Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Cake

For a New Year's party I made this three layer cake.  From the bottom, there is vanilla, then chocolate and then white chocolate cake.  It's covered (messily unforunately) in white chocolate ganache.  Certainly delicious! I used biscuits covered in Royal Icing to imitate stars/fireworks shooting out of the cake.  I hope you all have a fabulous New Year! I look forward to following you all into 2011.

Recipes
Vanilla Cake recipe here
Chocolate Cake recipe here
White Chocolate Cake and Icing recipe here
Biscuit recipe here

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chinese Curried Beef

Chinese food is definitely one of my favourites; I was raised on it.  My grandmother is Malaysian-Chinese, and so I have many precious memories of visiting her and being in awe of the copious dishes she'd whip up in her wok.  For a long time I've flicked through this Chinese cookbook we have.  But, I didn't dable because I was worried my dish wouldn't taste authentic or nearly as good as my Grandma's.  However, I was wrong!  This dish is now a permanete member of our weekday cooking.  Absolutely delicious! A cross between a curry and satay.  Serves 4-5 hungry people

Ingredients
sesame oil
1200g beef, sliced into thin strips
3 large carrots, sliced diagonally, and steamed in microwave for 3-4 minutes
2 large zucchinis, sliced diagonally, steamed in microwave for 2-3 minutes
4 small potatoes, cubed and steamed in microwave for 4-5 minutes
2 onions, halved and sliced
4 tsp curry powder
3 tsp curry powder, extra
6 tbsp satay sauce
3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce, or plain chilli sauce for extra zing + sprinkle of sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup water
2 large chicken stock cubes, crumbled [ensure good quality eg. not too salty]
9 tsp cornflour
3 tbsp dry sherry
+ steamed jasmine rice, to serve

Method
Heat pan with sesame oil.  Cook beef strips.  Remove from pan.  In same pan, increase heat, and add potatoes so they immediately brown.  Continue to cook potatoes, on lower heat, until tender but still crisp, eg. 5 minutes.  You may need to add more oil to your pan, or alternatively, add some water and place the lid on.  Once tender, add onions, zucchinis and carrots, and 4 tsp of curry powder; stir and cook for further 4-5 minutes or until onions and other vegetables are tender. Again, you may need more oil, or alternatively, add some water and place lid on. Meanwhile, stir together the satay sauce, chilli sauce, soy sauce, water, crumbled stock cube, cornflour and sherry; set aside.  Now return cooked beef back to pan.  Add extra 3 tsp of curry powder; toss evenly.  Pour already combined sauces over beef and vegetables.  Toss until sauce boils and thickens.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer for further 1-2 minutes.  Serve.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nourishing Beef Tagine

After all the sweets of Christmas, it is so nice to have a nourishing meal which is still satisfying.  Seriously, since Christmas my sweet tooth has intensified.  So, to curb it a little, I put a slightly sweet edge to this dish. It balances the spices and compliments the vegetables. No more after-dinner cravings for plum pudding! As if.  Serves 4

Ingredients
olive oil
650g beef chuck steak, diced
2 medium brown onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 tsp ground coriander (used at separate times)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp ground paprika (used at separate times)
2 cups beef stock (used at separate times)
1/2 cup boiling water
3 large tomatoes, chopped coarsely
1 medium sized eggplant, sliced and quartered
2 large zucchinis, sliced
3/4 red split lentils, uncooked
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tbsp BBQ sauce
2 tsp sugar

Method
Heat the oil in a large frying pan; cook beef.  Remove from pan; set aside.  Stir onion in same pan until softened.  Add garlic and 2 tsp ground corinander, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp ground paprika.  Cook, stirring, until fragrant.  Add 1 cup stock, the sugar and the tomatoes to the pan; bring to boil.  Reduce heat, simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.  Add lentils to mixture along with extra 1 cup of beef stock; let simmer again for further 20 minutes.  Slowly add the 1/2 cup boiling water throughout this 20 minute (eg. topping up spice and tomato mixture if it looks dry as water evaporates).  Uncover the pan and add the beef back to pan.  Stir through.  Add tomato and BBQ sauce.  Simmer for further 15 minutes for flavours to amalgamate.  Meanwhile, heat oil in separate frying pan and cook eggplant and zucchini slices until tender.  Stir vegetables through beef and spices mixture.  Allow to simmer for 5 more minutes before serving.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mediterranean style Pasta Salad

This was served up at Christmas among our many other salads.  However, it is great for all year round! You can make your own pasta like I did, or just use the packaged pasta for convenience and uniformity (as you may notice my pasta bows are all a little...unique).


Ingredients
400g [uncooked] pasta dough, rolled through to desired thickness
350g pesto jar sauce
125g cherry tomatoes, quartered
100g roasted bottled capscium, drained and chopped
100g roasted bottled artichoke, drained and chopped
2 celery sticks, washed, trimmed and sliced
250g rocket leaves, torn
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
optional 2 tbsp kalamata olives, deseeded and chopped
optional 2 tbsp pine nuts

Method
Taking the rolled sheets of pasta dough, cut into small bow shapes to mimic farfalle pasta.  Do this by cutting a horizontal strip into your pasta sheets, roughly 4cm wide.  Then cut this strip in half or even quarters so that you know have little rectangles, roughly 4cm wide and 5-6cm long.  Now pinch the middle of one of your rectangles to form a bow shape.  Continue to make bows until no dough remains.  Cook pasta bows in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes.  Drain pasta and pour into large salad bowl.  Toss pasta through pesto sauce.  Add tomatoes, capscium, artichokes, celery, rocket and cheese; toss through.  Sprinkle pasta with opitonal kalamata olives and pine nuts; if desired.  Serve.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Wishes

The few remaining presents!
Well, Christmas has come and gone here in Australia! On the other side of the hempishere, you will now be waking up to open your presents and commence a feast!  I hope you enjoy your Christmas day and have time to relax, laugh and be merry.
Thank you for being such wonderful blogfriends and readers. Joyeux Noel!






At our Christmas table we had:
Creamy Potato Salad
Creamy Pasta Salad
Greek Pasta Salad
Couscous Salad
Asian Style Summer Salad
Waldorf Salad
Fruit Salad
Apricot and Couscous stuffed Pork
Macadamia and Cranberry stuffed Turkey
Glazed Ham
Harrod's bought Plum Pudding with custard
Rum Balls
Trifle


What did you have at your Christmas table? I would love to know!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

White Christmas Slice

This is my mother's absolute favourite! I'm making it, ahead of time, to give to her on Christmas eve (tomorrow!!!).  It is a popular Christmas time sweet for Australians.  Have you heard of it? Well, I can't even begin to describe how good it is.  Makes 9 large slices; beware they vanish as soon as they're made.

Ingredients
125g copha
70g icing sugar
90g sultanas, or mixed fruit
50g glacé cherries, chopped roughly
45g desicated coconut
55g full cream milk powder
40g rice bubbles cereal

Method

Line a 15cm by 15cm square tin.  Melt the copha on low heat in a saucepan.  Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients.  Once copha is melted (to liquid form), pour over the bowl ingredients.   Stir toghether so that everything is coated well; ensure no powder fragments are visible.  Spoon into prepared tin and smooth out.  Chill in fridge for few hours until firm enough to cut into slices.  Share out the White Christmas goodness! Store in the fridge.

Lentil and Dried Cranberry Salad

Cranberries are definitely a christmas fruit.  However, in Australia I've never seen fresh cranberries! So instead, we make Lentil and Dried Cranberry Salad.  It has graced our Christmas table for the past 2 years; and hopefully may grace yours too.  If the weather doesn't suit it...wait till summer rolls around for you.  You won't regret keeping this recipe!

Ingredients
1 x 400g can of lentils, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
200g spinach leaves or mixed salad leaves with shredded beetroot
2 carrots, washed, peeled and grated
1/2 red capsicum, deseeded, diced finely


Method
Toss all ingredients in a salad bowl.  Serve!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chocolate and Hazelnut Bûche de Noel

Here is another Bûche de Noel recipe! Of course the method is the same, however, the components are different.  That is the great thing about Bûche de Noel; you can fill it with whatever ingredients or creams you desire.  For this, I thought that Hazelnut Buttercream Filling with Chocolate Buttercream on the outside would be divine.  Let me tell you, I was spot on!

Ingredients for Sponge Sheet
4 eggs
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour

Method
In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly to disperse the yolk (by hand or with mixer if needed).  Add the sugar and continue to whisk/electric mix the egg and sugar until the sugar dissolves and pale ribbons form.  At this stage, fold in 1/3 of flour; continue to fold until no flour remains.  Spread the sponge mixture on a tray lined with baking paper.  Bake at 180 degrees (fan-forced) until golden and just firm; perhaps 15 minutes.  The sponge should spring back when cooked properly.  Remove sponge from oven and immediately begin to roll it by rolling it from the shortest edge.  Allow to cool.

Ingredients for Hazelnut Buttercream Filling
125g butter, cubed, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup hazelnuts 

Method
Process the [unshelled] hazelnuts in a food processor.  You don't want them as fine as almond meal/powdered almond but you don't want them chunky.  Set aside hazelnuts.  Now make the buttercream.  It is important to have the butter and milk at room temperature.  Place cubes of butter in a large mixing bowl.  Cream until the butter is as white as possible, say 2 minutes.  Very gradually add half of the sifted icing sugar; beating continuously.  Gradually add the milk; beating continuously.  Very gradually add the rest of the icing sugar; beating continuously.  Icing should be a smooth and spreadable consistency.  Stir through the chopped hazelnuts. 

Ingredients for Chocolate Buttercream
125g butter, cubed, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Method
It is important to have the butter and milk at room temperature.  Place cubes of butter in a large mixing bowl.  Cream until the butter is as white as possible, say 2 minutes.  Very gradually add half of the sifted icing sugar; beating continuously.  Gradually add the milk; beating continuously.  Very gradually add the rest of the icing sugar; beating continuously.  Add cocoa powder; beat in.  Icing should be a smooth and spreadable consistency.  

Method for Assembly
Unroll sponge cake.  Chop off any crusty edges. Ensure the side you frost is the bumpy side (as it was exposed to oven).  Spread all of hazelnut buttercream on this side.  Roll up by taking the short end of the sponge and rolling it to meet the other short end.  Place sponge on a plate.  Cover in chocolate buttercream. Cut diagonal slice of each end of the sponge so each end looks more like a log. You can place these bits of extra cake on top of the cake, or you can eat them, or discard them. Now, run a fork from one end of cake to other.  Place decorations on top.  Allow to chill in fridge for 1 hour before serving.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Healthy Corn Fritters

These are perfect for a light meal and can be served with chilli sauce or sour cream.
But for tonight, I will be serving them as a part of our Christmas picnic.  Yes, my family and I are heading of to the local park for Christmas carols; along with our picnic basket! Merry Christmas to you all.

Ingredients
1/2 cup plain self raising flour
1/2 cup wholemeal self raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cumin
3/4 cup light milk
2 eggs, separated
425g can corn kernels, rinsed and drained
5 french onion bulbs, sliced thinly and chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander

Method
Sift the flours, soda and cumin into a bowl.  Gradually whisk in milk and egg yolks until batter is smooth.  In a different bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form; set aside.  Stir corn, onion and coriander into flour/milk batter.  Now fold in the egg whites.  Pour 2 tbsp of batter for each fritter into heated oiled large fry pan.  Spread batter into a round shape.  Cook fritter for 2 minutes each side. Continue until no batter remains.  Serve with chutney, chilli sauce, lite sour cream or fresh coriander leaves! Roughly 60-65 calories per fritter.

Bûche de Noël (French Christmas Log)

My first Bûche de Noël! Miam miam, mes amis!
Bûche de Noël is a traditional Christmas-time cake in France.  It involves a rolled sponge cake filled with a desired filling and is usually encased in a buttercream.  The best bit is that the cake is decorated as a christmas log; so feel free to decorate it with icing sugar for a snowy effect, or even those plastic little christmas trees and deers! Thank you to chef Bruno Richeux for the recipe and for the baking lesson about Bûche de Noël.

Ingredients for Sponge Sheet
4 eggs
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour

Method
In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly to disperse the yolk (by hand or with mixer if needed).  Add the sugar and continue to whisk/electric mix the egg and sugar until the sugar dissolves and pale ribbons form.  At this stage, fold in 1/3 of flour; continue to fold until no flour remains.  Spread the sponge mixture on a tray lined with baking paper.  Bake at 180 degrees (fan-forced) until golden and just firm; perhaps 15 minutes.  The sponge should spring back when cooked properly.  Remove sponge from oven and immediately begin to roll it by rolling it from the shortest edge.  Allow to cool.

Ingredients for Sponge Filling
Chesnut purée, amount as desired (I used 5 tbsp for a thin covering)
Italian Meringue Buttercream (Vanilla Flavoured - Recipe below)

Ingredients for Italian Meringue Buttercream
1/2 cup of cold water 
2 1/4 cups of caster sugar
10 egg whites 
680g soft unsalted butter
1 tsp of pure vanilla paste/extract

Method for Vanilla Itailan Meringue Buttercream

Place the sugar and water in a saucepan.  Bring to the boil.  When the sugar syrup has been boiling for 5 minutes, you need to whisk the eggwhites for the last 2 minutes of this. At the 5 minute mark, remove the sugar syrup from the saucepan; it's finished. Now, with the electric mixer on high speed, slowly pour the hot syrup down the side of the mixing bowl.  When all sugar syrup has been added it should be thick and fluffy. Stop the mixer and change for the paddle attachment.  At this point we need the mixture to cool down.  So, beat on high speed for 10 minutes; or until cool to touch at the base of bowl.  Meringue mixture should still be thick.  Now, return the mixer to high speed and with a knife cut cubes of soft butter into the meringue mixture.  When butter is incorporated, the mixture should be thick and smooth.  At this stage, slow down the mixer to the vanilla.  Now split the italian meringue buttercream mixture in half; placing half in a bowl which will be turn into Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream.

Method for Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream
In a bowl, fold through sifted cocoa powder until you think it is chocolatey enough.  I would advise close to 1/2 cup of strong, good quality cocoa. 

Method for Assembly
As cake is now cool, unroll the cake from the baking paper.  Chop off any crusty edges. Spread your desired amount of chesnut purée (or other filling eg. curd, coulis, cream, icing) over the sponge evenly.  Now spread all the Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream over the chesnut purée.  Roll the sponge now by taking one of the shortest edges of the cake and rolling it forward to meet the other shortest edge.  You should now have a rolled sponge.  Cover the rolled sponge in the Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream.  Taking a fork,  lightly draw "bark marks" in the sponge by dragging fork spears from one end of the cake to the opposite end.   On a diagonal slant, cut a 5cm thick slice of cake and place it on top of the cake to create a log effect.  From the opposite end now, on a diagonal slant, do a thinner and smaller wedge and place this on your cake too.  Your Bûche de Noel is now complete! Allow to chill in fridge for 1 hour before serving.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Coffee Bean and Hazelnut Rocky Road

This is my third rocky road recipe....hm, you may now be realizing that I'm a little rocky road obsessed?  But I'm sure you can see why? Just get past the somewhat messy/homemade look of rocky road, and you'll understand.  Let me explain. Firstly, the texture contrast of rocky road is to die for. I love the hard chocolate and nuts against that squishy marshmallow.  Secondly, rocky road is so versitatle.  You can just add whatever ingredients you feel like: dried fruit, nuts, assorted chocolates; the list goes on.  This rocky road, however, served a specific purpose.  It was made for my family friends (who like coffee) as part of their Christmas hamper.  I incorporated the hazelnuts because, frankly, hazelnut and chocolate are what I consider "made for each other ingredients."   Oh, and this recipe has been scaled down (to prevent the all-too-possible over indulgence). Makes 9 medium pieces.

Ingredients
1/4 cup coffee beans
1/4 chopped hazelnuts
1/3 cup desicated coconut
120g chocolate, chopped (I used half milk, half dark chocolate)
2 1/2 tbsp butter
generous 1/2 cup white marshmallows, quartered

Method
In a large bowl combine the coffee beans, hazelnuts, coconuts and marshmallows.  Using a microwave or double-boiler, melt the chocolate with the butter.  Once melted, pour over the coffee bean-nut mixture.  Mix the chocolate through evenly.  Scoop into a throw-away foil container, or a lined tray.  Leave to set in fridge for at least 4 hours.  Cut into 9 pieces, and enjoy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Homemade Pasta

I have wanted to do this post for a long time. Back in September I took a pasta making course.  There, I realized that homemade pasta is far better than packet bought pasta.  It's fresher, tastier; and the satisfaction of making it yourself enhances your pasta eating experience too! The only downside for beginners is that it takes a while to make as one needs time to get used to rolling out pasta sheets.  Remember, when rolling pasta sheets, the thinner the better.  Top your homemade pasta with any sauce you wish, and cut into any desired shapes.  The choice is yours!

Ingredients

400g 00 Italian flour
4 eggs
2 tsp salt

Method
Combine flour and salt in a bowl.  Tip mixture onto clean workbench and make a well.  Working quickly, crack the eggs into the whole of the flour well.  Spread your fingers into a wide claw shape, and keeping your fingers stiff, stir the eggs into the flour.  Continue to do so until mixture is well combined.  Now start to knead the dough.  You will need to dough it until it is smooth and elastic, say, 10 to 15 minutes.  If needed, wet your fingers slightly as you begin the kneading process.  To check if your dough is kneaded enough, gather the dough in a ball and pull it slightly; a good dough should not break and become holey.  Once kneaded and smooth, shape into a ball.  Lay out 1 piece of cling film on a work bench.  Lightly slick your hands in olive oil and rub oil into the open cling film.  Lay the dough in the cling film and wrap up.  Let rest in fridge for around 1/2 hour.  Meanwhile, work on your desired sauce.  After 1/2 hour, remove from fridge.  Cut a piece, say a generous handful of dough, and using a pasta machine, push this piece of dough through the machine at the widest setting.  Continue to push this piece of dough through the machine a few times on the same setting.  Gradually wind down the setting (letting the dough go through 1 setting at least 3 times) until it is as thin as you desire.  Cook in a boiling pot of salted water for around 3-4 minutes or until cooked.  Immediately stir sauce through pasta.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Profiterole Cake

Profiteroles are definitely one of my favourite sweets.  (In fact, anything with custard is).  My friend Natalie, who recently celebrated her 17th birthday whilst she stayed with us at the beach, also shares my love of custard.  So, for her birthday I decided to incorporate her two favourite sweets into her birthday cake: chocolate and custard.  The result? A delicious 'profiterole cake.' It has the intensity of dark chocolate in its icing which is sweetly balanced by the smooth custard.  I felt like I was eating a profiterole, except in cake form.  Just a word of warning, if you are a custard fanatic, serve this cake with extra custard filling!


Ingredients for Cake
225g unsalted butter, soft
225g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
200g self-raising flour
25g cornflour
4 tbsp milk

Method for Cake

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl.  Add vanilla, and then the eggs, one at a time adding spoonful of flour between each.  Fold in the rest of the flour and cornflour, and when it's combined, add the milk.  Split batter evenly between two sandwich tins and bake in oven for 25 minutes (or until cake pulls away from edge of cake tin) on 180 degrees (fan-forced).


Ingredients for Chocolate Icing
150mL double [thick] cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate

Method
Melt together the chocolate icing ingredients in a saucepan.  Remove from heat and whisk till smooth and thickened.  Let cool before using.

Ingredients for Custard Filling
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp caster sugar
3 egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract, or vanilla bean paste

Method
In a bowl, place 3 egg yolks, cornflour and caster sugar.  Whisk together until smooth.  In a saucepan, on medium heat, stir the milk.  Allow milk to heat, whilst continuously stirring, just up to boiling point.  Do not allow milk to get to boiling point (eg. vigorous bubbling) otherwise it will burn or stick to pot.  Pour milk, gradually, into the egg yolk mixture; beating continuously with handheld electic mixer.  Strain mixture back into saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until custard thickens.  Remove from heat.  Add vanilla extract.  Allow to cool slightly before using.

Method for Assembly of Cake

Place 1 layer of cake on a plate.  Pour all of custard in the middle of this cake; spread out slightly to the sides.  Place next layer of cake on top of custard.  Do not be alarmed if some of custard seeps out.  Pour chocolate ganache/icing on top of this cake layer.  Serve immediately.  Once finished, place in fridge; where everything will firm up.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Summer Couscous Salad

My family and I have been at the beach for the past few days.  (I even got stung by a bluebottle jellyfish! Ouch). On our first sunny afternoon, we enjoyed this salad alongside a BBQ. It's refreshing, healthy and nutritious; which is the perfect food to care for our bodies particularly during Australia's hot summers. This also screams Christmas for me, as when I think of Christmas it must be hot weather tempered with cooling foods, cold meats, airconditoner and a nice blue pool.

Ingredients
2 medium sweet potato, chopped into 2-3cm thick slices
4 zucchinis, chopped thinly and diagonally
1 can baby beetroot, drained, sliced
2 cups cooked couscous, cooled
1 bag of spinach leaves
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsely

Ingredients for Salad dressing
1 tsp orange rind
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Method
Prepare couscous and set aside to cool.  Grill sweet potato, in batches, until soft enough to eat.  Proceed to grill zucchini slices in batches too. Set aside vegetables to cool.  When couscous and vegetables are both cool, toss together in a large salad bowl.  Add the spinach leaves, chopped beetroot and parsely.  In a jar, shake together the ingredients for salad dressing.  Pour over salad bowl before serving.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

White Chocolate Rocky Road

I've already posted my regular rocky road, found here.  However, this is for fans of white chocolate in all its indulgence.  The colours are stunning together, so make sure you use the brightest pink marshmallows you can find! 
Adapted from recipe by Taste.com.au

Ingredients
2 cups chopped pink and white marshmallows
100g dried cranberries
80g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
180g white chocolate
60g pistachios
1/3 cup desicated coconut

Method
Prepare a 15cm long tin. In a bowl, combine marshmallows, cranberries, macadamias, pistachios and coconut.  Melt white chocolate.  Pour over the combined ingredients.  Set in fridge for at least 3 hours.  Cut into small sqaures.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mini Fruit Mince Pies

These little pies were my first experience of fruit mince.  And I absolutely loved them! Plus, they are mini pies which means they are even cuter to give as gifts (not to mention good portion size for the indulgent season).  I can't help but quote Nigella Lawson, who often says whenever she sees something minituare, "they belong to fairytown."

Ingredients for Pastry

150 unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
1 egg
250g flour

Method
Place butter and icing sugar in a mixer and blitz.  Add eggs.  Add flour until just comes together on the blade.  Add water if needed.  Allow to rest for 1/2 hour in fridge.  After that, use a little cutter (or a glass) to line mini cupcake tin. 

Ingredients for Fruit Mince
2 green apples, peeled, cored and chopped
250g suet mix
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
375g raisins
250g sultanas
250g currants
150g mixed peel
100g silvered almonds, chopped
1tbsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp grated orange rind
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 cup orange juice
150mL brandy

Method
Place all ingredients together in a bowl and combine well.  Transfer to sterilize jars to keep, or fill the cooked pastry shells with fruit mince.  Top fruit mince with extra pastry shape.  Brush with egg yolk before baking in oven for around 25-30 minutes, or until golden. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Biscuits

Christmas food should be bright, fun and festive.  This is why I made these Christmas Biscuits with my new Wilton cutters and Americolor gel pastes.  I really recommend both products! I used the recipe for Nigella's butter cookie (click here) and my first ever batch of real Royal Icing, the recipe for which is below.

Ingredients
4 cups icing sugar, sifted
4 tbsp meringue powder, or Pavlova Magic
6-8 tbsp warm water

Method
Beat ingredients together until stiff peaks form. Add more water if you need it thinner.  Allow at least 1/2 hour for Royal Icing to dry before doing more layers/decorations.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Panforte

Panforte is a traditional Italian dessert containing assorted fruits and nuts; and as such it would be an appropriate and unique sweet to serve at your Christmas table.  I tend to think that Panforte has a very individual taste. For instance, whilst it's not a favourite of mine, my mother and father absolutely loved it.  (Update: I've changed my mind, I like this a lot). I recieved this recipe and made my first panforte last night at a cooking school, so thank you to Kristie Rickman for the recipe.  It was a huge hit.

Ingredients
125g almonds
115g pistachios
125g coarsely chopped dessert figs
100g glacé cherries
100g glacé ginger
100g plain flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
80mL honey
70g caster sugar
70g brown sugar

Method
Line a 20cm Spring form cake tin with baking paper.  Toast the almonds and pistachios in the oven to approx 8 minutes, or until toasted.  Combine the nuts, figs, cherries, glace ginger, flour and spices in a large mixing bowl and combine well.  Place the honey and sugars in a small saucepan over a low heat.  Cook whilst stirring until sugar dissolves.  Increase the heat and cook until mixture reaches 116 degrees on a sugar thermometer (soft ball stage).  Pour the hot honey mixture onto the nut mixture and working quickluy mix until combine.  Do not hesitate here because otherwise the sugar will only combine half of your mixture.  Spoon into the prepared cake tin and smooth.  Bake in oven at 160 degrees (fan-forced) for 35 to 40 minutes or until just firm.  Set aside to cool before cutting into wedges and sprinkling with icing sugar.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sweet Penang Chicken Curry

This recipe was adapted from something I found in Taste magazine.  It certainly is a favourite at our house due to that sweet and spicy balance.  I use light coconut milk, but full fat coconut milk does give a better result.  When using light coconut milk, you will find the sauce won't thicken too much.  Now, I just have to borrow the headline from Taste magazine because this is so delicious, you simply have to "thai it yourself."



Ingredients
2 tbsp red curry paste
1 2/3 cups Ayam coconut cream (unshaken) or 1 can carnation lite and creamy coconut milk
2 rectangle cubes of palm sugar, chopped, or 2 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup chicken stock
500g chicken, sliced thinly
4 kaffir lime leaves, spine removed, shredded (or juice of 1 small lime)
1 floret of broccoli, chopped
2 carrots, sliced diagonally
1 capsicum, sliced
1 - 1 1/2 cups of chopped green beans
2 zuccinis, sliced diagonally
+1/2 cup thai basil leaves, to serve (optional)
+ steamed rice, to serve
+ 2 small red chillies, thinly sliced, to serve (optional)
+ 2 limes, quartered, to serve (optional)

Method
Heat fry pan or wok over medium heat until hot.  Spoon thick top layer of coconut cream into wok (alternatively if you are using light carnation milk simply pour 3/4 of the can in).  Cook, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes or until oil separates and floats to the top.  Add curry paste mixture.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Add sugar. Cook for 5 minutes or until sauce reduces slightly; stirring constantly to avoid burnt cream/milk.  Gradually add remaining coconut cream (or milk) and stock.  Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until sauce thickens. (If you use lite milk, the sauce won't thicken much at all).  Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and cook the chicken in peanut or sesame oil.  Transfer to a heatproof bowl.  In the same frying pan, cook the vegetables; ensuring those that need longer cooking time are put into the pan first.  If you prefer, pop the vegetables [seperately] in the microwave for a few minutes first.  Once the sauce has thickened, pour it over the vegetables.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Add lime leaves to pan.   Stir the sauce, vegetables, and meat together thoroughly.  Serve with rice, optional chillis and thai basil leaves.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hazelnut Shortbread

This is a unique twist on the classic shortbread.  I find that the texture of this shortbread is nicer; just slightly less buttery and austere.  As Christmas is the season of indulgence, and shortbread is such a festive classic, I do think that this would be a perfect Christmas gift to give to your friends or neighbours. (Can you spot my christmas tree in the background??) And please note the variations I've tested; both of which are equally delicious.

Ingredients
150g butter
60g icing sugar
40g ground hazelnuts (hazlenut meal)
155g plain flour
50g your choice of chocolate

Method
Preheat the oven to 150 (fan-forced) and prepare a 20cm (8 inch) round tart tin.  Beat butter and icing sugar together in a bowl until light and creamy.  Add the ground hazelnuts and beat until combined.  Using a metal spoon, fold in sifted flour.  Mix well.  Press mixture evenly into prepared tin. Smooth out surface of mixture (using heel of hand).  Score into mixture 16 wedges.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until pale golden.  Stand in the tin to cool.  Carefully remove the shortbread from the round tin.  Using a sharp knife, cut it into full cut wedges.  Place chocolate in microwave (or bowl over water filled saucepan) and melt chocolate.  Drizzle chocolate over the shortbread.  Leave to set.  (Store wedges in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 3 days). 

Variation
1. For chocolate-hazelnut shortbread, add in chocolate chips into the shortbread mixture before baking.
2. For almond shortbread, use almond meal instead of hazelnut meal

Petits Pois à la Française (French style peas)

This image really does not do justice to this dish.  In the past 5 days since trying this recipe, I've made it three times for our family dinner! It's absolutely delicious, healthy and easy to make.  I love the combination of vegetables; that type of vibrant green produce immediately transports me to a wholistic, country fresh place. 

Ingredients

50g butter
16 baby onions or French shallots
500g frozen peas
250g finely shredded iceberg lettuce
handful of fresh (Italian) flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 cup chicken stock
1-2 tbsp plain flour

Method
Melt 30g of the butter in a large saucepan or frypan.  Add the onions and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes.  Add the peas, lettuce, parsley and sugar.  Pour in the stock and stir well.  Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Stir occassionally so that the onions are cooked through evenly.  Mix remaining butter into pan.  Add small amounts of the flour to the vegetables; stirring until the juice thicken.  Serve.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Carrot and Orange Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

The summery climate is slowly starting here in Australia; whilst across the other side of the world you are saying your goodbyes to autumn.  So, in honour of both these seasons I turned to my carrot and orange cupcakes.  I really believe they are perfect for either season; there's that hint of summery orange tempered with that typical autumn combination of carrot, nuts and warm spices.  The cupcakes themselves are delicious and satisfying.  I love how fluffy they are, I love the spices, oh and I also love that contrasting texture when you crunch into a walnut.  Makes 16

Ingredients
1 1/4 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 generous tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
80g walnuts, chopped
2 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup grated carrot (ie. 2 lge carrots)
2 1/2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp lemon zest

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Frosting
250g lite cream cheese
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 - 1 1/2 tbsp fresh orange juice (or lemon juice)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
+ little decorative umbrellas

Method
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan-forced) and line enough patty cases for 16.  In a bowl, place the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and nuts.  Mix until combined well.  In a seperate bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale and creamy.  Pour in the oil and mix until well combined.  Add carrots, orange juice and lemon zest. Mix to combine.  Pour wet ingredients into dry; mix together until just combined; avoid overmixing.  Pour into cases and bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool before topping with cream cheese frosting.  To make frosting, beat cream cheese with electric mixer until spreadable consistency.  Add in all of the icing sugar.  Allow to combine slightly, and then add the orange juice (or lemon juice, whatever you prefer).  Spread onto cool cakes and top them with little spoonfuls of shredded coconut.  Insert umbrella into cupcakes for decorative flare. Serve.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a French style vegetable dish.  Chez moi, it is a dish we make a lot; usually served alongside rosemary lamb.  I love the almost sweet taste that the vegetables end up having.  A truly French provincial taste!

Ingredients
5 tomatoes
olive oil
2 red onions, diced
2 small red capsciums, diced
1 small green capsicum, diced
4 small courgettes, diced
2 generous pinches of salt
1 tbsp tomato sauce (or 1 tsp tomato paste with 1/2 tsp sugar)
1 bay leaf
2 generous pinches of dried thyme
2 generous pinches of dried basil
1 crushed garlic clove

Method
Bring water to the boil in a pot.  Score a cross in the base of the tomatoes.  Dunk the tomatoes into the boiling water for around 20 seconds, and then remove them from water.  Peel away skin, and roughly chop.  Set aside.  In a pan, heat the oil and add the onion; cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add capscium and cook, stiring, for 4 minutes.  Stir through the salt. Remove them both from pan and set aside.  Fry zucchini in pan until browned and return onion and capiscum to the pan.  Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes.  Add tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, and basil.  Stir well.  Add garlic; stir again.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes on very low heat.  Remove bay leaf.  Serve!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas Chocolate Cupcakes

I created the recipe for these delightful cupcakes two days ago, and since then have made them twice.  They are divine; a balanced mouthful of chocolate indulgence with light buttercream icing.  My favourite part about them is dressing them up with christmas wreaths, candy-canes or stockings!

Ingredients
125g butter, cubed
110g milk chocolate
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup milk, + 1 tbsp extra
1 egg
1/2 cup self raising flour
3/4 cup plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 generous tbsp cocoa powder

Method
In a saucepan on medium heat, stir together with a metal spoon the butter, chocolate, sugar and milk.  When the mixture is all melted and combined, turn off the heat, and pour the mixture into a mixing bowl.  This will help speed up the cooling process.  Leave to cool slightly for 5 minutes; speed up the process by stirring it to incorporate some air.  Once cool, quickly add in the 1 egg and with a balloon whisk, beat it in.  Then sift over the flours, and using the whisk, mix them in.   Add in the cocoa powder and vanilla.  When mixture is smooth and combined, pour into patty cases.  Should make around 18 - 20 cupcakes.  Cover with butter cream icing (recipe here)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Best Buttercream for Cupcakes

I'm finally back and posting! I'm an official graduate of 2010 now.  Freedom is sweet (pun intended).  And for you, that means a lot more recipes!

Whilst this is a very simple recipe, it is by far the best recipe for icing that I've tried.  Usually, buttercream icing is not my strong point.  For some sad reason the butter separates or the texture is grainy.  But in the last week, admist making christmas cupcakes (as pictured) and 'thank you' cupcakes for my teachers and peers, this has not failed once! It's a fabulous consistency for piping and smooth decorating strokes.  Plus, it's super super delicious. 

Ingredients
125g butter, cubed, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp milk, at room temperature

Method
It is important to have the butter and milk at room temperature.  Place cubes of butter in a large mixing bowl.  Cream until the butter is as white as possible, say 2 minutes.  Very gradually add half of the sifted icing sugar; beating continuously.  Gradually add the milk; beating continuously.  Very gradually add the rest of the icing sugar; beating continuously.  Icing should be a smooth and spreadable consistency.  Note, in the fridge it will harden.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Massaman Stir Fry

Stir fry is a staple dish at our house.  This recipe was originally made up by my mother, and it is seriously tastey! It would make enough for 6, with leftovers probably.



Ingredients
700g sweet potoato, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
500g chicken or beef
2 pkt tofu
2 onion
3 carrots
3 zucchini
2 handful of green beans
2/3 cup massaman curry paste, plus 2 tbsp
1 can carnation lite coconut milk
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
2/3 cup fresh chopped coriander

Method
Boil, steam or microwave potatoes til under.  Drain.  Do the same for the zucchini and beans.  Trim away and discard any excess fat from chicken or beef.  Thinly slice and cook in a frypan.  Once meat is cooked, remove it and keep it warm.  In frypan, cook onion, carrots and paste together.  Add milk. Stir-fry until carrots are tender. Add tofu. Return chicken to frypan with potatoes, zucchini, beans, sauce, sugar and peanuts.  Stir fry until hot.  Stir in corriander.  Serve.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bitter Cocoa Chocolate Cake

This is the final cake in the "Best Chococlate Cake" search! It comes from my best friend's mother, Rita, who is a talented cook. The cake itself was rather bitter; but balanced with the sweet icing. Whilst it doesn't win the "best" title, it was still enjoyable.  You will find the recipe below in the post.

I guess you're wondering what cake won the title of "Best Chocolate Cake?" Well, there are two winners! Firstly, if you love rich, dense and chocolately cakes then the Best Chocolate Cake for you is Nigella Lawson's Dense Chocolate Cake.  This one didn't even need icing it was that good!  I'm serious, about 15 people tasted all these cakes; and this one was the most popular.  Now, if you like things a little lighter, yet still very chocolately and satisfying...the best one is Women's Weekly Smooth Chocolate Cake.  This was still dense, but in a more "cakey" way instead of Nigella's more "brownie dense" texture.  I also think it's necessary to give a special title of "Best Chocolate Icing" and this goes to Nigella's Sour Cream Chocolate Icing.  It is "mouthfillingly smooth" and so easy to enjoy.

Thank you for following the Best Chocolate Cake search! If you try any of the cakes, I'd love to know.  Below is the recipe for the last chocolate cake in the search:

Ingredients
125g unsalted butter
1/2 caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup self raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp drinking chocolate
1/2 cup milk

Ingredients for Icing
85g unsalted butter
1/3 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp milk

Method
Preheat oven 180C. Grease cake tin. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add eggs graudally, beating after every addition. Add essence and beat until combined. Using a metal spoon, fold in sifted dry ingredients alterntaely with milk. Stir until just combined. Put in tin and smooth surface. Bake for 30 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Leave in tin 10 mins then transfer to wire rack. To make the icing, beat butter, sugar and cocoa until light and creamy. Gradually beat in milk. Beat until smooth and spread over cooled cake.

Monday, October 25, 2010

White Chocolate Bra Cakes

I want to share these with you because the taste of the actual cake batter and white chocolate ganache tastes divine.  I made these alongside the bra biscuits; but I do think people were more keen on these because of the moist and dense texture of these "white chocolate mud cakes" turned "bra cakes."  This batter will make 12 cupcakes.

Ingredients
125g butter chopped
100g white chocolate
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, lightly whisked
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup self raising flour
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Ingredients for Ganache
260g white chocolate
1/2 cup thickened cream
+ colouring and desired decorations

Method
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees and line a 12 cup capacity cupcake tray.  Combine the butter, chocolate, sugar and milk in a saucepan on medium heat.  Stir until the mixture is smooth; about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and transfer to a heatproof bowl; set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.  Use ballon whisk to gently whisk in egg. Sift flours over chocolate mixture and gently whisk until just combined.  Stir in vanilla bean paste.  Pour mixture into prepared tray and bake for 30 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.  Turn onto a wire rack and set aside to cool completely; around 1 hour.  Meanwhile, make chocolate ganache by placing chocolate and cream in a saucepan.  Stir with metal spoon until mixture is smooth and place in fridge for 2 hours, or freezer for around 1 hour until ganache thickens and is spreadable rather than runny.   Add pink food colouring when appropriate ganache is thickened, and stir through.  Spread onto cupcakes and decorate as desired.

Batter can be made into mini "breast cancer" cupcakes

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bra Biscuits for Breast Cancer Awareness

The 25th of October is the official day to host a Breast Cancer Awareness Breakfast.  I'm hosting a little morning tea among my friend's at school; and so I made these.  The recipe comes from none other than the fabulous Miss Nigella Lawson.  She calls them her "Butter Cut Out Biscuits" - but for my purposes I shall name these "Bra Biscuits."
Also, I want to dedicate this post to those women who have been affected by breast cancer.  Every day, 7 women die from breast cancer.  Through fundraising and creating awareness, we can all do our bit to reduce this terrible statistic.  All of us with baking and food blogs have great skills - I challenge you to somehow put them to use to raise awareness for breast cancer.

Ingredients
175g unsalted butter, soft
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
400g plain flour, preferably Italian 00
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan-forced).  Cream the butter and sugar until pale and moving towards moussiness, then beat in eggs and vanilla.  In another bowl, combine flour, powder and salt.  Add dry ingredients to butter and eggs, and mix gently but surely.  If you think mixture is too sticky to be rolled out, add more flour, but do so sparingly as this makes the dough tougher.  Halve the dough, form into fat discs, wrap each in clingwrap and rest in fridge for at least 1 hour.  Sprinkle some flour on board, place 1 disc of dough on board (leave other in fridge) and roll out to about 1/2cm thickness.  Cut your desired shapes (I used a love heart) and place them a little apart on baking trays.  Bake for 8-12 minutes, by which time they will be lightly golden around the edges.  Cool on rack and continue with the rest of the dough.  When they're all fully cooled, you can get on with the icing. (Following recipe for Icing is not from Nigella Lawson)

Ingredients for Icing
2 cup icing sugar
2 egg whites
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
+ desired colour
+ desired decorations

Method
Whisk together the icing sugar, egg and lemon. Apply to cookies before the icing sets.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chocolate Fudge Cake

This recipe is based on a "Chocolate Fudge Cake" recipe which comes from the Baking Bible.  When we ate a test slice at room temperature the cake was delicious - light and soft with intensely silky icing.  The icing was a real winning point.  However, overnight in the fridge the icing really hardened and the cake seemed to firm up.  Of course if it came down to room temperature it would be fluffy again, but all this 'changing of texture due to temperature' is annoying and detracts from this cake's ability of winning the "best chocolate cake" title.

Ingredients

175g butter, softened
175g white sugar
3 eggs
3 tbsp golden syrup
45g ground almonds
175g self raising flour
80g best cocoa powder

Ingredients for Icing
225g plain chocolate, in pieces
55g dark brown sugar or muscovado sugar
225g butter, diced
5 tbsp evaporated milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan-forced) and grease and line two sandwich cake tins.  In a bowl, beat together the butter and sugar for the cake until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the eggs one at a time.  Stir in the golden syrup and ground almonds.  Sift in the flour and cocoa powder.  Add around 2 tbsp of water, or more if needed until droppping consistency.  Spoon mixture into tins and bake for 30 - 35 minutes.  Leave cakes in tin for 5 minutes, then turn onto wire racks to cool completely.  When they are cold, sandwich cakes together with icing.  To make icing, place chocolate, sugar, butter, evaporated milk, and vanilla in a saucepan.  Heat gently, stirring constantly, until melted.  Leave to cool and then transfer to fridge for an hour, until spreadable.  To make love heart, melt some chocolate and layer a chocolate heart pattern on some baking paper.  Make sure its thick enough that it won't break later.  Leave in freezer for 30 minutes to set.  Once cakes are iced, top the cake with love heart and outline with white fudge icing or icing pens.  (I iced my cake with still warm-ish icing, so it melted my chocolate heart into the cake).  Serve.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Comforting Chicken Pot Pie



I think this recipe is perfect for all of you experiencing Autumn at the moment! It's warm, comforting and hearty which is exactly the type of food I love to eat when the weather gets windy and cold. I got the idea to make it from my older sister when we were watching an episode of "Nigella Express." The pie looked so good; the way Nigella cracked the pastry into the gravy laden chicken and vegetable pot.  She made individual serves, but I decided to make two big pies (the recipe and appropriate quantities written below) for my family and some friends that were over at the time.  We served it with mushy peas and pumpkin which complimented the sweetness in the pie thanks to the splosh of marsala.  

Ingredients
9 rashers of lean bacon, cut into 1cm squares
1 onion, chopped
15 - 20 button mushrooms, cut into cubes
750g chicken breast, into bite size pieces
10 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp dried thyme
4 tbsp butter or margarine
4 cups hot [good quality] chicken stock
5 tbsp marsala
3 carrots, sliced
+ 3 sheets of puff pastry
+ mushy peas, to serve
+ mashed pumpkin, to serve

Method
Set out two large pots suitable for the oven.  Remove the pastry from the freezer so that it will thaw in time.  Preheat the oven to around 200-210 degrees (fan-forced).  In a large fry pan, heat a tiny bit of oil and softened the onion.  Add the bacon and cook until cooked or crispy to your preference.  Add mushrooms and softened them in pan along with onion and bacon.  While your waiting for mushrooms to softened, toss the chicken, thyme and flour in a freezer bag so chicken is evenly coated.  When mushrooms are ready, melt butter in pan.  Add the chicken to the pan once the butter is melted through, and cook until chicken is coloured and cooked.  While chicken is cooking, I cooked my carrots in the microwave.  Pour in hot stock and marsala, stirring so that a sauce forms.  Add the now cooked carrots. Let bubble away for 5 minutes to 7 minutes.  Turn off frypan and evenly distribute this chicken filling into the pots.  Make a pastry rim for the two pots, wetting so that the pastry sticks.  The rim will need to be about 2cm thick and curled around the top of the pots.  Then cut two lids for each of the pots.  They will need to be larger than the circumfrence of the pot, and will need to be wet slightly so they stick to the pastry rim.  Press the rims/lid down with fingers or fork.  Add three fork prongs in the center of the pie.  Cook pies for around 30 - 40 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking time.  Pies are ready when the pastry is magnificently puffed up.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nigella Lawson's Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

This is my 7th cake in the chocolate cake search and was recommended by some of you bloggers!  It comes from Nigella Lawson, so that in itself was promising.  She described that the sour cream provides a "wonderful mouth-filling smoothness".  She was right (like always) as the texture of the cake was velvety smooth and the icing was equally luxurious.  I actually declared that it was the best chocolate icing I've ever tasted.  This is a favourite cake and now one of the top contenders! The only thing that lets it down, it that the smooth texture hardens slightly in the fridge which you may see from the image.  I would therefore recommend serving it at room temperature.

Ingredients
200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
200g soft unsalted butter
40g best cocoa
150mL sour cream
2 lge eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients for Icing
80g milk chocolate
80g dark chocolate
75g unsalted butter
125mL sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp golden syrup
300g icing sugar, seived
1/2 tsp hot water

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan-forced) and prepare 2 sandwich cake tins.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarb and salt in large bowl.  Using electric mixer, add butter.  In a measuring jug, whisk together cocoa, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla, then slowly add this mixture to flour ingredients in bowl; beating until thoroughly mixed.  Pour batter into tins and bake for 30 minutes; when they're ready cakes should be starting to shrink back from edge of tins.  Leave for 10 minutes in tins on racks, then turn out to cool.
To make icing, melt chocolate and butter.  Let cool a little, then stir in sour cream, vanilla and syrup.  Add icing sugar, and a little hot water, blending until smooth.  Place one cake on plate and ice the top; leaving a slight 1cm border.  Place the other cake on top and ice this too.  Then go around the sides of the cakes to ice.  There will be enough icing to generously ice the middle and top of the cakes; so don't be scant on one certain level.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Spring themed Croquembouche à la maison

This morning I woke up inspired by last night's course.  I kept thinking of beautiful ways to decorate the croquembouche - ribbons, butterflies, flowers, chocolate, royal icing; the list is endless. This one pictured here is my "Spring themed Croquembouche." Clearly other pastry artists have used this concept too which you can see here.

I was worried that I wouldn't be able to do it myself without expert chef advice but it actually came together better than yesterday! The only thing is cleaning the damn toffee caramel from the pots! Do you have any advice? And another annoying thing is that I can't resist popping a profiterole every time I walk by the kitchen!
Nevertheless, I think it's worth the clean up...and the possible jog.

Croquembouche Cooking Course!


As the final gift from my birthday which was in September, I recieved a cooking course for la Croquembouche! This is great because it has been a while since I last did a French recipe.  Croquembouche is a traditional French wedding cake in the shape of a cone, made from Profiteroles, filled with custard and coated with toffe and spun sugar.  There are many different versions and I do look forward to discovering various ways of decorating and profiterole fillings.  However, as Croquembouche translates to "crunch in the mouth" we stuck with the traditional crunchy toffee which contrasted beautifully with the velvety custard.  Here is my step by steps! It will take time to perfect croquembouche; but the results are truly impressive.
  

 Basic Choux Pastry Ingredients
200ml water
2g caster sugar
1g sea salt
100g unsalted butter
175g 00 [bakers] flour
4-5 eggs [approx 60-70g)

Method for Pastry
Place cold water, salt and sugar in a pot; bring to a gentle boil.  Meanwhile cut the butter into 1cm dice cubes and add to pot so butter just melts as water approaches gentle boil (should be around 98 degrees).  At that point add all of the sifted flour.  Mix immediately over low heat with wooden spoon.  Dough will come away from sides of pot and develop a gloss; cook in order to bind for about 2-3 minutes.  You will know roughly when it is glossy, bound and steam is coming off mixture.  Remove from heat, keep stirring for 2 minutes off the heat to let it cool slightly.  A trick to test if it's cool enough is to touch with your fingers and if they don't hurt/burn then it's fine.  This is important otherwise the eggs, which are now to be added, will simply scramble.  Add 1 of the eggs, and incoroporate thoroughly.  Then add another, and incorporate.  Keep going until all eggs are in and the mixture is not to dry or stiff.  A trick to testing if the choux pastry is going okay is to see if it slowly falls off the spoon when held up in the air over the bowl.  The paste should ultimately be a piping consistency ie. hold up on the tray.  Line a tray, pop the paste in a piping bag and start piping into cone shapes.  Use a 8-10mm straight nozzle in the piping bag and water to smooth any mishapen cones.  Bake at 190 degrees in moist oven until fully risen, 8 or so minutes.  When I say moist - spray your oven with some water from a bottle before poping the tray in.  Alternatively pop a small stainless steel bowl full of water at the bottom tray of your oven.  Now you need a dry oven to colour the pastry for another 6 minutes or until golden in colour then drop temperature to 140-150 degrees to dry out inside of pastry, another 10-15 minutes necessary baking time.  Remove and place on cooling rack.  This will make approx 40 profiteroles.

Filled Profiteroles

Ingredients for Crème Patissiere

350mL milk
half vanilla pod or 2g paste
3 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
40g plain flour

Method
Place milk and vanilla in a pot on saucepan and bring up to gentle boil.  Mix together in a seperater bowl, the yolks, sugar and flour.  Whisk the now warm milk onto the yolk mixture in thirds.  Return to a clean pot and bring back to gentle boil mixing continuously with a wooden spoon.  Cook for approx 4 minutes or until thick, glossy and the floury taste diminishes.  The crème patissiere can now be used to fill the cool profiteroles.  Poke a hole in the profiteroles (not too large) with a knife or tip of scissor.  Place crème patissiere in a piping bag without either a thin nozzle or a piping bag with a small hole in it.  Fill them up so that the profiteroles are full, but wipe away excess crème otherwise when the toffee and crème touch the toffee will seize.


Ingredients for Sugar Toffee
200mL water
500g caster sugar
50g glucose (optional)

Method

Place water, sugar and glucose into a pot and then onto stove and boil steadily - you will need to brush down insides of pot with a clean pastry brush and water to prevent crystalizing until it reaches 160c.  Use a sugar thermometer for confirmation of this.  Caramel will be golden incolour.  Use whilst hot/warm.  Wear rubbes gloves, and have a bowl of white water on hand and be very careful.

Assembly of Croquembouche
Proceed to build your tower into a cone shape freestyle or use a cone shaped mould (or even a party hat). Make the base by dipping them in chocolate or the sugar toffee and sticking it to a base around the cone mould or party hat.  Once the toffee/chocolate is set, dip the next profiterole and stick ontop to create the beginnings of a next layer.  Continue to layer using toffee or chocolate as the "glue" and profiteroles as the "bricks." Using a spoon before the caramel is completely set, you can touch lightly the caramel and move it so the sugar spins into decorative whisps.  If not, place two wooden spoons in your sink like a bridge and whip the caramel of them to make stringy thin pieces.  Alternatively again, whip a design on baking paper and pull it off the paper when set; adorn onto croquembouche tower.
Use maybe 3-4 profiteroles per person per portion, and this will dictate the size of your cake.  Croqeumbouche is made to be served and eaten up immediately - enjoy that crunch and the taste.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chocolate Pound Cake

I was chatting to the lovely Kitchen Flavours with regards to cakes made on butter or oil.  We both decided that oil tends to result in a light texture which keeps better, but the classic taste and density of buttery cakes is really rather unbeatable.  So, for my next cake experiment I turned to the all time classic cake - the simple pound cake - with a chocolate variation.  This recipe comes from "500 cakes" which writes, "originally the cake was made with a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs and flour, hence its name." Whilst this cake was enjoyed, and its buttery crumb like texture was nice, I must say that it will not be taking the "best chocolate cake" title.

Ingredients
200g butter, at room temperature
320g caster sugar
6 large eggs
280g self-raising flour
4 generous tbsp of milk
1 tsp vanilla extact
5 tbsp best quality cocoa

Ingredients for Thin Layer of Icing
1 1/3 cup icing sugar
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp warm water
1/3 cup cocoa powder
+ icing sugar for sprinkling

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan-forced) and grease and line a round cake tin.  Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then  beat in the eggs one at a time.  Sift the flour over the mixture, then fold in.  Stir in the milk and vanilla.  Spoon the cake batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top with back of spoon.  Bake for 1 hour or until risen and skewer inserted comes out clean (slight chocolate stain on skewer is fine).  Leave to cool in tin for few minutes, then transfer to wire rack.  To make icing, beat together all ingredients and thinly smooth over.  Dust lightly with icing sugar and serve.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Maderia Muffins

I recently acquired Nigella's cookbook "How to be a Domestic Goddess" and the first recipe I made from there was the Maderia Cake.  I was short on time, so decided to bake this simple but tasty recipe as muffins.  Nigella believes this is the sort of plain cake recipe you can't see the point of...until you start slicing and eating it.

Ingredients

240g softened unsalted butter
200g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
210g self-raising flour
90g plain flour

Method
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees (fan-forced) and prepare a 24 muffin tray.  Cream the butter and sugar, and add the lemon zest.  Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour for each.  Then gently mix in the rest of the flour, and finally, the lemon juice.  Sprinkle with caster sugar (about 2 tbsp should do it) as it goes into the oven, and bake for 1 hour or until a cake-tester comes out clean.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

It's a well known fact that buttermilk instantly makes baked goods fluffy and light.  So I thought my next chocolate cake recipe should contain buttermilk to see if it would create a winner cake.  It definitely resulted in a fantastic cake which was fluffy...yet still dense. My friend's at school annouced it a "fluffy chocolate enjoyment." This may also be because the cake batter was made on oil (rather than butter) which means the cake will dry out slower and therefore keep better.   I think it even beat the original cake I posted from my Grandmother. Despite the praise, it was decided amongst us 15 or so school girls that Nigella Lawson's cake or the Women's Weekly cake are still the top contestants in this competition.  

Ingredients
2 cups flour
2 cups caster sugar
3/4 cup quality cocoa
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 large eggs
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Ingredients for Icing
1 1/2 cup icing sugar
2/3 cup quality cocoa
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp butter, soft

Method

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees (fan-forced) and line a large round baking tin (This batter made a huge cake, plus an additional 4 cupcakes for my family, so prepare yourself for a large batter mix!)  Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, but ensure to sift the flour and cocoa beforehand.  Mix at medium speed until the ingredients are blended and smooth.  Pour into tin and bake for 1 hour - 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Test with a skewer.  Allow to cool in pan completely before turning out to wire rack.  To make the icing, beat all the ingredients in a bowl until smooth.  Ice cake using flicking motions to achieve this 'cloud like' icing texture.  Top with chocolate freckles, or homemade chocolate moulds (as pictured).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chickpea Patties

Again, I digress from my "chocolate cake" search momentarily to present a very satisfying and healthy dish.  This comes from the magazine Recipes+ and is great for all you vegetarians out there! Pop it on some bread for a burger, or serve with a salad for an easy midweek meal.  To change this recipe up a bit, keep the rice and chickpea base and add in a varitey of vegetables to nutritionally bolster this recipe.  This will make 4 large patties. 

Ingredients
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 x 400g cans chickpeas, rinsed
1 cup booked long-grain brown rice (ie. cook about 1/3 cup brown rice to get this)
1/4 cup sundried tomato pesto
+ flour for dusting

Method
Heat oil in a large frying pan over moderate heat.  Add onion; cook and stir for 5 minutes or until soft.  Add garlic; cook and stir for 1 minute or until fragrant.  Cool slightly.  Process onion mixture, chickpeas, rice and pesto until combined, scraping down side of bowl with a  spatula occassionally.  Shape mixture into 4 patties, about 10cm in diameter.  Lightly dust patties with flour.  Spray a large non-stick frying pan with oil.  Add patties; cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden.  Serve as a burger pattie, or alongside a salad.

Nearly Flourless Chocolate Cake (or Brownie)

This recipe comes from "500 cakes" and appealed to me due to the low amount of flour.  Foodies often think that little flour in a cake means either a lovely light texture or a really dense texture.  This time it resulted in a very dense, rich texture. Whilst this chocolate 'cake' was delicious for what it was, it was more so a brownie than a cake.  If you enjoy brownies or even rich mud cakes then by all means this is a fantastic recipe, however, for the purpose of this chocolate cake search I'm sorry to report that I don't think this can even be considered in the running as a cake.

Ingredients
260g dark chocolate
170g butter, diced
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs
70g plain flour

Method
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (fan-forced) and line a round springform tin.  Break the chocolate pieces and put them in a heatproof bowl along with the butter.  Plcae the bowl over a pan of simmering water and heat gently until the chocolate and butter have melted.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.  Stir in the sugar, then beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Sift teh flour over the mixture, then fold in. Tip the mixture into the pan and bake for 55 minutes until firm on top with a little wobble in the centre.  The cake will firm as it cools.  Leave to cool in the tin. Carefully turn cake out onto a serving plate and serve in wedges with thick cream or ice with chocolate ganache (as pictured).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

The search finally progresses! I'm back at school now and it is the final term of Year 12 so things are heating up.  But on the upside, I have lots of friends to offer chocolate cake to seeing as my family and I aren't chocolate fanatics.  I brought this cake to school today which is why this cake sort of looks like child's play. Despite the lack of elaborate decoration, everyone said it was amazing.  The texture was moist, very dense and chocolatey.  This may well have what it takes to win.  So far it's between this one and the Women's Weekly cake.  If I were to liken this cake to anything it would be somewhat similar to a brownie simply because of the density.  This is Nigella Lawson's recipe so I'm betting that this will be the eventual winner.  She writes that "it is the essence of all that is desirable" in a chocolate cake.  She also says that it is so good it doesn't need icing, however, still provides a recipe.  And I do agree with her suggestion.

Ingredients
225g soft unsalted butter
375 dark muscovado sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g best dark chocolate, melted
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250mL boiling water

Ingredients for Optional Icing
175g dark chocolate
75g milk chocolate
200mL double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
+ smarties to decorate


Method
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees (fan-forced) and grease and line a loaf tin.  Lining the tin is important.  Cream the butter and sugar with hand-held mixer, then add eggs and vanilla, beating well. Next, fold in the now slightly cooled melted chocolate, take care to blend well but being careful not to overbeat.  You want the ingredients combined: you don't want a light airy mass.  Then gently add the flour, to which you've added the bicarb, alternately spoon by spoon, with the boiling water until you have a smooth and fairly liquidy batter.  Pour into the lined loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes.  Turn the oven down to 170 degrees and continue to bake for further 15 minutes.  Cake will be slightly squidgy inside, so an inserted skewer won't come out completely clean.  Place loaf tin on a rack, and leave to completely cool before turning it out.  This cake improves the next day.  Don't worry if it sinks in middle: indeed, it will do so because it's such a dense cake. 

Method for Optional Icing
Break all the chocolate into pieces and heat with the cream and vanillain a saucepan until melted.  Whisk until it's a good consistency for icing, and spoon onto cake.  Smooth out and stud the cake with smarties.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Baklava Cigars

I would like to momentarily interrupt my chocolate cake quest to bring to you these amazing little Baklava Cigars, also known as Poura in Greece.  This recipe is enough for 30.  I made 90 of these for my older sister's international themed party and had a lot of time to perfect the mixture and taste.  And I think I have a responsibility to warn you that these contain traces of absolute pleasure.


Ingredients
150g walnuts, finely chopped
80g blanched almonds, finely chopped
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
10 sheets filo pastry
125g unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp blanched almonds, finely chopped, extra
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon extra
2 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients for Syrup
1 lemon
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves

Method
Defrost your filo sheets for 2 hours so that they are easy to use and seperate without ripping.  Follow the instructions on the box in case it recommends a different defrost time.  If you're worried about the pastry from drying out, pop a slightly damp tea towel on top of the stack.  In a food processor, process the walnuts and almond until they are finely chopped.  You do not want them to be a powder (like almond meal) but you don't want them to be too chunky either.  It's a size that you could not possibly achieve with a knife, but don't go overboard with the processing.  Once processed, combined these nuts with the sugar and spices and vanilla in a bowl.  Lay 1 sheet of pastry on a large board, horizontal way.  Cut pastry sheet into 3 even strips.  Brush each strip with butter.  Spoon 3 level teaspoons of nut mixture into a pile on the end of the pastry strip.  Ensure to leave a 3.5cm border.  Fold in sides, brush with butter, roll up tightly to form a cigar shape.  Repeat with remaining pastry, butter and nut mixture.  Place cigars onto greased oven trays, brush with remaining butter.  Bake in moderate oven about 12 minutes or until lightly browned; cool on trays.  The cigars can be premade and left in the fridge until you're ready to make the syrup.  Do not make the syrup until you are absolutely ready to serve them.

Method for the Syrup
Spot the half eaten cigar...
Place cigars in a single layer inside a shallow pan.  Set aside.  Using a vegetable peeler, peel ring thinly from half of lemon.  Combine sugar and water in pan, stir over heat, without boiling until sugar is dissolved.  Add rind, cinnamon, and cloves to pan.  Simmer, uncovered, without stirring for 2 minmutes.  Cool slightly before pouring syrup over the cigars, and sprinkle extra nuts and cinnamon over cigars.  Serve.  If you have left overs, the cigars will continue to soak up the syrup and become less crisp, but this is equally as delicious. If you want more syrup-soaked cigars, then soak them before serving.

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