Monday, September 23, 2013

Chocolate Avocado Cake

I wrote a really long blog post last week, that I did not end up posting, about making a sourdough culture. To say I was excited would be an understatement. The post was full of exclamation marks and long passages of me gushing about how easy it is to make a sourdough starter at home. I talked to all my friends about my sourdough starter. I talked to all the chefs at work about my sourdough starter. At events I would find a way to casually weave the topic into conversation (which can be hard if you’re standing around talking to a group of girls. Nothing is a subtle as "Hey I like your dress, you know what else I like? Sourdough starters.)
All this is to say; when the time came to make my bread I was pretty excited. I had just worked eight days in a row, and was exhausted, but instead of getting into bed and watching episodes of 'Breaking Bad' back to back I carefully weighed out my ingredients and set about making my first loaf. Everything looked great. The starter was bubbling nicely and had a pretty pungent smell. I impatiently waited for my bread to never did. Something, somewhere along the way went wrong and my sourdough just wasn't meant to be. I was pretty crushed and banned everyone from using the words 'yeast', 'starter', or even just talking about bread.

So this week I've started my second stater with a different method. I'll keep you updated on how it comes along, and if it works out I'll share the recipe with you.

Some other exciting new is that this week I officially started working at 'Little Cupcakes' as their flavour designer. It’s a really fun job, where I get to go in once a week, come up with a new flavour of cupcake, and test it out in the shop to see how well it sells. I had such a fun time baking my first batch of Banoffee Pie cupcakes, which were pretty delicious.

Another fun thing that happened this week was one of my best friends birthdays. I’m pretty keen on birthdays because it a great excuse to bake a cake (not that you need an excuse of course.) I wanted to make something a little fun and different that reflected her personality, so I tried out an avocado chocolate cake recipe that I've been meaning to try for ages. It was delicious, and didn't taste strange at all. Don't be put off by the quirkiness of it, it’s actually pretty great. The recipe came from one of my favourite cook books called 'Sweet Tooth' by Lily Vanilli.

Chocolate Avocado Cake
You will need:
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 1tsp of instant coffee
  • 200g plain flour (sifted)
  • 2tsp of baking soda (bicarb soda)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 100ml of natural yoghurt.
For the frosting:

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 3/4 tbs of lemon juice
  • 250g icing sugar (sifted)

  • Melt the chocolate and coffee together over a double boiler.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar for at least five minutes or until pale white.
  • Whisk together the eggs.
  • Slowly add the eggs, stopping to scrape down the sides of the mixer.
  • Combine baking soda, flour and salt.
  • Fold in half the flour mix, the yoghurt, and then the remaining flour mix.
  • Slowly fold in the melted chocolate mix (once it has cooled)
  • Divide the batter between two cake tins that have been lined with baking paper.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • To make the frosting blend the avocado with the lemon juice in a bar mix or blender.
  • Add the icing sugar and blend until there are no lumps.
  • Once the cake has cooked down you can add a layer of frosting between the two cakes and one on top of the cake.
  • Decorate it with little statues of birds.....or whatever you can find that’s fun.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pumpkin Bread

The first signs of spring are in the air and today for the first time in six months I was able to wear a dress without thick stockings to keep me warm. It's so nice to feel the sun on your skin after being wrapped up in so many layers all winter. It's crazy to think how quickly this year is passing, as it only feels like the other day I was writing a blog post lamenting how autumn was slipping into winter. I was so worried that this winter would be dreadful, since I had to get up at 5am everyday in the dark, but instead of being a season of drudgery it really was a very romantic winter. I really got into the cold season this year and filled the house with the smell of freshly baked breads, pies and braised meat dishes. When it got too unbearably cold I just turned on the oven to warm the house and used it as a good excuse to cook something delicious.

Now that Spring is here I've started to think a lot about all the warm weather things to do. I'm pretty excited to start picnicking in parks and taking trips to the beach.

To celebrate my first day of spring where I wasn't cooped indoors at work I decided to bake some pumpkin bread. Making bread feels like such a celebration and is such a great skill to have. Lately I've been thinking a lot about how when I was living at home my mum would always jokingly quote the line from 'Napoleon Dynamite' where his friend says "girls like guys with skills." We always used to laugh at it, but in all seriousness, I love a man who has skills. Stock brokers, bankers and any kind of corporate man hold no interest to me in comparison to a man who can grow a garden, fix a faucet, make some cheese, build a table, or forage for wild herbs and mushrooms. But why should my love of skill stop with the men? Let's be honest, anyone who has an excellent skill is pretty awesome. People who just 'do things' are my favourite kind of people, and I think it's so important to learn skills of how to be more self sustainable. I've been reading a book lately about how our generation is making a move towards relearning traditional skills that previous generations have disregarded in preference for an easier more luxurious life. The thing is though, there is no point in having a luxurious life if you are missing out on all the beauty and satisfaction that comes from making something with your hands, watching something grow, or creating something beautiful.

So I've decided to launch a new segment of my blog that will hopefully run weekly on little life skills. Just nice old fashioned things, or cooking tips that are easy to miss out on in life, if you weren't raised by an artist and a nursery man and home schooled on a farm (purely a hypothetical there.)

This week however I’m going to share my pumpkin bread recipe with you.

Pumpkin Spice Bread

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup of luke warm water
  • 7g of yeast
  • 1/3 cup of milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup of steamed mashed pumpkin
  • 1 tbs of olive oil
  • 4 cups of bakers flour
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of paprika
  • 1tsp of rosemary (fresh or dried)
  • Semolina for dusting
  • Seeds or nuts of your choice for garnish
What to do:

  • In a small bowl combine the water and yeast and sit aside until foamy.
  • In a separate bowl combine half the flour, herbs, spice, salt, and sugar.
  • Mix in the pumpkin, egg, oil, milk and yeast mix. Stir until combined.
  • Slowly add the remaining flour, you may not need it all. Just keep adding it and mixing until you have a smooth consistency that is easy to knead and not too sticky, but not too tough.
  • Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for ten minutes.
  • Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, and cover with a damp cloth. Place in a warm spot and allow to double in size.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size punch the dough to knock all the air out and then leave to rise again.
  • When the dough has risen for the second time take the dough and shape into an oval. Place on a dray dusted with semolina. Cover with a damp cloth.
  • Heat your oven to 250 degrees with a pizza stone or flat tray inside.
  • Once the dough has grown by at least 2/3 slash three times across the top with a sharp knife. If you want you can also sprinkle with some seeds or nuts for garnish. Carefully transfer the bread onto the hot tray and place in the oven. Try not to knock the bread around too much so as not to loose the aeration.
  • Steam the oven 3 times in the first ten minutes. This can be done by either spraying water into the oven, pouring 1/2 a cup of water into a tray into the bottom of the oven, of my favourite technique of just throwing 1/2 a cup of water into the bottom of the oven and quickly closing the door (it also helps to clean the oven)!
  • After the first ten minutes turn the oven down to 200°.
  • Turn the bread after another ten minutes so that it cooks evenly.
  • Bake until golden all over and has a hollow sound when you tap the bottom.
  • Cut off a big chunk of fresh bread and burn your mouth while eating it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Chef Life.

"So you want to be a chef?" A stern man once said to me as he looked down at the tiny slip of the girl I was at sixteen. We were out the back of one of the most well known restaurants in the coastal town I grew up in and it was my first day as a 'trainee chef'. The chef looked at me patronisingly and I had the feeling he thought I would never make it.
Seven years later and I find myself so deeply entangled in this world of cooking and loving it so dearly. At five a.m I wake up most days before the sun. I have this wonderful morning ritual where I have worked out the perfect timing of poaching eggs by how long it takes for me to apply foundation and dry my hair. I make a large pot of coffee and head back to bed to feast on toast, spinach and eggs while I read foodie blog posts and the news. I know all of my friends will still be tucked up in bed unaware that 5am is a time that actually exists for being awake. On weekends they may be nursing hangovers from adventures out to the city or dinner parties in their little homes. I however will be running out the door with a big woollen coat wrapped around me for protection from the icy Melbourne wind and still thinking fondly of how warm bed felt.

This is the life of a pastry chef......busy, tiring and busy. Did I mention its busy? Half way through the day today the head pastry chef I work with turned to me and said "You know Cherry, being a chef is such a stressful job." This was coming from someone with thirty years experience. So it's safe to say I don't think it every really gets easy. It is however lovely.

There is something so satisfying about making something with your hands, and of earning a living from doing something creative.

Here are some pictures of some deserts I've been working on lately. Hope you enjoy a little peek into my kitchen/life.