Gingerbread men

I love gingerbread men! These ones are designed not to spread while cooking, and have just the right amount of spice. My son loves helping to decorate them too.

Gingerbread men

Ingredients:

  • 125g butter, at room temperature
  • Extra butter, to grease
  • 110g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
  • 2 tabs caster sugar
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) golden syrup
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 300g (2 1/3 cups) plain flour
  • Extra flour, to dust
  • 2 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 150g (1 cup) pure icing sugar, sifted
  • 8-10 drops red liquid food colouring
  • 8-10 drops green liquid food colouring
  • Smarties, to decorate (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (or 150°C fan-forced).
  2. Grease two flat baking trays with butter.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add the egg yolk and golden syrup and beat until combined.
  4. Stir in the flour, ginger and mixed spice.
  5. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc, and place it between two sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 5mm thick. Use a gingerbread man cutter to cut out shapes, but do not separate shapes from the dough yet. Place the rolled dough in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden.
  6. After 30 minutes, remove from freezer separate the cut-out men, placing them on trays about 2cm apart.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 with the leftover dough.
  8. Bake in oven for 7-10 minutes or until brown. Remove gingerbread from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  9. Place egg white in a clean, dry bowl. Use an electric beater to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the icing sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Divide icing among 3 bowls. Add red colouring to 1 bowl and stir until combined. Add green colouring to remaining bowl and stir until combined.
  10. Place each of the prepared icings in small plastic bags (sandwich bags work well). Cut a small hole in a corner of each bag. Pipe icing over gingerbread men to decorate.
  11. If desired, add Smarties while the icing is still wet.

Blueberry muffins

Nothing beats a blueberry muffin for an on-the-go breakfast or a quick and tasty snack.

Blueberry muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups self raising flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup (79 ml) macadamia oil (or your preferred nut/seed oil)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsps vanilla essence
  • 1 1/3 cups (200 grams) fresh blueberries
  • 1 tsp extra sugar for muffin tops, to decorate (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 190° C. Line 10 standard muffin cups with paper liners. Fill any empty muffin cups with 1 tablespoon of water to ensure the muffins bake evenly.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flour and salt with the 3/4 cup of sugar until evenly combined.
  3. Add the oil and the egg to a 500 ml measuring jug. Fill the jug with milk only until it reaches the 1 cup line marking. Add vanilla extract and whisk until combined.
  4. Add milk mixture to the dry ingredients, then stir with a fork until just combined.
  5. Use a spatula to gently fold the blueberries into the mixture.
  6. Divide the muffin mixture between the 10 muffin cups. If desired, sprinkle a little of the extra sugar on each of the muffin tops (for a little crunch).
  7. Bake blueberry muffins for 10 minutes, then test with a skewer inserted into one of the muffins. The skewer should come out clean or crumb-covered, not sticky. If the tops are cooked but the insides are not, cover the muffin pan with foil (being careful not to burn yourself!) and return it to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes.
  8. Turn muffins out onto to a cooling rack and allow to cool.

Tip:  These muffins can be frozen in freezer bags for up to 3 months.

Blueberry muffins

Rustic steak and mushroom pie

Rustic steak and mushroom pie

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets shortcrust pastry
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 800g beef rump steak (with most fat removed), diced
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 cup liquid vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup red wine (I used Jacob’s Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2009)
  • 2 tabs salt-reduced gravy powder (roast beef flavour, or similar)
  • 1 tab cornflour
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180° C (fan-forced) or 200° C (convection).
  2. Grease and flour a pie dish. If using frozen pastry, put the sheets out to thaw.
  3. Place a sheet of shortcrust pasty in the dish. Fill in any gaps with the second pastry sheet.
  4. Trim the pastry in the dish, leaving a 2 cm overhang.
  5. Cover with baking paper, and use either pastry beads or rice to weigh down the pastry.
  6. Blind bake the pastry for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
  7. Dice the onion and fry in a pan until soft and clear.
  8. Add the meat and wine to the pan. Cook until just brown, then add the mushrooms.
  9. Allow meat to cook for a further 2 minutes at low heat, stirring occasionally.
  10. Without draining the pan, scoop out the meat, mushrooms and onion and set aside.
  11. In the same pan, add gravy powder to the remaining liquid and stir.
  12. Add vegetable stock gradually, stirring constantly, until desired consistency is achieved.
  13. Taste and check if the gravy needs salt. Add pepper (and salt if required).
  14. If gravy is not thickening scoop some liquid from the pan to a cup, add the cornflour and stir until smooth. Return the liquid to the pan and stir well.
  15. Once gravy is thick, return the meat mixture to the pan and stir until combined.
  16. Pour the meat and gravy mixture into the pie crust.
  17. Place a puff pastry sheet on top of the pie (you may need 2 sheets to cover the pie).
  18. Trim edges and push them down with the prongs of a fork.
  19. Cut leftover puff pastry into 3 leaf shapes, and place in centre of pie to decorate.
  20. Use a skewer to make a hole in the middle of the pie for air to escape.
  21. Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  22. Allow pie to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Heart-shaped strawberry hand pies

Heart-shaped strawberry hand pies

Ingredients:

  • Perfect pastry dough (see the recipe)
  • 3 cups strawberries, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 6 tabs raw sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 2 tabs Chambord, or other berry liqueur (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tab water
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar, to decorate
  • Freshly whipped cream, to serve

Fresh strawberries

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200° C. Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, combine strawberries, sugar, berry liqueur and vanilla until sugar dissolves and strawberries disintegrate.
  3. Drain some excess juice (approximately 1/4 cup) from the saucepan to a small bowl; return the saucepan to the heat.
  4. Add cornflour to the separated juice; stir until completely mixed. Add cornflour mix to the saucepan and stir until strawberry mixture is thick; remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the prepared pastry dough to 1/8 inch thickness.
  6. Use a 6 inch heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut heart shapes in the pastry. Roll out the remaining half of the dough and repeat. Form any excess dough back into a ball, roll out and cut again until dough is used up.
  7. Whisk egg and water together in a small bowl; lightly brush around each heart.
  8. On half of the hearts only, place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the cooled strawberry filling.
  9. Cover each ‘filled’ heart with one of the remaining hearts; use a fork to gently press the edges together to seal. Pierce the top of each pie with a sharp skewer to allow steam to escape.
  10. Brush the tops of each pie with the egg wash and bake for 20 minutes, or until the pies are golden brown.
  11. Cool the pies on a wire rack, then use a sieve to dust them with icing sugar.
  12. Serve with freshly whipped cream.

Perfect flaky pastry

Perfect flaky pastry

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 2 tabs caster sugar
  • 170g cold (hard) butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/3 cup cold (hard) coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup ice water

Method:

  1. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the flour and sugar. Pulse until combined.
  2. Add the butter and hard coconut oil. Pulse until the butter cubes are pea-sized.
  3. Using a low processer speed, pour the ice water down the processor feeder. Pulse until the dough begins to form a ball.
  4. Place the dough on a floured surface and roll into a ball. If some dry flour remains, just sprinkle it with a little more water and knead until combined with the ball.
  5. For pies with a top and bottom crust, cut the dough in half; otherwise leave whole. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for no less than thirty minutes.

Mini hamburger cupcakes

Mini hamburger cupcakes

For these cupcakes I like to use mini whoopie pie tins as they are the perfect shape for burger buns and beef patties. For larger cakes you could use regular whoopie pie tins.

Ingredients for the burger buns (vanilla butter cake):

  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 150g butter, cubed
  • 55ml (2/3 cup) milk
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • Butter for greasing

Ingredients for the beef patties (chocolate cake):

  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 75g butter, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, sifted
  • 3/4 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 egg
  • Butter for greasing

Ingredients (for decoration):

  • 6 cups pure icing sugar, sifted
  • Red, yellow and green food colouring
  • Sheet of yellow fondant
  • Sesame seeds

Method for the burger buns (vanilla butter cake):

  1. Position a rack on the second lowest shelf of the oven. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Grease the whoopie pie tins.
  3. Place the self-raising flour, plain flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs and vanilla essence in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Mix on low speed with an electric beater for 30 seconds or until just combined. Increase the speed to high and beat for 1-2 minutes until the mixture is thick and the butter is combined.
  5. Using a spoon or a piping bag, drop small amounts into each of the whoopie pie sections. Spread if necessary so the filling fills the space and is slightly hollow/sunken.
  6. Bake until the little cakes are just golden (approx. 5 minutes).
  7. Remove from oven and turn the cakes onto a wire rack to cool.

Method for the beef patties (chocolate cake):

  1. Position a rack on the second lowest shelf of the oven. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Grease the whoopie pie tins.
  3. Combine sugar, butter, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa and water in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 2 minutes or until mixture doubles. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  4. Add flour and eggs. Using an electric mixer, beat mixture until pale and smooth.
  5. Using a spoon or a piping bag, drop small amounts into each of the whoopie pie sections (make half as many chocolate cakes as you did vanilla). Spread if necessary so the filling fills the space and is slightly hollow/sunken.
  6. Bake until the little cakes have risen slightly (approx. 5 minutes).
  7. Remove from oven and turn the cakes onto a wire rack to cool.

Method (to assemble the burger and decorate):

  1. Mix 2 cups of the sifted icing sugar with just enough water to make a thick icing. You want a dark bright green colour, so add at least 6 drops of green food colouring. Add more if necessary, until you have reached a ‘lettuce’ colour.
  2. Use a ruffle, basket-weave or specialty tip when piping the lettuce. Fill the piping bag with the icing, take half the cooled vanilla whoopie pies, and ice them just around the edge using jagged motions to achieve the ruffled edge appearance of lettuce. After each one, while the icing is still wet, quickly add one of the chocolate whoopie pies on top to sandwich the ‘lettuce’ between the ‘bun’ and the ‘beef patty’.
  3. Get the yellow sheet of fondant and cut out tiny right-angled triangles, to make four points of ‘cheese’. On four sides of the chocolate whoopie pie, add a drop of green icing (to serve as glue) and stick one of the fondant triangles to each drop (right-angle corner point out).
  4. Mix 2 cups of the sifted icing sugar with just enough water to make a thick icing. You want a bright yellow colour, so add at least 3 drops of yellow food colouring. Add more if necessary, until you have reached a yellow colour similar to the fondant.
  5. Using a clean piping bag with round tip, filled with the yellow icing, join the four yellow triangles to complete the ‘cheese’ square.
  6. Mix 2 cups of the sifted icing sugar with just enough water to make a thick icing. You want a bright red colour, so add at least 4 drops of red food colouring. Add more if necessary, until you have reached a vibrant ‘tomato’ colour.
  7. Using another clean piping bag with a round tip, pipe the red icing between the yellow points to look like tomato slices. It doesn’t matter if the icing dribbles a little bit (it will look like tomato sauce), as long as you cover any consistencies with the yellow fondant and icing that may be visible after the top ‘bun’ is added.
  8. After each one, while the icing is still wet, quickly add the final vanilla whoopie pies on top to sandwich the ‘cheese’ and ‘tomato’ between the ‘beef patty’ and the ‘bun’.
  9. Take a small amount of sesame seeds, and press them onto the top of each bun.

Here is a diagram to help you assemble the cupcakes:

Assembling the hamburger cupcakes

Voilà! Beautiful mini hamburger cupcakes!

Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 3/4 cups plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 150g (5 oz) butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • A few drops of lemon juice
  • 4-5 tabs water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 rashers of bacon, chopped
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup matured cheese, grated

Method:

  1. Sift flour and salt. Rub in butter. Add egg yolk, lemon juice and enough water to make a stiff dough. Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Roll out to fit flan tin. Line tin with pastry.
  2. Lightly fry onion and bacon until soft and golden; allow to cool.
  3. Place eggs, evaporated milk and seasonings in a bowl and beat well.
  4. Place onion and garlic in flan. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top.
  5. Pour the egg mixture carefully over the rest of the ingredients in the flan tin.
  6. Cook for 35-40 minutes in oven at 180°C, or until set.
  7. Serve hot or cold with a fresh green salad.

Note:  This recipe can be adapted by adding capsicum, spinach or semi-dried tomatoes.

(photo credit: celticblade via photopin cc)