Thursday, February 26, 2009

Coconut Cupcakes Recipe

Once in a while, something will come out of my kitchen that truly amazes me.

These coconut cupcakes definitely qualify.

I was inspired to make these by an episode of Good Eats. The talented Alton Brown was on a quest to make the perfect coconut cake, and I was so intrigued by his recipe, that I had to try it out.

There were two reasons I wanted to try out this recipe.

  • It uses not one, not two, not three but four different forms of coconut
  • I get so excited when I see a recipe that uses a fresh ingredient where I've always been using ready made ingredients, in this case shredded coconut. I've always used the dessicated kind that you buy in a bag so I was stoked to try to take a whole coconut and make it into a bowl full of perfect shreds of fresh coconut.
Lastly, I'll say that I was extremely tempted to add pineapple flavour to these. It took all of my self control to just allow them to be plain coconut flavoured, without so much as a hint of vanilla. And am I ever glad! They turned out light and fluffy with the most exquisite coconut flavour I've ever experienced. The light, airy texture of the cupcakes meant that too much frosting could overpower them, so rather than pipe a big swirl, I just spread the frosting with a spatula and then flipped them upside down and dipped them in a bowl of the fresh, shredded coconut.

To make the shredded coconut, first drain the coconut by using a hammer to poke holes into its three 'eyes' with a screwdriver and then placing over a bowl until all of the coconut water drains out. Place the coconut on its side and hit with a hammer a few times until it cracks and you can split it in half. Separate the meat from the shell by sliding a dull knife (I used a butter knife) between them, and then cut the brown rind from the meat using a paring knife. Wash the white parts of the coconut to remove any bits of fibre and place pieces in a food processor using the grater disk.

Here is the recipe, which is Alton Brown's with the following changes:
  • Adapted from a cake recipe to a cupcake recipe
  • Used buttercream frosting rather than 7-minute frosting (I ran out of eggs)
Recipe: Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Buttercream frosting

  • 14 1/4 oz cake flour,approximately 3 cups
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream
  • 8 oz butter, room temperature
  • 16 oz sugar, approximately 2 1/4 cups
  • 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 4 egg whites

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 shortening
  • 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 5 Tbsp coconut milk
  • Grated coconut from 1 coconut, approximately 8 to 10 ounces

For the Cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Makes about 30 cupcakes.

Place the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

Combine the coconut milk and coconut cream in small bowl and set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, cream on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the sugar slowly over 1 to 2 minutes. Once all of the sugar has been added, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer back on to medium speed and continue creaming until the mixture noticeably lightens in texture and increases slightly in volume, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut extract.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture to the butter and sugar in 3 batches, ending with the milk mixture. Do not over mix.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter, just until combined. Fill cupcake cups about 2/3 full. Place in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 25 minutes or until cupcakes start to become golden brown around the edges and a toothpick pressed in the center comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in the pans for 10 minutes then remove and transfer to a cooling rack.

For the Frosting:
Cream butter and shortening together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium speed.Add coconut extract and mix to combine.

Gradually add icing sugar until combined. Add coconut milk, 1 Tbsp at a time until the frosting reaches desired consistency.

Spread frosting on top of each cupcake and then dip cupcakes in shredded coconut to coat the tops.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Feb 24th Snack Bento

Most of my time this morning was spent making breakfast (four-grain strawberry and banana pancakes. Yum!), so I just threw together the quickest of snack bentos as BF was getting ready to leave.
The dumplings are gyoza from a batch I made this weekend (recipe: here). I couldn't get my hands on round gyoza wrappers so I ended up buying square wonton wrappers instead. Originally I had planned to cut them into circles, but when I discovered that you can fold the square ones into these adorable pyramids, I left them the way they were.

To fold dumplings this way, first brush the outer perimeter of the square with water and then place about a teaspoon of filling in the middle. Fold in two diagonally opposite corners and pinch the tip to connect them together. Fold up the remaining two corners and press together the seams to seal them. Pinch the tip once more.

I like the way these look so much that I might start doing them this way on a regular basis. I cooked them by frying them until the bottoms were brown and then steaming for an additional 7 minutes. Wonton wrappers are thicker than round gyoza wrappers so they hold up really well when frying.

To add some colour and to stabilize the gyoza, I included a few pieces of steamed broccoli and some blackberries. The sauce bottle contains a mixture of rice vinegar and soy sauce.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

February 19th Bento Lunch

The honest truth is that I've been making more bento lunches than I've been posting.

The thing is though, because we're in the middle of winter (There's a blizzard raging outside as I type this!) I've been using the thermal bento sets almost exclusively. I am so in love with these bento boxes! I packed hot yakiudon in them this past weekend for a ski trip. The lunch boxes sat in a freezing cold car for 4 hours while we skiied and by some miracle, they were still warm at lunch time. I was amazed.

When I first purchased these, my intention was to pretty much live off Thai curries for the winter, and although I've definitely had my share of curries, I've expanded into soups, stews and chili as well.

And the thing is, those kinds of foods are...well...ugly.

So, given the fact that I already find it challenging to make the thermal bento lunches look cute just due to the size/shape of them, and then compound that with the fact that most of the foods I've been using have been inherently not cute, I've been a bit reluctant to post most of the lunches I've been making.

On the positive side though, the lunches have been incredibly delicious! Here is today's:
In the main container, there is some home made lamb stew (the recipe is here, on my other blog). Although hideous, it's an incredibly hearty and flavourful mix of carrots, potatoes, onions and the softest bites of lamb you can imagine.

In the container on the right, I first placed a sweet potato biscuit in the bottom. The recipe is from Paula Deen's website and they are heavenly. I've made two batches in one week! For the bento, I've sliced it in half, buttered it, and then cut it into bite sized pieces. On top of that are some cheddar cheese flowers to go with it. I've also included a Valentine's heart shaped truffle for dessert.

The container on the left contains simple apple pieces (rubbed with lemon so that they don't brown) and some blueberries.

I would love to hear any ideas that you have to make these types of lunches cuter!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Biggest Baking Project Ever! Valentine's Day Cupcakes with Sugar Cookies

I love any excuse to bake. I especially love any excuse to bake cupcakes.

BF knows this, so he will often volunteer me to provide the baked goods for events we go to, and then he lets me know later.

Last week he came home from work and said "I may have mentioned to my boss that you would make Valentine's cupcakes for everyone in the office."

Me: "How many are we talking?"

BF: "No more than 70 I think."

I mulled that over in my mind for a moment. I had never made 70 cupcakes at once before. It seemed like a whole lot of work, so why stop there?

I said "What if you brought me a list of everyone you work with and I'll make everyone a special sugar cookie with their name on it and then put the cookies on top of cupcakes?"

BF said that sounded like a great idea, and that's how I dug myself a huge hole.

Oh my.

What a lot of work it was.

In total I made 85 cupcakes. 81 were personalized and I included 4 extras in case I missed anyone and because if there's one thing I know, it's that a batch of cupcakes will always attract more people than you expected.

Making treats for such a large group of strangers presented some new considerations from my usual cupcake making. I had to be careful to choose flavours that were widely appealing and to accomodate any allergies. As it turned out, only one person had an allergy and that was to wheat, so I made her marzipan covered cherries since they are quick and easy to make and anything with flour was out of the question. I chose to do plain vanilla cupcakes with a dollop of chocolate batter on top of each one for a sort of marble cupcake. Knowing that the cupcakes were plainly flavoured and that the cookies would be plainly flavoured, I kicked up the frosting a notch, using a pomegranate buttercream rather than something plain.

I made the cookies using the same method and recipes as the snowflake cookies I made at Christmas, sugar cookies with royal icing. Where I was baking such a huge quantity, I decided to use only recipes and techniques that I've used before and loved rather than trying something new and risking making a mistake or an inferior product. I love to experiment, but not when people are counting on me.

The pomegranate molasses in the frosting lent itself best to making the frosting a pale pink, so I chose colours for the cookies that would go well with pale pink and keep with the Valentines theme. I went with purple, white and a bright pink. I reserved about 1/4 cup of each colour of icing to do the lettering.

At first I was a little shaky with the writing (and daunted by the thought of fitting some of the longer names on the small cookies. It took me three tries to fit "Anastasia" on a cookie) but as I progressed, the letters became neater and the spacing of the letters became more consistent. This project definitely increased my confidence in my piped lettering. I used a Wilton #1 tip. The end result was absolutely adorable cookies that sort of resembled Love Hearts candies. I was so thrilled when they were done and they were all perfect.

Once the cookies were done, I started on the cupcakes. I made two batches of vanilla cupcake batter and one batch of chocolate and then combined them in each cupcake. The last step was to frost them and place a cookie on each one.

Here is a close-up of some of the cupcakes so you can see how they looked. Click on the picture to enlarge it.

I didn't have a big enough cupcake carrier to hold so many, so BF brought home some lids from paper boxes and we filled them up. It completely filled three of them.

To make distribution easier for BF, I ordered them by the seating arrangement at his work, separating the cupcakes by team, and then indicating where a team ends by placing a manager's cupcake which had a larger cookie. That way he could easily scan the cupcakes to determine which section of cupcakes went to which section of his office floor.

Amazingly, the whole thing went off without a hitch. There were enough cupcakes for everyone and by the end of the day, there were none left for BF to bring home. I'm so proud of myself for pulling this off and it's reaffirmed for me that I would like to be a baker as a profession. Spending an eight hour day in the kitchen flies by for me. I just love to bake! BF said that everyone loved them and was excited that they were personalized. It was definitely worth the effort.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Bailey's Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting Recipe

My friend had a birthday celebration this past weekend (his champagne birthday, no less!), so of course I made cupcakes. He asked for Bailey's flavoured, so that's what I made!
I was worried that these would come out boozy, with that unmistakenable alcohol taste because there is so much Baileys in them, but they actually turned out really nice. The Irish cream flavour of the Bailey's is definitely present and bold, but they don't have an alcohol aftertaste. I was really pleased with them.

I went with chocolate buttercream for the frosting because it seemed like a natural pairing, inspired by one of my favorite winter drinks, Bailey's and hot chocolate. My friend appreciates silly things, so I went with a traditional kid's birthday cake sort of look, with purple polka dotted cupcake wrappers and dinosaur sprinkles (both Wilton). He loved them!

Recipe: Baileys Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting


Cupcakes (Makes approx. 30 cupcakes)

1 cup of butter, room temperature
2 cups of sugar
4 eggs, separated and at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of Bailey's liqueur

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (about 3 or 4 minutes). Add egg yolks one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Add vanilla and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture, alternating with Baileys and mixing well after each addition. Batter should be thick, but if it comes out dry, add a splash of milk.

In another bowl, beat egg whites with clean beaters until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the cupcake batter until the colour of the batter is uniform.Fill lined cupcake cups half full. Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick.



1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
3 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp vanilla
3-4 Tbsp milk

Cream together butter and shortening. Add vanilla and milk and mix well. Combine icing sugar and cocoa and gradually add to the creamed mixture. Add more milk if necessary.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

February 4th Bento Lunch

I broke out the thermal bento box today. Please excuse the condensation on the lids. I keep the lids on until I'm ready to take the picture to keep the heat in the thermal container and to keep the other two containers from drying out.
The main component of the lunch is a delectable Thai red curry soup (the recipe is here) that is full of noodles and veggies in a yummy coconut milk broth.

In the container on the left, I also threw in a heart shaped bonito onigiri for some additional carbs. I had some yummy honey mustard chicken I wanted to put in this bento, but BF said he would rather have more pulled pork so that I what I used. There are a few pea sprouts for colour and crunch in there as well.

In the second container there are three stalks of steamed asparagus along with some tangerine wedges and a few honey dates. Once everything was packed up, I put a little individually wrapped After Eight mint for a sweet bite.

In hindsight, I realize that I forgot to pack a spoon for the soup! Hopefully BF can snag one while he's at work.

Monday, February 02, 2009

February 2nd Bento Lunch

I was determined to get back into the bento lunch making habit this week, but I ended up not having much time this morning, so this is what I managed to pull together.

There are two onigiri filled with a mixture of bonito flakes and soy sauce. One is upset that he is going to be eaten for lunch while the other is happy to see that I'm making bento lunches again! I decided to cut out the nori by hand rather than with punches because these are quite large onigiri and I think the punches would have made eyes that were too small. It's actually not to hard to hand cut the eyes if you start with a small square of nori. For the mad eyes, I cut two small triangles from the square and cut off the outer corner. For the happy eyes, I just cut out an even smaller square from the original nori square.

For protein, there is some pulled pork leftover from the weekend (the recipe for it is here). For veggies we have zucchini, carrots and bean sprouts that have been steamed as well as some raw red pepper strips. For fruit there are some peeled blood orange segments (the colours aren't as bright if you don't peel them) and I included a little green tea flavoured tea cake for dessert.

Quick and simple!