Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Good Biscuit

When I was little there were a few go-to recipes that always seemed to pop up where my family was concerned. Things like Neenish Tarts, Louise Cake (which I didn’t like as a kid but love now), Banana Cake with Lemon Icing and… Afghans. Afghans are a truly good biscuit. Why? Because they have cornflakes in them and that is just plain cool. The flakes turn into little crunchy, chewy specks amongst the sweet cocoa-ey biscuit crumb. I love cocoa so these are right up my alley. And they are really easy to make. When it comes to this recipe, out of all the ingredients cornflakes will probably be the item you’re least likely to have in the cupboard. But it’s worth a trip to the corner store. I’ve never tried to substitute the cornflakes with other cereals, you could try but I don’t think any would work as well as the trusty little cornflake.

This recipe comes from the Edmonds ‘Sure to Rise’ Cookery Book, which is a staple in any good New Zealand home. If you grow up in New Zealand you know about this book – I think it’s probably the most famous cookbook New Zealand has. A few months ago I was talking to my sister who lives in Sydney and we got to laughing about how we were basically raised on Edmonds recipes. Every page we turned (we both have our own copies) featured one recipe or another that had been made sometime in our youth. And even in the 2008 edition that I have, the photos still have that classic 70’s or 80’s vibe - but you can’t fault the flavours. This biscuit is light, sweet, crumbly, crunchy and full of cocoa flavour. It’s a great one for kids to make too – just mix it all up in a bowl and squish in some cornflakes!

Thank you Edmonds for making sure generations of kiwis grow up with full pukus (tummies).

Afghans (from the Edmonds Cookery Book)

200g butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 ¼ cup ‘Edmonds’ Standard Plain Flour (or any plain flour you have in your cupboard)
¼ cup cocoa
2 cups cornflakes

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). This seems to be the go to temperature for all Edmonds recipes…if in doubt, go 180! Cream the butter and sugar until it turns pale yellow and goes all fluffy. Sift the flour and cocoa together then stir into the creamed butter and sugar mixture. Fold, squish, smash or smoosh the cornflakes into the batter. Grab chunks of the dough, roughly about a tablespoon each, press together gently and place on a greased oven tray. Bake for 15 minutes or until they look ready (slightly raised, set, yummy). Cool on a rack – be gentle taking them from the tray while they’re hot as they can be quite crumbly. When completely cool ice with chocolate icing (which you can make by mixing a bowl of icing sugar with a big spoon of cocoa powder and a few teaspoons of boiling water – it’s seriously easy) and dot with a walnut or sprinkle with shredded coconut. Or sprinkles! Whatever takes your fancy.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's Cake Day - Lemon Cake

I’m not the type of girl who finds it difficult to justify cake, or desserts of any kind for that matter. Any day can be a cake day. Sometimes I feel like people think I’m a little odd when I celebrate normal day-to-day events with food. That might have something to do with the weird almost fearful looks they give me, like there is a chance I could be slightly on the crazy side. But these people don’t cake (ha! I meant to write care but cake came out which is kind of funny so I left it…), they don’t share my joy of baking so they don’t count. Once they have cake in their hand they’re happy.

This week I successfully managed to disguise my cake baking needs with a more obvious cake-requiring occasion - a farewell to a girl at work who is leaving to have her first baby. This gave me the perfect excuse to bake. So bake I did. Cupcakes (being the obvious choice when it comes to baby themed events. Babies are little therefore require little cakes).

I am on a mission to find the perfect cupcake recipe. One that’s light and airy, has a nice rise and shape to it when baked and keeps well for at least a day (as I usually bake the night before and then ice in the morning).

This time I tried two recipes – one based on a Lemon Cake by Donna Hay and the other, a Raspberry Cupcake with White Chocolate Ganache from Nigella Lawson (who I think is great. Why not make food even better with sultry sauciness?).

The Nigella recipe was not only easy but it turned out beautiful, light and fluffy wee cakes. It has officially been added to my keep list. You can find the recipe here (oh no! stop press! Nigella has taken the recipe from her site and I can't find it elsewhere online! Foolish me for not writing it down - you learn a new lesson everyday. I'll see if I can find it elsewhere for you). If you need an impressive fail-safe cupcake recipe this is (was?) it. It’s foolproof! Although I do have a long running battle with ganache and somehow managed to completely ruin this one as well. Possibly because I tried to colour it pink…I need to research colouring ganache. I semi-salvaged the ganache by adding a tonne of icing sugar to thicken it up but for most of the cakes I used a cream cheese and passionfruit icing to decorate (just a basic cream cheese icing with passionfruit added which takes it to a whole new level of delicious goodness).

The Donna Hay recipe was actually meant for a cake, which after trying it as cupcakes, it’s probably more suited for (I should trust Donna more). The cupcakes were a little heavy and doughie but still really tasty. It would make a delish afternoon tea or dessert cake – something you eat with a fork and a dollop of cream or greek yoghurt. Go forth and eat cake!

Lemon Cake with Passionfruit Syrup (from Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 50)
125g butter
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup (240g) sour cream
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
2 ½ cups (375g) self-raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Place butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well. Mix in the sour cream, lemon juice and rind, flour and baking powder (I sifted the flour and baking powder together first). Spoon the mixture into a 23cm round cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper. Bake for 40 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer (poke a skewer into the centre of the cake – if it comes out clean the cake is done). If using the passionfruit syrup, turn the warm cake out onto a rack and pour over half the syrup (reserving the rest for serving) – allow to stand for a few minutes so the syrup can sink in then serve.

Passionfruit Syrup
I didn’t use this for my cupcakes but wanted to include it here for those who’d like to follow the original Donna Hay recipe.

⅔ cup (150g) sugar
1 cup (250ml) water
⅔ cup (160ml) passionfruit pulp (if you don’t have fresh, use canned and reduce the sugar slightly)

Place the sugar, water and passionfruit in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 4-5 minutes or until thickened slightly. See above for ‘pour over’ instructions.

If you try these recipes let me know what you think! And if you have a go-to cupcake recipe I would love to try it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Doing what I should've done a long time ago...

Hi, my name is Danielle. I‘ve decided to start my own blog. I know, I’m a little behind the times – there are so many blogs now but the way I see it, it’s kind of like an online diary (kind of…or exactly like?). Anyway, this is my first entry. And boy am I nervous.

I’ve been pondering and dreaming of starting my own blog for years…yes, years. That’s how much of a procrastinator I am. I just put it in the too hard basket but to be honest, I was just scared. Putting yourself out there, on the line, is scary. But I need to do this. Why? Because I have been missing writing, I have been missing creativity, I have been missing some kind of connection (with myself and with others). And I’m hoping to get some of that back here.

I want to write and I am pretty sure I want that writing to be about food, or at least about things I make with my hands to bring people joy – and one of my favourite ways to do that is through food. Sometimes I worry that my cooking brings me more joy than it does the people that taste it, but I try to make sure there’s an even balance! I am a lover of baking…ah, the love of baking is strong! The process, the smell, the texture, the look, the taste – everything. Each slice, mouthful, biscuit or sliver is like a little gift all of it’s own.

I was recently walking down Lygon Street in Carlton and was lured by the sight of colourful macarons into Browne’s…I am so glad I saw them calling to me. I was standing there debating with myself over whether to try the pistachio or strawberry when the assistant behind the counter recommended the blood orange. I was hesitant, not being a fan of orange as a flavour (oranges yes, orange flavour not so much) but when I walked outside, opened the little brown bag and took my first bite I could not, literally could NOT, stop my mouth from smiling. It was like a tiny explosion of pure goodness, sunshine in my mouth. Since then I have sampled pistachio, strawberry and pineapple but none have quite had me as much as that little blood orange macaron did.

This is me, writing about what makes me happy. Sometimes I might flip between things I make or things I find (like the little macaron). Either way, I hope sometimes my happiness can make you happy too.