Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Criminally Good" Cream Cheese Chocolate Brownie

Since we introduced this brownie at the Cakery it’s been disappearing almost as fast as we can make it (I may be responsible for some of those disappearances). When we opened on Sunday at 9am a couple promptly walked in and ordered two pieces. Brownie for breakfast? Sure, why not!

I’ve been hesitant about baking brownie for the shop as I’m a rather fussy chocolate lover. Everything about whatever chocolate item I may be devouring at the time needs to be just right - texture, taste, balance of sweetness - the whole experience. I take it very seriously. 

For me this brownie hits all the right spots. My partner thinks it’s a little on the gooey side, a little too mousse-like, but for me it’s up there with the best. It’s grin inducing and even prompted one lady to say “oh my giddy aunt” when we served her up a freshly baked slice. I quite enjoyed that response. I was also recently told it was "criminally good" and that I should be in jail. I think that says it all.

Bake this brownie and bask in the many delights that it brings.

Criminally Good Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownie

320g dark chocolate, chopped 
180g butter
3 eggs
1 egg yolk

300g white sugar
1 tsp Heilala vanilla extract 

100g flour
30g Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 tsp salt

Cream Cheese swirl:
250g cream cheese
60g white sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp Heilala vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate and butter together until smooth. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and sugar until pale and thick, add the vanilla. Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt. Fold the melted chocolate mix into the egg base, then fold in the sifted ingredients. Place two-thirds of the mix in a lined baking tray (my tray was roughly 28cm x 15cm). In a clean bowl beat the cream cheese swirl ingredients together until smooth. Dollop the over the brownie base and top with the remaining brownie batter. Swirl a little with a knife. Bake at 170C for 35mins if you like it on the gooey side or 40mins if you prefer things a little more cooked. The sides will rise up and the centre should be a little wobbly - the sign of brownie perfection. This brownie is great stored in the fridge as it improves the texture. 

Don’t try to make this brownie ‘healthier’ by using low-fat cream cheese, it has a different baking consistency to full-fat cream cheese and just won’t work. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Spongedrop Cakery - opening soon!

This week instead of sharing a recipe I’m sharing some exciting news. For the past twelve months (that's no exaggeration!) I’ve been working on opening a shop - somewhere that I can share with you my passion for baking, beautiful things and great coffee. I can now say that after all these months, years even, of planning and preparation it is finally happening!

In a few weeks time (Weds 3rd Dec) I’ll be opening the doors to Spongedrop Cakery. Located at 10 Salisbury Avenue, Mount Maunganui, in the site of the old Information Centre on the edge of Coronation Park, we’ll be offering cake, cupcakes, french macarons, coffee and tea amongst other delicious items that are currently in development.

Being located on the edge of a park we’ve opened up one side to let in the sunlight and the pretty tree-studded view, creating a space that I’m picking is going to be a great spot for mid-morning coffee and cake. Or you can pop in and pick up a box of cupcakes to takeaway and share with friends. There will be parking available out back and Coronation Park provides a huge play area for kids so I’m hoping everyone will be able to find something they love about it.

There is still so much to do between now and opening (can you see the fear on Rick's face?) and I know that even when the doors are open we will be a ‘work in progress’ but I’d love for you to come along for the ride! I’ve never undertaken anything like this before so it has been and will continue to be a huge learning curve for me, thankfully I’ve got amazing people alongside me.

This has been a dream since I first started this blog nearly five years ago. I feel absolutely privileged and humbled that somehow this opportunity has come my way. It has been a journey alright, with highs and lows, but I know that once I open my doors and get to greet all of my wonderful supporters it will be a dream come true! We can't wait. x

Rick's 'there is so much to do' face.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Passionfruit Magic Custard Cake

This cake has been popping up on baking blogs and Pinterest pages like nobody's business lately. So of course I had to jump on the band wagon and try it. It's not possible for me to be taunted by a magical cake that somehow (i.e. magically) turns one batter into two layers of custard and cake without attempting to make it myself.

And of course the result had to be shared with you. It's a gem. And actually is a little magical. I don't know the science behind it but you literally do end up with two defined layers of custard and cake. It's pretty impressive. 

Given that this is a 'custard' cake, be warned that it is eggy. If you don't like set custard or egg desserts this probably won't be for you. For me, I love them (witness the joy of Clafoutis) so I could happily munch through a few squares of this beauty. Especially doused in extra passionfruit. Is there much better than passionfruit and custard? Yes, there is - it's magical passionfruit custard cake. 

Passionfruit Custard Cake

120g unsalted butter 
4 eggs, separated
1⁄4 tsp white vinegar 

165g icing sugar
1⁄4 cup passionfruit syrup/pulp
Zest of 1 lemon
120g plain flour
2 cups (480ml) whole milk 

Icing sugar for dusting 

Preheat oven to 160°C (320F) and grease an 8-inch square tin (or similar sized rectangular tin). Melt the butter and set aside. In a clean metal bowl beat the egg whites and vinegar until stiff peaks form. In another bowl use a hand whisk to combine the yolks, icing sugar, passionfruit and zest – it will be stiff to start with but will soften up. Whisk in the melted butter. Add the flour, mix, then add the milk and whisk again. The batter will be very wet. Using the whisk, gently fold in the egg whites, a third at a time, stirring until there are no large lumps of egg white remaining. Pour the batter into your tin and bake for 45-55mins. The top will be golden and the centre will wobble a little. Cool for a few hours, dust with icing sugar and cut into squares. Serve with extra passionfruit for a super tangy hit. Store in the fridge. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Caramel Apples. Eat 'em or weep.

Making caramel takes commitment. That statement may (sadly) stop some of you from making it but I know there's someone out there with the determination and chutzpah to make this goodness happen – if that's you, you will be handsomely rewarded! 

Caramel apples are time machines in disguise. Just one bite and you'll understand. The holding of the stick, the awkward angling of the head (and apple) so you can take that first bite, the tang of the apple, the stickiness of the caramel and the juice running down your chin...it's what kids do. Not what adults do. No kid would ever expect to come home and find that their parents had made them a batch of caramel apples just for fun. If you make these your parent cred will go up exponentially (in the eyes of your child...possibly not in the eyes of other parents but who cares what they think, besides there are apples involved so you're totally providing a balanced meal).

The two toughest things about making caramel are the constant stirring and the heat. You can’t leave caramel to its own devices or you’ll end up with a lumpy, pebbly, potentially burnt mess. You also can’t be careless with it as caramel can give a nasty burn. No matter how tempted you are to dip in a finger or lick the spoon, don’t. Just don't. Making caramel involves heating sugar to a very high temperature and sugar burns are pure evil. 

So now that I’ve scared you all away (I hope there are still a few of you left!) below is the caramel apple recipe that I promised a few weeks back. Contrary to the above it’s actually quite easy and it results in a delicious, slightly chewy, creamy caramel that is the perfect partner to a crisp, tart apple. Do it for the kids.

Special thanks to Little Miss Rose for the photos. 

Caramel Apples 
225g butter 
2 cups brown sugar 
1 cup golden syrup 
1 can (395g) condensed milk 
1-2 tsps vanilla extract 
8-10 apples, Granny Smith are best
Chopsticks or clean twigs 
Candy thermometer 

Grease a large sheet of baking paper with butter. Wash apples and push a chopstick into the top of each. Dip apples in boiling water for 5 seconds and dry to remove any wax. 

Place the first four ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Stir constantly from start to finish otherwise it may crystallise or burn. Once the caramel starts to bubble insert a candy thermometer and continue stirring until it reaches 118-120°C (around 15 minutes). Remove caramel from heat and stir in the vanilla. Cool for a few minutes then dip each apple in, rotating to cover the apple and shaking a little to remove excess. Stand on the greased baking paper to set. 

*Weekly Tip: For extra good times, dip the caramel apples in crushed nuts, cookie pieces, mini marshmallows or chocolate chips. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Pear Clafoutis. What's not to love?

People! Meet my new favourite dessert, Clafoutis. 

I can see many winter nights on my couch with a bowl of this custardy, flan-like goodness cradled in my hands. Clafoutis has always intrigued me and I’m disappointed in myself that it took me this long to make it. Clafoutis, where have you been all my life? Oh that’s right, on the tables of French bistros being served up to intellects and artistes (because that's what I think all French people are). Now you’re also snuggling with me on my couch in Tauranga.

Clafoutis is traditionally made with cherries but you can substitute all sorts of other fruits. Originally I was just going to roll with pears until I remembered the glut of feijoas I had out on the lawn. So in they went. And thank goodness for that. Pear and feijoa are a great match together, let alone with a delicious custard blanket encasing them. And did I mention cream? Heavy pouring cream. Oh my.

I read somewhere (i.e. wikipedia) that a clafoutis made without cherries is a 'flaugnarde'. Both are excellent words to say. Either way, clafoutis or flaugnarde, you are delicious and you are most definitely here to stay. Make this immediately, so you too can bundle up on the couch under a blanket and enjoy this deeply comforting dessert. Tonight this is going to accompany a screening of Charlie Chaplin's City Lights. I'm a lucky girl.

Pear & Feijoa Clafoutis

Butter, for greasing
Sugar, for sprinkling
1 large pear
10 feijoas (or use a different fruit if you prefer)
4 eggs
135g brown sugar
100ml cream
190ml milk
1 tsp Heilala Vanilla Extract
½ tsp almond extract (optional)
¼ tsp salt
70g flour

Grease a baking dish with butter and sprinkle sugar over so it sticks to the butter. Preheat oven to 170°C. Whisk the eggs and brown sugar together until pale and fluffy. Combine cream, milk, extracts and salt and stir into egg mix. Sift the flour over top and whisk to combine. Let sit while you prepare the fruit. Core and slice pear into thin wedges and scoop out feijoa flesh, place fruit in a single layer on the bottom of the dish and gently pour the batter over top. Bake for 35mins or until golden and the custard is firm. Sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy.
*Weekly Tip: If you chill clafoutis it takes on a nice firm texture making it easy to slice into wedges. So, if (for some strange reason) you find yourself with any leftover, it makes a great lunch snack.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

V is for Vanilla Cake...

Photo: Greta Kenyon Photography. Location: Post Bank Restaurant.

It’s time to spoil your significant other. Or treat a friend. Every once in awhile it’s nice to put in a little extra effort to celebrate someone or something special in your life. I’m not one to overtly embrace that Valentine’s Day but I’m also not so opposed that I’m going to ignore it! No harm ever came from showing someone a little extra love and if your loved one has a sweet tooth this cake is a perfect way to do just that.

Vanilla and raspberry are one of the best couples I know. They never fight. Always compliment each other and look damn fine side by side too. I think it's the contrast. As Paula Abdul said...opposites attract.

Look at this cake – it’s so pretty and actually does taste as good it looks. Cutting into the lush white cake to reveal the layers of vanilla and raspberry inside is so indulgent. Can you tell I love this cake? I really do. And, I'm pretty sure, so will your better half or best buddy or neighbour or anyone. 

A couple of tips... 
  • Make the effort to make the three layer cake. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say 'ooooh look at the layers!' when they see a three layer cake (two is just standard, four sends them into a frenzy).   
  • Don't scrimp on the vanilla. Buy the good stuff (I use Heilala). It's worth it.
For the raspberry coulis and vanilla buttercream recipes click here and here.

Photo: Greta Kenyon Photography. Location: Post Bank Restaurant.

Vanilla Cake
Makes an 8-inch round 3 layer cake
300g unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
1 teaspoon Heilala Vanilla Extract
6 eggs
300g self-raising flour*

Preheat oven to 160°C (fan bake). Grease and line two 8-inch (23cm) round tins. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, mixing well between additions. Sift the flour over the mix and stir to form a smooth batter. Divide the batter into thirds. Place a third each in the two tins - you will have one third remaining. Bake the first two cakes for 30mins or until the centre springs back when gently pressed. Once cool enough turn out the cakes and bake the third layer. Sandwich together with raspberry coulis and vanilla bean buttercream.

*Weekly Tip: If you don’t have self-raising flour make your own by simply adding 2 teaspoons of baking powder to 300g of plain flour. Sift to combine.

Raspberry Coulis. Making everything taste better except venison.

Simple, sweet, saucy goodness. Serve it alongside any sweet treat and it's almost guaranteed to make it taste better. You can see it here in action in a classic vanilla cake.

I once had raspberry coulis served with venison at a supposedly 'up market' restaurant where I live. Let's just say that it's definitely a dessert sauce. Don't serve it with venison or anything savoury for that matter, not even cheese. Why would they do that? It's crazy talk. I guess I am guilty of ordering it though.

This sauce is tangy, sweet and jam packed with berry flavour. Great with cake, ice cream, chocolate, mousse, fruit, pancakes...the list (of desserts) goes on.

Raspberry Coulis
350g fresh or fozen raspberries
1/3 cup (75g) sugar 
2 tablespoons water

Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer over a medium heat for around 5 minutes or until all the sugar has dissolved. Cool slightly then pulse in a blender to puree. At this point you can strain the sauce to remove the pips but sometimes I like to leave them in for a bit of texture.

Keep covered in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze for 3 mths.