playing with flour

Panforte

IMG_9007

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.

IMG_8905 IMG_8915 IMG_8930 IMG_8964

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.

IMG_9018 IMG_9046

Summer Fruit Tarts

IMG_9137

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.

IMG_9076 IMG_9060 IMG_9067 IMG_9090 IMG_9109 IMG_9122

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.

IMG_9131

Lemon and Mandarin Madeleines

So Malta is amazing, although I have to say I didn’t expect anything less. I’m loving being a tourist and exploring some fantastic places and getting to understand all the history here. Unfortunately I’m in my last couple of days before heading home but I am looking forward to being back with my family and friends and to getting back in the kitchen.

When I was at a market in Tasmania I found this awesome tin. I had a few ideas of what I could use it for and one of those things was madeleines. I’ve always wanted to make them but I’ve never had a madeleine tin. I do understand that this isn’t a traditional tin but it is a similar depth and was definitely worth a try. Being the first time I’ve made these I’m not entirely sure they’re accurate but they do taste pretty awesome.

This recipe makes soft buttery sponge cakes with a lemony scent and they’re perfect straight from the oven. I decided to dip the cakes in a mandarin flavoured glaze to give them some extra sweetness and a bit of texture. I did find that after a while they became a bit dense and weren’t as enjoyable but they were still delicious with a cup of tea or coffee.

Some tips I found out while researching how best to make madeleines: make sure you butter your tin well (I used a pastry brush dipped in soft butter) and don’t overfill them. The longer you let the batter rest before baking the better, at least four hours is good, overnight is even better. Once you have filled the tins tap them on bench to get out any air bubbles and preheat your oven properly before baking. If the madeleines don’t come out of the tin easily use a toothpick or a spoon to help them out.

Lemon and Mandarin Madeleines

120g salt reduced butter
Finely chopped/grated rind of 2 lemons
3 eggs
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
170g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

In a small saucepan melt the butter and then add the lemon rind. Set aside until the butter cools but not long enough for it to set. In a large bowl mix together the eggs, sugars and golden syrup on high speed until pale and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

Sift the baking powder and flour into the mixture and fold through gently. Add the butter mix in small amounts, folding through after each addition. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Preheat your oven to 180° and butter your tin well. Spoon the batter into the moulds until 2/3 full and tap the tin on the bench to get out the air bubbles. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden then allow to cool before dipping in the mandarin glaze.

Mandarin glaze

Finely chopped/grated rind of 3 mandarins
100g caster sugar
2 tbsp water

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has melted. Dip the madeleines into the glaze and allow to set on a wire rack.

Walnut Streusel Mini Cakes

So I owe you all an apology, I had not intended for there to be such a long break between posts. After travelling to Tasmania for my last university placement I had planned to come home and get back to life. Instead, I took a spur of the moment trip to Malta to experience the country my mother’s family is from. For the last week I have been off exploring ancient cities and ruins and meeting relatives I did not know I had. It has been absolutely fantastic and the best part is that I’m not even half way through.

Before I left, in the few days I had at home, I did spend some time in the kitchen and one of the things I made (to give as a thank you present to my wonderful neighbours who looked after my cat while I was away) were these walnut streusel mini cakes. A fragrant and moist coffee cake topped with sweet and crunchy walnut streusel and drizzled with an espresso glaze, these cakes are delicious. They smell fantastic while baking and are the perfect size for afternoon tea. You could make them in a larger loaf pan or even as cupcakes if you prefer, just adjust the cooking time accordingly.

I have a couple of other recipes up my sleeve to share with you while I am away and I promise not to wait as long before the next post! That is, unless I get caught up getting happily lost on this incredible island…

Walnut Streusel Mini Cakes

1 tbsp instant coffee
130g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
220g caster sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
180g plain flour
40g self raising flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat your oven to 160° and prepare your mini loaf pans. Dissolve the instant coffee in ¼ boiling water and allow to cool. Sift flours and bicarbonate of soda into a small bowl.

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl, add eggs one at a time until mixed. Stir in vanilla and buttermilk, alternating with flour mixture until combined, do not over mix. Fold in the coffee. Pour into prepared pans and top with streusel.

Walnut Streusel

60g raw sugar
60g brown sugar
130g unsalted butter, chopped
100g self raising flour
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Rub butter into flour with fingertips, then add sugars and walnuts. Stir to combine. Spread over mini cakes before baking. Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out cleanly.

Drizzle cooled cakes with espresso syrup. To make, combine 1 tsp instant espresso with 2 tbsp icing sugar and a few drops of water.

Ginger Crumble Cookies

Tasmania is a beautiful place. Peaceful and quiet, it almost feels isolated. The locals however are friendly and accommodating and I feel like I’ve been living here forever. We’re lucky enough to have a simple place to stay that is right on the beach and only a five minute walk to my placement. We’ve spent the last few days driving around the south of the state, enjoying local fresh produce and stopping at every market and road side stall we came across. I’m honestly not sure I ever want to leave!

The cabin we are staying in is very basic but comfortable, but unfortunately doesn’t have an oven so there hasn’t been a lot in the way of baked goods over the last couple of weeks. I made these cookies before I left so at least I have something to share with you.

Full of ginger flavour, firm on the outside and soft in the middle, these cookies are great for afternoon tea when you need a pick me up. The ginger crumble sprinkled on top gives an extra texture and some added flavour. Next time I think I’ll add chopped macadamia nuts to the crumble also or even some crystallized ginger. It can be hard to tell when these cookies are done, they do puff up while they are cooking and then settle down again. I found once they had settled a bit and we’re golden brown they were perfect.

Thanks again for your patience, I do miss writing here but with very limited internet access it is hard to do. I have been finding inspiration for new treats to try out once I return home though, so I promise to make it up to you!

Ginger Crumble Cookies

2 oz unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp golden syrup
100g brown sugar
1 egg
150g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice

Preheat your oven to 170° and prepare two baking trays with baking paper. In a large bowl mix the butter, sugar, golden syrup and egg. Sift in the remaining ingredients and mix well.

If you find the batter too dry you can add a small amount of water until the batter forms a soft dough. Roll out tablespoons of the dough and place separated on the baking sheet. Press down lightly with your fingertips then sprinkle over some crumble topping.

Crumble Topping

20g unsalted butter
2 tbsp plain flour
1.5 tbsp rolled oats
1.5 tbsp brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together with your fingertips until coarse. Sprinkle over prepared cookies and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

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.

%d bloggers like this: