Thursday, 24 November 2011

Run, Run As Fast As You Can...

The pleasures of Christmas baking.  One of my favourite treats but especially at Christmas is gingerbread cookies.  I have family in Sweden and have been very fortunate to have travelled there many many times over the years, but most recently a few years ago just prior to Christmas with my Son.  We spent a wonderful few days catching up with family, ice skating, celebrating Advent and sightseeing.  We ate gingerbread, drank glug (type of mulled wine) and admired all the beautiful Christmas displays - oh the wonders of a cold wintery Christmas - magical!

Where I'm going with all the Swedish stuff are these gingerbread men.  Its a traditional Swedish recipe for Gingerbread Cookies.  I have adapted this to be Gluten Free and they work really well.  While best if eaten fresh, they will keep for a few days in an airtight container.  The beauty of this recipe is you can make it and keep the dough in the fridge or freezer then cut hunks off when you want cookies roll it out and bake in an instant - Awesome!

You need to make the dough the day before you want to use it.

1/2 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Golden Syrup
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Ground Cloves
2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Ground Cardamom
2 tsp Bicabonate of Soda (Baking Soda)
150g Unsalted Butter 
1 + 1/4C  White Sugar
3+3/4 C GF Flour

  1. Mix the butter sugar and syrup together and heat gently until the butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add your spices and Bicarb of Soda then the water and mix.
  3. Now add half of your flour and combine well.
  4. Add the rest of your flour and it should begin to pull together into a softish dough.  
  5. Remove from bowl and wrap in cling film and place in the fridge overnight.
  6. The next day or when you want to bake it, turn your oven to approx 200C.
  7. Roll the dough as thin as possible - I do this between 2 sheets of baking/greaseproof paper.
  8. Cut out your cookies using cutters and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  9. Bake for approx 5 minutes or until they start to turn dark golden.  Keep an eye on them though as they will burn quick.
These make quick easy decorations for your tree, gifts for friends or teachers or in bad weather a great project for the kids - make a big batch and get them to decorate them then eat them.

TIP:  The thinner you roll the dough for your cookies the crisper they will be.  Thicker is softer.  Also watch the super thin ones will bake in a few minutes only don't leave your oven!

Keep the dough quite happily in your freezer up to 3-4 months using as you need it.

Enjoy !

p.s I have it on good authority that Santa just LOVES these cookies with a glass of milk (or GF Beer) on Christmas Eve...hahahaha

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Another Week Another cake...

I've been insanely busy this week on the old GF Baking front.

I have baked 7 GF Christmas Cakes and 3 GF Christmas Puddings.  I still have about another 3 cakes and 3 puddings left to go but should knock most of those over tomorrow.  Then all they need to do is sit safely wrapped up maturing nicely until Christmas Day.

After the huge success of the busty bikini babe cake and post last week, I have another one for you.  Another birthday this weekend for a good friend who is currently building a small holiday house/granny flat on their acreage property.  He has done such an amazingly impressive job for someone who is neither builder nor tradesman.  Can't wait to see it for ourselves this afternoon.

I offered to make his birthday cake for him for today and I already had an image in mind....You guessed it.

A round Chocolate Mud cake covered with dark chocolate ganache.  Toolbelt and tools all made from tinted rolled fondant.  Thanks to the girls at CakeBitz in Southport for again assisting with the silver powder that allowed me to make the tools a shiny silver.

My first time using the silver dust powder which is then mixed with a little vodka to make a paste/paint consistency.  Painted on over grey tinted fondant it brought the tools up brilliantly - another little tip/trick I learned.

The main challenge in making this cake was working in the intense heat and humidity we have had this past week.  Daily temps have stayed steadily over 30 Celsius (86+ F)  Often with it hitting 30 before 9am and the humidity has been over 80 all week long.  Now that puts another light on my baking marathon this week!

The fondant was difficult to work with in the heat so I mostly did the moulding in the evenings when it was a little cooler.

No more decoration cakes on the horizon that I know of - next stop Christmas.  Watch out for a GF Christmas Pudding Post next - you will never buy a nasty shop bought pud, with or without gluten EVER again once you have made your own and tasted it.  Its worth all the time steaming it - trust me.


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Turning 40 and the Bikini Babe Cake !

Here lies the culprit of my long absence...
At a lunch with friends about a month ago the conversation got around to the upcoming 40th of a friend of ours.  His wife was hoping to surprise him not only with a wonderful weekend away but a cake in the style of a busty bikini babe.  She had approached a few cake places but nobody was willing to assist.  The only one place on the coast I could think of would have charge a huge sum for the job.

I volunteered to make the cake if she was happy to let me have a go.  I was quite excited at the challenge that lay ahead.

I spent a lot of time researching pictures of bikini cakes.  I make no apologies for not creating an absolute original design.  Its not my strongpoint and so many others have gone before me that I have copied a design from a cake that I researched on google.

I made a very large basic dark chocolate mudcake recipe using two large sheet cake tins.  The cake had to feed approx 30 people.  I have illustrated the creation here for you so its easy to visualise it all going together from design to finished product:

After I had found a design I wanted to use, I drew up a plan at full scale on a large sheet of paper.

From this scale I could figure out how big the cakes had to be and how big the 'Boob cups' needed to be.  Sourcing a round mould of the right size, depth and ability to be baked in the oven was a challenge.  I eventually used a small ceramic bowl that would usually be used for nuts or dips - luckily it was dishwasher, microwave and ovenproof !

The two mudcakes were baked, cooled and then placed in the freezer until i was ready to decorate them. I wanted the cakes frozen for a couple of days then thawed also to enhance to gooey 'muddiness' of the cake also.

From the dimensions of the cake I had a custom board cut and covered in cakeboard paper ready and waiting.  To stabilise the cake and provide a workable platform I cut another thick cardboard template to the same dimension and shape as the cake and covered with cakeboard paper also.  I used the board to assemble the cake and help make it a smooth transition to the large board.

The mudcakes upon thawing, were completely covered in dark chocolate ganache which I make by pouring boiling pure cream over baking chocolate and whisking.  The ganache needs to be made ideally the day before you wan to use it then refrigerate overnight.  Soften a little in the microwave to use.

I ganached the flat cake first and set it overnight in the fridge.  The next day I added the two 'boobs' on top of the ganache and covered them too in ganache and returned to the fridge for at least 4 hours.  When everything was set - I removed it from the fridge and used a Hot palette knife and my hands to smooth the ganache into an even and smooth shape.  The knife can only do so much.  I had great success dipping my hands in the hot water getting rid of excess water from hands and smoothing the chocolate.  This is the point to also add your abs and belly button but be gentle.
Then returned to the fridge overnight to set.  The cake is now completely sealed in the chocolate and will not go stale.

 I had tinted all my rolled fondant icings in advance so I had everything ready to go in  ziploc bags.  I use  gel colours to get nice vibrant colours in the fondant.  As you can also see the create the nipples and for a bit of fun I used 2 'Strawberries & Cream ' jellies.  Hahaha.

The next day was gonna be a big decoration day.  Start in advance by gathering everything you will need so its all on hand.

Fondants, knives, rolling pins, any cutters and latex gloves.

First task was mammoth - getting the 'skin' on the body.  How to get it over the boobs without it all falling apart quite literally.  How to move the super large sheet of fondant from bench to cake....
I rolled the fondant for the 'skin' out on the bench and measured the size required.  It was big !
First things first though, I painted a glaze onto the ganache to help the icing stick. I looked at my very "normal sized" rolling pin... My rolling pin just wasn't going to do the job.  Think think think - Eureka !  A cellophane wrapped full roll of christmas paper.  Long, strong and plastic covered.  I rolled the fondant onto the long roll, very very carefully liberally dusting with cornflour on the way to ensure it would not stick to the roll.  I started from the bottom of the cake and gently rolled up towards the chest.  All was well.  Now just gotta get it over the hill (!)  I slackened out the fondant and eased it as best it could.  I had to make a few nips and tucks but we got there.
The girl was fleshy but man she needed a tan!  Fortunately this is the Gold Coast and spraytans are what we do.  I had a great tin of edible bronzing spray by PME Arts & Crafts which I bought at CakeBitz in Southport.  I sprayed her liberally all over then she was ready to get her bikini on.
Copying my design and using my already tinted fondant I created layers for the bikini bottoms layering them in a pattern.
I then went to work on the top and the straps.  I really recommend getting the little roller tool that gives the stitching lines - it makes all the difference to the look of the bikini or any clothing item.
Once the full bikini was on and straps in place, I added the little tattoo using Americolor Pens.

She is looking very gold in this pic - thats just the way the flash showed it up.  In the 'flesh' she looked more spraytanned bronze than shiny gold.  The flash has just picked up the gold.

One last touch was needed and I completed this on the day we transported the cake to the venue.  The birthday banner.  I used my pasta machine to achieve the beautiful long ribbon and worked some kinks in for interest.  The letters were then added.

The final finishing touch just lifted the cake to another level.  I glazed the whole cake with Edible Lustre Spray in CLEAR from PME Arts & Crafts.  It gave the bikini an almost wet look.  Awesome!

Then it was all over!  Just down to the venue - leave in the hands of the chef with strict instructions to NO put it in the fridge!  Cross fingers and hope Anthony loved it.  I think he did.


Christmas Cakes Part 2.

OK, Im sorry to have disappeared off the radar for so long, on my next post tomorrow you will see why...

I finally got back to my fruit which had been quietly macerating for ooooo about a week in the bowl.  It was plump and juicy and so ready to get baked.

I am making the assumption here that you have:
1. Read the previous post and had your fruit quietly soaking up its brandy for a day at least.
2. That you have gathered all the remaining ingredients you will need from the last post also.

To recap here is the full list of ingredients:
450g  Currants
175g Sultanas
175g Raisins
50g Glace Cherries
50g Mixed Peel
(I sometimes mix up the fruits - adding chopped dried Dates, Craisins, Figs etc as long as Currants form the base the remaining 400g can be made up of whatever you fancy.)

225g Plain GF Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Mixed Spice
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
225g Unsalted Butter
225g Soft Brown Sugar
4 large Eggs
1 Desertspoon Black Treacle
The grated zest of one Lemon
The grated zest of one Orange
50g Chopped almonds

Make sure you have a cake tin of approx 20x20cm if square or diameter if circular.  Grease the tin and set aside.

  1. Preheat your oven to 140 Celsius / 275 Fahrenheit and measure out your dry ingredients and set aside.
  2. Measure your butter and brown sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat with your electric mixer until creamed, light and fluffy.
  3. Now add your eggs, one at a time beating all the time.  The mix may curdle/split, but just keep beating it will be fine and the taste will be the same.
  4. Now fold in your weighed and measured dry ingredients (flour, salt, spices).
  5. At this point I like to add in the treacle and the grated zests of the orange and lemon and mix them thoroughly before the fruit is added.
  6. Now you are ready to fold through all the beautiful fruit and nuts if you want to add the almonds.
  7. Now transfer the mix to your greased and lined tin using the back of a spoon the smooth it evenly into the corners and ensure a nice smooth distribution in the tin.
  8. Now you need to add a top to the cake with a double square of baking/greaseproof paper with a small hole cut in the centre.  This will protect the top of the cake while it bakes in the slow oven.
  9. Bake the cake on the lowest shelf in the oven for anywhere from 2-4 hours.  Every oven is different.  Mine bakes perfectly in 2 1/2 hours but other ovens may take up to 4.  Always use a wooden skewer to check after 2 hours and keep a close eye on it.
  10. When the skewer is removed and the cake is cooked remove it from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before removing it from the tin.  If you remove it too early the cake will be too soft and may break in half.
  11. When completely cooled and all baking paper is removed, I  drizzle over another 1/4 cup of brandy and then cling wrap and then foil wrap the cake completely and place in a cool cupboard until ready to decorate a day or so before Christmas.
Scarily enough I have been baking this exact Christmas cake for over 20 years now - man, just writing that makes me feel ancient!  It never fails.  It is dense, rich and moist just like any beautiful fruit cake should be.  Enjoy with your families, share with your friends and most of all have a wonderful Christmas with it.

Closer to Christmas I shall put up a post for decorating your Christmas Cake with marzipan and rolled fondant and loads of wonderful decorating tips.

L x

Friday, 4 November 2011

Christmas is Coming...Gluten Free Cakes & Puds

I'm busy this week in the preparation stages of what Im hoping will be an awesome cake creation for a friend.  I have sourced ingredients, equipment, custom boards for presentation that require cutting and covering.  I have measured and modeled.  I have at least 5 different shades of rolled fondant to tint and the cakes to bake ready for decoration.  I find that with cake decoration as with all things, if you take the time to prepare well, think your plan through gathering all the things you will need - then you can really enjoy the entire decoration process.

I have exactly "z e r o" patience.  Hard to believe I know.  Once around the Monopoly board and Im out!  But hours or days creating a cake is no bother at all.  Also, creativity is not exactly a strong point either.  Can't even draw a stick figure to proportion - so even I am amazed to find I can fashion kinda cool stuff out of lumps of icing...hahaha

Anyway - back to the original idea of this post.  While I am preparing the aforementioned cake extravaganza I am also thinking about Christmas.  I   L O V E  Christmas!!!  Its my favourite time of the year.  My Birthday is Christmas Day and all the traditional Christmas food is just wonderful.  I make so many Christmas Cakes every year.  I bake them, Organic and Gluten Free and have done for the past 3 years.  Prior to that I wasn't GF or too bothered on the Organic but still baked them all the same.  A good traditional fruit cake and Chrissy pud needs time to sit and mature to be at its best by Christmas.  They are super easy and the time to start is NOW!  For now though I'm only posting on the bit you need to do now.  Then I'll post on the baking after the fruit has sat and soaked up the brandy for a few days.

Go out and find the best quality dried fruit you can.  No bags of Mixed Fruit from the supermarket people.  The cake is a celebration and should be a triumph of beautiful plump quality dried fruit - Not pumped full of  glucose, vegetable oils, sulphites and preservatives.  Natural, beautiful fruit - thats the objective.  Beautiful fruit will create a beautiful cake.  These ingredients will make a 20x20cm square cake.

450g  Currants
175g Sultanas
175g Raisins
50g Glace Cherries
50g Mixed Peel
(I sometimes mix up the fruits - adding chopped dried Dates, Craisins, Figs etc as long as Currants form the base the remaining 400g can be made up of whatever you fancy.)

At the bare minimum the night before you want to make the cake collect these ingredients above place into a large bowl and pour over 3 Tbsp Brandy (I usually end up pouring over about 1/8 cup)  Give it a good stir through and cover with either a clean tea towel or I cling wrap the bowl.

Set it aside until ready to bake.  I often will leave mine sitting and stirring through each day for up to a week.  The longer you let it sit the plumper and juicier the fruit will be.

While it is taking a day or a few days to plump up (and trust me - don't skip that step)  gather the remaining ingredients you will need below:

225g Plain GF Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Mixed Spice
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
225g Unsalted Butter
225g Soft Brown Sugar
4 large Eggs
1 Desertspoon Black Treacle
The grated zest of one Lemon
The grated zest of one Orange
50g Chopped almonds

Make sure you have a cake tin of approx 20x20cm if square or diameter if circular.  You will need non-stick baking paper, an old newspaper, pen and scissors also.

Speak in a few days on the next bit.