Monday, March 25, 2013

Pear Parsnip and Fig Cake

As winter starts to settle upon us in Melbourne town the days are starting to get shorter and the weather more gloomy. I am saddened by the knowledge that for everyday that it is cold outside it will be at least ten degrees colder underground in the pastry kitchen I am working in. Some days I feel I live my whole existence going to and from my job and all my spare time is spent organising functions and cooking for the hotel. Last week I started to feel like the cold was seeping into my bones and no matter what I did I couldn't get warm. I tried going for a run. I tried eating lots of cake. I tried drinking lots of wine, but nothing would pull me out of the gloom that had descended upon both me and the city.

This sounds a little serious yes, but last week I felt serious. I had so many moments of wondering what I was doing working my life away and missing out on all the sunshine. "This," I thought to myself "Was never the plan." I was meant to be making cakes to change the world and make people happy, not simply to pay the bills and supply me with cocktail money. When did these ideals shift? When did I stop writing? When did I stop having dinner parties? When did I get so damn serious?

I invited a beautiful boy over for dinner the other night and spent an hour fighting with him over the most trivial of trivial things........and this is when I realised things had to change. The moment I stop simply cooking for the people I care about in favour of arguing with them is the moment that I know life is out of whack.

So this is what I did.......I threw a dinner party for some of my favourite ladies, and it reminded me of how supported I am. I baked a cake for a beautiful artist, to remind him that I'm not just a crazy argumentative girl. I put on my prettiest dress and sat in a cafe to write and I spent the good majority of one day in bed.

These things are beautiful, but they still didn't remove the chill from my bones, because the thing I realised is, it doesn't matter how wonderful your friends are, or how beautiful the boy sitting next to you is, or how much cake you eat......unless you view these things with gratitude.

This is the only thing that will remove winter chills......thankfulness.

So this week Im going to try to be so incredibly grateful for all the small and all the significant things in my life.....and then I'll go about baking some more cakes. 

Here is a cake Im grateful for having made....because it was delicious... I hope you like it to. The recipe is from a beautiful book

Parsnip, Pear and Fig Cake

You will need:

  • 250g of a mix of grated pear and parsnip. 
  • 100g of dried figs diced finely 
  • 20 grated fresh ginger
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon
  • 150g of spelt flour
  • 1tsp of mixed spice
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 150g of almond meal
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g of brown sugar
  • 125ml olive oil
  • 125g butter (softened)
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla essence.
What to do:

1. Mix together pear, parsnip, figs, ginger lemon and lemon juice in one bowl.
2. In a separate bowl mix together flour, spices, baking powder and almond meal.
3. In an electric beater beat the eggs and sugar until thick and pale. This will take about 5 minutes. While the motor is still running slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whip of another 3 minutes.
4. Fold in the dry ingredients.
5. Fold in the vegetable and fruit mix.
6. Place the mix in a oiled and lined cake tin and bake in a preheated oven at 180 for half an hour or until a squire inserted in comes out without looking wet. The recipe that I adapted this from said half an hour but realistically I think it probably took over an hour....just keep an eye on it.
7. To make the cream cheese frosting beat together the butter and cream cheese until incorporated. Add icing sugar and vanilla and beat again.
8. Once cake is completely cooled spoon the icing on top!   

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spiced Banana Cakes with Candied Popcorn.

"Why haven't you been writing as much lately," my mother enquired late last week. It made me realise how much I've missed this little blog, and how much my new job has been taking over my life. Who knew helping to run a five star hotels pastry kitchen could be so demanding. Last week on my way home I stopped off at a friends house in order to just pop in and say hello, and instead fell asleep in there bed and ended up not leaving it until 5 am the next morning where I picked myself up, put myself on a tram, bought some coffee and pastries and headed into work to do it all over again.

So yes life is being a tiny bit exhausting, but also very beautiful at the same time. This job (which is so demanding at times I feel like I'm in a second relationship with a very needy man who always wants my love, time and effection) is teaching me a lot, and that is my favourite thing about falling in love (with jobs and people) is it stretches pushes your limits and it examines the things that make you happy and those that make you awfully sad. It takes you to your limits so you can take a good hard look at yourself and say "oh this is what I need" or alternatively "I do not need this at all."

These things, this stretch, this growth of career and the heart is what has been keeping me away from writing, but let me asure me, it has not kept me away from cooking. In the past few months I have made some of the most beautiful cakes and creations that I really cant wait to share with you. I have also been spending a wee bit of time with a beautiful sweet toothed boy which is allowing me to shower him with  new recipes and treats.

This recipe that Im going to share with you is one of those such treats. I made them and presented them with an off hand comment of "oh yes I just had these cakes sitting around the house. I made them for my blog but your more than welcome to have one." Such such lies. Lets be honest here friends......I made these cakes for him....0N A THIRD DATE....(because thats what I do) and had spent a day considering what sort of cake he would best like and look the most impressive. My housemates boyfriend came over the same day I made these and the two boys sat together at our kitchen table munching on the sweets.......and let me tell you, it was the happiest moment of my week. Nothing at all makes me more happy than seeing to beautiful boys hungrily eating food I've prepared. Whenever this happens I have moments of "This is exactly what I want to be doing with my life" and all the early mornings working at a hotel,  working late into the afternoon, and not having time for lunch breaks really doesn't matter anymore.

I hope you enjoy these cakes, I hope they make you as happy to make as they made me. I hope you have someone to give them to, and I hope he is keeping a cheeky smile on your face throughout a long day at work.

Banana and Spice Cupcakes with Candied Popcorn. 

You will need:

  • 185g butter
  • 230g sugar (caster)
  • 3 eggs
  • 310g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • 185g sour cream
  • 2 tbs of maple syrup
  • 3 very ripe mashed bananas
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1tsp of allspice (the sweet one not the savoury one......sometimes I get confused which is silly really)
  • 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
For the frosting:
  • 80g cream cheese (soft)
  • 50g butter (soft)
  • 1 and 1/2 tbs of honey
  • 250g icing sugar (sifted)
For the popcorn:

  • 1tbs of oil 
  • 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels
  • 15g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup of caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp of salt

What to do:

  • Preheat the oven to 180
  • Beat together the butter and sugar until light in colour, this will take about 5 minutes.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well in between each addition. 
  • Fold in dry mixture, banana, sour cream, and maple syrup.
  • Divide mix into patty pans and bake in the oven until they are light golden in colour and when you insert a skewer it comes out clean (about 20 minutes)
  • Let the cakes cool
  • Beat together the butter and cream cheese.
  • Add honey.
  • Mix in icing sugar.
  • In a saucepan heat the oil. 
  • Add the popcorn and cover with a tight fitting lid, shake from time to time, and cook until all the popcorn has popped (this is seriously really really fun.)
  • Put the popcorn aside (if you can....)
  • Place the butter, honey and sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat and stir until butter has melted. 
  • Turn the heat to high (dont stir it from this point in) and cook for about 4 minutes until it becomes golden and thickened. You can swirl the pan from time to time to make sure its cooking evenly.
  • Remove from the heat and add the bicard soda, stir to combine.
  • Working quickly pour the caramel mix over the popcorn and mix.
  • Pour the popcorn out onto a piece of baking paper and leave to set. 
To assemble: 
  • Frost the cupcakes
  • Top with as much popcorn as your heart delights!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Autumn and Weddings.

My life lately has been so very consumed by work (and dating) and I fear that I haven't had as much time as I would like for some of my favourite things (such as this blog) and people (such as you.) Its crazy how much of your life gets taken up being a pastry chef. Its such an all consuming job at times. Putting in ten hour days and doing seven day weeks is fast becoming the norm for me. Its such a strange burn out existence at times. Speaking of burning, I am not officially covered with the marks of a chef. I come home nearly every day with a new array of burns, scars and cuts. Secretly I like them. They feel like a physical reminder of how much passion I am putting into this job. 

Melbourne is starting to feel a little bit more chilly.....which means sumer has departed us and its time for the anual Ceres Autumn fair, which I'm really excited for. Its a little celebration on a community farm where they have bands, markets and food stalls. Best of all though they have a cake competition. Last year I entered a cake and got third place (I was beaten by two old ladies who have been baking cakes all their lives) and was sorely disappointed. This year I'm planning to win, and give those old ladies a run for there money. Apart from my ego getting involved, I really just like entering to support the event. The farm does some amazing work, and after they judge the cakes they sell them by the slice and all the money goes toward supporting their projects. Its such a fun tradition and I love the idea of celebrating the coming of the cooler weather. If you have any suggestions for what sort of cakes I should enter I would love to hear from you. 

On much more important news, my sister got married recently. It was one of the most magical weekend of my life. There really is something so amazingly inspiring about witnessing two people promising to spend the rest of their lives loving and supporting each other. I cried so many tears of joy for my beautiful sister. I loved getting to share this day with her and contribute in the way of cakes and cookie, and to spend some time with some of my favourite people. My best friend back home was kind enough to let me use her kitchen to bake the cakes in, and supplied my with a constant supply of coffee and wine (she knows me too well) and didn't at all mind when I got 'cake stress.' 

I hope you are all enjoying the change of seasons. I'm off to have a small drink, wrap myself in a blanket and read recipes. Enjoy the wedding photos!