Monday, April 30, 2012

Chocolate Red Velvet Cake, and a Book Review

chocolate red velvet cake
It’s a fairly big claim to release a book entitled ‘Best-ever Baking Recipes’ but I think a collection of simple, reliable and delicious baked treats is essential for every home cook. London-based food writer David Herbert’s new book contains over 200 recipes, from simple classics such as Chocolate Chip Cookies to show-stoppers like this Chocolate Red Velvet Cake, and practically everything in between. There’s definitely something for everyone!

chocolate red velvet cake
The book itself is beautifully designed, with good hit of retro flair that really appealed to me and suited these classic baked goods. I felt a wave of nostalgia when I flipped through it for the first time, spotting a recipe for Rock Cakes, which was one of the very first things I ever baked as a child.

I can imagine teaching my kids to make some of these classic baked treats one day. I only wish that there were a photograph to go with every single recipe! A great photo really does make you want to get straight into the kitchen. 

It’s the first time in a long time that I didn’t make a single adaptation or substitution to a recipe, except for making it 2 layers instead of 3. It served as a sort of reminder that it’s okay to keep it simple sometimes… though it’s not that this cake was anything short of impressive just on its own! The instructions were clear and easy to follow, and the cake turned out perfectly. The white chocolate and cream cheese icing was sinfully rich.

chocolate red velvet cake
I have a copy of this fabulous book, ‘Best-ever Baking Recipes’ by David Herbert to give away to one lucky reader, worth $49.95. Simply leave a comment and tell me what your childhood favourite sweet treat was!

The competition is open to Australian residents only, and the winner will be announced on Friday 11th May. Good luck!

Review copy sent to me by Penguin Books

Monday, April 23, 2012

Vanilla Passionfruit Slice

passionfruit vanilla slice

When I got home from Perth, there was a gorgeous and unexpected surprise waiting for me at home - a beautiful basket of passionfruit, sent by the lovely folks at Impact Communication. While I love passionfruit, it's not something I bake with very often and I was thankful for this little reminder to do so.

It took me a little while to think of what to make – everything from pavlova to cocktails crossed my mind – but when I saw this recipe in Gourmet Traveller, I was sold. My mum is a vanilla slice fiend! It's one of her favourite desserts and one of the only ones she's made special requests for (every year around Mothers Day in fact!)

passionfruit vanilla slice

For those that don’t know, a vanilla slice is kind of an Australian classic, and can be a beautiful thing when done right – two layers of flaky puff pastry, with a creamy vanilla custard in between. I was never a huge fan until I made my first homemade one with real vanilla bean a few years ago. It was so different from any storebought one I'd ever tried - the custard wasnt stodgy or starchy, the pastry wasnt soggy and the vanilla taste really shone through.

This time around I added fresh passionfruit to both the custard and the glaze and it was absolutely delicious. Actually what really got me was how good the passionfruit made my kitchen smell for hours and hours afterwards. But something disturbing that I noticed, was the fact that every commercial brand of puff pastry in the supermarket contained some kind of vegetable shortening and not real butter. So next time I’m being a little more organised and picking up a pack of Careme pastry, or taking the time to make my own puff pastry from scratch. The difference is incredible and helps to make this a truly spectacular dessert.

Thanks again to Impact Communication for the gorgeous passionfruits that inspired this dessert.

passionfruit vanilla slice

Vanilla Passionfruit Slice
Serves 6
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller

• 2 sheets butter puff pastry

Passionfruit Vanilla Custard
• 150g caster sugar
• 100g cornflour
• 810ml (3 ¼ cups) milk
• 125ml passionfruit juice*
• 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• 2 egg yolks
• 40g butter, softened

*To make passionfruit juice, blend passionfruit pulp in a food processor to crack seeds then strain through a fine sieve. You will need about 6 or 7 passionfruits.

Passionfruit Icing
• 150g pure icing sugar, sifted
• 2 passionfruit, pulp only

Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F). Roll out the pastry to fit inside a 27x17cm brownie pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cool on a wire rack.

For the custard, combine sugar and cornflour in a saucepan over medium heat, add milk a little at a time, whisking until smooth. Add juice and vanilla seeds. Bring just to the boil, whisking until smooth and thick. Remove from the heat, whisk in yolks and butter and set aside.

Line brownie pan with baking paper. Place a piece of pastry in the base and pour over the custard. Level with a palette knife and top with another piece of pastry. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until set.

For the icing, combine ingredients and a bowl and mix. Spread over slice and serve. Cut with a serrated knife.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Salted Caramel Marshmallows and a guest post!

salted caramel marshmallows

I was pretty excited when Melissa from Best Friends for Frosting asked me if I'd like to contribute a guest post to her fabulous site, so I immediately said yes! The hardest part was actually choosing what to make, but I came up with these Salted Caramel Marshmallows. Let me tell you, you'll never go back to store bought again after making your own fluffy cloud-like marshmallows.

salted caramel marshmallows

PS - They were also incredible in a mug of rich hot chocolate. So head along and visit Best Friends For Frosting to get the recipe!

salted caramel marshmallows

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Hardware Societe, Melbourne

the hardware societe

My boyfriend has called me a Nanna on my occasions. Sure, I like to potter around the kitchen much more than I like to be doing, well, almost anything else. I have quite an epic collection of vintage flatware, often fall asleep in front of the TV, and wear a lot of cardigans. All of my Nanna-like tendencies culminated recently… but more on that later…

the hardware societe

On a recent trip to Melbourne with my sister, one place that I knew we had to go was Hardware Societe. I had been once before, almost a year ago to the day in fact, but I only snapped a few photos on my iphone and they didn’t really do the place any justice. This time around, the first thing I notice is that the café itself is bigger, having also taken over the space next door sometime in the last 12 months. I love their airy white fit out with bursts of yellow and quirky touches like the wall of teacups behind the coffee machine.

the hardware societe

I order a long black, which hit the spot perfectly on that drizzly morning, though I remember on my last visit that the coffees had come with a tiny cinnamon doughnut on each saucer, but is missing this time around. Beth decided on a French Earl Grey tea, which was served with the most adorable tea cozy, which totally made my inner-Nanna flip out, and my breakfast envy officially begin!

the hardware societe

I was in the mood for something savoury, preferably with bacon, so the BLT sounded perfect for me. When it came out, it was much bigger than I had expected, sandwiched on a crispy baguette. It was pretty great – a fine example of a BLT for sure, but as good as it was, it never had a hope of impressing more than this…

the hardware societe

Yes folks, that right there is the Fried Brioche, probably the Hardware Societe’s most famous dish that changes seasonally. It’s hands down the best version of French Toast that I’ve ever had – this time served with a generous amount of nutella, strawberries and a scattering of roasted hazelnuts. On my last visit it was salted caramel and red wine-poached pears. Oh how I wish I had ordered it for myself, but Beth was nice to share some with me. I can’t wait to see what new twist they’ll come up with the next time I’m in Melbourne, because there will definitely be another brunch at the Hardware Societe in my future.

the hardware societe

Another thing to mention is the Mini Marchet set up inside, selling gourmet products like cordials, jams, breads, eggs, and much more. Excitingly for me, they also sell those tea cozies, which are made especially for the café... And I bought one, which earns me at least 100 more Nanna points. I’m 23 going on 60.

It’s easy to see why this is one of Melbourne’s most blogged about cafés. I love the quirky touches and attention to detail (even though my coffee was missing a doughnut!) and the great menu, which effortlessly straddles the line between modern Australian and nostalgic French cuisine in a quintessentially Melbourne laneway.

The Hardware Sociéte on Urbanspoon

The Hardware Societe – 118-120 Hardware St, Melbourne (02) 9078 5992

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hot Cross Doughnuts

hot cross doughnuts

I love the idea of transforming classic sweets into a completely different form, and these days my choice of form seems to be doughnuts. After my Lamington Doughnuts were such a success for Australia Day, I wanted to try my hand at Hot Cross Bun Doughnuts for Easter. Yes, I am shameless, but can you blame me? They're so cute! And trust me, they taste even better.

hot cross doughnuts

I made a batch of my usual go-to doughnut recipe, and then filled them with a spiced custard and brandy-soaked currants before finally dipping the tops in dark chocolate and piping the signature cross in white chocolate. They were a tiny bit fiddly I'll admit, but I reckon they're completely worth it. And assembling these for Easter dessert is made much easier if you make the custard and soak the currants in advance.

hot cross doughnuts

I can't get over how much they actually taste like hot cross buns thanks to the fruit and that awesome custard, which is flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and cloves. I hope I don't have to do too much convincing to get you guys to try these ;)

I hope every one of you has a fabulous Easter break! I'm heading over to Perth early tomorrow, where I hear the weather is going to be lovely. See you next week!

hot cross doughnuts

Hot Cross Doughnuts
Makes about 20

(adapted from Gourmet Traveller)
• 125ml (1/2 cup) pouring cream
• 60ml (1/4 cup milk)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 225g (1 ½ cups) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
• 1 tablespoon dried yeast
• 30g caster sugar
• Vegetable oil for deep frying
• Dark chocolate, for dipping
• White chocolate, for piping crosses

Spiced Custard (adapted from Dorie Greenspan)
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1 cup cream
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
• ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
• ½ ground cloves, optional
• 6 large egg yolks
• ½ cup sugar
• 1/3 cup cornflour
• 3 ½ tablespoons butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Booze Soaked Currants
• 1/4 cup currants
• 3 tablespoons brandy

To make the spiced custard, bring the milk and cream to the boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat, spices, cover and allow to infuse for 45 minutes. Reheat to just before boiling point before continuing.

Meanwhile, in a large heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, pour about ¼ cup of the milk mixture through a sieve into the egg yolks – this will temper or warm the yolks so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk through the sieve. Pour back into the saucepan and place over a medium heat, and whisking vigorously and constantly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot) bring the mixture to a boil.

Keep at a boil, still whisking for 1-2 minutes until thickened, then remove the pan from the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape into a bowl and press a plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal. Refrigerate until cold. It can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

For the booze soaked currants, combine currants and brandy in a bowl. Cover and allow to soak at least overnight.

For the doughnuts, combine cream, milk and vanilla in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until lukewarm (30 seconds - 1minute). Meanwhile, combine flour, yeast, sugar and a pinch of fine salt in a large bowl. Add cream mixture and stir to combine. Turn onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes or until the dough is soft and smooth. Transfer to a lighly oiled bowl, cover and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (35-40 minutes).

Knock back the dough and roll out on a floured surface to 2cm thick. Cut out 5cm circles, place on trays lined with baking paper, cover with a clean towel and stand for 30 minutes or until risen. Preheat oil in a deep fryer or deep-sided saucepan to 180°C (350°F). Deep fry zeppole in batches, turning occasionally until golden and cooked through (3-4 minutes). Drain on paper towel and allow to cool slightly.

Make a small hole and pipe in spiced custard into each of the doughnuts. Through the hole, add some currants, pushing them inside with a chopstick. Melt the dark chocolate in a small bowl, and dip the top of each doughnut into the chocolate. Place in the fridge for 10-20 minutes to set. In the meantime, melt the white chocolate and place into a piping bag fitted with a small round piping tip. Pipe crosses onto each of the doughnuts and place in the fridge for another 10-20 minutes to set.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Chocolate Ombre Cake

chocolate ombre cake

It’s my sister Beth’s 19th birthday today, which of course makes me feel very old. I’ve mentioned before what an amazing, smart, beautiful girl she is, but she’s going to have to listen to me say it all over again! In the last year especially we’ve become very close and have had a great many adventures, including our recent trip to Melbourne together. I’m so lucky to have such a great sister.

chocolate ombre cake

And of course no birthday is complete without cake! I have to admit, this cake is not the one I had planned. I’ve had so many utter baking failures lately! After making three batches of ugly macarons that were supposed to decorate the outside of the cake, Steph suggested an ombre icing style instead and everything clicked into place. Ombre, meaning going from dark to light, is a gorgeous trend at the moment. I was inspired by this blog, although my version is definitely more slap dash messy chic!

chocolate ombre cake

I used my new favourite chocolate cake in the world - David Lebovitz's Devils Food Cake - which is almost impossible to mess up and produces a beautiful, rich cake every time. For the icing itself Beth requested our favourite cream cheese icing, which was lovely, but a swiss meringue buttercream would also work beautifully as well. What I love the most about the ombre effect is that it looks very impressive, but it’s actually not difficult to achieve. I even made a little video of how I decorated it! Enjoy...

Wishing a very very happy birthday to my dear sister Beth. Wishing you the best year ever xox

Chocolate Ombre Cake
Serves 10

Devil’s Food Cake (adapted from David Lebovitz)
• 200g unsweetened cocoa powder
• 3 cups plain flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
• 225g butter, at room temperature
• 3 cups caster sugar
• 4 eggs, at room temperature
• 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup strong black tea or coffee
• 1 cup milk

Cream Cheese Icing
• 500g cream cheese (2 packets) at room temperature
• 2 cups icing sugar
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• Purple food colouring (gel or liquid – or any colour you like)

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and line 3 x 20cm cake pans with baking paper. Sift together the cocoa powder, flour, salt, bicarb soda, and baking powder in a bowl. Using an electric mixer with a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated and then mix in the vanilla extract.

Mix together the tea/coffee and milk. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then add the tea and milk. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients. Spoon evenly between cake pans. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in tin about 5 minutes, then place on a wire rack and cool completely before icing.

Before you ice the cakes, trim with a serrated knife so each is level. To make the icing, place the cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until softened. Add icing sugar and vanilla and whip until smooth. Spoon about 1/5 of the icing into a small bowl, and add enough colouring until you’re happy for this to be the darker purple shade. Spoon another 1/5 of the icing into another small bowl, adding enough colouring for this to be the lighter purple shade.

To decorate, have a look at the video! Place the first layer of cake onto a plate or cake stand. Spread icing onto first layer with an offset spatula, and top with second layer of cake. Spread another layer of icing on the surface of the second layer. Top with the third layer, and then frost the entire cake with a thin layer of white icing – the crumb coat.

Now, starting at the bottom of the cake, spread a layer of the darker purple icing 1/3 of the way up the cake. Spread a layer of the lighter purple icing another 1/3 up the cake. Finish with the white icing, spreading over the remainder of the cake. Blend the icing with your offset spatula and serve.


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