Friday, December 31, 2010

Pina Colada to welcome in 2011 Tropical Style!

Here in tropical Northern Australia, the sky's are cloudy and the rain teems down intermittently so the only way to welcome in the New Year is with a Pina Colada! Tonight as we sip our Pina Coladas, we can think of more sunny times ahead which 2011 is sure to bring. 

As this is my last post for 2010 I would like to thank all my readers, who have become dear friends over the year or so of my commencing this blog, for taking time to read and comment on various posts. Thank you for your interest. From you all I have learnt so much in not only in the cooking world but of friendship, values and traditions. May you all be blessed in 2011 with joy, laughter and love.

Now you must try my Pina Colada. It's not too late for tonight. My recipe is great because you can make it in advance and pour it into a jug. It will probably serve about 10. You just need a few ingredients.

Pina Colada

250g fresh pineapple chunks, pureed in the blender
5 cups pineapple juice ( I used sweetened - it's up to you) 
270ml  coconut cream
1 x 50g sachet of coconut milk powder (to give an extra kick of coconut flavour - you could use essence or Malibu)
1 1/4 cups white rum

Mix all the ingredients well using the blender. Pour into a jug. Refrigerate until cold. Serve over  ice.
Enjoy Pina Coladas and don't get caught in the rain! ( I couldn't resist - love that song!)

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 2010 Daring Bakers' Challenge - Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

What a wonderful challenge we were given this month - German Stollen. It was always something I contemplated baking. I love the whole idea of the traditional representation of a babe in swaddling clothes. However this stollen was to be prepared as a Christmas wreath and the photo's showed by our host Penny were beautiful and festive.

The crumb texture was superb

During the month as Daring Bakers prepared the given recipe reports of huge wreaths were abound. So I decided to prepare the dough but then divide it in half and flavour each half differently and make one wreath and one traditional "babe in swaddling clothes" loaf. The wreath was made with the given recipe making only a few minor changes which I have marked in red. I also made Almond Marzipan to be enclosed in the wreath. This was a delicious addition. With the other loaf I left out the fruit and nuts and replaced it with toasted, chopped hazelnuts and chopped, dark chocolate.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Stollen
 This is a very good recipe for stollen and the version given was a favourite among the family. The Hazelnut and Chocolate version seemed a little dry in comparison. Thank you Penny for a great challenge.

Stollen Wreath
Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Serves 10-12 people


¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) (22 ml) (14 grams) (1/2 oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) milk
10 tablespoons (150 ml) (140 grams) unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
5½ cups (1320 ml) (27 ozs) (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour (Measure flour first - then sift- plus extra for dusting)
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gms) sugar
¾ teaspoon (3 ¾ ml) (4 ½ grams) salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 grams) cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (very good) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract or orange extract
¾ cup (180 ml) (4 ¾ ozs) (135 grams) mixed peel (I made my own here is the link)
1 cup (240 ml) (6 ozs) (170 gms) firmly packed raisins
3 tablespoons (45ml) rum
12 red glacé cherries (roughly chopped) for the color and the taste. (optional)
1 cup (240 ml) (3 ½ ozs) (100 grams) flaked almonds
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath

Note: If you don’t want to use alcohol, double the lemon or orange extract or you could use the juice from the zested orange.

Soak the raisins
In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside. See Note under raisins

To make the dough
Pour ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) butter over medium - low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.
Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.
In a large mixing bowl (4 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests. I omitted the zests at this stage.
Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes rest I divided the dough in half and proceeded to add into one half in the zest and  the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red! I also added additional spices - 1 teaspoon cardamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.
With the other half I mixed in 1 cup chopped dark chocolate and 3/4 toasted and chopped hazelnuts.
Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn't enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

Shaping the Dough and Baking the Wreath

1. Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.
2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
4. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. At this point I made marzipan (recipe follows) which I formed into a long sausage shape and placed along the long side.
Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder.
Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape
Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough.'Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. The second chocolate and hazelnut dough was rolled out spread with hazelnut marzipan (recipe follows) and grated dark chocolate and then folded into thirds to resemble a babe in swaddling clothes.
Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.

Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot.
Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter.
Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first.
The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar.
Let cool at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh - especially if you intend on sending it in the mail as Christmas presents!
When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.
The stollen tastes even better in a couple of days and it toasts superbly…. so delicious with butter and a cup of tea….mmmmm
The more rum and the more coatings of butter and sugar you use the longer it will store.
The following is for the recipe as written and uses the 45 mls of rum and two coatings of butter and icing sugar
1. Stollen freezes beautifully about 4 months
2. The baked stollen stores well for 2 weeks covered in foil and plastic wrap on the counter at room temperature and
3. One month in the refrigerator well covered with foil and plastic wrap

Marzipan Recipe supplied by Daring Bakers member Audax Artifex
slightly adapted

1 cup ground almonds
1 cup powdered sugar
almond essence to taste
1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
1 egg white

Mix almonds, sugar, essence and liqueur. Add enough eggwhite to bind.

For Hazelnut Marzipan substitute ground hazelnuts for almond, omit almond essence and substitute Frangelico for the Amaretto.

Delicious Chocolate Hazelnut Stollen

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Calabrian Christmas Speciality - Petrali

I dedicate this post to my beautiful Calabrian relatives whom I can't be with but think of often and this Christmas I am with you in spirit.

Petrali are a traditional Christmas Calabrian sweet filled with figs and almonds. This may sound almost Sicilian and in fact the two areas are separated only by a ocean strait. However these are fervently Calabrian, actually to be precise more so from Reggio Calabria. The recipe comes from my dear cousin who loves baking sweets as much as I do. I have only slightly adapted the recipe and also halved it. They are wonderful with a thin coating of dark chocolate but they can also be icing with glace icing. With this recipe I made about 60 petrali with some filling leftover.

Firstly you must prepare the filling a few days before hand. This is the most delicious fruit mince I have ever tasted. I eat it by the spoon in an uncontrollable fashion.

 I can't buy vin cotto so my cousin told me what she does. First take a one litre bottle of white wine, an apple, a pear, an orange, 50g sugar and a cinnamon stick. Put the whole lot (fruit is left whole) in a saucepan and simmer  until reduced to about 250ml.


300g figs, finely chopped
100g sultanas
250ml reduced wine (as above)
125ml strong black coffee
100g sugar
150g almonds, toasted and finely chopped
150g walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
3 teaspoons cinnamon
100g dark 70% chocolate
Marsala to moisten

Combine in a saucepan figs, sultanas, reduced wine, coffee and sugar. Heat gently and stir to combine and allow the fruits to plump and absorb the liquid. Cool. Add the remaining ingredients, adding Marsala if needed. Store in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours adding more Marsala if needed. Taste and add more sugar also if needed. 

Pasta Frolla ( Pastry)

500g flour
1 sachet of raising powder for cakes ( or 1 teaspoon of baking powder)
100g butter
200g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated rind of one lemon
3 eggs

 Heat oven to 180C.
In the food processor place flour, raising powder and butter. Pulse until crumbly. Adds sugar. Pulse to mix. Add vanilla, lemon rind and eggs. Pulse to combine. I needed a dash of sweet sherry to bring it all together but that might have just been the weather. Only add a drop of milk or sweet sherry if you need it.

Roll the dough out to about 5mm thickness and cut circle of about 6 or 7 cm in diameter. Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of the rounds, dampen the edges with water and fold to close. Place the semi circles on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake in 180C oven until golden about 12-15 mins. Cool and coat the tops with melted dark chocolate and sprinkle with decorations of choice.

Enjoy your Christmas with your family and friends, give thanks for God's gift of his Son Jesus, and let's be grateful for our many blessings.

May God bless you all!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Snowflake Sugar Cookies

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve and the weather is gloomy! Our wet season has arrived early and tomorrow we may be separated from our family due to flooding. All the preparations are on hold at the moment. At times like this we should be grateful for what we have and know that even if we are not together with family, we are together in spirit.

This week my daughter and I decorated snowflake sugar cookies to be shared with family and friends. So I'm sharing them with you

It was my daughter's first time using a piping bag and royal icing.
Didn't she do great work? 
 I hope you enjoy them and have a wonderful Christmas!

I hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed making them.
 Have a Happy Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Week 12 of Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Date Shells

In one week it will be Christmas Eve. All around the world children will be tucked up in bed trembling with  anticipation of the arrival of Santa Claus. Christians of all nationalities will be preparing to celebrate the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. This is a time that never fails to bring wonder, faith and togetherness for many.

Today also marks the final week in the Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies that I have been participating in for the past 3 months. In this time I have come to know and enjoy many wonderful blogs and learnt many new recipes for interesting cookies. Thank you to all who have participated and visited my blog while I have been able to  also discover yours. We have had so much fun!

So for the final cookie I chose another old Australian favourite - Date Shells.  They are simple but delicious with the whole dried date in the centre. What I love about them is that the pastry is wrapped around the date to resemble a "babe in swadling clothes" - baby Jesus. It is because of this that I think they are perfect for Christmas. Don't you?   

Date Shells

125g butter
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup self raising flour
1 cup plain flour
approx 240g dried dates

Beat the butter and sugar to a cream. Add the egg and cinnamon. Sift the flours and add gradually to the mixture. Mix to a stiff paste. Wrap in plastic. Rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Roll out to 3 mm thickness cut into small rounds according to the size of your dates. Fold over with a date between. Bake 170C for 10 minutes.
When cool dust with icing sugar.

Week 12 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Week 11 of Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Rum Balls

Well, this week I'm a bit late in posting my contribution for the Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies. As we approach Christmas life just seems to pick up speed. It doesn't help that my son has a birthday 2 weeks before Christmas and my daughter's birthday is 3 weeks after Christmas. I always say I will be more organised so that I can enjoy this time and reflect the real reason for the season - Jesus. Life does become fast and complicated but our family and our faith is really what is important. 

So this week I didn't make the cookie I had planned but instead I will give you an old Australian favourite - The Rum Ball!  Rum Balls make an appearance at most celebrations and definitely at Christmas. Easy to make, can be prepared in advanced, can be frozen for longer storage and delightful to eat! I always make a double batch and though these were for afternoon tea to celebrate my son's birthday I know I will need more for Christmas.

Rum Balls

375g can sweetened condensed milk
250g plain sweet biscuits ( cookies ), finely crushed
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup coconut
3 tablespoons dark rum ( I like Jamaican Rum)
1/2 cup dried milk powder
extra coconut for rolling

( keep in mind the Australian tablespoon is equal to 20ml)

Combine all ingredients well. Refrigerate for an hour or two until firm. Take rounded teaspoons of the mixture. Form into balls and roll in coconut. 

Week 11 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Week 10 of Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Choc-Cherry Coconut Bon Bons

Phew! What a week it has been! So much has happened it feels longer than it has been. Today my son finished his primary school education. It has been such an exciting week as he was awarded Dux of his school for 2010. This is such an honour and rather a surprise as he downplays how well he does at school. We are so proud of him.
With all the goings on this week I haven't really had time to bake a special cookie as such for Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies. But I was baking heaps! Each year I give the teachers gifts of homebaked goodies as thanks for their dedication over the past school year. One of the goodies I prepared was Choc-cherry Coconut Bon Bons which I thought would be perfect for this weeks Christmas Cookies challenge.
I found this recipe on one of my favourite blogs My Food Obsession by Susan. This is a great Australia blog by a lady who have only been baking for the last 5 years and has developed a wonderful talent. I only slightly varied the recipe because of what I had on hand. The recipe uses Moist Coconut Flakes which are new to most Australians but I think quite common elsewhere being simply sweetened, shredded coconut. Also  I used copha, solid coconut oil, melted with the chocolate because it loosens the chocolate making coating easier however I did notice the bon bons sweat more in our humidity with copha in the chocolate whereas with they don't.

These are delicious bon bons which would make an excellent gift. I know the recipients of mine were thrilled and my daughter has been eating them for breakfast. Yep, teenagers can eat anything, anytime! Do try them they are so easy and so yummy! 

Cherry Coconut Bon Bons


200ml (7 fl oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2tsp cherry brandy
1tsp vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup icing (confectioners) sugar, sifted
225g  McKenzie’s Moist Flakes Coconut
75g dessicated coconut (unsweetened)
350g (12 oz) red glace cherries, diced finely
1/2 cup desiccated coconut for rolling
450g (16 oz ) dark chocolate suitable for coating
40g copha, optional


Line a 23cm x 33cm (9 x13-inch) slice pan with baking paper.
Combine condensed milk, cherry brandy, vanilla extract, and salt in a bowl.
Add icing sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated.
Add ‘Moist Flakes Coconut’, dessicated coconut & glace cherries and stir until combined.
Chill mixture in refrigerator until easy to mold, about 1 hour. Take 1 rounded teaspoon of mixture at a time and roll into balls, then roll in desiccated coconut.
Line a cookie tray with baking paper.
Melt the chocolate and copha, if using, and dip the balls into the chocolate, covering completely, and place them on the prepared tray until set. Store finished balls in the refrigerator.

Check out the other bakers participating in the Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies Challenge.

Week 10 Twelve Weeks of Christmas: