Sunday, March 1, 2015

Chocolate chip cookies

Early last week, I was having a super-mum moment.  This rarely, if ever, occurs.  There was no TV, no Peppa Pig or ABC4Kids, no iphone or tablet to play with, it was a day of pure human interaction filled with educational yet fun activities for a preschooler! 

Baking these cookies was a brilliant diversion from "guess what is in this bag" game and the "let's sort objects according to the letter it begins with" game.  An activity that I could genuinely enjoy!

Cookies are brilliant for a preschooler to get involved with.  Anyone who knows me knows that I can be very "serious" [replace with "uptight"] when I engage in a task, and as a result, I can turn something that would normally be fun, into something well, un-fun.  Accuracy is crucial in baking and 3 year olds don't really have a knack for being accurate and precise in anything they do so this activity could have potentially turned very sour!

However, the brilliant thing about cookies is that whatever goes and accuracy is irrelevant.  Little girl and I were working like two old cooks in the kitchen, it was fantastic team work! I'm pleased to say that with some supervision, these cookies were 100% little girl's doing. Okay, I did round out the little dough balls so that the cookies would come out as near perfectly round as possible.

Nothing beats freshly baked cookies and the smell was divine! We used 70% dark chocolate which with the hint of bitterness, offset the sweet biscuit base.  I prefer soft and chewy cookies, so I took these out of the oven a little bit early before they got too crunchy.  Delicious!
Little girl definitely enjoys baking and there will be much more baking adventures for the two of us yet!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gingerbread Sleigh

Still riding on the high of my gingerbread carousel, I decided to make one more Christmas inspired gingerbread creation - a gingerbread sleigh...with reindeers! 

There was no way I was "free styling" reindeers so I bought a cookie cutter for those! Cookie cutters make everything so much easier!
Putting together the gingerbread sleigh proved to be surprisingly just as difficult as the carousel, something I didn't anticipate.  I think this is because there was no room to hide errors in the sleigh given the simplicity of the structure, whereas the carousel had so many facets to it, you could hide imperfections!

The front of the sleigh

It was an exercise of will power to stay away from colouring the sleigh pink! But I did it! However, I unintentionally ended up colouring the sleigh an equally feminine colour as pink, Tiffany blue! Oh well, a leopard cannot change its spots!
An overview of the sleigh including chair!
Back of the sleigh

Given the amount of gingerbread dough I made, I had plenty spare to make two sets of santa sleighs, which is exactly what I ended up doing (actually, I had enough to make another carousel if I really wanted to but let's be honest, who has that amount of energy)!  So there you have it, two lots of santa sleighs! Cray Cray!
Having two lots of gingerbread sleighs and a gingerbread carousel is bordering on excessive wouldn't you think? Not so, according to little girl who has been eagerly eying these. I have managed to convince her that she doesn't need two sleighs so one will be given away to one lucky customer of our cafe!
It's been a busy month of baking! Aside from gingerbread, I've also been making ginger spiced reindeer macarons to sell at the cafe leading up to Christmas! It truly is the silly season! 

Signing off for 2014, have a merry Christmas everyone and thank you for reading this blog! xx

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Macaron Tower

Like the croquembouche, I believe that every baker has got to try make a macaron tower at least once in their life! So I decided it was time I made one for my BFF’s baby shower yesterday. 
Never have I had to make so many macarons at the one time! Okay, if truth be told, these weren’t exactly made at the “one time”.  Time dictated that I make these in separate batches over two days, which actually worked out quite well for my sanity’s sake.  All up, there were 115 macarons.  ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN MACARONS!  That’s a lot of macarons!
This pic shows only half the number of macarons there were!

It seems like recently, all I ever seem to bake is macarons, so you’d think I’d be an old hand at this by now.  Even so, to this day, I still find baking macarons nerve rattling.  I just never know if they’re going to come out well or not.  Thankfully, I was happy with each and every one of my 115 maccas!  It was such a pity that I was going to have to pierce them with a toothpick. 

Assembling these macarons was no easy feat, not for a first timer! I started off assembling the tower with alternating colours except that by the third row, the alternating colour theme didn’t quite have the desired effect of each colour spiralling neatly up the tower.  I might as well have randomly tacked the macarons that’s how it looked.  So I delicately untoothed (untoothpicked?) each macarons and decided to alternate the colours in rings.  Even then, it still looked a little bit too messy for my liking.  By this time, the macarons had come to room temperature which meant they were way too soft and delicate to be handled and I had to pop the maccas back into the fridge to harden again.  I had also crushed a couple of macarons in the making so I couldn’t afford to experiment any further! Otherwise I would have definitely attempted to perfectly position each macaron.

 And so you have it, the end product! Voila!

And lesson learnt, the bottom layer should not actually touch the surface it will be resting on.  Mine were way too close to the surface which meant that they got crushed! Particularly in the 40 minute car ride to their destination! Luckily I had a few spare macarons and did a quick swap!
So I couldn't be more happier for my friend as she now begins the wait to meet her little bubba any day now! Congratulations NKSC! xx

Monday, April 28, 2014

Burnt Almond Torte

It's C's birthday today! Yay! About two weeks ago, C showed me an article about a Burnt Almond Torte that he had read on Huffington Post.  After reading the article (or skimming it), I asked C, "what about it?".  He said, "I want this for my birthday!" So I re-read the article and found out it originates from Pittsburgh, it's described as the best ever cake America has to offer. It comprises of a super airy, light, fluffy white cake you'll apparently ever come across sandwiched with custard and candied almonds and then covered with a thin layer of buttercream and more candied almonds.
The flavour combination doesn't really appeal to me, although I did find the description intriguing.  C, on the other hand, was like a little kid in a candy store, eyes all lit up at the sound of this cake.  He absolutely loves custard and combined with a fluffy airy cake, it's a winner in his books!
So I tried to track down the recipe for the white cake and came across one which is meant to be a "copycat" of Prantl's Bakery burnt almond torte.  The cake was unfortunately too dense for my liking.  For the filling and the outside, I used my trustworthy creme pat recipe as well as my vanilla buttercream.  I must admit, I don't see what the fuss is about! The candied almonds are a nice texture, but creme pat with cake? The jury is still out on that one!  As for C, well he was in heaven, eating two slices plus half of my slice!
And the cake wouldn't be complete without little finger marks in the icing! As I was getting the candles ready, little girl couldn't help herself and started poking her fingers into the icing! Hehe!

Happy birthday C!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gingerbread Train

I cannot believe it's mid December already, seriously how did that happen?!  

So the countdown to Christmas is on and I've been bitten with the Christmas bug this year! Yes, I am one of those people I would normally roll my eyes at who already had their Christmas tree up and decorated before December even began (in all fairness though, the tree was put up on 30 November, so I wasn't that bad)! And if there was a Christmas Tree Ornaments Anonymous, I would be there.  The amount of money that I've spent buying Christmas ornaments this year is phenomenal.  At around $4 a pop, I'm too frightened to even want to know how much this year's Christmas tree cost me!
So with all the must-do's out of the way, all that was left, in Christmas readiness this year, was bake!  And bake I did!
I half regretted last year not embarking on some crazy Christmas themed project - the scars from the year before were still raw!  The scars have fully healed now and I couldn't wait to get started on this gingerbread train.  Little girl loves trains, she is absolutely obsessed with them so I couldn't wait to see her reaction when this was all done! 

So the first thing I had to do was to get the paper cuts ready.  This took a bit of brainstorming, I mean, I didn't want just square and rectangle structures.  I needed a cylinder for the front carriage and something cone shaped for the chimney.  
I ended up using a metal cylinder mold which I covered in foil and then wrapped the gingerbread around. And for the chimney, I used one of my metal piping tips and did the same thing as the cylinder.  Once the gingerbread was baked, I gently removed the gingerbread from the molds and voila, you have all these wonderful shapes to play with instead of just squares and rectangles.
I wanted each carriage to look like a sleigh and used candy canes as the bar handles.  As you can see, this is one "girly" train, with all the pink, the red and the love hearts! My kind of train!
 A pic of the back of each sleigh carriage - love hearts galore!
   Love heart candy canes
  Love heart train stop
These freckles are meant to be mushroom stools.  C came up with this idea many years ago and I can't help but use it in all my gingerbread structures - they're just so damn cute!
Chocolate sticks train tracks

And finally, the train wouldn't be complete without a conductor! Little Organics kindly gave me a bag filled with goodies including a box of mini gingerbread men for little girl.  I stole a few to decorate the train with! 
So all that is left to do is dig in! Because I baked this gingerbread to eat (as opposed to previous years which was more for looks), the gingerbread is quite soft, which means that the structural integrity has been compromised a little! Each carriage is supported by the wheels alone and I've already had 4 of the wheels break in half on me! Luckily I had two spare, so I could easily replace them, but then when the last 2 broke, I had no choice but to glue them together and stick a love heart on and hope for the best!  Well, the train hasn't collapsed yet, so fingers crossed!
Little girl has already stolen a few lollies from the carriages!