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…

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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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12 Days of Christmas :: 12 Pudding Truffles

This final instalment of the 12 Days blog series is another creation I make most years. I usually make many different kinds of truffles for Christmas and put a few aside to dress up as mini puddings. This year I'm not making a truffle tree, so rather than grabbing a few choice spares, I chose a cake recipe especially for the occasion. 

We don't really like the traditional steamed puddings in our household. One we do like, however, is the untraditional chocolate and raspberry version. These truffles are made from chocolate and strawberry cupcakes to represent our ideal steamed pudding. 

Lots more under the cut…

12 Days of Christmas :: 11 Rudolph Cookies

It wouldn't be Christmas without a certain reindeer. Rudolph and his famous red nose feature here on a batch of peanut butter cookies.

Peanut butter cookies are one of my boyfriend's favourite ever things. When I'm picking his brain for ideas to bake, he usually requests them and I usually ignore him and look for something new. When I finally give in, it rekindles his love for them and he laments my lack of baking them more often. So when I finally decided on baking some rudolph cookies, peanut butter was the obvious choice.

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose…

12 Days of Christmas :: 10 Chocolate Ganache Tartlets

Mince tarts are so pretty. So festive. But so unappealing to all of us. I don’t know what it is, but we just don’t like them. I always stare at them in the supermarket wishing that were different.

So I decided to pinch the aesthetics and substitute the taste. These sweet tartlets make for a delicious and festive dessert for the chocolate-lover.

Moar…

12 Days of Christmas :: 9 Snowman Truffles

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…