Sunday, June 29, 2014

Yes Chef: Chamomile Cupcake Cuties!

Thought I’d utilize my baking skills once again to create a cupcake lovely! I found a similar recipe through my Twitter feed, but I did some tweaking to re-invent the final product. The results were delicious! I hope you like ‘em.

Would you like?

Save yourself the time and use the same basic recipe I used for my Earl Grey Muffins with some changes of course. You will get 12 cupcakes that will go very well with the to-die-for buttercream icing.

For Cupcakes

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ½ cup Chamomile leaves

Ready to get dressed!

For Buttercream

  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 1 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 4 - 5 tablespoons water

Chamomile tisane preparation:

  • Steep the Chamomile leaves using both waters for the cupcakes and the icing. That’s 1 cup plus 5 tablespoons of water with ½ cup of Chamomile leaves. I steeped for just over 5 minutes. Allow the liquor to cool down.

Preparation for cupcakes:

  • Preheat oven to 180 °C.
  • Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl.
  • Add slightly beaten eggs and melted butter.
  • Pour in 1 cup of the Chamomile tisane liquor.
  • Mix all ingredients together just until they combine. Don’t over mix.
  • Spoon the batter into the cupcake pans lined with baking cups about 2/3 full.
  • Bake for 20 - 25 minutes. Stick a toothpick in a cupcake. If it comes out clean, they’re done!

All dressed and pretty!

Preparation for buttercream:

This amount of buttercream should cover about 2 dozen cupcakes. There may even be a bit extra in the bowl for licking! Yum! You can refrigerate the leftover icing for 3 months when you’re ready to make another dozen cupcakes. 

  • Using a paddle in your mixture bowl, beat the butter.
  • Sift the icing sugar to remove any lumps and slowly dump into the mixing bowl.
  • One tablespoon at a time as you continue to mix, add the 5 tablespoons of the Chamomile liquor. This amount was perfect, but check for consistency. It should not be too thick or too runny.
  • Once completely mixed, pipe the icing onto the cooled cupcakes. 

Oh goodness! These did not last for very long and had me spending way too much time in the gym!

I made the flowers too!

Cooking Tips:

  • Use a boxed cake mix instead. Stick with a white or golden cake mix rather than a chocolate one.
  • Not fond of piping? Use a small flat spatula instead. Who cares what they look like? I want to eat!
  • Melt the butter for the batter in a saucepan and stir in the Chamomile leaves to get the flavour. Strain, and use the infused butter. This method works well too especially if you wish to use a milk instead of water for the batter.

  • Add nuts like chopped walnuts or almonds. I actually added 1/3 cup of shredded coconut into the batter.
  • The candy flowers were an added bonus. I created them last week using royal icing which is much stiffer than buttercream. You can find many recipes for royal icing online.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My Cuppa: Keep Calm and Chamomile On!

I was hesitant about posting something on Chamomile because I've never had a good experience with it. I've always found it bland and tasteless. However, after finishing off my tea program, I now stop and remind myself that there is a big difference between the bagged variety and the loose form. So, I thought I’d give it another try especially now since I've been feeling quite anxious with some final exams for a course I'm completing. I want something soothing, light, and delicate.

Chamomile, also spelled Camomile, is probably the most popular tisane of all. It’s readily available and easy to make in no time. Just like any other herb, it come in many varieties with Matricaria recutita as the most well-known. Of course, Chamomile has its own health benefits too from reducing stress to boosting your immune system. As well, it is used in many cosmetic and beauty products. Blondes may want to try Chamomile as a hair rinse to enhance the colour of their locks. This versatile herb can also be used as an ingredient in cooking recipes.

A natural beauty!

Out in the wild, Chamomile looks like a daisy. Very pretty. I have Egyptian whole Chamomile blossoms I purchased from a tea shop. In its dry, loose form, it looks very much like daisy potpourri. The fragrance is magnificent! Sweet, floral, even a bit chocolaty and slightly grassy. Close your eyes when you inhale it.

In its dry form.

I made my cuppa as directed on the packaging, using 1 teaspoon for each 6 ounces of water. For tisanes, you may use fully boiled water, but I still prefer to allow the water to cool down for about 5 minutes before pouring it over the leaves. Steep the blossoms for 3 – 5 minutes. Unlike some types of tea, with most tisanes there is no harm in steeping longer than the recommended length, but do play around with steep times yourself to get the best results and not something too strong or bitter.

Getting rehydrated.

After separating the blossoms using a strainer, I was rewarded with a golden yellow liquor that had a sweet floral scent and just a hint of a mushroom aroma. It tasted exactly as I expected: smooth, mellow, similar to the fragrance. It’s one of those beverages you want to drink slowly, savouring the moment. 

Cuppa chamomile.

I have read suggestions of adding honey, lemon, even milk and sugar to Chamomile, but I think it’s completely unnecessary. Chamomile is very delicate so adding anything to it would ruin the taste in my opinion. Any Breaking Bad fans out there? You know what I'm talking about! A character on the show always ordered a Chamomile along with soy milk and several packets of stevia. I was almost tempted to try this crazy concoction, but it just sounds so wrong! I will go on enjoying my Chamomile perfect on its own.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Cuppa: Jasmine dream come true!

A few weeks ago, my good friend Marina gave me another sample of tea to try out. This time, I got a full box of loose leaf tea. Sweet! She especially liked this particular tea and thought I would too. It’s a flavoured green tea called Jasmine Dream by Greenfield, the same company I test drove the last tea. The package did not indicate what kind of green tea it was, only that it was an “excellent Chinese estate green tea with jasmine flavour”. 

The product.

You could really detect the scent of jasmine upon opening the box. The instructions suggested steeping 1 teaspoon of leaves per cup for 3-5 minutes at 100°C. I decided to forego these instructions and steep for 2 ½ minutes at 80°C. I think 100°C is way too hot for green tea and can result in a bitter brew. I brought my water to a full boil and then allowed it to cool down. After checking with a thermometer for the desired temperature, I poured the water over the tea leaves, which I had placed in a diffuser ball. 

The leaves.
The colour of the liquor was golden and the aroma was sweet and fresh like a bouquet of flowers! I liked the taste too which was much like its scent: sweet, fresh, light, floral. There was a slight astringency but no bitter aftertaste. I did a second steeping at 5 minutes which was just as good as the first infusion. A very good tea indeed.

The brew.

Thank you Marina. Keep the tea freebies coming please!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Tea Spot: La tea da at Shangri-la!

Today I headed out with my tea group to the swanky Shangri-La Hotel for Afternoon Tea in their Lobby LoungeI've been dying to check this place out since it opened. Glad I finally got the chance! The area where we had our tea was stunning and so relaxing; the service was impeccable; the tea along with its delights was elegant in just the right portions to keep you satisfied without feeling overstuffed!'s a, it's a, it's a...

The selection of teas offered was quite extensive with interesting names and combinations. Oh the choices! I decided to break away from tradition by going with the Green Yerba Maté from Brazil. That’s right, I opted for a tisane! It was described as a “robust yet earthy green infusion with gentle and lingering vegetal character”

A perfect pour!

The golden yellow liquor tasted sweet and mellow. I’ll talk about yerba maté in a future post. The only issue I had was the way it was served. The leaves were placed directly in the pot, which over time will turn soupy and bitter tasting. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I would suggest a diffuser ball or a removable filter that can be placed back in the teapot when requiring a refill.

My cuppa tisane!

The food was an enticing spread of finger sandwiches, scones, and desserts, traditionally prepared but with that extra kick that was anything but normal! Besides the egg salad and cucumber and cream-cheese sandwiches, we had a chunky chicken salad on nutty multigrain bread and a lobster salad brioche which was light and divine! 

Dainty delights!

The scones were warm and soft. Perfect with the jam and Devonshire Cream they came with. 

Oh so good scones!

Desserts consisted of a chocolate raspberry mousse cake that was so rich and yummy; a lemon dome cake with a good balance of sweet and tangy; an orange angel food cake with meringue; and a shot-glass of a pineapple and ginger mixture topped with a rich cream. 

Lovely little ones!

The Shangri-la was the perfect spot to lounge in on a Sunday afternoon with some great ladies to gossip and giggle with just before the rain. I would definitely come back here for its outstanding, friendly service and of course, Afternoon Tea!

The Great Wall of China!