Sunday, 15 January 2017

Speculoos Cookies & Hot Cocoa

Hiiiii! It is so cold in Vancouver right now that it makes me feel okay for posting a (belated) winter post. It has been snowing a lot here, which is not that typical of Vancouver. It occasionally snows here during winter, but we did not get this much snow in the past few years. I am not complaining about the cold, do not get me wrong. I love the extra excuse I get for drinking hot chocolate, eating all the ramen, and having hot pot dinners with my family all the time. Is it cold where you are? Okay. I am going to stop talking about the weather. Weather is what people who do not really know each other talk about right? 

Speculoos. Let us talk about speculoos. I think the first time I had speculoos was in the form of the infamous Trader Joe's cookie butter. I am pretty sure the majority of people's first encounter with speculoos was in this spreadable (and extremely lovable) form. Living in Canada, we do get to experience the luxury that is Trader Joe's. It is a sad, sad world for us here. Luckily there is one store here in Vancouver that SMUGGLES Trader Joe's products to Vancouver. It was/is a huge deal. TJ banned him from their stores and this man wears a disguise to go into TJ now. He also got sued by TJ. Oh the things we do for a jar of cookie butter. Like pay $10 CDN for it.

Yes. Cookie butter? Obsessed. I had my first real Speculoos cookie though, on an airplane. I cannot remember where I was flying to, but I do remember the tiny pack of Speculoos the flight attendant handed out as a snack alongside the vile swamp water coffee. Man, oh man. So good.

So this brings us here. Found a speculoos cookie recipe on Bon Appetit, decided I had to make it, and then proceeded to eat fifty million speculoos cookies. You might think this is an exaggeration but trust me, it is not. This recipe yields quite a large amount of cookies. It makes around three or four dozen? I would love to give you a more exact number but I cut out this cookies in so many shapes and sizes it makes it quite difficult to quantify. Usually recipes that yield over two or three dozen cookies really bother me. I do not ever need three dozen cookies. I may want it, but it is not a need. These cookies though, are a need. They are also great for gifting and stay super fresh in the freezer for a long time if you have any left over. 

The spices in these cookies are perfect for winter. They are really warm but are not overly spicy, at all. I decided to pair these cookies with hot chocolate because like I said previously, any extra excuse to have hot chocolate is a good one. I topped off the hot chocolate with snowmen marshmallows a la I Am a Food Blog style and squealed at how cute they looked. 

Before I let you go, I need to tell you about my dress situation. So...I really like the colour of this dress. I tried it on before I bought it and really liked it despite it being a tad short. The back dips quite low and is super cute! When I got home I realized it is actually way too short for me to pull off, so I have never worn it. BUT since in the blogosphere you do not see past my thighs, it is completely a-okay for me to blog in this dress!! Okay. I am done here.


Speculoos Cookies with Hot Cocoa

Speculoos Cookies
From Bon Appetit 
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons mild-flavored molasses
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Royal Icing
1 tablespoon + 1/4 teaspoon meringue powder
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoon warm water

Speculoos Cookies
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, grated nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt. Set aside

In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together butter and both sugars at medium speed until fluffy. Add molasses, egg, and vanilla. Mix until well-incorporated.

Reduce mixer to low speed and incorporate the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure there are no dry ingredients left unincorporated at the bottom. Dough should be quite tacky at this point

Divide the dough into thirds, shaping them into three flat discs. Tightly wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours. (I tried to roll the dough out after one hour and it was still too sticky. Have patience!)

Preheat oven to 375F and line baking trays with parchment.

Remove discs from the fridge and roll out dough to 1/8" thickness. Cut cookies into desired shapes and place on baking sheet. The cookies will not spread much.

Transfer cookie sheet with cut out cookies into freezer and let them chill there while you roll out next disc of dough. Shape and design of cookie will retain better if you freeze them before baking.

Bake for 11- 13 minutes until golden brown and centres are almost firm. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool.

PS. These cookies freeze really well! 

Royal Icing
Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl. 

Transfer icing into pastry bag with a piping tip. I like piping tip #1 - 3 for decorating cookies.

Let icing harden completely before stacking.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Lemon Ricotta Pear Muffins with Pistachio Oat Streusel ( x Saputo)

Aaaaaaand we are back to regularly scheduled programming. Except not really. Because I have never had a "regular schedule" on this blog despite how much I want one. Maybe that should be my new year's resolution. I will make that my resolution. I will even write it down because writing it down makes it more official. That is how it works, right?

Hi! Happy New Year! I am kicking off the new year with the first batch of muffins to grace this blog! New year, new me - am I doing this correctly? I did not really make any resolutions for the new year. I made some quasi-resolutions as of eight seconds ago. Can they still be thrown under the general label of 'resolutions' if they do not have concrete end points or run on a predetermined timeline? Whatever they are labelled, here are some things I hope you will see come to fruition on this blog.
  1. I know for certain that I want to be more active on this blog. Maybe even more than once a week if I am being really ambitious. 
  2. I also want to branch out to more than just layered cakes. Contrary to what my blog might suggest, I do bake more than just layer cakes. I would say I make cookies more often than I make cake. There is a greater amount of cake recipes here because photographing and styling cakes is something that comes more naturally to me.
  3. Spend less money on food styling props/bakeware that I will only use once. I am just such a sucker for everything inside Anthropologie.
  4. Stop breaking all my rubber spatulas
  5. Stop eating an entire cake when developing a recipe and "taste testing"

Wish me luck with these resolutions.

Back to muffins!

When I am at a cafe or a bakery, muffins are usually not my go-to. I much prefer rich viennoiseries or a big slice of coffeecake. I also really love savoury scones. But when muffins have streusel or crumb topping, that is a whole different story. I am a huge sucker for streusel. I believe that most things are better with streusel. Bars, muffins, ice cream sundaes, you name it. When Saputo reached out to me to create a muffin with their ricotta cheese, I knew it had to be topped with streusel. In this case, a pistachio oat streusel. I love the texture and extra sweetness and nuttiness that this streusel brings to the dreamy lemon ricotta muffins. These muffins are also studded with mini cubes of pears folded in the batter. Because of both the pears and the ricotta, these muffins are and stay incredibly moist. 

You can find the recipe for these lemon ricotta pear muffins on Saputo's website here. Thank you, Saputo, for supporting this blog! You can find other great sweet and savoury recipes on their website. While you are baking, I will be working v hard on making those resolutions happen.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 RECAP + 12 Pies of (belated) Drakemas!!

Haaaaaaaaai! Can you believe that 2016 is coming to and end?! This year has been filled with copious amounts of Drake lyrics, many layered cakes, and countless blocks of unsalted butter. I wouldn't have it any other way. End-of-year posts always freak me out because I find it humanly impossible to cram an entire year's worth of moments into a single blog post. Anxiety is also magnified this year because I really messed up my timing in the month of December - I created 12 pies with different Drake lyrics on them to do some sort of '12 Pies of Drakemas' situation leading up to Christmas. December crept up on me real good, I panicked, and I didn't post any of the content. The regret is still so real so I'm giving you all 12 pies all at once, here. So here's to 2016, belated Drakemas, and all that 2017 will bring!

Many exciting things happened in 2016:
  • I celebrated my one year blog-aversary in March!
  • I got a DSLR!
  • I finished school, graduated, and got my Masters degree
  • I travelled to Paris with my mom and had the most amazing time
  • I started a new job that is completely unrelated to what I studied and I love it 

Things you loved in 2016:

I made friends because the internet exists:
  • I met Kelsey (The Farmer's Daughter) in real life and we are now really good friends. We dream about future collaborations, sharing beignets at Cafe du Monde, and escaping to Paris together regularly. Even though we have only met up a handful of times, we have already developed a ritual - we always start our morning off at Le Marché St. George for crêpes and coffee, go shopping, eat tacos, stress about cake things before we shoot together the next day. It is always loads and loads of fun.
  • I became online bffs with Thalia (Butter and Brioche) and we talk and throw shade at least once a day now. I am just waiting for her to visit me in Vancouver. I would visit her in Brisbane but she keeps sending me snaps of these crazy turkeys that roam her front yard. They scare me.
  • I also got to do a collaboration with Tessa (Sweet Style CA) and we made pie in her apartment. I think Tessa likes me because she texts me when Everett is asleep/when she needs someone to talk to when Everett starts putting stickers all over her. We will be collaborating more in the new year!

Other cool things on the internet:

The most important things:
  • I want to thank every single one of you for following along on my blog journey. I read and love every comment you leave here as well as on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. 
  • I also want to thank all the people that are endless sources of inspiration to me and this blog - you know who you are! (And you will probably receive a sappy text message from me at 2am.)
  • I can't wait to bake more, create more, and be even more inspired in 2017.

And that's a wrap! You were good, 2016. 

Saturday, 24 December 2016

White Chocolate Raspberry Cake (x Pure Leaf Tea)

Happy Christmas Eve! What are you doing tonight and tomorrow? Low-key celebrations? Going all out? I think I am going to do some low-key Christmas baking, drink some hot cocoa, and listen to the She & Him Christmas albums on repeat.

I am pretty last-minute person when it comes to planning what to bring to holiday potlucks. I guess my excuse has always been ‘If I were to bake something, I can’t make it too early in advance because no one wants to eat a stale cake.’ That’s cool right? Well if you are like me and haven’t decided what to make and want to bring something impressive – I got you covered. You’re welcome. This Raspberry White Chocolate cake comes together so easily and you can decorate it any way you like to make it look more festive. Perhaps some sprigs of sugared rosemary along the top and the base of the cake? You can also dust some icing sugar on the fresh berries to make it look like snow. Mhmmmmm.

This cake is made of the fluffiest white cake layers (from the use of egg whites!) with hints of Pure Leaf Raspberry iced tea sandwiching a silky-smooth white chocolate frosting. There are also layers of raspberry jam in the cake to add a fresh pop to the dreamy cake and frosting layers. Pure Leaf kindly shared this recipe for me to recreate this holiday season. When they shared the recipe with me, it was a recipe for two-dozen cupcakes. I decided to forgo the cupcake route and turn it into something I love creating – a layered cake! To me, putting together a layered cake requires the same amount of effort (or even less!) as making and frosting cupcakes. Maybe I just don’t really like icing individual cupcakes as much as I like frosting a whole cake. Frosting a cake seems more forgiving – I don’t need to make the icing look uniform across many cupcakes and I get a larger surface area to work with in terms of decorations. If you are more of a cupcake person, this recipe works just as well for them. This recipe makes 24 cupcakes or a four layer 6-inch cake.

Thank you Pure Leaf for collaborating with me on this post and supporting Constellation Inspiration! 

Raspberry White Chocolate Cake
Yields: 24 cupcakes or four layer 6-inch cake

Iced Tea Cake
3 1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 egg whites
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup PURE LEAF Raspberry Iced Tea

1/2 cup raspberry jam (for cupcakes)

White Chocolate Frosting
½ cup butter, room temperature
2½ cups icing sugar
6 oz. white chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons whole milk

Raspberry jam
Chocolate curls, to garnish

Iced Tea Cake
For the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners and coat lightly with non-stick cooking spray. If making a layered cake, grease four cake pans.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. 

Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg whites and full egg one at a time, until well combined. Mix in vanilla extract. 

On low speed, alternate adding flour mixture with the milk and raspberry iced tea, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix just until combined.

For cupcakes: Fill cupcake pans halfway with cupcake batter. Place 1 teaspoon of raspberry jam in the middle of the batter and top each cupcake with more batter, filling tin ¾ full. Bake 20-22 minutes, until slightly golden and cooked through. Cool completely before frosting. 

For layered cake: Evenly distribute batter among the four cake pans. Bake for 26 – 28 minutes.

White Chocolate Frosting
Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and icing sugar on low speed until well combined. 

Add melted white chocolate and milk, mixing until smooth and desired spreading consistency. 

To Assemble
For cupcakes: Frost cooled cupcakes and drizzle seedless raspberry jam over the frosting, topping with white chocolate curls.

For layered cake: Place one cake layer down on cake stand/plate. Top with frosting and then spread a thin layer of raspberry jam on top of the frosting. Place second cake layer on top and repeat.

Frost the tops and sides of cake. Smooth out frosting with offset spatula or bench scraper. 

Garnish with fresh raspberries, chocolate curls, and flowers of choice.

Whatever it is you might be doing/baking this Christmas, I hope you have a lovely holiday spent with loved ones. Happy Holidays!