Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Chocolate Icecream Cake - Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Dairy Free!

Missing out on normal chocolate and other edible Christmas naughtiness wasn't an exciting prospect for me in the lead up to Christmas. I usually love to have Santa chocolates or cashews or plum pudding-icecream, but because of my special diet for my immune system (ugh, see here if you have no idea what I'm harping on about) I had to cut all that out. So, to console myself I attempted to make a buche noel using agave (a sugar alternative) and coconut-milk icecream (dairy free). But we all know that gluten free cakes aren't the most pliable and that means they not so easy to roll.  So my buche noel turned into a bit of a rectangle layer cake. Surprisingly, it was delicious and looked lovely! It definitely brought some edible Christmas cheer back into my Christmas dinner.  In fact, I'll probably make it again for New Years Eve.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with lots of yumminess and fun with your family or friends! I know I did!

Ingredients for Sheet Cake
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup agave syrup
100g gluten free flour, plain or self raising
90-100g gluten free cocoa

Method for Sheet Cake
In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly to disperse the yolk (by hand or with mixer if needed).  Add the agave and continue to whisk/electric mix the egg and sugar until mixture is slightly thicker.  At this stage, gradually fold in the cocoa and flour.  Spread mixture on a tray lined with baking paper.  Bake at 180 degrees (fan-forced) until just firm; perhaps 15 minutes.  The sponge should spring back when cooked properly.  Remove sponge from oven and allow to cool. Then cut the sheet cake into 3 sections.

Ingredients for Filling
Dairy Free, sugar free, icecream such as CocoLuscious Coconut (or Vanilla) Icecream

Allow icecream to sit on bench for a little while until it is slightly softer. Use a knife to spread the icecream evenly (you can see in my photo that mine wasn't spread evenly on each layer) onto each layer of the sheet cake. Stack. Return to freezer for 20 minutes so the icecream sets. Remove from freezer and spread another layer over each 2 layers of icecream so it's quite thick. This will give the cake some height and a nicer, sweeter taste. Return to freezer.

Ingredients for Topping/Icing

100-120g agave-sweetened chocolate, such as Conscious Chocolate
50g copha (made on coconut oil)
2 tsp dairy free margarine, such as Nuttlex

Place a saucepan half filled with water ontop of the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl on top of the saucepan. In this bowl, place the ingredients for the topping in there and wait until they melt. Mix with a metal spoon and pour evenly over the cake.  Return to freezer for 1 hour before serving.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Here's another version of my French snowmen made out of white chocolate profiteroles! I think I actually like this version better...and I've added coconut to make it look like it's snowing! After all this snowman cooking (see here and here), I've realized that I love snowman! Perhaps because I don't actually get to experience a white Christmas or see real snowmen? I just have decided they're adorable and totally festive. Be sure to make your own this year, whether its made out of snow or sugar!

This snowmen involved the same recipe and method as my previous French snowmen (see here) however you need 3 profiteroles and instead of stacking them with a skewer, you simply lay out 3 profiteroles on a plate.  Spread coconut around the plate for a snowfall effect.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gingerbread House Gift Box

As soon as I saw these Christmas gift boxes on Kara's beautiful blog called Butter Hearts Sugar I knew I had to make them myself. They're way too adorable to pass up! I departed ever so slightly from Kara's gift box, by adding a Christmas tree instead of a gingerbread man, and of course using my own colours and glitter cardboard. But whatever you do creatively, these will definitely be a beautiful addition to the presents under your tree.  Fill them up with edible treats, or a little present; and wait for the reciever to be awed!

You will find a detailed tutorial on Kara's blog post here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

French Snowmen

I am so excited to share these French Snowmen with you - partly because I came up with the idea myself, and partly because I love the idea of combining my French theme with a Christmas theme! These snowmen are made up of French profiteroles..yes that's right, delicious choux pastry! You can fill them with Christmas brandy custard, or leave them empty like I did. The funnest part, like always, is coming up with different looks for your snowmen. I made a red and green snowman, and a baby pink girl snowman.  What would you try out? 

Ingredients for Profiteroles
200ml water
2g caster sugar
1g sea salt
100g unsalted butter
175g 00 [bakers] flour, or alternatively plain flour
4-5 eggs [approx 60-70g)

Method for Pastry
Place cold water, salt and sugar in a pot; bring to a gentle boil. Meanwhile cut the butter into 1cm dice cubes and add to pot so butter just melts as water approaches gentle boil (should be around 98 degrees). At that point add all of the sifted flour. Mix immediately over low heat with wooden spoon. Dough will come away from sides of pot and develop a gloss; cook in order to bind for about 2-3 minutes. You will know roughly when it is glossy, bound and steam is coming off mixture. Remove from heat, keep stirring for 2 minutes off the heat to let it cool slightly. A trick to test if it's cool enough is to touch with your fingers and if they don't hurt/burn then it's fine. This is important otherwise the eggs, which are now to be added, will simply scramble. Add 1 of the eggs, and incoroporate thoroughly. Then add another, and incorporate. Keep going until all eggs are in and the mixture is not to dry or stiff. A trick to testing if the choux pastry is going okay is to see if it slowly falls off the spoon when held up in the air over the bowl. The paste should ultimately be a piping consistency ie. hold up on the tray.   Line a tray, pop the paste in a piping bag and start piping into round cone like piles (see tutorial here if confused).  Be aware that to make a snowman, you need a larger profiterole on the bottom, and a smaller on the top. You will want to pipe 2 slightly different sizes.  Avoid having a very triangle-cone shape. Use a 8-10mm straight nozzle in the piping bag and water to smooth any mishapen shapes. Bake at 190 degrees in moist oven until fully risen, 8 or so minutes. When I say moist - spray your oven with some water from a bottle before poping the tray in. Alternatively pop a small stainless steel bowl full of water at the bottom tray of your oven. Now you need a dry oven to colour the pastry for another 6 minutes or until golden in colour then drop temperature to 140-150 degrees to dry out inside of pastry, another 10-15 minutes necessary baking time. Remove and place on cooling rack.  

Ingredients and tools for Decorating Snowmen
300g white chocolate melts
50g copha
Zappo sour string lollies, or fondant strips (for scarves and hat)
1 fresh carrot, cut into small triangles (for noses)
black fondant, rolled into small little dots (for eyes)
edible glitter (for decoration)
+ scissors, for cutting
+ long wooden skewer, for holding the snowmen together
+ teaspoon, for spreading chocolate
+ tray lined with baking paper
+ tweezers, for placing small bits of fondant (such as the eyes, or pom pom on the hat)

Once the profiteroles are cooled, you can start decorating them. Place all the profiteroles on the paper lined baking tray.  Place a small pot of water on the stove, and place a bowl on top of the saucepan.  Inside the bowl, melt together the copha and white chocolate.  Now take 1 profiterole and completely dip it in white chocolate.  Return it to the tray and, working quickly, dip the rest of the profiteroles in the chocolate. Place the tray in the freezer. Once the chocolate is set, you can dip all of the profiteroles in the white chocolate again.  This is necessary to make the profiteroles really white. If you only dip them once, you will still be able to see some of the choux pastry.  Return to freezer.  Once completely set, take 2 profiteroles out.  Choose the best fit profiteroles (ie. you want a larger one on the bottom, and a smaller on the top).  Take the long wooden skewer and gently pierce the smaller profiterole in the top vertically.  Pierce it through the bottom and then into the top of the 2nd profiterole so you have a little stack that is held together tightly with the skewer.   Stick the black round fondant eyes on to the smaller profiterole (the head).  You can use left over melted white chocolate as glue, if necessary.  You will definitely need some white chocolate-glue to stick the carrot nose on.  The carrot nose also goes on the smaller profiterole (the head).  Now wrap 2 zappo sour lollies around the neck of the snowman.  Glue it with the melted white chocolate.  Cut the ends of the zappo lollies to create a scarf look.  Now take another zappo lolly (the length of mine was about 10cm) and wrap it around the top of the smaller profiterole to create a hat.  Stick it with white chocolate. It will wrap around the skewer slightly for support.  Cut off any excess zappo not needed to make the hat shape. Now cut a small round circle from the zappo lolly, dip it in white chocolate, dip it in edible glitter and stick it to the top of the hat to create a pom pom on top of the hat (it will need some skewer for support too).  
Use the teaspoon or tweezers to help you spread the glue-chocolate and place the pom pom.  You have now created a Christmas hat.  Finish off the christmas hat by cutting a thin strip of zappo, dipping it in white chocolate, dipping it in glitter and sticking it to the base of your zappo-lolly-hat.  Using fondant or zappo lollies, cut 2 more small round circles and dip them both in white chocolate and glitter.  Stick them below the scarf (on the belly of the snowman) to create buttons.  Leave in freezer for 20 minutes to set before very, very carefully cutting the excess skewer off.   Continue to decorate the rest of the snowmen in this process, but take your own creative license to decide if you want buttons, or pom poms on your hat, or what colour you want, or if you want to add a smile etc etc.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

3D Christmas Tree

Christmas is coming closer each day which means I really need to hurry up with my Christmas baking! I love my Christmas tree, and we only just put it up a few days ago. What's a better way to celebrate than making an edible version?! I used a pack of star cookie cutters (ranging from big to small) and stacked them with buttercream.  Decorate whatever colour you want!

350g unsalted butter, soft
400g caster sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
800g plain flour, preferably Italian 00
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan-forced).  Cream the butter and sugar until pale and moving towards moussiness, then beat in eggs and vanilla.  In another bowl, combine flour, powder and salt.  Add dry ingredients to butter and eggs, and mix gently but surely.  If you think mixture is too sticky to be rolled out, add more flour, but do so sparingly as this makes the dough tougher.  Halve the dough, form into fat discs, wrap each in clingwrap and rest in fridge for at least 1 hour.  Sprinkle some flour on board, place 1 disc of dough on board (leave other in fridge) and roll out to about 1/2cm thickness.  Cut star shapes (you will need 20 or so) and place them a little apart on baking trays.  Bake for 8-12 minutes, by which time they will be lightly golden around the edges.  Cool on rack and continue with the rest of the dough.  When they're all fully cooled, you can get on with the icing.  

250g unsalted butter, softened
3 cups icing sugar
+ green food colouring

Beat butter until smooth.  Gradually add icing sugar until smooth. Add food colour and pipe onto stacked start cookies. Use a leaf tip.  I added edible glitter and edible baubles for my festive look.

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