Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Perfect Potato Chip Cookies

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I remember I heard about Potato Chip Cookies a while ago, and thought I should try it some time. Of course, I promptly forgot all about it. While I was browsing through The Best American Recipes 2001-2002, from where I made the Double-Baked Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe, I saw a recipe for these cookies and it sounded great. I made some changes to the recipe & I was really pleased with this cookie.

It was a very easy cookie to put together. I made the batch at four o'clock, this evening. It is now 8 o'clock and there are four three cookies left in the cookie jar. And that's the mark of a good cookie, isn't it?

This recipe makes about 32 crispy, crunchy, nutty, sweet-salty cookies.

Potato Chip Cookies

1/2 cup well crushed Potato Chips (plain salted chips only!)
1/2 cup well crushed walnuts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla

1. Mix in a medium bowl the crushed chips, walnuts the flour and the baking powder. Stir together with a spoon.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until completely incorporated and light.
3. Add the dry ingredients into this bowl and stir until completely mixed.
4. Wet your hand and form the dough into 1 inch balls. Place them on a cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.
5. Bake them in a preheated oven (at 350) for 15-18 minutes or until they just start coloring.
6. Let them rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.
7. Once they are completely cool, roll the cookies in powdered sugar and transfer to a cookie jar for storage.

Storage is really not a concern with this cookie, because I don't think these cookies would last very long if your house is anything like mine!
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Double-baked Flourless Chocolate Cake

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These days, I am nervous about trying out new recipes from cook books. I am so used to reading reviews and checking the ratings of recipes, that cook book recipes have become risky!

I was feeling particularly brave yesterday and took out a book I have had for ages but never used. It is The Best American Recipes 2001-2002, edited by Fran McCollough. It has recipes from various chefs and restaurants and seemed to be trustworthy. And this recipe did not disappoint.

I would like to start off by saying that I am not a fan of chocolate cake. This recipe did not convert me. But, the other chocolate cake fans who ate the cake seemed satisfied.

This was the first time I tried a flourless chocolate cake. As one dinner guest pointed out, it was more like a pudding than a cake, texturewise. This cake also takes time to make because it is double baked. But, I am sure that if you are a chocoholic, this cake will hit the spot. It is not too sweet and and very, very moist inside!

I served it with fresh strawberries, vanilla ice cream and a salted Dulce de Leche sauce, which I made by thinning out the Dulce de Leche with full fat milk and adding salt. The strawberries really helped to cut through the richness of the cake and the vanilla ice cream made everything lighter. For me, the salt in the sauce was the best part!

Double-Baked Flourless Chocolate Cake
Source: Lettie Teague, Food & Wine
Cooks: Sara & Jamie Guerin

1 cup butter, soft
225 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
7 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 1/3 cups white sugar

1. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9" springform pan. Cover the bottom with a circle of wax or parchment paper.
2. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and the chocolate on low heat. Stir continuously until both have melted. Add the sifted cocoa powder and stir until smooth. Set this aside to cool.
3. In a large bowl, using the electric mixer on medium speed, beat the seven egg yolks with 2/3 cups sugar until the mixture is light and creamy. You know it is done when you lift the beaters out of the mixture and the egg yolk mixture falls in a thick heavy ribbon.
4. In another large bowl, using clean whisk attachments on the electric mixer, beat the egg whites till the soft peak state. Start adding the remaining sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition. Add the remaining 2/3 cups of sugar in this way and beat till the hard peaks stage.
5. At this point, you can preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
6. Fold the cool chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture until completely incorporated.
7. Add the egg whites and fold gently until no white streaks remain. Do not over mix.
8. Remove 2 cups of this mixture from the bowl and refrigerate in a covered bowl.
9. Pour the remaining batter into the spring form pan and bake until the cake has risen & a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. This should take 40-45 minutes.
10. Place the baked cake on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Then, slide a knife to release the cake from the sides of the pan (if there is any sticking) and remove the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely. At this point, the center of the cake will sink. This is normal in flourless cakes and will be rectified in the next step.
11. When the cake is completely cool (I waited about an hour and a half), spread the reserved batter all over the surface of the cake. Leave a one inch border around this batter. Smooth the top.
12. Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour.
13. Preheat your oven to 425. Bake for 10-15 minutes until a crisp crust forms on the cake and the batter below is smooth and creamy.
14. Let it cool for 15 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with your favorite accompaniments.

The recipe says that this cake can be made till step 12 up to 2 days in advance. The final baking can be done just 20-30 minutes before you serve it. I refrigerated the leftovers and microwaved a piece this morning and it was just as nice as the night before. Why did I need a piece in the morning, you ask? My husband wanted it for breakfast!

Overall, it is a long process, with the double baking, but fairly easy if you follow the instructions. And the results are excellent. My chocoholic husband and friends agree.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Dulce de leche heaven!

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I love caramel. Caramel sauce, caramel candy, caramel chews, salted caramel, caramel ribbons in my ice cream, caramel frosting... I could go on....

The last time I made Dulce de Leche was AGES ago and I remember it was awesome. We don't get it in the stores and so I decided to give it a go.

Patience has never been one of my virtues and I could not bear the idea of waiting 4 hours for my dulce de leche to cook. And as fast as it is, I have never been a fan of microwave cooking. Thus, after doing all my research, I bravely decided to go the pressure cooker route. Another reason this was the perfect method for me was that I don't have to bother standing around watching it cook & topping up the water. The pressure cooker does all the work. :)

For the Pressure Cooker method, just place one can of condensed milk in the cooker and fill 2-3 litres of water depending on the size of your cooker. Make sure the water covers at least two-thirds of the can. Close the cooker and put on high heat for 10 minutes, and then lower the heat (put the weight on the cooker, if you are using that kind of cooker) and continue to cook for 25-40 minutes depending on how dark and thick you like your dulce de leche. To avoid pressure cooker/exploding can related mishaps, make sure your pressure cooker and can have completely cooled before you attempt to open them. Transfer the contents of the cooled can to a bowl and whisk until smooth. Eat with a spoon. Transfer to a dry, glass container and store in the refrigerator.

Dulce de leche makes awesome topping sauces for sundaes, makes a great frosting, especially when combined with cream cheese, and can also be used in cheesecakes, cakes, cupcakes etc. I love it even spread on buttered toast.

If you follow all the basic safety rules when using a pressure cooker, you can enjoy homemade Dulce de leche in under two hours (including cooling time)! :)
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Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

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So, this month I completed my first Daring Bakers Challenge! Yay me! :)

The March 2011 Daring Bakers Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria's Collection and Jamie of Life's a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

Jamie found this recipe on  a piece of yellowed paper in her dad's collection of clipped out and hand written recipes from the 1970's, no source, no date, and she tried the recipe and it was brilliant!

I didn't have much luck with it. Don't get me wrong; the recipe was great! It was all my fault. My loaves (I couldn't even make wreaths!) looked a mess! But in the end, they tasted awesome and the plate was polished off in no time.

The only thing was, I felt it was hardly like a coffee cake. Or maybe coffee cakes mean a different thing to me. This was very challah like. More bread than cake. But yummy nonetheless! The meringue really does an awesome job of keeping the whole thing super moist!

I did two variations - the savory one was chopped tomato, sliced sausage & a mixture of cheddar & mozzarella. Needless to say, it tasted very much like a bready pizza roll.

The sweet one was a bigger hit - chopped apple, minced walnut, brown sugar and cinnamon powder. It was like a moist, yummy cinnamon roll with apples and walnuts. Very nice indeed!

I followed the recipe exactly and you can find the detailed recipe on The Daring Kitchen website.

My only comment on the recipe would be - even though you beat all the required egg whites for the meringue, use your judgement and spread only as much as you think your roll can handle!

Obviously, my mistake was that I used too much meringue and too much filling. I used all the meringue I had whisked according to the recipe. After I spread the meringue and sprinkled my prepared filling, I tried rolling it. And oh my word! It was like a living creature - oozing all over the tray and making the dough wet and mushy and completely unmanageable!

But other than that, this recipe is one that can go into your files and is definitely worth a try. I am really looking forward to my next Daring Bakers Challenge!

Happy Baking all!
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Never-fail, Easy Pancake Batter

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Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day! Favorite to cook and favorite to eat. And, we eat pancakes at least twice a week in our house. We love it! With syrup, with honey, with peanut butter & jelly or our favorite - caramel sauce and fruit, usually bananas but sometimes strawberries.

This recipe for pancake batter has never let me down. The only time it didn't work, I realized that my baking powder had expired. So, as long as you have good ingredients, this is a great pancake recipe. This recipe makes about 12 small pancakes.

Never-fail Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp sugar
1 large egg
1 cup milk
2 tbsp oil or melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla or a dash of ground cinnamon

  1. Sift together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients together in a smaller bowl.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Do NOT overmix. It is ok even if your batter has a few lumps.
  4. Ladle the batter to your griddle or frying pan according to how big you want your pancakes.
  5. When the top of the pancake is covered with tiny bubbles, flip the pancake over and cook for another 60-90 sseconds.
  6. Serve warm with syrup, caramel sauce and/or fruit of your choice.
This batter also works well with additions - chocolate chips, berries, nuts, fruit etc. I've personally tried chocolate chip, walnut, apple and strawberry. Sadly, we don't get blueberries here. Actually, we do - but they cost an arm and a leg!

You can also freeze the pancakes after you have made them. They freeze really well.

Caramel Sauce

1/2 cup demerara sugar
1/2 cup half and half
2.5 tbsp butter (I prefer salted butter for this)

  1. Heat a dry sauce pan and add the demerara sugar. Stir until the sugar is melted and caramelized. Keep an eye on it - it can go from caramelized to burnt in a matter of seconds.
  2. When it is caramelized & molten, add the butter, and stir until it is completely dissolved.
  3. Take off the heat, wait for about 15 seconds and add the half and half. Stir like crazy.
  4. The sugar will harden now, but don't worry! Just put it back on a low heat and keep stirring. The sugar will dissolve into the mixture.
  5. Taste and add more salt if desired.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Life after Red Velvet...

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I cannot believe I've gone so long without tasting a Red Velvet cupcake! I had no idea what I was missing! We don't get Red Velvet cupcakes where I live, and boy - this city's really missing out! Red Velvet has changed my life! Ok... maybe I'm overdoing it a little. But these cupcakes are seriously good.

I read and re-read the recipe. A surprisingly small amount of cocoa, TONS of red food coloring, some vinegar, buttermilk and vegetable oil... hmmmm. It sounded okay. What were all these people raving about?

But these things come together to make the moistest (and I mean REALLY moistest), softest, yummiest cupcakes! Ok. I'm sure you believe me now!

It took a lot to stop myself from eating all the cake batter. It was such a lurid shade of red & tangy-sweet. Gorgeous!

I used cream cheese frosting, but I hear these work really well with a good buttercream as well. Maybe next time?

Oh! And I love my new Wilton Cupcake Heaven Liners! They are so pretty!

Here is my recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes. I have adapted this from various recipes.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4-1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 medium egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp red food coloring gel
1 tbsp water
3/4 cups plain yoghurt or thick buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp white vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line cupcake tray with paper/foil liners.
2. Mix the flour, cocoa & salt in a small bowl & set aside.
3. Combine the sugar and oil & mix well using an electric mixer on high.
4. Add the egg and beat for a minute .
5. Add the vanilla & continue beating.
6. Dissolve the food color gel in the 1 tbsp of water. Add this to the oil mixture. Beat until well combined.
7. Change your mixer speed to low, and add the flour mixture in 3 parts alternating with the buttermilk (in 2 parts). Make sure you start and finish with the flour mixture.
8. Pour the white vinegar into a small bowl and add the baking soda. As soon as they combine, pour into the batter and beat with the mixer until incorporated. Don't overbeat.
9. Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.
10. When completely cool, frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting.

I would say this is a MUST TRY recipe!

Why I love Red Velvet - I think these cupcakes are rich, not too sweet, with just a hint of chocolate and a vanilla and a texture that's velvetty & moist. Not at all crumbly and dry. Just smooth, rich, soft cake. Ok that's enough with the adjectives!

On second thought, I just tried to imagine this with a buttercream. I think it might be okay. But the tang of the cream cheese is a perfect complement to this cupcake. Overall - much, much more than satisfactory!
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Best Banana Muffins - Ever!

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No one in my family can understand why I get so excited about over-ripe bananas! They're black & smelly and feel really gross! But hey - if you tried these muffins, you would be excited too! Believe me! This is the best banana muffin recipe I have tried.

They are sooooooo good & incredibly easy to make too! The crunchy streusel topping really takes it to another level.

I dedicate these muffins to the batch that burned & died so valiantly last week.

Banana Muffins w/ Oatmeal Streusel Topping

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 cups mashed banana (about 3 large/4 medium bananas)
1 egg
1/3 cup melted butter or neutral flavored oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Oatmeal Streusel Topping
1/3 cup soft brown sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cold butter
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/8 tsp cinnamon

1. Line a 12-muffin capacity muffin tray with paper liners. Preheat oven to 180.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt & oats. Stir well until combined.
3. In medium bowl, mix together the banana, egg, butter/oil, sugar and vanilla.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients & stir until combined thoroughly. Do not over mix.
5. Spoon into lined muffin tray making sure you don't over-fill. Top each muffin with a generous helping of the streusel mix.
6. Bake about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

Streusel Topping
1. In a small bowl, mix the flour, sugar, oats and cinnamon together well.
2. Add the cold butter and using the tips of your fingers, mix together well till the mixture resembles crumbs. Do not over mix.

See! I told you it was easy! It is so ridiculously simple that even a child can make it.

It is a great recipe and always turns out well. Unless you burn it, of course!
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Friday, March 11, 2011

Family Pan-Style Pizza!

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I have had a rough week in the kitchen.

I burned a batch of banana muffins (I very rarely burn stuff to the point of being inedible!), my florentines stuck to my baking sheet (no, we don't get silpat here) and my freezer stopped working for a few hours. And I didn't notice till everything started to smell funky. So, my stash of frozen ready-to-eat goodies (yummy leftovers) was turned to mush. I had to throw away a tub of delicious, spicy chili, some really nice fish cakes & a batch of fudge crinkles, among other things. The crinkles were fine really, but had absorbed too many smells to be edible. Sigh!

But at least I didn't burn the pizza.

My favorite recipe for pizza crust is one I got out of this little cookbook I found at a book sale. I can't even find a proper link for it on Google. It is one of those Little Guides book. Anyways, the recipe is for a Neapolitan crust but I find it works well for both thin crust as well as a pan-style pizza.

Neapolitan Pizza Crust
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
3/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups flour

1. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water & set aside for until creamy (about 10 minutes).
2. Stir in the cold water and the oil.
3. Add about 1/2 cup pf the flour along with the salt and stir or whisk until smooth.
4. Add the remaining flour gradually until you have a soft dough.
5. Turn this dough out onto your work surface and knead until soft and stretchy (about 10-15 minutes).
6. Cover with a clean, damp dish-cloth & leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour. The dough should more than double in this time.
7. Knock the dough back and knead again briefly.
8. Roll out & shape as desired. Place on a greased, lightly-floured baking tray.
9. Leave to rise for 5-10 minutes. Add desired toppings & bake until the base is lightly golden and crunchy.

I like to brush the exposed edges of the crust with olive oil to make it moister & add flavor to often discarded bits of the pizza.

I love this recipe for 2 reasons. One, it is really easy to put together. And two, I love the texture. It is crisp and crunchy on the outside and soft & spongy on the inside. Just perfect!

For my family this week, opinions were divided. One group wanted sausages galore and the other would have none. So we did a half-and-half pan pizza and it was really good.

For my pizza sauce, I used proportions that have
always worked for me. It isn't a recipe from anywhere.

Basic Pizza sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic, grated
1 tsp dried basil
4 large ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled & pureed
1 200ml pkt tomato puree
Salt & pepper & chilli flakes to taste

1. Sautee the onion & garlic in the olive oil until the onion is soft and translucent. I add a pinch of salt to keep the onion from browning too soon.
2. Add the tomato puree, fresh tomato puree & the basil & cook until the tomato puree is cooked through. Reduce until sauce is the right consistency for spreading.
3. Adjust seasoning & add chilli flakes if desired.

If the tomatoes are too tart, I like to add a little brown sugar to balance it out.

With these two basic recipes, I like to play with the toppings. This week it was onion, red & yellow peppers, broccoli, zucchini & sausage. The cheeses were mozarella & cheddar. The reason I didn't get a picture of the baked pizza is because it was sliced up and served before I realized it! And that's always a good sign! :)

Here's hoping there are no more kitchen disasters in the coming week! Especially because I plan to do my first Daring Bakers challenge! Fingers crossed! :)

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pea & White Bean soup

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Had a wonderfully busy weekend. I love my God, love my church & love my family!

I am so grateful that I am surrounded by generous family members. But lately, I seem to be getting a ton of peas! More than even I know what do with. See, my husband & I love our veggies & we have a veggie-loving 18 month old. But - SO MANY PEAS! I don't know why it took me so long to think about making soup. It kinda kills two birds with one stone, too. I don't feel like chewing much with all this dental work I've been having & soup was the perfect dinner for tonight.

I didn't follow a recipe. I know peas go with ham or bacon. I didn't have any available. So, this soup was just a hodge-podge of whatever was available.

Pea & White Bean Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 red onions, roughly chopped
2 small carrots, grated
3-4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
5 large handfuls of green peas
2 large handfuls of fresh white beans
1 pork sausage, cut into chunks
8-10 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme
Salt to taste
4-5 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
Double cream, cheese & chopped chives to garnish

  1. Heat the oil & butter in a heavy-bottomed pan.
  2. Sautee the onion, garlic, celery & carrot. Add a little salt so they don't brown too fast.
  3. When the onion & celery are soft, add the sausage & peppercorns. Let the sausage brown a little & release some fat.
  4. Add the peas, beans & stir well.
  5. Add the stock, bayleaf, thyme & salt to taste.
  6. Cover & cook until the beans and peas are very soft - 1-1.5 hours.
  7. Cool the mixture & then puree.Pour back into a saucepan.
  8. Add the milk & bring to a boil. Increase or decrease the amount of milk depending on how thick you want the soup to be.
  9. Take off the heat & adjust the seasoning.
  10. Garnish & serve hot.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Devil's Food Cupcakes

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It has been a crazy week so far! Got some dental work done. So not fun! My jaw hurts so bad right now & worst of all - it hurts when I eat! That's the worst thing that I can happen to someone who has just started a food blog! :)

I have been visiting a lot of food blogs & man, there are some awesome ones out there! I never realized! Inspirational work! I am raring to get some baking done!

I am now officially a Daring Baker! Yay! I just got this month's recipe & am so looking forward to get cracking on that! Will have my post ready for the 27th of March!

Couldn't get much baking/cooking done because of my hectic work schedule this week! So I thought I'd share my chocolate cupcake recipe.

I made cupcakes for church for my baby girl's first birthday. I made 45 vanilla & 45 chocolate cupcakes. For the basic vanilla cupcake recipe, see my Lime Curd Cupcakes recipe. I used the same Vanilla Cupcake recipe with a classic butter cream frosting.

So, here is my chocolate cupcake recipe.

Devil's Food Cupcakes 
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking cookbook, 
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place paper/foil liners in your cupcake tray.
2. Whisk together in small bowl: cake flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. Whisk together in a separate bowl: 1 cup of sugar, buttermilk or yogurt, cocoa powder, and vanilla.
4. Beat butter in large bowl until creamy; about 30 seconds. Gradually add the other cup of sugar and beat
on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
6. On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in 2 parts,
beating until smooth and scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary. Make sure finish with the flour mixture.
7. Fold in the chocolate chips.

8. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
10. Let cool in the tin for 5 minutes before leaving to cool completely on cooling rack.

 Frost with a classic chocolate butter cream, like I have done here, or for a more decadent cupcake, frost with a Chocolate Ganache. This is the chocolate butter cream frosting recipe I use. Will post my Chocolate Ganache Frosting recipe in a later post.

After making all those cupcakes, I used to the leftover batter to make a small round cake. At about 1 a.m., I decided I would turn the round cake into an Elmo cake. My daughter LOVES Elmo and she loved this cake. I know my Elmo doesn't look all that great with his wonky grin, but it gave my baby girl the giggles & that makes it good enough! :)
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