Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Willy Wonker Factory aka Georgiou's Confectionery (25th September)

        Would you believe it if I told you I had my very own Willy Wonker factory in my neighbourhood? Okay so it doesn't have Oompa Loompas and a chocolate river but it's pretty much a sweet fantasy land where you could get lost for hours and hours immersed in sweet sweet memories thinking about all the candy you ate as a child.
        This Willy Wonka like factory is called Georgiou's Confectionery. They are a confectionery wholesaler but also sell direct to the public. This place is pretty easy to miss, a big brown unassuming building on a main road where you could possibly have driven past day after day and not known what was beyond those walls. Just like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 'Nobody goes in, and nobody comes out'. Okay that part is a lie.

        As you walk in the front door (watch your step, a few steep climbs up) instantly you are hit with the strong aroma of chocolate and candy. Towards your right is where the front counter is. There are displays of bulk foil wrapped chocolates and other bits and pieces of sweet things. Towards your left are nice pretty displays stacked full of chocolates and biscuits and the like. It was only September and there were already Christmas gift boxes on display. It takes a while to slowly take in everything - it is quite overwhelming when you first walk in.
        This is only my second visit to this place in all the years that I've lived in the area. As soon as I stepped through the front door I remembered why it had been so so long since my last visit. I just wanted to buy/eat everything in sight.

Ohh look giant sherbet straws!

Ohhh - Willy Wonka Golden Tickets!

        There were bins with Hershey Kisses and Reese's candy on special, couldn't resist picking some up.

        At the back of the factory there's 2 aisles fully stacked on either side with all the candy that you can imagine, going higher than your head. Split into small bags and also available in bulk. I can say that as a child I had sampled almost all of the types that were available. Redskins, frogs, toffee apple lollipops, milk bottles, everlasting gobsmackers, loveheart lollipops, gummi bears along with  the all time favourites and things like chocolate coated nuts etc. 

They also stock alot of popular brands in bulk like Allen's fantales, minties, jaffas etc.

Ohh Flying Saucers! Took me back to the Heston Blumenthal episode.

        My real mission for this visit was to track down pop rocks - I didn't need a whole rocket full though and managed to nab the last bag of 8 little packs they had for $2. I was so intent on tracking down pop rocks that by the time I bought them I couldn't even remember what I wanted them for. Didn't matter though because Ryan got to most of them and was content eating the pop rocks as they were. We sure had fun going down memory lane with those.

        Back to the front 'store' section I was also excited to see that they also stocked all the American import items too. Had no idea what to do with them at the time though so didn't buy anything from this selection.

        Ohhh pop tarts, it has been yonkers since they stopped making them. Was keen to try a couple of these American ones, just for the sake of memories.

        So this is what I came out with at the end of my visit. I really did feel like a kid in a candy shop, oh wait - I WAS a kid in a candy shop. It was a fun time going down memory lane with all the candy but I think I need to avoid the place - for the sake of my sugar levels. The fact that it's within walking distance from my house (10 minute walk) is very dangerous but self control has prevented me from going nuts.

147 New Canterbury Road, Petersham NSW 2049

Hours of Operation:
Monday 8:30am - 4:30pm
Tuesday 8:30am - 4:30pm
Wednesday 8:30am - 4:30pm
Thursday 8:30am - 4:30pm
Thursday 8:30am - 4:30pm
Friday 8:30am - 4:30pm
Saturday 8:30am - 4:30pm
Sunday 10:00am- 3:00pm
*Only open on Sundays 4 weeks prior to Easter, and 8 weeks before Christmas.
Georgiou's is closed on public holidays, but open on Good Friday.
Closed at 12:00pm on Christmas Eve, but we are still open for coach bookings.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Forest Birthday Cake - For the future MIL (28th October)

        It was that time of the year again, Ryan's mum's birthday. I knew I wanted to bake a cake for her birthday already but this year she actually asked me to make one for her birthday party - and wanted to pay me for it too. There was no way I wanted to take money from her for something I wanted to make as a gift anyway. The idea of baking a cake to impress the future mother in law was tough enough already but add on about 25-30 odd guests (whom I know all have very high standards - and expectations of me too) made me really nervous. Ryan suggested that maybe I could make cupcakes if that would make things easier for me.
        Luckily though, her original party plans fell through and the alternative venue charged an absurd amount for cakeage (plus there was a dessert buffet anyway) so his mum cancelled the cake and I was somewhat relieved of the impending pressure. I still wanted to bake a cake for her anyway as a present and in a way was glad that I could make a smaller cake.

        Ryan's mum loves black forest cake. I made the same cake last year for her and it went down a treat. I wanted to try a different cake recipe this year because the one I used last year was a little too dense for my liking. I was a little cocky and decided to make up my own recipe - bad mistake. It ended up being a little on the dry side (possible overbake though) and was a little more dense than I had hoped. I also baked them as two smaller cakes so that it would be a bit easier to sandwich them together. I didn't really have time to remake the cake so I was hoping the kirsch and cream would make up for the less than impressive chocolate cake. Next year I might just have to find a sponge recipe to work with.

As last year I used morello cherries for the filling.

        The cream filling is simply made by whipping/beating some thickened cream with a few cups of icing sugar.

        I brushed on some kirsch on the flat sides of the cakes before doing the cream filling. Rather than spreading the cream onto the cake and then putting the cherries on top, I mixed the cherries into some of the cream and sandwiched the two layers together to give a more even spread of cherries and cream.

        The cake was then covered completely in the cream. I speant too much time trying to get the surface as flat and even as possible.

        Two perfect decorating short cuts. A pack of glace cherries and a tin of Lindt hot chocolate flakes.

        I don't know if there is a certain trick to getting the chocolate to stick onto the sides but I pretty much grabbed handfulls and slapped them onto the side in hope that they would stick. Made me realise that I wasted so much time getting the sides smooth when it didn't really need to be because the chocolate covered it all up and even unsmoothed it all. I did try tipping the cake on it's side but found that the cake started sliding off so that was a bad idea. The chocolate ended up all over the table and also melted on my hands and fingers - finger licking good after I was done =D.

        With the remaining cream I piped some cream flowers around and popped a cherry into the centre of each. For the writing I just melted some dark chocolate melts in a small plastic bag and cut the tip of a corner off and quickly piped the writing on.

        I was a little worried because I knew it was a little on the dry side and was glad I didn't do this for the party. So I arrived at Ryan's after work and he had kindly picked up the cake from my house before I got there to save it travelling too much in the heat. As soon as his mum saw me she was like 'You shouldn't have, you know we can't take it to dinner right?'. I said 'it's a present for you, your favourite'. She then proceeded to go through a few cake names and eventually guessed black forest. Probably a good thing because next year I can make something different for her birthday.
        As with last year I didn't get to try my cake. Ryan did say that both he and his mum though it was a dense cake and a touch dry but the cream did help. 'Why didn't you soak it in more of the kirsch?' - because I didn't want to overpower the cake silly. Well, it couldn't have been that bad because Ryan said his aunty absolutely loved it and when he went for another slice the next day he was sad to see that it had all disappeared.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fortune Cookies in Gourmet Flavours (17th October)

        So one weekend I thought to myself 'I want to make my own fortune cookies' - and so I did. In my younger years I went through a fortune cookie phase where I easily ate my way through boxes and boxes of fortune cookies. There's something about fortune cookies that makes them better than regular cookies. You also get the novelty of having to break it open to take out the small slip of paper that had the power to tell you your fortune ;). You can see what wiki says about fortune cookies.

        This is a little gem of a book which I bought cheaply from 'Lifetime Distributors' at my last workplace. It really has come in handy as I've used a fair few recipes from it, like my double choc chip chilli cookies that I've blogged about. Before I started I quickly hopped online and googled some fortune cookie sayings for my cookies. If I had pre-planned I could have got some nice and inspirational sayings rather than random generic ones. I just printed them out and cut them into strips.

I love how the batter is made of such few ingredients.

Recipe (adapted from Women's Weekly - Cookies)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup plain flour
  • 30g butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon flavouring/essence of your choice - optional
  • Small paper messages

        Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and then gradually beat in the sugar, making sure the sugar has dissolved between each addition. Fold in the sifted flour and butter and any flavourings you will be adding.

        I decided that I wanted to have 3 different flavoured cookies so instead of folding in the flavours together with the flour I left them out and added them into the batter once I split the mix into 3. I think I may have been a little light handed with the flavours as they were only faintly noticeable. Will have to add more next time.

        Now comes the hard fun part. Line a baking tray and, if you don't feel confident about circles, draw two circles on the baking paper to use as a guide. Even though the recipe does recommend that you only make 2 at a time, I was a bit ambitious and try to do 3 at a time. If I were you I'd stick to 2 at a time.
        Drop tablespoons of batter into the middle of the circle and spread out evenly with the back of the spoon. Bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees celcius (gas, fan forced oven) for 5 minutes or until gold around the edges.
        ***Edit*** I also should have added that you should use 2 baking trays so that while you're folding and shaping and then respreading the batter there is one tray in the oven cooking, ready to be switched over as soon as the cookies are done. As you're only baking 2 cookies at a time, you'll need to set aside a few hours to make a batch of these cookies. I spent all Sunday morning in the kitchen and only produced one bowl of cookies - approximately 25.

        Once you pull the tray out of the oven, there really is no time to lose (or take photos). Quickly loosen the cookies from the tray and pop a fortune slip in the middle of the circle and fold over pressing down the edges to help seal the cookie and then gently bend the cookie to make an indent in the middle of the semi circle. If you do this over the edge of a cup or bowl it helps to keep hold the cookie in shape while it cools and hardens. Cool on a wire rack.

        Fortune cookies are pretty much a version of the tuile. They are a little tricky to handle especially if it's your first time. I've made tuiles before but have been too slow to shape them so can't say I'm any good at it. My finger tips are also ultra sensative which makes it hard to handle the cookies straight out of the oven.
        You also need to make sure that you spread the batter out thinly and evenly or else they end up on the slightly chewy side - which was how mine were but they were tasty enough for people to overlook it. One complaint was that the papers got wedged into the cookie, a suggestion was maybe edible paper for the fortunes - good idea!

        I made these all while Mum was out of the house and when she came home and saw the bowl on the kitchen counter she asked 'Did you make them or buy them?'. My response to her question was 'What do you think Mum?', my sister just looked at her and laughed. When have I ever went and bought biscuits home? And display them nicely in a bowl and claim them as my own too. Oh mother... =D

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Toy Story 3, Casa Asturiana, Pasticceria Papa, Colefax Chocolates - Celebrating 10 years (9th July)

        So we're now over the huge milestone of 10 years together, it really does feel like a lifetime. To celebrate our milestone (4 months ago now), I took the Friday off work and we headed into the city to spend some quality time together. You may remember the strawberry muffin above which I baked for Ryan.

        We caught the train into the city and were super early for our 10:30am session of Toy Story 3 so headed next door where Ryan grabbed a quick bite to eat as he was famished. We also spotted that they had green tea lattes and had to order one to share. Ryan has had green tea lattes when he went to Japan however this was my first (thanks to Maria and her slight obsession of matcha which I caught too a while ago).

        I hadn't actually properly watched Toy Story 1 and 2 but Ryan wanted to watch 3 so I happily agreed for us to go see it. I loved it, would have helped if I had seen the previous ones but the little that I had seen was enough for me to not be totally lost. And yes, Ryan did shed a tear or two at the end, me being a sucker for emotional stuff had to get my tissues out.

        After the movie we were pretty hungry. Didn't have any particular place in mind but walking up and down Liverpool Street south had us ending up at Casa Asturiana for their lunchtime tapas deal. All tapas were $9 each.

        It was cosy inside, kind of did make you feel like you were in spain. Our waitress was courteous and friendly and ultra sufficient. We were one of the first diners at 12pm but it didn't take long for more people to fill the restaurant.

        I couldn't help but order myself a glass of Sangria. Ryan wasn't in the mood and his excuse was he was driving - not for a while! It was quite strong and didn't take much for me to get very giggly.

        I can't remember if we ordered the bread or if they offered to us complimentary. Just standard run off the mill mass produced white bread rolls.

        After perusing the menu we both realised neither of us had really had sardines before (I don't count the tinned variaty in the tomato sauce our parents exposed us to when we were young). The SARDINAS ESCABECHADAS was wonderful. The delicate flesh of the fish was simply marinated in some olive oil, vinegar and garlic and I'm not an olive fan (they are growing on me though) but the olives complimented the sardines beautifully.

        Ryan is a mushroom head (his nickname in high school was mushie too =D ) so I had to make sure we had the CHAMPINONES A LA  PLANCHA. Simply BBQ'd with white wine, garlic and parsley, they were nice and juicey.

        You can't have Spanish food and not have Chorizo. We had the CHORIZO A LA SIDRA which was cooked in cider. The taste of the cider came through strongly and was a great contrast to the saltiness of the chorizo. We only had 3 small dishes between us but were absolutely stuffed and walked out with satisfied bellies.

        When we walked out of the restaurant it was aboslutely bucketing down rain so not wanting to walk too far we wondered down to Capitol Square. Ryan starts reminiscing about his days in Japan when he spots this machine and pops in a few gold coins to play. He informs me that because gambling is illegal in Japan, this is what they usually do.

        For old times sake I convince Ryan to pop into one of the many photo machines upstairs. It took us a while to figure it all out but we finally managed to leave with a set of for mini card photos. It has been absolutely years and they started out as sticker photo machines for me, and the machines were not as highly technologically advanced (nor were they all in Japanese which made it hard to navigate).

        Upon leaving Capital Square I spot this little store opposite the entrance. They do alot of gourmet food products and alot of imported stuff too. Was very overwhelmed yet mesmerised by everything on the shelves, so overwhelmed that I left empty handed because I just had absolutely no idea where to start.

        As we were full from lunch and didn't have any stomach space for a dessert stop we come to an agreement that we will stop by Pasticceria Papa at Haberfield for some cheesecake. This was our second visit because we simply cannot resist the fluffy creamy cheesecake. Ryan bought us a whole (small) cake which I wasn't really expecting but yay! While we were in the area I had to also pop by Colifax Chocolates to grab a few samples to take home.

        I know that Ryan puts up with so much sharing so this time I bought us one each so that he didn't have to share with me (meant that I could only sample 2 different types instead of 4, but the things we do for love). The white cups were 'Acacia' which had a wattleseed ganache and the spirals were 'Urchin' which were a peppermint buttercream. They were both smooth and creamy and just utterly decadent. We both loved the mint sugar on the 'Urchins'. 
        The moment I had been looking forward too. What I love about this cheesecake is that the ricotta filling is just so ultra soft and fluffy and then there is a nice thin layer of biscuit type crust covering the filling. It's no ordinary cheesecake.

        Had some strawberries in the fridge so decided to throw some on top. So that's how we ended a day of celebration of our 10 years together. No fancy dinners, no dressing up, no bling or anything over the top. Just plain old good fun times together. And I love him even more today than I did yesterday =) Hehe okay that's enough slop for one blog post.

Casa Asturiana on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake, Pink Macarons, Rosewater Cupcakes - My first paid order

        So about a month or so ago I was contacted on facebook about a catering order by talented Miss Van Anh Nguyen. She loved my stuff so much that she was keen to pay me to bake a few items for her for a high tea shoe party she was hosting. I have had questions from people at work about wether I considered catering but because I love doing it so much as I hobby I really never thought much about it. I was a little suprised about the request but agreed to take the order.
        Knowing that she is also Coeliac I wanted to make stuff that she could actually eat. Macarons were requested so they were a given but she also requested a cake and some cupcakes.
        For the cake I decided to do a chocolate hazelnut (flourless) cake. I also made some hazelnut praline to decorate the cake, ended up just crushing it and sprinkling it over the chocolate ganache because my shards didn't look pretty enough. I really wanted to keep the cake for myself because I just loved how the finish came out.

        When I read that she wanted macarons I was nervous, these little temperamental but gorgeous little morsels strike fear in me every time I make them and I am yet to produce a perfect batch. They all taste fantastic but compared to the ones you buy, they were not exactly perfect looking, especially my feet.
        I actually had to make these twice as I forgot to age my egg whites for the day I wanted to make them and produced a failed batch. I then put aside some whites to age to make them again the next day. A little heavy handed on the food colouring too, but the previous batch was even brighter! My feet were too wide but I wasn't prepared to make a third batch. These were just plain shells with white chocolate ganache.

        Last but not least are the cupcakes, to keep with the girly pink theme I decided to make rosewater cupcakes. I bought some gluten free flour especially for these. Unfortunately they came out a bit flatter than I had imagined but I think it's because of the flour, first time using gluten free flour. The icing is simply lemon flavoured icing made of icing sugar and lemon juice with pink food colouring. Originally was going to decorate them with a single dried rose but I had a last minute request for letters to be iced on the cakes.

        Because the white icing didn't quite turn out I grabbed a tube of black writing gel I had to trace over the letters. It definately created some striking contrast against the pale pink icing. The next morning, my flower cupcake was runny and smudged because it was slightly slanted so with some dried roses I went to cover up the mishap. The other cupcakes now looked a little plain so I went and poked in a couple of roses on each cupcake to pretty them up.
        I left for work, telling my parents that someone would be coming to pick up the goodies during the day. At 3pm I receive an sms telling me that no one was answering the door. I started freaking out and made an excuse to leave work early to go home because I couldn't get in touch with any of my family members (who were close to home). Of all days Mum decides to go to the doctor and Dad was out. Mum said that because no one had come yet she thought she could quickly pop out but didn't realise that no one else was home. Anyway all dramas aside, and a good 30-45 minutes later Mum came home and the goods were picked up.
        The goods were well received by my very first customer and her high tea partakers. It was a bit stressful baking knowing that someone was actually paying for the finished goods. There was also a little bit of negotiating of pricing which I think I was way too generous about but seeing as it was my first order I wasn't sure where to benchmark my goods. I can say it was definately a learning experience for me too, I just look it as a way to build up my experience.

Photo from Van Anh Nguyen

Photo from Van Anh Nguyen

Photo from Van Anh Nguyen. The high tea party was also a shoe party for Dawn Lu Shoes.