Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Little and Friday Shortbread

It was my aunt’s birthday a couple of weeks ago. She lives in Dunedin and is extremely hard to buy for, so I decided to send her some baking. I wanted something fairly robust, but also something fairly plain, as I know she doesn’t like rich things. I decided to make her shortbread, as I do have fond memories of her making mountains and mountains of shortbread when I was little, and as she is now wheelchair bound, I know that baking is something she doesn’t get to do.

Rather than use my standard recipe, I decided to try something new and was interested to make something from the Little and Friday cookbook (for those of you who havent been there, you must go!!! The food is the best cafĂ© food in Auckland!). Luckily there is a shortbread recipe in the book. It looked like a very traditional, short, crumbly shortbread which is exactly what I was after. The method was a little different than I usually use to make shortbread – whizzing the butter into the dry ingredients rather than creaming the butter and sugar and adding the flour. Rather than getting out the foodprocessor (is anyone else too lazy to wash their food processor?), I decided to pop the sugar and flour into the bowl with cubed, softened butter and then beat it with my handbeaters until crumbly, and then pull the mixture together. This worked, but I did find the dough quite crumbly (almost like there wasn’t enough butter in it – but that could have been the bit stuck to the beaters!) and hard to roll out. The biscuits, once baked, were nice and crisp though, and crumbly to the bite but not to the touch.

I used vanilla sugar rather than castor sugar and vanilla paste. This gave the biscuits a lovely little black fleck through them and an intense vanilla flavour. You can also add a tsp of vanilla paste if you don’t have any vanilla sugar on hand. I also cooked my shortbread at a lower temperature for longer (the original recipe said 15 minutes at 180) as I like shortbread which is pale in colour. You will also see in the photo that my shortbread isnt at all regular in shape – mostly because my ruler was downstairs and I was too lazy to run down to get it! Gosh, laziness seems to be quite a theme throughout this post!

Shortbread (adapted from Little and Friday)
1 ½ c flour
1/3 c vanilla caster sugar
150g butter (room temperature)
• Combine the dry ingredients, then beat the cubed butter into the dry ingredients with a hand beater until crumbly
• Bring the dough together with your hands
• Press the dough into a rough square and then slice it up into rectangles.
• Prick with a fork, sprinkle with caster sugar and bake in the oven at 165c for about 20-25 minutes until cooked.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cola Cupcakes

These cupcakes are coca cola cupcakes. Not something I would usually make, but my sister and I are baking our way through Cake Days and this recipe was next on the agenda. These cakes have cola syrup in both the cake batter and the icing. We don’t have cola syrup at home, but a while ago I bought a soda stream for work and we had some cola syrup there, so I borrowed a couple of tablespoons! The soda stream is actually a great thing to have a work. I don’t drink tea or coffee, but used to drink more diet coke than was good for me (one or two cans a day). I decided to quit the coke, and soon realised that it was the cold, fizziness that I liked rather than the taste, so plain soda water made in the soda stream does the trick for me!

These cakes were nice, not a strong coke flavour – quite subtle in fact. I topped the cakes with little cola bottle lollies which looked quite cute. I don’t think I would rush out to buy cola syrup just to make these cakes, but if you do have a bottle of syrup at home, these are definitely worth trying.

Cola Cupcakes (from Cake Days)

80g butter
280g caster sugar

240g plain flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tbsp cola syrup

240ml whole milk

2 large eggs

- Using a handheld electric whisk, combine the butter, sugar, flour and baking powder on a low speed until mixed together well with a breadcrumb like texture.

- In a jug place the milk, cola syrup and eggs. Whisk by hand.

- Pour 3/4 of the milk/cola mixture into the dry ingredients and mix together on a low speed. Turn up to medium speed and add the remaining milk mixture, whisking until a smooth batter.

- Divide the batter between your paper cake cases, filling about 2/3 full. Place in the oven and bake at 180c for 18-20 minutes. When cold, ice with the following icing

500g icing sugar

160g unsalted butter, softened

2tbsp cola syrup

50ml whole milk

- Beat together the butter and icing sugar on a low speed with your electric whisk until no large lumps are left and you have a powdery mixture. Stir together the milk and cola syrup then pour this into the butter and icing sugar whilst beating slowly. Increase the speed to high and whisk until fluffy

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cupcakes for Harry

When you have a two year old, sometimes you just want to bake a really plain cupcake, something which will satisfy an un-jaded palate. Unlike lots of children who just eat the icing, Harry loves to eat the whole cupcake. I’m not talking about a mini cupcake either, but a full adult sized one. The weekend before last we went to the Bluebell Cakery and Harry ate a whole vanilla cupcake. Last Saturday we went to Farro and he ate a whole lemon cupcake. He loves them.

He also loves baking and decorating them. He helps me mix the mixture, standing on a chair with his little Thomas the tank engine apron on, and then when they are baked and cooled, he loves to decorate them. This photo is of some vanilla cupcakes we made a few weeks ago and Harry decorated for his friends, Aisling and John. Yes, they are a bit gender biased! Harry has so much fun putting the sprinkles on top of the cupcakes, even though sometimes Mummy has to keep turning the cupcakes so that there is an even spread of sprinkles on them!

These cupcakes are vanilla cupcakes from the Hummingbird Cakes book. I love the cupcake recipes from that book as they are so simple, not creaming of butter and sugar – you beat the butter into the flour and sugar which is nice and easy. I think the key to making delicious vanilla cupcakes is to use really good quality vanilla. I use Heilala. You can find the recipe for the vanilla cupcakes here.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Double chocolate cookies

Thank you for all your lovely comments re: Hayley’s wedding cakes. I will post the recipe in another post, so keep reading! Unfortunately my blog posting has been a little more sporadic than I was hoping when I got back into it – work and home are both very busy, but bear with me, as I will try to post at least once, if not twice a week. All your comments are definitely encouraging, so please keep them coming.

I made these cookies a couple of weeks ago. I had pulled the recipe out of a Donna Hay magazine a good couple of years ago. I love chocolate dipped cookies and thought that the white contrast on the dark chocolate cookie looked particularly striking. These were really easy to make as well, basically being a melt and mix recipe, and you don’t even need to roll the dough out, just roll into a log, chill, slice and bake. You can’t get easier than that.

I tried the new cadbury melts for this recipe and they were fabulous. They are a little more expensive than the other nestle ones, but they taste like real chocolate. I particularly liked the white chocolate ones as they tasted like white chocolate rather than compound chocolate. I cant wait to try to the milk chocolate ones.

Double chocolate cookies (from Donna Hay magazine)

60g butter
100g dark chocolate
½ c brown sugar
1 c plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa, sifted
½ tsp baking powder
1 egg
200g white chocolate, melted

• Melt the butter and dark chocolate together (I do this in the microwave)
• Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa and baking powder in a large bowl, add the egg and chocolate mixture and stir to make a smooth dough.
• Turn out dough, roll into a log and wrap in gladwrap and put in the freezer for 30 minutes
• Slice into 5mm thick rounds and place on a tray and bake at 180c for 10-12 minutes
• Allow to cool and then dip half of each cookie in the melted white chocolate. Leave to set