Raspberry Bubblegum Macarons

Macarons have been few and far between as of late. As much as I love making them, and more importantly, eating them, they can be very finicky and temperamental, especially in the heat and humidity of the summer. However, I thought, before I go back into Uni hibernation, I should probably make some, even just to know that I am still capable (and this I am now unsure of!).

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 I had been on the hunt for a delicious bubblegum flavour, as I love baking with fun and nostalgic flavours. With fresh raspberries in abundance, I thought, what better than raspberry bubblegum macarons. Whilst my shells failed to comply, they were still tasty, and the intense bubblegum flavour coupled nicely with the burst of the fresh raspberry.

 Macarons:

Recipe by Adriano Zumbo. 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
  • Colouring gel, purple (Wilton and Americolour are best)
  • 100s & 1000s, any sort you like (I use CK Brand – Jimmies)

Spray four oven trays with cooking oil spray around 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 and begins to bubble slightly. You can also use a candy thermometer, and heat 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 and hardened.

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. Add the colouring gel now, taking care to only add very small amounts until your desired colour is achieved. 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 set, most supermarkets sell plastic disposable ones with a few different nozzles. 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. Sprinkles macaron shells with 100s & 1000s. 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. Don’t rush this process – you want the shells to be completely dry. Otherwise, it is unlikely that the ‘foot’ of the macaron will be formed.  Preheat your oven to 135c, or 125c fan forced.

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Place in oven and bake for 8 minutes. Turn trays around, and bake for another 9 minutes. To check if shells are cooked, gently lift one off the baking paper. If it peels of easily, they are done, if not, keep checking at 2 minute intervals. Furthermore, if you notice the tops have a slightly crumpled look after you take them out of the oven, put them back in for another couple of minutes. In my experience, this means that they are slightly undercooked and/or haven’t dried out enough before cooking. Cool on trays for 10 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).

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 Raspberry bubblegum buttercream:

  •  Approximately 10 fresh or frozen raspberries, chopped finely
  • 200g butter, chopped and softened (not melted)
  • 2-3 cups icing sugar mixture
  • Colouring gel, turquoise (Wilton and Americolour are best)
  • Bubblegum flavouring (available at specialty cake supply stores)

With a beater, or in a mixer, beat butter until pale and creamy (usually 4-5 minutes). Gradually add in the icing sugar, mixing each addition until well combined. Add approx. ¼ teaspoon of colouring gel. You can always add more if you would like a deeper colour. Very carefully, add a couple of drops of bubblegum flavouring. Mine is extremely strong, so I only needed a tiny amount to achieve enough flavour. Remember, you can always put more in, but you cannot take it back out! Gently fold through the fresh raspberries through the buttercream.

Assembly:

Pair up similar sized macaron shells. Fill a piping bag, fitted with a large round nozzle (it must be large, as you do not want the pieces of raspberry to get stuck behind the nozzle), with buttercream. Pipe rounds of buttercream onto one macaron shell, and gently sandwich with the other. Place in an airtight container, and store in the fridge. Macarons always taste better the day after you have made them, as the flavour has had time to develop. Always serve macarons at room temperature.

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 Enjoy! X

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! 🙂

Learning how to cook like a Parisian – an amazing experience at La Cuisine, Paris

When I was in Paris last year, I desperately wanted to do a cooking class, but as we were travelling for a long time on a tight budget, unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. However, I was very lucky to be going back to the city of love for a short visit this year, so there was no doubt in my mind that I would be doing a Parisian cooking class this time! I chose to do the class with La Cuisine as they had excellent reviews, and boy, am I glad I went with them! They really were fantastic. We chose to do the Market Class, where the group met at a local farmers market to choose the menu and buy the ingredients for the lunch. We then took a short stroll to the kitchen, in the hot Parisian summer sun, via the Notre Dame.
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La Cuisine gave our group freedom to choose what we wanted to eat – there was no set menu. We chose sea bream for the main, and some ripe peaches and apricots for dessert, along with some beautiful cheeses, vegetables and baguettes.What I loved about the market was that our wonderful chef, Emilie, explained everything to us. She showed us what to look for when choosing fish, how to tell if fruit and vegetables are ripe, and gave us a thorough run down on different types of French cheeses and breads. One of the cheeses we had was a special cheddar type, where, in the process of making this cheese, little cheese mites (yes, little bugs!) huddle around the outside of the wheel, protecting the cheese from bacteria. Some people thought this was pretty disgusting, but I thought it was kind of cool that little bugs could help produce a delicious cheese! And delicious it was! (FYI – the mite cheese is the orangey one at the bottom).
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When it was time to cook, everybody helped out and did their bit – it was certainly a team effort. Emilie showed us how to fillet a fish, which I did for the first time – it was a pretty horrible effort though, I pretty much hacked the poor thing to bits! Lucky I wasn’t the only filleting virgin. To go with the sea bream, we made a cauliflower puree, mini roasted carrots, onions and radishes and a buerre blanc sauce. This sauce was easily my favourite part of the whole lunch, and I could have drank a whole bowl of it. It was delicious – but let’s face it, anything with a truckload of butter, white wine and onions is bound to taste pretty damn good.
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For dessert, we made an almond and hazelnut financier, with roasted peaches and apricots and chantilly cream. This was a really delicious dessert. The peaches and apricots were sliced up, brushed with butter, and roasted with brown sugar and rosemary, an unexpectedly delicious addition. The financier was dense and buttery, and with the chantilly cream, it was really great. I am definitely looking forward to making this again.
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If you are going to Paris in the near future, and love food, I really recommend you check out ‘La Cuisine’. They have lots of other classes to do with pastry, bread, chicken and more. If I had the time, I would have loved to do a pastry or macaron class! Oh well, next time! Thanks to La Cuisine and Emilie, for an unforgettable day 🙂

Chocolate Passionfruit Macarons

It seems I’m developing a bit of habit of combining chocolate and fruit lately. This macaron flavour was inspired, or recreated, I should say, from my visit to Paris last year, where I had the most amazing macarons, unsurprisingly. Pierre Herme had an amazing Chocolate Passionfruit macaron, and the middle was the yummiest combination of creamy and bitter chocolate combined with that zingy and sweet hit of passionfruit, it was delicious. I did my best to try and recreate this wonderful moment, and I think I did quite well, but of course, nothing will ever compare to Pierre Herme!

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The ganache didn’t go quite as I hoped it would, as I think I made it too late. Ganache can take a long time to set properly. Next time I would probably leave it overnight. Then, I put too much liquid into the butter, and it split. Luckily, that was easily fixed, with more butter. But there’s not much that butter can’t fix. The flavour of the ganache was very full on when I made it. It was very sour and the chocolate was very bitter – I used 75% cocoa, next time I would probably use really good quality milk or a regular dark chocolate. You couldn’t really distinguish the chocolate from the passionfruit, it was too strong. However, as macarons tend to do, the flavour did develop, and they were much nicer the next day. Also, I’m super happy with these shells! One giant positive of colder weather = less humidity, prettier macs 🙂 Oh, and FYI, I have slightly changed my macaron recipe. It’s only the cooking times, but I’ve found the shells to be sturdier and chubbier since I’ve made the change.

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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
  • 1/4 tsp colouring gel, yellow
  • 1/4 tsp colouring gel, orange

Spray four oven trays with cooking oil spray around 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 it 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. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 135c, fan forced.

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Place in oven and bake for 8 minutes. Turn trays around, and bake for another 9 minutes. To check if shells are cooked, gently lift one off the baking paper. If it peels of easily, they are done, if not, keep checking at 2 minute intervals. 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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Chocolate Passionfruit Ganache:

  • 100g good quality chocolate, dark or milk, depends how strong you like your chocolate
  • 170ml thickened cream
  • 170g can passionfruit pulp, strained from seeds OR depending on size, 4-5 passionfruits, strained of seeds

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan, and stir over a low-medium heat until smooth. Pour into bowl and refrigerate. For best results, make ganache the day before serving. Ganache should be of a pipe-able consistency. OPTIONAL – if you like your ganache quite creamy, feel free to beat up 70g butter and add to ganache.

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Assembly:

Pair up likely macaron shells. Spoon ganache into a piping bag fitted with a wide round nozzle. Pipe rounds onto shells, and sandwich with another. You can dust with cocoa, if you like. Store macarons in an airtight container, in the fridge, and bring down to room temperature to eat.

Happy Baking! 🙂

 

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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Ferrero Rocher Mini Cupcakes

In the last few weeks, it has been so hot and sticky here in Melbourne. The type of weather that sucks the energy right out of you, it’s not fun. And in this weather, baking is the last thing anyone would want to be doing! With a slight cool change earlier in the week, I jumped at the chance to make these little babies, and boy, I am glad I did. They are very yummy. I guess they are kind of my (belated) Valentine’s Day post. I have always loved Ferrero Rocher chocolates, but they have always been something I have had on a special occasion. Plus, my boyfriend loved them. So, there we have it.

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The chocolate cupcake recipe I used, is the one I have used many, many times before. It is fantastic, and works really well every time. I cut the Ferrero Rocher chocolates in half, which is not easy to do! You will probably get a really messy half and a neater half. Place the messier half inside the uncooked cupcake, and leave the other half for decorating. You can find the cupcake recipe  here. I halved the recipe for this batch, and it still made close to 30 mini cupcakes.

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Nutella Ganache:

  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 250g good quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 75g salted butter, softened, not melted

Melt the white chocolate in a glass bowl, in the microwave in spurts of 20 seconds. At the end of each stint in the microwave, stir chocolate with a metal spoon. When completely melted, stir in Nutella until well combined. Leave at room temperature to cool. When mixture is at room temperature, it may have become a little solid. If so, just run some lukewarm water around the outside of the bowl to soften up a bit. In a separate bowl, beat butter until pale and creamy. Spoon the butter into the Nutella mixture and beat altogether for a couple of minutes until whipped and smooth.

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To decorate: Spoon Nutella ganache into a piping bag fitted with a round wide nozzle. Pipe one single round onto each cupcake, and place halved Ferrero Rocher on top. Store in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place. If it’s really hot, you can place the cupcakes in the fridge, but bring them down to room temperature to eat. I am very reluctant to put cake in the fridge, and people always think this is weird. When you put cake in the fridge, the fat component of the cake (butter) becomes harder, so the cake becomes drier and often crumbly. By the way, you can freeze these cupcakes, too. Just do it as soon as they are decorated, and obviously, bring them down to room temperature to serve, preferably overnight.

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Here are some I made with Malteasers. Equally as delicious!

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Lamington Cake with Balsamic Strawberry Jam

Happy Australia Day to all you Aussies! I hope everyone is having a relaxing long weekend 🙂 As a country, Australia does not really have a defined cuisine of its own. I guess it has something to do with being derived from Britain, and not really having a whole lot of history of our own. However, there is one sweet that we do claim do be our own (aside from the humble Pav, of course!). It is the delicious Lamington. If you do not know what a Lamington is, you are missing out, big time! They are slices of sponge-y cake, filled with jam, and covered in chocolate icing and coconut. Yum! I had actually never made a Lamington before, so I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I decided on a cake version for my Mum’s birthday, and I must say, it was delicious, and a big hit.

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I was going to use the recipe from the ‘BAKE’ book, from the Australian’s Women’s Weekly (AWW are the go-to’s for great recipes for many Aussies), for normal Lamington’s. However, I just had to look on my favourite site, Taste, of course, to see if they may have had a recipe for a cake. Luckily, I found the perfect one with great reviews, so I went with that, with a few of my own additions. I guess I could be more sure of the measurements this way, instead of having to adapt a slice into a cake. Anyhoo, the recipe was great – easy to follow and not ridiculously time consuming, either. Winner 🙂

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Lamington Cake: (recipe from Taste.com)

  • Cooking oil spray, to grease
  • 1/2 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/4 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup caster (white) sugar
  • 2 cups coconut
  • 250ml thickened cream
  • 1/3 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/natural extract

Preheat your oven to 180c/356f. Grease two 20cm round springform baking tins with cooking oil spray, and line with non-stick baking paper. Set aside.

Sift all three flours into one bowl. In a separate bowl, beat all of the eggs, and the sugar, for approximately ten minutes, or until the mixture is thick, pale and creamy. Then, sift half of the flour mixture into egg mixture, and  gently fold it in with a metal spoon until well combined. Repeat with the remaining flour. Make sure the flour is all combined as it can be difficult to see in a large bowl – the flour will just sink to the bottom. And remember to be gentle as you don’t want to knock too much air out of the sponge.

Divide the mixture evenly into the 2 prepared tins. Smooth the surfaces with a metal spoon to ensure the mixture is even. Bake for 12-15 minutes (mine took 14, but ensure you check at 12). Insert a skewer to ensure cake is cooked – the skewer will come out clean. Leave in tins to cool, then place on a wire rack.

Chocolate Icing:

  • 2 cups icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1/3 cup good quality cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup water

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl together, and add the water. Mix well until combined and smooth. Pour the icing into a large, shallow dish. Pour the coconut out onto a large baking tray.

Place one side of the sponge cake into the icing, cover the sides, then dip the other side of the sponge in the icing. Cover in coconut and place on a large cake stand. Repeat with remaining sponge cake, except place this one on a plate or another baking tray. I found this process super messy and it took me a while, but I got there in the end!

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Balsamic Strawberry Jam:

  • 1 medium punnet of strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/natural extract
  • 1 cup caster (white) sugar
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Splash of water

Place strawberries and water (I literally used a splash, just to moisten the strawberries) in a medium sized saucepan. Cook on a medium heat until the berries begin to soften (about 2 minutes). Add the vanilla and sugar, and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes, or until strawberries have broken down. Add balsamic vinegar, and continue cooking on low until mixture becomes a sticky, jam like consistency. Pour into a bowl, and leave to cool. If you are not using the jam on the day of making it, cover with cling wrap and place it in the fridge. I made my jam two days beforehand.

Lamington Cake

Assembly:

Whip up 250ml thickened cream, with 1/3 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste/natural extract. With one sponge cake already on the cake stand, cover with whipped cream, ensuring you spread the cream right to the edges of the cake (if you want to decorate it like my cake, leave a little bit of cream behind to pipe on top). Then, spread over the strawberry jam – although this time don’t spread it right to the edges, leave about 1cm. Place the other sponge on top of the cream and jam. Decorate as desired 🙂 EAT!

Messy goodness

HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY! (check out my past Australia Day posts here.)

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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 🙂

Raspberry and White Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches

I apologise for the lack of posts lately, the end of the Uni semester has approached and is rapidly taking over my life! So, I thought I would post something simple, yet so good. Cue…the most AMAZING cookie recipe, ever.

I have been making this recipe for years and years now, and it is always a winner. Crunchy around the edges and amazingly gooey chocolately incredibleness in the middle. I stumbled across it in my early teens from a school cookbook where each student contributes their favourite recipe, and what a gem this recipe is. You can mix it up however you like and it will remain insanely awesome! This is the first time I have included raspberries, or any berries, for that matter, in the mix. It is safe to say it will not be the last time I add raspberries! I love the tangy freshness they give amongst the richness of the white chocolate and the crunchy/gooey combination of the cookie.

Previous additions to this cookie have included simple choc-chip (I always double the amount of chocolate in the recipe so that they’re super chunky), choc-chip and peanut butter, Reeses pieces, M&M’s, Peppermint Aero, Peppermint Crisp and Cherry Ripe and White Choc and Macadamia. The possibilities are endless!

I also love Ice Cream. Who doesn’t? For these Ice Cream Sandwiches I actually used Wildberry frozen yoghurt (because it was all we had in the freezer, and I am kind of, sort of, trying really hard to be healthy).

The Most Amazing Cookie Recipe Of All Time: (if you are just making these with choc-chips, or anything similar, the recipe says to add 1 cup but that’s a bit too boring for me. I add 1 1/2-2 cups :D)

  • 125g butter, softened, not melted
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup castor (white) sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence OR 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 3/4 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cups white chocolate chips OR white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups raspberries, fresh OR frozen (personally, I prefer frozen as I am a poor Uni student and they are so much cheaper and the quality really is just as good)

Preheat the oven to 200c, 190c fan forced. Line 3 baking trays with non-stick baking paper. In a bowl, combine the butter and both sugars, and using an electric beater or a stand mixer, beat until light and fluffy, usually about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Combine flour and salt, and add to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix until well combined, then add the chocolate and raspberries/whatever you like! Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t come together immediately, it will take a few minutes. If the mixture is really chunky and bits of chocolate are falling off the dough, just try to press them back in! Roll teaspoon sized balls of mixture and place on the tray – make sure you space them well because they do spread out a lot. I had a few siamese triplets in this batch. Gently press a fork down on each ball to slightly flatten if you can (I struggled with this one because there is too much choc and raspberries to make a mark)- you don’t have to do this but I think the fork mark is a stamp of a true homemade treat 🙂 Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes, and allow to cool on trays for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.

When ready to serve, place a scoop of ice cream/frozen yoghurt on a cookie, and sandwich with another. Yum! (if you wanted to jazz it up, you could drizzle some melted chocolate or raspberry coulis around the plate, and garnish with fresh raspberries and mint leaves! OR even make your own Ice Cream ;D, or make a chocolate, cheesecake or maybe even citrus version etc, etc, etc…I could go on all night). This is a great easy dessert for the time poor or for beginner bakers – you can’t go wrong with these cookies!