By way of cake, a lot of my loves and obsessions end up making their way onto the blog. One that has yet to much such an appearance is my fierce love of football. And by football I mean Australian Rules Football, the only real football. Just ask any Melbournite. I’ve always been a fanatical Carlton supporter and am now also a Carlton member. I’m not sure where my love of the Navy Blues came from, as no one in my immediate family follows them. My dad’s a rabid Essendon supporter who tried but failed to get me on side, and most everyone else was just apathetic. I don’t remember ever making a decisions to follow them, it was always just the natural conclusion. When I got older and saw my birth certificate for the first time I discovered I even get to utter the ‘born and bred’ saying with extra gusto as I was actually born in Carlton, so perhaps it’s always been innate. AFL is my religion, and Carlton Football Club are my Gods.
It’s September and September here means footy finals fever in Melbourne. It’s been a pretty exciting finals series thus far. Even so for my team. We’ve been fairly average and frustratingly inconsistent all year. We’ll have quarters where we look as though no team in the contest would stand a chance against us, then follow it up with a quarter that brings us completely undone. We won and lost by small margins, and wins and losses were often a matter of a few seconds or a few centimeters difference. We were set to just miss the finals this year, but when a drug cheating scandal saw our historic rivals Essendon scrapped from the finals this year, we got a second chance.
One of the very first things I ever made for Cameron was a peanut butter slice. It was mostly born of a couple of chocolate failures in my early baking days. The chocolate I was working with seized and I didn’t want to waste it, so I whipped it up into some sort of icing. I raided the cupboards for whatever else I had on hand and made a peanut butter slice to go beneath the icing. I thought it was a bit rubbish, but he loved it and regularly nags me for another.
This weekend just gone was Father’s Day in Australia, and we’d planned a gathering with Cam’s immediate family. We had a gorgeous lunch at an Indian restaurant and went to his brother’s place for dessert and chatter. All the ladies usually bring some dessert or munchies along. I was making a mudcake for his dad and figured I should also bring something vegan so his brother and sister-in-law could eat it too. Veganising a basic peanut butter slice seemed an easy way to finally give Cameron the slice he wanted while creating something everyone could enjoy.
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.
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.
I’ve had a slight hiccup with the Jupiter cake tutorial: I have the video done but it just won’t save! All my attempts at troubleshooting haven’t worked so I’m having to sort that out. I’ll have it for you soon!
In lieu of that, it’s time to move on to the Daring Baker’s challenge this month!
This month’s challenge was entitled ‘Eenie Meenie Miney Moe!’ In a celebration of past Daring Baker and Daring Cook challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives and pick any one we’d like. The real challenge was picking which delicious recipe to try!
I set about trying to find the hardest recipe I could. I was going to challenge myself to the most ludicrous challenge I could find. But I struggled to find something that scared me. The most fearsome challenges I’d heard about from other bakers were things I have or now regularly bake: french macarons, joconde, croquembouche. The desserts I hadn’t tried all used techniques I’m familiar with. It was actually a nice moment to reflect on how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned over the last 3 years.
I couldn’t find something as challenging as I’d wanted, but there was one…
The chocolate marquise. It was the challenge from May 2011. I’d never heard of it before and it looked divine. But the recipe was massive and had a bunch of pressure points that seemed difficult, so I decided to take it on.
I discovered as I made it that it wasn’t that scary, but it does force you to plan ahead. You need to be organised and to think through the components, particularly during plating. You have to have a plan of attack and stick to it. I’m a hot mess in the kitchen so perhaps this was the biggest challenge of all…
When I posted the Earth cake, I did not expect it to get anywhere near the amount of attention it received. Getting featured on the Facebook pages Think Geek and I Fucking Love Science was a total highlight of my blogging life. I’m big fans of both pages so it was kind of surreal. A lot of my Zoology graduate mates are also fans of IFLS and you’d often hear conversations in the Masters office beginning with, “Did you see that post by IFLS today?” So I woke up to several of them messaging me about it and we all got super excited over it.
With the exposure those pages brought came a whole lot of people who wanted to know how to make it. I still get a couple of emails a week asking for a recipe. The cake was a total experiment on my part, and not one that went flawlessly. There were many imperfections within the cake and I never share recipes unless I know it’s absolutely tried and true. I’d hate to be responsible for a baking fail simply for giving a botched up recipe. But I also hate letting people down. So I decided to re-visit the concept so I could make a tutorial. That will come later in the week as I’m still editing it. But first, here’s the result of round 2.
One question I got asked a lot was if it was possible to make it a sphere. Absolutely it is. If you can make the hemisphere a sphere is easy. I didn’t want to make another Earth cake as I hate repeating bakes, so I opted to decorate it as something new. I threw around a few ideas ranging from something floral to a giant pokéball, but in the end I just wanted to make another planet.
There’s seldom a wrong time for a molten chocolate pudding. But being in the middle of winter makes it all the more welcome. Winter warmers are the ultimate comfort food. The colder the day, the sweeter the moment.
This molten pudding is combined with one of my favourite fruits: pears. There’s so many varieties available in the fruit shop at the moment, but this is made with the common Packham pear. You can use most any variety available to you as this recipe doesn’t demand a particular flavour profile — chocolate goes with everything!
Winter has well and truly set in now, which means it’s a perfect time to take advantage of winter produce. I’m very passionate about buying local and about supporting the small fruit and veg shops. On one hand, I hate to put money in the hands of supermarket chains that pay a pittance for produce then raise the prices sky high. I’d much rather support small businesses. But I also love cooking with seasonal produce. It makes you really think about where the food is coming from and understand the growing process. It’s cheaper, tastier, and most importantly for me it has a much lower environmental impact. It’s a win all round.
Rhubarb is one of those winter staples we all tend to turn to for dessert in lieu of all those wonderful summer berries. A staple I’d oddly not cooked with before. I grew up in a household of plain eaters, afraid to try anything outside the box they’d made for themselves. Rhubarb was well outside that box. In my adulthood I’m now trying to make up for that by trying all the different things I never got to as a kid. It was high time I knocked this one off the list. I bought a bunch with my weekly shop and settled for making a crumble. Then Cameron’s mum gave him a tart recipe to bring over on the weekend and I was sold.
It’s no secret that I love making endlessly complex desserts. Concoctions that take days to carefully prepare following processes that feel like a labyrinth. But some days, I just feel like making something easy that doesn’t leave the kitchen looking as though a miniature tornado swept through it, y’know?
It’s been ever so long since I’ve made brownies. I have been saying to Cam for years now that I had to make them at some point, but for some reason I always put it off. Well, I needed a little brownie mixture for a separate concoction I was dreaming up so I finally set about making them.
The end of June is approaching, meaning it’s time to share another Daring Bakers’ challenge!
Rachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens. Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There’s nothing like pie.
Pies are something that I love but get really easily intimidated out of in the kitchen. It’s more to do with the crust than anything. When I first started baking I attempted a number of pies, and they were largely hit and miss. Mostly miss, for when I tried unmoulding them from the tin they would either stick or snap or crumble or all of the above. So I ran away from pies. This challenge was a good way for me to test the waters again and see how I’d go now that I have many more kitchen hours under my belt.
There were four pies on offer. I went from saying I’d do one to taking on three of them!