Christmas shortbread

24 Dec

I decided to make shortbread as Christmas gifts, but am pretty fussy about shortbread and was hesitant to try a random recipe from the interwebs.

I found one on taste.com.au that not too many people had whinged about, and gave it a whirl.

It was very easy to make (this was my first time making shortbread, too), and the end result was awesome – it had a light, buttery, very crumbly texture.  It was perfect and I won’t even bother trying any other recipes – this one’s a keeper.

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(
Before baking)

Excuse the shitty camera phone pics…

I cut them in various Christmassy shapes and dusted some with icing sugar, and let the kids drizzle some melted chocolate over others.  Packaged them up in cellophane cake pop bags, put homemade Christmas stickers on them and palmed them off to the relos as pressies.

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Finished product)

Being Christmas Eve, I was in too much of a rush to get photos of them all packaged up.  Just deal, ok?  (Good excuse to make them another day and get some decent pics, though).

Recipe from taste.com.au:

  • Melted butter, to grease
  • 225g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 120g (2/3 cup) McKenzie’s Rice Flour
  • 100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 225g cold butter, coarsely chopped
  • Plain flour, extra, to dust
  • Melted white chocolate, to decorate
  1. Preheat oven to 150°C.  Brush 2 large baking trays with melted butter to lightly grease.
  2. Combine the flour, rice flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Use your fingertips to rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.
  3. Roll dough out until 1cm thick. Use a 5cm-diameter star-shaped pastry cutter to cut shapes from dough. Place on prepared trays. Bake in oven for 45 minutes, swapping trays halfway through cooking, or until shortbread starts to change colour. Cool on trays for 1 hour. Drizzle with chocolate to decorate.

(I only cooked them for about 20-25 minutes and it was long enough – do the recommended 45 minutes and they would be crap).

Hey, fondue, I’m Sandra Dee

18 Dec

Strange how I can link something as innocuous as fondue to a lazy interpretation of an Italian insult and reference one of my all-time favourite movies in one go, but that’s totally how I jelly-roll.

In case it wasn’t blatantly obvious (and why wouldn’t it have been?), this post is about fondue.  Well, kind of.  So… not really.

I’m doing well so far, huh?

Anyway, because I’m so fancy and shit I was browsing through a K-Mart brochure, and I saw their chocolate fondue sets.  I’ve seen them before, but it not being 50 years ago, I never considered buying one.  But then I realised it might come in handy to melt the… melts.  (To be honest, if the had used the word ‘cheese’ instead of ‘chocolate’ on the box, I might not have thought of using it.  S-M-R-T, I mean S-M-A-R-T.)

chocolate fondue set

So I bought one of these babies, because it’s only 12 bucks and I will try to use it more than twice and only shove it to the middle of the shelf, not right to the back where it will never see the light of day again, mmmkay?

Considering chocolate fondue includes cream to keep it more liquid-like, I wondered whether the melts might be too thick to properly melt and/or stay melted.

Luckily it all worked out fine.  Took longer to melt than if I was using a microwave or double boiler, but on the other hand it keeps a constant temperature and the chocolate stayed melted to a nice dipping consistency.  And the Wilton Candy Melts worked fine in this, too (the Nestlé and Cadbury ones were, as usual, perfect).

You can also get ones that use a tea light to provide the heat, but I’m way too impatient for that ridiculousness.

I definitely recommend giving one of these bad boys a go if you use melts a lot (or are lazy and would like to sit on the lounge whilst you work… or something).  It also included heaps of accessories – chocolate moulds, sticks, cellophane bags, fondue forks, small bowls and more).

Overall, it was an absolute bargain for the coin I paid, and it works a treat.

Christmas cupcakes

11 Dec

P1160702 (800x599)

 

These are the Christmas cupcakes I made for my daughter’s class.  Vanilla sponge, vanilla frosting and Wilton’s Candy Melts piped decorations.

VERY easy.  And of course I made the cupcakes in the Sunbeam Pattie Cupcake Maker and used my shiny new Kenwood Chef Premier to mix everything.  Try not to be jelly.

Cupcakes:

  • 1 cheapo sponge cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp margarine

Mock cream frosting:

  • 100g Solite
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 45ml water
  • Vanilla, to taste

Decorations:

  • Wilton’s Candy Melts – green and red
  • Choc-filled sprinkles

No directions (it’s pretty obvious!).

The sponge cake mix (yes, a mix – I’m a very important and busy person!) was from Aldi and cost 75c(!).  Because the cupcakes were for kids* and I had run out of patty pans, I used regular cupcake papers but only used 25g of mix in each one (usually I would put in 40g).  I got 26 cupcakes out of it, which is pretty good.  There were exactly enough for the kids and teachers, so we didn’t get to try them out – hope they don’t taste like crap…

Because I was sending these to school in a cupcake carrier, I had to keep the height down so they’d fit inside.  So that’s why the frosting is low and the decorations aren’t standing upright.  If these had been going to sit on a table and were for adults, I would have used more cake mix in each case, put lots more frosting on top and made them a bit more special-looking. (The ones with a full swirl of frosting are for the teachers).

You might want to sit down for this part – the Wilton Candy Melts actually melted this time!!  Maybe I did have a dodgy bag last time.  I melted these ones in a snap-lock bag and piped straight from it.  I just used a yellow sprinkle for the star on each tree, and red ones for holly berries.  I was in a rush so the decorations are pretty crap, but I’d like to see the kids try to complain about it to my face… yeah, that’s what I thought.

* I usually make patty pan sized cupcakes for the kids, because most of them only lick the icing off, anyway, and they don’t need big, huge ones.  Plus, there’s a saying in my house – “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset”.  

Christmas cupcakes
(Decorations piped using Wilton’s Candy Melts)

P1160700 (800x601)
(Kids’ cupcakes, with less frosting)

Nutella cream horns

4 Dec

Nutella cream horns

 

So with the first batch of Solite I made (and wanted to marry), I also made some cream horns for it to go into.

I’ve never made them before – I only bought the moulds for them at the same time I bought the Solite.  Since I don’t have the mad skillz and my luck is also pretty poor, most things don’t work out for me.  So imagine how surprised I was with the (quite satisfactory) end result:

Makes: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 25ml cold water
  • 50g Solite shortening
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp Nutella or jam
  • Vanilla, to taste
  • Canola spray
  • Icing sugar, for dusting
  • 6 cream horn moulds (mine are 11.5cm long)
  • Baking tray with baking paper liner

Method:

  • Set pastry out to thaw a little
  • Preheat oven to 200ºC (fan forced)
  • Spray outside of moulds with canola spray
  • Combine Solite and caster sugar in mixer and leave to beat on medium (I used a regular beater for this step) – scrape down the bowl every so often, if necessary
  • Cut the pastry into 6 even strips
  • Starting at the pointed end of the moulds, wrap one strip around each mould (very gently stretching it as you go), overlapping the edges slightly as you wrap it
  • Place moulds onto the baking tray and put in the middle shelf of the oven; set timer for 12 minutes
  • (At this point I changed to a whisk attachment when I scraped the bowl down)
  • Add water to the cream mix a little at a time, over a few minutes
  • Add vanilla to the cream mix a little at a time and beat until combined
  • Pastry should be cooked after anywhere between 10-15 minutes – it will be golden on top; when done, take out of the oven and remove the pastry from the moulds, then place on a cooling rack
  • When the pastry has cooled, turn the mixer back on to aerate the cream again whilst you put the filling in
  • Using a knife, take some Nutella or jam straight from the jar and spread a line of it down the inside of the pastry (you can pipe it if you’re feeling like a show off)
  • Turn off the mixer and fill the pastry with the cream (I just used a knife so that I didn’t have to bother with a pastry bag, but you could pipe it in using a large star tip or similar)
  • Arrange on serving plate and dust with icing sugar

My pack of moulds only contained six moulds, so that’s all I made.  It was enough for our family of four for dessert.  I didn’t brush the pastry with milk or egg, and they still browned nicely and crisped up well, so I don’t think I’ll bother again next time, either.  If you are making heaps of them, I would use pastry bags for both the filling and the cream – it would just be easier to stick an icing tip down there (just the tip! [That’s what she said!] ) and drag it back out in one motion – using the knife was fiddly (but fine for the small amount I did).

I actually made the cream with 100g Solite, 75g caster sugar and 45ml water, but I estimate that it was twice as much as I needed (the rest is in the fridge, acting all sexy-like and calling my name), so I’ve roughly halved the amounts in the recipe above.

They tasted amazing – will definitely make them again.

Faux is the go, don’t ya know?

25 Nov

Forget fresh cream – mock cream is awesomesauce!

A big reason for the previously mentioned kitchen mixer upgrade was because the old one was, for some unknown reason, totally shit at creaming butter and sugar.  It had never really bothered me too much – I’d been using some kind of (expensive) shortening from the cake decorating shop to make ‘buttercream’ (because I could never even get a pale butter with the old mixer, let alone anything near a whitish colour), but even trying to blend icing sugar left a gritty texture.  So obviously even caster sugar left crystals that felt the size of marbles in your mouth when you were expecting to get something smooth and creamy, like anything resembling mock cream.  (Regular white sugar, you ask? Are you kidding me?  Shut the front door.)

Anyway, when I was at the cake decorating shop buying those horrible Wilton candy melts the other week, I saw this stuff called Solite, that looks pretty much the same as the shortening I’d been using from the other cake place (it’s what I used for the cornelli iced wedding cake in an earlier post). Because I hadn’t heard of it, I did some checking on the net for a recipe using it, and I swear my knees went weak when I read on the manufacturer’s website “This is a traditional mock cream recipe”.  Holy shit, dude!  Srsly?

So, after I went and bought the mixer, my next stop was the cake decorating shop to gets me some o’ dat.  When I mixed some up after dinner, I was almost too scared to try it in case it hadn’t worked.  But, hang onto your hats, mofos, THAT SHIT HAD TOTALLY WORKED.  I’d used the ‘traditional mock cream recipe’  with caster sugar in it, and it was perfectly smooth.  Tasted exactly the same as any mock cream I’ve ever had from a cake shop (i.e. badass).

I’ve no doubt the new Kenwood mixer played a part, but that Solite shit is ace.  Let’s throw a parade.

Go out and buy some now.

SoliteSolite mock cream

Out with the old… in with the awesome

4 Nov

The mixer I’ve had for the last few years is a Sunbeam Mixmaster Compact Pro.  It did most of what I wanted it to do, but anytime I used sugar (icing, caster or regular) and butter or shortening, it never made the sugars dissolve.  I’ve never successfully creamed butter and sugar for a cake, or made a decent buttercream, and I have tried dozens of times over the years (without success) to get a mock cream going, (’cause mock cream>*).

Anyway, I’ve wanted a new mixer for a while (even before I bought the Sunbeam) but could never justify the expense of a really decent one.  Today I was having a look online and comparing prices and found a Kenwood Chef Premier KMC510 at Hardly Normal that came with a mincer attachment and a flexible beater.  But you also get (via redemption) a juicing and blending pack, which includes a 1.5L glass blender, a mini chopper/mill and a continuous centrifugal juicer (supposedly worth $349, but you know how those things work). I’m purposely not mentioning the price because: a) I’m trying to forget how much it cost, and b) I don’t want anyone to tell me I could have gotten it somewhere much cheaper.  Just shut up, mmmkay?.

The interwebs said that my local store had one in stock, so I headed straight over and picked one up.  It’s not that fantastic looking (you can get some pretty cool retro style ones these days), but the freebies definitely make up for it.

Here’s what was included:

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  • 1000w unit
  • 4.6L stainless steel bowl
  • Mincer attachment
  • K beater
  • Flexible beater
  • Dough hook
  • Balloon whisk
  • Splash guard
  • Spatula
  • Big, thick cookbook
  • Two DVD(s) and/or CD(s) – haven’t had a look at those yet

Man, I love that whisk.  Also want to try that mincer out and make some snausages one time.

This is gonna be fun.

When a unitasker’s single function is to make cupcakes, it’s enough

18 Oct

I think I’ve previously mentioned that I have no qualms about spending my hard-earned on unitaskers (appliances that only do one thing). I love gadgets. I don’t care if it only does one thing – if it’s cool, I want it.

When I first found out about Sunbeam’s Parties cupcake maker, it was $90. Pretty steep for a machine that just cooks cupcakes, I admit.

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But just look at that thing, will you. How can you possibly pass up that total awesomeness? You can’t. So I didn’t.

Let me tell you, this is my least regretted unitasker purchase. It makes perfect cupcakes every single time. Yes, it only makes six at a time – but I would rather take longer using this than use the oven. The results are always amazing.

If you were lazy, you could even put it on the coffee table and have a baking and frosting station going while you sat on the nice comfortable lounge and watched awesome ’80s movies. Or something. Yeah.

Sadly, this baby is discontinued (how dare they!), but I’m sure you could find a lesser, nowhere near as awesome version out there somewhere.

I would seriously consider buying a second, used one if I could find one.

Do yourself a favour and have another look. Go on.

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Was that as good for you as it was for me? Ahhh.

Nestlé success-lé

7 Oct

After the Wilton failure, I had great success with melting the Nestlé choc bits for coating cake pops (haven’t tried the melts yet but surely they’ll be even easier).

I melted them in a glass jug then sat the jug in a container of hot water to keep the chocolate warm. The cake pops had been in the freezer for a week, as I’d given up on them after the Wilton fiasco. They were therefore obviously very cold. I think this made the chocolate begin to reset too fast (plus the water was cooling), so I would avoid having the pops so cold next time.

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I was happy with the coverage, however it could have been a bit thinner – I think that was just due to the temperature of the cake and the fact I was too lazy to reheat the chocolate after it had started to cool. If the pops had been for a party or something (not just as a test), I would have made the effort to keep it warmer while I worked with it. But, hey…

I will possibly use these for all my chocolate coverings, but am concerned about how they will hold up at room temp (especially in summer, in Australia).

Wilton’s Candy (non-melting) Melts

12 Aug

After I bought the cake pop machine I went out and spent a pile of money I didn’t really have on a pile of crap I didn’t really need… candy melts, cake pop sticks and cellophane bags. With Christmas in mind, I got white, red and green melts.

Went home and made the first batch of pops. All good. It was fast and easy. Put the white melts in a mug (for easy dipping) and whacked them in the microwave for 30 seconds on half power – they softened a little. Stirred. Back in for 30 seconds on full power. Stirred. Still hard, dry clumps. Kept at it until the mug got so hot I was too scared to heat it any longer, but it had thinned enough that I could spread it on with a palette knife.

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I then tried using a stainless steel dish over a simmering pot of water. It did nothing. Possibly got worse. At this point I just threw it out. Still had 12 pops in the freezer but was so over it I couldn’t be bothered with them.

A week later, I went out and bought a glass jug, in case that made a difference. Tried that out and it certainly did… nothing, that is. This time it was worse – they just turned to a big, dry clump when I tried to stir them.

I’d also bought a couple of bags of Nestlé choc bits and melts to try out. I threw a few choc bits in with the Wilton melts, and they (the choc bits) melted as soon as I stirred them through. (I have no pics for this – it looked so shit I didn’t bother…).

Then I tried the Nestlé melts by themselves in the glass jug. Worked like a fucking charm. Covered the other 12 pops in about five minutes, as opposed to the hour I’d spent trying to do the other 12 with the Wilton ones.

I’ve read that old melts can stuff up. Considering they’ve been imported to Australia, them being old is possible, but still not acceptable – they cost $8.95 a bag.

I still have the red and green ones. If they don’t work, I’m going to take them back.

So yeah. Kind of a shitty introduction to cake pops. Thanks, Wilton.

Talk about…pop ca-akes!

13 May

Shoobie doobie doo wop…

So I caved and bought a cake pop machine. Never really wanted to get on that bandwagon… They can look cute, but not terribly appetising (probably due to the lack of frosting, cream and other more indulgent-looking ingredients).

Anyway, a friend said she was considering cake pops for her wedding and asked for my help, so I thought I’d give it a go.

I know “proper” cake pops are made with crumbled cake mixed with frosting, but remember I wasn’t that into it in the first place, so that just seemed too fiddly for me to bother with. Plus all that manual shaping and shit… forgeddaboudit!

I’m a huge fan of unitask appliances that I use twice then push to the back of the cupboard, so obviously I didn’t balk at the idea of buying a machine for the sole purpose of cooking tiny spherical cakes.  I spent a couple of hours searching for a machine online, and eventually stumbled upon a Kambrook model that I then got from Big W for $29. Bargain.

Makes 12, which is great (bugger making six at a time, like some other machines do), but because you’re filling so many in one go, my first two always start to cook and expand too much and come out looking like Saturn, with a ‘ring’ around them. No biggie, but will try just doing 10 at a time from now on.

You also get 24 plastic sticks and a tray to stand them in while they set (holes could be a bit deeper to keep them more upright, because sometimes the decorated pops fall against each other).

So here’s the machine. Kambrook Little Chefs Cake Pop Maker RRP $34.95.
Kambrook