Saturday, 21 December 2013

I'm dreaming of a quiet Christmas...

Not really. A quiet Christmas would hardly support my Accoutrement habit now would it.

Things are pretty frantic around here, as they are with everyone at this time of year, but the other day I took an afternoon off and made gingerbread men with my big boy. His favourite.

We took them out to Nanna's, where we decorated the tree and he helped string our little golden brown men onto ribbon for a garland.

The rest he demanded we dress properly with icing and smarties. A few made it on.

Merry Christmas to you all. I hope you can steal a few special moments in the craziness ahead of the big day. Happy baking and see you in 2014!

Larissa x

Gingerbread Men Garland
(Recipe from Donna Hay Magazine, December 2013)
Makes about 32

125g unsealed butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup golden syrup
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat oven to 160C.
Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer for 8-10 mins, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally until pale and creamy.
Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until the mixture forms a smooth dough.
Roll out between two sheets of non-stick baking paper to 4mm thick and refrigerate for 30mins.
Using a small gingerbread cutter, cut out 32 men, re-rolling dough as necessary.
Place on two large baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper.
Using the tip of a 6mm round piping nozzle, cut two holes from the chest of each gingerbread man.
Bake for 6-8 mins or until golden.
Turn off the oven and allow to cool completely.
Thread the gingerbread men onto a length of ribbon and tie the ends.
* Tip: place a piece of sticky tape around the end of the ribbon for easy threading.

Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days and hang on Christmas Eve. Yum!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Hazelnut and Cranberry Florentines

'Tis the season for giving and my favourite foodie gifts to give and receive for Christmas are the homemade ones, packaged beautifully, with a bit of love in there. And chocolate, usually.

These Florentines with a festive spin will be in my Santa sack this year. They have all their almondy toffee goodness along with fragrant orange zest, ruby red cranberries and rich roasted hazelnuts. Deeeelish.

Over the coming weeks, Sydneysiders may find them, along with my Christmas mince tarts, at Bacino at Chowder Bay and Clifton Gardens, Thelma & Louise at Neutral Bay wharf and in the CBD at Two Penny Blue, Pitt St in The Westin, and Joe Black X, next to Louis Vuitton on King Street.

For more homemade gift giving inspiration, check out these super cute truffles and yummo cherry tarts.

Got anything planned for your foodie Santa sack this year?

Larissa x

(Makes 15)

100g flaked almonds
100g roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
150g whole dried cranberries
80g plain flour
Zest of 1/2 a small orange
80g butter
50g brown sugar
1/4 cup golden syrup
200g couverture dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 170C. Spread two to three large baking trays with baking paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the almonds, hazelnuts, dried cranberries, flour and orange zest.
Melt together the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 mins.
Mix the caramel into the dry ingredients.
Using a round medium sized pastry/cookie cutter, place tablespoons of mixture inside the pastry cutter on the prepared baking trays and squash the mixture with a spoon until it is spread to the edges of the cutter. Remove cutter and you should have a round shaped florentine. Allow about 3-4cm between each biscuit for spreading.
Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and flatten slightly with the back of a spoon. Leave on trays to cool and harden.
When the Florentines are completely cool, melt the chocolate gently in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until it reaches between 43C and 46C. Take off the heat, avoiding steam from the water, and cool to 35C before spreading onto the back of each biscuit.
Wait for the chocolate to almost set on each biscuit before recoating and creating a wavy pattern with the prongs of a fork.
Allow the biscuits to set completely before serving or packaging.
They will keep in an airtight container or package for a week.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Tarte Au Citron

A couple of months ago, three-year-old Master N suffered the trauma of his best mate moving preschools. It was a big deal. Enough for both families to swap details. There have been play dates, and recently we were invited over for lunch.

One of the loveliest perks of being a Mum is the social network that has come with the territory - be it mothers group, park, or preschool. All of my newest friends are linked to my son. Colleagues in a different guise, I guess, who I've come to rely on and cherish.

We swap (mainly horror) stories, share belly laughs, and turn up on each other's doorstep with coffee, an adult vocabulary and a playmate for our rug rats.

Lunch with Master B's parents was a lot like this, only with wine, and I came away with that buzz you get from forming new friendships as an adult. And full from a delicious lunch of slow cooked lamb.

For dessert, I brought along this tarte au citron, a classic baked lemon tart. While I didn't know our hosts all that well at the beginning of the afternoon, they know I bake for a living, so I was under a bit of pressure to deliver.

This tart is a bit different to the lemon curd ones I make routinely for my cafes. There's no meringue and it's a little sharper on tang. I used a combination of lemon and lime, based on this Donna Hay recipe. As usual, I tweaked, and I used my own sweet shortcrust recipe because it has never failed me. My version is below. 

All up, it was light, zesty and yum. Perfect to serve at the end of a long lunch. Dust it with icing sugar and plate it up with a dollop of double cream for a touch of decadence. 
I know, there's no saving me from myself.

Tarte Au Citron (Baked Lemon/Lime Tart)

250g plain flour
50g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
125g cold butter, cubed
1 egg, lightly beaten 
Dash of milk

1 cup pouring cream
2 eggs
3 egg yolks extra
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
Zest of 1/2 a lime

Place flour and icing sugar in a food processor and blitz until combined.
Add cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Whisk the egg and milk together and add to the processor while the motor is running.
Pulse until the mixture just comes together to form a dough. 
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C.
Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to form a large circle, enough to cover the base and sides of a 22cm loose bottomed fluted tart tin.
Place pastry in the tin, press into the edges, trim excess and place in the freezer for 10 minutes. This will help to prevent shrinkage when the tart bakes.
Blind bake with baking weights for 15 minutes.
Remove baking weights and bake for a further 10 minutes until golden.
Set aside and reduce oven temperature to 140C.
Whisk together the cream, eggs, egg yolks, caster sugar, zests and juice.
Strain into a jug and carefully pour the mixture into the tart case, filling to just below the brim.
Place onto a baking tray and return the tart very carefully to the oven.
Bake for 40-45 mins or until just set. Cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to chill.
For a nice clean slice, cut the tart with a hot knife (run knife under hot water and wipe with paper towel between each slice. Laborious, but you will get a clean-cut result).
Serve it dusted with icing sugar and a side of double cream.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Spring Fling Sponge

The bearded cake jokes from my extended in-laws were unkind, as were the taunts about the ugg boot fur. Blokes! You can blame my wonky slice photo on the fact that I was laughing so much and trying to shush them long enough to say it was just fairy floss. You know, the Persian kind (pashmak), made from sesame and sugar.

I realise fairy floss isn't a very traditional topping for a sponge, but this was a birthday sponge and I wanted to make it a bit special. A bit pretty, in a fluffy way, not a hairy one.

I also wanted to keep it light and zingy. The last thing anyone wants at the end of a long lunch is a big piece of stodgy cake. 

So here's my traditional sponge with a Spring makeover. It has vanilla and coconut in the cake and it's filled with passionfruit curd and cream then topped with drippy passionfruit icing. Fairy floss optional.

Ugg boot fur never tasted so good.

Vanilla, Coconut and Passionfruit Sponge

For the sponge, follow this recipe and add 1/2 cup desiccated coconut to the flour after it has been sifted. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract at the same time as you add the butter.
Replace jam and berries with passionfruit curd (recipe below).
Top the whole glorious pile with passionfruit icing (recipe below). If decorating with Persian fairy floss (pashmak), you can find it in delis and specialty food stores. I used vanilla flavour. Place fairy floss on top of cake just before serving. Remember to keep it in a cool, dry place. It's delicate stuff.

Passionfruit Curd
4 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
Zest of one lemon
50ml lemon juice
50ml passionfruit pulp
100g cold butter, cubed

Whisk egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale.
Add lemon zest, juice and passionfruit pulp and whisk.
Pour mixture into a medium saucepan and add butter.
Stir over a medium heat until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Take off the heat and pour into a container. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Passionfruit Icing
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 passionfruit

Mix icing sugar with just enough passionfruit pulp to create a thick icing.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Holiday baking

I'd like to write about all of the baking I did on our recent winter getaway to the beautiful NSW north coast, but I was practising oven avoidance and did absolutely none.

Instead, I spent a blissful week watching whales and dolphins from the balcony of our little shack (yes that's cheek) on Salt Beach in Kingscliff, building sandcastles and teaching my big boy how to ride his first bike.

We had a beautiful and fun birthday lunch for Mum at Fins and a just-because-we-want-to lunch at Harvest and I found another gem for The Breakfast Club, Mockingbird, in Kingscliff. I am craving their house cured salmon with beetroot and cornbread, and their chilli eggs.

If I was inclined to do any baking in the fabulous kitchen, it would have been of the cookie variety. So now that I'm back into the swing of things at home, here is a recipe for delicious white chocolate and cranberry cookies. 

Perfect for lazy Spring Sunday afternoons and hungry Daddies. Happy Father's Day to all the dads, Mr LP especially xxx

White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies
(Makes appx 12- 16)

125g butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
120g dried cranberries
200g white chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 180C. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and beat until combined. Stir in the flour and baking powder, followed by the cranberries and white chocolate.
Roll spoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place on the baking trays, leaving room for spreading.
Press each cookie with a fork to flatten slightly.
Bake for 15 minutes or until light golden.
Cool on trays. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

No Ordinary Caramel Slice

If the humble caramel slice was to undergo an extreme makeover, I imagine the after photos would look something like this.

Why toy with what is already perfect in its own sticky, chocolatey way? Well, it was the wish of my eight-year-old niece that I take her favourite cafe treat and gussy it up into a birthday cake pretty enough to be the centrepiece of her high tea themed party.

It's not the only time I've been asked to make a caramel slice cake. The first was for a wedding. A couple ordered 80 pieces of caramel slice and a large round "cake" to cut at their reception earlier this year. Hey, what the bride wants, the bride gets in my book. I was just happy the couple liked my slice enough to want it as part of their big day.

A wedding is a big deal. It required practice, so Mr LP was the first to get one for his birthday cake. He liked it well enough and word my niece.

It usually looks like this, cut smooth on my bench with not a spare crumb of dangerous toffee goodness to corrupt me, ready to be boxed. And it is in this form that it is loved by my family and friends, so this is how I will share the recipe. It's rich, so cut it small. Then you won't feel so bad when you can't stop at one.

Caramel Slice
(Makes 16 medium squares)

80g butter, melted
2/3 cup self-raising flour
2/3 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup caster sugar

125g butter
125g brown sugar
395g can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

100g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
25g copha

Preheat oven to 180C.
Grease a 22cm square baking tin and line with non-stick baking paper, leaving a 2cm overlap on each edge. 
For the base, mix together the dry ingredients with the melted butter. Press into prepared tin with the back of a spoon until smooth and even. Bake for 10 mins.
For filling, stir all ingredients in a medium sized heavy based saucepan over a medium heat until simmering. Turn heat to low and stir, simmering, for appx five minutes until deep golden.
Pour on top of baked base and return to the oven for 10-12 mins or until golden brown.
Cool completely in tin.
For the topping, melt together both chocolates and copha over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until smooth. Cool for at least five mins before pouring over the filling. Place in the fridge to set for at least two hours, preferably overnight. Lift out of the tin by taking hold of the baking paper overhanging each edge and pull up. Loosen with a knife if the corners are a bit stuck, but it should lift out easily. 
The best way to cut it into squares is by dipping a large knife into a jug of hot water and then wiping the blade carefully with paper towel, or a clean tea towel, before slicing.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Petal Ombré Cake

Photo thanks to Siobhan at BeaSpoke Quilts

Things to view with suspicion: people who wear sneakers and track pants more than necessary and don't get any thinner, people who write baking blogs and complain about not getting any thinner, people who have multiple subscriptions to food magazines and a) don't get time to read them b) complain about not getting any thinner, people who don't strictly work for a living but complain about not having any time, particularly for exercising, and therefore complain about not getting any thinner.

Shut up already, I know. It's just because Anthopologie keeps emailing me pictures of pretty dresses and I think, oh I can see me in that, oh, wait no, I've just had a baby and August is cake month.

The forecast for girly whining in the coming weeks is dire. If I was Mr LP, I'd invest in earmuffs and practice my eye-rolling.

Photo thanks to Siobhan at BeaSpoke Quilts

So anyway, this is me making the best of it. If you've got five birthday cakes and a couple of extras on your horizon, may as well make them good.

I noticed too that it isn't August yet. Yes well cake month started early this year with Master O's triple layered petal ombre baptism cake.

I first saw this deceptively detailed style of frosting on Pretty Prudent in a tutorial by The Hungry Housewife and filed it under "one day." If you're going to attempt this cake, I recommend having a look at the step by step pics here.

I thought it would be extreme on the difficult and fiddly scale but it was actually kind of easy. This was in part because I kept to a simple vanilla pound cake and also because I took a shortcut and used three shades of frosting instead of six.

The original recipe calls for traditional buttercream frosting but I jazzed it up a little with a silky meringue buttercream and filled the layers with whipped white chocolate ganache.

Once I found my groove with the technique, the petals were done in less than an hour. Spare time never happens to me, so I was quietly smug.

My shortcut meant that some of the ombré shading was lost, and I used longer strokes with my pallet knife because I thought I was going to be short on frosting* but I still think the finished cake was pretty - if a little rustic. People said lots of lovely things to me about it, like how professional it looked, which is always reassuring when you've swapped a newsroom for a kitchen. Now all I have to do is take my trackpant wearing butt and swap the kitchen for the pavement once in a while before September.
*I ended up with frosting left over so I will shorten my strokes slightly next time. 

Photo thanks to Matt Rogers

To create the white chocolate disc in the centre of the cake, place a large circle shaped pastry cutter with a smooth edge onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and pour in 100g of melted white chocolate. Place in the fridge for at least an hour until set hard, then slide it out and pipe your message with melted, slightly cooled, dark chocolate.

Here is another, on top of part two of cake month: a rainbow cake for a friend's twin girls. Recipe here.

Coming next week, a caramel slice cake that I will attempt to make look pretty and girly as per the brief for my niece's high tea party. Any ideas for how to make this happen are very welcome!

Petal Ombré Cake
*You will need to start this recipe a day ahead.

250g butter, softened
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
3 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 cup milk
Blue and violet gel food colouring

Preheat oven to 160C. Grease and line the bases of three 22cm round cake tins with non-stick baking paper.
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined.
Transfer to a large bowl and stir in half the flour and milk, followed by remaining flour and milk.
Divide the mixture evenly between cake tins, spread to the edges and smooth the tops.
Bake for 18-20 mins, or until golden and a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool at least 5 minutes in tins before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.
Cakes can be stored in an airtight container overnight or frozen for up to two months.

White Chocolate Ganache
400g white chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces
200ml single pouring cream

Place white chocolate pieces in a bowl.
Heat cream to nearly boiling and then pour it over the white chocolate.
Whisk by hand until combined. Leave to thicken overnight.

For the meringue buttercream frosting, I followed this recipe by Warren Brown and flavoured it with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

To assemble, prepare a cake board, position one cake in the centre and then spread with white chocolate ganache using a pallet knife. Repeat with remaining cakes. Also spread the ganache over the top of the cake, taking care to smooth the top with a pallet knife.
Spread a thin layer of meringue buttercream over the sides of the cake, then divide the remaining mixture between four bowls.
Leave one bowl vanilla, tint the next bowl with 1 teaspoon of blue food colouring and 1/2 teaspoon of violet food colouring. Combine the remaining two bowls together and tint with 1/2 teaspoon of blue food colouring.
Place the three different colours of meringue buttercream into three disposable piping bags fitted with size 12 plain nozzles.
Pipe generous dots down the side of the cake in this order from top to bottom: vanilla, light blue, light blue, dark blue. Smooth into petal shapes with a pallet knife as per tutorial. Repeat with the rest of the cake until the sides are complete. Follow the same pattern on the top of the cake. If using a white chocolate message disc, leave a 10cm round circle in the centre. When frosting on top of the cake is complete, place bite chocolate disc in the centre. 

Birthday candles would look great placed around the disc.

Photo thanks to Siobhan at BeaSpoke Quilts