Friday, January 31, 2014

Cherry almond pavlova pie

Confession time: The idea for this recipe is actually the result of me taking one of those silly online quizzes. They're stupid, but somehow, you can't resist because you simply HAVE to know, what kind of pie are you? I mean, how could you live life NOT knowing that. 

I'm a cherry pie. Apparently I'm 'the perfect combo of innocent and sexy' well now, I like the sound of that! If you'd like getting free compliments then you can find out what kind of pie you are here.

But back to baking. I love pie, but I despise soggy pastry - nobody likes a soggy bottom (snigger snigger!). Which is why I've got a pastry recipe for you that my special friend Zola shared with me. In her words 'This pastry has literally changed lives'. She's probably right (although I'm hoping she doesn't read this 'cos I'll never hear the end of it!). But this pastry doesn't need rolling out, it doesn't need blind baking and it doesn't need fussing with. How cool is that?! Fill the pastry with sticky-sweet cherries then top it with clouds of fluffy meringue and a sprinkling of almonds and you'll be swooning. The flavours are just incredible together, not to mention the fact that creating it really is easy as pie (sorry, couldn't resist!)

Photograph by Gunther Schubert of Vorsprung Studio
Almond and cherry pavlova pie
Serves 6-8

125g butter, softened
½ cup castor sugar
1 egg
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
600g pitted cherries (fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup white sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp almond liqueur or extract
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup castor sugar
½ cup flaked almonds, to garnish
Fresh cherries, to garnish
Whipped cream, to serve (optional)

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined. Add the flour and baking powder to form a dough. Press into a greased 22cm pie dish and bake at 180C for 30 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Combine the cherries, lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Mix the cornflour with 1 tbsp cold water then add to the cherry mixture. Cook, stirring for a few minutes until thickened. Stir in the almond flavouring. Spoon the slightly cooled cherry filling into the baked pastry case. Whisk the egg whites until soft peak stage then gradually add the sugar. Beat until stiff and the sugar is dissolved. Spoon or pipe the meringue onto the cherry filling, sprinkle with flaked almonds and bake at 190C until the meringue and almonds are golden brown. Serve with fresh cherries and whipped cream if desired.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chocolate hazelnut cinnamon twist

Carbs, chocolate AND sugar all wrapped up in a sugary cinnamony (that's totally a word) crust and twisted together with toasted hazelnuts? This, my foodie friends, is surely what heaven tastes like. And smells like, because the aromas that waft from your oven will certainly make you friends! This bread smelled so good, I fanned myself with the oven in the hopes that the spicy chocolatey-ness would cling to me and act as a delicious perfume. I wish I was kidding, but I'm not.  

But back to the bread. It's super easy and versatile. If you want to swop out the Nutella (why on earth would you want to do that?!) then you could spread the dough with thick custard or stick to the simple cinnamon sugar. Go nuts with the nuts and use almonds, pecans, walnuts - whatever your heart desires. And don't be fooled by those intricate-looking twists - this bread is dead easy to make. Almost as easy as eating it!

Chocolate hazelnut twist 
Serves 8-10

3 cups cake flour
1 tsp salt
¼ cup sugar
60g butter or margarine, softened
10 g instant yeast
1 large egg, beaten
½ cup lukewarm water
1 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (ie. Nutella)
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
50g hazelnuts, skinned and toasted
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
30-45ml espresso or strong coffee

Preheat the oven to 180C. Combine the flour, salt and sugar then rub in the butter to form rough breadcrumb texture. Add the yeast and mix well. Add the beaten egg and just enough water to form a soft dough. Knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes or with an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rest for 10 minutes. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle about about 1/2cm thick. Spread a thin layer of chocolate spread over the dough and leave a 1cm border around the edges.Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the chocolate along with the toasted hazelnuts, pressing the nuts into the dough. Beginning at the longest side of the rectangle, roll the dough into a long cylinder. Cut the cylinder in half lengthwise down the middle and open it up to expose the layers. Twist the two pieces around each other to create a plait. Form into a ring on a lined baking sheet, folding the ends under each other. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour or until golden brown and when tapped the bread makes a hollow sound. Mix the icing sugar and coffee together to form a smooth drizzling consistency then dribble the icing over the slightly cooled wreath and serve.

Remember to hop on over to Facebook and like my page for recipes and sweet stuff. I also tweet about some cool things every now and then and Instagram my bakes (if I remember to snap them before I devour them!) 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Blueberry (cheesecake) muffins

They say muffins are just cupcakes without make-up on and if that's the case then my blueberry cheesecake version doesn't technically classify as a muffin... But muffins are a perfectly acceptable breakfast item which means you can safely get away with tucking into these before 11am without a guilty conscience. And the blueberries? Well, they're a superfood I'll have you know!

The muffins in question are made using a recipe by Stork Bake margarine and the fab people from their I love Baking SA page asked me to give it a test drive. I, of course, had to put my own decadent spin on it - you know, just to show how versatile it is. So of course, extra sugar and cream cheese were involved. The original recipe however is perfect for a kid-friendly lunchbox snack (considering we're still in the back-to-school swing of things). But smear the leftovers with creamy frosting and you have a moms-only version perfect for tea time!

The Lunchbox Blueberry Muffin 
(that is, if there are still some left for lunchboxes and they haven't all been eaten still hot out the oven!)

This recipe is so dead easy, you need to be seriously skilled to make a flop of it, but just incase I've added a few of my own baking notes and comments in to help.

Blueberry Muffins
Serves 8 (I got 18 regular-sized muffins from my batch)

125g fresh or frozen blueberries (I used frozen as they tend to have a better texture once baked. I also tossed the blueberries with a little flour to stop them all sinking to the bottom of the muffin) 
120g Stork Bake margarine (the recipe doesn't specify so I melted the Stork Bake) 
275g plain flour 
250ml skimmed milk 
100g sugar 
1 egg 
2 tsp vanilla essence 
1 tbsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 200°C and place paper cases into a muffin tin. 

In a first bowl, mix the egg with the Stork Bake margarine, sugar and vanilla essence. In another bowl, mix the flour with the milk and the baking powder. Add the egg/margarine mixture in the flour mixture and stir in well. (I used the standard method of making muffins and combined all my dry ingredients together then all my wet ingredients and added the wet to the dry, mixing until the batter was just combined.Careful not to overstir or you'll get tough muffins. Nobody likes a tough muffin.)

Finally stir in the blueberries and pour the preparation in the prepared muffin tin. Bake the muffins for around 25 minutes or until the tops are springy to the touch.

Blueberry cheesecake muffins
(ie. blueberry muffins with make-up on)
The pimped-up version of the lunchbox muffin with a gooey blueberry centre and cream cheese frosting. Yum.

Blueberry cheesecake muffins
Makes 18

1 batch blueberry muffin batter (follow recipe above to just before the blueberries are added)
125g frozen blueberries
1/4 cup blueberry jam

Cheesecake frosting
100g Stork Bake margarine, softened
400g icing sugar
250g smooth full fat cream cheese
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Extra blueberries, to garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200°C and place paper cases into a muffin tin. Pour the plain muffin batter in the prepared muffin tin, filling the cups halfway. Combine the blueberries with the blueberry jam then drop a small spoonful of blueberry mixture in the middle of each muffin before adding in the remaining batter. Only fill the cases ¾ full. Bake the muffins for around 25 minutes or until golden brown and springy to the touch. To make the frosting, cream the Stork and icing sugar until light and fluffy then beat in the cream cheese, zest, juice and extract. Frost the muffins with the icing and decorate with the fresh blueberries. 

Remember to hop on over to Facebook and like my page for recipes and sweet stuff. I also tweet about some cool things every now and then and Instagram my bakes (if I remember to snap them before I devour them!)