Tuesday 31 March 2015

Chocolate Cherry Train Biscuits

I originally made these biscuits for our Little Blossom's birthday party. She and her buddies liked them so much, we ended up sending all the remaining biscuits to school a couple of days later so everyone could have another helping. I made double this recipe for the party - and it took a long time to roll all those train out!

With a chocolate and cherry flavour combination it's hard to go wrong. Of course you don't have to make them into trains! Any shape will go down a treat I'm sure. 

Chocolate and Cherry Train Biscuits

110g butter
75g caster sugar
150g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup red glace cherries

Preheat the oven to 150deg. C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. 

Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. 

Add the sifted flour and baking powder, and fold into the mixture. 

Finely chop the cherries, and the chocolate chips if they are large. 

Fold them into the biscuit dough. 

Chill the dough for half an hour, then roll it out in between two sheets of baking paper. 

The biscuit dough should be about 6mm deep. 

Using your cutter of choice, cut out the biscuits trying to get as many as possible out of the first roll. 

Use a thin metal spatula to loosen the biscuits and transfer them to the  lined baking tray.  Gather up the off cuts and gently re-roll them until all the mixture is used up. 

Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes. Don't allow them to brown. They wont become crisp until they cool. 

Happy baking xx 

More bunting...

Another weekend, another couple of birthdays, and more bunting to be made for our Little Miss' buddies. I think I got this fabric from The Make Company. The cute bias binding came from Fabric Vision

This fabric came from my stash, with bias binding from Fabric Vision. Here is the link to my previous blog, complete with bunting pattern dimensions and step by step instructions for constructing your own versions. 

Happy sewing! 

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Girly bunting for our birthday buddies - tutorial

'Tis the season for birthday parties! With so many toy options available and quite a lot of indecision about which to choose, Little Miss and I have decided to go home-made in our gift giving. This is something we have often previously done, and I guess it's a response to the dilemma of trying to find something new and different for our little buddies on their birthdays. 

This bunting is super easy to make. All you need is 40cm of fabric and about 2.5 metres of pretty bias binding. If your fabric has a directional pattern, then you will need 60cm of fabric, or else 4 of the bunting patches will be up the wrong way!

Make your bunting pattern by measuring out a triangle that is 18cm across the top and measures 17.5cm from the top, through the centre, to the tip. This pattern includes a 1cm seam on all sides.

Fold the fabric in half, so it's doubled over with the selvage edges matching. 

Cut out 9 pairs of bunting flags. You will need to turn the shape 180 degrees and cut 4 of the pairs out of the gaps facing the other way. If it's a fabric with a directional pattern, then cut them out all facing the same way.
With the right sides of the fabric facing each other, pin all the flag pairs together. Sew the long sides of the triangles using a 1cm seam, leaving the tops open.
Trim the extra fabric from the tip as shown. 
Turn all the flags in the right way and iron each one flat. 
Cut the protruding piece of seam from the open end of each side.
The bias binding should be sitting with the short side facing upwards. Measure out 50cm of the binding. At that point, position the first flag between the halves of the binding and pin in place.

Measure a 4cm gap between flags, then position another flag. 
Continue to measure and pin until all the flags are in position. Trim the finished end of the bias binding off at 50cm. 
Fold the end of the bias over making a little tuck in the middle so the raw edge doesn't stick out. 

Fold the bias together and pin in place. 

Starting from the pinned end of the bias, sew the end, then along the open edge, through the flags, right to the other end. Finish by sewing across the end of the bias.  

And you're done! 

Happy sewing everyone. 

Saturday 21 March 2015

Birthday Cake

It's no secret that birthday cake decorating is not my favourite thing. There is nothing quite like the stress of putting together a themed, cake based construction at the last minute before the guests arrive. This year I got a bit more organised and made this creation the night before. Thankfully our Little Miss 6 was more than happy with it when she woke up on birthday morning.

We were more than happy with her Sheriff Callie birthday theme, but it did present a few challenges on the cake design front. Cat cake? Maybe, but I had visions of it looking more like a dog. Hat cake? Too fiddly. Cactus cake? Too much green colouring. So we settled on a desert scene. I made the icing props a couple of days ahead. LM6's current obsession with brightly coloured dessert items meant the inside had to be in contrasting layers. The cake is layered with butter cream on the inside and the outside is Meringue Toffee Frosting. The cake recipe is adapted from a Chelsea Sugar promo handout. The sour cream gives it a nice moist, soft texture. 

Sour Cream Sheriff Callie Desert Scene Cake 

This quantity is enough to make one layer. I made 3 times this for my cake by making one double mixture and halving it before adding the colour, and then making another single mixture. Three times the mixture is generally too much for a domestic mixer! 

125g butter
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sour cream

I used pink colour and raspberry flavouring on the pink layer, plain cake and vanilla for the yellow and green and lemon zest for the last layer. 

Preheat the oven to 160deg. C. 

Line a baking tin with baking paper. I used a 32 x 25cm rectangular tin for each layer.

Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well between each addition. Having the eggs at room temperature will help to prevent the mixture from curdling, but don't get too worried if it does. 

Sift the flour and baking powder together. 

Whisk the sour cream to remove any lumps. 

Fold a third of the flour, followed by a third of the sour cream alternatively into the butter mixture until all the ingredients are combined. Lastly add your choice of colour and flavour. Remember that the colours dull during baking. 

Place the mixture into the lined baking dish and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes depending on the depth of the cake. The cake will spring back when pressed once its cooked and a skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. 

Because I used free range eggs, I didn't need to add colour to make the yellow layer.

Once cold I cut the cakes into an irregular 'island' shape and layered them together with butter cream. I added the raised sand dunes using off cuts. 

Butter Cream
200g softened butter
1 cup icing sugar
4 tablespoons boiling water 
the juice and zest from half a lemon

Beat the softened butter and icing sugar together until pale and fluffy. With the beater running, add the boiling water a little at a time. Beat until it forms a nice emulsion. Lastly add the lemon zest and juice and beat again. 

Meringue Toffee Frosting

I often use this on cakes as it's lighter than butter cream frosting. Here's a great Chocolate Mud Cake that uses the same frosting. I doubled this recipe to cover this birthday cake.
Once this frosting is made you need to move fast to get it on the cake before it sets.

175 g sugar
1 tablespoon liquid glucose
40ml water
3 egg whites

Beat the egg whites to soft peaks. At the same time, place the sugar, glucose and water into a small heavy based pan and bring to the boil. Don't stir it once all the sugar has dissolved or the mixture will crystallise. Use a sweet thermometer to boil the sugar to 145deg. C or until it has turned a pale golden colour. 
With the beater running, slowly dribble the sugar into the beaten egg whites. The mixture will become smooth and shiny. Once all the sugar is added beat for a few more minutes before moving quickly to spread it on the cake. 

That's our big birthday day over for the year. Wonder what next year's theme will be? 
Happy baking my friends. 

Saturday 14 March 2015

Birthday Girl and how to make a Meringue Tower.

It was party time at our house last weekend. Actually its taken us all week to recover from the festivities. But it was all worth it on the day, as nothing compares to a happy crowd of little party goers. 

Quite a lot of Saturday was taken up by baking, with me on the sweets and the man of the house taking care of the main course. With a Sheriff Callie theme, we served Tacos, nachos, sweet corn, and chilli dogs for main course. Little Miss insisted that cow girls and boys definitely eat Chocolate Cupcakes, Meringues, Sticky Lemon Slice, Sheriff Badge Star biscuits, Cinnamon Oysters, Cherry Chocolate Train biscuits and birthday cake!

Here is the Meringue tower I made for the occasion. It was actually really easy to make and just required a little bit of simple assembly the day before. The meringues can be made a few days in advance and kept in an air tight container until required. Little Miss is all about the bright colours at the moment, so I used a selection of Jelly Crystals to get the rainbow pattern going. You can always mix pink and blue to get purple.

Meringue Tower
To make a 75cm tower.

8 egg whites
2 pinches cream of tartar
2 cups of caster sugar'
4 tablespoons cornflour
4 tablespoons each raspberry, blueberry, and lime jelly crystals
Food colours to match
2 piping bags and a 1.5cm round nozzle

a 1m x 80cm piece of pink card + glue and sellotape
220g white chocolate

Preheat the oven to 125deg. C.
Halve the ingredient list and make the meringues in two batches, as 8 egg whites is too much to handles and bake in one batch.
Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks appear. Blend the caster sugar and cornflour together. Add the sugar and cornflour to the egg whites a few tablespoons at a time, beating well between each addition. The mixture should be stiff and glossy, and hold in solid peaks when lifted from the bowl. Divide the mixture in half and fold through one of the jelly crystal flavours with its matching food colour. Place in the piping bag and pipe 2.5cm diameter meringues onto a baking paper lined tray. Don't crowd them on the tray or they may stick together. Mix the second half of the mixture with another jelly flavour and repeat the piping.

Bake for 15 minutes at 125deg. C, then lower the oven temperature to 100deg. and leave for 30 minutes. If you can, its useful to turn the oven off, then leave the meringues in the oven to cool overnight.

Fold the cardboard around itself to form a cone. Use glue to stick the overlapping card together and secure it with sellotape until the glue dries. 

Trim the bottom to form a level cone. Find a large plate that will neatly fit the cone.
Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pot of boiling water. 

Put three blobs of chocolate around the edge of the plate and press the cone into it. Leave to set. 
Starting at the bottom of the cone, dip each meringue into the chocolate - not too much - just enough to stick it to the cone.  

I chose to do a line of each colour, but you can arrange them however you might like. 

Don't worry if they don't all fit really neatly, the overall effect will still be impressive! 

The children just loved them.

I'll be posting more party recipes in the next few days. Happy Baking!

Monday 2 March 2015

Tasty Little Plum Tartlets

Every year I make a lovely Plum tart using the beautiful fruit from the Plum Trees planted all those years ago by the Sisters of Mercy when they founded Villa Maria College. I have no idea of the variety; only that it's old and the fruit is a deep purple colour all the way through. In previous years I have made a family sized tart, but this year I decided on some cute little tartlets instead. 

Little Plum Tartlets

300g plain flour
200g butter
100g caster sugar
4 tablespoons cold water

Using a food processor, blend the flour, butter and sugar until they resemble crumbs. 

With the motor of the processor running, add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until a ball of dough starts to form. 
Take from the process, press into a ball, wrap in plastic food wrap and chill for half an hour at least. 

For the tarts:
18 medium sized red fleshed plums
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat the oven to 180deg. C

Wash, halve and remove the stones from the plums. 

Cut the chilled pastry in half. Roll out the pastry half between two sheets of baking paper until it is about 4 to 5mm thick. 

Turn the pastry onto a floured surface and cut out 7cm fluted rounds using a pastry cutter. 

Place these into greased muffin pans. You should have about 36 rounds. 

Blend the extra flour, sugar and allspice. Place a half teaspoon of this flour mix into the bottom of each pastry case. 

Now place a plum half into each one. 

Bake for approximately 15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the plum bubbly. 

While still warm gently remove from the muffin tins and cool on a wire rake. 
The tarts will soften on standing, and are best served promptly dusted with icing sugar. 

If you don't want to make so many, just halve the number of plums and pop half the pastry into the freezer for later.