Thursday, 13 February 2014

Innocent Carrot Muffins

I'm a traditionalist. I believe patisserie is all about sugar and chocolate and butter and cream and all those other nasties that dieticians would have you avoid. If I'm going to order a dessert, I'm going to order the most indulgent, the most sickly, the most naughiest one they have on the menu. None of this half-arsed bullshit. It's all or nothing. If you're going to be all 'how many calories does that have in it?', then why even bother? 

Whenever my boyfriend, Steve, and I have dinner plans I always tell him, 'why not skip the main and go straight for dessert?'. There's not point in hiding it, I have a sweet tooth. It's the main reason I never get an entree at a restaurant. Because I know, without a doubt, I would not be able to fit dessert in (which for me is the most important meal on the menu). 

However, my love for sugar and spice and all things nice can not deter my attention from the latest craze that is whole food diets. This means food that is as close to their natural form as possible. With the increasing number of people consuming whole foods such, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes it makes it hard for an avid baker, like me, to appeal to this growing epidemic.

So, if you can't beat 'em, join em. 

This recipe is slightly adapted from one I got from my Mum. These muffins are gluten, refined sugar and dairy free, making it the perfect snack for people on whole-food diets, or those with allergies/intolerances. I'm a bit of a health nut at times, and even though my love for pure indulgence is ever strong, I don't mind eating something sweet without the added guilt. 

In saying that, these are not your ordinary muffins. They are quiet dense and moist and definitely not as sweet. I've only used a tablespoon of sweetener but by all means you add as much, or none, as you like. Change the spices, add some nuts, coconut, pineapple. There are so many way's you could adapt this recipe, just keep the base ingredients the same and the world is your oyster. 

My aunty, being gluten intolerant, asked me for more gluten free recipes on my blog. Well Tommy, this one is for you. I hope you all enjoy! 

3 eggs
1 cup Pie Apple
1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
200g Almond Meal
2 teaspoon Cinnamon 
1 teaspoon Ginger
3 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 cup grated Carrot
1/3 cup unsweetened Sultanas
Walnuts (for decorating) 

To make the muffins...
Preheat oven to 180°C and line a muffin tin with muffin cases. 

Firstly, separate the eggs with the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. Beat the egg whites in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Set aside. 

In the bowl with the egg yolks, add the pie apple, maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Blend until reasonably smooth. You can do this in a food processor or with a stick blender, like a bamix. 

Place all the dry ingredients and the carrot in a large bowl and mix to combine. Add in the apple puree and mix until it just starts to come together. Add in one third of the egg whites and fold through (this will help break up the mixture without letting to much air out of the whites). Add the remaining egg whites and fold gently until well combined. 

Fill each muffin case 1/3 full with mixture and place a whole walnut on top. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool, if you can wait that long, and eat. 

Why not try...
Re-heat muffin in the microwave. Serve with extra apple, maple syrup and yoghurt for a scrumptious breakfast. 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Mocha Sandwiches

12 months ago, I didn't like coffee.

Loathed it even! 

Loved the smell, hated the taste. 

Like I said that was 12 months times have changed.

It all began when I started doing sleepover shifts for a quadriplegic chap. I'm not at night owl so I knew, in taking them on, it was not going to be much fun. I had to stay up to midnight, sometimes even 2am when the man I was looking after would come home drunk (yes, you read correctly), be awake by 7am and then do it all again the next night.

In order to survive these nights, something had to be done, and coffee became the answer. Initially, I started with mochas, the little hint of chocolate just cut out some of the bitterness that coffee posses. Then one day I just decided to have a latte, bite the bullet and just do has been VERY DIFFERENT since then.

I'm hooked now! Probably addicted. 

I don't even have sugar. And I think instant is foul. It's espresso or nothing. 

I made a trip down to Melbourne after work one day and needed a double shot latte just to get me through the drive. Boy was I buzzing after that!! I was having a little disco in my car. 

My boyfriend, Steven, and I were discussing the other day that I probably need to go to Coffeeholics anonymous, "Hi my name is Heidi and I'm a coffeeholic."

Anyway, my new found love for coffee has inspired this recipe. I've used coffee grounds to really give the biscuit a good coffee kick! And it's very dear friend chocolate can be found in this slightly whipped ganache. They are so more-ish, you'll have to get a impartial party to hide them. 

185g Butter, softened
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla essence
1 egg
2 cups Plain Flour
3 Tablespoons Coffee Grounds
Coffee Grounds, extra 
95g Dark Chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon Instant Coffee
80ml Cream

To make the Biscuits...
Pre heat oven to 160°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in an electric mixer until pale in colour. Add the vanilla and the egg and beat further until light and fluffy. On a slower speed, beat in the flour and the coffee grounds until combined. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together. 

Wrap dough in cling wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to harden slightly. 

Once the dough has hardened, place it between two sheets of baking paper and roll out with a rolling pin until the dough is approximately 5mm thick. I like to do it between baking paper as it stops it from sticking to the bench without adding extra flour to the dough. 

Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes. I've used a flower here but you can use whatever shape you like. To get the hole in the middle of the flower (as I have done) use an apple corer. Ensuring that you only do this with half the biscuits. 

Place the shapes onto the prepared trays and sprinkle with the extra coffee grounds. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden. 

Allow to cool before sandwiching with whipped Mocha Ganache. Make yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy! 

To make the ganache...
Place the instant coffee and cream into a saucepan and heat until boiling. Pour over the chopped chocolate. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes then stir until smooth. Allow to cool slightly. 

Once cooled, place in an electric mixer and beat until fluffy and pale in colour. Ensuring you don't whip too much or the cream with curdle. 

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Butterfly Cakes

"Is that the reason so many tea-things are put out here?"Alice asked. 
"Yes that's it," said the Hatter with a sigh: "it's always tea-time, and we've no time to wash the things between whiles."

Whenever I think of tea parties I'm always reminded of the mad tea party from Alice in Wonderland...

...A Mad Hatter, spouting ridiculous riddles with no answers, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"
...A March Hare, attempting to fix a pocket watch with "the BEST butter."
...and a sleepy door mouse reeling off stories about 3 three sisters living in a treacle well. 

Something tells me Lewis Carroll must have been on something when he wrote this story. But, whether he was high or not, it has forever remained one of my favourites and has provided inspiration for this recipe. 

Tea parties for me are all about lots of little treats that you could have one of everything (if you feel so inclined) and not feel sick. I believe each one should be light and delicate but with just the right amount of naughtiness to make you want to go to the gym for the next week trying to work it off. 

And of course no tea party is complete without, well, tea. My personal favourite is earl grey, with a DASH of milk. You would not believe how many times I've had a cup of tea made for me, with these instructions given, and it's come back half filled with milk....'Would you like some tea with your milk?'

But however you have your tea, these Butterfly cakes will go down a treat. Jam, or lemon curd, gives a little kick to what would be a rather plain tasting cake. 

Set them on the table and watch them 'fly' away. 

125g Butter, softened
3/4 cup Castor Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste
3 Eggs
1 3/4 cup Self-raising Flour
3/4 cup Milk
Jam - I've used Raspberry and Lemon Curd

To make the Butterfly Cakes...
Pre heat oven to 180°C and line a small muffin tin with patty pan liners. If you have a big muffin tin that's fine, it just means you'll get less cakes. 

In an electric mixer, place all ingredients and beat until well combined. Fill each liner approximately 2/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cakes spring back or a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool completely. 

In the meantime, whip the cream and set aside. 

To assemble the cakes...
Using a small sharp knife, cut the top off the cake to form a little well (As shown below). Slice the cut out piece in half. 

Next spoon a small amount of jam into the well, followed by a dollop of cream. Push the two halves of the cut out piece of cake into the cream to form butterfly wings. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve. 

This demonstrates the little well needed for the filling

Fill with jam, or curd. In the background you can see how I've slice the cut out piece in half.

Dollop with cream.

Place wings on top. 

In the words of Lewis Carroll...
"No room! No room!" they cried out when they saw Alice coming. "There's plenty of room!" said Alice (as do I). 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Gingerbread House 2013

...well rather Spectulaas spice!

Yes, it's that time of year again where I get my creative Christmas shoes on and engineer my Gingerbread House (or should I say Spectulaasbread House, but I'll come to that shortly).

This year I've done things a little differently and made not one, but THREE houses and two Christmas trees. It's a Speculaas village! Perhaps I will name it 'Collinsville'. 

In baking 3 houses, it opens the door for many decorative ideas, as you can see from the photos.  You can really use whatever you want, do the houses differently, or do them all the same, the world is your oyster! 

The other difference this year was my decision to make Speculaas spice Houses rather than just the traditional Gingerbread. Of course, the credit really has to go to my mum. She has been making speculaas biscuits for years and has often suggested it would make a really good house recipe. The rest of the credit has to go to my sister Cherry. Cherry often complained that the gingerbread recipe  'isn't gingery enough'. But with this recipe it gives the dough a  warmth and zing that ginger alone doesn't have. 

So, what is Speculaas you might ask? Bascially, it's a dutch shortbread biscuit containing:

8 parts cinnamon
2 parts nutmeg
2 parts cloves
1 part white pepper
1 part ginger
1 part cardamon

To make your specculaas dough all you need to do is add 2 tablespoons of the spice mix to every 2 and 1/2 cups of flour your recipe has. But really you could add as little or as much as you like. My only other tip is, you might need to add a little water...depending on how dry the extra spice makes your dough.

My process this year, however, was not all sunflowers and rainbows. Allow me to explain...

We'd been given a Kris Kringle at work and my grand idea was to make one of these little houses for my Kris Kringle. The construction and decorations I'd decided to use where the same as the house below, and mostly came along without a glitch. It was quite a hot day (even with the air con on) and I was worried that the royal icing would take to long to set, or worse, wouldn't set at all. 

I'd decided to place the house I'd done for my KK upstairs, as it is the coolest place in the house while the air con is going, just to get a tickle of cool air and hopefully allowing it to set. 

La dee da, I went to work, came home and part of the roof had broken off! I thought to myself, 'no worries, royal icing is like super glue, easily fixed.' My happiness was short lived. I soon realised that the walls of the house were breaking away from the front and back of the house! 

A slight freak out later, I came to the conclusion that an entire new house had to be made. 

Moral of the story, speculaas/gingerbread and air con don't mix!

So now let me elaborate on the decorations I have used for each house.

For the house above, I've used freckles, chocolate buttons and scorched peanuts for the roof. Round the bottom of the house you'll find smarties and coloured choc-chips, these are also used up the walls. The window I cut out with a scone cutter and the window is made from pretzels. 

This little path has been made with smarties and coloured choc-chips. Simply used the royal icing to stick into place

This house is probably my favourite, as it looks like a log cabin. To get this effect, I've used pretzel sticks on the roof, around the bottom and up the walls of the house. The star is a piece of cut out speculaas dough with sprinkles stuck to it with royal icing.

To make the trees, cut out star shapes from the dough. You'll need 3 different sizes and 2 of each size. But you make the tree whatever size you like. Cachous, or the little round metallic balls, simulate Christmas lights (well I like to think they do). 

Now this house was purely my Mum's idea. 

All you need is a packed of musk sticks. For the roof, Mum cut the sticks in half lengthways. We decided to do it this way otherwise they would have been totally out of proportion with the house. I then cut the sticks into little pieces for around the bottom of the house. 

Don't you think they look like little rocks? 

I hope you all gained some from inspiration for your next gingerbread/speculaas spice House. 

Santa Claus is coming to Town! 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Passionfruit and Blueberry Cake

I love making birthday cakes!

So, a few months ago when my boyfriend's Mum wanted a birthday cake for his sister Alex, I couldn't say no! And given that she was turning 21, it had to be extra special. 

I decided to try something different, something I had never done before. This meant...cake trials!! Which also meant cake eating. Now, I love eating cake as much as I love making it, but the amount of exercise that is required during a cake trial to ensure the least amount of weight gain as possible is remarkable. I'm also a nurse and luckily my job requires me to run around like a headless chicken for half the shift, otherwise I might have got to be a sumo wrestler.

I wanted to do chocolate. 

Who doesn't do chocolate. 

In a few magazine's, I'd seen that the latest trend is Ombre Cake. For those of you who have been living under a rock, ombre is where the cake starts off darker at the top and becomes lighter as you get down the bottom. As you can see below.

This one was a caramel and chocolate version. Very yummy. Very nutty. But perhaps another time, I didn't feel it was special enough for this special girl. 

I finally decided on transforming my previous Lemon and Blueberry Cake recipe, as Alex is a MASSIVE lover of passionfruit. I've supplied the link above but I'll just jot down a few things that I changed in case you want to make this version:

  1. Instead of lemon zest and juice in the cake substitute for 1 can of passionfruit pulp that has been put through a sieve. 
  2. Use 1 jar of Yackandandah passionfruit Curd
  3. Make a batch of passionfruit cream cheese frosting;
125g Cream Cheese, softened
40g Butter, Softened
1- 1 1/2 cups Icing Sugar
4 fresh Passionfruit

Sieve the passionfruit to get rid of the seeds. Place all ingredients in an electric mixer and beat until fluffy. You might need extra icing sugar if it gets to runny. 

Then it was time to decorate. 

I'm not a big fan of photo cakes. But when it came time to asking my Boyfriend's Mum how she wanted the cake decorated, she was THRILLED to announce that she'd ordered an edible photo of Alex.

All in all, the cake turned out pretty, er, um, pretty. 

I wanted to use fresh flowers. You'd think being in Melbourne that getting flowers for a cake would be pretty straight forward. But believe me finding the right ones is no easy feet. And by Saturday afternoon, when I needed the cake by Sunday, panic had started to settle in. 

But a little shop in Ashburton seemed to have all the answers :) 

I ended up using little yellow roses and these purple and white ones, which for the life of me I can't remember what they're called. Even when I showed my mum, the avid gardener, the photo's she couldn't place them either. Combined with strategically placed blueberries on the top and a little blueberry border around the bottom, finished the job off nicely. 

I can't wait to make the next birthday cake...but it is nearly Christmas, which can only mean one thing...

...Gingerbread House!

Watch this space!!