Monday, September 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge - Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

Preparation Time
30 minutes: Making dough & rolling
1 hour min: Refrigeration
8-15 minutes: Baking per tray depending on size of cookies

Equipment Required
- Parchment paper
- Rolling pin
- 5mm guide sticks (optional)
- Cookie cutters or sharp knife
- Baking trays
- Wire cooling rack
- Spatulas
- Mixing bowls
- Measuring cups/spoons or weighing scale
- Sieve
- Icing bags / Parchment Cones
- Sizes 1 to 5 plain icing tips (2 and 4 being the most common to use)
- Star icing tips (optional)
- Couplers (optional)
- Toothpicks
- Elastic bands

Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4" Cookies

200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during
baking, losing their shape.
• Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
• Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
• Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
• Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an
hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and
then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.
• Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
• Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
• Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
• Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.(I baked in a convection oven for 15 minutes on a non-stick baking pan)
Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in
some cookies being baked before others are done.
• Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated
cookies can last up to a month.

Royal Icing:

315g – 375g / 11oz – 13oz / 2½ - 3 cups Icing / Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
10ml / 2 tsp Lemon Juice
5ml / 1 tsp Almond Extract, optional


• Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and
grease free.
• Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
Tip: There are 2 amounts of icing sugar listed, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.
• Beat on low until combined and smooth.
• Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.

General Baking Tips
• When measuring by volume (cup) always shift/aerate your flour/icing sugar in the container/bag before measuring because it settles as it sits and so you end up with more flour/icing sugar in your cup. I do this by moving the ingredient around with a spoon, whisk or fork.
• When measuring flour or icing sugar by volume (cup) never scoop the flour/icing sugar up with the cup otherwise you compress the contents and this can make a big difference in the amount you’re using. Rather, spoon the ingredient into the cup until level with the top.
• When measuring baking powder or baking soda, always level off the top of the measuring spoon with something flat (like the back of a knife) as these ingredients need to be accurately measured.
• When mixing your ingredients, always follow the recipe instructions, especially when it comes to beating in eggs and flour, so if it specifies to mix until just combined or to beat for 4 minutes, follow the instructions to get best results.
• Unless otherwise specified, always have your ingredients at room temperature.
• It’s always best to invest in an oven thermometer so that you know exactly the temperature you’re baking at then you can also find out if you have cold or hot spots in your oven.
• If you need to rotate your trays midst baking, always allow at least half the baking time to lapse before opening your oven to move baking trays around, this allows time for your baked goods to form a good structure so that they won’t flop.

General Royal Icing Tips
• Keep a damp cloth handy while decorating your cookies so that if you’re switching between different icing bags, you can keep the tips covered with the damp cloth so that the icing doesn’t dry and clog them.
• If your icing tips do clog, use a toothpick or pin to unclog them.
• Always pipe a little bit of royal icing onto a board/paper towel before you begin to make sure there are no air bubbles.
• Remember to always cover bowls containing royal icing wither cling wrap, a damp cloth or sealable lid so that the surface doesn’t dry.
• Don’t store anything decorated with royal icing in the fridge otherwise the royal icing will
become tacky.

1.The cookies tasted great as it is without the icing. With icing, i felt the cookies tasted more sweet.
2. As a whole, it was a lovely challenge. My daughter (3 years old) assisted me in making the cookies and decorating it. It was a lovely experience.
3. I will surely be making it again.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ginger Spiced Brownies

This is one of the best homemade brownies i have ever had. Ginger with chocolate is a delicious taste sensation. Here good bittersweet chocolate flavored with pieces of candied ginger is used in a chocolate brownie mixture. Just a hint of spice, plus deliciously tangy soured cream, makes these brownies extra special. The texture of this brownie is dense, fudgy and moist. You just cant stop for one!! Now go-ahead and make them yourself..

Makes 20


200 g, 7 oz. good milk chocolate
100 g, 7 tablespoons butter
4 eggs
1 cup sugar, granulated or superfine
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons soured cream *can substitute with full fat yogurt
50 g bittersweet chocolate with candied ginger pieces, chopped (if you cant find them, just add 30 g of choc and 20 g of candied ginger ,separately chopped)

a brownie pan, 8 x 10 inches, greased and base lined


Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Break up the 7 oz milk chocolate and put it in a heatproof mixing bowl with butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of steaming water and melt gently, stirring frequently. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and leave to cool until needed.

Put the eggs and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer or a hand mixer until very thick and mousse-like. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture.

Sift the flour and spices into the bowl and stir in. Mix in the soured cream followed by the chopped chocolate with ginger. Transfer to the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake in a preheat oven for about 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted halfway between the sides and the center comes out just clean. Remove the pan from the oven.

Leave to cool before carefully removing from the pan and cutting into pieces. Store in an airtight container and eat within 5 days.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Maple, Pecan & White Chocolate Muffins

Maple syrup adds a lovely caramel flavor to these muffins. These muffins have a soft crumb and goes well with the crunchiness of the pecans and the feel of the soft sweet touch of white chocolate.

Makes 12 muffins


300 g (10 oz) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
125 g (4 oz) soft brown sugar
1 egg
50 ml (2 fl oz ) maple syrup
250 ml (8 fl oz) milk
5o g (2 oz) unsalted butter, melted
125 g (14 oz) white chocolate, chopped or white chocolate chips
75 g (3 oz) pecan nuts, coarsely chopped

to decorate
chopped pecans
chopped white chocolate

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir in the sugar.

Beat together the egg, syrup, milk and melted butter and beat into the dry ingredients until mixed. do not over mix.

Fold in the chocolate and pecan nuts.

Line 12 holes of a muffin tray with paper cases. Divide the mixture among the paper cases and top with some extra chopped nuts and chocolate.

Bake in a preheated oven 200 deg C(400 deg F), Gas Mark 6, for 20 - 25 minutes until risen and golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

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