Tuesday, 28 January 2014

A very special milestone

So the littlest lad just celebrated his first birthday. While he was more concerned with wrapping paper than actual gifts, it was crazy reflecting on fast the last year has gone by.
We didn't have a party but more of a casual afternoon tea with some friends and their little ones, which of course called for cake. I opted for cupcakes, because it's easier than cutting cake. Lazy? Perhaps. But at these shindigs I find the less you have to do, the more you can actually enjoy. 
Making birthday cakes is a pretty fun affair and I love flicking through the old Women's Weekly Birthday Book for inspiration. Every Tom, Dick and Harry with access to fondant icing fancies themselves as a cake decorator these days, but not I. I like to keep it simple, firstly, because I like to make my own cake and icing (the kiddies are already getting a decent sugar hit without adding other nasties) and secondly because I don't want to be re-creating a detailed version of the Taj Mahal by the time the boys turn 10. 
For the big lad's first birthday, we rolled with this for some farmy fun (excuse the dodgy photo):

I loved that cake. Maybe because it was my first born's first birthday cake, or because it was pretty darn cool. Anyway, for his second birthday, we progressed to this:
Yep, that's Peppa Pig and I was rather proud of my efforts. Until one of my friends likened Peppa's snout to something rather untoward. After that, I couldn't look at Peppa the same way. Good cake though. 
Now for the little lad, we kept it simple and decided to make some fishy cupcakes (decorated, not actual fish cupcakes as that would be gross). I say we, because Mr Everyday Baker did indeed help with some scale placement and did a fine job.
Aren't they great?! The kiddies loved them. Now, the recipe. I generally roll with a vanilla cake for both the large and small versions of birthday cakes. For the cupcakes this year, I used a recipe from the talented Littlesweet Baking which she was kind enough to share.

Vanilla Cupcakes
230g unsalted butter
230 caster sugar 
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
230g self raising flour
2 tablespoons milk

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. 
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. Sift in flour and mix on slow until just combined and add milk.
Spoon into lined cupcake tins and bake for 18 minutes. 

Buttercream Icing
100g unsalted butter
2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon milk 

Beat butter until light and creamy, add icing sugar and vanilla before adding milk if needed. Mix until nice and creamy. (If you use the low GI icing sugar as I do, your icing will be an dirty-white colour but still tastes great). 

For the Fishy Cupcakes:
Divide the icing in two and colour one with blue and the other with green. Ice cupcakes and decorate with Smarties for the scales and lips and silver balls for the eyes. So easy!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Entertaining made easy

Tis’ the season for entertaining, so I thought I would share a favourite recipe that is perfect for all nibble-esk occasions!
This easy focaccia can be made with a variety of flavours according to what’s in your fridge, pantry or growing in the garden.
Given I have a large rosemary bush growing rather wildly in my garden, rosemary and sea salt tends to be a favourite.
I’ve tried this with a variety of different flours, such as wholemeal, white and spelt and it seems to work just as well with each.
I serve the focaccia on a platter or board with a homemade dip, such as hummus and a knife for spreading, to avoid any awkward double dip/crumb in dip situations.
It’s also great served with a small bowl of great quality extra virgin olive oil, such as Grindon from Boyup Brook, with a splash of balsamic vinegar.


2 cups lukewarm water
1 pinch sugar
1 tablespoon dry yeast
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
5 cups of plain flour
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary
1-2 teaspoons flaked sea salt

 Place the water in a large bowl and stir in sugar. Sprinkle yeast over the top and allow to soften before stirring to combine. Add olive oil and salt.
Take one cup of the flour and add to the water mixture, whisking to combine until there are no lumps.
Add remaining flour, one cup at a time until the dough forms a sticking, soft consistency (you may not need all the flour).
Transfer the dough into a large, oiled bowl and drizzle more oil on top before covering with cling film. Place in warm spot for about an hour until the dough doubles in volume.
Prepare a tray (like a flat biscuit tray) with baking paper and slide dough onto it. Push the dough to fill out the tray and to the edges, making indents with your fingertips.
Brush some more oil on top before sprinkling with rosemary and sea salt. Cover loosely with tea towel or cling film and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius and bake focaccia for 20 minutes or until brown. 
All to cool slightly before transferring to board for slicing and serving.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
We have just returned from a lovely little family holiday catching up with some beautiful friends, the lads were so good despite all the planes/cars/buses they were strapped into and we were sad it came to an end. Subsequently I have been a little slack with the Christmas posts, so let's get cracking so we can move into a new year of yummy recipes!

Firstly, my Christmas Cake is delicious (still providing us with cup-o-tea treats) but it is quite crumbly to cut - it's not dry though and the flavours are beautiful. So rather than take photos of crumbly cake, I'll direct you to the recipe here... Thank you again, Donna Hay!

My other Christmas favourite was Nigella's gorgeous chocolate Christmas biscuits - they are like little glazed chocolatey eruptions, adorned with some Christmas bling! Also a great one for the big lad to help with, I roll the biscuit dough balls, he squishes them (and licks the spoon of course) and he gets to sprinkle the bling on when we're icing. Then gets to eat them shortly after... trying to get an almost three year old to understand the concept of waiting for icing to set is impossible! Who can blame him? I barely understand it myself...

Nigella's Chocolate Christmas Biscuits

250g butter
150g raw caster sugar
40g premium cocoa
300g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarb 
1 teaspoon baking powder

Chocolate glaze:
2 tablespoons premium cocoa
175g icing sugar
60ml boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
sprinkles or bling for decorating 

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees Celsius and line two trays with baking paper. 
Cream butter and sugar until light, soft and whipped before adding the cocoa. Then add the the flour, bicarb and baking powder and mix until combined. 
The mixture will be soft and sticky, but pinch off tablespoon sized pieces and roll into balls, flattening slightly when on the tray. 
Bake for 15 minutes.

To make the icing, mix cocoa, icing sugar, water and vanilla in a small saucepan and whisk over low heat until smoothly combined. Allow to sit off the heat for 10 minutes.
When the biscuits are cool, drizzle each with the chocolate glaze before sprinkling with bling/sprinkles. Adorn as you go, as once the glaze sets, your decorations won't stick.