Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cold Mung Bean Noodles with Chili Vinegar Sauce (Guest Post On My Cooking Hut)

Pleasantly Numbing

One of my favorite blogs is My Cooking Hut. I first stumbled upon Leemei’s site years ago and was blown away by the gorgeous photography and mouthwatering French and Asian recipes. Naturally I’ve been a dedicated follower ever since. You can imagine then how surprised and delighted I was to receive her recent invitation to prepare a guest post. Immediately I thought to share a recently rediscovered favorite from my childhood in China. I'd love if you'd stop by her site to check out my guest post and recipe for Liang Fen 凉粉 (Cold Mung Bean Noodles). If you'd just like to grab the printable recipe, it's here. Thank you so much, Leemei, for letting me contribute to your lovely blog!

Liang Fen (Chilled Mung Bean Starch Noodles)

That Bloody Rat's Got My Cupcake! (Red Berry Chocolate Cupcakes)

That Bloody Rat Got My Cupcake!
Can you believe it's nearly Halloween? Where has the time gone to? I'd actually hoped to share a bunch of fun cupcake ideas with you all month long, but health issues and homework ended up getting the best of me. What can I say but...I'm only human after all 8). I did at least manage to churn out these fantastically creepy bloody rat cupcakes for P's Halloween party at work. I couldn't attend, but he told me they were a hit.

It's the first time I've filled cupcakes simply with jam, and I quite enjoyed the taste. The "bloody" color and oozy consistency also make any red berry jam or preserve a good topping for this time of year. To be frank, these chocolate strawberry rats take a bit of time and effort to make. So I really didn't have the time/patience left to mix up a frosting anyway ;p.

Happy Halloween XD

It takes a few tries to get used to the rat-assembly procedure, so don't worry if you feel clumsy at first. I was impressed with the results, both the appearance -- I certainly had never associated strawberries with rats before! -- and the taste -- chocolate-coated things are generally yummy.

Of course I do realize I'm posting this the day before Halloween (my bad!), and some of these ingredients may take time to track down. If you're looking for some equally impressive Halloween cupcakes with only easy-to-find ingredients, be sure to check out the creepy crawly, mummy, and owl cupcakes from my previous posts.

So do you have big plans for this Sunday? I'd love to hear all about your creative costumes and treats. Happy early Halloween, everyone!

Bloody Red Berry Chocolate Rat Cupcakes [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from VCTOTW via CHOW and Karen Tack via Redbook
Makes 12 cupcakes

XIAOLU'S NOTES: I recommend having extra sliced and slivered almonds for the rats so that you can pick the best-shaped ones.

1 cup soy milk [or regular milk]
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, or more vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder, regular or Dutch-processed
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup strawberry or raspberry jam/preserves
Strawberry Chocolate Rats (Recipe below)
12 4-inch pieces of black licorice lace

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin pan with baking liners.

Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and almond extract, if using, to the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are OK).

Fill liners 3/4 full with batter. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Stir berry jam well, and heat in the microwave for 5 to 10 seconds. Transfer jam to a piping bag fitted with a long pointed tip OR a squeeze bottle. Insert tip into each cupcake and squeeze out a small amount of jam into the cupcake. Then pull the tip out of the frosting and squeeze a little more on top of the cupcake in several (bloody XD) blobs. Place a strawberry chocolate rat on top of each cupcake. Insert one end of a 4-inch piece of black licorice into the cupcake directly behind the rat, then insert the other end into the cupcake on one side of the rat. Lastly and most importantly, enjoy sharing your creepy creations!

Strawberry Chocolate Rats
12 large strawberries, stems removed
1 cup (6 oz.) chocolate chips
2 tsp shortening (use a brand without trans fat like Spectrum)
15 chocolate wafer cookies (1 package of Nabisco brand is 40 cookies)
24 sliced almonds
24 slivered almonds
24 red/yellow and 12 brown candy-coated chocolate-covered sunflower seeds

Place chocolate wafer cookies in a food processor fitted with steel blade, and process until cookies are finely ground. Transfer crumbs to a small bowl and set aside.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper. Trim a small piece from one side of each strawberry so they can rest horizontally on the paper. Insert 2 sliced almonds -- about 1 inch from pointed end of strawberry and about 1 inch apart -- to make the ears of the rat.

Place chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl, and microwave for 30-second intervals, stirring well after each interval, until the chocolate is completely smooth. Be careful not to burn the chocolate! Stir in the shortening and mix until smooth.

Insert a fork into the large end of a strawberry (Angle the fork upwards into the strawberry so it won't slip off when you're tapping the fork later.). Holding strawberry on the fork over the bowl of melted chocolate, spoon chocolate over strawberry to coat. Allow excess chocolate to drip off, tapping fork lightly. Sprinkle with chocolate wafer cookies crumbs to coat. Tap fork lightly again to remove excess crumbs. While still holding the strawberry up on the fork, add red/yellow candies for the eyes, slivered almonds for the teeth, and brown candies for the nose. Use another fork or spoon to transfer strawberry to prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining 11 strawberries. If the chocolate starts to solidify as you're working with it, you can microwave it again at 10-second intervals until it softens again. Refrigerate (or freeze at least 5 minutes if you're in a hurry to use them) rats until ready to serve.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meringue-Kissed Plum Raspberry Pots (Guest Post On Une-deux Senses)

Plum Raspberry Meringue Pots

I think I've recently gushed enough about Michelle and her blog that I don't need to repeat myself. But another reason I hope you'll drop by Une-deux Senses is that I'm sharing these quick but oh-so-pretty fruit meringue pots in this guest post. If you've got a get-together coming up, these are sure to impress. If you're just looking for the printable recipe, you can find it here. Thanks, Michelle, for this awesome opportunity!

Plum Raspberry Meringue Pots

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Guest Post: Cinnamon Swirl Cupcakes

Last fall I discovered the blog, Une-deux Senses, when Michelle made my Ferrero Rocher cupcakes, and I immediately fell in love with it's unique mix of delectable sweet and savory food, edgy fashion highlights, and spot-on music recommendations. With a sweet tooth like mine, it's been impossible to resist such gorgeous desserts as her open-faced blueberry pie and creme brulee cupcakes. So I'm beyond delighted to welcome Michelle here today to share these lovely cinnamon swirl cupcakes with us!

I love cupcakes, but then again, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a person who didn't! I've been oobering (if that's a word) over Xiaolu's numerous cupcake creations for ages. So when Xiaolu, the cupcake master, asked me if I was interested in doing a guest post, I was pretty flabbergasted - you should have seen my face! Me? The homely, little college blogger?

Une-deux Senses Photo 1

I make cupcakes, sure, but I don't think they compare much to Xiaolu's cupcakes - I mean she's a winner of Cupcake Hero for pete's sake! So when choosing what to write my guest post on, I knew it had to be something good, real good. The day I made these cinnamon swirl cupcakes, I fell in love and I knew they'd be the perfect thing for this little guest post.

Une-deux Senses Photo 2

At first glance, the ingredient list of these cupcakes seems a bit long, well, longer than I usually like my cupcake ingredient lists to be. But reading words like cinnamon, sugar and cream cheese quickly assuaged my fear. Let's just say, thank GOSH I made these cupcakes! They are now one of my all time favorites.

What I love about them is that they have this warm, home-y feel - like something your mom would make, something simple and comforting. The cake itself is super light and airy with a gorgeous swirl of cinnamon all throughout it and it's literally perfect. The cream cheese frosting though, is the killer but when is this ever not the case? I could eat tubs of cream cheese frosting and not feel guilty about it! But seriously, the combination of the cinnamon, airy cake and cream cheese frosting is beyond words.

Here's to Xiaolu and great cupcakes! Thanks for allowing me to share my love of all things flour + sugar + butter.

Une-deux Senses Photo 3

Cinnamon Swirl Cupcakes [Printable Recipe]
Yields: 15 cupcakes
Original recipe here.

For the cupcakes:
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 cups sugar
1/2 tbsn. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk, divided
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 tsp. vanilla

For the filling:
3 tbsn. sugar
3 tbsn. light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cocoa powder

For the frosting:
1 (8 oz.) package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick or 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
vanilla bean seeds, from 1/2 a vanilla bean

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a cupcake pan with liners, set aside. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the butter and 1/4 cup of milk. Mix on medium speed until smooth, about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. In another bowl, blend the eggs, egg white, remaining 1/4 cup milk and vanilla. Add to the batter in 3 additions, mixing for 2 minutes on medium speed after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl in between additions.

To make the filling, mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside until ready to fill the cupcake tins. When ready to fill, place about 1 1/2 tbsn. of cake batter into each muffin liner. Sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp of filling, then top with 1 1/2 tbsn. more of cake batter over the filling. Smooth the surface with the back of a spoon then use a toothpick to drag through the batter to distribute the cinnamon filling. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting. To make the frosting, use a mixer to blend all of the ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Pipe or spread onto the cupcakes. Top with coarse sugar and cinnamon if desired.

Une-deux Senses Photo 4

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Even More Fun with Fire (S'mores Cupcakes)

S'mores Cupcakes
S'mores are one of my all-time top desserts, as I've mentioned before, and all variations of them I find immediately go on my to-bake list. Most of my camping trips have been during the fall. So with the gorgeous autumn weather and colors surrounding us, these childhood favorites have been on my mind. Thus when Beantown Baker posted these mouth-watering photos of s'mores cupcakes, I was sure they wouldn't remain unmade for long.

Naked S'mores Cupcakes
Turns out I was right. These were just the thing to celebrate the recent birthday of my friend, Richard, who shares my love of s'mores. If you've ever stopped by this blog before, you know that I've baked my share of cupcakes. So you'll also know I mean serious business when I tell you these are some of the most scrumptious cupcakes I've ever baked or even tasted.

Just imagine: moist chocolate cake sandwiched between flavorful graham cracker crust layers and even more chocolate chunks. The best part, though, is the toasted marshmallow frosting that becomes delightfully gooey at first bite. So what are you waiting for? I hope I've convinced you to break out your torch and have some fun already!

S'mores Cupcake
S'mores Cupcakes [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from Trophy Cupcakes via Lovin in the Oven and Beantown Baker
Makes 18 cupcakes

XIAOLU’S NOTES: You can use the food processor to make graham cracker crumbs or just throw the cookies into a plastic bag and bash away with a rolling pin or heavy bottle as I did here.

1 cup MINUS 2 Tbsp graham cracker crumbs (from 15 to 17 squares)
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
5 to 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

3/4 cup PLUS 2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 cup PLUS 2 Tbsp flour
7 Tbsp cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

Marshmallow Frosting (Recipe below)
Extra chocolate or graham cracker pieces, to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 standard muffin pans with 18 cupcake liners; set aside. Place the graham cracker crumbs, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl; stir until well combined. Place scant (just under 1 tablespoon each) tablespoons of the graham cracker mixture prepared earlier into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Use the bottom of a small glass to pack crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Reserve remaining graham cracker mixture for topping. Place 2 teaspoons of chocolate in each muffin cup. Set pan aside.

Sift the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl. Mix these together until evenly combined. In a separate large bowl, mix together the egg, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue mixing on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes. Add boiling water and stir to combine; set cake batter aside.

Transfer the muffin pans prepared earlier to oven and bake until the edges of the graham cracker mixture is golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full with cake batter. Sprinkle each with the remaining chocolate and graham cracker mixture. Return to oven and bake until tops are firm and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer muffin pans to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely.

Transfer marshmallow frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain round, star, or French tip. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet or other heatproof surface. Pipe frosting in a spiral motion onto each cupcake. Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the frosting, taking care not to burn the cupcake liners. Top each cupcake with a piece of chocolate or graham cracker, if desired. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Marshmallow Frosting
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/3 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water, making sure the water is not high enough to touch the bowl. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.

Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use immediately.