Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pistachio Layer Cake with Rose Mascarpone Frosting & 1 Year Blogiversary!

Beela Bakes is 1 today!

One year ago I tentatively wrote my first blog post entry in true cringe-worthy style (its ok, you don't have to see it, really!). This blog was supposed to serve as a small outlet, somewhere to show off and share my little culinary kitchen adventures in baking to family and friends, which had become a new found hobby post-marriage. It slowly and evidently turned into a mission to improve my skills, take up food photography and styling (obviously still learning!), and now I can't go a day without thinking up new ideas, or wanting to try out a recipe, or simply just thinking about FOOD!

And now a year has been and gone...! I have to admit I've been dying to use the word 'blogiversary' and it definitely feels good to be able to do so for the first time!
And what better way to celebrate than with a cake!
I've been thinking about this day for a few months now and envisioned a very grand, over the top, completely whimsical cake at first. But November is a completely birthday/celebration-laden month for me, and there is only soo much cake and frosting that even I can eat! So as the days drew nearer I knew I wanted something a lot more pared down but still 'pretty' enough to be deemed a birthday cake.

Thus the pistachio layer cake with rose mascarpone frosting was born! Four layers of soft, nutty, pistachio, pastel green cake, sandwiched together with a beautifully fragrant, light rose mascarpone frosting, and topped with pistachio kernels and dried roses for decoration. Infact in many ways I would also say this cake is very 'me' - cute and girly, but not in a fussy way, and with two of my favourite colours green and pink! Its a simple elegant cake not crying out for attention, but effortlessly pretty. 

If I'm perfectly honest though, pistachio and rose cakes are kind of everywhere here in the UAE right now. If you follow a number of home-made established baking businesses in Dubai, you would know the pistachio rose cakes tend to be the most popular sellers. Its definitely a cake flavour combination I've been wanting to try out for a while and quintessentially Middle Eastern in essence.

I did of course make this cake completely my own though. As I mentioned there has been far too much cake for me the past couple of weeks, and after a while buttercream frosting becomes a bit too richly sweet to handle!
....Bring in the mascarpone frosting. Its light, airy, with almost a fresh cream like taste to it, but still has a strong enough consistency that you can spread it easily.  Plus it only needs a little icing sugar added to sweeten it. Flavour it with rose water and a little pretty pink food colouring and you have a gorgeously delicate filling. Perfect! From now on I will always use mascarpone as a frosting base for when I'm looking for a less sugary way to cover my cakes!
As for the cake itself, its nutty in the best way and although it doesn't seem so from the amount of sugar in the recipe, is similarly not over-bearingly sweet. Its still moist enough to be considered a cake, but with a lot of pistachio flavor. You don't need to add any green colouring, as the brilliant green from the pistachios gives the cake its colour for you. Whats more, taste-wise I actually think this recipe would make the perfect tea-time cake as opposed to the usual rich decadent birthday cake!
I want to thank all of you who come by and visit my blog, and check out my recipes. Whether you are someone I know, or a mere traveller passing by in the blogosphere, I do hope you enjoyed what you have seen here and hopefully like to come back again. Thanks to all the people who follow my Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram too! And of course thanks to my family for being my constant taste-testers!! I have lots of recipes up my sleeve already for the coming new blog year and intend to carry on this blog for as long as I can!
But enough about that, go and try this cake, see how good it is for yourself, and remember Beela Bakes when you do :)

Pistachio Layer Cake with Rose Mascarpone Frosting

For the pistachio cake:
Makes 4 thin cake layers, or 2 thick

240g all-purpose flour
320g caster sugar
125g pistachios, finely ground
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup water
Half cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg whites

1. Preheat oven to 180C, and line 4 small cake tins, or 2 medium ones.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, pistachios, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
3. Whisk together the egg yolks, water, melted butter and vanilla, and then mix into the dry ingredients.
4. In a mixer or with a whisk, beat the egg whites until fluffy and soft peaks have formed. Mix in the baking soda with just a couple of folds of a spoon.
5. Fold in the egg whites to the cake mixture, and pour equally into cake tins. Bake for between 20-25 for thin layers, or 30 minutes for the thicker layers, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
6. Leave to cool before assembling with rose mascarpone frosting.
For the Rose Mascarpone Frosting:
500g mascarpone (2 x 250g tub)
1/2 cup icing sugar
4 tsp rose water
Pink food gel
Pistachio kernels and dried roses, for decoration
1. Combine together the mascarpone and icing sugar using an electric whisk, and then add the rose water until well mixed. Lastly add the pink food gel to tint to your desired shade.
2. Use a spatula to spread, or a piping bag to pipe the rose mascarpone onto each cake layer.  
3. Assemble the cake together, and frost the top with another layer of mascarpone. Leave the sides exposed or cover with more frosting if desired.
4. Sprinkle pistachio kernels over the top, and decorate with dried roses.
N.B. Keep cake stored in the fridge in an airtight container.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Peppermint Cheesecake Fudgy Brownies

The past few weeks have been quite busy for me. I've been interning with the Dubai based food magazine Ahlan! Gourmet, and I'm back to working part-time at the art gallery I was with before I got married. In addition I also celebrated my 2nd wedding anniversary with a red velvet cake, my birthday with the most amazing cake, and was fortunate enough to be featured in the November issue of Ahlan! Gourmet. Follow me on Instagram to have a look!
Although I've been enjoying every single minute, I've also been itching to get back in the kitchen to bake something for the blog. I had done a lot of Thanksgiving and Christmas based food research for the magazine, so I knew I had to bake something a little bit festive. And well, since I've been craving brownies, or more specifically cheesecake brownies, I decided adding a little peppermint extract would do the trick!
If you love cheesecake brownies, or even just fudgy brownies, then you will definitely love these peppermint cheesecake fudgy brownies! My favourite brownies have always been the dense fudgy type (whos favourite aren't they?!), and paired with cheesecake they make a delightfully gooey sweet and tangy tart combination. So I was even more happy to discover that when I added peppermint extract, and a little minty green food colour, a wonderfully cool cheesy chocolatey brownie was born! Chocolate and peppermint make one of the best holiday flavours, so these really are the perfect treat for Christmas!

While the texture itself is rich, the flavour of the peppermint isn't. I've added just enough to the brownie mix so that all you get is a refreshing taste, and the peppermint in the cheesecake layer is even more subtle. I also love that this recipe makes only 9 squares. Just one bite of these densely rich brownies is all you need to satisfy! I decorated my brownies with chocolate chips and mini chocolate crispy balls for an even more festive appearance.
Me and the hubby honestly loved these brownies so much, that where as I would usually send a share of my baking to the family, we enjoyed these all to ourselves!! ;)
P.S. If you want you can simply omit the peppermint and food colour altogether to get some good old cheesecake fudgy brownies instead. But I didn't tell you that!
Peppermint Cheesecake Fudgy Brownies
Makes 9 squares
For the brownie:
75g semisweet chocolate chips
85g unsalted butter
60g unsweetened/dark chocolate, chopped
168g caster sugar
2 large eggs
52g all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp peppermint extract

For the cheesecake:
200g cream cheese (I used Philadelphia)
48g caster sugar
1 and half egg yolks
Touch of peppermint extract
Green food gel colour
Chocolate chips for decorating

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Line and grease an 8x4''or 6x6'' baking dish/pan with foil.
2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips, butter and chopped chocolate. Heat in the microwave for one minute, removing to stir. Place back in the microwave for 30 second bursts, removing to stir all the time, until mixture is completely melted and smooth. Be careful not to over heat. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes.
3. Add the sugar to the chocolate mixture, then the eggs one by one stirring till incorporated. Add the peppermint extract, then the flour, stirring until just combined.
4. Pour brownie batter into your prepared baking pan.
5. To make the cheesecake layer, mix together all the ingredients until smooth. Add the green gel colour a little at a time and stir well, keeping in mind that the colour intensifies during baking.
6. Spread the cheese mixture onto the brownie layer. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top, and bake for 45-55 minutes, checking for doneness at 45 minutes.
7. Leave to cool before slicing into squares. Press mini chocolate crispy balls onto the cheesecake if desired. Store brownies in the fridge.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

One Sugar Cookie. Four Ways!

The idea for this post really came about when I was looking to do some tea-time style photo set-ups. I wanted to include little biscuits as props, and started to think up different types of biscuits that one could make easily as a home treat and enjoy with a nice cup of tea. Maybe its a British thing?!
Well anyway this is a simple tried and tested sugar cookie (or biscuit) recipe which I have made many times, and thus so versatile. Its not too sweet, has the perfect crunch, but is slightly soft to the bite too. I used small little cutters for most of the shapes so I love how they are diddy and cutely bite-size!
So here you go, one biscuit made in four different ways! Recipe is at the bottom!
1. Sprinkle sugar cookies
Add coloured sprinkles to your ready made sugar cookie dough, and when rolling out, sprinkle more on top so that you have some exposed sprinkles. A great way of adding colour to your sugar cookies, and something the kids will like!
2. Decorate your cup or mug
I have seen this idea floating around via Pinterest and just love how cookies can jazz up the look of a drink! They would also be pretty festive looking if you cut them out into stars (or Christmas trees!), and added them to mugs of hot chocolate for fall/autumn or Christmas! Infact you could even add spices to your dough!
Once you have used your cutter to cut out your cookies, just use a knife carefully to slightly cut out a little piece where you can slip the cookie onto your chosen mug/cup once baked.
3.  Gold sprayed sugar cookies
Such a decadent way of  making your cookies have that extra special something to them! Simply spray paint your ready baked cookies with gold edible spray, and leave to dry for about half an hour or so. And ta-da! Sparkly gold biscuits. I think they would make lovely wedding favors!
4.  Dipped in chocolate
This is really just an excuse to make your sugar cookies a little chocolatey! Melt some good quality chocolate and then dip your cookies half way into it. Sprinkle with chocolate sugar strands and leave to set on a baking tray in the fridge till chocolate is hard. A lovely after dinner treat with coffee for when you have guests over!
And there you have it. Four easy ways to decorate your sugar cookie. And really the possibilities are endless  - sprinkle them with all kinds of sprinkly goodness, add edible glitter, or dip in white chocolate and add crushed nuts!
So tell me, do you have a favourite?
Sugar Cookies
Makes about 18-24 cookies depending on cutter-size
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tspns vanilla essence
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tspns baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. In a bowl, cream the butter together with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and essence. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the egg mixture one cup at a time and form in a dough. The dough should be soft. Divide the dough into two, and carefully roll out on a floured surface. Cut out desired shapes using cookie cutters. Bake on a baking sheet lined tray for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Leave to cool.  
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