Gluten free Self-Saucing Chocolate Puddings

IMG_3932I had a craving the other day for both a chocolate brownie and a chocolate lava cake (what a dilemma I hear you say!) and I just could not decide what to make! Then suddenly I remembered a recipe that I haven’t baked in ages that fits both those bills and is slightly (only slightly) healthier then your average cake! My Gluten free Self-Saucing Chocolate Puddings! Now don’t be fooled, these cakes are not your ordinary gluten free dessert. I have fed this to a Coeliac before, watched them eat the whole thing and then remember their intolerance before asking “wait but this isn’t gluten free, I’m going to get sick”. It was seriously that good that they didn’t even realise that it was ok for them! Additionally, the recipe is so easy you could make it with your eyes closed!!!

So if your after a warm, rich gooey chocolate pudding that literally oozes yumminess then be sure to give this a go! Great for those with a wheat intolerance AND those who enjoy a yummy dessert!!

What you’ll need:
1 cup gluten-free self-raising flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 cup almond meal
65g melted dark chocolate
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
30g butter, melted
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 3/4 cups boiling water
Double-thick cream/ice cream to serve

What I did:
1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C and lightly spray 4 large ramekins (or a large baking dish) with some non-stick spray.
2. Combine flour, caster sugar, almond meal and 2 tablespoons cocoa in a bowl. Add milk, vanilla, chocolate and butter and stir to combine. Pour mixture into prepared ramekins/dish.

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3.Combine brown sugar and remaining cocoa in a small bowl and then sprinkle the mixture over the top of each of the ramekins (this will make your sauce). Pour boiling water to cover sugar mixture and then pop into the oven.

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4. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted around the edge of pudding comes out clean. Remember not to cook the pudding too much or you will loose that beautiful rich sauce!

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5. Let them cool slightly (I know that part is hard!) and then serve with cream or ice cream!!

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Happy Baking and Enjoy!!

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 (My bowl after I was done!!)

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Healthy Strawberry, Coconut & Nutella Muffins

I love experimenting with my baking and what better day to do so then Sunday!! Last night I had trouble sleeping so instead I thought about variousways to improve my muffin making skills. I really want to crIMG_3914eate a muffin recipe that produces light, fluffy, delicious cupcakes with as little of the bad stuff as possible! Anyway I started thinking about muffins that I like to eat that fit that category and of course you have your regular muffin mix but then theres also the friand, which is light and fluffy and predominately uses almond meal and egg whites instead of flour! Now I’ve made muffins with an almond meal and flour combination as my dry ingredients and that was pretty tasty but I hate wasting the yellow bit of the egg! So i decided to sort of combine the two recipes so that I didn’t waste anything at all. I’m also trying to avoid using too much refined sugar and friands tend to use quite a bit of icing sugar so that would need to be changed. What I needed, I thought, was a whipped egg white, to give the muffin its sense of light, airy-ness and a more natural sweetener such as honey or maple syrup to give a little sweetness. I also decided to incorporate coconut to replace some of the flour, adding another layer of flavour and texture whilst healthy-ifying the muffins just a little bit more! The other essential component of experimental baking is using whats already available in your fridge or pantry and at the moment we have an abundance of beautiful, plump strawberries that would be the perfect addition to my muffins!

So off I went, adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I must add that when I experiment I tend not to use measures (or I don’t really remember them) but what I ended up with made 6 beautiful, moist strawberry muffins with a cheeky Nutella dollop centre!! Sooo yummy and now my house smells amazing! So heres what I did:

1. Separate two eggs, keeping the egg whites in one bowl and the yolks in another.

2. Add to the bowl with the yolks, 1 cup of self raising flour, sifted (could use gf flour or wholemeal flour), 1/4 cup shredded coconut, 2Tbs maple syrup (or honey), a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla essence. Mix together to form a smooth consistency. You may need to add a dash of milk (or water if you want it dairy free) to loosen the mixture. I used about 1/4 cup soy milk.

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3. In your other bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites to form stiff peaks. Then fold this mix into your flour/coconut mixture, being mindful not to knock the air out of it. Have a little taste and make sure its to your liking. Remember that the strawberries will add quite a bit of sweetness naturally so this mix shouldn’t be overly sweet.

4. Line your muffin tins and divide the mixture between 6 cases. Then slice up your strawberries and press down into each muffin. The strawberries should be covered by the mixture. Add a small dollop of nutella (optional) and try to press this down into the mixture also. Finally, top with a strawberry slice for beautiful presentation.

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5. Bake in a preheated oven (200 degrees C) for about 15-17mins or until a skewer comes out of the centre cleanly.

6. Allow to cool and sift generously with icing sugar and then enjoy!

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Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

El Bulli Spanish Tapas

Earlier this week my family and I celebrated my graduation from Uni at Randwick’s El Bulli Spanish Tapas! I was really excited as I’ve wanted to dine here for ages but, because of its location (which is a bit far from where I live) its often been forgotten! Luckily though, mum suggested it and I am so glad that she did!

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When we arrived we walked into a dimly lit room, furnished with wooden style benches and a quaint little bar. It was warm and cosy (totally the opposite of the weather outside!) and the staff were very friendly and welcoming. The seated us at a window table, sort of like a nook, where one side of the seating was a long bench filled with comfortable cushions and furnishings. Right from the outset, the restaurant smelt fantastic so I couldn’t wait to start eating! My family and I have been to a couple of Spanish Tapas style restaurants, so our rule is always to try to order a couple of different dishes each time that we go and with the menu presented to us we were spoilt for choice. Personally, I love Spanish tapas style food, in fact I would love to cook it one night for my family, although I’m not quite sure about the logistics of it for five people, but still, that would be a great night! So as a result we’ve only ever really eaten Tapas at a restaurant, which is a shame because it can be quite expensive. I will say that while the meals at El Bulli weren’t cheap, the food was fantastic!

We started off with some Sangria (of course!) and then ordered a selection of tapas dishes to share. Our first dish to arrive was the Pinchitos de Pollo ($16.50) which are essentially chicken skewers. These were beautiful though, moist perfectly cooked chicken skewered and marinated in chimichurri (a herby, green marinade common in Spanish cooking) before being grilled and drizzled with lemon and a light mayonnaise. Perfect little portions of tasty-ness!

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Following this, the Patatas Bravas ($12.50) arrived, with soft, pillowy potato quarters fried to give them a crispy outside, before being cooked in a rich and spicy tomato sauce. Yum Yum! We also shared the Empanadillas ($17.50)  (a personal favourite of mine) which are a deep fried puff pastry filled with mince, herbs and egg! Seriously crispy pastry filled with the most beautifully seasoned and flavoured mince, I could have eaten these all day!

One of the evenings specials was the Zucchini Flowers which were stuffed with a ricotta filling before being lightly battered and deep fried! I love zucchini flowers, and my boyfriend (whose never tried them before) devoured these ones! So crispy on the outside and stuffed to the brim with rich, creamy ricotta. The flowers were plump and fresh and had so much beautiful flavour to them!

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Now if that wasn’t enough, we then ordered a seafood Paella ($29.50) for one to share, which was divine! Perfectly cooked rice with a rich tomato and saffron flavour topped with flavoursome choritzo, chicken and fresh seafood including huge King Prawns, Octopus, Mussels and Clams! It never ceases to amaze me with just how much flavour some people can pack into such a little rice dish! Seriously good and highly highly recommended!

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The highlight dish for me though was one that I had almost told mum not to bother with; Zarzuela ($33.50) a dish I don’t think I’ve ever seen at a Spanish restaurant before, but have heard of in cooking shows. Essentially, it is a seafood soup or broth but wow, I really don’t think I have ever tasted something so unbelievably flavoursome before. There were so many layers of flavours, salty, sweet, spicy and of course seafoody. It was all perfectly balanced and a perfect dish for such cold cold weather. I would highly highly recommend this dish, plus it was huge!! Even my dad loved this one, and he hates spicy food! The broth itself also had a light tomato flavour and just the right amount of spice to hit the back of your throat, but not overpower the soft flavours of the seafood. Now thats a dish I would love to learn how to make.

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We had hoped to order dessert (Churros) but at almost $17 per serve we decided to go to the Italian restaurant around the corner instead, which was a shame as churros would have been delish! Overall, we had a wonderful evening and the food was fantastic! It’s a shame they don’t have a set menu so that you could try more options (for a slightly cheaper price) but hey I’m not complaining, the food was phenomenal! If your ever in Randwick (or Surry Hills as theres another one there) then make sure you stop by!! You won’t regret it! Yum!!

Check out their website here….

 

Best Ever Waffles

ImageWaffles + Winter = a perfect night in!!

I’ve recently rediscovered a new affinity with waffles and I mean, what’s not to love, soft pillowy cushions of dough drizzled with sweet maple syrup and then dunked into rich chocolate or smothered in vanilla ice cream….oh boy I’m salivating again! I often find though, that when I order waffles from a restaurant or dessert cafe that the waffles themselves are really heavy and doughy, often not quite cooked through in the centre, which for me is super disappointing, especially when waffles are a very once in a while kind of treat (you cant waste a treat on a poorly cooked waffle). So as a result I had just conceded myself to the fact that there were no more waffles for me. But wait, I hear you ask, why can’t you just make some yourself? And right you are! I could make them for myself however I don’t own a waffle iron/press/thingy and I feel that buying one could be rather dangerous to my waistline! This weekend though, my good friend Jamie Oliver revolutionised the way I thought about cooking waffles, suggesting (and showing) that you can actually make them in a griddle pan!! YES!! great success! So after watching the episode (and not writing down the recipe) I found myself following a fan page version of the same recipe.

Essentially, Jamie makes a beautiful fluffy dough, pours it into a hot griddle pan before flipping out a perfectly cooked giant waffle which he then slices into soldiers to be dipped later into hot chocolate. Easy, I thought and on Saturday night I promised my sister that a killer dessert would be served at our girls night in! I was honestly so so excited about the prospect of eating waffles that I pretty much skipped the dinner part of our meal in order to save room for what I imagined were going to be THE BEST WAFFLES EVER!! And finally the time came to get ontomaking them. I decided to halve the mixture as it was just the two of us and diligently followed the fan-page recipe. The final step of said recipe required me to add 1 Tablespoon of bicarb soda, which I thought was quite a lot considering the quantities of the other ingredients. My doubt however, was quelled when the author added something along the lines of “yes I know this seems a lot but i double checked it and a whole Tablespoon is required”. Ok, I thought, that must be right. I let the mixture rest then cooked away before serving what looked like the best waffle I have ever seen. By this stage, I was like a kid at Christmas, filled with so much excitement! This was going to be great! I made melted chocolate pots, scooped ice cream, drizzled maple syrup and cinnamon sugar all over the waffle soldiers before we sat down to eat! Eat your heart out Max Brenner, I thought as I took my first bite….and then I spat it out!

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The waffles had a horrible chemical-like taste to them and while the texture was by far, the best waffle texture I have ever experienced, they just tasted horrid! I was so disappointed! They looked perfect, smelt great, were cooked perfectly, had a lightness and fluffy-ness to them….but were just plain gross. Never before had Jamie Oliver failed me in such a way. I was actually a little devastated.  I am very very sad to say that I couldn’t eat mine and lethargically threw them out. My sister (who has a stomach of steel) ate all of hers, all the while telling me they tasted gross and after some more research discovered that the recipe that I had followed had a typo…I was only supposed to use a teaspoon NOT a tablespoon as instructed!

Needless to say, I have learnt my lesson; number 1, follow your cooking instincts . If you think its wrong then it probably is. And number 2, don’t follow fan recipe pages unless you read all of the feed to get feedback from other bakers.

Aside from all of that though, I’d highly recommend using the correct version of Jamie’s recipe (which I later found online!). The results are honestly so good when done correctly. Perfect, fluffy waffles with a crisp outside and a light, well-cooked centre. Hopefully, you’s taste better then mine (which I’m sure they will because lets face it, Jamie is a genius in my eyes). Serve them with melted chocolate to dip and some vanilla ice cream and you cant go wrong!

You can find the original recipe here:

Serves 4:

What you’ll need:

  • 2 free-range eggs

  • 300 ml milk

  • 225 g self-raising flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 100 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

What to do:

1. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the milk and whisk to combine. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt then whisk until fully combined. Add the cooled melted butter and gradually stir it through the mixture. It’s important not to stir the mixture any more after this or your waffles may be tough. Leave to rest for about 20mins so that it begins to form air bubbles throughout. It looks a little like a bread dough at this stage.

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2. Place your griddle pan over a high heat, add some butter/spray with non-stick spray and pour in the waffle batter, spreading it around to fill the pan using a spatula. Jamie suggests that you could also make smaller waffles, if you prefer – just do 2 at a time.

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3. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook the waffles for around 6 minutes, or until lightly golden on the bottom. Flip over and continue to cook for around 6 minutes, until golden and cooked through.

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4. Turn out onto a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut into soldiers, or whatever shape you like. Serve with fruit, melted chocolate or ice cream and drizzle with maple syrup.

Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

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Chocolate Muffins with a Gooey Caramel Surprise

ImageLately I’ve been watching a lot of Masterchef so I decided to give myself an invention test challenge! My sister needed something sweet to take to a friends house and I knew that mum had bought an extra tin of condensed milk (it was on sale this week) so with that i decided something with caramel had to be done. My sisters friend also loves chocolate so I came up with Chocolate Muffins with a caramel centre. Now normally when I cook I tend to look at a variety of recipes and then put together the best components to make my own recipe, but on this occasion I decided to go completely blind just to challenge myself! And it turned out a treat! Beautiful light and fluffy muffins, filled with a rich sweet caramel centre! What more could you want!

I used what I knew about muffins as the basis for my chocolate cake mix (essentially; flour, milk, eggs, sugar, butter & cocao powder) and then used the recipe for caramel that I would normally make for caramel slice! Simple! I also wanted to give my bake a bit of trendy finesse, so instead of using paper muffin tins I decided to use baking paper squares pressed into my muffin tin.

Once the muffins were cooked and cooled I then cut a little hole in the centre, into which I then spooned my caramel mixture! Wow what a combination! I also re topped the hole with the cake that I had removed earlier and then put a nice big blob on top of the whole thing! Overall, I was really pleased and impressed with my bake, especially as it was one of the first times I really went without any guidance on my cooking (even though it was just muffins). I would highly recommend giving this recipe a go, and maybe even adding some salt to the caramel if your a fan of salted caramel like me. Another great reccomendation would be to heat the muffins slightly before eating them so that the caramel melts a little! mmm yum!

Hope you enjoy this one as much as I did!

What you’ll need:

2Tbs Cocoa Powder

1 Cup self raising flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

80g melted butter

1 cup milk

1 tin condensed milk

1Tbs butter

2Tbs golden syrup

What I did:

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Sift your flour and cocoa powder, then add your sugar, egg, melted butter and milk. Mix on a low speed with an electric mixer until combined then turn up the speed for about 2mins until the mixture is light a fluffy.

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2. Lightly spray your muffin tin with non-stick spray then line with squares of baking paper (you could use pre-bought muffin cases). Divide the mixture between 6 muffins and then pop into the oven. They should take about 15mins but test with a skewer to ensure that they are fully cooked. Leave to cool completely.

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3. Meanwhile, add your condensed milk, butter and golden syrup to a saucepan and cook over a low heat. Remember to stir constantly so that it doesn’t burn or get stuck to the bottom. Continue until the caramel turns to a nice dark rick colour.

4. Allow the caramel to cool.

5. Using a sharp knife, cut a small hole into the top of each muffin, keeping the cut out piece of cake. Spoon or pipe your caramel into the hole and then re-top with the cake piece. Add a nice dollop of caramel to top the whole thing off!

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Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

Caramel Slice…its just too Nice!!

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Caramel Slice would definitely have to be a family favourite in my household. Actually, come to think of it, anything caramel is a favourite! So when my sister asked me to bake something for her works Biggest Morning Tea it was the first thing that came to mind. Here in Australia, families and business around the country host a Morning tea to raise funds for Cancer research, collecting donations for a great cause! I was so excited to be able to help contribute through something that I myself love to do.

I actually received this recipe off my best friend, who herself had got it off her grandma (grandma’s always know the secrets to great cooking!) and I’ve made it quite a few times! When I recieved a copy of it, it was handwritten in beautiful cursive writing, a perfect sign of a recipe that was certainly going to produce beautiful old fashioned baked goods! The last two times I’ve made it though, I have made a few slight changes and I think I’m finally happy with a recipe that is super easy and super tasty. What I love about this slice is that the base is soft and chewy while the caramel centre isn’t overly sweet. Using dark chocolate on top also helps to balance the whole thing out so I’d recommend staying away from milk chocolate. This recipe is also really great as its really quick to make and kids can get involved too. A perfect lunch box treat if I do say so myself..that is if any slices make it to your lunch box!!

So here it is, my version of a great classic, Caramel Slice (based on one I received from a beautiful friend and her wonderful family!!)

What you need:

1 Block Dark chocolate (200g)

For the Base:

1 Packet Arnotts Butter Snap Cookies

1/4 cup desiccated coconut

115g butter (melted)

For the Caramel:

1 tin condensed Milk

2 Tbs golden syrup

1 Tbs butter

What I did:

1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Then use a food processor to turn your butternut snap cookies into a fine crumb (if you don’t have one you can always do this by hand by putting your biscuits into a bag and hitting it with a rolling pin. It may just take a little longer). Then add your coconut and melted butter and pulse until the mixture looks like wet sand.

2. Line your baking tin with greaseproof paper and tip your crumb mixture into it. Using the back of a spoon, press the mixture firmly and evenly around the tin to form your base. Then pop it into the fridge (this part is very important as it prevents you getting biscuit crumbs in your caramel later! Trust me, don’t skip it!) 

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2. While your base is setting in the fridge, pour your condensed milk, butter and golden syrup into a saucepan and put onto a medium-low heat. Stir it continuously until it turns into a nice golden caramel colour. Its really really important that you don’t stop stirring this mixture as it will burn so easily and leave you with a caramel that has burnt bits in it. Also make sure you stir right to the edges of the pot so it doesn’t stick. This bit can take a while as you need to work with a low heat but stick with it. 

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3. Pour the caramel over your base and pop the whole thing into the oven for 10minutes.

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4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completly. Once cooled, melt your chocolate in a bowl over a simmering pot of water. Pour over the caramel and set the whole thing in the fridge (1hr) or freezer. Use a sharp knife to cut into squares before serving

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Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

Macarons with the Master…Adriano Zumbo

ImageIf you’re a resident of Sydney (or maybe even Australia) then you’ve probably heard of Adriano Zumbo. For those of you that haven’t though, Zumbo is like Australia’s answer to Heston Blumenthal. Essentially, he made the humble French Macaron a household name here in Australia, opening several cafes throughout both Sydney and more recently Melbourne. His specialties include desserts and pastries, but not just your humble croissant or mousse cake, no Zumbo is famous for his experimental flavours and whacky combinations! He has always been a great favourite of mine as a chef, I think mostly because his recipes are quite complex but always look spectacular and as a result, I always want to conquer the challenge. Recently, he started a cooking school at his Rozelle premises and I was lucky to receive a class for Christmas!!  

So off I went, feeling slightly nervous at the prospect of meeting a culinary icon but also at the thought of having to successfully cook macarons in front of him! Now to be honest I have made macarons many many times before and each time to a varying level of success. I have come close to perfection quite a few times, but when attempted with the same recipe a second time, I sadly fail. Whether its French meringue or Italian, these things have a mind of their own! As a result I couldn’t successfully tell you which recipe is best or even how to make them properly to guarantee success. Despite that though I (of course) keep on trying (even though every time it ends in disaster I promise myself Never Again!)  

When I arrived I was directed to a room above the Rozelle Cafe (where you can watch the chefs at work while you fill your belly with delicious sweets) where I met the rest of my class. Altogether there were 12 of us, all women except for one brave man and I was quite surprised to hear that some of the group had travelled from inter-state just to take the class! There’s dedication! We received our recipe book and an apron before heading into Zumbo’s test kitchen, where the class would take place.

 

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The room itself was quite large (particularly considering it was sort of like one mans office) and filled with all kinds of equipment. Four moveable benches were set up down the centre of the room and the ingredients were placed on a side bench. We all washed our hands before finding a place at a bench with two others who we would be working with. Co-incidentally I found my way to a bench with two lovely ladies who were also school teachers! Needless to say team teacher worked very well together throughout the day! Then it was time to meet Adriano, who I must say is very very lovely and slightly shy. But a master none-the-less. He explained that each bench would make two flavours of macarons (about 60 macarons of each flavour) and then at the end we would split them all up amongst us. We would start with each group making their fillings, requiring us to measure out the specific ingredients that we needed. It was very much like being in a real kitchen. Everything was available to us but it was up to each group to collect their specific ingredients, in the right quantities as well as with the right equipment. I really liked that actually, as it felt more independant. It wasn’t like someone had measured it all and set it all out in front of me, but more similar to a real cooking environment at home. It seemed more realistic in the end, although I think some people were a little shocked that we got free range. 

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Adriano instructed each group as to what flavours they would be making, with all the recipes included in our cookbooks. My group would be making Lavender Macarons and also Chocolate which excited me greatly as I have never made either of those flavours! And then it was all systems go! The kitchen tentatively started moving into a whirring pace, with everyone moving about collecting what they needed. Our group didn’t have too much to collect incidentally, as our fillings were quite simple (that and we were an excellent group if I do say so myself!) so we finished quite quickly.

Adriano then explained that whilst there were instructions in our cook books, he also wanted to show us different ways/processes to achieve the same filling so he wouldn’t necessarily be going off the written recipe. At this point I got my pen ready, I didn’t want to miss a second. He then worked with each group individually to demonstrate how to create the fillings. This part was really fun as we got to be involved but also learn how to create wonderful flavours with relative ease. Most of the recipes involved a ganache base, with additional things incorporated for variation. My favourite was the rice pudding, which (believe it or not) required the group to make a beautiful creamy rice pudding and mix it with a white chocolate ganache. All the while we also received little tips and tricks, my favourite being to keep the vanilla bean pod once the seeds are scraped, the dry it out in the oven and grind it up to a fine powder. This can then be used in recipes for a more intense flavour with hints of coffee! Adriano also reminded us that its the filling that makes a difference!

Once all the groups fillings were made we moved onto the shells. This was the bit I was most interested to see as this is where I always feel most uncertain. Adriano demonstrated how to make a beautiful vanilla shell which was actually so simple to make. I was really surprised! It was fantastic because I was able to iron out some of the uncertainties that I had about it and also see the consistency of a correct mixture (which is a lot more fluid then I have always thought). Overall I feel that what I am missing is the use of an electric thermometer for precise measure and also the non-stick mat that we used when piping it out.

ImageAgain it was time for us to take the reigns and move onto the making! We broke off into our groups and set about following our recipes. Everyone was working away in their teams, adding egg whites here and heating sugar there, it was so much fun! And then within a matter of moments we were all done and they looked great! I really couldn’t believe that we had done what we did so successfully. Sadly they still had to cook and form the foot so the proof of success was still yet to come. We left them to rest and form a skin while we sat down to lunch!

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Whenever I go to these cooking classes I am always surprised at the fact that we get lunch, not to mention the beautiful food that was on offer. We had two salads (a Greek salad and a chicken pesto pasta salad) and then a choice of two Quiches. Mmm yum!! it was fantastic! I would of had more but I didn’t want to look like a piggy. There was also a beautiful coffee machine inside the kitchen which we were able to use at any stage throughout the day!

ImageAfter lunch we re-entered the room to find our benches covered with beautifully cooked macarons! Everyone was so surprised by the level of success! Not one group had any dodgy ones! Fantastic! We paired the shapes up and then started to fill them all and wow, it was such a feeling of excitement for me! I finally succeeded in making proper macarons! Yes! 

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Each group then plated up 6 of their best for a photo opportunity and they all looked spectacular. I loved the range of colours and flavours! One of the ladies asked for a photo with Adriano, which was possibly a mistake as then we all wanted one. I was clever enough to remember my cookbook which he very nicely signed. Seriously, he was so lovely and nothing was ever a trouble!

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The last part of the day was the best! We each received a box and then were let loose to collect whatever we liked and wow did we all take home a lot of macarons! Check out my box, I couldn’t close the lid!

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Overall, I had the most wonderful day and would gladly do another class! I highly recommend this class to anyone who has a love for baking, trust me, you won’t be disappointed!!

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Baked Ricotta Cheesecake with a Nutella Surprise!

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Baked Ricotta cheesecake is a beautiful thing and up until recently I have only ever enjoyed it at Sydney’s Pasticceria Papa (where I might add, they make the best ricotta cheesecake you will ever taste!). For Easter though, I really wanted to bake something special for my family for dessert and after a little bit of googling I came across The Wholesome Cook, a beautiful food blog with a recipe based on the very cake that I love to eat!! Jackpot!

Now, as it is Easter I had to incorporate some form of chocolate into this recipe (but by all means you can leave it out) and as my family loves Nutella (who doesn’t!) I felt it was only appropriate to make my cheesecake a ricotta and Nutella flavoured one. I also had a few difficulties with the recipe so I have made a few changes/adaptations to the original (which can be found here at The Wholesome Cook’s Blog). Overall, this cake is beautifully moist and creamy and the Nutella hit is subtle and well balanced. Its a very light mixture, which I love and is encased in a crumbly, buttery pastry! I’m getting hungry just remembering it. If thats not enough to convince you to give it a go then let me add that my aunty (who hates dessert and never ever eats anything sweet) ate a huge piece in complete silence, occasionally omitting Oooh’s and mmm’s every so often. At the end of it she told me that she loved it! So it’s pretty safe to say its a winner of a dish! I will certainly be making this again especially after I’ve now ironed out some of my original problems.

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I think that the most difficult part of this recipe is getting the pastry into the tin without having messy join marks. Now mine was far from perfect, but I think if you were just making a plain ricotta cheesecake then the best way to achieve this would be to roll out one big piece of pastry (with overhang) that you would lay into your cake tin, fill with mixture and then fold over the top (to join the side walls on the opposite side of the cheesecake). Because we are piping Nutella into it however, the cake needs to be baked without a lid, otherwise it cracks when you press the piping bag into it. The original recipe also only calls for 45mins of baking time, which I initially did. When I went to transfer it onto a plate on Easter morning however, I noticed that the base had gone all soggy, a sign that the cake was not cooked through properly. When I removed the lid I was faced with a nasty surprise, the creamy filling was entirely raw still! Luckily there was still time to pop it back into the oven. Somehow though, I lost my marbles right at that moment and put the cake back into the oven without a tin to support it. Great choice there by me, the walls collapsed onto it! It was at this moment that I went into panic mode but luckily my dad was around to save the day. He managed to push the whole thing back into the tin!! It then baked through for about an hour and once cooled held its shape! What a relief!! But all the difficulties were totally worth it to see the looks of enjoyment on my families faces! I hope you enjoy this one as much as my family did!

What you need:

For the Pastry:

  • 100g butter, softened
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup fresh cream (35% fat)
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder

For the Filling:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup fresh cream
  • 500g full-fat ricotta
  • Small tub of Nutella

What I did:

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C.

2. The first step is to make your pastry. Put butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy then add your egg and cream and mix on a low speed to combine. Add your flour and baking powder to the mixer and mix on a low speed until combined into a dough. Kneed this lightly until just combined and set aside in the fridge for about 10mins.Image

3. In this time, make your filling by putting eggs and half the sugar into a bowl and mix with an electric mixer on high until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl beat the cream cheese and remaining sugar on a medium speed until combined.

4. Combine the two mixtures with the vanilla extract and ricotta and mix on a low speed.

Assembling the Cake:

1. Greece your round cake tin with either butter or spray (I lined mine with baking paper which I think was unnecessary).

2. On a well floured surface, roll out your pastry to your desired thickness (don’t roll it too thin or it wont hold up with the filling. It should be about 4mm). Cut out a base first and place into your tin, then the side walls which you need to press into the base. Make sure there are no gaps or your cake will leak! Also cut out a lid which we will place on top later and prick this with a fork.

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3. Pour your filling into the tin carefully and smooth out the top.

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4. Put both pieces (the cake and the separate lid) into the oven and bake for about 1hr 45mins. The lid may be ready before this time so I would check on it at around 50mins and if cooked, remove to cool.

5. Once the cheesecake is cooked, it should have a slight wobble in the centre but be firm around the edges and have formed a nice “seal” on top. Turn the oven off and leave it to cool inside for 20mins with the door slightly open.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before chilling in the fridge.

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7. Using the nozzle of your piping bag, poke holes into the filling, piping Nutella into these as you go. You ca

n have as much or as little as you like then, when your happy pop the lid on top and trim off any extra pastry.

8. Dust the whole cake liberally with icing sugar and cinnamon and then serve and enjoy!

Happy Baking!!

 

Magical Messina and the Golden Egg

If your a resident of Sydney then you will be well familiar with Gelato Messina. For those of you that aren’t, Messina is a bit like Willy Wonka’s chocolate Factory, only this time with Gelato. The company produce a wide variety of unique gelato flavours that are made daily in store. Some of my personal favourites include Italian Nougat (a honey based gelato with roasted nuts, egg whites and Italian nougat), Salted Caramel & White Chocolate (salted caramel gelato with white chocolate chip) and Pannacotta with Fig Jam and Amaretti Biscuit! Yum!! You really can’t go wrong whatever you choose. Aside from gelato though, Messina is very well known for their Gelato cakes and this Easter was no exception. 

This year, the team at Messina created “Veruca Salt” ($28) and I was lucky enough to snatch up one of the few that were being sold, and boy-oh-boy was it well worth it!!

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The “cake” (if that’s what you call it) was encased in a crisp white chocolate shell, dusted with gold and shimmering along. Inside, we discovered a creamy salted caramel gelato with, would you believe it a gooey orange yolk centre. Between all of us eating it, we felt that the centre was a cross between a subtle lemon curd/passionfruit/pineapple flavour that surprisingly worked perfectly with the salted caramel flavoured gelato. What I love in general about Messina Gelato is that whilst they create unique and unusual flavoured products, all gelato is of a high standard, tasting just like they make in Italy. Now if the egg wasn’t enough already the whole thing rested on a base of milk chocolate hazelnut mousse, filled with a soft vanilla marshmallow placed on top of an amaretti crunch. My boyfriend described this bit as a wagon wheel on steroids but put more eloquently, the mousse was rich and fluffy, while the amaretti crunch added a beautiful crumbly texture. Finally, the egg was nestled in a web of crisp, glossy spun sugar that reminded me of gourmet fairy floss!

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Wow! the whole this was an amazing experience to eat, with every single component working harmoniously with the next. I kind of wish I bought two! Nonetheless, if your in Sydney, be sure to go and give them a visit!! For more info on their many store locations or the test your taste buds with their phenomenal range of flavours, check out their website here.

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Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream

Today marks the start of my Easter Baking preparations and the first thing on my list is Vanilla Ice Cream! To make this recipe I use an ice cream machine but I have heard of people using a still freezing method (where you alternate between freezer time and beating with an electric mixer). Believe it or not, my machine is from Aldi (yep good old Aldi!) and cost me about $50! One of the best pieces of machinery that I have ever bought I feel. Anyway, what is great about home made ice cream is that it is surprisingly simple to make but tastes a thousand times better then the store bought kind. The recipe below is a basic vanilla recipe but you could alter and flavour it in any way that you liked. I’ve made a cookies and cream flavour by adding smashed Oreo cookies during the freezing process. Either way, you won’t be disappointed by the rich, creamy, silky results. For Easter, I plan to serve this with self saucing chocolate puddings with a salted caramel surprise centre! The recipe will be posted early next week! The ice cream will keep in the freezer for ages (making it great for entertaining as you can get it out of the way early) or at least as long as its resisted by you and your family!

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Enjoy and Happy Baking!

You’ll Need:

1 cup Milk

2 cups Cream

1 Vanilla Bean (seeds scraped)

6 Egg Yolks (freeze the whites to use for meringues or Macarons)

2/3 cup Caster Sugar

What I did:

1. Heat the milk, cream and vanilla bean seeds in a saucepan over a medium heat until its hot (but not boiling). Test it by putting your finger into it, if its just too hot to touch then its ready. Remove from the heat

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2. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl and whisk until thick and pale in colour. Slowly add the hot cream mixture, whisking continuously.

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3. Pour the mixture back into a saucepan and stir over a low heat for four minutes or until the mixture is thickened slightly (you can test this by coating the back of a spoon with the mixture and drawing a line through it with your finger. It should leave a clean path). 

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(Notice how it coats the back of the spoon evenly and has a rich, creamy consistency)

4. Transfer to a container or tray and refrigerate until chilled. 

5. Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine, following the manufacturers instructions until it is firm, then freeze until ready to serve.

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Enjoy!!