Croquembouche challenge

I’ll happily admit it, I’m a MasterChef fan and although, sometimes I roll my eyes at how contrived it all seems, I still enjoy watching the contestants grow from great cooks to fantastic cooks. I enjoy watching them take on challenges that I fear would make me fall to the floor in a blubbering mess. With this in mind, I set about giving myself the challenge of the croquembouche. Da da dahhhhh…

DSC02992We were catching up with friends to celebrate two July birthdays, a ‘welcome to the world’ baby and pre-wedding party. Four celebrations that were worthy of a croquembouche challenge! The key to getting it done is definitely confidence although I did have my assistant Al on hand to help with the caramel dipping and the tower building which I was most afraid of.

DSC02988When piping the choux pastry, make a big effort to get them consistent in size as this will really help when assembling them in the cone. Our final product was a little lopsided but, thankfully, it did still stand up on its own.

I halved the MasterChef recipe as I didn’t fancy making 100 choux pastry balls and I hired a 42 cm cone from our local Kitchenware Megastore for $10 with a $200 refundable deposit.

DSC02982Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make 50 choux balls and enough creme patissiere to fill them. This amount was enough to feed 12 dessert hungry people.

Choux pastry:

  • 200 g butter
  • 10 g sugar
  • 265 ml full cream milk
  • 10 g salt
  • 210 ml water
  • 265 g plain flour
  • 8 eggs

Crème patissiere:

  • 540 ml full cream milk
  • 1 vanilla beans, split, seeds scraped
  • 220 g egg yolks (about 12 egg yolks)
  • 220 g caster sugar
  • 90 g corn flour
  • 90 g butter, diced, softened

Caramel:

  • 500 g white sugar
  • 150 ml water
  • 200 ml liquid glucose

Follow the MasterChef method here to make each of the individual components. Finally, don’t be afraid to take the caramel to the edge of burning. As some of you may know, burnt caramel is one of my favourite flavours plus this will ensure the whole dessert isn’t too sweet. DSC02993As I had to transport my creation to the party I didn’t decorate with the spun sugar.

IMG_2055This is me grinning like a Cheshire cat with my leaning tower of croquembouche. Yes, it was cold, hence my furry hat!

So, the moral of this story is, take the baking challenge, you might just surprise yourself.

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Lime syrup cake

Every couple of days I have the great pleasure of picking limes from my tree. With this relaxing activity, comes the pressure to use the limes so their juicy goodness doesn’t go to waste.

I’ve added them to cocktails. I’ve made lime curd, preserved limes, lime dressing for salads and more recently this simple and very tasty lime syrup cake.

Lime syrup cakeYou don’t have to be too precious when preparing this cake, just add all the ingredients to your electric mixer and mix until well combined.

Cake

  • 200 grams softened but not melted butter
  • 200 grams caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 100 grams self-raising flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 100 grams almond meal
  • finely grated zest and juice of one lime

Lime syrup

  • 75 grams icing sugar or 50 grams caster sugar
  • finely grated zest and juice of two limes

Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, almond meal, baking powder, lime zest and juice in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until well combined. Spoon the mixture into a spring-form cake tin lined with baking paper. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 – 40 minutes but check it at 20 minutes to ensure it’s not burning too much around the edges. When it’s risen, is firm to touch and a nice golden color, take out of the oven and make small holes all over the surface with a skewer. Spoon the lime syrup over the cake, allowing it to seep in between spoonfuls. If you have the willpower leave the cake to cool before slicing or eat it while still warm (which is what I did).

IMG_1936It’s perfect by itself but would also be great with lemon curd and vanilla ice cream.

IMG_1944I’d love your suggestions, what else can I do with an abundance of limes?

 

 

 

 

 

Lemonade scones

There is something so very comforting about an old-fashioned scone. So recently, when my friend from London dropped in unexpectedly, I whipped up a batch which we enjoyed with jam and cream and a glass or two of white wine. Ok, I admit this is not the usual scone, drink pairing but on this sunny Sunday afternoon it just worked.

image

I have no idea how this recipe came about but the idea of adding lemonade to scones is genius. I remember my mother whipping up a batch when visitors popped in. I loved seeing the mixture foam up when you added the lemonade.

The trick, I think, is to handle with care. Don’t muck around with the mixture too much. Just bring the ingredients together gently with a knife. Once incorporated, tip onto a floured surface and use your hands to bring the dough together. Gently pat out to approx 5 cm, then you can use a cookie cutter to cut neat rounds. Place them closely together on a tray lined with baking paper and brush the tops with milk. Bake in a hot oven 200 degrees for approx 15 minutes or until tops are golden.

You’ll need 3 cups self-raising flour, 1 cup cream, 1 cup lemonade.

Fresh out of the oven

I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for the perfect scone.

Dried cherry, almond and blueberry cake

I  love baking, especially without a recipe. I love just throwing it all in the bowl and waiting to see whether the result is a success or an epic fail! Glad to say my most recent effort was a huge success, so I’d like to share my recipe with you here.

2 cups of almond meal

1 cup of plain white flour (sifted)

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 egg

1/2 cup of raw sugar

A couple of heaped tablespoons of greek yoghurt

2 tablespoons of softened butter

1/2 cup of orange juice or milk

As many dried cherries or cranberries as you like and a good handful of blueberries.

Cherry almond cake2

It’s a one bowl recipe which is great so just start by creaming the butter and sugar together, till it’s light and fluffy. I just use a whisk to do this part. Add the egg and whisk again. Add all of the dry ingredients and then the wet ingredients. Add more juice or milk if the consistency looks a little dry. Then mix in the cherries and blueberries. I soaked the dried cherries in the orange juice first, just so they’d be nice and plump when I added them to the mixture. Put the whole lot into a bar tin and cook at 180 degrees in a non fan forced oven for about 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly and the top is golden.

I served it with an icy cold chocolate milkshake which Al was very happy about. I’ve only just discovered dried cherries and I really like them a lot so I’d be keen to hear how you use them in your cooking.

Cherry almond cake1