All posts by constantcircus

About constantcircus

I'm a mother of two young boys. I love to write, cook and travel...in that order :) Here's the real us: a workaholic, introvert-in-an-extravert-job husband; a harried, extravert-but-stay-home wife; a 7-going-on-13-moody Boy1; and a still-sweet-but-act-older-than-4 Boy2. Maybe I should have called ours the hyphenated family. Hmm. We're leading a busy albeit decidedly unglam life, currently in the suburbs of Washington D.C. My youngest is finally in half-day preschool which gives me precious minutes to take a bathroom break, alone!, whenever I need to, as long as it's in the morning. After almost 7 years of constant washroom company, I'll take it! There are of course bigger family issues to resolve than the aforementioned as the kids get older, hence this blog. Hopefully, writing here will provide me an opportunity to document, vent, laugh off and look back on these fleeting moments that seem insurmountable right now but will inevitably fade from active memory over time. Also? I hope, for my sake, to review every book that I read from now on on these pages, in case I ever have the need to make intelligent conversation in public. No more, "hey, I know I've read this one but what was the story, again?" Yeah!

Vanilla Rainbow Cupcakes

I’ve found a cracking basic white cake recipe. That in itself may not seem like much. But what if I told you that this cake can be adapted to make everything from a dense poundcake-like cake to a light and airy strawberry almost-chiffon?

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It really can. This is my holy grail. I’m proud of this recipe from beyond of beyond. Give it a try. It’s not too sweet if you’re covering with American buttercream but can easily accommodate more sugar if you like comatose sweetness in your desserts. After all, who eats cake every day? Indulge yourself.

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Makes 12 large cupcakes or 1 8″ round cake

1+1/3c AP flour
1/2tsp baking soda
1/8tsp baking powder
1/2+1/4c milk
120g salted butter
1tsp vanilla
2/3c granulated sugar (can substitute 1/3c each of white and demerara or any granulated cane sugar)
2 eggs

Method:

  • Sift flour, baking soda and powder together and set aside.
  • Cream cool room temp butter alone for about 2 mins until it lightens in colour and doubles in volume.
  • Add sugar then beat until fluffy, 2-3 mins.
  • Add room-temp eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. (Batter may look curdled but that’s ok… dry additions will take care of it.)
  • Add flour mixture alternating with milk and vanilla ending with flour.
  • Divide batter into however many colours you want the cupcakes to be. Drop each batter by the spoonful into your prepared cupcake pan.
  • Swirl lightly with knife for a marbled effect. (Swirling should be minimal or you’ll end up with brown. I didn’t swirl mine at all to get distinct colour layers.)
  • Bake at 140F for about 30 mins.

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Chocolate Florentines

Inspired by Louise Johncox’s The Baker’s Daughter: Timeless Recipes from Four Generations of Bakers, Florentines are basically tart-cookie concoction that is held together by a sugar syrup and combines the mouthfeel of a cookie with the filling-feel of a tart. Like a rustic oatmeal raisin, only tastier.

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These small bites go perfectly with a cup of tea or coffee, especially if you like your beverage unsweetened. I’ve eliminated the sugar (almost) and the heavy cream in lieu of condensed milk. This gave the Florentines a pleasing sweetness and the heft it needed to hold together chunky ingredients like slivered almonds and pitted dates.

Baking time is minimal and the process is perfect for beginners or for those last, rushed days before Christmas when home-baked gift recipes abound that take a whole day to make when no one has the time for it.

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You’ll need: For 9 small florentines

25g butter
20g icing sugar
15g AP flour
3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
5-6 pitted dates
60g slivered almonds
1 tsp orange zest
50g dark chocolate

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Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180C or 325F.
  • Melt butter and sugar in a saucepan on low flame until the sugar dissolves. Stir in flour and condensed milk. Mix until the mixture looks well combined and slightly thick (think shampoo consistency).
  • Take off from flame and stir in almonds, dates and orange zest.
  • Line a muffin tin with parchment rounds. (This cutting of tiny parchment circles is the most time consuming part of this recipe, but don’t skip it! The ease of releasing the warm florentines later will make it worth the effort.)
  • Scoop the batter into the muffin tin and press securely into the base.
  • Bake 5-6 minutes until golden brown on top.
  • Let cool on the counter a few minutes, then run a knife around the edges to release while sugar is still warm.
  • Cool a bit more then turn out into a wire rack.
  • Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler, then dip each florentine’s bottom into warm chocolate to cover. Let cool completely before drizzling a zigzag of melted chocolate right side up.

 

Plum-Kiwi Upside Down Caramel Cake

Did you land here looking for a way to use rapidly ripening fruit that no one wants to commit to? Or maybe you’re looking for a simple brunch cake using seasonal fruit? Finally, you love the classic comfort cake — pineapple upside down — and want to jazz it up somehow?

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This mixed-fruit upside down is your ticket to family fame! Gooey caramelized fruits top a soft vanilla sponge, to create a dessert that is visually stunning and a sureshot crowd pleaser. What works for me is that is also doesn’t need any special ingredients that would make you rush out to the market mid-recipe.

I’ve heard stories about caramel. How it’s a beast to master for a dessert maker. It may be in its purest form, but you don’t need any finesse for this cake. Using fruits on top virtually guarantees the appetising colour you require on a sweet confection. The caramel also ensures against any tartness on your fruit, so even something not quite ripe will do for this cake.

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For the caramel: Melt 50g unsalted butter and 100g brown sugar (I used dark) in a saucepan. Simmer on low heat for about 10 mins, stirring constantly after the 5min mark until the mixture thickens and starts leaving the sides of the pan. Pour into your parchment lined 8inch cake tin. (Be very careful handling this all the time since caramel is HOT.)

Arrange your fruits over the caramel in whatever pattern you desire. I used plums, kiwi and some raspberries I had in the freezer. Plum skins can be left on.

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For the cake: Cream 110g unsalted butter and 100g sugar until light yellow and frothy. Add 1tsp vanilla, 1 med-large egg and combine until well mixed. Add 180g AP flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 4tbsp milk, alternating flour with milk and mix until just combined. Spread the fairly thick mixture over the fruits and flatten with a spatula the best you can. Bake at 170C (350F) for about 40mins or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

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Let the cake cool in the pan for about 5 mins before running a knife around the outer edge to loosen the cake. Cool for another 5 mins before gently turning out on a platter. Remove the parchment to reveal this beauty. Note how the caramel and fruit juices ooze into the cake making it deliciously moist and fragrant.

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I enjoyed my slice warm right out of the oven. Heaven on a plate is what it was. Ideally, the cake will be gone within the hour — the more it sits the soggier it becomes — but having to eat it the next day is no big chore either. A perfect end for a spring brunch or tea.

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