Waiting for Agnes

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Short and sweet and sly August 18, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking — titchandboofer @ 12:00 pm
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In the lead up to small’s first birthday celebration the beloved has slapped another baking embargo on me. Some complaint to do with how we’ll be eating cake all next week. Bah. Clearly my only option was to wait until she’d left for work to squeeze in a little mid-morning bake. I needed a recipe that was quick, easy, didn’t require eggs and, for maximum sucking-up potential, could be gluten free. Oh, and it had to come from the aforementioned epicure: chocolate: a book that begins by describing chocolate… “a dark mistress or a comforting friend” and goes on to tempt with recipes such as ‘Coco the burlesque wonder cake’ and ‘Kamikaze brownies’.

My choice – Valmai Hall’s Chocolate Coconut Fingers, tweaked slightly and re-christened.

I’m pretty sure that back in the 90s all tuck shops had the same stock – hedgehog slice, apricot blocks, those big, dry choc-chip cookies, pies, sausage-rolls and Big Ms. I really can’t remember our high school tuck shop stocking anything else, they might have made the occasional sandwich but there certainly wasn’t anything fancy like fresh fruit. But then, back in the 90s, our school tuck shop was basically a shed with a counter and a padlock. You bought your apricot block and went and sat on the ground somewhere under a tree to eat it. Ten years on, the shed has been repurposed (or some other made up word) and school food is now sold in a big, shiny cafeteria with actual tables and chairs and windows. I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing lunch orders are no longer organised by scribbling your request for a pie on the back of a paper bag. The spoilt noughties generation of angsty teenage girls even have a bloody coffee machine.

Anyhoo. This slice is like something you would have got in a tuck shop, pre-coffee machine era. Except it’s better, buttery, spicy, a bit crumbly and, unless you want to, you don’t have to sit on the ground to eat it.

Tuck Shop Slice

1 cup of cornflakes

1 cup of dessicated coconut, plus extra for sprinkling

1 cup of gluten free self-raising flour

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence

1/2 a cup of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of cocoa

150 grams of butter, melted


4 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar

1 heaped tablespoon of cocoa

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 tablespoon of butter, melted

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

Butter up and line the bottom of a square cake tin or a lamington tin.

Put all of the slice ingredients into a medium sized bowl. Stir until well combined (the mixture will be crumbly) then press into the tin.

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

While baking, sift the dry icing ingredients into a small bowl and add the melted butter. Stir together with a few teaspoons of hot water – as much as needed to achieve a smooth consistency. If you overdo the hot water, just sift in a little more icing sugar.

When the slice comes out of the oven, spread the icing on it, gently, while it’s still hot. Sprinkle with as much extra coconut as you like. Allow to cool in the tin, then slice your slice into pieces. I got 16 generous chunks from a square tin.

Then leave a tempting little stack of them on the kitchen bench for your beloved to find. And if your beloved is still peevish about their embargo being subverted and refuses to even try them (even though they are suck-uppishly gluten free) just eat them yourself. They’re good.


Repeat offender August 15, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Cakes to covet — titchandboofer @ 8:13 am
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A while back I was tired. Unsurprising, you say, I have a small baby and it’s one of the things to tick off the list each day: feed family? check. entertain the baby? check. answer phone without snapping at caller? check. keep baby alive? check. being tired? check. But this time I was really tired, hours of baby-screamathon, fuzzy, blurry, prop-your-eyelids-open-with-matchsticks, forget your own name kind of tired. And I ate a lot of Nutella. By god it’s evilly good stuff – chocolatey and gooey, a melty lake of sweetness on hot and crunchy toast, or just straight from the jar. Very therapeutic. Some might say that if you’re tired you should fuel your body with healthful, granola-esque meals, litres of filtered water, vegetables, flowery teas or zinc supplements and whatnot. That’s all fine and good if you’ve got the energy and concentration to chew granola, or find the replacement jug filter for the one that expired two weeks ago, or peel a vegetable, or remember that it is zinc you need from the pharmacy and not bubble bath and a 1kg bag of jelly beans. I was doing well to wedge the baby between me and the cupboard I was propped up on, unscrew the jar lid and remember how to use a spoon. And then a friend, who lives in Canberra and therefore is no doubt deeply intimate with the therapeutic value of Nutella, gave me the recipe to Nigella Lawson’s Nutella Cake. Alright, it’s officially named Torta alla Gianduia, but that doesn’t give it nearly as much pull – really it should be called Nigella’s-Entire-Jar-Of-Nutella Cake to alert the potentially fatigued to the importance of it.

I’m a sucker for ‘whole jar’ recipes. I have several recipes for cakes which include a whole glass bottle of real maple syrup, for a cake that has a whole can of Coca Cola in it and for biscuits with a whole tub of peanut butter thrown into the mix. Partly the appeal lies in the ease – no measuring, no waste, no feeling the need to be creative with the leftover bits, no needing to work out if you already have enough in the pantry, just buy a whole new jar. But mostly it’s the decadence, the thrill of emptying the entire contents of a jar of heavenly spread or syrup at once, of knowing that the pleasure of one spoonful’s worth will come back to you exponentially increased in the form of dessert. I made this back in that dark time of very-tiredness (yes, it’s that easy, even the madly fatigued can’t screw it up) and best-lawyer-friend (a great appreciator of any baked goods to grow in our kitchen) was away on a very non-lawyery jaunt in the Mediterranean. Forced to do horrible things, like leaping from a boat to swim in the sparkly blue sea and drift about in a hot air balloon at sunrise, the BLF was clearly home-sick and sent a brave and hardy carrier-pigeon with a request to make this cake for her homecoming (oh fine, not really, she facebooked me).

Nigella’s Entire Jar of Nutella Cake

only slightly altered to suit my definite preference for Amaretto over Frangelico

6 large eggs, separated

pinch of salt

125 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

400 gram jar of Nutella

1 generous tablespoon of Amaretto

100 grams of ground almonds

100 grams of dark chocolate

For the ganache:

160 grams of dark chocolate, broken into pieces

160 grams of cream

1 tablespoon of Amaretto

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

Butter and line a 23cm springform baking tin.

In a small bowl melt the dark chocolate (you can do it over a small pan of just simmering water, or in the microwave on reduced power – I knock the power down to 60% and heat it for 1 min 30 secs) and then leave to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and Nutella together until well combined. Reduce the mixer speed and add the Amaretto, egg yolks and almond meal.

Fold in the melted chocolate.

In a separate medium/large bowl whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form.

Add a good sized dollop of egg white to the chocolate mixture and stir through to lighten it up. Then fold in the remaining egg white gently, a third at a time.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes. It is ready when it has risen, a bit springy to touch and starting to come away from the sides of the tin.

For the ganache:

Put the chocolate, cream and Amaretto into a medium sized saucepan over a low heat until the chocolate is melting, then remove from the heat. Whisk until cooled and thick enough to ice the cake with. The first time I made this I whisked by hand continuously and damn near broke my arm in the process. This time I took a short cut and used the handheld electric beaters on high. Beating until cooled like this gets it to a really light, moussey texture, which is lovely and soft on the dense, damp cake.

Slather the cake with the ganache, slice into great big pieces and eat. Good with tea, equally good with another shot of Amaretto. Slightly more taxing than just eating Nutella from the jar, but well worth the effort. Thoroughly enjoyed by the BLF and all other takers. Happily, we have a teensy bit left in the kitchen that has mine written all over it.