Fraisier Cake

Fraisier Cake

The first time I heard of this cake was when it was announced as the technical in patisserie week on The Great Australian Bake Off. I’m still sketchy about whether this fits the theme, I was expecting pastry, not cake filled with pastry cream but it does demonstrate pastry skills in terms of the type of filling and cake and incorporating fresh fruit into the pastry cream. Being told the name gave me no indication of what we were about to cook, I don’t speak French and had never seen one of these cakes. Turns out “fraisier” is French for strawberry, and apparently, a lot of non-French speakers, who are more cultured than me, would know this…
After just reading the recipe in the technical I fell in love with this cake. I didn’t win the technical challenge on the day but I loved this cake so much I worked out how to make a version that tastes the similar to the one we made on the show back at home and best of all found a couple of ways to speed up the process.
Matt’s breathtakingly beautiful original recipe can be found on lifestyle.com.au/bakeoff  Check it out to see where I deviated and how close I got working from memory/researching other recipes before the Bake Off recipe was released.
Matt’s recipe is definitely my favourite technical from the show and it’s become a new family favourite and regular bake. The original recipes I found to reference when I was trying to recreate were all pretty much the same as the Mary Berry version. The old-fashioned versions are nice but all the recipes I found had way too much cornflour. Matt elevates his classic recipes and refines them further by getting the perfect balance of egg and flour. His food is perfection and never tastes floury, his clafoutis recipe from the show has hardly any flour and has a silkier texture than any other clafoutis recipe I have tried since. His version of mousseline is still the best tasting one I have found.

Hot tip: If you’re looking for a specific recipe or to try something new, check and see if there is a Matt Moran version first because it will be the best version that has ever existed. Matt’s not in the public conscious as a pastry chef because his savoury food is so well known and so celebrated, but he takes standards in baking to the next level. 

I try hard not to deviate from the perfection that is Matt’s recipe but I do change the methods
My sponge method makes a slightly lighter and less finicky cake using the same ingredients, and I skip a few steps like tempering the eggs into the milk for the mousseline, it’s not necessary if you bring the mix to temperature while stirring, it requires another couple of minutes of stirring, but speeds the overall process up a lot.

This recipe makes a dessert which is surprisingly light and fresh, it gets its sweetness largely from the fruit and the marzipan.
If you are not a marzipan fan, this might change your mind, it’s a thin beautiful sliver of sweet nutty deliciousness to balance the fruit. The recipe here doesn’t taste of almond essence at all, it’s really well balanced, but if you or a family member are whingers then leave the essence out and it will still taste amazing. The essence does add a depth of flavour that balances really well with the strawberry and is worth trying. 

Ingredients

Sponge (Génoise – But let’s just go with sponge)
4 Eggs – separated
125g caster sugar
125g cake flour – (low protein flour)
2 tsp baking powder
50g melted butter
zest of 2 lemons – very finely zested
Cornflour and spray cnola oil for lining the tin.

Strawberry syrup
80g finely sliced strawberries
80g caster sugar
70g water
1 tbsp Cointreau
Juice of half a lemon

Crème Mousseline – (Pastry cream with butter folded through)
500ml full cream milk
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
3 eggs.
60g cornflour
100g caster sugar
200g unsalted butter, just slightly cooler than room temp
1Tbsp Cointreau

Filling and decoration
600-700g Strawberries
approx. 2 tbsp icing sugar

Marzipan 
1½ cups of almond meal
1½ cups of pure icing sugar
1 egg white
1 teaspoon of Almond essence
1/2 teaspoon of Rosewater

(I’ll go back and work out the weights for this marzipan at some point, but this rough ratio is just how I’ve always made marzipan, although I usually use rum, brandy, vanilla or just almond essence on its own, depending on the application) 

Method

Sponge
Line a 9” springform cake tin with baking paper, spray with canola, flour with cornflour, tapping off excess, preheat oven to 180 C
Whip egg whites in a stand mixer until they start to form soft peaks, add caster sugar a quarter cup at a time whipping until the sugar dissolves after each addition. Continue mixing until all the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites have been whipped to stiff peaks. Making a meringue base first lightens this mix a lot.
Melt the butter in a microwave, then set aside to cool a little, break up the egg yolks with a fork. Add zest and butter to the egg yolks and mix with the fork to combine, pour the egg yolk, butter mix into the whites and mix on high just until combined, about 2-7 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom to fold through any streaks of egg white.
Sift the flour and baking powder together, then sift onto the meringue-like egg mixture and fold through gently with a spatula, avoid over mixing or knocking out the air, I usually just turn the mixer on for 2-3 seconds, scrape down the sides and mix it again for another 2 seconds to combine. Pour mix into the tin and spread to the sides and level off the top with a spatula, bake for approximately 25 minutes. Check the centre is cooked with a cake tester as soon as the sides begin to shrink away from the pan slightly. Take it out as soon as a cake tester skewer comes out clean.  Do not open the oven in the first 20 minutes of baking or the cake will deflate. Baking time will vary greatly depending on the oven so keep a close eye on it. Let the cake cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack that has a sheet of baking paper over it. Allow to cool then cut the cake into two fairly even layers with a bread knife.

To make cutting the cake in half easier, I find wrapping the cake in cling film and popping it in the fridge speeds the cooling, locks in the moisture and makes layering it easier.

Crème mousseline
Combine all ingredients except for the butter in a medium-sized pot. Cook while constantly whisking until the custard thickens. Continue to cook while whisking until it is very, very thick, should be able to lift a heaped spoon out and have it hold its shape for a second before collapsing. Transfer the custard to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium-high until the custard is cool to the touch, roughly 10 – 15 minutes. Drop in the cubed slightly soft butter and mix on high until it is incorporated, stop as soon as the butter is combined and a little bit of air has been incorporated, it should not take more than 2 or three minutes.
Do not over mix or it will curdle, but it is nice to whip a little air into the mix if possible. Cover with clingfilm and place in fridge until ready to use.

If the butter or custard is too warm the mousseline will curdle. It’s easier to use soft butter, but not be too soft. In summer, my kitchen is very hot so I use half room temp and half very finely diced cold butter to ensure I get the right consistency.

Strawberry syrup
Combine all ingredients in a small pot, heat until the mixture boils, turn down heat and simmer for 5 minutes, take off heat and set aside to cool. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and discard the fruit, do not crush the cooked strawberries or force them through the sieve or the syrup will go cloudy. (I keep the stewed fruit and eat it on ice cream later… It is delicious!)

Marzipan
Place the almond meal and sugar into a food processor and blitz for a couple of minutes while shaking the processor to ensure even milling, pour in the essences and process for a few seconds more, add the egg white and process until a dough ball begins to form. Tip out the dough and knead until smooth, store in a ziplock bag until ready to use.

Decoration and filling
Remove the green leafy tops from the strawberries, removing as little of the strawberry as possible then wash them. Find 14-16 strawberries of roughly equal width and height, cut in half lengthways, put to one side to use as decoration around the side of the cake. Save approximately 10 strawberries to slice for decoration on the top of the cake. Dice the remaining strawberries into equal sized pieces, dicing them into eighths is usually fine, set aside to be used in the filling.

Assembly
Line a 9” springform tin with acetate, and place on a cake board or serving platter or use a straight-sided bottomless cake ring. I use an adjustable cake ring that resizes from 6″-12″ because I struggle to find acetate in Perth at a reasonable price. Place the top half of the cake in the ring, cut side up this will be the base of the completed cake. Brush very generously with the strawberry syrup. The syrup adds flavour, but also brings some moistness back to the sponge, so don’t be stingy with it. 
Arrange the halved strawberries cut side out and pointy end up around the edge of the cake ring. Spread just over 1/3 of the mousseline over the cake and inside the ring of strawberries. Top this layer of mousseline with the chopped strawberries then cover with most of the remaining mousseline (keep about 3 heaped tablespoons of mousseline aside). Ensure even coverage with the mousseline and that there are no air pockets between the chopped strawberries or the decorative sides. It’s a good idea to gently run a spoon through to mix the mousseline strawberry layer as it’s being assembled to an ensure even distribution of strawberries and mousseline.
Paint the cut side of the remaining half cake (the bottom will now become the top) with strawberry syrup. Place the cut side down on top of the mousseline and strawberries. Spread the remaining mousseline on top in a thin, even layer.
Roll out the marzipan between two pieces of baking paper, until it is big enough to cover the top of the cake. Trace out a circle to the same size and shape as the inside of the cake tin and cut the marzipan to size. Or if using a cake ring or your acetate is even at the top just peel off the paper and lay on top of the cake ring or acetate and used the edge to cut the marzipan to size. Gently press the marzipan onto the top of the cake, neatening up the edges. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes then refrigerate for half an hour before unmoulding the cake from the cake ring.

Dust the top generously with icing sugar then slice and arrange the remaining strawberries on the top.
Avoid getting any sugar on the strawberries or they will macerate and bleed juice all over the cake.

 

Mexican Paste – Sugar Paste – Flower paste

Sugarpaste roseMexican paste is great for making fine flower petals. This is my favourite paste for making sugar flowers, it has a generous drying time, dries hard and is humidity resistant once dry. It’s fast to make, cheap, super reliable and lets me roll paper thin petals for flowers.

Ingredients:
3 teaspoons CMC or Tylose powder
250 grams of pure icing sugar
35 ml hot water (35g)
2 level teaspoons Crisco, copha  or other solid vegetable fat
1 rounded teaspoon light corn syrup or glucose

Rub the bowl and paddle attachment of a strong stand mixer with a thin film of Crisco, use part of the 2 tsp to coat the bowl. Sift in the icing sugar and CMC powder, turn the mixer on low for two turns to ensure the CMC and icing sugar are mixed. 
Heat the corn syrup, Crisco, and water together in a microwave-safe mug until the Crisco starts to melt, usually 40 seconds or so will do it, alternatively heat in 10-second intervals and stir until the Crisco is fully melted. 

Start the mixer on low then pour the hot liquid in a steady stream, turn up the speed to medium and beat for a minute, stop if/when the mixer sounds like it is starting to struggle. 

Turn the still warm sticky mixture onto a lightly greased bench and knead for a few seconds. Seal in zip lock bags and keep covered until ready for use. Leave the mixture to rest and cool for at least an hour before using it.

I find it easiest to make triple batches, I vacuum seal them in small amounts and freeze them until I’m ready to use them. 

I make super brightly coloured Mexican paste by weighing the colour and the water together to make up the total weight of the water.

Mexican Paste

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mexican Paste (Flower Paste)
Mexican paste is great for making fine flower petals. If you mix it with fondant it creates a great paste for sculpting figures. This is my favourite paste for making sugar flowers, it is fast to make, cheap, super reliable and lets me roll paper thin petals for flowers.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 teaspoons CMC or Tylose powder
  2. 250 grams of pure icing sugar
  3. 35 ml hot water (35g)
  4. 2 teaspoons Crisco or other solid vegetable fat
  5. 1 rounded teaspoon light corn syrup
Instructions
  1. Rub the bowl and paddle attachment of a strong stand mixer with a thin film of crisco.
  2. Sift in the icing sugar and CMC powder, turn the mixer on low for two turns to ensure the CMC and icing sugar are mixed.
  3. Heat the corn syrup, Crisco and water together in a microwave safe mug until the Crisco starts to melt, usually 40 seconds or so will do it, alternatively heat in 10 second intervals and stir until the Crisco is fully melted.
  4. Start the mixer on low then pour the hot liquid in in a steady stream, turn up the speed to medium and beat for a minute, stop if/when the mixer sounds like it is starting to struggle.
  5. Turn the still warm sticky mixture onto a lightly greased bench and knead for a few seconds. Seal in zip lock bags and keep covered until ready for use. Leave the mixture to rest and cool for at least an hour before using it.
  6. I find it easiest to make triple batches, I vacuum seal them in small amounts and freeze them until I’m ready to use them.
  7. I make super brightly coloured Mexican paste by weighing the colour and the water together to make up the total weight of the water.
Notes
  1. Dust surfaces with cornflour to stop sticking. Can be refreshed with a tiny smear of crisco, or copha.
  2. Can be mixed with fondant or pastillage to make very good paste for modelling detailed figurines etc.
  3. It is easier to work in larger quantities I usually make this in kilo - 1.5 kilo batches and freeze in small portions in vacuum sealed bags.
Robert's Cakes and Cooking https://robertscakesandcooking.com/

Pavlova with Passion Fruit Curd and Berries

Pavlova with Passion Fruit Curd and Berries

Nothing beats the classics when it comes to pavlova. I have updated my basic recipe with some tangy passionfruit curd.

Fresh berries, cream, and curd are all this pavlova needs to be a perfectly balanced dessert.

The one pictured here was thrown together in the space of a few minutes on Christmas day. I baked the bases and made the curd the day before. On the day, I only had to whip the cream and assemble the pieces… Even exhausted and a little inebriated it still comes together well. This is how I usually make my pavlovas… the recipe, not the inebriation…
This gloriously simple, straightforward and delicious recipe is included below…

The recipe I developed and baked on the Great Australian Bake Off was the result of me overthinking and getting a bit too experimental. Hideous panicked over decorating aside, the Bake Off one is a pretty good mix, but there’s just a bit much going on. Nothing beats the basics, the passion fruit and berry recipe here is truly my family’s favourite.  Amusingly, if you do check out my disastrous overdesigned Bake-Off recipe, I recommend ignoring the bit about the pavlova, or trying to assemble the components into a pavlova… However, the recipe does contain a few really nifty recipes for different pastry creams, stabilised cream, cherry reduction, roasted cherries, fruit glaze.. all of which work great… for other applications… not so much for pavlova….
Be sure to check out the other incredible recipes from the show on the lifestyle/bakeoff page. 🙂

 

Ingredients:

Pavlova

8 large egg whites (just standard large eggs, not xl or jumbo)
2.5 cups of caster sugar
1/2 tsp Concentrated  Natural  vanilla extract
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp fine table salt

Passionfruit Curd

8 yolks
200g sugar
250ml passionfruit pulp and juice- Strain out the seeds. Fresh is great if you have a vine, but canned pulp works absolutely fine!
1 tbsp lemon juice
170g unsalted butter, cubed
1 level tbsp of Cornflour
pinch of salt

Other fillings and decoration

600ml thickened cream
You can use regular whipping cream and stabilise it with gelatine, but thickened cream in Australia already has stabilising ingredients so it will hold its shape once it’s whipped, and it’s a lot less faffing about.

Fresh Berries:

1 punnet of raspberries
1 large punnet of strawberries
1 punnet of blueberries
1/2 punnet of fresh red currants
Fresh pitted cherries, sliced peaches, mangoes or kiwi fruit also make nice additions/alternatives, but the key fruits mentioned above are more than sufficient. 

Method:

Passion Fruit Curd:

Strain the passion fruit seeds from the juice through a coarse sieve. 
Mix the cornflour with 2 or 3 tbsp of the juice to form a lump free, thin cornflour paste. 
Dump all the ingredients for the curd into a saucepan,  and whisk to combine.
Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer while whisking continually to prevent lumps or sticking. 
Continue to heat and whisk until the mixture thickens to the consistency of pourable custard. 

Avoid overheating, the mix should never go above a very gentle simmer, you’re making Curd, not jam. 
Strain it through a sieve to remove any lumps and chill. The curd will thicken up a little more as it cools.

Leftover curd is great in other deserts, it works great as a filling for choux buns along with pastry cream. 
I like it spread very thick on white bread. 

This recipe makes a fairly loose curd, once cold it will be spreadable, but still very slightly runny.

 

Pavlova

Separate eggs, retain the egg yolks for use in the curd later on.

Wipe over the bowl and whisk attachment of a stand mixer with vinegar. Place egg whites, salt and sugar in the bowl together and start mixing on low for a minute before increasing the speed to high. Mix on high for at least 15 minutes, or until the mixture feels nearly smooth when pinched and rubbed between your fingertips. Mixing the sugar and egg white all together at the start helps the sugar dissolve quicker and more smoothly. The vinegar and salt help to stabilise the egg whites.
After 15 minutes the mix should be at the stiff peaks stage. Add the vinegar and vanilla, mix for another couple of minutes to incorporate, add the lemon juice and mix a further couple of minutes.

While the egg whites are whipping preheat the oven to 120C.

Line three large biscuit tray with baking paper. Draw a 20cm circle on the underside of the paper to act a a guide.

Spoon an even amount of the pavlova meringue into the centre of each circle. Gently level off the top and push the meringue to the edge of the circle.

Bake for 1 hour in total, be sure to turn the trays and change the shelves the trays are on after half an hour of baking to ensure even cooking.

After an hour turn off the oven and leave to cool in the oven with the door very slightly ajar, wedge open slightly with a heatproof oven mitt or tea towel. It is important the pavlovas don’t cool down too quickly or the heat shock will cause the marshmallow-like meringue in the middle to contract quickly leaving big hollows and the crunchy outside will crack. Some cracks are inevitable and are not a bad thing, but the outside should not completely shatter away from the inside.

Once the pavlovas are completely cool they can be stored at room temperature in a loosely covered container until ready to use, they will last a day or two stored in a cool dry place, kept away from humidity.

To assemble:

Place the thickest or most untidy layer on a cake board or serving plate. Spread the top with passion fruit curd, evenly sprinkle on sliced strawberries, some torn raspberries, blueberries and fresh red currants, then add a layer of whipped cream. Top with the second pavlova layer, then repeat the curd fruit and cream and top with the final layer of pavlova (usually the most attractive and even layer). Spread with passion fruit curd, top with cream. Arrange raspberries and sliced strawberries in alternating rings, and scatter the top with red currants and blueberries. Dot on fresh passion fruit pulp or leftover curd.

 

 

Chicken Fajitas with flour Tortilla Recipe

Chicken Fajitas

I cobbled together this recipe based on a dish I had in a good Mexican restaurant. It’s even better with homemade flour tortillas, the flour tortilla recipe is included below.

Makes about 8-12 small tortillas and will easily serve 3 to 4 people.

Ingredients

3 chicken thigh fillets, or 2 smallish breast fillets, diced
Half of a large red capsicum coarsely diced
Half of a large green capsicum coarsely diced
Roughly 1 cup of broccoli cut into bite sized florets, about half a small head of broccoli
Roughly 3/4 cup of Cauliflower cut into bite-sized florets, about 1/3 of a small head of Cauliflower
1 medium brown onion roughly chopped
1/2 a cup of chicken stock
1/3 of a cup of dry white or red wine or a splash of tequila…
2 teaspoons of brown sugar.
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Juice of half a lime

Ingredients for spice mix:

Roughly 1 tablespoon each of:
Black or mixed peppercorns
Cumin seeds
Annatto seeds (or half a tablespoon of Achiote paste added after grinding the spices.)
Dried chili flakes (optional – use less  or leave out if you want it milder)
Dried oregano
Ground paprika. (I like half regular and half smoked ground paprika)
Include half a teaspoon of coarse salt, this helps the grinding

*You can use already ground spices. It makes it a lot faster and easier, but it is a bit harder to balance the flavours. The spices are tastier lightly toasted, and they are easier to toast whole.

Condiments

2 small tomatoes, finely diced
Finely shredded lettuce
Sour cream
Hot chili sauce
Finely sliced spring onions, or chives
Optional fresh coriander and/or oregano.

Spice mix method

In a small frying pan gently toast the spices, they tend to make a popping noise once they are ready. Set them aside to cool. Add all herbs and spices to a food processor and process until you have a fine powder, the same effect can be achieved with a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Sift the spice mix through a coarse sieve to remove any large gritty pieces from the spice mix and set aside ready for use.
I find the annatto seeds I buy are very tough and hard to grind. So I usually use a lot more as there will be a fair amount that won’t go through a sieve, these tooth hazards should be discarded. 

Chicken Method

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a deep, heavy-based frying pan. Fry off onions until nearly transparent, then add chicken and fry lightly to seal it, turn down heat and add the spice mix, add the capsicums and mix to coat the chicken thoroughly, brown the chicken but the inside should not be cooked yet.  Add about a quarter cup of stock and the tomato puree, try not to add too much liquid you need only enough to deglaze the pan and to allow the chicken to simmer and simmer gently for about 12 minutes.  Add a splash of wine or tequila, and cook out the alcohol, top up sparingly with stock to prevent the mix from drying out completely, there should only be a minimal amount of liquid which will thicken to a gravy-like consistency.  Prepare the condiments while the chicken is cooking. Add the broccoli and cauliflower To the and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the broccoli is cooked.

Serve the Chicken in a separate bowl and assemble your fajitas by putting the desired amounts of each filling and folding to eat.

 

Tortilla Ingredients

3/4 cup of warm milk

1 and a half teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of fine ground table salt

2 cups of plain flour

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, lard,  sunflower oil, olive oil or Vegetable oil

A couple of teaspoons of oil for cooking the tortillas.

Tortilla Method

Mix dry ingredients and oil together, this should result in a crumb-like mixture, pour in the warm milk and knead until smooth, place in a bowl covered with a damp cloth for 20 minutes, divide into small balls, 8 for big tortillas or up to sixteen for smaller ones, I prefer smaller tortillas, Leave the portioned dough to rest under plastic wrap for a further ten minutes. Roll into 3mm thick circles, small ones should be about 15-20cm wide, dust lightly with flour to prevent them sticking to each other and set aside under a plastic wrap until you are ready to cook them. cook one by one, take a flattened Tortilla.  Cook on a medium-high heat in a lightly oiled heavy-based frying pan until it puffs up a little and is toasted lightly on both sides.  Cook for about 1 minute each side, slightly less on the second side.  Be careful not to overcook or they will become crunchy. They need to be properly cooked, but still soft and able to be folded. They should be mostly light coloured and flexible with dark toasted spots where the bread bubbles during cooking.

The tortillas will sometimes blow up like pillows, just gently push most of the air out and turn over to cook the other side.

Repeat for the other tortillas.

Modelling Paste Recipe (Pastillage)

Modelling pasteThe pastillage recipe after the photos is extremely simple and cheap to make. I’ve found it fairly easy and pretty reliable. The recipe is essentially an old fashioned version of pastillage. I have been using this recipe for years to create everything from sugar paste flowers to simple figurines. Best of all it is gluten free and has just three ingredients and water, all of which you can get at any supermarket. This is perfect for structural pieces like the soles and heels of sugar shoes, wired centres for sugar flowers or very thin structural decorations. 

Because of how fast this mix dries I do not recommend it for flower petals or for super detailed modelling. Mexican paste, fondant or modelling chocolate are better options, however this does create a paste that sets super hard like concrete, is super strong and you can even file or sand it to smooth pieces.

This is my wedding cake. It was the first wedding cake I made on my own. After quite a bit of searching, my wife found a picture of a cake she liked online. We changed the design to suit us, increased the overall scale of the cake, and changed the colours to match our theme.

The cake was layered chocolate with dark chocolate ganache, all covered in ganache and then fondant.

sugar paste recipe

I struggled with the flowers due to insane humidity and evaporative air conditioning… Also, just about any other medium would have been a better option, I now use homemade Mexican paste for flowers.

I ended up going to my parent’s house and making the day before, taking advantage of their good air conditioning…

This was also a few years ago, before I had discovered petal cutters, veiners and before I understood that sugar flowers usually take a few days to make… and petals on bigger flowers need time to dry before assembling… And that a pinch of tylose or CMC or tylose would have conquered the humidity, fixed the texture and set the petals up in about half an hour and removed the struggle…. *sigh*

However I muddled through pretty quickly and I was very happy with the final result, and more importantly so was my wife.

This recipe is great for STRUCTURAL, SIMPLE modelling that needs to be quite tough. Use Mexican paste or fondant for detailed work.

 

 

Modelling paste recipe (Pastillage)

Ingredients

2 teaspoons powdered gelatine –  approx 8grams (or 4 leaves of sheet gelatine)
35 ml of water
1 rounded teaspoon (10grams) glucose syrup or corn syrup. (Corn syrup gives a better texture).
One and a half cups (200grams) of pure icing sugar, sifted 
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar will help the paste to set up faster, and helps preserve the mix.
A tiny amount of white vegetable shortening like Crisco will make the mix more manageable, but makes the mix weaker and slower to dry.

This recipe is easier to work with in slightly larger quantities, I recommend making a double or triple mixture.

The paste can be made to set/dry much faster with a pinch of tylose, although this is rarely necessary pretty much only in high humidity. It can also be refreshed with a tiny bit of crisco. Crisco will refresh scaly modelling paste and improve the overall texture. I never used to use vegetable shortening with this, but it improves the usability quite a lot.

Combine gelatine, glucose and water in a small saucepan and heat very gently. The aim is to gently melt all of the gelatine and combine it with the glucose and water to form a perfectly combined and homogeneous mixture. Do not boil or overheat. Use a chopstick or similar implement  to stir the mixture very gently, avoid making bubbles or getting gelatine up the sides of the saucepan.

Place half of the sifted icing sugar (3/4 cup) into a small mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre of the icing sugar and pour in the warm gelatine glucose mix. Use a blunt butter knife to mix the icing sugar to a smooth paste. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest at room temperature for at least an hour.

Once rested, knead in the remaining icing sugar bit by bit until you have a smooth clay like modelling paste mixture this will require quite a bit of effort and the mixture will be a bit rough and lumpy, but keep at it, it seems like it will not all combine, but it does… eventually. Place into a plastic bag, or ziplock bag and leave a few hours or overnight in a cool place then knead before using.

After resting a few hours the mixture will be smooth like plasticine. The most important part of this recipe is the resting time. It will be easier to work with if it is warmed very slightly, so pop it in the microwave still in the ziplock bag for a burst or two of 3 – 5 seconds. Like fondant, the modelling paste can be conditioned by working in a very tiny amount of Crisco, but do not work too much in or it can interfere with the hardness of the finished product. If the mixture is too dry and brittle you can work more water into the mixture, just dampen your hands and knead the water through a few times. 

The mixture dries out very quickly, so I keep any modelling paste I am not currently using in a sealed ziplock plastic bag, and keep a lightly damp paper towel nearby to cover and keep the pieces I am working with soft and pliable, but generally pastillage is best fir quick modelling not for super fine detailed work. Pieces of modelling paste glue together very well with stiff royal icing. 

My best advice is to give it a go. This is a very cheap recipe to make and after making a few batches you will be familiar with how to get the best results for nearly any project that requires modelling paste or sugar paste.

The modelling paste sets hard, almost like fine bone china. Once dried it is structurally very sound and can be painted with liquid colours watered with alcohol for super vibrant colour, or dusted with petal dust and lustres. Flowers made this way will last for years if they are kept away from excessive humidity and bugs.
I like to add vanilla extract, rosewater or other essences to my mixture to give the modelling paste a pleasant fragrance, not that many people would eat sugar paste toppers, but they could eat this and the flavours improve the taste as well.

Modelling paste recipe My beautiful wife and me Wedding cake table

Recipe Card

Modelling Paste Recipe
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Ingredients
  1. 2 teaspoons powdered gelatine - approx 8grams (or 4 leaves of sheets)
  2. 35 ml of water
  3. 1 rounded teaspoon (10grams) glucose syrup or corn syrup. (Corn syrup gives a better texture).
  4. One and a half cups (200grams) of pure icing sugar, sifted
  5. Optional: 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar will help the paste to set up faster, and helps preserve the mix.
Instructions
  1. This recipe is easier to work with in slightly larger quantities, I recommend making a double or triple mixture.
  2. The modelling paste can be made to set/dry much faster with a pinch of tylose, although this is rarely necessary pretty much only in high humidity. It can also be refreshed with a tiny bit of crisco. Crisco will refresh scaly modelling paste and improve the overall texture. I never used to use vegetable shortening with this, but it improves the usability quite a lot.
  3. Combine gelatine, glucose and water in a small saucepan and heat very gently. The aim is to gently melt all of the gelatine and combine it with the glucose and water to form a perfectly combined and homogeneous mixture. Do not boil or overheat. Use a chopstick or similar implement to stir the mixture very gently, avoid making bubbles or getting gelatine up the sides of the saucepan.
  4. Place half of the sifted icing sugar (3/4 cup) into a small mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre of the icing sugar and pour in the warm gelatine glucose mix. Use a blunt butter knife to mix the icing sugar to a smooth paste. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest at room temperature for at least an hour.
  5. Once rested, knead in the remaining icing sugar bit by bit until you have a smooth clay like modelling paste mixture this will require quite a bit of effort and the mixture will be a bit rough and lumpy, but keep at it, it seems like it will not all combine, but it does... eventually. Place into a plastic bag, or ziplock bag and leave overnight in a cool place then knead before using.
  6. After resting overnight the mixture will be smooth like plasticine. The most important part of this recipe is the resting time. It will be easier to work with if it is warmed very slightly, so pop it in the microwave still in the ziplock bag for a burst or two of 3 - 5 seconds. Like fondant, the modelling paste can be conditioned by working in a very tiny amount of Crisco, but do not work too much in or it can interfere with the hardness of the finished product.
  7. The mixture dries out very quickly, so I keep any modelling paste I am not currently using in a sealed ziplock plastic bag, and keep a lightly damp paper towel nearby to cover and keep the pieces I am working with soft and pliable. Pieces of modelling paste glue together very well with stiff royal icing. Royal icing, vodka, water or a thin film of sticky liqueur will glue petals around the modelling paste buds as you are creating them.
Notes
  1. My best advice is to give it a go. This is a very cheap recipe to make and after making a few batches you will be familiar with how to get the best results for nearly any project that requires modelling paste or sugar paste.
  2. The modelling paste sets hard, almost like fine bone china. Once dried it is structurally very sound and can be painted with liquid colours watered with alcohol for super vibrant colour, or dusted with petal dust and lustres. Flowers made this way will last for years if they are kept away from humidity and bugs.
  3. I like to add vanilla extract, rosewater or other essences to my mixture to give the modelling paste a pleasant fragrance, not that many people would eat sugar paste toppers, but they could eat this and the flavours improve the taste as well.
Robert's Cakes and Cooking https://robertscakesandcooking.com/

Orange Dark Chocolate Mud Cake Recipe

Sea themed orange dark chocolate mud cake with ganache and modelling chocolate

This is a variation of the Australian Women’s Weekly mud cake recipe.
675g Dark eating chocolate – chopped,
400g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of very finely zested orange zest, (at least 3 or 4 big oranges).
390 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon of natural vanilla extract.
275g brown sugar
338g plain flour (cake flour will give a lighter cake)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 large eggs

Method:
preheat oven to 155C (140C fan forced) line and grease a 19cm square pan.
Stir chocolate butter orange juice, zest, water, sugar and vanilla in large heavy-based pot over very low heat until smooth, then cool for 15 minutes.
Whisk in sifted flours and lightly beaten eggs, pour into the pan and bake for about 2 1/2 hours or until a thin skewer comes out dry with just a few moist crumbs on it. Cool in the tin for about 15 minutes before turning out on o a cooling rack.

This is a dense recipe, usually made with coffee liqueur, coffee granules and water, I find the alcohol and coffee flavour overpowering, so I made it a dark chocolate orange mud cake by omitting the coffee, and replacing the water and liqueur liquid measurements with the same amount of freshly squeezed orange juice and zest which gives it a brighter, fresher flavour. I also add very finely zested orange zest to the cream when I’m making the ganache to complement the orange mud cake. I recommend using cake flour to make a lighter textured cake and adding some bicarb to balance the acidity of the oranges and help the cake to rise better.

This is not an especially groundbreaking recipe and it is one of the least cost-effective ways to make a mud cake, but it tastes awesome and the texture is always great. The mixture can be doubled or tripled, and cooked for longer at a lower temperature. 

Original recipe called for 310ml water, 80 ml coffee liqueur and one and a half teaspoons of instant coffee granules, but this results in a really bitter slightly overbearing coffee flavour. 

Pan release

Pan release is a really handy cooking tool to keep in your arsenal of tips and tricks to make baking easier.
I use pan release when cooking most of my cakes to help prevent the cakes from sticking to the tins. It works better than anything else I have ever used, it’s cheap, easy, and fast to make. 

Pan release

Ingredients

100g unsalted butter

100g sunflower oil

110g plain flour

Mix all ingredients together in a stand mixer on high until combined.

Paint an even layer on the inside of cake tins with a pastry brush before filling with batter and cooking. Don’t paint it on too thinly. 
Lasts a few weeks in the fridge, bring to room temp to use.

The ratio is basically even parts of solid fat, flour and oil, there is a lot of room for substitution and variation. 
 I make this on the fly when I start a bake just before mixing my cake batters.

Potato Za’atar Frittata

Potato Za’atar Frittata

This has become a favourite because there’s not a huge amount of prep, I use a mandolin slicer, and microwave the veggies for a few minutes while mixing up the egg part. Then it’s just assemble, pop it in the oven and check back in half an hour. I love this no fuss meal because I only have to put about 10 minutes into preparing it. 

 
800 grams of thinly sliced potatoes, (about 4 large potatoes). I like this recipe way more if it’s made with about 400g of sweet potato, 200g very thinly sliced butternut pumpkin, and 200g potato) 
Approx 1-2 cups of Fresh baby spinach leaves 
6 eggs
120ml cream.
1 tbsp of roasted sesame seeds.
1 large clove of fresh crushed garlic or 1 rounded tsp of minced garlic.
Generous grinding of black pepper, and about 1tsp of salt
1Tbsp Za’atar You can buy this pre-made, or make it: 1tsp ground sumac, 1 tsp fresh or dried thyme leaves, 1 heaped tsp roasted sesame seeds, 1/2 tsp salt).
 
 
Slice up the potatoes, pour boiling water over them and microwave for 2-3 minutes, You just want to start to soften the veggies slightly. rinse them off with cool water so they can be handled.
Line a smallish baking dish with a thin smear of olive oil. Arrange a layer of potatoes to cover the bottom, next layer with fresh baby spinach leaves, then potatoes, then spinach and finish with potatoes. Push down gently on the top layer to neaten things up. In a large jug whisk the eggs, cream, garlic, salt, pepper and Za’atar until they are combined. Pour evenly onto/into the dish ensuring the tops are completely covered the sesame and spices tend to end up covering the top of the dish and crisp up super deliciously in the oven!!!
 

Bake in the oven at 180c until there is no liquid egg mix left on top, check by moving the middle with a knife. This will take between 30 and 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the frittata stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. 

If you want to make a bigger one, or you end up with loads more potato and need to fill a bigger baking dish just add another 40-80ml of cream, another 2 eggs and a pinch more spice mix, salt, and pepper.

Simple, Delicious Chicken Pate

My Fast Chicken Liver Pate Recipe

Pate is one of my favourite treats, fortunately it is also ridiculously cheap and easy to make.

This is my own recipe for pate, it has been cobbled together from trial and error, and a love of good pate. The recipe is very forgiving and allows for a lot of substitution and variance. While it is very easy to make, I recommend a good stick blender, or food processor and maybe a bit of patience as it can take a lot of processing to get a smooth pate.

Finding good quality fresh and well-cleaned chicken livers can sometimes be a challenge, but most good butchers will have them. Our local butcher sells them frozen by the half kilo tub for $5 which is a bit expensive for chicken livers but they are usually better quality than I can find in a supermarket. Occasionally I find good ones at the supermarket, but not that often…

Chicken livers should be a pinkish – purple colour ideally with little or no white connective tissue on them to make it easier to prepare them. They should not have any hint of yellowing, dispose of them if they are discoloured or do not smell fresh. 

Ingredients

500g Chicken liver
1 small onion very finely diced or substitute a few small brown shallots for added flavour.
120g of salted butter
A small amount of finely diced bacon (no rind) or very finely shaved pancetta (roughly equivalent to a heaped tablespoon when compressed, see photo)
2 tablespoons of Port,  Cognac, Cointreau, Sherry, or even Champagne, vary amounts to taste
Approximately 1/3 of a cup of cream. UHT cream helps increase fridge life a little, fresh is fine.
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice
1 teaspoon of thyme, fresh or dry is fine, use slightly less if dried)
1/2 teaspoon of sage, fresh is best, but dry works fine
1 heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon of coarse cracked black pepper
1/8 teaspoon of salt more if needed

Additional butter for sealing the finished pate

Connective tissue removed, rinsed and patted dry.

Method

Rinse the livers under cold running water, and remove any white or connective tissue. Dry them off on some paper towel.

Heat butter in a large heavy-based frying pan on a medium heat. Add onions and begin to cook off the rawness.

Once the butter and onions are sizzling add liver and cook without turning to the point that they begin to get some colour on the underside (very light golden brown), about 5-7 minutes.

Turn the livers over and add the bacon, garlic, herbs, and spices. Cook for 5-7 minutes more, depending on the size of the livers. Turn the heat down and continue to cook on a gentle heat until the inside is just barely pinkish, the livers should be soft and should come apart easily to check how cooked they are if pressed with tongs. Add a few tablespoons of cream heat just enough to warm the cream through. Set the pan aside, allow to cool a little, it should still be warm but not too hot.

 

Perfectly cooked chicken liver, only just pink in the middle and breaks apart easily with light pressure from tongs.

 

 

 

 

 

To a food processor add a couple of tablespoons of the pan juices and hot butter. Add the liver and onion mix to the food processor and begin to coarsely blend, stop the processor regularly to scrape down the sides (and to prevent the motor getting too hot and burning out), if the mix is too dry add another tablespoon or so of cream. I’ve since found a stick blender works much better than the food processor attachment and gave a much smoother finish in half the time. 

At this point add two tablespoons of port or cognac and blend through. continue alternating between blending and scraping down the sides of the processor/bowl, adding tiny amounts of cream to keep the mix blending smoothly.

 

Once the mixture is nearly smooth, taste a little of it and add the salt if needed. The salt improves the flavour and balances the flavour of the liver. Add pepper and slightly more alcohol if needed. Add extra alcohol sparingly as it will overpower all the other flavours. Process until very smooth, the pate should not have a grainy texture, and the herbs and pepper should be small enough so as not to impart any noticeable texture. 

Pate should be silky smooth and velvety, never grainy or lumpy the only way to achieve this is with patient processing or by forcing the mix through an ultra-fine sieve; I don’t recommend starting with a sieve, it will take you forever, a basic stick blender works well, and in most cases it will not be necessary to sieve the mix.

*Wait for the pate to be cool completely before eating it, hot pate does not taste especially great, you should taste it while it is hot to get the seasoning (saltiness) and the alcohol content right in the final product.

Spoon the pate into ramekins, smooth off the surface with the back of a spoon. If the pate is not going to be eaten that week cover with melted clarified butter to seal the pate.

Place in the fridge until the butter cap hardens then cover with cling film, this way the pate will last in the fridge for up to two weeks, the alcohol and other fats preserve the cream, if the cream was cooked the fridge life is extended.
Pate lasts in the freezer for a few months.

 

To serve remove the butter cap and allow the pate to warm up to slightly below room temperature which will make it more spreadable.

 

Variations

Herbs and spices like bay leaves and chives and green peppercorns can be substituted or included to suit your taste. Bacon or smoked ham can be substituted for pancetta and different alcohols can also be substituted; brandy, sherry, dry muscat, port, red or white wine and champagnes work quite well. I like to fold a tablespoon of canned green peppercorns through the mix after it has been blended. 

Chicken breast or thigh can replace up to half of the liver. The regular meat needs to be cooked longer than the liver and is harder to process to a smooth pate, but it provides a lighter flavour that works well with champagne or dry white wine, bacon and green peppercorns.

For a fancier variation set some savoury flavoured jelly or aspic in the bottom of a mould before filling it with pate. Set the pate and turn out of the mould onto a cheeseboard for more attractive and delicious way of serving.

Experiment and have fun!

 

 

Goulash Recipe With a Twist

Easy Traditional Goulash – With a modern twist

This is my easy take on Hungarian goulash, based on the one my Aunt used to make. It is easy to prepare, delicious and it will easily feed six people. This meal can be prepared in a slow cooker in the morning before work so it will be ready when you get home from work, you just need to make the rice.

Ingredients:

600g gravy beef (trim off excess fat)

2 teaspoons of minced garlic

2 cups of Stones Green Ginger Wine

1 Large tin of diced peeled tomatoes (800g)

1 red capsicum and 1 green capsicum

1 very large red onion (or two medium ones)

1 or 2 heaped tablespoons of Paprika (look for Hungarian)

2 beef stock cubes

A few good grinds of black pepper

Optional – 1 teaspoon of smoky paprika

Optional – 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger

Optional – handful of button mushrooms sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

Rice ingredients:

2 cups of medium grain rice

2 tablespoons of salted butter

1 heaped teaspoon of minced garlic (2 cloves crushed garlic)

1/2 tsp salt

Method:

Dice onions and capsicums. Chop the meat into 1-inch cubes.

Fry onions and Garlic in a tablespoon of butter or a little oil until the onions are nearly clear, add to a large heavy based pot or slow cooker.

Fry off the outside of the meat quickly over a high heat in batches so that it does not stew or overcook. If you have a big enough frying pan you can fry the meat with the onions. Just brown the outside of the cubes of meat, do not cook the meat through. If using a slow cooker, roll the cubes of meat in plain flour before frying, then the sauce will thicken while it cooks. 

Add all ingredients to a deep, heavy-based pot add a few grinds of black pepper then cover and simmer on low for about 3 or 4 hours (more if desired) or until the capsicum is cooked through. The longer the goulash simmers the more tender the meat will be. Or add all ingredients to a crockpot and leave to cook on low all day.

 

If the sauce is too thin or there is too much liquid, uncover and simmer on high until the liquid has reduced a bit. Taste the sauce and add a few pinches of salt, if needed. At this point, you can add another splash of stones green ginger wine to enrich the ginger flavour.

Serve over piping hot garlic butter rice.

Will keep in the fridge well for a couple of days, also freezes well.

Rice Method:

This is a slightly different approach to rice.

To a deep heavy-based pot add your rice and then enough cold water to cover the rice by about 2cm

Add butter, garlic, and salt on top, this will look a bit wrong but they will cook through.

Bring to a boil uncovered, drop the heat to a low simmer for about 12 minutes or until the rice is nearly cooked. Gently stir the rice every 4 or five minutes to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add a little more water if the mix dries out too much. Stir just enough to stop the rice sticking, no more, or the rice will become gluggy.

When nearly done, the rice should have a consistency similar to risotto. Remove from the heat cover and leave to stand for 8 minutes. The remaining liquid will absorb leaving the rice perfectly cooked and delicious.