The icing on the biscuits

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Julia’s work – how they’re meant to look.

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My beginner class efforts.

 

Consider The Sauce loves rabbit holes and those who gleefully scamper down them – people who are devoted with joy and passion to their “thing”.

Julia – Miss Biscuit – certainly qualifies.

Since CTS first write about her biscuit decorating pursuits more than three years ago, her dedication has paid dividends.

She’s found the desire for knowledge about her “thing” is so wide and deep that she’s been able to make it her main gig, moving her operations from her Yarraville home to a two-storey headquarters in Seddon.

 

 

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As well, she has become an employer, has embarked on a teaching tour of the Middle East, is bringing specialists from overseas to teach here and has taught many thousands of students and fans herself.

Decorating cookies is never going to something I’ll pursue, but I’m nevertheless extremely grateful for the opportunity to sit in on one of Julia’s beginner classes.

 

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She’s a fine teacher – in this regard, she draws on her background as a speech pathologist. Our class is a mix of information and hands-on practice in the form of decorating nine cookies ourselves.

The information comes in the form of making the base cookies; we are provided three different recipes – Miss Biscuit Vanilla Sugar Biscuits, Gingerbread (Adapted from Bake at 350) and Decadent Chocolate Roll Out Cookies.

The important thing here is that the recipes result in cookies that don’t lose their shape once they’re cut and baked.

 

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Then there is the royal icing itself.

We are led through the basic recipe, then the various consistencies and colours and their uses, as well as the use of piping bags and squeeze bottles.

 

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Finally, there is the matter of piping-bag tips, with some brands being much more favoured than others, and some (the narrow ones) being used for outlining and the wider ones being utilised for flooding, the all-over icing technique that covers whole – or whole parts – of cookies, creating a sort of blank canvas for more ornate artwork and detail.

 

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After demonstrations by Julia of the techniques involved, it’s time to give it a crack ourselves, firstly by trying outling on patterns on paper.

They key to outlining, we’ve been told, is to have tip about inch from the cookie.

 

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I’m surprised at how easy to work the royal icing is.

Mind you, as a rank beginner I do struggle – I try to concentrate on a certain fluidity, a steady hand, some momentum.

Flooding is something quite different – apparently a little easier to do, but I soon find out I have been too sparing in my icing applications.

As we finish the early stages of each cookie, they are set aside so the icing can dry and we move on to the next.

 

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During the lunch break, various of my classmates avail themselves of the cookie cutters and much more available in the shop downstairs.

After lunch, we get back to work by adding details to our cookies.

 

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It’s at this point my outlining technique gets well and truly found out – the lattice-work on my ice-cream cone and cupcake is squiggly where it should be straight!

Still, in the end I am delighted and surprised that all my cookie artwork actually looks recognisably as it is meant to.

 

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The concentration levels have been nothing unusual for me, but the subject of that concentration has been very different – so I am pretty tired by the end of the five-hour class.

But I’ve had a ball.

Check out the Miss Biscuit website here for details of classes, products and more.

 

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The art of biscuit making in Yarraville

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Miss Biscuit, Yarraville.

Miss Biscuit is Julia.

And Julia is Miss Biscuit.

But the Yarraville baker is a whole lot more – her day gig is as a speech pathologist and she’s mum, along with her husband, to kids aged 13 and nine.

Yet there’s no doubt she’s loving the “other” role she is forging for herself as creator of beautiful, intricately decorated biscuits.

What started as a hobby became a business in November last year.

“As I gave them to people, they started asking, ‘Can I buy some?’ – and I’ve just been taking it from there,” she says.

The timelines between family life, making batches of dough and the icing of biscuits tend to be on the cramped side, but Julia is enjoying every challenge her new gig is throwing her way – even if the business if far from being, as yet, a prolific money generator.

“I love it,” she proclaims with enthusiasm. “I love making and icing the biscuits, dealing with customers – all of it.”

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On the day Consider The Sauce visits, Julia is not icing any of her creations, but you can see plenty more of her incredible handiwork at the Miss Biscuit website or Facebook page.

In the local area, her biscuits are stocked by Cup & Bean on Wembley Avenue and Providorable in Williamstown.

The football jumper biscuits will be on sale at Flemington market on Sunday, May 26.

There’s little profit, Julia says, in wholesale, so that’s mainly a matter of exposure. Most of her sales come from online.

Unsurprisingly, much of those are sales are generated by kids’ activities or parties, but she has also supplied goodies for anniversaries and weddings.

The biscuit bases are created from a simple dough of butter, flour, vanilla, eggs and baking powder.

The dough aspect of her 200 or so biscuits a week is cheap and quick – it’s the icing process that’s more pricey and time-consuming.

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She uses standard food colourings in her icing, having found the more “natural” products simply don’t have the vividness required.

She says it’s not an issue for almost all of her customers.

Incredibly, given the intricacy of her biscuit designs and aside from some skill as a gardener, Julia makes no great claims to being the “creative sort”.

“I can’t draw a circle!” she says with a laugh.

She does use a projector to help with some of her designs.

Meanwhile, you can bet Bennie and I will be springing some cash to try Julia’s forthcoming Jake and Finn Adventure Time biscuits!

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Sourdough Kitchen

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Sourdough Kitchen, 172 Victoria St, Seddon. Phone: 9687 5662

Writing about Sourdough Kitchen quite soon after it opened, it was observed with pleasure here on Consider The Sauce how quickly the bakery/cafe had become a fixture in the neighbourhood.

That seems so much more true today, almost two years’ later.

Especially on a day on which the first real taste of winter has arrived; the chill outside puts an extra glow to the companionable warmth inside.

As ever, there is congestion around the serving counter as those waiting to order, those waiting to pay and those arriving or departing mingle.

Equally as ever, the always terrific staff handle it all with grace and aplomb.

I feel a little guilty at monopolising a table for two when the place is so busy. But only a little, as two other tables are likewise occupied.

We’ve become regulars here – though not as regular as many, I suspect.

But we’ve learnt to keep in mind the laudable sourdough ethos.

The pizza slices were our faves for a long while. But sometimes it seems the toppings are overwhelmed by bases that can be hard work.

Likewise, the quality fillings of the various sandwiches can seem to stand in the robust shadows of their bready bookends.

We still enjoy these things, but sometimes a lighter touch is desired.

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Happily that is no problem at all, as Sourdough Kitchen has long since expanded its repertoire to encompass not just sandwiches but also breakfasts and more.

There’s always a salad and a soup on, along with various other lunchy items.

Today, for instance, the blackboard menu offers a steak sanger and a meatball dish, both for $15.

I opt for a serving that could be brekky, could be lunch – sardines on toast with olive tapenade, tomato salsa and Meredith fetta.

I’m familiar with the matching of sardines and tapenade, but I can’t recall previously experiencing salsa and/or fetta being thrown into the equation.

How does it work?

Blimey, it’s an unreal flavour explosion – tangy, oily, salty, brilliant.

Perhaps it could be argued my lunch is a mite light on for $15.

But sardines are so rich, be they canned or fresh, that even a fan such as I can easily appreciate restraint in terms of quantity.

My cafe latte is perfection.

What are your favourites and regulars at Sourdough Kitchen?

 

Yarraville goss …

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Heard from two sources today … news that a Yarraville retailer is to be replaced by a bakery/patisserie producing, no doubt among many other things, “artisan bread”.

I don’t want to name or publish a picture of the current business concerned as it is still very much in operation and there are no signs in its windows announcing closure plans.

But … it’s interesting to think about.

Businesses selling bread and/or baked goods in Yarraville central: Alfa Bakehouse, Hausfrau, Plump, IGA, Village Store, Baker’s Delight, Heather Dell.

There are others at Yarraville Square and further afield in Seddon.

I have no knowledge of whether this new business will serve eat-in food or beverages. But if it does, the overlap with existing businesses will be that much greater.

So … I don’t know about you guys, but this all seems a bit mad to me …

Mister Nice Guy’s Bake Shop

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Mister Nice Guy’s Bake Shop, 151 Union Rd, Ascot Vale. Phone: 0424 422 878

The are no animal products at all in any of the goodies available at Mister Nice Guy’s Bake Shop – including the beverages.

So I am faced with the usually unpalatable prospect of having my cafe latte made with soy milk or the like.

OK, I’m game.

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My soy latte ($4.30) is pretty good – it’s strong and quite bitter in a good, coffee way. I’ve certainly had much, much worse in more orthodox and high-falutin’ coffee joints.

But there’s another kind of bitterness – just a whiff of something a little off.

Could I get used to it? Could I learn to like it?

Well, I’d certainly like to, because this is undoubtedly a place for which its worth cultivating affection.

My mini-cupcake ($2), for instance, is a delicate flavour bomb, with good chocolatey taste and lovely icing.

I restrict myself to that one small sample of the goodness going on here on account of having just completed a more substantial meal elsewhere.

But there’s much to oggle – a wide range of cupcakes, a pecan pie, brownies that exude serious intensity.

Bad luck if you’re after savoury filling here, though – as close as you’ll get are the cheesy scrolls made with vegan cheese.

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But it’ll be a pleasure to bring Bennie to such a sugary haven – and he’ll for sure dig the artwork that comes into its own once the 3D spectacles are donned.

The rest of the retro-styled decor and vibe are happy and friendly, as are the staff.

 

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Waldies 7th Birthday Sausage Sizzle

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Waldies, 168 Victoria St, Seddon. Phone: 9689 3806

A couple of $2 snags-in-bread topped with Maggi mustard does me fine for lunch.

And none of your fancy pants kranskys, either, thank you very much.

The sausage sizzle hosted by one of our local old-school bakeries is being run on behalf of the Hyde Street Youth Band, which has been a performing unit since 1928.

The kids play some goofy, fun stuff that has echoes of New Orleans.

The barbie is manned cheerfully by Greg and Pina.

Mr Waldie himself (below) tells me it’s about the fifth year he’s had the band crew in for a birthday gig/sizzle and he really loves having them there.

Waldies Bakery on Urbanspoon

Freshwater Creek Cakes

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650 Anglesea Rd, Freshwater Creek. Phone: 5264 5246

Despite its apparent fame – with those who live locally and those headed for some serious leisure time on the Surf Coast or Bellarine Peninsula – online information about Freshwater Creek Cakes has been hard to find.

So I am singularly unprepared for the fact that business does not have EFTPOS facilities.

The staff member who greets me tells me there’s an ATM at the gas station a few hundred metres down the road, so off I go … to find there is no such ATM and that I am left to make what I can of the single $10 note I am carrying.

No matter – it’s a pleasure to be around so much old-style goodiness.

Freshwater Creek Cakes has been operating at the same site since the mid-1980s.

It’s housed in a rather charmless building – the cool roadside signs give a much more evocative reflection of what I am expecting inside.

The No.1 hot-ticket item here are the sponge cakes.

They make about 100 a day and they come in four basic configurations – chocolate, vanilla with passionfruit icing, ginger fluff and a real old-school item called Victoria sponge with just jam and cream.

I don’t need EFTPOS or heaps of cash to know how very fine they are.

My Geelong Advertiser colleague Shaun had brought a couple to work a few nights previously and I happily slurped up a slice of the passionfruit/vanilla number.

Oh my! Deep, rich icing, feather-light sponge and the incredible, smooth and unmistakable texture of real whipped cream. None of that canned garbage here, folks!

Forget your chef’s hats and fancy awards – there is surely no greater praise than “just like mum used to make”!

The sponges cost $15.95 – a fair price given the quality of the product.

Like the cookies and cakes also on display, the prices here seem quite high – but that’s what you pay, I guess, for quality.

As far as bargains go, the day-after sponges are the go.

The bakery gets phone calls every morning inquiring if such items are on hand – not always the case.

They cost $8.

And as everyone knows, day-after sponges can often be even tastier and have, um, more structural integrity than fresh ones.

Confusingly, the cakes and loaves – which sell for about the $12-$13 – are both presented in loaf form.

What’s the difference between a loaf and a cake anyway?

The Freshwater line-up includes apricot and fruit loaf, date and nut loaf, pineapple and carrot loaf, banana cake, chocolate cake, lemon cake and orange cake.

The cookies sell for $7.95 a bag – and it’s on a bag of raspberry shortbreads that I squander the best part of my meagre $10.

They, too, taste “just like mum used to make”!

Freshwater Creek Cakes has a coffee machine but the eating-in options seem to be restricted to a couple of picnic tables to the side.