Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread cookies are my all time favourite treat to make for Christmas - everyone in my family is getting some these this year! The recipe is from The City Cake Company cookbook. The City Cake Co is an Auckland bakery and they make some of the most beautiful cakes you'll find. The cookbook is a real gem with recipes for all sorts of deliciuos sweet treats; their 3D chocolate cake -deep, dark and dense - is the best ever.

 Gingerbread Cookies

250g butter, softened
1/3C brown sugar
3T golden syrup
1 1/2t baking soda
1 1/2t boiling water
2 1/4C flour
3t ground ginger
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 150C an bake and line a cuple of baking trays with paper. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then beat in syrup. Dissolve the baking soda in the water and mix into butter cream. Add in the flour, ginger and salt and mix until combined. (At this point you can wrap your dough up and refridgerate or freeze it.)

Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness. It is best to either flour your bench or roll it out between sheets of baking paper to stop it sticking. Using either a palette knife or cookie cutters, cut your dough into variuos shapes. I used a gingerbread man, stars, trees, candy canes and plain rounds. If you like you can also emboss your cookies once they're cut, but if you plan to ice them there's probably not much point.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until nicely golden. They should be a little soft when they come out since they'll harden up as the cool. Keep in mid that if you ice them they will soften.

Royal Icing 

There are a few points to keep in mind when using royal icing. Most important is that if you want to layer up the colours wait until the bottom layer is set. My star is a great example of what happens when you don't - as you can see the icing have melded together - fail! The other thing is that it's best to use a real piping bag as the icing is super sticky and will glue the sides together.

To make the icing, beat an egg white until thick ( though not meringue thick). Gradually add 2 cups sifted icing sugar and the juice of half a lemon. You have the right consistency when a line icing dribbled along the surface takes about 4 seconds to sink in. If it's not right either thin or thicken it with more icing sugar or lemon juice.

Seperate the icing into small bowls and mix in food colouring as you want.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Decadent Chocolate Tarts

My sister and I have a tadition. It is not the healthiest tradition. It is frowned upon by our parents. It is time consuming and self indulgent. But traditions must, at all costs, be maintained. Even if they have only existed for a few months... right?

The tradition is, when we both find ourselves home together on a weekend or holiday morning with no immediate plans (this is rare) we make a Gossip Girl Breakfast. We love Gossip Girl with a passion that transcends normality, and we love food, especially sweet, gooey, rich, dessert like food. Usually we have pancakes with chocolate sauce, ice cream and berries. This weekend however we woke up late and breakfast time had been and gone. What to do? Why a Gossip Girl Morning Tea of course! So I whipped up some little tarts, she set up the lounge and ta da - the perfect Sunday.

A couple of things worth noting: this whole process only took about half an hour start to finish. Admittedly I did use pastry that was sitting in the fridge but you easily use ready made frozen pastry just as quickly. The recipe is more or less made up on the spot. I think chocolate is one of those things that tastes best with as little interference as possible and this certainly backs that up. And lastly, don't make this a regular thing. (Unless you're deliberately training to be a sumo wrestler. I'm not but I think I'd do a pretty damn good job after a few more GGB's.)

Chocolate Tarts

About 1C sweet short pastry or 2 sheets frozen
1C dark chocolate, chopped
1T butter
1/2C cream
2 egg yolks

Preheat oven to 180C and spray a muffin tin with non stick spray.

Soften the pastry, roll out and cut using a cokoie cutter about 3-4 inches in diameter. Cut short slits (maybe 1-2cm) into opposite sides of each pastry circle.

Fit the circles each into a maffin tin, overlapping the slits so that they fit. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. I always find after this my pastry has puffed up and just about filled the tart. If you have the same problem give them a minute to firm up then just push it down with the end of a wooden rolling pin or similar. Let them cool a bit.

While those are cooking throw the chocolate, butter and cream into a small saucepan and heat over medium, stirring constantly with a whisk. When evreything is liquid give it a good beat to combine and set aside to cool. Note it is very important that you do let the chocolate mixture cool as otherwise it will cook the eggs.

Once lukewarm add the yolks, beating again to combine. Remove the tart cases for the tins and spread them out on a baking tray. Spoon the chocolate mixture evenly in until it is just below the tops then bake for about 12 minutes.

When you take them out they will still be very runny. Set them aside to cool and firm up (or throw them in the freezer like me). Yum!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Double Chocolate Whoppers

I made these at 11pm last Thursday just becasue I felt like baking something. They are the easiest cookies ever (no softening butter!) and the dough is delicious. I whipped them up in about ten minutes, put them in the fridge and baked them when I woke up the next morning. There is no nicer way to start the day than with a cup of tea and the smell of warm, chocolatey baking in the air.These are from the book Quick 'n' Easy Chocolate Recipes by Robyn Martin.

These are My Ultimate Cookies.


250g butter
1 1/4C chocolate bits (I used Nestle Dark Chocolate button because I like the way they feel when you bite two together...)
1C brown sugar
1 egg
2t vanilla essence
3C flour
2t baking powder

Melt the butter in a container big enough to fit all the ingredients and stir until smooth. Add half the chocolate bits and stir until smooth again. MIx in sugar, egg and vanilla, beating with a wooden spoon to combine. Mix in flour, baking powder and remaining chocolate and mix it all up until combined.

Roll this into a big log, wrap in gladwrap and put in the fridge until firm/you lose patience. If you can't be bothered waiting around you can just chuck it in the freezer for ten minutes or so. This is a good time to preheat your oven to 180C.

Once firm cut into slices, about 1-2cm, spread out evenly on a baking paper lined tray and bake for about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Coffee Cupcakes

I come from a family of non-coffee drinkers (yes, I know, there are some out there!) My sister and I have both been through coffee drinking phases, which at the time seemed like a very sophisticated idea, and we have both discovered that we too have the anti-coffee gene. Admittedly after a big night I am partial to a very well made mocha (in between glasses of cold lemony water) but really I think it's time to accept that I will never be a fanatic coffee drinker. Luckily for me, I can still get my takeaway hot chocolate and look like one.

Coffee in baking, however, is another matter entirely. It almost (but not quite) knocks chocolate off the pedastal, especially when in cake or cookie form. When coffee and chocolate are combined in baking, my life goes on hold until the gazing-savouring-devouring-reminiscing process is all over. I have even converted my family to coffee in baking, weaning them onto it piece by piece.

So last week two of my friends had birthdays. Because I am a poor student and an awful present buyer cupcakes are all my friends ever recieve from me on their big days, unless I have time to make then a card which I usually don't, because I am busy adding final touches to cupcakes and procrastinating over whether the decorations are sitting at the right angle/are the right colour/size/shape/choice/amount. Whilst consulting my Father in the proces of this last week, he tentatively suggested that it probably didn't matter. Woe is him.

Anyway, the cupcake part is adapted from the Coffee and Pecan Cupcakes by Tamara Jane, a Wellington based cupcake baker whose recipes never seem to fail. I did try to convert the measurement into cups rather than grams but if I managed, I ahve since forgotten. I HATE weighing things! The icing I just made up. I've found it's usually easier and moer reliable once you have a good buttercream recipe to just adapt it to whatever you need; I don't even bother following the instructions anymore.

Coffee Cupcakes (makes 24)

200g flour
1 heaped T baking powder
200g butter
230g castor sugar
4 eggs
2t vanilla essence
2T instant coffee granules
1/4 C boiling water

Preheat oven to 170C and line two 12 hole muffin trays with cupcake papers.

Soften butter until you can stick your finger in it easily. Sift flour and baking powder together in a bowl.

In the large bowl of a cake mixer cream butter. Add half the caster sugar, beat 1-2 minutes then add the rest and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between. Mix in vanilla.

Add half the flour and beat on low speed until combined. Dissolve the coffee in the water, add to butter mix with remaining flour and beat until just combined.

Divide batter evenly between papers and bake one tray at a time for 20 minutes, or until a skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean. Cool in their trays for five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

Coffee Buttercream

Cream 250g softened butter with 2C icing sugar until pale and fluffy. Add 3T strong instant coffee, 2T milk and, gradually, another cup of sugar. Beat throughly, adding more sugar until you reach a soft, thick consistency suitable for piping. Add more sugar as needed.

Ta Da!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Citrus Slice

This slice is absoulte heaven for lemon lovers (me!). The sweet biscuity base is a perfect contrast to the tangy icing and you can adjust the amount of juice/zest you use to taste. It says to refrigerate it however I prefer the softer consistency of the base at room temperature so unless you live somewhere super hot I'd recommend you just leave it in the pantry. My father hates lemon so I used orange juice in the icing instead and he loves it! I also only put in about a third the amount of coconut they say (not being a big coconut fan) and made up my own icing which I've put here instead of their cream cheese version.  The recipe is from the Old Vicarage Cafe in Christchurch.

Citrus Slice

200g butter
395g tin condensed milk
2x 250g packets of wine biscuits
2C desiccated coconut
Zest of 1 lemon & 1 orange

1 1/2C icing sugar
1T butter
Juice of lemon to mix

Grease a pan approximately 20x30cm and line the base with baking paper if preferred.

Melt the butter and mix in condensed milk to combine. In a food processor finely crumb the biscuits in several intervals. If you like a bit of crunch process them for a little less time. Add crumbs, coconut and zest to the butter mixture and mix until it's all combined. 

Press mixture evenly into pan, smooth the top and refrigerate to set.

For the icing boil some water, sift the icing suger into a bowl and place the chunk of butter on top. Pour a couple of spoonfuls of water over the butter to melt and beat in until thick. Add juice to taste and mix with a fork until the icing is smooth. You can add more or less juice and icing sugar to suit yourself. 

Spread over the base and once set cut into squares. If you want to go all out you can sprinkle some zest on top as a garnish. Delish!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ginger Roll (Fat Log)

This stuff is a godsend. Basically crushed biscuits glued together with caramel, the result is a fudgy, sweet treat which I personally enjoy just as much straight from the bowl as complete. The recipe is from an ancient Girl Guide cookbook which I mean to use a lot more than I do. Every recipe in it sounds delicious. Even better, if you used malt biscuits and put in some Eskimos you'd have Lolly Cake, which we all know is as close to perfection as possible.

Ginger Roll

70g butter
2/3 400g tin condensed milk
2T golden syrup
250g packet wine bicuits
1t ground ginger

In a small saucepan melt together butter, condensed milk and golden syrup until combined. Remove from heat.

Blend biscuits in a food processor until finely crumbed then add to caramel with ginger. (Good point to dig in.)

Roll into a log whatever size you want, wrap in baking paper and refrigerate.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Steps!

First post ever - exciting exciting! So the photo is a chocolate cupcake I made yesterday - apparently we've had so many Vanilla ones lately my family are sick of eating them (don't ask me how it's possible to get sick of cupcakes, I've never had this problem personally). These are far nicer than the recipe I usually use, really light and fluffy and not too sweet either. The icing is a bit funny, I think there's a bit much milk so I'm posting the one I usually use instead. It's the Magnolia Bakery Chocolate Buttercream and it is Divine.

Chocolate Cupcakes (makes a dozen)

150g flour
1t baking soda
1/2t baking powder
85ml hot water
1/4C cocoa
85ml cold water
70g butter, softened
185g caster sugar
1T golden syrup
1t vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius and line a 12 hole tray with papers.

Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder into a small bowl. In a seperate bowl whisk hot water and cocoa until smooth then add cold water and whisk to combine.

In an electric mixer cream butter until smooth, then add caster sugar and egg, beating until fluffy. Add golden syrup and vanilla then beat until combined.

Add half the flour, beating on low speed until combined, then half the cocoa mixture. Repeat until you have a smooth batter but be careful not to over beat. Divide mixture between papers and bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean.

While they are baking make the buttercream by melting 110g of bittersweet chocolate then pouring it into 150g creamed butter. Add a tablespoon of milk , a splash of vanilla essence and - gradually - 1 heaped cup of icing sugar. Depending on how you like your frosting you may need to add a little more icing sugar or milk; I find that for piping it's better to have it a little firmer.