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Archive for February, 2011

 

If Christmas had a smell, it would smell like a gingerbread latte.

I wait all year for the red cups to arrive in Starbucks so I can finally get my paws on a gingerbread latte and when they disappear in January I go into a prolonged period of mourning. This year I started thinking about buying the syrup so I could make my own at home all year round but I decided it would take some of the sparkle out of the whole thing, like chaining up Santa on the roof and forcing him down the chimney every weekend.

While I was pondering this criminal master plan, I came up with the idea of making a gingerbread latte cup cake instead. One that would pay tribute to the original drink in its different elements, but translated into an edible cake that would happily go side by side with a normal old cup of coffee on an un-christmassy and dreary afternoon. So although its already February and very nearly March, I decided it wasnt too late to try out my fiendish idea and since I was blessed with a bout of gastric flu last week that left me on a diet of rich tea biscuits for several days (a poor substitute for the South African Marie biscuit but I had to make do), I thought I deserved a treat to celebrate my return to normal food.

The basic elements of the gingerbread latte are coffee, ginger, whipped cream and caramel sauce. I decided my cupcakes didnt need the coffee element as despite the name, coffee is not the main flavour of the drink that I love so the cupcake is a fairly standard ginger sponge. I wanted something more special than whipped cream as the frosting so I’ve used a vanilla meringue frosting instead, drizzled with caramel sauce and a dusting of grated nutmeg, which is the final end note of the latte itself. I’ll play around with the recipe each time I make it to make sure I’ve tested every potential improvement but in the meantime, here’s my de-constructed gingerbread latte for those of you who are suffering from the post Christmas blues…

Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes

Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups vanilla sugar (or plain castor sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a muffin tin with paper liners. In a small bowl, mix together flour,spices, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter and then add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately beat in flour mixture and milk in three batches, beating until smooth.

Pour the batter into the paper liners and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Meringue frosting

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup vanilla sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold water

Boil sugar and water over heat to soft ball stage (120°C). Meanwhile beat egg whites to stiff peaks in a large bowl. Slowly pour syrup into egg whites beating constantly and then beat until smooth and stiff enough to spread (the bowl should no longer feel hot). Pipe onto the cupcakes and drizzle with caramel sauce (for the recipe see my last post). Sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg and serve!

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Home-made Caramel

I made this caramel as one part of another recipe I’ve had brewing which is actually the one I was going to post for the week… I thought I would post it up in the meantime as a  visual amuse bouche to start the weekend!

Also its a perfectly good recipe on its own, for topping ice cream or dipping fruit fondue style, or just eating out of the jar with a spoon if you are that way inclined so I thought it should have a chance to shine on its own first.

Most caramel sauce recipes call for double cream but this is a (slightly) less calorific option and you can always add cream to it if you want to go the whole hog, or cow to be more accurate.

I’ll post this in the morning when I’ve had a chance to take some pictures in the light but right now I’m settling down to my first glass of wine for the weekend and writing up the recipe for which the caramel was originally intended. I’ll keep that one a secret for now to build the suspense but here’s a hint… its an ode to one of my favourite winter drinks…

Have a delicious weekend! ♥

Home-made Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 60g butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix brown sugar and flour together in a suacepan. Add the melted butter and stir well. Place the saucepan over another pan of gently boiling water and cook stirring occasionally for five minutes. Slowly add the boiling water while continuing to stir constantly. Continue to cook and stir until sauce is thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Serve immediately or cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Simple!

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First of all I should report back on what happened to the rest of my lamb. Remember this guy? What was left of him after I had made a roast and a lamb and white bean stew (see my last post) went into my freezer while I decided what would become of him. Thanks to my Aunt Judy’s suggestion he went from…

…A lamb, lentil and mint soup (soup crossed with a stew really) and I think it was a fine end to his existence. I’m not even going to post a proper recipe for the stew as it really was a “bung it” but here’s a rough guide if you need some idea of where to start.

I started with chopped pancetta in a large saucepan, fried until crisp and then added chopped celery, onion, potato and  carrots (whatever veg you like or have left over). Gently fry the veg until soft and then add a teaspoon or two of dried mint, a few sprigs of rosemary and/or other herbs and your lamb bones and meat. Make sure you cut your lamb leg in half at the joint so that it fits into your pan properly! Top up with water to cover the lamb, bring to the boil and simmer for at least two hours until the lamb is falling off the bone and has flavoured the water to become stock (if you are making with just lamb meat you could also use a lamb stock cube but I recommend the real McCoy). Fish out the bones and pick off any bits of meat (you could actually leave them in but this just makes it easier to serve). Finally add two tins of cooked green or brown lentils, a glug of soy sauce (my aunt’s tip), a glug of Worcestershire sauce and a splash of red wine vinegar and simmer for another 20 mins or so before serving. Easy!

Now onto sweet things.

I am trying to restrain myself at the moment and make healthy meals during the week but the weekend is my excuse for two things. Puddings and special breakfasts. This weekend I made both. The breakfast was apple spice muffins from a recipe  in this book. The recipe was given to me by a friend at work who makes amazing muffins and he recommends the book which I now do too. I was very faithful to the recipe for once but I did use currants instead of raisins (purely because they were in my cupboard), left out the walnuts, added extra spices and used demerera sugar and cinnamon to top them because it gives more crunch.  The apple makes them lovely and moist and they feel just healthy enough to stop you feeling guilty whilst still being a pleasure to eat.

Apple Spice Muffins

Adapted from “Muffins: Fast and Fantastic” by Susan Reimer. Makes 10-12.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 100g castor sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 apple peeled, cored and grated
  • 85g melted butter
  • 80g raisins (or currants soaked in boiling water and then drained)
  • 2 tbsp demerera sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon to dust

Line a muffin tray with papers and preheat oven to 190°C. In a large bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Mix in castor sugar.

In a separate bowl combine the egg, milk, grated apple and melted butter and then add to the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined and fold in raisins/currants. Spoon into the muffin papers and dust with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake in the oven for 20-25 min until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Delicious warm from the oven with a mug of tea.

Breakfast over, my sights turned to pudding… chocolate and thyme mousse. I know this sounds odd but I’ve seen it somewhere before and I was dying to try it. Weirdly it works. The thyme somehow enhances the chocolate flavour, giving it a fresh accent that cuts through the richness of the mousse. I made the mistake of making it at first without infusing the thyme in anything so it didn’t impart enough flavour to the mousse unless you got a mouthful with a little thyme leaf in it, which was delicious. To get the full fresh hit of thyme I have adjusted the recipe to infuse it in a little milk before cooling and adding this to the cream (I didn’t try to infuse it in the cream itself as I needed to whip it and boiling the cream can make it split and refuse to play ball). Adding a few fresh thyme leaves to the mousse as well is optional but as long as you don’t go mad you wont feel like a cow with a mouthful of meadow I promise.

Chocolate and Thyme Mousse

Serves 4.

  • 100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) chopped
  • 60ml full fat milk
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 100ml double cream
  • seeds from 1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 1 large egg

Put the milk and thyme in a small pan and heat gently until almost boiled. Take off the heat and leave to infuse as it cools. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally.

Add the sugar and vanilla to the cream and whip to soft peaks. Separate the egg and add the yolk to the whipped cream and whip the white in a separate bowl until stiff. Add the cooled infused milk to the cream and egg mixture and mix through (add extra thyme leaves removed from the stem as optional). Fold the melted chocolate into the cream and then gently fold in the egg whites. Place in the fridge or freezer to set, depending on how fast you need to serve it. Garnish with a sprig of thyme to serve.

Before I go there’s one last bit of news to share. I have created a facebook page for my blog… partly to stop bombarding my friends and family with updates every time I write something but also so that I have another way of communicating when I have something shorter and more immediate to say about what I’m cooking or eating. I’d love it if everyone used the page too to post their own food related thoughts and photos too so feel free to pop past and leave a message or add a picture as the fancy takes you…

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