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


Thursday, October 1, 2009

George's Birthday Cake (Part IV - the end)

Certainly not perfect, but there have been worse cakes made in the world. Surely.

I think I had very high expectations of what could be achieved with limited equipment, kitchen bench space and no microwave. I'm hopeful that pratice does indeed make perfect...

George's Birthday Cake (Part III - the 'kind of' recovery)

1. I threw the chocolate mud cakes in the bin
2. With the assistance of R, I baked new white chocolate mudcakes
3. I made ganache and let it rest in the fridge overnight
4. I battled with ganache when it would not soften up sufficiently to use
5. I layered and coated the cakes with ganache. It was very lumpy. Not Planet Cake style at all. I decided to ignore all their advice about the importance of smooth edges and perfectly symmetrical circles. This would prove to be to my detriment...
6. At least there were 2 use-able cakes