Apple Pie

This year, in honour of Pi Day tomorrow (14th March, 3.14 – nerdy I know!), I made my first latticed apple pie. Heading into Autumn, apples are particularly sweet and delicious and they really shine in this pie. I’ve kept flavouring simple and traditional with just a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon to enhance the flavour of the apples. I used red apples because that’s what we had in the house, but it would work well with granny smith apples as well (but you may want to add in a little more sugar). Happy baking!

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Ingredients (serves 8)
Pastry
1⅔ cups plain flour
1 tblspn caster sugar
¼ tspn baking powder
180g cold butter, chopped
⅓ cup iced water
1 tspn vanilla extract

5 apples peeled, cored and chopped
1 ½ tblspns lemon juice
⅓ cup caster sugar
4 tspns cinnamon
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 tblspns almond meal
1 egg, lightly beaten
Caster sugar, extra

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Method
To make the pastry, place the flour, sugar, baking powder and butter in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the motor still running, add the water and vanilla and process until it comes together and forms a smooth dough. Wrap in Gladwrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While your pastry is chilling, peel, core and chop your apples and grease a 22cm pie tin.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place the apple pieces and lemon juice in a large, deep frypan and cook over a medium heat for 8 minutes or until tender. Carefully pour out approximately half of the liquid from the pan and then add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to the remaining mixture. Set aside to cool.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out half of it with a rolling pin until it is 3mm thick. Carefully line the base of the pie tin with the pastry, trimming off any excess. Prick the bottom with a fork, then line with baking paper and top with pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 15 minutes and then remove the baking paper and pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes or until pastry is browned lightly.

Allow the pie base to cool slightly (around 5 minutes). Sprinkle the base of the pie with almond meal and then top with the apple mixture. Try to make the top as flat as possible to help with your pastry (you may have some apple mixture left over).

To make a lattice pie lid, roll out the remaining pastry until 3mm thick and cut strips of your desired width (I made 6 thick strips and 4 thin). Place strips evenly spaced on top of the pie, and weave them in a lattice design (see here for instructions). Cut off any excess and press down the edges of each strip so it links to the sides. Alternatively, roll out the remaining pastry into a large 3mm circle and drape it over the pie. Cut slits in the top of the pastry.

Brush your pie lid with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until pastry is golden and crisp. Serve with cream or ice-cream and enjoy!

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Adapted from ‘High-Top Apple and Sultana Pie’ from Donna Hay’s Seasons.

Nutella “Freakshake”

Ever since the cafe Pâtissez opened in June 2015 in my home town of Canberra, I have been desperate to try one of their famous FreakShakes. Clearly I’m not alone, because their FreakShakes garnered media attention from Toowoomba to Tokyo to Timbuktu, and copycat versions have cropped up all over the world.

I feel a particularly strong urge to go there, not only because their food and drinks look almost illegally delicious, but also because we have known one of the owners, Gina, for years as she previously owned a school uniform shop and worked with my Mum to develop a uniform for Jerrabomberra Public School (which Mum helped start) in 2001. It has been awe-inspiring to see her success.

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A selection of Pâtissez’s world-famous FreakShakes. Image: pattisez.com.au
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How flipping amazing do these doughnuts look?!?! Image: @pattisez Instagram

While I’m still hopeful I’ll get to visit Pâtissez in the not too distant future, for the time being I’ll make do with some homemade versions, starting with this easy Nutella and pretzel shake.

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Ingredients (serves 1 very hungry person)
2½ tablespoons Nutella
400ml milk
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
1 scoop good-quality vanilla ice-cream

To decorate: 
8-12 pretzels
Whipped cream
Nutella (extra)

Method
To make the milkshake, combine chocolate syrup, Nutella, ice-cream and milk in milkshake shaker and shake until bubbly and combined.

Using a metal spatula or butter knife, spread Nutella generously on the inside of a mason jar and around the outside of the rim. Stick pretzels on using extra Nutella so they line the rim. Pour the milkshake into the prepared mason jar. Top with a generous amount of whipped cream, a drizzle of Nutella and 4 extra pretzels. Enjoy!

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Inspired by Pâtissez’s ‘Pretzella’ FreakShake

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

This banana bread is super simple to make and is a perfect way to use up ‘dead’ bananas. It travels well so is great in kids’ lunch boxes, and will last for ~2 months in the freezer.

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Ingredients (serves 8-10)
125g butter, softened
¾  cup caster sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
3 overripe bananas
1 ¾ cups plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
½ cup milk chocolate chips (optional)

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Method
Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease and line a 1-litre loaf pan.

Cream the butter and sugar with a handheld mixer until pale and thick. Beat in the eggs, vanilla and banana, followed by the flour and bicarb soda, beating until just combined. If desired, stir through the chocolate chips until evenly dispersed.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pan, smooth over the top and then bake for 55-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the thickest part of the bread comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy! I love mine fresh for the first few days and then toasted with a bit of margarine.

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Adapted from Matt Preston’s “Rock Star Banana Bread” from his Cook Book.

Mum’s Apricot Jam

One of our traditions when we go down to the family beach house at Victor Harbor is to eat homemade apricot jam on toast for breakfast while enjoying the sea view and, when we’re lucky, watching dolphins frolic in the waves.

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The view from the house

Because I have such fond memories associated with it, apricot is my favourite jam flavour, especially when homemade with local (or even better homegrown) apricots. This is Mum’s recipe and makes approximately 4 cups of sweet and tangy apricot goodness.

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Ingredients (makes 4 cups)
1kg fresh apricots, halved with the kernels removed
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthways
1 cup water
1kg white sugar

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Method
Sterilise jars by putting them and their lids through the hottest cycle of your dishwasher without detergent, or by standing the jars in the oven on the lowest temperature for 30 minutes.

Combine apricots, vanilla and water in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or until pulpy.

Add sugar and stir over a high heat, without boiling, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and boil, uncovered and without stirring, for around 35 minutes or until the jam jells when tested.

Discard the vanilla bean and pour the hot jam into sterilised jars; sealing immediately. Label the jars with the date once cool.

Enjoy! Delicious on toast or scones with cream.

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Adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly ‘Apricot & Vanilla Bean Jam’

 

 

Pumpkin Pies with a Brûlée Topping

Thanksgiving is almost upon us and while my family doesn’t celebrate it, we have developed a fondness for pumpkin pie since the first pumpkin pie I made for “Chrisgiving” in 2014. To change things up this year, I decided to make individual pies for everyone and for crunch, added a brûlée topping. Yum!

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It was my first time using a blowtorch so some bits got a little darker than anticipated – lots of fun though! 

Ingredients (makes 8)
Pastry
1 ⅔ cups plain flour, sifted
110g butter, chilled
110g pure icing sugar
1 egg yolk

Filling
2 cups pumpkin puree (made by roasting 1 whole butternut pumpkin (skinless), blitzing it into a smooth paste in a blender and then putting it in a sieve for an hour 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

Brûlée Topping
Caster sugar

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Method
For the pastry, place flour, butter and icing sugar in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add egg yolk and 2 tblspns cold water and process until the mixture comes together in a smooth ball. Enclose in a plastic wrap and chill for 30mins.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease 8 10cm loose-bottomed tart pans well with margarine and canola oil spray.

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface and lift pastry into a tin, easing into the sides & trimming the excess. Repeat with the remaining tins. Chill the pastry in the tins for 15mins. Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with pastry weights. Blind-bake for 10mins, then remove paper and weights and return to the oven for 5mins or until crisp and lightly golden. Allow to cool slightly.

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

Remove the baking paper and pie weights and pour mixture into pastry cases. Bake pies in the oven for 10 minutes before reducing the heat to 160°C fan-forced and baking for a further 20-25 minutes, or until the filling has set.

Allow to cool completely before gently removing pies from the tins. These can be served without the brûlée topping as mini pumpkin pies.

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To create the brûlée topping, sprinkle the tops of the pies liberally with caster sugar and then heat with a blowtorch until the sugar has melted and formed a crisp coating. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. Enjoy!

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Pastry recipe adapted from the delicious. ‘Sweet’ cookbook and pumpkin pie filling recipe from Inspired Taste.net

 

5 Minute Chocolate & Peanut Butter Fudge

This fudge is so easy it almost doesn’t qualify as a recipe. 5 ingredients. 5 steps. 5 minutes. Good as gold!

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Ingredients (makes ~30 pieces)
¾ cup good quality peanut butter (smooth or crunchy will work)
225g white chocolate
225g dark chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch sea salt

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Method
Line a 12 x 22cm loaf pan with baking paper.

Melt dark and white chocolate in separate bowls in the microwave.

Combine half of the peanut butter with the white chocolate and stir until smooth. Add in vanilla extract and sea salt to taste. Combine the remaining peanut butter with the dark chocolate. Allow both mixtures to cool slightly.

Drop alternate spoonfuls of white and dark chocolate mixtures into the pan and shake to level the mixture. To get the swirly marbled effect, pull a skewer through the mixture.

Refrigerate until set. Cut into squares. Enjoy!

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Adapted from ‘Easy Peanut Butter Fudge’ from Cadbury Kitchen.

 

Peanut Butter, Caramel & Chocolate Drip Cake

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This cake is highly over-the-top, but highly delicious. 3 layers of rich dark chocolate cake slathered in salted caramel sauce and peanut butter frosting, draped in chocolate ganache and topped with all things good: honeycomb, caramel macarons, peanut brittle, maltesers, snickers pods, jersey caramels and caramel popcorn.

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Ingredients (serves 16)
Chocolate Layer Cake
2 boxes dark chocolate cake ( I used Betty Crocker moist devil’s food cake)

Salted Caramel Filling 

Peanut Butter Frosting
1 ½ cups smooth peanut butter
375g butter, softened
6 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cups icing sugar
3 tablespoons milk

Dark Chocolate Ganache
170g dark chocolate melts
¾ cup cream
1 ½ teaspoons corn syrup

Toppings
1 x packet Snickers pods
1 x packet caramel popcorn
1 x packet jersey caramels (halved diagonally)
1 x packet peanut brittle
1 x packet Maltesers
Salted caramel macarons (optional)
Honeycomb

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Method
Make 4 cakes, according to packet instructions, by halving the batter from each cake mix. Carefully trim cooked cakes where necessary to ensure they are perfectly flat, and use the best 3 (freeze the 4th for another time, or add a 4th layer if you really want to impress).

To make the frosting, beat peanut butter and butter until smooth. Add vanilla and slowly add the icing sugar. Add the milk and beat until just combined.

Spread a generous layer of frosting onto the bottom cake layer, and then top with caramel filling. Repeat with the remaining layer/s.

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Spread frosting onto the top and sides of the cake – don’t worry if you get crumbs in it, this is called the crumb coat. Using a spatula or protractor (as I did!), scrape off excess frosting so you have a thin smooth layer.

Refrigerate cake for 30 minutes or until frosting is firm. Add a second layer of frosting onto the top and sides of cake, using the protractor again to scrape off the excess and create a smooth finish. Refrigerate for a further 30 minutes.

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Place chocolate melts into medium bowl and set aside. Heat cream in a saucepan over medium-high heat just until it almost starts to simmer. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Let sit for about 5 minutes and then stir with a wooden spoon until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Stir in corn syrup.

Use a spoon to add a few purposeful drips over the top edge of the cake. Then spoon more ganache on top of the cake, allowing it to drip at varying points around the cake.

Top cake with honeycomb, caramel popcorn, maltesers, jersey caramels, pods and macarons. Enjoy!

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Honeycomb

This is an old family recipe for delicious honeycomb – perfect enjoyed by itself, dipped in chocolate to make home-made ‘crunchies’, or as decorations on cakes.

Note: best consumed on the day it is made and stored immediately in an airtight container so it doesn’t go sticky.

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Ingredients
6 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons honey
½ tablespoon water
1 teaspoon bicarb soda

Method

Place a sheet of non-stick baking paper on a tray.

Place sugar, honey and water in a medium saucepan over high heat.

Bring to the boil. Boil for 3 minutes or until deep golden in colour.

Take off the heat and lightly sprinkle over bicarb soda, stirring any lumps if required (but otherwise leaving it to froth and bubble).

Pour mixture onto prepared tray (don’t spread it too much or you will lose aeration), and allow it to set at room temperature.

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Once set, break it into desired size pieces. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from my Great Grandmother, Doreen James.

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for a colleague’s birthday using my favourite vanilla cupcake recipe for the cakes, topped with a generous helping of salted caramel buttercream frosting and then drizzled with some extra caramel. The frosting would be equally good on chocolate cupcakes (like my fudgy flourless chocolate cupcakes or these lighter chocolate cupcakes). To make these even more caramel-y, next time I might scoop out a teaspoon or so of cake from each cooked cupcake and fill it with extra caramel (I don’t like to do things by half, okay?!)

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Ingredients (makes ~30 large cupcakes)
Salted Caramel
250g caster sugar
75ml water
120ml pouring cream
200g salted butter

Vanilla Cupcakes
2 ¾ cups plain flour
2 tspns baking powder
200g butter, softened
1 ¾ cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tblspn vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting 
150g salted butter, softened
3 tablespoons salted caramel
6 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk
Sea salt, to taste

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Method
To make the caramel, heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Without stirring much, watch over the sugar until it becomes a light-brown caramel colour (be patient, it does take a little while, but don’t be tempted to leave it as once it colours it colours quickly!)

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Add the pouring cream, little by little, while gently stirring (be careful while it foams up as it can spit).

Once the cream is fully incorporated, keep stirring on the heat for a further minute or two (if you want to be scientific, heat it until it reaches 108°C on a sugar thermometer).

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Remove from the heat and add the butter in small pieces. Stir until smooth and then set aside.

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Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C-ish fan forced). Line two 12-hole muffin trays with patty pans.

To make the cupcakes, sift together the flour and baking powder. In a different bowl, cream the butter for 1-2 mins. Add the caster sugar about a third at a time, beating for 2mins after each addition. After the last of the sugar has been beaten, beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar dissolved. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 min 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 milk and beat until combined. Repeat this process until all of the flour and milk is thoroughly combined but be careful not to overbeat (this will toughen the mixture).

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

To make the frosting, cream the butter for 1-2 mins in a large bowl using an electric mixer. Add 2 tablespoons of the salted caramel, a pinch of salt and half of the icing sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add a further 2 tablespoons of caramel and the remaining icing sugar and beat until combined and of a spreadable consistency – add a splash of milk if too dry, more icing sugar if too wet, and add more salted caramel and salt as required until you’re happy with the flavour.

Add frosting into a piping bag fitted with desired nozzle (I used my Wilton 2B tip) and pipe a generous amount of frosting onto each cupcake. Drizzle each cupcake with the remaining salted caramel (I heated mine again so it was easier to drizzle) and enjoy!

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Salted caramel recipe adapted from ‘Secrets of Macarons’ by José Marechal.

Vanilla cupcake and base buttercream recipes adapted from the Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook.

2 Minute Nutella Mug Cake

You know when it’s 9pm in the middle of winter and you have a hankering for something sweet? You don’t feel like going to much effort but something comforting and warm and chocolate-y would really hit the spot? Well, have I got a recipe for you!

This mug cake is deliciously warm and chocolate-y with a heavenly layer of oozy Nutella goodness in the middle and, as a bonus, is gluten free. It also doesn’t have that springy, rubbery texture you often get in mug cakes because of the almond meal. The real clincher for me though, is that it only takes about a minute to throw together and then a further minute to cook in the microwave. Washing up is also minimal – hallelujah! Need more convincing? See below:

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Ingredients (serves 1)
¼ cup almond meal (hazelnut would also work well)
2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 ½ tablespoons coconut oil, at room temperature
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons Nutella
Icing sugar, to dust
Vanilla ice cream, to serve

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Method
Combine almond meal, cocoa powder and caster sugar in a medium bowl. Add coconut oil, egg, milk and one tablespoon of the Nutella, and stir until smooth.

Spoon ¾ of the mixture into a 310ml capacity microwave safe mug. Spoon remaining tablespoon of Nutella into the centre, then cover with the remaining mixture.

Microwave on high for 1 minute (this is for a 1000 watt microwave, adjust as necessary).

Serve dusted with icing sugar and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

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Adapted from a Sunbeam recipe on taste.com.au