Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekend Cooking: The Sweet Life by Kate Bracks

A few weeks ago now, our local bookstore held an event with Kate Bracks, the winner of the last series of Masterchef here in Australia. I actually didn't watch any of that series of Masterchef, so only had a vague idea of who she was but the event was a chance to catch up with friends and there was an inference that there would be cupcakes on offer so I was happy to go.

I also try to support the bookstore and buy something whenever they do have an event, so I purchased this cookbook. As I was driving home I did contemplate how wise that was given that I really didn't know much about Kate Bracks, but having now spent time going through the cookbook a couple of times, I don't think it is a purchase that I will regret.

Kate was incredibly generous with her time. We (being Bree and I) spend a lot of time talking to us about  several topics. One was getting your kids involved in cooking which was clearly something that she is passionate about. Our kids are at different stages but I talked bout the little chef and the fact that he loves to cook things but not necessarily to try the things he cooks (except what he cooks at school apparently) and Bree talked about engaging her younger children. We also talked about the process she went through when creating the cookbook which was actually really fascinating to listen to. She had roughly organised the chapters, tested the recipes repeatedly until she was happy with them, then sending the recipes off to friends/volunteers who tried the recipes to see if the instructions were clear and then to a professional recipe editor - who knew there was such a thing?

One of the other things we touched on was her future plans include her website which will include a kids club section with recipe videos which sounds fantastic as the little chef and I like to sit down and look at cooking videos together. At this stage the website isn't up yet, but I am looking forward to when it is!

In this video, Kate talks about the cookbook including some of her family's favourite recipes from the book.




I should probably talk about the book itself which focuses on sweet treats of all types, hence the title The Sweet Life. There has clearly been a lot of thought put into how to put this book together. There are nine chapters touching on different techniques: syrups and sauces, meringues, custards and sabayons, ice creams and sorbets, frozen desserts, gelatine, pastry, cakes and puddings and baked treats. Each chapter is then broken into two parts. There are the basics and then beyond the basics. For example, in the gelatine chapter the basics includes recipes for Strawberry Mousse, Blackcurrant Jelly and Earl Grey Panna Cotta and then in beyond the basics there is Turkish Delight, Plum and Red Wine Mousse and Mango Panna Cotta with Orange Blossom Jelly.

Every recipe has been photographed (which I love in a cookbook), many of them includes suggestions for variations and the other thing that I love is that each recipe has been given a visual rating as to how difficult it is to make. If the recipe has one spoon, then the recipe should be "simple and relatively quick to master" ranging through to a four spoon recipe which is for "the avid home cook who wants a bit more of a challenge". The other thing that I was really impressed by is that, in addition to your normal recipe index, there is also a page that specifically lists which recipes are suitable for those that deal with food intolerances which is a great idea!

The final chapter in the book brings together all the techniques in the book and gives us some of those four spoon recipes that would be at home in a restaurant; Chocolate Terrine with Spiced Praline, Mandarin Oil and Creme Fraiche (yum), Buttered Popcorn Ice Cream with Bitter Caramel and Salted Almond Crumb and Raspberry and Hazelnut Tarts with Poached Meringue and Frangelico Syrup! Yum! I don't think I would be making any of these recipes any time soon but they are very pretty to look at.

There are however lots of other recipes that I could see myself making ranging from Bung in Chocolate Cake, Baked Honey and Rosemary Apples, Little Lime Meringue Pies, Blueberry Croissant Pudding, Lime Curd and Coconut Slice, Raspberry and White Chocolate Puddings and.....well, lots more. If the little chef didn't have a hazelnut allergy I would be making Embarrassingly Simple Chocolate Hazelnut Pastries all the time!

Today though, I am making Little Lemon Syrup Cakes, so I am including the recipe for that below.

In my experience there are a couple of different types of cookbooks. There are those that are pretty objects - gorgeous presentation, yummy looking recipes but when it comes to picking a recipe to cook they are not all that accessible. The other type is a cookbook that you can find numerous recipes that you want to cook out of. The best type though is one that combines both of these, and I would think that this book is one that I will cook out of time and time again!

Lemon Syrup Cakes

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes
Makes: 8

Cakes

125g butter, at room temperature, chopped
165g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
185g (1 1/4 cups) self raising flour
Pinch of salt
80ml (1/3 cup) fresh lemon juice

Syrup


80ml (1/3 cup) fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest, optional
110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar


  1. Preheat the over to 170 celsius. Grease and flour 8 holes of large (1/2 cup capacity)  muffin tins and line the bases with a small round of baking paper (Alternatively you can line the tin with paper muffin cases.)
  2. Use electric beaters to cream together the butter, sugar and zest until pale. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour and salt, followed by the lemon juice.
  3. Divide evenly among the muffin tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of a cake cakes out clean.
  4. Meanwhile, to make the syrup, combine the lemon juice, zest and sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat without boiling until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat until medium and simmer for 1 minute.
  5. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, loosen them from the edge of the tin. Prick them with with a skewer all over and then spoon the syrup evenly over each cake (you may not use up all the syrup).
  6. All the cakes to cool for 5-10 minutes in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack, discarding the small round of baking paper.
Yum! They smell and taste delicious! The photo above is from my own efforts today. I should clarify and say that I actually used a friand tin to cook them in because I have had that darn tin in the drawer for years (no exaggeration) and had never used it, so I decided today was the day. Also, the little chef was assisting and forgot the rule about only filling the tin up three quarters so they are a bit overfilled but that has meant that there are some really tasty crunchy bits. He did taste the batter and then the finished cake and exclaim that it was very lemony. Ummm..... yes.




Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post. 

21 comments:

  1. A celeb chef I have never heard of - how cool! I will be on the look out for her book!

    I like anything lemon flavored(!) and these lemon syrup cakes look really good!

    I love working with my kids in the kitchen too. Actually spent an hour today with my youngest making tabooleh. I think I spelled that wrong...tabouleh?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think there are a few ways you can spell tabbouleh! Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  2. Marg, I am in awe at the number of blogs you have. Thank you for taking the time to comment on my simple chicken dish. I do like just taking what is on hand and making something up. One thing I found most useful is a book I have which lists what ingredients go with what. That stops you going too far off the rails.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carole, the list is possibly a bit misleadiong. I only really update three of these on a regular basis.

      That book does sound like a good tool to have access too.

      Delete
  3. Sounds like a great book and a terrific time at the bookstore! I don't know her but I'll look out for the book, seems like one I'd enjoy. The lemon cakes look so good, I love lemon and those are really lemony!

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  4. I have copied the recipe and hopefully will make them. We love lemony things in our house. I recently found a small vintage Penguin book of chocolate recipes and was thinking it would be fun to do a blog post of that w/ one of the recipes. You have now inspired me to do so. Hope to get to it w/in the next couple of weeks. Thank you for your inspiration. Pam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love to see you do a post on a vintage Penguin book!

      Delete
  5. I love the idea of kids' videos on the website. I will check that out when available.
    The lemon syrup cakes look and sound delicious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope they are up soon because I am definitely interested to watch them.

      Delete
  6. Your lemon syrup cakes look delicious Marg! It sounds like you and Bree had a wonderful time talking to Kate who provided some great tips on cooking with kids.
    Loving this segment :-) Makes me feel hungry....I'm off to dinner at my parents house tonight where tea and dessert are always on the cards- YUM!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Always great when someone else cooks! Hope you enjoyed your dinner.

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  7. Lemon is one of my favorite flavors, so these sound wonderful. And what's a little overfilled tin? The cakes look delicious. From the video, Kate seems very friendly and approachable.

    BTW: I've edited quite a few cookbooks over the years, and indeed editing cookbooks is a special skill with its own set of rules and conventions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sure it is. I guess I just didn't think about the fact that there would be that degree of specialisation.

      Delete
  8. It's great that she finds ways to involve kids in the kitchen... and includes photos in the cookbook. Your lemon cakes look delicious!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it is really important to do that!

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  9. These lemon cakes sound wonderful but could you
    help me out a bit? I'm from Massachusetts so
    would like to know how much 125g of butter would be and also what temperature I should use.
    350?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 125g is 4.4 ounces and the temperature would be 340F

      Delete
  10. Those lemon syrup cakes look so good! Now I want some! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are all gone now I am afraid, but the little chef has requested that they be made again soon!

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  11. Thanks Marg!

    ReplyDelete

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