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    Saturday
    Dec102011

    Basil Syrup - A tiny taste of Summer

                                             a tiny taste of summer cupcake

    Chefs and baking professionals love a stock syrup, once you start using them you will too! 

    Stock syrups are also known as sugar syrup, simple syrup, light or heavy syrup depending where you are from. Cakes are syruped to seal the cake preserving freshness, moisten the cake and can also flavour the cake. 

    With a jar of stock syrup in the fridge you can quickly poach fruit, add to salad dressings, syrup your cupcakes, act as glaze, whip up a sorbet, make fruit sauces/coulis, cocktails, and a plethora of dessert applications.

    Stock syrup is often infused with herbs, spices, citrus, ginger, vanilla, liqueurs, teas and flowers. 

    Basic Stock Syrup 

    Ingredients

    2 cups of water

    2 cups of white sugar

    Method

    Combine the water and sugar in a medium heavy based saucepan. Over medium heat bring mixture to boil, stirring once or twice along the way. 

    Cook 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool. 

    Basil syrup

    one cup of stock syrup

    strawberries

    small fresh basil leaves

    Put one cup of syrup in a small saucepan, pour remaining syrup into a screw top jar and refrigerate for up to three weeks.

    Bring the syrup in the saucepan almost to the boil, add three basil leaves and cover... allow to steep for 20 minutes. Remove basil leaves and allow syrup to cool.

    The basil after steeping ready to be removed. Whole spices, vanilla beans, and citrus peel may be left longer if desired. The syrup will pick up the colour of citrus peel with prolonged standing.

    Brush cupcake tops with basil syrup, top with either marscarpone or cream cheese frosting. Toss chopped strawberries in the left over syrup and pile onto your cupcakes. Add small basil leaves for decoration.

    Other flavoured syrups are created in the same way, try rosemary, thyme and mint. Vanilla made with a whole split bean, store the vanilla bean in the syrup for a stronger flavour. A bruised piece of fresh ginger makes a lovely syrup to use on fruit salads, so does split and bruised lemon grass... or how about a combo of the two "ginger and lemon grass". Tea bags, herbal, green or black make for flavourful infused syrup as does roasted coffee/cocoa nibs.

    Allow one tablespoon of liqueur or rum/brandy/whisky per cup of syrup, this is a great cake syrup or even in your cup of coffee (though probably best not to have it with your brekkie cup). Zest strips from lemon, lime, orange, remove after 20 minutes for a slight citrus tang, leave overnight for a stronger flavour. 

    Whole spices such as cinnamon or star anise can also be left in the syrup if a stronger flavour is desired. If using flowers keep the quantity of petals/buds small, a little goes a long way. 

    *notes; cupcake pictured today is larger than real life version, the actual cupcake and subsequent basil leaves are small. To make a heavier/thicker syrup 3 cups sugar to 1 cup water, to make a lighter syrup 3 parts water to one part sugar.

    That's it for today, hope you are all having a great weekend.

    Happy Baking :)

    Friday
    Dec092011

    Emma's Whoopie Pies Review

    Harriet and Emma

    Meet Emma the 14 year old daughter of my best friend Jacinta. Emma is a fabulous baker and has kindly stepped in tonight as guest reviewer in a packet mix vs homemade challenge. Take it away Emma.....

    Betty Crocker Vanilla Sprinkle Whoopie Pies

    I don’t normally use a packet mix, but I love whoopie pies and thought I’d give the packet Betty Crocker Vanilla Sprinkle Whoopie Pies Mix a go.

    straight from the oven

    While the recipe and the whoopie pies themselves were easy to make and follow, the overall taste was very disappointing (such a shame because they looked very delicious).

    making vanilla cream filling mix

    finished Betty Crocker Whoopie Pies

    They just had that artificial taste that you often get with a packet mix.

    I then decided to compare the packet ones with some whoopie pies made from scratch. I got the recipe from the “Whoopie Pies” book by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell, given to us by The Lone Baker.

    I used the Classic Chocolate Whoopie Pies sandwiched together by a cream cheese filling.

    classic chocolate whoopie pies

    cream cheese filling

    The homemade ones were far superior to the packet ones (they were just as easy to make as well). My family preferred the homemade ones over the packet ones.

     We soon devoured them all!!! 

    Emma 

    text and photography by Emma Darlison

    The Lone Baker back tomorrow with two ingredient tuile... topping a cupcake of course :) 

    Friday
    Dec022011

    Snow Cherries

                                             snow cherry cupcake

    Join me on Facebook... I'd love to see you there.

    A quick little fresh cherry decoration today, that I think is so pretty... hope you do too.

    It's summer in Australia and fresh cherries are in season. "Snow cherries" are a lovely decoration for your cupcakes, cakes and plated desserts for all your Christmas occasions. 

    You'll need...

    room temperature cherries with unbroken skins

    white fondant

    white disco glitter

    small dry artists paintbrush

    small piece of dampened new foam

    Thinly roll out your white fondant, cut small sections and shape. Dampen one side of your fondant shapes with the foam. Pop a cherry in the centre of each piece of fondant and fold up to  attach. Using the dampened foam again, dampen the outside of the fondant and sprinkle with edible disco glitter. Brush off excess glitter that falls on the cherries with the dry brush. Allow to dry.

    Cherries will keep at room temperature for 6 hours (though I have held them as long as overnight). 

    Happy Baking :)

    or what about making mini choc pudding cupcakes?

    you might also be interested in...

    Ode to Bounty Bars Coconut Chocolate Cupcakes

    Wednesday
    Nov302011

    Teddy Trouble Tia Maria Tim Tam Treat

           Teddy Trouble TiaMaria Tim Tam Treat with fondant teddy bear

    "The weekend started with hedgehogs, but finished with Teddy Bears"

    Join me on facebook today!! 

    Hedgehog slices are popular in my home state of Victoria. Hedgehogs are a chocolate unbaked refrigerator slice (bar), mainly comprised of crushed biscuits (cookies). Usually store bought biscuits are used and it's a quick and easy way to use up leftover cookies from the Christmas season.

    I was working on delveloping a hedgehog recipe on the weekend that did not contain raw egg; we are "thrill seekers" here in Oz and do eat raw egg in our hedgehogs that tends to cause "dread" in some other countries. 

    My thoughts then went to Tim Tams. Australia's national biscuit is the ANZAC, but it's the 'Tim Tam' that is the iconic Aussie biscuit. My very own teddy bear, namely my husband Mark was in trouble this weekend when he offered to drop off eggs and Tim Tam Treats to my best friends house... Mark took the eggs and having second thoughts tucked away the Tim Tam Treats unbeknownst to me back in fridge. Goodness, that's what I like to see at Christmas... no sharing of treats and keeping them for yourself!! 

    classic original Tim Tams and dark chocolate Tim Tams

    Tim Tams sandwich light chocolate cream, inbetween chocolate malty biscuits that are enrobed in chocolate. They are what I use in today's recipe, but if you can't get Tim Tams go for the biscuit/cookie you think is closest to it. 

    inside Tim Tams

    Tia Maria Tim Tam Treats

    18 standard cupcake cases or 36 mini cases, mixture can alternatively be pressed into a brownie tin.

    *note on "raisins" that are used in the recipe... 

    Raisins in Australia are larger and stickier than sultanas, if you can't get them chopped dates are a suitable substitute. 

    on the right, raisins are larger and stickier than the sultanas on the left. 

    Ingredients

    150 grams of raisins or chopped dates

    3 tablespoons of Tia Maria

    400 grams 2 packs (14 oz) Tim Tams or equivalent

    300 grams (8.8 oz) dark eating chocolate

    150 grams (5.3 oz) butter

    150 grams (5.3 oz) roasted walnut or pecan pieces

    2 tablespoons sour cream

    Method

    Put the raisins along with the Tia Maria in a small microwave safe bowl, microwave on medium low in 30 seconds increments until Tia Maria starts to be absorbed into the fruit. Set aside.

    Roughly crush Tim Tams in transfer to a mixing bowl.

    you want pieces of the biscuits still to be visible

    Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stir gently until chocolate is melted. Set aside.

    Add walnuts to the Tim Tams in mixing bowl, add sour cream, melted chocolate mixture and Tia Maria soaked fruit. Stir vigourously with a wooden spoon.

    Divide mixture between paper cupcake case and press down firmly with the back of a spoon.

    *Refrigerate overnight. 

    the inside of the Tim Tam treats looks like this

    Before serving top the Tim Tam treats top the treats with chocolate icing, melted chocolate or chocolate ganache if desired. 

    *the refrigerating overnight step cannot be skipped, the biscuit pieces swell and the treats will be the correct chocolately fudgey consistency. 

    Happy baking :)

     You might also be interested in: 

    Toblerone dessert in 30 minutes

    or try a white chocolate plastique recipe

    Sunday
    Nov272011

    Jingle Bells cupcake pick

                                          jingle bells cupcake picks

              Jingle bells, jingle bells,

    Jingle all the way.

    Oh! what fun it is to ride

    In a one-horse open sleigh.

    Jingle bells, jingle bells,

    Jingle all the way

     Jingle Bells; written by James Lord Pierpont,  first published in 1857 as a Thanksgiving song.

    I've officially start my Christmas baking this week :) Usually I start *cough *splutter... Septemberish (though there was one June when I made puddings) but with the landscaping business running this year the schedule is a little tight.

    Yes, I am one of those annoying "organised" people and the presents are wrapped and ready to go. Though, I still like a handful of emergency quick things just in case and cupcake picks fit the bill.

    I do love a cupcake pick and I love SilverCrow Creations a online store full of all sorts of odd assortments and sundries like the "jingle bell bottle caps" I used today :)

    The *caps are pins that you can wear, (scoff now but after three of those cranberry cocktails and you'll be wearing light up reindeer ears!!) and double as a Christmas keepsake. 

    Whether you decide on a message bottle cap or another Christmas pin that takes you fancy, attach to a toothpick with a little ball of fondant. Let dry, dust or paint over the fondant piece with edible colour and voilà you have yourself a cupcake pick!! 

    Happy Baking :)

    *search "jingle bells" on SilverCrow Creations to find the bottle caps

    You might also be interested in Tia Maria mini pudding cupcakes

    Friday
    Nov252011

    A Zumbo Macaron

    clockwise front: raspberry caramel, lime and mint mojito, cola, lemon verbena, caramelised pumpkin seeds and milk chocolate, chilli and cinnamon.

    On a recent trip to Sydney my step son Daniel and his beautiful girlfriend Trish went macaron shopping at pastry chef extraordinaire Adriano Zumbo's Balmain store. Daniel returned to Melbourne laden with pastries and boxes of macarons. 

    Daniel and Trish

    Goodness all the macarons were incredibly good and the perfect example of what a macaron should be. With super thin crisp shells yielding to soft and chewy interiors and "oh, the fillings" well, lets have a look at the flavours.... 

    Raspberry Caramel; this reminded me of something from childhood, perhaps the caramelised jam at the bottom of jam pudding?  I, who doesn't like caramel usually loved this one. There is the traditional "burnt sugar" taste to these and the punch of raspberry from the not overly sweet jam like filling.

    Lime and Mint Mojito; Daniel and Trish's favourite flavour... and my husband was quiet taken with these too. The strongest colour and flavour of all macaron's we tasted, a clear burst of lime followed by a fresh mint flavour. Bit "sparkly" and pretty these ones :)

    Cola; Yes, it tasted like "cola". Nice colours, we all liked it with Daniel commenting he would have liked the cola flavour to be more pronounced. 

    Lemon Verbena; Who would have thought?? After 18 years of marriage my husband and I finally agreed on something!! We both voted the unassuming, pale leafy green macaron our "favourite". Beautifully balanced flavour and it is was refreshing and creamy at the same time.

    Caramelised Pumpkin Seeds; Voted "ok" by all of us. They weren't awful, but they weren't a "stand out" like some of the other flavours. 

    Milk Chocolate Chilli and Cinnamon; These were "yum", just the right amount of heat in these babies, contrasting with the creaminess of the milk chocolate filling. If I was only to buy one flavour to serve at a party/dinner these would it. Fun and delicious.  

    We also tried a few individual tarts, including 'Grandma's soap' a lavender concoction comprising of blueberry compote, fresh blueberries, lavender chantilly & almond cème. The classic passionfruit curd and and pâte sucrée and the fab 'Whizz Fizz'...

    Inside the Whizz Fizz tart with it's raspberry meringue, sherbet, raspberry compote, liquorice crème. This was "Wow!!". The pastry in all the tarts is so good and unlike any pâte sucrée I've tasted before, my goal for 2012 is to emulate, that taste, texture and flavour.

    Well, it's a big week for Adriano Zumbo with his new store opening at Star Casino. If your in Sydney you must go check it out. 

    Oh, don't forget it's Zumbo's MACARON day this Sunday... go with an empty belly and fill up on the plethora of fabulous flavours. Get all your updates for the day straight from Zumbo's website, browse the patisserie menu whilst there.  Zumbo 

    Happy Baking :) 

    I'll looking at the Zumbo cookbook in up coming weeks but for now you might be interested in; Daniel's review of Lindt's Chocolate Cafe  

    or a review of the Laurent Patisserie 

    Monday
    Nov212011

    Three French Hens Cupcake

                                   

    On the third day of Christmas, 

    my true love sent to me...

    Three French hens,

    Two turtle doves,

    And a partridge in a pear tree.

    Goodness, birds were just "the gift" in the 1700's if the English carol 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' is anything to go by. As a lady in the 1700's your true love brought you geese, hens, doves, turtle doves, calling birds, swans and a partridge of course... but wait you thought at least there was jewellery?? The "golden rings" most likely referred to golden ring necked birds. But at least you also got some "leaping lords"! All the birds were eaten in era so could have been destined for the pot. 

    Whilst where here, verse four is actually "colly birds" not "calling birds" as often sung; colly birds are a smallish blackbird. French hens in the era were either the Crevecoeur, Houdans or the La Fleche breeds.

    Alternative lyrics: There is Australian versions of the song using Australian animals such as "dingo's dancing", a religious rewrite of the lyrics, though there is no documented religious link to song. I even had the pleasure of hearing a heavy metal version of the song on the weekend... unless you are a Twisted Sister fan I'd give it miss. 

    Want to make your own hens? 

    Black fondant is rolled into egg shapes then shaped into nesting chickens.

    With fondant or modelling paste use red to make wattles and combs and orange for the beaks. Black rolled out thinly is used to cut feathers from. White is rolled into small egg shapes to make the eyes and thinly rolled mauve is used to make the eyelids. Attach all pieces to hens bodies with water using a small paint brush, starting with feathers, then comb/wattle, then beak and eyes. Use a black food marker to finish the eyes. Allow to dry.

    Happy Baking and Singing :) 

    Sunday
    Nov132011

    Gold Fish Cupcake

    fondant goldfish cupcake pick tops a fondant covered jasmine tea cupcake

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    I loved my goldfish, I truly did. I lugged around my fish tank, filters, pumps and paraphernalia from apartment to apartment when I was young. Then the inevitable happened the fish tank sprung a leak and my father said to me "don't worry I'll come over and get your fish and put the fish in my pond" and so he did... where his giant fish proceeded to gobble up my fish in 39.9 seconds! 

    Today we are making a fondant goldfish, mine is flat backed but you can make it 3D the same way. I've added a toothpick to turn it into a cupcake pick.

    Okay let's get started.

    You'll need:

    Fondant (with some *CMC added) or modelling paste in colours of choice

    lustre or petal dusts in colours of choice

    toothpicks painted with food colour of choice

    cake/flower glue (optional)

    leaf glaze (optional)

    Start by making an egg shape with your fondant and shape it into a "fish" shape.

    Add scale indents with the tip of piping nozzle or similar. I wanted lots of texture on my fish, but if you want a more realistic fish make your indents further apart.

    Role out some of the fondant laced with CMC as thinly as you can. Cut fins and tail with a small knife or small scissors, adhere to your fish body with water. Shape slightly to give add the illusion of movement.

    Use plastic wrap or small pieces of foam to support shaped tail and fins.

    Add a ring for the eye socket, add a small piece of thin fondant for the gills, cover the join of the tail with another piece of thin fondant and blend in. Check whether you need to add more scales or any finishing touches. Make a hole in the underneath of the fish with a toothpick. Allow to dry, 6 hours to overnight.

    Once dry take a small dry paintbrush and dust with colours of choice, starting with the back of the fish. I used white lustre dust and red petal dust. Blend, blend, blend with your paintbrush until you have desired finish. You can let the base colour show through like I did or fully cover with the dusts. 

    Dip you toothpick into cake/flower glue or dampen with water and insert into the base of the fish. Add the eyeball to your fish with a little black fondant, glaze with leaf glaze if desired. That's it! You have your self a fish cupcake pick.

    Happy Baking :)

    *CMC powder, modelling paste, leaf glaze, cake/flower glue, lustre dust and petal dust are available from cake decorating suppliers/shops. 

    or how about going a little Japanese with a chocolate goldfish covered in gold leaf

    Then there is roses made from Starburst fruit chews.

    Thursday
    Nov102011

    Brownies, Brownies, Brownies

    Come join me on Facebook  Competition day today, scroll down for you chance to win 'Cookie Swap'!!

    It's official, I never want to eat a brownie again!! Well, at least for a month or two... phew, all this brownie taste testing was tough, but someone's gotta do it. 

    Brownies are so subjective aren't they? Fudgy, cakey, with nuts or with out. Are you a purist or perhaps you prefer to add choc chunks, caramel swirls or fresh raspberries. Then there is the edges, do you always go for the gooey centre bit or do you like the sugar crisp edges? And yes, some of you will even prefer your brownies frosted.

    Lets have a look a few different brownies... all recipes were baked on two separate occasions, all brownies improved after resting/refrigeration period... in other words "yummier the next day". 

    'Robert's Absolute Best Brownies' is from David Lebovitz's excellent 'Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes', I baked it once with nuts as per the recipe and once with chocolate on top for my hubby. This was my favourite brownie, albeit I think more of a chocolate slice than what I'd consider a true brownie. A little piece with coffee was "just right". 

    Then on to Australian style brownies where we go tend to forgo the sugary crust for soft brown sugar finish. Ideal if you need a flat top to decorate your brownie. Pop over to Donna Hay's official site for her brownie recipe or try Gary Mehigan's Triple Chocolate Brownies from Australian MasterChef ...

    Gary Mehigan’s Triple Chocolate Brownies
    MasterChef magazine March, 2011

    Ingredients
    150g (5.29 oz)  unsalted butter, chopped
150g (5.29 oz) dark chocolate, finely chopped
    plus an extra 150g (5.29 oz) dark chocolate, cut into chunks
    100g (3.5 oz) milk chocolate, cut into chunks
    100g (3.5 oz) white chocolate cut into chunks 
    4 eggs, room temperature
    330g (11.64 oz) brown sugar
    1 tsp pure vanilla essence (extract)
    150g (1 cup) self raising flour (self rising)
    Method
    Preheat oven to 180C (350F).
    Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm (approx 8 x 12 inches) slice pan.
    Place butter, finely chopped dark chocolate and tablespoons of water in a small pan.
    Stir over low heat for 3 minutes or until melted, then transfer to a bowl.
    Whisk in eggs, sugar and vanilla. Sift in flour, then fold in the remaining chocolate.
    Spoon batter into pan and then bake for 35 minutes, or until firm around the edges but soft in the centre.
    Cool for 10 minutes, then refrigerate for 2 hours or until chilled.

     

    With brownies being quintessentially American, then that would make peanut butter and jam (jelly) triply so, or so I thought but not all family members agreed.

    'Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy melt in your mouth cookies' isn't just a fabulous book title, it's written by a fabulous cook 'Alice Medrich' author of 'Pure Dessert' and the gorgeous 'Chocolat: extraordinary chocolate desserts' amongst others. 

    I've made several of the brownies from this book, all good... the cocoa brownies I baked to the recipe the first time and the second time I decided to swirl through some peanut butter and raspberry jam.

    My husband Mark loved these!! My step son Daniel thought "they were just wrong" and picked away the peanut and jam to eat the fudgy chocolate brownie. Can't please them all ;)

     

     the unassuming brownie voted "best" by my husband and step son

    Almost didn't buy 'Cookie Swap', Amazon kept putting it in my recommendations where I'd glance at it and think "don't like the cover", "don't have cookie swaps in Australia". Then it triggered (in my brain that is) where I knew the name 'Lauren Chattman' from, she is the co-author of 'Dessert University' one of my favourite dessert books by Roland Mesnier former White House pastry chef. So I popped it in the cart and I'm glad I did, because from page 55 of this book comes a brownie recipe that they both my husband and step son voted "best" brownie. We have made the 'Incredibly Fudgy Brownies' numerous times, so has my best friends daughter Emma, we all love it.

    Would you like to win a copy of 'Cookie Swap'? I have three copies up for grabs...

    For you chance to win just leave a comment here on the blog or on facebook:

    25 words or less "Your favourite brownie and why?" or perhaps a killer brownie recipe I should try? Competition drawn Monday 14th November.

    If you missed the 'Fat Witch Brownies' book review it's here 

    or Choc Orange Brownie Cupcake

    Happy Baking :)

    Wednesday
    Nov092011

    Fat Witch Brownies book review

                       fat witch brownie with added chocolate on top

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    Books make such fabulous stocking stuffers, I thought I'd review a few cookbooks in the lead up to the holidays. Starting with one that's been out for a while, 'Fat Witch Brownies: Brownies, Blondies and Bars from New York's Legendary Fat Witch Bakery'. 

    This book is extremely well reviewed on Amazon , many of the reviewers compare the bought brownies from the bakery with the recipes from the book so I'll keep my review short and sweet.

    The leafy outer suburb of Melbourne is worlds away from New York's Legendary Fat Witch Bakery, but it's here that I baked half dozen recipes from the Fat Witch book... three of which I'll be talking about today.

    The small format book is full of promise, beautiful photos, 50 plus recipes, smart use of one 9x9 inch cake pan for all recipes (closest 22 cm in Oz) and a warm chatty tone that emanates from author Patricia Helding. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite live up to expectations starting with the disappointing "Fat Witch" brownie that is more cakey than fudgy. I baked this one twice, the second time pictured at top of page was sprinkled if chocolate pieces to add more flavour. Look, it's not awful... but it's not that flavourful either, plus it's a cake brownie not the promised chocolately fudgy hit I was expecting. That said, my best friend Jacinta liked this brownie and it's made it's way to parties where it has been well recieved. 

    The cocoa brownie on the following page is "ok" too... but not "wow!". 

    frozen cream cheese brownie

    Step son Daniel loves cheesecake so next up was the frozen cream cheese brownie. This tasted more like a brownie, but I did change the filling the second time around adding vanilla and sour cream. I'd make these again with the adjusted filling.

    banana bread brownie

    Then we tried the banana bread brownie... which in no way resembles any brownie I've ever seen/tasted. Dense, moist with good flavours, this will probably end up on my "goodness, the bananas have gone brown" rotation. It's is an odd one, particularly texturally!! 

    The book contains a wide selection of brownies, blondies and bars, plus frostings and glazes and tips. It is a nice slice/bar book, but not the "I'll never need another brownie recipe" book I was expecting. 

    Later today, yes today!.... there is another brownie story coming up, plus a competition to win a stocking stuffer recipe book.

    Until then, happy baking :)

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