Saturday, February 28, 2009

Inspired by Chocolat: Chili Con Carne Y Chocolate

Tonight you are invited by Marc of No Recipes and Susan of Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy to Dinner and a Movie:

This is a new monthly event, whereby we are invited to make and post about a dish inspired by the movie selected by the host for that month.

This month's movie is
Chocolat, and Marc is our host.

Today was the last day of summer in Melbourne, and it was a lovely, sunny day, with a moderate wind of the kind that might have blown Vianne and Anouk into town. Just in case they did arrive on my doorstep, for tonight's dinner, I made Chili Con Carne Y Chocolate.

My inspiration for this dish was the scenes in Chocolat of Armande's birthday party, where Vianne and Roux serve meats accompanied by chocolate sauce. I didn't really fancy pouring chocolate sauce on my meat, but I was curious about the meat and chocolate combination, which I have heard about before. A quick Google search later, and I found a recipe for Chili Con Carne Y Chocolate, which you can find

To give you an idea of the different flavours in this dish, here are some of the ingredients chopped and ready to go, including the chocolate:

In the finished dish, you do not taste the chocolate per se; rather, the chocolate adds richness to the flavour of the dish, and blends in rather than shouting out to be recognised as an individual. This is good, in my opinion, as I believe that the other alternative would be more like the chocolate sauce served over meat, where you could not avoid the chocolate flavour potentially clashing with the meat.

Thanks to Marc for hosting Dinner and a Movie this month. This event has definitely taken me outside my comfort zone to try something new, and it is great to be inspired by such a wonderful movie.

Daring Bakers - Chocolate Valentino Cake with Baci Icecream

Ahhh, February - the month of romance and love, culminating in Valentine's Day on 14 February. To coincide with this, our Daring Bakers challenge this month was to make a Chocolate Valentino Cake (a heart-shaped flourless chocolate cake) and icecream to accompany it. You didn't have to make your cake heart-shaped, and you didn't have to use the icecream recipes given by our hosts, Dharm and Wendy (to whose blogs I have linked at the foot of this post, if you would like the cake recipe).

I chose to make one large heart shaped cake with 8 mini cakes:

The cake recipe uses a large quantity (454g) of chocolate. I chose Cadbury's Old Gold original dark chocolate for my cake.

The end result is a fudgy, dense, chocolate packed punch of a cake, with a crispy, brownie-like top:

I paired my Valentino cakes with Baci icecream (which I thought was very appropriate for Valentine's Day, given that "baci" means "kisses" in Italian) that I made especially for this challenge, and some strawberry icecream that I made some time ago for visual contrast:

The Baci icecream recipe is by Vera Kuznetsova, and can be found on
page 120 of Issue 6 of Desserts Magazine. This stuff is addictive - it is silky smooth and super soft, and the taste is heaven itself. However, given its ingredients (including half and half, full cream, hazelnut spread and hazelnut meal), I can only imagine how highly calorific it is, so I will be urging my colleagues to share this with me.

I have previously posted the recipe for the strawberry icecream, by Nigella Lawson,
here. Although it tastes fine, it is not a patch in my view on the chocolate hazelnut variety.

To check out all the other wonderful chocolate cakes and icecream varieties from the other Daring Bakers, visit the Daring Bakers blogroll. Thanks to our hosts, Dharm and Wendy, for hosting this month's challenge.

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of
WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Happy birthday Chris - Whole Lemon Tart

It was Chris's birthday on Monday, and he had placed his order for a citrus tart as his birthday cake. (I guess if you don't ask, you don't get, right?)

Chris was not specific about the type of citrus tart that he wanted, so I chose to make lemon tart. Now, there are a lot of citrus tart recipes out there, and even narrowing it down to lemon tarts, you can select anything from a fluffy lemon cream tart to a mouth puckering lemon curd tart. I selected a recipe for a Whole Lemon Tart posted by Smitten Kitten, based on a recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets. The thing that I found intriguing about this tart recipe is that it uses the whole lemon - you only remove the seeds (and in my case, I chopped the top and bottom off the lemon so that the hard nubbly bits did not end up in my tart).

This tart was very simple to make, and tasted absolutely amazing! It uses very few ingredients, all of which are pantry staples, so there is no need to make a mercy dash to the grocery store for this one. Here is my completed tart, fresh out of the oven and sans whipped cream decoration:

The only changes that I made to the recipe as written by Smitten Kitten were to use Dorie Greenspan's pate sable recipe (from Baking: From My Home to Yours) for the tart shell (because you don't have to roll it out and it doesn't shrink!), and an extra five minutes baking time, because it was still a little wobbly in the centre at the end of the time stated in the recipe in my oven. The filling bubbles away and gets very excited, but you'll know when it's ready, because it turns from yellow gold to a browny golden shade all over - do not be alarmed, this is what it is supposed to do.

I loved this tart recipe for its simplicity and lovely tangy lemon taste. It is a definite keeper, and I can recommend it to all lovers of lemon tarts.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Think Spice, Think Twice - Gum Mastic - Rosewater, Cardamom and Gum Mastic Icecream

My friend Ivy of Kopiaste is hosting Think Spice, created by Sunita's World, this month, and has chosen fennel seeds or gum mastic as the spice - take your pick. I have chosen gum mastic, because Ivy sent me some to try last year, and until now, I haven't made anything with it.

Gum mastic only comes from special trees on the Greek island of Chios, and it is certainly not something you see every day here.

After agonising over the recipe I would make, I eventually chose to make something that I have admired for a long time because of the stunning photographs accompanying the post. This recipe is
rosewater, cardamom and gum mastic icecream, by Keiko of Nordljus.

Nigel Slater
wrote that rosewater icecream is not to everyone's liking, and he was right. The flavour is very unusual, and I cannot truthfully say that I love it. However, this icecream looked beautiful in its creamy glory, contrasting with the pink dried rose petals that I sprinkled on top to emulate Nordljus's photographs.

Here is a selection of the raw ingredients for this icecream, including the gum mastic:

To give you a better idea of what the gum mastic looks like, here are some of the little resin pearls being ground up with sugar in my mortar and pestle:

As I have never used gum mastic before, I am not sure how much of the flavour of the icecream can be attributed to the gum mastic, and how much was due to the other striking flavours, including the strong rosewater flavour, and cardamom.

One thing that I learned from making this icecream is why you would bother to grind up your own spices fresh from the seeds or pods. The smell of the cardamom seeds after being freshly ground was very piquant, and nothing like the smell of the ready ground variety that you buy in supermarkets.

Thanks to Ivy for hosting this event and for the gum mastic. If you would like to contribute a dish for this event, you need to send your submission in to Ivy by 28 February.

TWD: Caramel Crunch Bars

Our Tuesdays with Dorie host this week is Whitney of What's Left on the Table?. Whitney has chosen Dorie's caramel crunch bars. These are slices with a buttery, biscuity base, topped with chocolate and finally with toffee pieces.

In Dorie's photo, she has sandwiched icecream between two bars and wrapped the combination in greaseproof paper. I originally became excited when I thought that the icecream was marshmallow, and this is one thing that I would like to try another day. Alas, it won't be today, as I am typing this in the wee small hours after having just finished the bars, some homemade icecream (to be posted soon) and a birthday cake (also to be posted soon), in amongst watching Underbelly and The Oscars. Congratulations to all the Oscar winners!! And wasn't Hugh gorgeous and charming and talented as the host - lucky Deborah-Lee!

In Australia, neither Heath bits or toffee bits of any variety are easily attainable, so I bought some Werthers hard toffees and pulverised them in the food processor. I probably processed them a little too much, making the pieces almost powdery in some instances, but it didn't really matter in the end.

These tasted pleasant, but did not have the "wow" factor for me - especially if I am going to devote a family sized block of chocolate and a whole packet of toffees to making them. Give me a packet of Tim Tams instead!! This is another Dorie recipe which makes me wonder how on earth she can stay so slim while making stuff like this.

Thanks to Whitney for being our host this week. To check out how the other TWD members went, please visit the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ethiopian Experience - Doro Wot (Chicken Stew)

In this week's Foodalogue adventure, Joan is taking us on a culinary tour of Ethiopia. Again, this is a pretty exciting destination, because I know as much about Ethiopian cuisine as I did about Romanian food - that is, nothing.

Accordingly, I had to do some research again to accompany Joan on this trip. Surprisingly, it is easier to find Ethiopian recipes than it is to find Romanian recipes. One dish which kept coming up in my searches is Doro Wot, a spicy chicken stew with a soupy sauce, traditionally containing boiled eggs and eaten with flat bread (to mop up the sauce, of course!) and vegetables. Accordingly, this is the dish that I settled on making.

Now to be perfectly honest, I would never have made Doro Wot if left to my own devices. It didn't sound appealing enough for me to have bothered, and the thought of boiled eggs in a stew kind of left me cold. However, in the spirit of taking this culinary tour, I went ahead and made Doro Wot - and I loved it!!!

I tweaked Dorinda Hafner's recipe and Fearless Kitchen's recipe to come up with my own version of Doro Wot which combined the best of both. It is the kind of recipe that you could easily up the ante on or dampen down certain ingredients, according to personal taste, and this is what I did. However, don't be afraid of trying the boiled eggs in this stew - they taste surprisingly good.

To make my version of Doro Wot, you will need:

30g ghee
2 diced brown onions
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 whole cloves
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon chilli powder
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 chicken cut into 8 pieces, reserving the wings, or 6 chicken pieces, skin on
6 shelled hard boiled eggs (I only used two just to try them)
1/4 cup red wine
juice of one lime

Place the onions and half of the ghee with a pinch of salt into a large oiled saucepan or wok, and cook the onions over low heat until golden (~15 minutes).

Add the rest of the ghee, cardamom, pepper, cloves, garlic, ginger and chilli powder, and continue to cook the onions until soft (~10 minutes).

Prick the chicken pieces and eggs with a fork. Add 2 cups of the stock with the chicken pieces and eggs to the pan, bring to a steady simmer, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Add the remaining half a cup of stock and the red wine to the pan, and continue to simmer while covered for 30 minutes.

Add the lime juice to the pan and simmer for a further five minutes, before removing the pan from the heat. Serves 3-6 (depending on whether you want one piece of chicken or two - I had one piece of chicken and one egg, and that was plenty for me when served with vegetables).

I didn't have any flat bread, but I served my Doro Wot with roasted sweet potato, pumpkin, parsnips, zucchini and asparagus sprayed with oil and coated in salt, pepper and mixed herbs (figuring that you could easily roast vegetables in a camp fire or primitive oven, so although the varieties of veges may not be authentic, the cooking method could be):

Verdict - absolutely and surprisingly delicious!! I'd make this again.

Do visit Foodalogue after 25 February to see the roundup of great Ethiopian recipes. Next stop is Russia (March 2) - hope to see you there!

On a different note, my lovely friend Ivy has given me with the Sweetheart Award:

Thanks Ivy! I wish to share this award with the following sweethearts:

The Blonde Duck of A Duck in Her Pond

Tammy of Wee Treats By Tammy

Arfi of Homemades

Sara of Sara's Kitchen

Dee of Choos and Chews

Thanks to these gals for brightening my day.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Asian Influence - Pad Thai

When I eat out, one of my favourite types of cuisine is Thai. I love the curries, the stir fries, the noodles and the combinations of crisp and spicy flavours. One of my favourite dishes is Pad Thai. Despite this, I had never attempted to make Pad Thai at home - until now.

I came across a recipe for Pad Thai in Janelle Bloom's Fast Fresh and Fabulous, and decided to give it a go for myself. And I am glad that I did - it is so good. It has the light Asian flavours combined with just the right amount of nuttiness.

To make your own Pad Thai, you will need:

250g dried rice stick noodles
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
juice of 1 lemon
150g diced firm tofu
2 tablespoons cornflour
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 thinly sliced chicken breast fillets
3 sliced green onions
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 small chopped red chillis
2 lightly beaten eggs
1/2 cup chopped raosted peanuts
125g bean sprouts

In a bowl, cover the noodles with warm water and set aside for 5 minutes or until softened. Drain and set aside.

Put the fish sauce, sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice in a small bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.

Coat the tofu with the cornflour. Heat a wok, and once hot, add 2 teaspoons of the cooking oil and the tofu, and stur fry until the tofu turns golden brown. Remove the tofu from the wok and set aside.

Reheat the wok, and add one tablespoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, addthe chicken and stir fry until golden brown. Remove the chicken from the wok.

Put the remainder of the cooking oil in the wok with the green onions, garlic and chillies and stir fry for one minute. Push the vegetables to one side of the wok, and pour the eggs into the cleared space and cook them until slightly set, before using a spoon to scramble them.

Add the softened noodles, sauce mixture, chicken and tofu to the wok, and stir fry for 2 minutes or until heated through.

Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

TWD - I love this little devil! Devil's Food White Out Cake

As much as I felt stranded on last week's Islands, I adored this week's recipe. It was chosen by Stephanie of Confessions of a City Eater, and was Dorie's famous Devils' Food White-Out Cake. It is famous because it is the glamourous "cover girl" of Baking - From My Home to Yours, and because, somewhat surprisingly, no-one had previously chosen it in the 12 months plus of Tuesdays with Dorie.

This cake exceeded my wildest expectations - I am so glad that I made it for a colleague's birthday, otherwise I may have demolished it all by myself. I also had the best time making it - despite some initial apprehension at once again making a "cooked" frosting, it came up trumps.

The Devil's Food component of the cake consisted of 4 layers of the fudgiest, most chocolatey cake known to mankind:

three of which are then sandwiched together with generous lashings of fluffy marshmallow frosting:

before the cake is smothered in the remaining frosting:

and then - OMG - the fourth cake layer is deliberately crumbled (which initially went against every bone in my body), and used to coat the outside of the cake.

I tasted the scraps of crumbled cake and leftover frosting - and had to promptly put the remainder in the garbage, because they were so good that I was going to single-handedly eat my way into the next series of The Biggest Loser by hoovering them up. I wish I was exaggerating, but I am not - this stuff was crack cake for my soul. It was also fun to make, because it was like being a kid again, plootching in the frosting and cake crumbs to decorate the cake. I actually laughed while I was doing it, it was so much fun.

Here is my rather unglamorous looking slice to give you the "inside" picture (you gotta make allowances for the fact that at work, nothing can be served in a pretty manner):

You can find the recipe in Dorie's book, or on Stephanie's site. You may also want to slaver madly by looking at everyone else's version of this cake at the TWD blogroll.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

No Valentine - Just Meatballs in Romania!

No takers for Valentines again this year at my house - I would have been more surprised if there had :). However, I hope that you all had a lovely Valentines Day with your other half.

Joan of Foodalogue is going on a culinary tour around the world during the first 3 months of this year, with a new destination each week. She has invited us to come along with her, by making a dish which is native to the countries that she visits along the way, as a way to promote BloggerAid. The destinations and dates have changed a little since Joan's original invitation - if you are planning to travel with her, you can check out the current itinerary here.

I have missed a number of destinations already, but I am joining Joan in Romania. Now, I have to be honest and say that I don't know anyone who is of Romanian heritage, and I know nothing about Romanian food. However, this just made the challenge a little more interesting for me, and I had to do some research. After hitting a few blind alleys (believe me, Google translator does not work that well on converting Romanian to English), I found the website of The Other Delia, a Romanian lady now living in the UK. Thankfully, Delia had some great recipes written in English for (sadly) monolingual people like me.

I chose to make parjoale (meatballs). Delia mentioned that Romanians also love mash, so I made mashed potatoes to accompany my meatballs and, just to give things a multicultural feel, my favourite Italian twice cooked beans in spicy tomato sauce.

You can find Delia's original recipe for the meatballs here. I adjusted the recipe a little, so that I did not have any leftover vegetables, and also, I am not a fan of frying things, so I chose to bake my meatballs in tomato sauce (well, tomato soup, actually :)).

My adapted version of parjoale is as follows:

500g lean ground beef (mince)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 grated carrot
1 small capsicum, finely chopped
1 beef stock cube
1 egg
1 tablespoon plain flour
2 crushed cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs (I used herbs de provence)
salt and pepper to taste
1 x 415g can of condensed tomato soup
half a soup can of cold water

Put the carrot, onion and capsicum in a frypan with 3 tablespoons of cold water, cover the frypan,and allow the vegetables to sweat over a low heat for 10 minutes or until soft. Remove the vegetables from the heat and allow them to cool.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Put the beef, cooled vegetables, egg, flour, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and the crushed stock cube into a large bowl and mix well to combine. Divide the mixture into small pieces of roughly even size, and roll them in your palms to form balls. Place the balls into a medium sized lidded casserole dish, and pour the soup and the water over the top of them. Put the lid on the casserole dish, place the casserole dish in a roasting dish (to catch any boil-over) and place the meatballs in the pre-heated for approximately one hour or until the meatballs are cooked through.

For an authentic Romanian feel, serve the meatballs with creamy mashed potato.

Seguing into a different topic, I have been awarded the Sisterhood Award by Giz, who created Equal Opportunity Kitchen with her daughter, Psychgrad (who is getting married - congratulations!). Thanks Giz.

The rules of this award are:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.

2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!

3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.

4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

Without further ado, my nominees are:

Ivy of

Tammy of Wee Treats by Tammy

Miranda of A Duck in Her Pond

Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella

Mary of Shazam in the Kitchen

Adele of Tales of the Basil Queen

Jesse of We All Go Poopie

Arfi of Homemades

Gretchen of Canela & Comino

Happy Cook of My Kitchen Treasures.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, y'all.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

BloggerAid Cookbook - Let's write a cookbook because we can help!!

Good morning to all of my wonderful readers - I love both reading your blogs and hearing from you all when you drop by.

In today's post, I wanted to tell you all about an amazing project being conducted by Ivy of Kopiaste, Val of More than Burnt Toast and Giz of Equal Opportunity Kitchen, the founding members of BloggerAid. They have put out the call for food bloggers everywhere to contribute a recipe to potentially be published in a BloggerAid Cookbook, from which 100% of the sales will be contributed to the United Nations World Food Programme. The cookbook is anticipated to be on sale through Amazon in November or December of this year.

You can lend a hand by contributing a recipe to be considered for the BloggerAid Cookbook. For details, please refer to Ivy's announcement here. The recipe should be original and not previously published on your blog. But be quick - submissions have to be in by Thursday, 12 February 2009 (that's tomorrow folks!). NEWS FLASH: The deadline for recipe submissions has now been officially extended to 31 March 2009. So please, food lovers everywhere, consider contributing a recipe to this great cause.

Also, do consider becoming a member of BloggerAid, whether or not you choose to participate in the cookbook project - you'll join lots of other wonderful food bloggers who have already signed up to this truly fantastic international effort.

Before I go, I am going to tantalise your tastebuds with a photo of my submission to the BloggerAid Cookbook project - a Triple Layer Orange-Passionfruit Tart, made according to my mum's recipe. Enjoy! Ciao!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

TWD - Floating Islands

This week's Tuesday with Dorie is hosted by Shari of Whisk: A Food Blog, who chose Dorie's Floating Islands. Dorie tells us that this is a classic French dessert.

Floating Islands consist of creme anglaise, with oval-shaped meringues poached in milk floating on top, and traditionally decorated with spun sugar strands. I wanted to like this, honestly; however, to me, it tasted like egg custard topped with egg white omelette. This is not what I prefer for dessert - I think I would have liked this better as a breakfast dish. My creme anglaise was very thick, so I had no issues with getting the "islands" to float.
I only made a third of the recipe, and that was more than enough.

My "islands" were topped with passionfruit and raspberries, which made them look good, even if I didn't fancy the taste.

Thanks to Shari for hosting TWD this week. To see how the other Tuesday with Dorie members fared with this recipe, do check out the

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Happy birthday Valar! Southern Coconut Cake

It was Valar's birthday on Wednesday, and of course, I couldn't resist making her a special cake - she is one of the biggest supporters of my baking.

The cake above is a triple-layer Southern Coconut Cake from Sky High - Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Hunstman and Peter Wynne. No alcohol is involved, which is good for Valar, who does not drink.

The cake looks a little like an unmade bed because, when I moved the cake, the top layer started to crack - weird, huh? You'd think that the bottom layer would give way under the weight of it all, but not in this instance. After this photo was taken, I tried to move the cake to another, taller box, but that's when things went really downhill - the top layer actually broke into four and started to slide off. I had to hastily push it back together and redecorate the top of the cake. All's well that ends well though, because overnight in the fridge, the icing set up nicely, holding it all together.

The cake is comprised of three layers of coconut-milk flavoured cake:

which are glued together with a cream cheese-buttercream frosting:

Despite my experiences, it is actually an easy enough cake to make. The hardest part is making the devilish meringue-buttercream frosting, which I now seem to have gotten into a rhythm of making without too many dramas.

The resulting cake is very sweet and coconutty, but I found it to be delicious. Again, this is definitely not a cake for the diet conscious, but the object here is celebration!

To make the cakes themselves, you will need:

5 egg whites
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used almond essence instead)
3 cups plain flour
2 1/3 cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
250g softened butter, diced
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I used the light version, and it was fine)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease and line 3 x 9 inch cake tins.

Whisk the egg whites slightly, then whisk in the 1/2 cup milk and the vanilla, then set aside.

Put the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together into the bowl of an electric mixer, and beat the ingredients on low until the lumps have been removed. Add the butter and coconut milk to the dry ingredients, beating on low speed, until just combined, then increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy.

Add the egg white mixture to the other ingredients in three batches, mixing until just combined after each addition.

Place the batter into each of the three cake tins in roughly equal amounts, and bake in the preheated oven for around 30 minutes. Once baked, remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

Once the cakes are cool, you can make the frosting and assemble the cake. To make the frosting, you will need:

345g cream cheese (I used light cream cheese without any problems)
200g softened butter, diced
1 cup sifted icing sugar
2 teaspoons vailla extract (I didn't have any so I left it out without negative effect)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 egg whites

Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy and smooth. Add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time, and beat with the mixer until smooth. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Set aside.

Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stiring to disssolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn down the heat and allow the syrup to keep boiling until it reaches 238 degrees Fahrenheit (soft ball stage for you candy makers out there!).

While the syrup is boiling, put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Once the syrup is ready, begin mixing the egg whites on low speed, and slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites while continuing to beat them. Avoid splatters as much as possible, as the syrup which splatters will solidify on the side of the bowl - don't try to scrape it in!

Once all of the syrup has been poured in, increase your mixer speed to high and beat the egg whites until they are stiff and have cooled to body temperature. (Or if, like me, you are puzzled about how you will know it has reached body temperature as you don't want to stick your fingers in and get burned, it will be fine once it looks like a meringue.)

Reduce the mixer speed to low, and beat in the cream cheese mixture a little at a time until it has all been mixed in, then increase your mixer to medium speed and beat the frosting until it is light and fluffy.

Now you are ready to assemble the cake.

Measure out 2 1/2 cups of flaked coconut.

Put one cake layer on a cardboard cake circle, and spread one cup of frosting over it. Cover this with 1/2 cup of coconut. Put the second cake layer on top, and repeat the frosting and coconut layers. Finally, top with the last cake layer, and frost the top and sides of the cake.

Pour the remaining shredded coconut onto a large flat plate. Holding the cake in one hand over the tray, pick up the coconut between the fingers of your other hand and press it into the sides of the cake. Rotate the cake slightly and repeat until the sides of the cake are coated in coconut. (This can be tricky as the cake is heavy and the laeyrs are a little slippery.) You can then either sprinkle the top of the cake with coconut, or you can decorate it in your own way (as I have).

It is a very tall cake, so be sure that, if you need to transport the cake, you have a cake carrier or a box which is tall enough for the job. (I used a coffee maker box!)

Happy birthday Valar!!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

TWD - World Peace Cookies

This week's TWD recipe has been chosen by Jessica of cookbookhabit. She has chosen the cookies that have been whirring around the blogosphere since Dorie's book first came out - the World Peace Cookies. These cookies are so named because someone told Dorie that they were so good, they'd promote world peace.

And so these cookies are good - not sure if they would really promote world peace, but the story is a good 'un. The cookies themselves are a cinch to make, and it is a case of substance over style - they are chunky cookies, but pack an amazing taste punch. You'd never guess it when they first come out of the oven, because they are quite squishy at that stage, but once they have been left to their own devices for the recommended time, they firm up and become crunchy, chocolatey nuggets of deliciousness.

Thanks to Jessica for this week's choice. You can make yourself seriously hungry by checking out everyone else's World Peace Cookies at the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

On Blueberry Hill - Tana's Oat & Blueberry Muffins and other sweet nothings

Never one to shun a good muffin recipe, I was flicking through my brand new cookbook, Tana Ramsay's Real Family Food, when I came across what sounded like a doosey of a recipe for oat and blueberry muffins. These sounded appealing because they combined the lovely luscious taste of berries with the oomph of oatmeal to produce what had to be a power-packed muffin. And I was not disappointed!

These muffins were easy to make, were very tasty, and kept you full until mealtime with their oaty goodness. Tana is onto a winner with these, and while I am not "seriously addicted" to them like Tana's sister, they are very good.

To make these muffins, you will need:

340g self raising flour
150g light brown sugar
25g rolled oats plus extra for topping
180ml buttermilk
125ml vegetable oil
150g blueberries
1 beaten egg

Preheat your oven to 180 dgerees Celsius and line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake papers.

Sift the flour into a large bowl, and combine with the sugar and the oats. Add the buttermilk, beaten egg abd oil, stir to just combine, then fold in the blueberries.

Divide the batter equally between the muffin tin holes, sprinkle the top of each muffin with extra rolled oats, then place the muffins in the preheated oven and bake them for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked htrough.

Remove the cooked muffins from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. (Although as with all muffins, these are good warm!)

I now wanted to share with you some wonderful sweet treats that I have enjoyed from around Melbourne in recent weeks.

The first is this delightful strawberry cupcake from Cupcakes to Go, a division of sophisticakes of Melbourne (located in Camberwell) (apologies to Barbara - this post originally mentioned the wrong company)
, and bought at the Melbourne Arts Centre Sunday Markets:

It is one of the most delicious vanilla cupcakes that I have ever tasted, topped with light as a feather, barely there, strawberry flavoured buttercream, and decorated with embossed fondant butterflies and silver cachous. The taste and the presentation were second to none - this is the best cupcake that I have bought in a long time, perhaps ever. I was going to remove the buttercream before eating it, but I was so glad that I didn't - it isn't at all greasy or heavy, and was a fluffy, strawberry-flavoured delight (even though it was coloured peach rather than pink). This little beauty cost $3.90 (and around $10 for 4). It came in its own Chinese noodle box to transport home. Loved it! If you would like to buy a cupcake like this or in one of the many other delightful flavours and designs available, please contact their creator, Barbara, whose contact details appear in the comments section of this post.

The next sweet treat that I wanted to share was also purchased at the Arts Centre Markets. This is lebkuchen by Eliana's Biscuits of Footscray:

These are light, gingery, heart-shaped biscuits with one half dipped in white chocolate, and some of the biscuits are decorated with a pretty red sugar. You can also get a milk chocolate coated version. These biscuits cost $5.95 for a packet of 11.

Next comes a selection of pastries from Crown Bakery of 215 Swanston Street, Melbourne:

My mother bought these while she was visiting with my brother for the Australia Day long weekend. Pictured are a fruit savarin, a strawberry tart and a fruit tart, just three of many pastries in Crown's wide selection. My favourite was the fruit savarin, consisting of a fruit-syrup soaked sponge cake topped with cream and fruit. I also enjoyed the fruit tart, which had a chocolate lined tart shell, containing pastry cream and cream topped with honeydew, rockmelon, kiwi fruit, orange and strawberry. My brother didn't like the strawberry tart, but take that with a grain of salt - he is an odd fish when it comes to his likes and dislikes. Prices are around $3.40 per piece.

Finally, I wanted to share this lovely slice of lemon tart from French Fantasies at 15 Toorak Road, South Yarra:

This is only half of the large slice, which costs $5.90. The pastry was just OK; however, the filling was delicious. There is a wide selection of other cakes and pastries available. One of my favourites is their slab of custard tart.

Hope you enjoyed sharing these delicious treats with me, and that you may try some for yourself if you are ever in Melbourne.