Friday, July 23, 2010

Vanilla Cupcakes Dipped in Fondant Icing

All by herself with the boys...

The story of these cupcakes must begin with the story of another cake. A birthday cake. A friend of mine announced a birthday dinner the day before it was to happen. I didn't have a present for him! Neither did Nooboy. So, I thought I'd make a cake for him. I thought, why not make my first fondant cake? Sure I've never before worked with fondant. Sure I had no cakes stashed away and must bake new ones. Sure there was only one night's time to get it done. No worries. All under control. Pfft. Me and time management have long been enemies. Oh well. It came out just fine. That's right, Time Management, I owned your ass! 

Here is what that cake looked like:

I know it's a bad photo. But I was already 30 minutes late for dinner. To explain the roach, the birthday boy (who is very tall, very macho, and only slightly gay) is terrified of them, so we thought it'd be a fun addition.

After the birthday thingy had come and gone, I was left with a whole bunch of left-over marshmallow fondant, and a whole bunch of pink marshmallows (I can't seem to find white only packs). The only logical thing I could think to do with them was cupcakes. I turned the pink marshmallows into pink MMF, made a batch of cupcakes, painstakingly embossed my rolled MMF with stamps and covered them. And they all mysteriously disappeared before my Canon had a look at them.

I still had a large-ish stash of MMF left, and since I've been smitten with CakeJournal's poured fondant cupcakes for so long, I thought I'd give it a go (I was also a bit lazy to go through rolling, stamping and covering them all over again). I was a bit unsure of how it would go with MMF, but it worked a treat. I just microwaved the fondant with a little bit of boiling water, stirred until it was all mixed in, and gradually added more water until it looked to be the right consistency.

Aren't they cute?

An army of cupcakes waiting to be piped.
They were then piped royal icing and topped with a couple of cachous here and there. And just as Louise from CakeJournal promised, the cakes all had perfect little domes. The vanilla cupcake recipe is from Joy of Baking and is very easy to mix up. I prefer to pipe the batter into the cupcake cases. I find I get a more even result like this, and can control exactly how much batter goes into into each one.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Creme Caramel

Remember me waxing lyrical about how much I love custard? In the days before I could make anything, my custard of choice came out of a little plastic cup with an aluminium cover and tiny little tabs on the bottom.

It was delicious. Sometimes I wouldn't even bother turning it out onto a plate. I'd just spoon it straight out of the cup. Yum. 

This time, I made my very own. From scratch. In my own oven. With eggs and everything. Aren't you proud?

My only issue is a bit of a silly one. The roasting tin I used to bake these in is kind of big for my oven. I can't just put it on an oven rack. It needs to sit directly in the grooves that the rack itself would rest on. Usually this isn't a problem, but when baking custards in a water bath, it all gets very heavy, so it took me about 10 minutes to get it in there comfortable. During this time my oven lost a lot of heat, so of course, I turned it up. Now, what you may not know about my oven is that it's kind of small and only has a heating element at the top. So, these turned on full blast and basically overcooked the tops (or is it bottoms) of my creme caramels. I had to do what I do for macarons and put in a foil covered oven rack just under the heating element. Dumb oven.

The solution? I just scraped those bits off before turning them out. And they were delicious. =)

Creme Caramel

1 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup water
Quick squeeze of lemon (optional)

2 cups whole milk
1 cup cream (at least 35% milk fat)
2/3 cup caster sugar
Pinch of salt
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract

Add the caster sugar, water and lemon (if using) to a small-ish saucepan. Heat on medium, giving is a swirl every now and then to make sure all the sugar is dissolving. Try to resist the urge to stir. Instead, brush down the sides of the pan occasionally with water and a pastry brush. Cook it until is looks like caramel. It may take a little time, but watch it closely, because once it starts to take on colour it will brown quite quickly. The darker your caramel is, the more pronounced that burnt sugar taste will be in the end result. Once you're happy with how your caramel is looking, take it off the heat and immediately pour into your ramekins or dariole moulds, dividing equally. Swirl your moulds around a little bit to coat the bottom and gently encourage the caramel to crawl up the sides a little. 

At this stage, boil a big kettle of water.

Add the milk, cream, sugar and salt together in a pot and bring to a boil. As soon as it reaches boiling temp, take it off the heat. If you want to add any other flavourings (coffee, citrus, chocolate...) add it to the milk mixture.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla. When the milk mixture is ready (i.e. scalded) pour into the eggs, whisking constantly. Strain into a jug and pour into the ramekins, over the caramel (which should have set by now). 

Arrange a tea towel in the bottom a baking/roasting dish so that is sits more or less flat. Place your filled ramekins on top. Pour hot water into it until it comes up 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake at 160°C for 30-35 minutes. To check if they're done, you can gently slide a knife into one of them. If it comes out mostly clean, but with a few little bits of gently set custard clinging to it, then it's done. You can also just give them a little shake. They should be wobbly in the middle, but shouldn't be too watery. 

When you determine them to be cooked, cool them on a wire rack, then chill overnight*. To serve, loosen the custards with a knife and turn onto a plate.

*I've seen recipes which say that 3 hours of chilling is fine. Which is probably ok, but as well as cooling the custard, chilling also loosens up the caramel, giving you that nice oozy sauce. As far as I can tell, the longer you chill it, the more sauce you will get (instead of it all clinging to the bottom of the mould).

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chocolate Crackles

This is my second attempt at writing this post. The first one just sucked. I'm not sure why. Something to do with pre-breakfast morning grouchiness. So to avoid that, I'm writing this now at half past midnight.

Chocolate crackles are the quintessential Australian confection. You will almost surely find these at an Aussie kid's birthday party. They're sort of restricted to kids though (no idea why). The last time I had one of these must have been at least ten years ago. Being an Asian migrant, my mother had no idea about these ugly looking chocolate thingys, so I only got to eat them at other peoples birthday parties. Which is fine, because if it were any other way, I'd probably weigh twice as much as I do now.

I made these ones last week for a friend from Canada to try. I've only made these myself once before in my life. That was probably about fourteen years ago. I made these with a teacher at school with two bowls and a microwave (yes, I remember). So yes, a six year old can make these (with supervision of course) and I promise you they are very yummy.

Chocolate Crackles

4 cups rice bubbles (or any other rice puff cereal I suppose)
1 1/2 - 2 cups icing sugar, depending on how sweet you want it
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup cocoa powder
250g copha*

Mix together the rice bubbles, icing sugar, coconut and cocoa in a large bowl. Melt the copha in a heatproof bowl in the microwave (or on the stove if you prefer). This won't take long, but probably a little longer than butter would take.

When it's all melted, pour it straight into the bowl containing everything else and mix together thoroughly, taking care not to crush all the rice puffs, if possible. If you find that it's all looking a bit gloopy and feels hard to move around, your copha may be starting to set, so just pop into the microwave for 30 seconds or so and it should loosen up.

Spoon into cupcake liners and refrigerate until set. That's all!

*Copha is an Australian brand of vegetable shortening. It is solidified coconut oil and is special in that it is solid at room temperature. For this reason, I'm not sure if you can substitute just any brand of vegetable shortening, as it's pretty important that it sets at room temp. I've heard of using melted chocolate to make chocolate crackles, so that may be the way to go, but the flavour won't be truly authentic.


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