Friday, 2 October 2015

blood orange chiffon cake

We're into spring, hurray, but winter's blood oranges are still fantastic so why not juice a few and turn them into cake?

blood orange chiffon cake

6 eggs, separated

1 extra egg white
225g plain cake flour (if you can't find cake flour substitute with regular plain flour)
250g caster sugar
50g extra caster sugar
1tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
zest of one blood orange, grated super finely
180ml freshly juiced blood orange juice
120ml canola oil, or similar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cream of tartar (not essential, but will stabilise the egg whites)

 preheat your oven to 170ºC

• combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt, sift into a the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one, and with the paddle attachment mix through the 250g caster sugar and orange zest
• make a well in the centre of your flour combo, add the blood orange juice, egg yolks, oil and vanilla extract, mix until smooth
• in another, really large bowl whisk the 7 egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar then mix until you have soft peaks, gradually add the additional 50g caster sugar, whisking until you have firm peaks and the sugar has dissolved
• fold the egg whites into the batter in three stages
• pour the batter into an ungreasedunlined angel food cake tin and bake for 55-60 minutes
• remove the cake from the oven and immediately invert to cool, if your tin doesn't have "feet" balance the upturned tin over a bottle, guiding the neck of the bottle through the centre tube of your pan
• when completely cool, to release the cake, run a sharp knife around the inside and tube sections of the cake tin, remove the cake still sitting on the centre section of the tin; this next stage is a little tricky, slide a strong thread, I use dental floss, between the base of the cake and the tin, go all the way around, crossing each end of the thread around the tube, invert the cake onto your serving plate and you should have a super flat, neat finish on the top of your cake 
• you could simply dust the cake with icing sugar, it will be delicious, or go all out and frost with buttercream 
• slice giant slabs of cake with a serrated knife and enjoy!
• unfrosted the cake will keep in an airtight container for 3 days at room temperature or up to a week in the fridge; the frosted cake should be kept in the fridge and will be good for a week, allow it to room temperature before serving

vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

3 large egg whites

180g caster sugar
230g butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
pinch salt
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean

• combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, place over a pan of simmering water, don't let the pan touch the water; whisk constantly until the temperature reaches 72ºC (beware the perils of simultaneous mixing and temperature measuring...)

• return the bowl to the stand mixer and whisk on medium high until the mixture cools, has doubled in size and forms stiff peaks
• change to the paddle attachment and add the butter a piece at a time, mix to incorporate each piece before adding the next; the mixture may look alarmingly curdled at times but keep mixing and it will magically come back together
• once all the butter is in, add the salt and vanilla seeds, mixing on slow until combined

to frost your cake...

Chiffon cakes are beautifully delicate, so soft and pillowy, that's why I love them, it does, however, make them kinda tricky to frost. If crumbs drive you crazy maybe just dust with icing sugar or opt for the drizzle. If the fully frosted cake is what you're after let's go...

• clear a space in the fridge and chill your cake for half an hour or so
• place your chilled cake on a turntable if you have one, step one is the crumb coat, it uses a super thin coating of frosting to glue any loose crumbs to the cake
• starting from the top and working your way down the sides and into the hole through the centre of your cake, use an offset pallet knife to spread a layer of buttercream over your cake;  using the edge of your pallet knife or a cake scraper, gently scrape back as much of the frosting as you can leaving a super thin crumb filled layer behind
• return the cake to the fridge for at least 15 mins to set the crumb coat
• again with the offset pallet knife, cover your cake with a final thicker layer of frosting, now you are ready to decorate

I went a bit crazy and mixed bay leaves and orange blossom from a friend's garden with oven candied blood orange slices, thanks Deb :) Fresh orange slices or a mound of zested orange strips would look great, flowers would be beautiful, a sprinkle of coconut flakes, so many possibilities!!

There are loads of online tutorials and cake frosting videos, if you not sure about this whole frosting crumb coat business have a quick search and check them out :)

Sunday, 27 September 2015

vanilla butter cake

Butter cake, the antithesis of the chiffon; it's damp, dense and buttery, but like a chiffon cake, my whole family love it! It's just a plain old fashioned cake, not cool enough to be retro. It gets better after a day or so, and after that thick slabs are perfect toasted with a lick of yet more, gently melting, butter. It's a really versatile cake, a great base to add other flavours; citrus, chocolate, coffee, a Christmassy spice mix, keep it plain or ice it, the combinations are endless.

It's school holidays here, and it's raining, a lot. With all that time spent inside I poached some pears, there are fewer around but the beurre bosc pears are still beautiful. They worked really well with this cake, even better with some of the cooled poaching syrup and some raspberries.

vanilla butter cake

225g butter, at room temperature
400g sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
375g plain flour, sifted
250ml buttermilk, at room temperature
seeds from 1 vanilla bean, or 1 tsp vanilla exact

• preheat oven to 160ºC
• grease and flour your cake tin; I used a deep charlotte mould, but any of the 6 cup bundt or loaf tins will work
• in a medium sized bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
• lightly beat one of the eggs then add to the butter and sugar, mix to combine; repeat with remaining 3 eggs
• add the vanilla seeds (or extract) to the buttermilk, whisk to blend
• add a third of the flour to your butter/sugar/eggs, mix slowly until just combined then add half of the buttermilk, again mixing slowly; repeat with the next third of the flour and the remaining milk, fold in the final third of the flour by hand, lifting the mixture from the bottom of the bowl to catch anything your mixer has missed
• tip the batter into your cake tin, smooth the top with the back of a spoon, bake in the centre of your oven for 70 minutes, or until a skewer pressed into the centre of the cake comes out clean
• cool cake in pan for 10 minutes then turn onto a cooling rack
• the cake will keep in an airtight container for up to a week, serves 12 (at least1)

for something a little different...
stir the finely grated zest of an orange and a heaped teaspoon of ground cardamom through your flour before adding to your batter, the finished cake will be wonderfully zesty and fragrant. Go all out and candy some orange slices for a great crisp/chewy contrast. This cake was baked in the Nordic Ware small anniversary bundt pan, available from Williams-Sonoma, doesn't stick and bakes like a dream.

oven candied orange slices (thanks Martha S :))

an orange
icing sugar

• preheat oven to 100ºC
• line a baking tray with baking paper
• slice your orange as thinly as you can, 2mm works well; I used a mandolin, but I have a smiley scar and slightly reduced sensation in the tip of my right index finger, so totally understand if you'd prefer to use a knife...
• place your orange slices on your baking tray and liberally dust with icing sugar, bake until the peel is dry and the orange flesh is dry to touch, shiny and translucent, around 1 1/2 to 2 hours
• store in a single layer in an airtight container.

How beautiful would these look dangling from a Christmas tree, or in a wreath? It's September and I've already mentioned Christmas twice...

Friday, 21 August 2015

Kit Kat Studio Sydney

image credit: Anna Kucera

Kit Kat turned 80, who knew?  Well Nestlé obviously, and to celebrate they've created the "world first Kit Kat Studio" I went along for the launch. Hosted by the amazing Anna Polyviou, think mohawks, MasterChef and that crazy carrot cake challenge, we drank champagne and watched Anna and her team create the Caramelised Anna, a chocolate adorned graffitied work of salted caramel popcorn art. It was awesome, I took one home for the kids but ate it, sorry kids. We also sampled that carrot cake; I totally appreciate all the skill and technique but preferred the Kit Kat, sorry Anna!

image credit: Anna Kucera

A touch screen at the studio guides you through the process to "Create Your Break" a custom 8 fingered Kit Kat. Enter your mobile number, choose your chocolate, add up to 3 of the 58 extra ingredients, then select your packaging. An SMS confirms your order and another when it's ready to collect. 

Of the 14 new special editions, salted caramel and toasted macadamias was a total winner. Would I make a special trip to the studio? I'm not sure, but if I was in the area I'd absolutely stop by; customised chocolate and cute packaging, what's not to love?

Kit Kat studio is on Level 2, Westfield Sydney until 30th August; 8 finger Create Your Break $9, 4 finger Special Editions $4.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

...and in the morning, i'm making waffles!

If something is out of reach you want it more right? Waffles. I've been hankering after waffles since January. We were in Whistler, word was the best place for waffles, the Crystal Hut. Catch the chair, ski down, eat waffles; except I wasn't skiing, so no waffles for me. Mr B and the kids confirmed the waffles were indeed great.

Clearly I complained a lot and for my birthday in March was given a waffle maker! I've made loads of waffles since, trying to recreate the fabulous waffles from Kitchen by Mike; another thing off limits since they shut their doors last Friday. I'm not quite there with the waffle recipe, I may be chasing the impossible, but this recipe, minus the choc chips, by Emma Knowles at the Gourmet Traveller is the closest I've found.

The syrupy bitter oranges though, totally nailed those. Simple poached orange slices in sugar syrup, their skin almost translucent, the prettiest thing i've eaten in ages. Just add some crème fraîche to offset the sweetness and grab a fork.  In Australia crème fraîche is easy to find, but for that something extra special look out for Meander Valley or Pepe Saya, both are deliciously thick and tangy.

syrupy bitter orange slices

Oranges poached in their skins are bitter. If that's not your thing try removing the skin and all traces of white pith, cut the oranges in half or thirds horizontally and follow the poaching steps below. I'd imagine they would poach quickly, I'd give them 10 minutes and leave them to cool in the syrup. 

3 unwaxed oranges
500g caster sugar
500ml water
a sterile 1 litre jar

• there are so many ways to sterilise a glass jar, I followed these instructions
• wash your oranges well and carefully cut into 2-3mm slices
• tip the sugar and water into a large pan, stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves
• increase the heat and bring the syrup to a gentle simmer, add the orange slices, continue the gentle simmer until the orange skin is almost translucent and can be easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife; mine took 40 mins, you may need to top up your pan with water as you go, to keep the orange slices covered
• I let the oranges cool in the syrup then transferred them to the sterilised jar, pouring the syrup over the top. If you're more daring and prefer the hot bottling method, go for it, I'm super wary of hot sugar, am literally scarred...
• cover your jar with its lid and store in the fridge until they're gone; they'd no doubt be fine in a cupboard but I'm overly paranoid, so let's go with in the fridge for a couple of weeks ;)

Sunday, 14 June 2015

walnut and white chocolate brownies

Lots of baking in the simmer & boyle kitchen this month; a couple of morning teas for the Cancer Council, some catering, and loads of recipe testing. If you'd like to join JJ and me for our virtual biggest morning tea, or drop some coins in our virtual Cancer Council jar, check this post for instructions :)

I'm still on that pear bender and they're completely dominating my insta feed #sorrynotsorry! Loving walnuts too and putting them in almost everything.  I may have eaten a poached pear with walnut sablé cookies and mascarpone this morning, dessert for breakfast on a Sunday is totally a thing...

There's still at least a kilo of walnuts in my fridge so I toasted some and threw them into my favourite brownie recipe with some white chocolate; the family are split on the addition of white chocolate, but it has such an alliterative ring :) This is a really reliable brownie recipe, take out the walnuts and white chocolate if they're not your thing, add the same volume of whatever takes your fancy; hazelnuts and milk chocolate, chopped dates with the zest of an orange and maybe some cointreau, pecans and a shot of instant coffee... I like my brownies fudgey so intentionally undercook them, half an hour generally just about does it, 35 to 40 minutes if you prefer them cakey.

walnut and white chocolate brownies

180g butter
180g dark chocolate
3 eggs
275g caster sugar
110g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
125g white chocolate, roughly chopped
125g toasted walnut halves, keep 6 or so whole, roughly chop the rest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

• preheat your oven to 175ºC
• line the base of a 23cm square cake tin with baking paper, lightly grease the sides
• put the butter and dark chocolate in a pan over a low heat and stir until melted and smooth, set aside to cool
• sift together the flour and cocoa and set aside
• in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a large bowl and electric hand whisk) whisk together the eggs, sugar  and vanilla until really thick, creamy and pale, then fold through the melted chocolate and butter
• gently fold through the flour and cocoa, then stir through the white chocolate and chopped walnuts 
• pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, lightly press the remaining walnut halves into the brownie batter, then bake in the centre of your oven for 30 mins if you like your brownies fudgy, 40 mins if you prefer them firmer.
• leave brownies to cool completely, then slice into squares; if you've opted for fudgier brownies I'd refrigerate them for an hour or so before slicing.
• brownies should keep in an airtight container for about a week; if they start to dry out, pop them in the microwave for about 20s and serve them with ice-cream or cream


a gratuitous pear shot from one of those morning teas, just because...

Friday, 29 May 2015

chocolate and walnut meringues with salted caramel

Good morning! It's almost time for tea... If you're in Australia then you're probably aware of the Cancer Council's annual fundraiser Australia's Biggest Morning Tea; it's in full swing, aussies everywhere #RaiseYourCup to raise funds for vital research, prevention and support service programs.

I don't think I know a family that hasn't been touched by cancer, and while there are so many worthy organisations that need support, the Biggest Morning Tea is a good fit for me.

This year JJ from 84th & 3rd and I are hosting a Virtual Biggest Morning Tea and we'd love you to take part! JJ has a way with words (and cake) so I'm borrowing hers...

If tax-deductible charity donations are your thing...
  • Click on through to our ABMT page and drop a coin in the bucket (thanks!)
If cooking and blogging are your thing...
  1. Make a morning tea treat - sweet or savoury, it's up to you - and post it on your blog between now and the end of June
  2. Click on through to our ABMT page and drop a coin in the bucket (thanks!)
  3. Send JJ a link to your Virtual Morning Tea post and we will add you to the lists at the end of our posts
If neither are your thing...
  • Go hug (or call) someone you love

"Don't mess with the Mexicans" that's what this post should be called, well, "South Americans" really... I wanted to make alfajores; those crumbling, melting mouthfuls of caramelly deliciousness from America Latina. I don't have a great relationship with dulche de leche out of a can and haven't had success making it, so I changed the recipe. Big mistake. So what do you make at 10 o'clock at night when you're tired and want to whip up something pretty?

Meringues. They are no nonsense, work every time, and I'm pretty much guaranteed to have the ingredients in my kitchen somewhere. I found the eggs and sugar, even added chopped walnuts and dark chocolate too! I made them small. Beautiful, dainty and delicious, you can always have more than one, or heap them in a bowl with whipped cream and salted caramel. Morning tea can be a party, South Americans like to party...

meringues with chocolate and walnuts (not alfajores)

3 egg whites
165g caster sugar
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
pinch cream of tartar
60g walnuts, chopped
40g dark chocolate, chopped

• pre-heat oven to 100ºC, line a baking sheet with baking paper
 put the sugar, egg whites and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer, lightly whisk together to break up the sugar
 place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, make sure the bowl does not touch the water, whisk the egg whites until the sugar has dissolved, they have increased in volume and feel hot
 put the bowl on the stand mixer, add the cream of tartar and whisk until the egg whites are marshmallowy and are cool
 fold 40g of the walnuts and 30g chocolate through the meringue, drop small spoonfuls of meringue onto the lined tray
 sprinkle the remaining nuts and chocolate over the meringue and bake for approximately an hour, until the meringues feel crisp and dry
 store in an airtight container, the meringues will keep for 2 weeks

salted caramel sauce

200g caster sugar
80g butter
120 ml thickened cream 
1 tsp sea salt flakes, optional 

• tip the sugar into a small/medium heavy based pan and heat on a medium to high setting, stirring until the sugar starts to melt
• continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar has melted, turned a lovely caramel colour and has started to smoke
• as soon as you are happy with the caramel, whisk in the butter, take care, it will bubble and spit 
• remove from the heat and whisk in the cream, if your caramel has formed clumps, return to the heat and stir until smooth
• off the heat add the salt flakes, pour into a clean jar and leave to cool
• once cool, cover with the lid and store in the fridge, it will keep for 2 weeks

Virtual Morning Tea Party

drop you coins in the bucket

JJ's kumquat upside-down tea cake

Sally's walnut and chocolate meringues with salted caramel

Ali's rhubarb, orange and hazelnut cake

Shez's lamingtons

 Sally's walnut and white chocolate brownies
Melissa's flourless choc-chunk cookie for, ahem, one

Nicole's sticky date cake with caramel custard cream cheese icing

Thursday, 21 May 2015

vanilla poached pears with mascarpone and sablé biscuits

                                                                                                  image thanks to the wonderful Luisa Brimble

"Simple, seasonal" a culinary mantra, last week I finally got it.

On Sunday Nia and Johan Neve from The Assembly Co hosted an autumn lunch, their first seasonal gathering, a wonderfully warm, relaxed afternoon. Anna the floury baker, pastry goddess, provided the savoury, I was delighted to bring the sweet. 

I'm not known for restraint when it comes to dessert. I made a few different things, but for me the vanilla poached pears were the star, honestly the nicest thing I've made in ages. Paired with crisp buttery sablé biscuits and whipped mascarpone, so simple but perfectly matched. Walnut brownies with hot salted caramel shared that table, stiff competition, lends weight to my claim.

I'm off to buy more pears first thing, if you're in the southern hemisphere maybe buy some too; it's pear season, poach away and enjoy. Simple, seasonal.

For more details of the magical day and Luisa Brimble's wonderful images click over to Nia's blog.

vanilla poached pears

400 g caster sugar
350ml bottle of dessert wine (I used a botrytis something or other, pretty bottle, $15, don't really do wine)
strip orange zest
juice of 1 orange
strip lemon zest
juice of 1 lemon
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
approx 500ml water
6 beurre bosc pears

• pour the orange juice, lemon juice and wine into a jug, make up to 1 litre with tap water, then pour into a medium/large wide bottomed pan with the sugar, split vanilla bean and seeds, lemon and orange zest
• stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, remove from heat
• peel, halve and core the pears, pop them into the pan with the syrup as you go, this will prevent them browning (i used a parisian scoop to core my pears, a melon baller will do the job as long as your pears are not too firm)
• cover the pears with a circle of baking paper, carefully place a plate on top to weight the pears down, over a medium heat bring the syrup to a simmer, turn down the heat, gently simmer until the pears are tender (poaching time will depend on the ripeness of your pears, mine took between 15 and 25 minutes)
• remove from the heat and leave the pears to cool in the poaching liquid
• store the cooled pears in their poaching liquid in an air tight container in the fridge
• allow the pears to come to room temperature to serve, while the pears acclimatise, put 400ml of the poaching liquid in a small pan, bring to the boil and reduce by half
• serve the pears with the syrup, whipped mascarpone and sablé biscuits

sablé biscuits

200g butter, at room temperature
100g icing sugar (not icing mixture)
1 large egg, yolk only
250g plain flour
pinch salt

 put the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat for a minute or so to soften
 sift the icing sugar over the butter and beat together until fluffy and pale, add the egg yolk, beat to combine
 sift the salt and flour over the butter mixture, mix together on low speed until just combined, tip the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into a disc, cover with the plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for 2 hours
 preheat your oven to 180ºC, line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper
 lightly flour the bench, unwrap the sablé dough, bash it a few times with a floured rolling pin to soften, then roll the dough to your desired thickness, mine were about 3mm thick, probably as thin as you'd want to go (if you plan to sandwich something, say salted caramel or nutella, between 2 cookies make them at least 5mm thick, but no more than 8mm)
 cut rounds using a plain 7cm cutter (again you can go larger or smaller, or fluted...) place on the baking sheet
 collect together any scraps, knead together, reroll and cut as many rounds as you can, summon your willpower and discard any remaining dough (I have been known to roll into small balls, freeze and add to ice-cream ...)
• bake for approximately 10 minutes, until they colour around the edge (if you have made smaller/thinner biscuits check them after 8 minutes, larger/thicker cookies will take slightly longer, just look for that golden colour around the edges)
 cool on the trays, when completely cooled, transfer to an airtight container
 makes around 20 biscuits

                                                                                                               image credit and thanks to Luisa Brimble

whipped mascarpone

250g mascarpone
80ml whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 tbsp sugar

• tip the mascarpone into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whisk for 30 secs or so to loosen
• add the cream, sugar and vanilla, whip together until it thickens slightly, and is billowy and cloud like
• use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days

                                                                                                            image credit and thanks to Luisa Brimble