October 29, 2023

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Pumpkin Cupcakes are  perfect for your Halloween or autumn gathering.  For the chocolate cupcake I used Cook's Illustrated's recipe which is super easy to make and comes together by hand in one bowl.  My favorite Swiss meringue buttercream was piped on top of each cupcake to create the pumpkin effect.   

Swiss Meringue Buttercream 
5 large egg whites (~150g)
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb unsalted butter cut in to pieces, at room temperature
Place sugar, egg whites and salt in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth.

Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes.

Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don't worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla extract, and beat just until combined.

Decorating Tips
Pumpkin Body: Ateco 862
Pumpkin Stem: Ateco 19
Leaf:  Ateco 352
Vine: Ateco 2

October 21, 2023



I could literally kick myself for never having tasted Maritozzi, a traditional Italian breakfast treat consisting of a brioche bun filled with freshly whipped cream, whenever I visited Italy.  This enticing Instagram post from Bread by Elise motivated me to correct that grievous error. 

What especially drew me to Elise's bun recipe was the use of tangzhong.  This flour and milk roux added into the dough ensures that the bread maintains a soft interior long after baking.   As I was making the dough I could tell straightaway that the buns were going to be fantastic because the dough's texture was so elastic, light and easy to work with.    

Who doesn't love freshly whipped cream and maritozzis are filled to the brim with it, along with a layer of homemade tart raspberry jam.  A marriage made in breakfast heaven.  The only drawback, if you consider it one, is that the maritozzi tastes best when consumed à la minute, i.e., right away.    Next time I think I'll freeze some of the unfilled, baked buns and then reheat and fill them at a later time.  Now that I'm confident in my maritozzi-making skills I can save myself the price of a plane ticket to Italy, although I'd happily still go for pasta and shopping!

October 13, 2023

Boston Cream Pie


The last time I made Boston Cream Pie was more than a dozen years ago but I had another go recently for my Mom's birthday.  Back then I wasn't satisfied with the runny texture of the pastry cream, so for this attempt I made sure it was firm.   To assemble my cake I also went a bit off piste.  The cake was baked as three layers, instead of the traditional two, and for the chocolate ganache icing I went the simple, minimalist route. 

October 7, 2023

Bien Cuit Shortbread

Four simple ingredients: butter, powdered sugar, flour and kosher salt.  Basic staples found in any pantry that triumphantly come together in these delicious Bien Cuit Shortbread.  I've never been to the eponymous New York bakery where the recipe comes from but, fortunately, now I don't have to make the cross-country trek. 

I first saw the shortbread featured on Food 52's Instagram account.  To be honest, it was their finger-like shape that really caught my attention.  When I read Amanda Hesser's testimony that they were the world's best shortbread I couldn't not make them.  Indeed, she was absolutely correct...the cookies were so delicious: short, buttery and just a hint of sweetness.   I think they will be a strong contender for this year's holiday cookie box.

October 1, 2023

Dutch Apple Cake


I've visited The Netherlands exactly twice: the first time as a university student passing through with a Eurail pass and the second when one of my besties was working there on a long-term project.   During neither of those trips did I have the fortune to taste the famous appeltaart (more like cake) from Cafe Winkel 43 in Amsterdam. Actually, I'd never even heard of this famous dessert until I saw it on Amanda Frederickson's blog when she tried to replicate it at home.  Since we're at the beginning of fall I thought her Dutch Apple Cake would make the ideal first bake to celebrate the season. 

Amanda's recipe makes a 9-inch cake, but I ended up halving the ingredients and making a smaller cake using a 6-inch pan.  I was happy when the downsizing worked out perfectly.  For the apples I used my favorite variety, honeycrisp, which are crunchy, sweet and tart and hold up perfectly when baked.   The cake baked up to a lovely golden brown and it took all my willpower to not slice into it straightaway.   As soon as it cooled I indulged in a slice with vanilla whipped cream.  My first taste was a triumph and unlike any other apple cake I'd had before.  The cake top was almost like shortbread while the apple chunks in the middle add a nice, fruity contrast.   I can't wait for my next visit to Amsterdam so I can try the original, but until then this replica version suits me just fine.

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