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Monthly Archives: November 2010

Recipe for Christmas Muffins

Today is the first Sunday of advent, so to start kicking off the celebrations for the next four weeks, I got out of bed early and baked Christmas breakfast muffins (seriously, I did!).

I have used this really easy recipeas a breakfast muffin on Christmas morning and on Boxing Day, and made the preparation time quicker by preparing everything the night before (I’ll add some tips on this at the end of the post). 

Recipe for Christmas muffins

This recipe for Christmas muffins spreads a lovely warming smell throughout the house, filling your home with spicy, fruity and citrus scents- almost like edible aromatherapy!

I have added dried cranberries to this recipe for the festive touch, but this morning, as blackberries are coming into season here in Australia, I used those instead (from a little farm called The Bramble Farm).

Recipe for Christmas Muffins – Recipe will make 10 muffins.

Preparation time is 10 minutes, baking time 20 minutes

Ingredients

210g self raising flour

85g sugar

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/42 teaspoon salt

50 g sultanas, 50g currants, 70g blackberries or cranberries or glace cherries

2 tablespoons brandy (optional ;) )

100mL orange juice (freshly squeezed)

2 tablespoons grated orange zest

100mL milk (or eggnog if you have any left over)

60g melted butter

1 egg

1) Pre heat oven to 180 degrees C, or 350 F.  Soak fruits in brandy and orange juice  for 10 minutes (the brandy is optional, and the alcohol does cook out in the baking).  Line you muffin tray with 10 patty pans.

2) Melt butter in a small pan or microwave allow to cool.

3)  Add add dry ingredients to a large bowl: flour, sugar, spices.

4) Add soaked fruit to the dry ingredients.

Easy bake Christmas muffins

5) In a measuring jug add milk, egg and cooled butter and whisk well.  Add to dry ingredients and gently fold through.  Make sure you fold the mixture no more than 15 times (that’s what I average :) ) otherwise your muffins will be tough.

6) Add a large scoop of batter to each muffin, almost going to the top of the patty pan.  Put into the middle of the oven and bake for 20 minutes or so, or until the top of the muffin is firm to touch.  Don’t open the oven door until after the first 15 minutes or your muffins may sink.

7)  When baked, remove tray from oven, then remove muffins from try and cool on a cake rack.  When completely cooled, dust with icing sugar and serve with brandy butter!

We didn’t have brandy butter at breakfast- I just though of that now :)  

 

TOP TIPS:  In the dusting of the Christmas muffins pics, I used coffee dusting templates for the patterns, which I’d purchased from the supermarket years ago. 

FRUGAL TIPS: If you can’t find these shapes, use a sheet of overhead projection film, or cut out shapes from a cereal box).  And dust the muffins over a sheet of baking paper so you can reuse the icing sugar.

 

Dusting muffins with icing sugar

If you wanted to prepare this the night before, simply prepare all the dry ingredients in a bowl and cover.  Soak the fruits in another bowl and cover (or airtight container) and leave in the fridge.  Add the melted butter and liquids into another airtight container and mix really well, so that the butter doesn’t clump.  Pre line the muffin tin. In the morning all you’ll need to do is preheat the oven, add the wet ingredients to the dry (plus the fruit), fold and pour, then bake!

I’ve also used this recipe, but added mixed fruit or left over (frugal baking tip!) fruit mince (I’d add about 50 g more of these ingredients to use it as a fruit cake substitute), and used it instead of a real fruit cake for the day.

Remember to check out my Christmas Baking List  for more recipes.  If you try this recipe, which I hope you will because it’s so easy and simply delicious, please let me know your results.

Recipe for Gingerbread cookies

This recipe for gingerbread cookies is the one I always use for gingerbread men, gingerbread houses and gingerbread decorations cookies. This gingerbread recipe is quite spicy with a rich flavour, and is one I have tweaked and refined to make it the most delicious Christmas biscuit.  I’ve also added some Top Tips for gingerbread baking through out the recipe.

I usually bake these early in the Christmas baking season, as for me it signifies the start of advent and celebration baking, filling the house with a beautiful aroma. Please make sure you buy fresh spices for you Christmas baking so that you’ll get the best, intense flavour from your gingerbread biscuits.

Here are some super sized gingerbread ballerinas I baked for my son’s ballet school as a fundraiser, they were around 34cm x 26cm and I rolled the pastry dough to 1.5 cm thick.  These were fun to make, and I flavoured the icing with banana essence.

 

This recipe will make enough dough for one gingerbread house, about six gingerbread men and some other smaller shapes like hearts and snowflakes.  I usually mix a 1.5 quantity of this dough, so that I get more of the gingerbread cookies (these always get eaten quickly :) ) and I use them as edible Christmas gifts to give to friends and visitors over the festive season.

Recipe for Gingerbread houses and gingerbread men

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe for Gingerbread cookies

6 cups of self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (250g) butter
1 cup brown sugar
4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salts
2 large eggs
1/2 cup molasses or treacle
1/2 cup golden syrup or honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:
1) Cream butter and sugar. Mix in spices and salt. In a small bowl, combine eggs, vanilla and molasses and golden syrup and mix into the creamed butter.

2) Add sifted flour and baking powder, and stir with a spoon or with your beaters to combine. I actually mix the entire recipe in my Kenwood Patissiere.

3) Divide the dough into 3rds and refridgerate for an hour minimum.

TOP TIP for gingerbread cookies: It’s really important to do this step because you want the gluten in the dough to relax, which will make you dough less tough. Also, rolling any cookie in small lots reduces the toughness of the cookie, you should aim to roll out you dough no more than 2 times.

 

4) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).   Prepare your biscuit trays and line with baking paper.  Roll out your dough in batches, cut with desired cutters.  Bake until crisp, not hard, so about 10-12 minutes.

TOP TIP for rolling our gingerbread cookies: Before you roll out your dough, dust the area with icing sugar so it won’t stick- extra flour can make your dough too floury tasting.  If you want crispy gingerbread cookies, roll out the dough thinner, thicker dough will make softer gingerbread cookies.

 

5) Cool on racks.  When cold, decorate with royal icing (will post tomorrow).

I usually bake the cookies all on one day and then ice them with royal icing the following day.  You could leave uniced biscuits in a cookie tin placing baking paper sheets in between the layers of biscuit and leave for up to 2 weeks until you ice them.  You can also freeze the cookie dough earlier.

If you have any other special additions to your gingerbread recipes please share them, because you can always improve on a recipe :)  Happy Gingerbread baking.

 

Beautiful roses

Roses are beautiful. 

Roses are inspirational.

Roses are my passion.

Why do I love roses?

My grandfather had beautiful roses lining his front fence, and I suppose that’ where my passion for roses started.  My Mum had a beautiful rose garden also, and then when my grandparents came to live with us, more roses emerged in our garden, it was an enchanting and perfumed delight to walk through our backyard.

We were fortunate to have many roses from 1960′s root stock, however, once my grandfather passed away we were unable to look after the some 50+ roses and floral garden which he had lovingly tended to with my Mum, so we passed them on to the care from some friends who also shared the same loving passion for these beautiful flowers. 

Mum still has a few Black Queen roses from that 1960s root stock ,which have inspired many artworks for me that I’ll share in the coming posts.

Dioressence Delbard rose

 

My rose garden

Now that I have my own garden, I’ve started my rose bed.  This week I photographed the first blooms of my Grand Parfums range of Delbard Roses to share with you all.  I chose Delbard roses because their rose varieties are visually magical, and apparently a delight to the senses. 

Delbard Rose

This was my first time growing the Delbard range, and I can honestly say that the blooms and smells are delightful.  My morning meandering through my rose bed is a sheer pleasure, particularly now that I have created a quiet time and space to look after and ‘be’ with myself and my roses…a very calming way to start the day.

These roses are highly fragranced and delicate, and a sheer pleasure to look after.

While I love all flowers, the rose is still the one which stirs a lot of emotions and memories, and it’s a flower which I find that I can create with in many ways like baking, silk ribbon embroidery, painting, interior decorating, or simply admiring in the garden or in the house.  

My first Alfred Sisley rose bloom

The Alfred Sisley rose, if you’ve followed some of my other posts is my theme which inspired a major journey of mine here on this blog, called My Rose journey of creativity

See porcelain painting with roses

If you love roses, what do roses mean for you?  Do you have a favourite colour or type?  Do you have a rose garden? I’d love to hear your comments.

Chocolate Orange Gateaux

This rich Chocolate Orange Gateaux was created for Hubby A’s birthday this week.  It’s been a cake in the planning for a few weeks now, and I’m happy with the result.  

Chocolate Orange Sponge Gateaux

A run down of the flavours:  Chocolate genoise sponge is liberally soaked with a cointreau and orange syrup, Rich dark chocolate mousse infused with fresh orange.  The gateaux is topped with an orange gel, and decorated with Chantilly cream flavoured with cointreau and orange oil, a dark chocolate cake collar, and toffee shards/shapes. 

This rich chocolate sponge cake was a development from the Experimental mocha torte I posted earlier- in particular improving the mousse filling consistency, and selecting the best flavoured chocolate as the base for this recipe.

I ran out of time to create a new cream design on the top, so I just used an old standard design.  I was preparing dinner as well, usually I bake tortes or gateaux cakes a day before to let the flavours meld.   However we had other engagements that day, so the pressure was on :P     (Just to share with you, dinner was Roast rib eye beef with a hazelnut, bacon and fresh herb crust, red wine and mushroom sauce, creamy mashed potato and steamed vegies- so you can see my time was limited, but Hubby A was well chuffed and stuffed! ;) )

So, grab big cup of coffee or tea and  join me in this baking journey….it’s a long post, as I’m including the recipe and pics.  I hope you enjoy your read…And YES, it was really, really rich and delicious.

Chocolate Orange Gateaux

I’m going to write the recipe in the overall order of procedures for making the cake.

Chocolate Genoise Sponge

1) Bake genoise sponge cake, following my recipe at an earlier post.  I added 3 large tablespoons of best quality dutch cocoa powder to the plain flour and sifted it twice before sifting it finally into the batter.  This is important, as you want a smooth and even colouring of cocoa throughout the batter.  If it’s not sifted thoroughly you may end up over beating the batter and then deflating the air you’ve beaten into the eggs and sugar mix.

2) Once the cake has been cooled, cut in half and liberally brush with cointreau syrup.  You will have some cake left over to make an extra layer, and you’ll have enough filling to do so.  I usually like to have more than one filling layer, but for this cake I used one…totally up to you.

TIP:To stop your sponge layers from sticking to baking paper.  Sprinkle the paper with caster sugar before you place the sponge layer onto it.  The fine grains of sugar stop the sponge from sticking, and they won’t be crunchy in your filling later.

TIP:You could even prepare the cake up to this step the day before filling and creaming the cake.  Put the other layer of cake on top, with the baking paper in between, then put into a plastic cake carry all and leave in the fridge overnight.  I always return the cake to this carrier in between layering the cake, as discussed in this recipe.

 

Chocolate genoese sponge cut into layers and coated with syrup

 

Cointreau Syrup:

1) Boil freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange with 3 tablespoons of catser sugar, until the sugar has dissolved. 

2) Once cooled, add 3 tablespoons of cointreau or any other orange liqueur. 

TIP: I always use a silicone brush for applying the syrup to the cake as it doesn’t lose hairs, and doesn’t retain smells.  I also put this brush in a safe place so that no one uses it for marinades for meats etc- just to be on the safe side :) .

3) Line the tin with plastic food wrap, this is important for holding and setting the mousse layers.  Place the thickest layer of sponge, usually a base layer at the bottom of the tin, as shown in the photo above.

 

 

Chocolate Orange Mousse:

This is a custard mousse, but without eggs like you would use to make a proper custard.  I find this method works well in all weather conditions like humidity, it’s more forgiving.   It also doesn’t use raw eggs in the mousse.  I’ve also used this mousse filling as a dessert in glasses with biscotti and as a cupcake filling.

1) In a medium sized saucepan, add 450 mL of full cream milk and 200g of Lindt 70% dark cooking chocolate.  Heat until chocolate has melted thoroughly.

2) Add the rind of 1/2 an orange to this mixture.

3) Mix 100g of Chocolate pudding powder (I use Oetker or Ruff brand, alternatively you could use vanilla custard powder mixed with 2 tablespoons of cocoa) with 3 tablespoons of vanillin sugar and 50mL of full cream milk.  Mix to a paste, then add to pot mixture, stir over a low heat until thick.

4) Remove pot from heat and pour custard into a fine sieve to strain out any lumps and the orange rind.  The rind will have infused it’s flavour into the custard.

5) Cover custard with some plastic wrap or a sheet of baking paper, so that it doesn’t form a skin.  Allow to cool.  I used my freezer to cool it down, checking regularly that it doesn’t freeze!

Strain your custard.  Boiling the Orange syrup for the gel

6) Whip 200mL of thickened full fat cream with a little icing sugar if you feel the custard wasn’t sweet enough.  It should be whipped until stiffened and globby.  Add to cooled custard and hand whisk through, until all of the cream is incorporated thoroughly. 

7) Mix 2 teaspoons of gelatine with approximately 60mL of boiling water.  Add to custard mix, it will separate a little at first, but whisk through thoroughly.  Pour some of the filling onto one layer of cake.  Put into freezer or fridge for about 8 minutes, then add another layer of cake if you wish, and repeat the filling.  Return cake to fridge until you’re ready to add the gel layer.

 

Orange Gel:

1) To a small pot add the juice of 1 orange and the rind of that orange.  Add 3 tablespoons of sugar, depending on how sour the orange is.  Bring to the boil, until the sugar is dissolved, and continue boiling until the syrup starts to reduce.

2) Strain liquid, and return to heat.  I use a product called Tortenguss by Ruff or Oetker, it’s a clear gelling agent

I added 1/2 a packet of this to the pot, and whisk until thickened.  The colour will go from cloudy to clear.  Pour gel onto the top of your cake.  It will set quickly, so work quickly.

3) Return cake to fridge.

Chantilly Cream:

1) Whip 200mL of thickened cream with a tablespoon of icing sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons of cointreau and a 1/2 teaspoon of orange oil.  Whip until thick. Add to piping bag and put into a long container, and leave until later.

Toffee:

You could make this toffee the day before.

1) Add 200mL of water to 1 cup of caster sugar.  Slowly bring to the boil.  Do not stir, just swish the pot a little ever now and then.  Do not leave toffee unattended.  Keep the sugar syrup on the heat until it starts to just go a yellowy brown, remove from the heat and pour over a mould, as shown in the picture (the paper has been draped over a rolling pin).  Allow to set and harden. 

2) Gently break up pieces.

Chocolate Collar:

1) Prepare a long strip of baking paper that will go around the circumference of your cake.  I placed extra baking paper down under this strip, so that I don’t have clean chocolate off the bench.

2) Melt 200g of Lindt 70% dark cooking chocolate, then using a spatula, evenly spread the melted chocolate over the strip.  Gently pick up the strip and wrap around your cake, pinching the ends together.

3) Allow chocolate to set- I returned it to the fridge to speed this up.  Remove baking paper carefully.  You can break the top edges as I have done, as this compliments the visual of the shards of toffee in the central design.

 

Finally:

1) Pipe your cream design and arrange the toffee on top of the gel.  Return to the fridge until ready to eat.

2) If you’re going to eat the cake that day, it’s okay to add the toffee.  If you’re making this cake the day before, add toffee before serving otherwise it will soften in the cream and gel.  Store unused toffee in a clean glasses jar, and use for some other topping at a later date, or eat it :) .

Thanks for reading this recipe through to the end…I hope it was worth it :) .  I’d love to hear your comments, particularly if you’ve had a go at this recipe.

My Christmas Baking List

I’ve finally gotten my act together, and put pen to paper, and written 2010′s Christmas baking list

Christmas Baking List

For me, Christmas baking is the way I integrate the cultures of my household, baking traditional cakes or biscuits and cookies, and then sharing them through the month with friends and family.

Each year I have some staples, like something gingerbread, something spicy and fruity, something chocolatey and a couple of other baking items I’ll be inspired by to create along the way!

So here’s my list, and I’ll be posting the recipes throughout the month of December:

1) Stained glasses Window Christmas trees.

I’ll be baking these with the kids, but probably not hanging them on the tree.  In Australia our Christmas is quite warm, and it doesn’t matter how much you air condition, the lolly has melted, even in my gingerbread house’s stained glass-lolly windows!

2) Gingerbread house, the one in the graphic for this post was one of my houses from a few years ago.

3) Gingerbread iced hearts and snowflakes

4) Honey Bread, great for a cake platter when visitors drop in, and keeps well for the month!

5) Liegnitzer Cookies, these are more like a cake-let, or mini-cake.  A soft spicy, nutty, fruity German Christmas pastry, coated in jam and then chocolate.

6) Cinnamon Stars – excellent for gluten free baking and using up left over egg whites- does contain almonds or hazelnuts.

7) Lemon hearts- excellent for gluten free baking and using up left over egg whites- does contain almonds or hazelnuts.

8) Passionfruit swirls.  A passion fruit shortbread piped in a swirl and iced with a butter passion fruit icing.

9) Chocolate fruit cake in cupcakes (mainly for teacher gifts and friends who drop in over the Christmas period).

10) Christmas muffins recipe.  Great recipe for Christmas morning brakfast or Boxing Day breakfast. 

So there we have it.  I’ve planned all of my shopping so that I can buy all the ingredients in two lots.  All of the baking has been spread throughout the month, around kids activities and concerts and break up parties.  Fingers crossed, and wish me luck. 

What are you baking for Christmas- I’d love to know!

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