Saturday, 30 October 2010

Wicked Milk Chocolate Mousse

Well, it's finally here!  Cupcake Camp London is this Sunday (Halloween) and before I go into full cupcake baking mode, I just wanted to get one last Halloween post up.  As a sponsor of the event I feel under a lot of pressure to bring some amazingly delicious cupcakes, and with only 1 day left before Cupcake Camp London gets under way I'm still trying new recipes and deciding on what flavours to bring!  I'd LOVE to bring a dozen different flavours, but I'm fairly limited with the number of cupcakes I can bring as I've got to bring everything with me on the train and tube.  Luckily I've got my husband and a good friend to help me carry everything!  

A few weeks ago the lovely folks at Sainsbury's sent me some milk chocolate from their new Taste The Difference Range.  Usually I use dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa when I bake, so using milk chocolate was a nice change. After considering a few dessert options, I finally decided on chocolate mousse.  Chocolate mousse in edible Halloween candy cups! 

Pretty cute huh? 

To make these milk chocolate mousse cups you'll need a few simple ingredients.  Milk Chocolate, whipping cream, egg yolks, sugar and Wilton candy melts. I'd recommend using a thermometer when your cooking the egg yolks to ensure their cooked properly. 

Milk Chocolate Mousse 

8oz (230g) chopped milk chocolate
1/2 cup (125ml) water, divided
2 Tbs (30ml) butter (no substitutes)
3 egg yolks
2 Tbs (25g) sugar
1 1/4 cups (295ml) whipping cream, whipped
Chocolate cups (instructions here) 

1. In a double boiler, heat the milk chocolate,butter and 1/4 cup (60ml)of the water.  Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted. Cool for 10 minutes. 

2. In a small heavy saucepan, whisk egg yolks, sugar and remaining water. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture reaches 160ºF (72ºC). Remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate mixture. Set saucepan in ice and stir until cooled, about 5-10 minutes. 

3. Whip your cream until it's nice and thick - but not buttery.  Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.   

4. When you're ready to serve the mousse gently spoon it into a piping bag and then squeeze it into your chocolate cups (instructions are here).  

I decided to make a last minute change to my mousse, and tried to tint it black by substituting half of the water in step 2 for liquid black food colouring.  It turned out great until I added my white whipped cream which obviously turned the finished mousse grey.  If you want a darker black mousse then I'd suggest replacing all the water in step 2 (or 1 for that matter) with the black food colouring.   

Sprinkle on a few co-ordinating decorations of your choice and you've got a really tasty and somewhat sophisticated Halloween dessert! 

When I piped my first cup of mousse I immediately thought they looked like cute little witches hats, so I decided to channel my inner Elphaba and make green chocolate cup as an ode to Wicked - my favourite musical!

Happy Halloween!!!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Italian Gelato & Ice Cream Cupcakes!

So remember those ice cream cupcakes I made back in July? They were a huge hit, and probably the most popular post I've done so far.  Well last week I got an email from Carlo - he owns a chain of gelato stores here in London called Gelato Mio. He wanted to know if I'd come down to one of his stores to taste test (and make!) some of the new gelato cupcakes that he's getting ready to launch in his shops.  Kelly from an American Cupcake in London was also there to help provide feedback on the gelato cupcakes which aren't released yet, so we were pretty lucky to get a sneak peak! 

 Picture courtesy of canelvr

Just in case you don't know the difference, ice cream starts with a milk base while Italian gelato uses a water base (less fat). I'm going to warn you now - be prepared for pictured OVERLOAD! 

First things first. Carlo (above) educated us on one of the most basic, yet important ingredients in ice cream making and cooking - vanilla.  I'm sure we've all seen a vanilla bean before.  You know - those long skinny black beans that come in plastic tubes?  Well, Carlo showed us the difference between the mediocre grocery store vanilla bean, and the premium quality vanilla beans he uses for his ice cream and gelato. 

See the vanilla bean on the left - that's actually the higher quality vanilla bean!  Yeah, it might look a little bit moldy, but that isn't actually mold.  The white fuzzy covering on the vanilla bean is called vanillian, and is an extremely pure and aromatic form of vanilla.  The beans that we get in the grocery store have already had the vanillian removed from them, so it can be used to make vanilla extract.  The two beans on the right, are just your run of the mill vanilla bean. 

Next we got to take a look at the raw ingredients that go into making the gelato and ice cream at Gelato Mio. On the menu for the evening was pistachio ice cream and strawberry gelato.  I love pistachios, but I'd only ever seen them in their original nut form.  When they're used in ice cream they need to be blended into the mixture, but you can't do that with raw nuts, so they use a pistachio puree instead.  The pistachio puree was amazing - almost like a pistachio peanut butter.  Oh how I'd love to eat it in a sandwich! 

We also got to make a delicious strawberry gelato using the some of the nicest, freshest strawberries I'd ever seen.  Not a blemish in site! 

They also make the most amazingly delicious Dark Chocolate Ice cream using THIS 5kg bar!

First up was the pistachio ice cream: 
Start out with a big bucket of the milk base 

Add in the pistachio puree 

Blend, blend, blend! 

Pour it into the magic ice cream machine 

9 minutes later, and out comes the most delicious pistachio ice cream! 

After all (um, I mean most) of the ice cream has made it into the metal container Carlo opened it up for us to see.  And clean.  And clean we did!  With spoons!  Cute little gelato spoons to be exact. 

Next up was the strawberry gelato: 

Start with a bucket of water and dump in the freshly washed strawberries.

Add in some sugar.

And blend. 

Yup, you know the drill.  Blend some more!  

Before it goes in the ice cream machine Carlo measures the sugar content of the  strawberry mixture using  a refractometer to make sure it's just right. 

And finally out comes fresh strawberry gelato. 

Here they are - our two frozen concoctions.  Pistachio ice cream and strawberry gelato.  YUM! 

Nothing beats the taste of freshly made pistachio ice cream! 

Obviously ice cream needs to stay cold, so into the freezer it goes! And into the freezer we went too!  Yeah, that's right.  Carlo made the mistake of letting us into the freezer as well. Unattended. With spoons!!!!  Lots of spoons!!!  

After Carlo dragged us out of the freezer we got our first look at his gelato cupcake prototypes.  He'd prepared a bunch of different flavour combinations for us to try. 

The first one we tried was a strawberry gelato cupcake that was constructed very similar to the way I made mine.  Chocolate shell, a layer of cake, ice cream middle and a chocolate frosting top.  The frozen cupcakes crusted over for a minute or two when they came out of the freezer.  Carlo and his pastry chef have worked hard to come up with a few different frosting recipes that don't harden in the freezer.  This cupcake had a light pink marshmallow frosting on it. I'd never really been a fan of marshmallow frosting until I tried Gelato Mio's version.  I couldn't stop eating it! 

There's the inside of the gelato cupcake.  Vanilla cake and strawberry gelato. I have to say, it was pretty good!

Next we got to have a try and making our own gelato cupcakes.  Carlo wanted to see how we (the cupcake experts) would make them, so he got everything all ready and laid out for us. We tried different amounts of cake inside, different cake flavours, different ice creams, and different frostings. 

Chocolate cups!  These ones were pre-made, but if you'd like to make your own you can follow my instructions here.  They're really easy! 

Next we used circle cookie cutters to cut out the cake rounds, and then placed them in the cups.  I tried different amounts of cake in a few, and also combined both a layer of chocolate and vanilla cake in some.  

I also did a little experiment, and cut a hole in the middle of my cake (top left) and filled it with chocolate sauce to create a gooey surprise center!  Then it was time to choose our ice creams and gelato that would go into the cupcakes.  I choose peanut butter and dark chocolate (not pictured). 

The final step to making the ice cream cupcakes really is what defines it as a cupcake.  The frosting!  As I mentioned before, I really fell in love with the marshmallow frosting, and Kelly and I opted to use blue for our cupcakes. 
Pipe on a nice big swirl, and voilla!  Add on a few sprinkles, and it looks even better. 

Here's a cross section of my chocolate filled cupcake. The chocolate just poured out.  Chocolate cake, chocolate sauce, rich dark chocolate ice cream, and marshmallow frosting.  I love it!  I think this was probably my favourite of the evening. 

Be careful though!  You can't leave these cupcakes at room temperature for long, or they'll start to melt! 

All in all, I had a really fun night with Carlo and his team at Gelato Mio. The whole gelato workshop was very educational, and I was really impressed with the quality of ingredients and the care that went into making each batch of ice cream and gelato.  As I mentioned before, these ice cream cupcakes aren't available in the Gelato Mio stores just yet as Carlo's still got a bit of tweaking and taste testing to do.  He's hoping to launch them in the next month or two, so I can't wait to see what the final product will look (and taste!) like.  I'll definitely be heading down to one of his 4 locations to try one. 

If you're interested in attending one of Carlo's gelato workshops, I'm pretty sure that he runs similar ones several times a month, so if you're interested in attending on yourself you can contact Carlo here. 

Oh, and one of the best things about the night - I didn't have to clean up!!!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

You Little Devil!

Guess what - Halloween is getting closer!  Just 2 weeks away now, which also means that Cupcake Camp London is also only 2 weeks away!  I've got a quick little cupcake decorating post for you all, with another larger post coming tonight or tomorrow that you definitely won't want to miss.  This post was also featured on The Pink Little Cake blog today, and is part of their 28 Days of Halloween series - check them out for lots of other cute Halloween ideas! 

To make these Little Devils you'll need:
Cupcakes - preferably in red liners
Red buttercream icing
Red sanding sugar - *instructions below
Red candy melts

1. Start out by covering the top of your cupcake with the red buttercream icing.  It doesn't matter if the icing isn't perfectly smooth, just make sure that the icing meets the edges of the cupcake liner.

2. Now it's time to cover your frosted cupcake in the red sugar*.  To do this you'll need to have your sugar in shallow bowl that's wide enough to fit the top of your cupcake in, plus a little extra.  Start by holding your cupcake upside down and gently rolling it around in a circular motion, making sure to get to the edges where the icing meets the paper liner.  Keep on rolling your cupcake in the sugar until the top is completely covered in red sugar and it's got a nice shape to it.

* For those of you who don't have any red sugar on hand, or don't want to use up all your expensive decorating sugars for this, you can make your own red sugar for free!  I don't really like to store bought decorating sugars because the individual grains are too big to cover a cupcake with, and as a result they don't give it a very nice texture.  Instead I take some fine granulated or caster sugar, put it in a plastic zip lock back and add a few drops of liquid red food coloring.  Seal up the bag, and start to smoosh the sugar around, so that the food coloring mixes with the sugar.  Do this until the food coloring is entirely mixed with the sugar.  If it's not dark enough, just add a bit more food coloring and repeat the same process.

3. To make the devil horns you'll need to melt some red candy melts and pour them into a disposable piping bag or a plastic zip lock bag, and snip the tip off so you've got a small opening. On a non stick surface such as a silicone baking sheet or clear plastic sheet, start creating an outline of the devil's horn (# 1 in the photo). Next you'll need to fill it in, don't worry about getting the chocolate perfectly smooth while your doing this - just make sure there's enough to fill the horn (#2 in the photo). Now take a tooth pick and smooth out the candy melts so the horn is completely filled and there are no empty patches. Make sure that the candy melts meet the edges of the horn.  If you don't have any candy melts you could also use red royal icing which should work just as well.

4.  Let your candy melt horns set, and very gently peel them off.  Now place them into the top of your cupcakes and you're done!  I think I made my horns a bit too big, but feel free to experiment with different sizes.

There you have it - you're own little devil cupcakes!  Perfect for Halloween!  I hope you all can give these a try, and if you've got your own little devils at home I'm sure they'd love to help make these!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Sticky Caramel Apples

I don't know when the last time I had a caramel apple was.  A rough guess would probably be over 20 years ago, but for some reason I really got the urge to make a batch this year.  Halloween is quickly approaching which signals the start of the holiday season for me.  It also means that I get to look back on nearly 30 years of Canadian holiday traditions - most of which I don't get to see here in the UK.

Halloween is a relatively new thing over here, and it's for kids only.  No crazy adult parties with everyone decked out in costumes, no one really carves a pumpkin or decorates their yards to look like graveyards, and worst of all there are no traditional home baked Halloween treats!  Kids are just beginning to trick or treat which means that the adults who own the doors these kids are knocking on probably aren't aware that Halloween is making it's way "across the pond." 

Over the next few months my blog will be filled with traditional Holiday treats, including some UK ones I've grown to love since moving here 2 years ago.  

Anyway, back to the apples!  For North Americans (more for Americans I'd say) caramel apples are a pretty traditional snack around Halloween.  They come in every size and flavour imaginable, and have become pretty trendy lately with specialty stores selling nothing but gourmet caramel apples covered in everything from drizzled chocolate to crushed oreos and gummy bears.  I decided to keep it simple and used finely crushed oreo crumbs and some cute milk and white chocolate stars.


Making caramel apples is fairly easy, all you'll need is some caramels, a small amount of heavy cream, candy to decorate and of course some apples! 

I'm not sure if they sell chewy caramels like this in the UK.  I've never seen them, but to be honest I've never looked.  I have a feeling that Werther's Original Chewy Toffee pieces would probably work though.  I bought my bag of Caramels way back in August when I went back to Canada - yeah, they were already selling Halloween candy back then! 

Try using different sizes of apples. I found some cute mini ones that would be good for kids. The one in the middle formed some bubbles in the caramel that look like creepy warts :-s

Caramel Apples

6 apples - I prefer tart ones like Granny Smiths
14oz (400g) chewy caramel pieces
2 Tbsp (30ml) heavy cream
6 popsicle sticks 

1. Start up by inserting a popsicle stick into each apple, and then place them in the freezer for 15 minutes (this helps the caramel set). 

2.  In large glass measuring cup, melt your caramel pieces in the microwave together with the heavy cream, and stir until smooth.  Try melting the caramels for 1 minute, and then 30 second intervals after that.   

3. Take your apples out of the freezer and dip them into the melted caramel using the popsicle stick as a handle.  Start by plunging each apple directly into the caramel, rotating it with the stick to help coat the apple evenly.   

4. Once covered, pull the apple out of the caramel and let the excess drip off.  If you'd like to put any "toppings" on your apple, now's the time to do it.  Immediately after I take the apple out of the caramel I place it in the oreo crumbs and let it set.  The caramel will set quite quickly if you're apples are cold, so you'll also have to work quickly!  Make sure you set your apples on some kind of non stick surface like a greased plastic lid or a silicone baking mat so they don't stick! That's pretty much it!

You can eat these apples off the stick, but I prefer to cut mine up into sections and share it with someone else.  I find that they're quite filling and there's a lot of chewing involved, so I couldn't eat a whole one.
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