Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why you should get an electric mixer if you bake

I have been using my new electric mixer from Christmas and I can see and taste the difference especially on the quality of buttercream icing.

Check out this buttercream I made using a whisk, by hand:

See how it is all grainy and sorta chunky? Well I'm guessing that the power I am putting in with my arms  must be around 40 Watts (tops), and I can only do it at full power for a few seconds at a time (go ahead laugh, but try it yourself).

Now compare it to my new 220 Watt electric mixer:

It is *perfectly smooth*. It makes for a much more pleasant experience in your mouth, texture and flavor wise since all the ingredients are blended much better and are less likely to separate should the temperature rise a bit.

These are strawberry champagne cupcakes by the way. I made a couple dozen today to bring to a BBQ tomorrow celebrating Australia Day.

The recipe is from a blog called Love & Olive Oil, which I use often because the cupcake recipes there seem to be pretty reliable, none have failed so far. A down side is that some of the recipes are lactose free or vegan  (no butter, no milk, no eggs, etc.) due to personal choices of the author. I don't mind at all, but I suppose some people would.

I used slightly over half of the sugar that the recipe called for in the icing. I often cut back on the sugar because most icing recipes will make my teeth hurt :-) You can cut the sugar and will still obtain a pretty nice texture. I always put the icing in the fridge for 10 minutes before I start piping to ensure the buttercream will be stiff enough to hold its shape.

A few notes on the final result:

  • These were the most expensive cupcakes I have made to date because I had to use a whole bottle of sparkling wine (I made double the recipe). Bad idea but too late by the time I realized. The taste of champagne is sort of there but not really identifiable, so next time I will use a more normal/cheaper flavoring.
  • There is a hint of strawberry in the cake itself, but not as strong as I would have liked so I will need to experiment more. 
  • The cake is lovely, spongy, springy and melts in your mouth. I would not mess with the sugar content here, it's perfect.
Lastly, a shout out to my homey Parisa, who made a sweet looking hot pink raspberry cake!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Christmas 2010 (2 of 2)

So on Christmas Day we invited a few of our non-aussie aka.-no-family-commitments-friends to come over for a holiday dinner. It was our first time hosting at the new place and I really wanted to make it special and grown-up like (no more college student dinners on the floor).

We served a few canapes in the living room, a mix of cheeses, crackers, spicy nuts and olives stuffed with roasted garlic.

The cloth covering the chest in the living room, as well as the dinning table cloth and napkins, came from a couple of yards of Japanese fabric purchased from a very nice Japanese lady (the beehive gallery on 441 King St). Then I cut it myself, pinned the borders and asked the dry cleaners nearby to please sew it for me. If you own a sewing machine, this would have been an excellent and cheap DIY project, but for me it wasn't so cheap because I had to pay for the sewing.

I always keep glass jars from jam and pickles, or sometimes glass soft drinks bottles and reuse them as flower vases, which is what I did this time. For the life of me I cannot remember the name of these flowers but they look adorable when bunched up like so. Tying the cutlery and napkins with twine is such a mindless detail but I think it made a big difference in presentation.

{M making negronis for our guests with his new cocktail spoon}

The dinner menu consisted of chickpea and greens salad, grilled tomatoes with basil, root vegetables gratin dauphinoise and baked salmon with dill and white wine (no link, as M made up the recipe).

Our guests all live here in Sydney, but came from Singapore and Venezuela. We had a fantastic evening and even though we had to wash all the dishes by hand I would love to do it again in a split second! We're looking to buy a small bbq grill soon and have another small soiree for the neighbors.

Maybe a post about new years next?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Christmas 2010 (1 of 2)

I know it has been almost a month but I am just glad I finally got around to it and I hope you are too!

I wanted to share our first Christmas in Sydney with the world (because the whole world reads this blog). Get ready for cheesy pictures, oh well, I tried to make them look interesting by adding some cross processing and (over) using the mosaic collage feature.

On Christmas Eve, also referred to in this house as "the night before December's work holidays" because we try to remain a secular home, we celebrated with a little dinner just the two of us.  I made kangaroo steaks, M's favorite spicy baked potato wedges and some green beans. I also busted out the fancy wine for this one, that's right, $22 bucks a bottle just for this special occasion.

The next morning, Christmas day, also known as "joyous secular gifts day" I got up to make us breakfast as well. I'm the biggest fan of breakfast and for the most part I don't really believe in cereal, unless I'm in a rush or too sleepy. I don't mess around with breakfast, ever. You can always count on me to have some coffee, juice and eggs at hand. Toast, tomatoes and avos are seasonal ;-)

So after brekkie it was opening presents time!!! woot woot!

This year M hit it right out of the ballpark and got me some awesome stuff, like a super powerful jet-engine hand mixer encrusted in diamonds.

Ok so it wasn't encrusted in diamonds, but my point is that even if it had been, I couldn't have been more excited :-) except when right after that I opened two huge presents that were full of crafty goodness!!!! M went to a craft shop and went to town on awesome stationary, cutters, paper, stickers and markers galore. I love that man.

And next he was up. He was a very good boyfriend this year and received a one year membership to our local movie theater (for discounted tix yay!) among other things. Like these brand new house slippers:

He hates waking around the house in shoes because supposedly they bring dirt and germs and poop from the outside, so we usually walk around in slippers.

He also got a pimping bathrobe.

But the gift he was most excited about was his new professional cocktail spoon. M loves making cocktails for himself and his friends and I guess this makes him look more legit. The spoon end is for stirring and the flat end is for crushing ice.

I should also note that he was uncomfortable with me showing photos of him in boxer shorts, but I just think he looks so cute and ultimately wanted to share what our day was genuinely like. Somehow I managed to convince him to let me use these shots, please praise him for it ;-)

We weren't the only ones to receive gifts this year of course. My awesome friend Parisa sent us a super thoughtful package and in it there was a cat toy for Murka. She immediately loved it and to this day it remains her favorite toy. She already broke it twice and we had to fix it both times.

So that's all I'm sharing for today, but I will finish and post part 2 "dinner with friends" very very soon!

Hope you all had a nice Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Grilled cheese

I found a blog dedicated to grilled cheese sandwiches and started experiencing an uncontrollable craving (similar to the one creeping into you now) to make one.

So I headed to my fridge to see what was available. We always have a couple of nice cheeses at hand, but sadly today, not much else was there.

My grilled cheese consists of basil pesto, chevre with dill, tomatoes, vintage cheddar and dijon.

Doesn't look as good as the ones from Grilled Cheese Social, but it hit the spot and was grilledcheelicious!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A birthday cake

My mom's birthday was yesterday and I decided to bake a cake in her honor. This is a layered cake with chocolate and raspberry swirl layers, covered in chocolate ganache and chocolate buttercream.

Mom I wish I coud share this cake with you in person! I promise to make you another one next time we see each other. Happy birthday!