Sunday, October 19, 2014

Short Stop Donuts

Remember when I told y'all about Thr1ve, I told you how I often get really obsessed about certain things and can't let them go until I've totally overdone it? Well, that happened again recently. And sadly, it wasn't a healthy obsession like Thr1ve, this time it was Short Stop Donuts. Oh dear. Let's take a look.

Short Stop Donuts

Short Stop Coffee & Donuts
12 Sutherland Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Shortstop Coffee & Donuts on Urbanspoon

9 September 2014 - "The Beginning"

I first read about Short Stop donuts on Melbourne Gastronome, and learn that they're a super specialised donut shop in the heart of Melbourne's CBD, with coffee by Market Lane. Before they even opened, they already had 16,000 followers on their Instagram account, which documented their journey: a donut reconnaissance mission through the US and Canada, research and recipe testing, setting up the store and getting ready for business. They fry their donuts fresh throughout the day, with different flavours coming out progressively, so you just gotta rock up and try your luck to see what's available. Importantly, the donuts looked fab - not just plain donuts smothered in icing, but unique, distinct flavours and different types of donut dough (cake, raised, cruller etc.), with all donuts, icings and fillings made in-house. It also happens to be near my office. I like the sound of this place and definitely want to visit!

11 September 2014 - "A Failed Attempt"

My buddy Jimbo and I make a date to visit Short Stop tomorrow, but before the day is through I see on Instagram that Short Stop have already sold out of donuts, having received an incredible influx of pre-orders! Gosh darn it! Donut plans, foiled!

While we're here, let me tell you about Jimbo. So, my buddy Jimbo is pretty frikkin awesome. We work together, and he likes food as much as I do! He is sometimes my +1 for blog events, and I even named a cake after him. (That's The Jimbo Cake, in case you're wondering). He pretty much is always up for a #treatyoself, and has totally indulged my obsession with Short Stop. (Or is the correct term "enabled my addiction"???)

18 September 2014 - "An Obsession is Born"

Jimbo and I take a chance and rock up to Short Stop in the morning, and there are quite a few flavours available! We get a coffee each and share three donuts. I think most people get takeaway, but there are a couple of small tables, a few bar seats against the wall and some bench space outside. We snag a table, which is swiftly covered with donuts and coffee. Regarding Short Stop's coffee, just like Market Lane, they only offer white or black coffee, no decaf, no soy, no skinny. (Skinny latte with your deep-fried cake, sir/ma'am? - Hah!) They have espresso coffee as well as filter. They also sell a limited selection of Market Lane beans to take home.

Deluxe Coffee Break, Short Stop

The tables are quite small, and Jimbo is incredibly tall. While I'm trying to take this photo on my phone, his gigantic legs are all over the place, getting into the shot.

Sarah: Jimbo, can you move your leg?
Jimbo: Er, this one? ...moves his gigantic leg further into the photo...
Sarah: Er no the other one...
Jimbo moves his other gigantic leg into the photo...
Sarah: Oh my god, just open your damn legs, Jimbo!
Jimbo: Oh.

Oops. I take the photo and look up to see two ladies in the queue laughing at us. Sorry Jimbo! Please forgive my Donut-hunger-induced inappropriate snappiness!

We share two raised donuts: a Rhubarb and Ginger, and a Cinnamon, Cardamom and Sugar, and one cake donut: Earl Grey and Rose.

Top: Rhubarb Glaze
Middle: Earl Grey and Rose
Bottom: Cinnamon, Cardamom and Sugar

The three donuts are incredible! The Rhubarb and Ginger is like a posh Krispy Kreme (with apologies to the pastry chefs at Short Stop) - a very light, yeasted dough, covered in a rhubarb and ginger glaze, which has a light crunch as you bite into it.

Earl Grey and Rose

I'm not a big fan of rose flavouring in general, but really enjoy the Earl Grey and Rose donut. The rose flavour is restrained and it's a well balanced donut. The cake itself is flavoured with Earl Grey tea, it's injected with lemon myrtle and the icing is made of rosewater and rose petals. Being cake-based, it's a little heavier than the feather-light raised donuts, and I really like it.

Cinnamon, Cardamom and Sugar

The Cinnamon, Cardamom and Sugar is my favourite of the three donuts (and in fact, my favourite of ALL their donuts). Like the Rhubarb and Ginger, the donut is super light and fluffy, and the subtle spices in the sugar are really delicious.

We also decide to buy a couple of Bourbon Crème Brûlée donuts back for our respective partners. The verdict? Not great. Perhaps it's partly because they're not eaten straight away, but they're not super crackly, the custard filling isn't particularly impressive, and neither Jenni nor Sandra love the donuts. Oh well!

Crème Brûlée

2 October 2014 - "The Surprise"

I feel bad that Sandra didn't enjoy the Bourbon Crème Brûlée, and that she can't have Short Stop whenever she wants, so I organise a surprise donut delivery for her! I go to Short Stop in the morning and buy her a Red Velvet, and a Cinnamon, Cardamom and Sugar.

Top: Cinnamon, Cardamom and Sugar
Bottom: Red Velvet

I then arrange to have the donuts sneakily delivered to her office by a mutual friend, Amelia. (Thanks Amelia! You da best!) Amelia also happens to be pretty damn awesome! We do meditation classes together and she always has the cutest haircuts. She also shares my disdain of faux gluten intolerance. High five!

The surprise works and Sandra is super impressed! Hooray! I don't want to oversell this, but I just might be the best girlfriend in the history of the universe.

6 October 2014 - "Friends Are Concerned"

I happen to check Instagram at 4:20, and see that Short Stop are offering 2-for-1 Red Velvet donuts as they've baked too many. Without saying a word, I lock my computer and literally run to Short Stop, and arrive out of breath and snap up a pair of donuts. I consider setting a daily 4pm reminder in my calendar to check if any donuts are going cheap, but then I think better of it. Overindulgence aside, do I really want them to recognise me as the cheap lady with the crazy donut eyes?

Red Velvet Donuts

The red velvets are awesome. Sandra thinks they're too intense, with their thick coating of dark chocolate ganache, but I think they're just right. Unsurprisingly, they taste like deep-fried chocolate mud cake. And I am really into that.

9th October 2014 - "I Don't Have a Problem"

My amazing friend Alaina texts out of the blue, suggesting a coffee catchup as she has a surprise gift for me. I'm having a pretty stressful day at work and half-jokingly suggest Short Stop.

Convo with Alaina

Heck yes this day just went from crap to amazing!

Short Stop in the Sun

We sit in the sun and share a Banana and Chocolate Hazelnut, and an Earl Grey and Rose.

Earl Grey & Rose, White Coffee, Banana and Chocolate Hazelnut

Banana and Chocolate Hazelnut

The Banana and Chocolate Hazelnut is really nice - it's a banana cake base filled with banana cream custard, dipped in gianduja icing and covered in crushed roasted hazelnuts. It sounds like it would be intense and heavy but is surprisingly light. The banana cream custard has a very pure, natural banana flavour and is more "banana" than "custard cream", which lightens the whole effect, and the cake and icing aren't overly sweet. Winner!

Alaina's also brought me a bottle of New York maple syrup from her travels, bottled in Attica, "which reminded me of you because it's in the same town as the prison in Law and Order: SVU". Aww! (Alaina loves Law and Order: SVU as much as me, if not more, and I truly believe this shared obsession is one of the strongest pillars of our friendship).

13th October 2014 - "An Obsession becomes a Mission"

I start to think my Short Stop obsession must surely be waning by now, but then I suddenly realise I've only got three more flavours to try before I've tried them all. MUST FINISH.

I manage to convince Jimbo to do our morning coffee break at Short Stop, ("Only three flavours to go! Help a sister out!"), and we share an New Orleans Iced Coffee Cruller and a Peanut Butter and Jam. I like the cruller - it's got bitterness to temper the sweetness, with a squidgy inside and lightly crisp outsides. It reminds me, texturally, of a good churro. The PB&J is a bit disappointing - the PB topping is a bit thin and grainy and there is TOO MUCH JAM. (On a positive note, the strawberry jam itself is made in house and very nice, there's just too much of it).

Top left: New Orleans Iced Coffee, Top left: Peanut Butter & Jam
Bottom left: White coffee, Bottom right: JAM

By this stage, I notice that the availability of flavours seems to be a bit more consistent - although they often sell out late in the afternoon, on each of my visits there's a good variety of donuts available.

Donut Selection! All flavours in the house!

17th October 2014 - "Sarah's Body is 90% Donut"

One more donut to go... and Jimbo kindly indulges me again. We get the Australian Honey and Sea Salt to take away, and share it. It's a good donut, similar in texture to the New Orleans Iced Coffee, with a milk-and-honey glaze and a generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt on the top.

Australian Honey and Sea Salt Cruller

That's it! I have done all the donuts! Now I've tried them all! Level up! Achievement unlocked! I've got the complete collection! (The eagle-eyed among you will notice I haven't had a bacon-thyme-apple one, but they've stopped selling those so I'm saying it doesn't count!) I Instagram the donut, and my happiness / disbelief that I've actually tried them all, and Short Stop comment on my picture:

"New Strawberry glaze launching Monday... Working on powdered buttermilk cake donuts, a new chocolate cake donut and an old fashioned. More levels to achieve!".

Those sneaky Donut Dealers!

The new flavours sound awesome, but for now, I am officially on a Donut Ban! You guys, please enjoy those donuts with my blessing. Tell me which are your favourites. I like the simpler ones the best - the raised donuts with either sugar or glaze, and the yummy cake donuts.

Thank-you, and goodnight!

(P.S. for anyone concerned, I happened to have a blood test at my regular checkup last week, and my blood sugar and cholesterol levels are within the healthy range! Yay!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Rae's Restaurant at Balgownie Estate

Balgownie Estate

Rae's Restaurant
Balgownie Estate
1309 Melba Hwy
Yarra Glen, VIC 3775
Ph: (03) 9730-0774
Rae's Restaurant, Balgownie Estate on Urbanspoon

A little while ago I was invited to Rae's Restaurant at Balgownie Estate, to try out their new menu by chef Graham Taute. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to take a little foodie road trip to the Yarra Valley with Sandra and my cousin Catherine! Hooray for springtime - check out the beautiful views of the grounds!

Balgownie Estate

Rae's Restaurant

We were feeling a little indecisive about what wine to have with our lunch, so after we ordered our food, we popped over to the cellar door to do a tasting. Balgownie Estate make a lot of wines, and after trying most of them (and asking many questions of the friendly staff), I decided on a glass of the 2010 Viognier, whilst my cousin opted for the 2013 sparkling Shiraz. I don't drink much sparkling red, but I tried a sip and it was very nice! I'm tempted to do a "Barossa Brunch" one day: sparkling Shiraz with bacon and eggs. Who's in? (N.B. I don't think the staff at the cellar door knew we were there on an invite, and they seemed just as patient and friendly with all the customers who were there!)

Soup of the day - freshly baked roll - $18.00

Sandra got the soup of the day, which was mixed vegetable. It had a great smooth texture, and a rich flavour, although it was a little too salty for my liking.

Tasting Plate of Salmon - House cold smoked salmon on buckwheat blini, Yea Dairy crème fraiche; House cold smoked salmon, Asian inspired gravlax soy mayonnaise; House hot smoked salmon salsa verde - $23

My cousin and I shared the salmon tasting plate, which was very impressive: three different types of smoked salmon (all smoked in-house), presented in different ways. At the front was cold-smoked salmon on a buckwheat blini (one of my favourite combos!) with Yea Dairy crème fraîche. In the centre was a generous slice of hot-smoked salmon with salsa verde, and at the back was cold smoked salmon with an Asian-inspired soy mayonnaise. My palate couldn't detect a huge difference between the cold and hot smoked salmons, but they were all extremely fresh, weren't overly salted, and had a wonderful soft texture. I definitely recommend ordering this if you enjoy smoked salmon!

Caesar Salad - Baby cos leaves, parmesan wafers, crisp prosciutto, creamy dressing, oven baked garlic sourdough crisps - $19

Sandra ordered the Caesar salad as her main. It was a nice, fresh take on the nineties' classic / cliché. In between wedges of crisp cos lettuce wedges were crisp shards of prosciutto and lots of addictive parmesan wafers. She actually thought there were too many parmesan wafers, which meant I got to eat them too! Muahaha! Super crispy and deeply savoury. The anchovy dressing was also really tasty - even seafood avoider Sandra loved it!

Potato Gnocchi - selected mushrooms, House hot smoked chicken, Viognier cream reduction - $19

My cousin's carbolicious gnocchi in Viognier cream sauce had great flavours, but was very rich - she couldn't finish it. I think this is intended to be an entree, but in our opinion it makes a generous main course!

Black Lip Mussels - Chilli, lime, garlic, cream, coriander reduction - $25

I was tempted to get the beer battered fish and chips - I saw lots of tables getting them, and they looked great! - but thought I should try something a little bit more unusual, for the sake of the blog. (The things I do for you...!) In the end, I went for the black lip mussels. They mussels were very fresh, and I enjoyed the South East Asian-inspired flavours - lime, chilli, garlic, coriander - yum!

Hand cut fries - garlic aioli - $7

Of course, we got chips as a side. Fat chips for the win!

Broccolini - soy ginger glaze, crisp shallots -$7

To try and be a bit healthy, we ordered some broccolini as a side. These were cooked perfectly ("tender-crisp", as they would say in America), and I liked the textural addition of crunchy fried shallots.


Chocolate Parfait - Coconut gel, kirsch cherries, roasted Hazelnut praline - $15

With the chocolate parfait sitting atop coconut gel, I thought of this dessert as a posh Bounty bar. The parfait was smooth and creamy, and the coconut gel had a very pure, strong coconutty taste. The sour cherries and crunchy hazelnut praline complimented the flavours well too - it was an impressive dessert.

Wattle Seed Panna Cotta - Compressed apple, rhubarb syrup - $14

The wattle seed panna cotta was the least popular between the three of us - whilst the panna cotta itself had a nice softly set texture and a mild wattle seed flavour, the pieces of walnut cake that came on the side were a little dry. It wasn't bad, but it just couldn't compare to the other two desserts we had!

Caramelised Condensed Milk & Honeycomb Semifreddo with honeycomb crumble - $13

I think I made the best choice with dessert, choosing the caramelised condensed milk and honeycomb semifreddo. The semifreddo was incredibly smooth, and I loved the crunchy-melty chunks of honeycomb folded through. Sweet and delicious! (I totally love condensed milk and can eat it with a spoon!)

We had a really great lunch at Rae's Restaurant - great views, warm atmosphere and good food. It was a nice place to spend a pleasant springtime afternoon!

This meal was courtesy of Rae's Restaurant.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Dense Chocolate Avocado Brownies

Dense Chocolate Avocado Brownies

Yes, you read right. Dense chocolate avocado brownies! As with my previous avocado baking endeavours (vegan chocolate avocado cake with chocolate avocado icing; avocado chocolate marble pound cake), these brownies followed my usual path: I couldn't keep up with my avocado subscription, and was forced (forced, I tell you!) to bake something chocolatey with them! 

I adapted this recipe from the chocolate-walnut avocado brownies on The Iron You, a health and fitness blog written by a "triathlete, yogi, health enthusiast and food lover", whose motto is "Eat Well. Exercise More." I can totally get down with that!

The main change I made to his recipe was to replace the suggested coconut sugar with light muscovado sugar. Although I love coconut sugar on yogurt or in coffees, I'm not a big fan of it in baking, finding its distinctive flavour a bit overpowering. Muscovado sugar, on the other hand, has a rich toffee flavour that is perfect for so many different types of baking, and gives a squidgy moist grainy texture to brownies. Heaven.

I had all of the ingredients on hand...


... and these brownies were super easy to put together!

Gah, avocados are sooooo delicious.

Hass avocados

I whizzed them up in a mini food processor to get a really smooth texture.

Beautiful green avocado flesh

Pureed avocado

It looks so cool when you pour the melted chocolate and coconut oil into the avocado!

Green and choc swirls

The mixture turned a bit grainy when I added the sugar, but became smooth again when I whisked the eggs in. (Does this mean eggs are an emulsifier?)

Silky smooth batter

Ready for the oven

And here they are, baked!

Dense Chocolate Avocado Brownies

These are seriously rich brownies. Apart from the two whole avocados and three tablespoons of coconut oil, there is a whole cup of rich brown sugar and a whopping two hundred and twenty grams of dark chocolate in these babies, with only a small amount of almond meal to provide stability and heft. Come to think of it, these brownies happen to be gluten-free - a good option for coeliacs then! (And I should note here that even though the original version of this recipe was on a health-focused blog, and even though these contain nutrient-rich avocado, these dense fudgy brownies certainly aren't "health" food, but a very indulgent, delicious treat!)

Dense Chocolate Avocado Brownies

Avocado certainly isn't the dominant taste here - these brownies are all about the chocolate. It's quite a dark taste (in addition to the dark chocolate, these contain unsweetened cocoa, for an even more pronounced, intense, chocolate hit) - definitely for grown ups. Due to the high chocolate content, these are quite squidgy when they're fresh out of the oven, so I'd suggest waiting for them to cool completely and firm up before you slice them. (If you can wait that long!!!)

Dense Chocolate Avocado Brownie

Go on.
Dense Chocolate Avocado Brownies
Recipe adapted from The Iron You

220 grams dark chocolate (I used a mix of 70% and 85% cocoa)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 very ripe avocados
1 cup light muscovado sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup almond meal
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel, or other fine sea salt
1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus 12 whole ones for decorating

Preheat oven to 175C.
Line a 20 centimetre squared baking tin with baking paper.
Melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil, either in the microwave on medium, or in a double boiler, stirring occasionally until completely melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
Mash the avocado flesh until completely smooth.
Add the chocolate and coconut oil mixture to the avocado.
Whisk in the sugar, followed by the eggs and vanilla extract.
Sift in the cocoa powder and baking powder.
Add the almond meal and salt, stirring gently to combine.
Finally, fold in the walnuts.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing the top. Press the whole walnuts evenly into the batter.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the brownie is set. A cake tester will still come out with damp crumbs clinging to it.
Allow to cool completely before cutting into 12 squares.
Makes 12 large brownies