Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Cupcakes

My favourite baking blog - Baking Makes Things Better - posted the cutest Christmas Tree cupcakes this week.  I followed their instructions, which are always easy to follow and really reliable, and they made the cutest cakes.  Their Easy Peasy Chocolate Cake recipe is great and makes lovely moist cupcakes!  I also wanted to try out my new toy, a snowflake press for fondant - I love it!  I need to get a small star press, and its my goal this year to increase my cake decorating supplies. 

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Cake

My first attempt at fondant icing and my very first Christmas Cake.  I am really happy with it, but next time I think my fondant layer needs to be thicker.  Working with fondant takes some practice, but I am not so scared of it anymore.  The cake isn't perfect, but I still love it, and next time with a thicker layer am sure my finish will be smoother.

Some of you may remember my original post about making a Christmas cake, and also remember my original cake was square.  Lets just say when you pour some brandy over your cake before storing, you use only a few tablespoons, not half a cup .... Lets also just say my Christmas Cake Pops are going to be adult only and very yummy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Snowman Cookies

You have to promise not to laugh at me.  I saw these on Pinterest and absolutely love them.  Unfortunately mine turned out rather amateur, but I still love the concept and am sure most of you probably have better icing skills than me.

I used my Basic Butter Biscuit recipe I have previously posted here.  And then followed the great tutorial instructions that I found here -

OK, so are you ready.  This is the picture that inspired me, and is what they should look like:

Pretty awesome huh.  And ... are you ready for the great unveiling ... these are my rather sad masterpieces:

But at the end of the day, my boys LOVE them and I had fun making them, and that's really all that counts!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam has to be my all time favourite, and then it would have to be Blueberry!  This time of year you can pick up masses of seconds strawberries from the berry farms and they are really reasonably priced.

Great thing about Strawberry Jam is its easy to make.  Just need strawberries, sugar and lemons.  You use the same ratio of strawberries to sugar, but keep it under 2kgs - its heaps easier to work with smaller amounts.

So this is what I used:

1.8kg strawberries
Juice from 4 lemons
1.8kg sugar

Firstly prepare your jars.  I got 4 medium/large and 1 small jar out of the above amount.  Either wash in hot soapy water, or pop through the dishwasher, then keep warm in an oven at 100 - 120 degree.

Hull the strawberries and put into a large pan with the lemon juice.  Heat gently until simmering lightly and cook until fruit is soft and pulpy.

Add the sugar.  I add by the cupful and stir between each addition until the sugar is dissolved.  You can add it all at once but I think you could be at risk of burning it if it sticks to the bottom of the pan.  Make sure it is fully dissolved before the next step.

Now bring it up to a good rolling boil.  Watch closely that its not sticking to the bottom.  Boil until its set when tested.  This took me around 25 minutes or so.  To check whether it is set, drop a small amount onto a cold plate and let it cool slightly - it is set when it wrinkles when you run your finger through it.  Apparantly you can add a knob of butter into it just before dishing it up and this will also help it set.

Remove jars from oven, pot the jam, pop on the lids and let cool on bench.  Wash jars before storing.  Once opened keep in the fridge.  I used these cute labels I found here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rainy Day Marshmallow Snowmen

Arrggh, its been raining now for about 24 hours straight.  The children haven't been able to get outside and are going stir crazy.  We made some Marshmallow Snowmen at lunch time for some entertainment.  The kids loved eating their handiwork.

We got three marshmallows per snowman and fed them onto a kebab stick, dipped them into melted white chocolate, used raisins for the buttons and then when dry piped on a face using Writing Icing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Spiced Macaroons

These were my first attempt at macaroons and although by no means perfect, I am pretty happy with how they turned out.  I think my eggs were slightly too small, meaning my mixture was a bit thick so I didn't get a smooth top, despite banging my tray and leaving to rest for an hour before cooking - but they have set beautifully on the outside and are delish and moist in the middle.

This recipe was in the latest Australian Womans Weekly.

1 cup finely ground almond meal
1 1/4 cups icing sugar
3 egg whites, at room temperature (I used size 6, think size 7's would be better)
pinch of salt
1/3 cup caster sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice

Place 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper (same size as your trays) on the bench and draw 4.5cm diameter circles on them.  Spray the oven trays lightly with non-stick baking spray and place sheets, circle sides down, onto the trays.

Sift the almond meal and icing sugar through a sieve to mix together.  Discard any lumps left in the sieve.

Beat the egg whites and salt with an electric mixer until frothy.  Beat the caster sugar in 1 teaspoon at a time until smoothly combined and thick and glossy.  Carefully mix in the almond mixture and spices, just stirring to combine smoothly. 

Spoon into a piping bag with a 1.5cm plain round nozzle.  Hold the nozzle close to the paper and pipe out to fill the drawn circle.  Once all piped, tap the tray on the bench to level the mixture and flatten.

Stand the trays for at least 45 minutes before cooking (this ensures the nice crust and smooth top of the macaroon - unless its mine, and it still has a peak haha)

During this time preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Bake for 12 - 15 minutes.  They will puff out slightly but will be firm to touch.  Do not overcook!  Cool on the trays.

Sandwich together with vanilla butter frosting and store in an airtight container for 3 - 5 days.

125 grams butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups icing sugar

Beat the softened butter, icing sugar and vanilla together until smooth. 

Christmas Wreath

Just thought I would share a picture of the Christmas Wreath I made yesterday.  I stumbled upon Spotlight (a very regular occurance in my week by the way) and they had 50% off all their Christmas decorations. 

The plain wreath cost me $4 and the decorations $11.  Much cheaper than the ones I have been looking at for between $40 - $60 each.  Now the test is whether it a) doesn't fall apart, b) get blown off the door and destroyed or c) stolen!!

Next year I have images of white bows and doves, with silver ribbon and baubles.

Barkers Lemon & Passionfruit Patisserie Filling

This is my new favourite emergency food!  I had to take a plate to our kindy Christmas party last Friday night, and after a hectic day at another Christmas party I was rather unorganised.  It was a mad dash to the supermarket to find something quick and easy and I luckily stumbled upon a lovely marketer sampling the above.

She was so lovely in fact (or noticed the mad gleam of desperation in my eye and my three screaming children) that she let me take all her display stock.

It comes in three different flavours - Lemon and Passionfruit, NZ Boysenberry and Chocolate Creme and is kept in the baking asile of your supermarket.  Its so easy to use as it is already enclosed in a piping bag - all you have to do is snip the end off and go!  I just brought some pastry shells and had mini lemon tarts in minutes, which tasted devine.

And the fillings are good.  Really good.  I have half a bag left over and I am going to use it as a base in meringue cases, topped with cream and a spig of mint - hmmmm.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Spiced Christmas Biscuits

My bad baking streak has continued this week.  Its now morphed into bad icing as well!  I guess I have been out of practice and need to get back into the swing of things.  It'll happen! 

These Spiced Christmas Biscuits smell so good while baking and really bring the feeling of Christmas into the house.

75 grams butter
4 tablespoons golden syrup
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Grated rind of one orange
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line and prepare 3 baking trays.

Put the butter, golden syrup and sugar into a saucepan and heat very gently, until butter melts and sugar dissolves.

Remove pan from heat and stir in the spices and grated orange rind.  Sift the flour and baking soda into the butter mixture.  Mix together, adding enough milk to create a dough.

When dough is cool enough to work, knead it well, halve the mixture and roll the first half out between two sheets of baking paper.

Cut out Christmas shapes and transfer to the trays.  Reroll trimmings etc until both mixtures have been used.

Bake for 8 - 10 minutes or until browned.  Remove from trays and cool on racks.

Decorate as you wish.  I piped on Royal Icing.  I also flooded some with Royal Icing but it was a major fail.  It was a really hot day when I made these, and I wasn't thinking and flooded all the biscuits at once and by the time I had gotten to the third biscuit the icing was setting already.  I had to break the set to push the icing out to the sides so they turned out lumpy.  So if you are going to flood them, remember only to do a few at a time!

Another idea for these is to turn them into Christmas Tree Hangings. Pop a hole in the top of each shape before baking, then once iced, string them onto the tree. They will probably need to be eaten within a few days, but do look stunning on the tree.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

When Baking Goes Bad

These biscuits I tried to make today were just doomed from the beginning.  Ever have moments like that - when absolutely nothing goes right?  It was a new recipe that sounded awesome, Christmas biscuits lightly spiced with ginger and cinnamon, infused with orange rind.  Sounds great right.  It wasn't.

Anyway, after much improvisation, hair pulling and alot of fustration I got an edible biscuit, just nothing to rave about and definately not the mouth watering pefection I had in mind.

So I let the kids at them. They had fun and ate half of them with no complaint. So maybe not really a waste after all?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tis' the Season for Giving

This Friday is the break up and total resolution of the Hamilton South KiwiMums group.  I've been attending this group for around 18months now, along with serving on the small committee, and I am sad that we're ending.  Boo.

I offered to put together a few treats for the mummies and my challenge was doing this on a really tight budget.  One of things that seems to regularly come up in our discussions is how tired we are as busy mums and how hard it can be to have some timeout during the day.  We've all agreed that even 5 minutes alone to enjoy a cup of tea and a quick flick through a magazine can do wonders to boost our energy, so I wanted the presents to reflect this in some way.

I found some mugs at The Warehouse for .69cents each.  Bargain!  And then popped along to the supermarket and purchased tea, hot chocolate and some yummy chocolates - all on special of course.  Then it was off to the $2 shop to purchase some cellophane, and for $3 each I have 12 presents wrapped and ready to be distributed to our mummies.  I think I did well.

Not wanting the children to miss out either, I used this idea I found here for packets of Reindeer Noses.  Great idea and really effective.  And the hubby and I are enjoying all the leftover Maltesers.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cheese Puffs

This was lunch for the children in our house today and they didn't last long on the plate.  Easy peasy to make and they just use stock standard ingredients you always have on hand.

3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1 cup grated cheese
1 egg, beaten
3 TBS milk

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the cheese, beaten egg and milk and mix until just combined - should be quite sticky.  Spoon teaspoons onto a lined baking tray and cook for 5 - 10 minutes at 215 degrees.