Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Baking with Julia - Best-Ever Brownies

Best-Ever Brownies © food-baby.blogspot.com
It's no secret I fell in love with brownies through baking with Tuesdays with Dorie. Before that I thought they were chocolatey but kind of blah. So I was really keen to see how a recipe called 'Best-Ever Brownies' would compare with what I had made previously!

Whether they were amazing or not we definitely didn't need a whole batch sitting around, especially so close to Christmas, so I made 1/4 of the recipe in a mini loaf tin. My altered recipe is below.

The taste test ...

While I wouldn't say it's the best ever, it was pretty good! I overcooked my little brownie but the very middle was perfect - fudgy and gooey and just divine with a dollop of double cream. The ends were a little drier but still in a good dense chocolate cake kind of way. My photo in no way does it justice but at 8pm under fluorescent light that's the best I'm going to get!

Best-Ever Mini Brownie

1/3 cup plain flour
pinch salt
60g unsalted butter
45g dark chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 ts vanilla extract
1 large egg   

Follow the method as per Baking with Julia p 331. Bake in a mini loaf pan at 180 degrees celsius for approx 16 minutes until firm around the edges and squoodgy in the middle. I gave mine 20 minutes and it was overdone so a few minutes less ie. 16 mins should be pretty close.

Our host this week is Monica of A Beautiful Mess so make sure you check out the original recipe!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Charlie!

Digger Cake © food-baby.blogspot.com All rights reserved

Hard to believe but my baby turned 2 last week! Quite honestly it has been the fastest 2 years of my life and my boys are growing up so very quickly.

To celebrate we had a party on Sunday for friends and family. It was supposed to be at the park but rain the day before (the first real rain in months) put an end to that. I had visions of muddy toddlers sliding all over the place! So Plan B was at our place and amazingly we fit 19 adults and 13 children in our lounge/dining room and little backyard. We must live in the Tardis.

Here is the birthday boy checking out his new cubby and opening his presents ...

And onto the important stuff, the food!

As you will have seen above I made Charlie a digger cake. He is obsessed with all things truck and I just I would have to do some sort of truck cake for him. I have 3 kids birthday cake books but unfortunately there was nothing quite right. I was thinking I would have to just wing it (a dangerous idea because cake decorating is really not my strength!) when I came across a digger cake on Cake 2 the Rescue.

This is a local business which sends out cake kits complete with everything you need to make a brilliant cake - cake mix, icing mix, pre-coloured fondant icing in the right amounts, food colouring, a rolling pin, cake lifter and cake board. While I wouldn't normally go for something so pre-packaged it was a real time saver and a lot of fun! And just for the record this is not a sponsored post, I paid for own cake kit and just wanted to give them a shout-out.

Digger Cake © food-baby.blogspot.com All rights reserved

Here is the finished cake with M&Ms 'dirt' and lots of little fingers waiting (or not) to dig in! It was a real hit on the day and Charlie loved it. Everyone loved the taste of the cake but as the decorator I found the cake a bit too spongy. Despite being in the fridge first it still crumbled in parts when I iced it whereas a slightly denser buttercake may have held together better. No big deal really but still.

Keeping with the truck theme I also had a go at decorating some biscuits. I found this cute cutter at Matchbox and used Charlie's favourite colour orange to decorate. This was my first ever attempt at decorating biscuits and I think I did ok. My only real issue came with the tyres. I completely underestimated how much black food colouring I would need to make a real black and of course my icing was far too runny by them and began to ooze and run off the edges of a few of the biscuits. Luckily no one cared!

Truck Cookies © food-baby.blogspot.com All rights reserved

I used a sugar cookie recipe from Sweetapolita which you can find here and an icing recipe from I Am Baker which you can find here. I was really happy with both of these and would definitely recommend them. I also used Wilton gel colours.

So that's it! Another birthday done and dusted. Oscar is already asking for a dinosaur cake for next year so I will have another opportunity to work on my cake decorating skills.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Christmas Baking with Lucky Nuts

Recently I received a lovely gift bag of nuts from Lucky courtesy of Product Talk by Nuffnang. Just look at that haul! As a baker it made me very, very happy especially in the lead-up to Christmas which is the time of year when I cook with nuts.

I grew up watching my mum use Lucky nuts in her Christmas baking and they are what I turn to for special occasion baking too. I didn't actually realise it but Lucky almonds are all grown in Australia and in fact Lucky is the leading cooking nut brand in Australia, so they are definitely doing something right!

In case you can't see well enough I received a bag each of blanched, slivered and flaked almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, almond and hazelnut meals and 2 new products which I was very excited about.

Firstly was a bag of Easy Chef Oven Roasted Almond Meal, which as the packet says it basically a cheesecake base in a bag. So of course I had to make a cheesecake!

Secondly was a bag of Easy Chef Almond Crumble which is a mix of almond meal, flaked and slivered almonds with oats and again as the packet says, is a crumble topping in a bag. Perfect.

The walnuts didn't make it into my baking but I enjoyed them as a tasty mid-morning snack during the week. The pine nuts are set aside for pesto and the almond meal will be used in a gluten free almond shortbread recipe I am working on for Christmas. The blanched almonds will of course be decorating the tops of my Christmas cakes which aren't ready to bake yet.

I ended up making 4 desserts, perfect for Christmas for anytime really - some moist Choc Hazelnut Cakes, a Panforte Ice Cream, Almond Cheesecake and Blueberry Crumble Pie.I'm trying to cut back on sugar so some of my recipes use Natvia.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and if you would like to try any Lucky products for yourself, the full range is available in Coles with a smaller range available in Woolies and independent grocery stores.

Almond Cheesecake

Adapted from Lucky

For the crust
125g unsalted butter, melted
250g packet Lucky Oven Roasted Almond Meal
1 tbs Natvia for Baking (or 2tbs brown sugar)

For the filling
500g cream cheese
3 eggs
3/4 cup Natvia for Baking (or 3/4 cup caster sugar)
2 ts vanilla extract
1/2 cup pure cream
1/2 cup Lucky Flaked Almonds, toasted*

Lightly grease and line the base of a 23cm springform pan.

Mix together the Lucky Oven Roasted Almond Meal with the melted butter and Natvia. Spoon into the prepared tin and press over the base and up the sides. Place in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 degrees fan-forced).

In a food processor or electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and Natvia until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla and cream and beat for 3 minutes. Pour the mixture into the prepared base and bake for 35-40 minutes or until cheesecake is lightly golden and just set in the middle.

Remove and allow to cool to room temperature before chilling in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Decorate with toasted almonds. Serves 8-10.

Panforte Ice Cream

Panforte Ice Cream © food-baby.blogspot.com All rights reserved
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, p68

1 cup full cream milk
1/3 cup Natvia for Baking (or white sugar)
1/2 ts cinnamon
1/4 ts ground cloves
1/4 ts ground nutmeg
Zest of 1 orange
2 cups pure cream
4 large egg yolks
1 x 110g pack Lucky Slivered Almonds, toasted*

Warm the milk, Natvia/sugar, spices and orange zest in a medium saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and leave to steep for 30 minutes. Add the cream and rewarm the mixture.

In another large bowl whisk the egg yolks.

Pour the warm milk/cream over the yolks, whisking constantly, then pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook the custard over medium heat, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until it thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer into the cream. Mix thoroughly.

Place the bowl into an ice bath and stir the custard until it is cool.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge before churning in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Add the toasted almonds in the last few minutes of churning.

* To toast almonds place them on a large ungreased oven tray and bake at 170 degrees celsius for 10-12 minutes, stirring several times. Leave to cool    

Makes approx 1 litre.

Moist Choc Hazelnut Cakes

Moist Choc Hazelnut Cakes © food-baby.blogspot.com All rights reserved
Adapted from Curtis Stone

90g Lucky hazelnut meal
125g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa)
125g butter
pinch of salt
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
65g caster sugar
Plain flour for dusting (can use gluten free flour)
Butter for greasing
Raspberries for serve

Place a baking tray in the oven and preheat to 180 degrees celsius fan forced. Grease the inside of 6 metal dariole molds with butter and dust with flour. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a small bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir in the butter and remove from the heat.

Place the whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 5-7 minutes or until light, pale and foamy. Fold the melted chocolate into the eggs and then the hazelnut meal, mixing gently until well combined.

Spoon evenly into the prepared molds, place on the baking tray and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 1-2 minutes, before turning out onto serving plates. Dust each one with icing sugar and serve with fresh raspberries. Makes 6.

Blueberry Crumble Pie

Blueberry Crumble Pie © food-baby.blogspot.com All rights reserved
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Double Crusted Blueberry Pie in Baking from My Home to Yours, p361

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbs sugar
280g salted butter, very cold and cut into tablespoon size pieces
68g coconut oil, cold
About 1/2 cup ice water

Put the flour and sugar in a food processor and pulse just to combine the ingredients. Add the butter and coconut oil and pulse only until the butter and coconut oil are cut into the flour. Gradually add the water, a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough is moist and clumpy. You want to see some pieces of butter. Check to see if the dough will stick together if pinched, and keep pulsing until it does.

Tip the dough out onto a piece of cling wrap, bring it together into a disc and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out.

Roll out the dough on a floured work surface or in between 2 pieces of baking paper. Lay the dough out into a greased 9 inch pie pan and trim the edges. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Blind bake the pastry shell for 20 minutes, then remove the lining and bake for a further 5 minutes.

1 x 500g pack frozen blueberries
2 tbs sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tbs cornflour mixed with 2 tbs water

Place the blueberries, sugar and lemon zest and juice in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the blueberries have thawed. Add the cornflour and water and cook for a further few minutes until the liquid has thickened and is clear and syrupy. Remove from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.

1 pack Lucky Almond Crumble
80g unsalted butter
2 tbs raw sugar
1/2 ts ground cinnamon

In a medium bowl mix together the Almond Crumble, sugar and cinnamon. Rub in the butter using your fingertips until well combined..

To assemble
Spoon the filling into the prepared pie shell. Sprinkle over the crumble topping evenly over the filling leaving a small gap around the edges to show the gorgeous colour of the blueberries.

Bake in a preheated 180 degree oven (160 degrees fan forced) for approx 20 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving with a big dollop of cream.

This recipe makes 1 large 9 inch pie or 4 smaller pies.

Note - this is not a sponsored post however I did receive product for consideration. For more information see Product Talk by Nuffnang.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Baking with Julia - Buttermilk Crumb Muffins

Buttermilk Crumb Muffins © food-baby.blogspot.com All rights reserved

A homemade muffin, warm from the oven and fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg. Is there anything better on a blah Monday morning?

I made quite a few substitutions with these and will do a full post on why and what I used instead, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. In the meantime make sure you visit our host Alisa of Easier Than Pie for the recipe!
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