My son’s birthday is coming up and, within the space of a year, he has suddenly acquired the ability to compose his own birthday wish list, probably a necessary skill in the evolution of a toddler to prevent their well-meaning parents from buying the “wrong” gifts and thus forcing them to play with the more interesting packaging instead.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that we were recently in Stockholm. It’s a city which I always enjoy visiting for both the local food scene, as well as to indulge in Scandinavian-designed home decor and kitchenware. I hope to publish my city guide on Stockholm soon!
When in Stockholm, a visit to one of the many charming cafés is a must, and these chocolate cookies, called Chokladsnittar, are a childhood favourite of many locals. I love the simplicity of this recipe – a plain chocolate biscuit decorated unpretentiously, but beautifully, with pearl sugar.
“Why another recipe for chocolate cake?”, you might ask.
For nearly a decade now, I thought I had found THE chocolate cake recipe, namely Nigella Lawson’s Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake, which has been my faithful go-to chocolate cake recipe for every occasion from birthday parties to moments where I simply felt that chocolate cake was the answer (like on Friday nights when I like to be slumped on the sofa watching back-to-back episodes of the Good Wife).
But I think this Chocolate Coconut Cake might be my new favourite cake …
It is a rare occasion for us to celebrate Christmas in Zurich, a rather welcome change as it has given me the opportunity to cook on Christmas Day, something which might prompt fear and dread in most people but has instead filled me with glee as the Christmas season started to approach.
I love baking at this time of the year. With the scent of cakes and bakes heady with cinnamon and ginger wafting from the kitchen, you can really start to feel Christmas in the air. And what better way to kick off the festive season than with a batch of homemade gingerbread cookies?
Once upon a time, I had a terrible Tupperware addiction. Tupperware simply appealed to the Martha Stewart in me, the part of me which dreamt of cupboards filled with colour-coordinated containers, neatly stacked and labelled so that everything had its own special home. I spent hundreds of dollars on plastic Tupperware containers, ranging from the practical modular mates to the cute carry-all picnic sets, and the even cuter apple and grape containers. Once I was done organising the pantry and cupboards, I even invested in special containers to organise and optimise the fridge. It was mad.
You may or may not have noticed from my photos on Facebook and Instagram that I have a weakness for éclairs. Being able to indulge in éclairs from the wonderful pâtisseries in Zurich, it never occurred to me that I should make my own éclairs at home. But when I was recently asked to have a look at Ruth Clemens’ new book, Creative Éclairs, I was instantly inspired to create a batch of my own. After all, I’m no stranger to choux pastry; I often make profiteroles and chouquettes at home, and éclairs can generally be described as profiteroles in a different shape.
With summer in full swing in Europe at the moment, a chilled dessert is the ideal way to end a nice meal. That or a big bowl of ice-cream. And one can hardly go past the quintessential French classic, a mousse au chocolat.
My husband’s grandmother is well-known for her chocolate mousse, a treat which she often served up when my husband was a wee little boy and well into his adulthood. Alas, given her advancing age, she retired from the kitchen some time ago but I was ever thankful when she shared her “secret” recipe with me and my sister-in-law. I was bemused, but not overly surprised, to discover that her secret ingredient was the humble bar of milk chocolate, something which gave the mousse a nursery sweetness and which made it just right for the palates of little (and big) babes.
I’m conscious that I have quite a few recipes for chocolate cake on this blog, but I suppose one more can’t hurt …
This recipe was given to me by my French mother-in-law after some pleading on my part. One afternoon, after she had served a procession of five courses at lunch, she brought out this beauty for dessert, a plain chocolate cake which tasted anything but.
As an Australian married to a Frenchman, could there be a more perfect cake to represent the union of our two cultures than the madelamington, a French madeleine dressed up as an Australian lamington? No, I didn’t come up with this name, but I am rather disappointed that I didn’t coin this term myself. In fact, as a frequent baker and consumer of madeleines and lamingtons, I wonder how the idea of marrying these two cakes had never occurred to me.
It was precisely this recipe in Rachel Allen’s new book, Cake, which prompted me to buy the book. Not that I really needed a recipe – I could have used my go-to madeleine recipe and the chocolate icing from my lamington recipe. But the idea of the madelamington itself was so cute that I was sold on the book.
With Australia Day approaching, my thoughts have been turning to traditional Aussie cakes and pastries, and these Chocolate Coconut Bars are hard to go past. Perhaps these slices are not what one would think of eating on Australia Day (lamingtons are more common), but this classic recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly is one which I have grown up with and I was only too happy to be reminded of it recently when the recipe was posted on the AWW’s Facebook page.
True to the style of the Australian Women’s Weekly, this recipe is a doddle to make and uses ingredients which you are likely to have in your fridge and pantry. There are no fancy ingredients required here – the chocolate component is derived from cocoa powder. But, as always, some good quality cocoa powder would be recommended to make these slices extra special.
My husband and I are delighted to announce the arrival of our first child, a healthy and bouncing little boy, in late November. He has inherited his mother’s love for sleep and eating, except, of course, his mother has been doing little of either in recent weeks 😉
In preparation for his arrival, I had lined up several posts in readiness for publishing on this blog in the coming months, but pregnancy is so often fraught with periods of distraction (particularly nesting in the third trimester) that my to-do list soon became a to-do item in itself. And since the Little One’s birth, I’m not even sure where that to-do list is anymore …
But as our Little One is approaching one month old (didn’t we just bring him home from the hospital??), bits and pieces of my former life are reappearing and I suddenly feel a sense of normality returning, if only very briefly. So I am stealing a moment right now to try and quickly post something, not to mention that I even found time to do some food photography this morning! Amazing how little sleep one really needs to function 😉
In my last post, I was complaining about the bout of hot weather which we have had recently in Zurich. It seems that the weather has now turned too soon and summer has somehow disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. For all of my complaining, I miss those breezeless afternoons spent on the balcony, lazing about with a good book or magazine. But the return of cooler weather has meant a return to the television room, a somewhat neglected room in our home because we hardly ever watch TV, although I do have a soft spot for watching back-to-back episodes of TV shows on DVD when time permits.
One thing I love to do when the rain is bashing outside is to pop on a cooking DVD; I somehow never seem to tire of listening to Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver going about their kitchen with their enthusiasm for the recipe at hand. I was recently watching an episode of Nigella’s Kitchen where Nigella was making a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake, a calorie-laden recipe which is quite true to her kitsch junkie style, not to mention that she made the whole thing whilst wearing a black satin nightrobe, all the while miraculously managing to avoid spilling anything on herself. Perhaps if I, too, donned a silk nightrobe instead of a frilly apron everytime I entered the kitchen, I might make less of a mess??
I recently offered to help out at a kid’s birthday party and somehow ended up with the task of making the actual birthday cake. My first thought was to make Nigella Lawson’s Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake, a simple two-tiered chocolate cake covered in a thick, chocolate frosting with maybe some (shop-bought) sugar flowers for decoration. Simple. I had made this cake many times before and knew it to be a very reliable recipe.
But as ran my eyes across my sprawling bookshelf of cookbooks, the Miette cookbook caught my eye and, before I could think about it reasonably, I sent a link to my friend to see if she approved of the Tomboy Cake, to which she replied that it was the most beautiful cake she had ever seen. And so I had unwittingly set myself an almost impossibly high challenge and wondered over the coming days how I was going to avoid disappointing the birthday girl.
The Tomboy Cake is comprised “simply” of three tiers of chocolate sponge, separated by a piped layer of raspberry buttercream, and elegantly adorned with an understated rose in the centre of the cake. It is called a “Tomboy Cake” because the sides of the cake are left bare and unfrosted, and thereby does not appear as feminine as it would if the whole cake were to be covered in pink frosting. It is a stunning cake to look at and equally deceptive in the level of skill required to achieve such a simple look.
It is rather incredible to believe that, only one year ago, did I embark on this blogging adventure, extending my forays into the world of food by embracing new technology (WordPress, CSS and html coding were not part of my skill-set prior to the last 12 months), embracing a new medium through which I could share my love of cooking and photography and, most important of all, embracing a whole new community out there who are just as passionate as I am (if not more) about all things related to food.
They say that anyone can buy a good house, but good neighbours are priceless.
We happen to be blessed with the most wonderful neighbours in our whole building. Ok, it’s a small building with only 5 tenants, but it is still a wonder that we love to get together regularly for dinner, with a new host on each occasion and dinner being a casual affair where we each arrive in our house-slippers and even bring along chairs or an assortment of dinnerware if need be. We go on picnics together, attend each other’s wedding and even babysit if the need arises. One particular neighbour is so sweet to occasionally leave boxes of Lindt chocolates on our doorstep, he being an employee of this awe-inspiring local institution. If you have had a horrid day at work, coming home to find a little treasure of pralines at your door not only does wonders for your spirit, but almost makes you believe in the fairy godmother.
This is a cake which I love to make when we have guests over, and this extra-chocolatey version is a favourite at Easter.
The recipe is based on the Chocolate Cloud Cake from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites which has the inclusion of Cointreau for a liqueur kick and is simply decorated with whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder. But Nigella also offers an Easter version in her book, Feast, a child-friendly version whereby the alcohol is replaced with vanilla, the cake is swathed in a decadent chocolate cream, and this elegant concoction is then adorned with pastel-coloured, sugar-coated chocolate Easter eggs.
Whether you are making the original or Easter version, this is the perfect cake to make for anyone who has a gluten intolerance as it does not contain any flour. The absence of flour also guarantees that the cake will be tender and moist within, rich with chocolate flavour. The chocolate intensity of the cake depends much on the type of chocolate that you use. Nigella specifies using “best quality dark chocolate” which I interpret as meaning chocolate with minimum 70% cocoa solids, but I think 60% and upwards is fine (I used 68%). The dark chocolate might not sound kid-friendly but there is also sugar in the batter to sweeten things a bit.
The Salon du Chocolat is the world’s largest event dedicated to chocolate and this year was the first time the event came to Zurich, Switzerland.
One of the organisers of the event was Kerrin Rousset of the delightful Swiss food and travel blog, My Kugelhopf. She and her colleagues did a fantastic job in introducing some truly wonderful French chocolatiers and pastry chefs to Switzerland, as well as bringing together some local names for what was a really successful and enjoyable event.
With over 30 stalls, visitors were able to sample a variety of artisanal chocolates on offer, ask questions about the ingredients used and techniques employed, and generally enjoy the visual displays on offer. The event was a chocolate-lover’s dream and I hope it will return to Zurich next year!
I have a weak spot for any recipe which contains Nutella. Although it is a welcome comfort just on its own, spoon directly in the tub, I find it equally irresistible in baked goods. Take the Madeleines with Nutella, as an example.
So when I saw this recipe for Gooey Chocolate Cakes with Raspberries and Nutella, hardly any encouragement was required to try this recipe. And I have since made this recipe no less than half a dozen times, a testament to how wonderful these little cakes are.
This is another fabulous recipe from Katie Quinn Davies of the famed What Katie Ate food blog and who has recently been propelled to stardom with her own cookbook in the pipeline, plus a regular monthly column in Australia’s Delicious magazine. If there is anyone’s career path I admire right now, it is hers. Given her amazing talent as a stylist and photographer, she clearly deserves all of this recognition which has come her way.
Happy Australia Day! Although lamingtons have an iconic status in Australia and are enjoyed throughout the year, it seems rather fitting to make lamingtons for Australia Day.
Lamingtons are quite popular at bake sales, and anyone growing up in Australia will know of the lamington drives, a fundraising event (usually in schools) where lamingtons would be sold by the half dozen to raise money for charity.
If you are a fan of white chocolate, you will love White Christmas. I’m not sure where this recipe originated from and how the name came about, but it is ridiculously easy to make and serves well as a sweet treat throughout the festive season, not to mention that they are great as Christmas gifts too.
I have a real soft spot for madeleines. It could be because I have very early memories of eating these dainty little cakes, their light sponginess making them the perfect snack for little hands. The madeleines of my childhood were always plain or lemon flavoured. These days, recipes abound with countless variations of flavours for these little cakes, both sweet and savoury. And I love them all!
One particular variation which I make perhaps a bit too often is with Nutella, another great love of mine from my childhood. Growing up, I was made to believe that Nutella was unhealthy and, anyway, none of my school friends ate Nutella. You see, the “good kids” ate Vegemite so I was usually only given a little sachet of Nutella once in a blue moon as a treat.
If you are looking for THE best ever cookie recipe, look no further. Be prepared to swoon once you try these.
Any recipe which calls for a heart-stopping amount of chocolate (like 500 g) is certain to provide relief from whatever it is that is causing you to seek solace in something sweet. This particular recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express, which comes via Elinor Klivans.
If I had to name one dessert as my “desert island dessert”, it would probably have to be profiteroles. It seems most people are abuzz with French macaroons these days (which I also adore) but, to me, the profiterole is what encapsulates a typically French dessert. There is something about the sweet custard encased in a soft choux pastry and then covered with a decadent chocolate sauce. Whenever I see it on a dessert menu, I often find it hard to resist, even if there might be many other more exotic desserts on offer.
Growing up in Brisbane, I remember eating profiteroles only on rare occasions when my French class and I would visit one of the few French restaurants in the area in an attempt to practice our clumsy French with the poor chef and waiter who probably had to put up with the same lame dialogue on a frequent basis. I often wondered if the Alliance Française or even the French Embassy collaborated with these few French restaurants to somehow facilitate unusually slow, clear and polite French with their customers.
Welcome to my blog, a place to share my culinary adventures.
And what better way to celebrate my first post than with a celebratory chocolate cake! And this is not just any ordinary chocolate cake … it is a rich, moist and dense Chocolate Pound Cake adapted from a recipe by Marlene Matar from “Marlene’s Best Recipes From East and West”.