Monday, May 31

rhubarb & custard crumble tart

There are few things I love more than custard. So when I found out that my boyfriend - while we were in our courting days - hated custard, I felt like he'd slapped me. How can someone hate custard? I soon thereafter discovered he was basing this statement on his only experience with custard... the carton variety. Gasp! 

Surely a distaste for something so heavenly is negotiable, right? So shortly after, I made (really, I did force him to) try fresh, homemade vanilla bean custard. And he changed his mind. Of course. 

Since then - and it has been a while now - I make custard based desserts as much as possible. Baked custards, crème brulée, custard tarts, custard tea cakes, cupcakes, whatever I can. This lovely tart combines two of his and favourite things. And it's pretty amazing.

Recipe taken from Delicious June 2010 issue (which, on a tangent is perfect)

For tart:
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, plus 3 yolks
Finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
1 tbsp cornflour
300 mls thickened cream
2 vanilla beans, split, seeds scraped
400 gms rhubarb, chopped
20 gms unsalted butter, chopped 
1 sheet frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed

For topping:
1/2 cup plain flour
50 gms unsalted butter, cold and chopped
2 tbsps brown sugar

For filling, combine half the caster sugar with eggs, yolks, zest and cornflour in a bowl. 
Place cream and seeds of one vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Slowly pour hot cream over egg mixture, stirring. Return to a clean saucepan over a low heat and cook, stirring constantly until custard has thickened slightly (about 5 - 6 mins). Strain custard into a jug, cover surface with glad wrap to prevent a skin from forming, and refrigerate until needed. 

Preheat a baking tray in an oven at 200C/180C fan-forced. Place the rhubarb in a single layer in another baking dish with remaining caster sugar and vanilla seeds. Dot with butter, drizzle with 1 tbs water and add vanilla pod. Roast for 15 mins until rhubarb is tender but keeps its shape. Carefully remove rhubarb pieces and set aside, reserving juices. 

Use pastry to line a 21cm loose-bottomed tart pan and prick base with a fork. Line with baking paper, and fill with pastry weights (or uncooked rice). Bake for 10 mins on hot baking tray. Remove the weights, and bake for a further 5 mins until pastry is crisp and golden. 

Meanwhile, for the crumble, place the flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Add butter and rub with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir through brown sugar. Scatter over a baking tray.

Pour cooled custard into the pastry case, then arrange the rhubarb on top. Place tart on the heated tray and return to the oven with the crumble topping. Bake both for 12 - 15 mins, shaking crumble tray throughout, until tart filling is just set and crumble forms golden clumps (it will harden upon cooling). Cool tart slightly before removing from the pan. 

Serve warm or at room temperature, scattered with the crumble topping and drizzled with reserved rhubarb juice. 

Recommended baking soundtrack: Songs of Green Pheasant - Songs of Green Pheasant

Saturday, May 29

orange blossom cakes (filled with white chocolate & coconut ganache)

My intentions of posting frequently have been grossly sabotaged by an illness I just can't shake. Quite early in the piece for excuses, isn't it?

My sister is attending a baby shower today and asked me to bake cakes. Without being in-your-face-feminine, I wanted something delicate, ladylike, and... special. Expectations, meet orange blossom.

I love floral food. It's always pretty, and despite becoming more common everyday, still slightly unusual enough to trick people into thinking you're really innovative. I chose white chocolate as a filling as it compliments orange blossom water so well, and the coconut was thrown in just for a bit of texture. You could decorate these cakes using a light and shiny glace´ icing and some sugar flowers, but I chose cream cheese frosting and a sprinkling of desiccated coconut.

The cupcake recipe (aside from the orange blossom water) is my absolute favourite vanilla cake recipe - courtesy of AWW. It's so simple because rater than creaming the butter and sugar, you throw all ingredients in the bowl from step one. How could this be easier?

Ingredients (makes 12)

For cakes
90 gms butter, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp orange blossom water
1 cup self raising flour
2 tbsps milk
2 eggs

For filling:
200 gms white chocolate, melted
1/4 cup desiccated coconut

For frosting:
340 gms cream cheese, softened
55 gms butter, softened
4 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp coconut essence
small amount of food colouring (I used Wilton's creamy peach)
2 tbsps desiccated coconut

For cakes, preheat oven to 180C/160C fan-forced. Place 12 paper cases into a 12 capacity cupcake tin.

Place all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixture, and beat until just combined. Increase speed, and beat until mixture is creamy and paler in colour.
Spoon mixture among cases. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Remove cakes from tin immediately, and allow to cool completely on wire rack.

To fill cakes, take a small sharp knife and - holding your knife at a 45 degree angle - slice a circle into the top of a cake. The circle should be about 5mm from the edge of the cake to make it easy to cover when decorating. By holding your knife at this angle, you are creating a cone-shaped hold in your cake, and the lid you've created should come easily. Set lid aside for later. Repeat with remaining cakes.

Stir coconut through white chocolate. Spoon ganache mixture evenly between cakes. Replace the lid on each cake. If necessary, trim the pointed end of the lids off to it sits flush when placed back onto the cake.

For frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together in an electric mixer until smooth. Add half of the icing sugar and desired amount of food colouring and again beat until smooth. Gradually add the remaining icing sugar until you get your desired consistency (I use the full amount).

Spoon cream cheese mixture into a large piping bag fitted with plain 1cm tube. Pipe onto cakes.
To finish, sprinkle with coconut.

Recommended baking soundtrack - Baptist Generals - No Silver/No Gold.

Sunday, May 23

neenish tarts: a dedication to baby showers & my dear friend hannah

My sister is pregnant! At her last check-up, her baby was the size of an avocado and this just excites me so gosh darn much. To make things even more wonderful, I recently got my hands on a copy of AWW's 'High Tea'. This book is pretty much my planned menu for my sister's baby shower. Yes, the whole book. I'm quite confident in saying I'm more excited than she is.

So, to slightly alleviate some of my over enthusiasm, I made some neenish tarts. For a reason I can no longer remember, they remind me of my dear friend Hannah. So Hannah and little avo, this recipe is for you.

This recipe is slightly adapted version of AWW's, only because I make my tarts with real whipped cream rather than a mock, butter-based cream. It's up to you.

Ingredients (makes 24)

For pastry cases:
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/4 cup icing sugar
185 gms cold butter, chopped coarsely
1 egg yolk
2 tsps iced water

For filling:
2 cups thickened cream
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup strawberry jam

For icing:
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
15 gms unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsps hot milk
1/2 tsp cocoa powder
pink food colouring

To make cases, process flour, sugar and butter until crumbly. With motor running, add egg yolk and enough water to bring ingredients together. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and then refrigerate for 30 mins.

Grease two 12 capacity cupcake tins. Roll out half the pastry on a lightly floured surface until about 3mm thick. Cut out 12 x 7.5cm rounds and press rounds into holes of tin. Prick bases of each with a fork. Repeat with remaining pastry and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Preheat oven to 200C/190C fan-forced. Bake cases for 12 minutes or until lightly golden. Stand cases in tin for 5 mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

For filling, divide jam evenly between cases. Whip cream with icing sugar until stiff peaks form. Spoon cream into cases on top of jam, leveling with a palette knife.

For icing, stir icing sugar and butter together. Gradually add milk, stirring until you get a thick paste. Divide icing mixture evenly into two small, heatproof bowls. Stir cocoa powder through one mixture, and a drop of pink food colouring through the second half. Stir each bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water until icing is spreadable - this won't take long.
Using a small palette knife, spread pink icing over half of each tart, and chocolate icing over the remaining half. Doing the chocolate icing last, I find it easier to ensure the diving line is nice and neat, cleaning up any stray pink.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Bowerbirds - Hymns for a Dark Horse 

Friday, May 21

lemon cakes with rosewater glaze

Where on Earth (specifically South East Queensland) can one buy culinary lavender and roses?! This is a question I find myself asking myself regularly. My nonsensical ramblings alone display how much the lack of supply bothers me. So when one of my beautiful co-workers brought me in some home grown roses, I went to town crystalising. In order to display such lovely petals, I whipped up a simple batch of cakes last night.

When using rosewater, I always strive for delicate. This cake recipe is lovely and moist, and light. You could flavour your cakes with vanilla bean instead of lemon, but I wanted a flavour to compliment both the rosewater and the colour of the petals I had on hand. 

Ingredients (makes 15)

For cakes:
125 gms butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain ( and for my co-workers, gluten-free) flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 tsps of both lemon zest and juice

For glaze:
240 gms icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp rosewater
food colouring

Crystalised rose petals, to decorate

Preheat oven to 170C/160C fan-forced. Place 15 paper cases into a cupcake tin/s.
Beat butter, sugar and lemon zest and juice in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating well after each. 
Sift over flour and baking powder, stir to combine. Fold through milk. 
Half-fill each cupcake case, smooth tops and bake for 15 - 20 mins until risen and golden. Remove from tins and allow to cool. 

For glaze, combine icing sugar and rosewater in a bowl. Gradually add about 20 mls of just boiled water, stirring until smooth and drizzling consistency. Spread over each cake to fill to the tops of each case, and stand for a few minutes to set slightly. 
Top with crystalised rose petals.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Donovan Quinn - October Lanterns.

Thursday, May 20

sticky date cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream

My first post could be something self-defining and meaningful, but I think it's best to get straight to what's important: salted. caramel.

I've seen salted caramel on plenty of menus of fine restaurants and pâtisseries and always thought it smacked of pretension. Why taint perfection with ridiculous flakes of sea salt?! However, falling in love with Fiona Cairns' book 'Bake & decorate: tea time luxury' introduced me to a recipe I simply couldn't deny.

Initially, I thought I would follow the recipes for both cake and buttercream, but omit the recommended salt simply because I know best. Then I realised I often do not know best, and added a few flakes. Followed by the recommended 1/2 tsp. And then a little more! Salted caramel is my new black.

Ingredients (makes 12)

For cakes:
180 gms dates, pitted and chopped
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
180 gms self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
80 gms unsalted butter, softened
150 gms light muscovado sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten

For buttercream:
160 gms salted butter, softened
200 gms icing sugar, sifted
4 tbps dluce de leche
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
1/2 tsp sea salt (or more!)

Preheat oven to 180C/170C fan-forced. Place 12 paper cases into a 12 capacity cupcake tin.
In a heatproof bowl, pour 180 mls boiling water over the dates and leave to soak for 20 mins. Then, with a fork, gently break up the dates and stir through the vanilla.

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar for a good five minutes until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs gradually, beating between each addition and slipping in 1 tbsp flour halfway through to prevent curdling. Lastly, fold in the remaining flour and then the date mixture.
Spoon into the cupcake cases and bake for 15 - 20 mins. The tops of each cake should spring back when lightly pressed. Remove and allow to cool.

To make the buttercream, place dulce de leche in a small bowl and add vanilla and salt.
Cream butter and icing sugar for at least five minutes. Fold through dulce de leche mixture. Do a taste test to check if more salt is needed.
Place the buttercream into a large piping back fitted with a star-shaped tip and pipe onto cakes.
Top with a sprinkle of finely chopped caramel candies.

Note: If you can't buy and don't fancy making the dulce de leche, see Fiona Cairns' book for a recipe to make the buttercream using her caramel method using cream and caramelised sugar.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Beach Fossils - Beach Fossil.