Christmas and Chocolate: A match made in Heaven

Christmas Brownies

This week I have been really busy trying to get everything done before Christmas. You know that time of year where you are trying to do all your day to day things, but also trying to buy Christmas presents and organize yourself? I mean I love buying presents for others, but it does take up a lot of time because I take so much pride in when I give to people. Plus, I’m also trying to work out all of my Christmas baking, which is an entirely different undertaking! My sister reminded me that I don’t need to bake for people, especially when it comes to making gingerbread houses! But the truth is I just love doing it, especially because it is such a personal gift! So I guess it isn’t really a question that I’m going to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen gearing up to Christmas. And why wouldn’t you want to me? I mean I know it is really hot, being summer here, and sometimes the oven is a bit much, but there’s just something so awesome about Christmas baking. As you know I love the flavours, but its more the variety of baking there is to do. Everyone loves a good Christmas recipe, and there is the volume of recipes online to match! So I figured it was about time I started testing some out for potential contenders for my Christmas presents.

Christmas Brownies

I have had this recipe sitting around for a while and it caught my eye as one to give a try this week because it combines two of my great loves: Christmas and chocolate. Who doesn’t love a good brownie, especially one where when you bite into it you get delicious Christmas flavours! I figured that there was no time like the present to try this one out and see how it went. I had all the ingredients on hand, along with some Lindt chocolate, so I figured I could put it to good use and upgrade it beyond its chocolate bar origins. It was funny because it’s been so hot in Brisbane lately that I didn’t even need to melt my chocolate, it was already melted for me thanks to sitting out all day!

Christmas Brownies

I have to admit, when I looked at the actually directions for this recipe, I was a little skeptical. Part of the appeal of brownies for me is that they are so easy to make. You melt the chocolate and butter, add all the other ingredients, bake and then you are done! They have to be one of the easiest things to bake, and quickest to wash up (one bowl, one pan). But this recipe called for a lot more steps than what I would usually put into a brownie, as well as a lot more ingredients. I mean when I start having to whip things for a certain amount of time on a weeknight, sometimes I just cannot be bothered. I guess that is why I am always after quick and simple recipes, because sometimes you just want to be able to whip something up nice and easily, and have a finished product in under an hour. Is it too much to ask? But I told myself, even though I was feeling stressed and tired, that I needed to bite the bullet and try out this recipe. The promise of how delicious it would be at the end kept me going, and in the end it ended up making me feel a lot less stressed anyway!

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Don’t be disheartened by the slightly more complicated method in making these brownies, or how long they take to cook. Even though it seems a little more painful than a regular brownie, these were anything but regular brownies! The finished product I was a little skeptical of because they didn’t turn out like brownies I would normally make, but the finished product was absolutely delicious! These brownies are seriously good, so all that time in the kitchen is well worth it for the finished product! If you are after gooey, dense brownies with a perfect crunchy top and a little flavour twist, these are your brownies! So I urge you to not get frightened by the unusually large process behind these brownies, because they pack an amazing Christmas flavour and are well worth the extra effort.

Christmas Brownies

Christmas Brownies

Adapted From The Moon Blush Baker
Preparation Time 25 minutes
Cooking Time 45-55 minutes
Serves 16 brownies

Ingredients

·         175 grams of Unsalted Butter, cubed

·         125 grams of good quality Dark Chocolate, chopped up

·         275 grams of Caster Sugar

·         2 eggs

·         2 egg yolks

·         1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

·         100 grams of Plain Flour

·         1 teaspoon of Ground Ginger

·         1 teaspoon of Cinnamon

·         ¼ teaspoon of Ground Nutmeg

·         ½ teaspoon of All Spice

·         ¼ teaspoon Ground Cloves

·         ¼ teaspoon of Black Pepper

·         Pinch of Salt

·         ½ cup of Walnuts, roughly chopped

Method

1.       Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with baking paper and set aside.

2.       In a medium heat proof bowl melt chocolate and butter together over a pot of simmering water. Continue to stir until combined and then remove from the heat. Set aside for 10 minutes.

3.       While chocolate is cooling, whisk eggs, yolks, vanilla extract and caster sugar with an electronic whisk until very light and fluffy. This took about 5 minutes for me, and once you’re finished set aside.

4.       In a small bowl, mix together the flour, spices, salt and pepper until combined, and set aside.

5.       Roughly fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until completely combined. Ensure you scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure the chocolate is fully mixed.

6.       Add the flour mixture to the rest of the batter and mix until completely combined. Add the walnuts and fold through to mix evenly.

7.       Pour the mixture into the tray and place in oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes. I left mine in for 53 minutes and they were still really gooey but had a delicious crunchy top.

8.       Allow to cool in the tin and then transfer to the fridge to cool overnight before cutting.

Christmas Brownies

Now I look at it, it really isn’t that bad at all. I think it’s just because brownies are normally a one bowl, simple recipe, and this is a little more complicated. But you will be rewarded for your efforts with these ones! I was surprised by how hard the top ended up being, and the brownies themselves deflated a lot while they cooled. But this ended up making the brownies really dense, which was amazing! I was surprised by how dense they ended up being giving how much the eggs and sugar were whipped. But that’s what I love about trying new recipes, they always surprise you.

Christmas Brownies

These brownies had a delicious hint of Christmas in every bite, as were perfectly spiced with those gingerbread sort of flavours that I love! I also think the walnuts really added something to the brownies, because it meant that they had a little extra crunch. They would make for the perfect gift for those special people in your life, or something to bring along to your Christmas party when you’re asked to bring a plate. They are sure to bring the festive cheer, and everyone loves chocolate!

Christmas Brownies

I took these brownies to work and they were a hit! Which is surprising, given how many of the girls in our office are on diets at the moment. Luckily I saved a couple at home for later because they were gone so quickly! I might need to share the love a little though, because I need to be able to fit into my bikini come Christmas time if this weather keeps up!

Christmas Brownies

Until next time, happy baking!

Ella xx

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Blondies: I think I am in Love

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This week I have ended up with half of my week in Melbourne for a team offsite (tough life I know), and I knew that I wouldn’t really have time nor the supplies to do any sort of baking or cooking from my hotel room. I mean, although a lot of the apartments in Melbourne come with basic kitchenettes, it’s a little hard to work some cooking magic good enough for my readers from a hotel room. Plus, when in Melbourne, one has to take the opportunity to eat at the amazing range of delicious restaurants, why would anyone want to cook? So I decided I needed to figure out what I was going to make before I went to Melbourne, and as such I am now writing this blog post from the plane! It’s certainly providing a new atmosphere for my writing, with the whirring of the propellers and a free glass of red wine in hand. Makes for a rather relaxing evening! Hopefully this blog post still makes sense by the time I finish writing it!

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It actually worked out well, because it gave me a reason to bake something delicious to bring into work to sort of thank my team for supporting me while I am gone/baking for my boyfriend who I’m leaving in Brisbane while I get to be in amazing Melbourne. I mean, you know I will take any excuse for baking, but it was really nice to put a smile on the faces of my team at work and my partner.

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So I guess the question from there was what should I bake? Well, for quite some time I have been looking at recipes for these weird and wonderful things called ‘blondies’. Now I think these must be a little bigger in America than they are here, because I’d never really heard of them until I started taking an interest in food recipes, and I know a lot of the people at work also didn’t have a clue what they were. I guess the best way to describe them that I worked out was they are a brownie without the chocolate. Being a self-proclaimed chocolate addict, this to me doesn’t seem that great, I mean who doesn’t love a delicious, chocolatey brownie? But hear me out, because these ended up being so delicious I think I have been turned from my chocolate ways.

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I decided to give this recipe a go, because as much as I absolutely love chocolate, I also adore peanut butter. I find it strange when people tell me they don’t like peanut butter, because it is pretty much the best invention since chocolate. When I saw this recipe for peanut butter blondies, I decided that, with my newly bought peanut butter, it would be the perfect time to give a blondie recipe a whirl! I was really proud of myself because I was getting a bit carried away with pimping out my blondie recipe, and was about to add chocolate chips. But then I decided that I needed to show control and just calm down a little. I am always up for adding in whatever I feel like at the time to recipes, and for once I decided to put the chocolate down, and let these blondies shine all on their own!

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The resulting blondies were absolutely amazing. I can’t even describe to you how amazing the smell of the batter was as I was mixing it. It smelt like next level peanut butter caramel, and it took a lot of my will power to stop myself from eating it before cooking. But I am so glad I didn’t, because these blondies were next level good! I also made these gluten free, and you can’t even tell the difference! This made the girls who can’t eat gluten at my work very happy, and I was even able to pull one of them off her diet for the morning…whoops. And the best part was, I only used one bowl, was able to mix the batter with a kitchen spoon, and it only took 20 minutes to bake! You couldn’t ask for an easier, more delicious recipe! So here it is, especially because the girls at work were desperate for the recipe:

Peanut Butter and Caramel Blondies

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Adapted From Gal on a Mission
Preparation Time 10 minutes
Cooking Time 20 minutes
Serves 12 blondies

Ingredients

·         ½ cup of unsalted butter, melted

·         1 cup of packed brown sugar

·         1 egg

·         1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

·         ½ cup of peanut butter (I used crunchy for an extra texture, but smooth would work just as well)

·         ¼ teaspoon of salt

·         1 cup of gluten free flour (if you don’t want to make these gluten free you can use 1 cup of plain flour)

·         1 packet of boiled caramel lollies (I used gluten free ones but you don’t have to)

Method

1.       Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Line a baking dish (I used a square one that was nice and deep) with baking paper and set aside.

2.       In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar, mixing with a spoon until combined completely.

3.       Add in the egg and vanilla extract and stir until completely combined.

4.       Mix in the peanut butter and stir to fully incorporate into the wet mixture.

5.       Sift in the salt and flour and mix until completely combined, ensuring all flour is pushed down from the edges of the bowl.

6.       Stir in the caramels until evenly mixed throughout the batter.

7.       Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly using a spatula or the back of the spoon.

8.       Place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

9.       Allow to cool and cut into even pieces.

10.   Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container.

And that’s all there is to it, I told you it was simple! Maybe a little too easy to make, because now I know they are this easy I will find it hard not to whip them up all the time. I was surprised by how much people loved them given they aren’t really something we know about in Australia. Everyone went nuts for them at work, and they were gone before lunch time which I see as an indication of how delicious they were! My partner ate about 3, and said that when I get back from Melbourne I should make more because they were so delicious. I don’t believe anyone would complain if I did!

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You wouldn’t even know that these blondies were gluten free. They were gooey and delicious, full of peanut butter and caramel flavours, exactly what you want when there is no chocolate involved. I think these are a pretty good contender for brownies in general, because even though they didn’t contain chocolate, they held their own on the taste front! I think it also added a little extra to include the caramels, as these gave the blondies a texture and flavour to compliment the peanut butter.

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I would really consider making these again. They were so easy, as brownies normally are, and there was so much opportunity to add flavours. Who would have through that the blondie would make for such a delicious cousin of the brownie! I have always been a brownie fan and I think that now my eyes have been opened to a new world full of opportunities for delicious baking! I love how easy and quick these were to make, and you could really add any flavours you felt like having in them. I think next time I might try chocolate instead of caramel to make them taste a bit like Reece’s Pieces. That would be a delicious experiment!

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Until next time, happy baking!

Ella xx

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Healthy Doughnuts Exist, and I Made Them

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

This week, I have been having a bit of a rough one, and I must admit I was getting dangerously close to not baking or cooking anything for the blog because I’ve been so exhausted. My mum told me I should just leave it for the week with so much other stuff going on. But then I thought about it, and decided that I knew the perfect remedy for stress! As you know, the one thing I love doing when I’m stressed is baking, it just makes me feel so relaxed. I love the feeling of making something special out of a few ingredients, and that feeling of accomplishing something always helps with the stress.

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

A few things put the idea for this weeks baking into my mind. Firstly, for all of you who live in Brisbane, there is an amazing gluten free doughnut company called nodo donuts. Absolutely amazing and delicious guilt free doughnuts, if you are ever in the mood. Anyway, they have decided to open up a store, and the store happens to be really close to my work, which will mean I will have a lot of trouble not eating doughnuts every week (not the worst problem to have, I know). But it is also opening up on 1 Ella Street, which I take as a sign from a higher power that I should be eating more doughnuts! Seems legit.

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

Someone in my house also must have happened to purchase a mould for baking doughnuts, which has magically appeared in our drawer in the kitchen. I haven’t seen any doughnuts made using this mould yet, so I figured it was about time we broke it in! Having a doughnut mould means that you can bake your doughnuts instead of frying them, instantly making them healthier. It is the perfect way to cook doughnuts with special ingredients in them, such as making them gluten free or paleo. It really opens up the doughnut making to a whole new range of doughnuts! And as much as I am quite partial to a delicious deep fried doughnut, sometimes it’s nice to try healthy alternatives. Especially coming up to swim suit season in Australia!

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

I had a look for gluten free recipes for doughnuts, and surprisingly there are quite a few online, with so many variations it was hard to decide which one to try first. But I decided on a recipe for paleo almond doughnuts, because it seemed pretty simple and it used all natural ingredients. However, it didn’t have a recipe for a glaze, which I think is a necessity for any type of doughnut (except for cinnamon sugar, you can’t improve a classic). So I found another recipe for a salted caramel glaze that sounded amazing, and was also completely natural. And then in true Ella style I added dark chocolate, because I am absolutely obsessed with chocolate. I mean, you can’t be too healthy! And dark chocolate is good for you anyway. So I guess if you want it to be free of chocolate, you can easily remove it, but I wouldn’t personally, because they were really delicious doughnuts!

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

This recipe ended up being a little more complicated than I originally anticipated, but that’s ok because the results were absolutely delicious! I was surprised at how sweet they were given the lack of sugar in them, so I didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty about eating them. My only issue was that my doughnut mould and the recipe only made 6 doughnuts, which meant that they were gone really quickly. I think I might need to get more moulds to ensure I can make more, because I really want to try these again, and maybe try some other interesting flavours! It’s cool because once you’ve got your base doughnut, you can add whatever you want to it.

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

Adapted From Southern In Law (Doughnuts) and NoDo Donuts (Glaze)
Preparation Time 30 minutes (including assembly)
Cooking Time 20 minutes
Serves 6 doughnuts

Ingredients

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts

·         1 cup of Almond Meal

·         3 tablespoons of Honey

·         2 large Eggs

·         2 teaspoons of Vanilla Extract

·         ¼ teaspoon of Baking Soda

·         500 grams of good quality Dark Chocolate

Salted Caramel Glaze

·         ¼ cup of Coconut Sugar

·         2 tablespoons of Water

·         270ml of Coconut Cream

Directions

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts

1.      Preheat your oven to 150 degrees Celcius (300 Degrees Fahrenheit).

2.      Grease the doughnut mould with coconut oil and set aside. You could use something else to grease it if you wanted, but I found this worked quite well.

3.      In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix together all ingredients until smooth. You don’t really need an electric mixer for this, a wooden spoon worked perfectly fine for me!

4.      Roughly break the chocolate up and fold into the mixture.

5.      Fill the doughnut moulds with the mixture, filling each about half way full

6.      Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Mine took about 20 minutes to get completely cooked

7.      Take out of the oven and allow the doughnuts to cool completely before removing from the moulds. Place on a wire rack with a plate underneath.

Salted Caramel Glaze

1.      Add the coconut sugar and water to a saucepan and let simmer for 2-4 minutes until a golden caramel colour. Make sure you stir constantly to avoid burning.

2.      Add the coconut cream and a pinch of salt, and allow to simmer until the mixture reduces. Ensure you keep stirring the mixture to avoid sticking. This should take about 5-8 minutes, at which point the mixture should have reduced by half and thickened enough to coat your spoon.

3.      Allow the Glaze to cool for a few minutes and bring over to your doughnuts on the wire rack. Using a spoon, cover the doughnuts completely with the glaze, ensuring all edges are covered.

4.      To garnish, shave some dark chocolate and sprinkle over the top.

5.      Refrigerate the doughnuts until ready to serve.

These doughnuts were absolutely delicious and I didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty for eating them. I only wish there had been more! Next time I think I will make a double batch. I took these over to a friend’s place for dessert and her boyfriend demolished three of them in under 5 minutes. Given they were quite healthy I take this as a sign that they were really delicious.

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

The doughnuts ended up having a great texture, and I loved having the chocolate through them to break them up, like a delicious chocolate chip cookie! The glaze was surprisingly sweet for using coconut sugar, but not too sweet. It was the perfect balance of flavours with the salted caramel and almond honey flavours.

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

You could make these doughnuts with any flavours you wanted. I think blueberries or raspberries would also be delicious in these instead of the chocolate, or maybe even in addition! Go nuts!

Until next time, happy baking

Ella xx

Dad’s Birthday Cake

On Sunday it was my dad’s birthday. Now I know what you’re thinking, this guy is pretty lucky to have had a Father’s Day celebration and a birthday all in the space of a week (I know I would be pretty happy). So just when he was finishing off the leftover tiramisu, he was able to look forward to his birthday, and with that, some delicious food! After a day relaxation, we took him out for a delicious dinner in the evening, and then there was only one thing left to do: eat birthday cake. This is by far one of the most exciting things about birthdays if you ask me.

Dads birthday Cake

When it comes to picking a cake to make for my dad, it was pretty easy. I am so indecisive when it comes to baked goods, as there are so many to choose from! How can you pick just one? However, with my dad, there is only one cake that has his heart. He is absolutely obsessed with carrot cake. Well, let me rephrase. He does enjoy carrot cake, but he is absolutely obsessed with the combination of carrot cake and cream cheese icing. After all, it’s not really a good carrot cake without a thick coating of cream cheese icing about the same size as the cake itself.

Dads birthday Cake

Dad takes his icing-to-cake ratio very seriously, as I have learnt through previous experience. Last year, I made two carrot cakes and took one of them into work to ensure it didn’t go to waste. However, little did I know that I had accidently taken in the cake that had the better icing-to-cake ratio, and as a result I was in the bad books with dad for a couple of days. So I needed to make sure this year that I got it right.Dads birthday Cake

My first step was to halve the carrot cake recipe that I used, as it is for quite a large cake. This would avoid comparison of icing-to-cake ratio between cakes, ensuring that no one got disappointed (ahem, dad). Secondly, I ensured that I made about enough icing to ice a 3 tier wedding cake, just to make sure that there was enough to go around. I felt like doing these two steps would ensure that we didn’t have an issue like last year, because I think you are beginning to realise where I get my obsession with baked goods from.

Dads birthday Cake

It was hard to find a recipe initially that dad would like, because he hates pineapple in carrot cake. He once told me ‘Ella, it’s not a pineapple cake, it’s a carrot cake. Pineapple shouldn’t belong in a carrot cake.’ I think it was a valid point, however I didn’t realise how hard it was to find a recipe for carrot cake that doesn’t have pineapple in it. They are few and far between! The entire internet must disagree with my dad about pineapple, because it seemed that every recipe I looked at had pineapple in it. However, I finally found a recipe without pineapple that seemed really nice, and decided that as it was so good last year when I made it, I would make it again.

Dads birthday Cake

It is a little interesting going back and writing this blog, and trying to remember what I did, as I baked the cake on a Friday night and decided it was a good idea to have some wine before, during and after baking. I do have to say it made the whole experience really fun, and even though I was a little less careful than I usually am with my measurements, the cake was perfect in the end! I think in future I will always accompany my Friday night baking with wine, it made for a really enjoyable Friday night activity!

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Dads birthday Cake

Adapted From Gimme Some Oven
Preparation Time 20 minutes
Cooking Time 30 minutes
Serves 8-12

Ingredients

Carrot Cake Ingredients:

·         ¾ cup and 1 tablespoon of olive, vegetable or canola oil (I used olive but if you want a more subtle taste use vegetable or canola)

·         ½ cup of caster sugar

·         ½ cup of brown sugar

·         3 eggs

·         ½ tablespoon of vanilla extract

·         1 ½ and 1/8 cups of plain flour

·         ½ tablespoon of ground cinnamon

·         1 teaspoon of baking soda

·         1 teaspoon of salt

·         ½ teaspoon of baking powder

·         ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg

·         Pinch of ground cloves

·         226 grams or ½ pound of grated carrots

·         Optional: ½ cup of chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients:

·         250 grams of cream cheese at room temperature (I used one Philadelphia block)

·         115 grams or ½ cup of unsalted butter at room temperature

·         ½ tablespoon of vanilla extract

·         ¼ teaspoon of salt

·         3 cups of icing sugar

·         Optional: 1 cup of walnuts for decorating

Method

Making the Carrot Cake

1.       Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2.       Grease a cake pan and put a circular piece of baking paper in the bottom in order to make it easier to get the cake out. You could use two smaller pans and make a two tier cake if you wanted!

3.       In a large bowl, using an electronic beater, mix together the oil, caster sugar and brown sugar until combined and smooth.

4.       One at a time, add in the eggs, whilst still beating in between. Then add in the vanilla, and mix until smooth. The mixture should thicken upon addition of the eggs.

5.       In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and cloves until combined.

6.       Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, beating on a medium speed in between to ensure each batch is fully incorporated before adding more. Once completely added, scrape down the bowl with a spatula to ensure everything is mixed, and beat until just combined completely.

7.       Fold in the grated carrots and hand stir to combine completely with the mixture. At this stage, if doing so, add in the walnuts and stir to combine.

8.       Pour the batter evenly into the cake pan. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Take the cake out of the oven and remove from the pan, turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Making the Cream Cheese Icing:

1.       Using an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter on a medium speed until smooth with no lumps. This should take about a minute.

2.       Add in the vanilla extract and salt, and mix until combined.

3.       Lower the speed to medium-low and add in the icing sugar gradually. I did this step in cups, ensuring that each cup was fully incorporated before adding the next one. Beat until completely combined on a medium-high speed.

4.       Place the cake on a plate for serving. With a cake spatula, layer the cake with icing and slowly spread around the entire cake, ensuring the top and sides are covered completely in a thick layer of icing. Get the walnuts and decorate the cake as desired (I put a couple in the middle and then made a line around the outside)

5.       Place in the fridge to ensure the icing is nice and firm, and take out about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Dads birthday Cake

Dad was so excited to have his birthday cake; I’m surprised he managed to wait all day. It was hardly a surprise that I was making the cake for him, he could smell the cream cheese icing from a mile away. He even got a few taste tests in before I iced the cake, and I gave him one spatula of icing willingly, and the other, which I was reserving for my partner, he ate as well! He claimed he didn’t realise of course, and didn’t want the icing to go to waste. You can hardly blame him though; the icing on this cake is so delicious! It went so well with the flavours in the carrot cake and I loved the addition of walnuts on the top for just a little bit of crunch!

Dads birthday Cake

The cake itself was beautifully moist and full of flavour from the spices. It proves you really don’t need pineapple in the cake to make it good; the flavours of the batter went so well with the carrot you didn’t need the extra flavour! My dad might be on to something here, and hopefully this recipe will add to the small collection of carrot cake recipes on the internet that don’t have pineapple in them. But I think the real hero, as much as the carrot cake was delicious, was the icing. It was so thick and creamy, and just sweet enough to marry perfectly with the cake. I would use the cream cheese icing recipe on its own for other cakes such as red velvet cupcakes, as it really was so simple to make but really delicious.

Dads birthday Cake

Dad has been slowly working his way through the cake, taking a piece to work each day. Its like his birthday keeps going for him, and he was so appreciative of the effort I went to for him, even if I loved every second of making him the cake! It has kept really well in the fridge and would easily last a week if you keep it wrapped up tightly. So you can keep enjoying the cake long after the celebration is over! It certainly makes for a delicious morning treat that makes any bad day a little bit brighter.

Dads birthday Cake

So if you have someone in your life that is as crazy about carrot cake as my dad is, I would strongly suggest you make this cake for them. It was pretty simple in terms of cake baking, and it was so delicious in the end! You also could just make it for yourself, because I mean it has carrots in it, so it is totally healthy, right? Surely it counts as one of your serves of vegetables for the day!

Dads birthday Cake

Until next time, happy baking!

Ella xx

Cooking Lessons with Mum: Tiramisu

Mum's Tiramisu

My parents were away in Japan (lucky ducks) for about three weeks and have only just returned from recouping at the beach. It’s been lovely to hear all about the relaxing time they’ve been having while I’ve been at work, sort of. I am really glad they’ve had such a great holiday, but it did mean as a result my dad missed father’s day. Normally on Father’s Day we would do something special for him to show him how much we love him, but because he was away we sort of missed it. So my sister and I decided we could do a nice mid-week dinner for him as a belated Father’s Day celebration, just so he didn’t feel like he had missed out on anything, and to give him some love.

Mum's Tiramisu

But what to make? Well, my sister got right on a beautiful slow cooked lamb dish which was absolutely amazing. But for me, I decided that I could work on the course that I enjoy making the most: dessert, of course! And when it comes to dessert, I know the way to my dad’s heart. Although he will often have some berries and yogurt for dessert midweek, I know if he could have tiramisu every night he would. I am pretty sure it is his favourite dessert, as he’s always ordering it when we go out, and we will often share one together when we go to our local Italian restaurant. So not only was it a favourite of his, it brings fond memories back to me of enjoying food with dad, which was really nice.

Mum's Tiramisu

The benefit of having mum back is that she was around to teach me a thing or two about making the perfect tiramisu. I know there are a lot of ways to make this beautiful Italian dessert, and everyone prefers a different type. I know a lot of people enjoy a really cakey tiramisu that stands on its own and is full of biscuits and chocolate. My partner, who comes from an Italian family, loves his tiramisu with custard, which I myself am not the biggest fan of, but each to their own! My experience with tiramisu has come from the one my mum makes which is beautiful and creamy, and almost like a trifle. She uses this aged newspaper clipping for a mascarpone cream that she collected years ago, and then makes this into a tiramisu. It reminds me of special occasions when she would make it, and it was so delicious. We rarely make desserts at home, so I thought this might be a way to make the dinner extra special for my dad. So mum taught me the tips and tricks for making her perfect tiramisu, which meant that I ended up with the perfect dessert for my dad!

Mum's Tiramisu

This tiramisu recipe results in a trifle like dessert with a rich, beautiful mascarpone cream and flavours of brandy and Grand Marnier. These mix perfectly with real espresso soaked biscuits and chocolate shavings over the top. It’s a truly decadent dessert, perfectly Italian, and I think it’s everything anyone could want in a classic tiramisu. What’s more, not too difficult to make, and you easily make it ahead and pull it out when you are ready to eat. I love that you can whip it up quite quickly as you don’t even need to bake it, and the resulting dish is truly delicious.

Mum’s Tiramisu

Mum's Tiramisu

Preparation Time 20 minutes
Cooking Time No bake
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

·         250 grams of Mascarpone Cheese

·         4 eggs – separated

·         4 tablespoons of caster sugar

·         1/8 cup of Brandy

·         1/8 cup of Grand Marnier

·         About 1 cup of freshly brewed espresso coffee

·         1 packet of Savoiardi biscuits

·         Dark chocolate to shave over the top

Method

1.       In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer with the whisk attachment on high, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form (about 2 minutes). Make sure that there is no egg yolk or water in the egg whites as otherwise they will not whip up. Set aside.

2.       In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture goes light yellow and firm. This should take about 2 minutes.

3.       Mix in your Mascarpone to the egg yolk mixture. Use a fork to blend it together with the egg yolk mixture before beating to avoid wrecking your whisk. Once this has started to combine and the Mascarpone has softened, use your whisk to blend until smooth.

4.       Using a spatula, fold the Mascarpone mixture into the egg whites. Be careful not to overmix, and just make sure you lightly fold it until it has just combined. The egg whites should still be visible throughout the thick Mascarpone mix.

5.       Pour the Brandy and Grand Marnier into the mix and fold until combine. The mixture should be fluffy but combined completely.

6.       Place your espresso in a mixing bowl, and get out a trifle bowl or another bowl to serve the tiramisu in. Begin dipping the Savoirardi biscuits in the espresso to coat lightly on both sides. Once you have dipped quickly, shake each biscuit to ensure they are not too wet. Layer these across the bottom of the dish.

7.       Once you have your first layer of biscuits, pour some of the Mascarpone mixture over the biscuits. Use a spatula to evenly distribute the mixture across the biscuits.

8.       Repeat with another layer of biscuits, dipping in the espresso and layering over the Mascarpone. Then pour the remaining Mascarpone mixture onto the biscuits and level again. Add one more layer of espresso soaked biscuits over the top. You can add more layers if you want, it’s completely up to you.

9.       Shave dark chocolate over the top of the mixture to completely cover the tiramisu. Place in fridge to keep cool until serving.

Mum's Tiramisu

This tiramisu was the perfect dessert! It was soft and creamy, with just the right amount of espresso flavour and crunch from the biscuits. It’s a truly decadent dessert that would impress any dinner party guests or your family for a special occasion. Or, it is so easy that you could just whip it up anytime you felt like a delicious treat (I won’t judge!) It keeps pretty well in the fridge for a couple of days, but you want to try and eat it as quickly as possible as the biscuits will go soggy over time. I don’t think you will have much trouble finishing it off though; I could have easily eaten the whole bowl of this!

Mum's Tiramisu

My dad was so excited when I pulled the tiramisu out of the fridge after dinner. I don’t think he was expecting such decadent dessert midweek. He truly loves his tiramisu and so I served him a nice big bowl and he loved every bite. I was so glad that I made it for him because it made the dinner a little bit more special. I love that tiramisu is a relatively simple dish to make, but it seems so fancy and special. It’s a great go to dessert when you are a little short of time and want something truly delicious!

Mum's Tiramisu

Has anyone tried making tiramisu before? What is your version? I’d love to hear all the different types of tiramisus people love, because everyone has such different taste when it comes to this classic! I’m just so glad that now I can replicate my favourite one, thanks to my mum showing me the ropes!

Mum's Tiramisu

Until next time, happy baking!

Ella xx

Mum's Tiramisu

The Hunt for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

The Hunt for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

On Sunday morning I woke up a bit earlier than my partner, as he had a bigger night than I did the night before. So I could have lazed around in bed, watched some TV or read a book. But instead, I felt the urge to bake chocolate chip cookies, because that’s a totally normal thing to do on a Sunday morning.

The Hunt for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

I really love chocolate chip cookies, is anyone else with me? I don’t know what it is about them, but I’ve always been a number one fan. I feel like they might be the king amongst cookies, the one cookie to rule them all. I mean, I know thee is so much choice when it comes to cookies and biscuits in general, but I find nothing compares to a delicious chocolate chip cookie. It’s like pure happiness in baked good form, and you don’t even need to cook them, the cookie dough is just as amazing!

The Hunt for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Now that I have completed my ode to delicious chocolate chip cookies, which I hope you enjoyed, I can continue on with my post. Although I can enjoy all types of chocolate chip cookies, I love gooey ones with melty chocolate inside. I’ve never been a huge fan of hard cookies in general, which is often a point of contention amongst cookie lovers. So I’m always looking for recipes that will yield soft, gooey cookies rather than hard ones. I’ve noticed on Pinterest there are a number of diagrams for the avid cookie lover that show you what ingredients result in each type of cookie, which I found pretty interesting and helpful. I mainly have kudos for whoever spent the time making that many batches of cookies in order to create the diagram. It must have been a really delicious experiment.

The Hunt for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

So I decided that maybe I needed to embark on a little experiment of my own. I have noticed that there are pretty much a billion recipes for chocolate chip cookies, all of which claim that theirs is the best recipe in the world. I’m not really sure which one should wear the crown of the best cookie recipe in the entire world, as cookie loving is so subjective. But I did decide that I should try out a few of these ‘best cookie recipes’ and see which one reigned supreme, just like Iron Chef but for baked goods. After all, there’s no harm in giving as many cookie recipes a go as possible, except perhaps for the waistlines of those around me. RIP waistlines.

The Hunt for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

The recipe I tried for this post was one such recipe that claimed it was the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I had a look at it and thought it might have potential. And oh boy did it ever. The cookies were absolutely delicious, and were gone within the day. Honestly, once you started eating them you couldn’t stop. They were so gooey and delicious, perfect for a Sunday treat. And the recipe itself was nice and simple, not really involving much preparation or difficulty in the baking. So I believe we have started the competition off strong.

Soft, Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Hunt for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Adapted from Pinch of Yum
Preparation Time 15 minutes
Cooking Time 9-11 minutes
Servings 16 cookies

Ingredients

·         ½ cup or 8 tablespoons of salted butter

·         ½ cup of caster sugar

·         ¼ cup of packed brown sugar

·         1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

·         1 egg

·         1 and ½ cups of plain flour

·         ½ teaspoon of baking powder

·         ¼ teaspoon of salt

·         1 packet of chocolate of your choice – I used milk cooking chocolate, about 200 grams worth

Method

1.      Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Microwave the butter for 40 seconds so it is just barely melted (make sure you don’t overheat it, so if it isn’t completely melted put it back in for 5 second increments).

2.      Using electric beaters, beat the butter with the white and brown sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, beating until fully incorporated. Try not to overbeat as it will stiffen the cookies, just keep it to 10-15 seconds.

3.      Add the plain flour, baking powder and salt to the bowl. Mix until the dough becomes crumbly, and use hands to form into a dough. At this stage the dough should not be too wet or too dry.

4.      Break the chocolate block up into small chunks and mix into the dough with your hands.

5.      Cover a baking tray with baking paper, and roll the dough into 16 medium sized balls (if you want larger cookies, just roll less). Ensure you leave a bit of room between each cookie on the sheet to avoid them sticking when baking.

6.      Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes, or until the cookies puff up and are just barely golden. They should be pale and puffy when they come out of the oven, as this will ensure they are nice and soft on the inside.

7.      Allow the cookies to rest for about half an hour, if you can wait that long. They will firm up on the outside and remain nice and soft on the inside. Keep in an airtight container and they will last as long as you can hold off eating them for.

So to make this a true competition across my blog posts, I am introducing a scoring mechanism for the cookie recipes that I try, just so that we can objectively measure the success. I will score the cookies in a couple of categories out of 10 to ensure supreme cookie awesomeness. This will rate the cookies for their ease of baking, gooeyness, taste and a special score for how quickly they were eaten, which I will so aptly name the ‘gone factor’. Here is the first recipes score:

Supreme Cookie Awesomeness Score

The Hunt for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Simplicity: 8

Gooeyness: 7

Tastiness: 9

Gone Factor: 9

Total Score: 33/40

Not a bad score for my first entry to the hunt for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. This cookie was truly delicious, and really easy to make. They were quite fluffy but gooey on the inside, which is what you want in a cookie. For a traditional chocolate chip cookie, this one was a perfect standard recipe, which I think you could keep in your arsenal for any time you have a craving. They were so quick that you could have delicious chocolate chip cookies in about half an hour, and how can you argue with that? The cookie dough was also delicious, so if they don’t quite make it to the oven I wouldn’t blame you!

The Hunt for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

My boyfriend was really excited to wake up to freshly baked cookies, and when I took these over to a friend’s house the rest were demolished in about 20 minutes. I take this as a sign that these chocolate chip cookies were truly irresistible!

What do you like in a chocolate chip cookie? Would you give these ones a go based on how much I liked them? If anyone has a recipe they think might beat this one, let me know and I will check it out!

Until next time, happy baking!

Ella xx

Five Minutes to Chocolate Heaven

Chocolate Lava Mug Cake

First of all, I’m sorry I haven’t posted this week. I’ve let time get away from me as I’ve been away from home for work! It was quite difficult to get enough time to write a blog post surprisingly, even though I was certain I would have enough time undisturbed in my hotel room. But I’m afraid socialising won out, and given because I’ve been to Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney this week, I think the lack of time at home has meant my blog has suffered!

I guess time is a big thing, especially with cooking. I find a lot of my friends always complain that they never have any time to cook, or bake, or blog. I fall into the habit too – I find myself scrambling at the end of the week sometimes to figure out what to cook, and I think if I didn’t have this blog as a project I would just keep doing my usual thing of stir fries and grilled chicken. I think this is why I am enjoying this blog so much, because it is pushing me to try new things and make time for cooking and baking, which is something I really enjoy!Chocolate Lava Mug Cake

I found myself on Saturday night at home packing for a week away, and contemplating what I should cook for this week’s blog post. I knew because I would be in a hotel room for most of the week, I would seriously lack the tools needed to bake for the blog. And this was married with my slight depression at being home on a Saturday night doing something boring like packing. I had to leave the Gold Coast just to pack, and to me that is reason enough for a delicious dessert!Chocolate Lava Mug Cake

So I decided to fill the void with something delicious, because I am not an emotional eater or anything. But I knew it had to be something quick because I really did need to pack, and something that I could make as one serve, because I would be the only one eating it. I’ve always wanted to try a microwave cake, because the concept to me seems so strange. I’ve always enjoyed the process of baking so I never normally want to speed it up. But this I do have to say was quite fun. There is something really satisfying about making a cake batter in a mug, putting it in the microwave for 2 minutes, and getting instant gratification. It does scare me a little though because now I know cake it so easily accessible to me in single serving form, I think dieting is going to be a lot harder!Chocolate Lava Mug Cake

This mug cake was gooey in the centre and the perfect size. The original recipe I used was for 2 serves so I halved it, because no one wants to share mug cake. That’s the kind of stuff you make for eating while watching a chick flick in your pajamas, and I promise you that if you are home alone watching a chick flick, the addition of this mug cake will make your night a million times better!

Chocolate Lava Mug Cake

Chocolate Lava Mug Cake

Adapted From Cleo Buttera
Servings 1
Preparation Time 3 minutes
Cooking Time 2 minutes

Ingredients

·      1/8 cup of plain flour

·      1/8 cup of caster sugar

·      1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder

·      ¼ teaspoon of baking powder

·      Pinch of Salt

·      1 and ½ tablespoons of melted butter

·      1 and ½ tablespoons of milk at room temperature

·      1 small egg

·      ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract

·      14 grams (or a few squares) of dark chocolate, broken up

·      ½ a tablespoon of water

Method

1.     In a microwave safe mug, using a fork, whisk together to flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until combined.

2.     Pour the melted butter, milk, egg and vanilla into the mug. Whisk well with the fork until combined, ensuring that there is no flour mixture stuck to the bottom.

3.     Place chocolate pieces in the centre of the mug, ensuring you don’t push down on them. They will sink as it bakes.

4.     Drizzle the water over the top of the cake mixture.

5.     Cook into the microwave for between 1 minute 20 seconds and 2 minutes, or until the edges of the cake look set. It took mine about 2 minutes, but it will depend on the temperature of the microwave. After 1 minute 20 seconds keep checking the cake and putting in for 5-second intervals, as you don’t want to overcook the cake. It should slightly stick to the finger when touched, and look slightly wet but not raw.

6.     Allow the cake to cool for a couple of minutes if you can, to avoid burning your tongue. It will also allow the sauce to thicken.

7.     Eat straight out of the mug with some ice cream on top to really get the full mug cake experience.

See what I mean about it being easy? A little too easy and quick I think. I mean, now that I know I can make a delicious chocolate dessert in 5 minutes, I’m a little worried I’ve opened up my world to a lot more dessert. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, given how delicious this little pudding was. I never thought that I would enjoy a cake made in the microwave, but once again a recipe I’ve found on Pinterest has pleasantly surprised me.Chocolate Lava Mug Cake

The result of this recipe is absolutely delicious, and a great addition to a cold winter night, where you are snuggled up in front of the TV. The cake is gooey and full of chocolate, and tastes great with a bit of ice cream on the top. You can see below that I followed my own advice: Chocolate Lava Mug Cake

Would you give this recipe a go? I think out of all the ones I’ve tried, this one is the easiest and quickest. So give it a go and see what you think!

Until next time, happy baking!

Ella xx