Vanilla Slice

Next in my adventures in baking the great Australian classics – Vanilla Slice

confession until I made vanilla slice I’d only eaten it once and wasn’t overly impressed.

From what my friend Wikipedia tells me it’s based on a Mille Feuille. This is alternating layers of puff pastry and cream patisserie. A vanilla slice is a simplistic version of this – puff pastry on the bottom, a layer of delicious custard, topped with puff pastry and covered in delicious icing/

This recipes also for those who claim they can’t make custard, because its super easy and you can make custard.

puff pastry action

simple ingrediants for custard

all coming together in

Vanilla Slice

2 sheets puff pastry defrosted

2eggs

5 tbls corn flour

3 cups of milk

3 tbls sugar

2 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 cup passionfruit pulp

2 cups icing mixture

preheat oven to 180 degrees

Prick puff pastry with a fork and place in oven. Bake until golden.

cut to size to fit in tin (in this case I used a square cake tin). line tin with a strip of foil or baking paper longer than width of tin (you need it over hang edges of tin). place one sheet of puff pastry on bottom of tin

Whisk eggs cornflour and milk in saucepan. heat over medium heat until it starts to become thick, then whisk in sugar and vanilla. You need the custard to be pretty thick so keep whisking until I gets there.

Pour custard into puff pastry lined tin. {Place second sheet of puff pastry on top.

Put passionfruit pulp into a bowl then mix in 1 cup of icing mixture, keep adding icing mmixture4 a little bit at a time till you get a thick icing, Spread icing over puff pastry. Place in fridge to set

Cut up, eat enjoy

*** if you want to make a pouring custard follow directions above but only use 3 tbls cornflour & 1 tsp vanilla, and heat till it coats back of spoon

*** you can replace passionfruit icing with icing of choice if passionfruit is not your thing

Sundays with Joy – Zucchini Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I’m what one might call an enthusiastic gardener. I have grand plans about growing stuff and plant out, lots of things, but I don’t quite have a green thumb so not everything grows. My vegetable garden attempts are pretty much the same. I often plant out a variety of stuff and some of it grows.

We’ve got 2 smallish veggie garden beds in our garden.

One was larger but as you can see in the background we put in a chicken coup and run. We recently chicken sat a friends chickens while she was on holiday, it went well so we’ll be getting out own. so in front of the chicken run is pretty hot in summer so I’m thinking of planting chillies/capsicum.

At the moment the other garden bed is a mixture of a parsley/kale forest some pea seedlings , which are in a bit late but the kids really wanted to grow them and some tomato seedlings which unlike the peas are probably in too early, as well  garlic in amongst it all. We’ve just fenced this off form our puppy so I’m a bit excited at what we can plant up the fencing wire in summer, probably cucumbers and beans but I’m keen to try melons as well. I suspect we might try to squeeze some corn in there as well as the good ole Zucchinis. I plant them every year and they always grow. At first they seem a bit slow to fruit then suddenly it’s all day of the triffords and they are just going berserk growing massive zucchinis in what seems like a day. This of course gives you a zucchini glut and there is only so much you can give away and put into savoury dishes.

This week the Sundays with Joy Facebook group made Zucchini Cream Cheese Pound Cake which will be perfect for using up the massive glut of zucchini’s.

It was really similar to a carrot cake and I was tempted to put walnuts in it and probably will next time. I iced it with Joy’s brown sugar cream cheese icing which improved on the already yummy cake.

recipe from Joy the Baker cookbook

Sundays with Joy – S’mores Brownies

Food can be a strange thing, but it can also be a historical thing to. I mean what we call biscuits, is known in the UA as cookies, and there biscuits are scone like to us and what they call scones is one big round cut into wedges. Why is this and how did it occur. Some people might not care as long as its tastes good. But I’m sure these subtle food naming difference represent something deeper historically.

This thinking about food history really came about after a colleague went to the USA and reported back about the triangle wedge scones. She said they were similar in texture and taste but not the same as our cones. It posed the question why were scones in USA different from ours. We guessed maybe our strong connection with the English lead us to follow their food and baking traditions long after maybe the Americans had abandoned them. Was it availability of ingredients, was it to serve some other purpose. We couldn’t really get to the bottom of it.

But my point is why food is cooked eaten and named is really a link to the history of a country or region. A dish usually evolves because of need plus available ingredients. So by looking deeper as to why a dish/recipe is the way it is you can understand the history behind it and of the region it comes from. Eg Damper is an example. It’s an Australian bread , but it’s made pretty much with flour salt and water (sometimes milk), but no yeast, it’s also traditionally cooked on the coals of campfires. Why? Well it evolved out in the Australian outback where people did have access to flour and salt but wouldn’t have had access to yeast. They probably didn’t have access to an oven, particularly if they were exploring, mustering, travelling or early settlers. So from all of these we get damper but also a bit of understanding of life in the Australian outback 100 plus yrs ago.

So what does this have to do with the Sundays with Joy facebook group? This week we made S’mores brownies. Now I know brownies are a North American thing, Cleary born form a need for a fudgy cake type slice, but I had no idea what S’mores are. In fact I’m still a bit lost on what they are, I’m suspecting they are something we call something different tin Australia (again why does this happen, what’s the reason behind it). I’m guessing they are marshmallow campfire things. Joy’s intro into the recipe in the book kind of gives that away.

But is uses Graham crackers which really threw me. Some investigation and some help from the Sundays with Joy facebook group gave me the indication they were a basic sweet biscuit (if they are a biscuit then why are they called a cracker, not a cookie?) . I suspect my choice of plain sweet biscuits (Arnott’s Granita biscuits) wasn’t quite right but none the less a set out to bake me something I didn’t quite understand (again what are s’mores?).

The ingredients look pretty promising

The result

whatever county you’re in it was chocolaty fudgy goodness with marshmallows on top and biscuit chunks within and I’m hoping thats what it was supposed to be.

Recipe in the Joy the Baker cookbook

Blog link up via Bakeaholic Mama

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Caramelised Onion and Feta Tart

The tart in the photos was made for a farewell morning tea for a colleague. I’ve worked with her for over 11 years and will miss her knowledge and her willingness to share that knowledge and I’ll also miss her on a personal level.

We had one of my workplace’s famous morning teas to farewell her. Unlike most of my colleagues who are sweet tooths she has a savoury tooth. For that reason instead of making a cake or other sweet baked good I made a caramelised onion and feta tart

This tarts amazing, it has to be as its pushed my incredibly popular spinach dip out the way in most requested thing I make. it sends people into a eating frenzy

Make this and people will be requesting you make it over and over. But that’s ok because it’s so delicious

Lets make us a tart

all of this makes the caramelised onion

and all of this makes the pastry

pastry plus caramlised onions = tasty tasty

Caramelised Onion and Feta Tart – recipe adapted from the Free Range Cook by Annabel Langbein

Caramelised Onions

6 red onions cut into thin wedges

375ml water

100gbrown sugar

75ml balsamic vinegar

2tbsp oil

1/2 tsp salt

Place all the ingredients into a large pot and bring to the boil then simmer gently, stirring now and then, for about 1 hour until the liquid has all but evaporated and the onions are very soft. It important to keep a close eye on it towards the end to make sure the onions don’t catch and burn/

Remove from the heat and cool before popping into a container and storing in the fridge.

Pastry – you can use puff pastry instead, but this pastry is really yummy
250g strong white flour the stuff you might use of making bread
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
220g frozen butter grated
4tbsp cold water

To make the pastry, mix the flour and baking powder in food processor.

Add the grated butter and process in bursts until it resembles rough crumbs.

Add the cold water a bit at a time until you have a soft dough, Try not to over work the dough otherwise the pastry will end up tough.
Place a large sheet of baking paper on your work surface and tip the dough onto it. Place another sheet of baking Roll the pastry out between 2 sheets of baking paper until you have about a 35cm circle.

Leave between the baking paper put on a baking tray. Chill in the fridge for min 10 minutes or until ready to use.

Filling
Caramelised Onions (recipe above)
150g feta cheese
2tsp fresh thyme

Preheat your oven to 200C

Take the pastry from the fridge and remove the top layer of baking paper.

Spread the onions over the top leaving an approx. 4cm border all around.

Crumple the feta over the top and sprinkle with thyme.

Fold the pastry edges toward the centre to partially enclose the filling, I will look a little rustic, that’s ok.
Bake for 40 minutes or until pastry is golden and crispy.

Hazelnut Chocolate Orange Scrolls

Did you know there is a world Nutella day? I’m serious, its day to celebrate Nutella and make things with Nutella

I first made these scrolls to celebrate World Nutella day. They were pretty tasty and I’ve been needing an excuse to make them again. The excuse came in the form of the Sweet Adventure Blog Hop – Nuts about Sweets.

But instead of using Nutella from the jar I wanted to make my own version of Nutella. I look at a variety of recipes for it, became horribly overwhelmed by the sheer number of different recipes, pondered what to do, then came up with the idea of making hazelnut butter then mixing it in some chocolate ganache and for a twist adding orange zest. I was worried it would be a disaster, but that worry was wasted as it was amazing.

chocolate, cream and hazelnuts just waiting to be  mixed together

Hazelnut butter just waiting to be mixed into…

Chocolate Ganache

Hazelnut, Orange Chocolate Ganache

1 cup toasted Hazlenuts, skins removed

125g dark chocolate

125g milk chocolate

1/3 cup cream

1/2 tsp orange zest

Place Hazelnuts in food processor, process until they get the consistency of peanut butter. It will take a few minutes so stick with it but it will happen.

Melt both types of chocolate together with eh cream over a low heat. It will look all shiny and yummy.

Add hazelnut butter and orange zest to chocolate cream mixture. Mix well. It will be a bit grainy on account of the hazelnut butter, but taste delicious.

I used a 1/2 quantity of the dough part of Annabel Langbein’s Sticky Buns. But instead of filling it with butter and cinnamon I used my hazelnut choc orange ganache. Rolled it up and cut inot 4cm sections. let them rise again baked at 220 degress c until lightly browned. So very very good.

Part of the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop, this month hosted by Dining With a Stud

All the other delicious nut creations can be found here

Lamingtons

When I first thought of the idea of baking all the classic Australian baked goods the first thing that came to mind was Lamingtons. Almost everyone else suggested pavlova but not me. Come Australia day everyone’s serving pavlova but I’m handing out Lamingtons.

I mean what’s not to love, it’s perfect cake covered in chocolate icing then rolled in coconut. I like them so much I’ll even eat the ones you get pre-packaged from the supermarket. But we all know homemade is best.

I won’t lie they can be fiddly and a bit messy to make . You also need 24 hours to make them. This is because you need to freeze the cake. What’s that skip, why freeze the cake? Well you can ice the outside of a cake pretty well as soon as its cooled from the oven, but cut the cake and icing is not a fan of sticking to the crumbly insides. However freeze the cake and voilà the cut sides aren’t crumbly when frozen.

So righty O let’s make lamingtons

You’re going to need cake which is going to need butter and sugar

we’re adding the usual eggs, vanilla, milk and flour and mxing with our butter and sugar

an assitant in the form of a child is good and enhances the whole messy factor

chocolate icing!!

Lamingtons – recipe adapted from Super Food Ideas April 2002

Butter cake

125g butter

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs (room temp is best)

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 cups SR flour

1/2 cup milk

Preheat Oven to 180 degrees C

cream butter and sugar together

add eggs one at time beating well after each egg. Beat in Vanilla

add 1/2 the flour, then 1/2 the milk. The repeat with remaining flour and milk. Mix until all combined.

pour batter into baking paper lined 18 x28 cm slab tin

Bake for about 30 mins or until a skewer comes out clean

Turn out onto a wire rack. Once cool wrap in cling wrap and freeze

Just before you need to ice them, take cake out of freezer and chop into desired sizes (usually square)

Chocolate icing

500 g icing sugar

1/3 cup cocoa

1/2 cup milk

15 g butter chopped

4 cups desiccated coconut

sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a heat proof bowl. Add milk and butter

stand bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Stir until all combined and nice and smooth

Holding each piece of cake on a fork one at a time dip them in the icing until completely covered in icing. Let excess drip off then roll in coconut.

place on rack to let icing harden slightly (essentially you need to be able pick the lamingtons up without getting totally covered in chocolate icing).

You can vary it by cutting pieces of the un iced cake into 2 spreading jam or cream (or both) between the 2 halves then sandwiching back together and ice as above

Store in an air tight container.

Chai Tea Creme Brulee

I love tea. I’m not sure I can convey this enough. So I was rather excited when I found out that the theme for this month’s Sweet Adventures blog hop was tea.

I make a lovely early grey chocolate cake, and was tempted to make it for this post, but wanted to try something new. I started thinking about how I could infuse tea into a cake or a desert, and came upon the idea of somehow infusing it into a crème brulee. Immediately I thought of chai tea when I came up with the crème brulee idea. My favourite chai tea at the moment is choc chip chai from T2. It’s got a subtle twist on the normal chai flavour and it’s really well suited as the days grow colder.

So let’s make Chai Crème Brulee

cream is infused with chai tea

eggs and sugar whipped together

It gets all caramelly in colour once you add the cream to eggs and sugar

we get some water bath action

and I’d put a picture of blow torch action if I owend  a blow torch

Chai Crème Brulee (makes 4 smallish ramekins and takes about 24 hours)

500 ml cream

2 tbsp chai tea ( I used T2 Choc chip chai)

5 egg yolks

50g sugar

extra sugar (approx 50 g)

Place cream in saucepan add tea. bring to boil, simmer 5 mins., turn of heat. Leave to infuse 15 mins. The strain. Cool cream slightly.

When cream is cooling whisk the 50g of sugar with egg yolk, till combined. Slowly stir in cream until all combined.

Pour into ramekins, refrigerate overnight (or several hours)

The next morning pre heat oven to 120 degrees c and pop ramekins into deepish baking dish. Pour boiling water into baking dish so it comes 1/2 way up sides of ramekins.

Bake in oven for 30-40mins or until just set. Take out of baking dish and allow to cool, then refrigerate for 6 hours min.

When ready to serve take out of fridge, sprinkle just over 1 tsp sugar over the top of custard. The using a kitchen blow torch melt sugar till tis brown and bubbling. If like me you don’t have a kitchen suitable blow torch, you can melt the sugar under the griller, just keep an eye on it.

Leave for about 2 mins and the melted sugar will harden up, giving you that classic crème brulee crack.

Enjoy

This post was part of the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop – Whats your cup of tea? Head on over to check out some other amazing tea inspired creations

Pavlova

I’m not a big fan of pavlova. Yeah its un Australian to admit it, but it’s just not my thing.

Now we have that confession out the way, I’ll also confess I’ve only made pavlova 3 times, including making it for this blog post.

Why am I making it if I don’t really like it. Well it all starts with last Christmas. We were hosting 20 + people at our house for lunch. If you’ve been to our house you can kind of understand this was a feat in itself (we have a small house). So because re arranging the whole house and cooking a meal for 20 people wasn’t enough of a challenge I thought I should serve Pavlova. I mean it’s the quintessential Australian desert (or maybe it’s from New Zealand, I’m not even going to go into that argument), perfect for summer and Christmas.

So I studied a few recipes, did a test Pavlova, took it to work where everyone said it was great. Was feeling confident. Well….

I was planning to make the pavlova Christmas eve and put the cream and fruit on it on Christmas day. Fairly sound plan, except with so much to do I only remembered the pavlova at 11:30pm Christmas eve. I mean that’s ok. We had so much else to do we’d be up till 2am anyway. So I go to make the pavlova and immediately stuff it up by adding the sugar to egg whites without whipping the egg whites up. Ok, stress levels starting to rise, I was down to my last 6 eggs. So I give it another attempt. no mistakes, it turns out perfectly. I leave it in the oven to cool as the recipe states.

Now for breakfast Christmas morning we have croissants for breakfast. I stick the oven on to cook them, get distracted, come back 15 mins later to put croissants in oven, opps pavlova is still in there. Ok it’s now kinda double cooked but still seems ok. So we move it to the kitchen bench were it sits quite happily until husband opened upper cupboard and box of crackers falls out and lands on pavlova.

At this point I’m really beyond caring. It’s Christmas day I’ve got 20 people coming for lunch, 2 kids who have opened toys and are over excited. There is mess everywhere. I’m like lets shove whipped cream and fruit on it and hope for the best. We do and people love the pavlova (ok lots of wine was drunk with lunch so it might have clouded people’s opinions but hey I’ll take the positive feedback).

So why make it again. Well it’s so quintessentially Australian I have to make it as part of my classic Australiana baking series. And also because I used to be scared of the idea of making pavlova. Really its not that hard, plus if it gets crushed by a falling box of crackers, it can totally be saved by whipped cream and beautiful seasonal fruit.

So let’s make Pavlova

There’s eggs or egg whites to be precise (lots of them)

Bit of salt

Bit of whipping

Sugar (lots of it) and then more whipping

Vanilla + vinegar + cornflour

Pavlova – recipe adapted from Julie Goodwins Our Family Table

6 egg whites

1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups caster sugar

1 tlbps cornflour

1 tsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

600 mils cream

seasonal fruit (although in this case I used frozen berries)

Preheat oven to 170 degree C (150 if fan forced). Line baking tray with baking paper.

Beat egg whites and salt together until soft peaks appear.

Add in in sugar a little bit at a time. Once all added beat until stiff and glossy

Fold in cornflour, vinegar and vanilla. Be very gentle when doing this as you don’t want to knock the air out of the mixture.

Spread mixture on baking paper. make sure it’s not all the way to the edges.

Bake 30 mins then turn down heat to 140 degrees C (120 fan forced) and bake another 40 mins. Turn oven off and leave pavlova to cool in oven (its fine to leave it in there overnight or several hours).

When ready to assemble whip cream, spread on pavlova, top with fruit, serve bask in glow of having made and excellent pavlova.

Sundays with Joy – Leek & Asparagus Quiche

This week in the Sundays with Joy  Facebook group we made Leek and Asparagus Quiche. Well everyone else did I made Leek and Bacon quiche.

It’s not that I don’t like Asparagus, no far from it, I spend all of spring trying to incorporate it into as many meals as possible. But the thing is it’s not Spring here in Australia so it’s not in season. I mean sure I could buy it, but I don’t quite feel right buying it when it comes from Peru or where ever. For a whole host of reasons I’d rather buy fresh local in season produce.

So I adapted the recipe to use bacon in its place. I mean bacon makes everything good so I figured there wouldn’t be a problem.

I also don’t make quiche too often. It all seems a bit 1980’s. But you know what quiche is pretty good and this one was delicious. We ate it hot, but it would be perfect as picnic food.

Let’s make quiche

There was bacon

Of course Leeks

2 types of cheese

And Eggs, milk and cream action

Leek and Bacon Quiche – recipe adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook  Leek and Asparagus Quiche

3 rashers bacon diced

1 leek thinly sliced

1 sheet frozen puff pastry

1 cup milk

3/4 cup cream

4 eggs

3/4 cup grated cheese ( I used shedder)

1/4 cup of feta cheese

Pr3eheat Oven to 180 degrees C

Defrost puff pastry

Fry bacon until just starting to brown. Add sliced leek. On medium heat cook until leeks are just starting to soften.

Mix together milk, cream, and eggs ad in 1/2 of the grated cheese

Line 25cm pie tin with pastry. Fill with Leek and Bacon mixture. Crumble feta over the top. Then pour over egg mixture, top with remaining grated cheese.

Bake for 1bout 40 mins or until quiche is set and browned on top. Let site for 30 mins.

Serve hot or cold

To see how others from the Sundays with Joy group baked the quiche, checkout the very lovely Bakeaholic Mama

Scones – you totally can make them

Ok people let’s talk scones. I love scones. I really loved scones when I was pregnant with my son, I mean I was making them several times a week for the whole 9 months. Predictably my son loves scones .

What’s not to love about scones, they are cheap, easy and need no fancy ingredients. You can dress them up and serve them with fancy butters & jams or just enjoy them in a simple way.  They are also a staple of Australain baking and I’m going to bake my way through a whole bunch of Australain baking classics begining with scones.

However I’m getting the idea that people are frightened of making them. I always seem to have people asking me how to make them, what ingredients are needed etc. There is this strange perception form people that they are hard to make. People even buy scone mix.

Let me put this out there for you . YOU CAN MAKE SCONES. You totally can I have faith in you. You need only 3 ingredients, and I bet there’s a fair chance you have then in your cupboard. You don’t need a fancy mixer, there is no creaming butter and sugar and not even a wooden spoon is needed.

Let’s make scones

There is sifting of flour (but you can skip this and it will still work out really well)

Butter rubbed into flour

Mixed together with buttermilk with a knife

Glazing action

Scones

2 1/2 cups self raising flour

30g butter

1 cup butter milk (or plain milk or cream for a richer scone)

Extra milk for glazing

Preheat oven to 200 degrees c

Sift Flour into bowl (I’ve not sifted it & it still worked out)

Rub butter into flour, you want to rub it in until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs

Make a well in the centre, add milk. Mix with a knife (yes just an average butter knife) to form a dough.

Top out on to light floured surface gather it together and pat it down to about 2.5 cm thick. Don’t overwork the dough or it will make the scones tough.

Cut scones out. I’ve got some fancy scone cutter (gift for going to a tupperware party), if you don’t have one use a small glass. Pop scones on baking paper lined tray fairly close together (it helps them rise). Glaze scones with extra milk.

Bake for 15 mins (or until lightly golden).  Cool on cooling rack.