Thursday, July 29, 2010

Decorated Shortbread

I have to confess that these are cookies I made some time ago (actually before Harry was born!) and never blogged about. They are some very simple biscuits made to look quite lovely (I think!) with a bit of easy decorating. These are the perfect cookie to give as a gift and they can be adapted to any situation.

The cookies are quite simply shortbread biscuits, cut into rounds, dipped in white chocolate and a royal icing flower popped on top. If I remember rightly, these particular shortbread had chopped pistachios through them (just add chopped pistachios to your favourite shortbread recipe). I used white chocolate to ice them (in fact white chocolate melts) as they leave a nice clean finish plus chocolate melts set really quickly and don’t even often dent like icing does, if you are packaging them up to send them. I did make the icing flowers which not everyone can do, but you can buy icing flowers from the supermarket now, or you can use other things to decorate – pebbles or smarties, other cake decorating embellishments, jaffas or other lollies, even just sprinkled with hundreds and thousands, these cookies would look great.

You could also colour the white chocolate. You have to be careful using other liquid with chocolate as it can seize, but I have had success with adding a little gel colour to white chocolate. Dipping the cookies is easy too – just dip them! You can use a palette knife to spread the chocolate on, but dipping works really well. I would love to know what other ideas you come up with.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Almost dairy free

I was looking through some recipes for something easy to bake a few weeks ago and came across this recipe for making chocolate chip cookies with oil rather than butter. I thought I would try them as an almost dairy free option (they would be dairy free if you left out the chocolate!). They were in a book by Sue Lawrence who won Masterchef UK a while back. When I bought the book some time ago, the masterched phenomenon had not reached NZ, so I didn’t really realise what a big deal it was. Now I would like to find out a bit more about Sue Lawrence.

These cookies are definitely not the best cookies I have ever made. They made me realise that the thing I like most about a good cookie is the buttery flavour. But these cookies would be a good thing to make for a dairy free friend (leave out the chocolate) or if you wanted to bake something but had run out of butter (as does happen sometimes). I used rice bran oil, but canola oil would be a good substitute. Don’t leave out the salt – you need that to bring out the flavour of the cookies

Chocolate Cookies (adapted from Sue Lawrence recipe)

1 1/4 c flour
¼ c cocoa
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1/3 c brown sugar
¼ c castor sugar
1/2c oil
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla
2/3 c chocolate chips

• Whisk together oil, egg and sugars, then stir in remaining ingredients
• Place small mounds onto baking tray and bake at 175c for 15 minutes. Leave to cool on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

TWD - Chewy Chunky Blondie

This week’s TWD recipe is chewy chunky blondies and was chosen by Nicole of Cookies on Fridays. I think of blondies being brownies made with white chocolate, but these blondies were rich, fudgey bars with delicious add ins in the form of chocolate, walnuts and toffee pieces – no white chocolate in sight.

I loved this recipe as it was easy to make and had great taste results. I halved the recipe and made it in a 20cm square tin. Next time I would make the whole recipe though as the blondies are so delicious. They were almost like a soft chocolate chunk cookie made in a tin. The add ins of dark chocolate, walnuts and toffee bits were delicious. You cant get Heath’s toffee pieces in NZ, so I smashed up some werther original toffees which have the same effect. The recipe also called for coconut – I actually left that out, as even though I like coconut, I think it would have detracted from the other flavours.

The blondies were delicious – I would definitely make these again. Check out the other TWD links here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

TWD rewind - Brrrownies

Last week’s TWD recipe was Brrrrownies – the extra “rrrr”s in the word brownies, referring to the fact that the brownies have chunks of peppermint patties in them and have that “brrrr” flavour to them that peppermint things tend to have. We don’t have peppermint patties in NZ and I was curious to know what would be the next best thing. I googled images of peppermint patties and also asked a friend who has spent quite a bit of time in the states – it seems that the closest thing to peppermint patties would be after dinner mints, so I bought a packet and started baking.

The brownie recipe is a straight forward one and made a lovely rich, fudgey brownie. The addition of after dinner mints (in my case) is inspired! I chopped the mints in half and folded them into the brownie mixture which resulted in the mints melting into the brownie leaving the occasional glimpse of white. I loved these brownies – the mint flavour was enough to make the brownies have a very fresh taste which was welcoming against the richness of the chocolate brownie. I cut the brownie into smallish pieces, freezing most of it, but I have to be honest and say that the brownie also tasted very good frozen and it didn’t last long in our house (in fact I think it was less than 24 hours!)

The only thing holding me back from making these time and time again is the cost of after dinner mints – I used a whole box and a box costs over $6. By the time you add in the cost of the chocolate for the brownie mixture and then the other ingredients you are looking at somewhere around $10 which is ok for a pudding you may take somewhere, but a bit expensive for an everyday piece of baking to have in the tins. You should try them though – you can find the recipe here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

TWD - Lots of Ways Banana Cake

This week’s TWD recipe is lots of ways banana cake and was chosen by Kimberly of Only Creative Opportunities. This name of this cake is pretty self explanatory – it is a very versatile banana cake that can be made using a variety of ingredients, depending on what you have on hand. The recipe makes two 22cm round cakes which can be sandwiched together. I halved the recipe and made one cake, leaving it plain so I could cut it into wedges and freeze it for husband for the week (although I imagine that this cake would be a good keeper).

I stuck to the suggestion of adding thread coconut to the banana cake. This made the cake extremely moist. Other suggested add ins were dried fruit, other nuts and I bet chocolate chips would be nice too. I didn’t have any coconut milk, so I used sour cream as my liquid component, but you could also substitute buttermilk or natural yoghurt. Dorie flavoured her cake with rum or Malibu – I don’t like rum, so just added some coconut essence (I wouldn’t have added this if I had used coconut cream to make the cake). This was an easy cake to make, but also very easy cake to eat. I think we ate about 1/3 of it warm straight from the oven unadorned. As I mentioned, the rest went in the freezer, but it would be great served as a dessert with whipped cream, or even iced with a coconut flavoured icing and topped with more coconut. I would definitely make this cake again.

See if the other TWDers enjoyed the cake here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies

At the end of last year I bough a beautiful book called Manna from Heaven by Rachel Grisewood. She writes beautifully and the book is a collection of recipes and stories. The recipes are eclectically gathered together, so you will find cakes and desserts in amongst recipes for savoury dishes. If I was going to write a recipe book, I think I would adopt this style and have the chapters assembled by way of occasion.

I actually haven’t made a lot of the recipes in the book yet, but one of the recipes that caught my eye early on was that for Milk chocolate and hazelnut cookies. The occasion rose to make the cookies last week when I bought a cake of milk chocolate for a school fundraiser. If I didn’t use the chocolate in baking, I was going to be in danger of eating the whole cake myself (and even though I try and convince myself that I need the calories for breastfeeding I really don’t!), so I took the opportunity to make these cookies.

I love these kind of cookies – I think it is the fact that they don’t have any kind of raising agent in them – that seems to make them more dense and crumbly, not too crisp and yet not too soft. The chunks of milk chocolate went perfectly with the hazelnuts and the vanilla hit was noticeable. I would definitely make these again.

Milk chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies (from Manna from Heaven by Rachel Grisewood)

80g hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
125g butter
100g sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 egg yolk
210g flour
140g milk chocolate, chopped

• Cream the butter and sugar, beat in the vanilla paste and egg yolk.
• Stir in the flour and then the chopped hazelnuts and chocolate.
• Roll the dough into a log, refrigerate for an hour, then slice into rounds (relatively thickly) and bake at 160c for 10-15 minutes

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

TWD - shortcake rewind

I haven’t made this week’s TWD recipe yet – we were in Chch for a few days visiting my family and the time just got away on me. But last week before we left I did do a TWD rewind, making these tender shortcakes. These are very light, flaky almost scone like shortcakes which were split in half when cooled, filled with whipped cream and in my case, jam. The recipe in the book showed fresh berries with the shortcakes, but being the middle of winter in NZ at the moment, fresh berries are not that easy to find! My version is a take on scones with jam and whipped cream.

As usual, I scaled the recipe back to make a half batch which was three rather large shortcakes. My husband and I shared one for pudding and he had the other two the next day. I added a little cinnamon to the basic mix which made the shortcakes slightly fragrant. These shortcakes were quick and easy, but delicious and I would definitely make them again. You can find the recipe here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

TWD - Tarte Noire

This week’s TWD recipe is tarte noire and was chosen by Dharmagirl of Bliss. Tarte noire is a simple chocolate tart – a shortcrust base filled with a rich chocolate ganache. I chose to make my shortcrust base chocolate as well, making this tart truly noire!

I wanted to only make enough tart for my husband and I, so while I made the full amount of pastry, I froze about 2/3 of it and used the remainder to line two small tart tins. I divided the ganache mixture into about ¼. Dorie said to choose a chocolate that you like the flavour of as that is what the tart filling would end up tasting like. I chose good old energy chocolate which is a very milk dark chocolate. I quite like dark chocolate, but find the 70% stuff just a little bitter for my tastes. The energy chocolate is about 50% I think and it made a very pleasing, smooth ganache.

We ate our tarts for pudding on Saturday night, having them with natural yoghurt which tempered the richness a little. This is a simple way of making an elegant tart. See what the other TWDers thought here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

An old favourite

Last Sunday I was looking for something to bake simply as a tin filler. I have sworn off chocolate for two weeks (since having had Harry I have been eating crazy amounts of chocolate – I think it must be good breastfeeding fuel!!), but of course that is just actual chocolate, not chocolate flavoured things, so I was looking for something chocolatey to fill the tins. I had a look through some of my old recipe books and then remembered one of my favourite recipes from when I was growing up – coconut rough slice! The recipe came from a friend of my Mum’s and Mum used to make it regularly when we were kids.

The slice has a basic chocolate coconut base – very easy, you just melt the butter and add it to the dry ingredients. The topping is what makes this slice special – it is a beautifully smooth chocolate/coconut topping that is reminiscent of chocolate flavoured coconut ice. The trick with this slice is to put the topping on the base while the base is still hot – otherwise, the topping may not adhere to the base and you end up with a yummy base and a yummy topping, but not in the same mouthful! If you can wait, I would wait and cut this slice the day after making it – it cuts better when it’s not really fresh (it can be a bit crumbly when really fresh). This slice also lasts really well, if you don’t eat it all quickly!

Coconut Rough Slice

1/2c sugar
3 tbsp cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
½ c coconut
2 c flour
250g butter, melted

• Combine dry ingredients, pour in melted butter and combine. Press into a lined 23cm square tin and bake at 180c for 20 minutes
• When still warm out of the oven, top with the following topping:

50g butter
3 tbsp cocoa
6 tbsp condensed milk
2 c coconut
2 tsp vanilla
1 ½ c icing sugar

• Combine all ingredients over a low heat until smooth

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Floral Cake

Quite some time ago I ripped a recipe out of a Delicious magazine for a lavender poppyseed cake with an orange blossom honey syrup. It sounded amazing and very floral! In fact I couldn’t really imagine what it would taste like. But, it captured my imagination as I love syrup cakes, love poppyseeds and have a slight obsession with buying unusual ingredients and then not really using them (such as culinary lavender!!). I decided to make this cake for book club at my house last week, as now that I am a full time working, business owning mother as opposed to simply a full time working business owner, making a cake on a week night is a real achievement, let alone icing or decorating it! At least with a syrup cake there is no real need to ice it!
The cake was very easy to make – a simple cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs and dry ingredients cake. The lavender was meant to be rubbed into the sugar and then sifted out. Because I was using culinary lavender – ie already dried and ready to cook, I simply rubbed the lavender into the sugar and left it at that. The lavender flavour only ended up being a hint of lavender. I’m not sure if that was because the other flavours over powered the lavender or because it is a while since I bought the lavender and it may have lost its strength.

Once the cake was cooked and came out of the oven warmed orange blossom flavoured honey is poured over the cake. I didn’t have any orange blossom flavoured honey, so I added orange blossom water to taste to my honey and then poured it over the cake. The honey I used was a mild tawhiri honey. I am not a huge fan of honey so I prefer the more mild honeys. The cake had yummy flavours – it was probably a little dry around the edges and could have done with a bit more honey to make it more moist. I served it with whipped cream. An unusual cake, but one that I would make again.

Lavender and orange blossom honey cake (adapted from Delicious magazine)

1 tbsp culinary lavender seeds
125g sugar
250g butter
4 eggs
250g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1/3 c honey
1-2 tbsp orange blossom water to taste

• Cream butter, sugar and lavender
• Beat in eggs, one at a time then fold in flour, baking powder and poppyseeds
• Pour into lined 24cm springform tin and bake at 160c for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean
• Cool cake, then warm together the honey and orange blossom water and pour over the cake