I’ve got a jar of dirt. And guess what’s inside it?
I love jar food. It’s so quirky and cute and rustic and just ticks all my aesthetic boxes. It used to be so rare to happen across but now it’s everywhere. It’s even all over MasterChef, and once MasterChef is doing it you know everyone is going to be doing it.
But I have a serious problem. Every time I see jar food, I get a particular sing-song voice stuck in my head. I’ve got a jar of dirt. I’ve got a jar of dirt. And then it’s stuck in my head all day, until I start singing I’ve got a jar of dirt and it gets stuck in everyone elses head. There was only one way to deal with it, and that was to replicate it with food.
Every so often, Cameron will randomly pipe up with something he wants me to bake him. Something I usually forget about 20 minutes later. So I got him to join Pinterest, set up a board and asked him to pin things he wanted me to make. And then, like a devoted girlfriend, I forget to refer to it ever.
So when I’m excitedly chattering away about the next dessert idea I’m conjuring up in my head, he’ll subtly nudge me about the thing he really wants. The last few times the dessert of choice has been a milk tart. Last weekend we were both off doing different things and I got home before he did, so while I had some time to myself I thought I’d surprise him by finally knocking this pastry off of his wishlist.
Milk tart, or melktert in Afrikaans, is a dessert that hails from South Africa. He first tried when a South African colleague of his bought one to work for the Big Cake Bake, a charity event they were hosting at work. Ever since, he’s intermittently nudged me about making one.
Part of the reason for my being so slow in fulfilling this wish was how bland it sounded. I don’t know about you guys, but any treat with milk in the name that isn’t a milkshake doesn’t really inspire my appetite. Dilute and bland were the first words that struck my mind upon the mention of it, so I procrastibaked and found something else to try.
I was more than happy to discover how wrong I was.
Now that I’m up to my 41st cook book, it’s getting harder to remember what I have and haven’t cooked from. I’m really going to need to get some check list going on before I accidentally repeat one. This battered and bruised one was definitely one I hadn’t cooked from before. It’s a more recent addition to the collection. My dad has suddenly decided that every time he sees a Woman’s Day/Woman’s Weekly book in the op shop he’s going to get it for me, regardless of quality. There’s no date on this book, but the fact it boasts being printed in colour on the cover gives you some notion of how old it is.
Unsurprisingly it’s filled with all the classics. Many of which I’d tried, or tried some variation of, when I first started learning how to bake. It was difficult to find something I hadn’t baked before, until I came across the Yeasted Breads chapter. Being rather new to bread making, there’s quite a number of things I’m yet to try. Most of those on offer were basic breads, crumpets or muffins. But I eventually settled on the croissants. They’re something I absolutely love, have always intended to make at home, but just never got around to it. The cook book challenge is always the perfect opportunity to scratch another off of my list.
I’ve been baking a lot of things that needed egg yolks lately, so to use up all the leftover egg whites I’ve been on a macaron baking spree. I’ve been having a play with sizes and flavours and have baked so many macs I don’t even need to look at a recipe any more. This week I decided to have a little fun with the look of the macarons.
It was Cameron’s uncle’s birthday just recently, so I got another excuse to make cake. If trying to get my partner to decided on a cake is a task, getting the same from his uncle is umpteen times that. We’re an indecisive bunch. My only brief was to make something ‘plain Jane’. In a way, that’s more difficult for me. I find it too easy to over-complicate something. Doing something plain? It’s not really my style. I’m not sure I even know what plain is.
For these instances, I tend to default to simple flavours and classic recipes. It doesn’t get much more classic than a sponge in my book. A sponge is also usually a pretty safe option in Cam’s household, and a relatively regular appearance at birthdays. I’m fairly sure the first time I ate a sponge was at one of his family celebrations. So all that was left was the fill it with flavours I find reminiscent of previous occasions spent with his family.
A while ago a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of chocolate avocado mousse. I had my first play with it with this mousse cake. But the moment I heard about it, this is the dessert I instantly conjured in my mind. I’ve just been waiting for the excuse to do it: a wait that’s stretched to well over a year, but the wait was certainly worth it.
I starting having a look around the net for hard-shell chocolate taco recipes, but there really wasn’t one. Most were just covered in chocolate, or were more pancakey. So I had to come up with a way to create a hand chocolate taco shell on my own. There was one obvious solution: chocolate tuiles.
I’ve steered clear of tuiles after my first attempt with them many years ago went horribly. They were sitting in my ‘Too Hard’ basket waiting for the day I became brave enough to try once more. Necessity forced this reunion.
This tutorial will show you the most basic and least equipment-heavy way of baking the concentric layer cake as seen in both the Earth cake and Jupiter cake. You can stop at half way and just make a hemisphere cake, or make two hemispheres and join them into one as in this video.
How big you make the cake is up to you. For the Earth cake I baked the largest layer in a 2 litre pudding basin. As the Jupiter cake one was for a tute and not for a group of people, I only baked it as big as a 1 litre pudding bowl. There’s no other reason why I baked the sphere smaller – you can make it as big or small as you like.
Let’s begin! Continue reading