April 23, 2014

Zesty Lemon Shortbread

These shortbreads are crisp, fresh and quite sour (for my sweet tooth, anyway; but this is mitigated by a liberal dusting of icing sugar).  They have a lovely smooth texture and the lemon zest really adds a pop of flavour.

Recipe adapted from: Martha Stewart via My Baking Addiction
185g butter
60g icing sugar
Zest of two lemons
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp corn flour
1/4 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter)
280g flour
Extra icing sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 175C (350F).

2. Cream the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla and beat until combined.  It may take a while for the lemon juice to incorporate, but let the mixer run and it'll all come together.

4. Add the corn flour, salt and flour about 1/4 cup at a time, mixing in between until it is all combined.

5. Divide the dough in half and roll them into logs.  Wrap the logs in baking paper and let them chill in the fridge for about an hour, or until they're firm for cutting.

6. Cut the logs into slices about 1cm thick, and bake for about 13 minutes or until the biscuits are lightly golden on top.

7. Let the biscuits cool and then sift icing sugar over the top to dust them with some added sweetness.

April 19, 2014

Rainbow Cupcakes

Somewhere over the rainbow...

...are these gorgeous, colourful cupcakes topped with cloudy vanilla buttercream.

I'm incredibly thrilled that these turned out so well, with relatively little trial and error; in fact, they're quite easy to create, though they do require a bit of time and patience.

I began by whipping up a batch of this cream cheese pound cake.  I then used food colouring to tint equal amounts of batter red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.  I decanted the batter into Ziploc bags - this is to make it easier to pipe the batter into the cupcake tin.

Now comes the tougher bit.  Each layer of coloured batter is piped into the patty pan-lined cupcake tin, then baked for about 5 minutes so that the batter flattens and forms a 'skin' on the top.  This ensures that each layer is perfectly flat and prevents the colours from sinking into each other and blending.  Repeat for every colour.

After the final colour was piped on (at this point the batter was almost up to the top of the patty pans), I baked the cupcakes for another 10 minutes or so to make sure everything cooked through.  If unsure, always test whether they're done by lightly touching the tops to see if they spring back, or poking a toothpick in to check that it comes out clean.

After the cupcakes cooled, I whipped up some simple vanilla buttercream and piped it on top.

The cupcakes looked really adorable with little sugar flowers crowning the icing, and it means that the rainbow inside is hidden until the patty pans are peeled away.  It was great to see everyone's surprise and excitement when they opened the cupcakes up.

Very exciting.  I got so many questions as to how I did it - these cupcakes are definitely crowd pleasers.

I think these would also be cute in a monochrome gradient or in alternating colours.  The possibilities are endless!

April 5, 2014

Chocolate Mud Cake

I've always had the impression that mud cake should be like its name - dense and fudgy - but after ordering mud cake at restaurants one too many times, I've learnt a hard truth.  Mud cake is always dry, slightly crumbly, but with an upside of intense chocolatey-ness.  If you want a fudgy cake, you have to go for something different.

Of course I had to bake it for myself to see, and yes, dryness is a big factor, which is quite unfortunate.  This can be mitigated by heating the cake up and serving with some kind of sauce, and after that it's quite acceptable, but given that I'm a fan of moist cakes, this isn't a recipe I'll be reaching for very often.

Recipe adapted from: Simple Essentials Chocolate by Donna Hay
375g butter
230g brown sugar
3 eggs
300g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
80g cocoa powder
200g dark chocolate
180mL (6 fl oz) milk

1. Preheat the oven to 160C (320F).

2. Melt the chocolate and set it aside to cool.

3. Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition.

5. Sift the cocoa powder.

6. Fold the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and melted chocolate into the batter.

7. Stir in the milk until combined.

8. Pour the batter into a 22cm round tin and bake for 1 1/4 hours or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

This cake is best served warm with cream, coulis or, if you have it, it's glorious with a dollop of praline paste!

March 10, 2014

White Chocolate Cake with Lemon Glaze

The majority of my household, myself included, are worshippers of dark chocolate.  Then there's my Dad - who loves white chocolate.  This is very handy as he voluntarily picks the white chocolates in assortments while the rest of us fight over the others.

The downside is that he always asks me to bake things with white chocolate and I always say "uhhhh...no."  However, occasionally, I acquiesce to his request and do something like this; a delicious white chocolate cake with a tart lemony glaze.

I'm so glad that I made this, because the cake had a perfect fluffy-yet-dense texture and the glaze complemented the sweet heaviness of the white chocolate so well.  Just make sure that you use good quality white chocolate to make this - David Lebovitz says that the only fat it should contain is from the cocoa butter and milk.  If it has vegetable oil, it's a no-go!  Mum bought white chocolate from Koko Black especially for this  (it was worth it).

Recipe adapted from: David Lebovitz
Ingredients - cake
150g butter
170g white chocolate
Zest of one lemon (alternatively, use about a teaspoon of lemon juice if you don't have lemons on hand)
150g white sugar
2 eggs
150g flour

Ingredients - glaze
120g icing sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 190C (375F) and line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.

2. Gently heat the butter, white chocolate, salt and lemon zest in the microwave, stirring frequently, until the chocolate is melted.

3. Whisk the sugar with the eggs (I did this by hand), then add the white chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.

4. With a spatula, fold the flour into the batter, making sure not to overmix.

5. Pour the batter into your prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

6. Let the cake cool for a moment then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.

7. It's time to make the lemon glaze!  It's easy-peasy - mix the icing sugar and lemon juice together until smooth.

8. Pour the glaze over the cake, making sure to spread it out so that there are some sweet little drips over the side.

Then, you can either wait until the glaze hardens, or you can dig straight in and enjoy!

February 28, 2014

Macadamia Gianduja Chunk Cookies

These chunky cookies are melt-in-your-mouth shortbread packed full of creamy gianduja and crunchy macadamias.  This recipe originally calls for hazelnuts, which ties in with the gianduja, but I only had macadamias on hand when I made this and it was still glorious.

Recipe adapted from: Chewy Gooey Crispy Cruncy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich
225g butter/margarine
125g white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter/margarine)
310g flour
125g chopped gianduja (or milk chocolate if you don't have gianduja on hand, though I highly recommend getting some because it's so good)
3/4 cup macadamias or hazelnuts

1. Chop your gianduja into largish chunks.  Roughly chop the macadamias and toast them in a frypan or in the oven on the grill setting, then set them aside to cool.

2. Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt until blended.

3. Stir in the flour until moistened.

4. Stir the gianduja and nuts into the dough.  At this point, my dough was kind of bitsy and didn't really look like a normal biscuit dough; but have no fear!

5. Refrigerate the dough for a few hours or overnight if you can.

6. When you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 160C (325F).

7. Using your hands, take roughly tablespoons of dough and pat them together to form a ball.  Due to the sheer amount of nuts and gianduja, you may need to do a bit of squishing to make sure the cookies stick together!

8. Place the dough balls on baking paper or silicone mats, making sure they have a little space to spread (about 5cm).

9. Bake for about 20 minutes or until they are lightly golden on the top.

10. Cool the cookies and consume at your leisure.  If desired, sift some icing sugar on top for that extra touch of sweetness.

February 20, 2014

Fairy Bread

I am often surprised by how many foods are so well known in Australia and are relatively or completely non-existent overseas.  Tim Tams, for one; Tiny Teddies, Vegemite and the glorious fairy bread.

If you are unfamiliar with fairy bread, it is rainbows, happiness and very easy to make.  It's popular in Australia at children's birthday parties - I made it for my Mum's birthday and we had it for lunch.  (Super nutritious and totally age appropriate, obviously).

All you need for fairy bread are 100s and 1000s (rainbow sprinkles - the more artificial colouring, the better...), fresh white bread and butter/margarine.  Place the sprinkles in a shallow dish, spread the bread with butter, dunk the bread into the sprinkles and cut into shapes of your choosing.  It'd be really cute to use cookie cutters and have fairy bread in hearts and stars!

In all seriousness, fairy bread is fun and delicious - I definitely recommend it for celebratory occasions!