Monday, June 29, 2009

Strawberry Mousse Cinnamon Cupcakes

It's actually been a long time since I last made cupcakes. For a while I was a one-girl, cupcake-making machine, trying out different recipes and flavours and combinations, but it wore off a bit now that I have a foolproof recipe and I had been exploring other baking ideas since. Then A, with his typical infuriatingly last minute warning, mentioned offhandedly that his little sister was turning 12 in a few days. Cupcakes were definitely needed for the birthday girl!

These cupcakes are another variation on my old faithful, foolproof cupcakes. True to form, no matter how much I tinker with them, they still turn out the right texture and flavour. I decided I wanted them to be some sort of fruity flavour, and strawberries seemed appropriately pink and girly. I sort of made up the mousse recipe as I went, so if my instructions seem a little sketchy, it's because it was totally improvised! I was very pleased with the final outcome though. The cupcakes were nicely fragrant from the addition of cinnamon and vanilla bean and the flavours did not compete with the strawberry mousse icing.

The mousse was very pink and girly and held it's shape and fluffy texture very well. I added too much gelatin after cooking them down, so I had to mash up the fruit in the food processor to get a smooth mousse. The flavour reminded me of Strawberry Stravaganza ice cream.

Cinnamon Vanilla Cupcakes (with Strawberry Mousse Icing)
(Adapted from my foolproof cupcake recipe)

1/3 cup freshly squeezed mandarin (or orange) juice
2 eggs
125g unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and line a cupcake tray with paper cases. Cream butter and sugar together using an electric beater until light and smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and beat in well. Add the juice, cinnamon and flour and beat until combined and smooth, avoid overbeating the flour.

Spoon mixture into paper cases, filling them about half to two-thirds full. It will take 15-20 minutes to bake. The top should be golden brown and slightly crunchy after it has cooled for a few minutes out of the oven. A cake tester inserted into the centre of a cake should come out clean.

Place cupcakes on a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Strawberry Mousse Icing (should be started the night before assembling your cakes)
(makes enough for 24 cupcakes, halve the measurements if you are only making one batch of cupcakes)
2 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 tbsp powdered gelatin
2 cups fresh cream (I used 35% fat)
3 tbsp icing sugar

Place caster sugar and chopped strawberries in a small saucepan and slowly bring to the boil on the stovetop. Lower the heat and allow fruit to simmer until the fruit disintergrates and the liquid is a deep red syrup. Sift in the powdered gelatin and stir over heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Pour into a large bowl, cool and then cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

After your cupcakes have cooled the day after, remove the strawberry mixture from the fridge. If it is too solid to be mixed directly into your icing mixture, place the fruit in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Place your cream and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add 1/3 of the cream to your strawberries. Continue beating the other 2/3 of the cream until stiff peaks form. Beat with your strawberries and cream mixture separately until well combined and stiff peaks have formed. Take care not to overbeat or the mixture will be too buttery in texture. Fold the remaining 2/3 of cream into the strawberry cream. Pipe the mixture over your cupcakes.

I made so many that I had a couple left over for Asian Gaga, who was full of praises for these little cakes. She said that they were just the right amount of sweetness, which made my day! I sometimes have a bad habit of making things too sweet because of my insatiable sweet tooth, so it was good to know I hadn't overdone it this time. I think that the birthday girl liked her strawberry mousse cakes, but she didn't get to try them properly at her birthday dinner since she already had a lovely birthday cake and chocolate pudding from her Mum to eat :) Happy Birthday!

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tomato Cafe, Chatswood

Cute & massive couches at Tomato Cafe
While chatting about food over churros with my dear friend Doona, she mentioned a good cheap eats Korean restaurant in Chatswood that she really wanted to take me too. I'm always in search of great cheap eats so I booked her in for dinner ASAP. A week later we met in Chatswood, and she led me to a little hidden place above the Big Fish Little Fish (You get to the restaurant through a small side door and up a lift) My first impression of the place was "OH it's so cute!" because of the massive oversized couches that they have for the tables. It's cosy and dim, with big TVs on the wall playing some sort of Korean soap opera. They also have karaoke next door, and most of the people in the cafe are Koreans of around the same age as us. Definitely the right signs for a good cheap eat!

Rice & side dishes
I leave the ordering up to Doona since she is familiar with the enormous menu. There are tons of different dishes and hotpots to choose from and we select the baby octopus and bulgogi hotpot. My favourite thing about Korean places is the amount of delicious complimentary side dishes that come with your meal. A lot of time I enjoy the side dishes as much, or even more than the main dishes!

Mmm I love kimchi so I end up hogging most of it. The other side dishes were all nice as well, there was some sort of spicy eggplant, yam(?) pickles and deep fried zucchini. I'm already half full before they bring out the ENORMOUS hot pot.

Spicy eggplant


Pickled vegetable

Octopus & Bulgogi Hotpot
The soup is lovely, it goes well with all the greens, noodles and mushroom as well as the little bits of octopus and the deliciously tender and fatty beef. I enjoy it all immensely and we take our time systematically consuming the huge bowl of food. Somehow we manage to nearly finish it, which I think is rather impressive for the two of us.

Korean shallot pancake
The only disappointing dish was an extra starter that we ordered at the last minute. We definitely didn't need it since the hotpot was so gigantic and it was very oily and starchy. Ended up taking it away but didn't eat much of it in the end! This place was great value, the hotpot was something like 20 bucks and was more than enough for two of us. Will definitely be coming back here soon.

Tomato Cafe & Restaurant Karaoke
Level 1, 370 Victoria Avenue
Chatswood NSW 2067
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Brioche, Ricotta & Matcha Honey

Brioche. Oh how I love brioche. I've always wanted to make it but been scared off by the amount of time it takes. But the other Friday night, while glutting myself at the incredible feast we enjoyed at Perama, I was enjoying the ekmek (brioche with syrup and cream) so much that it pushed me over the edge and the next afternoon I took the plunge and started to make my own brioche, in the hopes of creating a similar dessert to that fantastic ekmek.

First of all, making brioche is not as hard as you might think. It does take a long time from start to finish, but most of it is waiting time to allow the dough to rise. I started this on Saturday afternoon, rested it for a few hours before kneading it again and leaving it over night, then I had to let is rise once more I put it in the tins ready for baking. I was so pleased with the outcome, the bread was wonderfully eggy and buttery, just the way I expect brioche to be. I made one small loaf and a tray of mini buns. I preferred the texture from the loaf, it was slightly more crumbly and cake-like, which made it perfect for this dessert.

(recipe from the Golden Book of Patisserie)
7g (1 packet) active dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup lukewarm milk
3 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
4 large eggs, beaten
200g butter, cut into small pieces and softened
Egg wash: 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tbsp milk

Mix the yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar and the milk in a small bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes until frothy. Combine the flour, remaining sugar and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour the eggs, milk and yeast mixture.

Knead the dough with an electric mixter fitted with a dough hook for 8-10 minutes, until smooth. Beat the butter, one piece at a time, into the dough with mixer at low speed. Mix for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and leave to rise at room temperatre for 2-3 hours, until doubled in bulk. (The temperature should be about 24 degrees C, no hotter, as the butter will melt and separate out from the dough)

Punch the risen dough down, trn ot onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 2-3 minutes. Return to the bowl and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight, ready to bake for breakfast the next day.

How you decide to split your dough up into the baking tins is up to you. Either a large 1 litre brioche mould or 18 small brioche moulds were recommended by the original recipe. I split my dough in half and placed one half in a medium loaf tin the other half were split up into 12 mini brioche buns with the usual small ball of dough on top. Butter the baking trays well before you place the dough in them.

Cover and leave for 90 minutes for a large brioche and 20 minutes for the smaller buns. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Lightly glaze the brioche top with egg wash. Bake the large brioche for 20 minutes. Decrease the oven temperature to 190 degrees C and bake for 15-20 more minutes. Cover loosely with foil towards the end of baking if the glaze begins to burn. The brioche is done when a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Brioche buns only need to bake for 8-12 minutes at the higher temperature, until golden brown on top. Remove the brioche from the tray immediately and let cool on a rack. (I may have had the temperature a bit high for the mini brioche because they got a bit dark on top, but you couldn't taste it).

Brioche, Ricotta & Matcha Honey
1/2 small loaf brioche
1 cup fresh ricotta
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp water
1 tsp matcha powder

Beat ricotta with an electric mixer until smooth. Set aside. Place a small saucepan on low heat. Add honey, water and matcha powder in the pan and whisk until matcha powder is dissolved. If there are still lumps of matcha that you would prefer to remove, strain the honey mixture. Keep on very low heat while toasting your brioche.

Thickly slice the brioche loaf. Melt some butter in a small frying pan on medium heat. Use the leftover eggwhite from making your brioche and brush both sides of the brioche slice. Fry the brioche until golden. Dunk your toasted brioche into the honey to let it soak it up, or drizzle it on top if you prefer less honey.

Scoop a tablespoon of smooth ricotta on top of each slice of brioche. (Yeah ignore how much I used in the photos, I got a little over-excited) Sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon on top and drizzle some extra honey on top. EAT.

I was particularly happy with the way the matcha honey turned out. The sweetness of the honey matched will with the slight bitterness from the green tea flavour and it retained its colour very well. It wasn't as soaked through as the ekmek at Perama, so I would soak it for longer in a more watery honey next time for extra honey goodness!

Oh and for dinner the next day I made brioche burgers with store-bought lamb, mint & feta patties, grilled onions, melted cheese, beetroot, tomato and baby spinach. And smeared some mayo and HP sauce on the buns. YUM. The rest of the buns were enjoyed either with more ricotta and honey or with Maggie Beer Pheasant Farm pate and cranberry jelly. Double yum!

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lemon Souffle Pancakes

I know that Bill Granger might be renowned for his ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter, but since I hardly have fresh ricotta in my kitchen (though I plan on having more of it now that I have this!), my favourite pancake recipe happens to be another recipe from his Sydney Food book. They are zesty and light, good for summer with some berries and just as enjoyable in winter with a ton of maple syrup.
They are a little more work than your average, back of the flour packet-recipe, but it's worth it. The beaten egg whites help to create the lightest, fluffiest pancake and you will never get the dense, doughy flat pancakes you can sometimes get with other recipes.

Lemon Souffle Pancakes
(from Bill Granger's Sydney Food)
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, separated
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla essence
25g unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp caster sugar
pinch salt
To serve: maple syrup or halved strawberies, 1 tbsp honey and icing sugar

Place buttermilk, egg yolks, lemon juice and zest, and vanilla essence in a bowl and stir until combined. Add the melted butter and mix well.

Sift flour, baking powder, caster sugar and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and gradually stir in the buttermilk mixture until the dry ingredients are just moistened, being careful not to overmix.
Place egg whites in a dry, clean bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, using a large metal spoon.
Melt a small portion of butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and drop 2 tablespoons of batter per cake into the pan. Cook the cake until golden brown on the underside and looking dry at the edges, then turn and cook the other side.
Transfer to a plate and keep warm while cooking remaining batter. Serve with toppings of your choice.

I was lazy and used 3 tablespoons of batter per pancake so they fit nicely into my new small Green pan, but I usually prefer making the smaller ones because they are fatter and fluffier. Still good this way though!
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lilifields Cafe, Paddington

I admit I'm a little clueless when it comes to good places to eat along Oxford St in Paddington. I come shopping here with Asian Gaga every now and then and we are usually so engrossed in spending a ridiculous amount of money that we don't think too much about feeding ourselves. I've had the worst corn fritters I've ever had in my entire lift at a cafe that I can't remember the name of on Oxford St. So I was open to trying any new place we could come across on our recent shopping trip.

Lilifields Cafe caught my eye with its cute and colourful display at the front. The front half of the store is an adorable little flower shop and the back garden is a sweet little cafe with a coffee cart. I like it straight away, its very charming and relaxed.

I order a chai latte, I love the spices in it. Asian Gaga gets a bottle of pomegranate and blueberry juice which is nice but I tend to avoid buying bottled juice when I eat out, it never seems worth it!

Chai latte

Pomegranate and blueberry juice
The dish that caught our eye on the blackboard out the front was the organic vegetable lasagne. As I've mentioned in previous posts we always seem to be attracted to the dishes that are packed full of tasty vegetables when we eat out together. The lasagne is one of the lightest I've had, I'm surprised because I usually find lasagne sits rather heavily in my stomach. There's lots of tomato, zucchini and eggplant and a ton of parmesan cheese on top.

Organic vegetable lasagne ($11.50)
We decide to skip the side salad that you could order with the lasagne and got a big garden salad which came with a very generous amount of bocconcini. The yoghurt dressing on top is so light and the entire salad is very fresh and tasty even though it is quite simple.

Garden salad ($9.50) - with cherry tomatoes, bocconcini and yoghurt dressing
I spot some HUGE slices of yummy banana bread with ricotta and honey being brought to the table next to us. Definitely getting that if I come back! The prices were okay for a cafe, and we leave satisfied but not over-full, recharged and ready to continue our shopping spree.

Lilifields Cafe
210 Oxford St,
Paddington NSW 2021
(02) 9368 1366
Mon-Fri: 8am - 5pm
Sat: 9am - 5pm
Sun: 10am - 3pm
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jaffa Cakes

What do you do when you have a day off? I had one off recently and was feeling a bit miserable so I decided to cheer myself up by making some homemade jaffa cakes. I grew up eating a lot of these, living in the Middle East surrounded by a lot of British expat kids. There was always the inevitable debate about whether they were cakes or biscuits. Tomred has since explained to me that the definitive indicator is that a cake will go hard when stale whereas a biscuit will go soft when it gets stale.

There's a really great balance to a jaffa cake. The super thin, soft and airy sponge covered with an orange jelly layer and a crunchy thin top of dark chocolate. Once I realised I could get them at Aldi, I introduced them to my brother, who has become obsessed with them and eats them by the boxful. (I don't know how he does it, I feel ill after too many) So since I was spending the day at his house I thought I'd be a nice sister and attempt to make some for him. Because I still firmly believe fresh baked goods made from scratch are always better!

These turned out pretty good. I would have liked a slightly moister sponge, and a thinner layer of chocolate, but after putting them in the fridge overnight the sponge moistened because of the marmalade and the chocolate hardened nicely. They were lovely with a cup of tea!

Happy Jaffa Man!
Jaffa Cakes
(adapted from this recipe by Uncle Phaedrus)
2 eggs
50 g sugar
65 g self-raising flour, sieved
approx 4 tbsp marmalade, sieved (I forgot to sieve it but it didn't really matter)
100 g bittersweet chocolate
rind of 1/2 orange, finely grated
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp water

Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and creamy; when the whisk is lifted the mixture leaves a trail. (I just used an electric beater for about 3 minutes) If using a hand whisk put the bowl over a pan of hot water, then fold in the flour. (I didn't bother with this)

Spoon the mixture into 18 well-greased, round-bottomed patty tins. Bake for about 10 minutes at 200°C until golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack. At this point I decided to slice my cakes in half, to make them look closer to the thin cakes that you buy in the supermarket. However, feel free to leave them uncut to have a higher sponge to chocolate ratio.

Spread a dollop of marmalade over each cake.

Put the chocolate, orange rind, oil and water into a bowl over a pan of hot water. Stir well until melted. Cool until the chocolate starts to thicken and then spoon over the marmalade. Leave to set.

The nice thing about these little babies is they are small but satisfying, so you can stop at just one and be happy. But I may have had several in a row anyway ;)

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