Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Recently, I came across a number of recipes for peppermint slice, and longed to make it to transport me back to childhood - a least temporarily! This slice is very rich, so a small square is more than enough.
The recipe that I used, adapted from a number of other recipes that I found, is as follows:
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
180g melted butter
60g Copha (vegetable shortening)
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 tspn peppermint essence
2 tbspns cream
1 tbspn milk
185g dark chocolate
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsuis. Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm slice tin, with paper hanging over the long edges (to be used as a handle to lift out the slice later).
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, then add the brown sugar. Add the melted butter and combine. Press mixture into slice tin and bake for 20 minutes. Leave to cool.
Melt Copha, then stir in the icing sugar, cream, milk and peppermint essence. Spread mixture over cooled base, then place in the refrigerator to set.
Melt chocolate and Copha for topping in a bowl over a simmering saucepan of water. Pour over peppermint layer and refrigerate until set.
Lift set slice out of the tin, and cut into 24 squares. Enjoy!
Monday, August 27, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
The Sweet Temptation Expo is, as the name suggests, a trade show of various types of sweet treats, including lollies, chocolates, cakes, biscuits and icecream. Because of the nature of the merchandise, I became disinterested in tastings rather quickly, because there are only so many sweets that I can take in one sitting.
Below is the stunning Sweet Temptation Express, made by Greensborough Cake Decorating Centre.
A sample of other visually spectacular wares at the Expo included:
Crabapple Bakeshop cupcake display
Homer Simpson cake by Marks Quality Cakes
Biscuits in the shape of current Australian federal politicians' heads by Sweet Decadence - these feature, from left to right, John Howard (Australia's prime minister), Julia Gillard (deputy leader of the Opposition), Pauline Hanson (obscured - Senate candidate and former member of the House of Representatives) and Kevin Rudd (leader of the Opposition)
I didn't have preserved lemons, and wasn't going to make the lemon coriander jam. However, the braised lamb itself was delicious, like a thick, rich stew made on the stove top.
The dish comprises lamb, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, ginger, lemon peel, potatoes and spinach leaves, flavoured with turmeric, coriander and beef stock. I substituted diced lamb shoulder for lamb stir fry, preserved lemon peel with fresh lemon zest, coriander seeds with fresh coriander, and spinach leaves with baby spinach leaves. Despite these substitutions, made on the pragmatic basis of what I had in the cupboard, I was very happy with the result.
This dish was served with boiled rice, and made a very satisfying winter meal.
Tomorrow is my colleague Rob's birthday. As with most people at work, I know that Rob likes chocolate. Accordingly, continuing with my series of chocolate cakes, I have made Rob a chocolate mousse cake, inspired by Habeas Brulee's chocolate mousse cake. However, I only followed her recipe for the base chocolate cakes.
For the mousse filling, I halved the mousse recipe used by A Cat in the Kitchen for her very different chocolate mousse cake. Finally, I iced the chilled cake with chocolate glace icing, decorated it with Lindt Balls and piped Rob's name on the top in contrasting white icing.
An update on how this cake tastes will follow.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The autumn edition of Donna Hay Magazine has a particularly enchanting section titled "Secret Garden", featuring recipes that you can make to take on a picnic. The exquisite photographs which accompany these recipes feature two pretty girls roaming through an apple orchard on a very autumnal looking day.
One of the recipes featured on page 95 is for individual apple puddings with butterscotch sauce. I love butterscotch sauce; however, given the butter content of the puddings themselves, I could not bring myself to make the sauce as well, comprised as it is of cream and sugar and even more butter. However, I made the puddings to take to dinner at a friend's house tomorrow night, where I plan to serve it with Greek yoghurt.
These little puddings are delightful to look at, as the ramekins are lined with apple slices before the pudding batter goes in so that the outside of finished puddings are adorned by the apple slices. In addition, the baked spongy puddings have perfect little domed tops, and smell very pleasant. The puddings photographed in the magazine appear to have been made in muffin tins which is a great idea.
I will provide an update on the taste of these puddings after tomorrow night.
Postscript: These puddings were light and delicious, with the apple on the outside baking into gorgeous sweetness. The puddings are great on their own or served with Greek yoghurt.
Monday, August 20, 2007
I didn't have high hopes that the troops would like this cake, because it is rather different to what I have made before, but it disappeared quite quickly! I think I can safely say that I have a hit.
This cake would be perfect to serve at a winter dinner party, served warm with Greek yoghurt (as suggested by the author). However, I also think it would be great served cold sliced into generous wedges at a picnic - or of course, at a patio party!
Thanks to Ivonne and Lis for organising La Festa al Fresco - I look forward to "attending" the roundup on 9 September.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
As with most suburbs, there are "good" and "bad" parts of St Kilda. There is a distinctly edgy feel to parts of St Kilda, which has a chequered history. However, St Kilda also has some unique and charming areas, which make it a fun place to visit on the weekend, when the tourist trade hits its peak.
St Kilda is characterised by its distinctive architecture. Unfortunately, some of the old is making way for the new, particularly on the highly sought after coastal land, but it still retains its quirky charm for the most part. There are many magnificent art deco buildings in St Kilda, and one example is the Mandalay Apartments building, shown below:
St Kilda is the home of many well known restaurants and cafes, including Iain Hewitson's Barney Allens (Italian bistro style), Karen Martini's Mr Wolf (pizza restaurant), Chinta Blues (Malaysian) and Il Fornaio (whose crusty bread and coffee is to die for on a bitingly cold Sunday morning). Acland Street is the home of about four traditional European cakeshops. Part of the shop window of one of them, Europa, is shown below:
Despite the enticingly beautiful appearance of these cakes, I know from experience that for the most part, they do not (in my humble opinion) taste as good as they look. The European cakes served in these shops are generally very heavy, and it is advisable to buy a slice to share rather than attempting to battle them on your own. They also rarely taste how you would expect, although I do not mind the German-style cheesecakes and traditional fruit and custard tarts. Pictured below is the lemon pie that I purchased on this occasion. The crust of this pie was gorgeous, consisting of a light, flaky, honeyed pastry with flaked almonds on top. However, the filling was not, as I had hoped, a light whipped custard (akin to a French vanilla slice), but heavy and overwhelmingly creamy. To avoid offence, I spirited the majority of the filling of this pie into the nearest bin in my napkin.
I love St Kilda because it (a) is by the sea; (b) has wonderful quirky and sometimes beautiful architecture; (c) has a great craft market on Sundays by The Esplanade, where I often buy gifts for my friends; and (d) was the home of one of my favourite TV series, The Secret Life of Us. (My favourite character was Evan, despite the fact that in the real world, an Evan type would be the very opposite in most respects of what I would want in a boyfriend.) If you are travelling to Melbourne, or are a native Melburnian who has not been for a while, I highly recommend making the journey to St Kilda and spending a few hours walking down the pier or along the beach, savouring the unique architecture, and trying out some of the many places to eat (even if it is just fish and chips on Acland Street, like me!).
Just like this 1930s advertisement says, St Kilda really is beautiful!
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
This month, Sugar High Friday is hosted by The Passionate Cook, and the theme is "Going Local" - that is, a speciality that is local to the region where you live. There are not very many Australian specialities that I can think of, primarily because we have borrowed heavily from the early British settlers for most of our sweet treats. However, one undeniably local sweet treat that is adored by the majority of Aussies is the humble lamington. A lamington, for those of you who may not know, is a small sponge or butter cake in a square or rectangular shape which has been dipped in chocolate icing and then rolled in coconut. Lamingtons may be unfilled, or filled with jam or cream (or both!!).
The history of the lamington is hotly disputed, and you can read about the various stories surrounding the creation of the lamington here and on page 8 of this brochure. Regardless of which of these stories you choose to believe, one thing is fairly certain - the lamington is a Queenslander, just like me! One of the towns in which the lamington was reputed to have been created is in fact my home town, making me feel an even closer affiliation with this very Aussie treat, which is served to new Australians at citizenship ceremonies.
All recipes for lamingtons are very similar, and there are many recipes for lamingtons floating about. The recipe which I used is as follows:
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1/3 cup cornflour
185g unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 lightly beaten eggs
1/2 cup milk
500g icing sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon butter
2/3 cup milk
3 cups dessicated coconut
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease and line a 9 inch square baking tin.
Sift the flours into a bowl, and add the butter, sugar, vanilla, egg and milk. Beat until well combined and increased in volume. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, and bake for approximately 50 minutes. Cool the cake in the tin for about 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Once the cake has cooled, slice it into 16 squares. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl or a saucepan and add the butter and milk. Stir the mixture over a saucepan of simmering water until it is smooth and glossy, then remove from the heat. Pour some of the coconut onto a plate. Coat each cake square in icing by dipping it into the icing using two forks or spoons, allow the excess icing to drain off, then roll the dipped cake in coconut. Place each cake on a wire rack until set. (Note: This is a messy process, so have lots of paper lining your work area to catch the drips and mess, and expect some icing to drop off while the lamington sets on the rack.)
The end result is 16 delicious, light, sweet cakes that are crowd pleasers (I took mine to work to share, because one girl and 16 lamingtons is a dangerous combination). Enjoy!
Thanks to Johanna from The Passionate Cook for choosing this great theme for Sugar High Friday. I look forward to seeing the global round up!
On Sunday, it was my friend Veronica's birthday, so her friend Margot and I took her to breakfast at Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder. This cafe is a Melbourne institution, and needs no introduction. The food was just marvellous, and well worth the 40 minute wait for a table. Veronica had pancakes with pears, cardamom, cassia and blood orange curd, Margot had the fruit toast and I had porridge with, among other things, pumpkin seed brittle. The food tasted as good as it sounded on the menu, and was very filling. A wonderful range of gourmet jams and relishes, cheeses and breads are also on sale at the cafe.
For afters, I made Gateau Chocolat Framboise (or Chocolate Raspberry Cake for those who, like me, don't speak French!) from p209 of the delightful Clotilde Dusoulier's Chocolate & Zucchini recipe book.
This cake, pictured above, is more akin to a shell-less chocolate tart than a cake. It is extremely dense and chocolatey, containing almost an entire block of chocolate and plenty of butter. However, as you can only manage a small slice of this melt-in-the-mouth, fudgy delicacy, you do not have to worry about your waistline. The raspberries give the cake a little bit of zing to contrast with the intense chocolate taste.
My cake does not look as elegant as the one in Clotilde's photograph, primarily because I had to ice it to cover up a failed attempt at piping Veronica's name in white chocolate on the top. No matter - it tasted delicious, and Veronica loved it.
If you choose to make this cake, you need to be prepared well in advance, as it must be refrigerated for at least 8 hours. Don't attempt to lift the cake from its springform pan base until it has completely chilled - I found to my peril that this cake is rather fragile until it has chilled and I almost lost it.
While it is not a cheap cake to make, with ample quantities of chocolate and raspberries being crucial ingredients, it is well worth it for a special occasion, and the taste is sinfully devine. Happy birthday Veronica!!
Saturday, August 11, 2007
After a run of relatively warm weather (well, warm for Melbourne in winter!), it has turned chilly again today. Accordingly, warm, rich comfort food is what the doctor ordered to keep out the cold. The Winter 2006 edition of Donna Hay Magazine features a selection of delicious pie recipes, so I dug out my copy and selected the Beef and Potato Pie for my dinner tonight.
This pie is non-traditional in that, instead of a pastry crust, it has a crust of thinly sliced baked potatoes. The beef filling is also unusual in that its key flavour comes from seeded mustard, giving the filling a distinctive smell and tangy flavour. Other ingredients accompanying the mustard flavoured beef are onion, garlic, mushrooms, bay leaves and beef stock. The filling takes one hour on the stove top to simmer (half an hour with the lid on, half an hour with the lid off), followed by 45 minutes in the oven to bake the potato topping. Once the filling has reduced on the stove top, you are left with a thick, tangy, flavoursome pie filling. However, I wasn't so keen on the potato topping, which seemed rather bland to me.
This recipe tells you to put the oven on to warm up at the start, despite the fact that the filling takes over an hour to prepare before it goes into the oven (grr...). Next time, I would also season the potatoes (the recipe doesn't call for this), or use a pastry crust for the delicious filling. However, the filling recipe is very good, and I would make it again.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
This pudding recipe comes from p284 of The Australian Womens Weekly 501 Low Fat Recipes, and is titled "Rich Chocolate Self-Saucing Pudding". Although it is nice, particularly when it is hot, I would hardly describe it as "rich". If you can afford to go the whole hog occasionally, my recommendation is to make the full fat version and enjoy it with icecream and custard. However, for those watching their weight or who just don't have the right ingredients to make a real chocolate version, then this is a pleasant enough substitute.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
This cake is deliciously moist and more tart-like in texture than cake-like. It was also quite sweet because of the large quantities of fruit that it contains.
This cake did not receive the same rave reviews that a chocolate cake does, but I enjoyed it for a change. There are a number of other fruity cakes that I have been wanting to try, so this may be the beginning of a new phase.
Monday, August 6, 2007
I made the Dinosaur Rock Chocolate Cake again at Patsy's request - it is both a large cake to feed crowds, and is very moist. However, it did not go smoothly this time - I ended up making two identical cakes, with the first one providing morning tea for the people at work.
Cake no. 1 was turned out too early and started to crack because I forgot to factor in the size of the cake to the tin cooling time. This of itself was not the deal-breaker for this cake, as I could cover up the crack with icing - it wasn't that major. However, I thought I would use ganache for the icing, not realising that such a large cake needs a longer than usual cooling time before being iced - when I woke up the next morning, the ganache had marbled from the heat. This could not be so easily fixed, so I started baking cake no. 2 at 7am before going to work, and went home at lunchtime (luckily I live really close to work) to ice and decorate it.
Happily, cake no. 2 went much better, although I skipped the ganache and used glace icing (which perhaps I should have done in the first place). Patsy said that the cake went down well, and she seemed happy with it (which is after all the most important thing).
As well as being remunerated for the cost of the ingredients, Patsy gave me a lovely box of Lindt ball chocolates for my efforts. Thank you Pasty for having faith in me (although I am not sure it was deserved!), and for providing me with my first commissioned work.