trufflesThis is a delicious, easy recipe, and is even gluten-free. I wanted truffles that were not so sickeningly sweet, so I went for dark chocolate and a good amount of brandy and let the sultanas add their natural sweetness to the mix. I was pretty limited to whatever I could find in my cupboard at the time (there’s no way I’m braving the shops again this close to xmas) but you could roll them in grated chocolate or chocolate sprinkles or use raw sugar instead of caster sugar for a bit of sparkle – whatever takes your fancy.

This is my first-ever attempt at making truffles, and all my own recipe. Enjoy!

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 box Nestle Plaistow chocolate
3 tablespoons brandy
A handful of sultanas
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup caster sugar

Heat the condensed milk, chocolate and brandy in a saucepan over very low heat until smooth, stirring so that it doesn’t burn. Stir in the sultanas and transfer to a bowl. Cover with clingwrap and put in the fridge for an hour, or until mixture has reached a hardish, buttery consistency. Combine the cocoa and sugar in a small bowl.
Use a spoon to scoop out small amounts of mixture. Using damp hands (or better yet, latex gloves), roll the spooned out amount between your hands to make a ball. Drop the ball into the cocoa mixture and roll until completely covered. Repeat until all truffle mixture is used up.

Serve truffles in small patty cases and package in pretty boxes. Keep refridgerated or they may lose their shape.

Makes about 30 truffles, depending on how big you make them and how many you eat along the way.

This “How it’s made” series of videos absolutely fascinate me. Check out these ones in particular, which show how some baked goods are mass-made in factories.

It’s Sydney International Food Festival time, and you know what that means – Sugar Hit time! After hitting the noodle markets for some very tasty okonomiyaki, I sauntered around the corner with my friends Ros and Ryan to the awesomely named restaurant Monkey Magic for a post-noodle sugar hit.

After reminiscing about the show Monkey Magic on the way there, we were pleased to find that the restaurant of the same name lived up to our nostalgia-driven expectations. It’s dark, chocolatey-coloured and has clouds on the walls.

We rocked up at about 7.30 and were told that the Sugar Hit was usually served from 9pm, but it didn’t matter. Excellent. We had a choice of a glass of Brown Brothers “Patricia” Reisling, cognac or Japanese plum wine. Ros and I opted for the plum wine and

Ryan went for the cognac simply to break the trend. The plum wine was great – very balanced. Sweet, but not sickly so, and the plum flavour was pretty subtle.

The dessert was a black sesame creme caramel with toffee syrup, served with red wine-poached pear and coconut ice-cream. A sweet, crunchy bread stick was also served with it, which I quite liked. Actually I started eating it before I remembered to take a photo, which I had warned my friends I was likely to do. Luckily they weren’t quite as eager as me, so I took a photo of Ros’s plate instead.

The ice-cream had a kind of red spice sprinkled on top that I couldn’t identify, but was a little peppery. The creme caramel was quite rich – creamy and sweet. It tasted great but we struggled to finish it. Ros said that she didn’t usually like pears, but the red wine-poached pears were delicious. Ryan said with a name like Monkey Magic, how could you possibly go wrong? I can’t argue with logic like that!

After this experience, I’d love to go back to Monkey Magic to try stuff on their regular menu, and I think all three of us have an urge to watch some episodes of that 80′s Japanese TV show now. Luckily I have the full box set.

Try it yourself, at:
Monkey Magic
410 Crown St
Surry Hills NSW
Australia

Sugar Hit is available nightly during the month of October from 9pm.

leicchart cake

Some of you may have noticed that there is now a Flickr photostream down the right-hand side of this blog, showing a delicious feed of goodies. This is my endless stream of cakes – enjoy! The idea is that several “cake papparazi” will take photos of cakes and other sweet things “in their natural habitat” and upload them to the cake photostream.

This means taking pictures of really good looking cakes. The main rule is – the cake has to physically be in front of you, no stolen pics off the internet. Homemade or store made is fine. I’ll try to put a little information about the locations of each cake so that if you see a really delicious one, you might know where to find it.

So far my recruitment drive for cake papparazi has been pretty dismal. Several people have responded with enthusiasm but the only person actively stalking cakes is me. But no matter, I see enough cakes to keep you all entertained, so keep an eye on that photostream!

ninjabread

These tough cookies beat the pants off gingerbread men. For more pictures, see my Flickr ninjabread photoset. I’ve linked to appropriate photos in the set from various points in the recipe.

These little bastards take up a lot of room on a baking tray, so I spent about an hour swapping trays in and out of the oven until they were all cooked (I made a double batch). Luckily they only take 10 minutes to cook.

Ingredients

  • 125g butter, at room temperature
  • 100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) golden syrup
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 375g (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 1 tbs ground ginger
  • 1 teasp mixed spice
  • 1 teasp bicarbonate of soda
  • Plain flour, to dust
  • Royal icing packet mixture*
  • 8-10 drops red liquid food colouring
  • 1-2 tsp black food colouring paste*
  • Silver edible glitter*

* These ingredients can be found at cake decorating supply stores

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Use an electric beater or blender to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined. Stir in the flour, ginger, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  3. Meanwhile, make the royal icing according to packet instructions. Separate into 3 bowls. Add the red food colouring to one bowl and mix until bright red. Add the black food colouring to another bowl and mix until almost black (a little grey is okay, it will set black when dry). Leave the third bowl white. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap.
  4. Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 4mm thick. Use a 9cm gingerbread man cutter to cut out shapes. If your men are fat, trim them so they’re lean and mean. Use a spatula to place on trays about 3cm apart. Use excess dough to cut out star shapes using a 2cm star shaped cutter and a straw for holes in the middle.
  5. Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until brown. Remove from oven. Using a spatula, transfer to a rack to cool (leave them on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to the rack, or they will be too soft and may break on transfer).
  6. Place prepared icings in small plastic bags. Cut a small hole in a corner of each bag. Pipe icing over gingerbread men to decorate. For throwing stars, spread the white icing over the stars (scooping icing out of the holes when necessary) and sprinkle glitter over them, then tap off any excess glitter. Attach the stars to the men using royal icing.

pandan cupcakes 2

Last Friday, the day before Halloween, I delighted my workmates with some spooky green pandan cupcakes with spiderweb cupcake wrappers. They were a big hit! They’re really just a modification of the pandan chiffon cake recipe that I posted a few weeks ago – you just have to put them into cupcake cases and bake them for only about 30 minutes instead of the full large cake time.

I used spiderweb cupcake wrappers from Alfresco Emporium, which also allows online orders. They’re also available from the USA from Fancy Flours but the international shipping fees are horrendous, so stick with the local one unless you’re an American.

Happy Halloween!

I admit it – Adriano Zumbo is my new pastry hero. The man is a flavour genius. This is no chocolate-on-chocolate-and-what-goes-with-chocolate-oh-I-know-more-chocolate type of chef. This guy understands BALANCE. Sweets aren’t all about the sweetness. There’s sourness, tartness, even saltiness and all sorts of other things that are involved in making sweet things. And all of these have to be in the right balance, otherwise one flavour overpowers the others and you don’t get that beautiful complex flavour that you can savour.

So I was feeling pretty glum about not having won the famous Zumbo chocolate mousse cake lottery for the second time in a row, and certain friends were meant to visit me this weekend and revel in the sweet Zumboness of this patisserie with me and they didn’t show, so I made the pilgrimage to Zumbo Patisserie all by myself for consolation cake. Last time I went there they were completely sold out, so I got there a bit earlier this time.

It was packed. And when the people got in there, their eyes widened and they were just staring and drooling and LUSTING after the cakes. There were several people taking photos. This isn’t a big store – it’s like a corridor with a cake display case on one side. So I managed to get all the way to the end of the cake display stand where the good stuff is. I wanted ALL of it. The lady next to me was lost in a similar bewildered state of cakelust as we struggled to decide what to buy. But I managed to narrow it down to a few choices, before moving on to the macaroon section.

zumbocakes1

Then the most amazing thing happened. One of the macaroons broke. It was a salt and vinegar macaroon and the shop assistant said to me, “this one broke so I can’t sell it. Would you like to eat it?”

Free macaroon?

For me?

For ME????

So she started describing the other macaroon flavours to me, but I had already taken a bite of the free macaroon and I was far away on a distant planet called Planet of the Free Macaroon, a glorious place where salt, vinegar, sugar and macaroonness live in perfect harmony and dance and sing together. You should go there sometime, it’s awesome. So she had to repeat all the flavours to me again and I ended up getting two rice pudding macaroons because that’s all I could remember her saying.

Amazingly I left the store with only four items. I don’t know how I managed to resist all of these temptations.

zumbocakes2

I bought four things to try. Here they are, clockwise from top left :

  • “Amanda Made The Cut” (4 layers of chocolate mousse, passionfruit marshmallow, coconut crunch and chocolate brownie, partially covered in lime creme),
  • “Escape From A Columbian Rainforest” (if I remember correctly – chocolate mousse with a tangy rasberry filling covered in fizzy pink sugar with chocolate on top),
  • citron tart (a lemon tart) and
  • “Lukas Rides The Tube” (Macadamia praline mousse, macadamia docquoise, vanilla chantilly, pear tartin pallette, macadamia feuilletine).

zumbocakesboxMy favourite was “Amanda Made The Cut”, which was an unusual combination but really well balanced in flavour – with the lightness of the marshmallow, the zest of the lime creme and the sweetness of the chocolate brownie and mousse – and also in texture – with the crunch of the coconut, the softness of the marshmallow and mousse, the chewiness of the brownie and the gooiness of the lime creme.

The “Escape from a Columbian Rainforest” was extremely rich, but the richness was tempered somewhat by the tangy jelly in the middle. Lukas Rides the Tube was very rich as well, kind of like an upper class vanilla slice. I liked the flavours but found the chantilly cream too overpowering in richness.

I didn’t try the citron tart – I left all of that to my husband, connoisseur of all things lemon. The result was surprising – he usually says when it comes to citrus tarts, the stronger the better. However this time he said it was a very good tart – one of the best he’s had – despite not being overly sour and lemony in flavour. High praise indeed from this man.

So there it is, my new favourite Sydney patisserie. Next time I must try the cafe. Frustratingly, it is always full whenever I go there. However, fear not – I will find a way.

Zumbo Patisserie, Balmain, Sydney.

It’s Sydney International Food Festival this month (previously called Good Food Month, which frankly was a lot easier to say), and one of my favourite events this month is the Sugar Hit. A Sugar Hit is a dessert created by an excellent restaurant, served with a glass of dessert wine (or something similar) – all for $20.

So last night I went to Azuma Kushiyaki for their Sugar Hit, which is an East-meets-West dessert platter. Unfortunately, when it arrived it looked so delicious that I ate it before realizing that I forgot to take a photograph. So I photographed the remains for a post-meal blog analysis. Here it is:

azuma sugar hit

  1. Cheesecake. This was a light and creamy vanilla cheesecake with vanilla ice-cream in the middle and a sponge cake base. The texture was so light, it was heaven. It was served with three raspberry halves and a blueberry arranged in a delicate pattern.
  2. Chocolate mousse cake. There was a very rich chocolate mousse cake here, cut into a square and served with half a sliced strawberry fanned on top. It filled me up so much that I was unable to finish eating the cheesecake.
  3. Nori biscuits. There were two wafer-thin vanilla biscuits with flecks of nori (seaweed) baked into them. It sounds strange, but it was actually really delicious. And not in an “acquired gourmet taste” way, just in a normal “wow that’s really delicious” way.
  4. Green tea roll. You can probably tell by the remains that I didn’t like this one so much. It was like a regular sponge roll, but with green tea powder integrated throughout. The cream was very rich and the sponge tasted like green tea powder.
  5. Syrup. This was a small glass of syrup to pour over the rice cake shot, so that you could adjust the syrup amount depending on how sweet you liked the dessert. A nice touch.
  6. Rice cake shot. This was a shot glass with vanilla bean ice-cream (partially molten), seedless grapes and small rice cakes – the sticky paste Japanese kind. Husband found the flavourless rice cakes a bit strange. I really liked it – I liked the texture of the rice cakes and the sweetness of the ice-cream and syrup. The fresh grapes balanced it really nicely.
  7. Dessert wine. This was a Brown Brothers Orange, Muscat and Flora. I’ve had it before and it’s a really nice dessert wine with a pleasing aftertaste. There was an option to have cognac instead of dessert wine.

Overall, I loved the presentation and the tasting platter idea. It was a fun meal to eat, exploring the different desserts. On top of that, it was very delicious and filled me up even though I hadn’t had a proper dinner. Great value for $20.

For more information on Sugar Hits at Azuma Kushiyaki, go to the Sydney International Food Festival website.

victoriaroomhighteaMy husband and I are what you may call High Tea connoisseurs. To be more accurate, we have been spoiled by the exceptional standard of High Tea at the Stamford Plaza in Brisbane, and every High Tea experience we have is measured against it. To date, we have not found an experience to meet that standard in Sydney.

So bearing that in mind, it may come as no surprise to you that High Tea at The Victoria Room in Sydney was disappointing. There were positives – the décor was lovely, the setting was comfortable and the service was excellent. The selection of sweets were delicious and the tea refills were free (which is something other high tea venues in Sydney don’t often offer).

However, for the $38pp we paid, there was not a lot of food. On offer were eight finger sandwiches, eight sweet treats and only two scones to share between the two of us. Usually high tea is a decadent experience that leaves the stomach fit to burst, so we were hungry by the time we arrived, and we scoffed most of it within 20 minutes. High tea is generally about tea and scones, and the lack of scones was almost as disappointing as the quality of the scones. There was only one choice of jam, and it was runny.

The paper tablecloth was irritating, as it kept getting in the way as it hung off the edge of the table. And paper tablecloths at high tea? The Queen would not dine here.

I think this would be an excellent venue for a girls’ afternoon tea party, for those who would enjoy the novelty of a “posh” tea experience. To their credit, it is a beautiful venue and I think that cocktails and supper would be absolutely delightful there. But of all the High Teas we have tried in Sydney to date, this is not among the best.

iPhone 016

This is a recipe I found in a recent copy of Delicious magazine. I wanted to bake something special for my husband on his birthday. He’s a big fan of lemon, and I mean a BIG fan of lemon – he’s famous for his lemon meringue pie which contains 3-6 times the recommended dose of lemon in every serve. So when I saw the recipe for these tarts, with whole lemon slices as part of the filling, I thought excellent, this will give him his lemon fix.

The pastry is super easy and cheaty because it’s a store-bought pastry, BUT, not the usual stuff you get from the supermarket. It’s Careme vanilla bean shortcrust pastry, available from selected gourmet stores (see their website for details). Yeah it’s a bit expensive but it’s extremely delicious, and saves you making your own. I know Jamie Oliver says it’s sooooo easy, but you roll, this, you chill that, you try to get it so it doesn’t all fall apart all the time…to hell with that, just buy this fancy gourmet pastry which is also available in butter, sour cream and dark chocolate flavours.

iPhone 015So anyway, the filling is way easy, but requires special tools. I had to buy a mandoline, which I’ve never thought to use before – it’s a thingy that lets you slice stuff really really thinly. It’s actually really cool and I hope to use it in the future to slice lots of other things really really thinly, like….yeah I can’t think of anything. Maybe more lemons and limes for cake or tart decorating.

So yes, you finely slice your lemons and take out all the annoying seeds, and then put them in a bowl with caster sugar and a split vanilla bean overnight. Yep, this is one of those two-day jobbies. But then the next day all you have to do is take all the lemon slices out of the sugar and whisk some eggs into the remaining sugar and vanilla mixture. Then that becomes your tart filling and you just layer the lemons on top. Super easy!

About now I’m wishing I had the actual lemon recipe to share with you but I figure since it’s out of Delicious magazine it will probably appear on taste.com.au eventually. So uh…keep checking back there.

The story ends with a very happy husband on his birthday. I got the eyes falling back in the head, “oh my GOD” reaction I was hoping for. I tried to eat one myself but it was kind of full-on with so much lemon, I could only handle about half a small tart. But that’s the way he likes it.

An endless stream of cakes
The French House, Waterloo

The French House, Waterloo







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