a little gong “show”

update:  thanks platonic jeff for joining me and taking pictures. and making us all laugh.  i think everyone @ daytime loves you too (platonicaly that is) ;0)

I have to apologize… I’ve been baking (lots). I’ve been taking pictures (lots).  I’ve been back on Ottawa Daytime… THREE TIMES!!!  And I haven’t blogged about any of those things.

I think it’s time to get started.Last week I tried to teach Derick, TL and all of their fans how to make powdered sugar-free buttercream

Seriously… the GREATEST buttercream EVER (and I say this knowing most people swoon over a really good cream cheese frosting… but this has it beat). 

The three of us sure had fun (but then again, we always have fun), but I kinda screwed up the recipe.  Just a little…  just enough that if you watched the episode live and decided to follow our (as in my) instructions… you probably would have finished and scratched your head wondering… “did I do something wrong?”

Nope.  Not you.  Me.  I completely forgot an important step in the whole process. 

More milk.

Now if you didn’t watch – I should warn you:  this recipe says NO to powdered sugar and says YES to milk, flour, regular sugar and butter.  No lies.  You basically start off with a béchamel (well not a traditional béchamel – only the flour and milk – no butter at this point), and add that to some whipped sugar and butter.

So I’m here to make it up to you … that way you can enjoy the wonderfulness of this buttercream.  Because it truly is wonderful… amazing… incredible… rich and creamy and fluffy.  In a word: DELISH.

If you want to giggle while you start on this recipe… check out Derick, TL and I as we muddle our way through the recipe (don’t they look like they’re having a blast!?).

And then if you feel up to trying this buttercream (which you should … because it’s that good)… put away that powdered sugar and pull out a small saucepan and whisk.  Let’s get started!

baker’s note:  the recipe I’m sharing is for a dark chocolate buttercream… however the recipe I made for Daytime Ottawa was a brown sugar-cinnamon buttercream.  Omit the melted chocolate and use brown sugar and 1 tbsp cinnamon rather than regular white sugar if you’d like to try my “tv” version (which is delicious when paired with a zucchini cake).  Otherwise, the rest of the recipe remains the same (you can also omit the melted chocolate to make a vanilla buttercream too).

(powdered sugar-free) whipped buttercream

ingredients:

4 oz (100 g) dark chocolate, melted and cooled

1/4 c. flour, sifted

1 1/2 tbsp vanilla

1 c. milk, divided

1 c. white sugar

1 c. butter, room temperature

Think of this recipe in stages…

First start with the warm part – melt your chocolate in a double boiler (or in the microwave).  Once melted, set aside and allow it to cool.

Then start on the  faux béchamel.

Grab a small saucepan (as mentioned to Derick and TL, a small saucepan works better than a medium one) and whisk together the flour, vanilla and 1/4 c. milk

Whisk until there are no lumps, then place the pan over medium heat – whisking continuously: slowly adding the rest of the milk (this is the part I left out on the show).   You’ll notice that the mixture thickens and starts to pull away from the sides of the saucepan – about 4 minutes.  Turn the heat down to low and continue whisking for another 3 minutes.  Now… remove the saucepan from heat and keep whisking the mixture for another 2 minutes.  This is important.  Otherwise it’ll keep cooking – and you don’t want that. That’s it.

Now – you can either wait for your faux béchamel to cool to room temperature – or do like me – and pass it through a strainer – this cools it down nice and quick and gets rid of any lumps you might get during the cooking process.While you are passing the faux béchamel through the strainer – start whipping your butter and sugar mixture together.  Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, whisk the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy – 7 minutes (that’s normally the amount of time I need to strain the faux béchamel). Turn your mixture down to slow and slowly add the melted chocolate – increase the speed to medium incorporating the chocolate into the whipped butter/sugar.

Once incorporated, return the speed to low and add in your faux béchamel.  Increase the speed to medium and whisk for another 5 minutes.

You end up with something so light and fluffy, so creamy… you end up with this… Frost your cake, or cupcakes… or heck – just dip your finger into the buttercream and enjoy.  Seriously … A-MAZ-INGMake this buttercream and I promise you that you’ll think twice about using powdered sugar again (unless you have some serious piping work to do).

falling in love…

I fell in love.

Yep.

Over Easter weekend, I fell - hook, line and sinker.

I fell in love with wonderful, beautiful, lovely… London.  :0)

My first visit to London was in December 2000 – New Years Eve in the big city.  It was cold… bitterly cold, rainy, and damp (oh so very damp)…  there was no falling in love on that visit.

Nor did I fall in love over the course of the last 10 years… every visit reinforced that I would never be a Londoner.  Nor did I want to be.  That is… until this last visit.

It was sunny.  And warm… actually, it was hot (25 degrees + every single day!!!!).  And it glowed in the pre-royal wedding festivities (I didn’t stick around for the wedding, but it sure was fun to see the city prep for it).  Plus I got to spend the weekend with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Elina (and her younger sisters, who are like my younger sisters).  It was the PERFECT mini break from reality.

Especially because we went to one of my favourite places on earth.

We spent Easter Sunday (also my 32nd birthday) at  The hummingbird bakery.  Giddy doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt as we set out that morning… 

I heart the hummingbird bakery.  At least… I have loved it through its recipes (The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook).  I’ve blogged about some of my hummingbird baking experiences… their carrot cake , black bottom cupcakes , and the peaches & cream cupcakes .  Simple and delicious recipes.

But actually getting to eat hummingbird treats on site?!

holy mother of pearl.  I was in baked good heaven.

The carrot cake: devine.  brilliant.  gorgeous.  bloody amazing.  best thing I have EVER eaten.  EVER.  And it wasn’t just because it was moist and flavourful.  The icing… so much cream cheese frosting – fluffy and lovely and… satisfying.

And then the lemon cheesecake.  oh. my. gawd.  seriously!  I have never enjoyed cheesecake as much as I did that afternoon… smooth and creamy.  Not dense or heavy… just super fluffy.  And the base?  AMAZING.  It wasn’t overly thick or overbaked.  It was light and crumbly.  My mouth was in love.

I couldn’t leave without buying a copy of their newest recipe book hummingbird bakery cake days.  Anything that says “recipes to make every day special” is worth purchasing… and so purchase it I did!

And thank goodness I did.

You’ve already seen those amazing lemon meringue cupcakes that I made last week.  And then I made this.

It’s a peanut butter and chocolate pie.

Intense?  Just a little.

Addictive?  Completely.

Worth trying? Absolutely… without a doubt.  This will make your day extra special.  Especially when you do as I say… and replace the original cookie base with an oreo cookie base.  Yep.  Follow my recipe and you will be in peanut butter and chocolate pie heaven.

peanut butter chocolate (oreo cookie) pie

ingredients:

base:

1 entire box, oreo cookies, pulsed

1/2 c. butter, melted

chocolate ganache filling & whipped topping:

3 tbsp cornstarch

160g sugar

550 mL milk

3 egg yolks

180g peanut butter

80g dark chocolate, chopped

250 mL heavy cream

handful of salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Start with the base.  Use your food processor to pulse the oreo cookies until they are a nice fine crumble. 

Toss the crushed cookies into a bowl, and, using a wooden spoon, slowly add the melted butter – you don’t want to add so much butter that it becomes too moist – you just want the crumbs to stick together when you pinch them together.

Once you get it to that texture (you might not need the entire half cup of melted butter… or you might need more) – tip the cookie crumble into your greased 9 -inch springform pan (I sprayed mine with non-stick spray).  Press the crumbs into the base, and up the sides of the pan – you need this to hold your ganache filling and whipped cream peanut butter topping.  Allow it to cool in the fridge for about 40 minutes.

Take that time to make the chocolate ganahce filling…

Combine the cornstarch with the sugar in a small saucepan.  Then whisk together the milk with the egg yolks in a large measuring cup: pouring this mixture into the pan and place the pan over low heat, cooking until thickened, WHISKING CONTINUOUSLY.  You don’t want clumps :0)  Once the mixture has thickened, remove it from the heat and stir in the peanut butter.

Place your chocolate in a large bowl and pour about one third of the peanut butter mixture on top.  Mix well – ensuring that the chocolate melts and the filling becomes smooth and even.

Pour your chocolate ganache filling over your chilled oreo cookie base.  Cover with plastic wrap (touching the ganache directly) and place the pie in your fridge for 30 – 40 minutes (it should set).  Cover the remaining two thirds of your peanut butter mixture with plastic wrap and set aside to cool.

When you’re about ready to take your unfinished pie out of the fridge, start on your topping.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, using your whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream.  You want it to get thick and to have soft peaks.  My mistake at this point was that I didn’t allow it to get thick enough… and so when I cut into the pie, this topping just collapsed on itself – making it messy, while still delicious :0)

Once you have whipped your cream, grab your peanut butter mixture and fold it in:

Once it is well mixed, remove your pie from the fridge and top the chocolate peanut butter ganache with this whipped cream peanut butter topping.  Return your pie to the fridge for another 40 – 50 minutes.  I know… you still have to wait before you can tuck right in!

Once you’re done waiting, grab your roughly chopped salted peanuts and sprinkle them over the top.  That’s it.  Now you can cut into it.  See… doesn’t it just look amazing?  It is.  And it’s yet another reason why I heart the hummingbird bakery.

happy birthday big brother

(according to my big brother Louis, Paul used to run around and chase me… just to kiss me… this picture makes me smile no matter how sad I am)

Today would have been my brother Paul’s 34th birthday.  It’s the first time my family and I will celebrate his birthday without him being present… devastated doesn’t begin to express how I feel.

I’ve spent the last three months (I can’t believe it’s only been three months, while also being shocked that it’s already been three months) trying to learn to live with what has happened.  And I’ve spent a lot of that time baking: cakes, cookies, scones, cheesecakes, brownies, mini tarts … if it involves flour, sugar, butter and chocolate or lemons… I make it.

Everyone knows that I heart lemons: their tart, bright, happy, flavour… they brighten up just about anything and put a smile on my face.  That’s something Paul and I shared.  We both absolutely adore all things lemon.  My grandmother indulged Paul’s lemon love by baking him a lemon meringue pie every year for his birthday.  It’s a memory that brings me a lot of comfort… remembering how happy Paul was when that pie was placed in front of him… huge grin on his face.  Paul had the best smile.

And so in honour of my big brother I have been baking lemon

lemon twisted queen elizabeth cake, lemon meringue mini tarts, lemon white chocolate marble loaves, pound cake filled with lemon curd, frozen lemon meringue pie, and finally these beauties… lemon meringue cupcakes.

Personally… I think all of it has been amazing.

And I am planning on sharing those recipes with you … in time… I promise!

But for today I decided to share a light and fluffy little sponge cupcake, filled with my fresh tart lemon curd and then topped with a beautiful meringue that I got to torch.

Fun to make and delicious to eat.

I know that my brother would have approved… and that he would have eaten one, looked up at me, burst out laughing, and said “Lynnie Penny… you made this?  Damn you’re getting good!”  And then he would have tried to talk everyone else out of eating one… so that he could have the bunch for himself :0)

I have learned the following thing about myself in the last few months.  My sentiment has turned after-life into a fairy tale for children.  And so, on this occasion, I will get through today by imagining Paul up in heaven indulging in my grandmother’s lemon meringue pie.  And then he will serenade her and all our other loved ones, with his harmonica.  It’s a beautiful image… filled with laughter, love, lemon meringue, and music – all things my brother would want on his birthday.

*baker’s note… I got this recipe from the hummingbird bakery’s new cookbook “cake days” – so everything is metric… truly worth investing in a scale :0)

lemon meringue cupcakes

ingredients:

80 g butter, room temperature

280 g sugar

240 g flour, sifted

1 tbsp powdered sugar

1/4 tsp salt

grated zest of a lemon

2 eggs

240 ml milk

lemon curd

4 egg whites

200 g sugar

150 mL water

Preheat your oven to 375 F.  Line your muffin tins with paper liners – the original recipe says that it will make 12-16 cupcakes – I actually was able to make 18 … and think I could get 20 out of the batter.  Set aside.

You might read the following and do a double take.  Since in this instance there is no creaming of the butter and sugar.  I know it seems so wrong.  You might actually think that you know better than I do and that you’re actually going to cream the butter and sugar before adding any other ingredients.  Please don’t.  Please do exactly what I’m telling you to do… even if every single one of your baking instincts is telling you NO.  I resisted that urge and everything was a-ok.  Actually… everything was better than ok.  I promise.

Grab your stand-mixer and the paddle attachment.  Beat together (low speed) the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest… you want the ingredients to resemble fine breadcrumbs.

Now in your measuring cup, add the eggs and whisk everything together.

Pour 3/4 of the milk-egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine.  Increase the speed to medium and keep beating until the batter becomes smooth and fluffy.  Pour in the remaining milk-egg mixture.  You’ll end up with a lovely yellow creamy batter.  It’s smells pretty darn good too… take a whiff… you’ll feel a little happier for it.  For realz.

Since it’s a pretty liquidy batter, I found it was easiest to put it into a measuring cup with a lip… pour the batter into the paper liners.

These cupcakes will rise quite a bit… so don’t fill the cases too much :0) (that’s also how you can end up with 20 cupcakes rather than 12).

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes – they will have risen and be springy to your touch.  Leave them in the muffin tins for a few minutes, remove and then allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  You need to allow them to cool completely before continuing.

If you don’t already have some fresh and delicious lemon curd on hand… take the time to make it.  Fresh really is best.  And pretty darn simple to make too.

Once your cupcakes are cool, fill a piping bag with some lemon curd (use any tip) and pipe some curd into each cupcake (stick the tip into the top of the cupcakes): you’ll see the cupcake start to expand, that’s when you’ll know it’s enough.  Don’t worry if some of the curd overflows… it’s all good ;0)

Time to make the meringue.  Since you aren’t going to stick the meringue back in the oven, you’ll need to make a simply syrup for an italian meringue.  Place the sugar in a small saucepan and cover with the water (use as much of the water as needed to cover the sugar), bring to a boil. Allow the sugar to boil for 5 – 10 minutes or until it has reached the softball stage (240 degrees).

Meanwhile, use your stand-mixer with the whisk attachment and whisk the egg-whites until just foamy.

Once you have reached the softball stage, remove the syrup from the heat and increase the mixer speed to medium.  Slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites.  Once all the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high – whisking until the underside of the bowl feels lukewarm.  The meringue will quadruple in size and be very white and smooth.

I found it was easiest to fill another piping bag with the meringue and then piped the meringue on top of each cupcake.

Once all the cupcakes have been topped, grab your blowtorch and quickly brown the tops of each cupcake.  Watch out!  You don’t want to burn the paper liners :0)

That’s it … a birthday tribute to my big brother.