Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Little and Friday Shortbread

It was my aunt’s birthday a couple of weeks ago. She lives in Dunedin and is extremely hard to buy for, so I decided to send her some baking. I wanted something fairly robust, but also something fairly plain, as I know she doesn’t like rich things. I decided to make her shortbread, as I do have fond memories of her making mountains and mountains of shortbread when I was little, and as she is now wheelchair bound, I know that baking is something she doesn’t get to do.

Rather than use my standard recipe, I decided to try something new and was interested to make something from the Little and Friday cookbook (for those of you who havent been there, you must go!!! The food is the best cafĂ© food in Auckland!). Luckily there is a shortbread recipe in the book. It looked like a very traditional, short, crumbly shortbread which is exactly what I was after. The method was a little different than I usually use to make shortbread – whizzing the butter into the dry ingredients rather than creaming the butter and sugar and adding the flour. Rather than getting out the foodprocessor (is anyone else too lazy to wash their food processor?), I decided to pop the sugar and flour into the bowl with cubed, softened butter and then beat it with my handbeaters until crumbly, and then pull the mixture together. This worked, but I did find the dough quite crumbly (almost like there wasn’t enough butter in it – but that could have been the bit stuck to the beaters!) and hard to roll out. The biscuits, once baked, were nice and crisp though, and crumbly to the bite but not to the touch.

I used vanilla sugar rather than castor sugar and vanilla paste. This gave the biscuits a lovely little black fleck through them and an intense vanilla flavour. You can also add a tsp of vanilla paste if you don’t have any vanilla sugar on hand. I also cooked my shortbread at a lower temperature for longer (the original recipe said 15 minutes at 180) as I like shortbread which is pale in colour. You will also see in the photo that my shortbread isnt at all regular in shape – mostly because my ruler was downstairs and I was too lazy to run down to get it! Gosh, laziness seems to be quite a theme throughout this post!

Shortbread (adapted from Little and Friday)
1 ½ c flour
1/3 c vanilla caster sugar
150g butter (room temperature)
• Combine the dry ingredients, then beat the cubed butter into the dry ingredients with a hand beater until crumbly
• Bring the dough together with your hands
• Press the dough into a rough square and then slice it up into rectangles.
• Prick with a fork, sprinkle with caster sugar and bake in the oven at 165c for about 20-25 minutes until cooked.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cola Cupcakes

These cupcakes are coca cola cupcakes. Not something I would usually make, but my sister and I are baking our way through Cake Days and this recipe was next on the agenda. These cakes have cola syrup in both the cake batter and the icing. We don’t have cola syrup at home, but a while ago I bought a soda stream for work and we had some cola syrup there, so I borrowed a couple of tablespoons! The soda stream is actually a great thing to have a work. I don’t drink tea or coffee, but used to drink more diet coke than was good for me (one or two cans a day). I decided to quit the coke, and soon realised that it was the cold, fizziness that I liked rather than the taste, so plain soda water made in the soda stream does the trick for me!

These cakes were nice, not a strong coke flavour – quite subtle in fact. I topped the cakes with little cola bottle lollies which looked quite cute. I don’t think I would rush out to buy cola syrup just to make these cakes, but if you do have a bottle of syrup at home, these are definitely worth trying.

Cola Cupcakes (from Cake Days)

80g butter
280g caster sugar

240g plain flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tbsp cola syrup

240ml whole milk

2 large eggs

- Using a handheld electric whisk, combine the butter, sugar, flour and baking powder on a low speed until mixed together well with a breadcrumb like texture.

- In a jug place the milk, cola syrup and eggs. Whisk by hand.

- Pour 3/4 of the milk/cola mixture into the dry ingredients and mix together on a low speed. Turn up to medium speed and add the remaining milk mixture, whisking until a smooth batter.

- Divide the batter between your paper cake cases, filling about 2/3 full. Place in the oven and bake at 180c for 18-20 minutes. When cold, ice with the following icing

500g icing sugar

160g unsalted butter, softened

2tbsp cola syrup

50ml whole milk

- Beat together the butter and icing sugar on a low speed with your electric whisk until no large lumps are left and you have a powdery mixture. Stir together the milk and cola syrup then pour this into the butter and icing sugar whilst beating slowly. Increase the speed to high and whisk until fluffy

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cupcakes for Harry

When you have a two year old, sometimes you just want to bake a really plain cupcake, something which will satisfy an un-jaded palate. Unlike lots of children who just eat the icing, Harry loves to eat the whole cupcake. I’m not talking about a mini cupcake either, but a full adult sized one. The weekend before last we went to the Bluebell Cakery and Harry ate a whole vanilla cupcake. Last Saturday we went to Farro and he ate a whole lemon cupcake. He loves them.

He also loves baking and decorating them. He helps me mix the mixture, standing on a chair with his little Thomas the tank engine apron on, and then when they are baked and cooled, he loves to decorate them. This photo is of some vanilla cupcakes we made a few weeks ago and Harry decorated for his friends, Aisling and John. Yes, they are a bit gender biased! Harry has so much fun putting the sprinkles on top of the cupcakes, even though sometimes Mummy has to keep turning the cupcakes so that there is an even spread of sprinkles on them!

These cupcakes are vanilla cupcakes from the Hummingbird Cakes book. I love the cupcake recipes from that book as they are so simple, not creaming of butter and sugar – you beat the butter into the flour and sugar which is nice and easy. I think the key to making delicious vanilla cupcakes is to use really good quality vanilla. I use Heilala. You can find the recipe for the vanilla cupcakes here.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Double chocolate cookies

Thank you for all your lovely comments re: Hayley’s wedding cakes. I will post the recipe in another post, so keep reading! Unfortunately my blog posting has been a little more sporadic than I was hoping when I got back into it – work and home are both very busy, but bear with me, as I will try to post at least once, if not twice a week. All your comments are definitely encouraging, so please keep them coming.

I made these cookies a couple of weeks ago. I had pulled the recipe out of a Donna Hay magazine a good couple of years ago. I love chocolate dipped cookies and thought that the white contrast on the dark chocolate cookie looked particularly striking. These were really easy to make as well, basically being a melt and mix recipe, and you don’t even need to roll the dough out, just roll into a log, chill, slice and bake. You can’t get easier than that.

I tried the new cadbury melts for this recipe and they were fabulous. They are a little more expensive than the other nestle ones, but they taste like real chocolate. I particularly liked the white chocolate ones as they tasted like white chocolate rather than compound chocolate. I cant wait to try to the milk chocolate ones.

Double chocolate cookies (from Donna Hay magazine)

60g butter
100g dark chocolate
½ c brown sugar
1 c plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa, sifted
½ tsp baking powder
1 egg
200g white chocolate, melted

• Melt the butter and dark chocolate together (I do this in the microwave)
• Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa and baking powder in a large bowl, add the egg and chocolate mixture and stir to make a smooth dough.
• Turn out dough, roll into a log and wrap in gladwrap and put in the freezer for 30 minutes
• Slice into 5mm thick rounds and place on a tray and bake at 180c for 10-12 minutes
• Allow to cool and then dip half of each cookie in the melted white chocolate. Leave to set

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wedding Cakes for Hayley

My youngest sister got married in early January. About six months before the wedding she asked if I would like to make the wedding cakes. Yes, that’s right, the wedding cakes. Instead of having one cake, they had a smaller cake on each table which served as pudding as well as the centrepiece on each table.

I said yes, kind of tentatively, not sure where I would find the time and not at all confident that what I would create would be very good. I did some recipe testing and a little bit of practising – but not really enough to make sure that my cakes would be perfect. I also wasn’t sure how I would bake twelve wedding cakes so that they would be fresh and also, be able to transport them from Auckland to Christchurch. I am fortunate that I have two ovens, so could get three cakes baking at a time, but I wasn’t sure about carrying 12 cakes down on the plane. We were also going to Christchurch for Christmas, two weeks before the date of the wedding, so freezing my cake recipe was also part of the testing.

In the end, I came up with a plan. I would make six cakes the night before we flew to Christchurch. I was sure that I would be able to manage six cakes, a nappy bag, handbag and an almost two year old on the plane with the help of my husband. I would then make the other six cakes at Mum and Dad’s, perhaps three on the day before Christmas and three on boxing day. I would then wrap the cakes and freeze them in another sister’s freezer, take them out the day before the wedding early in the morning, and then decorate them at my sister’s friend’s house which was close to the wedding venue.

My plan worked. The only real hiccup was when we were flying to Christchurch on the afternoon of December 23, we were about to start flying over the south island, when the captain came across the loud speaker regretting to inform us that there had been another major earthquake in Christchurch. At that point safe transport of the cakes was the last thing on my mind. But thankfully after a five hour diversion in Wellington airport, the earthquake, while huge, wasn’t as deadly as the 4 September and 22 February ones and we did make it to Christchurch that evening. The cakes made it too. All in one piece.

The cakes were chocolate cake – a fabulous recipe which freezes well and stays incredibly moist. Even though every wedding cake had been frozen, defrosted the day before the wedding, three days after the wedding the leftover cake was still moist. The icing was cream cheese icing. The combination served with whipped cream and fresh berries was stunning.

And lastly, a photo of Harry giving the bride a horseshoe 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Catching up with Dorie

Every morning Harry has a slice of toast, cut into three soldiers. On one he has just peanut butter, on one vegemite and the third, peanut butter and jam. The jam of choice lately has been cherry jam. I decided to bake some biscuits that he would love, which incorporate two of his favourite toast spreads – peanut butter and jam.

For those of you who were regular readers of my blog in my Before Harry days, you will remember the weekly “Tuesdays with Dorie” where I joined a group of other bloggers baking our way through Dorie Greenspan’s “from my home to yours”. There are about 20 recipes in that book that I have yet to complete and the Kid’s Thumbprint cookies were one of these. These are peanut butter cookies, rolled into balls, and then an indent is made with your thumb. The indent is filled after the cookies are baked. I knew Harry would love these, and he did, so I can see these will become a regular in our house.

I did mine a little differently. I indented the cookies with the end of a wooden spoon (dip it in flour after every few indents to make sure it doesn’t stick to the cookie dough). I also put the jam in before I baked the cookies, as I didn’t want the jam to slide out of the cookies. I wasn’t very generous with the jam, as jam can bubble up in the baking process and make the cookies look untidy. I made half the cookies peanut butter and jam and with the other half, I pushed a dark chocolate melt into each cookie as they came out of the oven and then popped them back in the oven for a minute to let the chocolate set. These ones were my favourite and I bet they would taste even nicer with a milk chocolate melt pushed in. The other thing I didn’t do that the recipe says to, is roll the cookies in chopped peanuts before baking. I thought that may be a bit much for a two year old.

These cookies were a success and you can find the recipe here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Crafty Gifts

In the weekend we went down to Hawkes Bay for my sister's partner's 40th birthday. My parents and one of my other sisters and her husband were up from Christchurch as well, so it was nice to have some family time a well as spend some time in the lovely Hawkes Bay.

I made these little "40" shortbread cookies for the birthday boy. I use the recipe for Paula's shortbread from "ladies, a plate" when I am making shortbread which I want to decorate. The icing sugar version of shortbread works really well when you want the cookies to hold their shape. I use royal icing as my icing to stick the sprinkles too, as it sets lovely and hard and also has a slight shine to it which comes through in the cookies.

The little Donald Duck tag is one that I made myself. My latest hobby is making little gift tags and books from old books which are past their best. I couldn't bring myself to cut up a book which is still readable, but there are a fair amount around when you start looking that have ripped pages, children's scribbles in them, etc. I've been collecting old golden books for some time and love making my little tags. I have even put some on Felt for sale, but I really just love making them to use and also give away to my friends and family. They are perfect for putting on a little home made gift.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A book club Treat

Book club was at my house this week. I love my book club. We've got a fantastic group of girls, we have lots of fun and read some great books. The latest book I read was "still alice" by Lisa Genova. What a fabulous book! I thoroughly recommend it if you haven't read it.

We have our book club at a different member's house every 6 or 8 weeks, and one of the highlights (other than the great company and great books) is supper. We have a book club of fabulous cooks, so supper is always a treat. This time I turned to Julie le Clerc's cake book. If you haven't seen this book, you should track it down. It's a wonderful collection of delicious cakes and all the recipes I have tried so far have worked perfectly (fingers crossed!). For book club I chose the rhubarb and coconut citrus syrup cake. I hadn't made it before, but it looked like a nice, easy recipe that I would be able to make quickly after work, while getting Harry his dinner.

This was the perfect cake in all regards. Super easy to make, sliced like a dream and absolutely delicious with a dollop of whipped cream. I imagine it would keep well - I didn't get the opportunity to find out as the next day my husband ate what wasn't eaten at book club.

The trick with syrup cakes is to pour a hot syrup over a cold cake or a cold syrup over a hot cake. I knew my cake was going to be warm when I poured the syrup over it, so I just made my syrup warm and decided to make it more of a drizzle than a syrup. I actually heated it in the microwave while my cake was cooking, warming it enough to dissolve the sugar, but not enough to make it really syrupy. I also didn't add as much water to the drizzle as the recipe said.

I will definitely make this cake again. You could use other fruits if you didn't like rhubarb - blueberries or raspberries would be great, as would plums.

Rhubarb and coconut cake with citrus drizzle (from Julie le Clerc's favourite cakes)

200g butter
1 c castor sugar
4 eggs
1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 C coconut
350g rhubarb, sliced into 2cm pieces

- cream butter and sugar then add eggs, one at a time
- stir in flour and baking powder, then coconut and rhubarb
- spoon into a lined 22cm round cake tin and bake at 180c for 60-70 minutes
- when cold pour over the following hot syrup

Shredded zest and juice of two lemons and three limes
1 c sugar
1/2 c water

- combine ingredients in a small pot, stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved and then turn up heat and simmer for fine minutes until syrupy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Delicious Banana Loaf

Just recently there have been a swag of beautiful new cook books published. One that I was waiting for is Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen. I have been a fan of Peggy’s for some time, admiring her gorgeous cake decorating. This book focuses more on baking and less on decorating (although the way she presents her baked treats is just amazing!). It is a beautifully presented book, and I couldn’t wait to try some of the recipes.

I started with a less challenging recipe, this one for banana loaf. I had two bananas languishing in the fruit bowl, so a good opportunity to use them up. I’m not usually one for icing my banana loaves, but the icing in the photo in the book looked so appealing, I decided to. This recipe, as with most loaf recipes, was very easy to make. I like the fact that it had both walnuts and chocolate chips added to it. I find banana loaf a bit bland without some additions. I used some gorgeous fresh walnuts which I bought at the Hastings famers market at Easter and had stored in my freezer. Chopped finely they add some wonderful texture to the load and a lovely flavour.

The icing on the load is delicious. A cream cheese icing with the addition of some frozen banana pulp. I was a bit nervous that it may go a yucky brown colour, as mashed banana does if you don’t add something like lemon juice, but it didn’t. I wonder if that was because the banana pulp was frozen first? I used a banana which had been in the freezer for months. Often when we have a yucky looking banana in the bowl, I throw it in the freezer for future use. They are perfect for baking with.

I would definitely make this loaf again and also using the icing – it would be a delicious icing for banana cake or cupcakes. I’m looking forward to making some more things from Boutique Baking.

Also, thank you all for your lovely comments - it' the fact that people are reading my blog which is what makes me want to keep doing it. Leaving comments is the only way I know you are reading :0)

Banana Loaf (from Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen)

100g butter
200g sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
300g mashed bananas (I used two large bananas)
180g flour
1 tsp baking powder
60g chocolate chips
80g walnuts, chopped

• Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time.
• Beat in the banana and then on a low speed mix in the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Lastly stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts by hand.
• Pour into a lined loaf tin and bake at 180c for 50-60 minutes
• When cold, icing with the following icing:
100g cream cheese
100g butter
250g icing sugar
25g frozen banana (defrosted)

• Cream cream cheese and butter
• Beat in icing sugar and then banana. Continue beating until smoothe.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Back in action

After a long blogging hiatus, I have decided to start blogging again. I can't promise that I will be as regular as I was BH (before Harry!), but I will be aiming to blog at least twice a week. I have continued baking the last two years, but not a lot of things that I would consider inspirational. However, just recently my passion for cake and cookies decorating (amateurish as it is!) has returned. To keep me blogging though, please leave lots of comments - I love to get them and that is really what inspires me.

My youngest sister is also a fanatic baker. She and I have been baking our way through the fabulous book, Cake Days, and just recently decided to also bake and decorate our way through Celebration Cupcakes, a book by a new zealander, Tamara Jane. The challenge is to not just bake the cupcakes, but also attempt to decorate the cakes in the same way as in the book.

The first recipe we chose (chosen by our mum) is for these chocolate vegan cupcakes. The recipe was chosen completely for what the finished product looked like, rather than the fact that the cakes are vegan. I've been fascinated by the photo of these gorgeous looking cupcakes since I was given the book last year. The intense purple of the icing was so gorgeous and I loved the flowers on top. My version isn't as stunning as that in the book, but I must say I was pretty pleased with my attempt. A word of warning though, I wouldn't eat the icing as the amount of purple food colouring I had to add to get that deep purple colour was frightening! My flowers need a bit of work, but hopefully with some practice, I will improve.

The cakes themselves are delicious. Mine weren't truly vegan as I did use cows milk, not having the recommended rice milk to hand. These would be a great recipe to use if you felt like baking but had run out of eggs and butter. They are also very easy to make and keep well.

Vegan chocolate cupcakes (from celebration cupcakes by Tamara Jane)

240ml rice milk (i used cows milk)
1 tsp white vinegar
150g castor sugar
80ml vegetable oil (I used rice bran)
1 tsp vanilla
120g flour
1/2 tsp b soda
1/2 tsp b powder
40g cocoa

- combine milk and vinegar and set aside for five minutes to curdle
- add the sugar, oil and vanilla to the milk mixture and whisk until well combined
- sift together the dry ingredients and then add in two batches to the liquid
- spoon into twelve cupcake cases and bake at 180c for 20 minutes
- when cold ice with butter icing and to make it truly vegan, make with something like olivio