Upside-down, upside down!

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I’ve continued the retro theme this week with an upside down cake.

Upside down cakes are a bit of a staple of 80s cookbooks, with pineapple being the favourite. Since it’s winter, and I’m not a massive fan of canned pineapple, I used the idea of the traditional upside down cake and gussied it up to suit the colder weather (seriously, it’s Canberra. You don’t want to be any colder than you have to be). This cake, warm and soft, with a dollop of honey and cinnamon yoghurt, is to die for.

Picture of a slice of cake with yoghurt

Baking is often at its best when it is quick and easy, homemade, warm from the oven and shared with friends.  I love making fancy cakes and doing intricate and delicate decorations. But there will always be a place in my heart for rustic baking that is never going to be picture perfect.

That taste on your tongue as you take that first bite, the crunch of the caramel on the sides of this cake, followed by the soft juicy slices of apple, more than make up for any imperfections in its appearance.

Picture of cake on a red plate and some apples

This is best made with fresh, lovely apples, new season, if you can get them, and rhubarb which you slice thinly. Quality will pay you back in spades with flavour and texture. But don’t be put off by that. If all you have are tinned apples, and you can’t find rhubarb, use what you have! Pop in some spices, if you want to make it even more wintry.

Of course, the good thing about this cake especially is that the rest of the ingredients are all things you will generally find in your pantry, so this is a good option when you want to whip something up for afternoon tea. It’s a bit more involved than scones, for example, but much more rewarding than going to the shops, if you have the time.

Upside down cake

And seriously.. that caramel, glistening on top, and seeping down the sides of the cake? That is the sole reason you want to eat this cake fresh. As soon as it’s cool enough. Because you’ll get a crunch as you bite into it, contrasting against the more delicate crumb of the cake.

Picture of cake with caramel seeping down the sides, some apples in the background

 

I’ve kept the recipe fairly simple, but it could stand up to all sorts of alterations. Add some cinnamon or nutmeg, change the fruit out for whatever is in season, add some nuts with the fruit when you pop it into the caramel, use a salted caramel instead of the one I’ve used. The possibilities are pretty limitless, really.

And for all you Aussie kids of the 80s, especially my gorgeous boyfriend and because I’ve written this whole post with the theme music in my head – a picture of Mr Squiggle who always drew ‘Upside down, upside down‘ and had to turn the pictures up the right way before Blackboard called out ‘Hurrrrrry Uuuup’.

Somewhat contrary to my advice with inverting this cake – maybe take your time ;) boiling caramel, not something you really want to mess around with.

Upside-down rhubarb and apple cake

Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced
  • About 2 stalks rhubarb, sliced very thinly (on a sharp diagonal)
  • 3 eggs
  • 230g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted
  • 180g flour, sifted with-
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees, or 170 degrees in a fan forced oven.
  2. Prepare a springform tin by buttering thickly, and lining base with baking paper.
  3. Melt first portion of butter over medium heat, add sugar.
  4. Simmer for about five minutes. The sugar won't completely dissolve, but the mixture will come together. Pour into the prepared tin.
  5. Arrange apple and rhubarb onto the caramel, however it fits for you. I arranged a cross of rhubarb with the apple around it. I then assembled more rhubarb into a little pyramid over the other fruit to add more fruit into the middle of the cake.
  6. In a stand mixer, beat eggs and sugar until fluffy and light. This should take from 5 to 10 minutes, if you have an option, use the whisk attachment.
  7. Slowly add the melted butter, and continue whisking until combined.
  8. Fold in your sifted dry ingredients.
  9. Dollop cake mixture on top of the fruit, and smooth with an offset spatula.
  10. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the centre springs back. If the top browns too quickly, cover tin with foil.
  11. Sit for five to ten minutes, before loosening the side of the tin. Invert a plate onto the cake, and quickly and firmly turn the cake out onto the plate.
  12. You may have some pieces of fruit stick to the pan, just scoop them back onto the cake. Rustic, remember?
  13. Serve warm with yoghurt, icecream or custard.
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Retro-baking – Coffee Streusel Slice

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Unfortunately I’ve been pretty sick the last few weeks, and baking has been the last thing on my mind. But I’m back with a super easy recipe for you all to try.

If you grew up in Australia in the 80s and 90s, chances are you will recognise this book:

Source: http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Biscuits-Australian-Womens-Library/dp/0949892106

Source: http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Biscuits-Australian-Womens-Library/dp/0949892106

This recipe book, along with the Birthday Cake Book, formed a major part of my childhood. All of the biscuits and slices I grew up baking? 99% of them came from this book. I loved it. So much so that I saw one in a shop the other day and had to physically restrain myself from buying it. SO. Much. Love.

I still might go back and get it. Depending on how hard my nostalgia becomes to bear.

Anyway, this week I thought I’d go visit 1980s Australia. It’s a fabulous place, really.

What did we go to eat? Coffee Streusel Slice. This is the tastiest slice around and is one of the simplest recipes I have in my repertoire.

Pieces of streusel slice on an antique saucer

It’s like the tea cake of slices. It doesn’t pretend to be anything than some buttery shortbread, tasty caramel and cinnamon dough. hmmmm streusel. Which, according to my more travelled boyfriend, should sound like “stroy-sal”, not “strewsel”. Certainly sounds more authentic than my Aussie ocker attempt ;) “Strewth, you got some slice?”

I’m not up for much more tonight than just telling you to make this, this weekend. It’s super tasty :)

Mwahs x

‘Til next week.

Retro-baking – Coffee Streusel Slice

Ingredients

    Base
  • 125g butter
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 190g flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Caramel
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 8g (3 tsp) instant coffee
  • 40g (2 tbsp) golden syrup
  • 30g butter
  • 1/3 cup walnuts (optional)
  • Streusel
  • 150g flour
  • 4g cinnamon
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 125g butter

Method

    Base
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees or 170 degrees fan forced.
  2. Prepare your tin by spraying with oil and lining with baking paper. Cutting into each corner of the paper will help you fit it in more neatly.
  3. Cream the softened butter and sugar with a mixer until they are lighter in colour and fluffy (5-10 minutes). Add the flour, and mix slightly. Stop the mixer and finish combining with your hands.
  4. Tip into your prepared tin and press down, trying to make it as smooth as possible.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
  6. Caramel
  7. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan, over low to medium heat.
  8. Cook, stirring regularly, until coffee is dissolved and mixture has thickened. It should start to stick to the bottom, so make sure you stir it constantly at this stage.
  9. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes from this point. It should be nice and thick. If you want to add the walnuts, do so at this point.
  10. Spread over cooled base.
  11. Streusel
  12. Rub softened butter into the dry ingredients until your mixture is just coming together. Sprinkle onto caramel and bake for a further 12-15 minutes or until browned.
  13. Cool completely before slicing into small pieces.
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My favourite chocolate cake

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All thanks to my wonderful and talented Mum, I’ve been baking for almost my whole life. Pretty much my first memory is making delicious spice biscuits and getting to help roll them out and ice them with jam and icing. I’ll have to share those at some point, if for no other reason than the nostalgia trip. Plus, they’re super yummy.

For a long time, I didn’t really have a favourite baked good. I wasn’t fussy. Anything that was delicious, I was happy to give a go. I’ve made tortes and gateaux, cookies and biscuits, sponges and slices, candy and fudge. When it came to birthdays, I usually made a sour cream chocolate cake which was delicious, but pretty traditional.

raspberry birthday cake1

Close to five years ago, a very good friend introduced me to the idea of the baking blog. Oh my. Cue montage of life-changing moments. This was definitely one of those.

The first blog I started reading was NSHP, which I’ve referenced a number of times. Other favourites include Smitten Kitchen, Delicious Delicious Delicious, Sprinkle Bakes, Bakers Royale, David Lebovitz, Delicious Everyday, and Sweetapolita.

Sweetapolita and Smitten Kitchen are two that have taught me soooo much in terms of technique, and new ways of doing things. Since I’ve been reading baking blogs, my techniques have improved vastly. In particular, I’ve discovered my true baking love – layer cakes. Ahhhh how I love an elegantly tall, gorgeously frosted layer cake.

raspberry birthday cake5

When I discovered Sweetapolita’s one-bowl chocolate cake, that turns out gorgeous every time, I was also hooked. Alas, it tends to induce a sugar-coma… it doesn’t taste super sweet, but once you add in a few cups worth of frosting? Suffice to say I was almost getting a headache from eating it.

This recipe today adapts the original, converts it into metric (and some easy Aussie measurements), and also dials down the sugar to allow consumption without feeling ill. I’ve also adapted the size of the buttercream recipe to suit this size.

I’ve made Sweetapolita’s raspberry-chocolate cake a few times, both in the original rectangle shape, and as a circular cake. I use 7″ cake tins in all my recipes, and this makes 3 layers, which I bake separately (yay, no torting!). This also cuts down on the baking times.

I made this cake for my boyfriend’s birthday this weekend. I am pleased to report – no sugar comas :D WIN! Plus, he thought it was pretty great, so I was happy.

raspberry birthday cake7

If you make this with Swiss Meringue Buttercream as I have used, make sure it’s allowed to sit at room temperature for at least half an hour, otherwise it will be hard and just taste like butter.

Before the ganache pour, this is what it should look like.

Before the ganache pour, this is what it looks like.

My favourite chocolate cake

Ingredients

    Cake
  • 265g cake flour or plain flour
  • 350g sugar
  • 75g cocoa
  • 14g baking soda
  • 7g baking powder
  • 5g salt
  • 2 eggs (about 120g), room temperature
  • 250g strong black coffee (I just use instant, it can be hot)
  • 250mL buttermilk, room temperature
  • 105mL vegetable oil
  • vanilla extract or paste
  • Buttercream
  • 200g eggwhites (approx 7 eggs' worth)
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 500g butter, cubed and allowed to warm slightly (just sit on the bench)
  • 100-120g frozen raspberries
  • Ganache
  • 100g cream
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 50g dark chocolate

Method

    Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 170 degrees if fan forced.
  2. Grease and line the base of 3 x 7" tins - you could also make an 8" cake with this mixture, it would be slightly shorter.
  3. Coat tins with cocoa - pop a tablespoon of cocoa in the tin, and shake around to cover the sides. This helps the cake to come out once it is baked.
  4. Weigh each of your dry ingredients straight into the mixer bowl. Pop into the mixer and mix on medium for 30 seconds to mix together.
  5. Pour in your coffee and mix until combined.
  6. Weigh your other wet ingredients into a jug. I find it easier to just measure them directly straight into the jug, and then mix.
  7. Add your wet ingredients to the mixer, and beat on a medium speed for 2 minutes.
  8. Weigh into your tin/s. My tins are all the same, so I tare the scales to the tin, and then weight approx 475g into each tin. Sounds pedantic, and you don't have to do this, I just find it easier.
  9. Bake for approximately 15 minutes before switching positions in the oven.
  10. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes, 'til you can smell the cooked cakes.
  11. Cool in the tins on wire racks for 20 minutes before inverting onto the racks and allow to cool completely.
  12. Buttercream
  13. Combine sugar and egg whites in a heatproof bowl. Sit over a pot of simmering water (do not allow to touch the water).
  14. Whisk to mix together, and continue to whisk regularly while the mixture cooks. Especially at the beginning - you don't want bits of cooked egg!
  15. You want the mixture to reach about 60 degrees Celsius, at which point the meringue mixture will feel hot, and it should be slippery - the sugar will be dissolved. This will take about 10 minutes.
  16. Pour into your heatproof mixer bowl, and whisk for as long as it takes for the meringue to triple in size and the bowl to feel neutral to the touch. This will take about 15 minutes.
  17. While this is whipping, get out your frozen raspberries and pop them into a small saucepan with caster sugar to taste. I used about 1/3-1/2 cup.
  18. Heat over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, to help the raspberries break down. I cooked it for about 15 minutes, allowing it to thicken slightly. Allow to cool. You can press through a sieve if you don't want the seeds, but I think they make it look lovely.
  19. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and start to beat on low- medium while you add one or two cubes of butter at a time. Continue 'til you've added all your butter, and the buttercream has come together.
  20. It may at some point, if you add your butter too quickly, start to curdle. Don't panic - this happens really easily. Continue to beat it, and it will come together.
  21. Add your raspberry syrup until it tastes good :)
  22. Ganache
  23. I did this once I had frosted the cake and it was setting in the fridge.
  24. Heat cream slowly in a small saucepan until it's almost boiling. Pour over chocolate, and allow to sit for a minute.
  25. Whisk to mix together. If the chocolate is still too solid, heat on medium low in the microwave for 30 seconds, and that should help. Don't heat it too much or it may burn.
  26. When the ganache is smooth, allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.
  27. Assembly:
  28. Slice cake in two if you've used one tin, and/or level layers. Place the first one on a cake board or whatever you're serving it on.
  29. Use about 1/2-1 cup of frosting to cover the first layer. Ensure it is nice and flat. Place your next layer on and repeat.
  30. When you get to the last layer, cover the whole cake in a thin layer of frosting. This is called a 'crumb coat' and prevents your final layer of frosting from having crumbs in it.
  31. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to set the frosting, before covering with a final layer of frosting.
  32. Refrigerate for a further 15-30 minutes before adding the ganache.
  33. To do the ganache pour - Pour a small puddle onto the top of the cake. Using a small offset spatula, spread to the edges of the cake. Add more if needed, and repeat. I stopped once the top edge of the cake had been covered. Allow to drip down the sides. Pop back in the fridge.
  34. To serve - take cake out of fridge about 1-2 hours before serving, as this allows the buttercream to soften appropriately.
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Salted caramel and chocolate tart

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Sorry for the slightly delayed post, folks. An untimely rental inspection meant I was scrubbing bathrooms last night, rather than writing on my blog. Now that’s over and done with, we can get to the dessert!

I put a call out to my Facebook friends this week for inspiration for this week’s post. It’s not that I had a lack of ideas.. Rather, I had WAY too many. My list for what to come next is approaching a mile long. Oops. Anyway, I had plenty of ideas provided, and a friend’s vote for caramel prompted this week’s post.

You might not know the level of my obsession with salted caramel. Even in the first iteration of my blog, I’m not sure that I ever managed to use a salted caramel recipe. I was too busy always trying to figure out the best formula. But you are hearing (reading?) from a true caramel convert.

caramel tart_4

I previously thought caramel was for suckers. Why would you choose that sickly sweet option when you could get chocolate? And then I was introduced to salted caramel, and the ease with which it is made. I was sold. And I am a massive sucker for it.

Om nom nom nom.. Ahem. All of which brought us here today to this wonderful confection. It tastes, I am told, quite similar to a Mars Bar. I just loved the combination of the crunchy salt, the slight tang of the crème fraiche in the caramel, the smooth ganache and the crisp pastry. Plus how can you resist that oooey goooey caramel?

caramel tart_5

This is probably an intermediate recipe, since it involves boiling sugar, but please don’t let that put you off. Caramel is relatively straightforward if you follow a few vital rules.

  1. Always pay close attention – it will caramelise pretty quickly, and you don’t want a pot full of burnt sugar.
  2. Use a non-reactive saucepan (stainless steel, copper for the heiresses out there)
  3. For the love of all that is holy sugar goodness, do NOT stir the pot. Re-phrase – you can stir it exactly once: when you combine the water and sugar. After that, don’t bring a stirring implement anywhere near your lovely cauldron of bubbling goo. Swirling the pot is perfectly acceptable.

Sugar crystals are just bouncing around in there waiting to latch onto each other. Put a spoon in there and you provide them with the impetus they need, and voilà, you have sugar crystals. Not exactly what we’re going for here. A good primer on sugar chemistry can be found via Ms Humble. Alas, she does not post anymore, but she is such a wonderful baker, I would wholeheartedly recommend any of her recipes. Although she says you can wash down the sides, etc, I’ve found you don’t need to bother.

Accept that the potential crystals on the side of the pot are worthy sacrifices to the cause, and continue with the lovely liquid sugar in the bottom of the pot. Plus, a lazy cleaning hack for a sugar covered pot? Pour in some hot water, leave for 10-15 minutes, and it’s all gone. That’s my kind of washing up!!

There are a range of other versions of this tart that I used as inspiration for this post. I loved the idea of the crème fraiche in the caramel, so I added some to mine, before thickening slightly. This is completely optional, however. It does not affect the caramel in any physical way (it just tastes slightly more tangy). I otherwise adapted my own caramel recipe, and used my own ganache ratios and shortcrust recipe.

Some other tips for this recipe that I discovered as I made it – You really do need to allow the caramel to set for 3+ hours before pouring over the ganache, otherwise it displaces it. I would suggest overnight if you can. This makes this one of those annoying desserts you have to decide to make WELL before you actually need it. I am usually more of a fly by the seat of my pants, bake with what I have in my cupboards girl. It’s probably worth it :P Also, I would recommend not sprinkling salt on the tart until serving, as it dissolves into the chocolate given any length of time.

caramel tart_2

Bon appétit!

Salted caramel and chocolate tart

Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Makes: 1 8" tart

Ingredients

    Pastry
  • 200g cake or plain flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 110g butter, cold, cubed
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • Caramel
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 275g sugar
  • 100mL thickened cream
  • 140g butter, cubed
  • 3 tbsp crème fraiche
  • 1 heaped teaspoon sea salt (plus more for decoration)
  • Ganache
  • 150mL thickened cream
  • 100g milk chocolate, chopped
  • 50g dark chocolate (or to taste), chopped

Method

    Pastry
  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, or 170 degrees in a fan forced oven.
  2. Grease and line an 8"springform pan or tart dish
  3. Whisk together flour and sugar in a large bowl (or into a food processor bowl).
  4. Using your fingers, a pastry cutter, or the food processor, cut butter into flour and sugar, until it is the size of small peas.
  5. Whisk together yolks and cold water. Add enough to the flour and butter mixture to mix to a dough.
  6. If needed, use your hands to combine any missing bits of flour.
  7. Refrigerate for at least half an hour
  8. When it has chilled (allows gluten development and butter to cool down), remove from fridge and gently roll out to a large enough circle, about 4-5mm thick.
  9. Roll loosely over the rolling pin to lift over the tin. Line the tin, and trim to fit. I used a springform pan to allow a straight-sided tart, and then cut the pastry at an even height around the tin.
  10. Line with baking paper and weight with baking weights or rice.
  11. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely.
  12. Caramel
  13. Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan.
  14. Stir to combine, and cook over medium to high heat (depending on how impatient/confident you are) until it begins to boil.
  15. It will take at least 5-10 minutes to start caramelising. Allow it to reach about the colour you want.
  16. The darker the caramel, the richer and darker the flavour, but the more likely it is to burn.
  17. Pour in the cream, whisking to combine. The caramel will bubble and steam, be careful.
  18. Once the cream is whisked in, add butter and crème fraiche, whisking to combine.
  19. Boil for a couple more minutes to thicken slightly.
  20. Cool for about 15 minutes before pouring into the tart shell. You need to leave room for the ganache, so don't fill right to the top.
  21. Refrigerate for 3 hours at least. This is very important.
  22. Ganache
  23. When your tart is firm, add your second portion of cream to a small saucepan. Bring to a light simmer, but not quite a boil.
  24. Put chopped chocolate into a heat proof bowl.
  25. Once cream is heated through, pour over chocolate, and leave it to sit for a minute, before stirring gently to combine.
  26. Ensure is only warm (cool if need be) before pouring gently over the tart. Refrigerate again for at least three hours.
  27. Before serving, sprinkle with flakes of sea salt.
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Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

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It’s a tale of two recipes.. The quick and the.. dead slightly more complicated.

lemon_meringue_cupcakes_pink stand

Last week I was on catering duty for work, and was trawling through my lists of ‘recipes-to-do’. Once I remembered this recipe, I couldn’t go past it.

I’d made lemon meringue cupcakes once before for a party, as a play on the fact that my boyfriend’s favourite dish to make is lemon meringue pie. It was just as fun the second time, and has as much of that fabulous tart-sweet balance as you’d expect from your fave lemon-meringue pie.

I  realise that my first few posts back have been on the complicated side. And, pretty pictures aside, not something you really wanna give a go, unless you’re a bit nuts like me and like to decide to do stupidly complicated recipes for the first time before an event. It usually works out, but I too have failures. When I get my archives back up and running, you’ll see those for yourself. Chocolate mousse cake fails me everytime I try it!!

lemon_meringue_cupcakes_tray

On the plus side, my friends usually get to benefit these failures. I made one of my besties a chocolate swirl cheesecake once and thought I burnt the crust… so I made him a new cake. He then took the cheesecake home and ate it anyway.. everyone won, really.

lemon_meringe_cupcake_alone

Tangents aside.. you should totally make these cupcakes, whether you make the simple version or the fully handmade version. Either way, you can play around with a blowtorch, or the grill, to get yummy campfire-style burnt sugar. Yay!

For the simple version, substitute:

  • marshmallow fluff for the meringue,
  • a jar of lemon curd for the handmade curd, and
  • a packet cake (probably butter cake) for the cupcakes.

Some easy packet cake hacks to help your cupcakes taste better include adding extra butter or oil than the box says (in this case I would recommend butter, you’re going for a pastry-style flavour), using milk or buttermilk instead of water, and adding an extra egg. You can always just follow the directions, but where’s the fun in that?

If you use one or all of these substitutions with my recipe, just go ahead and follow the assembly instructions. If you don’t have a blowtorch (definite fun if you do want to get one), then place them for a few minutes under a hot grill (broiler in the USA). Or just leave un-caramelised.You don’t need a piping bag, either. Use a knife or a spoon to scoop meringue onto the cupcake and arrange to your liking! These are best when messy and home-style.

Good luck, and thanks for all the fish ;)

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Makes: 18 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 200g sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 120g cubed unsalted butter
  • Cupcakes
  • 240 mL buttermilk (split into 1/4 cup, and the remainder) at room temperature
  • 2 eggs and 1 yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 230g cake flour
  • 200g sugar
  • 8g baking powder
  • 2g bicarb soda
  • 2g salt
  • 115g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • Meringue
  • 500g sugar
  • 125mL water
  • 250g egg whites (approximately 8 egg whites)
  • NB: this batch makes a LOT of meringue. You can pipe and bake as you would other meringues, or use it for something else. It's quite hard to make this in a smaller batch, as the mixer doesn't quite work.

Method

    Lemon curd
  1. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the sugar, lemon juice, zest and egg yolks. Set over a pot of simmering water.
  2. Whisk occasionally, and cook until it thickens to a point where it will coat the back of a spoon. Test this by drawing your finger through the curd on the spoon - if it stays where you moved, it's probably done. This is about 172 degrees F or 78 degrees C.
  3. Remove curd from the heat, and strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean container. Let it cool slightly, about 20 minutes. This step is definitely worth it!
  4. Using a stick blender or a whisk, mix the butter into the curd, until it is completely incorporated. Cover with cling wrap directly on the surface (prevents a skin from forming), and refrigerate. Keeps for about a week and also freezes for up to 3 months.
  5. Cupcakes
  6. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius and prep your cupcake liners/pans.
  7. Whisk together 1/4 cup buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Remember to not mix all your buttermilk in here like I did!
  8. Combine dry ingredients in your mixer and mix for 30 seconds on medium.
  9. Add butter and mix on low for 30 seconds.
  10. Add remainder of the buttermilk (approximately 3/4 cup) to the mixture, and mix on low until the mixture is just moist. Increase the speed to medium and mix for about 1 1/2 minutes.
  11. Add the milk and egg mixture in three batches. Scrape the sides and beat on medium for 20 seconds after each addition.
  12. Scoop into cupcake wrappers, filling to about 2/3 full.
  13. Bake for about 15 minutes. Try not to overcook.
  14. Cool completely before decorating.
  15. Meringue
  16. Bring sugar and water to the boil in a non-reactive saucepan. Do not stir.. if you must, you can swirl the pan. Stirring introduces crystals, which ruin your syrup.
  17. Boil until a candy thermometer registers 117 degrees celsius.
  18. As the syrup gets close to the temperature, start to whisk your egg whites in a stand mixer with a pinch of cream of tartar (helps to make sure you get nice fluffy meringue). Whip them until they form soft peaks.
  19. When the syrup is done, remove immediately from the heat, and slowly pour into the egg whites. And I mean slowly. It took me probably 1-2 minutes to pour all of mine into the mixer.
  20. Continue beating the meringue is cool and has formed firm peaks.
  21. Assembly
  22. Level cupcakes with a sharp knife if needed. If you've only filled 2/3 the way up, you shouldn't need to. However, the hard cardboard wrappers that I've used tend to make the cupcakes do funny things, so you never know.
  23. Using a teaspoon, cut a small square (1cm or so) into the centre of the cupcake, and scoop out. Using a teaspoon means it ends up relatively round. You can discard (eat?) the centres however you like.
  24. Scoop or pipe 1-2 teaspoons of lemon curd into the centre of the cupcake.
  25. Scoop or pipe meringue on to the cupcake. This can be done to taste, I used about 1/3 cup of meringue per cupcake. I used a large round piping tip.
  26. If you have one, have fun (safely, people!) with a blowtorch to get the caramelised effect. If not, leave plain or cook under a grill for a minute or so.
  27. Serve that day or the next. You can safely refrigerate til you use them.
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Quince and pear crostata

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Happy hump day y’all :)

So I promised myself my next post wouldn’t be boozy.. and I stuck to it, to a degree. There’s a tiiiiiiny bit of dessert wine, but is easily substituted with apple juice or even water. It’s just super tasty this way.

Three photos - one of the empty pie case, one with the filling and one with the full pie

There’s nothing I find more domestic or satisfying than getting up early (well.. as early as I can manage, anyway) on a Saturday morning and heading to the Canberra farmers’ markets. It makes me feel settled, and prepared for the week. Plus, the bounty you can collect usually surpasses how good it feels to sleep in (sometimes. when I’m not super tired).

This week it was a lovely, warm morning when I and my boyfriend headed to the markets. We bought fresh OJ, new season apples from Batlow, spinach that looked like it had just been picked (which it probably had), lovely corella pears, yummy bagels, the list goes on. So good!

Picture of baked crostata

When I saw the pears, I remembered the two quince that I bought a few weeks ago that have been sitting in my fridge waiting for me to use them. Mostly because I was being a total wuss about figuring out how to cook them. I’m not very good at being a novice, and often put it off because it’s all too scary. See also: driving, macarons. Ok, FINE. Quince and pear.. something, it was.

But this crust! Oh I am so proud of this crust :D

picture of an empty pie case

The result? Shortcrust pastry with jammy quince and fresh pear, vanilla, cinnamon and allspice, with a topping that was like the hippie child of frangipane and streusel. Trust me.. this combination led to something almost like an American cobbler but ooh it was so tasty. love it. Next time I would add a bit of muscat or amaretto to the topping.

This is a warming recipe, perfectly offset by some cream, yoghurt or icecream. I have a soft spot for chocolate icecream and pear, and it worked well here also.

Quince and pear crostata

Ingredients

    Shortcrust pastry
  • 200g plain or cake flour
  • 110g butter (very cold, diced)
  • 75g sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp cold (refrigerated) water
  • Quince filling
  • 2 quinces (about 1 kg when whole)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • Juice (and some zest) from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup dessert wine or juice
  • 150g caster sugar
  • Pear filling
  • 4 corella pears
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • pinch of allspice
  • Topping
  • 100g almond meal
  • 110g flour
  • 70g brown sugar
  • tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg

Method

    Preparing the quinces
  1. Put all but 1 tbsp of lemon juice into a med-large saucepan.
  2. Peel and core the quinces like you would a pear or an apple, and then chop, before popping into your saucepan and regularly toss with juice as you go. Quinces will brown quickly.
  3. Add zest to pan to taste. I used three or four pieces that I shaved from the lemon.
  4. Add wine, spices, and caster sugar to pan. Place over medium heat, stirring to combine a couple of times. Bring to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to very low, cover saucepan and cook for 2-3 hours (yup, hours). Quinces will soften and start to dissolve, creating a filling that's half jammy and half stewed fruit. They will turn a rosy red colour by this time.
  6. Allow to cool.
  7. Pastry
  8. While your quince is cooking or cooling, depending on how much time you have, start your pastry. You should have already diced your butter and placed back in the fridge. Sift your flour into a large bowl and whisk together with sugar. Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter to dry ingredients until butter is the size of tiny peas. You can do the same thing in a food processor, it's just a little harder to control.
  9. Whisk yolks and water together, and add to other ingredients gradually. You may not need it all.
  10. Mix to a stiff dough.
  11. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until required.
  12. Filling
  13. Remove spices from quince mixture.
  14. Peel, core and slice pear thinly, and use remaining lemon juice to prevent browning.
  15. Mix with flour, sugar and allspice.
  16. Set aside (in the fridge) until required.
  17. Topping
  18. Combine dry ingredients, add melted butter and egg, stir to combine until clumps together. Using your hands is pretty effective here.
  19. Set aside until required.
  20. Assembly and baking
  21. Preheat oven to 180* Celsius.
  22. Butter a 9" pie dish.
  23. Remove dough from fridge.
  24. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough. it might be a bit crack-happy when you roll it out at first. If it does that, gather it together and re-roll. It makes it much easier, and doesn't make it too tough.
  25. Roll dough over rolling pin, and use it to lay dough over pie dish. Gently settle into dish, ensuring there is not air trapped beneath the dough. Trim edges.
  26. Layer quince and pear until you have used all the fruit.
  27. Crumble topping over pie, ensuring a relatively even coverage. Sprinkle with demerara sugar if you like.
  28. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. If your topping browns too quickly, cover with foil.
  29. Enjoy!
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Champagne poached pear cupcakes

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Sensing a theme?

Well.. the rebirth of my blog calls for a celebration, so boozy treats all round :D

Cupcake with glaze being poured over it in an antique tea cup

When I managed to snag another ticket for the Canberra Cake Club in May, my brain went straight to work, trying to figure out what on earth I could bake for “Show us your finest baking”.. I may have also had a slight concern as to how I could possibly top a bacon cake.. Had I peaked too fast? Was my Canberra Cake Club career on a collision course?

Just as i’m terrible at alliteration, so am I the worst at procrastination. By which I mean.. I’m the queen of procrastination. Maybe the crown princess, anyway.

So I hadn’t really thought about it until a day and a half before the cakeup.

Then I remembered my recipe for champagne poached pears and thought champagne sorry, sparkling wine.. would fit the theme of ‘finery’. and it was in such a beautiful location, how could I go wrong? [Shout out to the Boat House on the Lake in Canberra].

And then.. my fave ingredient, only matched by my love of chocolate and raspberry – salted caramel buttercream. Swiss Meringue Buttercream, at that.

I got some lovely feedback from the Cake Club – let me know what you think if you try them out.

Cupcake and glaze on top of upturned antique tea cup

Champagne poached pear cupcakes

Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 48 minutes

2 hours, 30 minutes

Makes: 36 cupcakes

Ingredients

    Poached pears
  • 2 bottles sparkling wine
  • 500g sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 clove
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or a vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • Pinch of grated or ground nutmeg
  • 6-8 corella pears, peeled, whole
  • Cupcakes
  • 250g butter
  • 300g brown sugar
  • 4g salt
  • 3 eggs plus 1 yolk
  • 300g cake or plain flour
  • 6g baking powder
  • 3g bicarb soda
  • 210mL full cream milk.
  • Salted caramel buttercream
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 100g water
  • 85mL thickened cream
  • 100g butter
  • 7 egg whites (200g)
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 500g butter, room temperature, cubed.

Method

    Poached pears
  1. Combine sugar, spices and wine in a large pot. Bring to the boil, and cook until sugar is dissolved and poaching liquid is clear.
  2. Add pears and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer for approximately 20-30 minutes, until pears are soft.
  3. Retain liquid for glaze. Allow pears to cool before coring and chopping into bite size chunks.
  4. Glaze
  5. Bring poaching liquid to the boil, and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until it has reduced by at least half / to taste. Allow to cool.
  6. Cupcakes
  7. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Prepare your pan by lining with cupcake wrappers.
  8. Cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Contrary to what I used to think, this can take up to 10 minutes, depending on your mixer. It should change colour, and actually look light and fluffy.
  9. Add eggs a little at a time, beat after each addition. This is important to do as otherwise the fat in the butter will not be able to support the liquid and may curdle.
  10. Add one-quarter of the sifted dry ingredients, and mix well. Repeat with one-third of the milk.
  11. Repeat step 3 for the remainder of the dry ingredients and the milk. You should always finish with the dry ingredients.
  12. Fold pear into the cupcake mixture and scoop into your cupcake papers. This recipe makes approximately 36 cupcakes, so you may need to do this in batches, but the mixture will survive while you do.
  13. Bake for approximately 16 minutes, depending on your oven. They should be golden brown and when tested, the skewer should not have any wet mixture clinging to it.
  14. Turn cupcakes onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely (I know, it's so hard!) before levelling if required and frosting.
  15. Salted caramel buttercream
  16. Make your caramel first - combine the first portion of sugar and water in a thick-bottomed, non-reactive (stainless steel or copper, for those lucky ones) saucepan.
  17. Bring to the boil, stirring if need be. Once the sugar is dissolved, do not stir. Boil until the sugar turns a golden brown colour. I prefer to cook it on the darker side, as it allows a deeper caramel flavour but this takes some practice.
  18. Add cream, whisking the caramel mixture. It will bubble and hiss, be careful of the steam. If it goes too hard, continue stirring over heat til the mixture combines. Add butter and sea salt to taste (approx 1 teaspoon for me).
  19. Allow to cool.
  20. To prepare for the meringue, you will need to wipe out your mixer bowl and a heat proof bowl with white vinegar (ensures no fat traces, meaning better meringue!).
  21. Combine egg whites and second portion of sugar in a heat proof bowl. sit over a saucepan with an inch of simmering water.
  22. Whisk mixture regularly while it heats up. It should reach approximately 70 degrees celsius on a sugar thermometer, or if you don't have one - rub a drop of mixture between your fingers. If it is warm-hot and slippery, meaning the sugar is dissolved, it is ready. This should take 8-10 minutes.
  23. Pour mixture into your mixing bowl. If you have one, use the whisk attachment. Whisk on high for approximately 15 minutes or until mixture has tripled in size and bowl is neutral to the touch (not warm).
  24. If necessary, change to the paddle attachment on your mixer. Begin beating on a medium speed, adding a piece of butter every 10 seconds or so, allowing it to combine with the meringue before adding more. It will take another 10 minutes or so until you are done.
  25. The mixture may curdle at this stage if you add too much butter too fast. Don't panic! (remember your towel....) - you just need to keep beating it and it will come together.
  26. Pour in approximately 1/2 cup of caramel to the buttercream, and combine. You can add more to taste if required.
  27. Assembly
  28. Using a piping bag, decorate your cupcakes. Pour over glaze just before serving.
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Boozy Autumn Cake (and an apology)

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Cross posted at Canberra Cake Club (canberracakeclub.blogspot.com)
Mes petites! It has been too long! There’s a bunch of reasons for that. And I know that I’m just another blogger who pops up occasionally and apologises (yet again) for a long absence. This time it’s been over a year. Sigh.
But.. I’m gonna make an effort over 2014. I lost my baking mojo (how could I not, it was hurting me to bake!) but I’m slowly getting it back*. And one of the things  that is helping is the Canberra Cake Club. Hooray!

When the Cake Club came across my Twitter feed last year, I was very excited. Getting together with a bunch of baking enthusiasts and eating cake? Hands down the perfect afternoon for me. After seeing the results of the January cakeup, which I couldn’t get to, I definitely had to make it to February.

When I saw the theme was ‘a secret ingredient’, I brainstormed like crazy, as well as looking through a bunch of recipe books and websites. I knew I could do something like zucchini or yoghurt, but wanted to step outside the box a little. My friend reminded me of a bacon cake done by a favourite old blog**. And I remembered seeing someone do maple syrup and bacon in a cake, and the idea jumped from there (I tend to go a little overboard sometimes). It just felt very autumnal, with the sweetness, the bacon and maple… A bit heavier than something you’d eat when it was very hot. The bourbon makes it boozy, but you could leave that out altogether without impacting too much on the flavour.

Picture of light caramel coloured cake with  pecans on top

I know it looks like a really complicated recipe, but I promise it’s not, it’s just a few component pieces, most of which are pretty easy. (Edited to add May 2014: Okay, not the world’s easiest cake, and it takes time.. but it’s definitely worth it. If you have basic baking skills down, you’ll be fine.)

I bought the bacon at Costco, I definitely think streaky bacon is needed for this recipe. If you want to take it one step further, get your bacon from Pialligo Farm (http://www.pialligofarm.com.au/) at the Capital Region Farmers’ Markets. It’s phenomenal.

I’ve adapted the recipes for the cake and the bacon from their sources to suit what I was doing here, but haven’t changed them much.
Picture of bacon cake - different angle
Boozy Autumn Cake
Ingredients

Brown sugar cake  [Adapted from: http://sweetapolita.com/2013/06/butterscotch-cupcakes-supreme/]

450g cake flour or all-purpose flour

350g dark brown sugar

18g baking powder

6g salt

345g cold butter – diced

250mL whole milk

6 mL lemon juice

4 eggs, lightly whisked

2 tsp vanilla extract

Maple candied bacon [Adapted from: http://thebakerintherye.com/2013/09/17/bourbon-bacon-the-tale-of-the-manly-cupcake/]

6 -8 slices of streaky (American style) bacon

½ cup maple syrup

¾ cup dark brown sugar

¾ tsp cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Bourbon syrup

⅔ cup brown sugar

1 cup bourbon (I used Wild Turkey)

Maple-peanut butter frosting

380g butter, room temperature

150g smooth peanut butter

800g icing sugar

6 tbsp maple syrup

Candied pecans, to serve

Method

Bourbon syrup

Bring ingredients to a boil over med-high heat. Reduce to medium and let simmer til it’s syrupy (about 5-8 minutes).

Maple candied bacon

  1. Heat oven to 200C. Prepare your pan – cover a sheet pan with foil and place a wire rack on the top. I found that adding a larger tray underneath it all helps keep all the sticky syrup off the bottom of the oven (if you have another tray spare). Grease the wire rack with cooking spray and lay bacon on the wire rack.

  2. Mix brown sugar with spices in one bowl, pour maple syrup into another. Using a basting brush, coat the top of the bacon with maple syrup, then sprinkle the bacon thickly with the sugar mixture, and press into the bacon with your fingers. Using tongs, turn over and repeat the process. You will get messy in this step!

  3. Bake for 10 minutes before basting – either with the leftover syrup, or the drippings in the pan- you can lift up the wire rack with tongs and use your brush to grab the syrup from the tray.

  4. Bake for a further 15-20 minutes, until the bacon is dark brown.  It should be sticky, and have threads of candy when you lift it from the wire rack. Towards the end, keep a good eye on it as it can burn quite easily if you forget about it (as I did the first time). If your oven is better than mine, it may take less than this, but my bacon took 30 minutes all up.

  5. Leave to cool before crumbling into 1cm pieces. It won’t be firm when you take it out of the oven, but it will harden once it cools.

Brown sugar cake

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease 3 tins (I used 7 inch tins), line base with baking paper and dust with flour.

  2. Put dry ingredients into bowl of stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment.

  3. With the mixer on low, add cubes of butter one at a time (about 10 seconds apart). Mix until it is crumbly or has the texture of breadcrumbs.

  4. Mix milk and lemon juice, and slowly add to mixer. Once it’s added, increase speed to medium and mix for 4 minutes.

  5. Reduce speed to low, and add eggs and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute on medium speed. If need be, fold once or twice to ensure eggs are folded in.

  6. Spoon into pans in equal amounts (they should weigh just over 500g each).

  7. Bake for 15 minutes before rotating in oven. Should take a further 15 minutes to finish baking (but may take less depending on your oven). Cakes are done when they don’t jiggle, and when a skewer comes out with no batter on it (although it may have crumbs). If the tops of your cakes are browning too fast, cover with foil and reduce temperature slightly.

  8. Remove from oven and brush with bourbon syrup while warm. Cool in tins for 30 minutes before turning onto wire rack. Leave to cool completely.

Maple-peanut butter frosting

NB: If you’re going to need to leave cake out at room temperature for a long time, soften butter in microwave rather than on the bench.

  1. Put softened butter in stand mixer with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until it is a lighter colour, about 5-8 minutes.

  2. Add peanut butter and continue to beat.

  3. Add sifted icing mixture gradually – beat on low after each addition before increasing speed.

  4. Add maple syrup, one tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until frosting is light and fluffy. Can be used immediately or stored in fridge until use – should keep for three to four days.

Assembly

  1. Level cakes if need be. Put a dollop of frosting on your plate or cake board before putting down the first layer.

  2. Cover cake with 1cm of frosting, and sprinkle with bacon.

  3. Add second layer, and add extra frosting in the gap between the two layers if need be.

  4. Repeat Step 2 and 3.

  5. Cover cake with a thin layer of frosting and refrigerate until firm.

  6. Take from fridge and cover with thick coat of frosting. To get it nice and smooth, it helps to use a couple of offset spatulas, and keep them in hot water while you’re not using them. Wipe off with paper towel and the heat helps smooth the frosting. I use a small one for finicky details, a flat spatula for doing the sides, and a large offset spatula for the top.

  7. Pipe decorations using a star tip around the base.

  8. Sprinkle candied pecans on top. Right before serving, pour over bourbon syrup.

Note: if you are making this ahead, keep in refrigerator and remove about 1-2 hours before serving to allow frosting to come to room temperature.

*Right now I’m having wordpress issues, but expect to see this up and running in a couple weeks.
**Not So Humple Pie – Ms Humble is amazing. She doesn’t post anymore, but her site seems to still be archived here: http://notsohumblepie.blogspot.com.au/. Fabulous recipes, especially if you love candy making and the science of food.

 

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