Archive for the ‘Treats’ Category

In order to become a better baker, it is generally accepted that developing your own recipes will not only teach you the art of balance in baking, but this is where you can show some bravery, and feel a sense of accomplishment when you achieve your envisioned creation. If you want to learn to become better bakers, use your imagination, be creative, and surprise yourself!

Baking is a science (almost an exact art), making additions / substitutions all ‘willy-nilly’ will probably get you into trouble. Don’t try and alter a recipe if you haven’t tried it before. In science, whenever an experiment is completed, there is always a control group (called “group-nothing-has-been-changed”) so that scientists can measure their changes / deviation from the norm. It’s the same for us bakers – we need to see all the factors that would be normal, before we alter the recipe (i.e. how long a recipe will take to bake, what is the texture / colour/ flavour).

Take a trusty recipe and alter it in a way that makes something completely new. Don’t be intimated, if it doesn’t work out, you’ll only create a wonderful flop.

We used our basic Vanilla Butter Biscuit recipe and started to make additions. The basic recipe contains vanilla flavour, which actually enhances other flavours, so don’t be afraid to make your addition and add the vanilla. We made 5 varieties – Double Chocolate Chip Cookies; Cranberry & White Chocolate Cookies; Peanut Butter Cookies; Apple & Cinnamon Cookies; and Zesty Lemon Cookies.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Make a batch of the “Vanilla Butter Biscuits” substituting 50g flour with 50g cocoa Once all the flour has been added to the mixture, add 100g white chocolate chips and 100g milk chocolate chips, mix well Chill the mixture for at least 45 minutes Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out on a floured surface. Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into the desired shapes and bake on a non-stick baking sheet for 15 minutes. The chocolate cookies tend to spread a bit so make sure you spread them out on the baking sheet. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

CRANBERRY & WHITE CHOCOLATE COOKIES

Make a batch of the “Vanilla Butter Biscuits” as per the recipe Once all the flour has been added to the mixture, add 150g dried cranberries and 100g white chocolate chips and mix well Continue with the original recipe’s method.

PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

Make a batch of the “Vanilla Butter Biscuits” as per the recipe Once half the flour has been added, add ½ cup peanut butter and mix well. (We used chunky peanut butter to give the biscuit extra crunch). Add the remaining flour and mix well. Chill the mixture for at least 45 minutes. The peanut butter will make the dough softer than usual. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll into small balls. Flatten the balls with your hand, place on the baking sheet and bake as usual.

APPLE & CINNAMON COOKIES

Chop 150g dried apple into small chunks. In a bowl mix together 3 tbsp castor sugar and 1 tbsp cinnamon. Toss the apple in the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Make a batch of the “Vanilla Butter Biscuits” as per the recipe Once all the flour has been added to the mixture, add 2 tsp cinnamon and the apple chunks. Mix well. Continue with the original recipe’s method.

ZESTY LEMON COOKIES

Make a batch of the “Vanilla Butter Biscuits” as per the recipe Once half the flour has been added, add the zest of two lemons and ¼ cup of lemon juice. Mix well. Continue with the original recipe’s method. Whilst the cookies are baking, roll out Nicoletta yellow fondant so that it is very thin. With a knife cut out lemon shapes and press onto the cooled cookies.

Go on… test your limits, and your baking skills. Try any number of concoctions such as: Ground Cinnamon + Crystalized Ginger; Almonds + Almond Flavouring; Raisins/Sultanas + Oats; Hazelnut + Dark Chocolate pieces; Instant Coffee granules + Chocolate pieces; Walnut + Dried Pear; Cherries; Toasted Coconut; Dried Mango + Pecan Nuts; Fresh Orange zest + Candied Citrus peel; Custard powder + Dried Peach.

Don’t forget to enter your cookie creations into our March 2014 Bake Off competition on Nicoletta Bake Club.

This butter biscuit recipe forms a great dough to use as a base for any extra additions/ flavour combinations. It’s also yummy on it’s own.

Ingredients:

250g Butter, softened 140g Castor sugar 1 Egg yolk 2 tsp. Vanilla extract 350g Cake flour

Mix the softened butter and castor sugar together using an electric mixer. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract. Beat until all the ingredients are combined.

If you are using a free standing mixer, you need to swop the beater for the dough hook before adding the flour. Add the flour to the mixture, one table spoon at a time. Mix well between additions until you have used all the flour and have a soft dough consistency. Place the dough in a plastic bag or wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes to an hour.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out on a floured surface. Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into the desired shapes and bake on a non-stick baking sheet for 15 minutes at 180°C or until golden brown in colour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

NOTES

This basic dough can be adapted to suit your taste. Have fun experimenting with different shapes and flavours.  The Nicoletta March newsletter is packed with different flavour combinations. This dough is freezable (defrost before cooking). This dough can also be easily doubled in quantity.

This is a “new breed” of cheesecake – this baked chocolate cheesecake has the rich and smooth fudginess of a chocolate torte, and although baked, it does not create that dry peanut-butter mouth feel synonymous with baked cheesecakes.

Ingredients

Crust –

240g Chocolate coated digestive biscuits, crushed 125g Butter

Filling –

500g  Cream cheese 250g Mascarpone 175g Castor sugar 2 Eggs (extra-large), beaten 300g Dark chocolate

Heat oven to 180°C. Mix together the biscuit crumbs and butter (melt the butter if you are mixing by hand or blitz the biscuits and unmelted butter together in the food processor). Press the crumbs evenly into a 24cm spring-form cake tin/ deep tart dish. Bake the base for 10mins to crisp and then let it cool while you make the filling.

Turn oven down to 150°C. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Beat the cream cheese and mascarpone until smooth (use a mixer – it’s easier).  Add the sugar and eggs to the cheese, then add the melted chocolate and mix well, be careful not to over mix as the mixture might curdle.

Pour the filling over the baked base and bake for approx. 30 – 40 minutes. Bake the cheesecake until all but the very centre of the cheesecake is set (don’t worry about the wobbly bit in the middle as it will carry on cooking as it cools). Cool completely on a rack before chilling overnight.

TIP: Put a dish of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven – this will stop a skin forming on top of the cheesecake.

TIP: Run a knife around the edge of the tin to free the filling from the sides, do this as soon as you take it out of the oven. As the cheesecake cools and sets, it also shrinks, if the mixture is stuck to the side of the tin it will split in the middle.

We decorated our sublime cheesecake slices with polka-dots of white Heart Cake Confetti.

A deep dish meringue nest with a fresh cream filling and tart red berries makes for a great after-dinner dessert. The whipped cream is fresh and unsweetened (the meringue is sugary enough) – but if you prefer sweet cream, fold a Tbs. of icing sugar into the whipped cream. We used raspberries and blackberries for a sour tang, but you could just as easily use sweeter blueberries and strawberries.

Ingredients

4 Egg whites 1 cup Castor sugar 2 tsp. Lemon juice, fresh / 1 tsp. white wine vinegar 1 tsp. Vanilla essence (optional) 1 heaped Tbs. Corn flour (Maizena) 1 tub Whipping cream

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on high until they reach a soft peak stage.

Gently add the sugar in small amounts whilst continuously beating the egg whites (don’t add the next amount of sugar if there are still granules present in the mixture).  Your mixture should become ice-white and glossy. Once all the sugar has been added and the mixture can be rubbed between your thumb and forefinger without feeling any granules, the mixture is ready for the addition of the remaining ingredients.

Beat in the lemon juice / vinegar. If you choose to add vanilla essence, do so now (the vanilla will colour your meringue so that it appears a little brown). Beat in the corn starch.

Spread you meringue into a large tart dish or onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Create a well in the centre where the cream and fruit will eventually rest.

Turn down the oven to 120°C and place the meringue in the middle of the oven. Bake for 1 hour, then switch off the oven and allow the pavlova to cool in the oven.

Place your cooled pavlova on a cake plate (unless it’s in a tart dish). Whip your cream until shiny and fluffy and spread into the cooled pavlova shell. Decorate with berries. Sprinkle Silver Shimmer on to the fruit to add a pearlescent glow.

You can do this with a normal brownie recipe – just bake in mini tins. Alternatively, bake your brownie in a tray and use cookie cutters to cut the desired shapes. We used loose bottom mini cake pans, the brownies came out perfectly yummy, and were baked with a gooey centre.

Ingredients

225g Butter 140g Cocoa powder 4 Eggs 450g Castor sugar 140g Flour 1 tsp. Vanilla extract 2 Tbs. Coffee, brewed strong and black 115g Nuts (optional)

Whisk the eggs and sugar until light in colour and fluffy in texture. Melt the butter and mix in the cocoa; fold the cooled cocoa mixture into the egg mixture. Mix in the vanilla and coffee. Sift dry ingredients and lightly fold into the egg mixture.

Spoon the mixture into mini cake tins – if you don’t line the tin ensure the tin is well greased or else the mixture will stick to the tin! Bake at 180°C until the mixture has risen and is firm – approx. 30 minutes. Remove from the oven a few minutes sooner if you want a gooey center.

The brownie mini cakes were sliced in two layers and a Almond Marzipan filling was added, we topped them with nutella (yum) and red Heart Cake Confetti. A few were decorated with Red & White Ready to Roll Fondant Icing; and we wrapped some in parchment paper – fit for a picnic or lunchbox.

This tried and tested recipe has been passed down from Nicoletta’s Mom. You may find it familiar, since we have used it on our free recipe cards.

Ingredients:

250g Butter (room temp.) 2 cups Sugar 2 cups Cake flour 1 cup Milk 4 Eggs 1 tsp. Vanilla extract 1 ½ tsp. Baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a muffin pan with cupcake holders. With an electric beater, beat together the sugar and the butter until the mixture is light in colour and fluffy in texture. Add the eggs one at a time to the mixture, beating the mixture till the eggs are incorporated after each addition. Add the milk and vanilla to the mixture, beat well. Add the sifted cake flour and the baking powder, mix well.

Spoon the batter into cupcake holders, and bake in a warm oven for approx. 20 minutes until the cakes are golden brown. The cupcakes can be iced with vanilla buttercream; we decorated ours with Star Cake Confetti, Chocolate Hearts and Red Ready to Roll Fondant Icing.

Gingerbread houses are gorgeous, festive, and are made to be admired! For those who do not love gingerbread (i.e. children) we used our sugar cookie recipe to bake mini “Soetkoekie” houses. Soetcookies hold their shape well when baking, this lends itself to shaping the dough with cookie cutters or a knife. We created this little house by cutting dough to fit the following template.

Ingredients:

300g Butter 1 cup Sugar 1 Egg 1 tsp. Vanilla 2.5 cups Cake flour 1/2 tsp. Baking powder 1/2 tsp. Salt

Whip the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the egg slowly with the vanilla and stir. Sift the remaining ingredients and beat into the mixture till the dough combines and forms a ball around the whisk/dough hook. Place the dough in cling film and store in the fridge for 1 hour, or until firm.

Cut a slice of cold dough, place the template over the dough and cut along the template to create the walls x 2, roof x 2 and front/back x 2. Place on a lined/ non-stick baking tray and bake at 180°C for 8-12 minutes or until the edges are golden. Allow to cool on the baking pan.

We used royal icing powder mixed with water to create an icing which dries hard in minutes/ you could create your own by whipping egg whites and icing sugar. We decorated our houses using Nicoletta Christmas Tree ConfettiHeart ConfettiSnowflake Wafers, Pearl Drops, and Nicoletta Soft Pearl balls in cream, green and red. We created an edible glue using CMC and water to stick our decorations to the houses.

Mince pies are a staple food around Christmas time, and we just love to munch our way through these tempting Yule tide favourites! The mark of a great Christmas mince pie is the filling. Each pie must be filled to the brim with yummy ready-to-use fruit mince. Phyllo pastry (named after the Greek word for leaf “filo”) are paper-thin sheets of unleavened flour dough. Using this light, crisp pastry instead of short-crust pastry is a unique way of making mouth watering mince pies!

Ingredients:

Phyllo pastry Butter – to baste Ready-to-use fruit mince

Cut 15cm squares of phyllo pastry – 2 square sheets per parcel, and brush with melted butter. Arrange the phyllo pastry in a muffin pan and fill with a table spoon of fruit mince. Bake  at 180°C for approx. 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

We cut out star decorations using Nicoletta Marzipan and White Fondant; and sprinkled a few white Star Confetti for that extra special Christmas effect.

Now is the time to decorate and embellish your rich Christmas cake. Wow all your friends and family with a superbly adorned cake! With fondant and marzipan as the traditional means of decorating, we have outlined a step by step approach to covering a Christmas cake in fondant, as well as making a few easy little figurines to top the cake.

Paint the surface of the marzipan-covered cake with alcohol or water (not too much as you certainly don’t want a “mushy” wet marzipan surface), or use smooth apricot jam. This allows the fondant to stick to the marzipan layer below. Roll out your fondant on a lightly dusted surface, measure the top and sides of your cake and compare this against the rolled out fondant – just to be sure that the fondant is sufficient to cover the entire cake. Use your rolling pin to lift and gently drape the icing onto the cake. Flatten the top before tucking the icing around the sides. Trim off the excess fondant with a knife. Smooth the top and sides of the cake with a warm hand or by using a cake smoother.

For a few more tips on covering cakes with fondant, have a look at our post on Nicoletta’s guide to playing with fondant, where we have calculated how much fondant is needed to cover cakes of different sizes, and also displayed our colour chart for mixing fondants.

We made a small fondant Christmas tree decorated with metallic “Bling” balls, and brightly coloured presents to bring our Christmas cake to life. These figurines were so easy to make, all we needed was corn starch (Maizina) for dusting surfaces and hands, and edible glue (make edible glue by mixing a piece of white fondant with a small amount of water). Moulding decorations can be festive fun for the kids, just think of fondant as “edible play-dough”.

The fabulous scent of fresh baked Christmas mince pies and fruity Christmas cakes fill our homes during Christmas. This lovely inviting aroma comes from the spiced minced dried fruit, which is all too easy to make, and once you make your own, you will never go back to “store bought”. Fruit mince is customarily made using dried fruit, apple, warm spices and almonds, all soaked in alcohol (ideally brandy). These delightful ingredients are then mixed and placed in a jar which is stored for at least a week to allow the flavours to infuse.

But we like to use fruit mince when we need it, and we need it now. By cooking the fruit mince, it allows the flavours to “melt” together to create one rich, delicious, gooey ready-to-eat Christmas mince. Use this addictive mince when creating fruit mince muffins, mix it in with ice-cream, spread on scones, or even use is as a filling for your home made Christmas mince pies.

When adding dried fruit to the recipe, feel free to add the fruit in variable proportions – starting with what you like best, or make creative additions like pineapple, dried mango and or cranberries.

Ingredients:

70ml balsamic vinegar ½ tsp. ground nutmeg ½ tsp. ground cinnamon ½ tsp. ground mixed spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, coriander) 2 apples. peeled and diced 70g raisins 70g sultanas 70g currants 70g dates 35g candied, mixed citrus peel 100g treacle sugar 250ml white wine 250ml water 70ml brandy 1 heaped Tbs. slivered almonds 1 tsp. lemon zest 1 tsp. orange zest

In a pot, heat the balsamic vinegar and spices till boiling, add in all the ingredients (keep back 30ml of brandy for the end). Simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on, and mix often to avoid the fruit mince sticking to the bottom of your pot. Uncover for the last 10 minutes and let some of the juices reduce, if the mince is too dry, add more water. The mince is done when the dried fruit is plump and juicy, and the apples have gone dark. Take your fruit mince off the stove and stir in the remaining brandy.

Sterilise a glass jar and lid by filling it with boiling water and allowing it to stand for a few minutes. Fill the jar with the hot mince and tightly seal the lid.

This recipe will be enough to fill a 750ml large jar, or 2 medium size jars – which make great Christmas gifts! The mince in a sealed jar may last up to one year in the fridge, but I doubt that any will be left over after this Christmas season…