Sunday, December 23, 2012

Star-Topped Mince Pies

It's Christmas already, and the potluck party invitations are in. I'm always having so many dishes I want to bring, only to find myself pressed for time. I love baking and cooking for friends and families during the festive season but it is also one of my busiest season with Great Bakes. My poor oven runs daily and on some days, for hours straight...just the fruitcakes will take 4-5 hours to bake in very low temperature. So, I have to plan very accurately. This year, I planned for Mince Pies. First up is the Star-Topped Mince Pies. This recipe is available in both Feast and How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. Mince Pies are very easy to do especially if you can buy a good jar of mince instead of cooking it yourself. Not that cooking mince is difficult, it really is easy especially without suet. I'll do it next year just to prove it...remind me. The pastry is relatively easy to mix and all you have to do is roll 'em, fill 'em, star-top 'em and bake 'em. Doesn't even take long to bake them. Just 10 minutes. I'll give it to you if your fingers are a little large because you do need to gently place the fine pastry into the miniature tins. But these babies are beautiful to look at and to eat. Pop-in-the-mouth sizes. My kind of mince pies...I can't stomach large mince pies :-p

Almond Torta with Chocolate Chips

I bought this book because the cover says "100 Foolproof Italian Dishes.." and it was written by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. If the writer's married surname sounds familiar to you, that's because her son, Joe Bastianich is one of the judges in US Masterchef and my favourite one. This is basically an Italian almond cake. Italian almond cakes are always drier and they have a good reason for that. It's always accompanied by whipped cream, ice-cream or zabaglione (a sabayon-light custard, with Marsala or Moscato). I love the cake but not so much the chocolate chips. Kinda "cheapen" the whole cake, if you get what I mean. I believe using chocolate chunks would have been a better idea. With every bite comes the softer chocolate rather than the over-processed chips. Will do this again simply because it's such a healthy cake!

Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake

Picked up a copy of Donna Hay's Oct/Nov 2012 Spring issue waaayyy back in September, and on the back cover was a bonus section- Best of Baking, Classic Cakes. All the recipes were "fast, fresh, simple". True to Donna Hay's style of cooking. Little Miss requested for this cake simply because she loves icing. And eating cakes layered with icing is her idea of nirvana....right after ice-cream. This is a melt-and-mix type of cake and as expected, the chocolate cake was a little too dense for my liking. The frosting was chocolate cream cheese. It's was 36'C then (still is) and melting fast, as I feverishly tried to slice and slap on the frosting in between layers! Clearly, the assembled cake had to be stored in the refrigerator all the time and that didn't help the cake texture. Still dense, a tad chewy and drier. I recall baking Donna Hay's 6-layer Chocolate Cake some years ago and I think it must have been the same recipe because its texture was the same. Little Miss polished off whatever cake was left anyway...hmmm, got to teach her to be a bit more discerning.