Vanilla Cupcakes

I love a good cupcake.  Seriously. I’ve travelled to Paris to try Bertie’s CupCakery, sampled Sprinkles wares all over the globe and I’ve pilgrimaged to NYC to devour what Magnolia has to offer (before perusing the lanes for street art – New York is awesome for street art).

New York is Awesome for Street Art - © Kate Cameron

New York is Awesome for Street Art – © Kate Vista

 

However, in terms of store bought cupcakes, I really can’t go past My Little Cupcake in Sydney  http://www.mylittlecupcake.com.au It’s the most delightful little store and the cupcakes just melt in your mouth. And, with cupcakes ,as pretty as these they’re almost (but not quite) too pretty to eat.

 

My Little (Chocolate) Cupcake - © Kate Cameron

My Little (Chocolate) Cupcake – © Kate Vista

 

Should you wish to save yourself time and money though this is one of my favourite cupcake recipes. It’s easy to follow and the results are glorious.

Classic Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes

Ingredients

4 1/6 cups all plain flour

¾ tsp baking soda

2 ¼ tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp coarse salt

1 cup plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature (I know!  It does seem like a lot…)

2 ¼ cups sugar

5 large whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks, room temperature (NB – 8 eggs in total)

2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Line muffin tins with liners. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  1. On medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy

 

It should look like this! © Kate Cameron

It should look like this! © Kate Vista

 

  1. Reduce speed to medium. Add whole eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add yolks, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until combined after each. Beat in vanilla.

 

  1. Fill each patty case to about ¾ full with batter. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched, about 20 mins.

 

After 10 minutes, hopefully they will look like this.  So rotate!  © Kate Cameron

After 10 minutes, hopefully they will look like this. So rotate! © Kate Vista

5. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool for 10 mins then turn out cupcakes. Cool completely.

6. To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with icing.

 

Incredible Icing

 

Ingredients

1 ½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature

4 cups pure icing sugar, sifted

½ tsp pure vanilla extract

 

  1. Beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.

 

  1. Reduce speed to medium. Add the icing sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating well after each addition; after every two additions, raise speed to high and beat 10 second to aerate frosting, return to medium speed. Frosting will be very pale and fluffy.

 

  1. Add vanilla, and beat until icing is smooth. If not using immediately, icing can be refrigerated up to 10 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again, about 5 mins.

 

Enjoy! (As you can see, I need to work on applying the icing) - Nevertheless, they taste delicious! © Kate Cameron

Enjoy! (As you can see, I need to work on applying the icing) – Nevertheless, they taste delicious! © Kate Vista

 

All rights reserved © 2014 Kate Vista

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“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain

I’m not accustomed to meeting people and then, within an hour, being naked from the waist up. There is a certain level of vulnerability that comes with that kind intimacy. Yet I knew the opportunity to stand for Emma Hack, the internationally acclaimed artist, was one I was not going to pass on.

Dwelling Facade - Lisbon  © Emma Hack

Dwelling Facade – Lisbon
© Emma Hack

I’ve been captivated by Emma’s works since my first encounter and I know the initial feeling of being drawn to intricate patterns, bold colours or subtle curves is then heightened to sheer joy and fascination upon making the discovery of a human form, an animal or both carefully camouflaged within a piece.

Fans © Emma Hack

Fans © Emma Hack

 

Like all ‘sensible’ individuals, I chose to ignore the advice of Emma and proceeded to diet for six weeks prior to the day of creation. This, when coupled with a severe bout of bronchitis, laryngitis, low blood pressure and the flutter of butterflies in my stomach, resulted in my fainting within 15 minutes of arrival. Needless to say I was mortified as I lay on the floor topless, my leggings half way down my thighs while the women I was shamelessly trying to impress fetched me water, pasta and a pillow of sorts.

We were off to a slow start…

Thankfully, the first things you will notice about Emma though are her presence, her patience (her works can take up to 23 hours to create) and her ability to make you feel at ease. As she continued to reassure me that it ‘happened all the time’ and shield me from the nosy eyes of Adelaide’s passers by on King William Rd, I was desperately hoping the reality of the day I was experiencing, would catch up with the vision for the day I had so confidently pictured in my head.

 

Studio  © Kate Cameron

Studio © Kate Vista

 

After sufficient carb loading and armed with Powerade and chewing gum we soon established a routine and the transformation began.  And what a transformation it was. For the better part of a day, Emma carefully, yet swiftly, recreated the lines of the Florence Broadhurst ‘Tropical Floral’ print. (Learn more about Florence Broadhurst at http://www.florencebroadhurst.com.au or check out some more of her designs at http://www.signatureprints.com.au)

The creation of the artwork happened in stages and each stage brought with it key points and vivid memories. Notable mentions have to go to having a flesh coloured g-string glued to me, the last point of being able to sit, or bend my abdomen, for fear of smudging the design; or the experience of having the inside of my nostrils painted (which is a highly unique, yet bizarrely pleasant sensation) so as to avoid hints of pink during the photography stage.

The end of a long day's work © Kate Vista

The end of a long day’s work © Kate Vista

As Emma continually moved back and forth between the camera and myself I tried to remain motionless when required, as the slightest movement could ruin the image. But for the most part we were able to speak freely about her new collection, travel, love and music and before I knew it the reality of the day I was experiencing had begun to exceed the reality of the day I had envisaged.

The transformation was complete. I was part of the optical illusion, the magic, the world of art and most surprisingly was feeling a powerful sexiness that came with being totally incognito.

 

The Finished Work - Tropical Floral © Emma Hack

The Finished Work – Tropical Floral
© Emma Hack

 

If you want to learn more about Emma you can do the following

Peruse her website http://www.emmahackartist.com.au,

See her work in  Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UVNT4wvIGY&list=PLB33D5D049C5DD552

Visit her pop up gallery April 19th – June 15th 2014

124 King William Road, Hyde Park Adelaide.

Hydrangea Cradled Owl  © Emma Hack

Hydrangea Cradled Owl
© Emma Hack

 

 

All rights reserved © 2014 Kate Vista

 

Summerlees – Sutton Forrest, NSW, Australia

The greenery is enchanting. There is no other word for it. I was half expecting to see a nymph or an elf jump out into the dappled light cast from the sun setting behind the trees that framed the winding drive.

Welcome to Summerlees. Just 1.5 hours from Sydney it is the perfect location for a girls weekend, romantic getaway or a quick runaway to drink wine, read trashy magazines, take long walks, sit in front of the fire, do your nails, cook bacon and eggs or in my case, stay as a guest for a very special wedding (as seen in Hello May magazine http://hellomay.com.au/article/emma-stephen-summerlees-estate-cool-cake-topper-wedding-venue/).

IMG_0875

As we continued down the drive, the captivating manor house peeked through to the right. Our weekend stay is in the cottage but it’s hard to look away from the two-storey homestead that Jane Austin herself may have been comfortable in.

Manor House

Manor House

A short distance from the manor house is the cottage. With a history extending back to 1822, the cottage has been lovingly restored beyond its former glory by Patty Mohtouris and her husband Roger Keyes.

 

Cottage

Summerlees Cottage

If you are anything like me, and perhaps you are to be on this blog, you will fall in love with this cottage. It boasts three queen bedrooms (one with ensuite), a spacious main bathroom, kitchen facilities (with supplies) a comfortable lounge room and a working fireplace – essential for any weekend away.

 

Photo from Summerlees Website

Photo from Summerlees Website

Photo from Summerlees Website

Photo from Summerlees Website

Photo from Summerlees Website

Photo from Summerlees Website

There’s a croquet lawn and quoits, chickens providing eggs for their guests, calves and, not to be outdone, a peacock aptly named after the Australian Liberal politician of the 1980’s, Andrew.

 

Andrew Peacock

Andrew Peacock

 

So here’s what you need to know if you wish to stay here yourself. If you stay at Summerlees, you do so on an exclusive basis. The cottage holds 2-6 people and children are welcome.

IMG_0867

Midweek (Monday – Thursday) stays are from $240 per night

Weekend (Friday- Sunday) stays are $950

Long Weekend: $1350

Weekly $1900

These prices are inclusive of GST, breakfast provisions, linens for the bathrooms and wood for the fireplace.

For bookings and enquiries head to http://www.summerlees.com.au/or telephone (+612) 4869 2550

 

 

All rights reserved © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

 

 

 

Marvellous Macarons

The Marvellous Macaron

Call me arrogant, but this is by far the best recipe for macarons I have ever come across. I think they rival (if not outdo) the macarons of one of my all time heroes Adriano Zumbo http://adrianozumbo.com/ and have left everyone I’ve ever known to taste them wanting more.

I’m not going to lie, macarons require patience, practise and dedication but like all good things, they are worth the effort.

The perfect, bite sized, treat.

The perfect, bite sized, treat.

 

The four key steps that I would strongly recommend for creating the perfect macaron are:

  1. Use aged egg whites – you might think ‘gross’ – but trust me, aged egg whites work best – I would suggest leaving egg whites out at least overnight before using them (I think this has something to do with reducing moisture).
  2. Leave the macarons to sit for at least 20mins piped on trays before baking.
  3. Use heavy/industrial baking trays (alternatively stack two trays together to ‘create’ a heavy tray)
  4. Make and assemble the macarons two days prior to eating (this creates a perfect balance between texture and flavour).

The best thing about macarons – your imagination is the limit in terms of flavours and colours. But – beware the sugar hit!

It's a delicate balance!

It’s a delicate balance!

 

Basic Macaron Batter

Makes about 2 doz

2/3 cup (85g) ground almonds

1 ½ cups (150g) pure icing sugar

3 large aged egg whites, at room temperature

5 tbsp (65g) caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract – or other flavouring of preference

Colouring of preference

Prep: If you want perfectly sized macarons I would suggest that you draw circles (about 2.5cm in diameter) on the underside of the baking paper, spacing them at least 1.5cm apart.

  1. Process almonds and icing sugar together to a fine mixture. Sift mixture through a medium-mesh sieve twice.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until foamy. Gradually add the caster sugar and beat until stiff glossy peaks form. Add vanilla/flavouring and colour and stir lightly.
  3. Add ½ the sifted almond mixture, stir with spatula. Add the remaining mixture in a light circular motion.
  4. Press and spread out the batter against the bowls sides. Scoop the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down about 15 times. When the batter becomes nicely firm and drips slowly as you scoop it the mixture is done.
  5. Attach a 1cm tip to the pastry bag. Twist the bag at the tip to prevent the batter from leaking out. Pour batter into bag, clip the top to prevent batter from coming out.
  6. Pipe batter onto centre of circles on the baking paper (batter will spread). Rap the trap firmly against the counter. Dry batter at room temperature, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes (avoid rainy days).  No tips should be seen in the circles.
  7. Place oven racks in the centre of the oven. Preheat oven to 120 degrees Celsius.
  8. Use heavy trays or double trays (stack 2 trays together) and put macarons into the oven for 15-18 minutes. Rotate trays mid way.
  9. If the insides of the macarons are still soft after 15 mins, lower temperature to 100 degrees C and cover the tray with aluminium foil and bake for another 2-3 minutes. The macarons should come off the baking paper easily.
  10. Cool macarons on the trays.
  11. Once cool, assemble macarons by joining two circles together with a filling.

 

NB: Alternative flavours for meringues:

a)    Coconut – add 2 tbsp (30g) dry coconut powder to the almond powder mix prior to processing.

b)    Green tea – add 1 tsp matcha to the almond powder mix prior to processing. Add green food colouring to glossy meringue (do not over mix).

c)     Raspberry – add 2tbsp (30g) dried raspberries, ground in a food processor, to the almond powder mix prior to processing. Add red food colouring to glossy meringue (do not over mix).

 

FILLINGS

Macarons can be filled with almost anything, whipped cream, jam, lemon curd, butter cream, or ganache (my favourite). Below are some recipes you may wish to use.

 

Dark chocolate ganache

100ml thickened cream

100g dark chocolate, chopped

  1. Bring cream to the boil. Add cream to chocolate, mix slowly with a whisk. Cool.

 

White chocolate and rose ganache

100ml thickened cream

100g white chocolate, chopped

1 tsp rose water

  1. Bring cream to the boil. Add cream to chocolate, mix slowly with a whisk. Add rose water. Cool.

 

Passionfruit butter cream (Makes enough for 45 macarons)

7 tbsp (100g) unsalted butter

3 tbsp (40ml) water

3 tbsp (40g) granulated sugar

1 egg

3.5 tbsp (50g) passionfruit

  1. Cut butter into pieces 5mm thick and place them in a heat-resistant bowl. Heat in the microwave (500W) for 10 seconds.
  2. Take the bowl out of the microwave and check the hardness of the butter. If the pieces are soft enough for your fingers to press into them, the butter is done. If they are still hard, heat them for another 5 seconds.
  3. Stir the bitter with a spatula until it becomes smooth and creamy like mayonnaise.
  4. Put water and sugar together in a bowl and stir well. Heat in microwave for 1 minute. Stir until dissolved. Heat for another 4 minutes. Stir.
  5. Scoop some syrup with a spoon and drop it into a small amount of water. Then try to scoop the syrup out of the water and make a ball with it using fingers. If you can do this, the syrup has the right density.
  6. While heating the syrup, beat egg lightly with a mixer.
  7. Pour the syrup like a thread into the egg and beat at high speed. Reduce the speed to medium and then to slow, and continue beating until the bottom of the bowl is no longer hot, and the mixture becomes white and heavy.
  8. Divide the butter prepared in step 3, adding it to the syrup in two or three batches. Beat with a hand mixer at medium speed each time you add the butter. When the butter is well mixed , the process is done. (During this process bubbles may appear – keep beating).
  9. Stir a drop or two of vanilla extract into the mixture. When the mixture is well stirred, it is done. Wrap leftover of cream with plastic wrap and place in freezer – it can be kept for at least a month.

Enjoy!

All rights reserved © 2014 Kate Vista