Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Tutto Bene, Southgate

Just before Christmas, I went with a friend to hear the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir perform their Noel Noel concert.   It was a wonderful performance, and put us in a festive mood.

Afterwards, we went to dinner at the nearby Tutto Bene, at Southbank. Tutto Bene is an Italian restaurant that sells the most wonderful gelato outside.  However, this time, we were going for the full dining experience.

We shared an entree of baked goats cheese, pistachio and hazelnuts with an aperol fruit salsa ($14), pictured at the top of this post.    The goats cheese rested on a drizzle of honey, which perfectly complemented the creamy cheese and crunchy toasted nuts.  The aperol fruit salsa was refreshing and zingy.

For main, two great minds think alike, and we both ordered the Zucca risotto ($26) - pureed butternut pumpkin with sage, candied walnuts and goats cheese:

The risotto was smooth and creamy, and the walnuts added a welcome textural variation.

For dessert, my friend ordered the Cento per Cento ($15) - honey mousse, gelato, burnt caramel, comb:

How could you go wrong?

I ordered the less picturesque but equally delicious Mousse al Pistachio ($15) - a Sicilian pistachio mousse with blueberries, Amerana cherries and chocolate crumble: 

This dessert was unusual but good.  Again, the chopped pistachios added a lovely crunch to the smooth mousse and fruit compote.

We also had a very good Aperol spritz with our meal.

The dining experience at Tutto Bene  was enjoyable and definitely worth a repeat. 

Mezzanine 28/3 Southgate Complex
Southgate Avenue
Southbank VIC 3006

Monday, December 30, 2019

Rhubarb and custard cupcakes

Last year, I bought The Love Bakery: Cupcakes From the Heart cookbook by Sam Blears in a clearance sale.  It is such a cute book, being pink and glittery and full of cupcakes.  The namesake Love Bakery closed in 2011.  However, its cupcakes live on in this cookbook, which has lots of wonderful sounding flavour combinations and cute decorating ideas for cupcakes.

I was a little obsessed with the sound of the Rhubarb and Custard Cupcakes, and this is the first (and so far only) recipe I have made from the Love Bakery cookbook.

I made these cupcakes quite some time ago, so I don't remember a lot about them, other than that I was somehow mildly disappointed with the flavour.  No matter.  They are super cute (don't you agree?), and the bright red and yellow colour combination would lighten up the darkest day.  In any event, they contain real rhubarb compote and custard, which are lovely flavours in themselves.

If you fancy trying these cupcakes yourself, you will need:

For the rhubarb compote:

2-3 sticks rhubarb
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar

Chop the rhubarb into 1cm pieces, and place into a medium saucepan.  Add the water and sugar, and simmer until the rhubarb has softened.  Strain the liquid from the rhubarb and set the rhubarb aside to cool.

For the cakes:

125g butter
125g sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
2 tablespoons milk

Ready made custard

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius and line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake papers.  

In a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then alternately beat in the flour and milk, starting and ending with flour.  

Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake papers, and bake the cakes in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until risen, golden and cooked through.  Turn the cakes out  onto a wire rack to cool.

For the icing:

125g butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
250g icing sugar
1 tablespoon ready made custard

In a stand mixer, beat the butter until it is light and creamy.  Beat in the vanilla then gradually beat in the icing sugar on low speed.  Beat in the custard.  (I also added some yellow colouring to make the icing a bright yellow colour.)

Cut a cone shaped hole in the top of each cupcake and fill with a small amount (~1/2 teaspoon of each) of the rhubarb compote and ready made custard.  Cut the point off the cone shaped cutout of cake and pop back on top of the rhubarb and custard to form a lid.

Put the icing in a piping bag and pipe swirls on top of each cupcake, making sure to cover the holes.


Saturday, December 28, 2019

Middle Brighton Baths, Middle Brighton

A few months back, I turned another year older.  To celebrate that occasion, a friend took me to lunch at Middle Brighton Baths (the upstairs part).  The recommendation came from a work colleague of my friend.  From a list of possible lunch locations, I thought that this one looked the best.

We were fortunate in  being given a table overlooking Port Phillip Bay: 

We were entertained during our meal by the bathers who ventured into the chilly water, usually only for a brief dip before retreating to the warmth of the shore.   There were also two little girls who were a constant source of amusement with their antics in the sand.

We decided to share an entrée (so that we could fit in dessert!).  Our selection was the twice cooked pork belly with apple and ginger purée, red wine jus ($22), pictured at the top of this post.  The crispy pork skin gave way to the moist, delightfully fatty belly meat underneath.  The apple and ginger puree and red wine jus enhanced the flavour to the pork.

For my main course, I selected the pan seared barramundi with cauliflower puree, sultana and walnut dressing ($40):

The skin of the barramundi was perfectly crisp, and added a salty tang to the delicate fish beneath.

My friend ordered the Atlantic salmon with braised cannellini beans, samphire and broccoli puree ($39):

It looked pretty good to me.

We shared a couple of side dishes - the Koo Wee Rup asparagus with  hazelnuts and lemon dressing ($13):

and the heritage beetroot and macadamia salad ($12):

Both sides were delicious, and featured some of my favourite vegetables.

For dessert, I could not go past the chocolate fondant with griottine cherries, candied pecans and mascarpone ($16):

I had never had a chocolate fondant before, so this was my golden opportunity.

My friend ordered the Baths Eton mess with seasonal berries and berry coulis ($16):

While my friend's dessert was beautiful, light and good to eat, I think I was winning with my fabulously rich, oozy chocolate fondant:

The service at The Middle Brighton Baths was attentive and efficient.  Despite there being a number of functions on while we were there, we never felt forgotten about.

The Middle Brighton Baths is a lovely place to dine, and I'd definitely go back. 

251 Esplanade
Brighton VIC 3186
Ph: (03) 9592 7350

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Coconut and Pear Cake with Apricot Cream Cheese Icing

I am a fan of Jordan Rondel's baking recipes.  Jordan is an Auckland baker who has also now expanded to L.A.  Some time ago, she published a recipe for Coconut and Pear Cake with Marmalade Icing.  This cake sounded devine, so I prioritised making it.

I was not sorry that I did.  This luscious cake combines moist pears with the sweetness of coconut, with a tangy cream cheese frosting.  I did not have any marmalade for the icing, so I used apricot jam instead.  I also only made half of the icing.

To make this cake, you will need:

150g butter
150g brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
100g plain flour
50g dessicated coconut
50g almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sour cream
2 pears, cored and cubed


200g cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla 2 tablespoons apricot jam

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Grease and line 2 x 22cm round cake tins.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.   Beat in the vanilla, then beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Gradually mix in the flour, almond meal, coconut and baking powder.  Fold through the sour cream.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two cake tins.  Scatter the pears evenly over the top of each cake and press down lightly.  

Bake the cakes in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool on the tin for 10 minutes before unmoulding onto a wire rack to cool completely.  

For the icing, beat the cream cheese until smooth, then add the vanilla and jam and beat until well combined.

Spread half of the icing on top of one of the cakes, then top with the other cake and spread the remaining icing over the top of the cake.

Slice and serve.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas 2019!

Arts Centre, Melbourne

David Jones Menswear, Melbourne

Federation Square, Melbourne

Work choir singing Christmas carols

Southgate Complex, Melbourne

Fleischer Cafe, Melbourne

State Library, Melbourne

Merry Christmas to you and your family!  May you have a blessed Christmas and a bright and happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

TWD - Touch-of-Crunch Chocolate Cake

The last TWD recipe for this year is Touch-of-Crunch Chocolate Cake.  This cake is baked in a pie plate, and cooks up with a crunchy, crackly top and a fudgy centre.

The recipe makes 12 servings, so I cut it down to a sixth to make something more my size.  The crunch in my cake came from poppy seeds.

I dusted the top of the cooled cake with icing sugar before serving with icecream (the red currants are decorative for a little Christmas cheer):

This cake was truly quite delicious.  It is a good one to have on hand, especially as it can be made in advance for guests.  It also doesn't require a stand mixer - it is all made in the bowl by hand.

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

Monday, December 23, 2019

Cherry Lime Bundt Cake

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in every store
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door

                                                                         Lyrics - Meredith Willson

Christmas is nearly here, and it is still the season for festive looking bakes.  I didn't use all of my Morello cherries to make the Matcha and Cherry Financiers, so I needed to use them up.  I also had a few limes in the fridge which had seen better days and needed to find their forever home before they went to God.   

I did a search on the Web for cake recipes using cherries and limes, and found this recipe for a Cherry Lime Bundt Cake on Overtime Cook.  The recipe calls for fresh cherries, but my jarred Morello cherries worked as an admirable substitute.  Apart from using up the Morello cherries and limes, this cake is perfect for the Christmas season as it is in keeping with the red and green theme.  (I could have emphasised the red and green colour scheme by decorating with lime zest as well as Morello cherries.)

I really enjoyed this cake - the tartness of the lime tones down the sweetness of the glaze on top of the cake, and the cherries add moisture and colour to the cake.  I received some very good feedback on this cake from my work colleagues. 

My cake is posed on a gorgeous Christmas-themed teatowel from La La Land.

If you have some cherries in the house of any variety, I highly recommend making this lovely cake.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Matcha and Cherry Financiers

The holly and the ivy,
Now both are full well grown.
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.
                                                                               The Holly and The Ivy, Traditional

It is  nearly Christmas, and we are in full swing with the season of red and green festivities.  In keeping with the red and green theme of the season, I decided to make the Matcha and Cherry Financiers that I had a hankering for.  I had opened my bottle of Morello cherries to raid the juice for Karen's birthday cake, and needed to use the cherries themselves, so what could be better than using them in these delicious little cakes.

I used this recipe for Matcha and Raspberry Friands from Jo the Tart Queen, as I was unable to find a recipe for Matcha and Cherry Friands, and baked them in a financier tin rather than a friand tin.  The end result was 8 cute, perfectly formed cakes: 

These cakes have the lovely red and green colour combination which is reminiscent of the Christmas season, so are perfect for right now.  They are also a breeze to make - no mix master required.

To make these cakes, you will need:

95g butter, cut into cubes
135g egg whites
150g white sugar
100g almond meal
60g plain flour
12g matcha powder
16 fresh, frozen, tinned or jarred cherries

Spray an eight hole financier tin (or use a friand tin or muffin tin) with olive oil spray. Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius.

Put the butter into a small saucepan over low heat and cook until golden brown (ie browned butter).  Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the butter to cool while you continue with the remaining ingredients.

Whisk the sugar, flour, almond meal and matcha powder in a large mixing bowl.    Whisk in the cooled brown butter.  Slowly add the egg whites and whisk until combined.

Divide the mixture evenly between the holes of the financier tin, and decorate each financier by pressing two cherries lightly into the top.  Bake the financiers in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until cooked through.  

Remove the financiers from the oven and allow them to cool in the tin for a few minutes before running a knife carefully around the edge of each one and unmoulding onto a wire rack to cool completely.   

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Blueberry and Ginger Marscapone Cheesecake

A while back, I made a delicious Blueberry and Ginger Marscapone Cheesecake from the September 2019 edition of Delicious magazine.  I had purchased the magazine for the caramel cheesecake recipe featured on the cover, but that edition is full of wonderful cheesecake recipes.  The blueberry one looked so luscious that I had to try it.

The finished product certainly did not disappoint:   

The berry topping went perfectly with the creamy ginger cheesecake beneath:

To make this cheesecake, you will need:

2 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed (or make your own, like me)
1 1/2 cups sugar
500g cream cheese, softened and cubed
1 tablespoon cornflour
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
500g marscapone
250g blueberries

Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

Grease a 22cm springform pan (I also lined it with baking paper).

Cut a circle of pastry to fit the bottom of the springform pan, then cut strips of pastry to line the sides of the springform pan, pressing together to form a sealed crust.  Freeze the pastry base for 20 minutes, then line the pastry with baking paper and pour in baking weights or rice.  Put the pan onto a baking tray and bake the pastry base in the oven for 20 minutes, then remove the weights or rice and bake for a further 15 minutes or until the pastry base has dried and is golden.  Remove the pastry base from the oven to cool, and reduce the oven temperature to 160 degrees Celsius.

Put 1 cup of the sugar and the cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth.  Beat in the cornflour, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.

Beat in the vanilla, 1 tablespoon of the ginger and the marscapone until the mixture is thick and smooth.  Scrape the mixture into the pastry case, smoothing the top.  

Bake the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour 25 minutes or until set with a slight wobble in the centre.  Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool completely in the oven with the door just slightly ajar.

Remove the cooled cheesecake from the oven and chill it in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

For the blueberry topping, put the blueberries, the 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ginger in a saucepan with two tablespoons of water.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then simmer until thickened, around 5 minutes. Cool the topping completely before pouring on top f the cheesecake for serving.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

TWD - Snowy-Topped Brownie Drops

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe, and the last Dorie's Cookie recipe for this year, is Snowy-Topped Brownie Drops.  

These rich cookies are chocolate-dense, with the chocolate and butter mixture , chilled, then rolled into balls and rolled in icing sugar to give the a snowy, crackle-topped effect.  They are a riff on one of Dorie's brownie recipes.

The smell of these cookies permeates the house long after they have finished baking.  This is not a bad thing, as the smell is of chocolate.  These cookies are crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle.

To see what everyone else made this week and their thoughts on it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Donna Hay's Christmas Cake

This year, for my Christmas boxes, I decided to make Donna Hay's Christmas Cake recipe from her book, Christmas Feasts and Treats.  I chose it because the fruit component was easy to obtain - raisins, currants, dates and sultanas.  This meant that the cake itself was not as pretty to look at as the cakes with colourful fruits in them, but I am erring on the side of practicality these days.

The cake was straight forward to make, and contains brandy as the booze of choice to flavour it.  I used a commercial gluten free flour mix in the cake, as I was sharing the cake with a number of people who are gluten sensitive.

I did not ice the cake, as I find that people pick off the icing anyway.  That was another time saver which enabled me to concentrate on other things in my life. 

Here is a peek inside the cake:

One of my friends said she really enjoyed the cake with fresh cream, and she had not had Christmas cake for five years.  I'll count that as a win.

If you would like to make this cake, you will need:

450g raisins
240g sultanas
160g currants
160g Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
140g slivered almonds
180ml brandy
250g butter, softened
220g brown sugar
4 eggs
335g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2-3 extra tablespoons brandy

Put the fruit and the almonds into a large bowl and pour over the larger quantity of brandy.  Cover the bowl with cling film and allow to steep in a cool place overnight.

Preheat your oven to 140 degrees Celsius.  Line  a 20cm square cake tin with  a double thickness of baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.  

To the bowl of fruit and nuts, add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and allspice and combine well. Add the creamed butter and sugar to the bowl of fruit and nuts, and mix until well combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 2 hours or until cooked through.

Remove the cake from the oven and while it is still hot, pour the extra tablespoons of brandy evenly over the top of the cake.  Allow the cake to cool completely in its tin before turning it out to serve. 

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Caramilk Fudge, Spiced Nuts and Gingerbread Bells

It is Christmas box time again, and together with rum balls and apricot balls, plus some Tuesday with Dorie goodies, I made Donna Hay's Christmas Cake (recipe to follow), Caramilk Fudge and Spiced Nuts for the boxes.

The Caramilk Fudge, made from this recipe, is pictured at the top of this post.  It is smooth, creamy and delicious.  As the name suggests, it is made with Cadbury's Caramilk chocolate (caramelised white chocolate), which has made a return to shelves this year.

This super easy recipe is as follows:

2 x 180g blocks Caramilk chocolate
1 x 395g can condensed milk
40g butter

Grease and line a small baking tin (my 8" square tin was a bit too big - use something smaller if you have it to get taller fudge).  Break the Caramilk chocolate up into squares, and place these, the condensed milk and butter into a microwave safe dish.  Microwave the ingredients for short periods (30 seconds or so at a time) until they have completely melted.  Pour the melted ingredients into the prepared baking tin, then put in the fridge to set.  Cut into squares to serve. 

 The other new recipe I made was this recipe for Spiced Nuts:

Again, this is another super easy, quick win recipe.  To make these nuts, you will need:

1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 crushed clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt flakes
4 cups mixed raw, shelled nuts of your choice

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Put the honey, olive oil, garlic, chilli powder, paprika and salt into a small frying pan over low heat, and stir until the honey is melted and everything is well combined.  

Scrape the spice mixture into a large mixing bowl, then add the nuts and stir them until they are well coated with the spice  mixture.

Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Spread the nuts out in an even layer over the baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the nuts from the oven and allow them to cool on the tray before serving.

I also made over 100 gingerbread bells from the Bourke St Bakery gingerbread recipe that I have used before (but this time using the full recipe):

I then packaged the gingerbread up and handed them out  to advertise our choir performances at work:

I made bells because we were going to sing Carol of the Bells - but then we didn't.  Oh well, I now own a bell cookie cutter to go with my snowflakes, snowman, Christmas tree, angel and star cutters.

I am not sure what effect the gingerbread had on audience numbers (if any!), but they were fun to make.

Are you baking for Christmas?  And if yes, what is your favourite thing that you like to bake for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

TWD - Honey-Nut Nougat

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Honey-Nut Nougat.  I used cranberries and almonds to flavour my nougat.

Making nougat involves heating honey and sugar to 150 degrees Celsius then pouring it into a whirring mixmaster, so I found the risk of maiming myself with hot liquid a little scary.  However, everything went fine, and I have lived to tell the tale.

The nougat is very pretty, and of course tasty.  I am surprised that nougat is so expensive to buy when it is easy and not that expensive to make (if you take away the optional rice paper, which cost $12 for 10 sheets).  

I have made nougat once before, 11 years ago - my post about it is here.  In retrospect, I believe that on that occasion, I did not overcook the syrup, but rather, did not beat the nougat for long enough.  I am also amazed at how chatty I was on my blog back then - my how times have changed.

This nougat will be distributed to my friends and colleagues in my annual Christmas boxes.  Cook's privilege was to eat the offcuts! 

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

TWD - Double Ginger Molasses Cookies

This week’s Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Double Ginger Molasses Cookies. The double ginger comes from the crystallised ginger and ground ginger in the recipe.  There is also a good dose of chocolate flavour in these cookies from chocolate chips.

I subbed molasses for golden syrup, and rolled my cookies in chocolate ginger sugar from Gewurzhaus for extra chocolate and ginger flavour. I chose to bake my cookies in muffin tins as suggested by Dorie.

These cookies are quite tasty and are rather soft eating cookies.  I quite liked them.

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

TWD - Caramelized-Coffee Bean Pots de Creme and Croquets

This is the last November Tuesday with Dorie - Baking Chez Moi, and I have made both recipes for this month.  I paired the Caramelized-Coffee Bean Pots de Crème with the Croquets, following Dorie's suggestion to pair the pots de crème with cookies.

The Caramelized-Coffee Bean Pots de Crème called for crushed coffee beans to infuse the custard.  I didn't have coffee beans, so I just used instant coffee.  It seemed to work just fine.

I served the pots de crème with vanilla icecream as well as the croquets:

The second recipe was for Croquets, biscuits made from egg whites, flour, almonds and sugar.  The ingredients are mixed together, formed into logs, baked and sliced:

The resulting cookies are crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and quite sweet.  They were a good match for the slightly bitter coffee pots de crème.

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