December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Gingerbread, nicely packaged in cellophane bags with little ribbons, make lovely gifts!

Mum did most of the gingerbread baking this year, while I stuck to decorating.

We managed to churn out a couple of gingerbread houses, too.

I got a bit more artsy with the wall designs.  I piped them on and let them dry before I constructed the houses.

I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas!

November 26, 2011

Molten Chocolate Babycakes, and the joy that is Gianduja

Gianduja is a truly delicious substance made of hazelnut (or another nut) paste and chocolate - you may know it as hazelnut praline.  It melts like chocolate and acts rather like chocolate in baking, too, as I discovered in my little forays in substituting it into recipes.  Its taste is reminiscent of Nutella and expensive chocolates, i.e. mouthwatering.

It can also be used for decoration, in different forms depending on how you cut it.  It can go into chunks or shavings, but if you're careful you can coax it into curls.

One of the things I used the gianduja for was Molten Chocolate Babycakes, a delightful and completely chocolatey recipe from James McNair via a Nigella Lawson cookbook.  The recipe uses chocolate but I substituted about half the chocolate for gianduja and it gave the babycakes a lovely hazelnut-chocolatey (Nutella-y, gianduja-y) taste.  The babycakes are equally as good with just chocolate, mind you.

Recipe Adapted From: How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
Molten Chocolate Babycakes
50g unsalted butter/margarine, plus extra for greasing
350g good quality dark chocolate
150g caster sugar
4 large eggs
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g plain flour

1. Preheat the oven to 200 C/392 F.  If you're making the babycakes in advance (they can be refrigerated as batter, because it's best to eat them right after they've been baked) then don't heat the oven until closer to the serving time.

2. Grease six large cupcake/muffin moulds or about 12 smaller ones with butter.  Make sure there's adequate greasing because, if not, the babycakes will stick.

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

4. Cream the butter and sugar.

5. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and add a pinch of salt, then the vanilla.

6. Stir in the flour, then the cooled chocolate, blending it into a smooth batter.

7. Divide the batter between the moulds.  If you take too long to do this, the batter will begin to harden and then it just gets annoying, so keep that in mind!

8. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes (make sure you bake them for the whole 12 minutes if the babycakes have been in the fridge)

9. Once removed from the oven, upturn the moulds onto plates and serve with ice cream or cream (the babycakes are very rich!)

When cut open, the babycakes should be molten and gooey and warm on the inside.


September 27, 2011

World Peace Cookies

It's been a while, my friends; but here I am again.  I have delicious cookies for you all this time!

These cookies, rightly named 'World Peace Cookies' are absolutely amazing - they have a rich, chocolatey, slightly salty taste and a delightful, slightly crunchy - slightly soft - slightly chewy texture.
I usually make a double batch of these, because more cookies are better.  And with the help of my brother, half of them end up disappearing as soon as they're baked.  Also, there are no eggs in the dough, so feel free to eat as much unbaked-cookie-goodness as you like!

Recipe Adapted From: Dorie Greenspan via Confessions of a Bake-A-Holic
143g butter
124g brown sugar
125g white sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence/extract
1 tsp salt (sea salt is recommended - add less or more depending on how salty you want the biscuits to be)
142g dark chocolate chips OR chopped chocolate chunks

194g flour
33g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

1. Beat the butter until it's soft and fluffy.  Since I'm used to margarine, if I'm planning to make something using real butter (like these cookies) I usually leave a block out on the kitchen bench overnight so it gets soft; it's very annoying to try and beat cold butter into submission.

2. Add the brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla essence and salt and beat until fluffy and light.

3. Add the flour, cocoa and baking soda.  Mix these dry ingredients into the batter.
If you're not using an electric mixer (e.g. a KitchenAid) for this, it's best to sift the cocoa powder so you don't get unmixed clumps of powder in your baked biscuits.

4. Mix in the chocolate chips.  Some kneading may be required to get the dough to come together.  Letting the KitchenAid work its magic was successful for me.

5. Divide the dough into a number of bits (if you're making a single batch, divide in half or in quarters if you're making a double batch).  Roll these blobs into nice, rounded logs and wrap them in cling wrap.  I don't measure the length of my logs, but 3.8cm/1.5 inches is suggested.

6. Refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours.  When you're about ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 160 degrees C/325 F.

7. Cut the logs into 1 - 1.5cm rounds and place them on baking trays lined with baking paper/silicone mats or whatever you use.  Make sure there's quite a bit of space between them, they do spread a bit.  If your rounds are falling apart, just squish them back together.

Remember to eat all the off-cuts!

8. Bake for 11 - 12 minutes in the preheated oven.  The cookies will look cracked on the top, but they should still be soft to the touch.

9. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.  Or you could just eat them, because they're amazing when they're warm!

July 24, 2011

Lemon Bars

These lemon bars are tangy, sweet and very easy to make.  When baked, the slice forms 3 layers - a soft biscuity base, a gooey lemony middle and a soft, slightly crunchy cake topping.  The recipe here is doubled from that in the cookbook - I found that a single amount of topping didn't give enough lemony-ness for my liking.

Recipe Adapted From: The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander
Ingredients - base (17 x 26 cm (6.5 x 10 inch) baking tin)
150g flour
4 tbsp caster sugar
130g cold butter

Ingredients - topping
4 eggs
500g caster sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
6 tbsp flour

1. Preheat oven to 160 C (320 F).  Line a 17 x 26 cm (6.5 x 10 inch) tin with baking paper.

2. Make the base first.  Using a food processor, combine the flour and caster sugar.

3. Cut the cold butter into rough cubish bits, not too big.

4. Whizz the butter into the flour and sugar until combined.  If it looks crumbly, keep processing it and it should come together - if not, add a little more butter.

5. Press the dough into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

6. While the base is cooking, whisk eggs and sugar until well mixed.  You don't need to beat the mixture, so I do it by hand.

7. Zest the lemon and add it to the egg mixture, then juice the lemon.

8. Strain the pips out of the lemon juice (using some pulp is OK, it adds flavour) and if there isn't enough, juice another lemon or add bottled lemon juice.  Add the juice to the egg mixture and stir it in until well combined.

9. Sift in the flour and whisk gently to combine.

10. When the base is done, remove it from the oven and reset the heat to 150 C (302 F).  Pour the topping onto the base, while the base is hot, and bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is golden.  It should be a little springy to touch, but if you poke it too hard it will crack!

11. Cool completely before cutting the lemon bars into the size slices of your choice.  I usually cut them into bars about 2.5cm x 6cm.  If desired, dust the finished bars with icing sugar.

May 21, 2011

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

These cookies are probably some of the most delicious things on the planet, and are incredibly simple to make.  They're like brownies, except crunchier on the edges, filled with chocolate chips, even fudgier (le gasp!) and much easier to eat.  If you are in need of a chocolate hit or just something to cheer you up, make them.  You won't be disappointed.

Recipe Adapted From: Handle the Heat
280g dark chocolate (to melt)
90g butter/margarine
3 eggs
250g sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
75g flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter/margarine)
185g chocolate chips

1. Melt the 280g dark chocolate with the butter and stir until smooth.  Set aside to cool.

2. Whip eggs and sugar until thick and pale; it should take about 2 minutes.

3. Stir in the vanilla essence and the melted chocolate mixture.

4. Fold the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into the chocolate mixture.  It's best to sift the cocoa powder, otherwise you'll end up with huge lumps of powder in your cookies.

5. Fold in the chocolate chips.

6. Cover the dough and leave it in the fridge to chill for an hour or overnight.

7. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 175 degrees C (350 F).

8. Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place onto a baking sheet with a fair amount of space in between.  They spread quite a bit.

9. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes.

10. Allow the cookies to cool on the trays for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack.  Alternatively, you could just eat them all while the choc chips are still melty.  Your call.


April 10, 2011


Today I have some cute, colourful cupcakes for you all to see - Puffle cupcakes, in honour of my cousin Alex's birthday.

Puffles are little creatures from Club Penguin, a game which Alex likes.  For his birthday this year, Mum and I made Puffle cupcakes.

We started with a plain vanilla cupcake, then iced the cupcakes with simple buttercream coloured blue, red, green, yellow, purple or orange.  We used so much food colouring, and it was so bright!  It was a little difficult to get the Puffles' pouffy hair to stick up, but we managed it.

We whipped up a batch of royal icing and tinted some black to do the Puffles' eyes.  Mum piped black outlines and the pupils onto baking paper, then after that dried we piped in the white.  When it had all set, we peeled the eyes off the baking paper and stuck them onto the buttercream.

We'd originally planned to use fondant for the eyes, but royal icing worked much better.  For one, it would have been very difficult to get the black outlines right, and then the eyes would end up draped lamely over the buttercream like Dali's melty clocks.

Alex had a fun birthday party, and liked the cupcakes (apparently they were recognisable as Puffles (SCORE!)) so I'm happy.

Happy birthday Alex!

March 25, 2011

Marbled Blueberry Cake

*flails wildly*
I'm back, and I have cake this time.  A delicious, swirly blueberry vanilla cake, which is delightful when consumed warm out of the oven.  It's pretty, too!


Recipe adapted from: Homestyle Cookies, Muffins and Cakes
Ingredients (20 cm (8 inch) cake)
1 tbsp white sugar
195g fresh or thawed frozen blueberries
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
125g butter
165g self-raising flour
125g caster sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
Icing sugar to dust

1. If using frozen blueberries, weigh out 195g and leave them out to defrost.  Leave the eggs out to warm up too.

2. When the blueberries are thawed, preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 F).

3. Grease and line a 20cm (8 inch) diameter round cake tin.

4. Place the white sugar and half (approx. 95g) of the blueberries into a small saucepan.  Stir over a medium heat until the blueberry juice begins to run.

5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining blueberries.

6. Beat the eggs lightly then add the vanilla and butter, beat well.  Mine looked terrible for ages (probably because the eggs were cold) but suddenly conglomerated.  If yours looks like mine did, do not despair!  Just keep beating them.

7. Mix the self raising flour and caster sugar.  Make a well in the centre and pour the egg mixture in.  Fold the two mixtures together.

8. Transfer 3/4 cup of the cake batter into the blueberry saucepan.  Mix the cake batter into the blueberry mixture until combined.

9. Drop random spoonfuls of blueberry and vanilla batter into the prepared cake tin.  Try to alternate white and blue.

10. Use a knife or skewer to swirl the batter and create a marbled effect.  Just do it gently - if you over mix then it'll turn out all blended instead of swirled.

11. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top.

12. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

13. Let the cake cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin.  

14. Serve the cake warm and dusted with icing sugar.