The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake – For Chocoholics and Everyone Else!

My kids are diehard fans of chocolate.  You can give them chocolate on its own, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, chocolate milk….if there’s chocolate rice and chocolate fruits, I bet they would eat those in a heartbeat too!

Hence it was almost like a dream come true when I recently baked the most delicious and decadent chocolate cupcakes ever.  I call them the Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes!  I don’t take all the credit though…I got the recipe from Brown Eyed Baker.  The pictures were beckoning me to bake them; what could I do?  Bake them I did!  I have no regrets whatsoever (but my hips probably do!).

Brown Eyed Baker calls them The Best Chocolate Cupcakes Ever, and it will take a very strong will to disagree.  These are chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache filling topped with a smooth and silky chocolate buttercream frosting that will have you asking for more.

This recipe uses some bread flour, which I have never used in cakes before, so perhaps that is the secret ingredient?  I also used apple cider vinegar in place of the white vinegar in the recipe, and I omitted the corn syrup in the frosting.

Trust me…this is THE only chocolate cupcake recipe you will ever need.  You can choose to omit the ganache filling but I find this gives it the extra oomph, plus if there’s any left on the spoon, we get to lick it off too!  Yumsss!!

Here’s the recipe.  I hope you get to try it soon because you definitely won’t be sorry!

The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake (adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)
Yield: 12-15 medium-sized cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:
For the Ganache Filling:
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

For the Cupcakes:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
⅓ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¾ cup hot coffee
¾ cup bread flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (The original recipe calls for white vinegar but I only had apple cider, so I used it instead)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting:
1¼ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
¾ cup light corn syrup (I omitted this)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces chocolate (milk, semisweet or dark), melted and cooled

DIRECTIONS:
1. Make the Ganache Filling: Place the chopped chocolate, heavy cream and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave on high power until the mixture is warm to the touch, 20 to 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth, then refrigerate until just barely chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.

2. Make the Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard-size muffin pan with liners. Place the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Pour the hot coffee over the mixture and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate mixture for 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.

4. Whisk the oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla extract into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Add the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin pan cups. Place one slightly rounded teaspoon of ganache filling on top of each cupcake. Bake until the cupcakes are set and just firm to the touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on the wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.

6. Make the Frosting: In a food processor, process the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the corn syrup and vanilla extract and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then add the chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 one-second pulses. Frost the cupcakes as desired. The frosted cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

 

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Getting My Book Fix at NoQ Store Online! – Plus a Readers’ Special You Don’t Wanna Miss!

My kids and I love going to bookstores.  We can spend endless hours there, browsing the books and magazines, and it is more often than not that we walk out with some “goodies” for everyone.

However, sometimes I feel like I need to browse and buy some books but because of time and logistics constraints, I could not do so.  Hence I was pleasantly delighted when this fabulous online bookstore, NoQ Store, gave me a fantastic opportunity to check out and review their online store.

NoQ Store was founded in 2011 as the online bookstore of Times Publishing Group.  As an online store, it offers a vast selection and variety of books from every genre imaginable, and makes it hassle-free for consumers to purchase books and related items (like stationery), without the need for queuing up in stores, hence the name “NoQ”.

NoQ store is the digital counterpart for Times Publishing Group’s sister companies: Times The Book Shop Malaysia and Times The Book Shop Singapore.

Are you curious to find out what I thought about this online bookstore?  Come and read about my NoQ experience and also, don’t miss the readers’ special section below! :)

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Creamy Chicken Mushroom Pie: Homemade Goodness and Comfort for the Soul

As you are well aware, my family meal preparations tend to veer towards the one-pot creations or one-dish creations, due to reasons that are quite obvious.  So if you’re like me and you are pressed for time but still want to serve your family that yummy dinner at the end of the day that will have them rubbing their tummies in satisfaction, this might be just what you need: Chicken Pie…in all its homemade goodness and yumminess.

Last week, I decided to bake the chicken pie pastry from scratch.  Ambitious?  Maybe.  Crazy (because I also had to care for a baby)? More likely.  I found this Butter Flaky Pie Crust recipe that looked simple enough, so I waited till my baby took her nap and I proceeded to make it.

The beauty of this chicken pie recipe is that you can prepare the ingredients and its components in sections, which means that if you have toddlers to care for, you can take like 10 minutes to chop some stuff, stash it away.  And then an hour later, go back to where you left off and continue on, with absolutely no effect whatsoever on the final outcome of the dish.  This pie pastry recipe could even be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated!

I made the pastry first though, and refrigerated it hours in advance…see, that’s what I mean….then I slowly chopped up the ingredients in several “sessions” for the pie and baked it about 30 minutes before serving.

Chicken pie that night was served with a side serving of homemade coleslaw (another yummy and quickie dish you can whip up in no time).  My colesaw was just sliced onions, bell peppers, cabbage, shredded carrots and coriander, with some coleslaw dressing.

Here’s the chicken pie recipe I used.  You can use almost any other kind of vegetables for the filling but I used whatever I found in my refrigerator.

Creamy Chicken Mushroom Pie with Butter Flaky Crust
(Makes one 9″ round pie)

Ingredients

For the Pie Crust

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter, chilled and diced
  • ¼ cup ice water

For the Chicken Pie

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chicken breast cut into cubes (you can also use chicken thighs if you wish)
  • 1 brown/yellow onion, chopped finely.
  • 1 carrot, diced.
  • 1 celery stick, sliced and diced.
  • 5-6 white buttom mushrooms, sliced.
  • 1 cup chicken stock, or 1 chicken cube mixed with some warm water.
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • ¼ cup cream or milk
  • 1 egg, whisked.
  • 2 sheets ready-made rolled pastry or made from scratch (see above for ingredients).

Directions

For the Pie Crust

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  I used my fingers to rub the butter cubes with the flour mixture, till they looked grainy.
  2. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

For the Chicken Pie

  1. Heat oil in the pan over medium heat.  Add in onions and fry till translucent.
  2. Add in the chicken and fry till golden brown.
  3. Add in carrot, celery, mushrooms (or whatever other ingredients you have, e.g.; corn, peas, etc).  Add in the flour and fry for about a minute or so.
  4. Add in chicken stock or chicken cube with some water.  Bring to boil.
  5. Add in the cream and reduce heat to low, stir occasionally till the sauce thickens.
  6. Remove from heat and set aside.
  7. Preheat oven to 220°C.
  8. Line the base of a pie pan with the pastry and trim off the edges.
  9. Line with baking paper and place some beans or rice in the middle of the pastry and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, till lightly golden.
  10. Remove pie pan from oven and scoop chicken pie filling from no. 6 on top of pastry.
  11. Cover with another layer of pastry, seal off the edges and use a fork to lightly pierce the surface of the pie crust.
  12. Lightly brush the pie crust with the whipped egg mixture
  13. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden.
  14. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

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An Afternoon With The Ghouls At Monster High

During weekends, if we can help it, we prefer not to hang out in the malls.  Crowded places and the challenge of looking for a parking spot is not really our thing.  So if we’re back home in the afternoons on a weekend, we like to kick back with a siesta and just relax…well, the adults anyway.  The kids?  They love catching a movie on the telly…and just last weekend, we had the perfect one for this purpose. :)

Who’s up for “Frights, Cameras, Action!”, the latest adventure movie from the Monster High ghouls?  Well my kids certainly were!  To be honest, it was our first time being exposed to Monster High and it was certainly an extraordinary experience!  Err…actually since it’s a Monster High thing, it’s called a boovie rather than a movie…

Yeah, that’s the unique thing about Monster High.  It changes ordinary words to make new ones that reflect ghouls, monsters, scary stuff…you get the idea.  Takes a bit of getting used to though, but it’s all in great fun.

Before you think this is a scary movie that is unsuitable for kids, I beg to differ.  True, it’s about ghouls, but these are cool ghouls and aren’t scary at all.  By the way, girls are referred to as ghouls in Monster High terminology.  The Monster High dolls are inspired by monster movies, sci-fi horror and thriller fiction, which makes them different from your normal fashion dolls in the market.

I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about the boovie proper, but halfway through, I realise it was all really entertaining fun.  My daughter especially enjoyed the boovie because she had the Draculaura doll with her too, who was the main character.  We did run into a minor issue with the packaging of the Draculaura doll though; the plastic packaging thread was sewn through the doll’s head and affixed to the packaging box, hence when we tried to remove the plastic packaging thread, some part of it still remained intact in the doll’s head.  It would be great if this issue could be addressed.

As for the boovie, I’m not going to reveal any spoilers but I will just say that this is a colorful adventure that takes the Monster High ghouls around the world; from Londoom to New Goreleans to Hauntlywood (see what I mean about the words used?), “Frights, Cameras, Action!” is a light-hearted, entertaining show for all to enjoy.  Of course, being a kids boovie, don’t expect strange plots and twists.  Just watch it for the fun of it, and treat it as a perfect time to spend with the kids.

I asked my kids to give me their honest opinions on the boovie.  My 8-year old son rates the boovie 5-stars because he says “the scenes are very realistic and I like it that they refer to actual places in the world.”  My 5-year-old daughter rates it 5-stars too because “it is an exciting show with a happy ending”!  We all know kids’ opinions can be trusted, yes?

The Monster High ghouls are now available at all major toy retailers and department stores. The “Frights, Cameras, Action!” DVD boovie can be found in major video stores.

(Note: For the purpose of this review, I was provided with a copy of the “Frights, Cameras, Action!” DVD and a Monster High doll)

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Minestrone Soup: Healthy Homemade Goodness

Often times our dinner du jour is a one pot meal, or something close to that.  In the recent weeks, as I explore a variety of vegetarian meals and try to cut down on meat, I’ve fallen back on Minestrone Soup as the perfect dinner meal for my family.

I tried cooking this sometime back and was surprised that hubby actually liked it, claiming that he felt healthier after eating it.  I’ve cooked it a few more times after that, and even though the kids don’t really enjoy it a whole lot, they down their bowl anyway.

Well, the beauty of the Minestrone Soup is that you can pretty much add in anything you have on hand and not risk spoiling the flavor.  On the contrary, you might enhance it further too!

You can also serve it with any kind of toasted bread, your favorite pasta or even steamed rice.  Or if you’re really lazy or short on time, it can be eaten as is.

Minestrone Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, bruised and left whole.
  • 1 brown/yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 1-2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 10-15 white/brown button mushrooms, cut into quarters.
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Italian seasoning to taste
  • 2-3 cups water
  • 1 carrot, cut into pieces. (For added interest, try using purple carrots)
  • 1 cucumber, cut into pieces.
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree or tomato pasta sauce
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced into eighths
  • 2 cubes chicken stock (or 1 cup chicken/beef/vegetable broth)
  • Italian parsley, chopped (for garnishing)
  • Sweet basil, chopped (for garnishing)
  • Pasta or bread
  • Optional: organic beans, soaked.

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large pot.  I use my Dutch oven which is perfect for soups like these.
  2. Sautée the garlic and onions until soft, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add in mushrooms, celery and carrots, with a dash or two of Italian seasoning.
  4. Add in the bay leaf and tomato puree or pasta sauce.  Stir fry for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add in the water and bring to boil.
  6. Add in cucumber and tomato slices, simmer for about 15 minutes.
  7. Add chicken stock cubes or broth, simmer for another 20-30 minutes.  Just heat up right before serving.
  8. In a separate pot, boil your pasta if you’re using that.  Drain the pasta when it is al dente and pour the minestrone soup over it.  Serve hot, with a sprinkle of parsley and basil.
  9. Alternatively, serve the minestrone soup with toasted bread and butter.
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