Monday, March 25, 2013

Stormtrooper Easter Eggs

My Mum used to make Easter Eggs for my sister and I each year.  While we were allowed to come along on the chocolate purchasing trip, my Mum made the eggs secretly, and hid them until Easter Monday.  We loved getting the eggs, and my favourite was the 'big one' - a rabbit pulling a basket.  When we were both a bit older Mum taught us how to make them ourselves and taught us many of the techniques.

I've got some friends intrigued by these little beauties:

I used an edible ink pen to add the black detailing.
so I thought I'd add some chocolate making tips.

Making your own Easter Eggs:

  • You need chocolate candy melts (available from craft stores/ Spotlight) or very high quality chocolate (such as you would buy from a speciality chocolate shop.  If you use chocolate from the supermarket it is unlikely to result in glossy chocolate shapes, and gets that greyish 'bloom' that comes from old, poor quality chocolate.  If you buy from the store melt blocks of eating chocolate rather than chocolate buttons.
  • You need moulds to make shapes.  If you are making these with children consider your shapes carefully: shallow moulds use less chocolate (these storm trooper heads probably use about 5 Tbsp of chocolate - quite a bit really.  You also want shapes that are less likely to break (I made some cute Lego men shapes - but they are very delicate and break easily).  I prefer the hard clear plastic moulds that I used growing up - I find the silicone ones a little tricky for removing the chocolates and because they are bendy they are more difficult to manoeuvre into the freezer. You also can't see if there are any air bubbles in the silicone moulds.
  • You need a double boiler arrangement.  Be incredibly careful doing this, heat the water on a medium heat then place a bowl with the chocolate inside.  There must be no possibility of water splashing into the bowl - the smallest drop will turn your chocolate gritty and hard.  Additionally, once it has melted you need to remove it from the boiler - if overheated it can go very gritty, or get the 'bloom' very easily once set.
  • If you have children then letting them help will be messy.  I made a couple of batches of eggs first, then let the children go for it.  They tend to accidentally spill the chocolate while transferring to the moulds, then use their fingers to clean up the mess.  Dried chocolate is painful to clean up - I used a pastry knife to chip it off the bench.
  • After filling the moulds tap them gently a few times to remove air bubbles.  If you have clear moulds you can check underneath to see if there are any visible air bubble.s
  • Place the filled moulds in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to set the chocolate.  When the chocolate is ready it will come out of the mould very easily.  Do not forget about it in the freezer - it will develop wet condensation which will effect the quality of the chocolate.
  • You can buy egg moulds and can either make them hollow (swirl the chocolate around the mould and tip out the extra) or fill them.  You can join them to another matching egg mould either while making them (I used to fill one side of the mould with chocolate, join to the matching side, clip pegs around the edges and then shake) or 'glue' them together with chocolate when both sides are made.
  • You can buy flavourings and colouring for chocolate.  Do not use normal food colouring in chocolate as it has the same effect as adding water to the chocolate - not good.  Buy powder colouring.  You can buy flavours and fillings - I scooped a dollop of salted caramel butter inside an egg I made - awesome!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Christmas BBQ for lovely old friends: post-marinated rump steak, bacon wraps and macerated fruit salad

*****I've spent the last few weeks struck down by cryptosporidium - so not up to eating, and trying to avoid cooking.  This is a post I've had waiting to finish for awhile, and I'm making the pear, haloumi, sage and bacon wraps tonight.*****

My husband and I have lots of lovely friends and last Christmas we were particularly excited to see two friends back from three years overseas.  There was challenging conversation, great news, gossip, laughs and yummy food.

I have one long standing BBQ favourite - a Nigella Lawson recipe. Basically you marinate the meat AFTER cooking - and the flavour is amazing.  The best thing is that it uses beef rump steak, which isn't that expensive, but the way in which you cook it means that you have tender, garlicky/ lemony beef that goes nicely over rice or a salad.

I researched Christmas recipes intensively last year - I like to make old favourites each year (which is why we did the Nigella turkey brine and had new potatoes) but I figure I'll never learn anything making the same recipes.  So I got together all the Christmas magazines and researched recipes. My new favourite Christmas BBQ dish (and one we have eaten at least fortnightly all summer is)  pear, haloumi and sage streaky bacon wraps.  I saw this in the December Women's Weekly.  It is a Jo Seager recipe, you can probably guess the process from the description! The pear goes all deliciously soft and the haloumi heats beautifully.  I will post about making haloumi later on - it is my new favourite cheese, and very easy to make.

A few years ago I came across a recipe for Macerated Fruit Salad.  I made it one rainy Christmas with fruit my in-laws brought with them from up North. This was the first year though that summer has been hot enough where I live to pull off this dessert at Christmas time.  I like this because it tastes like very, very fresh fruit salad - familiar, but special.

Macerated fruit salad

One punnet of strawberries, hulled and quartered
One punnet of strawberries, hulled.
Four nectarines, stoned and thinly sliced
One cup red grapes, halved
Juice of two oranges
Two TBSP caster sugar
One TBSP vanilla syrup

Mix together and chill for a couple of hours before serving.

Pear Upside Down Cake

I posted this recipe accidentally prior to editing so it was very rough looking!

I've been doing a crazy amount of preserving lately and, after finding a few local pear trees, ended up with a lot of pears.  I'm kind of a nervous preserver - I think all the warnings about sterility and botulism are kind of off-putting.  So I've decided to use the jars of pears as quickly as possible.  You could use fresh pears in this recipe, but I think preserved pears are really delicious.  

I made this recipe the first time when I was sick and needed to fill in the time with my two year old. I figured it had enough ingredients to keep her busy for awhile.  I didn't though feel much like eating, so took out a sliver.  It was a delicious, moist cake with just the perfect amount of ginger.  It feels like an 'adult' cake for me - made for a special morning tea perhaps.

This recipe is also made mainly in a food processor.  If you don't have one you could just use a stick blender.

Pear Upside Down Cake


40g melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 TBSP Golden Syrup
3 firm ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced into eighths (I used pears that I had preserved)

Cake mix

2 cups self raising flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup natural yoghurt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup golden syrup
1/2 cup plain oil
2 tsp ground ginger

Pre-heat oven to 170C.  Line a 23cm cake tin with baking paper.  For the topping combine the butter, sugar and syrup.  Spread over the base of the cake tin.  Arrange pear slices over top of the mixture.

In a food processor combine all cake mix ingredients.  When smooth (it may take a couple of minutes) pour over the pears and bake for 45-50 mins or until puffed and golden.  It is important to test the mixture with a skewer as I found appearances were quite deceptive with this recipe.  Rest for ten minutes in the cake tin before inverting onto a serving plate.