Holiday Baking: Gingerbread Loaf

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Over the holiday season, everyone in the flat was away at different times, seeing family and friends. So I thought some form of connection over this time would be nice. How about gingerbread?

Jane Brocket’s gingerbread recipe (published as a ‘ginger cake’ recipe on guardian.co.uk) produces a dense, rich, gingery slice. It’s delicious served warm, or with tea. Instructions are easy to follow and will get you to a spicy holiday destination pretty quickly. And using only 85g of butter, you’re in no danger of filling your pants before Christmas!

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La Cigale’s French Market

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On a recent trip back home we dropped into La Cigale’s French Market. It’s been a past favourite weekend rendezvous, so I was pleased to see business was going as well as ever. Yep, Auckland sure does hold its own.

My choice of morsel for the morning was a pomegranate and lemon curd éclair. Made with fresh pomegranate seeds, lemons, and pure New Zealand dairy. Divine!

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‘Window-shopping’ for the remainder of our visit, I noticed the tarts also looked particularly appealing: apple, calvados, and cider; tamarillo and crème; and rhubarb, pistachio, and raspberry. Tempting, but we had the rest of the weekend to eat through. Save some for later Augustus!
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69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Auckland

http://www.lacigale.co.nz/

Zumbo, Melbourne

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Zumbo has finally arrived in Melbourne! In South Yarra specifically. In the past, Zumbo’s gateaux, tartes, and Zumbarons have been a Sydney highlight for me: flavour-forward, stunning, and affordable.

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Arriving a few days after the grand opening, I was greeted by a queue – which snaked out the door. (Note: it was also late on a Saturday morning). Surrounded by electric pink and silver interiors and flanked by candy floss couches I waited patiently for 30 minutes for a Melbourne taste of Zumbo.

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As with the Sydney store, the stock was stunning. I did miss the individual mini displays showcasing Zumbo’s fancy fare, which always made queuing in Sydney a little more cheerful. However, I’m pleased just to have Zumbo stock in Melbourne – available seven days a week, 7am-7pm “or until sold out”.

12-14 Claremont Street, South Yarra, Melbourne, VIC 3141

http://adrianozumbo.com/

Innocent Bystander

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Every now and then I need a bush or a beach fix. A tree or a sea top-up.

Recently, a kind soul introduced me to the Yarra Valley. As expected, there was mountains, there was trees, and there was food.

On that note, our tour included Healesville’s Innocent Bystander. The space is stunning and provides plenty of indoor activities to keep you busy on a rainy day: wine and cheese tasting counters, an artisan bakery, and a full restaurant menu.

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Because it was a particularly stormy day, we had already eaten well into the Yarra. So on this occasion, we were in just for dessert. I ordered the flourless chocolate cake and, portion to price, it was of Vegie Bar standards. The cake itself was an indulgence in chocolate – I am a chocolate overeater but I was completely beaten by this slice of cake. Even after sharing it around, I had to leave a few bites behind!

I loved meeting the Yarra and will be keen to stay in touch.

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336 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville, VIC 3777

http://www.innocentbystander.com.au

Spresso Love: Coffee Hazelnut Meringue Cakes

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For a change, I took the scenic route to last weekend’s party. Through the bush, like Little Red Riding Hood.

Given the journey ahead, my dinner contribution needed to be roadworthy. I took this opportunity to create hazelnut meringue /pavlova cakes: cake bases with crispy cloud toppings.

Despite the brilliance of this concept, I’ve only seen meringue /pavlova cakes at a couple of cafes – and they’ve been of a macaroon texture, rather than a cake texture. What’s more, the recipes I’ve seen have only been for large chocolate hazelnut cakes.

Hence, “the plan” for my own hazelnut meringue cakes:

  • A cake base mixture split into 12 muffin tins, using the hazelnut cake recipe from pastrystudio.blogspot.
  • A pavolva /meringue topping, based on the chocolate meringue recipe from taste.com.au.

For the cake bases, I omitted the orange zest and substituted the milk for a latte. And for the toppings I omitted the chocolate. (Although chocolate and hazelnut is a favourite Italian pairing, I left out the chocolate to reveal the subtle flavour of the hazelnuts).

Of importance to note, is the optimum baking time of fifteen minutes (approx), when using silicon heart-shaped moulds. A helpful point to remember: the meringue toppings obscure the cake bases, so it’s difficult to check the cakes for ‘done-ness’ with the usual touch or prick test!

Barely a few moments out of the oven and into the mouths of my tasting panel, feedback emerged: “Amazing texture” … “You could sell these in a café”.

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Phew. A safe journey completed. With no wolves in sight.

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The Hardware Societe

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Bathing in goat’s milk, commuting to school by chopper, sailing on a yacht with an ensuite for every bedroom … I can only describe my first experience at The Hardware Societe as ‘luxury-for-breakfast.’ Perched at a marble table by the laneway, my first meal at this café was brioche with rosé-scented pear, dulce de leche, and pistachio praline. Fit for a queen.

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Recently, friends visited over an extended weekend and The Hardware Societe immediately sprang to mind. This time, we dined amidst the café’s fine white walls and beautiful teacup montage. Our orders included oatmeal with poached pears and macademia crumble and bircher with berries and macademia crumble.

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We were thoroughly satisfied with our meals, but did look on with envy at Emma’s decision: the two-in-one skillet scrambled eggs with chorizo and filled baguette, served on a wooden board.

With its restaurant decorum, The Hardware Societe is definitely a special treat. On most occasions, you’ll have to queue for a table, even on weekdays; menu items cost slightly more than similar meals in other “cafes” (but well worth the extra dollars); and most importantly, every bite of your meal will be an experience to remember.

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120 Hardware St, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Brunetti – Mini Cakes

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Brunetti is an iconic Melbourne destination for European cakes and coffee. But it’s a particular favourite of mine for a little something-something after dinner; for those times when you really “shouldn’t”, but nevertheless have a craving for something sweet. Whether you’re counting calories or just have a small ladies stomach, Brunetti has the perfect solution for you: mini cakes.

These cakes are about the quarter of the size of Brunetti’s regular slices of cake and are available in the same, if not similar, range of flavours. Options include: chocolate, orange, chocolate mousse, New York baked cheesecake, and berry cheesecake.

Gone in a few bites, these mini cakes are the perfect fix for a sweet craving – with minimal damage to your diet halo.

214 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Also in Carlton, Camberwell, Myer, Dubai, and Singapore.

http://www.brunetti.com.au