14 March 2019

White Chocolate Maple Cream Puffs

This post is sponsored by Saputo. The opinions on this blog, as always, are my own. Thank you Saputo for supporting Constellation Inspiration!

Recently, more than ever, I can be found with flour on my clothes, frosting in my hair, and sprinkles in the pockets of my jeans. It seems like as of lately I have been baking and creating lots more than I ever have before — and I am totally okay with it. I have been lost in the world of Japanese decorative cookies, but I will always find myself coming back for choux. Cream puffs, despite a few batches here and there that don’t rise properly, will always be one of my favourite things to make [exhibit a, exhibit b, exhibit c]. I am keeping it short and simple here today because these maple white chocolate cream puffs are the star and I do not want any more words to keep you from trying them out yourself. These cream puffs have all the good stuff — crisp choux buns with craquelin of course, maple pastry cream, and whipped white chocolate ganache. The best thing about cream puffs is that you can easily fill and top your choux with anything or everything you like, but this has been my favourite combination as of late.

Maple Cream Puffs
Yields 10 – 12 cream puffs

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ tablespoon brown sugar
2 ¼ tablespoon  all-purpose flour

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix with rubber spatula until smooth.

Roll out the craquelin dough to 1/8-inch in thickness. Use a cookie cutter and cut out 12 1.5-inch circles. Set aside.

Pâte à Choux
57mL water
57mL whole milk
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
57g unsalted butter
70g cup all-purpose flour
110g (~2 large eggs) large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a saucepan, combine the water, milk, sugar, salt, and butter. Bring to a light boil, remove from heat, and immediately add in all the flour. Quickly stir in the flour, using a rubber spatula, and return saucepan back over medium-high heat.

Continue to stir the mixture, without stopping, until the paste is smooth, about 1-2 minutes. It will pull away from the sides of the pan and leave a thin coating of cooked paste on the bottom when ready. The texture should resemble dry mashed potatoes.

Transfer the paste to a stand mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low for the choux to cool down.

While the mixer is running on medium, gradually stream in the lightly beaten eggs. Mix until well combined.

Transfer the pâte à choux to the prepared piping bag with a round tip. Pipe out 12 choux mounds onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving roughly 2 inches between each puff. If you are making choux with a craquelin top, this is when you want to add the craquelin to the choux mounds.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately bake choux puffs for 35 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and turn down the oven to 325F, then bake for 10 minutes more until choux are deeply golden. Remove from oven and set on cooling rack to cool.

Maple Pastry Cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup maple syrup

Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan.

Using a sharp knife, split vanilla bean in half lengthways and scrape out seeds. Add bean and seeds to milk mixture.

Place mixture over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until hot (do not allow to boil). Remove saucepan from heat. Remove vanilla beans from milk mixture.

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, and maple syrup.

Slowly stream the hot milk mixture over egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.

Return mixture to saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 - 15 minutes or until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Whipped White Chocolate Ganache
114g white chocolate chocolate
1 cup Dairyland 36% whipping cream 

Finely chop the white chocolate and place into a bowl.

In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Once mixture has boiled, pour milk mixture over the chopped chocolate and let sit for 1 minute.

Whisk the chocolate mixture until thoroughly melted and combined. Set in the refrigerator to chill, at least 4 hours.

Once chilled and ready to use, transfer the ganache to the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Whip ganache to medium-stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a medium round pastry tip to pipe into choux pastries once baked.

With a sharp serrated knife, cut choux as you would a sandwich.

Pipe the choux cavity with maple pastry cream until it reaches the brim of the bottom choux half.

Pipe two layers of whipped white chocolate ganache.

Top cream puff with other choux half like a hat.

Optional: drizzle a simple glaze and top with sprinkles of choice.

Happy baking!

7 March 2019

Cute Everyday Japanese Cookie Box Inspiration

If you asked me what is the one thing I love baking and photographing more than anything else I would not even hesitate for a moment to tell you that I love creating cookie boxes. What started as a Christmas gifting themed blog post became a full-blown butter-forward, sugar-dusted, jam-filled obsession hobby. I no longer need a special occasion to build a cookie box — I would make a cookie box on a normal Saturday, I would make one at 11:53pm, and I would definitely make one if my order of cute cookie cutters arrive on a weekday afternoon.

Lately, the types of cookie box that I have been obsessed with are these small and delicate cookie tins that I keep seeing on Japanese blogs and Pinterest boards. What I mean by obsessed is that upon seeing a few of these tins and starting a pin board dedicated to these boxes, I ordered a couple of Japanese baking books that focus on the art of creating cookie tins despite not being able to read any of the text. What I love most about these small Japanese cookie tins compared to the larger festive ones that I have made in the past is that they are so unassuming. They are extremely unassuming on the outside but when you open the small metal tin, there is a great assortment of crisp buttery cookies arranged artfully and compactly.

Instead of sharing a recipe, I wanted to share some inspiration for creating your own cute everyday cookie tin. Most of these Japanese cookie tins feature a variety of classic sablés and shortbread cookies, crisp chocolate cookies, and cute cookies in the shape of animals or well-known cartoon characters. For my box, I made some whipped shortbread piped with an open-star tip, sandwich/linzer cookies, shortbread, and buttery Miffy character cookies for the cute element. I then placed all my cookies compactly in an old cookie tin. There is no 'correct' way to make and arrange these tins, so I hope these cookie tins serve as some inspiration for you to make your own.

(From: Megumi, mk-mama, Hisano)

Happy baking!

19 February 2019

Coconut Cake with Pineapple Coconut Curd and Pineapple Jam (Lactose-Free)

This post is sponsored by Saputo. The opinions on this blog, as
always, are my own. Thank you Saputo for supporting Constellation Inspiration!

It might be winter, but by no way does that mean I am giving up on bright, tropical flavours. Holiday cookie season with all the warm spices and brown butter notes might be the one that I thrive in, but I jump at any opportunity to bake a cake that is reminiscent of warmer, sunnier days. For my little tropical escape in the winter time, I combined two fruits that are most redolent of summer to me — pineapple and coconut. Think of this as a piña colada in cake form. There are three layers of coconut cake, a creamy pineapple coconut curd, a bright pineapple jam, and a simple coconut whipped cream frosting. The cake layers are made with coconut oil and toasted shredded coconut for double the coconut flavour. Instead of the addition of butter to make the curd extra creamy, the additional of coconut oil to the pineapple curd is the main fat component and adds an extra piña colada touch. The pineapple jam is something that I had growing up. I grew up eating Taiwanese pineapples cakes, a square-shaped buttery pastry filled with golden yellow pineapple jam. The pineapple adds some texture to the filling and adds a pop of freshness. Lastly, a simple two-ingredient whipped coconut cream finishes the cake. With the use of coconut oil and Dairyland lactose free milk, this entire cake is actually lactose-free, but just as delicious as any treat that would use butter or normal milk.

You can decorate this cake however you like — have it simply frosted with the coconut whipped cream or topped with your favourite sprinkles. I chose to play on the tropical theme some more. I melted down some confectionery coating (candy melts) and piped out monstera leaves and pineapples for the side of the cake. You can do this free-hand or you can print out a drawing of your leaves of choice and place it under a piece of parchment paper so you can trace out the design. My favourite part of the cake? The little DIY flamingo macarons that sit on top. You can add little paper umbrellas and pineapple wedges to play on the piña colada theme even more.

Coconut Cake with Pineapple Coconut Curd and Pineapple Jam
Yields one three layer 6-inch cake

Toasted Coconut Cake
¾ cup and 2 tablespoon (185 g) coconut oil, solid
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 ¼  tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
¾ cup toasted unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line three 6-inch baking pans with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and shredded coconut. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat coconut oil and sugar on high until smooth.

Add eggs, one at a time, ensuring mixture is smooth before adding next egg.

Add half of the dry mixture and half of the milk in the mixing bowl, and mix on low until just incorporated. Add the remainder of the dry ingredients and milk and mix until just combined.

Evenly divide the cake batter into the three baking pans and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean when poked into the centre of the cake.

Let cake layers cool before frosting.

Pineapple Coconut Curd
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup canned pineapple juice
4 tablespoon coconut oil, solid
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

In a large stainless steel bowl, combine the egg yolks, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Whisk until well combined. Once mixture is smooth, whisk in pineapple juice.

Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring constantly with a rubber saptula until the mixture thickens and can coat the back of spatula, about 10 minutes. Remove mixture from heat.

Strain the curd through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lumps. 

Fold in the coconut oil until it is fully melted and mixed in. 

Cover the curd with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap is touching the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. 

Refrigerate until cold. The curd will thicken as it cools.

Pineapple Jam
5 oz canned crushed pineapple
6 tablespoons granulated sugar

In a small sauce pan, combine crushed pineapple and sugar over medium heat. 

Continuously stir the pineapple to prevent mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. 

Cook for 10 – 15minutes, until mixture is syrupy.

Set aside to let cool.

Coconut Whipped Cream 
2 cans (14 oz x 2) coconut cream
½ cup icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla

Chill your coconut cream or coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight, being sure not to shake or tip the can to encourage separation of the cream and liquid. 

The next day, remove the coconut cream or milk from the fridge without tipping or shaking and remove the lid. 

Scrape out the top, thickened cream and leave the liquid behind. 

Place hardened cream in your mixing bowl. Beat for 30 seconds with a mixer until creamy. 

Add vanilla and powdered sugar and mix until creamy and smooth. Taste and adjust sweetness as needed.

Keep in refrigerator until ready to use.

Place first layer down on cake stand/plate. Pipe a large dollop of pineapple coconut curd in the centre. Fill the majority of the remaining space with pineapple jam, leaving enough room for a ring of whipped coconut cream to be piped around the perimeter. Pipe whipped coconut cream so that it is the 'barrier' for the two types of pineapple fillings.

Place second cake layer on top and repeat previous step.

Place final cake layer, cut side down.

Frost entire cake with whipped coconut cream and decorate however you like!

Happy baking!

10 February 2019

Valentine's Day Cookie Box

I originally did not plan on doing a Valentine's Day post because I did not want to make something overly 'gimmicky' that was only relevant for a day or so. I also did not plan on making heart-shaped treats for the blog because I just did not plan properly in advance. I got too caught up filling cookies with isomalt and multi-coloured sprinkles and spending a large amount of my waking hours being obsessed with Japanese slice-and-bake cookies that I stumbled upon one day. (That obsession resulted in a 3-hour 'quick browse' of Amazon Japan to find cookie making books that apparently only has instructions written in Japanese but hopefully has lots of photos and diagrams that overrides my ability to understand Japanese.) Lately, I feel like my interests in baking are always shifting — I will want to make see-through cookies one hour, intricately-piped and animal-shaped butter cookies the next, and then something that resonates more with what I have done on the blog in the past. Then I get a bit overwhelmed by all of it and end up not baking anything. That has been the theme lately. I am finding it a bit of a struggle to find a balance between baking 'fun' things covered in sprinkles and decorating romantic layer cakes with fresh flowers. I even feel a bit guilty for making too many fun and gimmicky cookies and neglecting the type of baking that this blog started with.

Despite all that, I mustered up some motivation and made some cookies to take my mind off of it. I used my cut-out friendly sugar cookie recipe for the majority of the cookies in the tin. One of my favourite 'hacks' for making an assorted cookie box or tin is to use one base recipe for different types of cookies. Sugar cookie dough and shortbread dough lend themselves well to many different kinds of cookies — cut outs, sandwich cookies, linzers, stamped cookies. I always try to add at least another type of cookie in there for greater variety. Today's addition is this super chocolately shortbread cookie. In addition to the cocoa powder in the dough, finely chopped bittersweet chocolate is added in there for more depth. If you have espresso powder handy, a little bit of that does wonderful things to these (and other) chocolate cookies. The chocolate shortbread cookies were cut into simple heart shapes but they would also be lovely as sandwich cookies (with a peanut butter or nutella cream filling!) or linzers. I added a white chocolate drizzle and pearl sprinkles to mine for a decorative touch.

Share your cookies with your valentine, your friends, or with just yourself — making them is a treat in itself.

In this box...

Super Chocolatey Shortbread Cookies
Yields 3 dozen cookies, depending on size of cutter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped 

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.

In the of a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg yolk and vanilla. Mix until fully incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Mix until just combined. 

Fold in chopped chocolate.

Shape the dough into a disc, wrap the dough in saran wrap, and chill the dough for at an hour.

Once the dough is chilled, preheat oven to 350 and roll out the dough to 1/8-inch in thickness. Cut out shapes with cookie cutter. 

Place cookie cut-outs on a baking sheet lined with parchment and space them an inch apart. 

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes. Leave cookies on baking sheets out of the oven for a couple minutes before carefully transferring them to cooling racks.

Eat them plain or decorate with a few chocolate drizzles.

Happy baking!


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