Sunday, May 30, 2010

Winter warmers

I love food blogs but I don't like the term foodie as it's used too often these days, it seems that everyone who enjoys eating like to call themselves a foodie.  To be a real food connoisseur, you actually need to be able to cook.  You need to understand how food is prepared and how it is cooked to truly appreciate what you eat.  I could go on for days and days on this topic, but I won't.....

Anyways, along those lines, I'd like to blog about what I know.  I know how to bake and decorate cakes, and I like to eat and cook.  Something my cousin, Harry of Cafe China fame says is in our blood - after all, it's been in our family for the last 5 generations.  So, I'd like to give you an insight into some of the places that Perth has to offer for coffee, cakes and brunch.

This weekend, Jo and I visitied Boucla in Subiaco for our regular cake catch up.

Boucla is tucked away on the quiet side of Rokeby Road near Nicholson Road.  It started off being a little bit of a local secret but very quickly got very busy.  Jo and I were certainly not to be deterred by its popularity and arrived promptly at 9am on Satuday morning.

The big breakfast consisted of spinach, chipolatas, field mushroom, greek beans, speck, and fresh, perfectly poached eggs on toast.   It was just the thing we needed to start the day!

As we sat there, the cakes started coming out of the kitchen, a couple at a time.  We had started regretting our choice of chocolate & ricotta cake (which was delicious too) as there seemed to be more and more interesting morsels appearing every half hour or so.

Takeaway trade was brisk and the line never ended from about 10am onwards.  It seemed as if a lot of locals came down to grab a coffee and roast beef roll, or some of a delicious looking feta & spinach filo pie.

The coffee was fantastic and just the right temperature.  My cafe latte tasted great, even though I went for the skinny option.

The cake selection at 11am. 

It all looked so organic, wholesome and certainly delicious.  Boucla is a little gem, food made with a lot of heart (which is rare) and probably no longer a kept secret.  It left us with a longing to return some time soon with clothing worn for eating.  *evil grin*

Baking Better Muffins

We love muffins.  My whole family loves THESE muffins.  My brother once bought them to his office for his birthday and his boss ate 3 muffins in one breath.  They really are amongst the best muffins you can make, all you need is a spoon and a bowl.  So, whilst it's cold outside, give it a go, because a cup of strong tea with lots of sugar and milk and a homemade muffins will surely warm you up!

The best thing about these muffins are that you can make them savoury or sweet with a whole world of flavours limited only to your imagination.

Buttermilk Muffins
1/2 cup rice bran oil
3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar (omit if making svoury)
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla paste (omit if savoury)
1 cup buttermilk
3 cups Self raising flour
Pinch of salt (increase to 1 tsp if savoury)
1 3/4 - 2 cups fruit, grated, smashed, whole or diced (vegetable if savoury)

Preheat oven to 190C

Combine oil,  sugar, egg and vanilla together. Add buttermilk when combined.
In another bowl mix flour with lemon zest and a pinch of salt.  Add the wet ingredients to the flour mix and stir gently until just combined.

Fill muffin cups to the very top (for big puffy muffins).  Bake in hot oven for 10 minutes and reduce heat to 170C and bake for further 15 minutes.

For a extra special treat, you can put a streusel topping on the muffins

1 tbsp chilled unsalted butter
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts/pecans

Combine all ingredients in a bowl till you have a crumbly mixture.  Generously sprinkle on top of muffins prior to baking.

Savoury zucchini, onion & cheese muffins with garlic salt

Apple & cinnamon muffins with a praline topping

Happy baking!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Daring Bakers May Challenge

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Surprisingly, this month, I was terribly organised and managed to make a real head start on this challenge!  I had actually been playing with the idea of making a croquembouche for my mum's birthday this year as choux puffs top her list of favourite foods.  Anyways, as it would be, this challenge came along at an opportune time and so instead, I made it for mothers' day.

I have made choux before and find it quite easy to work with.  I love how they puff and become all fluffy fresh out of the oven!
The French have this totally correct, I wish I had the foresight to sprinkle a couple of these with some gruyere cheese and what a delicious snack they would've been!

Far too ambitious, my puffs we too big to make a small crouquembouche - but then we were too few people to eat a big one, so in the end, a rather out of proportion piece montee......

Decorated with edible stars and fondant flowers.  Filled with a delicious dulce de leche pastry creme.  All in all, not a bad morning's work!  The left over choux ran off with its good friend, the debonair Kennedy & Wilson couverture chocolate with 38% cocoa (in my opinion, the best chocolate available in Australia - sorry Callebaut & Valrhona) and a spinkling of hazelnut praline. *contented sigh*

 All filled with the same sinfully rich dulce de leche creme (google it if you dont know what it is)

Crunchy toffee, soft eggy choux pastry, complex silky caramel creme....yes, it was a very sweet afternoon!
Happy Mother's Day to my mum and all the selfless, tireless mothers out there, with the hardest job in the whole world!  Mum - thank you for being such an inspiration to me every day!

Thanks to Cat for picking such a wonderful challenge.  For recipes, check out Little Miss Cupcake and how the rest of the daring bakers faired this month!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

An inspiring 60 years young!

This weekend, my amazing Aunt turned 60.  Such a gorgeous, composed and youthful looking 60 she is!  We celebrated the great occasion with 40 of her favourite people at the Joondalup Resort.

My aunt is an amazing lady, all those things that you want to grow up to be.  Graceful under pressure, composed under stress, elegant, compassionate and always kind and wise, and a great cook on top of all that.  In 2007 she was diagnosed with lymphoma and this year marks the completion of her 2 year maintenance period.  As her children say, "What a champion!"  We are so proud of you Auntie Jennie and wish you good health and much joy for many, many decades to come!!

The cake and cupcakes were gluten free vanilla and chocolate.  Decorated with sugar flowers with edible lustre.  All to match her bubbly personality and her love of flowers.

 Gluten free can be delicious as well!!

Sara also celebrated a milestone birthday this weekend, with her best friend organising a brain workout by way of a quiz night and surprised her with a massive chocolate cake.  Chocolate is every girls' good friend...right?

Looks like Sara needs just a teeny tiny bit of help blowing out the candles.  

Happy birthday and many happy returns Sara!  
photo courtesy of Leona

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monkeying around

A relatively laid back week here in Perth.  It's been pretty cold and we had another one of those freakishly heavy downpours, only with much less media coverage.

It was amongst this cold and rain that Mat celebrated his 30th birthday.  Mat wanted a 3 tiered cake and a safari theme with a monkey.   I normally get nervous making cakes for guys, cos it really isn't the easiest to make a cake seem masculine.  However, a safari/monkey cake gave me a cool theme to work with!  As Mat is also the doting daddy to a 3 year old, I thought I'd make something on the cuter side, as a happy child is a happy parent!

Bananas and palm trees makes for a pretty warm birthday.....
Credits to the award winning Joanne of Cupcake Gallery in Sydney for the inspiration of the cheeky monkey.

Look at him, taking a huge chunk of birthday cake and getting caught in the act!

Matt said via email: "Once again thanks for the cake, it's very cute and pretty, we all just stared at it and were reluctant to start eating it. Ended up just eating the bottom part and I brought the top part to the next day's big family dinner while the kids were all fighting to eat the monkey."

 I assume this means he liked the cake!!
Happy birthday Mat, many happy returns and may you always be young at heart! 

On a totally different topic, for those of us who still remember good service, it appears that it is increasingly difficult to come by.  Good service it seems is the exception rather than the norm these days.  So, last week, an older lady walked into an ANZ bank.  The lady at the counter spent more than 40 minutes with her, teaching her how to use internet banking and patiently answered all her questions.  Although, she was just doing her job, the happy customer was impressed enough to ask me to make a thank you gift for her lovely bank lady.

 A pot of edible flowers was the result.  And one good turn deserves another.  It just goes to show that people appreciate when effort is made and you just never know when you make a difference to someone's day.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More classes...

Final week of Planet Cake classes in Perth.  Teaching with Handi was such a great honour and definately a whole heap of cake fun!

With the second lot of Basic 101 and 102 students.  Look at all these lovelies hard at work!

Of course, for those of you following Masterchef on TV, you may have noticed the segment on the children's party challenge.  Planet Cake of course was once again invited to host part of the challenge.

Blue team made cupcakes (We were very happy that they won)

and the red team made a castle cake

Although we were disappointed that not more was shown on the actual making of the cake - which I'm sure many people wanted to see (after last years tension filled wedding cake challenge), we neverthless celebrated the evening with Handi with cocktails and champagne!

Talking about Handi, he has become a little bit of a local celebrity appearing on the 92.9 breakfast show with Lisa, Sam Mac & Basil.  The station was inundated with calls following a cupcake challenge.  And of course his big picture appeared in the Western Suburbs Weekly as well, which resulted in Epicurious being bombarded with calls long after we had put him on the plane back to Sydney.
Read the article here.  (Western Suburbs Weekly 4 May edition)

After a whirlwind fortnight of classes, Handi served Moet to the class on the last day.  Such a lovely gesture for a fabulous trip!  We look forward to having you back in August!

If you haven't enrolled already, get onto the Planet Cake site now to register for the August classes!  I look forward to meeting you then!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cats, Cocktails and a Cake filled weekend

This morning Cherie got a Monday morning birthday surprise.

Her fabulous friends Karen & Adrian had decided gift her a box of cupcakes with a theme of her favourite things.  Her 2 adorable cats and her love of cocktails.  Delivered to her office bright and early this morning.

Karen said via email : " Thanks Winnie,  Cherie was super surprised and loves the cupcakes.  Thanks again and I will look forward to surprising others in the future."  

Hope you had a lovely birthday Cherie, and how lucky you are to have such thoughtful friends!

After much anticipation and excitement surrounding the arrival of Planet Cake to Perth, classes started last Wednesday at Epicurious in Subiaco.  The classes we so popular they booked out in 2 weeks.  As a result I'm pleased to inform you all, that classes for August are now up on the PC site, please, please get in early or you will be disappointed!

Facilitating the courses with Handi is simply a great honour, and it's always fabulous to meet like minded people who are equally as cake crazed as we are!  Novelty 101 kicked off on Saturday, with some of the girls completing 5 full days of intensive cake decorating!  Talk about hard core fans!!

Look how happy the are with their wonderully finished clown tents ....or maybe just they're just relieved.......


Novelty 102 started bright and early on Sunday....when most of us should really have been still curled up in bed with a cup of tea and the morning paper.... (which incidentally Planet cake was featured in), but look at how hard these girls were working!

and of course how totally fabulous their cakes turned out.  Well done to all of you.  You all inspired me with your enthusiam and talents!

Look forward to seeing you girls for the intermediate courses in August!  

Don't forget to tune into Masterchef on Wednesday when Planet Cake hosts the challenge and to Perth radio station 92.9 on Thursday when Handi gets interviewed on air!

Look at the lovely cake Handi made for the judges!

...and look what they did to it!  Not to worry, most of it went to a good home!

Photos coutesy of Masterchef via facebook.