Thursday, March 15, 2018

St. Patrick's Day is coming up and these Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes are a definite winner!  Why are they called Irish Car Bombs?  Because of the popular bar shot with 3 Irish ingredients - Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream and Guinness Stout.  In cupcake talk, it is Guinness chocolate cake, Irish whiskey ganache filling and Baileys buttercream frosting.  We need a few more ingredients to make these cupcakes but they are sooooo fact spectacular!!!!!!  But you judge for yourself.

Caley and I have made these before and they have become a tradition at the office of The Travel Agent Next Door.  
Caley and the cupcakes

Here is the recipe...Makes 24
There are many versions around so this has been adapted from a few of them

What's in the cupcakes?
  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup  cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cup sour cream

What's in the Whiskey Ganache Filling?
  •  8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped 
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey

What's in the Bailey's Frosting:
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 7 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream

First the cupcakes

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 standard tins (12 cupcakes in each) with liners.
  2. Heat the Guinness and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined. 
  5. Add the slightly cooled Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. 
  6. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat just until it starts to come together, about 30 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined. 
  7. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean ( about 17 minutes)
  8. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Second - The Whiskey Ganache Filling

  1. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. 
  2. Place the heavy cream in a small saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat. Immediately pour it over the chocolate, then let it sit for two minutes. 
  3. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the mixture from the center outward until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. 
  4. Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped, about 30 minutes. (If it becomes too stiff, whisk it until it gets softer)
Third - Inserting the Ganache into the Cupcakes

  1. You can either use a paring knife, apple corer, or large pastry tip to cut out the centers of the cooled cupcakes- going about halfway down.  I then used a teaspoon and filled the centers with the ganache.
Fourth - Top it with the Baileys Frosting
  1. Using the whisk attachment of the electric mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. 
  2. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually - (actually very slowly so you are not enveloped in a white cloud) add the powdered sugar until all of it is incorporated. 
  3. Add the Baileys and increase the speed to medium-high and whip for another 2 to 3 minutes, until it is light and fluffy.  (Be careful because it tends to splash)
  4. Using your favourite decorating tip, an offset spatula or a simple knife,  frost the cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles, if desired.  

Voila!  A  cupcake winner!!!!

Until we bake again...

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sourdough Bread - The Queen of the Table

I love talking about bread.  When I took my classes with the great baker, Richard Bertinet in Bath, England, he had the term Bread Bore....yup - we can be boring to many people when talking about bread.... but if you are interested, it is incredibly fascinating!!!!

I love baking it! I love eating it!  Reading about it...etc. etc.  I first started this journey when my brother in law,  Colin, was telling me about his Sunday bread baking.  They didn't and maybe still don't have a bread  bakery in Florenceville, NB, so he baked the bread for the week.  It was beautiful!  In Toronto, we have so many wonderful bakeries and markets, but I thought it would be a great idea to spend Sunday mornings baking bread.  It would be a way for me to slow plans...just make my bread.  It lasted for quite a while but then life got in the way and I stopped doing it as regularly.  I still have my starters bubbling away. I have been privileged to be a tester for one of Peter Reinhart's bread books, taken classes in Paris and Bath and have studied bread  a lot.  I still have sooooo much much to learn.  I would like to take classes in San Francisco and  I daydream about  working in the kitchen of many of them is Tartine Bakery.   

When I saw a Mother's Day workshop in Toronto at Nella Cucina for Sourdough bread, I jumped at it.  Patti, who was giving the class, had the opportunity to bake at Tartine's so I was interested....The only thing missing was my mom....but I know she was with me.... We would have had so much fun...

Because this bread could take 2 or more days to make, some stages were prepared in advance.

We started off with flour, water, salt and a culture I have called "Nella"  of course!

We then mixed the dough....

Ate lunch on some freshly baked bread

let it rise....scored it....

and baked it!.....and voila!

Happy Mother's Day to all those fabulous women or men who are moms!
Moms to your own other's pets... to godchildren....etc. etc.

Have a great day!
Until we bake again

Here is the recipe from the class....

How To Start Your Own Bread Starter:

·        Have a blend of organic whole grain flour and organic unbleached hard white flour.

·        Mix 150g grams of flour to 150g of filtered water.   Let it rest in a cool area for a couple of days. 

·        After a couple of days you should see/smell activity; you should be able to see the Co2 bubbles and it will have doubled in size, if not, wait another day.

·        Once there is life, discard 80% and feed equal parts flour and water. (75g each)

·        Let it rest over night and repeat this process for a few days to get a good starter.  Keep your feedings regular, and make sure to smell and get a feel for the ideal ripeness.

·        Once your starter is strong enough you can either continue feeding with the whole grain and white flour blend, or just strictly use white flour.  

·        If you are not using your starter on a regular basis, you can place it in the fridge for a few months. When you are ready to make bread again, make sure to discard the liquid that forms on the top, and begin replenishing it.  It will require a few feedings, equal parts flour and water, to bring it back

Basic Sourdough Recipe:

350g organic hard white wheat flour
7g salt
262g filtered water
70g leaven

·        Mix flour, water and leaven, rest for 10- 20 minutes
·        After rest period (autolyse) add salt.   Knead dough for 7 minutes, or until dough has a smooth surface. 

Bulk Fermentation:

·        Make sure to turn dough every half hour in the first 2 hours, to help strengthen the glutens and redistribute the temperature of the dough.

·        The following 2 hours, fold each hour.


·        Lightly pre-shape dough into a boule or two smaller boules.  

·        Set aside and cover for 10 – 20 minutes or until the dough feels relaxed.  Use a banneton or line a bowl with a cloth and lightly dust with flour (ideally rice flour, which is less sticky).

·        Shape pre-shaped dough into tight boules.  Try not to tear the surface of the dough but also try to get the most tension without over working the dough.

·        Place dough into the bowl and banneton for a final proof, and refrigerate. 


·        Preheat oven at 500 F.  Place dutch oven or la cloche in oven.  

·        A good test to see if the dough is ready to bake is to lightly press your finger into the dough, if a print stays up to 7 seconds it's ready to bake

·        Once he dough ready turn the boule from the banneton or bowl onto the pre-heated Cloche or dutch oven.

·        Score the dough with fresh, sharp razor (a serrated knife will also work), cover and let bake for 20 minutes.

·        Remove lid and finish baking for 20 min    

·        Once the bread comes out of the oven, let it cool completely first before slicing into it.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Waterford Blaa- Happy St. Paddy's Day!

A Waterford blaa is a doughy, white bread bun speciality particularly associated with Waterford, Ireland. It is currently made in Waterford and County Kilkenny and was historically made in Wexford. (Wikipedia). It actually has protected status by the EU...Kind of like Champagne I guess?

And so, I decided to try out this recipe from a great blog I follow - Karen's Kitchen Stories

These buns were easy to make. They are good the same day- tender and fluffy on the inside and crusty on the outside - but go stale pretty quickly.

This recipe makes 24
I made them for Leslie's St Paddy's Day Pardy!


900 grams (285 to 300 ml) lukewarm (100 degrees F) water
30 grams (about 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon) instant yeast
30 grams (about 2 1/4 tsp) sugar
1500 grams bread flour (just less than 12 cups) plus more for coating the rolls
20 grams (about 1 3/4 tsp) fine sea salt
30 grams (about 3/4 tablespoon) room temperature unsalted butter


Place the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the yeast and the sugar.
Mix gentlyAdd the flour, salt, and butter. Stir with a wooden spoon or a dough whisk until just combined.
Place the bowl on the mixer and mix with the dough hook for 10 minutes, adding more water early on as needed to achieve a smooth dough. I didn't need to add more....

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Ooops left it tooooo long!!! STOP!!!!

Line 3 x 9 inch by 13 inch baking pan with parchment, and dust it liberally with flour.
Remove the dough from the bowl and deflate it. I first divided it in half then quarters and finally had 24 equal pieces
Form each piece into a ball, and then press each ball with the palm of your hand to flatten it into a disk. As you can see, mine didn't flatten so much so don't worry. Place each disk side by side into the pan (2 disks x 4 disks). Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot to rise, about 45 to 50 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

When the Blaas are ready, liberally dust them with flour, but don't overdo it or you will be eating flour!!. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.
Lift the parchment out of the pan and place the Blaas on a wire rack. Using a pastry brush, distribute the flour that is already on the rolls evenly over the tops and brush excess from the bottoms too.
The rolls can be served warm or cooled. Cool completely before storing. You can wrap them in plastic if you are going to store them for the next day.

Remember check out Karen's Kitchen Stories! This recipe was inspired by Comfort and Spice by Niamh Shields

Until we bake again....
Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Hostess Cupcakes

Some of you may know that I am a recipe tester with the fabulous blog Leite's Culinaria.  All of the recipes are tested by a variety of people - from home cooks like me to professional chefs.  I love being part of this select group of testers as I have learned a lot from them and they are all so passionate about preparing great me!

One of the recipes I recently tested was Hostess cupcakes- these are the cream filled cakes that were first sold in 1919!  By 2011 Hostess sold over 600 milllion of these a year!   (according to Wikipedia)

You can still have a homemade Hostess Cupcake.  Here is the recipe. ..Homemade Hostess Cupcakes.  Once you arrive on this link you can see some my comments under Testers Choice.  They are actually fun to make.  

Make the cupcakes then
Poke holes in them

See all the holes!

Inject the cream filling

 Dip them in icing

and make the curly cues on top.

I made a bunch for a dinner at our friends Dave and Alexia.  I changed the design to a spiral!  A major design change!  hahaha.

They said they loved them...

They were devoured!

Until we bake again...

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Neiman Marcus Scandal - The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie and it's Urban Myth

This is the recipe, except halved, for Neiman Marcus cookies, which was passed around via email for years. The company disputed the story about how a woman paid 250.00 for the recipe she thought was 2.50. She was so angry she emailed it out for everyone to have.   They later went on to make a similar cookie to cash in on the popularity of it!
Here is the link to the story....

This one is nut free and makes about 55-60 cookies. If you have a lot of cookie monsters at home double it, as they fly out of the cookie jar!

2.5 cups rolled oats (measure first then blitz with the blender)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
4 ounces milk chocolate, grated or finely chopped
optional- sprinkling of maldon salt


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Measure the oats first, then blend them in a food processor or blender to a fine powder. In a medium bowl, whisk together the blended oats with all the dry ingredients -  the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated. With a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips and grated chocolate.
4. Roll the dough into 2-oz balls and place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time until the edges are set but the centre still looks undone, about 10 minutes. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheets.

5. A sprinkling of maldon salt is loved by my family!

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days (they can also be frozen for up to 2 months).

Until we bake again...


I would love to hear your comments, so please feel free to leave one below!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sinful Cinnamon Buns

Somethings just bring back memories...Cinnamon buns remind me of the time we went to Atlantic City.  My mom, dad and me.  I remember Mr Peanut Man on the boardwalk and how I looked forward to shaking his hand every day.  And then there were the cinnamon buns.  Maybe it was my first experience with buying freshly baked cinnamon buns and also the fact that I was allowed to run to the corner on my own to pick them up.  Probably kids 6 or 7 years old wouldn't be allowed these days... I remember the door man at the hotel calling my name in a very southern drawl  Penna soooooo   (yes my name is really Penny-Sue)  And always bringing him back a cinnamon bun.  He probably didn't realize it was the highlight of my day - and a lasting memory.

Here is a recipe for sinful cinnamon buns...very yummy!  It is from one of my favourite bread baking books The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.

Six and half tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

5 1/2 tablespoons shortening or unsalted butter - room temperature

One large egg slightly beaten

1 teaspoon lemon extract or 1 teaspoon grated zest of one lemon

3 1/2 cups unbleached bread or all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 1/4 cups whole milk or butter milk at room temperature

1/2 cup cinnamon sugar 
Cinnamon sugar is 6 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar +1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

White Fondant glaze for cinnamon buns
4 cups of powdered sugar 
1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract 
6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk

1- Cream together the sugar salt and shortening at medium high speed in the mixer with the paddle 
2- Whip in the egg and the lemon extract until smooth. 
3- Then add the flour, yeast and milk. 
4- Mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball. 
5- Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky.  You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. 
6- The dough should be about 78° or between 77 and 81°F 
7- Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl rolling it around to coat it with oil.
8- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to ferment at room temperature for approximately two hours or until the double doubles in size.

9- Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. 
10- Line one or more pans with baking parchment. 
10- Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top of the dough with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin.  Roll into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick -14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don't roll the dough too thin or  the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump.
11- Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar shaped log creating a cinnamon sugar spiral as you roll.

12-With the seam side down cut the dough into 8 to 12 even pieces- about one and three-quarter inches thick for larger buns,  or 12 to 16 pinch pieces - each one and a quarter inch thick for smaller buns.

Place the buns approximately 1/2 inch apart so they are not  touching but are  close to one another and leave to rise at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes  (covered) or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. 
You can put them in the refrigerator for up to two days pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to prove.

Preheat the oven to 350 with the oven rack on the middle shelf  and bake cinnamon buns 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool the buns in the pan about 10 minutes.
Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and 6 tablespoons two 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. 
Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick smooth paste. 
When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a  whisk into the glaze and waving over the tops.  Then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot.

Remove the buns from the pans and place on a cooling rack.
Wait at least 20 minutes before serving

Don't wait too long.....serve warm.  mmmmmmm sinfully good...

Until we bake again

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mardi Gras - King Cakes

Thinking about all the King Cakes I have has been a while.. you can read about them here - back in 2009.  I think I baked about 10 of them that year...Camera Guy actually helped me with the sparkles and I think we saw sparkles in the house for months after!

So pretty....
Until we bake again

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