Sunday, December 18, 2011

Whole Roasted Turkey

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 the stuffing. You can still cook the turkey even if you don't stuff it! Tie the legs together with a piece of kitchen string. If you don't the legs will spread during cooking and the turkey will come out looking odd!

Rub the entire exterior of the bird with butter. Lightly salt the bird and place it in a baking tray. A disposable aluminium one is okay. Cover the legs and breast with a piece of aluminium foil. This will stop it from drying out and burning.

Roast the turkey in the oven at 180 degrees celcius. You calculate the cooking time by adding up 20 minutes for every half a kilo of bird. Today's 4.8kg turkey was cooked for three hours, 20 minutes. Remove the aluminium foil from the breast for the last hour of cooking time.

Once cooking time is complete, rest your turkey for a good half an hour before serving it. Transfer the turkey to your serving platter. Pour off all the pan juices and set aside to use in the gravy.

Voila! You have cooked a turkey!

Note: once you have finished preparing the turkey, clean your pre area down with disinfectant. Poultry is famously for germs, and you don't want to make anybody sick at Christmas. Just wipe down all surfaces with a warm cloth dipped in disinfectant and you should be fine. Wash your hands thoroughly too!

Christmas in a day

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.

These are Mexican wedding biscuits, only I've pressed them in a Lebanese mamouhl mould to give them a festive shape. While they're made with pecan nuts, don't forget you can exchange the pecans for almonds or hazelnuts or even pistachios.

For dinner we're having roast turkey with apricot and pinenut stuffing. My husband and I have had a complete laugh this morning dealing with the turkey - we normally buy a turkey buffet, which has an enormous breast and the wings removed. But I found today's turkey on sale, complete with wings. We tried hard to bend the wings around to sit the turkey up nice and pretty. but the silly thing just wouldn't cooperate. So we took the wing tips off and tied the other bits together. It was still too hard to balance the bird, so it's in the oven as we speak, resting on a big bit of bread left over from making the stuffing.

The stuffing, of course, is my traditional apricot and pinenut stuffing. Actually, it's my mum's recipe. I have been making it for years, in my home, up in Cairns at my friend Peisha's, and down at Torquay for my friends Dennis and Dave. But last year when Mum came for Christmas she insisted we put celery into the mix. And let me tell you it changed things for the better! So I decided to follow suit this year. My two year old son was watching me cut up the celery and asked for a piece. To my delight he crunched up one stick and asked for another. He likes celery!! Now for salad...

The turkey will be accompanied by roasted potatoes with proscuitto and rosemary, roasted carrots and baby peas. The key ingredient to bring all of this together is red currant jelly gravy. In recent years red currant jelly has been hard to get hold of. But this year the stores had plenty of it, so I snapped it up.

I'll put pictures up as the day progresses and recipes later this week. I hope I've given you lots to add to your festive fare this year - I've been a bit slack on this topic in previous years. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Gold Cake

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. fortunately this mistake bugged me more than anyone else - my customers loved the result and happily set about eating 10kgs of cake, which fed around 75 people.

I still have lots to learn in the dowel cutting department. Tiered cakes really only get ordered for weddings. Lets hope I get a wedding job again some time soon.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Pineapple & Ginger Christmas cake

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.

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 vanilla essence
1 tsp parisienne browning essence
2 tblsp golden syrup
1 tsp glycerine
1 tblsp lemon essence

1. Put all the fruit into a large bowl, making sure you cut any large pieces into quarters (like dates, prunes and glace pineapple). Add the rum, brandy and sherry and mix to thoroughly wet the fruit. Cover tightly and leave to soak for as long as you can - a week at the minimum, but a month is best if you can! I actually soak my fruit in a five litre bucket which has a lid. I periodically pick the bucket up and shake it so the fruit and fluids can mingle better.

2. On the day that you bake, prepare your tin by double lining the bottom and sides with thick baking paper. The paper should peak an inch and a half above the top of the tin. Then wrap the exterior of the tin with a double layer of newspaper. This is to stop the cake from burning. I also put my cake tins on a baking tray which I’ve lined with newspaper to further prevent burning.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 120 degrees celcius.

4. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. You may need to scrape the mixing bowl sides down periodically.

4. In a separate dish, combine pineapple jam, vanilla, parisienne essence, golden syrup, glycerine and lemon essence. Mix until combined.

5. Add the jam mixture and the flour to butter mixture. Mix slowly on a low speed to gently combine – if you over mix the batter your cake will be tough! Add spices and mix until combined.

6. Pour the cake batter over the dried fruit mix and combine it using clean hands. This is much easier than using a spoon since fruit cake mix is extremely heavy. Once the fruit and batter is combined, pour into the tin, being careful not to flatten the paper lining on the sides. This mix will neatly fill an 8 inch round tin. You can also divide it between two 6 inch square tins.

7. Bake on a low shelf in the oven for 3 hours. Test if the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer through the middle. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

8. Pour one tablespoon of brandy over the top of the hot cake – it will sizzle, which is fine. Cool the cake in the tin for about half an hour, then turn it out and cool it on a wire rack. This will take several hours. I usually wrap it in a tea towel and leave it to cool over night.

9. To store your cake, peel off any remaining baking paper. Tightly wrap the cake in cling film. Then wrap it in aluminium foil. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place until it is required. I suggest you cook your Christmas cake about six weeks in advance. If you choose to do it earlier, open it once a month and pour another tablespoon of brandy over it. I promise you the flavour will be amazing when you finally serve it.

A well stored fruit cake can be kept up to one year. Light and air are its enemy, so be very careful to store your cake correctly.