Sunday, September 30, 2012

Grapefruit and Pepper Meringue Tartlets

I remember sitting in the airport alone two years ago and waiting to board a plane. I was heartbroken and scared. "This is it," I thought "this is the rest of my life." I had with me one small suitcase and a tiny amount of money in my savings account to get me through the first few months at pastry school until I could find a job. I had worked hard all year in order to be able to do start a new little life, a brave new adventure. Everything was going to come together in the next two years. I had planned to graduate top of my pastry class, meet a nice boy and go on to maybe start my own business, or make a fortune doing something amazing and creative.

I had pegged a lot of hope on these two years, and what a crazy amazing two years they have been. I'm only one term off graduating pastry school, and at times I've been feeling nearly as scared as I was that day I was about to board the plane. Somedays it has all seemed a bit like a strange dream.
(From sneaky drinks with one of my favourites, at my favourite bar.)

I'm so proud of the life I have made for myself here, full of wonderful, interesting people, and a job which I enjoy. However I cant help but think that maybe I expected a wee bit too much out of those two years......maybe I expected myself to be fully 'grown up' by twenty two........and well I'm not. And the elusive 'price charming' has yet to appear, ever though I have seen glimpses of him in several people, unfortunately the 'real deal' is yet to show up.

So what next? I'm really not so very sure. I've been looking into the costing of attending the top pastry school in the world, which is in paris (of course) and if I stumble upon $52,000 thats where I will be heading (honestly, if you attend that place your set for life in the pastry world........all the cool kids in the hospitality world go there.....alas.) Until then though I'm just going to start applying for jobs and baking cakes at home, and dreaming up some big dreams, because you never know what might happen.

Three years ago when my mum asked me if I could do anything with my life what would I do I said it would be going to pastry school, but I thought it would be impossible, and here I am. If someone asked me today I would tell them my ideal plan would be to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, it feels impossible, but maybe not!

Grapefruit curd and black pepper meringue tarts

Yes it sounds strange.....but its delicious. The recipe is from the beautiful Rachel Khoo

You will need:

For the curd:

  • 1 grapefruit
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • 1 egg, plus one egg yolk whisked together
  • 1 heaped table spoon of corn flour
  • 50g of soft butter chopped
For the bace: 
  • 75g of butter softened
  • 75g of caster sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 100g of plain flour
  • 2tsp of baking powder
Italian Meringue:
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp of cracked black pepper
What to do:
  1. First off start with the curd as it will need some time to cool in the fridge. Squeeze the grapefruit so that you have 90ml. Also finely zest the fruit.
  2. Mix together the juice, zest, egg, sugar and cornflour. Place in a pot over low heat, and cook continually stirring. Don't cook too high or leave the pot otherwise it may scramble. It will be cooked when the mix coats the back of a spoon. Take of the heat and slowly stir in the cubes of butter, stirring until dissolved.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180
  4. To make the biscuit bace, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer,until thick and pail. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  5. Add the flour, baking powder and zest, and mix together until it resembles a smooth paste. 
  6. In Rachels she pipes the mixture into 6 metal desert rings that have been greased. Firstly you pipe the bace of the rings (in a circle like snail shape) and then pipe one ring up around the sides so it forms a sort of cup shape. I however don't own any desert rings so I did the same thing but in a muffin tin. I Oiled and lined the muffin tin with baking paper so that they would come out easily. If those instructions don't make much sense check out this tutorial as it explains it all very perfectly.
  7. Place the piped bases in the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  8. Lastly the meringue......don't be intimidated! Place the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a pot on low heat and stir until dissolved. Turn to high heat and boil the mixture until it reaches 118 on a sugar thermometer. I actually don't have one of these, and in pastry school we learnt to gage the temperature in which its ready by placing a fork in the mixture, withdrawing it, and then blowing between the prongs of the fork. If a bubble formed (like when you blew bubbles with a little bubble blower as a kid) then it would be ready. This however is kinda dangerous as sugar can really really burn your skin when its at that temperature. Another way to tell is if you drop some of the mixture into really cold water and a sticky ball forms that means its ready. Either way, find a system that works for you. 
  9. Just before the sugar mix reaches this point, start beating together you egg whites and pepper with an electric beater until they are bubbly and a little fluffy.
  10. Drizzle the sugar mixture into a running electric beater, and then continue to beat the mixture until it is glossy and thick.
  11. To assemble the desert, place some curd in each bace, and spoon some meringue on top. Use a knife, or an offset pallet knife to smooth the top.
  12. Brulee the tops of the tarts with a blow torch.....or if you're like me and yours blew up (or you just don't have one.) Place them under the grill for a minute or so, or until the tops get a little golden. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Birthday Coconut Cake

Today I bought my first phone on a plan......and let me tell you, it was a little scary! My whole life I have used prepaid phones, afraid of the huge commitment of a plan. Today however I overcame this! I feel more mature already.

Ok ok.....I know this blog is meant to be about food, and romance, but let me tell you, I am much too busy at the moment for much you will have to settle with my stories of phones on plans and what not (the boy who sold me the phone was a wee bit cute though. I resisted asking him on a date, so that I could go home and do homework instead. I told you this phone is making me mature already.)

Anyway here is a little sneak peak of what last week looked like for me when I wasn't working......It was a week fully of birthday celebrations, and I felt lucky to share in all the fun with my housemate and her family and friends.

 Birthday Breakfasts!

 Cream Cheese Chocolate cakes! Delicious......and I loved the party sprinkles !!

 Cookie decorating time for parties!

Birthday Coconut Cake
(From Good Taste Magazine)

  • 1 cup of desiccated coconut
  • 400ml of coconut milk
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2tsp of coconut essence

Soak all these ingredients together for one hour.

  • 375g of butter
  • 2 and 1/4 cups of sugar

Cream together until light and fluffy

  • Add 5 eggs, one at a time

  • Add 3 and 3/4 cups of self raising flour in alternation with the coconut mix.

Mix everything together so there is no lumps

Pour into two greased and lined cake tins (its best if one is bigger than the other so that one cake can sit on top of the other when cooked.)

Bake at 160 for one hour and a half.

For frosting:

  • 300ml of cream
  • 300g of white chocolate

Bring the cream to the boil, and pour over the chocolate.
Stir until smooth
Let the mix cool until slightly thickened

Place the smaller cake on top of the larger one, and cover with the white chocolate frosting.

Sprinkle with some extra coconut

And eat!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Coin Laundry and coconut cake

I feel like every time I write this blog I go on and on about how busy I have been. This week has been no exception. No matter how much I have wanted to sit and type out this blog, I just haven't found the energy to do it. So here I find myself at seven o'clock on a sunday night sitting in the laundry matt finally getting it done.

One of my best friends believes that no matter how happy your feeling, going to a laundry mat will always make you feel sad. I have had some very boring laundry mat experiences, and some sad memories of lugging half dry clothes home in the rain.....but for some reason the laundry mat still holds a tiny bit of mystique for me. I think its because one a boy I liked came with me on one of my clothes washing trips and spent the whole time serenading me with love songs and playing acoustic songs he had written while we sat on the plastic chairs, or maybe its that Lisa Mitchell song about meeting a boy at the coin laundry. Either way, every time I come here I am certain something terribly romantic will happen. Maybe I will meet the love of my life here (gosh I hope not! that would mean he cant afford a washing machine either!) But I started this whole long story to stress the point that....sunday night has been the only chance I have had to steal away to the coin laundry and wash my bits and bobs.

Although this week has been hectic and crazy and busy there have been a lot of fun things happening too. It was my housemates birthday, and it felt like a whole week of celebrations, which gave me several excuses to try out some new cake recipes. I love birthdays for this very reason! No birthday seems complete without lots of treats and loads of flowers......and these just happen to be two of my favourite things.

I made a huge coconut cake from a recipe I found in a magazine last week for my housemates family dinner. It was so delicious and moist and coconuty! I really do recommend it. I'll leave you with the recipe next time I write a blog post.....because well, there is a bar across the road and I might just pop in for a wee glass of whine while my whites are being washed, since there is no romance blooming at the coin laundry.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pastry Kitchen

This week my life has fallen into a pattern of work, work placement, running, cocktails, and sleep. Honestly time is going by so crazy quickly! I started to feel so bogged down by this routine, and have been trying to find ways to keep life light, and beautiful still. 

Today at placement I was given the task of making all the flowers to go on top of the cakes for high tea.  All day I was hunched over a bench cutting out flowers, paining flowers with icing dust, and piping tiny dots in the middle of each flower. Sometimes I feel like they give you the worst jobs at placement just to test you, and see how you react. If you get quite and moody they are never going to take you seriously, but if you get on with the job as quickly as possible, your likely to earn a little bit of respect. So I quickly and happily worked my way through hundreds of flowers today and thanked both chefs when I was done........the things you do when you are on the bottom ranks in a kitchen!!

Although if I am honest, I really didn't mind too much at all. Its just so lovely to be inside that pastry kitchen. There are three of us most days (all girls) working away quietly. In the big kitchen next door you can hear men yelling and swearing and running around, but in the pastry kitchen we have music playing, and sometimes girly chats. The pastry chefs also let me eat macaroons! 

Have have been so busy all week I haven't even gotten into the kitchen to work on some new recipes. I've got some lovely ideas for some new sugar cookie designs, and a few cakes I want to try out.......but for now its cocktail hour! Night! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Spiced Peanut butter and Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches

I always intend to write so many more blogs in a week. I plan to do it. I think about doing it.....but lets be honest, as high as this is on my priority list, so is making myself a cocktail and watching cougar town (that was a hard one to admit.) But is going by so very fast and very soon I will be finished pastry school for good! Im already researching other pastry courses overseas to do next (when I'm rich.)

In the mean time, I have been throwing dinner parties, having picnics, and baking cookies (oh and working, studding, doing work placement, and running.....but that stuff isn't so interesting.)

Last night I decided to throw a three course dinner party for two of my very good friends. Its so rare I have the time (and pennies) to do a three course meal these days, so it was such bliss to spend the day pottering around the house baking. I had my first go at curing salmon.....and it was so so so very yummy. I served it with pickled asparagus and ricotta cakes. It was one of my favourite things I've eaten in ages, so I ate it again for breakfast the next day. I also make some very yummy cocktails with a lime sugar syrup, cucumber, and mint. They were much much too easy to drink!
(My new favourite meal)

(Goodness I really really loved this gluten free chocolate pecan pie! There is something so comforting about pie is there not?)

Anyway I promised to give you recipe to the cookie sandwiches I took on my sunny picnic earlier in the week. I made the recipe simply because it used everything I had around the house when I needed to make a quick desert. I had a few left over cookies from a batch I hadn't got around to icing.They are really very easy, but such an indulgent treat.  I love them because they feel so childish, but you can serve them for a desert to your grown up friends, and still feel impressive.
(These left over cookies from this batch is what inspired the cookie sandwiches.)

Cookie sandwiches.

One batch of this sugar cookie recipe
1tsp of mixed spice
1tsp of cinnamon
Crunchy peanut butter
200ml of cream
200g of dark chocolate

What to do:

  • Make one batch of sugar cookies from the link provided. However when you are mixing together the dry ingredients add the mixed spice and cinnamon. Cook as directed.
  • Let the cookies cool!
  • Break up the chocolate and place in a bowl.
  • Bring the cream to a boil.
  • Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and leave to sit for a minute. Stir the mix until smooth and all the chocolate has melted.
  • Set the chocolate mix aside to cool. I usually put it in the fridge to let it set, and take it out every so often and give it a stir. You want the consistency to be smooth and spreadable. 
  • Spread half the cookies with one teaspoon of peanut butter and the other half of the cookies with the chocolate mix. 

  • Sandwich the cookies together and eat them all up at a sunny picnic. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chicken Tortillas

Spring is finally here. I can't believe I've made it through yet another Melbourne winter! As the sun comes out I feel like I'm slowly starting to thaw. The cold is seeping out of my bones, and I feel ready to come out of hibernation. Its funny how much of a difference a little sunshine can make. I've been jumping out of bed in the mornings and setting off on jogs around the park. Things seem a bit more possible when its warm. Adventures feel more likely, and instead of opting to head home, now I feel like suggesting going out for pints of cider in the sun.

So to celebrate all this sunshine I decided to head to the park with a couple of friends for our first picnic of the season. It felt glorious to be eating outside. I really can't stress enough how happy this warm weather is making me. I feel like a different person.

Anyway.....I got very inspired and decided to make some treats for us to eat while we drank our cider in the sunshine. I made some chicken tacos which I must say were delicious, and then for desert we had spiced cookie sandwiches with peanut butter and chocolate filling (because that totally goes with my whole 'getting fit for summer' thing......oh well, you have to live....and cookie sandwiches are truly living.) The idea for cookie sandwiches came from a mish mash of left overs. I had some chocolate gnash from a chocolate cake I had make earlier in the week, and the cookies were left over from a batch I had made on Sunday but never got around to icing......and well everyone just loves peanut butter. I could very easily get addicted to this new treat. I'll give you the recipe for this later in the week.

Lets talk about chicken tortilla's. They are so yummy and incredibly easy to make. For some reason most people are intimidated by making bread of any sort (even though its easy) but this my friend doesn't even have yeast (or any of that scary jazz) so its just a matter of mixing and kneading and big deal at all. You can really do whatever you want for the filling. I marinated chicken is some garlic and spices and then grilled it. Then we added some store bought dips, organic mescaline mix, and avocado. Its perfect for shared park food, because you can make it up on the spot and its not too messy to eat.

So make it.... get out into the park.....and enjoy this wonderful sun!!

(Makes 18)
4 cups of plain flour
50g of butter
1 tsp of salt
2 and 1/2 cups of boiling water

  1. In a large bow,l rub the butter into the flour and salt until the mix resembles bread crumbs.
  2. Pour in the boiling water.
  3. Mix with a wooden spoon until the mix comes together.
  4. Pour out onto a floured surface and knead for two minutes until smooth.
  5. Divide the mix into 18 equal portions.
  6. Roll each piece into a circle. They should be quite thin and about 20 cm round.
  7. Heat a non stick fry pan and add a few drops of oil.
  8. Cook the tortillas one at a time for about 1 minute on each side.
  9. Place them in a stack, covered with a tea towel to keep them warm while the rest are cooking.

Spiced Chicken

4 chicken thighs
1tsp of chilli flakes
2tsp of smoked paprika
1tsp of thyme
2tbs of soy source
1tsp of sesame oil
2 cloves of crushed garlic
2 tbs of oil
1tsp of turmeric

  1. Mix all the ingredients in with the chicken in a bowl.
  2. Massage the chicken to make sure everything is mixed through.
  3. Cover and place in the fridge  for an hour.
  4. Take the chicken out of the fridge and put in a preheated not stick frying pan.
  5. Cooking the chicken, turning occasionally, on both sides, at a medium heat until cooked though (you can always cut into it if you are unsure.)
  6. Slice the chicken up into small pieces.
Bring your other favourite fillings for the tortillas and roll them up!!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Goodness I love a home day. There is nothing better than knowing you have a whole day to yourself where you can just relax, do some baking and have a big rest. Lately I have become incredibly selfish with my seems so rare that I actually have a free moment these days that I am not laying in a heap of exhaustion. So when theses wonderful rare home days come along, I just want to guard them with my life. I only leave the house for coffee and baking ingredients, but apart from that I just spend the whole day in the kitchen. Its so very satisfying.....and inspiring.

Speaking of inspiring....what's inspiring you these days?

 I've been making a very conscious effort to look for things that just make my heart dance! When life is so crazy busy sometimes you have to just make sure you gather some beautiful things around you to make sure you don't get too bogged down by life.

Here's my little list of what's making me extra happy this week:
  1. The Hummingbird Bakery Cook Book. Its full of wonderful cakes that all look so rustic and pretty. I baked some pretty yummy cakes from it this week
  2. Sweetapolita......its a cooking blog about a wonderful lady who bakes amazing things. I found her little blurb about who she is and what she does so inspiring. Check it out
  3. Anthology Magazine . How can you not love a magazine that is about 'living with substance and style'? Beautiful! 
  4. A clean kitchen!! Its so nice having a clean work space for creating.
  5. Black Bottom Cupcakes!! Goodness these things are great!! They are half mud cake, and half baked cheese cake with a cream cheese frosting. I got the recipe from the Hummingbird bakery cook book.
6.Hanging out with good friends.

7.Baking funny cakes for friends birthdays. 

Black Bottom Cup Cakes

Chocolate sponge Base:

  • 190g plain flour
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 40g coco powder
  • 1/2 tsp of bicarb soda
  • 40ml of sunflower oil
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp of white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract 
  • 125 ml of water
Cheesecake filling:
  • 140g of cream cheese
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 100g chocolate chips
Cream cheese frosting:
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 50g of icing sugar at room temperature
  • 125g cream cheese (cold)
  1. First make the chocolate cake mix!
  2. Mix together all dry ingredients in an electric mixer on low speed.
  3. In a just combine wet ingredients and mix.
  4. With electric mixer on a medium speed slowly add all wet ingredients and whisk until everything is incorporated. 
  5. Place patty pans in a muffin tin and 2/3 fill with chocolate mix.
  6. Next for the cheese cake filling, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth and fluffy.
  7. With a spatular mix through the chocolate chips.
  8. Divide the mix evenly on top of the chocolate cake mix.
  9. In a preheated oven bake the cup cakes for 20 minutes or until the cake feels firm and the cheese cake mix is lightly golden.
  10. To make the icing beat together icing sugar and butter until combined (this is best done with an electric mixer.)

11.Next add the cold cream cheese and beat until smooth. 

12.When cup cakes have them....and eat them!