Apr 26, 2012

Sinful but oh-so-good

Who says you cannot have ice-cream in autumn-almost-winter? You just need a nice hot chocolate and peanut butter fudge sauce to go with it! Then top it off with freshly toasted peanuts with salt. Dessert made by my awesome sister. (:

Doesn't this look divine?
Recipe is by the lovely Domestic Goddess, Nigella Lawson.

It's a very easy recipe. Everything in one saucepan and you'll have a very sinful but really really really good dessert in a matter of minutes.

Here's what you need:

and condensed milk

In one saucepan:

  • Pour in half a can of condensed milk (200 ml)
  • 100 g of dark chocolate
  • a big scoop of peanut butter (100 g)
  • Heat it up until everything is combined and add a bit of water just to thin out the sauce

You're done.

Optional: Sprinkle roasted salted peanuts over ice-cream and chocolate sauce.

So sinful, but so good. I definitely need to go for a run soon.

Manchester Press

One thing I love about Melbourne is that there are cafe's scattered all over the city. You can grab a decent coffee pretty much anywhere and if you have the time, get a good breakfast out of it. There are definitely not-so-great cafes, but then, there are those which you end up loving and will always return to.

Manchester Press is one of those places for me.

I have lost count at how many times I have been to this place already.

The coffee is great. Food is yummy. Service is awesome.

Well-known for their bagels, Manchester Press is located along a dodgy-looking alleyway called Rankins Lane. The first time I went to this place, I was really skeptical. My friend was leading the way and when she turned into Rankins, all I could think was "Where the hell are you bringing me?!".

BUT, I wasn't the only one. A few weeks later I brought my sister and a few friends and they thought I was going to sell them off or something because there was this white van in the alley (but that's another different story).

Seriously, who would've thought a cafe existed here?
Decked out in wooden tables and chairs, and a massive bowling pin at the corner of the cafe, there was this very rustic, warm, homey feeling to the place. One of the things I love about Melbourne cafes. The deco is really simple and yet it still looks amazing and cozy.

Manchester Press is famous for their coffee with faces on it. I don't know how they do it, but their coffee art is really really good!

For those who aren't really coffee lovers, I recommend either the hot chocolate or mocha (yes I know there is coffee in it but you taste more chocolate than coffee).

The menu has changed slightly since the first time I went there but thankfully they still have my favorite, bagel with chorizo, tomato, tomato relish, capsicum and cheese. I know it sounds like there are a lot of tomatos, but it really is good!

Bagel with chorizo, capsicum, tomato, tomato relish and cheese
Bagel with soft-boiled egg and smoked salmon
Bagel with baked eggs and salmon
Plain baked eggs
with salad. Love the dressing.
Bagels with smoked salmon, cheese and capers
Bagel with bacon, lettuce and tomato
Among the few dishes I have tried, and no I have not been there THAT many times and ate all of it, I share my food (:

One problem with most cafe's here is that they do not open on Sundays or weekends for that matter. And some public holidays. But the good thing about Manchester Press is that it DOES open on weekends and most holidays. So don't worry if you can't visit this place on a weekday. There's always the weekend. But get there early!

Convinced yet? No? More for me then! (;

Manchester Press
8 Rankins Lane, Melbourne
(03) 9600 4054

Manchester Press on Urbanspoon

Apr 24, 2012

Rainbow madness

Making this very pretty, slightly unhealthy but incredibly beautiful rainbow cake is no joke. Especially if you only have one small oven and one cake pan to work with. All in all? It took me about 3 hours! But it was all worth it, especially after everyone went "ooh" and "aah" when they started slicing the cake.

A friend was turning 22 and she was asking for a rainbow cake. Honestly, I jumped at the opportunity to make this for 2 reasons:
  1. I have another excuse to bake and not study.
  2. And it's for her birthday so how could I possibly turn her down?
So then I started looking around for recipes and I came across this. I was so mesmerized at its prettiness. Luckily I started baking this cake the night before her party. If not, I would have been a zombie at her birthday.

One scary thing about this cake is that you really wouldn't know if the cake is successful until you cut it. Each of the 6 layers that I made were looking so flat and thin. I was worried that the layers wouldn't stand out.

Even after stacking them up and spreading the white frosting in between each layer, I still wasn't convinced that it would come out successful.

Fast forward to the night of the party. The cutting of the cake. I was really really nervous because everyone except the birthday girl knew about the cake. And I was just worried that the 6 different colors will not really stand out. Thankfully it did!

One of my proudest creations to date I think.

Before you even begin, think carefully if you want to bake this because it is time consuming and if you are not the patient sort, this might not be one of the recipes you want to try just yet.

A few tips before you start baking:
  • Make sure your butter is at room temperature or soft enough so that the mixer wouldn't have a hard time creaming the butter later on.
  • Depending on how much cleaning you want to do, you can just use 1 bowl at the end to make the different colored layers or you can have 6 different bowls. I just used 1 to minimize the amount of cleaning.
  • Measure the weight of the mixing bowl and the bowl where you'll form the colors. This is more for people who really cannot estimate properly (yours truly). But if you can divide the batter equally without measuring, then no worries.
  • Cut out 6 circles of baking sheet.
Now for the actual work. Recipe adapted from bakingdom.
  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC. (If your oven is hotter than it usually is, just drop the temperature by 10ºC.)
  • If your pan is non-stick, remember to grease the sides. Or, just cut up strips of baking paper to line the side and line the bottom with one of the 6 circles you made.
  • 4 eggs + 1/2 cup milk + 2 tsps vanilla extract - whisk everything in a measuring cup and set aside (if your measuring cup is too small, just transfer it into a separate bowl but I like to minimize the number of items I need to clean)
  • 230 g butter - cut into cubes
  • 1 3/4 cake flour + 2 tsps baking powder (if your cake flour is self-raising then leave this out) + pinch of salt - combine in a mixing bowl
  • With the mixer on low, add a cube of butter. Continue until all butter has been used and you should get a sand-like texture.
  • With the mixer still running, add 1 cup of the egg mixture and mix until incorporated. Beat until light and fluffy. Pour in the remaining egg mixture slowly. Don't panic if your batter starts to curdle. It'll still bake nicely. Just make sure that the flour and egg mixture are incorporated.
  • Stop mixing. Weigh the bowl again to find the weight of the batter. Divide the weight by 6. (Because you have 6 layers. Weight of 1 layer = Total weight of batter / 6.. Sorry. Math major in me talking)..
  • Place the amount of 1 layer into the extra bowl you have for forming the colors.
  • Because I used 1 bowl, I was really careful with which layer I chose to do first. I used liquid coloring, but preferably if you can, use the food coloring gel (you will only need a drop or 2 of the coloring gel. With the liquid one you need at least 6 before you get the desired color.)
  • I had 4 liquid colors to work with. Green, blue, red and yellow. So I had to mix colors to get the purple and orange. I started off with the brigheter colors before the slightly more darker ones.
  • Sequence of colors: yellow, orange, red, blue, green, purple (if you are using 1 bowl and are really worried about the colors "contaminating" one another, just use 6 different bowls or wipe any excess colored batter with paper towel - a less eco-friendly option)
  • My oven was hotter and the pan was wider, so less time was needed to bake each layer. I would say it took about 15 minutes to bake each layer. But sometimes you will need to bake it for approximately 25 minutes. If you're worried, skewer it. Don't worry about making too many holes because you'll be frosting the cake later on.
  • This is really crucial. MAKE SURE your cake is COMPLETELY cooled down. Because if you frost it when it is warm, your icing is going to melt. Things you could do while waiting for it to cool? Have a cup of tea. Clean up whatever mess you made. Anything. Just leave the cake alone!
So for the frosting, I made an italian meringue or if you want a nicer name for it, royal icing!
  • 3 egg whites + 3 cups of icing sugar (I know it is a lot but you want the frosting to set really nicely!) - place it in a bowl and over a pot of simmering water and start whisking (advisable to use and electric mixer but if you feel like you want a mini work out to compensate for all the sugar, then go ahead but don't say I didn't warn you).
  • You want a pretty thick consistency. Thick enough so that the frosting does not spread all over the place.
  • Start frosting!
  • Sequence: purple, frost, blue, frost, green, frost, yellow, frost, orange, frost, red and frost the whole cake after!
  • Decorate however you like! I used smarties and M&M's. Sister's genius idea. (: But just have fun with it!
Phew. That took awhile. But definitely, one of my proudest creations to date. (:

Apr 23, 2012

Almond and pistachio biscotti

When I get tired from uni or am feeling a little stressed, there's only one thing that can really cheer me up, and that is baking. And yes. Baking isn't naturally the first thing anyone would choose to do (i.e. especially the cleaning up afterwards), but it sure helps me relax. And the fact that my sister was craving some almond and pistachio biscotti, how could I refuse her? I mean, just look at them!

You tell me you don't want a bite out of that. I dare you. (:

Making the biscotti was pretty fun. But the only problem I had with this recipe was that it kept on crumbling while I was slicing the biscotti into 1-inch-thick pieces before the final baking. As I am a firm believer of not wasting anything, I have a solution to our little crumb problems which I shall tell you in a bit. So never fear.

I adapted the recipe from abirdinthekitchen.

Here's what you need to do!

  • Preheat the oven to 190ºC
  • 1 cup blanched almonds + 1 cup pistachios - just toast them slightly in a frying pan and once they're done and slightly cooled, chop them coarsely
  • In a bowl, prepare 2 cups cake flour + 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour (or if you are using all-purpose flour, add 1 tsp of baking powder) and add in 1/2 tsp of salt. Just set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, cream the 240 g unsalted butter and 1 cup of sugar together until it is light and fluffy. Then add 3 eggs, 1 tsp of vanilla essence/extract and the scrapings of 1 vanilla bean (optional).
  • Pour ALL the flour into the cream mixture and fold it in. Once it is all combined, fold in the nuts.
  • Line a baking tray with baking sheet or if you have, a baking mat/silpat. Divide the batter into 2 portions and form a log that is about 1-inch thick and 12-inches long. Honestly, it really depends on how you want your biscotti to look like.
  • After you've formed both logs, bake it in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the base is golden brown. At this point, take it out of the oven, let it cool (about 15 minutes). Slice it to the thickness that you want.
  • Lay it out on the same tray again and bake it for about 5 minutes. Take it out, flip over the biscotti pieces and bake it on the other side for another 5 minutes.
Voila! You are done! Remember to let it cool before you start eating! I know the temptation is there but do try and resist.

Now, back to the biscotti-crumbs. Why waste something that tastes oh-so-good? There is a simple solution to your problem. And I mean, REALLy simple. All you need to do is grab a bowl of vanilla ice-cream, mix in the biscotti-crumbs, and you have dessert part 2!