Cook Book Challenge: Week 34

This week I found a moment to complete my next cook book challenge. As mentioned in Week 33, I have a few books published by Philidelphia that were freebies in the grocery shop. They're all fairly mouth-watering books with a huge variety of recipes. This week's recipe comes from "Simply Heaven: Volume 2".

I love home made gnocchi, but rarely do I make it. I find it time consuming so I have to be motivated enough to make it. When I do find said motivation, though, it is incredibly rewarding.

I usually make it with regular potatoes, but this recipe provided a new take on the classic. As soon as I saw it I just needed to try it.

Recipe after the jump…

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Pavlova Wreath

In my last blog, I mentioned the profound effect the deviantART community has had on my culinary art. One of the most significant impacts has been on the photography of it. Photos were always just snapshots of my food meant to illustrate my blog and my recipes therein. The amazing food photographers over on dA, especially those submitting their work to the same groups as myself, inspired me to want to make the photography art in of itself.

Some time ago, I bought a book on food photography. It soon became obvious to me how little of what I learned I could put into practise with my point and shoot camera. So, right after Christmas, I decided to invest in a DSLR. I'm absolutely loving it and it is definitely one of my greatest investments. Every time I take it with me on a bushwalk, or on a bike ride with my dog, or take photographs of food with it, I am learning something new.

This pavlova wreath was essentially the first photographs I took with my new camera, aside from a few random ones prior when trying to work out how to make the shutter work. These photographs are mostly me not understanding how to work my camera ("how do you photo?"). It's such a steep learning curve, but one I am excited about experiencing.

As a baker, I get asked a lot what my favourite dessert is. Because I enjoy making the complex, most people seem to expect an interesting answer. Some intricate dessert, something complex feat of skill and beauty that is the epitome of perfection on a plate.

It's much more simple than that.

Pavlova

A crisp meringue with a soft, marshmallowy interior. Topped with fresh cream and fruit, I would eat it every day without ever getting sick of it. Most of my favourite desserts, in fact, include fresh fruit. You just can't beat the perfection created by nature in the form of fruit.

Pavlova is a staple at many celebrations in Australia and New Zealand. Such a staple, in fact, that most of us near faint from shock when those from other countries declare they've never heard of it!

If you’re one of these people, it’s time to amend that…

1st deviantART Birthday

A year ago, I made the decision to finally join deviantART. It was a rather flippant decision, not meant to turn into anything significant. I certainly didn't plan to become invested in the site. I just couldn't comment and fave art I stumbled upon without an account, so I joined.

I turned into one of the best decisions I made. deviantART has a thriving artisan craft community. You have to dig a little to find it, and it's virtually imperceptible from the outside. But it is there, and it is full of some incredibly talented artisans.

The community has not only been supportive of me beyond what I thought imaginable, it has inspired me and it has changed the way I view this hobby. I've come to respect culinary art as an art form. From the photography of savoury dishes to the creation of novelty cakes, it's all art, it's all expression. The community has motivated me to improve not just in culinary art, but to learn and improve in still life photography as well.

I have so much to thank the community for, so I decided to say thanks in the best way I know how.

Cake is the word…

The Living End Retrospective Cupcakes

Last December, one of my favourite bands in the world treated us to the most amazing tour in the world. Calling it The Retrospective Tour, they played every single one of their 6 LP albums in full, one album per night, in every state. To make it easier for the die hard fans, they sold a limited ticket called The Big Red Ticket that granted access to all 6 shows at a discounted price. All states got the self-titled album played twice as it is their most beloved album. But here in Melbourne, the home town of the band, we were given a real treat. We got their Roll On album twice and their self-titled album 5 times, including an under 18s show (ever other show was 18+) that they played as a matinee performance before their final night time show. In the end it totalled 37 shows. To top all that off, they played the shows at a tiny local pub, making it a very intimate set of shows. Could those guys have given us a more amazing tour? They called it their thank you to the fans, but it far exceeded that.

I had wanted to make something special to celebrate the tour. The original plan was to recreate all 6 album covers in fondant, but by the time December rolled around I didn't have enough time. I couldn't let the tour pass without making something, so I decided to make a smaller tribute.

Every moment here is a moment to be seized…

First Birthday Elmo Cake

This is a commission from December last year. I never had time to post it with all the Christmas madness and actually forgot all about this! I was browsing through photos from my old camera when I stumbled across it and it occurred to me that I hadn't shared it with you.

This birthday cake was for a little boy called Anush who was celebrating his very first birthday.

Elmo loves you…

Festive Peppermint Chocolate Ripple Joconde

I'm not sure who gets more excited about these chocolate ripple cakes more: me about making them, or my family about consuming them. Either way, this mutual excitement makes the process even better.

Chocolate ripple cake has such a welcome place on the Australian Christmas dessert table. It's also something that's quick and easy to make and a process I'm familiar with. It's ideal when made a day in advance and needs no finishing touches before serving. That made it a perfect candidate for our Christmas feast. This cake was one of the two main desserts I made for Christmas, alongside the macarons and pudding truffles for nibbles.

This version featured the familiar chocolate poinsettia on top, but I gave the joconde sponge a little twist.

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Vegan Gingerbread Gift Tags

Each year for our festive feast, I like to do something different with the place markers. Some years they're edible, some years they're not. Gingerbread makes for a great option as it allows so many creative possibilities. A couple of years ago I made chocolate gingerbread boxes and filled them with treats, the lids of which had everyone's names on it. This year, I opted for gingerbread gift tags.

Since the last time I made edible place settings, my partner's brother has opted for a vegan diet and his wife is vegetarian. My sister eats less types of fruit and vegetables than I have fingers on my hands, and my dad won't try anything he imagines he won't like (which encompasses anything that isn't roast meat or a casserole-type dish). Creating a menu that could suit everyone was definitely a challenge, but a welcome one.

The challenge for the gingerbread tags was finding a recipe that could suit a vegan dietary requirement, whilst still tasting appealing enough for the non-vegans.

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