Monday, January 31, 2011

Spotty Muffin Tin Monday

It's Muffin Tin Monday! We didn't follow the theme today (which is "Favourite Foods"). I had great plans for this theme, but they involved a mini pizza, and once again my little Muffin is not feeling 100% (apparently she has some kind of "recurring virus", and I am SO OVER IT, you have no idea). So the plans were changed "because I don't think my little tummy wants pizza today, Mummy".

She was feeling well enough to enjoy what she did have though. We went with a Spotty theme (sort of), as The Muffin had her birthday party over the weekend and it was a Spotty Party (her choice. I have no idea where that came from). So she enjoyed carrying her party theme over, albeit rather vaguely...

Top Row: Mars bar (a prize received at her party); fruit skewers (plum, banana Spots, grape Spots); strawberry pikelets (ie a slice - Spot! - of strawberry cooked into the middle of each pikelet).

Bottom Row: Carrot Spots; Yoghurt with a few sprinkles on top; Vegemite sandwich Spots.

The After Shot:

Yes, the Mars bar is still in its wrapper. Now before you keel over in shock, remember she wasn't feeling the best today. I tried to talk her out of having the Mars bar in the tin in the first place, but she pushed for it, so I agreed. After eating most of the other stuff though, she said "Mummy I don't think I want my chocolate now. I'm full". Which I was really glad about, as I'm sure her stomach wouldn't have been thrilled to receive it.

Side note: The Muffin was not alone eating her MTM lunch today. One of her birthday presents was a toy baking set for her little kitchen, including utensils, a pretend oven mitt, a few mini baking tins etc, - and - you guessed it - a little muffin tin! So while I was making her lunch, The Muffin was busy making lunch for her Best (plush) Friend...

Happy Muffin Tin Monday, Swimmy!

To see what other mums did this week, head over to The Muffin Tin Mom's blog...
Oh, and by the way - thank you so much to everyone who voted for me in Cupcake Mystery Box. I didn't make the top five, but I appreciate your support none the less! :o)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

Oi, oi, oi!

I made these cookies for a little pre-and-post-fireworks get-together. They are my usual sugar cookie recipe, with cocoa substituted for some of the flour. I also added some coconut flavouring extract to the icing, as the idea was for them to be vaguely lamington-flavoured. That idea really didn't come through at all, but they tasted fine. I must admit though, the more different flavours I try with these cookies, the more I like my usual lemon ones. Definitely they are my favourite. I'd like to find a really good chocolate cutout cookie recipe though...

It was quite a change for my flag cutters not to be pirate flags for once! But I also thought my palm tree cutter worked fairly well as fireworks. They were glittery too, but you can't really tell in the photos...

Happy Australia Day, everyone!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Big & Little

** If you have a moment to spare, please vote for my Maple Macadamia Carnival Cakes (see this post for recipe) in Cupcake Mystery Box, over at The Sweetest Kitchen! It doesn't take long & you won't have to sign up for anything! Thank you!!**

And now, on to Muffin Tin Monday...

This week's theme is "Big & Little" - here is our take:

Top Row: Cheddar cheese circle with elephant pick (big) & string cheese circles with mouse pick (little); Yoghurt with little & big sprinkles; Musk stick (a little piece and a big piece).

Bottom Row: Carrot hearts (little); Salami sandwich heart (big); Cherries (which we decided were simultaneously little and big - cherries generally being a small fruit, and these particular ones being particularly large cherries) :o)

The After Shot:

Woo hoo! I could not believe she ate this many carrots!

To see what other mums did this week, go to the Muffin Tin Mom's blog - and don't forget to vote in Cupcake Mystery Box!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Aaaand, let the voting begin!

Step right up, folks! This month's Cupcake Mystery Box theme ingredient is POPCORN, and the voting has begun! Click on over to The Sweetest Kitchen to join the fun!

There are twelve cupcakey competitors this time. You can vote for your two favourites - and if one of them just happens to be my Maple Macadamia Carnival Cakes, that would be all kinds of awesome...!

You only have until January 26 to get your votes in (and to check out all the other awesome entries!) So why not pop over there right now?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Maple Macadamia Carnival Cakes!

(and an ample allocation of alliteration to all...) :o)

I haven't competed in any baking competitions for a while - Christmas is always kinda hectic without the added pressure of becoming Completely Obsessed about a single ingredient for weeks at a time... But when I saw the theme ingredient Jamieanne of The Sweetest Kitchen had nominated for this month's Cupcake Mystery Box... well. Let's just say, I haven't been quite this inspired by a theme ingredient for A Very Long Time. Because it's so different!! And yet... so everyday...


Yes, popcorn cupcakes. Genius, right? And a worthy challenge, because, well... how to use it?

I tried a few things. Following Jamieanne's suggested (though untried) recipe was, I thought, A Good Place To Start. And I must say, the raw batter tasted great. It tasted like buttered popcorn. Then I baked it, and it didn't anymore. Hmm...

Second attempt: Popping my own popcorn in our popcorn maker (ie using hot air rather than oil/butter/miscellaneous chemicals), blitzing it in the food processor, sieving it, then substituting it for some of the flour in Billy Reece's vanilla cupcake recipe. This resulted in an unmitigated baking disaster of massive proportions. Mixture everywhere in oven, sullen little cakey puddles at bottoms of muffin tin. That didn't even taste nice. Hmm....

Third attempt: SCORE! And thus I present to you, my Maple Macadamia Carnival Cakes. With a delicious, moreish, surprisingly sophisticated flavour, made slightly mad by topping them with maple caramel popcorn balls on a stick. 'Cause you can't be making popcorn cupcakes and take yourself TOO seriously...

But seriously, these are SOOO good. The subtle, smoky sweetness of the maple syrup and the buttery crunch of the macadamia nuts are the perfect backdrop for the creamy popcorn frosting. Don't you love it when a plan (eventually) comes together?

The winner of January’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:

Bake It Pretty; a $5 electronic gift card
Beanilla; 3 Madagascar, 3 Mexican & 3 Indian vanilla beans
ExoDesign; a wire whisk charm necklace
Hello Hanna
; a pack of Sweet Stands cupcake stands
Miss Kitty Creations
; a handmade cupcake charm of your choice
Simply Caked; 600 brown greaseproof cupcake liners
Sweet Cuppin Cakes
; a prize pack worth $25
Tundra Books; a selection 3 very sweet children’s books

Thank you to all our prize sponsors!

And here's the recipe:-
1 bag of butter flavoured (or in my case, "Triple Butter Flavour Explosion!!!!!" flavoured) microwave popcorn
1 cup whipping/pouring cream (thin enough to pour, and around 35% fat)
1 cup full cream milk

175g salted butter
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
160g SR flour
100g Plain flour
150mL milk
50mL maple syrup (use the real stuff - it tastes stronger and better. Fact.)
75g macadamia nuts, chopped

125g unsalted butter
200g icing sugar
About 1/2 to 3/4 cup of Popcorn Cream (see below)
A pinch or so of salt

1/4 cup popping corn (or I guess you could buy ready-made plain popcorn if you don't have an air popper)
Whatever recipe you would normally use to make caramel, and the ingredients to do so.
50mL maple syrup

To make Popcorn Cream
Cook microwave popcorn as per the instructions on the pack. Blitz briefly in food processor or similar if desired (you're not trying to powder it or anything, just chopping it up a bit smaller to let more flavour out when you infuse it).
Next, heat the cream and the microwaved popcorn together in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then remove from heat, and push mixture through a sieve. Put the popcorny cream into the fridge, and the solid husky bits back into the saucepan. Add the milk, and bring to the boil again. This time, allow the mixture to cool completely before pushing it through a sieve. Add the popcorny milk to the popcorny cream, mix together and refrigerate. Discard popcorn husks.

To make Cupcakes
Cream salted butter and caster sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Sift flours together and fold about a third of this into the mixture. Combine milk and maple syrup and fold half of this into the mixture. Add half the remaining flour, the rest of the milk mixture, and finally the rest of the flour, folding gently between each addition.
Spoon mixture into cupcake cases, filling about two thirds full, and top each one with some of the chopped macadamias. These will toast happily on the top, creating a yummy crunch.
Bake at 180 degrees Celsius (350F) until they test clean (around 18-20 minutes)

They will not be this colour. The lighting always looks weird in my night time photos.

To make Popcorn Frosting
Remove Popcorn Cream from the fridge, and blend it with a stick mixer or similar just until smooth. This will break down all the teensy lumps of popcorn that came through the sieve. It will also thicken the mixture slightly. This is fine, as the milk should protect the cream from whipping too much at this stage, but don't blitz it for too long - it should still be pourable). Beat unsalted butter in a stand mixer (or with handheld beaters) until pale. Add icing sugar (half at a time to avoid sugar blizzards) and cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add half a cup of Popcorn Cream, and beat briefly (the cream will whip quickly at this point, so don't overdo it). Taste, and have a look at the texture. Add salt to taste, and a little more Popcorn Cream if you want to (don't add too much or the mixture will start curdling), and beat for a few more seconds. Pipe or spread onto waiting cupcakes.

To make Popcorn Balls-on-a-Stick
Pop the 1/4 cup of popping corn, and put it in a heatproof bowl - don't season it with anything.
Make caramel, adding the maple syrup to your usual recipe. Let the caramel get as dark as takes your fancy (I did it quite light this time, as I was serving these mainly to kids, but personally I would have preferred it darker), and remove it from the heat.
Immediately pour enough caramel over popcorn to only just barely coat it (you don't really want a big lump of candy in this case - the caramel is mostly there just to hold the popcorn together and make it pleasantly sweet and mapley). Toss quickly and thoroughly using two large greased forks. When the mixture is just cool enough to touch (but still pliable), form popcorn into balls with greased hands, and insert a lollipop stick into each. Place on baking paper to set.

Insert a popcorn ball-on-a-stick into each frosted cupcake, and add colourful sprinkles!

All the fun of the fair! (or possibly topiary trees, as Husband just pointed out)


Monday, January 17, 2011

Mini Muffin Tin Monday

Today is Muffin Tin Monday! There is no theme this week, and my poor little Muffin is sick AGAIN, so today I served her lunch in mini-muffin paper liners in a friand tin. That way it still looked big, but was actually very small, so as not to overwhelm her poor little tummy...

Also today I got three Surprises in the mail - woo hoo! Well, you know, not 100% surprises as such, since I had ordered this stuff, but still - FUN! So yes, I have officially taken delivery of my Very First Bento Equipment!!

I am hoping the rice moulds will a) encourage The Muffin to eat rice, and b) be able to be used for other things too.... Any ideas, anyone?

The little cutters are just the best thing ever - I actually received them two days ago, and have already used them a couple of times. Smaller than I thought they would be - which is a good thing. The Muffin is In Love with the little bird shape.

She is also In Love with the animal picks, especially the elephant, giraffe and chicken. So I had to use some of the picks in her Muffin Tin today:-

Top Row: Tinned peaches; vanilla yoghurt; two jellybeans from The Muffin's Christmas stash.
Bottom Row: Cheese with giraffe pick; salami sandwich; more cheese with elephant pick.

The After Shot:

Truly, I was amazed. Two hours before lunch, this child was throwing up in the doctor's office. I really didn't expect her to eat much at all, but she was SO excited to use the picks. So cute.

Go here to see what other mummies did this week!

Also: Oooooo, girly squeal!!! What fun - look what was in my third package today:

One of my favourite cookie artists is Callye at The Sweet Adventures of SugarBelle (go there and check out her cookies - she is truly amazing). Anyway, a while ago she wrote a post on her blog about Karen's Cookies. So I went to check them out, and wow. They are also amazing. As in, the-shipping-to-Australia-does-not-cost-more-than-the-products amazing. And they have a fantastic range of gear. And no, I'm not being paid to say so - I'm just so excited to have my new Americolor Gourmet Writers! (which I have not been able to find anywhere here)

Now if only my little girl would get well - and stay that way - my day would be just about perfect!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Liners & Cups

Yesterday was Muffin Tin Monday. This week's theme was Liners & Cups, which worked well for me, as we had a "long weekend" away at the beach, so I only needed to take my trusty green silicon liners with me. Also, this is our first Muffin Tin Meal that wasn't lunch. Instead we had breakfast this time.

Here is what The Muffin had:-

Clockwise from top right: Bacon, baked beans, toast flowers, scrambled eggs, grapes & choc chips (I know. Chocolate for breakfast. But it was only a little, it was out of her personal stash anyway, and I don't think she'd have let me get away with a Muffin Tin Meal sans dessert...)

Middle: Cheese flower (cut with the lovely new funky flower fondant cutters that Husband gave me for Christmas, and coloured with a bit of food colouring).

The After Shot:-

One of the most successful to date! But I expected that to be honest, as there were no vegetables, and I knew she liked everything in it.

To see what other mummies did this week, click over to the Muffin Tin Mom's blog.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday On A Stick

There was going to be Muffin Tin Monday last week.
There was also going to be awesome New-Years-Eve-themed decorated cookies.
For that matter, there was going to be a New Years Eve party.

There wasn't.

What there was, instead, was fever, vomiting and extreme fatigue on the part of the Muffin, and stress and general sleep deprivation on the part of everyone else. There was even a trip to the hospital, because it turns out that most doctors surgeries shut down between Christmas & New Year, and therefore any that were open were completely booked out. In the end it turned out she just had a tummy virus, and I must say I did feel a bit of an idiot taking her into the emergency department, but it was literally the only way we could get to see a doctor. And she really wasn't well At All. Indeed, she has only just started really getting better (Fingers Crossed) in the last day or two.

All of which means that whilst Muffin Tin Monday was decidedly off the menu last week, this week it was back. This week's theme is "Food Picks, Skewers & Kebabs". As I do not own any funky bento equipment, we went the skewer option. Here is our tin for this week:

Top Row: 3 jellybeans on a toothpick (plus extra grapes); fruit skewers with apple, nectarine, and apparently not enough grapes; cheese & Vegemite elephant sandwiches.

Bottom Row: Sausage circles and cucumber hearts; yoghurt & lemon juice dip; more elephants.

I must say this is not my most attractive-looking tin ever. The Muffin loved my elephants though:

(and if you're wondering, yes I did feel a bit odd about impaling them through the head. This thought apparently did not occur to my daughter. Which can only be deemed a Good Thing.)

The After Shot:
She only ate one cucumber heart, and that under sufferance. But then, she has been sick, so one can't expect miracles. I was quite surprised the ate this much, actually - she must be getting better...
Anyway, hope everyone had a better New Years Eve than we did! What did you do? (I want to live vicariously!) Now I'm off to bake a cake - yes! there will, believe it or not, be cake on this ostensibly cake-themed blog once again!! Like, soon!!!! (oh yeah - and go here to check out this week's other Muffin Tin Meals)

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