What can I say? I love sweets, in all shapes and sizes! You only live once, so why not indulge once in a while? Or, in my case, most of the time...
For those of you who are not from Australia, ANZAC Day (25th April) is a day where we commemorate the landing of Australian soldiers on the coast of Gallipoli in World War One. We remember those who have died serving our country throughout our nations short history, and those who survived. My grandpa was proud of his contribution to WW2, serving in Papua New Guinea and when he grew too frail to march, he always watched the parade on TV. This was my first ANZAC Day without him and I wanted to cook something to mark the day and to remember him.
ANZAC cookies are very popular around this time of year as they are the cookies that people at home sent off to the soldiers during WW1 and they play an important part in commemorating this day. I love ANZAC cookies, but I felt I needed to jazz them up. After all, my grandpa had flair and a style all of his own. He was no plain cookie. When I found this recipe for ANZAC Tart with Macadamia Praline and Cinnamon Syrup I knew I was onto a winner! Good looking, tasty, and unashamedly Australian.
That is one good looking dessert!
After making the base and tasting the filling, I felt it was too sweet to require the Cinnamon Syrup so I left that part out. I also only added about half the honey listed in the recipe, partly because it was all I had, but mostly because my mum doesn’t really like honey and I wanted her to be able to eat it! The little honey I did put in really pervaded the filling so I think the full amount would have been really overwhelming. But after a night in the freezer and several attempts at the Macadamia nut Praline my tart was ready and it sure tasted mighty fine! I would definitely make these again, and they got the double thumbs up from both my mum and my sister.
And here is one of the mini tarts!
ANZAC Tart With Macadamia Nut Praline – Adapted from this taste.com recipe
250g ANZAC biscuits
100g butter (I think you could get away with putting 80g in if you are trying to cut down on butter)
1 x 395g can sweetened condensed milk
1 x 300ml thin cream
1. Process cookies into finely crushed crumbs in the food processer
2. blitz in the melted butter until well combined
3. press the cookie mixture into a 24cm tart tin with a removable base (I put them into four tiny tart tins and two medium sized ones)
4. Place tart tins in the freezer to set
5. beat the condensed milk, cream and honey together in a large bowl until the mix has doubled in volume
6. pour over bases and leave to set overnight in the freezer (They really need to go in the freezer rather than the fridge as the filling is more like icecream and wont set properly in the fridge)
Macadamia Nut Praline
80g (1/2 cup) roasted macadamia nuts (If you cant find roasted nuts, you can roast them yourself in a very low oven (about 110 degrees celsius) for about 15 mins or until golden)
155g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
60ml (1/4 cup) water
1. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over a low heat and cook, stirring for about 5 mins or until the sugar is dissolved
2. Increase the heat to medium and bring to the boil for 10 mins or until the mixture is a lovely golden colour. DO NOT STIR! (I had to wait for maybe 15 mins before my mix started to go golden so dont worry if it takes a while. Just be careful not to let it burn)
3. Pour sugar mix over macadamias on a baking tray lined with paper and leave to set
4. When the praline is hard, break it into shards and use to decorate your tart! Yummo!
The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.
I bought my first pudding basin last christmas because I had been charged with the task of making the Christmas Pudding. Now, I absolutely loathe the traditional fruit pudding so I figured that I would make it the only way I KNEW I would like it. With chocolate. Not traditional but very tasty!
I was very excited when I saw that my very first challenge with the Daring Bakers would allow me to use my pudding basin again. Ive never used suet, ive never steamed a dessert, in fact, im not really sure ive ever steamed anything. All ingredients and cooking methods I was new to. Bring it on!
I decided to make the Sussex Pond Pudding as I love lemons and the lemons are looking particularly lovely this season. The idea of steaming a pudding with a whole fruit inside it was also intriguing. I began by sourcing suet mix, which I found at my local supermarket in a box in the baking aisle.
I made the suet pastry according to the instructions on the box. very easy and straight forward.
Lined my pudding basin. (Yes I used kitchen scissors to trim the pastry!)
Added the cubed butter and demerera sugar
Look! A lemon!
Hid the lemon below lots more butter and sugar (possibly a little more than required by the recipe, but since when has extra butter and sugar been anything but good?)
Pop the lid on!
This part I thought would be very difficult, but it turned out pleating the foil and tying it with string was quite easy. My basin didn’t have a lip on it but the string never failed.
I made an impromptu trivet out of scrunched up aluminium foil and plunged by pudding into the boiling water!
My pud! After 3 and a half hours of steaming. To be honest, I would probably steam it for another couple of hour as its not as golden as I would like.
Another pud! Actually its the same one but de-basined. MMMmmmm….
You can see the lemon in the middle there! Oozing lemony sugary sauce….
Overall, it turned out ok. Some of the pudding was absolutely amazing. The pastry was flaky and tasty with some beautiful lemony sweet sauce. The only problem was that parts of the lemon turned out quite bitter and that tended to overpower the sweetness of the dish. I think that could be overcome by steaming the pud for a few more hours.
While I havent been able to post any more of my pudding attempts, this challenge has certainly inspired me to get creative in the kitchen. Expect more puds, savoury and sweet, large and small over the coming weeks! This was a great challenge that introduced me to many things i’d never think of trying on my own. Thanks Esther, for a truly inspiring challenge!!
So my lovelies, what puddings have you tried to make? Did they work? I think my next attempt is going to be this Very Chocolate Pudding. Just for something different…
Sussex Pond Pudding Recipe – As seen at The Daring Kitchen
1 box suet mix
120g Demerera Sugar
120g Unsalted Butter
1 Large Lemon (try to get unwaxed and thin skinned lemons)
1. Make the pastry according to the instructions on the box
2. Grease your pudding basin with butter and line it with the pastry
3. Cut the butter into small cubes and place half in the basin and cover with half the sugar
4. Wash and dry your lemon, and place it on top of the butter and sugar
5. Cover with the rest of the butter and sugar
6. Cut a disc out of the remaining pastry and cover the pudding filling, folding around the edges of the pastry in order to seal it well
7. Steam for 3.5 hours (I would probably try steaming it for another couple of hours next time)
MAKE SURE YOUR POT DOES NOT BOIL DRY!
8. When you invert your pudding basin to get your pudding out, make sure you do it in a rimmed dish as the sauce may leak out
I like to think of it as a sort of… occupational hazard, all the left over bits of chocolate blocks and chocolate chips etc that are the by product of my culinary conquests. Except that technically my occupation is teaching… but… well… nevermind. So I finally figured it was time to make use of all these chocolate offcuts that have been cluttering my pantry. And luckily for me (and mum!) I knew just the recipe to try.
I recently bought Nigella Lawson’s “Nigella Express” after falling in love wither her dvds. Nestled inside this gem of a cookbook is her recipe for what she calls “Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies”. I prefer the simpler description of “Ultimate Chocolate Cookie”. I have been known to completely disregard the measurements for chocolate in most recipes, and this is definitely a recipe where chocolate amounts are rules that are made to be broken. In fact, the only rule you need to keep in mind when making these cookies is this, repeat after me –
You can NEVER have too much chocolate
So with that mantra in mind, I mixed up the dough. I used a little bit of Lindt, a few Chocolate Chips, a little bit of Nestle White Chocolate
and still something felt… unfinished.
so I added a few more snaps of dark chocolate. You know, for good measure!
And into the oven they go!
mmmm cookies and milk
In short, these are amazing. What more can I say?
The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie – Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s “Nigella Express”
125g dark chocolate
1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
75g brown sugar
50g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg (Nigella says this should be cold from the fridge)
minimum 350g chocolate chunks or chips (any mix of white, milk or dark)
1. Melt the 125g chocolate
2. Cream the butter and sugars together and add the melted chocolate
3. Beat in vanilla and egg, then add the cocoa, flour, bi-carb and salt
4. Add the rest of the chocolate (feel free to go crazy here!)
5. I used a soup spoon to gouge hefty chunks of cookie dough but Nigella sings the praises of her ice cream scoop. Use whatever you like! I ended up making 18 (Nigella makes 12, but her cookies must be as big as my head to only get 12 from that mix!)
6. Cook for 18 (ish) minutes in an oven at 170 degrees celcius
7. Eat, eat eat!
After making a few different chocolate cakes and realising that none of them were any good, I thought I would make one last attempt. Enter – Donna Hay Magazine. I bought this magazine the other day after being droolingly drawn to the enormous chocolate cake gracing its front cover. This Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake would be the basis for the finally finished birthday cake for the Ginger Ninja.
I decided to do a test run on friday to make sure that it wasn’t another dud recipe. Worry I need not. It. Was. Amazing. So amazing that when my mum came home she said “oh…. wouldnt it be nice if there was one for me…” and, well, how could I resist? So after baking another cake and another batch of cupcakes, I have decided that the richness, glossiness, tastiness and sheer consistency of this recipe may have earned it the crown of Best Chocolate Cake Ever. Really. Donna Hay… amazing.
So without further ado, here are pictures of the completed African Jungle Cake! Hooray! P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY NINJA!
I decided to make the cake like a bunch of trees, so the figures on top are sitting in the branches! A bit rough, but you get the idea…
And here are a couple of pics of the cupcakes and their mini animals!
Hooray for mini African animals!
Have you met Lenny the Lion?
So my lovelies, what is the best birthday cake you have made for someone or someone has made for you? I would love to know!
Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake
Recipe – From Donna Hay Magazine
1 cup (250ml) water
1/3 cup (35g) cocoa
2 cups (300g) plain flour
1 tsp bi-carb soda
2 cups (440g) caster sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Place water, butter and cocoa in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until the butter has completely melted and the mixture is smooth
2. Place flour, bi-carb and sugar in a bowl, and whisk in the cocoa mixture
3. Add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and mix until smooth
4. Divide the mixture between two 18cm round cake tins and bake for 40-45 mins at 160 degrees celsius (I took all my cakes out at right on the 40 min mark but it might vary depending on your oven)
NOTE: you can alternatively make these as cupcakes, they will make around 18-20 depending on how big your patty pans are and how full you want them to be. They will still be AMAZING!
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting – from Donna Hay Magazine
500g cream cheese
2 cups (320g icing sugar)
1/2 cup (50g) cocoa
1. Beat butter and cream cheese until pale and creamy
2. Add the icing sugar an cocoa and beat for 6-8 minutes until light and fluffy
3. Ice your damn cake!
NOTE: If you want to make your icing different colours, substitute the cocoa for another 1/2 cup of icing sugar then add the colour you require. This is how I did the green icing on top of the cake above
Well I dont know about you, but ive had an absolute cracker of a week! I went away for a long weekend break to the Southern Highlands and explored all around Bowral, Robertson, Kangaroo Valley etc, then I went further south to Ulladulla to spend some time at my Grandpa’s house. All a bit bitter sweet really.
However, a constant thought on my mind has been my cake toppers for the Ginger Ninja. Ive decided to elaborate on my design and include not only that cute little lion but also a figurine of the Ninja herself, alongside a hippo, elephant, bear and maybe a snake thrown in for good measure. Im pretty damn pleased with the results!
I think this cuddly bear just wants someone to hug!
Nelly the elephant packed her trunk…
(note the much smaller trunk! and apologies for the less than clear picture)
Henry the Hippo
So all was well in the animal kingdom until… I found out that almost twice as many people are coming to dinner than I previously expected! Disaster! So I had a bit of a think and came up with what is hopefully a idea. I have decided to make one cake with the big animals on it and make a series of cupcakes with mini animals on them. I started a batch of minis last night and im pretty damn happy with the results. Who thought mini animals would be even cuter!
Mini bears, mini lions, what more could you want?!
Uh oh… I think that snake is eyeing you off as his dinner…
Oh wait! It doesnt have a mouth! No snakebites today!
Now all I need to do is bake the cake, and decorate it, and get it to the restaurant in one piece… ah!
On a lighter note, I would love to hear about your latest baking/cake decorating conquests!
During a lovely night out with the girls, I found myself volunteering to make the Ginger Ninja a Lion Cake for her African themed birthday. Ive bought so much fondant over the years with every intention of practicing making cute cake toppers and decorations and somehow I never seem to get around to it. So today, I bit the bullet. The deliciously sugary fondant bullet! I decided that rather than make a cake that was a lions face, I would attempt to make a jungle cake and perch a cute little lion on top of it. Today marked attempt #1 at fondant cake toppers.
I used a packet of Orchard White Icing that I had left over from Christmas and coloured it with different food colourings. The only difficulty I had was with the softness of the fondant. I found it quite sticky and very very soft so that it was easy to model but often got quite droopy. See exhibit 1 – the Elephant trunk
Yes, he looks a little bit wonky but still very cute! I think I need to make the trunk smaller and try to get it to point up. Nothing cuter than a trumpeting elephant! Maybe next time i’ll make my elephant pink (think Nelly the Elephant!).
After the elephant, it was on to teddy bears. I am suffering from an extreme lack of brown food colouring so I thought I would just use what I had on hand. Yellow. Be warned, I think this ted had put away most of my easter trifle into that big belly of his. No more sweets for you big ted!
Finally it was time to try a little lion. I had a large amount of yellow fondant still on hand (surprising, considering how fat my teddy bear ended up!) so I decided that this sweet little lion would be yellow with an orange mane. And thus was born Lionel, my little yellow lion! Almost too good to give away….