Friday, December 14, 2012

Pipeable White Chocolate Ganache

What foods say Christmas to you?
At Christmas, I personally can't go without cherries, white chocolate and brandy custard. Gingerbread, pavlova and mince pies also come runners up. What's your favourite Christmas food?
I had a lovely lady ask me the other day how to make white chocolate ganache. She specified that it was for piping, however she was unable to get the ganache thick enough and firm enough to pipe at all. So here we have it, a recipe that's good for ganache anyway you want it--be it for dipping, drizzling, spreading or piping. It's very versatile and I think it's practically foolproof. You can use it for dipping as soon as it's cooled, or for spreading after sitting a little longer. If you want to pipe it, you whip it after refrigeration. Its a win win recipe.
I used compound Nestle's Melts cooking chocolate but you can use any type of cooking chocolate. The better quality, the better the result. Also, a little rule of thumb--always twice as much chocolate as cream!

Here we've paired the pipe-able White Chocolate Ganache with Dutch Spaculaas and fresh Cherries...perfect for Christmas!


1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup white chocolate chips (I used Nestle compound white melts)

Place the cream in a small saucepan. Place over a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbles begin to form around the edges. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate chips, and arrange them so that the cream covers them. Place a lid on the saucepan and sit for two minutes. Remove the lid and using a hand whisk, beat until the cream and the chocolate are incorporated and smooth. Sit on the benchtop until cool enough to refrigerate. Refrigerate for an hour. Beat the ganache mixture with electric beaters, for 1-2 minutes, until thick and creamy. Pipe onto your cake or dessert as desired.

Makes approximately 1 1/4 cups of ganache

Sorry about the grainy photos--my kitchen is poorly lit!

NOTES: If you desire pourable or dip-able ganache, simply use before refrigeration. The ganache thickens the longer you let it sit, in or out of the refrigerator.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dutch Spaculaas

My Opa was a Dutch gentleman with a family of 11 children. I suppose there wasn't a whole lot of money to go around. But when all the children left home I'm guessing there was more room for some niceties. I can still see him taking down a big square silver tin from the cupboard, beautifully embossed, and taking the lid off. There was a particular aroma that then flowed from within, marzipan and spices, and a delicious selection of European biscuits all on display.  There were the most delicious moist almond cakes and divine, large, round biscuits with a wafer  base. There were Spaculaas and chocolate dipped Bokkenpootjes. Pfeffernusse and Nurnberger Lebkuchen. All mouthwatering. I wish I could remember all the names of them!
There was a bit of a theme I noticed--spices and almonds. They seemed to be the common factor in a lot of the specialty biscuits.
This simple recipe for spaculaas combines both spices and almonds. Traditionally spaculaas has the imprint of a windmill on them, but I don't happen to possess any fancy molds. They're just as tasty without a pretty picture on them, or you can do as I did and roll a lace doily print onto the uncooked dough first. Slivered almonds also make for a lovely surface where a print cannot be found, and add lovely texture and flavour.
Prepare for your house to be filled with a cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and buttery aroma! It's truly magnificent. And these biscuits taste exactly like the spaculaas you can buy in the stores, with that fantastic melt in your mouth buttery texture.
God bless my Opa's cotton socks--he gave me some European taste buds I am most grateful for. I'm pretty sure I passed those onto my children too--they can't get enough of these biscuits! (And if you're one of those naughty raw cookie dough eaters, this recipe is egg-less, so you're safe to eat great quantities of it--if your heart so desires!)


225g butter, room temperature
170g brown sugar
140g plain flour
140g Self Raising flour
2 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup slithered almonds

Preheat the oven at 180C.
Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Sift in the flours and spices. Combine until a soft dough forms. Roll out the dough between two pieces of plastic film (such as Glad wrap). If you wish to imprint the top with a lace pattern, leave out the top layer of plastic and lightly dust the surface with a little extra flour before placing the doily down and rolling once to achieve the print. Cut into rectangles or any shape using a cookie cutter. Place on greased and paper lined trays. If you want to decorate the biscuits with slithered almonds, do so when the raw dough is on the tray.
Cook for 15-20 minutes.
Allow to sit for 5 minutes on the tray before moving to a wire cooling rack.

Makes about 40

My handsome Opa on the right in the 1940s

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pastel Bird Cage Cake

I think I've lost my mojo. It sometimes happens when I get sick. Or burn something. Or a special cake melts due to the heat.
I'm pretty sure all those things happened to me in the last two weeks. My little daughter turned one, and I attempted to make her a pink and white birdcage cake, covered in pastel rolled fondant roses.
It turned out looking like the leaning tower of Pisa, after I made the mistake of icing the layers with buttercream icing.
In summer.
In Brisbane.
With weather forecasts of close to 40C.
We tried to salvage the cake by putting it in the aircon, but even still, the cake leaned and leaned  and slipped and slid until it cracked horizontally half way and the top looked like it would topple. Due to the leaning, the icing began to tear and the white chocolate used for the cage lines began to crack and bow.
Thanks to my husband, we saved the cake from completely falling into a heap. He came to the rescue just before it collapsed and propped it upright with a small cushion against the wall. Oh the things you have to do to save cake sometimes!
Despite all this, I think, before it leaned all the way over and cracked, it looked pretty in all its pastel glory. My little darling was wrapped in it.  Thank goodness for her one year old eyes overlooking the flaws. I couldn't wait for the party when I could finally let the darn thing collapse as it so desired.

To learn how to make your own rolled fondant roses, follow the tutorial here.