On to the plate

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


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Banana Cake

Oooh, it’s been such a great weekend for trying out new things. In this post I’ll talk about the Agbay Junior, and touch on the butter (there’ll be a separate post coming for that).

Banana cake for the work folk.

Banana cake for the work folk.

I was making a banana cake because it was time to use up the bananas I’d taken from work (they were left, unwanted) and popped into the freezer. I’d decided some weeks earlier that when the time came I’d be making Summer’s Banana Cake recipe. You can find the details from this link.

Yesterday I’d made butter. Mum bought me a Mad Millie Butter kit for Christmas. Today I was using the butter I’d made, in the Banana cake.

Mainland unsalted butter on the left, my homemade butter on the left. A bit more crumbly, and more firm.

Mainland unsalted butter on the left, my homemade butter on the left. A bit more crumbly, and more firm.

Summer’s recipe is actually for cupcakes, but she does say you can easily make a cake from it. Summer’s suggestion is that you add an additional banana. And it was 3 bananas that I had from work, so that came together nicely. One of the things that I liked about the recipe was using a blander (food processor or similar) to get the banana fully incorporated. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of banana cake. I love bananas, but I’m not fond of cooked banana, except when it’s drowning in maple syrup and been heated (caramelised) to put on top of pancakes. Despite my lack of desire to eat banana cake I was really looking forward to trying out this recipe and method.

Creamed with the cup of sugar. You can see on the side of the bowl it looks like there's droplets of water. Could just be that the butter was still a bit too cold.

Creamed with the cup of sugar. You can see on the side of the bowl it looks like there’s droplets of water. Could just be that the butter was still a bit too cold.

Usually I’ll make 3 layers of cake from Summer’s other cake recipes, but I decided to make just two. I really wasn’t sure how far the frosting would go. I was hedging my beats. Anyway, the cakes took closer to 45-50 minutes to bake. I wasn’t really surprised given the batter was a little looser than other cakes I’ve baked of Summer’s, and of course the amount of batter was greater. The tops cracked, and oddly it was where the cracks were that the cake looks a little more moist (see later photo).

3 bananas weighed 339gm. And you wont get those perfect straight sides with any other cake pan than Magic Line (at least that's my experience).

3 bananas weighed 339gm. And you wont get those perfect straight sides with any other cake pan than Magic Line (at least that’s my experience).

This is the first cake I’ve made since Christmas. And for Christmas I got an Agbay Junior cake leveller. I was pretty darn excited that I’d be getting this baby assembled and using it. I’ve heard so many people say once you’ve used one you’ll never go back to any other method of torting cakes. I’ve seen the promo video’s. I’ve seen plenty of YouTube videos (for other things) where the baker is using the Agbay to torte a cake. Needless to say I was hooked, it was just a case of someone else buying it for me ;-). It was a good Christmas!

Once I had the Agbay assembled (was straight forward) I put one of the cakes onto the cake card and determined the size of the layer. Except I didn’t quite get it right and I needed to have dropped the height by one notch (which is like 1/16th of an inch I think). The second layer I torted at that height and it worked out perfect. I thought I’d try my luck and see if I could pass the first layer back through the Agbay. I knew I’d only need a thin sliver, I guess the 1/16th of an inch. What is life if not for living dangerously. So with that in mind I passed the Agbay back over the first cake and it worked! And you can see from the photo just how thin it cut. If I didn’t already love the Agbay for the ease and speed at which it could torte, I was now hook line and sinker in love with my new gadget.

First pass, and you can see some of the dome left behind. So back I go for a second pass with the Agbay lowered just marginally.

First pass, and you can see some of the dome left behind. So back I go for a second pass with the Agbay lowered just marginally.

With that in mind, it seemed perfectly acceptable to then use little hearts as decoration for the cake. And so I did. Boy oh boy, making a cake that’s decorated in frosting only is such a breeze. I did put a thin coat of frosting all over the cake. I needed to seal the sides since the cake is now in the fridge until I go to work tomorrow. I’d forgotten how easy baking a cake can be when you’re not preparing a cake for being covered in fondant. I feel like I achieved so much!

The domed tops we ate after dinner. I still had sufficient frosting to slap some more between the two tops. The cake is very definitely banana. And I found the texture to be quite smooth. The other thing that I like about the cake is the absence of all the black specks that you typically get with banana cake. I guess having blended the banana took care of that. So true to my word, I’ve baked a banana cake for my team at work. Quite possibly it’s the last time the current team is together. We’re moving out to MYOB’s new building, and part of the crew from the 3rd floor at work will be going to MYOB’s existing building (500m down the road) and my immediate team will be in the newer building. It’s a bit sad really, but cake will quite possibly make everything seem ok again 🙂

Simple but colourful decorations.

Simple but colourful decorations.

 

 

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Progel review and Baby Boy cookies

Colour paletteNot only am I giving my opinion on Progel, I also tried the CK brand pre-made Black royal icing mix. I was excited.

I’ve tried a Progel colour (Holly) before and I was unimpressed. I could not squeeze any gel out of the tube. I went red in the face, veins were popping and I was not having a great time. I tried to use a toothpick in the end, which was semi-successful. So needless to say I went into this holding my breath, especially when I’d bought 4 or 5 tubes while we were at BakeBoss in Brisbane.

New startMany other people have raved about Progel so I felt my first experience must have been really unlucky, so here I am, giving it another go and hoping I have a better experience.

SquirtThe news is good. I had no problem at all with getting the gel out of the tube, in actual fact, now I have to warn you that you shouldn’t really squirt it, which is a bit of a pain. But basically you can’t control how much is going to be dispensed when you squeeze the tube, even when you’re trying to be gentle. So squeezing some out onto a dish and then using a toothpick to transfer a smaller dab into the royal icing would be my advice.

Feeling BlueSo all was good with Progel and I’d buy it again. Except that I love Sugarflair. I’m sure there’s a place for both, in actual fact I tend to use the gels for colouring royal icing, and Sugarflair for colouring gumpaste and fondant. But I do love me some Sugarflair. The light blue is Sugarflair Baby Blue, and I can tell you I used a pretty small dab of colour and I still ended up adding a bit more white royal icing to tone it down. Sugarflair has an extensive range of colours and in my opinion a superior depth of colour, and what you see on the test card is the exact colour you’ll end up with.

Blog_200115Not that I’ve done it really, but the more Progel you add the deeper the colour. I guess I did do this with the Navy. To begin with it wasn’t as deep a colour as I wanted, so I added more, and then I got what I wanted, or close to it. I expected the colour to deepen as it sat. By the time I came to flood the cookies a day later I had no complaints over the colour.

CK BlackNext I moved onto the CK brand pre-coloured black royal icing. And yep, it was just as amazing as I’d seen it on the Gateaux Inc video (which I can’t find the link for now). It was as simple as adding in the powder and then the water and mixing the two. And before your eyes you get the most perfect glossy black. I thought it was too good to be true. I’m here to tell you that it was, sort of. That bitter taste you get when adding lots of black (or red) to the royal icing is sadly still present. But there’s no waiting. You just mix and you can go for your life using it immediately.Easy as

The tests weren’t all for nothing. I had planned to decorate cookies for one of the ladies from work who was leaving on Maternity Leave. We arrived back midnight going into Saturday and it was that coming Friday that Nicole was leaving. I was very thankful that I had more cookies than I needed for Christmas and had planned to use all of them.RI Transfers

Monday night I got busy making royal icing transfers. I didn’t really hold a lot of hope the rocking horses would come off the waxed paper in one piece. I was relieved and surprised that they did peel off in one piece.

Baby Boy1I had some vague plans as to how to decorate the cookies, and I began to write down those ideas, and in the end I still missed doing a few things, like making little baby feet, or using my new Stork and Baby stamp. But all in all the cookies are fine, even if my hand writing is a bit scruffy, and certainly not even or straight. I didn’t really have the time to get the Kopykake out, but that’s what it needed, for me at least. Hand writing on cookies is certainly something I need lots of practice on, and having the words in the right font in front of me would certainly be helpful.

Baby Boy2When I took the cookies in so many people commented that they couldn’t eat them. But I tried to polity explain that I didn’t make them to be looked at only, and I hoped they would eat them. Nicole took the two largest plaques home with her, and by the end of the day there was only 3 cookies left. That worked out nicely for us at home 🙂Baby Boy3


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I love blueberries!

Oooh la la

Oooh la la

It’s no secret that I love blueberries. Sadly they’re expensive to buy and I moan about the price. The first time I saw them for sale this spring they were $15.99 for a 125gm punnet. I couldn’t believe my eyes. But who spends that much? I suspected the blueberries would slowly rot on the shelves while others shunned them for the price.

While we’ve been holidaying on the Sunshine Coast I bought blueberries. The first fresh berries for this summer. They were going for A$5 at the time. I hadn’t even noticed that one of the growers was in fact a New Zealand grower, and it happened to be the punnet I’d scrutinised (for freshness/damage) and bought. So at the time NZ blueberries that had made their way to Australia were on the market for less than you pay for them in NZ.

Preparing the fruit and mascarpone filling

Preparing the fruit and mascarpone filling

When we got back Mr Fussy pointed out that you could buy two punnets for $4.  The limit was 6 punnets. I wasted no time, 6 made it to the trolley (the same price remains this week at Countdown, but I’ve been told they’re $1.85 a punnet at Pak ‘n Save).

I used one of the new tart rings I bought while in Paris. I was suitably happy with the outcome.

I used one of the new tart rings I bought while in Paris. I was suitably happy with the outcome.

Not wanting to waste precious fruit I searched out a new recipe that would be worthy. There’s nothing wrong with the previous Lemon Blueberry Tart I made, in fact I really wanted to make it again I enjoyed it so much, but I went for something new, hoping it would live up to enjoyment I remembered eating the other tart.

On goes the mascarpone filling and we're destined for the oven.

On goes the mascarpone filling and we’re destined for the oven.

I made this recipe. And of course I made some small changes, as I do.

I used my favourite Pastry. According to my handwriting, this pastry has been tucked away in the freezer since April 2014. I can confirm it baked up just as good as it always does, it was light and crips.

Left over mascarpone filling went into little ramekin pots.

Left over mascarpone filling went into little ramekin pots.

The changes I made:

  • Added the zest of a lemon to the prepared blueberry filling
  • Used 150gm Mascarpone cheese
  • Added to the cheese filling the juice of one half lemon
An escapee blueberry. I'll have it!

An escapee blueberry. I’ll have it!

All in all the tart was pleasant. Just enough Lemon to know it was there, but not as punchy as I like. I was mindful that adding too much juice may cause the mascarpone filling to become too thin and therefore may not bake up the same. But it did fall short of what I remembered of the Lemon Blueberry Tart. So this week when we buy more blueberries, I might just whip up that recipe.

And enough left over for dessert Monday night.

And enough left over for dessert Monday night.


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A tasty little loaf recipe

Happy New Year!

BakedWe’ve been away on the Sunshine Coast (Queensland Australia) since Boxing Day. I can tell you there were a few days where it rained so hard we remained indoors, and to have been able to bake would have been lovely. While we had a full kitchen, there was nothing at all to bake with, plus no pantry staples. Even the usual buttermilk pancakes didn’t happen because it was too much of an ordeal to try and get flour, baking powder and baking soda.

It’s taken a day to unpack (well there’s still a few more things I need to find space for) so I don’t feel like I’ve been too shabby in getting myself back into the kitchen.

One of the ladies at work is going on Maternity leave this coming Friday (I presume she’s still at work, there’s a good chance she could deliver early) so I’ve been mixing colours into Royal Icing preparing myself to decorate some cookies. Thankfully I have quite a few undecorated cookies in the freezer from Christmas. So there’ll be no baby shapes, but I’ll decorate in a baby theme – at least that’s the plan.

Today I started out with a quick bread (there’s a Blueberry Tart to make too).  In New Zealand we’d just cut to the chase and call this a savoury loaf. Or we’d take the same ingredients and divide it amongst muffin tins and have, well, muffins.

The recipe I used was this one by The Kitchn.

Mix the wet into the dry ingredients

Mix the wet into the dry ingredients

I went for the Herb Sundried Tomato and Cheese loaf. The recipe didn’t say whether the Oregano and Thyme were fresh or dried. I used dried. I was worried that if the herbs were measured as fresh then the flavours would be too strong since dried herbs are more flavourful.

It looks really stodgy but it baked up beautifully.

It looks really stodgy but it baked up beautifully.

I also didn’t use buttermilk. My MIL had bought sweetened natural yoghurt for me so I’d have it available for breakfast Saturday morning (and at 1am when we arrived home I was mixing up my wet muesli ready for breakfast). It’s not the brand I prefer so in order not to waste it (and seem like a spoilt brat) I used that in the loaf. I did not add any sugar at all to the recipe.

Blog_110115-2All in all it turned out well, had good flavour, but I think I’d prefer it as a muffin. I don’t know, muffins just seem easier to handle. Or I should just wait a little longer so the slices aren’t so delicate to handle.

Always better with a proper spread of butter.

Always better with a proper spread of butter.

The crumb is nice and light despite the batter looking like it’s rather solid.

Ok, next up is the Blueberry tart recipe (once I’ve made and sampled of course) and a little write up on using Rainbow Dust Progels.