Figolli (Maltese Easter Biscuits)

When we lived in Canberra, our lovely friends at Church would bring us some Figolli (traditional Maltese Easter biscuits) every Easter Sunday. As they were such a favourite with all of us, when we moved to Adelaide we decided that we couldn’t be without Figolli at Easter, and so we started making them ourselves.

This has just been our third Easter in Adelaide and I’m pretty confident that we’ve perfected them by now – consistently getting a rich buttery biscuit outside and perfectly chewy almond-citrus filling. We tend to to make ours round (although by all means use any shape you like) and decorate them simply with pastel icing and topped with an Easter egg. Do yourself a favour and try them!

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Ingredients
Pastry
400g plain flour, sifted
175g caster sugar
200g butter
2 egg yolks
Grated rind of ½ a lemon

Filling
300g icing sugar, icing
300g ground almonds
2 egg whites
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2-2½ teaspoons orange blossom water

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Method
In a food processor, blitz flour, sugar & butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add egg yolks, lemon zest & sufficient cold water to bring together. Knead gently to form a smooth ball and then cover in cling film and refrigerate for 20mins.

Meanwhile, add the lemon zest, orange blossom water, egg whites & sugar to the ground almonds. Mix until combined.

Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced.

Roll pastry out to a 2-3mm thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 2 of each shape (we used round & oval shaped cutters of varying sizes).

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Spread almond paste on one half and lay matching shapes on top, pressing the edges together.

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Bake for approximately 20 mins or until golden brown.

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Allow to cool before decorating with glacé icing & mini easter eggs or speckled eggs.

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Adapted from ‘The Food and Cookery of Malta’ (1999)

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Red Velvet Christmas Cupcakes

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Wow! Only a week and a day until Christmas 🙂 It’s warming up around here which means that having the oven on and heating the house isn’t ideal and so I’ve had a couple of organised baking spells to try and minimise the amount of oven time.

I made these cupcakes yesterday for an afternoon tea with friends and they’re easy and delicious (and still soft & moist today).

For decorations, go as crazily festive as you like. There are plenty of cute Christmas sugar icing decorations that are cheap and readily available, you could make up a range of different coloured icings and pipe a wreath on them or something along those lines (if you can be bothered), or do as I did, and cut out some holly out of ready-made fondant icing.

Of course, these cupcakes aren’t reserved just for Christmas time, they would work equally well as birthday cupcakes with piped icing and candles!

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Ingredients (Makes 24)
Cupcakes
150g softened butter
⅔ cup caster sugar
2 tspns vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 ⅓ cups self raising flour, sifted
4 tblspns cocoa, sifted
½ cup buttermilk
1 ½ tblspns of good quality red food colouring (I use Wilton’s, you may need to adjust the amount depending on the brand you use)

Cream Cheese Icing
500g cream cheese, chopped
100g butter, softened
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 ½ cups icing sugar
2 tblspns milk

To Decorate
Ready made white fondant icing
Red food colouring
Green food colouring
Holly leaf cutter (or stencil)
Sharp Knife

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Method
Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced. Place butter, caster sugar and vanilla into a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, beating until well combined. Add the flour, cocoa, buttermilk and food colouring and beat on a low speed until just combined.

Divide mixture into cupcake tins lined with (green) patty pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven) or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the largest cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

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While the cupcakes are cooking and cooling, divide half of the fondant icing into 2 and colour one lot vibrant red, and the other a deep (holly-ish) green. Roll out the green fondant with a rolling pin and cut out 48 holly leaves. Then, using a sharp non-serated knife, mark out a leaf pattern by running the knife through the centre so that it leaves an incision but does not cut through. Then cut diagonal incisions from the centre out so that it looks like the veins of a leaf (see picture below).

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Pull small pieces of the red fondant off and roll into 48 small balls to make the holly berries.

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Once the cupcakes are almost completely cool, start making the cream cheese icing. Place the cream cheese and butter into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 8-10 minutes. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat for a further 5 minutes or until completely smooth. Add the milk and beat until just combined.

Ice each cupcake with a generous amount of icing and top with 2 leaves and 2 berries. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Donna Hay’s recipe ‘red velvet cupcakes with sugared cranberries’.

Chocolate Reindeer Tartlets

Only 12 days until Christmas!! I LOVE Christmas time (and I mean LOVE) and have been madly baking and decorating along to Christmas tunes ready for the big day. I have also been joined by a little puppy, Bailey, who has made baking more of a challenge but has by no means curbed my enthusiasm for it.

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These adorable reindeer tartlets are delicious and so easy to make – a perfect recipe to involve the kids in and to take to the multitude of Christmas functions where you need to ‘bring a plate’. If you don’t want all the reindeer to be Rudolphs, feel free to swap the jaffas for brown m&ms 🙂

image1-6Ingredients (makes 20)
1 packet Butternut Snap Biscuits (or equivalent)
65g butter, chopped
⅓ cup cream
200g dark chocolate melts
Approximately 10 white marshmallows, halved
20 jaffas or equivalent red lollies
20 white mini marshmallows, halved
Chocolate writing icing (or black icing pen, or additional melted chocolate applied with a toothpick)
1 packet of pretzels

Method
Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced. Place 1 biscuit per hole in a 12-hole, round-based tartlet tin. Bake for 2-3 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven. Carefully press softened biscuits into tin to mould into a cup shape (use a spoon to make it easier if you like). Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a plate and repeating with remaining biscuits.

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Heat butter, cream and chocolate in a saucepan over very low heat. Stir constantly for approximately 5 minutes or until melted and smooth. Pour into a clean, dry bowl and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until cool but not set.

Fill biscuit cases with 1 heaped teaspoon of chocolate mixture. Refrigerate until set.

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While the ganache is setting, carefully cut pretzels in half and trim so it looks like a lower case ‘f’ for the antlers (I seem to break as many as I successfully cut so that’s why I recommend allowing a full packet!!)

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Gently press 1 marshmallow half, sticky side up into each tartlet.

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Attach 1 jaffa to each marshmallow.

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Attach 2 mini marshmallow halves above nose, cut-side up, to form eyes. Use an icing pen/or a spot of chocolate ganache applied with a toothpick to create the pupils.

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Place 2 pretzel pieces above eyes. Press to secure. Serve & enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Arnott’s ‘Chocolate Butternut Snap Tartlets’ recipe.

Pumpkin Pie

Pic from Inspired Taste.net (mine got eaten too quickly!)
Pic from Inspired Taste (mine got eaten too quickly!)

Even though Thanksgiving isn’t really a holiday celebrated here in Australia, this year my family decided to get in on the action anyway as a number of us will be away over Christmas (and we like to party with or without good reason). So, in keeping with tradition, I made a pumpkin pie for dessert. I had no idea what to expect having never tried one before, but gave a highly rated recipe I found online a go and was really pleased with the result. If I didn’t know there was pumpkin in there (and it wasn’t orange) I wouldn’t pick it because it’s really the vanilla and spices that come to the fore, with the pumpkin providing a creamy, sweet back note. Pumpkin-y or not it was delicious and I’ll probably make it again when pumpkins are in season.

Ingredients (serves 8-10)
Pastry
1 ½ cups plain flour
3 tspns icing sugar
140g cold butter, chopped
1 egg yolk
2 tblspoons water

Filling
2 cups pumpkin puree (made by roasting pumpkins, scooping out the flesh, blitzing it into a smooth paste in a blender and then putting it in a sieve for an hour or so to remove the excess juice)
3 large eggs
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup brown sugar
¾ cup cream
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
A pinch of salt
1 quick grind of pepper (i.e. a really small amount, sounds odd but it works!)

Method
To make the pastry, put the flour, icing sugar, butter, yolk & water into a food processor and process until it just comes together. Press into a ball, knead gently on a floured surface until smooth & then refrigerate, covered in clingfilm, for 30 mins.

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan-forced. Lightly grease a 23cm flan tin or pie dish.

When the pastry has chilled, roll dough on a floured surface until large enough to line the tin (I often have a bit left over). Lift pastry into tin, ease into the sides & then trim the excess.

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Cover the pastry with a sheet of baking paper and fill with pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the pumpkin puree, cream, vanilla and spices and stir until all incorporated.

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Pour mixture into pastry case (obviously remove the baking paper and pie weights first!!) and smooth over the top. I ended up having a bit of pumpkin filling left over that I might use in muffins or something (if I don’t eat it all first :P)

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Bake pie in the oven for 10 minutes before reducing the heat to 160°C fan-forced for around 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

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Let cool completely before transferring to a serving platter and then serve at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream. Enjoy!

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Pic from Inspired Taste (mine got eaten too quickly!)

Pastry recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe & Filling Recipe from Inspired Taste.net

Celebration Sponge Cake

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I made this sponge cake over the weekend for my Grandma’s 80th Birthday. I really wanted to make something special as it is widely accepted that my Grandma is one of the most amazing humans on the planet (really, she’s exceptional). This cake looked amazing, tasted delicious and is very adaptable – you can use any fruit that’s in season to put on top, and fill it with anything you like. If I was in a rush I would even be inclined to buy a sponge cake, cut in half and decorate it to get the effect with minimal time and effort.

Ingredients
For the sponge: 
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

For the sweetened, thickened cream:
500ml thickened cream
Icing sugar (to taste)
Vanilla extract (to taste)

For the jam: https://bakerholicsanonymous.wordpress.com/recipes-2/frostings-icing-condiments/raspberry-jam/, alternatively you can use store bought (but it is likely to be sweeter)

For decorating: 
2 punnets fresh strawberries
1 punnet fresh raspberries
1 punnet fresh blueberries
1 pomegranate
Fresh mint

For the macarons: https://bakerholicsanonymous.wordpress.com/recipes-2/cookies-biscuits-macarons/raspberry-macarons/ (with the raspberry jam to sandwich)

Method
Make the raspberry jam according to instructions.

If desired, make the macarons according to instructions. Sandwich with some of the jam.

For the sponge: 

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, face up, onto wire cooling racks with clean tea towels on them (this stops the wire from denting your cakes). Leave to cool entirely.

For the Cream

Add cream, icing sugar (to taste) and vanilla extract (to taste) into a large stick blender/master container (or bowl) and blend until the cream is very thick.

To Assemble 

Lay one of your sponges top-down on your serving platter.

Spread with raspberry jam (or desired filling).

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Spread a generous layer of whipped cream on top.

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Top with strawberry slices, chopped evenly.

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Gently place the other sponge, top-side up onto the cake.

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Top liberally with cream and spread it evenly, right out to the edge (but not down the edge, you still want to see the cake).

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Top with fruit and mint leaves (the more the better often for aesthetics – and flavour!) And, if desired, place macarons with a blob of cream and a raspberry on top, evenly around the cake.

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Enjoy!

Recipe from Grandma

Rainbow Layer Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

As I’m sure you all know by now, rainbow cakes are in. To surprise my family at my 19th Birthday party, I decided to make one and keep it top secret. While it was time-consuming and challenging and, I admit, I had a few diva moments where I wanted nothing more than to throw the darn cake out the window, it was definitely worth it for the squeals of surprise and delight and the warm fuzzy feeling it gave me. I had, ambitiously, pictured it covered with perfect snow white roses. But it wasn’t to be when my rather overpriced Wilton star tip exploded and I was left with a huge mess and a 2-minute noodle effect. Still I persevered, and when topped with some flowers it didn’t look too bad. I have attempted to make this recipe idiot-proof (if I can do it, you can!) and so have used a packet cake base and converted all measurements. Good luck, this cake isn’t for the faint of heart!

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Ingredients (serves 12-16)
Rainbow Cakes
2 boxes Betty Crocker SuperMoist vanilla cake mix (cheating, I know!)
Milk (as directed on the cake box x2)
Eggs (as directed on the cake box x2)
Red, yellow, green & blue edicol food dye powders

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
12 egg whites (split over 2 batches – 6 per batch)
480g caster sugar (split over 2 batches – 240g per batch)
600g unsalted butter (split over 2 batches – 300g per batch)
4 teaspoons vanilla extract (split over 2 batches – 2 tspns per batch)

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Method
1. Heat oven as directed on the Betty Crocker cake box. Spray three 20cm round cake pans with cooking oil spray.

2. In a large bowl, beat cake mix and other ingredients as directed by the cake box (I have stupidly thrown mine out and can’t remember exactly but I’m pretty sure there were eggs, unsalted butter and milk) *remember to double the quantities as you’re using 2 boxes worth* until well combined.1170685_10151734990259463_1454942815_n

3. Divide batter evenly among 6 bowls.

4. Using food dye and a small quantity of water, make a red, orange (using red & yellow), yellow, green, blue and purple (using red and blue) paste. Add one colour to each bowl and mix until all the dye is incorporated. It might take a few goes to ensure your colours are really vibrant, but it is definitely worth making sure they are for the finished product.

5. Refrigerate the green, blue and purple batters until ready to bake. Pour remaining 3 colours into the 3 prepared cake pans.

6. Bake for 18-20mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean and the cake has started to pull away from the edges of the pan. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pans and gently place onto cooling racks to cool completely.

7. Wash and dry cake pans. Lightly spray with cooking oil and then pour in the remaining 3 batters and repeat the baking process.

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8. To make the first batch of buttercream, add egg whites and sugar to a large metal bowl and place over a pot of simmering water, whisking constantly but gently until the mixture reaches 70 degrees C or until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

9. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip the eggwhites until the meringue is thick, glossy and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (NOT WARM).

10. Switch to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time until incorporated and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if it curdles, keep mixing and it will eventually come back together).

11. Add vanilla, continuing to beat on a low speed until well combined.

12. Trim rounded tops off cakes to level (if necessary). Place the purple layer on the plate you wish to serve the finished cake on. Spread with buttercream to within a quarter of an inch of the edge. Place blue cake on top and repeat. Then add green, yellow, orange and, finally, red.

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13. Spread a light coat of buttercream on the top and sides of the cake to seal in crumbs. Then place the entire cake into a freezer while you make the second batch of buttercream.

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14. Repeat steps 8-11.

15. Remove cake from freezer, prepare a piping bag with a Wilton star tip (I used 2D) and fill piping bag about 2/3 full with frosting.

16. To make buttercream roses, starting at the bottom of your cake, hold your piping bag perpendicular to the surface you are icing, starting the centre of your desired rose and with a small amount of pressure, pipe in clockwise spiral around your centre, about 1 1/2 rotations or until your rose is of the desired size.

17. Repeat for the whole bottom row and then start a new layer, with the centre of your roses between the two roses below. Continue until the cake is fully frosted. Alternatively, just spread the buttercream thickly over the cake and decorate as desired. Enjoy!

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Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe adapted from Dessert Design Life.

Old Fashioned Vanilla Fudge

This fudge reminds me of my childhood as it tastes just like the vanilla fudge I used to buy at my local community’s autumn fair. Smooth, creamy and delicious – this fudge has the power to change lives (or at least bring on diabetes…) BEWARE: Highly addictive!

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Ingredients (makes approx. 40 pieces)
250ml milk
50ml double cream
350g caster sugar
100g butter
1 tsp vanilla

Method
Grease and line a cake tin of your choice (I used two thin loaf tins because I wanted fewer, thicker pieces to experience full creaminess). Put milk, cream, sugar and butter in a large heavy-based saucepan and heat slowly, stirring continuously.

Bring to the boil, keep stirring & cook until the mixture has reached soft ball stage (approx. 115°C – I’m lucky that my sugar thermometer has it marked). Remove from the heat and continue to stir it for a few minutes then add the vanilla. Keep stirring for a few more minutes and then pour into prepared tin/s, leaving it to cool at room temperature (NOT THE FRIDGE!)

Once cooled, cut into pieces of your desired size and say goodbye to all your troubles.

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Adapted from Frugal Feeding’s ‘Traditional Vanilla Fudge’