Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Christmas Stollen

Stollen is one of those things you see every Christmas piled up by the checkout at the fruit shop, or even Aldi. I tend to think of it (rather unkindly) as Panettone's ugly cousin.

As it turns out, I don't mind Stollen at all. It's a fruity, yeasty bread, not dissimilar to Greek Tsoureki although less buttery and moist. The think I enjoyed the most about this challenge was watching Martha Stewart's instructional video on how to make bread in the shape of a wreath. If you are a Martha freak like I am you can have a look at Martha's recipe and the video demonstration here. I am besotted with Mrs Kostyra. She is one feisty old duck!

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Specialty Christmas Cake Class at Planet Cake

In an effort to hone my skills working with fruitcake and marzipan I signed up for a new two day specialty class offered by Planet Cake. I found marzipan to be so much cleaner than working with ganache so I will definitely be promoting the fruitcake/marzipan wedding cake option to people in the future. Sometimes a little tradition is a good thing!

Spending almost a full day making 3 elves has left me with much more confidence in making figurines. Although I am not sure that I would be able to model anybody who does not want to resemble Noddy...
It was also the first time I've used a pasta machine to roll fondant icing and believe me it was a complete revelation. The red ribbons were rolled and cut from fondant "lasagne" and the green ribbon was made from fondant fettucine. The pasta machine is also fabulous for making elf girl hair.
As usual post Planet Cake course I am thrilled with the outcome and left feeling quietly confident about the looming wedding cake decorating... stay tuned...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Red Velvet Supersized

Q: What does 11 cups of flour, 2.25 cups of butter, 7.75 cups of sugar, 4 bottles of red food colouring, 9 eggs, 9 tablespoons of cocoa, 4 teaspoons of vanilla, 4.5 cups of buttermilk and 1kg of vanilla buttercream buy you?

A: A resplendent three layer red velvet cake!

For anyone interested in recreating this feat, I made the Magnolia Bakery Red Velvet Cake recipe three times, using each batch to fill one 10" cake tin. I was a bit anxious about how a triple layer 10" cake would hold up but it was gorgeous. And heavy.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Strawberry & Mulberry Jam

At the markets this morning I spied beautiful mulberries and strawberries. Lately I've developed a bit of an obsession with preserving fruit and vegetables, and the discovery of the blog Saving the Season has added fuel to the fire. My desire to make jam couldn't wait any longer, which was unfortunate given that temperatures soared to 3o+ degrees today and spending time at the cooktop was less than ideal.

Still, it was worth it. Yum.

Jam also makes a lovely little housewarming gift for friends...

Strawberry & Mulberry Jam

Ingredients
750g strawberries, washed, hulled and cut in half
750g mulberries, washed and stalks removed
1.5kg sugar
125ml lemon juice
25g pectin or other jam setting agent

Method
Combine berries and lemon juice in a large saucepan and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Add sugar and cook over low heat for a further five minutes until the sugar dissolves, and then bring to the boil. Boil for 15 minutes and remove from heat, skimming any foam or gunk from the jam with a slotted spoon. Stir in pectin and then return to the boil for five minutes. Ladle the hot jam into jars, using the processing method of your choice. (Some people like to spoon hot jam into sterilised hot jars, but I prefer to use a water bath processing method because it seems somehow more 'proper'.) The jam should be left for about 4 weeks so that the flavours can develop but obviously we had to try some immediately.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wedding Cake Baker in Training III

Being a Wedding Cake Baker in Training means you have a lot of test cakes to play with and set free. I have been meaning to make my Uncle David a fruitcake with the KitchenAid he and my Aunt Sylvia gave us as a wedding gift* since, er, February. The man is a sailing fanatic which provided me with the perfect excuse to have a play with some of my favourite bits and bobs from Bake It Pretty.

Like the sail boat.
And the yellow duckie.

Not the most sophisticated effort ever but I think he'll enjoy it all the same. I kinda love it!

*How lucky are we!? Remember also the most excellent ice cream machine gifted from my Uncle Tony and Aunt Di. Lucky lucky lucky us.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wedding Cake Baker in Training II

A quick shout out to Not Quite Nigella who posted today about making a two tier wedding cake. The post answered a LOT of my lingering questions. Talk about synchronicity! Thanks Lorraine.

(In the 5 minutes since I read Lorraine's post I have developed a serious obsession with completing Faye's workshop...)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wedding Cake Baker in Training

I'm diligently working through the list of things to achieve by the time I'm 30 - don't worry, I still have a good eight and a half months to go. In January I will be making a wedding cake for my lovely friends Marley and Rod which is exciting (a) because I get to "achieve" one of my goals and (b) because I absolutely love them both.

Making a wedding cake is a little bit daunting, but oddly my biggest concern is transporting the two tiered cake up the F3 highway in the middle of an Australian summer. I have had nightmares about chocolate mud cakes filled with ganache melting and sliding around the car making a giant muddy mess. Eventually the solution to this problem became obvious. Fruitcake. It's heavy and hardy, it doesn't spoil, and it can be covered in marzipan and fondant for minimum slippage. Having never made a fruitcake before I decided to do a bit of a test run which involved 1.2kg of dried fruit and a fair whack of Chivas (thanks Rahul!)

The test cake has been baked and split into four portions - "edges" that have been cut off for Rahul to snack on, two neatly sliced and marzipan covered rectangles and one square that has been re wrapped and put in the fridge so that I can test the cake's longevity.

Covering squares and rectangles is really not my forte but I completely fluked this baby! Thankfully the wedding cake will be a two tiered round number so I can avoid 8 extra edges.

As the day draws closer you can look forward to some further installments relating to the actual cake. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge: BOMBOLINI

It’s official. I am a convert. I love doughnuts. To be more precise I love love love bombolini.


This month’s challenge was really fantastic and definitely took me a little outside my comfort zone. Until now I’ve always thought doughnuts were stale cardboard tasting vehicles for trans fats. Definitely not something I would make at home. You have to make some ASAP. Definitely consume bombolini warm if possible.


Raspberry Jam Bomboloni

Hands on prep time - 35 minutes

Rising time - 1 1/2 hours plus overnight

Cooking time - 10 minutes

Yield: About 32 Bomboloni

Ingredients

Water, Lukewarm 1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon

Active Dry Yeast 3 ¼ teaspoon (1.5 pkgs.) / 16.25 ml / 10 gm / .35 oz

Honey 1.5 Tablespoon / 22.5 ml

All Purpose Flour 3 cup / 720 ml / 420 gm / 14 ¾ oz

Milk 3 Tablespoon / 45 ml

Egg Yolk, Large 6

White Granulated Sugar 1/3 cup / 80 ml / 75 gm / 2 2/3 oz + more for rolling

Kosher (Flaked) Salt 2 teaspoon / 10 ml / 6 gm / .2 oz

Butter, Unsalted 3 Tablespoon / 45 ml / 42 gm / 1.5 oz

Canola Oil 3 cup / 720 ml / (Or any other flavorless oil used for frying)

Raspberry Jam, Seedless ¾ cup / 180 ml / 300 gm / 10.5 oz (or any flavor jam, preserves, jelly)

Directions

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, mix the water, yeast, honey and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (160 gm) of the flour. (Alternatively, whisk the ingredients by hand.) Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 1 hour.

Return the bowl to the mixer, fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining 1 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons (260 gm) of flour, along with the milk, egg yolks, 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and the salt. Mix at low speed until blended, then add the butter and knead at medium speed until silky but sticky, about 5 minutes; the dough will not pull away from the side of the bowl.

Using an oiled spatula, scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

In a large saucepan, heat the canola oil to 360°F/180°C. Line a rack with paper towels. Fill a shallow bowl with 1/2 inch (12 mm)of granulated sugar. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough a scant 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick. Using a 2-inch (50 mm) round biscuit cutter, stamp out rounds. The original recipe said to not re-roll the dough, but I did and found it to be fine. Fry the rounds, 4 to 5 at a time, until they are browned, about 4 minutes (mine only took about a minute each – try to go more by sight). Be sure to keep the oil between 360°F and 375°F 180°C and 190°C. Drain the bomboloni on paper towels.

Roll them in the granulated sugar.

Filling Directions:

Fit a pastry bag with a plain donut tip (or a 1/4-inch (6 mm) tip) and fill with the preserves (you can also use a squeeze bottle). Poke the tip three-fourths of the way into the bomboloni and squeeze in the preserves, pulling the tip out slightly as you squeeze to fill them as much as possible. Serve warm.

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.



Sunday, October 24, 2010

Chocolate & Banana Cupcakes

At 6 a.m. on Saturday I was inexplicably wide awake and after about ten minutes lying in bed staring at the wall I remembered the squidgy banana in the fruit bowl and I decided to start baking. This recipe is a corrupted version of Nigella's Banana Bread, is incredibly fast and easy, and makes exactly 12 cupcakes.

Chocolate & Banana Cupcakes

Ingredients

Cupcakes
150g plain flour
25g Dutch process cocoa
2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
125g unsalted butter, melted
100g sugar
2 eggs
1 big super ripe banana, mashed
50g dark chocolate, melted
1 tsp vanilla

Ganache
150g dark chocolate
120g pure cream

Method

Preheat oven to 170C and line a 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake papers. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl and set aside. In a large bowl beat together the butter and the sugar until blended and then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the banana, melted chocolate and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture a third at a time and stir well. Fill the cupcake papers 2/3 full and then bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack and then top with ganache.

To make the ganache chop up the chocolate into small pieces, or even better whizz it in the food processor. Heat the cream in a saucepan until it reaches boiling point and then remove from heat and pour it over the chocolate, whisking until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is thoroughly combined. It may be quite runny so continue to whisk every few minutes until the ganache is a consistency appropriate for spreading.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Daring Baker's Challenge: Decorated Sugar Cookies

This month's challenge gave a bit of scope for creativity. The brief was simple - bake sugar cookies, decorate with royal icing and make sure they scream "September" to you.

I've made Peggy Porschen's sugar cookie recipe before with great results. It's a very easy recipe to work with and unlike other recipes I've used (hello Donna Hay!) it never seems to result in disaster. I originally planned to make cookies shaped like sausage dogs because I managed to procure a sausage dog shaped cookie cutter on holidays, and that seemed like the least tenuous link to the "September" theme that I could come up with. This was a total disaster because as I cut the dogs out of the raw cookie dough the tails were completely chopped off. I blame this on the poor design of the cookie cutter!! My second strategy was to make round cookies and decorate them in pinks and yellows because to me September is all about sunshine and the beginning of spring.

The trick to decorating sugar cookies is to make royal icing in a range of consistencies so that you can pipe the border of any solid shape you wish to ice.

Once the border has dried a little you use a runny royal icing to fill the shape. You should end up with a rather neat and tidy looking cookie. Once the base icing is dry the world's your oyster and you can pipe anything you wish onto the cookie.

If you haven't made sugar cookies before it's the time of year to get started. They would make gorgeous treats for under the Christmas tree and are one of the few sweets that could survive a hot and humid Sydney summer.

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Southern Banana Pudding

Southern Banana Pudding first caught my eye on Bakerella's site and due to my love of all things America I was itching to make it. Until I read the ingredients and discovered that it was primarily composed of Nilla Wafers, Jello Instant Pudding and Pie Filling, Cool Whip Whipped Topping and bananas. Given that bananas were the only ingredient I had (a) heard of and (b) had any hope of obtaining, project make banana pudding has been on hold.

In California I made it a priority to obtain the mysterious Nilla Wafers and the Instant Pudding and Pie Filling. The Cool Whip was problematic because I discovered that it lives in the freezer until you defrost and whip it. On a bus to Yosemite I tortured the six captive Americans which questions about Cool Whip and ascertained that it is some kind of completely unnatural chemical compound that resembles the mutant love child of whipped cream and marshmallow. I concluded that I would be quite happy to go to the grave without trying it.

I had two recipes to choose from to make the pudding and I ended up going with the Jell-O version because it was the most artificial and to my mind probably the most authentic. All I had to do was mix one packet of Instant Pudding and Pie Filling with two and a half cups of milk and let it sit for five minutes. Then I layered Nilla Wafers, Pie Filling and bananas in a dish and topped it with whipped cream. It reminded me a little of the classic Aussie Choc Ripple Cake. After and hour in the fridge it was ready to go.

The Pudding was tested by six brave souls. Two of them deemed it inedible. The other four of us concluded that it was good in a McDonalds/plane food kind of way. Using a ladle to serve it was appropriate.

You can't really go wrong with bananas and whipped cream. The Nilla Wafers tasted exactly like those Grimace shaped McDonalds Cookies I used to have as a kid.

The big question mark hangs over the Instant Pudding and Pie Filling which was a fluorescent yellow, sickly sweet and texturally odd custard that was just a bit creepy.

Would I eat Instant Pudding and Pie Filling again? Nope.
Am I relieved that I maintained my anti-Cool Whip stand? Yes.

I still love America.

Friday, September 24, 2010

September in California

Just so you know it wasn't all Red's Java House.
Back to regular posting this weekend I promise, most probably with some kind of fabulous American style dessert.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Red's Java House

So I'm back and I'm not going to recommence blogging with mouthwatering descriptions of meals at Michelin starred restaurants. Instead I'll tell you a bit about Red's Java House which is by all accounts a bit of a San Francisco institution. As you can see Red's is stuck in a time warp but in a very good way.

During our visit to the States we ate at a few and saw many more than a few retro inspired diners which all lacked the certain charm that Red's has. The menu is straightforward - burger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger, fries, sodas, beers - and the food is cooked while you stand waiting at the counter. No table service in sight.

Rahul was in charge of ordering which is how we ended up with two double cheeseburgers. These were no meek little (yet trans-fat laden) McDonalds burger patties either, they were biiiiiiig and wedged into a chunk of sourdough with orange cheese and a gaggle of gherkins. The chalkboard menu proudly proclaimed 'no lettuce, no tomato' which means that these burgers are a slice of heaven for carnivores. And as much as I am set in my hippy vegetable loving ways I would be back at Red's in a heartbeat. There is no such thing as too much plastic cheese on your meat, but this maxim only applies in America!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Stars and Stripes

Michelin starred restaurants beckon so I am going to be very quiet for the next few weeks. We fly into San Francisco on Friday to start a bit of a foodie journey around northern California. I've read time and time again that California is a food lover's paradise so I'm extremely excited to finally be making the trip to the Bay Area.

First cab of the rank is dinner at Coi in San Francisco, a two starred restaurant that is home to the famous inverted cherry tomato tart. We will also spend some time at the Ferry Building Marketplace where I fully intend to buy one of everything on the shelf in Miette. Believe me, that is only a very slight exaggeration. I have been ogling their Princess Cake online for months.

Brunch at Tartine Bakery is very much on the agenda. I've been eyeing off their book at the Essential Ingredient every time I'm there but I am determined to buy the book from the bakery itself (which is actually very very stupid because then I will have to lug it around on our travels. What's even more stupid is that I don't mind!)

This is a bit embarassing to admit but I figured there was a limit to how much find dining was rational and healthy in a two week period so I made a shortlist of restaurants I was interested in going to, and then culled. I was also mindful of leaving enough time for a bit of organic discovery of new exciting places rather than planning each and every day in Excel (don't tempt me!) And I knew I would really want to go to a diner or two.

Anyway, this process led to much anxiety as I discovered that most of the restaurants had complex booking policies, for example taking bookings 1 calendar month before the preferred date of booking, or 4 weeks before. And then I read that bookings for my preferred restaurants were as rare as gold dust and then 'sold out' as quickly as they opened.

Chez Panisse in Berkeley topped my list. I was absolutely elated when I (by I, I mean Rahul, I was way too chicken to ask for the rules to be bent!) managed to wrangle a booking a day earlier than the booking policy officially allowed. Apparently they like charming Australians.

A trip to California would not be complete without paying homage to Thomas Keller's empire. The big question was whether to shell out all our pennies and visit The French Laundry, arguably the best restaurant in the world and beneficiary of three Michelin stars. I have a history of high expectations. Like the time we went to Tetsuyas which I liked but wasn't blown away by. Yet I can be totally satisfied by a $10 bowl of pho in Cabramatta. It's all to do with expectation. In the end I concluded the risk of having the same kind of disappointment at The French Laundry, as well as being out of pocket somewhere in the range of $800 - $1000) was too great. So we're going to Thomas' less fancy French Bistro Bouchon.

Also on my list was Ubuntu, which I read about first on Lovely Morning. Vegetarian fine dining in Australia is limited, if it exists at all? So I'm exited to be going to a Michelin starred vegetable restaurant, as well as completely charmed by the idea that all the produce comes straight out of the restaurant garden.

So. Am I excited or what?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Brown Butter, Strawberry and Vanilla Ice Cream Cake: August Daring Bakers Challenge

The 'reveal date' for the Daring Bakers Challenge is always the 27th of the month and whilst I have usually baked the challenge recipe well in advance this month I was up late into the night layering cake and ice cream and I am thanking my lucky stars that while it's now the 28th August here in America it's still the 27th...

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

Rather than make Petit Fours I decided to make an ice cream layer cake using three layers of pound cake, two layers of strawberry and vanilla jam and two layers of vanilla bean ice cream plus a layer of chocolate ganache on top. Despite using a cake ring the overall effect was quite messy but (I think) quite appealing.

The recipes given with this challenge are fantastic. I've never used browned butter before and I was amazed by the rich nutty flavour it gives to a cake. If you enjoy rich buttery vanilla cakes (hello Mum!) this is the recipe for you.

Brown Butter Pound Cake

19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 (75g) cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan.

2. Place the butter in a 10” (25cm) skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.

3. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract.

5. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.

6. Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

7. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (165g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (500ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract

1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a paring knife and add to the milk, along with the bean pod. Cover, remove from heat, and let infuse for an hour. (If you do not have a vanilla bean, simply heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams, then let cool to room temperature.)

2. Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2 litre) bowl inside a large bowl partially filled with water and ice. Put a strainer on top of the smaller bowl and pour in the cream.

3. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks together. Reheat the milk in the medium saucepan until warmed, and then gradually pour ¼ cup warmed milk into the yolks, constantly whisking to keep the eggs from scrambling. Once the yolks are warmed, scrape the yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan of warmed milk and cook over low heat. Stir constantly and scrape the bottom with a spatula until the mixture thickens into a custard which thinly coats the back of the spatula.

4. Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir the mixture until cooled. Add the vanilla extract (1 teaspoon [5ml] if you are using a vanilla bean; 3 teaspoons [15ml] if you are not using a vanilla bean) and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.

5. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze in an ice cream maker.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rhubarb and Vanilla Tart

I've often flicked through Martha Stewart's Baking Companion and admired the picture of her rhubarb tart. I've read the recipe many times and always baulk at the idea of a cream cheese filling so rather than work directly from Martha's recipe I've used it as inspiration instead.

My rhubarb and vanilla tart is comprised of a pate sucree base, a vanilla creme patissiere folded through lightly whipped cream, and rhubarb gently poached in a vanilla syrup.

The rhubarb was lovely and tart, a beautiful contrast to the sweetness of the custard filling. Really you could top this tart with any fruit, fresh raspberries and figs would be gorgeous. Or another winter fruit poached with vanilla and rosewater.

Poached Rhubarb

Ingredients
1 bunch rhubarb
150ml water
150g sugar
1 vanilla bean

Method
Place the sugar, water and vanilla bean into a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil. Wash and slice the rhubarb into 4 cm long pieces and place it into the sugar syrup. Cover and immediately remove from heat. The rhubarb will gently poach as the liquid cools.

Pate Sucree
Makes enough for 2 x 7" pastry cases so I only used half for my tart and froze the remainder. This recipe is a lazy food processor version of Damien Pignolet's Pate Sucree.

Ingredients
25g pure icing sugar, sifted
1 egg yolk plus sufficient iced water to make 45ml of liquid
180g plain flour, sifted
1/4tsp salt
135g cold butter, cut into 1.5cm dice

Method
In a small bowl place egg yolk mixture and icing sugar and whisk to combine. In a food processor combine the flour, salt and butter and mix until crumbs form. Slowly add the egg/icing sugar mix and process until a rough ball of dough forms. Do not over mix.
Wrap the dough in glad wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Flour the benchtop and roll out the dough to 5mm thick. Fill pastry cases, leaving a 1.5cm overhang which you then fold back over into the tin, leaving a small amount raised slightly above the rim.
Line the pastry shells with foil or baking paper and freeze for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Fill the shells with pie weights and bake for 10 minutes or until the walls appear to be set. Remove the pie weights and continue to bake at 170 degrees Celsius until the shell is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool.
Creme Patissiere Filling

Remember my favourite creme patissiere recipe? All you need to do is make a batch and fold half of it through 1 cup of lightly whipped cream. You can use the remainder of the creme patissiere to create vanilla custard and banana crepes for your beloved if you like. I did.

Enjoy!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

I know, unless you've spent some serious time in America you're wondering what on earth these things are. I can tell you that they are also known as 'gobs', 'black and whites' and 'BFO's (Big Fat Oreos!) And according to food historians, Amish women would bake these (known as hucklebucks at the time) and put them in farmers' lunch boxes. Upon discovering their lunch treats the farmers would shout 'Whoopie!'

In essence Whoopie Pies are two chocolate flavoured cookie shaped cakes stuck together with a creamy marshmallow filling. Over time the flavours have evolved to include such exotic combinations as banana whoopie with matcha buttercream and vanilla whoopie with root beer marshmallow filling.

For my first foray into making Whoopie Pies I decided to use a tried and true flavour combination - chocolate and peanut butter. I recently bought Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell's book 'Whoopie Pies' which is devoted to providing an enormous variety of cake and filling recipes and encourages serious mixing and matching. The book is completely adorable, and that's not a word I'd usually use to describe a book I can assure you.

Look at the perfect peanut butter filling!

And look at Rahul enjoying the satisfaction of squidging the Whoopie Pies together! The whole exercise was really fun.

Next time I'm going to attempt a pistachio cardamom whoopie with rose filling. Or perhaps a peanut butter whoopie with banana buttercream. Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Afghan Biscuits

This week my mum had keyhole surgery on her ankle and requested a good dose of love, affection and Afghans. Apparently Afghans are a comfort food that she'd been fed as a child by her grandmother and has an occasional hankering for. After conducting a little research I found that they are a classic Kiwi biscuit containing exotic ingredients including Kellogs' Corn Flakes and Cadbury Bourneville Cocoa. Google found me a wide range of recipes however I settled on using one that I found on Not Quite Nigella (thanks Lorraine!)

Both Rahul and the invalid deemed the biscuits a great success, and to be honest they're very simple to make so they'll definitely be added to my repertoire.

Ingredients

For the biscuits
  • 170g softened butter
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 180g flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 60g cornflakes, crushed into smallish bits

For the icing
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 45g caster sugar
  • 45g butter
  • 190g icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • walnut halves to decorate

Method

For the biscuits:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line two trays with baking paper
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift dry ingredients over the butter and sugar and mix together. The batter will be in little lumps. Knead in cornflakes and then gather little balls of the mix, round them by rolling them between your palms and place on a baking tray. Press down with a fork to flatten them slightly.
  3. Bake for 12-14 minutes, remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

For the icing:
  1. Heat the water, caster sugar and butter over a low heat until butter has melted and simmer for a minute to form a syrup.
  2. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl and then pour in the syrup whilst constantly whisking the mixture. Add some hot water to thin out the icing. (I did this a tablespoon at a time until I was happy with the consistency.) The icing needs to be thick enough to hold its shape but thin enough to spread and set nicely on the biscuit.
  3. Using a teaspoon place some icing at the centre of the biscuit and then decorate with a walnut half. Leave to set.
  4. You need to use the icing straight away as it will set. I found that the bowl of icing started to set as I was decorating the cookies however this was easily fixed by adding a splash of water and giving it a good whisk.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chocolate Truffles


Okay so the title of this blog post is deceptive because while these might look like chocolate truffles they are in fact a virtuous (and vegan) chocolate truffle impersonator. Rahul was vastly unimpressed by them but I am completely hooked on both the taste and the knowledge that they're low GI and full of other good bits and pieces. I offer a disclaimer - only consider making these treats if you are a tahini loving closet hippy!

Ingredients
10 organic dried apricots
1/4 cup raw organic honey
1/4 cup tahini paste
1/2 cup dutch process organic cocoa
1/4 cup LSA mix

Method
Run the dried apricots through the food processor until they are diced up nice and small, and then add the honey, tahini and cocoa. Blend until the mixture resembles lumpy garden soil! Roll small balls of the chocolate mixture in the palm of your hand, and then dip them in the LSA mix. Refrigerate for half an hour and then eat at your leisure. The 'truffles' will keep in the fridge for 3 -4 days.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rahul and Nigella's Nutella Cake

This is Nigella Lawson's Nutella Cake. Looks good. Which is why I thought it would be a perfect 29th birthday celebration cake for little old me.

This is Rahul's Nutella Cake.

Now call me biased, but I think it's pretty darn perfect, possibly even better than Nigella's because the hazelnuts aren't roasted to the point of being black and charred. Plus Rahul was forced to work with a less than even amateur stylist taking photos as she rushed out the door at 7.12am. Plus it was Rahul's first attempt at baking. Ever.

Okay so I haven't tried the finished product just yet, it being only 6.27pm on birthday night. But the batter was amazing. And I couldn't wait to show off Rahul's newly discovered talent!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Smith Family 12* Layer Cake

I loved making this cake. And I loved feeding it to people who had no idea quite how pretty it would be when it was cut. I first read about the 12 layer cake when Bakerella made a fourteen layer version for Valentines Day and I've been waiting for the opportunity to make it ever since.

The recipe was a typical vanilla buttercake spread between 12 cake tins and each baked layer resembled a thick pancake.
The 'pancakes' then had to be stacked and layered with a heavily indulgent chocolate syrup made of cocoa, butter and evaporated milk amongst other things. It got very messy as layers tended to slide all over the place. Yes, that is a ruler in the picture. It was a very handy way of ensuring that the layers stacked evenly.

The completed stack was pretty impressive and according to the recipe could have been served as it was. I decided to add an extra layer of chocolate buttercream icing as Bakerella did in her fourteen layer version, reasoning that half the delight of the cake would be the surprised look on people's faces as I cut it.

It was beautiful! Although this poorly lit photograph doesn't quite do it justice. The problem with photographing food as it's cut and served is that hungry eaters prioritise their eating over my blog and so the quality of my photography seriously suffers!

I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of the cake because frankly the amount of butter, evaporated milk and sugar in the recipe made me wonder if I would immediately go into a diabetic coma after a single bite. The vanilla layers were beautifully moist and the chocolate syrup between the layers was delicious and slightly reminiscent of Hershey's Chocolate Sauce. I'd definitely recommend this recipe to anyone with a sweet tooth.

* Confession time. My cake only had eleven layers. Oops. According to the recipe I should have put a 'scant cup' in each pan. Obviously my cups weren't quite 'scant' enough.