November 30, 2010

The Adventures of Sparkle and the Gingerbread House

Once upon a time, a young lady named Sparkle decided to make a fabulous gingerbread house.

She woke up on Saturday morning and said to herself, "today is the day!". After doing a spot of Christmas shopping and seeing the new Harry Potter at Dendy Premium Cinemas, she and her man friend Pie set off to seek some extra ingredients needed for this fabulous gingerbread house from the horrible Woolworths.

As Sparkle was scanning the aisles for Molasses she realised that it was nowhere to be seen. Sparkle ingeniously enlisted the help of a very lovely Woolworths employee who for a good 5mins tried to help Sparkle find the elusive Molasses. Finally, after deciding there was no Molasses at the horrible Woolworths the lovely lady employee said quietly "why don't you try Coles instead".

So off Sparkle and Pie trotted to the nearest Coles. But do you think they could find Molasses there either? NO! Of Course Not! So once again, a "not as friendly employee" helped Sparkle and her man friend out and finally the Molasses was FOUND! Bizarrely in the health food area......

By this time it was almost 6:30pm but Sparkle was determined this house was going to at least be cooked before she got some beauty rest.

Armed with a gingerbread house recipe and template from the very awesome, the always reliable Charlotte (the kitchenaid) and Sparkle set to work.

Gingerbread House Recipe


1 cup of butter, softened
1 3/4 cup of packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons of dark molasses
1 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
6 eggs
6 cups of all purpose flour (+may need extra to get consistency right)
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon each of ground ginger, ground cinnamon and allspice


1. Cream butter and sugars. Stir in eggs and molasses
2. Sift all dry ingredients together separately
3. Mix the dry into the wet ingredients just until combined. Don't over mix
4. Knead dough on floured surface until completely combined
5. NOTE: if your gingerbread is extra sticky, you will likely need to knead in extra flour in small amounts until he consistency is right. I recommend doing the next step (refrigerating) before getting the consistency perfect with flour. That will help with much of the stickiness. Humidity and room temperature can make a big difference here, so just plan to add flour until it becomes less sticky. And, of course, flour your hands before kneading or ANY gingerbread will be sticky!
6. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour (overnight is even better).
7. Roll out dough on a floured surface. You are looking for about 1/4 inch in thickness.
8. Use your cardboard cut outs to help you to cut out the right sized parts for the gingerbread houses.
9. bake on buttered cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes on 160 degrees Celsius or until slightly firm. Cool completely.

Instead of kneading, Sparkle just stirred the dough. At the time she thought she was doing the right thing but as she now writes this story she is thinking, "whoops, i didn't knead the dough, oh well". Needless to say, the dough was very tough to stir, please note look on face.

Sparkle trying hard to mix the dough

Dough to be refrigerated

1/3 dough rolled out onto baking paper with Roof template

Roof's cut

Front and side walls

Sparkle worked long into the night (around 10:30pm, on a Saturday night mind you), slaving away at the walls of the gingerbread house. Once they where all cooked and cooled, lovely Pie put all the pieces into a container ready for the assemble-ment on Sunday morning.   zzzzzzzzzzz

Sunday morning came, Sparkle so exhausted from the night before slept into 10am! She had a busy day ahead of her which included erecting a house made entirely out of cookies (basically) and then catching up with her wonderful girlfriends for a spot of dancing at Brand Depot. Of course a stop at the Lorna Jane outlet would need to be had also so Sparkle was in for a big day!

To start with, Sparkle put on her fabulous top which was made for her by her lovely friend Janette Lenk the designer and mastermind of T-Heinrich (check out her blog here.., and proceeded to make her first batch ever, of Royal Icing (with the help of Charlotte of course).

Royal Icing


1 pound (250g) of icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 egg whites


Beat slowly until stiff peaks form. Put icing in a pastry bag or plastic bag with a hole cut in the bottom corner to act as a pastry bag.

Sparkle was excited because this was a very easy recipe! She didn't have a piping bag so she put the icing in a zip lock bag and cut a hole in the bottom corner.

Royal icing in zip lock bag

Sparkle then proceeded to assemble the gingerbread house with help from Pie.

Sparkle and House


Sparkle finished the gingerbread house! But she was left underwhelmed. You see, Sparkle had very grand ideas for her house and although the house stood up and stayed up and all the lollies stayed on she was a bit sad. This particular house, to be honest, wasn't very hard to make at all. And Sparkle was looking for a challenge. Sparkle did love her house and was very proud of herself for making it but she decided she would most likely NEVER make another one ever again.

The house took around 5 hours to make and all she wanted to do was eat the bloody thing, so she took it to work on Monday......

Sparkle took her gingerbread house to work and proclaimed to everyone that at morning tea she would put her fist through the roof of the house, stating "I made it, i can therefore destroy it!".

With everyone standing around (mostly because they wanted a piece after the smashing had been completed), one last photo of the house that took so long to make was taken.

And then with one mighty thrust and a big cheer, it was done....

Sparkle with fist through the roof

And all the village people (my co-workers) gathered round to look at the gaping hole in the roof...


and to enjoy a piece of the fabulous Gingerbread House.

Maureen and James eating the roof

The End.

November 16, 2010

Halloween Friend Caramel Bucket

Halloween recipes proved to be difficult to come by, unless you are into fake brains, witches fingers and gooey eyeballs, and which I'm clearly not.

But i would not let my friends and readers down! All 4 of you to be exact......just kidding.

I first acquired some rather fabulous plastic jack-o-lantern buckets which i filled with the following recipes!!!

Caramel Picnic Apples


6 Granny Smith Apples
1 x 250g bag Caramel Jerseys
4 full size Cadbury Picnic bars - smashed!
Paddle pop sticks - 1 bag


Smash Picnic bars in a plastic bag wrapped in a towel. i like to use a rolling pin and for extra entertainment,
try making a grunting or yelling noise......very therapeutic indeed. Once bars have been suitably smashed put bits into a bowl.

Melt Caramels in a microwave proof bowl for 2 minutes checking constantly. Once jersey's have melted take them out of the micro wave. Let cool just a bit.

Stick Paddle Pop sticks into the underside of the apples. you may need to use more than one to support the weight of the apple.

Dip apple into the melted caramel then roll apple into the Picnic bar mixture.

Voila! very simple and really satisfying surprisingly. While eating this i felt very healthy and very fat at the same time :)

Pastry Twists with a Twist


2 sheets frozen puff pastry
left over melted caramel from above recipe
some white chocolate melts
melted butter for brushing


Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line baking tray with baking paper.

Cut un-frozen puff pastry into strips and make a big plat like you would with your hair. Pinch ends together so the plat doesn't come undone.

Brush some melted butter over the plats and stick in the oven until they turn puffy and golden.

once cool, drizzle left over melted caramel (you might need to chuck this back in the microwave for a bit) and some melted white chocolate.

Stick in fridge until chocolate and caramel harden, then EAT!!!

Plats before chocolate, first one with caramel

And last but not least - the crowd favorite!

Quick Caramel Popcorn -


100g (8 cups) freshly popped plain microwave pop corn (quicker than using the kernels)
125g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
1/2 tsp (heaped) bi-carb soda
1/2 tsp vanilla essence


1. Pop the microwave popcorn and set aside in large bowl.
2. Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy based pot until just starting to bubble.
3. Stir in salt and then add sugar.
4. Stir sugar through butter until smooth and fully combined.
5. Reduce heat to low-medium temperature and allow sugar mixture to bubble (but not boil) for 3-5 minutes (until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture is thick and sticky.)
6. Remove from heat and stir in bi-carb soda very quickly, followed immediately by vanilla essence.
7. Whisk until fully combined then pour quickly over popcorn.
8. Toss popcorn and caramel together quickly until popcorn is coated - serve as is if you like chewier popcorn.
9. If you prefer crunchier popcorn, preheat oven to 120 degrees celcius, spread popcorn into glass or casserole dish and bake for 15-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until caramel has hardened on the popcorn - ENJOY!
You can prepare the caramel in the microwave if you don't want to bother with the stove. In a microwave safe bowl melt the butter until it pops in the microwave. Stir in the salt and sugar until combined then return to microwave for 3 minutes on medium-high power. Whisk, then return to microwave for 2 minutes on high power. Follow steps 6-8 as normal. ENJOY!

I made the caramel mix in the micro wave and it was sooooo easy. This is seriously "the Shit".

And finally all assembled! Thank you Pie.

Unfortunately my dear friend Kate came down with some terrible Indian food poisoning so she never experienced the Caramel Bucket. The bucket may have been useful though!

November 2, 2010

Marc's Movember.....Please Donate!

Dear all my wonderful friends and readers.

My beautiful man friend/partner Marc had decided to donate his face to grow a very charitable moustache for Movember. Please see his statement below.

This Movember I've decided to donate my face to raising awareness about men's health. My  commitment is the growth of a moustache for the entire month of Movember, which I know will generate conversation, controversy and laughter.
I am doing this because close to 3,300 men die of prostate cancer in Australia each year and one in eight men will experience depression in their lifetime.
This is a cause I feel strongly about and I'm asking you to support my efforts by making a donation to me.  To help, you can either:
-    Click this link and donate online using your credit card or PayPal account
-    Write a cheque payable to Movember Foundation, referencing my registration number 844604 and mailing it to: Movember Foundation, PO Box 292, Prahran, VIC, 3181
Through the Movember Foundation and its men's health partners, PCFA and beyondblue: the national depression initiative, Movember is funding world class research, educational and support programs which would otherwise not be possible.
For more details on the impact Movember is having please visit:
Thank you in advance for helping me to support men's health.