Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Baking Lessons

Matcha Green Tea Cupcake

Cooking is fun, and often forgiving once you’ve got some basic skills down. I don’t consider myself a great cook, but a cook that’s good at making certain things. Most of all though, I just love playing around in the kitchen. Once motivated by a craving, it's so much fun to fiddle, plunk and experiment until something satisfying results. Sometimes I’ll use a recipe, but I never quite like to abide by them entirely – there is always something I’ll add or change or measure differently. It’s not a purposeful act of rebellion, but more a desire to try things my own way, just to see what happens…and in hopes of getting that subjectively perfect flavour and texture.

Baking appears to be a whole different beast.

Recently, I bought myself a Kitchen Aid mixer. It was at a sale price that was impossible to refuse, and it felt time to expand beyond hand-mixed muffins and stovetop savories. (And thank you friends who helped me lug this monster home on foot.) After three weeks of sitting on my counter unused, I finally had the time and inspiration to put it to use. I had some matcha green tea that was sitting around, and so decided to make green tea cupcakes.

After my cupcake experience, I realize it is true what I have heard – baking is a strict art. Or it should be at least, while I’m at my newbie stage with so much knowledge to acquire. What I’ve learned from this bake is: never add water to frosting when it's too thick, be sure to sift the flour for fluffiness, do not over-mix, even if you have a heavy duty mixer to do all the work, and do not overfill the baking cups. How I learned these lessons? Overly puffy, dense cupcakes with runny frosting. But I am thankful for loved ones both creative and appreciative of dense cakes. It wasn’t all a failure. And the sprinkling of white chocolate shavings on top worked perfectly to cover all visual foibles. They were decent for a first try and definitely still quite edible, but for next time, I will follow all rules!

Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes
from Cupcake Bake Shop by Chockylit

• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 2 large egg yolks
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup milk
• 2 tablespoons matcha green tea

Beat butter on high until soft for about 30 seconds. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy for about 3 minutes. Add eggs/egg yolks one at a time and beat for 30 seconds between each. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add to batter and mix to combine. Mix matcha in with the milk and mix it into the batter. Scoop batter into the cupcake papers. Bake for 22-25 minutes at 350 degrees F until a cake tester comes out clean. Makes 24 muffins.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Aw, nuts.

Peanut Butter Balls ready for the freezer.

Not long ago, while making my way through a tub of chocolate peanut butter ice cream, I realized that I have yet to find a brand that has the perfect chocolate to peanut butter ratio. After trying many varieties, I still lament the fact that there is never enough peanut butter! I then recalled a snack that a friend had once brought in to work, and decided to create that same snack to satiate my need for the perfect choco-nut balance: the peanut butter ball. They require minimal work to make, are little packs of protein, and are especially great for kids or the kid in you. Best of all, you can create them to cater to your own taste desires, and they are perfect to pop in your mouth when you're on the go.

In a large bowl, combine:

1 cup crunchy or smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup honey (more or less)
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup chocolate or carob chips

Use the above as a base, and then add any of the following you like, in the measurement that suits your taste:

  • ground almonds
  • ground flax seed
  • wheat germ
  • powdered milk
  • shredded unsweetened coconut
  • crushed corn flakes (to mix inside or to roll the balls in)
  • course salt (adds a touch of "gourmet", and great if you love that sweet/salty combo - use only a sprinkle)

    Mix all the ingredients well, and hand roll into balls. (The texture should be somewhere between crumbly and moist.) Put in a covered container lined with wax or parchment paper. Place in the freezer for at least an hour, and then eat them fast for a cold, crunchy, perfectly choco-nutty protein punch. Tastes great with milk too.
  • Friday, January 1, 2010

    Happy New Year!

    Thank you so much to those of you who have taken the time to read my blog. A great big Happy New Year to you and may the coming year bring you much joy, peace, laughter, adventure, and of course, good food :o)