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Showing posts from 2011

Whole Roasted Turkey

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My friend told me today that she's never roasted a turkey, and was disbelieving when I said it was dead easy. It really is, so I thought I'd tell you how.

Choose your turkey. In Australia we like turkey buffet, which as a massive breast with the wings removed. A whole turkey is just as good.

Defrost the turkey 48 hours before you want to cook it. Place it in a baking dish or tray and leave it on the sink. If it's a typical hot Australian Christmas, you should defrost the turkey in the fridge, starting a day earlier.

When it's turkey time, rinse the turkey in the sink under cold running water. Rinse it inside and out - this is really important. Pull out any gibblets inside the bird (if there are any) first. My cat used to eat those. I just chuck them in the bin.

Inspect your bird and cut off any oogie bits. Oogie bits are any bits you find gross. Stuff the cavity with the stuffing of your choice and seal the cavity with the heal of the bread you used to make …

Christmas in a day

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Some months ago my husband and I decided we would head overseas for Christmas this year. It's been a long, arduous year, and even back in September, we felt a good break was well deserved.

Of course, as December 25 has gotten closer, I have been suffering from Christmas cooking withdrawals. And because I cooked my Christmas cakes in October instead of in the last few days before Christmas, it felt even worse! So last weekend I decided we must have a turkey dinner on the last Sunday before we go away.

We've invited good friends to dinner tonight, and since I've gotten started early, I have decided to churn out a bunch of Christmas treats to go along with the dinner.

I've taken a few old favourites and I've revamped them in a Christmas theme. Take these chocolate cupcakes - I had them left over from a cake job the other week. I've topped them with my usual chocolate butter cream, but I've decorated them to make them look like little chocolate puddings.

The…

The Gold Cake

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Some months ago I was sent a photo of an amazing three tiered gold cake. I was so enthralled by it fantastic whimsey that I immediately began looking for an opportunity to have a go at making such a cake.

After a great deal of thought, I determined the gold colour had to be sprayed on. So I bought myself a few cans of PME gold lustre spray - which was significantly more yellowey than the original picture, but excellent none the less.

I baked three vanilla butter cakes - 11 inch, 8 inc and 5 inch. I coated each in white chocolate ganache, and then applied crispy white icing with a few different textures.

My husband and I had a very frustrating time cutting the dowels for the bottom and middle layers - I cut them too short and he did half of them too long. But we thought we got it right in the end.

This morning when I assembled the cake, I found th dowels could have been a little lower. And because of the icing on this cake, I could not cover my mistake with ribbons or piping. f…

Pineapple & Ginger Christmas cake

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It is only a few short years since I truly mastered my Queen Anne Fruit Cake recipe. As good as this cake is (and it is exceptionally good), I have found I have friends who enjoy a different set of flavours at Christmas. So I amended my fruit cake recipe to turn it into something a little different. I took out the cherries, because lots of people don’t like them, and I replaced them with glace pineapple and ginger. Last year was the second time I baked this combo and the feedback from friends I gave it two was that it was a taste sensation. So I thought I’d share the recipe with you and see if you like.

Ingredients
250g each of currants, sultanas and raisins
90g each of dates and pitted prunes
60g of mixed peel
60g glace pineapple
100g glace ginger (do not use crystalised ginger)
100g whole blanched almonds
2 tblsp each of rum, brandy and sherry
5 eggs
250g butter
250g brown sugar
300g plain flour
1tsp each of ground ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice
1 tblsp pineapple jam
1 tsp va…

Ricotta Cheesecake

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When I was a kid my parents attended many a party hosted by members of the Apex Club. This was an exclusive club for men under the age of forty, and where we lived, there were loads of young dads in the club. The rules for these parties were simple: blokes bring the booze, ladies bring a "plate" and kids run amok until you pass out with exhaustion.

There would be tressle tables, sometimes in marquees, or maybe set up in the garage, covered with all sorts of culinary delights like cabanossi and cubes of cheese, pickled cocktail onions on tooth picks, slices of devon wrapped around mashed potato, and of course plenty of potato chips and a new concept in catering for a crowd - dip.

I remember the Apex party we went to on new year's eve, 1976, very clearly because I was sitting on my mum's lap at midnight. "There goes 1976!" she said, pointing to the night sky. I started crying because I didn't want the year to go. I don't think Mum expected th…

BIG cake update II

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Well this year I didn't shout it to the world, I suspect because I felt there were many flaws in my work that I couldn't come to terms with. But I keep going back and looking at the cake we created this year for my son's second birthday. And the more I look at it, the more I like it.

We rented the "2" shaped tin from a local cake decorating shop. We made the butter cake a week in advance and put it in the freezer. It needed to sit on a board until it was frozen because the neck of the two was so fragile. It was heaps of fun cutting the cake through the middle to fill it with white chocolate ganache, but worth it as it looked a picture when it was sliced.

My husband appointed himself maker of the racing cars - which was just as well as he did a brilliant job of it. I used my texture mat for fondant for the first time, and had to have two goes to get the imprint right. Note to anybody using a texture mat, use firm pressure when you roll, and only roll once…

Poached Eggs

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When my husband arrived in my life, I was surprised to find how much he loved poached eggs. We would go out for breakfast and he’d order Eggs Benedict with beautiful poached eggs enveloped in delicious hollandaise sauce.

At the time I was travelling a lot with work. One morning I found myself dining in a hotel that had the chef standing in the dining room at a table ready to cook eggs for me on the spot, exactly how I liked them. I noticed he had a pot of water gently simmering over a hot plate – clearly for poaching eggs. I asked him if he could show me how it’s done.

The chef told me the first and most important tip was to have very fresh eggs. He said eggs more than three days old just weren’t good enough for the job. Second, he said you needed to add a goodly amount of vinegar to the water. And finally, he said you needed to simmer the water just so. No rolling boil!

I went home a tried to cook poached eggs for my husband. The farm fresh eggs were not available at my supe…

Pony cakes still looking good!

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It's been over a year now since I wrote, designed and photographed the cupcakes for the My Little Pony Cute Cupcake Recipe Book. To my delight, the initial distribution for that book has gone much wider than originally anticipated, with copies available in many mass market retailers across Australia and New Zealand.

Last month I donated a My Little Pony Party Pack to my office's annual Pink Ribbon Day Raffle. The pack included a copy of the book, MLP plates, MLP serviettes, and a certificate for 24 MLP cupcakes. This week I had the pleasure of baking and delivering the cupcakes to the winner of the prize. She was invited to choose three of the cupcakes in the book. Her selection was Love (red velvet), Friendship (banana) and Sweetie Belle (vanilla).

I was delighted to find that the recipes hold up to everything that was published. In the book I stated each batch of cupcake batter would make 12 cupcakes. In fact, I got 15 out of each. I had no trouble finding all the de…

Mexican Wedding Biscuits

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When the Spanish explorers found the Americas they also found many different new foods that, when brought back to Europe, revolutionised the way food was being cooked. Tomatoes, corn and avocados are just some of the foods brought back from the New World to Europe.

At the same time some European recipes have found their way to the New World. The recipe for these nutty shortbread cookies has arabic origins which passed into culinary tradition in Europe, thanks to the Moors. The recipe was then adapted in Mexico to include pecan nuts, which are native to the Americas. Pecans grow on trees and are acorn-shaped. They have a similar taste to walnuts, and in fact the name they were originally given by the Spanish – nogales – translates as “walnut tree”. These delicious cookies are saved for special occasions, like weddings or even Christmas.

Ingredients
250g butter, softened
½ cup caster sugar
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 tsps water
2 cups plain flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
½ cup pure…

Sofritto

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When I was 12 years old both my parents were workers. My sister and I would arrive home from high school, and we would have three or four hours alone in the house before Mum and Dad arrived home. My parents weren't the kind of people to wait on their kids hand and foot. Instead, there were jobs to do, and woe be tide the child who did not do them. There were three key jobs - washing up the breakfast dishes in the afternoon, cooking the dinner and drying up the dishes after dinner.

My sister and I would take turns week on week for each job (although I must say I got out of drying up the dinner dishes for as much of my teenage years as I possibly could). We worked it so that we cooked the dinner for a week one week, and swapped to do the breakfast dishes the following week. This provision of dinner for my family from the tender of 12 is where I really learned my chops as a cook. And there is one meal I cooked every week without fail - spaghetti bolonese.

In the 1980s we had t…

French crepes

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When my husband and I were in France in 2007, we found a hole in the wall vendor selling crepes in Montparnasse. I think she was there as part of the Night of Music Festival, where people come out on the streets all over Paris to listen to music, sing, dance, and eat a lot of food. This particular creperie was part of a pub. A girl with Suzi Quatro hair was stationed inside a little booth with a big black flat griddle, a jug of crepe batter, a wooden trowel and a bunch of fillings. We stepped up to the window and ordered: “un crepe avec jambon, fromage et champignons”. And she set to work. When the job was done, the girl used a giant spatula to fold the crepe into quarters, slip it into a little paper cone and hand it over. And let me tell you, that crepe was goooooood!

I have finally perfected my own crepe recipe. Lately I’ve become a little obsessed with crepes. When you try this recipe, you’ll understand why.

Ingredients
1 cup plain flour
1 large egg
375ml full cream milk.

Lemon shortbread

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I have been working with a recipe over the past weeks for the new book I'm writing. While its origin is Mexican, the biscuit it produces is so familiar to so many people from other cultures, I feel like I've stumbled on a universal biscuit base that could be converted to suit many purposes. Flush with a full stock of lemons, thanks to Janet at work, today I thought I would turn my recipe into Lemon Shortbread - a very easy variation on the original recipe and certainly, a very delicious one. I hope you agree!


Ingredients
250g salt reduced butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp water
1 tblsp lemon zest
1/2 cup flaked almonds
1/2 cup ground almonds
2 cups plain flour

1. Combine the butter, sugar, lemon juice, water and lemon zest in the bowl of your Kitchenaid (I'm not going to pretend anybody owns any other mixer, okay?). Beat on sixth gear until the butter is pale and creamy.
2. Add the almonds and plain and mix on first gear until the ingredients are just co…

Lemon curd

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I have talked before about my desire to have an eternally fruiting lemon tree in my backyard. I do have a lemon tree, which I was given as a wedding present (well, my husband was given it too), but it spends most of the year ripening just one or two lemons. But Janet, at work - her lemon tree is a different story! She brought in two massive bags this week filled with gorgeous, ripe, almost orange lemons, and invited everyone to take as many as they wanted. I was lucky enough to score eight lemons. And I told everyone who took lemons too that if they wanted, they could give me their lemons and a jar and I would turn them into lemon curd.

It's been some years since I made lemon curd, so today I thought I better turn the lemons I took into lemon curd so I can be sure I can fulfil my promise!

Ingredients
140g butter
1 cup caster sugar
3 large eggs
200ml lemon juice
1 tblsp lemon zest

1. Melt the butter in the top of a double boiler. You can use one small saucepan sitting in a larg…

These recipes are triple tested

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At the weekend I was using a recipe I found on a blog to cook Karelian Pasties, a popular treat from Finland. It had multiple elements to be cooked, and two out of the three had problems with the actual recipe. Instead of having fun cooking something delicious I found myself correcting problems with the recipe at every turn.

I would like to assure you that the recipes I post on this blog have been cooked over and over again in my home kitchen. Some of the recipes have been made for my family and friends for over 20 years. If you find a problem with any of my recipes, please let me know. My aim is to ensure every Kitchen Alchemy recipe you cook is not only fun to make, but delicious to eat.

Lingon Berry Bread

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I was at Ikea on the weekend, scouring the shelves of their food section to look for ideas for Scandanavian food. I was surprised to find a pre-mix pack for Lingon Berry Bread, and it was so cheap, I thought I’d buy it and give it a go.

The mix itself was quite dark and very heavy on rye. It was quite bitter to the taste and I expected the bread would come out quite bitter as a result. Having worked in a bakery as a teenager, I know how much hard work is required to produce a really good loaf of bread. I’ve taken to using my Kitchenaid with the dough hook attachment to do a lot of the work dough requires to develop the glutens and made it taste great. After ten minutes of working the dough I sat it next to the heater and let it rise for half an hour.


I could hardly wait to get to the next stage, which is where you punch down the dough to knock out the air it's acquired is it rises. Then I divided the dough into two and formed the pieces into loaves by kneading it in a rolli…

Chocolate Caramel Slice

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I As part of my review of seventies recipes, I've checked a great Aussie favourite - chocolate caramel slice - a bit of a revamp. Chocolate Caramel Slice entered the scene in the seventies when The Australian Women's Weekly first published its recipe cards. But since then some things have changed. The size of the tin condensed milk comes in, for one. And slice tins seem to have changed too. These days the brownie tin is easier to find than a traditional old slice tin. Although in the original CCS recipe, they do call for the slice to be assembled in a lamington tin!

I've made some revisions of Chocolate Caramel Slice, and I have to say I'm pretty happy with the result. One important note: the quality of your slice hinges on your choice of chocolate for the top. If you choose a cheap chocolate, you'll get a very ordinary result. Try and choose cooking couveture that has at 70% cocoa content - your slice will be so much better for it.

Ingredients
1 cup self r…

More ways to end hunger

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I have been watching the news unfold about the humanitarian crisis in Somalia and have been horrified at how desperate the situation is, not only in Africa, but in other places in the world too. While I am at home in my kitchen, dreaming up culinary creations, there are people in the world who have never seen the inside of a supermarket. Yet i can go to one any time I like, buy any food I like, and eat as much of it as I like.

This seems incredibly wrong to me. I am so grateful for the privilege of being born in Australia, where food is abundant and where I will never experience the anguish of famine. But I am also aware that because I'm privileged, it's my responsibility to make a difference to those who are not.

So I've registered for the 40 Hour Famine - a World Vision initiative that has been going on since I was a little girl. On August 19 I will stop eating food for 40 hours in an effort to raise money for people starving across the world. This year the 40 Hour…

The question of colour

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There have been a couple of occassions now where we have made colourful cupcakes for kids functions and found that parents just won't let their kids eat our product!

The first time was at a Baby Bazaar back in 2008. We were invited to set up a stall amongst mothers who were selling buckets loads of clothes and toys their kids had grown out of. The idea was to promote our product in the hope of landing private orders. We made brightly coloured cupcakes to attrack the kids, but when it came time to purchase, the parents inevitably chose plain vanilla.

It happened again a couple of weeks back when we made cupcakes to donate to our son's daycare fundraiser. The cupcakes pictured looked like a technicolour dream next to most other things on the table. But again, the parents were avoiding them in favour of the plain brown offerings.

I have to admit, when I give my son a cupcake I pick the icing off and just let him have the cake. But this isn't because of the colour - it…

Big cake update

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We've have the great pleasure lately to produce some big cakes for customers that have pushed our skills to new limits, and I wanted to share them with you because they're just so delicious to look at!

The first was a Dora cake for a little girl turning three. Inside was a vanilla buttercake layered with white chocolate ganache. We spent quite a lot of time working up the colour density in the fondant to give this cake the vibrant theme that Dora is famous for. We thought it was all about the colours! But when our young customer laid eyes on it, the first thing she said was "Where's the monkey?". Turns out Dora doesn't go anywhere without Boots the monkey! Next time we'll have to work out how to incorporate him into the cake.


Last weekend we made a cake for a new t-shirt company called Yellow & Co. Yellow's philosophy is quite simple - different colours represent different frequencies and you choose your colours based on the frequency you w…

Marshmallow Sherbet Cones

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I have always been a big fan of sherbet in the many forms it comes in. As a kid, I loved those sherbet cones you bought from the corner store – semi solidified sherbet in a stale cone, with chewy marshmallow on the top, coated in hundreds and thousands. I also loved Wiz Fizz – fruity sherbet in a glassine bag with a little plastic shovel. I’d most often buy these on the way home from the pool, because they were only five cents. Unfortunately, my hands were usually still wet from the pool, turning the bag to a sloppy mess before I could eat its entire contents.

For my 10th birthday my mum decided to include homemade sherbet cones on the menu. Thanks to The Australian Women’s Weekly recipe cards, we had the recipe for sherbet and marshmallow, albeit, on different cards. My clever mum bought flat bottomed square cones, half filled them with sherbet and then topped them with pink or green marshmallow. Of course each had a liberal sprinkling of hundreds and thousands.

In my explorat…

Ancient recipes, modern ingredients

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When I was a kid there was a culinary revolution in our house that was triggered by the release of The Australian Women's Weekly recipe cards. Every week for something like 26 weeks a new set of cards was released and my mum snapped them up and began using them. I relied heavily on those cards when I was learning to cook, and I was delighted a few years ago when my mum found an entire set for me in a garage sale.

Last month I decided to have a go at making the now famous Caramel Chocolate Slice, which can be found in most cafes in Australia. The recipe cards are now around 35 years old, so I shouldn't have been surprised to find that the recipe needed some adjusting.

Firstly, the old slice tin has been replaced by a brownie tin. It's roughly the same dimensions, but it's deeper. So while the biscuit base fitted perfectly, there was scant caramel to cover it. When I checked the tin of condensed milk, I found it is now 390g, whereas it used to be 440g. You wouldn…

Bean Nachos

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In the late eighties I discovered a café in Sydney called Dean’s. Dean’s was (and still is) located in Kellett Street, Kings Cross. It was a small, somewhat dingy café with retro memorabilia hanging off the walls and old fifties tables and chairs with rattan chaise longues for furniture.

Dean’s was one of the few vegetarian restaurants in the Cross at the time. Not that I cared too much – but their menu was faithful. It included vegetarian lasagne, baba ganoush, vegetarian pate, and the piece de resistance, bean nachos.

Because Dean’s was open until impossibly late on weekends, we’d frequently head there after a night our clubbing or as the obligatory dawn end to a dance party. Our menu choice: the monster nachos. We’d get one, share it, and woe be tide anyone who was tardy into getting to Dean’s. There was never any left for them!

We made friends with the people who ran Dean’s and eventually some of us even got jobs there. I asked what the secret of the beans on the nachos …

Helping others with their hunger

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On this blog I talk about food and eating as if everyone in the world can get a meal of anything they want, any time they want. But for some people in the world that simply isn't the case. Millions of people on our planet struggle to get to have a single meal a day. So my husband and I decided to do something about it.

My husband is a brilliant illustrator, whose work appears at Brandi. He's donated one of his illustrations, printed on canvas, to The Hunger Project's silent auction, which takes place in Pert this weekend. But thanks to the web, anyone can bid on his artwork no matter where they are in the world. if you'd like to own this piece of art, just bid using the absentee bid button. Follow the link here: Brandi art auction.

We also sponsored another artist, photographer Tess Peni, to donate an artwork for the auction. It's a beautiful photo of carp printed on canvas. You can check it out here: Carp by Tess Peni.

Every dollar raised in this auction …

Pastry

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How many of us feel hamstrung when it comes to producing something that involves pastry? I have to say as I've gotten older and more experienced in the kitchen, my pastry skills seem to have diminished. To the point where I've basically given up and just buy frozen ready-rolled pastry.

But when I saw Maggie Beer demonstrate her approach to pastry last Friday night, I felt I could give it another go. It's worth noting that I don't have a food processor. It's the one thing in my kitchen that is missing - mainly because I have no where to put one. And to be honest, in the past I've been let down by food processors. But that's a story for another post! This recipe is made using my trusty Kitchen Aid.

Ingredients
250g plain flour
200g salt-reduced butter
5-6 tblsp milk

1. Place the flour and chopped butter in the bowl of your Kitchen Aid. Using the dough hook attachment, begin mixing the flour and butter together until it resembles lumpy bread crumbs. …

Chocolate Bronwies

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Brownies are not an Australian phenomenon. They come to us via the good ole' US of A, and we can all thank the Baker for that! The only thing in Australian baking that comes close to a brownie is the humble chocolate coconut slice, which is a bit more like a flat biscuit and is covered in icing and sprinkled with coconut. A chocolate brownie is a whole other proposition - the best ones, in my opinion, are intensely chocolate and extremely moist. In January this year I published a recipe for Black & White Brownies. I was happy with the chocolate component, but when I cooked it on its own for my in-laws a couple of weeks later I found it was a bit on the thin side, and slightly cakey. Since then I've been thinking about how to perfect this brownie and I am pleased to say I have finally gotten it to a point when I think I've aced myself! Try it out and let me know if you agree!

Ingredients
400g high quality dark cooking chocolate (I use Callebaut)
375g salt reduced b…

My Little Pony cute Cupcake Book

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I am thrilled to announce I have finally published a book! It's not the long awaited Kitchen Alchemy book - it's something entirely different. I was very fortunate last year to be asked to design 12 cupcakes for the My Little Pony Cute Cupcake Book. My Little Pony is a world-wide phenomenon. The seven core ponies, Rainbow Dash, Toola Roola, Cheerilee, Pinkie Pie, Scootaloo, Star Song and Sweetie Belle have been creating fun and joy for little girls aged three to seven for over 25 years. So you can imagine I jumped at the chance to work with Hasbro and The Five Mile Press on this unique project. This month the My Little Pony Cute Cupcake Book is released in Australia through Scholastic Books. It features recipes and detailed decoration instructions for seven cupcakes based on the ponie, plus five extra cupcakes representing the world the ponies love to live in. It also comes with stickers and party invitation. I'm so excited to have been involved with the creation …

Easter Bird’s Nests with Vanilla Cupcakes

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When I was a little girl I absolutely loved the idea of the Easter Bunny. On Easter Saturday night I would go to sleep knowing when I woke on Sunday morning, there would be a swathe of chocolate eggs wrapped in shiny coloured foil waiting for me beside my bed – my very own sugar treasure trove to consume as I pleased, all delivered by a mysterious chocolate-making rabbit. I wouldn’t have been more than eight or nine years old when my sister decided to reveal to me the true identity of the Easter Bunny. She explained that our mum would wait until we were asleep, then sneak in and place the eggs beside our beds. I could not believe this was true so I hatched a plan to wait and see who exactly brought me my Easter eggs. It wasn’t easy staying awake – after all, I was just a little kid and I led a busy life! By bedtime I was normally exhausted! But I didn’t have to wait long until a shadowy figure appeared in the doorway and then snuck into my room. I remember it well, because I w…

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Now that I have a little boy, I find myself more and more preoccupied with thoughts of home made foods I can make him to eat. It’s so easy as a parent to just buy stuff and feed it to your kid. But when I think about my childhood and the foods I lived off, I mostly remember foods made by my mother for my sister and I. Yes we were bought packet biscuits – my favourites were Tim Tams and Rocky Rounds. But they were expensive “special occasion” biscuits and we weren’t treated to them often. If I wanted them, I usually had to trade crackers with butter and vegemite for my school friend’s chocolate biscuits (she had them all the time). But nothing made me happier than to open my lunch box and find a cupcake or a couple of biscuits, baked by my mum. Her specialty in the biscuit department was a coconut cookie that she topped with either pink or green sugar. She actually coloured the sugar herself. These days I buy kilos of coloured sugar at a time for cupcake purposes – it’s lazy, …

Mini Pavlova

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When I was little my mother always included a pavlova as part of our Christmas fair. She loved Christmas pudding with brandy custard, but it just wasn't the kind of thing that kids enjoyed. So she would always make a pavlova for my sister and I - of course she and Dad ate the pav as well as the pudding.

That pavlova has legendary status in my mind. I remember watching Mum mixing the merignue in a steaming pot sitting in another filled with boiling water on the stove. She'd have her electric hand mixer working over time as the meringue thickened and began to crust around the edges of the pot. Mum always coloured the pav - pink or green were the only colours in the seventies. When the meringue was ready she'd draw the outline of a dinner plate on a tray covered in foil, spread some meringue around the shape, then pipe a wall of meringue around it. Mum would put the pav in the oven, we'd go to bed, and in the morning, there it would be, a pink confection, still cool…

Raspberry & White Chocolate Sponge

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Well I haven’t gotten around to making the Caramel Cream Sponge yet. But I did have a chance to invent something new and special for a friend of mine who was celebrating a very special birthday. As her birthday guests snaffled the decorations off the side of her cake, I was reminded of my fifth birthday, where my friends did exactly the same thing.

A lot of people ask me how I learned to make cakes, and I think that birthday would probably be the first time I was exposed to the art of sugar craft. My mum and Aunty Liz spent many nights hand moulding delicate pink sugar roses to decorate my fifth birthday cake.

Back in those days a fondant decorated cake was normally white, but Mum decided mine would be pink. And usually the cake underneath was fruit cake, but Mum thought we could try chocolate and see how it worked out. I don’t remember if there was marzipan – there certainly wasn’t any chocolate ganache between the fondant and the cake.

The thing I remember was being sung happy…