2/15/17

Lamingtons

Lamingtons are soft sponge cake dipped in choclate syrup and covered in dessicated coconut.  There has been many variations on the story of how and where this delectable little cake originated. The most likely story seems to be that it was devised by Armand Galland, the French chef to Lord Lamington, Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. It is said that he accidently dropped a piece of sponge cake in chocolate syrup.

However, numerous other possibilities have been put forward. Maurice French, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Southern Queensland, who has examined the question in depth, believes that it is certain that lamingtons were named after either Lord Lamington, who served as Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901, or his wife, Lady Lamington. Most sources incline to the former option. The earliest known reference to the naming of the lamington from June 1927, links the cake to Lord Lamington.[1]

Another possible inventor is Amy Schauer, cooking instructor at Brisbane's Central College from 1897 to 1938.[2]

A 1900 recipe for Lamington Cakes has been found in the Queensland Country Life newspaper. While the recipe originated in Queensland, it spread quickly, appearing in a Sydney newspaper in 1901 and a New Zealand newspaper in 1902. However, none of these recipes indicate the creator of the recipe nor the reason for its name.[3]

However interesting the origin of this delectable little cake, the fact remains that it is a tasty morsel. In South Africa they are also known as ystervarkies. I suppose because they do look a bit like a small porcupine or hedgehog.

They were one of my favorites since I can remember and a regular on my birthday tables since childhood.  I use my mother’s recipe for the syrup, to this day, which contains granulated sugar and not confectioner's sugar.

Herewith the recipe I use for the sponge cake, followed by the syrup and then the ever present tips, hints and tricks.

For the sponge, I use the recipe from the Afrikaans book Bakboek, Wenresepte (Huisgenoot), compiled by Carmen Niehaus. (It is the same recipe I use for cupcakes.)

Ingredients for sponge
160 ml milk
60 ml butter
4 extra large eggs
375 ml caster sugar
5 ml vanilla essence
500 ml cake flour
2 ml salt
10 ml baking powder

Method
  1.               Preheat oven to 200 °C. Prepare a baking tray          
  2.           Heat the milk and butter to  boilingpoint. Remove from the heat and stir untill       butter has completely melted.
  3.               Whisk eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4.               Add sugar gradually. Whisk until sugar has disolved. Mix in essence.
  5.               Sift flour, salt and baking powder. Fold into egg mixture.
  6.              Lastly add milk and buttermixture. Whisk.
  7.             Pour batter into baking tray and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  8.              Cool and cut into small squares.

Syrup
Ingredients

  cups of water
3 cups of sugar
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder

Method
1.        Mix the cocoa powder, water and sugar and bring to a boil.
2.        Stir gently until the sugar has dissolved.
3.        Add butter.
4.        Cool.
5.        Dip the sponge squares in the syrup. Cover in coconut.

Hints, Tips and Tricks

(i)  The sugar in the syrup is a lot. I usually add less, to taste.
(ii)  I do not use butter or margarine in the syrup but the same amount of coconut oil.
(iii)  I add a bit of vanilla essence AND a pinch or so of cinnamon.
(iv)  You do not have to cut the cake into squares.  You can use a cutter of your choice. I have used hearts on occasion.

 (v)  Do not take the piece cake directly from the syrup to your bowl with coconut.  After you have dipped the cake in the syrup, place on cooling rack to allow excess syrup to drip from cake. Then place cake in plate and with your fingers cover in coconut.

 (vi)  Do not drop the cake in the syrup.  It will absorp too much syrup.  I know some like this cakes to be wet. I do not.  The syrup should cover only the outer 5 millimeters or so of the cake.
(vii)  Wether you use a cookie cutter or cut the cake into squares, do not make your individual cakes to big. A good guideline for square cakes is to be about 3.5 cm squares.

(viii)  There is another variation of syrup where confectioner's sugar (icing sugar) is used in the syrup.  This is again a matter of personal taste.  I never use icing sugar for this syrup.  It tastes too much like buttercream.

Enjoy your lamingtons!










[1] According to Wikipedia.
[2] Also according to Wikipedia.
[3] Wikipedia.

12/17/16

Gingerbread House



The Gingerbread House is not truly a Christmas tradition in South Africa, but I have an extremely soft spot for any fairytale house.  For years I have been wanting to bake and decorate a Gingerbread House, but I was  scared.  I heard about houses crumbling, tumbling and turning soft. 

Apart from sharing my tips and recipe with you today, I write to tell you that YOU CAN MAKE A GINGERBREAD HOUSE.  I must confess it was the most beautiful and easiest baking project I have ever tackled.  It can be time consuming, but it need not be.  You can spend as much time on this fairytale house as you want to. I read these words somewhere and they came up in my mind when I stood back and admired my little house: Fashioned in love was this special gift, simply to give your heart a lift.


Please look out for the tips and tricks underneath the recipe.  If you are scared to try this, then those tips and tricks are just what you need to help you climb over the fence between the “I cannot” and the “I did it”.  Lets get started.

There are many recipes you can use, I decided on one of Martjie Malan’s recipes from the Afrikaans book Koekedoor Bak (Errieda du Toit).

Gingerbread Biscuits
Recipe
150 ml water
420 g brown sugar
90 ml soft brown sugar
90 ml golden syrup
90 ml ground ginger
90 ml ground cinnamon
5 ml ground cloves
500 g butter
10 ml bicarbonate of soda
1,1 kg all-purpose flour

Method
1.     Place all the ingredients, except butter, baking soda and flour, in a pan. Over medium heat stir continuously until the mixture reaches boiling point.
2.     Remove from the heat and add the butter, cut into small squares.
3.     Add the the bicarbonate of soda after all the butter has melted. Whisk with hand whisk until well blended.
4.     Pour into electric mixter’s bowl and allow to cool.
5.     Sift flour over this mixture and turn mixer to lowest speed.  It must form a dough.
6.     Press the dough into the silicone moulds (see hints, tips and tricks). If you are going to cut the house with cutters or manually you must leave the dough in the fridge for at least two hours or over night.
7.     Bake at 160 °C (oven with fan. 180°C without a fan)  until properly baked and slightly brown at edges.
8.     Leave to cool and remove from mould. Place in airtight container over night.
9.     Decorate with royal icing (or as preferred) and assemble.

Handy hints, tips and tricks

          I obtained my mould at CNA long time ago.  However, just this week I noticed the very same mould for about R145.00 at a Bargain Books store.  You can also opt to hand cut your house.  I did not do that simply because I knew that my walls and roof would not match, no matter how many times I measure.  I have also more than a year ago, ordered via Internet a gingerbread house cutter set. It is made from stainless steel, but I have never used it. Though I plan to use it in making a fairytale house from clay.  Here is a picture of my mould-set.

After I  pressed the still warm dough into the moulds I covered them with glad wrap and left in the fridge over-night. (I do not believe that this is a pre-requisite. I merely did it because I did not have time to bake it immediately. My sister made her dough yesterday and she baked hers immediately after she pressed the dough into the moulds.)


Remember to bake the dough a bit longer than you would bake biscuits. I baked mine far too long.

     Do not remove from the moulds until it has cooled completely.  Mine popped out easily. Just remember that most (if not all) cookie dough are still soft when you remove it from the oven. It only crisps when it cools down a bit.  I waited until mine were firm, then I removed them and placed on cooling rack to cool completely.



     All the recipes I have read and all the research I did indicated that once your house elements has cooled completely you must put them in an airtight container over night and decorate the next day.  The reason for this is, that the biscuits grow more crisp over time. If you decorate too soon the dough may turn soft again.

     Many recipes suggest that you assemble the house and then decorate. I did not work in that order.  I have a dear friend who have made many gingerbread houses in her life and she advised me to decorate first and then assemble the house. 


        Herewith the recipe for the royal icing:  (I have doubled the recipe when I made it, but I am sure that it will be enough if you make it as it appears hereunder.)

Place the whites of 2 eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until foamy. Add 400 g of confectioners’ sugar a bit at a time and whisk until it thickens. Add 10 ml of lemon juice or 5 ml cream of tartar. (I prefer to use cream of tartar)  The mixture must keep its form when you lift the whisk.  I added 5 ml vanilla essence (rosewater also works well).

Spoon the mixture into different bowls and add color.  I used pink gel color.  Cover each bowl with glad wrap until you are going to use it. 


          You can decorate the house in any manner you prefer.  I have decided beforehand that I am not going to use sweets etc.  I only decorated with royal icing and sugar decorations (pink pearls, silver balls and so forth). You can even use sugar paste (fondant). The possibilities are endless. As are the colors.  My sister's eldest daughter could not understand why me and my daughter opted for pink and white. She wants it to be red and green and white, which would also look amazing. 

        I dreaded the assembly.  Yet, here I was and it was time to assemble the house.  My friend also advised me to rather use white baking chocolate to assemble the house and not royal icing because the royal icing does take a while to dry in the meantime you must hold the pieces of the house.  I forgot to buy said chocolate and decided to use the royal icing, of which was left a whole lot after I decorated the house panels.  It does take a while to dry.  I did not have patience to hold it, so I stacked various groceries from the pantry in and around the house to keep it steady until it dried.  You must wait for the walls to dry completely before you attach the roof, otherwise the whole construction will crumble. Just remember, that if you are going to use baking chocolate to buy good quality baking chocolate. And it must be baking chocolate because that turns hard when it cools down, whereas plain white chocolate would not turn hard enough to assemble the house once you have melted it.




          And it was done. My very own, and very first gingerbread house! It was the most fun, easiest and most beautiful project I have ever assembled.


         I had a lot of dough left over, so I rolled it out and cut small houses. I do not have a cutter but draw the figure on paper and cut it with a knife from the dough. I baked these and decorated them as little houses with the royal icing I had left over.  They went straight into plastic bags and onto the Christmas tree.




Vera Nazarian wrote in her “Perpetual Calender of Inspiration” that:  “The Gingerbread House has four walls, a roof, a door, a window, and a chimney. It is decorated with many sweet culinary delights on the outside. But on the inside there is nothing—only the bare gingerbread walls. It is not a real house—not until you decide to add a Gingerbread Room. That’s when the stories can move in. They will stay in residence for as long as you abstain from taking the first gingerbread bite.”

So here is my Gingerbread House.  The first story has already moved in. Make you own and watch the stories move in, your children’s delighted faces and have a blessed and peaceful festive season. I would love to hear how your little fairytale house of stories turned out.


12/2/16

CUPCAKES ARE MUFFINS THAT BELIEVED IN MIRACLES



Cupcakes are my favorite thing to make.  It is easy, delicious and you can’t be sad when you are holding a cupcake. Maryanne Radmacher (maryanneradmacher.net) said that  a little cupcake goes a long way.  That is the truth.  When I look at my finished cupcakes I always stand back and say to no one in particular: I bake … what is your superpower?[1]

Cupcakes are versatile, fun and easy.  It is perfect for any occasion and can be as grand, whimsical or plain as you require them to be. It is the ultimate crowd pleaser.  Someone once said that baking is love made edible. A cupcake is one of those baked goods which yells love.  It is the end of the year and the time when everyone starts looking for gifts. Have you ever given a gift of cupcakes? You cannot go wrong.



I have used many recipes for cupcakes and normally you can use any cake recipe to bake cupcakes. I share with you my favorite cake recipe for cupcakes.  Make sure that you do not miss the HINTS AND TIPS at the bottom of the recipe.

I got this recipe from the Afrikaans book Bakboek, Wenresepte (Huisgenoot), compiled by Carmen Niehaus. I have tried many recipes to make cupcakes, but this one always makes perfect cupcakes.

Ingredients
160 ml milk
60 ml butter
4 extra large eggs
375 ml caster sugar
5 ml vanilla essence
500 ml cake flour
2 ml salt
10 ml baking powder

Method
      1.    Preheat oven to 200 °C. Place 24 paper cupcake liners in muffin pans.
2.    Heat the milk and butter to boiling point. Remove from the heat and stir until   
            butter has completely melted.
3.    Whisk eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
4.    Add sugar gradually. Whisk until sugar has dissolved. Mix in essence.
5.    Sift flour, salt and baking powder. Fold into egg mixture.
6.    Lastly add milk and butter mixture. Whisk.
7.    Pour batter into cupcake pans and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
8.    Cool and decorate.

Frosting
I am addicted to plain vanilla cupcakes.  My second favorite would have to be rosewater and third, chocolate.  This is why cupcakes are so easy and versatile to prepare.  You can magically transform a vanilla cupcake into something extraordinary, depending on the frosting and decoration.  I share with you a basic vanilla butter cream frosting that is quick and easy.



Cream 125 g soft butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add 250g confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar). Whisk until really light and fluffy. Add milk ( 15 to 25 ml) if necessary.  Lastly add color (if desired) and essence.  You can also follow this link http://www.twosisterscrafting.com/buttercream-frosting/ where a similar recipe is demonstrated with good pictures.





Decoration
Now this is the fun part of baking cupcakes! Fairy tales DO EXIST! Just buy (or make) fondant.  Roll out and cut in different magical shapes.  Allow to air dry and use as toppers. The possibilities are endless. You can melt chocolate and pipe in interesting forms on baking paper. Allow to set and use as toppers. (Some helpful links: http://www.welivedhappilyeverafter.com/2012/08/chocolate-butterflies-using-wax-paper.html;
http://natashaskitchen.com/2013/01/15/decorating-cakes-with-chocolate/ )
Minnie Mouse Cupcakes for my daughter's fourth birthday.
A gift for a special young lady.

Butterfly cupcakes for a birthday celebration at school.

Yes, there is a cupcake under that dress! Princess cupcakes for my daughter's fifth birthday.

Fairy tale castles for my daughter's birthday.
 
Fondant tiara's for a play date.
Hints, tips and tricks

     1.    Cupcakes should be placed in a warm oven (about 200 °C).  This ensures that it rises well and evenly. 

2.    If you do have a food processor, you can make your own caster sugar.  Sometimes I prefer not to use caster sugar and use plain sugar.  (My point is, baking is for anyone. Yes, there is a reason why the recipe calls for caster sugar, but your cake, in this instance, will still be a success if you do not have caster sugar at hand.)

3.    You can freeze the cupcakes once it is cooled. Seal well. When you have no other option this works well. At my daughter’s market day we had the cupcake table for the past three years.  I start baking a month ahead of the date and freeze them.  On the day before the sale I take everything out of the freezer, allow to thaw and decorate. The butter cream can also be frozen. I usually freeze that separately.

4.    I prefer using rolkem powder color or gel color when I color my butter cream. But any color you prefer to use will suffice. Just be careful when adding color that you do not add too much (unless your goal is a dark vibrant color).

      5. If you are going to work with fondant here's a handy hint: sprinkle cornflour on the work surface and not confectioner's sugar.  The general rule is rather use confectioner's sugar since the fondant is not going to be baked and if you use cornflour it will "sit raw" on the decoration.  My reason for using cornflour is that the confectioner's sugar gets sticky and makes it difficult to work with the fondant.





      5.    If you want to transform the vanilla cupcake into a strawberry, lemon or whatever other flavour, do not add vanilla seeds or essence.  When I make rosewater cupcakes I add about a ¼ to ½ teaspoon of rosewater to the batter instead of vanilla and about a ¼ teaspoon to the frosting.  When working with rosewater rather add a drop at a time and taste, otherwise the taste may be overpowering.

6.    Do not be afraid to whisk your butter cream. The more you whisk it the better it will be.  You want a light fluffy consistency. I prefer to use Stork Bake in my butter cream. The butter cream can be frozen. Once thawed, whisk again and use to decorate. (Helpful link to demonstrate different decoration methods with butter cream: http://www.wilton.com/flower-gallery-cupcakes/WLPROJ-8292.html?crlt.pid=camp.MCC3yd3Gg0Tq#q=Flower-Gallery-Cupcakes&start=1 and one which demonstrates how to make the perfect butter cream swirl: http://bekicookscakesblog.blogspot.co.za/2011/07/cupcake-swirl.html)

     7.    I include Martha Stewart’s Cloud Frosting recipe hereunder.  It is super easy to make and tastes like marshmallow. The recipe will cover about 36 cupcakes.
Cloud Frosting
2½ cups sugar
6 egg whites, room temperature
½ cup water
½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp vanilla

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugar, egg whites, water and cream of tartar.

Whisk until foamy.

Set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and whisk until sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Transfer bowl to stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.

Beat on high speed until frosting forms stiff peaks, about 12 to 16 minutes.

Add vanilla and beat until combined.
Cloud Frosting


Now, you have no excuse whatsoever. Start baking cupcakes. Please let me know how it went!











[1] Quote from: BestFriendsForFrosting.com