Barbie Birthday Cake

ImageTonight I ventured into unchartered baking waters….children’s birthday cakes! Yep you read correctly, I haven’t baked a children’s themed birthday cake before but don’t hold that against me. This cake was for my boyfriend’s niece who turns 6 this weekend and has a new-found obsession with Ballerinas. A few weeks ago, when she started planning her own party, she requested that I make her a pink Ballerina Cake. After my initial shock at being asked to make someone a cake (I honestly couldn’t believe someone would want me to make them a cake, for a real birthday party) and agreeing to do it I was then left with the dilemma of actually achieving my request. After a little thought and a few of the good old google searches I finally settled on the traditional Dolly Varden style cake. For those of you that aren’t too sure what that is, think back to your early childhoods when it was all the rage to stick your Barbie doll into an upside down pudding shaped sponge cake, covered in lollies and you’ve got it!

So one dilemma down, I was then faced with the issue of locating a baking tin the right size and shape for what I needed. Simple right? Sadly not so. Whilst I was able to locate a few stores that sold the tin, all were out of stock. Meanwhile Ebay wanted almost $50 for the tin, which for me (baking a cake as a one off) was far far too much. Luckily though, I discovered that you can hire cake tins from cake supply stores! What a fantastic idea! And luckily I located a Cake supply store not too far from my house from which I was able to hire the tin for the night for a measly $4!! Now theres a bargain if I ever did see one.Image

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To bake the cake, I cheated and used two Greens Vanilla Cake mixes (frosting included and totally ok to do so), oiling the tin well to ensure that it didn’t stick (that would have been a very unneeded problem that I was going to avoid at ALL costs!) While the box recommended cooking the cake for 45mins at 180 degrees C I ended up cooking for around 1.5 hours at quite a low temperature. This was largely because the cake cooked very quickly on the top surface, whilst the inside was completely raw. To counter that I simply turned down the temperature and let it go, low and slow! Overall though I would recommend allowing plenty of time for this stage as it can be quite unpredictable because of the shape and large size of the cake. Once cooled, I turned it out onto a cake board and cut a small hole in the top for Barbie to sit (I had to remove her legs so probably best to buy a cheap Barbie, mine cost $2 from the Reject Shop). With the help of my trusty assistant (my sister, who I bribed with lollies!) I then covered the sponge in pink butter cream frosting, being careful not to dirty the poor legless Barbie on top. We then decorated it using pink musk sticks and pink and white marshmallows and voila! A princess Barbie Cake!!

To be honest I think I am more excited then the birthday girl will be tomorrow when she sees it, largely because I doubted the success of this one just a little when I couldn’t get the sponge to cook but I really do hope she likes it! For any parents out there looking for a little girls birthday cake, I would say this one is a sure 

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winner! You can theme it in any way you like (I’ve even seen a witch doll cake) and can cover it in lollies (what more does a kid want then that). Its a very simple cake to make and doesn’t require much skill in terms of difficulty. My only advice would be to search for a tin nice and early, get yourself an assistant (possibly the birthday girl) and allow plenty of time for baking. Then sit back and enjoy the ooo’s and ahhh’s!

Happy Baking!!

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French Flair

ImageA few months ago I discovered Rachel Khoo’s Little Paris Kitchen and immediately fell in love with the simple, yet delicious recipes she had on offer! Every Thursday night I would rush to my TV with pen and paper in hand, frantically scribbling down her recipes, and giving cross looks to anyone who dared to speak or ask questions (for the duration of the episode my family was sworn to silence!) Every dish was a beautiful celebration of Parisian culture and fresh ingredients and I can honestly say that I sat licking my lips for the most part! I was absolutely devastated when the series finished, and also somewhat disappointed at the BBC’s poor efforts of uploading recipes to their online website (she has a cookbook though which I plan on investing in very very soon!)

One of my favourite must try recipes though was her Chocolate Mousse, which was by far the most decadent, light, creamy, fluffy mousse I have ever tasted! While Rachel served hers with cocoa nibs I made some chocolate bark to top it with, but either option would work perfectly. Sadly I was too excited to eat the mousse to take any pictures of the process so you will have to trust me when I say MAKE THIS DISH!! Especially if you like chocolate, and even if you don’t it will change your mind! It’s not overly sweet but perfectly balanced. Be warned, you’ll only need a little as it is very rich!

So here it is, Rachel Khoo’s Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

For the crème pâtissière (pastry cream)
  • 3 free-range egg, yolks only
  • 50g/2oz caster sugar
  • 20g/1oz cornflour
  • 250ml/9fl oz whole milk
  • 1 heaped tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
For the chocolate meringue
  • 3 free-range eggs, whites only
  • 50g/2oz icing sugar
  • couple drops lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 150g/5½oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 200ml/7fl oz whipping cream
To serve
  • 2 tbsp soft butter
  • 50g/2oz cocoa nibs

Preparation method

  1. For the crème pâtissière, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and thick, then whisk in the cornflower.
  2. Add the cocoa powder to the milk and bring to a boil then switch off the heat.
  3. Pour the milk in a slow stream onto the egg mixture, whisking vigorously all the time. (Pour slowly to avoid scrambling the egg.)
  4. Return the mixture to a clean pot over a medium heat and whisk continuously. Make sure to scrape the sides and the bottom, otherwise it will burn.
  5. The cream will start to thicken. Once it releases a bubble or two, take it off the heat.
  6. Pour into a shallow bowl. Cover with cling film (pat the cling film so it sticks directly on to the cream) and refrigerate for at least an hour before using.
  7. For the meringue, put half the egg whites into a clean glass or metal bowl. Add the sugar, lemon juice and salt and whisk until white.
  8. Add the rest of the egg whites and continue whisking until the meringue forms stiff peaks when the whisk is removed.
  9. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie (a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water) or in the microwave on a low setting.
  10. Whip the cream until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed.
  11. To make the mousse, beat the chilled crème pâtissière to remove any lumps before stirring in the melted chocolate. Mix in one third of the meringue, then gently fold in the rest followed by the whipped cream.
  12. To serve, brush 4-6 glasses or ramekins with soft butter. Add some cocoa nibs and roll them around the sides and bottom of the glasses until evenly coated.
  13. Divide the mousse between the glasses and chill for at least an hour, but ideally four hours. Serve chilled, sprinkled with cocoa nibs. The mousse is best eaten the same day and should not be kept for more than two days (due to the raw egg whites).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-KWWKGJK1U

Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

Chocolate Ganache Tart with salted Peanut Brittle

ImageTonight I’ve got a family dinner to celebrate my cousins return from Canada, so what better opportunity to make a tasty, rich dessert! After my deliberation I finally decided to go with a chocolate ganache tart, because, lets face it, who doesn’t love chocolate. But in the back of my mind I just kept replaying something that I heard on my favourite cooking show (my kitchen rules), a ganache tart is far too rich on its own, dark chocolate or otherwise it needs something else to break the chocolate-ness! Now for some of you I am sure this seems like a travesty, when can chocolate be too chocolate but the more I thought about it, the more I tended to agree. So what breaks through chocolate like nothing else, why salted Peanut Brittle of course! It also adds a level of crunch to the dish, which I am started to learn is important when considering and planning a menu, all the senses need to be engaged. If all this thinking was enough for you, I also need to make a dessert that is gluten free! Yikes! Gluten free shortcrust pastry, now there is an added level of stress! But to my surprise it worked out really well for both the regular recipe and the gluten free.

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To make the whole process easier, I made my tart one long rectangular shape (using a spring form tin which I feel is a must for thissort of thing) as opposed to making small individual tart shells. If you were pressed for time you could of course buy a store bought pastry shell, but I feel try to steer away from store bought shortcrust pastry if you can, I don’t feel it will work as well with this recipe. If you’re really pressed try and use crushed up biscuits with melted butter and coconut through instead! The other issue I had (and shhh don’t tell anyone) is that when I lay my pastry into the tart case, the side walls broke off due to the sharp edge of the tin. I simply pressed them back on and hoped for the best, and for the most part this worked. In some places though I did have cracks so I simply re-rolled a small piece and baked it individually, using this to cover the hole! Not my finest work but hey a bakers got to do what a bakers got to do! Another tip is to let your ganache firm up slightly in the fridge before pouring it into your tart shells. This ensures that if there are any leaks, the ganache is thick enough not to seep out, leaving you with a half full shell. Finally, make sure you make this the morning of or day before you want to eat it as it needs some time to set. And now for the hardest part…. resisting the temptation to eat it all before tonight! Wish me luck! 

You’ll Need:

Shortcrust Pastry:

100g Plain flour (GF Plain flour to substitute)

50g Diced cold Butter

1 pinch baking powder

1 pinch salt

1 Egg

30g Caster Sugar

1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence

*NB If making Gluten free 2 TBS of Almond meal also required

Ganache:

50g Milk Chocolate

100g Dark Chocolate

160g Cream

25g Butter

Peanut Brittle:

80g Sugar

20g Water

60g Glucose

90g Peanuts (Raw and unsalted)

Pinch Salt

1tsp Butter

1/2tsp Bicarb Soda

What I did:

Pastry:

1. Put plain flour, butter, sugar, salt, baking powder and vanilla in bowl (GF add almond meal) and mix through with your fingers to create a sand-like texture. Add your egg and continue to mix lightly together until just combined in a dough (DONT OVERMIX/OVERWORK IT). Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for 15mins to rest.

2. Kneed lightly once or twice on a well floured surface then roll out to desired thickness. Lay into a well-oiled tray and prick the base of the tart with a fork. Fill with baking beads and put into a preheated oven of 200 degrees Celsius (you may have to turn this down later for the last 10 mins). Bake for 15mins and if required, lower the temp to 180 degrees and bake for a further 10.

3. Leave to cool before removing from pastry case.

Ganache:

1. Put your cream and chocolate into a double boiler (bowl on top of a saucepan with water in) on a medium heat. Stir untill chocolate is melted.

2. Remove from heat and add your butter. Pop it in the fridge for an hour or so until cool and thickened slightly

3. Pour into the tart shell to fill and then pop the whole thing into the fridge to set completely.Image

Peanut Brittle:

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1. Put water, sugar and glucose into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Continue to boil for 30seconds before adding peanuts. Cook to a medium caramel colour, stirring continuously. Don’t let it get too dark as it will continue to cook once you take it off the heat. This is very important!

2. Remove from heat and stir in your butter and salt. Add the bicarb soda and continue to mix well before pouring into a lined baking dish. Put into the fridge to set and cool.

3. Once hard, break up using a rolling pin or hard cooking utensil and sprinkle generously over the top of your tart (nows a good time to have a “taste test”.

4. Serve and enjoy!

A beautiful rich chocolate tart, with a salted peanut brittle to break through the sweetness! Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

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Japanese…Yes Please!!

ImageThe words ALL YOU CAN EAT tend to catch my eye any day of the week. Add to that Japanese and you’ve got yourself a winner! Recently, my sister discovered a beautiful little Japanese restaurant in Sydney’s Glebe which I just have to share with you all. Mori Sushi (175 Glebe Point Rd) offers one of the best all you can eat deals that I have ever seen. Last weekend my family and I went for dinner and opted for the $30 all you can eat menu (the restaurant offers 3 types all ranging in price). What’s great about this restaurant is that you can literally order any dish off the menu and stay and eat for as long as you like!! I’m not even exaggerating. The first time we ate there I was a bit sceptical because it all just seemed too good to be true but then our lovely waiter explained that you truly could order anything in as many quantities as you liked! There were no rules that stipulated you must finish a dish in full before you can order another or that you could only order one dish at a time, the waiter even encouraged us to eat as much as we possibly could! And after we had finished there, I’m not sure how they could possibly be making any money!

Throughout the evening we ordered an assortment of hot and cold dishes (probably a few too many to name them all) but one of my all time favourites were the Yakitori (chicken teriyaki skewers)! Moist pieces of chicken, floured and fried to give a crispy finish before being marinated in a rich, thick teriyaki sauce and served on skewers. Mmmm yum! I probably ate about 5 because it was just so delicious! Another surprisingly tasty dish (which I had no expected) was the Crunch sushi roll which was an inside out roll filled with crab meat and cucumber, deep fried to give a crispy outer shell to the rice. Wow! It was like a Japanese version of arancini!! Image

Other recommendations include the sashimi salad, which was beautifully light and fresh with a large portion of mixed sashimi on top and the seafood hotpot, a light miso broth filled with a whole assortment of mixed seafood (including a whole fish!) and served in a stone bowl and kitchen stove/oven! It was very very tasty and a perfect Winter warmer I would imagine. You can’t go past the prawn tempura which is one of the lightest tempura dishes I have ever tasted, and doesn’t leave you feeling overly greasy. 

Aside from all of the wonderful food (from which you really can not go wrong) the waitstaff are so friendly and welcoming, encouraging all of their patrons to eat until their hearts are content. Whilst the majority of people dining on Saturday night were doing the all you can eat deal, food was very fast to be served and of a beautiful, high quality. Everything was very fresh and beautifully presented, especially the mixed sashimi plate, which included a huge collection of fresh sashimi (prawn, salmon, tuna, kingfish and scallop).

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Finally, after almost 2 hours of eating and chatting we were finished and what a beautiful meal it was! Trust me, don’t have lunch before you go and be prepared to eat (maybe wear loose pants too!). Overall, I would highly highly recommend a visit to Mori Sushi. Even if your not interested in the all you can eat menu, the a la carte menu is very reasonably priced and includes a fantastic range of dishes. Hope you enjoy it as much as we all did! PS, I’ll be back for a third visit ASAP!

 

The Grounds

 

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The Grounds at Alexandria has got to be one of Sydney’s best kept not-so-secret places to eat. If your young, hip, trendy, health conscious, love coffee or just plain hungry it is most definitely the place to be, and trust me there are many many reasons why. But be warned, on a weekend you best be ready for at least a 2 hour wait!

Aside from brewing and making their own coffee, The Grounds presents a complete picture of everything diners are after, especially the locals of Alexandria. The cafe, bakery and restaurant are located in an old Pie Factory and the owners, Ramzey Choker and Jack Hanna have literally thought of everything! The decor is rustic and homely with wide wooden tables and vintage flair. Externally, the cafe is surrounded by beautiful gardens from which some of the kitchen produce is grown and it is here that you’ll find the little animal pen. Once again, a genius foresight by the owners, ensuring that yet another market is catered for; families with young children. 

On weekends, the Grounds markets add an extra special something, with fresh fruits and pastries available for sale as well as flowers and candles, roasted nuts and gelato. The staff are wonderful and are always willing to allow you to taste till your hearts content. Again, a brilliant idea marketing idea as while patrons are whiling away the hours waiting for a table in the cafe they can peruse and make extra purchases from the market stalls. And who can blame them! 

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The pastries alone look sublime! And they taste that good too, as does the freshly baked bread! So damn delicious!!

Luckily I used my brain and planned a trip to the gym across the road whilst waiting the hour and a half for a table (this was a very very good plan). Once seated though it was completely worth the wait! Sadly we missed the breakfast menu (which finishes at 11:30am) but the brunch and lunch menus were of course still available and equally as beautiful. For lunch I had the duck and pear salad which was filled with moist flakes of duck flesh, crispy radish and firm pistachio nuts. And such a nice big serve too I couldn’t finish it. To wash it all down I had the Banana Smoothie which is by far the best smoothie I have ever had! Sweet, creamy and thick, I completely understand the necessity for the giant, fat straw that it was served with. And I love that their drinks are served in mason jars! Very trendy and unique. 

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My boyfriend had a coffee first and he dubbed it the best coffee he has had in a while, very strong and full flavoured. Following that he had the lamb shank which was flavoured with middle eastern spices and served with wild rice. So much lovely flavour packed into a dish with beautiful, moist meat. Looking around though, the steak sandwich look beautiful with a huge serve of the house-made bread, caramelised onions, steak and pickles, Yum! On a previous occasion I have also ordered the New Zealand Salmon which is so perfect! Crispy skin salmon with moist flakey flesh served on a bed of quinoa and broad beans, mmm you literally can not go wrong!

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For those with kids, there is a great kids menu and overall the whole experience is reasonably priced especially considering the quality of produce and use of fresh, clean ingredients. Be ready to have savoury and sweet because the pastry display looks as good as it tastes! While I didn’t sample any of these delights on the weekend (hardest thing to do ever!) I have been told that the cinnamon and Nutella donuts are to die for! 

Regardless, I highly recommend a trip to The Grounds at Alexandria. Whether its for Sunday brunch with the family, coffee with your friends or just for a nice outing you won’t be disappointed. I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I have, and I can’t wait to get back there again!