Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows

As the weather cools down, I am craving hot chocolates and crisp nights around the campfire, both of which are infinitely improved by the addition of marshmallows. Homemade marshmallows are on an entirely different level to store bought. Their texture is  impossibly soft, light and dreamy with none of the powderyness that even the best quality store bought varieties have. These are perfect for eating as is, roasting over a fire, popping into a steaming mug of hot chocolate, or combining with chocolate and graham crackers (or equivalent) to make s’mores. Do yourself a favour and make some, stat! These marshmallows are so good, I am already thinking of how I can use the base recipe to make different flavours and variations (how good would Baileys marshies be?!)

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Ingredients (makes ~30)
½ cup warm water
2 tablespoons flavourless, powdered gelatine
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
1 ½ cups caster sugar
⅔ cups liquid glucose
½ cup water, extra
1 cup icing sugar, sifted

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Spray a 20cm x 30cm slice tin with cooking oil and line the bottom with baking paper.  Place the warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer, add gelatine and vanilla and stir to combine. Set aside.

Place the caster sugar, glucose and extra water in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Allow to boil, without stirring, for 6–7 minutes until the temperature reaches 115°C on a sugar thermometer. With the electric mixer on high, add the hot syrup to the vanilla gelatine mixture in a thin steady stream, and beat for 5-10 minutes or until white, thick and glossy.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Using a spatula sprayed with cooking oil, smooth the top of the marshmallow.

Refrigerate for 1–2 hours or until set. Gently tip the marshmallow, top-side-down onto a clean, flat surface dusted with icing sugar. Peel off the baking paper and sift icing sugar over the top. Dust a large knife with icing sugar and cut marshmallows into squares. Enjoy!

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Can be stored in the fridge for ~1 week

Adapted from Donna Hay’s ‘Caramel Swirl Marshmallows’

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Warm Cinnamon & Rhubarb Muffins

It’s that time of the year again: swot-vac. While I always have good intentions, designing elaborate study timetables and carefully planning my time,  I often find myself procrastinating in one way or another and procrastibaking is my specialty. Fortunately, I work well with a rewards-based system where I treat myself to a baked item after doing a certain number of hours of study, and so baking is useful in that it provides me with much-needed study motivation (or so I tell myself).

Coincidence? I think not...
Coincidence? I think not…

These cinnamon & rhubarb muffins are perfect for this because they are heavenly, especially when fresh out of the oven or warmed in the microwave, just the thing to reward yourself after working hard. They’re so good in fact that I had to stop myself from inhaling them all right away. So go on… treat yourself to a batch of these perfectly seasonal study treats – I can assure you, you won’t regret it!

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Ingredients
For the rhubarb mixture
1 cup bunch rhubarb, washed, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar

For the muffins
1 cup rhubarb mixture
1 ¼ cups plain flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup buttermilk
¾ cup olive oil
1 egg

For the sugar-cinnamon crust
⅓ cup sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

How good is rhubarb?! Image credit: pipmagazine.com.au
How good is rhubarb?! Image credit: pipmagazine.com.au

Method
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan-forced. Line 2 muffin tins with 16 muffin cases.

Chop rhubarb into small, even pieces and cook with water and sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat until the rhubarb is tender and the sugar has dissolved. Stand for 5 minutes to cool.

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Add flour, sugar and baking powder into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Carefully pour in the buttermilk, olive oil and egg and gently stir to combine. Mix in the cooked rhubarb, being careful not to over-stir (note: the mixture is supposed to be very wet, don’t worry!)

Spoon mixture evenly into muffin cases & top with mixed sugar and cinnamon.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Enjoy!

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Recipe from Grandma (from Sue Lowry)

Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce

When my sister and I were younger we loved nothing more than “sticky tape pudding” on a cold winter’s night. Not much has changed, but (to our great relief) we now know that the secret ingredient to our favourite pudding is not sticky tape. This dessert is perfect served warm out of the oven, swimming in a pool of butterscotch sauce, with a good helping of vanilla ice-cream.

P.S. This butterscotch sauce is liquid gold. I sometimes make it just to go on ice-cream for the ultimate sundae & it never lasts long in our household!

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Ingredients (serves 6-8)
Pudding
1 ½ cups chopped dates
1 cup water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
60g butter
¾ cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup self raising flour, sifted

Butterscotch Sauce
125g butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup golden syrup
300ml thickened cream

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Method
Grease and line a 20cm round cake pan with baking paper. Preheat oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced).

Combine dates and water in a small saucepan, bring to boil, remove from heat & then add bicarb soda and stand for 5 mins.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time; combine well. Fold in flour alternately with date mixture into the egg mix and gently stir until combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. Cool in pan.

Make sauce by heating butter in small saucepan, adding the sugar and syrup (handy hint: spray your ¼ cup with a bit of cooking oil before adding the golden syrup and it will come out much more easily!) and stirring over the heat (without boiling) until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat & stir in cream.

Pour ¼ cup of sauce over the pudding and return to the oven for a further 5 mins (with foil over the top so it doesn’t darken too much).

Cut into desired size pieces and serve with lots of sauce and vanilla ice-cream.

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Recipe from Mum (originally adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly)

Torta Caprese (Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake)

This cake is my new dinner party go-to. The cake itself has it all; it’s intensely chocolate-y, rich and moist, the perfect dessert cake and between you and me, it is INCREDIBLY easy (yes, I am shouting at you). It takes very little time, dirties very few dishes and keeps well (although it never lasts long around here!) To serve, simply dust with icing sugar and top with berries and ice-cream.

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Ingredients (serves 6-8)
200g butter
200g dark chocolate
4 eggs, separated
170g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g almond meal
Icing sugar, to dust
Ice cream & berries, to serve

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Method
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C (or around 150 fan-forced). Grease & line a 24cm cake pan with baking paper.

Melt the butter and set aside.

Process (or finely chop) the chocolate until it is in tiny bits, but still retains a little texture.

Place egg yolks, sugar & vanilla in a medium bowl and beat until pale and thick. Fold in chocolate, butter and almond meal (mixture will be very thick)

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggwhites until soft peaks form. Gently fold in chocolate mixture, ensuring you don’t knock the air out.

Spoon into the prepared pan, level the top and bake for 50-60 minutes or until just firm to the touch.

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Set aside to cool in the pan, then turn out.

Serve while still warm with icing sugar, berries and ice cream. Bellissimo!

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Adapted from ‘Torta Caprese’ in delicious. ‘Wicked: Sinful desserts from your favourite chefs’.