Archive for December, 2008

Hunter Valley, NSW

So that the 3 day long weekend holiday doesn’t go to waste, the boy’s family decided to take a trip to the Hunter Valley – the parents, the boy, his sister, her bestfriend, and me. It was a fun, relaxing weekend, I tell you! Where there’s no set itinerary, no buses, trains, or taxis to catch, no time restraints, and where the food, wine, and great company overflowed.

We went to 4 wineries – Tempus Two, McGuigan, Bluetongue Brewery, and Oakvale – and a few specialty shops, including the Hunter Valley Gardens and the Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory.

The wine was fantastic, the selection of cheeses, dips, infused oils, and jams were endless, and I was just in foodie heaven! I instantly went straight to the whites and tasted the usual favourites: Riesling, Semillon Sav Blanc, Chardonnay, Moscato, and the uber sweet Botrytis Semillon dessert wines. The boy and I bought about 6 bottles between us two – 2 Rieslings, a Chardonnay, a Moscato, a Pinot Gris, and a Botrytis Semillon. He also got himself a 6 pack Bluetongue Traditional Pilsener from the Bluetongue Brewery… after trying out their 6 sampler paddle.

Accommodation, travel, and food were paid for by the boy’s parents, so I’m really grateful. They just wanted the family to get together for a trip and I am so glad to be part of it.

I brought home some local products, including quince paste, brie, lavosh crackers, and a couple of bottles of wine. I also tasted one of the best garlic infused extra virgin olive oil, and I am definitely getting a bottle as soon as I see one in Myer or the Food Hall in David Jones.

I love these small trips to discover different pockets of Australia. Everytime I see a different side of this country I now call home, I find a renewed sense of gratitude to the country that adopted me, and a genuine feeling of wonder and amazement at the beauty of this land. Hurray for more trips to more beautiful places in Australia!

29 December 2008 at 8:54 pm Leave a comment

Sunbeam Mixmaster Cafe Series

My wish came trueeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! It’s the boyfriend’s Christmas gift!

Ok, it may not be a Kitchenaid, but it’s the red mixer that I want to sit on my kitchen benchtop.

Sunbeam Cafe Series Mixmaster!!!!!

Oh just think of all the good times you, my dear mixer, and I will have!!!

Look at the different mix speeds

No more using of an el cheapo $20 hand held mixer that’s about to break down and retire! No more fidgeting around trying to add ingredients to a bowl and pulsing or mixing it at the same time!

Ooohhh I’m sooo excited! 🙂 I love my boy haha!

25 December 2008 at 11:42 am Leave a comment

Christmas Day Baking Escapade!

Christmas day lunch cupcakes, babycakes, and cake – what a huge baking escapade!

Festive vanilla cupcakes with buttercream

Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream (makes 12 cupcakes)

from Nigella’s Vanilla Cupcakes recipe

125g self raising flour, sifted

125g castor sugar

125g unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C. Line muffin tin with paper cases.

2. Put all ingredients except for the milk in a bowl, food processor, or mixer. Mix until smooth.

3. Pulse the batter while pouring milk, until you get a smooth consistency.

4. Evenly divide batter into paper cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

5. Let stand for about 5 minutes, then cool on rack.

I used the vanilla buttercream recipe from here.

Now for the coconut babycakes, I used the same Nigella Lawson cupcake recipe, but substituted the vanilla extract with coconut extract (or 1 tbsp coconut essence) and added about 1/2 cup desiccated coconut. The lemon cream cheese frosting work very well with the babycakes – they actually tasted like coconut macaroons! Recipe for cream cheese frosting found here.

Coconut babycakes

And lastly, the piece de resistance… I wanted to make something more adult-y and countryside-esque but still party-worthy. I went foodblog hopping for hours and hours (while at work! woops!) to find an easy to do cake but still tastes great until…

Chamomile and Orange Carrot Cake with cream cheese frosting and orange glace

I got the idea and the recipe from Couture Cupcakes. Hers were cupcakes, and while I wanted to keep the cupcakes uniformed throughout the party, I felt that a cake was calling out to me – so the adults can enjoy a nice slice of cake with tea or coffee while watching the kids play and eat their babycakes. Hehe. I dunno… just some OC stuff in my head I have to follow.

I used a normal lemon cream cheese frosting again for this, to echo the zesty citrus flavours of the cake. And I topped the cake with some candied orange peel that I read about here. They were a perfect combination!!!

Chamomile and Orange Carrot Cake (makes 8 big slices or 16 skinny ones)

1/2 cup orange pulp (or, just use juice of 1 orange)

1 tsp orange zest

2-3 medium carrots, coarsley grated

3 large eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk (or use 1 cup milk to 1 tsp vinegar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bi-carb soda

1 tsp salt

contents of 2-3 chamomile tea bags

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C. Line muffin tray with paper cases, or a round 8″ springform cake tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. In a large bowl, put orange pulp (or juice), carrots, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla extract, brown sugar, orange zest, and vegetable oil together. Whisk together until combined.
  3. In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, bi-carb soda, salt, and chamomile tea.
  4. Fold in flour mixture to the carrot batter, in 2 batches.
  5. Evenly divide batter into muffin tray or cake tin. Bake for 20-23 minutes for the cupcakes, 35-40 minutes for the cake (or until skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean).
  6. Let stand for about 5 minutes before removing from tin. Cool and frost with frosting.

Orange Candied Peel

2 oranges

1 tbsp salt

2 cups of sugar – 1 cup normal white sugar, 1 cup castor sugar

  1. Peel the oranges then cut into very skinny julienne pieces.
  2. Soak the orange peel in 1 cup of water and salt. Let stand overnight.
  3. Drain and rinse the orange peel.
  4. In a saucepan, boil the orange peel with 1 cup of water, then drain. Repeat the process 3 times to remove the bitterness of the skins.
  5. Back to the saucepan again, and boil the orange peel with 1 cup of water and 1 cup of white sugar. Let the sugar melt and dissolve in the water, and remove from heat just as soon as the water has evaporated and the sugar has turned into a sticky glaze over the peel. Note be mindful of the saucepan because at this stage the oranges will burn in a matter of seconds if left on the heat for too long because the sugar burns easily.
  6. Roll glazed orange peel on castor sugar. Refrigerate for about 1 hour so they harden, and use as topping on cakes or cupcakes.

25 December 2008 at 11:31 am Leave a comment

Christmas Cake Presents – Chocolate Cheesecake Brownie and Banana and Coconut Cake

Cakes as Christmas presents for a few family friends. I did a massive 2 cake baking adventure on Saturday night – and continued on until about 1am, then did the frosting the next day. I loved it! I just enjoy the process of baking, of sifting flour and cocoa powder, of creating something spectacular and delicious out of raw ingredients. 🙂

First of the cakes is the Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies from Donna Hay’s Chocolate book

Chocolate Cheesecake Brownie (Makes approximately 16 slices)

Brownie

185g butter, melted

1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted

1 cup caster sugar

2 eggs

1 cup all purpose flour, sifted

Cheesecake

285g cream cheese, softened and chopped

4 1/2 tbsps caster sugar

2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 160 dec C. Line a 20cm (8in) tin with non-stick baking paper.

2. Mix butter, cocoa, sugar, eggs and flour together until smooth. Pour on prepared tin.

3. On a separate bowl, process cream cheese, sugar, and eggs until smooth.

4. Now, I didn’t follow the recipe which said to put spoonfuls of the cheesecake mixture on top of the chocolate mixture and swirl with a butter knife. I just placed the whole motherload of cheesecake mixture on top of the chocolate and popped it in the oven.

5. Bake for 45-50 minute. Cool in tin.

The second cake is a good old Banana cake with dessicated coconut, topped with lemon cream cheese frosting

Banana and Coconut Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (serves 10 slices, or 14 cupcakes)

Recipe from Exclusively Food

125g butter, softened (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp salt)

330g sugar

280g very ripe, mashed banana

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

100ml buttermilk

225g self raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 cup dessicated coconut (this is optional – only my addition to the recipe)

1. Preheat oven to 160 deg C. Grease and line a 22cm pan or line a muffin tin with cupcake pans.

2. Mix butter, sugar, banana, vanilla and eggs until well blended.

3. Add buttermilk and pulse to combine.

4. Sift flour, salt (if using), and bicarbonate of soda. Add to the banana batter and mix well.

5. Fold in coconut.

6. Pour onto baking tin or muffin tin. Bake for 50-60 minutes if using a baking tin, or 25-30 minutes if using a muffin tin.

7. Leave cake to cool before icing with cream cheese frosting.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

90g cream cheese, softened

45g butter, softened

210g icing sugar, sifted

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

1. Beat cream cheese and butter until creamy.

2. Add sugar in batches and beat well.

3. Add lemon juice and beat until well combined, and frost cake.

*Notes:

  • The bananas I used were about 1 week old that I kept frozen in the freezer. They made the cake really, really, REALLY sweet because they were just ripe to perfection. I would recommend using less sugar if the bananas are the sweetest kind – the cake turned out sweeter than what I wanted it to be (but the tasters were all two thumbs up with the sweetness, so I’m happy).
  • If using a muffin tin, the cream cheese frosting might not be enough. So just add in another 1/2 of the quantities of all the ingredients of the cream cheese frosting recipe.
  • I topped the banana cake with some dessicated coconut for added taste and texture.

I sliced the brownies into little rectangles and semi-wrapped them in baking paper for some added presentation, and then plated them up on these lovely serving plates mum and I bought from Victoria’s Basement. They were 80% off the original price, so they were perfect as serving platters/Christmas presents!

And then to the cellophane wrap and green and red ribbons they went…

And off they went to the family friends’ houses to become afternoon tea.

22 December 2008 at 7:28 am Leave a comment

Bake We Must!

I didn’t bake, cook, whipped, stirred, mixed, or anything remotely related to the kitchen, because I was too bummed out from the 3 dozen or so cupcakes I baked two weekends ago. Plus, I knew that this coming weekend (oh the weekend before Christmas!) and the day before Christmas will be dedicated to me, myself, and the kitchen. Why, you may ask? Simple! I have decided to do what I have never done before: give baked goods for Christmas. And not just simple vanilla and choc chip cupcakes (ok maybe those too)… I’m doing cheesecakes and brownies and sundae cupcakes and chamomile cakes and banana and walnut slices… ohmy!

Also, it has been H-E-C-T-I-C at work the past few weeks because the office is closing during the holidays. Closed office + workmates going on extended leave = deadlines! Urkurkurk!

So I have been going home close to 9pm everynight, because I leave the office close to 6.30pm now which means I am only able to catch the really late Body Attack (aerobics) classes that finishes at 8.30pm. I get home tired, knackered, and sore, that I only have enough time to eat my first decent meal of the day (again, because I don’t have enough time to eat a proper meal at work during the day), watch a bit of my favourite primetime shows on tv (ahhhh hello Fringe, NCIS, and SVU), brush my teeth, and off to bed to start everything all over again the next day.

Enough ramblings from me. I am planning on making these creations during the Christmas holidays as presents, Kris Kringle, and party desserts on the boyfriend’s family’s Christmas day lunch!

1. Chocolate cheesecake brownie – from Donna Hay’s Chocolate book
2. Banana and walnut cake with cream cheese frosting and dessicated coconut.
3. Chocolate and vanilla (as bases) sundae cupcakes – topped with caramel sauce, whipped cream, nuts, a glace cherry, and a wafer.
4. Coconut babycakes with coconut cream cheese frosting
5. Vanilla babycakes with caramel frosting
6. Chamomile and orange carrot cake with cream cheese frosting – I can’t remember where I actually got the recipe from… will get back to you on that one. It’s definitely from one of the popular food blogs out there!

Oh, and I’ve been given in charge of the dinner to make for the Noche Buena, or the eve of Christmas day. You see, in Filipino tradition, the eve of the 24th is just as important as the Christmas day itself. Families were known to cook up a storm and fill the dining table with loads and loads of food – hamon (ham) with sweet pineapple sauce, pancit (noodles), lechon (slow roasted pork with crackling), and the oh so sinful Filipino desserts: bibingka (sticky rice cake), cuchinta and sapin sapin (another sticky rice cake), leche flan (creme caramel), brazo de mercedes (a sort of soft meringue-esque cake with sweet custard in the middle), and many others.

Ok, I may not have the skills to make those, but I’ll see what I can do on the day. It’ll most probably be semi-healthy, since we’re all watching Dad’s cholesterol levels. I might even divert a little bit away from the Filipino in me and do a bit of seafood action like what the Aussies do: prawns, prawns, and more prawns! Maybe grill some salmon, toss some greens, roast a tray of mixed veggies, and a huge plate of fresh season fruits: mango, berries, and cherries! Oh just imagine the colours!

It is summer here in Australia, so no white Christmas, Mr Snowman, hot chocolate by the fire action going on. Yes, we love our Christmas hot, by the beach, the barbie going on, a beer in one hand, and the oh-so-embarrassing-why-do-I-keep-wearing-them-every-year-but-I-still-do paper crown hats you get as a freebie inside the Christmas crackers.

Hmm… ok.. this is the longest non-baking related post I’ve done, so I’ll shut up and go to bed. But first… a little consult with Miss Nigella (in her Nigella Christmas book!) on what she recommend for a good, fuss-free Christmas dinner!

16 December 2008 at 11:52 am Leave a comment

Chocolate Cupcakes and Babycakes

So I was invited to another Sunday night barbie with friends last weekend. I knew there would also be a few kids on the party, so I decided to make grown up and kid friendly versions of the chocolate cupcake.

Because I was strapped for time, I just made do with Nigella’s very handy cupcake recipe and just tweaked it around a bit so they can become chocolate madness!

Chocolate Cupcakes and Babycakes

125g unsalted butter, softened

125g self raising flour

125g caster sugar

2 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp milk

1 tbsp cocoa powder

100g bittersweet chocolate, melted

1/2 cup or so of semisweet choc chips

1. Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Line your cupcakes tin.

2. Beat butter and sugar together until well blended.

3. Add milk and a little bit of flour, in 2 batches.

4. Add eggs and again, a little bit of flour, in 2 batches.

5. Add in the rest of the flour. Beat well, and then add the vanilla extract.

6. Add cocoa powder. Fold in the melted chocolate and the choc chips.

7. Divide into your cupcake tins and bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove from tins and cool on rack.

Chocolate Ganache

1 cup thickened cream

300g semisweet chocolate, chopped

1. Heat the cream on a pan. Bring to boil.

2. Remove pan from heat, and slowly add chocolate shards. Mix well until mixture becomes glossy and shiny.

*You can add sifted icing sugar if desired, however, there will be sugar lumps and it will take some time for the sugar to dissolve.

The adult version – chocolate on chocolate!

babycakes with sprinkles…

and silver cachous and a teeny tiny choc chip

and yes, they were a big hit in the party! The kids loved it and kept going back… and my friend’s 4 year old daughter christened me “Aunty Cupcake Witch” but apparently, witch in a good way. No complaints from me! 🙂 She requested rainbow cupcakes next time. Hmmmm…… 🙂

Half of the cupcakes were gone within minutes of me serving them (and that’s the cupcake tier I got from Victoria’s Basement hehehe0

14 December 2008 at 6:28 am Leave a comment

Day 3 – Dinner at Namba, Osaka

Dinner at one of the restaurants in Namba Station, before heading to Den Den Town.

Mixed deep fried seafood – is it safe to say these are tempura? Mmmmm…

Green tea after a long, cold day outside

Setto!

Another setto, this time with unagi and cold soba noodles

Check out that eel!

Cold sobra noodles

And the super clean, super organised, minimalistic restaurant.

I love this country!

11 December 2008 at 6:17 am Leave a comment

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