Saturday, 31 May 2008

blog of the day on a beautiful day!

what a nice surprise this morning...opened my email and i had received a message from the lovely people at Fuel My Blog who informed me that my blog was being featured as the Blog of the Day for today! And sure enough when i clicked through...there it the top of the humble space! and they even sent me the little piccie above to put on my blog. what a great way to kickstart a fabulous sunny summery day, blue skies up above, not a cloud in sight...i'm off out to soak up the rays.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

coconut cream pie cupcakes...a culinary memory recaptured from the past

i had the wondrous good fortune of living in Bali for a year and a half from July 1998 - November 1999. and while i was there i fell in love with this fabulous restaurant called the 'Dirty Duck' or 'Bebek Benggil' in Indonesian. it was located in Ubud, where i was living and although this was certainly a good thing, it didn't do well for my waistline as my favourite food to eat there was their coconut cream pie. it was simply divine. pie crust, coconut custard filling and meringue topping. the absolute perfect dessert and i went back there time and time again to have a piece even on holiday trips i always made sure i stopped in for a piece of coconut cream pie...if you're ever there then make sure you do too...there is really nothing better than sitting in that amazing restaurant eating delicious pie and gazing out over the rice fields of Bali.

so i have been thinking of how i could re-create it in a cupcake form (of course) and have searched around for recipes but couldn't find anything that really fit the way i wanted it to go. until the other day when i found a recipe for coconut custard that sounded perfect for the filling. for the rest i settled on a vanilla cupcake and for the topping a meringue sprinkled with dried coconut. and the result...

just perfectly coconut cream pie-ish. i couldn't have asked for a better re-creation. the first mouthful brought back such memories of that coconut ceam pie i devoured so shamelessly on so many occasions in Bali! it was light, flavourful and oh-so-floaty! the whole combination just went together so perfectly...ok enough down to the nitty-gritty of making these...

the most time-consuming part is of course the coconut custard...but then you have to figure that in for any custard you make. but it definitely tastes better when you do it yourself. this custard turned out light and creamy.

4 large egg yolks
3 cups coconut milk
2/3 cups sugar
5 T. cornstarch
1/4 t. salt

prepare an ice bath and set aside.
in a bowl, whisk egg yolks and set aside.
in a saucepan whisk together coconut milk, sugar, cornstarch and salt. bring to a simmer and cook for about 3 mins, whisking constantly.
whisk a quarter of the hot milk mix ito egg yolks and then whisk in remaining mixture.
strain into a clean saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 4 mins, whisking constantly until custard is thick.
transfer to a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto surface.
set in ice bath until completely chilled - about 45 mins.

for the cupcake i thought a plain ol' vanilla would suffice, after all we don't want anything overpowering that fabulous coconut flavour now do we....?

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 cup milk

in a small bowl sift flour, baking powder and salt.
in a large bowl, whisk together sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla until smooth. alternately whisk in flour mixture and milk. beat until smooth.
scoop batter into prepared pan and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 mins until golden brown. cool on a wire rack.

and finally the topping...a perfect white meringue. i just love the look of it all shiny and white when it comes out of the mixer...

1/4 t. cream of tartar
reserved 4 egg whites
1/3 cup sugar

add cream of tartar to egg whites and beat with electric mixr on high speed until frothy (about 45 seconds).
add one tablespoon of sugar and continue beating on high speed adding one tablespoon at a time until the whites for stiff peaks. pipe on to the cupcakes and return to the oven for 5-6 mins.

what a perfect cupcake and even more so because of the fond memories it brings back to the tastebuds...i love when you manage to re-create a favourite dish...

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

calming camomile cupcakes...perfect for a tea party!

so i recently saw a food blog event that seemed to tie in perfectly with my camomile tea project that i've been thinking about for a few days now. it's hosted by Skinny Gourmet and is all about tea. so if you're a big fan of the stuff then get over there and check out the event before it closes!

some time ago i discovered the most wonderful blend of tea by Twinings...camomile, honey and vanilla tea. this stuff is pure calmness in a cup and the smell of those three flavours together is enough to send you into a meditative state simply by inhaling the aroma.

then recently i managed to pick up some camomile chocolate...and i figured i'd like to incorporate it into the cupcake...a perfect garnish! so let's talk about the benefits of camomile...

Health benefits are:

1. Help induce sleep.
2. Calm nervous stomach and improve digestion.
3. Soothe skin irritations, including sunburn, heat rash and haemorrhoids.
4. Relieve toothache.
5. Improve bronchitis.
6. Help with bladder troubles.
7. Treat eye inflammation and infection
8. Heal mouth sores and prevent gum disease
9. Treat irritable bowel problems and various gastrointestinal complaints
10. Help regulate menstrual periods.
11. Reduce menstrual cramps.
12. Good for the kidneys and spleen health.
13. Help alleviate symptoms of the common cold.
14. Promote relaxation and alleviate stress.
15. Help to expel worms and other parasites.
16. Improve liver function and relieve jaundice.
17. Help prevent gangrene.
18. Relieve back pain.
19. Improve rheumatism.

so armed with two fabulous inspirations - tea and chocolate, i set to making my camomile cupcakes. i followed the recipe for the earl grey cupcakes that i made previously that began with a vanilla cupcake recipe and used camomile infused milk to incorporate the flavour of the tea. the only difference for this one is that i happened to have a burst camomile tea bag and i wanted to use those tea leaves for something. i had read in recipes before how you can just rip open the bags and use the tea leaves in the batter. well for ages, i thought this might be really weird, i figured the tea would stay all grainy and gritty in the cupcake and make for a nasty texture. oh, how wrong i was. the tea just kind of blended in to the cupcake and there was hardly any trace of it at all, instead just dark flecks of yellow were all that hinted that it was there. perfect! so this cupcake is almost a double camomile cupcake because it has camomile infused milk in it and camomile tea leaves. it made for a lovely rich strong flavour of the tea - which is exactly what i wanted.

i iced the cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream flavoured with a tablespoon of honey, and again the combination was perfect and just brought out those flavours in the cupcake. the whole cupcake was then garnished with a triangle of camomile chocolate. could you possible think of anything more relaxing than that?

my great taste-tester, my brother, immediately gobbled down three. he is a big fan of the tea and said the whole experience was like eating the tea in a cupcake. i did my usual one cupcake taste test and was sublime. mouthful after mouthful of absolute calm and serenity. i just loved it.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

nana's rice pudding...a secret recipe...shhhhh!

as a child i grew up overseas and usually spent my summers in Ireland visiting my grandma (affectionately called nana). those summers remain very fond memories for me and something that i always associate with those summers is rice pudding. and not just any old rice pudding, this is the secret recipe rice pudding that my nana would make for us and it would be instantly gobbled up as fast as it came out of the oven. yes, that's read correctly...the oven. my nana's rice pudding was baked. and it's funny because for years when i would be in the supermarket and i'd see tins of rice pudding for sale, i would wonder how it was possible that baked rice pudding could come from a tin (my nana forbid us to buy it, muttering a string of opinonated comments on the sheer disgrace of buying rice pudding in a tin!). it was only years later that i realised that the rice pudding in the tin was usually made in a saucepan and a different process altogether! i grew up believing baked rice pudding was THE only kind of rice pudding out there and in my honest opinion it still is. i could wake up in the middle of the night to eat this rice pudding! and the best is so easy to make. a recipe that has never been written down (probably until now) and so i have no idea about exact quantities but just go by what i remember my nana doing when i would watch her preparing it for us and be badgering her with my unceasing questions of 'when will it be ready?' and it goes on! yesterday, as i was making it, my brother began those very same questions as he waited also not-so-patiently for it to come out of the oven. it's the simple things in life that truly bring the best pleasure!

the rice pudding as it looks when it comes out of the oven...lovingly sprinkled with nutmeg, and if you don't like nutmeg, well, for this you have to just go with it, because it makes the whole experience taste so much better!

the inside of the rice pudding - i have tried this with all different kinds of grains of rice. here in Ireland you can buy such a thing as 'pudding rice' which obviously is perfect because it is very short grain and white in colour, but any short grain rice will suffice. i used basmati rice for this version and it worked fine.

all served up in the bowl and almost ready to be eaten...photographing the pudding was quite a challenge as inbetween photos my brother was digging into the pudding and devouring it at a speed that one might consider to be well above the average rate of eating.

and finally, in my family, baked rice pudding has always been eaten with milk poured over it. does that seem strange? well, it's just how we've always done it. it's a perfect contrast - the hot rice pudding just out of the oven and the cold, fresh milk. yummy!

and now for the recipe...

choose a pie dish and cover the bottom with uncooked rice. wash the rice until the water runs clear. cover the rice with milk and put in the oven for about 20 minutes until the top of the rice is lightly browned and the skin has burst (my grandma called this stage the bursting the rice stage!) remove from the oven and scrape the rice from side of the dish and break it up. put about 3 tablespoons of butter, 3 tablespoons of sugar and half a cup of raisins into the rice. mix it up. pour in enough milk to cover the rice and sprinkle a generous amount of nutmeg on the top. bake in the oven for about 35 minutes or until the milk has all been absorbed and pudding is firm. remove...don't bother cooling, eat immediately with cold milk straight from the fridge.

there really is nothing better than recipes your grandma taught you...not written down but passed down through the generations by word of mouth. hence the amounts in the above recipe are guestimates.

enjoy a little bit of old-fashioned tummy-warming love courtesy of the loveliest nana in the world!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

an award from a fellow faery!

a very special thank you to faery over at Faery's Kitchen for her gracious and much appreciated award she bestowed on me and my blog. it is naturally a great pleasure to be recognised by a fellow faery and i shall do my best to continue to live up to the standard that it suggests!
now who shall i pass it on to...well for starters it must go to Not Quite Nigella who i think must be currently buried under mounds of bananas as she bakes as much banana bread as she can possible stand to select her winner for the Banana Bread Bake-off! what a task...but can't wait to see the results!
and the other blog i'd like to give it to is Fifi la Cupcakes, who is a relatively new food blogger and i really wanna send her some cupcake-y love and support in her baking ventures. i'm enjoying reading her adventures.
that's it for now...

Friday, 16 May 2008

bring back banoffi! bring back banoffi!

so these are the words i have been hearing for the longest time from family...bring back banoffi! they have unanimously decided that this is their absolute favourite cupcake of all...the diva of all cupcakes simply because it is so luscious and rich and just oozing attitude! my hubby has been telling me that friends at work were wondering whether i am on strike as they haven't tasted any cupcakes in a while and i guess i kinda have been. it felt like my baking mojo had left me there for awhile...but it seems to be back in all its splendour and that can only be a good thing as far as all my fans are concerned!
so it seems the friends at work also wanted to taste the magnificent, diva-licious banoffi cupcakes and so i set to work yesterday making them using the same recipe as before which you can find here. these really are easy to make...the cupcake recipe doesn't involve any of that creaming butter shenanigans and the most time consuming part is actually cutting the cone and filling with toffee sauce. there's no icing as i prefer to use cream to make it more like a real banoffi pie so you just have to whip up the cream in the mixer and pipe it on. and yes, this time i did pipe it on (as opposed to last time when i just kind elegantly dumped it on!) and it did look so much a 99 ice-cream that i used to buy here when i was on holidays in the summer months (maybe i need to make a tribute to one of those!)
well, hubby has just sent a message and said that his colleagues all had to take one out and share so they could do a taste test..they couldn't wait for break time and they absolutely loved it. just the kind of feedback i like to hear!

i'm still waiting for my amano chocolate to arrive so hopefully it hasn't melted en route...and hopefully will have something nice and chocolate-y to brew up with that. plus i recently managed to pick up some chamomile infused chocolate and am mulling ideas for a chamomile inspired cupcake.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

a change of domain...and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!

i've been away for awhile hence the lack of cupcakes and now i'm in the process of switching domains so within the next few days, y'all can update the address for my blog and follow me to
blogger will apparently post a message to let all those know to follow me there, so don't get left behind now!

on another note, i just found out that i won another treat courtesy of BlakeMakes and Amano Chocolate yup, yup, i won chocolate! my favourite creation...the very substance that i could quite happily walk around with being fed into me by an iv drip! might get some looks, mind you, but if it meant that i would forever be high on chocolate for the rest of my life, well what better thing than that! i won 3 bars of Amano chocolate and it should be on its way pretty soon so again i shall be checking the post box regularly to make sure that the current heat wave we are experiencing here doesn't melt it away before i get to it! and of course, shall be scratching my head and thinking about what to make and trying not to think about eating it all instead!
stay tuned!
and while we are on the subject of chocolate, the reason i'm away from the kitchen for so long is because i am in the midst of helping out with a production of none other than...Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. i do some part-time work with a drama school here and they are performing their end-of-year production at the Civic in Tallaght. so anyone in the area...get on down and check it out. last night was opening night, and though i spent it all back stage, controlling packs of oompa-loompas. i believe it went really well! the perfect play to get me in the mood for my soon to be arriving chocolate, no?