We interrupt this transmission to bring you some beautiful and wonderful things

I don’t like change. I think I may have said that before on this blog but i’ll certainly say it again. Perhaps I should qualify that statement, I don’t like change that I can’t control. But this life is a funny old thing and I have come to realise that some change can be good. So changing seasons, while I can’t control them, is something I can at least anticipate and therefore does not fall into the category of change that I don’t like. Now that it is really feeling like Spring (with a little bit of Autumn and Summer thrown in to boot) I can enjoy the changes that are going on around me.

Exhibit A: Beautiful flowers

Aren’t they beautiful? Dodgy shots aside, they were given to me by some departing students and they bloomed in my kitchen for weeks and weeks. Vibrant and pink and fragrant and generally representative of everything that is good in the world. Good choice!

Exhibit B: Beautiful flowers growing in the garden

Planted of course by the mothership who likes to get up at incredible hours in the morning to potter around and make the place beautiful. I, however, cannot be trusted to keep things like these growing. In fact, the only reason Exhibit A lasted so long is because the mothership watered them. I didn’t realise that you had to continually refill the vase… oops…

Exhibit C: Gorgeous artwork

After attending Alan Somerville’s new exhibition Sagacity held at the wonderful Glebe gallery Salerno Gallery I was mesmerised by the sketches of ballet dancers and flamenco dancers. These sketches were done by Alan in preparation for his more time consuming sculptures (which are equally amazing) and I could not leave without making sure that this baby was coming home with me. Please forgive my terrible terrible iphone shot, I will make sure to do this art work justice when I get it home. Just take my word for it, it is absolutely stunning.

 Exhibit D: Packages of books in the mail

I went crazy on Book Depository a few weeks ago and bought an enormous stack of books to wade through over the Summer break. A mix of classics, favourites and books that came highly recommended I have already finished my first book and am devouring my second. Hooray for literature!

 

Exhibit E: The purchase of a vintage tea cup, saucer, entree plate and sugar bowl

I did quite a bit of road tripping in the last holidays and ended up in the Souther Highlands town of Robertson. Here my friend and I visited the many antique stores and I came back with this beautiful set. The pattern is Wedgewood ‘Runnymede’ and I am very much in love. I defy you not to be.

Exhibit F: Passionfruit Souffle with Banana and Mango Sorbet and creme chantilly

AND

Exhibit G: Valrhona Chocolate Mousse with Mandarin and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

What would this post be without a homage to at least one thing sweet and delicious?

My boyfriend and I recently dined at Guillaume at Bennelong to celebrate our anniversary. The entire experience was magnificent and it was a wonderful evening. I am not a fan of taking photos of the food i’m eating at a restaurant but when these desserts came out, we couldn’t help ourselves! Delicious, fruity and rich, they were both impeccable and were a perfect way to round off the evening. I was particularly impressed by the helpfulness and professionalism of all the staff from the lady who took our reservation to the continuously beaming waiter who made us feel like we were the only two diners in the restaurant who were important. What an evening!

 So, my lovelies, although this post was meandering and not really to the point, I promise I will resume normal transmission soon. What are some of the things that you have been enjoying lately?

Pretty In Pink

While I absolutely love to bake and decorate cakes I am the first to admit that I am still only an amateur. Which is why i’m always surprised and alarmed when people ask me to cook something for them for a party or occasion. I normally dirty ice fondant covered cakes with buttercream but earlier in the year decided to experiment with using ganache. I had incredible trouble creating a smooth base for the fondant so the first cake I tried was bumpy bumpy on top and just generally not that great (i’m definitely my own worst critic!). In an effort to curb my ever expanding waistline I brought it into work where the pink/yellow combination caught the eye of the lovely Maryanne who said he daughter would love something similar for her birthday.

This is what I came up with

I was a bit apprehensive about making a proper cake for people I didn’t really know. I couldn’t think of anything worse than disappointing a beautiful little girl on her birthday! In fact, I will admit that I had several cake related nightmares in the lead up to creating and delivering this cake. One involved trying to bake a cake but finding that when I opened the carton of eggs, each egg that I picked up had either a massive crack in the shell or a hairline fracture that made the egg unusable. This picking up and discarding of eggs must have gone on for hours in my dream because I woke up terribly frustrated and upset and needed to go to the fridge and check all my eggs again. I also had dreams of dropping the cake, having to swerve violently when driving and ending up with a smooshed cake.

I should have had faith after seeing the batter. How yummy does it look!

Three layers with chocolate fudge filling

Then dirty iced with chocolate ganache. I know its not super smooth but it is a whole lot smoother than my last cake!

Under a layer of pink fondant

Then finished of with pink and blue hearts as requested by the birthday girl.

From all accounts the cake arrived at the party in tact and was swiftly demolished. The birthday girl was pleased with her pink and blue vanilla and chocolate and everyone was happy. Phew! No cake wrecks for me… yet!

So, my lovelies, can you remember having a delicious/good looking cake for your birthday? I remember my mum making me an amazing pink princess castle for my birthday (good old AWW childrens birthday cake cookbook!). Or did you have a cake wreck? Spill the beans!

 

 

End of Term Sadness and a Textually Dynamic Cake

And so it has been said

All good things must come to an end.

 

For so many students this week marks is the end of high school and the beginning of the rest of their lives. While I finished high school many years ago, this is a little bit of a special time for me as I farewell my own two amazing Year Twelve classes. And when I say ‘special’ I mean it in both ways:

1. It’s wonderful to be part of such an important moment in the lives of these extraordinary young men and to have seen them grow and develop over the past year

2. I turn a bit ‘special’ as I totally forget everything I want to tell them about how proud I am of them and how I have absolutely no doubt that they will do amazing things. Instead I just demand more practice essays. Sorry!

Before I unload all my sookiness, have a look at these cute bunnies!

As a fairly new teacher, seeing a Year Twelve class go through to finish the HSC is much more emotional than I expected and I really didn’t realise just how attached I had become to my classes. I think that this has been heightened by the fact that this is my first year teaching boys and first year at this particular school so my classes have been integral for helping me find my feet and settle in. I often found myself relying on my older students to teach me the culture of the school and help me figure out exactly what I should be doing!

The last few weeks of school are always a bit of a whirlwind and because of various timetable changes I never got to have a proper ‘last’ lesson with my Advanced class . To tell you the truth, I feel like Spencer Tracy in the last scenes of Father of the Bride. Remember the part where his daughter is all married and busy at the reception? And he isn’t able to really talk to her and tell her how proud he is of her because there are so many people around and so much going on? And then she leaves with her husband for her honeymoon and he is sad that he never got to see her off properly? Yes im a sap, yes im a sucker, yes I feel that way about this class. I am just so proud to see the wonderful, intelligent young men that they have grown up to be. Words fail me (and the irony of me being an English Teacher is not lost here!)

I was lucky to have a farewell lesson for my Extension class, and here enters the baking part of this post. The students found out about my blog midway through the year and since then I had promised to bake a cake for our final lesson. However, as these students are particularly great, it was necessary to up the ante. Thus, The Bake Off was born. The theme was ‘Textual Dynamics’ (which was the elective that the boys studied this year and roughly concerns looking at film and literature that challenges societies values regarding authorship, text construction, gender, history etc… and does so in a particularly ground breaking or creative way). I have to admit that I was particularly nerdy and planned my idea weeks in advance. What eventuated was…

Textually Dynamic?

One of the texts studied this year was a novel by Italo Calvino called If On a Winter’s Night A Traveller. A highly unconventional novel, the opening of this book goes a little something like this:

“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, ‘If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller’. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade.”

I wanted the cake to look like the magnetic poetry kits that you can get to go on your fridge and re-write the opening to be more baking appropriate. I used the Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cake and filled it with musk buttercream.

Tah dah!

I really didn’t have any expectation that anyone else would bake but was happily surprised to have THREE other entries!

Jack and Nathan’s take on the Salvador Dali melting clocks

(perhaps otherwise titled “The Sponge Cake That Wasn’t”?)

And Dan and Pat’s amazing brownies. I really had no idea that these boys had such hidden talents in the baking arena!

To my Extension boys, you have been such a source of energy and creativity this year. It has often been a relief to see you all after some particularly crazy junior classes, particularly in the afternoon! The intellectual depth to our discussions has really blown me away and it has just been such a privilege to have been able to teach such insightful and generally amazing students.

This has been a rather text heavy post, so if you made it this far though im very impressed! I really just wanted to say thank you to all my Year Twelve students and tell you all just how proud I am of you and how honoured I am to have been able to teach you this year. Good luck in your final exams!

Winter Wishing – Quince Cake

What’s in the pot?

Well… now that the weather has turned in time for Spring, do you really care what’s in the pot? Clearly it’s something that involves baking and we all know that the hot Australian summer is not conducive to baking. But Spring/Summer baking is not what this post is all about. While I love the sunshine and flowers, a part of me yearns for the sharp clarity of winter mornings and the satisfaction of warm winter desserts. So this post is a throw back to all the things we wish for during winter. Mostly…

Quinces!

I hate that the Quince season is so woefully short. I hate that Quinces are not readily available as they should be. I hate that I don’t have my own Quince tree in my own backyard. And while I am trying harder to make the most of produce that is in season, I wish that Quinces that had been transported in cold storage did not taste so awful. Then we wouldn’t have to wait until winter to enjoy them. But all things come to those who wait, and as I wait patiently all year I know that I will always have time for at least one Quince Cake during winter.

Look at those beautiful pieces of quince. Yummo!

This particular recipe is quite simple, the only time consuming part is poaching the quinces but

1. having the oven on for so long keeps the house warm

2. the smell is gorgeous! I would like nothing better than to have my house continuously smell like quinces poaching


 So in the end, after all the deliciousness and warmth of the poaching process you end up with a wonderful buttery, soft, sweet, spicy cake. Particularly tasty with the crunchy munchy cinnamon topping and jewels of quince peeking out.

mmmmmmmm!

So, my lovelies, what seasonal food would you eat all year round if you could? I’ll give you three wishes!

 

Poached Quince – From The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander

Ingredients

6 Quinces, peeled and cored

2.25 litres sugar syrup (2 parts water to 1 part sugar, heat and dissolve sugar to make the syrup)

1 vanilla bean

juice of 1 lemon

 

Method

1. Put sugar syrup into a large enamelled cast iron casserole dish along with the quinces, vanilla bean and lemon juice

2. Cover tightly and bake at 150 degrees celsius  for at least 4 (and up to 8) hours until the quinces are a deep red colour. Do not stir.

3. Cool

 

Quince and Cinnamon Cake – From The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander

Ingredients

180g softened butter

150g caster sugar

135g plain flour

135g self raising flour

pinch of salt

2 large eggs (lightly beaten)

70ml milk

1/2 cup almond meal

poached quinces

Topping

60g butter

1/2 cup caster sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

2 large eggs

 

Method

1. To make the topping, melt the butter and stir in the sugar and cinnamon, then allow to cool a little. Whisk the eggs and stir into the cooled butter mixture

2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy

3. Mix in flours and salt

4. Mix the eggs with the milk and add to the flour mixture. Mix to a softish dough.

5. Spoon the batter into a prepared tin (it will rise quite a bit so don’t overfill) and sprinkle the almond meal over the top

6. Arrange the quinces cut side up on top of the batter and spoon the topping over and around the quinces.

7. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 50 mins-1 hour

8. Serve warm with cream