Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Cupcake Galore + Croquembouche cupcakes featured on Cupcakes Take The Cake

My croquembouche cupcakes were featured in a post on THE cupcake blog yesterday - Cupcakes Take The Cake. I am ridiculously proud.

They start the post by writing: "These incredible, amazing, utterly beautiful cupcakes are by Greek blogger Cupcake Galore, where you can find out how to make them, via her Flickr account." How cool is that?

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Croquembouche cupcakes

Yesterday was my father-in-law's birthday. He is a pretty amazing person, so I figured he deserved some spectacular cupcakes.

Since I bought Australia's Women's Weekly booklet with cupcake recipes I have always wanted to try to make croquembouche cupcakes - mini choux pastries on top of a cupcakes "glued" together with caramel glaze. When I saw Not Quite Nigella's version I just wanted to make them even more!

Unlike Not Quite Nigella who seemed to top her cupcakes with pretty normal-sized choux pastries I wanted to make the mini version and fill mine with a chocolate pastry cream.

It was the first time I made both choux pastries and chocolate pastry cream, so what better challenge to set for my father-in-law's birthday cupcakes than to additionally take part in Sweetest Kitchen's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge #9 (read the official rules for the challenge here )? This month's challenge is to bake birthday cupcakes not using a particular ingredient, but creating a visually spectacular cupcake.

A lot of friends voted for my White Chocolate Hi Hat Cupcakes last round which ensured my participation in the final five, but unluckily for me, I didn't win the draw, so got to give it another try :)

The winner of March’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:

I did a quick search on the Internet to find the perfect choux pastry recipy - and came across Rasperri Cupcakes' blog who had adapted another recipe to make mini choux pastries. The orginal recipe seems to have been taken from a Daring Baker's challenge using recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Additionally I searched a bit for best ways of making choux as I wanted them to be perfect and found some good tips by Gordon Ramsey in this BBC Food-link.

Mini Choux Pastries (making about 100)

88 ml water
43 g unsalted butter
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp sugar
63 g all-purpose flour
2 large eggs

Pre-heat oven to 220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and pour in the flour all at once (according to a tip from Gordon Ramsey), stirring to combine completely.
Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer the batter to a bowl and let cool. Now, this is where I made my first mistake. I didn't let the batter cool enough before adding the eggs, and so I got a useless runny batter that just didn't hold up. I had to make another batch. This time I let it cool even longer, plus instead of beating in the eggs with a wooden spoon (and relying on my not so strong arm muscles) I used my Kitchen Aid to beat in the eggs. First I beat the batter slowly to let out some of the heat and then I beat in the first egg.

First the appeared loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. That's when I stirred in second egg (beat the egg first as you might not need it all). This time the batter turned out perfectly and I started piping little mini choux pastries about the sizes of a 1/4 tablespoon. I used a 1cm open round tip and it was a bit tricky to get them small enough, and the piping wasn't exactly perfect, but I rectified that with pulling them slightly together with the tip of my finger (dipped in water first) and as they baked they puffed up perfectly.

I baked them initially for 7 minutes on 220 degrees, and then I turned the heat down to 180 degrees for about 14 minutes. (Rasperri cupcakes' recipe suggest between 10-15 minutes until well-coloured and dry).

I let the perfect little shells (crips and lovely) cool slighty and then with a toothpick I made a small hole at the bottom of the pastries to let out any remaining steam (as this will cause the pastries to go soggy). I wasn't going to use the pastries until today, so stored them in an air tight container. However, they did go slighty soggy overnight anyhow, but I managed to get their crispness back by drying them a bit more in the oven for about 10 minutes at 150 degrees.

For the chocolate pastry cream (or chocolate creme patisserie) I used this recipe which I found on Poires au chocolat's fabulous blog :

Adapated from Poires au chocolat:

3 egg yolks
50g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp corn flour
150ml milk
150ml double cream
50g good quality dark chocolate, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

In a small saucepan, warm the milk over low heat until it is just hot enough to steam. While the milk is warming, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth.
Once the milk is steaming, add the melted chocolate to it and whisk until it is fully incorporated into the milk. Add half of the chocolate milk, whisking constantly, to the egg mixture. Add the milk and eggs back into the hot milk, continue stirring. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly until it thickens.When you see the first bubble take off the heat and remove to a bowl to cool, topping with a plastic wrap to stop a skin forming. I left mine to chill overnight.

To fill the mini choux, make a whole at the bottom and pour out any leftover dried batter to leave a hollow shell. Pipe the cream until the cream comes back out, that's when the shell is filled.

I also filled my 6 vanilla cupcakes that were the base of my cupcakes and when cupcakes and choux pastries were all filled with lovely chocolate cream I set about making the caramel (or sugar syrup if you like) to clue the croquembouche (choux tower) on top of the cupcakes.

I used the recipe from Rasperri Cupcakes:

For the hard caramel glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Take off heat to stop cooking.

I realised the caramel hardened up quite quickly, so I put it back to the oven to heat it up again. I did get a slightly darker colour, but I didn't mind that.

When assembled I tried to add some sugar spin around the croquembouche, but couldn't seem to get it to work properly, so I only managed to get a few sugar strands around. Something to work on!

I topped off the look with a few pink marzipan roses which I made a couple of days earlier and violet tiny flowers with a silver ball in the middle.

The croquembouche cupcakes took a pretty long time to finish, but it was so worth it - they looked absolutely spectacular and tasted deliciously and I think my father-in-law enjoyed them too!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge & Hi Hat Cupcakes

I have had cupcakes on my brain lately. Nothing new there. When looking for insipiration I keep finding these great food (and more to the point - cupcake)blogs and was really intrigued when I saw the headline "Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge" on a blog called Sweetest Kitchen.

Every month Sweetest Kitchen arranges a worldwide cupcake challenge where there is one ingredient which has to be used in the cupcakes and then write a post about it. From what I can see, there are some fantastic prizes for the winner of the challenge (see links below) and I decided that for once I will try to enter a cupcake competition! Scary!

The rules aren't very complicated - you can read more about them here: Cupcake Mystery Box Rules

This month the challenge is to bake a chocolate cupcake WITH A TWIST. That is, the base of the cupcake has to be chocolate (not very hard as I love chocolate), but the twist is to add an ingredient/flavour to the cake (or the frosting - maybe something one doesn't usually see paired up with chocolate.

What a great challenge! I started brainstorming straight away and my first thought was bacon. I have seen a lot of cupcake recipes paired with maple syrup and bacon and thought "why not a chocolate cupcake with bacon?" Then for the fun of it I checked the recipes of Sweetest Kitchen and what did I see? She has already baked a chocolate cupcake with bacon! So that idea goes out the window.

As I live in Greece there is one ingredient that is very local to this country - mastiha (mastixa)from the island of Chios, also known as mastic gum - which is the sap taken from lentisk trees. Mastiha is being used in many things, also sweets, so I thought it would make an interesting flavour to my chocolate cupcake for an international competition. I bought the mastiha, but somehow it still remains intact in my kitchen cupboard...

So what did I actually bake? Hi(gh) Hat Cupcakes! I saw a post from Bakerella a few months ago about Hi Hat Cucpakes and always wanted to make them, but didn't get around it until now.

Here are the normal-sized Hi Hat Cupcakes I baked

But they look like normal cupcakes dipped in dark chocolate, I hear you say. Where's the twist? I hear you! There are two twists to mine - firstly, I didn't use the traditionally marshmallowy frosting the Hi Hat cupcakes usually use - I used a yummy raspberry mousse frosting and secondly - after having dipped them in dark chocolate I decided to bake some mini cupcakes dipped in white chocolate too! Oh yes, still chocolate, but a twist to the original ones. When I image google for white chocolate hi hat cupcakes there is almost impossible to find a hi hat cupcake using white chocolate, so surely that is an important twist to mine? Humour me and let's say you agree :)

So there it is, my contribution to the Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge hosted by Sweetest Kitchen: WHITE CHOCOLATE HI HAT CUPCAKES!

I also added a bit of banana to the base to these ones - it worked splendidly together with the raspberry mouse and the white chocolate.

Cross your fingers for me - maybe I'm the lucky one to win the fanastic prizes from:

li>Angela's Images; a selection of handmade crafts
  • Bake It Pretty; a $5 electronic gift card

  • Beanilla; 3 Indian, 3 Tahitian & 3 Tonga vanilla beans

  • Hello Hanna; a pack of Sweet Stands cupcake stands

  • Miss Kitty Creations; a handmade cupcake charm of your choice

  • Simply Caked; 600 brown greaseproof cupcake liners

  • Sweet Cuppin Cakes; a prize pack worth $25

  • Tundra Books; a selection 3 very sweet children's books

  • In the meantime I leave you with one last photo of 3 white chocolate hi hat cupcakes - can you tell I unsuccessfully experimented with the lighting? Got to learn how to take better photos of my cupcakes!