Monday, March 24, 2014

Fresh Tomato Soup

You probably know as well as I do that I'm mainly a sweets blogger. Savory is good too, and especially in Winter, but I find its often harder to get inspired when it comes to savories. But--I get the craving for those hearty soups and breads and such, when its chilly like this. My Catholic Kitchen had such a gorgeous looking tomato soup recipe, I knew instantly I had to let a spoonful of that red liquid roll down my throat. It was oh so good! Thanks for the introduction to such a lovely blog, Secret Recipe Club.
Its so nice to be able to share these recipes, and I know there are lots of mums and busy people out there that are ever looking for quick successful recipes for their beloveds. So occasionally you will stumble upon a few goodies you can use on a day to day basis like this one. Yes, ones that actually wont make your thighs expand!
When I think of dinner, I think economical, satisfying and quick. Of course it has to be appetizing, but those three things don't have to mean boring. I recently wrote a piece for another blog group about saving money on your grocery bills, as my friend and I used to spend $30 a week on our groceries, and I know some people would be interested in knowing how they can do the same. Mortgages, bills, fees, who doesn't have them these days? Anyway, its all about getting creative and thinking your meals through! I will post the guest entry when it is published for those who are interested. Meanwhile, here's a nice budget meal that's a belly warmer on nights like these. I paired it with some Mediterranean bread knots and its was lovely!

FRESH TOMATO SOUP (from My Catholic Kitchen)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped red onions
2 carrots chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 pounds vine ripened tomatoes coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and sauté for about 10 minutes, until very tender, Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, slat and pepper and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 -40 minutes until the tomatoes are very tender.
Add the cream to the soup and process it through a food mill into a bowl, discarding only the dry pulp that is left. Reheat the soup over low heat just until hot and serve.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Caramel Walnut and Chocolate Slice

Have you heard of the paleo diet or lifestyle? I only discovered it recently, as some of my friends have joined in this way of eating. I had my first paleo muffin yesterday and it was indeed a healthy snack. It's a far cry from the sweets I'm used to creating in my kitchen, and it made me think of how boney I would be if I followed the trend. I say trend, although my friends are certain it's not, and call it a lifestyle rather than anything. I suppose it has become popular recently though, as several paleo cafes have popped up in the area in the last year out of the blue. It's one diet that seems to be a sustainable way of eating, unlike so many diets that people use to lose weight, like the shake diet, which for me, is a recipe for fluctuation. It also seems to be a good thing to stick to if you're lactose or gluten intolerant. It cuts out many processed and refined foods, and steers clear of legumes, starchy vege, dairy and grains. It's a sort of cave man style of food--fresh vegies, meat, fish, nuts and fruit.
For myself however, I am sticking to "balance is key" and just eating a little bit of all the good and tasty stuff, even if it is processed. Life is too short to deny yourself one piece of slice--especially when it comes with a layer or chocolate, a gooey golden filling of caramel dotted with walnuts, and a buttery, shortbread base. Walnuts are healthy, right?

CARAMEL WALNUT SLICE  (Better Homes and Gardens)

350g butter
225g caster sugar
275g plain flour
395g sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup honey or golden syrup
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
200g dark chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 180C. Put 225g butter and 100g of the sugar into a bowl and beat until light and creamy.
Add flour and stir to form a soft dough.
Spread the dough in a lined slice or lamington tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden.
Put remaining butter and sugar in a medium-sized pan and stir over low heat until the better melts. Add condensed milk and honey, stirring continuously until the mixture is combined and very thick.
Remove from heat. Stir walnuts through, before pouring over the slice base.
Leave to cool, and then spread melted chocolate over the caramel to the edges.
Refrigerate for 3 hours before cutting into 24 squares.

NOTE: You may want to use a hot knife to cut through the chocolate as it tends to crack a little when cutting.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How to Make a Baby from Fondant or Gumpaste

 Making this gum paste or fondant newborn baby is easier than pie. With the use of a silicone baby mold, you will have a perfect miniature, edible baby within minutes--and it makes you look like a pro without being one. You can make this little bubba lifelike with a little pink petal dust to highlight the cheeks and bottom and a tan or light brown petal dust for definition in the creases and to give a more realistic skin tone. Being a very fair person myself, I instantly started creating a Caucasian newborn, but you can darken the skin as desired.
These adorable babies are perfect  for baby shower cakes, cupcakes and Christenings and can be left as is or decorated with bonnets bows and frills, or popped into a little fondant cradle or pram as a cake topper. I am going to use the babies in Anne Geddes inspired baby shower cakes atop large open fondant roses. Pictures to follow!

How to Make a Baby from Fondant or Gum paste

You will need:

Silicone baby mold
Quantity of flesh/ light coloured fondant or gum paste (about the size of a golf ball per baby)
Greaseproof paper
One or two small paint brushes
Tan or light brown petal dust
Dark brown matte petal dust
Pink matte petal dust

1. Colour fondant as desired. Make sure it is dry to the touch, not tacky. (You may want to add some icing sugar or corn flour at this stage. Tacky fondant can prove problematic.) Take a piece about the size of a golf ball and roll it into a smooth ball. Elongate this ball between the palms of your hand.

 2. Gently but firmly press this fondant into your dry mold, paying special attention to the head and feet areas. (Do not powder or grease these particular silicone molds, as it may take away the definition of the baby.)

 3. Gently cut away any excess overhanging fondant until the fondant of the baby is level with the top of the mold. Brush away any left over excess and smooth the top with your fingers.

 4. Place the mold in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm. To remove the baby, gently ease it out from the mold head first, holding the mold at the front with both thumbs, pushing from the back of the mold with your fingers.

5. Place the baby gently on some greaseproof paper. Because it has been in the freezer, it may get a damp look to it--allow it to dry.

6. Take a small brush with a little tan or light brown petal dust on it. work into the creases and over the baby's body. Build up the colour a little more under the chin, in the arm and leg creases and the sides and underneath of the tummy. If you have a darker brown petal dust, brush this over the crown for soft baby hair.

7.With a smaller brush, use the pink petal dust to touch on the cheeks, bottom, elbows, knees and hands. You can also colour the lips with the pink, or use a stronger colour such as a watered down red food colouring to carefully stain this area.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fondant Rose Petal Engagement Cake

One of my beautiful friends has become engaged. Slowly, as I grow older, my friends are getting married, and that not only fills me with a certain joy, but also gives me the opportunity to further my experience making their engagement cakes.
I have long admired the "exploded rose" or "rambling rose petal" look on wedding cakes and engagement cakes alike, so I purchased a case of rose petal cutters, varying in size from very large to quite small. I used the four smallest cutters from this range to cut out the fondant rose petals for this cake, with the idea of working from the centre out and graduating the size as I worked from the bud. When dried in the shape I desired, all the fondant petal edges were carefully brushed in pink petal dust for a delicate and realistic effect before their placement on the cake. The centre part of the rose had been coloured with this same petal dust with more intensity to create dimension and also a focal point to the flower.
To assemble, I started with the bud, (I made the beginnings of the rose as a separate piece) positioning it close to the bottom of the cake. Then I added larger rose petals surrounding it, fixing them with butter-cream icing. The petals fanned out from the main rose bud, and traveled up the cake in a romantic, sprawling fashion. Then I positioned a few of the larger petals at the top as if they had been scattered there.
Sadly for the weekend of the engagement party, it rained every day. This put a spanner in the works, as any humidity or rain in the air reeks havoc on the fondant, and makes it somewhat unstable. I was unable to have an air conditioned environment, so I experienced the fondant on the cake tearing, and the rose petals turing wet overnight before I put them on the cake. Fortunately, the sun came out for a period and they quickly dried, and I was able to get them on the cake without too much drama. I had one or two petals that cracked, so I had to glue them togather again with some egg white and prop them up until they dried once again.
Due to the tearing fondant for the main of the cake, I decided on going with a mummy-style wrapping effect of fondant strips around the cake, which turned out better than I expected in my depressed state of mind. You know that feeling when you envision something, and it doesn't turn out anything like you thought? Well, that was me, while it rained buckets and I struggled to cover the main of the cake. The wrapping effect did the trick though, and any unsightly bits were easily covered by ribbon and strewn petals. Happily, the cake made it to the engagement party in one piece! Ah, sometimes I wish I didn't live in a subtropical climate. Water and fondant are not friends. Anyway, I hope the pictures help if you're creating a cake like this. Sorry about the quality--now with my bigger camera and my sticky hands, amid concentrating on the cake, its no mean feat getting quality pictures. My apologies.

Rose Petal Engagement Cake

Rose Petal Engagement Cake

To begin with, cut out the rose petals from thinly rolled light pink fondant. (I used the supermarket brand Queen "White Icing". You can use any brand of fondant or gum paste if you prefer) I cut these out in four graduating sizes with cutters for individual petals. Then I placed them to dry in plastic trays in the shape I wanted them to be on the cake.

I made the centre piece of the rose first--this is the only part of the rose that is combined to create a unit of it's own. The other petals are left loose. When the petals had dried, I roughly arranged the loose ones around the rose centre to get an idea of how I wanted them set on the cake.

I used petal dust in pink and a small new eyeshadow brush to tint the edges of the rose petals and the centre of the main rose. This added definition, dimension and depth to the rose and made it look more realistic.

The cake itself was covered in flaws, so don't look too closely! Fortunately this style of flower arrangement on a cake is good if you have made mistakes, because you can cover them artistically with petals.

Sadly I couldn't wield the chunky camera and cake decorate at the same time so I missed out on capturing the building of the rose for you. Basically I positioned the main rose (the "centre" of the rose) close towards the bottom of the cake, and added the rose petals in around it, tucking in the pointy end of the petals beneath the centre rose. Some of these I fixed in place with a little buttercream icing. You may want to use some props to hold the petals in position while this "glue" dries (Don't give me away, but I used some toys--cleaned prior of course-to prop some of these petals in place overnight).

As you build further out from the centre of the rose, the loose petals do not have to be so closely inter-lapped with the others--you can even have some fly-away rose petals! It is an exploded rose after all. And yes--that's a wine in the background! I was under stress with the humidity foiling a smooth process.

Here you can see the petals are "tucked" in behind the main centre of the rose (I keep saying centre but it's anything but the centre. Hopefully you know what I mean!) I have seen this cake arranged backwards--starting with the back petals first and finishing with the centre of the's up to you.

The finished product. I had to take out a few petals and replace them as a few broke under the pressure (or maybe I made them too thin?) So be prepared, make a few extra spare petals in each size and don't worry too much. Here's a glass of wine on me!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Shabby Chic Bridal Shower Hightea

It's been quiet around the blog since my camera gave up the ghost, despite the fact I have been quite busy in the kitchen. Christmas Holidays meant taking time off to be with the family, but I had a few parties in the mix too. One of which was a gorgeous shabby chic style high tea held in honor of a friend who was to be married. It was for her bridal shower and screamed all things feminine and girlie. I themed the menu so that everything was decadent and pink, featuring roses and sugared rose petals, pearls and floral fondant toppers. Teapots sporting beautiful roses, delicate ferns, and lisianthus decked a table strewn with cake stands and champagne glasses, tiered high tea trays and pretty china saucers. Our poison was sweet moscato, with the addition of old fashioned pink lemonade for the non drinkers, and we also had some Rose on the side.
The trays were piled with ornately decorated cupcakes, mini banoffee tarts, mini lemon meringue tarts, pink lamingtons, cake pop skewers, pastel meringues, coconut ice domes topped with edible roses, jelly cheesecake shots, dark chocolate cointreau truffles, white chocolate Tia Maria truffles, dark chocolate royals, and a strawberry topiary.
And, as you can see, one of my Christmas presents was a nice camera, which I was able to take these photos with. I am still working out all the settings and getting used to it, so please bare with me for a while while the photos are not at their best. I will eventually get there! (If you wish for any of the recipes for the above menu, click on the word above--it will take you to the recipe link. Any that are not linked up, these recipes are yet to come! Keep checking back!)

Shabby Chic Bridal Shower Hightea