Monday, November 15, 2010

Our new arrival ...

We are thrilled to announce the arrival of our healthy son Charlie!

Born 1.53am on Monday 8th November, 4.25kg, 52cm and just perfect :) Will be taking a break from baking and blogging for a few weeks at least but looking forward to getting back into it soon.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

TWD Double Up

I'm back! Can't believe it's been almost 3 weeks since I posted but between moving and unpacking and some trouble getting our internet sorted it's kinda not surprising. We're all settled now in our new home and not a moment too soon as bub #2 is due in less than a month!

I have still been baking these past few weeks though, and with reasonable success given the variables of a new oven. So on to my TWD catch up ...

First up from 5th October, Lynne of Honey Muffin chose the Double Apple Bundt Cake.

Let me just say I adored this cake. Incredibly moist, packed with apple and spice flavours and not too heavy on the butter. I didn't bother with a glaze or even icing sugar. It was absolutely perfect on its own or warm with custard. Mmmmmm.

Next up was the Fold-Over Pear Torte chosen by fabulous fellow Aussie blogger Cakelaw.

I really wanted to love this tart. One of my all time favourite Dorie recipes was the French Pear Tart and I was hoping this would be similar. I love everything in it - pears, apricots, nuts, custard, pastry. Yum. But somehow the combination fell a little short.

Part of my meh-ness about this one has to be the fact it just took soooooo loooooooong to cook. After 2 hours in the oven the middle was still oozy even though the top layer of custard had burnt to a crisp (which actually didn't matter because my foil tent stuck to it and peeled it off making for one butt-ugly tart).

But the pastry, oh the pastry! We splurged on a new food processor (partly because I managed to break the old one while packing) and this baby rocks! This was seriously the. best. pastry. EVER. Light, buttery, flaky and just plain delicious.

I'm so sorry I butchered your pick Cakelaw! If you haven't already, make sure you visit her blog for how it should be done.

I'm looking forward to more cooking/baking (for the next couple of weeks anyway). I really need to get stuck into some freezable meals to get us through those first few insane new baby weeks. I'm also planning on starting my Christmas baking asap so we have some yummy treats to look forward to!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Tarte Fine

This week Leslie of Lethally Delicious chose Dorie's Tarte Fine for TWD and I'm so, soooo grateful. Not only was it delicious it is one of the easiest recipes ever!

You see we're moving house on Thursday and chaotic doesn't even begin to describe the state of our place at the moment. Apart from almost everything in the kitchen being packed already there is barely a clear surface to put a pan down on. So a recipe that calls for pre-bought puff pastry, a few apples, an egg and some sugar was heaven sent.

This is one of those desserts that looks really impressive but takes literally minutes to prepare. In my case an extra 5 minutes was needed to hunt through a box for a pastry brush!

In spite of all that I still managed to burn it (and then carefully crop that bit from the photo). Our oven has developed a nasty hot spot that will singe things into oblivion if you don't carefully turn the tray a few times during cooking. Which I of course forgot to do. Blame the pregnancy brain.

The taste test ...

Utter perfection. Flaky butter puff pastry topped with slightly tart apples and a crispy scattering of sugar. Delicious warm from the oven or at room temperature hours later with a big scoop of vanilla icecream.

This time next week we will be all settled in our new home. Fingers crossed the new oven will be better than the old!

You will find the Tarte Fine recipe at Lethally Delicious. Thanks Leslie!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Coffee Break Muffins

I'm not sure if you can tell from the photos but these muffin cases actually have little coffee cups on them. Which makes them perfect for this week's Coffee Break Muffins chosen by Rhiani of Chocoholic Anonymous.

We had a garage sale on the weekend and had a bit of a working bee last Wednesday to prepare. What better pick me up than a coffee break muffin for morning tea!

I always replace the espresso powder (which I've never found here) with regular freeze dried instant coffee and I did the same thing here without thinking. This resulted in a lovely speckled muffin but I think hubby was little disappointed the speckles weren't chocolate!

The taste test ...

I'm a decaf drinker but I really enjoy coffee flavoured desserts and these muffins were no exception. Lucky I made a full batch because they disappeared really quickly. Definitely a winner.

Thanks for a great pick Rhiani! Make sure you check out Chocoholic Anonymous for the recipe.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Cranberry Upside-Downer

Cranberries aren't all that common in Australia but I was delighted when Sabrina of Superfluous chose Dorie's Cranberry Upside-Downer this week.

While we never see fresh cranberries here and the frozen ones make only a brief appearance in December, I knew I had one lonely box left in the freezer. Yay!

There was no way I wasn't going to love this cake. First of all, upside down cakes are fun! I've been making a version with tinned pineapple since I was a child. Secondly it has fruit, nuts and spices. All of which I adore.

The cake is a breeze to make and it looks stunning covered with bright, jewel-toned cranberries and its shiny redcurrant glaze.

Served warm straight from the oven with a scoop of vanilla icecream, this is my idea of heaven.

Thanks for a wonderful pick Sabrina! I will definitely be making this again around Christmas when frozen cranberries next make their appearance. You can find the recipe on Sabrina's blog here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Choc Peanut Butter Crisscrosses

This week Jasmine of Jasmine Cuisine chose Dorie's Peanut Butter Crisscrosses. I've made these before actually (funnily enough when I was pregnant last time) so for yet another week I made the variation.

Unfortunately, something went a little awry and these were nothing like what they were supposed to be. Dorie's photo (and my last attempt) were these big, chewy cookies you could really sink your teeth into. My choc version made flat, soft and cakey cookie pancakes.

Admittedly I left out the peanuts which would have given them some more substance but the cookie mix itself was sooooo soft. I chilled the dough before baking but it didn't seem to help.

They still tasted pretty good and there aren't many left. But I can't work out whether that's because they were nice or because at 30 weeks pregnant I am gimme! gimme! gimme! when it comes to any sort of bakery product and therefore not a good judge.

So make sure you check out Jasmine's blog for the recipe and the other TWD bakers here. I'm sure they had much more success than I did!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Oatmeal Spice Shortbread

Mmmmm ... shortbread! This week Donna of Life’s Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First chose Dorie's Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies. Having made these before (and loved them!) I decided to do the variation which was Oatmeal Spice Shortbread.

Honestly these would probably be a more appropriate pick for Christmas because with all those spices the house smelt wonderful!

Last time I didn't have any ziploc bags and did have problems rolling out the sticky dough. This time though the bag worked a treat and I ended up with perfect little rectangles of shortbread with minimum fuss.

These are a little plain jane in the looks department but the flavour more than makes up for it. I will definitely be making these again and playing around with different flavour combinations.

Thanks for a great pick Donna! You can find the recipe on Life’s Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First under today's date.

Monday, August 30, 2010

White Choc Honeycomb Mudcake

In one of those freaky but awesome coincidences my husband and I have the same birthday. So happy birthday to us today!! While he unfortunately is off to uni as usual, I have the day to myself with Oscar off at daycare every Monday. As soon as I drop him there I am off to the hairdressers.

Tonight we are going to the lovely Bretts Wharf for dinner. For the Aussies out there, you may know head chef Alastair McLeod from Ready Steady Cook.

This year I told hubby to choose whatever sort of cake he wanted and we would make it together. After a little searching he came up with the truly gluttonous sounding White Chocolate Honeycomb Mudcake from taste. Now if that doesn't sound like a celebration cake I don't know what does!

White Choc Honeycomb Mudcake

Recipe from

250g butter, chopped
180g white chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup milk
1 3/4 cups caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 3/4 cups plain flour, sifted
1/2 cup self-raising flour, sifted
2 x 50g Violet Crumble chocolate bars, chopped

White chocolate ganache:
180g white chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup thickened cream

Grease a 6cm-deep, 22cm (base) round cake pan. Line base and side with 2 layers of baking paper. Place butter, white chocolate, milk, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until smooth. Set aside for 25 minutes to cool. Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan-forced.

Whisk eggs and flours into chocolate mixture. Fold in half the Violet Crumble. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours or until browned and a skewer inserted into centre of cake comes out with crumbs clinging (cover cake loosely with foil if over-browning during baking). Cool in pan.

Make ganache. Place white chocolate and cream in a heatproof, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high (100%) for 1 minute, stirring with a metal spoon halfway during cooking, or until smooth. Set aside for 15 minutes to cool. Whisk ganache gently to thicken. Spread over cake top. Sprinkle with remaining Violet Crumble. Serve.

(I left the honeycomb pieces out of the cake and used them to fill it instead.

I used 220g white chocolate and 300ml thickened cream to make enough ganache to fill and ice the cake. Chop up the chocolate and place into a heatproof bowl. Place the cream in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until almost boiling. Pour over the chopped chocolate. Leave for 30 seconds then stir until smooth. Refrigerate until cold. Using an electric beater, whip the ganache until soft peaks.

Slice the cake in half. Place about 1/3 of the ganache mix into a small bowl and fold through some chopped violet crumble. Use this to fill the cake.

Smooth the remaining ganache over the top and sides of the assembled cake. Scatter over more chopped violet crumbles and serve.)

The verdict? ... Delicious but sooooo sweet. I mean seriously SWEET. If I were to make this again I would cut the sugar by half and use plain whipped cream to decorate rather than a ganache. The recipe says it will serve 12 but I think it would be more like 20+. Still a success overall though!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart

This week's TWD pick was chosen by Rachel of Sweet Tarte. This recipe was actually on my shortlist when it was my turn to pick back in June but I decided against it because I couldn't get fresh peaches. Unfortunately it is still winter here so no fresh peaches!

This is essentially a sweet pastry base topped with custard, sliced peaches and a streusel topping. Just as the name says it is a 'Crunchy and Custardy Peach tart'!

This was a breeze to make and as always I am grateful to have discovered Dorie's Sweet Tart Dough recipe. It has forever cured me of my aversion to making pastry.

I did stray from the recipe slightly. I used the original tart dough, no almond essence (blech!) and pecans instead of almonds in the streusel. All of which could account for ...

The taste test ...

It was - nice. There was pastry, custard, peaches and streusel. All tasty. But there was definitely something missing and I think it was juicy, flavour packed fresh peaches. My canned peaches tasted quite peachy on their own but they were totally lost in this tart making the whole thing a little too sweet and a little bland. So disappointing!

Thanks to Rachel for a great pick. Sorry I couldn't do justice to it! You will find the recipe on Sweet Tarte or check out what the other TWDers got up to here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

This week's Oatmeal Breakfast Bread was another hidden gem. Well not hidden exactly, but I had certainly never noticed it until it was picked by Natalie of Oven Love!

It also falls into the ugly but delicious category because try as I might I could not get a decent photo.

Let me just say that I loved this bread. Made without any butter it is incredibly moist from the apple puree and buttermilk and the house smelt amazing while it was baking. Because it was so moist it was a little hard to tell when it was done but in the end it was perfect. I used raisins and dried apple in mine and it was fabulous.

I found the streusel topping a little hard to manage, as in most of it fell off every time a slice was cut. Next time I might skip the topping altogether so that I can toast a piece straight from the freezer.

Thank you to Natalie for hosting this week. Wonderful choice! Make sure you check out her blog Oven Love for the recipe.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream Sundaes

This week Katrina of Baking and Boys chose Dorie's Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream. My first thought? Drooooool. My second thought? Damn ...

While I am a lot more relaxed with food this pregnancy the raw/undercooked egg thing still spooks me. So rather than make a batch of what I am sure is truly awesome ice cream that I won't eat, this time around I just made the ganache.

I turned a lovely, creamy vanilla ice cream into rocky road by adding chopped marshmallows, chocolate covered peanuts and a few jelly babies and topped it all off with lashings of gorgeous chocolate ganache.

The taste test ...

This was sweet, rich and very naughty! I'm sure it doesn't even come close to the deliciousness of the original recipe but we enjoyed it anyway.

Thanks to Katrina for a great pick! It is now top of my list for post-pregnancy baking. Incidentally I finally got around to ordering The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz so I predict a lot of ice cream this summer!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Gingered Carrot Cookies

After all the brownies and blondies we've had, finally a cookie for us redheads! Dorie says she created these cookies by accident but I say making carrot cake in cookie form is pure genius :)

While carrot cake can be a stodgy, oily disaster, these were fantastic! Plus they were a breeze to make and we had everything in the pantry already which I love. I used 1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice (cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice) in addition to the ginger which gave them a lovely warmth and perfectly complemented the nuts and raisins.

I only made half a batch and got 16 decent sized cookies. I also whipped up a quick cream cheese icing for some while the rest of the batch ended up in the freezer.

The taste test ...

Umm, it's carrot cake in cookie form so of course they were tasty! They're not special occasion cookies but for everyday I would definitely make them again. That's really all you need to know.

Thanks to Natalia of gatti fili e farina for this week's pick! You can find the recipe on her blog.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Daring Bakers July - Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

It may be the middle of winter here but it's never too cold for ice cream!

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.-

This was a brilliant challenge. I've long been afraid of making a swiss roll after a disastrous experience years ago. Although when I think back I was probably about 12 and I'm almost certain I tried to roll up my cake while it was cold.

Anyway, this time around was a cinch! My cakes cooked in the time specified, they came out of the tin easily and they rolled up perfectly. I may have gone a little overboard on the sugar but this made for a gorgeous crackly texture once frozen.

The brief was to make 2 chocolate swiss roll cakes filled with vanilla cream, to line a bowl with the slices and fill the interior with ice cream. I was so glad we were having visitors to help us eat this otherwise it would be ice cream cake for months!

I used plain vanilla ice cream for the top and bottom layers and filled the middle with a caramel ice cream flavoured with fruit mince. This gave the bombe a Christmas in July sort of feel.

The taste test ...

Well it's cake, cream and 2 types of ice cream ... there's no way this can be bad! We loved it! It was also surprisingly easy for such an impressive looking dessert. Turn this baby out at the table and you are guaranteed some ooohs and aaahs!

Thanks for a wonderful challenge Sunita! You will find the recipe on her blog here.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chewy, Chunky Blondies

This week's TWD recipe was Nicole of Cookies on Friday and she picked Dorie's Chewy, Chunky Blondies. I don't think I've ever made or eaten a blondie so I wasn't really sure what to expect. Turns out these are supposed to be like cookies but in bar form.

We can't get butterscotch chips here but to keep the caramelly theme going I used dark brown sugar and some chopped up Violet Crumbles (chocolate covered honeycomb pieces) as well as extra chopped dark chocolate and some walnuts.

I made a half batch in an 8 x 8 pan and baked for 35 minutes. At that point they were puffed and a deep golden brown but after a few minutes on the bench the middle fell completely. So my blondies were a little on the flat and greasy side. But the taste?

The taste test ...

AMAZING. Especially warm from the oven when they're gooey and melty and oh so delicious. You'll see in the photo above there are 2 pieces missing, well a few more went missing immediately after. I wish we had some left!

Thanks for an awesome pick Nicole! You can find the recipe on her blog Cookies on Friday under today's date.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Wow, 2 posts in 2 days! What is the world coming to?? Continuing yesterday's theme of wheat and dairy free treats, I made these Oatmeal Raisin Cookies a while back. Oscar is now at the age where it's really difficult to eat in front of him ie. he throws a bit of a tantrum if he can't have a bite! So having something safe for him to eat as well makes life a little easier.

Rather than start from scratch I adapted the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie recipe on Simply Recipes here. The changes I made were:

  • swapped out the wheat flour for a 50:50 blend of white and wholemeal spelt flours along with a pinch of xanthum gum
  • used a dairy free spread instead of butter
  • left out the nuts
  • cut back on the sugar (I used just 1/2 cup brown and 1/2 cup white and they were still really sweet)

The taste test ...

Chewy, spicy, sweet and completely addictive! I got 24 huge cookies and they make a pretty substantial snack. I froze most of the batch and they are delicious straight from the freezer. These are a definite winner and will be made again and again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Lots of Ways Banana Cake

Kimberly of Only Creative Opportunities chose Dorie's Lots of Ways Banana Cake this week. I adore banana cake (and banana bread and banana pancakes and just plain bananas). My son Oscar is the same. In fact, his third word was banana!

As I have mentioned before, Oscar has a wheat and dairy intolerance. Most of the time it's no problem at all to sub in alternatives but I haven't been too adventurous with baking. And I don't need to be yet. At 15 months old, he's not eating a whole lot of cake!

While I didn't make this cake specifically for Oscar, it's nice for him to be able to have a taste of some of the yummy things I make so I did a wheat and dairy free version with dried apples and a passionfruit icing. Delicious!

Banana Cake with Passionfruit Glaze
(Wheat and Dairy Free)
Adapted from Lots of Ways Banana Cake on pp204-5 of Baking: From My Home to Yours

1/2 cup white spelt flour
1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1/3 cup gluten free flour (mine was a blend of maize, rice and soya flours)
1/2 ts xanthum gum
pinch of salt
1 ts baking powder
1/2 ts baking soda
1/2 ts nutmeg
90g nuttelex or other dairy free spread
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1ts vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 oat milk (or soy milk etc)
1/2 cup dried apple, chopped

Preheat your oven to 180/350 degrees. Grease and line an 8 inch round pan and set aside.

Whisk the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and xanthum gum together.

Using a stand mixer, beat the nuttelex and sugar together until creamy. Add the egg and then the vanilla, beating well after each addition. Lower the speed and add the bananas. Mix well. Add the dry ingredients, followed by the milk and beat until just combined. Stir through the dried apple using a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is a deep golden brown and the cake is starting to pull away from the sides. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

Passionfruit Glaze

1/2 cup pure icing sugar, sifted
1 passionfruit
hot water

In a small bowl, add the juice and pulp of your passionfruit to the icing sugar and stir. Add just enough hot water (1 -2 ts) to reach the consistency of thick cream. It should coat the spoon but still be easy to spread. Pour over your cooled cake and spread to the edges.

The taste test ...

Awesome. So moist and absolutely packed with flavour. The passionfruit icing finished it off perfectly. This is one cake I will be making again and again!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Brrr-ownies

This week Karen of Welcome to Our Crazy Blessed Life chose Brrrr-ownies. Basically brownies with mint and since choc-mint is one my favourite combinations I couldn't be happier!

I vaguely remember peppermint patties being around when I was a kid but they were no where to be found now, including at the lolly shop which sells lots of imported sweet treats. Instead I went with a couple of blocks of Lindt Intense Mint chocolate with some extra chocolate chopped up for texture.

Choc-Mint also happens to be my all time favourite ice cream flavour, though I'm usually turned off by the vivid green artificial colouring. I made a full batch of the brownies, ate a few pieces (for quality control of course) and chopped up the rest to be mixed through vanilla ice cream.

The taste test ...

YUM!!!! While the brownies themselves were ooey-gooey and fabulous, mixed through ice cream it was sensational! The peppermint flavour intensified and I loved the chewy chocolatey chunks. It was very hard to stop at one bowl.

Thanks for a great pick Karen! You can find the recipe at Welcome to Our Crazy Blessed Life under today's date.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: (Not) Tarte Noire

No your eyes don't deceive you, that is definitely not a chocolate tart! This week's pick was an epic fail for me, resulting in a bowl of black sludge oozing fat. Yech. I have made ganache many times without any problems so I can only think the fat content of my cream was too high. Whatever it was it was totally unusable and ended up in the bin.

Having now run out of both cream and chocolate (soooo glad Lindt was 50% off this week so I only wasted $6 on chocolate instead of $12) I had to come up with another use for my tart shell.

Inspired by the Mystery Box challenges on MasterChef I searched the fridge/pantry and came up with condensed milk, sour cream, eggs, vanilla and lemon. Voila! The baked lemon custard tart was born!

As my tart shell was already fully baked I was a little worried it would get too dark upon baking again but I kept a close eye and had no problems.

Baked Lemon Custard Tart
(makes enough filling for 2 tarts)

400ml sour cream
1 tin of condensed milk
2 eggs
1ts vanilla paste
juice and rind of 1 lemon
2 tbs strawberry jam
Fresh strawberries and icing sugar to serve

Preheat your oven to 180/350 degrees. Place your prebaked tart shell on a baking tray. Brush the base with strawberry jam and set to one side. Combine all other ingredients in the food processor and blitz until very smooth. Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until set (firm but with a slight wobble in the middle). Tent with foil during baking if the crust is becoming too dark.

Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature then refrigerate for a couple of hours.

To serve, carefully remove the tart from the pan and place on a serving plate. Cover the top with sliced strawberries and a dusting of icing sugar.

The taste test ...

An absolute winner! The filling tastes almost exactly like a lemon cheesecake but a lot lighter (obviously without all the cream cheese). The lemon and strawberries complimented each other perfectly and the sweet tart crust was delish as always. Hubby was really looking forward to chocolate tart but even he wasn't too disappointed to get this instead!

My apologies to Dharmagirl of bliss: towards a delicious life for completely stuffing up her pick this week! To see how it should have been done visit the other TWD bakers here.

** Blogger seems to be eating my comments for some reason. I'm not sure who you are, but if you were one of the 7 or so people who commented this afternoon and your comment isn't here, that's why! Anyone had this happen before??**

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes, a Trifle and some News

This week Wendy of Pink Stripes chose Dorie's Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes and as usual I tweaked the recipe. Honestly I can't remember the last time I actually made a recipe exactly as stated (apart from the Raisin Swirl Bread which was utter perfection!).

After realising these cakes were a variation on a standard pound cake I immediately thought trifle! We're not huge fans of rum (although I always have a stash for my Christmas baking) so I used just 1 ts in the batter. Surprisingly this was enough to create not only a great taste but a fabulous aroma while baking.

I made half the recipe (1 cake) and ended up with a mountain of perfect little cake cubes.

While in the past I have gone all out making a trifle, this time I went simple and no-fuss ... cake, jelly, tinned peaches and custard. I made a drenching syrup using some of the juice from my drained tin of peaches and this was a fabulous addition. I recently discovered Aeroplane jelly has a 25% reduced sugar variety with natural colours and flavours so that's what I used here in raspberry.
So regular readers may have noticed my blogging has become a little sporadic recently. I'm a little embarrassed to see just how long it has been since posting anything other than TWD, Daring Bakers or Daring Cooks.

My excuse? We've been cooking up anther little project around here. Due mid-November. Oh, and it's a boy! :-)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daring Bakers June - Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Marscapone Mousse

Ahhh, pavlova ... the quintessential Aussie summer dessert. While I am more of a fruit and whipped cream pavlova girl, all the chocolate in this version made my husband a very happy man!

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

I have never made chocolate meringues before so this was a great challenge for me. I made 1/3 of the recipe and got 4 lovely meringues. I baked them a little differently than stated in the recipe because I wanted them to have soft and fluffy middles. 45 minutes at 130 degrees C did the trick.

The marscapone mousse was more flowing than mousse-like but was absolutely delicious anyway. The marscapone cream/creme anglaise seemed like overkill to me so I topped my meringues with sliced strawberries and grated dark chocolate. This is a VERY sweet treat but the strawberries did cut through the richness of the mousse and the plain sugariness of the meringues.

The hardest part was taking a photo without someone's little fingers getting in the way! (Normally not a problem but Oscar is dairy intolerant).

Thanks to Dawn for a choctastic challenge this month! You can download a PDF of this recipe here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake

Let me just say, I loved this cake. LOVED. So a big thank you straight off to Amy of Amy Ruth Bakes for picking it this week!

The name 'Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake' really doesn't do this cake justice. To me it was a cheat's version of a Black Forest Cake (which I adore) just without all the fuss. Ok and without all the booze too.

I made a half batch in an 8 x 4 pan and it still took 50 minutes to cook. I was glad for the chance to use my Wilton layer cake cutter but somehow still managed to end up with wonky layers. Sandwiched together with black cherry conserve, smothered in fabulous chocolate-sour cream frosting and topped with fresh cherries, it didn't matter in the slightest. This was delicious!

The cherries were a bit of an indulgence as it is definitely not cherry season here. These were imported from the USA and about $16 a kilo.

I'm so glad I only made half the recipe. As it was I ate 3 slices.

Great pick, Amy! You can find the recipe at Amy Ruth Bakes under today's date.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Daring Cooks June - Pâtés and Bread

Wow it feels like ages since I've done a Daring Cooks challenge. Actually that's not totally accurate. It's ages since I completed one on time and got around to posting it!

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pâté recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

I didn't follow the pâté recipes provided but I hope what I've done fits within the spirit of the challenge. I made a simple salmon mousse and the sandwich bread.

Salmon Mousse

1 x 415g tin premium red salmon, drained, skin and bones removed
250g cream cheese
approx 200g smoked salmon
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 ts gelatine powder

Spray 4 small dariole moulds (I used plastic) with olive oil spray then line with plastic wrap. Then use the smoked salmon slices to completely line each mould, coming right to the top and ensuring there are no gaps.

Place the lemon juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Once warm sprinkle over the gelatine powder and turn off the heat. Stir until the gelatine is completely dissolved then set aside.

Place the tinned salmon and cream cheese in a food processor and process until very smooth, at least 2 minutes. With the motor running, drizzle in the lemon juice mixture and process for another minute or so until completely incorporated and smooth.

Pour the mousse mixture into each mould, tapping the mould on the bench to remove any air bubbles. Cover the tops with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To serve, gently ease each mousse out of the mould and remove the plastic wrap. Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving with fresh baguette or toast slices.

This mousse is intensely salmon flavoured but the lemon cuts through the richness. A perfect dinner party entrée.

Sandwich Loaf/Baguettes

3 tsp (15 ml) active dry yeast
2 2/3 cups (600 ml) whole milk (3.25 per cent fat), warmed to a temperature of 97ºF (36ºC)
2 1/2 tsp (12.5 ml) salt
2 tsp (10 ml) butter, melted
5 1/3 cups (750g) unbleached white bread flour, + 1/2 cup (75g), for working the dough
2 tbsp (30 ml) butter, for the loaf pan

To make loaves:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast and warm milk, and whisk to dissolve. Whisk in the salt and the melted butter. Gradually sprinkle in the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon.

When the dough becomes too thick to stir, knead it with your hands, for about 5 minutes, until you obtain a smooth, homogeneous dough that is soft and a little sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.

Knead the dough 20 strokes (still in the bowl), cover again, and let rest for 1.5 hours.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and divide in two. Form each half into a sausage. Transfer the dough to a greased baking sheet. Cover lightly and let rise in a draft-free area for 60 minutes, or until doubled in volume.

Fill a large baking pan with hot water (simmering is fine) and place in the oven. Preheat oven to 450ºF (240ºC). Using a very sharp knife cut 3 slits into the top of each loaf. Spritz the loaves with warm water and sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds (optional).

Put the loaves in then oven and bake for 10 minutes. Do not open the oven door during this time.

After 10 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 400ºF (200ºC) and continue baking for about 25 minutes, or until the loaves are nicely golden. Unmould and let cool on a rack.

Next time I would love to try the proper french bread recipe. It's been on my to-do list for ages but I just ran out of time. I was also worried how my starter would fare overnight considering how cold it has been lately.

TIP: I have always struggled with getting my dough to prove/rise well, especially in winter. But for this challenge I used a tip from Chocolatchic to proof the dough in the car! This worked spectacularly well and I think I will do it every time from now on.

Thanks for a great challenge!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Tuesday with Dorie: Raisin Swirl Bread

First of all, woo-hoo! I had figured it would be my turn to pick sometime this year but getting Laurie's email for June was a huge surprise. I spent a harried 24 hours or so flicking back and forth between recipes, trying to select something that I would not only love to bake but that said something about me.

My very first TWD post was for the Chocolate Puddings back on 15 July 2008. I wasn't even an official member at that stage but was playing along at home until I could order my copy of Baking. My blog was only a few days old and it was less than a month since my mum passed away. Baking and blogging seemed like a wonderful distraction at a really difficult time. Since then I have gotten married, had a baby and reached the 200 post mark.

All of this brings me to my reason for choosing the Raisin Swirl Bread this week. Baking bread is such a comforting, homey thing to do. There's nothing quite like the smell or taste of your own fresh bread and it is something I hope my kids remember from their childhood as I do.

I loved this bread and I hope anyone who was scared of yeast (or raisins!) had a go and was happy with the results!

Raisin Swirl Bread
pp 59-60 of Baking: From My Home to Yours

For the bread:
1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar, plus a pinch
1 1/4 cups just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons or 60g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
Grated zest of 1/2 orange (optional)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour

For the swirl:
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter, softened to a spreadable consistency

To make the bread:
Put the yeast in a small bowl, toss in the pinch of sugar and stir in 1/4 cup of the warm milk. Let rest for 3 minutes, then stir - the yeast may not have dissolved completely and it may not have bubbled, but it should be soft.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the remaining 1 cup of milk, the butter and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and mix for a minute or two. Add the salt, egg and vanilla, if you are using it, as well as the zest and nutmeg, if you're using them, and mix for a minute. In all likelihood, the mixture will look unpleasantly curdly (it will look even worse when you add the yeast). Add the yeast mixture and beat on low-medium speed for 1 minute more.

Turn the mixer off and add 2 3/4 cups of the flour. Mix on low speed just until you work the flour into the liquids - you'll have a sticky mix. If you've got a dough hook, switch to it now. Add another 1 cup of flour, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the dough for a couple of minutes. If the dough does not come together and almost clean the sides of the bowl, add up to 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Keep the mixer speed at medium and knead the dough for about 3 minutes, or until it is smooth and has a lovely buttery sheen. The dough will be very soft, much too soft to knead by hand.

Butter a large bowl, turn the dough into a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Put the bowl in a warm place and let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Scrape the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, wrap it and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm enough to be rolled easily. (At this point, you can instead refrigerate the dough overnight if that is more convenient).

To make the swirl and shape the loaf:
Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and cocoa, if you're using it. Check that the raisins are nice and moist; if they're not, steam them for a minute, then dry them well.

Put the dough on a large work surface lightly dusted with flour, lightly dust the top of the dough and roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 x 18 inches.

Gently smear 2 tablespoons of the butter over the surface of the dough - this is most easily done with your fingers. Sprinkle over the sugar mixture and scatter over the raisins. Starting from a short side of the dough, roll the dough up jelly-roll fashion, making sure to roll the dough snugly. Fit the dough into the buttered pan, seam side down, and tuck the ends under the loaf.

Cover the pan loosely with wax paper and set in a warm place; let the dough rise until it comes just a little above the edges of the pan, about 45 minutes.

Getting ready to bake:
When the dough has almost fully risen, centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees Celsius). Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter, and brush the top of the loaf with the butter. Put the pan on the baking sheet and bake the bread for about 20 minutes. Cover loosely with a foil tent and bake for another 25 minutes or so, until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when the bottom of the pan is tapped. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then unmold. Invert the bread and cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

I have to confess to slicing my bread while it was still warm and I ended up with raisins scattered everywhere. But it was totally worth it ... it is sensational straight from the oven!

Oh and it also makes spectacular cinnamon toast the next day!

Thank you in advance to everyone who baked along with me this week and huge thanks to Laurie for creating such a wonderful group and Dorie for her fabulous book! :-)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Strawberry Shortcakes

So this week Cathy of The Tortefeasor chose Dorie's Tender Shortcakes. I, having no real idea what a shortcake was, wasn't particularly enthused. Till I figured out they were big, buttery scones covered with cream and berries!

These are incredibly quick to make but just as with the Sweet Cream Biscuits from a few weeks ago, the amount of liquid/cream in the recipe was woefully inadequate. I had to add a full 1/4 cup extra to get something even resembling a crumbly, scone dough. Certainly nothing like a soft dough that you scoop out and plop on the baking tray.

No matter. These baked up buttery, golden and melt-in-the-mouth tender. Smothered with diced strawberries and a big dollop of sweetened whipped cream, you have something truly sensational!

I made just a half batch and got 7 gigantic shortcakes. Some are headed straight for the freezer.

You will find the recipe at The Tortefeasor under today's date. Thanks for a great pick Cathy!

Next week we have Raisin Swirl Bread chosen by ... ME!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: White Chocolate Brownies

This week's pick was Dorie's White Chocolate Brownies, as chosen by delightful Marthe of Culinary Delights. Now certain people have been waiting for these brownies to be chosen forever, so I hope everyone else enjoyed them as much as I did!

You'll notice my brownies are naked. I just wasn't up for meringue this week and I was sure that it would make them too sweet for me anyway. As it was, I could have easily devoured my half batch in one sitting!

I used frozen raspberries here (the fresh ones are ridiculously expensive even in season) and had no problems. Knowing they tended to underbake, I cooked mine for 30 minutes (I used and 8 x 8 pan) and they were perfect.

Thanks for a fabulous pick, Marthe! The white chocolate, raspberries and orange flavours were a match made in baking heaven. I will definitely be making these again!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Daring Bakers May - Croquembouche!

I have been in love with the croquembouche as long as I can remember! And really, what's not to love? Choux pastry filled with smooth vanilla cream and smothered in crunchy, sweet caramel.

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

This month's challenge brings me full circle, as my very first Daring Bakers' challenge was chocolate eclairs. It was my first time making choux pastry and I definitely had a few dramas. This time around I'm happy to say they were worked perfectly.

I made just 10 cream puffs and half the caramel glaze. I was keen to try the spun sugar effect but I had just 20 minutes of Oscar-free time so after assembling my 'tower' I just poured the remainder over the top.

The result?

Amazing. Just as good as anything I've tasted elsewhere for surprisingly little work. When I have more time and a special occasion to bake for I will definitely be making a full size croquembouche with spun sugar. But for now, this hit the spot and I can cross it off my to-make list.

Thanks for a fabulous challenge Cat!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Banana Coconut Icecream Pie

This week Spike of Spike.Bakes chose Dorie's Banana Coconut Icecream Pie and I have to admit, I really wasn't sure about this one! Even after reading the recipe I had no idea whether this was something I would enjoy or not. Still, I ploughed on but couldn't resist making a few changes.

My version has a plain shortbread crust (no coconut) and 2 layers of filling instead of one. I didn't want to mess up the creamy perfection of the chocolate ice-cream so I made a separate banana layer using some of my stash of frozen bananas whizzed up with a teaspoon of vanilla essence and some heavy cream. I then sprinkled some toasted shredded coconut on top.

The taste test ...

Not bad! Probably not something I would make again but banana and chocolate are always a great combination. I'm glad I didn't use any rum in the filling or coconut in the base. The flavours here were just right for us.

Thanks for an interesting pick, Spike! You can find the original recipe at Spike.Bakes under today's date.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Apple-Apricot Bread Pudding

This week Elizabeth of Cake or Death? chose Dorie's Apple-Apple Bread Pudding and it was the perfect pick given the freezing cold weather we've been having (well freezing for Brisbane anyway). Is there anything more comforting on a cold night than bread pudding?

We've had a lot of rich food recently so I tried to cut the calories a bit with this one, without sacrificing taste of course.

Rather than caramalise the apples I simply stewed them with water and cinnamon. The gala apples are so sweet at the moment they really don't need any added sugar.

We can't get apple butter here so I used a 100% apricot spread instead.

I also used low fat milk and reduced the amount of cream.

As for the bread, I found something called Scone Toast at the supermarket which seemed ideal. I always leave the crusts on.

The result? A creamy, delicious bread pudding that we all loved! Definitely didn't miss the extra butter, sugar or cream. With a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on top this is the quintessential winter dessert.

Thanks for a great pick Elizabeth! You can find the recipe on her blog under today's date.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Quick Berry Tart

What's quicker than a Quick Classic Berry Tart? These even quicker Itty-Bitty-Puff-Berry-Tartlets! As much as I love Dorie's sweet tart dough I wasn't in the mood for making pastry this week, especially since I only wanted to make minis.

Why? We're still working our way through the fabulous Banoffee Tart my lovely hubby made for dinner on Mothers' Day, along with this delicious rack of lamb with roast veges.

So for this week's TWD I chose the cheat's option and grabbed a sheet of puff pastry from the freezer and cut out little circles. The pastry cream takes only minutes to make and I topped each one with 3 perfect blueberries (frozen ones because they are always in season).

I will definitely make the original Classic Berry Tart sometime as I adore fruit tarts. My apologies to Cristine of Cooking with Cristine for not making the exact recipe which you can find on her blog. But I hope you enjoy my version!
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