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Custom Printed Sugar Cookies

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My school was participating in an event to advertise itself to international students, schools and tour companies and my colleague volunteered me to make something cute, sweet and uniquely “ours” to hand out at our booth. Blue and brown are our school colours and it was suggested that a blue macaron with a chocolate filling would work. However, I wanted something that really said “Harristown” to the people who ate it.

I made chocolate sugar cookies following the recipe from my “Sprinkle Bakes” cookbook. This is a wonderful recipe if you want a dough to hold its shape and not distort in the oven. I cut out and stamped each cookie with a German cookie cutter that I bought last trip – each cookie had the school’s name on it and they were a big hit! They were really tasty and no problem to transport due to their firmness. Other schools wanted to know the company name to order their own and I was quite chuffed about that!

If you are looking for a great cookie to cut, stamp or decorate then I recommend a visit to the Sprinkle Bakes blog for the sugar cookie recipe – you will probably want to buy the book too! I know I did! If you are looking for a cutter that does all this, then pop on to  Amazon.de and have a look at the range of cutters available in Germany.

Chocolate Harristown Business Cards 025 024

David Lynch’s Blue Velvet Cupcakes

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The Red Velvet Cupcake and Cake seem to have become a bit of a fad here in Australia of late, especially for weddings. I was never tempted until I saw a recipe for them in Nigella Lawson’s “Kitchen” cookbook – if it is good enough for Nigella! I was actually lured into trying them because she ices them with a cream cheese icing and frankly, I have never met a cake that cream cheese icing could not rescue or improve. I set about making a batch and invited my 5 year old goddaughter and her parents around as taste-testers. I must have imagined that I had bought the required Christmas Red food colouring gel, as all I found in the pantry were blue, pink and purple. I decided that Blue Velvet would be fine and in honour of director David Lynch (a tenuous, yet plausible naming).

I was pleased with the texture of the cupcake and it had a lovely mild malted vanilla flavour. The colouring was lurid as all heck as you can see – and the colouring lasts in the human body for days – much to the excitement of the aforementi0ned 5 year old! My husband thought he needed a doctor until he remembered the coloured cakes he ate! All in all, I don’t see the fuss about the Red Velvet, it was a nice afternoon tea treat, but not a showstopper in my opinion. I decorated with blue sugar flowers, star sprinkles, blue sugar and sugared violets and I think they all looked quite festive. Let me know about your cupcake adventures!

 

 

Oats, Smoothies and Thickies

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I love oats. For me they equal Anzac biscuits and porridge, and this equals happiness. I was chuffed to discover that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall also loves oats in his River Cottage Everyday “Breakfast”. He talks about oats as the breakfast of champions and how flexible they are and I absolutely agree with him. This meant I had to try out his Oat Thickie for breakfast, and ladies and gentlemen, we are on a winner! I think this breakfast would be great for kids/toddlers who need to go to day care early, but you want them to have something in their tummies before they are really ready to start eating for the day. It could be fritzed up and then taken with you to work until you are ready for breakfast. If you want the original recipe, then please visit the River Cottage website – it is a great website to explore anytime, just remember that it is English and very seasonal.

So, my version of an Oat Thickie is to combine the following ingredients in a blender:

1 heaped tablespoon whole rolled oats

3 tablespoons Greek-style yoghurt

3 tablespoons milk

1/2 cup fruit

This is for one serve. Fruit can be a banana (add a little honey if you like), raspberries (try adding a teaspoon of Dutch cocoa powder – yeah baby!), blueberries, strawberries or a nectarine. We have tried all except the banana, this is the one fruit I hate with a serious passion. Speaking of passion, peach and passion fruit is the next Thickie on trial! May I also mention to diabetics that oats are low GI and this is a good breakfast for Type 2 diabetics. I have used full fat yoghurt and milk, but you could certainly use low fat and have your health halo shining.

Classic German Marble Cake

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Ingredients:

250g softened butter

250g caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

4 eggs

500g self raising flour

100ml milk

30g cocoa

Method:

Cream the butter and sugar add the vanilla essence. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the sifted flour alternately with the milk. Preheat the oven to 180°. Grease a large loaf tin or a Gugelhupf mold. Pour in half the mixture. Mix the cocoa powder with the remaining mixture. Pour in on top of the vanilla mixture. Swirl together lightly with a fork. Bake for one hour.

This translated from the traditional German recipe and is a lovely buttery cake that needs no icing. The top will become very brown while cooking, however it does not burn.

Nigella’s Maple Pecan Bundt Cake

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Today’s therapeutic baking effort was Nigella’s Maple Pecan Bundt cake from her book “Kitchen”. I made it with creme fraiche and the crumb is beautifully moist. I have rather a lot of bundt pans and I love being able to bake cakes in them. My German Marble Cake is usually baked in a bundt or Gugelhupf pan (I usually use the German word rather than bundt). The maple pecan filling is very clever, in that it is held together with a small amount of flour and therefore doesn’t just melt into the mixture. An excellent afternoon tea cake, perfect with a cuppa. Photos are included and the recipe for my German Marble Cake will go in the recipes category. Nigella Lawson – is there nothing that woman can’t do?

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My Nemesis – the American Brownie

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My baking nemesis is the humble American Brownie. I have tried to bake all sorts and am never 100% happy with the result. It may be that the brownie is just not my choice of flavour/texture in a slice, however I keep thinking that I have not hit on the right recipe. I dislike the sugary crust that forms on the top of most brownies – mainly due to the “melting butter and chocolate together” technique that is the base for most of them. Yesterday I made the Mint Chocolate Brownies from Martha Stewart’s website. I stumbled across it and a childhood love of Mint Patties made me try it. You make a fairly standard brownie batter and layer mint patties in the middle. They taste lovely, they are moist and chewy, yet I still feel underwhelmed. Does anyone else have the brownie blues? Is the brownie just chocolate cake’s dodgy little brother? No photo for this one – looks like a brownie, enough said.

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New & Improved Scones?

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Well, I have tweaked my scone recipe with a few ideas pulled from Mr. Oliver’s Great Britain scones. I used my basic scone recipe (choosing the butter option rather than cream) and added a heaped teaspoon of baking powder. I also inverted the scones onto the tray as suggested by Jamie. Overall, I am very pleased with them. Nice and light, but still moist and tasty enough that a smear of butter is all you need, although a dollop of plum jam never goes astray in my opinion. One last point about Jamie’s scones – I didn’t add the fruit! I like my scones fruit-free, mainly due to scary childhood memories of my English Grandmother’s fruit scones – definitely weapons of mass-destruction… of taste buds! Pictures of today’s scones at various stages attached to this post.

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