matcha Cupcakes

Crisp Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies
Outrageous Chocolate Cookies
One-Bowl Chocolate Chip Cookies
One-Bowl PB & Milk Chocolate Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (Improved Tollhouse Cookies)
Total Chocolate Chunk Cookies

French Pear Tart
Quick & Easy Cinnamon Bun Bread

Japanese Coffee Jelly

Cabbage, Spinach, Tofu on Noodles with Peanut Sauce
Classic Quiche Lorraine
Macaroni Gratin
Perfect Peanut Sauce
Sausage and Mushroom Crustless Quiche