Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Raspberry Ganache Cake

So first things first. This little gem comes from one of my fav baking blogs 17 and Baking. Make sure you check it out - this girl is a whiz! And I know... berries and chocolate again but can you blame me!?

Oh. My God.
Dad's workmate Chips has been working for him for 25 years this year - a pretty awesome feat- so we decided to chuck him a bit of a do (not a surprise one like we did for his 20 years... not sure that went down too well!) on Friday night. I had the day off work after going to the footy the night before (go the blues!) and realised at about 3pm that Mum hadn't organised the cake that she said she was going to. I was stoked because it gave me an excuse to have a go at this beautiful cake that I'd been eyeing off for weeks!

I cut out the numbers in cardboard, sat them on top and dusted with icing sugar.
I didn't have a lot of time so it was a quick but cute way to decorate it!
 The recipe is massive and Elissa explains it perfectly on her blog so I'll let you get it from there but I do have some hints/tips/learnings from this baby:
  • Elissa isn't joking when she says in the recipe that the cakes are soft. You have to be so so careful with them. I handled them really gently and still ended up with each of them in about three pieces! It doesn't matter once you put it all together but it does make things a bit tricky.
  • I only had just enough cocoa so I lined the entire tins with baking paper and then buttered them again and sugared them.
  • I only had olive oil so I used that and it seemed to work out ok.
  • It is incredibly rich so you'll only need tiny slices for everyone (unless you're a chocaholic like me - I could have eaten the whole thing!) 
It's a bit of work but so worth it. Keep this one in mind for the next special occasion you've got coming up - nobody will be disappointed!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hot Cross Buns

I was home alone a couple of Sundays ago and I decided the best way to spend the day was baking. With Easter getting closer and hot cross buns appearing everywhere I thought I'd better take a stab! I remember cooking these with little Claudy J a few years back and it was so much fun. I don't actually eat hot cross buns but my family love them so we ended up with some for now and some in the freezer for later.

Bit of an explosion on the end there but I'm told it still tasted good!

Whisk 2x8g sachets dried yeast, 1 1/4 cups warm milk and 1/4 cup caster sugar in a medium sized bowl until the sugar dissolves and then set aside for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, sift 4 cups plain flour, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp mixed spice and 1 tsp salt. Use your fingertips to rub in 60g butter until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Into this mix add 1 cup sultanas, 1 cup dried cranberries, 2 eggs and the yeast mix and stir to combine. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes. Place the kneaded dough into a large greased bowl, cover and leave in a warm spot for 3/4 of an hour.


Give the dough a good punch and then knead again until smooth. Shape into 12 balls and place side by side into a greased baking tray like this...

Set the buns aside for 1/4 of an hour. Preheat the oven to 200c. Combine 1/4 cup SR flour and 1/4 cup water, place the mix in a freezer or snaplock bag, snip off the corner and pipe crosses on.

Bake for 10 minutes, reduce the oven to 180c and bake for a further 15 minutes. Brush the buns while they're still warm with warm and sieved apricot jam.

Tah dah!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Homemade Pasta

That's right, peeps. Get excited... I got a pasta machine! After the pasta making challenge on My Kitchen Rules this week I got super excited and headed down to ye old Mitre 10 to get me some o' that. It was a day and a half until I actually got to use it and it seemed like forever - I was like a kid at Christmas. So, this is the story of how it all played out :)

Okie dokie! We start by sifting 2 cups of 00 flour (you can use just plain flour but they reckon the 00 stuff is the go so I decided it was best not to risk it!) onto a clean working surface (ie the bench) and make a little well. You need to fit 4 eggs at room temperature in there so make sure the sides are pretty tall... the recipe stressed that the eggs shouldn't be able to run out of the well but mine definitely did and I freaked out a bit! Anyhoo... gently give the eggs a whisk with a fork and then start working the flour into the eggs with your fingertips. Keep working it until it forms a dough. And then the fun part begins - you gotta knead it for 6-7 minutes until it all comes together and is nice and smooth.

After 6-7 minutes kneading. Ergh... but so worth it!
 Then we cut it into 4 pieces and wrap it in glad wrap to rest for a little while. The recipe says 10 minutes but I left it for about an hour and a half while I went and Zumba-d so I could enjoy my carbs good and proper!

Cut the dough into 4, wrap and rest
And then it's time for the fun part! I pulled out the pasta machine, attached it to the bench (with my Mummy's help!), dusted the rollers with some flour and got to work. You'll want some better advice than mine to try it yourself but basically you have to roll it out a couple of times on each setting until you get down to number two... they say the last setting can be a bit too thin and the pasta can get stuck - messy!

This part was so much fun!
Then we lay it out on a cloth while we do the other sheets and then get to cutting it. I couldn't get a photo of that part unfortunately! Dad helped me with this... for those of you who know my dad - can you imagine!?!?! I fed it into the machine as dad cranked the cutter and away we went.

Oooo my goodness. I was so incredibly excited!
My first batch of homemade pasta :)
I boiled a big pot of salted water and dropped it in. It only took about 5-6 minutes to cook (excellent because Rosie and I were starving after Zumba!). I made a pretty simple bacon, tomato and rocket sauce and folded it through the pasta and then topped it with some parmesan. Perfect post exercise food!

Tobie Puttock's Apple Tea Cake

Dad came home from the paddock the other night with buckets and buckets of apples from our little orchard. Given that I don't get my braces off for another month, I had to find another way to enjoy them and what better way than in a cake (hey - that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it!)

So I went looking for a a nice little apple tea cake recipe and thought I'd take it in to my lovelies at work. There's a heap of them around but when I saw this one by Tobie Puttock, I knew I couldn't go wrong.

The crunchy sugar and cinnamon on the top is
an oldie but a goodie... there's a reason they've
done it this way for years!
This one is easy peasy! Preheat your oven to 180c and grease and line a springform tin. Grab out your mixmaster or the electric beaters to save some effort. In the bowl put 95g butter at room temperature and 1/2 cup caster sugar. It's really important that the butter is at room temperature else you'll end up with a flat and tough cake. Beat the butter and sugar until they're creamy and then add 1 egg (also at room temperature) and 1 tsp vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Sift 1 and 1/4 cups SR flour three times. Turn the mixer on low and gradually add the flour, alternating with parts of 1/2 cup milk until it's all mixed in. Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared tin. Peel, core and quarter 2 large or 3 smaller apples then slice them thinly and arrange over the top of the cake. Pop it into the oven - it should take about 30-35 minutes but just keep an eye on it. When it's cooked grab it out and sprinkle it with 1 tbsp sugar combined with 1/2 tsp cinnamon. And you're done!

I really enjoyed baking with homegrown produce - most satisfying!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Nanny's chocolate mud cake

Our office is notorious for its ability to eat all sorts of bad stuff in record time! We LOVE food. So when it came to light that I'd been baking all weekend and none of it got to the office, I was in big trouble! I knew exactly what I needed - my Nanny's chocolate mud cake. It is so incredibly easy and very rich and moist. It is honest to goodness my favourite cake of all time. Nobody makes it quite like Nan but I try my best :)

Nanny's chocolate mud cake - the best! The top always seems
to crack but it doesn't affect the taste... actually the crunchy
bits on the poppy-up bit are really good!

In a microwave safe bowl place 250g dark chocolate (broken into pieces), 250g chopped butter and 2 and 1/3 cups of strong black coffee. Microwave a minute at a time until you stir it and it all comes together (it should only take two or three goes). Transfer the mix to a bigger bowl and cool to room temperature - I usually let it sit but give it a whisk every now and then to help get some of the heat out (it may not actually do anything but it appeases my neurotic tendencies!)

Transfer mixture to a bigger bowl to cool
Once the mixture has cooled you can add the dry ingredients. Unless you've got a mega sieve, I find it easiest to get a small bowl and put in it 1/2 cup SR flour, 1 and 1/2 cups plain flour and a 1/3 cup cocoa then slowly sift it all into the bowl. Mix together with a wooden spoon until there aren't any lumps and add 3 eggs, mixing until it's smooth and glossy. Pour the mixture into one big or two smaller lined and greased tins and put into a preheated 150c oven for 1 and 1/4 hours. Keep an eye on it throughout this time - you know it's ready when a cake tester comes out with some cake clinging to it but no runny mixture.

I used two small tins - one for my friends
at work and one to pop in the freezer
for a rainy nintendo-playing day!

It's really tempting to cut it while it's hot and enjoy it straight away but it really is best to wait until it cools. You can always heat it up later... and perhaps add some ice-cream!

One for now and one for later!

Rustic onion bread

This is one we made over the weekend to go with risotto (more carbs, anyone!?) Our beautiful apprentice chef friend Sophie was visiting and I got to learn lots of little tricks from her. She did all the hard work with this so I can't take the credit but it was super tasty so I have to share the recipe.

We did things a little differently to the recipe because we were in a bit of a hurry but it all worked out fine (thanks to Sophie!). We used our big mixmaster and the bread attachment but you could just use your hands to bring the dough together - that's what the recipe suggests. So we chucked (literally - we were starving) into the mixmaster bowl 2x 7g packets of yeast, 1 tsp caster sugar, 1 cup warm water, 2 tsp salt and 2 tbsp olive oil and mixed it until it came together. Soph kneeded it for about 10 minutes until it became soft and elastic-y and then put it into an oiled bowl, covered it with plastic wrap and set it aside for an hour until it had doubled in size. Meanwhile, I sliced 1 large onion and cooked it off in 30g butter for about 15 minutes. After the hour has passed, grab the dough and give it a good whack to deflate it (fun!). The recipe suggests that you mix the onions through the dough at this stage - we didn't, being in a hurry - but I think it would be really yum. Soph rolled out the dough (it's rustic so no need for perfection here!), put it on a piece of baking paper on a big tray, brushed it with olive oil, shoved some sprigs of rosemary from my mum's garden into it, spread the onions over the top and seasoned with sea salt and cracked pepper. We then set it aside for around 15 minutes before putting it into the oven at 200c (turn the over on while the finished product is resting, no earlier). It took around 20 minutes to cook then we took it straight out of the oven, carved it up into big triangles and enjoyed!

Our rustic onion bread with chicken, leek and prosciutto risotto

Monday, March 7, 2011

Nigella's chocolate cloud cake

I saw Nigella cook this on her TV show while I was home sick recently and knew I had to try it! The end result didn't disappoint - my sister honestly ate a half of it and the rest disappeared very quickly!

It lasted just long enough for me to get a photo...

This one is surprisingly easy. Nigella gives it an orange twist with zest and Cointreau but I've never been a fan of the whole choc-orange thing so I left it out and just used vanilla extract instead.

As usual, preheat your oven to 180c and line your cake tin (I used a springform tin).

Melt 250g of dark chocolate in the microwave, being careful not to let it burn. I used one block of good quality 85% cocoa chocolate and made the rest up with Old Gold (the good stuff is damn expensive!) Get 125g unsalted butter and stir it into the melted chocolate until it's smooth and glossy and looks delicious!

Place two whole eggs and four egg yolks (save the whites for later) into an electric mixer with 75g caster sugar and beat until the mixture is light and creamy then slowly add the chocolate mixture and 1 tsp vanilla extract and keep beating until combined. In a separate bowl beat the four egg whites until they're foamy and then gradually add 100g caster sugar. Beat until the whites are holding their shape but not too stiff.

Add a third of the whites mixture to the chocolate mixture and stir in to stabalise the mixture. Then add the rest of the whites and fold very gently to keep in as much air as possible. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until the cake has cracked and isn't wobbly in the centre. Pop it onto a tray to cool. This is the part where I would have freaked out if I hadn't have read the recipe right through before I started - because the cake is flourless it will sink in the middle quite a bit as it cools. But it's all good!

Once the cake has cooled, whip up some cream and vanilla and fill the crater of the cake with it. Nigella sprinkles the top with a bit of cocoa through a fine sieve but I got some gorgeous fresh raspberries (surprise!) from the supermarket and popped them on top instead.

So we ate half of it straight away and then put the rest into the fridge. The next day it was even better - the cold had made it nice and fudgey in the middle - delicious!

Swiss roll bombe alaska

This one is a creation of mine... ok, so I didn't completely do it myself but I adapted this one from a magazine recipe. I made it for my girls one night at one of our wonderful dinner and movie nights (I usually get dessert duty - very willingly!) and it went down very nicely indeed.

I left it a little long before taking the photo!

So I grabbed a swiss roll from the supermarket and cut it into 5 pieces (there were only 4 of us so I ate the extra one while I was cooking!). I popped them onto a lined baking tray and then topped them all with some chopped up cherry ripe. I then got some big scoops of good chocolate ice cream and put them on top of the swiss roll and cherry ripe pieces and then put the tray into the freezer for a while to harden. While they were in the freezer, I whipped up some meringue using a couple of egg whites and caster sugar. I took the rolls and ice cream out of the freezer, quickly covered all of them with the meringue mixture and put them in the oven (my memory isn't great but I think it was at 150c). Then we watch!!! From memory, the recipe said 12 minutes but you really just need to watch until they're a little golden. If the ice cream starts leaking out onto the tray, it's time to get them out! Quickly pop them into a bowl each and you can eat them straight away as is. Loving raspberries like I do, I heated some up with a bit of sugar and put them on top. Yum!

Nigella's Swedish Summer Cake

My sister and I got my Mum Nigella's latest book for Christmas. If I'm being entirely honest, I think we've used it more than she has so far! I just love what Nigella does... everything she makes looks incredible and this was one I couldn't flip past.

It was surprisingly easy to make. I must admit, I did get a little freaked out by the photos and Nigella's comment that it didn't matter if you couldn't slice it perfectly in three - it would taste just as good if it was falling apart - I can't work like that!

The cake was absolutely delicious! It disappeared very quickly and was just the cake I needed... I happened to be going through a fairly difficult time when I made it. The only thing I would do differently next time is to use plain thickened cream (still beaten though of course) on the top instead of double cream. I found that after it had been in the fridge for a little while the double cream went a bit hard and wasn't that pleasant to eat - a shame on day two when the rest of the cake tastes even better with the strawberry flavour having gone right through!

I'm going back to put this one up - these are just photos I took on my phone because I was so impressed with the end result - but in the future I'll be sure to take photos of the steps as well.

                                                              The finished product!


1/ The custard
(You can do this in advance, even the day before. It needs to be completely cold before you use it).
Throw into a medium pot 2 egg yolks, 2 tbsp caster sugar, 2 tsp cornflour and 1 cup of full-fat milk. Stir non-stop until it starts to thicken but don't let it boil. Once the mixture has thickened (it will take between 3-5 minutes) take it off the heat and add 1 tsp vanilla essence. Transfer the custard to a cold bowl and keep stirring until it cools a little more. Cut and wet a piece of baking paper and sit on top of the custard, cover with cling film and pop in the fridge :)

2/ The cake
Preheat the oven to 180c and prepare your tin (a springform tin, just line the bottom and grease the sides). In an electric mixer, whisk 3 eggs and 250g caster sugar until 'pale, moussy and more than doubled in volume' (I found it took about 10 minutes). Turn the mixer down and gently add 90ml of hot water. Slowly whisk in 1 1/2 tsps baking powder and 150g plain flour - you might need to stop the mixer a couple of times to scrape down the sides and there shouldn't be any lumps in the mixture. Pour it all into the tin and pop it into the oven for about 30 minutes (you'll know when it's done!) Take it out of the oven, leave it to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes and then carefully take the outside of the tin off. Then let it rest and cool before moving onto the next (and most fun part!) - the assembly.

3/ The assembly
You want 750g of strawberries (a little pricey but SO worth it!). Set aside 250g of these. With the rest, hull them and chop them up - some in halves, some in quarters depending on how big they are. Put them in a bowl and sprinkle with a little caster sugar. They'll need a little time to get juicy and glossy before you put them in the cake - an hour is perfect. Take 500ml double cream and whisk it until it holds its shape. Fold 1/3 of the cream into the custard that you made earlier and set the rest aside. Grab a serrated knife and carefully cut the cake into three (not as hard as it sounds - I promise!) and put the bottom layer onto your serving plate. Top this with half of the custard cream and half of the sugared strawberries. Repeat with the next layer of cake, remaining custard cream and remaining sugared strawberries. Pop the last layer of cake on top, cover with the double cream and put the whole strawberries on the top - you can hull some of them and keep some whole (doesn't sound overly practical to leave the green on but it looks so pretty!)

Tah dah! Looks pretty impressive and tastes even better!

Inside of the cake - yum!