Thursday, March 29

jam doughnut cakes

It's been a while since I've felt utterly in love with a new cookbook. Where I have swooned over the whole contents of a book, cover to cover, rather than just a few recipes out of many. Where the photography and styling are perfect, and the recipes are well written. I think the last was Meg Ray's Miette, and considering that was almost a year ago, it was about time something else came along to make my heart all aflutter. I saw the front cover of Tea With Bea, and became instantly smitten. I spend hours pouring over food magazines and cookbooks. Honestly, hours. I have a method that I rarely deviate from that consists of much excited flicking, followed by at least one good full-reading. And I was so very excited when I first sat down with this book. Every layer cake looks even more beautiful than the previous one, and oh, do I have a weakness for layer cakes.

As beautiful as these each recipe is, it feels almost criminal that this is the first recipe I've made from this book, simply because of the other recipes that were competing for my attentions. That and these cakes are just so damn easy to make! If you have a sweet, cakey craving that needs to be filled quickly, look no further. I've included my recipe for a quick raspberry jam, but if you were to use a good store-bought jam, you could have these in your mouth within the hour.

I was slightly reluctant (well, for about three seconds) to make these when I read to the part about rolling the warm cakes in butter. I love butter as much as the next person (okay, probably more than the next person), but I really thought a butter bath would make these cakes heavy, but it surprisingly doesn't. I think they're as doughnutty as a cake could possibly be.

Ingredients (makes approximately 22)
Recipe from Tea with Bea

For cakes:
3 cups plain flour
1 2/3 cups caster sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 half cups buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup sunflower oil

For coating:
250 gms butter, melted
2 cups caster sugar

For quick raspberry jam:
250 gms raspberries
200 gms caster sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
half a vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped.

If you're making your own quick raspberry jam, place the berries and lemon juice in a small, heavy-based saucepan, and simmer for five minutes, stirring constantly. Bring to the boil, add vanilla bean and seeds, and allow to bubble for five minutes without stirring. Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved and continue to boil for a further two minutes until slightly thickened and jammy. It will still be a fairly runny jam, but this is okay for these cakes. Remove vanilla bean and allow to cool while you make the cakes.

Brush two 12-capacity muffin tins with melted butter. Preheat oven to 180C. Prepare a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients, and stir until just combined. Do not overmix, or your cakes will be heavy.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, keeping a watchful eye. Cakes should be lightly golden, and a skewer inserted into the middle of each should come out mostly clean, perhaps a bit crumby.

Immediately remove cakes from pans and onto your work space. Submerge cakes, one at a time, into melted butter before rolling in caster sugar.

Fill prepared piping bag with jam, and push the nozzle into the centre of the underside of each cake, and fill each with jam until you can feel and see that’s it's full-- you'll see jam start to ooze out when you're filling it if it's taken as much as it possibly can.

These are best eaten as soon as you're finished filling them, as they'll still be warm, but they're still wonderful as they've cooled down and the jam starts to become absorbed throughout the crumb of the cake. They may not be as light tasting as a doughnut, but how can a hybrid of two of my favourite things in this world possibly be a bad thing? I can only imagine they'd be just as wonderful filled with chocolate sauce, too...

Recommended baking soundtrack: Horse Feathers - Cynic's New Year.

Friday, March 23

peanut butter & chocolate ganache tart

This recipe marks a reunion of sorts. Despite the last recipe I posted being from Australian Gourmet Traveller, we’ve actually had months apart. Admittedly and perhaps unsurprisingly, I make more or their desserts than anything else. Most of my favourite issues of this, my cooking bible, have been those that have had extensive dessert features, or even one impressive, towering cake, and the last few issues just… haven’t really beckoned me. And then last week from across the supermarket, I saw a glossy cover featuring double chocolate lamingtons and fell in love all over again. I’ve missed you in my life, AGT.

This recipe sure is a way to make up for lost time. Much the same as the raspberry and rhubarb tart, it’s by no means difficult. No fancy ingredients or techniques, just time and patience.

The recipe suggested serving this with caramel popcorn, and I gasped in delight when I saw the pictures, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do this. It seemed too much, even for me. I could, however, strangely convince myself that homemade peanut brittle was a better option, which is insane considering the increased sugar content and addition of butter, but I still maintain that this is a better choice.

Recipe from March 2012 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller

For pastry:
250gms plain flour
60gms brown sugar
120gms cold butter, chopped
3 egg yolks

For filling:
150gms crunchy peanut butter
200gms unsalted peanuts
200gms caster sugar
100gms butter, chopped
90mls pouring cream

For whipped chocolate ganache:
330mls pouring cream
300gms dark chocolate, chopped
4 egg yolks
1 ½ tbsps caster sugar

For the peanut brittle:
275 gms caster sugar
1/4 cup water
25 gms butter
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

For the pastry, process the flour, brown sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles fine crumbs, and add egg yolks. Process until combined and sandy-looking. Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together with the heel of your hand. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour to rest.

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick, large enough to cover the base and sides of a tart tin of your preferred shape. I used a fluted rectangular tin, measuring about 30cm x 15cm. Lightly grease tin and place pastry in the tin, trimming the edges. Refrigerate to rest for a further hour. Preheat your oven to 180C.

Line the pastry with baking paper and pastry weights, and blind bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden. Remove paper and weights and bake for a further ten minutes or until dry and crisp. Allow to cool completely, and then carefully spread the base with peanut butter.

While tart is cooling, roast the peanuts for about 5 minutes until golden. Chop coarsely.

For the filling, stir sugar and 80mls water in a small saucepan over medium heat until dissolved. Increase heat and bring to the boil without stirring until mixture is a dark caramel colour. Remove from the heat and add butter, cream and 1 tsp sea salt—it will bubble away quite furiously at this point. Return to a low heat, and stir for a few minutes until smooth. Stir in peanuts, and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before spreading mixture into tart shell over the peanut butter. Refrigerate until set, approximately 3 hours.

For whipped chocolate ganache, stir cream and chocolate in a small saucepan over medium heat until melted and smooth. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl over simmering water for about 5 minutes, until thick and pale.
Remove from heat, fold through the chocolate and cream mixture, and whisk in an electric mixer until cooled, about 5 minutes. Pour into the tart shell over the peanut-caramel mixture. The mixture will be quite runny, but will set in the fridge after about 3 hours, and will be this delicious mousse-y consistency. I had 2 cups of this beautiful stuff leftover. I’m sure you won’t be complaining, but you could halve the mixture if you like and should still have plenty.

While tart is in its final stages of setting, make the peanut brittle. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved, and then increase heat to high, brushing the sides of the pan down with a wet pastry brush to stop any crystallisation around the edges. Cook without stirring until mixture is a dark caramel, remove from heat and stir through butter. Return over a low heat and stir for a minute until thick and smooth. Stir through peanuts, and pour onto prepared baking tray. Allow to set-- this will only take an hour or so.

Remove tart from the fridge about fifteen minutes from serving. Smash peanut brittle into smaller pieces, and scatter generously over the tart. After a while out of the fridge, the peanut caramel filling will start to ooze a bit, so it’s not the best for travelling, but it’s still delicious at room temperature, just as it is straight from the fridge when the caramel is wonderfully chewy.

My grandmother used to make a peanut and caramel slice with a biscuit base that I simply couldn’t get enough of as a child. I’m sure grandmothers all over the country made this slice, or a version of it. Whilst I never really saw her make it, I knew it was pretty easy for her to make given the frequency that I seemed to be eating it, but as much as I loved it, I never thought to make it myself after she passed away. I hadn’t tasted her peanut slice in over ten years, but as soon as I took one bite of this slice, I thought of her. And sure, I’ve gone way over the top with the moussey ganache and brittle, but the essence of what made my grandmother’s slice so wonderful is here. I wonder what she would think.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Strand of Oaks – Leave Ruin.

Tuesday, March 13

rhubarb & raspberry meringue tart

This recipe isn't for the faint-hearted, or for those wanting something sweet in a hurry. It is by no means complicated, and it is so simple to make this tart look beautiful. But the constant chilling-cooking-cooling is incredibly time consuming, and you'll easily spend the better portion of your day on this baby. But honestly, it was absolutely worth every minute of my time. Rhubarb, raspberry and meringue. Can you honestly be surprised?

It's quite funny how these days, everyone is a food critic. Much the same as wine, the more people are exposed to different varieties and learn what they like, the more they feel comfortable in saying what's no good, or that something is unbalanced, or lacks acidity, or needs more sweetness. And whilst I laugh, I actually think it's a good thing! Why eat food that's simply ordinary? Why not explore other options and expose yourself to something new? Gosh, if I didn't have the varities of food that I currently do in my life, I would be a very different (and likely bitter) person. And if people weren't having such an increasing interest in food and trying more non-conventional recipes, regardless of their potentially snooty opinions as a result, we would have a much harder time finding the range of ingredients we do in a standard supermarket these days.

So, forgive me for sounding pretentious when I say this, but this tart has everything a dessert should. The very little amount of citrus rind the filling has is just the right amount to cut through what may have otherwise been a very sweet dessert. It's not sickly, at all. The almonds in the base add the perfect amount of crunch. And oh, that pillowy meringue… I was tempted to toast it, but it was simply too fluffy and white and pristine to touch.

Recipe from March 2011 issue of AGT

For the pastry:
180 gms butter, softenend
40 gms pure icing sugar, sieved
2 egg yolks
250 gms plain flour

For the frangipane:
75 gms butterm, softenend
80 gms caster sugar
70 gms almond meal
1 tbsp brandy
2 eggs
50 gms blanched almonds, finely chopped

For the filling:
1½ bunches rhubarb (about 6 stems), trimmed, sliced into 4cm pieces
250 gms raspberries
150 gms caster sugar
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

For the Italian meringue:
175 gm caster sugar
2 eggwhites
pinch of cream of tartar
For the pastry, beat butter in an electric mixer until pale, and then add icing sugar and beat until combined. With the motor running, add yolks one at a time, followed by 1 tbsp chilled water. Sieve flour over and stir to just combine. Lightly knead on a work surface then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, approximately 1 hour.

For frangipane, beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale. Add almond meal, brandy and eggs and stir to combine, then stir through chopped almonds. Refrigerate until chilled, approximately 1 hour.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 30cm round. Line a buttered and floured 22cm diameter, 5cm-deep cake tin with a removeable base. Trim the edges, prick base with a fork and refrigerate to rest for another hour.

Meanwhile, for baked rhubarb and raspberries, preheat oven to 175C. Place rhubarb in a baking dish large enough to fit snugly, scatter over raspberries, sugar, lemon rind and juice. Cover with foil and bake, turning rhubarb once, until tender, above 15 minutes. You want the rhubarb to still hold it's shape! Set aside to cool.

Drain syrup from the rhubarb mixture and and place in a small saucepan over high heat, reducing it to about 125 mls. This should take about 5-10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Return 50 mls to the rhubarb mixture, and set aside the remainder to use when serving.

Line the tart case with baking paper and pastry weights, or uncooked rice or beans. Blind bake the tart case until light golden, approximately 15 minutes. Remove paper and weights and bake until golden, about another 5-10 minutes. Spoon the frangipane into tart case and bake until frangipane is golden and set, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool until just firm, then remove tart from tin and cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, for Italian meringue, combine sugar and 60ml water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and brush down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar particles. Increase heat to high and cook until syrup reaches 121C on a sugar thermometer. Meanwhile, when syrup reaches 110C, start whisking eggwhites and cream of tartar in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually pour the hot syrup over eggwhites in a thin stream, whisking continuously until cooled, thick and glossy, approximately 10 minutes.

Spoon the rhubarb and raspberry mixture over tart. Transfer meringue to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe in swirls. From here could brown the meringue with a kitchen torch, but the beautiful pure white meringue peaks looked too perfect for me to want to touch it. Serve with the remaining syrup.

Yeah, forget what I said about it being time consuming. Just make it. It's perfect. Take a weekend at home and do a step every couple of hours and thank me for the motivation on your Sunday afternoon of bliss.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Bowerbirds - The Clearing. Oh, how I love the Bowerbirds.

Thursday, March 8

miniature turkish delight whoopie pies

It seems that when it comes to food, everyone has their weaknesses. A soft spot for something that they simply can't resist and will never grow tired of. For me, saying it's a 'spot' doesn't really give a sense of the size of my weakness, which is so broad it encompasses not a certain dish but a whole category of food: comfort food. Sure, I have a favourite food (crème brulee). And yes, I prefer sweet over savoury (always). But I will eat anything that's classified as comfort food all year round. I will eat roasted pumpkin soup, or rhubarb crumble throughout the height of summer. I will spend hours baking in the kitchen in 30C heat when I have a craving for warm flourless chocolate cake. And whilst, I suppose what is classified as "comfort food" could be a little subjective, it usually means its dense. And rich. And I suppose these two things alone means that it's probably not a good thing to have a weakness for…

Anyway, whoopie pies seem to fall under this category for me, unsurprisingly. It took me a while to really feel happy about baking them. It terms of baked treats, they're, well… a little ugly. Or they can be. They certainly don't look as pretty as a cupcake, or as dainty as a madeleine. And I have a much greater preference for baking sweet, fine, as-close-to-perfect-as-can-be looking things. But, oh, whoopies are so wonderful. They're so soft, and wonderful with tea, and they store so well and will usually last for the better part of a week. They're quick and easy to make, and don't require a lot of implements, which means little washing up. And they are so good with cream cheese, or marshmallow filling, or with or without a topping.

I also happen to love turkish delight, and it's inevitable that I try to inject turkish delight into any baked treat. Cheesecake, cookies, cupcakes, crème brulee, macarons, and now whoopies.

Ingredients (makes about 20 small whoopies, approximately 5cm wide):

For whoopies
140 gms plain flour
40 gms cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
90 mls buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
80 gms butter, softened
140 gms brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

For filling:
3 egg whites
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 tsps glucose syrup
pinch of cream of tartar
1 tsp rosewater
dash of pink food colouring (I use Wilton gel)

For icing:
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp rosewater
dash of pink food colouring

turkish delight, chopped to top

For the whoopies, preheat the oven to 200C. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarb soda into a bowl. Mix together the buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale. Gradually add the egg, scraping down the sides of your bowl after each addition. With the mixer on low, pour in buttermilk mixture. Fold the flour mixture through with a large metal spoon, being careful not to over-mix.

Place tablespoons of mixture on to each baking tray, giving them plenty of space to spread. Bake two trays at a time for about 5 minutes - this will vary with the size that you make, so keep an eye on them! Slide the baking paper onto your benchtop to allow to whoopies to cool on the baking paper while you bake the next batch.

Whilst your whoopies are cooling, make your rosewater 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. Alternatively, if you you have handheld beaters, you could use these - it will save you time and sweat! Remove from heat. Add rosewater and food colouring and beat with electric mixers on a high speed until stiff peaks form.
Using a large piping bag and a plain 1cm nozzle, pipe filling onto half of your cooled whoopies, and sandwhich them together with the remaining whoopies.

Make a rosewater glaze by mixing icing sugar with 1 tbsp of rosewater and a dash of pink food colouring. Add extra hot water if necessary to make mixture as runny as desired. Spread rosewater icing on each whoopie pie, and top with a small piece of turkish delight.

Admittedly, these are a little more dainty than your standard whoopie, but I just couldn't help it. Feel free to make them as large and ugly as you please, just increase your baking time, keeping a firm eye on them. Nothing worse than an over-cooked whoopie.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Wooden Wand - Briarwood.

Sunday, March 4

miniature strawberry layer cakes

Hello, old friend.

For someone who has no children or dependents--excluding a recently acquired, mischevious rag doll cat-- and little other responsibility, I have managed to let days become weeks and months, and it's gotten to the point where I'm ashamed to mention my 'blog' to anyone. I refer to it conversation more of a point of embarassment, rather than a living, evolving part of me as it once was.

Despite this, I have still been baking with fervour, and taking photos of things I have created and forced upon co-workers and family members, despite these photos merely sitting on my computer, neglected for months on end. I have no doubt spent what would be days making macaron varieties, deviating from my favourite recipe, trying a couple of new techniques. There has been lady grey, maple and pear, key lime pie, and a recent trial of a savory variety: parsley and herbed goats cheese, which took some people by surprise. I've fallen in love with swiss meringue buttercream, and have imposed ruffle cakes on unsuspecting people at any given ocassion. I've ran a cake decorating workshop at work to an adorable group of ladies who still tell me that this has changed their lives. And I've also fallen back on many traditional and reliable recipes that have long been neglected. It has, admittedly, been nice to cook to eat and not to blog. But I have missed this.

I made these sponge cakes a while ago, on one of those days that I wanted something traditional and reliable. But of course, everything looks much more sweeter and desirable to me when it's a miniature version of it's usual self. You can use any old sponge cake recipe, but I've included the go-to recipe that I love. Fondant strawberries are so painfully easy to make with a small amount of fondant, so it was criminal not to use them.

Ingredients (makes 6 three layer cakes)

For cake:
80 gms butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for brushing
240 gms plain flour, plus extra for dusting
8 eggs, at room temperature
220 gms caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped seeds only

For filling:
300 mls whipping cream
2 tbsps icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

100 gms strawberry jam
Strawberries (about a dozen), washed, and sliced thinly with a small, sharo knife.
Preheat your oven to 180C. Brush one lamington tin or square cake tin with melted butter and then dust sides flour. Tap upside-down over your sink to remove excess flour.

Triple-sift flour (it does make a difference!) into a large bowl and set aside.
Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla seeds in an electric mixer until thick, pale and tripled in volume, which should take approximate 8 minutes.
Sift the flour over the egg mixture once more, in three batches, folding each batch in with a large metal spoon. Gently fold in melted butter.

Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. The centre should spring back when pressed lightly with your fingertips, and the surface should not be sticky. Remove from oven and gently run the blade of a knife around the edges of the pan. All to cool for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Remove baking paper, and turn back over to cool completely.

Once sponge has cooled, cut nine rounds from the cake using a 4-5cm cutter. Slice each round horizontally with a small sharp knife, to create 18 rounds. Spread two-thirds of the rounds with strawberry jam.

Whip cream in the bowl of an electric mixer with icing sugar and vanilla bean paste until light and fluffy. Spread onto the jam-covered rounds, and top with sliced strawberries. Start stacking cakes, finishing with a plain round, to make six three-layered cakes. Finish each cake with a generous spread of cream, and deocrate with small fondant berries, if using.

I'm going to keep posting those recipes that I've made and loved in my hiatus, as well as plenty more than I have stashed away with the burning desire to try. I have missed this. I've missed sharing recipes, and more than anything else, reading other blogger's recipes, too. Luckily, blogging is forgiving, especially if you do it mostly for yourself, which I do, but thank you nonetheless to any of my readers who have tolerated and will (hopefully) forive my laziness.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Magnetic Fields - Love at the Bottom of the Sea.