May 3, 2010

Scones with jam and cream

Scones with jam and cream, is there anything as simple and humble, yet satisfying and comforting? I don’t think so.

I seem to have finally mastered the art of the perfect scone after many, 
many years of failed attempts and all sorts of recipes.

The answer lay with one of my favourites, Nigella Lawson. The recipe comes
together very easily (with a ridiculous amount a Cream of Tartar) and 10 minutes later you have gorgeous fluffy hot scones to serve with tea, whipped cream and your favourite jam and everyone will love you and ooh and aaah over how wonderful your scones are.

Thanks Nigella!

Makes 12

500g flour

1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
4 ½ tsp cream of tartar
125g unsalted butter, diced
300ml milk

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Sift the dry ingredients together and rub in the butter thoroughly.

Add the milk and stir very briefly. Knead lightly together on a floured 
surface. (Don’t  overwork scone dough).

Roll out to approx 3cm thickness and then cut into 12 scones.

Bake for 10 minutes until wonderfully soft but slightly golden.

Sathya-rating *****

April 3, 2010

Hot Cross Buns

Happy Easter everyone.  I hope you're doing something you enjoy with your loved ones.  We had a wonderful time with our family today and a great night with friends last night and still have 2 more days of not going to work. Ah, bliss!

Now, I know I spoke to you about Ree, The Pioneer Woman on my last post but here I am again.  She constantly inspires me in the kitchen.  This time with her Hot Cross Buns especially for Good Friday.  The rolls came together easily and tasted wonderful.  Admittedly they were a little flat which was disappointing. 

You can find the recipe here.

Sathya-rating ***

March 28, 2010

Apple Fritters

I’m sure I’ve mentioned Ree, The Pioneer Woman, here before. I love her.  We love her.  She’s brilliant.  If you somehow don’t know her, go check out her website and learn about her beautiful part of the world, her sensational kitchen, the cute dog Charlie, homeschooling her lovely children, photography and many more things. 
Apart from all this it constantly amazes me how often Ree posts on her website. Seriously, it’s several times a day.  What, does the woman not sleep or something!?  I don’t know how she does it.  I don’t sleep much and I struggle to find the time to get to the store and make something delicious let alone photograph it and then tell you all about it on a regular basis and make it interesting!  I guess I’m not really a writer though.  Yeah, they’re pathetic excuses but I’m sticking to them.
Ree has inspired me a lot lately, which is great.  Last time I was pregnant I didn’t want to go anywhere near the kitchen.  Recently my friend Hannah and I made her Chocolate Sheet Cake (which I've made shared here before and raved about) and topped it off with what was described as the Best Frosting Ever.  It was a successful and gorgeous birthday cake, everyone loved it but for the first time, ever, I did not agree with The Pioneer Woman about the frosting.
Anyway, this is not about the frosting, it’s about Ree’s Apple Fritters.  They lived up to every bit of praise Ree gave them. And more.  Yummo, these little balls of apple, cinnamon-ey doughnutey goodness were to die for.  Next time I make them I’ll halve the recipe as there was too much batter for our house.  It did keep in the fridge nicely and fried up perfectly the next day but I’m not sure we need that much deep-fried goodness in our lives!

2 cups plain flour
½ cups sugar
3 tbs sugar
2-¼ tsp baking powder
1-¼ tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
¾ cups milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs melted butter
2 whole granny smith apples, peeled and diced
Icing sugar (optional, for dusting)
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with a fork, then add milk, melted butter, and vanilla.
Gently fold dry and wet ingredients together until just combined (do not overmix.) Fold in apples. Add enough apples to make a very chunky batter. You want the apples to shine though!
Heat a couple of inches of canola oil over medium to medium-low heat. When it gets hot, drop a little drop of batter into the oil. If it sizzles immediately and rises to the top, the oil is ready; if it burns quickly, turn down the heat.
Drop teaspoons of batter into the hot oil, six or eight at a time. Sometimes they'll flip over by themselves; sometimes you have to flip them. Just watch them and make sure they don't get too brown, but cook them long enough to make sure the batter's cooked through, about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes total.
Remove and drain on a paper towel.
Serve warm!
Sathya-rating ****

February 28, 2010

Pirate ship birthday cake

Tomorrow is our gorgeous little boy, Austen’s very first birthday.  What a crazy thought, a year ago today I was in the difficult process of trying to get him out, and tomorrow out whole lives changed.

It’s been the most rewarding and challenging year all at the same time.  Austen arrived on Sunday afternoon and took us on a crazy ride of worry and sleep deprivation for the next 2 months, varying health problems for both of us and, of course, the crash course in parenting you have to go through to get to the first birthday.  I’m sure we still have so much to learn, each phase seems to have its share of joys and difficulties.  Looking back on it all there’s no way you can prepare yourself for any of it, people can warn you, tell you, help you and the rest of it but each parent, child and experience is different so you just have to work it out.  As hard as it’s been, I wouldn’t change a single thing (ok, maybe all the times I’ve been peed and pooed on) because this little man is the best thing ever!  The love and emotion that he creates within me is indescribable.  I can watch him for hours, laugh and giggle and snuggle with him for days. A social little boy, who loves to be the centre of attention and gives so much love to all he comes into contact with.

And somehow we find ourselves getting ready to do it all again with a second child in July!

So yesterday, we threw Austen his first birthday party.  It was such a special day full of all our loved ones, sun, laughter and delicious food.

I tried my hand at my first kids birthday cake from The Women’s Weekly “Kids’ Birthday Cakes” a pirate ship. As you can see it isn’t perfect, but I was happy at my attempt and it really wasn’t too difficult.  I didn’t eat a piece when we served it, the ‘black’ icing just didn’t seem right to me!  Everyone else enjoyed it though.

375grams butter, softened
3 tsp vanilla essence
500grams sugar
6 eggs
675g self-raising flour
375ml milk
8 skewers

black food colouring
375g butter, softened
720g icing sugar
6 tbs milk

9 x 25g packets Curly Wurly
24 crazy bananas
12 white Life Savers
15g milk chocolate block
3 x 10cm – square pieces of white cardboard
3 X 8cm – square pieces of white cardboard
6.5 x 8.5cm Jolly Roger picture

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Grease and line a deep 26cm x36cm pan.

Beat butter, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time until combined.  Stir in the flour and milk in 2 batches.  Spread mixture into pan and bake in oven for 1 hour.  Stand cake in pan for 10 minutes and then turn onto wire rack to continue to cool.  Using serrate knife, level the cake top.

Cut cake in half lengthways. Cut side down, cut 7cm piece from each half, as shown.

Assemble cake pieces on board to form galleon, as shown, secure with five skewers.

Trim front of galleon at angles to make how, as shown, discard cake trimmings.  Trim skewers to the same height as cake.

Beat the butter until as white as possible. Gradually beat in half the icing sugar, milk then remaining icing sugar.  Tint with black food colouring and spread all over galleon.

Decorate galleon with pieces of Curly Wurly, as shown.

Decorate galleon with Crazy Bananas and Lifesavers.  Position chocolate for plank (support by placing piece of skewer or toothpick underneath.

Thread large then small cardboard pieces on remaining skewers and position Jolly Roger on top of centre skewer.  Position the 3 masts on galleon.

February 21, 2010

Chocolate Cake

I'm not sure this photo does this magnificent chocolate cake justice.  I am also not sure if I will be able to describe to you whole fantastic this chocolate cake was.  I'll give it a go though, and hope that you believe me when I say - best chocolate cake ever!

This is Beatty's Chocolate Cake which comes from a very successful American food writer Ina Garten, otherwise known as Barefoot Contessa.   I came across this recipe on a blog called Suitable for Consumption which has some lovely recipes.  This one stood out months ago and I put it aside for another day.  That day arrived recently when my favourite 13 year old girl was coming for dinner and I thought could I make for after dinner and looked through my list and saw this one.  Luckily, for me, it was exactly what I felt like!

The cake came together easily, although the batter was very wet and we all wondered if it would work.  I had a mini-pregnancy-meltdown and so my favourite girl made the frosting on her own and did a perfect job let me tell you!  Thankfully I was convinced to come back from my hiding spot and wasn’t made to feel as silly as I really was as this cake was not to be missed!

I look forward to making this cake again and again, I believe it will be my go-to chocolate cake.  Its moist and crumbly and very chocolatey without being ridiculously chocolatey that you can only take a few bites. The next day after it had been in the fridge it was even better I think, our guests agreed (as I sent them home with some) – it didn’t last to the end of the day at either house!

butter, for greasing pans
1 3/4 cups plain flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Chocolate Frosting
170g good semisweet chocolate
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups sifted icing sugar
1 tbs instant coffee powder

Preheat oven to 180C. Butter 2 (8 inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, butter again and flour both pans.

Sift and combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. With a mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In a large bowl, beat butter on medium high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the icing sugar then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy.

Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

Place 1 layer flat side up on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Sathya-rating *****

February 14, 2010

Jelly Slice

Dear Valentine,

On this day of love I give you my heart in the form of biscuit, cheesecake and strawberry jelly = jelly slice.

Thank you for allowing me to be myself and still loving me. 

Sometimes our love feels as old and reassuring as Lyle’s Golden Syrup (oldest brand in the world). Yet sometimes when our eyes catch my heart skips a beat like it did when all this began.

Our life is a rollercoaster, but, I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) do it without you.

200g digestive biscuits
125g butter, melted
2½ teaspoons gelatine 
¼ cup water
250g cream cheese
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
½ cup cream
100g packet of strawberry jelly

Blend or process biscuits until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Pour in melted butter and stir till combined.

Press biscuit mixture evenly over the base of a square pan and pop it in the fridge till you need it.

Next, measure out the gelatine and mix with the water. Allow to stand for a couple of minutes to allow the gelatine to absorb the water. Microwave for 30 seconds or until dissolved.

Beat cream cheese, condensed milk, lemon juice and cream til smooth. Stir in the gelatine mixture. Pour over the top of the biscuit crumbs. Refrigerate until set.

Make jelly according to packet instructions, but only us half the water it says on the packet. Pouring over the cream cheese layer, put it back in the fridge and wait till its set.  Once its firm, cut into squares and serve.

Sathya-rating ****

January 28, 2010

Eggs Florentine/Benedict

I love going out for breakfast.  Or brunch.  There's nothing better than having a big night out full of fun and silliness, rolling out bed the next morning feeling rather average and ordering a greasy breakfast and coffee to try and make it all better.  Admittedly it's been a very long time since I've been in that situation, but I remember it fondly. These days it's more of a luxury, Austen's woken us up early and we can't be bothered sorting out breakfast at home so we go out for Eggs Benedict.

Eggs Benedict originated in the Walford Hotel, New York by an banker called Lemuel Benedict who was trying to find a cure for his hangover. Toasted English muffins with sliced ham or bacon, poached eggs topped of with Hollandaise.  If you don't know this dish or haven't had the honour, do yourself a favour - take a loved one out for breakfast and order it and enjoy!  I think you need to taste a good one before you attempt this in your own kitchen at home as the Hollandaise is all about a specific flavour.  Its a hard one to order as it's done wrong far too often.  Revolting Hollandaise or big thick slices of bread or accompaniments that don't belong.  Ask around who does a good Eggs Benedict locally.

For those of us who are Eggs Benedict connoisseur's, try this at home and see how you go.  I was shown how to make this by a wonderful friend of mine, Hannah, who is a very good in the kitchen.  I have since made it myself and it's taken me a few attempts to get it just right.

Wine reduction
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup of vinegar
5 peppercorns
1 bayleaf

Start by making the wine reduction which carries the flavour in the Hollandaise.  Place all the above ingredients in a small pan and allow to simmer and bubble till it reduces by half and set aside.

8 egg whites
Approx 1 tbs wine reduction
Apprx 1 tbs water
250g butter, melted
salt and pepper

You will need to set up a bain marie.  I put a small pan of water onto boil.  As it comes to the boil turn it down to a simmer - small bubbles - and place a bowl over the top, making sure the water does not touch the bowl.  In the bowl you will have 8 eggs with the wine reduction and water and you need to whisk constantly till they reach ribbon stage.  Very  slowly pour the melted butter into the bowl continuing to whisk till nice and glossy and thick.   Now taste it.  It could be just right.  If not add salt, pepper, tabasco or lemon till you get the flavour of your liking.

4 English muffins
8 eggs
Ham or bacon (cooked till crispy) or steamed spinach 

Poach the eggs.

Toast the muffins.

Fry the bacon if you are using.

Place the toasted muffins on a plate, cover with a couple of pieces of ham, bacon or spinach, next comes a poached egg and finally top with your gorgeous Hollandaise and serve!

Note - whilst you are assembling and poaching, keep the Hollandaise near the stove so it keeps slightly warm.

Sathya-rating *****