Thursday, February 28, 2013

Blueberries and kefir cupcakes!

Bluberries cupcakes, a must have!

The mere mention of cupcakes makes you drool! Not many people can exert self-control when looking at a cupcake as it calls them begging to get eaten! Well I hope it's not just me who looks at cupcakes that way, but I am sure it's not!

What's great about cupcakes and it is really the source of their worldwide success is their extreme flexibility. With few basic ingredients, an endless array of flavors and a sprinkle of imagination you will be able to make irresistible treats ready to be enjoyed anytime and anywhere.

Cupcakes have existed for many centuries and they were called so because they were baked in cups. An additional origin to their name may reside in the fact that their making called for a cupful of flour, a cupful of sugar and a cupful of butter.

Nowadays, endless choices of cupcakes can be found, with strong emphasis on fancy decoration using a variety of frosting and techniques.

If you follow my blog you might have picked up that I am a fan of berries, especially summer ones. Blueberries are one of these berries that lend themselves so well to baking, it's as if their flavor really shines when used in combination with other ingredients, like for instance kefir. They melt in the batter, they have tiny seeds, they add an aromatic and acidic flavor that goes well with a mildly sweet frosting.

Blubberies add an aromatic tartness to cupcakes

So no more talking and let´s start with the recipe:
For the cupcakes: (makes about 10)
  • 120 g soft butter
  • 100 g sugar (you can add 20 gr if you want)
  • 2 eggs
  • 140 g flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbsp blueberry kefir or yogurt
  • 70 g blueberries
  • tsp vanilla essence
  • pinch of salt
For the frosting:
  • 100 g cream cheese
  • 150 ml cream
  • 1 tbsp of granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp blueberries syrup
Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together.

Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one by one and mix until well combined. Start adding 1/3 of the flour mixture, fold slowly with a spatula, add 3 tbsp of the kefir, add another third of the flour, then the kefir and finish by adding the last 1/3 of flour.
You can either mix the berries with the batter or just drop some as you pour the mixture into the cups.

Do not fill the cups to the top as the batter will rise

Pour the mixture in the baking cups and bake for 25 min in a preheated oven (180C).  The baking time will depend on the size of the cups you are using, for smaller ones 20 min are enough for the big ones, about 30. Whatever the case, keep an eye on them while baking, nobody likes a dry cupcake.

Baked, cupcakes have a golden top crust

As for the frosting, mix the cream cheese, the powdered sugar and the syrup until well combined. Whisk the cream with the sugar until light and fluffy, slowly start folding the whipped cream to the cream cheese.

Decorate with sweet frosting and fresh fruits
I decorated my cupcakes with frosting, some blueberries syrup and fresh berries.

Bluberries cupcakes, simple, elegant and delicious

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Nutella French toast!

A delicious way to start your day

Like everybody else I wait for the weekend impatiently, to rest, have some time for myself and indulge my tired self with comforting recipes, especially during breakfast my favorite meal of the day.

My favorites during the weekend mornings are pancakes, bread or croissant pudding and french toast. I always like to make variations of these classics so they always feel new.

It´s a cold weekend and what better than a chocolate inspired recipe to warm you up and leave any chocolate lover very satisfied!
In this spirit, I decided to make nutella french toast; can you have a more decadent start of the weekend? The hazelnut chocolate spread we all grew up with, tucked between two layers of soft, tasty and slightly toasted bread, with some extra chocolate on top and red berries, sounds great, right?

To make this recipe for 2 you need:
Few ingredients to delight your morning

  • 200 ml of milk (you can use soy milk or divide the quantity equally between milk and cream)
  • 1 egg
  • Tsp of kahlua (or any other coffee liqueur)
  • Tbp of maple syrup
  • Nutella (you can put as much as you wish on your bread)
  • 4 bread slices (I used cereal bread)
  • Hazelnut pralinĂ© paste (optional)
  • Some butter for frying
Add as much chocolate spread as you wish

Combine milk, egg, kahlua and maple syrup in a  blender, and blend until well combined (you can use a manual whisk if you wish).
Spread the nutella on one slice and the praliné on the other (if you decided to use it), seal the slices together. Soak the bread on both sides with the milk mixture. Fry both sides, on a medium heat, until golden brown.

Lightly toast the bread with some butter
Sprinkle some powdered sugar over the toast and serve. You can add some extra nutella, toasted hazelnuts and some fruits, especially red berries like raspberries and strawberries if you wish to.

And there you have it. A tasty, nutty, chocolaty and energetic start to your weekend. Enjoy!
Breakfast worth the effort!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Special: Walnuts and Rose Petals Cookies

Valentine's cookies, colorful and tasty
Valentine's day is upon us. Despite the commercial aspect of this day, I kind of like it. In fact, I believe we need to set aside at least one day during the year to celebrate love, humanity's most talked about and sought after feeling. Love is a creative force and it is in this mindset I decided to pay tribute to this day the best way I know how: baking.
Cookies can be shaped however you like

Whether you are in love or still on the lookout for that special someone who will make your heart jump, I recommend you treat yourself (and your significant other) with this sweet cookies packed with flavors that will surely evoke your senses.

Baked cookies are not a novelty, they have been around since the earliest times, but with time they got more refined and incorporated more complex flavors. Early Middle Eastern civilizations prepared cookies using dough to which they incorporated  butter, cream, nuts, honey and fruits as sweeteners.

As the Arabs invaded Spain, establishing Al-Andalus (Andalusia), they brought with them the tradition of making cookies which spread to Northern Europe and from Europe all the way to the USA. The rest is history.
Cookies now are so diverse, versatile and flexible that you spend a lifetime and still learn a thing or two about them every day.

Back to Valentine. I wanted to make something simple, inexpensive, yet packed with flavor that evoke and overwhelm your senses and of course inspired by this special's day. What speaks of Valentine more than roses? It's the flower of choice for most lovers.

Not all rose petals are edible or have a special aromatic flavor, but the Damask Rose or the Damascus Rose (Rosa damascena) is highly prized for its enchanting scent. It is widely used to prepare rose water, and rose oil. I frequently use the dried petals to give a delicate flavor to my baking.  For these special Valentine cookies these rose petals fit the bill perfectly, especially when they are combined with walnuts and cinnamon.

Grind the mix in a blender until it has a sandy texture

So here's what you will need to make these cookies (makes about 10 to 12 cookies)

  • 150 g flour
  • 75 g cold butter
  • 50 g sugar
  • 20 g slightly toasted walnuts
  • 5 g Damascus rose dried petals
  • One tsp cinnamon
  • dash of salt
  • 20 to 40 ml of liquid (you can use cold water, cream or milk, I used cream). 
Start by combining the petals, walnuts, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor, process until you obtain a sandy mixture, set aside.
Flatten your dough and cut it

In the food processor, combine flour, salt and butter and process for few seconds. When well combined, add the rose and walnut mixture, mix, and now start adding the liquid gradually, when you see that the dough is coming together stop adding the liquid. The amount of liquids absorbed depends on the flour and the water in the butter you are using.
Undecorated cookies still look great

Form the dough into a disk shape and leave in the fridge to rest for at least an hour.

Cut the dough in the shape you desire and put again in the fridge for at least half an hour, then bake it in a preheated over (180C) between 10 to 15 min. When the edges are slowly golden then it´s ready.

If you want you can decorate them as you wish. Personally  I was inspired by Amber Spiegel's motifs.  I flooded the cookies with royal icing, then dropped some fondant rose petals before the royal icing was allowed to set. The petals, however, were made earlier and left to dry a bit. The heart-shaped cookies were flooded and then I did some embroidery on them. I am still new in decorating cookies but I am determined to succeed and perfect my techniques and skills.

Happy Valentine´s day! Surprise your loved ones with this thoughtful and coming from the heart gesture.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Crepe suzette

Crepe Suzette, a classic that will never go out of fashion

Even though crepes can be traced back to anciant Rome but it is with the French that these very thin pancakes were made famous. In medieval times, crepes were consumed during the Shrove Tuesday, also know to many as Mardi Gras. The delicate thin crepes we know now and love so much were born in Brittany (La Bretagne), which is a northern region of France with a rich culinary history.

There is something special about any recipe carrying the name of a person. You are almost certain that the recipe has a story, a history which makes it a bit more special. Crepe Suzette, many attribute its creation to Chef  Henri Carpentier, who claimed the invention of this crepe in 1896. The crepe caught on flame by accident, Carpentier thought it was ruined but when he tasted it, he was surprised by the harmony of flavors. This new crepe was served to the Prince of Wales who was pleased by the taste of the delicacy. Asking for the name of the dessert, Carpentier told him it is called Crepe Princesse (Princess Crepe), but the Prince of Wales preferred to change the name to Crepe Suzette in honor of a beautiful lady who was with them at the table.

Another story says that the owner of the Marivaux restaurant was hired provide crepes for a comedy play starring actress Suzanne Reinchenberg, artistically known as Suzette.  The crepes preparation was part of the show and to attract the attention of the audience, they were flambee at the end. Since then crepes Suzette became a hit and consumed worldwide.

Making crepes is easy and fun and so versatile, with countless savory or sweet fillings that you can cook up.
It´s orange season, so my choice of crepe was made easier, especially that I have cointreau bottle lying in the cupboard. As always,  I like to add a personal touch to the classics. Orange and chocolate go extremely well together, and since crepe Suzette is an orange delight I decided to add dark chocolate ganache to my crepes.
Use a combination of oranges if possible for a more complex flavor

For 6 crepes you need:
  • 1 egg
  • 62 g flour
  • 12 g melted butter
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • zest of half an orange 
  • 100 ml of milk
  • 25 ml orange juice (I used normal and blood orange)
  • Pinch of salt
First whisk the eggs slightly, add the salt and the sugar, whisk again until well combined, add 1/3 of the milk mix well and thoroughly until you get a smooth batter (adding small quantity of milk will prevent the formation of clumps). Add the melted butter and whisk, orange zest and juice, mix well and at last add the remaining milk and continue mixing. Leave the batter to rest for at least an hour in the fridge which allows all the flavors to mix well.
Stack your cooked and cooled crepes on top of eachother

In a non stick pan, bake your crepes by adding a small amount of batter and swirl the pan to cover the surface with the crepe mix. It will take maybe 2 min or 3 for the crepe to be done, flip it on the other side and leave it for another min. 
For the ganache
  • 150 g chopped dark chocolate
  • 80 g  cream (35 per cent)
  • Tsp of  of cointreau (sweet orange liquor)
Heat the cream, (be careful not to burn it) and pour it slowly over the chocolate, when they are well combined add the cointreau.
Stuff the crepe with a decent amount of dark chocolate ganache

For the sauce:
  • 250 ml orange juice
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • tsp butter
  • 30 ml cointreau or grand marinier
Before I started doing the sauce, I sauteed some orange slices with a teaspoon of butter, and in the same pan (without washing) I added the sugar, when it starts melting add the orange juice and let it simmer for few minutes.
At this point you can add the crepes and let them cook a bit, add the orange liquor and tilt the pan over so slightly until it liquor catches the falme (flambee), or you can light a flame above the pan and the liquor will catch it.
However, you might be interested to do what I did. I waited for the orange juice to start thickening and then I added the cointreau (or grand marinier) and flambee and when the flame turns off the syrup is ready. You will use this sauce to drizzle over the crepes instead of cooking them in it. 

Add a tbsp or 2 of ganache to a crepe. Now, you can roll it or get the sides together and tie it with an candied orange strip, drizzle with the sauce and serve with the orange slices.

Believe me, the result is well worth the effort.
Orange, crepe, and dark chocolate, what a combination!