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!!

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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!!

Chur Burger

ImageIn honour of it being National Burger day here today I thought I’d do a little review on an awesome place I visited on the weekend, Sydney’s Chur Burger! I’ve wanted to visit Chur burger for ages and finally on Saturday night I got my chance. After we had driven around for what felt like forever to find parking we arrived at a small little restaurant/cafe space with a whole lot of people waiting outside! In my mind I was thinking “just great, every other Sydney-sider has also had the same idea as me and also come here tonight!” but luckily the friendly staff at the door took my details and ensured me it would only be a half hour wait. Thankfully, the Ridges was located across the road, so we just popped in there for drinks (I think that most of their customers, if not all, were doing exactly the same thing as us). While we waited, we got chatting with the bar staff who assured as that the wait was this long every night, even on weekdays, and then like clockwork, exactly half an hour later my phone rang with our table! Yay!

If you’ve not heard about Chur burger before (then your missing out!), but think of it as a trendy little burger bar located in Sydney’s Surrey Hills. The bar is owned and run by New Zealand chef Warren Turnbull, which gives some reasoning for the bar’s name (the word “Chur” apparently, is a slang New Zealand term meaning awesome, cool or thanks!). As we entered I found myself in a really cool, very laid back room, which, while small was filled with groups of people. The seating and decor was very eclectic, and I suddenly realised that I was actually sitting on a giant paint tin turned upside down with a cushion on top! It was all very Surrey Hills! Once you walk in you order your food from the bar to your right (they serve alcohol too) and then take your place at your table. The whole thing really reminded me of an old school milk bar with lots of shared tables and benches to sit at.

Between the three of us (myself, sister and boyfriend) we ordered two of the Pulled Pork Burgers ($10) and a Grilled Beef Burger($10)  as well as a bowl of chips with chilli salt ($5) and sweet potato fries with lime and garlic ($5). To drink, the three of us all got the salted caramel milkshake ($8) because, well lets be honest who wouldn’t want a salted caramel milkshake!

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The food arrived quickly but no so soon that you felt rushed. Often at “food bar” type establishments (particularly in Surrey Hills) I feel like I’ve got to eat quickly so that they can turn over the table but not here. We were presented with a beautiful big burger each and wow, just wow it was so good! Just as a burger should be, not showy or fancy but just a good old fashioned burger on a soft fresh bread bun. My Pulled Pork was for sure the winner, with tender pork meat, BBQ sauce, red cabbage and fennel mayo all served on a soft brioche style bun! Seriously so damn good, I couldn’t fault it! The Beef burger was also delish, and I was impressed that the patty was cooked perfectly medium rare! Wow! That one was served with tomato jam, pickle, cheese and mustard mayo, you can’t go wrong there! 

The chips were also amazing, with a crispy finish and light coating of chilli salt. i think my favourite though were the sweet potato fries where the combination of lime, garlic and cinnamon really got my taste buds going. And if your wondering, both styles of chip were the proper old fashioned fat cut! YUM!! I’d probably recommend sharing the chips as the serve is really big, even the three of us with our huge appetites couldn’t finish it all!

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The highlight for my taste buds though was the milkshake which, dare I say it, would have to be one of the best milkshakes I have ever tasted! I felt like I was drinking a salted caramel macaron. It was honestly everything a milkshake should be, served in a tall silver milkshake glass, thick and rich and full of flavour it did not disappoint! Almost a meal in itself.

I think that the only downside to this place was the noise/heat level that quickly built inside and I had to remove myself for a bit to get some fresh air. Aside from that though I can’t wait to go again! Get down there Sydney-siders, this place is sure to impress!

Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

Mediterranean Stuffed Squid with Tomato Salsa

ImageCooking with seafood is often quite daunting for me, particularly because I’m not overly experienced with it. That being said, my family and I have always loved our Seafood and after a trip to Greece last year I reaffirmed my desire to try my hand at cooking stuffed squid tubes. The only thing I was missing was a great recipe (squid tubes are a tad expensive so I was keen to have a recipe that was tried and tested and that I’d know would be a big hit with my family) and luckily, after watching an episode of My Kitchen Rules I felt inspired. Two of the shows contestants cooked a beautiful Mediterranean style stuffed squid, serving it on a rich tomato salsa and a crisp salad. I knew this would be a great dish to cook for lunch for my mum this past weekend (here in Aus it was Mothers Day!). I did have a few variations on the original recipe which can be found here, so here is my take on the girls recipe! Originally I wasn’t going to make the salsa but in the end i am so glad that i did! It really lifts the dish and looks fantastic for presentation!

Hope you enjoy and happy baking!

What you’ll need:

  1. 5 whole baby squid, cleaned
  2. 1 tbs olive oil

Squid Stuffing:

  1. 120g medium grain rice
  2. 6 Green Prawns, peeled
  3. 2 tsp olive oil
  4. 250g chorizo, chopped
  5. 1 onion, finely chopped
  6. 30g chopped pine nuts, toasted
  7. 30g sultanas
  8. ¼ cup finely chopped parsley

Tomato Salsa

  1. 3 tomatoes diced into large chunks
  2. 2 tsp olive oil
  3. 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  4. 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  5. 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  6. ¼ cup pitted black olives, chopped (I used mixed Olives)

What I did:

To make stuffing:

1. Cook rice in a saucepan of boiling until tender (about 10 mins). Drain and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add chorizo and onion. Fry until onion is soft and brown and then add your peeled prawns (cut into smaller chunks). Cook until prawn is cooked through before adding your cooked rice, pine nuts, sultanas and parsley.

3. Leave to cool completely.

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4. Once cool, spoon mixture into squid tubes, firmly compacting it and then seal the end with a toothpick.

For Salsa:

1. Preheat your oven to 200C. Place your diced tomatoes onto a tray, drizzle with a little oil and roast until tender and slightly collapsing.

2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook your onion, garlic and chilli until soft. Stir in tomatoes and olives. Season. I also added a little parsley and lemon juice for flavour but thats up to your tastes.

Cooking the Squid:
1. Rub squid all over with oil and season. Meanwhile heat your pan to a very high heat. Add the squid and cook for about 5 minutes, turning so that all sides are cooked through (you can tell that its cooked when it turns from translucent to a white colour). Ensure that you don’t overcook the squid. I found it hard to get the ends to cook as they couldn’t touch the pan due to the toothpicks. To overcome this, remove the toothpicks right at the end of cooking (by now the rice should be cooked and hold in place) and then tilt the ends so that they touch the pan and cook.
2. When serving, make thick cuts in each squid tube so that you can see stuffing, without cutting all the way through. Lay onto plate on top of the salsa

Enjoy!!Image

 

 

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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Mouelleux au Chocolate

ImageAs I’ve mentioned before, Rachel Khoo is one of my cooking idols. I love love love her recipes, which are rich and decadent and make me feel like a real Parisian! Yum! About six months ago, I watched an episode of her show, The Little Paris Kitchen where she made the most mouthwatering dessert I have ever seen. Sadly, I was so distracted by the beautiful food that I forgot to write half of the recipe down!! So when I found her recipe online for Mouelleux au Chocolate (or to us non-french speaking cooks) Chocolate Lava Cakes I knew it was the perfect dessert for my families Easter lunch. Whilst the original recipe can be found on Rachel’s website (link above), I found it reproduced on another beautiful blog called Paris loves Pastry! And I’m so glad I discovered it too because there are so many recipes there that I will be making very shortly. Definitely one for you to check out!

What is great about this dessert is that it is actually super simple to make (I almost couldn’t believe it) but looks spectacular when served. Aside from that, this is no ordinary chocolate lava cake! The centre is actually filled with beautiful rich salted caramel, which spills out of the centre when cut. Yum! I served mine with the homemade vanilla bean Ice-cream that I posted earlier last week but you could easily serve with a scoop of good quality store bought ice cream. Cream would work also but I feel with a hot dessert, the cold creamy ice cream is just perfect!

So here it is; Rachel Khoo’s Mouelleux au Chocolate:

(This recipe will make about 5 individual puddings)

What I used:

For the salted caramel filling:
– 150g white sugar 
– 150ml double cream 
– 1 teaspoon salt, preferably fleur de sel but if not available salt flakes are fine

For the cake:
– 150g dark chocolate
– 85g unsalted butter (⅓ cup)
– 170g brown sugar (¾ cup)
– 85g plain flour (¾ cup)
– 6 eggs

What I Did:

1. First off you need to make the caramel sauce, as it needs to cool before you can use it. In a small saucepan, heat your cream so that it is warm but not boiling. Meanwhile, using another saucepan, cook your sugar until it begins to caramelise. Remember not to make it too dark as it will continue to colour once removed from the heat. Add your cream and continue to stir. Often, when you add the cream to the hot sugar, it can seize up and form a hard ball of toffee, but don’t worry, continue to stir it over a medium/low heat until it re-melts into a beautiful caramel. Stir in your salt and then leave to cool completely in the fridge.  

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2. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter. Then combine the flour and brown sugar in a medium bowl.

3.Slightly beat the eggs (just to break the yolks) before adding them to chocolate mixture and stirring vigorously. Then add the eggy chocolate mixture to the flour/sugar and mix well.

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4. Lightly spray your ramekins with a non-stick spray or butter before filling them 2/3 full with the chocolate mixture. Pop them into the fridge for about 45 mins to firm up a bit.

5. Fill a piping bag with your salted caramel mixture and pipe a decent dollup into the center of each ramekin. This part can be a bit messy so be prepared to lick your fingers!

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6. Bake at about 180degreesC for 15-20 minutes (my oven actually needed 20mins at 200C so just keep an eye on them). They should be firm to touch on the outside but slightly wobbly in the center.

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7. Turn the ramekins upside down onto a plate and serve immediately and be prepared for this to happen….

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Enjoy and happy Baking!!

 

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!!

Death By Chocolate

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Last night my friends and I went on what we like to call a “Food Safari”! Basically, we all have a huge passion for food (eating it and cooking it of course!) and so spend hours catching up every few months at a different eatery around Sydney. Despite the fact that we all live in the same area, we are more then happy to travel for great food, which is exactly what we did last night! Of course, as it is Easter, what better opportunity to venture to Brighton Le Sands to make a visit to Bay Vista, a chocolate cafe (who really needs an excuse anyway!)

Luckily, two of my friends had been before, so they were able to advise on whats what and thank goodness they did because the menu choices are HUGE!! Thankfully, I was also encouraged to go with an empty belly so as to leave optimum room for dessert, which is exactly what I did!

When you arrive at Bay Vista, you enter a warm chocolate coloured room with low lighting that provides a nice intimate feeling. A perfect location for eating rich chocolatey desserts. I could honestly smell the chocolate from the moment I entered the room, and not in a sickly way that was overpowering, but more in a subtle way that was warming and a little exciting. If that didn’t get my taste buds watering then the huge chocolate fountain filtering silky, shiny milk chocolate most certainly did! mmm yum! As I mentioned earlier, the menu is absolutely HUGE! Who would have realised that there were so many ways to eat and serve chocolate! Additionally, there is a savoury menu but hey, who has time for that! Cleverly, the owners have divided the menu for your convenience into areas including Crepes, Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt, Drinks, Pancakes, Waffles and Ice Cream Bowls (and yes all of these are on offer for you to choose from!) Of course, for someone as indecisive as me this proved a huge problem…where do I even start! Never fear though because I had a plan. I firstly agreed with myself that I wanted 

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something with chocolate, preferably including ice cream and with something hot like a crepe or waffles. As my sister was with me we also agreed to share two things (that way you get the best of both worlds) and then finally eliminated waffles based on the idea that after past experiences at other venues, waffles can be a bit doughy (although they did look amazing and I think next time I go, I’ll give them a try). And there you have my fail-proof process of elimination! The only step was now to decide which crepe and ice-cream bowl we wanted (trust me, this then took a while) but eventually we agreed on the Snickers Crepe ($16) and the 5th Avenue New York Ice Cream Bowl ($24).

To be honest, the Snickers Crepe was my favourite of the two! A huge, thinly cooked crepe filled with Snickers pieces and roasted peanuts, then drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce! The dish was served with a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream and dusted with icing sugar! Wow! This was soooo tasty I could have eaten it all day! I loved discovering little pieces of chewy nougat throughout my crepe and the roasted peanuts added a nice little crunch. A very tasty option which I would highly recommend.

Our second dish was the Ice Cream Bowl which was served in the biggest parfait glass I have ever seen! Inside the bowl we had a scoop each of peanut butter, chocolate and boysenberry ice cream topped with another scoop of soft serve vanilla ice cream and some whipped cream (if there Imagewasn’t enough cream for you yet!). Scattered throughout were pieces of chocolate brownie and new york cheesecake before being drizzled in chocolate fudge sauce! Wow what a dish! Now I know that that sounds irrisitable on paper, and trust me it was, I had a few reservations about it. Firstly, if your ordering this then I would certainly share it with a friend and order something on the side like we did. Also make sure that you like cream, not ice cream but cream, because they put an awful lot of it on the top, which there’s nothing at all wrong with, I’m just not a huge fan of cream. My other sense of confusion was the inclusion of boysenberry ice cream, which didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the flavours included. Perhaps it should be replaced with something more caramel-like? Despite that thought, the chocolate fudge sauce was rich and gooey and the brownie pieces with the ice cream was just delish! I loved the peanut butter ice cream, in fact I wish they had given us a bigger scoop of that one, which had a very subtle peanut butter flavour (so don’t worry about it being too rich) and fantastic creamy consistency. Although we shared ours, I did see lots of people finish a whole one on their own so I’m sure if you’ve got a sweet tooth you would be able to manage! Overall, so much yummy-ness in one big bowl!

After a good rest we all got a hot chocolate ($6) which I would very much recommend as almost a meal in itself! Three cute little serving dishes were presented to me; one empty mug, one filled with warm frothy milk and the last with rich, silky milk chocolate. Then, if that wasn’t enticing enough, a skewer was placed across my cup with alternating waffle pieces and marshmallows! It was like a chocolate fondu AND hot chocolate in one! Great value! I decided to use mine for that exact purpose but in the end couldn’t quite finish it off as I slowly slipped into a food coma (a fact that I deeply regret now!)

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Overall, I would highly recommend a visit to Sydney’s Bay Vista! Be prepared for beautiful rich dessert dishes which will take you quite some time to decide upon. You may even need to have a little system like I did before you go!! Either way, you won’t be disappointed! I’m already counting down until I go again!!

PS. Check out their website here!!

Enjoy!!