Gingerbread Cookies

As cheesy as it sounds, I love homemade Christmas gifts. Over the years, I’ve come to love making gingerbread cookies – I would be kidding myself if I said they aren’t one of my favourite Christmas cookies.

Another obsession that has become fairly evident in recent years is my love for cookie decorating. I still remember the mess I made the very first time I attempted piping royal icing onto my cookies… *shudder*. Thankfully I am now much more organised, which makes the whole process go much more smoothly.

gingerbread christmas snowflakes 5

gingerbread christmas snowflake 4

I decided to make something different from last year, and made 1) snowflakes, 2) stars and 3) Christmas ornaments. Because, you know, I get bored easily. It was also a good excuse to add to my growing cookie cutter collection. Ha.

Take care to not roll out your dough too thinly if you decide to make ornaments for your tree though – they tend to be rather fragile (as I have found out).

gingerbread christmas ornaments 1

gingerbread christmas ornaments 2

And it’s not just the ornament-shaped cookies that can be hung on the tree – I also hung up some snowflakes. The snowflakes are actually a little more sturdy than their ornament counterparts, something I didn’t expect before I started this baking-icing-gingerbread-madness.

gingerbread christmas snowflake 2

A large snowflake…

gingerbread christmas snowflake 1

…And a mini snowflake. For balance.

I also pondered over whether I should dust glitter onto the snowflakes (because anything glitter during Christmas has to be a good thing), but decided against it as I felt it made the piping stand out less. When you’ve put in so much effort into piping, you will most definitely not want it to fade into the background! Trust me.

gingerbread christmas snowflake 3

I swear by this Peggy Porschen recipe for my gingerbread cookies, as I find that they keep their shape very well (which is what you want if you’ve spent all that time cutting out lovely shapes from your dough!). Another handy tip is to refrigerate your cut (pre-baked) cookies for 5-10 minutes, and bake them from chilled.

You can pipe with or without a piping tip – I prefer using a piping tip (with a coupler) and a large-ish piping bag, as I find this gives me more control over how my icing flows. I use either 00, 0 or 1 tips, depending on how small/large the cookie is. Some people prefer to use a smaller sized piping bag without a piping tip (i.e. just snip off the tip of your piping bag), but I tend to not do this as I have to keep on refilling/make more piping bags… and I am too lazy for that.

I also highly recommend having toothpicks to hand, as they come very handy when you make mistakes! 😉

gingerbread christmas star

Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season – may it be a wonderful one filled with love, laughter & food!

Spiced pumpkin cupcakes

It seems that an increasing number of my posts now start with “So I’ve been a terrible blogger…”, doesn’t it? What can I say? I want to say I blame Instagram (where I post very regularly), but truth be told, Instagram can probably only be held partly accountable for the lack of posts. After all, it is me who decides whether or not I want to whip out my camera to take photos of the food I make/if I measure out my ingredients!

Despite a rather sizeable backlog, I thought I would post the recipe for these spiced pumpkin cupcakes which I made fairly recently (i.e. within the last month, as opposed to last year). I suspect some of you may have some leftover pumpkin puree from Thanksgiving, so what better way to use it than in a delicious not-too-sweet treat?

I adapted Aran’s recipe for beetroot and poppy seed cupcakes to make these. And by the way, if you have yet to try Aran’s original recipe – please do! I’ve made them countless times now, and everyone always loves them. I’ve even tried making banana cupcakes using her recipe as a starting point. 🙂

Another plus is that these little babies are gluten free (though you can easily make them with normal all purpose flour). Interestingly, I have found that using gluten free flours seems to enhance the texture of cakes/cupcakes – not sure if I’m the only one who feels this way?

I use a fair bit of spices in these cupcakes, but you can always use more/less depending on how ‘spiced’ you want these cupcakes to be. You may also add some chopped walnuts or pecans to the cupcake batter if you wish.

Alternatively, you can whip up a quick cream cheese frosting to top these cupcakes – I usually whisk together 200g cream cheese, 100g softened butter, 3/4 cup icing sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. I then add a teaspoon of lemon juice at the very end.

Spiced pumpkin cupcakes
Adapted from this recipe by Canelle et Vanille
Makes 12 small-ish cupcakes, or 9 medium cupcakes

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour (you may use normal all-purpose flour if you wish)
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn oil (or any other flavourless oil)
  • Demerara sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 180’C.
2. In a small bowl, mix the coconut milk with the lemon juice. Leave to stand for 5 minutes.
3. Sieve the brown rice flour, allspice, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium sized bowl. I usually don’t sieve my ground almonds, because they usually aren’t ground finely enough to easily pass through the sieve.
4. Add the pumpkin puree, egg, sugar, coconut milk mixture and corn oil into the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment, until it forms a nice smooth paste (this should take only 1-2 minutes). You can also do this with a handheld whisk or a spatula if you don’t want to use/don’t have a stand mixer.
5. Add the sieved dry ingredients (and the ground almonds) to the wet pumpkin mix. Mix until the batter is just combined.
6. Scoop the batter into cupcake tins. If you wish, you may sprinkle some demerara sugar on top of the batter – this will give you a nice crunchy cupcake topping.
7. Bake the cupcakes for 15-18 minutes until cooked. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes should come out clean.
8. Leave to cool slightly on wire racks, then eat!

Matcha & vanilla mini doughnuts (with a chocolate glaze!)

When looking through my previous posts, I realised that I’ve never blogged anything Valentine’s Day themed before… so I am here now to rectify this. Most Valentine’s themed desserts nowadays usually have one (if not both) of chocolate, or red velvet. I did toy with the idea of making something like a chocolate fondant (I made these for Valentine’s a few years ago and loved them), but decided to make something I’d never done before instead.

So… I decided to make mini doughnuts, partly because I had a 6 month old mini doughnut tin which had yet to be used. Tin, you say? Why yes. These are baked doughnuts, you see. I doubt I would ever make ‘proper’ deep fried doughnuts, because the amount of oil needed and the subsequent oily kitchen floor really is not something I want to deal with. But baked ones – yes please! [P.S. I LOVE fried doughnuts, I just don’t love making them myself.]

There were a number of different recipes around, some with ‘cake like’ ingredients (i.e. without yeast), and some with ‘bread like’ ingredients (i.e. with yeast). Because I haven’t made these before, I decided to go with a recipe from Heather of Sprinkle Bakes – I’ve tried a few of her recipes before and they’ve turned out well, so I knew I could trust her recipe.

I initially planned on making vanilla doughnuts, but changed my mind at the last minute and went for vanilla and matcha instead. What can I say, I’m fickle. I’m really glad I added in the matcha though, as it added a lovely flavour to the teeny little doughnuts. Plus, if there is matcha in these, they qualify as health food… right? 😛


Doughnut tic-tac-toe, anyone? 😉

These doughnuts turned out really well, and I had a lot of fun decorating them with sprinkles! The decorating actually took longer than the actual baking of the doughnuts, believe it or not. It’s a testament to my pure OCD-esque-ism. They taste best on the day of baking, but become slightly hard the next day. I discovered a little trick to re-soften the doughnuts though: zing the doughnut(s) on HIGH for 10 seconds in the microwave… and voila! Slightly warm, soft doughnut with a melty chocolate glaze. Total win/win situation. In fact, this is what I always do with my beloved Krispy Kreme doughnuts – they just taste so much better warm!

Whilst these aren’t your typical Valentine’s dessert, I can assure you they are the perfect sweet treat for a “pick me up”. And even if you don’t really celebrate it – who needs a reason to eat mini doughnuts?

Matcha & vanilla mini doughnuts
Adapted from this recipe on Sprinkle Bakes
Makes approximately 36 mini doughnuts

For the doughnuts:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar (use 1/3 cup if you prefer a sweeter doughnut)
  • 2 tbsp matcha powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted and cooled

For the chocolate glaze:

  • 100g milk or dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • sprinkles of your choice

1. Preheat oven to 210°C. Oil your doughnut tin with oil or melted butter (or cooking spray, if you have it).
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a mixing bowl), sift together the flour, sugar, matcha powder, baking powder and salt.
3. Add the buttermilk, egg, vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste (if using) and butter to the mixing bowl. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium high speed, until the ingredients are just combined.
4. Fill doughnut batter into a piping bag, and pipe the dough into the doughnut tin cavities. Don’t overfill the tin, as the doughnuts will puff up and look more like muffins than doughnuts – aim to fill to just under 3/4 its capacity. Alternatively, you can try spooning in the batter, but piping it is much easier (and neater!).
5. Bake for 5-8 minutes, until the top of the doughnuts spring back when touched with your finger. Let cool in pan for 2-3 minutes before removing to a wire rack.
6. Whilst the doughnuts are cooling, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or in the microwave.
7. Dip the cooled doughnuts into the melted chocolate, and top with sprinkles. Repeat. Then eat! (If you find that your chocolate is too thick, add 1-2 tbsp of milk to the chocolate which will help to make it a little more liquid and dip-able.)

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! And regardless of whether or not you plan to celebrate it, remember that there is ALWAYS a reason to eat some chocolate. Or cake. Or mini doughnuts.

Chinese New Year peanut cookies

One of the bad things about being away from home is missing out on Chinese New Year festivities. Sure, I can deck my place out in decorations, but it’s just not the same. My family isn’t here, you don’t have cheesy Chinese New Year songs playing everywhere you go, and you don’t have all the food and goodies that come along with it. Plus, it’s hard to have much of a festive spirit when you have to go to work…

I was lucky enough to go home for Chinese New Year last year (after not celebrating it at home for a whole 7 years), and it was GOOD. Unfortunately I do not have such good fortune this year, and will in fact be working everyday for a 12 day stretch at the time.

Having said that, there is no way I am going to miss out on the food of Chinese New Year… so I made some peanut cookies last week. These (along with pineapple tarts and arrowroot chips) are my favourite Chinese New Year treats, and I was actually worried that the peanut cookies I made would not live up to my high expectations. I’m very picky with my peanut cookies you see.

I hate recipes that are too finicky, so loved how my grandma’s yam cake recipe used a simple “cup ratio”. So when I chanced upon Quinn’s post on peanut cookies, where she used a similar “cup ratio” recipe, I knew I had to try it out. You can use ANY cup you wish – in fact, I used a chinese rice bowl. Just be sure to use the same cup throughout, and stick to the 2:2:1:1 ratio.

These cookies turned out beautifully, and had the “melt in your mouth” quality that is essential for peanut cookies. I used corn oil for the “fat” component of the cookies as it was all I had to hand. I would have preferred to use lard (I know it’s unhealthy but it’s the secret to the best “melt in your mouth” cookies), but it was cold and wet outside and I was too lazy to go out and buy some. But no matter, as they were still yum. 🙂


Chinese New Year peanut cookies
Based on Quinn’s recipe

  • 2 cups peanuts
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar (alternatively, use castor sugar)
  • 1 cup corn oil (alternatively, use lard or butter)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, beaten

1. Dry fry the peanuts in a wide non-stick pan (over medium heat), until they start to become fragrant and lightly browned. Take care to make sure you do not burn the peanuts.
2. Pulse the peanuts in a food processor, until it becomes a fine powder.
3. Heat the oven to 180’C.
4. Place the ground peanuts, flour, sugar and salt in a bowl of a stand mixer*, and mix until well combined.
5. With the stand mixer on (medium speed), slowly trickle the corn oil into the bowl containing the peanut/flour/sugar mixture. Mix until it forms a cohesive dough. You may need more or less oil depending on the weather/humidity. A good guide is to try forming a ball from the dough – it should not crumble.
6. Form the dough into 2cm balls, and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Press down lightly with a chopstick (alternatively, use a straw or a clean pen cover), this forms the typical indentation you see in the cookie.
7. Glaze lightly with the beaten egg.
8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until they turn a lovely shade of golden brown.

* if you have a food processor, you can use it to mix the cookie dough as it will lead to less washing up! Alternatively, you can use a wooden spoon/your hands to mix the dough together.

Pumpkin whoopie pies

Whoopie pies have taken the world by storm recently, and have even been hailed as the “new cupcake”. Who would have thought that two round pieces of cake (sandwiched with a creamy filling) could become so popular?

According to folklore, Amish women used to bake these for their husbands and put them in their lunchboxes. When the men opened their lunchboxes after a hard morning in the fields, they would shout “whoopie!”. And thus the whoopie pie was born. Of course, there is no proof that this is how they got their name, but it’s a fun story, and I’m more than happy to go along with it!

I’ve been seeing a lot of pumpkin puree around recently, and so thought it would be fun to incorporate some pumpkin into some whoopie pies. It was quite interesting as I had never actually used pumpkin puree before, nor had I ever made whoopie pies. Oh, and I’d only ever eaten one whoopie pie from Hummingbird Bakery. Thinking back, I must say I didn’t really have much idea of what I was aiming to achieve, both taste and texture wise. But that’s the fun thing about cooking, no? The experimenting. Or sometimes, the disasters…

Shaping these whoopie pies were actually much harder than I expected. I don’t have a cookie scoop, so had to use two spoons to form them into the two domed halves. For my first batch, I didn’t smooth them out, hoping they’d even out as they baked. I can now tell you that they didn’t (not sure if this is true of all whoopie pie recipes, or just this one?). So I ended up spending a fair amount of time trying to make sure the rest of my whoopie halves were smoother and more respectable… I also ended up with rather unevenly sized halves, as I didn’t measure how much batter I used each time. Basically, I was lazy.
Having said that, the final product actually tasted pretty good. Instead of using the more “traditional” cream cheese filling, I decided to go for a dark chocolate one. And you know what, I’m glad I did. The bittersweet chocolate ganache/filling complemented the pumpkin perfectly, and I daresay I would not have enjoyed them as much had it been a cream cheese filling. (Thank you R for the suggestion!)
I also made some “mini” cupcakes with some of the batter. Mainly because I’d just bought a new silicone cupcake tray, and felt the overwhelming urge to use it. I didn’t fill the holes till the top, as I was hoping to get a effect of a paper lined cupcake (if you know what I mean). They didn’t turn out all that well (as you can see), but I’m definitely going to try to achieve that effect the next time I use the tray! Another thing that bugged me were the air bubbles in the batter, which caused little “holes” in the final product. I think I’ll try tweaking the recipe to make it more liquid next time around…  And yes, the frosting on the top does look a bit like a lump of poo – so I dusted them with icing sugar in an attempt to make them look less so. 😛

If you have any good whoopie pie recipes, do let me know as I’d love to try making them again!!

Pumpkin chocolate whoopie pies
Adapted from this recipe on Steamy Kitchen

For the whoopie pies:

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 250g butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 can (425g) solid pack pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract

For the chocolate ganache frosting:

  • 200g dark chocolate (I use Green & Blacks 72% cook’s chocolate)
  • 200g double cream
  • 20g butter

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line baking trays with parchment paper, and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, spice blends, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well.

3. In a mixer, beat butter and brown sugar (on medium-high speed) until it becomes thick and creamy.

4. Add the pumpkin puree, and beat until just combined.

5. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy. (Mixture will be thin, like a muffin batter.)

6. Gradually add flour mixture (I added it in three batches), and beat until well combined.

7. Using a large cookie scoop (about 2 inches diameter), scoop batter onto prepared trays, and slightly flatten the whoopie pie halves with the back of your scoop. Leave them approximately 5cm apart. (If you don’t own a cookie scoop, do what I did and use two spoons).

8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until whoopie pie halves spring back when lightly pressed.

9. Cool the whoopie pie halves. Whilst waiting for them to cool, prepare the chocolate ganache filling.

10. Heat the double cream in a pan over medium heat, until it feels hot to touch.

11. Place the broken up chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate and butter, and stir until all the chocolate/butter is melted. It should form a thick and shiny frosting.

12. To assemble the whoopie pies: Pipe or spoon the chocolate ganache filling (about a tablespoon) onto that half. Place another half, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the whoopie pie. Repeat until all the halves are used.