Monday, October 17, 2022

Walnut caramel coffee slice, new beginnings and learning to breathe

Wow what happened there, I took a little break to run a cafe, blinked and there went 6 years. For real that just flew by.

Note to self, live every moment. I know you all learnt this a few years ago when COVID happened and everything shut down. But that's not what happened to me. Because I owned a cafe in Australia so I got up every single day put on a mask and went to work to keep that cafe running, do the admin, pay the staff so that hopefully there was still a cafe at the end of it all.

And then after 2 years came the end of restrictions, which was soul destroying because there was no way for the me to keep the cafe going.

Anyhoo I learnt a long time ago that endings are really just beginnings and I'm grateful for all the lessons I learnt, skills I gained and all the wonderful friends I made.

So I'm taking a little bit of time at the moment to focus on my health and my family. I'm working in a low stress job, focusing on some yoga training and learning to breath again.

And I'm blogging, because it's something I've always loved. But whoa everything's changed (but me) and it's taking me a little while to learn how to do everything. I said I owned a cafe in the suburb where I grew up. It was pretty old school and the people that came there were the sweetest bunch of people. It used to feel like inviting my friends over to my breakfast table, it wasn't fancy and everyone knew everyone else.

This is one of the cafe OG recipes, a simple old fashioned condensed milk 'caramel' slice. The staff used to bake this on site in the oven. We served it topped it with some walnuts but it's just as lovely plain if you prefer or drizzled with a little chocolate.

It's almost the opposite to the current crazes of fancy big cookie recipes out at the moment, it's so simple, you can eat a piece and still fit in your lunch. Plus it's perfect to freeze and you can slice it up after baking, freeze individual slices and pull out a piece to have for your afternoon tea or pop in your lunch bag.

xx Linda

Walnut Caramel Slice (makes 12 pieces)


1 cup self raising flour

1 cup desiccate coconut

1/2 cup brown sugar

125g melted unsalted butter (4 oz)

Caramel Layer

1 tin condensed milk

2 Tbsp golden syrup (US 2 TBSP plus 2 Tsp)

25g unsalted butter (7/8 oz)


1 cup chopped walnuts *I used 12 halves, you can substitute with pecans or drizzled chocolate

- grease (I lightly spray oil) and line a shallow rectangle baking tin (mine was27.5cm X 17.5cm X 3.5cm or 11" X 7" X 1.5 ") with baking paper and preheat oven to 180 C (355 F).

This is a link to the pan I used on Amazon

- pop the flour, coconut, brown sugar and melted butter into a bowl and mix together well to combine.

- press the mixture down evenly into the prepared baking tin.

- place in middle of preheated oven and bake for 10 - 12 mins until it's golden brown.

- remove from oven and while it's cooling make the caramel (don't turn the oven off you still need it). *note if you don't let the base layer cool a little bit at this stage the condensed milk caramel layer will sink into it and not spread as well.

Make the caramel layer 

- place condensed milk, golden syrup and butter into a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 1 minute, mix well. 

-Continue to microwave for 30 second bursts until a light golden colour and the mixture has thickened a little like the picture below. Don't go too far it's still got to cook for a little bit in the oven. Usually a total of 2 mins (thats 4 X 30 second bursts).

Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the cooked and slightly cooled base and bake for a further 10 -12 minutes the edges will bubble and start to turn brown. See picture of the finished slices to see what it should look like.

Remove from oven, if you are topping with walnuts gently sprinkle onto the top ensuring you do not touch the hot caramel

Allow to cool for a few hours until the caramel is set (you can place in the fridge for a few hours to speed the process up)

Cut into 12 pieces (4 along the long side and 3 on the short). Keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge. 

This slice can be frozen whole wrapped in plastic and placed in an airtight container for 1 month. Or sliced and wrapped into individual pieces in an airtight container. Just take out what you need from the freezer and allow to defrost in the fridge.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Ruby Rosewater Macarons

So it's here......the 4th chocolate Ruby Chocolate or RB1 Callebaut has been released in Australia and it's pink.

PINK I tell you.

Yup all it took to bring me back from blogging hiatus is pink chocolate.

Now I know there has been a little bit of instahype surrounding RB1 in Australia and who can really blame anyone. Pink chocolate is always instaworthy.

But does it live up to the hype?

Hiya ruby chocolate. 
Teacup, cutlery and tea strainer all Cristina Rae

To try it out I had a little bit of a taste test with my friend and her daughter a few nights ago. I did up a plate with some Callebaut white, dark, RB1 and some Lindt milk.

Truth is no one picked the Ruby as their favourite on the night but to be fair I had just had Indian food delivered before hand and I don't think we started off with the clearest palate.

So I've just tried it again and it's not bad and I think maybe it's even pretty good. Kinda not what I expected at first but it is growing on me. As described it is fruity and it has the lovely Callebaut texture that makes that brand my go to for white and dark chocolate.

To celebrate this new chocolate I've been in my kitchen creating and decided to start of with macarons 'cause they are kinda my thing.

Picture from my instagram feed

The shells are are a plain french almond macaron and the filling is a whipped ruby chocolate ganache buttercream with a touch of rose. Due to whipping the ganache and the addition of butter and sugar the RB1 chocolate flavour which is not overly robust does not really shine through as much as it could.  If you want the full ruby chocolate flavour experience I recommend making a regular ganache (ratio 3 parts chocolate 1 part cream).

I've decorated mine with a little bit of piped ganache, a strawberry crisp (which is like a strawberry whopper) and a gold soft pearl.

If you don't have any ruby chocolate handy you can substitute white chocolate and they would still be just as lovely.

Linda Vandermeer-McCubbin is a blogger, baker and author of the Children's cookbook Sweets on a Stick: More Than 150 Kid-Friendly Recipes for Cakes, Candies, Cookies, and Pies on the Go! Published in 2011 the book is still available online.

Ruby Rosewater Macarons (makes approx 30 filled macarons)

Fill the shells with the filling (included after recipe for shells) at least 1 day before you serve to get the correct consistency. Store in an airtight container in fridge and then bring to room temperature about 30 minutes prior to serving.

190 gram (6 5/8 oz)almond meal (almond flour)
190 gram pure icing sugar (6 5/8 oz powdered sugar)
190 gram granulated sugar (6 5/8 oz) 
48 grams water (1 5/8 oz)
140 gram egg whites aged split into 2 lots of 70grams each (5 oz split into 2 lots of 2 1/2oz each)*
pink food colour ice (I use gel type food color like Wilton)

*ageing egg whites refers to separating the yolks from whites and then leaving the whites to age for a few days. This can be done on the counter if your countries climate permits or in the fridge, wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and then pop a few holes in the top. Alternately you can pop fresh egg whites in the microwave on high for 10 seconds or so - I used the microwave method in this batch pictured. 

1. Mix the ground almonds and icing sugar together and pulse a few times in food processor to make almond meal finer. Do not over process as the meal can become oily. Sieve into a large bowl. Add colour and 70g (2 1/2 ounce) of the egg whites to the sugar/almond mixture but don’t mix in.

2. Place remaining 70g (2 1/2 ounce) of egg whites in bowl of mixer fitted with the whisk.

3. Pop granulated sugar and water into saucepan stir to combine and cook without stirring to 118C (245 F). Brush down the sides with a pastry brush dipped in water as required to avoid the sugar crystallizing. Once the mixture reaches 115C (240 F) start mixing the egg whites on high. Make sure you have a pouring shield on your mixer, when the sugar syrup reaches 118C (245 F)remove from heat and immediately pour in a thin stream down the side of the mixer bowl continuing to whisk on high.

4. Continue to whisk the meringue on high until the side of the bowl is only a little warm to touch, around 50C (120 F).

5. Add meringue mixture to almond mixture and using a large spatula fold the mixture together until it starts to shine and forms a ribbon that disappears back into the mixture after about 20 seconds.

6. Add the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a plain tip (or just cut the end of a disposable piping bag, that's what I do) and pipe in lines onto parchment lined baking sheets. To make the macarons as even as possible I apply a constant slow pressure to the piping bag and count a few numbers like up to 3 for each one. 

7. Set aside for about 30 minutes or until the macarons have formed a skin so that the macaron mixture does not stick to your finger when gently touched. If the weather is humid this step may take longer up to 2 hours. I pop on the aircon if it's humid at my house.

8. Meanwhile preheat oven to 140C (285 F)#. Once ready bake the macaroons for around 13 to 15 minutes depending on size, it may take longer, all ovens are different. If they are baked and you gently push on the side the tops will not move, if the tops do move do bake for another minute or 2. Also they should not be browned if they are reduce the heat for the next batch or bake for less time.

9. Once baked remove the baking trays and immediately slide off the macarons and the parchment onto the work surface and let cool completely before removing the shells.

10. Once cooled match disks into like sizes and sandwich together using the ganache.

# The recipe stipulates 140 C however my new house and kitchen I used the fan forced option at 130C (265 F) and it worked out lovely. 

Ruby rose whipped ganache buttercream
I used a Wilton Closed Star Tip 31 to pipe and decorate

240g (8 1/2 oz) RB1 chocolate (Callebaut Ruby Chocolate)
80g (2 3/4 oz)cream
50g (1 3/4 oz which is just under 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar)
1 Tbsp rose water (or to taste)
generous pinch salt flakes

Heat cream and add to chocolate, allow to sit a few minutes and then gently whisk until smooth. Cool until nearly set.

Add ganache and remaining ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until light and fluffy.

I love when people share my blog ideas and give credit. All posts contain original ideas, photography and recipes by Linda Vandermeer-McCubbin unless otherwise credited. Please feel free to link back to my blog for non commercial purposes.

Affiliate links may earn me money and contribute to supporting this blog.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

This is how we do - Book Week

We love book week here, pretty much because we love books. Our school has wonderful library staff whom we adore and a morning reading club which we have always attended.

Plus my kids love dressing up so book week is a no brainer.

We try to follow a rule of not buying shop bought costumes or spending a heap of money which is kinda hard because I can not sew and also because I am pretty much craftless. I have mentioned before how I can not use a hot glue gun without sticking my fingers together (true story every single time).

So I need to be extra creative, and my kids have to have a bit of a sense of adventure.

One year I sent Bubble as the paper bag princess in a huge brown paper sugar bag. On the morning of the parade I was emptying sugar into big containers and cutting holes out for the arms and neck. Some messy hair a bit of eye shadow 'soot' and a tiara and we had a perfect costume.

Sweet was the little mermaid using a costume my sister had made for a birthday party and some red hairspray.
Paper bag Princess and The Little Mermaid. 
Bubble was reluctant to get out of the car but in the end she loved it.

Another year The Destroyer went as the saucepan man from The Faraway Tree. Luckily all my saucepans came home intact.

Have saucepans in the kitchen ........hello no cost costume.

Bubble's grade 1 costume was Fancy Nancy, changed the morning of the parade from another costume I had all ready to go. However at the time she pretty much was Fancy Nancy so we had no difficulty at all in rustling up a costume in 15 minutes. She even wore an old pair of my high heels just like the cover of the book. The other kids were completely in awe of her red heels.

Fancy Nancy, the other kids were not even at school,
 but seriously who misses a change to get dressed up. Not us that's for sure :)

Last year Bubble decided not to participate and I made an Alice in Wonderland stuck in the white rabbit's house costume for Sweet. A few days before the parade Bubble changed her mind and I had to come up with another costume. Luckily Sweet's favourtie book at the time was Thelma the Unicorn and I had the cutest Puddle Duckling unicorn flower horn that I already had ordered just because they are amazingly gorgeous.

I popped down to the discount stores and bought 2 wigs and used one for her mane and one for her tail. I cut up some pink sparkly cardboard and stapled them around her hands and legs for quick diy 'hooves' added a bit of face paint and she was the cutest unicorn around.

Thelma the Unicorn costume - Flower unicorn crown from Puddle Duckling

The Destroyer had decided to go as the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. During the week I hand painted a cardboard clock. He popped on his suit and we found some ears and a bow tie in our dress up box. A little bit of white face paint, pink nose, white hair spray and some whiskers and he was ready to go.

White Rabbit and Alice in Wonderland, that is a kinda embarrassed smile as there were quite a few kids gathering around by this stage.

The Alice in Wonderland costume was of course the one I spent the most time on. But it was completely free using stuff I already had on hand. The box was something I had received in the mail, I used the kids paints and the dress was an old princess dress from our dress up box. I was a bit super proud of it considering I'm not really that good at craft.

I've put my thinking cap on for this year and I am trying to come up with some fun ideas for the kids. Let me know if your have any good inexpensive ideas.

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, mother, owner of The Biscuit Cafe and author of the children's cookbook Sweets on a Stick: More Than 150 Kid-Friendly Recipes for Cakes, Candies, Cookies, and Pies on the Go! Published in the US in 2011 the book is still available online at Amazon and other online book stores.

Affiliate links may earn me money and contribute to supporting this blog

I love when people share my blog ideas and give credit. All posts contain original ideas, photography and recipes by Linda Vandermeer-McCubbin unless otherwise credited. Please feel free to link back to my blog for non commercial purposes.