Monday, November 30, 2009

On the fifth day of Christmas (Fruit Mince Crumble Cake)

Okay is it just me or do I seem to be having a fair bit of difficulties with the 12 Baking Days of Christmas project? All of the cookie dough I have made so far has been really difficult to get together, my royal icing piping skills leave a lot to be desired and now this Fruit Mince Crumble Cake. Oh dear this was the biggest disaster so far. Let me just say that I have learned a very valuable lesson. When a recipe calls for a 23cm cake tin and you think your 20cm cake tin will suffice, you are wrong and you should just stop being so stingy and go buy a 23cm cake tin. That way you won't be so disappointed when you slice into your cake to discover the bottom of it isn't cooked at all and is instead just a sludgy mess. You also wouldn't throw a tantrum and throw the rest of the cake in the bin. Yes, it was not my finest moment. All of that aside though - the edges of the cake that were cooked tasted really good and I would be willing to try this recipe again with the correct cake tin. I think the cake would be especially tasty if served slightly warmed with some lovely home made custard. So don't let my mistakes deter you - I think this recipe could be a winner!

Fruit Mince Crumble Cake (from Better Homes and Gardens - December 2008)
Makes one 23cm cake

melted butter, for greasing
icing sugar, for dusting

1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
125g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup brown sugar
160g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
400g jar fruit mince (I used my home made fruit mince of course)
100g craisins (dried cranberries) (I omitted these)
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Brush a 23cm round springform cake tin with melted butter and line base and sides with baking paper.
  2. To make crumble, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Set aside.
  3. To make cake, combine flour, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl. Rub butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre, add egg and milk and stir until combined. Spoon mixture into prepared tin and press evenly on base.
  4. Spread fruit mince over cake base, and sprinkle craisins over mince. Top with crumble mix.
  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into centre of cake. Stand tin on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove cake from tin and stand on wire rack until cold. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Lovely looking cake cooling on the wire rack...

Dust it with a bit of icing sugar...

Then slice it open to discover it isn't baked properly :( ...

See mushy insides...

Oh well at least the edges were edible...

3 out of 5 reindeers! Would of been higher if I baked it properly!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Iron Cupcake - Vote

Iron Cupcake voting has begun - you can vote here (if you want to of course).

Friday, November 27, 2009

The week that was

1. Steamed vegetables and smoked salmon on couscous
2. Baked beans and cherry tomatoes with wholemeal toast
3. Pasta with ham and steamed vegetables
4. Watermelon

No recipes this week - just simple food in this household.

What was your food highlight this week?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

On the fourth day of Christmas (Gingerbread House)

For a very long time I have dreamed of having a few traditions at Christmas time. I've always wanted to leave some cookies and a glass of beer out for Santa, and of course some carrot sticks for the reindeer. Then there is the present opening on Christmas morning with a yummy breakfast to go along with it. Lunch with the family that ends in everyone needing to undo the top bottom of their pants. But most importantly I want to make a Gingerbread House each and every year - starting this year.

Yes I finally baked and decorated my first gingerbread house and it was so much fun. Even better is the aroma that flows through the house. It is just to die for - the rich smell of honey, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg is lovely and it is definitely making the house smell like Christmas.

The only down part of this experience was the dough (are we seeing a theme yet with me and dough?). Again it was difficult to get it to come together - but it got there in the end. The other thing is that I didn't get to taste the gingerbread since the house is still sitting on our dining room table. I really see it as more of a Christmas decoration than something to eat.

Gingerbread House (from The Australian Women's Weekly - The Christmas Book)

90g unsalted butter
200g brown sugar
1 cup honey
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind (I left this out)
2 eggs, lightly beaten (I needed 4 eggs)
750g plain flour
150g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
Assorted lollies for decoration
  1. Combine butter, sugar and honey in medium pan; stir over low heat until sugar dissolves, cool 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to large bowl; stir in rind, eggs and sifted dry ingredients.
  2. Turn dough onto floured surface, knead gently until mixture loses its stickiness; cover, refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Cut paper patterns for gingerbread house; cut one rectangle (20cm x 15cm) for the roof; one rectangle (15cm x 10cm) for the sides and one rectangle (16cm x 19cm) for the front/back. Trim front/back rectangle so that sides are 10cm high, as shown below.
  4. Roll out dough on floured surface until 1cm thick; cut shapes from dough.
  5. Place shapes on baking trays lined with baking paper and bake in 200C oven for 10 minutes or until firm.
  6. Stand shapes on trays for 5 minutes, brush with glaze (recipe to follow). Transfer glazed shapes to wire racks to cool.
  7. Cut door from front of house.
  8. Cover a small board or tray with foil, spread a thin layer of Royal icing (recipe to follow) over foil to represent snow.
  9. Assemble gingerbread house, using the Royal icing to glue together the walls and then the roof, as shown below.
  10. Use Royal icing to secure lollies on the roof and walls.
  11. Dust with icing sugar.

Royal Icing

2 egg whites
4 cups icing sugar, approximately
1/2 tsp lemon juice
  1. Beat egg whites in small bowl until just frothy.
  2. Gradually beat in enough sifted sugar for mixture to form very stiff peaks.
  3. Stir in juice.


1 tbspn caster sugar
2 tbspn boiling water
  1. Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and stir over how heat until the sugar dissolves.

Now for the templates, first the roof...

Then the front/back of the house...

And of course the sides of the house...

Use the templates as a guide to cut out the gingerbread shapes...

After baking the shapes are glazed and left to cool on a wire rack...

Then you stick them together with royal icing to build up the house...

The roof is the trickiest bit - but a bit of extra royal icing and spending some time holding the roof pieces in place and it will all work out...

Then decorate to your hearts content, I tiled my roof with Freckles...

Made a colourful Smartie wall...

And gave the house a street number of 24 (which just so happens to be our anniversary and Mat's birthday)...

5 out of 5 reindeers!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On the third day of Christmas (Iced Lemon Cookies)

There is only 29 days left until Christmas! Can you believe it? So what are your plans this year?

I plan to put up the Christmas tree and decorations on the 1st of December. I am also making some Christmas stockings for everyone in the family - even the cats. We will be having Christmas lunch with my mother and sister at our place, with simple food and of course dessert. The gifts this year are going to be simple - homemade gifts baked with love, some new toys for the little one and some other small bits and bobs.

Enough about that. Lets talk about these Iced Lemon Cookies. I had trouble with these cookies - again the dough would not come together so I had to slightly alter the recipe. Then came the royal icing piping. Well you'll see how that turned out. And finally the cookies were just a bit bleh - not very lemony and not that sweet. So not my favourite, I probably won't make them again.

Iced Lemon Cookies (from Better Homes and Gardens - December 2007)
Makes 30 small cookies (or 16 large cookies)

2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup caster sugar
pinch of salt
125g butter, chilled, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp lemon essence
extra flour, for kneading
  1. Put flour, almond meal, sugar and salt in a food processor and process for 30 seconds. Add butter and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add egg and lemon essence and process until mixture forms into a ball (I needed to add another half an egg before my dough would come together).
  2. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Pat dough into a disc, put into a plastic bag and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 160C. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of baking paper until 5mm thick. Use a Christmas cutter to cut out shapes. Put shapes on oven trays. Bake for 12 minutes or until cooked through. Leave on trays for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  4. Ice with royal icing (recipe below).

Royal Icing (if you don't trust raw egg whites you could use this recipe instead)

2 egg whites
4 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp lemon juice
  1. Beat egg whites until frothy.
  2. Add icing sugar a little at a time until you have stiff peaks.
  3. Beat in the lemon juice.

When I started to ice this cookies I quickly discovered that I have ZERO piping skills. And I mean zero. Look at my sorry excuse for piping...

It kind of made me angry....

And this little man was very sad about the way he was piped...

I tried to talk him out of it....

But it was too late...

Luckily the 10 second rule applies in this house and we got to eat him.

Oh well - practice makes perfect. I'll just have to make more cookies!

2 out of 5 reindeers!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Little Betsy Baker Prize

Remember a while ago when I told you that I won a competition run by Little Betsy Baker? Well my prize arrived last week and I thought I would show you all with a few photos.

First the caddy is quite large (like a big fishing tackle box), it has a spot for all your icing tips, colours and other bits and bobs...

More importantly though Little Betsy Baker also sent a yummy cupcake shaped gingerbread cookie, yum...

In the caddy there were four Wilton colours (royal blue, Christmas red, leaf green and lemon yellow)...

A flower head for piping...

Lots of piping tips to add to my growing collection...

A Cake Decorating guide by Wilton...

Even more piping tips (yay I got a grass/fur tip)...

Decorating pattern sheets - to practice using all my new tips...

A 10" reusable piping bag...

And a tip brush, some disposable piping bags, a small offset spatula and two couplers. I love my new toys!

Thank you Little Betsy Baker :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Iron Cupcake - Keep It Simple Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes

It is Iron Cupcake time again and this month the not-so-secret ingredient was apple. As soon as the ingredient was announced I started to rack my brain - toffee apples, apple pie, baked apples, apple crumble - arrrghh! What to do? I finally decided that you just can't mess with the apple and cinnamon combination, I know it isn't very inventive but it is darn tasty!

Apple cinnamon cake topped with cream cheese buttercream and dusted with ground cinnamon

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes (from Confetti Cakes for Kids by Elisa Strauss)
Makes 24 cupcakes

3 3/4 cups plain flour
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 cup unsalted butter
3 cups packed brown sugar
4 eggs
1 cup apple sauce
2 apples, peeled and chopped finely
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line 2 12-hole muffin trays with cupcake papers.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cloves. Set aside.
  3. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping after each addition.
  4. Alternately add the flour mixture and the apple sauce to the butter mixture in three batches, starting with the flour. Scrape down the bowl after each addition and beat until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add the apples and stir them in just until they are incorporated.
  6. Divide the batter among the cupcake papers and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Cream Cheese Buttercream

60g butter, softened
160g cream cheese, softened
3 cups icing sugar (approximately)
  1. Beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  2. Gradually beat in sifted icing sugar until you reach the consistency you want.
  3. Spread over cooled cupcakes and then top with a dusting of ground cinnamon.

Look at those yummy chunks of apple...

All lined up ready to be packed up in the cupcake courier...

Well this one didn't make it to the courier :P

Our Generous IronCupcake:Earth Prize Providers:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

On the second day of Christmas (Fruit Mince Pies)

Is anyone else here a massive fan of fruit mince pies? The wonderful soft and crumbly pastry and then that sweet and spicy fruit mince is definitely one of my favourite Christmas treats. In the past I have always bought store-made mince pies and have always thought they were pretty good, but this year I decided that it goes against my baking ethos to buy store-made and so I took on the challenge to bake my own.

For some reason I thought baking your own fruit mince pies would be a difficult and tedious task, however I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is actually quite easy and they taste fantastic! The fruit mince is not as sickly sweet as it generally is when it is store-made and I think the variety of dried fruit used in this recipe really makes the pies.

So on with the recipe. First off you need to make your fruit mince...

Spiced Fruit Mince (from The Australian Women's Weekly - The Christmas Book)
Makes 14 cups

750g sultanas
750g raisins, chopped (I didn't chop mine)
450g dried currants
500g seeded dates, chopped
500g seeded prunes, chopped
2 large green-skinned apples, peeled and grated
200g brown sugar
2 tbsp finely grated orange rind
1 tbsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup plum jam
375ml brandy (I used unsweetened orange juice instead)
  1. Mix all ingredients in large bowl.
  2. Cover tightly with cling wrap and store in the fridge for at least 3 days before using (I had mine in the fridge for 2 weeks).
  3. Stir the mixture once each day.
  4. Mixture can be kept for 6 months.
Now that you have the fruit mince ready to go you just need to get the pastry ready and pop those babies in the oven.

Fruit Mince Pies (from The Australian Women's Weekly - The Christmas Book)
Makes 24

300g plain flour
150g unsalted butter, chilled
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp water, approximately (I only needed 1 tsp)
2 1/2 cups fruit mince
1 egg, lightly beaten, extra
  1. Sift flour into medium bowl, rub in butter, stir in rind, oil and sugar.
  2. Add egg and enough water to make ingredients cling together.
  3. Turn onto floured surface; knead until smooth. Cover pastry and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll pastry between 2 sheets of baking paper until 3mm thick. Cut 24 x 7.5cm rounds from pastry, re-rolling dough as necessary to make 24 rounds.
  5. Place rounds into 2 greased 12-hole (2 tbsp capacity) patty pan trays.
  6. Divide mince among pastry cases.
  7. Roll remaining pastry out and cut out 24 small stars. Top the pies with the stars.
  8. Brush pastry with extra egg.
  9. Bake in a 180C oven for 20 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  10. Serve dusted with icing sugar.

Bottoms of the pies...

Filled with fruit mince, topped with a pastry star and brushed with egg wash ready for the oven...

Fresh out of the oven...

Dusting with icing sugar...

mmm yummy...

5 out of 5 reindeers!