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the great malt ball debate: a clash of cultures

“What do you mean malt balls? What are malt balls?”
“Malt balls.. you know, powdered malted milk balls covered with chocolate…”
“Nope, doesn’t ring a bell…”
“What? Of course you know malt balls.. like maltesers, you love maltesers!”
“Yeah, I know maltesers. But not malt balls. No one calls them malt balls.”
“What??! But that’s what they are! Maltesers ARE malt balls. Like kleenex are tissues!”
“That’s crazy talk.” (or something like that).
“What?! You’re crazy! That’s exactly what they are, what else would you call them?!”
“Maltesers. But anyway, she’ll like the cake, whatever it is.”
“That’s not the point now! And some people DON’T like them! Just ask her, she’ll know.”

This was the conversation that ensued when I asked my British other half to find out if his sister liked malt balls.  It was her birthday and a cake was called for, but as usual, I was paralyzed with indecision as to which underused cookbook/impulse buy to draw on.  I’ve managed to make one recipe out of Baked before – and although that cake put me through hell, it was damn good.. So I figured their Malt-ball Cake deserved a go too.  Having read a few reviews by parties claiming to be less than keen on the malt flavour after all, I just wanted to be sure the birthday girl would appreciate my pick…

[phone call made]
“She doesn’t know what malt balls are. But she said she’ll like whatever you make.”
Argh.

i need a spirit level

The cake turned out beautifully – pure white with a meltingly soft texture and what I’d describe as a tight (but certainly not dense) crumb.  While the Baked boys opt for a simple chocolate ganache frosting, I decided to double up on the malty magic by using a malted milk chocolate frosting from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book.  Be warned, it’s very rich.  But very good. The texture threw me a bit actually, as it seemed slightly.. tacky (if that makes sense to anyone?).. in the bowl, but that might have been the milk chocolate I used and it tasted delicious nonetheless.

And the combination was killer.

You can find the recipe for the Baked cake here, but in respect for the SMS enterprise, I’m going to hold out on posting the Sweet Melissa frosting recipe.. (I’m happy to email it though if anyone is in desperate need!) xx

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sms: chocolate creme caramel… sauce, doh

This week’s ‘back with a bang’ SMS recipe was for Chocolate Creme Caramels.  Unfortunately, there was less bang and more flop here in my kitchen… and I accept full responsibility.  Things started out well – I had all the ingredients, read through the recipe in full (for once), chopped up the chocolate in advance, combined the syrup, honey, etc in my saucepan, stood my spiffy digital thermometer at attention, and waited…. and waited…. and waited…. After about 35 minutes, my syrupy mass started to bubble and rise..then REALLY rise, right up to the very top of the saucepan (sending me into a bit of a panic), but after 45 minutes, when it STILL hadn’t reached even 240F, my patience ran out.  I gave up the boil, added the chocolate and vanilla, then poured the whole shebang into a pan and crossed my fingers.

No luck. As you can see, the caramel failed to harden, so now I’ve got a bucketful of something in between sauce and sludge.  But hey-ho, at least it’s tasty.. in fact, it would probably make a luscious ice-cream topping, warmed up enough..    Big thanks to Jeannette for choosing this would-be yummy treat (you can find the recipe on her gorgeous blog), because despite my flop, at least I’ve come away with a new resolution: Be more patient – good caramel comes to those who wait x

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ginger v maple

Christmas means gingerbread. That’s a given. There was no way around it.

But my fridge demanded a clear out before I could get down & dirty with any more holiday baking…  and it seemed a crime to waste a bowl full of fluffy maple cream cheese frosting… So I went wild.  Gingerbread + Maple Frosting.  Yep, that’s right, I dared to pair two such mighty flavours… and while others might balk, I think it tasted divine.

Gingerbread Cupcakes (from Crazy About Cupcakes by Kristina Castella)
Makes 20-24

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup light molasses
2 teaspoons lemon zest (I omitted this)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup sour cream (I used yoghurt instead, as that was what I had on hand)
* I also added 2 tablespoons of chopped crystallized ginger for an extra spicy kick

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (350 F for dark pans). Insert liners into a medium cupcake pan.
2. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add the egg, molasses, and lemon zest to creamed mixture. Beat well.
3. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
4. Add portions of the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with portions of the sour cream, until they are completely integrated, about 30 seconds.
5. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pan on a wire rack.

*To be completely honest, I found these just a wee bit dense, slightly more muffin than cupcake-like, but the spices were perfect and I ended up gobbling 4 anyway..so give ’em a go and let me know what you think.  Ironically, I used this recipe instead of this month’s MSC pick because so many of my lovely bakemates found that one dense and dry. doh. I thought the sour cream / yoghurt would offer more moisture and a lighter texture, but perhaps not.  That’ll teach me to shirk my monthly duties. Although I wasn’t enamoured with the cupcakes themselves, I think the recipe works beautifully for whoopie pies.  To make whoopies (hyuk hyuk), line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and use a piping bag to pipe out 2 inch rounds of dough.  Bake them for about 5 minutes until puffy and golden at the edges (sorry, can’t remember exactly how long they took).  Fill with maple cream cheese frosting and enjoy xx

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

12 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. unsalted butter (cut into small chunks)
5-7 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbs. maple syrup
1 tsp. maple extract (if you’re lucky enough to have it!)

Bung the cream cheese and butter in the food processor and whizz til combined.  Add 3 cups of the powdered sugar along with the maple syrup and maple extract, then whizz again.  Add the rest of the powdered sugar cup by cup, processing after each addition, until you get the desired consistency

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msc: candied sweet potato cupcakes

Apologies for the delay folks – I’ve been away for the past few days on whirlwind bachelorette/hen do in Dubai, so I’m posting late and posting in brief (with a lingering hangover + sleep deprivation to blame..)   I baked these tater-ific (hyuk hyuk) treats up a few weeks ago knowing I’d be donning a swimsuit over the weekend rather than an apron, and whoamama am I glad  I didn’t miss out.

These were easy enough to throw together – even with the added step of baking the sweet potatoes – and they filled our tiny flat with the most delicious spicy sweet smell.  I cranked up the cinnamon a bit out of habit and pure cinnamon love, but followed the cake recipe to the letter apart from that.  For the topping, on the other hand, I went off piste. but only slightly.  Instead of melting a few marshmallows and sprinkling on candied pecan as Martha instructs, I opted to make the marshmallow frosting on page 151.

The cakes themselves came out deliciously moist and moorish, and the frosting recipe yielded a perfectly pipe-able mass of billowy marshmallow that set up into nice, firm peaks for torching – but the combination got mixed reviews.  It seems the sticky-firm marshmallow texture came as a bit of a shock to some, and my star taster Big J suggested that a cream cheese frosting would have been a better choice.  Others seemed to like the marshmallow though, so I guess it comes down to personal taste.  (My preference is and always will be cream cheese frosting though, so I know what I’ll be making next time).  Big thanks to Karen for choosing such a tasty, fun recipe this month!  Please check out the site for  peek at how the other (organized, timely.. ahem) MSCers got on with this one x

While we’re on the topic of spicy treats….. I missed the last few SMS picks, (much to my belly’s horror and my waist’s benefit) but I just wanted to big up these gingersnaps, which I baked up for the pear & cranberry muffins with gingersnap crumble before I left for Dubai.  Unfortunately, due to bad planning and poor time keeping, the muffins never materialized, but the cookies were a yummy consolation prize x

 

perfect with a tall glass of milk

 

 

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recipe update: whipped caramel ganache & salted caramel topping

So… I just wanted to set things right today, after my vicious anti-caramel rant in the last post…ahem.  While the Sweet & Salty cake was a beast to put together – because everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong – I can’t blame the Baked boys.  The whipped ganache frosting and its salted caramel partner are seeeeeeeeeeeeriously good… and I can say that with authority because I’ve only just now dug in properly.  That’s right folks – I saved this behemoth for over a week (!) and it’s still decadently delicious.

So decadent that only one (moderately sized!) piece has done me in. one. that’s unheard of.  So I’m posting the recipe for the whole shebang now (seeing as its posted all over the place already), and I strongly encourage anyone who doesn’t plan to make charcoal out of the caramel or nuke the daylights out of the frosting to have a go.  You may curse me at first, but I’m guessing you’ll thank me later…

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Chocolate Cake *I used the Devils food cake from Sweet Melissa instead (which you can find here), so I can’t vouch for this one!

Makes one 8-inch 3-layer cake
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup sour cream
2 2/3 cups cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line each pan with a parchment paper round, butter parchment paper and flour; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa, 1 1/4 cups hot water, and sour cream; set aside to cool, about 10 minutes.
In another large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together until smooth and it appears to create strings inside the bowl, about 7 minutes. Add both sugars and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Add vanilla, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and mix again for 30 seconds. Add flour mixture alternating with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Divide batter evenly among the three prepared pans. Bake until cake is just firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 18 to 24 minutes. Let cool completely.

Salted Caramel

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream

Combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, mix together cream and salt. Bring cream to a boil and cook until salt has dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
When the caramel mixture has reached 350 degrees, remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 minute. Carefully add the hot cream to the caramel; stir to combine. Whisk in sour cream. Cool, and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

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Whipped Chocolate Caramel Ganache

1 pound dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 pound (4 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, softened but still cool

Combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.
In another small saucepan add cream and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.
When the caramel mixture has reached 350 degrees, remove from heat and allow to rest for 1 minute. Add the hot cream to the caramel; stir to combine. Let cool 5 minutes. Place chocolate in the bowl of an electric mixer and pour caramel sauce over chocolate. Let sit 1 minute before stirring from the center until chocolate is melted.
Attach bowl to electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Add butter and increase speed to medium-high until mixture is well combined, thickened, and slightly whipped, about 2 minutes.

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To assemble the cake

Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate. Using about 1/4 cup of the caramel, spread a thin layer on the cake, allowing some of the caramel to soak into the cake. Follow the caramel layer with a layer of about 1 cup of the ganache icing. *The caramel didn’t really soak in for me, so I just popped the cake + caramel layer in the freezer before topping with ganache, just so the second layer didn’t slide everywhere leaving me with a sloppy mess on my hands… Place the second layer on top and repeat process with another layer of caramel followed by a layer of ganache icing. Place the remaining layer on top of the second layer bottom side up. Spread entire cake with remaining ganache icing. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.

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getting messy... and way too heavy handed with the middle layer

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the finished product.. that finished me...

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SMS: shame

Right. well.  I admit it, I didn’t get around to this week’s scrummy-sounding sticky buns.  Bad June, Bad!
Life keeps getting in the way these days, so much so that  I’ve lost track of what I’m juggling… making a to-do list is on my to-do list.  So instead of gloriously sweet, syrup-soaked buns of morning glory, I’m making do with pictures from my trip to NYC a few weeks ago – which involved MUCH joyous burrito munching and a pilgrimage to the Sweet Melissa Bakery (and to Baked… and Crumbs… and Babycakes… and Billy’s… and Junior’s…)

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cue drool

chocolatey peanut-butter heaven

chocolatey peanut-butter heaven

my beautiful mum, who stuck with a pot of tea. willpower of steel.

my beautiful mum, who stuck with a pot of tea. willpower of steel.

unspeakably good. so good I bought a second. blessed takeaway, I love the states..

unspeakably good. so good I bought a second. blessed takeaway, I love the states..

me and the goods

me and the goods

Rachel's veggie burritos. this is what I travel 3500 miles for.

Rachel's veggie burritos. this is what I travel 3500 miles for.

IT'S THE SIZE OF MY HEAD!

IT'S THE SIZE OF MY HEAD! life doesn't get better than this

but then.. it does

but then.. it does

Big sorry to Jen of oot Microwave Safe for missing out on her brilliant pick, but have a look at what the rest of the (well organized, competent, successful) SMS group made of this one!!  Looking forward to getting my act together for next week’s treat x

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SMS: Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble

I’m back!! and baking! once again, this’ll be a quickie because I’ve got to battle massive jet lag tomorrow morning and get up early for the first day of my new placement.. I’m feeling the pain already…

I flew back and managed to throw this week’s SMS pick together last night before our houseguest arrived today – and I’m SO happy we’ve got an extra taster because I reeeeeeally overdid myself on holiday, so from now on I’ve GOT to  size down.  Er, after the crumble.. which is yummy, by the way..  so yummy that I’m on my third helping… and the worst part is, I know it’ll make me feel ill, but it’s just toooooo good.. It’s autumn  with a side of double cream, how could anyone resist??!

IMG_1638I chose to assemble the recipe yesterday and freeze it, as Melissa suggests, so I could pop it in the oven today after the chelsea game. it was a good call, go me. and go chelsea – we won, woohoo!!!  I used granny smiths because that’s all my local had, and I’m glad I did – any sweeter and I would’ve had to stick with one portion.. (if only).  In fact, I even cut down on the sugar by adding only 2/3 cup to the apples, rather than 1 whole cup, and I might go even stingier next time.  I might also cut down on the baking time because I think a bit more bite to the apples would be nice.. You can see the prebaked, frozen crumble above.. but I promise I’ll try to post another finished photo tomorrow, if I can  restrain myself from eating the last portion tonight.. (cross your fingers)

Big thanks to Cristine for choosing such a great fall intro & don’t forget to check out the blogroll to see what the other SMSers made of this one xx

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