Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Checkerboard Cake - July 2014 Daring Bakers' Challenge

 For the July Daring Baker’s Challenge, Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds!  

A surprise cake.
Well, that could be anything. Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood set this challenge and gave a few suggestions...rainbow cake, zebra cake, a cake baked within a cake or a checkerboard cake. The ideas were endless and fun. However sometimes the cake gods seem to make up your mind for you. You know how it is... I was wandering around my local second hand store shortly after this challenge was announced and I came across an unused checkboard pan set. Someone had bought this set with good intentions but never got to bake the cake. For $6.00 it was mine. I had to make a checkerboard cake!

For those who don't know what a checkerboard cake pan is have a look here. This one is just like the one I bought in the second hand store. The idea is to clip the separator onto one of the cake pan then pour different colour batter into each separate ring...lift the separator... wash the separator... clip onto the second cake pan and repeat and repeat again for the third pan. Now when I write it all down like that I realise why I had cake batter from one end of the kitchen to the other. Hmmmm, it is a lot of fussing for a cake. But then it is fun and the cake is fun!. Thanks Ruth! Great challenge making something I had never thought of making before!

Checkerboard cake 

Cake adapted from Brad

90g bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
4 large eggs
1 1/3  cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup plain flour, sifted

3 cups self raising flour, sifted
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
225g cup butter, softened

pink food colouring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a set of three 9 by 1 inch checkerboard cake pans (Checkerboard Baking Pans are sold in a set which includes three 9 by 1 inch cake pans and a divider ring to enable you to separate the cake pan into 3 rings), line with parchment, and then grease and flour.
In a double boiler melt the chocolate over simmering water, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
In a medium bowl lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the milk, and vanilla.

In bowl of electric mixer, combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and remaining milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake's structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in three batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides. 

Divide the batter approximately in thirds. Stir the melted chocolate into one of the batches of batter until uniform in color and colour a second batch pink with the food colouring. Fill 3 large pastry bags fitted with large round tubes 3/4 inches in diameter with the 3 batters. I used large clip seal bags
Place the divider rings in one of the prepared pans and pipe batter into each, pipe one colour into each section . The batter should fill the pan about half full. Using a small metal spatula or the back of a spoon, smooth any seams or divisions in the batter. Now carefully lift out the divider and rinse it off. 

When piping batter for the second layer, pipe each colour into a different section than the first pan. Pipe each colour for the third layer into a different section again. Like this....

Bake 20 - 25 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cakes spring back when pressed lightly in the centers. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven.
Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto greased wire racks. To prevent splitting, re-invert so that the tops are up and cool completely before wrapping airtight.

Now prepare your icing.
Easy chocolate icing (adapted from Allrecipes)

60g dark cooking chocolate
125g butter
3 tablespoons milk
3 1/2 cups (550g) icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder, sifted
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

In a large saucepan over medium heat combine chocolate, butter and milk. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and beat in icing sugar, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla. Beat until smooth then adjusting consistency with milk or sugar if necessary.

Level the tops of each cake. You can use the leftover cake for cake pops!

When stacking the layers, use a very thin coating of chocolate frosting to adhere the layers without disturbing the checkerboard effect.

Stack each layer. Press to adhere well.

Ice all over and decorate as you like.

Cut, surprise and enjoy!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Nigella's Pumpkin and Chickpea Hotpot

Here in North Queensland we are in the middle of our tropical version of winter. Some days can get quite cool...I think a minimum of about 8 degrees celsius... that's cool for us. But most days are just a beautiful fresh break from our usual stifling heat. The skies are clear and the breeze is cool. At this time of the year we can grow lots of veges. Tomatoes, lettuces, beans, corn, even broccoli and cabbages. The easiest of all are the pumpkins. And of course, there is always plenty to give away. I ended up with three gorgeous ones that needed to be used and I remembered this recipe I had seen in a magazine.
With a hit of red curry paste, chickpeas and coconut milk the pumpkin is transformed into a most luscious vegetable. This is my version of Nigella's hotpot, just tweeking a few ingredients here and there to adjust to what I had in the pantry.
This could be a soup, hotpot, curry or whatever. I boiled a bit of rice and put a spoonful in the bottom of each bowl before spooning over the golden, fragrant goodness. You could serve it with crusty bread.
Try it. You won't be disappointed.

Pumpkin and Chickpea Hotpot
(adapted from Nigella Lawson)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil                  
1  finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste                   
2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 kilo peeled seeded pumpkin, cut into 1 1/4-inch chunks
1 425g can coconut cream
1 cup chicken stock, bought or homemade, more if needed
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 425g can chickpeas, drained
Freshly ground black pepper
boiled rice, to serve
chopped parsley, to garnish
Heat oil in a large pan then add the onion and salt. Saute to soften. Add the curry paste and fry off for a minute or so. Add the cumin and coriander.

Add pumpkin, coconut cream, stock and soy sauce. Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Don't let the pumpkin completely break up. We like to see bits of pumpkin.

Add the chicken and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes. Check for seasoning and add more curry paste if you think it needs it. Adjust thickness with more stock if needed.

Place a spoonful of rice into the bottom of the bowls then ladle over the fragrant hotpot. Sprinkle with parsley.
Serve and enjoy.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Chocolate and Marshmallow Woopie Pies

In December Bourbonnatrix, of Bourbonnatrix Bakes challenged us to make whoopie pies. This is my results...yes, 6 months late. Sorry Bourbonnatrix!

As an Aussie, the American Whoopie Pie facinated me. Is it a biscuit (or should I say "cookie")? Is it a little cake? Maybe it's something in between? What is the filling... buttercream or marshmallow? This is what I think I would like for a Whoopie Pie. Somewhere between a cookie and a cake with a squidgy marshmallow filling. 

So I need help now. The challenge is way over but I need opinions. Please US readers, how did I go? Is the the real thing? What am I looking for? If these are Whoopie Pies, well then, I love Whoopie Pies!

Chocolate and Marshmallow Whoopie Pies 

Chocolate Whoopie  (adapted from taste.com.au)

125g butter at room temp
160g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
50g cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp bicarb soda
300g plain flour
330ml buttermilk

Begin by heating the oven to 190C.
In an electric mixer beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light and smooth. Add the egg and beat to combine.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the cocoa and the bicarb soda. Then gently mix in the plain flour and buttermilk alternatively.
Have ready baking trays lined with paper.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a plain tube with your mixture. Pipe rounds about 3cm in diameter evenly onto the trays leaving room between each whoopie for spreading.
Bake for 10 minutes or until firm. Cool slightly before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

I used my favourite marshmallow recipe which I was first introduced to during the July 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge. This marshmallow is a Gale Gand recipe and it really produces a no-fail, fluffy and light marshmallow.

Marshmallow filling
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

 1/4 cup water
 1/4 cup light corn syrup
 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
 2 tablespoons cold water
 2 egg whites , room temperature
 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball”
stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
Transfer to a pastry bag.
Pair up the whoopies, matching large one with large ones and so on.
Pipe marshmallow onto one half of a pair topping with the matched whoopie.

To stop sticky fingers and because they are festive I rolled each whoopie in 100' & 1000's letting them stick to the marshmallow.

Here are my first Whoopie Pies and I know they will not be my last.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Smoked Mozzarella with Yoghurt Flatbread

Some of the best things in life are the most simple, aren't they?

My local Italian deli just got a order in of buffalo cheeses. I had to try some, of course. Burrata and smoked mozzarella came home with me. The burrata is a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream. Inside is cream and mozzarella all encased in a solid mozzarella "skin". Milky and mild is how I would describe it. A drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh bread. That's it. Perfect.
But I had grander plans for the smoked mozzarella...

Remove wrapper, 
place cheese in oiled ramekin, 
bake 10 minutes at 200C until melted, oozy and golden.
Serve with yoghurt flatbread.

This was really, really good!

Yoghurt Flatbread

adapted from a Matthew Evans recipe

7g (1 sachet) yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup warm water plus 1 tablespoon
500g flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
200g Greek yoghurt
melted butter to brush
Maldon salt for sprinkling
Stir together yeast, 1 tablespoon warm water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl in the stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Start the mixer on slow and  mix in the flour, salt and yoghurt gradually adding the water. You may not need it all or you may need a bit more depending on the weather or the bread baking gods. Continue mixing the dough for 5 to 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Remove bowl from stand mixer, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 2 hours.
After 1 1/2 hours have passed place a baking stone into your oven and preheat to 250C (yes, it's hot).
When the dough is ready, punch it down and turn it out onto a floured board. Divide into 8 pieces.

Roll out each portion quite thin and place on baking paper. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with Maldon salt. Work with just a couple of breads at a time - they bake quickly. Pick up the breads on the paper and slip paper and bread onto the hot stone in the oven. Yes, you can leave the paper behind and just place the bread on the hot stone - I just find this way easier. These should bake in less than five minutes. Just keep an eye on them. When the breads come out of the over brush again with butter.

 Hey, butter is good, more must be better, no?

Repeat with remaining dough.

These flatbreads are tender and delicous.

Perfect for oozy hot baked mozzarella.

Told you the best things are the most simple!

Friday, June 27, 2014

CINNAMON ROLLS - The Daring Bakers’ June 2014 Challenge

This month the Daring Bakers kept our creativity rolling with cinnamon bun inspired treats. Shelley from C Mom Cook dared us to create our own dough and fill it with any filling we wanted to craft tasty rolled treats, cinnamon not required!

Sweet bready dough, cinnamon, sugar, butter.... all my favourite food groups so how could this month fail to impress. 
Cinnamon buns are something I have always wanted to make but have never really got around to it. And Sticky Cinnamon buns can only be better. Shelley provided a great recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart plus a couple of others. But Shelley also gave us free reign to be as creative as we pleased - sweet or savoury, with or without cinnamon. However I couldn't go past the recipe by Peter Reinhard in The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  I have a copy of this book so I followed the Sticky Bun version of the recipe. And....wow...delightful, delicious and divine! Thank you, Shelley!

Please take note of this oozy caramel dripping down the buns like molten lava!

Cinnamon Buns

(from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart)
Makes 8-12 large or 12-16 smaller buns

6½ tablespoons (100 ml) (3 oz) (90 gm) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
5½ tablespoons (85 ml) (2¾ oz) (80 gm) shortening, unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon (5 ml) grated lemon zest
3½ cups (840 ml) (16 oz) (450 gm) unbleached bread (or all-purpose/plain) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (¼ oz) (6 gm) instant yeast (active dry worked as well)
1 1/8 – 1 ¼ cups (270-300 ml) whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature
½ cup (120 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) cinnamon sugar (6½ tablespoons (100ml) (3 oz) (90 gm) granulated sugar plus 1½ tablespoons (20 ml) (1/3 oz) (10 gm) ground cinnamon)

Caramel Glaze
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks/15 Tbsp) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 tsp lemon, orange or vanilla extract
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar, salt and shortening (though it is not difficult to do by hand, using a strong spoon).
  2. Add the egg and lemon extract to the creamed sugar and shortening and mix together until smooth.
  3. Add the flour, yeast and milk to the mixer and mix on low speed until the dough begins to form a ball.
  4. At this point, switch to the dough hook attachment and knead for 10 minutes (if kneading by hand, you will probably need to do so for closer to 12 – 15 minutes). The dough will be silky and supple, but not overly sticky. You may need to add a touch of flour if your dough is too sticky – that is okay.
  5. Lightly oil a bowl, turn the kneaded dough out into it, turning to coat, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  6. Allow the dough to rest (ferment) until it has doubled in size, approximately 2 hours.
  7. Once the dough has rested and risen, you are ready to shape the cinnamon buns. Prepare your a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper.
  8. Spray your work surface lightly with cooking spray and turn the dough out onto the work surface.
  9. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough, into a rectangle about 2/3 an inch (15 mm) thick, 14 inches (350 mm)wide and 12 inches (300 mm) long (for large buns) (or 18 inches (450 mm) wide by 9 inches (230 mm) long for smaller ones). You may need to sprinkle the dough and/or work surface with a bit of flour to keep the dough from sticking. This is okay. 

 10. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar filling over the surface of the dough.

 11. Starting with a long end, roll the dough, creating a spiral, into a log shape, making sure to end with the seam side down

 Make the glaze: in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugar, brown sugar, salt, and butter, at room temperature. Cream together for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add the cup corn syrup and 1 teaspoon lemon, orange or vanilla extract. Continue to cream for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Use as much of this as you need to cover the bottom of the pan with a 1/4-inch layer. Refrigerate and save any excess for future use; it will keep for months in a sealed container. I made half this quantity and used the whole lot.

I sprinkled a few broken pecan over the caramel glaze.

12.Cut the dough into pieces approximately 1¾ inches (45 mm) thick (for large buns) (1¼ inch (30 mm) for smaller buns).
13. Place buns approximately ½ inch (15 mm) apart on the prepared pan. They shouldn't be touching at this time. (Mine were)

 14. Allow the shaped buns to proof at room temperature for 75 – 90 minutes until they have nearly doubled in size. They will now be touching each other. If you are not planning on baking the buns the same day as you are preparing them, you can place them into the refrigerator after they are shaped (before this rise) for up to 2 days. If you do so, you will need to allow them to return to room temperature prior to baking, which means removing them from the refrigerator about 3 or 4 hours before baking.

15. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 degrees at the end of this proofing time.

16. Bake the buns for 20 – 30 minutes, until golden brown

17. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then turn over onto a serving plate. Don't let the buns sit in the pan for too long because then you will have trouble turning them out.

These rolls have a beautiful tender crumb combined with the oozy caramel...yum... who can resist!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Apricot Crostata

Like everyone else my life is becoming busier and busier. But I love to bake and know that my family is eating wholesome, yummy food. Modern food can sometimes be time consuming or to cut corners, preprepared short cuts are used.
 I love recipes like this one that I found on a wonderful blog, L'emporio 21. This is Italian cooking at it's best. Take simple, quality ingredients and produce something delicous and beautiful.
A crostata is not unfamiliar to most of us but sometimes we need to be reminded how good simple food can be.  The nonnas of old would have used this dough to make a wide variety of different crostate depending on what fruit was in season or what nuts were local. Then perhaps take the dough to be formed into various biscotti, some plain, maybe some filled or flavoured with cinnamon. Such is a good recipe... as is this one.
Let your imagination be your guide.
Apricot Crostata
(adapted from L'emporio 21)
For the pastry
400g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
180g sugar
pinch salt
2 eggs, beaten
130ml vegetable oil
grated rind of 1 lemon
For the filling
apricot jam
slivered almonds
powdered/icing sugar, to finish

On a work surface sift (or not) the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a hole in the centre, pour in the eggs, oil and the lemon rind. With a fork or your fingers begin to mix the wet ingredient taking in some of the dry. Continue until all the flour is incorporated and knead lightly and briefly. At this point if you have time wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest in the refridgerator for 30 minutes. If not use it right away.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Divide the dough in two with one being larger. Press or roll the large piece on a baking tray lined with baking paper. (I made mine round and about 25cm in diametre). Spread a generous amount of apricot jam onto the disc leaving about a centremetre of dough exposed around the edge. With the smaller piece of dough roll or press out onto a floured work surface and cut long strips. Lay the strip in a criss cross fashion over the filled crostata cutting off any surplus. Scatter slivered almonds over the crostata.
Bake for about 30 minutes in the preheated oven. If it colours too much cover the surface with a sheet of baking paper.
Once cool sprinkle with powdered sugar

Sunday, June 1, 2014

PÃO DE QUEIJO - The Daring Bakers’ May, 2014 Challenge

This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge took us on a trip to beautiful Brazil! Renata of "Testado, Provado & Aprovado!" taught us how to make Pao De Queijo, tasty cheese buns that make the perfect snack or treat, and that will make your taste buds samba!

With the Soccer World Cup  about to commence in a matter of days, it is appropriate the May's Daring Baker's challenge takes us to Brazil. Our wonderful host Renata of "Testado, Provado & Aprovado!" chose these delicious cheese balls which as a bonus just happen to be gluten free. I used a mixture of Gouda and Parmesan cheese and we just couldn't stop popping them in our mouths!
Thank you, Renata!

Source:- Renata of "Testado, Provado & Aprovado!"

Yields about 80 small balls
500 gm (4 cups) tapioca starch (If you have access to sour tapioca, you can use 250gm (2 cups) of each)
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
2-3/4 tablespoons (40 ml) (1½ oz) (40 gm) butter
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) salt (or to taste depending on how salty your cheese is)
3 cups (750 ml) (9 oz) (250gm) Monterey Jack Cheese (or another cheese of your liking, or a mix of cheeses), coarsely grated
1 to 3 large eggs
  • Heat milk, butter, and salt in a small sauce pan until it comes to a boil. Watch closely as it may boil over. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Sift tapioca starch into a large bowl.
  • Pour the boiled (hot) mixture over the tapioca and start stirring with a fork. The milk mixture will not be enough to form a dough yet. You will have a lumpy mixture, that's what it is supposed to be.

  • Keep stirring with the fork, breaking down the lumps as much as you can, until the mixture cools down to warm.
  • At this point, preheat your oven to moderately hot 400° F/200° C/gs mark 6
  • Add the grated cheese to the tapioca mixture and mix well, now using your hands.
  • Add one egg at a time, mix with your hands until dough comes together. I suggest you lightly beat the egg with a fork and add little bits until the dough comes together into a soft but pliable dough. You only have to knead it a bit, not as much as you knead a yeasted bread. It's OK if it is slightly sticky
  • Form balls with the dough and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon mat or lightly greased with vegetable oil. If necessary, you can oil your hands to make shaping easier. The size of the balls may vary from small bite-sized balls to the size of ping pong balls. They will puff up quite a bit after baking.

  • Bake for about 25 minutes or until they just start to brown on the bottom. You may have golden spots of cheese on the crust. Don't over-bake as they will get hard and bitter.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Empadas - A Baker's Odyssey Personal Challenge #35

Not to be confused with Empanadas.
These gorgeous little pies are a Portuguese favourite with delicious buttery pastry and a savoury filling of tuna, onions, olives and a bit of cayenne. After a long lag I continue baking my way through one of my favourite baking books A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent.
I made a few substitutions but the flavour of these pies was amazing. Serve for lunch with a salad or as Greg suggests cut into four to serve as an appetiser. Either way these pies are yum!

makes 24

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped pimento stuffed olives
2 x 185g tuna packed in olive oil, drained
pinch cayenne
1/2 cup canned tomato puree
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 chicken stock cube
3 tablespoons plain flour
5 tablespoons milk
salt and pepper to season

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and saute until softened and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the parsley, olives and tuna. Continue cooking and stirring for a few minutes. Mix in the cayenne, tomato puree and tomato paste. Cook for a minute or two then crumble in the stock cube. In a small bowl mix the milk and flour. Add this mixture to the tuna and stir, cooking until the mixture boils and thickens. Taste and season if necessary. Remove from heat and cool completely.


3 1/2 cups plain flour, plus more for kneading
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
250g butter, cold and chopped
3 large eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

olive oil to coat muffin cups
2 tablespoon milk
24 Kalamata olives or stuffed green olives

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture looks like crumbs. Add the eggs bit by bit, tossing with a fork.

The mixture will look ragged and clumpy. Use your hands to squeeze the mixture together. If you need add a few drops of water to bring the mixture together. Flour the work surface, scrape the dough onto it and turn to coat with flour. Shape into a log. Using the heal of your hand begin to smear portions of the dough away from you. When it's all been smeared (this mixes the butter and flour) gather up and form into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 180C and brush the muffin cups with oil. Divide the dough into 24 portions. Roll out to about a 10 cm circle. The finished pastry should extend a little above the muffin cup. Press the dough into the muffin cups.

Put a good spoonful of filling into each pie shell and carefully pull in the edges to cover the filling. Place an olive in the middle. Brush with milk.

Don't these pies look so cute!

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. Serve warm or at room temperature.