Jun 11, 2013

30 before 30

I love lists! My room is overflowing with notebooks filled with handwritten lists. There is nothing more satisfying then crossing something off your list which has led me to writing a “30 before 30″ list. 30 things I want to try and achieve before I hit the big THREE-OH. This means my due date to cross all these things off is 15 December 2014, giving me approximately 1.5 years.

I have tried to keep this list as realistic and attainable as possible. I want to see the seven wonders of the world, visit all 7 continents, see the Northern Lights, experience Japan during cherry blossom season, climb to Everest Base Camp… There are still *many*, mostly travel-related, items on my bucket list which might need to join a “35 before 35″ list.

Why am I publishing it online? It holds me accountable – I will be blogging about each task I complete and it’s fun to hear about me being completely petrified (hello swimming with sharks!). I want you to get involved (suggest some more ideas to me!) and I want you to help me achieve it (anyone want to sign up with me for pole dancing lessons or take a cake decorating class?)

So here we go, in no particular order. These range from the life changing to the relatively mundane.

1. Swim with the sharks (thought I’d put the most terrifying one first)
2. Shoot a gun
3. Ride a motorbike
4. Complete a 40 day yoga challenge
5. Learn a language (at least at a basic conversational level)
6. Take pole dancing lessons
7. Visit New Zealand (it’s embarrassing I still haven’t been)
8. Become a published author (even if it’s just an article in a magazine)
9. Live in mainland Europe and/or New York
10. Climb a really damn big mountain. Everest Base Camp may have to wait
11. Sell my baked goods at a cafe or market stall
12. Design and produce my own stationery line
13. Run for charity at the City2Surf
14. Go on a juice cleanse (mainly out of curiosity and because clearly I’m a masochist)
15. Gamble in Las Vegas
16. Go on a yoga retreat
17. Fund a kickstarter project
18. Adopt a rescue kitty
19. Act in a TV show or film as an extra
20. See the Grand Canyon
21. Exhibit at Finder’s Keepers Market
22. Volunteer at an animal shelter
23. Knit a scarf
24. Do a professional cake decorating class/course
25. Dye my hair a dramatically different colour
26.
27.
28.
29.
30.

As you can see I haven’t filled in all 30 yet – please give me your suggestions or share with me your own lists! And please no bungee jumping or ill-conceived tattoo requests ;)

Want to start your own list? I have friends writing their own “33 before 33″ and “40 before 40″ lists so please comment and share your ideas and goals!

Jun 4, 2013

Salted Caramel Chip Cookies

I was craving cookies over the rainy weekend and wanted to jazz up my standard chocolate chip cookie recipe. I found some Nestle caramel chips in the supermarket and thought a salted caramel cookie would be a winner!
I reduced the sugar in these cookies as the caramel chips are very sweet. You can add more salt (or even less) to taste, but I love the contrast of the sweet caramelised bits and the occasional crunch of salt. Delicious!

Salted Caramel Chip Cookies
 
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Author:
Serves: 20

Ingredients
  • 140g butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt + extra to sprinkle on top
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 250g Nestle caramel chips

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Cream the butter and sugar for at least 5 minutes until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well.
  3. Add caramel chips, flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Beat on low speed until just combined (don’t overwork the mixture or it can become tough).
  4. Dollop tablespoon sized balls of cookie dough onto lined baking trays. Sprinkle each cookie with a bit more sea salt.
  5. Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, around 12-14 minutes.

Please try very hard not to eat all the cookie dough, I often end up getting only 19 cookies from this batch into the oven due to the irresistible powers of raw cookie dough :p

May 30, 2013

The MCA Zine Fair & the launch of my online shop!

Hey guys,

A huge thank you to everyone who came down to visit JJ & I at the MCA Zine Fair on Sunday. It was a busy, exhausting and fun day and I can’t wait to do it all again next year (am I mad?!)

I still have copies leftover and I know a lot of out-of-towners were keen to get their hands on some. I have created an online store where you can purchase the zines and they will be available in an e-book format shortly too.

We were really impressed with our print job from EW Lee  and it was great to see all our hard work eventuate into a printed and bound copy.

The night before I baked 100 mini Pineapple & Coconut Cupcakes and Devil’s Food Cupcakes as free “gift-with-purchase” to entice (ie bribe) customers.

Here is our table all set up at the fair!

And here we are :)

I will be adding more to the store in coming weeks, I’ll keep you posted!

May 24, 2013

Dark Chocolate Mocha Tart

This bittersweet dark chocolate mocha tart is rich in flavour and texture and perfectly contrasts with the buttery French pastry used in the tart. I first came across this unique way to make French butter pastry from JJ at 84th and 3rd, who discovered the technique from David Leibovitz.

It involves heating the butter, oil, water and seasonings in a bowl in the oven (what?!) and then stirring the flour into this bubbling, golden brown mixture. It throws the traditional pastry method of combing chilled butter and flour out the window and I know I will be making this pastry recipe over and over again!

For the filling I wanted something decadently rich but not too sweet. I added instant espresso powder to the chocolate ganache to make it mocha flavoured and it was a huge hit when I bought it to dinner! We served it with ice-cream but you can eat it on its own, with cream, or some berries would be delicious too.

Dark Chocolate Mocha Tart
 
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Author:
Serves: 10

Ingredients
French Butter Pastry
  • 90g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 150g plain flour
Dark Chocolate Mocha Filling
  • 170g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3 tsp instant espresso
  • ½ cup thickened cream
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 210º C.
  2. Combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized ovenproof bowl – I used a Pyrex bowl.
  3. Put the bowl in the oven for around 15 minutes, or until the butter starts to brown just around the edges and is bubbling.
  4. Carefully remove the bowl from oven, keep your over mitts on as it will be VERY hot. Quickly stir in the flour until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball.
  5. Dump the dough into a 9-inch/23 cm tart tin with a removable base and start spreading it out with a spatula.
  6. Allow the dough to cool enough so you can handle it and spread it out evenly across the base and up the sides. Use a fork to gently press the dough against the sides to reinforce it.
  7. Keep a small piece of dough aside for patching any cracks.
  8. Prick the dough all over with a fork, then bake in the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before filling with the chocolate mocha ganache.
Dark Chocolate Mocha Filling
  1. Combine chopped dark chocolate, honey and instant espresso powder in a medium bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan bring the cream to a simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted.
  3. Add the butter and vanilla extract to the chocolate and stir until the mixture is very smooth.
  4. Pour the chocolate ganache into the cooled tart shell.
  5. Put the tart in the fridge and allow to set for at least 2 hours.
  6. Serve at room temperature with icecream.

Bon appétit!

 

May 15, 2013

Decorating desserts: Pineapple flowers, sugar art, fruit and more

I recently made a batch of cupcakes for a 30th birthday party and adorned the Pineapple and Coconut Cupcakes with pineapple flowers, an idea I saw Martha Stewart once do. I received several questions on how to make these so I thought I would share the technique, as well as some other easy ideas for decorating desserts.

Pineapple Flowers:

1. Pre-heat oven to 110°C and line 3 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
2. Thinly slice a pineapple (or split pineapple rings in 3 horizontally) and arrange rings on the baking trays.
3. Bake for 30 mins, then turn and cook for another 30 mins.
4. Transfer rings to a muffin tin to cool so they curl upwards and form the shape of a flower.

And now for some other decorating techniques:

Sugar Art

A lot of great sugar decorating options are now becoming available in supermarkets and specialty stores. My absolute favourites are the sugar buttons from Donna Hay. Cheaper options from the supermarket include silver cachous, little pink flowers and they often have seasonal decorations like these cute Christmas-themed ones I found.

♥ Fruit

Fruit is a simple, colourful and healthy way to decorate your desserts. Berries are always an easy and delicious way to jazz up a dessert. Or try contrasting colours and textures such as kiwi and passionfruit. Get a little creative and top chili-chocolate cupcakes with a chili ganache and small chili, or turn strawberries into Santa hats for a Christmas treat!

Toppers, nuts and more

Purchase some cupcake toppers from a homewares store (or make your own… more on that in another post!), or get creative and make a birds nest out of chocolate and crunchy noodles and top with an Easter egg for an Easter-themed cupcake. Otherwise, nuts make a delicious and crunchy decoration, either spread across the sides of a cake or on top.

I have been collecting numerous decorating inspiration on my Pinterest Board. Some new tricks I am dying to try out:

♥ Bunting

Image Source

♥ Cookie Stamping

Image Source

♥ Pinwheels!

Image Source

I hope this has given you some more ideas for decorating your own desserts!

May 9, 2013

Love Swah exhibiting at the MCA Zine Fair 2013!

If you wonder why I have been so busy lately, slaving away on weekends and nights instead of doing fun things such as eating and drinking, well I’ve been madly working my butt off on writing and designing a series of zines! I have completed 2 dessert zines – filled with my delicious recipes and photos of cupcakes, slices, cakes and more, as well as 3 travel zines on New York, San Francisco and Iceland. I am hoping to complete a 4th travel zine on Vietnam however a recent bout of sickness has set back a few days so I’ll keep you posted.

I am thrilled to be sharing a table this year with the wonderful JJ from the food blog 84th & 3rd, so make sure you check out her work too! For those who aren’t familiar with what the MCA Zine Fair is, firstly check out my review of last year’s Zine Fair. Zines are limited-run publications that are usually handmade and self-published and are on nearly every topic your imagination can think of. It’s a fun day of creativity, shopping and mingling with creatives. What more could you want?

Here are some excerpts from my zines, firstly the dessert zines volumes 1 and 2.

Iceland:

New York:

San Francisco:

Please come visit me, bring coffee and possibly buy a zine (a girl’s gotta pay her rent) – I will have bribery cupcakes! Can’t make it? That’s ok. They will be available in my online shop (coming soon) and I’ll be releasing them as ebooks too!

 

May 1, 2013

Pavlova with Cream, Passionfruit and Kiwi

When I asked my friend what he wanted me to bake for his birthday he instantly declared pavlova! I must admit I had a bit of “pavlova anxiety”. Having eaten a fair bit of bad pav in my life – dried out, collapsed or even undercooked (ugh) I wanted to perfect my recipe.

Fortunately this technique is easy and relatively fool-proof and produced the most gorgeous pavlova – crunchy on the outside and soft and marshmallowy on the inside. Success! I wanted to top it with seasonal fruit and picked up some gorgeous passionfruit and kiwis to adorn it with. Combined with a generous dollop of whipped cream it was promptly devoured.

Pavlova with Passionfruit and Kiwi
 
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Author:
Serves: 6

Ingredients
  • 4 egg whites (room temp)
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 3 tsps cornflour
  • 1 tsps white vinegar
  • 250ml thickened cream
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 2 x kiwifruit
  • 2 x passionfruit

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 150°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat egg-whites until soft peaks form.
  3. Gradually add the sugar, beating well until the mixture is glossy and the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Add the cornflour and vinegar and fold through.
  5. Spoon mixture into a 18-20cm circle. Using a palette knife, shape into a circle with high sides.
  6. Place in the oven, reduce the heat to 120°C and cook for 1 hour.
  7. Then turn the oven off and allow the meringue to completely cool in the oven.
  8. Using an electric mixer, beat cream and icing sugar until soft peaks form.
  9. Gently transfer pavlova to a cake stand. To serve, top with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

You can top it with whatever fruits are in season- berries, figs, cooked apples, or add cocoa powder to the meringue and top with chocolate and cream!

Apr 23, 2013

DIY Dulce de Leche

Last year I posted about receiving 2 jars of delicious Dulce de Leche (or in Portuguese Doce de Leite) from my cousin who had just returned from South America. Unsurprisingly the jars were finished a little too quickly. After some internet research I discovered you can buy the real deal from Mi Casa Fine Foods, or at a store called La Torre, 9 Nelson St Fairfield. But I really wanted to try and make my own. Not only is it cheaper, I can make it on demand whenever I wanted!

I have heard horror stories of tins of sweetened condensed milk exploding after being submerged in boiling water for too long and wanted to find an easier (and safer) method. I learnt from a friend that cooking the sweetened condensed milk in the oven not only is less stressful, but results in a richer and more caramelised final product. Sold.

DIY Dulce de Leche
 
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Author:
Serves: 1½ cups

Ingredients
  • 1 400g can sweetened condensed milk
  • Sea salt (optional)

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 220°C.
  2. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle over sea salt if needed. Tightly cover the dish with foil.
  3. Place covered dish in a roasting pan and fill with water until it comes ¾ of the way up the oven-proof dish, to create a water bath.
  4. Place in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 30 mins, checking every 30 mins to top up the water bath if need be (I had to top the water up once).
  5. Once the mixture is nicely browned and caramelised, remove from the oven and let it cool down.
  6. Once cool, whisk the dulce de leche until smooth.
  7. Store in an airtight, clean container (I used a mason jar).

Here is a quick visual step-by-step guide:

Step 1. Pour the can of sweetened condensed milk into an oven-proof dish.

Step 2. Tightly cover the dish with foil and fill the roasting pan 3/4 full with water to make a water bath.

Step 3. After cooking down the condensed milk for 1 hour and 30 mins, the mixture should be golden and caramelised.

Super easy, right? Now you can the recipes for 2 awesome homemade spreads! (the gluten and dairy-free Nutella recipe is here).

Need some ideas on what to make with this homemade dulce de leche? How about caramel-filled Bunny Biscuits? Or Sesame Seed Biscuits with Dulce de Leche, Banoffee Pie with Salted Pretzel Crust or Ginger Biscuits with Salted Caramel Buttercream?

Enjoy!

Apr 15, 2013

Apple & Walnut Spiced Loaf with Streusel Topping

Autumn is settling in to Sydney and bringing with it a delicious array of seasonal fruits, vegetables and nuts. This month’s Sweet Adventure’s Blog Hop focuses on seasonal produce and gave me a chance to develop a recipe with two of my favourite autumn ingredients – apples and walnuts! Naturally I had to add spices to the loaf – cinnamon is apple’s best friend and nutmeg is warming and a perfect flavour for the cooling days. I topped off the loaf with a streusel topping – a satisfying sweet buttery crunch.

Apple & Walnut Spiced Loaf with Streusel Topping
 
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Author:
Serves: 12

Ingredients
Loaf
  • 2 cups diced apples (about 1½ large)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 120g butter, softened
  • 1 egg, room temp
  • 1¼ cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
Streusel
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp melted butter

Instructions
Loaf
  1. Preheat oven to 180°. Grease a loaf tin with butter (or use a silicon non-stick one).
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy in a large bowl.
  3. Add egg and continue beating until well combined.
  4. Stir in diced apples.
  5. Sift flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking soda into bowl. Add chopped walnuts and mix thoroughly.
  6. Transfer mixture to prepared pan.
Streusel
  1. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir until well combined and crumbly.
  2. Sprinkle streusel mixture over the top of loaf before putting into the oven.
  3. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the loaf is brown and crusty on top and a skewer comes out clean.
  4. Cool loaf in tray on rack.

I also made a batch into little muffins, this recipe makes 12 cupcake-sized treats. Make sure you fill each liner with mixture nearly all the way (about 7/8 full) as the mixture doesn’t rise much.

Apr 9, 2013

Fashion Cupcakes

You know when you stumble across something on the internet and think “damn I wish I thought of that”. Well, it happens to me quite often. And when I saw these awesome fashion-inspired cupcakes made by Edsalv Lisa and photographed by Therese Aldgard I knew I had to share. They accurately portray the style of each fashion label through lighting, colour and design, cleverly creating boob cupcakes for Agent Provocateur and a red velvet interior to represent the infamous Christian Louboutin shoe.

Agent Provocateur

Betsey Johnson

Chanel

Louis Vuitton

Christian Louboutin

Which is your favourite designer cupcake? Are there any fashion labels you would love to see them create?

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