Sunday, 29 April 2012

Tarting it up!

Lime is one of my favourite fruits.  Not to stick down and eat, of course but it's just so fresh when squeezed into a glass of sparkling mineral water or as part of a marinade for chicken or fish.  Now, I am not one for artificial lime flavours or syrups but give me a Key Lime Pie and I will be one happy girl!  This recipe is a delightful one.  While traditionally, this pie is baked, this easy cheat's version is a pretty fantastic interpretation.  Containing a good amount of sweet condensed milk, this seems like the perfect candidate for a too-sweet dessert (as if that's really possible).  However, the lime lifts it on the palette and it's crisp flavour prevents this from being an issue.  What you have here is a beautifully light pie of cheesecake-like consistency.  Drizzled with bitter dark chocolate, it is a stunning dessert.  You can easily see how this is elegant enough to provide the perfect finale to a dinner party and yet unpretentious enough for a friendly barbeque.
No-Cook Key Lime Pie
200g digestive biscuits
70g unsalted butter, softened
2 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
4 tbsp dessicated coconut
juice and zest of 4 limes
397g tin of sweetened condensed milk
300mL double cream

Put all of the ingredients for the base into the food processor and pulse so you have oily crumbs.  Press the crumbs into 4 small tart tins or one large flan tin.  Place these into the freezer to set while you get on with the filling.
With an electic mixer, whisk the zest, juice, condensed milk and cream until thick and creamy.
Pour into the tart shells and put into the fridge to set.

F. x

Strawberries and Cream

Last night, I was lucky enough to be invited to the celebration of a very lovely lady's birthday.  While I haven't known her very long, Miss M is well on track to becoming one of my favourite humans.  The night was full of fun and laughter, with not an air or grace in sight.  Unsure what would make a suitable or appreciated gift, I did what I do best: bake.  So cupcakes it was!  I baked a basic white chocolate sponge but it was all about that frosting.  Divine!  The light Strawberries and Cream frosting was compared to the famous strawberry icecreams of Brisbane's "Ekka" and deservedly so.  Delightfully simple to create; it is perfect in the simplicity of it ingredients and the soft, elegant colour.  And so today, I give you my Strawberries and Cream Frosting...

Strawberries and Cream
6-8 medium sized strawberries
1/3 cup icing sugar
1 cup thickened cream 

Before you begin, there are two very important details you must note: your cream must be full fat and your strawberries must be sweet (so try them first).  Whizz up the strawberries in a blended until you have a syrup-like consistency and set aside.  Whip cream with an electric mixer until you have stiff peaks.  Sift over icing sugar and begin to mix.  Add in the strawberry pulp, one tablespoon at a time.  Stop when you have reached the desired consistency. Your cream will be a soft pink but you could add a little powdered food colouring for a richer colour.  Pipe onto the cupcakes of your choice but I suggest you do this as quickly as possible before you eat it all out of the bowl!

F. x

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Lest we forget.

ANZAC Day holds a special place in the heart of all Australians.  I spent this morning (as did most of the Blackwater community, so it seems) at the local war memorial for a rememberance service.  It is so touching to see that this important aspect of our Australian culture is being preserved: not in a glorification of war but as a celebration of those who have and who continue to serve our nation in the armed forces.  I also hold close the cultural values that ANZAC day represents - mateship, determination and pride.  As such, it would be wholly UN-Australian to bake anything today that wasn't an ANZAC biscuit. 

In addition to a recipe, I also thought it incredibly important to include the history of the ANZAC biscuit.  This is a recipe that stays true to that which was cooked in the kitchens of our great great Grandmothers during WW1.  It is heartwarming to know that the love that these women demonstrated for our soldiers lives on in our kitchens today.

During World War 1, the wives, mothers and girlfriends of the Australian soldiers were concerned for the nutritional value of the food being supplied to their men. Here was a problem. Any food they sent to the fighting men had to be carried in the ships of the Merchant Navy. Most of these were lucky to maintain a speed of ten knots (18.5 kilometers per hour). Most had no refrigerated facilities, so any food sent had to be able to remain edible after periods in excess of two months. A body of women came up with the answer - a biscuit with all the nutritional value possible. The basis was a Scottish recipe using rolled oats. These oats were used extensively in Scotland, especially for a heavy porridge that helped counteract the extremely cold climate.
The ingredients they used were: rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water. All these items did not readily spoil. At first the biscuits were called Soldiers’ Biscuits, but after the landing on Gallipoli, they were renamed ANZAC Biscuits.

ANZAC Biscuits
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
125g butter
2 tbsp golden syrup (or treacle)
1 tsbp water
1/2 tsp baking soda

Combine all of your dry ingredients.  Place butter, syrup and water in a saucepan and stir over a medium heat until butter has melted.  Stir in the baking soda before combining wet and dry ingredients.  Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and press firmly to flatten. Bake in a 160 degree oven for 15 minutes. 

This recipe gives you biscuits with a crunchy outer and a soft middle.  If you prefer you ANZAC biscuits really crunchy, flatten them more on the tray before they go in the oven and cook for 20 minutes instead of the stated 15.

F. x

Monday, 23 April 2012


Oh goodness!  It does appear that I have gone slightly cupcake mad but I just couldn't help but share these ones with you.

Every week, I bake a batch of cupcakes for my hunky husband to take in his lunch every day.  In so much, these are not truly cupcakes, but lovecakes.  It's quite sweet really.  We have a ritual whereby, I bake the cupcakes and he gets very excited about how good they are.  Despite there sometimes being copious amounts of lovecakes, he doesn't even like taking extras into work to share - they are HIS.  When this is the case, he will simply eat another cake after dinner, just to get through them in the week.
This week, I decided to try a recipe that I haven't used before - a good ol' Women's Weekly favourite.  Cream Cheese Lemon Cakes.  I love how citrus cuts through the overt sweetness of the cake while the cream cheese offers a subtle tang on the palette.  Wrapped up in their gorgeous green polka-dot cases, these lovecakes just seem like happiness in a cupcake.  I topped them with a Buttercream flavoured with some finely grated lemon zest.  While I thought of colouring the buttercream a lovely pastel yellow, I am glad that I didn't as they are perfect, just as they are.
Cream Cheese Lemon Lovecakes
90g unsalted butter, softened
90g cream cheese, softened
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
50g SR flour
75g P flour

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and prepare your baking cups.  Beat together the butter, cream cheese, rind, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy.  This is definitely one for the electric mixer.
Sift in the flours and beat on a low speed until combined. You will have quite a thick batter.
Divide batter into baking cups and smooth the surface. 
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out fairly clean. Allow to cool.

Lemon Buttercream
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups icing sugar, sifted
1-2 tsp lemon rind, finely grated
1-2 tbsp milk

Beat butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy.  Grate in lemon rind and thin buttercream to the desired consistency with the milk.  Pipe onto your lovecakes.


F. x

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Birthday Happiness

While I am still patiently awaiting my birthday of 2012, this week marked the birthday of a very special lady - my teaching partner, Mel!  In order to celebrate this exciting event (sadly, I always tend to get more excited about other people's birthday than my own!) a baking fest was in order.  Nothing less than wonderful would do.  Here is what I came up with:  Caramel Maple Mudcakes with Maple and Vanilla Bean Buttercream, topped with a Flaked Almond Praline.  Insanely phenomenal!

These cupcakes tasted absolutely amazing.  A true feast for the tastebuds, not to mention the eyes!  These are simply beautiful and the visual impact when presented is fabulous.  It is very important to bake these lovelies to share, otherwise, you might very well eat the whole lot by yourself (and justifiably so!).  This recipe bakes 12 so I doubled it.  The recipes for the buttercream and praline, however, make considerable amounts so no need to double - perhaps even half them!  You truly will not regret making these cupcakes.  They are special cupcakes, to be prepared for special people.
Caramel Maple Mudcake
60mL maple syrup
160mL milk
120g dark brown sugar
150g unsalted butter, chopped
75g white chocolate
150g P flour
50g S R flour
1 egg

After you've preheated your oven to 160 degrees, place the maple syrup, milk, sugar, butter and chocolate in a saucepan.  Melt over a low heat, stirring continuously.  Once completely melted and combined, pour into your mixing bowl and leave to cool for 15 minutes.  Sift in both flours and mix until just combined. Beat the egg lightly before whisking into batter until smooth.  Divide the mixture between your baking cups.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer (you want a few crumbs on the skewer).  Once out of oven, allow to cool completely.

Maple Vanilla Bean Buttercream
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
2 tsp maple syrup

Whip butter and 3 cups of sifted icing sugar together until smooth and light.  Mix in vanilla bean paste and maple syrup to flavour.  If buttercream is too wet, add remaining icing sugar.

Flaked Almond Praline
1 cup caster sugar
4 tbsp cold water
1/2 cup flaked almonds

Line a large baking tray with baking paper.  Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat.  Stir until sugar has dissolved.
Increase heat to high - no more stirring allowed!  You are permitted to lightly swirl the saucepan once, but that is all.  Boil until mixture turns a deep amber colour.  Remove from heat and leave to sit until bubbles have subsided.  Add almonds.
Pour mixture over baking tray.  You can use a spatula to spread it out to ensure that the praline is nice and thin.  Allow to cool then break praline into shards.

Put it all together and...Voila!

F. x

In a whizz...tizz

This week marked the first week back at school after holidays.  Please don't take my lack of postings during the week as I didn't have time to cook.  Oh no, lovelies.  I just didn't have time to post!  And now you reap the benefits of this as you are about to be in absolute sweetness overload.  I begin with Sunday night... 
During the working week, dessert in the evening is not a regular occurrence - despite what my lovely husband would prefer.  However, weekends mean baking time, cookbook reading time and....dessert time!  Sunday night mean soft, sweet Sticky Date Pudding.  While the dish itself oozes effort and time, in reality, it was whizzed up in the blender in about five minutes and cooked in the oven while we were eating dinner.  This is the easiest Sticky Date Pudding recipe you will ever come across.  You can just cook these in your muffin pans for perfect individual serves or in a dariol mould, as I did, for presentation. What you end up with is a delightfully moreish sponge pudding which becomes dense and sickly sweet with the addition of the warm butterscotch sauce - oooohhhh yes!!!

Sticky Date Pudding
200g dried dates, roughly chopped
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups boiling water
60g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup S R Flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and grease your chosen moulds.  Put the chopped dates, bicarb and boiling water into the blender jug and leave to soak.  After around 5 minutes, add the butter and sugar before pulsing 2 - 3 times.  Any more and your dates will be mush.  Tip in the flour and eggs and pulse again until just combined.
Use an icecream scoop to divide the mixture between the moulds.  This will ensure even distribution.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on your oven.  You want a few crumbs on the skewer when tested.  Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before turning out.  While they are resting, you can get on with your butterscotch sauce.

Butterscotch Sauce
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
300mL single (pure) cream
125g unsalted butter

Put all of your ingredients into a saucepan over a low heat.  Stir continuously as all ingredients melt in together.  Put into a pouring jug to serve with your puddings.

Don't forget the Vanilla Bean Icecream!

F. x

Friday, 13 April 2012

Final days of freedom...

So I have one more day of school holidays and then it's nose back to the grindstone.  This means that I have to make the most of the short amount of 'free' time that remains.  This means, hello Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting.  What a mouthful!  And a lovely mouthful it is. I borrowed this recipe (it's not stealing if I reference it, now is it?) from The Cupcake Project, so won't rewrite it here but if you click on the link, you will find the recipe.

Just looking at these darlings make me happy!  They are everything a cupcake should be - petite, delicate and adorable with their little swirl of frosting.  These have that childhood appeal of peanut butter and the depth created by the chunks of dark chocolate.  The light, airy whipped cream frosting is a perfect compliment to this dense cupcake and looks a treat too.  This is a fantastic substitute for those who are not particular fans of buttercream or who are looking for a lighter frosting.  It is not overly sweet which means that it doesn't take over the flavour of the cupcake.  Whipped cream frosting pipes beautifully and is perfect for both small, delicate cupcakes and larger, layered cakes.

Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting
1 cup thickened cream (full fat)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cocoa, sifted
4 tbsp icing sugar, sifted

Whip your cream with an electric mixer to stiff peaks.  Keep mixing as you add the vanilla, cocoa powder and icing sugar.  Stop mixing when ingredients have just come together. This can then be piped onto cakes.

This recipe can be modified easily for Strawberry or Raspberry whipped cream.  It's quick and easy and looks fantastic.  Not to mention, perfect for school lunches.  Sigh.

F. x

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Queen Bean

Generally, Vanilla (as a flavour) has people in a couple of camps.  You may be one of those who classes Vanilla as bland, the option when there are no other options.  Perhaps you quite enjoy the creaminess of a Vanilla milk shake and don't mind Vanilla at all.  The other side in this flavour-triangle is the Vanilla lover - not just content with Vanilla as a flavour but also as a shower gel, moisturiser and room fragrance...this is moi.  Vanilla may well be boring and uninspiring in cooking if you have only been exposed to cheap imitation vanillas, such as Vanilla Essence.  Once you have gone down the 'real' vanilla track, that is, vanilla beans, vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste, you simply won't be able to go back.
These wonderful little cakes are soft and luscious, stunning white with the tiny little black flecks of vanilla bean.  But I hear you thinking, is that it?  No, my darlings, that is not...it.  They are topped with the most amazing vanilla buttercream.  It truly tastes like creamy vanilla ice-cream, full of gorgeous flavourful vanilla paste.  These are the Queen 'Bean' of Vanilla Cupcakes.  In fact, this exact recipe was crowned "The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake" by experimental blog The Cupcake Project.  For this very reason, I will allow you to follow the link for the recipe rather than reproducing it here.  Stef has included some amazing tips which include baking yourself a 'test cupcake' prior to baking the batch, ensuring you have the perfect cooking time and cupcake result.  I really couldn't not share this recipe with you.


F. x

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Lemon is lovely.

I don't make these lovely lemon shortbreads all the time, and let me tell you why....because I would EAT THEM ALL!  I have found in these darlings, the perfect shortbread: not so crumbly that you choke on the dust that hits the back of your throat, and not so buttery that you find yourself needing a chisel to get it off the roof of your mouth.  Even more of a testament to how good these are is the statement made by my wonderful friend, Tara, when she received these in her Christmas goody box: "I don't like shortbread.  I gave them to Leah (her sister) and she made me try one.  They are so good!"
Ok, well I've paraphrased but I'm sure Tara will back me up when I say, that was the general gist of it.  In short, even if you don't think you like shortbread, make these!!!

I believe that this recipe was originally from a Women's Weekly cookbook (probably the one of the many I have stolen from my mother, but possession is nine-tenths of the law, no?).  I have done a little tweaking over the years to get this just right so I cannot attest to how closely this resembles the original recipe.  Nevertheless, this shortbread is insanely wonderful and not even remotely like the old-fashioned fork-pricked triangles seen in old tartan-covered Christmas books of old.  The batter is amazingly soft and velvety, and if you can manage not to eat it all before you get it into the oven, the biscuits are even more so.
Lemon Shortbread
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
1-2 tsp finely grated lemon rind (to taste, really)
55g icing sugar
225g plain flour
75g cornflour

Preheat oven to around 160 degrees and top some baking trays with baking paper.
Beat the butter, sugar and lemon rind with an electric mixer until it changes to a light straw colour.  Next, sift your flours in two batches, mixing to combine in between.  When mixture has come together, place into a piping bag with an open star tip.  Pipe onto the baking tray in whatever manner takes your fancy.  I have done pretty 'bars' but you can also do little rosettes which are quite nice.  Bake for around 15 minutes.  Don't expect the shortbread to brown.  If it does, then they will be overdone.  Once baked, transfer to a baking rack to cool.

Prepare to fall in love.

F. x

Monday, 9 April 2012

Best Ever Cupcakes

These are the incredibly beautiful cupcakes that were graced with my Cream Cheese Frosting.  I would describe them as a sweet sponge.  They aren't chocolate or vanilla but a little of both worlds - golden in colour and almost a toffee flavour.  This is why the cream cheese frosting does so well.  It cuts through the sweetness of the cupcake but also looks stunning in contrast to both the cake and the chocolate-coated coffee bean that I've place on top. This exact plateful of cupcakes accompanied me to the home of a very lovely lady where we spent an afternoon - enjoying cake, coffee and a good old chat.

This recipe is a people-pleaser.  It doesn't discriminate in terms of flavour and is lusciously light and fluffy.  You will have people asking for these time and time again. These are absolutely glorious warm, straight out of the oven but if they last long enough, ice with either my cream cheese frosting or a thick buttercream (either chocolate or vanilla would work nicely).

Golden Cupcakes
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp boiling water
75g caster sugar
50g dark brown sugar
125g self raising flour
2 eggs
125g very soft unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and prepare your baking cups or muffin tin.  
Mix the cocoa to a paste with the boiling water and set aside.
Put the sugars, flour, eggs and butter into a bowl and beat to combine well. Mix in the cocoa paste, vanilla and milk. 
Divide mixture between the baking cups and bake for around 20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

F. x

Sunday, 8 April 2012

A Banoffee Moment

In my lovely, food stained, handwritten recipe book, I have a number fail-safe recipes for kitchen basics that I turn to again and again.  This is the case for sweet shortcrust pastry.  I think that it may have originally been a Donna Hay recipe but over the past couple of years, I have tweaked it so that it works just so in my kitchen.  This recipe is just so versatile and easy.  Whip it up in the food processor, bake and then fill with whatever takes you fancy.  It has that perfect buttery bite that you look for in a good shortcrust so I urge you to tuck this little number into your kitchen tool box because there are a few sneaky tips hidden in this recipe.
When looking for a dessert a couple of nights ago, I needed only look as far as the front of my pantry for inspiration: beautiful ripe bananas and sweetened condensed milk.  I very rarely make Banoffee Pie because my best friend, Nicky does such a fantastic rendition of it.  However, I just couldn't go pass it in this instance.  While my pastry was baking in the oven, I whipped up a basic caramel with condensed milk, butter and brown sugar.  As soon as the pastry came out of the oven, I poured in the thick, warm caramel and left to cool completely before putting in the fridge to chill down.  Just before you are ready to serve, whip some cream, fold in some chopped bananas and top with grated chocolate.  Ah-mazing!

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/4 cup icing sugar
125g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg, lightly beaten

Place flour, icing sugar and butter in a food processor and process in short bursts until mixture has a fine crumb consistency.  Add egg and process again, in short bursts until mixture starts to come together - it will still seem quite crumbly.  Turn the mixture onto a floured work surface and press dough together.  If you are making one large tart, bring dough together into a large, thick disc.  If you are making a number of smaller tarts, divide mixture into 2 smaller discs.  Either way, wrap pastry in glad wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Roll out dough on a sheet of glad wrap or baking paper (this stops it sticking to your surface), ease into the corners of your buttered dish and trim edges.  I now put the pastry (in the dish/es) into the freezer for 20 minutes.  This removes the need to blind bake with pie weights.  The pastry doesn't puff up when you cook it from frozen - so much easier!  From the freezer, put the pastry straight into a 180 degree oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes.  You will notice that the pastry has 'dried out' and started to brown slightly.  Perfection!

As much as it always seems easier to buy a pre-made pastry case, you will no longer wish to take this option once you make your own.  It is infinitely better and so much more satisfying! You can make pastry that tastes and looks better than the frozen option.  Now, don't just take my word for it...give it a go!

F. xx

Saturday, 7 April 2012

And the winner is...

I stand by the fact that a perfectly good cake can be destroyed by a less than fantastic frosting.  In the same way, an ordinary cake can find it's saviour in a rich buttercream.  My personal favourite topping for a fluffy, sweet cupcake is.....cream cheese frosting!  The tang of the cheese, freshened with a dash of lemon juice, takes the edge off the cake's sweetness whilst still providing the creamy frosting you crave on a cupcake.  This frosting also looks incredibly beautiful in contrast to darker cakes.  Today, this frosting topped a gorgeous sweet toffee sponge cupcake, and doesn't it just look adorable?

 Cream Cheese Frosting
Beat 100g of softened cream cheese with 125g of sifted icing sugar.  Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon (or lime) juice and pop in a dash of vanilla extract.  You can mess around with these quantities to fit your personal tastes.  Whip until the mixture comes together.  Keep in mind that if you add more liquid, then you may need more icing sugar.  Pipe onto the top of cupcakes and prepare to fall in love!

F. x

Happy Easter!

A very important lesson that I learnt during my childhood was that chocolate is not an acceptable breakfast food.  Except....if it's Christmas or Easter!  And so, in paying homage to this, here I am - with book, cuppa and the quintessential Lindt Bunny.  The sun is shining, the birds are singing and I am eating chocolate for breakfast: how could today not be a good one?! 

I wish everyone the happiest of days for Easter!


Friday, 6 April 2012

Hazelnut Dream

Every year, I make a ridiculously chocolately Easter cake.  Even though, this year, I will be spending Easter away from my family, I could not let this little tradition go so easily.  The cake I chose is a Torta All Gianduia.  Sounds gloriously fancy, doesn't it?  Basically it's a flourless hazelnut cake, or a Nutella cake.  Despite calling for a whole jar of Nutella, dark chocolate, 6 eggs and Frangelico, this cake is surprisingly light.  Of course, the beautiful lightness comes from the whisked egg whites which are carefully incorporated but I'm also talking in flavour.  This looks like a solid, rich cake but you can very easily have more than a small slice.  It's delightfully nutty which balances out the sweetness of the Nutella and the richness of the dark chocolate.  The beautiful roasted hazelnuts on top announce to the world that this is no ordinary flourless chocolate cake and the dark chocolate ganache glistens underneath in contrast.  This cake is definitely for a special occassion and one that will now form a regular part of my kitchen repertoire.  Credits must go to Nigella Lawson and her book, How to be a Domestic Goddess, as this is a recipe that I have not messed around with - it is simply perfection as it is.
Torta All Gianduia
6 large eggs, separated
pinch of salt
125g unsalted butter, softened
400g jar of Nutella
1 tbsp Frangelico (or rum, which I used)
100g ground hazelnuts
100g dark chocolate, melted

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and prepare a 23cm springform tin.
Whisk the egg whites and salt to stiff peaks.
Separately, beat the butter and Nutella together.  Incorporate the Frangelico (or rum), egg yolks and ground hazelnuts, then fold in the cooled melted chocolate.
Add a large dollop of the egg whites to lighten the batter.  Beat this in well.
Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites, a third at a time.
Pour into the tin and cook for 40 minutes.  The cake should be beginning to come away at the sides. 
Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

Dark Chocolate Ganache
Roast 100g of hazelnuts in a 180 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before rubbing of outer skin.
Add 125mL of double cream, 125g dark chocolate and 1 tablespoon of your chosen tipple from earlier.  Heat this gently and stir until chocolate has melted.  Remove from the heat and whisk until the ganache thickens.  Pour over the top of cake and top with roasted hazelnuts.



Today's Kitchen

Look at the magic happening in my kitchen today! It all feels a little bit naughty and let me tell you why - I have just bought and scooped out an ENTIRE jar of Nutella to put into this cake.  Mind you, the smells coming out of the kitchen completely justify this!  Now I have stolen this picture (above) from the cookbook How to be a Domestic Goddess but if my finished product even looks half as good as this, it will be a sight to be seen. You definitely want to hold out for this recipe - the perfect Easter cake!

F. x

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Cupcake Fascination

What was I to do?  I had these gorgeous new polka-dot baking cups sitting on my kitchen benchtop and lovely market-bought Raspberry and Pear Conserve looking at me every time I opened the fridge.  It certainly didn't take long for me to pull together a recipe idea.  I think you will agree that it proved a most fitting choice: Earl Grey Cupcakes with a Raspberry and Pear icing.  The result was a cluster of dainty, feminine cupcakes which I'm sure will prove a hit with the boys when my husband opens his lunchbox today at work! 
The Earl Grey flavours the light cakes with beautiful hints of citrus and bergamont which are not at all overpowering but smell and taste devine.  I like to think of the sweetness hit that the frosting provides as the sugar cube sitting on your saucer waiting to sweeten your tea.  Morning or afternoon tea will be made that much more of a treat with these little lovelies.  They look absolutely adorable and yet are just so easy and quick.

Earl Grey Cupcakes
3 tsp loose leaf Earl Grey
a good dash of boiling water (1/4 cup)
1/3 cup full cream milk
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 1/4 cups S. R. Flour

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and prepare your baking cups on a tray.  In a jug, pour boiling water over the tea leaves.  Leave to steep for 2-3 minutes before adding your milk - just like making a jumbo cup of tea!  Put all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.  Once combined, add tea and beat mixture until smooth and light in colour.  Spoon batter into baking cups, only fill to halfway to allow for a rise.  Place in the oven for 20 minutes.  Cupcakes will be golden and fragrant, and a skewer should come out clean.
Raspberry and Pear Frosting
2 tbsp Raspberry and Pear Conserve (substitute as you like)
1 1/2 cups sifted icing sugar
1 - 2 tbsp milk

Warm jam in the microwave to thin. Mix into the icing sugar and use milk to thin to the preferred consistency. Pipe frosting onto cakes.
Hints:  If you prefer a glaze to a frosting, use a little more milk before drizzling over cakes.  You can use whatever jam or conserve you like.  Marmalade works really well and you can substitute milk for orange juice.

Time for a cup of tea, I think!

F. x

Lazy Days

One of the loveliest things about a public holiday is taking your time: taking your time to roll out of bed, taking your time before you have a shower and staying in you PJs as long as possible, and taking time to put together a real treat of a breakfast.  Public holidays are special days, pancake days, eggs benedict days....muffin days.
This morning's breakfast is definitely a treat: warm and fluffy Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins.  These  muffins are very loosely based on Nigella's Blueberry Muffin recipe in How to be a Domestic Goddess with a few added flourishes.  Muffins are the perfect lazy day breakfast food.  You can literally put in WHATEVER you like.  Having no blueberries, I used the frozen raspberries that I always keep handy in case of such emergencies.  I roughly chopped up about 6 squares of the raspberry's perfect partner, white chocolate and threw in a dash of vanilla.  A quick grating of orange rind finished off the batter, taking the edge off the sickly sweet white chocolate.

Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins - My Way
75g unsalted butter, melted
200mL buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
2 tsp baking powder
35g caster sugar
40g raw sugar
pinch of salt
handful of frozen (or fresh) raspberries
handful of chopped white chocolate
sprinkling of orange zest

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.  Grease a muffin tray or spread baking cups on a baking sheet.
Combine all of your dry ingredients in a large bowl and roughly combine.  Use a measuring jug and beat together the buttermilk, egg, melted butter and vanilla.  Pour your wet ingredients into the dry and mix gently to combine.  Don't worry about trying to beat out lumps, a light hand works best as you don't want to over-work your batter.  Fold the berries, zest and chocolate into the batter with minimal mixing.  Spoon the mixture into your baking cups or tray.  I use an icecream scoop to do this. It seems to be a lot less messy and also means that each muffin contains the same about of batter.  Bake the muffins for around 20 minutes, depending on your oven.  A skewer should come out clean and the muffins should be golden brown and smelling gorgeous.  This recipe makes 12 medium sized muffins.
Accompanied with a traditional English Breakfast, these muffins are sure to provide a gorgeous start to a gorgeous day.  May your lazy days over this Easter break be truly delicious and well-enjoyed.


A Quick Shot of Espresso

Last week, I discovered that my favourite coffee shop started selling chocolate coated coffee beans and I was oh-so-excited!  As I promised, Cupcakes + Chocolate Coated Coffee Beans = Loveliness.  These gorgeous Dark Chocolate Coffee Bean cupcakes are to die for - so rich and soft - and perfect alongside a nice cup of tea.  They make the grade on every one of my levels: chocolate - tick, aesthetics - tick, and did I mention chocolate?  Thoroughly impressive and minimal effort, definitely give these ones a try.

Dark Chocolate Coffee Bean Cupcakes

125g soft unsalted butter
125g dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
125g S.R. Flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 shot espresso
50g dark chocolate, melted
1-2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  Cream the butter and sugar before gradually adding your eggs.  Tip in the flour, cocoa and espresso and mix until you have a smooth, thick batter.  Add in the slightly cooled chocolate and thin the batter with milk.  Pour into cupcake cases and cook for 15-20 mins.  Let the cakes cool. Makes 12.


300g dark chocolate
50g unsalted butter
1/2 espresso shot

Place all the ingredients into a microwave safe container.  Zap and stir at 30 second intervals until the chocolate has melted.  Whisk well to combine and thicken. Pipe onto cupcakes and top with a chocolate-coated coffee bean.

Thank me later,

F. x

Holiday Bliss

Nicky and I had the most lovely time away in Yeppoon.  It was absolute bliss!  And by bliss I mean: lazy days, early to bed, early to rise for a run, amazing Thai food, chats on the beach, watching the sun setting with a glass of wine....need I go on.  One of my favourite parts of our trip involved going to Emu Park's Festival of the Wind, which combined beautiful kite flying with country markets.  Naturally, I got a teensy bit excited when I discovered the fantastic jams and conserves on display and I just couldn't help myself...I wonder what goodies I'll be able to whip up with the lovelies that I picked up?

F. x