Simple Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffins

IMG_3796Sometimes the quickest, easiest recipes are the best! These muffins are moist, come together quickly, and best of all can be eaten warm, straight from the oven!

To make perfect muffins every time, be sure not to over mix! You need to completely combine the wet and dry ingredients, but stop mixing at that point or else you’ll remove too much air, and your muffins will be dense and heavy.  We want light and fluffy here!

Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffins

Yield: 18 muffins, or 36 mini muffins, or a mixture of sizes!

2 cups self raising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
65g butter,melted
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries (or another type of berry if you like!) Leave in the freezer until ready to use, they will bleed into the muffins if thawed.

  1. Sift flour. Combine flour and sugars in a large bowl, making a well in the centre.
  2. Mix the melted butter, milk and egg.
  3. Gently mix the dry and wet ingredients.
  4. Fold the white chocolate and raspberries into the batter until just combined.
  5. 3/4 fill holes in prepared muffin tin/s.
  6. Bake in a moderate oven for around 20-22 minutes, until browned lightly on top and a skewer comes out clean.

Classic Custard Tart

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I love custard tarts! They always remind me of holidays when I was little, because if ever we went to a bakery I’d get a custard tart or vanilla slice or nothing!

As it turns out, custard tarts are quite simple to make, and don’t need any special equipment – just a pie plate will do.  For this reason I think this recipe is a great choice if you’re not too familiar with making pies and tarts.  The pastry also couldn’t be simpler, so please don’t be intimidated!

Classic Custard Tart

(Adapted from The Essential Dessert Cookbook)

Pastry:

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/4 cup custard powder

125 g cold butter, chopped

1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar

1 egg yolk (reserve the white for later if you like, why waste it!)

Custard:

4 eggs, plus the reserved white

2 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 1/2 cups milk

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

 

  1. In a food processor (you can also do this by rubbing in the butter by hand if you don’t have one), process the flour, custard powder and butter. Mix in the sugar. Add a little water (a tablespoon or two will do) and mix until a soft dough forms.  Wrap and place the dough in the freezer for around 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 190ºC. Grease a 24cm pie plate.  Roll the cold pastry out between two sheets of baking paper to fit the pie plate, trimming any excess (you could use the excess to decorate the edge of your pie if you like).  Line pastry shell with baking paper and fill with raw rice, baking for 10 minutes (this is called blind baking). Remove the rice and paper and bake for 5 more minutes until the base is dry but not too brown. Leave pastry to cool while you make the custard.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 180ºC.
  4. For the custard, mix eggs, vanilla and sugar in a bowl. Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan and gradually add to the egg mixture, whisking (important, or else you’ll get lumpy custard!).  Strain custard through a sieve into the pastry case.
  5. Sprinkle the tart with nutmeg and place in the oven.  Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until the centre of the tart is just set.
  6. Cool and cut into wedges to serve.

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Almond & Raspberry Shortbread Slice 

Wow, where did January go?! My apologies for not managing a single post all month. Even though I’m on holidays from uni January was crazy busy for me, I spent two weeks on placement in beautiful Broome and then worked full time for the rest of the month! I’m looking forward to a bit of a break in February before the new uni year begins.
Yesterday’s unseasonally cold January weather called for but one thing: baking! January here in Australia is normally too hot to justify baking (except in emergencies, of course!) so even though yesterday was cold and miserable outside, I didn’t really mind!

  
This slice is a really simple bake. I can see it starring at a fancy tea party, yet being equally suited to the lunch box.
My favourite thing about it is that the raspberry layer is simply jam, so you could use whatever jam or fruit spread you have on hand in this slice! This might be a solution for the huge stockpile of homemade apricot jam in Mum’s cupboard…
Almond & Raspberry Shortbread Slice:

(adapted from Life Made Simple Bakes)
Ingredients:

180g unsalted butter, room temperature 

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

1/4 tsp almond essence

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2-3/4 cup raspberry or any other jam (I just used whatever was left in the jar!)

1/4 cup slivered almonds.
1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Line the base and sides of a 20-23 cm square cake tin with baking paper.

2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and almond essence and mix to combine.

3. Sift the flour and salt and add gradually to the butter mixture with the mixer on low speed. Mix until it forms a soft dough that separates from the side of the bowl.

4. Reserve around 1/2 cup of the shortbread dough, wrap and place in the freezer while you assemble the rest of the slice.

5. Place the remaining dough in the lined tin and press down into an even layer.

6. Spread the jam on top of the shortbread layer, leaving a small border around the edges of the tin.

7. Crumble the reserved, cold dough over the jam layer along with the almonds.

8. Bake for 40-50 minutes until golden on top.

9. Cool in the tin, then remove and slice. May be dusted with icing sugar to serve if desired.

A belated Merry Christmas and some gingerbread house tips!

Wow, long time between posts… this is my favourite time of the year, but sometimes it does get so busy and just fly by!  I really wanted to share this, my first ever gingerbread house, before Christmas – but that didn’t happen. So I guess I’ll share it now just to hang onto the Christmas spirit for a bit longer, and you can have some very early tips for next year’s Christmas baking! (Or I guess you could just make a house whenever you like – gingerbread is tasty any time of the year, right?!)

So here it is, the finished work:

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I’m pretty proud of it, especially for a first attempt – it just goes to show you don’t have to have a lot of experience to make an awesome gingerbread house!

So, here’s some tips to make it work for you:

  1. Search around Pinterest or google some ideas for gingerbread houses first – you may even find patterns with dimensions which makes it really easy to construct something neat!
  2. Don’t roll your gingerbread too thin. Remember it’s essentially building material – it needs to be strong!
  3. Give your gingerbread time to dry out before you assemble your house. A few hours or even overnight is fine! Again, it needs to be tough.
  4. Decorate any vertical/angled pieces e.g. walls while they are still flat – it’ll stop your icing running everywhere.
  5. Speaking of icing, you should use royal icing – the egg white will give your icing much more body and strength to hold up your house!
  6. While you’re at it, don’t go lightly on the icing – make sure your house is well stuck together.
  7. Construct the house gradually – e.g. stand up the walls, then wait to dry before you add the roof. It’s better if you let the icing set to make sure your walls are strong. Be patient!
  8. Go as crazy with the decorations as you like, but remember simple can be effective too! As you can see, my house is on a really big cake board, so I decorated the space around it too.  To make some special decorations:
    1. Cut holes in your unbaked gingerbread and place a barley sugar or similar hard boiled lolly in there while the biscuit bakes to make windows!
    2. Bend candy canes as I’ve done around the door, and to make swirls on top of some of the little stars – this takes a bit of practice to get the candy at the right temperature to not be brittle, nor so soft as to melt completely, but looks really effective.

And finally – some progress shots and different angles! The roof in particular is my favourite part 🙂

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Let me know if you have any questions!

Happy baking!

Dark chocolate & raspberry cookies

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These are vastly different to the last cookies I made here – let me know if you’d like the recipe for those too!

Chocolate chip cookies are an all time classic, and for good reason – they are delicious. But if you’re looking for a modern twist on the old favourite, or a way to squeeze in a little extra fruit (it still counts if it’s smothered in chocolatey goodness, right?!), you might like to give this a try.

These cookies  are based on a recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod with a couple of slight variations to make them even quicker and easier.  My version have a bit more of a soft, cakey texture too, which I really like – but if you prefer a crisper biscuit, feel free to leave out the milk!

The best thing is that you’ll probably already have the ingredients for these in your cupboard, so why not drop everything and make them right now?!

Dark chocolate & raspberry cookies

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa
125g unsalted butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup frozen raspberries 

Note: leave the berries in the freezer until the last minute! I'll explain why in a minute...

1. Preheat oven to 175ºC and line two trays with baking paper.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl; whisk together.
3. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars until fluffy; mix in egg and vanilla.
4. Gradually add dry ingredients to mixer and mix to combine. Add 
milk. You may need to add more flour - your biscuits will be the 
right texture when the dough comes off the side of the bowl like 
this:
IMG_32625. Add chocolate chips and mix in briefly.
6. Remove frozen berries from freezer.  It doesn't matter if you're using the last of the bag like I did and they're more like crumbs than whole berries as they'll break up a bit anyway. Also, this is why it's important to leave them in the freezer until the last 
minute, as you don't want to puree them - just mix them in briefly or you'll have no beautiful chunks of raspberry left!
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7. Roll/pick up chunks of mixture, place on a tray and flatten 
slightly. The quicker you can do this, the better - as the berries start to thaw, the mixture will get softer.
8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, then leave on the tray to cool a little (as they will still be quite soft) before transferring to a wire   rack to cool completely.

Recipe: Apple, loganberry & walnut slice

 

IMG_3254Welcome to Summer! With it’s vibrant flavours and colours, and using the two ingredients we have an abundance of at the moment – loganberries and lemons – I think this slice is a beautiful way to welcome the season.  I suppose you could also say it looks vaguely festive, with the bright red berries, but even though it’s December I’m not quite ready for Christmas baking just yet ;).

But seriously, check these out. Nothing beats fruit straight from the tree or the vine!

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This slice is pretty easy to make, but looks beautiful.  It’s really an adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation, as many good recipes are – the furthest back source, so far as I can find, is the Smitten Kitchen.  There, it’s made with pistachios and apricots, but as you can see I’ve changed up the fruit and the nuts – it really is a versatile recipe, just use whatever you have on hand and trust your instinct in combining flavours!

Here’s how to make the slice:

Apple, loganberry & walnut slice:
Base
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 125 g unsalted butter, cold
Topping
  • 110g (3/4 cup) walnuts
  • 1½ tablespoons flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 75g sugar
  • 70g butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 350 grams (approximately) apples and loganberries
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Icing sugar to dust
METHOD
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C and line the base and sides of a 20cm square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. In a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter, in chunks and process until clumpy. Press the dough firmly and evenly into the tin. Bake for 15 minutes or until pale golden. This is about right:IMG_3244
  3. In the unwashed food processor, finely grind the walnuts, flour, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and process until combined. Add the egg and vanilla, blending until it forms a smooth paste. (if, at this point, your trusty old food processor breaks like mine did, you can mix it to a paste by hand if your nuts are crushed already).
  4. Spread the filling evenly over the cooked base.IMG_3246
  5. Slice apples and de-stem loganberries. Combine with lemon zest and juice, and evenly spread over the walnut paste.IMG_3248
  6. Bake the slice for around 50 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted into the filling comes out clean. Leave in pan to cool.
  7. Dust with icing sugar to decorate and cut into squares, or serve however you like.
  8. Left-over slice (if there is any!) will keep in an airtight container in the fridge, I’d imagine for a couple of days.

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Recipe: Vanilla bean, salted caramel & macadamia cheesecake

IMG_3215Wow. That’s a long name for a cake…

Maybe the ‘I named it after everything that’s in it belated 20th birthday cake’ is better?

No? I’ll think again… but in the meantime, let’s get on with the recipe!

I won’t lie – this cake sounds complicated. but the caramel is by far the hardest part – if you can master that, the rest is easy.

The only thing I’ll warn you about before you rush out to the supermarket to grab the ingredients for this is that it can be quite messy to serve if the caramel isn’t quite thick enough, or the walls aren’t quite strong enough – as you can see I’ve had a small avalanche happen here.  It didn’t bother me, but if you’re going to be serving it over your best tablecloth, or at a friend’s house, maybe make it as mini cheesecakes for some peace of mind.  You can use the exact same recipe and make it in ramekins or something similar that you can leave the cakes in to serve.

So, here we go…

Vanilla bean, salted caramel & macadamia cheesecake
The floor & the walls (approximate measurements - if your crust 
isn't thick enough to go high up the sides of your tin, make more):
350g plain sweet biscuits (I used Arnott's Granita because they're not too sweet)
150g butter
Pinch salt
100g macadamias (unroasted, unsalted)
The cheesecake:
3 tsp gelatine
1 1/2 tbsp boiling water
500g cream cheese
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
300ml cream
The salted caramel:
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1 cup cream
50g butter
1 tsp salt
Reserved macadamias, to decorate

(note that it's most convenient to make the caramel and base before the cake, as these both need to cool before you can use them!)

Preparation:
1. Lightly grease a 23cm springform pan
2. Roast your macadamias.  This is really easy - just place them on a tray and pop under the grill for a few minutes until they look 
 like this: (make sure to watch them - they burn fast!)
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Choose any nice-looking macadamias and reserve them for decoration - the rest will be used in the crust.

The floor and the walls:
1. Melt butter.
2. Crush biscuits and the not-so-pretty macadamias (I used a food 
processor, but you can do it by hand if you like). Mix in salt.
3. Add butter to biscuit mixture. If it's not the right texture or you haven't made enough for your tin, add more butter/biscuits 
until it's just right.
4. Press biscuit mixture into tin. It needs to go a long way up the sides as it has to hold the caramel on top of the cake to stop it going everywhere!
5. Pop the base in the fridge to set.

The cheesecake:
1. Dissolve gelatine in boiling water, set aside to cool.
2. Soften cream cheese and beat with sugar and vanilla in an 
electric mixer until it's smooth and creamy:
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3. Whip cream and fold into cheese mixture.

The salted caramel:
1. Heat sugar and water over medium heat, stirring (you don't want burnt sugar, it's the worst).
2. Eventually all the water will evaporate and you'll end up with 
big crystals of sugar and you think you've failed and it looks 
something like this but a bit crunchier:
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3. Do not give up - have patience, keep stirring and eventually it will melt into a beautiful golden caramel. Remove from heat.
4. At this point, go ahead and add the cream and butter, stirring 
to mix. If your caramel gets too cool to melt the butter or forms 
lumps, just pop it back on the stove and stir until smooth.  
5. Add salt and cool caramel until you're ready to use it.
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See? It wasn't really that hard!

Assembling the cake:
1. Pour a little of the caramel into the cooled crust to cover the base:
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2. Spread cheesecake mixture over the top and place in the fridge 
to set:
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3. When the cake is set, spread the reserved caramel over the top, and put back in the fridge until almost ready to serve.

4. Just prior to serving, decorate with the reserved macadamias, remove from the tin and place on a serving platter.

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Enjoy!


No one likes a dry biscuit (& I don’t mean savoury)

IMG_3148.jpgHome made biscuits.

The fun of making them, the delicious smell of them cooking, waiting for them to cool just enough so you can eat them without sustaining a nasty burn – still warm and delicious and, hopefully, moist too.

Given that uni is finished for the year and that I have access to Mum’s well equipped kitchen at the moment, I decided today was a good day for baking.

The recipe for these honey coconut biscuits is from this battered old book, which you can somehow still buy.IMG_3149

Because coconut can be quite dry, I worried about the texture of the biscuits and so I made one small modification to the recipe, a little trick Mum taught me…

Add milk.

A tiny little bit of milk, simple as that.

Because no one likes a dry biscuit – just a little milk makes all the difference to texture.

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^ also one more thing, these look like truffles before they are baked which makes me think that maybe honey coconut truffles is a concept I need to explore…