Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Esterhazy cake - January 2015 daring bakers' challenge

For the month of January Jelena from A Kingdom for a Cake invited us to start this year with a dreamy celebration cake. She challenged us to make the Esterhazy cake a.k.a the Hungarian dream. What better way to start the year than with a sweet dream?

I always like to prepare a special cake to celebrate birthdays. My 17 year old son has for several years not wanted anything fancy...icecream cake or a plain chocolate cake. However my daughter, whose birthday is in January, loves to try lots of different cakes. This was an advantage when Jelena of A Kingdom for a Cake hosted our Daring Bakers' Challenge for the month of January. The Esterhazy cake we were challenge with contains 12 eggs, 300 grams of butter and 500 grams of hazelnuts...yep, a big cake... perfect for a crowd!

Esterhazy cake is made up of 5 layers of hazelnut dacquoise filled with a rich hazelnut cream. Jelena told us the the cake was first baked in the 19th century by a confectioner from Budapest who named after Prince Paul III Anton Esterhazy de Galantha, a member of the Esterhazy dynasty and diplomat of the Austrian Empire. So there is bit of royal history behind this cake.

I made a couple of adjustments to the warm filling by adding a bit of dark chocolate and a couple of tablespoons of Frangelico. While a had a bit of trouble with the chocolate web decoration the rest of the cake was relatively simple though time consuming. I would do it all again, though! A thoroughly delicious cake, perfect for a celebration! Thanks to our host, Jelena!

I have had a lot of trouble copying the recipe from the site so I decided to just post the link and my pics.I added 150g dark chocolate and 2 tablespoons of Frangelico to the filling while it was warm but other than that I stuck to the original recipe...it's perfect!

Please find the recipe to the Esterhazy cake here.

Delicious when we got stuck into it...YUM!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dutch Sweet Bread - December 2014 daring bakers challenge

For the month of December, Andrea from 4pure took us on a trip to the Netherlands. She challenged us to take our taste buds on a joyride through the land of sugar and spice by baking three different types of Dutch sweet bread.

As this year draws to a close, I know many reevaluated the past 12 months. The past 12 months are pulled apart and put back together and New Years Resolutions are made. In the coming year we will exercise more, spend more time with loved ones, slow down, learn to say "no" and generally turn over a new leaf.

Often my resolutions are put aside sometime in the first month of the year but many years ago when my children were young I decided on a resolution that as a family we would pray before our evening meal. We would take turns each night and no matter what happened during the day we would thank God and name one thing we were grateful for that day. Today with my children in their late teens we still maintain this resolution. Learning to be grateful for each day has helped us get through some difficult times this year as my dad declined as he suffered from dementia and then passed away in April of this year. In 2015, we will be grateful for the many blessings in our lives of family, friends and love.

On a lighter note, I am also grateful the the December Daring Bakers' challenge was simple and absolutely delicious! Thank you Andrea from 4pure - this was a perfect challenge for this time of the year. My house smelt amazing, it didn't take too much time and we had something tasty for breakfast!

Happy New Year, dear friends! Blessings.

Ontbijtkoek - from The Dutch Table

1 cup rye flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each of cardamomcoriander, ginger and ground cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses (I used treacle, because that's what I had)
1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk
pinch salt

Heat the oven 150C/300F and line a loaf pan with paper.

Mix everything together to a smooth batter. 

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 80 minutes or until done.

 Cool on a wire rack and serve with a slick of butter.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Paris Brest - November Daring Bakers Challenge 2014

The November Daring Baker’s challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest, a beautiful pastry celebrating the Paris-Brest bicycle race.

This month's challenge took us to France for the Paris to Brest bicycle race....well not literally but in spirit! The traditional filling is a Crème Mousseline but I decided to give my favourite Creme Patissierie the praline twist with delicous results. Thanks to our great host, Luisa for choosing this delicous delight!

Paris Brest

Choux Pastry

3/4 cup water
60g butter
pinch salt
3/4 cup plain flour
3 eggs

In a saucepan bring to boil water, butter and salt. Once boiling and the butter is melted add, all at once, the flour. Stir until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides. Allow to cool to lukewarm and transfer into a stand mixer. With the mixer on low add one egg in at a time. Don't add the next egg in until the first one is incorporated into the mixture. Pipe mixture into rings about 6 or 7 cm in diameter. I got 12 out of the mixture

Bake in a preheated oven at 220C for 10 minutes then lower to 200C for another 10 to 15 minutes until well browned and dry. These can be baked ahead of time and store in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer. They take a minute to defrost.

Creme Patissierie

600ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or a vanilla pod, split
4 egg yolks
100 g sugar
40g plain flour
40g cornflour (cornstarch)
2 or 3 tablespoons Amaretto
250ml cream, whipped
100g praline (recipe below)

Warm 500ml of the milk with the vanilla. Mix the remaining 100ml milk with the sugar, egg yolks, flour and cornflour. Slowly add the warmed milk and whisk to combine. Strain back into the saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil whisking all the while. Once the mixture comes to the boil allow it to boil for a minute or two. Remove from heat and mix in the amaretto. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap in complete contact with the creme patissierie and allow to cool. Once cool and ready to use beat to soften then fold in the whipped cream and the praline.


1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) whole almonds
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) whole hazelnuts ( I only had ground hazelnuts)
6 tablespoons (2¾ oz) (80 gm) caster sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar (to help stop crystallization)

Place sugar, water and vinegar in a small pan. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar then bring to the boil. Boil until the water evaporates and the sugar becomes golden. Add the nuts, stir quickly and tip onto nonstick baking paper.

Press to flatten and allow to cool.

Once cool and hard break it up and blend to crush in a food processor.

Split cooled pastries in half and fill with praline creme patisserie.

Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Jamie Oliver's Chorizo and Squid

For the past year I have been taking a lot of inspiration from Jamie Oliver. My daughter gifted me his "15 minute meals" cookbook and we have been progressively trying each recipe.  Putting aside that I can't make his recipes in 15 minutes ( maybe if I had staff preparing stuff I'd manage) the recipe are fresh, innovative, delicious and reasonably fast to make. The combination of flavours and idea's have got me thinking differently about meals for the family. The recipes have a lot of blitzing in the food processor instead of chopping... I'm sure you could chop finely if you don't have a processor.

This is one that I prepared recently and was enjoyed by all plus it's healthy!
You should try it!

Chorizo & Squid with Greek-style couscous salad
(based on a recipe in Jamie's 15 minute meals)

For this recipe get beautiful fresh baby squid, gut it and clean it. Also make sure you buy the best chorizo. The recipe asks for 80g of chorizo but I put in quite a bit more as I did with the fetta...I love fetta!

6 spring onions
150g baby spinach
big bunch of fresh mint
300g couscous
1 lemon

Chorizo & Squid
400g baby squid, gutted and cleaned
 3 good quality chorizo sausages
olive oil
2 red capsicum (peppers), deseeded and sliced
1 tablespoon honey
white wine vinegar
2 clove garlic, crushed
12 black olives (stones removed)

100g fetta cheese
2 teaspoons harissa
3/4 cup Greek yoghurt 

Blitz together in the food processor cleaned and trimmed spring onions, spinach, mint and a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove the blade and tip in the couscous and 1 large cup of boiling water. Replace the lid and let it sit. Remove the tentacle of the squid, set aside. Open up the tube and score the inside in a crisscross manner.Cut into pieces. Slice chorizo and fry in a pan with olive oil. Add the capsicum and fry for about 5 minutes. Throw in the squid, toss around then add the honey,  a splash of vinegar, crushed garlic and olives. Stir until the squid is lightly cooked.

Fluff up the couscous and dress with the juice of 1/2 lemon. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Tip the couscous onto a platter and spoon over the squid mixture. Crumble the fetta over the lot. In a bowl on the side place the yoghurt with the harissa marbled through it. Cut up remaining lemon into wedges to serve on the side.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


 The October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Korena of Korena in the Kitchen. She took us to Austria and introduced us to the wonders of the Sachertorte.

This classic cake of Austria is well known to many but I had only once tried to bake it and at the time wasn't terribly impressed. However I looked forward to the version chosen by our October Daring Baker's challenge host, Korena. We were warned that this cake would be drier than what we may be used to so whipped cream is recommended. Who am I to argue? Bring on the whipped cream!

The chocolate cake is sliced in half, spread with an apricot jam glaze, sandwiched together and then smothered with more apricot glaze. The whole lot is then covered by a chocolate fudge glaze. Unfortunately, the chocolate glaze was not going to work even though I tried to make it twice scraping it off the cake twice and then resorted to chocolate ganache....delicious though not traditional.

This sachertorte with the chocolate ganache was a favorite with my family. Thanks to Korena for a great challenge.


Servings: 12-16
Cake Ingredients
¾ cup (180 gm) (4½ oz) (125 gm) good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
9 tablespoons (135 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) confectioners’ sugar (aka icing sugar or powdered sugar)
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature (see note above about egg whites)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
½ cup (120 ml) (7 oz) (100 gm) granulated sugar
1 cup (120 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour (for volume measurement, spoon gently into measuring cup and level top)
pinch fine grain salt
Apricot Glaze (see recipe below)
Chocolate Glaze (see recipe below)
Writing Chocolate (see recipe below)
1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream, cold
1. Preheat oven to moderately hot 375˚F/350°F fan/190˚C/gas mark 5 with a rack in the centre of the oven. Butter and flower the sides of a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
2. Place the bittersweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and heat over a small saucepan of barely simmering water (make sure that the bowl is not touching the simmering water) or in the microwave until just melted. Set aside to cool completely, stirring often.
3. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or electric mixer on medium speed until very light and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar on low speed, then increase to medium speed and beat again until light and creamy.
4. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
5. Add the cooled chocolate and vanilla and beat until well-mixed and very light and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl
6. In a scrupulously clean bowl using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with about one tablespoon of the granulated sugar on high speed until foamy. Gradually add in the rest of the granulated sugar and continue beating the whites until they form soft, shiny peaks - they should hold their shape but flop over on themselves.
7. Vigorously stir about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a spatula until just a few wisps of egg white remain. Do this carefully so as not to deflate the egg whites.
8. Stir together the flour and salt and sift half of it over the chocolate mixture. Fold in with a spatula until almost incorporated. Sift over the remaining flour and fold to combine completely.
 9. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared springform pan.
10. Bake in the preheated moderately hot 375˚F/350°F fan/190˚C/gas mark 5 oven for 35-45 minutes (mine took exactly 40 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. The cake will crack and dome in the middle as it bakes but will flatten out as it cools.
11. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan and remove the sides. Carefully invert the cake onto a rack and remove the bottom of the pan and parchment paper, then turn the cake right-side up onto a rack and allow to cool completely.

...In the meantime make the Apricot Glaze

Apricot Glaze

Servings: 1 quantity (about 1 cup)
1¼ cup (300 ml) (14 oz) (400 gm) apricot jam or preserves
2 tablespoons (30 ml) rum (or other liquor) or water
1. Boil the jam and rum/water in a small saucepan over medium heat.
2. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and drips slowly from the spoon, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Strain through a wire mesh sieve, pressing firmly on the solids. You should have about 1 cup of glaze. Use warm.

12. Assembly: Turn the cake upside-down so that the perfectly flat bottom of the cake is now the top. Cut the cake horizontally into 2 even layers.

13. Place 1 cake layer on the 8½-inch (22 cm) cardboard cake round and spread it generously with about half of the apricot glaze. Allow it to soak in.
14. Place the second cake layer on top and spread the top and sides with the remaining apricot glaze. Work quickly before the glaze has a chance to set and use a metal offset spatula to smooth the top. Place the cake on a rack set over a plate or baking sheet lined with waxed paper and allow the apricot glaze to set

15. Make the chocolate glaze (it must be used immediately, while still hot) and pour it over the top of the cake, first around the edge and then in the middle. Spread the excess glaze over any bare spots using a metal offset spatula. Before the glaze has a chance to set, move the cake to a serving platter.

Chocolate Glaze

Servings: 1 quantity
1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 g) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 ml) water
(4 oz) (115 gm) good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1. Place the sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
2. Attach a candy thermometer and cook, stirring, until the mixture reaches 234˚F/112°C, about 5 minutes. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use the method explained in this video.
3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate. It might thicken up quite a bit. If it does, return it to low heat and add a few drops of water if necessary to thin it out to a runny, pourable consistency. The glaze should be smooth and shiny.
4. Off the heat, stir the glaze for 30-60 seconds to cool it slightly, then immediately use it to glaze the cake.
5. Any excess glaze can be stored in a container in the fridge and added to a mug of hot milk to make hot chocolate.

My chocolate glaze covered cake...not my best baking moment so the glaze came off...

...and I tried again....double fail so....

...Chocolate ganache to the rescue and I used the writing chocolate recipe to decorate the cake

Writing Chocolate
Servings: 1 quantity
¼ cup (60 ml) (1.8 oz) (50 gm) chopped good quality chocolate
½ - 1 teaspoons vegetable oil
1. Heat the chocolate until just melted, then stir in enough vegetable oil to get a pipeable consistency. If necessary, let the chocolate mixture cool slightly to thicken so that it is not too runny.
2. Place the chocolate in a disposable piping bag or small Ziplock bag and snip off the tip to make a small hole. I recommend a practice run on waxed paper before writing on the cake.

Let the cake come to room temperature for about 1 hour before serving. Whip the cream to soft peaks (this is best done in a cold bowl with cold beaters). If desired, sweeten it with icing sugar to taste.Cut the Sachertorte into wedges with a large sharp knife dipped in hot water and wipe off the blade between cuts. Serve each wedge of cake with a large dollop of whipped cream.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Prague Kolach - September 2014 Daring Bakers' Challenge

The September Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Lucie from ChezLucie. She challenged us to make a true Czech treat –Kolaches!

When the September Daring Bakers challenge was announced I had no idea what I was making. I had never heard of "Prague Kolach" but with detailed instructions from Lucie of ChezLucie I was on my way to a "true Czech treat".

The yeast dough was the first surprise because it contained mayonaise! With the extra fat in the dough I found it was much slower to rise. In fact after the second rise and bake I really thought I had a fail. However I made the filling which was an interesting custard type filling made with vanilla pastry cream powder. Hard to find for some but in Australia we call it "custard powder" and it is very readily available and used by many. The hot custard mixture was placed into a stand mixer and stirred with the paddle on a slow speed until cold. Then butter is beaten into this mix! Wow! This resulted in a very rich delicious cream. I used the entire quantity of cream (it was quite a bit) to fill what was a very flat cake and it rose to the occassion!

Thank you Lucie. Again I have stepped out of my comfort zone!

Here is the recipe as provided by Lucie of Chez Lucie

Prague Kolach

for cake:
1¾ cups (420 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup (120 ml) (125 gm) mayonnaise (store-bought or home-made), room temperature
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz) (30 gm) granulated sugar
1 small egg, room temperature
15 gm (½ oz) fresh yeast or 1 packet (2 teaspoons) (7gm) dry active yeast
5 tablespoons (75 ml) milk, warm
½ teaspoon (3 gm) salt
for cream:
2 cups (500 ml) milk, divided
½ cup (120 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon (½ oz) (15 gm)vanilla sugar
½ cup (120 ml) (2-2/3 oz) (75 gm) vanilla pastry cream powder
1 stick (½ cup) (4 oz) (125 gm) butter, room temperature
5 tablespoons (75 ml) double cream, chilled
for streusel topping:
1/3 cup (1¾ oz) (50 gm) plain flour
¼ cup (60 ml) (1¾ oz) (50 gm) butter, chilled and diced
¼ cup (60 ml) (1¾ oz) (50 gm) caster (or granulated) sugar
½ teaspoon (2 gm) ground cinnamon
for finishing:
1 small egg, lightly beaten
In a bowl of your stand mixer, sift flour and make a hole in the middle. Crumb the yeast into the hole, add 1 teaspoon sugar and about 3 teaspoons warm milk. Mix yeast, sugar and milk with fork and lightly sprinkle the surface with flour. Cover the bowl with towel and let rise for 10-15 minutes.
Add rest ingredients (mayonnaise, sugar, milk, egg and salt) and knead with dough hook on low speed for 10 minutes, until you have smooth dough.
Add rest ingredients (mayonnaise, sugar, milk, egg and salt) and knead with dough hook on low speed for 10 minutes, until you have smooth dough.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cover with towel or clingfilm and let rise for about an hour to double its volume.

Form the dough into a ball and place it onto the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With your palms and fingers press the dough and shape it to disc about 20–25 cm (8-10 inch) in diameter and 2–3 cm (¾-1 inch)thick. Let rise for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile preheat your oven to moderate 320°F/160°C/gas mark 3 and make streusel topping. In a medium bowl, mix together sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add cold butter and with your fingers, mix all ingredients until crumbly.
Brush the cake with eggwash and sprinkle with generous amount of streusel topping.
Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack.
Prepare the cream.
In a small bowl, mix well ½ cup (125ml) milk with the vanilla pastry cream powder. Set aside. In a saucepan, mix the rest of the milk 1½ cup (375ml) with the sugar and vanilla sugar and bring it to boil, stir occasionally. Add the milk-pasty cream powder mixture and boil for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Transfer the mixture into a bowl of your standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment and let cool completely, while stirring constantly on a low speed. Add diced butter and mix together.
Separately whip the double cream until stiff. Mix with vanilla cream.
Cut cooled cake lengthwise and spread the cream onto the bottom part. Cover with upper part. Cut into 8 to 10 pieces.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Tribute to my Dad and a Simple Soup for my Dad on Father's Day.

In 1952 a young man from Fiorenzuola D'Arda near Piacenza in Italy embarked on a journey that would take him halfway across the world to a land very unlike his own with a different language and different customs. Like many courageous immigrants fleeing war ravaged Italy this would become his home and a home he came to love.
He came to work on the famed Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme in New South Wales, Australia. Here he would learn the language and assimilate as best as he could. But in the Snowy's he did not stay, the lure of the sugar cane fields took him north to Ingham in Queensland where he worked hard alongside his fellow countrymen all keen to make a "few dollars" in the "lucky country".
By 1961 he returned to Italy to marry his sweetheart and bring his bride back to Australia.

 Within a year they lost their first born child, a girl, three days after her premature birth. His new bride was homesick but determined. Together they worked side by side to build a secure life for their future family. Soon they welcomed a second daughter...

...and then another.


The couple made many friends and lots of good times were had...beach picnics, swimming and parties always with lots of laughter.

Fifteen years into their marriage his beloved wife tragically suffered a fatal heart attack. He was a lost and broken man. Life was never quite the same again. He found himself dad and "mum" to his young daughters who were only 9 and 13 years of age... a very difficult task. And even though he later remarried there were always three in that marriage. He never stopped loving his first beloved wife.
In time, his daughters married. First one...
 ...then the other.
And his great joy arrived... grandchildren.
"The best word is Nonno" he would often say.
The grandchildren grew and he aged.
Soon it became apparent the unforgiving disease of dementia was taking it's toll.
This was my Dad.
Dad lost his battle this year on 29th April when he slipped away surrounded by his family.
Dad had a difficult life. Born in the depression, growing up in Italy in WW1. I'm sure he was often scared and hungry as a child but he never talked about this seriously. He always made light of his childhood. Maybe, he thought, if he told his story it would all be too real.
Dad taught me so much. To appreciate everything you have. He always said he never regretted anything in his life except losing our mum.
After mum passed away, Dad's cooking abilities gradually surfaced. He had learned alongside his mother.
The staple in our house and in Dad's repertoire was his "brodo" or broth. Made fresh several times per week taking all morning to simmer on the stove and then used as a light soup with a little pasta and parmesan cheese but also the essential ingredient in his more substantial soups, risotto, pasta sauce and his casseroles of varying types.
When I married and had my own kitchen I too made the "brodo" regularly until I decided I was way to modern for this palava and purchased stock or even stock cubes were way superior! How silly. It is only recently that I have reintroduced the brodo to my household but in a slightly modified version which works in my busy life. Using the slow cooker, I prepare the ingredient in the slow cooker as I clean up after our night meal and the broth will cook slowly all night.
I think Dad would be proud... well, once he tasted it!

My Chicken Broth (idea originally from Smitten Kitchen)
1.5 kg chicken wings
3 litres water
1 onion, cut in half
1 carrot, cut into large pieces
a bunch of celery tops and a stalk or two
1 garlic clove, smashed
a few peppercorns
a bayleaf
3 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Place all the ingredients into a slow cooker. Turn onto low and cook for 12 hours.
Just look at this golden goodness.

Even perfect with just a little good parmesan cheese.

This will make 3 litres because no liquid is lost using the slow cooker. It can be simmer very, very slowly on the stove for 4 or 5 hours but you may need to replace some water. Use this wonderful broth as my father would have...in risotto, casseroles, pasta sauces and soups or just as a flavourful broth. Freeze it and have great broth always on hand. It really is the secret to great cooking.

This is our first Father's Day without Dad
This Father's Day remember to tell your Dad that you love him and appreciate him. We often don't know what we have until it's gone.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. xxx
We miss you but we know you are with the one you love.
Thank you for all you have shown us.