July 10, 2015

Caramel Pecan Oat Bars

...with chocolate chips, because almost everything is improved with chocolate.  Despite being packed with caramel, chocolate and sugar, the oats make these bars seem almost - dare I say - healthy!?

Recipe adapted from: My Baking Addiction
Ingredients - 20cm x 30cm brownie tin
290g butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
310g flour
2 cups rolled oats
277g brown sugar
1 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup pecans
1 cup caramel (recipe here)

1. Preheat the oven to 175C (350F).  Line your brownie tin with baking paper.

2. Melt the butter in a large heatproof bowl.  Add the vanilla essence.

3. Mix the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, bicarb soda and salt into the melted butter until all is combined.

4. Press half of the mixture evenly into the lined brownie tin - this is your base.

5. Bake for about 8 minutes, and chop your pecans into rough chunks.

6. Take the base out of the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips and pecans over it.  Then pour the caramel on top.

7. Using your fingers, break the rest of the oat mixture over the top of the caramel.

8. Bake the slice for another 15 minutes until the top is golden.

9. Let the slice cool before slicing into bars or squares or whatever shape you like.  I dug straight in with a fork and let me tell you, it was amazing!  However, it's much easier to cut the slice up when it's completely cool.


June 28, 2015

Choc Chip Cookies (Anna Olson)

I always love trying new choc chip cookie recipes - they're such a staple cookie and each recipe brings different results.  My favourite part of this particular recipe is the dough - it has a great blend of brown and white sugar, and the corn flour makes the texture really smooth (it tastes amazing!)

Recipe adapted from: Clockwork Lemon
125g butter
90g brown sugar
65g white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
195g flour
2 tbsp corn flour
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 175C (350F).  Beat the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add the egg and vanilla, beat until combined.

3. Add the flour, corn flour, bicarb soda and salt - mix until fully combined.

4. Finally, mix the chocolate chips into the dough.

5. Create tablespoon sized balls of dough and bake for about 10 minutes.  The cookies should be golden on top.

6. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool further.  Or...enjoy them warm!

June 16, 2015

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls are a classic food, and so delicious!  These ones come with a nut option and plain cinnamon sugar.  Either way, they're fantastic - soft, sweet and yummy!

Recipe adapted from: Joy The Baker
Ingredients - dough (8 large buns)
1 sachet active dry yeast (7g)
63mL water
125mL milk (at room temperature - just heat it in the microwave for a few seconds if it's straight from the fridge!)
62g white sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg
1 egg yolk
426g flour
Pinch of salt
113g butter (at room temperature)

Ingredients - filling
125g white sugar
46g brown sugar
1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup walnuts
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp maple syrup
40g butter

1. Warm the water so it's just lukewarm - about 45C/115F.  In the bowl of your mixer, combine the yeast, water and half a teaspoon of white sugar.  Let the yeast proof for a few minutes until it's frothy.

2. Add the milk, white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, egg and egg yolk to the yeast mixture, mix with a whisk until combined.

3. Add the flour and salt to the mixture, and mix with the dough hook attachment for your mixture.  Mix the dough (or knead if you're not using a stand mixer) for a few minutes so it all comes together.

4. Add the butter (113g) and keep kneading the dough until everything's combined and smooth.

5. The dough may be sticky - if it's too sticky, you can add up to 1/3 cup more flour and knead it in.

6. Grease a bowl (I just use the mixer bowl I've been doing everything in) with some extra butter, then plop your dough in.  Cover the bowl with cling wrap or a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

7. When the dough's nearly finished rising, you can start making the filling.  Finely chop the pecans and walnuts (I only used about 1/8 cup of each type of nut because I wanted to do half the buns with nuts and half without).

8. Combine the white sugar, brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon then work the maple syrup into the mixture.  I just used a spoon for this.  Also, melt the 40g butter.

9. Once your dough has risen, punch the air our and knead a bit more flour in if needed.

10. Flour your clean work surface and roll the dough out into a large rectangle about 25cm x 50cm (10 inches x 20 inches).  It seems like this will be way way too big but trust me, the dough can go the distance!

11. Brush the dough generously with the melted butter, then evenly spread the filling onto the dough.  Leave about 5cm at one of the short edges of the dough without filling - this is so you can seal the edge down when you roll the dough up.  Press the filling down gently with your hands to make sure it's stuck down.

I only sprinkled the nuts on half of the dough.

12. Roll the dough up, starting with the short side that has filling all the way up to the edge.  Try to do this as tightly as possible, press the seam down to adhere it to the rest of the dough.

13. Cut the dough into 8 even slices.  Line a brownie tin (mine is 23cm x 32cm) with baking paper and place each bun slice into the pan, evenly spacing them out.  As the rolls do rise more, they squish up and become more rectangular - if you want them to be more circular, you can use two trays and spread them out.

14. Cover the tin with cling wrap or a tea towel and let the dough rise again for another 2 hours.

15. Preheat your oven to 190C (375F) after the dough has risen again, and bake the rolls for about 30 minutes.  If you insert a toothpick into the bread part (not the filling) it should come out clean.  When you touch the tops of the buns, the top should be crusty but they should be soft in the middle - I initially thought they might not be fully baked but fear not, they were perfect!

16. If desired, brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter.  Let the rolls cool in the tin for a bit, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool a bit more.

17. When you're ready to eat, peel the rolls away from each other and consume them.  They're amazing when warm from the oven!

June 6, 2015

Decadent Chocolate Biscuits at Savour School

Hello all!

Last weekend I took the Decadent Chocolate Biscuits class at Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School - 'decadent chocolate biscuits' only scratches the surface of the amazing desserts I learnt how to make!

The class was instructed by Paul Kennedy and together we learnt 5 recipes and lots of new skills including tempering chocolate, dipping, breton biscuits and fruit marshmallow.

This is the 'Almohada', a lemon crumble biscuit base with blackberry jam, pistachio praline and blackberry marshmallow - all dipped in chocolate.  When I first saw the recipe and the combination of flavours, I was a bit dubious; but everything came together and turned out to be absolutely delicious!  Using real fruit puree in the marshmallow made for wonderful taste.

This is the 'Drunken Raisin'; gianduja, hazelnut crunch, chocolate sponge and rum-soaked raisins in a bar shape.  It's finished by being dipped in chocolate and brushed with copper lustre dust.

'Drunken Raisin'
I'm a sucker for gianduja and hazelnut praline paste!  (And the lustre dust was so much fun to play with...)

'Drunken Raisin'
Next is the 'Menta', a shortbread base with mint-infused caramel and mint ganache.

I'm so glad that I learned how to make nice, chewy caramel.

These are the 'Circle Your Wagons' - coconut jelly and pineapple and ginger marshmallow sandwiched between gingerbread biscuits.

'Circle Your Wagons'
So delicious!  The pineapple and ginger flavour was so beautiful!

'Circle Your Wagons'
Finally, the 'Pacana', the simplest of the desserts!  They have a pecan breton base with caramel and a toasted pecan, dipped in chocolate.

I'm so glad I was able to attend the class, I had so much fun!


May 31, 2015

Apple Pie

I recently watched and loved the TV show Pushing Daisies starring Lee Pace, who plays a sweet, socially awkward pie-maker.  Naturally, there were many pies featured on the show and I have never baked a pie other than lemon meringue.

My family is decidedly not a pie family; I haven't had a wide range of pie experiences, so I decided to tackle apple pie first.  It seemed like a good place to start.

The first time I tried this, I went straight from the recipe and it was a pretty big disappointment.  Putting uncooked apples in the pie resulted in, basically, a pie shell with slightly softened apple slices inside.  I wanted something with more of a soft, squishy apple filling, so I played it by ear and did my own thing.

I'm pleased to say that my round of pie-baking was a success!  The crust has a great texture with a hint of lemon that's not overpowering; and the innards of the pie are sweet, soft and lightly spiced.

Recipe heavily adapted from: Jamie Oliver
Ingredients - crust (20cm pie)
250g flour
50g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1/2 lemon (use the zest from the other half in your filling)
125g cold butter
1 egg
1 tsp milk

Ingredients - filling
4 cooking apples (I used Granny Smiths)
1 eating apple (I used a Pink Lady)
5 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Squeeze of lemon juice

Ingredients - egg wash
1 egg
Splash of milk

Method - crust
1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).

2. Mix the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor.

3. Add the lemon zest and cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

4. Add the egg and pulse until the dough starts to come together.  Add the milk and pulse until the dough is smooth.

5. Form the dough into a flat rectangle and wrap it in cling wrap.  Leave it in the fridge and get on with making your filling!

Method - filling
1. Peel your apples and cut them up into eighths.

2. Place the apples into a saucepan along with the brown sugar, ginger, lemon zest and lemon juice.

3. Mix the ingredients together and cook over medium heat until the apples are softened.  Cook longer if you want a softer filling, or cook for a shorter time if you prefer more texture.

4. Take the filling off the heat and let it cool.

Method - baking/assembly
1. Take the crust dough out of the fridge.  Flour your clean work surface and split the dough into two portions, about 2/3 and 1/3 each.  The bigger portion will be for your base and the smaller for the top of the pie.

2. Roll the larger portion out into a circle about 1/2 cm thick (make sure to flour your rolling pin and the top of the pastry so nothing gets sticky).  You want it to be big enough to drape over the sides of your pie dish.

3. Carefully roll the pastry over your rolling pin then unroll it over the pie dish.  Gently manipulate the pastry so there are no air bubbles and the pastry is flush with the entire base and sides of the dish.

4. Pour your apple filling straight onto the pastry and make sure it's packed in evenly.

5. Whisk the egg with a small splash of milk (egg wash).  Brush some of the egg wash around the edge of the pie crust.

6. Roll the other portion of pastry out to 1/2 cm thick.  Roll the pastry over the rolling pin and unroll it over the top of the pie.

7. Fold the edges of the pastry in and crimp them together with your fingers.

8. Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash.

9. Cut a few slits in the top of the pie - to let steam escape as it bakes.  I also sprinkled the top of my pie with some white sugar.

10. Bake the pie for about 40 minutes until the crust is golden and firm.

Let the pie cool, then enjoy!

May 21, 2015

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is a staple recipe and it's so, so good.  The cake itself is moist and absolutely delicious, with the slight crunch of walnuts throughout, and topped off with classic cream cheese icing.  I find that carrot cake is a universally liked dessert so it's great to have in your baking repertoire!

Ingredients - one layer 23cm square cake or two layer 21cm round cake
250g brown sugar
3 eggs
250mL vegetable oil
230g flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb soda
Pinch of cinnamon
250g carrot (2-3 carrots)
Walnuts to taste (I usually use about a cup - this step is optional!)

Ingredients - cream cheese icing
60g butter (room temperature butter works best!)
350g cream cheese
350g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Optional - walnuts for garnishing

Method - cake
1. Preheat your oven to 180C (356F).  Grate your carrot.  If you're using walnuts, chop them up roughly.

2. Beat the sugar and eggs, then mix the oil in.

3. Fold the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and cinnamon into the mixture.

4. Finally, fold the grated carrot and chopped walnuts into the batter.

5. Line a baking tin (23cm square tin) with baking paper and pour the mixture in.  Bake the cake for 1 hour, an inserted toothpick should come out clean.

6. Let your cake cool for a bit in the tin, then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.

7. Get started on the cream cheese icing!

Method - icing

1. Beat the butter and cream cheese until combined.

2. Add the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.

3. Finally, add the vanilla and beat until combined.

4. Once your cake is completely cool, ice it to your preference.  It looks great decorated with walnuts.

The great thing about carrot cake is that you can make it look as 'rustic' and 'homey' as you want it to.  If you're doing it in layers, you can just ice between the layers and on top and leave the sides icing-free; you can put walnuts anywhere you like; and you can make the icing smooth or messy-looking.  There's lots of room for experimentation!

I like to ice the whole cake (because more icing is better!), chop walnuts up and put them on the sides.  Another method I often use is placing walnut halves around the edge of the top of the cake.

Carrot cake is also great in cupcake form!