Thursday, October 23, 2014

Strawberry and Pear Crumbles

 It was a brown slimy substance defrosting in a ziplock bag on the counter. Brown liquid was accumulating in the bottom. My husband came home and pulled a face of disgust as he gingerly inspected it , and asked me what on earth that ungodly looking goop on the bench was. You know, when you buy too many bananas, and they start going brown on the outside and a little soft under the skin? I peel them and pop them in a ziplock bag in the freezer, ready for banana bread when I have the chance. When I told my husband that I intended to make a cake with this squelchy mess, I think he almost passed out.
He was so disturbed by it that I promised to throw it out. The next time I served banana bread, he had no idea that I used the same method for saving my bananas, and he loved that bread! I secretly chuckle and continue with the practice. What do they say-what you don't know can't kill you? I doubt that saying rings true for many cooking substances, but hey, I've worked in kitchens and seen chefs use the ten second rule and worse multiple times. Shhh...don't tell anyone I told you!
But back to over ripe fruit, it seriously carries an intensified flavour. I'm sure it doesn't apply to all old fruit and there's a fine line between old and OLD. Browning bananas always make the best banana bread, soft tomatoes make the sweetest chutney, you get the picture.
Well, I had a bruised pear and some strawberries that were looking pretty tired. I decided to slice them up and pop them into an apple crumble style dessert, without the apple. Also, being a sucker for vintage kitchen wares, I couldn't resist the opportunity to get out those pastel ramekins!
This is a really easy, go to recipe for a quick, delicious and nutritious dessert. It took as little as five minutes to assemble.
I was so surprised by how these two fruits came together in perfect harmony, topped with a delightful oat laden buttery crumble on the top with a dollop of cream. The juices of the strawberries had coloured the pear a soft pink, and it was a very pretty and scrumptious end to a meal.

STRAWBERRY AND PEAR CRUMBLES (A Lick the Spoon original)

1 large pear
1/2 cup strawberries
1 tbsp butter, melted
3 tbsp. plain flour
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp rolled oats
Cream to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven at 180C.
Peel, core and slice the pear. Slice the strawberries. Layer these two cut fruits between two oven proof ramekins. In a small bowl, pour the melted butter. Add the flour, brown sugar and oats. Combine until a crumbly dough forms. Sprinkle this mixture over the tops of the fruit in the ramekins. Cook for 15 minutes. Cool for a few minutes before serving with cream or ice cream if desired.

Serves 2

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Traditional Home Made Sausage Rolls

I was impressed with the ease of the sausage roll recipe and the end result was so delicious. Not one person in the house could stop eating them, and when we had our fill, there were more to pop away in the freezer for another day. Who would ever settle for store bought sausage rolls after this?
Besides the amazing flavour, these sausage rolls freeze really well and are great for an afternoon snack...or pop them in the kids' lunchboxes! They'll love them.


500g lean mince beef
500g sausage mince`
2 onions, finely chopped or grated
2 eggs
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. mixed herbs
1 tbsp. BBQ sauce
3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
3 tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
3 sheets puff pastry, thawed

Preheat oven to 180C. Line and grease two baking trays.
Combine sausage and beef mince, onions, 1 egg, garlic, sauces, parsley, breadcrumbs, mixed herbs and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix until incorporated.
Cut each thawed pastry sheet in half. Brush each piece with the remaining beaten egg. Using a teaspoon, spoon a portion of mince mixture down the centre of each piece of pastry.
Roll the pastry over the mixture and press the edges to seal, leaving the ends open. With a sharp knife, cut the sausage rolls into four, then place on the trays seam side down. Brush with egg and lightly score the tops diagonally with a sharp knife.
Place in very hot oven at 250C for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Serve with BBQ or tomato sauce.

Makes  24

NOTES: These are ideal for freezing and thawing as needed!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Deconstructed No Bake Nutella Cheesecakes

Yes, food is in fashion like never before, and it looks like it is here to stay.  The Foodie Nation report states that cooking shows have inspired two thirds of us to have dinner at home over dining out or take away meals. Simple meat and three vege is so 1990's. While shows like Masterchef have increased the popularity of gourmet home cooking, it just brings to light how little so many people do know about cooking. Don't get me wrong, I'm no expert, and I am always learning from my mistakes, but the sheer lack of basic knowledge  from some adults makes my head spin. I agree, TV shows make the art of cooking look easy! Effortless even. But there's nothing like a flurry of questions on a food blog to make you realise just what people don't know about the very basics of even beginning to cook. They are tackling moderate to advanced recipes without even having ever boiled an egg before or made a cake from the box. They don't think in terms of food and how it works (there's a science to it.) Thumbs up for being enthusiastic and willing-I think its great people are thinking in terms of good and well presented food, but I think you need to start at the very beginning- it's a very good place to start!
I guess what spurred me to write this, or pushed me over the brink, was an adult person asking how to make chocolate dipped strawberries. It was a question posed on my friends cooking facebook page. They were simple chocolate dipped strawberries, no joke, and she asked my friend for the recipe! Astounded, I turned to my 4 year old son and asked him how he would make chocolate dipped strawberries. "You get the chocolate, melt it, and dip the strawberries in it." He said. Four year old logic. I had to have a quick look at this woman who didn't know how to dip strawberries in chocolate, and she was middle aged an regular looking. How she has survived until now, I do not know. Who could live without choc dipped berries, after all?
Anyway, we all have to start somewhere. Here are a few things I have learned about beginning to cook, which I have collected over the 20 years I have been baking:

1. Read the recipe before you begin, then read it again. There's nothing like getting half way though a recipe only to realise you needed plain flour and you only have Self Raising flour, or you have no idea what the soft ball stage is.

2. Utilize online forums and search engines like google if you have any doubts, and use conversion calculators or charts. So many questions I get after recipes are out of sheer laziness. "How many tablespoons is 50g butter?" Please google this and stop being lazy. You could have your answer within seconds. Having a printed conversion table is also a good plan.

3. Measure. So many people I have spoken to say that they simply throw the ingredients into the bowl, a bit of this, a bit of that, no specific measurements. This is recipe for disaster. You may be able to get away with this carefree style of cooking with a stew, but don't expect to succeed if you only put 3/4 cup flour in to that cake instead of 1 level cup. Precision isn't always key, but it is in most cooking for most ingredients.

4. Stick to your level unless you've been there for a while and are ready to take things up a notch. For example, if you have never cooked before, making macarons probably isn't the best way to start off. Get the basics down-pat first.

5. Don't mess with the recipe if you're a beginner! Maybe Jamie Oliver can substitute a carrot for a chicken and have it taste awesome, but it's best to stick to the recipe and not leave anything out or add anything if you're a beginner. Successful experimenting comes later.

6. Do the prep work, such as lining trays, preheating the oven and sifting flour. Every step is there for a good reason.

7. Don't stress if you fail! There is always next time.

And here's an easy beginner level  dessert for two that is impressive as well as delicious! it's non bake too, so it's pretty hard to be unsuccessful with these deconstructed nutella cheesecakes. They're perfect for hot summer nights when you don't want to turn on the oven, and are very quick and simple to put together. They also look elegant in tall glasses, topped with berries or shavings of chocolate.


4 chocolate biscuits, crushed
1/4 cup hazelnuts, crushed (optional)
1 heaped tsp. butter, melted
100g cream cheese, room temperature
4 tbsp. sweetened condensed milk
3 tbsp. nutella

Place the crushed biscuits and hazelnuts together in a small bowl. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Divide this mixture between two dessert glasses, reserving a teaspoon for garnishing if desired. Place in the refrigerator.
In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk and nutella together until smooth and thick. Fit a piping bag with a large star nozzle and fill with the cream cheese mixture. Pipe the mixture into the glasses, garnish with the reserved crumb mixture, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Serves 2

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Strawberry Creme Fingers

Last night I took my little daughter on a mummy-daughter date. We went shopping and had a baby chino and mini strawberry macarons together. My husband had set a meeting point for 8pm, and while heading there after our little girlie outing, I happened across a cute kitchen store that had these lovely omelet fry-pans with a non stick finish in a variety of colours. I couldn't resist, and bought a red one for my husband, knowing he would love it. Plus, his sunday omelets are to die for, and that was to be encouraged. We've been meaning to buy new fry-pans for a while and it just hasn't happened until now. I knew he'd appreciate it.
I saw him at a distance, waiting at the agreed upon spot. As I drew nearer I noticed he had a red no stick omelet fry-pan in his hand. My son ran up to me and said "Mummy! Look what we bought for you!"
Great minds think alike, right? Even the same colour!
The women at the store had a good old cackle when I took my purchase back to the store. They couldn't believe it! And I have a shiny new red fry pan.
It sort of reminded me of the idea that people and their pets begin to look alike after a long time of being together. My husband and I now think it unison. Or something like that.
Onto more exciting things, today we have Strawberry Creme Fingers for your viewing pleasure. I've been testing out my new softbox for the first time, as well as shooting in manual mode for the first time where food is concerned, and I'm rather happy with the whole combination. For the first time I have not had to edit my photos! (maybe I should have for a few, but hey, practice makes perfect.)
These elegant little fingers are perfect for a hasty, no bake afternoon tea for when you're thinking you have nothing to serve guests. I had these left over savoiardi fingers up in the cupboard after making a tirimisu. I had no idea what I was going to do with them, so I created a strawberry filling to wedge them together, and topped them with a berry (I only had some rather wizened looking frozen berries, of course fresh ones would look infinitely better) You can purchase these firm sponge fingers crusted in sugar crystals in the specialty section of most grocery stores, and last almost forever in an airtight container until you're ready to fill them. You can also use any flavoured jam in the filling, and any berries to garnish. Decadent!

 STRAWBERRY CREME FINGERS (A Lick the Spoon Original)

1 tbsp. butter, melted
2 tbsp. strawberry jam
1 tbsp. heavy/thickened cream
1 cup icing sugar
30 saviovardi sponge fingers
1 tbsp extra icing sugar to dust
15 fresh berries to garnish

Melt the butter in a small bowl. Add the jam, cream and a little of the icing sugar to the butter. Stir, gradually adding the remaining icing sugar. Beat on high with an electric beater or mixer until thick, smooth and creamy. Fit a piping bag with a small star nozzle, and spoon the filling into the bag. Pipe lines of this mixture along the centre of half of the sponge fingers. Place the uniced sponge fingers on top of the iced ones to form pairs. On one end of each pair, pipe a small star, and top with a fresh berry. Dust with the extra icing sugar before serving, if desired.

Makes 15

Step by step photos:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blue Cushion Christening Cake with Sugar Veil Lace

I'm sitting in the silence of my home with a forbidden late night coffee and naughty chocolate biscuits from the stash no one knows about. I can hear the low rumble of my dessert stomach asking for more chocolate and caramel, and who am I to deny it?
I deserve it-finally the kitchen and living room have recovered from the last cake explosion-to my husband's delight it is tidy and clean again. It's not the kind of interesting explosion where the oven flies open and spurts of semi-cooked chocolatey lava-like cake batter comes blurting out. Its the two day cake mess, and then days of aftermath. First of all, there are three small people under the age of five that abide in my home. They all like to get very involved whenever anything edible comes out and it's a recipe for sticky disaster. The rolling pins are dug out and they need their share of fondant and cutters-a quick and easy trade for 10 uninterrupted minutes. Moments later there are sticky footprints on the wall and lumps of sucked fondant through my daughter's hair. And if you have seen my Vienna Rose, that's a discovery worth crying over. She has the curliest cloud of hair and it's like to removing bubble gum when anything makes its way into that glorious bird nest.
I love cake decorating. But attempting it with kids make it awfully, awfully hard to do successfully, and hence, world war three zone becomes a reality. Every time.
I am certain my cake decorating interest is a burden for my husband. It comes with a load-or should I say loads.That is mountains of bowls and pots and sticky things in our tiny kitchen. And those fondant foot prints up the wall, I mean, how on earth?
It takes me about a week of dish washing o finally have a cleared kitchen again. Time to get a dishwasher. But here's the cake that came of the mayhem. A gorgeous pale blue cushion with bows at each corner, featuring sugar veil lace trims and a we fondant baby under a crochet rug. It was for my Godson's christening-and worth the trouble.

It was my first time using the sugar veil and mats to create the lace. I live in a subtropical climate, so this stuff can be the substance of nightmares, and a sticky one to boot. It is quite unstable in humid climates, and I baked it rather than leaving it to set for hours (which I wasn't sure it would do any way considering where I live.) The oven was effective for the most part, with significant trial and error. I was thrilled with the lace it created, as it added a very elegant and delicate touch to the cake. You can fix this lace with water, and I also added small pearl cashous to the top of the swags for a finished look. The cake itself was a 20x20cm square Mississippi mud cake, cooked in a square pyrex dish with rounded edges. The centre sunk a little after cooling but it gave the impression of softness when covered, especially as the baby lay in the middle of the cake. I lightly carved down to the corners of the cake and curved the sides inwards to create the pillow cake look I was going for. Before laying the fondant, I did a thorough crumb coat with coffee flavoured butter cream icing, refrigerated it, and went over it again for a final and smoother coat of butter cream icing.
The baby is less than perfect, as it was my back up baby which I never thought I'd have to use. Silly me left the cake on the table, and came back to find the cake intact in every way but the baby was carefully removed by little fingers. I found it in my daughter's mouth moments later, and she was hiding behind the door. While impressed by her delicate removal system, and grateful I didn't have to remake the whole cake, baby two had to be inserted under that crochet cover, and he happened to have a bit of a scarred face. Don't look too closely!
So-ever wonder why cakes are so expensive to have made? So much work and detail goes into them, even the simple looking ones-It's too hard to put a price on the hours and hours of work that creating a cake entails. If I was paid by the hour for this I'd be charging an arm and a leg! So cakes will be few and far between..for personal eating only and for very select VIP like my new Godson Raffie. When the babies are grown, I'd like to make cakes for everyone. When the time and the environment is right. Bring it on!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Brisbane Cake Expo 2014

Last Sunday I went with a few friends to check out the first ever cake exhibition in Brisbane, expecting to see nothing but the best. We were not disappointed, as the finest and most talented cakies out there had put on a show. I was in such a hurry to immerse myself in cakes and fondant that I unfortunately forgot to put the memory card in my Canon. Sad, sad me became one of the masses, holding my dodgy phone cam up to snap cakes from afar. On coming home and showing some of the gloriously grainy pictures of amazing cakes to friends, it shocked me how some people viewed the artistic talent. While I am simply floored by the intricacy and creativity of these marvels on display, it appears not everyone thought they were that amazing...they spoke of taste over appearance. Maybe the old phrase "it's what's on the inside that counts" rings true even in the professional cake world?
So-it got me thinking-where do we cross a boundary with art and food?  Is there such a thing as too much art in food, to the point that we lose sight of what it actually is-cake? Some cakes, I admit, did look too heavily donned in fondant for the designs sake, to actually taste good (without of course, peeling it off as most people do anyway.)

But-who eats the cake anyway? Isn't it really just the obligatory centre piece at a party these days? It may as well look amazing as be edible!
I like to think of the two combined. The deliciously adorned cake. It adds a certain excitement, a focal point at a party. Of course though, when the percentages of fondant out weigh the percentage of cake, perhaps that is when we ought to call it art and not cake. What's your opinion?
Anyway, I am here to share my grainy photos and to tell you what seems to be the trend at the moment in the world of cakes. Here's what was making waves:

Sequins-edible sequins (usually gold)
Rice paper creations-rice paper cut and formed into roses etc.
Edible lace-sugar veil continues to make elegant waves!
Nude/naked cakes-I spotted only a few of these but know they're new on the cake scene
Metallics- lots of gold and silver, either as highlights or more solid splashes (tiers, sequins, glitter, use of edible gold leaf for a really shiny finish)

Nude/naked two tier cake with fresh lisianthus.

Cut out discs of peach coloured rice paper form these stunning edible roses. They are apparently affixed together only with spots of water.  Such a pretty delicate decoration.

Pretty purple floral cake pops and ornate cake stands for sale.

Cupcake towers are still very popular.

 Over-sized fondant flower on a plain two tier cake, and the other cake with a combination of watercolour sponging, gold metallic edible paint and fondnat flowers

 Some of the amazing creations in the competition. I was surprised that these were all fondant covered cakes! There were no chocolate paneled cakes, iced cakes or naked cakes to be seen.

 Alice in Wonderland tea party cake which stood over a metre tall.

Disney Frozen movie cake with giant glittering snowflake on top

 One of my favourites. It was so elegantly and simply decorated, while being quite unique. Three white tiers with giant pink and white cabbage roses made of rice paper, paired beautifully with fondant succulents! What a delight. Loved the cake board too, such an elegant finish.

 Gold sequined tiers alternating with light grey tiers, with intricate detail to each sequin. It also features a floral garland with splashes of lace. I think these flowers were also made with rice paper.

 Two tier cherry cake featuring printed  rice paper discs and ribbon.

 Pastels, bows, ribbons,lace, roses and elegant!

 Quite amazing use of suspension here with this paint tin and brush cake. Love the wood look cake board.

Another Disney Frozen cake.

 Monster's Inc. and Toy Story cake

Little girl with balloons cake. I loved how unique this cake was. Not sure what the balloons were made of but I would say it's some sort of sugar blowing decoration (like glass blowing)

 Bridal cupcake towers featuring fresh flowers, fondant flowers lace and elegant floral pastel decorations.

Pretty pastel cupcakes

 I'm kind of obsessed with these cupcake towers.

 Suspended milk jug cake with strawberries, custard and mice. Awesome wood look cake board.

Black, white and gold makes for a glitzy and glam wedding or birthday cake

 I love this rustic three tiered naked cake with jam filling and fresh flowers! I want to sink my teeth right into it.

 Bling cake with ruffles and sequins and sparkled

Shiny metallic gold cake tier made with edible gold leaf, featuring black, gold and white peonies and ruffles.