Monday, December 26, 2011

Watch out, a Strawberry Charlatan

We survived Christmas for another year. 

Since having a child, Christmas has completely changed. Santa is once again part of the equation and we set "traps" for him and his reindeer. We also get up at dawn and spend the day with a sugared-up toddler. We are then generally too exhausted to get drunk and end up falling into bed and going straight to sleep.

Another thing to note is Christmas in Brisbane is hot. For some reason, most of us follow the traditions of the colder climates and serve ham, turkey, roast veggies and pudding, ie hot and heavy. As I generally make some kind of dessert to share at our family's Christmas gatherings, I decided this year to make something a little light and fruity. And with the above comments regarding our change of Christmas routine and our cold climate charade, I've decided to call my dessert a Strawberry Charlatan (instead of a Strawberry Charlotte).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Possibly the best fruit cake EVER!

Tis the season to be jolly and one thing which is sure to make you happy is this Rich Chocolate Fruit Cake. It's from multiple Women's Weekly Christmas edition cookbooks, but it taste so good that it deserves to be in multiple copies.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Just putting it out there - I love Christmas lights. I am very happy to say that my son has inherited this trait from me. So, here are some pictures from our Christmas light excursion last night. Merry Christmas.

Baked gifts come from the heart

There are some foods you can't go without at Christmas. You have to overdose on ham (breakfast, lunch and dinner), you must eat Christmas pudding smothered in thick custard (YUMMMM) and you have to indulge in practically everything presented to you. As you might be able to tell, Christmas is all about the food for me. However, I also love finding great gifts for people and watching them open them. So, why not combine these two joys? To continue with my baked gifts, this post features what I made for my son's teachers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas surprise cupcakes for the office

Today is my last day of work for the year. It's been a pretty big year starting with the floods that hit Brisbane, the manic clean-up, a new boss, two changes in job title, as well as lots of laughter, a few fights, tears and craziness. So how do we cap it off? With cupcakes of course. 

To say thanks to my workmates for putting up with me, I made some special Christmas surprise cupcakes. The surprise, my Christmas Cherry Jam from the weekend. The jam provides a tantalising sweetness to the cupcakes, perfectly offsetting the buttery icing. ENJOY and THANKS!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week-before-Christmas dessert

Put your ice-cream down. Forget about the cheese platter. Don't even bother popping to the corner store for a Vienetta. I have a pre-Christmas dessert for you (and it's really easy to make). I have been waiting for months for the follow-up of Mowielicious' online magazine. The first one was stunning - beautiful photos, great recipes and the use of superb fresh produce. When I found out his second magazine would be a Christmas edition, I stalked his blog until it was launched. 

A very jammy Christmas

I think I have already mentioned my plans to bake for as many gifts as I can this year. With a week until Christmas, I really have to get moving.

We are doing a type of Secret Santa this year with my husband's family. This post is kinda breaking the surprise (if he or the family reads this post), but one of my people is my Grandfather-in-law. He's a vegetarian and quite hard to buy for (don't worry, was not planning on getting him a chunk of meat, just thought I'd throw that piece of trivia in there). Last year I made him some chocolate sauces and they were a winner. So this year I decided to try jam. At the markets yesterday there were boxes of delicious looking cherries. I hate maraschino cherries or anything cherry flavoured, but I love a juicy, fresh cherry. They are perfectly in season at Christmas, so by default, are the traditional Christmas fruit. So when deciding on a jam flavour, how could I pass up cherry?

Friday, December 16, 2011

A zest for life

Did you know lemons are high in vitamin C and help prevent scurvy? Or that during the European Renaissance, fashionable ladies used lemon juice as a way to redden their lips? I'm not much of a fan of the taste of lemons, so I was unsure of what to write in this post. To keep things interesting, I found some lemon facts. So, to continue, did you know lemon juice is about 5% citric acid and lemons have a pH of 2 to 3. Also, lemonade may have originated from medieval Egypt. Interesting.

The reason I'm writing about lemons is I was recently asked by a friend to make some cupcakes. As always, I made my chocolate cupcakes but wanted to make a second flavour, something a bit lighter for those who don't share my sweet tooth. Lemon it was. To my surprise, the cupcakes were delicious. The use of the lemon zest in the icing instead of the juice gave it an amazing freshness, a zing, something I wasn't expecting. So, here it is, my lemon cupcakes for even the lemon haters amongst us.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

An angel for the top of the Christmas tree

I love Christmas. I love singing Christmas carols (to myself as I am incredible tone deaf!), I love Christmas food, I love buying presents for people and I love the festive feeling that is in the air. 

Growing up, Christmas was always a big affair full of tradition. We always put the Christmas tree up on the 1st December with carols playing in the background and my sister breaking at least one ornament (age did not stop this tradition). My Mum sat back and watched until it was time to put the angel on the top of the tree - that was her job. I have so many wonderful memories of those years that I want to incorporate some of them into my own family so my son can enjoy them he grows up. My family always used a fake tree, however my husband's family used a live tree. More often than not it would be a massive branch that they found somewhere in a park (or one year, just on the side of the road). My husband has always said he wanted us to have a real tree, so this year, we do. It's not huge, but something that can grow and take on a shape of it's own.

An abundance of raspberries

At the markets yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to see fresh raspberries. What was even more exciting though was the sign under them reading: 3 punnets for $5. Now, how can you pass up an offer like that?

There are so many things you can do with raspberries. I contemplated raspberry stuffed profiteroles, white chocolate and raspberry cake, raspberry jam, or something simple like a raspberry smoothy (very likely will also do this one). In the end though, I decided the best match for raspberries was chocolate. So, this weekend we are enjoying some choc-raspberry brownies. Let me hear you say "Mmmmmmmm".

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Christmas baking starts with something simple

I've been doing a bit of research into delicious baked items that I can give as Christmas gifts. Last year was the first year I did this and had a great response. Those people I always find it hard to buy for, I found easy to bake for. So this year I'm extending the baking gifts list. As Christmas in Brisbane is always sweltering (and generally rains for those interested), I don't want to bake anything to heavy. For my 92 year old Grandma I'm planning on baking an assortment of cookies. So today I started testing some recipes. I need to work on my royal icing, but the cookie and icing taste nice. If you feel like some easy recipes to try, have a go at this one. ENJOY!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rhubarb - So that's what it tastes like

Two weeks ago I bought my first bunch of rhubarb at the markets. Unfortunately, my motivation for baking has been lacking the past two weeks, so the rhubarb sat on my kitchen bench until it needed to be thrown out. This weekend at the markets, I noticed rhubarb was only $1 a bunch, so I decided to try again.

I have never baked with rhubarb, actually, I have never tasted rhubarb, so I scrolled the web for a recipe that would ease me into this fruit (yes, a fruit). After too long looking through search results, I realised I could type "rhubarb" into foodgawker and wha-lah, an idea. And so, here we have my first attempt at rhubarb: Rhubarb Swirl Cupcakes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Some impromptu baking

This morning I was running around the house, trying to get my son ready for day care and myself ready for work. I was half way through making his lunch when I realised I had no afternoon tea for him. I grabbed an armful of ingredients from the cupboard and whipped up some chocolate cookies. I didn't have enough chocolate for the cookies, so I used some left over freddos from our trick-or-treating stock, so these biscuits are a mix of dark and milk chocolate. I am yet to actual taste them, as was in such a hurry that I forgot to pack myself a biscuit, but I am looking forward to crunching on one (some) tonight. Fresh from the oven, they looked the perfect combination of chewy and crunchy.


Monday, October 31, 2011

What's sweet and disappears fast?

We don't really celebrate Halloween in Australia, however it's becoming more common. I don't actually know what Halloween is about. I think it's the eve of something to do with ghosts, but not even sure about that. What I do know is that it's a quintessential American holiday that, like most things, has made it's way off shore and embedded itself into our annual calendar.

Two years ago we completely forgot that it was Halloween, so when the kids came knocking we had to turn them away empty handed. I think we were the first house they visited, as they looked pretty disappointed. The word must have gotten around quick that we had no sweets, as no one else knocked on our door. Last year I was more prepared, however bought cheap chocolate. We had a few kids and their parents come knocking and when I handed over my brandless chocolate, I got some puzzled looks (insight into our neighbourhood - we're the worst house in the street, so most of the households would definitely be brand households). Not that I really care what the neighbours think of us, but I'd like to think if they saw someone trying to brake in while we weren't home, they'd ignore our poor choice of chocolate and call the police. To ensure this is the case, we have delicious brand chocolate this year (note - they were on special).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Time for the markets

I find the farmers markets on Saturday mornings one of those routines which sets the mode for my whole weekend. My 2 year old and I go ever Saturday morning and meet my friend Erin. I love walking in with the energy of all the early morning shoppers. The first thing we see as we enter is an abundance of colour with the flower stall. If I had the money (and arm space), I would buy hundreds of flowers and decorate my house with the sweet fragrance of spring.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Put something on those tarts

Continuing on from my last post, here's the recipe for my Chocolate Ganache Tarts. ENJOY

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Almost baking disasters

Another weekend, another hen's party for my friend from work. She must be a great bridesmaid, as she keeps getting asked to be part of her friend's bridal parties (which means I keep getting asked to bake dessert - win).

The last hen's party I baked for had an Alice in Wonderland theme. This hen's party was a more lavish affair and therefore called for something a bit more decedent. The result, chocolate and champagne.

I decided to bake chocolate ganache tarts and strawberry champagne cakes, as well as whip up some chocolate blueberry truffles. I had a look around for the best ganache recipe for my tarts and ended up going quite simple and using the recipe from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook. Some recipes I found called for heaps of steps and ingredients, Bourke Street just needed cream and chocolate - easy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's a crime to waste buttercream

I had no idea the effort that went into making a proper buttercream. First you have to make a french meringue using a sugar syrup then beating egg whites and cream of tartar for eternity. Then slowly pour in the syrup while it's still hot at the same time as avoiding being scalded. Once you have beaten for another eternity, you beat in the 650g of butter, cube by cube. Can you believe that much butter is involved, I had to triple check. But I can say it was worth it. What an amazing result. A perfectly smooth, glossy, pure white cream for my cake. It really was the "icing on top of the cake".

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wowzers chocolate cake

Last week I was very excited to get a delivery from The Book Depository. It was the Miette Bakery Cookbook, something I have been dreaming of buying for about 6 or so months. It came at the perfect time, as over the weekend we had a belated birthday BBQ for my brother-in-law. The request was for a chocolate or caramel cake. I flipped through the pages and decided on the cake from the book cover, with a few decorating changes to be more suitable for a boy (ie, no pink icing).
The cake is similar to a chiffon cake, using oil instead of butter, and it also called for the use of both cocoa and dark chocolate, giving it a rich chocolate flavour and a crumbly yet moist texture. I then made the vanilla buttercream frosting, which is based on a french meringue mixed with about 650g of butter - that's not a typo! Ignoring the possible coronary I would be giving my family, the final product was the smoothest, glossiest frosting I have ever made. It provided a wonderful sweetness and balance for the cake.

Attempt at a classic

There are always foods that hold special memories, or even just remind you of a feeling, when you eat them. Cupcakes remind me of visiting my grandma when we were little and eating her "little cakes". They were just a basic vanilla cupcake recipe, but to us they were a little bit of magic that melted in our mouths. Whenever I have a salmon sandwich I get the urge to cut it into as many tiny squares as possible, like we use to do when we stayed at my other grandma's house. My sister and I would sit around her table and squeal with excitement as she manged to squeeze in an extra row. And trifle is not trifle unless my Dad's cousin makes it, and only at Christmas. Every Christmas we would all stuff into our already full belly's Ray's trifle, which was soaked in port with rich custard and homemade sponge. Thinking of it now makes me smile as I remember all the delicious Christmas' we spent together as a family.

Another food which spurs memories for me are Kingston biscuits. My Dad use to buy them to have with coffee after dinner. Anything with chocolate we devoured as children, so of course we would sneak as many Kingston's as possible. I was browsing some of my favorite blogs recently and found this recipe on Raspberri Cupcakes for Oat Cookies with Coconut Milk Ganache. It was a must to attempt. I have much to learn about properly rolling biscuits and not over filling the centers, but they still tasted amazing - a biscuit which resembled an Anzac with a chocolaty coconut filling. If you loved Kingston's as a child, or even now, I recommend you try these biscuits and the amazing revelation of using coconut milk instead of cream in the ganache.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

An orange a day...

I was at the markets the other day and saw blood oranges. I'd heard they weren't in season for long, so bought a few to play with. I had never baked with blood oranges before so started goggling to find some recipes.

I came across this blog post for a Middle Eastern Blood Orange cake. It looked divine and being flourless, I knew it would be lovely and moist. I plopped my 2yr old in front of the tv and started baking.

In the post it suggests the easy step of microwaving the oranges instead of simmering them for hours. I went with this, however didn't get a heaps of juices from them, so maybe I need to test this method a little more.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chocolate cake anyone?

When I ask someone what kind of cake they want for their birthday, the most common response is chocolate. That's not surprising. Chocolate is able to be sweet or bitter. It taste amazing with a pinch of salt and is the ultimate indulgence when melted and licked from a spoon.

Obviously, I love chocolate. Tonight I was supposed to go to a friend from works 30th birthday, however my lovely 2 year old decided it was finally time to share and passed his conjunctivitis to my husband and I - YUK

To celebrate (the birthday, not my son sharing), I thought I'd post this flourless hazelnut chocolate cake I made for another friend a few weeks back. My friend is extremely talented and made the beautiful cake bunting in the image below. Check out her Etsy shop for more of her stuff.

So, happy birthday Davos. Hope you enjoyed your night!

A moment to melt

Take a moment and treat yourself to these delicious buttery biscuits. I don't bake biscuits often, but these delightful treats are just that, delightful. I made the below batch for my  husband's family recently when they all popped over for a Sunday afternoon cuppa - the biscuits didn't last long.

What I love about these biscuits is that they just melt in your mouth - I guess whoever named them melting moments was pretty spot on. I've made these before using custard powder (I think they're also referred to as Yo-Yo Biscuits), but as I LOVE custard, I got a tad disappointed that I couldn't taste custard in the biscuits. The below recipe works just as well and avoids any unneeded custard disappointment.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mad Hatters Tea Party

I was recently asked by a friend from work to do some baking for a hens party. The theme was Alice in Wonderland. I love this theme because I can create scrumptious treats and add a little bit of quirkiness to them.

I immediately did some online research into what might be fun for a tea party and found the most beautiful ideas (I also came across the most awesome decorations, but that's an interest for another day). In the end, I went for a collection of six treats.

My first idea was jam tarts. Little jam tarts make me think of a proper English tea party. The crumbly buttery tart shells filled with delightfully sweet raspberry jam is the perfect sweet. I followed these with some mini carrot cakes with cream cheese icing, as I thought the illusion of something healthy would be good. 

I then wanted to add a bit of fun, so looked into marshmallows. A previous post on this blog was my marshmallow cookies with an amazing soft marshmallow filling. Making my own marshmallow for this recipe was a revelation. I had never enjoyed store-bought marshmallow before, but homemade marshmallow is so different. It's smooth and less sickly sweet. I found a simple recipe for marshmallow and decided to go with that for my marshmallow cones. I had to make three batches to get enough for the party, but they turned out beautiful with a slight glossy top.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bourke Street Bakery tart

I LOVE BOURKE STREET BAKERY! Every time we go to Sydney, I always make a trip to the bakery and sample something new. If I hear anyone is going to Sydney, even for the day, I tell them to try and get to Surrey Hills and experience the joys of this little bakery.

I love the feel of the bakery. Even though it's small and always has lines wrapping around the corner, it is heaven. For my birthday this year I requested gift vouchers, which lead me to finally buying the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook. After scrolling through the 369 pages, I decided the first thing I must make was the chocolate mousse tarts - pause for drool!

Monday, October 3, 2011

A cake for Father's Day

I realise Father's Day was a while ago, however I am very late with an update of any kind, so let's start from a few weeks ago.

I have always struggled in finding gifts for my father. He never wants anything, so we all end up buying him either alcohol or books. I am an awful book buyer, so I generally splash out on some grog. Last year for Christmas, I decided to give Dad something he actually wanted - an unlimited amount of carrot cakes for the year. As Dad loves my carrot cake, this went down well. So, when Father's Day was upon us recently, there was only one cake I was going to make - CARROT CAKE.

The recipe I've been using for the past few years is so simple and results in a deliciously moist cake. It only takes about 10 minutes to throw together and about an hour to bake. So get your bowls out and start baking!