Thursday 26 July 2012

Peanut Butter Pancakes with Lazy Chocolate Ganache

On the way home from work the other night, I was struck with a violent, all-consuming craving. Soon, the only conscious thought my mind was capable of was - 


Fluffy, glorious, buttery, slathered in real maple syrup pancakes. I turned to my co-worker and erstwhile chauffeur and expressed my craving, and as I put it into words, I knew it would not be enough. The conversation went something like this...

"No, not just plain pancakes... I want to do something more."

"Well, you could put fruit in them, blueberries or apple slices-"

"I'm all out of fruit... but I have lots of peanut butter."

"Oh, well, you could certainly spread peanut butter on them-"

"What if I put peanut butter in them?"

".. That might not work."

"Only one way to find out!"

So I got home and threw down my work bags, kicked off my kicks and started chucking stuff in a bowl. My favorite pancake recipe is super simple - starts with an egg, a cup of buttermilk and a bit of veggie oil.

I eyeballed a couple of heaping tablespoons of smooth peanut butter and chucked them in. I only realized after that maybe I should have started by whipping up the peanut butter and oil to soften the consistency a bit, oops.

As it was, it took quite a bit of whisking vigorously to get the peanut butter incorporated enough.

As you can see, there are still tiny globules of peanutbuttery goodness floating in the mix. This is okay!

Next, you pile on some flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt (which I reduced from my regular pancake recipe because the peanut butter brings its own saltiness to the party.)

Mix it up until it juuuuust comes together. Over-mixing at this point will may result in peanut butter-flavored manhole covers.

Fire up your favorite griddle, and butter that baby generously.

Unceremoniously plop some nice, thick, chunky batter onto your griddle.

If you're feeling fancy, throw some peanut butter chips on there. I discovered through trial and error that they turn out a bit better if you mix the chips into the batter first, but this works too and is a good option if you want to play around with different mix-ins.

Now, the difference between a perfect pancake and an overly dry and flat one often comes down to when you flip it. As soon as you see bubbles coming up to the surface of the pancake, flip it!

If you let too many bubbles break the surface, you're letting out the precious gases that make your pancake fluffy! It takes some practice to be able to do this without slinging half-cooked pancake everywhere, but the results are worth the effort!

And there you have a lovely stack of peanut butter pancakes... Hm. Something's still missing.

Ready for the laziest, will-appall-pastry-chefs-with-its-lack-of-finesse ganache ever? Throw hot water into a pot and put over medium heat, put a heatproof bowl over said pot, chuck in a cup of chocolate chips, a tablespoon of butter and a splash of milk. Melt. Add milk as needed for desired consistency.

Pour chocolate ganache over stack of pancakes...

Mmm... But it still needs something...

Ah yes, bacon. Everything's better with bacon! Now all we need is a fork...

Oh yes, it's pancake time!

If you want to take a shot at making your own rich & delicious peanut butter pancakes, here's my little recipe:

Peanut Butter Pancakes

2 heaping tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil (peanut oil if you have it)
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Peanut butter chips (optional)
Butter, for greasing grill

Note: If you just want good ol' buttermilk pancakes, skip the PB and double the salt. 

Heat electric griddle to 350 degrees or place large frying pan over medium heat.

Whisk together peanut butter and oil. Add egg and buttermilk and whisk until well-combined. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Butter the griddle/pan. Drop batter onto cooking surface with serving spoon or ladle. Add peanut butter chips if desired. Flip over as soon as bubbles start coming to the surface and underside is golden.

When both sides are golden brown, you're done! Top with ganache, or syrup, or...

Or bananas sliced and sauteed with a bit of brown sugar and butter and maybe a splash of brandy? Oh, yeah... Darn it, now I have to go buy some bananas.

Until next time!

Thursday 12 July 2012

Canada Day Cupcakes

Yes, Canada Day was well over a week ago, I know.

But it is never too late to love my country! Especially in cupcake form.

Cheesy patriotism aside, there are a couple of reasons I'm sharing this so late. One is that I actually made these after Canada Day. The boys were away at Bronycon that entire weekend, as I may have mentioned briefly. So I whipped these up the day after Canada Day to be ready for their homecoming.

I also threw some welcome home messages on the leftover sugar cookies for the boys to munch.

Just ignore the one from the cats. I was very tired and mildly delirious when I decorated those.

Ah, so sentimental, especially that cookie right in the middle there. It's like a Hallmark card.

Now, I can't take credit for any of these photos, since hubby took them for me. I may or may not have burned my thumb extremely painfully while lighting fireworks for our (also a day late) Canada Day display and couldn't really handle the camera just then.

I also don't have how-to pics, because hubby took the camera with him on the Bronycon trip! (Kind of another reason this is so late... I was originally not going to make this post at all since it's so lacking in photos!)

So I'll try to explain the icing technique as best I can... I made a basic vanilla buttercream and tinted about half of it red. Then I piped a stripe of un-tinted white frosting down the middle of each cupcake and used a small off-set spatula to smooth it a bit. Once it was as smooth as I could get it, I piped the red frosting on either side to resemble the red fields of the flag, and again smoothed things out with the spatula.

To try to get an even smoother finish, I pressed and rolled the cupcake tops in granulated sugar.

Finally, I freehand-piped red maple leaves onto the white fields to complete the Canadian flag look, and pressed it into the sugar again, gently, so the whole top of the cupcake sparkled subtly.

Inside, as you can see, was white cake with red confetti. Much like I've done before, I simply folded some sprinkles into my favourite white cake recipe. Only this time, I actually kept control of myself and measured the sprinkles properly. The cake part turned out just perfect!

I should mention that the frosting technique I used was inspired by these awesome snow cone cupcake by Bakerella. Seriously, how adorable are those?? Anyway, I'd really like to do something like this again to better refine the technique, but as is, these were a nice welcome home surprise for homecoming hubby and bro.

What did you do for Canada Day? Or the Fourth of July? Or your country's own special holiday? I've lived my whole life in Canada and I hardly travel, so I'd love to hear how other countries celebrate their independence or founding anniversary holidays or what have you!

Next week, I'll share my attempt at whoopie pies, which will be a much longer and more in-depth post!

Until then!

Thursday 5 July 2012

Cookies for Bronycon

So right away, some of you are wondering, "What's a Bronycon?" Well, this article explains it better than I could, but in short, it's a convention for guys (and gals!) who like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Yes, you read that right.

And two of those bros who love ponies happen to be my husband and my brother. So when they vowed to attend the convention, I vowed to send along a treat for them and some of their favourite fellow fans. Now if you've ever watched My Little Pony - the classic 80's series, or the new one - or bought one of the toys, you probably remember that the ponies have little symbols on their flanks that represent their talent or true calling. They're called Cutie Marks, and I thought I could make them into some Cutie Cookies!

The first order of business was to bake 3" round sugar cookies and let them cool completely. Then I made some 20-second icing - which I have never done before! - and tinted portions of it in 8 different shades representing the coat colours of the mane six ponies plus a couple of favourite side characters.

Then I simply made a large circle of icing on 6 cookies in each colour and left them to firm up and dry completely overnight. The next day, I dyed some more 20-second icing in the ponies' complementing mane colours and made a pearl border around each icing circle.

This was a 2 (or more!) step process. First, I went in with the darker blue and did dots all the way around, leaving enough space between them for dots of similar size, then let them set at least 20 minutes. Once set, I went in with the secondary colour and filled in the gaps.

For one particular cookie design, whose corresponding pony has rainbow hair, this was a 7-step process! I really, really hope the recipients of these ones liked them because my goodness they were a lot of work!

For some cookies, I started the interior decoration while the first dots were still setting, for others I started once the borders were complete. Working on 8 designs at once, I kind of bounced around from one to the next as I hit upon the right colour combinations in my icing.

Can you tell what these are?

Maybe the stems being on there will help. They're 3 cute little apples. For some reason, these are one of my favourites of the designs!

Some of the Cutie Mark designs, like this triple-diamond mark, took several steps as well. I didn't get full how-to and process pics because I just had so much to get done, but you can see here that I started with light blue diamonds, let them set a while, then went back to add the slightly-darker-blue detailing.

When all was said and done, this set of 48 cookies took over 12 hours of work! But I think it was pretty much worth it. Just look at these finished cookies...

This cookie was undoubtedly the easiest of the bunch to make. It's not totally perfect, but I wub it just the same.

Honestly, a lot of hard work went into this cookie, and I think it deserves a blue ribbon. How do you like them apples?

I'm really happy with how this cookie turned out. It makes me want to smile, smile, smile! Seriously though, this is probably the closest I got to matching one of the mane six's cutie marks.

Let's see... soft violet background? Check. Purple and pink border? Check. Magenta star burst with white accent? Check aaaaand... check! Looks like that's everything we needed to make a Twilight Sparkle cutie mark cookie. Then again, maybe we should review the checklist one more time...

This one is based on one of my brother's favourites, Rarity, so I had to make sure it turned out absolutely fabulous. The border should have been 2 distinct shades of purple, but I couldn't get it quite right! Oh, of all the worst things that could happen, this is the. Worst. Possible. Thing!

... Okay, not really. But I do wish this had come out better.

The cookies for Fluttershy didn't turn out as planned at all, there were supposed to be 3 butterflies for each cookie, but the pink icing got too runny and I foolishly tried to work with it anyway, so the wings all spread too much and the borders came out pitted. Oops...

Luckily, this one with just one butterfly turned out pretty well. Yaay! Oops, was that too loud? Sorry.

Here's another one, for a background pony who happens to be a fan favourite, but again I had trouble with the icing consistency and ended up with some pitting and running... I just don't know what went wrong!

I saved my favourite for last. This cookie represents the awesome Rainbow Dash. As I mentioned earlier, it took a lot of extra work to make this happen, but with that rainbow border it is at least 20% cooler than the others.

Altogether, I am pretty darn proud of these if I do say so myself. I think any pony fan could readily recognise who these represent.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm actually just finishing up this post during my lunch break, so I simply must dash back to my desk. I have to make sure no-one's disturbed my pony collection that I brought in to show off today. The boys brought me back some cool trading cards and pins and...

Didn't I mention? Yeah, I'm totally a Brony too (or Pegasister if you want to be all gender-stereotypey) and now I want to make cookies for all the other background ponies, like Lyra and Bon-Bon and Carrot Top and Doctor Whooves and Mayor Mare and...

Oh, right! Back to work with me.

Until next time!