Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

Pregnancy has slowed down the treat making this Christmas! So not much to show. I did make some fudge, individual Christmas cakes and shortbread, but it was all in a rush and I even forgot to take photos!! But I did want to take this opportnity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy and successful 2010!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Finally some Christmas treats!!

While I wont be making many wee treats for Christmas gifts this year, I did make these wee truffles on Monday night. They were incredibly easy and actually really tasty. I usually make truffles with chocolate, cream etc, but these little biscuit truffles are so much easier to make.

All you do is blitz 500g of oreo biscuits (I used 3 x 150g packets and it still worked ok) together in the food processor until they form little crumbs and then mix in a 250g pottle of cream cheese. I used lite cream cheese and that worked fine too. Roll the mixture into balls (wet hands worked best for this), chill (I actually put mine in the freezer), then dip in melted chocolate. I used milk chocolate for the dipping and sprinkled them with red, white and green hundreds to give them a Christmassy look. The recipe made 50-60 truffles depending on the size.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

TWD - Cafe Volcano Cookies

This week’s TWD recipe is CafĂ© Volcano Cookies and was chosen by Macduff of The Lonely Sidecar. This is probably one of the more unusual recipes in the book. The method is so odd, that you wonder what on earth the cookies are going to turn out like.

The cookies are like a cross between a meringue and a nut only Florentine. The method is more like that of a Florentine (ie throw everything in the pot together) than a meringue, but the ingredients are that of a meringue. Essentially you warm together over a low heat, egg whites, sugar, toasted almonds and walnuts and espresso powder, and then make wee mounds of the mixture on a baking tray and bake. Surprisingly the egg white doesn’t go omelette like when heated. The cookies are crisp and meringue like.

I was going to include my batch of cookies (which I halved) with the baking for hospice that I did in the weekend, but the cookies are very delicate and I don’t think they would enjoy being in a plastic bag. It’s a little early to give these delicate wee morsels away for Christmas, but I am sure my husband and I will both enjoy them over the next few days.

See what the other TWDers thought here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Handbag Cookies

This is a pretty un-Christmassy post of some little decorated cookies I made a while ago to thank a friend’s Mum for some wonderful knitting she did for our new baby. Christmas baking for me isn’t going to be the usual marathon effort given that my energy levels are not as high as usual (actually I usually just run on adrenalin and champagne this time of year, but of course neither of those things are good for baby growing!) and we have a wedding in Napier this weekend, which would usually be my Christmas baking weekend.

Anyway, back to the cookies. These are my usual shortbread cookies cut into handbag shapes. They are iced with pink tinted fondant and little royal icing flower. Cute and delicious. You could use the same concept to make Christmas themed handbag cookies for your girlfriends – make the handbags red and decorate with little gold balls.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Cupcakes

Seeing it is December 9 already, I thought it was about time I posted something Christmassy. I made these cupcakes last week for a client function. I made about 60 of them. The cupcake recipe came from the Crabapple bakery Cook Book and was spicy mocha cupcakes. I did scale down the amount of coffee in them – in fact I wondered if ¼ c of instant coffee powder was a mistake in the recipe? The cupcakes had a lovely density to them that you would associate with gingerbread. They were subtly spiced and also had melted chocolate in them. They kept well too – I made them in Sunday and they still tasted ok (although probably not at their best!) by Wednesday (the function was on Tuesday).

The icing I simply rolled fondant. This gives a lovely professional looking finish. Some people don’t like the taste of fondant, but rolled relatively thinly it’s not too sweet. I cut out fondant stars and Christmas trees using cutters, and sprinkled them with coloured sugar for the little cake toppers. I used lightly beaten eggwhite to adhere the sprinkles. Another way of decorating these cupcakes which would look quite cool would be to ice them with a simple white glace icing and then pop a red or green giant pebble on top.

Spiced Mocha Cupcakes (adapted from the Crabapple Bakery)

(one recipe made approx 36 cupcakes)

1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 c boiling water
150g dark chocolate
200g butter
1 ½ c brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 c flour
2 tsp b powder
1 tsp b soda
2 tsp mixed spice
½ c sour cream

• Stir chocolate into hot coffee mixture and stir until smooth
• Cream butter and sugar
• Beat in eggs, one at a time
• Stir in coffee mixture and vanilla
• Stir in dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream
• Spoon into cupcake cases and bake at 200c for 15-18 minutes

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD - Sables

This week’s TWD recipe is sables and was chosen by Barbara of Bungalow Barbara. These is my first Christmas themed baking for this year as well, although I did make my Christmas cake back in the end of October.

Sables are the French version of shortbread, the difference being that they are much more delicate and thin and contain egg yolks which enrich the dough. I cant remember whether I have made a true sable biscuit/cookie before, but I have tasted them in France. The recipe is very easy – if it was in my Nana’s recipe book it would say “make in the usual way” – ie cream butter and sugar, add egg yolks and then stir in flour. The dough is very soft, but time in the fridge makes the dough much more workable. You could roll this dough out and cut into shapes, but as it is very buttery, you might find that you lose the shape in the baking. I did what Dorie suggested – rolled the dough into logs, then rolled in Christmas coloured sugar, sliced and baked.

I only made a few of these cookies, freezing the rest of the dough for Christmas gifts. I loved the cookies – they are crisp and buttery and with the coloured sugar coating, look particularly festive. Dorie gives a number of variations and I want to try them all. Maybe everyone will be getting sables for Christmas from me this year!

See what the other TWDers thought here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cheat's Birthday Cake

I was in Christchurch in the weekend for my niece’s 6th birthday. Piper wanted me to make her birthday cake, but it was a pretty full on day the actual day of her birthday, as my dad and brother in law were cycling in an event, so I didn’t get the time to actually bake a cake. Instead I bought a sponge from the supermarket and some whipped cream. I tinted the cream pink, whipped it, sandwiched the sponge together and the slathered more cream over the sides. I then decorated it with icing flowers – I made the big pink flowers, but bought the little roses at the supermarket (you can get so many more decorating bits and pieces at the supermarket now days). The effect is great I think, for a $4 cake a bottle of cream!

My niece loves baking and so our present to her was a kids baking book, an assortment of cupcake cases, little icing flowers I had made, sprinkles and edible gel pens. She loved the present and I cant wait to see what she creates with her new cupcake decorating equipment.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

TWD - Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart

I cant believe that it is a week since I have posted! It is definitely that time of year!!! Functions on every night lat week and being pregnant means that my evenings aren’t quite as full of baking as they used to be. Work is also exceptionally busy so I have been enjoying reading with my feet up rather than hours in the kitchen. Perhaps a sign of things to come?

But I did manage to make the TWD recipe this week which is Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart and was chosen by Lauren of I’ll Eat You. I almost didn’t make this tart. I have been told to slow down a bit and the three steps (three pages in the recipe book) and assembly of this tart almost defeated me. I ended up using some shortcrust pastry I had in the freezer ( a Dorie recipe but I am not sure which one!!), made a quarter of the pastry cream recipe and only poached one pear. I made two little tarts, one each for my husband and father in law is staying with us at the moment, helping with our landscaping.

The pastry cream for this tart was the star of the tart as far as I was concerned. It is made by grinding pistachio nuts with a little sugar and then warming the milk for the custard with the nut mixture in it. The pastry cream turns out a beautiful pistachio green colour (funnily enough!) and has that unique taste of pistachios. Dories says that you can strain out the nuts, but I wonder why you would want to do that, as in my view it is the fine pieces of nut that gives the tart it’s charm.

The pears are poached in a red wine syrup, cooled and then displayed on the tart. The garnish is toffeed pistachio nuts. This step did defeat me however, and I just chopped raw pistachio nuts for my garnish. The tarts were well received by my husband and his dad. I don’t think I would make this again though, mostly because I don’t like pears!

See if the other TWDers enjoyed the tart here.