Monday, June 27, 2011

it's a mac eat mac world!

Peanut butter. I have been going through jars of the stuff. Peanut butter on its own, I'm hardcore like that. Peanut butter on toast, nothing else needed. Peanut butter on toast - with a drizzle of maple syrup, hello Heaven! And now...

Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons!
Adapted from Tartelette's Snickers macarons

3-4 large egg whites (90-100 grams)
75 g castor sugar
175 g icing sugar
55 g ground peanuts
55 g ground almonds
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Have your egg whites separated in a bowl on your kitchen counter, ageing for a day, or letting it come to room temperature for a few hours. (Remember not to use freshly purchased eggs. If you need some a-z help with macarons refer to an earlier blog post that has step-by-step instructions and a macaron template, and another post that contains very useful links that helped me.)

Grind nuts in a coffee grinder, slowly pulsing so as not to heat up and create moisture. A tip is to grind the nuts with a few teaspoons of icing sugar. Sift the mixture (icing sugar and ground nuts) into a bowl, re-grind the bigger chunks and grainier bits that are left in the sieve, continuing like so. Once you have the mixture sifted well, sift in the cocoa, mix to combine and leave aside.

With an electric stand mixer or hand-mixer, whisk egg whites till foamy. Add castor sugar a little at a time until a shiny meringue forms and holds medium peaks. You'll know the sugar is dissolved when you take a little meringue between your fingers and it doesn't feel grainy. (But do not overbeat the meringue.)

In two additions - add the sifted ingredients to the meringue and fold in with a rubber spatula. This super important step is called macaronnage - click here to refer to this seriously useful video that shows exactly how to fold in and what the mixture should look like. Test a small amount of batter on a small plate and if the peak slowly softens and flattens, the mixture is ready. If not, you need to fold it a few times more. But be gentle, do not over-fold.

Line baking trays with baking paper - not wax paper, not foil - baking paper! Prepare a piping bag, fitted with a plain round nozzle (Ateco #804 or #807) fill with batter and pipe out small circles. Let the macarons rest for 30-60 minutes to dry, then preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Bake macarons at 150 or 160 degrees C (depending on your oven) for 10 minutes, rotate, and bake for a further 9-10 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes on tray then transfer baking paper to a wire rack to cool completely before gently peeling shells from the paper and filling.


I tried two types of fillings to see which one was best and more true to the name peanut butter macarons!

Filling #1 - Peanut butter ganache

1 cup chopped dark chocolate
3/4 cup cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup peanut butter

Heat the cream. Add chocolate, butter, icing sugar and vanilla and stir to combine. Add peanut butter and stir till smooth. Let the sauce cool, then refrigerate until thickened - a few hours - before piping or spooning onto macaron shells.

Filling #2 - Salty Peanut Butter Filling (Adapted from Cannelle-Vanille)

Since I was making two fillings, I halved this recipe and left out the salt - but this is the full recipe.

125 grams creamy peanut butter
70 grams powdered sugar
25 grams softened butter
25 grams milk
5 grams vanilla extract
3 grams fine sea salt

Cream all ingredients together for a smooth filling.

Fillings - The Verdict

And the winner is...

Filling #2! I didn't of course use salt, just because I was worried it would be too salty since I was making only half - but I think it would make a good addition. Next time, for sure. The ganache was good, but I felt like you couldn't even taste the peanut butter because the chocolate overpowers it - so for this macaron to have genuine flavour, choose the second filling.

Store in an airtight container for 2 days before you need them/need to serve them - the fillings will soften the shells. I tried having it the next day and it was still too chewy. On the third morning, it was perfect - the surface a delicate crisp shell, breaking into soft meringue and filling goodness :)
(However, if you use a plain ganache recipe - chocolate, cream, butter - it will soften the shells within a day.)

meat free Monday

So last week, I got the inevitable flu every Durbanite is afflicted with the second the weather turns unbearably cold - unbearably by a Durbanite's standards of course. I don't normally get affected by cold weather but this year has been very strange. I don't know if it's colder than usual, or if I've turned into a summer-loving pansy who can't handle Durban's mild winters. I hope it isn't the latter. But my scratchy throat mocks me.

When you get sick, you want to eat food that warms your senses. Soupy consistency, light, and not meaty. I started fantasising about warming foods and decided to cook a dish that I once ate at an Indian restaurant - dal makhani. It's a gram (chana) dal curry with a swirl of cream, and that swirl of cream is everything - rich, creamy, full of flavour. Love it.

There was just one problem. After I'd made it, I wanted to eat it immediately. So I plated up, broke off a piece of roti and scooped up some curried dal, popped it in my mouth, closed my eyes in anticipation and - nothing. My tastebuds were broken. It was pretty depressing. It felt good though; warm and wholesome. The next day, my taste was restored and I warmed up leftovers - so you can now trust that this dish was indeed yummy.

Dal Makhani

1 cup gram/chana dal (soaked overnight)

1 tablespoon ghee

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or more depending on onions)

1 medium onion, sliced

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Cloves of garlic, crushed

½ teaspoon crushed ginger, garlic and green chilli paste

2-3 medium tomatoes, liquidized or diced


2 teaspoons dhania jeeru (coriander and cumin powder)

1 teaspoon Ina Paarman’s potato spice

½ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon red chilli powder

¼ teaspoon tandoori masala powder

¼ teaspoon garam masala

Salt to taste

4-6 tablespoons of cream

Chopped coriander leaves to garnish

Rinse the soaked lentils in a colander under running water. Let drain. Place in a pot and cover with lightly salted water, simmer till soft – 30 minutes or so I think. Whisk lightly if you like the mixture to be a bit mushy also.

While that’s cooking–

In another pot, heat ghee and oil. Add the cumin seeds, leave a few seconds, then stir in the sliced onion, and fry on medium heat, till soft and golden brown. Stir in the crushed garlic, and ginger-garlic-green chilli paste. Let it simmer for a minute, then add the liquidized/diced tomatoes. Let this simmer till cooked, water from the tomato evaporated somewhat. Now add in the dry spices and stir till combined, letting the mixtures meld together. It’s alright if you don't have Ina Paarman’s Potato Spice and tandoori powder, this is how I made it the first time and because I liked how it tasted I quickly made a note of it. You can add more chilli powder to taste as well, or use your go-to curry spices that you usually like.

Drop in the mushy dal, and simmer on low for five minutes. Stir in generous tablespoons of cream and let it simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat. When serving, chop fresh coriander and sprinkle over.

“Aloo Fry”

I always think of these as the Indian version of French fries. Used to love it, but rarely make it since its deep fried – but, as we all love to say, everything in moderation!

2-3 large potatoes

¾ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons dhania jeeru (coriander and cumin powder)

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

Heat 2-3 inches vegetable oil.

In a large dish, slice potatoes into thin circles and add spices in, coating each slice well. Deep fry potatoes until cooked and leave a little longer to get slightly crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon, and let drain in a single layer, on paper towels.

Serve as a side, or garnish like in the picture.

Plate up, serve with fresh rotis or some yummy bread rolls to sop up the gravy.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

best red velvet cake ever.

I never understood the appeal of this coloured cake. I thought, it's cake with food colour - why is everyone going crazy over it? But then I tasted it. Soft, moist, and full of flavour that goes so well with cream cheese icing. And fine, I admit; I even began to love the fact that it was this deep, rich red because if it were any other colour, it wouldn't be as beautiful.

This is the fourth time I've tried a red velvet cake recipe out, and this one from Judy in Her Natural Habitat is a real keeper. Check out her amazing site. Her red velvet cake looks absolutely gorgeous.

I made the triple layer cake (like she has on her blog but not as beautiful) a few weeks ago, but I was too lazy to trim and flatten the cake layers - so my cake was a huge white dome that wouldn't fit into my cake container. Though it was seriously delicious! Rich and decadent; a proper dessert. But my family and I are not cheesecake fans. Even so, this cake was only not enjoyed by a couple of very anti-cheesecake family members. Last week, I asked Moby what to bake this time and he wanted this cake again. I hesitated, because some people really dislike all kinds of cheesecake. So he had this amazing idea - make red velvet cupcakes, and fill them with a tiny amount of the cheesecake since most of us (less fussy bunch;) enjoy the cake in its glorious entirety.

This is now my absolute favourite cupcake! The only problem is; you want to be able to hold a cupcake and eat it with your hand. But the cake itself is so soft that with the added coring and then filling with a firm cheesecake, it is just too delicate to not eat with a fork or spoon.

(edit) Assembly: This is up to you. If making it into a triple layer cake, flatten the tops of the two red velvet cake layers by trimming the domes off. Frost the top of the first layer before placing the cheesecake layer on it. Lightly frost the cheesecake layer before placing the second red velvet layer. Cover the top and the sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Make pretty! Or you can do the cupcake version I tried here. I purchased a cupcake plunger (to core and fill cupcakes) from my favourite baking store - Bake-A-Ton.

Using a cupcake plunger to cut out cheesecake circles.

Filling the cored cupcakes with cheesecake and then covering with cupcake guts! ;)

:D The Leaning Chapeau-Wearing Cupcake.
You can use the cupcake inners to decorate I suppose. Mine just looks weird.

Red Velvet White Chocolate Cheesecake with Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from
this recipe.

Red Velvet Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon red gel-paste food color
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Whisk together cake flour, cocoa, and salt.

With an electric mixer on med-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mix in food color and vanilla.

Reduce speed to low. add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisk well after each. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam), add mixture to the batter and mix on medium speed for 10 seconds.

Line two 9 inch spring form pans with baking paper. Divide the batter equally between the two pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. If making cupcakes, line muffin pans with cupcake liners and bake for 18-23 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack. Allow to cool before removing the cake from the pan. Allow to cool completely before assembling with the cheesecake.

White Chocolate Cheesecake
Adapted from the Williams Sonoma Baking Cookbook
60 g good quality white chocolate, chopped
[I used a whole cup; remember - not a massive cheesecake fan]
2 packages/500g plain cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon flour

2 eggs at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cream
[Used 100 ml to make up for my extra chocolate]

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Carefully melt the white chocolate and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, using an electronic mixer, beat the cream cheese on low until creamy. Add sugar and beat slowly until smooth. On low speed, mix in the flour. Beat the eggs in one at a time on low, scraping the sides of the bowl down. Mix in the vanilla and cream with a rubber spatula till mixture is smooth. Stir in the melted white chocolate until incorporated.

Pour batter into a lined 9 inch spring form pan. Bake for about 30-35 minutes until the centre is set when you shake the pan slightly (Mine still wobbled slightly, but set while cooling in its pan on the wire rack). Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan and assembling.

Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting

225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 package/250g cream cheese, at room temperature
2-3 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package/250g mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

Cream butter with the whisk attachment of an electric or hand mixer. Add cream cheese and beat till combined. Sift in icing sugar a cup at a time and beat, testing the sweetness. Beat in the vanilla.

Using a spatula, add in a bit of mascarpone cheese, and fold in trying to incorporate it into the icing mixture. If you beat mascarpone cheese, it can curdle. Keep doing this a little at a time until all the mascarpone is combined. I kind of flatten heaped tablespoons of mascarpone with my spatula against the bowl, scrape it into the icing and then fold it in.

You could use the usual cream cheese frosting, which is also delicious, but I prefer the mascarpone version - it's frothier, fluffier, creamier! I ♥ this frosting.

* I forgot to mention - store these lovelies in the refrigerator until ready to serve. It tastes perfect when chilled. So give it several hours to sit in the fridge first. I know it's difficult not to gobble them up straight away, but, patience! You will be rewarded ;)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

got extra egg yolks? part II

So by now you probably realized how much I love JoyofBaking, I've found some of my favourite desserts on that site.

Last week, winter decided to finally pay a visit to Durban and I had a serious craving for icing and cake. It's fast becoming the thing I actually dislike about winter because it's just one more thing standing between me and fabulous abs.

These weren't the best cupcakes I've had. But they were a close third, and served its purpose well. Craving: satisfied. The picture of these cupcakes on the joyofbaking page shows a lovely shade of chocolate brown icing, whereas mine was so pale, I had to add cocoa to darken it - even so, it was still lighter than theirs. I think the beating had something to do with it, since I did use 70% dark chocolate. I also thought they tasted uber yummy the next day, contrary to what the recipe says below.

Definitely worth a try if you plan on using egg whites to make macarons, meringues or pavlova, or maybe some ab-friendly egg-white omelets. But then why would you be making these? :)

Yellow Cupcakes (Makes 12)

1 1/2 cups (195 g) cake flour
1 cup (200 g) white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, room temperature (cut into pieces)
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) sour cream or whole plain yogurt, room temperature.


120 g dark chocolate, chopped
150 g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups (160 g) icing sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat to combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter, egg, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and sour cream or yogurt. Beat the wet and dry ingredients together at medium speed until the batter is smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. If necessary, stir the batter with a rubber spatula until the flour is fully incorporated.

Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until pale gold and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. 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, if piping, use a large Wilton 1M open or closed star tip to make lovely swirls. These cupcakes are best the day they are made, although they will keep for a few days at room temperature.

For the chocolate frosting: Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan 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 minute). Add the sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). 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 minutes).