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Chocolate-Pear Cupcakes

What do you know - it's the time of the month again - the Velveteers' Challenge (Aparna, Alessio, Asha & I). This month we decided to go nutty fruity to lift up our spirit to welcome summer after a long spell of rain and gloomy weather in Europe. At the beginning, I had in mind to make something with cheese, nuts & fruits but I got seduced by Aparna & Shellyfish chatting about their moist, oh so heavenly tasting cupcakes. So curious was I to know if their cupcakes are that good that I started dreaming of it. Soon, my imagination took a different angle - imagining all sort of ways to improvise over the Velveteers' project. Et voilà ! An adapted recipe was born.

I made these cupcakes earlier but didn't have time to post it as I was in the rush to put the house in order, before I left with Little One for a long weekend trip to visit friends and attend a little boy's (Noah) birthday party in Nantes. This time, I was able to meet Jamie of Life's a feast for lunch, had our dessert at her place, met her shy Man & handsome (very French) son, Clément, and of course her adorable but very shy Marty (ooh, I so love Marty). After dessert, we went for a "walk" (I mean shopping spree). I had in mind to shop for a few things for Little One's birthday party but in the end, I bought some tops and a dress for her instead. Jamie got herself a great bargain - a Curnonsky's cookbook for 10 €!! I'm so dying of jealousy! Little One & I had a wonderful time in Nantes and wish that we could stay longer than just over a long weekend. I would also like to thank my wonderful mother-in-law Michèle & sister-in-law Irène for driving us to Nantes and back to Clermont-Ferrand and for taking care of Little One the whole Saturday so that I could spent the day alone with my girlfriends.

Chocolate-Pear Velvet Cupcakes

(Adapted from Aparna's Cinnamon Cupcakes)

Makes: 8 - 10 cupcakes

Ingredients
  • 1½ cups cake flour (sifted and then measured)
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • 2 - 3 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 100 gm butter (softened)
  • 3/4 cup demerara (or light brown) sugar, packed
  • 1 egg (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups milk (room temperature)
  • 1 pear (peeled & cut into 4 or 8 parts)
  • walnuts (roughly broken up)

Caramel Sauce

  • sugar
  • water
  • about 2 tbsp salted butter
  • about 2 tbsp cream or crème fraîche
Directions
  1. Sift together the flour, cacao powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.
  4. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with milk. Starting and ending with flour. Beat just enough to combine the ingredients and do not overmix. After all the ingredients are in, beat it for just one minute.
  5. Divide the batter equally between 8 to 10 paper lined cupcake tins (depending on the size of your tins) so that each one is 2/3rds full.
  6. Lightly insert a slice of pear in the middle of the cupcake.
  7. Bake the cupcakes at 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4) for 20 to 25 minutes till done or a skewer inserted in them comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then turn out and cool completely.
  8. Spoon some caramel sauce on top of the cupcakes. Sprinkle some walnuts on top of the caramel sauce. Then drip some caramel sauce all over the walnuts.
Chocolate Pear CupcakesChocolate Pear Cupcakes

Making the caramel sauce

  1. While your cupcakes cool, you can start preparing your caramel sauce.
  2. Put some sugar and enough water to wet the sugar in a small pot and heat it up on medium heat.
  3. Sugar will dissolves and when it turned into bubbling brown and golden, turn off the heat.
  4. Quickly stir in the salted butter until combined.
  5. Put the pot back on stove under very low heat and stir in the cream.
  6. Continue stirring until you get a thick consistency like crème patissière.
  7. Voilà, your caramel sauce is ready for your cupcakes.
Chocolate Pear Cupcakes
The Verdict

The cupcake is very soft & moist like a sponge cake with a light touch of chocolate flavour. The pear compliments the chocolate cake very well. Everyone loves the cupcakes and the caramel sauce with walnuts topping. I'll make it more chocolaty next time.

Chocolate Pear CupcakesChocolate Pear Cupcakes

The 4 Velveteers

The 4 Velveteers (as we called ourselves) are hosting a monthly event that explores food & cuisine and share our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs. Every month will be a surprise - we never know what we'll make next. So if you're interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment and we will get back to you.

Do check out what the other Velveteers have come up with:

9 comments on this post.

No Knead Brioche (with M&M Peanuts)

Woohoo! It's about time! I'm back online again with my spanking new hand-me down laptop (Pierre's new toy finally arrived). I was slowly withering away in withdrawal syndrome of not being able to write new entry on my blog and keeping in touch with my readers and friends for a month. However something good did come out of this, like Little One getting 110% of mommy's attention and the house too (yes, the dreaded housework got done faster). Being without a computer for a month taught me quite a few things but I'm not going to bore you with this right now (later, I promise). Ah... lots of news and recipes to share with all of you.

Before we dive into my new recipe, I want to draw your attention to some NEW features on the Blog (courtesy of Pierre's programming talents):

  • Print button (bottom right) - to print your recipe easily
  • Translate button (bottom right) - different languages like French or Italian etc. I have checked the French translation and it was pretty good, even the measurement units get translated.
  • Picture of each dish when you do a search by main ingredient or cuisine

And the following recipes to look forward to:

Now just before my infamous laptop failed me, I joined a food blogger book club This Book Makes Me Cook - besides reading the nominated book of the month (of course), we also make a book inspired dish as the club is aptly named. I'm very late at this but hey, better late than never! Anyway, April book review was Can you keep a secret by Sophie Kinsella - a light hearted and humorous chick book with kind of predictable scenarios (sometimes a bit over-the-top) but a good read all the same. I enjoyed it thoroughly, even laughed out loud many times at some hilarious situations. The story begins with the heroine, Emma Corrigan, who is aviophobia (fear of flying) babbling out all her secrets to a total stranger seated next to her on flight during a very bad air turbulence, thinking the plane was going to crash. Unfortunately for her, that stranger unexpectedly become a permanent fixture in her life.

There was a company family picnic day scene in this book that inspired me to make this no-knead brioche. I figured that if it works on bread, no reason why I can't make a brioche the same way? Et voilà! It's as easy as 1, 2, 3. From now on, I don't have to knead my brioche anymore - makes my life a lot simpler (pssst... because I suck at kneading big time). Just stir everything in, let it rise, punch it down and let it rise over-night covered in the fridge or a very cool place. Bake it the next morning and you have a lovely delicious breakfast.

No Knead Brioche (with M&M Peanuts)
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 11 g dried yeast
  • 60 ml milk or buttermilk (lukewarm)
  • 300 g plain flour
  • 45 g sugar
  • 3 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 125 g salted butter (melted, cooled)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • a few handful of peanut M&M's
No Knead Brioche
Directions
  1. In a big bowl, mix 1 tbsp plain flour with dried yeast and stir in lukewarm milk making sure it is well mixed. Leave it for 15 minutes.
  2. Mix the rest of plain flour and sugar together. Pour it on top of the yeast mixture.
  3. Make a well in the centre, pour in lightly beaten eggs, cooled melted butter and vanilla essence.
  4. Stir until everything is well incorporated.
  5. Let it rise on the table for about 2 hours or until it doubles in volume.
  6. Lightly punch it down and pull/fold the outer edge of the dough to centre.
  7. Cover it with a plastic film and let it proof in the refrigerator or a very cool place overnight.
  8. Lightly flour your work surface, turn the dough out and lightly dust it with flour. Roll it out into a big rectangle.
  9. Sprinkle M&Ms all over the surface.
  10. Roll in from the longest side like a swiss roll. Cut it into 6 or 8 even slices and arrange them loosely in the prepared round baking pan lined with baking paper.
  11. Melt butter and sugar together in a small bowl. Brush this mixture on top of the brioche and let it rise for 1 hour.
  12. Bake it in preheated oven at 160°C (325°F - gas mark 3) for 40 minutes.
  13. Coat the top with some melted buttery sugary mixture again and let it cool.
  14. Serve it with a cup of tea or coffee. Savour it.
No Knead Brioche
The Verdict

It really tastes as good as the kneaded brioche. Pierre suggested using M&M's instead of the traditional pralines: OK, so it looks like a clown that has been thrown into a carwash, but it actually taste great and the peanuts still give the same crunchy sensation as the pralines

Notes

If you are living in cool climate country like me, I let my dough rise overnight outside on my window sill in spring or autumn but the coolest part of the house during winter.

I'm sending this No Knead Brioche recipe to YeastSpotting!.

You might like this too:

23 comments on this post.

Oatmeal Cookies (with raisin, dark chocolates & walnuts)

Thoughts are funny - it comes and goes just as it pleases... one minute I was all inspired with so many things to say and to write for my blog... then about 10 minutes later, poof! It's gone, just like that. Euh? Hello? Inspiration please come back! I'm not done with you yet. You hear me? Obviously not! Boo!

I wonder how professional writers work when they are not inspired to write their books or storyline? As much as I command my brain to feel inspired, it's like coaxing a dead battery to come back to life. At least a battery can be brought back from the deads with some juice. Well, I certainly can't shock myself with that kind of juice, I would certainly get a flat liner and worst, get badly burnt. No no no, that cannot work. So what can I do to get myself inspired... I'm still searching - haven't yet been able to pin-point exactly what inspires me. Sometime it's really something simple like watching children playing and laughing, or watching snow flakes falling from the sky - simple kind of pleasure. Other times nothing helps at all.

Like this morning, I was just playing a brain-dead (as Pierre calls it because it's not only addictive but it drains your brain juice) online game like Bejeweled, out of the blue all the emotions, thoughts, recent conversations hit me just like that making me smiles and laugh at my childhood memories & fantasies that I have somewhat forgotten; reminding me what it was like to be a child the same age as my daughter. And those thoughts reminded me of my recent conversations with my Little One that cracks me up with tears and laughter. So how does one gets to note all these thoughts down before they disappear in the thin air? If you do have a solution to that, please share your secret with me.:-)

For the time being, I'll just content myself of dreaming up a thought writing cap that can automatically records downs my stories whenever they cross my mind. With a USB plug to download directly onto my PC, please!

Like my forgotten thoughts, I made these delicious oatmeal cookies a few weeks before Christmas and had forgotten to blog about it. So here it is. Enjoy!

Oatmeal Cookies (with raisin, dark chocolates & walnuts)

Makes : approx 57 cookies (small/medium)

Ingredients
  • 180 g plain flour
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 140 g caster sugar
  • 100 g dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 170 g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 170 g oats
  • some raisins, dark chocolates & walnuts
oatmeal cookies (walnut, raisins & dark chocolates)
Directions
  1. Preheat oven at 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4).
  2. In a big bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, sugar & dark brown sugar together.
  3. In another big bowl, cream butter, eggs & vanilla together until fluffy. At the beginning, it will look like everything is separated and not coming together. Just continue whisking. It will blend together after awhile and become fluffy.
  4. Stir in the flour mixture until just blend.
  5. Fold in the raisins, dark chocolates & walnuts.
  6. Bake it for about 11 - 13 minutes or until it's lightly golden on top. Turn your tray at mid cooking to even out the browning of cookies.
oatmeal cookies (walnut, raisins & dark chocolates)oatmeal cookies (walnut, raisins & dark chocolates)
The Verdict

They are so good - fragrant, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Just the right sweetness. Pierre, who doesn't like oats at all, seems to be devouring it with great gusto like a cookie monster. LOL! Little One is also helping herself to another and yet another of these cookies.

The great thing about an oatmeal recipe is that we make different combination of nuts, dry fruits, chocolates or spices to our liking.

Notes

It is important to know your oven well when baking. My oven heats up fast after a while, so I only need to bake my cookies for 11 minutes and it is done. If your oven is not very hot, bake it longer or at a slightly higher temperature.

For creaming the wet ingredients, alternatively you can cream the butter alone until fluffy first, then whip in eggs and vanilla.

If you are adding a lot of raisins, please reduce slightly amount of sugar from the above recipe or else your cookies will be very sweet.

oatmeal cookies (walnut, raisins & dark chocolates)
19 comments on this post.

Walnut-Chocolate Cake

One of the nicest things about living in France (as opposed to my equatorial Singapore) is not just the 4 seasons but the food that come -and go- with them: fruits, mushrooms of course but also cheese or seafood. As we enter Autumn (or are supposed to, as temperature went from a nice 22°C to 11°C in 48h), we have apples, pears and walnuts and chestnuts falling from trees everywhere in the countryside. One simply can't resist stopping the car to pick them up on the road. Not to pick them up seems like such a waste of food from mother nature.

Two weekends ago, we (parents-in-law, Little One and I) went walnut pickings at the nearby fields of my in-laws mountain house.:-) We were pleasantly greeted by a herd of cows and calves. At first they were minding their own business, but after a while they got curious at our presence on their territory, looking at us wondering what were we doing bending and picking stuff on the ground. I for one got excited and pointed the cows to Little One, prompting her to wave and holler a 'mooo' greetings to the cows and calves.

As we moved further into the fields, the cows decided to follow us up close - pretty cute. I was kinda scared as these cows have long spiky horns but my parents-in-law assured me that they are nice and harmless animals. I watched in fear as one cow moved right next to my mom-in-law who just waved her finger 'No, no' telling it not to come so close to her. Amazingly then the cow moved a few steps back from my mom-in-law! I was truly floored. As we moved on, the cows followed us nonchalantly behind us, every pair of eyes were on us, on our movements... gave me the goose bumps like they were seizing the chance to pounce on us unsuspectingly. Knowing that cows are way more likely to be eaten by humans than the opposite wasn't quite enough to make me comfortable about being around such big horned animals.

Luckily for me, Little One was a good distraction... picking walnuts became sort of a treasure hunt for her, her exclamation of sheer delight at spotting one was very amusing, some went into the pails, a few were kept in her pocket as prized treasure to show to her papa later. Suddenly Little One spotted a cow hovering over our pail of nuts, went close to it, shaking her little finger: 'No, no ... it's not for you. Go away.' However the cow couldn't care less and continued eying at those delicious nuts, Little One started to growl like a little courageous lion cub to frighten it away to no avail. LOL! It was quite a funny scene of David & Goliath.;-) Harmless as the cows may be, they do have those pair of menacing looking horns and could easily flick Little One with it. Father-in-law took caution, shooed the cow away and told Little One not to get too close to them. With both pails filled to the rim with a little mount of pyramid, we had to sadly leave the rest of the nuts on the ground and said 'Goodbye, till we meet again' to our companions. What wonderful and fruitful afternoon we had! Wish I had thought of bringing my camera along. Oh well, perhaps I'll have another opportunity.

Walnut-Chocolate Cake
Ingredients
  • 85 g sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 7 egg whites
  • 85 g butter (melted)
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 150 g walnuts (chopped, not too finely)
  • 50 g dark chocolate
  • 20 g liquid cream
Walnut cake with chocolate icing
Directions
  1. Preheat oven at 170°C ( 325°F - gas mark 3).
  2. Mix egg yolks and sugar, then add in melted butter. Whisk until combined.
  3. Add in plain flour, stir until combined.
  4. Add in chopped walnuts
  5. Beat egg white until very stiff peaks.
  6. Delicately incorporate the stiff egg white into the batter.
  7. Pour the batter into a well greased round baking tin.
  8. Bake it for about 40 minutes or until the tooth pick comes out clean and let it cool completely.
  9. With a baking brush, coat the cake with chocolate ganache.
  10. Let it chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours.
  11. You can serve it with crème anglaise.

Making Chocolate ganache

  1. Bring cream to a boil and then stir in dark chocolate until combined.
  2. Let it cool to obtain a ganache.
Walnut cake with chocolate icingWalnut cake with chocolate icing
The Verdict

This cake is very light, moist and the nutty flavour is heighten by the chocolate ganache. We ate this with crème anglais - it was good but we felt that it sort of bland out the flavour of this nutty cake instead of heightening it, so maybe you can forget about this addition. This cake is not very sweet so if you do leave out the crème anglais, please increase the amount of sugar added to the cake.

Walnut cake with chocolate icingWalnut cake with chocolate icing
12 comments on this post.

Banana Muffin Surprise

It has been quite a while since we have a weekend alone sans Little One. So when my parents-in-law offered to look after her, we took it up without any hesitation. Pierre was already planning which restaurants to check out, what to do in Paris etc while I was torn between being happy to have some couplehood time alone at last and feeling like I have abandoned my little girl behind and worried about this and that (like a typical mother:-p ). Pierre kept reassuring me that she would be fine and I should relax and enjoy this rare 'us' time alone but I was too stressed up. Needlessly to say, I hadn't slept well on the first night as I was too worried about how Little One was adapting with her grandparents and whether she was crying for us or not etc. Upon my insistence, Pierre called home the next day to check on her and was told that she passed a wonderful day out with her grandparents and enjoyed herself thoroughly and that she didn't asked for us once (to my surprise and a bit of a disappointment - Am I being selfish to want her to miss us just a little bit?). After the phone call, I thought 'tonight I can have a good night sleep.' ha! What a joke that was... We were woken up by the lady living upstairs at 4 am. As you know, many apartment in Paris have thin walls and floors so one can literally hear the neighbour next door or upstairs.

Anyway when Little One joined us finally a few days later, she didn't seems to miss us at all... I guess my little girl is growing up and no longer my little baby.:-):-( We brought her sightseeing Paris and checking out the restaurants... she loves wraps and club sandwiches just as chinese dim sum. The 3,5 hour train ride home went uneventful, thank goodness. We were pretty worried that she might get bored and start to run around etc. At the end of the train ride, she made friend with a Maltese which growled at her in the beginning and she wasn't the least afraid of him. She insisted on patting and caressing him despite his hissing. *eyes rolling upwards* Then she decided to wander off from us even though I told her to stay put ... she walked away confidently waving and saying 'au revoir mommy' ... then started bawling her eyes out when a burly mustachio man smiled at her from his seat.:-D So much for her little adventure.

Today I would like to share with you a delicious muffin recipe that I made before I left for Paris.:-) I call it Banana Muffin Surprise because you never know what you gonna get.;-) Hope you like it.

Banana Muffin Surprise
Ingredients
  • 75 g butter (melted)
  • 250 g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 115 g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large ripe bananas or 3 medium size bananas (almost)
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 125 ml milk
  • some nutella
  • some chopped dark chocolates
  • some chopped walnuts
  • some chopped white chocolates
  • pinch of salt
Banana Muffin Surprise Ingredients
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F - Gas 5).
  2. Melt the butter and allow to cool.
  3. Mash the bananas well.
  4. In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together. Add caster sugar and stir though.
  5. Beat the eggs with the fork for a minute before adding vanilla extract, melted butter and milk. Then add the mashed banana and stir till combined.
  6. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the banana-egg mixture, stirring roughly with a fork until it is a lumpy paste. Do not over-mix.
  7. Place the paper cups into the moulds, or grease the moulds well with butter.
  8. Fill some of the cups with the banana mixture till almost full cup while filling a few half way to the cup, drop a few chocolate chips or nuts and cover it with the mixture until almost full. As for the nutella, fill a few cups 3/4 way up and drop a teaspoon of nutella into the centre of it and it will sink down naturally.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the muffins come away from the side of the pan when touched.
  10. Rest the muffin tray on a wire rack for five minutes then remove the muffins and leave on the rack for another five minutes before serving.
Banana Muffin Surprise
The Verdict

These muffins are very flavourful, light, moist and super delicious. Everyone started checking out the muffins at microscopic range after I told them that each muffin contains different stuff inside it.:-D ... of course everyone is battling over each other to get either the dark chocolates or nutella ones ... I tell you I have a bunch of chocoholics in my house.:-D

My mother-in-law who was watching her lines couldn't help but ate 2 of them.;-) My father-in-law and Pierre were happily chomping down the muffins and see who gets the most chocolate ones out of the batch.:-D

I thought we wouldn't be able to finish all of them and that I would have to freeze some of them. To my great surprise, they were so good that only 3 were left at the end of tea time.

I have made these again just last week and I have beaten all the wet ingredients together at one go with a fork - with this method, muffins are more compact but still moist, flavourful and delicious.

Notes

In all my baking, I use only salted butter (and I usually skip the salt part in the recipe). And I used 1½ tsp baking powder instead as I didn't have any bicarbonate of soda in my cupboard.

Banana Muffin SurpriseBanana Muffin Surprise
20 comments on this post.