28 December 2008

Christmas is here!

Well after the whirlwind baking storm the oven broke. What does that say about how much baking went down in the last few weeks? After a panicky trip looking for a new oven before Christmas Day we found a stunner and I am so much more excited about baking again! YAYAYAYAY! I (or we??) got a stainless steel De Longhi gas top with an electric oven with so much more options and much more efficient baking.
For Christmas Day I made chocolate fudge with cherries and date place names and decorated with white fondant and used my blue sugar pen. Madeline helped out and proudly decorated a few herself. She did a great job and had fun too!
Thankfully with such beautiful weather we used the BBQ and I was hardly in the kitchen so we had a gorgeous day on the deck really. All I baked was some delicious bread and a ginger and sour cream cake, a simple but delicious recipe made with fresh ginger rather than ground dried ginger. The flavour was much cleaner I thought.
Here's the results...

19 December 2008

Teachers treats

For the teachers who always get the obligatory box of chocolates I usually buy something cute and small like a Christmas decoration but this year I thought I'd treat them to some home baking and use the fantastic gingerbread house recipe as it was so easy too.
Here's how they turned out..

At about 10pm in the evening I got a tad sick of baking and decorating and took to being rather mean with the gingerbread men...

14 December 2008

Gingerbread Shed and Cheeky Pirates

Well this week certainly saw a lot of me in the kitchen baking up a frenzy. Next week won't be too different as I plan to do all the cookies for the kids teachers. What have I got myself into???
I started out this week with lots of cupcakes for my sister in law and her new fashion line preview. Sadly the camera did not have batteries so I didn't get any pics so that's a shame.
I started and finished the gingerbread shed. Owen drew up the plans and I had to change them slightly but it was really fun to make, and boy did the house smell good!
I sneakily dropped it off on Thursday to the shed while the boys were all on the course working hard, making sure to close the door as the dog was looking mighty interested in eating it herself! And by Friday afternoon I had the board back sparkling clean so they must have enjoyed it!

I used the cheeky pirate cake I mentioned in the previous post and I was rather pleased with the results. It wasn't flat on the top but I kinda like the friendly rounded face. I used chocolate fudge (tried and true and egg & dairy free also) and added a rich chocolate filling to sandwich the two cakes together. Then I did the fondant, and I was also up until 2.30am with it. That's kinda my fault as I did go to see Quantum of Solace with Owen at 8.40pm! Then I grappled with a nasty little put-together-yourself kitchen as our present for Katie that I wanted to have up when she woke up. Bad idea at 3am in the morning...nearly threw it across the room out of sheer frustration!!!
But the week turned out well and its all good practice really isn't it?

25 November 2008

Christmas madness begins again...

Today I started my Christmas baking along with the arrival of my decorations & icing - Christmas pearls, sparkle red gel and red & green fondant from The Cake Shop, my new favourite online store. Who knew I would get so excited about these things! Naturally I had to test them out...
First things first was making the biscuits, unfortunately without a car (in the garage for a WOF) I had to use whatever I found in the pantry or fridge. I had no butter (actually I never have butter anymore, only spread...I'm on butter strike till the price comes down a bit) so I substituted rice oil in my basic biscuit recipe. It was a disaster. I used far too much oil and the dough fell apart. I managed to get 11 cookies with the cookie cutters (6 trees and 5 stockings) but I won't be doing that again. It was fun experimenting with techniques and designs. I also discovered oven bags make great piping bags as they are large, strong and don't stretch. I have 40 cookies to make by 18 December so it should be totally doable.

Katie's birthday is in a few weeks and with a pirate theme looming I have been on the internet searching for some inspiration. Suffice to say there's plenty out there and there's also plenty of awful stuff too. I wanted a simple and cute pirate face so I'm gonna attempt this one here. I thought it was damn cute and well in keeping with Katies nature!
What is interesting is how all pirate themes are geared towards boys - I can't find a single girls pirate theme for all those tomboys out there.

I made a cake today too and wanted to just play around a bit so I made a thank you cake for mum and dad (we are getting new outdoor furniture for Crimbo...YAY!). Again I had a bad baking day due to lack of ingredients and although I substituted plain flour and added baking powder for self raising flour the cake turned out like a giant slightly risen pancake. We live and learn...still looked pretty and it was still very yummy. Also spent the day doing all this with a fantastic assistant who cheered me on and also had the gruesome task of bowl licking and fondant scraps eating. Thanks Katie!

20 October 2008

Duathlon cupcakes

The Bayswater School Duathlon was yesterday morning, and after a half hour practice riding her bike without training wheels Madeline and the rest of us set off for the school. Thankfully her age group is not in the actual duathlon yet, and she was happy to settle for the junior cycle safely event, where pretty soon she decided a bike and constantly scraping her legs on the pedals was not her style and reverted to her scooter. But the day was beautiful and warm and we had a great time together.
Parents were asked to do some baking for the cake stall so I got to work with some cupcakes. Blue and white are the new school colours so I attempted that, but the blue kind of turned into an aqua blue, and I just went with whatever I could find. I used the chocolate fudge recipe again as its the easiest and I can get 16 from one cake mix. They didn't turn out too bad, and when I secretly went to the cake stall to get a look at what had sold there were only 4 left.

07 October 2008

Dads Birthday

Okay so I know cupcakes aren't exactly manly. Well they're not really are they? But anyway I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I could stick a candle on it and it tastes good. If something tastes good, who cares what it looks like right?...Hmm well to a point.

The main reason I wanted to make cupcakes was because I wanted to try 2 flavours. The first one was a mini cake variation of my famous chocolate fudge cake. I wanted to see how they would turn out if done in a muffin tray. This recipe is as easy as your gonna get for a cake. Its egg and dairy free and is wonderful when our nephew Oliver comes over or for a family birthday cake as he can eat it too. I have been using this recipe for about 11 years now and its never failed me once. Except that time I was pregnant with Madeline and I grilled it. Twice.

The other recipe was one I found a few years ago in an NZ House and Garden magazine and tucked away in my precious blue recipe folder. Lime and Coconut Cakes. Yum, sounds good. I remarkably had all the recipe items in my pantry...until I got to the part where I needed icing sugar and realised I only had about 1/4 of a cup left. So instead of rushing out to buy it I improvised and used my blender to whiz up some caster sugar and it came out a bit finer and instead of using 1 1/2 cups I cut it down to 1 cup. Also instead of limes I substituted with lemon. Not as strong a flavour but it was all I had.

Both recipes turned out better than I expected. And today, a day after, they are still remarkably moist and actually nicer than they were last night. The chocolate isn't as doughy and I would imagine they will still be quite moist tomorrow, much like the full cake version usually is. These are both fantastic recipes if you are needing to make them up a day or so before eating.
Because I only had 1/4 cup of icing I sent dad off to the supermarket to buy icing for his own cake. And he came back with caster sugar instead of icing sugar (maybe he did it on purpose because he was a little mad at having to source his own cake toppings) so again I had to rummage through the pantry for an alternative to buttercream icing. For the chocolate fudge cakes I melted some dark chocolate and dipped them in and placed a candle in the middle. For the lemon cakes I creamed together the remaining icing with about 1/4 cup of cream cheese and approx 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and dolloped it on top and garnished with grated lemon rind. I didn't want to cover the top of the cakes completely as after they are cooked the tops go all hard and caramelised. Really delicious.

I placed them on a non flowery plate and although they weren't manly they were delicious. They would make a great dinner party dessert if served with berries and a dollop of cream.

03 October 2008

Hmmm scones...

Now one of my favourite things to do is eat chocolate. Failing that...scones. With jam and cream. I spent today with my lovely friend Claire and she made scones. Delicious scones. With jam and cream. And they were put up nice and high for the adults only to eat while the kids scoffed away in the carpeted (eek!) lounge with chocolate fingers and sausage rolls. Sorry about the mess Claire! Ooops. Anyway all washed down with a dip in the resort like pool and spa. Blissful afternoon and only a touch of sunburn. Too good.
A great discovery was made a wee while back while browsing the supermarket aisles. After being recommended the Sweet Muffin Mix packet by a friend I also discovered the Scone Mix. The Edmonds seems to be the best. All you have to do is add water!!! ITS TOO EASY! They come out fluffy and delicious and you get about 3 batches out of one packet so it will last for the next time you entertain (I only bring out the scones when entertaining because its too expensive to waste cream on my kids). Another tip from a friend for making scones is to use 3 cups of self raising flour with 300ml cream, mix it up, cut it up and voila! I haven't tried that one yet so watch this blogspace...

30 September 2008

School Holidays Begin

As it was the first day of the school holidays I was enthusiastic. Madeline was having a friend around for the day, so I decided we could do some baking, and then take them down to the beach afterward for a picnic.
Searching the internet for an easy but delicious recipe, I found Joy of Baking.com for for a vanilla cupcake recipe. I didn't have any unsalted butter with me, but as I am on a butter strike (too expensive!) I substituted with the Flora spread. Incidentally I have not been using butter in my baking for over a year since the prices rose, and also since my nephew is allergic to dairy. In doing this I have found cooking with spread (Pams, Flora, Olivio etc) far easier (creaming is a breeze!) and much less expensive than butter. I also added pink food colouring to the cupcake mix just to make it a bit more girly.
The girls danced in the lounge singing their heads off while they cooled, and were far too engrossed in their fantasy land of Hannah Montana to notice I was icing the cupcakes, which is good for me as I am fussy and particular and I LOVE icing them myself. Terrible I know...
They went down well and the 2 big girls finished them, while Katie only ate the icing on the top. I was sad I didn't get a picture of Johnny enjoying it, as while I was out of the room he was fed one by the 3 giggling girls and he was covered in head to toe in chocolate icing much to their delight!
The cupcakes were okay. I wouldn't make them the day before eating as they dried out pretty quickly. Still not quite what I was after for a moist vanilla cupcake but they did the trick today.
Lets see if I'll be as enthusiastic next week...

21 September 2008

Strawberry Babycakes

Okay so I cheated on this one. In a quick trip to the supermarket with the girls I decided to get a
packet mix for them to make up. You know, so I don't have the whole kitchen covered in egg and flour. Madeline chose the Edmonds Strawberry Babycakes mostly because the picture on the cover was pink.
Really easy to make...just add water and oil. They smelled great while cooking. Final product is sweet, moist and definitely tasty and the strawberry flavour stands out. Both the girls decorated these (with some help from mum). Katie was more interested in eating the sprinkles though!
They were popular later that evening with guests around, however it was way too easy to eat lots of them as they were only bite-sized.