Monday, November 30, 2009

"Movember" cup cakes

So here we are at the end of "Movember". Thank god! Facial hair is not my thing - even if you are Brad Pitt, so I haveAdd Image endured the month of November as the Workaholic and his work mates grew facial hair for charity. Enough already. It's the 30th. Shave them off!!!

Breathe Kate, just breathe.

I used the whole thing as another excuse for cup cakes. However, it couldn't be a delicate pretty little thing, it had to be a man's mans cup cake. Rich and blokey and full of body. This is why I could not go past the Guinness Chocolate Cup Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Irish Baileys Buttercream Icing.

It is not for the faint hearted. It calls for a cup of Guinness, some whiskey (which I didn't bother with) for the ganche and Bailey's Irish Cream in the icing.

It is full of chocolate. Dark Chocolate in the cake, dark chocolate in the ganache, chocolate everwhere.

They were very easy to make and required me to try something different, in that I had to scoop out some of the top of the cake to pour in the ganache, before icing. I think the tasters will be in for a pleasant surprise tomorrow at the fundraiser. Two of their favorite ingredients - chocolate and alcohol and a new element, ganache filled cup cakes! The recipe didn't require lots of beating which was a bit out of my comfort zone, I just love to beat and I feel a bit weird and not quite worthy when the recipe is so easy.

I had to do something "mo" like for the toppers so I just printed out "cut out moustaches" from the internet (I love the internet - you can find anything!!) and laminated them before cutting them out and sticking them on toothpicks.

I think they turned out well, however I do prefer my toppers edible. Less fidly for the eater that way.

So enjoy my fellow fundraisers and dig deep into your pockets for Movember.

Also, congratulations to the Irish girls who were winners of the silent auction for Movember at the workaholic's office who bid $100 for a tray of my cup cakes - who knows you may change your choice of flavours after this one!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving or any excuse for another cup cake!

Mmmm, how I love sweet things with Pumpkin. Three Americans conspired to bring you this blog entry. 1. Martha Stewart who came up with this recipe. 2. Judy, my blogger friend, who put the result on her blog, and 3. My lovely American friend, Tammy who lives in Alice Springs and happened to have a can or two of Pumpkin she was willing to donate to my obsession!

These Pumpkin Cup Cakes baked so well I even took a photo of them "naked" pre incing. I made mini ones (as per first pic) and regular ones with very big pumpkins on top. In hindsight, those pumpkins should have been smaller but as Tammy said "there is no such thing as too much".

Everything just worked with this recipe, it was like poetry. Martha has come through with the cup cakes! The taste testers loved them and keep urging me to start my own business which is reassuring, they also agreed with me on the smaller pumpkin thought.

This entry will be short and sweet, not much to say when everything falls into place. I have also had a busy few weeks with some paid baking orders and some "love" orders for preschool break ups and camping trips with friends so I am going to stay out of the kitchen for a couple of days - this should be interesting, I usually get withdrawals after a couple of hours!

Next week will be the start of all things christmas and a few other bits and pieces for good measure.

Aunty Chris' Choc Chip Cookies

You heard it here first - this is the best choc chip cookie you will ever taste. Forget Ms M Stewart, forget Ms N Lawson, forget Ms D Hay who have claimed to have the best recipe, they don't! Trust me.

The best choc chip cookie comes from Germany in the form of my "aunty" Chris. These are my cookies of childhood. I loved going to her place and seeing the cookie jar full. I have tried many others and none stack up. Particularly not the lot you see on counters in coffee shops - do not touch them. The only thing you could possibly use these for are to play Frisbee in the park on a sunny afternoon - they are not edible.

Anyway, my long time football friends will remember these with nostalgia. I was not allowed to front up to the football (go pies!) on a Saturday without these. They were famous throughout our friendship group in the 90's. One of my friends even started selling them at the local markets. Another friend (Hi Michelle) still talks about them to this day, some 15 years after she first tasted them - and yes, I started baking them when I was 10!

I must admit, I haven't made them for a looooong time - my brother, Andrew and the Workaholic would remember the last time fondly (you know what I am talking about you two troublemakers!). They have been pushed back in the recipe shelf while other things took over, ie, kids, cup cakes, life etc. But my fellow blogger, Judy, reminded me of them when she did hers in the cute little cup cake holders - so arty! It got me thinking about the many hours in my twenties spent making them and, more importantly, eating the cookie dough. It is seriously addictive.

I have researched many choc chip cookie recipes over the last few weeks, as well as baked them, including Martha Stewart's. They are all fairly similar in ingredient make up but I believe they are missing one key ingredient that really sets my Aunty Chris' apart from them - rolled oats! This magic ingredient just gives it more texture, more body, more reasons to eat the cookie dough before you even bake them!

I am going to do something I don't normally do and post the recipe because these are seriously addictive. The Workaholic's colleagues agree and said they were the best cookies they have ever tasted.

Here is to Aunty Chris and her wonderful cookies. I implore you to try them, you will not be disappointed. Enjoy.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooking oats (used to make porridge)
1 cup dark choc chip bits
1 cup flour

Cream butter and sugars until light in colour. Add egg, water and vanilla. Sift flour, soda and salt. Blend into cream mixture. Stir in oats and choc chips by hand. Spoon onto greased or lined trays leaving some room for them to spread and bake in moderate oven (about 190) for 10 minutes or until LIGHT brown. Let sit on tray for minute and then lift off onto cooling racks. Makes about 18.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Birthday to my Workaholic

This "star" or "starfish" cake was just a bit of fun for the kids to help celebrate the Workaholic's birthday.

I always do a kid friendly cake for the Workaholic's and my birthday, as the kids get a real kick out of it. And really, at our age (cue the violins!), birthdays and other celebrations are for the kids. They get so excited, seeing the cake, decorations and presents - even though it is not for them.

This cake called for 79 mini cup cakes and one big cup cake. It was fairly simple to pull together and looked bright and happy, just like my Workaholic.

The only flaw was that summer has hit and we had a 39 degree day today, with 40's expected from now until Easter, and my icing started to melt within the 5 minute drive to town. Never happened before. This means I am going to have to look for a firmer icing. It's a bit of a shame as many people comment that my icing is a better flavour than the sweeter version sold in town. But as my chef friend Mike says, "Presentation is everything, ladies" so I guess I may have to compromise on taste. Not much point in having a great tasting icing if it wont stand up at the markets.

Happy Birthday Honey. Hope you had a great day.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Caramel Bliss "Cup Cakes"

I am in heaven.

These are delicious.

If you are a reader of my blog you will know that the Workaholic's work mates had a whip round in support of my baking recently.

I had been eyeing off a couple of recipes that require a hand beater over a stove. So, with a little cash in my pocket, I went down to the local Kmart and purchased one, along with a few other bits and pieces. Thank you, work mates!! However, once you taste these tomorrow (at Victoria's farewell - :( good bye Victoria) you may think it is a fair trade.

I used the hand beater to whip up my first ever batch of hand made marshmallow to top a butternut snap cookie filled with some caramel sauce - Jennifer from The Crabapple Bakery calls it the Caramel Bliss Cup Cake (oops, I have slipped back into cupcakes!) and she is right. The combination of flavours are too die for.

The recipe seems quite simple on the surface, but it is time consuming. The base is just store bought Butternut Snap Biscuits, warmed over patty pan trays and then "pushed" down to form a cup when they are soft.

The filling is a tin of condensed milk, boiled on a stove for 2 hours (yes, TWO HOURS) immersed in water before whipping some cream through it.

Those first two steps are simple, although the boiling is time consuming.

The next step is a little tricky or laborious - hand beating the ingredients for the marshmallow topping. The recipe calls for corn syrup. Corn syrup?? You do remember I live in Alice Springs? Anyway, searched high and low. Finally found it at my local corner store, not the majors, for a decadent $9!! Thank goodness you don't have to use a lot, so the bottle will last for ages.

The whipping of the marshmallow caused chaos in the kitchen, splatters every where, thought I was going to have to call in the crime scene clean up crew! Luckily my trusty apprentice (aka the Workaholic - thank you, thank you, thank you!) was on hand and cleaned up around me as we went. Reminded me a bit of the guy at the end of the cartoons sweeping up the set!! LOL!

Finally, I drizzled some chocolate on the top.

Some of the family had a sneak taste today and loved them, although I do notice the biscuits are a bit soft or soggy, so eating them is a bit messy. Not sure if it is the heat here at the moment or something else. Judging by the oohs and ahhs from the taste testers, I think the whole flavour combination will make the sticky fingers worth it!

So, there you go, another "new" experiment in the kitchen.

It is the Workaholic's birthday tomorrow and I am going to embarrass the man but taking the kids and a cake into work. Happy Birthday honey!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Snickerdoodles - the good, the bad and the ugly!

One of these snickerdoodles is from an American recipe, one is from a very well known UK chef. One looks very appealing and tastes just amazing. The other tastes quite good but looks like something I don't think we should discuss here!

Oh, how I love a snickerdoodle. While an exchange student some 20 years ago in a very small rural town in the middle of Iowa (stop the jokes now!), I knew them as Cinnamon and Sugar cookies. My lovely American friend, Tammie is slowly decoding my descriptions of dishes and bringing me their correct names and sometimes recipes.

This one (the good one) I found myself on an American recipe site, sent in by a reader. Thank you Mrs Sigg!

As for you Ms N Lawson (renowned chef) , please throw away your recipe and start again. Although I must say, what was I thinking??? Using a recipe for an American cookie from a Pommie! Yet another lesson learn't in my journey.

Ordinarily, I would not post a picture of such a failure but I thought, what is this blog about except for the ups and downs of baking? I rarely have a failure, probably because I play it very safe. Whereas over the last week, I have excelled in failures! This is because I have been stepping out of my comfort zone (see sponges) - not that cookies are outside my comfort zone, but obviously this recipe was wrong, just wrong!

Anyway, the whole bunch of good snickerdoodles went into the Workaholics office, never to be seen again, and loved!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Conquering my baking fears.......

I have a confession to make...there are a few things in the baking genre that I am afraid to try:

1. Sponges

2. Pavlova

3. Souffle

It is irrational really but there you go. When I look at the list now written before me I think I am afraid of "things that rise!" (said followed by dramatic music aka Law and Order style).

I can see now that all of these require spectacular feats in rising and staying that way! The pavlova also has the added complication and fear because it has to be crisp on the outside and really chewy and marshmallowy on the inside. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like the pavlovas you buy in the shop. If you are tempted to buy this shop version, back away quickly and think of something else to bake, take, whatever. It is so second rate. What's more my grandma is the absolute best pavlova maker ever.

Anyway, enough of my fears. I am about to stare them in the face and start conquering them!

Starting with the sponge.

One of my absolute favourite cakes from childhood is a ginger fluff sponge. My mum makes the best one, often for my birthday (oven permitting - we wont mention the 2006 attempt, or should we say 4 attempts!).

I have never been into trying to do it myself. I think I was thinking it would ruin the magic of that once a year birthday treat but I had been eyeing a recipe for it in my favourite cupcake book, The Crabapple Bakery Cookbook, for some time.

I decided that Halloween BBQ night was the night! The kids had their cupcakes and cookies, we needed something all grown up.

The recipe involved lots of beating and eggs before some careful folding of flours into mix. Into the oven it went, all good so far. Out of the oven it went all risen and light looking gorgeous. It sat in the tin on the counter while I watched it slowly shrink into itself. I had a mild panic. How far would it go? Luckily it stopped after about 1 cm. Phew. And lucky I had a plan for its decoration which meant a little shrinkage would not matter.

In a twist on the usual cream filling and top, this recipe called for a apple filling (my absolute favorite combo - cake and apple). So I piped cream around the edges of the bottom cake and then filled in the rest with the apple mix.

I put a thin layer of cream around the edges and then pressed some italian biscuits around the sides (at the BBQ we lovingly referred to them as fence palings - ie "I will have two fence palings of cake). I then tied two pink ribbons around the side to finish it off.

The top of the cake was whipped cream with vanilla and a touch of sugar. I then crushed up some ginger biscuits. The original recipe called for fresh flowers to sit on top - but this is the desert so we need to be practical about this, so I put on some of my hand moulded flowers.

It turned out really well. Most of us didn't eat the biscuits or "fence palings", they are pretty dry and usually dipped in coffee so probably best as decoration.

I am so glad I attempted the sponge cake. It worked out really well. My only regret is that I didn't get a cross section photo of the cake. It was something to behold. Even the host brought it out to show the rest of the guests!

Now, on to stage two of sponge conquering. The "Butterfly sponge". These are probably somewhat old fashion now but if you cast your minds back to childhood you will probably remember the cup cake size sponges. They had the top cut off, jam and cream put in the hole and then the cut out cake, cut in half to make butterfly wings, topped with strawberries and dusted with icing sugar.

Again, I had been eyeing this off in my favourite book but I should have known something was up when in the notes Jennifer says, "we use our vanilla cake at the bakery rather than the sponge recipe but here is one for those who want to try". If the queen of cup cakes doesn't do little sponge cakes, why did I think I could?

They required 15 minutes of beating of the eggs, followed by 10 minutes with the sugar before some very careful folding. The batter looked really good but once in the oven they did not rise as much as expected and they did not look stable enough to cut the hole in them. I ended up swirling the jam and cream mix on top like I do with normal cup cakes and topping with a strawberry.

I decided not to waste them and so took them to the Workaholics office. I figured they had tasted all my successes and they could take the bad with the good. To my surprise they absolutely adored them and they inspired a whip around to the tune of $55. Just goes to show that someones trash is someone elses treasure.

So, to sum up, the big sponge is probably more my thing, rather than the cup cake version. If anyone has a fail proof recipe for the smaller version, I would love to have it.

Onwards and upwards! Now will it be the pavlova or the souffle????

Friday, November 6, 2009

The race that stops a nation........

I love the Melbourne Cup, in fact, I love the Spring Racing Carnival. Not for the horses mind you but the beautiful fashion that parades around the track (and some of the not so beautiful but we wont go there!). Some women and men have just got style.

What I also love and am a bit bemused by is the way Melbourne Cup Day trully does stop a nation (and half of the free world). Many, many kms from the centre of Melbourne and a couple of States away, downtown Alice Springs (and many other towns and cities around the country) went into full race mode. There was a luncheon or two, workplaces closed from lunchtime, girls paraded around the centre of this outback, dusty town all frocked up. The betting centre was full, the talk was all about racing. I have witnessed this in other states of Australia too and am convinced that while us Melbournians get a public holiday for it there are many other Australian's who get an unofficial public holiday.

I was commissioned to provide some cup cakes for a Cup Day Function. I chose to do a new recipe, something befitting the elegance that can be race day luncheons, chicken and champagne, cucumber sandwiches, strawberries and cream, cavier etc and did Orange flourless cup cakes. They were easy and a huge success. They were a bit high maintenence to start as you have to boil the oranges for an hour and then whiz them when cool, so I guess it is not something you start at 9pm as I am want to do.

Once you get the boiling out of the way, the rest is pretty much standard. They turned out very moist and delectable.

I iced half with white chocolate ganache and, due to a bit of a disaster, the other half with orange flavoured buttercream. It was my first attempt at white chocolate ganache and I must say it was very easy. My only problem was when it had chilled and thickened enough to go into the piping bag, half way through piping I came across a lump that I could not shake and blocked the tube.

With only an hour to go (because I like my recipents to get them very fresh), I ditched the ganache and iced the other half with buttercream. No one was any wiser and someone was heard to comment "they are like little drops of heaven".

I have had a busy week and a few more baking attempts to post. I say, attempts, because this has been my biggest week of some flops. I am being a grown up and trying to learn from them and I think they are happening as I am taking a leaf out of a Seattle blogger I admire who tries new things all the time. I am breaking away slightly from the tried and true cup cakes - although I will never really abandon them. I have tried sponge cake and American biscuits (snickerdoodles) this week, so they will appear soon.

Anyway, I hope you backed a winner.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Oh, how I love American holidays, they are so OTT and you can just let your imagination go wild. They give everything a red hot go and I just had to join in this year.

The cup cakes are the tried and true flourless chocolate ones, although I did some basic chocolate ones for the kids, which one 12 year old boy said were "gorgeous!". The front cup cakes are witches, the middle are hand made pumpkins. I used a toothpick to make the creases in the pumpkin and then some little holly leaves for the top. Topped it off with some gold glitter. The back ones were bats. Don't you just love the orange in the icing? So Halloween.

I had so much fun making them and best of all I got paid to do it! Lets hope more of that comes my way.

The gingerbread mummies were made for a Halloween BBQ we went to. More on the adult dessert in another blog. I have to confess I borrowed the idea from an American website but my Australian hosts were none the wiser. Sometimes it is the simple things that are the best. I just got the actual gingerbread recipe from a coles brochure in store while doing the groceries and it tasted Divine. The top is just melted white chocolate and mini M&Ms.

We took the kids trick or treating in the American section of town for the first time. So cute dressed in costumes. Unfortunately one of our friends scared poor Alice while trying to scare some teenagers and given it was the second house we went to, she only managed to do two more houses before she gave it up. Too scared. Better luck next time.