Salt & Vinegar Kale Chips

I am not usually a fan of this divisive brassica, but surprisingly love these crispy kale chips. They work well as a snack on their own (my favourite way to eat my greens!) but can also be added as a garnish to a main course or soup.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a snack)
350g kale, washed and dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt flakes
Generous grind of pepper

Method
Preheat the oven to 140°C.

Strip the kale leaves from the stalks of the kale and tear into pieces. Place into a bowl with the remaining ingredients and toss to coat.

Spread the kale leaves in a single layer on wire racks over baking trays. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crunchy.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool and crisp up further before serving. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Alice Zaslavsky’s In Praise of Veg

Featherlight Japanese Milk Bread

This bread is without a doubt the lightest, fluffiest loaf you’ll come across and with its shiny golden exterior and featherlight white centre, it’s as much a joy to look at as it is to eat. It’s also really simple to make so is perfect for bread making beginners.

This version uses a tangzhong method of making a roux out of flour and water to ensure soft, fluffy bread every time.

Ingredients (makes 1 large loaf)
Tangzhong
25g bread flour
90ml water

Loaf
300g bread flour
7g sachet of fast acting yeast
120ml milk (lukewarm, not hot)
30g butter
40g caster sugar
1 egg

Glaze
1 egg

Method

Add water and flour to a small saucepan, whisk until free from lumps. Place over a low-medium heat and stir constantly until it thickens. Set aside to cool.

Once cooled, add the egg to the tangzhong and stir until combined. Add the bread flour, yeast, milk, butter, sugar and eggy tangzhong mixture to the large bowl of a standmixer. Use the dough hook of the standmixer on a medium spped to combine and knead the dough until it is no longer sticky (approximately 10-15 minutes). Add a small amount of extra flour if required.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (approximately an hour).

Once it has risen, punch down the dough and divide into three equal pieces. Set the other pieces to one side and use a rolling pin to shape a piece into an oval shape.

Fold one side of dough over to halfway across the remaining dough then fold the other side on top(see photos below). Roll up the piece of dough from the short side (bottom to the top of the middle picture below) as you would a cinnamon roll.

Repeat with the other pieces of dough then put all three rolls of dough in an oiled loaf pan.

Cover and leave to rise again until the loaf is just reaching the top of the pan.

Once nearly risen, preheat oven to 175°C (160°C fan-forced). Lightly beat the egg and brush the top of the loaf with egg wash.

Bake the loaf for approximately 30 minutes until golden brown. If it browns too fast, loosely cover with foil for the last part of cooking. Turn onto a cooling rack to cool before slicing.

Recipe adapted from Caroline’s Cooking ‘Japanese milk bread’.

Flourless Chocolate Cloud Cake

There’s something very freeing about a cake that’s supposed to crack, and that’s exactly what this one does – right before your eyes. But it’s the incredibly light, cloud-like texture of this cake that makes it so special (and gives it its name) due to its airy, flourless batter and whipped cream topping.

Ingredients (serves 8-10)
250g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
125g butter
6 eggs
175g caster sugar
300ml thickened cream
2 teaspoons icing sugar
Fresh berries
Edible rose petals (optional)

Method
Preheat oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced). Grease and line the base of a 23cm springform tin.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until smooth and glossy.

Separate 4 of the eggs and set the whites aside. Using electric beaters or a stand-mixer, beat the yolks and remaining 2 whole eggs with 75g of the caster sugar on high speed for 3-4 minutes or until really creamy. Gently fold in the melted chocolate mixture.

In another bowl, whisk the eggwhites until they’re just frothy, then slowly add the remaining caster sugar while whisking until the mixture holds soft peaks.

Add a table spoon of the whisked eggwhites to the chocolate mixture to loosen it, then gently fold in the rest, maintaining as much of the air in the mixture as you can.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until it is no longer wobbly around the edges (but still soft in the centre).

Leave the cake in the tin to cool.

Once cooled, whip the cream and icing sugar until very thick and velvety.

Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the tin and carefully transfer to a serving plate.

Top with the whipped cream, berries and rose petals. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the ‘Chocolate pomegranate cloud cake’ in Special Delivery by Annabel Crabb and Wendy Sharpe

Chocolate & Butterscotch “Crack”

This “crack” (so named due to its highly addictive nature) is a crunchy, salty-sweet treat that has proven so popular in Australia that Salada sales have increased by 15%! Made famous by the Podcast ‘Chat 10 Looks 3’ hosted by Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales, “crack” is sure to be your newest guilty pleasure. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Ingredients (makes 1 large tray worth)
6 Saladas (or Salada-style) crackers
100g salted butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Pinch of salt
100g dark chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup salted peanuts, chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced).

Line a 33.5 x 24cm tray with foil and then baking paper (take it from me, you do NOT want this to stick!) Lay out six Saladas onto the tray, which should fit snugly.

In a small saucepan, melt the better and sugar together over a moderate heat. Cook for about 5 minutes then stir in vanilla and salt.

Pour the butterscotch over the Saladas and smooth with a spatula to ensure they are evenly coated.

Bake for 8-12 minutes or until the butterscotch is a deep golden colour (keep a close eye on it as it can go from golden to burnt very quickly). Immediately sprinkle with the chopped chocolate and smooth with a spatula until melted and evenly coated. Top with chopped peanuts.

Refrigerate until set. Then break into shards and try not to eat it all at once. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Well Hello by Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales

Black Forest Layer Cake

Black forest cakes are a tried and true favourite for a reason – especially when cherries are in season and at their most flavoursome. This is another cake using the Milk Bar method of cutting out rounds from a large rectangular sponge cake, ensuring you get perfectly even layers every time.

While I made this into a 2-layer cake this time as it was a gift for a couple in quarantine who didn’t need a giant cake, the recipe actually makes a 3-layer cake.

Ingredients (serves 12-14)
Equipment
9 x 13 inch “quarter sheet pan”*
A 6 inch cake ring*
6 inch wide acetate roll
Sticky tape

Chocolate Ganache
120g dark chocolate melts
90ml cream

Cake
115g butter, room temperature
300g caster sugar
3 large eggs
120ml buttermilk
60ml canola oil
2 tablespoons chocolate ganache
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee
130g plain flour
15g cornflour
70g cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking powder

Cherry Jam
225g fresh or frozen cherries (pitted and chopped finely)
25g caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour

Buttercream
115g butter, roughly chopped, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoons full-fat greek yoghurt, room temperature
½-1 tablespoon full-cream milk, room temperature

Cherry Milk Soak
40ml full-cream milk
25ml kirsch (cherry liqueur) or cherry juice

10-12 large fresh cherries, to decorate

Method

Chocolate Ganache
Add the dark chocolate and cream to a small saucepan and stir over a low heat until the chocolate is nearly melted. Remove from the heat and continue stirring until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth. Set aside (at room temperature).

Cake
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Spray the base and sides of a quarter sheet pan with cooking oil and line the base with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer, or a large bowl if using a hand mixer, on a medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat on high until combined.

Add the buttermilk, oil, 2 tablespoons of your pre-prepared chocolate ganache, vanilla and coffee into a small bowl and stir until the coffee has dissolved. Add this chocolate mixture into the the butter mix and beat on high for a few minutes, scraping down the bowl as required.

Sift the flour, cornflour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the batter. Beat on low until the mixture has just combined, and then pour the batter into the lined cake tin. Smooth out flat and tap the tray gently against the bench a few times to get out any air bubbles.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes and then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  

Cherry Jam
Place the cherries, caster sugar and cornflour into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and continue to stir until thickened.

Buttercream
Beat butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 1-2 minutes until butter is pale and creamy.

Add vanilla and 1 cup of icing sugar. Beat on a low speed to combine, then turn up to medium and mix for 30 seconds. Add the remaining icing sugar along with the greek yoghurt. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. If too stiff, add milk. If too wet, add extra icing sugar. It should be fluffy and spreadable.

Cherry Milk Soak
Add milk and kirsch to a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Assembling the Cake
Place your cake on a large chopping/bread board. Using the picture below as a guide, use a 6 inch metal cake cutter to cut out 2 rounds of cake and then two half pieces.

Image courtesy of ‘What Charlotte Baked’

Place the 6 inch cake ring onto a plate or cake stand. Line the inside of the cake ring with a ‘collar’ of acetate, taping the edges together to join.

Place the two half pieces of cake at the bottom and press down firmly. If there are any gaps, use extra cake scraps to fill in the holes and press down very firmly to make one even layer. Carefully remove the cake ring (but leave the acetate).

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the milk soak over the cake layer. Allow to soak for about a minute. Spoon approximately one third of the chocolate ganache onto the cake layer, and spread evenly, ensuring the ganache gets right to the edges of the cake. Spoon half of the cherry filling on top of the ganache and spread out evenly to the edges of the cake. Add a few tablespoons of buttercream on top and smooth with a spatula to ensure the layer is (roughly) even.

Repeat this process for the second layer: cake, cherry milk soak, chocolate ganache, the remaining cherry jam and a thick layer of buttercream. If you need to, attach another round of acetate on top of your current cake collar (using tape to join the two collars) to ensure it is tall enough that all cake is supported.

Add the final layer of cake, spoon with the remaining milk soak and then top with the remaining chocolate ganache. Decorate with a ring of cherries and place in the fridge to set for a few hours. While the cake sets, add any remaining buttercream to the cake offcuts and enjoy as a snack!

Remove the cake from the fridge and gently peel away the acetate strip/s just before serving. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from What Charlotte Baked ‘Black Forest Naked Cake’. Buttercream recipe adapted from The Sweetest Menu ‘Milk Bar Birthday Cake’.

*If you don’t have a quarter sheet pan and/or round cutter, you can use two 8 inch/three 6 inch round cake pans

Raspberry & Vanilla Trifle

We’ve never really been a trifle family, and the few trifles I’d tried before this one were often disappointing – mushy and bland. We decided we wanted to serve a trifle as a dessert option on Christmas day and so, after a bit of experimenting, I developed this vanilla and raspberry trifle with torched meringue topping. I hope you enjoy as much as I do! For the time poor, I have put in some cheats to make it an easier job.

Start this recipe at least the day ahead.

Ingredients (serves 12-14)
2 packets raspberry jelly
1 cup frozen raspberries

Sponge cake
3 eggs, separated
1 cup caster sugar
½ cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup plain flour
1 tbsp cornflour

OR use 2 round unfilled sponge cakes (Woolworths brand do the job perfectly)

Vanilla custard
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1.2L full cream milk
8 egg yolks
4 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour

OR approximately 1 litre of pre-bought custard (I like Paul’s Double Thick French Vanilla 900g)

Meringue Topping
2 egg whites
⅔ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 punnets of fresh raspberries, to serve

Method

Make the jelly according to packet instructions and pour into a 3L capacity trifle dish. Add frozen raspberries. Put in the fridge to set for at least 6 hours.

To make the sponge cakes, preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced. Grease two 20cm round, shallow tins and line the bases with baking paper.

Use electric beaters to beat the egg yolks, sugar, water, and vanilla for approximately 10 minutes, until very pale and thick. Wash the beaters and then, in a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and baking powder until stiff peaks form. Fold the sifted flours into the yolk mixture and then gently mix in the egg whites.

Divide evenly between the tins and bake for 20 minutes or until springy in the centre and the cake has come away from the sides of the tins. Gently turn cakes onto wire cooling racks and leave to cool entirely. Store in an airtight container until required.

To make the custard, add vanilla bean paste and milk to a large saucepan on a medium-low heat and bring to the boil. Immediately remove it from the heat and leave to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a very large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and cornflour until pale.

Gradually add the warm milk, a tablespoon full at a time, whisking well between each addition. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook gently on a low heat, whisking continuously, for about 20 minutes or until very thick. Leave to cool at room temperature then refrigerate until required.

To assemble the trifle, cut the sponge cake into squares approximately 6cm x 6cm. Add a layer of sponge cake pieces over the set jelly like so:


Top with half of the custard mixture. Place half of the raspberries, evenly spaced, on top of the custard.

Repeat – add a further layer of sponge cake, the remaining custard and top with raspberries. Refrigerate until required.

Just before serving (or up to 3 hours ahead), make the meringue. Whip the eggwhites with electric beaters until they’re light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and a tablespoon of the sugar and beat until combined. Add the remaining sugar, a spoonful at a time, beating between each addition until the sugar has dissolved. Once all of the sugar has been added you should have glossy white, stiff peaks.

Spoon the meringue mixture onto the top. Use a kitchen blowtorch to lightly toast the meringue. Serve and enjoy!

Watermelon, Pistachio & Goat’s Cheese Bites

These unique, tasty morsels are a perfect starter – especially for Christmas in Australia with the jewel-like pomegranate seeds contrasting beautifully with the pistachios.

Ingredients (serves 10-12)
1.6kg wedge seedless watermelon
¼ red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil (ideally extra virgin)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ cup roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
½ cup pomegranate seeds
50g goat’s cheese, crumbled
¼ small fresh mint leaves

Method

Remove watermelon rind and discard. Cut the watermelon into 2cm thick slices. Using a 4cm round cutter, cut out rounds from sliced watermelon (you should have approximately 36).

Combine red onion, olive oil and vinegar in a bowl and season to taste. Whisk to combine. Add pistachio and pomegranate seeds and stir to combine. Spoon a little pistachio mixture onto each piece of watermelon. Top with goat’s cheese and mint. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Super Food Ideas, December 2019.

Fondant Christmas Cookies

Ingredients (makes approx. 25 large round cookies)
125g butter
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
1 ½ cups plain flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon baking powder

Approx 200g white fondant icing
Icing sugar
Vanilla essence
Red and green food colouring

Method
Cream butter, sugar & vanilla using electric beaters until well combined. Add the egg and beat until light and fluffy.

Using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, mix sifted dry ingredients into wet ingredients until a dough forms. Knead gently for 1-2 minutes on a lightly floured bench and then divide into 2 roughly equal pieces, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced). Roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface using a rolling pin until you reach your desired thickness (I like mine around 5-6mm) and cut out circles using a large round cookie cutter. Repeat until you have used all the dough.

Place onto a baking tray (they don’t have to be spread out much as they don’t really expand) and bake for approximately 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden.

While the cookies cool, make your vanilla glaze by combining vanilla essence and icing sugar until you have a thick syrup consistency.

Divide your fondant icing into 3 roughly equal parts. Colour one red, one green and leave the other white.

Roll out your fondant using a rolling pin on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar until 3-4mm thick. Use the same round cutter as for the cookie to cut out circles of fondant.

Brush each cookie with a small amount of the vanilla glaze and the top with fondant. Press down gently to ensure the fondant has adhered completely to the cookie. Stamp with a ‘Merry Christmas’ cookie stamp or decorate as desired. Repeat until all cookies have been decorated. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from ‘The Best Valentine Sugar Cookies’ on Alice & Lois.com

Brookies (Brownie x Cookies)

I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical. As a brownie purist and cookie lover, I couldn’t imagine how ‘brookies’ could improve on perfection. Well, I’m happy to say that I was proven wrong! Brookies combine the rich chocolate fudginess of a brownie with the convenience and shelf life of a cookie. They also have both the crunchy side parts AND the fudgy middle of a brownie in the one morsel, so there’s no more fighting over who gets which brownie. To sum up, I’m mad at myself for resisting this trend for so long when they are JUST. SO. GOOD.

I ate (and, regretfully, shared) this batch too quickly to experiment, but I’m going to try making brooking sandwiches next time, with a peanut butter or caramel filling.

Ingredients (makes 24)
225g dark chocolate melts
75g butter, at room temperature
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
¾ cup plain flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon baking powder

Method
Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 20 second bursts, stirring between each burst, until smooth and entirely melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, add the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together with electric beaters on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy (about 2 minutes). Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat on high speed for a further 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then pour in the melted chocolate and mix on medium-high speed for 2 full minutes.

Add in the flour, cocoa powder, coffee and baking powder and beat on low speed until just combined. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced) and line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.

Once chilled, roll the dough into roughly golf ball sized balls and place on the tray, leaving room to spread (I fit about 6 per tray). Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until the edges appear set and the top has a cracked appearance (don’t worry that the centre is soft, it will set as it cools). Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Enjoy!

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week (but I doubt they’ll last that long!)

Recipe adapted from ‘My Favorite Brownie Cookies’ on Sally’s Baking Blog.

Chicken Pesto Pot Pies

These chicken and pesto pot pies are absolutely delicious and surprisingly quick, as they use both pre-bought pesto and pastry. Feel free to add/change the veggies as you like.

Ingredients (makes 6)
450-500g chicken thighs, chopped
40g butter
1 leek (white part only), thinly sliced
½ carrot, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
4 button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons plain flour
¾ cup chicken stock
¾ cup thickened cream
2 tablespoons basil pesto
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
Milk, to brush

Method
Pan fry your chicken over a medium-high heat until just cooked through. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced).

Melt the butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the leek and carrot and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for 1 minute, then add the flour and stir for a further minute. Gradually stir in the chicken stock, then bring the mixture to simmer. Add the cream and cook for 3 minutes, stirring, until thickened. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in pesto and season to taste. Add the cooked chicken and stir to combine.

Using your ramekins as a stencil, cut 6 pie lids from the puff pastry sheets. Fill each ramekin with the pie mixture and then top with a pastry lid. Make a small hole in the centre to allow steam to escape. Decorate as desired using pastry offcuts (I put initials on mine). Brush each pie lid with milk. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from ‘Chicken Pesto Pies’ in delicious. More Please (2010)