merry christmas y’all… better late than never!

I know… I’m late. I’m wishing you a Merry Christmas as we all get ready to pull out the bubbly and celebrate the New Year! I meant to upload some recipes over the course of the month… as inspiration for your own holiday baking… obviously, I didn’t really succeed. I baked. A lot. So I’d like you to accept my apology and imagine me slaving behind my kitchenaid and oven preparing my goodies in order to gift them to my loved ones.

My papa called me early on in the month and we confirmed that I would be responsible for our Christmas desserts. I was also informed me that my step-mother, Marielle, wouldn’t be baking sweets; that I would be the sole provider of goodies for several days of holiday celebrations. Talk about pressure! (btw, Marielle did bake – and made probably the best tortière I’ve ever tasted – everything was wonderful)

So amongst the mayhem of my kitchen I pulled out my camera, tried some new recipes and am ready to upload them and share them with all of you. They aren’t all necessarily simply Christmas baking … these cupcakes I’d call winter cupcakes – a beautiful white cupcake iced with a white chocolate cream cheese butter cream… sounds just about perfect for a cold January day :0)

Winter White Cupcakes
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 c. buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, scraped and seeds removed
1/4 tsp pure almond extract
3/4 c. butter, room temperature
1 c. white sugar
3 large egg whites, room temperature

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Depending on how big you want your cupcakes, you can line muffins tins with cupcake liners for either 12 or 24 cupcakes (I was able to make 24 regular sized cupcakes… not too big, just the perfect size to enjoy after indulging in copious amounts of food).

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla seeds together in a medium sized bowl. In a smaller bowl, combing the buttermilk, vanilla and almond extracts together. Set both bowls aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar – start at a lower speed, increasing the speed to get that fluffy texture and lightness in colour (about 3 minutes).

On low speed (Stir) and in 3 additions, add the flour and milk mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 flour, 2 milk). Mix until the flour is just incorporated and the batter looks smooth. Set aside.

In a large glass bowl and with clean beaters (I used my electric hand-mixer for this part), beat the egg whites until foamy (medium speed). Increase the speed to high and continue beating until the egg whites look shiny and smooth; the egg whites will cling to your beaters when you lift them.

Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Once incorporated (do this quickly so that the egg whites don’t loose volume), grab your rubber spatula and fold the remaining egg whites into the batter. Just blended.

I used my mini ice-cream scooper to fill my paper liners – about 2 scoops per liner (that will make 24 cupcakes – 1/3 c. of batter would fill 12 liners).

Bake for about 20 minutes (the toothpick will come out clean when tested in the centre of the cupcake), remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from the wire rack and allow to cool completely before icing.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
3 ounces of white chocolate, chopped
1/4 c. unsalted butter at room temperature
4 ounces of cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 vanilla bean, scraped and seeds removed (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 – 2 tbsp milk, half & half or cream… whatever you have on hand.

In a double boiler melt the white chocolate to smooth (heatproof glass bowl over a pot of 1 inch simmering water). Use your wire whisk to stir the chocolate smooth. Transfer to the bowl of your stand mixer.

Add the butter, cream cheese and vanilla (either the seeds or the extract) and, using your paddle attachment, beat to smooth (1 minute or so). Add the powdered sugar, mixing until the frosting is smooth. This is when I add the half & half (or milk or cream)… it loosens up the frosting just a bit; incorporate a tsp at a time.

Use a small spatula or a butter knife to spread about a tbsp or so of frosting on every cupcake. If you want to make these really decadent, top with white chocolate curls.

A prefect blend of butter cream and cream cheese frosting… not too heavy, and the white chocolate surprises people too. This frosting went really well with my white chocolate almond mini bundt cakes (January 2009 entry) too… you have to love multi-purpose baking recipes!

the sweet smell of gingerbread… continues!

Oh ginger… what a wonderful spice! I love it in my cooking – pickled, minced, sliced, diced… anyway you prepare it, I heart ginger. Which is why I’m very drawn to ginger sweets (actually, candied ginger is one of my favourite candies… seriously. almost addictive)… so I decided to keep baking with it this past week. On the menu, gingerbread people. My ginger people weren’t decorated in my kitchen, since I gave them to my friend Tonya, so that she and her daughter could decorate them this weekend.

With the remaining dough I decided to use a circle cookie cutter and make little round disks that I then sprinkled with sugar prior to baking.

This recipe is thanks to Heidi @ 101 Cookbooks – I used some fresh ginger as well as the dried ground ginger, which I felt gave the cookies a real punch. A good, simple, dependable recipe that holds well to the rolling pin and cookie cutters. Highly recommended. :0)

Gingerbread Cookies
4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp ground ginger
knob of fresh ginger, finely minced
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 c. dark brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
2/3 cup molasses
large grain sugar for decoration

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

Using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Incorporate the brown sugar and beat until creamy. Blend in the eggs one at a time and then the molasses. Add the flour mixture, add half the flour, incorporate and then add the rest of the flour… keep your mixer on low speed. Once that’s done, divide the dough in half and wrap both halves in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour – I allowed mine to sit in the fridge for 24 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 F and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.

If you’ve allowed the dough to set for quite some time in the fridge, take it out just a little before you’ll want to roll it out – so that it warms up just a bit (take it out about 5 minutes before you would start rolling it).

Lightly flour your working surface and then gently roll out the dough; I use the same technique as I do with my pastry dough, rolling in one direction and turning the dough in a clockwise motion until I end up with about 1/8-inch thick dough.

Then grab your ginger people – or any cookie cutter of your choice, and start cutting the figures out of the dough. I made a dozen people – 6 boys and 6 girls (for the decorating party) and with the remaining dough I cut out rounds and sprinkled those with the large grain sugar prior to baking them.

The key to gingerbread is not over baking the cookies; make sure that the sides are a little firm but that there is still a little give when you press down on the top of the cookie. Between 8 – 11 minutes… depending on the size of the cookie (the people 11 minutes, the rounds 9 minutes).

Decorate as you wish… I look forward to seeing what was created with my cookie base ;0)

sausage bread… a new classic!

*This entry is written by Manu aka, Man United! Manu is trying out this blog writing thing, and we figured he should try on mine… enjoy!

Me, my dad, and Lynne like to make bread so we decided to make sausage bread. this will be good trust us! we added cheese and Italian spices. We recommend this because we like to eat all of these ingredients, so we thought, let’s put it in the bread! Aren’t we smart?

We started off with my dad cooking the local, organic lamb merguez sausages… the kitchen smelled good!!!

Then we had to mix 2 teaspoons of active yeast (we only used active because we were out of live yeast) with 2 cups of warm milk and 1/2 a cup of warm water to get the bread started along with 2 tablespoons of sugar to feed the yeast, and a pinch of salt.

Then you need to cut the cooked sausages, my dad let me do that myself.

Then you need to mix the cheese (which was cut in cubes), the Italian spices and the sausages together.

We used our kitchenaid stand mixer to mix everything together with the flour… I had to be patient to slowly add the flour (I was very tempted to pour it all in at once).

Once it became the dough itself, we put it in a greased bowl, and wet a dish towel over the bowl and we put it in the microwave for 60 minutes. Do not turn on the microwave (you won’t get any bread, you’ll get a house on fire)! You just need a warm place to put it in so that the dough can rise.

After I patiently waited an hour for the dough to rise I took it out of the microwave and punched it down! I did it 5 times. Don’t do it more than that – otherwise it will get as hard a rock.

Then we floured a surfaced and made little balls out of the big dough.

Then you mix egg and a little bit of milk together using a fork. You will use this to paint the bread with an eggwash. Then you take sesame seeds and coarse sea salt and garlic salt and you sprinkle all of that on top of the buns.

Now to preheat the oven at 420 F and let the buns rise again on cookie sheets for a good 20 to 30 minutes – they will re-rise.

My dad then cut crosses on the tops of the buns before he put them in the oven.

We let the buns bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until they are golden brown and when you lift the buns and tap the bottom they sound hallow.

My dad thinks you should listen to the song “Golden Brown” by the Stranglers for inspiration.

I just took a bite of it and I think I’m going to marry it…. Seriously, this is the best bread EVER!!!!!!