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! 🙂

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Lavender and Blueberry Macarons

I came across this flavour combination flicking through Zumbo’s ‘Zumbarons’ book, and at first, I wasn’t really sold. I can’t say I’ve ever really been a fan of the smell of lavender, and the thought of eating it, ergh. However, I first thought the same thing about the Vegemite Macarons, another genius brainchild of Zumbo’s, and I really loved them. So, I thought I would give them a go, and it turns out, they aren’t so bad after all!

Lavender and Blueberry Macarons

Zumbo’s ganache recipe calls for white chocolate, however, I boldly decided to change things up a little! I decided to make a buttercream instead of a ganache, I’m not entirely sure why I decided to do this, but it worked, I think. I put as little sugar as possible into the blueberry jam, to counteract the sweetness of the buttercream, and with  little bit of salt with the butter, it was nice. I literally used like three drops of lavender oil because I was so worried it would be too strong. The idea of eating flowers doesn’t really excite me. Three drops was definitely enough. Enough to get the aroma of the lavender, with the hit of blueberry and sweetness of the macaron shell. Would I make them again? Maybe, if they were requested, but other than that, probably not. It would be interesting to taste the white chocolate ganache version, though. And, yay! For awesome shells.

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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, violet
  • Food colouring liquid, blue

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 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. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 145c (135c fan forced).

Place in oven and bake for 16-20 minutes. Check macarons at 16 minutes, and to test if they are cooked, 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

Place all of the macaron shells on wire racks. My needed two. Place paper towel underneath, so your kitchen bench does not come into contact with the blue colouring. Place approximately 15 drops of the blue liquid colouring in small dish. Gently dip a pastry brush in the colouring and lightly flick the macaron shells, resulting in the blue dots like my shells have. Leave shells to dry – this won’t take long.

Splashed

 

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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Lavender Buttercream:

  • 100g salted butter, softened, not melted
  • 3 drops lavender oil (edible, of course – FYI, I bought mine from http://www.bakingpleasures.com.au)
  • 1 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar

Beat the butter until pale and creamy (about 5 minutes). Gradually add the icing sugar and beat until well combined. You can add as much sugar as you like, really. It depends on how sweet you like your buttercream. Add the lavender oil – you can always add more to taste.

Blueberry Jam:

  • 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/4 cup caster (white, granulated) sugar
  • 2 tbs water

Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat on medium until mixture begins to boil. Turn down heat to low and simmer until thick. Pour into a bowl, and let it cool completely. If you are not using immediately, store jam in the fridge once it has cooled.

Assembly:

Pair up likely macaron shells. Place lavender buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Pipe round onto one shell, and spoon a very small amount of blueberry jam on top of the buttercream. Sandwich together. Store in airtight container in the fridge. Bring down to room temperature to eat.

I really wanted some fresh lavender sprigs in my photos, but unfortunately it was not to be. I was desperately trying to find some, madly roaming my local neighbourhood at 10km/ph on the hunt for lavender! Tis’ not the season.

Happy Baking! And…please come and follow me on Instagam – @gemmaash 🙂

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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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