playing with flour

Month: September, 2012

Taking a break…

Hi guys,

Just to let you all know that I’m currently away on (my last ever!) medical school elective in Tasmania so I won’t be posting too often over the next few weeks. I do have a couple of posts saved up that I’ll try to get up at some point. Thanks for your patience!

Lis x


Strawberry Bread

Sometimes it’s good to be creative, to give something new a go. This strawberry bread was a bit of an experiment that stemmed from having three punnets of ripe strawberries and a tub of Greek yogurt in the fridge. I had no idea how it would turn out but it was worth a try, and I’m so glad I did.

An incredibly moist and quite heavy loaf, this bread has a similar texture to banana bread but is somewhat more airy. The juicy pockets of strawberries are delicious and the aroma of the cinnamon and brown sugar baking is enough to have you checking the oven every 10 minutes to see if it is done! The batter is a gorgeous caramel colour and tastes so good I was disappointed I didn’t leave more in the bowl to eat.

I would recommend eating this on the day you bake it (best still slightly warm from the oven) but it will keep for a couple of days. I served it with some extra Greek yogurt through which I stirred some golden syrup and pistachios. Super easy to make and perfect to share for afternoon tea.

Strawberry Bread

1 ½ cups plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
4 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
8 oz Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup chopped strawberries

Preheat oven to 180° and prepare a loaf tin. Beat the butter in a large bowl until light and creamy then beat in the sugars. Beat in the eggs one at a time then add the yogurt and vanilla.

Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix through until combined. Stir through the strawberries. Pour into prepared tin and top with a sprinkling of raw sugar and some extra cinnamon. If you like you can mix a chopped strawberry in a small bowl with a teaspoon of sugar and spread over the top also.

Bake for 55-60 minutes or until golden on top and if a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. If the bread is browning too quickly cover with foil for the last 10 minutes. Fantastic served with Greek yogurt and honey or golden syrup.

Banana and Caramel Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting

I do love meeting new people and making new friends but it can be incredibly hard to do, especially when you don’t know anyone or are starting over in a new place. I’m going to be doing exactly that next year and I am nervous about it but thinking about the friends I’ve made here I know I’ll be ok. One thing I’ve found that can help if you’re wanting to meet new people is to join a sports group or club. In my case it was starting a Zumba class. I did some casual classes initially but once I started going regularly I met some amazing ladies who are a lot of fun. One of these ladies recently turned 60 and she is truly inspiring. She’s at class each week, even getting on stage to help teach. Honestly if I have half her energy when I’m her age I’ll be impressed.

To celebrate her birthday I made these cupcakes and we shared them with some champagne after class. They’re moist and full of banana flavour which pairs really well with the Nutella frosting. The frosting is based on a Sweetapolita recipe and is so light and creamy. I used a salt-reduced butter to offset the sweetness a little which helped prevent a sugar overload.

The caramel goes fantastic with the banana but unfortunately the lollies I used were too heavy and sunk to the bottom of the cupcakes. To avoid this use smaller pieces of caramels or cut them up and mix them through the batter. The other option is to melt them down and make a caramel sauce to fill the cupcakes or swirl though. I topped my cupcakes with leftover praline but this is completely optional and just adds a bit of crunch.

Banana and Caramel Cupcakes 

8 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz caster sugar
8 oz self raising flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
8 oz banana puree
Jersey caramels

Preheat the oven to 170° and prepare your cupcake cases. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and bananas and stir through. Fold in the flour until just combined.

Spoon the batter into cupcake cases until just under half full. Add a caramel to each cupcake and top with more batter to cover. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Nutella Frosting

Adapted from Sweetapolita

8 oz salt-reduced butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz dark chocolate, melted
140g Nutella

In a mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Mix the Nutella, vanilla and melted chocolate together then add to the butter mixture. Continue beating until completely combined and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes.


Butterscotch and White Chocolate Muffins with Praline

I’ve recently gone back to an old workplace, this time not as an employee but instead on an elective placement. It’s been quite interesting seeing how things run from another point of view and realising how little things have changed over the years. While there have been some staff changes, most of the old team are still there and still as lovely as ever. I made these muffins as a think you to them for welcoming me back so readily. They didn’t last long.

These muffins bring together some of my absolute favourite flavours: butterscotch, caramel and white chocolate. They’re moist and dense and kept soft by the sour cream. The chunks of white chocolate provide little bursts of sweetness and the praline topping is deliciously crunchy. It’s a little extra that you could choose to omit but it does add another dimension to the muffins.

Overall they are delicious but there are a couple of small changes I would make next time around. Firstly I would increase the amount of white chocolate to 1/3 of a cup and also increase the sour cream to 250g to give a slightly wetter batter. The praline is fantastic but I think next time I will break the caramel up into shards rather than process into powder to give extra crunch and toast the almonds before adding them to the caramel. You will end up with extra praline and this can be stored in an airtight container until you find another use for it.


Butterscotch and White Chocolate Muffins with Praline

2 ½ cups plain flour
3 tsp baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
100g buttermilk
200g sour cream
100g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
¼ cup chopped white chocolate

Preheat your oven to 180° and prepare muffin cups or tins. Sift flour and baking powder into large bowl and add brown sugar. In a separate bowl combine melted butter, buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla and egg and whisk together. Add to flour mixture and stir to combine. Stir through the white chocolate.

Spoon batter into muffin cups/tins and sprinkle praline over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Almond Praline

100g sugar
6 tsp water
¼ cup slivered almonds

In a small saucepan combine sugar and water. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves then increase to high and bring to a boil. Do not stir. Allow to boil until the colour changes to caramel then remove from heat.

Spread almonds out on a tray then pour over caramel and allow to set. Break up the praline and whiz in a food processor to get crumbs. Keep extra praline stored in an airtight container.

Miniature Neapolitan Cakes

Did you find when you bought neapolitan ice cream that there was a favourite flavour that always went first? For us it was chocolate and then strawberry, but at a distant second. It was only when low on the others or when told off by the adults that we would eat the vanilla. Which is funny really because I love vanilla ice cream these days, although if given the choice I think I’d still choose the same order of preference.

These miniature cakes bring together that classic combination of chocolate vanilla and strawberry so that you don’t have to choose just one. While you could bake each of these in individual moulds, to make life easier I baked 3 larger cakes and then use a cookie cutter to make smaller ones. You do end up with a lot of excess cake so I blitzed this in a food processor and combined it with the leftover frosting to make cake balls. You could easily make them into cake pops if you were so inclined. I wont write a full post for them but I will put a picture up on my Facebook page if you want to see them.

The cakes are dense and very flavourful with rich creamy frosting in between. I used the same frosting as in the cappuccino cupcakes but feel free to use buttercream frosting or any other that you prefer. The cakes are made from one simple recipe with minimal variations. If you’d prefer you can substitute your own recipes but I’d try to keep them similar so each layer is as dense as the next.

I took these cute towers of cake to an 80s themed birthday party over the weekend and they were a hit. Not that neapolitan is particularly 80s but it does evoke childhood memories which for many of us were from the right era. Being so tall it is hard to eat all 3 flavours at once (unless perhaps you use a fork) so it’s interesting to watch and see who eats what layer first. I haven’t quite decided which I like best so perhaps it’s time for another taste test!

Miniature Neapolitan Cakes

Vanilla Cake

1 cup caster sugar
4 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 ½ cups plain flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ cup milk

Preheat oven to 180° and prepare an 8 x 8 inch pan.

Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly. Add the vanilla, baking powder and flour and mix until incorporated. Stir through the milk until smooth. Pour into pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Chocolate Cake

As per vanilla cake with the following variations:

Decrease flour to 1 ¼ cups
Add ¼ cup sifted cocoa when adding the flour
Omit vanilla essence

Strawberry Cake

As per vanilla cake with the following variations:

Combine 1/3 cup chopped strawberries with ½ tsp sugar and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Mix into batter with milk. Add ½ tsp strawberry essence and a few drops pink food coloring to batter and stir through before baking.

When all three layers are baked and cooled cut out small rounds of cake with a cookie cutter and level the tops so they’re all the same height. Stack each cake with corresponding frostings in between and finish with a frosting swirl on top.

Sour Cream Frosting

Vanilla and strawberry frostings

170g white chocolate
60g unsalted butter
120g sour cream
300g icing sugar

Melt the butter and chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water. Allow to cool slightly before adding the sour cream and stirring through. Gradually add the icing sugar and beat well until the frosting is smooth.

Split the frosting in to two bowls and add a teaspoon of vanilla essence to one and ½ tsp strawberry essence + a couple of drops of pink food dye to the other.

Chocolate frosting

As for basic frosting above but substitute in dark chocolate for the white chocolate. This frosting can be quite thick so add a splash of milk if required.

Cappuccino Cupcakes

I absolutely love the smell of coffee but I just don’t enjoy the taste. I could spend all day in a coffee shop but put a cup in front of me I wouldn’t drink it. Baked into something sweet and delicious however, that’s another story. These cupcakes are wonderful. As you bite into them you experience an amazing aroma that pairs perfectly with the sour cream frosting. They’re light but satisfying and have a great crumbly texture.

I was lucky enough to be invited around to a neighbours house for dinner the other night and these were a really quick recipe to bake and bring along for dessert. You can alter the quantities of espresso powder and vanilla to taste but the flavour is quite strong already. The frosting is delicious and creamy and one I will use in the future as it makes a good alternative to buttercream.

I’m not sure what it is about coffee that I don’t enjoy. Possibly the bitterness, but even mild brews don’t get me excited. I think I’m going to have to continue baking coffee flavoured treats to build up my enjoyment so that next year when I’m working ridiculous hours I’ll be able to drink it to keep me going!

For anyone wondering, I got these cupcake moulds from my sister who found them in a market in Melbourne. You can buy them in cake shops and homewares shops too. They’re made of silicon and can be baked in and are just super cute and fun to use!

Cappuccino Cupcakes

125g self raising flour
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp instant espresso powder
2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 180° and prepare your baking cases.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla, baking powder and espresso powder and mix well. Add the flour in batches until all combined. Stir through the milk.

Pour the mixture into prepared baking cases and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Sour Cream Frosting

170g white chocolate
60g unsalted butter
120g sour cream
300g icing sugar
½ tsp cocoa powder

Melt the butter and chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water. Allow to cool slightly before adding the sour cream and stirring through. Gradually add the icing sugar and beat well until the frosting is smooth. Sift in the cocoa powder and beat to combine.

White Chocolate and Passionfruit Lamingtons

It is finally spring! Not that winter on the Gold Coast is really that terrible but it already feels warmer and brighter outside. It’s that time of year to open windows and have long lunches and barbeques with friends. Which is where these lamingtons come in. Perfect for picnics or lazy get-togethers in the sun they’re a variation on the traditional Aussie lamington. Instead of dark chocolate and jam these miniature cakes use white chocolate and passionfruit to make them light and tangy.

You can choose to fill them or skip this step but the extra hit of white chocolate is quite delicious. If you wanted to be more technical you could slice them in half and fill them to make a sandwich but I find this technique much easier. For those who hate passionfruit seeds in their cakes you can sieve them out but personally that seems like too much effort and I do quite like the crunch you get when you bite into them.

It is also Fathers Day here in Australia and although my dad lives interstate he has been on my mind all morning. I think he’d really enjoy these and hopefully I’ll get to visit and make them for him soon. It’s often hard sometimes to tell your parents just how much they mean to you and how grateful you are for what they’ve done. My dad has always been there for me and I know if I am ever in trouble I could call at any time. While we may not talk much I am often told how much I take after him, and I know that it is from him that I get my love of books and interest in science and medicine. So for that (and many other reasons) I just want to say Happy Fathers Day dad, I love you.

I also have to mention my wonderful father-in-law. Since taking me into their home 9 years ago when they barely knew me, my in-laws have been fantastic. My father-in-law is a patient and very caring man who has taught me a lot. I am really lucky to have both of these great men in my life.

Passionfruit and White Chocolate Lamingtons

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g self-raising flour
70g desiccated coconut
90g sour cream
60ml passionfruit pulp

Preheat your oven to 180° and line a 19cm square tin with baking paper. Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and the vanilla and mix to combine.

In one small bowl combine the coconut and flour and in another combine the sour cream and passionfruit. Alternatively fold ½ of each mixture into the batter then repeat with the remaining mixture. Continue to fold until just combined.

Pour into prepared pan and smooth over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before cutting the edges away and cutting into 16 squares. I found using a serrated bread knife the easiest way to do this. While cooling prepare the white chocolate mixture.

White Chocolate and Passionfruit Filling/Coating

¾ cup milk
200g white chocolate, chopped
500g icing sugar mixture (or pure icing sugar + 2 tbsp cornflour)
Juice from 3 passionfruit
Shredded coconut

Heat the milk in a saucepan over low heat until just boiling. Turn off the heat and add the white chocolate. Allow to stand for a couple of minutes then whisk together until smooth. Combine the mixture with the icing sugar in a large bowl and add the passionfruit juice. Stir to combine.

To fill the lamingtons pour some of the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a long tip. Poke the tip into the sides of the lamingtons and squeeze gently allowing the mix to fill the inside. Stand on a tray and refrigerate for 20 minutes to make the lamingtons easier to dip. While waiting to cool allow the white chocolate mixture to sit at room temperature to thicken.

To dip the lamingtons use two forks and gently lower in to the chocolate. Tap the excess off on the side of the bowl. Place into coconut and coat all sides. When coated allow to sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.

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