Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Who's coming to dinner?

Being a shameless admirer of all things naff it is no surprise that I love cliches and quotable quotes.  So ingrained is my dag-ness that I think about and store instances when said cliches and quotes could be applied to conversation, so as to appear spontaneous and witty when conversing with my peers. I do this in the hope that after a refined chortle my acquaintance will congratulate me on my impressive incite into the human psyche and ask me to be their friend. Doubtless my (dear, long suffering) friends will attest to being overcome by my power to woo them with said charm....

  All of this got me to thinking...if I could choose a bunch of people to make sweet syntax love to in order to charm them with my witty yet sensitive intellect and ensnare them into my web of friends... who would it be? (the question itself being pretty daggy dinner party conversation) More to the point what would I serve them for dinner? It's not an easy question to answer, I'm sure I could invite loads of people but would they work together ok? Think of the complexities of interactions!  They can't be too brilliant or have been dead for too long... the conversation would be awkward (can you imagine poor Jane Austin sitting next to Russell Brand?) and you wouldn't get past pleasantries, certainly a lot to think about. Oh and you wouldn't want to invite a chef or food critic who wants that kind of judgment when catering for guests!

this is my friend Pickle's pictorial representation of an ideal party

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oh for wistful dreaming and french cooking

I have a confession to make. I'm not faithful to baking. I have been known to become smitten by the  heady spicy aromas of an Indian curry and prance at the prospect of roasting a chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. Don't get me wrong the sugar high of making a beautiful cake is a splendid feeling indeed however the magnificent sense of accomplishment of serving said cake at the end of a successful diner party gives me a reason to live (ok so that might be a bit dramatic but you get the idea).
As a dear friend so tactfully once put it : my name is Ms Cupcake and I'm a catering whore.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The joyless cake

I was recently given a challenge by a friend of mine. Make an awesome birthday cake.
Haha Ms Cupcake let slip a cackle, that I can do! But wait there was a challenge. The people eating this cake are allgergic/intollerant of EVERYTHING THAT MAKES CAKES AWESOME! No butter, flour, sugar or eggs... just the fundamental anatomy of any good cake. Even the humble strawberry is met with a suspicious squint and tag of 'moderation only'.
Ok so this was going to be more dificult than I imagined. As I trawled the recipe book that resides in my brain I would think of a few optons only to have them shot down for some fundamental reason (syrup is made of sugar you fool! Merigue? what! are you crazy!).
So I switched tactics, rather than focusing on the can't haves, I switched to the can haves... hazelnuts.. good.... polenta... interesting... glucose... so there can be some sweet...citrus...hmm a good mate of semolina!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

one two three...cook!

I love Masterchef and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Yes it's over dramatised and yes it has spurned nightmares in which I am devoured whole by Matt Preston, but I like it. 
I like the unashamed hedonism of the judges as they struggle to refrain from launching face first into the plate of food in front of them and I like learning new cooking styles and tricks. But perhaps most of all I like  being reassured of the fact that I am not the only person in the world who is completely obsessed with cooking and food....

Being all too aware of my obsession it  came as no surprise then to my friends when I announced that there had to be a Masterchef style cooking challenge on our recent long weekend island holiday. The deal, I explained to them, was to cook one course with a partner for $15 using what ingredients you could find in the small general stores available to shake it up a bit each team would also need to buy a mystery ingredient each that had to be incorporated into the opposing teams' dishes. The final challenge was to make it dairy free to accommodate for allergies...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

zen and the art of cupcake making

I enjoy discovering little things that made me smile, such as running my hands through the lentil bins at Kakulas Bros. (yep I'm the reason you need to wash them) or words I like rolling around in my head. Take for example the word's soothing and comforting in is soft elongated vowel sounds, try saying it...cathartic isn't it?..... I got onto this train of thought as my mind was wandering while sifting flour. I was staring blankly at the wall enjoying the moment and realised that this is why baking is enjoyable. You allow yourself to zone out and start to enjoy the physical subtleties of making something with your hands. So as I was entering my cupcake zen the other day I found myself smiling at nothing in particular as I methodically weighed, whipped and stirred. It was nice.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A pastry by any other name...

In her vain attempt to justify shaking up with one of her families' mortal enemies Shakespeare's Juliet utters that immortal line
  What's in a name? that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet'
As futile as her balcony mutterings may have been the lass had a point. Substance wins every time over which case we can forgive the French for their questionably titled cabbage pastry. Probably more familiar to you as choux pastry, cabbage is indeed the literal translation. Perhaps a step up from it's orginal moniker (from when it had just been imported along with it's chef from Italy) as pâte à popelini... roughly translated to breast paste. The elegance of the french language makes it perfectly ok to refer to these as little cabage puffs... and indeed it would seem you're lover too as the endearing mon petit chou is translated to my little cabbage.. or perhaps the franks are just really big fans of cabbages. My point being call it what you like but when made well desserts from this pastry are divine little puffs of heaven...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Petit Fails

I would venture that there is no food more beautiful than petit fours. Even the my beloved cupcakes must stand aside for these exquisite little cakes. So having always been an admirer from afar I decide to have a play in the kitchen and see if I could make some. Admittedly I didn't quite have the right ingredients to have a proper go at it but I am sad to say I ended up with rather pathetic little petit fails. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pina Colada Cake

It took me a few hours but I managed to create a physical manifestation of my cocktail inspired gâteaux!
  The anatomy of a pina colada gâteaux is as follows: (bottom up) cake,freshly blitzed coconut mixed with white rum and cream, cake, lime mousse, cake, white chocolate mousse, cake, lime mousse, cake white chocolate and lemon cream cheese icing... flaked coconut on top.

I always feel like a proud mother as I slice into my cake babies and divide them among my guests to devour their creamy fillings. My guests, as always, were gracious in their obligation to sample my creation!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I have a new camera!...awaiting talent

Almost 18 months ago now my trusty point and shoot met a sad fate being dropped into a river while I was hiking (read about that trip here). It was not a quick death, it was in it's death throws for a year before resigning to it's fate. Since this unfortunate time I've been pondering what sort of camera to replace it with. I finally decided that a shiny new DSLR was the only way to go if I wanted pretty pictures of my cakes (and to be as hip as my friends). About a fortnight's pay packet later I have my new camera so I can wow you with my food photography...I just need to acquire some photography this space!

When I can't go to exotic places I bake them in my mind...

I've been in a bit funk work wise for a while now, mostly because I desperately want to go traveling but alas have this whole PhD thing to do...So to remedy this general malaise I sit in my lab day dreaming of exotic locations and cooking. Sometimes the two train of thoughts combine to form wonderfully bizarre recipes and I satisfy myself that I'm being productive in someway at least

The roots of my latest inspiration lie with a friend who is going to the UK for a month. Rather than transform my envy into a jealous fit of rage I've channeled the energy in to creating a new gâteaux. While England may not seem overly exotic it did get me thinking about all the fun things one could do there like go to great bars and eat at the cute little cake shops they have there. So now I'm think 'man I want a cocktail and cake' and BAM there it was the best idea for a cake ever : Cocktail Cake! 
Lime, pineapple , coconut, white chocolate, rum...there's definitely cross over potential there! Just think I could make it really naff by decorating the cake with cocktail umbrellas and a lazy beach scene! Or class it up with some shaved coconut scattered over a white chocolate ganache garnished with candied lime... oh the possibilities are endless!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The night of a thousand wedding cupcakes

I was (much to my delight) recently given the task of designing and making a friend's wedding cake. The bride and groom expressed a desire to have cupcakes. After I had congratulated them on their excellent taste in baked goods I set about trying to extract a theme from the happy couple,a black and white  minimalist floral theme was decided upon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nerd baking

Nerd Baking is the act of producing baked treats with nerdy theme. Being a chemistry PhD student I am well akin with the realms of the nerd and delight in producing sugary homages to my intellectual endeavours....

The Periodic Table Cake

This was a joint venture between me and a fellow baking obsessed chemistry nerd. We set ourselves the challenge of producing the entire periodic table in fudgey chocolate cake form as the centre piece of an afters party proceeding an organic chemistry symposium (it seemed appropriate) I think we chose our audience well....

Familly wedding cakes

              The big cake for Sami's wedding

Oh how I delight in the challenge of cake making. I'm not talking your run of the mill afternoon tea sponge, I'm refering to the cakes that mark the big occasions. Weddings, birthdays, holidays and more. I've been privileged enough to make three wedding cakes, two of which were for my sisters' weddings.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I love cupcakes

I'm not entirely sure what I love most about it their portion controlled compactness, vibrant colour schemes or favourable icing to cake ratio? I don't know probably all of the above but just the mention of these little pockets of heaven gets me excited. I'm not alone in my love, cupcake love spreads wide, and so it should.
 But I have recently been alarmed by the degree of animosity that can be leveled at these bakery delights. It would seem that the anti-cupcake movement's biggest gripe is that cupcakes are given their own subcategory when they are essentially just small cakes. So what makes a cupcake a cupcake and not a cake in a cup?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Brownie Love

If macaroons are the elitist snobs of the baking world then brownies have to be the slobby hedonist equivalent.  Their intense flavour is neither subtle nor delicate. Their fudgy stodge coats your mouth making you think twice about smiling in polite company.  But don't get me wrong, I adore the humble brownie, moreover I love making brownies. There is not one step of the brownie making process that doesn't make one salivate involuntarily, I have been know to skip around the kitchen while they are baking taking in greedy gulps of delicious air. So what makes the perfect brownie?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Macaroons..why do you hate me so?

I know it's a little cliche but macaroons really are like France... when done right they are chic beautiful little pieces of art with just that hint of culinary arrogance. However if one deigns to not speak their language impeccably they will laugh in your face. Instead of perfect pastel disks joined harmoniously with lavishes of ganache you often end up with dull misshaped blobs unevenly united with oozy filling, it's tragic really.

Try as I may to learn the subtleties of the language of the macaroon my pronunciation is never quite perfect...

For a long time now I've been trawling the annuls of the internet to find the ultimate 'fool proof' macaroon recipe. I'm not the only one it would seem. In fact I stumbled upon my latest culinary hero in Ms Humble in my search. She has tried at lengths to find a recipe that works beautifully for us mere mortals in the kitchen but alas her skills outdo mine and try as I may to reproduce her script faithfully...well the proof is in the pictures.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What's it all about...

I made over 100 of these cakes for my Granny's 90th birthday

To me cooking is therapy: It clears your mind, delights your senses and vents one's oft pent up creativity. When you're done with the therapy you end with a delicious reward! What more could you hope for?

I like the adventure of cooking, to set myself wildly elaborate tasks and see how they turn out. These range from making hundreds of wedding cupcakes to all night cooking challenges with friends.
I've been told that some of my creations are worth sharing and so I've delved into the delightfully self indulgent world of blogging!
I hope you enjoy my cooking adventures...