Tuesday, February 18, 2020

TWD - Lavender-White Chocolate Sables

This week's  Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Lavender-White Chocolate Sables.  This follows on nicely from last week's White Chocolate-Lavender Pots de Crème, and ensures that I use up some more of that culinary lavender that I bought especially for the purpose.

These biscuits involve making a sable dough flavoured with ground dried lavender (which really emits a strong perfume when you are grinding it) and white chocolate.

From a half recipe, I made 36 small cookies.  I found that I could have baked them for a shorter time than in the recipe, as mine coloured a little more than they should.

These biscuits are OK - pleasant enough, but not a repeat at my place.

To see what everyone else made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website

And if you love old worldly hotels, do check out my latest travel post about The Carrington Hotel in Katoomba, New South Wales.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Chocolate Valentine's Day Cookies Decorated Two Ways

It's getting late
And if we talk
And then you'll know
I ache for you
                                                                                           Ache for You - Ben Lee

The above lyrics come from one of my favourite songs by Ben Lee, Ache for You, from the excellent album Awake Is the New Sleep.  This song perfectly sums up longing and desire for someone - it can be illogical and confusing, but hopeful and exciting at the same time.  

Valentine's Day is an opportunity for those who are already loved up to confirm those feelings to their partner.  It is also an opportunity to reach out to someone you long for and express your feelings for them in the hope that those feelings are returned.

I am not a fan of all the commercialisation around "V Day", as it is known, but I am a sucker for all the red and white and pink and hearts symbolism.  It is a perfect chance for me to indulge my fondness for this symbolism in sweet form.

This year, I made chocolate cookies and decorated them in two different ways.  One method was something I had tried before, the other was entirely new to me.

I made Lila Loa's End-All for Chocolate Roll Out Cookies, which I love because you don't have to chill the dough before rolling and baking.  Unfortunately, I did have to do a bit of chilling of the dough because the rather hot and humid day on which I made them did me no favours.  I just cut out round shapes because that shape was the easiest to use with my decorating tools of choice.

First up, I marbled some ready-to-roll fondant in a pink and white colour combination, and embossed it with the cutest ever "Bee Mine" embosser from Custom Cookie Cutters.  I think they turned out really cute.  I had marbled fondant and used an embosser before.

The next technique I used was to decorate the fondant using an airbrush with various heart-shaped Wilton stencils (I picked up the stencils for just $2 on a throw-out at the Cake Bakes and Sweets Show some time in the distant past, and this is the first time I have used them):

My airbrush is a Cookie Countess model from Miss Biscuit (bought on sale earlier in the year), and I used Cookie Countess's Preppy Pink airbrush colour for the designs. I had wanted to try airbrushing for a while, and this YouTube video made it easy for me to learn how to use the airbrush. The biggest lesson that I learned is that less is more when it comes to using the colour with stencils, as it minimises colour bleeding, and the colour darkens up afterwards so too much colour may lead to an undesirable result.  I also learned the value of putting down paper towel all over the benchtop that you are airbrushing on to avoid undesirable mess.

All of the cookies are so cute.  I could have piped a heart shaped edging around each cookie to hide the chocolate edges peeping out of the fondant, but as I was making these cookies just for fun and not to sell or for anyone in particular, I just left them as is.

I could not let the opportunity pass to show off my new Quetzy Valentine's Day brooches:

I purchased the Love Galah, but the little heart brooch was a gift with my purchase.  It made me smile.

Wishing all of my readers a fabulous V Day!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Nigella’s Slut’s Spaghetti

Who doesn’t love  a steaming bowl of pasta as a quick, hearty, tasty meal? I am not immune to the charms of a bowl of pasta, especially a tomato-based sauce.

I recently bought a packet of black bean spaghetti at my local IGA. It looked cool (hey, black spaghetti!), and had 44% protein and heaps of  fibre, making it super good for you.

The spaghetti kept falling out of my cupboard at me for a couple of months until I finally decided I needed me some pasta.  I grabbed a sadly neglected book from my shelf, Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen, to find a recipe for a sauce for my spaghetti. Kitchen is a great book - it has just been drowned in the sheer volume of cookbooks that I possess.

Nigella reliably had a recipe for Slut’s Spaghetti. She loves good alliteration and so do I, so this recipe won a big tick right off the bat. If you don’t have the book, you can find the recipe online here.

This tasty dish is brimming with punchy flavour - anchovies, olives and tomatoes are up front and centre. The black bean spaghetti added a comforting earthy flavour to the dish.

While this spaghetti might not be the prettiest to look at, it has a depth of flavour that is hard to beat. It is also super quick and easy to make. Go on, treat yourself and make Nigella’s Slut’s Spaghetti!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

TWD - Lavender-White Chocolate Pots de Creme

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Lavender-White Chocolate Pots de Crème.  This decadent dessert would be perfect to serve as the finale to a romantic dinner for two on Valentine's Day.

A pot de creme is a baked custard dessert.  This version is flavoured with white chocolate and dried lavender, which is not a combination I'd usually gravitate to.  However, in this dessert, the combination is delicious - the creamy white chocolate is given just a whiff of delicate floral from the dried lavender.  

I baked my two pots de crème (a quarter of the recipe) in beautiful tea cups that came with a dinner set that I bought when I first started work many, many years ago, in the misplaced belief that I was going to be hosting numerous dinner parties. Even when I have held the odd dinner party or two, people don't drink tea out of tea cups (or otherwise), so I welcomed the opportunity to use these dainty cups.

I decorated my pots de crème with crushed candied violets - I thought the purple colour was perfect to complement the lavender flavour.  I also served them with chocolate cookies (made to Lila Loa's End-All for Chocolate Cookie recipe) to scoop up the custard.

This dessert surprised me in a good way - it was creamy, decadent and elegant.  I would definitely make this again for the right occasion.

To see what everyone else made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.    

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Strawberries and Cream Cheesecake

Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you,
Embrace me, you irreplaceable you

                                                   Embraceable You, George and Ira Gershwin

Unless you have been walking around with your eyes closed, you will know that Friday this week is Valentine's Day.  Love it or hate it, the shops are filled with red cards, and ads for chocolates, flowers and jewellery abound.

A dessert that would be fun to make for Valentine's Day is this Strawberries and Cream Cheesecake from Coles magazine.  I did not make it for that reason, but its gorgeous pink and white hues make it the perfect dessert for V Day.  It also sings of summertime.

This baked cheesecake contains real strawberries, but the pink colouring is enhanced by a splosh of pink liquid food colouring (OK, in my case, a bit more than a splosh).

I made three quarters of the  recipe and used only Granita biscuits in the base.  While my cheesecake is not as tall as the original as a result, it was enough for me.

To make this cheesecake (3/4 recipe), you will need:

1 x 250g packet Arnott's Granita biscuits, crushed
100g butter, melted
75g strawberries, halved
3/4 tablespoon sugar
500g cream cheese, softened
90g sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3/4 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons plain flour
pink liquid food colouring

Grease and line a 20cm round springform pan. Put the biscuits in a food processor and process into fine crumbs.  Add the butter and process until well combined.  Press the mixture evenly into the base and up the sides of the springform  pan, using the base of a flat-bottomed glass to assist you in doing so.  Place the base in the fridge to chill while you make the filling.

Put the strawberries and 3/4 tablespoon sugar into a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries collapse and the syrup reduces by half.  Allow the mixture to cool off the heat, then transfer to a blender and process until smooth.  Sieve the mixture, keeping the liquid and discarding the solids.

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius.

Put the cream cheese, sour cream and remaining sugar into a food processor and process until smooth.  Add the eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract and process until well combined.  Add the flour and process until combined.  

Divide the mixture evenly into two bowls.  To one half, add the strawberry mixture and two or three drops of pink food colouring, and stir to combine.

Into the biscuit base, place alternating spoonfuls of pink and white filling mixture. (I found that the filling mixture was more liquid than solid, so I poured portions of each mixture in alternating pours into the middle of the base instead, creating alternating rings of colour.) Using a flat bladed knife, gently swirl the mixture to marble it.

Place the cheesecake on a baking tray and place in the oven to bake for 1 hour or until set.  Turn of the oven and leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven, with the door jar, for 2 hours.

Put the cooled cheesecake into the fridge to chill.

Slice and serve the cheesecake as desired.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

TWD - Pink Peppercorn Thumbprints

The first Tuesday with Dorie recipe for me in February is Pink Peppercorn Thumbprints. These biscuits have pink peppercorns in the dough to add a little flavour (though not really any colour, at least not in mine).

I used cherry jam without the rosewater to fill my biscuits. For me, a half batch yielded nine biscuits made with a small cookie scoop.

These were really nice biscuits - the kind of basic biscuits I grew up with. I made them while my Mum was staying with me, and she enjoyed them too.

To see what everyone else made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Don’t miss the next post in my travels through New South Wales, this time regarding the food and wine destination of the Hunter Valley.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Chocolate Tart with Orange, Rosemary and Hazelnut from Ottolenghi Sweet

Who doesn't love a chocolate tart?  When my team had a lunch at my boss's house late last year, and I was in charge of dessert.  One of the things that I had to make at a team mate's request was a Strawberry Watermelon Cake based on the Black Star Pastry recipe.  My other choice was the delicious sounding Chocolate Tart with Hazelnut, Rosemary and Orange from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.

What is not to like?  A shortcrust pastry shell is sprinkled wit hazelnut brittle, then filled with a rosemary and orange filled ganache.  Yum!   

This tart is easy to make, but involves a number of do in advance steps, and hence the method is fairly lengthy.

Accordingly, rather than me repeat the recipe here, you can find it in the excellent book, Sweet, or online here.  If you are a lover of decadent chocolate desserts, I encourage you to make this tart.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Raspberry, Pistachio and Lime Tray Bake

We are enjoying a bumper summer raspberry season at present.  It is a great time to enjoy recipes containing raspberries while they are cheap, abundant and in their prime.

A little while ago, Helen Goh published a recipe for Raspberry, Pistachio and Lime Tray Bake in the Good Weekend magazine. 

This delicious cake is made in a tray cake tin so that it is easily transportable and can be conveniently cut into squares.  It has a tangy cream cheese icing in the original, but I didn't have any cream cheese, so I just used vanilla buttercream.

Isn't this a pretty cake with its red and green contrasting topping:

To make this cake, you will need:

100g pistachios plus 3og extra for garnishing
3 teaspoons lime zest
125g sugar
110g plain flour
50g almond meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
150g butter, cubed and softened
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g fresh raspberries (I only used half this quantity)

Your favourite vanilla buttercream or cream cheese icing

Preheat your oven to 195 degrees Celsius.  Greases and line a 23cm x 33cm tray cake tin.

Put the 100g of pistachios and 3 teaspoons lime zest into a food processor and process until finely ground.

Add the sugar, flour, almond meal and baking powder and pulse for a few seconds to combine.

Add the butter and pulse until completely combined. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and process the mixture until smooth.  

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 25-20 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Spread the icing evenly over the top of the cooled cake and top with the fresh raspberries and 30g chopped pistachios.

Cut the cake into squares to serve. 

Also, check out my latest post from my New South Wales travels, this time focussing on the South Coast and Southern Highlands.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Honey Soy and Chicken Stir Fry

I love a good stir fry.  Stir fry is such a versatile dish - you can include whatever meat, vegetables, carbs and sauce that you have, and end up with a tasty, hearty meal within minutes.

You don't really need a recipe for stir fry.  However, p24 of the September 2019 edition of Woolworths Fresh magazine featured a recipe for Honey and Soy Chicken Stir Fry that inspired me, and was a little different from what I normally make.  This stir fry contains lots of delicious vegetables, making it an easy way to get your "5 a day".

For this stir fry, you will need:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
500g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed and diced

2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 crushed clove garlic
2 carrots, grated
1 sliced brown onion
1 green capsicum, deseeded and sliced
1/4 red cabbage, shredded
2 zucchini, grated
150g sugar snap peas, trimmed
steamed or boiled rice, to serve

Heat the oil in a wok over high heat.  Add the chicken and cook until golden brown.

Put the honey, soy an garlic in a small glass jar, put the lid on the jar and shake until the contents are well combined.

Add the carrot and onion to the chicken in the pan and stir fry for 2 minutes.  Add the capsicum and cabbage and stir fry for a further 2 minutes.

Add the zucchini, sugar snap peas and honey-soy sauce from the jar to the pan and stir fry for a minute.

Serve with rice.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

TWD - Canneles

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is one of my favourites - Canneles.  Canneles are a classic French pastry with a crisp, dark, crunchy shell encasing a soft, custard-like interior. They really are unlike anything else and are hard to describe - you really need to taste the to understand them.  Canneles are not very common in Australia, so being able to make them is a huge plus for fans of these French delicacies.    

I used silicone moulds, and made a half recipe to yield six medium sized canneles.  I only let my batter rest for 7 hours, and that seemed like plenty of time, judging from the end result.

I think my canneles are better this time than the first time I made them - no odd shaped ones in this batch.

To see what everyone else made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

If you are thinking of heading to Australia for your next holiday, check out Part 2 of my post on the Blue Mountains in New South Wales.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Iced VoVo Cupcakes - Queen Baking Club

This fortnight’s Queen Baking Club challenge is Iced VoVo Cupcakes to celebrate Australia Day on 26 January. Iced VoVos, for the uninitiated, are vanilla sugar cookies coated with two stripes of pink fondant on either side of the biscuit, with a stripe of raspberry jam in the centre, and the whole lot is sprinkled with coconut. 

Currently, Arnotts makes Iced VoVos, which are thought to have been invented by Hudsons Biscuits in 1904. Of course, there is a Kiwi challenger to the title, which you can read about here.

Queen Fine Foods’ recipe for Iced VoVo Cupcakes is online here. Just like the biscuit, it is a vanilla, raspberry and coconut flavoured confection. The cupcakes contain frozen raspberries and dessicated coconut, while the icing contains raspberry purée topped with dessicated coconut:

These cupcakes were a big hit at work - I received more compliments about these than I have about anything for ages.  Thanks for the recipe Queen!

You can join the Queen Baking Club on Facebook. There is a new challenge from the Queen recipe collection every fortnight.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

TWD - Puffed Grain and Miso Cookies

This week’s Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Puffed Grain and Miso Cookies. These are novel savoury, gluten free biscuits made from puffed rice, puffed barley (I used puffed corn instead), dried fruit (I used cranberries), peanuts, sesame seeds, rice malt syrup, sesame oil (mine was not toasted), olive oil and miso paste. 

The mixture is pressed into muffin tins and baked into cookies.

The end result is a delicious, crispy savoury sensation, quite unlike anything I have tried before.

To see what everyone else made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

If you would like a visual treat, check out my first Blue Mountains post on my travel blog, showcasing some of Australia’s wonderful natural landscape.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Katherine Sabbath's Flamin' Galah Cupcakes and Koala Cupcakes

For our work bushfire fundraiser bake sale, the second item that I made was the Flamin' Galah Cupcakes from p26 of Bake Australia Great by Katherine Sabbath. "Flamin' Galahs" is an Australian-ism for people who are idiotic, and Katherine has converted this phrase literally into these cute cupcakes.

Katherine takes vanilla cupcakes and vanilla buttercream and makes them into fabulous pink and grey galahs using various sweets and cashews.  There are recipes in the book for the cupcakes and buttercream which I used, but you can use your favourite vanilla cupcake and buttercream recipe to make these cupcakes.   If you are a bit unsure what recipe to use, and you don't have Katherine's book,  try the Primrose Bakery vanilla cupcake recipe here.

Tint half the buttercream grey with black food colouring (only a drop or two of liquid colouring is needed so be careful!), and half of it pink with rose pink food colouring (again, be sparing with the colour to avoid it being too lurid), and ice the cupcakes half grey and half pink to look like feathers.

Attach the beak first - the beak is made of two cashews arranged to look like an open beak, with one half on the pink icing and one hlf on the grey icing.  (Note the grey icing is at the top of the galah's head).  Next cut a white marshmallow in half and attach half of it to the cupcake near the beak to form the eye of the galah.  Use a little buttercream to attach a brown M&M to the centre of the white marshmallow for the pupil of the eye. Cut a pink marshmallow into three pieces and arrange above the eye as shown to form the crest of the galah: 

So cute!  

I also made koala cupcakes:

These are chocolate cupcakes (use your own favourite recipe) that I iced with grey buttercream.  To create the kolas, you will need pink marshmallows, black jellybeans and brown mini M&Ms.

For each koala, take a pink marshmallow and cut it in half.  Holding each half marshmallow by the large flat sides, spread some grey colouring around the edge of each half of the marshmallow, then dip it around the iced edges in dessicated coconut.  Place each half on the cupcake, cut side up, to form ears.

Sprinkle the entire iced surface of the cupcake with dessicated coconut (avoiding the sticky pink marshmallow ears).  Position a black jellybean at the base of the cupcake to serve as a nose, and a mini M&M either side of the "nose" to serve as eyes.  Ta da:

You have cuddly koala cupcakes!

The koalas are less time consuming than the galahs as there are less moving parts, so consider this if deciding to make only one of these cutey-pie cupcakes.  Whether you make both or just one, I am sure that the recipients of these cupcakes will be delighted.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Embossed Marbled Fondant Covered Sugar Cookies

My workplace had a bake sale to raise funds for bushfire relief this week.  I wanted to contribute, so I baked a few things: 

One of my contributions was vanilla sugar cookies made according to the recipe from my Miss Biscuit  classes.  However, instead of covering the cookies with royal icing, I covered them with yellow and white marbled embossed fondant.

The marbling technique that I used is here.  First you make three sausages of fondant (yellow in the middle, two white either side), plait them together, fold and squash the fondant flat. Divide into three sausages again: 

plait them together:

squash the fondant flat:

Once you are happy with the amount of marbling, roll out the fondant, ready to use:  

The "Not All Heroes Wear Capes" embosser that I used to stamp the fondant comes from Custom Cookie Cutters, who for three days donated the proceeds of sale from these embossers to the Red Cross bushfire relief fund.

After stamping the fondant with the embosser, I cut out a round of fondant the same size as the cookie, brushed a little water on the surface of the cookie so that the fondant would adhere to the cookie, then carefully placed the embossed fondant round on top of each cookie.

I think these turned out rather well:

It was the first time I had marbled fondant, so I had fun trying a new technique.

All up, I made 45 cookies.  For the purposes of the bake sale, I packaged them in groups of two in clear cellophane bags.

The bake sale raised funds by way of a donation from attendees, and from all accounts did very well.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

TWD - Chunky Chocolate Fruit and Nut Bars

This week’s Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Chunky Fruit and Nut Bars. These bars do not involve any baking - tbey comprise fruit and nuts mixed through melted chocolate.

I used almonds and cashews for the nuts,  and apricots, cranberries, currants and crystallised ginger for the fruit.

The end result was delicious, but hey, it’s chocolate- it’s hard to go wrong.

The teatowel in the background is a Rodriguez guide dogs fundraiser teatowel - so cute!

To see what everyone else made this week, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

TWD - Meringue Snowballs

Happy New Year for Tuesday with Dorie!  This year's first recipe is Meringue Snowballs.  These are basically just meringues, which Dorie suggests are shaped using an icecream scoop to make them round.

I made these at my Mum's while I was on vacation, so I had to use the equipment available to me.  For this reason, I just spooned out my meringues.  I made a third of the recipe to yield three meringues.  I flavoured my meringues with vanilla and coloured them with rose food colouring.

My meringue snowballs turned out OK, don't you think?  They are not round, but they looked and tasted good.

To see what everyone else made to kick off the New Year for TWD, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Caramelized Peanut Coffee Cake

David Lebovitz recently featured a Caramelized Peanut Coffee Cake on his blog.  It looked so delicious with its golden caramelized peanut topping, and knowing that I had peanuts and cream to use up, I went ahead and made this cake.

Now as you can see, my cake does not appear to have any peanuts on top.  And you would be correct - it doesn't.  Somehow, in the baking process, all of my peanuts sank to the bottom of the cake, so instead of a peanut topping, I had a peanut base.

The top photo demonstrates my solution to this dilemma - simply turn the slices of cake upside down!  And this is one delicious cake.  I highly recommend making it.  Just follow the link above to David's blog and you too can have this wonderful cake on your table for elevenses or afternoon tea or dessert.  You might even have a peanut topping instead pf a peanut base! 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year 2020!

Happy New Year to everyone!  

I don't have any spectacular photos of fireworks or parties to share for my first post, so I have instead decided to share with you the way in which I start most mornings - with a cup of coffee.  

This  gorgeous flat white with decorative swan in the crema came from a café in the QV Building in Sydney when I was there in early November.  Most cups of coffee that I have, barista made or otherwise, are not this grand.  This morning started with a cup of rather grey looking instant coffee.  However, a cup of coffee  is a wonderful way to kick start my day, so it seemed fitting that it should kick start my blog in 2020.

May this new year bring you blessings and happiness.