Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Easy Peasy Strawberry and Vanilla Bean Pastry Pockets



The first time I made these little pockets of pastry and custard goodness was in the French Patisserie class I took last year.

Yesterday, I had a little craving for something sweet (in particular, strawberries and custard or as the French call it - creme patissiere) and decided to make what I have now dubbed as 'the easiest but incredibly delicious strawberry pastry ever'. In fact, don't take my word for it - my cousin actually said to me today that, out of all my desserts, these were the best he has had. Apparently, spending hours in the kitchen on complicated recipes do not mean anything to him!

The creme patissiere really makes this dessert special, so spend the 10 minutes making it and please don't buy the pre-made kind. The cherry jelly is optional and I only made it because I had leftover cherry syrup from the black forest cake I made last week. It doesn't really add anything extra to the overall taste. Oh and the best thing about this dessert? You can pretty much top it with any fruit you like.

Ingredients (makes approx 8 or 9 pastries):

- 2 or 3 sheets of frozen puff pastry
- 3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 generous tablespoon of plain flour
- 250ml full cream milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
- A little milk

Cream Patissiere
1. Place the milk and vanilla into a saucepan and bring to boil.
2. Place eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk well.
3. Pour the boiling milk into the eggs as you mix and return the mixture back on to the stove and keep stirring until it thickens. (Don't forget the edges!)
4. Remove from the stove and pour into a sieve.
5. Cool it down by placing it over an ice bath

Puff Pastry Pockets (preheat oven to 200 degrees)


1. Let frozen pastry thaw and cut out as many circles as you can.
2. Keep half the circles aside for the base and cut out a smaller circle out of the other half.
3. Brush the base with some milk and stick on the circle cut outs. Brush again with milk and sprinkle sugar on top
4. Place in the oven for approx 15 mins or until golden.


5. Let the pockets cool down slightly and then take a sharp knife and trace around the small circle puff and remove the 'lid'. Feel free to snack on the lids :)

Cherry Jelly (optional)


I used a sheet of geletin and followed the instructions - 200ml of water to each sheet. I added water to the cherry syrup to make 200ml and brought it to boil. I then added the geletin sheet and poured it into the moulds.

Assembly


1. Spoon the cream patissiere into the pastry pockets.


 2. Top with fresh strawberries and sprinkle with some icing sugar and add cherry jelly.


3. Savour the crunchy sweet pastry together with the thick creamy vanilla custard and juicy fruit.... mmmm

Oh and another good thing about this amazing dessert? The pastry is still as crispy after being in the fridge overnight :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Teddy Bears at the Beach

It was a beautiful day in Sydney yesterday and what better way to enjoy it than to head to Bondi Beach? The sun was out and warm but not extremely hot and the water was a beautiful shade of sparkling blue.


This cake was inspired by my Teddy Bears Picnic cake but made for Curtis' beach themed christening party. Perfect for the Bondi venue I delivered to and with such a beautiful day, I don't think I could have asked for more.

Doesn't this little guy just want to make you head to a beach right now?

I also finally had a chance to have my very first deep fried mars bar! I can't believe that I've been living in Sydney for 10 years and did not know they existed until a couple of years ago... and would you believe didn't even try one until yesterday. 


All I can say is that I have missed out on 10 years of awesome crunchy, warm gooey, chocolate and caramel goodness! The only unfortunate thing was that I had to share it with the boyfriend. Plus, the shop had deep fried ice cream on the menu which you can bet I will be returning for!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Up, Up and Away!


This has been a crazy week for me. For some strange reason everyone decided to visit/celebrate and organise events all this week.

But I have been looking forward to this cake since the lovely Simonne contacted me earlier this month. She was planning to have a circus themed party for her twins but admitted that all her son really wanted was a rocket ship cake. So guess what he got?


A circus themed rocket ship :) I love cake designs like this, they are so original and although may seem a little strange to outsiders, means a lot to the client receiving it. As I rang the doorbell this morning the cutest thing happened... I could hear from all the way inside the house, an excited little voice, 'Mum, my rocket cake is here!'. Unfortunately I didn't get to meet him but I'm sure he had a fun filled day.

This week I also hosted a private lesson for my cousin and her sweet friend Dawn who wanted to make a cake for her goddaughter's birthday. She was inspired by my fairy cake and changed the design to suit the garden theme that her goddaughter was having. I think she did amazingly! Looking at the pictures below, no one would have guessed that she had never ganached a cake or worked with fondant before. I'm sure everyone at the party is going to be blown away when she walks in with this cake.

Making sure everything is straight.

Adding the final touches...

And look at the final result! What a great present for her goddaughter :)

 The girls and their cake.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Cheer Up Cake

 

Or as it's more famously known - The Black Forest Cake from Masterchef.

The boyfriend was feeling a little stressed this week and a couple of my close friends have also been going through some tough times so what better to cheer them up than to offer dessert? :D Chocolate makes everything better right?

After dropping the 'I've never had a really good black forest cake before' comment a couple of weeks back, I knew what I wanted to make for the boyfriend. I'm not sure if it's officially cherry season, but my local Woolies only had some sad looking ones. Regardless, I bought them and had to throw a few out but they get cooked in sugar anyways so it was all ok. 

Although my other friends are not around to enjoy the cake, I'm happily eating it on their behalf :) In any case, I'll send a slice through cyberspace - it's the thought that counts!

So this cake is for everyone out there who is feeling a little down and who may not be having the best day/week/month/year. It'll be ok (after you have some of this cake)!


Give the recipe a try if you get the chance. It's not hard at all, it just has quite a few components. The end result? YUMMY! It's not like the usual black forest cake you'd find in cafes but it's really good and I'm sure is bound give you some extra cheer :)

I actually halved the original recipe and omitted the candied cherries (where would I get semi-candied cherries from anyways?) but here is the original recipe (I've commented on my changes below):

Ingredients:

For the chocolate sponge7 eggs
250g caster sugar
200g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the candied cherries (I skipped this part) 
½ cup semi-candied pitted cherries, ¼ cup juice reserved
¼ cup caster sugar

For the cherry compote
1/3 cup caster sugar
600g pitted fresh cherries, halved
1 tbs brandy

For the cherry sugar syrup 
90g caster sugar
¼ cup cherry juice (instead of buying cherry juice, I just squeezed some out from the fresh cherries)

For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse  
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted lightly and skinned
300g chopped dark chocolate
3 egg yolks
300ml thickened cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the mascarpone cream
500g mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 tbs icing sugar

For the dark chocolate ganache
150ml cream (I used thickened cream only because I did not want my ganache to be too runny and I found that I could just scoop it on top and spread without having it fall down the sides)
200g chopped dark chocolate

How To:

1. For the chocolate sponge, preheat oven to 160°C fan forced. Grease and line 2 x 20cm springform cake pans.

2. Add eggs and sugar to a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, and set over a saucepan of simmering water over very low heat. Whisk the mixture until 37°C. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat with an electric mixer on a medium-low speed for 5-8 minutes or until the mixture has cooled and thickened to a mousse-like consistency. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together twice. Using a large metal spoon, fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture in 3 batches until combined, adding the vanilla extract with the first dry batch.

3. Pour the mixture into the lined cake pans and smooth surface. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until sponge springs back when lightly touched. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto wire racks. Place in the blast chiller for 10-15 minutes until cake has cooled completely.

4. For the candied cherries, preheat oven to 120°C. Place cherries on a lined baking tray. Lightly dust with the sugar and place in the oven for 50-60 minutes. Remove and cool. Coat with remaining sugar. Set aside. (I skipped this step)

5. For the cherry compote, add the sugar to a non-stick saucepan and place over medium heat. Once the sugar begins to dissolve add the cherries and cook until they start to release their juices. Add the brandy and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Strain, reserving liquor.

6. For the cherry syrup, heat 170ml water and the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved cherry juice and compote liquor. Allow to cool. 

 Leftovers! yay :)

7. For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse, line a baking sheet. In a dry heavy-based saucepan, cook sugar over medium heat, stirring, until melted. Once melted, cook without stirring, swirling pan, until lightly golden. Add hazelnuts, stirring until well coated. Immediately pour mixture onto the baking sheet and cool completely, in blast chiller for 5 minutes. Break praline into pieces. Place into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.

8. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk the egg yolks in a small heatproof bowl. Heat 250ml of the cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir through half of the hot cream into the egg yolks (whisk then add back to the remaining hot cream). Return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat and stir until thickened. Strain into a clean bowl. Stir the melted chocolate into the hot custard. Add the vanilla and allow to cool. Whisk the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture with the praline, until just combined. Set aside.

9. For the mascarpone cream, beat the mascarpone, vanilla and sugar in a bowl until smooth and slightly thicker in volume.

10. For the chocolate ganache, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside. Bring the cream to just below boiling point in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat, then add the melted chocolate and stir until smooth. Allow to cool until thick but still pouring consistency.

11. To assemble the cake, slice both cakes into thirds. Place the base of 1 cake onto a serving plate and brush with some of the cherry syrup. Spread over half of the chocolate praline mousse.

12. Place the next layer of cake onto a board, and brush with cherry syrup. Spread over half of the mascarpone cream. Divide the cherries into two parts for two separate layers. Place cherries around the border of the cake, 5mm from its edge and scatter remaining in the middle. Carefully remove layer from the board and place on top of the first layer. Repeat each layering process on the board (you will have 1 spare slice of cake), starting with the praline mousse and ending with the cherries on the mascarpone cream. (Basically, it's cake - syrup - mousse - cake - syrup - mascarpone - cherries - cake - syrup -
mousse - cake - syrup - mascarpone - cherries - cake - ganache)

13. Place the final layer of the cake on a wire rack sitting over a baking tray. Evenly pour the ganache over the cake, ensuring it is completely coated (I skipped this because I used thickened cream in the ganache so I just assembled everything together). When the ganache has set, place on top of the layered cake. Decorate with shaved chocolate, fresh cherries and candied cherries.

Do you think I can get away with having this for breakfast? It's got fruits, so it's healthy right?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My top 10 ... Business Tips


Welcome to my 100th blog post! I know it has taken me awhile to get here because I am not a frequent blogger (I do try!) but lets hope it's not another 2 years before I reach my 200th post.

So what better way to celebrate this momentous post than to dedicate it to what this blog is all about - A behind the scenes look at what I do and a little insight to my life.

Now, by no means am I a business expert or do I consider myself a successful business owner (I'm trying though!) but I do get a handful of emails from people seeking advice on how to go about doing what I do. So here is my top 10...

10. Be patient and don't be discouraged. Learning anything new can be frustrating, don't give up if your work does not look absolutely perfect from the get go. I still have cakes/cupcakes that I create now that I am not 100% happy with but I always make a note on how I can make it better for the future.
 My first wedding cake :)

A recent wedding cake...

9. Try new things and take every opportunity for a learning experience. Remember when your parents used to tell you 'you won't know until you try!' well, it's true. Too many times I hear people say that it's too hard or that they're afraid to try - don't be, how else will you learn?  

 Made for my friend's birthday two years ago.

8. Try not to take things personally. You can't please everyone and not everyone may like what you create. And be ok with that. It's hard because you put your heart into what you create but accept that some people may not see that - they are judging your business and not you personally.

7. Never stop day dreaming about design ideas. Open your creative mind and always be inspired. Sometimes my favourite designs are inspired from fabric colours, tea cups or other cake designs.

This design by Matheus C inspired this...


6. Don't forget you have to pay yourself and grow your business too! One of the biggest struggles I went through in the beginning (and I'm sure most people go through the same thing) is how to price your work. Whatever you decide, don't forget that you need to 'pay' yourself as well as reserve some money aside for your business to grow. In my opinion this is the most sustainable way.

5. 'Will this help further my business?' There will always be people seeking out freebies. It's great to give but you'll have to think if the time and effort you are putting in will be benefit your business. It's ok to say no.

4. Never stop learning. You can only get better if you keep learning.

3. What is your unique selling point and who are you targeting? Think about what will set you aside from the rest. You don't have to be the biggest and best or the cheapest to score all the customers, but you should have something special that no one else has.

2. Connect with like minded people. It's lonely when you are doing something new by yourself. Find some like minded people and make friends. It comes in handy when you have to discuss problems or develop ideas that your friends or family won't understand, or even when you run out of icing at 11pm at night :)

1. Smile and Relax! Whenever I am stressed I always reflect and think of how lucky I am to be able to pursue what I love doing, have a roof over my head, a loving family, a bunch of fun friends and access to clean water. It makes me realise that whatever cake stress I have is not the end of the world. This instantly makes me happier and more motivated. It's important to keep happy or you are just going to be like the majority of people who hate and resent their job.


Now, here is my disclaimer: Of course this list is not the be all and end all but it's just what I have learned in my journey so far :)

Do you have any other tips/advice of your own? I'd love to know :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Is that a cake?!

The thing I love most about novelty cakes is that they don't look like a traditional round or square cake. I have so much fun making a cake look like something else and I'm so thrilled when I hear 'wow is that a cake?!'

Did someone order a burger meal with large fries?


I've never wanted to hug a cake before but I think I came pretty close with this one...


These were all done at Planet Cake's novelty classes where I got to learn from the super talented Anna Maria and also got to meet and work along side some really amazing cake artists. 

Bring on more fun novelty cakes, I say!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sweets in Singapore

In case you have not noticed, I have a major love for all things sweet... especially dessert. I never say no to dessert :)

On my recent trip back to Singapore I was on a mission to taste some amazing desserts. First stop was Canele and I could not help but stare at the long stretch of beautiful looking desserts that were displayed along the counter. I forgot to bring my camera that day so all I have are photos from my phone.


The highlight would have to the matcha cake and the chocolate cake (which I can't remember the name of! But it's the one on the far left hand side). The matcha was light but packed full of yummy creamy matcha flavour and the chocolate cake was rich without being too sweet or bitter - just nice. We ordered 6 cakes in total and the best part was cutting all of them up into 6 little pieces and sharing them around. yum yum. The waiter did look at us funny - I guess people don't usually share desserts like me?

I had actually only planned on visiting Canele since I didn't know anywhere else to go, but on the day we decided to go on to the top deck of The Sands Hotel, we stumbled upon another dessert treasure - Sweet Spot

 They had wasabi macarons! I wonder what they taste like....
 
Rum and raisin cheese cake - I love the little capsules!

The store was so beautifully styled and and desserts and macarons even more stunning to look at. The only thing I love more than eating desserts, is staring at beautiful intricate ones... and then taking photos of them (must be the Asian blood in me!). There were so many things I wanted to try but we just had to settle for 3 mini cakes.

Look, the first cake was almost gone before I realised I didn't take a picture of it!


The 3 we had were so yummy. I'm bad with names, but we had a black forest one, a nougat one and a hazelnut one - all light and yummy. The boyfriend did pipe up that they 'wernt as good as Zumbo's'... I guess I agree to a certain extent, but these cakes were more yummy in a traditional way whereas Zumbo's creations tend to have a bit more of a creative flair. Not really comparing the same thing in my opinion :)

 The infinity pool at the top of the hotel. Very posh!

Now are you ready for one of the best desserts I had on my trip back? My brother actually told me about this place and it's tucked away on the top floor of Suntec City shopping centre. It's a Turkish restaurant but we only stopped for dessert.


I've never had a kunefe before but this dessert was so unique and decadent. The crispy pastry had cheese inside and was topped with crushed pistachios and surrounded by cream and honey. It was delicious and did not even taste oily - apparently it's better than the ones you'd find in Turkey (that's what the shop owner told us anyways!). This was so good, we ordered a second round :)

 Baklava... not as sweet as the ones you find in Sydney.

Turkish Coffee

Turkish Tea

But alas, I am now back in Sydney and freezing my butt off - which is a nice change compared to hot and humid Singapore.

So now I leave you with some recent creations :)

I LOVE this cake and actually had trouble parting with it when I delivered it this morning :)

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