Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

Pregnancy has slowed down the treat making this Christmas! So not much to show. I did make some fudge, individual Christmas cakes and shortbread, but it was all in a rush and I even forgot to take photos!! But I did want to take this opportnity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy and successful 2010!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Finally some Christmas treats!!

While I wont be making many wee treats for Christmas gifts this year, I did make these wee truffles on Monday night. They were incredibly easy and actually really tasty. I usually make truffles with chocolate, cream etc, but these little biscuit truffles are so much easier to make.

All you do is blitz 500g of oreo biscuits (I used 3 x 150g packets and it still worked ok) together in the food processor until they form little crumbs and then mix in a 250g pottle of cream cheese. I used lite cream cheese and that worked fine too. Roll the mixture into balls (wet hands worked best for this), chill (I actually put mine in the freezer), then dip in melted chocolate. I used milk chocolate for the dipping and sprinkled them with red, white and green hundreds to give them a Christmassy look. The recipe made 50-60 truffles depending on the size.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

TWD - Cafe Volcano Cookies

This week’s TWD recipe is Café Volcano Cookies and was chosen by Macduff of The Lonely Sidecar. This is probably one of the more unusual recipes in the book. The method is so odd, that you wonder what on earth the cookies are going to turn out like.

The cookies are like a cross between a meringue and a nut only Florentine. The method is more like that of a Florentine (ie throw everything in the pot together) than a meringue, but the ingredients are that of a meringue. Essentially you warm together over a low heat, egg whites, sugar, toasted almonds and walnuts and espresso powder, and then make wee mounds of the mixture on a baking tray and bake. Surprisingly the egg white doesn’t go omelette like when heated. The cookies are crisp and meringue like.

I was going to include my batch of cookies (which I halved) with the baking for hospice that I did in the weekend, but the cookies are very delicate and I don’t think they would enjoy being in a plastic bag. It’s a little early to give these delicate wee morsels away for Christmas, but I am sure my husband and I will both enjoy them over the next few days.

See what the other TWDers thought here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Handbag Cookies

This is a pretty un-Christmassy post of some little decorated cookies I made a while ago to thank a friend’s Mum for some wonderful knitting she did for our new baby. Christmas baking for me isn’t going to be the usual marathon effort given that my energy levels are not as high as usual (actually I usually just run on adrenalin and champagne this time of year, but of course neither of those things are good for baby growing!) and we have a wedding in Napier this weekend, which would usually be my Christmas baking weekend.

Anyway, back to the cookies. These are my usual shortbread cookies cut into handbag shapes. They are iced with pink tinted fondant and little royal icing flower. Cute and delicious. You could use the same concept to make Christmas themed handbag cookies for your girlfriends – make the handbags red and decorate with little gold balls.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Cupcakes

Seeing it is December 9 already, I thought it was about time I posted something Christmassy. I made these cupcakes last week for a client function. I made about 60 of them. The cupcake recipe came from the Crabapple bakery Cook Book and was spicy mocha cupcakes. I did scale down the amount of coffee in them – in fact I wondered if ¼ c of instant coffee powder was a mistake in the recipe? The cupcakes had a lovely density to them that you would associate with gingerbread. They were subtly spiced and also had melted chocolate in them. They kept well too – I made them in Sunday and they still tasted ok (although probably not at their best!) by Wednesday (the function was on Tuesday).

The icing I simply rolled fondant. This gives a lovely professional looking finish. Some people don’t like the taste of fondant, but rolled relatively thinly it’s not too sweet. I cut out fondant stars and Christmas trees using cutters, and sprinkled them with coloured sugar for the little cake toppers. I used lightly beaten eggwhite to adhere the sprinkles. Another way of decorating these cupcakes which would look quite cool would be to ice them with a simple white glace icing and then pop a red or green giant pebble on top.

Spiced Mocha Cupcakes (adapted from the Crabapple Bakery)

(one recipe made approx 36 cupcakes)

1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 c boiling water
150g dark chocolate
200g butter
1 ½ c brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 c flour
2 tsp b powder
1 tsp b soda
2 tsp mixed spice
½ c sour cream

• Stir chocolate into hot coffee mixture and stir until smooth
• Cream butter and sugar
• Beat in eggs, one at a time
• Stir in coffee mixture and vanilla
• Stir in dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream
• Spoon into cupcake cases and bake at 200c for 15-18 minutes

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD - Sables

This week’s TWD recipe is sables and was chosen by Barbara of Bungalow Barbara. These is my first Christmas themed baking for this year as well, although I did make my Christmas cake back in the end of October.

Sables are the French version of shortbread, the difference being that they are much more delicate and thin and contain egg yolks which enrich the dough. I cant remember whether I have made a true sable biscuit/cookie before, but I have tasted them in France. The recipe is very easy – if it was in my Nana’s recipe book it would say “make in the usual way” – ie cream butter and sugar, add egg yolks and then stir in flour. The dough is very soft, but time in the fridge makes the dough much more workable. You could roll this dough out and cut into shapes, but as it is very buttery, you might find that you lose the shape in the baking. I did what Dorie suggested – rolled the dough into logs, then rolled in Christmas coloured sugar, sliced and baked.

I only made a few of these cookies, freezing the rest of the dough for Christmas gifts. I loved the cookies – they are crisp and buttery and with the coloured sugar coating, look particularly festive. Dorie gives a number of variations and I want to try them all. Maybe everyone will be getting sables for Christmas from me this year!

See what the other TWDers thought here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cheat's Birthday Cake

I was in Christchurch in the weekend for my niece’s 6th birthday. Piper wanted me to make her birthday cake, but it was a pretty full on day the actual day of her birthday, as my dad and brother in law were cycling in an event, so I didn’t get the time to actually bake a cake. Instead I bought a sponge from the supermarket and some whipped cream. I tinted the cream pink, whipped it, sandwiched the sponge together and the slathered more cream over the sides. I then decorated it with icing flowers – I made the big pink flowers, but bought the little roses at the supermarket (you can get so many more decorating bits and pieces at the supermarket now days). The effect is great I think, for a $4 cake a bottle of cream!

My niece loves baking and so our present to her was a kids baking book, an assortment of cupcake cases, little icing flowers I had made, sprinkles and edible gel pens. She loved the present and I cant wait to see what she creates with her new cupcake decorating equipment.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

TWD - Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart

I cant believe that it is a week since I have posted! It is definitely that time of year!!! Functions on every night lat week and being pregnant means that my evenings aren’t quite as full of baking as they used to be. Work is also exceptionally busy so I have been enjoying reading with my feet up rather than hours in the kitchen. Perhaps a sign of things to come?

But I did manage to make the TWD recipe this week which is Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart and was chosen by Lauren of I’ll Eat You. I almost didn’t make this tart. I have been told to slow down a bit and the three steps (three pages in the recipe book) and assembly of this tart almost defeated me. I ended up using some shortcrust pastry I had in the freezer ( a Dorie recipe but I am not sure which one!!), made a quarter of the pastry cream recipe and only poached one pear. I made two little tarts, one each for my husband and father in law is staying with us at the moment, helping with our landscaping.

The pastry cream for this tart was the star of the tart as far as I was concerned. It is made by grinding pistachio nuts with a little sugar and then warming the milk for the custard with the nut mixture in it. The pastry cream turns out a beautiful pistachio green colour (funnily enough!) and has that unique taste of pistachios. Dories says that you can strain out the nuts, but I wonder why you would want to do that, as in my view it is the fine pieces of nut that gives the tart it’s charm.

The pears are poached in a red wine syrup, cooled and then displayed on the tart. The garnish is toffeed pistachio nuts. This step did defeat me however, and I just chopped raw pistachio nuts for my garnish. The tarts were well received by my husband and his dad. I don’t think I would make this again though, mostly because I don’t like pears!

See if the other TWDers enjoyed the tart here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TWD - All in One Holiday Bundt Cake

This week’s TWD is all in one holiday Bundt Cake and was chosen by Britin of the Nitty Britty. This cake is perfect for this time of year in the states – full of all the things that you associate with autumn and thanksgiving – pumpkin, cranberries, pecans and apples. Of course, we are heading into summer, not autumn here and we don’t celebrate thanksgiving, but this is the most delicious cake for any time of the year.

The recipe is easy to put together. The only more time intensive bit is that we don’t have canned mashed pumpkin here, so I cooked some pumpkin and mashed it. When I do this I do it in the microwave and don’t add any liquid, as that makes the pumpkin go watery. It is best to steam it. Also, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, fresh or even frozen cranberries are very rare here, so I used dried cranberries instead. I also only had a 70g packet of pecans which is about 2/3 of a cup instead of the cup stipulated in the recipe, but that was fine.

This was my second time using my bundt pan. Last time was to make Dorie’s banana bundt. This time I didn’t have such great success getting the cake out of the tin – I don’t think I left it for quite long enough before trying to remove it. But it was still mostly in one piece. I made the maple syrup glaze for the cake, but I think I watered it down too much and the glaze kind of ran off the cake. It still tasted pretty good.

I would definitely make this cake again. See what the other TWDers thought here.

Friday, November 20, 2009


A couple of weeks ago I made these cupcakes and I was so delighted with how they turned out. I really need to get back into the cupcake making thing again as they are so much fun. I also need to start thinking about Christmas treats. Now that I am nearly 30 weeks pregnant the time I used to spend baking in the evenings is now spent lying on the sofa watching Sex and the City – I have never seen this before, but started watching re-runs on Sky and am now addicted!! I need to start baking again in time for the Christmas baking extravaganza!

These cupcakes are the same lemon cupcakes I made for my baby shower. Even though they look completely different, the flavours are virtually the same. The pink ones were baked in pink paper cases, and I actually popped a raspberry in each cake before it was baked for lemon and raspberry cakes. I then tinted cream cheese icing pink, swirled it on top and topped with edible glitter and a white chocolate heart which I had used a chocolate transfer on. It was the first time I had used edible glitter and I probably used a bit too much, but they still looked cute.

The other cupcakes I left the cream cheese icing uncoloured and then topped them with a red icing flower which I made. The cases are red, so all colour co-ordinated. Not as great looking as the pink ones but still cute and effective. The thing with cupcakes is that it’s almost all in the look rather than the taste.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cheese Scones

Recently I bought a new recipe book which is a breast cancer research fundraiser, but is full of the favourite baking recipes of well known NZ cooks. It is a lovely book and has some great recipes. I decided on Sunday to make the cheese scone recipe for lunch. I absolutely love cheese scones, but I have never really been a great scone maker.

This scone recipe is not your usual in that it contains an egg. In some ways this made the scones a little more like cheese puffs than cheese scones as they were very light. They also had buttermilk in them. When we came back from three months travelling round Europe five years ago, I always had buttermilk in the fridge, as our trip had included time bike touring round Ireland and I became addicted to Irish soda bread. The Irish soda bread recipe I was given by the owner of the B & B we stayed in in Tralee, included buttermilk – hence having it in the fridge. These days I don’t make as much bread and when a recipe calls for buttermilk I often add a tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of milk and let it sour. This is what I did on Sunday.

I made two thirds of the following recipe (using just the egg yolk rather than the whole egg) and it made 6 large cheese scones. They were delicious both hot from the oven and even once cooled later on in the day. They all got eaten before I could see whether they would have survived until the next day, although I think scones are always better on the day made and preferably hot from the oven.

Cheese Scones (adapted from a Treasury of NZ Baking)

3 c self raising flour
½ tsp mustard powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
25g butter
100g grated tasty cheese
1 1/2c buttermilk (or sour your own milk by using my method above)
1 egg

• Combine flour, mustard powder and cayenne pepper
• Grate in butter and rub with fingers, stir in cheese
• Combine milk and egg
• Pour milk into a well in the middle of the flour and then us a knife to bring the dough together
• Pat out on a well floured bench and cut into scones. Sprinkle tops with a little more grated cheese
• Bake at 220c fanbake for 12 minutes

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TWD - Sugar Topped Molasses Cookies

This week’s TWD recipe is sugar topped molasses spice cookies chosen by Pamela of Cookies with Boys. I was looking forward to making these cookies as I’ve never baked wit molasses before – it’s not really a product we use in NZ that much – we tend to use golden syrup instead which is a more mild syrup.

When I went supermarket shopping on Saturday the only molasses they had at two supermarkets was blackstrap molasses. I had a feeling that wasn’t quite right and when I went home and looked at the recipe, I was right – it specifically said not to use blackstrap molasses. I had a wee taste of the molasses and it was pretty disgusting – thick , very dark and strong. I decided to make a half batch of the cookies anyway just to see what they were like. I didn’t even get to cook them. I had a taste of the mixture and it was foul! I decided not to even bake the yucky tasting mixture.

Having thrown the cookie dough down the waste disposal, I made the cookie dough again using golden syrup rather than molasses. The cookies were delicious. They turned out very similar to a gingernut biscuit – crisp, spicy but with a little bit of chew. I didn’t make them as flat as suggested in the recipe, but they were still delicious. Perfect with a glass of cold milk.

See what the other TWDers thought here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Baby Shower Cupcakes for me

One thing I haven’t mentioned on my blog is that I am having a baby. I am 28 weeks pregnant with our first child and that is the main reason why my postings haven’t been as regular over the last few months as they were in the past. It is an extremely exciting time and I am pleased to say that I have been incredibly well and enjoying every minute of it.

I mentioned earlier in the week that Mum and Dad and two of my sisters were up in the weekend. Well, on Saturday Mum and my sisters hosted a baby shower for me. It was a lovely afternoon and our little baby was so spoiled! We had a lovely afternoon tea with sandwiches, asparagus rolls, a cheese board and these cupcakes and shortbread that I made. The cupcakes were lemon yoghurt cake and were topped with tinted whipped cream. I topped them with these little fondant booties which I made. There was a tutorial on one of my favourite blogs, Not Quite Nigella, some time ago. You can find it here. They are deceptively easy to make and look just so gorgeous.

The shortbread shapes are decorated with fondant and royal icing. They are pretty simple but sometimes less is more. As you will be able to tell from the colours, we are not sure what we are having, so are having a very fun time guessing!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Birthday Cake

When my in-laws were up a few weeks ago, it was my mother in law’s birthday. Rather than go out for dinner, I made a special dinner at home. I asked her what she would like for dinner and after her saying what ever you want to make a number of times, she confessed that her favourite is lamb. So, for the first time I cooked rack of lamb.

I used a Julie le Clerc recipe as a guide, coating the lamb rack in a crust made with breadcrumbs, sundried tomatoes and chopped olives. I think for my first go at lamb rack, I actually cooked it fairly well – cooked, but still lovely and pink in the middle. I served it with a salad of baby spinach, avocado and asparagus and cous cous.

I made a birthday cake for pudding. I used a recipe for a sponge cake from Ladies, A Plate. The forward to the recipe said that the cake didn’t rise high like a sponge cake usually would. And that was the truth. Even though the cake tasted lovely, I was a little disappointed with how flat it was. I did manage to cut in half and cream it (the cream is the best part of a sponge cake as far as I am concerned) and I did ice the top of the cake which is something I wouldn’t normally do but it was suggested the recipe. I then decorated the top of the cake with some icing flowers I made a while ago.

I wont make this cake again – it’s probably the first recipe from Ladies, A Plate that I haven’t really enjoyed, but if you want a very easy (albeit not terribly high!) sponge cake, then give it a go.

Birthday Sponge Cake (from Ladies, A Plate by Alexa Johnson)

2 eggs
1 egg yolk
70g icing sugar
55g flour

• Beat eggs, yolk and icing sugar until thick, pale and creamy
• Sift over flour and fold in
• Pour into a 20cm round tin which has had its base lined
• Bake at 190c for 25-30 minutes or until the cake has begun to shrink from the sides and bounces back when you touch the middle
• Cool on wire rack, then split and fill with whipped cream

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TWD Cran Apple Crisp

This week’s TWD recipe is cran apple crisp and was chosen by Em of the Repressed pastry Chef. As I mentioned yesterday we had my family staying over the weekend and it was pretty hectic. I almost forgot to make my cran apple crisp until last night when I quickly made dinner before we took Mum and Dad to the airport. I guess that this proves that cran apple crisp is a quick and easy dessert to make.

Cran apple crisp is basically like an apple crumble with the addition of cranberries, both fresh and dried. I was lazy and just made my crisp with canned apple slices and dried cranberries – you can very rarely buy fresh cranberries in NZ and the frozen ones are also hard to come by. The topping was a crumble made with the addition of rolled oats, thread coconut, cinnamon and ginger. We ate the crisp with yoghurt and a little milk.

We all loved this – leftovers would be good for breakfast as well!! See if the other TWDers enjoyed it here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Carrot Cake

My third sister (there are four of us) turns 30 next weekend and she and my youngest sister were up in the weekend, so I made her an early birthday cake. Mum and Dad were up as well so we had a wonderful weekend, but did miss sister #2. My sister’s favourite cake is carrot cake, but a plain carrot cake with no sultanas, pineapple etc in it. I have to say I am with her on that one, although I don’t mind walnuts in carrot cake.

I made the recipe from one of Annabel Langbein’s book. It makes a large, 23cm cake, but I actually made a higher cake in a 20cm cake tin. The cake is very easy to make – the recipe says to whiz it up in the food processor, but as I had my cake mixer out making other things, I just made it in that. The cake was beautiful and moist as well and is definitely my “go to” carrot cake recipe. I covered it with cream cheese icing and simply decorated it with little icing flowers I made a while ago. This recipe would make great cupcakes as well.

Carrot Cake (Annabel Langbein)

1 c neutral oil (I used rice bran oil)
2 c raw sugar
4 eggs
1 c wholemeal flour
1 c plain flour
3 c grated carrot
1 tsp each mixed spice and ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 tbsp orange juice (I used milk)

• Beat together oil, sugar and eggs
• Beat in flour, then carrot and spices and lastly baking soda
• Pour into lined 23 or 20cm round cake tin
• Bake at 160c for 50-60 minutes or until cooked through
• When cold ice with cream cheese icing.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oaty Caramel Slice

My in-laws were up last week. My father in law was helping build a part of our new fence. As I have mentioned before, it always like to fill the tins before guests arrived and this time I made some biscuits (which I will blog about at a later date) and this oaty caramel slice. Both were a hit, but in particular the caramel slice. As you know by now, I love caramel slice. I actually love caramel, so it doesn’t particularly bother me what kind of caramel slice it is. This oaty one could fool you into thinking that it was a little bit good for you. But, even though the oats do offer up a little more fibre than some of the other variations of caramel slice that I make, the amount of butter in this slice probably counteracts against the wholesomeness of the oats!

The original recipe had chopped dates in the crumble topping. I didn’t have any dates at home, so I substituted dried apricots. I actually think that dates would probably work better as they would probably incorporate into the topping a little more – the apricots tended to fall off. I also made the slice in a smaller tin than that specified and while that was good for the caramel layer, if I made this again I would make it in the bigger tin but do 1 ½ times the caramel. The recipe used purchased caramelised condensed milk (similar to dulche de leuche). However, you can make your own by boiling an un-opened can of condensed milk for 2 hours, making sure you keep the water topped up to cover the can, and you are very careful when opening the can, as the hot caramel often splutters (a friend once got a bad pock mark on her forehead when opening a hot can of caramelised condensed milk).

Oaty Caramel Slice

220g butter
1 c brown sugar
1 c rolled oats
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 ½ c flour
1 tsp baking powder
380g can caramelised condensed milk (I would use 1 1/.2 or even 2 cans)

• Melt butter and then add in rest of ingredients other than condensed milk
• Press into a 20x30 cm tin and bake at 180c for 15-20 minutes
• Lightly cool, spread over caramel and then sprinkle with the following topping and bake for a further 15 minutes

1 c rolled oats
1 c finely chopped dates or dried apricots
½ tsp cinnamon
½ c flour
100g butter

• Combine dry ingredients and then rub in butter to make a crumble mixture

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

TWD - Chocolate Caramel chestnut Cake

This week’s TWD recipe is another rich cake – Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake, and was chosen by Katya of Second Dinner. I have to admit yet again, that this is a cake that I would have by-passed if I wasn’t baking my way through this book. It is a layer cake (layer cakes aren’t as big in NZ as they seem to be in the States) and is a reach concoction of two types of chocolate ganache and chestnuts.

The actual cake is a sponge made with sweetened chestnut paste. For some reason I had a tube of vanilla sweetened chestnut paste in the pantry. I had never used it before, and must have bought it one day, just in case, but not really knowing what I would do with it. The cake is a lovely, light cake as you beat the egg whites separately and fold into the cake mixture at the end. I actually thought that the cake was quite delicious by itself without the addition of the yummy but a bit sickly ganache.

The cake is layered with a caramel milk chocolate ganache made by making a caramel sauce then adding milk chocolate and a little bit of dark chocolate. You then beat in butter once this mixture has cooled. The amount of butter used seemed a lot, so I halved it as the ganache was tasty enough and creamy enough without having to add a lot of butter. The cake was cut into three layers and a good dollop of ganache spread between each layer. You were meant to sprinkle chopped chestnuts over the ganache, but even though it was a chestnut cake, I left them out – it is the wrong season for chestnuts here and the vacuum packed ones aren’t stocked at my supermarket and I didn’t go searching for them at a specialty food store.

The whole cake was covered in a glaze which was essentially dark chocolate ganache. I made ¼ of the recipe which made two little 10cm cakes. I decorated the tops with gold dragees. To be honest I wouldn’t make this cake again as I found the end result to be a bit too sickly sweet. Layer cakes are a bit too much for me unless they are layered with whipped cream.

See if the other TWDers enjoyed the cake more than I did here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Raspberry and Almond Cakes

A couple of Saturday nights ago, my husband and I had one of those rare Saturday nights where we had nothing on. I made him mussels for dinner (one of his favourite things, except this time I did them in a tamarind coconut cream broth and he wasn’t overly fussed on the tamarind flavour) and salmon for me (I don’t like mussels). Even though we don’t usually have dessert when it is just the two of us, I thought it would be nice to make something and I so I made us a little raspberry and almond cupcake each.

The recipe is in Donna Hay’s latest book and is actually for a full cake. I scaled the recipe back to 1/3 of the original and made two little cakes. The cake recipe is really a friand recipe – made with egg whites, ground nuts, melted butter and icing sugar. I like the idea of making little cakes from this recipe as the finished product is light and delicate and kind of suits little cakes, rather than one big one. I have given the recipe below for 6 little cakes, but the recipe does easily scale down.

Raspberry and Almond Cakes (adapted from Donna Hay)

1/3 c flour
2/3 c ground almonds
1 c icing sugar
90g butter, melted and cooled
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 c raspberries (I used frozen)

• Combine all ingredients other than the raspberries. Mix well, but do not beat
• Stir in raspberries and spoon into little cake moulds or cases
• Bake at 160c for 35-40 minutes or until the thin blade of a knife comes out clean
• Serve warm or at room temperature with extra raspberries and whipped cream

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lemon Slice for Hospice

I mentioned last week that it was Baking for Hospice time again and I made the cupcakes I posted about last week. I also made this lemon slice. I have been so lucky this year in that I havent had to buy lemons once. I have been supplied by friends and also from the lemon tree at one of our rental properties. I have had enough to cook and bake with and also to preserve. My friend who was staying with me actually chose this recipe for me to make for hospice. It is from A Second Helping, the sequel to Ladies, A Plate.

The slice has a thin shortbread style base and then a lemon curd style topping. The slice makes a large one, but it is quite thin. I was tempted to make it in a smaller tin, but lemon slice is one of those things, that should be delicate, not thick and stodgy. The recipe didn’t say to use the zest of the lemon, but I did and I think that added to the texture, if not to the flavour. The recipe also suggested drizzling the top with chocolate. Now, I am a real chocolate lover, but I just cant imagine chocolate on lemon slice. Perhaps white chocolate, but definitely not dark. I just sprinkled my slice with icing sugar.

Lemon Slice (method adapted but ingredients the same - from A Second Helping by Alexa Johnston)

170g butter
105g icing sugar
180g flour

• Cream butter and icing sugar; stir in flour to make a dough
• Press dough into a lined 20x30cm slice tin and bake at 180c for 15-20 minutes or until golden

55g softened butter
200g sugar
15g flour
Juice and zest of three lemons
3 eggs

• Gently combine all ingredients with a whisk
• Pour over hot base and bake at 180c for a further 30 minutes
• When cold remove from tin and cut into slices. Dust with icing sugar

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cherry Fudge Brownie Torte

This week’s TWD recipe is Cherry Fudge Brownie Torte and was chosen by April of Short & Rose. It’s a shame that there isn’t a photo of this recipe in Dorie’s book as I actually think this has been one of my favourite recipes that we have made so far. In saying that, it was an expensive recipe to make as it had lots of chocolate, butter, mascarpone, cream cheese and cream in it (yes, not the weight watchers special) but it was truly delicious. I probably would have made a scaled down version of this recipe, except we have my in-laws staying with us at the moment and I thought they would enjoy having the leftovers in the fridge for a few days.

This dessert has a very rich brownie base which is studded with dried sour cherries. I have never seen dried sour cherries in the usual places I shop, so I actually used bottled cherries. This also meant that I left out the step where you flambéed the dried cherries in kirsch – the most challenging part of the recipe. I think I probably preferred the canned cherries in the tort as I don’t like dried fruit. I also got the opportunity to open my beautiful jar of French cherry preserves which I bought at the food show a few months ago.

The topping is a decadent mixture of cream cheese, mascarpone, sugar and cream – like a cheesecake topping, but not too sweet – the sweetness comes from the brownie base. Dorie suggested decorating the top of the torte with pureed cherry preserves. However, I didn’t really want to use my expensive French preserves for that, so I used raspberry jam – completely different flavour I know, but it did have the visual effect I was after. Christmas is at our place this year and I think that I may make a raspberry version of the torte for Christmas, using fresh raspberries instead of the cherries and then decorating the top of the torte with fresh raspberries.

I loved this recipe and will definitely be making this again. See if the other TWDers loved it as much as we did here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Holiday Slice

I mentioned yesterday that my friend and her children were up last weekend, so I wouldn’t to fill the tins with something “child friendly”. I had a look through my books and ended up picking a slice from a book which was one of my very first recipe books. The book is a community cookbook from Orepuki, a small community in rural Southland where my mother’s cousins lived. I think I got the book when I was about 9 and even then I have ticked recipes and written “good” beside them in the same way my Nana had in her cook books.

There is a great baking section in this book, lots of great tin fillers. I picked a recipe called holiday slice which sounds pretty boring but is actually delicious. The recipe has cornflakes in it and I chose if because even though we don’t eat cornflakes for breakfast, I bought some a while ago to make afghans and I ended up buying a huge box as it looked nicer on my pantry shelf than a bag of cornflakes! So I wanted to use some more up.

The slice recipe is the easiest kind to make and would be great to bake with kids. You mix all your dry ingredients in a bowl, stir in melted butter, press into a tin, bake and then ice with chocolate icing. I added more cocoa to mine to give it a more chocolatey flavour and I also added an egg yolk, as my mixture was a little dry and more melted butter would have given a very crisp slice rather than the slightly chewy one I wanted to create. Once I had iced the slice I covered it with these cute sprinkles I found at foodtown – they are a combination of hundreds and thousands, long sprinkles (which I think are called jimmies in the states) and stars. They are so cute and really made my slice appealing to the kids. I cut the slice into little two bite pieces. The kids weren’t the only ones that loved it – the adults thought it was pretty good too.

Holiday Slice

1 c flour
1 c cornflakes
1c sugar
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1 c coconut
150g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk

• Combine dry ingredients, then stir in melted butter and vanilla. If the mixture is still a little dry add the egg yolk
• Press into a lined 27 x 18 cm tin and bake at 180c for 20 minutes
• When cold ice with chocolate icing and sprinkle with hundreds and thousands, coconut or chocolate hail

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cupcakes for Hospice

Last Sunday was another “baking for hospice” run. I had my friend and her 4 year old and 18 month old staying with me, so the 4 year old and I decided to make cupcakes as part of my contribution to baking for hospice. After a big day out at the zoo, shopping and visiting a friend with a newborn baby, I wanted an easy non-demanding recipe to make. Something that a 4 year old could easily help me with. So I looked to my Ladies, A Plate book and decided to make the recipe in there for cupcakes. It is a very simple cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, then the dry ingredients and milk style recipe. The cakes are plain vanilla ones, but you could change the flavouring by adding citrus zest, replacing cocoa for flour or even tinting the mixture with food colouring to get coloured cupcakes.

The recipe made 12 standard sized cupcakes. The next morning we made buttercream icing, tinting it a pale pink, and spread it on the cupcakes, topping each one with a royal icing flower which I made some time ago. My little friend decorated hers with heart shaped sprinkles. I love how something as simple as pretty pink icing and a flower can turn an otherwise plain cupcake into something special.

Cupcakes (from Ladies, A Plate)

115g butter
150g sugar
2 eggs
180g flour
1 tsp baking powder
115ml milk
1 tsp vanilla

• Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs, one at a time
• Combine flour and baking powder and fold into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk and vanilla
• Spoon into cupcake cases and bake at 180c for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
• When cold decorate with buttercream icing

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TWD - Sweet Potato Biscuits

This week’s TWD recipe is Sweet Potato Biscuits and was chosen by Erin from Prudence Pennywise. This recipe requires a bit of a translation for New Zealand readers, as in NZ, sweet potato are called kumara (the Maori word for the variety of sweet potato that grows here) and biscuits are actually akin to our scones – a biscuit in NZ is really a cookie.

Also, in NZ we don’t have canned sweet potato (I cant even imagine what that would be like!). So in order to make the biscuits, I steamed a whole beauregard kumara (the orange fleshed variety of kumara) and mashed it. This meant that I had to add a little milk to my biscuit dough, as the mashed kumara by itself was a bit dry. I halved the recipe and instead of making the biscuits into little rounds as the recipe suggested, I cut four scone sized biscuits from the dough.

I loved these. The kumara gave a real tenderness to the biscuits. They were light and flaky and just delicious. We ate them warm with butter even though Dorie said that they are best a while after they are cooked. I would be interested to see how different mine were using fresh kumara as opposed to canned sweet potato.

See what the other TWDers thought here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ricotta Bites

A few weeks ago we went to friends for dinner and I volunteered to make a plate of nibbles. I ended up making these tasty wee bites, which are ricotta and ham bites, loosely based on a recipe in a donna Hay magazine. They are very easy to make and are really tasty. They are sort of like mini quiches but I think are almost simpler to make.

To make them combine a 200g tub of ricotta with an egg, grated parmesan to taste and some chopped herbs (I used chopped basil). Season well with salt and pepper – one of the things I learned at the cooking classes I used to attend at the Epicurean is that with nibbles, it is important to season well, as it is just one mouthful and you want to leave a lasting impression. Spray mini muffin tins with non stick spray (I use a rice bran oil spray), line with prosciutto, or use strips of shaved ham as I did, fill with a teaspoon of the ricotta mixture and bake at 180c for about 12 minutes or until browned and set.

Leave for a few minutes before loosening and removing from tin. You could add all sorts of different flavourings such as pesto, sun dried tomatoes, different cheeses, tomato relish etc.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Double Chocolate Cookies

A couple of issues ago there was a recipe in Dish magazine for double chocolate cookies. My sister who also subscribes to the magazine made them and didn’t rate the recipe that highly. I made them in the weekend and actually thought that they were really great. I did modify the recipe just a little to include 2 egg yolks rather than a full egg and 1 egg yolk. I made this recipe using white chocolate and dark chocolate buttons. They, of course, would be much nicer using real chocolate.

The butter in this recipe is melted rather than softened. I think this is what gives the cookies the great texture which is crisp but chewy at the same time. I think I might try these again with equal amounts of white and brown sugar which would hopefully still give the chewy texture but perhaps give a lighter colour to the finished product.

Double Chocolate Cookies (adapted from Dish magazine)

190g butter
½ c sugar
1 c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 egg yolks
2 c flour
½ tsp baking soda
¾ c each dark and white chocolate chips or buttons

• Melt butter and whisk in sugars
• Whisk in vanilla and egg yolks and then stir in the balance of the ingredients
• Roll mixture into balls and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand
• Bake at 170c for 15 minutes or until golden

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TWD - Allspice Crumb Muffins

This week’s TWD recipe is Allspice crumb Muffins and was chosen by Kayte of At first glance I didn’t think these muffins had a lot going for them – they had nothing of interest to note other than a crumb topping – no fruit, chocolate etc to make them interesting. However, I completely underestimated how delicious they were in their plainness.

The muffins are subtly flavoured with allspice, one of those spices that you only use every now and again. I was tempted to put more spice in the muffins as half a teaspoon didn’t seem to be enough, but it was just right. I actually pretty much stuck to the ingredients as listed. Usually when I made muffins I try to make them a little more healthy by using rice bran oil, and always no more than ¼ c, and only even use one egg. I decided to stick with the butter with these muffins, and while I would normally cut the amount of butter in half, this time I scaled it back to 90g which was about ¾ of that stated in the recipe. I figured that the butter was an important taste factor in the muffins.

One thing I did do was use half wholemeal flour and half plain. This gave the muffins a bit more of a healthy bent (more fibre) and I think was a welcome addition. The crumb topping was delicious, but you could as easily halve the crumb mixture and still have enough to top all your muffins – I ended up throwing about half of mine away.

The verdict on these muffins was that they were delicious. I think they were particularly good warm from the oven and I actually buttered mine (a rare treat in this day and age!). I would definitely make these again using my wholemeal variation. See what the other TWDers thought here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Simple and Cute

Quick Sunday afternoon post. It is a gorgeous day here - seems like the first fine weather weekend day in ages. I'm about to go and do some things outside, but thought I would post this photos of these cookies I made for my sister last week. they are simply shortbread cookies cut into rounds, then decorated with pink and white icing. I actually really like the one with the pink sprinkles on it.

Every weekend I think to myself that I am going to practice my cookie and cake decorating, but each weekend gets so caught up in household chores and other things that I run out of time. We've got a long weekend coming up in a couple of weeks, so fingers crossed for then!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tan Square

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that the sequel to “Ladies, A Plate” had been published. My youngest sister, who as I have mentioned before loves caramel slice, was up a couple of weeks ago, so it was the perfect opportunity to try the tan square from Ladies, A Plate, a second helping. Tan Square is a caramel slice which has a shortcake style base, a caramel filling and then a topping which is some of the base mixture reserved and crumbled over the top.

Traditional tan square has a rather mean layer of caramel in it, and as with the way most slices were back in the 1950s and 1960s (judging by the quantities in recipe books of that era) the slice was a thinner more delicate version of the huge hunks of slice we see cafes today. I must admit though when it comes to caramel slice, be it tan square or any other version, my preference is for thick caramel and a decent wedge of biscuit base on the bottom. So, I did play around with this recipe quite a bit, doubling the caramel mixture and also making more base than suggested. The original recipe had chopped walnuts added to the crumble topping – I left those out and just added more chocolate chips. My other trick to making a delicious caramel slice is to slightly under cook it, giving a deliciously gooey slice. If you don’t have access to golden syrup, you could add some brown sugar, but you wont get quite the same syrupy flavour to the caramel. I guess you could also try maple syrup but that will also give you a slightly different taste.

Tan Square (adapted from so as to not really even resemble the recipe in A Second helping)

250g butter
125g sugar
1 tsp vanilla
420g flour
½ c chocolate chips

• Cream butter, sugar and vanilla
• Mix in flour
• Spread 2/3 of the mixture into a lined 23cm square tin. Pop the rest of the mixture into the fridge while you make the caramel

60g butter
2 generous tbsp golden syrup
1 400g can condensed milk

• Stir ingredients together in a small pot over a gentle heat until butter is melted and the caramel is thick
• Pour over the base, then stir the chocolate chips into the reserved base mixture and crumble over the caramel
• Bake at 175c for 20-25 minutes until golden

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TWD - Split Level Pudding

This week’s TWD recipe was chosen by Garett of Flavour of Vanilla and is Split Level Pudding. This is a recipe I have been looking forward to making for a long time – Dorie explains it as being a recipe that appeals to vanilla lovers and chocolate lovers alike.

You will have to forgive the poor photography – I made the puddings late in the day on Sunday and by the time I went to photograph them all natural light had gone and I just couldn’t get them to look as good as they tasted.

The split level pudding is a layer of chocolate ganache topped with a set vanilla custard. I made a third of the recipe and made the puddings in two high ball glasses. This made enough for a medium sized pudding each for my husband and me. The pudding was made with the aid of a food processor – you blended the egg yolk, sugar and cornflour with hot milk and then thickened it over a medium heat on the stove. You were then meant to blitz the pudding in the food processor and add some vanilla and butter. Me being me, I only skim read the recipe and had dismantled and put away my food processor before my pudding had thickened. So, I just whisked the pudding like mad once it came off the stove. I didn’t add the butter because I didn’t really think that the pudding needed it.

I enjoyed this pudding. I think the chocolate ganache was a wonderful addition (maybe I am a chocolate not a vanilla girl?), as you could dip your spoon in for a small addition of the chocolate to eat with a spoon of vanilla pudding, rather than getting an overt chocolate flavour. I would make this again, but next time I think I would make more ganache so that the ratio of chocolate to vanilla was more like 40:60 rather than about 20:80.

See what the other TWDers thought here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Jaffa Cupcakes

A couple of weeks ago we met some friends for afternoon tea at Cornwall Park. I made these jaffa cupcakes to take. It’s quite a long story as to how I decided to make jaffa cupcakes, but here goes……

A few weeks ago I decided to make fudge for some gifts. I wanted to use a recipe from a Jo Seagar cook book which involved melting marshmallows, adding melted chocolate and other things. Instead of going to the supermarket, I stopped at the service station on the way home to buy the marshmallows. There I spotted a bag of orange flavoured M & Ms which cutely only have white or orange candy coatings. I thought they would be good add ins to the fudge to make it look a bit more decorative.

Well, the fudge was a disaster! I melted the marshmallows and butter in the microwave for he advised amount of time, but it must have been a bit long and overheated the marshmallow mixture, as when I added the chocolate the whole things seized. Well, I was determined that roughly $10 worth of ingredients wasn’t going into the bin, so I beat the fudge like crazy until it sort of came together. I didn’t want to waste my m & ms by putting them into sub-standard fudge (which actually ended up tasting ok in the end anyway) so I saved them for another day.

So, when I was deciding what cupcakes to make to our picnic afternoon tea, I thought I would use the orange and white m & ms to decorate them with. I had some lovely Kerikeri oranges in the fruit bowl after our trip to the bay of islands and thought Jaffa Cupcakes would be perfect. However, in the end I decided not to decorate them with the orange M & Ms after all – they are still stashed in my pantry. Instead I topped the cakes with whipped cream (I still reckon this is the best cupcake topping as it pipes like a dream and I don’t find it too sweet) and sprinkled them with orange coloured sugar. Simple but delicious.

Jaffa Cupcakes

100g butter
2/3 c sugar
2 large eggs
3 tbsp cocoa dissolved in 3 tbsp hot water
Zest of one orange
3 tsbp freshly squeezed orange juice
2/3 c self raising flour

• Cream butter and sugar, then beat in eggs, one at a time
• Beat in cocoa dissolved in water and orange zest
• Fold in remaining ingredients
• Spoon into cupcake cases ( I got 11 cupcakes) and bake at 180c for 17-20 minutes
• When cold top with chocolate icing made with orange juice instead of water or whipped cream

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Decorating Brownie

Last week when my sister was up we went to the Wilton brownie decorating course. This is apparently the latest Wilton thing. I hadn’t really thought about decorating brownie before, but of course, the same techniques can be used on any slab cake cut into shapes or just on cupcakes. I enjoyed it for two reasons – it was something fun to do with my sister and secondly it was actually quite good to do a bit of a refresher course on the basic icing skills I learnt in course 1.

Now that daylight savings has arrived and the days are getting longer and slightly warmer we are starting to have a few more salad type meals – and of course asparagus! This salad is one that we had last week. I pan fried lamb leg steaks, sliced them and then combined with baby spinach leaves, sliced roasted red peppers, roast red onions and roasted chunks of kumara. I drizzled the lot with balsamic drizzle. Tasty and pretty at the same time.

I also want to mention that you may or may not have noticed that I didn’t post a daring bakers challenge this week. Life has become even busier lately and I have made the decision that the only blog challenge I will continue to participate in is TWD – lately I have been making my Daring Baker challenges in a real rush and not giving them the time they deserve, so I have decided to retire my DB apron strings – at least for the next little while!