seasons greetings

24 Dec 2016

Christmas week may be over but there's always time for more holiday baking. What would Christmas be without some fruit mince pies? This year I tried out a new pastry recipe from Dan Lepard and although it's tasty, I'm still on the fence. If you're looking for my recipe for fruit mince pies, you can find it here

Wishing all my readers the best for the holiday season. Keep safe and happy.

See you all in the New Year,


5 days of christmas 2016 - rhubarb meringue layer cake

23 Dec 2016

Welcome every-one to day 5 of Christmas 2016. I've had this Trine Hahnemann recipe bookmarked for a while, in fact I made the cake for last year's Christmas week. I wasn't happy with the final product, so I decided to revisit the recipe and give it an overhaul. 

I decided to turn it into a layer cake, sandwiched with jam and cream in a nod to Nadine Ingram's Lemon Dream Cake.  

I know for some of you rhubarb isn't in season but this recipe can be made with frozen rhubarb. I made this particular cake with fresh rhubarb but I've also made it using frozen rhubarb pieces and it turned out just fine. 

You could use shop bought jam but I was in the mood to make jam and whipped up a batch of rhubarb conserve specifically for this cake.

I reduced the sugar in the recipe so there was still a little of the tartness of the rhubarb. If you'd like to make the conserve, I've included the recipe.

It looks impressive doesn't it?

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 17 cm cake.  As always if you want to make a 23 cm version of the cake just double the cake ingredients but I'd use 3 egg whites beaten with 150g caster sugar for the meringue topping rather than 4 egg whites. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Rhubarb Meringue Layer Cake
125g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup caster sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup finely ground whole almond meal (skins on)
1 cup SR flour   
½ tsp baking powder
¼ cup butter milk/milk or yoghurt
1 cup (125g) fresh or frozen rhubarb, cut into 1cm pieces

2 egg whites
120g caster sugar

1 cup cream, whisked to soft peaks
Rhubarb or another red jam
Icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line the base and sides of two 17cm baking tins with baking parchment.

Cream the butter, vanilla and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating after each addition.

In a small bowl mix the whole almond meal with the flour and baking powder. Add to the batter, alternating with the milk. Gently fold in the rhubarb. Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared tins. 

Whisk the egg whites in a clean dry bowl until stiff, but do not over-beat them. Gradually add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, still beating, then evenly spread the meringue over the cakes. Decoratively swirl the meringue on one cake to make a top layer. Bake both cakes on the middle shelf of the oven until the meringue is slightly golden, about 30 minutes. Rotate the cakes halfway through the cooking time. Test the cake is done by inserting a skewer or cake tester through a crack in the meringue into the bottom layer. Cool completely in tins (3 hours).

Remove cakes from tins and carefully peel baking paper off. Spread the rhubarb jam evenly over bottom cake, top with whipped cream, then place the second cake on top. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

If you can, leave the cake in the fridge for a few hours before serving. The cream will soften the meringue making cutting the cake much easier.

Rhubarb Conserve – makes 2 cups
500g fresh or frozen rhubarb, chopped into 2cm lengths
300g granulated sugar
1 peeled green apple, grated
Scraped seeds from 1 vanilla bean
juice of 1 lemon

1. Combine rhubarb with granulated sugar, grated green apple, vanilla bean seeds and lemon juice in a bowl and stand for 2 hours.

2. Transfer mixture to a heavy-based saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then simmer rapidly for 15-20 minutes or until mixture is thick. Remove from heat. Cool.

3. Store cooled jam in sterilised bottles or container.

The cake was very well received and you know, I think the rhubarb conserve was a large part of the cake's success. It was delicious!

It's been a long, hard old year so I'm planning to take a break from blogging for a few weeks. I hope to see you all back here again January 9, 2017. 

So until then, enjoy the festive season with your family and friends and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Bye for now,



5 days of christmas 2016 - stollen

22 Dec 2016

Welcome to day 4 of the 5 days of Christmas. Firstly I have a confession to make. Until I made this Stollen, I'd never eaten a piece before. I remember watching Paul Hollywood make one on a Christmas special a few years ago and it didn't look that hard. As this is the year I've found my bread making mojo, I thought I'd try making a Stollen for Christmas.

I hunted for a recipe on the internet and I found so many. The one I've come up with is an amalgamation of 4 different recipes.

From my research, I discovered that Stollen is a German sweet bread enriched with butter, egg and spices. Some recipes called for loads of dried fruit, whilst others were more abstemious. Some added citrus zest, whilst others specified candied mixed peel. I put together the elements that appealled most to me from the 4 recipes and crossed my fingers hoping for the best. I figured showering the Stollen in icing sugar should cover up any baking disasters.

Not all stollen recipes included marzipan in the centre but most of the recipes did. Some recipes formed the marzipan into a log whilst others rolled out the marzipan. I decided to roll out the marzipan. 

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon and 60 g eggs. My oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce the baking temperature by 20°C.

Stollen – you’ll need to start this recipe at least 24 hours before baking.

Fruit soak
60 gm sultanas
60 gm dried currants
50 gm dried apricots, coarsely chopped
25 gm sour cherries coarsely chopped
25 gm mixed peel, finely chopped
60 ml (¼ cup) dark rum (If you don't want to use rum you could use orange juice or earl gray tea)
Finely grated rind of ½ orange and ½ lemon 

For the dough
75 gm unsalted butter
100 mls milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting
¼ tsp each freshly grated nutmeg and ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
45 gm caster sugar
1 tsp dried yeast
1 egg

65 gm almond meal
45 gm natural almonds
40 gm pure icing sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

20 gm melted butter
25 gm flaked almonds (optional)
Icing sugar

Combine dried fruits in a container with the rum, cover and soak overnight.

For marzipan, process almond meal, almonds, icing sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor until finely ground with a little texture remaining. Add enough of the egg and process until it comes together as a paste. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until required. Marzipan can be made a day ahead.

To make the dough, melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat, add milk and vanilla and heat until lukewarm. Mix flour, the spices, salt, sugar, and yeast in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Make a well in the centre, then, with motor running, pour the beaten egg into the well and gradually add the milk mixture and knead until smooth and shiny (2-3 minutes). The mixture will be quite soft at this stage. If it's not then you might need to add a little more milk.

Grease a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the greased bowl, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (1 hour) or you can leave the dough to prove in the fridge overnight, which is what I usually do. The following day bring the dough back to room temperature. Mix the grated rind into the drained fruit mix. Gently knead the fruit into the dough and leave to rise for a further hour.

Dust the work surface with flour and tip your risen dough on to it. Flatten out into a rectangle about 22 cm x 16 cm.  Roll out the marzipan to a slightly smaller rectangle and place on top of the dough. Now place the longest side towards you and roll the dough up to form loose loaf shape. Lift on to a floured baking sheet, cover with a towel and return to a warm place to prove for a further hour and a half. Brush half the melted butter over the loaf. Sprinkle with flaked almonds if desired.

Heat the oven to 180°C. Place the loaf in the hot oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes until pale gold. Glaze the top of the Stollen with the remaining butter. Cool on a wire rack, before generously dusting with icing sugar.

When the Stollen has cooled, wrap loosely in waxed paper or cling film and keep in a sealed container.

You can vary the dried fruit as you wish. The original recipe only used sultanas, currants and mixed peel. I added the dried apricots and sour cherries for a more luxe version.

The verdict - delicious and even better when it's matured for a few days.

See you all again tomorrow with the last recipe for Christmas Week 2016.

Bye for now,


5 days of christmas 2016 - walnut macaroon layer cake

21 Dec 2016

Hi every-one and welcome to day 3 of Christmas week. Today I'm sharing with you a Trine Hahnemann recipe for a walnut macaroon layer cake which would be a great do-ahead Christmas dessert. Three walnut meringue layers are sandwiched together with coffee cream and topped with melted chocolate.

There's nothing too complicated about this cake, it's just a little time consuming to make because of the 3 walnut meringue layers. I had 2 tins so baked 2 layers at a time. 

The meringue deflated a bit while waiting to be used, so the third layer was a little flatter than the others. I tucked that layer in the middle out of harm's way and the coffee cream covers a multitude of sins.

For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. The eggs I use are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. Here's the recipe for you if you'd like to try this for Christmas. 

Walnut Macaroon Layer Cake - Serves 10

For the cakes
Butter for the tin(s)
300g walnuts
200g caster sugar
6 egg whites

For the coffee cream
300 mls double cream
3–4 tbs soft brown sugar
1 tbs instant coffee

For the glaze
100g best dark chocolate, at least 60% cocoa solids
20g butter
12 walnut halves

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F. Line the bases of three 24cm diameter springform tins with baking parchment and butter them lightly or, more probably, line and butter the one tin you have and re-use it to make the other two cakes.

Blend the nuts in a food processor with half the sugar until the nuts are finely chopped. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then add the remaining sugar little by little, whisking after each addition, until glossy. Fold in the nut mixture. Pour into the prepared tins and bake for 35 minutes, or pour one-third of the batter into one tin and bake for 35 minutes, then repeat to bake the following two cakes. Leave to cool on wire racks lined with baking parchment, to prevent sticking, overnight if possible. 

Put all the ingredients for the coffee cream into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until stiff. Take a big round serving dish and place the base layer (usually the least attractive layer) of cake on it. Spread half the cream evenly over, then place the middle layer on top and spread with the remaining cream. Now place the most attractive cake on top. Break the chocolate into pieces, place in a small heatproof bowl and fit over a saucepan of simmering water; the bowl should not touch the water. Melt the chocolate, then remove from the heat, add the butter and mix well. Leave to cool slightly, then spread the chocolate over the top layer and decorate with the walnut halves around the edge. Keep in the refrigerator until serving.

I'm not a coffee lover but the end result was pretty subtle and not too sweet. To ensure even cutting I'd store the cake overnight in the fridge, allowing the meringue layers to soften making it easier to cut. 

The chocolate layer sets really hard, shattering when cut, so I think a dark chocolate ganache topping would be a better option. You can find a ganache recipe here which you'd need to double to top a 23 cm cake.

See you all again tomorrow with Day 4 of Christmas week.

Bye for now,



5 days of christmas 2016 - individual raspberry trifles

20 Dec 2016

Christmas desserts are usually pretty traditional. In our house we always serve a hot Christmas pudding despite the 30°C weather outside. My workmates usually serve pavlova, cheesecake, trifle or sometimes all three. I love trifle and haven't made it in such a long time so I decided to make some individual trifles to share with you.

Normally I think of trifle as construction rather than cooking because you can make it entirely from shop bought ingredients. I went somewhere down the middle making the jelly, jam and sponge cake but drawing the line at custard.

You can buy really good quality vanilla bean custard from the supermarket so that's what I did to save time. You can buy the sponge cake as well if you like, but I really think you should give the raspberry jelly recipe a go, because it's pretty yummy and quite easy to make.

The raspberry jelly was adapted from this Donna Hay recipe. You'll need to start this recipe the day before serving to give the jelly time to set. The jelly is quite wobbly, like a pannacotta, which I actually prefer but if you'd like something that's a bit firmer, then add a another ½ - 1 tsp of gelatine powder. 

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use 60g eggs and use a 250ml cup and a 20ml tablespoon. My oven is a conventional oven not fan forced so you may need to reduce the temperature by 20°C 

Raspberry Trifles – makes 4.
1 quantity raspberry jelly
sponge cake – shop bought or home made
¼ cup red jam - raspberry, rhubarb or strawberry
2 tbs marsala or sherry
300mls prepared vanilla bean custard
1 cup cream, whipped

To serve
Fresh raspberries, icing sugar and a few mint leaves

Raspberry jelly
2 tsp gelatine powder
500 mls cranberry drink
⅓ cup caster sugar
175g frozen raspberries

Sponge cake
3 large eggs
½ cup caster sugar
1 cup self raising flour
1 tbs cornflour
1 tsp butter, chopped
¼ cup boiling water

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease and flour a 20cm x 30cm lamington pan, line base with baking paper.

Beat eggs in a small bowl with an electric mixer until light in colour. Gradually add sugar; beat for 8 minutes or until the mixture is thick. Mixture should form thick ribbons when the beaters are lifted.

Meanwhile, sift flour and cornflour together three times. Combine butter and boiling water in a small heatproof bowl. Sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture; using a balloon whisk or a large metal spoon, gently fold the flour into the egg mixture, then fold in the butter mixture. Pour mixture into prepared pan.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 25 minutes or until sponge springs back when touched lightly in the centre and the cakes comes away from side of pan. Turn cake onto a wire rack to cool. When cool, store in an airtight container until needed.

Raspberry Jelly
To make the jelly, place the gelatine and ¼ cup (60ml) of the cranberry drink in a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes or until the gelatine is absorbed. Place the remaining juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the gelatine mixture and stir to combine. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes. Pour the jelly mixture into the base of a 4 small glasses and top with the frozen berries. Refrigerate overnight until set.

To assemble
Trim brown edges off cake, cut 4 rounds to fit into the glasses. You’ll only use about half the sponge cake. Slice the cake horizontally to make a 2 cm slice and spread a thin layer of jam over the base of the sponge. Gently place the sponge round over the raspberry jelly layer before drizzling the top of the sponge with some of the marsala. Carefully spoon ¼ of the custard over the sponge layer then repeat with the remaining glasses. Refrigerate the trifles for a few hours to allow the flavours develop.

Just before serving, top each trifle with whipped cream and decorate with a few raspberries and mint leaves. Sift over a little icing sugar just before serving.

See you all again tomorrow with day 3 of the 5 days of Christmas.

Bye for now,


5 days of christmas 2016 - walnut cinnamon wreath

19 Dec 2016

Welcome to the 2016 Christmas collection. I think I should call 2016, the year of the babka because I made so many. Now that I've discovered the no-knead method of bread making, I make something requiring yeast just about every week. 

This Christmas wreath is just a re-imagining of the cinnamon walnut babka (also known as the lesser babka) I made last year with a few little tweaks. I've simplified the yeast dough and bumped up the walnuts and twisted the dough to make a wreath, perfect for Christmas. My workmates aren't keen on fruit mince but I think fruit mince, grated apple and toasted walnuts would make for a delightful Christmas flavoured wreath.

The recipe looks pretty daunting but once the dough is made, it's a matter of adding the filling before rolling, cutting and plaiting the dough. 

The rest of your time is spent waiting for the dough to rise. I like to make the dough the day before I need it letting it rise slowly in the fridge. That way you can bake it fresh on the day or if you want, you can also bake it the day before. As the babka dough is soaked in syrup it's pretty forgiving and unlike most other sweet breads, it keeps quite well.

If you'd like to make the recipe, I always use 60g eggs, a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if you're using a fan forced oven you may need to lower the cooking temperature by 20°C.

Cinnamon Walnut Wreath
For the dough
75 g unsalted butter
100 mls milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting
¼ tsp salt
45 g caster sugar
2 tsp dried yeast
1 egg

80 g of soft butter
100 g brown sugar
1 tsp golden or maple syrup
4 tsp ground cinnamon
50 g almond meal
75 g toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

Topping (optional)
1-2 tbs milk
Raw sugar crystals

⅓ cup water
⅓ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick

To make the dough, melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat, add milk and vanilla and heat until lukewarm. Mix flour, salt, sugar and yeast in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Make a well in the centre, then, with motor running, pour the beaten egg into the well and gradually add the milk mixture and knead until smooth and shiny (2-3 minutes). The mixture will be quite soft at this stage. If it's not then you might need to add a little more milk. If you'd like to use the no-knead method, please click the link. Full instructions are contained in the recipe.

Grease a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the greased bowl, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (1 hour) or you can leave the dough to prove in the fridge overnight, which is what I usually do. The following day bring the dough back to room temperature while you prepare the filling. In a small bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, the syrup and the ground cinnamon. Mix in the almond meal to form a paste, ensuring there are no lumps in the mixture.

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle measuring 15 by 11 inches (38 by 28 cm). Trim the sides to make them even, then position the dough so that a long side is closest to you. Use an offset spatula to spread the filling over the rectangle, leaving a ¾ in/2 cm border all around. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on top of the filling. Brush a little bit of water along the long end farthest away from you. Use both hands to roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side that is closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end onto the roulade and then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect thick cigar. Rest the cigar on its seam.

Trim about ¾ in/2 cm off both ends of the roulade with a serrated knife. Now use the knife to gently cut the roll into half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing at the seam. You are essentially dividing the log into two long even halves, with the layers of dough and filling visible along the length of both halves. With the cut sides facing up, gently press together one end of each half, and then lift the right half over the left half. Repeat this process, but this time lift the left half over the right, to create a simple, two-pronged plait. Gently squeeze the two ends together to form a wreath showing the filling on top. Carefully lift the cake onto a baking paper lined oven tray, placing a small greased ovenproof ramekin in the centre of the wreath. If you like, you could glaze the wreath with milk and sprinkle the top with raw sugar crystals for some added crunch. Cover the tray with a wet tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C, making sure you allow plenty of time for it to heat fully before the wreath has finished rising. Remove the tea towel, place the wreath on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If not ready return to the oven for another 5 minutes.

While the wreath is in the oven, make the syrup. Combine the water, sugar and cinnamon stick in a saucepan; place over medium heat and bring to the boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, reduce the heat and simmer the syrup for 5 minutes. As soon as the wreath comes out of the oven, brush the syrup all over using every last drop. Don't throw out the cinnamon stick though. Wash it well, let it dry out then store it carefully as you can reuse it.

Leave the cake until it is just warm, then remove the cake from the paper and let cool completely on a wire rack before serving. If you like you can tie a ribbon around the wreath to add a festive touch.

I can't tell you how delicious this is - a perfect way to start your Christmas Day.

See you all again tomorrow with another 5 days of Christmas recipe.

Bye for now,


shopshoot - the sydney finders keepers

15 Dec 2016

I've been photographing the Sydney Finders Keepers for a few years now. It's where I first met Kylie of Paperboat Press and Alischa of Bespoke Letterpress. When I heard the markets would be held December 9-11, I rearranged my schedule so I could drop by to say 'hello'.

The Finders Keepers are held at the Australian Technology Park in some great old railway buildings, which I just love. I spent a short while roaming around the Park finding some interesting nooks and crannies.

Technically I may have entered a building site to photograph this wall but none of the workmen seemed to mind.

I did a very quick sprint around the markets because I had important Christmas baking at home requiring my attention. All will be revealed next week on the blog.

My first destination was the Paperboat Press/Bridget Bodenham stall.

I stopped to admire the flowers before spying the Black Pantry stall.

Believe it or not, despite having an array of tempting samples I was in such a rush I didn't try a morsel, not even one!

Just across from their stall I spied the Urban Cartel stall. I've bought a few of their pieces in the past.

Like a moth to a flame I was entranced by the light coming from the windows, so snapped this scene.

As I walked around the corner I was taken by the beautiful rugs at Dromme.

Did you know that blue is my favourite colour? I find it calming so I always paint my bedroom walls blue.

After a quick loop around the stalls I found myself here at Fictional Objects.

I do like nice bed linen.

As I was heading out the door I quickly snapped some more ceramics, this time at Salad Days.

Time for a few more photos before heading back to the railway station and home again.

I hope you enjoyed my flying visit to the Finders Keepers. I'll be back next week with 5 tempting Christmas treats that I can't wait to share with you, so I'll see you all again next Monday.

Bye for now,


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