Sunday, April 29, 2012

Caramel Coconut Cream Sponge

A couple of months back I told the story of the caramel cream sponge my dad used to buy us when I was a kid. And I promised I would try and recreate that cake and share it with you. Well this weekend I finally did that. It was a friend’s birthday, so I decided what better occasion to test that recipe and see if it worked.

I found, in the process, that the toasted coconut on the side of the cake was a key player in the overall taste balance. So I've renamed the cake to include the coconut. It was a really fun cake to make and I hope you really enjoy making and eating this blast from the seventies past.

6 large eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ cup corn flour
½ cup plain flour
½ cup self raising flour
800ml thickened cream
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp sugar
2/3 cup desiccated coconut
2 cans Nestle Top n Fill
12-20 pistachio nuts

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Grease and line a 10 inch cake tin. The lining is very important as it will help the sponge cake to rise.
Beat the eggs with the whisk attachment of your Kitchenaid – use 10th gear.
2. Gradually add the caster sugar, then continue to beat the eggs for 10 minutes. The mixture will become thick and foamy.
3. Combine the three flours in a triple sieve. Sift one third of the flour into the egg mix and gently fold through with a spatula. Repeat two more times or until all the flour is added. Be very gently with the folding, but also be careful to check that all the flour has been incorporated.
4. Pour the sponge mixture into the tin until it is two thirds full.
5. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until the sponge is golden on the top and springs back at the touch.
6. Remove the sponge from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes. The sponge will drop a little – don’t worry if this happens.
7. Carefully turn the sponge out of the tin onto a wire rack. Peel the baking paper off the cake and allow to cool completely.

1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper and spread the coconut over the paper.
2. Toast the coconut in the oven for about seven minutes, or until the coconut is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely before using.
3. Combine the thickened cream, vanilla essence and sugar in the bowl of your kitchen aid and beat to stiff peaks.
4. Empty the two tins of caramel into a medium sized mixing bowl and beat until smooth. I did this with a hand mixer.
3. Split the sponge in half place one half on a decorator’s carousel. Fit two large piping bags with a round piping tube. Fill one bag with the caramel and the other with the whipped cream.
4. Pipe a ring of whipped cream around the perimeter of the cake, then continue in decreasing circles one 1cm apart.
5. Pipe the caramel in the gaps between the cream. Be sure to finish with caramel in the centre as this will give the middle of the cake support.
6. Place the second half of the sponge over the filling and press lightly to join.
7. Palette a thin layer of cream around the edges of the sponge, making sure no cake is visible.
8. Pick up handfuls of the toasted coconut and lightly press it against the side of the sponge. Coat all of the cream but do not get any coconut on the top.
9. Change the cream to a piping bag fitted with a closed star tub and pipe star shapes or fleur de lys shapes around the edge of the top of the Sponge. This is to form a “fence” to retain the caramel. You’ll see in my picture I didn’t do this. When I transported the cake half the caramel ran down the side.
10. Pipe the caramel onto the top of the cake, then carefully use a palette knife to spread it out to meet the cream at the edge.
11. Decorate with 12-20 pistachios to mark cake portions.

Store in the fridge until it’s time to serve. You really should get about 20 serves out of this cake.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Bruscetta (pronounced bru-sketta) actually refers to the bread, olive oil and garlic part of this antipasto dish. Dating back to the 15th century, it was a way to turn stale bread into a delicious snack. Italians enjoy many different toppings on their bruscetta, including roasted peppers, salami, tuna tonato (tuna blended with white beans, lemon juice and garlic) and even cheese. But nothing beats the flavour of perfectly ripe tomatoes, seasoned with salt and fresh basil. This bruscetta combination is a wonderful breakfast for a very hot day.

I have heard people dismiss bruscetta as nothing more than tomatoes on toast. But this is a far cry from the taste sensation of a properly made bruscetta. The key, in my opinion, is chosing the juiciest, most ripe tomatoes you can find, and combine them with beautiful fresh basil. As a breakfast meal bruscetta will leave you feeling like you have done something good for yourself today. I invite you to try.

Loaf of sour dough bread
3 tblsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
3 medium red tomatoes
1 tblsp olive oil extra
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Half bunch fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

1. Cut six 1.5cm thick slices off the loaf of sour dough. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush olive oil on both sides of each slice of bread.
2. Peel the garlic cloves and cut each one in half. Rub the cut side of the garlic all over one side of the oiled bread. Repeat for the other slices. Keep the garlic pieces for later.
3. Arrange the bread on a baking tray and place in on the middle shelf of the oven. Allow to cook for 5 minutes, or until the bread is lightly toasted.
4. Wash the tomatoes and cut each one in half. Use a soup spoon to scoop the seeds out of the middle of each tomato half. Throw the seeds away. Dice the de-seeded tomatoes into 1cm squares.
5. Place the diced tomatoes in a bowl with the extra olive oil, salt, pepper and the basil leaves, roughly torn into smaller pieces. Mix to combine then divide the tomato mixture evenly between each of the toasted slices of bread. Decorate with a sprig of basil and serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Warm Pear Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Back in the seventies, my sister and I used to sit down to a breakfast of puffed wheat every morning. If we were lucky, they were honey puffed wheats, served up with canned pears. Mum kept a lot of canned fruit in the cupboard, which seems odd now I think of it, because fresh fruit was plentiful, and not particularly expensive.

Those boxes of puffed wheat always came with a toy in them - a Dutch figurine, and I used to marvel, firstly at how many of them my sister got and I did not, but also at the unusual shaped hats and shoes the figurines wore. Of they were not shoes, they were clogs, something which I later learned my Aunt who spent six months travelling around Europe.

I used to make a lot of parfaits in the seventies, in which canned pears or canned peaches featured heavily. They were basically a single serve of trifle in a tall glass. They'd take all day to make because I'd set the jelly in the jar and couldn't add another layer until it not longer wobbled.

I never really took to fresh pears as a result of eating all those canned ones. But today when the unusually cold weather motivated me to make a pudding for dessert, I decided the pear in my fruit bowl would be the ideal fruity addition. Of course no pudding is ever complete without sauce of some kind. I chose carmel sauce for this one. The combination of caramel and pear is unbeatable.

125g butter
2 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
2/3 cup butter milk
one fresh pear, peeled

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Heavily grease a 7 inch round cake tin and set aside.
2. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of your Kitchenaid and beat on sixth gear until pale and fluffy.
3. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat add until combined. Ensure all the butter mixture is scraped off the sides of the bowl and fully incorporated.
4. Add the flour and buttermilk and beat on sixth gear for two minutes. Pour into the cake tin and smooth the top.
5. Cut the peel pear into eights and remove the core. arrange the pieces in a decorative pattern around the top of the cake.
6. Bake in the oven for 60 mins, or until cake is golden brown and form to the touch.
7. Carefully turn out of pan and cool on a rack top side up.

Carmel Sauce
50g butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tblsp milk

1. Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and stir while it comes to the boil.
2. Boil for one minute - no need to stir.
3. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
1. If you have another pear, peel it and cut into 5mm slices, ensuring the pieces remain attached at the stem. Fan the pear out and arrange on the top of the cake.
2. Drizzle the caramel sauce over the pear and cake and serve. This pudding is nice with icecream too!

Note: the pears in the cake will sink - don't worry if this happens!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Design Diva Tweets!

It's quite often a long time between posts isn't it? I try not to blog unless I've got a really good story to tell along with a really good, reliable recipe. I try to put a post up every week, but I noticed last month that just didn't happen! And yet I cook every day, sometimes three times a day! What the heck am I doing in between blog posts?

Well now you can find out. I've set up a Kitchen Alchemy Twitter stream, which lets me follow all my favourite foodies, and also gives me a chance to show you where I'm eating, what recipes I'm reading, and of course, what food I'm cooking. I figure micro blogging will help me keep up with you guys, and it will also let you keep up with me.

If you want to hear about the daily magic Kitchen Alchemy creates, follow me on Twitter. Just search for user name Kitchen_alchemy. Or you can click here to go straight to my Twitter profile Kitchen_Alchemy See you in the Twitterverse!

Meringue Au Chocolat

In 1702 Francois Massiolot, a chef in the kitchen of King Louis XIV of France, was the first to name an egg white and sugar confection he'd concocted for the King, “meringue”. Meringues are the little sisters of pavlova, a delicious dessert usually accompanied by whipped cream and fruit. The great thing about meringues is they are portable and they taste good on their own. Meringues can be found in patissieries all over France, often as large as a baker’s hand, swirled with the beautiful colours of fruit syrups.

When we first started our market stall in 2008, we had a lot of requests for gluten free items. We just didn't have the time or resources to come up with a range of GF cupcakes, so each week I'd whip up a batch of chocolate meringues so I'd have something to offer the GF customers. These were the cheapest item on the table, selling for $1.00, and they were invariably always the first thing to sell out.

If ever I have egg whites left over from another recipes, I make these. My husband adores them. They need no accompaniment to be enjoyed.

3 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
75g dark cooking chocolate, melted

1. Pre-heat the oven to 120 degrees Celsius. Line a large baking tray with baking paper and set aside.
2. Beat the eggs whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the sugar has dissolved.
3. Add the vinegar and mix until thoroughly combined.
4. Drop heaped spoonfuls of mixture on the baking tray, ensuring you leave enough room in between each for spreading.
5. Dip a skewer in the melted chocolate and swirl it onto the top and sides of each meringue.
6. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes. Remove tray from oven and allow meringues to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 12 meringues.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fat reduced buttercream

The weather over the Easter break in Sydney was unseasonablly warm this year. So when it came time to make cupcakes for Easter, I really had to rethink the buttercream icing that is synonymous with all my cupcakes.

My standard buttercream icing has a high proportion of real butter in it, which is why it tastes so good. To me it is the key differentiator between a great cupcake and one that's just acceptable.

But with the weather so warm, I knew I had to reduce the amount of butter in the buttercream icing if my Easter cupcakes were not going to melt into a puddle. We've seen this happen in the last of our market days back in 2008 when the spring weather arrived. The texture and consistency needed to be as good as usual to get the beautiful shape when piping. I think the result was fantastic! See what you think.

500g pure icing sugar
50g butter
1 tbslp full cream milk
2 tbslp cold water
colouring of your choice
1/2 tsp Wilton Icing White

1. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of your Kitchenaid and mix on first gear to combine.
2. Increase speed to sixth gear and beat the buttercream for three minutes. If the mixture is a little dry, add a teaspoon of water at a time to achieve a thick consistency. If it is a little too wet, add a dessert spoonful of icing sugar at a time to get it to the right texture.
3. Pipe on cupcakes with your choice of piping tube. Decorate immediately - this buttercream will form a skin very quickly so ice and decorate one cupcake at a time.

Makes enough buttercream to ice 12 muffin sized cupcakes.