Red Velvet Cupcakes

Everyone loves a good red velvet cupcake.  It never fails that whenever I asked people what their favorite dessert is, the red velvet cupcake is almost always a top contender.  I have always found this interesting because at the heart of it, this cupcake is simply a chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting and a whole lot of red food colouring.  But somehow, whether it’s because of the regal colour or because of the deliciously genius cream cheese + chocolate pairing, the red velvet transcends its regular chocolate peers.  Which is why I was a little disappointed these didn’t come out as red as I’d like them to be.  But nonetheless, I made these for two friends – one who just completed step 2 CK and the other who turned 24 – two occasions definitely deserving of a celebration :)

Red Velvet Cupcakes:
Adapted from Basil Kitchen

Ingredients:

Dry Batter Ingredients
2 cups sifted cake flour + 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt

Wet Batter Ingredients
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup whole milk + 1 tbsp vinegar, let stand for 5 minutes)
2 large eggs + 1 egg white
1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 TBSP red food coloring (I used this and it ended up not really coming out very red, so I would actually recommend increasing this 2-3 tbsp)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp distilled white vinegar

Chocolate Ganache
4 oz unsweetened chocolate baking bar
1/4 cup heavy cream

Cream Cheese Frosting (makes 4 cups)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter,  softened
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups confectioners powdered sugar
1 TBSP heavy whipping cream, very cold

Cupcake instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line cupcake tins with liners.

2. Combine all the dry batter ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine all the wet batter ingredients.

3. Make the chocolate ganache by coarsely chopping chocolate.  Add the heavy cream and microwave for 30 seconds at a time, mixing between each reheating until it’s all melted.  Add the ganache to the wet ingredients and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry, 1/3 at a time, mixing until batter is smooth.

5. Fill cupcake liners a little more than 3/4 full with batter (I ended up making 26 out of this recipe).  Bake for ~20-25 minutes or until the center doesn’t move when you rock the tray.  Allow them to cool completely before frosting

Instructions for frosting:

1. Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Add vanilla.

2. Add icing sugar 1 cup at a time until well incorporated.

3. Add 1 tbsp of very cold heavy cream. Beat until well mixed

4.  Chill in the refrigerator until the cupcakes are cooled enough for icing.


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Happy American Thanksgiving!

Sometimes I think it’s really awesome to be Canadian, not just because I come from a cool (no pun intended) country, but also because I get to celebrate TWO thanksgivings :)  You can never be too thankful and it was a blessing to have gotten to share it with some good friends.  For everything in my life – my family, my friends, this life – I am thankful.

Apple Pie

Ingredients for crust: Please refer to Portuguese egg tart recipe for crust

Ingredients for filling:
Adapted from ChocolateSuze

8 Granny Smith apples
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp flour

*Preheat oven to 350F

1. Slice apples.  I personally like them very thin, but I know it can be a pain to individually slice every single apple like I did …

2. Combine all the ingredients in a pot.  Stir on medium heat for ~10 minutes or until apples are soft.

3. Place crust in pie pan.  This crust is a little hard to work with because it’s quite crumbly.  For the bottom crust, I just broke off small pieces of the crust and flattened it into the pie pan.  Then because I know a lattice crust wouldn’t work with such a crumbly dough, I used my gingerbread man cookie cutter and cut little gingerbread men and arranged them so there was enough overlap to act like a top crust.

4. Beat 1 egg and brush lightly over crust.

5. Bake for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

I made these because everyone always raves about how good the Red Lobster cheddar bay biscuits are, so I tried to recreate them for Thanksgiving.

Imitation Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits
Adapted from Rasa Malaysia

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
dash of sugar (I just eyeballed a small handful)
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 cup baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
2/3 cup milk
1 cup cheddar cheese (shredded)
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley

*Preheat oven to 400F

1. Combine flour, sugar, powdered milk, salt and baking powder.  Cut in shortening.

2. Add milk and cheddar cheese to the dry ingredients and mix to combine.

3. Roll dough into small balls and bake for 8-10 minutes.

4. Melt butter and add garlic powder and dried parsley.

5. Take biscuits out of the oven and brush with the butter-garlic-parsley mixture.  Pop back into the oven for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the tops begin to brown.

Portuguese Egg Tarts

*EDIT: So I  made these again yesterday for a friend’s birthday and changed the crust recipe because I wasn’t really satisfied with the one below and I have to say it came out a LOT better.  I HIGHLY recommend using this following really simple crust recipe with the custard filling.  It’s really good :)

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup flour
A bit of sugar (I just grabbed a small handful and tossed it in)
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 cup shortening, chilled
3 tbsp chilled water

1. Combine flour, sugar and salt.  Cut in the shortening until you get a crumbly meal.

2. Slowly add water until dough JUST comes together.

3. wrap in saran wrap and  chill for at least half an hour before using.

As I mentioned in my brief bio, I was inspired to start baking by a childhood dream of owning a Chinese bakery.  The interesting thing is, I very infrequently bake Chinese pastries.  I’ve made lor mai chi and my mom’s favorite taro cake before, but I’ve always been far too intimidated by my memory of their deliciousness to even attempt to recreate these goods.  This past weekend, however, I threw caution to the wind and made Portuguese egg tarts for the first time.  You may say – but that’s not a Chinese pastry!  This is true … but a quick google search tells me that the pastel de nata (Portuguese egg tart) was brought to Macau and adopted quite heartily by the Chinese. The Chinese, particular those in nearby Hong Kong created a riff by making their own Hong Kong-style egg tarts in the 1940s. The resulting Cantonese dahn taht has become ubiquitous with Chinese bakeries and dim sum houses.  So, interestingly, the Portuguese version came first.

In any case, I’ve always feared making these because I always find the custard part too egg-y tasting, but I have to say that this recipe is a winner :)  It actually does taste like the real thing.  The original recipe didn’t use its own pastry crust, so I included my trusty sweet flaky crust recipe for you.  The feedback that I’ve gotten from my tart is that the crust was too thick, so I would probably make it thinner the next time.  But the custard came out beautifully and it was delicious :)

Portuguese Egg Tarts (makes 10 tarts)
Adapted from Rasa Malaysia

Ingredients for crust, made from scratch:
3 cups flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, chilled and cubed
3/4 cups milk, chilled

1. Mix together flour, sugar and salt.

2. Cut in the butter until you get a coarse meal.

3. Add milk 1/4 cup at a time until thoroughly mixed.

4. Wrap dough in saran wrap and chill in the refrigerator for >2 hours.

Ingredients for filling:
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup of milk
3 drops of vanilla extract

*Preheat oven to 400F and butter muffin tin

1. Mix all the ingredients with an electric beater for 3 minutes.

2. Strain all the ingredients (I admit I don’t own a strainer so I didn’t do this and it was still fine)

3. Take the chilled dough and roll a little ball onto a floured surface.  Flatten the ball into a disc and place gently into the muffin tin.  If you have too much dough, just use a knife to cut off the excess dough so you get a nice tart.

4. Pour in the filling until it’s 3/4ths of the way full.

5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the top is browned.  It took me 20 minutes.

Enjoy! =)

Carrot Cake

About one year ago, several friends and I went to Korean BBQ to celebrate K’s birthday.  I recall being late because I was at another birthday party, but, as always, I still brought a cake.  It was red velvet without the food coloring because back then, I didn’t believe that the food coloring added anything (in retrospect, I actually believe it does add to the flavor).  It was at this celebration that I promised my other friend that I would make her a carrot cake for her birthday in November.  When her birthday rolled around, however, I ended up being on Bayview medicine call the night of her party, and I didn’t end up making her that cake.  Fast forward November 2011 – I finally made the carrot cake, pictured above, and I have to say that this recipe is a real winner :)

I have always had great episodic memory, and people always ask me how I do it.  I think the thing is that everything people say to me matters.  I pay attention and I care.  And when you do both, I find memory comes quite easily :o)

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients for the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots (I used 6 small-medium carrots)
1 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter the bottom of an 9″ springform pan, line it with parchment, re-butter the pan and lightly flour the surface and the sides.  The reason you do this is to facilitate removal of the cake when it’s done.

2. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend.

3. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time.

4. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts.

5. Pour into prepared springform pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

6. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before frosting.

Ingredients for maple cream cheese frosting:
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1. Beat all ingredients until fluffy and spreadable.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.  I doubled the amount of icing sugar because I liked a firmer consistency to my icing.  I found the 2 cups suggested by smitten kitchen to be too drippy, even after chilling.

2. Frost the cooled cake.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Streusel Ginger-Spiced Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin  muffins

On the second Monday of every October, Canadians around the world (?) celebrate Thanksgiving, a day not unlike its American counterpart, full of turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin baked goodness and giving thanks for the laughter and love of family and friends.  I have often been asked what the meaning behind Canadian thanksgiving is, and the answer is a good one because I don’t even think many Canadians know.  The truth is, Canadian thanksgiving is a patchwork of different events, culminating in the eventual adoption of the annual October thanksgiving in 1957.  The very first thanksgiving meal occurred in 1578 when Martin Frobisher, an Englishman in search of the Northwest passage, lost a ship in his fleet on his third attempt at this quest.  Demoralized, he attempted to revitalize his troops by holding a feast to celebrate the perils that they did surviv.  Subsequently, Canadians have used this arbitrary day to celebrate anniversaries and to give general thanks for the goodness of living in such a beautiful country.  Canadians so loved to give thanks that for 15 years in the 1800’s, thanksgiving was celebrated no less than 6 times a year.

The summary of all that is – thank you.  I cannot express enough times how grateful I am for the people in my life :)  And of course, to celebrate that, I made this lovely twist on a pumpkin pie, and pumpkin muffins with the leftover pumpkin to give to my awesome labmates.

Streusel Ginger-Spiced Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from Go Lightly Gourmet

Making the Crust:

1 1/3 cups of unbleached flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
¼ teaspoon of allspice
½ cup of cold butter
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons of ice water, + a little more

1. Whisk togther flour, sugar and spices until blended.

2. Cut the butter into small 1/2 inch blocks and cut it into the flour mixture until you have a coarse crumbly dough.

3. Combine the egg yolk and water in a small bowl.

4. Slowly pour the egg yolk mixture into the dry ingredients until combined.  If the mixture is still too dry, continue adding water.

5. Form a ball and wrap in saran wrap.  Place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes or overnight.

Making the pie:

1 15 oz can of pumpkin
1  cup heavy cream or half and half  or coconut milk (I used 1/2 and 1/2)
½ cup of sugar
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons of honey (I substituted with maple syrup and a pinch of sugar)
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground ginger
½ teaspoon of allspice
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
¼ teaspoon of salt

1. After your crust has been refrigerated, roll it out into a 9″ pan.  Flute the edges to make them look pretty.  Pour in some beans (this prevents the dough from puffing out when you bake the crust) or rice.  Bake for 10 minutes at 350, take out the beans/rice, bake for another 10 minutes, then cool until it’s okay to touch and freeze for another 15 minutes.

2. At this time, combine all the pie ingredients.

3. Pour pie filling into crust and bake at 350 for 50 minutes.

Making the streusel:

½ cup of unbleached flour
¼ cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
¼ cup of butter
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans

1. Whisk together flour and spices.

2. Cut the butter into 1/2″ blocks and cut into flour mixture.

3. Stir in the pecans.

4. After 50 minutes of baking, take out the pie, add the streusel topping, then pop it into the oven for another 15 minutes.

5. Cool and serve!

Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from Dine and Dish

Ingredients:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 15oz can solid-pack pumpkin
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
1¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put liners in muffin cups.

2. Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spice, 1¼ cups sugar

3. Combine baking soda, salt  and flour.  Whisk into pumpkin mixture until smooth.

4. In a separate small bowl, stir together cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.  This is the topping.

5. Divide batter among muffin cups until each cup is approximately ¾ full. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

6. Bake until wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.


Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

There is something about oatmeal raisin cookies that always evokes the feeling of home for me.  As a kid growing up in Vancouver, you would think I would have this sentiment toward pineapple buns and egg tarts (and don’t get me wrong, I certainly do!), but oatmeal raisin cookies are just comforting.  They are soft, chewy, wholesome goodness that you always imagine feeding kids after some sporting event with a nice cold glass of milk.  Maybe that’s why these cookies evoke such a sense of comfort in so many people – because the experience of having your mom bring you yummy cookies to reward you for a job well done is so universal in middle-class North America.

In any case, these cookies are perfect for packaging up and giving to people to brighten their day.  Nothing quite makes someone smile like homemade cookies :)

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Adapted from TasteFood

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat bran
1 1/2 cups raisins

1. Whisk together butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla in a large bowl.

2. Mix together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt and add everything to the butter mixture.  Stir until fully incorporated.

3. Add oats, wheat bran and raisins into the mixture.

4. Wrap dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.  I refrigerated overnight.  Apparently the secret to a great oatmeal raisin cookie is to refrigerate it overnight.  After reading several recipes, this appears to be the general consensus.

5. Drop cookie dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Set them approximately 1 inch apart.

6. Bake 12-14 minutes in a preheated 375F oven.  When they come out, they should be really crumbly.  They should stick together much better after they’ve cooled.  Resist the urge to overbake them because you’ll burn the bottom if you do.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins



When the temperature dips to a perfect 15C, my runs are filled with the crunch of swirling leaves and my home is filled with the scent of apples, cinnamon and pumpkin, I know that autumn has arrived.  I don’t have any poignant thoughts today, other than my sincerest wish that I could share one of these apple cinnamon muffins with you.  Stay warm, wherever you are :)

Apple Cinnamon Muffins:
Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 apples peeled, cored, diced (I used honeycrisp)
Brown sugar for topping (around 1/2 cup)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with paper liners.

2. Cream together sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla.

3. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon (okay, the truth?  I never sift because, let’s face it, I don’t own a fancy sifter.  BUT what I do is I toss the four around a bit with a fork and loosely measure it out and it’s always turned out fine)

4. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix until combined. The batter will be very thick.  Almost like a cookie.  This is okay.  It’s supposed to be like this.  Don’t freak out.

5. Add the diced apples.

6. Fill paper liners almost to the top, about 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle with brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-24 minutes. Makes 18 muffins.