Friday, July 19, 2013

Guinness Black Bottom Mint Cupcakes

"Well, you can bake with Guinness, you know. It makes chocolate taste even more chocolatey."

Honestly, mentioning such a thing to my sweetie in casual conversation? You'd think I should know better by now. 
I had to make it happen in my kitchen. Which is totally fine with me btw, because it gave me an excuse to buy a four-pack o' Guinness. And the recipe only calls for one cup! See what I'm gettin' at here? 

To be honest, Stout is not my top choice beer-wise - I'm kind of more of a Red Ale girl. Give me one of those rich, sligtly caramel-flavoured, amber-hued beauties any day!
For baking, though, no beer ever gave me better results than Guinness - and not for lack of trying, believe me! 
(Hint, hint: a little something might be boiling for the Discworld Personalities series. Stay tuned...)

A Google search for "Guinness chocolate cupcakes" produced a ton of results, most of them St. Patrick's Day-related. Which is shame becaaaause, well, this is an awesome combo and deserves to be enjoyed all year long!
And among them all I easily picked Guinnes Black Bottom Mint Cupcakes, by Tanya of Lemons for Lulu
...What? They have mint. Your argument is invalid. 

Now this is the point where I'd usually do a quick introduction of my fellow foodie, but hers is a blog I was totally unfamiliar with. 
Now that I've tried these cupcakes though, I'm definitely going to add it to my feeds - they're beyond awesome! Go grab the recipe NOW!

These cupcakes turned out rich but not overly heavy, and with the perfect degree of moisture as far as I'm concerned (yes, there is such thing as "too moist" - I don't like cakes that are all sticky inside!)

Another thing I love about these babies, is thay they need no frosting, which makes them super easy to handle and carry around... although if you were to soak them with peppermint ale and spoon a nice big dollop of After Eight ice cream on one of them, no one would complain for sure! 

They are delicious warm, room temperature and chilled, and freeze quite well.  

You know what they say about happiness not being for sale? Well, Guinness is! 
And with Guinness, you can treat yourself to a batch of these cupcakes. Which is the same thing, or pretty darn close!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Banana Bread FOREVAH!

Picture this: you are wandering the aisles of your favourite ethnic grocery, scanning row after row of enticing, mysterious products. You are tempted to buy them all... but, your inner censor reminds you, you don't even know what they are! How do you learn how to eat them? 
At which point, of course - because you're a natural rebel and won't take this kind of sh*t by some pesky Jiminy Cricket - you grab a random jar and plop it in you basket. 
And your choice falls on ube (purple yam) - because of its lovely colour,  possibly. Or because Fate guided your hand. 

Now when you're dealing with an exotic ingredient, you have two options: you can either scan those glossy haute cuisine magazines to see how some famous chef used it to add to his latest creation's mystique, or search for blogs by faraway foodies who regard it as everyday fare. 
Can you guess which way I go? 

Thus it happened that I stumbled into this recipe, that I promptly proceeded to not bake at all - seriously, I ended up eating my ube with a spoon and filing the cake for future reference, so this post has nothing to do with it at all. Just bear with me for a while, ok?

Look, the point of this whole story is: I discovered this wonderful blog called Bake Happy, by a sweet Filipino girl with a difficult name: Aikko

Of all the fellow bloggers I touched briefly upon, she's the one I feel closer to. 
She has a dull-sounding job and bakes as a hobby, and you can tell she loves every moment of it. To me, living on the other side of the world, her ingredient lists feel exotic - yet her desserts come through as homely and comforting, with none of the pretentiousness of some experimental pâtissiers.
Much like me, she updates her blog erratically, with a fun mix of personal stories, super-cute decorating tutorials and recipes. 
She truly is a happy baker, and I wholeheartedly believe that - while recognition is good, and money definitely would be great - this is what creating desserts is all about. 

Among her recipes there is one I have baked more times than any other in my whole life, and no kidding. One that I find myself craving every few days, so much so that I keep making it even now, in the middle of July, when the mere thought of turning on the oven makes me cringe. 

It's her mother's banana bread. Trust me, you're going to LOVE it!

I won't overwhelm you with tons of WIP shots for once, as Aikko's put up a great tutorial already and, let's face it, her pics are far better tham mine could ever hope to be (I'm digging the hot pink background, gurl. I honestly am.)

Only one thing I will add, just because I believe it's worth repeating ad nauseam: for this recipe you need your bananas to be ripe. And by "ripe" I seriously mean, this ripe: 

I won't say I'm at a point where I buy bananas to deliberately let them go all brown and squishy, because that would make my life a very sad business, I guess. 
But, hey... friends don't judge, right?

Now here's a (stunningly bad) close-up of the baked bread. Can you make out the little brown flecks in there? They're proof that there are no artificial flavourings inside this baby. Just real, honest-to-God bananas!

This bread is yummy as it comes out of the oven, but will turn more and more awesome the longer it sits on your counter. If properly covered, it keeps at room temperature for a surprisingly long time - I store mine under a glass dome and it lasts me for over a week!
(Of course if you really want to, you can freeze it as well. I like to bake it in a Bundt pan, as opposed to a more traditional loaf shape, so it's easier to portion and freeze in single servings...)

Now this banana bread is as simple as it can possibly get, which is the very reason why I love it so much. 
I mean, I know people out there bake all sort of things into their banana bread - pineapple chunks and spices and nuts and chocolate chips - or drenching it with booze... and I've tried many such recipes and enjoyed them all... but this is the one I keep making over and over again. It's a breakfast staple as far as I'm concerned!

Still, if know me at all, you'll have noticed by now that I can't leave a good thing darn well alone. 
So here my evil brain goes, "What if I bake it exactly the same, only swapping the 'nanas for some other fruit?" MANGOES, for example! Since they are, like, my favourite fruit in the world

Enquiring minds want to know, and all that. So I made it happen.

The mango bread didn't rise nearly as much as its banana counterpart, and ended up much more dense (although still moist and delicious.) 
I couldn't taste the mango in it, which was kind of disappointing - then again, I'm 100% anosmic, so maybe someone with an average sense of smell would have been able to detect the fruit. 
Smothered with mango sauce and teamed up with fruit salad and a dollop of (guess, guess?) mango jam, it still made for a filling, refreshing summer lunch!

It's surely something worth experimenting with, using different fruit - apple butter for sure, and maybe pureed prunes? 
But for my breakfast needs, I think I'll stick to Aikko's (and her mother's) recipe - it's just that good!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Superhero Cupcakes - at last!

Remember back in February, when I told you I was making superhero-themed cupcakes for the opening session of my friends' new RPG campaign, set in the Marvel universe?
Well, as you know, that batch... didn't turn out as expected. So I took a page from any good supervillain's book and bided my time. Planning ahead. Waiting for the next special session...

...which could logically, at that point, only be the closing one. 

(Insert cheesy flash-forward effect here, s'il-vous plaît...)

And here are, at last, my superz cupcakes!

I knew Flavio wouldn't be able to attend the session, which is kinda sad, I presume (since, unlike me, he's a rabid superheroes fan). But to me, my uber-picky BFF's absence meant that I wouldn't be limited to chocolate cupcakes anymore! 

Before going into that, though, I have to tell you about the decorating part - although I know my readers are smart and will have recognized the edible sugar sheets already!

I used Wilton's, and boooooy... is that stuff brittle!
And pricey. Did I mention pricey?

Now seriously, this is all there is to it. I cut some spikey balloons - there must be a proper definition for these LOL - in outrageously garish primaries, then sketched your typical superhero comics sound effects with a food marker, and cut these out as well. 
I used tiny sewing scissors and lots of patience, and still had managed to break many of the onomatopoeias... 
(See? I can use the correct technical terms when I want to!)

Although you can't see them from the photo above (which is the only one I had the time to take before the cuppies were carried away - so much for me planning ahead, all evil mastermind-like...), the wrappers were as relevant to the superhero theme as the cupcakes themselves. 
I bought them from one of my favourite Etsy shops, cakeadoodledoo - I got the boy design only, at 15 € (plus shipping) for a set of 12. 
I truly recommend you Tricia's shop, really - her wrappers and favour boxes are funny, creative and extremely functional. You might, of course, balk at the cost, but for that very special occasion once in a while, they're well worth splurging! Plus, Wilton's laser-cut wrapper packs don't come for much cheaper either... and Tricia's are handcrafted!

Image belongs to Tricia @

(The following pics were stolen by my sweetie with his trusty smartphone during the gaming session itself, btw...)

As you can see, the edible paper sort of softened into the frosting. This is actually supposed to happen btw!
The food marker bleeding, on the other hand, was unexpected and a bit of a bummer... but I guess it's my fault for using a very soft, cream cheese-based frosting. I bet it wouldn't have happened, had I used proper buttercream or ganache instead... oh well! 

Now about the cupcakes themselves! 
They were lemon-flavoured, as I still have plenty of the gorgeous lemons I brought back from my blitz holiday on the Amalfi coast. 

The original recipe's called Lemon Blossom Cupcakes and it's from a cookbook called The Cupcake Diariesby Katherine Kallinis and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne - but you can get it from here as well, courtesy of Bundt-loving blogger extraordinaire, The Food Librarian!
(She's absolutely right about the grated zest quantity btw... My lemons were huge but 1/2 cup just doesn't make sense. I used 2 of them and called it a day - and I think more than that would have been overkill actually!)

The cupcakes turned out delicious and very lemon-y, if a bit too dense and buttery for my taste. I'll take crumbly over moist any day, but that's just me - I have uncontrovertible evidence that the gamers loved them as they were!