It’s been quite a long time since I’ve played around with a joconde. I have a terrible habit of getting stuck on one idea: I’ll bake almost nothing but that for weeks, and then forget it ever existed for a year. So when my birthday rolled around and I had the opportunity to make whatever I wanted with no restrictions, I decided it was time to return to this awesome cakey medium.
So far I’ve mostly used decorating combs for making patterns in the joconde paste. I’ve been wanting to use the sponge as more of a canvas for unusual designs. You always see them with uniform designs on the sides, but I wanted something a bit more picturesque. I had a number of food stencils, but all were a bit bland for what I was thinking. I hit up my favourite cake decorating store and started rummaging through the stencils until I finally found something that was more ‘me’.
Easter baking is some of my favourite kind of baking. Perhaps it’s because around this time of year everything is starting to get colder. The woolly jackets find their way from the depths of our closets, the heaters and electric blankets gets their first work out in months, and we start to crave comfort food. Warm dinners and mugs of hot drinks we can curl up with, while nibbling on hot cross buns fresh out of the oven. Everything just feels cosier. And then, of course, there’s all the chocolate!
Amongst all the Easter baking I’ve been planning the cake. I decided I wanted Easter egg-shaped macarons on top, so these little guys are destined to be a garnish, but they’re a delicious treat in their own right.
It was about a year ago that I tried making macarons for the first time. Intimidated by the horror stories, I kept putting it off. I learned then that they’re not as crazy difficult as they seem, and since then I virtually haven’t stopped. I’ve made macarons probably more than anything else this past year, and everyone here sure isn’t complaining. We absolutely love them. I love trying new flavour combinations, and everyone else loves devouring the spoils.
Christmas baking is getting into gear and I’ve made hundreds of the bite-sized treats already. but while I was making standard macarons, I wanted to make some a little extra festive.
We don't get much snow in Australia when compared to the rest of the world. During winter we get a little in our alpine zones along the east coast. Rarely, Melbourne and Hobart see snow during severe cold snaps. It's never happened in my hometown in my lifetime. I've seen snow once when I travelled to Falls Creek with a few friends some time ago. It's really not as soft and fluffy and lovely as the movies had me imagine. Still, it was a load of fun. We couldn't afford any of the recreational stuff, so we frolicked in the snow for a day. I made my first and only snowman with my friends, while others made phallic objects out of the snow for everyone on the ski lifts to see. As you do.
During Christmas, though, you can forget about snow. Our climate tried to fake it last year thanks to the La Niña we experienced. We had a massive hail storm from which my car still bears the cosmetic scars. Mass flooding across my state further threatened to ruin the day. Except in typical Australian spirit, we weren't letting that happen so easily. People gathered up the hail and shoved it in the eskies to keep the drinks cold. Others got out in the board shorts and started swimming or body-boarding down what were formerly main roads.
Most years, though, it's sweltering. Some years you get lovely 30°C days that you can make it through. Other summers it can exceed 50°C and you spend the day sprawled out in front of a pedastal fan, eating watermelon and waiting for the sun to go away. The last time I experienced a festive season like that, I was celebrating it in a rural area, so we spent the day hoping the bushfires would go away as well.
Despite our sweltering Christmas days, snow is still an iconic part of Christmas. Influenced by cultures on the other side of the globe, all our Christmas cards and decorations revolve around snow and pictures of families or Santa rugged up in warm clothes. We spray fake snow on our trees or around the borders of our windows. We adorn our trees with icicles and houses with large light displays cover their lawns and rooftops with batting or wadding to resemble snow. Everywhere there are penguins and snowmen rugged up in their winter woolies.
It was only natural that snowmen should feature somewhere along the way.
We'll have some fun now before I melt…
Every so often, Philly have one of those deals where if you buy so many products you get a recipe book for free. Unlike most of the freebies you get in supermarkets, these books are actually amazing and usually cost $35-45 each to buy on their own. Each is filled with 75 recipes, most of which I'm keen to try out at some point.
A while ago I picked up volume 2 at the supermarket. My dad found the first volume at the op shop. On last week's grocery shop I noticed volume three was out, and eagerly snatched it up. Flicking through the newest copy reminded me of how fantastic these books are, so I decided to dig them out for the cook book challenge. This week begins with the first volume.
I've got a lot of baking on over the next couple weeks, what with the Daring Baker's Challenge, a couple of other challenges, as well as a personal project you guys will find out about soon, so I steered away from the desserts section for once. While there were a bunch of savoury options begging to be tried, I decided to go with something that involved a technique I've always been too intimidated to try.
Bacon, Olive and Almond Filled Chicken
This was my second month partcipating in the Daring Bakers challenge and it didn't disappoint. Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.
As with the challah, I'd never herd of a Battenburg Cake before, much less eaten one. I love being able to learn about something completely new.
Normally I would try a unique variation of a classic recipe given, but Mandy's classic Battenburg looked so lovely. Besides I love almond buttercake, and loved the symbolism behind the pink and white squares said to represent the four princes of Battenburg. Classic it is.
Plenty more under the cut…
After making the mini pavlova, I had 6 egg yolks to cull. So I made a carbonara for dinner and turned to custard for dessert.
A couple weeks ago when shopping for something else, I found this cute little platter set on sale for $15. I was dying to use it for something, so it seemed the perfect excuse.
I love me some crème brûlée, and my boyfriend is a custard-loving fiend, so I decided to have some fun with our various favourites.
Three times the deliciousness…