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Apricot Crostata

Apricot Crostata

What is that one cake or sweet that reminds you of your childhood the most?

If you asked me I’d say crostatas, the pie-looking tarts commonly filled with jam my grandmother used to make. Every Sunday morning I would go to my grandma’s house,  where I was welcomed by the smell of a scrumptious Sunday lunch. But what interested me the most was what was hiding in the dark living room, where all the cakes were left to cool down. And that’s where I would always find a crostata, its warm homemade jam tempting me have a taste, just a bite.

It’s been a few years since I’ve had a crostata, I’m not sure why I haven’t made it since leaving Europe. Maybe I never had enough people to bake it for, since it’s a tart I always shared with friends and family, or maybe baking it myself reminds me too much of when others used to bake it for me – and of how quickly time flies when your not paying attention, only to wake up one day and realise that you have to bake your own tarts.

Whatever it was, it’s no longer relevant because I made my first “Australian” crostata just last week and I intend to bake many more from now on! To my surprise, it was a lot easier to make than I remembered, and super-quick, too!

Crostata Recipe

Italian Shortbread Pastry (Pasta Frolla)
Translated from GialloZafferano.it

500 gr Cake Flour ( or All Purpose/Plain Flour)
250 gr Unsalted Butter (cold, cut in pieces)
Pinch of Salt
4 Egg Yolks
200 gr Icing Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence
500gr Apricot Jam (Filling)

1. Place the flour, salt and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on medium speed until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.

2. Pour the flour on a flat surface and create a volcano (!), then add sugar, egg yolks and vanilla. Quickly knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.

4. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

5. Your Pasta Frolla is now ready to be turned in a Crostata!

Notes:
Plain flour worked well for me, however, for best results or more complex pies (for example a braided edge), I suggest you use a flour low in gluten (cake flour), as this will make your dough more elastic and easier to shape.
Crostata
Crostata

1. Preheat oven at 180°C

2. Grease a loose base tart pan (I used a 24cm, but there’s enough dough for a slightly bigger one). If using a tart pan without a loose base, line with baking paper.

3. On a floured surface, roll half the dough with a wooden rolling pin until 5mm thick. Line the tart pan with the dough, cutting the extra pastry with a knife and making sure there are no holes or air bubbles. Spread the apricot jam evenly with the back of a spoon.

4. Roll the other half of the dough, then cut 1cm/1.5cm strips. The more precise you are, the better the crostata will look once baked. Apply the strips on the crostata, horizontally and vertically, pinching the edges slightly to secure.

5. Bake at 180°C for 30/40 minutes or until the crust is a nice golden brown. Let it cool in the pan before attempting to remove.

Slice of Crostata

Does it look delicious? Because it most definitely was!
I’ve been working on my photography, I know I’ve got a very long (and probably steep knowing my luck) road ahead of me in terms of photographing food but I’m trying to improve bit by bit.

So, what is the food that reminds YOU of your childhood the most?
I’m curious, don’t keep me hanging!

Your excitable baker,
Sylvia

More Halloween Goodness!

I haven’t been very organised with the Halloween posts, have I?

Typical!

But I just realised that I had been waiting a whole year to post last year’s Halloween sweets as I didn’t yet have a blog then…and then, this Halloween, I promptly forgot. Damn, Sylvia!

Halloween Vanilla Cupcakes

Halloween 2011 was fun, but it was more because I got to bake Halloween sweets for the first time than because of the actual party. Last Halloween I still shared a house with a family with 3 kids, and these kids had all their friends over for trick-or-treating and a jump in the heated pool – which makes me realise that the only pool I had growing up was the little inflatable one…yeah, kids these days have all the good things in life.

Pardon the orange-ness of the photos, I was still getting used to having a proper camera and was apparently colour blind!

Halloween Mars Bar Slice

I made Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream and little Witch Hats…and a Mars Bar Slice with Chocolate Spiders! The Vanilla Cupcake recipe is quite straight forward, so I will leave it to you to decide which one to use. However, the Mars Slice comes from an Italian website and it looks a bit different from the usual Mars Bar Slices with a thick chocolate coating…so I’ll write down the recipe for your convenience :)

Mars Bar Slice 
(makes 20)

80gr Unsalted Butter

300gr (7) Mars bars

200gr Rice Bubbles (Krispies)

For the spiders:

200gr White Chocolate Melts
100gr Black Chocolate Melts

1. Line a medium rectangular (brownie) tray with baking paper. Chop the Mars bars up in little chunks to aid the melting process.

2. In a saucepan and over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is completely melted, add the Mars chunks and stir frequently until melted.

3. Put the rice bubbles in a big bowl and add the melted Mars, mixing slowly with a big spoon so as not to break the bubbles.

4. Once the rice bubbles are all coated and well mixed, put them in the brownie tray. With the back of a spoon, pat the bubbles until they’re evenly distributed.

5. Put in the fridge for min 30 minutes before serving.

6. Melt the white and black chocolate melts in separate bowls. Once melted, quickly put the chocolate in two piping bags and  begin decorating. Once finished, refrigerate until the chocolate sets before serving!

Halloween Mars Bar Slice

And that’s it for the Halloween posts from me this year :) Promise!
But wait, aren’t you curious about my Halloween costume?

I was…

Sylvia the Zombie Baker

…a zombie prom queen with a nosebleed. Scary stuff, you guys! 

Sylvia

Happy Halloween Cake Pops!

Photo by William Pearce

Well…guess who’s back?

I got overwhelmed by my own creation, this little blog. I started it being so precise, and making sure my photos were up to some imaginary standards of cuteness and yumminess, wanting to bake amazing goods while having way too many things to deal with…and I got overwhelmed. I thought that it would be better not to post, than post something that would not really be up to those imaginary standards. And I realize now that I was wrong because I really wanted to keep posting the cakes and sweets I created…just sometimes one doesn’t really have the time to stage a perfect photo shoot. And I had this awful feeling of letting people down, which I probably did anyway by altogether disappearing.

Does anyone else feel like that sometimes? And how do you deal with it?

Eyeball Cake Pops

Back a month or so ago, a close friend (we’ll call her Rar) invited me to her Halloween Party/Anniversary Party (because only cool people can say to have met their soulmate on Halloween!) and asked if I could make some gory, bloody eyeball cake pops.

Now, this is not any Halloween Party. My friend Rar takes Halloween seriously, and I had already heard how awesome her Halloweens were…I was more than ecstatic to be baking something for this great occasion! Plus, I had never experimented with fake blood…I just couldn’t wait!

I choose a Red Velvet Cake recipe from Bake Your Heart Out as I had never made one before and was a bit taken aback by the amount of food colouring the other recipes advised to use. But this recipe is awesome! And check out her blog, because that’s awesome too! :)

Stage 1

Cake Recipe (makes 30 Cake Pops)
from BakeYourHeartOut

2 ½ cups Plain (All Purpose)Flour

½ tsp Salt

1 cup Buttermilk

2 tbsp Cocoa Powder

2 tbsp Red Food Colouring

1 cup (250 gr) Unsalted Butter

2 cups Caster Sugar

2 Eggs

1½ tsp Baking Soda

1 tbsp White Vinegar

0. Preheat oven at 170°C (medium), grease two 20cm cake pans and line with baking paper.

1. In a bowl, beat the butter with a mixer at low speed until creamy and fluffy. Add the caster sugar and beat for an additional 3 or 4 minutes at low/medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well in between additions. In another bowl, mix the flour with salt.

2. In a small bowl, mix the red food colouring with the cocoa powder. The result will be a thick dark paste (resist the urge to add extra colouring, trust me, it’s ok if it’s really thick).

3. Add the colour+cocoa mixture to the butter mixture and mix until well combined. Add the flour by alternating 1/3 of the flour to 1/3 of buttermilk, mixing just enough to make the ingredients disappear in the batter.

4. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and the baking soda (it’s fun!) until the latter has disappeared, and then quickly add it to the batter. Mix with a wooden spoon until well combined, making sure there’s not leftover colouring around the edges and not lumps in the batter.


5. Divide the batter among the two greased and lined cake pans and bake for approx. 30 minutes or when the cake passes the toothpick test.

6. Let it cool down completely before proceeding with next step!

Stage 2

You’ll need:

120gr Unsalted Butter

100gr Icing Sugar

2 packets (750gr) of White Chocolate Melts

Fondant in Green (or any other colour, for the eye)

Black Food Colouring for the Iris

1. Once the cakes have cooled down, crumble them with your hands, each in a separate bowl. Because I have a tiny electric oven, I found that the top crust of the cake was slightly burned and removed it. Make sure you taste your cake before crumbling it, especially if some parts are harder/more cooked than others.

2. Prepare one quantity of buttercream icing (120 gr butter, mix until fluffy, add 100gr icing sugar, mix until buttercream) and flavour with a teaspoon of chocolate essence (the taste is quite different from chocolate buttercream with cocoa powder, but it works much better with the red velvet cake than normal chocolate buttercream which would be a bit too strong!).

3. Add half the icing to one crumbled cake, and half to the other. Stir and mix with your hands until there are no buttercream lumps and the cake holds together quite well. If the resulting mixture is a bit too soft, pop it in the fridge for 20/30 minutes.

4. Create nice little balls of cake, then return to fridge.

5. Melt white chocolate melts, I melt them in a long, thick glass to make sure the cake pops don’t touch the bottom. Make sure NO WATER enters the glass/container as you melt the chocolate or it’s very likely it will ruin the melting and you’ll have to throw all the chocolate out and start again.

6. No get your cake pops out of the fridge, stab them with a fork (just like you’d stab an eye) and dip them into the white chocolate. Then put them on a tray lined with baking paper and hold them until they are stable enough for the fork not to fall.

7. Once completed the dipping process, add a fondant circle to your eyeball by brushing the back of the fondant with a tiny bit of water. Then pain the iris with your black food colouring.

Time to add the fake blood! Because I couldn’t find corn syrup (and golden syrup tastes bad), I decided to use honey as a substitute. It worked really well and tasted amazing on the cake pops!

Fake Blood

2 tblsp of  Honey
2 tsp of Red Food Colouring
1 tsp of Cocoa Powder

Have fun adding blood to your cake pops! I advise serving the cake pops on a platter with a base of fake blood, so the blood drips as people pick the cake pops up and it’s super gory!

And now, from the land of no Halloween (Australia)…

Happy Halloween!

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