22 December 2012

Zumbarons: A fantasy land of macarons {review}

Prahran market, Melbourne, is well known as the food lovers market thanks to its wide selection of stalls selling fresh fruit and veg, meat, poultry, seafood, flowers, and of course, baked goods.  On this particular Saturday morning I had a deliciously crumbly twisted pastry thing with chocolate and deliciousness everywhere.  I ate it before I remembered that I wanted to take a photo of it....

Standing in one corner of the market is the store The Essential Ingredient, overflowing with wonderful cookbooks, kitchenware and food.  I spent a fair amount of time wandering around dreamily, but most people in the store were doing the same thing.  It was here that I came across the 'Zumbarons' book by Adriano Zumbo.

At the point of purchase I'd never had a Zumbaron, but plenty of macarons.  Before I went away I got really 'into' macarons and made a few batches, with success, which never made it to the blog. 

The recipes in the book range from the standard chocolate mayonnaise macaron, to the bizarre idea of a vegemite macaron.  Well set out, with plenty of pictures and lots of explaining, the recipes seem easy enough to follow but for one aspect; they require fussy specialist ingredients.  You can't just wake up and make these babies, they demand prior planning and preparation, and a nearby specialist store.  Once I've worked out where mine is, I'm definitely keen to have a go and will post my results online, before I've eaten them...

No purchase of said book would be complete without a little tasting trip to an Adriano Zumbo patisserie in Sydney.  I popped over to visit the Manly store, on Sydney's north shore.  It took me a while to find it tucked away down a side street, with only the teeny sign above the door to tell you where it was.  I think I was expecting trumpets, banners and huge signposts....

The store itself was dinky but with plenty of flavours of zumbarons to choose from, as well as various other creations I didn't pay much attention to thanks to the friendly staff who picked up on my pommy accent straight away.  I chose salted popcorn and candy cane zumbarons and happily walked off, box in hand.

Unfortunately the heat of the day took its toll on my little zumbarons, so buy the time I got to eat them they were a little worse for wear.  But still with a crisp shell and softer centre, but the fillings had gone a bit gooey.

The candy cane was filled with a minty, jelly-like frosting.  I suspect some fancy fiddling ingredients were used to make it.  Needless to say it was delicious, but not what I expected when I bit in which was a little confusing!

The popcorn macaron tasted exactly like it should - like popcorn!  But not just any popcorn; this was as delicious as the Coles organic sweet and salted popcorn that I've been known to eat by the bag.

I will almost definitely be googling where to get my fussy ingredients so I can have a go at creating some zumbarons of my own as soon as I can!

20 December 2012

Buche de Noel

The chocolate yule log is traditionally offered as an alternative to Christmas Cake.  Whilst I love Christmas Cake, I would never knowingly turn down a deliciously chocolatey yule log and very obligingly made one this year upon request.

It just happened that the day before my mum suggested we had one, I'd watched the 'Great British Bake-Off' Christmas masterclass and seen Mary Berry's rich, cream filled buche de noel.  I had to make it.

This is the second chocolate log I've made this month, but Mary Berry's offering was infinitely more delicious than its predecessor and even after stuffing myself at Christmas dinner, I have just polished off the remaining log, straight from the tupperware box.

My only problem was that despite following the icing instructions to the t, I ran out of icing halfway down piping the cake on one side so I couldn't ice over the ends as Mary does on the tv show.  I was really annoyed by this and can't work out what went wrong?  Luckily a large ornamental poinsettia was on hand to cover up the bald spot....

Mary Berry's Buche de Noel
4 large eggs
100 g caster sugar
65 g self-raising flour
40 g cocoa powder
300 ml double cream, whipped to fill

Chocolate ganache
300 ml double cream
300 g dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks

1) Preheat the oven to 200C and grease and line a swiss roll tin; sized 33x23cm.
2) To make the sponge cream the eggs and sugar until pale, light and frothy.
3) Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and carefully fold through using a cold metal spoon until just mixed; be gentle and aware that you do not beat the air from the mixture.
4) Pour into the tin and bake for 8-10 minutes.
5) Whilst the cake is in the oven, cut a piece of baking parchment bigger than the size of the sponge and dust it with icing sugar; turn out the cooked sponge onto this, and remove the paper lining the bottom of the sponge.
6) Carefully roll the sponge up tightly; cutting a 'score' 1 inch into the sponge, across the width of it allows for easier rolling.  Allow the cake to cool all rolled up.
7) To make the icing heat the cream until you can just keep your finger in it; add the chocolate, and stir well until melted and combined.  Keep this mix in the fridge to cool for at least an hour as it needs to thicken well before use.

To assemble the cake when cooled, unroll the sponge and spread the whipped cream on top; re-roll tightly.  If you want to have a branch, cut a quarter of the cake from the end at a diagonal, placing it at the side of the cake.
You can either coat the cake with a knife and decorate with a fork to make it look like a log, or pipe the icing on using a star shaped nozzle, which does look lovely!
Dust with icing sugar and eat!

Ginger Cake

At the end of November, whilst I was still in Australia, I flew up to Brisbane to spend some time with my father's side of the family who I've never met.  Its odd to meet people who share your name and ancestors but live on the other side of the world.

My great uncle Brian and I share a birthday; he turned 80 this year when I turned 25.  I arrived in Brisbane after his birthday so whilst I was staying with him and my great aunt, I wanted to make a cake, just because I could!

Brian requested a ginger cake because his mother used to make one when he was a boy and he hadn't had one since - no pressure! A look around led me to the Caked Crusader's blog and her recipe for 'Traditional Ginger Cake'. The blog of the baking superhero was one of the first baking blogs I followed when I became interested in baking , so I was pretty confident a recipe from here would be delicious!

ginger cake

One slight problem cropped up in the process however; I was shocked (not an overstatement) to discover that I couldn't get a jar of stem ginger in the supermarket in Australia. It may have been the branch I was in or this may be a national problem, but it meant no glaze for the cake and I used chopped candied ginger in the cake.  

Traditional Ginger Cake (from Caked Crusader)
225g self raising flour
4tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g unsalted butter
100g golden syrup
100g black treacle
100g light brown sugar
50g steam ginger, finely chopped
2 eggs
200ml milk

4 tbsps ginger syrup from the stem ginger jar
4 tbsps boiling water
200g icing sugar

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C and prepare a 20cm square cake tin.
2) Use the rubbing-in method to combine the dry ingredients until they have a texture like bread crumbs. You can blitz them in a food processor if you have one/are lazy/have long fingernails.
3) Heat the golden syrup, black treacle, sugar and diced ginger in a large pan over low heat until the sugar has dissolved -  there should be no visible sugar crystals. Once dissolved, raise the heat and cook for a couple more minutes before removing from the heat.
4) Carefully beat the eggs and milk into the hot syrup - being careful means be aware that the egg may scramble as the syrup is hot and that looks weird and won't taste good!
5) Beat the crumb mixture into the syrup and stir thoroughly until combined.
6) Pour into the tin and bake for 40-45 minutes.  Allow it to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing - cover the cake with glazed when it is in the tin by piercing it with holes and pouring the glaze over.

We had ours sans glaze with ice cream - it lasted for over a week in tupperware!