Chocolate cupcakes

If you, like myself and my daughter, are choc-a-holics, then a chocolate cake is likely your go-to cake of choice. Turning this into cupcake-format means that there is an imposed portion limit, which, at least in my case, is welcome!

And so Alice and I did a collaborative chocolate cupcake bake this morning. The recipe we used was based on the vanilla cupcake recipe which I developed a couple of months ago, but with 10g of the flour substituted for cocoa powder. It turns out that this was perhaps not the best decision, as the batter mix pre-baking had the consistency of a custard; I had to ladle it into the cases rather than spoon it in! Despite this however, the texture after baking was actually quite pleasant. None-the-less, in terms of improvement, of which there is always room for, I would stick to the same volume of flour, and add the cocoa powder as an extra dry ingredient.

We iced our cupcakes with diabetic-friendly vanilla butter cream icing, made with a sugar-substitute. In the interests of aligning my diabetic baking with my cupcakecrush venture of providing self-decoration cupcakes for events, I tried different piping patterns using piping bags with various different scissor cuts in the end of them, rather than using a traditional nozzle. Unfortunately, what I didn’t really realise until I stood back and had a proper look at them, was that the colour of my icing makes it look uncannily like mashed potato (once you see it, you can’t unsee it!). But despite this, we still had fun messing around with it, and I must say, it was rather more tricky to do non-nozzle icing with the diabetic-icing than with the sugar-full icing, as the diabetic-version is rather more sticky; it would rather stick to itself/the outside of the piping bag/a finger than to the cake top!

None-the-less, we had a great time making, baking, and decorating our diabetic-friendly chocolate cupcakes, and then of course, eating them!!

Vanilla cupcakes

Sometimes in life, it is satisfying just to do the simple things well. So this afternoon, Alice and I decided to try baking and decorating a batch of humble vanilla cupcakes, with a diabetic-friendly twist of course! We used my ever-reliable vanilla cupcake recipe, but with a few key changes; we swapped the caster sugar for xylitol sugar-substitute, and increased the volume of milk as I’ve found that the sugar substitutes tend to dry out the batter. Additionally, from experience I know that a slightly lower oven temperature, coupled with a slightly longer baking time, seems to work well, so we reduced the temperature by ten degrees and increased the bake time by five minutes. After baking and cooling, we iced them with diabetic-friendly vanilla buttercream icing, and then our one cheat-treat was to use real sugar hundreds & thousands for decoration. Alice had real fun letting her 3-year-old creative self go wild! The result was a fun afternoon, and a tasty diabetic-friendly tea-time dessert.

Homemade Mozzarella

One of my Christmas presents from my very lovely partner Adam was a Mozzarella cheese making kit, containing sachets of citric acid, Rennet, salt and a thermometer, with a view to producing our own cheese for our weekly Pizza-Sundays. So, on New Years Day, I decided to give it a whirl. To my great surprise, it only took about an hour to convert a pan of milk into a reasonably passable Mozzarella ball!

I started with ~4 pints of semi-skimmed milk in a large saucepan, mixed it with citric acid and heated it up to 32 degrees Celsius, which caused the curds to separate from the whey. Next, I added a vegetarian Rennet, and left the curds to set. After 10 minutes, the curds had solidified and I was able to cut them into rough 1 inch cubes. Next, the mixture is heated up to 41 degrees Celsius, and then I transferred the curds into a colander, allowing the whey to drain away. I pressed the curds together gently by hand, then microwaved the cheese ball for 30 seconds to remove more whey, pressed it together again and then repeated. The final step is to knead in a sprinkling of salt, to taste.

To my delight, and to the credit of the kit, I managed to produce something that both tasted and looked something like Mozzarella, and happily it grated easily and melted nicely when sprinkled over our pizzas. As it only took an hour or so, it could easily be made on the same day as the pizza dough. Incidentally, I reserved some of the whey as I read that it can be used to enrich sauces, and I tried pouring a small amount into a pan of chicken/veg/fajita spices which I chucked together for tea that day, and it did indeed make the fajita sauce more rich and velvety.

Lievito Madre pizza

This is not strictly speaking a post about a diabetic sweet-treat, but I thought it was still worth-while sharing with the world as this is a fully homemade meal and thus is easily carb-counted. Additionally, in our modern world of fast-food outlets and microwave meals, it always feels special and healthy to create something from scratch.

A few months ago, my good friend Valentina gifted me a culture of Lievito Madre; an Italian sour dough which requires continual propagation. Every couple of days it needs passaging by dividing it roughly in half, adding a mixture of water and strong flour, and then culturing it in the fridge. I have been growing and using the culture faithfully for the last two months for our new family-tradition of “Pizza Sundays”, which has been great fun with the kids! On the evening before use, the culture needs feeding with the fresh water/flour mix, and incubating at room temperature overnight. On the following morning, the dough is again fed with a water/flour mix, given a good knead to aid gluten formation and left to rise in a warm place for two hours. After the two hour rise, the dough is split into 4, with as little disruption as possible so as to avoid knocking the dough back, and then left to rise for another ~6 hours. At the end of this time, you have four springy puffed-up dough balls with fantastic elasticity, which can either be rolled out into a rustic shape of your choice, or alternatively wrapped up in clingfilm and frozen for future use. Then it’s time for the kids to take over! We’ve been having them decorate the pizza bases with tomato passata and mozzarella, followed by toppings of their choice; ham, peperoni, cheeses, pickles… mostly dependent upon whatever we have left in the fridge by Sunday evening! We’ve also been experimenting with non-diary mozzarella as one of our boys is allergic to milk, and he is a huge fan of the pizzas that we have been making.

Such a fun, fulfilling (for both the stomach and the soul), family-tradition, which everyone can get involved in and enjoy, diabetic or otherwise!

Minty (Mince) pies

Mince pies, known as Minty pies in our house since Alice’s attempt to pronounce their name at the tender age of 20 months, are one of Alice’s favourite Christmas bakes. I like to make my own sweet shortcrust pastry, using a diabetic-sugar-substitute in place of castor sugar. I didn’t have my rolling pin handy, so had to use a (disappointingly empty) wine bottle to roll out the dough. If baking for adults I like to spike in a tot of brandy to the mince mix, but as I was baking for Alice in this instance I left it out. Brush the pastry with egg wash to make the pies bake into a lovely golden brown colour, and then dust with a powdered-sugar-substitute and serve warm with cream. Merry Christmas!

Carrot cake cupcakes

As promised; I’m back to diabetic-baking! I thought it would be fun to revive a classic to start with; carrot cake is one of my most favourite bakes using normal sugar, and it translates quite nicely into a diabetic-friendly version. It can be baked in several round tins and turned into a tiered cake, but it is also nice as muffins and this has the added bonus of acting as a natural portion control mechanism!

I increased the amount of oil in my recipe compared to the sugar-containing version, and replaced the sugar with a sugar-substitute. Alice and I baked these together, and for added flavour (and virtuousness!) we used carrots we had recently harvested from our back-garden. As with most of my diabetic cakes, the edges came out a little on the crispy side, but the middle was moist and springy, and crunching through the outside to reveal the soft inside was a pleasant textural experience. The icing is cream-cheese-style, and to finish them off we gave them a dusting of cinnamon. Yummy!

Cupcake Crush

Those of you who are keeping up with my blog will have noticed that I haven’t posted anything for a while. There are a few reasons for this, both baking and non-baking-related! And as this is a blog about baking, I will regale you with the baking-related reason; a foray into the world of gift-box baking with my good friend and neighbour Anna-Marie. She is an events organiser, who has recently launched her own business (https://www.amteventsglobal.com/) and she happens to be acutely aware of how much I enjoy baking as she is often on the receiving end of excess baked goods!

For one of the events she was hosting, she wanted to send out a gift box to each participant, and asked me over the garden hedge whether I would be interested in baking a couple of treats to be included in the boxes. And of course, me being me, I jumped at the chance of an exciting new baking challenge! I had a lot of fun but also learnt a great deal; not only did I need to come up with an interesting array of different baked-goods ideas and flavours that would look good, taste good and survive shipment in a box, but I had to also consider things such as allergens, labelling, packaging, social media presence, leafleting… the list was long! Not being one to do things by halves, I ploughed a lot of time and effort into the idea. I’m very happy to say that the event was a success, and Anna-Marie and I are now considering how we can take this idea further, so watch this space. I have a website for anyone who is interested in finding out more (http://www.cupcakecrush.co.uk/).

All of this does however mean that my diabetic-friendly baking has been on the back-burner for a while, which is something that I very much intend to rectify in the near future.

Blueberry Muffins

Since writing my previous blog post, I have tried baking diabetic-friendly strawberry cupcakes twice more, and both times I was not satisfied with the result. Thus, I decided that it would be wise to take a breather before getting too frustrated with myself, and changed to a different bake.

I switched to attempting diabetic-blueberry muffins instead, and I have to say that I am pleased with the result – the muffins are light, fluffy and bouncy – which has restored my faith in my ability to tackle this challenge of adapting my normal recipes to diabetic-friendly recipes. To achieve this successful bake I haven’t had to make a great deal of changes to my usual blueberry muffin recipe; slightly lower oven temperature for a slightly longer time, and I swapped caster sugar for a sugar substitute, but kept everything else the same. Great to tuck into on a furloughed-tea break!

Strawberry cupcakes with cream cheese icing; attempt number two

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again” is how the motto goes I believe, and I am nothing if not determined. Thus I am at the second of the three tries for the diabetic-friendly strawberry cupcake!

I adapted the recipe slightly, decreasing the ratio of wet:dry ingredients and increasing the bake time, as I think that both the batter being too wet and the opening of the oven door too early were contributing factors to the sinking cupcakes of the first attempt. I also tried improving my icing recipe by incorporating a homemade strawberry puree, having made the puree using a sugar-substitute. The result was a cake with no sinking/sloppy middle, but I think I may have gone a bit too far the other way because the texture has become very close, rather than fluffy, which is what you are aiming for in a decent cupcake. Additionally, the icing, whilst tasty, was a little too runny to pipe properly because I added too much puree.

Thus, I shall progress on to try number three; slightly increasing the wet ingredients again but not so much as I used in try number one, and I will also alter the ratio of puree to sugar-substitute icing sugar in the cream cheese icing. I have high hopes for the third attempt!

Strawberry cupcakes with cream cheese icing

My diabetic-friendly baking has been put on the back-burner a little bit recently, as I have been working on perfecting my full-sugar macaron recipe. However, today I am back to my first-love; diabetic-friendly baking. I’ve tried adapting my strawberry cupcake recipe to be more diabetic-friendly, to mixed success. Previous experience has taught me that my diabetic-cakes need a cooler over temperature and thus a longer bake time, so I dutifully put the oven on a lower temperature, but forgot to increase the time accordingly. So I opened the oven when my timer went off, and watched in dismay as my cakes sadly deflated… very disappointing! However, I still iced them, because I think that my diabetic-friendly icing is improving everytime I make it; practice makes perfect as they say. The result? A not very impressive looking, but still tasty, diabetic-friendly, summery, strawberry cupcake. Perfect for a summers evening, as long as you don’t look at it too closely as you eat it!