On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place


Individual Cheesecakes – 4 variations

Almost immediately after Christmas I got stuck into trialling different recipes and flavour variations for cheesecake.

Randall and Kade thought it would be nice for my sisters and I to help in this way toward their wedding. First we had to decide what to make as part of the dessert table. After a few suggestions we agreed on cheesecake and Randall and Kade were all for it.

Kade had wanted something fruity and fresh, there would be the infamous Denheath Custard Squares and their wedding cake (they wanted to make sure it was eaten), which was a chocolate cake, I suggested a few flavours:

  • Lemon (or Lime)
  • Caramel
  • Passionfruit
  • Raspberry

I have a great recipe for Lemon cheesecake, it was given to me by an ex-work colleague and I tinkered with it a bit. Cheesecake is not something  I make often, under normal circumstances. Mr Fussy doesn’t like cheesecake, but apparently this recipe he’s all for. The base is made with crushed up Gingernut biscuits. I knew this recipe would work. Just don’t use vanilla bean paste in the sour cream topping, it makes it look like you’ve got dirt in it!

Original Lemon cheesecake

Vanilla bean paste in the topping doesn’t make it look all that appealing, even though it tastes fab.

Next up was caramel. I started out with one recipe but felt it was quite bland and after the cheesecake was cold the caramel flavour seemed to have disappeared. I decided to forgo that recipe and not waste good caramel sauce as an ingredient.

raspberry - the works

Could we finally be onto a winner? Trial number 4.

The raspberry version has been tweaked several time (4 to be exact). First the base in the original recipe wasn’t to anyone’s liking. Then we had the dilemma of what if we couldn’t source fresh raspberries in February. I tweaked the recipe several times trying to get a raspberry flavour without the raspberries. It was proving to be quite difficult. The best I could do was to add some Lorann Raspberry Emulsion to the cheesecake mixture. Up until this point I’d incorporated some raspberry puree in the mixture but that didn’t do much, I tried adding some to the top and swirling it in, but again it wasn’t strong enough to be detectable. So the raspberry emulsion was what we agreed to, with the use of Macadamia and White Chocolate biscuits as the base. As luck would have it I managed to get 3 punnets of fresh raspberries from Raeward Fresh Thursday night. We were in luck! Not that I had one on the night, but it had fresh raspberries on the base, the raspberry emulsion and the puree dotted on the top which I used a toothpick through to get a heart shape.

Early caramel trial

The salted caramel sauce finally made the caramel cheesecake taste like caramel.

Lastly it was the passionfruit, this one didn’t really require any tweaking from the original trial. In the trial I took some of the mixture and used the passionfruit freeze dried powder to then spoon on a layer to the top. Mum said initially she couldn’t tell what flavour it was, but then it all came together. The only change I made was to use the powder in all the mixture, not just as a topping to the cheesecake.

We served the caramel with a dollop of salted caramel sauce and the passionfruit had a splash of passionfruit pulp.

I had a taste of the caramel and passionfruit on the night, but I scored (two) lemon cheesecake for myself and Mr Fussy. Hopefully others enjoyed the selection too.

Original raspberry cheesecake

First variation with fresh raspberries in the mix and served with berries lightly dusted with icing sugar. We just didn’t want so much fuss on the night.

Funnily enough I’ve just browsed the Denheath website and looked at the cheesecakes they offer. We had the same sort of flavours. We must be thinking on the same lines, or just know what seems to appeal to the masses when it comes to flavour combinations.

The lemon cheesecake is one that I’ve had on my mind to share on the blog for some months now.

The recipes below will make 20 individual cheesecakes in a standard cupcake liner.

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Gingernut, chocolate wheaten and the shortbread base none of us liked

All recipes have a baked base using various crushed biscuit combinations.

Gingernut base:

  • 200gm Griffins Gingernut biscuits
  • 50gm melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoon white sugar

Chocolate Wheaten base:

  • 200gm Griffins Chocolate Wheaten biscuits
  • 50gm melted butter

White Chocolate and Macadamia base:

  • 200gm Select brand White Chocolate & Macadamia biscuits
  • 50gm melted butter

Heat the oven to 180degrees Celsius

Crush the biscuits in a food processor, or bash the living daylights out of the biscuits using a rolling pin.

Mix the melted butter (and sugar if you’re using gingernuts) with the crushed biscuits until all the biscuits have been moistened by the butter.

Line a muffin tin with cupcake cases.

Take 1 tablespoon of base per cupcake liner

Gently tap the mound of crushed biscuits to help them spread to the edge of the cupcake liner. Use the lid of a milk bottle or a tart press or a coffee tamper to flatten the biscuits into a uniformed disc.

Bake the bases for 5 minutes and then leave in the tin to cool while you make the cheesecake mixture.

Lemon Gingernut Cheesecake

(20 cupcakes is 2/3 of this recipe, or use this full recipe in a 10” springform round tin)


Base –

  • 1 packet of Griffins Gingernuts
  • 75gm butter – cooled
  • ¼ cup sugar

Cheesecake –

  • 750gm cream cheese (3 packets) – room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs (size 8)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon

Topping –

  • 1 cup Sour cream (250gm tub) – room temperature
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • zest of 1 lemon


Base –

  • Heat the oven to 180deg C.
  • Melt the butter and allow it to cool.
  • Crush gingernuts.
  • In a bowl mix together gingernuts, butter and sugar.
  • Line the base of a 10” loose bottom tin with tinfoil and spread the mixture into the base.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes until the base is lightly brown.

Cheesecake –

  • Turn down the oven to 140deg C.
  • Mix the sugar and zest together to get the lemon oils for added flavour.
  • In a medium bowl beat the cream cheese for about 30 seconds to loosen it.
  • Add the vanilla then gradually beat in the sugar (3 additions) scraping the bowl as needed. During the last addition of sugar mix in the lemon juice.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time scraping the bowl after each addition.
  • Pour/spread the cheesecake mixture on the cooled base and bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until the centre is just jiggly when the tin is tapped.
  • Cool for an hour before adding the topping.

Topping –

  • Combine the sugar and lemon zest together.
  • Mix the sugar with the sour cream, vanilla and salt.
  • Pour the topping over the cooled cheesecake and leave the cheesecake in the pan, on a rack, to cool completely before unmoulding onto a plate.
  • Cover and refrigerate the cheesecake for a minimum 3 hours, preferably overnight.
Creamy velvety cheesecake

Beautiful and creamy. The perfect amount of zing from the lemon juice and zest.

Basic Cheesecake recipe

(makes 20 individual cheesecakes)


  • 500gm Cream cheese – room temperature
  • 130gm Sour cream – room temperature
  • 135gm castor sugar (see notes on variation for Caramel)
  • 1 scant teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs – size 7, room temperature
  • Zest of 1 lemon – optional


  • Heat the oven to 140deg Celsius.
  • Cut the cream cheese blocks into cubes.
  • Place the cream cheese into a bowl and using an electric hand mixer beat the cream cheese so that it’s softened.
  • Add the sour cream and beat to incorporate it.
  • Add the castor sugar, or brown sugar for a caramel flavour, and vanilla extract, and zest if using, and beat until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.  ** Add the passionfruit powder **
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beat only until incorporated – do not over mix.
  • Spoon mixture into the prepared (with bases) cupcake cases. The mixture should fill the cupcake papers leaving a gap about 5-7mm from the top.
  • Gently jiggle the cake pan to help smooth the cheesecake, then give a couple of gentle taps to help release any air bubbles.
  • Place the tin into the centre of the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. The cheesecakes are baked when the middle still jiggles when you lightly tap the side of the tin.
  • Remove the tin from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature before removing the cheesecakes. The cheesecakes will firm up while cooling.
  • Refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.


  • Passionfruit – add freeze dried passionfruit powder – begin with 2 tablespoons and taste. Add more depending on taste.
  • Caramel, replace the castor sugar for 110gm brown sugar  * Make sure there’s no lumps in the brown sugar, squash them with the back of a spoon before adding to the mixture
puree hearts

Third attempt. Using freeze dried raspberries in half the batch. First attempt at the raspberry puree “hearts”.

I used the same basic cheesecake mixture for the raspberry variation, with the zest of 1/2 lemon and the addition of 3 teaspoons of Lorann raspberry emulsion, and as I mentioned I put some fresh raspberries on the base and piped small dots of raspberry puree on the top more for decorative purposes since the flavour seems to lessen during baking.

I was a bit over raspberry, so when it came to the 3rd attempt to perfect the raspberry variation I decided to mix things up and make some lime and roast strawberries and add a drop or two of balsamic vinegar. They weren’t to be serious contenders, just to add a bit of spice to life (give me a break from raspberry – a berry I don’t like).

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Lime and roasted strawberry with balsamic vinegar for fun.

Thanks Natalie and her family for being good sports and taking lots and lots of cheesecakes off me, Mum too for being a taste tester, and Mr Fussy who is a fan of raspberries and a very honest judge of flavour, for steering things in the right direction. My MIL also obliged helping us eat the many cheesecakes that were served up and took a keen interest in what was developing.

I think I’ve had my fill of cheesecake for the year, however I’ve got lots of left over base ingredients. Thank goodness for that new fridge/freezer. I’ll make Mr Fussy the Lemon Cheesecake again, before June which is the best by date on the two packages of cream cheese I have left. Thank goodness cream cheese has a long shelf life.


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A slice of life: 14-2

This weekend was my brother’s wedding. My brother is the youngest of the 4 “kids” so this was the last shindig.

In June last year, while holidaying in Melbourne, I bought my dress and shoes. I spent more on my outfit than I did on my own wedding dress (and it was in the 4 figures), but this outfit I’d get a lot more wear out of.

I wanted to get properly dressed up and I realised that I’m lacking in the “extras”. I didn’t even own any nail polish. I had one lip liner and if I were to apply the same standards of “best by” to my makeup as I do to baking ingredients, it would have been tossed out about 9 years ago.

I don’t wear makeup to work, but I always apply all of the toners, moisturisers and serums. At my age you need the serums 😉

I’m a bit of a plain Jane. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity, nor am I hoping someone will tell me otherwise, I’m just saying it how I see it. I’m actually mostly just fine. This is who I am, if I didn’t like it I’d do something different.

To be honest, I’m lazy with makeup. I don’t like the time it takes, I don’t like how heavy it makes my face, I don’t like that my eyes always water. And after looking at the photos we took on our cameras, I don’t like how  it accentuates the fine lines! So it suits me to not wear it.

But there are other things I could do to add a bit of pizazz and I don’t do that either. I hardly wear earrings, and when I do it feels like I’m re-making the hole. It hurts, and most of the time I’m tearing those earrings out well before the end of the work day. I’m a bit sensitive. Nothing new to me, but it explains why I don’t make any effort to dress up.

I do like nice clothes, and I love to have great shoes. But all the rest is an effort and not really something I’ll go out of my way to do.

Kade, my sister-in-law (the beautiful bride), worked in fashion for most of her working life and she always looks stunning, even when she’s casually dressed during the weekend. My eldest sister and her lovely daughters always look polished. Here’s a fun example. On Friday we started off the wedding weekend with clay shooting. Thursday evening when Mum and my sisters were together (my sisters and I were making cheesecakes as part of the dessert table – recipes will follow) and we got onto the subject of what we were wearing, I said I wasn’t wearing anything more than I’d normally wear during the weekend. After all, it’s clay shooting. So I turn up in my long shorts (a well known outdoor, expensive, brand, but still shorts) and jandals (in my defence they’re pink) and my sister and nieces, along with Kade are all dressed in lovely summery dresses and still manage to clay shoot without any disadvantage due to their choice of clothing.

I just don’t think the same way about how I look. I don’t socialise very much, I’m an introvert, though I’m quite comfortable yapping on the blog. I don’t need to be seen by anyone during the weekend and I don’t need to look good for anyone. Which may be a bit unfair to Mark. I’m relaxed and happy lounging about at home, and I know how to dress nicely when the occasion requires it.

My friend Jo was aghast at my comment on Facebook saying that the nail polish I had bought, coincidentally matched my one lipstick. She couldn’t wrap her mind around a woman having just the one lipstick. I must update her to explain that in Mark’s jacket pocket, last worn for Anna and James’s wedding in the UK in May 2012, he found another lipstick.  Actually I found something I had been looking for in my makeup bag, last used for Anna and James’s wedding. It wasn’t makeup though 😉

I want to come back to the nail polish. I bought it on Monday, I also had to buy nail polish remover because I couldn’t remember having any (I found it today when tidying up the vanity cupboard). Applying nail polish wasn’t any more fiddly than I remembered, and I’m pretty sure I’ve not worn any in many many years, but it immediately made me feel different.

I felt delicate. That might be easily explained as having to touch things lightly so as not to smudge the nail polish. But it really did make me feel refined.

While at our usual 6 weekly hair cut my hairdresser found me a fascinator, which I wore at the back of my head as a hair clip (because remember I’m not all that fancy ;-)). All sorts of things were coming together, but I never would have looked for anything for my hair, in fact I’d told Bee (my younger sister) that I wasn’t wearing any headwear. I didn’t have any desire to wear anything in my hair, I was satisfied to leave my hair just the way it normally is. And you may ask how that is. Well I pretty much towel dry my hair, put a bit of curl product in it and about 5 minutes later am walking out the door to work. Yep, I’m a no fuss type of girl.

I managed to tease my hair and twirl it like my hairdresser had shown me, and I wore that hair clip and I felt good about it.

I even wore pantyhose! Although that’s not totally uncommon, depending on what I choose to wear to work, and usually it’s dependant on whether I’m visiting with customers or not, I’ll wear pantyhose. Not that I like it, of course 😉

So I survived having to be glammed up, and I even received a surprise compliment from the lovely (obviously!) older gentleman who lives at Castle Claremont (the location for the wedding) who, while Mark was standing next to me, said I looked like Audrey Hepburn, he said I had class. That comment about Audrey Hepburn is not the first time I’ve had that comparison made. But it only comes out when I dress up. Maybe I should do that more, because Audrey is a very fine lady. However I can show you a photo of Audrey and I together (Madame Tussauds in London), and we are so far apart. She of course looks fabulous, I was less than 24 hours off a 36 hour journey to the other side of the world with about 4 hours sleep. I looked like death warmed up.

The wedding was wonderful and the day was perfect. As I said at the beginning, my brother is the youngest of the 4 of us, there’s a 9 year age gap between him and I, and I’ve always had a soft spot for him. I spoilt him during visits back home (I was living in Dunedin) and I would happily help with  anything he needed. During his speech he mentioned something he recalled as he was at the airport ready to leave Christchurch to study at the Auckland University of Technology (communication studies). He recalled a conversation with “one of his sisters” who said to him “don’t bring an Auckland girl home”. Now I have no recollection of that conversation, but I knew in my heart it was something I could easily have said. I asked him later which of us had said it, and he confirmed it was me. Well Kade is not an Auckland girl, though that’s where they both work/live, she’s a Timaru girl, a town my family has lived in, but not where Randall and Kade met.

So while this post is not about the wedding (there’s a social media embargo on photos until they post some themselves), it is about things that happened to me during the preparations to the wedding day, things that made me feel different about myself, and things I’m not sure I’m totally comfortable with, but may warm to.

The head thing is back tucked inside a box and the makeup that really should be tossed out, is back in the place it hides in the wardrobe. I’ve yet to remove the nail polish but the dress has been hung back up, the shoes placed carefully back in the box (if you ask nicely I might admit to how much I spent on the shoes) and other than a few photos to remind us that we scrub up ok (with some time and effort) we’re all back to normal here.

Talking of shoes, the wedding was at 3pm so we had time in the morning for a wander around Timaru. I managed to buy two new pairs of shoes and some perfume. I had left my usual perfume (Dreaming by Tommy Hilfiger) at home (I clean forgot to even bring it out ready for packing), that’s my only “thing” that I will regularly wear that makes me feel pretty.

Now, about that perfume, I almost didn’t buy it because of the bottle. I want an uncluttered but refined bottle and this one has a bold plastic collection of daisies that just aren’t me, plus it’s a size that is unsuitable for packing when I travel.

So there you are, even pretty bottles of perfume make me feel out of sorts, I just want the simple no fuss look. The type of look that just hides in amongst the crowd and doesn’t draw attention to itself, but when it’s noticed it’s noticed because of its classic looks and elegant lines. Suits me down to the ground.

While we wait for the all-clear to post photos of the wedding ceremony and the beautiful bride and dapper groom, here’s some photos taken during the weekend.

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Boring trip home, post wedding in-car nail polish photo

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Kade getting some pointers on sighting her target

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Fussy plastic daisies

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We scrub up ok, it just takes time and patience. We also don’t do selfies so had no idea where we were supposed to be looking while taking a photo.


Mum, my sister Natalie, B-I-L Logan my eldest nieces Caitlin and Jasmine (and partner Sam) and eldest nephew Cameron.

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Logan, more accustomed to a hand pistol, shows some style clay shooting.

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The (fascinator) head piece I wore

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Girl power – by Jasmine


Beautiful day and location for Randall and Kade’s wedding: 25 January 2014

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Mark shoots first, and waits for the target to catch up


After ceremony “civilised” activities – petanque action shot. No class now. Strutting around the grounds sans shoes.


Beautiful shot of the newly married Mr & Mrs Munro


Photo taken at Castle Claremont. Kade & Randall looking relaxed and enjoying the big occasion.


A slice of life: 14-1

Well hello.

I don’t think I’ve actually said Happy New Year! So, Happy New Year!

Lately I’ve felt like I just wanted to talk. To talk about life things, things beyond or outside my kitchen. While I could talk till the cows came home about a recipe I’ve tired, or a decorating method I’m attempting to master, and all the ins and outs of how I got from point A to point B, sometimes I have other thoughts that I want to share.

So this is it. My first go at speaking my mind about things that aren’t necessarily related to baking/decorating.

Given the title, it could indicate that I might have more to share in the year, 14 being the year, 1 being the first “slice of life”.

And if this isn’t your thing then I don’t mind that you skip this post, but I hope you return for other posts.

Let’s get started. I know I have people who land on my blog, which isn’t the same as having loyal followers, but I know of at least a couple (waves). I started this blog to document my baking. Before this blog I had another, well two actually. One was specifically for a particular event in my life, to document a journey. The other was more generic, it was more a slice of life every other day J

I’ve seen the stats for this blog, so I know I have some people who receive notifications when I post something new, and I see which posts are the most viewed, and I know some of the search terms that brings people to this blog.

I sort of struggle with knowing how to write, given I might have some people who end up here more than once, might even be following along to each and every post I publish.

To begin with the blog was just a place to write a few recipes I tried, and to explain what I found helpful, what I changed, and what I ended up with, whether I liked it and whether it was worth the hype. I didn’t really write in a style that would draw in readers or make it feel like I knew you were on the other side of the screen. But then as more and more (there’s really not that many!) people found my blog, as I was notified another person had clicked the button to “follow” me, I’ve started to wonder if I should change how I write a bit, to acknowledge that there’s a real person on the other side of the screen.

I don’t want to come across rude or clinical when I write just because I don’t have a chit chatty type of writing style. Not that I’m the sort of person that can draw in people using fancy words or writing some carefully thought out sentence. I’m not a writer.

Hey, you’re there, I’m here. I know you’re there, so I think from now on I’ll try to include you more, like I know you’re there. Hope that’s ok.

I’ve thought about these slice of life posts. Mr Fussy is Mr Fussy when I’m talking about some culinary experience, but in real life he has a name. I know you know that J  Some of you might know his name. My wonderful husband, and partner in crime (no we don’t moonlight as burglars) is Mark.

We’ve been married 12 years this March and I can tell you that I feel like the luckiest woman on this planet to have such a wonderful devoted, forgiving husband.

My About page probably mentions we’ve got two cats. They are pretty pampered. Sometime we joke that for the money we spend on them that we should get a better return. That instead of them sleeping they should be entertaining us. But they are pretty funny, and special, and yes pampered, well as much as they’ll allow. They’re Chinchilla Bermans and are supposed to love having their coats brushed (Maranello will bite us, Murcielago will tolerate it for a while) and be extremely affectionate (they won’t even sit on our laps). They are brothers and Maranello can be a real pain following Murcielago around, almost ankle tapping him. Murcielago’s original name is “Gentle Ben” and he really is gentle. But he will occasionally get his revenge and push Maranello out of his chosen sleeping possie (against my pillow on the bed) and spread himself out.

My mother-in-law came to live with us in September 2011 after Mark’s dad passed away the same year in August. It’s a very different home when it’s no longer just the two of you. It’s not always easy, not because my MIL isn’t nice, she’s lovely, but we sometimes crave having some personal space and time just to ourselves in the house. I don’t think it’s an unnatural feeling even though I feel guilty for wanting the house to ourselves on occasion.

None of this is what I actually wanted to write but I thought it might be nice to do a bit of an introduction, the person behind the blog.

On that note I have a full-time job. I’ve been with the same employer for 14 years this March, in different roles. I’m currently a consultant and sometimes I have to travel for work, or work from a customer’s premise. My team at work are a bunch of really funny, smart i.e. clever, people. The person I admire most at work was my immediate boss, who was seconded to Melbourne, but is hopefully returning to our Christchurch office soon. I’m not sure what role she’ll be returning to, but it will be great having her here.

I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that I have a sweet tooth. I love to eat desserts, and chocolate. There was a time when biking and running took all of my spare time and I could pretty much eat anything without weight being put on. I was regularly training for 10-16 hours a week, depending on what event I had coming up. Now that time has been replace with kitchen stuff and the amount of running and riding I do is minimal. If I didn’t have to take my laptop home with me (and sometimes I don’t – I’m so rebellious) I would bike more often. My laptop weighs 3kg, and is a monster (it has the number pad making it bigger in size). When I have it in my backpack it weighs me down. It makes biking a lot more challenging. For now I run each morning for around 5-8k’s and have a quick weights routine. We’re talking about getting back into biking during the winter. Hopefully that’s still a little way off, though I have to say summer has been a bit of a no-show.

Ok, I better leave it at that. I’m sure this is quite wordy and one of the longer posts given there’s not a lot of useful information in here!

Maybe 14-2 will be the post I thought I’d write.

Catch ya later

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Beer bread bites

I don’t know if you know who Chelsea Winter is, probably not if you’re not from New Zealand and don’t have an interest in all the cooking shows. Actually I’ve never watched Master Chef but I had stumbled across Chelsea’s Facebook page. I’ve mentioned her before. I love her down to earth banter with her followers (likers). She comes across as a really good sort.

Dripping with butterAnyway, many people have passed on favourable comments about a Beer Bread. I couldn’t find the recipe, or what I thought was the recipe they were all commenting on (and sharing photos of). Chelsea has lots of recipes on her website, pretty generous really. She also has a cook book out. Something I must get around to buying or borrowing from the library.

IngredientsI found a recipe for Marmite and Cheese Beer Bread Bites. I have to say I was pretty enthusiastic to give this recipe a try. It began with asking Mr Fussy whether I could use one of his bottles of beer. Mr Fussy informed me his beer was too good to be used. That left me with buying my own beer. As Julie pointed out on my Facebook page, cheap is more often found in a 6 pack. What would I do with 5 other beers that would be beneath Mr Fussy to consume?

I went beer shopping. Now what I know about Beer is close to zero. I don’t like it. And you’d be right in wondering why I’d want to bake/cook with it. I expected that like wine, the alcohol would be cooked out and you’d be left with a flavour. I merrily went on my way and put a 4 pack of Moa Pale Ale into my shopping basket. The other 3 would be going into Mr Fussy’s beer fridge, and since it was the “good stuff” he’d be more than happy to accommodate it.

Mixed and readyI’m going to cut to the chase. The recipe was dead simple to make. I added some cooked bacon since Mr Fussy tends to think all meals should include meat, and well, bacon makes everything (savoury) better. But, and it’s quite a big but, I ended up having crumpets for lunch. Why? Well the flavour of beer was so strong. Perhaps using the good stuff was my downfall. Would the flavour have been lessened with “cheap swill” as Mr Fussy put it.

Marmitey goodnessI also found trying to twist a teaspoon with marmite on it, through the centre of the muffin was near impossible. I only added marmite to 4 of them. Mr Fussy doesn’t like Marmite (I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s never tried it), instead favouring Bovril (which I’ll never try). Mr Fussy was very happy with the flavour of the muffins/bread bites and is happily having left overs (frozen) for lunch. He tells me that if you add pesto the flavour of the cheese comes through.

Melted and brownedSo there you go. If you’re keen on a nice beer flavoured savoury bite, then these will be right up your alley. Or there’s always crumpets for a quick fuss-free weekend lunch.

Next week I’ll post the cheesecake recipes I’ve been baking. It’s Randall (my brother) and Kade’s wedding this Saturday and my sisters (Natalie and Bee) and I are making some individual cheesecakes as part of their dessert table. The baking has been more testing recipes and flavours. All will be revealed sometime after the weekend. Celebrations commence on Friday with us heading to Timaru just as soon as the cheesecakes have baked and cooled, and don’t end until after some jet-boat activities Sunday afternoon.

Till then …



I finally got the Modelling Chocolate right

Lite or Light?

The difference is clearOne of the many few things that has baffled me last year is modelling chocolate.

At the beginning I tried Glucose Syrup. It was too thick. The modelling chocolate just crumbled and I wasn’t able to knead it well. But I still managed to make use of some of it.

I made this practice cake, my first foray into using modelling chocolate.Wrapping-paper-design.jpg

Somehow I managed to get the consistency (proportion of Glucose Syrup) right, at least enough to decorate Cameron’s 21st cake.

Mr-Fussy-Photo.jpgBut I knew it wasn’t right. I knew it wasn’t this wonderful thing that others claimed it to be. I knew that Jessica Harris and Loren Kitchens loved it and I had their recipes (JH uses compound chocolate, LK uses real chocolate – the proportion of corn syrup differs) and followed them to a “T” having found Martha’s Backyard in Auckland stocked Karo Corn Syrup, the very same brand that both ladies used in their recipes.

But, and it’s BIG but, I mucked up. I got so caught up on the Craftsy classes saying light corn syrup, the clear stuff, that I thought it was lite corn syrup. Clearly I was seeing and hearing what I thought was right because the recipes had light corn syrup. I thought the reason they were stressing light was because it was the lite version, the one with less sugar. The stress was on light being clear, rather than the dark corn syrup (which I clearly hadn’t twigged to).

Last time I used modelling chocolate it was for the accents to the Movember cake.

Best MoI used real chocolate thinking it might make the difference. No, in fact it was quite impossible to use. So soft. I could barely cut out the moustache shape and getting it from the mat to the cake was causing me to break out into a sweat. Of course it was also a really hot day that day.

At some point late last year I put in another order for Martha’s Backyard (while shipping was free) and I came across the light corn syrup. Finally the penny dropped. Light, NOT lite.

With Christmas being so close I was busy making Christmas type goodies and had no time to try out the new light corn syrup. Until this weekend.

I’ve just returned from a trip to Hamilton and wracking my brain about what baking I’d like to try out. The only thing that popped into my head was to try out the new light corn syrup.

Friday night I arrived early evening and that’s the first thing I did. I grabbed a bag of Wilton Candy Melts and refreshed my mind the proportions of corn syrup needed for each gram of compound chocolate. I was using Jessica Harris’ recipe. I picked out two colours, Sugarflair Grape and Americolor Mauve. I really don’t know why I keep using Mauve because I don’t like the colour.

I wasn’t 100% sure this was going to work so a colour I disliked wouldn’t matter if I ended up tossing the lot out.

But guess what!? It worked! At least after the hour following mixing it was a consistency that I could knead without too much grunt work, it didn’t crumble and even after quite a long period of kneading (I realised the first knead still hadn’t distributed the colour evenly) the modelling chocolate still held its own.

2014-01-10 21.52.01I went to bed feeling pretty pleased that this modelling chocolate would work.

In the morning the MC had firmed up and was hard. Very promising. Next I tried real chocolate. I had a little 50% Whittaker’s chocolate which I used with some black food gel colour, hoping it would turn blacker. I had Cadbury white Melts as well. I coloured a bit of it with white food gel (don’t do this! It doesn’t get absorbed, just becomes a bit of a slimey mess) and finally I went with Sky Blue. Knowing the chocolate was quite a creamy almost yellowish tint I wanted to combat that. I got out my trust colour wheel (which I don’t understand) and went with the complementary colour, hoping it would neutralise the creamy/yellow tinge. I added a bit of orange. The sky blue (which I might have added a bit too much of) ended up a lovely peacock blue. Not at all what I was aiming for.

2014-01-11 10.32.17While out in the garage fitting the new fridge/freezer in place (happy girl am I!) I grabbed all the little plastic containers with white compound chocolate Natalie brought back with her during their holiday in July. I checked the best by date …. 4 January 2014. Yikes!

Now I was on a mission. I wanted to use ALL of it. All 4 containers of 500gm of compound chocolate.

Tints and tonesRight (Sunday when I drafted this) now I’m typing and my arms, which are mostly flat against my side, are aching. My shoulders are so sore from kneading colour into the MC.

I began using the compound chocolate from BakeBoss (in Australia) by mixing the “electric” food gels. I remembered something Rosie from Sweetapolita said (when colouring buttercream which is also yellowish). She uses the electric colours to help neutralise the yellow. I began with electric green. I used a little bit of by comparison to my sky blue. It was a bit too light for my liking, not really looking that vibrant. But once I’d left it for a good hour I began kneading portions of it and adding extra electric green, then adding other green colours to give me some variations.

Next came the electric pink batch. It was quite bright (having learnt from the green) so I left one portion as is (but kneaded it to a uniform colour) and then added a number of different pinks to the remaining portions. And the same with the electric blue. Lots and lots of variations of blue. The last small portion I added some royal purple to. The light was fading so I wasn’t really sure what colour it ended up, but I’d say it was the closest to a sky blue. Weird.

20140111_193358This morning, after reading a post on Sweet Sugarbelle’s website about colouring royal icing red, I decided to use the last 200gm of compound chocolate with the Tulip Red I had. I got a lovely orange colour 🙂 To this I took a portion and again added more of the base colour, tulip red. Then to the rest I used different shades of orange and yellow.

20140112_083602Still not happy with my original MC, I took the Mauve and broke it into portions and made some different shades of brown and then added some to the Grape, some of the yucky white MC and I came up with all sorts of combinations. While I loved the original grape colour, I had too much of that colour. I took some of the original tulip red, some white and then added Royal Purple to a portion as well. And all up I have 34 colours.  And I’ve almost used my entire bottle of Light Corn Syrup, so I’ve put in a order for another couple of bottles, and blow me down, the free shipping until the end of 2013 is still on! I suspect someone has forgotten to update the website, but hey, I’m not complaining 😀

20140112_113540Now that everything has been mixed and remixed what I noticed is the original mauve and grape mixed with the white aren’t setting the same as the other colours. All of them are now in the fridge so hopefully they’ll all end up the same when it comes time to use them. Use them? Now I have to get my thinking cap on. Just what will I use them all in/on/for?

Using modelling chocolate in a brooch mouldIf you want to see some more photos (showing all the different gel colours I used to get all the different shades), I have them in an album on the Facebook page.

And now that I’m feeling pretty chuffed about making modelling chocolate I’ve just purchased a tutorial from ChokoLate and her recipe and it’s so very very different! It has icing sugar, water (!) and Glucose. I’ll give it a crack because she makes such stunning figurines (she lives in Belgium, she’s immersed in chocolate ;-)) and the finish of her modelling chocolate is like nothing I’ve seen before. I’ll let you know how I get on.


Lemon Meringue Cake

When my December 2013/January 2014 dish magazine arrived I had no time to flick through the pages. It was some weeks later that I browsed the recipes and came across the Lemon Meringue Cake. I was sold. This was going to be my suggestion for lunch, given we were having a more casual meal for Christmas Lunch.

Ready for chilling

The recipe itself was dead simple. You toss all the cake ingredients into the cake mixer at the same time, so obviously the better has to be soft, very soft, but not melted (it explains in the recipe).

I converted the recipe from an 8” cake to a 9” cake. There would be 13 of us for lunch and I thought the 8” cake wouldn’t go the distance.

Baking the cakeI cooked the cakes on fan forced with the temperature reduced because a fan oven is hotter. I had the cakes on two racks. While they looked to be baking beautifully, in the final 10 minutes they caved, one was worse than the other. I posted photos on my Facebook page but I didn’t take any photos using the dSLR camera.

I continued preparing food for Christmas day all the time being really uncomfortable with the cakes. I had to torte both of them to get a 4 layer cake, and I could see that I’d end up with donuts because the cakes sunk so much that if I torted them in half (based on the outside height) then the middle would be hollow.

Eventually I did what I wanted to do, I made another cake. This time on bake and in the middle of the oven. And you know what? It still dipped, but not as bad, but still enough that on the day once I’d cut a slice you could see the middle of the cake was caving in.

Lemon curd

Assembling the cake was easy. The lemon syrup was lovely and it soaks through nicely, but keep the cut side up as it soaks much quicker that way rather than with the bottom of the cake up (as I did for one layer).

I weighed the filling and then placed the cake onto the scales and scooped an equal third on each of the 3 layers. I like them to be even and the same thickness. Applying the meringue was simple. It was sort of like crumb coating a cake. With one HUGE difference. This time I had to deliberately make peaks and an uneven texture. I didn’t want smooth. And I think I might have spent a fair amount of time trying to get nice peaks all the way around and on top. Baking the meringue worked nicely on the top but the sides were a bit faint, or had no browning at all. My guess is the photo of the cake in dish was having used one of those torches, or they have a way better oven with even heating all around.

Assembling the cakeDid the cake taste good? Yes.

Was the cake easy to make? Yes.

And will I make it again? I’m not sure. If I do, I’ll change the method for making the cake batter. I think the “throw the lot in” was probably a way to speed things up and simplify the recipe, but I think it was also setting it up to fail/flop.

I’ve never had Ricotta cheese in a sweet thing before, only with the Lasagne roll ups, so I was a little apprehensive but it worked well, and I expected it would.

Ricotta Lemon Curd fillingThere ended up being loads of cake left over. Enough even on Boxing Day to have more left over. Though we were slicing the slice in half, that is having just 2 of the 4 layers per person. The cake was a monster!

The meringue was still looking quite good on Boxing Day, but it had begun to seep a little around the base.

MeringueI also think that I’d make an Italian Meringue. Given there’s very little baking of the meringue, and using raw egg whites, the Italian Meringue would be safest.

This is one cake that bugs me (the caving) so I suspect I’ll make it again just to see if I can resolve that problem. Some things I have trouble letting go of 🙂

If you like lemon, then definitely give this cake a crack, but you’ll have to buy the magazine (or ask nicely ontotheplate@gmail.com) to get the recipe.

I’ve just found a photo I took from my phone’s camera after we cut a few slices. This demonstrates the problem of having a softer filling when a layer of cake doesn’t have the same thickness all the way through (where the cake caved in those last minutes of baking and cooling).

2013-12-25 13.56.38


Vintage style cookies

Okie dokie, now that I’ve posted the recipe I used, here’s the cookies I decorated for Kade’s vintage bridal shower. I made vintage style cupcakes and decided to make these cookies in the same theme to take as well.

Gold dusted flowersI tinted the royal icing to match the fondant I’d already made for the flowers. I think the icing was a good match, though I need to remember that it will darken over time.

matching fondant and royal icingAfter I’d covered the cookies in flood consistency royal icing I let them dry overnight. The next day I used PME pearl spray to give them a nice sheen. Then it was simply a case of looking at all the left over flowers and deciding how I wanted to place them. I also used some pieces of cake lace I had and piped edges (where I’d cut the lace doiley) to finish them off better.

Vintage style cookiesI didn’t really think the cookies looked vintage-y (is that a word?) but I did think they looked pretty.

Despite adding orange juice as the majority of the liquid for the royal icing, the icing set up nicely. I only worried after I’d made the icing whether the orange juice would be detrimental to the icing. I don’t think the icing had a real orange flavour, but I guess it’s hard to tell when the cookies themselves have orange zest and orange extract.

Rosebuds and filigreeI was pleased how the roses turned out, but this was my first shot at filigree and I need some practice. The icing, despite being in a piping bag with a number 1 tip, ended up being quite fat.

I’ve found the royal icing slackens as it sits. I’m not sure if it’s because I use  egg albumen, or there’s more to it. I don’t recall this happening when I’ve used meringue powder. Since I’ve got lots of egg albumen I’m using this up before buying more meringue powder.

Stamped cookieLastly I tried something new. Not totally a success, but I used a stamp with Americolor airbrush black with some vodka (to thin it) and painted over the stamp and then pressed this onto the cookie. I’m clearly a bit heavy handed since the stamp made an impression in the royal icing, and the backing part of the stamp which had residual colour touched the surface of the icing and transferred the colour. I didn’t have enough cookies to keep trying to get the pressure right. I had a second attempt but I was too light handed this time and the stamp didn’t completely touch the cookie. I threw caution into the wind and stamped it a second time. What are the chances of lining up the stamp perfectly? As you can probably guess, I didn’t line the stamp up perfectly 😉

Vintage styled afternoon tea