Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Chocolate Parcels - "Parchants"

Let me introduce you to the humble Parchant.
Well, it's not so humble, and it's not a Parchant either.
That's just a name we made up for these delicious (and I mean dee-licious!) pastry parcels a few years ago. And it's stuck. I could pretend that it's a melding of the words parcel, chocolate and ... um something...


But it was just a bit of pseudo-French nonsense that I made up on the spur of the moment when a dinner guest wanted to know the name of the (seven!) delightful pastries he'd just scoffed.



They are super easy, and a real crowd pleaser. Great for dinner parties, book club dinners, Valentines, Easter, Christmas....
You get the idea!

Chocolate Parcels (AKA Parchants)

1 roll prepared puff pastry
Chocolate of your choice*
Icing sugar

* Try different flavours. Chocolate with nuts adds a lovely textural element to this desert.

If the pastry is frozen, thaw completely.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface (you want to thin it slightly)
Cut into squares, approx 10cm x10cm.

Place a couple of blocks of chocolate into the centre of each square.
Fold the edges of the pastry together and  pinch to secure. (It's puff pastry - it'll want to puff open. But you want to seal it well with a good pinch to stop that from happening).
Place the parcels onto a baking sheet.
At this stage you can leave them in the refrigerator until needed (even overnight is fine) covered with cling wrap.

Heat the oven to 200'C
Place the parcels into the oven, bake until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and dust with icing sugar.

Serve warm, while the chocolate is still oozing ...



Enjoy!

xxM

Friday, 26 June 2015

Suitcase and Teddy Cake

Yay! It's school holidays!
No morning rush; no school lunches to pack; no scramble to find socks/ jerseys/ PE tops 5 minutes
60 seconds before we leave home, and no homework to fight through!
But it does mean having to entertain the kids for the whole day; every day for three weeks....
I may just need to pack my bags and disappear on a mom-vacation at the end of that.



So, here's celebrating vacations! (Or the anticipation of them!). 

This is an idea I'm trying out for a future class. It was such a sweet little cake to make. 
It's a 4 inch vanilla sponge covered in ganache and decorated with modelling chocolate/ fondant.

What you might just be able to see in the picture, is the post-construction dusting on the sugar paste: light brown/ tan along the edges of the leatherwork, and dark brown in the creases.
If  I'd taken a before and after photo (*ahem... ahem*), you'd see what a big difference it makes.
And I feel like such a "grown-up" decorator when I dust or paint on cakes! (Big enough to be using make-up!)
Give it a try sometime, if you haven't already - dusting can create subtle shadows and accents, and can bring a fondant piece to life. Just like my morning make-up!




Happy holidays! (And if you're going away, safe travels - and remember to pack Teddy!)

xxM

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Up and Away Cookies

We decorated "Up and Away" Cookies for Fathers Day this year. I'm more comfortable with pretty and girly, though, so it took me a while to find my feet (or wings?!) with this theme.
 But in the end I really enjoyed it!




 Hot air balloons are especially fun to decorate! They have a structure to them - you know they've got a ballon and a basket, so they aren't an overwhelmingly blank canvas (Eeek! Where do I start?!).  But there are dozens of different ways to decorate the envelope; and geometric patterns, in particular, look great.


I'm not very good with symmetry and straight lines, however, so I always sketch the design on the cookie first.
I use a non-toxic graphite pencil for sketching. I know "non-toxic" is not the same as "edible", but we're not eating the actual pencil here, ok?!
(You can use an edible marker if you'd prefer. Just don't eat the marker - it's the ink that's edible, not the marker  ...).

You can find graphite pencils at CNA. They're called Bic Ecolutions.




(If you'd like to know how to create this deep shade of navy blue, read this post here.)



Happy decorating!

xxM

Friday, 19 June 2015

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

The original author of this recipe called them "Marry Me Cookies" because they were apparently guaranteed to get her a date and/ or marriage proposals.
I'm not in the market for either of those, though. I'm relieved to say that my dating years are behind me. They were disastrous. Perhaps I could have done with these cookies back then. Or maybe not... More bad dates, or guys wanting to marry me for my cookies... um... no, thanks ;o)

But I did make these sweetly crunchy, chewy, yummy biscuits with men in mind - fathers and husbands, though.
They'll be a great treat for Dad (yours or your children's) this Fathers Day!



Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe by Melissa Stadler via the Cooking Channel

Ingredients:
250g butter
250g dark brown sugar
50g caster sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1tsp vanilla extract
320g cake flour
120g raw rolled oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dark chocolate chips


In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the butter until it is melted.
Remove from the heat.
Stir in the sugar. Mix until well combined.
Chill for 10minutes.

Remove from the fridge and mix in the egg, yolk and vanilla.

Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Roll the mixture into approx 24-30 balls (large marble sized).
Place onto lightly floured baking trays.
Space them well apart. (They will flatten and spread as they bake).
Refrigerate for 30min.

Preheat the oven to 180'C.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until just beginning to turn golden.

Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for 10 minutes before placing on a cooling rack.
The cookies will be very soft when they come out the oven, and will firm up as they cool.



Have a great Fathers Day weekend!

xxM

Monday, 8 June 2015

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Mixed Berry Yoghurt Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Along with the truth about Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy,  I know that it's only a  matter of time before my children figure out that frozen yoghurt isn't really ice-cream.
Those revelations will herald a time when bribery and threats are no longer quite as effective on their naive minds. Sigh! ;o)

But in the meantime fro-yo continues to hold sufficient sway as a reward and treat, and doesn't have too much mom-guilt attached to it. Pity about all those topping though!

Anyways ... I give you this insight into my impeachable parenting ploys,  because this icing reminds me of frozen yogurt:
Subtle flavours, not too sweet, a hint of dairy, and silky smooth. It's flavouring comes from the addition of Woolworths double cream Ayrshire mixed berry trifle yoghurt.
Yum!



Dark Chocolate Cupcakes 
Recipe by Tea, Cake and Create

Preheat the oven to 180'C
Prepare 2x 12hole muffin trays with cupcake cases.

2 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt 
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup boiling water 
1tsp Vanilla extract

Sift together all the dry ingredients. Whisk to combine.  
Make a well in the centre, and pour in the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. 
Mix well. 
Add the boiling water. Mix until combined.  

Pour into the prepared cupcake cases - do not fill more than halfway! 
Bake at 180'C for approx 20min, or until a skewer inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. 
Remove cupcakes from muffin trays to cool. 

Ice when completely cool. 



Mixed Berry Yoghurt Swiss Meringue Buttercream 
Recipe by Tea, Cake and Create

5 egg whites 
200g white sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
250g butter at room temp, cut into cubes. 
150g mixed berry double cream yoghurt 
1-2 drops Electric Purple gel colour
(This recipe produces enough to ice half the cupcakes with large swirls. Double all the ingredients for a full quantity of icing.)

Put the egg whites and sugar into a mixing bowl, and place that over a suitable saucepan of simmering water. 
(The bottom of the mixing bowl must not be in contact with the water, and the water should not be boiling.)

Whisk constantly, until the sugar granules have dissolved and the mixture is hot to touch. 

Move off the stove, and to the mixer.
Using the whisk attachment, whip until it forms a thick and glossy meringue.

When the mixing bowl feels neutral to touch, change over to the paddle attachment, and add the butter one cube at a time, beating on low-medium speed.
It may curdle, but just keep whipping until it reaches a satiny smooth consistency and holds its shape. Add the vanilla extract and yoghurt; beat well to incorporate. 

Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.




Ed's note (that's me!) I've also made these with the addition of a mixed berry preserve secret centre. Double yum! 


Sweet treats and happy baking!

xxM 

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Terracotta Pot Plant and Succulent Cake

Husband (mine): Is everyone going home with a terracotta pot?
Wife (me): Um....Yes. (Pause). You do know that the "pots" are made from fondant?

And I said it in a very neutral tone; nothing scathing, nothing patronising. Really.




So, yes - everyone went home with their own "terracotta pot" and succulent.

The cake was baked to shape in a real terracotta pot (new, clean, never used in the garden; well greased and lined with baking parchment).

We covered the sides of the cakes with chocolate butter icing; then wrapped them with terracotta coloured modelling chocolate/ fondant blend.
The "soil" is chocolate cake crumbs.
The rock rose succulent is made out of tylose/ CMC paste .

And just to prove that it really is all cake and icing....



Happy creating!

xxM

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Spotlight Interview: Lorna Jane Cake Designs

Beautiful cakes need to be photographed beautifully, and so once again it was the quality of this baker/ cake decorator's photographs that captured my attention.
 But pictures aside, as you'll see, Lorna's cakes are exquisite creations in themselves.  

Spotlight interview: Lorna Jane Cake Designs



Tell us a little about yourself/ your background.

I grew up in Westville and after completing school I qualified as a primary school teacher. A few years after getting married I moved to Kloof where I now live with my husband and daughter. My son is studying and working in Ireland.



How did you get into baking/decorating?

From a young age I was always experimenting with new recipes and baking delicious cakes and desserts. My Mom was definitely a huge inspiration and I have many family recipes that have been passed down over the years. While my children were still little, I kept myself busy baking a variety of cakes and confectionaries for a local home industry. I’d never worked with fondant until two years ago when I decided to try my hand at more formal cake decorating. I went for some lessons, enjoyed every minute of them and my new hobby took off from there.



What do you like making the most?
Anything you steer clear of?
At the moment, definitely layered cakes decorated with fondant or chocolate where I can put to the test newly acquired skills and techniques. I also enjoy making sugar flowers.I’ve tried decorating biscuits but it just isn’t my forte and not really something I enjoy doing, so I’ll leave that skill to those who are more proficient in that area. 




What would you say your style is, or is there a particular style you like to follow?
Whose work inspires you?

I like simple, clean lines and contemporary designs. I view each cake as a blank canvas. I like to believe that I am creating a piece of art that is not only visually pleasing but that tastes delicious too. There are so many extremely talented cake artists whose work I admire and aspire to, both locally and internationally, to choose one would be impossible.


Where would you like to go with your craft?
What’s the high point been so far?

I want to continue learning as much as I can, perfect my technique and be the best that I can be without losing the creativity and enjoyment that I have for cake decorating.Making my first wedding cake for friends was definitely a high point and a huge learning experience for me. Recently I had one of my cakes shared by an exceptionally talented, international cake artist and the response was phenomenal...it was certainly a confidence booster!




Any words for the cake decorating community?
I have met many wonderful and talented people since I began decorating, many of whom have shared their knowledge and expertise with me. Kerry Crampton was inspirational in teaching me the basics and she has been invaluable in helping me on my cake journey. Denise Dyson taught me much of what I know about flower making. I am a member of the Pinetown Branch of the South African Cake Decorators Guild where I have acquired a wealth of knowledge from demonstrations and workshops.
 


   
                                                                                                                           


 Lorna tells me that she doesn't really bake for orders, just for friends and family. But maybe if you have a cake request that tickles her fancy, you'll be able to twist her arm! 
Follow Lorna Jane Cake Designs on https://www.facebook.com/lornajanecakedesigns?fref=ts

Until next time...
xxM