Saturday, 31 March 2012

Tea-time Tempter

It couldn't be a bad day if you had one of these babies, could it?  Don't leave me while I am away, lovelies, because I will be back with the recipe for these Dark Chocolate Coffee Bean Cupcakes next week.  Don't miss me too much, now!

F. x

An Anticipated Visit

Today was the day that I have been waiting for since the end of November.  Today was the day that I got to see my wonderful BFF, Nick! Naturally, this meant some celebratory cooking in the form of Chocolate Blueberry Tarts (blueberry in honour of my lovely guest).  And wouldn't I like to see Nigella try to make pastry in Central Queensland heat?  It is a bit of a mission, possibly best saved for winter.  Luckily, the pastry gods were favouring little ol' moi today.  Soft, crumbly chocolate pastry; creamy white chocolate mascarpone filling; and topped with fresh blueberries.  These are sweet perfection.  While they should be sickly sweet, the balance of chocolately bitterness with the subtle cream and juicy blueberries is simply gorgeous as the flavours work in perfect harmony.

As Nick and I scoot off to spend a few wonderful, girly days in Yeppoon, I urge you to look out for the recipe that I will be sure to share with you in the latter half of this coming week!

F. x

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Pure Indulgence

I have been wanting to try this elegant chocolate treasure for quite a while now.  Every time I open Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess, I can't help but read this recipe and take pleasure in the eloquent way in which she gives directions for its creation.  Well time is of the essence and all of that, so today was the day! And it was wonderful.  How fantastic is the feeling when you complete a recipe and it looks identical to the illustration you have been lusting over?!  Food is all about the senses...first and foremost, the visual.  When the visual is matched by the taste, aromas and texture, you have achieved the holy grail of cooking - hallejulah!
This rich dessert provides a beautiful balance of sweetness and chocolately bitterness. Truly, a gorgeous dinner party people pleaser, this dessert can be prepared well ahead of time and be cooked straight out of the fridge.  I would highly recommend completing a practice run to ensure the perfect cooking time in your oven.  A solid outer, with that insanely indulgent molten centre is difficult to achieve first go but so incredibly satisfying when you do.  Serve them with sweet vanilla icecream and tart raspberries.  A sweet raspberry sauce would also compliment the dessert wonderfully.  These cakes are a labour of love - share them with your favourite sweeties.

Nigella's Molten Chocolate Babycakes

50g soft unsalted butter
350g dark chocolate
150g caster sugar
4 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g plain flour

Preheat an oven to 200 degrees C, putting your baking tray in at the same time.  Prepare your pudding moulds by greasing with (extra) butter and lining the base with baking paper circles.

Melt the chocolate (I used the microwave for ease) and put it aside to cool slightly. I must admit that I only used 250g of chocolate as that was all I had in the fridge and the Babycakes were still incredibly rich. 

Cream the butter and sugar before gradually beating in the eggs.  Once these are well combined, mix through the vanilla extract.  Sift and mix in the flour until the mixture is smooth.  Scoop in the cooled chocolate and blend to a smooth, glossy batter.

Divide the batter between six moulds.  Place them on the heated baking tray and put back into the oven.  Nigella dictates 10-12 minutes for cooking, in my oven with dariol moulds, my puddings took almost 20 minutes.  Keep checking them.  The Babycakes will rise like souffles.  You will be able to see the ring of cooked batter quite clearly.

As soon as you take them out of the oven, tip these luscious little babies onto your serving plate. Be gentle, banging and shaking has no place here. Icecream suits perfectly as an accompaniment but so would a creme anglaise or whipped double cream.

F. x

Nostalgia and Chocolate Cake

Isn't it funny how, no matter how old we are, we still long for the food of our childhood?  I regularly turn to the recipes that I have cooked a million times, after have watched my mum cook them a million times before. My tastes are very much influenced by my darling mother's cooking.  For example, I always make my custard incredibly thick.  Why?  Because that's how Mum always did it.   My lovely husband, often asks me for meals that his mother used to cook for him, giving me 'feedback' as to how I can make it "more like Mum's."  As much as I find this ever-so-slightly irritating, it is endearing too.  These are the tastes, textures and smells of our childhood and how much comfort we find in the nostalgia that comes along.  This speaks volumes for the amount of love and affection in our childhood homes, and the care with  which each meal was prepared and presented.  I hope that one day, my (future) children will have the same experience and continue our mother's recipes on as they share them with their own families.  I have previously shared my mum's delicious chocolate cake recipe, a family must-have for all birthdays and celebrations.  These are the chocolate cup-cakes that graced my lunchbox in primary school and the same chocolate cup-cakes that Mitch often has in his.  The legacy of love through nourishment continues, and how truly wonderful it is.

F. x

Friday, 23 March 2012

That's the way the cookie crumbles...

After a raspberry scone disaster, early this morning (and one I'd rather not talk about), I got onto making a batch of yummy cookies using my fail-safe recipe.  I truly needed the success!  What I love about cookies is that they are homely perfection.  They take roughly 5 minutes to mix up and 12 minutes to cook - who says they haven't got time to bake?!  Plus, there isn't much that can beat the smell of freshy baked biscuits.  It is the universal aroma of 'home'.
This week, I doubled the recipe and then halved the batch to make half chocolate chip, and half with lovely raw peanuts.  Both as delicious as the other and the perfect partners to a steaming cup of coffee.  A theory that I intend to prove again, this afternoon.
Yet another recipe that you can make your own, add whatever you have lying around in the pantry.  Of course, chocolate chips and nuts are the standard but raisins, lemon rind or dried apple also make for an absolute treat.  Perfect for baking on a weekend such as this, please do give these a try.
'Fail Safe' Chocolate Chip Cookies

125g soft butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 small eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups S.R. flour
1 cup chocolate chips (or whatever else takes your fancy)

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C.  Cream butter and sugars together until like and pale.  Beat in eggs, one at time, before adding vanilla.  Sift in flour and combine well.  Fold in chocolate chips.
Place teaspoon sized balls of the mixure on pre-lined baking trays.  These cookies spread so space them well apart.  Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, depending on your oven.  If you take them out as they are starting to brown, you will end up with a slightly chewy cookie upon cooling.  Let them brown more if you prefer yours crunchy.

F. x

Friday, 16 March 2012

Home Sweet Home

This weekend, I will be travelling back to Brisbane to see my family.  After almost three months in Blackwater, the thought of returning to Brisbane to stay with my parents and younger siblings has me overwhelmed with warm fuzzy thoughts of the comfort of 'home'.  No matter how long you've been away, somehow Mum's place is always referred to as 'home' and I love that.  My Mum is my favourite cook (well on par with Maggie Beer and Margaret Fulton).  One thing that my Mum is an absolute master of is custard.  And another is pulling a homey dessert out of nowhere, on demand.  Crumble has always had a soft spot with me, for this very reason.  It was one of the things that Mum would make on a weekend (dessert is not for school nights) to accompany her champion of custards. 

Funnily enough, I found myself rubbing butter into flour one night this week, pulling together a crumble as a mid-week treat for Mitch and I.  There is really nothing more flexible.  Whatever you happen to have in the cupboard goes in.  Once you have a base of butter, flour and sugar (raw, castor, brown or a combination), throw in whatever takes your fancy.  For me, it happened to be coconut and chopped walnuts.  Thinking about it now, a little nutmeg would have also been delightful.  Juicy tinned peaches filled the bottom of darling cream Wedgewood ramekins (a present from Mum for this very purpose!), before crumble is packed over the top.  I am by no means a minimalist when it comes to crumble toppings.  Twenty minutes later, the smell of baking fills the house and out comes perfection in a jar....golden, knobbly and lucious.  The smell and taste of home.

F. x

Happy Friday!

What better way to share the Friday cheer than with a scrummy recipe?  Here is my Chocolate Caramel Slice recipe...and it tastes even better than it looks!  These are perfect for morning tea, giving away as little gifts or just to have as a sweet treat.  Believe me, you will be making these little darlings over and over again!  Thank me now because you'll be too busy munching on these later on.

Chocolate Caramel Slice

1 cup P flour
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar
125g unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup golden syrup
125g unsalted butter, cubed
2 x 395g cans of sweetened condensed milk (heaven!!)

200g dark chocolate
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Mix together dry ingredients for the base before adding the melted butter.  Bring together and press into a prepared 20cm x 20cm tin.  Place in a moderate oven (about 180 degrees) and bake for around 20 minutes. It should have started to brown a little on top but the gorgeous smell will alert you to its readiness.

If you start getting your caramel ingredients together when you've popped the base into the oven, it seems to time itself pretty well.  Place all the ingredients into a saucepan over a low heat.  Stir until the butter has melted and then cook for another 6-7 minutes.  Don't expect it to thicken much or change in colour, just keep stirring it so that you don't burn the bottom! 

When the base is ready, pull it out of the oven and pour the caramel over the top.  Place the tin back into the oven for another 20 minutes.  The caramel will darken and start to bubble...best thing ever!

Let the tin cool on the bench before popping it into the fridge.  Leave it for a good couple of hours (I usually let it go overnight) to make sure that it is nice and cold.

While I do prefer to melt chocolate over a pot of boiling water, I use my Tupperware microwave jug for this recipe.  Break the chocolate into pieces and drizzle the oil over the top.  I put it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between.  This ensures that you have no disasters.  When the chocolate is completely melted and is shiny and smooth, pour it over the chilled caramel.  Tip and tilt the tin to allow the chocolate to spread evenly across the whole slice.  Put it straight back into the fridge and leave until set.  This usually only takes about 30 minutes.

Lift the slice out of the tin.  To slice, I use a knife dipped into boiling water.  This stops the chocolate breaking and makes you cuts clean and neat.  Wipe the knife with a cloth in between to remove any melted chocolate.  I start by chopping off the 'crispy' edges.  (This is the favoured part in my house and hardly the scraps with all the dark, 'burnt' caramel!)  Then you can cut the slice into pieces sized to your liking.  Steal a piece at this point because you won't get a look in later on!

Too yum!

F. x

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Wonderful Wednesday

Wednesday is a favourite day of the week at Blackwater North State School because Wednesday means staff morning tea.  Everyone walks through the door and surveys the goodies which adorn the table -  placed there by whoever happens to be rostered on that week - and carefully selects the delicious morsels that they care to sample.  It is a wonderful sight to be seen.

This week, I decided to bring out my favourite carrot cake recipe, as referred to in my earlier post, Like your grandma used to make, which you must read! It met with such fabulous success that I thought I should share the recipe, afterall it would be a terrible shame not to.

1 cup SR flour
1 cup P flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp bicarb
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup soft brown sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup golden syrup
2 1/2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

175g cream cheese
60g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.  Sift together flours, spices and bicarb.  Separately combine oil, sugar, eggs and syrup.  Stir wet ingredients into dry and mix well before adding carrot and walnuts.  Pour into a 23 centimetre springform tin and bake for an hour or so. 


F. x

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Parcels of Sweetness and Light

In the kitchen, I find my "happy place".  At the end of a long day, cooking dinner or baking becomes the stress relief that I long for.  A recipe that I turn to again and again is my Chocolate Caramel Slice.  I love that this recipe is not about instant gratification but about working through the steps and the processes.  My abosolute favourite part of this process, is at the end - slicing through the layers with a hot knife, forming perfect little rectangles of creamy, sweet joy.

Seeing as I love eating this slice, just as much as cooking it, I wrapped it up into darling little parcels to share with my wonderful teaching partners, Mel and Alana, as well as a few other special someones. 

F. x

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Chocolate Caramel Temptation

Just a little tempter for tomorrow's post.  You simply won't be able to go past this one!

F. x

Feeding the Soul

I truly believe that there are foods that make you feel better.  For me, banana bread is one of these.  While I am typing, I am munching away on a warm, buttered slice of banand bread and in a happy place.  Whether it is because of the crunchy walnuts, the dense banana or the naughty bourbon-soaked dates I snuck in,  this recipe is soul warming.

I started on this recipe at 7am yesterday morning, so eager was I to get into baking!  However, the warm, aromatic fug that took over the kitchen wasn't quite so appropriate for the time of day.  My first task was boiling up chopped dates in bourbon and setting them aside to soak.  They looked simply beautiful: a thick, dark potion of sweetness.  This, however, was nothing compared to the familiar, homely aromas of my amazing loaf rising in the oven later on.

While I am including the recipe for you today, what I love most about it, is its flexibility.  You can pretty much throw in whatever you have sitting around in the pantry.  Don't have dates?  Use sultanas.  Or frozen blueberries.  No walnuts?  Chuck in pecans or slivered almonds, or even leave them out altogether.  Chocolate fiend?  Substitute some of the flour for dark cocoa and/or add in some dark chocolate chips. Anything goes so enjoy experimenting with this one.

100g pitted dates
75mL bourbon
1 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb
1/2 tsp salt
125g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract

Bring dates and bourbon up to the boil before covering and leaving soak for an hour, then drain.  Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C.  Sift together flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Blend together the butter and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and then add the eggs, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in the mashed banana, followed by the walnuts, drained dates and vanilla.  Add in the dry ingredients, a little at a time, stirring well.  Pour the golden batter into a prepared loaf tin and bake for an hour. 

Hot from the oven, cold or toasted this is sure to be a crowd favourite!

F. x

Friday, 9 March 2012

Easy like Saturday morning

Well, well.  Hasn't it been a while?  I simply cannout believe that it has been over a month since I last baked - an absolute travesty!  After (impatiently) waiting more than eight weeks, I finally have a new oven - cue some sort of uplifting music.  As a result, breakfast this morning became a special moment between my recipe books and I, as I pondered over which recipe would break the drought.  Bet you can't wait to see what delectable delight triumphed?

F. x