Monday, January 31, 2011

Apple & Cinnamon Muffins with Brown-Sugared Almond Topping

There's something about the combination of apples and cinnamon that reminds me so much of my childhood. It roots from my mother's love for making apple pie; I would get so excited when we would peel and core the apples, slice them and then generously dust them with ground cinnamon. The aroma of baking cinnamon would float majestically around the kitchen then escape to the rest of the house, awakening our hunger for mother's mouthwatering apple pie.

When I found this recipe in Nigella Lawson's Kitchen cookbook, I decided to bake up a batch of muffins right away. I had already recently baked some apple pie so what better alternative to baking with apples than some apple and cinnamon muffins?

Sure, it doesn't have the charming flakiness of a pie crust but it definitely makes any morning coffee or tea sweeter. Speaking of taste, what I loved most about these muffins was their subtle sweetness. It has a lot to do with the fact that recipe calls for about a half a cup of brown sugar and a half a cup of honey. That counteracts real nicely with the apples and cinnamon and you don't end up feeling like you've been hit with a bus filled with sugar.

 Roughly chopping up the almonds to toss them with some brown sugar and cinnamon.

Generously sprinkle them on top!

The muffins came out light and fluffy, the apples in the batter were juicy and aided in keeping the cake moist.  The only thing I would probably do different the next time I make these is toasting the almonds before sprinkling them on top. I thought maybe they would bake a little bit in the oven but they stayed pretty much raw which isn't distasteful or anything, but lightly toasting them would definitely give them a nicer crunch, I think! Overall, they were great for breakfast munching, afternoon snacking or shameless midnight indulging. *evil grin*

I'd like to know: What are some foods that remind you of your childhood/home?

Apple & Cinnamon Muffins (from Nigella Lawson's Kitchen cookbook)

2 eating apples*
250g plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
125g light brown sugar, plus 4 teaspoons for sprinkling
125ml honey
60ml runny natural yogurt
125ml flavorless vegetable oil
2 large eggs
75g natural (unblanched) almonds**

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C and line your muffin tin with papers.
  • Peel and core the apples, then chop into small dices and put them to one side.
  • Measure the flour, baking powder and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon into a bowl.
  • Whisk together the 125g brown sugar, the honey, yogurt, vegetable oil and eggs in another bowl or jug.
  • Chop the almonds roughly and add half of them to the flour mixture, and put the other half into a small bowl with the second teaspoon of ground cinnamon and the 4 extra teaspoons brown sugar. This will make the topping for the muffins.
  • Now, fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Add the chopped apple, and stir to combine but don't over mix. (Nigella notes: A lumpy batter make for a lighter muffin)
  • Spoon this bumpy batter into the muffin papers, then sprinkle the rubbly topping mixture over them.
  • Pop the tin into the preheated oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, by which time they will have risen and become golden.
  • Take the tin out of the oven and let it stand for about 5 minutes before gingerly taking out the muffins and placing them on a wire cooling rack.

*I used 3 apples
**I recommend lightly toasting the almonds :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mascarpone Cheesecake with Fresh Strawberry Drizzle

I FINALLY found Mascarpone cheese in Dubai! Can I get a Hallelujah?! 

All thanks to Wajiha (@wajihasaid) who pointed out that she always found some in Carrefour. I searched and asked around and surely, I found tubs full of them. Unfortunately they only had one brand available but thankfully, it tastes pretty good!


I had initially used Tyler Florence's recipe for The Ultimate Cheesecake. I used mascarpone cheese instead of cream cheese and omitted the sour cream. That was a big mistake. It might seem obvious but I had no previous experience with mascarpone and never realized what a big difference it had in texture compared to cream cheese.

The recipe should yield a good thick, creamy batter that will bake nice and fluffy in the oven after 45 minutes. But all I got was a liquid mixture. I decided to ignore it and just go for it. 45 minutes later, all I see is the same liquid mixture which is just slightly baked on the sides. I thought, "Alrighty... Maybe it's because the cheese is different. Another 10 minutes" So ten minutes later, still nothing. Then mom decided to save the day and suggest that I scoop out the mixture and cook it in a large saucepan with some corn starch. It turned out to have more of a pudding texture which explains why it looks a bit droopy.

I also made fresh strawberry drizzle for the topping. My first time, too. Watched a few baking shows and saw how easy it was to make so decided to give it a shot.

I was surprised at how good it turned out, I really didn't expect that kick that it had in it. The lemon zest went really well with the mascarpone cheese. I suggest you don't try making it the way I did with this recipe, search for some good mascarpone cheesecake recipes and give it a shot, it's worth it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chocopologie Café - Chocolatier

Earlier this week, I was taking a stroll around Festival Marina, Dubai Festival City. There's a few new restaurants open there but this one place caught my eye: Chocopologie. Needless to say, the name alone was intriguing enough to get me in there within 5 minutes.

After being shown around by a friendly waitress, I promised myself I would go there for brunch since they served all-day breakfast! (How exciting is that?! I love breakfast food!)

So within the next few days, I was craving for some french toast. I usually make my own but I do get my extra lazy days when I'd prefer to just sit down at a nice place, order it and have it sitting right in front of me just waiting to be wolfed down. Okay, enough ranting now..

I told my friend Hamna (Twitter Handle: @hamna_), who is a fellow chocolate-eating zombie, about Chocopologie and we decided to have brunch there. We were welcomed and seated by our waiter Ray, who was very helpful and friendly.

Hamna had the omelette stuffed with tomatoes and cheese with a side salad

I had the french toast with maple syrup and a side of strawberry salad.

The verdict: YUM! That is all.

Ray was also kind enough to offer us some chocolates to try.

On the left: Patricia - dark chocolate on the outside, white chocolate inside with sweet mexican & ancho chilli filling.
Top: Lauren - milk chocolate covered in walnuts with a pear ganache filling.
Right: Kelly - 64% dark chocolate with a strawberry and lemon tart filling (my personal favorite).
Bottom: Charlotte (named after the founder's sister) - milk chocolate with a basil and apricot filling.

They were divine, to say the least

Interestingly enough, most of the chocolates are named after women. Ray informed us that they were women the founder had met on his travels around the world (ahem) in search for unique ingredients to use to make his chocolates.

The interior of the café has a Victorian theme, not my personal favorite style but quite interesting for a café.

Here's some more pictures of what they have to offer from chocolates and pastries.

These truffles are one of the world's most expensive chocolates.

I'll definitely be visiting them again soon to have a taste of some of their unique pastries. Till then, I'll settle for drooling over the photos.

Find out more about Chocopologie!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Home-Made Crackers with Sesame Seeds

After I had made Apple Pie yesterday, I had some left-over pie dough (cut off after the crimping process). Usually I just cover it in cling wrap and freeze it till I plan on making pie again. But my step-dad gave me a better idea: Crackers!

The pie dough I make only has 1 tablespoon of sugar in it and 1/2 a tablespoon of salt; I prefer to make the filling extra sweet to counteract with the crust. So it's essentially tasteless with a flaky texture. I decided to get creative and just give it a shot; I like to step away from the recipe books every now and then.

Here are the results:

Thawed out the dough then rolled it into a cube-like cylinder

I love sesame seeds

They were lovely, light and flaky. My step-dad fell in love with them and already asked me to bake a bigger batch soon :)

Never say no to creativity, you might eventually get some delicious crackers!