Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bûche de Noël


Christmas for me is all about the food. I love spending time with my family and keeping the tradition alive by cooking up a big feast and sitting around the table and eating until we can't eat anymore. I also like introducing new traditions and this year for Christmas, inspired by my in-laws, it was the Bûche de Noël.

The cake is meant to represent the log that once burned in European homes throughout Christmas. Made of layered or rolled genoise sponge cake filled with buttercream and decorated with meringue mushrooms, forest creatures, or holly leaves the cake is prepared, presented, and garnished to look like a log.

There are hundreds of variations of this cake, with flavours ranging from chestnut, coffee and peppermint but i think the orange perfectly compliments the rich chocolate buttercream.


Orange Vanilla Genoise Sponge
2/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons Cointreau
2 teaspoons orange zest
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
130g (4.5oz) cake flour (or substitute for plain flour, less 2 level tablespoons)


Preheat the oven to 200C. Butter a 25cm(10") by 38cm (15") swiss roll pan and line it with baking paper and butter lightly. Set the pan aside.

In a stand mixer (or using hand-held beaters) beat the eggs for 5 minutes, until they turn thick and foamy. Add the sugar, orange liqueur, orange zest, vanilla extract, and salt to the eggs and continue beating for 2 minutes. Fold the flour, a few tablespoons at a time, into the whipped egg mixture. Once the flour is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. Do not over mix or the cake will be tough.

Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan. There will be peaks of batter; gently smooth over them, but do not press the batter down. Bake the cake for 10 minutes, until the cake is just set. Invert the baked cake onto a clean, dry kitchen towel and peel off the baking paper. Wait 3 minutes and then gently roll the cake, still in the towel, starting at the 10-inch end. Allow it to cool completely.

Orange Cointreau Mascarpone filling

500g mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon Cointreau, or other orange-flavored liqueur
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks


In a medium sized bowl, beat all ingredients except heavy cream, until smooth. Gently fold in whipped cream. Use immediately, or refrigerate, covered, up to 3 days. If you're refrigerating the filling, bring it to room temperature and beat until smooth before using.

Chocolate Meringue Buttercream
5 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup extra caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
113g good quality dark chocolate, melted and cooled


Place the water and 3/4 cup caster sugar into a heavy saucepan. Over medium heat, begin melting the sugar and water and stir until all the sugar has melted. Now turn up the heat and boil until the sugar syrup reaches 118C.

While the sugar syrup is bubbling away, place your egg whites in the bowl of a stand or hand mixer and start whipping them. When they look foamy, add the cream of tartar. Whip some more, and once you get to soft peaks, then slowly add the 1/4 cup of sugar and whip until you get glossy, stiff peaks.

As soon as your sugar syrup hits 118C, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled. Try not to hit the beaters with the syrup.

Add the softened butter to the meringue, 2 tablespoons at a time, while beating on high speed, until all of the butter is incorporated into the frosting. If the buttercream becomes runny at any time in this process, refrigerate the meringue until it has chilled through and continue the process of beating the butter into the meringue.

Now that all the butter has been mixed in, add the vanilla extract and then pour in your cooled melted chocolate and beat until it has all incorporated.



Meringue Mushrooms

2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup cocoa powder


Prepare a baking tray by lining with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 100C.

Place room temperature egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. It is important that the bowl and whisk both be very clean, so that the egg whites whip properly.

Begin beating the egg whites on medium speed. Once they are very frothy, stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar. Start the mixer again and continue to beat the egg whites. Once they form soft peaks, increase the speed to high and gradually add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time. Beat the whites until they are very shiny and hold stiff peaks, but are not dry or crumbly.

Spoon the meringue into a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip.

To Pipe Caps: Holding the pastry bag upright and close to the baking paper, pipe the meringue with even pressure, into even rounds building up the meringue to form a 5cm (2") round that is about 1 inch (2.5 cm) high. Sharply twist the bag and stop the pressure as you slowly move the tip off the meringue. Try to make the top as smooth as possible but use a wet fingertip to smooth out any bumps.

To Pipe Stems: Holding the pastry bag upright and close to the baking paper, pipe the meringue with even pressure, into a cone-shape, making the base of the stem a little larger than the top. The stem should be about 2.5 cm (1") high. Try to keep the stems as straight as possible. Some of the stems may fall over on their sides during baking, so it is a good idea to make extra.

Bake the meringues at 100C for about 90 minutes, turning them halfway through the cooking time to ensure even cooking. The meringues should be hard and dry to the touch, and you should be able to easily lift one from the parchment. Once the meringues are done, turn off the oven and let them sit in the oven for several hours or overnight.

To assemble the mushrooms, melt the white chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave, stirring after every 30 seconds to prevent overheating. Use a toothpick to carve a small hole in the bottom of a mushroom cap. Dip the top of a stem in the white chocolate, and stick the chocolate-covered stem top in the hole of the mushroom cap. Place the mushroom on a baking tray to set, and repeat with remaining caps and stems.

Place the cocoa powder in a sifter, and lightly sift cocoa over the tops of the mushrooms. Mushrooms can be stored for up to a month in an airtight container in a cool, dry room.


To assemble the Bûche de Noël:
Unroll the cake and set aside the towel. Evenly spread the desired amount of mascarpone on the inside of the cake following its natural curve, gently form it into a cake roll. Cut off the ends of the cake roll on the diagonal and reattach them in the centre of the cake with a bit of mascarpone to fashion a “branch” coming off the main Yule log.

Spread the exterior of the Bûche de Noël with enough chocolate buttercream to cover it and gently pull a butter knife or small, offset spatula through the frosting to give the appearance of rough tree bark. Decorate with christmassy figurines, meringue mushrooms and dust with icing sugar to complete the festive look.

Chill the cake before serving it, and refrigerate any leftovers.

White Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake


I made this light (in texture, not calories) white chocolate cheesecake for some boxing day festivities in which I was designated dessert duties.

It is the first recipe I have used out of a cookbook I bought in France and it turned out super dooper well. It is creamy yet light so it doesn't give you weighed down feeling that heavy baked cheesecakes give, also, the tartness of the raspberries cuts through the sweetness of the cake.

I garnished mine with some gorgeous white chocolate curls to finish off this elegant cheesecake.


White Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake
200g biscuits (such as nice or scotch finger)
80g butter, melted

500g cream cheese, at room temp
400g condensed milk
300ml cream, beaten to soft peaks
150g white chocolate, melted
3 tsp gelatin
2 tblsp hot water
1/2 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)


Grease and line a 23cm springform pan with baking paper.

Crush the biscuits until you get fine crumbs, add the melted butter and stir until combined. Press evently over the bottom of the prepared pan and refrigerator while preparing the filling.

Put the gelatin and water in a small bowl. Stand in a small saucepan of simmering water and stir until dissolved. Cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese and condensed milk until smooth.

Stir the gelatin into the cream cheese mixture, then fold in the beaten cream and melted white chocolate. Spread over the the biscuit base then sprinkle with the raspberries (gently push them slightly into the mixture). Refrigerate overnight.

If you wish, decorate with white chocolate curls and dust with icing sugar.

Shortbread

It was a tradition each year for Christmas that my nanna would make batches of her shortbread and give some to my mum and each of my uncles. My nanna is gone now, but I think it is nice to keep some of her traditions alive - even down to the sprinkles and glacé cherry toppings.


Traditional Scottish Shortbread
200g(7oz) butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
85g (3oz) caster sugar
250g (9oz) plain flour, sifted
57g (2oz) corn or rice flour, sifted


Preheat oven to 150°C. Brush 2 baking trays with melted butter to grease. Use an electric beater to beat the butter, vanilla & sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy.

Fold in the sifted flours and use your hands to bring the dough together in the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth.

Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1 1/2 cm. Using a small round cutter cut out shapes from the dough (I use an old-school metal milk bottle cap that my nanna used to use) and place on the prepared trays. You don't have to, but I garnish mine my using a cotton reel to make an imprint then top them with either sprinkles or quartered glacé cherries.

Bake in oven for about 30 minutes, swapping trays halfway through cooking, or until shortbreads start to change colour underneath. Leave to cool on trays and then eat!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Black Forest Cake


This Black Forest Cake was to mark my beloved’s 30th birthday. I promised him I would make him an enormous B.F Cake after seeing Gary’s version on Mastercheft many months ago, and boy did I deliver!

I myself am not usually a fan of B.F Cake, I think it has something to do with the chunks of cherries littered throughout the cake (reminds me of the fruit “bits” in yoghurt and jam – yucky!)

I headed over to the Masterchef website, printed a copy of the recipe and keenly started making the chocolate sponge, only for it to turn out disastrously. It was flat, dense and found a new home in my bin. Disheartened, I scoured the internet for another chocolate cake recipe to try. 12 eggs later, my second cake turns out to be just as crappy as the first. In a final bid for the perfect chocolate cake, I turned to a friend who said she had a recipe that worked – bingo!

Due to time constraints, I decided not to include Gary’s mousse layer, but still adapted the cherry compote and ganache topping. I also opted for a more traditional cream filling as opposed to mascarpone.

So as it turns out, there isn’t much of the original Masterchef recipe in my version, but it was delicious and absolutely fabulous.

Happy Birthday Babe!



Black Forest Cake
250g Butter
1 tbsp dry instant coffee
1 1/2 cups hot water
200g dark chocolate, chopped
2 cups castor sugar
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

600ml Thickened Cream, beaten until firm peaks form
Chocolate curls/shaving
Fresh Cherries (I used 12)


Grease a deep 23cm round cake pan, line base and sides with baking paper and grease well.

Melt butter in saucepan, stir in combined coffee and hot water, then chocolate and sugar; stir until smooth.

Transfer to large bowl and cool until warm. Beat the cooled mixture on low speed with electric mixer, gradually beating in sifted flours and cocoa powder in three lots.

Beat in eggs one at a time, then essence. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in slow oven (150 degrees celsius) for about 1 3/4 hours. Stand 5 minutes to cool before turning out on to wire rack to cool completely.

Cherry Compote
1/3 cup caster sugar
600g canned, frozen or pitted fresh cherries
1 tbs brandy


Add the sugar to a non-stick saucepan and place over medium heat. Once the sugar begins to dissolve add the cherries and cook until they start to release their juices. Add the brandy and cook for about 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened.
Note: I used canned cherries as fresh cherries are still quite expensive and not very tasty yet. I included about 1 ½ cup of the juice and thickened it with about a tablespoon of cornflour (mixed with a little water to make a paste)

Dark Chocolate Ganache
150ml cream
200g chopped dark chocolate


Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Gently warm the cream in a pan until it bubbles around the edges. Pour over the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and blended. Allow to cool until thick but still pouring consistency.

To assemble the cake
Split the cake into 3 even layers (I did 4 as I split the cake mixture into 2 tins when baking); place one layer on to serving plate. Spread with a layer of cream and some of the cherry compote and carefully place a second layer on top. Repeat the layering process (you will have 1 spare slice of cake for the top). If you managed to cut your cake into fourths, make sure to leave enough cream & compote for a third layer.

Place the remaining top layer of the cake on a wire rack sitting over baking paper. Evenly pour the ganache over the cake, ensuring it is completely coated. When the ganache has set, place on top of the layered cake. Decorate with the chocolate curls/shavings and fresh cherries

Sunday, November 14, 2010

After Dinner Mint Macarons

So....this is attempt number 2 at macarons. The first time I made them I found a recipe, followed it word by word and was a little confused/miffed that they did not turn out like the ones in the picture - surely they couldn't be that difficult?

Since then I have read various blogs de-coding the mysteries of this temperamental cookie.

Now, there are 3 different methods of making macarons:
French - Granulated sugar added to egg whites (French meringue) added to almond mixture.
Spanish - Beaten egg whites (with higher sugar content), added to almond mixture.
Italian - Cooked sugar added to egg whites (Italian meringue) added to almond mixture.

This time I decided I would use the Italian method, as apparently this variation is the most stable version (especially for beginners). I also used one with the addition of powdered egg whites as it provides further stability.

Seeing as though I am still a macaron newbie, for hints and tips, I highly recommend the following blogs:
Melanger
Not So Humble Pie

My macarons are probably far from the standard of Ladurée, but I am pretty damn impressed with my second effort (and I believe they got the ok from my french in-laws - and that is all I could ever ask for).


Macarons
100g egg whites
3g egg white powder
125g almond meal
125g pure icing sugar
Green food colour
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water


Process the almond meal and icing sugar together. In a mixer, add half the egg whites with the egg white powder. Whip to soft peaks. Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C on a candy thermometer. Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes). At the final changes of whipping the meringue, add the food colouring. Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and then fold in the meringue in four parts until just combined (the batter should come of the spatula in a thick ribbon).

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. (They say to double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality). Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake at 140C for 15-18 minutes (depending on size). Fill with the ganache (recipe to follow) and refrigerate to set.

Peppermint Ganache
125g dark chocolate, finely chopped
125ml heavy cream
Peppermint essence, to taste


Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Gently warm the cream in a pan until it bubbles around the edges. Pour over the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and blended. Add peppermint essence to taste. Leave at room temperature until it has cooled slightly and thickened. Pipe or drop spoonfuls of the ganache onto the macarons and top with another shell.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fiadone (Corsican Cheesecake)

I was super duper excited when I stumbled across this recipe on Tartelette's blog. I tried this Corsican specialty when I was in France earlier this year, and had completely forgotten about it until now.

Whilst it may not look anything special, it is one of those simple dishes that taste homely and you could keep on going back for more.

Fiadone could be better described as a crustless cheesecake which is traditionally made with Brocciu, a soft cheese similar to ricotta and made from goat or ewes milk.

As Brocciu would be impossible to find here in Australia, I substituted it for fresh ricotta from the deli and let it drain overnight through a sieve, or you could be more adventurous and try making your own cheese, as Tartelette has done here.


Fiadone
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon cornflour
pinch of salt
1 cup drained brocciu, faisselle or ricotta cheese


Line an 20cm square pan with baking paper, butter lightly and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 190° C and position a rack in the middle.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and the eggs until pale. Add the lemon zest, cornstarch and salt and whisk until blended. Add the drained cheese and whisk well.
Pour into your prepared pan, place into the oven and lower the heat to 175° C .

Bake for 45 minutes. The cake will get dark around the edges and a knife inserted in the middle should come out clean (it will rise during the cooking process then deflate upon cooling). Let cool for a few minutes before sharing.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Anzac Biscuits

Anzac biscuits have got to be my favourite kind of biscuit. Their caramelly flavour and grainy texture means I can never stop at one.

These biscuits are one of the first things I remember cooking with my mum. My favourite part was melting the golden syrup and butter then watching it all foam up as I added the bi-carb soda. Mum would always have the job of putting spoonfuls of the delicious dough onto the baking tray...probably because most of it would end up in my mouth if it were left up to me.

Anzac biscuits have long been associated with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) where it has been claimed the biscuits were sent by wives to soldiers abroad because the ingredients do not spoil easily and the biscuits kept well during naval transportation

For me, the perfect Anzac has to be soft and chewy with a big caramel hit from the golden syrup and brown sugar. I like them quite chunky too, so I never use those "quick oats". So, without further or do, here is my perfect Anzac biscuit recipe.


Anzac Biscuits
1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
3/4 cup brown sugar
125g butter
2 tbs golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda


Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Stir in the oats, coconut and brown sugar.

Melt the butter in the microwave, add the golden syrup then microwave again on high heat for about 30-40 seconds (or until the golden syrup is very runny)

Whilst making the butter mixture, put the bicarbonate of soda in a small dish and add a tablespoon of boiling water, stir then add to the butter/golden syrup mixture.

Pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls. Place on the trays, about 5cm apart. Press with a fork to flatten slightly. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Set aside on the trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack so it cools completely.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Spiced Banana & Date Bread

I have bananas coming out of my ears at the moment. This seems to me a reoccurring event for me...I stock up on bananas when they are on special and I never get around to eating them, then they end up looking rather sad and I am left searching for recipes to use them up.

I decided this time it was going to be banana bread. I haven’t made it for a while and I thought I would look for a new recipe. The one I usually make is a healthyfied one which uses apple sauce as a substitute for oil or butter, which works wonders, but as I was going to take it into work for my colleagues to devour, I thought I should not subject them to my health quirks.

This banana bread was yummy, and got the thumbs up from all my work colleagues. It was moist with lots of banana flavour, but I think it could have done with a little more spice.


Spiced Banana & Date Bread
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 lightly beaten eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup olive oil
3/4 cup mashed ripe banana
1 cup chopped dates


Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease and line a 10cm x 20cm loaf tin. Sift flour into a large bowl. Add brown sugar, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda. Make a well in the centre.

Place eggs, milk and olive oil in a large bowl and whisk until well combined. Stir through banana and dates.

Pour the banana mixture into the centre of the flour mixture, folding gently until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf tin. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Remove from oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake

I have been meaning to make this cheesecake for months and months now, and these days I have been using any opportunity I can to use my new stand mixer.

The recipe is from Tartelettes blog and I thought it looked simply divine. The only amendement I made the original recipe is the crust. Tartelette uses an almond crust using pulverised whole almonds, but as my other half doesn't do nuts in cakes, I swapped the almonds for a traditional biscuit base.

The puree which flavours this cheesecake is made from frozen berries. The freezing and subsequent thawing releases the juice from the berry’s cells which have been ruptured in the freezing process. I used strawberries which I froze when they were in season.

This cheesecake takes a little forward preparation with having to use defrosted frozen strawberries to make the puree, but it is so worth it. The cake has a beautiful mousse-like quality which to me tasted like my favourite Strawberry Ice cream. Enjoy.


Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake
Strawberry puree:
280g frozen strawberries
3 tsp sugar
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice


Crust:
200g digestive biscuits
2 tbs caster sugar
75g butter, melted


Strawberry cheesecake:
450g cream cheese, room temp
220g sugar
3 large eggs, room temp
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
300g sour cream, room temp
2/3 cup strawberry puree


Ganache topping:
110g chocolate (50-55% cacao mass is best), finely chopped
130ml cream
½ large egg (beat 1 egg, weigh it, and use half)


Prepare the strawberries:
Thaw strawberries and strain out the juice completely by squishing the berries through a fine sieve. Place juice in a small saucepan and, at a simmer, cook down to a third of original volume. (you should start with about 150ml, and end with 60ml) Add sugar to reduction and stir to dissolve. Mix juice and pulp together with lemon juice. Blend in food processor or with a stick blender.

Prepare the cheesecake:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Prepare a 24cm springform pan by lining the bottom and sides with baking paper and butter (cut a circle out for the bottom then use strips to line the sides)

Place the biscuits in a food processor and finely crush. Transfer the crushed biscuits into a bowl, add the sugar and melted butter and mix until well combined. Press the mixture into the base of the lined pan.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until very smooth (3 min) in a stand mixer at medium speed using the whisk attachment (it gives the cake a mousse quality). Add eggs, 1 at a time, scraping bowl and beating after each just until smooth. Add vanilla & salt and beat until incorporated. Beat in sour cream. Beat in strawberry puree. Wrap the pan with the crust in a double layer of aluminum foil. Pour batter into crust. Place in water bath (hot water) in a larger oven proof pan
bake 45-55 min.

5-10 min before cheesecake is done, make ganache topping:
Boil cream. Pour over chocolate and let sit a minute. Whisk gently until chocolate is melted and smooth. Gently whisk in egg. Spread over hot cheesecake (careful, and don’t pour it all in one place as cheesecake is fragile). Smooth out the top. Bake 5-10 more minutes until ganache is set along the sides. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack, with a large mixing bowl over the pan (to cool slowly). When it reaches room temp, refrigerate. Chill 8 hours before unmolding. To unmold, run a thin blade knife around the cake pan sides. Remove springform. Gently slide cake onto serving plate. Store covered in refrigerator.

To serve, run a knife under very hot water, dry it and then slice.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Raspberry Marshmallow Wagon Wheels

So, this is my second attempt at this recipe.

The first time I tried to make these was a disaster. My caramel burnt and trying to pour hot caramel whilst simultaneously using a hand mixer did not go down well. My kitchen (and hand mixer) was covered in hard caramel.

So now that I have the proper equipment (candy thermometer & a stand mixer) I wanted to try for round 2 using the leftover egg whites left over from the brioche (and they looked soo delicious in the picture)

Whilst I’m sure this recipe is entirely possible without the candy thermometer and stand mixer, it did help quite a lot. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you are going to have to use the water method and if you only have a hand mixer, enlist a friend to help you.

These aren’t something I would make everyday, but they sure are impressive and equally delicious.


Raspberry Marshmallow Wagon Wheels
185g unsalted butter
75g (1/3 cup firmly packed) dark brown sugar
300g (2 cups) plain flour
200g dark chocolate, (70% cocoa solids), chopped
Icing sugar, to dust


Raspberry marshmallow
440g (2 cups) caster sugar
1 tbs lemon juice
125g raspberries, plus extra, to serve (I used frozen)
5 tsp powdered gelatine
3 egg whites
1 tbs cornflour
1 tbs icing sugar


Combine cornflour and icing sugar and use to dust a greased 20cm x 30cm slice pan.

Place the raspberries and 2 tablespoons of water in a clean saucepan. Stir over medium heat for 5 minutes, crushing raspberries with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle gelatine over and stir until dissolved.

For marshmallow, stir 400g sugar, lemon juice and 150ml water in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil rapidly for approx 10 minutes or until a spoonful of syrup dropped into a glass of iced water forms a hard ball (see note). If using a candy thermometer, boil until the temperature reaches about 125 degrees celsius. Make sure you don't take the syrup too far, as it will continue to cook once taken off the heat (the colour should not have turned to a caramel)

Whilst making the sugar syrup, using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites to soft peaks, then gradually add remaining 40g sugar and whisk to stiff peaks. With the motor running, pour hot syrup in a thin, steady stream down the side of the bowl, then add the raspberry mixture. Whisk until mixture thickens enough to hold its shape.

Spoon marshmallow mixture into pan, level with the back of a spoon and refrigerate for 2 hours or until set.

Meanwhile, make shortbread biscuits. Preheat oven to 150C. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and 1/2 tsp salt for 10 minutes or until creamy. Add flour in 2 batches and beat until just combined. Transfer to a floured sheet of baking paper. Roll out until 6mm-thick. Using a 7cm pastry cutter, cut dough into 16 discs and place on 2 oven trays lined with baking paper. Prick the tops with a fork, then bake for 30 minutes, swapping trays halfway, or until biscuits are golden. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a small bowl over some simmering water.

To assemble wagon wheels, brush the tops and sides of the biscuits with melted chocolate, then place on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Leave to set. Grease a 7cm pastry cutter and press into the marshmallow. Remove cutter and, using a knife, lift out marshmallow round and place on a biscuit. Top with a second biscuit and dust with icing sugar. Repeat with the remaining marshmallow and biscuits to make 8 wagon wheels. Serve with extra raspberries. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

Notes: The temperature of syrup are classified by stages, which describe what happens when you drop a small quantity of syrup into a glass of iced water. These stages vary from 'soft ball' to 'hard ball'.

To ensure smooth melted chocolate, place a quantity of chopped chocolate in a glass or stainless-steel bowl. Pick a saucepan that the bowl will sit over snugly and fill one-third full with water. bring water to a gentle simmer. Place bowl over the pan, making sure it doesn't touch the simmering water, and stir occasionally.

Brioche/French Toast

It was my birthday last week and for my present, my amazing boy surprised me with a Kitchenaid stand mixer – in the colour Caviar (it’s black with a nice sparkle through it).


I was so freakin’ excited because it was exactly what I was after (even the colour!)

So, to break in my new appliance I baked some Brioche and for Sunday morning I made some French Toast.

Brioche is a type of French bread enriched with egg and butter, which in France, is commonly eaten at breakfast or as a snack. It can also be both sweet or used in savoury dishes (my MIL makes a version which has a sausage inside)

Brioche comes in all different shapes and sizes. The commonly known Parisian version, Brioche à Tête is formed and baked in a fluted round tin; a large ball of dough is placed on the bottom, topped with a smaller ball of dough to form the head. Here I have made a loaf of brioche made in a standard loaf pan.

As brioche is made with a yeasted dough, have the milk lukewarm and all other ingredients at room temperature to assist the activation of the yeast.

Brioche is double-proved, once in the bowl and again after it has been shaped, so make sure you allow plenty of time. Having the oven pre-heating to warm the room also helps this rising process (I baked a lasagne whilst waiting for my dough to rise)



Brioche
160ml milk
1½ tsp dried yeast
5 egg yolks, at room temperature, lightly beaten
375 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
30 g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
150g butter, diced and softened, plus extra for greasing
For brushing: eggwash


Warm milk in a small saucepan over low heat until lukewarm. Combine yeast and half the milk in a bowl, stirring to dissolve. Stand in a warm place until foamy (8-10 minutes).

Whisk remaining milk with egg yolks in a bowl and set aside.

Mix flour, sugar and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a dough hook, until combined. Make a well in the centre, add yeast mixture and yolk mixture. Beat on medium speed until a smooth dough forms (4-5 minutes).

While mixing, gradually add one-third of butter at a time, beat until dough is elastic and pulls away from sides of bowl (8-10 minutes).

Transfer to a lightly buttered bowl, cover and stand until doubled in size (1½-2 hours).

Knock back dough, knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, shape into a loaf and place in an 11cm x 24cm loaf tin buttered and lined with baking paper. Cover, stand until doubled in size (30 minutes-1 hour).

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180C. Brush top with eggwash, dust with caster sugar, bake until golden and risen (25-30 minutes).

Remove from tin, place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, return to oven until sides are golden (8-10 minutes), cool on a wire rack.


Cinnamon & Vanilla French Toast
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or essence
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 x 2.5cm-thick slices day-old brioche
2 tablespoons butter
3 bananas, sliced on an angle
pure maple syrup, to serve


Combine eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, icing sugar and cinnamon in a large jug. Whisk with a fork until well combined. Pour mixture into a shallow ceramic dish.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Dip 2 brioche slices in milk mixture for 30 seconds to 1 minute each side or until well soaked. Hold over dish to drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until bubbling. Add soaked brioche. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes each side or until golden.

Transfer to a baking tray. Keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining butter and brioche.

Place French toast on plates. Serve with a the sliced banana and a drizzle with maple syrup.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Raspberry & Coconut Loaf

Here is another of my no-fail recipes. It is a great way to use up leftover coconut milk, or alternatively you can use regular cows milk.

This time I used a minature loaf pan (which made about 12), but normally I would use a full sized loaf pan.

This loaf if beautiful when it has just come out of the oven, served with a spread of butter


Raspberry & Coconut Loaf
1 3/4 cups desiccated coconut
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 2/3 cups self-raising flour
1 cup frozen raspberries
pure icing sugar, to serve


Combine coconut and coconut milk in a large bowl. Cover and stand for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 170°C. Line base and sides of a 7cm-deep, 10.5cm x 20.5cm (base) loaf pan with baking paper, allowing a 2cm overhang at both long ends.

Using a metal spoon, stir sugar, egg and vanilla into coconut mixture. Sift flour over coconut mixture. Gently stir until combined. Fold in raspberries. Spoon mixture into prepared pan.

Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool loaf in pan for 10 minutes. Lift onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar and slice. Serve toasted, if desired

Notes: Take the raspberries out of the freezer at the last minute, so their colour does not bleed into the mixture.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chocolate & Dulce de Leche Cupcakes

Chocolate and caramel… one of the great culinary combinations.

I bought a jar Dulce de Leche before I headed off to France, and now that I am back I have be dying to use it.

After tossing a few ideas around my head (David Leibovits dulce de leche brownies…dulce de leche cheesecake…) I decided on Caramel Filled Chocolate Cupcakes, because, lets face it, cupcakes are awesome.

Now, the hardest part about this recipe was finding a decent cupcake recipe. Initially I was after a nice, dense cake, but after the first recipe failing, I dug up a chocolate cupcake recipe that I had used before which I thought would do the job nicely.

I dressed these beautiful little cupcakes with a swirl of chocolate butter cream and chocolate curls.

Now I must say, these little cupcakes were just glorious. They looked and tasted just fabulous. Will definitely be making again.

You can make your own Dulce de Leche (there are various methods to do so online) or you can just cheat and buy it. You could also substitute the Dulce de Leche for Nestle’s Caramel Top’n’Fill.


Chocolate & Dulce de Leche Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes
50g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
240ml boiling hot water
175g all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
113g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 190°C. Line a cupcake pan with liners.

In a small bowl stir until smooth the boiling hot water and the cocoa powder. Let cool to room temperature.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Then in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

Spoon evenly among the lined cupcake pans to half fill the pans. Dollop a little (I used a piping bag, but you could use a teaspoon) Dulce de Leche into the centre of each pan, then spoon over more batter to fill.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Spread or pipe a swirl of buttercream and decorate as desired.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing
60g butter, softened
240g icing sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
30ml (1 1/2 tablespoons) milk


Beat butter with an electric mixer or electric hand-held beaters until light and creamy. Sift icing sugar and cocoa together into a bowl. Gradually beat in half the icing sugar and cocoa. Add milk and remaining icing sugar and cocoa and beat until fluffy. If necessary, add a little extra milk to achieve a creamy consistency.

Notes: To make the chocolate curls, I melted some dark chocolate and then spread it out on a pastry mat (you could use a cutting board, or similar flat surface). Wait until it is almost set and then using a cheese slicer, slowly draw the slicer in a straight line down the block of chocolate. See here

France/Crêpes

Bonjour!

My apologies for neglecting the blog for almost two months. But, the good news is I am now back from France and ready to get back into posting!

Firstly, I will fill you in a little about my wonderful holiday.

This was my second time in France, although my first time to the southern region of Provence. Home in France was at my partner’s aunt’s house (with his mum and dad) in a little town outside Marseille called Le Pennes Mirabeau.

Whilst in France I visited the antique countryside towns of Arles and Avignon, with their amazing markets filled with anything from Laguiole knives, flowers, pyramids of spices to fromage and saucisson. The views of the Mediterranean Ocean and Calanque’s from the cliff tops surrounding the seaside towns of Cassis and La Ciotat were just incredible and the scent of the Lavender as we drove to from Gourd to Sault made me feel as though I was living a fairytale. I even caught a glimpse of the Flamingo’s of the Camarge region and saw the running of the bulls in Saint Rémy.

The food of Provence was just to die for, but also very different from its Northern counterparts. Home style cooking here is very fresh and seasonal with minimal fuss. The fruit and vegetables were amazing - tomato’s were flavoursome, cherries were sweet and the donut peaches so juicy!

I ate everything from baguettes (with salted butter of course) to snails, taureau, pheasant, macarons and my favourite, crêpes with Nutella (according to my MIL, whenever we got to a new town, i would disappear for 5 minutes to scout around and find the nearest crêperie).
I was even lucky enough to have my partners aunt, who had just come back from Corsica, prepare a special Corsican style lunch which consisted of several different saucisson, tomato’s stuffed with soft Corsican cheese and to finish up, a selection of pungent hard-style Corsican cheeses.

It all went so quickly, but my time in Provence was filled with many wonderful memories of beautiful food, sunshine, the ocean, markets, quaint villages and time spent my partner’s family and friends. It felt like home and I cannot wait to return (hopefully with my partner next time).

So, in honour of my time in France, here is a recipe for Crêpes. I managed to eat these on a near daily basis – preferably with a nice thick slather of Nutella (or in my MIL’s case, Crème de Marron)


Crêpes
1 cup plain flour
2 eggs
280-300ml milk
20g butter
Pinch salt


Sift flour into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add eggs, whisk starting in the centre and drawing in the flour. Add the milk a little at a time whisking until batter is the consistency of thick cream.

Melt the butter until foamy and a little nutty then pour into the batter with a pinch of salt.

Heat crêpe or regular frying pan over medium heat, add a butter to coat the base then ladle in crêpe mixture, turning to coat the base completely. Cook 1-2 minutes until light golden and lacy. Turn over and cook for 10-15 seconds. Remove to plate and keep warm. Repeat using the remaining crêpe batter.

Et voila! Serve with your favorite condiment.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Honeycomb Cookies

My other half obviously hadn't had his fill of cookies yet, so this was round 2 for the week.

Using the same base dough recipe as the choc chip cookies I made earlier in the week, i replaced the chocolate with some violet crumbles.

Yummo.


Honeycomb Cookies
125g unsalted butter
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 X 50g Violet Crumble bars, crushed.

Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees C.

Using a hand mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs and vanilla and mix again. Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder and 1/2 a tsp of salt until a stiff batter forms, then stir in the crushed violet crumble.

Roll heaped teaspoons of the batter into a ball and place onto a tray lined with baking paper.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until light golden in colour. Leave on the trays for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 20

Chai Buttermilk Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream

A Chai flavoured cupcake has been on my cupcakes-to-make list for a little while now and I thought a maple buttercream would go really well with the spices.

I had some left over buttermilk from breakfast, so to use it up I found a vanilla buttermilk cupcake recipe and added some chai tea mixture to it.

The cupcakes came out really nicely. They had a nice crust on them and the centre was really moist and fluffy. The original recipe only called for 1/4 cup of butter, but i found this not enough to cream with the sugar.

I dusted my finished cupcakes with a little chai spice.


Chai Buttermilk Cupcakes
1 1/3 cups plain flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla (i used vanilla bean paste)
1 cup buttermilk
Chai Spice - To taste: I used a chai spice tea drink mixture which wasn't very strong in flavour. I used approx 2 tablespoons, but if you were using a straight spice mix I imagine you would need to use a lot less.


Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Place liners in a 12 cup cupcake tin. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until it looks creamy.

Beat in the egg and the vanilla until mixture is smooth. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until almost combined. Add buttermilk and stir, again, until almost combined. Add the rest of the flour and stir until all ingredients are mixed in. Add enough chai spice mixture to your liking.

Divide batter evenly into tin. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool for 10 minutes and then remove from the muffin pan. Cool completely before frosting. Makes 12 cupcakes

Maple Buttercream
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1-2 tbsp. Milk


Using an electric mixer, cream the butter on medium-high speed until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the powdered sugar. Beat on medium speed until well combined, then increase speed and beat until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and add the maple syrup. Mix until incorporated. If the frosting is too thick, add 1-2 tablespoons of milk and beat until smooth and desired consistency is achieved. Top each cupcake with a swirl of frosting.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies, 2 ways

Who doesn't love a choc chip cookie?

It has been aaaages since I have made cookies and I had a mid-week craving for them. As I still hadn't found my HG cookie recipe, I used one which i found on my HG website - the Vogue forums. I give it a 2 thumbs up.

I love my cookies to be as soft as possible, thus making them like cookie dough when eating. To do this you need to cook them until they are just golden on top (in my oven it is about 10 minutes). If you prefer a firmer cookie, feel free to cook them longer.

To mix it up a bit, I added super crunchy peanut butter to half of my batter. There is seriously no better combo in this world than chocolate & peanut butter.

Enjoy.


Chocolate Chip Cookies
125g unsalted butter
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g dark chocolate chips


Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees C.

Using a hand mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs and vanilla and mix again. Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder and 1/2 a tsp of salt until a stiff batter forms, then stir in the chocolate chips.

At this stage, i halved my batter and stirred in about 2 tablespoons on extra crunchy peanut butter.

Roll heaped teaspoons of the batter into a ball and place onto a tray lined with baking paper.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until light golden in colour. Leave on the trays for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 20

Rhubarb & Blackberry Crumble Soufflé

I think this just may be the first Masterchef masterclass recipe i have tried.

When i saw Gary making this little gem, i had to restrain myself from licking the screen.

I had been wanting to play around with rhubarb for a while now, but as i have a love/hate relationship with it, i wasn't really sure what to make with it.

My mum used to make stewed rhubarb when i were younger and would serve it with creamed rice. I liked this, because the sweet creamyness of the rice would cut through the sourness of the rhubarb. The thing i didn't like about rhubarb was the stringiness of the fibres.

So i finally had a weekend where i could try this recipe for myself. I liked the textures of it. The cloud-like soufflé, the crunch of the crumble, then the cold creamy ice cream.

The lemon pairs beautifully with the berries and rhubarb and really brings out the best in their flavour. The only amendment i made to the recipe was replacing the hazelnuts in the crumble, with pistachios.


Rhubarb & Blackberry Crumble Soufflé
4-6 sticks (500g) rhubarb, cut into 1-2 cm pieces
150g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
150g fresh or thawed frozen blackberries
½ lemon, zest finely grated
1 tbs cornflour mixed with 1 tsp water
4 egg whites
Vanilla ice cream, to serve
Double thick cream, to serve


Crumble topping
75g plain flour
100g softened butter
50g brown or white sugar
50g rolled oats
1/3 cup roasted hazelnuts, finely chopped


Preheat oven to 180°C.

Place rhubarb in a saucepan with 75g of the caster sugar and ¼ cup water. Cover and place over medium heat and cook for 5-10 minutes until softened. Add blackberries and lemon zest and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes until softened. Add ½ of the cornflour mixture and stir for 3-4 minutes until thickened, then cook for a further minute to cook out the cornflour. Set aside in a bowl to cool to room temperature for at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the crumble topping, combine flour, 50g of the butter, sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl, mixing with your fingers until combined and the butter is in pea-sized lumps. Add the oats and hazelnuts and toss gently to combine.

Place the crumble mixture on a lined baking tray and bake for 5 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside. Increase oven temperature to 200°C.

Grease 125ml soufflé moulds with remaining butter that has been slightly softened. Butter base and sides with a pastry brush, then brush up the sides – you want an even coating of butter. Refrigerate for 5 minutes to set the butter, then repeat the process - for the second buttering, be a bit more generous with the butter. Sprinkle sugar into each mould and roll ramekin around so the sugar coats the butter, tipping out any excess. This forms a lubricated crust so the soufflé can rise easily.

Place egg whites in a large, clean, dry bowl with 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar and beat with a hand beater on high until soft peaks. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining sugar and beat for about 30 seconds - 1 minute until you have shiny, soft peaks.

Mix an equal amount of beaten egg white with cooled fruit puree until combined, then add the same amount of egg white again and fold through gently, turning the bowl, then lifting and folding the mixture to keep as much air in the mixture as possible. Spoon into buttered, sugared moulds, taking care to avoid getting any mixture on the side of the ramekins until the moulds are full. Scrape the mixture off the top with a palette knife so you have a really smooth surface, then run your thumb around the very inside of the rim so you have a clean rim.

Bake for 6-7 minutes until risen about 1 cm above the rim. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the crumble topping over the top and return to the oven for another 3 minutes until they have risen another centimetre.

Serve with vanilla ice cream and a dollop of thick cream.

Makes 6-8 soufflés

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hummingbird Cupcakes

Ahhhh mid week baking. With my oven FINALLY fixed, I can now produce baked goods at home – Yippeee!
It hasn’t been working for many many months, so I would always have to do my baking at my mums house (which had it’s pro’s & con’s). The pro’s being: bigger kitchen, oven that works, mum to help and all the ingredients I need. Con’s being that I have to transport all the baked goods back to my house, which isn’t always easy.

When it comes to baking with bananas, the rule is the browner the better. I had some lovely ripe-for-baking bananas sitting in my fruit bowl that were calling out to be made into something delicious, but something a little different to my usual banana cake.

Hummingbird cake has been on my list of things to make for a while now. I don’t think I have actually ever tried it before, but as it looks so delicious in all of the pictures, I thought it was about time I attempted to make it for myself.

Now I don’t really know what to compare this recipe to, but it was delicious! It was wonderfully moist with chunks of pineapple strewn throughout cake. I think it would be nice with some roughly chopped pecans in it, just to add another dimension to the texture.

I garnished mine with some shredded coconut which I toasted off in the oven.


Hummingbird Cupcakes
1 x 450 g can crushed pineapple
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup mashed over ripe bananas (about 2 bananas)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup vegetable oil


Cream Cheese Frosting
100 g butter, softened
1 x 250 g cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 1/2 cup icing sugar


Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Celsius fan-forced) and line a 12 hole cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Drain pineapple through a fine sieve, pressing out as much syrup as possible, reserving ¼ cup syrup. Sift flours, soda and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in sugar and coconut. Make a well in the centre. Add combined bananas, eggs, oil, pineapple and reserved syrup. Mix until combined. Pour mixture into prepared cupcake pans.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cupcakes are light golden. When they are ready, a skewer or thin-bladed knife inserted into the centre of a cupcake will come out without any batter attached.

Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for about five minutes, and then place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

Cream cheese frosting: Beat buffer, cream cheese and essence in a small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in icing sugar until smooth.
Spread or pipe onto the cooled cupcakes and garnished as desired.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Scones

Dearest boyfriend has been bugging me for a while now to make scones. I gave in to his request after seeing them dismally produced by the contestants on Masterchef for the CWA Challenge. It also gave me a chance to see if my oven had FINALLY been fixed.

The last time I made scones I used the lemonade method, they were ok, but not great.
I searched the internet to see if I could find the CWA (Country Womens Association) scone recipe. Surely this had to be a good recipe, I mean, it's the CWA, they are the pinnacle of home baking!

The CWA recipe uses both milk and cream, no butter (therefore none of that fiddly rubbing in).

My lord were these awesome. I know when something I bake is good when the boy looks at me after his first bite and gives me a big grin. They were crispy on the outside and beautifully moist on the inside.

And the number one tip for perfect scones...don't overwork the dough!!


Scones
3 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup cream
1 & 1/4 - 1/2 cups milk


Sift dry ingredients. Cut in cream and milk with a knife. Work quickly into a dough on a floured bench.

Flatten into about a 1.5cm-high rectangle on a lightly floured or greased scone tray.
Cut using a scone cutter, or cut into squares with knife or pizza cutter and place on top shelf of very hot oven (220-230 degreesC) for about 10-12 minutes.

Serve warm with your favorite jam and whipped cream.

Notes: I used about 1 1/4 cups of milk. It seemed a little wet at first, but is easy to work with if your hands and bench are well floured. I also cooked them for a little longer - about 15 minutes.

Strawberry Jam

I love cooking things that remind me of my Nanny. She's been gone for over a year now, but I still think about her all the time. She was the person that taught me to cook, and as a child I loved going through all her recipe folders and looking at the old recipes passed down to her.

One of my favourite things to make with her was Jam. We would go the old brickworks and pick blackberries from the prickly bushes. My fingers would be stained a deep purple colour by the end of it, but I loved it because it was something special that we did together.

Now, we never made strawberry jam (it was usually blackberry or apricot), but I had the urge try making jam by myself for the first time with some old strawberries that I had. We would usually make a big batch on the stove, but this recipe uses the microwave.

It was really simple to make, only took 20 minutes, and there was no need to keep an eye on it.


Strawberry Jam
500 grams of strawberries, washed, hulled and chopped
375 grams of white sugar
Juice from 1 large lemon


Put the strawberries into a 3 litre capacity heatproof bowl (Very important: bowl has to be microwave-safe). Add the white sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice.

Place the bowl in the microwave, uncovered, for 4 minutes on HIGH (100%) power. Then stir. Put the bowl back in the microwave for a further 15 minutes on HIGH (100%) power (the jam should still be runny) or until the jam reaches setting point.

To test if the strawberry jam has reached its setting point, place 1 teaspoon of jam onto a chilled saucer. Place the saucer in your freezer for 1 to 2 minutes or until jam is at room temperature. Run your finger through the jam. If the surface “wrinkles” and the jam stays in 2 separate portions, your strawberry jam ready to bottle. If not, cook for a little longer and test again.

Spoon your hot strawberry jam into the hot sterilised jars and pop the lid on straight away (the lid will eventually pop which means it has been seal correctly).

Sterilise the jam jars and lids by washing them in hot soapy water and rinse well. Place jam jars and lids in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and boil for about 10 minutes. Then put jam jars and lids on to a baking tray lined with baking paper. Place in an oven preheated to 100°C (212°F) for 12-15 minutes or until dry.

Label, date and store jars in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight until ready to use. Give the jam at least 3 hours to set. Once the jar is opened, store in the fridge for 6 to 8 weeks

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Farewell Cupcakes

These were made for the boys final day at work. I really do hope the office enjoyed them :)





Sunday, June 27, 2010

Orange & Coconut Tea Cakes

An orange cake has been on my list of things to make for a while now. The craving for this cake came from tasting the teacakes from the café downstairs at work (i believe they get them from Brasserie Bread, Sydney)

I liked the sponginess of the cake, paired with the zestiness of the orange.

The recipe I used to re-create these cakes is from the exclusively food website. I swapped the lemon for orange, and used coconut milk in place of normal milk. I also added a little milk and a bit of orange zest to the icing.

The cake was beautiful and moist, although next time I would add a little more of the dessicated coconut.


Orange & Coconut Tea Cakes
125g butter, softened
225g (1 cup) caster sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind
2 large eggs
40ml (2 tablespoons) orange juice
30g (1/3 cup) dessicated coconut
210ml (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) coconut milk
225g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour


Orange Glaze
150g (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) pure icing sugar (sifted if lumpy)
25ml (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) lemon juice
(add a little milk if the icing is too stiff for your liking)


Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius (150 degrees Celsius fan-forced).

Grease a 12 hole muffin pan (I used a mini bundt pan).

Using an electric mixer or electric hand-held beaters on low speed, beat the butter in a large bowl until creamy (about 2 minutes).

Add the caster sugar and orange rind and beat on medium speed. Stop the machine once or twice during beating to scrape down the side and base of the bowl with a spatula. Beat the mixture until it is pale and creamy (about 5-7 minutes).

Add the first egg to the butter mixture and beat on medium speed for about one minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the side and base of the bowl. Add the remaining egg, beating on medium speed for about one minute. Scrape down the side and base of the bowl.

To the butter mixture, add two tablespoons orange juice, coconut, half the coconut milk and half the flour. Using a large spoon or spatula, gently fold ingredients together until just combined. Add the remaining flour and coconut milk and fold ingredients together until combined. Don't over mix the batter.

Spoon batter into prepared pans.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden in colour and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the centre. Insert a thin-bladed knife or wooden skewer into the centre of the cake to test whether it is cooked through

Allow cakes to cool in pan on a wire rack. When cooled, remove cake from pan.

Stir icing sugar and 25ml (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) orange juice together in a small bowl until smooth. Spoon over the cooled cakes.

Baked Pears with Spiced Mascarpone

I needed a simple dessert to make for a Sunday feast with friends.

After uming and ahring my way through my piles of recipe's, I decided on these. I have made these baked pears before, after seeing them on this fellow bloggers site, and they were beautiful. The texture of the pear against the silky mascarpone is just divine.

This recipe is definitely a keeper.


Baked Pears with Spiced Mascarpone
8 large buerre bosc pears
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthways
80g butter
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups apple juice


Spiced mascarpone
250g mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons icing sugar mixture
1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice


Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. Peel the pears and Place them in a medium baking dish.

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean. Reserve bean. Place seeds, butter and sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until sugar has dissolved. Add reserved bean to baking dish.

Brush pears with butter mixture. Add juice and remaining butter mixture to dish. Bake for 1 hour or until pears are tender. Stand 15 minutes. Discard bean.

Meanwhile, make Spiced mascarpone: Place mascarpone, sugar, orange rind and mixed spice in a bowl. Stir to combine. Place pears on plates. Drizzle with pan juices. Serve with spiced mascarpone.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Caramel Chocolate Mousse Tart

I bought myself a new camera this weekend. I was originally going to invest in a Canon 450 DSLR, but as I am now heading off on a holiday to France in a month, I decided on a compact digital camera (hopefully I will purchase the DSLR later in the year).

I ended up with the Canon IXIS 130 camera, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by its capabilities.

To break in my camera, I took some photographs of this little baby.



Now this tart is the shit. It is rich, decadent, gooey, and loaded with calories.
I decided to make it for my boyfriend’s friend who is currently stuck in hospital. I wasn’t exactly sure what she would like, but I was sure I couldn’t fail with this tart. Everyone who has eaten it has died and gone to tart heaven.

I changed it up a bit this time, and used some leftover chocolate pastry I had in the freezer. It was a chocoholics dream. (the original pastry recipe can be found here)

What I like about this particular tart is the mousse. I generally don’t like chocolate tarts as I find ganache quite heavy and sickly. The mousse in this recipe gives you the chocolate hit, without the heaviness.



Caramel Chocolate Mousse Tart

Chocolate Pastry
320g plain flour
60g cocoa
160g caster sugar
Pinch salt
160g cold butter, diced
2 eggs


Preheat oven to 180°C. Place the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the eggs and process until dough just starts to come together.

Turn on to a lightly floured surface and gently knead until just smooth. Shape into a disc and cover with plastic wrap, then place in the fridge for 10 minutes to rest.

Roll out the pastry to a 15 x 40cm rectangle, about 3mm thick. Line a shallow rectangle 10 x 34cm (base measurement) fluted tart tin with a removable base with the pastry and trim any excess. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes to rest.

Line pastry with baking paper and fill with baking weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove paper and rice and bake for a further 5-10 minutes or until firm to touch. Cool pastry in tin

Caramel
225g caster sugar
250ml water
80ml thickened cream
70g butter, roughly chopped


Combine sugar and water in a heavy-based saucepan and stir over a low flame until sugar is dissolved.

Increase the heat to high and cook sugar, while brushing down the sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until it's a deep golden colour (about 10-15 minutes). As soon as it starts to turn amber, do not take your eyes of it!

As soon as it hits the right colour, remove quickly from the heat and immediately add cream and butter (this will stop it cooking). Be careful as the mixture will spit and foam.

Stir to combine and pour into the tart case. Refrigerate until firm (about 1-2 hours)

Chocolate Mousse
250g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 eggs, separated
185ml thickened cream
2 Tbl caster sugar


Melt chocolate in a double-boiler or heatproof bowl over a pan of low simmering water. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Add the yolks, stir to combine and set aside (it will look a bit weird and gluggy but this is ok).

In a separate bowl, whisk cream until soft peaks and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk eggwhites with an electric mixer until frothy. Then gradually add the sugar and continue whisking until it forms soft peaks.

Add a little of the cream and stir into the chocolate mixture to soften it up and make it easier to mix.

Fold a 1/3 of the eggwhite mixture gently into the chocolate mixture, then fold in a 1/3 of the remainder of the cream. Repeat with remaining eggwhite and cream until all combined.

Spoon over cold caramel in the tart case. Spread the mousse to the edges and smooth the top. Refrigerate until firm (about 2-3 hours).

To Finish
150g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
60ml pouring cream
20g unsalted butter, softened


Combine chocolate and cream in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until chocolate melts.

Remove from the heat, add butter and stir to combine.

Cool until it's a touch warm, then spread over the fully chilled chocolate mousse in the tart case and smooth top. Refrigerate immediately until set (about 30-40 minutes).

Caramel Mud Cupcakes

Each week I make a sweet treat for the boy to take to work. This week he requested something creamy and crispy, or caramel mud. I chose the latter (mainly because I have had a recipe sitting in my to do pile for a while).

So the cake part was easy, it was finding a frosting that was the hard part. I couldn’t find any recipe for a caramel buttercream that I was completely happy with.

I eventually settled on one that involved butter, brown sugar and golden syrup. After making it, it wasn’t really what I was after. I ended up adding some icing sugar and extra golden syrup, but still, it tasted too much like the start of a butter cake, rather than a fluffy frosting. I wouldn't use this frosting recipe again.

For a garnish, I was inspired by Masterchef to make some honeycomb. I was surprised at how easy it was. I didn’t used the Masterchef recipe, as I didn’t have any glucose, so used one with golden syrup instead.



Caramel Mud Cupcakes
125g butter, chopped coarsely
100g white eating chocolate, chopped coarsely
2/3 cup (150g) firmly pack brown sugar
1/4 cup (90g) golden syrup
2/3 cup (160ml) milk
1 cup (150g) plain flour
1/3 cup (50g) self-raising flour
1 egg


Preheat oven to 170°C/150°C fan-forced. Line 12-hole muffin pan with paper cases.

Stir butter, chocolate, sugar, syrup and milk in small saucepan over low heat until smooth. Transfer mixture to medium bowl; cool 15 minutes.

Whisk sifted flours into chocolate mixture, then egg.

Drop 1/4 cup of mixture into cases. Bake about 30 minutes. Stand cakes 5 minutes before turning top-side up onto wire rack to cool.

Caramel Buttercream
125g butter, at room temperature
100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
2 tbs golden syrup (i probably added another tbs)
1 tbs milk
(i also included about 1 Cup of icing sug
ar)

Use an electric beater to beat together the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a medium bowl until light brown and fluffy. Add the milk and beat until well combined. Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Honeycomb
6 tbs white sugar
2 tbs golden syrup
2 tsp water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda


Place sugar, golden syrup and water in a heavy saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved

Bring to the boil and boil for seven minutes

Remove from the heat and quickly add the bicarbonate of soda. At this point the mixture will froth.

Stir quickly and pour into a greased 28x18cm lamington tin. When cold, cut into pieces and sprinkle over cupcakes. Store leftovers in an airtight container.