Tag Archives: special occasion

Salted caramel cheesecake cupcakes

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One of my favourite things to bake is cheesecake. I’m not really sure why. I guess it happened to be one of the first things I learned how to bake once I graduated on from cupcakes. I have a classic New York Cheesecake recipe that I tend to make at least once every few months because it is unbelievable. And don’t they say that by the time you’re in your thirties you’re supposed to know how to cook a couple things really really well? Not that I’m thinking much of being in my thirties but I do like the idea of being the master of a handful of dishes.

Cheesecake can be a bit tricky- if you don’t have the temperatures right or if you overcook the cake the top will begin to crack or the sides will burn and you’ll ruin the texture and the taste of the entire dessert. Not only is it important to follow the recipe, it’s also pretty important to get to know your oven. In the past few years I’ve had to deal with a gas-lit oven that you had to basically throw a burning match into to turn on, a fan-forced oven in a brand new apartment that liked to shut itself off every once in a while, and an oven in a much older apartment that seems to be changing temperatures from minute to minute. But once you get used to the quirks you can handle pretty much anything.

Luckily I was at home when I made these cute little treats and I know that oven extremely well. This is a great recipe for party treats as you can make heaps of little cupcakes very easily. They keep well for a few days and taste amaaaazing.

Salted caramel cheesecake cupcakes
Makes 24 normal sized cupcakes
Recipe from Cooking Classy

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups finely crushed graham crackers (from 18 sheets)
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
7 Tbsp salted butter, melted
4 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salted Caramel Sauce, recipe follows

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together crushed graham crackers with 3 Tbsp granulated sugar. Pour in melted butter and stir mixture until evenly coated. Divide graham cracker mixture among 24 paper lined muffin cups, adding about a heaping Tbsp to each. Press mixture into an even layer. Bake in preheated oven 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool while preparing filling.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar with 3 Tbsp flour until well blended. Add softened cream cheese to a separate mixing bowl and pour sugar mixture over top. Blend mixture on low speed until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time and blend on low speed, while scrapping sides and bottom of bowl and mixing just until combined after each addition. Add vanilla, sour cream and heavy cream and mix just until combined. Tap mixing bowl against counter top about 30 times to release some of the air bubbles. Divide mixture among muffin cups filling each cup nearly full. Bake in preheated oven 20 – 23 minutes, centers should still jiggle slightly, don’t overbake (if they begin to crack they are starting to become overbaked). Remove from oven and allow to cool 1 hour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator and chill 2 hours. Serve chilled with a spoonful of Salted Caramel Sauce  (note: for best results spoon topping on just before serving). Store in an airtight container in refrigerator or freeze.

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Salted caramel sauce

Ingredients:
1 1 /2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp water
6 Tbsp salted butter
3/4 cup heavy cream*
Maldon or coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Directions
Gather all of your ingredients and have them nearby ready to add to the mixture as needed. In a heavy-bottomed 3 quart saucepan, heat sugar and water over moderately high heat whisking constantly to dissolve sugar. Once mixture reaches a boil, stop whisking and allow mixture to boil until it reaches a dark amber color, carefully swirling pan occasionally. Once mixture reaches a dark amber color, immediately add butter and whisk until butter has melted then immediately remove from heat. Wait 3 seconds then carefully pour in cream and immediately whisk to combine (it will bubble vigorously). Whisk until mixture is smooth. Allow caramel to cool several minutes then pour into a glass jar to cool. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt after spooning caramel over cheesecakes.

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Banoffee pie

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I’ve always wondered about banoffee pie. The only time I had ever really heard about it is in that scene in Love Actually where Keira Knightley’s character shows up at her husband’s friends house looking for a wedding tape and offers him a slice of banoffee pie or ‘munchies.’ Many people probably don’t remember the scene in this much detail but as it’s my favourite movie I could probably recite the whole thing backwards.

Anyways, I always wondered what banoffee pie is, I also wondered exactly what ‘munchies’ are but in America they cover a pretty broad range so I didn’t spend as much time contemplating that. I finally had the chance to try banoffee pie earlier this year when my roommate made it for a going away party. And it was show stopping amazing. This recipe is a little untraditional since there are pretzels in the crust but they provide a great salty balance to the sweet caramel. There is also crème fraîche in the topping which offsets the sweetness of the pouring cream as well.

Albeit an amazing dish, it’s not the easiest. It’s mostly straight-forward but this recipe doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining just how to caramelise the sugar. And it turns out caramelised sugar is a bitch.

Maybe it’s just my ineptitude in the kitchen but it took me three times to get it right. On my first attempt it burnt- filling up my kitchen with the smell of gross black caramel. The next time the sugar seemed to dissolve and then somehow magically turned back into sugar from liquid. To be honest, I almost scrapped the whole thing after that. But I was not about to let caramel best me. It seemed to be finding all sorts of different ways to laugh at me. I think the problem was that I had the heat too high so the sugar didn’t have time to fully dissolve before the mixture started bubbling. 

I used this tutorial after the first two attempts and the photos are really helpful.

No matter how tricksy caramel may be, this recipe is perfect for any special occasion.

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Banoffee pie
Serves 10

  • 3 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
  • 300 ml pouring cream
  • 400 gm crème fraîche
  • Scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • To serve: shaved dark chocolate
  • Pretzel crumb base
  • 240 gm digestive biscuits, coarsely broken
  • 90 gm salted pretzels
  • 75 gm caster sugar
  • 200 gm butter, melted
  • Salted toffee
  • 200 gm caster sugar
  • 80 gm butter, coarsely chopped
  • 125 ml pouring cream

Method

  • For pretzel crumb base, process biscuits, pretzels and sugar in a food processor until fine crumbs form, add butter, pulse to just combine, press into base and up sides of a 5cm-deep, 24cm-diameter pie dish and refrigerate until set.
  • Meanwhile, for salted toffee, stir sugar and 50ml water in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and cook until caramel (6-8 minutes). Add butter, cream and ½ tsp sea salt flakes (be careful as hot caramel will spit), stir until combined, then pour over crumb base and refrigerate until chilled.
  • Arrange banana on top of caramel and set aside. Whisk cream, crème fraîche and vanilla seeds in an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Spoon on top of banana, scatter with chocolate shavings and serve.
This recipe is from the June 2012 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.
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Vodka pasta

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This is my first two-way post! So you can feel free to take the fancy or the frugal option, for whatever fits your mood. The vodka pasta was made for a birthday since it’s creamy and unbelievably rich and awesome. But it does require quite a few ingredients, plus vodka. Which down under is a little pricey. So if you don’t have the time or the funds you can make a simple creamy tomato pasta. It’s all up to you…

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Vodka Pasta

Adapted from Cook Like A Champion
Who heavily adapted it from Williams-Sonoma

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves,
minced medium yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup vodka
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil, plus additional for serving
1 pound penne pasta
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus additional for serving

Directions: Cook pasta in well salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water, drain pasta and set aside.

Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in frying pan, remove the casings from the sausages, break into small pieces and cook until browned on the outside and cooked through. Drain on a plate covered in paper towels and reserve for later.

While the pasta and sausages are cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about a minute more. Stir in tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the tomato paste and vodka. Cook until most of the alcohol has evaporated, at least 5 minutes. Stir in cream, red pepper flakes and salt. Bring to a a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook sauce until thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Stir in basil and cheese.

Add pasta and sausage to skillet and toss to coat, adding pasta water as needed to thin the sauce. Serve topped with additional basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

And for the frugal option…
Serves 1

Ingredients:
1 cup  of pasta
1 tablespoon of cream cheese
1/2 cup of pasta tomato sauce
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
1/2 cup of frozen prawns, defrosted
sprinkle of parmesan
olive oil

Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente. While you’re cooking the pasta heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan. Put the defrosted prawns in and when they’ve cooked add the tomato sauce, cream cheese and tomato paste and stir until everything melts and becomes a nice creamy sauce.

Pour the sauce with the prawns over the pasta, mix in and sprinkle with parmesan.

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Tie dye cupcakes

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The word “groovy” isn’t really heard that much anymore. I can’t really say it’s a shame, it sounds outdated no matter how you use it. That doesn’t mean people like Patrick Monahan from Train will stop using it. Despite the fact that they’ve been around since 1994 they’re still trucking on. Anyone remember “Calling all Angels” and “Drops of Jupiter”? Well, their new annoyingly addictive single “Drive By” is all about a groovy little guy trying to get his girl back by driving around in circles and dancing like a four-year old. I dare you to listen to this song and not dance. But if it still doesn’t get you in the groovy mood, these awesome little tie-die cupcakes might just do the trick.

Tie Dye Cupcakes:

Vanilla cake mix in a box and ingredients for that

4-5 colors of food coloring

Mix up the cake mix until it’s ready. Divide your cake batter into four or five bowls. Add a couple drops of food coloring into each bowl of batter and mix. Add spoonfuls of each color to cupcake liners until the liner is ¾ full. Bake for 18-20 minutes according to the directions on the box of cake.

For the frosting:
From http://sweetapolita.com/2012/03/super-duper-vanilla-or-funfetti-cupcakes/

375grams/13 ounces unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

3.5 cups (400g/14oz) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons (45mL) milk

1 tablespoon (15mL) pure vanilla extract

A pinch of salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for about 8 minutes on medium speed until the butter becomes very pale and creamy.

Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy. It takes a little while but it’s sooo worth it!

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Red Velvet Cheesecake brownies

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For my dad’s 50th birthday last year I made a giant red velvet cheesecake. It was amazing, delicious, huge and difficult. I promised Ciaran I would make him one as well seeing as he missed out during the birthday celebrations. But still, that cake is so daunting and time-consuming that I still haven’t made good on my offer. I will still do it one day, I did promise. But for now, I figured some red velvet cheesecake brownies would tide him over. They’re done in under an hour and are super tasty. I brought them with me to a weeknight barbecue and the entire batch was gone by the end of the night, so I’d say they’re pretty popular.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies
From 
Baking Bites

1/2 cup butter
2-oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp red food coloring
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F/ 180C. Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
In a small, heatproof bowl, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir with a fork until very smooth. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and red food coloring. Add in the chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Batter should be red. If a brighter red is desired, add an additional 1/2 tsp food coloring. Add flour and salt into the bowl and stir until everything is just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain.
Pour into prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
Prepare cheesecake mixture. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Drop in dollops onto prepared brownie batter. Gently swirl two batters with a butter knife.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until brownies and cheesecake are set. A knife inserted into the cheesecake mixture should come out clean and the edges will be lightly browned.
Cool in the pan completely before slicing and serving, either at room temperature or chilled.
Brownies can be refrigerated, covered, for several days.

Makes 16 large brownies or 24 smaller brownies

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Red Velvet cake

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When I think of velvet I think of fancy fat kings sitting on thrones in giant castles in England. They’re usually wearing capes or manly dresses (as manly as fancy men in the 18th century were). These garments are made of velvet, and the velvet is usually purple. Or dark green.

I don’t know why velvet conjures up that specific image in my head. It’s just what happens.

But I don’t think red.

And usually I don’t think baked goods.

So that chef in that fancy hotel that came up with red velvet cake was apparently on a whole other wavelength.

But luckily for him, he was a genius.

The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook is both of our go-to when we’re in the mood for these devilish, discolored delights. That is, in cupcake form.

But when one little cupcake just isn’t enough, and you need a whopper of red velvety joy you can use this recipe. It’s super moist and super tasty.

Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cake
From Let Them Eat Cake and Ice Cream

Who adapted it from Bakerella

Ingredients:

For the cake:

2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
60 ml red liquid food colouring
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa

For the frosting:

500g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 175C fan-forced. Spray two cake pans with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, gently whisk together eggs, buttermilk, oil, vinegar, vanilla and food colouring until combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, baking powder and cocoa until combined. Add wet ingredients and mix on medium speed for one minute. Pour batter into prepared pans, and thump on the counter a couple of times to release air pockets.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting:

Sift sugar and set aside.

Beat the cream cheese and butter on high until creamy. Add vanilla.

Add the sugar in batches. Scrape down the sides in between each addition.

Frost away.

 

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Pecan pie

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Short crust pastry and puff pastry are not the same thing. Though they do look awfully similar when they’re frozen.

People who have grown up down under probably know that. I should probably know that too, but that doesn’t mean I do.

They should have easy Americanized definitions on the label, like short-crust = sweet, puff = savoury. I suppose the picture of sausage rolls on the front should have been a clue, but my brain was in a different place.

Despite pastry problems in the kitchen the pie turned out to be pretty tasty. Pecan pie isn’t seen that often in Australia, but it’s not too difficult to make and it’s super sweet and delicious.

As a side note, the egg in this recipe will cause the pie to rise pretty high while cooking, don’t worry, it won’t explode. I already did enough panicking for you.

Ingredients:

Frozen SHORT-CRUST PASTRY (caps make everything seem more important.)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 cups chopped toasted pecans
1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon
2 teaspoons pure vanillaextract
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Once the dough has defrosted a bit, lay it into a 9-inch pie pan and trim the edges, leaving about an extra inch hanging over the edge. Tuck the overhanging dough underneath itself to form a thick edge that is even with the rim. Flute the edge as desired.

Set separate racks in the center and lower third of oven and preheat to 200 degrees C. Put a piece of parchment paper or foil over the pie shell and fill with dried beans or pie weights. We didn’t have either so we used old uncooked ramen, it works as well. Bake on a baking sheet on the center rack until the dough is set, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift sides of the parchment paper to remove the beans.

While the crust is baking make the filling: In medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stirring constantly, continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts, bourbon, and the vanilla. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. (If the crust has cooled, return it to the oven for 5 minutes to warm through.) Whisk the beaten eggs into the filling until smooth. Put the pie shell on a baking pan and pour the filling into the hot crust.

Bake on the lower oven rack until the edges are set but the center is still slightly loose, about 35 to 40 minutes. (If the edges get very dark, cover them with aluminum foil half way during baking.) Cool on a rack. Serve slightly warm or room temperature with a dollop of cream on top.

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