One week in the middle of nowhere…

Take 40 people, 2 buses, a dusty outback town, a single shower, and a mesh of ideas and personalities, get them to eat together, sleep together and share each others lives for 7 days while they minister to a restless group of kids and teenagers and you create a life changing experience… looking over my dashboard I’ve realised it’s been an awful long time since I’ve blogged… and I am a bad blogger but the situation will be rectified once I can get over the fact that I do not have to work constantly and that yes I can take time to do things I enjoy and not feel guilty because I am not useful to God or Church if I am totally burnt out… hence as of today blogging MUST become a task on my to-do list and as a result, baking also… good.. settled…

So, to my week in the middle of nowhere… Now I’m not the most super energetic outgoing and ferociously social of gals but my week at StormCo in Nyngan forced me to step far outside the bounds of what I find comfortable and add a couple of kms and then maybe just maybe you’ll understand how far out of my comfort zone it was… but outside the comfort zone lies character development and a sense of accomplishment and lifetime memories that will change you from the inside out… My week in Nyngan serving the kids through a kids club, through deep and meaningfuls, through games and laughter and general hanging out did more for me than them… selfish I know but it was an unavoidable by-product of service to others… we all come back different people… so to the baking… luckily there was a way that I could contribute to StormCo that was completely within my comfort boundaries and that was through… baking… YES! I was very delighted to learn that before every StormCo trip there is a fundraiser and this so happened to be a cake auction… recently I’d purchased some cupcake books, you may have heard of them “Hello Cupcake” and “What’s New Cupcake?” I think I talked about them in a recent blog… well maybe not so recent considering my slackness.. anyway they have a super fun and intriguing subway sandwhich cupcake that I just couldn’t pass…

Super easy and super impressive, most of the ingredients are starburst lollies rolled out with a rolling pin and cut into various shapes imitating the ingredients of a subway sandwhich… the lettuce was most impressing to me… some thin green icing tossed through a bowl of cornflakes stuck in the freezer for a few minutes and voila! lettuce! add half a hotdog roll brushed with sugar syrup and sprinkled with sesame seeds and you have yourself a not so healthy (but oh so eye candy) cupcake delight!

I am indebted to my new friend Johnno for these fantastic shots that were far better than anything that I could muster or edit… check out his blog here!

I hope I inspired to not only bake but serve!

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Fancy pants getaway take 2…

I know… I know… I was meant to include the second half of our mid-week getaway over a week ago but I tell ya I got super busy last week… no nights at home 😦 but I guess that’s the nature of the job I love… SO.. Where was I? Oooh yes! The High Tea! Absolutely delightful, I think being in a super vintage and massive winged chair in an old style Hotel Lobby while reading Jane Austen made it much more of an experience… not to mention the dainty cakes and the SILVER service… ie. being waited on hand and foot by a white and black professionally clad waitress…

Not to mention the dainty little cakes and sandwhiches…

It was a well earned treat considering all the hard work we’d been doing lazy by the pool all morning with these delicious hunks of smoothie love…

The next day we did the token touristy site seeing… traveled around the magnificent Blue Mountains… across a startlingly deep gorge and down a frighteningly steep mountainside in a dodgy looking train contraption… This was… of course… followed by a relaxing massage and a final stop at our favourite little cafe for a pistachio biscotti and a dark chocolate and pistachio brownie…

Bliss…

Mid-week Fancy Pants Getaway…

There are certain times in ones life when… regardless of the financial situation.. a splurge is absolutely necessary… Last week just happened to be one such time… what better excuse to spend a lot of money and have a lot of fun than your very first wedding anniversary! Wow… typing it makes it feel so much more real… I’ve only been married for a year! It feels like a life time… not in a a bad way of course…

I think you just get so comfortable together that it can feel like you’ve been married for ever… it’s nice… so that is my excuse for not having a specifically food related blog this week… though we did eat some FANTASTIC food… the first evening Adrian took me to Darley’s Restaurant… the two hat restaurant that is a part of the whole Lilianfels area where we stayed in the Blue Mountains… and I tell you… it was magical… unfortunately I’m a little to shy to prance into a fancy restaurant with a big beefy camera and flash snaps of everything but if you’re super keen google the restaurant and you will understand the quality of the food… the next morning we found a quirky little cafe in the main st of Katoomba…

You know I struggle to remember the name of the cafe but I remember we chose it because they had fair trade coffee… aren’t we just so trendy and eco friendly? I think it also helped that they had a delicious breakfast menu… one of which was a “couples” brung… which seemed fitting considering the occassion… this my friends was possibly… dare I say it… the BEST brunch I have EVER eaten… Now, just a little background information… if you know me, you will know that I am quite a fan of the meal called breakfast (just a note: there is no such thing as brunch, its a crock, breakfast can and should be eaten at any time of the day!) so i have had my fair share of breakfasts… be it 8am or 8pm I am always willing to scoff a delicious breakfast and I tell you this was delicious… bircher muesli with stewed rhubarb, scrambled eggs, roasted tomato, mushrooms, pancakes with banana, grilled sourdough with ricotta and a berry compote… I am salivating just typing about it… but breakfast aside there was another highlight to the mid-week getaway…

any guesses? isn’t it lovely… I hope I have piqued your interest because you will have to wait till tomorrow for the rest of our adventure…

better add the token tourist photo…

Happy Splurging!

Dark Chocolate and Plum Clafoutis…

 

I’ve been completely addicted to stone fruit recently… not just because they are naturally sweet and succulent.. but they are also very much seasonal which equals very much affordable… something that has been especially important since the move down to Sydney where grocery prices are exorbitant to say the least… luckily I had an excellent excuse to bake this week… worship ministry meeting!

 

 

 

Worship ministry is a ministry in our church that is responsible for the inspiring church services every week… and as corny as it sounds work a little bit like this tasty clafoutis… separately all the ingredients are pretty bland (except maybe the plums and chocolate)… but by bringing them all together using the right processes and finesse… equal a truly remarkable experience!

 

 

Clafoutis is originally a french dish from the Limousin region… traditionally made with dark, sweet cherries (pips left in for added flavour) this twist on a classic takes these beautiful ruby blood plums and transforms them into a concentrated little gem perched in a moussy and rich chocolate pillow… this recipe is so simple to make and yet the results are truly incredible… I expected a light sponge style cake but was surprised to cut into a spongey, thick and warm dessert with the consistency of thick double cream… this ones a keeper so get in quick while the plums are fresh and frugle…

 

Dark Chocolate and Plum Clafoutis
Adapted from: Donna Hay’s Seasons
Serves: 8

Ingredients
1/3 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/3 cup castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup cream
175g dark chocolate, chopped
20g butter
5 blood plums

Method

  1. Place dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix wet ingredients in a jug.
  2. Whisk the wet ingredients in the dry and stir in the dark chocolate.
  3. Melt the butter in an oven proof fry pan then fill with the batter.
  4. Slice the plums in half and top with the plums.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes or until puffed up and cooked through.

Happy Baking!

Peachy Keen…

I absolutely adore stone fruits… but I find it extremely difficult to cook with them… not that there is anything particular difficult or challenging about cooking with a stone fruit… I just get very sad at seeing them baked away to a miserable, sticky slop like peach cobbler or crumble or something else that involves these beautifully sweet, rotund and slightly furry gems being “wasted” in a stinkin hot oven that leaves them a slightly bitter and slushy, peach reminiscent mush… sound overly dramatic.. well I am overtly serious!

My stone fruit philosophy is that a knife a plate and a room temperature yet slightly firm fruit is all that is necessary to truly enjoy this God given delicacy… yet at this time of year they are so incredible cheap that I overpurchased… ie. my eyes were bigger than my belly… and I found that some of my precious little darlings were becoming drab balls of mush… I had no choice… they had to be baked… luckily Donna Hay had the answer… Peachy Lemony Cake… sounds terrible dull and boring doesn’t it?

Well, let me tell you a thing or two.. this cake is anything but dull and boring… try light, sweet, tangy, fluffy, moist, drool-worthy… all these adjectives combined and topped with glimmers of oven dried peach…. aaahhhh gently warmed to the point of concentrated perfection… and the lemon adds an extra depth that encourages every bite… I was flawed to say the least… and it came at a welcome time! Unfortunately, shifting house and starting a new job leave little time for baking…but a passion cannot remain dormant long…

The best part? It’s an absolute breeze to make.. throw it all in the KitchenAid then just an hour in the oven while you take a much deserved bubble path… simple… but then I believe that it’s the simple things in life that a truly the best… the God given things.. like perfectly ripe peaches… a long hot bath.. or a cuddle from a love one… all reminiscent of a God that created all things and wants us to enjoy the life that He has given and the world He created…

Happy Baking

Lemony Peach Cake
Adapted from: Donna Hay’s Seasons Cookbook
Serves: 8

Ingredients:
175g butter
1/4 cup castor sugar
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
3 eggs
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup natural yoghurt
2 fresh peaches, sliced

Method
1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Place butter, sugar and lemon rind into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 6-8 minutes (very important to beat for the full time).
2. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition.
3. Add the flour, baking powder and yoghurt, beating until just combined. Spoon into a lined and lightly greased 25cm round cake tin.
4. Top with the peaches and bake for 1hr or until a skewer comes out clean. Dust with icing sugar and leave to cool in tin for 10 mins.

Daring Bakers Challenge January 2011…

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

You will be comforted to learn that my head hangs precariously in shame as I write this post… Yes, the last post was a Daring Bakers Challenger… Yes, this post is a Daring Bakers Challenge… No, I am not kidding you here and yes I have been incredibly slack in blogging and have no legitimate excuse for leaving you in such cyberspace suspense for so long and am thoroughly embarrased that all I’ve managed to syphon from my brain through to keyboard is a couple of poor excuses for Daring Bakers Challenges which were motivated by pure “do it or you’ll get kicked out of the Daring Kitchen” reasons… alright shameful apologies aside let me get to the very exciting challenge for this month! ENTREMENT!

Fantastique! Uh huh huh hu (spoken in the nasaliest accent I can muster)… yes french patisserie… *sigh* I heart all things french so upon learning that Entrement was french for extremely difficult but wow factor attractive sweet treat I was eager to get started… Entrement was a term originally used to describe a small dish served between courses and often a dessert… as time passed Entrement has evolved to a rather sophisticated piece of pastry architecture that typically signifies the end of a meal.. Entrement is characterised by what is called a Joconde Paste, a thin layer of sponge that lines the base and sides of the filling… the filling is typically a mousse or cheesecake but can be as adventurous as trifle layers, gelatins, pastry creams, pudding, Bavarian cream, fresh fruit, chocolate, curd…. the list is endless… which is why I love the freedom of this dessert…

For my dish I chose to recreate the traditional Joconde sponge…. I recreated the plain sponge with cocoa Decor paste even down to the typical diagonal stripe design… Of course this section of the dessert is entirely customisable also… you can colour the Decor paste or Joconde paste any way you like and with many different flavours… though the assembly looks tricky it is suprisingly simple… the Joconde and Decor pastes take a little prep time but once all is together it bakes quickly and is easy to set in the mould… I decided to keep it simply with an orange flavoured mousse with a mandarin jelly layer…

the mandarin jelly was a bit of a cheat using canned mandarins then setting the juice with a little gelatin but worked well with the light, airy texture of the mousse… When assembling the dessert make sure to leave ample time for the mousses or gelatins etc. to set… this makes it super simple because all parts can be created and assembled 24 hours in advance which is nice…

Though I wasn’t a huge fan of the orangey flavour it seemed to go down a treat with friends and family…. I caught my mum having a massive helping the next two nights… My recommendation? Don’t be intimidated and give it a shot! It’s easy to cut corners and get a good result… plus you can experiment with billions of different tasty combos!

Happy Baking!

Joconde Sponge

YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan

Ingredients:
¾ cup/ 180 ml/ 3oz/ 85g almond flour/meal – *You can also use hazelnut flour, just omit the butter
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 ml/ 2⅔ oz/ 75g confectioners’ (icing) sugar
¼ cup/ 60 ml/ 1 oz/ 25g cake flour *See note below
3 large eggs – about 5⅓ oz/ 150g
3 large egg whites – about 3 oz/ 90g
2½ teaspoons/ 12½ ml/ ⅓ oz/ 10g white granulated sugar or superfine (caster) sugar
2 tablespoons/ 30 ml/ 1oz / 30g unsalted butter, melted

*Note: How to make cake flour: http://www.joythebaker.com/blog/2009/09/how-to-make-cake-flour/

Directions:

  1. In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.
  2. Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour. (This can be done into your dirty egg white bowl)
  3. On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light. (If using a stand mixer use blade attachment. If hand held a whisk attachment is fine, or by hand. )
  4. Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.
  5. Fold in melted butter.
  6. Reserve batter to be used later.

Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste – This is how we recieved the recipe but I divided it by three because there was far to much! Simply weigh the egg whites to get a third.

YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan

Ingredients
14 tablespoons/ 210ml/ 7oz/ 200g unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups plus1½ tablespoons/ 385ml/ 7oz/ 200g Confectioners’ (icing) sugar
7 large egg whites – about 7 oz / 200g
1¾ cup/ 420ml/ 7¾ oz/ 220g cake flour
Food coloring gel, paste or liquid

COCOA Décor Paste Variation: Reduce cake flour to 6 oz / 170g. Add 2 oz/ 60 g cocoa powder. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together before adding to creamed mixture.

Directions:

  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (use stand mixer with blade, hand held mixer, or by hand)
  2. Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously.
  3. Fold in sifted flour.
  4. Tint batter with coloring to desired color, if not making cocoa variation.

Preparing the Joconde- How to make the pattern:

  1. Spread a thin even layer of décor paste approximately 1/4 inch (5 millimeter) thick onto silicone baking mat with a spatula, or flat knife. Place mat on an upside down baking sheet. The upside down sheet makes spreading easier with no lip from the pan.
  2. Pattern the décor paste – Here is where you can be creative. Make horizontal /vertical lines (you can use a knife, spatula, cake/pastry comb). Squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grains. Be creative whatever you have at home to make a design can be used. OR use a piping bag. Pipe letters, or polka dots, or a piped design. If you do not have a piping bag. Fill a ziplock bag and snip off corner for a homemade version of one.
  3. Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.
  5. Bake at 250ºC until the joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approx. 7 minutes. You can bake it as is on the upside down pan. Yes, it is a very quick bake, so watch carefully.
  6. Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat.
  7. Flip cooled cake on to a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove silpat. Cake should be right side up, and pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)
  8. Then it’s up to you to fill any way you like with as many flavour combination’s as you can handle!

Daring Bakers Challenger December 2010

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Ok… so maybe I’m a little late with this challenge but I’ve been very busy socializing and enjoying the company of my extended family :D… I’m sure you’ll forgive me for that! I was very excited about this challenge because I very much enjoy baking bread.. and when Adrian’s mum asked if I could make something for the neighbour I was very happy too! So my stollen has gone to a good home and I’m very proud of it!

The idea for the challenge was to make a traditional german Christmas bread a.k.a stollen (pronounced: schto-llen cool huh) and instead of the traditional loaf to make it into this delightful wreath shape… luckily Martha Stewart has a video of how to shape Stollen bread into a festive wreath… and it was incredibly helpful at turning my hideous lump of dough into a delightfully fashioned and famously festive wreath… it’s quite simple really… roll the dough out into a big rectangle… then roll up like a sponge roll.. grab the ends and moosh them together (in a fair more delicate manner than I did please)… then after its left to rise use some kitchen scissors to cut little snips all around and gently tug them out to create an unusual ring shape that will come out of the oven smelling and looking like Christmas!!

Dust with icing sugar and a festive bow and voila… a perfect (post) Christmas gift… Unfortunately, I didn’t get to taste the finished product because I think it would have been slightly uncouth to pass on a half scoffed stollen… but it doesn’t matter! That’s what Christmas is about! Sharing! I hope you shared a wonderful Christmas and some wonderful or not so wonderful (it doesn’t really matter) food… with you family and friends and those who are important to you! I just wish Christmas came more than once a year so I could see my family a whole lot more…

Happy Baking!

Ingredients:

¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) (22 ml) (14 grams) (1/2 oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) milk
10 tablespoons (150 ml) (140 grams) unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
5½ cups (1320 ml) (27 ozs) (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour (Measure flour first – then sift- plus extra for dusting)
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gms) sugar
¾ teaspoon (3 ¾ ml) (4 ½ grams) salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 grams) cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (very good) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract or orange extract
1¾ cup mixed fruit
3 tablespoons (45ml) rum or 1 tsp rum extract
12 red glacé cherries (roughly chopped) for the color and the taste. (optional)
1 cup (240 ml) (3 ½ ozs) (100 grams) flaked almonds
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath

Method:

1. Soak the mixed fruit: In a small bowl, soak the mixed fruit in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside.
2. Pour ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.
3. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) butter over medium – low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.
4. Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.
5. In a large mixing bowl (4 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.
6. Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.
7. Add in the soaked mixed fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red!
8. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn’t enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.
9. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
10. Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

Shaping the dough and Baking:
1. Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.
2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
4. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.
5. Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder.
6. Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape.
7. Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough.
8. Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
9. Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.
10. Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.