Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake

I first read about this cake on one of my favourite blogs: Sweet Designs by Amy Atlas. Amy is based in the U.S and is renowned for her amazing event styling and dessert buffets. She provided me with the inspiration for my first ever dessert and lolly buffet which will soon feature in one of my upcoming posts. Stay tuned.
Now, on with the Bundt!

This recipe is from the cookbook  Baked Explorations by dessert gurus Renato and Matt from Baked. I read several reviews of the recipe and cake before I decided to make it and to my surprise there were several complaints regarding the consistency of the frosting. The common complaint was that the recipe called for too much liquid to be added to the frosting ( rum & burnt sugar syrup - which is divine by the way) and this seems to result in a very running frosting. I decided to adapt this part.

The cake itself is super moist and the coconut milk adds a beautiful subtle flavour to the finished cake. I must admit, I have had a bundt tin for the longest time but had never used it. I wanted something special to christen it, so this recipe seemed perfect. And it was.

There are quite a few steps to the recipe, but overall I found it rather easy. 

I have included the original recipe below for those of you who may want to try the original frosting recipe. I adapted it slightly after reading the reviews by omitting the rum and only adding enough of the burnt sugar liquid to obtain a thick consistency with the frosting. Besides, Miss L was visiting this particular day and she is pregnant so the rum wasn't an option. I also added a teaspoon of Queens vanilla paste to it.

I hope you enjoy the cake as much as we all did.

Best of luck x



Ingredients

Burnt Sugar Liquid
½ cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
Approximately 3/4 cup coconut milk
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Bundt Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼  cups unsalted butter (2. sticks) cut
into 1-inch cubes, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Burnt Sugar Liquid (see above)

Caramel Rum Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 1⁄3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Burnt Sugar Liquid (see above)

Make the Burnt Sugar Liquid
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, slowly melt the sugar. Use a wooden spoon to stir it continuously to ensure even melting. When the sugar turns a dark caramel color, remove the pan from the heat and slowly stream in the cream while continuing to stir (don’t worry if mixture starts to clump). Return the pan to medium heat and stir until completely combined; cook for 2 minutes longer, stirring. Transfer the burnt caramel mixture to at least a 2-cup heatproof liquid measuring cup (like Pyrex) and add enough coconut milk to make 1 1/4 cups liquid. Add the lemon juice. Whisk to combine, divide the mixture in half, and set both portions aside.

Make the Bundt Cake
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (About 163 degrees Celsius). Generously spray the inside of a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray; alternatively, butter it thoroughly, dust it with flour, and knock out the excess flour. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for 5 more seconds. Retrieve one of the reserved portions of burnt sugar liquid. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the burnt sugar, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again for 10 seconds. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a small sharp knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack.


Make the Caramel Rum Frosting
Put the butter, rum, confectioners’ sugar, and remaining portion of burnt sugar liquid in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until the frosting is shiny and smooth. Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting over the crown of the Bundt in a thick layer. Let the frosting set before serving.

Ready to frost

Caramel Shard Topping
This caramel shard decoration is entirely optional—but it looks spectacular. Ingredient – 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Place the sugar in a small saucepan. Add enough water—it takes approximately 1 teaspoon—to make it the texture of wet sand. Cook on high heat until the sugar turns amber. Pour the caramel onto a half-sheet pan lined with a Silpat (or other silicone nonstick) baking mat. Let cool. Break the cooled caramel into small shards and use them to decorate the frosted cake.

Caramel Shard Topping



Caramel Shard Topping


Makes one 10 inch Bundt Cake.
Enjoy !
So moist and delicious!

Tell me, do you have a favourite bundt cake recipe?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

We all scream for Ice Cream

Two weeks ago Sydney experienced a record breaking week of hot weather where each day was over 30' Celcius, that's 86' Fahrenheit on the old scale, sheesh! It was hot. According to the experts, Sydney has not seen a similar weather pattern for over 150 years.

There is one food that we all equate with hot weather and that's ice cream. Delicious, refreshing ice cream. The precursors to ice cream are believed to have begun with the Persian Empire where they would pour grape concentrate over ice and serve it in bowls, further developing it with rose water, saffron, vermicelli, fruits and different flavours to be served to royalty during the summer months, this was called faloodeh. The Arab nations were the first to introduce milk and sugar into the equation and establish commercial production techniques.

Photo: Nationaal Archief: Flickr 

In the February edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller, Adriano Zumbo and Peter Gilmore took the ice cream challenge, taste testing Australia's top ice cream brands. Why didn't they call me!??!

The challenge involved testing nine of Australia's top available brands of vanilla ice cream as well as one other flavour from each of the brands. What makes it interesting is that the testing was conducted blind, so readers are guaranteed there is no bias.

Gilmore and Zumbo touted with things like the use of eggs, excess air that is sometimes pumped into the product to increase bulk, texture, E - Numbers,  fast vs slow churn, density and the use of high quality ingredients.


The brands tested were:

  1. Sara Lee
  2. Maggie Beer
  3. Kohu Road
  4. Pat & Sticks Homemade Ice cream Co.
  5. Serendipity
  6. Ben & Jerry's
  7. Movenpick
  8. Gundowring
  9. Connoisseur

Each judge was asked to give each ice cream a score out of 10 and this was combined to give an overall score out of 20. This then equated to a star system, with three stars being the best with a combined score of between 17-20.

In summary, the best vanilla ice cream was a tie between : Maggie Beer (vanilla bean and elderflower), Connoisseur and Ben & Jerry's.

A big surprise for me was the Kohu Road, Pete and I haven't tried this but have seen it at our local supermarket and being an award winning New Zealand ice cream we thought it would be worth a try. Its not cheap either, retailing for $18.99 for 1 litre. So after reading the article I was glad we hadn't got around to trying it. It just shows you that price is not necessarily a good judge of quality. Not sure of its overall score, but it didn't even receive one star which means it's combined score was less than 10 out of 20.  The judges referred to it as 'watery' and 'strange'. Poor Kohu Road.

Out of the flavoured varieties, Connoisseurs Caramel and Honey and Gundowring's Licorice flavoured ice cream both received three stars and both judges really liked them. Runners up included Movenpick's Maple Walnut and Maggie Beer's Strawberries & Cream. 

It was a great article and so fitting for this time of year, particularly during this hot summer weather we have been experiencing here in Sydney. 

To subscribe to the wonderful Australian Gourmet Traveller, click here

Dog standing outside ice cream shop in Beynac, France
During our visit to the Perigord region of France, Pete and I visited the stunning Gardens of Marqueyssac, which offers stunning panoramic views of the Dordogne. There are more than 6 km of walks that make up a labyrinth that are the gardens. A truly magical place.

It is here that Pete and I tried the best ice cream we have both ever tasted. We enjoyed the 'Artisan' ice cream (which means that it is made on site by skilled workers), it was SO delicious! So creamy and full of flavour, not icy at all and you can tell by the taste that it is made with love using high quality ingredients. Zumbo and Gilmore would be impressed!

We started out with our ice cream ( who wouldn't?!?!) and then walked it off touring the beautiful Gardens of Marqueyssac. We both tried two different flavours each: I had violet and walnut and Pete had rose and peach.

My yummy ice cream : Walnut on top, violet on bottom

Here are some of the sites we enjoyed whilst walking off our ice cream.

Gardens of Marqueyssac, Dordogne, France



Long walks @ Gardens of Marqueyssac, France



Hut@ Gardens of Marqueyssac, France


Sculpture: Man & Mouse, Gardens of Marqueyssac, France

Gorgeous Gate, Marqueyssac Gardens, France

I hope you have enjoyed this mini tour of Marqueyssac Gardens. Tell me, what is the best ice cream you have ever tasted?



Sunday, February 13, 2011

Super Easy Zucchini Slice

Our stomachs were rumbling.


Traffic was at a standstill on the Pacific Highway.


There was an Esky, and it contained:
  • One bottle of water;
  • One ice brick;
  • One apricot muesli bar; and
  • Pete's bag of beef jerky ( erk!)

It wasn't looking good.

I started thinking about good travel friendly foods that could be packed for road trips or picnics. Anyone who has travelled North on the Pacific Hwy in NSW knows that there isn't much in the way of healthy food available. The Pacific Highway is littered with fast food chains which can be ok for the odd snack but travel for 10-12 hours and you soon get sick of them!


On our way back to Sydney, we got stuck in the worst holiday traffic and I was craving some decent filling food.One thing stood out, Zucchini Slice. My family has been cooking this delectable slice forever so I though that this was the perfect opportunity to introduce you all to the recipe.


There are many different recipes out there for this and having tried a few variations, I much prefer this one. It is super easy, tastes great and is a fantastic standby being able to be eaten hot or cold.


Super Easy Zucchini Slice




Ingredients


5 medium sized eggs ( use 6 if small)
1 cup SR flour
2-3 large zucchini ( about 500g) coarsely grated
250g rindless bacon, chopped
1 large brown onion, chopped
1 cup cheese ( tasty or cheddar is fine)
60ml vegetable or olive oil


Method


1. Preheat oven to 170'C. Grease and line a 30x20cm lamington tin or large serving dish


2. Beat eggs in a large bowl until combined. Add flour and beat until smooth.


3. Add grated zucchini, bacon, onion, cheese and oil and combine mixture.


4. Pour into dish and bake for approx 35 minutes or until golden on top and cooked through.







This can be stored in the fridge and is great cold with salads or it can be served hot. It is also great for packed school lunches, picnics and nasty traffic road trips.


Tell me, what is your favourite picnic/road trip staple?



Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rice Pudding w/ Caramel Peaches

This weeks challenge was the hardest thus far, mainly because its been a busy few weeks since the last challenge and this heat has made cooking a nightmare!



For this weeks challenge I chose a rice pudding recipe from the cookbook: Super Food Ideas : Healthy Favourites published by FPC Living. I absolutely love rice pudding and this recipe calls for it to be served immediately but being so hot I chose to make it and serve it cold straight out of the fridge. I much prefer cold rice puddings anyway, unless of course they involve condensed milk, yum! What I also found appealing about this recipe is that it took me 20 minutes to make and it involved peaches which are in season and so good right now.




One of the great things about this cookbook is that each recipe is coded according to its nutritional aspects, this recipe is Wheat Free (WF) and Saturated Fat Fee (SFF).


I halved the ingredients for the rice pudding component to make just enough for the two of us. The recipe below serves 4.


Rice Pudding with Caramel Peaches

Ingredients


1 Litre skim milk ( I used low fat)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup short grain rice
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 peaches, sliced ( I cut mine up into small chunks)
1 tbs golden syrup
1 tsp cinnamon


Method


1. Slowly bring milk and cinnamon sticks to the boil over low heat. Add rice. Cook gently for 10-12 minutes until rice is tender. Stir occasionally.


2. Remove cinnamon sticks. Blend in sugar. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until sugar dissolves and mixture is creamy. Spoon into serving dishes.


3. Place peaches and golden syrup into a small pan. Cook, stirring, over a medium heat until caramelised. Spoon peaches onto individual puddings. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve immediately.




I chopped the peaches into chunks



Bring the milk and cinnamon stick/s to the boil, then add rice and stir for 10-12 min until cooked

Caramelise the peaches with golden syrup until soft



I loved the flavour of the caramel peaches. Overall, the dish was a winner and a great dessert when served cold during this hot weather!

Difficulty Scale ( 1-5): 2
Best thing about this recipe: The caramelised peaches and rice pudding flavours work well together.
Worst thing about this recipe: Cooking the rice this way can be tedious, you must watch it and stir regularly to avoid the milk forming a skin and burning the bottom of the pan. The rice could have done with a little extra cooking as it wasn't as soft as I would have liked it.
Would I make it again: Yes
Love factor (1-5): xox



Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Top 10 Cupcakes

Those of you who know me know that I live to bake! Ever since I was little I have loved baking. I spent many weekends at Nan’s place whipping up cakes, biscuits, slices, puddings, dumplings and the odd batch of pancakes.  Over the last 12 months I have made quite a few cupcakes, some great, some not so great.

I wanted to share with you all some of my favourite cupcakes. Most of them were the result of experiments and others were made for friends or work colleagues. I hope you enjoy my Tour de Cupcake.


Pictured clockwise from top left: S & W Mini Cakes, Wedding Cupcakes, Baby Cakes, Winter Wonderland
1. Strawberry & White Chocolate Mini Cakes
Not your traditional cupcake, these mini cakes were born out of a failed attempt to perfect a white chocolate mudcake recipe. The cooking time for the original recipe didn't quite match the mood of my oven on this particular day and so I was left with a gooey mudcake centre. Having to produce something for an afternoon tea at my Nan's and not wanting to waste the entire cake, I cut out the centre and used its surrounds to make these mini square cakes. A square cupcake perhaps, minus the patty case. I filled and covered them in white chocolate ganache and decorated them with white chocolate shavings and chopped strawberries. I also melted some white chocolate and poured it on to some non stick paper and placed it into the fridge. Once it was firm I used love heart shaped cutters to cut out several love hearts and arranged them into a flower pattern on some of the cakes.The cakes tasted absolutely amazing and disaster was averted! 


White Chocolate mudcake base and ganache, strawberries, white chocolate decoration.


2. Wedding Cupcakes
These cupcakes were for a friend of a friends wedding last year. There were 80 in total and involved quite a bit of work. The bride requested neutral colours of latte and cream with  scarlet/orange accents to match the bridesmaids dresses. I used textured mats to achieve the script patterns on the cupcakes and made a combination of flowers both small and medium to decorate each cupcake. I also used silver cachos. I am very proud of the finished product and would have to say that these one of my all time favourite cake decorating feats.


Chocolate mudcake base. chocolate ganache, fondant detail.


3. Baby Cakes                                                                                           
 All 120 of these bite size cupcakes were made for a friend of Miss L's who was having a Christening for her daughter and two cousins. They were so cute and a lot of fun to make and decorate. I find there is nothing better than a good buttercake or vanilla cake with buttercream, YUMMO!

Buttercake base with buttercream icing in lime and cream colours with silver cachos.


4. Winter Wonderland
Inspired by all things cold and wintry, these cupcakes were a lot of fun to make. I entered these into a winter themed cupcake competition. There were so many amazing entries and these too took ages to complete. My favourite is the little penguin on skis.

Chocolate mudcake base, chocolate ganache and fondant detail.


Pictured clockwise from top left: Baby Cakes, The Sunshine State, Choc Overload, Animal Farm

5. The Sunshine State
Pete asked me to make some cupcakes for a fundraising day at his work to raise money for 
the victims of the recent flood disaster in Queensland. I wanted to create something bright 
and cheery to symbolise hope and these were the result. I had some beautiful handmade rice 
paper flower decorations I had bought on Christmas Island and they made a lovely addition 
to each cupcake. 
      
Many families and communities have been devastated by the floods and many have lost everything. You can help by donating to the Queensland Government's Flood Relief Appeal by clicking here
      
Choc-vanilla pound cake, dark chocolate ganache, fondant and rice paper detail.

6. Choc Overload
I made these ones during my chocolate addiction phase and shared them with a few girlfriends one afternoon. They were super good and very rich!
      
Chocolate mudcake base, chocolate icing, maltesers.


7. Animal Farm
No, these weren’t inspired by George Orwell’s classic. These are one of my favourites! I had been meaning to try out some animal design cupcakes for the longest time and these were the final result. They took hours but were a lot of fun. I got Mum to help out and I think I tested her patience.  I ended up giving some of them to Girlfriday and Mum took the rest home to share with her neighbours.

Chocolate mudcake base, chocolate ganache, fondant detail.

Clockwise from left: Spooky, S&W Mini Cakes, Flowers & Numbers, Wedding Cupcakes

8. Spooky
4.     I made these for entry into a Halloween cupcake decorating competition and was lucky to receive the runner up prize which included a Donna Hay chocolate cupcake kit ( which was absolutely scrumptious by the way!) and it came with cute little cupcake cases. I also received some gorgeous crown sugar decorations that you can sit on the lip of your glass or mug, perfect for cocktails. These cupcakes took SO long to decorate, ahhh but it was worth it, another favourite of mine. I used a combination of techniques for these some of which included marbling green fondant, grating fondant (yellow,orange and green), using sewing thread to get the deep cuts in the mini pumpkins, and twisting and painting floral wire (bat stand and spider legs).

        Chocolate mudcake base, ganache, fondant detail.

        9. Flowers & Numbers 
        Another experiment, I had bought some new cutters which included a whole range of mini number cutters. I chose to make some number and flower inspired designs and these were the result. I absolutely adore the orange flower one. I first made this flower when I made the Animal Farm cupcakes using a leaf cutter and a balling tool to make the indent. I also used a textured mat to decorate the round yellow centre.

        Chocolate mudcake base, ganache, fondant detail.

         
             
             
    10.Busy Bees ( Pictured above)
     Another experiment, I wanted to do the bee thing and boy were they fiddly little things. I got the inspiration from Debbie Brown who is a master cake decorator. These cupcakes were bite size and I made a large batch and decorated some with bees and others with different coloured sugared roses to match the paper cases.
      
        Vanilla cake, buttercream, white sprinkles and fondant detail


I hope you have enjoyed my Tour de Cupcake, I look forward to sharing many new designs and experiments with you all in the future.