Thursday, December 23, 2010

thursday baking - vanna's chocolate cake

Vanna's chocolate cake - Kate Fraser, Week 34

I made this chocolate cake for dessert and was expecting great things given how involved the method was but I have to say I was disappointed. It wasn't chocolately enough - the recipe calls for 150g of dark chocolate but no cocoa, and even though I added a couple of tablespoons but it still wasn't enough.

I made a couple of other changes to the recipe. I didn't add the 1 tablespoon of marmalade as specified, mainly because I didn't have any but also because I can't imagine how a tablespoon of marmalade would add anything other than annoying chunks of citrus peel. Yuk. I also iced the cake with chocolate ganache (150g chopped dark chocolate stirred into 150mls of hot cream) rather than the icing in the recipe. This was a good idea. The ganache and the raspberries were the best part of this cake.

Although the recipe says it's suitable for both good cooks and novice bakers I have to disagree. Unless you wanted to include every possible technique in one recipe - melting chocolate, creaming butter and sugar, whipping egg whites, folding etc... it also creates enough dishes to dishearten even the most experienced of kitchenhands. The recipe also claimed this cake was quite sticky and keeps well but I didn't agree with this either - I found the texture more "chalky" that moist. Perhaps I over cooked it? But I'm not willing to try again - there are better chocolate cake recipes out there.

So now that I've completely rubbished this recipe I'm not going to bother writing it up but will instead leave you with some pictures. This was one of those cakes that looked better than it tasted:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

christmas nut pies

Most Christmases, I make these nut pies, as gifts and to fill the baking tins. They're a bit like baby pecan pies and are perfect little mouth fulls of nutty, caramel goodness. They are pretty simple to make (it's a Jo Segar recipe), and you can use any mixture of nuts. I filled these ones with cashews, brazil nuts, almonds and macadamias.

I don't normally serve these with a sprig of mint - but decided the festive red plate needed some green garnishing to complete the look!

Christmas Nut Pies

125g butter
1 cup flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup roughly chopped nuts
60g melted butter
1 egg
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence

Place butter, flour and icing sugar in the food processor and run until the pastry clumps in a ball. Divide into 16 balls (although I can stretch this to 24) and press into mini muffin tins. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Divide nuts between chilled pastry cases. Mix melted butter, egg, brown sugar and vanilla together till smooth. Pour over nuts. Bake 180C for 20 minutes until golden.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

dinner date - roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts & honey

I made this chicken from the Ottolenghi cookbook after hearing how good it was from Chloe and Weston. They were right: it is AMAZING! It's so simple but so delicious and so fragrant. The recipe calls for you to cut a whole organic chicken into pieces - too much hassle when have no butchery skills so I just used bone-in chicken thighs. Boneless would work fine too.

I bought saffron especially for this recipe but I'm unsure whether you'd actually notice if you left it out with so many other flavours in there... it sure is expensive and although I knew that when to Moore Wilson to get the ingredients I still gasped when I saw the tiny wee tuft of strands I got for $9!

We ate the chicken with plain couscous and a green salad. It's a great meal if you're having people over on a week night as you can do all the prep the night before and throw it in the oven when you get home. Try it!

6-8 chicken pieces (I used bone-in, skinless thighs)
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
a big pinch of saffron
juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp cold water
2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
100g unskinned hazelnuts
70g honey
2 tbsp rosewater
2 spring onions, roughly chopped (I forgot about these but they're only for garnishing)

Mix the chicken with the onion, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper. Leave it to marinate for at least an hour (or overnight in the fridge).

Heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Spread the hazelnuts out in a baking tray and roast for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Keep a close eye on them as they can go from browned to burnt very quickly. The recipe says to chop and set aside but I placed them in a clean teatowel first and rubbed the skins off.

Place the chicken and marinade into a large roasting tray, with the chicken skin-side up (if your chicken has skin). Put in the oven for about 35 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the chopped hazelnuts with the honey and rosewater to make a rough paste. Remove the chicken from the oven and spoon a generous amount of the nut paste onto each piece, pressing it on to the top of each piece. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, making sure that the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the nuts are golden brown.

Monday, December 20, 2010

a few of our favourite things

Becs: My favourite 'fancy' salt is Pacific Flaky Sea Salt, made right here in Marlborough, NZ. I prefer it to the imported Maldon salt, the Pacific salt flakes are perfect just as they are to use as a finishing salt. Best of all you can find it in most supermarkets for around the $5 mark. I buy the iodised variant.

Miriam: Despite my birthday being two months ago, this week I got two presents. One was this beautiful ring that my friends Lewi, Jane, Nat & Kate all contributed to. It's made in rose gold and has a sapphire in the middle. The other was a pair of glasses, spectacles in fact. A present from Dad, who proceeded to inform me that boys seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses! Humph!

Libby: I was contemplating boning a chicken but wasn't sure I'd still want to eat chicken afterwards so called the Wadestown Gourmet Butchery to see about getting a professional to do the job. I dropped off my stuffing and a short while later I picked up my boned, stuffed, free-range, corn-fed chicken that had been neatly "bazooka-ed" into netting! All for their everyday price for a chicken. Such service!

Friday, December 17, 2010

a sweet and salty treat

Please make these! Salty Salada crackers, sweet crunchy butter caramel, dark semi-bitter chocolate. The texture and flavour combination is amazing. Adaptations of this recipe seems to be doing the rounds of late, and for good reason. It is very quick to make, and very easy to eat. The sweet/salty combination makes it especially moreish. I know the crackers sound a bit odd, but it really works, with their crunch and salty flavour. As it cooks in the oven the caramel coats the crackers so they end up in the middle of the slice.

For pictures of the process check out Nessie's blog, in the meantime here's my version of the recipe....

salted butter caramel crunch

250g salted butter
1 c brown sugar
1 pkt Salada crackers (they come with 2 pkts per box)
1 kingsize block (250g) Whittakers dark ghana chocolate, roughly chopped
Flaky seasalt to sprinkle - I used Pacific Flaky

Preheat oven to 180c. Line a swiss roll tin with baking paper. Lay out the Salada crackers over the tray to evenly cover the base, a few cracks here and there won't matter. Melt butter and brown sugar together, bring to the boil, and boil hard for 3 minutes. Pour over the crackers, and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Remove from oven, scatter the chopped chocolate over, and leave to sit for a minute. Use a heatproof spatula to evenly spread the melting chocolate over the caramel. Sprinkle with salt, crushing larger flakes between your fingers. Leave overnight to set then use your hands to snap into pieces, like peanut brittle. Store in an airtight container somewhere cool.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

thursday baking - date and orange muffins

This week's post comes courtesy of Jessica...

I quite like the trick of using whole oranges in baking. Some recipes call for the oranges to be boiled first, but here, two oranges are thrown straight into the food processor and blended up with the other ingredients.
These muffins have quite a different texture from what I usually associate with muffins. They were very moist and cakey, almost like friands. I think the inclusion of the orange skin made the muffins slightly bitter, but in a good way, so they really needed the dates as little bursts of sweetness. My husband, on the other hand, thought they could have done with more sugar, but then he has a very sweet tooth! This recipe also makes A LOT of muffins (or maybe I just made mine quite small). The recipe says it makes 24, but I got 28, and as I only have one muffin tin, this meant the whole baking process took a while as I waited for the muffins to cool before removing them and putting the next batch in the oven. It's lucky that they do freeze well!
Date & Orange Muffins - Annabelle White
2 oranges
2 large eggs
200g butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 Cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
400g natural yoghurt
a little lemon juice
3/4 Cup sugar
3 Cups standard flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Grease two 12-hole muffin pans.

Blend the whole oranges in the food processor--skin, seeds, everything! Add the eggs and melted butter. Whirl the mixture around, but do not over-process. Place it in a large bowl with the dates.

Mix the yoghurt, lemon juice and sugar together in a bowl. Sift the dry ingredients into another bowl. Add the yoghurt mixture and the dry ingredients to the orange mixture, alternating small amounts of each.
Just blend with the lightest movement--do not over-mix. Place 2 tablespoons of batter in each hole of the prepared muffin pans.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the muffins comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes and then cool on a wire rack. The muffins keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container. These muffins also freeze well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

banana bread

I have been thrashing this banana bread recipe lately, and seem to be making it once every other week. It is so, so easy to put together, only using one bowl, and as a bonus it makes 2 loaves, so you can fill a tin and the freezer...I sliced up one of the loaves above to freeze for lunches. The recipe is adapted from the feijoa and coconut bread recipe in The NZ Treasury of Baking. While delicious warm from the oven, I prefer the texture of this banana bread the next day, when it becomes damper and slightly sticky. Yum.

One bowl banana bread

3 eggs
400g sugar
300ml rice bran oil
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c yoghurt
1 1/2 c mashed banana (about 4 large bananas)

Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl (I use the Kenwood mixer). Add the ingredients below, and mix until just combined.

1 c desiccated coconut
460g flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Divide mix between 2 loaf tins that have been lined with baking paper. Bake at 170c for 40 minutes or so. They smell so good cooking in the oven!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

dinner date - corn fritters

Corn fritters are something I rarely order in cafes, for fear of the stodgy, super-thick versions so often served up. This recipe is based on one of Richard Till's that featured a while ago in the Sunday paper. These fritters are chock-full of corn, and held together by a minimum of flour, so they crisp up nicely and taste like corn rather than batter. The cheese is a delicious addition too.

We ate the fritters with sour cream, some chunky guacamole and a dollop of tomato chilli jam. I picked up a cheap box of sauce tomatoes the other day at the local vege shop, so our chilli jam stocks have happily been replenished. I make Ruth Pretty's recipe (which was originally Peter Gordon's) and love it. It is lovely with anything you would serve sweet chilli sauce with, but has fish sauce, ginger and garlic in it so has more depth of's addictive.

corn fritters

3 cobs corn (or about 3c corn kernals, tinned or frozen)
3 eggs
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 c grated cheese
1/4c chopped herbs - parsley, basil, chives etc
1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
ground pepper to taste
oil for frying

Strip off the corn kernals, and put 1/2 of the corn into the food processor and the rest into a bowl. Into the bowl add the pepper, herbs and cheese. Into the food processor add the eggs, salt and pepper, and blend well with the corn. Add the flour and baking powder and whizz some more. Pour the contents of the food processor into the bowl, and fold together. Fry in a little oil in a heavy pan.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Libby: This banana salsa is one of our family's classic recipes. Mum used to go off for a ladies day at a cook school every now and then and this is one of the recipes she picked up. The original recipe calls for pawpaw and lists banana as a substitute but we've never made it with pawpaw. (I think pawpaw smells like vomit anyway.) To make the salsa mix a handful of chopped dates, a diced red capsicum, a handful of chopped mint (and sometimes parsley too), a little fresh chilli, some olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a sliced banana (add the banana at the last minute). It may sound a strange combination but it's the perfect accompaniment to a butterflied leg of lamb cooked on the barbeque - try it this summer!

Becs: I just love these little stools. I bought a trio of them a while ago on Trade Me, went shopping for some pretty oilcloth at Femme de Brocante, and sent them off to the upholsterer to be beautified. They were returned last week, looking as cute as can be. They are proving very useful too, currently being used as a bedside table, Daisy-feeding perch, and doorstop...

Miriam: In keeping with the silly season, Sunday was re-named 'Snakebite Sunday' and the afternoon was spent sitting in the sun with a group of friends drinking snakebites. For those unfamiliar with this delicacy (I'm not sure if this is the correct word?), snakebites are a mixture of beer, cider and raspberry cordial. Purists may scoff at this combination, but it is surprisingly refreshing and social too - there was a strong sense of comradery among fellow snakebite drinkers!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Trifle: the perfect pudding breakfast

This easy strawberry and Cointreau trifle is a perfect "make-ahead" dessert as it improves enormously with a day or so in the fridge... and the leftovers are the perfect "pudding breakfast".

I made it for a mid-week potluck Christmas dinner so prepared it the night before, then came home from work, covered it with whipped cream, sprinkled it with a crushed flake and headed out the door with it. I used bought custard, (which I am strangely fond of), but it you have the time and forethought you could make your own.... But that would mean getting started a couple of nights before to give the custard time to chill. Same with the sponge cake.

The dinner was over-catered, as potluck dinners invariably are, so I returned home with half a trifle to get through... I took some to work the following day for an mid-afternoon pick-me-up... and pick me up it did! I may have been a little heavy handed with the Cointreau as it felt like I was drinking on the job! If anyone had come too close I'm sure they would've smelled the alcohol on my breath.

I used Cointreau but any favourite liqueur would do. Or perhaps orange juice if you're not into boozy trifle... orange juice would also make this trifle more acceptable as a "pudding breakfast"... unless, of course, you see nothing wrong with drinking before 9am!

Strawberry and Cointreau Trifle
1 packet of sponge fingers or your best home-made sponge cake
600ml custard - bought or home-made
Cointreau or other liqueur (or orange juice) as required!
2 punnets of strawberries, hulled and sliced
300ml cream, softly whipped
1 chocolate flake bar

Dip the sponge fingers into Cointreau and line the bottom of a 20-ish centimetre square dish with them. Cover with sliced strawberries, custard and another layer of Cointreau-dipped sponge fingers. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight if possible.

An hour or two before serving, cover the trifle with whipped cream and sprinkle over crumbled chocolate. Chill until ready to serve in generous slices with extra fresh berries.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

thursday baking - blueberry and yoghurt scones

Morning tea today was one of these delicious scones, warm from the oven. The yoghurt in them makes them beautifully light, and the sugar on top forms a lovely crunchy crust. I stocked up on frozen blueberries yesterday, Countdown sell the -18 below brand of frozen blueberries which were on sale for just $7.99 for a kilo bag, a great price. Lois Daish has long been one of my favourite NZ food writers, her departure from NZ Listener being sadly lamented. The recipe makes 9 scones, just the right amount to eat while they are still fresh. I will definitely be making these scones again.

Blueberry and Yoghurt Scones - Lois Daish - Week 32

2 c flour
4 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp castor sugar
80g butter
1/4 c natural yoghurt
3/4 c milk (may need a little more)
milk/sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 200c. Combine the flour, bp and sugar. Rub in butter with fingertips. Add combined yoghurt and milk, pouring into a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Mix lightly with a knife until just combined. Gently pat into a square 2-3 cm thick, and cut into 9 scones. Brush tops of scones with the milk and sprinkle with extra sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and crunchy on top and bottom.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dinner date - chorizo tray bake salad

This is not so much a recipe as ingredient assembly. Inspiration for this quick but very tasty dinner comes courtesy of Chloe. Simply fill a roasting tray with chunks of potato, garlic cloves (skin on), chopped up good quality sausages, handfuls of stale bread, and chunky pieces of any other veges that take your fancy. Drizzle with olive oil and season with chopped rosemary, salt and pepper, and roast at 200c for 30 minutes or so until everything is well cooked.

I used my favourite chorizo, and roasted it alongside potato and garlic, red pepper, courgette and ciabatta. (I added the bread nearer the end of cooking so it didn't cook to a complete crisp...) After letting everything cool slightly I tossed through handfuls of salad greens, and we ate it as a warm salad. Such an easy dinner and really delicious.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Miriam: I do love the silly season! We've just decorated our Christmas tree, which we purchased using a voucher off Grabone - a website that has a new special each day. It's oh so hard to resist Grabone's bargains, especially as the website remembers your credit card details so at the click of a button you can grab the daily bargain. The top of our tree is decorated with a 'Pavlova Fairy' which my friend Maureen gave me for Christmas last year. It adds a lovely kiwi flavour!

Libby: I finally visited Maranui cafe for the first time since they reopened post-fire. I enjoyed this delicious berry smoothie in the sunshine with friends. I used to make something similar when I worked in a cafe - it's just frozen berries blended with some banana and juice but it tastes so so good!

Daisy has been enjoying the fine weather lately, and pushing her trolley around outside on the grass.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday baking - melting moments

As we bake our way through a treasury of New Zealand Baking

For Daisy's first birthday I was delegated the task of making mini melting moments. I used the recipe from ATONZB, which I've made several times before with good success. Halfway through making these, I realised we were low on cornflour, so I made the difference up with custard powder, which worked well. These melting moments were melt-in-your mouth, and perfect in miniature, as otherwise all that butter can make one feel rather ill.

Here's the recipe (adapted to the way I made it)

Melting Moments - Alyson Gofton


275g butter, softened

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 1/2 cups standard flour

1/4 cup cornflour

1/4 cup custard powder

Lemon butter icing

100g butter

1 1/2 cups icing sugar

few drops of vanilla essence

1-2 tbsp milk

grated zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 160C. To make biscuits beat the butter, icing sugar and vanilla together until light and creamy. Sift dry ingredients and mix into beaten ingredients. Do not over-mix. Roll small spoonfuls into balls and place on a lined baking tray. Dip a fork into four and flatten the dough balls gently. Bake for 18-20 mins until the biscuits are firm and beginning to brown a little around the edges.

To make the lemon butter icing, beat the butter until it is pale and fluffy. Sift the icing sugar and beat into the creamed butter with the vanilla and sufficient milk until you have a fluffy, light mixture. Add the lemon zest and juice to the butter icing and beat them in well. Once the biscuits are cold, join them with icing. Store in an airtight container.

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