20 Oct 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red velvet – reminds me of royalty somehow. And these cupcakes make me think of princesses having dainty little bites of these for tea.

I have had such a wonderful response to my blog and it is the most flattering thing in the world when friends insist that they want good old ME to bake them important stuff like a birthday cake!! I have tried them out before but the cream cheese frosting never turned out well. So I was pretty surprised when Jahnavi insisted on having a red velvet cake for her birthday with cream cheese frosting. This accompanied by a squeal when I tentatively agreed - all the while hoping that I break my red velvet cake jinx this time.

I read my baking bible religiously and Dorie Greenspan advices that big complicated stuff (read big cakes with icing for me) are best left to really experienced people, and one should start off with easy things. So I decided to break my red velvet cake jinx by baking tiny mini cupcakes instead of one huge cake. And well, what can I say? The advice of this baking guru is never wrong!

This cupcake originated in the southern parts of the United States and has been made famous by Magnolia Bakery and the TV show, Sex and the City. The red colour is formed when the cocoa powder reacts with the acid in the buttermilk. I am also given to believe that white wine vinegar also plays a role in this (apart from the red colouring used of course). Wikipedia tells me that during World War II, when food was rationed, bakers used beetroot juice to enhance the colour of their cakes! For those of you who abhor food colouring, let me know if you try this out!

 Try this wonderfully moist cake out. It has such a satiny finish to it that I almost don’t want to eat it.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Yields – 12 mini cupcakes, 24 roses, 1 normal sized cupcake

Adapted from – The Purple Foodie via The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

This recipe doesn’t call for vinegar – though I used it. If you don’t have access to any, you can simply double the amount of baking soda.


4 Tablespoons / 60g. butter, at room temperature
¾ cup / 150g. powdered sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 / 10g. Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp / 20ml. red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup / 120ml. buttermilk or well beaten yoghurt
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt (if you’re using unsalted butter)
1/2 tsp teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon white wine vinegar

1.                 Preheat the oven to 170°C/350°F.

2.                 In a bowl, beat butter and the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed.
3.                 Turn the mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.
4.                 In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a very thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and coloured
5.                 Turn the mixer up to slow speed, add a third of the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk, a third of the flour, half the buttermilk, and ending with the rest of the flour. You can fold in the last third of flour by hand.
6.                 In another bowl, add the baking soda to the vinegar. Be careful – this will fizz. Add immediately to the batter and mix well.
7.                 Spoon mixture into mini cupcake moulds.
8.                 Bake for about 20-25 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
9.                 Let cool completely before frosting the cakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/6 cups / 150 gms. icing sugar, sifted
1 ½ Tablespoons butter / 25gms. room temperature
2 ounces / 60 gms. cream cheese, cold
25 grams cream

1.                  Beat the powdered sugar and butter together. Mix on medium-slow speed until it comes together and is well mixed.
2.                  Add the cream cheese and cream all at once and beat on medium to medium-high until incorporated.
3.                  Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes, or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy. Be careful not to over beat or the icing might get runny.

10 Oct 2011

Tzatziki with Olive Oil and Sea Salt Crackers

I have had a fun weekend reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and munching on Tzatziki with Olive Oil and Sea Salt Crackers. I was too lazy to make tzatziki from scratch so I just used some of the mix I had bought in Greece. As for the olive oil and sea salt crackers, go here for the recipe. (I hand rolled it as thin as I could and pricked it with a fork before baking so that no air bubbles could form). Go wild with the crackers - you can use all kinds of herbs and toppings for it. Just sprinkle it on top before baking. 

6 Oct 2011

World Peace Cookies

These past few days have been extremely relaxing as the entire city celebrates Durga Puja. I have been browsing through Doris Greenspan’sbook and making a mental list of all the desserts that I am going to try. Ms. Greenspan gives foolproof recipes that always turn out well regardless of how hard you try to mess them up! Remember the double chocolate chip shortbread and the apple pear crisp?

She claims that these cookies can achieve world peace. One bite, and I agree. When I put them in the oven, my family started coming into the kitchen one by one within minutes. “Are they baked?,” “When will they be done?,” “Can I eat one NOW?” – this every 2 minutes. These goodies are going to make your entire house smell chocolatey and warm.

I twisted things around a bit when I tried it out. Usually when I bake, I use salted butter even when the recipe calls for unsalted and skip the additional salt. This time I used salted butter and the salt as well. These cookies are supposed to be salty and salt also increases the chocolatiness of chocolate! And instead of using bittersweet chocolate, I used milk chocolate. Since the cookie was salty I wanted a completely sweet contrast of milk chocolate. Also, don’t worry about the granulated sugar that doesn’t dissolve in the butter. Each bite of the cookie will give a fabulous sugar crunch!

Now, don’t wait – try these out today and if the cut rounds aren’t perfect, just call them rustic!

World’s Best Chocolate Cookies

Makes 36 cookies

1 ¼ th cups flour
1/3rd cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons / 115 grams plus 3 tbsps unsalted butter (I used salted)
2/3rd cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4th cup sugar
½ tsp fleur de sel or 1/4 th teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate roughly chopped (I used milk chocolate)

  1. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda together.
  2. Beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.
  3. Add both the sugars, salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes.
  4. Pour in the dry ingredients and pulse 5 times until the flour is just incorporated. The mixture will be a little crumbly. At this stage, don’t work the dough too much.
  5. Add the chocolate bits and mix.
  6. Bring the dough together and divide it in half.
  7. shape the doughs into logs that are 1 ½ inches in diameter and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours.
  8. center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 F or 190 C. line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper / foil.
  9. using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are ½ inch thick. Arrange them onto the baking sheet and bake them one sheet at a time for 12 – 15 minutes.
  10. transfer them onto a wire rack and cool them before serving with a glass of cold milk.