Friday, January 30, 2009

Birthdays and Injuries

Last week was a big one for me. I don’t mention it much in my blog, but I am a runner and avid gym goer (the gym thing has only been the last couple of years – the running has been over 17 years). I exercise pretty much most days and run 40-50km per week (it used to be more before the gym). But, last week, I suffered a stress fracture in my left shin which means 6-8 weeks of no running or even walking and also restricted gym use. It has been awful – but I am trying to look on the bright side – whatever that may be!

The other thing last week was my birthday – incidentally I got a sewing machine (a Bernina!) from my husband – I have never sewed before so I am very excited about that! (I did ask for it in case you are wondering). But with birthdays comes the baking of the cake and I have made myself two birthday cakes this year – I thought it was the perfect excuse to hone some of my cake decorating skills. I will blog about the other cake next week, but this is the cake that I shared with friends after a dinner at our favourite local restaurant. It was a case of more is more with the decorating (I usually try for the less is more approach). I had so much fun decorating this and I was so delighted with the end result. It was a rich chocolate cake and was delicious as well as looking pretty. My birthday was fun as well and a great start to being 35!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers Do Tuiles

Last month I didn’t make the Daring Bakers’ challenge mostly due to time constraints. This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux. I chose to make the first tuiles. I havent made tuiles like these before – I have made ones that are more like brandy snaps or very thin Florentines. It was fun to make something different.

To go with the tuiles we had to make something light to partner them. I chose to make vanilla frozen yoghurt which was actually a great accompaniment. The tuiles were quite easy to make – it is a simple batter, spread out into shapes (I boringly spread mine into circles), baked and then shaped while still warm. I coloured a little of the mix with cocoa and made dots and swirls on the tuilles. I shaped mine over a rolling pin, but something a bit thinner would give a more definite shape.

I also think next time I would make them thinner – although they were still lovely and crispy.

The vanilla frozen yoghurt was based on a recipe from David Leibowitz’s ice cream book. I used yoghurt that was already vanilla flavoured, adding more vanilla seeds and then you simply churn it in your ice cream maker. I used low fat yoghurt which I thought might give an icy result, but it didn’t. The frozen yoghurt was so creamy and utterly delicious, that it is worth having an ice cream maker simply to make this!

See how creative the other Daring Bakers’ tuiles are here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chocolate Bark

I have always wanted to make chocolate bark, so my secretary’s birthday was as good an excuse as any. Chocolate bark is incredibly easy to make. I made peach and macadamia bark. It is so simple – just finely chop whatever you want to put in the bark (mine was finely chopped macadamias and dried peaches), stir into melted good quality chocolate (I used whittakers 70%), spread thinly on a lined oven tray, leave in the fridge to set and then cut into shards. This would be a great thing to make with ice-cream as well.

Monday night we had a bbq – it has been great bbq weather! I made a few recipes from recent cuisine magazines – steak marinated in a mixture of beer, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and mustard, a 5 bean salad (actually mine was just a 3 bean salad – borlotti beans, butter beans and green beans with a honey and poppyseed vinaigrette) and bbqed soda bread. The steak and salad were great. I am not sure about the soda bread. To be honest, I think any hot bread with butter on it is delicious, but I did find the soda bread a bit tough – a bit like a tough scone and I wouldn’t make it again.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TWD - Fresh Ginger & Chocolate Cake

This week’s TWD recipe is fresh ginger and chocolate cake chosen by Heather of Sherry Trifle. The photo of this cake has always appealed to me, so it was good to get the opportunity to make it!

The cake is a delicately flavoured ginger cake, including as well as ground ginger, grated fresh ginger. There is also some melted chocolate and chocolate chunks to give it a bit more interest. There was an option of including sliced preserved ginger, but I left this out as this was another cake for the builders and not everyone likes large pieces of ginger . I am one of those people – I love the flavour of ginger but don’t like crystallised or preserved ginger.

This cake is incredibly moist. It has molasses in it, but I didn’t have any, so used golden syrup – having never cooked with molasses before, I am not sure what difference this would have made to the flavour. The glaze on top was made with chocolate subtly flavoured with coffee. It goes surprisingly well with the ginger and chocolate cake. I would definitely make this cake again – I loved it. See if the other TWDers enjoyed it as much as I did here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jandals and Tuna

Last night I made these jandal cookies for my friend to go with her birthday present. In NZ we call flip flops, jandals. I’m not quite sure how the name came about - probably something to do with sandals! I was really pleased with how these turned out – I think the pale pink and yellow go really well together.

It’s not often that I do a post on something that isn’t sweet, but today I have decided to blog about tuna that I cooked for dinner in the weekend. I gave my sister Jamie Oliver’s new book Ministry of Food for Christmas and she was telling me the things she had made from it. That inspired me to have a look at my own copy. I felt like cooking fish on Saturday night and one of the tuna recipes caught my eye as it is not a fish that I have cooked all that often, but we love it!

So, I duly bought some lovely fresh tuna and made a variation of one of Jamie’s recipes. The tuna is coated in a mixture of dried oregano, salt and pepper and pan fried. Then in the same pan you add some chopped garlic, anchovies, cherry tomatoes and olives. This serves as a bed for the tuna. Everything is then topped with a sprinkling of basil leaves.

We both really enjoyed this meal. I like Jamie Oliver’s recipes in that they are always easy but tasty and you do end up with a restaurant quality meal.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An Old Fashioned Slice

I am not sure who I am going to bake for once our house is actually finished! This is another slice that I made for the builders this week. It is called Scott’s Last Voyage slice and the recipe is from ladies, A Plate. At first I thought that this was one of those weetbix slices like Mum used to make all the time when we were kids – a base made by melting butter and adding sugar, flour, cocoa, coconut and crushed weetbix, then icing it with a simple chocolate icing. But, on closer inspection, this slice is not really a chocolate flavoured slice and it has the addition of chopped walnuts and dried fruit.

For those who don’t know what weetbix are, they are a cereal available in New Zealand and Australia which are like a wheat biscuit. I think they are called weet-a-bix in the UK, but I am not sure what the US equivalent would be. Crushed up cornflakes or special K would probably work ok. The dried fruit suggested in the book was raisins and chopped dates. I didn’t have any dates, so used chopped dried apricots which worked well. I actually doubled the amount of cocoa from 1 tbsp to 2, thinking that the slice was a chocolatey one, but on reflection, I think one tbsp would be just fine as chocolate is not the pre-dominant flavour.

This is the kind of slice that is quick and easy to make and is the perfect thing to have in the tin for lunches. You could easily vary it by changing the fruit and nuts or leaving them out altogether.

Scott’s Last Voyage Slice (adapted from Ladies A Plate)

115g butter
170g brown sugar
1 dsp golden syrup
1 egg
170g flour
1 tsp baking powder
85g coconut
4 crushed weetbix (about 1 ½ c cereal)
55g walnuts, chopped
115g dried apricots, chopped
55g raisins

· Cream butter and sugar, then add golden syrup and egg
· Stir in remaining ingredients and press into a lined 23cm square cake tin
· Bake at 180c for 15-20 minutes
· Once cold ice with simple chocolate icing and sprinkle with coconut

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

TWD - Berry Surprise Cake

This week’s TWD recipe is berry surprise cake and was chosen by Mary-Ann of Meet me in the Kitchen. This is essentially a sponge cake filled with a cream cheese and cream mixture and fresh berries. Absolutely delicious and great for this time of year – I think that this is the first time a recipe has been chosen where I can make it using in season fruit.

I halved the recipe and made a 6inch round cake. It actually still made a decent sized cake. The sponge was a genoise sponge. Some of the other TWDers said that their sponge sunk so much it was practically flat. My sponge did sink a little in the middle (Dorie said that was normal) but not too much at all. The sponge was lovely and light.

You then sliced a bit off the top and hollowed out the centre of the cake, filling the centre with a cream cheese and cream combination and fresh berries. Others had said that they didn’t think that the filling was sweet enough – I had to agree. I used icing sugar, as I wanted to make sure that the texture wasn’t grainy and I actually tripled the amount, using 3 tbsp for my half mixture. This turned out the perfect sweetness for me. I wanted to use raspberries, but the raspberries at the fruit and veg shop looked like they had been sitting there for a while, so I went down the strawberry path. Once the lid is put back on the cake, the whole thing is covered in whipped cream. This cake is really a twist on a Victoria sponge cake filled with whipped cream and strawberries.

My husband and I each had a sliver of cake for our pudding on Saturday night. Even though I would have loved to, I couldn’t bring myself to eat the rest yesterday, so I sent it on the building site for the builders etc today. Even though like any good sponge cake, this was at its best on the day it was made, it was still ok today and I am told the builders loved it.

See if the other TWDers enjoyed this cake as much as I did here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Practice makes perfect....

This year I really want to practice my cake decorating skills. One thing I must remember though is to give myself
enough time!! I decided on Thursday to make these dress cookies for a friend’s birthday on Friday. That was not giving myself enough time – especially seeing as my favourite programme, Criminal Minds, (actually this is the only tv programme I religiously watch at the moment – I am looking forward to Brothers and Sisters coming back!) was on Thursday night as well, so I had to get everything done by 8.30pm.

As soon as I got home from work I made the shortbread dresses and when they were cold I covered them in fondant and made the wee flowers. I did make some royal icing to pipe some more detail on the cookies, but irritatingly I coloured it too dark and by that time it was 8.25, so the cookies are very plain. I was still pleased with them, but it is a reminder to give myself enough time!

We have been enjoying lots of salads over the summer. My favourite is a simple baby spinach salad with avocado and almonds and a dressing made with olive oil, Dijon mustard and raspberry vinegar. We had that last night with meatballs that I spiced with allspice, Dijon mustard, basil and mint and cous cous to which I added dried cranberries, feta, basil, pinenuts and a little Dijon mustard and raspberry vinegar. Very yummy and very quick and easy to make!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cupcake Hero - White Chocolate

Cupcake Hero is back for 2009 and the January theme is white chocolate. I ended up going for something quite simple and also quite summery I think – White chocolate and Raspberry Cupcakes.

I made a very basic cupcake recipe, adding in raspberries and chunks of white chocolate. I actually used frozen raspberries as it seems a complete waste to use beautiful fresh raspberries in baking. They are best eaten straight out of the punnet. Actually when we were on holiday we went to Akaroa for the day and at the local farmers market we bought the most amazing raspberries – they were huge, about the same size as a boysenberry and so sweet!

I added two teaspoons of rose water to the cupcakes, but you could leave that out. Two teaspoons is just enough to give a little flavour to leave you wondering exactly what it is. I topped the cupcakes with fresh whipped cream, adding a little icing sugar and vanilla paste – you can see the flecks of vanilla in the cream. I made the little toppers by melting white chocolate, tinting it pink and then squiggling it onto baking paper using a little plastic bag with the tip cut off. When the shapes hardened I popped them into the cream.

I took these cakes into work where they got rave reviews – some said that these are the nicest cupcakes I have made yet. They were pretty yummy, but then I’m a sucker for raspberries and cream!

Raspberry & White Chocolate Cupcakes

125g butter
2/3 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 ¼ c flour
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
½ c milk
2 tsp rosewater (you could leave this out)
1 c raspberries (I used frozen)
2/3 c white chocolate buttons or chunks

· Cream butter and sugar, then add vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time
· Mix in remaining in flour, baking powder, milk and rosewater (if using). I did this with the beater as well
· Fold in raspberries and white chocolate
· Spoon into 12-14 cupcake cases and bake @ 160c for 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean
When cold, top with whipped cream

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Baking for the Builders

This week’s baking for the builders consisted of chocolate chip cookies and pear and ginger cake. After making Dorie’s French pear tart I had the good part of half a can of pears left. So I decided to make a cake with them. While looking through the latest Donna Hay magazine I found a recipe for a lemon peach cake. I used the basis of that recipe to make my pear cake.

Instead of adding lemon zest to the cake batter, I added two teaspoons of ground ginger, as I think ginger and pears go really well together. This gave just a subtle hint of ginger – you could add crystallised or preserved ginger to get more flavour. I made the cake in a 23cm square tin which made it easy to cut into pieces for the builders. You could use any fruit and spice combination. The cake also has yoghurt in it – I like cakes with yoghurt as it gives them a lovely light but mosit texture.

On my quest for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie I stumbled across this recipe on Clara’s blog. I actually think that this is the best recipe I have tried yet. I think that the key to giving the cookies the right texture is melting the butter. I made these cookies with chocolate chips, but they would be even better with real chocolate chunks. The builders ate both the cake and the cookies the first day back!

Pear and Ginger Cake (adapted from Donna Hay magazine)

175g butter
¾ c sugar
3 eggs
1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
¼ c natural yoghurt
drained canned pears

· Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time
· Add the flour, baking powder, ginger and yoghurt and mix until just combined
Spoon into a lined 23cm square tin and top with slices of pear. Bake at 180c for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Holiday baking

I wanted to post about a couple of things I made during the holidays – one, Christmassy and one for New Year’s Eve.

The first is these place names that I made for the table for Christmas day. The biscuits are shortbread and I topped them with red fondant and wrote each person’s name with a green gel pen. My niece and nephew also had great fun with a piece of dough I gave them, rolling and re-rolling shapes and then decorating them. That’s my niece, Piper in the top photo. The place names looked great on the table and gave people something to nibble on (not that we needed it with all the food!!).

On New Year’s Eve we went to friends for drinks and nibbles. We had only just got back from Christchurch early afternoon so I didn’t have a lot of time to really think about what I wanted to take, but I was quite pleased with my results. On the first platter there are chicken and cucumber bites. I made these by marinating a chicken breast in equal amounts of mirin, soy sauce and Chinese cooking wine. I then roasted the breast for about 15 minutes. I cut cucumber into rounds, placed a cube of cooked and cooled chicken on top and then topped it with a dab of hoisin sauce. Quite easy to make.

On the second platter is two types of crositini – really easy to make when you are in a hurry. I bought some lovely ciabatta, sliced and toasted it and topped one half with a smear of cream cheese, store bought chunky pesto, some brie and strips of roasted red pepper and topped the other half with a smear of cream cheese, blue cheese, some quince paste and a walnut half. I really enjoyed these combinations.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TWD - Savoury Corn & Pepper Muffins

The TWD recipe for this week was chosen by Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake and is savoury corn and pepper muffins. These were almost like little cornbread muffins – a mixture of plain flour and cornmeal, studded with kernels of corn and red pepper. There was a good dash of chilli powder as well, but I paired that down to just ½ tsp as the chilli powder I have is pretty hot. There was also jalapeno peppers in it, but they are pretty hard to find here.

These muffins were yummy, hot straight from the oven, but I didn’t like them as much once they had cooled down – I found them a little crumbly, which is often the case when I make things with cornmeal. I also added more corn that Dorie’s recipe had – I think I put about ¾ cup in, but I could easily have put in more to give the muffins a bit more interest. I think some cheese would have been nice too.

I think my feeling about these muffins is that they are ok – I don’t think I would make them again. They are also pretty un-photogenic, which may be one of the reasons why they are not photographed in Dorie’s book!

See whether the other TWDers liked them here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

TWD Catch Up

Back to the real world after nearly 3 weeks holiday! Over the break I did continue to keep up with the weekly TWD recipe, but I didn’t have computer access for most of it, so haven’t been able to post them. The two recipes that featured while I was away were the tall and creamy cheesecake and French Pear Tart.

I made the cheesecake while I was in Christchurch. My Mum’s cousin was coming over for a bbq and she is coeliac, so I wanted to make something gluten free for dessert. The cheesecake was the perfect thing. I substituted graham crackers (which we cant get in NZ anyway) for gluten free rice biscuits (like a shortbread made with rice flour) and the rest of the recipe stayed the same. Mum doesn’t have a very deep round cake tin, so I just made ¾ of the recipe. I also divided the cheesecake mixture into two, adding melted chocolate to one half, making a two layered cheesecake. This cheesecake was absolutely delicious!

The French pear tart was really yummy too. I halved the recipe and made three mini tarts. Interestingly the recipe called for canned pears, which is a good thing as it’s not pear season here at the moment. The pastry is Dorie’s delicious tart pastry and the filling is an almond frangipane. My husband absolutely loved these tarts – as did I! They would be perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Friday, January 2, 2009

You want Pies with That - January

Happy New Year! I didnt think I would be posting again until we come back from holiday on January 12, but we are home for a couple of days before heading down to Taranaki to visit my husband's family. We have had a fabulous Christmas and new year - the weather in Christchurch was just superb! I have been keeping up with Tuesdays with Dorie, but thought I would wait and do one post with all the TWD things I have baked over the break.

But I did want to post my "You want pies with that" January pie. The theme was a decadent pie - one that would break all your new years resolutions. I thought a pie that would fit with that is a pie that contains all of my favourite "naughty" treats - chocolate, cream and caramel! So, here is my chocolate banoffee pie! A delectable combination of chocolate biscuit base, caramel, banana and whipped cream. This is one of the most simple desserts to put together - a good thing for this time of year! The base is simply a chocolate biscuit base (I used girl guide biscuits with melted butter and a little dutched cocoa), a caramel base (you could use caramelised condensed milk or dulce de leuche - i cooked some condensed milk, brown sugar, a little butter and golden syrup together), topped wiht sliced banana and cream whipped with icing sugar and vanilla. I made two mini pies - one that we ate tonight and one to take down to my father in law tomorrow. A truly decadent but delicious treat!