Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Coconut Jam Heart Cookies

 Some days I just want everything in life to be pretty. I want my unit not to look so old and run down. I want to wear my favourite black dress all the time. I want to open the pantry and see all the ingredients I need to bake the perfect cake. I want to wear Chanel. I want a new handbag. I want all my skinny clothes to fit me. I want my fake pearls to be real. I want Champagne in the fridge. I want blueberries for breakfast. I want to look french......I want to be french.

In reality though there are runs in my stockings, the fridge is empty, I buy the cheapest wine with the last of my money, I drink green tea instead of anything sparkling, bald girls do not look french, and I wake up with the flu.

Reality isn't always fair. So this is what I do:

  • I decorate my room so it is as neat and pretty as can be.
  • I put on some red lipstick
  • I wear my most french looking hat
  • I scrub my apartment until it sparkles
  • I drink so much tea......and pretend its the expensive kind (not the kind you get on sale for $1 at the supermarket)
  • I try to make my hair sit flat, instead of sticking right up into the air like I have been sticking forks in the toaster.
  • I put on my fake pears
  • I carry on with life
  • But most of all I bake something beautiful.
Sometimes having beautiful things and luxuries is a bit hard on a pastry chefs budget, but you can always make a wee bit of your own beauty. After all Coco Chanel was just a dancer before she made it in the fashion really we all must start somewhere.

Making these cookies certainly brings a bit of beauty to your life. They just feel so lovely and pretty.

Coconut Jam Heart Cookies (Adapted from a Donna Hay Recipe.)

You will need:

  • 125g soft butter
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp of vanilla essence
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup of desiccated coconut 
  • Icing sugar (for decoration)
  • 1/2 cup of Jam.......I used boysenberry but you can use any jam you like, just try to use something thats good quality. 

What to do:
1) Messure out all your ingredients
2) Sift together the plain flour and baking powder
3)In an electric mixer (or with a hand held beater) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4)Beat in egg and vanilla
5)Fold though the dry ingredients, and work into a dough.
6) Wrap the cookie dough in some cling wrap and place in the fridge to rest for half an hour.
7) On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to about 3 cm thick.
8) Use a round cookie cutter to cut circles.
9) Use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut hearts out of half of the cookies.....make sure you have an even number otherwise you will have to eat the mismatched one.
10) Bake in a moderate oven for 10 minutes.
11) Place on a cooling wrack to cool completely.
12) Dust half of the cookies with icing sugar.
13) Spread the other half cookies with jam.

14) Sandwich the cookies together. 

15) Let them make your life a wee bit more fancy.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Caramel Crunch Brownies

Before you read today's blog post I'm going to put out a warning......... These brownies are like crack (not that I do crack) and if you make probably will eat the whole yourself, right out of the fridge, in your nighty, right after breakfast........... This is purely hypothetical....and I didn't do this, I wouldn't do this, I'm just saying that YOU might.

Ok, I totally did this. 

My mother would be horrified to hear this......but I put cake eating down to 'research' for my career as a food writer and pastry chef. What can be done? 

I mad these brownies this week for a dinner party at one of my favourite friends houses. I love dinner parties so much. There is something about them that makes me feel so content about life. Everyone sits together and laughs and drinks wine and eats food and I wonder.....what more could you really want? 

Whenever there is a dinner party I always offer to do the deserts. Its the perfect excuse for me to try out a new recipe. This one I've been meaning to make for months but the right occasion hadn't come up. Its a chocolate caramel fudge brownie with a dark chocolate topping. Its insanely rich.....and very tasty.

I really loved making it with all its different layers and flavours. Lately I've really enjoyed making caramel. Its such a beautiful process and it makes me think of falling in love. At the start there are huge bubbles and everything is really exciting, then it simmers down a bit, and you have to cook it, slowly, and watch it continually. Then if your lucky and know what your doing the caramel turns a deep golden colour and its perfection. If you take your eye off it or leave it too long it smokes and goes brown. Its all a bit temperamental, but if it works out.......its perfection. 

I spent all of yesterday baking, taking photo's, reading Donna Hay and drinking big cups of jasmine tea. It was cold and rainy outside and inside I just felt so very happy and content with my caramel. 

 You will need:

  • 100g chocolate
  • 125g butter
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 2eggs
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 1 tbs of coco
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
For the caramel crunch:
  • 2 cups of caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of single pouring cream
  • 50 g butter
  • 2 cups of puffed rice
For the topping:
  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup pouring cream

What to do:

1) Firstly you start with the brownie. Melt together butter and chocolate and let cool.
2) Lightly beat eggs.
3) Sift together dry ingredients.
4) In a large bowl mix together dry ingredients, the melted chocolate mix, eggs and vanilla essence. 
5) Pour into a greased and lined brownie tray and bake for 30 minutes at 180 or until just firm to touch.

 7) Once brownie is cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
8) Place the sugar and water in a pot over low heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Use a wet pastry brush to brush down any grains of sugar that stick to the side of the pot, this way you wont get lumps or grains in your caramel.
9) Once the sugar is dissolved turn the caramel to high heat and cook for 8 to 10 minutes without stirring.
10) When it reaches a warm golden colour stir in the cream and the butter.
* Make sure both these ingredients are at room temperature of the caramel may set right away. I usually cut the butter into little squares which makes it easier to mix in.
11) Stir though the puffed rice and pour onto of the brownie. Use an offset spatular or a knife the spread it out evenly.
12) Leave to set at room temperature for half an hour
 13) On a low heat melt together the chocolate and cream.
14) Pour over the caramel mix and leave to set at room temperature for 3 hours.

I always eat a tiny bit out of the corner because I cant wait to see what it tastes like
 The Whole this is pretty amazing and decedent. It looks so very pretty from the side with all the golden caramel and puffed rice.
  I hope you fall a wee bit in love with it too.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Gluten Free Carrot Cakes

In Melbourne town its pouring down rain all day..........its cold and windy and wet and bleak. But I am tucked up safe and sound in my tiny unit, sipping tea and eating biscotti. This weather makes me SOOOOO hungry......and I know that I MUST NOT, I MUST NOT, I MUST NOT eat biscotti for breakfast......but all the same I do, because it tastes so damn good. 

This month I really wanted to focus on not just making cakes, but on making pretty cakes. Usually I'm all about the rustic, home style food, but lately I want everything I make to be pretty.....pretty and neat. So I have been spending my time looking up new icing styles, and practicing making little fondant flowers. Its quite lovely really. 

 I've been finding it so much easier to make something neat if I start out neatly. So I have been weighing out all the ingredients, and setting them in a row before I start. Its so comforting seeing all those little bowls of fours, eggs and sugar set out in front of me. When its all so neat, it makes it much easier to pretend that everything in my life is this neat (and that I totally didn't eat chocolate for breakfast, I didn't leave the kitchen such a mess.......and all that wine, well it drunk itself!)

Gluten free Carrot Cup cakes........ They are delicious and are perfect for your gluten free friends.

  • 3/4 cup of rice bran oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated carrot
  • 1/2 cup of cup up walnuts 
  • 2 tsp of gluten free baking powder
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of gluten free flour 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/2 tsp of mixed spices 
  • 2tbs cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tsp soft butter
  • 3/4 cup gluten free icing sugar

 1) Whisk together the sugar, oil and vanilla
2) Beat in eggs one at a time

 3) Sift together flour, baking powder and spices.
4) Fold in dry mix, along with carrot and nuts.
5) 3/4 fill muffin tins and bake at 180 for 30 minutes.

 6) Beat together butter, and cream cheese.
7) Add icing sugar and whisk until smooth.

You can either pipe the icing on top of the cup cakes....of just use a butter knife. I made little hearts out of flower moulding paste by using a cookie cutter and sticking them onto toothpicks.

Hope you enjoy them.....and this cold weather....

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dark Chocolate and Cranberry Biscotti

I feel like a catch up is in order as I have been very lax with my blog writing lately. My main excuse has been work experience.....the 5.15 am starts are really killing me. There is nothing worse than walking to the tram in the dark to a job that you won't get payed for. Luckily I have only one more day left........which means an end to being harassed by an older married man (do I care to share this story? No. No, I don't......but if this person could love me to death, I would have died on my first really is a long story. 

I have been continuing with my sugar cookies. They are progressively getting better and better.....and its so very satisfying. The sort of satisfying that I totally didn't care that my housemate made fun of me for staying in on a friday night to finnish a batch of cookies.

 I have been working on my cup cake decorating, and made these amazing tasting jasmine tea and honey cakes.....they were insanely delicious right out of the oven.
 I invented a chai latte cake......which tasted pretty damn good. I brewed tea into the milk that I used in the cake and then added extra chai spices. Then I made a buttercream icing with more chia spices and vanilla.

 I bought a new skirt from Zara.......and I am a wee bit in love with that place. Its just so nice! I'm not going to lie though, the first time I went in there I was totally intimidated......there was just so many people in such well put together outfits. I didn't know what to I bought a skirt. For days I went around thinking about how fancy I was, then I got the electricity bill and the fanciness died, as the panic set it.......I SPENT HOW MUCH ON A SKIRT??
 This is the most trivial of my news.......but I have a scratch on my face, I don't even think you can see it anymore. I have no idea how I got it but woke up after 'girls night' (best you don't ask about that one either) I have been telling people I got it in a fight though......because it is about the most unrealistic thing to say.
 But finally to the important stuff.....tonight I made biscotti. I have always had a soft spot for this little treat. I remember living in noosa sending my boyfriend at the time on errands to go find biscotti. Next to none of the cafes would sell it, so we would run all over town looking for this little biscuit. The poor boy! He used to have to go on these such errands all the time.......because I would decide that I wanted Italian hot chocolate, not just any hot chocolate, or a certain sort of cocktail. Once he even made the ice cream shop open after hours......just for me. Lovely! (No wonder I complain about being single.)

Anyway, the moral of the story is I love biscotti. I don't know where this love affair began because we never had cookies in our house (I don't count gluten and sugar free wholemeal cookies as real cookies) little own italian double baked cookies, but all the same I love them dearly. I took the recipe (and the picture below) from a donna hay magazine, but when I made it myself I decided that it needed some tweaking. Instead of pistachio nuts I used dark chocolate with cranberries (I think these two flavours are best friends.) When I bit into the cookie I wanted to cry IT WAS THAT GOOD.  I'm not exaggerating.....these little babies are amazingly good. I'm just worried that we have a whole batch in the house (are really thankful I went for a run today.)

Cranberry and Dark Chocolate Biscotti

You will need:
  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder
  • 3/4 cup of caster sugar
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Finely grated zest of one orange
  • 1 cup of dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of dried cranberries

What to do:

1. Sift all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. 

2. Whisk together eggs, orange zest and vanilla.

 3. Add cranberries and chocolate to the dry mix.
4. Mix everything together
5. Add wet ingredients. Mix. Turn out onto a board and knead until smooth.
 6. Divide the dough into two. Roll into two logs that are about 20 cm long and flatten the tops.
7. Bake the logs at 160 for 30 minute or until firm to touch.
 8. Let the logs cool completely and then slice on a slight diagonal.
9. Return to the oven for ten minutes on a tray with baking paper.

10. Let them cool if you can stand it.....or eat them hot and burn your tongue. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Busy life and sugar cookies

As per usual life is being pretty hectic...... My sister just got engaged which is so very exciting, and means more menu planing which I really do love. Yesterday at work my head was full of recipes for a friends wedding which is also coming up soon. I could hardly concentrate because all my thoughts went like this: "Don't over whip the mouse otherwise it spread evenly, the cream must be at the right consistency, if I make 5 batches of pastry using 300g of flour per batch how many tarts will I get (the answer is somewhere around 70), how many lemons do I need?" You get the picture. 

Apart from this my headspace has been filled with my silly waitressing work experience. If I hear "Cherry baby you're so cute, when will you come home with me? You know I love you baby," one more time....I will scream, or cry, or both at the same time. Three shifts to go, and then I am done. I only really put up with this kind of behaviour (although I discourage it as much as possible) because I am given free macaroons. Sigh. 

The sugar cookie making is going amazingly well though. I have fallen in love with sugar cookies, and making them. I really can't get enough of it. I think I'm the only 22 year old I know that spends her last $10 for the week on new piping pieces, and gets excited when vanilla essence is on sale. I have however totally come to terms with this.....mostly. 

Next I plan to move onto gourmet cup cakes, and piping techniques for them. I'll keep you updated either way. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sugar cookies

    Lately I've been caught up thinking about two ideas............change, and sugar cookies. They are the two foremost ideas floating around in my mind, and I cant stop thinking about the both of them.

    Lets start with change. What I really really want to understand is, do people ever change? Optimistic me likes to think you can change. You can break old habits, and start new ones. You can become a better person, or change people's ideas of who you are. You can break out of old ruts and evolve into something new. But the realistic me knows that I have been trying to quit biting my nails since I was fourteen (because I had a date) but still they are tiny stumps, and that no matter how often I determine to run every day and fit into my skinny clothes, there is still a dress that hangs in my closet and only fits me about one month out of every year, and will I ever stop being a little bit in love with someone I used to know? Will people always tell me I'm cute and sweet, but not strong and brave. I wonder if I will ever really be everything I want to be. Will I always have such bad taste in men? Will I always have one cigarette ever month? Can we as people ever really change who we are? Or are we just 'doomed to be ourselves'? Stuck in a rut of who we are.

    The second think I have been thinking about is sugar cookies. Yes this is a bit of a jump in ideas (but this is how my mind works, intense thoughts, and cakes....and thats about it.) I have been experimenting with all different designs of sugar cookies and spending hours icing and decorating them. Its so very rewarding when your left with beautiful ornate little pictures that you can eat.

    I've been loving it so much because to me these cookies are a representation of change. They are so neat and tidy, and at times like can feel so messy. When I sit down and ice these cookies I can see the improvement every time I make them and it makes me think some things are changing. Some things are evolving and it gives me hope.

    Every single little dot you pipe of a sugar cookie makes up the picture, and its a little like life. Every single little decision shapes our lives and directs us towards and away from change. Hopefully things are changing. Either way, my cookies are just lovely, and I'm pretty happy about that.

    This is the base cookie recipe I used. I found it on and so far it has been the most reliable one. Hope you enjoy it.


    • 125g butter, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup (115g) caster sugar
    • 1/4 cup (60ml) milk
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 1/2 cups (225g) self-raising flour
    • 1/2 cup (70g) custard powder
    • Silver and gold sparkling cachous, to decorate


    1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
    2. Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Beat in milk and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour and custard powder.
    3. Press the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest.
    4. Divide the dough into manageable portions. Roll out one portion on a sheet of non-stick baking paper to about 1cm thick. Use Christmas cookie cutters to cut shapes and place on the trays. Decorate with cachous.
    5. Bake for 10 minutes or until light golden. Cool for 5 minutes on the trays before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Monday, May 7, 2012

On being nice....and sugar cookies

So winter has finally hit Melbourne and its freezing cold. The best place to be this time of year is in bed, and tomorrow I plan on doing just I'm a bit sick again. At the moment I feel like I get better from one thing and the next thing sets in, its so very frustrating. On top of that I've been crazy busy with work experience and work so life has been super hectic. Despite the cold, winter somehow seems to make all of this a bit more tolerable. Warm coats, hot chocolates, and big fluffy blankets seems to make everything just that little bit better.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the concept of being 'nice.' I brought up this subject with a couple of my friends in Melbourne after one of my shifts at work experience. I was feeling frustrated because everyone I met at the hotel was treating me like this sweet little 'nice' girly girl. I thought this was ridicules because its so far from the way I view myself, and was a bit confused when my friends confirmed the idea that I came across as 'sweet' and 'nice' and 'wouldn't hurt a fly'. At first I really really really rejected these ideas, because the idea of 'nice' to me seems so......vanilla and I've spent the past five years since I've been living out of home pushing myself, my ideas and my concepts on life, that I thought maybe hopefully I would come across as open minded, experienced, or a little street smart............but apparently not.

It reminds me of the time one of my boyfriends described me as a 'girly girl.' I was so surprised as I had been under the misconception that I was a little bit tough. When I stopped to think about it however, I realised how ridiculous my ideas of myself where. Also when I became aware of how girly I was coming across to people I decided to embrace it..........I went out that day and bought two new dresses.

So for days I have been trying to think of reasons why I should not be put into the 'nice' stereotype. I tried to explain to a friend how 'not nice' I was while I was delivering a fresh batch of brownies to her house. I tried to explain how awful I have been at times in my life to my housemate as I baked a batch of cookies for one of the girls at my work. I tried to think up reasons why I shouldn't be nice, and ways to counteract these idea people have of me............but for goodness sake if shaving my head didn't do the trick I don't know what will.

In the end I decided maybe it doesn't matter so very much. I gave up on the idea, and got back to icing my sugar cookies. And you know what? They taste super nice

I've been really caught up on the idea of making sugar cookies lately. I love how tricky they are to get neat (you can tell this because mine are a mess!) but how cute they look when they work out. I'm still working on the recipe and perfecting it, but I'm hoping to use them for weddings and such when I get better at them. I've seen some super cute ones of wedding dresses, that people have placed on the tables at wedding parties for little presents. So super cute.