Saturday, June 23, 2012

Chocolate Ginger Bread

Now that my little son is a bit bigger, there are increasing chances to enjoy time creating in the kitchen with him. A couple of weeks ago I bought him a bakery set, with 20 items items a kid could use in the kitchen. My intention, of course, was to divert him to his own utensils every time he gets mine out of the cupboard.

Today, however, I really felt he could put the rolling pin and cookie cutters to work. So I whipped up a batch of ginger bread, but making it more chocolate than ginger. Surprisingly my little boy didn't want to roll the dough. He did want to do all the cutting out of the shapes, but again was happy to let me transfer each cookie to the baking tray.

After lunch I started piping royal icing onto the cookies and let my son go wild with sprinkles. Of course one bowl was inevitably knocked flying, to the tune of little sugar balls bouncing all over the floor. But who cares!? My little boy had buckets of fun. With every cookies decorated, he decided it was his job to lick all the decorations off. But not before we got a photo of the finished product!

125g butter
1/4 cup treacle
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp bicarb soda

1. Beat the butter, treacle and brown sugar in the large bowl of your Kitchenaid until it is pale and creamy.
2. Add the eggs, one at a time, combining thoroughly after each addition. The mix will look wrong at this point. Don't worry - it will come together.
3. Add the ginger, cocoa, plain flour and bicarb soda and mix on first gear until the dough comes together - about 30 seconds. Do not over mix or the dough will be tough!
4. Gather the dough up into a ball, knead a little, then wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degree celcius.
6. Take the dough out of the fridge and cut it into quarters. Roll each piece out until it is 3mm thick and cut shapes using your favourite cookie cutters. Last year we used this dough to make pick-up truck cookies for my son's birthday, so really it can work with any shape.
7. Arrange on a cookie tray lined with baking paper and bake for 6 minutes. These cookies burn easily so watch out!
8. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Royal Icing
1/2 an egg white
2/3 cup pure icing sugar
1 tsp lemon juice

1. Combine all the ingredients and mix until you get a thick paste. Add more icing sugar if necessary.
2. Pipe or spread onto cookies and decorate immediately with sprinkles or silver cachous.

Makes loads of cookies, depending on the size of your cutter. We got 20 little cookies and a further 20 gingerbread men out of this batch.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Queen Cakes

This past week we have enjoyed watching the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II who is, in fact, the reigning monarch of Australia. How odd that, at the far end of the world, we are ruled by a monarch instead of being a republic.

While I'm all for a republic I absolutely enjoy the pomp and pageantry the Queen and her family bring to our lives. Even more, I enjoy reading about her ancestors, most notably Henry VIII, his six wives (I am extremely fond of Catherine of Aragon and despite her behaving a shrew, Anne Boleyn). So much so, a few years back I was motivated to take a trip to Britain to trace Anne's footsteps and that of some even earlier kings who built their castle at Old Sarum.

So for the past few months I have been thinking how I might pay tribute to the Queen, and the idea that sprang to mind was a cake version of Queen Pudding. It is a bread and butter pudding, with jam added to the equation, and meringue baked over the top. I don't like bread and butter pudding that much, so I spent a lot of time thinking up how to adapt the idea to a cake. I came up with these little beauties which, you might be delighted to know, are fat free. Although not if you serve them with a dollop of King Island cream, which I think you should.

Happy Diamond Jubilee dear Queen. I can't help but love you.

4 large eggs
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup plain flour
1/3 cup self raising flour
1/3 cup corn flour
4 egg whites
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
1/2 cup strawberry jam - lump free is best
7 strawberries
extra egg white and caster sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Grease and line a 28cm x 40cm baking tray with baking paper and set aside.
2. Crack the eggs into the bowl of your Kitchenaid and beat with the whisk attachment on 10th gear until the eggs are frothy. Gradually add the caster sugar and continue to beat for 10 minutes.
3. Gently fold the flours through the egg mix, ensuring all the flour is combined. Do not beat or mix!
4. Spread the sponge mix evenly across the baking tray.
5. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the sponge is cooked. If it's still sticky when you touch it, give it three more minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray.
6. Use a 5cm round cutter to cut rounds out of the cold sponge. You should get about 15 rounds (some may be a little crunchy on the edges).
7. Clean your Kitchenaid bowl and place the egg whites in it. Beat with the whisk attachment on 10th gear until soft peaks form. Gradually add the caster sugar and continue to beat until the sugar has disolved - about 5 minutes.
8. Clean the baking tray and line again with baking paper. Make sure it is very flat.
9. Spread about one and a half teaspoons of jam on the bottom of a round and sandwich it onto the top of another round. Try and match rounds so that they all roughly end up the same height. You'll have one round left over. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius again.

10. Using a small palette knife, spread the meringue around the sides of each cake. I held mine with thumb on the top and forefinger on the bottom as I spread around the edges. Try not to get any on the bottom as they will stick to the baking paper.
11. Carefully place on the baking paper on the tray and spread meringue over the top of the top so that the cake is fully covered. Repeat until all rounds are covered and you have seven cakes on the tray.
12. Bake in the oven for 3-5mins until the cakes are very lightly brown on the peaks. My slow gas oven took five minutes, but if you have a fan forced electric oven it might only take three.
13. While the cakes cool on the tray paint the strawberries with egg white and roll in the extra caster sugar. Set aside to allow the sugar to harden.
14. Carefully transfer the cakes to serving plates. Place a frosted strawberry on the top of each. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Note: these cakes taste great warm, but they're also fine cold. They will keep for three days.