A seasonal affair: Rhubarb, Strawberry and Thyme tarts

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Rhubarb, strawberry and thyme tarts

We’re now well into winter. Now having passed the winter solstice, it means the days will get longer and eventually, warmer days will be here. I keep dreaming of the gorgeous berries and stone fruits that are in season during the warmer months. But right now, I keep seeing a lot of rhubarb.

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Milk and White Chocolate Chunk Brownies

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The last month has been a busy month. I am happy to see the back of May. For someone who had been working just a few days a week, starting full-time work has been a bit of a shock. Finding a balance between work, spending time with friends as well as giving time to other things I enjoy like cooking and reading has been hard. My pots of herbs and plants have been really neglected and in need of some serious TLC.

As a strong advocate for work/life/balance, last month has been too much on the go for me. My brain has not had the time to switch off. And when I had some time to do some baking last weekend, it was a much-needed me-time. I recently read this article on Huffington Post about how baking is a form of mindfulness. This had me thinking of baking in a whole new view. I spend a lot of time measuring ingredients, gently folding mixtures through, and planning what I would do next. Never am I more present in the moment, other than when I am baking or cooking. I have always found baking, calming. So after a busy month of back to back work and full-on weekends, thinking about how to make a recipe work, how to bake a cake perfectly and what else I can do to perfect a dessert, I found baking the perfect stress-release outlet.

The article also spoke about how baking feels rewarding when it is for other people. This made me think of the brownies I make. I bake it almost always on someone’s request or to share with a group of friends. For a long road trip or as a go-to dessert, these brownies are always welcome.

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My favourite thing about these brownies is the caramelised white chocolate chunks that give it a hint of nuttiness. I spruced it up by adding some cream cheese and walnut praline crumb. This turned an already tasty brownie into something quite fancy; something you might find on a dessert table at a party. Adding the edible flowers made it look absolutely gorgeous, specially when brownies are not desserts that photograph well.

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Ingredients:
Brownies:
– 300g dark chocolate, chopped
– 150g butter, chopped
– 1 1/2 cups (315g) caster sugar
– 4 eggs, lightly whisked
– 1 1/4 cups (190g) plain flour
– 1/2 cup (125g) sour cream
– 200g white chocolate, chopped
– 100g milk chocolate, chopped

Walnut Praline:
– 50g walnuts
– 250g caster sugar
– 2 teaspoon ground coffee

Cream Cheese Frosting:
– 60g cream cheese, softened
– 30g butter, softened
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
– 3/4 cup icing sugar mixture

Method:
– For the brownies, pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees and grease a 23cm cake pan. Line the base of the pan with baking paper, allowing the paper to hang over the sides of the pan.
– Place the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring until the chocolate and butter melts and the mixture is smooth. Be careful not to burn it. Remove from heat and leave to cool slightly, for about 5 minutes.
– Add the sugar into the chocolate mixture and combine. Add the eggs, and stir to combine. Add the flour and sour cream and stir until just mixed. Gently fold in the chopped chocolate chunks and fold gently through the mixture.
– Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour or until it’s cooked through. When a skewer is inserted, it might have crumbs on it, but that’s okay. We don’t want the brownie to over cook and harden.
– To make the praline, first, roast the walnuts in the oven at 200 degrees for about 5 minutes. Then wrap the walnuts in a tea towel and rub the skins and chop them up. Add the coffee and mix to coat the walnuts. Warm the walnuts and coffee on a baking tray for one minute while you’re making the caramel.
– To make the caramel, add the sugar to a small saucepan. Keep shaking the pan to cook the sugar evenly. Add the coffee coated walnuts into the caramel and stir. Ad the hot caramel onto a baking paper and allow to cool.
– Break the praline into pieces and crush it using a motor and pestle or whizz it in a small food processor.
– For the cream cheese, place the cheese, butter and vanilla in a bowl and beat until pale, using an electric beater. Gradually add the icing sugar, beating until combined well. Pop the cream cheese in a piping bag and pipe it on top of the brownie slices. Sprinkle the praline crumble on top of the brownies. Decorate with edible flowers if desired.

Lavender: to eat and smell!

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Vanilla cupcakes with French Buttercream

Making the perfect cupcakes make me happy. Eating the perfect cupcake makes me even happier. Cupcakes are the beautiful balance of tasty cake and gorgeous, but still delicious, frosting. Aesthetics are a big part of cupcakes but one can never sacrifice taste for looks. This is probably why I prefer buttercream over fondant. It wasn’t until I had started making the French buttercream did I feel like my cupcake game had peaked. I had managed to master a lovely vanilla cupcake thanks to taste.com.au. But I kept struggling with the buttercream.

I’ve had many struggles with buttercream. Buttercream that split or cream cheese frosting that would not thicken. French buttercream is the only one that has never failed me.

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Macadamia and Dark Chocolate Cookies

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Macadamia and dark chocolate cookies

I like my cookies chewy and doughy. I used to work at a bookshop that was right in front of a cookie stall. The lady working at the cookie stall was very nice to me. She would sneak in a few extra cookies for me if I made it to her at the end of the day, before they closed. When I stopped working at the bookshop, my regular cookie supply also stopped.

Baking my first batch of cookies, I remember smelling the cookie dough for the first time. (more…)

Choux Party

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Profiteroles and tea cups

Choux Pastry is a pastry that I love to make. I love how methodical and easy it is to mix, and love watching it rise in the oven. It was almost 2 years ago when I first attempted making this pastry (and you can check my blog post about it here) and since then, I have always found a sense of comfort while making this.

When I was younger, my favourite thing to eat were eclairs. My aunt made them and at that time, I watched her make it and ate with awe. I only got eclairs at special occasions and it was always such a wonderful and rare treat for me.

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Lemon and Rosemary cake

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When I started making this cake I thought I would be coming out with a delicious recipe. But despite recipe testing, due to the various trials and errors I faced, I ended up mostly writing about what not to do when baking a cake.

As my chef friend Fathun said ‘Cheffing or being a cook is about fixing disasters too, as you have learnt from Masterchef’. I had Fathun’s help throughout this cake-making process. I can say Fathun is one of the people who is most enthusiastic and supportive of my cooking adventures. She’s always excited about new ideas I have and we both have so much fun planning dinners together. We both tend to go over-board when planning these said dinners, and a simple catching up meal will almost end up with a main, sides and dessert.

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Doughnut Time

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Galaxy Doughnuts

I love doughnuts, but I hate frying things. So when I saw that I could make baked doughnuts with a doughnut tray I went on a hunt for one. It was actually quite hard to find it and stumbled on it completely by accident. I was shopping with a little friend E that day and the 6 year old was almost excited at the prospect of me buying it. Since E wanted to make it with me (she didn’t even want me to just make it for her, she wanted to help) I made sure to invite her to come help me decorate the doughnuts.

We decided to try and do galaxy doughnuts and they were so cool! E was very excited to help and she came up with different colour combinations. We had a lot of fun mixing colours, dunking the doughnuts into the glaze and licking the glaze off our fingers.

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Doughnut glaze
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Galaxy doughnuts mixed colours

It was an interesting experience giving E free reign to decorate. I had certain ideas about what I wanted, but E too, had ideas about what she wanted. I think she was more eager to just try new things. I had set colours I wanted to use, but E wanted to try a little bit of everything and the colours turned out great! To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about putting the chocolate sprinkles on the galaxy doughnuts. I thought E would put them on a plain white one or a single coloured one. My mind was fixed on the Instagram pictures I had seen, but E was too happy to play with the chocolate sprinkles in new ways. A learning experience from E; letting myself have fun and experiment, rather than stick to what I know.

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I made 7 doughnuts using this recipe.

Ingredients:
Doughnuts:
– 1 cup flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 egg
– 65 grams brown sugar
– 1/2 cup milk
– 1/4 cup plain yoghurt
– 30 gram butter
– 100 gram dark chocolate

Vanilla glaze:
– 1 and 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 2-3 tablespoon milk
– Food colouring and sprinkles to decorate

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees (150 degrees in fan-forced oven). Grease a doughnut pan.
  2. Break chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl with butter. Sit over a saucepan of barely simmering water, until the mixture is melted and smooth (stirring occasionally). Keep a close eye on the mixture, you don’t want the chocolate to burn!
  3. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and leave it to cool.
  4. Mix the flour, baking soda, bicarb, salt and sugar in a seperate bowl.
  5. Mix the egg into the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. The mixture will seize up, but don’t worry, it’ll become nice and smooth when you keep whisking. Add the milk and yoghurt and whisk until smooth.
  6. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the chocolate mixture. Stir it until it’s just mixed. Don’t worry if the batter is thick, we want the doughnuts to be a bit doughy.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Alternatively, what I did was to put the batter in the piping bag (a makeshift one with a ziplock bag and cutting the corner) and piped it into the doughnut holes.
  8. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack. You can store these in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
  9. Make the glaze. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and whisk till smooth. Add more milk if you think the mixture is too thick. Dip the cooled doughnuts into the glaze and top with sprinkles.

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Happy eating!