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.

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

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.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Smooth Chocolate Cake

The next recipe I've tested in my search for the Best Chocolate Cake comes from Women's Weekly Cooking School book.  The recipe claimed to deliver a moist and dense cake because the mixture is boiled before being baked.  Indeed, this cake certainly had a lovely dense texture which I've been searching for! My friends rated it from a 7/10 to a 9/10.  The main feedback was that it needed an increase of cocoa.  What I particularly liked about this cake is that it was so smooth: the texture, the icing, and even the mixture itself before I baked it.  This may well have what it takes to be the Best Chocolate Cake, but I think it's too early in the search to say for certain.  For now, I give you this recipe and you can decide for yourselves.  By the way, this recipe results in enough batter for 3 cakes, or 2 rather large cakes.

3 cups caster sugar
250g butter, chopped
2 cups water
1/3 cup cocoa powder (or more)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 cups self-raising flour
4 eggs

Ingredients for Icing
90g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cup icing sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 160 degrees (fan-forced) and grease and line 2 to 3 round baking tins (or recipe says a 26.5cm by 33cm baking dish will also work for 1 large cake).  Stir sugar, butter, water, sifted cocoa and soda in a medium saucepan over heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves.  Bring to the boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl; cool to room temperature.  Add flour and eggs to bowl; beat with electric mixture until mixture is smooth and pale in colour.  Pour mixture into pan.  Bake cake for 50 minutes.  Stand in tin for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, make icing by stirring all the ingredients in a saucepan until mixture is smooth.  Cover and refrdigerate for 20 minutes or until it thickens.  Beat with a wooden spoon until spreadable.  Smooth over cake.  Decorate as desired.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Childhood Chocolate Cake

I am on a quest to find the best chocolate cake recipe.  Over the next week or so, I'm going to try different chocolate cake recipes in order to find the best: one that is the perfect ratio of chocolate vs sweetness, one that is moist, and one that looks good too.  In order to find the best chocolate cake recipe among the many recipes that exist, I decided to go back to the beginning for me; a cake that comes from my childhood.  This chocolate cake recipe was given to me from my grandmother.  It has an amazing height (7cm high exactly), and includes the best chocolate icing I've tasted. We always use 3/4 cup sugar, but if you like things sweet, go for the whole 1 cup.  Another tradition surrounding this cake, is that it must be served with cream.  The only thing this cake doesn't deliver is a really moist texture.  So the search will continue...

1 3/4 self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup - 1 cup caster sugar
110g butter
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs (or 2 catering eggs)

Ingredients for Icing
11/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp milk

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl; add sugar.  Add melted butter gradually; mix well with wooden spoon.  Add milk and vanilla; beat on low speed until combined.  In a seperate bowl, beat together the eggs until they are lighter in colour and beginning to be foamy.  Gradually add these eggs to the main mixture; beating well after each addition on medium speed.  Put this mixture into a greased and lined round tin.  Bake in oven for 65 minutes on 170 degrees (fan-forced) or until cooked when tested.  To make icing, sift together icing sugar and cocoa.  Add butter and milk and beat until smooth.  Top cake with icing and sprinkles.  Serve with cream.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Honey and Cinnamon Muffins

Yesterday it was my 17th birthday and I recieved a beautiful cupcake tower from my mum.  Whilst these are not cupcakes, they were certainly fitting to celebrate the beauty of the cupcake tower.  These light muffins were best eaten straight out of the oven...with the cinnamon and honey taste truly coming through. 

135g almond meal
1 cup plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
160g butter
1/4 honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs, seperated whites and yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees (fan-forced) and line a 12 hole cupcake tray.  In a medium bowl, combine the almond meal, flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.  Beat butter, honey, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl until light and fluffy.  Add lightly beaten egg yolks one at a time on low speed.  Switch speed to medium and continue beating for 4-5 minutes.  Add flour mixture in 3 equal parts to the yolk batter with a wooden spoon, then using beaters, beat on low speed for exactly 5 seconds.  In a seperate bowl, beat the egg whites until light and fluffy, approx 4 minutes.  Gently fold these egg whites into the yolk batter in 3 parts.  Fold with a wooden spoon lightly and quickly until mixture is fully combined.  Be careful not to overbeat.  Spoon batter into prepared cupcake holes and bake for around 20-25 minutes.  Eat one at least hot from the oven!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mint Chocolate Brownies

A couple of nights ago my mother had her book club around, and we prepared asian style food for it.  I think that asian food requires a freshness and a zing, so what is a better dessert to serve than chocolate brownies with mint in them? 

100g milk chocolate, your favourite brand and/or quality
50g mint chocolate, must not be 'gooey' sort, chocolate must be solid but flavoured with mint
125g butter, cubed
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain flour
+ handful of chocolate dinner mints (can be gooey sort) roughly chopped

On low heat in a saucepan, place the milk and mint chocolate, the butter and cocoa powder together.  Stir with a metal spoon until ingredients are melted together.  Pour sugar into mixture and mix together until just combined.  Pour lightly beaten eggs into mixture and roughly bring together with spoon.  Sift flour over top of mixture and the roughly chopped of chocolate dinner mints; bring together with a wooden spoon.  Add 1/2 tbsp of milk extra if needed.  Pour into a lined brownie pan and bake in oven for around 50 minutes on 140 degrees (fan-forced).  Cut into bite size pieces before serving.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chocolate Collar Cheesecake

This decadent cheesecake I made with my friend Natalie. I was so happy that it turned out with no cracks or splits, even though we used low fat ingredients! It comes from Jane's Price Desserts book, and like all her recipes, there's nothing I could fault.  The baileys is the perfect amount, giving a sort of elegant edge to this already indulgent dessert.  Our chocolate collar surrounding the colossal cheesecake was slightly messy, but who really cares when things taste this good?

200g plain chocolate biscuits, crushed (we used plain digestive biscuits and choc-chip cookies)
70g unsalted butter, melted
500g cream cheese, softened
75g sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp cocoa powder
300g sour cream
1/3 cup Bailey's Irish Cream
50g white chocolate, melted
150g dark chocolate, melted
310mL whipped cream
+unsweetened cocoa powder and icing sugar, for dusting
Chocolate Collar


Brush a 23cm round springform cake tin with melted butter and line base with baking paper.  Mix together the biscuit crumbs and butter, pressing firmly into the base of the tin and refridgerate for 10 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fanforced).  Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth (tip: avoid over beating or end result will have cracks).  Add eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in cocoa powder and sour cream until just smooth.  Beat in cooled melted dark chocolate.  Beat in liqueur and pour over base.  Smooth surface and bake for about 45 minutes.  Cheesecake may not be fully set, but will firm up.  (Tip: allow cheesecake to come to room temperature in the oven).  Refridgerate until cold.  Remove cheesecake from tin, and put it on board.  Measure the height and add 5mm.  Cut strip of baking paper this wide and 75cm long.  (Tip: Measure this exactly for neat collar, do not have excess baking paper).  Pipe or drizzle melted white chocolate in a figure eight pattern along the paper.  When just set, spread the dark chocolate over the entire strip of paper.  Allow the chocolate to set a little, but you need to be able to bend paper without it cracking.  Wrap paper around the cheesecake with the chocolate on the inside.  Seal the ends and hold paper in place until completely set.  Peel away paper.  Spread the top of cheesecake with whipped cream, and dust with cocoa and icing sugar.  Serve. Savour.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Curried Vegetable Strudel

A few weeks ago, my mum bought me the food magazine Recipes+ on the condition that I would make her the "Curried Vegetable Strudel" which was one of the many recipes that graced its pages.  I finally got around to making it last night, and I'll certainly make it again.  I'd been putting off making it because it seemed difficult, but really it's rather straight forward.  And for me, I love the fact that there is no meat and it uses korma paste which is my favourite curry paste flavour.  Pack it with different veggies or a different paste for your own flavourful dish.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 leek, pale section only, thinly sliced
2 lge cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp korma curry paste
150g button mushrooms, quartered
600g sweet potato, cubed
1 cup vegetable stock
2/3 cup frozen peas
2 lge silverbeet leaves, thinly chopped
100g paneer cheese, cut into 1cm cubes
5 sheets filo pastry
2 tsp sunflower seeds
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges, to serve
1/2 cup Greek-style natural yoghurt, to serve
2 tbsp chopped mint, to serve

Heat oil in large frying pan.  Add leek, cook and stir for 5 minutes or until soft.  Add garlic and curry paste and cook/stir for 1 minute or until fragrant.  Add mushroom; cook and stir for 4 minutes or until soft.  Add potato and stock.  Cover; bring to the boil.  Reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, for 12 - 15 minutes, stirring occassionally or until potato is tender.  Uncover; add peas and silverbeet.  Simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes or until liquid evaporates.  Transfer to a large heatproof bowl and cool.  Stir paneer through.  Preheat oven to 170 degrees (fan-forced) and line tray with baking paper/.  Stack pastry on a flat work surface, spraying oil between sheets.  Spoon mixture onto centre of pastry stack; leaving an 8cm border.  Fold in sides, roll up to enclose filling and form a parcell.  Place, seam-side down, on prepared tray.  Spray with oil; sprinkle with seeds.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden.  Remove from oven.  Stand for 5 minutes.  Cut into slices.  Serve with tomato wedges and combined yoghurt and mint.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Yoghurt with Sweet Fruit Compte

This is one of my favourite things to eat.  It certainly makes an impressive start to the day, and so I would recommend it if you were cooking up a feast for guests at breakfast.  Don't discount it thinking that a compte is hard to make, it is so quick and easy, and really compte is just English for "stewed fruit." For me, it also echoes the taste of Christmas so it would be perfect for a Christmas breakky (even though it's a little early in the year to be thinking of one's plans foodie plans for Christmas...)Alternatively, you could trick yourself to believe that it's a healthier option for dessert!  Either way, it is delicious even though the recipe may sound odd.  I'll tell you the secret - it was inspired by my fruit cake recipe, which whenever I boil the fruit together I can't resist a spoonful of the sweet and sticky fruits.  The contrast of the cold yoghurt, with the warm and sweet sauce with crunch of almonds is just too great to describe.  When you drain away some of the excess butter (unless of course you want to have a sincerely indulgent start to the day) and pop it on some cold, thick, Greek Yoghurt then voilà you have a perfectly delicious bowl of "Yoghurt with Sweet Fruit Compte."

50g margarine, or cubes of butter
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup low fat milk
250g mixed dried fruit
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 to1/2 tsp nutmeg
generous pinch of ground ginger
2 tbsp almonds
+ 4 bowls of chilled Greek Yoghurt

In a saucepan, combine the ingredients (minus the yoghurt of course).  Bring the mixture to a boil; then reduce the heat and allow for the mixture to simmer for approximately 3-4 minutes.  This plumps up the fruit.  Take off the heat, and top each bowl of yoghurt with spoonfuls of the fruity sauce.  You mainly want the dried fruit and almonds, not so much the liquid.  If your being fanatically healthy, pour the mixture into a drainer/sift to remove any excess butter/sugar before topping the yoghurt.  Enjoy!
Serves 4

I'm sharing these at Cocina's Sunday at One Food Club, you should share your Sunday recipe too!

Australian Pavlova with White Chocolate Stars

This is my first attempt at a pavlova.  It was a success....except for the fact that I dropped it and it broke! However, it was still a delight to eat and lots of fun to decorate.  And although recipes for pavlovas are common, I still wanted to share this with you. You can top yours with cream as well which is normally what we "Aussies" like to do.

4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp cornflour

Preheat oven to 150 degrees (fan-forced) and prepare a tray with baking paper on it.  Whip the eggwhites in a bowl until stiff peaks form.  Gradually add the sugar along with the vanilla and continue to whisk until all the sugar is combined; the mixture should still be stiff but also glossy at this point. Stop your electric mixer to add the cornflour and vinegar, then turn on to whip until combined; avoid over whipping or mixture will lose its peaks.  Spoon mixture onto a tray lined with baking paper; shape into a dome approximately 18cm in circumfrence.  Reduce oven to 120 degrees and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Allow the pavlova to cool in the oven completely before topping with your desired fruit.  To make white chocolate stars, melt 70g of white chocolate using the doubler-boiler method.  Smooth the chocolate into star (or other shaped) moulds.  Set in freezer for 1-2 hours.  Serve pavlova with whipped cream.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lemon-Vanilla Yoghurt Cake

I have not updated in a week because I've been inundated with study for my exams.  I  have been resisting the urge to abandon my work and retreat to the kitchen, but I know I must push through until the holidays. Because of this small absence from baking, I was naturally very happy to finally be able to make a cake yesterday!  What does one bake when they haven't for a while? For me, something simple but delicious!  And this Lemon-Vanilla Yoghurt Cake certainly ticks that critera with its light texture, moist outside, and fantastic lemony flavour.  The recipe is created by me, inspired by generic recipes for a Lemon French Yoghurt Cake.

1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
1 cup caster sugar, less 1 and 1/2 tbsp
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
25g vanilla sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
+ extra 1/2 vanilla extract

Ingredients for Glaze
Juice from 2 lemons
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees (fan-forced) and grease a small loaf pan or round cake pan.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add 1 tsp of the grated lemon zest, and using your fingertips, lightly rub the zest into the flour.  In a seperate bowl, lightly rub the other tsp of zest into the plain caster sugar until the sugar has some parts moist from the zest and other parts untouched.  Add the yoghurt, eggs and vanilla to the sugar.  Whisk together until smooth.  Add this mixture, along with the 25g of vanilla sugar, to the dry ingredients; mix until just combined.  Add the oil, and extra 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and stir until smooth.  Bake for around 45 minutes on 170 degrees (fan-forced).  Remove cake from oven when it is springy to touch and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes, before inverting to a rack.  When the cake is cooled, combine the lemon juice and icing sugar together in a bowl and spoon this mixture over the cake.  Do not be alarmed if the glaze is thin, it will soak into the cake.  Refridgerate for 1 hour before serving.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Rocky Road

My Dad's favourite treat is Rocky Road.  So for Father's Day, instead of buying some, I decided to make it.  It's really straight forward and looks great in the end.  I particularly like the little red glacé cherries that poke through the mess of chocolate and marshmallows...

400g chocolate
2 cups pink and white marshmallows, roughly chopped, some into halves and some in quarters
1 cup shredded coconut
2/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
1 pkt red glacé cherries
60g butter, cubed
+ optional 1 - 1 1/2 tsp sherry

Line a 18 by In a large bowl, mix together the chopped marshmallows, coconut, peanuts and cherries.  Using the double boiler method (ie. heatproof bowl on top of a saucepan slightly filled with water) stir together the chocolate and butter with a metal spoon until it has melted.  Be careful not to over melt the chocolate, if there are still some very small bits of chocolate unmelted that should be fine.  Pour the melted chocolate and sherry over the marshmallow mixture and stir together until all the ingredients have an equal coating of chocolate.  Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving.  Cut into pieces. 

I am sharing this at Cocinca's Diary as part of her Sunday's at One Food Club, why don't you get involved too?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Springtime Individual Cakes

Well Spring is well and truly here in Australia.  The temperature is warming up, the flowers are starting too bloom and the possums on my roof are fighting...
So, to welcome my favourite season of the year here are my "Springtime Individual Cakes." I purchased this wonderful cake tin last week and was so happy that it arrived in time.  I highly recommend this tin!  It's manufactured by Nordicware and is cast aluminum so that all the intricate markings of the "backyard bugs" truly shows up.  I bought mine here but lots of online stores stock Nordicware.  I made these cakes in two batches, one with the Donna Hay Vanilla Cake and the other with the batter from my previously posted Donut Cake.  I topped them all with Royal Icing, and the recipe follows below.  I would recommend baking a light-coloured cake and using lighter colour glazes, such as light pink or white.  But experiment yourself and let your creativity come through!  Happy Spring!

1 cup icing sugar
1 egg white
1 squeeze lemon juice
+ your choice of colouring 

Whisk together all ingredients.  Lightly glaze the cakes immediately, and be sure to scrap the excess glaze off so that the details of the bugs' wings shows up.

Cakes made on "Donut Cake" recipe

Sticky Upside-down Orange and Vanilla Bean Cake

This is the last of the recipes that Loren and I made together.  It was by far the stand out (which says a lot seeing as all of the food was incredible).  The sticky orange topping made the cake moist, whilst the actual cake (below the topping) was fluffy and light.  I'm very glad we didn't include the orange skin because I think it made the topping even thicker and moister.  And although the Donna Hay recipe didn't say to, we also added a splash of cointreau (orange liqueur) to our piece of cake once it was served.  Delicious!

4 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup self-raising flour
150g butter, melted
1 cup almond meal

Ingredients for Orange Topping

1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 orages, very thinly sliced (we completely removed the rind of the orange, unlike Donna Hay)

Preheat the oven to 160°C and grease a round cake tin.  To make the topping, place the sugar, water and vanilla bean in a 2.5 litre capacity (10 cup) 20cm non-stick ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the orange and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until the orange is soft. Remove from the heat and set aside.  Place eggs, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk for 8 – 10 minutes or until the mixture is thick, pale and tripled in volume. Sift the flour over the egg mixture and fold through. Fold through the butter and almond meal. Pour the mixture over the orange and bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Turn out onto a platter to serve.

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