Discovering the Flame

As I posted a little while ago, it was my birthday about a week ago and I got lots of new baking things which was pretty awesome! One of these things was a handheld blowtorch. Unfortunately the first one leaked-luckily Dad filled it up and he noticed, if it had been me that would have been an accident waiting to happen! But after I got the second one I couldn't wait any longer to use it and I'd already found the perfect recipe so my family were pretty keen on me making dessert for them! The custard was really smooth and chocolate-y and the top was the perfect contrast of caramelised sugar. I used too much at first, another Martha Stewart recipe and she recommended 1T of sugar on each... Well after about 5 minutes of trying to melt the sugar I figured out that was far too much... 1t would be far more accurate. So there are only two in the picture because the others were a bit ugly. But they still taste great and you don't have to have a blowtorch to make them, an oven works too. :)

Chocolate Crème Brûlée

2 cups cream
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
75g chocolate bits (about 1/2 cup)
5 large egg yolks

4t sugar

Preheat oven to 120°C. Heat cream and 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves and the cream just begins to simmer. Add chocolate, and whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk remaining 3T sugar with the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly pour cream mixture into yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Strain custard through a fine sieve. Pour custard into four ramekins. Transfer ramekins to a roasting pan, and fill pan with enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of ramekins. Bake until custards are just set, 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Carefully remove from water, and let custards cool. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Top each with 1t sugar. Hold a small handheld kitchen torch at a 90-degree angle 8-10cm from surface of custard. Move flame back and forth until surface is caramelized. Alternatively, broil custards on top rack in the oven until caramelized, 1 to 2 minutes.


First Bake Club Challenge

In Wellington, the city where I live, they've started a tradition of a festival called "Wellington on a Plate". It's really cool, there are lots of restaurants doing special deals, lots of classes you can go to, degustations, and shows etc. The really cool part, however, is the Wellington Bake Club 2012. You get a group of 4 together and bake off every week, judge each other and the person with the highest number of points wins and gets to go to the Wellington Bake Off! You can win all these cool prizes and it seems like a lot of fun, so Becca, Ashleigh, Alex and I created such a bake club. We've decided to do ours slightly differently... We all bake together every week and I get to do the bake off, mostly because they're afraid of my culinary prowess. ;) Also because I'm the only one who really wants to! So Ashleigh had work this morning, but Becca came over and we completed the first week's challenge... Savoury scones. I don't really make many savoury things (as you can probably tell...) so it was quite cool to have a go at making some cheese scones. The recipe was from one of mum's friends and it worked really well. Mmm scones...

Cheese Scones

4 cups self-raising flour
100g butter
1t sugar
1/4t salt
2 cups milk
1 egg, beaten
1-2 cups cheese, grated (depending on desired cheesiness)


The directions that mum wrote down with the list of ingredients were very basic. VERY. This is it: Fold toss together milk + egg. Very wet roll out on bench. 220 10 mins. So... Luckily she was here to decode them for me! Here are some better directions...

Preheat the ovent o 220°C and grease and line a baking tray. Sift the flour into a large bowl and grate the butter into it. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until it's all combined. Mix in the sugar and the cheese and then make a well in the centre. Pour in the milk and the egg and cut through the mixture with a butter knife until just combined. Do not overmix! The mixture will be very wet, so if it's not too wet then roll it out onto a floured surface and cut into squares. Otherwise, spoon the mixture in large dollops onto the tray and then sprinkle with more cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until they start to become golden brown on the top.

Movies and... Take 3!

Harriet, I hope you feel guilty. Not really of course, but it is quite funny. So our last night and Cam and I thought it would be fun to have a movie night. Quite a few people couldn't come actually, I'm just picking on Harriet! There is, in fact, another story behind these cupcakes though, more than just movie snacks and something to leave the family for when they got home the next day. Alex and I were watching Two Broke Girls the other day, which is such a funny TV show. One of the main characters, Max, is really good at making cupcakes. On this one episode she made these very intriguing sounding cupcakes: Beer Batter Maple Bacon Cupcakes. Now, I was a little hesitant on using a beer batter recipe as I just really don't like beer. But maple bacon... I just couldn't get them out of my head! So searching through many, many food blogs I came across a recipe that I thought sounded really good from CarlyKlock. So I made it. And it was AMAZING. It sounds weird. Bacon cut up in a cupcake? But it's like a lazy Sunday breakfast... In a cupcake. I would highly recommend these cupcakes, especially if you love bacon.

Maple Bacon Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2t baking powder
1/2t cinnamon
1/8t ground nutmeg
1/4t salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted then cooled
2 eggs, room temperature
1t maple extract OR 2t good maple syrup
1/2t vanilla essence
1/2 cup milk
10-12 slices bacon

2 cups icing sugar
230g butter
100g cream cheese
2T maple syrup
1/2t maple extract OR another tablespoon of maple syrup
1/2t vanilla essence
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 190°. Place a cooling rack on a rimmed baking sheet and lay the bacon strips on the rack in one even layer. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, turning once. Turn the strips out onto paper towels when done and set aside to cool. Cut a couple of strips of bacon into 2-3cm pieces, to be used as a garnish. Finely chop the remaining bacon (about 1/2 cup or less). Turn oven down to 180°C. Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into a small bowl. In a large bowl or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter, sugar and eggs on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the maple and vanilla extracts (or syrup). With the mixer running at medium speed, alternately add in flour mixture (3 additions) and milk (2 additions), starting with the flour mixture; beat until smooth. Fold in chopped bacon until evenly distributed. Scoop batter into muffin tin lined with paper cupcake liners. These cupcakes don't rise as much, so they can be filled a bit fuller. Bake 22-25 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. After passing the skewer test, keep baking until the tops turn golden brown. Let cool completely before icing.

Maple Buttercream Icing:
In a bowl with an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add maple syrup, vanilla, maple extract (or syrup) and salt, and beat until fully incorporated. Add confectioner's sugar, one half cup at a time until reaching desired consistency. Beat until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Frost or pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Garnish with inch-long bacon pieces.

A Birthday and a Cake and a Take 2

I can now say that I'm officially 19, yay! I love birthdays. Like LOVE THEM. As I think I've mentioned before, not just mine, but all of my friends, I find them so exciting! Of course, I especially love my own birthday. Even though I'm 19 I still wake up about an hour before we do presents... Shh don't tell... I had a fantabulous birthday with lots of presents from mum, dad (in spirit as he was in the USA), Alex and Cam. I have many new baking things which I will be trying out and posting about in the coming weeks, but for now I shall focus on the background of the cake. I decided I wanted to have a dinner party for the mutual friends that Cam and I have and I thought it would only be fitting to bake a cake. When I saw this recipe I knew it would be perfect. How could it not? The blogger behind Sweetapolita, Rosie, is very clever, I love reading her blogs and her recipes are amazing. So when I saw her peanut butter frosting on a chocolate cake recipe, I knew that this would be perfect! Also, in reference to the take 2, Harriet was unfortunately again sick. I'm beginning to think she doesn't like me... ;) But the cake was still a success, there is just a heck of a lot of butter. ANd egg whites. Ginormous. But it was my birthday. You can never have too much butter (or eggs) on your birthday!

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder (normal is fine though)
1 1/4t baking soda
1 1/4t baking powder
1t salt
75mL vegetable oil
140mL buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, you can substitute 1t of vinegar for every cup of milk and stir)
130mL strong, hot coffee
2 eggs, room temperature
1T vanilla essence

10 egg whites
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 cups butter, softened and cut into cubes
2t vanilla essence
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease three 18-20cm round cake pans and line with baking paper. In the bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and with paddle attachment on mixer, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed and pour into prepared pans. If possible, use a digital kitchen scale and weigh the pans for even layers. The batter will be liquidy. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. The cakes are done when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, approximately 30 minutes. Try not to over bake. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool. To assemble the cakes, ice the top of one, place another on top, ice that, then the final cake and ice the top and the sides. Be generous with the buttercream as you will have lots and if you put a whole mound in the middle and spread if from there then you can avoid doing a crumb coat!

Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
Wipe the bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Place the egg whites and brown sugar in the bowl (or another if you don't have a saucepan the right size) and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently. Whisk until temperature reaches 140°F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot, about 8 minutes if you used room temperature egg whites. About 12 if they were cold. Just be sure you can’t feel any sugar crystals when you rub a small bit between your fingers. Place the bowl back into the mixer, and with whisk attachment attached, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). Make sure your meringue is completely cool before adding butter–this may take much longer than you expect, but if the meringue is very stiff and still warm, just turn off mixer and wait until it has cooled. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing on medium-low and it will come back to smooth). Add vanilla and peanut butter, and continue to beat on low speed until well combined. Mine went weird after adding the butter but back to normal after adding the peanut butter, so don't panic if that also happens to you!

Harriet was Going to Come Over... Take 1

I remember meeting this girl. She was a friend of a friend and I thought she was so cool. She was talking to my friend, Sophie, about this party she'd been too and this guy she accidentally made out with and she was the epitome of ultimate teenage-dom. Then I met her again, the same night I met Cam, at Sophie's party actually and although we talked, she told me later that she was trying to push me towards Cam (they're good friends). So we were acquaintances, might recognise each other in the street. Around 3 weeks after that, she found out she had cancer. Cam texted me when he found out, very upset and I just couldn't imagine her having cancer. Then after Cam and I started going out, he introduced Harriet and me properly and we hit it off straight away. She is probably one of the most amazing people I have ever met, not because she goes to all the cool parties or has all the cool friends. But because she has an amazing inner strength and can make you laugh about anything and everything. I'm so glad that Cam brought her into my life and if you want to read about her adventures, she also has a blog called My Experience of Walking the Dog. So we like to hang out, as all friends do, so I thought I'd do some baking as we had NONE in the cupboards. Shocking right? Even though Cam and I were only housesitting for a couple of weeks, still. It's BAKING. So I made 4 dozen mini muffins. I was going to make normal ones, but then with mini ones you can kind of pretend you didn't just eat one and have another. And another. And... Well. You get the picture! Unfortunately, as a former cancer patient (and a human being!) she does get sick and she was feeling rather unwell and so couldn't come. I was disappointed, but I reasoned that I'd be seeing her a few days later (that's another story!). But I had all this baking. We were only two people in the house. What to do, what to do... Go hang out with mum! I ended up taking some to mum instead along with some chocolate tart from the night before and we hung out instead. I do, of course, totally understand, but still... Take 1. ;)

Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sugar
100g butter, melted
1 egg
2T milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1t baking soda
1t baking powder
1 1/2 cups chocolate bits (you can use less but... Why would you want to??)

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a mini muffin tin really well. In a bowl, place mashed bananas, sugar, melted butter, egg and milk and stir to combine. Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder onto banana mixture and stir to just combine. Stir in the chocolate bits. Do not overmix! Spoon the mixture into the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Easy? Done!

Chocolate Tarting it Up

Last week, as Cam and I were still housesitting, Alex decided that it would be fun to have drinks before going to town. Becca and I decided however, that it would be even more fun to have a little dinner party beforehand and she said that she would make dinner if I made dessert. Right after this conversation, we just happened to be looking through this recipe book that was lent to them by a family friend and I came across this magnificent chocolate tart. It looked so rich and superb, I decided that was exactly what I wanted to make for the dessert. Unfortunately being ultra rich came with a rather rich list of ingredients, but I probably made that harder on myself by buying not-so-cheap dark chocolate. For those who have Whittaker's in their country, I used nearly 3 blocks of dark ghana which was amazing and so rich, but it would actually work just as well with standard cheap chocolate chips, because you melt them anyway. With cream. So it's all good. If you're a chocolate lover then this one's for you, because it is amazing. The recipe is from Simon Wright. And for those of you who are interested, Becca made chicken lasagne for dinner and it was really yum!

French Chocolate Tart

175g butter
120g icing sugar
1 egg
1t lemon juice
300g plain flour

600g chocolate bits
675mL cream
225mL milk
100g sugar
2 eggs

Place the butter and icing sugar in a food processor and cream them. Add the egg and lemon juice, mix until fully combined, then add the flour and pulse the machine until the flour is only just incorporated. Which doesn't mean that it's all bitsy and everything, it should stick together in a ball, but have only just done that. Tip the pastry out of the food processor on to a work surface and knead until it forms a smoth dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 22cm tart/pie tin with butter and dust with flour. Remove the pastry from the fridge and knead gently to make the dough pliable. Lightly flour the work surface and roll the dough out to about 3mm in thickness. Roll the pastry on to the rolling pin and drape over the tart case (the smart way) OR you could just pick it all up and drop it over the case and hope for the best. I like that way. Then you're supposed to gently ease the dough into the tart tin so that you don't rip it, but as long as you get it all pressed in to the corners, then you can use excess dough to fill in the gaps. Trim some of the excess dough from the tart tin but leave a good 5cm overlap (this helps prevent shrinkage when baking blind. Which I clearly didn't do, as you can see in the photos, but we had some serious time constraints. Mainly because of my bad organisation). Fill the tart with baking beans and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Place the tart tin in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the edges of the tart have started to colour. Remove from the oven, trim the excess pastry from around the edges and lift out the baking paper with the beans. Return the tart tin to the oven to cook for a further 10-15 minutes, or until it is lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Turn the oven down to 110°C. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the tart has set around the outside but still has a slight wobble in the centre. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool for about 2 hours before cutting and serving. This is important!! It tastes much better when it is set. :)

Chocolate Filling:
Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl. Place the cream, milk and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Pour on to the chocolate and stir until the mixture becomes dark and glossy, about 5 minutes. Whisk the eggs together and stir into the chocolate mixture. Becca and I thought that this would cook the eggs so we did this part together, very cautiously, but it turned out fine. She poured in the eggs while I whisked furiously so no cooked eggs in our tart! Then pass the mixture through a chinois or your finest sieve. Pour the chocolate mixture into the tart case...

This is a chinois:

And this is a cat + chinois:

It came up when I googled for a picture of a chinois and I thought it was very funny!
A final picture of the cut chocolate tart:


Pt 2 of an Afternoon With Livvy-We Feel Like Baking

So after dropping Livvy's brownie off to her, we were sitting around talking and we decided that we both really felt like baking. Creepily enough we both also wanted to bake the exact same thing... So why not? We had heaps of fun that afternoon and I think that our ginger crunch turned out pretty well in the end! Next time I'd double the topping, which is what my nana does because it's not very much, so I've put those measurements on here.

Ginger Crunch

125g butter
125g sugar
200g flour
2t ground ginger
1 1/2t baking powder
4T butter
6T icing sugar
3t golden syrup
2t ground ginger

Cream butter and sugar, add dry ingredients. Knead well and press into a greased, shallow tin. Bake 20-25 minutes at 190°C. Melt the topping ingredients together in a bowl in the microwave. Pour over cake while hot and cut into squares before it gets cold.

As you can see, extremely simple and extremely yum!

Pt 1 of an Afternoon With Livvy-Livvy's Treat

So you know how I posted a couple of... Maybe months ago now? About sending chocolate peanut butter brownie to Jess? Well her best friend, also a good friend of mine, complained that just because she wasn't at some foreign university she didn't get anything. So, I promised to make her a brownie too. This time, however, I went on a slightly different route. Still chocolate and still peanut butter. But all mixed in with cookie dough and a chocolate ganache on top for a truly amazing: Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Brownie! I think it's possibly my new favourite. :) I got this recipe from RecipeGirl which is another really cool food blog.

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Brownies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 20cm square baking tin. Line the bottom of the pan with baking paper, so that it comes up two of the sides that are opposite each other. In a small bowl, melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate in the microwave until the butter is melted, about 2 minutes. Stir briskly until well-combined, then stir in the vanilla. Meanwhile, in a large bowl- use an electric mixer to beat together the sugar and eggs. Scrape in the partially cooled chocolate mixture and mix to combine. In separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir the flour ingredients and chocolate chips into the wet ingredients. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 22 to 28 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool. Spread the peanut butter cookie dough in an even layer over the cooled brownies. Drizzle the ganache over the peanut butter cookie dough layer and carefully spread to cover the top. Sprinkle with peanut butter chips. Refrigerate until the dough and the ganache topping are set (at least 1 hour). Use a knife to loosen the sides, then carefully grab the parchment paper and remove the whole pan of brownies to a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut them into squares. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough:
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine butter and brown sugar. Mix until creamy. Add milk and peanut butter and mix to combine. Stir in flour and salt. 

In a small bowl, microwave chocolate chips cream and sugar for 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Continue to microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring after each heating time. Continue heating and stirring until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

I think it's Livvy's new favourite too!

Chocolate and Caramel Heaven

As you can see from the title, this post is all about... Chocolate and caramel! Cam loves caramel things and he especially loves chocolate and caramel things so when I suggested these cupcakes, he was over the moon! It was the first recipe I made while we're housesitting and it was pretty successful. What I did was to spoon the caramel in the cupcakes before they were cook, but next time I'd wait until they're cooked, scoop out the middle and put the caramel in then. They tasted amazing but unfortunately most of the caramel sunk to the bottom. Who knew caramel was heavier than cupcake? It's a really easy caramel too, because I haven't really made caramel that much and I'm not really confident with it, but this one was dead easy. Enjoy!

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

1 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
1t vanilla essence
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cocoa (dutch or special dark cocoa powder makes these look amazing!)
3/4t baking soda
1/2t baking powder
1/4t salt

1/2 cup brown sugar
2T condensed milk
2T butter
1 cup icing sugar
1T hot water

115g butter or margarine, room temperature
1/3 cocoa powder (again, dutch or dark works really well)
2 cups icing sugar
2T milk
2T caramel filling

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line muffin pan with paper liners. Whisk together the milk, sugar, oil, and vanilla extract and beat till foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and beat until no lumps remain (or very few remain). Pour into liners, filling each with 1/4 cup of batter. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Once cooled, cut out cones from the tops of the cupcakes with a small knife, approximately 3cm in diameter. Cut off most the bottom, leaving just enough to replace the top. (see: Cinnamon Chocolate Churro Cupcakes) Spoon a heaping teaspoon of filling into each cupcake. Replace the top and press into place. Ice the cupcakes with the chocolate caramel icing to cover up the marks!

Caramel Filling:
Place sugar, condensed milk and butter in a medium saucepan and heat. Take off heat when bubbling (careful not to burn!) and add icing sugar and hot water.

For icing, cream butter until smooth and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add cocoa powder and beat until incorporated. Add 1 tablespoon soymilk and mix to combine. Add confectioners' sugar 1/2 cup at a time and mix until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes total. Add caramel filling and mix well. If frosting is too thick, add more soymilk and beat until fluffy. If frosting is too soft, add more sugar and again, beat until fluffy. You want the frosting to keep it's shape when piped on to the cupcake, but still fluffy enough that it stays light and soft when eaten.

A Week at Nana and Granddad's

Sorry it's been so long guys, with exams and then going to nana and granddad's, it's been pretty hectic! Of course, I didn't miss an opportunity to do some baking with my nana! I love all her baking, but I especially love her tan square. It's just so caramelly and good! It's probably quite a New Zealand thing-condensed milk and golden syrup mixed together! But it tastes good to anyone, so definitely give it a go. It was really fun baking with nana, and she had some good tips which was cool.

Tan Square

150g butter
200g sugar
250g plain flour, sifted
1t vanilla essence

50g butter
1 tin (400g) condensed milk
2T golden syrup

100g chocolate bits

Preheat oven to 180°C and grease a sponge roll tin. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then add vanilla. Mix in the sifted flour. Put two thirds of the mixture into the tin and press in firmly, covering the whole surface. Cover the remaining third and put in the fridge. Spread the cooled filling over the base and take the rest of the mixture out of the fridge to crumble over the top. Sprinkle the chocolate bits over at the same time. Bake about 40-45 minutes but do not let the top become too brown.

Place butter, condensed milk and golden syrup into a heatproof bowl and heat in the microwave, carefully, until the butter is melted. Mix together.

Written down the bottom of my recipe, which I will share with all of you, is lots of love, Nana. Make this with love. :)