Photo Journal: Cloud Gate at Millennium Park, Chicago

IMG_6181

Cloud Gate. The Bean. That weird silver thing. Whatever you want to call it, it’s become a Chicago icon since it’s unveiling and dedication on May 15th, 2006, nine years ago today. The man who can take credit for this beauty is an Indian-born British artist by the name of Anish Kapoor. It’s a 66ft long, 33ft wide, 110 ton stainless steel arch of sorts, inspired by liquid mercury, and providing the most beautiful reflections of a stunning city. It’s a favourite for both tourists and locals, and especially photographers; I got to Millenium Park at 6am on Christmas morning, 2014, to get these shots; it was more than worth the early start to be able to sit there for a while and watch the reflections as the sun came out.

IMG_6170

IMG_6158

Cook this: Chocolate bourbon pecan pie

My contribution to our early family Christmas was chocolate bourbon pecan pie. Not a traditional Aussie Christmas dish at all, but instead I figured I’d do something a little more representative of the country I’ll be spending Christmas in. Also, the recipe I found in one of my cook books was for straight pecan pie, but I felt like the addition of bourbon and dark chocolate could only be a good thing.

IMG_4343.JPG

Ingredients
– short crust pastry
– 3 tbsp plain flour
– 150g brown sugar
– 2 large eggs
– 200g golden syrup
– 200 g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
– 30g butter, melted and cooled
– 2 tbsp vanilla extract
– 3 tbsp bourbon
– pinch of salt
– 300g pecan halves – half crushed into smaller pieces, half left whole

 

Method
1. Grease a 9 inch pie dish and roll out the pastry to line it. Prick a few holes in the bottom with a knife or fork, line it with baking paper, fill with pie weights/rice/dried beans and bake for 15min or until the edges start to turn golden.
2. To make the filling which the crust is blind baking, combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl.
3. Whisk in the eggs, golden syrup, chocolate, butter, vanilla, bourbon and salt.
4. Mix in the crushed pecans.
5. Remove the pie from the oven and pour in the filling. Arrange or sprinkle the pecan halves on top.
6. Turn the temperature up to 200°C and bake for 10min, then lower the temperature back down to 170°C and bake for a further 45min or until set.
7. Rest in tin until cool enough to handle, then transfer to a wire rack to cool a little longer before slicing and serving up – with ice cream or thickened cream, preferably!

Cook this: Gingerbread men!

Because we’re missing Christmas at home this year, a number of Christmas traditions, such as gingerbread men, have needed to be moved forward. Other traditions, like my husband’s repeated viewings of Chevy Chase’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, I’m not pushing quite as hard for an early start on.

IMG_4184.JPG

I’ve tried so many gingerbread recipes and it has taken batch after batch after batch to finally come up with a version I love – hope everyone else enjoys them, too 🙂

INGREDIENTS
– 125g butter, softened
– ½ cup brown sugar
– 100g golden syrup
– 100g maple syrup
– ½ tsp vanilla extract
– 2½ cups plain flour
– 3 tsp ground ginger
– 1 tsp baking soda

 

METHOD
1. Combine the flour, ginger and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer for 4 – 5 minutes, until pale and creamy. Add in the golden syrup and/or maple syrup and honey, as well as the vanilla, and beat for another 30 seconds, until combined.

3. Add in the dry ingredients, and beat on low speed until a dough comes together. Don’t worry if it is crumbly, you’ll be able to bring it together with your hands.

4. Roll the dough out to your desired thickness between two pieces of non-stick baking paper and put it in the fridge for half an hour.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C and line 2 large oven trays with baking paper.

6. Take the cold dough out of the fridge and cut out gingerbread men of your preferred size. You can see from the photo below that I made quite little ones – for your reference, I got 90 (yes, 90) little gingerbread gentlemen out of the dough made from the ingredients above. Re-roll the dough as necessary until it’s all been cut and placed onto the oven trays.

7. Bake for 7 – 10 minutes until lightly golden.

8. For a softer cookie, remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the trays for 10 minutes before moving to cooling racks. If you like them a little crunchier, turn the oven off and leave them in there to cool completely.

IMG_4201.JPG