Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Quiet time

Baking is the ultimate stress reliever.  No matter how sleep deprived, busy or cranky I am, I always have time for cooking up sweet treats.  There is truly nothing better than the mechanics of baking - the chopping, stirring, folding, melting, beating - to slow the mind.  This recipe is perfect for this.  The initial chopping of the chocolate, cranberries and pistachios calms you as you focus on the beautiful constrasting colours - creamy white, deep ruby red and jade green.  The best part, though? The almost instant aroma of baked goods filling the house.  Pair one of these monsters with a tall iced coffee and some quiet time shared between you and a good book...heavenly.
Jewelled Jumbo Cookies
250g unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups demerara sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 1/2 cups SR flour
1/2 cup white chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.  Beat together butter, sugar and vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well in between.  Sift in flour and combine to form a crumbly dough mixture.  Fold through the chocolate, cranberries and nuts.  Use 1/3 cup to scoop out cookie dough.  Push together in hands and form into a thick disc.  Space cookies 5cm apart on lined baking trays and bake for 15 minutes.  Makes 15 cookies.

F. x

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Sweet treats

It's no secret that my favourite dessert is Sticky Date Pudding. In fact, I display an abnormal compulsion to order it should it appear on a menu. It's perfection in all its juxtaposing facets: spongy in texture and dense in flavour. Who can go past its sickly sweetness and deep amber colour?

This recipe is slightly more versatile than one I have previously shared. It is baked as a cake and easily prepared in the food processor. You can serve large squares of this incredible pudding cake with warm caramel sauce and ice cream and stick to the traditional, or (as I have done today) cut it into "two-bite" sized bars with a smear of caramel for a light afternoon morsel. No one is going to accept a bowl of hot pudding and ice cream for afternoon tea but they'll be all over this is a jiffy.
The secret to getting neatly cut bars is to put the cake (once cooled) in the freezer for half an hour before cutting. This firms it up and takes off the stickiness that makes slicing difficult. Once out of the freezer, use a serrated-edge knife to portion the cake as you wish. These little bars suit me because you never feel quite as guilty stealing a second one! If you are serving in this way, also set aside your sauce for a couple of hours to cool (and thus, thicken sufficiently). This naughty sauce is a perfect one to have stashed in the fridge for topping ice cream, drizzling over cakes or shortbread (the sweetness cuts through a tart cheesecake remarkably well) or for attacking with a spoon when no one else is looking.

Sticky Date Cake
315g fresh dates
375mL boiling water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda (bicarb)
150g unsalted butter, softened
175g brown sugar
3 eggs
225g SR flour, sifted

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C. Place dates, water and bicarb in the food processor with the cutting blade. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.  Pulse the processor 3-5 times to roughly chop the dates.  Change to the mixing blade before adding butter and sugar. Process until well combined.  Mix in eggs and flour until just incorporated. Pour mixture into a greased and lined 30cm square slice tin. Bake for 30 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in tin for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Sticky Caramel Sauce
150g unsalted butter, chopped
250mL single cream
265g brown sugar

Place all ingredients into a saucepan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring to the boil, keep stirring and cook for 8 minutes.  Caramel will thicken as it cooks.  Serve hot for a thin sauce or at room temperature if you prefer it thick and gooey.

Don't you wish you were at my house for afternoon tea today?

F. x

Friday, 25 January 2013

Keep Calm

Just a little happy snap of the beautiful cup of tea that I've been looking forward to for....oh, about 6 hours! Finally, it's all mine and I even got 5 minutes to sit on the couch to drink it. Mm mmm mmm!
As I sit here, I'm also taking in the sweet smell of some deliciousness baking in my oven. I can't wait to share the finished product with you later, but until then, can you guess what it is?

F. x

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Afternoon Delight

The brilliant thing about a brownie (well, one of the many brilliant things about a brownie) is that even though it's aesthetically ugly, the uglier, the goey-er, the browner....the better! There's absolutely no fussiness in serving them up.  They are a guilty comfort which should look homemade and rustic.  Having some gorgeous ladies over this afternoon meant that I simply had to bake something.  Not sure how much time I would have (if only babies worked around our schedule!) my decision was based on ease and people pleasing.  Who doesn't love a brownie?!

These brownies are quick and easy but also have a yummy twist - coconut.  I, however, cannot take the credit for this addition after being inspired by my mothers groups' recent obsession with Summer Rolls (hence the name of these delights).  You know, that delicious chewy nougat covered in chocolate and coated in coconut - heaven!  As a result, I have also rekindled my lost love with the humble Summer Roll which has obviously now filtered in other aspects of my culinary existence.  Prepare yourself for mouthfuls of chocolatey goodness as you bite through the crisp exterior to reveal a molten and decadent core.  These glorious things are appropriate for all levels of entertaining, be it accompanying a coffee as you steal a quiet moment at home to yourself, or as a dessert served warm with icecream and a dusting of cocoa as you entertain.  And all put together in 10 minutes before you set the oven timer and forget about it until your house fills with the devine scent of warm chocolate baking.  It's too much!  Do yourself a favour...bake these!

Summer Brownies
175g unsalted butter, chopped
175g dark chocolate, chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa

Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius. Melt butter and chocolate together in a microwave safe dish, stirring every 30 seconds.  Set aside to cool slightly.  Sift together flour and cocoa.  In a different bowl, mix together eggs, sugar, coconut and vanilla.  Fold through chocolate mixture and combine well before adding flour and cocoa.  Ensure all ingredients are combined and pour mixture into a pre-prepared 20x20 baking tin (or a slice tin).  Bake for 35 minutes.  Top will be crisp but inside will still be soft.

This will become your 'go to' brownie recipe, I am sure of it!

F. x

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Cookie Dough-oh-oh

My lovely bun is now baked and out of the oven.  Anna Mae arrived on the 15 December 2012 at 10:20pm and has been making my life sweeter ever since! Now that my mini muffin has vacated her lodgings of the past nine months, my sweet tooth (and energy) have well and truly returned.  And so, my lovelies, here is my first post of 2013. 

It is well known that pregnancy places certain limitations on ones ability to consume particular delicacies...one of which is raw batter.  This has been (not over-reacting) quite devastating for moi, and today, I suddenly realised, "if I want cookie dough, I can eat cookie dough!" Hallejulah moment, right here!  And eat cookie dough I did.  I even saved enough to put in the oven to have cookies at the end of it...just.  It was a beautiful moment of guilt-free batter consumption that I just had to share with you.  As always, though, I must also share this gorgeous recipe with you.  It just wouldn't be fair otherwise. 

White Chocolate and Macadamia Cookies

125g unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 baking soda
3/4 cup macadamia nuts
180g white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Cream butter and sugars.  Add egg and vanilla.  Sift in flour and baking soda and mix well to combine ingredients into a dough.  Roughly chop the macadamias before adding to the batter with chocolate chips.  Stir well to distribute.  Space tablespoon-sized dollops of the batter on baking trays and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

These are definitely worth the restraint required for them to make it into the oven!

Bliss in a biscuit.

F. x