Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TWD - Real Butterscotch Pudding Et Al

The TWD pick this week is Real Butterscotch Pudding and was chosen by Donna of Spatulas, Corkscrews and Suitcases. I think I mentioned when we made the chocolate pudding that in NZ pudding is not really a common thing – other than instant pudding that comes in a packet and was something we used to have when we were kids. I really enjoyed the home made chocolate pudding and was keen to try the butterscotch version.

When I think of butterscotch I think of something caramel flavoured – it never occurred to me to include real scotch (whiskey) as part of the butterscotch flavour. This recipe had the addition of scotch, but I didn’t include it as I didn’t have any on hand, and I was only making this recipe for the TWD event, so didn’t go and especially buy it. I did add more vanilla though which was delicious! I actually just made 1/3 of the recipe and it was the perfect amount for the mini part of my food processor. 1/3 of the mixture made two little ramekins – which is just as well, because I think if I had made the whole recipe we would have eaten the whole lot – this was so yummy! My only criticism is that I could ever so slightly taste a cornflour taste – but that is probably my fault for not cooking the pudding more at the end – it seemed to thicken quite quickly. The only other thing I did differently was that I used all milk and no cream, and the pudding was still yummy and creamy.

Check out what the other TWDers thought here.

This will be my last post before Christmas – we are down to Christchurch first thing in the morning for Christmas with my family. I am then on holiday until January 12, but I will try and post my TWD recipes during the holiday break – this will depend on my access to a computer over the break. Even though it is a TWD day, I thought I would share some of theother “wee treats” which I have been baking for Christmas gifts.

Firstly are these chocolate peanut butter blossoms (the recipe is on the Hersheys site) which are peanut butter and chocolate flavoured cookies with a hersheys kiss pressed into them immediately after baking. A yummy little treat.

And then there is these salted caramels. I have wanted to make these for ages, but it took a while to track down the fleur de sel (special French salt with a delicate flavour). I managed to get it at La Cigale and had to use it given that it was $22 for a smallish bag (that is about US$14). I made the recipe that was in Dish magazine last year and followed it to the letter, resulting in caramel that wouldn’t set. So I re-boiled the whole lot until it reached about 140c (just over soft crack stage) and I got these perfect caramels – they are a bit like a hard caramel, hard to start with but then soften deliciously in your mouth.

And very lastly, thank you so much for reading my blog this year – I hope you have enjoyed it and I also hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and happy holidays!!!

Salted Caramels (adapted from Dish magazine)

1 c cream
60g butter
1 ½ tsp fleur de sel
1 ½ c sugar
¼ c water
¼ c liquid glucose

· Bring cream, butter and salt to the boil and set aside
· Stir sugar, water and glucose in a heavy based pot over a low heat until sugar is dissolved. Brush down sugar crystals with a damp pastry brush and then boil until pale golden
· Stir in the cream mixture, being very careful as it will spit
Boil, stirring occasionally until the temperature is 140c, then pour into a lined 20cm square tin. When set cut into pieces with a large sharp knife.

Monday, December 22, 2008

December Cookie Carnival

Cookie Carnival this month is sugar cookies – a great holiday cookie for its decorating potential. Kate gave us the choice of making vanilla or chocolate sugar cookies and both recipes were Dorie Greenspan recipes. I chose the chocolate sugar cookies, as we have made the vanilla ones for Tuesdays with Dorie a few weeks ago.

I loved these cookies! I added a little more flour, making the dough easy to work with and the cookies crisper than the vanilla ones I made a few weeks ago. They have retained most of their crunch, even after being decorated.

I decorated these cookies in two different ways – half the mixture I made into snowflakes and decorated them with pale blue royal icing and silver dragees (you cant really tell in the photo that the icing is pale blue). The other half I made into rounds and decorated with fondant and royal icing to make Christmas decorations. I think they both look great and they actually looked even better in real life. I have given these cookies for gifts, and they have been well received!

Friday, December 19, 2008

More Christmas Treats

As I have mentioned before, I don’t like Christmas cake, but I make one anyway. This year I decided to cut my Christmas cake into smaller cakes and decorate them to give as gifts. It also has given me a chance to practice my decorating skills. I really liked the silver and pale blue theme for Christmas that the city cake company had this year, so I copied and decorated this little cake with pale blue stars and silver and blue balls. I am quite pleased with how this little cake turned out.

One thing that always makes a good Christmas present and is so easy to make is this fudge. I wrote about it last year too. The recipe is here but it is simply chocolate, butter and condensed milk melted together. You can add different flavourings such as brandy, baileys, cointreau etc or add chopped dried fruit and nuts. This year I decided to top the fudge with crushed candy canes. I am quite pleased with the effect as it looks very Christmassy and it tastes delicious!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mini Christmas Cakes

In the last Wilton class I did we learned how to make poinsettas. I thought that they would be the perfect thing to top little individual Christmas cakes. So in the weekend I made a Christmas cake recipe into cupcake sized cakes and as needed, I am covering them with fondant and topping them with some poinsettas I made last week.

My usual Christmas cake recipe is a variation of Nigella Lawson’s Christmas cake in How to be a Domestic Goddess. However, for these mini cakes I used a Donna Hay recipe as a base. I used a mix of sultanas, currants, raisins and dried apricots and added flaked almonds. I don’t like fruit cake at all – I cant even try a wee bit because sultanas and raisins are truly my worst thing, but my husband said that the cake is lovely and moist. I think that they look pretty cute with the poinsettia on top as well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

The making of Christmas treats is well and truly under way now. I am making an assortment of bits and pieces to give to my staff, hairdresser, personal trainer, beauty therapist, friends etc. I love giving wee treats and really wished that I could take a few days off work to completely devote myself to wee treat making.

I made these first wee treats in the weekend. The wee cookies are marzipan cookies. They are almost like meringues filled with marzipan. They don’t look that fabulous (although if you use your imagination they could be Christmas snow flakes) but they do taste yummy if you like almondy flavoured things. The recipe is from the latest Donna Hay magazine which has got lots of great baked gift ideas. These actually taste the closest I have got to those little almond cookies that you get in Italy. Quite yummy.

The second wee treat is red velvet cake truffles. I got the idea for these on Bakerella’s site. If you haven’t visited her site, you must. She is so clever! She, of course, makes the most amazing things from her cake balls. I am far less creative and went for plain old truffles. The truffles are made from cake crumbs and chocolate ganache (although the original recipe uses cream cheese icing) mixed together, rolled into balls and then dipped in chocolate. This was a great way to use up leftovers. I hate wasting things and when I made my red velvet cake to decorate a couple of weeks ago, I put all the scraps into a zip lock bag in the freezer. Likewise with some leftover chocolate ganache. I was able to pull both out and make these truffles. I have also made some other ones with left over Madeira cake and chocolate ganache and I added some orange blossom water to the mix to give a different flavour.

Marzipan Cookies (adapted from Donna Hay magazine)

250g marzipan
1/3 c mixed peel
½ tsp lemon zest
2/3 c ground almonds
2 egg whites
2/3 c castor sugar
icing sugar for dusting

· Process marzipan, mixed peel, lemon zest and ground almonds until they resemble fine bread crumbs
· Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually add sugar until the mixture is thick and glossy
· Fold in the marzipan mixture
· Drop small spoonfuls on a baking tray and bake at 150c for about 25 minutes
· Dust with icing sugar immediately after coming out of the oven
Cool on trays

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TWD - Buttery Jam Cookies

The TWD recipe for this week was Buttery Jam Cookies chosen by Heather of Randomosity and the Girl. These cookies are a basic cookie dough with jam stirred through the dough. I wasn’t sure what to expect from these cookies as I couldn’t imagine what they would look like – other cookies I have made with jam, the jam is either used to hold two cookies together, used as a swirl or as a blob on top (like thumbprint cookies).

I was actually disappointed with these cookies. I didn’t have apricot jam which is the jam that Dorie suggests, so I used plum jam. The jam is mixed in after the butter and sugar have been beaten and the egg added, but before the flour is stirred in. I actually think I would prefer the jam added at the end so that it becomes more of a swirl through the dough. The dough also had half a teaspoon of ground ginger added. I did debate whether to use cinnamon instead, but went for the ginger as plum and ginger go well together. If I was making these again (and to be honest I don’t think I will) I would add a whole teaspoon of ginger – I found that I could hardly taste it.

These cookies tend to be more on the soft side. I think Americans prefer their cookies that way – I noted lots of people last week saying that their perfect sugar cookie would is a bit soft – I much prefer crisp biscuits. I sent these cookies on site for the builders, I am sure that they will appreciate them!

See if the other TWDERs liked them better than I did here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Baking For Hospice

About 6 weeks ago I got this lovely e-mail from Nessie who reads my blog. Nessie, coincidentally, is just finishing her law degree and next year will be working at a firm that I used to work at. Nessie had this wonderful idea to do a regular baking run for hospice. Apparently a local bakery used to give their leftover baking to the North Shore Hospice, but now because of health and safety regulations, they are not able to. Of course I was keen – it is a fabulous cause!

I was going to make something Christmassy, using the rest of my stained glass window cookie dough to make star shaped stained glass window cookies. However, there wasn’t enough difference in size between my two star shaped cutters, and so the cookie dough didn’t hold its shape when I went to put the cookies on the tray. So, I simply rolled the dough into balls, poked a hole in each cookie with the end of my wooden spoon and filled the centres with plum jam. Cute and tasty little cookies.

The other thing I made was these chocolate and strawberry cupcakes. I used a recipe from Taste magazine which you can find here. The actual recipe is for a large cake, so I got 30 cupcakes from the recipe. The cake is a really yummy, moist one, filled with chunks of strawberries. One wee tip, if you are making this cake into cupcakes, rather than stir the strawberries through the mixture, fill the cupcake cases and then pop the strawberry chunks into the cakes.

The cakes are topped with chocolate ganache and I topped the ones for Hospice with little flowers. I took the rest of the cupcakes to a picnic we has with friends yesterday and topped them with strawberries. They were really delicious and so easy!

Thanks Nessie for such a great initiative! I look forward to baking for Hospice again in 2009!

Friday, December 12, 2008

21st Cake

I must say that I was honoured when a lady I used to work with asked if I would make her daughter’s 21st cake. Having recently completed the Wilton fondant course, I showed her the photo of my bow cake and her daughter decided that was what she wanted for her birthday cake. She wanted the cake to have a lavender bow and hearts on it. So, that is what I did.

Once again the cake is a chocolate cake – a beautiful moist chocolate cake. I covered it in a thin layer of ganache before covering it in the fondant. I am really pleased with how the heart look in the two different shades of purple. With practice I think my fondant covering skills will become better, but I do think I have done a reasonable job of doing the hearts etc. This weekend I am going to decorate my Christmas cake. I am seriously considering cutting the cake into 4 mini cakes to give as gifts and individually decorating each one. That will be fun, but time consuming.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Cookies

The Christmas baking has begun. I made these Christmas tree cookies for friends. The recipe is basically a sugar cookie recipe, cut into the shape of Christmas trees with a cut out in the centre. You half bake the cookies and then pop some crushed lollies into the centres, another 5 minutes in the oven and you get this stained glass window effect. I made half the dough into these cookies and froze the other half. I may make some more in the shape of stars. They would also make cool Christmas tree decorations if you poked a little hole in the top to thread some ribbon through.

Last night was my second night all month with no function to go to. I was hanging out for some real food, as you tend to eat nibbly bits at functions and then don’t have much appetite for dinner. So I cooked some fish – I followed a recipe from the latest Jamie Oliver book which puts a topping of rolled oats and mustard on the fish before oven roasting. It was quite nice. We had it with new jersey benne potatoes, boiled and then lightly crushed and mixed with chopped olives, lemon juice and olive oil, and a salad of rocket, asparagus, almonds and avocado. Very yummy and just what the doctor ordered!

Stained Glass Window Cookies

250g butter
¾ c sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 egg
2 ½ c flour
hard boiled lollies, lightly crushed

· Beat together butter, sugar and vanilla paste until light and creamy
· Beat in egg
· Stir in flour until you get a firmish dough
· Chill dough for 30 minutes
· Roll out until about 4mm thin, cut into shapes, cutting out a wee shape in the middle of each cookie and then chill again (I always freeze the shapes at that point)
Bake at 180c for about 8 minutes, then place the crushed lollies in the holes, and put back in the oven for about 7 minutes. Cool on trays

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

TWD - Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookies

This week’s TWD recipe is Grandma’s All Occasion Sugar Cookies and was chosen by Ulrike of Kutchenlaten. This was a great choice for this time of year, as they are the perfect cookie to cut into shapes and decorate. We were going to friends for dinner on Saturday night and I always like to make them a little Christmas treat, and these were the perfect thing.

I found the dough to be quite sweet and also quite soft. The cookies didn’t bake as crisply as I would have liked. I used vanilla paste rather than vanilla extract which gave them the lovely vanilla flecks throughout as well as quite a strong vanilla flavour.

I had seen little cookies decorated as Christmas presents in Rocket Kitchen, so I thought I would emulate their idea. I was actually really pleased with how they turned out. I cut out fondant for the white part and then used a piping gel to pipe the bows. The only unfortunate part is that the piping gel doesn’t completely firm up like royal icing would, so they are not ideal to package up for gifts. While I like the look of my cookies, I actually prefer to make a firm shortbread for decorating cookies as it gives a firmer base and stays crisper. I will have to try the sugar cookies again as a slice and bake style cookie, as I’m not sure that they are the perfect cookie for decorating.

I bet there is a lot of creativity amongst the other TWDers – have a look here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Takaka Oaty Ginger Crunch

I thought that this week I would do something a bit different for the builders and so I made this Takaka Oaty Ginger Crunch. Ginger crunch is a New Zealand favourite which you will find in most cafes. This version has oats in it and isn’t as crunchy as the traditional version. It is a yummy slice though and very easy to make. I did double the icing recipe as the original recipe seems a bit mean – I think ginger crunch needs a lovely thick icing (it tastes a bit like ginger Russian fusge!).

Because of all the Christmas parties, last night was the first time I cooked dinner in almost a week! My husband’s choice was pork meatballs – I used pork mince mixed with bread crumbs, tomato sauce, chopped coriander, chilli and cumin. We had these with noodles which I mixed with sweet chilli sauce, fish sauce and soy sauce, and broccoli. Dinner took about 30 minutes to make, and was really delicious.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Last Night Wilton Course 3

Tuesday night was my last night of Wilton course 3. We had to do a tiered cake. I based mine on the one on the cover of one of my Peggy Porchen books. I was quite pleased with how it turned out, and I think with more practice I will get my roses looking a bit better. The cake is red velvet cake and I used the recipe from the Confetti Cakes recipe book.

I have really enjoyed the three wilton courses I have done this year. There is one more course and I am already booked in to do that next year. I know I am never going to be a great cake decorator, but I feel confident now to have a go, knowing that I can do it “good enough”!

I haven’t been doing any cooking this week, so can’t even tell you what dinner was last night as I have been out at functions every single night (other than Tuesday which was cake decorating). Next week is only two functions to attend, so there will be a bit more blog substance!

So, once again, a post with more photos than words!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas is coming!

This has been a hectic week for me with functions every night of the week, so this post is also a bit of a mish mash of all sorts of things that have been going on! The first of these is a client function we had on Monday night for our trust clients – in real life I am a lawyer specialising in asset structuring and trusts. My firm administers and operates over 850 trusts. We had a Christmas function on Monday night with about 90 attendees.

We wanted to give them a take home gift, so I made these gingerbread Christmas trees and decorated them. It seemed like a good idea at the time and they looked good on mass, but they are a bit wobbly as it was hot and I over –committed :0) But they are my first real piece of Christmas baking, so that was exciting!

Secondly I have been awarded two blog awards, a blogging buddy one from the lovely Gaye at Laws of the Kitchen and a Kreative Blogger award from Hannah of Hannah’s Country Kitchen. Thank you so much to both of you – this means a lot. Both Gaye and Hannah are fellow lawyers and have lovely blogs of their own. Hannah is my idol – she won masterchef in the UK – how cool is that!!!!! Anyway, thanks to you both and I would like to pass on the blogging buddy award to Morven of Food, Art and Random Thoughts. Morven is a fellow Nzer and such a sweet blogging friend. I would also like to pass the creative blogger award to Kim of Scrumptious Photography – you have to check out her blog, the photos are so fabulous!

Lastly, Gaye from Laws of the Kitchen, asked me to participate in the worldwide blogger bake off – read all about it on Gaye’s blog. I decided to participate by baking these Turkish bread rings (I think they are known as Simmit rings). You can find the recipe here, but it was featured in Cuisine magazine a while ago. The bread rings were really easy to make and gave a nice Turkish bread style texture. They also froze really well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You Want Pies With That - White Christmas Pie

This month’s “You want Pies with That” theme is Holiday Songs. Initially I was quite excited as I imagined that I would have lots of ideas, but the more I thought about it, the harder it became. I settled in the end for a “white Christmas” pie. I chose this song because in New Zealand, Christmas is in the middle of summer, so we will never get a white Christmas, but also because a traditional kiwi dessert is pavlova (in fact there is a long debate between NZ and Australia regarding who “invented” the pavlova – people have written dissertations on the subject – everyone knows it was a Nzer!), so my White Christmas pie has a touch of pavlova to it as well.

The inside of the pie is Greek yoghurt, which I strained to thicken and then swirled with passionfruit pulp – passionfruit is a popular topping for pavlova. I then topped the yoghurt filling with mini meringues to represent little pavlovas. The base is a simple shortcrust pastry.

I have to confess to being a little disappointed with my creation. I did think long and hard about it, but in the end, my pie came down to what I could put together in very little time – perhaps that is another reason why it can be considered a Christmassy pie, as it was made in between the usual holiday rush. The pie bases were baked on Saturday when I was baking gingerbread Christmas trees, the meringues were baked last night when I got home from my cake decorating class and the filling was thrown together, because that is what I had in the fridge!!!!

So, I do apologise for my White Christmas pie. I look forward to seeing what the other participants made for their Holiday Songs pies.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

TWD - Linzer Sables

This week’s TWD recipe was chosen by Noskos of Living the Life and is Linzer Sables. Dorie’s sables are actually one of the first recipes of Dorie’s that I encountered on the net – I printed the recipe off, but never made them. Linzer biscuits remind me of Belgium Biscuits (in fact there may be a connection, as I think Linzer biscuits are Austrian and it is quite possible that what we know in NZ as Belgium biscuits, may have started off life as German biscuits, but the name changed to Belgium biscuits during the war – if you get my drift!). Anyway, back to the Linzer biscuits!

In actually made these in a bit of a rush on Sunday evening. I only made a half batch, because after making and decorating over 90 cookies for a client function (more about that later in the week), the thought of more rolling and cutting was a little off-putting. I did really love these though and will make them again. The recipe called for ground nuts – I used ground macadamia nuts which are a little coarser than almonds, so my cookies had real texture. I think next time I would add more spice, as the little bit of cinnamon and ground cloves wasn’t enough for me. I filled my sables with raspberry jam, but do like Dorie’s suggestion of filling them with chocolate ganache. I will try that next time. These would be a lovely biscuit to give as a gift as they look so pretty!

See what the other TWDers thought here.