Monday, July 28, 2008

Date & Walnut Cupcakes

My husband has always enjoyed the flavour of caramel more than chocolate, so last year when we went to Brest in Brittany, France, he was delighted to discover that caramel was also the preferred flavour in that region. On our first night in Brest we had the great pleasure to dine at a traditional Brittany restaurant with our friends and hosts.

Of course crepes were the main item on the menu, and both Mark and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. I forget what I had for dessert because it paled in comparison to the confection that Mark accidentally ordered. When he ordered a bowl of caramel icecream for dessert he had no idea that there would be anything else in the bowl other than icecream. Imagine his surprise (and my utter envy) when the waiter placed a massive bowl of caramel and vanilla icecream covered with delicious, hot, runny, buttery caramel sauce, topped with whipped cream? Mark’s eyes nearly popped out of his head!

In fact, it wasn’t just caramel that was so important to the people of Brittany – it was also butter. They put butter in everything! On the crepes, on the vegetables, all over the bread – they’re mad for butter. And since caramel is based on butter, naturally they love that as well.

Unfortunately for me, the diet in France was far too rich and my stomach put severe restrictions on what I could and couldn’t eat. Annoying, since it had taken me 11 years to get back to France after my first visit. I would have been happy if the waiter had brought me Mark’s dessert, only leave out the icecream and the whipped cream – a whole bowl of that caramel would have been heaven to me!

1 cup chopped dates
1 cup of water
1 cup of brown sugar
125g butter
1 egg
1 cup self raising flour
¾ cup plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
75g chopped walnuts
12 unbroken walnut halves.

1. Pre-heat you oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2. Place the chopped dates and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, add butter and stir until melted. Allow to cool.

3. Add sugar, egg, flour, bicarb soda, spice and walnuts and mix until combined. Do not beat!

4. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with confeta cups and drop icecream scoopfuls of mix into each. Bake in oven for 20 minutes. Tops will remain soft and squidgy so do not touch!

5. Cool on a wire rack. Makes about 15 cupcakes.

Caramel Buttercream
½ cup brown sugar, tightly packed
30g butter
2 tblsp milk
175g salt reduced butter
1kg icing sugar mixture
150ml milk

1. Melt butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add brown sugar and stir until combined.
Slowly bring to boil and simmer until sugar is melted. Do not over heat or you’ll get hard lumps in your mixture.

2. Warm 2 tablespoons of milk in microwave so it comes to room temperature. Add to butter and sugar mix and stir until combined. Set aside to cool completely (or make this the day before you need it if you have time).

3. Put 175g butter, icing sugar and milk into the large bowl of a mixer. Combine on low speed until all ingredients are wet. Increase speed to medium-high and beat buttercream until it’s light and fluffy.

4. Add caramel mixture and beat until well combined. For a deeper caramel colour add ¼ teaspoon of Parisian Browning Essence if desired.

5. Top cool Date & Walnut cakes with caramel buttercream and decorate with half a walnut.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Newsflash - Cadbury Snaps Snapped!

We interrupt this blog to announce to chocolate and cupcake lovers every where that Cadbury Snaps are no longer available in Australia!

Regular readers of Kitchen Alchemy will be familiar with our Double Dutch Chocolate cupcake, the crowning glory of which has been a Cadbury Snap. But no more! After an extensive search of the retail outlets in South Centennial and Pagewood, we can confirm that Snaps are no longer available on supermarket shelves. Rather than wonder in silence we decided to go straight to the source and find out who is to blame!

A quick call to Christine at the Cadbury consumer information line confirmed what we at Kitchen Alchemy had long suspected: Snaps are a limited product only available at certain times of the year. In fact, Snaps are imported from the UK, where they come in additional exciting flavours like organge, hazelnut and honeycomb, as well as the flavours seen here: mint, caramel and of course the original.

So, we are very sorry to announce that our Snap topped Double Dutch Chocolate cupcake will cease to be in about 36 cupcakes time. Sadly, we will be switching to the inferior Nestle chocolate button as decoration until such time as a suitable replacement can be found.

RIP Snaps!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Lets do it again!

Flush from the success of our first market stall, we've decided to plunge in the deep end and do it all again this weekend!

It was hugely exciting to take our cupcakes to market last weekend. We were up and running by 8.15am, but didn't serve our first customers for at least another half an hour. When I finally relented and went off to get a latte, Murphy's Law kicked into play and Mark made our first sale in my absence.

But further sales were fast to follow. It's great to see people we don't know happily purchasing our product and enjoying it! Apart from the odd homeless person (pickled in Jim Beam) we found the Bondi Junction Organic Food Markets an extremely pleasant place to spruike our wares. So we'll be there again this Saturday, July 12. Hope you can make it down to see us this time - and of course partake in a little piece of cupcake heaven.