Monday, 31 March 2014

Eggs in a Nest Cupcakes

Good morning everyone and hello from a SUNNY Toronto!  That's right, today we are set to hit double digits of 10°!!!!!  An end to the longest Winter I've ever experienced living here, Spring is going to be very welcome around here that's for sure :-) 
This past weekend I had the chance to do a lot of baking... the best kind of weekend! 
We had our final choir concert of the 2013-2014 season (Check out our Cantabile Chamber Singers website) on Saturday evening and I made two loaf cakes to donate to the silent auction we ran at the interval.  I was really happy with how they turned out, and I hope whoever won them enjoys eating them!  You might have seen the sneak peek on Facebook or Instagram of the baking I did this weekend... I had to choose which to blog about this week, and the Eggs in a Nest Cupcakes won! 
With Spring in the air, and April arriving tomorrow I thought it was about time I got ready for Easter!  We already picked up an enormous pack of mini eggs from Target, and I was treated to new cupcake wrappers from a fellow choir member who was so sweet to think of me when she saw lots of new designs on her recent vacation so I was all set, Easter cupcakes were just begging to be made :-)
As I was making two loaf cakes for the choir on Saturday, and we had plans with friends on Sunday evening, I thought it would be perfect to make a 1 1/2 batch of each loaf recipe I made so that I would have extra batter for a few cupcakes in each flavour!
I'm so glad I did that, it was an easy way to make a batch of 8 cupcakes and the bonus this time was that it was in two flavours so we could pick our favourites to eat!!
Saturday baking done, and a 7am wake up on Sunday morning to get the buttercream piped!  A bit different to my usually dark nighttime baking, this time the light was super bright in the morning!
4 lemon cupcakes and 4 almond cupcakes ready to be decorated.  I was excited to see how it would turn out :-)
Usually I'll have made a dozen cupcakes, but this time it was only 8, and as I was colouring it brown I didn't really need any leftover of this.  So I scaled down the recipe, and beat together 6oz unsalted butter with 9oz icing sugar and a tablespoon of milk.  I actually didn't add any vanilla flavouring (or any flavour in fact) as I wanted the plain flavour to work with both the lemon and the almond cupcakes.
Armed with a piping bag, and the #233 Wilton decorating tip, which I usually use for creating a grass or hair effect in decorating.  This time I thought it would work perfectly for the nest.  I just kept the piping bag moving so that it created long strands rather than short blades of grass!
Then to finish off, it was an easy decoration with 3 mini eggs sitting in each nest.  I made sure to use a yellow egg on each of the lemon cupcakes, and a blue egg on each of the almond cupcakes so each flavour could be identified!  I knew I definitely wanted a lemon one, and wanted to not have to have a lucky guess :-D
By the time I finished piping the butter was quite warm and soft... So I left them outside for a while to harden up!
So now you've seen, the eggs in a nest cupcake title really is clear!  There are eggs in a nest!!  Check out my Chicks in a Nest Easter Cake from 2012 (technically before I started this blog!)... it's still one of my favourites and I'd love for you to see :-)
I'm so happy with how these look.  And really they were nice and simple to make!!  The grass tip works wonders for the piping here, and makes it super fun and easy to create the nest on top of the cupcake ... Or perhaps I shouldn't admit to how easy they are!  But do make them!
So with the temperature on the up, and Spring perhaps finally showing it's face I am getting excited for April and Easter!  Are you!?
For the full Lemon and Almond cake recipes please check back next week.  I'll be posting the loaf cakes in full detail then!  Lots of pictures and both of the recipes then :-)

This time last year it was Easter already!  Check out my Hand Stitched Easter Cards I made last year!  I loved making them, and my family all loved them too ♥


Monday, 24 March 2014

Back after a Hiatus in Homemade Bread!

That's right, there has been a FAR too long gap in the time where making homemade bread was once a weekly occurrence for Jonathan and I.  In fact, it was bread making that first started my blogging on long ago Tumblr 'Tried and Tested by Hannah'... However, I didn't stick to the blogging back then, and whilst believe me I'm eating bread ALL the time - we hadn't made our own bread in SUCH a long time.

So, with my parents arriving from England for March Break we thought we would get baking and making!  We also had my in-laws over the night before we arrived so everybody got to taste our homemade soup and bread! 

We made our favourite soup from Rose Reisman's cookery book, Sweet Potato and Molasses Soup (SO GOOD - highly recommend!) and then wanted to find a nice crusty bread to go with it, perfect for dipping in the thick, delicious soup.

After a bit of internet scouring I came across this recipe from 'Mel's Kitchen Cafe' and thought it was perfect for what we wanted.  She posts a really fantastic recipe and tutorial, and then also includes a picture tutorial with a simple step by step instruction list.  It's a great blog post!
So here's our bread making experience, and a few pics as we went along :-)

The best bit about this recipe?  Well, in addition to being a super amazing delicious chewy inside, crusty outside and easy to make... The recipe from Mel's Kitchen is also for TWO loaves!  And that's with baking one, and keeping the other in the fridge until ready to cook again up to two weeks later.  That meant we could bake one for one weekend... and then for the next weekend have another super fresh loaf of bread for lunch and more soup again with no dough to make - just a little longer final rising time!  What could be better than two fresh loaves!?!


1.5 tablespoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon salt
6.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus a little more for dusting the dough
3 cups lukewarm water (around 100°F)


1.  In a large bowl, mix the yeast and salt into 3 cups of lukewarm water.  Stir in the flour and mix until there are no dry patches.  The dough will be quite loose.  (In fact... our dough was QUITE loose!  Perhaps due to the extreme cold dry weather.  I added a 1/2 to 1 tablespoon more of water and it seemed much better).

2.  Cover lightly with a damp kitchen towel but don't seal the bowl airtight.  Let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours (or up to 5 hours)... We did a full whack 5 hour rise and oh my it rose!

3.  After the 2-5 hour rise you can prepare the bread for baking, or if you are refrigerating the dough, cover it in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for as long as two weeks. 
I cut the dough in half, to bake 1 loaf and to save the other for later in the week.
Turn the dough in your hands to lightly stretch the surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom.

4.  Put the dough on a piece of parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet turned upside down.  Let the dough rest for 40 minutes at room temperature (not covered this time).  NOTE:  If you have used the remaining dough out of the fridge, let it rest for 1.5 hours.

5.  Place a broiler pan (or traybake pan) on the bottom rack of the oven and a baking stone (we used our pizza stone) on the middle rack and preheat the oven to 450°F.  Heat the stone at that temperature for 20 minutes before baking.
6.  After the dough has rested and is ready to bake, dust lightly with flour and slash the top with a very sharp knife three times (or in a cross).

7.  Slide the dough with the parchment paper onto the baking stone.  Pour one cup of hot water into the pan at the bottom of the oven and shut the oven quickly to trap the steam.  (This will make the delicious crusty outside of the bread!)
8.  Bake the bread until well browned, for about 25 - 30 minutes.


9.  Cool the bread completely before eating.  The hardest part right?!  But the texture is best when the inside of the loaf is left to cool completely leaving a chewy inside and hard crusty outside.
Check out Mel's Kitchen recipe here to see alternatives to baking the bread on a baking stone, or even to read about cooking it in a greased loaf pan.
I was equally sad to finish the first loaf after just 24 hours, but then just as happy to have a second batch of dough just waiting to be baked the next weekend!!
Here's our Sweet Potato and Molasses soup along with the homemade bread at a family dinner last week!  Did you see my Instagram on it?!  Follow me to always be the first to see what I'm baking and making :)

I hope you get to try to bake this amazing bread.  Especially if, like us you're still eating soups and chilis to warm up each evening in this long long Winter!  Enjoy!
Read all about these super moist and delicious Coca-Cola Cupcakes with a Cola Glaze here! 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

A New Project in Cake ~ Baked Cheesecake!

Well this week I found a new favourite dessert that I could have continued eating all week!  Today I'm sharing with you a Baked Cheesecake on Chocolate Shortbread Base with Salted Butter Caramel Sauce...  Yes, that's right - all those parts of this dessert really do sound (and I promise - taste) incredible!
Last week I got an email from a friend-of-a-sister-of-a-friend-of-mine who was going to be arriving in Toronto this week to visit her brother, and wondered if I could create a birthday cake for him for their birthday celebration dinner together!  I was excited to hear she had seen my Instagram feed and seen the decorated cakes I have done recently, but actually asked if a cheesecake might be an option as that was his favourite! 
Let's not forget, I love a challenge, and I love new recipes to try out so I was super excited not only for another cake commission, but this time, for the first time for it to be a 'cheesecake' commission instead!
A recipe was actually found for me, one she knew her brother would like and like I wrote before, ALL of the elements of this just sounded incredible.  Chocolate shortbread base!? WOW.  Salted Butter Caramel Sauce?!  Served sweet and hot, this is a dessert in itself.  Together with the baked cheesecake - what a combination!
The original recipe was from the beautiful food blog ~ Tartelette, so thank you for this incredible recipe that you did most of the hard work for!  I got to do the fun part of creating and baking it :-)  Please do visit her blog and see some of the amazing recipes and photographs on her website!
I'll include her recipe here with my as-I-went photographs of the method but you can also check the original post here.  I baked the cheesecake 1 day ahead of the delivery.  This meant I could bake the shortbread base (and give it enough time to cool), and while waiting, make the caramel sauce and bake the cheesecake once it was cooled.  The cheesecake needed to chill and set in the fridge for at least 6 hours (I left it overnight) leaving only the birthday message to pipe on with chocolate the next morning, before packaging everything up!  The original recipe makes enough for 12 people - (I actually made more than I needed to as my parents are visiting from England so I thought a decadent dessert would be delicious for our dinner plans as well!!)
Chocolate Shortbread Base ~ Ingredients: (to serve 12)
250 grams unsalted butter, very cold, cubed
85 grams granulated sugar
300 grams all-purpose flour
25 grams cocoa powder
1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare your pans.
The original recipe didn't mention lining/greasing the pans, but as I knew I didn't want to serve the cheesecake on the springform base I chose to add parchment paper just in case!
2.  Work the butter, sugar, flour and cocoa powder with your fingers to get a sandy mixture (or with a food processor).

3.  Work the dough for a minute and then press into the bottom of a 10 or 12 inch springform pan. 

I used a toothpick to check how deep I had made my crust!  If you like a thick crust, go ahead keep going - a good centimetre seems reasonable to me!  You may have some shortbread crumbs leftover... perhaps a few shortbread cookies could be baked up soon - just refrigerate the dough for another time.
4.  Bake the shortbread base for 40 minutes, and let it cool completely in the pan.

... so like I said, while the base cooled, I got to work on the caramel sauce... and then a little later the actual cheesecake!
Salted Butter Caramel Sauce ~ Ingredients:
240 grams sugar
80ml water
115 grams salted butter
150ml heavy whipping cream - 35%
1.  In a heavy saucepan set over a low heat, combine the sugar and water and heat just until the sugar is dissolved.
2.  Add the butter and let it come to a boil and cook until it reaches a golden caramel colour - for me this took way longer than I thought it would - but stick with it - it did turn a golden colour eventually, it just took around 10-15 minutes...
3.  Remove from the heat and add the cream (watching out for the spluttering!). 

4.  Whisk to combine and put it back on the stove.  Let it come to a boil again over a low heat and cook for 10-15 minutes until you reach a nice creamy consistency. 

 5.  Pour it into a jar and leave to cool (taking a few taste testers as you go - it is really spectacular!)

*** Unless you are making the sauce at the last minute before serving, if made ahead the sauce will actually set as it cools, but a quick blast in the microwave and it will go deliciously creamy and runny again... As well as warm - such a wonderful complement to the cold, thick and rich cheesecake.  Perfection!  ***
Baked Cheesecake ~ Ingredients:
2 pounds cream cheese
115 grams unsalted butter, soft
1/4 cup sour cream (or creme fraiche)
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
2 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
Zest of 1 lemon
1.  Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2.  Combine the cream cheese, butter, sugar, lemon zest, sour cream and cornstarch in the bowl of a mixer and whip until combined.  Do not incorporate too much air or the cake with crack.  Make sure the butter and cream cheese are very soft.


3.  Add the egg yolks one at a time and whip until just combined.  

4.  Whip the egg whites until stiff and gently fold them into the cream cheese batter.

5.  Pour the batter over the cooled chocolate shortbread crust.  The batter will reach the rim of the cake.  Wrap your springform pan with heavy duty foil and set it in a large roasting pan.  Add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the pan.

6.  Bake at 325°F for 1 1/2 hours.  Then, turn the oven off, crack open the door of the oven and let your cake cool in there for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and chill in the fridge completely, for a few ours, or better yet, overnight.

So... Chocolate Shortbread Base, Baked Cheesecake and a Salted Butter Caramel Sauce all done, chilled and ready to eat!  The final touches for my cake commission were a Happy Birthday message and just to package it up and deliver it (hopefully keeping it a secret from the birthday boy himself so his sister could surprise him with it at their birthday dinner... And apparently it worked and stayed a secret all day, yey!).

In my world, having lived in England for most of my life, and now being in Canada for the fifth year I have two schools of thought on cheesecake.  My Mum and family have always made an unbaked cheesecake with a digestive crust and usually a delicious lemon or strawberry flavour.  But then, I seem to have come across more baked cheesecakes (just like the famous New York Cheesecake) since moving here... Something I had never had until I moved to North America! 

This was definitely the best baked cheesecake I have ever had so thank you Tartlette for the combination of amazingness, and to my 'cake commissioner' this time for picking the recipe! 

I love the three colours of the cheesecake... the dark chocolate coloured base... the plain, off white cheesecake batter, and then the browned top from the slow and low bake!

For the birthday message, I melted up some bittersweet Baker's chocolate and piped away.  It set pretty quickly - probably as the cheesecake itself was very cold!  ... And then I put it back into the fridge before packing it up, just before delivery.

Salted Butter Caramel Sauce in what else but a mason jar?!  And the cheesecake on a cake board and set in a cake box.

My first cheesecake-cake commission done and delivery (through a blizzard of snow!) it was time to explore Toronto with my tourist parents and then back home for dinner where we enjoyed our own cheesecake for dessert as well!

Decorated with a little bit of the leftover chocolate... Random pattern...
I was very glad I made a second cheesecake for us... It gave me the chance to photograph the inside of the cake as well as the outside.  Here's my posing slice!...

Warm caramel sauce drizzled on top!  The great thing about pour your own sauce is how much (or I guess if you're not so much of a sweet tooth, how little) you can choose to drizzle on!  I, and actually, we all chose to drizzle a lot :-D

I've been thinking about this cheesecake maybe too much since we had our last piece of it a couple of nights ago... So it is definitely going to get a repeat bake VERY soon!  And the birthday boy also enjoyed his surprise birthday cheesecake and they all loved it :)  Yey!!