Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Cooking: Little Chocolate Gingerbread Cakes

Lately I've been baking largely from my Magnolia Bakery cookbook so I felt like changing direction for Christmas and baking something a little more grown up, which led me straight to Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. I love Martha. It's a bit sick.

These cakes are packed full of spices and flavour - molasses, freshly grated nutmeg, ground ginger, fresh ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves. When they came out of the oven the house smelled like Christmas. They should have been nice and flat on the top so that I could turn them upside down just like Martha did.


Unfortunately they rose. Some of them a LOT.


So I had to take a deep breath and acknowledge that they would not be as sophisticated as Martha's. Instead they look like cupcakes, which they are (clever Martha disguised hers!)


They are delicious delicious delicious all the same.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ruffles x 3

I want a set of these from Cottage Chic Shop. ASAP preferably. Not that I have anywhere to put them in the crack den that is our house at present. But they would look beautiful when set up for an afternoon tea garden party that exists in my imaginary lovely back yard.

In other news there has been a Hello Cupcake! challenge put up on facebook and you can actually WIN a copy of their new book called What's New, Cupcake. I never win anything although once at the pub I was sitting next to the person who won a meat raffle. It could have been me. So if I connect the dots I can conclude that I could win a book. I just have to think of something clever.

Want to win an autographed copy of What’s New, Cupcake? Want to show off your cupcaking skills? During this baking season, show off your talents by coming up with a new cupcake design using only cupcakes, frosting, and one or all of the following candies: Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, Marshmallows, Gummy bears, Wafer cookies and M&M’s Minis

You've seen Larry the turkey so obviously I need to some up with something good to win...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Guest Post: LANYC's 'crazy ass' Halloween creation

LANYC is my 'all that's good* in America' correspondent, my link to the edible delights of the land of stars and stripes. I'm very happy to bring to you one of her spectacular Halloween creations and her musings on this 'crazy ass' deliciousness. I feel great joy when I look at her pictures and see 'sticks of butter' rather than just reading about them in my cookbooks. Mainly this creation just makes me repeat 'holy crap' out loud and sigh in wonder to myself.

*By 'good' read fat and calorie laden, full of unpronounceable man made ingredients, lurid coloured and tasty

Away with my ramblings, I will hand you over to LANYC:


Holidays in America invariably involve seasonal candy*. The biggest candy-fest of them all, however, is Halloween. There's lurid yellow sugar-covered marshmallow chicks called 'Peeps'. There's variegated yellow, orange and white squishy triangles of candy corn (tasting oddly like butter and are primarily constituted of corn syrup). There's choc-covered marshmallow pumpkins. And then, of course, there's the regular candy, featuring holiday-appropriate 'spooky' colours, or just packaged with a picture of a ghost where a happy animal mascot used to be. Everyone in New York seems to be driven to be in possession of massive amounts of seasonal treats for Halloween because no one really wants to find out what happens if you take sugar-high children up on the trick part of their 'trick or treat' offer.

But the seasonal candy is actually kind of gross.

Irrespective of grossness, I hate throwing things away, so I decided to trawl the interweb in search of the magic recipe that would turn my bulging Ziploc bag of sugary Halloween fungross into just plain funyum. I found it in a Serious Eats posting by cakespy, here.


This pie was almost more fun to make than it was to eat - with all that choppin
g, arranging and sampling of various candy bits - but seeing peoples eyes widen as I handed them a slice of 'candy massacre pie' was great too. I based my version on cakespy's but swapped-in my own favourite crust recipe, and used the candy I had to hand (mostly M&Ms, Tootsie Rolls, mini marshmallows, fun-size Snickers, and Cookies 'n' Cream Hersheys bars). Also, I like a bit of crunch and a bit of salt with my massive doses of sweet, so I mixed Rice Crispies (A.K.A. Rice Bubbles) in with the filling, and topped the whole thing with salted pretzels. The latter addition also made the pie look considerably prettier.



Even if there's no Halloween candy where you live. Even if, actually, there's no real Halloween celebration, I'd advise you to think outside the box on this one - Christmas or Easter confectionery would work equally well, don't you think?

Eat, enjoy, and remember to cross your fingers for luck at your next dental check-up.

*After numerous heated debates following my enquiry as to what exactly the catch-all 'candy' refers to, the general consensus seems to be any kind of confectionery that isn't pure solid chocolate.

Friday, December 4, 2009

MY BAKE IT PRETTY ORDER ARRIVED!

In this picture I can see:

Cactus cupcake toppers
Pink pearlised cachous
'Happy Baker' stamped tags
Old-timey paper bags
Vintage bride and groom party picks
Jumbo red heart quins
Red and pink heart twist ties
German cotton mushroom decorations
Striped baker's twine ...

and there's more underneath!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Deliciousness from Delicious magazine

I am an obsessive reader of ABC Delicious magazine to the point that I intuitively know what day it will arrive on our doorstep. It happens when I'm sitting on the light rail heading home from work, a big wave of expectation out of nowhere. Weird.

Anyway, can you guess what these ingredients do when you put them all together?


They become...TURKISH DELIGHT ICE CREAM TERRINE! I found the recipe in the November edition of Delicious and started salivating.

Pretty much I had to mix it all together and bung it in a cake tin lined with glad wrap. And freeze it overnight. And open the freezer door to look at it quite frequently. Sometimes I would also poke it with my finger for good measure.

And I had to make a rose flavoured syrup.


Unfortunately I think a full 24 hours in the freezer was a bit excessive. It crumbled when I cut it. The turkish delight glued to the hot knife I attempted to cut the damn thing with. It had weird glad wrap marks all over it.

But it looked pretty.

And it tasted like a bunch of flowers crossed with ice cream crossed with some kind of tulle skirt, which mainly means that it tasted like yum.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm loving this new way of icing cakes!

This pretty girl is a red velvet cake with vanilla bean frosting as a hat! These days I am thinking more about presentation and love the look of red velvet in a red case. Speaking of presentation where the fook is my Bake It Pretty order?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday afternoon with the Masterchef Cookbook


This morning at Woolworths we were eyeing off a festive display which had the Masterchef Cookbook as a central display piece. The Celebrity Masterchef finale this week has had R dreaming and salivating over the very idea of profiteroles. The book has Adriano Zumbo's recipe. SOLD.

The choux pastry worked! The creme patissiere not so much. It was incredibly runny so as soon as I put it in a piping bag it started oozing out the tip so I held the bag back and then it began falling out the top of the bag on to the bench, on to the floor, on to my arm, in to my glass of water... ooze city. It did taste fantastic though. I almost licked the bench top, although the water custard mix was less appealing.

Finally I used a Martha recipe to make a chocolate icing. It was great. GO MARTHA!

I was proud of my final effort, despite the oozy messy look of it all. I'd love to make a croquembouche but I think I'll need a bit more practice first!

Friday, November 27, 2009

I wish we celebrated Thanksgiving in Australia

Why? Meet Larry. He is the (brain)child of Hello Cupcake! Nuff said.
Actually no, I do have more. I just joined the Hello Cupcake! club which means a monthly cupcake challenge. This month it's making a pumpkin themed cupcake which I deduce is something to do with Thanksgiving rather than Halloween. The Hello Cupcake! book has some suggestions however these mainly involve orange sugar and twizzlers which appear to be strangers to our shore. Anyhoo, I've got til Tuesday to come up with something...
Can anyone think of any orange lollies? Or ways of orange-ing cake?

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Christmas Housing Crisis

Apparently choosing a gingerbread house style is akin to choosing and successfully purchasing an actual bricks and mortar house. Actually no, it's more difficult. Still, I am determined to break into the market.

Should I go chic like Martha?

(Image from Martha Stewart)

Or I could have a gingerbread house that doubles up as a vase (handy!)

(image from Blog Florist)

Or I could let my dreams get seriously grandiose!

(image from AOL Canada Life & Style)

What do you think?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cupcakes are no longer delicious when it's 40 degrees outside

but ice blocks are! These are watermelon, a mango and a handful of raspberries thrown in to the blender and poured into my rocket ice block mold.

We used to eat home made OJ ice blocks when we were kids, we'd get covered in the melted juice right down to our elbows. We had a mold at our house, but at my Yaya's we'd have even more 'handmade' versions frozen in an assortment of containers with paddle pop sticks popped on top.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanks for the recipe Bakerella...

These peanut butter and chocolate cookies taste incredible!! The cookie jar at work as been empty for days so I thought it was about time I baked something to replenish it. I suspect my workmates will be happy with the new look cookie jar! Bye bye Arnotts...

The other great thing is how simple they are to make:

1 cup of smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup of sugar
1 egg
200g dark semi sweet chocolate
crushed peanuts

1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius
2. Put peanut butter, sugar and the egg in a bowl and mix well, then cover in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes
2. Line a baking tray with baking paper, and roll mixture into 18 balls and place on tray
3. Squish the balls down with a fork to get the line effect on the cookies
4. Bake 18-20 minutes
5. Once cooled melt chocolate, dip one end at a time into chocolate, and then dip in a bowl of crushed peanuts
6. Pop the into the fridge until the chocolate sets and then consume!!

This recipe is one of Bakerella's - for more details visit her site.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Big excitement!

I just ordered a tonne of beautiful and quirky items from Bake It Pretty. And to be shipped by Priority Mail no less!

You can look forward to some prettily packaged items showing up on this blog in 8 - 10 days, or if you're lucky under your Christmas tree.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Boozy citrus upside down cake

Today I took an early mark. It was very exciting. There is something thrilling about being at home at two o'clock in the afternoon on a lovely sunny day. I contemplated spending the afternoon making some Sesame Street cupcakes (inspired once again by Bakerella) but instead I scoured the pantry and the fruit bowl. My rationale was that cake isn't so bad for you if you're mainly baking in order to prevent already purchased items going off. In this case it was two rather sad looking blood oranges!

I decided to get experimental and make up my own recipe for an orange and semolina upside down cake, with saffron and grand marnier for an added bit of ooh la la.

Syrup - 1 cup caster sugar, 1/4 cup blood orange juice, 1/4 cup grand marnier and a few threads of saffron, cooked on low heat for about 10 minutes

Cake - 125g of butter, zest of 1 lemon and 1 cup caster sugar creamed together, 3 eggs beaten in, then 1 cup plain flour, 2/3 cup semolina, 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/3 cup natural yogurt mixed in.

Construction - line tins of choice with baking paper on both bottom and sides (I used a 6" cake tin and some cupcake tins to see which would work out better), place some thin slices of orange on the bottom, pour a little syrup over the top, then add batter.

Bake - at 180 degrees, time will depend on pan size so use a skewer to check.

Serve - let them cool for 10 minutes or so in their tins, the syrup gets HOT. Carefully turn upside down and slowly peel off the baking paper. Trim as required. They are delicious when warm and I think would go very will with some spiced lemon ricotta or mascarpone on the side.

I reckon the 6" cake worked out better and much neater looking. The cupcakes taste amazing but don't look as perfect and pretty as I would have liked, mainly because of oozing syrup. Next time I might use a little less baking powder as some of the cakes had to be trimmed at the bottom so that they would sit flat when they were turned upside down.

I might go and eat another one now...

Monday, November 9, 2009

I have been quiet

Because I have been in Hobart on a work conference and mini holiday. They have many delicious things in Hobart, including this cupcake!

I arrived home last night and this week I'll be heading to Tumut for a few days also for work. Once that's done I can breathe a sigh of relief and spend more time at home playing in my kitchen and posting about my culinary successes and disasters!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

(Belated) Happy Halloween

(Attack of some not very terror inducing ghosts!)

Alana sent me a link to A Baked Creation's 'Ghosts of Cupcakes Past.' Making little ghosties is such a great idea. I baked classic vanilla cupcakes (in pale pink Wilton papers which completely lost their colour - LAME!) and made a pink vanilla buttercream. Due to the lack of giant jubes in Australia I used marshmallows topped with fondant to create the ghosts.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ooh la la

The spoils - Chocolate mousse, chocolate pistachio eclairs and pear tart tatin! The class finished approximately one hour and 23 minutes ago and most of this box has been devoured.

I got to wield a blow torch to release the mousses (mice?) from their moulds. Awesome.

The class wasn't as hands on as others I've done, lots was prepared prior to the class, but it was great to get a handle on working with choux pastry and making caramel. It was also vastly entertaining being taught French techniques by a wranger Venetian called Axle - 'now look-a at the caramelllll-a, it is changing-a-brown'!

And of course working in a commercial kitchen was fantastic (especially compared to my 'temporary' kitchen at home... big sigh...)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Our Big Kitchen

One of the many perks of working for a not for profit organisation is receiving hundreds of emails each week from and about other not for profit organisations.

Today I heard about Our Big Kitchen which is a community kitchen operating in Bondi. Individuals or groups cook or bake food to donate to emergency or homeless services and also share a meal. It's a registered kitchen for emergency food providers and stock is kept on hand to ensure responsiveness to emergencies. It's available to everyone - you can have birthday parties, cooking classes, team building or school programs in the kitchen, or you can participate as a volunteer.

This is just about the coolest thing I've ever heard of.

R and I have been discussing my aversion to having a hen's night. I cannot think of anything worse than parading around with a plastic penis attached to my head. In fact I would rather eat my own foot. Lately we have been discussing having an alternative pre wedding celebration and the thought of getting all our friends together for a big cookathon is just lovely, especially given that the proceeds go towards assisting people in times of crisis. At face value weddings are about celebrating 'happy', and less obviously about sticking together when life conspires against you. And this can happen to any of us.

Good idea or am I just a shameless dirty hippy?

I had a nightmare

that the canapes for our wedding consisted of platters and platters of fluoro garlic bread... at least 500 slabs of it... in the dream some of them were also topped with giant bricks of pumpkin frittata. Hardly the elegant summer soiree I had in mind - I woke up sweating.

Truth be told there are worse things than feeding people garlic bread. In fact if I had taken my Little's advice regarding the 'perfect' wedding menu we would be all dining on lasagne. After all, as Little succinctly put it, 'everyone LOVES lasagne.'

Hot melted cheese and butter. Fatty meat. Dripping oil. Not what I'd want to eat in the middle of February in Australia...

Anyway, these are pointless ramblings so I'll shut up now. Tomorrow I am going to a choux pastry making class with my mama so I should have something a little less putrid and a little more delicious to post later in the week. I am expending a lot of energy hoping and wishing that I learn how to make beautiful eclairs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Oh. My. Goodness.


My heart is beating very very fast. It must be love! Check it out.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lollipop Workshop


I saw Lollipop Workshop on Bakerella and I'm in love with all the beautiful cake toppers and cupcake candle holders they make! Somebody have a birthday please...




Friday, October 16, 2009

Marley's Super Awesome Cookie Recipe

I'm part of an organisation called Side By Side Advocacy, which is participating the the Granny Smith Festival this weekend, and as such I am in the middle of a massive cookie baking mission to feed hungry festival goers. Because let's face it, if anything can lure in the crowds it's chocolate, almond and cinnamon cookies.

My friend Marley shared with me her super awesome no fail cookie recipe a few years ago and since then I've done a million variations, all of which have been amazing. Because I'm nice I'll share the love...

Marley's Super Awesome Cookies

125g unsalted butter
250g brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
225g plan flour
1 tsp baking powder
200g 'flavour' ingredients - eg. 100g chopped dark chocolate + 100g almonds + 1tsp cinnamon. I've also done white chocolate and macadamia, dark chocolate and dried cherries. Get creative!

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celcius. Make sure your butter is room temperature, and then mix butter and brown sugar together well. Add your egg and mix mix mix. Add vanilla, and then the flour and baking powder and mix it in thoroughly. Finally, add your flavours and mix then in very well.

Line a baking tray with baking paper and then use a teaspoon to make little balls of mixture, roll them in your palm until they are very round, and then place them on the tray with space between them. As a guide I do 12 per full size oven tray.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Less time means squishy centred biscuits. More time means harder biscuits. When they come out of the oven they will be squidgy so let them cool on the tray and they will firm up as they cool.

Then consume.

(Or you could just nibble on the raw cookie dough!)

Carrots

I will admit upfront that I take vitamins and supplements. I worry about whether I consume sufficient vitamin B. R has a vitamin D deficiency. Our fridge if full of Ostelin, Inner Health Plus, Zinc supplements… the list goes on.

Last year I was sitting chanel surfing through all the crap that’s on our television airways when I saw an interview with Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food.

Michael was discussing carrots. He talked about how much time and energy scientists have spent in order to discover and extract the goodness of the humble carrot – vitamin A. Phew, now we can just add that to the list of supplements and not worry about nutrition. Now comes the bit that really piqued my interest – what if it’s the inherent carrot-ness of the carrot that are good for you? Sure, vitamin A is in there, but is vitamin A so wonderful when all the other great stuff about the carrot is taken away?

As a society should we be throwing out the vitamins and eating carrots with gusto?

Naturally I rushed to the bookshop to buy Michael’s book and it was great. He calls it a manifesto but it’s pretty simple really – ‘eat food, not too much, mostly plants.’ This concept kicks the but of Atkins. And the Zone. And Weight Watchers.

He also discusses the rise ‘edible food like substances’, which should be avoided at all costs. If it’s a food your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food don’t eat it. If it has more than 3 ingredients don’t eat it. If it has unpronounceable ingredients don’t eat it. Another good tip is to beware products that make big health claims.

Here’s a great example of this principle in action. Which one is better for you?

Harmonie Organic salted butter

Ingredients
organic cream
salt

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter

Ingredients
Water
Vegetable Mono and Diglycerides
Rice Starch
Salt, Gelatin
Lactose
Vegetable Datem
Colouring
Potassium Sorbate
Calcium Disodium EDTA
Natural Soy Lecithin
Lactic Acid
Natural and Artificial Flavour
Vitamin A (Palmitate)
Beta Carotene

Scary stuff huh?!

This week I did a Pollan style pantry audit and I’ll be honest, a few things went into the bin. Since I read In Defense of Food I’ve made a conscious effort to make sure I used the best quality ingredients in my cooking. When I cook bread and butter pudding commercially baked bread is out, Sonoma sourdough is in. Any kind of ‘spread’ is out, organic butter is in.

Sure there are times when a person craves a Big Mac, but as a general guide to cooking and shopping I think Michael Pollan’s ‘manifesto’ is awesome.

http://www.michaelpollan.com/

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More stuff I want WANT want...

http://www.victoriantradingco.com/store/catalogimages/1a/i15408.html

My Christmas wishlist has never been longer. Damn you internet!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Perverted lemon meringue pie

What did I do with these babies on the weekend?

I love pavlova. I love mini desserts. And I love lemon curd. What I don't much like is shortcrust pastry, so a lemon meringue pie inspired mini pavlova seemed like a top idea. And very easy.

Make some meringues
4 egg whites at room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
Whisk egg whites with an electric beater until soft peaks form, and then gradually beat in sugar, and finally vanilla. Pipe on to a baking paper lined tray and bake in a slow oven (140 - 150 degrees Celsius depending on the nature of your beast) for about 30 - 40 minutes (depending on the size of the meringues - I did about 14 from this recipe and baked for about 30 minutes). Open the oven door slightly and let them cool in the oven. These (and the lemon butter) can be made the day before you want to use them, which means you can quickly assemble this dessert when it's time to be served.)

Make some lemon butter (thanks to Stephanie Alexander for this recipe)
4 egg yolks (see, these two items were meant to be made together - no leftover eggy bits!)
2/3 cup caster sugar
100ml lemon juice
lemon zest (to taste)
Whisk egg yolks and sugar until well combined but not frothy. Pour into a heavy based saucepan and add remaining ingredients. Stirring constantly bring to simmer point over a medium - high heat (about 5 minutes.) As soon as bubbles start to appear remove from heat and continue to stir for about 2 minutes. Let it cool and then put it in the fridge overnight.

Assemble
Whip some cream, chop up some fruit and then assemble. I spooned lemon butter into the meringue nests and topped with cream and chopped strawberries. Yum! The lemon butter had the same impact that passionfruit does - adds a nice tartness to offset all the sugar and cream.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dessert tables

(Dessert table by o holy sweet)

What's not to love? As I said in my post yesterday we are having a dessert table at our wedding which will be laid out based on the beautiful image above. It will be the middle of summer which to me just screams out berries, summer puddings, pavlova and ice cream. So imagine something like the collection of images below...


For more dessert table inspiration check out the wonderful work of Amy Atlas at www.amyatlas.com

Friday, October 9, 2009

Four reasons to love etsy

(Cake topper by Suebeehb)

(Customised cake topper by Middelburg)

(Daschund cake topper by bunnywithatoolbelt)

(Customised bride and groom cake topper by goosegrease)


We have already met with Libby to design our wedding cake and it's going to be a stunner, a very elegant three tiered beauty inspired by our wedding invitation design. The colours will blend in with my berry themed dessert table - which will be bowls of cherries, berry trifles, mini pavlovas, mini summer puddings and nougat. Berries are summer. Who wants chocolate mousse in February... anyway, I digress... more on dessert tables later I promise.
But part of me kinda sorta really wants to get some daschund cake toppers anyway...
Pros
1.Meaningful - R and I bonded over mutual concern for daschund back pain very early in our relationship (seriously)
2. Different - not supporting wedding industrial complex (read more about that here on A Practical Wedding - http://www.apracticalwedding.com/2009/04/wedding-industrial-complex-as-it-were.html)
3. Supporting 'the arts' (vague assertion here, clearly I am desperate to find pros)
Cons
1. People might think I am a daschund owner or breeder (thus facilitating cruelty to animals)
2. I have a (sick) fantasy that photos of my dessert table will feature in Martha Stewart Weddings and poster painted daschunds would kill the dream
3. It would be in start contrast to rest of wedding which is heavily 'informed' by wedding industrial complex. I know, I know, it's sick. I say 'informed' because whilst I might check 5 different wedding blogs a day I am not yet at the point of releasing white doves or pouring different coloured vessels of sand into a single vessel (which incidentally I think is hilarious.) The fact that I even used the term 'vessel' is equally hilarious. There is a lot of wank about weddings isn't there?

I am seriously coveting one of these...

You can get one of these cake stands custom made to your colour and style specifications.

SWOON...


Or I could get one of these beautiful Whitney Smith creations:



Why are all the pretty things in America?

They have some cake stands in the Donna Hay General Store, but they just don't bring on the same swoon effect...





Monday, October 5, 2009

A beautiful 50th birthday cake

I wish I'd made it. Oh well, I'll just be proud of ordering it instead. Libby at Polka Dot did a wonderful job. It also tasted great - orange and almond cake! 

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I think he liked it