Friday, June 24

Alicia's 30th

Happy Birthday to my buddy ole pal Alicia!
I had the pleasure of making her birthday cake for about 80 people. I wanted to make it sure it was a good one and so tried out 3 recipes for chocolate cake and called on my family for their opinions. The final verdict was the Boiled Chocolate Cake in of the Women's Weekly cookbook for its moistness. This one also had plenty of sugar which I'm sure added to the appeal.

I made 3 batches of the recipe for the 3 fat layers which equated to over 2kg of sugar! Though it was  pretty big cake I guess. Unfortunately I didn't use an appropriate icing and so you can see the big crack in the middle when I had joined the 2 cake tin pieces together. But I am glad I used the sponge fingers to cover up the ugly sides. The green ribbon was to match the theme of 'a touch of green', Alicia's favourite colour.
From the feedback, I'm glad it was enjoyed by many in the end.

Unpleasant reminders of previous eatings

I had lunch at Pannarotti's at Blacktown a few weeks back and being in the mood for pizza but being indecisive I ended up ordering the mixed pizza. This had quarter combinations of seafood, vegetarian, beef and chicken.
This was all fine and tasty enough for your average pizza EXCEPT unfortunately for me I started off with the beef flavoured one and unfortunately the flavour reminded me of the unpleasant kangaroo experience. It made it a bit of struggle to get through. Alas I am scarred!

Baking (Week 15-17) Choux, Stru & Review

Another late post on previous classes:
 Choux swans. Pretty. They would have been more pretty if I hadn't run out of time to add berries on the top. We also made religiuese (look it up) These didnt look particularly pretty when we made them.
I think strudel dough is the most fun dough for me to make. It's amazing, you start off with a lump as you typically do with dough and then you start swinging it round and using your fists to stretch it out to a massive thin elastic sheet. It's like in alien movies where you can see the baby whatever pushing through the elasticy membrane! It's not really as gross as that but was very very cool. Contrary to many recipes, strudels traditionally are not made with filo pastry.
For review lesson prior to our practical exam we made fruit flans and lemon meringue pies to help jog our memories which I'm so glad we did. In the actual test we made the lemon meringue pies again and pithivers. Oh the pithiviers. I think my was actually ok, it's just that I didn't cook it long enough. I was a bit pushed for time. Oh well, the teacher was otherwise generally happy with the process I had followed though. Marks will be available in 2 weeks, I'll see how I go!

Friday, May 27

Baking (Week 13, 14) Fruit Bandes, Eclairs

This is not mine. Least I'm pretty sure it is not.
We made eclairs this week and as usual there was a bit of a rush at the end and I hadn't grab one of mine to try so got a random one. Mine would have looked a little more messy on top where the fondant was quickly applied on with pastry gaps where a crack had formed. Not to worry. It was good to move on from puff pastry for a change and we even had time to make profiteroles too. Though there wasn't enough custard to fill the innards. Mmm custardy goodness.

Last week we made fruit bandes. Basically this is a long wide strip of pastry with a raised edge lengthwise, filled with custard and fruit "prettily" layered on. Again not my best work due to time limitations. The pastry produced due to the German method didn't help, with my edges falling all over place. Moving on...

Friday, May 20

Sydney adventures

My cousin has come over from overseas so I've been taking her out and about to take in the sights and tastes. At the same time I've been using the opportunity to give some foods a go too.
Saltwater crocodile pizza (bottom) and kangaroo pizza (top) from The Australian Hotel in the Rocks
My brain could not get over the thought of the crocodile and so the flavours did not present themselves to be too pleasing. It had a texture which was slightly rubbery like squid and also kinda fibrous like chicken fillet, with a slightly sea taste. The kangaroo had a marinade on it which helped with the flavour however like lamb it's distinct meaty flavour came through. This half half pizza surely was hard work to get through! I'll just add it to my 'just for an experience' list and never have it again. *shudder*

It's been years since I've had chicken feet so I thought I'd physically remind myself of why I hadn't whilst at yum cha at Blacktown (on Level 4) . Mentally I had no trouble not eating considering it was just skin and bones, with the only appeal being the sauce.
My memory was sufficiently reminded. This wasn't as off putting as the previous pizzas, probably because I was already familiar with it. Even John gave it a go, with chopsticks nonetheless.

Onto much more pleasant eatings, we did the walk from Bondi to Bronte and enjoyed lunch at Bronte Lounge
Wagu burger with fries
Fish & chips (hand cut)

Mm such deliciousness. The word of this meal was crisp. Crisp light bun, crisp light batter. Perfect. The burger was huge. We shared these two dishes between us and were soo full afterwards even though we hardly even touched the fries.
On our way back to the car we stopped by for in-store freshly made gelato (next door to Mcdonalds on Campbell Parade). I got burnt caramel and my cousin got cherry plus ferrero rocher These were oh so good. She thought this was the best gelato ever and comparable to the ones in Italy. The man behind the counter also had the Italian charming way with words :P

Another day of enjoying burgers was had at Katoomba, can't remember the place.
Again a huge size of tastiness. It was a little difficult for my cousin to eat though as the meat was in short strips which was a little odd  and so fell out everywhere. I got a simple pizzette with spinach and chicken. I'm glad this didnt fill us up too much because that then enable us to make space for the flowerpot scones at Wayzgoose Cafe at Leura. YUM.
One scone arrived between the 3 of us and we thought "that's nothing we can finish one each" and so ordered another 2. It turns out that our eyes were bigger than our stomach and we all only managed to get through the upper crisp crust along with our hot chocolate/coffee/chai. But yu-uh-um!

We progressed our way from Newtown to Leichhardt on another day, and enjoyed pizza and pasta at Gioia on Norton St. Delicious but probably not worth me showing you pictures. Naturally as we were in Italian central we had to have some gelato! We went to the little gelato bar next to the entrance of the shopping centre on Norton St.
3 mega scoops: Rose water, apple, blood orange 

When you can't decide what flavour to have, try them all! As my cousin did. It certainly was difficult to decide. We also tried the coconut, trifle and mojito between us. These were not considered anywhere as good as the Bondi ones. Enjoyable enough but not one to rush back for.

Thursday, May 12

Irene & Ryan's Wedding

A big congratulations to my little sister and her now husband!
What a wonderful celebration it was and such a happy time for all.

I had the pleasure of making their wedding cake which was yet again another chocolate mud cake.

To personalise the cake a bit more I added 2 hearts dangling off the tree with their names on it. I liked it.Irene had seen a wire tree sculpture after browsing through some photos and after a little bit of a search online I could see that this wasn't too difficult and am stoked to add another skill to my learning bank.

Another skill that I learnt was cutting a wedding cake into appropriate portions. I had drawn out a guide but it totally cut into more than I expected. The bottom tier which was about 9 inches served about 50 people, amazing!

Irene had the most perfect cake stand too, it was a tree stump from their yard and made the perfect centerpiece in the backyard amongst the whole natural theme. Beautiful, just as she was :)

Baking (Week 11, 12) Millefeuille & Pithiviers

In these past 2 weeks of learning we have made the oh so delicious Millefeuille

And Pithiviers

I'm quite a fan of custard which is probably why I liked the millefeuille. We were in a hurry whilst working with fondant and so I forgot to add some sugar syrup to soften the icing. Hence why it looks a little thick and messy on the top.
The almond cream inside my pithiviers went lopsided unfortunately causing a huge air pocket, I'm going to have to work on this, but it does otherwise taste good without being too sweet for a pastry. Serve it with a scoop of ice-cream mmm.

Mad Cow (city)

The combined birthday celebration for Ronald and Brett was held at Mad Cow in the city. Ronald had been very much looking forward to the souffle as he gave his advanced notice to the waiter upon ordering his main.
It was a cosy fancy pants place (for me), I loved the communal dining lounges which we shared, decorated with a simple vase of fresh flowers, under low lit light. How romantic :P The service was very friendly too.

I thought I would try something a bit different and ordered the Roasted saddle of rabbit, with king brown mushrooms, baby heirloom carrots and carrot oil.
I didnt like it that much.... I can appreciate it for the artisticness of the presentation on the plate but not quite the flavours. I think the rabbit had something rolled into it which  tasted a little like goats cheese (which I'm not a great fan of). Otherwise the rest of it was good. I don't know what the yellow smear was, but it was tasty and helped the meat.
Fancy food is a bit wasted on me I think. I'll still stick to my homecooked style simple dishes :) Especially after seeing Saby's Minute steak which on first reaction was that it was indeed minute in size. But I suppose its about the quality of the ingredients, rah rah rah...

Except, when it comes to dessert I can be bowled over. Again the presentation appearance is certainly there. This was Saby and Karina's 'Chocolate Decadence' and certainly was. The little pearl like things were like mini mini malteasers. Cute and crunchy, all in one.

Friday, April 29

Baking (Week 10) Sausage Rolls

More puff pastry this week but using the rough puff method.

This was straight forward enough to make, producing a product similar to what you would expect in a local bakery. We also made vege & meat pasties (the half eaten thing on the left ie bottom - sorry, I don't understand how the image got automatically rotated). The filling recipe could have been improved as it was a bit bland but it was the pastry we were focusing on.
It's amazing how much people love their sausage rolls. I distributed my trayload amongst various family members and goodness me, they certainly got excited.

Bomboniere biscuits

My little sis is getting married! Hoorah!
Preparations are progressing well and I got cracking into making her bomboniere biscuits.

My goodness me these take so mighty long to make!!! But they are well worth it for the presentation. I can see why companies might charge a bit for this sort of product. Easy to make but labour intensive. Especially if you are icing 156 chocolate ones and 260 round ones (ie 130 people get 3 biscuits each).

I took over the kitchen bench for a few days. The pattern became hypnotic after a while. Ideally I would have filled the hearts with brown icing in the middle but after completing the vanilla ones I was going to go a little insane. I actually did fill one up to see what it looked like and it does complete it. Well I figured they looked good as they are so I think I can get away without doing them all. It will be a lucky dip as to who picks up the fully iced one in their bag.

Tuesday, April 26

Bulldogs birthday cake

I got a request for a simple cake with a NRL Bulldogs theme. My first thought was "gosh, how am I going to shape a bulldog?"
But after a quick search about I was delighted to come across the idea of an edible icing image. I had never used it before but it seemed straight forward. Peel off the backing, whack it on the cake and presto done!

The cake is 3 layers of chocolate sponge (Women's Weekly recipe) with chocolate ganache sandwiched between and coated in a butter cream icing.

I was going to pipe wording on the cake but after failing with leftover royal icing which was too runny, I had to cover up the ugliness with more piped stars. Butter cream is not my friend. I still haven't figured out how to get the best texture for piping with so that it isn't all curdly-like. Sadness. But it did the job.

Thanks for letting me try a new method with the edible image Ronald :)

Dinner friends

As my friend Liz would say "It's nice being a grown up" Or something to that effect.
I do enjoy having friends over to hosting a tasty meal for them or going to their place and such. Good times, very grown up.
In the recent weeks I decided to practise my piping skills and make a lemon meringue pie. This was the second time that I had made it before, the first being at TAFE. I used the Women's Weekly recipe but used a different method for cooking the meringue.

Well I didnt end up piping the meringue as I couldn't be bothered after a whole day of baking (other goods as well) and having a cold. As I was sick I couldn't taste it but I was told that it tasted good (don't worry I was as hygienic as possible). I was told that it was even better than John's mum's! Woah big call there. Well I'm glad it was enjoyed, and I got to practice other skills.

Something else I made recently was a cappuccino brownie, very rich and tasty. Very basic concept, add coffee to the brownie recipe and serve with a scoop of ice-cream on top. Delish!

Monday, April 11

John's 32nd birthday

Happily, I had an idea easily pop into my head for yet another year for John's birthday cake. Well it wasn't hard since it related to his present of a car racing experience.
I was originally going to make the whole cake to be a car (after advice from his brother it was to be a Holden) but due to time and health considerations went with this simple design.
I chose to make this yoghurt and mixed berry cake (recipe from the Women's Weekly low fat cookbook) as some of his family are quite health conscious.  The sides do look bare, I know, but I figured at least this way the icing could be peeled off to maintain it's slightly wholesome status. And sure it doesn't look like a racing car but it does resemble a car and the racing grid should help! Ah cuteness.
The cake itself I was happy with and would make it again - berry moistness and light texture, nice...

Baking (Week 8,9) More puff pastry

The past two weeks have still been on puff pastry with vol-au-vents, bouchees, quiche and meat pies being made.
Funny, as I was over the stove top, cooking the filling for the meat pie it felt slightly odd. And I then remembered that baking was definitely more natural to me than cooking :)
I'm happy to say that the meat pie had premium mince and actually contained meat!