Sunday, July 6, 2008

Braid? What braid? Not the best looking Danish in town

I absolutely lurve Danish, and have been so keen to try my hand at making it for such a long time, so I was overjoyed with June’s challenge and the prospect of consuming my own sweet Danish, freshly baked from the oven. I didn’t skip a heartbeat when it came to deciding on the filling, sweet sweet cheese, of course. Mmmmmmmmmm. My absolute favourite! A wonderful friend and mentor of mine when I was an adolescent, made cheese Danish for me and I just thought she was a goddess to be able to make something that fancy looking and divine tasting. Her perfect sweet little pockets of pastry and cheese, were simply sublime. Now it was my time to rise to great pastry heights. Just a shame I keep on overlooking (amongst all the detail in the recipe) some essential factor. I pledge to learn to read things more thoroughly for future challenges. I do have a bad habit of nodding off through written or verbal instructions, I’m a kinesthetic/tactile learner. Theory has always made my eyes glaze over and the main way I learn is to try things out hands on and learn from my mistakes. Yet another mistake to learn from.

The pastry for this months challenge was not as tricky as I first imagined, it sounded labor intensive but was quite a cinch to bring together. And what a tasty little number, the cardamom and orange zest is such a lovely combination. I was happy with the pastry and it tasted fantastic in the end, but the important factor I forgot, was that it was indeed a motherload of pastry and I only needed half of it for the Danish. Cluelessly I rolled it all out late one night after work, too focused on working out the whole braid arrangement, overlooking the potential for more Danish action. Drats. Same with the cream cheese recipe, I just grabbed it from a recipe book and did not calculate what the quantity was appropriate for, so I piled it all in on my motherload of dough and sadly my braiding could not hold it all in. I think I should have considered stapling or suturing it all together. Instead of a pretty little braid, I ended up with something that looks more like some one having open abdominal surgery. Good thing looks are not everything and taste certainly made up for my dismal attempts at braiding.

What I learnt making Danish.

Too much cream cheese filling can indeed be a bad thing – who would have thought.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

All the dramas of Opera

Once again another challenge that took me by surprise. Can’t say I have eaten a lot of Opera cake in my time, or had any inclination to make opera cake. From first read, I was somewhat daunted at the task of making such a fancy sounding cake. I’ve never made anything with layers (besides lasagna) until joining the Daring Baker posse. A number of dramas were in play, in true opera fashion, from delayed starts, forgetting key ingredients, an unfortunate accident with an innocent looking vanilla bean and stupidity on my part when it came to following instructions. Despite the friendly reminder (from our fearless leaders this month) to read through the instructions very carefully, my aversion to anything remotely mathematical (this time fractions) altered my end result. I kind of cut one of my slices in half, before reading more thoroughly the instructions about the whole two thirds and two, one thirds making another two thirds. Very confusing stuff. I needed some help with that formula from my trusty friend Kitty.
Pity I didn’t think to ring her before I made the fatal incision. Hurrah for Kitty though.

Regardless of my reckless additional layer, I was pleasantly surprised by the end result. The taste was a real delight. I will confess to having very little faith in the appeal of an Opera cake, so I let my fellow work colleagues take the first bite, before I tried a piece. I was more surprised then anyone else how lovely and light tasting it was. The whole white thing wasn’t that exciting enough for me, I’m a bit of a dark chocolate fan so I thought lemon syrup and vanilla buttercream might be wishy washy, but I take it all back now. Opera cake was a real hit with the punters at work and I was kindly serenaded with operatic thanks for my efforts.

What I learnt making Opera cake

1. One should wear safety glasses when working with vanilla pods - I flicked a big chunk of vanilla seeds in to my eye………..ouch. Quite a nasty kick for such a subtle flavor.

2. Remember to read instructions more thoroughly, especially when mathematics are involved.

3. Modern appliances are amazing. This time I was all prepared with my spunky new red mixer, isn’t she real pretty. What excitement. When the directions say beat for six minutes until voluminous and pale, voila, it actually happens and without a dead arm on my part. I just need to let go of my guilt for selling out on all the sisters out there that still do it hard without fancy appliances.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

New York sure knows a thing or two about Cheesecake

This months Daring Bakers challenge was a lot of work but also a lot of fun to eat. Chocolate and baked cheesecake – pure genius, what an excellent combination. As for getting fancy with decorations and all that other jazz, that countless Daring Bakers will awe me with their creations, unfortunately my creative powers eluded me (possibly because my brain was addled with pain killers from putting my neck out) and unfortunately interesting ingredients also eluded me since it was a public holiday and all the shops were shut.

I just knew this cheesecake was going to be good, with vast quantities of cream cheese and eggs, and then vanilla extract and cream added in to the mix. I had a good feeling about this combination. I was really happy with the end result. I’m quite partial to baked cheesecakes and think they are clearly superior to anything requiring gelatin. I’m not sure if my conversions were a bit dodgy (I’m really not that good at maths) but I ended up with an obscene amount of cheesecake. Don’t get me wrong I’m definitely not complaining, obscene amounts of cheesecake is a very good thing. Perfect in fact, as I needed to get together a birthday cake, so I used some of the mix for a second and smaller cake.

Clearly my cheesecake pops are not going to win any beauty competitions, but please note it is what is on the inside that counts and they were truly beautiful on the inside, my stomach and taste buds will account for that.

Here’s a photo also of my Birthday cheesecake complete with chocolate cheesecake balls on top and gooey caramel I made and drizzled all over.. yummmmmmm

Important things I leant from making Cheesecake pops

1. New Yorkers really know a thing or two about cheesecake. If this is a true New York cheesecake, then I’m moving to New York to see if I can exist on a diet of cheesecake and pretzels. Three cheers for New York and their exceptional cheesecake and three cheers and a big thank you to Elle and Deborah for a sensational recipe. I’m keeping it.

2. You need to be quick when working with tempered chocolate. - I’m not sure if it was the quality or quantity of shortening and chocolate I used, or how long I kept my pops in the freezer but my chocolate set instantly. No real time for dipping my pops in anything or any real chance that anything would have actually stuck

3. I still need a mixer and a bigger mixing bowl. - I kind of made a huge mess trying to mix such massive quantities with a hand held beater and in a medium sized bowl.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What rates in Tasmania

I have just come back from a Tasmanian adventure. I love having adventures, they get me through the week having something to plan for and look forward to. It was my first time in the Apple Isle and what a spectacular place it is. There is just soooooooooo much to ooh and ahh over, endless reams of picture perfect scenery, rivers, lakes, mountains galore, lush forests, stunning national parks, pretty autumn colours, sail boats, pontoons (I lurve pontoons) and cute wooden houses.

My top four adventure highlights
1. Strahan and their amazing bakery - Banjo’s
First stop was Strahan on the West coast, a picturesque and charming little seaside village. The perfect place for a sea change - who can resist pontoons (obviously not me), fishing boats, waterside views, cosy accommodation and a bakery to die for - ‘Banjos’ Now I am very fussy when it comes to bakeries, in fact few rate for me but Banjo’s at Strahan rates BIG time. Their blueberry and raspberry housecakes were sensational, the pick of the bunch.

2. Cradle Mountain
Hurrah to Gustav Weindorfer who was a pioneer in ensuring Cradle Mountain would become a national park for all to see and enjoy.
Photos and words just can't capture the true beauty of such a natural wonder. Cheers also to the wonderful people that maintain the walking tracks inn Cradle Valley and all the stunning national parks in Tasmania

3. Salmon sandwhiches at 41 south
Perhaps the best sandwich I have had in a very long time.
Delicious smoked salmon, a zesty and light mayonnaise, crisp lettuce on fresh multigrain mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Such a shame they don't do delivery as I would love one right now.

4. Arty farty Henry Jones and the IXL offspring
The stylish Henry Jones Art Hotel is such a cool place to hang out in Hobart.
Surrounded by modern art, cool interiors and gorgeous stone work, this is a wonderful place to call home away from home. Delightful staff as well. A great location on the waterfront and surrounded by the creative IXL offspring. IXL designs had some aesthetically pleasing, funky and clever stuff to peruse. I just couldn’t resist some Art viva knitting needles and a very cute Dick and Dora bird brooch.
It would be remiss of me, not to mention also, the spectacular Lemon crud tart available at Jam Packed, This tart had the most amazingly perfect texture, simply divine. I’m obsessed now with making lemon curd tart

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Belated blogging

After a mad dash to ‘get me’ a blog so I could add my posts to the Daring Bakers collective, life has been a bit topsy turvy and my poor blog looks rather desolate and unloved (think I need to spend some quality time with it). I can’t be much of a dumpling girl if I don’t live up to my quest to consume dumplings and other cool treats, so it’s time to add some posts.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Not a very daring start at all

After stumbling upon the Daring Baker phenomenon late last year and awestruck by the amazing individuals that created it and the many talented artisans contributing, I was inspired to join the ranks and challenge myself to improve my half baked baking skills. In all honesty, it would be more accurate to say that my talents lie in consuming baked goods rather then actual baking. Still on the New Years resolution high, I signed up early 2008 and was so enthused about February’s challenge of French bread, but alas I was not a daring Baker at all. Instead I was a rather cowardly and disorganized baker. I roped in a dear and talented friend (Hurrah for Kitty) to help me out. A friend complete with exceptional bread making skills and a camera. At the end of a stinking hot day with a lot of running around the end result tasted more Italian then French, but on the right angle could possibly pass as a baguette. Unfortunately self doubt and a ridiculous hectic work schedule led to a delay in joining the ranks of the Daring Bakers, so I decided March was going to be my month for getting it together and a good month to buy a camera. March was also the month I discovered……………….

My party cake did not want to come to the party

I must confess I’m not exactly the most precise cook. I have somehow managed to bluff my way through a lot of recipes in the past with many approximates, so I rather foolishly thought 'surely cake flour is just a fancy term used to describe any flour that you use to make a cake'. Right? Well I was wrong. I have made many a cake with plain flour and baking powder so this was what I naturally selected. I started with two lovely browned cakes that left my kitchen smelling divine and ready for a party, but even with my limited knowledge of engineering I was pretty confident that one can’t make layers out of something as flat as a pan cake. So I decided to take two, this time with self raising flour. This time I had myself two cakes all pretty and puffy until I overwhelmed them with my high expectations for them and they deflated upon landing on the cooling rack. Nevertheless they were at least 5mm higher then take one so more likely to withstand the knife.

I will admit that not being a coconut fan, I begrudingly purchased coconut flakes, but now I say thank goodness for chunky white flakes of coconut that cover a mulititude of sins eg cake layers that would fail a spirit level test.

A party for one

Important lessons I learnt from making a Party Cake

1. All flour is not created equal - clearly I need to find out what cake flour is and give that a whirl

2. One should actually follow instructions - I made a greater effort in my second cake mix to follow times in a more precise manner, I was slacking off a bit because my arm got tired from using a hand mixer (whinge, moan). What a difference it made to actually whisk for 5 minutes instead of somewhere within the vicinity of 5 minutes.

3. I really, really need to buy a fancy mixer

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Dumplings are delicious

After months of toying with the idea of a blog, I have finally decided to take the plunge into the phenomenal community of bloggers out there. I've felt like a voyeur for so long, reading so many interesting blogs and picking out cool and and pretty sites to check out, now I need to get myself a fancy page to blog on. SO this is just the start and once I work out how to change my lay out and all that other tricky stuff I will be up and blogging. Stay tuned.