The Christmas contender. White chocolate lamingtons.

(White chocolate lamington)

Coconut and white chocolate remind me of white Christmases, of which I’ve experienced a grand total of 1. It happened several years ago when we visited B’s parents in Northern Ireland over the holidays and on Christmas morning, it partially snowed, much to my excitement and awe. We got dressed, tumbled down the stairs and not long after, the guests arrived and were sitting down to a very traditional lunch of roast turkey, baked ham, sprouts and potato salad, followed by mince tart, Christmas pudding and iced fruit cake. Later we tried with modest success to make a dent in an impossibly large tin of Quality Street that someone had unwrapped.

This Christmas will be celebrated at my parents’ place in sunny Sydney, hopefully feasting on typical Summer fare : oysters, prawns, whole baked fish and a family favourite – cold glazed ham.

As usual for most of our gatherings, I have been charged with the responsibility of supplying the dessert. I’ve been vacillating between wanting to make something chock full of traditional yuletide spices and dried fruit, while also thinking that perhaps we should be having something lighter with plenty of seasonal mangoes, peaches and cherries.

After making these white chocolate lamingtons however, I think we may have a real contender for our final Christmas course.

White chocolate lamingtons :

For the cake :

170g (6 ounces) couverture white chocolate, melted
2 eggs
240g (8 1/2 ounces) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g (3 1/3 cups) plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
220g (1 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
125g (9 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 180’C (350F). Line a 8 x 12 x 1 1/2 inch rectangular baking tin with greaseproof paper and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk until all are incorporated. Add the white chocolate and beat until well mixed through.

Transfer the batter to the baking tin and bake for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before cutting and glazing.

To coat the lamingtons, melt 220g couverture white chocolate with 100g milk in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Remove from heat and stir, then allow to cool and thicken before using. If your kitchen is too warm, place the bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes or so, to help speed things up. Cut the cake into squares, trimming off the crust. Dip each square into the glaze, then roll in a bowl of dessicated coconut.

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Raspberry, white chocolate and lavender muffins

(Raspberry, white chocolate and lavender muffins)

I’ll sing of the walls of the well
And the house at the top of the hill
I’ll sing of the bottles of wine
That we left on our old windowsill
I’ll sing of the usual spin
Getting sadder and older, oh love
–Cliquot, by Beirut.

I must be getting old. Ahem. Older, I mean. Even if you discount the more rigorous application of face cream, the ownership of bed socks and my inability to use the word ‘sick’ when not referring to the fact I feel physically unwell, other signs well and truly exist.

Perhaps it’s just that I’m noticing the little things more. Like how pleasing it is to experience the crinkle of dried leaves underfoot. Or how beautiful it is after the rain (that we’ve experienced plenty of this Winter), when umbrellas are downed and fallen leaves resemble pasted shadows on slick pavements. There was a time when I recall constantly being in a rush to be somewhere different to where I already was. Wanting to be taller, yearning to be older; needing to acquire, consume, and never feeling satisfied.

These days I don’t mind that age is holding my hand gently. Age stays the hand of the girl who once threw a head of broccoli against the kitchen wall in anger. A spray of green flew right back at her, as though Spring had sprung in the room. Now age and I cross the road arm in arm, pointing out those little things that are capturing my attention all over again. Like the pleasure of those extra salty, extra crunchy bits at the bottom of a chip packet, or one bite of cake and one sip of tea, repeated until either or both runs out.

Sometimes I want to let go and run until my legs are screaming and I’m back there again – needing, wanting, acquiring, consuming. But age won’t allow it.

So yeah, I must be getting old, and you know what – it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

(Muffins reminds me of being a kid. Chocolate was always my preferred flavour but now I’m starting to better appreciate the bittersweet, slightly sour, occasionally salty nature of getting older. So raspberry and white chocolate it is.)

Raspberry, white chocolate and lavender muffins :
(based on Alice Medrich’s recipe in Pure Dessert)

190g plain flour
65g wholemeal flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried lavender
2 large eggs
scant 2/3 cup sugar
235ml skim milk
65g unsalted butter, melted
140g frozen raspberries
100g white chocolate, chopped
crushed pink pralines to garnish, optional

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 205’C. Line the muffin tin with pleated paper liners.

In a medium bowl, mix the flours, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together. Whisk in the milk, butter and dried lavender. Pour the wet mixture over the flour mixture and fold gently until all of the dry ingredients are moistened but the batter is still very lump and uneven. Add the frozen berries and chocolate and fold until just distributed throughout the batter. Do not try to create a smooth, homogenous-looking batter, or your muffins will be tough.

Divide the batter among muffin cups. Sprinkle some pink pralines over each muffin. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Toothpick inserted into batter should come out clean.

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Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla bean buttercream


(Chocolate butter cupcakes)

This week, I’m counting down a little nervously to the day I start whipping up a huge batch of these cupcakes for a friend’s wedding. I’ve baked in bulk before, but never at home with a pint sized mixer and a single oven. For weeks now, I’ve been worrying over the little things that could possibly go wrong, including the amount of time I will have to make these, as I’m trying to fit it in, inbetween work and other commitments. Mind you, I’m extremely excited about the task and can’t wait to get stuck into the cake-baking and buttercream-mixing. In the meantime, I have cartons and cartons of eggs on my kitchen counter, a dining table taken over by a mountain of packing boxes, a fridge full of butter blocks and containers of chocolate ganache, and I’m half way through assembling the presentation/cutting cake. Fingers crossed, this whole operation is going to turn out as smoothly and as sweetly as….. vanilla bean buttercream.


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