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Wet day program October 16, 2010

6am – The small one begins his day with a long, leisurely breastfeed. I doze, listening to the rain pelting down. It hasn’t stopped raining for more than 24 hrs now. Lush spring weather, sunny one day, pouring for a week, the garden green and leafy, casting deep deep pockets of shade.

7:19am – Small starts his morning stampede over the pillows. He is up up up! Things to do, places to explore, drawers to empty. I pull up the bedroom blind, squinting blearily. The garden is grey? Hail. Thick piles of hailstones skirting every tree and plant. The rain still falls.

7:30am – Let the chooks out. Bloody hell it’s cold. Hail coats the chook house roof and ramp. Six of the seven chooks leap lightly from deck to ground, scoffing grain as soon as their claws touch down. Betty slides the length of the ramp, hail scattering in her wake, landing with an undignified squawk.

7:42am – Breakfast. Sock puppet with dubious french accent has great success in convincing small to eat a substantial amount of porridge and not-All-Bran. Raining. Seedling tomatoes and eggplants on porch are barely visible above the hail. Hope they survive.

8:30am – Raining. Shan’t take small to be netball cheer squad today. Wonder if they’ll play? Another whole day inside ahead of us. Good thing small can spend anything up to an hour playing with the washing machine. He treats it with the rapt fascination one would have for a portal to another world.

9:16am – Wander vaguely in kitchen, picking up things and putting them down again. Find some forgotten pumpkin seeds, mysteriously stashed in bookshelf. Would plant them, but it’s raining. Decide to make biscuits.

9:25am Biscuits

inspired by Nigella Lawson

260 grams of wholemeal spelt flour (or whatever plain flour you have to hand)

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 a teaspoon of salt

200 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature (a warm room)

120 grams of brown sugar

2 tablespoons of instant espresso powder

2 eggs

200 grams of dark chocolate, chopped

100 grams of walnuts, fairly finely chopped

icing sugar to dust (if you don’t have any it doesn’t matter at all)

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees (150 fan forced)

Line two baking trays

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. You can do it with an electric mixer, but a wooden spoon is sufficient.

Add the coffee powder and mix to combine well.

Add the eggs and mix to combine well.

Stir in the flour mixture, mixing to a sticky, cookie-dough consistency.

Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Now, you have a choice here:

Option 1

Spoon generous tablespoonfuls of dough onto your trays, leaving 4-5cm between each blob to allow for spread.

Bake for about 15 minutes.

Cool for a few minutes on the trays, then transfer to wire racks.

This is what I did with the first half of the dough. While they baked, I was feeding small and watching some random cooking show on TV. With excellent timing, Karen Martini is on and making some kind of Italian coffee biscuits, crusted with chopped pistachios. Miss most of segment, but think is excellent idea. Remember walnuts in pantry. Ah ha!

Option 2

Shape generous tablespoonfuls of dough into balls and roll in chopped walnuts.

Arrange on trays with 4-5 cm between each ball.

Press down lightly.

Turn oven down to 160 degrees celsius (140 fan forced), to prevent nuts from burning.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden and just firm to touch.

Allow to cool on trays for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

10:15am – The small one and I snuggle up on the couch, under a woolly blanket, with a teetering pile of books. Rain lashes the windows. We snuggle and read until lunch time. Heaven.

12pm – Lunch. Services of dubiously accented sock not required. Small fading fast. Tuck him into bed and wonder when one is old enough to wallow in the pleasure of falling asleep to the sound of rain.

2:34pm – Wrap us both up to brave the three metre walk to the car. Drive the sodden streets to M’s seventh birthday party. ABBA. Hysterical shrieking. Much tiny booty shaking. Party food. Small develops love affair with sparkly disco ball.

4:15pm – Another couch. Tea.

8:31pm – Small sleeping. Finish off powerpoint notes for upcoming talk. Wonder out loud how expensive a projector might be. Am firmly instructed to forget about projector. Blog. Tea. Biscuits. Good without walnut. Better with.

 

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.

 

Loopholes one and two September 7, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking — titchandboofer @ 9:32 am
Tags: , , , ,

So, post-lemon-cake-binge, further baking is technically banned until Sunday. But, as previously mentioned, there are always ways to subvert the regime. These tasty delights, being both a visiting-gift and made from one of the beloved’s most hated flavours fit the bill nicely.

Mandarin Sort-Of-Shortbread

125 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

zest of three mandarins (I don’t think I’ve done anything quite so awkward as trying to zest a mandarin. I’d snittily demanded that the beloved get Imperials when she did the greengrocery shopping, instead of Honey Murcotts which are a pest to eat, hard to peel and full of pips. Anyhow, the beloved had the last laugh when she watched me zesting the world’s loosest skinned fruit and then juicing the escapee segments.)

110 grams of icing sugar

55 grams of polenta

225 grams of plain flour

juice of the three mandarins (~60mls)

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

Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Beat the butter, rind and sifted icing sugar together in a small bowl with an electric mixer until well combined.

Stir in the polenta, sifted flour and juice in two batches.

Tip onto the bench and knead briefly and lightly to bring the dough together.

Shape into a rectangular log (it can be round, whatever you like) about 30cm long and wrap in clingwrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

After it has chilled, unwrap the dough and slice into about 24-30 slices.

Place on baking trays, with at least 2cm between them.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden.

Dust the hot biscuits with sifted icing sugar, then let them cool on the tray for 5 minutes.

Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Eat them with a hot mug of english breakfast tea (I usually go for earl gray, but that’s a whole lot of competing, fruity flavours).

They’re quite a surprise: shortbread-esque in bite and texture but very juicy all the same. An excellent visiting-gift for The Great Granny, who won’t go near a mandarin in its natural state, but loves the flavour when cooked. Undermining of regime complete for today.

 

Ginger Nut August 14, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 8:40 am
Tags: ,

There are so many good excuses for baking biscuits. You have visitors coming for tea, your biscuit jar is empty, you’re hungry in the afternoon, you’re going visiting, someone you know has had a baby/moved house/lost a pet/boiled their kettle, you’ve suddenly realised you have an excess of flour and must clear out your cupboard before going on holiday…in six months. My excuse – at 7am the small person wanted to sit on the kitchen floor and whack some pots with a spoon. I got bored with this far sooner than he did and he was still going strong after I’d had a mug of tea and fed the livestock. I figured if I was going to hang out in the kitchen being an oversized groupie to a band of one, I might as well squeeze in a little pre-breakfast biscuit baking.

Early Morning Biscuits

90 grams of unsalted butter

75 grams of brown sugar

115 grams of treacle

100 grams of stem ginger pieces

200 grams of plain flour

3/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

1 tablespoon of ground ginger

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced)

Combine the butter, sugar, treacle and ginger in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until combined.

Remove from heat. Stir in sifted dry ingredients. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Roll tablespoon-sized balls of mixture into balls with your hands – greasy but satisfying. Place on trays, allowing ~3cm between each ball.

Bake about 10 minutes then leave to cool on the trays.

Like most gingery delights, these are dark and dense, slightly sticky, with a beautiful heat to them. Just right to snack on when you’ve come in from the cold, or to nibble on while you check facebook, or to feed the baby who eats nothing but cornflakes.

They will keep for about a week in a container. That’s if no-one in your house eats biscuits.

 

Cheating on our chickens July 30, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 7:18 am
Tags: , ,

I have a confession to make – today I am baking with bought eggs. Lovely, local free-range eggs, but bought all the same. We are away for a long weekend down on Mornington Peninsula with my partner’s parents, basking in wintery sunshine and taking the small one for windswept walks along the beach.

Our feathered ladies have stayed home under the watchful eye of our dear friend and her small daughters. The bigger small daughter, M (six), is thrilled that Betty is broody or, as we explained it, has decided to become a mother. M is very attached to our chickens. She went with me to the chicken farm, helped pick them out from the flock of tiny chirping fluffballs, lovingly introduced them to their new home and sternly vetted all their names. She has made glowing predictions about Betty’s potential parenting skills. She has also expressed great sadness that Betty’s mother is not there to see her grandbabies – spot the midwife’s daughter anyone? So M and her wonderful mama have taken on the daily task of plucking Betty gently from her nest, making sure she eats, drinks, poops, fluffs her feathers up a bit and returns within twenty minutes. In return, we might bring them back some of these biscuits. That is, if there are any left…

Cheat’s Macaroons*

an Australian Women’s Weekly recipe

3 egg whites

55 grams of caster (superfine) sugar

160 grams of icing (confectioners’) sugar

25 grams of cocoa powder

120 grams of ground almonds

2 teaspoons of extra cocoa powder

60 mls of cream

150 grams of dark chocolate

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celsius.

Grease two oven trays and line with baking paper.

Beat the egg whites in a small bowl until soft peaks form. Slowly add the caster sugar, continuing to beat until it dissolves.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Gently fold in the sifted icing sugar, cocoa and almond meal in two batches.

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a plain tube fitting (~2cm opening). Pipe ~4cm rounds onto the trays, leaving ~2cm between each round. I found the easiest way to achieve a perfect circle was to pipe directly down onto the tray – ie hold your piping bag at a 90 degree angle to the tray.

Tap the trays gently on the bench to help the mixture spread a little. Dust with the extra cocoa. Leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.

Bake the macaroons for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven’s personality). Cool on the trays.

To make the ganache filling: Finely chop the chocolate and put it in a small bowl. Bring the cream to the boil, then pour over the chocolate, stirring until the mixture is smooth.

Leave the ganache to thicken to a spreadable texture – this will take about half an hour. Sandwich the cooled macaroons with the ganache.

Since her recent trip to Paris, my partner’s mum drools at the mention of Laduree macaroons. Her verdict on these ones: a little more rustic to look at but every bit as good to taste. Crisp outer shell, soft on the inside, ganache in the middle…heaven.

*Australians, at least those as addicted to MasterChef as I was, are probably all suffering from Macaroon Fatigue. Rest assured, I do not propose that you try and staple, stick, glue or pin these to a polystyrene tower. Why make it harder to get them speedily into your mouth?