Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The fabulous Cupcake Courier website, which offers many gorgeous things, has some fantastic bargains right now. I covet almost everything they sell, but a Cupcake Courier for $25 and a Jessie Steele apron for $22 are steals! Might make for some great Chrissie pressies for my fellow cooks also...

Check it out here

Friday, March 5, 2010

Tiramisu Cake

So I've been away, but that's not to say I haven't been continuing my cooking odyssey - I most certainly have! I've done lots of stuff like tiramisu cake, dark chewy gingerbread biscuits, chocolate cherry cheesecakes, double baked souffles, banoffee pie and hot cross buns to name a few. I've also been busy buying up cookbooks, experimenting with various pancake recipes, lamenting that Tupperware have discontinued lacquer blue lids, filling my shopping cart to bursting at Peters of Kensington and coveting the entire Robert Gordon range.

OK so goign back quite a few months I (stupidly some might say) vounteered to make a dessert for Father's Day with the Outlaws. As they are Italian and love coffee flavours, I thought 'Tiramisu'. I quickly thought better of it, given MIL does her own version Red and his dad fawn over. However, I thought I could do a twist on it, an Tir-a-miseqsue of sorts... a lemon-misu?? a choc-a-misu?? But finally decided to go for a tiramisu cake.

Back then, finding a recipe was. Mucho Googling brought me loads of pictures but not much in the way of recipes. I finally found someone's rendition of Dorie Greenspan's recipe.

I found this cake hard work.. there are lots of different components. It is, however, delicious and not too rich. MIL thought it was OK too - although she thought there could have been more syrup soaking the cake, but that's because she likes the (her) pudding version where its all soggy as heck - and this is not meant to be like that - it is a cake afterall. That said, that was high priase from her!

This process taught me three things:

1. I am absolutely hopeless at cutting cakes into layers.
2. Never trasnport a layer cake on a sloping back seat. You know, sometimes the layers slide around! Who knew.
3. I absolutely had to have Dorie Greenspan's cook book.

Are you ready?? Here goes:

Dorie Greenspan's Tiramisu Cake


For the cake:
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the espresso extract:
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons boiling water

For the espresso syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon amaretto or Kahlua

For the filling and icing:
230 grams mascarpone
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon amaretto or Kahlua
1 cup cold thickened cream
70 grams bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Cocoa powder, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Butter two x 23 cm round cake tins, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess, and line the bottoms of the tins. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To make the cake:

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them, and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right-side up.

To make the extract:

Stir the espresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.

To make the syrup:
Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the syrup into a small heatproof bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy; set aside.

To make the filling and icing:

Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk just until blended and smooth.

Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch.

To assemble the cake:

If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Place one layer right-side up on a board or plate protected with wax paper. Using a pastry brush or a small spoon, soak the layer with about one third of the espresso syrup. Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer – user about 1 1/4 cups – and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling. Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining espresso syrup, then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.

For the icing, whisk 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining espresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling. Taste the icing as you go to decide how much extract you want to add. If it looks as if it might be a little too soft to spread over the cake, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate it for 15 minutes or so. Refrigerate the cake too.

With a long metal icing spatula, smooth the icing around the sides of the cake and over the top.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours (or for up to 1 day) before serving – the elements need time to meld.

Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with cocoa.

Hmmm, thought I had pictures of this somewhere, but maybe not - sorry!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake

When I was little I loved Strawberry Shortcake the doll (well, it was actually her friend Apricot Pie that I coveted), and now I have a little girl myself my Mum has taken it upon herself to start a collection of Strawberry Shortcake bits and pieces for her. It occured to me recently that despite this childhood obsession I had never actually eaten a strawberry shortcake. Nor did I know what a 'shortcake' was exactly.

Well, it turns out that a shortcake is bit like a cross between a cake and a scone - but leaning towards the scone end of things.As we know, short in baking terms generally refers to the crumbliness of the baked good, often due to the flour/butter ratio.

So, I was going baby sprinkle and thought that this would be something nice and different to make. The problem was deciding on what recipe to make. As much as I love scones, I was thinking that if I was to make a traditional shortcake might it might be a bit too dry, so when I found a recipe on The Pioneer Woman Cooks (original recipe here) where she uses another variation, one that was more on the cake end of the spectrum - I thought this was the one for me and so here it is:

Strawberry Shortcake

1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons cornflour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
130 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

230 grams cream cheese, room temperature
230 grams unsalted butter
680 grams powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
450 grams strawberries

My first 'cast' picture!

Prep the strawberries by steming them and slicing them in half. Place into a bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Stir together and let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, mash the strawberries in two batches. Sprinkle each half with 1 tablespoons sugar and allow to sit for another 30 minutes.

Yummy strawberries 'mascerating'.

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda and cornflour.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just barely combined.

Pour into greased and floured 20cm cake pan.

Ready to go...

Bake at 180 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from cake pan as soon as you pull it out of the oven, and place on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.

To make the icing combine cream cheese, butter, sifted powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash of salt in a mixing bowl. Mix until very light and fluffy.

Slice cake in half through the middle. Spread strawberries evenly over each half (cut side up), pouring on all the juices. Place cake halves into the freezer for five minutes, just to make icing easier.

Remove from freezer. Use a little less than 1/3 of the icing to spread over the top of the strawberries on the bottom layer.

Nearly there...

Place the second layer on top. Add half of the remaining icing to the top spreading evenly, then spread the remaining 1/3 cup around the sides.


Leave plain OR garnish with strawberry halves.

So, not quite a traditional strawberry shortcake but delicious all the same. Its a lovely cake for spring/summer time and perfect for an afternoon tea.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Crispy Yoghurt Chicken

This dish is so good, so tasty and so easy - even Red managed to pull it off. I found it on one of my favourite blogs, The Pioneer Woman Cooks. With a few tweaks, its also a really tasty, healthy dish.

The recipe states drumsticks, but you could use any part of the chicken you prefer really. It also specifies panko crumbs, which I haven't been able to track down yet but I usually make some coarse bread crumbs from stale bread (like a pane di casa) or I think making crumbs from cornflakes would work OK too.

Crispy Yoghurt Chicken

6-8 chicken drumsticks (thighs, thigh fillets and breast fillets could all work too)
2 cups plain yoghurt (natural, Greek etc - I use Greek)
2 cloves of garlic
Juice of one lemon
2 cups (approx.) Panko breadcrumbs

Rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces and sprinkle with salt.

In a bowl combine the yoghurt with the crushed garlic cloves, chopped parsley and lemon juice.

Put the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl and add salt and pepper.

Grease a baking dish with butter.

Coat the chicken in the yoghurt mixture and then coat with crumbs. Place in the baking dish. Finally, place a small slice of butter in each drumstick. Cover with foil, then bake in a 180 degree oven for around 1 hour and then remove foil for the last 15 minutes of cooking.

Low fat tip: No need to sprinkle the chicken with salt or grease the baking dish; use low/reduced fat yoghurt and instead of buttering the chicken pieces, I simply spray them with cooking spray - they still brown nicely in the oven.

These are really yummy and the whole family enjoy them. There is a nice, subtle tang from the yoghurt and lemon that works well. Nice in the the lunch box the next day too!

I made another of her recipes recently, a Strawberry Shortcake - more on that to come!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nigella's Baklava

OMG this stuff is delicious. And evil. But delicious. And oh-so-evil. It's also very easy to make, but a little time consuming - but so worth it!

I made it as part of a Greek-themed feast I was having with Kaz and Chocolate Crackle. Kaz made really yummy bougatsa for dessert as well - it was filo heaven!

Make the syrup first and the pop into the fridge while you make the pastry part.

Nigella's Baklava

For the syrup
300ml water
500g caster sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon rosewater
1 tablespoon orange-flower water
NB: you can get rose water and orange flower water from the chemist.

For the pastry:
325g pistachios, chopped in a processor until medium–fine
125g melted unsalted butter
400g filo pastry

Use a 23 x 23 tin for this -I'd advise not to use your favourite baking tin as you need to slice through the pastry while still in the tin. A foil disposable one from the supermarket is probably best, or even silicon (but be careful not to slice right through!).

Add water, sugar and lemon juice to a pot and bring to the boil. Keep it at boiling point for 5 minutes. Add the rosewater and flower water and then remove it from the heat. Pour it into a jug, let it cool and then chill it in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 180Âșc.

Brush the tin with butter and then begin to layer the filo pastry sheets, brushing each layer with butter (tip: make sure you cover your filo with a damp tea towel so it doesn't dry out).
Use approx 20 sheets (1/2 packet) for the bottom layer, placing them in the tin evenly as you can. Then, spread the pistachios evenly over the filo sheets.

You can tell already this is going to be good...

Then carry on with the rest of the pastry in the same way. The last sheet on top should also be buttered well and then with a sharp knife trim around the top edge of the tin to give a neat finish. Cut parallel lines 4–5cm apart to form diamond shapes, making sure you cut the baklava right through to the bottom of the tin (not through the bottom of the tin though!).

Before cutting

Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, by which time the filo will have puffed up and become golden-brown.

Awaiting its drenching in sweet nectar

As soon as it comes out of the oven, pour over half the cold syrup. Leave it a few minutes to soak in and then pour over the rest.

Buttery, pistachio-ey, rose scented bliss!! It doesn't get much better than this - and it was even better the next day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Citrus Yoghurt Muffins

These yummy muffins come from the 500 Cupcakes cookbook. I had a heap of Greek yoghurt I needed to use and am a sucker for anything citrus flavoured, so this was perfect. The combination of citrus flavours was really nice but you could try different variatiosn if you wanted.

Citrus Yoghurt Muffins

200g plain four
175g caster sugar
1tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp grated orange zest
1 tbsp grated lime zest
1 tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
255ml fat-free plain yoghurt
115ml sunflower oil
1 lightly beaten egg

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan.

In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, sugar, lemon, orange & lime zest, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the yoghurt, oil and egg until well blended. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, stirring until just combined. Don't overmix!

Spoon the batter into the pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from the pan.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

These were quite a hit in my house, and a healthy treat for little Miss J.

Chicken Scallopine

This is a really yummy and fast dinner idea that can also be made relatively healthily. I usually wing this, so feel free to play with the quantities of stock and cream to get a sauce consistency you are happy with . It does thicken quite a bit, so I'd add more stock than you think you might need.

Chicken Scallopine

2-3 chicken breast fillets, sliced into schnizels
Plain flour - enough for coating the chicken
Mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
Olive oil
A lemon

Put the flour into a flat container/tray/plate and season with salt and pepper. Then prepare the chicken by slicing into thin pieces (escalopes) and bash with the meat hammer to flatten a bit if you need to. Coat each piece of chicken with the seasoned flour, tapping off any excess.

Heat some olive oil to the pan and fry chicken on both sides until golden brown. Cook in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan.

Low fat tip: To make this a bit healthier, omit the flour and fry the chicken using cooking spray in a non-stick pan, or bake or grill the chicken in the oven.

Once all the chicken has been cooked and removed from the pan, add the mushrooms to the pan making sure to scrape up all the nice brown bits the chicken has left behind. Add the stock, wine and cream to the mushrooms as well as a good squeeze of lemon. Cook down until its a nice rich brown colour. Add salt and pepper to taste. The sauce will thicken, so you may need to add more liquid (stock or wine) to ensure you have a good sauce-to-chicken ratio for serving

Low fat tip: You can use just stock instead of wine an stock and instead of cream, I use the same quantity of evaporated milk which worked really well.

Once its just about ready, add the chicken back to the pan to coat in the sauce and heat up. Serve the chicken with a generous spoonful of sauce. I usually serve with smashed potatoes and green beans.