Christmastime Cupcakes

Early this year I was lucky enough to score a sweet Scoopon for a Cupcake Masterclass with Jennifer Graham of Crabapple Cupcake Bakery. Always being an enthusiastic baker, I jumped at the opportunity to learn the art of cupcake decorating from a pro. Prior to this workshop I was more of a cookies and cakes kinda gal. I had made cupcakes and muffins before but never really moved past the old icing sugar + water combo for the icing and the application tended to be pretty pathetic.

Thankfully, I learnt some great tips and tricks from Jennifer in the workshop and I left with my hands full of cupcakes, my very first piping bag set and the fabulous ‘Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook’ (which I highly recommend you run out and buy ASAP).

My Cupcake Bible

It is from this wondrous book that I bring you the Christmastime Cupcake recipe that I recently tried out on my family. These cupcakes have a mocha spice flavour and literally taste like Christmas. The recipe suggests you decorate with Royal Icing and green and red fondant holly leaves and berries. Unfortunately my local baking supplies store ran out of holly leaf cutters so I had to improvise and ended up making red buttercream frosting with white fondant snowflake cupcake toppers. I recommend making the cupcake toppers first to allow them enough time to dry, then the cupcakes and then start on the icing while the cupcakes are cooking.

White Fondant Snowflake Cupcake Toppers

Ingredients/Tools:

  • 250 grams white fondant (I bought mine pre-made from my local baking supplies store)
  • Cup of water
  • Edible Glitter
  • 2 small paintbrushes
  • Rolling pin
  • Small snowflake cutter

Method:

  1. Sprinkle clean bench top with icing sugar
  2. Massage fondant for a couple minutes to soften
  3. Roll out fondant to 3-5mm thickness
  4. Cut out 26 snowflakes
  5. Dip first paintbrush in water and lightly coat snowflakes
  6. Dip second paintbrush in edible glitter and flick bristles over snowflakes (there is no need to completely cover the snowflakes with glitter – just a touch will look beautiful)
  7. Leave on bench to dry out for an hour or more before transferring to cupcake

cut out snowflakes

be sure not to drown your snowflakes in water

finished snowflakes ready for cupcakes!

 

Christmastime Cupcakes

Makes 26

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • pinch of salt
  • 150 grams dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup instant coffee granules
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 200 grams softened unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C and line muffin trays with large cupcake cases
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, bicarb soda, mixed spice and salt and set aside
  3. In a heavy based saucepan, combine the chocolate, coffee and boiling water over low heat. Stir continuously with a flat-bottomed spoon until chocolate has melted. Do not boil. Set aside once combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, cream the butter for 1-2 minutes. Add half of the sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add the remaining sugar and beat for a further 2 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar has mostly dissolved.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition or until mixture is light and fluffy.
  6. Add the vanilla and beat until combined
  7. Add a third of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat on low speed until combined.
  8. Add half of the sour cream and beat until combined.
  9. Repeat this process
  10. Add the remaining third of the flour mixture and beat until thoroughly combined; do not over-beat as this will toughen the mixture.
  11. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the mocha mixture a third at a time. Be gentle and do not over-stir. The mixture will be quite thin.
  12. Spoon mixture into cases, filling to about two-thirds full (no more as it rises a lot)
  13. Bake for 15-18 min and cool in pan for 5 min before removing to cooling rack.

flour mixture and mocha mixture

be careful not to over mix when folding in mocha mixture

baked cupcakes ready for icing!

Buttercream Frosting

Again, this recipe is from Jennifer Graham’s The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook.

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams softened unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 8 cups icing sugar

Method:

  1. Cream the butter for 1-2 minutes
  2. Add the milk, vanilla extract and half of the sifted icing sugar (4cups)
  3. Beat for at least 3 minutes or until light and fluffy
  4. Add remaining icing sugar and beat for a further 3 minutes or until light and fluffy and of a spreadable consistency
  5. Add extra milk if too dry or extra icing sugar if too wet
  6. Add food colouring/flavour (for my cupcakes I chose to use pillar box red food colouring)

Assembly

Once cupcakes have cooled, icing is made and fondant cupcake toppers are hardened it is time to complete your cupcake! I chose to use a large star tip piping nozzle but you can choose what you like best. Pipe icing onto each cupcake and place fondant snowflake on top. If you like, you can use silver cachous (those edible little balls) to decorate further. I used 3 per cupcake and a sprinkle of glitter.

the finished product!

Feel free to ask any questions, good luck!

Eleanor x

Secret Wonder Ingredient

For those of you planning on making my muesli (recipe here) I thought I would share with you my secret wonder ingredient that is sure to make your muesli irresistible. Unless of course you don’t like coconut (what am I saying, who doesn’t like coconut, I mean really).

And the wonder ingredient is….(drum roll please)…..

Fruit for Life’s Roasted Coconut Chips

Image

Available with the dried fruit in the baking section at Woolworths, Coles and Franklin’s (NSW) and with your coconut milk at your local Harris Farm (NSW).

Use this information wisely. And enjoy your muesli!

Eleanor x

Tough Mudder!

Just watch this…

Yes, I’m doing it. No, I’m not crazy (well maybe a bit…). Anyway, I’ve signed myself up for Tough Mudder 2012 in Melbourne. Which gives me almost exactly 3 months to train to take on this mammoth task. Now, I’m relatively fit and pretty active but I am going to have to get in some serious training to be Mudder Tough by April 1st.

To take on Tough Mudder it is said that you should be running 2+ times a week, can do 15-25 push-ups in a row, 6 pull-ups in a row and are able to swim 45m without stopping. I’m getting there.

Tough Mudder Training

The recommended training regime includes running a distance of 8-10km about 3-4 times a week as well as taking on the Tough Mudder Workout three times a week which includes the following exercises (click here for more information as to what each exercise entails and proper technique):

  1. Running Man
  2. Tough Mudder Push-Up
  3. The Fist and the Fury
  4. Scissor Kick
  5. Back Row
  6. Dumbell Side Lunge
  7. Push-Up and Row
  8. Lunge and Twist
  9. Shoulder Press
  10. Decline Push-Up
  11. Quick Feet
  12. Tough Chin-Up
  13. Superman Plank
  14. Drunk Superman Side Planks
  15. Angelina Jolie
  16. The Tough Squat

I’m relatively fit, am a qualified personal trainer and dance around 3 times a week. Because of the style of dance that I train in (Pole and Aerial Hoop) I have a pretty decent amount of upper body strength. My major downfall is cardio – in particular, running. I hate running. I find it pretty boring, not to mention that after about 500m of running my knee often feels like it’s about to snap and give way for my femur to smash down onto my tibia. Not nice. Nevertheless, I’m trying.

I did my first 8km run/jog/walk/hobble a couple of weeks ago and, despite the crazy knee pain, it felt pretty good. Plus I ended up at this beautiful river…

My Reward

Not being a runner, it will obviously take a while to build up to running 8-10km, 3-4 times a week but I’ve been making a conscious effort to get out the door and do what I can whenever I can. Just this morning, while visiting my parents home, we took the dog down to the beach and went for a long walk and I ran along the sand with Woody.

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Woody!

I’ll keep you posted on how my training is going, wish me luck!

Eleanor x

Homemade Toasted Muesli

I make a mean muesli. I originally started making and toasting my own muesli as a result of a) being a poor student and not wanting to pay for expensive cereal ($8 a box! Are you kidding me!?), b) finding it impossible to find muesli in the shops with no almonds (I’m allergic) and c) wanting a healthy breakfast alternative to toast and sugary cereals. I’ve recently made 5 batches of my muesli for Christmas presents (packaged in lovely jars with pretty labels) for family and friends and it has received rave reviews.

Now, below is a basic how to. It’s not the kind of recipe where food science is particularly important so it’s pretty hard to screw it up. Basically, just make sure you have more rolled oats than any other ingredient and you should be fine. I’ve made it countless times and it’s never exactly the same as I just go with what I feel like at the time, try out new things and use what I have in my cupboard. Feel free to add or deduct fruit, seeds, nuts etc to your taste.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg rolled oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups sultanas
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit (apples, pears, apricot etc)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts (or any nuts of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3/4 – 1 cup fruit juice

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 160° C
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl (oats, nuts, seeds, coconut)
  3. In a mug, combine juice and honey and heat in microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until honey has melted
  4. Pour juice and honey mixture over dry ingredients and mix until coated
  5. Spread out mixture onto a baking tray and bake for 20-30min or until golden brown, ensuring you stir regularly to prevent burning
  6. Meanwhile, chop up fruit
  7. Once browned to your liking, remove from oven and mix in fruit
  8. Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Homemade Toasted Muesli for Gifts

The Best Choc-Chip Cookies Ever.

Many people claim to possess the best recipes in the world for various popular meals and treats. I am no different. I hereby swear to have the best choc chip cookie recipe ever.
Ok, it has to be said that looks wise, these cookies are a bit average. But what they lack in visual appeal they make up in taste.
This recipe is an old favourite and the only one I will ever make. It was my granny’s recipe. Being close to my heart it was this recipe that I chose to christen my brand new retro baby pink KITCHENAID mixer with….

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isn't she pretty?

Granny’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 65 grams butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 125 grams (or 1 cup) plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 250 grams choc-chips
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees
  2. Mix sugar and butter together
  3. Add vanilla and egg and mix
  4. Mix in sifted flour and baking powder
  5. Add milk and choc chips and mix
  6. Roll dough into small balls and place on greased baking tray a few centimetres apart (this mixture spreads a bit)
  7. Bake for 10-15mins (no more otherwise they’re too crunchy!)
  8. Enjoy!
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*drool*

My Mantra…

SUBJUNCTIVE

In the afterlife you are judged not against other people, but against yourself. Specifically, you are judged against what you could have been. So the afterworld is much like the present world, but it now includes all the yous that could have been. In an elevator you might meet more successful versions of yourself, perhaps the you that chose to leave your hometown three years earlier, or the you who happened to board an airplane next to a company president who then hired you. As you meet these yous, you experience a pride of the sort you feel for a successful cousin: although the accomplishments don’t directly belong to you, it somehow feels close.

But soon you fall victim to intimidation. These yous are not really you, they are better than you. They made smarter choices, worked harder, invested the extra effort into pushing on closed doors. These doors eventually broke open for them and allowed their lives to splash out in colorful new directions. Such success cannot be explained away by a better genetic hand; instead, they played your cards better. In their parallel lives, they made better decisions, avoided moral lapses, did not give up on love so easily. They worked harder than you did to correct their mistakes and apologized more often.

Eventually you cannot stand hanging around these better yous. You discover you’ve never felt more competitive with anyone in your life.

You try to mingle with the lesser yous, but it doesn’t assuage the sting. In truth, you have little sympathy for these less significant yous and more than a little haughtiness about their indolence. “If you had quit watching TV and gotten off the couch you wouldn’t be in this situation,” you tell them, when you bother to interact with them at all.

But the better yous are always in your face in the afterlife. In the bookstore you’ll see one of them arm in arm with the affectionate woman whom you let slip away. Another you is browsing the shelves, running his fingers over the book he actually finished writing. And look at this one jogging past outside: he’s got a much better body than yours, thanks to a consistency at the gym that you never kept up.

Eventually you sink into a defensive posture, seeking reasons why you would not want to be so well behaved and virtuous in any case. You grudgingly befriend some of the lesser yous and go drinking with them. Even at the bar you see the better yous, buying rounds for their friends, celebrating their latest good choice.

And thus your punshment is cleverly and automatically regulated in the afterlife: the more you fall short of your potential, the more of these annoying selves you are forced to deal with.

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman