Sunday, December 23, 2007

daring bakers do it again!

This month, the daring bakers challenge has a Christmas theme! It is a yule log. In NZ we have adopted many Northern hemisphere traditions, but the yule log is not one of them. A yule log is basically a sponge filled with a creamy filling, rolled up and then covered in buttercream and decorated to look like a log. The rules were that we could chose whatever flavour spong we wanted and whatever flavour filling we wanted, but had to decorate the log with a dark coloured buttercream - coffee was suggested. we also had to make meringue or marzipan mushrooms to decorate the log.

We went out for dinner last night and I volunteered to make dessert, so thought I would make my log for that. I decided to make a chocolate log and fill it with whipped cream and sliced strawberries whcih is more in keeping for a NZ Christmas. I covered the log with chocolate buttercream.

My meringues were a real disaster (see above)!!!! I normally pride myslef on being a reasonable meringue maker, but for the gods were against me on these babies!! First of all, I decided to half the mixture, but for some reason I did 2/3 of the egg whites, so I had too much egg white for sugar. Then I turned the oven off early as I had to race back to work for a last minute Christmas settlement. Then I took the meringues out of the oven before they were completely cool - I usually leave them in over night. AS a result my "mushrooms" don't look remotely mushroom like! I toook them off before we took it out for dinner.

I was delighted with teh butter cream though. it was delicious and set perfectly. All in all it was a success, mushrooms aside. Once again I attempted something i havent made before and learned new techniques. I wish you could see what it looked like when it was cut open as it looked great with teh strawberries and cream and was delicious!!! See how the other daring bakers did here.

have a wonderful Christmas and happy holidays. I am off for 3 weeks now. Thanks everyone for reading!! It has been a fun few months and my blog is certainly filling the void for writing a cook book!!! I look forward to next year!!! :0)

Friday, December 21, 2007

cute cookies

I am so delighted with these cute cookies. I was at the hairdressers on Saturday and in one of the magazines was this recipe for decorated hazelnut shortbread biscuits. I don’t normally ever rip out pages of magazines that I don’t own, but I did on Saturday!!! I slyly ripped out the page and put it in my handbag!!! I was slightly shocked at myself, but I really needed the visual to see what the biscuits looked like!

The mixture called for ground hazelnuts. I was planning on grinding my own, but I remembered that I had some ground macadamia nuts in the cupboard, so I decided to substitute those. The cookies in the magazine were all beautifully decorated in a mixture of white and dark chocolate. To make things simple for myself, I dipped all of mine in white chocolate and then decorated them with these really cute icing santa clauses that I bought at the Albany farmers market, and some Christmas sprinkles I got from the supermarket. I am so pleased with them! They look lovely and festive and also taste yummy! They cooked to a nice consistency and kept their shape well! What more could I want!!!

Over the weekend I will be making the last minute wee treats to give on Christmas day. The other things I plan on making are some savoury biscuits, some spice biscuits and some fruit mince chocolate truffles. I am making a gift basket for my mother in law for Christmas, so I want to fill it with things that she will like. That might be my first post for next year as on Monday I am off on holiday for 3 weeks!! Yay!!!

Hazelnut shortbread

125g butter
¼ c icing sugar
1 tbsp rice flour
1 c flour
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tbsp ground hazelnuts

· Cream butter and icing sugar, then mix in dry ingredients
· Roll out and cut into shapes
· Bake at 150 deg for about 15-20 minutes
Decorate with melted chocolate

Thursday, December 20, 2007

colourful Christmas fare

More Christmas fare to give as gifts!! This time it is meringues and candy canes.

I am one of those people who doesn’t like to waste things, so I always end up with leftover egg whites in little plastic bags in the freezer!!! Meringues are quite a good thing to give people at Christmas as they look nice and can be useful for them to have on Christmas day. I use a Ruth Pretty meringue recipe which has a ratio of 70g castor sugar to 1 egg white. This year I decided to make them a bit more festive by colouring them with green swirls. I was going to do red ones as well, but time got the better of me. I piped half of the mixture and did the other half in free form. I like the shape of the piped ones (see above), but the free form ones (see below)had more of a green swirl which I like better.

The candy canes aren’t quite as cool as I had hoped for. I like the colours and everything, it’s just that my icing is a bit messy. I think one of my goals next year is to go to a biscuit decorating class. I have done one in the past, but a refresher would be good. Part of my problem is that I am a bit quick!! I think if I slowed down a bit I would get a better result!! Maybe that could be my new year resolution? The gingerbread biscuit recipe is one I have been using for years. Unfortunately the biscuits soften once iced, but I don’t think there is anything you can do to stop that. Sometimes if I don’t feel like ginger biscuits (or more likely, have run out of ground ginger!) I substitute the ginger with 2 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp mixed spice.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

florentines and a summer salad

More Christmas treats got made last night. I had actually made these Florentines in the weekend, but spread them with chocolate last night. The recipe came from the latest cuisine magazine. I am not usually a big Florentine person as I don’t like dried fruit or glace cherries or things like that, but these ones just had almonds in them, so they were pretty good!!!

I spread some of them with white chocolate and some with dark. I wanted to do the fork tines pattern, but to be honest had lost patience with the whole thing by then!!! It has been pretty humid the last few days and baking in the heat can be tiring!

Last night for dinner I made a smoked fish, new potato and broad bean salad for dinner. When I went to get the fish, they didn’t have any that appealed, so I nervously bought kippered hoki. The girl at the shop told me it is half cooked. So I put it on a baking tray and cooked it for about 12 minutes at 200. It was so delicious!!! I think I will buy it again instead of smoked fish as it wasn’t as dry as smoked hoki can be, but still had the delicious smoked flavour. I like to peel broad beans, so that you don’t have that tough grey outer skin. It really does make all the difference and doesn’t take as long as you might think. I combined the fish, new potatoes and broad beans with some rocket, chilli flakes, lemon juice, lemon infused olive oil and lots of cracked pepper. A really nice light meal after all the rich food we have been eating lately!

Almond Florentines

50g butter
50g castor sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
50ml cream
140g sliced almonds
dark or white chocolate to melt to spread the Florentines with

· Melt the butter, sugar, golden syrup and cream together. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and stir in the almonds
· Leave for a few minutes and then place teaspoonfuls on trays
· Bake at 180 for 5 minutes, then push together if spreading with a small palette knife. Bake for a further 5 minutes
· When cold spread with chocolate

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A very rich slice!

We had our work Christmas bbq on Sunday – bbq at Long bay beach. Santa Claus came of course. It was a really fun afternoon, taking me back to my childhood of Christmas parties with Santa! We all had to bring either a salad or a pudding. I much prefer to make dessert, so made this double chocolate slice. The recipe is a Julie Le Clerc one that was in the herald newspaper when she used to write for that. I ripped it out ages ago and it has been in my recipe box waiting to be made!

The slice is very delicious, but very rich!!!! It is almost like a brownie base with a white chocolate fudge on top. I cut it into quite small pieces, as you don’t need much of it. It was quite a good thing for a bbq as well as you don’t need a plate or a spoon. The recipe just called for chocolate melts and I used nestle chocolate melts – dark on the bottom and white on the top. They seemed to work well.

Double Chocolate Slice (Julie Le Clerc recipe from the NZ Herald)

300g dark chocolate
125g butter
1 1/2 c sugar
3 eggs
¾ c flour
¾ c cocoa

· Melt together the butter and chocolate; stir in the sugar and the beaten eggs
· Stir in the sifted flour and cocoa
· Pour into a 23cm square lined tin and bake for about 35 minutes at 180deg
· Once cool, cover with following topping and refrigerate until firm

375g white chocolate melts
50g butter
395g tin condensed milk

· Melt all ingredients together.

Last night we had a simple tart for dinner – shortcrust pastry filled with roasted red onions, red and yellow peppers, olives, feta, basil leaves and parmesan. It was lovely to have something fairly light. We had it with a tomato salad with some delicious tomatoes that really tasted like summer!

Monday, December 17, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

I spent Saturday afternoon making some wee treats for Christmas gifts. Things are a bit more relaxed now that I don’t sell my wee treats at Christmas. I think back to about 3 years ago when I had nearly $4000 worth of orders – you can imagine how many dozen shortbread, truffles etc I had to make to fill those orders!!!

While I like to try new things there are always a few tried and true Christmas baking favourites. These include Christmas mince tarts and shortbread. I don’t like mince tarts myself – I don’t like dried fruit. I always make little ones as they are quick and easy to put together. This year I had some fruit mince leftover from last year – a traditional one that I make every year using a Ruth Pretty recipe and a rhubarb and vanilla one. I only made 4 dozen tarts and I still have a little fruit mince left, so I think I will use it to make some fruit mince truffles – I am sure my father-in-law would love those!

My other Christmas staple is shortbread – this year I have made some small angels. I may make more later in the week. Everyone seems to love shortbread! I like quite pale shortbread, so the trick is to cook it long and slow. I think the wee angels look really cute.

I also made the cointreau truffles I mentioned last week. I have my own truffle recipe (sorry, top secret!!). I make a myriad of flavours, baileys and white chocolate being the most popular. The white chocolate and cointreau are pretty good though.

Friday, December 14, 2007

cupcake hero #2

The cupcake hero challenge for December is mint. A few years ago I made a cake to take on a picnic which was a coconut cake with mint syrup. It was really yummy and something along those lines was what came to mind when I started thinking about a mint inspired cupcake.

Next thought was what goes well with mint as I didn’t want to just replicate the coconut and mint syrup cake. Strawberries are one of my favourite things and they have a real affinity with mint, so I decided to pair the mint flavour with strawberries. The next thought that popped into my mind was cream. Even though I love making cupcakes I don’t always love eating them as I find the buttercream style of icing very sweet. I thought that topping my cakes with whipped cream would be a good alternative for these cakes, especially as strawberries and cream are another classic combination!

So, here is my cake, a basic vanilla cake (I made a vanilla variation of my favourite chocolate cupcake recipe) but with a mint syrup, topped with whipped cream with strawberries folded through and garnished with more strawberry and a little mint leaf. I guess I could call them mint syrup and strawberry cupcakes!

I took them to book club end of year drinks last night. They are really yummy – the mint gives them a freshness and the strawberries and cream are delicious!


100g butter, softened
180 g sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract or paste (I used vanilla paste which you can now get at supermarkets)
150g flour
2 tsp baking powder
100ml warm milk

· Cream butter and sugar; beat in eggs one at a time and then vanilla
· Stir in flour and b powder alternately with milk
· Spoon into 12 cupcake cases and bake at 180deg for about 18 minutes
· When cold, drizzle with following hot syrup (or when hot drizzle with the cooled syrup)

½ c sugar
½ c water
juice of one lemon
a couple of sprigs of mint leaves

· Stir ingredients over heat until the sugar dissolves, then simmer for about 3 minutes

Top the cupcakes with whipped cream that you have folded crushed strawberries through (I used 300ml cream beaten with 1 tbsp icing sugar and one punnet of strawberries which I pureed in my min prep) and top with a slice of strawberry and a mint leaf.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Baking disasters - aka doing too much!

I had hoped never to have to report on a cooking disaster! But last night was a disaster. Once again a case of me trying to do too much!!! We had our work Christmas lunch yesterday (at the Hunting Lodge which was just divine!!). I was so full of food I didn’t feel like dinner, but I quickly cooked some fresh fish (smeared it with a cashew nut and coriander pesto I had made last week and hot roasted it), roasted some asparagus and cooked some jersey benne potatoes for my husband. I also made the cupcake part of my recipe for the December cupcake hero challenge (more about that tomorrow), then decided that I also should make some wee treats as gifts for people I am seeing in the next few days.

Disaster number 1 is easily fixed as I can make some more, but I had made the mint syrup for my cupcakes and had left it sitting on the stove. My husband kindly tidied up from dinner, and threw out my mint syrup!!!!! Hmm, I won’t write what I said (or yelled!!!!).

Disaster number 2. I had seen a recipe in a book for macaroon angels – shortbread style biscuits cut into the shape of angels and then topped with a macaroon topping. They looked beautiful in the book, but what a disaster!!! After I put the macaroon topping on my angels, they looked more like large blobs than angels. I was so disappointed!!! They tasted delicious and my husband said he was happy to have the deformed angels in the cookie tin for his lunches. Sadly, I felt defeated, so quickly whipped up another batch of my Christmas fudge, this time flavouring it with a good slosh of baileys, leaving out the fruit and nuts and topping it with silver dragees.

I then did the dishes and was about to put the deformed angels in the tin, when I had a thought that maybe I could use a little round cutter to make little round macaroon biscuits. So, that’s I what I did. Unfortunately all my hard work only made 12 little rounds (all the scraps went into the cookie tin), but at least that is one gift I can give. I think I will give them to some elderly clients I am going to see tomorrow.

I’ve just realised too that I gave the person who I made the baileys fudge for (my hairdresser!), baileys fudge last year! So I may have to whip up some white chocolate and cointreau truffles for her tonight before I go to yet another function!!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas fudge

Last night I got home from a function where I had eaten too many nibbles to be bothered with dinner!!! But my husband asked if I could make some wee treats for some of his work colleagues as a Christmas thank you. I didn’t really feel like turning on the oven, so I made my Christmas stand by – chocolate fudge. I make this every Christmas. It is really easy to make and tastes delicious. People always seem to be appreciative of it.

Last night I made cranberry and almond fudge because that is what I had on hand, but I have also made it plain and put chopped macadamias on top or plain with silver drageeze on top. I have also done cranberry and pecan and dried apricot and almond. One day I want to make pistachio, but I never seem to have pistachios in the cupboard when I want to make it! I used Cadbury old gold chocolate last night to make the fudge as that is what I had in the cupboard. You could also use chocolate that already had nuts etc in it – that would be a more economical way of making it.

I also have to show you this very cool bag that my friend Jenny made me for Christmas. She is so clever!!! The buckle is one of her Grandma’s clip on earrings – so gorgeous!!!!

Christmas Fudge

500g dark chocolate
70g butter
397g tin condensed milk
½ c slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1 c craisins (dried cranberries)

· Melt together the chocolate, butter and condensed milk
· Stir in the almonds and craisins
Pour into a lined 23cm square tin and chill until firm

Monday, December 10, 2007

yummy yo-yos!

It was another busy weekend full of functions and my Mum was staying with us as well, so not much cooking or baking was done. I actually made a yummy white chocolate torte which I decorated with white chocolate dipped strawberries to take to a bbq yesterday, but it was a hectic morning and the torte was still warm as we were leaving, so I assembled it at our friend’s house and didn’t get to take a photo!

I did have a small window of time yesterday afternoon and wanted to make some wee treats for two staff members who have both had a sad couple of weeks. I didn’t have any eggs left after making the torte and I asked Mum if it was her, what would she like to be given. She said yo-yos. I love yo-yos too. They are one of the baking staples I was brought up with. Mum presses hers down with a meat tenderiser which puts a really nice square pattern on them. However, I just use a fork. I tend to make really little ones as I think they look nicer, and it’s nice just to have a small bite.

Instead of yo-yos made with the traditional custard powder, I made them plain and filled them with passionfruit butter icing. A nice traditional treat!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Fresh snapper and Christmas cards!

There hasn’t been much cooking going on this week with functions virtually every night, so not much to report. Although we did have a really yummy dinner on Monday night. A friend gave me some beautiful fresh snapper which I pan fried and we had it with the most gorgeous little jersey benne potatoes (I am not a big potato fan, but there is nothing like new season Jersey bennes – the best new potatoes which come from Oamaru!), which were honestly no bigger than the size of your thumb from your knuckle!!!, and a salad made from rocket, cherry tomatoes and asparagus, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. I also made a lemony mayonnaise which went really well with the fish and the potatoes. So simple but so nice!

I bought the potatoes and the tomatoes from the Auckland farmers market at Alexandra Park on Sunday. It was the first time we had been to the market – it is quite impressive and I hope it continues to grow.

The photo of the cards above are two Christmas cards that I made in the weekend. Hope to be doing some Christmas baking over the weekend to report on next week!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

banana and macadamia cupcakes with passionfruit icing

I had three very sad looking bananas languishing in the fruit bowl. Normally I would make these into muffins for the freezer, but on Sunday afternoon I decided to use them to make banana cupcakes. I think just plain old banana cake can be a bit boring, so after looking through some books and magazines I based my recipe on the one below from an old Donna Hay magazine. I had also bought some macadamia nuts last week and being in danger of eating them all I decided to add them to the banana cakes for a bit of texture. It worked really well actually. Macadamia nuts have a slight tropical feel to them and they seem to go well with bananas. They are my favourite nuts and sometimes I will get a few at the supermarket to eat while I am packing my groceries!!

The recipe I followed had a passionfruit drizzle, but cupcakes require something a bit more than that I think, so I made a passionfruit butter cream icing and swirled it on the top of the cakes. I think they looked pretty good and they tasted nice as well.

By the way, my limoncello is delicious!!!! I decanted it last night and have put one bottle in the wine cellar and one in the freezer. Now I just hope that I have the willpower not to keep having a wee tipple from the freezer each night!!!

Banana & macadamia cupcakes with passionfruit icing (adapted from Donna Hay magazine)

125g softened butter
¾ c castor sugar
½ c brown sugar
3 eggs
2 c flour
2 tsp b powder
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
¾ c sour cream (I used cyclops natural yoghurt)
1 c mashed banana (I used three)
1 c chopped macadamia nuts (my own variation)

· Cream butter and sugars; add eggs, one at a time
· Fold in dry ingredients and then mix in sour cream, bananas and macadamia nuts
· Spoon into 24 cupcakes cases and bake at 180 for about 18 minutes
· Ice with the following passionfruit icing

Beat together 50g softened butter, ¼ c passionfruit pulp, 1 tbsp milk and about 5 c icing sugar

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A lemony pudding

On Saturday night we had friends over for a bbq. Bbq season is great as there is no worrying about the timing of cooking the meat etc!!!! For nibbles I made some guacamole and bought some corn chips. I also cooked the quails eggs which I bought at the Matakana farmers market a couple of weeks ago. Very fiddly to peel!!!! Once I peeled them, I cut them in half and rolled them in dukkah. They were quite nice for a change and a bit of a talking point.

For the main, I marinated steak in a mix of soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, sesame oil and brown sugar. Then I did two salads – an orzo salad with blanched asparagus, feta and rocket and a roast tomato salad with bacon and balsamic drizzle drizzled over it. Both salads were really yummy and really easy to make.

Pudding is pictured above (and I apologise for the poor quality of the photograph!! – it was quite dark in my dimly lit 1970s kitchen and I was quickly trying to take the photo and serve pudding to my guests at the same time!!). It was based on a recipe from Julie le Clerc for strawberry and limoncello tiramisu. Basically it was a sponge cake (which I made) cut in three and layered with limoncello (I didn’t have any so used a mixture of lemon juice and vodka), mascarpone mixed beaten with eggs and sugar and strawberries (which I got from the Albany Farmers Market – they were the best strawberries I have had all year and I managed to eat a whole double punnet by myself over the course of the afternoon!). To be honest, I wasn’t really a fan – there seemed to be something missing; maybe it was because I didn’t use limoncello!!! Although our guests thought it was tasty.

By the way, I decided to make limoncello on Saturday, but it has to steep for 48 hours, so I will be decanting it tonight. I hope it is delicious!!

Monday, December 3, 2007

cookies for Piper

My sister asked me to make some cupcake shaped cookies for my niece’s 4th birthday. This is not just the silly season for me but the completely mad season with lunches and functions almost every day and night! So to be honest I didn’t really have a lot of time, but I still made the cookies. I am a little disappointed with how they turned out. I had a bit of an icing nightmare to be honest, breaking icing bags and wrong consistency icing – that’s what happens when I try and do things too quickly – which is most of the time!!

Anyway, as my husband said, four year olds are not going to be too worried. I hope Piper and her friends enjoy them!

This is the card I made for her birthday.