Thursday, January 27

tim tam tarts

Tarts have recently become my most adored sweet treat. Let's face it - a good pastry can make almost anything more desirable. Tarts have this on their side, but I also find them slightly more attractive than a closed in pie. Where these tarts are lacking in the pastry department, they make up for it with a much adored 'Australian' staple: a Tim Tam crust.

As I was making these for my family for our small Australia Day gathering, I made the ganache filling out of 70% Valrhona, a decision I certainly don't regret... but these tarts were intense! You will definitely need a generous amount of raspberries to cut through the richness, as if this is possibly a bad thing. I do, however, think these would be amazing with milk chocolate.

Ingredients (serves four, but is easily to multiply)

Recipe from February issue of delicious

200 gms packet Tim Tams
30 gms unsalted butter, melted and cooled
200 mls pouring cream
200 gms dark chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg yolks

Raspberries, cocoa and ice cream (or cream), to serve. 

Grease four 8cm loose-bottomed tart tins. Place Tim Tams in a food processor and pulse until in fine crumbs. Remove three tablespoons of the soil and set aside for when serving. Add the melted butter to the food processor and pulse to combine. Press mixture into the bases and sides of the tins - it will work out to be about 2 tbsps mixture per tin. There's really no better way to do this than with your fingers, starting in the middle and working your way to the sides of the tin. Chill for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160C. Place the cream in a saucepan over a low heat and bring to just below boiling point. Remove from the heat and add chocolate, stand for a minute to allow it to start melting, then stir until completely smooth.

Cool mixture for about 15 minutes, then add yolks and vanilla and stir to combine. Pour into the tart cases, and bake for 15 minutes until just set. Cool tarts completely in their tins before removing. If you're serving them at a later time, chill them before removing, it will make it a heck of a lot easier as they can be quite crumbly.

To serve,  top with berries and dust with cocoa. Serve with the reserved Tim Tam soil and vanilla ice cream or cream.

I hope my readers had a lovely Australia Day, wherever you are.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer. 

Wednesday, January 26

koala lamington cupcakes

Summer has finally arrived, a month or two late. However, I am not saying "finally" with any sense of relief. I love warm afternoons and evenings if a fan is present, but humid days are not my cup of tea. In fact, it makes it very difficult to enjoy my cup of tea. My Australia Day celebrations - aside from including a day off work - involve no tradition or routine. This year I decided to bake some treats for my new-ish coworkers, as if I needed an excuse.

Lamingtons usually require a chocolate glaze-esque coating covered in coconut, and despite this being my intention, found my cakes a little less rounded than I would have liked. I stuck with a buttercream merely so I could make chubby charactier-ridden koala faces, rather than sad, lifeless, two-dimensional faces. You get the idea. Go with whatever works for you, your cake results and your taste-buds.

Ingredients (makes 12)

12 vanilla cupcakes (see here for recipe)

100 gms unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup cocoa
4 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 cups shredded coconut.

12 black jelly beans
12 pink marshmallows
24 Valrhona crunchy pearls (or any other small brown chocolate/candy)

For the chocolate buttercream, whip butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth. Add cocoa and about 1 cup icing sugar and beat on a low speed until combined. Increase speed and beat until smooth. Add 1 tbsp of the milk and the remaining icing sugar and beat until creamy. Add remaining milk until desired consistency - you want a smooth, fluffy buttercream.

Generously frost each cupcake with chocolate buttercream, leaving about 2 tbsps aside. Place coconut in a shallow bowl and dip each iced cupcake into the coconut to coat. Decorate with a jellybean nose and two crunchy pearl eyes.

For the koala ears, cut each marshmallow in half lengthwise. Thin the remaining butercream down with a few drops of milk, and with a small palette knife, coat the outside edges of each mallow-half in chocolate frosting and then toss in coconut. Your ears should be moist enough to stick onto the cakes, but if they have trouble sticking on, secure with a dab of buttercream mixture.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Pearly Gate Music - Pearly Gate Music. 

Tuesday, January 18

rhubarb & rosewater upside down cake

I have a new mistress. Anybody who stumbled across the December issue of Cuisine would understand. On its glossy cover was a ring shaped pavlova decorated to look like a Christmas wreath, covered in berries, cherries and "holly" leaves. After making it for my family's Christmas dinner, I was officially smitten.

Cuisine is like delicious magazine's mysterious, foreign cousin: The styling is just as gorgeous and the recipes equally as accessible, but there are also teasing reviews of New Zealand restaurants and bars and some unattainable brands not available in Australian delis. This could get frustrating, but it just adds to the allure in an always-want-what-you-can't-have kinda way. I still adore you, AGT and delicious. I just... need something difference every once in a while.

Recipe from September 2010 issue Cuisine

For rhubarb:
4 stems rhubarb
25 gms butter
25 gms caster sugar

For cake:
100 gms unsalted butter, at room temperature
150 gms caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated
150 gms plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
125 mls milk

For the syrup:
150 gms caster sugar
150 mls water
1 rhubarb stem, chopped
1 tbsp rosewater
juice 1/2 lemon

Line the base of a 20cm springform cake tin with baking paper, and grease with butter. Preheat oven to 180C.

Cut the rhubarb on the diagonal into 3cm thick slices and set aside. In a small saucepan, gently heat the butter and caster sugar until the mixture begins to caramelise. Pour into the base of the tin. Arrange the rhubarb in the base and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla and yolks, one at a time, beating in between. Add the flour and milk in two alternate batches, mixing until combined. Beat the egg whites until at soft peaks, and fold through the cake batter. Spoon the batter on top of the rhubarb and smooth.

Bake for 40 - 50 minutes until cake is firm to the touch. While I didn't have any syrupy rhubarb drips, it's advised to bake with a tray in the bottom of your oven just incase - things could get sticky!
Allow to cool slightly in the tin while making the syrup.

Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan until sugar has dissolved. Add the rhubarb and cook for five minutes - the syrup should be rosy in colour. Strain through a sieve and stir through rosewater and lemon juice. 

Remove the cake from the tin, firstly running a bread and butter knife around the edges. Invert onto a serving plate. Smother each slice with rosewater syrup and serve with cream. 

It's recommended that this cake is best eaten on the day of baking while the syrup is still warm, but honestly, it tastes just as wonderful the following day. Just be aware that the rosy rhubarb will eventually fade to a yellow. The cake is wonderfully light because of the egg whites, yet still has a pudding-esque texture when warm. This is an important quality for me. Would taste exquisite with custard.


Recommended baking soundtrack: Fruit Bats - The Ruminant Band.

Monday, January 3

chocolate & mint whoopie pies

Baking trends are a funny thing. To make cupcakes ten years ago involved a vanilla cake with buttercream, possibly including coloured sprinkles for those feeling adventurous. Few people had tasted proper French-style macarons let alone churned them out of their own home kitchen. And now, the whoopie pie. Ah, the whoopie pie... I'm not sure if this delightful cake-biscuit hybrid (also known as moon pie) has hit Australia with as much momentum as cupcakes, macarons or cake (or cookie!) pops, but there's certainly no reason why it shouldn't, especially with books out there whose sole purpose it is to teach us the very basic tricks to the perfect whoopie.

I've been put off making whoopie pies for a while now, simply because I was convinced I would eventually stumble across the marshmallow fluff suggested to make the perfect filling. This obviously didn't happen, and here I was months later, whoopie-less. Buttercream is a possibility, but just doesn't quite fit. Melting marshmallows with cream works, but just isn't the same. But! The closest and possibly even better filling is one of my favourite frostings: a marshmallow frosting that holds its shape and is very easy to inject flavour into. Of course, I chose peppermint.

One last thing before the recipe: I know vegetable shortening (Copha is perfect) seems like a funny addition to a cake that already contains butter, but it really adds lightness to the cake and makes it incredibly soft. It also helps avoid your whoopies having cracked surfaces. So please, trust the recipe.

Ingredients (makes approximately 24 whoopie pies)
Recipe adapted from Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix 'em, Match 'em, Eat 'em Up Recipes

For whoopies:
1 2/3 cups plain flour
2/3 cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
55 gms unsalted butter, at room temperature
55 gms vegetable shortening
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 cup full-fat milk

For marshmallow filling:
3 egg whites
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 tsps glucose syrup
pinch of cream of tartar
2 tsps peppermint essence, or to taste

To make the whoopies (cakes), preheat oven to 190C. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, shortening and brown sugar on a low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy - which will take at least three minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat for a further two minutes until fully incorporated.

Add half the flour mixture and half the milk to the batter, beating on a low speed until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add remaining flour mixture and milk, beating until smooth and creamy.

Drop 1tbsp quantities of batter onto baking trays, leaving about 5cm between each whoopie, as they will spread when cooking - you will obviously need to do multiple batches, so be generous and give your first lot of whoopies (I just love saying whoopies!) lots of space to grow during the first time around. You can always squash them together a little more after some experience. Bake for ten minutes - one sheet at a time - for about ten minutes. The pies should spring back when pressed gently, like any sponge. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

For the marshmallow filling, combine the egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar and 100 mls water in a heatproof bowl (preferably the bowl of your electric mixer to save on washing up). Sit the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and whisk quite vigorously for five minutes until mixture is light and foamy-- this will feel like a very long five minutes! Alternatively, if you you have handheld beaters, you could use these - it will save you time and sweat. Remove from heat. Add peppermint and beat with electric mixers on a high speed until stiff peaks form.

Generously pipe, spread or dollop marshmallow filling onto half of the whoopies. Allow to set for five to ten minutes before sandwiching them with the remaining whoopies. This will allow the filling to set slightly. Eat & enjoy.

These can be tricky to store, as the cake becomes very sticky quite quickly. It is suggested they are eaten on the same day as being made, but I consumed one the day after and thought they tasted even better. Just make sure you don't stack them if you can help it, and if you can't, place a layer of baking paper in between to prevent them from sticking to one another.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Built to Spill - There Is No Enemy.