Wednesday, December 31, 2014

WWDH - Apple slice

For Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, Chaya chose Donna's apple slice recipe. You can find it online here.

I loved this version of apple slice, with a shortcrust base and crumbly topping, and not overly sweet.  It is way nicer than the commercial bakery version.  It was also a hit at work - it disappeared very quickly.  Someone actually said that you can't buy stuff like this - so true.

To see what Chaya, Sarah and Margaret thought of this delicious treat, visit their websites.

It is the last day of 2014, and the year has flown.  I haven't had much time to tell you what I have been up to this month, but here are a few snippets:
  • On 4 December, I attended our work Christmas party at Encore at St Kilda Sea Baths.  The theme was Arabian Nights, complete with a belly dancer.
  • On 14 December, I went to a first birthday party for my friend's adorable Yorkie - it was a wonderful girlie afternoon with bubbles and nibbles and chat (for us, not the Yorkie).
  • On 19 December, I went to see The Beatle Boys at The Palms at Crown.  I adore these guys - if you can't see The Beatles (which you can't), The Beatle Boys are the next best thing.  This is the second time I have seen them, and they were even better this time around - more relaxed and funny.   I also had front row seats - yay!  Highlights were the lively banter between "Paul" and "John", "Ringo's" enthusiastic drumming with hair a'swinging, George's" awesome rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", and "Paul's" sparkly baby blues. Go see The Beatle Boys - they're great!
  • On 20 December, it was the legal team's Christmas function at my boss's new house.  Family and friends came along, and we sat out on the gorgeous covered deck while we indulged in fabulous food cooked by my boss and his wife, including prawns, buffalo wings, lamb chops and salads, and ate my pavlova roulade and Gingerbread Buche de Noel for dessert.   It was a wonderful afternoon.

  • On 21 December, I attended the 158th anniversary service at my friend's church.  Afterwards, there was an enormous potluck to feed the masses. 

  • I am currently with family for the Christmas break.
What have been the highlights of your year?  Was it a good one for you?  And what is exciting you for 2015?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

Have a fabulous New Year one and all!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Fruit mince pies

My last Christmas goodie bag treat that I have to share with you is fruit mince pies.  I used the Chocolate, Fig and Ginger Fruit Mince that I made to fill pastry cases made using Margaret Fulton's recipe, which  is available online here

The pastry is not as buttery as some, but the bonus for the baker is that it is easier to work with, even though I do prefer the buttery but notoriously pernickety short crusts.

I have some fruit mince left that I am going to use to make Christmas donuts from Donuts by Tracey Meharg that Tim gave me for Christmas.  Good fun!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Spiced Christmas Cookies & Peach Jam

When making my Christmas box goodies, I made a boo boo with the gingerbread men. For the gingerbread men, I intended to use the Bourke Street Bakery recipe.  A slight problem arose when I tried to watch TV while making the dough at the same time.  I misread the ingredients and added white sugar instead of brown sugar to the dough - oops.

What to do? I didn't want to waste all that dough, so I rolled it out, cut out Christmas shaped cookies from it and baked them. I then decorated them with rolled fondant patterned using an embossing mat, which I stuck onto the cookies by brushing the cookie surface with warmed apricot jam before applying the fondant. A winner! People loved these, even though they were the accidental cookies.

My goodie boxes also featured peach jam made using Maggie Beer's recipe that I have made before, using skin and all.  Because I was giving away the jam as presents, I dressed them up with labels and paper tied with string:

I think it looks cute, although it was fiddly to do.

Have you had any recent baking mistakes that you were able to come back from? If so, what happened and how did you fix it? I'd live to hear your stories.

Friday, December 26, 2014

FFWD Card Exchange - Snickerdoodles

Happy Boxing Day!  I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas day celebrating with family and friends.

Today's French Friday with Dorie is special - not only is it the last FFWD for 2014, but it is also our Card Cookie Exchange Day.  For our card exchange this year, Doristas also exchanged a cookie or cocktail recipe, which other Doristas could make.  I have really enjoyed the card exchange - below is my collection of cards so far:    

I chose to make Snickerdoodles, from a recipe supplied by
Tricia.  I chose these because I have never made Snickerdoodles before, and I loved the name.  (We do not have Snickerdoodles in Australia.)

Snickerdoodles are buttery cookies rolled in cinnamon sugar.  They are crisp on the edges but soft in the middle.  While my Snickerdoodles did not turn out textbook pretty, they smelt fabulous in the oven and they sure tasted amazing.  I ate two straight off the bat and had to put the rest away before I ate any more.  This cookie recipe is a definite keeper!

Tricia's recipe for Snickerdoodles comes from Lee Bailey's Country Desserts.  (Wow, just look at the cover for this book - I want a slice of whatever that cake is on the cover.) The recipe is as follows:

2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs

Whisk together flour, cream of tartar, soda, and salt and sift again.

In separate bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, mixing well after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients in four parts, mixing well after each addition. Cover and chill for at least an hour.  (In my case, it should have been longer - the cookies spread like wildfire in the oven.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit/ gas mark 6. Roll dough into walnut-sized balls, and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture. Place the balls two inches apart on cookie sheet that has been greased or lined with baling paper.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes until cookies are done, but still soft. Let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.

Makes 3 dozen.

To see what the other Doristas made, visit the LYL section of the FFWD website.

I leave you with an image of the magnificent Christmas tree in the foyer of my building at work:

This tree is so beautiful that people walk in from off the street just to see it, and take photos with their children posing in front of it.  (They also come to admire the magnificent heritage foyer itself.) 

The last word comes from this sign in the window of Gewurzhaus in the Block Arcade:


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas and Gingerbread Men

Merry Christmas to everyone!  I hope that you have a fantastic day with family and friends.

As part of the December baking whirl, I made gingerbread men, pictured at the top of this post.  I used this recipe from Margaret Fulton.  To decorate, I used cinnamon chips for the eyes, chocolate chips for the buttons and a sliver of glace cherries for the mouth.  Simple, but oh so cute.

For everyone who asked about my icing the Dan Lepard caramel fruit cake, here it is:

Simple but effective.  And for those who were wondering what the inside is like, here is a peek inside (it also tastes scrumptious): 

I will be celebrating Christmas quietly with my family.  How will you be celebrating Christmas Day?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

WWDH - Hokkien noodles with sesame chicken

For Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, Margaret chose Donna's hokkien noodles with sesame chicken from Fresh Food Fast.  You can see a list of ingredients here.

This was a great choice - exactly the kind of thing that I like to eat. I substituted the miso paste for tahini, which gave the dish a lovely nutty flavour. It was also quicker to make than my Asian greens from last week!  I would definitely make this again.

To see what Margaret, Chaya and Sarah thought of this dish, visit their websites.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

TWD - Gingerbread Buche de Noel

For Tuesdays with Dorie this week, we have a festive recipe from Baking Chez Moi - a Gingerbread Buche de Noel.  Don't you think it's pretty?  It looks like a snowy log out in the field - or at least an artistic impression of one.  I made this recipe for my team Christmas party - I was happy to have a special occasion to present it.

This recipe has numerous steps.  I made the cake one night, and the pecan praline, filling and frosting the next, along with assembly.

Although there were a number of steps to make this cake, none of them were difficult.  I have made roll cakes before, but I liked Dorie's tip about using a ruler and paper to get the roll a bit tighter.
The base cake is a gingerbread sponge roll.  It is filled with a cream cheese, butter and pecan praline mixture, then topped with a marshmallow frosting and chopped pecan praline.  You can find the recipe online here.
I took the tip from some other Doristas to only make half the frosting, and that was plenty.  The frosting was very addictive, as was the pecan praline, which proved very simple to make.
Overall, I understand that this cake was a hit. I certainly enjoyed it.
To see how the other Doristas went with this cake, go to the LYL section of the TWD website.
Merry Christmas to all.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Marble Fudge - kinda

This was meant to be marble fudge, made using a recipe from the December 2014 edition of Taste magazine.  Here is a photo of what is ought to look like. Umm, mine doesn't really look like that at all.

The fudge is made using the microwave method, which I have never used before and am not a fan of.  I think it is harder to gauge when your fudge is right than on the stove top.  My fudge is brown with some reddish bits rather than red and white swirled.  Ahem.

However, if you put all of that aside, this fudge tasted really good - like old fashioned Russian caramels.  A colleague of mine was in raptures over it and asked for the recipe.

Accordingly, if you want to give this a go, the recipe is as follows:

1 x 395g can condensed milk
1 cup sugar
125g chopped butter
2 tablespoons glucose syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g white chocolate melts
liquid red food colouring

Put the condensed milk, sugar, butter, glucose syrup  and vanilla into a microwave dish, and microwave on medium for 8 minutes, whisking every 2 minutes.  Microwave for another 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring with a wooden spoon every minute.  Mix in the white chocolate melts until melted.  Swirl through a drop of red food colouring.  Pour into a lined 20cm square cake tin, and cool at room temperature until set.  (The recipe says to refrigerate it, but that just makes it brittle.)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Maple Cinnamon Spiced Nuts

A fast and tasty treat for Christmas party nibbles is this recipe from Table for Two for Maple Cinnamon Spiced Nuts.

I Googled relentlessly to find a recipe for spiced nuts that was spicy but not too hot, as last year, comments were passed on the heat in my spiced nuts, which took some by surprise.

As it happened, these fit the bill, and the recipients of my gift parcels declared these nuts good.

This is a recipe I'd definitely use again.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hazelnut meringue cookies (Haselnussmakronen)

My friend Craig is allergic to gluten and dairy, so for his Christmas gift this year, I baked him a batch of traditional German cookies called Haselnussmakronen, or hazelnut meringue cookies.  The recipe for these cookies is online here.

I actually forgot to toast the hazelnuts, but I don't think that it mattered.  The cookies turn out quite dry and crisp, so would be good for dunking in tea or coffee.

While I prefer buttery cookies, these make a nice change and are perfect if you are gluten or dairy intolerant.

Friday, December 19, 2014

FFWD - Orange & Olive Salad

French Friday with Dorie this week has an unusual offering - Orange & Olive Salad.  This is pretty much what it says on the tin - oranges, olives, red onion, olive oil, salt and pepper.

I didn't really like this much - the salty flavours did not go with the orange on my palate, but other people enjoyed it, so there you go.

To see what the other Doristas made of this dish, visit the LYL section of the website.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Junior's New York Cheesecake for Vlad's Birthday

Tuesday was my colleague Vlad's birthday. Vlad's favourite type of cake is cheesecake, which he makes known several times a year by asking when I am going to make cheesecake.  Accordingly, cheesecake is what I made.

The recipe I used was  Junior's New York Cheesecake, as published on the Epicurious website. I had wanted to make this cheesecake for ages - ever since I saw a travel article naming the author's top 5 New York cheesecakes. Junior's cheesecake was declared the best by the author, and from my research, he is not alone in that view.

This cheesecake was quite straightforward to make. I used the 9" crust with the 8" filling and was glad I did - the 9" pan was full to the brim once the cheesecake baked up in the oven.

I really liked the ultra-light, barely there sponge crust. I do like some form of crust on my cheesecake as a vehicle for the filling, and this sponge crust is perfect. I also enjoyed the light fluffy filling which the recipe authors aptly described as being like billowing clouds.

I wrote on the cheesecake with piped caramel filling.

I received heaps of compliments on this cheesecake at work - a sure sign it was better than average because people often say nothing about my baking because I do it so often.
Two people even asked for the recipe.

If you are a cheesecake lover, I highly recommend that you give Junior's recipe a go.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

WWDH - Asian Greens with Oyster Sauce

For Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, I chose Asian Greens with Oyster Sauce from p82 of Modern Classics Book I.  The sauce recipe is online here.

This is a simple dish of two bunches of Asian greens that have been steamed, then topped with an Asian flavoured sauce including rice wine, soy sauce, ginger and garlic.

I found that this dish took a long time and a lot of fussing for something so simple, but it tasted good.  However, in the future, I'll stick with the faster stir-fry method.

To see what Margaret, Chaya and Sarah thought of this dish, visit their websites.

Friday, December 12, 2014

FFWD - Lamb & Dried Apricot Tagine

For FFWD this week, our recipe was Lamb & Dried Apricot Tagine.  Now this is my kind of dish!    I love the fruit and meat combination, and the sauce was delightful.

I served my tagine with cous cous:

If you love a good stew, the recipe is online here.

To see what the other Doristas thought of this dish, visit the LYL section of the FFWD website and inhale the aroma.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Margaret Fulton's Rich Christmas Pudding

It's scarily close to Christmas now.  I hope that your preparations are going well for the big day.  Back in October, I commenced my Christmas preparations by making a Christmas cake and a Christmas pudding.  For this year's pudding, I chose Margaret Fulton's Rich Christmas Pudding from Margaret Fulton Christmas.  You can also find the recipe online here

Christmas pudding is my favourite part of the Christmas day meal.  We always have it with lashings of warm custard and vanilla icecream.  No matter how full I am from the main meal, there is always room for Christmas pudding.

I liked this pudding recipe because it didn't require heaps of expensive glace fruits - just sultanas, currants, raisins and mixed peel. It also turned out really well, even though I only had time to steam it for 5 hours instead of 6.

I will shortly be slicing up my pudding for Christmas gift boxes.  I am hoping that there is some left over for me to try! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WWDH - Asian Chicken Omelette

Sarah has chosen Donna's Asian Chicken Omelette for Wednesday with Donna Hay this week.  The recipe is from Donna Hay Magazine, although you can find the ingredients online here.

I didn't bother putting the raw snow peas, bean sprouts or chilli on top, as I knew I wouldn't fancy them.  I added coriander to the omelette, and used hoisin sauce on top instead of kecap manis.  I still found it a little dry, so I added some chutney to the chicken.

This was a nice enough meal, in fact the kind of thing I'd normally eat for breakfast.  It would be nice with a salad.

To what Sarah, Margaret and Chaya thought of this dish, visit their websites.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TWD - The Rugelach That Won Over France

This week's Baking Chez Moi recipe is The Rugelach That Won Over France.  I am not sure that my rugelach would have won over France, as they are not that photogenic, but they sure are tasty.

Rugelach are made with a cream cheese dough, which is spread with melted butter and cinnamon sugar, topped with chocolate, fruit, nuts and coconut, then rolled up, washed with egg, sprinkled with sugar, sliced and baked.

I found the dough quite hard to work with as it seemed to tear quite easily.  However, even if my rugelach are not the prettiest around, I really liked the flavour of the melted   chocolate with the coconut, toasted pecans and raisins.

To see what the other TWD bakers thought of these cookies, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Musical Notes Chocolate Cupcakes for Mark's Birthday

Today is my manager, Mark's, birthday.  Our team has bought him a pressie, and I have made him some cupcakes.

To make the cupcakes, I used the chocolate cupcake recipe from The Primrose Bakery's Cookies and Cream Cupcakes, recipe in their book and online here.

Once the chocolate cupcakes were cooled, I iced them with a thin, smooth layer of The Primrose Bakery Vanilla Buttercream - recipe here.

As the finishing touch, I topped each cupcake with a fondant disc printed with a musical notes chocolate transfer sheet from Roberts Confectionery, using the hairdryer technique demonstrated here.  This was the first time I had tried this and I was very pleased with the results. 

The significance of the musical notes is that Mark is very musically orientated, so I am sure he will appreciate these musical cupcakes.

I highly recommend trying this decorating technique using chocolate transfer sheets to decorate ready to roll fondant - it is not too difficult and is so effective.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Peach and Custard Splits

I am loving Ruby Tandoh's columns in The Guardian,  and recently was totally suckered in by her recipe for Rhubarb and Custard Splits, online here.  I did not see Ruby in GBBO, but I am enjoying watching the very first series of GBBO, currently on TV here.  Edd Kimber is such a sweetie and fun to watch, especially as I have followed GBBO religiously from its inception through The Guardian.
Really, what's not to love here - sweet buns filled with crème patisserie and jam:
For a twist, I used sour cream (because I had some) in the crème patisserie and homemade peach jam instead of making rhubarb jam.
People at work thought these buns were scones, but regardless, they seemed to eat them.  I really liked these buns, which is no surprise given my adoration for custard.  The buns are a little fiddly to make, but are super easy - all you need is a little time.

Friday, December 5, 2014

FFWD - Tartine de Viande des Grisons

This week's French Friday with Dorie features another "stuff on toast" (to borrow from Trevor) recipe.  The stuff is breasola or prosciutto (in my case, the latter), walnuts and oil on buttered grain bread. 

I added some mustard to spice things up a little.

This tartine was totally serviceable but just not very exciting.  Without the walnuts, it would have been downright boring.

To see what the other Doristas thought of this recipe, visit the LYL section of the website.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

WWDH - Roasted Carrot and Herb Dumpling Soup

For WWDH this week, Chaya chose Roasted Carrot and Herb Dumpling Soup, the recipe for which is available online here.

This soup is easy enough to make although it takes some time because you have to roast the carrots.  The colour is glorious, but the soup was just OK.  My favourite part was the herb dumplings - don't skip them, they are terrific.

To see what Chaya, Margaret and Sarah thought of this soup, visit their websites.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Gluten Free Raspberry, Almond and Rosewater Muffins

The Caker featured a recipe for Gluten Free Raspberry, Almond and Rosewater Muffins on her blog.  I think they looked really pretty so I decided to print off the recipe and make them.

In the end, they turned out a little bumpy, were not really springy, and  I found the almond meal texture odd.  When I read the comment, I realised that this happened because the method leaves out the addition of the eggs, and because I was working from the method, not the ingredients, the eggs were left out.  The resulting muffins were totally edible and they were polished off at work, but without the eggs, were more like rock cakes or similar than muffins. 

I am glad that I satisfied my curiosity and made them, but I won't be revisiting these muffins.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pear Streusel Coffee Cake

Recently, I saw the most wonderful looking Pear Streusel Coffee Cake on Liz's website.  I fell in love with it instantly and printed off the recipe.

Shortly thereafter, I decided to make it, as I happened to have some tinned pears in the cupboard and was looking for something to make with them. Liz's spicy cake seemed perfect!

And the end result was perfect, even though my streusel seemed to run into the centre of the cake while baking - hence the odd pattern.  I swear that it was distributed evenly over the top of the cake before baking, so I am not sure why mine doesn't look at all like Liz's.  (A friend of Liz suggested online that it was because Liz applied her streusel in a mathematical pattern with tweezers!)

I replaced the pecans with cashews simply because that is what I had, but otherwise left the recipe alone.

The resulting cake is very moist and pleasantly spiced.  It was a big hit at work, and it is definitely a keeper.  Thanks to Liz for sharing the recipe.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Chocolate, Fig and Ginger Fruit Mince

Christmas is coming, and it's time to get stuck into preparations for Christmas goodies.

I recently made Chocolate, Fig and Ginger Fruit Mince using this recipe.  It is now maturing so that it is ready to fill some yummy shortcrust pastry cases for fruit mince tarts.

Chocolate Fruit Mince is new to me, so I am looking forward to tasting the end result.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tonka, Melbourne

My friend J and her husband, S, were visiting Melbourne recently.  They had been going to go to the cancelled Stone concert at Hanging Rock, but those plans obviously changed.  It did give them the opportunity to eat at a few Melbourne establishments that they had been wanting to try out, and one of those was Tonka, in the CBD.  Tonka has Indian/ South East Asian fusion style cuisine.

I got there before my friends, so had the chance to check out the ambiance of the restaurant before it got too full:

I had a seat which had a pleasant view out the window to some green trees  - and off to the left, the freeway:

I had to eat and run because I was at work. However, I did get to try this starter, pani puri ($4.50 each):

They are crispy parcels filled with spiced potato, mung beans, date and tamarind chutney with aromatic water.  They were surprisingly refreshing.
J & S ordered this, which I think is the tuna tartare with rice pappadum, pomegranate, ginger and fresh wasabi ($22): 

I ordered chicken biryani  with Sella rice, saffron and cassia ($22):

It was delicious but rather hotter than I expected:

I also ordered the pappadums with tomato, coriander and red onion salsa at our waitress's suggestion for the salsa:

J & S also Hervey Bay scallops with spiced cauliflower, sweet peppers and pancetta ($6.50 each):

These are charred crystal bay prawns, mild machher curry sauce and crispy curry prawns ($18):

The last dish I saw that J & S ordered was burrata cheese, fresh coriander relish and charred roti ($22):

It all looks amazing! Unfortunately, I had to go back to work and leave them to it.

20 Duckboard Place
Melbourne 3000
Ph: +61 3 9650 3155