Gypsy and the Botanist

Month: January, 2015

Things I found.

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One of the thing you should know about me is that I’m completely obsessed with flowers and plants. I nerd out over them. Big time. My home is like a jungle, with plants large and small, and flowers too, everywhere. No corner has been left untouched. On my balcony, I have an old dining table for entertaining. But all it now entertains is my balcony garden – it is home to all my outdoor plants. Any dining that would take place there, guests would be competing with terracotta pots of herbs and edible flowers for plate space. Oooops.

The other thing I’m know for is…. um… “trimming”… people’s gardens. Living in an apartment, what will grow is limited. I don’t get to grow beautiful majestic trees and blooms. So when I go on walks, it is not unusual for me to take a pair of scissors… and do a little bit of pruning along my way. I should preface that I never enter gardens. These are things hanging along the footpath…. Over the weekend, I went on one of my walks, and 1.5 hours later, these are the beauties that I collected. Wild orchids. Flowering gums (that intensely hot pink hue, I find it irresistible). Giant gumnuts. And the biggest magnolia grandifloras.

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Stout, dark chocolate and berry cake, with a stout and berry glaze.

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A good stout has a rich, deep chocolate undertone. I’ve often cooked with stout for that reason. It gives food a beautiful depth. So here it is today, in one of my (many) different takes of stout and chocolate. I always love adding some berries, they give a tartness to the creamy and rich bitterness of the stout and dark chocolate. Here I’ve used a stout from one of my favourite breweries, in the suburb across from me: Batch Brewing Co. You can use guinness, but for something a little bit special, go with a craft stout or porter.

 

Ingredients

400g mixed berries

400g good quality 70% dark chocolate

200g unsalted butter, softened

200g caster sugar

A pinch of salt

4 eggs

300g plain flour

3tsp bicarbonate of soda

3 tbsp natural yoghurt

3 tbsp good quality cocoa

300ml stout

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Stout and berry glaze

100ml stout

100g mixed berries

3tbsp brown sugar

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Preheat the oven to 180C.

Simmer the berries over a low heat in a pan. Add a small splash of water if needed, so it doesn’t burn. Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the berries start to cook, but keep an eye on them, as you don’t want them to lose their shape. Set aside to cool.

In a double boiler, melt the dark chocolate, and set aside to cool.

Beat the butter and sugar, until light and creamy, for approximately 5-6 minutes. On a low speed, add one egg at a time, until each is just incorporated. Add the pinch of salt and cocoa, beating until incorporated. Follow this with half of the flour mixture, and the bicarbonate of soda. Add the berries, and the melted dark chocolate. Then slowly pour in half of the stout. Add the rest of the flour, followed by the rest of the stout.

Pour the mixture into a greased and lined loaf pan, and bake for approximately 50-60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and leave the cake in the pan for about 10-20 minutes until it has cooled a little. Move the cake out of the tin onto a wire wrack to cool completely.

For the glaze, simmer the berries for about 10 minutes. With a fork or the back of a spoon, press down on the berries so they mash up a little and make a juice. If you don’t want chunks, sieve out the berries. Add the stout and brown sugar, and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Once the cake has cooled, drizzle the glaze generously over. I decorated the cake with some flaked almonds, cocoa nibs, and some leftover berries.

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Poached peach, vanilla bean and coconut cake.

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Peaches are in their prime right now, so I couldn’t resist making their beautiful coral coloured flesh the star of this cake. To make sure the peaches didn’t take the moisture out of the cake, I poached them first with vanilla beans and some cloves for extra depth. In honour of summer, I made this a coconut cake to keep things light and creamy. I used shredded coconut for the texture, but if you prefer, desiccated coconut will work too.

 

Ingredients

200g unsalted butter, softened

200g white caster sugar

200g plain flour

4 eggs

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

2tsp bicarbonate of soda

A pinch of salt

100g shredded coconut

2tbsp natural yoghurt

150ml buttermilk

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Poached peaches

5 peaches, sliced into 8 wedges each

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

7 cloves

50g brown sugar

100ml water

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Preheat the oven to 180C.

To poach the peaches, place the sliced wedges into a saucepan, along with the scraped seeds of the vanilla bean, the cloves, brown sugar and water. Bring to the boil, then with a lid over the pan, let them simmer for approximately 10-15 minutes. You want them soft, but still keeping their shape. Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar, for approximately 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. On a low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, until each is incorporated. Then add the half of the flour, the salt and bicarbonate of soda, and beat until incorporated. Add the yoghurt, the scraped seeds of the vanilla bean, and half of the buttermilk, beating until incorporated. Add the shredded coconut. Then add the remaining flour and buttermilk.

In a lined and greased 18cm round pan, pour a bit of the cake mixture in so that the bottom of the pan is covered. Then arrange some of the poached peaches, and then pour over with the remaining cake mixture. On top, arrange the remaining peaches. Keep the remaining peach syrup. Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool in the tin for 20-30 minutes, then move onto a wire wrack, and allow to cool completely.

Once the cake has cooled, drizzle the remaining peach syrup over the cake.

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Lemon, vanilla bean and white chocolate semolina bundt cake.

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It’s been hot here. And when it comes to cake, hot demands something light and fresh. In my Polish upbringing, a lot of cakes used semolina, which would give cakes a lighter texture. To keep things cool, I’ve centred this recipe on fresh, zingy lemons. Along with some vanilla beans and white chocolate for some creaminess.

While I’ve used a bundt mould, I’d actually recommend using a standard 18cm/20cm round tin. Semolina is tricky and very fragile, and the lock and release round tins are semolina’s (and ultimately yours!) friend. By it’s very nature, semolina is very crumbly. While it’s this texture that works so beautifully in cakes, it requires a lot of handling with care!

 

Ingredients

4 lemons, juice and zest

2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped

200g white chocolate, roughly chopped

200g unsalted butter, softened

200g white caster sugar

4 eggs

3 tbsp natural yoghurt

A pinch of salt

100g plain flour

50g potato flour

100g semolina, fine

2tsp bicarbonate of soda

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Lemon glaze

1 lemon, juice

3 tbsp icing sugar

2 tbsp warm water

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Preheat the oven to 180C.

Melt the white chocolate gently in a double boiler, and remove from heat and side aside to cool. In a pan, simmer the lemon juice, zest, and vanilla beans for about 10 minutes, and set aside to cool.

Sift together the plain flour, potato flour, bicarbonate of soda, and salt. Meanwhile, beat the butter and sugar for approximately 5-6 minutes, or until light and creamy. On a low speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Beat in the flour mixture until incorporated, followed by the yoghurt. Then, add the melted white chocolate and the lemon and vanilla mixture. Add the semolina, and beat until all incorporated.

Pour the mix into a greased and lined bundt tin (or round tins), and level out. Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and leave in the tin to cool completely (this is particularly important with semolina – if you handle it too early while it’s still warm, it will crumble). Then move to a wire wrack to cool completely.

For the lemon glaze, combine the lemon juice and icing sugar, and mix with a fork. Add the warm water, and continue to mix until the icing sugar has dissolved. Add more of either the lemon juice, icing sugar, or water, depending on your preferences. Pour over the cooled cake. I decorated the cake with some pepitas and marigold petals.

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