Twit-Twoo Owl Cupcakes

Friday, 31 October 2014




Happy Halloween!

Considering how much fun I had making Witches' Hats and Broomsticks, you can only imagine how happy I was making these.  I spent a very contented Friday evening (yes, super cool) surrounded by cupcakes, a jar of Nutella, and more chocolate buttons than I needed (you have to sample as you go along, naturally).  There's something so rewarding about turning plain chocolate cupcakes into owl faces, and they don't fully come together until you place the last piece of the puzzle, regardless of whether it's a nose or an eye or a piece of the feathers.

These little guys are so fun to make, and I think they make for a friendly face to have around at this time of year when we're surrounded by witches, ghosts and ghouls!  The cake base is my new deliciously chocolatey go-to recipe topped with Nutella, followed by milk chocolate buttons serving as feathers, white chocolate buttons and mini chocolate chips as eyes, halved jelly diamonds as noses, and little stars for extra decoration!  If you can get past not wanting to eat something so cute-looking (my Mum has to eat the eyes first so that they're not longer looking at her!), they taste absolutely amazing.  I'd say have some ready to hand out to Trick or Treaters, but you really won't be overly inclined to share them.


TWIT-TWOO OWL CUPCAKES
Yield:  12 cupcakes     Time:  45 minutes (plus cooling time)


INGREDIENTS


for the chocolate cupcakes

100g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
140g golden caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
40g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120ml whole milk
1 medium egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g milk chocolate chips

for the owl tops

a few tablespoons of Nutella
milk chocolate buttons
white chocolate buttons
milk chocolate chips
jelly diamonds, halved
white chocolate stars (optional)


INSTRUCTIONS


Heat the oven to 170C.

Line a 12-cup muffin tray with muffin cases.


  1. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder in a bowl.  Add the sugar and butter, and mix until combined and you have a sandy consistency.
  2. Whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla in a jug, and slowly pour half into the flour mixture until combined, then repeat with the second half.  Be careful not to over mix.
  3. Mix in the chocolate chips by hand.
  4. Spoon into the waiting muffin cases and bake for 18-22 minutes until a knife comes out clean.  Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool fully.
  5. Top each cooled muffin with a tablespoon of Nutella and spread out with a fork until you have a feather pattern.
  6. Place milk chocolate buttons across the bottom of each as feathers, and white chocolate buttons topped with milk chocolate chips as eyes.  Halved jelly diamonds as beeks to finish them off!

NOTES


Owl topping adapted from the Waitrose Kitchen Magazine, October 2014.

Cupcake recipe adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, p17.

Spiderweb Chocolate Cake

Tuesday, 28 October 2014


As evidenced here, I need to practice my web-ing!  I discovered (too late) that the trick is to spin your web with a steady hand, and fast.  If you take your time to make sure you're doing it right then you'll create gaps that you have to go back over, and that looks messy.  The tighter your circles the more dramatic the web effect will look, too.

Dubious web-making skills aside, this cake is delicious.  I opted for a Nutella filling to balance out the sharpness of the dark chocolate in the outer icing, and it worked perfectly.  The cake itself was lovely and light, and the combination of all three flavours in each mouthful was a winner.  Presentation-wise, it depends how much of a perfectionist you are as to whether a slightly messy web is a good or a bad thing.  I imagine this would be a really great cake to make with kids - I'd love to see what webs they managed to come up with!  Messy or not, kids or not, it's a fun cake to make.

Cat paws optional!



SPIDERWEB CHOCOLATE CAKE
Yield: 1 8-inch cake      Time: 1 hour (plus cooling and setting time)

INGREDIENTS


for the chocolate cake

200g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
280g golden caster sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
240ml whole milk
2 medium eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the filling
5 tablespoons of Nutella (add more if needed)

for the chocolate ganache
300ml double cream
250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), broken up
1 1/2 tablespoons liquid glucose
50g white chocolate, roughly chopped (I actually used chocolate chips!)



INSTRUCTIONS

Heat your oven to 170C.

Grease and line two 8-inch tins.

  1. Place the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, sugar and butter in a bowl and mix until you have a sandy consistency.
  2. In a jug, whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla extract.
  3. Pour half of the wet mixture into the bowl, stirring until combined.  Gradually add the second half and mix until you have a silky consistency (be careful not to over mix as this will result in a tough cake!).
  4. Divide the mixture evenly between the two cake tins and place on the middle shelf in the oven for 25-30 minutes until a knife comes out clean.  Remove the cakes from the tins and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Once cooled, if your cakes are domed then slice the tops off of them so that you have flat surfaces.  Cover the top of one of the cakes with Nutella.  I used a palette knife to smooth it all the way to the edges.  Turn the second cake upside down and sandwich on top of the Nutella layer.
  6. To make the ganache, heat the cream, liquid glucose and chocolate together in a heat proof bowl over a bain marie, stirring until the chocolate has melted and the mixture has come together.  Take off the heat and set aside to cool for a couple of minutes.
  7. In the meantime, melt your white chocolate in the same method (or in the microwave) and spoon into a piping bag with a small-holed nozzle attached.  Set to one side carefully.
  8. Pour the dark chocolate icing onto the centre of the cake and smooth out and over the sides with a palette knife using long strokes to create an even finish.
  9. With the white chocolate piping bag, start slightly off centre and pipe a spiral all the way round the cake until you get to the edge.  The tighter the lines, the more dramatic the effect!  Take a cocktail stick and, starting from the centre, pull it through the white chocolate lines to the outside of the cake.  Repeat around the cake until you have a spider's web pattern!  Leave the icing to set for about half an hour before slicing.


NOTES


Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery chocolate cupcake recipe, and the Waitrose food magazine October 2014.


Witches' Hats and Broomsticks

Thursday, 23 October 2014


I felt a little like a kid making these.  Somehow, coating ice cream cones in melted chocolate and sticking them to digestive biscuits holds a calming Halloween joy that doesn't dissipate, no matter your age.  I imagine making these with small people would be even more fun!

When I was little, I would have a Halloween party every year.  The usual suspects would turn up (most always in witch outfits), sign into my homemade Visitor's Book as different personalities (classics such as Jo Ebony, Gorack, Batty the Blood Drinking Bat, and Rachel Green: The Deadly Drinks Waitress), and we'd dance around the living room hyped up on sugar.

If that sounds like something your little people do (or you still do!) then these would make a worthy addition to your night!


WITCHES' HATS AND BROOMSTICKS
Yield: As many as you like!  I made 12 of each but there really is no limit      Time: < 1 hour


INGREDIENTS

for the hats
100g dark chocolate, melted and cooled a little
12 ice cream cones
12 plain chocolate digestives
white chocolate stars (I used these ones)

for the broomsticks
12 Mikado sticks
3 liquorice catherine wheels
a few dabs of melted chocolate (I used the chocolate left over from the hats!)


INSTRUCTIONS

Lay out a large sheet of greaseproof paper.

WITCHES' HATS

  1. With a bread knife, slice off the wide tops of the ice cream cones so that you're just left with the stems.
  2. Roll the cones in the melted chocolate, and leave to stand on the greaseproof paper.  Once the chocolate begins to set, gently add the stars by hand (if you do this too early they'll run down the side of the cones!  Patience is your friend here, and you can make the broomsticks whilst you're waiting).
  3. Once fully set, dip the bottom of each cone in a little melted chocolate, and place in the centre of each digestive biscuit.  Allow to set.
WITCHES' BROOMSTICKS

  1. Unroll your liquorice catherine wheels.  I cut mine in half width-wise as I felt they were too wide, and this gave me twice as much to work with, too.  
  2. Using scissors, cut a couple of the unravelled wheels into strips 4-5cm long.  Cut another couple in half length-wise - you'll need the longer strands to wrap around the tip to hold everything in place.
  3. Gently dip the chocolate end of a Mikado stick in the melted chocolate you have left over from the hats.
  4. Gather a few of your short strips around the bottom of the stick, and secure in place with one of the longer strands.  Tuck the end inside the wrap to fasten it all in place.


NOTES

Adapted from: Waitrose Kitchen magazine, October 2014.

Aubergine Lasagne

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


My Mum makes the best veggie lasagne.  Little chopped up cubes of courgette, lightly fried onions and garlic, tinned plum tomatoes and a dash of tomato paste sandwiched between lasagne sheets and topped with mozzarella cheese instead of cheese sauce.  It's delicious.  It feels like a healthy lasagne, not too heavy or decadent.  It tastes of my childhood.

Sometimes, though, I have the urge to branch out and see what lies in the land of decadent lasagnes.  I went into this recipe unprepared for the amount of preparation it takes!  Mum's lasagne is quick to whip up and I know it like the back of my hand - this one took a little more planning and a lot more time.  If it's a quiet Sunday night in and you have a craving for lasagne, this may not be the right one for you, but I think it would make for a perfect feast if you're entertaining people.  It's rich in flavour, plentiful in layers and decadent in the way of cheese.  Yes, please.


AUBERGINE LASAGNE
Time: 1hr 30mins - 2 hours     Yield: 4-6 portions

INGREDIENTS


for the filling
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 aubergine (eggplant), cut into 1cm rounds
1 large courgette, cut into slices
250g mozzarella
8-10 dry lasagne sheets
2 tablespoons grated parmesan

for the cheese sauce
30g unsalted butter
30g plain flour
550ml whole milk
100g grated gruyere
freshly cracked black pepper to season

for the tomato sauce

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato puree
400g tin of peeled plum tomatoes
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped


INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oven to 200C / Gas Mark 6.
  1. In a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over a high heat.  Add the aubergine slices in a single layer, turning to ensure they turn golden brown on both sides.  Repeat with the remaining aubergine and the courgette, adding more oil as needed.
  2. To prepare the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the onions, cooking until soft.  Mix in the tomato puree, tomatoes, sugar and garlic, and cook for 20 minutes or so.  Season with pepper (and salt, if you wish).  The sauce should reduce down and thicken a little.  Add the basil, and remove the saucepan from the heat to cool slightly.
  3. For the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes.  Slowly add the milk to the pan, stirring constantly.  Bring the mixture to the boil and very gently simmer it for 3-4 minutes, stirring until the sauce has thickened and coats the back of the spoon.  It should be smooth and glossy.  Remove from the heat and stir in the gruyere.
  4. To assemble, pour half of the of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a 20cm x 30cm oven dish.  Place half of the aubergines and courgettes on top.  Tear half of the mozzarella ball into pieces and scatter over the vegetables, then top with a layer of lasagne sheets.  Repeat this layering once again.  Pour over the cheese sauce, and grate a little parmesan over the top.  Bake for 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.


NOTES


Adapted from: The Meat Free Monday Cookbook, p214
 

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