Wedding Cakes, Sesame Street and more!

Well, I did say it could be a while. However, I am back, and back with lots of photos of cake! The last month has been absolutely flat out with cakes for me, and it doesn’t look like I’ll be slowing down any time soon! Which is not a bad thing, it is nice to busy making cake, than busy writing essays! Anyway, lets get to the important stuff – this cake below was made for a very special family wedding in late November, and I was super happy with how they turned out:

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The top cake was a 4” vanilla bean layer cake, filled with lemon curd. All of the cupcakes were a nice simple vanilla bean, with fondant flowers to match the bride’s beautiful dress. I love making vanilla bean cake, because it’s so simple, but has such a lovely flavour (providing you use good quality paste or beans). I am definitely a chocolate girl at heart, but vanilla bean brings a nice change and is so underrated.

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I used the trusty vanilla bean cupcake recipe by Taste.com, which I have been using for years, for both cakes. The recipe is so versatile – the result is always great with cupcakes, and small and large layer cakes.

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These cupcakes below have to be the most fun I have ever had making cakes! I was a little nervous to make these because I have never done anything like it before, but I was very happy with the results! As you probably know from my previous work, I am not a fan of fondant at all, but I had to make a slight exception for these cuties 🙂

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It was only the second time I have attempted bright red buttercream, because the first time, it was a nightmare! Red is such a difficult colour to get right, because you have to use sooooo much colour for it to be deep enough. However, if you add too much gel to the buttercream, it splits due to the amount of liquid = disaster. It took me two times to get it right, and the trick for me was to start with a deep pink, and then add the red to deepen the colour. If anyone has any tips for red buttercream – please let me know!! 🙂

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Below are some other Birthday and Christmas cupcake orders I have been lucky enough to make 🙂

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Happy Christmas baking to you all, stay tuned for a delicious festive dessert soon! x

P.S. For more regular photos and updates, follow me on Instagram – @whiskitforabiscuit

 

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Vanilla Bean and Raspberry Melting Moments

Melting moments are one of my favourite biscuits to make, and one of my favourite doughs to eat! (Let’s face it, there aren’t many doughs that I wouldn’t eat!) They are so yummy, and this version takes the usual melting moments up a notch, with delicious homemade raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream.

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This recipe was featured on Masterchef Australia 2 years ago (I think?!), and won contestant Julia a challenge. I have been wanting to make these for a long time, like many others things, but I am very glad I finally did. They really are delicious and were certainly worth the wait! Yum! I will most definitely be making these little gems again.

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Vanilla Bean and Raspberry Melting Moments: (recipe by Julia Taylor on Masterchef Australia)

I doubled the original recipe, as it said it would only make 5 sandwiched biscuits. I ended up with about 25 with a double batch, although I did try and make them small.

Biscuits:

  • 360g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
  • 120g icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 120g custard powder
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 360g plain (all-purpose) flour

Preheat a fan forced oven to 180c. Line 2 oven trays with non-stick baking paper. Beat the butter until pale and creamy, about 2-4 minutes. Add the sugar and custard powder, and stir with wooden spoon until well combined. Add the flour and the baking powder to the dough, and stir with a wooden spoon until mixed well. Roll small ball of dough, and place them on the pre-lined oven trays. Press fork lightly onto dough, to leave an indent. Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until very slightly golden. Let biscuits cool on trays, then transfer to wire racks.

Raspberry Jam:

  • 200g fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 150g caster (white) sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Tbs cold water
  • 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin

Place raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan, and cook on low-medium heat for about 20-30 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat. Place water and gelatin together in a small bowl, and mix until combined. Stir into jam, and place in heatproof bowl, in the fridge, to cool.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream:

  • 250g butter, chopped and softened
  • 1 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste/natural extract

Beat butter until pale and creamy, 2-4 minutes. Beat in vanilla bean paste. Gradually add the icing sugar and beat until all well combined. Spoon buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle.

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To assemble:

Place likely pairs of biscuits, facing upwards, next to each other. On one biscuit spoon a small amount of the raspberry jam, and on the other biscuit, pipe a swirl of buttercream. Gently sandwich together. Be sure not to use too much jam as it will just drip out when you press the biscuits together. Biscuits are stored best in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place. FYI – they are also best made the day before, as both the jam and buttercream will set, and the flavour will develop also.

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Happy Baking! 🙂

Triple Salted Caramel Mini Cupcakes

I made these super delicious morsels for the RSPCA Cupcake Day at work, and I believe they were quite the hit. Well, I’m guessing they were, as there were none left at the end! If you follow my blog, you will know I am the number one lover of all things salted caramel, and these cupcakes did nothing to change my opinion. They were yum. Really yum.

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I’m happy I made the wise decision to make them minis, though. They were the perfect size. Not too big, and not too small. Just enough to pop them in your mouth all at once, to close your eyes and go to heaven for a few seconds. If I could have, I would have popped and definitely not stopped. I really am a shocker. As I sit here, I have a fresh tub of the biggest Nutella (one of my many other loves) you can get at the supermarket, right next to me, and a spoon clumsily hanging from my mouth. I may have slightly freaked out about the prospect of a worldwide Nutella shortage. Anyway, back on track…

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Salted Caramel Cupcakes: (from Gourmet Getaways) Makes approx. 60 mini cupcakes

  • 190g butter, chopped and softened
  • 150g white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup golden syrup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 170c. Line cupcakes trays with cases. In a large saucepan, combine butter, white chocolate, brown sugar and golden syrup, and place over a medium heat, stirring with a metal spoon until combined and melted, and the sugar is dissolved.

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Remove from the heat, add the milk, and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir through the flour and baking powder until combined. Add eggs, one at a time and stir until combined. Fill cupcakes evenly, and bake for approximately 18 minutes, or until a skewer comes out of the cakes clean. Cool in tins for 5-10 minutes, and let cool on wire racks.

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Caramel Maison: (this recipe is on page 245 of Adriano Zumbo’s cookbook)

  • 220g pouring (whipping) cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (I used 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
  • 120g water (this is just under 1 cup)
  • 300g caster (white) sugar
  • 60g liquid glucose (available at most supermarkets)

Place the cream and vanilla in a small saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, and remove the vanilla bean if you are using one. In the meantime, place the water, sugar and glucose in a larger saucepan over a low-medium heat and cook until the glucose and sugar are fully dissolved, stirring occasionally. Zumbo says to use a clean pastry brush dipped in water to clean the sides of the saucepan in order to avoid crystalisation, however you can also just place the saucepan in really hot water with suds just after use and the sugar will melt off really easily. Increase the heat to medium, and cook the sugar mixture until it reaches a dark amber colour. This does take quite a while, and I was getting worried that mine would not work, but persistence is key here, it will eventually darken after 10-12 minutes. Very carefully stir the cream mixture into the sugar mixture slowly – be very careful because it spits and releases lot of heat. I found the best way to do this was with a spoon with a very long handle, as you want to keep your face as far away from the saucepan whilst it is spitting. If you don’t have a spoon with a super long handle, just add the cream really slowly and try to stir as best you can! Keep stirring as much as you can until the caramel settles down, then stir until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl, let it cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

Caramel Buttercream: (this recipe is on page 42 of Zumbo’s cookbook)

  • 150g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
  • caramel maison (prepared earlier. Leave 2 tbs for the sauce to drizzle on top of cupcakes)
  • approx. 2 tsp sea salt

Place the butter in a bowl, and beat until light and fluffy. Warm the caramel maison in the microwave until it reaches a pouring consistency (mine needed 1 min, 20 seconds on high as it was in the fridge overnight), however, just warm it in stages to prevent burning the caramel. With the beater running slowly, add the caramel maison to the butter and continue mixing until thick. Once I had added about half of my caramel, I got a bit worried because it looked like it was curdling, however as I kept adding the caramel, it began to thicken up. Once you have added all of the caramel, fold in the salt. I did not measure my salt, as I used a shaker. So if you too are using a shaker, you can salt to taste.

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Assembly:

Place your preferred piping nozzle in your piping bag, and fill with caramel buttercream. Pipe swirls/rounds onto cupcakes. For the sauce, take the 2 tbs of caramel maison left, warm in microwave until it is an almost liquid like consistency. Pour into a sauce bottle or similar, and drizzle over each cupcake. To store, place cupcakes in airtight containers, and leave at room temperature, in a dry area.

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Oreo and Milk Cupcakes

I am a very big fan of Oreos, and always have been. I remember watching The Parent Trap when I was little and was very intrigued when the twins were talking about how they both loved dipping them in peanut butter. I tried it, and was hooked. There was no turning back! I made these cupcakes for the Australian Cancer Council’s Biggest Morning Tea, which was held at my workplace.

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I really wanted to put little milk bottles on top of the cupcakes, as well as the mini Oreo, but they were just too big, and they ruined the look a little. The taste of these babies was quite amazeballs, I must say. It was definitely a good idea putting a whole Oreo cookie at the bottom of the cake 🙂 Winner!

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Vanilla Cupcakes with Oreos: (adapted from the usual Vanilla Cupcakes recipe) Makes approximately 36 cupcakes.

  • 200g butter, chopped and softened, not melted
  • 1 1/3 cups caster (white) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 packet Oreos (I used some weird ‘Grab and Go’ packs as they were the only ones at the store. I would suggest using one whole long packet of Oreos!)
  • 36 extra Oreos (for the bottom of the cupcakes), crushed

Preheat the oven to 180c. Line cupcake tins with cases and place one whole Oreo biscuit at the bottom of each case. Beat butter, caster sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until each one is well combined. Add the flour and the milk in batches, starting and finishing with flour. Stir after each addition until well combined. Either in a food processor or with a rolling pin (or any other alternate way), crush one packet of Oreos. If you are using the food processor, just be careful as you don’t want the biscuits to be just crumbs. You want them to be chunky, so you get nice big bits when you’re eating the cake. Stir crushed Oreos into cake mixture. Spoon cake mixture into cakes with the whole Oreos at the bottom. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a skewer is inserted into the cake and comes out clean. Leave cakes to cool in tin for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Condensed Milk Buttercream: (adapted from the awesome Raspberri Cupcakes)

  • 350g butter, chopped and softened, not melted
  • 2 cups icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 200g tube sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/extract
  • To decorate, mini Oreos

Beat butter until pale and creamy, approximately 4 minutes. Gradually add the icing sugar. Add the condensed milk and vanilla and beat until well combined and fluffy. I let mine go for about 4 minutes. To assemble, spoon buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a wide, round nozzle. Pipe large dollops onto cooled cupcakes, and top with a mini Oreo. Store at room temperature in an airtight container, in a cool place. I’m a big advocate of not putting cakes in the fridge. It just dries them out, plus cold cake is not pleasant. It’s as simple as that, in my opinion!

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This cupcake has been one of my favourites, to make and to eat. I always like to make my cupcakes a little bit different and I try to make them memorable. The Oreo at the bottom of the cake and that delicious condensed milk buttercream was a winner for me! Also, I am off overseas next week, and won’t be back until the end of July. I hope to have an interesting travel post for the blog. Until then, Happy Baking!

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Pear and Chocolate Layer Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream

My friend asked me to make a special cake for a very special occasion, and she gave me complete freedom to choose the flavours and look of this special cake. I was a bit worried, because I wanted it to not only be creative and interesting, but also a crowd pleaser. It took me a while to come up with the idea that eventuated into the pretty little thing below,and I kept umm-ing and ahh-ing about every last detail. I’m pretty happy with the result.

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This is the first ‘naked’ cake I’ve made, and I must say I really like the look of the naked cake. It first worried me a little because covering a cake in icing kind of gives you a security blanket in that you can cover up all the flaws on the cake itself, but I love the rustic look, and also the autumn colours this cake has.

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I have used the combination of pear and caramel before, and really, adding chocolate to this magnificent duo, is certainly not going to do any harm! While it may seem a little rich, the pear is a nice fresh hit when paired peared with the creamy caramel and breaks the decadence up nicely, even though I would be so much more than happy to down a bowl of that caramel buttercream on its own.

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The recipes used here are nothing I haven’t made before, I’ve just adapted them a little differently.  You can find the caramel buttercream recipe on this post for Caramel au buerre sale macarons, and you can find the chocolate cake recipe here – I have just made it into three round cakes instead of cupcakes. As for the pear, there is one pear, chopped, in each layer, plus the whole baked pear in the middle of the top layer. Enjoy!

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Italy and Spain: Meditteranean Magic + a few other bits and pieces

What an amazing few weeks that were spent in Italy and Spain. We were so lucky to have experienced beautiful weather almost everywhere we went, although even more beautiful, was the food, of course. The easiest way for me to write this post is to break it down into places we visited. All of the restaurants I talk about in this post, I would thoroughly recommend. If you have any questions about them or want some further recommendations throughout Europe or in London, shoot me through a comment 🙂

Venice:

Venice was really amazing – everything I expected it to be and more, and nothing like I have ever seen. The canals, the boats and the gondolas, the narrow streets and lane ways, they all looked like they had just jumped out of a postcard! It was really beautiful, despite the hoards of tourists and smelly water. Having never been to Italy, but being a huge fan of Italian food, I couldn’t wait to get stuck into the local haunts. Venice certainly did not disappoint! Firstly, the wine in Venice was delicious. I, as well as my boyfriend, are quite fussy, but we had the most delicious Pinot Grigio, and partnered up with my scrumptious duck ragu with fresh spaghetti, was a match made in Venetian heaven!
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My favorite foodie place visited in Venice was a teeny tiny almost booth like pasta joint called Alfredo’s Fresh Pasta to Go. It was number 1 on TripAdvisor, and it definitely lived up to expectations. Alfredo’s make all their pastas and sauces on site, and cook your pasta directly in front of you. I also loved the way you could choose your dish with a number system, picking your choice of pasta and sauce. The pasta is served in little cardboard boxes similar to noodle boxes, then you can go and enjoy your delicious dinner sitting on a little Venetian bridge – perfect! We went twice in our 3 day stay, and the first time I had a penne ‘Ciao Bella’ which was a delicious combination of cream, curry paste, fresh tomato, zucchini and Parmesan – it was unlike any pasta sauce I’ve ever eaten, but it’s definitely one I’d like to recreate at home! The second time, I had fresh fettuccine with a sauce called ‘Chickenese’ – basically a bolognese make with chicken. It was so yummy, I wish I could get my sauces to taste the way the Italians do! So simple, yet so amazing!!
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We also had some delish gelato in Venice, not a surprise really! We were super lucky that our hotel was in a fantastic location, so we were able to walk everywhere, including ‘La Mela Verde’, which was number 3 on TripAdvisor. Flavours we sampled included Giotto (white choc and almond), Dark chocolate, Pistachio and Straccitella (choc chip). All flavours were really yummy, although I would recommend the Dark chocolate gelato 🙂

Sorrento:

If it hadn’t been for this one amazing local restaurant, I probably wouldn’t have added Sorrento into this post. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best time in Sorrento – which was mainly due to our hotel, but still, there wasn’t a whole lot of food that stood out. I’m sure many people would disagree with me, this was just our experience. Unfortunately, when you have been constantly travelling around for a long time and have seen so many countries and cities, moving around every few days becomes tiring and new places can lose their luster. You can become frustrated when little things don’t go in your favour, and can easily disregard the fact that you are in Italy, on the beach, looking over Mount Vesuvius, next to a cliff face! We had definitely hit the wall at this point and were extremely tired. Luckily, this little restaurant was our savior, and was definitely the highlight of our Sorrento experience. This restaurant was what I really wanted to find in Italy – small, family run, inexpensive and with all the quintissential Italian classics. It was awesome, and we visited it every night we were in Sorrento! From pizzas to soups, freshly made pasta to calzones and delicious salads, they had it all, and it was great. As it was small and out of the main area, it really felt like you were welcomed into the owners home for dinner, and they actually ate their own dinner in the restaurant, too. With plastic placemats and your knife and fork in a small paper bag, it was also unpretentious. Plus, the owners make their own Limoncello – how could I resist?! If anyone is ever in the Sorrento area, I urge you to take a detour to Gran Caffe Laura, you won’t regret it!
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Sorrento is the capital of Limoncello. You can buy Limoncello/Lemon everything! I had the best gelato in Italy on the Isle of Capri – which is a stunningly beautiful place. Limoncello and Strawberry!
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Rome:
When in Rome…eat as much as you can! We definitely did. We had two real foodie highlights in Rome, one of them being a tiramisu that is hailed as Rome’s best. These two places were both in the area where we stayed which was just south east of the city in the Ponte Lungo area. The tiramisu was absolutely amazing, and I would happily revisit Rome for the sole purpose of eating more! This is coming from someone who has never been a huge fan of tiramisu and who doesn’t drink coffee! We were lucky that it was only round the corner from where we stayed. Bar Pompi has a few flavours of Tiramisu – the classic coffee, pistachio, hazelnut, banana and nutella and strawberries and cream. We tried the first three – the classic was definitely my favorite, and my boyfriend loved the hazelnut.
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The other foodie highlight in Rome was a great pizza place recommended by our host. Pizzeria Dal Bersagliere served the thinnest and crispiest pizza I’ve ever had! I know that many people don’t enjoy really thin pizza bases, and I found it a little different, but this is the traditional way the crust is made and is how the majority of pizzas are in Italy. The toppings were simple: margherita, marinara, napoli and so on. No meat lovers or bacon cheeseburger in sight! We personally found the best Italian pizzas to be crispy at the edges and a little doughy in the middle, but still holding its form so the pieces would not fall down in the middle, and not soggy. This place definitely hit the spot, and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Rome, as it is also nice and cheap 🙂 Can’t get better than that!
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Florence:

Ah, Firenze! I really loved Florence, it was my next favourite place we visited after the amazing Paris. We were so lucky with our accomodation, we could see the magestic Duomo from our window – it was literally 50m down the street. I also loved that we didn’t need to take any public transport, which is big plus when you’re used to taking hot and stuffy underground tubes everyday! You can walk everywhere. There is so much culture in Florence – from the little laneways waiting to be discovered to the beautiful basilicas, we thought that Florence had it all. As far as food went, it was by far the best we had in Italy, and I had one of my favourite meals of the trip there. There were three places that really stood out for me. The first was a tiny little cafe called Il Panino del Chianti – which basically means a sandwich and a glass of (tuscan) wine! They had little share plates of cold meat and antipasti and a small selection of regional tuscan wines. They also had a special where you could choose 3 ingredients in a panino for 4 euros. Perfect! They were delicious, and so generous with the fillings considering how cheap it was. We went there twice and the first time I had proscuitto, sundried tomatoes and marinated artichokes (my fave!), and the second time I had ham, pear and pecorino. Yum! It was perfect for lunch – not too big a meal, so you can still justify a pizza or pasta for dinner!
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The second place was an awesome gelato shop called Grom, just down the road from our apartment. It was really fresh, full of flavour and decently priced. So, we went there every night! My favourite flavours were surprisingly Coffee, and the Dark Chocolate gelato, and my boyfriend loved the Nougat.

Thirdly, is my favourite restaurant from the entire trip. This place was recommended to us by our host, and we were so glad we visited (twice)! Osteria Il Gatto e la Volpe (The Cat and the Fox), was soooooooo good. Soooooooo good. I will happily keep repeating that it was sooooooo good. The reviews on TripAdvisor were also amazing, so it was a no-brainer for us! The menu was really big, which is usually not a good thing, but not this time. Everything that we had over the two nights was downright delicious, and we couldn’t fault anything. They serve warm bread before your meal comes, which is definitely homemade in their pizza oven – it was really yummy. They also make their own balsamic vinegar – the best I have ever tasted! It was really thick and had quite a grape-y flavour, and I would have happily drank the whole bottle! You can actually buy big wine bottles of the vinegar – if only we had the suitcase space! My boyfriend had a pizza both nights which he absolutely loved and thought it was the best he had in Italy, and that’s saying something, as he had a looooooot of pizzas! The first night I had a vegetable risotto, and it was great. Nothing pretentious, just freshly cooked with a simple tomato sauce and creamy rice. The second night was definitely the highlight for me – I had a ravioli filled with a super light mashed potato with herbs, in a bolognese sauce. I know it might not sound like much, but it was amazingly delicious. I still think about that dish, and yes, I did dream about it that night! I can’t wait to return to the Cat and the Fox, and I absolutely recommend it if you are ever in Florence!

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Barcelona:

I can’t wait to go back to Barcelona! It was really hot when we were there, and then the one day we went to see the main sights, it was pouring with rain – typical! Barcelona was a really cool place, the city has a really chilled out vibe and there is plenty to see and do. As far as the food went, there were two places which we loved, and I’m sure there would have been more, but as our trip was coming to and end, so were our finances 😦 Both of these places were in the area in which we stayed – I think it was called Entenca, but don’t count me on it. It was just south-west of the city centre. The first place was a tiny burger joint called B Burger. Not traditionally Spanish, but it certainly had influences and was delicious enough, plus the owners were super friendly and explained everything to us in English. We had to make a reservation the night before, as the place is so small, they can only cook a few meals at a time. I loved this, as it meant the food was fresh and cooked to order, and the staff were attentive and were not run off their feet. We went to B Burger twice, and both times I ordered the Jamon Jamon burger, which had a fresh patty cooked medium rare (the more blood, the better I say!), parmesan, rocket and proscuitto. Delish! We also had patatas bravas (small roasted like crispy potatoes) with a paprika aioli. B Burger also had amazing gin and tonics, my boyfriend and my favourite drink, and perfect to cool down with in the Barcelona heat. They were soooo big, and made with care by the owner complete with juniper berries. I would love to go back to B Burger next time I am in Barcelona. If you’re ever there and want a cheap and decent feed, make sure you ring and book the day before!
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The next place we really loved in Barcelona was a restaurant called Koxkera. Weird name, but amazing food. This was definitely our treat in Barcelona, it was not cheap but it was definitely worth it. I was on a mission to find a great paella, as you do in Spain. Although, I had read that many places will just heat up frozen versions, which is disgraceful considering it is their national dish! I guess that stuff happens everywhere though, as we did have couple of horrible pizzas and risottos in Italy. So, I did my research and tried to find the best places in Barcelona that make fresh seafood paella. We certainly found this at Koxkera – it was full of flavour, but the saffron was not overpowering, the calamari was so fresh and perfectly cooked – not rubbery or stringy at all, and the prawns were delicious. I can’t explain how great it was!! We had two prawn starters, one being fresh unpeeled king prawns with lemon and aioli, and together with some traditional Spanish tomato bread, I was in heaven. I know it’s a little weird, but I love peeling prawns. I find it very therapeutic! I couldn’t do them all day, but just a few. Our second prawn dish came out in a sizzling claypot full of garlic and small, extremely hot Spanish chillies. They were like little prawn poppers, and I could have eaten them all myself! I really can’t wait to get back to Barcelona and try some more of the food! We had great sample of amazing Spanish seafood and I think I may have to try and find something similar in Melbourne! Let’s hope I can 🙂

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A few other bits and pieces:

There are a couple more little bits I want to add into this post, as they were simply too good not to share! The last 10 days of our trip were spent back in London, which is now easily one of my favourite cities in the world. We went to a fantastic little Japanese place in the West End area called Tsunami, and it was fantastic. I am by no means a big fan of Japanese food but this restaurant may have slightly changed that! We had a range of things, and shared them all between the four of us. I really like the idea of sharing food, and it seems to have become quite the phenomenon in today’s society. I like trying little bits of everything and tasting new foods I probably would never order myself. At Tsunami we had kataifi prawns – king prawns wrapped in string like pastry and fried – what’s not to love? We also had tempura prawns, sliced hoi sin pork belly, dynamite chilli beef, soft shell crab sushi rolls and miso marinated black cod. The highlights for me were the tempura prawns, the dynamite beef which wasn’t too spicy considering its name, but it just had that nice bit of heat (I sound so wanky!!), and the black cod. This piece of fish (bottom right below) was easily one of the best things I have had on this trip, second to the ravioli in Florence. It was deliciously flaky and so creamy, and the miso which it was marinated in gave it the most amazing caramel flavour and sticky edges. I’m not sure how else I can explain it, but it was really to die for. I would highly recommend.

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On our way back to Australia, we had a little stopover in Singapore. Our hotel happened to have the amazing Carousel restaurant inside, which has won a bunch of awards for its buffet dinner. So, of course, we had to go. It was definitely the best buffet I have ever been to. The seafood section alone would have been enough, but they had everything. There were two dessert tables with great little layered shooters and cakes with chocolate airbrushing. They were all amazing (including the 3 chocolate fountains). We were lucky enough to have breakfast there, too, which also unsurprisingly fantastic.

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Well, that ends my foodie experiences from our amazing trip to Europe! I can’t believe how quickly it has gone, and I would do anything to go back. I hope you have enjoyed reading about my travels, and I hope I haven’t bored you too much with the descriptions of all our meals! Now back to reality, and back to BAKING! Yay 🙂

Peanut Butter Macarons

I think I can safely say that I have put on about 2kg’s this week. And the peanut butter filling used for these macarons is the sole reason for this! If you are a peanut butter fiend, you will love these, and I’m seriously surprised there was any filling left for the macarons 😛 I’ve been having a bit of bad luck with macarons lately, many of the shells in this batch cracked in the oven, which makes me really upset and then, in a fit of self-pity, I ended up eating the majority of all the cracked shells! 😦 I think the Australian summer might have something to do with it, as humidity practically destroys macaron shells 😦
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I used a Donna Hay recipe for the peanut butter filling, and as I already mentioned, it certainly did not let me down! It’s really easy to make, and it also keeps very well and is versatile. I can’t wait to use it on cupcakes and in tarts. And of course, to eat it straight from the bowl 😉
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Macarons:

This recipe is Adriano Zumbo’s, and was published a couple of years ago in the Herald Sun. You will definitely need kitchen scales to make macarons.

  • 135g almond meal
  • 135g icing sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 45g egg whites
  • 50g egg whites
  • 40g water
  • 1/2 tsp Wilton’s colouring gel, brown

Preheat oven to 160 (150c fan forced). Spray four oven trays with cooking oil spray baround the edges, and line with baking paper and set aside. Place almond meal and icing sugar in a large bowl, and sift together 3 times. Set aside, along with the 45g egg whites. Put 50g egg whites in a separate bowl. Heat caster sugar and water in a small saucepan, over a low-medium heat, until the sugar completely dissolves (if it slightly burns my tongue, it’s done!). If you do not want to burn your tongue, Zumbo suggests investing in a candy thermometer and heating the syrup until it reaches 118 degrees C (244 degrees F). If the syrup becomes thick and powdery in appearance, you will need to start again. This is because the sugar has been heated too much, too quickly, and instead of dissolving, it has cooked.

Begin beating the 50g egg whites with one hand, and with the other, stream the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl to create an italian meringue. Beat until stiff peaks form, the meringue should be thick and very glossy. If you want to add flavouring/colouring, now’s your moment. So add the colouring now. Just lightly beat them into the meringue. Pour meringue into the almond meal, icing sugar and 45g egg whites mixture and mix roughly to combine. When combined, fold mixture together (one single stroke) until there are no air bubbles left. Make a spread across the top of the mixture, and it should disappear in about 20 seconds. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. (If you don’t have a piping bag set, most supermarkets sell plastic ones, they are Multix brand, in an orange box and contain 5 piping bags with a few different nozzles, plus they’re only about $3. You should be able to find them in the baking aisle). Lock the bag by spinning the top around 4 times. Pipe 3-4cm rounds on the oven trays prepared earlier. Tap the bottom of the trays on the kitchen bench and let them sit for about half an hour, or until mixture is dry to the touch.

Place in oven and bake for 7minutes. Turn tray around in the oven and bake for another 5 inutes. To test, pull a macaron off the baking paper. If it is stuck, keep cooking and checking regularly. Cool on trays for 5 minutes, then peel off and place on a wire rack. The mixture should make about 12 -15 large macarons, and about 25 smaller macarons. Macarons keep really well (about 5 days in the fridge) and some say that the longer they are refrigerated, the more the flavour is likely to develop. Macarons taste best when they are stored in the fridge, then brought down to room temperature to eat.

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Peanut Butter filling (adapted from Donna Hay):
  •  3/4 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1 cup of smooth peanut butter
  • 80g butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste/extract
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) cream, thickened
  • Pinch of salt

Filling

Place sugar peanut butter, butter and vanilla in a bowl, and beat until light and fluffy (on high for about 5 minutes). Add the cream slowly and beat for another 2 minutes. If not using straight away, cover and refrigerate. To assemble, place the peanut butter filling in a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Pipe 3/4 teaspoon on a macaron shell, then sandwich with another. Refrigerate until you need to serve.
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