seasons greetings

23 Dec 2013

Well, it's almost Christmas here in Brisbane and I'm just about cooked out for the year. I have a few traditional goodies to share with you though, recipes for fruit mince pies and gingerbread, items I pretty much bake every year.

I saw a recipe for a gingerbread star wreath in Country Style magazine and I was inspired to make one of my own. I made up a batch of gingerbread and baked the wreath using half the mixture. It looked lovely but I had my doubts about it's strength and when I tried to hang the wreath, it fell apart. What was I to do other than eat every single last gingerbread star from which the wreath was made? Having eaten half a batch of this gingerbread solo, I can assure you this is one delicious gingerbread recipe. 

With the remaining gingerbread I made some cute little gingerbread people which I decorated with Royal icing. Heres the recipe for you, very, very slightly adapted from here.

Gingerbread (adapted from Country Style Magazine December 2013)

125g (4 oz) butter, at room temperature 
½ cup lightly packed brown sugar 
½ cup golden syrup 
1 egg yolk
2½ cups plain flour 
1 20 ml tablespoon ground ginger 
1 teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon ground white pepper 
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°C Lightly grease and line 2 baking trays. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined. Stir in the flour, ginger, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to rest. 

Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll it out until it is about 4mm thick. Use cutters to cut out shapes. Place the shapes on the baking trays about 3 cm apart. Knead and roll out any leftover dough to repeat the process. For shapes to be used for hanging decorations, use a skewer to make a hole in the top of each shape. 

For gingerbread decorations, bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

In the current issue of Donna Hay magazine there's a recipe for mince pies using a brown sugar pastry, a riff on this recipe. The recipe inspired me to add a little brown sugar to my usual pastry recipe.

Instead of a caster sugar topping I used raw sugar for some extra crunch and added some nuts to the filling.

They are delicious so I'm glad I made 16 of these little Christmas morsels.

Here's the updated recipe for you.

MINCE PIES (makes 16)

125 gm (4 oz) butter
60 gm sifted icing sugar
30 gm brown sugar
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 cup plain flour
cup corn flour (cornstarch)
¾ tsp baking powder

410 gm bottle or 1¼ cups fruit mince
1 green apple, peeled and grated 
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
30 gm (1 oz) melted butter
1 tbl thick cut orange marmalade
1 tbl coarsely chopped almonds or toasted macadamias

1 egg white, lightly beaten 
Raw sugar
Shallow round based patty tins

Cream the butter with the sugars. Add the egg yolk and beat well. Sift the flours and baking powder together and stir into the creamed mixture. You may need to add a little cold water to form a soft dough. Knead lightly on a floured board. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour

Put the fruit mince into a mixing bowl. Add the apple, the grated rind the melted butter, the marmalade and the chopped nuts and mix until well combined. You’ll need about half of the fruit mince mixture for this recipe. I put the leftover fruit mince back into the jar and keep it in the fridge to use later.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Roll the pastry out thinly and cut into rounds. Line the lightly greased patty tin with the pastry. Cut the same number of slightly smaller circles to fit the tops of the pies. Put 1 - 2 teaspoons of fruit mince into each pie then moisten the edges with the beaten egg white. Make a small slit in each pastry lid or cut out with a small cutter. Top each filled pie with a lid and press edges of pastry well to seal. Glaze with the beaten egg white and sprinkle the raw sugar over the top of the pies.

Bake the pies in the preheated oven for 20 – 30 minutes or until golden brown. Brown sugar pastry colours quickly so you may need to cover the pies for the last 5 minutes of the cooking process to ensure the bottom crust cooks through. Cool the pies for 10 minutes before removing from the tray and placing on a wire cooling rack. When completely cool, store the pies in an airtight container. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

P.S The lovely star is from Kylie at Paperboat Press.

Before I take a 2 week break from blogging, I'd like to wish all my blog readers and their families, a safe and happy time over the festive season. Looking forward to sharing some more recipes and chatting with you all again in 2014.

Until then,


white chocolate and rosemary nougat - 5 days of candies - xmas 2013

20 Dec 2013

So here it is, the final recipe in my 5 days of candies and it's a doozy. One of my all time favourite Sydney restaurants is Sean’s Panaroma down at Bondi and it's where I first tried this white chocolate and rosemary nougat about 10 years ago. It was absolutely delicious and I've been meaning to make it ever since.

I have Sean's recipe tucked away in one of my recipe boxes but the effort involved in locating it (we're talking a 6 foot ladder here) was way too much for me at this time of year, so I tracked down a version on the internet. I decided to change some of the proportions in the recipe, so I can’t promise this is exactly the same as Sean’s version.

You need a stand mixer to make nougat and as I didn't own one until recently, the recipe was put to one side until now. I've never made nougat before so I held my breath and crossed my fingers that it would turn out okay. I accidentally overcooked the syrup so the nougat is much firmer than I would have liked but it still tastes delicious. I still have most of the ingredients in my pantry, so once I'm back home from my Christmas break I'm going to make this again because this is one recipe I do want to master. 

Here's the recipe for you adapted from Sean Moran’s ‘Let It Simmer’.
100 g white chocolate, chopped
4 sheets confectioners’ rice paper
440g (2 cups) caster sugar
½ cup honey
1 cup liquid glucose
¼ cup water
2 egg whites
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 sprigs rosemary leaves picked and finely chopped
100 g dried strawberries, chopped
100 g candied orange rind, coarsely chopped
100 g toasted pistachio kernels
100 g white chocolate, chopped
100 g unsalted butter, chopped

Place the chocolate in the freezer to harden. Line a 7 x 11 inch cake tin with half the rice paper. Preheat the oven to 100°C. Place the dried fruit and nuts in the oven and keep warm. Divide the caster sugar, glucose, honey and water between two small saucepans. Place both on the stove and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Beat egg whites and salt in an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Increase heat on the saucepans and bring to 125°C on the sugar thermometer. Remove both from the heat and pour the first saucepan into the egg white mix in a steady stream while the motor is running. 

Heat the second saucepan to 155°C and gradually add it to the egg white mix while beating. Add butter and beat until combined. Stir through the warmed fruit and nuts, the cold chocolate, the vanilla and rosemary and working quickly pour mixture into the prepared tin. Smooth surface and cover with the remaining paper. Refrigerate until cold and then cut into desired sized pieces. Store the nougat in an airtight container at room temperature.
I'll be back briefly on Monday but then I'll be taking a 2 week break from the blog until Monday January 6 2014. I'm a bit cooked out at the moment so I'm taking a break to recharge my cooking batteries and to spend Christmas with my family.

By the way, if you haven't had enough of my recipes already this week, my Delicious Bites recipe for Pavé aux Chocolate recipe is featured here on decor8. It's a very old recipe for an easy, tasty dessert. After I photographed it for the column, I took the cake into work and it disappeared in a flash, which is always a good sign.

Have a great weekend and see you soon,



passionfruit marshmallows - the 5 days of candies - xmas 2013

19 Dec 2013

I've always loved marshmallows and I've had this recipe for passionfruit marshmallows bookmarked for ages. It’s passionfruit season in Sydney and as soon as I saw them appear in the fruit shop, I knew I had to dust off the recipe and give it a try. I didn't fancy beating the mixture for 10 minutes with my electric hand beaters so making the marshmallows gave me a reason to unpack the stand mixer that’s been languishing in it’s box for the past 4 months! 

I halved the recipe as it makes a large quantity of marshmallow and adapted the recipe slightly with the addition of some liquid glucose to prevent the sugar mixture from crystallising. 

I also decided to roll the marshmallows in toasted coconut instead of icing sugar. Rolling the marshmallows in the coconut was the most fiddly part of the process.

Here's the recipe for you.

Passionfruit Marshmallows
90 mls passion fruit juice
250 gm caster sugar
2 teaspoons glucose
½ cup water
1 egg white
2 cups toasted shredded coconut
Icing sugar

Lightly grease and line an 8 inch square cake pan with baking paper and dust the base liberally with icing sugar. 

Combine the passion fruit juice and gelatine in a bowl and set aside. 

Combine caster sugar, glucose and water and in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves, then increase heat to medium and cook for 5-10 minutes or until syrup reaches 125°C on a sugar thermometer. 

Remove from heat, add passion fruit mixture to syrup and stir until gelatine dissolves. You may need to put the pan back on the heat for a minute to fully dissolve the gelatine. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer whisk the egg white with a pinch of salt until frothy. Gradually add the passion fruit mixture, whisking continuously on medium speed until mixture has doubled in size, then slowly decrease speed and mix until mixture is warm, about 10 minutes.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan, and using a lightly oiled spatula, spread evenly, then dust top with the toasted coconut. Stand at room temperature for 3 hours or until firm. Place the remaining coconut onto a large piece of greaseproof paper. Turn the marshmallow out the onto the coconut then using a sharp knife, cut the marshmallow into 2.5 cm squares and roll in the coconut to coat. Store the marshmallows in an airtight container in the fridge.

See you all again tomorrow for Day 5, the final day of of Christmas Candy Week,

Bye for now,


peppermint bark - 5 days of candies - xmas 2013

18 Dec 2013

I put out a call to my friends for Christmas candy ideas and an old school friend who'd spent last Christmas in the States, suggested I make chocolate bark. Now I love after dinner mints and I admit I may have a box or two stashed away in my cupboard for a rainy day. Chocolate and mint go so well together and as Williams Sonoma has recently opened a store in Sydney, I couldn't go past recreating their peppermint bark. Now I've never seen their peppermint bark before nor tasted it so I relied solely on the internet for help. 

The recipe I used is adapted from here and it's more an assembly job than cooking. There's a bit of melting and some crushing but seriously that's as stressful as it gets. Good chocolate is important here so please don't skimp.

Here's the recipe for you.

Peppermint Bark
4 oz pack candy canes
250 g good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
250 g good quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
Peppermint extract

Line the base and sides of a lamington tin with baking paper.
Place candy canes into a plastic bag and use a rolling pin or the back of a heavy knife to crush into pieces, about ¼ inch long. Separate the larger pieces by shaking the candy through a sieve. The cook gets to eat the crumbs.

Dark Chocolate Layer
Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30 second bursts. Stir frequently until the chocolate has just melted; do not overheat as the chocolate can burn easily. When the chocolate has melted, add ½ tsp of peppermint extract and stir until thoroughly combined. Pour the melted chocolate into the prepared pan, and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan with an offset spatula. Place the pan in the fridge and refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the refrigerator while melting the white chocolate.

White Chocolate Layer
Place the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 15 second bursts at 50% power and stir frequently until the chocolate has just melted; white chocolate chocolate melts more quickly than dark chocolate. When the white chocolate has just melted, add ¼ tsp of peppermint extract and stir thoroughly. Pour the white chocolate directly over the semisweet chocolate layer. Use an offset spatula to quickly spread the white chocolate evenly. While the white chocolate layer is still soft sprinkle the larger candy cane pieces evenly over the top. Use the back of a large spoon to lightly press the candies into the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to rest in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes until just set. When the chocolate has set, remove from the pan before breaking into irregular pieces or use a sharp kitchen knife to cut into rectangular pieces about 2 by 4 inches. Store the bark in an airtight container.

P.S. Don't tell any of my friends this but they'll be getting some peppermint bark from me this Christmas.

I'll be back tomorrow with day 4 of Christmas Candy Week.

Bye for now,


panpepato - the 5 days of candies - xmas 2013

17 Dec 2013

Whenever I’m invited to dinner I like to bring something homemade for dessert. One time when rushed, I went to the Paddington Markets and came home with some Panpepato. Panpepato is a spicy version of Panforte and it was delicious and I’ve been meaning to make it ever since.

This was one of the 2 recipes from Christmas week that gave me grief. The first Panpepato recipe I tried was a disaster and failed to set. I remade the Panpepato adapting it from Belinda Jeffrey’s Panforte recipe from Mix and Bake. 

Although the Panpepato tasted delicious, the texture wasn’t anything like the firm texture I remembered but I’m sure an extra ¼ cup of flour would solve that problem. 

You can use any combination of fruit and nuts but this is what I used – a combination of roasted hazelnuts, almonds, plumped raisins, figs and some homemade candied peel. The combination of cocoa, spices and the fruit and nuts makes for quite a dark, complex and adult flavour.

Pan Pepato - adapted from Belinda Jeffery’s Mix and Bake 

Edible rice paper or baking paper, for lining
75g (½ cup)  plain flour
50g Dutch-processed cocoa, sifted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup raisins soaked overnight in ¼ cup boiling water
100g dried figs, coarsely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped candied orange peel
100g roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
100g skinned roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
100g walnuts, coarsely chopped
60g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
150g honey
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Butter a shallow 22cm round cake tin and line the base and sides with edible rice paper or baking paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa and the spices. Add the figs, the drained raisins, the fruit and nuts and mix them thoroughly together.

Put the butter, sugar and honey into a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir until the sugar has just dissolved, then stop stirring and bring the mixture to the boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture reaches 120°C on a sugar thermometer (soft ball stage) then pour the hot syrup over the fruit and nut mixture. Quickly mix together until well combined. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and use the back of a spoon to press down and flatten it out evenly. I packed the mixture into the tin using my hands.
Bake the pan pepato at 180°C/350°F for 30 – 45 minutes. The top of the mixture should feel spongy and ‘just dry’ to the touch when tested but will firm up a little as it cools.

Cool the pan pepato in the tin on a wire rack. Once it’s cool, turn the pan pepato out and remove any baking paper. Rice paper is edible and can stay put, just trim it if it sits up above the edge of the pan pepato.

If serving immediately, dust the pan pepato with icing sugar and cut into narrow wedges. Otherwise, tightly wrap any leftover pan pepato in plastic film and foil (or put it in an airtight container) and store it in the fridge, where it will keep for weeks.

See you all tomorrow for Day 3 of Christmas week.

Bye for now,


knäck - the 5 days of candies - xmas 2013

16 Dec 2013

A few months ago I bought a digital thermometer and I’ve been dying to use it ever since. Whilst browsing the web I saw a recipe for Swedish Christmas candies, which required a sugar thermometer and it set the wheels in motion. 

For Christmas this year rather than cookies, I decided I was going to make candies. I was a little nonplussed when the December Donna Hay magazine arrived featuring; you guessed it, Christmas candies. Great minds think alike. So here begins Christmas candy week. Australia doesn’t have much of a Christmas candy tradition so most of the candies I’m featuring come from other countries. None of these recipes are of my own making so I’ll be including links to the original source. 

Let’s begin the week with Knäck, the candy that started the whole process. I think the literal translation for Knäck is crack which is kind of funny because they are so addictive, it’s not funny. So much so, that these candies never made it out of my flat. I have 2 left but I've eaten every single one myself! 

It’s easy to see why they’re so addictive though because who can pass up candies made from butter, sugar, vanilla, golden syrup and cream. 

I made the toffees in the microwave so they hardly took any time to make. In fact, toasting the almonds took far longer than making the candies.

Here’s the recipe for you.
 This recipe made about 18 small candies.
Swedish Knäck
⅔ cup sugar
⅔ cup golden syrup
⅔ cup cream
2 teaspoons butter
3 20 ml tablespoons chopped toasted blanched almonds
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Mix sugar, golden syrup, and cream in a large heatproof jug.
2. Microwave the mixture on full power for 6 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes to dissolve the sugar. Check the temperature at 4 minutes and 6 minutes. I took the toffee out when the temperature reached between 125 and 130°C. If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, pour a little of the hot mixture into a cup of cold water. If the mixture forms a hard ball, then it is ready, otherwise cook for another minute and check again.
3. Take the jug out of the microwave and stir in the butter, vanilla and almonds. Quickly pour the toffee mixture into 2 cm diameter cupcake liners. If the mixture hardens too much, put the jug back into the microwave for 20 seconds or so to melt the mixture.
4. Allow the mixture to set completely before storing in an airtight tin. The tops are a little sticky so place a layer of baking paper between the toffees if you’re storing them in layers. They do soften a little over time.

I’ll be back tomorrow with day 2 of Christmas week so see you all again tomorrow,

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