Friday, 31 July 2015

Earring organiser

Every girl has a thing. It might be shoes, handbags, make up, glossy fingernails or silk scarves. My thing is earrings. They're the one accessory that I can't leave the house without wearing. They don't need to be fancy or elaborate, but they do need to be worn.

I've collected a fair few pairs of earrings over the years. Some are cheap, everyday earrings and easily replaceable. Others (usually gifts) are more valuable, special occasion earrings or parts of jewellery sets. The one thing they all have in common, though, is the issue of storage.

Up until recently, my everyday earrings lived in a small makeup bag. The only way to find a matching pair to wear each morning was to dump them all onto a flat surface, pull them apart, select one then rustle through the rest in search of a partner. Often I'd select a few different options and the first matching partner I found declared that pair the winner for the day.

Which one goes with which?
I figured there must be a better way to tackle this each day.

Enter social media. Ideas like the one at the bottom of this page have been popping up in various timelines for a while. I like the way an everyday sewing box keeps pairs of earrings together without taking up too much space. They can also be tucked away in a cupboard or drawer instead of being out on display.

Last weekend, I finally got around to sorting our my earrings for myself. The process began by purging single earrings and random butterfly clasps. A $10 sewing box from The Warehouse has become an earring apartment building, where my everyday earrings happily live in pairs and can cohabit with pairs that are a different shape, style or colour. No more piles of earrings on the bed every morning!

Earring flatmates - pairs that can live with another without getting lost.
My special occasion earrings and sets still live in their boxes while my everyday necklaces and accessories are happy hanging out on their jewellery doll.

Jewellery doll
(By the way, I'm as surprised as anyone that I'm actually in a position to share a tip for organising stuff! Whoever would have thought?!)

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Wellington Regional Sugarcraft Competition 2015

The Wellington Regional Sugarcraft Competition and Exhibition was on at The Dowse this weekend. This small exhibition of competition entries provides great cakespiration for the sugarcraft minded, expert decorators, or wannabes like me. There were also goodies to purchase on the way in and out, so I managed to add a few more silicone moulds to my collection of decorating stuff.

There are 18 different categories ranging from formal wedding cakes to miniature cakes, floral sprays, painted plaques and various novelty items. There was a bit of a pirate theme going on in many of the categories and thankfully only two minion cakes. I was sad to see many yellow labels saying "damaged in transit". It must be gut wrenching to spend hours putting in such care and attention only to have your masterpiece not quite look as you'd intended it to.

Here are the cake designs that particularly caught my eye.

I like the use of embossing to create a textured fabric look.
This cake was decorated by a 10 year old.

I love the interwoven edging around this cake.
This is the cake I most wanted to reach out and touch.

This clever macaw was too cute to pass by.

A simple and effective design,
beautifully decorated by yet another talented 10 year old.

A pirate chest of treasures.

This is the perfect cake for someone who sews or is a craft expert.
I gave this cake my vote for the people's choice award.

A very detailed sewing machine.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

White chocolate mud cake

Every baker needs a go to chocolate mud cake recipe. Mine is the decadent chocolate cake that has never once let me down. But what about white chocolate? Well, I think I've found it. I've made this white chocolate mud cake twice now and it's worked perfectly both times. It's super easy and made by hand - you don't even need a cake mixer.

I decorated this cake as a surprise present for my friend's 40th birthday today. There is a layer of passionfruit buttercream hiding beneath the fondant. Her delighted reaction to the inside and outside of the cake confirmed that I'm onto a winner with this recipe.

White chocolate mud cake

  • 250 g butter, chopped
  • 200 g white chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups (330 g) sugar or caster sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup (140 g) self raising flour
  • 1 3/4 cups (245 g) plain flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 t vanilla essence
  1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Lightly grease and line a 20 cm cake pan.
  2. Melt together butter, white chocolate, sugar and milk in a medium sized saucepan over a low heat. Keep gently stirring to combine but do not let the mixture boil.
  3. Sift flours together and blend in chocolate mixture with combined eggs and vanilla essence.
  4. Pour into pan. Bake for 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours until cooked when tested. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Frost with buttercream frosting or white chocolate ganache. Decorate with white chocolate curls or fondant.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Clearview Estate wine tasting

Clearview Estate in Hawkes Bay is a winery that started as a bare plot of land 30 years ago. It's proximity to the coast means that the sea breeze prevents rot and mildew from forming so fruit can stay on vines longer, resulting in fuller flavoured product as the fruit is riper. This also translates to a higher alcohol content.

Owner Tim Turvey, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Elton John, is easily the most entertaining wine tasting host whose company we've had the pleasure of. He has a story for every occasion - plus a few more - and some great advice to live by. For example, "Wine should be drunk morning, noon and night." Also, his key message for the night: cellar your wine. It's easy to do: just buy more than you drink. You can even start by stowing a few bottles in a box under your bed. In a few years' time, you'll have a lovely surprise once you find the bottles and discover the treasures they've become. Apparently 92% of wine sold in New Zealand is consumed within 8 hours of purchase, but cellared wine will grow and develop in flavour over time, yielding very different results.

We had been advised in advanced to take cabs home as there would be plenty of tastings - and there certainly were. Eleven different samples were on the tasting menu, meriting several more additions to our growing wine list.

2014 Black Reef Blush. This smooth, dry style rosé is served slightly chilled but was actually too overpowering for my taste buds. Tim advises always keeping a bottle of rosé in the fridge next to the milk so that it's ready to drink at any time.

2014 Gewurztraminer. This spicy aromatic wine had strong ginger undertones and a dry finish. It was easily my favourite wine of the evening.

2014 Te Awanga Sauvignon Gris. Sauvignon gris is a new blend for me. It is barrel fermented, has a strong pear flavour and can age for 8-10 years. It was bottled for the first time in late April 2015, has 14% alcohol and a low acid finish. I'm intrigued by this wine; it's a maybe for the wine list.

2014 Te Awanga Chardonnay. Hand picked and tank fermented for 8 weeks, I was looking forward to this unoaked chardonnay. However, its overbearing sweetness put it onto my no list.

2014 Reserve Chardonnay. An interesting fact about this chardonnay: it was fermented in 60% new oak from French oak trees that were 200 years old. 200 years! This resulted in a deeper, rich colour but I couldn't get past the overpowering oakiness. I'm glad I don't have expensive taste as this chardonnay was twice the price of the Te Awanga chardonnay.

2014 Cape Kidnappers Syrah. I'm come to learn that syrah is really not my grape, even though it results in a beautiful, deep red colour. Very fruity and smoother than I expected, it's still too strong for me.

2014 Cape Kidnappers Merlot Malbec. This 60% merlot 40% malbec blend was pretty smooth. I preferred it to the syrah but it's still a no for me.

2013 Two Pinnacles Malbec (Reserve). Way. Too. Heavy. For. Me.

2013 Old Olive Block (Reserve). This wine was an interesting combination of varietals, mixing merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and malbec. I wasn't the first one at our table to notice how much it resembled a heavy cough syrup. Ahem.

Sea Red NV. This sea red was the first ever red dessert wine made in New Zealand. Apparently it goes well with blue cheese and chocolate cake, which would have been nice to test out. I still don't quite know what to make of a red dessert wine.

I'm now really keen to visit Clearview Estate Restaurant for lunch next time I'm in Hawkes Bay

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Jelly tip resurgence

New Zealand is currently experiencing a jelly tip resurgence. Although it has been a decade or threee since I've had a jelly tip ice cream, last month's rumours of a new Whittaker's chocolate flavour instantly spiked my sense of nostalgia. The much anticipated jelly tip block hit the shelves last week and almost immediately looks set to sell out by the end of this week. 850,000 bars in just two weeks? That's got to be some kind of record.

At the same time, Griffin's has also released a version of the classic ice cream in the form of jelly tip chocolate biscuits. Both products were made in collaboration with Tip Top and feature the same raspberry jelly filling on top.

A taste test was in order. Both products were procured last week and demolished in just a few short sittings. The verdict? Whittaker's Jelly Tip block is a clear winner. The combination of milk chocolate, white chocolate and sweet raspberry filling was just right, never quite spilling over into sickly sweet territory. Surprisingly delicious! The Griffins Jelly Tip biscuits were too sweet for even this sweet-toothed girl to handle. The biscuit base was nice but not enough to tip the balance from pleasantly sweet to sugar overload. It seems you can have too much of a good thing. I wouldn't buy the biscuits again.

Either way, these jelly tip products are a delightful way to reminisce a kiwi childhood. Try them while they last - but get in quick. My local supermarket has already run out of their jelly tip chocolate supply so I may need to do some shopping around later this week if we are to indulge one more time.