Natvia and Cupcake Central Workshop – 100% Natural Sweetner

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Natvia was founded after the realisation there was a gap in the market for a 100% natural sweetener. Founded in 2008 by Mark and Sam, and having gone through over 600 trials and 10 months of work they finally reached the perfect blend and taste combination.

Natvia uses the very best parts of the Stevia plant, combined with naturally occurring nectar known as Erythritol. Stevia is a sweet leafed plant which is part of the Chrysanthemum family.

Both Mark and Sam are passionate about the product and you can tell they really do care not only about the product but about the people as well. Some of their core values include educating people about the food and bringing love back to cooking, as well as trying to spark bit of a health revolution. Natvia has 97% fewer calories, contains no Aspartame or saccharin and has nothing artificial – it is all natural with no bitter aftertaste.

The Natvia Icing sugar we were told took around 2 years to make and is a world first! The idea was that the sugar was milled down further which makes it easier to pipe with. Tasty and making life easier – what a great combination!

Another plus point of Natvia is that it can be easily substituted in a 1:1 ratio with sugar. So there is no need for complicated calculations to try and convert measurements.

Natvia can be currently be found in drinking mixes, tomato sauces and in the future thanks to their product innovation could be found in many more products to meet the growing market needs – so keep a lookout for their products. Natvia is available at Coles, Woolworths and Independent Groceries – IGA, Foodworks, Aussie Health, as well in many countries around the world!

If you want copies of the Natvia Sugar Free Baking Recipe Book – feel free to contact me via email (thegrazingpanda@gmail.com) and I can email you a copy. I have PDF versions.

Visit their website for more information – www.natvia.com.au
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I had the pleasure of being invited to a Cupcake Workshop by Natvia who worked in conjunction with Cupcake Central (stores in Melbourne Central, Hawthorn and Highpoint). Cupcake Central now stocks sugar-free cupcakes as part of their range which of course has been sweetened by Natvia.

I was greeted by a Natvia representative who welcomed me to the event, and handed me my very own Natvia apron, Natvia Sugar Free Baking Recipe Book and name tag. There were nibbles and drinks provided, as well Bar-Narnie cupcakes from Cupcake Central. These cupcakes were protein packed and gluten free as well as being sugar-free and actually tasted really good! Healthy and tasty what more could you ask for!

After some time to mingle with fellow bloggers of the world we gathered around the bench for an official welcome from the founders of Natvia – Mark and Sam – and then Sheryl (owner of Cupcake Central) showed us how to create a Not-So-Devilish-Chocolate Cupcake. For the recipe of this cupcake please refer to the bottom of the page.

Sheryl walked us through the process of how they would create their cupcakes in store – they bake over 1000 cupcakes fresh every morning – as well as handing out some handy and useful tips throughout the whole process. Sheryl was really excited to be working with Natvia and the use of this sweetener at Cupcake Central – as she had many customers asking her if there were sugar free cupcakes available.

Each of us also learnt how to put in the cupcake mixture into a cupcake papers in an easier manner – the trick is to use an ice-cream scoop (preferably a size 16). She also showed us a trick on an easy way to separate the cupcake papers when they come all bundled together – you have to slightly wet your index finger with a Chux towel, and using your thumb and your index finger separate the cupcake papers into the tray. Easy!

Once we were through the making of the mixture and putting the mixture into cupcake papers – it was time to get them baked and learn how to use a piping bag and decorate our cupcakes! There were three different piping nozzles – Star Nozzle, French Tip Nozzle and the Wilton 1M Nozzle – to use, and fresh fruit (Strawberries, Banana, Bluberries and Raspberries) as well. It was a lot of fun to get to pipe out our own designs and top them however we wanted.

Before leaving the event, we were given Natvia Goodie bags – which came with a box of Icing Mix, a box of Baking Pack, Cinnamon Splash Cluster Bars, as well as a premix from Cupcake Central for their Not-So-Devilish-Chocolate Cupcakes.

Thanks Natvia for the invite to try out your new products and also to Cupcake Central for teaching us some tricks and tips about baking, icing and piping! I look forward to seeing what other great products Natvia produces as well as the different flavours of cupcakes that Cupcake Central can produce in the Sugar Free range.

Cupcakes I decorated =)

Not-So-Devilish-Chocolate Cupcakes (makes 12 cupcakes)

1 ½ cups Plain Flour

½ cup Cocoa (Cupcake Central uses Callebaut Cocoa) 1 cup Natvia Baking Pack

1 tsp Bicarbonate Soda

¼ tsp Salt

2 Large Free Range Eggs (59 grams)

½ cup Regular Oil

1 cup Cold Water

2 tsp White Vinegar

1 tsp Vanilla Extract (Cupcake Central uses Neillson Massey Madagascan Vanilla)

  1. Pre heat oven to 165 degrees for a fan forced oven, or 170 degrees for a Gas Oven
  2. Sift all dry ingredients directly into mixing bowl
  3. Add to dry mixture, the free range eggs (TIP: Add one egg yolk at a time to create a smoother mixture as you are allowing for the enzymes to break down in order to aerate the mixture) Oil, Water, Vinegar (TIP: When mixed together with the bicarbonate soda will help the cupcake rise) and Vanilla Extract. Beat by hand until smooth (If you are using a automatic hand beater – start off on low speed and then blitz for 30 seconds on medium to high speed)
  4. Fill cupcake papers with batter TIP: Use an ice cream scoop (size 16) to fill the cupcake papers
  5. Bake for 18-21 minutes (or until a cake skewer comes out clean)
  6. Decorate with Icing and ENJOY!

VANILLA FROSTING (for 12 cupcakes)

125 grams Unsalted NZ Butter

225grams of Natvia Icing Mix

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Pinch of Salt

  1. Add Icing Mix to Butter and mix for 3 – 5 mins until light and fluffy
  2. Add the Vanilla Extract and a Pinch of salt and mix again
  3. Put into piping and you are ready to ice your cupcakes!

 

Other TIPS and FACTS: 

–           If you are using an automatic mixer – use the paddle attachment

–           Using oil will keep the moisture in the cupcake

–          Mixing and adding all your dry ingredients first will help you to avoid over mixing the product, and therefore will result in less dense cupcakes

–          Whenever you use Bicarbonate Soda – you always need to mix it with something acidic – i.e. cocoa or vinegar

–          If your resulting cupcake mixture is runnier than a normal cupcake batter they will come out fluffier

–          Occasionally when mixing, scrape down the mixture to ensure all the ingredients are being mixed evenly

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Gelato Messina – A Bit of Italy in Fitzroy

panda 4.5 rating

Gelato Messina has come to Melbourne and taken everyone by storm. Newly opened in Smith Street, Fitzroy it has received a warm welcome with lines snaking out of the door and along Smith Street. Gelato has been a long love affair for many Melbournians especially people that frequent Lygon Street in Carlton. There are many different Gelato stores which serve up the classic traditional Italian style of ice cream but none quite like Gelato Messina. The main difference is that Gelato Messina pushes the boundaries when it comes to the rules of Gelato in the sense of being more inventive with flavours and combinations, combined with old-school techniques to maintain the integrity of the original gelato recipe. The Gelato Artisians or Gelartisans as they are fondly referred to as, have created flavours that have your mouth drooling just from reading what’s contained in each flavour.

Gelato Messina began in 2002 by by Nick Palumbo and is now co-owned by Donato Toce, Declan Lee, Danny Palumbo and John Stephens. Nick Palumbo comes from an Italian Messina background and it was visiting his grandparents in Messina that brought on his connection and love for gelato. Gelato Messina has many different locations around Sydney and even has one opening up in Hangzhou, China! It is no wonder that they have won many awards for their amazing Gelato. Just recently at the Melbourne Gelato World Tour they won first prize for a flavour called Cremino – salted caramel, gianduia (hazelnut chocolate), fresh meringue and amaretti.

What makes Gelato Messina different to other traditional Gelato stores is that they use real ingredients to make the gelato and it is hand churned on site. Everything is made fresh on the day without the artificial colours. The chocolate mint flavour uses actual mint leaves, the apple pie flavour consists of baked apple pies – and the list goes on. There is a list of about 40 permanent flavours and weekly specials. New daily flavours appear and they are constantly inventing bigger and better combinations to keep things intriguing. There are also fruity sorbets and dairy-free options for people who are in need of these. How great is it that they cater for one and all! Additionally, Gelato Messina makes ice cream cakes which are displayed in store as well – the infamous toadstool cake is present!

What is great about Gelato Messina is the connection that they have with the consumers – they have a huge online following and allow for people to submit and suggest different flavours. Allowing this personal interaction makes people wanting to keep coming back and trying out the different flavours and best of all bringing friends along to share in the experience.
Another great fact is that all the Gelartisans have a wealth of experience and knowledge in the world of Gelato making – like Simone Panetta (who is a partner in the Melbourne store) who has been making Gelato since he was 11 and was chosen to be a “Gelato Pioneer” at Carpigiani University in Bologna. They have recently put out a cookbook called Gelato Messina which can teach you how to make Gelato!

When you walk into the Melbourne store, the fit out has been done to keep in with the Fitzroy theme – there are exposed brick walls to give it a somewhat warehousey feel, together with colourful graffiti style wall mural by Jeremy Neale and a somewhat modern pressed metal enclosure which encases the gelatos. There is also a window where you can view the Gelartisans creating the many flavours on sale. You get to get a brief glimpse of the colourful and fresh gelato amongst the masses of the crowds. The staff are friendly and always have a smile on their face despite having to face an overwhelmingly large crowd throughout the day. Whilst waiting to order we are handed menus which was a good idea as after reading each flavour you are confused as to which one you want as they all sound sooo great. There is a list of special flavours on the wall (the same flavours get released in Sydney and Melbourne on the same day) – where as they get sold out a sign is placed to let people know until a new batch is made up. After much deliberation I decided to go with the Salted caramel and white chocolate as it was their biggest seller. N got the Mango Sorbet and Mint Chocolate Chip and M got the Twixed flavour.

You can either select if you want the gelato to come in a cup or a cone – I went with the signature green and orange cup for my scoop of gelato. The result was smooth and creamy consistency with accents of salted caramel and textured bits of white chocolate. The mix of the saltiness and the sweetness of the chocolate combined beautifully and this is the reason why it is their best selling flavour. I did get to try N’s mango sorbet which was tasted just like a mango in creamy smooth form and the chocolate chip mint gelato had a minty hint that I have never tasted before – in a great way! You can tell that fresh ingredients were used. The Twixed flavour was phenomenal – it was wholesome chocolaty goodness all in one scoop – rich and mouth watering! It also had shortbread and caramel mixed through it. I want to go back and try out the Cremino, Pistachio and Coconut & Lychee flavours – just to start..and eventually work my way through all the flavours! =p

Gelato Messina has so many flavours (in fact about a 900 flavour catalogue) to try out and with summer just around the corner there is no better time to try. I think Melbourne is lucky as it is currently their largest store to date which means more flavours to try out! Bring on summer and the year of Gelato!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the attachment above. Also look at http://www.gelatomessina.com/flavours/ and http://www.gelatomessina.com/flavours/our_top_10_flavour_combos/

Also refer to http://www.gelatomessina.com/ for the different Gelato Cakes which are made to order
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Chilled Out and Fun
Standout Flavours:
● Salted caramel and white chocolate (their biggest seller)
● Chocolate fondant
● Pandan and coconut
Service: Despite the long lines and queues, the staff are friendly and always have a smile on their face
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.gelatomessina.com/
237 Smith St, Fitzroy

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 12pm – 11pm
Friday to Saturday: 12pm – 11.30pm
Sunday: 12pm – 11pm

Gelato Messina Fitzroy on Urbanspoon

N2 Extreme Gelato – Liquid Nitrogen FUN!

panda 5 rating

I heard that N2 Extreme Gelato had arrived in Melbourne and couldn’t wait to check it out! N2 Extreme Gelato – a science based ice creamery was started up ex-accountant Min Chai in Sydney. The basic idea was to use liquid nitrogen to produce smooth, creamy gelato/sorbet of intriguing flavours.

This funky ice-cream lab is located on the bustling Brunswick street and as you walk in you see the massive blackboard menu on the left hand side, with information about what the place is about on the wall to the right. Once you decide which flavour you want and order, you can then view the magic right before your eyes.  Each tub is made fresh!

There is a benchtop which is set out lab style that houses rows of Kitchenaids and a large vat of liquid nitrogen. The staff have the whole scientist look going complete with goggles and laboratory gear. They then proceed to create gelato heaven and it is quite a spectacle to watch. People are lined up with their camera phones taking pictures and videos. You watch as the liquid nitrogen creates a cloudy haven.

The ingredients are fresh and real fruit is used and the full cream milk and fresh cream are sourced from local dairies. The major feature of course is the use of liquid nitrogen – the main reason being that liquid nitrogen freezes so fast that the ice crystal formation is minimised. This results in a much smoother consistency compared to if you produced it the conventional way. It also means that the gelato can be made to order and served at the perfect temperature of -6C. Freshness guaranteed. =)

There are many different wacky and enticing flavours to choose from with flavours changing every Thursday. Some flavours include SPAM & Mustard – yep you read that right it is SPAM infused gelato with Mustard, Black Salted Caramel, Butter Popcorn, Sour Cream Chocolate, Me So Happy (Miso Caramel & Peanuts with Milk Gelato), Creme Brulee and Mango Sorbet.

I decided to get the Crème Brulee flavour and N got the Mango Sorbet. Once you walk past the viewing area there is a sitting / chilling area out the back which is complete with Astro Turf Crate benches together with graffiti walls. The space is open and light filled and is a great place to eat gelato! The music playing is just as great.

The Crème Brulee gelato comes complete with a blow-torched layer of caramel on top – WOW! The result of this gelato was absolutely delicious – it didnt seem like a gelato at all but a real creme brulee dessert served at a restaurant. The gelato resembled silky smooth custard and the layer on top was crunchy, sugary and all around delicious. The result was that you don’t want to stop eating it. N’s Mango Sorbet was just as delicious – the mango flavour was intense, sweet and all round great! The serving size is quite generous as well and all for just $6.

N2 Extreme Gelato allows you to not only taste some of the best gelato going around but in intriguing flavours all whilst providing a bit of entertainment in the form of liquid nitrogen fun! Whats not to love in  a place that combines a bit of science and delciousness?

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – The flavours vary from week to week – but include SPAM Mustard, Black Salted Caramel, Butter Popcorn, Sour Cream Chocolate, Me So Happy (Miso Caramel & Peanuts with Milk Gelato), Creme Brulee and Mango Sorbet
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Funky, and Fun
Standout Flavour: Creme Brulee, Buttered Popcorn
Service: Friendly =)
Details and Location:
http://n2extremegelato.com.au/
329 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 1pm – 11pm

N2 Extreme Gelato on Urbanspoon

Hammer and Tong 412 – Sublime Menu

panda-4-rating1

Hammer and Tong comes to you from the team of Dennis Ferriera and chef Simon Ward and is located in the previous location of The Brix. They pretty much left the fit-out as it was  with the open kitchen, the large open windows and the decor.

Both Ferriera and Ward come with a wealth of experience and have worked in restaurants such as Di Stasio, Caffe e Cucina to France Soir, Momo, Vue De Monde and Jacques Reymond. In Hammer and Tong they have brought together casual dining and fine dining all in one and they do it exceptionally well.

Hammer and Tong has a bright and chirpy atmosphere and although it accompanies a smallish space, the light and large windows make it somewhat spacious. There are elements of old school from the big vintage scale at the front where newspapers are held one with a old school iron. There are three different dining spaces such as the main dining hall as you enter, where you can see the baristas’ busily making coffees, followed by the corridor bar and the sunroom at the very back of the space. Both the corridor bar and the sunroom has bar seating that overlooks the window as well as low table seating. In the corridor bar there are hanging plants over head and interesting lighting around the place.

We came on a Saturday morning around 11am and as expected there was a line to get a table. The staff informed us it would be about a 5-10 minute wait which it was. We were seated in the corridor bar and placed our coffee orders whilst we looked at the menu. I had heard a lot about the soft shell crab burger, but settled on the spiced corn fritters as I wanted something more breakfasty. I also wanted to try out their pancakes and told the waiter that once we were done with the savoury dishes to bring out the pancakes – as a dessert =)

We placed our food orders and it wasn’t until we had almost received our food that we got our coffees. It was full house and I did have to remind them about our coffee orders – this was somewhat of a let down.The coffee was good though – creamy and smooth and is from Dukes Coffee Roasters.

My Spiced Corn Fritters, Avocado,  Sour Cream, Chilli Jam, Tomato with a Poached Egg came out and was plated up brilliantly. There were three corn fritters, atop of the tomato in a triangle shape with the poached egg in the middle and the other elements around. The fritters were dense and tasty and I loved the hint of spice attached to them. They were the perfect crisp on the outside as well. Combining them with the avocado, sour cream and chilli jam completed the dish perfectly. This was a sublime dish – one of the best corn fritters I have had to date. N ordered Fried Eggs with a side of Chorizo and said the Chorizo was the best that he has had at any of the many cafe’s we have been to.

Once we were done with our savoury dishes, the waiter brought us the pancake dish – Buttermilk Pancakes, Blueberries, Maple Syrup & Popping Candy Ice Cream. If you think just from reading about the dish that its good – wait till you actually try it – it definitely does live up to all its expectations. There are four buttermilk pancakes surrounded by blueberries, maple syrup and ice cream which has the popping candy placed on top. As the dish is placed down in front of us, you can hear the crackle of the popping candy. Not only does the popping candy add a hit of crackle and a party in your mouth but adds lots of colour to the dish. The pancakes were thick but not too thick, fluffy, sweet and warm. The blueberries were fresh and juicy. All the elements together worked together and made for a great dish. It did get overly sweet towards the end but for some people that really isn’t a problem =p

Hammer and Tong is great new breakfast/brunch place that has a great ambiance and fantastic music playing over the speakers. From the lines at the door it certainly is popular and after having tried it I can tell why – the food is fresh, delicious and unique, and you can tell the experience of the team from the dishes. I forgot about the fact that our coffees were late as those corn fritters were just amazing, not to mention the pancakes.

Hammer & Tong offers coffee, breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages six days a week, from Tuesday through to Sunday. Dinner is offered Thursday through to Saturday.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Brunch menu – http://www.hammerandtong.com.au/brunch.html Dinner menu – http://www.hammerandtong.com.au/dinner.html
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Bright, Light and Chirpy – it really does pick up your day!
Standout Dish: Spiced Corn Fritters, Avocado,  Sour Cream, Chilli Jam, Tomato with a Poached Egg
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.hammerandtong.com.au/index.html
Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9041 6033

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 7:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Hammer and Tong 412 on Urbanspoon