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)

Lavender Cupcakes

I’ve always been intrigued by floral desserts and these cupcakes, inspired by the Hummingbird Bakery, have been on my to-bake list for years. With socially distanced spring picnics all the rage at the moment, I thought now was the perfect time to give them a try. I admit, I was a little worried that they might taste like Grandma’s soap, but I’ve made sure the lavender flavour is subtle, resulting in a delicious vanilla cupcake with a floral back note. If you’re keen to up your picnic game and try something new, give these a go!

I bought my dried lavender flowers from the Essential Ingredient online store, but it’s available at many gourmet and specialty food stores.

Ingredients (makes 24 cupcakes)
1 cup milk
1½ tablespoons dried lavender flowers
2¾ cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
200g butter, softened
1 ¾ cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Icing
¼ cup milk
¼ tablespoon dried lavender flowers
100g butter, softened
¾ tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups icing sugar
A few drops of purple food colouring
24 small sprigs of fresh lavender (to decorate)

Method
Put the milk and dried lavender in a jug, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 2 hours. Repeat with the milk and dried lavender for the icing (in a separate jug/bowl).

Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan forced). Line two 12-hole muffin trays with patty pans. Strain the lavender infused milk (for the cupcakes, discarding the dried lavender) and allow the milk to reach room temperature.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. In a different bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer for 1-2 minutes. Add the caster sugar about a third at a time, beating for 2 minutes after each addition. After the last of the sugar has been beaten, beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar has dissolved. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat until just combined.

Add approximately a third of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat on a low speed until combined. Add half of the infused milk and beat until combined. Repeat this process until all of the flour and milk is just combined.

Spoon mixture into the patty pans (filling each about ¾ full) and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the top springs back when touched. Remove the cupcakes from the trays immediately and cool on a wire rack.

To make the icing, strain the remaining lavender infused milk (once again discarding the dried lavender). Cream the butter for 1-2 minutes in a large bowl using an electric mixer. Add the infused milk, vanilla and half of the icing sugar and beat for at least 3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for a further 3 minutes or until the icing is a spreadable consistency. Add the purple food colouring a tiny bit at a time until the desired colour has been achieved. Add extra milk (plain/not-infused is fine) if too dry or extra icing sugar if too wet.

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, use a spatula to apply a generous layer of icing to each cake and top with a sprig of fresh lavender. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the Crabapple Cupcake Bakery. Flavour inspired by the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Milk Bar Style Funfetti Layer Cake

I’ve been a huge fan of Christina Tosi for years, ever since I tried her famous Crack and Candy Bar Pies at Ma Peche on my first trip to New York in 2012.

So, naturally, I had to visit one of her Milk Bar stores on my most recent trip to the US in 2019 and it did not disappoint! I tried a slice of her vanilla birthday cake and it was like no cake I’d tried before – somehow both nostalgic and completely innovative. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to bring a taste of Milk Bar to Adelaide, especially as travel is not on the cards for a while. With this recipe, I think I’ve succeeded.

I’ll be honest, this cake is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a labour of love and requires some unusual equipment: a 9 by 13 inch “quarter sheet pan”, a 6 inch cake ring, 6 inch wide acetate to make cake collars and thick high-quality sprinkles/”jimmies”. I managed to source all of these from eBay relatively cheaply, but it is an investment – I guess I’ll just have to make lots more of these cakes to justify the purchases!

Start this cake at least the day ahead of serving. I actually spread it out over 3 days to make it far less intimidating, I made my crumbs on the Thursday evening, the cake on the Friday evening and then the buttercream, milk soak and assembly on Saturday.

Ingredients (serves 14-16)

Crumbs
¼ cup white sugar
1½ tablespoons brown sugar
¾ cup plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles
¼ cup grapeseed oil
½ tablespoon vanilla extract

Cake
230g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 eggs, room temperature
2¼ cups plain flour, sifted
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup full-cream milk, room temperature
¼ cup full-fat greek yoghurt, room temperature
¼ cup rainbow sprinkles

Buttercream
230g butter, roughly chopped, room temperature
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons full-fat greek yoghurt, room temperature
1-2 tablespoons full-cream milk, room temperature
⅛ teaspoon baking powder

Milk Soak
60ml full-cream milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

Crumbs
Preheat the oven to 150°C.

Combine sugars, flour, baking powder, salt, and sprinkles in a medium bowl and beat with electric beaters on low speed until well combined. Add the oil and vanilla and beat again to distribute. The wet ingredients will help the dry ingredients form small clusters; continue beating until that happens. Ideally, you want a mixture of large-medium and small crumb clusters.

Bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely and store in an airtight container (they will keep fresh for a week at room temperature or a month in the freezer).

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

In a large bowl, add butter, sugar and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat after each addition.

In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Add half of the flour mix and all the milk to the butter/sugar mix and beat on a low speed until combined.

Add remaining flour mix and greek yoghurt and continue to mix on a low speed until just combined. Gently stir in sprinkles with a silicone spatula.

Pour cake into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Set on a wire rack to cool completely.

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 an extra 2 cups of icing sugar, along with the greek yoghurt. Beat on medium speed until combined. Add the final cup of icing sugar, milk and baking powder. Beat on medium speed until the buttercream is light and fluffy.

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

Assembling the Cake
Ensure all of your components are in easy reach. Set aside 12-14 large, roughly even-sized crumbs to use to decorate the top of 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.

Place the 6 inch cake ring onto a plate or cake stand. Line the inside of the cake ring with a ‘collar’ of acetate.

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). Enjoy snacking on any residual cake offcuts while you work, or make into cake pops later.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the milk soak over the cake layer. Add a few tablespoons of buttercream and spread into an even layer. Scatter over a handful of crumbs. Add a couple of extra tablespoons of buttercream on top (you don’t need to completely cover the crumbs) and smoothe with a spatula to ensure the layer is (roughly) even.

Repeat this process for the second layer: cake, milk soak, buttercream, crumbs, buttercream. If you need to, attach another layer of acetate on top of your current cake collar to ensure it is tall enough so that all cake will be supported.

Add the final layer of cake, spoon with 2 tablespoons of the milk soak and add the remaining buttercream to the top. Top the cake with the large crumbs you set aside earlier.

Place cake in the fridge for at least 1 hour to set. Gently peel away the acetate strip/s. Refrigerate until approximately half an hour before serving. Because the cake is so rich, cut into very small pieces (I use this method) to serve. Enjoy!

Cake inspired by Christina Tosi’s ‘Vanilla Birthday Cake’. Crumb recipe from Milk Bar Store. Cake, buttercream and soak recipe adapted from The Sweetest Menu ‘Milk Bar Birthday Cake’.

Chocolate, Date & Ginger Slice

This slice always reminds me of my wonderful grandparents. Whenever I stayed with Grandma and Grandpa as a kid, in between playing shop in their walk-in pantry, dress-ups, cuddles and “helping” in the garden or kitchen, this slice made an appearance and never lasted long! I’m very lucky to still catch up with them regularly and can confirm that a piece (or two) of this slice is as delicious as I remember.

Ingredients (makes 48 pieces)
1 cup dates, chopped
½ cup uncrystallised ginger, chopped finely
½ cup white sugar
115g butter, cubed
6 Weetbix, crushed (approx. 2 cups)
225g dark chocolate

Method
Line a 28cm x 18cm slice tin with baking paper.

Cook dates, ginger, sugar and butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat until the butter is melted and the dates are soft. Stir in Weetbix and ensure the mixture is well combined.

Press firmly into lined slice tin and refrigerate 30mins or until set.

Melt the chocolate. Spread a thin layer of chocolate over the top and leave to set at room temperature.

Cut into approximately 48 pieces. Enjoy!

Recipe from Roma Hammond via Grandma

Salted Caramel Popcorn Rocky Road

Salty, sweet, crunchy, chewy – this rocky road has it all! It only takes 5 minutes to put together and is perfect for an after dinner treat, cake stall or work morning tea.

Ingredients
300g dark chocolate melts
¾ tablespoon vegetable oil
1½ cups caramel popcorn
1 cup white marshmallows, halved
½ cup salted peanuts + ¼ cup extra, chopped
Sea salt flakes

Method
Line a 20x20cm square pan with baking paper.

Melt chocolate in the microwave in a large bowl and add oil. Set aside a quarter of a cup of the chocolate mixture.

Add popcorn, marshmallows and peanuts to the large bowl and stir until evenly coated in chocolate.

Spoon into prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula and then pour over additional chocolate. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and a good pinch of sea salt.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set. Cut carefully into serving sized pieces (approx. 24 squares). Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from donna hay magazine Christmas 2017

Passionfruit Pie

The combination of buttery pastry, tangy passionfruit and creamy white chocolate in this pie is absolutely delicious! This is a fairly time-consuming recipe so definitely one I reserve for special occasions. I would recommend using a mixture of fresh and frozen passionfruit pulp to keep it economical unless you have an abundance of fresh passionfruit (in which case, feel free to send some my way!)

Ingredients (serves 12)
White chocolate ganache
125g white chocolate, chopped
½ cup thickened cream

Pastry
1¾ cups plain flour
¼ cup icing sugar mixture
125g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg, lightly beaten

Passionfruit syrup
Pulp of 4 passionfruit
¼ cup caster sugar

Passionfruit crème pâtissière
Pulp of 8 passionfruit
400ml thickened cream
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 wide strip lemon zest
4 egg yolks
125g caster sugar
⅓ cup cornflour
50g butter, cubed

Method

To make the ganache, microwave the white chocolate in short bursts until melted. Add the cream and refrigerate for 2 hours until thickened.

For the pastry, place the flour and icing sugar into a food processor and add the butter. Process in short bursts until the mixture has a fine crumb consistency. Add the egg and process until the mixture just starts to come together. Turn out onto a clean bench and gather the dough together. Press into a thick disc, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

When the dough has chilled, roll it out on a sheet of non-stick baking paper to fit a 26cm loose-based non-stick flan tin. Carefully line the tin with the pastry, easing it into the corners. Trim any overhanging pastry, prick small holes with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced).

Cover the pastry with a sheet of non-stick baking paper and fill it with pastry weights. Blind bake the pastry for 15 minutes, remove the weights and paper, and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

To make the passionfruit syrup, place the passionfruit pulp and sugar in a small saucepan with half a cup of water. Stir over low heat to dissolve the sugar, then bring to the boil, skimming the froth off the top as you go. Boil for about 2 minutes, until thick and syrupy, then remove from the heat.

For the crème pâtissière, place the passionfruit pulp into a strainer over a bowl and leave it to strain. Heat the cream in a saucepan with the vanill and lemon zest until it is just about to boil. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until light and creamy. Strain the cream and pour over the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Add the cornflour and stir over very low heat for approx. 5 minutes. As the mixture starts to thicken, whisk more quickly until it is very thick and smooth. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes or until the mixture is just warmer than room temperature. Beat in the butter and the strained passionfruit juice.  

Fill the pastry with the passionfruit crème pâtissière mixture, refrigerate for 5-10 minutes and then spread the white chocolate ganache over the top. Drizzle with the passionfruit syrup and refrigerate for about 4 hours.

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Julie Goodwin’s ‘Passionfruit puddle pie’ in My Family Table.

Pimm’s Jellies

This is a beautifully refreshing summer dessert. I’ve always been a fan of Pimm’s – it reminds of balmy nights, family BBQs and tennis – and this captures all of those memories in a silky jelly. Note: it should go without saying, but this dessert is adults only!

Ingredients (makes 6)
cup caster sugar
6 platinum-strength gelatin leaves
1 cup Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
2 cups lemonade
Handful of mint leaves
1 orange
3 strawberries
1 cucumber

Method

Soak the gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes.

Place sugar and 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until the sugar is totally dissolved.

Squeeze the excess water from the gelatin leaves and add to the sugar liquid, stirring until dissolved. Remove from heat.

Add the Pimm’s and lemonade to the saucepan, stirring until combined.

Divide evenly between 6 serving glasses, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until set.

Serve with mint leaves, orange slices, chopped strawberries and cucumber ribbons. Enjoy!

Adapted from delicious. ‘Simply the Best’ (2011)

Perfect Baked Cheesecake

This cheescake is a labour of love but, in my opinion, is absolutely worth the effort as it yields a perfectly silky, tangy cheesecake with a delicious cinnamon crumb. Start the recipe the day ahead as it needs to set in the fridge overnight.

Ingredients (serves 12)
60g wholemeal plain flour
40g brown sugar
pinch sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
50g butter, melted

140g caster sugar
Pinch sea salt
500g full-fat cream cheese, cubed
2 eggs
300ml full-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice of 1 medium-large lemon

250ml full-fat sour cream (extra)
10g caster sugar (extra)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (extra)

Decorate with berries, poached stone fruit or passionfruit pulp, if desired

Method
Preheat the oven to 150°C (fan-forced). Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

To make the crumb base, combine the flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and melted butter in a wide mixing bowl and mix together with your hands to a sticky crumble. Scatter the mix onto the prepared tray and bake for 25 minutes until evenly brown.

While the base is baking, spray a 20cm round cake tin with cooking oil spray and line the base and side with baking paper (I like the paper to extend well above the sides of the tin to make cake removal easier).

Put the sugar, salt and cream cheese into a large bowl and slowly cream the mix with an electric beater on low, scraping down the side of the bowl often with a flexible plastic spatula. Stay on low speed and add the eggs in two batches, scraping well between each addition, then add the sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and give the mix a final hand whisk to ensure there are no lumps. Add the lemon juice to taste and set aside.

Once the crumb is baked and cooled, blitz in a food processor to a fine crumb. Reduce the oven to 120°C.

Fill the base of the prepared cake tin with the crumb, packing it down lightly with the back of a dessert spoon to ensure an even spread. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the crumb-lined cake tin.

Make a water bath by placing a piece of paper towel in the base of a high-sided roasting tin. Sit the cheesecake in the roasting tin (the paper towel will stop it from sliding around) and pour in enough hot water to come one-third up the side of the cheesecake tin. Carefully lift the tin into the oven and bake for about 60 minutes, or until the edges are set but it still has a slight wobble in the centre.

To make the topping, mix together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla with a plastic spatula until runny and pourable. Starting from the outside, pour the topping over the cheesecake, smoothing it gently towards the centre with a spatula. Return to the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool in the water bath until it reaches room temperature. Gently cover the cheesecake with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, cover a flat plate or board with clingfilm. Gently remove the paper from the side of the tin (this should loosen the cheesecake) and place the prepared plate/board on top of the cheesecake. Flip the cheesecake over quickly and place the plate on the work surface. Tap the base of the tin and lift a side of the tin – with a wiggle the cheesecake should release. Peel off the baking paper and invert again onto a serving plate so it is top-side up.

Serve chilled either by itself or topped with fruit (I like berries, poached stone fruit or passionfruit pulp). Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from ‘The cheesecake (that you will love the most)‘ in Beatrix Bakes

See?! Even pups can’t resist this cheesecake!!

Spiced Mocha Christmas Cake

To me, this is Christmas in a cake – fragrantly spiced with the familiar flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, and bejeweled with Christmas colours. This cake is perfect as a Christmas table centrepiece, shared with friends or colleagues with a cuppa, or left as a snack for grateful Santa.

Ingredients
3/4 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
1½ teaspoon ground mixed spice
100g butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons sour cream
125ml hot water
75g dark chocolate
1 teaspoon instant coffee (I use decaf)

5 tablespoons icing sugar
1½ – 2 tablespoons hot water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 dried oranges, halved
A good handful each of dried cranberries, pepitas, shaved coconut and flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 160ºC fan-forced. Line a 24cm loaf pan with baking paper.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, bicarb and mixed spice. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each, and then beat in a third of the flour mixture followed by a tablespoon of the sour cream, repeating until all used.

Put the water, chocolate and instant coffee in a pan and heat gently until the chocolate melts. Fold this into the cake batter, being careful not to over beat.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, lightly toast the coconut and almonds in a non-stick saucepan.

To make the icing, combine vanilla icing sugar and 1½ – 2 tablespoons of hot water. Leave it to thicken slightly before pouring on the cake. Decorate with orange pieces, cranberries, pepitas, shaved coconut and flaked almonds. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from ‘Christmas Cupcakes’ in Nigella’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess

Blueberry Swirl Meringues

These meringues have just the right level of chewiness and a subtle hint of blueberry flavour. I served them like mini pavlovas topped with whipped sweetened cream and fruit, but they’re also delicious on their own.

Ingredients (makes 12 large meringues)
35g blueberries
1 tablespoon water
4 egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup caster sugar

Method
To make the blueberry compote, heat the blueberries and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat until broken down and soft. Blitz with a stick blender until you have a smooth consistency.

Preheat oven to 120°C. Line 2 large baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer or electric hand beaters to whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar and then the sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking until dissolved before adding the next spoonful (test this by rubbing a little of the mixture between your thumb and forefinger).

Use a dessert spoon to spoon the mixture onto the prepared trays (approximately 2 dessert spoons’ worth of mixture per meringue). Shape into circles of the desired size. Spoon approximately 1½ teaspoons’ worth of blueberry mixture onto each meringue and use a skewer to swirl it through the meringue mixture.

Place the meringues into the oven and reduce the temperature to 90°C. Leave the oven on for 1 hour or until the meringues are crisp and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Turn the oven off and allow the meringues to cool gradually in the oven (approximately 2-3 hours). Don’t worry if they collapse a little bit – that’s what a generous covering of cream and fruit is for!

Recipe adapted from Taste.com.au ‘Basic Meringues’ and Donna Hay’s ‘No Fail Meringue Mixture’.
Feel free to omit the blueberry if desired.