Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Flavours Column: Easter Chocolate Brioche

Om nom nom. Brioche! I love this stuff. So bready. So flaky. So buttery. It's completely different to other breads. Hence why it has its own special name. Brioche. 


It's lovely to say out loud. 

Somewhere along the line I've developed an incredible super power that enables me to say no to naughty but delicious pastries like brioche and croissants. Cake on the other hand I am not immune to. I succumb to even the most average looking cake... although, in my defence, I am quick to shut it down if they don't taste good. If you're going to eat cake you really must make it good cake. There is no good reason to consume bad cake.

It's my understanding that I can avoid said pastries because their goodness is basically guaranteed and therefore they must be avoided otherwise I will gorge myself. There will be no stopping. Limiting exposure to these treats (basically pretending like they don't exist. Croissant? What croissant?) is the safest path. Unless you're in Paris. Then you should do as Parisians do. 

In saying all that, here is a recipe for brioche. It's a little fiddly and time consuming but, seeing as it's a rare treat, it is SO worth the effort. There is little more delicious in life than this warm, chocolatey brioche. Again... om nom nom.

Image: Quinn & Katie Photography

Freshly Baked Brioche for Easter Brunch
Published in the Bay of Plenty Times, 27th March 2013

If Hot Cross Buns aren’t your cup of tea at Easter, wake the family up with this incredible, buttery, chocolate filled brioche instead. Yes, brioche is bread and because of that some of you may not want to give this a try – but please do, it’s so worth it! Making your own bread is hugely rewarding. Disclaimer: this recipe is easier with a stand mixer and dough hook but you can do it by hand too.

Chocolate Brioche
40ml whole milk
50g caster sugar
1 packet (7g) instant dried yeast
250g plain flour
½ tsp salt
3 eggs
175g unsalted butter, softened, cut into pieces
Extra egg for egg wash

Chocolate Filling
180g good dark chocolate, finely chopped
35g butter
35g brown sugar
¾ tsp cinnamon
Warm milk slightly, whisk in 1 tsp sugar and add yeast. Cover and set in a warm spot until frothy (10mins). Place flour, salt, eggs, remaining sugar and frothed yeast into a bowl and using a dough hook (or your hands!) mix until dough forms. Increase the speed and ‘knead’ for 5mins. Scrape down the bowl and knead for a further 10mins. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Incorporate a few pieces of butter, reduce the mixer speed and add remaining butter one piece at a time. Increase the mixer speed and knead for 5-10mins – the dough is ready when it is smooth, shiny, elastic and not sticky. Cover with cling wrap and leave to rise until doubled in size (45-60mins). While waiting, make your chocolate filling by blending butter, sugar, cinnamon and chopped chocolate together with a food processor or knife.

When doubled in size, knock the dough down slightly (gentle punches to remove some air) and turn out onto greaseproof paper. Pat into a flat rectangle with the long edge facing you. Place the chocolate mix along the bottom half of the dough leaving a 2cm border. Brush edges with egg wash, fold the top half over and pinch edges to seal chocolate in. Cover loosely with cling wrap and leave to rise until doubled in size again. Preheat oven to 180C, brush with egg wash and bake for 30mins or until golden and sounds hollow when tapped on top. Enjoy warm from the oven.

Weekly Tip: Using unsalted butter gives you more control over the amount and taste of salt in baking. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Flavours Column: Apricot Cake

Writing this week's column I found it hard to keep within my 350 word limit. If you haven't realised yet, I'm a very wordy writer. I can't really help it. And I kinda like it. It gives me a voice and lets you get to know me...or maybe it's just me being really self-indulgent.


There were so many little stories I wanted to tell. Reasons why this cake was important. Funny little anecdotes. Like the time my brother and I creamed butter and sugar together and ate it straight from the bowl. (We only did that once I swear). But I couldn't fit it all into 350 words.

What I wanted to do, but didn't achieve, was acknowledge how cool it is that I have a brother who can not only bake a cake but invent his own cake flavours. Like the Apricot Cake he baked when we were young. I'm pretty sure it was just a Madiera cake with apricots added. But that's still invention.

I like that my brother bakes.

Last year he hand-made, and by hand-made I mean beating butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon - no easy feat, two dozen strawberry cupcakes for my nephew's 4th birthday. No electric beater in sight. Our Dad baked too. But that is another story.

Thanks Sam for inventing an Apricot Cake when we were little and giving me a great food memory!

This week I've included a little baking tip at the end of my column. Do you think I should make it a weekly thing? And I would like to thank the very lovely and talented Quinn & Katie Photography for the beautiful photo. x

Memories of an Apricot Tea Cake

Hello again. I hope you’ve been enjoying my column since Flavours launched. If you have questions or feedback you can email me at Please don’t be shy, I’d love to hear from you. (This applies to blog readers too!)

This week I’m sharing a recipe inspired by my brother Sam, who is a great cook and can make a mighty fine cake too. 

This Apricot Tea Cake is an ode to one Sam once made when I would have been around nine years old. The memory of that cake has stayed with me all this time and, until now, I’ve been unable to recreate it. But, after making some tweaks to a plum cake recently, that incredible cake from my childhood came back to me!

This cake is simple to make but impressive. There’s tang from the fruit, warmth from the spice and creaminess from the almonds. It’s amazing on its own or with cream and would make a spectacular tea accompaniment. It also keeps very well so you can enjoy it day after day.

Feel free to experiment with other stone fruit if you’d prefer. I think peaches would go down a treat.

Apricot Tea Cake
Recipe adapted by one from Carolyn Beth Weil, Bon Appetit July 2006.

70g ground almonds
185g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
225g sugar (plus 25g extra)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup apricot jam
About 10 - 12 apricots (or other stone fruit), stones removed and cut into quarters
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 175˚C. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin. Whisk together the ground almonds, flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom. Cream the butter and first measure of sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla then add the flour mixture until just combined.

Spread the batter evenly into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Dollop and spread the apricot jam gently over the batter. Press the apricot slices, flesh side down, onto the jammy batter in a circular pattern around the edge and centre of the cake. Mix the cinnamon and remaining sugar and sprinkle over the apricots.

Bake for approx 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Weekly Tip: Different sized eggs will yield different results. I like to use large eggs (size 7). Eggs keep baking moist and provide structure so that your cakes have a nice even crumb and texture. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Flavours Column: Strawberry Cupcakes

Hi again. Weekly far so good (two weeks in). Along with the recipe published in the newspaper I'm also going to give you a little insight into the writing process and my overall experiences as a 'columnist' (I feel that title oversells my talent but that's what it is isn't it? A column. Can I please use that title? That would be cool. Thanks).

My second column was published today. This week's learning: don't send revised content in late and expect it to be published. My past experiences buying and placing media in newspapers and pushing deadlines to the max did not come in handy here. What happened? Well, the first two columns published were actually written last year when the new lift out was in development. So, typically reactive 'in the moment' me wrote about strawberries as it was the start of summer and I had strawberries on my mind. This is me with strawberries on my mind and in my hand. This was an AMAZING strawberry.

Anyway, so come March and publication date, it's now Autumn and fresh strawberries are no longer available. Meaning, my content is slightly irrelevant. Not ideal. But, lesson learnt. The newspaper did well to edit my original content - I still wish I'd been able to sneak my revised version through though. Luckily I have a blog where I am editor in chief and can do as I please! Muaaahahaa! So, following is what I hoped was going to be published but alas, wasn't quite. It's not that far from what was published, it's just a little more relevant for non-strawberry season. 

Going forward I'll think about the content and when it's going to be published AHEAD of deadline. Whoopsies.

Sweet taste of Summer (well the end of...)

Summer might officially be coming to an end but that doesn’t mean we have to farewell all the beautiful flavours of the season – including that quintessential summer favourite, the strawberry.

Strawberries are a fairytale fruit and as such can have magical romantic powers or disappointing heartbreaking twists. By this, I mean that the perfect strawberry is hard to find. This summer the first strawberry I had was the PERFECT strawberry. Bright red, heart shaped, intensely flavoured, sweet and juicy. It was a great way to start the season.

This week’s recipe is about celebrating the flavour of strawberries in cake form. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to find fresh berries still available but for the rest of us, frozen ones (which can be found in your local supermarket) do just as well. These cupcakes are light, fluffy and delicately flavoured. Perfect for sharing with friends along with a glass of bubbles (I speak from experience) while you enjoy what’s left of this amazing summer we’ve had.

Strawberry Cupcakes
2/3 cup fresh strawberries
185g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp Heilala Vanilla Extract
115g unsalted butter, room temperature
185g sugar
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 175°C and prepare a 12-cup tray with liners.

Puree the strawberries in a food processor to make 1/3 cup of puree – add more strawberries if needed, saving any excess for the frosting.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in one bowl and the milk, vanilla and strawberry puree together in another bowl; set both aside.

Cream the butter until light and fluffy then gradually add the sugar and beat until well combined and pale in colour. Reduce the mixer speed and add eggs one at a time mixing until just blended.

Switch the mixer to low and add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Add the remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula; mix until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared liners (a piping bag is great for this). Bake for 18 - 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Frost the cupcakes with a Strawberry Frosting made using a simple buttercream recipe (1 part butter to two parts icing sugar, whipped up until pale and fluffy) with 3 tablespoons of strawberry puree added. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Flavours Column: Spongedrops

Hi folks! I know it's been a mighty long time since I've posted but I will now have fresh new content for you weekly. So much has happened over the summer - a multitude of wedding cakes and many many exciting cake adventures. All of which have been keeping me ridiculously busy. If you'd like to see photos of what's been greedily devouring my time please pop over to my Spongedrop page. Now onto some exciting news - and the reason why I will have weekly content for you...

Last year a friend of mine, who has been nothing but super supportive since I started Spongedrop, put my name forward to the editor of the lifestyle section of our local newspaper. The newspaper were looking for a baking columnist for a new weekly food lift out - and to cut a short story shorter - I was lucky enough to get the gig! So here it is. My first ever newspaper column. Word for word. As published in the Bay of Plenty Times on March 6th 2013. I'm quite proud of it. Which in turn makes me shy and blush a fair bit.

If you try the recipe please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Disclaimer: Please excuse my very average food photography skills. Thankfully I have some wonderful photographer friends who have offered to help out so the photos will be improving drastically in future!   

A Sweet Treat for your Inner Child

Hello. I’m Danielle, chief cake baker (aka caker) of Spongedrop, a cakes, bakes and sweet treats business. Welcome to my new column! This is a first for me so bear with me as I learn the ropes…hopefully you’ll like what I have to share, both the recipes and the writing. If you’d like to say hi you can find me at The Little Big Markets on the first Saturday of the month.

It seems only fitting to kick-start this column with the recipe that started my baking obsession. I was eight when my love of Spongedrops began. My friend and I would get home from school, whip out the Edmonds Cookbook and bake a batch of these spongy, sweet little cakes. Usually we’d devour the lot, straight out of the oven, dipped in warm chocolate sauce (again, thank you Edmonds). Being kids, we had very little patience and relatively short attention spans. Spongedrops let us have cake within 15 minutes using four ingredients. They were the perfect minimal effort snack and we could have them baked, eaten and the evidence destroyed before our parents found out.

This recipe is adapted from a version in the 1981 Every Girls Rally Cookbook. I still love the Edmonds recipe but this one, although requiring more effort and ingredients, is a little more sophisticated (as I’d like to think I am now too).

2 eggs, separated
60g plain flour
¼ teaspoon Cream of Tartar
75g caster sugar
30g cornflour
½ teaspoon baking soda
40g butter, melted 

Heat the oven to 190C (175C fan bake) and cover a tray with baking paper.

Beat the egg whites until stiff then add the yolks. Beat well and add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until all the sugar is dissolved. Sift the dry ingredients together and gently fold into the egg mix until only JUST combined (it’s okay if there are still tiny pockets of flour). Lastly fold in the melted butter. The trick with sponges is not to overmix so be gentle. Using a dessertspoon, drop spoonfuls of the mix onto the tray, leaving 4cm between each. Bake for 8 minutes. Lift off tray immediately and cool on a rack. 

Eat straight from the oven dipped in a pot of hot chocolate sauce or, once cooled, sandwich together with whipped cream, leave for several hours to get puffy and soft, dust with icing sugar and eat.