January Birthdays / Chocolate and Pistachio Cupcakes

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I’m a little bit birthdayed out, to tell you the truth. It seems to me like half the people I know, myself included, are January babies. Someone told me this is because a lot of people get frisky around Springtime, and hence: lots and lots of January-babies.

Last week was my sister’s 30th birthday, and she had a big party with family and friends. I’m not a fan of cupcakes, personally, but since she requested them, and she was the birthday girl, I obliged. And since she loves pistachio, I decided to try my hand at chocolate and pistachio cupcakes. I even ground the pistachios into pistachio paste by hand, not having been able to locate any pistachio paste in any of my local supermarkets or health stores. I can still feel my pecs.

The cupcakes turned out lovely, if a bit too heavy on the chocolate, in my opinion – I was really hoping the pistachio would shine through a bit more (twenty minutes of pestle-and-mortar-action will do that). I’ll definitely make them again, but next time I’ll omit the chocolate chips, and perhaps make 2/3 of the batter pistachio, and the rest into chocolate, to let the pistachio take centre stage. As it were, you could definitely taste the pistachio, but more as a subtle afternote to the chocolate, not what I was after 🙂 And the ganache frosting also packs a nice chocolate punch, so no need to worry about any chocolate withdrawals. I think I may also add more chopped pistachios to the batter next time, in lieu of the chocolate chips…

I was worried they’d be dry, but they were really nice and moist, and just a bit different to your typical cupcake (which I personally tend to find a bit bland and more for show than anything else!) – even though they were less pistachio-y than I had anticipated 🙂 I also had a bit of a frosting-fail induced panic when my newly acquired piping gadget failed me, resulting in super ugly blobs of chocolate ganache, but I remedied that by flattening the ganache with a teaspoon, dipped in just-boiled water and dried off, to make the chocolate look shiny again and less blob-like. The result was a bit ‘rustic’, if you will, but when you sprinkle beautiful bright green and purple-tinged chopped pistachios on top, no one will notice your less than stellar ganache-piping skills 🙂

I’ll definitely make them again, pistachio paste included, with slightly less chocolate next time!

Chocolate and Pistachio Cupcakes
Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini – makes about 25-30 cupcakes, depending on the muffin tin

For the chocolate batter:

  • 135 g (1 cup) flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 75 g butter, softened
  • 150 g (2/3 cup) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 190 ml (3/4 cup) full fat plain yoghurt
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 120 g dark chocolate, chopped

For the pistachio batter:

  • 135 g (1 cup) flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 75 g butter, softened
  • 150 g (2/3 cup) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 190 ml (3/4 cup) full fat plain yoghurt
  • 120 g shelled, unsalted pistachios
  • 3/4 tsp icing sugar

For the ganache:

  • 200 g dark chocolate (I used 52% to avoid to chocolate dominating too much), broken into chunks
  • 200 ml heavy cream

Make the ganache by heating up the cream (e.g. in the microwave for a minute or two on high), and pouring it over the chocolate chunks. Leave for a good five minutes, then stir until you have a glossy ganache. If some of the chocolate is still in chunks, place the bowl back into the microwave for about 10 seconds on high, and then continue stirring. Set aside to cool down and thicken while you make your cupcakes.

Preheat your oven to 180°C/360°F.

Line your cupcake moulds.

Roughly chop the pistachios using a serrated knife. Reserve 20 g of the pistachios for decoration, 60 g to add to the batter, and 40 g to make your pistachio paste: place the 40 g of pistachios in a mortar, and grind them until they start to look like a paste. Add the icing sugar, and keep grinding until the mixture isn’t dry, and the bits of pistachio stick to each other. This can also be done in a food-processor, I suppose, but due to the small quantity, I was a bit worried my pistachios would simply get stuck in the blades 😉 This process took about 20 minutes, maybe a bit more.

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Using the same chopping board and knife, chop the dark chocolate, and set aside.

Prepare you your chocolate and pistachio batters in two separate bowls.

For the chocolate: cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk, and add the eggs one at a time, until well mixed. Add the yoghurt and vanilla, mixing well. Set aside your electric mixer. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sift this into the wet ingredients, then fold together until just combined.

Now prepare your pistachio batter: cream together the pistachio paste, butter and sugar with your electric whisk, and add the eggs one at a time, until well mixed, followed by the yoghurt. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the remaining 60 g of chopped pistachios. Mix into the wet ingredients until just combined.

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Put about 1 tpsb of the chocolate batter into the cupcake liners, spreading it around a bit with your spoon, and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Now place 1 tbsp of the pistachio batter on top, and spread out a bit to even it out. Bake for about 15 minutes until they are just golden, repeating until you have no more batter (I kept alternating my two cupcake pans).

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Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, and the ganache has set to a spreadable consistency, about an hour I’d say (don’t let the ganache sit around too too long, either, and definitely keep it at room temperature, so it stays nice and shiny and doesn’t get too thick to frost the cupcakes with), decorate the cakes however you like! As mentioned above, I ended up spreading the ganache on the cupcakes with a teaspoon, which I kept dipping in just-boiled water and wiping off, so that it wasn’t wet, but hot enough to spread the ganache out and make it nice and shiny 🙂

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Weekend Playlist 24.01.16

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Sunday ♥️

This morning I practiced flipping pancakes, I’m getting quite good at it.

I ate some with brown sugar and some with regular sugar and lemon. And drank copious amounts of sweet tea.

Later my friend Maaike is coming over to help me eat the rest of the pancakes. Maaike is very spiritual, and reads a lot about numerology, astrology, energies and lights, and tells me about them. Whether you’re into all things less tangible, I think self-reflection is always a good thing. Understanding how and why you respond to the world and energies around you 🙂 She and I emit the same frequency, she says, and that’s why we get along so well.

Maaike likes to joke that she pursued me aggressively as a friend, playground-style. For some reason she decided that she and I should be friends, that she liked my aura! And so she told me, and that was that. I’m quite a, I don’t want to say repressed, but kind of introverted person, but I took to Maaike very easily, she’s the kind of person who just lets you be whatever and whoever you are. I’m also not a very touchy person, so she likes to ‘Fockerise’ me. I think it’s working. Anyways. My point, I seem to have lost it. I think the one I was trying to get at, convolutedly so, is that self-reflection is a great thing, but so is getting out of your own head. And for that, there’s music.

Here are a few of the songs that have soothed, comforted, energised me and made me dance around while making pancakes this weekend:

Patti Smith is great for making pancakes, or just in general.

And then, sometimes, lyrics will jump out at you and make you realise what you’re feeling, or have felt. Or just make you wonder 🙂 And Annie Lennox is a beautiful, bittersweet unicorn:

Some things are better left unsaid
But they still turn me inside out.

How beautiful is that?

P.s.: The photo is of sea ice frost flowers, from Nick Cobbing’s gorgeous instagram account.

Banana and Nutella Swirl Muffins

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Oh, the dreary January weather has hit Brussels. And how. It’s true couch-weather, surely one shouldn’t be allowed to go to work on dreary, cold January days, which scream out for blankets and cocoa and movies and naps. I’ve decided to leave my Christmas decorations up until at least my birthday, which is later this month. I feel as though January-weather makes cosy, twinkly lights even more imperative than December-weather does, and I’m not completely ready to let go of Christmas just yet.

According to an old Danish and Swedish Christmas song from around 1700, Nu er det jul igen (‘it’s Christmas again’), Christmas lasts all the way till Easter, except it’s broken by the Lent. Danes traditionally dance around the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, holding hands and singing Christmas carols, and this song is one of the more up-tempo ones, where we keep changing direction as we’re singing, and everyone gets winded and confused! It may sound a bit nuts, but it’s super fun, and apparently this type of dancing, where you hold hands and almost run, is called a kehraus, dates back all the way to the 1750s, and is rooted in an even older kind of folk dancing from the middle ages (says this article, unfortunately in Danish, from the National Union for Danish Folk Dancers’ magazine! I find the fact that such a union exists extremely comforting, for some reason!). People used to do this not strictly at Christmas, but whenever there was a celebration such as a wedding, first in their home, and then around the entire village, holding hands. And Nu er det jul igen has become the most popular ‘jule-kehraus’ (Christmas kehraus) 🙂

Anyways, my ‘when should Christmas be over’ musings brought the song lyrics to my mind, and the line about fasting/Lent piqued my curiosity. So I took to Google, and according to wikipedia, Lent is only really observed in Catholicism, not in Protestantism, which is the main form of Christianity in Denmark. Not that I’m very, if at all, religious, mind you – but in Denmark you become a member of the Danish Church when you’re baptised, which I was, and Christmas was, traditionally, a religious holiday… even if now it’s become more cultural than religious, to most people I know. But should you observe Lent, the interwebs tell me that it begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls on the 10th of February this year. So as far as I’m concerned, keeping Christmas lights up for the better part of January is completely reasonable, Lent or no Lent.

I’ve nearly reached the bottom of my Christmas cookie tins, so it’s time to fill my tummy and pantry with other comforting baked goods, in the name of Winter. I saw a recipe for Nutella financiers on Instagram, which looked delicious and made my mind go one step further, to some kind of beautiful banana and Nutella mess. So again I Googled, and came upon this recipe which I had to try. Nutella swirls? Yes please. The original recipe said it makes for 12, but I made 1 ½ portions to bring some to work with me as well. But I ended up with 30 little muffins! So I guess one portion makes for 20 🙂 I also put in slightly less Nutella because I figured my muffins must be smaller, since there were more of them… but next time I’m going to put a full tsp in each, as the Nutella is really what makes this muffin… I’m also going to put in more bananas, as I found that I wouldn’t mind an even moister and more banana-y muffin. Once I’ve experimented further, I will update this post posthaste 🙂

Banana and Nutella Swirl Muffins
Adapted from myrecipes.com – yield: 20 little muffins

  • 250 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour or a mixture of all-purpose and whole-wheat (I used all all-purpose)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • 115 g (8 tablespoons/1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (as mentioned above, I’m going to use 4, next time)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 75 g (2/3 cup) chopped walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts (I used hazelnuts)
  • 20 tsp Nutella

Anyways, my ‘when should Christmas be over’ musings brought the song lyrics to my mind, and the line about fasting/Lent piqued my curiosity. So I took to Google, and according to wikipedia, Lent is only really observed in Catholicism, not in Protestantism, which is the main form of Christianity in Denmark. Not that I’m very, if at all, religious, mind you – but in Denmark you become a member of the Danish Church when you’re baptised, which I was, and Christmas was, traditionally, a religious holiday… even if now it’s become more cultural than religious, to most people I know. But should you observe Lent, the interwebs tell me that it begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls on the 10th of February this year. So as far as I’m concerned, keeping Christmas lights up for the better part of January is completely reasonable, Lent or no Lent.

I’ve nearly reached the bottom of my Christmas cookie tins, so it’s time to fill my tummy and pantry with other comforting baked goods, in the name of Winter. I saw a recipe for Nutella financiers on Instagram, which looked delicious and made my mind go one step further, to some kind of beautiful banana and Nutella mess. So again I Googled, and came upon this recipe which I had to try. Nutella swirls? Yes please. The original recipe said it makes for 12, but I made 1 ½ portions to bring some to work with me as well. But I ended up with 30 little muffins! So I guess one portion makes for 20 🙂 I also put in slightly less Nutella because I figured my muffins must be smaller, since there were more of them… but next time I’m going to put a full tsp in each, as the Nutella is really what makes this muffin… I’m also going to put in more bananas, as I found that I wouldn’t mind an even moister and more banana-y muffin. Once I’ve experimented further, I will update this post posthaste 🙂

Preheat your oven to 175°C/350°F, and line your muffin tins.

In a medium bowl, mix together your flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar for a few minutes, then beat in the eggs, bananas and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the flour a bit at a time, then fold in your nuts, making sure to mix just until combined, no more, so the muffins don’t become heavy.

Scoop the batter into your muffins tin, and spoon 1 tsp of Nutella onto each muffins, swirling it into the batter with a toothpick (I found this rather tricky, although I keep my Nutella at room temperature – I think this may be because the cookie liners kept moving around as I was attempting to ‘swirl’! I ended up using two toothpicks to swirl simultaneously, but I may have over-swirled slightly. Next time I think I’ll deposit the Nutella as three little blobs instead of one big, and swirl those around slightly 🙂 ).

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Bake for about 22 minutes until the muffins are golden, and a toothpick inserted in a less Nutella-y bit of muffin comes out clean. After they’ve cooled a bit in the pan, place on a cooling rack to cool completely. The muffins keep for several days in a cookie tin or plastic container.

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I’m going to Milan this weekend, and these are coming with me! ❤

(FYI – stuffing them in a plastic bag and stuffing said plastic bag it into your suitcase, running out the door with your bags because you’re going to the airport straight from work, then realising you left your passport at home and turning back, wasting almost an hour and slightly manhandling your bag in the process, like I did, will result in pretty smushed muffins).

 

Little Lime and Meringue Tarts

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I spent New Year’s Eve with my cousin Justine, her two-year old Inaé, and my grandma Paulette (who always hated her name, and tried to get us to call her mamy Pauline instead, still does) 🙂 three generations of women. Justine and I were born exactly four weeks apart. And the funny thing is, she was born two weeks early, and I was born two weeks late 🙂 so I like to think that we would have been born on the same date. Her coming out early, and me holding on and coming out a bit later, is also somehow indicative of our personalities. She’s a lot more ‘here I am world, hear me roar’, than I am. And I like to stay cosy and warm, and just hang back a little bit 🙂 when we were little, before I moved to Copenhagen with my mum at the age of 4, Justine and I did everything together, and with both our parents working, grandma was usually the one taking care of us, and picking us up after school. We would take naps on my grandma’s bed, and go for walks in park Solvay, which had a garden with a lot of little round ponds, that were usually full of tadpoles. Justine and I have stayed very close, and although we’re super different in personality, she’s more like a sister to me than a cousin. I guess having a crazy family kind of makes you sisters in arms 🙂

Last night we drank fancy champagne that my grandma brought, ate salmon toasties, a thai take-away, and then these little lime and meringue tarts that I made earlier in the day. Lime curd is so easy to make, and somehow a tiny bit less sharp than lemon curd (which I also love love love). I love most things citrussy. Did you ever try adding lime juice to pineapple juice? If not, you should try it. It’s like tropical heaven in your mouth. I feel like this would also be extremely delicious with a bit of rum.

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I usually make a biscuit base when I make a lemon-meringue tart, but the digestive biscuits in my cupboard expired in February 2015, so I went for this short crust/sablée pastry from Maja Chocolat instead. Quick and easy to make, even without a food processor, and very easy to work with 🙂

For lemon meringue, I swear by this recipe by the sorted boys, it’s so easy and so so yummy, and looks crazy impressive even though the only thing that takes a bit of time is the curd, and it really doesn’t take very long at all… If I make a regular-sized tart with a biscuit-base, I always make it in a springform pan, so that it doesn’t get messed up when I’m unmolding it 🙂 I think I’m gonna stick to making mini ones in a muffin tin though, because it looks so much more impressive, and people go cuckoo for coco puffs for individual little desserts. This time, inspired by Maja Chocolat, I decided to swap lemon for lime, and I don’t think I’m ever going back. I just fricking love limes.

This recipe makes quite a lot, but you could always halve it 🙂 I made a double portion of pastry (mainly because the original recipe calls for ½ egg, and you know how sometimes, when you’re busy, making a double portion rather than faffing about with weighing an egg to split it in half, somehow just seems quicker and like less work?), which made for 21 little tarts, but if rolled out a bit more finely than I did mine, I’m sure it could stretch to make 24-25 little tarts! Since I’d doubled the pastry, I guestimated that I would need about 1 ½ portions of the curd from the sorted recipe, which left me with a small pot of leftover lime curd (so just enough to make 4-5 more little tarts). I also made 13 more meringue, but I needn’t have, so I’ve put the quantities for a single portion down below, it’s more than enough.

These could very easily be made in advance – make the pastry shells and lime curd the day before, keeping the filled little tarts in the fridge until the next day, then making/burning the meringue on the day of. I would also recommend doing this if you’re going to travel with the tarts, as the meringue will very easily start to slide off if held at even a slight angle (which I discovered to my great dismay, upon arrival at my cousin’s 😉 ), resulting in lopsided little tarts – which is a shame when you’ve just spent ages making and decorating them 🙂 as for the burnt/caramelised meringue, I recently acquired a blowtorch, but before then I would simply turn on the grill in my oven, wait until it was nice and hot, then briefly put the meringue-decorated tart under it with the oven door open, keeping a sharp watch so as to only just burn the meringue, but not melt the curd underneath 🙂

Little Lime and Meringue Tarts
Adapted from chocolat.dk and sorted.com
Yield: 21+ little tarts, depending on how thinly you roll out your pastry

Short crust:

  • 150 g cold butter, cubed
  • 300 g flour
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white, for brushing the pastry

Lime curd:

  • Juice and zest of 6 limes
  • 3 large eggs
  • 225 g sugar
  • 150 g cold butter, cubed
  • 1 ½ tsp corn flour, heaped
  • (You can add one drop of green food colouring, if you prefer your lime curd to be nice and green! But I don’t find this necessary 🙂 )

Meringue:

  • 3 egg whites*
  • 120 g caster sugar

Something to make with your leftover egg yolks!

First, make the crust: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, icing sugar and salt, then mix in the butter with your fingers until it resembles finely ground parmesan cheese/fine breadcrumbs. Beat your egg slightly in a cup or bowl, then pour into the the flour mixture, mixing with a fork or spoon for a bit then using your hands to press the dough together. It will be quite dry and easy to work with.

Roll out bits of the dough at a time on a cutting board, cutting out rounds of it with a cutter about
6 cm/2 inches in diameter (I used a large IKEA glass). Carefully lift each pastry round off the cutting board with a spatula, and place in an ungreased muffin tin. Gently press down to make sure it lays flat against the bottom and the sides (I also pres down with my nail all around the top to make a pattern, before pressing the pastry back against the sides. This makes a sort of flower petal/scalloped pattern which looks lovely once baked).

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Place the muffin tin with the pastry in the freezer for about 10 minutes, then poke little holes in the bottom of your pastry with a fork, to prevent it from bubbling up too much.

Bake in a preheated oven at 175°C/350°F for about 15 minutes, then briefly take your mini crusts out of the oven to brush them with egg white (just the bottom and sides, not the edge), and bake for a further 5 minutes, until golden. The egg wash will keep your tart crusts nice and crispy once filled with curd and cooled.

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Slip the crusts out of the muffin tin, and leave to cool completely on a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, make the lime curd:

Juice and zest your limes into a small pot. Whisk in your eggs.

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Add the butter, sugar and corn starch, then heat up over medium heat, whisking throughout. Once the mixture starts to simmer and thicken, turn the heat down to low, and allow to keep on simmering for a little while, about 5 minutes, whisking now and then.

When your tart shells have cooled, pour about a scant ¼ cup/50 ml into each shell, so that it just reaches the edge.

Place in the fridge to cool (I like to place them in a roasting dish with sides higher than the little tarts, so they don’t get smushed, and cover them in tin foil). They should take a few hours to set completely (less if your fridge is set quite cold because you need to shower and finish the desserts and be at dinner in an hour and a half!).

Finally, make the meringue (once the curd has set completely!):

Beat your egg whites until they make stiff peaks. Then add in your sugar, and beat until the meringue is thick and glossy.

Pipe unto the little tarts however you please 🙂 I used a plastic freezer bag and cut a little hole in one of the corners because my piping bag is dead, so mine are a little rustic-looking 😉

Caramelise your meringue, either by using a blowtorch, or by placing the tarts (briefly!) under a hot grill.

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Keep in the fridge, and take out for about 5-10 minutes before serving 🙂

The tarts keep for a few days in the fridge, and are perfect to have for breakfast on January 1st, accompanied by tea, buttered toast and poached eggs! 😊

🎉🎉🎉 Happy 2016!!! 🎉🎉🎉

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