Wednesday, December 16, 2009

STOP, in the Name of #Foodiemeet – Part 2: Escape to Europe

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, there were a lot of amazing bakers at the Foodiemeet Bakeoff this past Sunday at the Samovar Room, both professional and amateur. After settling down in my corner, I took a look around at some of the bakers already there.


I was blown away by Lisa Pereira’s meticulous plating of her Sticky Date Cake and left speechless by Kristin's huge St. Lawrence Market cake. Sarah had a lovely spread of mini tartes aux sucres and shortbread, even showcased her nifty Springerle cookie roller. Catherine brought the beach party to us with her cute cupcakes.


The bar was lined with such delectable treats as Jenny's Almond Tart, Preena's Mango Curry Snow Crescents, and Paul's adorable little Tandoori Shortbread Tartlets with Passionfruit Curd (the fan favourite of the night!). And then there was my tablemate Dave, who brought along some amazing looking Bacon Blondies and was ready to duke it out in Battle Bacon alongside Joel (Maple Almond Shortbread with Pig Candy) and Jen (Kentucky Bourbon Bacon Brownies).

It was certainly a night of innovation and creativity, of exotic flavours and tried-and-true classics. Most importantly, it was all about sugary sweets, having a great time with fellow foodies, and raising money for a great cause. I was certainly nervous and yet honoured at the same time to be standing in a room full of such talented baker, considering my skills are certainly not as evolved and talented as others in the room. But I had a great time catching up with old friends, and finally meeting new Twitter friends face-to-face for the first time.


By the end of the evening, with eight different desserts consumed between myself and my friend Suzie, I was all sugared out. So thank you Foodiemeet, Suresh, Andrea, all the bakers and everyone else involved in the event for such a great time, wonderful memories, and tasty treats. I’ll certainly have my work cut out for me in the gym after the holidays are over!

As promised, the recipe for my European-inspired cupcakes that I brought to Foodiemeet: Chocolate Brandied Chestnut Cupcakes with Chestnut Cream. Feel free to omit the brandied chestnuts in the cupcakes if you don’t have time to make your own or can’t find some in specialty food stores. I merely added them as a textural element. The cupcakes will still be just as delicious without them!


Chocolate Brandied Chestnut Cupcakes with Chestnut Cream
Makes 24 cupcakes

¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¾ cup good-quality cocoa powder
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
1 ½ cups milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
10 to 12 brandied chestnuts, finely chopped (optional)

For chestnut cream:
1 425-ml can chestnut puree (crème de marron) **
3 to 4 tbsp granulated sugar, or to taste
¾ cup whipping cream
2 tbsp brandy
Splash of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and espresso powder. Whisk to combine and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until softened using an electric mixer, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each addition to combine. Add vanilla extract and beat to combine.

Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine. Add about half of the milk and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet, and finishing with the dry, beating after each addition until just combined.

Scoop batter into lined cupcake tins, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on rack for 5 minutes before turning the cupcakes out onto the rack. Cool completely before icing.

For chestnut cream:
In a large, beat whipping cream and sugar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, break apart the chestnut puree and whip it with some brandy using an electric mixer until smooth and easier to handle.

Slowly incorporate whipped cream into the chestnut puree and whip until just combined. Place in fridge for at least 30 minutes to help set before piping onto cupcakes with a large, round tip (or you can alternatively spread it on your cupcakes like I did).

Finish off iced cupcakes with a dusting of cocoa powder and refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, allow for cupcakes to come back to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

** N.B. Chestnut puree is available at fine food stores.


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