White chocolate and Macadamia Caramel Cookies.

Among the many things that I baked during the Easter weekend, cookies were a surplus in my house. There were people around to eat and there was more time in my hands than I normally have. Cookie baking I always find is the most convenient. The ingredients are mostly there at home, shelf life is not a major concern, everything is mixed together in a single bowl and therefore less washing up and once you get a hang of things, results are more or less consistent.

I made these cookies before Easter and photographed them along with the Melting Moments. More than half the job was done. But along came a few more desserts and I almost forgot about these. I realise as I write that I have a huge backlog of posts.

Fridays are mostly ‘cookie days’ for me. I love to bake two or three varieties all at once. On weekends, I enjoy bringing a platter on the table with tea or coffee. That way everybody has a choice and it’s exciting. Who doesn’t like options?

These cookies have 3 of my favourite things in the world- caramel, white chocolate and macadamia nuts. Almost sounds like dessert! They taste fancy too. There is no egg in the recipe and therefore a rich buttery base. But that doesn’t stop me from indulging because these are too too good. Even if you do not make them often its worth making it for special occasions or as a little gift for someone. I have made quite a few flavour variations over time of this recipe. Do check out the variations at the end of the post.

When speaking about cookies, I cannot help but mention this to you. If you are familiar with ‘Sesame Street’, I have not one but two little ‘cookie monster’-s at home.

‘Me want cookies!’ ‘Me eat cookies’

‘C is for cookie and cookie is for me’- Cookie Monster

Now, that is some reason to bake!! What say…?

 
White Chocolate Macadamia Caramel Cookies
 
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (about 100g) brown sugar
1 tbsp treacle or golden syrup (I used treacle)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk (more if the mixture is too dry to bring it together)
2 cups (300g) self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup macadamia nuts (or any nut of your choice), coarsely chopped. (This time I had blitzed the macadamia nuts in the food processor in a hurry..resulted in finer crumbs and more crunchy cookies. Both ways it works fine.)
 
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Using an electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the treacle, vanilla and milk and beat until combined.
Add the flour and bicarbonate of soda and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.. Add the white chocolate chips and macadamias and stir to combine.
Roll a heaped tablespoon of mixture into a ball and place on a lined tray. Use the palm of your hands to gently press the mixture. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
Bake in the preheated oven, swapping trays halfway through cooking for 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven. Allow cookie to cool on the trays.
 
Variations
You can experiment with any nut of your choice. I have tried hazelnuts, cashew nuts, almonds and peanuts.
Dark chocolate or milk chocolate chips work equally well.
Add 1/2 tsp orange zest for a tangy orange flavour.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon, Passion Fruit and Saffron Buttercream.

I hope you all had a fun Easter weekend. Mine has been one long eventful holiday. I have only been home to catch my beauty sleep and spent the rest of the time exploring a few gorgeous places around Sydney. Before I begin to tell you all about my adventures (in the next few posts), I wanted to give you a little peek into a some Easter baking I did for a friend. What better gift than something that you make at home! What better than a box of cupcakes with pretty pastel shades of frosting!

Sometimes the most unusual things inspire me to create my desserts. The other day I saw a little girl playing at the park wearing a pretty frock with frills and ruffles in shades of yellow. I exchanged a smile with her mother who caught me staring at the outfit. Little would she have imagined that pretty dresses could sometimes turn into a major baking inspiration.

I decided to play with white-yellow shades and almost instantly the buttercream flavours were there in my head. Lemon, Passion fruit and Saffron. And vanilla is always safe on the cupcake. When I think yellow I cannot help but think of Saffron. In India where I have grown up, saffron is a part of most desserts. It adds its special flavour, smell and colour to anything it is added to. It was however the first time I added it to buttercream.

 Luckily I had a tin of Passion fruit puree at home so that one was pretty easy too. Though I would prefer fresh fruits anytime over canned ones, my cupboards are well stocked with tins and cans for situations like this one when dessert ideas strike. And that is without a doubt…often!

For the lemon flavour I used an essence instead of zest to reduce work. Soon I was standing with 3 bowls of buttercream in front of me. I carefully added a few drops of yellow food colouring to two of the bowls depending on the desired shade. The food colouring was necessary though saffron and passion fruit had tinted the buttercream slightly.

 

I bought this flowery purple box to carry the cupcakes. And I thought they looked very pretty..don’t they?

So what is your food inspiration?

Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon, Passion fruit and Saffron Buttercream
Yields 12

Vanilla Cupcakes
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
11/2 cups all purpose flour
11/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 177 degrees C and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
In the bowl of your electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk in three additions. scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 15-20 mins or just until set and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. (Do not over bake or the cupcakes will be dry). Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, frost with icing.

Lemon, Passion Fruit and Saffron Buttercream

2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp lemon essence
2 tsp passion fruit puree, strained
a pinch of saffron dissolved in 1 tsp warm milk

In an electric mixer or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Divide the frosting between 3 bowls. In the first one add the lemon essence and beat on high speed till frosting is light and fluffy. If it is too stiff, add a tsp of milk. Fill up a piping bag with the frosting and pipe swirls on 1/3 of the total number of cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles.
In the second bowl, add the strained passion fruit puree and beat till light and fluffy. Add milk or sugar depending on the consistency of the frosting. Add a few drops of yellow food colouring to achieve the desired shade of yellow.(I wanted a light yellow shade and added about 4 drops of colour). Fill up a piping bag with the frosting and pipe swirls of Passion fruit frosting on 1/3 of the cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles.
For the third bowl, strain the saffron milk into the frosting. While straining bruise the saffron with a small spoon so as to extract maximum colour and flavour. Beat the frosting on high speed till light and fluffy. Adjust food colour as desired. Fill up a piping bag with the saffron frosting and pipe swirls onto the remaining cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles.






 

‘Sunkiss’-ed! Pineapple Orange cupcakes with Cointreau buttercream.

Sunkissed…nope, this time its not me! Those are my cocktail inspired cupcakes. Okay, this is my 3rd cupcake in 3 weeks. But believe me when i say these are different. These are boozy and grown up cupcakes with a generous dose of Cointreau. I know I know…looks can be deceptive!

I love liqours. I think I love them more in desserts than in cocktails. My little collection of bottles have all been procured at some time with a sweet treat in mind. Cointreau without a doubt is my favourite.

I have been meaning to make use of pineapple too in a big sort of way. That is out of guilt for not having used it in a long time. I googled up orange and pineapple cocktails and found this one using both. I am also a edible garnish fanatic. They add height to a dish and just elevates it to another level. The dried pineapple flower is simple to make and is packed with flavour. I followed the recipe from Martha Stewart.

The cupcake is super moist and I added Cointreau to both the cupcake and the frosting. I used my basic buttercream frosting recipe for this.

These cupcakes are a part of the March Sweet Adventure Blog Hop challenge. This is my first challenge and though there wasnt a lot of time since I came to know of this, the theme was too tempting..Cocktail Party. So here I am with my ‘sunkiss’-ed cupcakes hopefully making it to the finishing line.
Check out the boozey treats by others at the end of this post.

Pineapple Orange Cupcakes (adapted with variation from Joy of Baking)
Yields 13-14

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temparature
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp grated orange zest
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
2 tbsp Cointreau

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and place rack in centre of oven. Grease or line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a bowl whisk to combine the flour, salt and baking soda.
In the bowl of your electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy(about 2 mins). Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the sour cream, orange zest and Cointreau. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Fold in the crushed pineapple.
Spoon the batter into the paper liners. Bake for 15-20 mins or until light browned and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once completely cooled, frost with buttercream.

Cointreau Buttercream

2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temparature
3 tbsp Cointreau
1 tbsp finely grated orange zest
Food colours (optional)

In an electric mixture or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the Cointreau and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 3-4 mins). Tint the frosting with the desired food colour (I have left it plain here).

To Serve: Garnish each cupcake with a dried pineapple flower on top of the buttercream and insert a toothpick in the centre to prevent it from sliding off.

Big Sisters and Little Brothers. And Double Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting.

Many years ago, I met a little boy. He had an angelic face with the cutest curls around them, eyes that told stories of twinkling stars and a smile that could melt the strongest of hearts. Like most little boys, he adored everything with wheels. Toy cars, big cars and makeshift cars (the ones that are generally meant to carry belongings but at times can carry a toddler or two…Suitcases).

I told him stories at bedtime, made him laugh during the day with faces and expressions that only we could read, filled up his stockings with little presents during Christmas Eve and made him cry when he played with my dolls.
We walked together a zillion roads, his fingers tightly clutching mine. Till one day he became the ‘cool guy’. Cool guys don’t hold hands. He morphed into a teenager. Fiercely independent..with an understanding of the world that was so rare of his age..who kept a lot to himself but was always ready to offer a lending a hand. Under the pretext of doing homework we spent many afternoons together, sharing secrets, cracking jokes, hiding behind windows and spraying water on innocent passersby and sneaking into the kitchen to do the ‘great taste test’ for dishes that were meant to be served to guests. Needless to say there were other days when we drove each other crazy and fought over every little thing under the sun. My heart aches to think that those moments can never come back.

Before we realised, the spirited teenager grew into a handsome man with a heart of gold. The responsible son, the doting brother…wise, quick witted, generous, loving…and set out to conquer the world. He made our hearts swell up with pride as he went on achieving milestones. He found himself a partner, equally spirited and loving. A beautiful addition to the family.

I made these cupcakes for my brother’s birthday back in January.While going through a few folders on the laptop, i found these bright pictures during the weekend. I thought they were decent enough to post though very few. I could have taken more had i known I would have a blog someday.
A simple chocolate cupcake made extra chocolaty with the addition of chocolate chips. The frosting is gorgeous.

I did not bake a cake as he was not around to eat it. My brother lives on the other side of the world where the sun sets as it rises here in Sydney. Perhaps he will be here on one of his birthdays to perform the ‘great taste test’ with me.
But our hearts are ever so close and securely fastened with a bond called family. A bond that celebrates childhood, big dreams, secrets and adventures. A bond that lives outside the touch of time.

A bond unique to a Big Sister and her Little Brother.

Double Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting (adapted with a small variation from Joy of Baking)

Chocolate Cupcakes
Yields 16

1/2 cup (50 gms) dutch processed cocoa powder
1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
11/3 cups (175 gms) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (113 gms) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 gms) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Lightly butter, or line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a small bowl stir until smooth the boiling water and cocoa powder. let cool to room temperature. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips.
Then in the bowl of your electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at time, beating until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

Fill each muffin cup about two-thirds full with batter and bake for about 16-20 minutes or until risen, springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. (Do not over bake or the cupcakes will come out dry). Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing. You can either spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a small spatula or pipe lovely swirls.
These cupcakes are best the day they are made but can be stored for a few days.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

120 gms unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup (150 gms) unsalted butter, room temperature
11/3 cups (160 gms) icing sugar sifted
11/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy(about 1 min). Add the sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy(about 2 min). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the chocolate and beat on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is smooth and glossy (about 2-3 min).

 

Spiced Ginger Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream. Nostalgia all the way!

My very first blog post! In many ways i feel like it is my first day at school. Shy, nervous, anxious, nostalgic, emotional, excited, eager, all at the same time. But above all, happy to have embarked on this journey…a journey that begins straight from the heart. I cant wait to step into this new world, make new friends, learn and grow.. one experience at a time.

I love cupcakes, for the diversity that they have to offer. Colours, flavours, textures…they open up a world of imagination. Frost them, glaze them, store them, pop them into a lunchbox or eat them straight out of the oven..these pretty little things are so versatile. Sprinkles, liners, toppers and there you have it…they are ready to be called your very own. If you are a cupcake addict like me, you know what i am talking about…extra cupboard space to fit in all your little accessories and pans.
 
And i love Ginger. It is possibly one of the first ingredients i have cooked with. ‘Balance of flavours’  Grandma would say carefully adding a small amount of grated Ginger into the pan of boiling water. I have so many fond memories of our bonding-over-morning tea-making ritual. A little container of grated ginger is definitely a must have in my Mother’s refrigerator. Over the years i think i have used it extensively across cuisines and it tops my list of no-fail flavours ….desserts couldn’t be far behind.

I chanced upon these cupcakes when i was about to bake a ginger cake from GoodFood Magazine and ran short of the appropriate sized cake pan. The extra batter landed onto my muffin pans and what resulted was the most wonderful, sticky, moist, caramely, melt in your mouth cupcakes. I varied the proportions to suit myself and played around a bit with the spice mix each time i made them. And finally i think found what i was looking for. I have combined the cupcakes with various frostings but Salted Caramel pairs the best. Treacle lends a unique flavor but if not available at hand, can be substituted with molasses.
The cupcakes are delicious even without frosting and can be stored at room temperature for 4-5 days. If eating them plain,they taste best when warm.

 

  

While i was taking pictures of the cupcakes, changing angles, adding & removing them from focus, my little boys placed a cup of M& M’s on the table. Mama couldn’t be playing this game alone! I was about to remove them, then realised how much colour they added to my pictures. I couldn’t help but keep them.


 

Spiced Ginger Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream.

For the Spiced Ginger Cupcakes
Yields 18

125 g butter (about 1/2 cup)
125g dark brown muscavado sugar (about 2/3 cup)
125g black treacle (about 2/3 cup)
150 ml milk (about 2/3 cup)
1 egg
180 g all purpose flour (about a cup and a half)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/3 cup glace ginger, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp all spice


Preheat oven to 160C. Butter or line two muffin tins with muffin cases or cupcake liners. Put the butter, sugar and treacle into a saucepan and heat gently for about 5 mins until the butter and sugar have melted. Stir in the milk. The mix should be just warm to the touch; if not, leave to cool a little longer, then beat in the egg.
Mix the chopped ginger and dry ingredients together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the melted mix into the well, then gradually draw the dry ingredients into the wet with a wooden spoon, until you have a thick, smooth batter. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, then bake for 15 to 20 mins or until a skewer inserted comes out clean and the surface is firm to the touch.

Salted Caramel Buttercream (adapted from Chow)
Yields about 2 cups
 
 
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1stick salted butter , at room temperature
1 1/2 cup icing or powdered sugar
 
 
To make the frosting, first you must make the caramel.
Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until the mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes.
In an electric mixer or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. Add the vanilla extract.With the mixer on low speed gradually beat in the sugar and mix until completely incorporated. Turn mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add caramel. Beat frosting on medium-high speed until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until stiff, about 45 minutes, before using. The frosting is ready to be piped onto the cooled cupcakes.