The school holidays ended just over a week ago and two of my kids are back in school and the two older ones still waiting for theirs to start. Now that I think about it, no matter how really long it was in reality, the holidays still felt like they just came and went. My only brother with me here in Australia left for the US in early December with his family while a lot of our friends also spent Christmas elsewhere. Poor us! We felt so alone in what's supposed to be the most joyous time of the year. We invited a Filipino family over for dinner shortly after the 25th to have some company. It gave me the chance to make some cathedral windows, something I haven't made in such a long, long while. Now I remember why I love this dessert so much.
|It's so beautiful, isn't it?|
Not to be entirely left behind, my family did have a short getaway at Phillip Island after New Year. For those who do not know, Phillip Island is a famous destination here in Victoria. It is south of Melbourne, about 2 hours drive from our home.
|This is where I was on my birthday!|
We spent 3 days and nights there. The best part of the trip for me was witnessing the penguin parade. What amazing creatures those penguins are! Too bad, photography wasn't allowed. Apart from watching the penguins, seeing a kangaroo actually crossing the road was an experience in itself!
Also in January, my eldest son Francis turned 20. Yes, 20! I could hardly believe it myself. Last year, at about that time, we had just arrived in the Philippines from Singapore. We celebrated his 19th birthday with a cake from Estrel's, remember?. This year, I thought of replicating that cake in a smaller size.
The lengthy holidays also gave me the opportunity to sew. Yes, you read that right. I sewed. With the summer weather becoming extremely hot (especially during the Australian Open), I quickly whipped up three pairs of shorts for me. I also drafted a pattern for Envirosax-inspired bags and made two. I used an actual Envirosax bag to make my pattern so they are exactly the same size, shape and make as the original one. Yey for more shopping bags!
|The blue one is made of ripstop nylon while the printed one is actually from an unused shower curtain!|
I've been contemplating on making instructions for this but since the pattern is huge, I still have think about how I am going to cut it up to make it printable. Stay tuned for that (no promises though!).
Let me see...hmmm, what else? Oh, I also tried baking something new. I made coffee buns for one. They're delicious but I think I would rather buy them than go through all the hassle of making them myself. Too many steps!
Another thing I learned to make in recent times was the San Nicolas cookie, a popular and traditional cookie from the province of Pampanga (where my father is from) in the Philippines. A friend had sent me a wooden mould and just a day after I received it, I gave it a go.
The cookies looked stunning, with the imprint of the Virgin Mary carrying the baby Jesus, very evident. However, they didn't appeal to my children that much, with my youngest commenting that it was too plain-tasting. Couldn't contend with that because it was actually true.
My experience in making the San Nicolas cookie led to me to search for cookie moulds on the internet. This brought me to a most beautiful discovery - the springerle cookie. The cookie moulds are just to die for! I wasted no time and ordered a couple (and was sent a free tiny mould too!). Took me a while to try making the cookies but finally found time last week. I will make the chocolate variation next!
|Here are the uncooked cookies being air-dried before baking. Just look at those details.|
|Aren't those just the most amazing looking cookies?|
How about cronuts (or zonuts, as Adriano Zumbo calls them here)? Taste Magazine featured Mr. Zumbo's recipe for his zonuts in its maiden issue in September. A little daunting but it wasn't something I was afraid to try. Sadly, my attempt on making them proved to be a disaster.
Everything went well in the beginning but I soon found out that making a butter-rich dough was a big no-no in very hot weather! As the cut cronuts were sitting to rise before frying, the butter within the layers of dough started melting. I wonder if I should have just let them rise slowly in the fridge? Because the butter melted, the layers of dough separated upon frying. I only got a few pieces done that actually resembled cronuts. Seeing the amount of butter oozing out of each cronut actually turned me off from ever trying this again.
Unfortunately, I didn't win :(. However, when I bought the January issue not long after, I found a really pleasant surprise!
The magazine printed my photo! There were just 8 entries chosen, 2 of which were the winners. I was quite elated and felt that I had somehow won too :). Now I'm inspired to join again! Maybe I'll even be luckier the second time around.
Last but not the least, let us not forget more cakes! There were so many but my latest favourite are these two, quite identical, baptismal cakes, one for a baby girl and the other for a baby boy.
The gumpaste babies were made using a First Impressions mould. I loved using it. The babies were just so life-like!
Well, this is quite a long post now and hopefully, more than makes up for my away time. I hope that even if I didn't share a recipe or a tutorial here, the many things I shared will be enough to interest you in learning a new skill or in exploring something unfamiliar to you.
That's about how my life has been in the last 1 1/2 months in a nutshell. That, plus watching every single episode of The Big Bang Theory! Till next. Enjoy the rest of your week.