Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I keep going back to the classics

It's hard not to love a classic.

I am a recipe follower, I generally know what I’m doing and the steps to take, but I like to refer to the recipe to make sure my measurements are correct and I’m on track. I do find that when I’m baking a classic, it’s good to stick to the recipe – mainly because everyone knows the cake, knows the flavour, and are harsh critics. You stuff up a classic cake, and you’re out… well, maybe not out, but I imagine your reputation would take a little hit.

One classic that I make regularly, and still follow the recipe for, is carrot cake. It is delicious and I reckon it’s the best recipe around for carrot cake. I don’t add sultanas or nuts to the cake, just keep it simple. The cream cheese icing is essential! And getting the balance of sweetness is very important.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Winter's not quiet over yet

There are so many delicious things people usually save for Winter. Thick, hearty casseroles, rich saucy dishes, sticky caramelized puddings! So so many mouth watering delights. One dessert I usually save for Winter is apple pie. I have no idea why though, as it is so good hot or cold. I really should make it more, as it seems simple, but you can create so many varieties of the simple apple pie. Like infusing the stewed apples with cinnamon, or other spices, or adding other fruits - not just sultanas, I like to mix pear in with the apples sometimes. I also sometimes caramelized the apples and make a type of toffee apple pie. This time though I have gone traditionally. I made a super crumbly shortcrust pastry, lined it in a tall pan, added heaps of apples and served it with cream and custard. There were no complaints (actually very few words as it was hard to focus on anything but eating it).

I recommend trying a few varieties of apple pie, and seeing how to turn it into a summer favourite also. Possibly a tart or turnover style pie instead of the warm high pie. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday food traditions

Do you have a special Sunday food tradition? My Mum use to tell me how her family use to have a big roast for Sunday lunch. The family would all get together and enjoy a big meal each Sunday. My Dad also told stories of how when he came over for dinner my grandfather would stand on the table trying to squat the tiny moths and that no one else at the table would flinch or think it was weird. I like to imagine he even did this at the big Sunday lunches.

We didn't have these kinds of traditions growing up, but we did have food legends. Like my Mum's chicken lasagne, which was so rich that we could only eat it once a year for fear of heart failure. And always having bread with dinner, which I would make a sandwich with using anything on my plate - you bet, I double carbed, bread and potato!!

I would like to think I could start some food traditions with my son. One that I think should be pretty doable is a big meal, possibly even a roast, on Sundays. Tonight I made a roast chicken with potatoes, mustard beans and an Italian bread/curton thing. It was delicious. Then to follow, these lemon and lime tarts. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Julia will always make you bake!

Before we uploaded all my DVDs onto a computer connected to the TV, I had all my DVDs on display and filed them by my own categories. The unique way I categorise my DVDs was by mood. I have my horrible girly movies that I know I like to watch when I'm sick or home alone and feel like a lazy afternoon. I have some comedies. Then I have serious DVDs, ones which one might need to think about or focus on while watching. I also have an area for my son's movies, which are mostly Pixar and Disney movies. I think I need one more category - baking! There is one DVD, that every time I watch it, I feel the need to scroll through my cookbooks looking for recipes and bake something semi-elaborate. This movie is Julia & Julie. I love it! I have watched it too many times and it's at the top of my girly section, as I watch it more often than any of the others.

I recently watched it when I had a day off. I think I only got half way through before I jumped into the kitchen and made these Chocolate Rum Custard Tarts. Which was good, because then I had a delicious treat to finish the movie with. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Too much chocolate in the house!!

There are two events each year that fill my house with a tempting chocolate haze. The first is Easter. That darn Bunny over does it every year. This year we didn't crack open the final egg until only about a week ago (I was hiding it so we didn't eat it, but my 5 year old can smell out treats. When he found it he just declared he was eating it - who can argue with that??). The second event, for those who partake (and we do every year) is the Ekka!! - aka the Royal Queensland Exhibition.

The most popular treat at the Ekka are the Strawberry Sundaes. It's a tradition to consume at least one of these during your visit. Which is probably why many Brisbane baking bloggers are posting delicious strawberry inspired recipes right now. But not I! As mentioned, this event unintentionally fills my house with chocolate and I need to get rid of it.

Here's some snaps of my boy at the Ekka this year:

It's much safer for me not to have chocolate in the house, as I will indulge and I find it hard to stop. The bargaining runs through my head - you'll go for a walk tomorrow, you'll get up early and go on the exercise bike. But I really should know myself better than that, as my alarm will go off early the next morning and I will find it too hard to get out of bed and just tell myself I accept getting fat.

This year, I was good. I bought my partner a Bertie Bettle bag, my son a Ninja bag (only toys, no chocolate - before you judge, he picked it over anything with sweets or chocolate, so yay!!) and I bought a caramello bag that was SUPPOSED to go to my brother and his fiance... that didn't happen (sorry Nadia, I promise to make it up to you). THEN to make matters worse, my parents went the following day and bought us a huge Cadbury chocolate bag. Disaster! Now we had copious amounts of chocolate in the house,  all small enough to be able to talk yourself into having a few choc-snacks.

To overcome this, I have crushed a heap of them up, sprinkled them over some baking, and will be taking them into work to give those around me a sugar high! Happy Friday everyone ;-).


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's fete time!

I moved into my house about 7 years ago. I love the area - the trees lining the street, the park across the road, the family atmosphere. But a little secret gem, which many people new to the area don't know about is the local school fete. Before I even moved in, the Fete Queen (also known as my mother) raved about it, especially the jams, chutneys and sweets. One store she neglected to mention was the cake store. 

I agreed to go with Mum a few months after moving in. I was pretty impressed. There were rides, stores, second hand stuff, but what I was really excited about was the cake store. It seemed like hundreds of cakes of various flavours and styles, all super cheap. I was sold, best fete ever.

When my son was enrolled and accepted into the school, I desperately wanted to be involved in the cake store. When I say desperately, I didn't actually go to any Parent & Friends Meetings or actively search out any information... I just waited to see when the newsletter started mentioning the fete or someone emailed. The request for help came and I responded with a little too much confidence. I wanted them to know I was there to help, to make cakes and that I could do some decorating. Some how I over sold myself and became the cake consultant, offering advice on icing and fondants and was being allocated the "hard cakes" to bake. In the end I was listed to bake 2 chocolate mud cakes, 8 red velvet cakes, 2 hummingbird cakes and the raffle cake - a carnival cake. Phew!

The perfect cake for a little Princess

I kind of feel like a princess after making this cake!

My friend emailed me a few weeks ago asking if I could make a cake for her daughter's 5th birthday party. She then mentioned they were keen on a princess castle cake. As you will very quickly pick up by reading my blog, I have a son and to date have had no excuse to make a super girly cake... until now!!! So of course I immediately said yes and then had lots of fun researching a cake design.

I had already committed to making a Carnival Cake from my son's school fete and had planned on using fondant to decorate it. I had never used fondant before and wanted to practice before the Carnival Cake. While researching for the princess cake, I found many recipe that used fondant and knew this was my chance.

Why you may ask did I have want to make and decorate a girly cake? Well, for some reason I find the older I get, the more girly I become. When I was a teenager, I never wore dresses or skirts and was pretty shy. I never seemed to like typical girl colours, like pink and purple, always opting for green. I don't actually think there's anything wrong with that, however as I reached my mid 20s, I realised I owned NO pants, only dresses or skirts (that includes jeans, I did not and still do not own a pair of jeans), and I even found some pink sneaking into my wardrobe. Now, having recently turned 30, I love glitter and I own a fair bit of purple.

So, back to the princess cake - why wouldn't I jump at this chance. And on that note, why did I wait to do it for a five year old? I should have made this cake for my birthday!!!

New job cupcakes

A few months ago I started a new job. After over 5 amazing years working for a performing arts venue, as well as about 3 years before that working with other performing arts companies, it was time for a change.

I was ready to step into a new role. I was ready for more responsibility. I was ready to take on the challenges of a new industry. Well, kind of a new industry, I was only stepping over into visual arts, where I guess you could say the performance occurs on the canvas instead of a stage. Either way, it was new.

In the interview it came up that I could bake… not really sure how, I guess I weaved it in there to “sweeten” the deal. But after starting and focusing all my energy on figuring out what I was doing, I was too drain too try and impress with my bake prowess. Every time we had a morning tea, and there seemed to be one almost every week, I either had a function or something on the night before and couldn’t make anything. A few months went by until I finally showed I could produce the goods. And that came in the form of my fresh strawberry cupcakes with cream cheese icing and (to make things extra special) lime zest AND edible glitter. I think the whole office was taken by the edible glitter, it was all anyone could talk about. And to make things even better, I could tell who had eaten my cupcakes as a few specks of glitter could be seen on their faces. Success!

Monday, July 14, 2014

OK, yes, I do watch Masterchef

So, I must admit, after not watching the past few seasons, I have been watching this year's Masterchef. I will even admit it took me until an episode in this season for a past winner to walk in and for me to realise that's who I had seen on the cover a cookbook recently, which seemed to be on every bookstore shelf (I was really confused. She had the same name as a singer but didn't really look like her, but maybe did if you squinted... see, confusing!)

I am not addicted. I am not concerned if I miss an episode and I even change over before the results are "announced" so my boyfriend can catch the start of his show. See - not obsessed. Anyway, I do enjoy watching the challenges and wondering what I'd do. Sometimes I think of something really great instantly, and then on the odd occasion I have trailed that recipe the following weekend. I've been pretty happy with myself. So when they did choux pastry recently, I thought, "easy". I bought the ingredients the following evening - that's how confident I was. Unfortunately, I found out it was much harder than I originally thought. My first attempt was eggy, flat and doughy. Not edible at all.

However, never one to give up when it comes to baking, I tried again. This time I followed my macaroon success and stumbled across a blog which gave the 1-0-1 on making choux. Like the macaroons, her reasons sounded sane, her technique pretty easy, so I gave it a go. And guess what, they worked :-). Well, half the batch worked, the other half went flat, but it was ok, we had more than enough to give us a pre-bedtime sugar high.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A 5th birthday cake to impress!

It was recently my son's fifth birthday and for the first time we were having a party with his new school friends. Of course, I wanted to impress. I had never met most of the parents of the kids in his class and I was nervous. I have always had this dream that I would become friends with my son's friend's parents. That we can hang out and drink wine or beer while the kids play, then we can walk home (yep, these fantasy friends live close to home, so no need to worry about who needs to be the driver). This little fantasy has never panned out... maybe it's because I am a little introverted, or maybe it's because I never see another parent due to my son being the first at before school care and one of the last to be picked up in the afternoon. Hmmm I'm not painting the best picture of myself here for future friends... a drunk who works to hard and doesn't talk to strangers. That's not really me, promise. Anyway, back to my point... I wanted to impress with this birthday cake.

I started planning the cake. I thought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - perfect, he loves them and so do most other 5 year old boys. Problem, all the cakes I found were a little difficult, and I saw many failed attempts online, so started researching Plan B... Spiderman. This was much better. I found a design in the shape of a number 5 cake, all I needed was red icing. I started making my cake - easy. Then I made the icing, as I knew my red food colouring would need a few hours to get nice and deep. The cakes came out of the oven perfectly and after resting them, I shaped them. I kept looking at my icing... after 3 hours it was still pink. I was not going to impress my son, his friends AND the Mum's with a pink Spiderman cake. I had to think quick as it was obvious the red was not going to happen. I only had about half an hour until I needed to be in the park by this point, so grabbed some sprinkles and covered the cake with vanilla buttercream and hundreds and thousands.

The cake wasn't as cool as I had hoped, but no one cared. Everyone loved it. Every Mum that arrived commented on it and the kids at the party lined up for seconds. I would say that was a success!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The ekidna cupcakes!

What happens when you give your child a birthday cake book and say they can choose whatever they want? I'll tell you what, something YOU don't really want to make. This year it was an ekidna challenge! He loves all things boy - Ninja Turtles, Spideman, cars of any kind, things that feel gross between your fingers and stick to the walls, soccer, cricket... you know, boy stuff. So giving him the Birthday Cake book, I expected to do doing a soccer field cake, or the swimming pool cake, or possibly even the rocket ship cake. But for some reason the ekidna stood out and that's what he wanted. 

Instead of making it exactly like the recipe called for, I decided to make cupcakes, that way I could also make some grass using the "furry" nozzle I never get to use. 

So here they are, my ekidna cupcakes!

Monday, July 7, 2014

A new beginning

It has been about a year since I last blogged. I didn't have a blogging tragedy that scarred me from posting stories and recipes online. I didn't stop baking (never)... I just have the boring, old excuses of getting busy and not making time for my blog. So... let's try this again. Tonight will be the first of many regular posts about food and baking. I hope to instill in you the same joy I get out of creating treats and that you also get to experience the delights of someone else really enjoying your food.

So what recipe do I (re)start with... I think it should be something pretty momentous! And I know just the thing.

For years I have not been trying to perfect this recipe, just not make a completely crap version. I have tried various recipes and techniques and each time they come out horrible. Generally they have been flat and sticky, but my friends, I am overjoyed to announce I have finally concurred my white whale! But how did I do it? Sadly, it came down to research and persistence.