Monday, June 30, 2008
The Daring Baker challenge for June was Danish Braid. I am not a huge fan of pastry and I don’t like the Danish’s that you buy in bakeries in NZ. However, when we went to Denmark four years ago, I discovered that Danish’s in Denmark are noting like Danish’s in NZ – they are divine!!
The end result of the Danish Braid was kind of like brioche, but the steps involved in completing the challenge included spreading the dough with a butter and flour mixture and then folding the pastry/dough in the same way you do when making flaky pastry (which I also have not made before). The dough was then spread with a filling and then “plaited’ to create the braid look.
The suggested filling was an apple mixture which sounded nice, but I felt like something different than that. My two youngest sisters were staying with us the weekend that I made the braid, so I gave them a few filling choices and they picked chocolate pastry cream and raspberries. I used Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for chocolate pastry cream, leaving out the butter and it was a tasty combination.
I enjoyed the challenge of making the Danish braid, but I don’t think I will make it again – I prefer brioche as it is a bit more bread like and less pastry like. See what the other Daring Bakers thought here.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Last night was the last night of my part II Wilton cake decorating class. This class has focussed on royal icing. I have really loved this class as most if has been about making icing flowers, which is one of the whole reasons why I have gone to cake decorating classes. I want to be able to simply but effectively decorate cupcakes and other cakes with little flowers.
Last night we got to decorate a cake with the flowers we had made other nights in the course. I had also made some flowers at home. Not all the flowers are perfect, but when you look at the cake as a whole, I am pretty pleased with the effect.
The cake itself is a yummy almond Madeira cake which I filled with a mixture of soaked and semi pureed dried apricots, mixed with cream. The cake was made in an oval cake tin which is quite cute for a change. I’m posting heaps of photos – sorry, but I am really pleased with this.
I have already booked in for the next class which is fondant icing, but it’s not until September.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I made these mocha biscuits for a birthday treat for my friend Michelle. They are simple chocolate and coffee shortbread style cookies, sandwiched together with a chocolate pastry cream. The idea came from the Australian Womens Weekly Cookie book. I swirled a circle of chocolate on the outside to make them look a bit more special. Michelle said that they were a real hit, especially with her son, Scott. I think the pastry cream, which was quite custardy, made them taste yummy.
Last night for dinner we had fresh gurnard, simply baked in the oven and sprinkled with flavoured sea salt which I had bought at Nosh a wee while ago. We had it with agria potatoes which I cut into chunks and tossed in olive oil, sea salt and chilli flakes. The green vegetable was cabbage, something I don’t cook very often. I stir fried it in a little olive oil with bacon and almonds, which is a yummy way to eat this winter vegetable.
Today's Rockin' Girl Blogger Award goes to Chelle from Sugar & Spice. I am really enjoying her Wilton icing adventures.
Mocha Cookies (adapted from Australian Womens Weekly Cookie book)
1 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tsp boiling water
¾ c brown sugar
1 ½ c flour
¼ c self raising flour
¼ c cocoa powder
· Beat together butter and brown sugar, then beat in egg and coffee mixture
· Mix in dry ingredients
· Roll our dough and cut into shapes
· Bake @ 180c for 15 minutes
· When cold, join together with the following chocolate custard
½ c milk
1 egg yolk
1 ½ tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
50g dark chocolate
· Heat milk until boiling point
· Whisk together yolk, sugar and cornflour, then whisk in hot milk
· Cook over low heat, stirring until thickened
· Stir in chocolate which will melt to make a velvety custard
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
The TWD recipe this week of mixed berry cobbler was picked by Beth of Our Sweet Life. I have never made cobbler before. In NZ we tend to make crumbles rather than cobblers. I had read on the comments that some of the TWDers thought the recipe too bland, so I kept that in mind when making it.
I decided to make only 1/3 of the recipe which worked quite well. I made it in a small ceramic dish, using frozen blueberries and raspberries as the base. Dividing the recipe by 3 meant that there was only 1 tbsp of sugar in the topping. Bearing in mind the comments that it wasn’t sweet enough, I added another tbsp of sugar, effectively doubling the sugar in the topping. I cooked the pudding for about 25 minutes.
I really liked the pudding. I ate mine with thickened cream. It was delicious straight out of the oven when the topping was lovely and crunchy. I tried a spoonful from the fridge this morning, but it didn’t taste as good as cold crumble. I am not sure that I am a cobbler convertee, but it was nice for a change. See what the other TWDers thought here.
Following on from yesterday, today’s Rockin’ Girl Blogger award goes to a fellow TWDer, Stephanie of A Whisk and Spoon. Stephanie is my blogging idol! She writes fabulously, is a great cook and takes the most awesome photos. Thanks for being so inspiring Stephanie!
Monday, June 23, 2008
Two of my sisters came up in the weekend – we went to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert on Saturday night. It was fabulous! I did some baking on Friday night for them coming to stay – I made the caramel slice again that I had made last week and I also wanted to make some chocolate chip cookies. My sister, Kristy, loves peanut butter (as do I!) so I decided to make peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. I used a Dorie Greenspan recipe and it was fabulous! The cookies had chocolate chips in them of course, but as well as peanut butter they had salted peanuts. I didn’t have any salted peanuts, so I just roasted my own and added a sprinkling of salt.
The recipe did call for 2 eggs, but I just used one as I like my biscuits to be not quite as flat as some of those American cookie recipes you see. One egg worked perfectly fine and my cookies had the perfect amount of crunch and slight chew.
I have been awarded a Rockin’ Girl Blogger award from Cakelaw. Thanks Cakelaw – I am so honoured!! I get to give the award to five other bloggers. I think I will do one a day for this week, so today’s award goes to Rebecca from West Coast Kitchen. Rebecca is a fellow kiwi blogger and she makes and sells the most delicious looking baking.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Cupcake Hero for June is hosted by April of Abby Sweets. The theme is melon. This is one of the difficulties in participating in Northern Hemisphere lead challenges – melon sings of summer. It is the middle of winter here!!!! Plus if I am perfectly honest, I don’t like melon. I particularly don’t like watermelon. I just don’t get what there is to like. It’s kind of bland if you ask me!
But, could I give up a cupcake challenge? No! I looked through a number of books for inspiration and the one that was the most inspiring was a melon, mint, honey and yoghurt smoothie in a Peter Gordon cookbook. So, I made these cupcakes – melon and yoghurt honey mint cupcakes!!! A bit of a mouthful, but very yummy even if you are not a huge fan of melon.
The cake component is honey and yoghurt cake. I used a very simple melt and mix method, as the honey I had bought from my local farmers market was a bit firmer than I would have liked. The cake by itself has a lovely strong honey flavour and would be nice by itself with a cup of tea (I don’t like tea either, but I am imagining!). I quite like the idea of fillings for cupcakes, so I made a filling using the melon and mint part of my smoothie inspiration. I diced half a honey dew melon, combined it with some sugar and heated it in the microwave and then added gelatine to get a firmer consistency. I added sliced fresh mint to the filling.
I wanted a nice swirly topping for the top of my cupcakes, so used my favourite cream cheese icing. It is actually tinted the same colour as the melon (a pale orange) but the photos are not showing the true colour.
Melon Yoghurt Honey Mint Cakes
½ c honey
¾ c natural yoghurt
1 ¾ c self raising flour
¾ c sugar
· Melt honey and butter together and then whisk in eggs one at a time. Whisk in yoghurt
· Stir in sugar and flour until just combined.
· Spoon into cupcake cases (I got 17) and bake at 180c for 18 minutes or until cooked through
· When cold scoop some cake out and fill with filling, popping the cake lid back on
· Ice with cream cheese icing
½ honeydew melon, diced
½ c sugar
2 tsp gelatine
¼ c mint leaves, shredded
· Combine melon and sugar and microwave for 3 minutes, stirring after each minute
· Sprinkle gelatine over top and microwave for 20 seconds. Stir well and leave to cool
Once cool, stir through the mint
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I made this shortbread over the weekend as a gift for Lynley who lent me some of her vintage patterns so I could make cards. This is basically shortbread that I added some dutched cocoa powder to and then drizzled with white chocolate. I actually cooked the shortbread in a slice tin and then marked it into rectangles with a knife when it came out of the oven. I wasn’t in the mood for rolling and cutting, but to be honest, I think rolling and cutting gives a better result. Still, the shortbread tasted nice and I really liked the white chocolate on top.
Here are a couple of cards I made a few weeks ago – I haven’t done all that much card making lately though. Life has been a bit busy. I normally make them when I watch tv but I have been struggling to even fit in the one hour a week I watch of Brothers and Sisters. I must finish my cross stitch too!!!
Dinner last night was chicken breasts that I marinated in a mixture of ground coriander, ground cumin, cinnamon, paprika, lemon juice and honey. I then baked the breasts in the oven. We had it with baked organic pumpkin and kumara (also coated in a similar spice mix, but drizzled with maple syrup in the last 15 minutes instead of using the honey and lemon juice) and organic silverbeet. Very yummy.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
My dear friend Teresa, broke her shoulder in three places a few weeks ago. One of her favourite things is caramel slice and while I know that she normally prefers a chocolate base with chocolate topping, I have been wanting to make the recipe from the Donna Hay Chocolate book for some time. It has a coconut base, then caramel, then chocolate. I decided to make this to take to Teresa as a wee treat.
The recipe said to make it in a 20x 30 tin, but I made it in an 18x 20 cm tin and cut back on the amount of condensed milk, but kept the same amount of topping and base. There was still more than enough caramel to make it really yummy. Personally I think I like this just as much as my usual chocolate base caramel slice. My two youngest sisters are coming to stay this weekend and my youngest sister in particular loves caramel slice. I’ve saved her a piece of this one I made for Teresa, but I think that I may have to re-make it on Friday night before they arrive as I am sure that just one piece wont be enough!!
Caramel Slice (adapted from Donna Hay’s Chocolate book)
125g butter, melted
1 c flour
½ c coconut
½ c brown sugar
1 can condensed milk
¼ c golden syrup
185g dark chocolate
1 tbsp rice bran oil
· Mix together butter, flour, coconut and brown sugar and press into lined 18x20 cm tin and bake for 12-15min at 180c
· In the meantime stir together condensed milk, butter and golden syrup, cooking over a low heat for about 7 minutes
· Pour caramel over warm base and bake for another 10 minutes
When cold, ice with chocolate icing made by melting the chocolate and oil together
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I hate to be beaten by anything so I had to make this week’s TWD recipe twice! The recipe was chosen by Caroline of A Consuming Passion and is peppermint cream puff ring. The dessert is a choux ring, filled with mint flavoured whipped cream and topped with a chocolate glaze and flaked almonds.
I knew that I could make choux pastry as I had made it the week before for the Hay Hay It’s Donna Day challenge. Dorie’s recipe instruction was to pipe the dough into a large ring before baking. I duly followed the instructions, but my choux ring looked more like a choux pancake. It rose but not as much as I had hoped and then when it came out of the oven it completely collapsed.
So, not to be defeated, on Saturday I had my second attempt. This time I halved the choux mixture. There were a few things that I think I did wrong the first time, so I made sure to remedy them – one was I don’t think that the oven first time round was hot enough to start with. Secondly I don’t think I beat the eggs in for long enough and thirdly, I opened the oven door while the ring was cooking – apparently that is a real No No when making choux. Second time round, I also didn’t pipe the dough – I spooned dollops of the mixture into a ring. And my choux turned out perfectly! I was so excited.
Next was the filling - cream, heated and infused with mint leaves, then cooled, beaten with some sugar and mixed with some crème fraiche. I actually left out the crème fraiche and just had mint flavoured whipped cream. It was so yummy! I would definitely flavour cream with mint again, as you get this amazing freshness against the richness of the cream. The choux ring was split, filled with the cream and then topped with a glaze made from chocolate, cream and corn syrup – I left out the corn syrup simply because I didn’t have any.
This was such a yummy dessert, once I finally got the hang of it! It was quite different to the kind of thing I normally make and I had forgotten how much I enjoy chocolate éclairs. I will definitely make this again. See the other Peppermint cream puff rings here.
Monday, June 16, 2008
It was my sister’s birthday a couple of weeks ago and I made this shortbread to go with her present. The shortbread is meant to look like little buttons. It’s a cute idea to make something a bit different.
Winter has been pretty mild so far, but as we head towards the shortest day, the days are definitely dark! Last night for dinner I made fish pie which seemed like the perfect thing to have on a dark Sunday night. I used kippered hoki which I gently poached in the milk that I used to make the roux sauce. I put some cooked spinach in the base of the ceramic dish I made the pie in, topped this with quartered hard boiled eggs and the flaked fish, poured over the white sauce which I flavoured with a little grated gruyere cheese and the topped the lot with fresh breadcrumbs mixed with grated parmesan and chopped parsley. We had this with a rocket salad.
Friday, June 13, 2008
I am now doing course 2 of my cake decorating classes and I am loving it! The first course was using buttercream icing, this second course is all about royal icing and I have signed up for course 3 in September which is fondant icing.
Last night we did the flooding method which is something I have done before when decorating biscuits, but it is good to be shown the proper way of doing it and most importantly the proper consistency of the icing. We did some little butterflies that I can use to decorate cupcakes, but I also took these cookies to ice. I need to get a bit of a steadier hand with the outlining, but I think if I took my time (being in a class is always a bit rushed) and with practice I will be able to build on these skills.
We also started making royal icing flowers which is almost the whole reason why I did the class. I am excited about decorating my cupcakes etc with these. Here is a sneak preview (bad photo – sorry) of some of the flowers I made. I might make some cupcakes over the weekend and decorate them with these.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I made these biscuits, another recipe from Dish magazine, in the weekend as a gift for two different friends. They are lemon and poppyseed biscuits. Unusually the recipe had cream cheese in the mixture as one of the fats. I made square shaped biscuits and then some little round ones. They are quite a nice, plain biscuit, easy to make but look nice with the wee bit of lemon icing on top. I think I prefer the small round ones to the bigger ones.
On Tuesday night for dinner I made a quinoa salad which we had with polenta coated fish. Quinoa is an interesting grain. Apparently it has quite a high protein content in comparison to other grains. I simmered the quinoa in an equal amount of chicken stock for 10 minutes and then left it to steam with the lid on for another 10. To this I added roast pumpkin cubes, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes, baby spinach and crumbled feta. It didn’t need anything further – not even any dressing as the oiliness of the other ingredients seemed to be enough. You could use cous cous or bulghar wheat instead of the quinoa. This was a delicious meal in itself, but went well with the fish.
I have written another feature for the foodlovers website, this time on Sweet Loaves and what to do with them. Check it out here.
Lemon & Poppyseed Biscuits (from Dish magazine)
115g cream cheese
¾ c sugar
fine zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp poppyseeds
2 c flour
¼ tsp baking soda
· Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar. Add egg, then zest and juice
· Mix in dry ingredients
· Chill dough for an hour or until firm
· Roll out and cut into shapes. Bake at 180c for 12-14 minutes
· When cold, ice with icing made with icing sugar and lemon juice
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
On Saturday night we had friends over for dinner. While it doesn’t get all that cold in Auckland, sometimes it is nice to have a real heart warming dinner, so that was my theme for the meal – a real winter warmer. For nibbles we had the gruyere gougeres that I mentioned earlier in the week, together with olives which I roasted with some orange peel, garlic and cumin and fennel seeds.
The main was a delicious beef casserole. I marinated the beef in red wine, garlic and bay leaves overnight, then slow cooked it, adding olives, thick carrot slices and baby onions in the last 45 minutes. We had it with agria potatoes, baked, smashed a little, drizzled with oil and balsamic vinegar and baked a little longer (idea from the Julie Le Clerc magazine) and green beans. I am not a huge red meat eater, but the little onions slow cooked in the red wine gravy were just delicious!
I am sorry about the dreadful photo of pudding, but it was just too good not to blog about. Pudding was a macadamia and golden syrup pudding with dulche de leuche ice-cream. The macadamia pudding recipe came from Dish magazine and the ice-cream is a Belinda Jeffrey recipe that was published in Delicious magazine. This was so good! I love steamed pudding and the macadamia slice had that steamed pudding taste but is conveniently baked in a cake tin. You make a caramel sauce, put it in the bottom of the cake tin, sprinkle with macadamias and then top with a golden syrup sponge. Yum!
The ice-cream was the first ice-cream I have made in my ice-cream maker that didn’t require an egg based custard. It is basically milk and cream with dulche de leuche stirred through, then processed and frozen. When a recipe calls for dulche de leuche I usually buy a can of caramelised condensed milk. This time the supermarket didn’t have any, so I boiled a tin of condensed milk for 2 hours – I forgot how much more delicious than the store bought stuff! The flavour of the ice-cream went perfectly with the pudding!
Macadamia Toffee Pudding (Dish magazine)
1 c demeara sugar
¼ c water
100g macadamia nuts, copped
½ c sugar
½ c golden syrup
½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ c flour
1 tsp baking powder
· Combine demeara sugar and water over low heat, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes
· Pour toffee over base of lined 24cm square cake tin and sprinkle with macadamia nuts
· Cream butter and sugar, then add golden syrup and eggs one at a time
· Stir in the vanilla and dry ingredients
· Spoon pudding over toffee and bake at 180c for 25 minutes or until cooked through
Invert plate over cake tin and gently lift pan from the cake as soon as it is out of the oven
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
This week’s TWD challenge was chosen by Marie of A Year From Oak Cottage. If you haven’t visited Marie’s blog yet, you should! Marie chose La Palette’s Strawberry Tart. This is a simple tart made with a shortcrust pastry, strawberry jam and fresh strawberries. Strawberries are not in season for another 6 months here in NZ, and I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the imported US ones – it’s not just the food miles (I try to buy locally 99% of the time) but they just don’t taste like fresh strawberries! In the side bar suggestion, Dorie said you could use any stone fruit as an alternative, or pears, apples or quinces. I decided to use the quince I bottled earlier in the year.
Dorie’s advice in relation to the tart crust is to cook it well so that it is lovely and crisp. I didn’t have any need for a big tart, so I made the whole amount of pastry (choosing to make the nut pastry, substituting some of the flour for ground almonds), rolling out enough to line a mini tart tin and freezing the rest for another day. The pastry is lovely and sweet – almost like shortbread. It tastes great raw as well!
I have actually got quince jam that I made last year in the cupboard, but I didn’t want to open yet another jar to keep in the fridge. I did have quince jelly open, but the jelly is not the depth of colour that the bottled quince are, so I didn’t use that to line the base of the tart. In fact none of the jams I had seemed quite right to match with the quince, so in the end I decided to line the tart base with thick yoghurt (I strained it in the fridge overnight) mixed with some quince syrup –yum! This was delicious. You could also use mascarpone in the same way. The quince syrup is a syrup I make by cooking chopped quince (including the cores and skins) with sugar and water until it is thick and sticky and then straining off the syrup. I bottle this and it lasts forever in the fridge.
This tart is delicious! The yoghurt is great with the sweetness of the quince and the tart case is the perfect accompaniment. I had one spoonful of the tart, leaving the rest for my husband, but it was so good that I wanted to eat the whole thing! Sometimes it is the simple things that taste the best!
I am really pleased with my quince version of the tart, but will try it again in summer with strawberries. Go here to see what the other TWDers’ strawberry tarts look like.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Hay Hay It’s Donna Day this month is hosted by Susana of Home Gourmets and the theme is choux pastry. I have never made choux pastry before and so was quite excited to try it out. I thought about making chocolate éclairs, but in the end used my choux pastry for a savoury offering, making gruyere gougeres.
We had friends over for dinner on Saturday night, so for nibbles to go with drinks I made little gruyere chouox puffs. Choux pastry is made by bringing water and butter to the boil, adding flour and then beating in eggs. Once my eggs were beaten in I added some grated gruyere cheese, spooned the little puffs onto a baking sheet, sprinkled them with more cheese and then baked them. When they came out of the oven I sprinkled them with a mixture of smoked paprika and sea salt.
These were so yummy! Very easy to make and great with pre-dinner drinks. Apparently they freeze quite well too – but we ate all of them! They are like eating a very airy version of a cheese puff. I will definitely be making these again and I would like to try different kinds of cheese as well.
Thanks Susana for the interesting challenge!
Friday, June 6, 2008
I have always loved Julie Le Clerc’s books and recipes. In fact when the Epicurean was open and did cooking classes, I was a helper and helped at the classes that Julie taught there. She is now cooking editor of the NZ Womens Weekly. I don’t buy that magazine, but when Julie became editor they started putting out a bi-annual cooking magazine. The latest edition came out in the weekend. I do find the recipes that Julie puts in the womens weekly and the bi-annual magazine a bit simplistic, but I am a compulsive buyer and I do like Julie’s style and this latest release has some great ideas in it.
In the weekend I tried the recipe for banana chocolate chip mini loaves. I had frozen some bananas about a month ago that had started to look a bit worse for wear in the fruit bowl, so pulled these out to use. The recipe was a classic Julie Le Clerc recipe –very easy to put together. It is really just a banana cake recipe with chocolate chips added. Instead of 100g butter, I used 1/3 c rice bran oil. The loaves are lovely and moist. They freeze well and I was generous with the chocolate chips, so they are naughty but nice!
Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Loaves (adapted from Julie Le Clerc recipe)
3 ripe bananas, mashed
¾ c sugar
1/3 c rice bran oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp milk
1 ½ c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 c chocolate bits
· Combine mashed banana, oil, egg , sugar, vanilla and milk
· Stir in dry ingredients, mixing only just to combine
· Spoon into mini loaf tins (I got 8 mini loaves and 2 small brioche tins)
Bake at 180c for 18-20 minutes
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Monday was a public holiday and we had friends over for lunch. I always think a tart with some salad is a nice thing to have for lunch – it shows you have gone to a bit of effort but is easy to prepare as well.
I mostly make my own pastry when making a tart, but I did have some sheets of Ernest Adam shortcrust pastry in the freezer, so rather than re-invent the wheel, I used that as the base. The tart was based on a Ray mcVinnie recipe which you can find here - I made one large tart rather than individual ones. I always use free range eggs, but these ones were real free range from my friend, Jenny’s, farm – hence the rather fluro orange colour of the tart. They tasted terrific. The rest of the tart was sliced bacon, olives and feta cheese (I used Bulgarian cows milk feta that I get from Takapuna market rather than the goats cheese suggested in the recipe). The pinkish looking thing is a really yummy red onion confit that is also in the Ray McVinnie recipe. I did reduce the oil somewhat though, so mine was more of a relish than a confit. Served with a simple salad of rocket tossed with almonds and a vinaigrette of a tablespoon each of apple syrup, olive oil and cider vinegar, this was a lovely lunch.
Dessert was picked by my husband – he wanted some kind of syrup cake. This one was based on an Annabel Langbein recipe and is a lemon syrup cake. However, the syrup is actually a spicy one with the addition of vanilla beans, cloves and star anise. The recipe called for ground almonds, but I used ground macadamias which I had in the cupboard. They gave the cake quite a strong nut flavour and a more grainy texture than almonds would have. This is a great cake to make as it is very quick to put together and doesn’t take too long to bake. I imagine it would keep well in the tin as well. I cut the leftovers into slices, wrapped them individually in gladwrap and froze them.
Greek Syrup Cake (adapted from Annabel Langbein)
1 c sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
¾ c self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ c semolina
1 c ground macadamia nuts
60ml lemon juice
· Cream butter and sugar, add zest and vanilla, then eggs, one at a time
· Stir in dry ingredients and lemon juice
· Pour into a lined 23cm round tin and bake at 180c for 30-35 minutes
· While still hot, pour over the following syrup (I used the syrup cold on the hot cake)
½ c water
1/3 c sugar
peel of 1 lemon
2 cardamom pods, crushed
½ tsp vanilla paste
1 star anise
· Stir all ingredients over a low heat to dissolve
Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes