Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Mmmm, cupcakes

Wow, it really feels like it's been a while since I updated this blog.  On the bright side though, it must mean I am actually becoming busier and my blog addiction is subsiding somewhat... but on second thoughts, I'm completely happy to be blogging again so maybe it hasn't subsided that much!  Over the last week, it seems as if I have been baking every day in one form or another.  Gingerbread men were cut, cupcakes for picnics and birthdays were whipped up, shortbread ducks and stars were created and a frugal hotpot made from the contents of my magical fridge which still does not look as if it is emptying any time soon.


I have not been the most organised of humans this week, so I thought it would be safer to stay indoors as much as possible to minimise being a danger to myself.  I felt it was going to be one of these weeks.  So far I had managed to mistake a friend coming over on Monday when it was actually Tuesday,  triple-booked myself on said Tuesday, having to reveal my embarrassing blunder to get myself out of two appointments and proceeding to cook an awful lunch for a friend who I was meant to have met Tuesday but postponed until Wednesday...  And today I had an enjoyable walk into town (so far so good...) to the Gloucester Green food market with my friend.   This was my first trek to the market in what feels like months (and it probably was) and I was greeted by a beautifully colourful sight.  Casually sitting on the tables were summer squashes, and other modest vegetables but the fruit stand was a glory to look at: mounds of rosy cheeked apricots, succulent plums, peaches and nectarines, towering punnets of cheap cherries, raspberries and blueberries.  I was also excited to see raw beetroot, which I was inspired to give a go by Designer from our weekend together.  Whilst queueing,  I managed to lose a £2 coin which was upsetting and hit by a sudden downpour of water which has somehow collected in the tent top.  I was rather fuddled by this as I had not realised it had rained today, but it was still sunny when we left the market, so we had time for tea in a Coffee Republic and proceeded to miss the dry spell and got poured on as we ran to Waterstones for shelter.  Quite a feat considering I was lugging an impressively heavy food laden backpack and my friend a bag of delicate soft fruits!  A leisurely read of the River Cottage Preserves Handbook later and a tentative glance outside the second storey window, and we were ready to brave the walk back home which promptly led to a blister forming which became ripped and painful, successfully rendering myself incapable of dancing tonight.  Every cloud has a silver lining though, we ended up curling up to watch Singing in the Rain instead which I had forgotten how much I had loved.  So it looks like my week of bad luck hasn't run dry yet, let's hope tomorrow will be better!

I do like to digress, but back on topic, below are two recipes for mocha cupcakes and shortbread.  I missed my friend's birthday over the month of July due to caring for my mum so I made him a very belated mocha cupcake and mini duckie shortbread instead.  The Shortbread recipe was based on a Delia Smith Recipe which can be found on her website - I just replaced the cornmeal with rice flour as I found cornmeal weirdly chewy the last time I used it.  I love all kinds of shortbread but my favourite are the thin and crispy ones which make me feel more saintly until I realise I have just eaten the whole batch.  The mocha cupcakes I kind of made up on the spot using basic cupcake knowledge.  I wanted to use coffee, so increased the flour to 125g from 100g, but added the standard 25g cocoa.  I used about 2 Tablespoons of hot coffee in the end, so wasn't quite sure how they were going to turn out!  After a 15 minute wait of suspense, the cupcakes came out wonderfully moist and soft.  I really recommend them if you're a coffee lover. With that I leave you and hopefully I'll make it to update again soon still in one piece!

Mocha-Choca Cupcakes
(Makes 16-18)

Ingredients:
  • 100g Margarine
  • 125g Self-raising flour
  • 25g Cocoa
  • 2Tbsp Very Strong coffee
     - I made mine with 3tsp coffee granules in 4Tbsp hot water
  • 2 Eggs
  • 45g Dark eating chocolate 
  • 15g Butter
  • 80g Icing sugar
Method:
  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4/180C/350F Cream the margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy
  2. Gradually whisk in the eggs
  3. Carefully and gradually whisk in the coffee - don't worry if it curdles a bit - just add some flour
  4. Mix together the flour and cocoa, then fold into the mixture until just incorporated
  5. Spoon teaspoon mixtures into cupcake cases until 3/4 full
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed.
  7. Leave to cool and make the chocolate icing
  8. Melt the butter and chocolate together over a double boiler or carefully in the microwave.
  9. Stir in the icing sugar and add enough coffee (preferably hot) to make the icing either spreadable or piping consistency.
  10. Pipe or spread onto the cool cakes and leave to set.  Before it sets, I added some white chocolate stars to the frosting.   
NB: With the chocolate icing, I only made enough for about nine of my cakes as I: i) prefer some un-iced and ii) only wanted to ice a few for my friend's birthday presentation.  Just double the recipe (chocolate, icing and butter) to cover all the cakes.  If you are spreading, you'll probably have enough with just the half recipe.  I use cheap dark chocolate for this as I still get a glossy frosting and the sugar content works better than expensive dark chocolate which tend to be more bitter.

Shortbread Thins
(Makes about 2 trays worth)


Ingredients:
  • 40g Rice Flour
  • 75g Plain Flour
  • 40g Caster sugar
  • 75g Margarine or Butter
      - I used half of margarine and butter
Method:
  1. Pre-heat Oven to gas mark 2/150C/300F
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light
  3. Add the flour and rice flour, mixing to form crumbs.  Push the mixture together with the wooden spoon or your hands until it resembles a crumbly ball of dough.  
  4. Roll out thinly - about 3mm and cut out shapes with a cutter
  5. Place on a non-stick/greased baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until just golden.

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