A grand total of three summery Christmas desserts

I think we exceeded all expectation this year… not only did we have THREE desserts on Christmas day, they were all totally gorgeous!

trifle, mousse, pavlova

 

First up was a Summery Berry Trifle: made with layers of homemade Lemon Sponge, homemade custard flavored with brandy, orange and cinnamon, and plenty of berries sloshing around in Cointreau.

trifle, berries

 

Next were the individual chocolate mousse: two separate layers of mousse, the first flavored with Frangelico (the hazelnut liqueur), the second flavored with espresso coffee.

chocolate mousse

 

 

And last, but not least, the quintessential New Zealand dessert, the Pavlova! I’m not really a fan myself, but with so many egg whites left over from making the custard it seemed like the logical choice… and a popular one too.

pavlova

 

 

What did you enjoy eating most on Christmas Day at your place?

Christmas peppermint brownie

I wanted to try baking something a little festive today, and had seen some really lovely pictures on Pinterest of Peppermint Brownie. So after a bit of searching, I came across this lovely recipe from The Galley Gourmet that had three layers: the brownie (flavoured with peppermint), as well as the white peppermint icing, AND the chocolate peppermint topping decorated with crushed candy canes. Some recipes I saw left out the white peppermint icing – but what’s the point?! You might as well go all out if you’re going to bother.

Peppermint brownie
It turned out pretty well. It’s nice and easy to slice, and the soft fudgy texture of the brownie combined with the crunchy chocolate topping is totally delicious. It would be great for children’s Christmas parties, or any one’s party for that matter!

That awkward moment when someone asks you for your recipe…

Today a friend asked me outright for my recipe for chocolate brownies. No big deal, right?

WRONG!!

That awkward moment when...
You want my WHAT???

I can’t help but feel a little protective of my recipes. Afterall, I’ve put in the hard yards, making them time after time, tweaking them ever so slightly with each baking to eventually reach near total perfection. So of course I’m going to be a little resentful if you want to come along and claim all my hard work as your own.

Does that sound mean? Spiteful even? Or worse… petty! Whatever happened to the collaborative community approach to baking… where everyone willingly swaps and shares recipes for the greater good of bakers everywhere. Oh HANG ON – maybe that’s what the sticking point is. I was asked for a recipe, but I wasn’t given one in return. If I was receiving some real gem of a recipe I wouldn’t feel quite so bad about giving up my own baking intellectual property for you pass off as your own.

So, now I’m really interested to know – do you share recipes willingly, or keep them just for yourself? Are you one of those audacious people that ask others for THEIR own recipes? If so, do people give those precious recipes to you, or do you think they give you a slightly different version (not the carefully tweaked one that took years to perfect) so when you make it, it just isn’t quite the same? Now, that really would be petty!

 

My dream Coffee Walnut Slice perfection

I went to a very cute little cafe/delicatessen the other day and had a big piece of Coffee Walnut slice. It was really good… but, as is often the case when I eat out, I get to thinking…

‘I’d like mine with more [insert ingredient]’… or

‘If they hadn’t baked it so long it would be better’… or

‘If it had more base and less icing it would be SO much better!’

Anyway, you get what I mean right? Sometimes, as nice as something is, you just know it would be even nicer if you could make it to your exact taste.

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So today, that’s what I did.

I don’t like a ‘dry’ base – I like it slightly sticky, gooey even. And I like a good thick base, with a little bit of icing – but the icing has to pack a real coffee punch. And I like lots of walnuts… preferable fresh walnuts, not the rancid moldy old things you buy in a pack (thankfully I bought some fresh walnuts at the market last weekend, so I was able to be picky!).

My dream Coffee Walnut Slice

For the base:

400gm plain sweet biscuits (crushed so you have a mix of crumbs and chunks)
180gm butter
1 tin sweetened condensed milk (around 375ml)
100ml boiling water
3 heaped tsp coffee powder (or as much or as little as you like)

Gently melt the butter and condensed milk. Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water then add to the butter mixture, and combine. In a large bowl add the crushed biscuits, then pour in the coffee mixture. Gently fold through till all the biscuit is coated, then press into a tin lined with baking paper (my tin was 20cm by 25cm but anything around that size will do). Put in the fridge to chill completely.

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For the icing:

50gm softened butter
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp boiling water
2 tsp coffee powder (or as much or as little as you like)

Dissolve the coffee in the hot water. Beat the softened butter and icing sugar together. Add a little of the coffee at a time until you get a nice smooth spreading consistency, and a light brown colour.

Spread the top of the cold slice with icing, and sprinkle with chopped walnuts then refrigerate again to set the icing. Once it’s all cool, take the slice out and cut it into generous pieces.

Enjoy with a cup of tea (is that weird…? – or coffee!).

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A Sour Cream Coffee Cake (or the cake with two tops)

My first outing with my brand new cookbook Homemade Decadence by Joy the Baker was her delicious sounding Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Brown Butter Glaze. It was a total success flavour-wise – so delicious (you should have seen the size of the slices I was cutting!)… but technically, I totally stuffed up.

Reading recipes all the way through BEFORE beginning to bake has never been a strength of mine. No, far from it. I would say it is a kitchen skill there is some serious room for improvement on!

Normally I am so keen to get on with the fun part – eating the creamed butter, eating the creamed butter with raw egg in it, eating the batter, eating the frosting, eating the finished product – that I tend to hurry the boring stuff, like reading the recipe, ensuring I have the correct ingredients, and ensuring I have the right tin and have properly lined/greased it.

So this time, instead of reading the part where the recipe says ‘sprinkle the streusel on top and loosely swirl it into the batter’ before baking it, I just sprinkled it on top… that’s right, absolutely NO swirling occurred!

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The first time I realised something had gone terribly, horribly wrong, was when I went to turn the cake out of the tin after baking it. See the right hand photo above – the lovely looking cake in the tin, covered in delicious, crunchy, nutty, cinnamon-y streusel? Well, now imagine trying to get that baby out without all that delicious streusel falling right off… yes, MAJOR issue!

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But – there is a happy ending to this tale of woe. I managed to prise the cake out eventually, not too much of the streusel was lost, AND miracle of miracles, once I had topped the bottom of the cake with glaze (added glaze to the bottom of the cake which was now on the top), I had a cake with TWO tops! I know – how amazing is that… because, as we all know, the top of the cake is far superior in taste, texture and all round cake-y amazingness, so to have not one top but two…?

That’s a win!

Mini banana cinnamon bread

I’m always on the look out for delicious ways to use up the bananas that turn brown and manky in my fruit bowl. They sit on the bench in my kitchen just begging to be made into something, rather than being given to our chickens (or stuck in the freezer to be given to our chickens much, much later on!).

I came across a rather nice looking banana bread recipe in Donna Hay’s ‘Modern Classics 2′ book, which I’ve had for a very long time. It’s full of pretty reliable and easy recipes, so I thought I’d give it a go – but since I’m also always thinking about ways to fill up my girls’ lunchboxes, I decided to go mini.

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Mini banana breads ready for baking

Donna Hay’s Banana Cinnamon Bread (minified)

140g softened butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup ground nut meal (I used almond, Donna uses hazelnut)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I love lots, so I doubled her rather measly amount)
1 large banana or 2 small, sliced
Sugar for sprinkling (I used muscavado, Donna uses demerara)

Preheat oven to 180c. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add egg and beat well. Add the flour, baking powder, nut meal, buttermilk and cinnamon, and fold through until smooth. (Here I added mashed banana – Donna doesn’t, but I wanted my bread to be extra banana-y – and I had multiple bananas to use up!)

Grease a loaf tin, or use a 12-cup muffin tray if you want the mini versions. Brush the top with butter, arrange your sliced banana so it looks aesthetically pleasing to you, and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 35 mins (for the big version) or 15 mins (for the mini versions) and remove from the oven when golden and lightly springy. When I took mine out they weren’t quite as golden as I wanted (although the cake was cooked) so I stuck them under the grill for a couple of minutes… just to get that slightly burnt, caramelised sugar look!

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A golden brown, caramelised top – thanks to a minute or two under the grill!

I’m happy to say they turned out nicely. The sugary banana on top was particularly good, but the nuts and banana in the ‘bread’ were good too… I would just mention however, that calling them ‘bread’ is a little misleading – to me they were more cake-like than bready. I put a few remaining ones in the freezer, and they did go a bit soggy and weird on defrosting, so maybe this is an ‘eat when fresh’ kind of recipe.

Tiramisu cupcake delights

These are delightful little mouthfuls of coffee deliciousness!

I made a basic vanilla cupcake – my ‘go to’ Hummingbird Bakery recipe, a bowl of Espresso Cream Cheese frosting, and a bowl of Espresso and Kahlua syrup.

All elements assembled and ready to go
All elements assembled and ready to go

Then once they were perfectly baked, I cut out a little bit of the middle.

Hole-y mole-y - cupcake centres ready to fill
Hole-y mole-y – cupcake centres ready to fill

Then I added a scoop of Espresso Cream Cheese frosting, and dipped the cut-out middle in the Espresso and Kahlua syrup.

imageimageThen I squished it back in the hole so it was nice and snug (I’m not sure why, but that part of the process is particularly satisfying… somebody call Dr Freud!) then cover it all back up with more Espresso Cream Cheese frosting.

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12 pieces of cupcake perfection waiting for their final touch – a light dusting of good quality cocoa, and a couple of coffee beans. Who can resist that?!

imageThough now I’ve seen REVAMERATE’s beautiful looking Espresso Frosting with pretty little speck’s of coffee bean in it, I think I’ll try that next time….