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More defiant baking: Part one October 14, 2010

If I’ve been out and about during the day, far from the kitchen and thoughts of dessert planning, I sometimes think to myself ‘Ah well, perhaps we don’t need dessert tonight. Perhaps I can just have a cup of tea and maybe a teensy piece of chocolate or twelve’. I’m almost convinced of this. Until about seven thirty pm. Then I get completely distracted, eyes glazing over, while I compile a mental list of potential dessert ingredients. Then I start grilling the beloved:

If I was making pudding, what would you want?

Don’t want pudding, am busy.

But if I was and you did, what would you want? (such a stupid question, beloved cannot understand the overwhelming need to make something different and will invariably suggest making these chocolate fondants)

Don’t want pudding. Thought you weren’t baking today? WHY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT BAKING? I’M WATCHING MY STORIES!!

What about something with cherries?

NO BAKING! STORIES! CHERRIES BAH!!

Lemon?

Gah. Can’t you just make chocolate fondants?

Hmmm. Lemon. Something quick and lemony? Lemon delicious? No. Boring. Lemon lemon lemon.

muttering… fondant fondant fondant

Hah! Lemon fondants! Would still need chocolate. Hmmm. White chocolate?

Ugh.

That’s it! White chocolate and lemon fondants! (could be way too sweet, but worth a shot)

8pm Puddings

300 grams of white chocolate (at least 35% cocoa butter: ie. Green & Black’s or Whittaker’s)

75 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature

75 grams of brown sugar

40 grams of plain flour

6 eggs of various sizes*

Zest and juice of a lemon

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).

Butter six ramekins/small cups/small glasses.

Gently melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over just simmering water. Set aside to cool a little.

Put the butter, sugar, flour and eggs into a food processor and whizz until combined and smooth.

Add the zest and juice and whizz to incorporate.

With the processor running, add the melted chocolate in a continuous stream.

Divide the batter evenly between the six ramekins.

Bake for 8-9 minutes.

You can prepare these up to two days in advance. Just cover and chill the filled ramekins before the baking stage. I usually do this if I’m only baking for the beloved and I – bake two at first and the remaining four can be plucked out and baked as we like for snacks and whatnot. When you cook them, increase the baking time to about 12 minutes.

Turn out the puddings into bowls and top with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Dig in…with the first spoonful, the shell of the pudding will burst and molten pudding will ooze out deliciously.

The verdict: almost there, but not quite perfect. The balance of white chocolate to lemon needs to swing more to the lemon for my liking, to balance out the white chocolatey sweetness – next time I would add the zest of two more lemons. I would also use Whittaker’s white chocolate instead of Green & Black’s – the vanilla isn’t needed here and adds unnecessarily to the sweetness. We still have four in the fridge waiting to be baked, so I’m going to cook up some lemon curd this afternoon and try one with that for some added lemony oomph. Watch this space…

In exciting news, Betty is back on the lay after two months of concentrated chick-raising. Pictured (back left) are the shells of two of her gorgeous little eggs. Darker than Lola’s creamy shelled eggs (back right) and Mrs P’s bright white delights (front), Betty’s eggs are light brown, slightly glossy and oblong, with compact golden yolks and very viscous whites.

 

Moo October 11, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 10:32 am
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A month ago, I wrote about the end of the small person’s exclusive breastfeeding career and his hesitant steps into the world of solid food. Aside from his untimely introduction to Nutella, I had big, wholesome plans for small’s diet. Obviously he would only be eating organic, GM free, fair-traded, ethically sound, teensy carbon-footprint-leaving, nourishing things, which have been hand picked by free-ranging vegetarians and travelled only 1% of a food mile. And that would be just dandy, if he could live on sugar snap peas and eggs. Sadly, he won’t eat either of those, or anything else homegrown, unless you count chook poo. Mainly he likes things that come in the shape of rice grains…like rice and the little bran sticks that come in muesli. Oh, and croissants, macaroons, crispy potatoes, spicy eggplant, fruit toast, wholegrain ‘fruit’ bars, All-Bran (which, incidentally, is most decidedly not ALL bran, but anyhoo), grissini, thai spring rolls, puff pastry and this cake: 

Luscious Chocolate Mousse Cake

Cake –

180 grams of dark eating chocolate, chopped

180 grams of chilled unsalted butter, chopped

6 eggs, separated

180 grams of caster sugar

Mousse –

200 grams of dark eating chocolate, chopped

30 grams of unsalted butter

3 eggs, separated

300 mls of pure (not thickened) cream

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).

Butter and line a 23cm springform tin.

Begin with the cake:

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over just simmering water. Stir until smooth, remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In the meantime, whisk the eggwhites and a pinch of salt in a large glass (or metal) bowl until soft peaks form. Add half the caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking until the mixture is thick and glossy.

In another large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until thick and pale. Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture, whisking constantly.

Using a large metal spoon, gently fold in the eggwhites, one third at a time.

Pour gently into your prepared tin and bake for 35-45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin – it will sink as it cools.

Carefully transfer to a plate. Don’t be deceived by it’s crisp outer shell – this cake is a tender, delicate creature. You need to pop the outer part of the tin off and then ever so gently shimmy the cake across to a plate on the baking paper. And don’t be tempted to invert it for transfer as it will fall apart in your hands and you will cry.

Now for the mousse –

Melt the chocolate and butter in a  heatproof bowl set over just simmering water (yes, I know, sounds familiar). Stir until smooth, then allow to cool to room temperature.

Whisk the eggwhites in a medium size glass bowl until soft peaks form.

Whip the cream into soft peaks in another bowl.

Whisk the egg yolks, one at a time, into the cooled chocolate mixture.

With a large metal spoon, gently fold the eggwhites and cream into the chocolate mixture.

Spread the mousse over the cooled cake, scatter with grated chocolate and refrigerate for about 2 hours until set.

This is not a pretty cake. Frankly, it looks like a cow pat. But damn it tastes good and at least the eggs are free range. Jeez we’re great parents.

 

Flash forward October 9, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Just bread,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 11:24 am
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One of the great things about having friends with children older than the small person is that we get a preview of what phases and stages kids can go through before we hit them ourselves. Some I’m looking forward to, like the learning to talk bit. Others, like heartstopping need to scale every giant tree, fence and rooftop, not so much. 

Today I discovered another perk to this friends with older children business. Today was the first netball game for one of the LMF’s daughters and the beloved, small and I went along to cheer her on. The sun was shining down, the courts were packed with six year olds in oversize t-shirts and scary women with whistles, we had coffee, we had croissants and it was glorious. Well, it was glorious, for the full three minutes of coffee-clutching, croissant-munching sunbaking we had before the first whistle. Then the shrieking started.

M! FIND A SPACE! RUN TO A SPACE!

STAY ON YOUR PLAYER! STAY WITH THE ONE THAT SAYS GA!

MOVE! MOVE MOVE MOVE! DON’T STEP! DON’T STEP!

sotto voce….if I was coaching, they’d be a well oiled machine

GO M, GO! THE OTHER WAY!

STAY ON YOUR PLAYER! ARMS UP!!! DEFEND!!!!!

Not one of the parents. No. That was the beloved. Who, up until now has been keeping her netballing expertise completely to herself. Just a little glimpse of the future parent.

Anyway. None of that has anything to do with fruit loaf.

Sort of Jamie Oliver’s Fruit Loaf

30 grams of dried yeast

30 grams of honey

~700 mls of warm water

500 grams of strong white bread flour

500 grams of wholemeal spelt flour

30 grams of salt

1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon

150 grams of dried dates

200 grams of dried apricots

150 grams of sultanas

Combine the yeast and honey with 300mls of the warm water in a small bowl. Stir well and set aside while you chop the dried fruit and prepare the flour – it will grow right in front of your eyes, foaming up to the bowl’s brim.

Mix the flours, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Add the yeast mixture and stir to combine.

Continue stirring, adding the remaining water until the mixture holds together. You may need a little more or a little less water depending on the particular flour you use.

Add the chopped dried fruit and stir to incorporate.

Dust your benchtop with flour. Turn the dough onto the bench and knead.

Knead for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is pliable and not too sticky.

Separate into two portions.

Butter two large bowls and put one portion in each bowl. Leave to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours. I put each bowl in a plastic bag with a hot heat pack and tie up the bag. This rises the dough beautifully in about 1 hour. The Nanna used to put her dough in bed with an electric blanket on and, if it’s sunny, SF will put hers in the car. Whatever takes your fancy and gets the job done.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down to knock the air out, knead lightly for a minute or so, then put it into your tins (or on a tray for a freeform loaf) to rise again.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius (180 fan forced).

When the dough has risen again bake for 30-40 minutes. To test if it’s cooked, turn out of the tin and knock on the base of the loaf – it should sound hollow. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

For a glossy, sticky finish, brush the still hot loaves with honey.

Slice, slather generously with butter and eat. Yum.

 

One October 6, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking — titchandboofer @ 11:41 am
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Seven am, small awake and break-dancing on my pillow. At least we’re not calling it six am any more. Kettle on. Small playing with noisiest toy in whole house. The blue cow says moo. The blue cow says moo. The blue cow says moo. The blue cow says moo. The blue cow says moo. Sodding cow. Should we be teaching small that cows are blue? Nope, don’t care. Must remember to do things on list today. Ring someone. Who? Where is list? Not that list. Other list. Why is beloved pretending to be dead under the doona? Make small’s breakfast of hated porridge extra loudly. Success. Breakfast. Drop in on LMF for tea and mini-playdate. Drink tea in LMF’s yard in glorious sunshine. Small hijacks her work phone and sends random blank messages to her clients. To shops. Unsuccessful attempt at buying food or a wedding gift. Home. Wedge spoonfuls of mystery mash into small’s mouth while he tries desperately to pull my top off.  He breastfeeds like he’s not been fed for days. He sleeps. Still no sign of list. Pay a bill? Cook something? Yes! Food for a friend, another LMF, who’s just had her fourth baby. Macaroni cheese. Brownies. Soul food for the breastfeeding mama. Find letter reminding me to re-enrol in deferred university course. Will I have time to study next year? Small awake, trying to climb up me to plunge his hands into all the pots on the stove. Pouring rain. Chickens all huddled under one shrub. Overgrown chicks trying in vain to squeeze under Betty’s wings. Very entertaining. Alarm going off? Oh, brownies.

Brownies for the Breastfeeding Mama (and her children)

200 grams of dark eating chocolate

125 grams of unsalted butter

1/2 a cup of brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup of almond meal

1/4 of a cup of plain flour

160 grams of dark eating chocolate, chopped roughly

80 grams of flaked almonds

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).

Grease and line a square tin.

In a medium saucepan, melt the 200 grams of dark chocolate with the butter over low heat, stirring until smooth.

Take off the heat and allow to cool for ten minutes.

Stir in the sugar, eggs, almond meal and flour.

Stir in the chopped chocolate and flaked almonds.

Spread into the tin and bake for 25 minutes, until just firm to touch.

Allow to cool in the tin for ten to fifteen minutes.

Turn onto a wire rack. Turn again and dust with icing sugar.

Cut into as many pieces as you like.

Wrap brownies. Think for the hundredth time how useful it would be to have a big basket to carry food in. Must put that on list. Damn. The list. Ring who? Never mind. Everyone in car. Arrive at house of new baby. Baby is breastfeeding, on the brink of blissful sleep. Her older sisters and brother bounce about. Biggest sister carries small off to play. Tea with our friend. We chat about the uni course she has just finished, the same one I am procrastinating about. Hmm. That puts things in perspective.

 

 

The high road September 26, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Cakes to covet — titchandboofer @ 9:12 am
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There are times when one’s beloved is not. There are times, in fact, when your significant other might actually be a bit of a bastard. For one of my lovely midwife friends (LMF), today is one of those days. And isn’t it so tempting, when your spouse is being a bastard, to just be a bastard right back at them? You might not want to actually speak to them, but you do want to stay close by, just to let them know – through the mediums of stomping, door-slamming and heavy sighing – that you are wronged and they are responsible. Unfortunately, like me, my long-suffering LMF is sharing her life with an irredeemably stubborn and obtuse Polack. And like me my LMF has come to know that Polacks pay no attention to the subtext of stomping, door-slamming or heavy sighing. The Polack assumes that if you have stomped into another room, you want to be in the other room alone and that maybe you’re just feeling a little heavy-footed today. No amount of exaggerated huffing or avoiding eye-contact will make the Polack realise they should be apologise for a wrongdoing. If they were wrong, which is of course pretty unlikely, they would have apologised already. Obviously.

So, my LMF did not stay home today and wear herself out with foot-stampery. She went out and bought the bastard a birthday present. Then she came here and made him a birthday cake. Because, as anyone sharing their life with a stubborn Polack knows, there’s just no point holding a grudge. They only get confused.

Bastard Husband Guilt Trip Cake*

*adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly Cakes & Slices

200 grams of dark chocolate, chopped roughly

1 tablespoon of instant coffee

1 tablespoon of boiling water

150 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature

125 grams of caster sugar plus 2 tablespoons extra

3 eggs, separated

1 cup of plain flour

Filling:

200 grams of pure cream

1/2 tablespoon of instant coffee

1/2 tablespoon of boiling water

1 tablespoon of icing sugar

Icing:

140 grams of dark chocolate, chopped roughly

140 grams of unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius (170 fan forced).

Grease and line a 23cm springform tin.

Melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over hot water (set a small pan to simmer, then turn it off). Set aside to cool to room temperature.

The original recipe suggests adding a tablespoon of water to the melted sugar. Reading this, I thought ‘hmmm, that will seize the chocolate’. Then I thought ‘maybe this is a magical exception that the AWW has somehow created’. It is not an exception. Adding water to melted chocolate makes it seize. Do not do this. It’s a quick way to waste a lot of chocolate. Whenever you’re reading a recipe, listen to your instinct. They are not infallible. On the upside, redoing the chocolate part gave us the idea to add coffee and make this a mocha sacher torte.


In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water.

Add the coffee to the mixture, beating well to combine.

Stir in the melted chocolate.

Sift in the flour and stir well to combine.

In a medium bowl (glass or metal) beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the extra caster sugar and beat well until the sugar has dissolved.

Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter.

Spread the batter into the tin. Bake for 30 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

When the cake is completely cold (this can be hastened by putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes, which is helpful if all the children in the kitchen are driving you mad with their restlessness) cut it in half horizontally.

For the filling:

Sift the icing sugar into the cream.

Whisk until thickened slightly.

Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water.

Whisk into the cream and continue to whisk until spreadably thick.

Spread on the bottom layer of the cake. Replace the top layer.

For the icing:

Melt the chocolate and butter in a small heatproof bowl over hot water.

Set aside to cool and thicken. This may also be hastened by putting it in the fridge, stirring regularly until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

Spread all over the top and sides of the cake.

Take it home and give it to the undeserving bastard. With love.

 

So long and thanks for all the apples September 24, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Cakes to covet — titchandboofer @ 10:02 pm
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The Nanna and Coach have gone off traveling once more. They travel every couple of months, be it to cling to the bunks of a ship in the wild Antarctic seas, or to venture all the way to London’s borough market and bring home muesli. I am a little sad, as their absence means no Nanna Day each week for the small person and no Family Dinner Night each week for all of us. I’m also a teeny bit jealous, itching to go somewhere hot and sticky, where coconuts with straws are sold from roadside carts and you can swim at dawn – when the baby wakes up – and snooze in the afternoon. But I am also a little happy, as their departure means we inherit their perishables: salty black olives, fillets of snapper, bulbs of fennel, fancy yoghurt, extra eggs and shiny, crisp Granny Smith apples.

Farewell Cake

3 small Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored, quartered and finely sliced

250 grams of blackberries (frozen is fine, even preferable as they will hold their shape better during mixing)

350 grams of self-raising flour, sifted

250 grams of dark brown sugar

250 grams of natural yoghurt (or flavoured, whatever you fancy)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

125 grams of unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).

Butter and line a 23cm springform tin.

In a small bowl, melt the butter and set it aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, dark brown sugar and cinnamon, whisking to break up the sugar (you could sift it, but that’s far more time consuming).

Add the apple and blackberries and stir gently. I didn’t want to make the blackberries mushy and turn the whole cake purple.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Add the yoghurt and melted butter, whisking to combine.

Add this mixture to the flour, sugar and fruit.

Fold gently until combined. The batter will be dense and sticky.

Scrape into your prepared tin.

Bake for 1 and 1/4 hours.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Lovely eaten warm and not at all bad cold either.

It’s quite a dense cake, thickly studded with the tangy, juicy berries and slivers of apple that still keep a bit of bite to them. Slightly cinnamony, but not at all overwhelming. In fact, if you love cinnamon you could add an extra half a teaspoon and be very happy. We ate it all by itself, but a big dollop of creme fraiche or real vanilla yoghurt couldn’t hurt. And needless to say, it goes very nicely with a great big mug of tea.

 

Laughing in the face of dubious advice September 15, 2010

About a week after my encounter with the GP I heeded part of his advice and took the small person to see the homeopath. By this time I was feeling pretty blase about the whole breastfeeding/eating issue and was mainly keeping the appointment out of curiosity – could there really be a homeopathic treatment for ‘disinclined to eat mashed food from a spoon’? Anyhoo, off we went, small, the beloved and I. Things did not get off to a cracking start. It took us about ten minutes and several variations on introductions before the homeopath understood that the beloved is small’s other mother, not my sister, his sister, my friend, my cousin, my mother, my hairdresser, the local lollipop lady or any other random person I might have decided should come and contribute to healthcare decisions pertaining to my son. While she did have some semi-useful suggestions re menu-planning while introducing solid foods, she really lost me for good when she said that all babies should be weaned at nine months or they become too dominant in the parent-child relationship…for ever. After that I was really only hearing elevator music. Except for the bit where she said that babies shouldn’t have peanuts. Nothing to do with allergies mind you, but because they’re basically like eating chocolate and will ruin their kidneys. Good thing we kept the Nutella story to ourselves.

Bad Bad Peanut Butter Biscuits

– makes about 40, if you like peanut butter you will luuurrrve these biscuits

adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, an excellent collection of baked delights

230 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature

200 grams of caster sugar

200 grams of brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

300 grams of crunchy peanut butter

350 grams of plain flour

2 1/2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda

90 grams of dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius (160 fan forced)

Line 2 baking trays with baking paper

You can use a freestanding mixer or a handheld electric beater

In a large bowl cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed

Mixing on low speed, add the vanilla extract and peanut butter

Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda

Mix on low speed to combine well

Stir in the chocolate until evenly spread through the mixture

Spoon generous tablespoonfuls of mixture onto your prepared trays, leaving a good 5 cms between each ball of dough to allow for the mixture spreading (6-8 biscuits per tray will work)

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden

Leave to cool for a few minutes on the tray, then transfer carefully onto wire racks to cool

Repeat until all the mixture is used up

Scoff them down with the visitors whose very presence excused this off-schedule baking activity (am saving my one baking pass this week for a sour cherry custard tart) and wash down generously with tea. Then give one to the baby. Then line up a few family members for future kidney transplants.

 

Buy more spoons September 13, 2010

Warning:

Making this cake will entail the use of every bowl, spoon, saucepan, measuring cup and spatula in your kitchen.

The cake and its icing contain an obscene amount of butter.

Making the cake part will lull you into a false sense of security about the rest of it.

Making the icing will push your patience to the limit.

Despite owning a dishwasher, you will still wash up over and over again before you are done.

It is best if no-one else tries to do anything in the kitchen for the duration.

There are many things one can achieve whilst playing with a one-year old and watching one’s partner blow up the blender. Making italian meringue is not one of them.

Reading the recipe eighty-five times will not always prevent you from stuffing it up somehow.

Rose Levy Beranbaum is an evil genius.

The end result is well worth the effort.

People will ask you to make it again.

Heart Attack Cake

The batter:

180 grams of egg whites, or about 6 large, at room temperature

1 1/3 cups of whole coconut milk (not light, or lite, or any other pretendy stuff)

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons of coconut extract

400 grams of plain flour

400 grams of caster sugar

5 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

230 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees celsius (160 fan forced)

Butter and line two 23 cm springform cake tins. Measure your tins. Make sure they are the same size (yes you, you know who you are).

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites with 1/3 of a cup of the coconut milk, the vanilla extract and the coconut extract.

In your freestanding mixer,with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt on low speed for 30 seconds, to just combine.

Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup of coconut milk. Mix on low speed until combined, then raise the speed to medium and beat for 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed.

Gradually add the egg white mixture in three batches, beating on medium speed for ~30 seconds in between each addition.

Spread the mixture evenly between the two tins. Weighing the tins will help in creating even layers in your cake. There should be approximately 760 grams of mixture in each tin.

Spread the mixture out evenly. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until just golden and springy, when an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tins for ten minutes, then turn out carefully onto lightly greased wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert the cakes, so the tops are up. Allow to cool completely.

Silk Meringue Buttercream – an icing in three acts

Coconut creme anglaise*

*you could do this bit up to 3 days in advance

100 grams of sugar

100 grams of egg yolks (about 5 large) at room temperature

1/2 a cup of coconut milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of coconut extract

First, put some iced water in a large bowl. Rest a medium bowl in the iced water. Put a sieve over the medium bowl. Set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan combine the sugar and egg yolks.

In a small saucepan bring the coconut milk to the boil. Add two tablespoons of hot coconut milk to the yolk mixture, stirring constantly.

Set the yolk mixture over low heat. Stirring constantly, add the remaining coconut milk.

Continue to stir over heat, keeping going until just below boiling point. The mixture will thicken and steam slightly. An instant read thermometer will read 76 degrees celsius. This will take a little while. Don’t rush it, or you’ll scramble the eggs and have to start all over again.

Pour through the sieve into the medium bowl. Stir in the vanilla and coconut extracts . Allow to cool to room temperature. If doing more than a few hours in advance, cover with clingfilm (directly on the surface) and refrigerate.

Italian meringue*

*a bastard of a thing to make

60 grams of egg white (about 2 large) at room temperature

1/3 of a cup of caster sugar, plus 2 tablespoons

30 grams of water

1/4 of a teaspoon of cream of tartar (Whatever your own beloved might tell you huffily, this is not sauce to have with battered fish, nor will it spontaneously become such.)

Rose says: have ready a 1-cup glass jug.

I say: don’t bother, it leads to far too much drama.

Put your egg whites in a medium size glass or ceramic bowl. Have a handheld beater ready.

In a small saucepan, stir together the 1/3 cup of caster sugar and the water. Heat on medium-high, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling. Turn the heat to low and leave it to go while you do the next bit. If you have an electric stove, take it off the heat.

Beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Turn off the mixer and add the cream of tartar. Beat again on medium-high until soft peaks form. Continue beating and add the extra 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Go back to the stove. Increase the heat under the syrup to medium-high and boil for a few minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reads 120 degrees celsius. It shouldn’t be colouring. Transfer to the glass jug if you’re following Rose’s instruction.

Take your syrup to the egg whites. Start beating the egg whites agian, adding the syrup in a thin stream that doesn’t touch the beaters (it will fly off everywhere and set on the side of the bowl). If you’re using a glass jug, the syrup will almost instantly cool down and harden, becoming unusable. You can then try and microwave it. This won’t work. Then you hack the lumps of hardened syrup back into the saucepan with a splash of water and try and turn it back into syrup. There will be swearing. Once you’ve remade syrup, you can complete the meringue. Once all the syrup is in, continue beating on medium speed for 2 minutes. It will be lovely and dense and velvety. Set aside.

Act 3: completing the  buttercream*

*very satisfying

460 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

Coconut creme anglaise

Italian meringue

~150 grams of shredded coconut (I used the moist shredded coconut that comes in a snaplock bag, but you could use dessicated or large flakes)

In your freestanding mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and paler.

Gradually beat in the coconut creme anglaise, beating until smooth.

Add the italian meringue and beat until just incorporated. If the mixture looks curdled it’s too cold – you can fix this by resting the bowl inside another bowl of warm water – but this shouldn’t happen if you haven’t refrigerated anything.

And finally, many long hours after you began, you are ready to ice.

Spread a little smidge of buttercream on your serving plate, to stop the cake skidding around. Put your bottom layer on this. Spread the bottom layer with ~just over a cup of the buttercream, spreading it almost to the edge – the weight of the upper layer will push it out further. Put the top layer on. Then cover the top and sides with the remaining buttercream. You may have a cup or so leftover. This is no bad thing really, given the enormous amount of butter.

Now, for the last bit. This will be messy. Balancing the plate on one hand, tilt the cake so that you can coat the sides with shredded coconut. Coat the top last. Then scoop up all the coconut you’ve dropped on the bench and the floor and feed it to your chickens.

Beautiful! Congratulate yourself heartily. I did. Then I reread part of the recipe and realised I had been meant to mix 2 cups of shredded coconut into the buttercream. Damn. I was a bit peeved about this until we ate some, but the consensus was that the buttercream would have been made all gluggy and grainy with more coconut. As it is, it is beautifully silky and still very coconutty in flavour. It’s up to you…

Everyone has loved it.

The beloved said it’s good enough to eat off the cat.

And I will make it again. One day.


 

Cross ants September 11, 2010

I have often been asked “who taught you to cook?”. The simplest explanation would be “my mother” but that’s not entirely true. The Granny loves to cook, cooks a lot (some might say way too much, but they are just ungrateful whinypantses) and is pretty damn good at it. She is not, however, an instructional type of teacher. Starting from when I was little, if I was bouncing around, begging to make cake (oh, it started early, this compulsion) she’d just gesture at the kitchen and tell me to have at it. Then she might pop in a few times to check nothing had exploded or caught fire. I will never forget one particular devastation when I was about seven. I was making a chocolate cake (natch) but hadn’t learnt the difference between beat/mix/cream/fold/stir etc. Figuring they were interchangeable and must be the product of some creative editing (well, you wouldn’t want to bore people) and indulging my growing love affair with the Kenwood Chef mixer, I just beat the crap out of everything. This, as you may have already predicted, did not end well. All ingredients in, vigorous beating complete, I peered into the bowl to see….not very much at all, a dismal amount of runny batter so thin it would barely coat a spoon. The Granny, in her wisdom, advised me to cook it and see what happened. A burnt chocolate pancake, that’s what happened. Lesson 1 – Folding – Complete. And so the years went by. The ‘learn as you go’ school of teaching was all fine when it came to cooking from recipes. Now, though, The Granny is still two decades ahead in her own baking evolution and just makes stuff up. Really good stuff. Stuff that would be nice to repeat. Trying to get specific instructions out of her is still impossible. We have had many variations of the following conversation:

Me – Thish ish vreally ymmmm (with mouth full)

Her – Oh, it’s easy, I just whipped it up before breakfast while I was knitting a fire-engine (or something)

Me – What’s in it?

Her – Um, butter and eggs and things

Me – How do you make it?

Her – Oh, you just, um, did you want a cup of tea? (The Family equivalent of ‘quick! look over there!’)

I once suggested she could do a recipe for this blog and we were suddenly diverted into a conversation about the Christmas holidays. So, it’s likely her baking secrets will remain just that. Anyhow, The Granny’s passion for baking is almost equalled by her enthusiasm for eating baked goods. Unlike me, she has no qualms about having the equivalent of cake for breakfast every day and, for as long as I can remember, her breakfast plate has held some kind of sweet pastry delight. While I’m not prepared to commit to the seven hundred weekly hours of exercise required to balance this out, I do join in when we holiday together. I have two favourite breakfast baked treats – the coffee scroll (oh, how I love you) and the almond croissant (and you). Yesterday, in what seems to be becoming a weekly event, the beloved staged a takeover of the kitchen and made ordinary, boring croissants into almond croissants. Then she told me she’s not really that into baking. Then she turned the croissants into pudding, involving two types of custard and a chocolate sauce. Then, being lazy friday, we got together with the LMFs and ate it all.

Cross Ant Pudding

The first bit:

4 croissants, preferably a day old (you could make them yourself, but that is a whole other level of baking enthusiasm)

150 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

75 grams of icing sugar, sifted

1/3 of a cup of plain flour

2 cups of almond meal

1 teaspoon of almond essence

1/3 of a cup of flaked almonds

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius (150 fan forced)

Put the butter, sugar, flour, almond meal and almond essence in your food processor. Whizz well to combine.

Split the croissants in half horizontally.

Place the bases on a baking tray.

Spread with 3/4 of the almond paste.

Replace the croissant tops and spread with the remaining paste.

Scatter with the flaked almonds.

Bake for ten-fifteen minutes, until golden and lovely.

Dust with a bit of extra icing sugar.

The next bit:

Your 4 almond croissants

4 eggs

110 grams of caster sugar

300 mls of full fat milk

300 mls of pure cream (not thickened)

1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

2 tablespoons of Amaretto (or whatever you like best)

Grease a baking dish. The beloved used a square glass one, about 1.5 litre capacity.

Tear up the croissants and fill the dish.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until just combined

Put the milk, cream, vanilla pod and seeds into a medium saucepan. Heating over low heat, bring it to just below boiling (sort of simmering around the sides).

Gradually pour the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.

Add the Amaretto and whisk to combine.

Pour this mixture over the torn croissants in the baking dish. Set aside for at least an hour to soak in.

The next bit:

4 egg yolks

250 mls of full fat milk

250 mls of pure cream (not thickened)

55 grams of caster sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Put a medium sized bowl ready over a bigger bowl with some ice in the bottom.

Lightly beat the egg yolks in another medium sized bowl.

Put the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Bring to just below boiling point.

Pour the milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return the complete mixture to the pan and stir constantly over a low heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Pour immediately into the bowl over ice, cover with clingfilm and let cool until needed. (It’s to serve over the finished pudding)

The next bit:

200 mls of pure cream

50 mls of full fat milk

200 grams of good dark chocolate (the beloved used Whittaker’s 72%), chopped

25 grams of cocoa powder

Put the cream and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat.

Bring to just below boiling point.

Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until smooth (here the beloved had a mini-tantrum when the sauce split – we fixed it by stirring in a bit of extra cream)

Whisk in the cocoa, then set aside.

The last bits:

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced)

Bake the pudding for 45-55 minutes, until just set and golden. Cover with foil if it browns too quickly.

Remove the pudding from the oven, let it sit for a little while (at least 10 minutes).

Turn out of the dish, slice and serve drizzled with the custard and the chocolate sauce. Add some extra almonds and raspberries if you want to, but it’s hardly essential, there’s quite enough going on.

Eat it up.

 

Loophole number three… September 8, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking — titchandboofer @ 3:38 am
Tags: , , ,

…The virtuous use of leftovers:

Beloved, from bathroom where she is in bath with small (thus trapped and unable to patrol the kitchen) –

“I hear something! What are you doing out there?”

“Nothing, just, you know, putting stuff away”

“What stuff?”

“Um, dishes?”

“Why can I hear chopping?”

“I don’t know. What, do you have supersonic hearing now?”  …whispering “usually you can’t hear me when I’m talking to you from two feet away”

“I heard that! And WHAT ARE YOU CHOPPING?”

“Nothing”…whispering veeery softly “rhubarb”.

Pause. General baby-bathing noises resume. Plug pulled. Bath toys clatter about. Small complaining about end of bath.

Back in the kitchen I am trying to bake and hide evidence as quickly as possible. Mainly this just makes more mess.

“Why are you opening the fridge?”

“Just looking in it.”

Footsteps approaching kitchen. Quick appraisal of scene of crime. “YOU’RE BAKING! I SAID NO BAKING UNTIL SUNDAY! IT’S TUESDAY!”

“Did you just want me to let this rhubarb go off? Did you want it to be wasted and thrown into the compost? SHALL WE JUST THROW SOME MONEY AWAY TOO?!!”


Thrifty Rhubarb Muffins

leftover rhubarb from Wintery Whinypants Cake approx 100 grams (after trimming leaves and ends off), finely sliced (finer than cake, as cooking time is shorter)

160 grams of self-raising flour, sifted

125 grams of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 egg

90 grams of ricotta

65 grams of unsalted butter, melted

handful of white chocolate pieces, originally intended as snack, sliced up finely and thrown in at end for the hell of it

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced)

Line a muffin tin with cases, or grease it very well, or use the little flat-bottom-and-smooth-side paper cases that can just sit on a tray (you will need 9 or 10)

Mix the flour, sugar and chopped rhubarb in a medium bowl.

Mix the vanilla, egg, ricotta and butter in a small bowl/jug.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine.

Stir in the white chocolate.

Spoon into muffin tin/cases

Bake for 15-20 minutes. They are done when risen, golden and springy to touch.

“I’m not eating any.”

Fine.”

“But I will take two to golf tomorrow.”