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I know that Valentine’s day calls for chocolate but I could not help sharing these cute red velvet cupcakes from The Recipe Critic. With a generous swirl of cream cheese frosting, they match perfectly with the red coloured theme of the day. While its popularity is gaining momentum in our chic and ridiculously expensive coffee shops, the red velvet cupcake is an easy 2-bowl recipe to make and enjoy at home. Its beautiful red colour comes from the reaction between the small amount of cocoa powder, buttermilk and vinegar, though it is now being enhanced with natural dyes or synthetic food colouring.

RED VELVET CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

For the Red Velvet Cupcakes

3 1/3 cups cake flour, sifted

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 1/4 cups white caster sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

2 tablespoons. liquid red food coloring

3 tablespoons. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoon kitchen salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon kitchen salt

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and spray with cooking spray.

  • In a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar and mix until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

  • Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Whisk coloring, cocoa and vanilla together.

  • Add to butter-sugar mixture and mix well. Stir salt into buttermilk and add to batter in 3 parts.

  • Alternate with the flour, starting and ending with flour. In a bowl, stir vinegar and baking soda.

  • Add to batter and mix well. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter and bake in preheated oven.

  • Bake for 17 to 18 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of cupcakes comes out clean.

  • For the cream cheese frosting, mix together butter, cream cheese, salt and vanilla until smooth.

  • Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Pipe a swirl on top of each cupcake.

  • Cool the cupcakes completely and top with cream cheese frosting. Makes 3 1 /2 dozen cupcakes.

Happy Valentine’s!

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Welcome to our January Bakealong challenge. Each month, we’ll announce a new recipe for you to try, along with helpful tips and step-by-step instructions here on our blog. We invite you to bake this striking braided Classic Challah Bread, then share a photo of your creation, tagging it #bakealong. Enjoy!

Classic challah is a soft loaf made with all-purpose flour (or a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat flours) and enhanced with both eggs and a sweetener (either sugar or honey). It is similar in taste and texture to Greek tsoureki or Swiss zopf, but unlike those breads it’s dairy-free. Traditionally served at the Jewish Sabbath and on most holidays (save Passover), challah and its many incarnations are a part of Jewish cuisine and culture in much of the world.

What distinguishes challah from other soft white breads is its striking appearance; the loaf is a shiny, deep-mahogany brown, thanks to a coating of egg glaze before going into the oven. The dough for this loaf is wonderfully smooth and supple, making it an ideal candidate for braiding. The simplest way to go is a three-strand braid; but feel free to try the slightly more complex four-strand braid, or even a six-strand braid, which makes a stunning presentation.

CLASSIC CHALLAH

Ingredients:

For the Dough

1/2 cup lukewarm water

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey or golden syrup

2 eggs, room temperature

4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons kitchen salt

1 tablespoon instant yeast

For the Glaze

1 egg, room temperature

1 tablespoon cold water

Method:

  • Combine all the ingredients and knead, by hand or bread machine, until it forms a soft, smooth dough.

  • Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 2 hours, or until puffy. It will not necessarily double in bulk.

  • Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. Divide the dough into pieces.

  • The number of pieces will depend on the type of braid. The traditional challah is a three-stranded braid.

  • For a fancier presentation, make a six-strand braid. Roll each piece of dough into a rope about 20″ long.

  • If the dough starts to shrink back as you roll, cover it and rest for about 10 minutes, then resume rolling.

  • The short rest gives the gluten a chance to relax. Gently pick up loaf and place it on a lined baking sheet.

  • Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until it’s very puffy, for 90 minutes to 2 hours at room temperature.

  • Towards the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 375°F. To make glaze, whisk together egg and water.

  • Brush glaze over  en loaf. Place the baking sheet atop another baking sheet to insulate the bottom crust.

  • Put the challah in the lower third of the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Tent loosely with aluminum foil.

  • Once you have tented the challah, bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes till the loaf looks and feels set.

  • Remove bread from oven, and place it on a rack to cool. Store any leftover bread well wrapped in plastic.

  • Challah tends to dry out after a day or so, but it can always be toasted or made into grilled sandwiches.

KAF Challenge: Classic Challah

After my first foray into gluten free baking with these coconut flour blueberry muffins, I have been curious to try more recipes with coconut flour, ground maize and nut flours. Being partial to almonds, I thought it was a good chance to test Smitten Kitchen’s chocolate financiers with my last bag of poudre d’amandes. While you can always go through the tedious process of blanching and grinding raw almonds, I find it easier to stock on 200g bags of Maitre Prunille’s powdered almonds though they might not be 100% gluten free. I have a good mind to swap some of the almond for hazelnuts next time I bake these along with a bit of Nutella in the centre to make them taste like Ferrero Rochers.

GLUTEN FREE CHOCOLATE FINANCIERS

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup almond flour or meal

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/8 teaspoon kitchen salt

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup or 2 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease and flour 15 financier molds or mini-muffin tins.
  • Melt the unsalted butter in a small saucepan and set aside till it reaches room temperature.

  • Mix the almond flour with the cocoa powder, salt, and powdered sugar. Stir the egg whites.
  • Then stir in the almond extract, and gradually stir in the melted butter until incorporated.

  • Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them three-quarters full. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • They should be slightly puffed and springy to the touch when done. Remove from the oven.

  • Cool completely before removing the financiers from molds. Makes 15 one-inch financiers.
  • The financiers can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Gluten Free Chocolate Financiers

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