Tuesday 19 June 2012

Christmas baking 2012 - Part 1

EOFYXCs (aka, End Of Financial Year Xmas Cakes)

You can buy cakes, but you can't buy time, making these cakes rather special!  This is the second time I have made Christmas cakes by my end-of-financial-year rule.  The idea is to make them before 30 June so they have time to mature into beautifully rich and moist cakes, ready for eating.  I gave one each to my parents and in-laws last year and they loved them.

These cakes fill your kitchen/house with beautiful aromas while baking.  It's a great thing to do in the middle of an Australian winter.  If you're making these as gifts, it'll also free up your November/December to enjoy the sunshine.

Here are the ones I made this year on 17 June 2012:

I adapted my recipe from the Rich Fruit Cake recipe in Country Women's Association: Cakes, 2009, page 26.

Here's what went into them (for 2 x 20 cm round cakes and 1 x 25 cm square cake):
  • 1 kg sultanas
  • 710 g currants (they were all I had left in the cupboard)
  • 500 g raisins
  • 500 g crystallised ginger, chopped
  • 200 g mixed peel
  • 300 g walnuts
  • 540 g glace cherries (I like random measures!)
  • ~4 tsp mixed spice
  • ~1 tsp salt
  • ~4 tsp ground cinnamon (I roasted 4 cassia sticks in the warming oven and enlisted help of hubby to grind with mortar and pestle)
  • ~4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • To soak fruit in: ~1 cup dry sherry (original recipe asks for sweet sherry but I only had dry McWilliam's Royal Reserve dry sherry) + "happy" glug of brandy (as much/little as you'd like. I used St Agnes 3 Star brandy)
  • 600 g butter (original recipe would have required 1 kg but I found this was too much from last year's results)
  • dollop of molasses (I have a knack for not measuring! There was plenty of sugar from the fruit in this so I decided to cut out the sugar altogether and instead at a touch of molasses for flavour/colour)
  • 2 dozen eggs
  • 1 kg plain flour
  • 200 self raising flour

(given the large quantities in this recipe, you may have to do this in 2 mixing bowls and add each quantity of ingredients in halves)
  1. On the day/night before baking, get the biggest mixing bowl you have (if not a clean bucket!) and soak the fruit in sherry/brandy.  I only managed to fit the currants, raisins, glace cherries and mixed peel into my bowl, so these got soaked in sherry and brandy.  Next time, I would get a bigger container so I could soak all my fruit.
  2. On the day of baking, add walnuts to the mixed fruit.
  3. In a separate bowl, melt the butter, and then add the spices, salt and molasses.  Mix.
  4. Into a separate bowl, crack the eggs and whisk/beat to combine.  Tip eggs into butter mixture and mix until even.
  5. Pour egg/butter mixture over fruit/nuts.
  6. Weigh out flours.  Add to wet ingredients.  Mix until combined.  Add extra brandy/sherry/water if mixture looks too dry.
  7. Spoon into baking tins.  Tap tins on benchtop/floor to ensure the cake batter settles.  You don't want gaps.
  8. Bake at 140 degrees C (if you have a fan-forced oven) / 150 deg C (if not) for 2 hours.  Although I didn't do this, I would have covered my cakes with foil for at least the first hour of baking to prevent the cakes from drying.  After a post-baking chat with the master baker (aka my English mother in-law who's full of baking wisdom), I realised most recipes call for fruit cakes to be baked with foil to seal in the goodness.  Traps for young players!!
While the cakes look OK, I cut part of the square one to see the texture inside.  Unfortunately it was a bit dry.  I will be pouring brandy over these every now and again until Christmas, so I'm hoping that will add some much needed moisture.

I won't be using the loose-base tin again.  I found that the butter seeped out the bottom while baking.  That could have been a reason why my square cake (baked in the loose-base tin) was a little dry.  I can't check the round cakes - they're gifts!  Fingers crossed they're not as dry.

When the cakes cooled, I poured brandy over the top and wrapped them.  They're now sitting in a cupboard waiting for the next "drink".  They'll get a sip every now and again til they're wrapped up as gifts.

The fruit and nut mixture (not all of it is in this bowl):

The round cakes:

The square cake (you can see where the butter seeped out at the base - I won't be using a loose-base tin next time.  They're good for tarts, not so good for heavy fruit cakes):

Monday 18 June 2012

My charming Cielo Sportif Racer SE


Waiting for this little beauty to take shape has been like waiting for a truffle to grow.  My hubby sowed the seed sometime in Oct 2011 by sending me this link: http://cielo.chrisking.com/bikes/sportif-racer-stainless/.  We had just come back from a trip to the US which included navigating our way by bike to the Chris King factory in Portland, Oregon.  Of course, we had to take a happy snap in front of their branded delivery truck.  A nearby taco truck driver chuckled at us - two tourists in an industrial zone.  I knew I had to bring a bit of Portland back to Melbourne. 

After 9 months of patiently waiting, my frame (the women's frame) and fork finally arrived.  And just as Cameron from Cielo promised, it was worth the wait.  From the outset, I was impressed with how it was packaged - it was super neat, secured at a number of places by form-fitting card inserts and taped with kraft tape so the entire thing was recyclable.  More businesses should care like Cielo/Chris King do!!  I also found my Chris King hub set in this box (R45 ceramic bearings).  Super smooth :)

I was torn between the original Cielo steel fork and the Enve 2.0 road fork which I bought as an alternative to keep the weight down.  The Enve fork has been installed, but I'm saving the steel Cielo fork for another special bike.

Here are some pics of the final build (thanks to my fabulous hubby who deserved a case of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in return).  You can see our young broccoli plants growing in the background too!


I believe part of this frame's long gestation (9 mths - just like a real baby!) came about from its side-trip to Colorado.  Cielo sent it to their former powder coater in CO "for the special treatment on the SS frame that provides the three dimensional abrasion that is the logo on the downtube," as I was informed.  While I'm far from learned about powder coating or metal finishing, I look at these logos and wonder how they get the different finishes despite it all being the same stainless steel.  I guess that's what makes Cielo/Chris King so cool!

Mmm, mango ceramic hubs...

DiPell bar tape - handmade in Melbourne :)

"I'm not worthy!!" - can't believe I have a bike that's built by Chris King.

I got my wheels made by Andy, proprietor and perfectionist at Kaos Custom Bikes.  You won't find a more pedantic, high quality wheel builder.  He introduced me to the Melbourne-made DiPell bar tape. 

Sadly, I haven't had a chance to try this sweet rig out yet (unless putting it on the indoor trainer at home on a rainy day to watch The Castle counts).  Dirt is not allowed to touch this bike yet and it's currently wet and wintry in Melb.  But I'm hoping to take it out to the Dandenongs for a long hill ride this weekend.  Praying for crisp winter sunshine!

While it's probably not going to help me win Strava QOMs (weighing in at 7.4 kg), that has never been part of the gameplan.  This is a bike made by people who care, which is why I got it.  It's a beautifully made work of artistic craftsmanship (happy to moot this with any copyright nerds) with a whole lot more charm and personality than the masses of crabon on Beach Rd.  (@Bike Snob NYC: come ride Beach Rd!).

Thanks to my do-it-all hubby for putting this beautiful bicycle together for me, Cielo for their beautiful frame work and attention to detail in EVERYTHING,  Chris King for their buttery smooth cermic hubs, and, not to forget, Mr Kaos for his super neat wheels :)

Happy riding y'all!

First ride update, 23 June 2012

Went for a quick spin with hubby up to Port Melbourne.  It's a lively bike.  Feels a whole lot more sprightly than my 2003 Giant TCR1 (now converted to the singlespeed commuter).  The steel frame is nice and stiff.

The Enve bars have nice drops in just the right place, and very comfy wide top bits to rest your palms on.  They will make for good climbing. 

The Chris King ceramic hubs roll buttery smooth.  Funnily enough, they got some attention on my maiden voyage.  While waiting at the Kerferd Rd traffic lights, a pedestrian was looking at me like I had something stuck on the back of my leg.  He then said, "Most people probably won't appreciate this, but those are some really nice hubs."  Thanks random stranger!  I smiled and replied, "Yep, thanks - they're fresh out of the Chris King factory."  And finally, I can't say it better than Mr Akiyoshi Takamura, who has said of Chris King hubs: "It rolls good with angry bee sound".  Ticks all round.