Sunday, 29 November 2015

Movember Cake Pops: Melting Chocolate

Oh, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate...
You've probably read that with the wrong tone. It was an oh, not an ah.
Now picture me shaking my head wearily and saying it.
Yes, that's right - that kind of tone.
(Sometimes dealing with chocolate is like dealing with your children at the end of a looong day.)
And if you've battled with cake pops, it's either that your mixture is wrong, or the chocolate is being bratty.
(Find how I make my cake pops mixture here.)

So, here's a chocolate tip for you:
It's really easy (too easy!) to over-heat chocolate.
Chocolate starts melting around 30-32'C. Once it's melted the temp. is around 40 - 45'C, depending on whether it's dark, milk or white chocolate
But it should not get to temperatures above 46'C (48'C for dark chocolate.)
So... you have a degree or two leeway. Eek!! 
If you've overheated your chocolate, it looks kind-of melted, but instead of  pouring freely off the spoon if kind-of plops of the spoon  ... in a different kind of way to un-melted chocolate! It's preparing itself to seize.  (Chocolate's version of a kiddie's temper tantrum). You may in fact think that it's not melted enough, and continue to heat it. Bad idea! If you recognise that it's getting to the over-heated stage, immediately remove from the heat source and stand the bowl containing the chocolate in a larger bowl of cold water. (Don't let any of the water get into the chocolate, it will seize!) Stir until the chocolate begins to cool down. You may rescue it.

This is what melted chocolate should look like for dipping cake pops:

(Music credit - Falling by Julee Cruise)

And this is what overheated chocolate looks like - note how it appears lumpy; don't confuse this with under-melted chocolate!

(Music credit - Fix You by Coldplay)

I hope that helps! 

Happy (end of!) Movember ;o) 


Friday, 20 November 2015

Russian Teacakes / Pecan Shortbread Cookies

It's time to start buying some jars. What jars? The ones you're going to fill with delicious treats for your kids' teachers end-of-year gifts, of course... you being the craftsy baker that you are!  ;o)

I recently bought some perfect gift jars (c/o the local Mr P). And then went back and bought more, because I wanted  needed to keep the first lot for myself. I'm sure I'll need them for something. Sometime.

Anywaaay... here's an idea for jar-fillers:
These  cookies are known as Russian Teacakes, or Mexican Wedding Cakes, or Snowballs.
None of which really work to describe these delicious, melt in your mouth, nutty, shortbready biscuits covered in mounds of icing sugar (hence the term snowball!).
They're very easy to make - especially if you use a food processor to chop the nuts. In fact, use a food processor for the whole recipe!
Here's how...

Russian Tea Cakes/ Pecan Cookies

180g pecan nuts
250g butter, at room temperature (that's important)
320g cake flour, sifted
70g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs vanilla extract

Plus extra icing sugar for dusting.


Chop the pecan nuts into small pieces using a food processor. Remove one third of the nuts*, and continue to process the rest until finely ground and almost paste-like.
Add in the butter, flour, 70g of icing sugar, salt and vanilla. Pulse until mixed. Then mix in the remaining finely chopped nuts* (doing this gives the cookies some extra pecan-nutty texture; if you have too many large chunks of nuts, the cookies tend to break apart easily.)

Use a teaspoon to measure out mounds of dough. Roll into balls and place on a lined baking tray.
Bake at 180'C for approx 15-18min, until they are just a touch golden - it's better to under-bake rather than over-bake these cookies.
Sift the extra icing sugar over them as soon as they come out of the oven; and again once they've cooled down.
Store in an airtight container -  a pretty jar will do :o)

Happy baking!


Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Drip Cake with Macarons

Drip cakes (inspired by Katherine Sabbath) are really trendy right now.
They look pretty easy to make - don't they? It's just an iced cake with a bit of ganache poured over the top and a bunch of goodies piled onto that. Easy-peasy.
Yeah, right!
It's surprisingly tricky to get a good looking drip-effect, for one. Especially when you're doing it in 40'C heat! So mine dripped...dripped... and dropped..!

And then this particular cake (made for my macaron-loving niece) involved 4 batches of those tricky treats to get the different colours and flavours of macarons which I wanted to decorated the top of the cake.
(Read about my first forays into macaron making, and the recipe I still use, here).

Despite that, it is definitely a style I'm going to attempt again. Just remind me to do it on a cool day!

See a great short video on creating a drip-effect by Renee Conner here. (Wish I'd watched that first!) 

Happy baking! 


Monday, 2 November 2015

Witch and Wizard Cake

Note to self: Read Notes to self! Because I've noted this before... take before and after photos!

So, you're just going to have to take my word for it...

This was a cake that I made as a surprise gift for a friend's Halloween birthday party.
It was covered in light blue fondant that I then airbrushed with purple in a few areas, followed by a mixture of navy blue and black.
The speckled-star effect is created by flicking white gel colour onto the airbrushed background with a stiff-bristled small paintbrush.

The him & hers witch and wizard toppers are made out of a fondant / modelling chocolate blend.

I wish I'd had the time to make a lower tier, but alas... time was in short supply last week, and magic time-turners were out of stock.
So I'll use that excuse to explain why there's no "before" picture...!

Happy decorating!


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Halloween Cookies and Cupcakes

Ok, so on further consideration I won't get away with a simple two-colour palette for Christmas. (And I did give it serious consideration. But it's that darn green, always creeping in and wanting to be part of the action...!)
I have managed to squeeze in another set of dual-tone cookies, though, before we get caught up in the red, white and green onslaught!

Halloween is met with mixed emotions in SA; so I've stopped offering classes with this theme, unless specifically requested. But I love decorating Halloween-themed treats, and I jump at the opportunity to do so when I can. This year it was by squeezing in a mid-week specially-requested cupcake class, and making some cookies as a gift for a friend whose party was on the 31st.

 I nearly made the cupcake class a simple combination of orange and black, but added some purple in the end...

The cookies, however - I stuck to my double-barrelled guns. (One colour in each barrel - get it?!)

Here are a couple of process shots:

The cookie was flooded with white royal icing, left to dry then airbrushed with yellow, followed by orange around the edges to create the "glow".  The image was sketched onto the completely dried icing. 

The outline of the silhouette-image was piped onto the cookie with detail-consistency (soft peak) royal icing then filled in with flooding consistency icing. 

And the finished products: 

Happy Halloween-decorating!