About Me

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What can I say?? I just love to bake!! Ever since I would go to Grandma's house as a little girl and bake highlight cakes or help Ninny make her famous vanilla cookies, I've been obsessed with baking! Not only from recipe books, but freestyle too! With a father as a chef, i suppose it is in my genes! Some of my favourite memories from growing up were those moments after dinner when my dad would get his sweet tooth pang and have me help him whip up a batch of toffee fruit kebabs, or irish caramels! I used to love how he never followed recipes, he always just knew what ingredients worked with one another and how to play with quantities. So, from an early age, i had learnt from the master and i was well on my way to bake on my own! When i was 7 years old, i used to bake chocoloate cakes to sell to the mothers of my friends when they came to watch our Saturday morning minkey hockey games! Before i knew it, i was being commissioned from my school teachers to bake cakes for them at $2 a pop! This blog holds just a few of my favourite tried and tested recipes which I've thoroughly enjoyed both baking and eating! So enjoy!!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Rhubarb & Pear Crumble Muffins

The pear saga started when a friend from work brought in a huge bag of fresh organic pears from her home grown tree... obviously, this got me thinking.  What can one do with pears?  Pear and vanilla paste was created, followed by strawberry, pear and rhubarb jam (see post below), finished up with a nice batch of Rhubarb & Pear Crumble Muffins, which I have to say, were pretty darn good (especially warm from the oven!)

Preparation Time:
Cooking Time:
Serves: 2 fat piggies (makes 12 muffins)

For the Filling:
 - 200g drained cooked rhubarb
 - 200g drained, cooked pear, diced
 - 3tbs caster sugar
 - 2tbs water
 - 1/4tsp lemon zest

For the Crumble:
 - 2tbs unsalted butter, melted
 - 4tbs plain flour
 - 3tbs brown sugar
 - 4tbs porridge oats
 - 1tsp lemon zest

For the Muffins:
 - 375g self-raising flour
 - 125g brown sugar
 - 1tsp baking powder
 - 115g unsalted butter, melted
 - 350ml milk
 - 1 egg

1)  Preheat the oven to 200'C (400'F) .  Grease a 12 cup muffin tin.

2)  Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a small saucepan and gently bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, or until the pears are soft.  Set aside.

3)  Stir all the ingredients for the crumble together in a small bowl.  Set aside.

4)  For the muffins, combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl, beat the butter, milk and egg.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined.

5)  Spoon a little batter into each muffin cup, using about half the batter.  Then spoon a layer of the filling into the cups.  Add the remaining muffin batter on top and then finish by sprinkling the crumble mixture over the muffin tops.

6)  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the trays for about 5minutes.  Serve the muffins warm.

**They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Strawberry, Pear & Rhubarb Jam

This is my first attempt at making Jam and I have to say, it is surprisingly very easy!  There are endless recipes online with varying methods, but i found this one to be pretty simple and very effective.  I swapped and changed the fruits for the jam to use up what I had in the kitchen already, but pretty much any combination is a winner.... I mean, who doesn't like jam?!

Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 2 hours
Serves: Makes about 3-4 large jars

 - 750g Strawberries, hulled and halved
 - Juice of 1 lemon
 - 1kg caster sugar
 - 750g pears, cored and chopped
 - 250g rhubarb, chopped

1)  Place strawberries, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl.  Mix well and cover.  Refrigerate overnight.

2)  Place in a large heavy based saucepan along with the pears and rhubarb and simmer, stirring occasionally for 2 hours, skimming the surface occasionally.

3)  Pour into sterilised jars.

** To sterilise the jars, either place in a 140'C oven for 25 mins or plunge into boiling water nad dry upside down on a clean tea towel.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Red Velvet WHOOPIE Cakes!

Whoopie Cakes, Whoopie Pies, Whoopie Cookies.... they're the cakey-cookie thing deemed to be the NEW Macaroon!  Supposedly originally introduced in Maine, USA in the 1950's when a woman working in a commercial bakery baked some leftover cake mixture instead of wasting it, and put it together with some extra filling... from this, a Whoopie was born.  There are an enormous variety of Whoopie flavours out there, I thought i'd start out with the Red Velvet Whoopie.  They are very easy to make and hard to mess up so get your whoopie on and have fun!

Preparation Time: 10mins
Cooking Time: 12-12 mins
Serves: 12

 - 125ml buttermilk
 - 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
 - 1/2tsp red food colouring
 - 1 1/2tsp distilled white vinegar
 - 115g butter, softened
 - 200g castor sugar
 - 1 egg
 - 280g - plain flour
 - 1tbs cocoa
 - 1/2tsp bicarb soda
 - 115g full fat cream cheese
 - 70g butter, softened
 - 1/2tsp vanilla extract
 - 450g icing sugar

1)  Preheat oven to 170'Cfan forced/190'C/375'F.  Line baking trays with baking paper.

2)  Stir the buttermilk, vanilla, red food colouring and vinegar together in mixing jug.

3)  Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg.

4)  Sift together the flour, cocoa and bicarb soda.  Add the buttermilk mixture and stir until combined.

5)  Place heaped tablespoons of the mixture on your prepared baking trays, leaving about 3inches between each round to allow room for spreading.  Bake in the oven for 10-12minutes, until firm to touch.  Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

6)  In the meantime, make the cream cheese frosting by putting the cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract in a bowl and beat together until light and fluffy.  Sift in the icing sugar and beat together until well combined.

7)  When the Whoopie's are cool, match each whoopie half with its closest partner in size.  Spreading with a palette knife or using a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle, cover the flat side of one whoopie half with frosting.  Place a whoopie on top and gently press together... A la Whoopie.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The 'Ladies who Lunch' Cupcake

My Vanilla Cupcakes with Bows - created for the Ladies Charity Afternoon Tea and Frock Swap 2011!

**Recipe for cupcakes in earlier blogs.
I used a white chocolate ganache under my pink fondant icing to create a smooth effect; and black fondant icing for my bows.

My Afternoon Tea Platter for the Cancer Council Charity Frock Swap 2011...

Mini Custard Fruit Flans

When my mum recently told me she was hosting a ladies day charity afternoon tea and frock swap, and asked me to do the sweets side of things, I immediately thought 'Ooooo, afternoon tea petite fours!'  After much speculation, I decided on making; pink vanilla cupcakes, a varity of flavoured macaroons, bite sized chocolate terrines and my personal favourite.... mini custard fruit flans!  These little flans went down an absolute treat and were so much fun to make and put together.  The final product is well worth the effort!

Preparation Time:  30 mins (+1hour refigeration time)
Cooking Time: 12 mins
Serves: 24

 - 1 3/4 cup plain flour
 - 1/4 cup icing sugar
 - 185g cold butter, chopped coarsely
 - 1 egg yolk
 - 2 tsp iced water, approximately
 - 1 medium kiwi fruit
 - 60g strawberries
 - 60g blueberries
Custard Cream
 - 1 cup milk
  - 1 tsp vanilla extract
 - 3 egg yolks
 - 1/2 cup caster sugar
 - 2 tbs pure cornflour
 - 1/3 cup thickened cream, whipped

1) Process flour, sugar and butter until crumbly.  With motor operating, add egg yolk and enough of the water to make all the ingredients come together.  Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently until smooth.  Wrap pastry in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2)  Grease a 24 hole mini muffin pan.  Roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking paper until 1/8 inch thick (it might be easier to do this in two batches).  Cut out 24 rounds using a round cutter big enough to fit your muffin holes (approximately 2 1/4inch rounds should do the trick).  Press rounds into each hole and prick the bases of the cases well with a fork.  Once all holes are filled with cases, refigerate for 30 minutes.

3)  Preheat oven to 200'C/400'F.

4)  Bake cases for about 12 minutes.  Stand cases in their tins for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

5)  Meanwhile, make the custard cream by combining the milk and extract in a small saucepan and bringing to the boil.  Beat the egg yolk, sugar and cornflour together in a seperate bowl with an electric mixer until thick.  With motor operating, gradually beat in the hot milk mixture.  Return the custrard to the pan, stirring over the heat until it boils and thickens.  Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Fold cream into the custard in 2 batches.

6)  Cut the kiwi fruit in quarters and strawberries in 8ths.

7)  Divide the custard cream into pastry cases and top with fruit.

**Tip:  Pastry cases and custard cream can be made and stored seperately 2 days ahead.  Fold the cream into custard just before using.  Assemble and serve flans as close to serving time as possible - about an hour is good.

Pink Rose & Vanilla Pistachio Macaroons!

They say they're the 'new cupcake'; others say they are trendier than wearing black and beige in Autumn; some even go as far as to say they should replace the Eiffel Tower as the French Icon.... yes, I am talking about the much raved about, Macaroon!  Not the soft meringey English kind, but the gorgeous and colourful French Macaroon. 

On my first attempt, I made the traditional French Coconut Macaroon (see recipe below) which turned out beautifully.  I was sceptical as to how the food colouring would affect the meringue mixture, but soon found out I needn't be.  As long as you only use a few drops as recommended, then your egg whites will remain in their soft peak form.

On my second attempt, I thought i'd go the full hog and make Pink Rose Macaroons, as well as Vanilla Pistachio Macaroons.  Both turned out wonderfully - especially the pistachio kind!  Don't be afraid to give them a go, they're really not as tricky to make as you think they are... honest!

Preparation Time: 40 mins (+30 mins standing time)
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves: 16

 - 3 egg whites
 - 1/4 cup castor sugar
 - pink food colouring
 - rose oil essence
 - 1 1/4 cup icing sugar
 - 1 cup ground almonds
 White Chocolate Ganache
- 155g white chocolate, chopped coarsely
- 1/4 cup single cream

1)  Preheat oven to 130'C.  Line baking trays with baking paper.

2)  Beat egg whites in a small bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Add castor sugar and a few drops of pink colouring and rose essence.  Beat until all the sugar dissolves.

3)  Fold the sifted icing sugar and ground almonds into the egg white mixture, in two batches.

4)  Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with 1cm plain tube.  Pipe 4cm rounds about 2.5cm apart on the trays.  Tap the trays on the bench gently so they spread slightly.  Stand for 30 minutes.

5)  Meanwhile, make the ganache by bringing the cream to the boil in a small pot.  Once boiling, turn off the heat and pour over your white chocolate, stirring constantly until completely melted.

6)  Bake macaroons in your prepared oven for about 20 minutes.  Leave to cool on trays.

7)  Sandwich macaroons together with Ganache.

8)  Sprinkle with a little icing sugar to serve.