Cakes, bakes & flow­ers

Flow­ers and cakes make fine friends. Use fresh or crys­tallised flow­ers to cre­ate works of art.

NZ Gardener - 365 Days of Flowers - - Edible Flowers -

Fresh flow­ers can be used to dec­o­rate cakes by plac­ing them di­rectly on top of the cake, or with a thin di­vider to keep the petals from sink­ing into your cre­ation. Use a food safety bar­rier like In­ge­nious Ed­i­bles Safety Seal on the stems – you sim­ply dip the stems into the melted Safety Seal and they are coated with a wax-like food-safe ma­te­rial.

Or prac­tise the Vic­to­rian art of crys­tallis­ing whole flow­ers and petals for dec­o­rat­ing cakes and cup­cakes (see right for in­struc­tions). Be­cause roses are most fra­grant when they are on the verge of wilt­ing, they are ex­tra spe­cial when crys­tallised. Avoid white petals – they tend to turn grey.

APRI­COT DOUGH­NUT TRI­FLE WITH ROSE­MARY PRALINE Serves 8-12

“Dough­nuts in­stead of sponge – need I say more?” says recipe cre­ator Fiona Smith.

As you will no doubt be pur­chas­ing your dough­nuts a few days be­fore serv­ing this tri­fle, make sure they get nicely coated with the liq­uid to al­low them to soften. The praline re­ally needs to be made on the day as it gets sticky quite quickly in our sum­mer weather.

CRYS­TALLISED FLOW­ERS

Crys­tallis­ing flow­ers is easy. Choose your flower – roses and pan­sies are great – and care­fully brush whole flow­ers or petals very lightly with beaten egg white. Dust painted petals with caster sugar and leave in a warm place like a hot water cup­board to dry for sev­eral days.

In­gre­di­ents: • 1 cup chopped dried apri­cots • 400ml whole milk • 300ml cream • 1 vanilla bean, split length­wise • 6 egg yolks • 3 ta­ble­spoons caster sugar • 1 ta­ble­spoon corn­flour • 6-8 cin­na­mon-dusted dough­nuts • 800g bot­tled or canned apri­cot halves • cup brandy (op­tional) • 300ml cream, whipped • Rose­mary praline (recipe fol­lows) and crum­bled freeze-dried cher­ries to serve • Rose­mary flow­ers to serve Method: Put dried apri­cots in a saucepan with cup water. Bring to a boil, re­duce heat, cover and sim­mer for 20 min­utes. Drain and process to a puree. Set aside.

To make the cus­tard, put the milk and cream in a heavy-based saucepan with the vanilla bean and set over a gen­tle heat. Bring to just be­low a sim­mer; do not al­low it to boil.

Beat yolks, sugar and corn­flour in a large bowl. Re­move vanilla bean from the hot milk, scrap­ing the seeds back into the milk. Pour milk onto yolk and sugar mix­ture, stir­ring all the time. Turn heat down to very low and pour cus­tard back into saucepan. Stir­ring con­stantly, cook un­til it thick­ens and coats the back of a spoon. Trans­fer cus­tard to a bowl, cover with a piece of grease­proof pa­per to pre­vent a skin form­ing and chill in fridge.

To as­sem­ble, halve the dough­nuts cross­wise (save one whole to gar­nish) and spread with apri­cot puree then put back to­gether. Break the dough­nuts into pieces and put in bot­tom of a tri­fle dish. Strain bot­tled apri­cots, re­serv­ing liq­uid. If us­ing brandy, add enough apri­cot juice to bring the to­tal liq­uid to 150ml. If not us­ing brandy, use 150ml apri­cot juice. Pour over dough­nuts and top with apri­cot halves. Spread cus­tard over, cover and re­frig­er­ate un­til needed. Be­fore serv­ing, whip cream and slice re­served dough­nut. Top tri­fle with cream and gar­nish with the sliced dough­nut, freeze-dried cher­ries, praline and rose­mary flow­ers.

For the praline:

• 3 sprigs rose­mary • cup sugar

Line 2 bak­ing trays with bak­ing pa­per. Put rose­mary sprigs on one tray in one layer. Have a pair of tongs and a fork ready. Put the sugar in a saucepan with 2 ta­ble­spoons water and bring to the boil, stir­ring con­stantly un­til sugar dis­solves. Boil for 7-8 min­utes, with­out stir­ring, un­til mix­ture turns golden. Work­ing quickly, pour toffee over rose­mary then us­ing the tongs, grab the rose­mary and move to the sec­ond tray, us­ing the fork to un­stick. Leave for 5 min­utes to har­den and cool. Smash the toffee into pieces.

ELDER­FLOWER SYRUP CAKE

Home­made elder­flower syrup has a rep­u­ta­tion for its del­i­cate, flo­ral flavour. This al­most-vanilla flavour is loved by food­ies, who add it to ev­ery­thing from cor­dials to pan­cakes and desserts. But gar­den­ers are di­vided on el­ders due to their weedy ten­den­cies. They are not such a prob­lem in the North Is­land, but in the South these suck­er­ing, shrubby trees grow wild, and are for­ever spread­ing due to their seed-laden ber­ries beloved by birds. Which does mean that South Is­land food­ies could prob­a­bly for­age for the flow­ers es­sen­tial to make this charm­ing cake (al­though do con­firm any flow­ers you find have not been sprayed be­fore us­ing). In­gre­di­ents for elder­flower syrup: • 20 elder­flower blos­soms (trim off branches and leaves) • 3-4 lemons • 2 litres of water • 1.5kg sugar

In­gre­di­ents for cake: • 100g brown sugar • 200g but­ter (soft­ened) • 2 eggs • 200g self-rais­ing­con flour

In­gre­di­ents for ic­ing: • 1 cups ic­ing sugar • 1 ta­ble­spoon milkodit or water • 25g but­ter (soft­ened) To make the syrup: Com­bine le­mon juice and water in a big pot. Put in elder­flower blos­soms, then cover. Leave in the fridge for 2-3 days. Strain and dis­card blos­soms. Over low heat, stir in sugar un­til dis­solved. To make the cake: Pre­heat oven to 170°C. Whisk to­gether but­ter and sugar. Whisk the eggs with 2 ta­ble­spoons of elder­flower syrup then add to the but­ter-sugar mix. but­ter-sugar mix.

Gently fold in the flour, and stir un­til smooth. Pour the mix into a well-greased cake tin. If you have an ex­tra sweet tooth, sprin­kle the top with a lit­tle more brown sugar. Put it in the oven for 30 min­utes, or un­til a knife or skewer stuck into the mid­dle of the cake comes out clean. Driz­zle more elder­flower syrup over the cake while still hot. To make the ic­ing: Us­ing a wooden spoon, mix all in­gre­di­ents in a medium bowl un­til smooth. You can add ex­tra milk or water for a glossier shine.

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