Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Christmas Cake for One - the Traditional Rich Fruit Cake

Mother in law used to make Christmas cakes and we all loved her cake, the ones from the shops, never even close to her cakes.

Last year, I finally got her recipe - from a very old book.  Since then, I tried out different recipes, hubby loves those traditional English fruit cakes and there was one recipe from work that got the nod from MIL.

After the back operation in September this year, there's no way MIL will be able to make a Christmas cake.  So I thought, I will make her one.  Hunted down some mini spring form tins, 4.5" ones I think, great for cake for one.

However during the mad cooking season, I can't seem to locate either recipes I use quick enough, so I went back to the little cake making and decorating book by Margaret Fulton again.  There is an online recipe about her Christmas cake.  It's similar to the recipe I used.

I used the 6" quantity of rich fruit cake for the the 2 small 4.5" mini round cake tins - in her little book, it has got different quantities for different sizes of tins.

1 cup plain flour
0.5 tsp ground mixed spice
a good pinch of ground nutmet
100g butter
100g brown sugar
half of grated lemon rind
0.5 table spoon treacle (I used golden syrup)
2 large eggs
30g ground almonds
185g dried currants
125g sultanas
60g raisins
45g glace cherries
45g mixed peel
45g blanched almonds
1 table spoon brandy.

I soaked the dried fruits in brandy 2 nights prior.

This is the instruction from the book:
Sift the flour and spices together. 
Cream butter and fat and sugar and lemon rind together until light and fluffy (use the bench top mixer!)
Beat in the treacle.
Beat in eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of flour with the first egg.
Fold in the remaining flour (after the eggs) and the ground almonds, fruit and nuts until thoroughly mixed.
Turn the mixture into the prepared lined and greased tins, and smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
Back on the middle shelf of a preheated cool oven, 140C or 275F for 1.5 hours (the original recipe says 3 hours for the 6" tin, but as mine were smaller and shorter, it takes only half of the time to cook...

The recipe then specified the cooling and wraping in greaseproof paper and leave dougle thickness of foil for the cake to mature for 2-3 months..

Hmm... as I'm such a last minute planner, my mini cakes were made 3 days prior to the icing...

I was a bit stressed out when it came to icing, especially it's the Christmas eve and I was busy with a million other things.

So I chose to use the Satin Icing, and applied home made marmalade glaze before applying the icing (normally it's apricot glaze, but I didn't have apricot jam).

Satin Icing:
60g butter
4 tbsp lemon juice
4.5 cup of icing sugar

Making the icing is tricky.

Warm the fat and lemon juice in a pan until melted.
Add 1.5 cup of the icing sugar and heat gently, stirring until dissolved.
When the mixture begins to simmer at the sides of the pan, increase the heat until it boils gently (take off the heat quickly otherwise it will go hard)
Add another 1.5 cup of icing sugar and beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
Turn it into a mixing bowl and gently fold in the rest of the icing sugar until it forms a soft dough.
Turn it into a bench space dusted with icing sugar and knead until soft and smooth.  (for birthday cakes etc, you might want to add a bit of colouring.)
Roll it out to cover the top and sides of the cake,  and I wrapped it in clim film before I wrap it with a ribbon, so it's easier for the gift wrapping...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Steamed Christmas Pudding... Julia Child Way

I found this recipe on the internet a while back, for a plum pudding, by one of my favourite cook book writer Julia Child. 

So finally, it's time to give it a try.

There are some small changes.

I soaked the fruits in cherry liqueur and sherry for about a week, before using this recipe, and added some grated apple.

I didn't actually put the mix direct into the mixing but wrap it in cloth, it's easier for me to get it out and hang it in the pantry to dry later - for about a week or so, I was such a bad organiser with Christmas Lunch and didn't get time to do my pudding until really really late!

It's a nice pudding, moist and flavoursome, and so easy to make.  

I didn't make the sauce, MIL always makes the best brandy sauce and she brought us some for the lunch!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Stollen - December Daring Baker's Challenge

Oh how we love Christmas cakes and breads! Every year we have to have the rich fruit cake, stollen and the panettone.  I normally would make a rich fruit cake and buy the rest of the other cakes, but thanks to Penny from Sweet Sadie's Baking, the December Daring Baker's challenge is a lovely stollen wreath!

I love making breads and cake like breads and everything Christmas and was sooooo happy to get the recipe!

I didn't use mazipan, but I did use almond flakes and lots of icing sugar.  Please note because the recipe is of a large quantity, I only used half of the amount required.

Soaking the fruits in mixed liqueur over night.  Mixing the dough.

Proof the dough.

Spread out the dough into a square-ish sheet.

Roll up and curl it up, use a bowl in the middle to help the second proofing into the right shape.

Cut the outer sides for the shape, sprinkle on the almond flakes.

After second proofing.

Brush with butter and dust with icing sugar when it's baked...


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Party Food for the 4 Year Old Birthday Party....

Monique was suppose to be born on the 25th of December.  However, due to a lot of things happenning that time, we decided to take up the option of elective C-section and she was born 4 days earlier.  Her birthday party has been a clash with Christmas celebrations none the less.

However, it's still up to us to make an effort that her birthday is not all forgotten.  She didn't have a big party, just a couple of kinder friends, and some family friends.

They had fun, had the games, music chairs, pass the parcel, penyata, colouring ins...

Monique is a massive Thomas the Tank Engine fan... Apart from ordering a Thomas cake, she also got her train shape penyata... Not that girlie isn't she.

I just found a lot of excuse to do the party food.

Apart from the normal potato chips, cheezles, lollies, we had the 3 coloured fruit jellies, layers of Lime, Raspberry and Mango.

We had a lot of Croissants.  I used the easy over night recipe, and every one loved them.  I will update a proper recipe for croissants later.

The other type of party bread on offer is the Pigs in Blankets.  However due to one of the child having allergy of egg, dairy and nuts, I used magerine instead of butter and left the egg out of the recipe, also used the gelatine sugar wash instead of egg wash.

We had chilled lemon cheese cake slices, which I might update a recipe later on when I have more time.

And the last but the most effort and most painful, as I am just not good with colours and icing and cake decorations, the Thomas Tank Engine Cake...

I used Margaret Fulton's simple butter cake recipe, but added cocoa powder for the cake, and used her moulding icing recipe.  However, I found the liquid colours from super market here is the killer for the cake, as it has made the icing so runny.   And as I haven't got black, trying to make black, and the proper red was a major major task, and I still end up with runny icing! 

Oh well, I have since bought some Wilton icing colours from Amazon and I am patiently waiting for the shipment to arrive from America....  I will definitely practice more then.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Log - Another Type of Pavlova with Summer Berries and Mascapone Cream

Merry Christmas everyone! 

First of all, it's a mad cooking season... We are doing the Christmas lunch this year and it's all go go go...

Well, a lot to write about, the pork, turkey and the others, but because I'm more excited about making sweet things, my super achievement this year was the traditional plum pudding, and the second dessert, the Christmas log.

The very traditional Aussie Christmas Dinner (well, it's usually a lunch), will usually have turkey, ham and plum pudding, but also, the very beloved pavlova.  It's summer in the southern continent anyway.

I wasn't about to make another Pavlova (I made one for Church's Christmas Lunch) and was more interested in making a Yule Log, the recipe from Emmanuel Mollois, but when hubby saw Karen Matini's Pavlova Roll on Better Homes & Gardens, he said, I want to have that for Christmas.

So my Christmas Log was adapted from Karen Matini.  The link will bring you to the video of Karen's show on Better Homes & Gardens.  Certainly watching her doing it helps a lot to recreate this lovely log.

4 egg whites
1 tbsp corn flour
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla essense
175g caster sugar

250g mascapone cream
150g thickened cream
1 tbsp marsala
handful of toasted almond flakes

Icing sugar
Dessicated Coconut

Berry Salad
punet of strawberries
punet of blueberries.
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp caster sugar

Make the meringue as instructed in the video, it only takes a couple of minutes, the oven temperature is 165C, and I only baked for 15 minutes.

Lay a sheet of grease proof baking paper over the clean tea towel and sprinkle with dessicated coconut and icing sugar, generously.
Let meringue cool for at least 5 minutes.

Gently flip over the meringue (Karen did it with ease in the video, I did have hubby's help...) and remove the baking paper (the baking paper does need to be greased properly before the meringue was added to it, otherwise it's hard to remove)
Karen used goat's yoghurt to blend in with mascapone, I prefer the whipped cream as it's an everyday item in our fridge, and no need to go out and hunt it down somewhere.  Whip cream till soft peak, add marsala and fold in mascapone.

Spread onto the meringue sheet, and sprinkle on the toasted almond flakes - just to give the soft light dessert a bit of crunch.

I made the log in the morning, and let it sit in the fridge till serving after 2pm, but half an hour before serving, I sliced up the strawberry and marinated it in the sugar and lemon juice.  It's a little bit risky for us to use the balsamic and basil with the children as per Karen's recipe.

It's a pretty log, and very light and fruity.  Full of summer flavour. 

Maybe one year, we will go to the northern hemisphere and experience the White Christmas?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Traditional Pavlova with Strawberry & Chantilly Cream - All Time Summer Party Favourite

It's always easier to make a big pavlova for gatherings in summer, for Christmas parties etc. And that's usually what I make for our church gatherings.

When we say the traditional pavlova, I guess every family in Australia has their own "traditional" version of the good old pav.  I guess we have all read the recent report about the Pavlova being claimed as a Kiwi tradition rather than aussie, which makes it even more perfect for our family to bring the big pav...  Both hubby and I have strong New Zealand connection.  Either way, it's our family tradition to bring our family tradition version of the pavlova to the party.

I usually make it simple, with chantilly cream and berries, this time, strawberries and currents.

The Pav:
6 Egg Whites (My cake carrier couldn't handle any bigger, but anything smaller won't be enough)
1.5 cup of caster sugar
1 table spoon of corn flour
1 teaspoon of white vinegar
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

There are not a lot of ways to make the base for the pav.  It's a baked meringue.  I've never made pav with Italian meringue, and just followed the traditional way of making the base.
It's always better to use room temperature eggs and egg whites separated a bit earlier, similar to the Macarons.
Pre-heat oven to 150C or 130C fan forced.
Whisk egg whites with salt till peak, slowly blend in caster sugar, whisk on high till silky and soft, blend in vinegar, vanilla extract and fold in corn flour.
Normally the instruction goes like draw a 20cm in diametre circle on grease proof baking paper...  but lazy people like me don't like to do extra work, which means, free form.  well, I normally lay the baking paper over my trust worthy pizza tray, it's round anyway so I think it's not to hard to work the meringue into the circular base.  I'm not too artistic with the sides... but that will do.
In the oven, ooops, reduce the oven to 120C or 100C fan forced before you chuck the pav in.

and bake for an hour.
Leave it in the oven over night.
It's alright, let it dry out a bit.

It doesn't really matter the next morning, it's lowered a bit in the middle and there are a bit of cracks on top, we are not baking macarons here, there will be toppings.  Of course, it might help with a new oven with more even distribution of heat... I will have my new oven installed in the new year...

The Chantilly Cream.
300ml thickened cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
60-80g icing sugar (well, that's approx because I didn't measure, let's say 70g, but maybe less)

Whisk cream till firm peak (I had to be at church at 10:00am in the morning, with the pav, the pasta bake and a pizza, so I whisked the cream the night before when I baked the pav base. normally if serve fresh, it's better to whisk the cream till soft peak, so it's a night before version here or easy to transport version)
Blend in a further 80ml thickened cream to loosen it up just before serving.

The Strawberry and Currents:
1 250g punet strawberry, halved.
1 bunch of currents.
50g caster sugar
1 table spoon lemon juice.

Marinate strawberry in caster sugar and lemon juice, half an hour before the topping.

Well, I didn't really get to taste the pav myself.  As soon as our friends knew it's home made from scratch, the pav went within 5 minutes.

The verdict, it's much nicer and cheaper to make the pav base ourselves.  And it's not that hard at all.  The case is not as dry and our friends love it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Simple Chocolate Cup Cake with Butter Cream Frosting

This is a very basic cup cake, well, during week days I don't normally have a lot of time for baking.
By the time I finish work, chase the children for dinner, home work, piano and whatever they need to do, put them to bed, it's usually 9:00 pm...

Wouldn't even be able to bake the simplest cakes without hubby's help...

Anyway, Monique's turning 4 in a couple of days and we are only having a small party at home.  The house might be able to cater for more guests once we finalise the renovation and have a proper out door area.

So, like what I do for Luke every year for his birthday, I baked some cup cakes for her to share with all her kinder friends.  It would be nicer if she could have a whole big bake, but sometimes, it's just not practical, and I'm not sure if the kinder has got all the plates etc, and cup cakes are just easier.  Pink ones for the girls, blue for the boys.

Margaret Fulton's basic butter cake recipe for the chocolate cakes, and her butter cream frosting recipe for the frosting.  It's a very old cook book, and it comes in handy all the time.

Her basic butter cake recipe uses 2 egg portion, increase the quantity if needed.

125g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup self raising flour - sifted
1 table spoon hot water

I added 30g cocoa powder and a bit extra water.

Cream butter and sugar together till light and fluffy, beat in eggs, one by one, adding a bit of flour when adding the second egg.

fold in the remaining flour with a metal spoon and add in hot water.

Fill up 3/5 of the cup cake cases and bake in pre-heated 180C (350F) oven till ready.

Basic butter cream frosting:

125g butter
2 table spoon milk
1.5 cup icing sugar - sifted.

Beat the butter with half of sugar until smooth, add the remaining sugar, beat till creamy

For chocolate frosting, add
2 table spoon cocoa powder with 2 table spoon hot water, cool.
then add to mixture with only 1 table spoon of water.

I added some hundreds and thousands for some fun for the children...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pear Poached in Red Wine with Spices, Chantilly Cream Quenelle & Caramel Crystals

I didn't read the December Daring Cook's challenge properly and thought fruit was included in the poaching as well.  As a mega sweet tooth, I thought, I might poach the pears...

So this is the second dish I did for the December Daring Cook's challenge, not quite to the requirement, but oh well, I've done the eggs.

Pear Poached in Red Wine with Spices, Chantilly Cream Quenelle & Caramel Crystals

Sounds like a mouthful but it's pretty straight forward:
Fruity red wine.
Ripe pears (I used the knife to hollow out the cores from bottom, and put the little top back to make it look like it's still a whole pear)

1 Cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean pod, sliced
1 star arnis
1 tsp of all spice
1 tsp of nutmeg
raw sugar

Mix all ingredients apart from the pears, bring it to boil and turn to low heat.

Put the pear in the middle and start the poaching process till ready, laddle the sauce over the pear if needed.

Serve pear with a bit of red wine sauce and the chantilly cream quenelle - made from thickened cream and icing sugar.

Add a bit of crushed caramel pieces for a bit of crunch for this dish.

A sort of guilt free treat.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Poach to Perfection - December Darinng Cook Challenge, Poached Egg on Poached Salmon & Prawns Salad with Lemon Herb Vinegarette Dressing

The December Daring Cook Challenge is very versatile, hosted by Jenn from Jenn Cuisine, and Jill  
(jillouci), it's all about the poaching technique.

Please refer to the original recipe for the challenge here.  

However, I thought I should be a bit cheeky and do an all poaching dish - it's summer here in Australia, and a nice light summer salad for dinner with loads of lean protein and fresh vegies, is just what we need.

Poached Egg on Poached Salmon & Prawns Salad with Lemon Herb Vinegarette Dressing:

Serve: 2

2 fresh eggs, free range eggs preferred.
2 x 250g skinless salmon portion
16 Green Banana Prawns (these are native to Australia, any medium size prawns will do)
buffalo mozzarella - 200g
1 Cos Lettuce heart
bunch of baby radish, cleaned and sliced

Fresh dill
Fresh mint
Dijion mustard (I used the smooth version, seeded version can be used)
Juice of one lemon
olive oil

Prawns were poached first, in water only with shell on, then they are cooled and de-shelled.
Separate the lettuce and sliced radish into 2 dinner plates.
Add prawns to the vegetables. 
Shred the buffalo mozzarella (it's a treat for us as we don't usually have it, if there's no buffalo mozzarella, ricotta cheese or good Greek Fetta cheese will do)
Then I poached the salmon, in vegetable stock with white wine, onion halves and carrot.

Shredded salmon into rough chunks after poaching and add to the dinner plates.
The last bit of poaching is the eggs.  They were poached individually in the swirl of water, in low heat on stove top. I liked them runny so it only took 2-3 minutes?  Add them onto the top of the pile.
Then I made the vinegarette and drizzle onto the salad.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Ginger and Coriander Prawns

We bought some nice Aussie King Prawns at the weekend, they were quite big, and quite fresh.  I usually do very simple things to seafood when they are fresh, because there's no need to complicate the delicate flavours.

Must be one of those lack of imagination days as all my cooking brains went over to the baking area - not only the Christmas baking, cookies, puddings, Christmas cakes, but also the Birthday Party for Monique, oh yeah, she's turning 4 in about a week's time, little breads, slices, little cakes and the big birthday cake....  and the day before her party, our Church Christmas lunch, more baking!

Our normal dinners are getting more and more simple, guess I'm over cooked....

So simple dish it is - for 2 people:

600g Fresh King Prawns - cleaned, but leave shell on.
a knob of ginger, julienned.
2 gloves of garlic, crushed.
a bunch of coriander, cut into 1 inch length
1 table spoon light soy sauce
1 table spoon shaoxin wine
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground white pepper
1/3 teaspoon of fine palm sugar
cooking oil.

Heat up the wok with oil, add the garlic and ginger, till fragrant and brown.
Add prawns, once the bottom sides of shells turn a bit pink, turn the prawns over.
Immediately add wine, soy, salt, stir to coat the prawns with the flavouring.
Reduce the liquid till almost dry, add pepper and sugar and coat well.
Add coriander and stir a little bit, the coriander doesn't need to be cooked long.

And there it is. 

Serve with steamed rice.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Big Chocolate Profiterole Buns

The other "small cake" I made for the Christmas Party at Monique's Kinder, and was quite well received...

The recipe I used was from Cuisine Magazine, a recipe by Natalia Schamroth - a famous New Zealand Food Writer and Stylist (I'm not sure if she's a chef).

The original recipe is for Éclairs and is good for making 10 Éclairs, as I would like to make them fit into the normal cup cake case and fit into my round cake tin to bring to the kinder, I made them into relatively big profiterole buns, big enough for a lot of yummy Chocolate Crème Pâtissière filling.

Please refer to the Cuisine Website for the Original Recipe, and I can only assure you that I've used this recipe twice to different crowds, I get good reaction both times.

The only alteration I made was the liquid in the choux pastry.  I normally use half milk half water in all my choux doughs, so I replaced 1 cup water with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup full cream milk, the pastry shell will be softer with half milk version rather than just water.

This is what the choux looked like after adding all the eggs:

The profiterole buns out of the oven:

Filled (I usually use the small metal nosal to poke a hole on the side and pipe the Chocolate Crème Pâtissière filling), and topped with chocolate sauce, three times as heavy and ready for the party....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Individual Coffee Mascapone Cream Chocolate Cake....

Monique's kinder is having a Christmas party today, and all the parents are bringing food in for morning tea after the Christmas concert.

The children did a wonderful job performing a show of Santa in Aussie Bush!

We had a big food list, and I was very happy that I got the job of providing small cakes.... 

I was thinking about that for a week and couldn't decide what to bring, but I ended up with 2 types of cakes:  Individual Coffee Mascapone Cream Chocolate Sponge and Big Profiteroles with Chocolate Creme Patisserie and Chocolate Glaze.

I must admit that the individual cakes are largely influenced by Tiramisu, which is one of the all time favourite in the family.

I used Margaret Fulton's Whisked Sponge cake recipe as the base recipe for the chocolate sponge:

3 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
1 teaspoon melted butter
2 table spoons of boiling water
25g dutched cocoa powder - sift with flour

Line and grease a 20cm x 30cm swiss roll tray.
whisk eggs and sugar until thick and pale and leaves a trail when lifting up the whisk (hey, that's why I bought a new bench top mixer)
Fold in flour, cocoa powder, butter and water with a metal spoon, then turn into the prepared tray.
Bake in a preheated moderate hot oven - 190C or 375F for 20 minutes or until ready.
Turn over on another tray and cool, but cover with the baking paper to retain moist.

When the sponge is being baked, make the frosting:
250g mascapone cheese
250ml thickened cream
3 egg whites
60g caster sugar

Liqueur Coffee Mix:
1 shot of strong espresso coffee, either using perculator coffee, but if pressing time, use good instant espresso coffee.
1 table spoon of Marsala

Whisk egg whites until soft peak, gradually beat in sugar, 1 table spoon at a time, until it's glossy and peak form.
Use a seperate bowl, beat cream till soft peak and add room temperatured mascapone cheese, mix well.
Gently fold in the meringue, and add in half of the liqueur coffee mix.

Spread half of the liqueur coffee mix on the cooled sponge.

use a round cookie cutter (up to each individual to decide size), cut out a piece of the sponge, the sponge is very light and rose quite high, so I actually sliced it length ways into 2 disks.

Place the bottom layer of the sponge into the cup cake casing,

Pipe the frosting onto one layer and put on the top layer of sponge, pipe more frosting to cover the top and spinkle (sift) on extra dutched cocoa powder.

The good thing about these little cakes is that they are fridge friendly and better after setting in fridge over night, so I don't need to do any rushing around for the 10 am Christmas concert!

I will update a post about the big profiterole buns tomorrow.

Baby Macaroons With Almond... From Cakes and Bakes - Hamlyn Books

I must be addicted to cook books... and cook magazines...
Whenever I get on hold of a famous chef's cook books, I'm usually over the moon, however, I do have some cook books which are more aiming for home cooks, little simple recipes, no fuss, but great to have in the kitchen when we need home baked or cooked goodies.

Some cook books from Hamlyn Books are like that.   Again, this blog is not about promoting any books, just some recipes I tried, family liked the products and I'd like to share.

Baby Macaroons with Almonds (these are the macaroons, the very modest and fuss free Scottish cousin of the glossy French Macarons..)

These little cookies are great treat for some one who's allergic to gluten, there's no butter, and not as sweet and sugary as the French macarons, great to have as after school treats...

From a little book - Cakes and Bakes by Hamlyn Books.

2 egg whites
125g/4oz caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
150g/5oz ground almonds
125g/4oz unsweetened dessicated coconut
about 24 whole unblanched almonds

1. Beat the egg whites until peaking and then gradually beat in the sugar, like making French meringue, until meringue is thick and glossy, add the vanilla paste with the last bit of sugar.

2. Gently fold in almond meal (ground almonds) with coconut, until combined (no sifting, it doesnt' matter if the ground almonds are not as refined, if you don't have almond meal or ground almonds, just use the food processer to ground some blanched almonds)

3. Place spoonful of mixture on a lined baking sheet, slightly apart from each other - the cookies will grow during baking, and press a whole almond on top of each cookie.  Bake cookies in a preheated oven in 180C/350F, Gas Mark 4 for 20 minutes or until they are pale golden and just firm to touch, leave to cool.

The recipe book didn't say how long they will keep, but they don't get to stay around for too long in my house...