Thursday, January 26, 2012

Recipe - Anzac Biscuits

How could you not smile at chocolate
smiley faces?
Anzac Biscuits are an Australian childhood favourite. They are an incredibly easy biscuit to bake. They are regulars at outings or events where one feels the need for a quick dose of sugar to keep them going.

These biscuits have become my signature dish. Given that it is Australia Day, I thought that I would share this recipe. Unlike commercial Anzac Biscuits, this recipe produces a firm, yet chewable biscuit so you do not need to worry about breaking a tooth anytime soon.

Like other recipes I have posted so far, I have deviated from the original. The original recipe came from my mother's Good House Keeping recipe book. Whilst I am a fan of the original recipe, I have made two small tweaks. Firstly, I have omitted 1 ounce of chopped walnuts. Secondly, I have added an extra teaspoon of golden syrup to counteract the bitterness of the bicarbonate of soda.

Once baked, I like to personalise these cookies, by drawing smiley faces on them with melted dark chocolate. Because these are rustic cookies, I use a small spatula as a ‘paintbrush’ rather than piping the melted chocolate. I used to use a spoon, but have found that the spatula is easier to work with.

I hope you enjoy this recipe.

Darkbyte xxx

Anzac Biscuits

4 oz butter
1 1/4 tbsp. golden syrup
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp. water
3 oz plain flour
8 oz caster sugar
3 oz desiccated coconut
4 oz rolled oats

1. Heat oven to moderate (350 degrees F)
2. Grease two baking sheets
3. Melt the butter with the golden syrup in a saucepan, then cool for a short time
4. Add the bicarbonate of soda blended wit the water
5. In a bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients
6. Gradually stir in the contents of the saucepan, blending well
7. Roll the mixture into walnut sized balls and place on the baking sheets allowing room for spreading
8. Bake in the center of the oven for 12-15 minutes
9. Cool slightly before removing from the sheets.

Monday, January 16, 2012

2011 Gingerbread Houses (Part One)

Completed Gingerbread House One
Completed Gingerbread House Two

One of my favourite decorating books for 2011 is “Fantastic Party Cakes” by Mich Turner. It includes a wide variety of small projects for virtually any occasion: weddings, baby showers, birthday, Christmas, etc. I have made a few gingerbread houses in the past, but the one included in this book looked so sweet with its white frosted roof and tiny white flowers, I just had to try it.

Un/fortunately, I ended up deviating from the author’s decorating example and reverted to my usual “lets stick as much candy on as possible” approach. To be honest when you are decorating for children, you can never have too much candy. Perhaps next year I will mimic the author’s decorating style to make smaller gift houses for our adult friends. Could you imagine a setting a lovely Christmas table and using miniature gingerbread houses as “place cards”? I think it would look gorgeous.

One of the things I love about gingerbread is how well it keeps. As mentioned in an earlier post, I try to make, shape and bake my gingerbread ahead of schedule, and keep it in the freezer until needed. I find this saves a lot of time. Each house can be decorated a few days a head of time and stored in an airtight container (assuming you have one large enough). It will still taste lovely. To be honest, I do not know exactly how long you can keep gingerbread, before it starts to taste stale because it has never hung around much longer than a week.

For the last 5 years, I have been using the same gingerbread recipe. This year I decided to try something different. Mich Turner’s gingerbread house, is not made from ginger bread per se, it is made using Lebkuchen, which according to Wikipedia is a traditional German treat that was invented by monks in the 13th century.

What drew me to use Lebkuchen rather than gingerbread was the use of ground chilli. I was curious to see how it tasted. It tasted great. The heat of the chilli and other spices cut through the sweetness of the candy to create a very more-ish combination. Everyone who tried it loved it. I will definitely be using this recipe again.

As per usual, I never manage to follow recipes and instructions to the letter. The original recipe calls for light muscovado sugar, which is not available at my local supermarket. From what I understand, it would be similar to using light brown sugar. Unfortunately, I was out of light brown sugar. A deep rummage through my pantry produced dark brown sugar and caster sugar. I opted to use the caster sugar because I find dark treacle can taste somewhat bitter. I have written my altered recipe below, feel free to try it and let me know if you think I should have used brown sugar.


115g unsalted butter, softened
115g caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
115g black treacle
400g self raising flour
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. ground chilli

1. Cream together the butter and the sugar until it is pale and fluffy.
2. Bean in the egg and black treacle
3. Sift the flour, ginger, cloves and chilli into the bowl and mix well.
4. Knead the dough gently and wrap in cling film. Chill for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Celsius fan forced)
6. Roll out your dough and cut around your pre-made templates.
7. Place each piece of cut dough on a lined baking tray and bake for 8-10 minutes

Now that I have altered the recipe, it was time to deviate from the instructions. The author says to roll the dough into a 5mm thick rectangle and bake. Once cooled, the pieces for the gingerbread house are cut from this sheet. Personally, I though this was a bit wasteful. I opted for the traditional method of rolling the dough and cutting the pieces before baking. To my surprise, using my method, I had enough dough to make two gingerbread houses (sans base) as opposed to the single house as stated by the author.

I can see that the author’s method of cutting pieces from a baked sheet would result in even sized pieces with clean straight corners. There is a definite benefit to having this. Thankfully, this dough is easy to cut if you have a sharp knife, so I was able to trim my pieces accordingly without breakage and then eat the crumbs.

Once the cookies have cooled, I pop them in an ‘airtight’ plastic bag and pop them in the freezer. I do not find that they loose their freshness if they are frozen. Freezing your cooked gingerbread house pieces allows you to bake a week or so ahead of time. Personally, I try to avoid baking and decorating on back-to-back days. Perhaps this is lazy of me, but I prefer to make decorating as enjoyable as possible and rushing around is never as enjoyable as taking your time.
I will talk about the decorating in another post, until then, happy decorating!

Darkbyte xxx

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tutorial: Simple New Years Cake Toppers

Curtis Stone Wafer Bakers are amazing

Pink sugar crystal edging

Coloured chocolate chips make an
excellent alternative to writing or painting.
Today’s post is a quick tutorial on how to make the 2012 cake toppers that adorned my 30th birthday cake.
I was reasonably happy with how these turned out. The pink sugar crystals were a bit messy. If I were to make these for a friend, I would over pipe the sugar crystals on the front and rear faces, to create a clean boundary.

The mould I used to create the base for my toppers was the Tear Silicone Wafer Baker by Curtis Stone. I must admit I have never seen wafer moulds before. As soon as I saw this product, I knew that I would be filling it with chocolate to make cake toppers. One of these days, I may use them for tuiles or wafers. You could also use these mould for sugar work, as they are heat resistant to 260 degrees C (500 degrees F).

To make my teardrops, I melted some white cooking chocolate in the microwave and filled the wafter baker. It is important to tap the mould to ensure that there are no air bubbles. Once I had removed all visible air bubbles, I popped the mould into the fridge. Once they were set, the teardrops popped effortlessly out of the mould.

Despite the chocolate bases having clean edges, I wanted to jazz them up a little. A quick fossick through my pantry revealed some pink sugar crystals. Whilst I am not a great fan of pink, I thought they would be a good experiment. To attach the crystals I rubbed a hot knife along the edge of the teardrops to melt the chocolate and then rolled the edges in the sugar. When doing this it is important not to melt too much chocolate because it is easy to square the rounded edges.

The step of decoration was to use coloured chocolate drops to create each number of 2012. When attaching the chocolate drops, I recommend using additional melted chocolate as an adhesive rather than melting the existing chocolate, because attaching chocolate chips requires a lot more chocolate than sugar crystals.

These teardrops are 3mm thick, so it is possible to add a variety of candies and other edibles without fear of them breaking. They also make a nice canvas for edible paintings.

I hope this has inspired you.

Darkbyte xx

Monday, January 2, 2012

How Do You Store Your Decorating Tips?

I must confess I am a decorating tip addict. I am sure that I will never use at least 50% of the decorating tips in my collection, but I just like to have them. My collection started with a Wilton master cake decorating tip set that I purchased from one of my favourite online stores ‘His & Hers Treasures.’ Since this initial purchase, I have added about ten tips to my collection and have another eight on my wish list.

This ever-growing collection brings me to the question: How do you organise your decorating tips? Do you order them by number, by style (e.g. basket weave, open star, closed star, drop flower, leaf, etc), or by their frequency of use? Do you leave spaces for the tips that you do not own yet, but hope to purchase in the future?

For the moment, I have my decorating tips ordered sequentially. I was thinking about ordering them by category, but until I can recognise which numbers belong to a given category, using a sequential system makes life easier when a book tells me to use tip X (the numbers for some of the Wilton speciality tips have me stumped). Even though I was tempted, I have not gone as far as to leave spaces for the tips that I do not own yet.

I keep my collection in two Wilton Large Tip Saver cases. I am a fan of these cases. They are very sturdy and easy to transport. You can throw a case into the car and not worry about your tips moving from their positions. I will do a more detailed review of the tip saver cases later this week.

Wishing you all a happy New Year

Darkbyte xx
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