Thursday, April 30, 2009

Raspberry Jam, Toasted Coconut and White Choc Cupcakes

It occurred to me just the other day that I had never actually baked cupcakes with raspberries before, which seems a bit silly when you consider the name of my blog. But raspberri is just an old IM nickname that I am too stubborn to let go of and I like cupcakes. That's where the name came from, simple as that.

Tomred was coming back to work after taking time off to get hitched, his birthday had also passed in that time so it seemed like the perfect occasion to whip up a new batch of celebratory cupcakes. But I always want to try something different and I was not satisfied with just a new icing flavour or berry to throw into the mixture. The resultant cake was a product of far too many ideas that I crammed into the one little cake. It tasted bloody good though.

My original plan was to do plain raspberry cupcakes with a white chocolate icing. Then I thought about white chocolate chips in the cake and raspberries pureed into the icing. Then I decided I wanted some coconut in it. Toasted or not toasted? In the cake or in the icing? Or sprinkled on top? Arghh too many choices! In the end I settled on mixing toasted coconut into the cake batter, scooping out the middles of the cakes and filling them with raspberry jam and topping them with white chocolate icing and fresh raspberries. Mmm.

I had a feeling as I was putting these into the oven that they would be a winner. They are so good that they disappeared from the meeting room table in record time

Raspberry Jam, Coconut & White Choc Cupcakes
For the cakes:
Foolproof cupcake recipe (no vanilla)
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
Jar of good quality raspberry jam

For the icing:
150g white chocolate bits
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons warm water

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Spread coconut out evenly on a lined baking tray and toast in oven until light golden brown. Keep a close eye on the coconut, it will brown very fast and if even the tiniest part of it burns it will taste crap. Burnt is bad! Better to have some of it still white rather than risk burning any of it.

Place jam in a small saucepan with a tablespoon of water and warm on a low-medium heat, stirring until the jam becomes smooth and liquid. Remove from the heat and strain the seeds from the jam mixture. If you are lazy you can skip this step but I think the seeds intefere with the cake texture too much.

Follow foolproof cupcake recipe as per usual, mixing in the toasted coconut at the same time as the juice and flour. You should have an airy, thick, slightly sticky batter. Fill cupcake papers in a cupcake tray to about 1/2 full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.

Remove cakes from tray and allow to cool completely on a rack. Take a small sharp knife like a paring knife and slice a cone-shaped chunk out of the middle of the cakes. Slice the pointy bottom bit of the cone-shaped chunk so there is room for the jam underneath.

Use a spoon or a piping bag to fill the centres of the cake with jam. I made a double batch of these cupcakes and ran out of jam with about 5 cupcakes to go and had to substitute it with strawberry jam :( If you want to avoid wasting jam then I would only use about 3/4 of a jar for a single batch.

Place the cut-off chunks back over the jam filled cakes.

For the icing, melt chocolate in a double boiler, or in the microwave for a minute if you are feeling lazy. Mix in sifted icing sugar and then mix with an electric beater on high while slowly adding the warm water until it reaches the consistency you want for piping. I also threw in some butter to mine but it didn't seem to do much except increase the calories so I left it out of the recipe. If you want a glossier, less stiff finish to your icing add some cream to the mixture.

Pipe icing onto cakes and top with a fresh raspberry if you feel like it :)

Gooey cupcake innards
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Random Eatings - Graduation Gingerbread & Lamingtons

I am a random child so expect some random posts.

I get stupid, crazy baking ideas sometimes and even though I know it's a mess waiting to happen I always press on and try to realise my ideas anyway.

That's why I decided to bake graduation-themed gingerbread men for my closest friends who were graduating with me. I felt like I wanted to give them a little present and a little cookie seemed like a great idea. But how on earth could I make it graduation themed? I spent far too much time considering my options. Licorice allsort hats maybe? White chocolate curls for scrolls?

In the end I kept it simple, mainly because just making the gingerbread men was enough of an ordeal and I needed to get up early the next day for my morning graduation ceremony. I chose to use the Australian Women's Weekly recipe that was posted on grabyourfork ages ago. It was a great recipe, the biscuits turned out perfectly. But making them graduation gingerbread men was a nightmare! My gingerbread cookie cutter was too small so I had to cut out a cardboard stencil of a gingerbread man wearing a graduation cap and they were too big so the limbs kept falling off or got stuck to whatever surface it was on. It took me forever!

Big daddies. I also made mini ones using my tiny cutter with the leftover scraps of dough
By the time I actually got around to decorating them, it was already pretty late and I was extremely crabby. I found some black food colouring at Coles but was nervous about using it as it seemed to give the icing a horrible bitter flavour. Plus it only seemed to turn it grey at first. But I used it anyway and it turned out alright. My counter and hands were completely covered in black food colouring though. My piping bag skills are amateurish at best, but I think you get the general idea. It's the thought that counts anyway right?

Lazily packaged up and ready to go
I think everyone liked them, a couple got eaten straight away! So I was pleased after all the stress. A says they weren't made with love, but frustration and hormones hahaha. Oh well, they got the desired effect!

Hee I'm a total dork.
Random thing number 2 - gigantic lamington, yeah!

Mum swears these are the best lamingtons in Sydney. I don't know if I can back up that claim up, but they weren't too shabby. Absolutely enormous but it still managed to have a good chocolate-to-cake ratio. And it was super light, like eating a cloud. Where from? The local bakery next to Coles in Lane Cove.
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Bécasse, Sydney CBD

It finally happened. I graduated. No more exams or assignments. (Or student concessions. Boo.) The decision making for my graduation dinner restaurant turned into an epic battle, it jumped between Rockpool, Tetsuyas, Balzac, Quay and a dozen other places. But in the end I was sure of where I wanted to go. And I am so glad I picked Bécasse in the end.

We are seated in the lower main area of the restaurant which I am pleased about after hearing a few negative remarks about the noisy upstairs area. The atmosphere in the restaurant is great, it has a quiet buzz to it. The lights are dimmed to a intimate but not ridiculous level. Not so great for food photos though! I will apologize ahead of time, I am self-conscious enough as it is taking food photos in a casual restaurant let alone a fancy one, so I kept the flash and AF illuminator on my camera off and my photos are even blurrier than usual.

We decided to skip the degustation menu and each choose an entree and main. Interestingly, they have standardised the pricing along the a la carte menu; all entrees are now 25 dollars, mains are $45 and desserts are $20. This seemed like great value for the first two courses but I think 20 is a bit steep for their desserts.

Complimentary pastry with goats cheese
Mmm...These pastries are brought out for us while we are still deciding what to order and they are just the thing to get my appetite going. The pastry tasted almost like lemon shortbread and complimented the light goats cheese very well.

Bread selection served with emulsified olive oil and volcanic ash salt
I am not usually a bread eater at restaurants but I do love the bread we get. The sourdough and garlic & herb are nice but the pumpkin bread is my favourite. Roasted pumpkin seeds on top and soft chunks of pumpkin spread throughout the dough. I was intrigued by the emulsified olive oil and the ash salt, but I think I would have still preferred a nice butter instead.

Sparkling rose and pumpkin bread innards
We also chose a sparkling wine to start off with from NZ, we were meant to be celebrating after all :) It's fantastic.

Complimentary cauliflower puree with cream and herbs
The cauliflower soup is superbly rich and creamy and so deep with flavour that all of us go silent as we slowly sip from our little teacups, trying to savour it for as long as possible but alas, it was still gone too quickly.

Salad of heirloom tomato and basil with golden tomato and olive oil sorbet
I chose the heirloom tomato salad for my entree; it was the first dish that caught my eye while looking through their menu and I am not disappointed. It arrives looking like a work of art, I am reluctant to disturb it, but I do. The olive oil sorbet is ridiculously good and the little green blobs are tiny balloons of basil sauce which give a surprising pop of flavour in your mouth. I am pleased that this dish is so tasty but light so I still have plenty of room in ma belly for my main and dessert.

Confit belly of Berkshire Kurobuta pork and king prawn rolled in crackling with fresh apple, verbena and vanilla

A and Mum try the belly pork. I'm not particularly wowwed by this dish, the crackling isn't bad and the vanilla is a nice touch but other than that it's nothing special.

Spanner crab mousse (I think)
I can't tell you too much about the spanner crab since I didn't get to try it but I am told it would have been nice except that it was far too salty.

Macleay Valley baby rabbit: roast leg, rack and saddle, lemon pith puree and date

My brother and Dad both get the rabbit. This is an awesome dish. I particularly love the little rabbit racks. It's almost like they were there just in case you weren't sure if they were really using baby rabbits haha. They were tasty little morsels though!

Fricasse of veal tongue with seared scallops, sweetbreads and asparagus
On to the mains...My choice was the veal tongue. I always seem to be attracted to the random bits of meat like tongue, sweetbread, kidney, oxtail etc. It's very satisfying, the tongue is packed full of flavour, the scallops are perfectly cooked and the crispy sweetbreads and sweet vegetables go well with the meat. I am a happy camper.

Showing off the veal in its clay and coffee muslin casing
I managed to get my Dad obsessed with this dish before we even got to the restaurant. Maybe it was because I mentioned the clay, or that it used to be the most expensive dish (by a couple dollars), but from the moment we sit down my Dad won't shut up about it. A is also determined to give it a go. Before serving our mains they bring out the milk fed veal, still wrapped in a layer of coffee soaked muslin and clay, and describe the process they go through to make the dish.

Milk fed veal baked in coffee and clay with confit potatoes, roasted mushrooms and caramelised endive
I had a small taste of the veal and it was so so so tender. Melt in your mouth tender. The coffee flavour barely comes through, it is a very subtle hint. While it's perfectly cooked I am still glad I didn't order it as it still seems like meat and three veg to me. But I think this is exactly why A and Dad love it.

Assiette of Victoria lamb
My brother's assiette of Victoria lamb is so-so. Everything is nice, but nothing stands out. The lamb is done three different ways, but they all seem to taste the same to me and none of the elements were particularly memorable.

Roasted fillet of jewfish with potato salardaise and a sauté of white asparagus, golden enoki and king brown mushrooms
Ohhhh. I almost regret not ordering this dish. Luckily two of us did order it so I got to try plenty of it. The jewfish was the absolute standout dish of the night. All the elements on the plate worked perfectly together AND individually. I avoid ordering fish at non-asian restaurants because they tend to overcook or under-season it. But this is just SO good. Moist and unbelievably tasty. The potato salardaise on the side is just as yummy but my favourite are the tiny crispy onion rings on top. Oh they are so good and so cute! Someone please mass produce these!

Complimentary watermelon sorbet with lemon curd (I think)

By the time they bring out the complimentary dessert I am pretty drowsy from the wine and the amazing food but they have me giggling with glee at the little flourish that comes with my sorbet. It's really sweet that they did that considering that my graduation was only mentioned once, in passing. The sorbet and lemon curd are a surprisingly great combination, and there is also a little ball of fresh watermelon at the bottom of the glass. I sit there and try to decide if it is too daggy to tip the glass into my mouth to catch the last little bits.

Banana crème brulée with salted peanut brittle and milk coffee sorbet

*Sigh* This part of expensive meals always gets me a bit down. Unfortunately a lot of the best desserts have to have nuts in them. And after hearing about the fantastic banana crème brulée with salted peanut brittle, I knew I was going to have another night watching someone else enjoy the best dessert from across the table. I did get a little taste of the coffee sorbet and banana cream before it all got smashed together and they just made me sadder about missing out on this :(

The souffle du jour was a strawberry souffle with strawberry sauce and mascarpone sorbet. This was the only real disappointment of the night, Mum didn't show us until she had already eaten half of it but the souffle was extremely soggy and wet, definitely undercooked. If we had known at the start we probably would have sent it back. The mascarpone sorbet was lovely though.

Strawberry souffle with mascarpone sorbet

Rhubarb and mandarin cheesecake

But all was forgotten once I tucked in to my own dessert! A always insists that mandarins are the best fruit to go in a cheesecake and I can't disagree with him yet. This was just oh so delicious. My nose was buried in my plate until every little bit of this deconstructed cheesecake was gone. The perfectly cooked rubarb, golden crumble and the airy, mousse-like cream was gone before I knew it!

We miss out on the petit fours since none of us can force ourselves to fit in a cup of coffee. I honestly can't believe that people can complain about leaving this restaurant hungry! I wasn't stuffed silly, I was satisfied and content, which is the way it should be. The service was impeccable. And after all that food, the meal was only a hundred dollars a head, including wines. And when you consider the fact that the degustation would have cost $120 without wine, that's not bad. Not bad at all.

204 Clarence Street,
Sydney 2000
(02) 9283 3440
Monday – Friday: lunch from 12:00pm – 2:30pm
Monday – Saturday: dinner from 6:00pm – 10:30pm
Becasse on Urbanspoon
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mum's Apple Crumble Cake

This is one of the recipes that I found amongst the scraps of papers my Mum writes her recipes on. I was so happy she still had this one because it was my favourite of the cakes that she made while I was growing up, and I was worried she had lost it because unfortunately she had lost an entire file full of recipes she had collected over the years. She originally got the recipe off an old family friend that she knew while living in England. The recipe only listed the ingredients (which I had to tentatively convert from ounces to grams) and no method but my Mum's made the recipe so many times she could do it with her eyes closed. It was just a matter of me dragging her into the kitchen and placing an apple in front of her.

This cake is a hybrid of a traditional apple cake and an apple crumble. It makes a fairly small, short cake which has the most wonderful brown crumble on top and a buttery cake base. It's a pretty dry cake so I think it would be best enjoyed with some whipped cream, vanilla icecream, or warm pouring custard on those really cold winter days.

Mum's Apple Crumble Cake
For the cake:
115g self raising (approx 1 cup plain flour + 2 tsp baking baking powder), sifted
a pinch of salt
60g butter, softened
60g sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk
2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced thinly
ground cinnamon

For the crumble:
85g self raising (approx. 1/2 cup plain flour + 1 tsp baking powder)
60g sugar
30 butter
1 tbsp water for mixing
gr0und cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Cream butter and sugar for the cake until light and creamy. Add in the egg and vanilla then beat on medium until combined. Add the flour (and baking powder), milk and the salt and beat on low until just combined. Avoid over-beating. The mixture should be a thick paste. Spread the mixture fairly evenly over the base of a lined 19cm round cake tin. Don't panic if there looks like there's not enough mixture to cover the base of the pan. I started to freak out because it wasn't even touching the edge of the pan and my mum shut me up and told me as long as it is not too uneven, the mixture will spread out and fill the tin.

Cover the cake mixture with the apple slices so that they are evenly distributed. Dust apples with a generous sprinkling of ground cinnamon

Now for the crumble. This is the bit that makes the cake so if it doesn't turn out right, the whole cake doesn't turn out right. Put butter, flour (+ baking powder) and sugar in a bowl and rub the mixture between your fingers to combine them. Lift the mixture up high with your hands and let it fall so it traps a bit of air. Add about 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon (I'm not quite sure how much we put in because my Mum just shook in a random amount), then gradually add a 1/2 tablespoon of water at a time, while still combining with your fingertips until the mixture starts to form fairly bit clumps of around 0.5 cm diameter, rather than fine breadcrumbs. We added about 1.5 tbps water.

Spread the crumble mixture over the top of the apples and pat it down ever so slightly, just so the crumble isn't completely loose on the top of the cake, but not enough to flatten the crumble. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the crumble on top is golden brown and a skewer comes out of the cake clean. If your cake is cooked and the crumble isn't brown enough for your liking, stick it under the grill for a few minutes to brown up the top.

Allow cake to cool for 15 minutes and then turn out onto a serving plate. It smells and tastes so amazing when it has just been freshly baked. Eating this cake brings back a lot of childhood memories for me and my brother. The only thing we sometimes think is that it could do with a bit more apple. We only used one large Granny Smith, but I have increased the amount to 2 small ones for this. The cake is fairly small and thin so feel free to double the amount of cake batter, but I like it thin.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Krabi, Thailand

I spent 5 fantastic days in the small main town centre of Krabi, Thailand. It was unexpectedly devoid of tourists, as most of them cluster around the beach-side area of Aonang or the nearby islands like Phi Phi and Phuket. This made it so much more fun for us, since it was less tourist-oriented. Hardly anyone spoke English and there were plenty of small local food stalls and restaurants to try!

There was a large amount of stress amongst my friends and family when they heard I was visiting Thailand. The general reaction was something like: "But...isn't everything full of peanuts? Won't, die?" Yes there were a lot of things that had nuts in them, but there are always other options!

My Dad organised the whole thing for us and booked us into a tiny family run hotel in the middle of Krabi Town called @Krabi Pura. It was a really wonderful little place, immaculately clean and the owner, Atchara was so helpful-she even wrote a little note in Thai saying that I was allergic to nuts so that I could show it to people wherever I went to eat :)

One of the places Atchara recommended was the outdoor night stalls that were just around the corner from the hotel. We visited these stalls several times, it was a great little place to grab all sorts of nibbles. The first day we went pretty safe and tried a green curry and tom yum soup.
Tom yum soup and green curry
Both are wonderfully fragrant and super spicy, just the way we like it. The desserts at the stalls were fantastic and extremely unhealthy! There were a lot of super sweet desserts such as Nutella pancakes drenched in butter, condensed milk and sugar. My favourite were these super thin, crepe-like pancakes smeared with coconut cream and sweetened shaved coconut.

Fried mussels & pad thai

Making crispy sweet pancakes

Crispy coconut pancakes
The best thing about Krabi Town was the fresh seafood. Everything was straight off the fishing boats and ridonkulously cheap. I pretty much ate nothing but seafood for a week. Oh, and corn ice cream. YES!

Coconut and corn ice cream

Handmade coconut and chocolate icecream with corn, bread & palm seeds

KFC Corn Sundae!
*sigh* Hallelujah, a whole country that shares my love for this dessert! The handmade icecream at the night stalls was so great, somehow the random mixture of corn, palm seeds and chunks of white bread combined perfectly! I stumbled upon the corn sundae one particularly scorching hot day when we burst into the only airconditioned store on the whole street, KFC. WHEEEE it was the best!
A tried a burger from KFC while we were there, a roast chicken had broccolli in it! It didn't taste too bad for KFC though.
Deep fried crap!
Heehee, yep their English was not the best.

Thai ice lemon tea
Oh I miss these ice lemon teas! Super strong black tea made ultra refreshing with tons of ice and lemon. Perfect for those really hot days. These were had at the touristy area of Aonang beach, which we travelled to on our last day by hiring a motorcycle. It was A's first time riding one and I hung on to the back, scared for my life. We got hit by an ENORMOUS thunderstorm on the way home, the rain was insane! I remember holding on for dear life, yelling in A's ear "I DON'T WANT TO DIE!" Haha, it was great fun in the end though.

The motorcycle ride around Krabi was one of the many things recommended by Atchara from @Krabi Pura. Her suggestions were always spot on and I am so grateful because it made the holiday completely stress-free and memorable. The restaurant that got her highest recommendation was seafood restaurant around the corner, right opposite the night markets. They served an amazing catfish curry and fresh lobster omelette.

Catfish curry and seafood salad

Lobster omelette
My mouth is watering from the memory of the sweet juicy chunks of lobster meat that were generously dispersed amongst the crispy, golden egg which we drowned in chilli sauce. So. Good.
View from the top of tiger cave temple
I would recommend Krabi to anyone looking for a budget beach holiday with hardly any planning involved. The accommodation only cost us 1000 baht a night (less than 50 bucks) for an airconditioned room facing the river with cable TV and a complimentary breakfast. The only downside was the crazy Thai aerobics class that woke us up at 5 in the morning everyday with it's booming Thai techno music. Will be bringing earplugs next time! The best part is you can organise day trips around Krabi and surrounding islands by booking them as late as the afternoon before. So we would get back to the hotel after an awesome day out and decide what we fancied doing the next day and that was it! We did sea kayaking, snorkelling, elephant riding and swimming in natural pools and hot springs. It was the best relaxing, fun holiday.

Our tour guide at Hong Island after snorkelling

Young monk kite flying outside temple
Emerald pool
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