Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Unicorn Cookies: Gold Lustre

Ever have those days when you're just not in the zone; when your cookie decorating is anything but magical?! 

The day I made this set of unicorn cookies I had to navigate leaking icing bags, breaking biscuits, and an oven temperature that was accidentally bumped up 100'C.  
All that, and about a dozen interruptions. *Sigh!*






So, I wasn't exactly feeling the magic that day.

I had to do some cosmetic surgery on the unicorns the following day.  

But my mood improved considerably when, for the first time,  I tried using lustre dust mixed with coconut oil. What a brilliant sheen!
We don't have a wide selection of edible lustres available to us here, and generally the effect once a lustre dust is mixed with alcohol or water and painted onto royal icing isn't as smooth or as solid as I'd like.
The mixture with coconut oil, though, is beautiful


On the cookie in the picture, the top stripe is the lustre dust mixed with water; followed by vodka in the middle, and the bottom stripe is with coconut oil: a lovely solid sheen.  

So that's what I used on the unicorns horns and hooves - only one coat necessary.

One downside is that the coconut oil isn't a liquid at room temperature. 
You have to heat it to get it to liquify initially, then keep it in a little hot water bath to stop it solidifying one you've mixed in the lustre. 

And the coconut oil mixture doesn't sink into the icing the way the other two solutions do, so it rubs off a little.
If your cookies need to be packaged and shipped off, rather use another solvent. But if they're for a display platter, give the coconut oil mixture a try.

Because it's oil-based, it'll be an good mixture to use on modelling chocolate and modelling chocolate / fondant blends, too. 




Happy decorating!

xxM 


Friday, 18 August 2017

Mixed Berry Macarons


It's nearly time to pack up the macaron-making equipment now that warmer, wetter weather is on it's way. Because, trust me - if you haven't tried making macarons yet, the humid months are not the time to start! There are enough variables in macaron-making already. I choose to avoid the stress of doing it during climatological conditions that are outside of my control. Not that I have control issues, or anything...!

But, while we still can: let's go out with a berry blast...

These macarons are filled with a combination of white chocolate ganache and mixed berry jam.
 It's important to use a good quality jam or preserve, with lots of real fruit - you want to taste the tartness of the berries through the sweetness of the white chocolate.





Mixed Berry Macarons
Recipe by Tea, Cake & Create

Macarons

3 egg whites (100g-110g), at room temp. Aged for 2-3 days.
2 tbs (30ml) caster sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
200g icing sugar
125g ground almonds/ almond flour
A few drops of purple/pink gel colour


Prepare baking trays with parchment. Make sure that the parchment is flat and that the trays aren't warped.

Pulse the almond flour and icing sugar in a food processor until well mixed and finely ground.  Sift into a bowl. Discard the large granules which don't pass through the sieve.

Whisk the egg whites at low speed with an electric beater until frothy, then add the cream of tartar. 
Beat until soft peaks form, then add the caster sugar, slowly down the side of the bowl.  
Beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold in the gel colour. 

Sift half the almond flour / icing sugar mix into the meringue and fold in.   
Then sift in the remaining almond flour and icing sugar. Once again discard any large granules.

Use a spatula and a figure-of-8 motion to gently fold the batter until it is loosened and falls in "ribbons" from the spatula.
(This is a tricky part - as you need to avoid both under-mixing, and over-mixing!)  

Transfer to an icing bag with the tip cut off or one fitted with a large plain round icing nozzle (not more than 1cm diameter).

Pipe small dots of batter beneath the corners of the baking parchment to keep it in place on the baking trays.

Pipe your macaron rounds - about 3-4cm diameter, about 2cm apart. Pull your piping tip to the side - this leaves a tiny tail, which will settle. 
Rap the trays twice on the counter to release air bubbles. 

Now, turn on your oven to 150'C

Leave the macarons to stand for approx. 30minutes until they form a "skin" - ie. when touched with a clean, dry finger they aren't sticky.

Bake at 150'C for 15-16 minutes.
Check that they're not browning as the end of the baking time approaches.

Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then remove the macaron shells from the trays. If they are undercooked, they will stick to the parchment. You can pop them back into the warm oven for a few more minutes just to dry out a little more.
(Macarons are best after being filled and left for 24hrs - the filling rehydrates them a bit.) 



White Chocolate Ganache

150g white chocolate, broken into small even sized pieces
50ml cream

Place the white chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. (Don't let the bowl come in direct contact with the water).  
Stir occasionally until all the chocolate has melted.
Alternatively, microwave for 30second bursts, stirring in between - until the chocolate has melted, and the ganache is smooth.  

Allow the ganache to cool and firm up until it reaches a pipe-able consistency. 

Pipe a ring of ganache on a macaron shell. 





Add a spoonful of jam into the centre. Sandwich with a second macaron shell.  



Refrigerate the assembled macarons overnight. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. 





... and enjoy!

Happy baking!

xxM 


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Vertical Striped Sponge Cake

When I posted pictures of this cake on Facebook and Instagram , I called it a "simple cake".
It wasn't....




It's origin goes back a few weeks to when I was making some sheet cakes to use for mini's. 
They baked a lot thinner than what I wanted, so I cling-wrapped them, and put them in the freezer, for some use that I'd have to figure out later. 

Well, later came and I realised they were perfect to use for making a cake with vertical stripes. 

One of those things that seems easy enough until you try it. 😅



Style Sweet CA did a much better job of it than I, so here's a link to her blog post and tutorial




It drives me a little crazy that my stripes aren't all perfectly even and parallel. But I'm going to pass it off as a first attempt, and part of the learning curve.... which is a curve and not a straight line !

The cake itself is ganache-covered vanilla sponge using this recipe, filled with a turkish delight buttercream. More on that in a future post 😉  

Happy baking and creating!  

xxM 





Monday, 7 August 2017

Pokemon Cake Pokeball Topper

I will admit to catching the odd Pokemon - purely for research purposes, of course!
It's hard to make a themed-cake if you know nothing about the subject, right?!

So, if you don't know much about Pokemon or the game, Pokemon Go...
 that's a Pokeball on top of the cake (essential for catching Pokemon) and that's Snorlax, my son's favourite, sleeping on top of the ball, with Pikachu on his back.
The night sky background is inspired by the game icon's background.
(Lots of research, I tell you!)




Jack had drawn a design of the cake that he wanted...



...which as you can see wasn't quite like the end product. But I included all the elements he'd requested - interpreting them in a way that worked for me. And he was very happy with the result. Thank goodness!



This is how I made the Pokeball topper:



  • Smear a thin layer of  Holsum / Crisco over the polystyrene ball. 
  • Drape and mould red paste over the ball  - using a modelling chocolate/ fondant blend really helps with pliability. Support the ball in a teacup. 
  • Use nylon string/ dental floss to mark off an indentation where you're going to trim. 
  • Allow the paste to firm up, then invert the ball in an appropriately sized bowl and repeat with the white paste.  
  • Make sure that the gap between the red and white paste is as even and neat as possible. Use a strip of paper cut to size as a template/ guide if necessary. 
  • Cut out a strip of black paste and secure it in the gap. 
  • Finish with circles of black and white paste. 





 I like to use Holsum as my "glue" when working with modelling chocolate/ fondant blends like this, because if you need to remove the paste and re-do or re-position, the Holsum kneads easily in and doesn't leave any residual tackiness/ bleeding of colours.
With the 2D appliqué above, I used Holsum to initially place it and check positioning, then stuck it down securely with melted chocolate.  

I can't tell you how relieved I am to have successfully navigated through a Pokemon themed party! 
I am going to start priming Jack now with a theme I can get my head around a little easier for next year! 

Happy decorating!
xxM 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Pokeball Cookies

This theme...
It would not be my first choice, I tell you. But a mother's gotta do what a mother's gotta do, right?!

So here I am, decorating Pokeballs.

They're actually not so bad. Just three colours! Yay!
But that they're round. And we all know the challenges I have with symmetry!





Anyway, here goes:

  • Royal icing in three colours and two consistencies. 
  • Use a template to help define areas. 
  • Outline with detail-consistency royal icing.
  • Flood with flooding-consistecy royal icing. 
  • Allow the white area and red area to set before piping in the black. 
  • The little white circle in the middle is done wet-on-wet onto the black icing (which I figured was the easiest way to make sure it was round!) 




If you've got an airbrush, add a little airbrushing with red to give the balls some depth.
See - not so bad!



Now I need to go decorate a Pokemon inspired cake. Give me strength!
😉

xxM

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Seed & Nut Rusks

One of the best parts of our recent trip to Mozambique? Sitting on the deck with coffee and rusks, watching the sun rise over the Indian Ocean. 
What a sublime way to start the day. 
On the drive back home, I asked my husband Did we appreciate that enough? 
Because having my tea and rusk this morning, while I packed school bags and yelled at  reminded the kids to brush their teeth, wasn't quite the same!



Whether is time in a game park, camping in the 'Berg, or a trip to the coast like we've just done; having rusks in the morning is so very South-African, isn't it? 
It's just what you need before going on a dawn game drive, or heading down to the beach for an early morning swim.





These are the rusks I made for the trip. They saw us through until the second last day.
When the coffee and rusks ran out, it was time to come home!



Seed & Nut Rusks
Recipe by Tea, Cake & Create

Preheat the oven to 180'C. Grease and line a large shallow baking tray with baking paper (eg. a 40 x 25cm cookie tray)

Ingredients:
250g cake flour
200g wholewheat flour
50g coconut flour
200g brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
50g rolled oats
100g sunflower seeds
100g mixed seeds (pumpkin, linseed, chia, sesame, etc)
100g raw almonds, roughly chopped
40g desiccated coconut
2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
250ml canola oil
250ml buttermilk

Method:
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Make a well in the centre, and stir in the eggs, oil and buttermilk.
Mix until well combined.
Spread the dough into the prepared baking tray.
Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
When cool, remove from the baking tray, slice lengthways into three long rectangles, then slice each rectangle into fingers, about 2cm wide.
Arrange these on cookies trays, slightly spread apart. Dry out in a warm oven  (3-4 hours at 70'C).
Remove from the oven once crisp.



Enjoy dunked in tea of coffee, preferably with your feet up in front of a great view!

xxM

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Pistachio and Turkish Delight White Truffle-Fudge Squares


These were the result of a last minute request to make something for a colleague who likes white chocolate. 
It had crossed my mind to make white chocolate truffles, but I was deterred by the time-consuming, ganache-setting, truffle-rolling, chocolate-dipping part of their production. (The entire process, in other words!)  
So, instead, I looked for an "easy white chocolate fudge recipe"  - those being the exact words I fed into Google.  
The one I found certainly appeared quick and easy. But not typical.
And the results were not typical of fudge either.  (For me, there's a certain amount of crunch and crumble in a square of standard fudge.)


These, though, while smooth, rich, creamy, and not too-sweet, have a softer texture that's quite like, well ... like eating squares of ganache.
Truffle-like, in other words. (No truffle-rolling, and chocolate-dipping required, though!)



So here we go...

Pistachio and Turkish Delight White Truffle-Fudge Squares.
Recipe adapted from Inspired by Michelle Cake Designs

Grease and line* a 20x20cm square baking pan.
*Make sure to use a sheet of baking paper that rises above the edge of the pan. This will make it easier to remove the "truffle-fudge" once it has set.
 
500g white chocolate
1 can condensed milk
30g butter, chopped into cubes
50g chopped pistachios
50g turkish delight, chopped into small pieces / mini cubes

Place the chocolate, condensed milk and butter in a microwave-proof bowl, and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove from the microwave and stir. Repeat until the chocolate has melted, and the mixture is smooth (don't over-heat).
Stir in the pistachios and pieces of turkish delight.

Pour into the prepared square pan. Refrigerate for approx. 3 hours until set.
Remove from the pan and cut into small squares (dip the knife in boiling water to make cutting easier).




Pistachio and turkish delight is just one suggestion. Try other nuts, citrus zest, chocolate chips, etc for other flavour options.

Happy baking!

xxM  


Saturday, 8 July 2017

Oreo Drip Cake

 So,  I thought I'd just quickly whip up a little something to celebrate World Chocolate Day yesterday...


That little something was a mug of hot chocolate. It was delicious.

This cake, on the other hand, took several hours to put together, and was made for a different reason entirely. And because there's not much more to say about my hot chocolate, I'll tell you about the cake instead.

Inspired by an image from Pinterest,  it's a choc-chip pound cake filled with cookies & cream icing, covered in white chocolate ganache, The drip is dark chocolate ganache, and the swirls on top are cream cheese icing  (I just put some plain icing aside when making the cookies & cream icing).




Because white chocolate is really beige chocolate, and I wanted to mirror the dark chocolate / white icing of the Oreos, I added Rolkem concentrated colour, Arctic Snow to the white chocolate ganache. It didn't change the taste significantly, but made it set really quickly. A little too quickly to work comfortably with.  (Ganache is tricky to smooth when it has set).
I was very happy with the end colour, though.  What do you think?





And no, I haven't posted a recipe for  the choc-chip pound cake yet.
Sadly, I couldn't take a slice of this cake to photograph before I handed it over to it's new home. (Strangely, they wanted it in tact...)
So, I'll just have to find an excuse to bake another one and post the recipe then...
Would you like to come over for tea?
😋

Happy baking!

xxM


Thursday, 29 June 2017

Cinnamon & Pecan Buns

I remember buying blocks of fresh yeast from the supermarket when I was a child. 
 They came as foil wrapped cubes, and were the only way you bought yeast back then. 
(Those were the days when you also left tokens outside your front door for the milkman - he'd swop them for bottles of fresh milk or orange juice. It sounds like something from another age, but seriously, I'm not that old! I also remember roller skating around the neighborhood back then - so, see... they'd invented the wheel already!)






Now, though, I buy sachets of instant yeast, let them expire in my pantry...then buy some more. 
And when I eventually do get around to making a yeast dough, I'm hooked again and remember why I love it so much! 
It's not just the delicious smell and taste; there's nothing quite like the slow process of proofing a yeast recipe to distance you from the too-fast tempo of the 21st century.  






So, this is one to make if you have a little time and patience.
(If you want one right now, you're going to have to make a trip to the local Cinnabon!)

Cinnamon and Pecan Buns
Recipe adapted from jocooks.com

Dough:
640g flour (all purpose or cake flour)
1 packet / 10g instant dry yeast (check the expiry date!)
120g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
80g butter softened
250ml warm milk (not too hot - that will kill the yeast)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Method:
Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a mixer. Attach a dough hook.
Add the butter, milk and eggs.
Use the dough hook to mix until a soft dough is formed.
Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover with cling wrap or a damp towel and leave in a warm spot* to rise for an hour (It should double in size.)
*Use your oven: warm it to 50'C, then switch off the heat.

In the meantime make the filling:
Filling:
80g butter, softened
200g brown sugar
3 tbs ground cinnamon
120g finely chopped pecan nuts




Once the dough has doubled in size, roll it out into a large rectangle (mine covered a 50x40cm silicone mat); spread the butter (from the filling list) over the surface of the dough.
 Sprinkle the cinnamon, sugar and pecans evenly over the surface.
Working from a long edge, roll the dough up into a long sausage, then slice along the length into rounds.
Place them, spiral sides up, in a large greased baking pan.

Loosely cover with cling-wrap, and allow to double in size again in a warm spot for about 30minutes. 
During this time, preheat your oven to 180'C. 

Once the buns have risen again, bake for 15-20 minutes or until a light golden brown. 

Serve warm or cold. 




The biggest challenge is to resist having a second ... or third...


    
               .         

....and then there were none!

Happy baking!

xxM