Sweet News, Savoury News, with some Life News thrown in too!
|Posted on July 3, 2015 at 5:55 PM||comments (0)|
NEVER SAY NEVER...................
When I was a young teenager I remember being tormented by my older brother playing KISS loudly, and my sister Lisa and I both screaming at him to turn it down.... or OFF!!! On principle I never liked KISS, and would have never admitted to anyone that I even knew any of the their songs. So, it came as quite a surprise to me when my love Alberto informed me with a beaming smile that he had bought us tickets to see their only concert in Italy! Never in my lifetime did I ever imagine that I would go to a KISS concert. I tried to show excitement to Alberto, I forced a smile but inside I was horrified!!!!!
I have come to learn in my life that the saying ‘Never Say Never’ has been true on more than one occasion. I would NEVER go to a KISS concert, I also thought once apon a time that I would NEVER own a pair of UGG boots, and absolutely NEVER wear them outside the house! I also would NEVER marry an Italian! (and we all know how that turned out)!
I was excited though when I learnt the venue for the concert. It was in Verona, at the Arena! I have never been to Verona, so was excited about going somewhere new. Alberto proudly told me that he also had a spare KISS t-shirt for me. Oh Yay! Yeah, I’m pretty sure I would have NEVER thought that I’d wear a KISS t-shirt.
As soon as we left our hotel (yes I was wearing my KISS t-shirt) I began to notice many people wearing black KISS t-shirts, but that wasn’t the thing that surprised me most, I started to see many fans of all ages walking proudly donning their KISS MAKE UP!!! While we were waiting in line to enter the Arena, Alberto mumbled that maybe he too should have painted his face!!! OMG! While I was praising the Lord silently inside, I reassured him that he looked great just with his KISS t-shirt. LOL Seriously though, I have never been to a concert where so many of the fans arrived wearing t-shirts of the band.. t-shirts of past concerts to demonstrate their tireless dedication. The painted faces also added to the spectacle and every generation seemed to be represented.
Once we were inside though I realised Alberto had bought amazing tickets, 6 rows from the front. I didn’t know all the songs, but sang my lungs out to the few that I did remember. It’s quite amazing how your brain remembers song word to songs you didn’t even think you knew or liked. Gene Simmons did his best to recreate the whole tongue and blood repertoire (which I found a little disgusting)… but the man who really made the concert and who entertains with the same energy and enthusiasm as he did many years ago was Paul Stanley. He doesn’t really seem to age, and played the rock star character to perfection.
I really enjoyed KISS (can’t believe I’m writing that), and particularly loved the enthusiasm of the crowd. The Arena in Verona is a really special place to see a concert and I also adored what little I saw of Verona. I will definitely return to Verona as a tourist for a weekend and explore properly, this time without my KISS t-shirt!
P.S. Alberto & I arrived just as the support group were finishing their last songs. The lead singer thanked everyone and said how they loved playing at this ‘amazing venue’. He then added that he’d seen the movie, and remembered that Russell Crowe had died in ‘that’ corner, indicating with his finger where exactly. I looked around wondering if the Italians had heard and understood what he had said. I laughed and hoped someone had the courage to tell him that he wasn’t playing in the Colosseum in Rome! I just googled to find out who the ignorant American band was.… horror of horrors… apparently they are Australian!!! (The Dead Daisies)
|Posted on June 26, 2015 at 11:20 AM||comments (0)|
I am always surprised when I am asked to share my dark chocolate mudcake recipe. I'm surprised for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was published on my Facebook page for a few years and I only removed it (and other cake recipes) when my book was published in 2012. I felt that it was only fair to the people who had actually paid for my book. The main reason I am surprised though is because I don't understand why 'people' don't do what I do and just consult GOOGLE. There are SO MANY recipes to be found online and I also feel that part of the fun of baking or cooking anything new, is experimenting in the kitchen, trying new things and even mixing a couple of recipes together until you find what works for you. That being said, I thought I'd publish once again my favourite and easiest dark chocolate mudcake recipe. I have three different ones written down, but this is the recipe that I use 98% of the time... and the one recipe that I know off by heart.
150g Dark Chocolate (A)
400g Sugar (B)
250g Butter (C)
250ml Milk (D)
100g Plain Flour (E)
100g Self Raising Flour (F)
100g Cocoa (G)
2 Large Eggs (or 3 small)
*Melt A, B, C & D in a heavy saucepan, stirring well. Do not boil. *Add melted chocolate mixture to mixer bowl.
*Add sifted E, F & G and when combined add Eggs one at a time.
Pour cake mixture into a lined cake tin. Bake for at least an hour at 160°C until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean. EVERY oven is different and this dose can sometimes take more than an hour in the oven. I always double this recipe for diam 22cm -24cm diam cake tins... but I only increase the butter amount X1.5 and not X 2.
If you are not using this cake for a cake decorating project.... it is delicious served warm with vanilla ice-cream. This is also a great way to eat the top 'scraps' that you have cut off IF you are using the cake for a cake decorating project.
|Posted on June 4, 2015 at 6:10 PM||comments (1)|
I recently saw a funny cartoon on Facebook about the risks of not wearing a suitable sportsbra for a Zumba class.
I found it hilarious but I also totally related to it. I've actually never tried Zumba, but since I've been dedicating my time back in the gym since January, I soon realised that my old sportsbras from probably 15 years ago weren't really as effective as they once were. My boobs have changed so much too considering that I've breast fed two babies since then.... and I breastfed for far too long!
While running on the treadmill, I was all too happy that the treadmills at my gym face a wall, and so I could run in relative privacy without worrying too much about my bouncing chest. The gym class is more difficult though because we all work out in front of the mirror... and when we have to do anything athletic that requires running, jumping etc, I am the one person in the class clutching her chest to stop the 'girls' bouncing around too much. I actually don't think I have big boobs, but they don't need to be too big to be annoying when exercising. (And I will NEVER understand why women get huge breast enlargements).
I went out shopping to look to buy some new sportsbras.... OMG... SO EXPENSIVE! €45.00 and upwards! I would need at least two.. and spending almost €100 made me feel a little ill. Luckily my twin sister Lisa came to the rescue offering to give me to two of her sportsbras that she doens't use anymore. Both seemed new, both top brands.... one black, one white! Perfect! Luckily I was with Lisa when I tried them on! LOL.... It's like strapping myself into a straight jacket but with my arms free. I jumped around a bit and was very satisfied that there wasn't much movement happening on my chest. Breathing was restricted but I felt one can't have it all.
So.. I've had my new Sportsbras now for a few weeks, and I seriously couldn't exercise without them. Apart from the necessity of wearing one when I exercise, I find they also lift the girls up to a place that I can only distantly remember them being, adding the extra bonus of making me feel slimmer at the gym. So, thanks Lisa.... feel free to send any more sportsbras my way that you may have lying around!
|Posted on May 31, 2015 at 5:20 PM||comments (0)|
I am going to post two recipes. I have used both and can't decide which I prefer. I first one is a recipe that I have used for years and was my classic dessert for dinner parties in the 90's! The second recipe is the one used in the photo.
Lemon Tart #1
250g Plain Flour
180g Unsalted Butter (diced)
3 tblsp iced water
100ml lemon juice
lemon zest (2 teaspoons)
8 egg yolks
600ml creme fraìche or sour cream
*Prepare pastry & refrigerate for 20min. Roll out and line a lightly buttered flan tin. (22cm). Line with paper and wight with rice, or oven weights. Bake blind at 200°C for 10min. Remove paper & weights, decrease oven temperature to 180°C and cook for a further 10min. Set aside to cool.
*Whisk egg yolks until pale and fluffy. Add sugar, lemon juice & zest and continue whisking until smooth & well combined. Mix in cream.
* Pour mixture into cooled crust and bake at 180°C for 25min or until set.
*This can be served lukewarm, but I prefer it chilled in the fridge for at least a a couple of hours.
Lemon Tart #2
6 tblsp (tablespoons) butter, room temp.
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp heavy cream
*Beat butter with the icing sugar on low speed until combined.
*Add egg yolks, and mix until incorporated. Add half the flour, mix until combined then add the remaining flour, with salt and cream.
*Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
*When ready to be used, roll out dough to fit into tart case with removable bottom. Prick base with a fork and refrigerate for 30min. Preheat oven to 180°C. place pie weights on baking paper on pastry case and bake for about 15min, until edges are golden. Remove weights and oven paper & return to oven until golden brown all over. (circa 15-20min) Cool completely on wire rack.
4 large egg yolks
1 can condensed milk (250ml)
125ml lemon juice + 2 tsp lemon zest
*Whisk egg yolks until pale & fluffy. Add condensed milk. lemon juice, zest & salt. Mix until combined.
*Pour filling into cooled crust, and bake until set - About 10-13min.
**Lemon Tart can be eaten as is dusted with some icing sugar. I love it with some vanilla gelato and think that a couple of raspberries go very well with it as well.
|Posted on May 29, 2015 at 11:25 PM||comments (2)|
When I get out of bed each morning, I immediately feel a little dread when I realise I have to get dressed for the gym. While I feel immense pride in myself once I have finished the morning torture, I can’t lie and say that I adore every minute I am in there. I remember being told that after 40 years of age, exercise, or more importantly ‘results’ from exercise are much harder to see. I foolishly ignored such advice and strangely enough I actually stopped running a couple of years ago. It is no secret that I turned 44 last month, and I am still trying to get used to this number. If the truth be known I hadn’t become quite comfortable with 43 before 44 arrived completely too quickly for my liking. Nobody told me though that it wasn’t just my bum and thighs I should be worried about! Nobody told me about what happens to your arms! It came as a shock to realise I had flabby arms… little chicken fillets of joy waving at everyone whenever I moved my arms. My son would poke them and giggle as he watched them jiggle and wiggle. I never imagined that I’d go shopping searching for tops that had sleeves that came at least to my elbows. And although I have always suffered from cellulite on my bum and the backs of my legs, Nobody told me that after 40, if I wasn’t exercising, that that cellulite would creep it’s way around to the front of my legs! Horror of horrors!
So finally last year I realised my body was suffering from lack of exercise. Apart from the obvious weight gain, I was feeling pain in my back, and a constant stiff neck every time I woke up. I knew I had to get to a gym, but the realisation of something and the actual ‘doing’ were poles apart. Did I mention I am also a queen in procrastination? SO I thought about the gym for about a year probably without doing anything about it. I then decided that I’d at least go inside and ask for information. Now although that might sound easy enough, I soon realised that courage was required for this seemingly simple task. I think I walked past the gym about 8 times before I finally had the courage to walk in. I left with all the information; costs, class schedule etc… But then I realised that Christmas was soon and who is insane enough to start a diet and healthy lifestyle when Christmas baking needs to begin and panettone is being delivered to your door? NOT ME that’s for sure. So I enjoyed Christmas, ate without guilt and welcomed the New Year. Even though I knew I had to start exercising the turning point came one morning when my fat body greeted me in the bathroom mirror and feeling particularly miserable by my sad reflection, I searched for my NIKE lycra, laced up my sneakers (are they still called that or does that show my age?) and marched off for my first class. The day after I woke to total body pain. Muscles that I didn’t even know existed were crying out in protest and every movement hurt. But, I persevered!
I also started using a running App I had downloaded on my iphone , and it really helps me stay motivated and keep running, especially when I hear the annoying nasal American girl tell me ‘Well Done, workout finished’! She also tells me ‘You’re halfway there’ and ‘You’re doing really well’ about 3/4 of the way through. Sometimes I want to tell her to shut the F%&# Up…. but I know she only wants what’s best for me, so I keep going until it’s over. I am still going though and it’s now May and I manage to over 6km on the treadmill before my hour exercise class. The bathroom scales haven’t given me much satisfaction but I have definitely lost some weight, and I feel so much better too. I will never be able to live ‘cake free’, but I am trying to eat healthy foods and allowing rewards and treats on weekends.
I’ve never been skinny, and I never will be skinny. It really just isn’t in my DNA. I’ve been slim in the past, but I also know I’ve had moments of being over-weight. Sadly I have the capacity to gain weight just inhaling the smells from a bakery. Living in Italy doesn’t help with my pasta consumption either, but I am definitely eating less than I used to. One thing I have realised though is that exercising for me isn’t just a means to try to lose weight. I’ve realised that exercise must become part of my daily life, that to be ‘healthy’, feel good and hopefully ward off illnesses, I really have to make exercise part of my lifestyle, that’s it’s just as necessary as cleaning my teeth!
|Posted on May 25, 2015 at 5:05 PM||comments (0)|
Sometimes you find an old recipe that brings back some lovely memories, but sometimes that old recipe finds you. My lovely sister-in-law Emma told me the other day that she'd found one of my mother's old recipes. It has her dear friend, my Aunty Judy's name on top, so we guess it originally came from her. Emma sent me a photo of the recipe via WhatsApp and as it has few ingredients I decided to try it today. It's title is Delicious Dessert Cake, and after tasting it hot from the oven I can assure you that it is just that... a Delicious and Decadent Dessert Cake!
I will confess that I tasted this cake hot from the oven. It was divine and if I was to make this for a dinner party, I would serve it with vanilla gelato.
500g Self Raising Flour
500g Raw Sugar
500g Unsalted Butter
125g chopped walnuts
2 cans black stoneless cherries (I used the Italian 'amarena' variety). Strain but keep syrup aside.
*Grease a 26cm spring form tin well and line with oven paper.
* Melt butter, add sugar and mix well.
* Add flour, eggs & vanilla essence. (I used my homemade vanilla extract). Mix until smooth.
*Pour cake mix into cake tin and top with strained cherries & walnuts.
Bake in moderate oven (180°C) for 2 hours.
**I placed foil on top of the cake for the last 30minutes to avoid the top burning.
**Best served warm with vanilla gelato and the saved syrup from the cherries drizzled on top!
**The recipe states you can also use apricots... I'd like to try it with peaches or apples.
|Posted on May 24, 2015 at 6:35 PM||comments (0)|
This weekend I made a cake for a friend's 40th birthday! The cake was our gift to the birthday girl and I was really happy with the final result. Sugarpaste flowers and sugar lace combined with a modern yet elegant colour palette; cream, silver & black! The cake was 3 tiers, and the whole thing was dark chocolate mudcake, Dark chocolate ganache and covered with a white chocolate fondant. I am fairly new to making sugarpaste flowers but I couldn't have been happier with my magnolias & peony. I'll confess that I was a little sorry to see them leave the house!
The white chocolate fondant is made by a company in Sicily called COVE. I have used their products for years, and they are a perfect example of 'Made in Italy' excellence. Their online store: www.cove4you.it
The Sugar Lace is 'Magic Decor'. Made by the Italian company PAVONI. It is such an easy product to use with impressive results. You can colour the lace before you use it, but for this cake, I painted it silver once it was ready to be used. I also used Pavoni's flowers cutters & veiners to make the sugarpaste flowers. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PavoniProfessional?fref=ts
The funny thing being at a party where you made the cake is watching people's reactions as they eat it... I was pleased to see guests lining up to taste the cake, and even happier to hear their appreciation for how delicious it was. (I also took extra ganache along to the party which was served with the cake).
A fabulous party was had by all, and I collapsed into bed in the wee hours of the morning, tired but satisfied with the many hours of work that result in a special celebration cake! http://www.torteditoni.com/apps/photos/photo?photoid=198588426
|Posted on May 19, 2015 at 7:00 PM||comments (0)|
Are you happy when you hear your alarm clock go off in the morning? I am sure most of us do not jump for joy. My first thought is that I have at least 15 more minutes in bed because I have always made it a habit to set my alarm earlier than when I actually intend to get out of bed.
Some people like to just hear their alarm clock once, and leap out of bed immediately. I like to press ‘sleep’ quite a few times as this makes my brain think that I have actually had a little sleep in. The common problem of course is finding a partner with the same alarm clock habits as yourself. I must confess that I have never been with any man who shares my ‘sleep mode’ method of waking up, and this can cause male grumpiness in the mornings. One of the last things Alberto asks me before we go to sleep is “What time have you set the alarm?” and “Is your phone on silent?”. Having family & friends around the world usually means middle of the night notifications for emails, or text messages, which I never hear. Alberto on the other hand will tell me exactly how many messages I received during the night if I forget to put my phone on silent. (This will also cause male grumpiness in the mornings). so when answering Alberto, I often tell a little white lie…. or add about 30minutes. He at least will sleep soundly until my alarm goes off. I tell him to look on the positive side and that it’s extra cuddle time, but he has yet to be convinced that my ‘sleep mode’ method of waking really is much better for a healthy mental start to the day.
It’s after midnight here in Rome, so I really ought to go to bed, but first I’ll just double check my alarm clock is set, and then as I can be OCD about it, I'll check again just before I go to sleep.
What time do you set your alarm? Do you leap out of bed, or do you allow your brain to gradually wake from slumber before the assault of a new day begins?
|Posted on May 14, 2015 at 9:55 AM||comments (0)|
Recipe: Sticky Toffee Pecan Buns
120g unsalted Butter. Room temperature & cut into 2cm squares
1/4 tsp Salt
2 tsp dried Yeast
125ml (1/2 Cup) warm Milk
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
55g (1/4 Cup) fine Caster Sugar
375g (2.5Cups) Plain Flour
2 cups Pecans
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar (muscovado)
2 tablespoons Maple Syrup or Golden Syrup
1/4 cup Butter
50g (1/4 cup) sultanas
1/4 Cup Brandy or Port
70g 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2-3 teaspoons Mixed Spice (or 2tsp cinnamon + 1tsp nutmeg)
1 Egg lightly beaten + 1 tsp cold water
Whisk together milk, 1 tablespoon of sugar and yeast in a jug. let it rest for 10 minutes or until frothy. Whisk in Eggs.
Meanwhile add flour, salt & remaining sugar in a food processor or mixer until combined. (I used my KitchenAid with the dough hook.)
Add butter one piece at a time with the motor running, until the dough becomes soft and sticky. Add some extra flour if required.
Put the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead if necessary for a few minutes until smooth. (Mine didn’t need much kneading.. the KitchenAid did it beautifully). Place dough into a greased bowl, brush top with a little melted butter. Cover and set aside to ‘prove’ for an hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
Combine sultanas with brandy or port in a small bowl and allow to macerate for 15min. (I used Port because that’s what was in the house).
Preheat oven to 180°C . Spread the pecans on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 10 minutes to lightly toast them. (Be careful not to let them burn!)
For the Toffee topping; Combine Brown Sugar, Maple Syrup (or Golden Syrup) & butter in a saucepan and heat mixing continuously until sugar & butter has melted & is combined well. (you can replace the butter for cream if you wish). Add Pecans to saucepan and remove from heat.
Grease lightly with butter a baking dish circa 28cm x 18cm. and evenly spread Toffee Pecan mix over the base. Pre-heat Oven to 180°C.
On a floured board, roll out dough into a rectangle (40cm x 30cm). Spread dough with butter. Sprinkle over sugar, sultanas (drained from liquid) and mixed spice.
Roll the dough up along its length firmly to form a log. Cut slices of 10-12 buns.
Place the buns on top of the Toffee Pecan topping. Cover once again to let the dough rise again at room temperature for an hour.
Combine egg and water in a bowl and brush dough with egg mixture.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cover with foil and bake for a further 15minutes.
Turn out buns while they are still hot but be so careful because the Toffee is boiling hot. I used a serving plate larger than the baking dish and flipped them over as I would a Tarte Tatin.
While it doesn’t seem to be written in any of the recipes, I feel these are best eaten with some vanilla ice-cream. You’re sinning anyway so you may as well do it properly!!!:D.
While it is recommended that these are eaten the day they are baked, I found that heating them up in the microwave the next day works perfectly to ensure they are just as delicious the day after!
|Posted on May 13, 2015 at 5:35 PM||comments (3)|
I am always in difficulty when I receive emails from people asking for explanations as to why one of my cake recipes has failed them... I never know what to reply because unless I'm holding your hand in the kitchen and looking over your shoulder, I can't possibly know what 'went wrong'. I am flattered that people think that I know everything when it comes to cooking and baking, but what they don't realise is that I'm no better than them. I class myself as a home baker. Nothing more...Nothing less.
Some Pastry Chefs would think I didn't even merit a place in the kitchen; I can't tell you what the chemical reaction is that occurs when I add that pinch of salt to the mix (something to do with the egg)... and I can't tell you why my recipe needs sugar, milk or which type of fat would be better used. I also have to refer to my notes when I need to double or triple a recipe. (Another frequent email question!) People should realise there is much trial & error in a kitchen and I'll usually know the answer to that immediately only if I remembered to write down notes next to the recipe.
Anyway............... this brings me to what I really wanted to talk about------------> YEAST! I will confess that I have always had a fear of yeast. When I bake cakes to decorate, I choose from a handful of failsafe recipes that are english, thus all using 'Self-Raising FLour'. This wasn't always readily available in Italy, but these days you can find it in most supermarkets. So yes.... I suppose you can class me as a 'yeast virgin', (although the name in itself sounds terrible! Yesterday I decided to try making sticky buns and I felt it was time to finally confront my yeast fear. I FAILED.... So much time waiting while the dough rested with no or little growth achieved... all in vain... I was disappointed... but I was determined to master this recipe. I do not cope well with failures in the kitchen, apart from the waste of money for ingredients, I can be a perfectionist and I class a failure in the kitchen equates with some sort of personal failure.
I researched other recipes and also consulted with a friend who happens to be a chef. I will blame this failure though on the recipe I followed.... All the other recipes mentioned the need to dissolve my yeast in warm milk & sugar, whisking it in and waiting for circa 10minutes until the mixture became frothy. All the other recipes explained that it was only then that my yeast mixture should be added to the dry ingredients..... I had also used the wrong yeast! :roll:.
So today I realised the joy one receives with dough success! I finally 'get it'! I felt the anxiety of waiting while the dough rests.... the anticipation of success or a repeated failure.... I felt that 'punch-in-the-air' satisfaction when I lifted the covers to see that my dough really had doubled in size. My dough rolled out beautifully... I lovingly spread a layer of butter on it, delicately sprinkled the sugar, sultanas & mixed spice and rolled it up like I was tucking a newborn into bed. I will admit I was still skeptical to baking success when I sliced the rolled log into 12 'buns' and positioned them on the baking tray....on top of the pecan toffee topping. ( I had re-cycled the pecans from the previously failed attempt because they are bloody expensive!!!)! I then covered the dough once again.... 40 min later I returned to see........................................................ OH MY GOD..... I did a little happy dance around the kitchen, WhatsApped photos to loved ones.... and put that baby in the oven!
My Sticky Toffee Pecan Buns came out perfectly... fluffy & light! The toffee pecan topping was definitely decadent, and I think my tastes have changed over the years because although the flavour evoked nostalgic memories of my year living in USA when I was a teenager, I actually found them very sweet.. almost too sweet. If I was to make these again (and it won't be happening any time soon)..... I'd put them in large muffin tins so they remain round. These really need to be eated the day they are made I think.... and the greedy gremlin that lives within my body feels that they would be best served warm with vanilla ice-cream.
I'll be posting the recipe tomorrow.......... but please share your experiences with yeast. Will I become addicted? Will I even see myself baking bread in the future???