playing with flour

Category: Fruit

Buttercake with Berry Buttercream

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For the last few days all I’ve wanted is cake. Fluffy, buttery cake with frosting. Loaded with sugar and sweetness and perfect for undoing any hard work at the gym but worth it because it is just so satisfying. Rather than give in and buy one of those overpriced individual cupcakes from a bakery I whipped up this super simple recipe that makes about thirty cupcakes instead. Seemed like a good idea at the time but now I have to stop myself eating them all!

I’ve always found it tricky to find that perfect vanilla buttercake that is light and fluffy but still has a crumbly texture – you know, the one that pairs well with anything. Usually I find they’re just too dense or don’t rise enough which is incredibly frustrating. This recipe however lives up to its promises. The addition of buttermilk gives a light creaminess while the cornflour makes for an awesome texture.

You could pair the cake base with pretty much anything but I went with a classic berry buttercream for a bit of tartness and colour. If you really hate seeds in your berries you can sieve them out before adding to your mixture but I really don’t feel it’s worth the trouble. Plus the seeds look pretty in the frosting! If you wanted to make a large cake instead of cupcakes that could easily be done, just increase the baking time by about 10 minutes.

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Buttercake with Berry Buttercream

170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
350g plain flour
300g caster sugar
40g cornflour
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 180° and prepare your baking cases. In a bowl sift together the flour, cornflour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix through. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition.

Stir through the buttermilk until well mixed, the mixture may look curdled at this stage. Mix through small amounts of the dry ingredients at a time until just mixed. Spoon into cases and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

Berry Buttercream

½ cup frozen berries
240g unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups sifted icing sugar

Puree the frozen berries until smooth. If desired you can pass through a sieve to remove the seeds. Mix the butter until light and fluffy in a large bowl then slowly mix in the icing sugar until well mixed.

Mix through the berries until the colour is even. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and enjoy 🙂

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Caramelised Pear and Almond Cake

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So it’s been a while huh? I could make excuses but to be honest I just got busy and lazy. I’m finally understanding what it means to be an intern – long days, stressful situations and very little time to do the fun things like baking. I’m not complaining though, I’ve learnt so much already and I’m actually enjoying it which I think has surprised me! When I did get some free time recently I took the opportunity to make dinner and dessert for a fellow intern who had resorted to eating microwaved meals – and this cake was the result.

I’ve made this recipe a number of times and keep coming back to it. It’s a moist dense cake with sliced pears covered in caramel. Yep, it’s as good as it sounds. The almond meal and buttermilk make the cake super moist and as there’s a decent amount of caramel topping it sinks into the cake and runs down the sides – does it get better than that?

Hopefully this recipe makes up for my long absence. I’d recommend not overfilling your pan as you want the caramel to penetrate deep into the cake. I’d also suggest cutting your pears a bit thicker than I did as they have plenty of time to cook through and this will give you a good flavour and texture. If the cake gets dark too quickly cover it with foil for the rest of the cooking time and make sure you cook it only until just done.

Forgive me yet?

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Caramelised Pear and Almond Cake

180g brown sugar
100g unsalted butter, melted
3 ripe pears cut into slices

Preheat your oven to 180° and prepare your baking tin with baking paper. Pour the brown sugar over the base and top with the melted butter. Use a spoon to ensure all the sugar gets coated. Arrange the pear slices on top.

170g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
250g plain flour
100g almond meal
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
250ml buttermilk

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition. In a separate bowl sift the dry ingredients together then fold into the mixture. Stir through the buttermilk until just combined.

Pour over pears and cook for 60 to 80 minutes until just cooked in the center. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a plate. Best served still warm with ice cream.

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Hot Cross Buns

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I’m not above a little bribery. As previously mentioned we recently moved in order for me to start my new job. Very quickly it seems we’ve come around to needing to renew our lease and there’s a small amount of doubt as to how easy this will be to do. It’s not that we aren’t good neighbours but more so that our landlord may want to sell our unit. So, in hopes of persuading them that we should really be staying here I decided to make some appropriately timed hot cross buns.

I absolutely love any baking that involves having to use my hands – bread, pizza dough, pasta, even shortbread where you have to crumble butter into flour. It makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable (and yes, so much more messy). I’m still not that confident when it comes to using yeast but after buying a pizza stone and using it frequently I’ve learnt some tricks and can confidently make some basic doughs. The good thing about this recipe is it’s hard to get wrong.

The awesome thing about hot cross buns is the endless varieties that can be produced. I chose to go with a somewhat traditional sultana and mixed peel rendition but also added some dark chocolate to break it up. I used 85% cocoa chocolate which is bitter and not very sweet as the fruit already has some sweetness but if you’d prefer you can use chocolate with less cocoa.

My tip for this recipe is to make your paste for the crosses quite thick. As you can see from my pictures my crosses spread considerably and don’t have quite the classic look. When you pipe, do one row at a time and stop the flow of paste with your finger before moving on to the next row. There is a lot of waiting involved in this recipe but it is simple and easy to make and the buns are perfect gifts for anyone you feel like putting in a good mood 😉

Happy Easter x

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Hot Cross Buns

14g dried yeast
¼ cup caster sugar
1.5 cups milk
4 cups plain flour
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
60g unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sultanas
1/3 cup mixed peel
40g dark chocolate
1 egg

Warm milk in saucepan over low heat, do not let boil. Combine with yeast and sugar and cover with cling wrap. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or until frothy.

In a large bowl sift in the flour and spices then rub the butter in with your fingertips. Add the yeast mixture, egg, fruit and chocolate and mix well until you have a soft dough. Cover and let sit for 1 hour until doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 200° and grease a 23cm square baking tin. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth (4-5 minutes) then divide into 16 even pieces. Roll each piece into a ball then place in tin. Once all pieces are arranged allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Paste

½ cup plain flour
2 tsp caster sugar
Approx 1/3 cup water

Make your paste by mixing just enough water into the flour and sugar. Ensure the mixture is smooth before piping onto buns. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Glaze

1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp gelatin
1 tbsp water

Combine the above ingredients in a small saucepan and heat slowly without boiling until completely dissolved. Brush onto still warm buns. Allow to set and cool before eating.

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Sour Cherry Torte

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When we first moved cities for work I was worried that I wouldn’t being having spur of the moment dinner parties with a group of fabulous people anymore. Last week I was definitely proved wrong. After a rough week on evening shifts all I wanted to do was have a glass of wine (or two) and eat a lot of food. I was lucky enough to rope in some new friends from the hospital and also convinced a couple of med school friends to travel up to join me. The result was a fun night of conversation and games that was finished off with an awesome dessert.

This torte is fantastic. Crunchy biscuit layer topped with sour cherries and topped with smooth sour cream. Personally I think the biscuit layer was a bit thick, so feel free to use a bit less of the mixture if you’d prefer it a bit thinner. Having said that, it is quite a crunchy base that doesn’t go soggy so a thick layer isn’t a big problem. You could use any sort of berries for the middle layer but I found these fantastic sour morello cherries that worked so well. If you can, I’d highly recommend hunting these down, they work perfectly with the sour cream.

The torte takes quite a while to cook and does tend to go quite brown on top which I was initially a bit concerned about. Don’t stress, this is how it should be. Once the topping appears set it’s ready, just allow to cool completely in the pan and make sure you run a knife around the edges to ensure no juicy bits are stuck before removing the tin. We’ve been eating the leftovers straight from the fridge which is pretty delicious but it is a bit better served at room temperature.

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Sour Cherry Torte

Base

1.5 cups plain flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup almond meal
1.5 tsp baking powder
4 oz unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 200º and prepare a springform pan. In a food processor combine all the ingredients and pulse until you get well combined crumbs. Pour into the pan and press in evenly. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool.

Sour Cherry Filling

700g morello cherries in syrup
1/4 cup caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup cornstarch

Drain the cherries reserving 1 cup of the liquid. In a saucepan combine all the ingredients with the liquid and heat over low to medium heat stirring for 5 minutes. The mixture should thicken and become fragrant. Allow to cool somewhat before pouring over the biscuit base.

Sour Cream Topping

500g sour cream
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with a whisk until combined. Pour over the cherry filling and smooth with a spatula. Lower the heat in the oven to 180º and bake the torte for 45-50 minutes or until the topping is set. Allow to cool completely in the pan before removing the tin. Enjoy.

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Almond and Rhubarb Pannacotta

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Wow it’s hot. The heatwave is starting to have an effect on me, I’m tired and cranky and have no desire to do anything but lie on the couch and read novels. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s pretty much a perfect afternoon for me, but it is hard to be productive when you’re melting.  For anyone not in Australia we’re currently experiencing some super hot and dry days, with temperatures exceeding 45° in some areas. It’s been up to 38° here at home and I’ve spent some of those days moving furniture around, which in hindsight was not the smartest idea. Unfortunately my problems are only minor compared to others, as the heat is leading to bushfires throughout the country and many people have lost everything. If you’ve been affected or you’re in a risky area I hope you’re safe and doing all right, my thoughts are with you.

When it’s this warm it is hard to get up the motivation to bake anything and turning on the oven seems ridiculous. This is where these desserts come in. Creamy smooth pannacotta, fragrant with the smell of almonds layered with tangy bright rhubarb – it’s the perfect treat to cool you down.

The almonds infuse really well into the milk and leave a sweet and strong liquid that sets to give a complex and delicious custard. While they’d be fantastic just like that the rhubarb simmered with vanilla gives a great contrast and freshness to keep the dessert from being too heavy. If you don’t have a vanilla pod use a teaspoon of vanilla essence instead. If you buy pre-toasted almonds there is only a small amount of stove work needed, so this is a simple and delicious treat for a hot day.

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Almond Pannacotta

3 tsp gelatine
½ cup sliced almonds
300g cream
80g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180° and spread the almonds on a tray. Place in the oven and toast for 5-10 minutes until golden and fragrant. While cooking place the cream and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once toasted immediately add the almonds to the mixture and turn off the heat. Cover with a lid and let sit for half an hour to infuse.

Sprinkle the gelatine over the almond mixture and turn the heat back on until small bubbles appear around the edges of the liquid. Stir the mixture thoroughly to ensure the gelatine is dissolved. Strain through a sieve then ladle into glasses or pannacotta moulds. Place in the fridge for half an hour to cool before adding the rhubarb.

Vanilla rhubarb

2 cups chopped rhubarb
½ cup sugar
Vanilla pod

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft, stirring occasionally. Remove the vanilla pod before spooning on top of the pannacotta. Return to the fridge for another hour to set completely.

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Panforte

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Wow, what a month it has been. I know that I promised to post here more often but sometimes things just don’t go to plan. We moved house which is always a challenge, and have finally unpacked and settled in and got our internet connected after three weeks. Whilst doing that I also had my graduation from medical school, my parents visiting from interstate and preparation for my new job which starts next week. Of course, just to make things slightly more hectic, there was Christmas and New Years! Thankfully things have calmed down now and should get back to normal. Fingers crossed.

Christmas this year was lovely and simple, with breakfast and lunch at our new place with family. Instead of the traditional Christmas puddings or cakes I made panforte which is an Italian variation on Christmas cake and gave it as gifts to friends and neighbours. It’s rich and flavourful and packed full of nuts and fruit, held together by chocolate and honey. The orange gives it a citrus scent and the figs make it chewy and moist. While I realise I’m a little behind with the Christmas recipe posts I don’t see any reason to wait until next year to make this. It is fantastic with coffee and makes for a great afternoon treat.

The recipe is simple and easy to make and you can feel free to make any alterations you wish. Add more or different nuts, use spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, add glace fruit… there are endless possibilities but I found this combination worked really well. The panforte can be kept wrapped in cling wrap and stored in a dark place for up to six weeks.

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Panforte

100g plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa
150g whole almonds
125g hazelnuts
Rind from one orange
100g raisins
150g dried figs, chopped
1 ½ tsp mixed spice
100g caster sugar
185g honey
60g dark chocolate, chopped finely

Preheat your oven to 170° and prepare a 22cm round cake tin with baking paper. Combine the nuts, rind and fruit in a large bowl and sift over the cocoa, flour and mixed spice.

In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the sugar and honey and stir until the sugar dissolves. Simmer the mixture until it reaches 118° on a sugar thermometer (soft ball stage). Remove from heat, add the chocolate and stir through. Immediately pour over fruit and nut mixture and mix (it will firm up considerably).

Press the mixture into the prepared pan until even. Bake for 40 minutes then allow to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire tray. If cutting into pieces allow to cool completely first.

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Summer Fruit Tarts

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So again I need to apologize, it has been a very hectic couple of weeks. I’m finally home but not exactly settled. We’re in the middle of packing and cleaning in order to move so I can start work next year. The house is a mess, my body is killing me and today I scrubbed out the oven in 40 degree heat. While I’ve been wanting to post, it unfortunately hasn’t been a high priority. Once things calm down and we’re in our new place, I can get back to regular baking and posting!

These tarts were made for some good friends of mine and were a perfect way to use some of the amazing fruit we get here in spring and summer. One of the things I look forward to the most each year is eating that first nectarine, so sweet and juicy. It doesn’t feel quite like summer without it. We’re really lucky in Australia to have such amazing summer stone fruits – nectarines, plums, apricots, peaches… and I tend to go overboard at the farmers market, leaving me with so much there is no way we could eat it all while they’re still good. Previous years I’ve made jams (and may still do so this year) but these tarts make for a great light dessert or afternoon treat.

The shortcrust pastry I used in this recipe isn’t my favourite, it’s a bit hard to handle and so buttery it practically melts in your hands. Having said that it does taste great and is worth the messing around if you have the patience. I would recommend keeping it in the fridge or freezer when not needed and if it is too hard to roll out you can cheat and press the dough into the tart tins. Don’t make the mistake I did of not weighing down the pastry when baking as it will rise a considerable amount.

The great thing about these tarts is that all the components can be made ahead of time and keep in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to assemble them. These can be adapted to any fruits but I love the look of layered nectarines and plums. To make the center roses cut a thin slice of fruit and roll it up then layer further slices around it. Make sure the outer layers are already in place before adding the rose or it won’t stay together.

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Summer Fruit Tarts

Shortcrust pastry

200g plain flour
120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
70g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
Pinch salt

Preheat your oven to 200° and prepare tart tins. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Slowly add the egg and beat until combined. Add the flour and salt and beat until you get a soft dough. Gather the dough together, wrap in glad wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Once cold cut the dough into even sections and work with one section at a time, keeping the rest in the fridge. Either roll the dough out between two pieces of baking paper first or press the dough into your tins directly. Prick the base of each tart with a fork and weigh down the dough with baking weights or beans before baking. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool completely before removing baking tin.

Crème patisserie

300ml milk
3 egg yolks
50g caster sugar
Vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
20g plain flour
20g cornflour
10ml butterscotch schnapps

In a heatproof bowl whisk the sugar and egg yolks together. Sift the flours into the bowl and mix to form a paste.

In a saucepan add the milk and vanilla and heat until just boiling, stirring constantly. Remove the vanilla bean and slowly add a little at a time to the egg mixture, whisking quickly. Once all incorporated pour back into the saucepan and bring to the boil, continuing to mix well. The mixture should thicken significantly. Remove from the heat and add the butterscotch schnapps and stir through. Cover with glad wrap and place in the fridge to cool.

Assembly

When the tart bases have cooled brush them with some thinned apricot jam to prevent them from going soggy. Spoon the cooled crème patisserie into each tart then arrange a selection of fruit on top. Brush more jam onto the fruit to give it a glossy look.

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