Archives for the month of: November, 2012

Not much baking this week, as I spent a few nights in the beautiful south west of Western Australia for the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. I got to meet some amazing local and international chefs and try some great food. I had a wonderful weekend of food and will definitely be going again next year. Unfortunately it is now back to reality, with lots of unpacking and laundry to do before I head back to work tomorrow.

I did, however, cook my Death by Chocolate cupcakes a few weeks ago for a work morning tea, so it is now a perfect time to share the recipe. This is another recipe from Sarah Brigden at babyCakes that works every time and the cupcakes always disappear very quickly whenever I cook them. Like the citrus coconut cupcakes, these don’t contain any butter and are oil based. Again, the mix needs to be made the night before or at least a few hours before cooking to create light cupcakes (it will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge or two months in the freezer before cooking). The recipe does not contain any eggs, so it is good for anyone with an egg allergy/intolerance. As with any recipe using chocolate, use a good chocolate that you like. If you like a dark/bitter chocolate, use that in the ganache and dutch cocoa in the cake mix. I usually use normal cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate) so that the cupcakes aren’t too bitter and a 50% professional baking chocolate (that I get from babyCakes) for the ganache for a rich chocolate taste without the bitterness.

I have also made chocolate orange cupcakes using this recipe by replacing the vinegar and some of the water with orange juice and adding orange zest to the cake mix, as well as orange liquor to the ganache. If I’m making the citrus coconut cupcakes at the same time, I like to use some of the raspberry swirl frosting on some of the chocolate cupcakes as well.

If your oven has hot and cold spots like mine, turn the tins around during cooking so that you get an even bake. As long as you don’t open the oven every minute, opening it a few times isn’t a problem.

Click here for the recipe.

So I have finished my first cake decorating class at Cupid’s Delight and from it I have learnt the following:

  1. I don’t like covering cakes and boards in fondant. I can do it and the end result is pretty; I just don’t really enjoy doing it.
  2. I do like making flowers and figures out of fondant/modelling paste. It reminds me of when I used to make dollhouse miniatures with my Grandma.
  3. I think the first thing I should have been taught is the art of transporting the decorated cakes/models.

My very first decorated cake!

Click here to read more

This is one of those dishes that has developed over time and is now one of my weeknight favourites. I remember trying the lamb with dukkah for the first time after buying some dukkah in Margaret River several years ago and wanting to find other ways of using it rather than just as something to dip your bread into. Though I love eating it like that too – cut up some crusty bread or Turkish bread, dip a piece of bread into a small  bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and then into some dukkah…yum. The couscous and ratatouille were added later after I met Jerome and he asked me to cook couscous. The couscous needed something with some liquid to go with it, so I decided to try a ratatouille. Like usual, I looked up a few recipes then proceeded to go off and make my own version. My ratatouille is quite fresh and light, and only needs around 25 minutes total cooking time, making it good for a weeknight meal and one of my favourites.

Click here for the recipe

A few weeks ago I reminded Jerome that I was going to be going to a cooking class that night, so would be home later than usual. His response was to question why I was going to a class as I already knew how to cook. Which, of course, is a lovely thing for him to say. However, while I can cook, I certainly don’t believe I know everything there is to know, and since I like cooking, I want to know more!

There are so many reasons why I enjoy going to cooking classes. There is always room for improvement, new tips and tricks to learn, the chance to meet others who love cooking, new recipes to try and I just really enjoy going to cooking classes. Especially the ones that Sarah runs at babyCakes. It is also a good opportunity to try something that you think might be too difficult to try at home (like the White Yule Log that was a lot easier than I thought).

Some of the first classes I went to were Sarah’s cupcake classes and the results are amazing. The cupcakes are moist and don’t dry out. I have altered the recipe slightly and added lemon as well as the original orange and lime, as I love citrus. Since I started making these (and her death by chocolate ones which I’ll post next week), I can no longer get away with bringing a bought cake into work, as everyone expects these cupcakes now. I’ve had a few people tell me they don’t like cupcakes, only to convert them after they have eaten these. Click here for more and the recipe

The last week has been a very busy one, with lunch and dinner out for my birthday, a cooking class (Yule log), two cake decorating classes (which I will post about when I get back from my holiday) and all day Sunday baking for work morning tea (cupcake recipes to come soon). And now I am in the middle of packing for a few nights away. As a result, there hasn’t been a lot of extra time for actual home cooking or writing about it.

However, I did manage to try two new recipes this week. Jerome asked for Tomates farcies (stuffed tomatoes), but with rice in the filling. Normally when trying a new recipe for something specific (rather than a recipe that I see and want to cook), I do some research and look at a number of recipes before I cook, using what I like from each or taking the general “rules” and making up my own. Not having much time, I used the first recipe that I found which was in Manu Feildel’s Manu’s French Kitchen. I was lucky enough to have the book signed by Manu last year. Also in the book was a recipe for baked witlof,  so I decided to try both for dinner. I couldn’t get hold of any minced pork at my local shop, so I used the filling of some pork sausages instead. And instead of breadcrumbs and egg I used a cup of rice (as this was what Jerome asked for). I also replaced half of the tomatoes with mushroom cups for a bit of variety. The filling ended up a bit heavier/denser than I would have liked but they still tasted nice – I’m not sure if that is because of the sausage, lack of breadcrumbs/eggs or just me packing it in too tight.

My witlof was very bitter and I really needed to keep tasting the sauce as I went to adjust the seasoning and sugar. Don’t put extra in though until after you have reduced the cooking liquid, or it will end up too sweet. The end result was quite nice and Jerome liked it. It didn’t look very pretty in its baking dish though and I’m afraid I don’t have a photo, however I will try it again and update the post with a photo when I have one… After my upcoming trip that is.

Click here for the recipe

Continuing my very busy month of classes, I recently went to a class with Sarah at Baby Cakes to learn how to make a White Chocolate Yule Log (or Bȗche de Noël ). These are in all the patisseries in France at Christmas, so seeing as we are having Christmas at home with my family this year, I thought it would be nice to learn.

I always enjoy Sarah’s classes and her recipes have always worked perfectly at home. Her berry soufflé rose so high the first time I tried it at home, I had to scrub the top of my oven and top shelf (not that I minded, as I was so worried they wouldn’t rise – I’ve since learnt not to doubt Sarah’s recipes). I’ve made her cupcakes so many times, and they have always resulted in beautifully moist cupcakes. Sarah has been generous enough to allow me to share her recipes on my blog, so cupcakes will be coming soon (I am baking a massive batch tomorrow for birthday morning tea for work, so I’ll put them up early next week) and I’ll try and get the soufflé recipe up as well.

But back to the Yule Log. I’ve always thought they would be extremely difficult and fiddly, but it was actually a lot of fun to make and achievable at home, and it rolled up a lot easier than I expected. Plus the frosting hides any mistakes. The recipe may look like a lot of steps, but it is only a few ingredients and processes. I believe that these are traditionally decorated with marzipan or other decorations, meringue mushrooms and some of the ones I saw in France a few years ago were very elaborately decorated. Having just learnt how to use fondant, I tried making an elf and reindeer at home and took them along with me, and was quite happy with how they turned out for a first attempt. We also made chocolate decorations (melted chocolate, piped onto baking paper) and some fondant holly (roll out green fondant, cut with a holly cutter and then roll balls with red fondant for the berries). You can decorate it anyway you want. You could also replace the white chocolate ganache with dark chocolate for a dark log. That is the joy of cooking, you can make it the way you want using the basic recipe as the base.

Thank you to Sarah at Baby Cakes for allowing me to share this recipe.Bȗche de Noël

Click here for the recipe.

I was thinking about where the recipes we cook come from the other day. Some are passed down through families for generations. Others we learn from friends, discover in recipe books and magazines, on TV shows or these days through the numerous websites and blogs now available to us. Others just develop from an idea. This recipe is one of the latter. I make no claims to it being a traditional pasta dish (in fact, I recall an Italian cook/chef noting at a demonstration that cream and pesto together in pasta was very wrong). However, it is a regular household favourite and wrong or not, I love it. I’ve even had an ex ask me for the recipe after we’d broken up!

The original idea came from watching an episode of Ready Steady Cook one day when I was home sick from work several years ago. One of the cooks made veal with a cream and pesto sauce and observed that the sauce was also good with pasta. I decided to give it a go and over time it developed into the dish below. The meat component depends on what I have in the fridge (or can be omitted altogether). This time I had some chorizo (I use this in it quite a lot), other times I’ve made this with leftover cooked chicken, or some pancetta or bacon. I’ve also used the same method to make a chicken and roast pumpkin pasta, but without the pesto.

I originally made this dish with cream. However, that isn’t the best for a regular weeknight dinner. I was amazed the first time I tried this with evaporated skim milk and corn flour in place of cream. The result is just as creamy and delicious. Another success in my quest to find ‘healthier’ replacements.  I haven’t made this with cream since. If you do want to make it with cream, just replace the evaporated skim milk and corn flour with about 200ml of cream. I have even made it without any milk/cream component at all, and just used some of the pasta water to create the sauce. But whichever method I use, I’m always happy with the results.Creamy pesto pasta - without the cream

Click here for the recipe

I know breakfast is important, but I struggle to eat first thing in the morning. It takes me a bit of time to wake up enough to want to eat. So I usually eat my breakfast at work. A few years ago, this meant picking up a muffin from the bakery on my way to work. Not really the best start to the day. These days I’m a lot more organised (and making an effort to be healthier), and will take in fruit, cereal or home-made (and healthier) muffins for my breakfast.

A few years ago, I discovered the TV show Cook Yourself Thin. Two series of this show were filmed in the UK, with a different format each season. The general concept remained the same between the two series. Each episode focused on a person with weight issues and looked at their three (I think it was three) “downfall dishes”. Healthier, lower calorie dishes similar to the original were created as an alternative that could be cooked at home. I loved this show and I think it influenced what I try to do now, that is finding healthier alternatives to my favourites rather than cutting them out completely.  More recently the Hairy Bikers have done this with their book and TV series The Hairy Dieters, and I’ll cook something from their book soon (I of course bought the book as soon as I heard about it). I’m sure there are others out there as well that I haven’t discovered yet. If you know of any books or TV shows of a similar theme, please let me know.

But back to Cook Yourself Thin. These Lemon, Berry and Poppyseed muffins were the first recipe I tried from the series and I’ve made them several times since. They have quite a few replacement ingredients in them. The rice flour and almond meal make them gluten free (if you use gluten free baking powder). Courgette is used in place of butter or oil for moisture (you can’t taste it, I promise) and buttermilk is used in place of milk. I actually had some whey in the fridge from the cheese course I attended and I tried that instead of butter milk. The result was great (I think it actually made them lighter than usual) so I will be using that again next time I have some in the house. I like to wrap them individually once cooled and then freeze most of them. That way, I always have some in the freezer in case I need to grab something on my way to work. Once I get to work, I warm it in the microwave (removing the foil cases first if I’ve used them) and that is a quick breakfast or snack sorted.

Click here for the recipe

This weekend, I attended a cheese making class in the Swan Valley with my Dad, run by The Cheese Maker, which was a Father’s day present for Dad. In the class we got to make our own Camembert to take home as well as learning how to make cream cheese, quark and mascarpone (which seem surprisingly easy). Aside from the starters, rennet and calcium chloride that you have to add in small amounts (depending on the cheese), all of the cheese are made with shop bought milks and creams, so they are possible to replicate at home. I really enjoyed the day, and I think my Dad did too.

Warming the milk and cream with calcium chloride

Dad and I were in different groups (each group of 4 did a batch), I made a white camembert while Dad made a blue one (the only difference is the mould spores you use). The photos are from my group.

We had a lovely lunch (cheese board – I liked the cheese so much I bought them to take home) which was included in the class cost. We also got to taste a cheese from a previous class and it was surprisingly good, so hopefully our’s will turn out just as well.

Click here for more

It’s taken me a while to post about my second class for two reasons:

  1. I was exhausted that night so I unfortunately wasn’t my most attentive and don’t know how much of what was taught I actually retained (writing it down straight away might have helped with that, but I decided to sleep instead).
  2. Does anyone want to hear about the whole hour of the class that we spent colouring fondant? Think of a room full of adults mixing play-doh together. Not making anything, just mixing it and you are just about there.

So I’ve combined Weeks 2 and 3 in this update because I had much more fun in Week 3!

Partly completed fondant teddy Click here for more…

%d bloggers like this: