Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Bird’s Nests with Vanilla Cupcakes

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 was asleep on the top bunk in my sister’s room. I was careful to act as if I was out cold as the little cardboard box filled with a foil wrapped egg surrounded by chocolates was placed beside my pillow. I snuck a careful peak and lo, the identity of the Easter Bunny was revealed. I shan’t repeat what I saw here, but suffice to say the magic of Easter wasn’t destroyed for me then, and since becoming a mum, it’s never been stronger!

200g high quality cooking chocolate
20g Copha, melted
3 large handfuls of shredded coconut
72 Cadbury mini-eggs

1. Place the chocolate in a glass bowl and melt in a microwave oven on high for 80 seconds. Remove and stir with a metal spoon to combine until all chocolate pieces are melted. Use extra burst of five seconds in the microwave if the last bits won’t melt, but be very careful not to burn the chocolate.
2. Pour the melted copha over the chocolate and mix until well combined.
3. Add the coconut one handful at a time, folding through the chocolate to coat each strand. Make sure the mix is wet enough to stick together, but not so wet that the chocolate forms a pool under the coconut.
4. Drop heaped teaspoonfuls of coconut mixture into non-stick gem scone tins. Carefully shape a cavity in the middle for the mini eggs to rest.
5. Place two mini eggs on each nest and place in the fridge until set. Use to decorate your favourite cupcakes – the ones shown are my traditional vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream icing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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, I know, but at least I can say I know HOW to make that sugar if I want to, thanks to Mum. I’ve been thinking for sometime about making chocolate chip cookies for my little son, and yesterday I finally got around to it. I gave him one when he returned from shopping with his dad, and when I turned my back, his little hand reached up to the bench to try and hook another one off the cooling rack. Turns out he is a cookie lover just like his mother.

175g salt reduced butter
½ cup tightly packed brown sugar
1tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup plain flour
½ cup self raising flour
Big handful of dark cooking chocolate buttons

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside.
2. Place the butter, brown sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Cream on medium speed for 3-5mins until mixture becomes creamy and slightly lighter.
3. Add the egg and plain flour and mix on slowest speed until combined. Add the self raising flour and mix for another 15 seconds. Switch off the mixer and continue working the dough with your hands until all the flour is integrated.
4. Place the chocolate buttons on a chopping board and roughly cut into large chunks. Add to the cookie dough and work through until the chocolate chunks are combined.
5. Turn the dough out onto a clean chopping board and begin to roll it into a log about the thickness of an aerosol can. Tap each end on the board to flatten it out. Wrap dough log in cling wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
6. Slice 1cm thick rounds of cookie dough with a sharp carving knife. The knife will snag on big chocolate chunks. Just pull them out of the way. Reform each slice in a rough round shape and press any spare chunks of chocolate back into them.
7. Place cookies on sheet leaving a good amount of space between each to allow for spreading. I fitted eight cookies on each sheet.
8. Bake for 18mins or until golden brown. Allow to cool on tray for 10mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 18-20 cookies.