Monday, April 9, 2012

Taste Test: Donna Hay Macarons

As mentioned before, I’ve been so eager to try out the Donna Hay packet mixes. In an earlier post I tried out the Molten chocolate brownies. This time I tried the Almond macarons with chocolate filling. This packet mix has intrigued me as I’m dying to see what the result is like because of the small amount of ingredients required and the “egg mix”.

The carton contained; egg mix (powdered egg whites), almond mix and chocolate pieces. While you supply the warm and cold water and 2 table spoons of cream. The method is simple; rehydrating the powdered egg with warm water, beating the egg mix to a glossy consistency, folding through the almond mix, piping and baking. Assembling is a matter of melting the chocolate in the cream and sandwiching the macarons together.

I was very surprised by the result as they looked like proper macarons with their crunchy top, and feet. Their middles were not as soft as regular macaron but that could be due to my oven’s temperature. Overall these macarons are a great cheat alternative for an afternoon high tea if you have limited time and a great sense of achievement for an kitchen novice. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Classic Bakes: Cheesecake

I have a favourite baked cheesecake recipe that I use and tweak for a variety of ingredients and flavours. I love it when I find a recipe that’s fools proof, tastes great and can be used time and time again with a few additions here and there.
I’ve been craving fresh roasted salted macadamia nuts over the last couple of weeks. I’ve added them to my salads and cheese plates. I cannot get enough of them. So when I felt like baking a cheesecake, I knew exactly what the flavour would be; Salted macadamia and honey cheesecake. I love making muffin sized individual cheesecakes and this time I even made a few baby cheesecake bites in a mini muffin pan.

Salted Macadamia and Honey Baked Cheesecake
Makes; 22cm round cake pan or 6 large muffin sizes

Biscuit base
100g plain sweet biscuit
50g unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake filling
¼ cup thickened cream
500g cream cheese
¼ cup caster sugar
¼ cup honey
1 egg
100g salted macadamias, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Line cake pan or muffin pan with baking paper.

Process biscuits until fine crumbs and add in melted butter. Divide into muffin pans and press firmly and even to create the crust. Refrigerate for 30mins till firm.

Beat cheese, sugar, cream and egg with an electric mixer until smooth and silky. Pour evenly into muffin pan and sprinkle with macadamias.

Bake in oven for 30mins or until slightly golden and just firm. Leave to cool in oven with door ajar. Once cool refrigerate for 3 hours until cold and completely firm. Before serving, drizzle with warm honey. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Taste Test

If you don’t frequently walk down and ponder the baking isle as much I do you may have not noticed the range of Donna Hay packet baking mixes; Brownie, Macaroons and Cupcakes. I have really wanted to taste test the mixes because I am a fan of Donna Hay's recipes and also compare them to the real deal of homemade. So today I took the plunge and bought the Molten Chocolate Chunk Brownie. I do not normally buy packet mixes as I’m a firm believer of good quality fresh foods, homemade (how hard is it really to bake a simple cake) and knowing what and how much is really in my food. The last packet mix I bought was when I was a tween for a friend’s birthday.

As a usual packet mix you only needed a few items; an oven, pan, butter and eggs. Chuck all the ingredients in a bowl, stir in the chocolate chunks (tasted like compound chocolate) bake for 40mins and voila; Molten brownies.

How did they stack up? They looked like the picture on the  box; gooey chocolate, moist and fudgy. How did they taste? Overall - Ok. They were very very sweet. The sweetness overpowered the flavour of the chocolate completely. They had the texture of a good brownie but lacked the flavour. Kids and teenagers love them as my brother woofed three down with a glass of milk in record time. They would be great for kids that want to bake or an unexpected play date but not for an indulgent afternoon tea.

Has anyone else tried the range? What do you think about them? I am so curious about the macaroons. There next on my list to try.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Afternoon Tea Tuesdays: Favourite Tea

 I drink so much tea. At least 5-8 cups a day. What can I say....I love tea. My pantry is full of boxes and tins of different types. There is; Jasmine, Chai, Honey, French earl grey, Australian afternoon tea, English breakfast, Lady Grey, Japanese Morning and so forth. 

Among all the tea I drink, I do have a favourite I come back to time and time again; Earl grey with blueflower from TBar. It's a black tea that's flavoured with bergamot, mallow blossoms and cornflour blossoms. Its so refreshing and subtle and perfect for any time.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Classic Bakes: Carrot Cake

If I desperately want a cake but don’t want to indulge in the calories, I choose carrot cake telling myself it’s healthy. “Hey it’s got carrots in it so it must be…somewhat healthy”. I love carrot cakes that are full of character in regards to; spice, nuts, fruit and densely moist. I've tried and tested over 5 different carrot cake recipes and have adapted them to make this one that I really love and make when I'm craving a good slice of cake with my afternoon cups of tea.

This frosting recipe is also not too sickly sweet and stores well in the refrigerator.I decided to make one mini cake and a few muffins with this recipe.  

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 12 muffins or 24 cm cake pan
(Adapted from Women’s Weekly - MIX and Bill Granger – Bill’s Basics)

Carrot Cake / Muffins
1 ½ cups (225g) self-raising flour
1 cup (220g) firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup (125ml) light flavoured oil, (bran, sunflower)
3 eggs
2 cups (480g) firmly packed coarsely grated carrot
½ cup roughly chopped walnuts
½ cup raisins

Cream Cheese Frosting
250g cream cheese, softened
30g unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g icing sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Line muffin tray or cake pan.
Combine sifted flours, sugar, spice, oil and eggs until mixed thoroughly. Stir in grated carrots, nuts and raisins. Fill muffin trays ¾ full or fill cake pan. Bake for approximately 30mins and test with skewer. Cakes may need an additional 10mins. Turn onto a rack to cool.

For the cream cheese frosting; beat together cream cheese, butter and extract until smooth and creamy. Gradually add in icing sugar until mixed though. 


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Baby Chocolate Mud Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

When I saw that this month’s blog hop was Love at First Bite
I thought long and hard about what to make. What do I really 
love in baking terms; baby baked goodies, cupcakes, chocolate
and salted caramel. So there was my answer staring right back
at me; Baby Chocolate Mud Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting.  

I wasn't sure if I was going to make this months hop as this last 
week has been full of ups and downs in our house. I had to make 
the frosting twice as my first batch didn't turn out to great (butter soup). 
Oh well. The second batch turned out better, although I still wasn't entirely 
happy with the result. I'll have to try it again. Regardless of the 
difficulties they taste indulgently delicious and as of this moment only
5 out of 36 remain. My family has gobbled up the rest. 

Baby Chocolate Mud Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting 
Makes 36 baby cupcakes. 
(Cupcake recipe from; Women's Weekly - Cupcakes,cheesecake,cookies)
(Frosting recipe adapted from; Best friends for frosting - Salted caramel frosting)

60g dark eating chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup of water (160ml)
90g butter,softened
1 cup (220g) brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
2/3 cup (100g) Self-raising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder 
1/3 cup (40g) Almond meal 

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. 
Line baby cupcake tray with muffin pans. 
In a saucepan, combine chocolate and water. Over low heat
stir until melted and smooth. Set aside. Beat together butter,
sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Stir in sifted flour, cocoa and
almond meal along with warm chocolate mixture. Divide among
muffin pans filling 3/4 full. Smooth surface with the back of a teaspoon. 
Bake for 25 mins. Cool on a rack. Tip** Make sure your oven 
temperature doesn't fall when you put in your cupcakes otherwise 
you will end up with flat muffin tops. A oven thermometer is handy
for this. 

3/4 cup caster sugar
6 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup butter, slightly softened
3 cups icing sugar

Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in colour, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. (Be careful, mixture will bubble up and possibly splatter a bit as you add in the cream).  Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes. If it turns hard or into a sticky consistency, place back onto low heat for a minute and add a few drops of water water. 
Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. (Make sure butter is not sloppy soft other wise when you add in the caramel it will turn into butter soup.) Reduce speed to low, add icing sugar, and mix until completely incorporated.
On a low setting mix in caramel by slowly pouring it in. Beat frosting on low to combine, and then increase to medium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes.  ( My mixture did not turn fluffy. I had to refridgerate and then mix again before it resembled anything like spreadable, pipe-able frosting.) Refrigerate if not using immediately or refrigerate to harden the frosting a bit.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Afternoon Tea Tuesday: Teacup candles

I love teacups and candles. So put them together to get teacup candles
and its the next best thing since sliced bread...well, in my mind. 

These beautiful candles are from the Etsy shop, The Pink Fence
The collection of 36 soy wax candles are exquisite and dainty with each
one unique as you can pick your own fragrance. The Pink Fence also 
makes perfumed lockets and jewellery. I especially love how the candle
colour compliments the design. I'm just having trouble picking which one
I want to add to my growing collection. I don't think I'll be able to stop
at just one. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine themed baked goodies

Heart macaroons

Image via: Pinterest - Bubble and Sweet

I'm one of those people who thinks Valentines day is an over
commercialised marketing ploy resulting in; expensive red roses 
and awkward candlelight dinners. But I have a confession...........
I love all the beautiful valentine themed baked treats that pop up
in February. Love them. I've been gawking at all the valentine post in the 
blogsphere / pinterest and trying to determine what to bake for the next 
Sweet Adventures blog hop - Love at first bite. I'm so excited and have 
been planning and brainstorming madly. Fingers crossed my idea works
out to how I imagine it to look. 

Happy Valentines Day. 

Afternoon Tea Tuesdays: Butter cream roses

honeyed Italian meringue buttercream

Image via: Pinterest

One thing I really would like to learn how to make is butter cream roses. 
I think they are so beautiful how they suddenly appear after a few delicately
piped layers of frosting. I love smaller roses on baby cupcakes. 

This tutorial video from CHOW makes it look easy and quite possible to attempt.
I'm determined to give it a go sometime soon. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Classic Bakes: Honey Drop Cookies

This past week has been so busy with work its flown by in no time.
I managed to quickly whip up a small batch of Honey Drop cookies.

These cookies are so easy to make and bake in around 20mins from 
prep to finish. This batch of cookies I used creamed lemon myrtle honey. 
It made them divine. 

Honey Drop Cookies
(Recipe adapted from; Frankie Mag - Afternoon Tea)
Makes 12 - 16 cookies 

3 tablespoons of honey (if creamed use 2)
1 tablespoon of sugar 
50g butter unsalted
1/2 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
pinch of salt 
1/2 teaspoon of; cinnamon or ginger or mixed spice 
(take your pick; I love mixed spice) 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with grease
proof paper. In a saucepan combine; honey sugar and butter over low
heat until melted. Remove from heat.

Sift dry ingredients into the honey mix and stir till thoroughly combined. 
Drop one teaspoon of mixture onto the papered tray. Leave a 5cm
gap between cookies to allow for spreading. Bake for 10 mins but 
keep a close eye as they burn very easily due to high sugar content. 
Store in airtight container. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Afternoon Tea Tuesdays: Teacup 3 tier stand

Alice Finds an Orange Rose, Vintage China Jewelry Stand Display in 3 Black Japanese Tiers -- FREE SHIPPING

I spotted this beautiful jewellery stands from  High Tea for Alice  on Etsy. 
I think they would still be great for a high tea stand as you could place
long thin biscuits in the tea cup. Her entire collection is gorgeous.
Hard part is choosing just one. 

I know this post is not actually posted on Tuesday.
I ran out of time during the day. Sorry. 

(Photos: High Tea for Alice)

Alice Eats a Peach, Floral Vintage China Cake Stand Pedestal in 2 Tiers for Cupcakes, High Tea, Birthday, Shower or Wedding Candy Bar

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Afternoon Tea Tuesdays: Teacup Necklace

Years ago I purchased a small pink teacup necklace with a bronze spoon and
chain. I've worn it so much its begun to fade in colour and the bronze chain has
gone black. So its time to search for a new beloved teacup necklace. I've hunted 
around for months and have come up with four possible choices so far.
I don't know which one to choose as they are all so gorgeous.

1. AgHalo
4. La Rie

Monday, January 30, 2012

Classic Bakes: Scones

Scones are one of my favourite comfort bakes. With so many variations
of the humble scone, I don't think I have ever baked the same recipe twice. 
I have yet to stumble across one recipe that shines above the rest. This
batch of scones I lathered with blackberry jam, fresh blackberries and thick
dollop cream. I prefer to not have sweetened cream on scones as it makes 
them to sweet and sickly when paired with the jam. 

Vanilla Bean Scones 
(Recipe: Aus Women's Weekly; Afternoon Tea) 
Makes about 16 normal sized scones. 
I like to make a mixture of normal and mini. 

2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
30g butter chopped
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water 
1 vanilla bean / 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean extract

To serve 
Jam of choice
Fresh berries 
Thick cream 

Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Place baking paper onto a baking tray. 
Sift flour and caster sugar into a bowl and rub in butter to make fine 
breadcrumb texture. Rub between thumb and fore finger. In a jug mix 
water, milk and vanilla stirring to combine. Add mixture to flour using a 
knife to cut and combine to a sticky dough. Turn onto floured surface and 
gently knead till smooth. Carefully pat out dough to desired thickness 
and cut out circles using a floured biscuit cutter. Place onto baking tray allowing
each scone to just touch each other on the edges. Brush scones with a little milk. Once baked serve with jam and cream. Best served warm and on the day of baking. Can be frozen up to 3 months - Thaw in low oven wrapped in alfoil. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Afternoon Tea Tuesdays: Tea Towels

When I was younger we had an odd vintage tea towel with a recipe print 
(Aussie Pavlova / Scones) or an Australian sightseeing souvenir design. Currently the drawer is full of green checkered tea towels to match the green kitchen table. I think this collection of afternoon tea themed designed tea towels need to be sneaked into my kitchen to make washing up more visually appealing. Or maybe even just put in a frame for my room.

1: Hard to Find Noice - By Materialistic 
2: Hard to Find:  French Fancy - By Materialistic 
4: Hard to Find:  Tea For Two - By Me and Amber

Friday, January 20, 2012

18th Birthday Cupcakes

My brother just had his 18th birthday. When I asked
if he would like me to make a cake for him he happily
accepted but proposed a list of requirements.

The List: cookies and cream cupcakes with the cupcakes
being white cake with cookies mixed in (with a cake to
cookie ratio of 1:1), flattened plain white frosting and a
piped 1 with two mini oreo's for the 8.

I thought the ratio was hilarious. I was quite glad of
the requirements / specifications as it made recipe hunting
easy and allowed me to not be picky and indecisive.  
So I settled on; white chocolate cupcakes with 1/2
biscuit in the bottom, 1/2 on top with white chocolate
fudge frosting. After I made the frosting, he decided that
he did want cookies mixed into the frosting. So I processed
some oreos and added them into the frosting but when
combined it hardened the frosting and made its taste texture
quite fatty and sweet. I think it was a reaction between the
cream in the frosting and the cream icing in the biscuit.
I don't recommend adding crushed oreos to this frosting
recipe. Nevertheless, to my brother and his friends they loved
it. I guess thats the difference between 18 and 23 yr olds
tastebuds. This cupcake recipe has a lovely light and fluffy
texture. Also note that the uncooked batter is pretty tasty too.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

(Recipes adapted from: Donna Hay - Simple Essentials; Chocolate)

Makes 12 1/2 cup cupcakes.

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Oreos
100g butter, softened
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
100g white chocolate, melted
12 oreo biscuits, quatered

White Chocolate Fudge Frosting
250g white chocolate
1/2 cup pouring cream
70g butter

Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius.

For the cupcakes; line a 12 cupcake pan with patty pans.
Beat butter and sugar in electric mixer till light and creamy.
Add in the eggs, followed by flour and baking powder until
combined. Gently fold through milk and white chocolate
alternatively. Place 2 quaters of one biscuit into the bottom of
the patty pan. Spoon mixture into patty pans followed by
gently pushing in the other 2 quaters of biscuit on to the top. 
Bake for 20 - 25 mins, or until cooked when tested with skewer.
**My cupcakes took about 35mins. 

For the frosting; place all ingredients over a bain marie
until melted and smooth consistency. Allow to completely
cool down then just before using, beat with electric mixer till
thick and fluffy being careful to not over beat and churn into
butter. Pipe  / spread onto cupcakes.
**I piped a dark compound chocolate number one.

Apple, Lime & Mint Mixer

In the summer time I tend to find a refreshing drink
I like and stick with it for the entire season.
2010 was ruby red grapefruit and a splash of cranberry.
2011 was homemade french earl grey iced tea.
This year its cloudy apple juice, fresh lime and minted
ice cubes. I've become addicted to it. I drank a whole
2 L apple juice with this combination in a day. I've also
turned it into a mixer by adding a splash of vodka or
rum in it depending on the mood.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chocolate Truffle Cake -
Death by chocolate blog hop

After seeing all the entries from the Australian
Pavlova blog hop I was eagerly awaiting for the
next one so I could enter. I think the blog hop is a
great idea and it is amazing to see the different recipes
that come out of one single theme.

When Hungry Australian announced the recent blog
hop of Death by Chocolate, I instantly knew the recipe
I would bake. Chocolate Truffle Cake. This recipe from
Donna Hay (i love her fool proof methods) looks rich
and indulgent but its surprisingly not so rich that it leaves
you searching for milk / water to wash it down with.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of chocolate but if its
too rich it spoils the taste.

I've made this cake many times, as its easy after your
first attempt, makes you look like a cake whiz and
also a crowd pleaser. I love making this cake as
when I'm smoothing out the truffle icing it reminds me
of the cake from the children's movie Matilda where
Bruce Bogtrotters punishment is to eat a huge
piece of chocolate cake. That cake looked so good,
and I like to imagine it tasting a little like this.

I normally make this cake in a 20cm pan but this
time I made a mini double layer version using
2 x 10cm pans.

Chocolate Truffle Cake

(Recipe from: Donna Hay - Classics)

Makes one 20cm sized cake.

1/2 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/3 cup caster sugar
4 eggs
80g butter, melted
*100g dark chocolate, melted* optional

Truffle filling
450g dark chocolate (good quality, I prefer organic)
2cups pouring cream
6 eggs yolks
1/3 cup caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line
a 20cm spring form tin with baking paper.

Sift together flour and cocoa powder, set aside.
Beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until
pale, thick and tripled in size, approx 8 - 10mins.
Then fold in flour and cocoa, followed by the butter
and the optional dark chocolate. *I add a little
amount of chocolate to the cake mix as it makes
the cake denser and more flavoursome*.

Pour the mix into the tin and bake for 25mins or
until the cake shrinks away from the side of the tin.
Its important that the cake does this to make
icing step easy. Cool cake in tin. I like to cool it upside
down so to make sure I have a flat top.

For the filling, melt cream and chocolate in a saucepan
over low heat. I prefer to finely chop the chocolate, heat the
cream to nearly boiling then stir in the chocolate which
quickly melts. It prevents me from burning the chocolate.
Once combined, set aside. Place the egg yolks and
sugar over a bain marie (heat proof bowl on top of
saucepan of simmering water) and whisk for 6mins
until thickened and creamy. Fold the chocolate mix
into the egg mix and beat until the filling is cool.
Place in fridge for 30mins.

Remove cakes and baking paper from tins and slice
the cake in two even portions. Place the bottom
layer back into the tin and pour over 1/2 the truffle
mix onto the layer. Give the tin a gentle tap on the
bench to release any air bubbles trapped in the
sides. The filling should run down the side of the
tin where the cake shrank from the sides.
Place second cake layer gently on top and then
pour over the rest of the filling, gently tapping tin again.
Refrigerate for 5 hrs or until set like mousse / ganache.

To remove cake from tin, place a warm / heated towel
around the tin to melt the sides. Cake should easily slide
out once spring form is released. Smooth any rough
edges with the back of a warm palette that has been
heated in warm water then dried quickly with a towel.

While this cake may seem daunting on the first attempt,
trust me with the fact that when you get a rewarding end
result you'll say...that actually wasn't that hard. Also always
remember the cliche, practice makes perfect and if you
live in a household like mine, a chocolate cake will
never go astray.

This is a blog hop