Patisse Cooking Class

Last weekend I finally got to go and take a cooking class with one of my favourite Sydney Patisserie schools, Patisse (located in Chippendale)! I have ALWAYS wanted to do more cooking classes, especially those for the sweeter things in life, so I was so excited when I was given this as a gift for Christmas. My class was called “High Tea Treats” which I selected specifically because I love high tea and also because I felt that this class would allow me to learn a wide variety of new techniques. That being said I am already planning another class, the only problem being that I can not decide which one! Prior to arriving, I felt a little nervous; I was going to a class, alone, where I had no idea really what would be expected of me or what the other members of my class may already know. To be honest, I was afraid of making some monumental mistake, to which my peers would probably think “gosh, what’s she doing here” but I could not have been more far from the truth!!

When I arrived I was greeted warmly by Aren (our teacher) and the other members. We sat down at a set table and were offered fresh coffee and beautiful teas, accompanied by delicious mini chocolate Eclair (a hint of whats to come perhaps!). Once we had all introduced ourselves to eat other, donned our aprons and washed our hands we got straight into the good bit..cooking! I was really surprised because I had anticipated that we would be broken into smaller groups to complete sections of recipes that would be combined at the end of the class. However, Aren explained that each of us would make every component to every recipe that we would then each get to take home with us at the end of the day! In front of us then was a booklet (a very fat booklet I might add) of the day’s recipes, a small portable stove (which was shared with the person standing opposite you) and the measured out ingredients for the first recipe (if only cooking was this easy all the time!). Our recipes included Gougeres a la bechamel (bechamel filled profiteroles), peanut brittle chocolate tartlet, lemon meringue tartlet and mini chocolate eclair. By this stage, I was bursting with excitement!Image

First up we needed to tackle our pastries which included a sweet shortcrust dough and a choux pastry. Aren first demonstrated the recipes, one at a time before allowing us to have a try. It was also helpful because there were two additional pastry chefs who would wander around to give you tips and check on your progress. Honestly, I haven’t felt that relaxed in a kitchen in a long time! Despite the fact that I have made both types of pastry before, I picked up so many fantastic tips and techniques! The choux recipe that we were given was also slightly different from the one I used to make my Croquembouche at Christmas time (where the buns went soggy), however this recipe produced beautiful, firm buns that were cooked completely through! I can’t believe I’m going to say this (let alone write it on the internet!) but I really cant wait to give that Croquembouche another go! Aren also explained that overcrowding the oven can cause the buns to go soggy and debunked the old myth that the pastry needs to cool down before beating in your eggs. Fantastic! Once our pastries were finished, piped, placed into tart cases and in the oven we moved onto the chocolate creme patissiere (chocolate custard). Again, Aren demonstrated first before allowing us to make the recipe with our partner. Again, I’ve tried this one before at home but I was so pleased to see and produce a beautiful, shiny, thick, chocolatey patissiere! So yummy I actually can not describe it!Image

After this it was time to stop for lunch, which I did not realise was also provided for us. Aren and his team had cooked us a beautiful ham, spinach and gruyere cheese quiche, served with a green salad and a glass of wine! Yum yum yum! best quiche I have ever eaten in my life, hands down (sorry mum!). For dessert, Aren used the leftover choux pastry to make us donuts which were light and fluffy and just plain yummy! And then it was straight back to the kitchen to finish off!

We moved onto lemon curd next, which I have always wanted to try at home but was too afraid to waste all those eggs! The beauty of this class I think was that it really showed me just how simple baking can be, when you use a logical and methodical approach. Within about 5 minutes I had made a rich, glossy lemon curd, and not one person in the class curdled theirs either! This went into the fridge to chill and it was onto bechamel. Aren made a large batch of peanut brittle (the best brittle I’ve ever sampled) and chocolate ganache for us all to use as well as the italian meringue for our lemon meringue tarts.

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The final stage of the class was assembly time! We received all of the bits and bobs that we had created throughout the 4 hour class (yep we made all that in under 4 hours!) and were instructed on how to put it all together to get a beautiful finished product. Aren and his assistants were really fantastic, putting all the mixtures into piping bags for us and assisting wherever needed. They tempered chocolate for us to then dip our chocolate eclairs into which we later topped with crushed pistachios and freeze dried raspberries. I had a few extra choux buns which I made into chocolate profiteroles! And finally, when I looked down, I was done! I actually can not believe the end result that I saw on my bench in front of me. It was like something out of a Patisserie, most definitely not something that I had made by myself! We each received a box to put all our goodies into and then sadly we were off!Image

Overall, I had such a fantastic day and I can not wait to go back again and try out some more courses! Would highly recommend giving it a go. A fantastic, friendly approach to baking that is suitable for all skill levels. On top of that I met some lovely fellow bakers who all had a passion for food, cooking and eating! Totally exceeded my expectations and I had a wonderful day! 

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4Fourteen Reviewed

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This past weekend my boyfriend took me to a restaurant that I have wanted to go to ever since I saw it on My Kitchen Rules, Colin Fassnidge’s 4Fourteen! The first thing that I noticed (once I got over the initial shock of the surprise) was the trendy, laid-back decor which is very modern and simple. There are small touches of pot plants and animal “skeletons” which allude to the quirky menu that uses a lot of “less traditional” cuts of meat. As the night progressed, we also enjoyed the lower level of lighting and the open planning of the space, which is actually quite a lot smaller then I had anticipated. Overall, service was good, with waitstaff very on top of all of their tables and there was no feeling of being rushed or hurried out (this was perfect for us as we both wanted to take our time). The service of our meals was also quite perfectly timed, with a decent gap between each of our courses.

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Now to the best bit, the food!! So to start we shared the Ham Hock and Cheese Croquette with Mustard Crème Fraîche ($4.5ea). These tasty little morsels are presented in an egg cup which was very cute and the mustard creme fraiche packed a beautiful little punch of flavour. The Croquette’s themselves were light and airy, and were filled with the creamiest cheese and ham mixture before being coated in a crispy outer layer. Following this we each had our mains, Mussels with Salted Fish and Batlow Apple Cider Sauce  ($30) and the Smoked Beef Brisket served with Roast Potatoes and Onion Rings  ($36). Wow!! Again my palate was thrown into a taste sensation! The Mussels were juicy and plump, served in a creamy fish broth (a little like a chowder but much smoother) that had a light sweetness to it which I can only assume came from the Cider sauce. Toasted pieces of bread dropped throughout the dish ensured that not a drop of that beautiful rich sauce was wasted (thats very lucky because I was tempted to pick the plate upand lick it!) My only complaint was that I wasn’t given anything to put my shells into once I had eaten them, but I made do. 

The Smoked Beef Brisket however, was the winner dish. In all my life I have never seen or tasted a more tender piece of Brisket! You honestly could have eaten the dish with a spoon it was that well cooked. The whole thing had a lovely rich sauce (of which there was the perfect amount) that was filled with rich deep flavours. The roast potato was a bit more like a smashed potato which had then been fried lightly (a gourmet hash brown perhaps?) as opposed to your traditional roast potato while the onion rings added beautiful texture and acidity. I would highly recommend this dish!Image

To finish off the evening I ordered the Peanut Butter Popsicle with Honeycomb ($12) which was slightly reminiscent of a golden gaytime ice cream. A slab of creamy vanilla ice cream, rolled in peanut crumbs and served with a side of crunchy sweet honeycomb! Delicious! Again my boyfriend picked a winning dish (he had the brisket earlier), selecting the White Chocolate Sandwich with Dulce de Leche  ($14). 

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A beautiful creamy serve of vanilla ice cream, sandwiched between two thin wafers, underneath which was a smothering of rich caramel sauce. And in case you wanted more caramel (which by the way, you did because it was so tasty) there was a small blob for you on the side!

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Overall, we had a wonderful evening filled with fantastic food, lovely wine and great service. To my boyfriend’s dismay the waitstaff were even kind enough to take a picture of us when I asked (he hates photos)! Would highly recommend this one. Next time though I wouldn’t mind being a little more adventurous with my food choices and going for something a little more left of centre…the Ox Tongue Sandwich perhaps?

 

Ricotta, Almond and Lime Cake

I love Ricotta cakes!! They are so light and fluffy and best of all creamy and when used correctly really lift any basic cake recipe to make it something really special. I’ve mostly heard of people using Ricotta in baking to make a ricotta cheesecake (also very very delicious) but on Friday I caught an episode of Good Chef Bad Chef that really got my attention. The shows host Adrian Richardson was baking a beautiful Ricotta, Almond and Lime Cake which just looked divine! So moist and fluffy I was actually salivating watching the whole thing!Image

It was also quite perfect as I had a family picnic planned for the next day (sadly the weather did not agree) and I was hoping to make something sweet to take along. What I really really love about this recipe is that it is so unbelievably moist and light, which is perfect for a Sunday afternoon tea or picnic in my case. Its also not overbearingly sweet, so it’s perfect for more mature taste buds and is gluten free. On top of all of that, it uses ingredients that most people already have in the pantry, making it quick and simple to make! 

I’m going to include the recipe below but again, please remember that this one isn’t my own so I most definitely (and sadly) can not take credit for the flavour explosion that is about to occur in your kitchens once you give it a go! One thing that I think might add to the whole cake for next time (if you were going to perhaps serve it as a dessert at home with a scoop of thick clotted cream or ice cream) might be a lime sugar syrup (lime juice, sugar & water), poured over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. A bit like a Greek style semolina cake. Anyway, the choice is yours because either way this cake is heavenly!! 

What You’ll Need:Image

250g ricotta cheese (I used light)

4 eggs, separated

1 tsp almond extract or amaretto

175g caster sugar

2 cups almond meal

Finely grated rind of 1 lime

¼ cup flaked almonds

¼ cup pistachio, chopped

What I Did:

1. Preheat your oven to 150C. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm loose bottom cake tin.

2. Beat together the ricotta, egg yolks, almond extract and sugar in an electric mixer until smooth. Stir in the almond meal and lime zest.

3. Whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until soft peaks. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the ricotta mixture to loosen, then fold in the remaining. Spread into the tin, sprinkle with the almonds and pistachios, and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out clean.Image

4. Cool slightly, then turn on to a wire rack. Cool completely and then serve with a dollop of clotted cream, ice cream or as it is. (If adding a sugar syrup I would do this now, as soon as you take it out of the oven. Simply pour the syrup slowly over the top and let it absorb into the cake as it cools).

(Recipe taken from http://www.goodchefbadchef.com.au/recipes/785-ricotta-lime-and-almond-cake).

Enjoy and happy Baking!!

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Marathon Bake

ImageThis past weekend signalled a marathon baking session for me! It was my little sisters 21st Birthday Party (here in Australia your 21st birthday is quite a milestone so often involves a large party/celebration) and I, being the genius that I am volunteered myself to bake all the cakes! The Party itself had a pink and white theme so my sister and I decided to make a two-teir round cake for the centre-piece followed by 70 cupcakes for the guests. The first step for me began about two days before the party, when I baked the three round cakes that I needed. Now I should probably mention that for this event I decided to use packet mixes (shock and horror!) mainly because I had to bake on such a large scale I didn’t want to waste time measuring things out. I also worried that a home-made mix might have room for error, which i really didn’t have time to accommodate as I also had to decorate all the cakes. Either way, I was very happy with the flavours of all the cakes (I used WhiteWings mixes). So, about two days before the party I started baking, first up was two separate red velvet cakes about 30cm in diameter, followed by a raspberry swirl cake about 20cm in diameter. All in all this part was very easy, follow the instructions and out comes a lovely moist cake that smelt delicious in the oven!  I then flattened them out on top using a serrated knife (the off-cuts then became the taste tests for my family). So far so good! I particularly wanted to bake these cakes in advance as I’ve read somewhere that its easier to cover them in ganache and fondant a day or so after they’ve been baked as the crumbs are a bit firmer once you’ve cut the tops off them. Once they were cooled, I popped them into airtight containers and left them in a cool place.

The next day I was onto the cupcakes. Again, I used WhiteWings Vanilla and Raspberry Swirl mixes for the cupcakes. The trickiest part of this stage was not overfilling the cupcakes, so that once baked, the tops would sit just flush with the top of the paper case. Normally I would fill them up quite a bit so that the top of the cupcake was a dome shape but not this time. I used a measuring cup and meticulously measured out 1/4cup per cake! It was all very precise! Now while they were baking I began exercising my multitasking skills by covering and assembling my round cakes. First up were the two red velvet cakes, which I covered in the cream cheese frosting that I was included in the packet. I was a bit disappointed though as the consistency was not very nice (I had planned to use the packet frosting to ice the cupcakes also) but continued the best that I could. Once I’d stuck the two layers together and covered the whole thing I got onto the fondant icing. What.A.Workout!! Wow, I didn’t even need to go to the gym that morning!! Truly it was really hard, especially as I was working alone. One thing that I would really recommend doing though is rolling it out between grease-proof paper. That way it doesn’t stick to anything and it’s very easy to pick up and roll out over the cake. Finally, after about half an hour (and with very sore arms) I could stand back and admire my cake..until I realised I had to repeat the entire process on tier two!! I must say though that I was quite happy with the finished result, especially considering I have only worked with fondant once before (at which time I got my nice strong boyfriend to help me with the rolling part!) Once it was all done I then inserted my dowels. So to do this I pushed one directly into the centre of my bottom tier, marking where it was flush with the top of the cake. I pulled it out and cut it using a hand saw, repeating the process so I had 6 small pieces, one in the centre and the rest in a star around it. Dowels are completely necessary in a layered cake as they ensure the whole thing won’t collapse (my worst nightmare) and can be purchased from your baking supply store. I used wooden ones but I have read that you can get them in plastic too. I also learnt that I needed a small wooden board underneath the top tier to give further support and luckily my cousin, who is an avid baker herself had a spare one which I could borrow! The other final thing I should add is that I didn’t assemble the cake until it was time to serve it, preventing a possible collapse!

So, once all of this was said and done I moved onto icing my cupcakes on the morning of the party! Again I used a store bought buttercream frosting mixture which you add milk and vanilla to. To keep with the theme, I also added some colouring to make them pink and a dash of rosewater to give a hint of flavour! Using my piping bag I attended to each cupcake, topping it off with a little popping candy. And finally, after 3 days of baking and flour and sugar and frosting I was done!!Image

I must say the whole process was totally worth it! Everyone loved the cakes and most people were asking where we had bought them from! Since the party I’ve also been asked to make cakes for a few upcoming birthdays although, I’m not sure if thats a good thing just yet!! Anyway, some tips for baking en mass!

1. Using a packet cake mix is totally fine, this will ensure your cakes come out of the oven perfectly meaning one less thing to worry about!

2. Start in advance and allow yourself plenty of time! Theres nothing worse then having to rush on something like this

3. Use a measuring cup to ensure your cupcakes are all even sizes

4. Cut the top of your round cakes off so that your left with a flat surface

5. Roll your fondant between two pieces of grease proof paper to avoid it sticking to the bench or tearing

6. Have a helper on standby to lift it onto your cake

7. Use dowels, they’re not very expensive or hard to put it and will prevent all your hard work collapsing…literally

8. Refrigerate your cakes once they are done, especially if its hot!

9. Place a round cardboard piece underneath your tiers for further support

10. Remember to enjoy…even in moments of stress!!

Healthy Summer Salad

ImageIf you’re looking for a Summer salad idea then look no further! Here’s a recipe for one that I made almost by accident this week (I had a few ingredients in my fridge that were about to go off so I threw them altogether). This salad is fresh, vibrant, tasty and very very healthy and combines pomegranate, sweet potato and quinoa to make a modern tabouli style salad. It’s really easy to make as its one of those chop it all up and throw it together kind of things! I served it with dukkah crusted chicken (which I just baked in the oven, so no oil required at all) and it was such an amazing, flavoursome dish. Great for BBQ’s too! If you’re unsure about where to buy quinoa, most supermarkets sell it now but it can also be purchased from health food stores. Its similar to couscous but is a grain as opposed to being made from wheat, so is suitable for people on a gluten free diet. It’s very easy to cook, simply bring to the boil in water and simmer away (takes about 15 mins depending on quantities) and can be purchased in a variety of colours, any of which are perfect for this recipe. Give it a go, you might be surprised by the taste! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!

What You’ll Need:

1 cup cooked Quinoa (Follow packet instructions and then allow to cool)

1 Sweet potato (peeled and diced then bake in the oven until soft)

1 tsp ground Cumin

1 bunch flat leaf Parsley (roughly chopped)

3 Spring onions (finely sliced)

1 can of Chickpeas (rinsed)

1/2 lemon juiced

1 Pomegranate (seeds removed)

Salt and Pepper to taste

What I Did:

1. Combine all your ingredients in a bowl together and toss lightly. Check your seasonings and add more lemon juice/salt/pepper/cumin as you’d like. You can also drizzle with some olive oil for a lovely rich flavour. Serve as a side dish for chicken or red meat or use for your lunches during the week.

You could serve this salad warm but be mindful that your parsley doesn’t wilt (let the quinoa cool slightly before putting it altogether). Tomatoes are a lovely addition and my favourite are the cherry type and pumpkin could also be used if you don’t like sweet potato.

(NB A helpful way to remove the seeds from the pomegranate is to tap it firmly all over the outside before you cut it. Using a wooden spoon is a good idea. This will loosen the seeds so that when you do cut it in half, they should fall out easily when the pomegranate is lightly squeezed. Be careful not to get juice on your clothing though as it will stain very easily. I have read that vinegar helps to get it out)

Best Birthday Cake

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Today is my little sisters 21st Birthday so I really wanted to make her something special to celebrate. Luckily she came up with the perfect option, an MnM Cake!! So I’ve seen pictures of these cakes before and always wanted to make one and now that I’ve done it, it is the easiest cake I have ever made and possibly one of the best looking! Trust me, serve your friends one of these and they will think your a masterchef. It really does look very impressive, which is great because its so simple.

ImageYou need only 4 ingredients (yep you read that right, just 4)!!

 

What You’ll Need:

1 Chocolate Cake (can be any flavour really. I got my recipe from the GABO website and I used their frosting recipe as well. Be sure to halve the quantities if you use this one as its far too much for what you need)

1 Portion of Chocolate frosting

1 Large packet of MnM’s (I used peanut ones but you could also use maltesers or berries) 

2 Packets of Arnotts chocolate fingers 

What I Did:

1. Cut the top of your cake off so that the cake is flat (just like this…and you get to eat the leftovers, Yum!) Image

2. Cover the cake (including the sides) in a nice generous amount of frosting.

3. Press the Arnotts chocolate fingers around the outside of the cake, making sure they touch the bottom/plate. They should form a “wall” once your done

4. Pour your MnM’s onto the top of the cake so that the entire thing is covered

And it’s really that simple!! A perfect and easy cake for birthdays or celebrations, this one is sure to impress any guest. The best bit about it (aside from the fact that its so damn easy and tastes delicious) is that you can customise it to suit your own taste. I’ve seen people use KitKats on the outside instead of Arnotts chocolate fingers and top it with maltesers or mixed berries. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed

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