Vegan and sugar free Banoffee Coconut Chia Pudding

If you haven’t figured it out already, I’ve got a pretty big sweet tooth.  I bloody love chocolate, cakes, slices, pies…you name it, I probably like it.  So when my friend and CRR supporter Anna found a vegan and sugar free dessert recipe, I wasn’t exactly all gung-ho about the idea.  It’s not a dessert unless there’s something sweet and not all too healthy for you.  But hey, I’m open to trying things out, and just maybe this dessert will change my mind about anything sugar-free.

This dessert would be perfect for Valentine’s Day, as it’s served in individual cups, it has chocolate, and well…it’s a dessert!

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This recipe is from Taste.com.au, and as you might know if you’ve been following the blog, that website is a bit hit or miss. There’s been on more than one occassion where I’ve found steps missing, ingredients not listed in instructions, or the recipe itself leads to a lacklustre end product.  So already before starting I was on the fence about this already.

But anyway, here we go!

Check out the review video here.

 

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Here’s the original recipe:

  • 54g (1/4 cup) black chia seeds
  •  270ml can light coconut milk
  •  2 1/2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  •  2 tablespoons water
  •  60ml (1/4 cup) rice malt syrup
  •  1 teaspoon coconut oil
  •  1 large banana, sliced
  •  Pinch sea salt flakes
  •  Roasted coconut chips, to serve
  •  Raw cacao nibs, to serve (optional)
  1. Place chia seeds, coconut milk, cacao powder, water and 2 tablespoons of the rice malt syrup in a blender. Blend until almost smooth. Divide among four 125ml (1/2 cup) glasses. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to chill.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the banana, turning carefully, for 30-60 seconds each side or until golden and caramelised. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with sea salt. Drizzle with remaining rice malt syrup. Cool for 2 minutes.
  3. Top the puddings with banana and drizzle with pan juices. Sprinkle with the coconut chips, and cacao nibs, if using.

The Good, the bad, the inedible

Let’s talk dollars.  This recipe is fucking expensive.  Not just expensive.  Fucking expensive.  I spent nearly $40 on the ingredients.  Now I don’t know about you, but I could spend $40 on food easily.  But $40 usually lasts me a week in groceries.  So quite frankly if you’re living on a budget, don’t do this recipe.  It’s ridiculous to think that health and organic food can be significantly more pricey than economical (and let’s face it) unhealthier food.  It’s sad, and pathetic.

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Okay, rant over!

Worth adding here also that this recipe is not technically 100% sugar free.  Rice malt syrup happens to contain different forms of glucose, but not fructose, which is the refined sugar that is oh so bad for us.  So this recipe can’t actually be called sugar free.  Thanks to a commentator called SudsEats for pointing this out.

I was a bit surprised by this recipe.  It’s incredibly easy to make.  There was just one problem (okay, it’s technically a second problem if you count the whole price thing).  This pudding is called “Banoffee Coconut Chia pudding”. However, you can’t taste the coconut at all in the recipe.

No I’m serious. It doesn’t take like coconut at all.

You would think that if there’s a food within the name that the food product would actually taste like it.  I was expecting this to almost taste similar to a Bounty.  It was so far from it.  Instead it really just tasted like chocolate, so perhaps this should be called Banoffee Chocolate Chia Puddings.

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But for those of you out there who love the taste of coconut, there’s still hope! I tried a few different alternatives to adding water and the winning combination was….drum roll…..coconut extract and time! Coconut liquor added some coconut flavour, but not enough to really taste a difference with the original recipe.  Coconut extract plus leaving the puddings in the fridge for as long as possible (try overnight) however added the perfect amount of coconutty goodness.  It was delish!

Just a word of caution, if you want to ensure this dessert remains sugar free, double check your extract doesn’t contain any added sugar. Most extracts I found don’t but worth confirming.  You never know!

So if you love chocolaty goodness, keep the recipe the same.  Otherwise, here’s the improved, significantly more coconutty recipe!

Banoffee Coconut Chia Puddings

  • 54g (1/4 cup) black chia seeds
  •  270ml can light coconut milk
  •  2 1/2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  •  2 tablespoons coconut extract
  •  60ml (1/4 cup) rice malt syrup
  •  1 teaspoon coconut oil
  •  1 large banana, sliced
  •  Pinch sea salt flakes
  •  Roasted coconut chips, to serve
  •  Raw cacao nibs, to serve (optional)
  1. Place chia seeds, coconut milk, cacao powder, extract and 2 tablespoons of the rice malt syrup in a blender. Blend until almost smooth. Divide among four 125ml (1/2 cup) glasses. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight to chill. If leaving the puddings overnight, cover the pudding in plastic wrap to prevent the puddings from drying.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the banana, turning carefully, for 30-60 seconds each side or until golden and caramelised. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with sea salt. Drizzle with remaining rice malt syrup. Cool for 2 minutes.
  3. Top the puddings with banana and drizzle with pan juices. Sprinkle with the coconut chips, and cacao nibs, if using.

 

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Toffee – Easy to Make, Easy to Eat

Christmas is quite literally now around the corner.  Our tree is up, presents wrapped, our favourite Christmas movies on the telly and fruit mince pies cooling on the counter.  I have to admit, the older I get the more I love spending Christmas Eve at home with Minou and the hubster, grazing on fantastic food and drinking a special bottle from the cellar.

Every year I  make a small treat boxes for my coworkers, as a way to say thank you for a fantastic year.  I try to make a variety of goodies, but as you can imagine things can get a bit hectic around the holidays, and this year was no exception.  Since November I haven’t been exactly sure which way is up or which day it is.  It has been cray cray (in a good way) at work in the lead up to Christmas, then there was Turkey Day where the green bean casserole from my previous post was a hit, and before you know it, Christmas is here.

So this year it was time to think small and simple.  Fruit mince pies are always a hit, but this year there are a few vegetarians and religious restrictions in the team, so I needed an alternative.  Mom on Timeout’s toffee recipe came through on my Facebook feed in the nick of time.  It seemed easy enough to create and plus hey, I love hard toffee.  Win win!


Here’s my video of the test.

Here’s the original recipe:

Mom on Timeout’s “Better than Anything” Toffee

Ingredients
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 227 grams) Challenge unsalted butter (Of course, you can use your favourite butter.  Challenge butter doesn’t exist here in Australia)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Spray a 9-inch (23 centimeter) square baking dish with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
  2. Spread the chopped pecans in a single layer on top of the parchment.
  3. Add butter, sugar, and salt to a heavy bottomed 3 quart pot
  4. Bring to a boil over medium low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Once the candy is boiling, stir occasionally, slowly and evenly, until the candy has reached 290F (143 Celsius) to 300F (148 Celsius), or “hard crack” on a candy thermometer.
  6. Once the candy has reached 290F-300F, remove from heat and gently stir in the vanilla extract.
  7. Carefully pour the mixture over the chopped pecans.
  8. Let the candy sit for a few minutes, undisturbed, before sprinkling the chocolate chips over the top.
  9. Cover the baking dish with foil and let sit for 5 minutes or until the chocolate has softened.
  10. Remove the foil and gently spread the softened chocolate into an even layer. An offset spatula works best for this.
  11. Place the candy in the refrigerator and let cool completely. Give it at least 2 hours.
  12. Lift the parchment out of the baking dish and place the toffee on a cutting board or solid surface.
  13. Use a knife to gently break it into smaller pieces.
  14. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

The Good, the Bad, the Inedible

I’ve actually never made toffee, so this was an exciting challenge for me.  The recipe seems really easy, just a matter of dumping in ingredients and letting them bubble away.  What could possibly go wrong with that?

Yeah….the first test was a fail.  Absolute epic fail.  The toffee split when it hit about 250F, making the brown, curdled gluggy mess.  I had no idea what I had done wrong!  After doing some research there’s a few possibilities.

  • Stirring too hard and too often- This I think is the most likely reason.  Stirring too hard could possibly cause an abrupt temperature shift, which is a big no no for toffee.
  • Increasing or decreasing heat too drastically could also cause this.  I’ll admit I was very gentle stirring this bath, and I was using a whisk, so maybe while whisking too hard, I added too much cool air and just the force of my whisking caused it to split.
  • Using a cheap saucepan that doesn’t distribute heat properly – Yeah nah.  That’s definitely not me! Scanpan and Le Creuset all the way!
  • Humidity – water and fat don’t mix, so if it’s too humid in your kitchen this could also cause your toffee to split.

So with the second test I made sure to not stir the pot too much and too vigorously.  And that certainly helped me get a successful toffee!  Woohoo! My dentist is going to love me the next time he sees me!


There area  few things with this recipe I would change.  It’s not the ingredients, but more the order of adding ingredients in. I would add the vanilla in at the very beginning with the sugar and butter, as it does splatter around in the hot pan and also to prevent any drastic temperature changes in the toffee.  You’re not putting much vanilla in, but let’s just air on the side of caution and safety.  Nobody likes burnt fingers, hands and faces.

I would also use a 9 x 13 inch pan instead of a square 9 x 9 inch pan.  I like my toffee a bit thinner instead of thicker chunks.  But hey that’s just my personal preference, you are welcome to do what you wish!  Mom on Timeout also uses milk chocolate chips, but considering how sweet the toffee already is I used semi sweet chocolate chips in the second test to cut through the sweetness a bit.  But again you’re welcome to try either milk or dark, or maybe a combination of both if you prefer!

Here’s the amended recipe with my suggested edits:

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 227 grams) butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Spray a 9 x 13 inch (23cm x 33cm) pan square baking dish with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
  2. Spread the chopped pecans in a single layer on top of the parchment.
  3. Add butter, sugar, salt and vanilla to a heavy bottomed 3 quart pot
  4. Bring to a boil over medium low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Once the candy is boiling, stir occasionally, slowly and evenly, until the candy has reached 290F (143 Celsius) to 300F (148 Celsius), or “hard crack” on a candy thermometer.
  6. Once the candy has reached 290F-300F, carefully pour the mixture over the chopped pecans.
  7. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and let sit for 5 minutes or until the chocolate has softened.
  8. Gently spread the softened chocolate into an even layer. An offset spatula works best for this.
  9. Place the candy in the refrigerator and let cool completely. Give it at least 2 hours.
  10. Lift the parchment out of the baking dish and place the toffee on a cutting board or solid surface.
  11. Use a knife to gently break it into smaller pieces.
  12. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

 

Did my coworkers like the toffee?  Considering it was very quiet in the office as they munched on it, I reckon they did!

From my family to yours, have a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year, full of cheer and goodies!

Family Christmas Tradition: Fruit Mince Pies

Every family has one.  The one food that is always on the table at Christmas time.  It can be anything from your grandma’s casserole to your uncle’s glazed ham.  At my in-law’s house, it’s fruit mince pies.  Janet, my mum-in-law, makes hundreds of these tiny flaky, sweet pies every December to give to neighbours, team mates and friends.  There’s always a tray of these on the counter or coffee table on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and they’re pretty much all gone by the end of the day.

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Jan emigrated with her family from England to Australia when she was 14.  Her mum made these pies, and as far as we know, her mum’s mum made these too.  We don’t actually know how old the recipe as it’s never actually been written down, but I think it’s safe to assume it’s at least 100 years old.

I’ve watched Jan make these pies before and thought I had written the recipe correctly and had been making these correctly for the last couple of years.  I realised while filming Jan make these that I was doing quite a few things wrong!  So even I will be watching this video a few times when I make my next few batches!

Here’s my video on how to make these delicious pies.

There are few tips and tricks Jan told me while off camera that you should bear in mind while making these delicious little concoctions:

  • Never make the dough ahead of time.  You always want to make it fresh, and it’s easier to roll when made fresh.
  • Always use very cold lard and ice water.  The colder the lard, the flakier the pastry.

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  • When your dough starts to shrink back once rolling it a few times, it’s time to make a fresh batch.  Keep the used dough on hand, just in case you need to make a few extra tops or bottoms.
  • Always bake in a single layer.  Using both rack in your oven will cause the bottom pies to steam instead of bake.
  • Jan always uses lard for her pie pastry, never butter.  Lard makes a lighter pastry that works really well for these fruit mince pies.

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  • Jan also has always use Robertson’s Fruit Mince (or mincemeat as it’s called in the UK).  Her mum used them too.  They’ve been around for over 100 years and their product is outstanding.  You’re welcome to make your own fruit mince, but why do that when you can conveniently buy a few jars of it?
  • Jan has never used any mini pie tins, always the “patty pie” tins.  These are usually readily available in Coles and Woolies here.  If you can’t find them in your local supermarket, you can find them on Amazon. If you’re searching the net I’ve also seen them called fruit mince pie tins.

While this is an incredibly easy recipe to make, there are few steps in it and will take some time.  It would certainly be an excellent Christmas recipe to do with the kids, and they can help roll the dough and fill the pies.  Once you get the hang of it, you can churn these bad boys out in no time like Jan, who makes 10 dozen in less than two hours!

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The challenging part here is as this recipe was never written down, this is a bit of guesstimation involved in terms of the ratio of flour.  The recipe I have written down seems pretty close, which is why I’ve put “approximately” next to most ingredients. but you’re welcome to try your own amount of ingredients.  Remember though, it should always be more plain flour than self raising.  You don’t want your pies to puff up too much.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Jan’s Fruit Mince Pies

  • Approx. 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • Approx 1 cup self raising flour
  • Approx 1/2 cup caster sugar 
  • 3/4 stick of lard (lard in Australia come in 250 gram sticks.  So you need approximately 187 grams, or approximately 6.6 ounces)
  • Ice water
  • Robertson’s fruit mince
  • Egg wash
  • Icing sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, or 390 Fahrenheit.
  2. Drop the flours and sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine.
  3. Add the lard, and one a medium speed mix until blended.
  4. Add the ice water, one teaspoon at a time until the dough forms a ball.  You don’t want a sticky dough, just enough water to get all the ingredients incorporated.
  5. Drop the dough onto a floured surface and roll until it’s about 1/4 of an inch thick.  You’ll know if you’re dough is too sticky if it sticks to the surface.  If you are using a silicone mat to roll on, you want to just start to see any lines from the mat come through.
  6. Use a 4 inch cookie cutter to cut out the pie bases.  Place them into your well oiled patty pie tins and lightly press them into the molds.
  7. Fill the bases with about 1 teaspoon of fruit mince.  Don’t over fill, as the mince thins out once heated.
  8. Roll out your dough again about 1/4 inc thick and use a 2 inch cookie cutter to cut out the tops.
  9. Paint one side of the tops with water and place on top of the fruit mince.  The water helps create a seal.
  10. Use a fork to prick holes into the tops.  This is to let any steam out while they’re baking.
  11. Paint with egg wash and then bake them until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.
  12. Once cooled, get them out of the pan and onto a plate.  Dust with icing sugar.  Pack them in a Christmas tin or gift bags only once they’re fully cooled.
  13. Enjoy!

The Great Pumpkin Pie

I can already feel it.  That manic rush that creeps up from about now and doesn’t fade away until January.  That impending sense of doom and awe that the year is nearly over already.  That Christmas is around the corner (side note: seriously why do shops put up Christmas crap in SEPTEMBER???? Do you want to give me a panic attack???).

As I discussed in my last post on Green Bean Casserole, Thanksgiving, or Turkey Day as I affectionately call it, is just around the corner.  To me it’s almost a pre-game to Christmas.  A test run of our now famous spit roasted turkey and the perfect excuse to have a big barbecue with our friends.  To me, it’s not Thanksgiving unless there’s pie.  Pumpkin Pie that is.

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The only time for Pumpkin Pie is around the holidays, or I guess in Australia would even be in June/July when it’s winter.  It’s a custardy, creamy filling full of cinnamon, ginger and cloves and to me just tastes like the holidays from when I was a kid.  The only time I ever had pumpkin was in a pie.  We never had it as a savory dish in my house.  I actually never had savory pumpkin (or squash) until I moved to Australia, and I found it a bit weird at first but love it now.

Pumpkin pie is an acquired taste.  If you don’t like those spicy sweet desserts that have a lot of cinnamon in them (talking to you mum), then you may as well stop reading now.  This is just not the dessert for you.  If you’re into that kind of thing, or even Indian or Mexican desserts as they sometimes have cinnamon in them, then by all means keep reading.

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Ground cloves, ginger and cinnamon

In The States, there’s pumpkin and then there’s squash.  The pumpkins you use to make jack-o-lanterns at Halloween are pumpkins (duh), but everything else is a squash.  Don’t ask me why.  Quite frankly doesn’t make much sense to me.  Just call them all squash or pumpkin dammit!  For a pumpkin pie recipe, use whatever pumpkin you want.  Test the recipe out with different ones if you’re making some for a crowd.  I used butternut pumpkin as it was cheap at the time and also it has a sweeter flavour compared to other pumpkins we have readily available here.

I found this recipe in a book I have called A Taste of America.  I bought it off of Booktopia.com.au, but you can also get it on Amazon.com if you’re not in ‘Straya. It’s a pretty hefty book, with over 400 recipes from all over The States.  What’s great about the book is it has the imperial and metric measurements already written out (about bloody time a recipe book did that!), and photos of the creation process for each recipe.

If you want to watch my recipe test, you can on my new YouTube channel!  Or just click below.

 

Let’s get started on this bad boy.

Pumpkin Pie from A Taste of America

Pastry Crust

  • 1 1/2 cup (175 g) plain (all purpose) flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp (75 g) cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 tbsp (40 g) cold white vegetable fat (shortening), cut into pieces
  • 3-4 tbsp (45-60 ml) iced water (3 tbsp is about a shot glass worth)

Pie Filling

  • 1 lb (450 g) cooked or canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup soft brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp (60 ml) golden (light corn) syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. For the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a bowl.  Cut in the butter and fat until it resembles coarse crumbles.  Bind with iced water.  Wrap in clear film (plastic wrap) and chill for 20 minutes.
  2. Roll out the dough and line a 23 cm (9 inch) pie pan or tin. Trim off the overhang. Roll out the trimmings and cut out leaf shapes.  Wet the rim of the pastry case (pie shell) with a brush dipped in water.
  3. Place the dough leaves around the rim of the pastry case.  Chill for about 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 200 Celsius, 400 Fahrenheit.
  4. Line the pastry case with baking parchment.  Fill with baking beans and bake for 12 minutes.  Remove paper and beans and bake until golden, 6-8 minutes more.  Reduce the heat to 190 Celcius, 375 Fahrenheit.
  5. Beat together the pumpkin, cream, eggs, sugar, golden syrup, spices and salt. Pour into pastry case and bake until set, 40 minutes.

The Good

While it’s a bit time consuming to make, this recipe actually is pretty darn good.  It’s that perfect creamy, custard like texture you expect from a pumpkin pie (trust, I’m an expert!).  It would be the perfect dessert after Christmas dinner with a dollop of whipped cream.

The recipe itself also makes the perfect amount of filling for one pie.  You won’t have much wastage at all.

The recipe calls for cooked or canned pumpkin.  When I was a kid my mum would use Libby’s tinned pumpkin.  You can find this at fruit and veggie shops in Australia, but air on the side of caution.  There’s tinned pumpkin, and there’s also tinned pumpkin pie filling, with all the spices already added.  Read the label very carefully!  If you’re conscious about what you’re putting into your body, you may want to steer clear of Libby’s tinned pumpkin/pie filling because of possible additives.  Now I say in my video that it’s because it may not be actual pumpkin, but in fact that’s all because of the stupid pumpkin/squash debate.  Apparently Libby’s doesn’t use one type of pumpkin in their filling, but instead use a variety of winter “squash” or pumpkin depending on where you are.  Seriously who the fuck cares.

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Pumpkin puree

Making your own pumpkin puree is super easy.  Just make a few slits with a sharp knife in your pumpkin, and bake it a 160 degree Celsius (320 Fahrenheit) oven until a knife can easily cut through.  Let it cool and then skin and de-seed and puree.  You’ll definitely have more pumpkin on your hands than you’ll need for this recipe, but you can save it for baby food, or other recipes that call for pumpkin puree.

The Bad, but not Inedible

The pie crust is incredibly short.  I think it kind of works with the pie filling, but if you have a no fail, go-to pie pastry recipe, use it instead, let me know what the recipe is!

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I tried the second test using golden syrup.  Golden syrup is readily available here in Australia, whereas light corn syrup is not. I did manage to find light corn syrup at a cake decorating shop, as it’s used to make modelling paste (the stuff some cake decorators use to make figurines, flowers, etc). The golden syrup made the pie way too sweet, that sort of sweetness that sticks to the back of your throat and almost tastes bitter.  So if you can find it, definitely use light corn syrup.  Light corn syrup gives it that right amount of sweetness without overpowering the filling.

The other issue (well not really an issue, maybe just a translation problem) is that there’s no such thing as whipping cream in Australia.  There’s thickened cream, pouring cream, pure cream, cream for cooking, and on and on and on.  According to PopSugar, all creams contain 18% milk-fat content.  Whipping cream has 30% milk fat content, and heavy whipping cream has 35%.  Thickened cream in Australia has a 35% milk fat content and some thickening agents.  Since it was the closest in milk fat content to whipping cream this is what I used, and it came out perfectly.

Other than that though, this recipe is a keeper!  I wouldn’t change anything about it besides the crust if you want a less short pastry and sticking to the light corn syrup. So have a crack at it, and just maybe this will make it to your table this holiday season.  Enjoy!

When Life gives you Lemons…

Make some cupcakes!

I have a bit of a sweet tooth and was craving cupcakes last week.  These mini cakes can be a party in your mouth, or a heavy tasteless mess.  For me, cupcakes are always best when homemade.  I’ve never had a bakery cupcake that could top the fluffy goodness of a homemade cupcake. I already had my chocolate fix as Easter had just past, so something a bit refreshing but still sweet would do just the trick.  That’s when I stumbled upon Cooking Classy’s lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream.

I never thought would say this, but these are sheer perfection.

I’m serious.  Screw the lemonade and make Cooking Classy’s lemon cupcakes with those lemons life gave you.

The Good, the Bad, the Inedible

Man, these do not disappoint! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these cupcakes.  Five stars (or lemons) all around! There’s just the perfect amount of lemon and sweetness in the cake and frosting.  The batter is a beautiful light, fluffy, lemony goodness.

If you’re like me and are a bit of a lemonhead, there is one additional thing you could do with these bad boys.  If you can find it, use a corer to core the middle of the cupcake out. Wilton makes one of these corers, and you can find them at most cake decorating shops.  They shouldn’t set you back more than a few bucks.

Once you’ve cored the middle out, fill it to the top of the cupcake with lemon curd, jam, or whatever you want…even lollies!

Once they’re filled, then top with the delicious frosting…..and then eat them to your heart’s content!

Without further adue, here’s Cooking Classy’s perfect recipe!

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting from Cooking Classy

Ingredients

    • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup cake flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/8 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
    • 1 Tbsp lemon zest (zest of 2 medium lemons)
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 large egg whites
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 cup + 3 Tbsp buttermilk
    • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
    • Simple Syrup
    • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
    • 1 Tbsp sugar
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
  • 3/4 cup butter, nearly at room temperature (I used 1/2 cup unsalted and 1/4 cup salted)
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp lemon extract
  • Lemon slices or lemon drop candies and mint leaves for decorating (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift all-purpose flour and cake flour into a mixing bowl. Add baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk 20 seconds, set aside.
  • In a food processor, pulse together 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar with lemon zest until finely ground, about 1 minute. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together butter with lemon sugar mixture until pale and fluffy (if you don’t have the paddle attachment that constantly scrapes bowl, then occasionally throughout entire mixing process, stop mixer and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl). Mix in egg, then mix in egg whites one at a time, adding in vanilla with second egg white.
  • In the liquid measuring cup used to measure buttermilk, whisk together buttermilk with lemon juice. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter/egg mixture, then mix just until combined. Then add 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture to the butter/egg mixture and mix just until combined. Repeat process with flour and buttermilk mixture once more then finish by mixing in last 1/3 of the flour mixture. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.
  • Divide batter among 12 paper lined muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven until toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean, about 18 – 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool several minutes in muffin tin, then transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Meanwhile prepare simple syrup.
  • For the simple syrup:
  • In a small bowl, whisk together 1 Tbsp lemon juice with 1 Tbsp granulated sugar until sugar has dissolved. Brush mixture over warm cupcakes (use all of it, about 2 light coats over each cupcake). Allow cupcakes to cool completely.
  • For the Lemon Buttercream Frosting:
  • In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter with lemon zest on medium-high speed until very pale and fluffy (it should be nearly white. If using a paddle attachment that doesn’t constantly scrape bowl while mixing, then stop mixer occasionally throughout entire mixing process and scrape down bottom and sides of bowl). Mix in 1 cup powdered sugar, then blend in lemon juice, cream, vanilla extract and lemon extract. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, then whip mixture until very fluffy, about 4 – 5 minutes longer. Pipe or spread frosting over cupcakes. Decorate with lemon slices or lemon drop candies and mint leaves if desired. Store in an airtight container.

One hot chocolate Mess

I haven’t had the best of luck with cheesecakes.  The first one I ever tried was a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, which I was making for a dinner party the hubby and I were throwing at our humble abode.  Yeah…that was a memorable experience.  I nearly set the oven on fire in our then Malibu Barbie pink kitchen (Yes.  It was pink.  It was hideously pink.  Have I ever told you how much I hate the colour pink?) and I had to resort to finishing the cheesecake off on our barbecue, which much to my surprise actually worked!  And the cheesecake wasn’t half bad.  But I’ve never had a cheesecake really work smoothly, with impeccable results.

I decided the best way to start the building this blog was to return where the idea for Clem’s Recipe Reviews all began – BuzzFeed Food’s Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake.  As mentioned in my first post, this recipe is one hot mess.  And testing it for the blog again certainly did not disappoint in the epic failure that this recipe is. At least it confirmed my belief that the disastrous result was not due to human error, and I didn’t set my oven on fire!

Here’s the recipe. I’ve added metric conversion just in case you want to try this yourself –

INGREDIENTS

Crust

20 chocolate sandwich cookies
¼ cup brown sugar
7 tablespoons (99 grams) butter, melted
Cheesecake
32 ounces (907 grams) cream cheese, softened
4 ounces (113 grams) melted semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 ½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
Chocolate Ganache
16 ounces (450 grams) chocolate chips
2 cups heavy cream, hot
PREPARATION
# Preheat oven to 300˚F/150˚C.

# Place cookies in plastic bag and crush them into a fine crumb using a rolling pin. Alternatively, a food processor can be used to crush the cookies.

# Pour the cookie crumbs into a medium bowl with the melted butter and brown sugar. Mix until the crumbs take on the character of a coarse, wet sand.
# Pour the crumbs into a 9-inch spring pan. Press the crumb firmly into the pan, making sure to coat the bottom evenly. Once the crust has been formed, place it in the refrigerator to firm up.

# Add cream cheese, melted chocolate, cocoa powder, and sugar to a large bowl and whisk, either by hand or with an electric mixer, until all the ingredients are incorporated. (NOTE: If mixing by hand, it is recommended to microwave the cream cheese before whisking in order to soften it up.) Add vanilla extract and eggs, and continue to whisk until mixture is smooth and glossy.

# In a separate bowl, combine heavy cream and powdered sugar. Whisk until the cream develops a mousse-y texture and soft peaks form.

# Adding a small amount at a time, carefully fold in the whipped cream into the cream cheese batter, being careful not to let the air out of the fluffy mixture. Fold just until incorporated.

# Once combined, pour the batter over the prepared cookie crust inside the springform pan. Use a spatula to smooth out the top. Give the pan a slight jiggle to release any large air bubbles that may be trapped in the batter.

# Place the filled pan on top of a sheet of aluminium foil and fold the foil up the sides on the outside of the pan. Then place the wrapped pan into a larger baking pan or dish lined with 2 paper towels at the bottom. The aluminium foil will keep water from seeping into the bottom of the pan and the paper towels ensure that the heat is distributed evenly along the bottom of the pan. Fill the larger pan with about 1 inch of hot water.

# Bake at 300˚F/150˚C for 60-70 minutes–checking every 15-20 minutes to add more hot water to the larger dish, as necessary.

# Once out of the oven, immediately run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cheesecake to release it from the pan. Allow the cheesecake to cool completely before removing it from the pan.

# Prepare the ganache by combining chocolate chips with hot cream. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and ganache is smooth and glossy.

# Pour ganache evenly over the cooled cheesecake. Refrigerate the ganache covered cake for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

The Good, the Bad, and the Inedible

In a nutshell, this recipe…is shit. Pure shit. It’s an insult to cheesecakes everywhere. How this managed to be published just baffles me.

There’s two major things wrong with this recipe. The proportion of the ingredients is completely disproportionate to the size of pan, and the baking method actually doesn’t bake the cheesecake.

Let’s start at the beginning with the crust.

Crust

20 chocolate sandwich cookies
¼ cup brown sugar
7 tablespoons (99 grams) butter, melted

First of all, WAY too much butter.  So much so it leaks into the foil when it’s baking.  This was the very same problem with my White Chocolate Raspberry cheesecake.  Butter and a crappy rental apartment over do not mix.

Also, what’s the point of the brown sugar?  Chocolate sandwich cookies already have an incredible amount of sugar already in them (and surprisingly…some of them are vegan!), so what’s the point of adding even more to the crust? Unless you want your teeth to well and truly rot out of your skull as you’re eating this mess, there really isn’t any point in having this ingredient.

Now on to the batter.

Cheesecake
32 ounces (907 grams) cream cheese, softened
4 ounces (113 grams) melted semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 ½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar

The batter really has great potential.  Again, it’s the proportion of the ingredients that throws the recipe off into shitty food oblivion.  The ingredients create such a beautiful, decadent, glossy filling.  But good God there’s way too much mousse for this size cake pan, about 2 1/2 cups extra.  You can nearly make two of these cheesecakes if you follow these instructions to the letter.

The nail in the coffin for this recipe is the baking method.

# Place the filled pan on top of a sheet of aluminium foil and fold the foil up the sides on the outside of the pan. Then place the wrapped pan into a larger baking pan or dish lined with 2 paper towels at the bottom. The aluminium foil will keep water from seeping into the bottom of the pan and the paper towels ensure that the heat is distributed evenly along the bottom of the pan. Fill the larger pan with about 1 inch of hot water.

# Bake at 300˚F/150˚C for 60-70 minutes–checking every 15-20 minutes to add more hot water to the larger dish, as necessary.

The first time I tried this, I put the cheesecake in a large pot.

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Second time I tried it in my Sunday roast pan, thinking perhaps a lack of air flow was the culprit in this cake not baking.  Neither method worked. The result was a half baked, hot chocolate mess.  When I removed it from the pan to add the ganache, it just fell apart like in the image below.  Epic effing fail.

There was absolutely no point in continuing or re-attempting the recipe at this point.  I had already made it twice as per my rules and it certainly was not my baking skills that were putting this recipe to shame.

As I made this recipe I took notes. Heaps of notes, so I had a relatively good idea on what to do to make this recipe successful.  So I put my changes to the test. And what a relief.  The cake actually baked this time!  And it’s edible!  Incredibly rich, chocolaty yummy yummy goodness.

Now, granted I am not saying my version is absolute perfection, but it’s certainly a far cry from the failure Buzzfeed Food’s version is.  What I had to do was simple.  Reduce the amount of ingredients so there wasn’t a butter leakage problem in the crust and so much mousse leftover. I also had to simply straight bake the cheesecake in the oven.  Hot water baths are used to bring moisture into the oven as heat actually removes moisture from the air, preventing cheesecakes, custards, or other “wet” desserts from drying out and cracking.  You don’t have to necessarily use this method when baking a cheesecake, so I thought it worth trying this out sans hot water bath.  My cheesecake cracked, but it still baked.  At this point that’s all I really cared about! Next time I will probably cover the cheesecake in foil to prevent cracking once it has risen.  I still found my version moist and moussy though as the center was still a bit wiggly in the middle.

Having an actual cake to cover gave me to opportunity to test the ganache.  You can’t really go wrong with the ganache recipe since it’s so simple.  But again, there is way too much in the original recipe.   I reduced this by a quarter in my recipe. Isn’t is beautiful?  And glossy?  I’m salivating just looking at it.

So with out further a due, here’s my improved version of this recipe. I would love to hear your thoughts on it, and whether it was successful for you. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake

Crust

20 chocolate sandwich cookies
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 grams) butter, melted
Cheesecake

26 1/2 ounces (750 grams) cream cheese, softened
3 1/4 ounces (93 grams) melted semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Chocolate Ganache

12 ounces (340 grams) chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, hot
PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 300˚F/150˚C.
  2. Place cookies in plastic bag and crush them into a fine crumb using a rolling pin. Alternatively, a food processor can be used to crush the cookies.
  3. Pour the cookie crumbs into a medium bowl with the melted butter. Mix until the crumbs take on the character of a coarse, wet sand.
  4. Pour the crumbs into a 9-inch (22cm) spring pan. Press the crumb firmly into the pan, making sure to coat the bottom evenly. Once the crust has been formed, place it in the refrigerator to firm up.
  5. Add cream cheese, melted chocolate, cocoa powder, and sugar to a large bowl and whisk, either by hand or with an electric mixer, until all the ingredients are incorporated. (NOTE: If mixing by hand, it is recommended to microwave the cream cheese before whisking in order to soften it up.) Add vanilla extract and eggs, and continue to whisk until mixture is smooth and glossy.
  6. In a separate bowl, combine heavy cream and powdered sugar. Whisk until the cream develops a mousse-y texture and soft peaks form.
  7. Adding a small amount at a time, carefully fold in the whipped cream into the cream cheese batter, being careful not to let the air out of the fluffy mixture. Fold just until incorporated.
  8. Once combined, pour the batter over the prepared cookie crust inside the springform pan. Use a spatula to smooth out the top. Give the pan a slight jiggle to release any large air bubbles that may be trapped in the batter.
  9. Bake at 300˚F/150˚C for 60-70 minutes–checking every 15-20 minutes for cracks. If cracking begins, cover the top with aluminium foil.
  10. Once out of the oven, immediately run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cheesecake to release it from the pan. Allow the cheesecake to cool completely before removing it from the pan.
  11. Prepare the ganache by combining chocolate chips with hot cream. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and ganache is smooth and glossy.  Alternatively use a double boiler to create the ganache.
  12. Pour ganache evenly over the cooled cheesecake. Refrigerate the ganache covered cake for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

Let’s do This.

Well, here goes nothing.

I’m Clementine, and I’m a recipe addict.  All the videos saved from my Facebook feed are recipes.  My Pinterest boards are organised by meal, holiday, or our next camping adventure.  When I’m eating breakfast, I’m thinking about what to eat for lunch.  I’ll give you one guess as to what I’m thinking about while I’m enjoying my lunch. My bookshelf is 90% cookbooks, from Julia Child’s iconic series Mastering The Art of French Cooking to Coolio’s entertaining read Cooking with Coolio.  Now while I collect recipes, I’m not actually great at trying them out.  So perhaps instead of a recipe addict, I’m a recipe hoarder.

DSC_2284

When I do get around to trying out a recipe, most of the time everything goes well, and I get to present a wonderful meal to my handsome man Dan.  My husband is my top taste tester of anything I’m concocting in the kitchen, and I’m sure it’s the same for any reader here who has a partner.  Dan is not afraid to give a few critiques here or there as he knows that pointers can turn a meal from good to outstanding.

But when I’m trying out a recipe for the first time and it does not goes as planned, I get pissed.  I used to be disappointed in myself when a meal I tried to make failed, but then I started thinking – surely I’m not the only one that this has happened to?  There has to be other people out there who follow a recipe to the letter (as I do), only to have the end product be an absolute flop.

Capture

Jordan Kenna / Via BuzzFeed

This happened to me a few weeks ago.  I tried to make a Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake that I saw on one of those Tasty videos that was on my Facebook feed.  Video made it seem easy enough, and the recipe was pretty simple.  Operation Cheesecake started going pear shaped when after an hour the cheesecake still was a moussy unbaked blob.  Half an hour later same thing.  That cheesecake was in the oven for a full two hours before I felt relatively confident that it was fully baked.  Fast forward to serving time, and I’m dropping the F bomb like a sailor as I see while cutting the first slice that the middle is still practically raw.  Where did I go wrong?? I re-read the recipe and had followed it exactly, even the hubby read the recipe and recalled every step. In my mind there was no way I messed the cheesecake up.  It had to be the recipe itself, not the baker.

That gave me an idea.

There’s book reviews, film reviews, and music reviews published every day.  But what about an honest recipe review?  Besides the odd “This was soooo yummy” comment on food blogs, I couldn’t find a publication that took a recipe and actually reviewed it, highlighting its strengths any possible flaws.  This is exactly what I’m going to do in this blog.  I’m going to go through my recipe collection, create the meal, and write and honest review.

The Rules

If I’m going to seriously take this on I need to establish a few conditions to make this project an accurate and honest approach to each recipe.

  1. The recipe can be from any media – Print, video, website, etc.
  2. I must use the exact ingredients and measurements as listed in the recipe.  If I can’t find a particular ingredient, I’ll have to find an alternative.
  3. The recipe will be tested twice to ensure nothing is missed.  Hellllooooo leftovers!
  4. Critiques will be honest.  I must highlight the good, the bad, and the inedible.
  5. If there are any noted flaws, I will recommend my own changes and test them out.  This will come handy for recipes like the cursed Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake, where a difference in baking technique may create a more positive outcome.

I enjoy being in the kitchen creating something that takes all my senses to appreciate.  With most recipes I get to indulge in this sensory experience, but when I find one that fails, I feel like I’ve been ripped off.  I don’t want to eat bad tasting food, why would anyone?  It’s only worth trying the recipe again and and being my readers’s guinea pig.

So…..let’s do this!