Candle Cupcake

Recently, a friend had a birthday and I baked a simple batch of chocolate cupcakes for her. Because it was such a plain project I thought I’d try to photograph it a little differently and decided to style it sitting on a SOMA cube motif. I like how the  shadows turned out.

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There’s my set up – light coming from the right from my apartment window, black board at the back. Taken with a 60mm 2.8f lens.

photo

 

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Raspberry Friands

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Hello, World!

Yes, I know that my supposed every Monday and Thursday posts have not been forthcoming for an entire four months. The truth is, life caught up with me and the other truth is that I was lazy. I didn’t want to face the mountain of dirty dishes that comes with baking and decorating, particularly with the more complex projects that I embark on.

Anyway, last night I decided to push myself and baked off a quick and easy batch of friands and they turned out great!

 

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These took almost no time at all to make and best of all, very little dishes to wash up because there was no creaming or whisking or anything fancy involved. And berries makes everything look pretty.

 

Raspberry Friands

Ingredients (makes 6)

1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond meal
2 egg whites
1/3 cup self raising flour
1/4 cup raspberries

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180 Celcius.
  2. Pour all ingredients except the raspberries into a bowl and mix well together.
  3. Spoon mixture into friand tins or cupcake ones if you don’t have them.
  4. Press the raspberries into the top.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and springs back when pressed.

Lemon Tree Cupcakes

Lemon Tree Cupcakes

Having exhausted every idea associated with lemons, I asked for suggestions from my housemate. She promptly replied, “How about a lemon tree?”

Yes – how about it?

Lemon Tree Cupcakes

Lemon Cupcakes

(makes 9 cupcakes)

Ingredients

100g butter, room temperature
100g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
100g self raising flour

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160° Celcius (fan forced).
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until light in colour and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add zest and eggs and mix until combined. Mixture may look slightly curdled but nothing to worry about.
  4. Add flour and mix until well incorporated. Pour batter into a piping bag.
  5. Pipe mixture into cupcake liners in a cupcake pan (fill 2/3rds of the way up).
  6. Bake in oven for 18-20 minutes or until cupcake springs back when pressed gently.

Lemon Curd

Ingredients

160g caster sugar
2 eggs
Juice and rind of 2 lemons
80g butter, melted

Method

  1. Whisk eggs and sugar together until smooth in a microwave safe container.
  2. Stir in lemon juice, lemon rind and butter.
  3. Pop into the microwave and cook for 60 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir thoroughly.
  4. Repeat Step 3 until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and when a line is drawn through it with your finger it stays nice and sharp.
  5. Leave to cool before use.

Lemon Tree

Lemon Tree Tutorial

Equipment and Ingredients

Milk chocolate, melted
White chocolate, melted
Green gel food colouring
Yellow gel food colouring
3 piping bags
Waxed paper
Lemon tree template (available here)

Method

  1. Place lemon tree template underneath wax paper.
  2. Pour melted milk chocolate into a piping bag and pipe the tree trunk.
  3. Leave until fully set.
  4. Mix some green gel food colouring into a portion of the melted white chocolate and place into piping bag. Pipe leaves of tree. This is done by piping a small dot and drawing the tip of the bag away, creating a tail that resembles the tips of the leaves. Leave until fully set.
  5. Mix some yellow gel food colouring into remaining melted white chocolate and place into piping bag. Pipe lemons onto tree by piping small dots.
  6. Leave to set fully.
  7. Remove from waxed paper by carefully peeling the wax paper away. I like to do it at the edge of the table.
  8. Your lemon tree is ready for use!

Assembly

  1. Cut a slot into the lemon cupcake in desired area that is slightly longer than the width of the chocolate tree trunk.
  2. Gently insert tree into slot.
  3. Pipe or spoon lemon curd onto cupcake.

Photography

Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph my set up for this project! However, it is similar to that of my Flamingo Cupcakes. The only difference was the props. In this particular photograph, the gray background is a cashmere scarf and the cupcake is sitting on a burlap bag.

And that’s all for today’s post! I have an extremely busy week ahead but I will try my best to be on time for my next post. Blogging and full time work is not easy!

How To: Make Crunchy Tooth-Friendly Biscotti

Thin Biscotti

So you made a batch of biscotti, attempted to bite into them and failed because they were rock hard.

Instead, you succeeded in breaking a tooth in the process and now you need to schedule an appointment with me. Or your local dentist. Yes – I am a dentist in real life. Of all the things in the world!

In case you’re shaking your head at the high sugar content of my blog posts in direct juxtaposition to my real life profession, it’s all good – looking at sugary food never hurt anyone. 😉

Anyway, I thought I’d share my favourite biscotti recipe that is crunchy but not tooth cracking-ly so. It is still nice and crispy but breaks up easily for effortless chewing. Also, it uses whole eggs, which means I am not left with a stray egg yolk wandering around aimlessly in the fridge for a week.

DISCLAIMER: If you do break a tooth eating these I am not liable – you probably needed a new filling anyway if that happened!

Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

Thick Biscotti

Biscotti Recipe

Ingredients

1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup self raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Screen shot 2013-09-16 at 9.56.22 PM

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160° Celcius (fan-forced).
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add egg and beat until well combined.
  4. Stir in all other ingredients thoroughly, forming a stiff dough.
  5. Form dough into a log roughly 12 inches long and 2 inches wide and place on baking tray covered with a sheet of baking paper.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes. Wrap log in cling wrap and leave in freezer for a few hours, preferably overnight.
  8. Take frozen log out of freezer and slice with a serrated knife diagonally into preferred thickness.
  9. Arrange biscotti slices flat on baking trays and bake at the same oven settings for about 10-15 minutes, or until biscotti is crisp.

Note: This recipe makes a biscotti dough that does crumble a little more easily than other recipes – which may seem like a bit of a pain. However, it is well worth the effort for the texture and flavour of the end result!

Tips for Perfect Biscotti

Cream Butter And Sugar Really Well

This is essential because it is a major contributor to the non rock-hard texture I was talking about. To be honest with you, it was a good couple of months into baking before I truly understood what creaming entailed. I will be dedicating an entire post to this at some stage in the future but for today’s exercise, make sure the mixture has:

  • lightened in colour – it will no longer be yellowish, but rather a light shade of well… cream.
  • increased in volume

If it hasn’t done the above two things – keep on creaming. It’s still not there yet!

Ensure Space Between Logs Is Adequate

So you doubled up the recipe and decided you want to have two logs on the same baking tray because life is too short to prepare a second one. If you have a large tray that’s all fine and dandy. Otherwise, unless you want a large puddle of dough in the middle of the pan, it will be wise to keep them on separate trays. This may have come from personal experience. This rule applies to all cookies that have the potential to spread.

Freeze Logs Of Dough Prior to Slicing

Does it make your job harder because the dough is frozen? Yes, and no. Yes because it is firmer and therefore requires more force, but no because it doesn’t smoosh on itself and the nuts don’t fall out of the dough! Plus, you’ll get beautiful clean slices at the end of the exercise. And stronger and more muscle tone in your arms. So I tell myself. Interested in clean slices in other baked goods? Read How To: Cut Brownies.

Also, if you’re lazy just make your biscotti nice and thick and call them rustic, rather than thin delicate slivers.

Photography

Biscotti Photo Setup

Set up for both of the photographs were on a neutral sheet of paper (as you can see, I have an entire roll of it!) on my trusty piano stool. Shot in natural daylight. The aperture was set at 4.5 for the thin biscotti and 2.8 for the thick ones and shot with a 60mm macro lens.

 

And that’s it! What is your preference – thick or thin biscotti? Let me know in the comments. I ate the entire batch in 4 days and have concluded I prefer the thick ones better but the thinner ones are prettier and more dainty.

Cupcake Decorating: Flamingo Cupcakes

Flamingo CupcakesPink is for flamingo. According to Google Search when I typed in ‘pink animals’ in my search for something to match my pink cupcake wrappers. It was either that or weird looking sea life and insects. So flamingo cupcakes it is!

I wanted to name them but could not think of any names that rhymed with Flamingo (my preferred method of naming objects. For example, I’m currently typing this post on Claire the MacBook Air). Ideas, anyone?

I’ve decided to try to take a photo of my photography set up from now on. As long as I can remember to photograph it because I am terrible at reminding myself to do things. A few people have requested that I show my set up and I figured… why not. As long as nobody tells me how messy my apartment is!

Alright – onto the recipe and tutorial!

Flamingo Cupcakes

Flamingo Tutorial

Flamingo

Equipment and Materials

Floral wire
Wire cutters
Fondant
Pink food colouring
Yellow food colouring
Black edible ink pen
Small brush
Knife or fondant tool

  1. Tint some fondant pink and roll into the general shape of a flamingo’s body. As a guide, I had Google images open with a variety of flamingo photographs to hold my lump of fondant up against to get the right general shape and size. Leave to dry for a few hours.
  2. Dampen the tip of some floral wire with a brush and some water and insert into the base of the flamingo’s body.
  3. Roll a small ball of fondant into a teardrop shape and using a fondant tool or knife, gently mark some lines to mimic feathers.
  4. Brush some water onto the flamingo’s body and attach the wing.
  5. Paint some yellow food colouring on the flamingo’s face to depict the beak.
  6. Using a black edible pen, mark lines for added detail.
  7. Attached a tiny amount of white fondant for the eyes. Using the pen again, draw in the pupils and eyebrows into desired expressions.
  8. Paint the floral wire pink.

Cupcake

Ingredients (makes 9 cupcakes)

100g butter, room temperature
100g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
100g self raising flour

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160° Celcius (fan forced).
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until light in colour and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add zest and eggs and mix until combined. Mixture may look slightly curdled but nothing to worry about.
  4. Add flour and mix until well incorporated. Pour batter into a piping bag.
  5. Pipe mixture into cupcake liners in a cupcake pan (fill 2/3rds of the way up).
  6. Bake in oven for 18-20 minutes or until cupcake springs back when pressed gently.

Glaze

Ingredients

Juice from half a lemon
100g icing mixture
Blue food colouring

Method

  1. Mix all ingredients together to form a smooth glaze.
  2. Add more icing sugar or lemon juice depending on the consistency desired.

Note: Glaze will form a dry surface but will not be completely set underneath.

Assembly

  1. Pour glaze onto cupcakes carefully, using a skewer to move the glaze into the corners of the liner. Dip a skewer into some blue food colouring and swirl glaze around to create a textured blue surface. Leave to set.
  2. Stick flamingo into the cupcake in desired spot, making sure that it is fully embedded and right down to the base of the cupcake for maximum support.

Photography

Flamingo Setup

I set my cupcakes on my piano stool. I know, I know! White leather is highly impractical. But, I’m a grown adult – I can look after things! Famous last words before I spill red wine all over the seat, no doubt.

I then propped up a wooden serving tray as the background (from Wheel & Barrow) and a olive green ribbon for the styling. The white piece of cardboard on the left is there to help reduce the shadows. What you don’t see is my hand holding it up. Main light source from the right (sunlight).

Photographed with the following lens and settings:

Canon 60mm 2.8f
ISO 100
f 2.8
1/50 seconds
Focus point: Front flamingo’s head

How To: Cut Brownies

Chocolate Brownies

So you’ve baked a batch of brownies, thought they looked amazing, sliced them and ended up with…

Mushed up pieces that ressembled squares rather than actual nicely cut slabs. Like these:

brownies

Brownies that I baked in 2011. Sad and uncrisp.

Oh well – you and your lucky friends and family eat them all anyway. However, if the appearance of them irked you, perhaps this article may come like a knight in shining armour to your kitchen to rescue your beautiful brownie slab before they face the kitchen knife.

This is a particularly common problem if you, like me, love chewy moist brownies rather than the firmer cake-y variety. I have baked many a batch of brownies in my lifetime and today I thought I’d share with you my personal experiences with them and how I finally got my act together and learned how to cut brownies properly. It’s really not that difficult.  All it takes is some patience and planning. Yes – I said patience and brownies in the same paragraph. It’s okay – you can get through this!

Still reading? Great!

Chocolate Brownies In Progress

Alright, let’s start with baking the brownies! This happens to be my favourite brownie recipe of all time – moist, fudgy, extremely chocolate-y and extremely simple to make. I managed to get a few sequential photos (Hurrah! Gave myself a pat on the back for remembering). In case you’re wondering, the chocolate I’ve used is Lindt Dark Bittersweet Picolli 58% – I bought a 2.5kg bag so that’s going to be the chocolate of choice for the foreseeable future!

Homemade Brownies

Chocolate Brownies 2

Ingredients

125g butter, melted
250g caster sugar
20g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
125g dark chocolate, chopped
60g nuts of choice (walnuts in my case), chopped
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (fan forced). Line a 7×7 inch tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place all ingredients listed into a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  3. Pour into prepared tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until centre is still slightly unset but sides are firm.
  4. Put into refrigeration to chill for at least 2-3 hours before slicing.

Important Note: Do not overbake – the point of this recipe is that it produces a fudgy chewy brownie rather than a hard firm one.

Alright. You have brownies now. Let’s get onto the slicing and subsequently, the eating! Listed below are my personal tips – I hope they are helpful to you.

Top 5 Tips on Cutting Brownies

1. Chill Brownies For At Least 2-3 Hours Before Cutting

I know – you want to eat the brownies right now. But chilling the brownies is an essential step if you would like crisp, sharp cuts as it firms up the brownies enough to not buckle under the knife. Leaving it in the fridge will suffice but for really, really sharp cuts, the freezer is a great option too. However, it can get it a little too firm so you might have to keep an eye on it if you choose that route.

2. Ensure Knife is at 90° Angle to Brownie Surface

Before making any cuts, make sure that the knife is as close to 90° as you can. This is to ensure that you get beautiful cuts that are at exact right angles, rather than creating undercuts or tapers. You will notice that I got a little too eager and unintentionally tapered the edge of the top brownie in the photograph at the top of this blog post. To ensure this doesn’t happen to your brownie, line the knife up carefully.

3. Use a Serrated Knife

I have experimented with a few knives and have concluded that a serrated knife creates the best and cleanest cut. In case you were wondering what knife I use, I have a Wusthof Classic Bread Knife which has served me well over the years. In case you were wondering even more – my 2011 brownie and the cover photo were cut with the exact same knife, which suggests that perhaps the other steps in this write up are more crucial.

4. Use Sawing Action When Cutting

Ensure that you use a gentle sawing motion when cutting the brownie – this ensures that the serrated edge of the knife does not leave an unsightly wavy indentation on the surface of your brownie. I also like to slide the blade backwards at the end of the cutting motion right against the brownie surface to kinda smooth of the edges when I finish the slice.

5. Clean The Knife After Each Cut

After each cut, you will notice that the knife would have picked up some crumbs or gooey bits (especially with moister brownies). Wipe them off with a paper towel and rinse the knife under hot water and dry off before making the next cut. This will eliminate crumbs from sticking onto the top of the brownie or the next cutting surface.

And there you have it! Please comment if you have any other tips that you would like to share with everyone.

Cupcake Decorating Idea: Daisy Bee Cupcakes

Daisy Bee Cupcakes

If you live in Australia and you head to your local Coles or Woolworths, you will notice one thing – they do not sell ordinary plain cupcake liners. You have to commit to a damask pack or a multi-coloured pack – no ifs or buts.

At first that irritated me – I prefer to work with neutral wrappers e.g. white, black, brown. However, they seem to be here to stay so I decided to try to go with it rather than fight it!

I was pleased with results of this one – a forest green wrapper topped with a pastel green glaze, decorated with bees and daisies.

I went for lemon flavoured cupcakes this time – topped with a very simple lemon glaze. Scroll down for the recipe. It is divided into 4 parts – the cupcake, glaze, decorations and lastly, the assembly.

 

Daisy Bee Cupcakes

 

Daisy Bee Cupcakes 2

Cupcake

(makes 9 cupcakes)

Ingredients

100g butter, room temperature
100g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
100g self raising flour

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160° Celcius (fan forced).
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until light in colour and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add zest and eggs and mix until combined. Mixture may look slightly curdled but nothing to worry about.
  4. Add flour and mix until well incorporated. Pour batter into a piping bag.
  5. Pipe mixture into cupcake liners in a cupcake pan (fill 2/3rds of the way up).
  6. Bake in oven for 18-20 minutes or until cupcake springs back when pressed gently.

Glaze

Ingredients

Juice from half a lemon
100g icing mixture
Food colouring, if desired

Method

  1. Mix all ingredients together to form a smooth glaze.
  2. Add more icing sugar or lemon juice depending on the consistency desired.

Note: Glaze will form a dry surface but will not be completely set underneath.

Fondant Decorations

The fondant decorations for these cupcakes have their own dedicated posts, as linked below:

Daisy Flower Tutorial
Bumble Bee Tutorial

Assembly

  1. Pour glaze onto cupcakes carefully, using a skewer to move the glaze into the corners of the liner. Leave to set.
  2. Press daisy into the centre of the cupcake.
  3. Stick floral wire into the cupcake in desired spot, making sure that it is fully embedded and right down to the base of the cupcake for maximum support.

That’s it! Let me know what you think and if you have any requests or suggestions in terms of what you would like me to make next.