Tuesday, June 29, 2010

dinner date

Sometimes it can be hard to come up with dinner inspiration. Dinner date is our new Tuesday feature showcasing a tasty meal we've had during the week.

Recently, a suitor invited me over for dinner to display his culinary skills. On a rather cold and wet night, this hearty meal passed the test. From The Best of Annabel Langbein, the recipe is under the category 'Saucy Chicken(!)' but is specifically called Provencal Chicken with Prunes, Apricots & Olives. It is quite delicious, and I think it would go well in a slow cooker too.

Here's the recipe:
12 each dried pitted prunes & apricots
1 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
8-10 chicken pieces
1 tsp each crushed garlic and fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup white wine
2 tbsp sherry or port
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup green olives

Soak dried fruits in water for 1 hour or microwave for 5 minutes. Set aside. Preheat oven to 180C. Heat oil in a pan, season chicken and lightly brown in batches. Transfer to a casserole dish. Cook garlic, thyme and tomato paste for a few seconds. Add wine, sherry or port, chicken stock and dried fruits and their liquid. Bring to a boil. Pour over chicken. Cover and bake for 40 minuets. Add olives. If desired, thicken with 1 tbsp cornflour mixed with a little water. Serves 6.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Becs: I love custard, and saw this product from Tatua on special for $1.99 at the supermarket the other day, so I bought a couple. It was lovely. Perfect with the pear and ginger pudding we ate last night. Or simply by the spoonful. It is silky smooth, not too sweet and has a subtle vanilla flavour. I plan to use my second pack in a batch of rhubarb and custard brioche. I think everyone should have a pouch or two of Tatua custard in the fridge on standby (they have a really long shelflife) to partner winter puddings.

Miriam: I have been baking for years and have never owned scales, which in hindsight is ridiculous. Well, thanks to Mum & Dad's generosity with their hot points, I am now the proud owner of these Salter electronic scales. They are my new favourite thing and make baking so easy, I can't believe I didn't jump on the bandwagon years ago!

Libby: my favourite website at the moment is http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/ its the best place to buy cookbooks! They have almost any title you could ever want and the prices are fantastic - especially with the current exchange rate. So far I've bought Ottolenghi & the Bourke Street Bakery books and my wishlist is growing... its a highly addictive website and many hours can be spent browsing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A late breakfast

Before going to sleep I've been flicking through the cookbooks I haven't cooked from in awhile looking for new ideas. I came across ham and gruyere French toast in Bill Granger's Bill's Open Kitchen and decided to make them this morning for a weekend treat.

For two sandwiches:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Cut two fat slices of white bread from a loaf and carefully cut a pocket into each slice. Spread the inside with a little Dijon mustard and fill with shaved ham and slices of gruyere cheese.

Beat two eggs with 1/3 cup of milk and a pinch of salt. Place sandwiches into a shallow tray and pour over egg mixture, soak for a few minutes, turning once during this time.

While the sandwiches are soaking heat a heavy frying pan over a medium heat, add a splash of olive oil and place the sandwiches in the pan. Cook for 2-3 of minutes on each side until golden brown. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and put into the hot oven for about 10 minutes until cooked through.

Slice in half and serve!

Next time I make French toast this way I might try a different filling... maybe tomato and mozzarella or feta and baby spinach.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday baking - rock cakes

As we bake our way through A Treasury of NZ Baking...

I must admit this recipe wasn't orignally on my want-to-make list from this book. Of all the contributors in the Treasury David Burton seems to have provided the most austere offerings, with his recipes all looking like something NZ housewives would have rustled up during frugal war times. Rock cakes do seem like the poor unfashionable cousin to the glammed up cupcake that is currently in vogue. However the other day I felt like baking something a little restrained, so rock cakes it was.
We had some whisky soaked raisins in the fridge, which made a nice addition, as did a little cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top before the cakes were baked. They were really nice. A cross between a biscuit and a cake, they were perfect with a cup of tea on a winter afternoon. Fast to make too, so they would make nice change from scones if you needed to produce afternoon tea in a hurry. Bring back rock cakes!
Rock Cakes - David Burton (week 14)

2 c flour
115g butter
1 c sugar (They were quite sweet, next time I would do 3/4c)
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c sultanas (I used whisky soaked raisins)
1/4 c glace peel (I loathe peel so used lemon zest)
2 eggs
milk for mixing - if needed

Preheat oven to 240c. Line 2 baking trays with paper. Rub butter into flour, by hand or in a food processor. Add the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, sultanas and peel/zest. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add enough milk to form a stiff dough.

Use two spoons to place rough heaps of dough onto the trays. Bake for around 15 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through cooking until the cakes are golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

ottolenghi love...

I own a LOT of cookbooks, and love to use them as a source of inspiration. When I first buy a book I like to go through them, marking out recipes to try with post-its. The number of marked pages in the book usually gives a pretty fair indication of how much use it will get. The two Ottolenghi books we have at home are stuffed full of them, they are packed with recipes for the sort of food I love.

Ottolenghi is a cafe - actually now a group of cafes - in London that produce deliciously creative food. I have never been there, but have had their first cookbook, Ottolenghi:The Cookbook, for a while now and recently gave Sarah their second book Plenty for her birthday.
The owners grew up in Jerusalem, which influences a lot of their cooking, which is dominated by lots of vegetables, grains and fresh herbs. Plenty is actually all vegetarian recipes, not that you miss the lack of meat. Ottolenghi food is wholesome and honest, big on flavour and texture and begging to be served up on generous platters and passed around the table. The finished products look delicious in that rustic and simple way, that belies the amount of prep involved and long ingredient lists, but so far I have found the extra admin (as Miriam would say) has been worthwhile.

Here are some of the recipes I have tried so far, I find it near impossible to stick prescriptively to a recipe so most of these are my adaptations. Sometimes the ingredients specified aren't readily available in NZ, so I just substitute with what I have to hand, and the results are delicious none-the-less.
Sweet winter slaw - Shredded savoy and red cabbage, mango, papaya, fresh mint, coriander, red pepper, fresh chilli, caramelised macadamia nuts and a lime/lemongrass dressing. This salad was beautiful and one I know I will make again and again. We ate it with warm roast chicken. The leftovers made a delicious lunch the next day with the shredded chicken tossed through it along with some nutty brown rice and crunchy mung bean sprouts. You can find the recipe here. This is the Ottolenghi picture, not ours...

Quinoa salad with dried Iranian Lime - I changed this quite bit due to us lacking some of the ingredients. Roasted kumara, pearl barley (instead of wild rice), red and white quinoa, lime zest (instead of the dried lime), lemon juice, chopped garlic, oregano and sage fried in olive oil til crispy, crumbled feta, chopped spring onion, fresh mint, peas (these were my addition to make it a 'balanced meal', but they worked nicely with the citrusy flavours and salty feta). We ate it with fish, lovely.

Roasted Butternut Squash with burnt aubergine and pomegranate molasses - roasted butternut, toasted pumpkin, sunflower, nigella and black sesame seeds, toasted almonds, fresh basil leaves. I added some puy lentils. The burnt aubergine was like baba ghanoush, but with a sharper flavour from the pomegranate molasses, which for all that it is fashionable I am not that keen on, I find it tastes a bit like cough syrup. We ate it with slow roasted lamb.

Pear Crostini - sliced sourdough spread with a rough paste of walnuts, garlic and olive oil and toasted in a hot oven. Topped with slices of caramelised fresh pear, soft french goats cheese and a little rocket salad dressed with lemon. This was such a delicious lunch, I can't wait to make it again.

Smoky polenta fries with tomato chilli sauce - I made these to have before Sarah's birthday dinner. They don't feature in either of the books, but on the Guardian website, where Yotam Ottolenghi contributes a regular feature on contemporary vegetarian food. You can find the recipe here. Do make them! As if polenta chips weren't tasty enough already, this version has smoked cheese in them. They are very good.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Miriam: After a couple of wines at my favourite local bar Winehot, some friends and I wanted a cheap and cheery dinner. We took a risk and tried our luck with an unknown (to us) Chinese restaurant across the road; Vanilla Noodle House. The risk paid off! For the grand total of $11.60 each, the 5 of us shared 5 dishes and were stuffed full of yummy food. The highlight were these prawn, pork, egg and chive dumplings; fresh and delicious and at $9 for 20 dumplings, it just goes to show, sometimes it is nifty to be thrifty!

Libby: Most of Saturday morning was spent at the farmers market at Riccarton House. I bought some Italian sausages from The Real Sausage Company to bring back to Wellington with me. These sausages are heavily spiced so I like to remove them from their skins, cook them into a ragu and serve on one of my other favourite things... wide ribbons of parpadelle.

Becs: I love these coffee beans from Peoples Coffee that Libby brought down to Christchurch this weekend. My Rocket espresso machine is highly fickle when it comes to the freshness of coffee beans, and it worked wonders with these beautiful beans that were roasted just days ago. (Although I suspect Libby's excellent barista skills also came into play!) PC commendably state on their packaging the date of roast, rather than the over-extended best before date that most NZ coffee roasters favour, that gives absolutely no indication of the freshness of the beans.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A cake for chocolate-lovers

I think this chocolate fudge cake is the most chocolatey chocolate cake I have ever eaten! It's from the beautiful Ottolenghi cookbook. I took it to a friends place for dessert and everyone seemed to enjoy it (some even went back for a second slice) but it did leave most of us feeling slightly ill. Not surprising as it consists of little more than sugar, butter, two types of chocolate and eggs.

I usually adapt recipes to suit what I have in the cupboard but this time I followed the recipe to the letter - using two types of chocolate and going to the trouble of buying light muscovado sugar and unsalted butter. This wasn't really necessary as I'm sure one type of chocolate and regular brown sugar would have worked just fine but I was on a mission to re-create the cake as pictured in the book. (I'm enjoying the leftover muscovado sugar on porridge.)

I baked the cake in two stages as per the recipe as it was meant to result in two layers: one firmer and more cakey, the other moussy. I wasn't able to distinguish any layers in my cake. If making again I would just bake the cake in one go (this option is also offered in the recipe). It would save a couple of hours of time as you have to wait for the first layer to cool before pouring the second layer on top and baking again.

We ate the cake with softly whipped cream with raspberries folded through as in the raspberry cheesecake brownie recipe. Fresh raspberries would be perfect with this cake if available or some of Bec's berry ice cream as the whipped cream just added to the richness.

A delicious, but incredibly rich cake.

Chocolate fudge cake

240g unsalted butter, cubed
265g dark chocolate (52 percent cocoa solids), chopped
95g dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa solids), chopped
290g light muscovado sugar
4 tbsp water
5 large eggs, separated
pinch of salt
cocoa powder for dusting

Place chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl large enough to accommodate the entire mix. Put the brown sugar and water into a saucepan, stir to mix and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Pour the boiling syrup over the butter and chocolate and stir well until melted. Stir in the egg yolks, one at a time. Set aside until it cools to room temperature.

Beat egg whites and salt to a firm but not dry meringue. Fold into chocolate mixture a third at a time until incorporated.

Pour two thirds of the mixture (about 800g) into a greased, lined 20cm springform tin. Leave the rest of the batter until later. Bake at 170 degrees C for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out almost clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.

Flatten the top of the cake with a palette knife. Pour the rest of the batter on top and return to the oven for 20-25 minutes. The cake should have moist crumbs when checked with a skewer. Leave to cool completely in tin before removing. Dust with cocoa powder and serve.

The cake will keep, covered, at room temperature for 4 days.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thursday baking: spiced date cake

As we bake our way through A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

This dense, spicy cake is almost like sticky date pudding but with cream cheese icing instead of toffee sauce. I didn't have much mixed spice so added some extra cinnamon, ginger and cloves. I was also short on caster sugar so used a mix of caster and brown sugars. A dusting of icing sugar or (as suggested in the recipe) lemon icing would make a lighter alternative to cream cheese icing.

I'd make this cake again, but probably not until we've got through some of the other date recipes in the book. A Treasury of New Zealand Baking seems to have more than it's fair share of recipes featuring dates, including two cakes quite similar to this spiced date cake.

The recipe says the un-iced cake will keep for 4 days in an air-tight container but as I iced the whole thing so it needed to be eaten within a couple of days. I made it on Sunday and took the rest into work for morning tea on Monday. There was already an enormous carrot cake in honour of a birthday so I put the date cake in the fridge for morning tea the following day. When I opened the fridge the next morning there was one lonely slice left on the plate! I hope whoever ate it enjoyed it!

Spiced date cake - Catherine Bell (Week 13)

250g pitted dates, roughly chopped
1 tsp baking soda
125ml boiling water
110g butter
110g caster sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 egg
150g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice

50g cream cheese
50g butter
100g icing sugar
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

Place dates and baking soda in a bowl and pour over boiling water, soak for 30 minutes and cool.

Cream butter, sugar and lemon zest in a food processor until pale. Add egg and beat well.

Combine flour, baking powder and mixed spice and tip them into a food processor, with the dates & liquid and pulse until just combined.

Pour into greased & lined 20cm cake tin and bake for about 45 minutes (or until cake is golden and a skewer inserted into centre of cake comes out clean. Cool in tin for 5 minutes and then turn out onto cooling rack.

To make icing, beat all ingredients until white and fluffy. Spread icing over cooled cake and dust with cinnamon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I went old school today and made pizza buns for lunch. Half with tinned spaghetti, and half with creamed corn, cheese and bacon. Yum!

Monday, June 14, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Miriam: I am a big fan of this Balsamic Roasted Onion & Parmesan Focaccia from Kapiti Artisan Bakehouse. Twelve minutes in the oven produces delicious warm buttery bread, just like homemade. I purchased this loaf at Nosh and brought it round to my friends Bex & Pete to enjoy with Bex's delicious chicken pie.

Libby: I've been thinking about buying an ice cream maker since reading a recipe for rhubarb ripple ice cream on the Guardian UK website. I resisted for several weeks... then on a wet, windy Wellington day I dashed out to Moore Wilson and picked up my new favourite toy: a Sunbeam Snowy! It's a reasonably basic appliance, consisting of a chilled bowl that lives in the freezer and a paddle that attaches to a motor unit in the lid. It's no Magimix with built-in compressor but it was only $60 and it does the trick! I'm yet to make the rhubarb ripple ice cream but so far have made mango frozen yoghurt and dark chocolate ice cream. Both delicious!

Becs: Mirepoix is the french term for a combination of celery, onions and carrots, and it forms the base of much of my winter cooking - soups, slow braises, pie fillings and pasta sauces to name a few. I blitz the vegetables up in the food processor and cook them gently until soft in a little butter or olive oil, adding water every now and then to stop them catching on the bottom of the pan. Sometimes I also add garlic and some herbs too, before adding the remaining ingredients in a dish such as stock or tinned tomatoes. The vegetables add depth of flavour as well as bulking it out meaning that less meat is needed. Delicious, thrifty and healthy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

biscuits from Belgium

I have never made belgian biscuits before, having had an aversion to jam for much of my life. I can still recall the crushing disappointment as a child upon discovering a birthday cake - clearly not mine - had been sandwiched together with jam or even worse, had a layer of it sneakily tucked under the chocolate icing. I would have to carefully pick around the jam, forfeit the icing or else abandon the cake altogether if it appeared to be too contaminated.

So perhaps that is why belgian biscuits passed me by? I have to some extent overcome my dislike of jam, although I still think the best place for it is on a freshly baked scone or pikelet and sitting beside some whipped cream. I would never eat it on toast. However after trying my first ever belgian biscuit I may be a convert to other applications for it.

My belgian biscuits were inspired by Libby, who made some using the Ladies, A Plate recipe and suggested I tried Edmonds but with the addition of some cocoa for colour. They were actually surprisingly quick to make, considering they do look rather impressive and fiddly, as I think does any baked good that requires 'sandwiching together'. I loved their pretty pink tops.

Belgian Biscuits

125g butter, softened
1/4 c brown sugar
1 egg
2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cocoa (not in Edmonds recipe)

to fill and ice -

1/2 c icing sugar
few drops of raspberry essence and red food colouring
enough hot water to make a spreadable icing
pink jelly crystals or other sprinkles
raspberry jam

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until it forms a firm dough.

Roll dough out (I always do this between 2 sheets of gladwrap, to save having to flour the bench and dry out the dough too much...) and use a cookie cutter to stamp out rounds. Bake at 180c for about 15 minutes.

Cool, sandwich together with a little jam, top with a spoonful of icing and sprinkle with the jelly crystals or other sprinkles that take your fancy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thursday baking - classic chocolate chip cookie sandwich

As we bake our way through A Treasury of NZ Baking...

I have been eyeing up these biscuits ever since I first flicked through ATONZB. So a rainy queens birthday seemed like a good time to give them a go. In the intro to the recipe, Al Brown says these are seriously x-rated adult cookies and he makes a bach to take camping each summer. And I can see why. They are so decadent, you need to have had a day of outdoor activity to justify eating them.The recipe is relatively straight forward. I cut down the admin a bit with the chocolate filling by melting the chocolate in the microwave then stirring in the cream - I don't think it suffered too much for my corner cutting. I halved the mixture, which produced about 30 cookies - or 15 once they'd been sandwiched together. I will definitely make these again, but might try making mini ones, as its quite a mission to get through a whole one!

Classic Chocolate-chip Cookie Sandwich - week 11 (Al Brown)

2 1/4 cups standard flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

chocolate filling
250g semi-sweet chocolate (preferably buttons)
300ml cream

Preheat oven to 190C. Stir the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. In a separate bowl beat the butter, both sugars and vanilla until creamy and light. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until incorporated. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating well Stir in the chocolate chips. Roll pieces of cookie dough into a ball and place on an ungreased baking tray. Press out to 5cm in diameter. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

To make the chocolate filling, place the chocolate in a bowl with the cream. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure no water gets in the bowl. Melt them together until fully incorporated. Pour into a suitable container and set in the fridge. This will take approximately 40 minutes.

Once the filling is set, warm to a temperature that is just pipeable. Pipe the desired amount onto one cookie and press another cookie onto it. Repeat until all the cookies are sandwiched.

Al Brown recommends you eat these with a glass of ice-cold full-cream milk.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

wednesday waffles

Morning tea on Wednesdays can be quite an extravaganza. But none more so than last week, when Brigitte cooked up a storm of waffles. Made in the tea room while we eagerly watched and waited, there's something about hot waffles that seems oh so special. Waffle making has becoming a bit of a tradition for Brigitte, apparently she once bought a cake for morning tea, but there was such an outcry at the lack of waffles that she dared not deviate again! So it's pleasing to know that Wednesday waffles will come around again in another four or so months.

The waffles were served with a choice of vanilla bean or cinnamon dusting sugar. Scrumptious!

Monday, June 7, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Miriam: I have quite a collection of scarfs - I love both the warmth and splash of colour they provide during the colder months. My latest addition is this wee silk number from State of Grace in Kingsland. I'm not sure it will provide much warmth, but I rate it quite highly on the prettiness / French chic scale.

Libby: I love this dried pappardelle pasta and much prefer it to any of the commercial fresh pasta you can buy. I buy a couple of different brands - Divella, (though Thorndon New World always seems to run out of it), and De'Cecco (always in stock at Mediterranean Food Warehouse in Newtown). I think they're pretty reasonably priced ($5/250g box) given you can pay upwards of $20 for some imported Italian dried pastas but an Italian friend was horrified to hear what I was willing to pay for something that only costs a euro or two in Italy!

Becs: I think most of us have good intentions of eating more fish, but it can be difficult to source good quality, fresh fish. Let's face it, most supermarket fish counters leave a lot to be desired, and good fishmongers can be few and far between. Homefresh Deliveries is a Christchurch based business that make it easy to eat more fish. They deliver fresh fish to your door once a week, in our case each Tuesday. You fill in a form when you sign up with them ranking your fish preferences, so they never deliver anything you dislike, but what turns up in your reusable chilly bin each week is a complete surprise. It is such a great way to eat a wide variety of fish, and a challenge to cook it creatively.

Daisy just loves her snug new sleeping bag that attaches to her buggy. With her sheepskin tucked inside too she is as warm as toast when we are out and about in wintery Christchurch weather. Oh the luxury of being a baby!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

packed lunches

It's always a struggle to think of something to take to work for lunch.... I find sandwiches just oh so boring. In an inspired moment, we decided to make this delicious red rice and quinoa salad with orange & pistachios (Lewi actually made it, although I did go to the supermarket to get the ingredients).

This salad is great for lunch, being both delicious and nutritious. And the lovely mixture of colours makes it especially attractive. I was the envy of everyone in the lunch room! Here's the recipe:

Camargue red rice and quinoa with orange and pistachios

(from Ottolenghi The Cookbook)

60g shelled pistachio nuts
200g quinoa
200 Camargue red rice
1 medium onion, sliced
150ml olive oil
grated zest and juice of one orange
2 tsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 sprigs onions, thinly sliced
100g dried apricots, roughly chopped
40g rocket
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 170C. Toast the pistachios for about 8 minutes until lightly coloured. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly and then chop roughly. Set aside.

Fill 2 saucepans with salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer the quinoa in one for 12-14 minutes and the rice in the other for 20 minutes. Both should be tender but still have a bite. Drain in a sieve and spread out the 2 grains separately on a flat tray to hasten cooling.

While the grains are cooking, sauté the white onion in 4 tablespoons of olive oil for 10-12 minutes stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Leave to cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl combine the rice, quinoa, cooked onion and the remaining oil. Add all the rest of the ingredients, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday baking - crunchie bar shortbread

As we bake our way through A Treasury of NZ Baking...

This recipe jumped out at me when I first flipped through the Treasury. A shortbread recipe with ground almonds and big chunks of smashed up Crunchie bar. Yum. I have made these twice now, the second time with self raising flour as we had run out of regular flour. This resulted in chunky cookies rather than crisp shortbread, these were ok but rather ordinary, and I preferred the texture of the shortbread.

The second time I also used half chopped Crunchie bars and half chopped Crunchie bar chocolate block (you can see the difference on the chopping board below...) and it was better with the chopped bars as you get more honeycomb, which melts as they cook so provide a lovely toffee-ish crunch. It looks cool too.

This shortbread would be a fun recipe to make with kids, who I am sure would love to smash up the crunchie bar. Next time I make this (and there will definitely be a next time) I think I will double the recipe, in order to keep one roll of dough in the freezer for last minute baking.

Crunchie Bar Shortbreads - week 10 (Claire Aldous)

250g butter, softened
1 c icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp rice flour
3 tbsp cornflour
70g (1 pkt) ground almonds
2 x 50g Crunchie bars

Preheat oven to 175c and line 2 trays with baking paper. Beat the butter, icing sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. Combine the remaining ingredients except the Crunchie bars, and add to the butter mix. Beat to combine.

Put the Crunchies in a plastic bag and crush roughly with a rolling pin. Gently mix this through the dough, taking care to not crush the larger pieces - you are after a range of sizes.

Roll tablespoons of dough into balls and flatten lightly with a fork. (I rolled the dough into a log, chilled it and then sliced it into rounds) Bake for 12 minutes, rotating trays halfway through to ensure even cooking. Leave shortbreads on the tray for 5 minutes to firm up before transferring to a rack to cool.

This makes about 24

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

baking for beginners

I was inspired the other day to make afghans after reading it on this blog here where the author challenges herself to bake something in her lunch hour once a week. It reminded me how quick and easy a batch of afghans is to whip up. Daisy quite enjoyed sitting on the kitchen bench in her Bumbo and keeping an eye on proceedings. She was particularly interested in the icing, and managed to get her wee mitts on it before it was whisked out of reach.

I use the Edmonds afghan recipe, but always use dutch cocoa, I think this makes a huge difference to the colour and taste of an afghan. I don't use regular cocoa now for anything, it is so pallid and dull compared to the dutched variety. (Which is a bargain to buy in 1kg bags at Moore Wilson!) Kellog's cornflakes are my preference too, other brands don't seem to have quite the same crunch. Libby likes to put Weet-Bix in hers.

The icing recipe I love to make comes from the book Ladies, a Plate, while it has a slightly unusual method I can honestly say it is the best chocolate icing recipe for afghans I have come across. It sets to a perfect fudgy consistency that melts in your mouth. The icing recipe make about twice what you will need for a batch of afghans, but it will keep well in the fridge for next time. While on the topic of Ladies, a Plate, if you visit this link you can sign up to their monthly newsletter with recipes, the May edition features some goodies I am quite keen to try.

Afghans by Edmonds

200g butter, softened
1/2 c sugar
1 1/4 c flour
1/4 c cocoa
2 c cornflakes

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour and cocoa, finally fold in the cornflakes. Place spoonfuls on a lined tray and bake at 180c for around 15 minutes. Ice when cold, garnishing with a walnut half. (Make sure they are fresh NZ ones that have been toasted no less!)


3 tbsp water
3 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp butter
1 1/2 c icing sugar
3 tbsp cocoa (dutch)

Heat the water, caster sugar and butter until the butter melts and simmer for a minute to form a syrup. Beating all the time, pour about 3/4 of the syrup onto the sifted cocoa and icing sugar, adding extra syrup if needed to make a thick fudgy icing.

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