baking mission for the holidays: week 1

Posted on 11/04/2012 by helen_bakes
I'm embarking on a baking mission this holiday, as stated here. It's mostly to expose myself to different ways of doing things, as I'll be trying out recipes gathered from all over the web. Hopefully some of these recipes will form the basis of some of the things I'll be selling once I start my home baking business, too. ^^

This post marks the end of the first week. 8 to go!

Recipe #1: Ferrero Rocher Cupcakes
I'm not really one for gimmicky cupcakes, because I feel the true meaning of a cupcake has been lost in the barrage of cupcake shops that have opened in the past year or so. It's meant to be a mini-cake, not a vehicle for ten million sparkles, candy bars and too-sweet frosting double the height of the actual cake. A cupcake should taste as good as a normal cake, whether pretty or not. That said, I do love ferrero rocher. What can you do, huh?

I got this recipe from here. What follows is the original recipe and method for 12 cupcakes. I halved all the amounts, as usual.


1/2 cup boiling water
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup yogurt (not too thick)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp hazelnut extract
1/2 tsp molasses
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 + 1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Gooey Chocolate Hazelnut Filling (Recipe below)
Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache (Recipe below)
6 Ferrero Rocher chocolates, halved

Preheat oven to 350F. In a bowl, whisk the boiling water into cocoa until smooth and whisk in yogurt, molasses, vanilla, and hazelnut extracts. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes, and beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Into another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt and add to egg mixture in batches alternately with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and beating well after each addition. Fill each wrapper slightly more than 1/2 way. They will rise a lot. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 18 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Cut a cone in each cupcake. Put a few pieces of the wafers in, followed by 1-2 teaspoons of the filling. Replace the cone. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the ganache over each filled cupcake. Top them all with one Ferrero Rocher half each. Take a bite and moan in pleasure.

Gooey Chocolate Hazelnut Filling
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp hazelnut extract
1/2 cup hazelnut wafer cookies, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped fine

Bring heavy cream to a boil. Pour over chocolate to melt it. Add extract. Mix until fluffy. Let cool.

Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 oz good semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp hazelnut extract
1/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped fine to medium

Heat the cream on the stove until it boils. Pour over the chocolate and stir to melt, adding the corn syrup and hazelnut extract. Stir in the chopped hazelnuts.


[I know this looks silly, but every time I tried to cut the ferrero rocher in half it broke. So before I destroyed my entire stock I just decided to delicately balance one on top of each cupcake.]

Now, I couldn't find hazelnut extract even though I hunted high and low for it. As a result, these turned out more chocolate and hazelnut cupcakes than anything else. Also, I completely skipped the filling part and just used Nutella.

These got mixed reactions. I thought they were so-so, but then I hadn't followed the recipe 100%. The BF thought they were amazing, and colleagues liked them. Personally, I think the sponge could do with improvement as it's a bit too dry. Also, I then researched other ferrero rocher cupcakes and discovered the amazing idea of putting the ferrero rocher IN the cupcake instead of on top of it. If I ever manage to find hazelnut extract, I'll redo this.

Rating: 3/5

Recipe #2: Potato Gratin Dauphinoise
I debated including savoury bakes in my list, because the main reason behind the whole mission was to improve my dessert-baking skills towards developing my own recipes for sale. However, it's not like I'm never going to have to cook for myself and my family in time to come so I might as well go ahead with this. Plus, potatoes! Butter! Cream! Melty cheese!

Recipe from here and serves 4-6. Halved amounts again.

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz freshly grated Swiss Gruyere cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1 large garlic clove, peeled and halved
2 lbs firm fleshed potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin
3 tbsp butter

Prepare a shallow 2 quart gratin dish, by thoroughly rubbing with the garlic halves. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large saucepan, bring the milk to boil over medium heat. Add the cream and 3/4 of the cheese, stirring to blend. Finely chop the garlic used for rubbing the dish and add. Season with salt, pepper and a grating of the nutmeg. Add the potatoes and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat, stirring often until the potatoes are half way done, about 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Transfer the potatoes and their liquid to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and butter.

Place in the center of the oven and bake until the potatoes are cooked through and the top is crisp and golden, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serve immediately.



This is really easy to put together, and the crunchy golden crust the cheese makes is to die for. However, this is clearly not something you'd eat every day and certainly not as a main dish. We had this for brunch the next day with a beautiful fresh salad and hard-boiled eggs, which probably offset all the fat in it by maybe 1%.


Rating: 3/5

Recipe #3: Spiced Apple Cupcakes
Ohhh, I love apples. I'd eat anything with apples in it, which probably means I'm being biased when I say these cupcakes are beautiful gorgeous flawless amazing. But I'm not. They're incredibly moist, full of apple chunks, and the frosting really complements the cake. I usually am not a big fan of frosting, but this one really just completes the whole thing.

Recipe from here. Makes 12-15 cupcakes, halved amounts yet again. [Honestly, 3 different cupcake recipes in a week all making about 12 cupcakes, what would I do with 36 cupcakes??]

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons apple juice concentrate, defrosted (optional, increase oil to 1/2 cup if not using)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 generous cup packed coarsely grated tart apples (about 2 medium-large)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
Brie and Cream Cheese Frosting (Recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin tin with 12 paper liners and set aside. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, spices, pepper, and salt together into a large bowl. Whisk to ensure they are combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the oil, apple juice concentrate, vanilla, and eggs. Add the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir until almost combined. Stir the apples and walnuts into the batter.

Divide batter among cupcake liners and bake until a toothpick or thin knife inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out mostly clean, about 16 to 20 minutes. Let cakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Transfer them to wire racks and let cool completely before frosting. Frost cupcakes as desired.

Brie and Cream Cheese Frosting
6 ounces (1 cup) cream cheese (low-fat is fine), cool room temperature
4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) brie, softened and with rind removed
1/4 cup (2 ounces or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups sifted powdered (confectioner's) sugar

In a large bowl beat the brie, cream cheese, and butter until softened and smooth (but do not overbeat). On low speed beat in the vanilla and powdered sugar. Start with 1 1/2 cups of sugar and add more to achieve desired sweetness and stiffness. Finally, beat on high speed for a few moments until smooth.

I found that I could grate the apples with the skin on using my box grater. The McIntosh apples I used became quite juicy and mushy when I grated them, so I drained off some of the excess juice before using. This amount of brie resulted in a fairly mild-flavored frosting that still tasted much like regular cream cheese frosting. If you want a stronger brie flavor, you should be able to increase the ratio of brie to cream cheese up to 1:1 with good results.


apple 1

Look at the apple chunks. Loooook.

I didn't use the brie in the frosting because I heartily dislike it. I just doubled the cream cheese. Neither did I use the black pepper in the cake because I just couldn't. I was too scared it would be too strong and ruin everything, so I left it out. I also couldn't find apple juice concentrate NOR applesauce [supermarket people, buck up] so I used pureed apple baby food. Gerber's, to be exact. I bought 2 jars, one to use and one to eat hurhur.

Rating: 10/5. Don't believe me? Make them. They taste even better the day after!

The last recipe [blackforest cupcakes] will be posted tomorrow as I couldn't photograph anything due to the absence of natural light [it's been raining for days]. It's been a good week! Take care and be happy.
ringsandcoffee 4th-Nov-2012 06:50 pm (UTC)
I'm really intrigued by the apple cupcakes. Even though it only calls for 1/8 tsp, the black pepper scares me in a sweet recipe.

DO you have to peel the apples before grating them?

Edited at 2012-11-04 07:54 pm (UTC)
amaelamin_ 5th-Nov-2012 12:40 am (UTC)
the apple cupcakes are beautifuuuuul and i realised they could be made even more beautiful by filling them with apple pie filling. yup i peeled them, but if you're not too particular about having the peel in you could always leave it. a note about grating though - make sure your grater is of a big enough size to yield biggish pieces because if not it will just all come out mush. my grater was too small so i ended up chopping the apples by hand.
querulouspeg 4th-Nov-2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
Wow your method for dauphinoise is so so different to mine! The cupcakes however...rrrrow! Def going to bake them.
amaelamin_ 5th-Nov-2012 12:37 am (UTC)
(it's the OP signed into my private account) i've never made dauphinoise before, so this is the first recipe i tried. how do you usually make it? :)
querulouspeg 5th-Nov-2012 04:19 pm (UTC)
Well, I usually just slice up some raw potatoes nice and thin and layer them up with a few finely sliced shallots, taking care to season each layer with salt and pepper. Then pour over double/heavy cream (how much depends on the size of the dish and amount of potatoes but you need quite a lot). Dot the top with butter and sprinkle with sprigs of fresh thyme and bake for an hour or so in a moderate oven (200 degrees centigrade). Bake it till a knife goes through easily and the top is appealingly brown. Oh my mouth is watering just thinking about it. When you start adding cheese (and bacon) it gets into the realm of tartiflette - which I definitely recommend you try at some point if you can find Reblochon cheese. Also recommend you let it sit out of the oven for a few minutes because then it will congeal slightly in the dish and be easier to serve. I am curious about your recipe tho so if you do try it let me know how it turns out!
amaelamin_ 6th-Nov-2012 03:01 am (UTC)
my recipe yields potatoes that are much wetter, because of the milk added. yours does sound pretty good, especially with the herbs and shallots. not sure how authentic the recipe i used is though.
querulouspeg 6th-Nov-2012 11:40 am (UTC)
I really recommend my version, I picked it up while I was in France! The thyme gives off the most gorgeous aroma as it bakes and gives people warm and fuzzies when they walk into the kitchen!
helen_bakes 7th-Nov-2012 01:59 pm (UTC)
i will try it for sure! thanks :)
kmazzy 5th-Nov-2012 09:50 am (UTC)
I would be too scared to use pepper and brie too. Brie in a frosting? That just sounds wrong to me.

I made apple cake yesterday and it was also delicious. It's hard to go wrong with the apple & spice combo.
amaelamin_ 5th-Nov-2012 12:23 pm (UTC)
exactly! i don't understand how black pepper would work at all, especially fresh-ground. brie... possibly? since it's offset by all the sweetness. i have many more apple recipes to try :) happy days!
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