Black Plum and Rye Crumb Bars

Black Plum and Rye Crumb BarsNow she went blossoming over her blood, and her blood went rushing deep beneath her.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Book of Images, “The Saint” (translated by Edward Snow).

These bars came about after I had an overflow of near-spoiled plums last week. I originally wasn’t going to post them. Sometimes there are things that I want to save all for myself. Not out of selfishness or indulgence, but rather, when you bake professionally, often, and for others, it’s good to keep something solely for you and your own sacred desire once in a while. I don’t do it enough. I wonder what it tastes like.

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Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

Burnt Sugar Ice CreamEven your sweetness is a storm.” Eugenio Montale, an excerpt from Dora Markus (translated by Roberta L. Payne).

I’ve found myself gravitating towards cool, dulcet, and creamy tones these past few months. More often than not, for reasons I don’t understand. But what I do know is, that when the weather begins to deepen and darken, I find myself hungering for cold things to match the cold outside. There’s something about mirroring the strength of the season outside, inside. Forget ice cream in summer, ice cream in winter is where it’s at.

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Salted Espresso Fudge Brownies

Salted Espresso Fudge BrowniesTell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on.” – Mary Oliver,  from ‘Wild Geese.’

I won’t say much here, rather, what I will say, is I know these are the ones you’ve been waiting on. Rich with dark chocolate, ultra-fudgy to the point of near molten, intense with undertones of espresso, thickly frosted, and slightly salted. I’ve made countless batches of these brownies within the last few weeks, more than I care to admit. They’re that good. And I wanted them to be perfect before I shared them with you all. Also, one of the pictures below is shot on my iPhone. Please don’t hold it against me, I loved the way the light reflected across the shiny-crackled crust. Make sure to keep an eye out on this space within the next few weeks too, there’s something more to come.

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Citrus Rose Battenberg Cake

Citrus Rose Battenberg CakeI, myself, concentrated so much on my sixth sense that I developed this vision which sees beyond facts, the better to find sensations and divinations. It is possible I never learned the names of birds in order to discover the bird of peace, the bird of paradise, the bird of the soul, the bird of desire. It is possible I avoided learning the names of composes and their music the better to close my eyes and listen to the mystery of all music as an ocean. It may be I have not learned dates in history in order to reach the essence of timelessness. It may be I never learned geography the better to map my own routes and discover my own lands. The unknown was my compass. The unknown was my encyclopedia. The unnamed was my science and progress.’ – Anaïs Nin, an excerpt from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume 4: 1944-1947.
After a little time away, I’m back. And with cake in hand. Not just any cake, rather, a Citrus Rose Battenberg Cake, in collaboration with and inspired by Foxtel’s Lifestyle’s show, The Great Australian Bake Off. With its thick layer of floral infused marzipan, alternating layers of pastel rose-hued almond sponge, double citrus sponge, and raspberry preserves, it’s heaven.
If you’ve been around this space for a while, you’d know that I began baking as an amateur. And through the evolution of the blog, some of it good, some of it not so good, but all of it growth, I emerged as a baker. Not a cook, definitely not a chef, but a baker. It took time, patience, tests, and trails. And there were many failures, stumbles, and missteps along the way. All of which I had to own. But we got there. And through owning it, came growth. To the point where the act of baking is as natural as breathing. Never a thought, not even conscious action, rather something that’s engrained within the very fibres of being.
Citrus Rose Battenberg CakeFor me, as a baker, the act of baking is far more than just the end result itself. And I think that’s something we all share in common. Baking as connection. Baking as emotion. A slice of cake that conveys a deeply personal form of expression, of journey, and of life. It’s something that I see often, both within myself, and others. You don’t just have to be a baker to have it. It’s in all of us. I think that’s why we love The Great Australian Bake Off so much. It’s a reflection of experience, growth, and journey. Of story. Coming together in a common love. And sharing in that.
Starting off as an amateur meant there was a great deal of learning that had to be done. And for me, part of that was reading, watching, and following the actions of others. Learning techniques through success and failure, like the softness of sponge, the breath of yeasted dough, and the perfect moment to take a chocolate chip cookie out the oven. Things that couldn’t be taught, but that had to be done. The Great Australian Bake Off was one of those things that helped me. I’d watch, learn, become inspired, and challenge myself in the same way the contestants were challenged. And then share in it all at the end. I think that’s what baking is all about in the end. Connection. And sharing a slice of sweetness along the way.
Through this Citrus Rose Battenberg Cake, as inspired by the final episode of The Great Australian Bake Off, I encourage you all to share in it with me. Prior to this, I hadn’t made a Battenberg before. Not for any good reason, I’d always wanted to. And after watching, learning, discovering, and becoming inspired, I had to create one too. It’s a cake that’s far from the usual. Made with alternating layers of bright, floral, and delicate sponge, in addition to a slathering of preserves and sweet marzipan, it’s perfect. A cake that’s full of vibrancy and life. And one that’s perfect for the season. I think we all need a little of that.

Citrus Rose Battenberg CakeNOTES

– As Maggie Beer said, the sponge cake has to be soft and light. I find that sifting the flour three or four times beforehand helps the aeration within the cake which results in a perfectly light texture. Also, make sure that your eggs are at room temperature. For me, this means leaving them out on the counter a few hours prior to baking. And finally, make sure all your ingredients are measured and laid out beforehand, which allows for a smoother process and less chance of mistake.
– In this cake, I used the end of season’s tart raspberry preserves that I had from last Summer. You could use any jam or preserve that you desire. Anything berry, in particular, strawberry, is a favourite. I could also imagine that a really thick and sweet citrus curd would be beautiful too.
– The marzipan in this recipe is made from scratch. I wouldn’t recommend using store-bought marzipan. I personally think that home-made marzipan is so much more flavorsome, delicate, and delicious, not to mention easier to work with. Plus, it’s simple too.  I hadn’t made marzipan all that many times before, but, after watching the show, it seemed a much more streamline and quick process than I had thought. If marzipan isn’t for you, you could also cover the cake in a thick layer of buttercream.
– You could decorate the cake however you desire. I loved how the contestants decorated their Battenberg cakes on the show. I’ve done it up once before with fresh raspberries over the top, but I’ve also left it plain, simple, and unadulterated. The choice is yours.
– For more tips, I would recommend watching the new season of The Great Australian Bake Off in particular, the final episode, which features the Battenberg challenge.

CITRUS ROSE BATTENBERG CAKE

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Sea Salt Violet Millionaire’s Shortbread

Sea Salt Violet Millionaire's ShortbreadI learned simplicity, learned slowly and with difficulty how unassuming everything is, and became mature enough to put simplicity into words. And this all happened because I was able to meet you, back when the first time I was in danger of surrendering myself to formlessness. And if this danger always finds a way to return and always returns larger and stronger, it is also true that the memory of you grows in me, the awareness of you, and it too keeps strengthening.’ – Rainer Maria Rilke, an excerpt from a letter to Lou Salomé.

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Halvah, Burnt Butter and Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Halvah, Burnt Butter and Walnut Chocolate Chunk CookiesYou have broken down the veils of flesh and all the cushions that protect the nerves – you have played on the raw nerves, the very tenderest filaments of our sense organs. The effect is delirium, ecstasy which becomes unsupportable.” – Henry Miller, an excerpt from ‘A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller: 1932-1953.’

I don’t claim to know very much. The few things I do, sleeplessness, thirst, and unfolding to the wild of your own skin. And cookies. I claim to know cookies. They’re the vice that’s forever served me best. Of all the variations that frequent this space, this rendition is by far my favourite. Filled with rich pools of bitter dark chocolate, molten chunks of vanilla bean-studded halvah, deep burnt butter undertones, toasted walnut flecks, and slight hints of salt, they’re heavenly. A little richer than the usual, but all the more delicious.

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