Tuesday, February 4, 2014

V is for Vanilla Cake...

Photo: Greta Kenyon Photography. Location: Post Bank Restaurant.

It’s time to spoil your significant other. Or treat a friend. Every once in awhile it’s nice to put in a little extra effort to celebrate someone or something special in your life. I’m not one to overtly embrace that Valentine’s Day but I’m also not so opposed that I’m going to ignore it! No harm ever came from showing someone a little extra love and if your loved one has a sweet tooth this cake is a perfect way to do just that.

Vanilla and raspberry are one of the best couples I know. They never fight. Always compliment each other and look damn fine side by side too. I think it's the contrast. As Paula Abdul said...opposites attract.

Look at this cake – it’s so pretty and actually does taste as good it looks. Cutting into the lush white cake to reveal the layers of vanilla and raspberry inside is so indulgent. Can you tell I love this cake? I really do. And, I'm pretty sure, so will your better half or best buddy or neighbour or anyone. 

A couple of tips... 
  • Make the effort to make the three layer cake. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say 'ooooh look at the layers!' when they see a three layer cake (two is just standard, four sends them into a frenzy).   
  • Don't scrimp on the vanilla. Buy the good stuff (I use Heilala). It's worth it.
For the raspberry coulis and vanilla buttercream recipes click here and here.

Photo: Greta Kenyon Photography. Location: Post Bank Restaurant.

Vanilla Cake
Makes an 8-inch round 3 layer cake
300g unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
1 teaspoon Heilala Vanilla Extract
6 eggs
300g self-raising flour*

Preheat oven to 160°C (fan bake). Grease and line two 8-inch (23cm) round tins. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, mixing well between additions. Sift the flour over the mix and stir to form a smooth batter. Divide the batter into thirds. Place a third each in the two tins - you will have one third remaining. Bake the first two cakes for 30mins or until the centre springs back when gently pressed. Once cool enough turn out the cakes and bake the third layer. Sandwich together with raspberry coulis and vanilla bean buttercream.

*Weekly Tip: If you don’t have self-raising flour make your own by simply adding 2 teaspoons of baking powder to 300g of plain flour. Sift to combine.

Raspberry Coulis. Making everything taste better except venison.

Simple, sweet, saucy goodness. Serve it alongside any sweet treat and it's almost guaranteed to make it taste better. You can see it here in action in a classic vanilla cake.

I once had raspberry coulis served with venison at a supposedly 'up market' restaurant where I live. Let's just say that it's definitely a dessert sauce. Don't serve it with venison or anything savoury for that matter, not even cheese. Why would they do that? It's crazy talk. I guess I am guilty of ordering it though.

This sauce is tangy, sweet and jam packed with berry flavour. Great with cake, ice cream, chocolate, mousse, fruit, pancakes...the list (of desserts) goes on.

Raspberry Coulis
350g fresh or fozen raspberries
1/3 cup (75g) sugar 
2 tablespoons water

Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer over a medium heat for around 5 minutes or until all the sugar has dissolved. Cool slightly then pulse in a blender to puree. At this point you can strain the sauce to remove the pips but sometimes I like to leave them in for a bit of texture.

Keep covered in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze for 3 mths.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Blueberry Lemon Pan Cake

Wedding season is in full swing so much of my time lately has been spent working on complex and decorative cakes. Whipping up anything from chocolate fudge cakes with dark chocolate peppermint ganache to genoise sponge with fresh raspberry filling. Then decorating them with all kinds of gorgeous finishes, from delicious buttercream to hand-painted fondant. Creating a cake for one of the most important days in a couple’s lives can be a lot of pressure so when I can I like to take it back to basics - which leads me to this lovely cake.

This cake isn’t flashy but it is beautiful. Simply whack the batter into a pan, bake, slice and enjoy. No icing required. No faff. Most ingredients, if not all, will already be in your kitchen – and if blueberries aren’t, they should be! Blueberries are in abundance right now, are delicious and inexpensive.

Thanks to Post Bank Restaurant for the shoot location (they've just opened a cute outdoor courtyard area), to Paper Plane and On My Hand for the pretty props and to Greta Kenyon Photography for the gorgeous pics!

Blueberry Lemon Pan Cake
250g butter
220g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 2 lemons
3 eggs
180ml yoghurt
250g flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 punnet blueberries

Preheat oven to 170°C (fan bake). Grease and line a pan (any standard sized pan will do but I used a 18x28cm rectangular one). Cream butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest together then add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each. Whisk the dry ingredients together then fold into the creamed mix alternating with the yoghurt. Gently fold in almost all of the blueberries. Spoon batter into the pan and dot with the remaining blueberries. Sprinkle the top with a little caster sugar then bake for 50minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool and serve wedges cut straight out of the pan. If you do want to fancy it up a little, serve with a dollop of thick yoghurt on the side. 

Weekly Tip: Sometimes berries can sink to the bottom of a cake when baked. Although not necessary for this recipe, to avoid this happening toss them in a little flour before adding them to your batter. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Royal Icing

The is officially my shortest blog post ever. A recipe for royal icing, used for piping decorative effects onto cookies, cupcakes and cakes. This icing is great for piping delicate, fine lines and details and sets hard. A little goes a long way - you should be able to decorate at least a dozen cookies with this quantity if not two!

Royal Icing
One egg white
300g icing sugar
Lemon juice

In a bowl beat egg white and icing sugar together on a slow speed. You aren't aiming to create air bubbles in this icing, you simply want to gently combine. Keep beating for 5 minutes then add lemon juice a few drops at a time to create a suitable consistency - for piping thin lines (like on these Halloween cookies) you don't want it to be too runny but if you were 'flooding' cookies - which means to fill the area between lines you want the mix to be runnier so add a little more juice. Practice is the best way to get the consistency right. Keep unused royal icing in the fridge covered with cling-wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the icing to keep it from drying out.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Flavours Column: Spooky Gingerdead Men

In the spirit of Halloween I decided to get a little spooky recently and whip up some Gingerdead Men. Actually they are more of a Gingerdead Family, cat included. Which, given that just days after I made these cookies we lost a beloved cat member of the family, sits a little uncomfortably now. I wish it wasn't the case but alas, we can't turn back time. R.I.P. Milly-Moo. I hope your mischevious, stubborn, seriously cute and chunky cat spirit comes to visit us this Halloween. We'd offer you Whiska's Temptations as treats. And you would probably play a trick on us. Just like old times. 

Avoid the tricks on All Hallow's Eve and offer costumed kids these creepy cookies instead. They are so much more impressive than store-bought candy! 

Gingerdead Men 
Published in the Bay of Plenty Times, Weds 23rd Oct 2013

Halloween is on the horizon so this week I’m sharing a fun recipe for ‘Gingerdead’ Men. I picked up the Gingerdead Man cookie cutter when I was overseas but you can find a great selection of Halloween themed cutters at most kitchen stores. Bats, cats, pumpkins, witches, ghosts, your Halloween cookie dreams are covered! 

These cookies make perfect treats for the spooky little trick-or-treaters that come knocking on October 31st. I wish we embraced Halloween more in New Zealand. There’s no harm in acknowledging the ‘dark side’ a little and it encourages kids to use their imaginations. My nephew and niece in America have their costumes ready, as does my brother’s dog Tuesday who will be making her Halloween debut as Wonder Woman (or maybe Wonder Dog).

There are tonnes of ideas for Halloween treats online – Pinterest alone is enough to keep any creative Halloween crafter or baker happy. Be inspired, get spooky and have some fun. 

125g butter 
125g brown sugar 
75g white sugar 
½ cup golden syrup 
425g flour 
2 teaspoons ginger 
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon 
1 teaspoon allspice 
40ml milk 
1 teaspoon baking soda 

Melt butter, sugars and golden syrup in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and keep boiling for a few minutes, stirring as it bubbles away. Sift flour and spices together into a bowl. Pour the melted butter mix over the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Mix milk and baking soda together and stir into the dough. The dough will be warm so rest it, covered with cling-wrap, for 10mins in the fridge. Heat the oven to 170°C. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface or between two sheets of baking paper until 4mm thick. Cut out shapes and bake for 10 minutes. Cool and decorate with royal icing.

Weekly Tip: Roll dough between two sheets of baking paper. This creates a non-stick surface making it both easier and less messy. After cutting your shapes peel away excess dough from around your cookies and bake on the paper as is.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's time for Jam

Photo: Greta Kenyon Photography

Rhubarb jam. It's also time to tell you about another Kinfolk event which I was very honoured to be co-hosting alongside On My Hand.

The theme for the event was 'Preserving the Season'. This was my first time as a host and for some reason I decided it would be a super great idea to teach everyone how to make jam. Given that I haven't made much jam in my life (because I thought it was hard - it's not; because I thought it was time-consuming - not so much; because I thought it was messy - it is) I don't really know why my mind was saying 'heck yeah, jam!' Especially when the venue for our workshop had no kitchen. No stove top. No sink. No plumbing (when you turned the bathroom tap on water came out of a hole in the kitchen wall. Just straight from a little hole onto the floor). But regardless of these details it was still a beautiful venue.

In a nutshell, I stood in front of 20 guests and showed them how to make jam. I also showed them how to melt holes into a trestle table using cast iron camp burners. Whoops. Someone asked 'why is my pot on a lean?'...turns out those burners aren't designed for making jam on plastic tables. I taught people more than just how to make jam that day. 

Minor incidences aside, I hope everyone enjoyed the event - based on all the wonderful feedback I am pretty confident that they did. The location styling by Shaye from On My Hand was outstanding as usual, the food (also by Shaye - multi-talented lady that she is) was also beautiful and all our guests made for fantastic company! Thank you to Greta Kenyon for ensuring these fun moments are always captured in a positive light (all photos shown are Greta's) and to our sponsors: Hello Paper, Maisy & Grace, George and Mount Wholefoods. Now, let's make some jam.

Photo: Greta Kenyon Photography

Rhubarb & Vanilla Jam 
800g rhubarb stalks, cut into chunks
650g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split
35g Jam Setting Mix (or pectin)
zest & juice of one orange
40ml water
juice of half a small lemon

Place all the ingredients, aside from the lemon juice, in a large saucepan and stir to combine. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice and increase the heat. Boil for 10 minutes, skimming off any of the ‘scum’ that comes to the surface (this is nothing bad, it just doesn’t look pretty in your finished jam).

To test if the jam is ready spoon a teaspoonful onto a small, cold plate. If after a minute or two you can push the jam and it holds its shape it’s ready, if not keep boiling and testing every few minutes.

When the jam is ready pour into hot sterilised jars and seal. To sterilise jars and lids wash and place in the oven for 10mins at 100ÂșC. Store jam in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Opened jam should be stored in the fridge.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Flavours Column: Homemade Crumpets

Who needs supermarket crumpets when you can make these?! 

Okay, yes, sometimes having a packet of ready-made crumpets on hand does satisfy a quick breakfast/snack need, but there’s no reason why you can’t whip up a batch of your own and keep them in the fridge or freezer. 

They are easy to make, don’t require special ingredients or take a lot of time unlike other breads. The only slightly unusual item you need to make these delicious breakfast treats is round metal rings to cook them in. These are easily found in kitchen shops sold as ‘egg rings’ or simply use round cookie cutters like I did. You might find you already have some rattling around in your kitchen drawer (also like I did). 

This recipe makes at least twelve golden brown crumpets and they are just as delicious freshly toasted from the pan as they are hot from the toaster the next day. I ate them with homemade rhubarb jam. And then with honey. And then with marmite. And then with peanut butter. That is literally what I did. But not one after the other. I swear. 

Homemade Crumpets
Published in the Bay of Plenty Times, Weds 16th Oct 2013
Adapted from Paul Hollywood's recipe found here

200g high-grade flour
150g plain flour
2 x 8g sachets of instant yeast
1 teaspoon of honey
350ml warm milk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
175ml warm water

Mix flours and yeast together (the high grade flour helps give structure to the crumpets’ bubbles). Dissolve honey in the warm milk and beat into the flour with a wooden spoon. Continue beating for a few minutes to create a thick, smooth batter. Cover and rest for 30mins. Mix baking soda and salt into the warm water. Beat into the batter until smooth and rest again for 30mins. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and grease with butter or cooking spray. Grease the inside of the metal rings. Sit the rings in the pan and drop a large spoonful of batter into each. After a few minutes bubbles will appear on the surface, wait another minute then gently flip the crumpets over and cook for another 3 minutes. Crumpets are ready when both sides are golden and they feel springy when pressed.

Weekly Tip: Keep homemade crumpets in the fridge or freezer and drop them into the toaster as needed.