Dec 16, 2013

White Chocolate and Lime Christmas Bauble Truffles

I was super excited when I found out that this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop was truffle themed! No, not that delicious smelling mushroom, but a ganache-filled chocolate treat. My mind whirred with Christmassy ideas… snowman truffles with a spiced centre? Truffles decorated as mini Christmas puddings?

I finally settled on the idea of Christmas bauble truffles – I initially was going to make them white chocolate and coconut, and at the last moment changed it to lime. Not only did it taste delicious but the flecks of green in the ganache made it suitably themed! And, this is a big call, but I think these white chocolate and lime truffles taste better than those white choc Lindt balls I go nuts over. Really, try it for yourself.

These definitely ended up more “rustic” (ie messy) than I hoped, as I ideally I wanted a perfectly round truffle to hang from my Christmas tree. But alas when the truffles dry, the melted chocolate naturally flattens a bit on the bottom.

White Chocolate and Lime Truffles
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Author:
Serves: 20

Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup thickened cream
  • 250g good quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 300g white chocolate melts

Instructions
  1. Heat the cream in short bursts in the microwave until simmering hot.
  2. Add the chopped white chocolate and stir until it’s melted and smooth.
  3. Stir in the lime zest, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  4. Scoop out ganache into balls using a melon baller or teaspoon. Gently roll the balls in your hand for an even finish.
  5. If the weather is hot, put the balls back in the fridge for 30 minutes on a tray lined with baking paper so they don’t stick.
  6. To add their hangers, use a toothpick or skewer to pierce a hole directly through the truffle.
  7. Cut equal lengths of elastic and tie a knot at the bottom.
  8. Thread the elastic through the truffle, the knot will ensure it doesn’t pull completely through.
  9. Melt the remaining white chocolate in the microwave.
  10. Dip each truffle into the melted chocolate, coating evenly. Return to the baking tray to harden.
  11. Pipe a little circle around the base of the string with white chocolate or an edible cake gel pen to make it look like a bauble.
  12. Decorate your tree!

I loved getting creative with this recipe (and enjoyed eating them even more). I hope you like these Christmas baubles too!

Dec 11, 2013

Candy Cane Reindeer Cupcakes

In America I stumbled upon a delicious snack (in Walgreens of all places) which involved chocolate covered pretzels covered in crushed candy canes. The salty pretzel combined with the rich dark chocolate and minty candy cane was a winning flavour combination and NEEDED to be made into cupcake form.

I used my chocolate Devil’s Food Cupcakes as a base, and topped it with a subtle peppermint-flavoured buttercream. It was then adorned with chocolate-dipped salted pretzels (“antlers”) and finished with a dusting of crushed candy canes. Delicious and suitably festive.

Candy Cane Reindeer Cupcakes
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Author:
Serves: 18

Ingredients
Chocolate Cupcakes
  • 7 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee powder
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 250ml boiling water
  • 125g butter (room temperature)
  • ⅔ cup caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1⅔ cups plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Peppermint Buttercream
  • 160g butter, softened
  • 4-5 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • A dash of milk, if required
Decorations
  • 100g dark chocolate melts
  • Salted pretzels (large)
  • Candy canes

Instructions
Chocolate Cupcakes
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line 2 x 12 muffin tins with cupcake papers.
  2. Stir the cocoa powder, coffee and brown sugar in a bowl and pour over the boiling water. Whisk to mix and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and caster sugar together until pale and fluffy and then add the vanilla extract.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Slowly add the flour, bicarb and baking powder. Pour in the cocoa/coffee mixture and beat until just combined.
  6. Spoon the mixture into prepared muffin tins and fill approximately ¾ full (this recipe should make around 18 cupcakes)
  7. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until the cupcakes slightly spring back when touched.
  8. Allow the cupcakes to cool slightly in their tin before turning out onto a wire rack.
Peppermint Buttercream
  1. Place the softened butter in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth.
  2. Gradually add in the icing sugar and beat for around 3-5 minutes until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add the peppermint extract and a dash of milk if needed until it’s a spreadable consistency.
  4. Spoon the mixture into an icing bag with a nozzle attached and ice the cupcakes.
Decorations
  1. Melt the chocolate in short bursts in the microwave, stirring occasionally until melted.
  2. Dip broken pretzel pieces into the chocolate, allow excess to drip off, and then allow to harden on a baking paper-lined tray.
  3. Crush candy canes in their plastic bag(s) with a rolling pin.
  4. Stick hardened choc-pretzels into the iced cupcakes and sprinkle crushed candy canes over the top.

What are you going to bake this festive season? How about some Brownie Cupcakes with Strawberry Santa Hats? Or some Ginger-spiced Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing?

Dec 3, 2013

The Paramount Coffee Project

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the re-opening of the Paramount Complex which now features the Golden Age Cinema (I’ve been to see a movie, it’s amazing) and now The Paramount Coffee Project, a cafe with great coffee and mouth-watering food.

I’ve since been twice to The Paramount Coffee Project, and I look forward to returning again and again to work my way through the menu!

I started off my first visit with a cold filter coffee – this is my new favourite way to drink coffee, especially with the weather heating up. It was smooth and refreshing and definitely didn’t need any sugar or milk added. Don’t ruin it.

Cold filter coffee and macchiato

I am hopelessly obsessed with peppermint tea and the idea of mint and lavender together sounds like a match made in heaven!

Mint and lavender tea

The pan fried brioche was rich and decadent, with crispy edges and a heavenly sweet topping. A delicious sweet breakfast but the sweet waffle takes the crown.

French Toast brioche with banana custard, blueberries, chocolate dirt and pistachios

This sweet waffle is arguably their most popular dish and boy does it live up to the hype! I have ordered it twice but beware, share. I could not for the life of me finish it.

Sweet waffle, peanut butter ice-cream, dulce de leche and hazelnut

The sweet waffle’s brother gives a savoury twist with a fried egg, bacon and mexican toppings.

PCP Waffle: fried egg, guacamole, maple bacon, pico de gallo

The fried chicken was deliciously spiced, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. I loved the ‘slaw it came with but to be honest I wasn’t mad on the creole relish. I would love if there was the option to put this into burger form = heaven.

Double fried chicken with house slaw and creole relish

Despite being spoilt with choice for brunch options in Surry Hills, I think The Paramount Coffee Project is definitely one of my favs. And yes, it’s worth queueing for!

What’s your favourite place to go to brunch at the moment?

The Paramount Coffee Project on Urbanspoon

Nov 26, 2013

The Search for the Best Cupcake in America!

What a task I had… to try every cupcake shop I stumbled upon in America (and there are LOTS of them) on my quest to find the best cupcake in America for Love Swah. How I must suffer for my “art”.

The quality of American cupcakes overall, particularly chain cupcakes, was high and much better than the cupcake chains in Australia (you know who you are, you dry and overly sweet places). There were a few major fails (see Magnolia Bakery below), but on the whole this was a very delicious and satisfying search! Now, to the gym.

Starting from #8 – my least favourite, all the way to #1 which I am awarding America’s Best Cupcake!

#8 Magnolia Bakery – Locations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. See here for details.

Magnolia Bakery is one of New York’s most well-known cupcake shops, made famous by Sex and the City. Does it live up to the hype? Certainly not. Which is why I am awarding it last place in my cupcake search.

Honestly I was quite surprised and disappointed. I have their cookbook and frequently bake their cupcake recipes with great success. The red velvet cake was dry and flavourless, and the icing was overly sweet and I couldn’t taste the cream cheese. I ate barely half before throwing it in the bin. My friend had a similar experience with her chocolate cupcake.

#7 Kara’s Cupcakes - 3249 Scott Street, San Francisco

I couldn’t work out why my vanilla cupcake with passion fruit filling tasted overwhelmingly of marzipan. I later found out they top their cupcakes with marzipan (which I am allergic to as it contains almonds) instead of fondant. This annoyed me and they need to make this clearer. Apart from the “marzipan incident” it was a pretty ordinary cupcake. The base was dry and bland, and the icing a little too sweet. The passion fruit filling was delicious though.

#6 Babycakes - Locations in New York, Orlando and Los Angeles. See here for details

Could cupcakes that are vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free taste any good? Well, no. These didn’t. And they were expensive (US$4.75 each)! The flavours were good (lemon and carrot) but the cake was dry and the icing a weird chewy texture (almost like modelling clay… weird).

#5 Crumbs - Across the country. Locations here

I was very excited when I walked into Crumbs. So many giant cupcakes in unique flavours such as Cookie Dough and Stuffed Pecan Pie! I decided to sway from my usual preference of lemon/vanilla/red velvet and get a White Hot Chocolate cupcake. This was a vanilla cake filled with white chocolate mousse topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting edged with mini white chocolate chips and topped with marshmallows and white chocolate drizzle. WHOA.

It was sweet. Very sweet. But given the above description you would assume that. It took me several attempts to eat it over a few hours. I late found out Crumbs uses high fructose corn syrup which I found really disappointing (and explained the sickly sweetness). Overall it was a good cupcake but I don’t think my blood sugar levels could handle another.

#4 Miette - Locations around San Francisco

Miette is so cute and I am sure I will talk about it again in future Sweet USA-related posts. Their chocolate cupcake was rich and moist and the vanilla icing was delicious and creamy but not too sweet (finally!) This cupcake was a strong contender but not the best one I found in my search. Miette does, however, win the award for best confectionary – their Fleur de Sel Caramels were out of this world. Why didn’t I buy 50?!

#3 Eleni’s New York - Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Avenue @ 15th Street, New York

Eleni’s is a nut-free bakery filled with an amazing array of cookies and cupcakes. I will definitely be talking about it more on future Sweet USA posts. I tossed up between the lemon and red velvet cake before finally settling on the former. I can never go past a lemon cupcake. The cupcake was moist and icing was lemony and delicious. I also heard their chocolate cupcakes are amazing after I left, so please try one for me!

#2 Sprinkles - Several locations around the country. See here

Sprinkles claims the title of the world’s first cupcake bakery and the progenitor of the gourmet cupcake craze. That’s quite a big claim! I joined the long queue of cupcake-fans and finally got my hands on a lemon cupcake. The lemon cupcake was moist and bursting with flavour. The lemon-vanilla frosting was heavenly, it was the perfect texture and had the right amount of lemon zest. I was a very happy Swah.

And the number 1 cupcake in America? Drum roll please….

#1 The Little Cupcake Bakeshop - 30 Prince Street, New York and 9102 Third Avenue, Brooklyn

The red velvet cupcake was so so moist (I hate that word, but it needs to be used several times in this post) and the cream cheese icing actually tasted like cream cheese. Unlike whatever the hell Magnolia used. In fact this red velvet cupcake was almost as good as mine! Haha. The coconut cloud cupcake was light and flavoursome with a strong coconut taste and hit the spot. These cupcakes won for overall flavour, texture and taste. Yum!

*Notable mentions – Billy’s Cupcakes, Georgetown Cupcakes and Sugar Sweet Sunshine are other great cupcake stores that were not visited on this particular trip.

What do you think of my list – have you tried any of these cupcakes on your travels and do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your opinions!

Nov 18, 2013

Choc Chip Cookie Cheesecake

I wanted to create a dessert that echoed the beloved cookies and cream flavour combination and with this month’s Sweet Adventure’s Blog Hop being cheese-themed, I knew a cookies ‘n’ cream cheesecake was the answer.

I described this cake to someone as “a choc chip cookie and a cheesecake had a baby and the result was amazing” which basically sums up this new recipe!

Choc Chip Cookie Cheesecake
 
Prep time

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Author:
Serves: 12

Ingredients
Choc Chip Cookie base
  • 140g butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 egg (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 200g chocolate chips
Cheesecake
  • 500g cream cheese
  • ¾ cup – 1 cup icing sugar (to taste)
  • 200ml double cream
Chocolate Ganache
  • 100g dark chocolate chip
  • 100ml double cream

Instructions
Choc Chip Cookie base
  1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Cream the butter and sugars for at least 5 minutes until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well.
  3. Add choc chips, flour, baking soda and baking powder. Beat on low speed until just combined (don’t overwork the mixture or it can become tough).
  4. Press the majority of the dough into the middle of a 23cm/9″ round greased springform tin. I baked the leftover dough into 6 small cookies, for decorating or for eating ;)
  5. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
  6. Allow to cool completely.
Cheesecake
  1. Place the cream cheese and icing sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth.
  2. Add in the double cream and beating until smooth and creamy.
  3. Pour onto the cooled biscuit base and put in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight.
Chocolate Ganache
  1. Bring the cream to a simmer either over the stove top or in the microwave.
  2. Add the choc chips to the cream and stir until melted and glossy.
  3. Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over the top of the cake.
  4. Enjoy!

The combination of the thick choc chip cookie crust, creamy cheesecake filling and rich chocolate ganache makes it a decadent and popular dessert with everyone I’ve served it to!

Nov 15, 2013

Handy America tips

Hey guys!

I’m back from my American adventures and a bit jet lagged. So while I get myself together and start writing city-based guides, I wanted to share some handy general America tips with you if you’re planning a trip.

Fill in your ESTA before you leave

ESTA is required for international travellers who wish to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program due to enhanced security requirements. You will have to pay a $14 fee.

Travel insurance

Don’t even think of entering America without comprehensive travel insurance. You could end up paying thousands of dollars in medical bills if something unfortunate happens to you on your trip. Buy this the second you book your travel!

♥ Tipping

The concept of tipping is a little foreign to us Aussies, but it’s a vital part of survival for those in the American service industry. Tip around 20% for restaurants and cafes (unless the service is terrible), $1/drink at a bar and around 15% for taxis.

♥ Book restaurants with Open Table

I used this handy site to book all my restaurants across America, from West to East coast. While not all restaurants take bookings, it’s very handy to book with one that does especially on a Friday or Saturday night, or when in Vegas (there are always queues in Vegas!) You don’t want to waste your precious holiday time queuing, do you?

♥ Book taxis with Taxi Magic

Another site I used regularly, especially for booking a last minute taxi to the airport at 2am ;p They send you an email confirmation and will give you a call prior to double check. Sure beats standing on the street hoping to hail one down.

♥ Buy a SIM when you get there

Make sure your phone is unlocked before you leave and upon arrival hit up your local T-Mobile stand for an American SIM card. I paid $20 for the card plus $40 for a month of unlimited calls and internet (very important for Google maps and Instagram!) While ofcourse you could rely on your roaming (very expensive) and wifi (not always available) I highly suggest getting a local SIM card as it made my life immensely easier – from receiving confirmation calls from taxis, to checking my location on Google maps when I was lost.

♥ Buy heaps of makeup

Makeup is SO much cheaper in the States and I spent a lot of money at Sephora, but saved heaps in the long run. For example my foundation is $90 in Australia and $60 in America, and my blush is $45 in Australia and $29 in America. Stock up!

Do you have any tips on travelling to America? Share with us below!

Nov 14, 2013

Oven Express – A review

What’s your most hated household chore? Mine has got to be cleaning the oven. It always falls to the bottom of my priority list and I never get around to it until my oven is belching black smoke everywhere. Then there’s the inevitable lengthy process of scraping off the blackened grease whilst inhaling potent chemicals, followed by letting the oven air out and worrying over when it was “safe” to actually cook in it again.

I was recently approached by the guys at Oven Express for a complimentary oven clean that was safe, clean and green. With my oven approaching 2 years without a proper clean (and it gets a good workout producing all those baked treats!) I jumped at the chance.

My Oven Express rep turned up promptly at our agreed upon time and he soon laid out his workspace as I peered curiously over the couch.

What I had done:

* Removal and cleaning of oven door, racks and side rack holders using premium quality, eco-friendly and non-toxic oven cleaner agents
* Complete clean of the control knobs, door and side panelling – prime areas where fat, oil and other leftovers have accumulated
* Deep cleaning in the Oven Express van of oven racks, base and steel rack holders

As I was sitting only a few metres away watching/spying, I was impressed with how non-toxic the fumes of the cleaning products were. My technician was quick and efficient and the whole process took just over an hour.

And my result? A sparkling clean oven, good as new!

I had an initial panic after my technician had left as I didn’t confirm how long to leave between cleaning the oven and cooking – and I had a cake to bake ASAP! I turned the oven on high, opened the oven door (and my balcony doors) and tried to “air it out”. However after 10 minutes I realised there was literally no residual scum, fumes or cleaning products left and it was good to go immediately. So I baked.

Want a professional oven clean for yourself? Head on over to their website or Facebook page to book yours now.

Nov 7, 2013

Favourite Travel Accessories – A guest post

My last (but certainly not least) guest post comes from the lovely Amy of Oh, My Design Blog. Amy’s blog was one of the first Aussie design blogs I read (and commented on!) and I am a huge fan of her work. Her taste is second to none and she has rounded up some gorgeous travel accessories for you all to covert.

***

Hi there, Love Swah readers! I’m Amy, a graphic designer, and I blog over at Oh, My Design Blog. Today I feel super special because the lovely Swah has invited me to guest post! Since Swah is off travelling the States (lucky her!) I have done a little round up of my favourite travel bits and pieces. I have been travelling a lot recently, but for short periods – I pack my little over night bag and off I go. My trips have made me a little more savvy in the packing department than I used to be!

1. Keep Cup: I bought a Keep Cup about five years ago and it’s still going strong. I fill mine with green tea for long car trips. If you use it instead of throw away cups, you help the environment, and you can design your own on their site by selecting different cup, lid, band and plug colours.

2. Country Road tote: The classic Country Road tote is my overnight bag of choice. They’ve been around for years and years and now they do them in every colour and pattern imaginable. And they are tough, really tough.

3. Sense & Sensibility designed by Mr Boddington: I’m a bit old school with my books. I don’t have an e-reader, I much prefer the feeling of turning the pages of a book. Mr Boddington designed some lovely Penguin Classics covers which are too gorgeous to resist.

4. Aesop Jet Set Kit: I always take miniature versions of my toiletries when I travel. I usually fill up plain little bottles with my usual body wash, shampoo and conditioner, but if you’re after a treat there’s this lovely little set from Aesop.

5. VS EcoDry Dryer: It’s a bit sad, but I can’t go anywhere without my hair dryer! It’s just one of those things. I travel with this one, its pretty small but still packs a punch.

Thanks Amy! My already exhausted credit card will need to obtain all these things, now! ;)

 

Oct 31, 2013

Baked Doughnut Holes with Jaffa Ganache – A guest post

Happy Halloween everyone! I am currently in New Orleans, so I have the wonderful Erika Rax posting a delicious-looking and suitably-themed recipe for you all!

***
Hey Love Swah-ers! Swah has asked me to distract you guys from the fact that she is off galavanting in the US without us by sharing a sweet recipe. So I’ve brought you doughnut holes. The best thing about these is that they are baked, making it logistically possible for those of us who are too afraid to buy a deep fryer for fear of what we will turn into. I promise they still hit every spot and the rich orange chocolate ganache makes for the perfect accompaniment.

Baked Doughnut Holes with Jaffa Ganache – A guest post
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Author:
Serves: 24

Ingredients
Doughnut Ingredients
  • 1½ cups Plain Flour
  • ½ cup Caster Sugar
  • 1½ tsp Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 125g (½ cup) Butter, softened and diced
  • 1 Egg
  • ¾ cup Milk
Jaffa Ganache Ingredients
  • 70g Dark Chocolate
  • ⅓ cup Thickened Cream
  • Rind from ½ Orange
  • Small Squeeze of Orange Juice

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. To make doughnut holes, beat all ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth.
  3. Spoon mixture into a cake pop tin (or a rounded patty cake pan) and bake for 12-15 mins until golden.
  4. Cool in tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely (unless you’re having them warm which I encourage)
  5. To make ganache, melt all ingredients in a bain marie over low heat until smooth.

I will make sure to eat LOTS of doughnuts in honour of this post!

Oct 24, 2013

Pumpkin & Coconut Cake Bites – A guest post

Whilst I am off eating/drinking/buying everything in sight in America, I am lucky enough to have 3 very talented bloggers to guest post when I am away! If want to follow my USA adventures, my Instagram account is your best bet.

First off I have the lovely JJ from 84th and 3rd with a delicious looking dessert!

Hi, it’s great to be here today while Swah is off on her American adventures! Swah and I met at a bloggers picnic a few years back and have bonded many times since over everything from wine in the Hunter Valley and baked goods of all descriptions, to sharing a table at the MCA Zine Fair and collaborating on a digital food and travel magazine.

Some how we are still talking to each other and planning (scheming?) new projects so we must be equally insane — isn’t it nice when you find someone who appreciates your special brand of crazy?!

I was fiercely tempted to make a decadent dessert of some kind, after all a guest post round these parts is the perfect excuse to go wild with butter and sugar, but having only recently returned from my own American adventure I’m still in recovery from far too much eating over far too many weeks.

So out of respect for my ever-tightening pants I figured I’d stick with a treat that’s a bit more my style — vegan, dairy-free, whole spelt — yet cake-y and entirely appropriate for breakfast, ahem. Not to mention, my pumpkin obsession is well documented and this is simply another one to add to the list.

Swah thanks for having me here to guest post I hope you are having a great time on your trip, you may need a few of these when you get back! For anyone I haven’t met on the Internets before, you can find me at my blog 84th & 3rd or floating around on various social media.

Pumpkin & Coconut Cake Bites
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Author:
Serves: 20

Ingredients
  • 1 cup roasted pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup mashed banana
  • ½ cup unsweetened dessicated coconut
  • 1½ cup whole spelt flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • scant ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp cloves, ¼ tsp ginger, pinch nutmeg, pinch allspice)
  • roasted pumpkin seeds, optional

Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 180C (350F) and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Combine pumpkin, banana and coconut and mix well. Sift over dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  3. Drop rounded tablespoons of batter onto the tray, the cake bites won’t spread very much so you can keep them pretty close together. Press seeds into tops if using.
  4. Bake for 8 – 10 mins until just firm and lightly browned. Cool on tray for 5 mins before moving to rack to cool completely.

NOTES

* This recipe has no sugar but if you want a sweeter cake bite add a couple Tbsp of coconut sugar or rice syrup with the banana.

A huge thanks to JJ for sharing this tasty (and healthy!) recipe and stay tuned for another guest post next week!

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