Waiting for Agnes

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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.


Repeat offender August 15, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Cakes to covet — titchandboofer @ 8:13 am
Tags: , , ,

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.