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Sticky Buns Part I

9 Jan

Recently I was a happy visitor to the country of sheep and Ents…needless to say it was a lovely trip.

While some people go to New Zealand to participate in a great multitude of expensive adventure sports, I was more than happy spending the majority of my holiday funds on lovely food (I’m lucky enough to have gone with someone who was willing to accompany me around a great many food locations…thanks John!).

One of my favourite places to visit in Arrowtown New Zealand was Provisions. It was delightful for breakfast, morning tea or even just a random bagel (If anyone knows where to find great bagels in Melbourne please let me know). The best part about it….it was only a 5 minute walk from my sister’s house where we were staying (I call it fate).

Apart from having excellent breakfasts and amazing bagels, Provisions also had its specialty….the humble sticky bun.

Presenting….The Sticky Bun(s)

Thanks Bec for the photo!

After being saddened by the thought that once leaving New Zealand I would no longer have the sticky buns, I decided to pay close attention to them (taste, texture…and so on). So now it’s my mission to replicate them…or produce something that tastes a little bit like them….wish me luck!

…I’ll keep you updated.

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Banana & Raspberry Bread

5 Jan

Not long ago, in a rare display culinary excellence (not because she can’t, but rather because she doesn’t really like to), my mother baked a banana and raspberry loaf. It really was quite lovely. So last night when I was in the mood for baking, I decided to throw a few raspberries in my usual banana bread recipe to create something similar….I decided to alter a my usual banana bread recipe rather making the recipe my mum made because I prefer the denser texture it has.

Here’s the link for the recipe my mum made….I believe she added a touch of coconut that made it even more delicious!

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/365/banana+and+raspberry+bread

And here is mine….

And the recipe is as follows:

Banana & Raspberry Bread (slightly adapted from the Wycliffe Cookbook)

Combine:

1/3 c. vegetable oil

1 c. sugar

1/4 c. water

Add:

2 beaten eggs

2-3 bananas mashed (the riper the better, a good way to use up overly ripe bananas)

Then Add:

2 c. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda (bi-carb)

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cloves and/or nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla

Combine and fold in:

1 c. raspberries (frozen or fresh)

Bake in a greased largish loaf pan and bake at 190 C for 45-60 minutes, till it’s golden and a knife comes out clean.

The Lady of Shallot

4 Jan

I love it when easy meals are delightfully tasty. One I discovered from David Lebovitz is Roast Chicken with Caramalized Shallots, it really is very easy and tastes like it has had more work put into it than it really does!

I’m just going to take a moment to say how much I love shallots…they’re cute, and lovely, and I think they have a slightly  more buttery flavour than onions.

So if you’re keen to try a new recipe try this one. As for vinegar, my favourite to use in it is Apple Cider vinegar.

Here’s the link to the recipe…

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/03/roast-chicken-recipe-caramelized-s/

serve it with roast vegetables and away you go!

Penguin Macarons

16 Jul

As some of you will know, I belong to a book club. In our book club we choose books from Popular Penguins (those ones with the orange covers). So it was quite exciting for us when the 75 new titles were announced. Our reading list just got 75 books longer!

My friend Blair suggested I make white and orange macarons for our next book club in honour of the new titles. Now Blair likes macarons quite a lot, and I think her suggestion was not solely in honour of the new titles, rather a sneaky excuse to get more macarons, however it seemed like a rather good idea so I ran with it.

After making orange and white ones, I decided I needed to make them even more penguin-ish, so I painted on names of some of the new books (short titles only) and some cute little penguins (I used black food dye mixed with alcohol so it dried quickly).

Here’s what I came up with… (Oh yeah, they were lightly spiced shells with vanilla and orange filling)

P.S. I must say, I was quite excited when I found out Popular Penguins had linked a photo of my macarons on twitter…horray!

Monte Carlos

7 Jul

Australian Women’s Weekly has recently produced a lovely new book….with one slight problem. Its title.

‘macaroons & biscuits’

While on the front cover it has a lovely looking bowl of ‘macrons’. This troubled me, but it is a lovely book so on my own copy I added ‘& macarons’. I considered crossing one ‘o’ out, however the book does contain recipes for ‘macaroons’ as well as ‘macarons’ (‘macaroons’ are generally a chewy coconut biscuit, similar in ingredients to ‘macarons’, but really quite different). They seemingly differentiate between ‘macaroons’ and ‘macarons’ by calling ‘macarons’ ‘almond macaroons’….but having said that, they don’t consistently do so for all the recipes of ‘macarons’. Oh dear. But I’ll stop my rant and carry on with the post, but not before showing you this…

One day I’m going to go through the entire book and alter the spelling wherever the incorrect use occurs!

Moving on from ‘macaroons’ and ‘macarons’, I decided to make Monte Carlo Biscuits from a recipe given in the book….the picture was just so appealing, and they always were one of the best Arnott’s biscuit flavours (for those of you who’ve never had them, they’re a honey-coconut biscuit filled with vanilla cream and raspberry jam).

This is the picture from the Women’s Weekly cookbook…yup, very appealing!

So I made them. After making the mix I wondered why it was so extremely dry…I was suppose to roll it into ovals, and yet it was crumbling everywhere. Assuming there must be something wrong with the recipe (rather than my own culinary skills), I just added a bit of water to make the dough come together, and then I began to roll them…

Halfway through rolling the mixture (after the first tray was already in the oven) I decided to read the recipe to check the cooking time, and it was then that I realised that I’d forgotten the egg…opps! At least that solved the mystery of the crumbly mix…even if it did humble me just a little bit!

The biscuits in the oven looked like they were cooking just fine, but to ensure I didn’t stuff up the whole lot I added half and egg to the rest of the mix. When they were all finally cooked I couldn’t actually tell a great deal of difference between the two, apart from the ones with the egg were slightly better shaped (it was so much easier to roll the mix!). So in the end my inattention to the details of the recipe wasn’t too much of a problem, but it did remind me of something…READ THE RECIPE (most particularly if the mixture doesn’t look right).

Here are the two different mixes cooked to biscuits…

Without egg

With egg

After the biscuits were cooked and cooled, I filled them with a vanilla buttercream and a delicious raspberry jam (it was Rose’s raspberry conserve, particularly lovely).

The result…lovely! (and even better the next day when the filling set a little more)

P.S. When my mum tried them she enthusiastically told me they tasted like the ‘REAL’ biscuits…I laughed and said that they were more the real biscuits than the Arnott’s ones, but then, after looking up a bit about Monte Carlo biscuits I discovered this: They were created by Arnott’s in 1926 and were named after the city of Monte Carlo…and so in the end my mum was right. However I’d like to think these biscuits taste a bit better than the packet ones.

May the cake be with you (or rather in you)

2 Jul

A little while back now, my lovely friend Blair turned 21. Now Blair is slightly obsessed with Star Wars (I certainly don’t blame her….what’s not to love!), and so when she requested a birthday cake, we decided a Star Wars themed one was in order. It certainly fit with her party theme of 80’s movies.

Let me introduce you to Blair…isn’t she pretty! (this is one of my favourite photos of her….I didn’t take…I think she may have)

To claim that I designed this cake (or rather cupcakes) would be rather a large lie, I found a picture of the same cake on a google image search (I’m slightly in love with google image searches…particularly after I stubbled across one of my own macaron photos on there – it made me feel proud). I still don’t know who’s original design it is, but this is the photo I looked at.

I made a carrot cake base for the cupcakes and used a dollop of cream cheese icing to secure the fondant icing character toppers (that took an age to make!).

And here are some photos….I was rather pleased with the results!

(The following photos are compliments of my lovely friend Marita).

If anyone could be so kind as to identify the character on the left next to Darth Vadar it would be most appreciated. I made the cake and knew who everyone was except that one!

A macaron of the chocolate-orange variety

30 Jun

Recently I visited my lovely sister Bec and proceeded to raid her orange trees.

It was fun harvesting the fruit, but I may have gotten a little carried away, as I ended up with a gigantic bag full of oranges.

So now I’ve been pondering ways to use them.

So far I’ve made freshly squeezed orange juice and chocolate-orange macarons.

The macarons went something like this….

I started by weighing up the dry ingredients

And then I attempted to flavour the chocolate shells with orange zest by mixing zest in with the sugar to whip into the whites. I discovered this was a bad idea when my whites (or yellows with the zest) went super runny with the addition of zest….so I binned this step and started the whites again, this time with no zest.

Note the difference in textures below (the only difference being that zest was added to one). It’s amazing how a easily a meringue can be ruined!

After my second meringue was ready I mixed in the dry ingredients and then piped my batter onto a tray.

Then I proceeded to bake my macarons and was pretty happy with the over all result, however I overcooked the second tray quite a bit, which resulted in very chewy macaron shells.

I wanted to make them chocolate and orange, and since I was unsuccessful in adding orange flavour to the shells, I had to make the filling quite definite in flavour.

So I made orange curd (with Bec’s oranges), using both the zest and the juice of an orange. I added some cointreau from a tiny bottle we’ve had sitting in our pantry forever. And finally I melted in some dark chocolate….the resulting mixture was rather hard to stop myself from eating.

And there you have it….chocolate orange macarons.

*I used the chocolate macaron recipe from the very clever Mr David Lebovitz

Pulling Sugar

23 Feb

One of my subjects this term is ‘Sugar Work’, it is most excellent.

Today we started learning how to ‘pull sugar’.

Here’s some photos of the proceedings…

The boiling sugar

Pouring the sugar out onto a silicon mat (on a slab of marble) to cool it down

Pulling the sugar

Pieces of coloured sugar under a heat lamp

The start of my ‘ribbon sugar’

Sugar ribbon

Finally….how very awesome!

Pink & Yellow

7 Feb

Recently my friends Peri and Dylan got engaged.

Peri asked me to make the engagement cake.

The cake was a simple butter cake with marshmallow icing.

Here’s how the decorating went

(She wanted pink and yellow flowers on white iced cake. So I made lots of flowers out of fondant.)

Breakfast is Lovely

6 Feb

I love breakfast!

Usually, I just have a bowl of cereal and go on my merry way. But what I really love is going out for breakfast, or taking the time on a lazy Saturday morning to prepare a lovely cooked breakfast.

This morning after I had already poured my bowl of cereal, I decided that Saturday was not a day for cereal. So I put the cereal away and got to work.

I ended up with toasted turkish bread topped with tomato relish, baby spinach, bacon (sadly we only had rindless bacon in the fridge), a poached egg and of course salt and pepper.

It was all remarkably easy and was definitely worth the extra time it took…so much better than cereal.

How to poach an egg.

– Fill a pot (smallish) with water and tip in some white vinegar (probably about a 1/4 cup)

– Heat the water to just before boiling (you want there to be lots of rapidly moving tiny bubbles)…make sure it’s not actually boiling when you put the egg in because it’s too rough (for lack of a better word) for the egg.

– Crack and egg into a small bowl (make sure the yolk is intact). It’s best if you use relatively fresh eggs because the yolks hold together much better.

– When the water is heated to the correct point, gently lower the bowl into the water and tip the egg gently in.

– Providing the water is hot enough (but not too hot) and you have enough vinegar in the water, the egg should pretty much hold it’s shape.

– Cook for about 2 minutes until the white of the egg is cooked (firm to touch), the yolk should remain runny (you can cook it longer if you don’t like runny yolks). You can test if the yolk is still soft by removing it from the pot with a slotted spoon and very gently touching the area where the yolk is located, it should feel quite soft and liquidy to the touch.

– Drain in a slotted spoon and eat immediately.