Sunday, 28 August 2011

My love-affair with Martha Stewart continues - Mushroom and Nut loaf

We had a mid-winter Christmas-inspired dinner the other night at a friend's house. It was a fun and wonderfully delicious evening!

My allocated task was a meat-free main dish. Once again, I turned to Martha for inspiration, and once again, I was not disappointed.

I found a recipe for, what Martha calls a Cheese and Nut Loaf. I have modified the name above, as I think that the cheese is not really the star of this loaf - rather the cheese serves as a binding agent.

This was a wonderful, moist, tasty loaf. The consensus around the dinner was that it was certainly an incredibly meaty non-meat loaf!

I used a mixture of dried Mediterranean mushrooms - as that's what I had. I used a mixture of walnuts and cashews and I whizzed everything up in my little processor.

I also made a red wine gravy to go with my loaf. (You can't have Christmas dinner without gravy!) I cooked some onion in butter until it was tender and then added about 2 tablespoons of flour. I then gradually added about a glass of red wine, stirring constantly. Then I added enough mushroom-flavoured water (left over from simmering the dried mushrooms) to make a nice smooth gravy with a good pouring consistency. I forgot to take a photo of the gravy until it was almost all gone! But, I managed to salvage some! The gravy was so delicious, I will totally make it again, I reckon it would go with just about anything. Yum.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps

I love Martha Stewart. Her website is in my favourites and I constantly check it out for ideas and inspiration.

I also love to watch Everyday Baking with John Barricelli. Does this guy have one of the best jobs in the world? Baking for Martha Stewart, wicked.

Anyway, I was watching Everyday Baking the other day and John Barricelli made Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps, which I thought looked delicious. And they were.

The recipe calls for the mixture to be frozen before baking. I didn't have time for that (I didn't read the recipe properly and only realised this when I got to this step.) So, I just chose to ignore that instruction. And it was fine.

They are a really fudgy, soft cookie. Very moreish and easy to eat! They are also very pretty and make an attractive addition to a morning tea (as was my reason for making them). The feedback from my workmates and our guests was all positive. A definite make-again.

I think they could be easily modified - omit the coffee, dust in cocoa rather than icing sugar (for a less-sweet cookie), flavoured chocolate etc. Although, they taste great just as they are! Enjoy!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Sommer's Birthday Cake

One of my partner's workmates emailed him this week to find out if I would be interested in making a cake. My answer, of course! I love baking, especially for a special occasion!

I was asked to make a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and the lettering. I got to choose the rest of the decorations. Fun!!!

I made a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting, I filled the cake with whipped cream. I then piped around the cake, top and bottom. My wonderful partner helped me lay out pebbles around the cake, and I made a beautiful fondant bow. I also piped white chocolate lettering. It really was so fun.

Hopefully Sommer loved it and had a fantastic 9th birthday!!!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Lemon meringue cupcakes

A friend turned 25 yesterday so I baked some cupcakes for her :-) She was actually one of the drivers of me starting this blog, so it only seems fitting that I should blog about her birthday cupcakes!

I wanted to make something special and try a new technique. I started out by making a plain vanilla cupcake. Once cool, I piped in limoncello lemon curd (you can find the recipe here). I did this by putting a small, fine tip on my piping bag. I made a small hole in the top of the cupcake with a wooden skewer and then jammed the end of the tip in (there is no prettier way to describe it). You could feel the cupcake filling up with the curd, it was a cool feeling!

I let these settle while I made a meringue topping. I put three egg whites (I should have added to my freezer post yesterday that egg yolks freeze beautifully too - pull them out for a quick custard), about a cup of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar and about 125ml of water into a bowl over simmering water. Beat this until it's thick and glossy and then pipe onto your cupcakes!

According to feedback, the cupcakes were yummy! Piping in the filling worked really well, and you got a nice limoncello surprise when you bit into the cupcake. Yum!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Tip of the week - freezing

I love my freezer. A freezer is your best friend. I wish mine were bigger, there are so many more things I could pack into my freezer, but currently mine is the size of a shoe box.

It has come to my attention that some people are unaware of the beauty of their freezer, and just what it can do for you. Your freezer can save you so much time, and can also save you money by preventing food from spoiling.

Bananas freeze well. If they are too far past it for you to eat, pop them in the freezer until next time you want to make a cake or muffins. Once defrosted (and they defrost really quickly), they are super easy to mash and add to your mixture.

Herbs also freeze well. I currently have little plastic containers of parsley, mint and coriander in my freezer, and I toss them straight into whatever I am cooking.

I have also done the same with ginger. Unpeeled ginger root can be stored in the freezer. Once taken out it defrosts quickly for easy use.

On a more random note, your freezer can save you a ton of time when it comes to weekday lunches. Now, credit where credit is due - I didn't come up with this this idea - full credit must go to a friend. But, it's a great idea and it is so super easy, so I'm going to share it with you. This great idea? Toasted sandwiches! You just prepare what you want on your sandwich - cheese, ham, pineapple etc and pop it in a snaplock sandwich and into the freezer. Take it out in the morning before work and it will be ready to put in the toasted sandwich maker at lunchtime.

Take advantage of your freezer!