Monday, 19 November 2012

A Castle Fit for a Princess

Fairy-tale Castle Cake

The perfect cake for the perfect little princess. My friend Megan's little girl Mia turned 2 recently, and I LOVE making little girl cakes! On the day all the little girls crowded around whispered "wow" to each other - it was so cute!



It's been 6 months of minimal cooking and baking, and maximal maths and memorising. I've bought WAY too many cookbooks, naughtily read them in my study time and tried to imagine that my life was spent fabulously whipping up Nigella's suppers and Momofuku's desserts (as long as we're in my imagination, I also have a body and dance like the Hurly Burly girlys). Wow I love it in my imagination.. 



In real life I've been sitting at a computer or book all day, giggling like a real geek at countless pictures of cats (front teeth out and all), and dancing like fat Monica :-). But, real life is turning around again! My exam is over and I can get back to my happy things again! 



Ralph helped so much with this cake- we stayed up half the night decorating, and walked around like zombies the next day, which was awesome cause it made us look like we're the kind of people who just go out on Friday nights and walk around all Saturday all sad and hung over and cool!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Foxy Tart

Lemon Meringue Tart

I never felt brave enough to try a lemon meringue tart. It's like.. In a series, where there is always a boy and a girl, and they're obviously crazy about each other, but afraid to go with their feelings because they don't want to mess up a relationship that means SO much to them. Yup- that's me and lemon meringue tart. And this is just the beginning of our happy ending.


If I'm lemon meringue's soul mate, then Ane must be it's best friend. Sure I can bake it, but she's the one that REALLY appreciates it and reminds me to do the same. Actually, she REALLY appreciate a lot of food. Maybe she is food's best friend? Any friend of food is a friend of mine :-)

Ane came over for a girls sulking evening one night, and I had just found a new lemon meringue recipe by The Food Fox. It was very simple and anything with lemon and condensed milk has my vote (or just condensed milk and a spoon, or just the can.. JUST GIVE IT TO ME)

I've been crushing on The Food Fox lately. It's a South African food blog, so I don't have to worry about being able to get the ingredients and the correct measurements, and it's GORGEOUS. Like this blog is in my dreams :-). I loved this recipe- so easy to follow, so.. doable!

Anyway- that one disappeared so quickly that I didn't get a single photo. Then I decided to make another and experiment a bit. I love sour, so I wanted it to have a distinct sour kick to it. I also wanted the base to go all the way up the walls of my pie dish, and I wanted more filling and more topping.

Lemon Meringue Tart
Adapted from The Food Fox

250 g Tennis biscuit
approx 120 g melted butter

2 cans condensed milk (Each can is 385 g)
300 ml lemon juice (If you like it really sour lemony- feel free to add a bit more)
4 egg yolks

6 egg whites
250 ml castor sugar
5 ml vanilla essence
5 ml lemon juice

1) Preheat the oven to 180 C
2) Take the Tennis biscuits and put them in a bowl


 3) Crush these until they are just tiny crumbs


4) Now, melt the butter, and add bit by bit. The idea is to keep adding butter until the biscuits stick to the walls nicely. Just take a spoon, and press it against a the wall of the bowl and see if it stays to test.

5) Press the now complete base into your pie dish.


6) Next,  pour the condensed milk into another bowl. While whisking, add the lemon juice bit by bit.


7) Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl (remember to save the whites), then add them. This will make the mixture nice and yellow.


8) Now, pour the mixture into the base.


9) Bake for 20 minutes.
10) While it's baking, make the topping.
11) Whisk the egg whites to stiff peak stage. Then add the sugar bit by bit, until it's creamy and shiny.



12) When the tart comes out of the oven, turn the oven down to 150 C, and smooth the meringue topping on top, making gorgeous peaks on top.


13) And you're the proud owner of a delicious Lemon Meringue Tart!



The delicious Ane liked this tart so much that I had to make her another one this weekend! And now I'm craving it again..

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Italian Summertime

Bruschetta

Maybe it's not summer in Italy. But making and eating bruschetta makes me feel that way. I feel.. Beautiful and sophisticated.. Like I'm wearing a silk scarf and giggling over a lunch with too much good wine. 


The flavours in this dish are a level above those I normally use. It tastes subtly of olives and Basil. The acid of the tomatoes is soothed by the olive oil. I loved the crunch of the bread with the tomatoes. I loved it so much that I'll definitely use a Ciabatta loaf next time as it gets even more crunch, and it's what I should have used in the first place..


I really loved this dish- it's like a gateway to appreciating more complex flavours. I find it hard to try new things with food, so I try to take a small step at a time. I love it when it pays off! It was simple enough to make, the only slightly messy part was skinning the tomatoes, which I'd never done before so it was really interesting! The stinging I felt on my fingers from the tomato juice hurt so good!

Delia was my mom's favourite TV chef when she still had her shows. My mom loved her mostly for keeping her kitchen so clean :-).

Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil
from Delia

6 rosa tomatoes (you can use another variety, these are the ones I got)
A couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh Basil
2 tsp Olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

1 french or ciabatta loaf, sliced thinly
1 clove of garlic, peeled and rubbed in a little salt
About 4 tblspn Olive oil for drizzling

1) Put the tomatoes into a bowl and pour boiling water over them, covering them completely. Wait for 1 minute, then drain. You can now remove the skins quite easily. Chop the tomatoes coursely.
2) Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and all the Basil and stir through. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.
3) Toast the bread under the grill on both sides, until dark golden.
4) Take a sharp knife and make 3 slashes across each slice, then rub with the garlic. Finally, drizzle about half a tablespoon of olive oil on each slice.
5) Top the bread with the tomato mixture, making a little mound.

Delia says that it's hard to believe that something so simple could be so wonderful- I couldn't say it better myself!

Friday, 22 June 2012

My Out of the Packet Secret

Spaghetti Bolognese

I wasn't always brave enough to try to cook things from scratch. When I had to start cooking for myself and Ralph, we made a LOT of things out of packets. One of those things was bolognese. But no more! I am free of the shame of the packet sauce! All thanks to Smitten Kitchen.



Whenever I tried to make bolognese myself, it didn't have the rich colour and gooeyness of the packet sauce. I didn't give up, and for the past few years have tried lots of different recipes, none of which were terrible, I was just looking for that appetising colour and that gooey factor, and all I was getting was tomatoey mince. I even tried a proper italian recipe that takes 4-5 hours to cook and uses everything but the kitchen sink. No luck.

Then Smitten Kitchen did a lasagna. When I saw the colour of that sauce I was SOLD. I've been working crazy hours lately so I only got to try it out a couple of weeks later, on a Saturday night. I bought all the ingredients, which luckily included a bottle of wine. The recipe used all wine but a glass, which worked out perfectly for me who, after having that glass forgot all my problems and slid around the house in my socks, giggling loudly to myself. Damn I'm a lightweight..

It turns out the key to that gorgeous gorgeous colour is tomato paste and red wine. I might play around with also adding some canned tomatoes- but for now this is MORE than delicious enough!! Next I make a proper homemade lasagna!

Spagetti Bolognese
From Smitten Kitchen

1 Medium onion
1 Large carrot
2 Ribs celery
3 Cloves garlic
2-3 tblsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1 kg Lean beef mince
1 1/4 cups Tomato paste
2 cups Red wine
Water
2 Bay leaves
A few sprigs of Thyme

Serves 4
Cooking Time: About 5 hours, but an impatient person's 3

1) Chop up onion, carrot, celery and garlic finely.
2) Place a heavy bottomed pan on a high heat, and pour in the olive oil. Add the chopped veggies, and season them with salt and pepper. Fry them until they're nicely browned. This should take about 15 minutes.
3) Add the mince to the veggies, and add salt and pepper. Fry the mince until it's nicely brown- and I mean with small bits of caramelised brown! This should take about another 15 minutes.


4) Add the tomato paste and cook through for about 5 minutes.
5) Now add the red wine, and as soon as it's mixed in, scrape up the the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook it until it reduces by half- another 5 minutes.
6) Now, add enough water to the pan to cover the mince and slightly above.
7) Add the bay leaves and Thyme, stir and reduce the heat to allow the mince to simmer very slightly.
8) The mince should simmer to 3 - 4 hours. The water will cook off the sauce, and you will want to replenish it, but only bit by bit, not lots at a time.
9) I got too hungry after 2 hours and served the pasta. It was AMAZING! I can only imagine how it would have tasted if I had more patience! A friend in the office doesn't cook it for more than an hour, and still loves this recipe. So the bottom line is, wait as long as you possibly can, and if you can't, you can't.
10) Serve with pasta of your choosing. If I remember correctly, bolognese should be traditionally served with fettuccine or tagliatelle, but these days we always seem to make it with spaghetti. 


Here's my general rule on pasta: If I'm eating with Ralph- spaghetti all the way! The messiness makes it more fun and delicious! But yeah, around people to whom I want to prove I wasn't raised by wolves, I get it with penne, and love it :-).

Friday, 15 June 2012

A Rant about Happiness

Embarassing yet Delicious Valentines Cake

It's time I came clean about myself (and the ugly cakes I make). I am an optimist. I believe in love. I believe everything will turn out ok. It helps me get through the day. But more than helping get through sad times, on normal days, it makes me REALLY HAPPY. I also believe that it's more about the cake being delicious than pretty, but I think that's just trying to make myself feel better..


I'm getting married. I'm so excited I can hardly think about anything else. I get to be with this person that I outwardly love a whole lot, and secretly love even more, forever!! I feel more optimistic now than I EVER have before in my life. 

But I've found it very hard to stay positive. People just aren't excited about marriage and weddings and love anymore. I've had lecture after lecture about how terrible marriage really is, how my wedding day is really just another day, and how I should protect myself before that bastard runs off with another woman. 

Why is it not okay to lecture people on how wonderful marriage is, how your wedding day is your special day with your family, and your new family- the people you love the most, how some marriages make it, and are happy? It's really getting to me this week!

I just wanted to add my voice to all negative ones and say, here is the truth about my cakes and I. We are both thoroughly silly and happy, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

PS. It's hot milk cake with marshmallow icing. I will post the recipe sometime!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Yummy Bundt Fail

Apple Cake

Yes, I've had another flop. Am I approaching 50/50? Probably. But I refuse to stop trying! This cake may have been broken, but it was absolutely delicious and comforting and everything that an apple cake should be. This cake was like your typical engineer, maybe not ridiculously good looking, but so warm gooey and delicious inside, that you're can't imagine having not given it a chance.


I'm in love with cinnamon. I love cinnamon with rolled oats and yoghurt, I love it with almost any fruit dish, and I will happily buy almost anything cinnamon flavoured, be it edible or otherwise. I could sit and smell it all day.. It makes me think of Christmas, and dreams with clouds and unicorns and Prince Charming.. Speaking of Prince Charming, do you think I could convince Ralph to find someone who can make our entire wedding smell like Cinnamon?


That's my cool apple cutter gadget! See how it cuts out the core AND makes slices? AND has a hole in it so you can hang it off a hook OR on your keychain?? Amazing..

My wonderful Ani gave me a bundt pan for second Christmas (which is just after Christmas and actually her birthday), and I had yet to try it out. And seeing as my addiction to Smitten Kitchen is blossoming at a speed that is likely to get me some sort of website restraining order soon, I had to make her moms apple cake. The problem was.. My bundt pan didn't have a removable center, and my cake refused to come out! So pretty much half of the cake came out, and half stayed in the pan. There is is happy side to the story though! I recently bought Joy the Baker's cookbook, and it's got some hints on getting cakes out of bundt pans, so I plan to keep trying! The key seems to be to let it cool for about half an hour before trying to get it out, but not longer.

Apple Cake
From Smitten Kitchen

6 smallish apples (I used Pink Lady)
1 tblsp cinnamon
5 tblsp sugar

2 3/4 cups cake flour
1 tblsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup canola oil
2 cups sugar
60 ml orange juice
2 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
4 eggs

1) Preheat oven to 180 C and thoroughly, thoroughly butter and flour the bundt pan.
2) Peel all the apples, remove the cores, and cut into small chunks. Add the cinnamon
3) Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
4) Mix together the oil, orange juice, vanilla and eggs in a separate bowl.
5) Mix the wet ingredients into the dry.
6) Pour half of the batter into the pan, then sprinkle half of the apples on top. Pour in the other half and top with the rest of the apples.
7) Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean.

I can't wait to experiment with this recipe. It's only got cinnamon so there are so many options for cloves, and nutmeg. I think I want to try the same spice mix as the apple pie next time.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Love Love Love

Dulce de Leche/ Caramel Cupcakes

I'm a big fan of Valentines Day. I love cooking for people, it's my way of showing affection. Around valentines day I go COMPLETELY nutburgers. This year I made giant cookies (for neighbors and family), Ralph's cake (a traditionally delicious, but rather ugly cake, no - no pictures!) and these cupcakes (for previous work and new work people).


I really love reading The Foodie Bride. I remember a while ago, when I first subscribed, An update on her blog came through when I was just falling asleep. It was the one about croissants. It read it in my sleepy state and could picture myself exactly where she was describing almost in a dream. The sunny house, the knowledge of warm sleeping children, the quiet, and bliss, and the chaos that follows. I was SOLD. The Bride is a little too adventurous food-wise for me most of the time (I pretty much just like cheese- no funny business!), but I still love to read about what she's up to!


My sweet hearts :-). I made those using white chocolate and colouring and piped over a hundred of them! The taste wonderful, and they really compliment the Dulce de Leche. I love that I could stick little treats  into the cupcakes for people to pop out and nibble on.


Dulce de Leche/ Caramel Cupcakes
From Tracey's Culinary Adventures, originally adapted from Foodie Bride
In South Africa, Dulce de Leche is sold as 'Caramel'

3 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
170 g unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup Dulce de Leche/ Caramel
4 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup Canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

Makes about 24 cupcakes

1) Preheat oven to 180 C
2) Whisk flour, baking powder and bicarb together in a separate bowl.
3) Cream the butter and sugar, until they are light and fluffy.
4) While beating, add the Dulce de Leche bit by bit. Beat well.
5) Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well.
6) Add the oil and the vanilla.
7) Now, add the dry ingredients, alternately with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
8) Mix gently until just incorporated.
9) Pour batter into 2 lined cupcake pans, filling them all 1/2 to 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden, and a tested comes out clean.
10) Let them rest for 5 minutes before taking out and putting on a wire rack to cool.

Dulce de Leche/ Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream
From Tracey's Culinary Adventures, originally adapted from Foodie Bride
In South Africa, Dulce de Leche is sold as 'Caramel'

4 extra-large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
pinch of salt
340 g unsalted butter
1/3 cup Dulce de Leche/ Caramel
1 tsp vanilla extract

1) Places the egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl, and beat to combine.
2) Place over a pot of simmering water, and beat constantly until a thermometer reads 70 C
3) Take off the heat, and keep beating until the stiff peaks stage. Make sure the outside of the bowl is cool.
4) Keep beating, and add the butter, a bit at a time. Beat well after each addition.
5) Beat on high speed until icing is thick and smooth.
6) Finally, mix in the Dulce de Leche and vanilla.
7) For me the icing went too runny, and I had to fix it by putting it in the fridge for a while. But it worked just fine after.

These have overtaken the red velvet cupcakes as my favourite. Or maybe not.. I'll have to make both again to make sure.. And maybe just a couple more times after that. This is important business!

Friday, 25 May 2012

What Bowling Balls and Aliens Have in Common

Cake Pops

Finally, it's time for my first try! Emily insisted she wanted these for her 7th birthday, and she was having a bowling party, so I thought- bowling balls should be easy! They should be..


As with all my first tries, it.. didn't glow with competency. But they were fun and delicious nonetheless. So I've put together a step by step guide. Take note- this is not a Sunday afternoon project, as most of my projects are. This is a solid 2 day project, as the pops need to be in the fridge for a significant amount of time (overnight is nice and doable). That's not strictly true- but the risks of using the freezer scared me too much.

We start by baking a cake. What I did was pretty much double my normal vanilla cupcake recipe, and make 2 cakes. The size doesn't really matter- just bake until they're golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. Wait for them to cool. Crumble with your hands into small crumbs.


Make a small amount of butter icing- using maybe just 40 - 60 g of butter. What I do with butter icing is I just keep adding icing sugar until it becomes difficult to mix, then I add a bit of milk to make it easy to mix again. Careful not to make it too runny!


Now, add about 2 - 3 tablespoons icing into the cake crumbs- it should only be enough to make the cake crumbs stick to each other nicely so we can make balls.


Now, roll the dough into roughly 40 balls. They should be roughly 2-3 cm in diameter. Put them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.


This sheet should be covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated for 4 hours or overnight. Then, melt some chocolate. I like to use white chocolate, because I can colour it. In this case part of what went wrong was that I couldn't make the colour bright enough. In the states, where the pops were invented, they use Candy Melts, which are brighter and easier with which to work. Here we've gotta stick to chocolate, which means we have to be a little more creative. I melted white chocolate, and coloured it with chocolate colour marked 'Lime Green'- but it just didn't come out that way!


This is important- pour the chocolate into a container that isn't too wide but very deep, you need to be able to dip the whole pop into the liquid chocolate. Also- give the chocolate a chance to cool down for about 5 minutes. I think this has something to do with tempering, and it makes it easier to coat the pops.

Here's the method for coating the pops. First take the lolly pop stick, and dip it in the chocolate. Stick it into a cake ball. Dip it straight down into the chocolate, pull it our and let it drain a bit, and twist it slowly until it stops dripping. Remember to have a polystyrene block to stick the pops into! I also got some advice on putting the pops into individual sweet plastic bags- and tying them with a bow? Next time definitely!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Is Yoga Big in Germany?

Soft Pretzels

As much as I love the traditional Pretzel-shaped Pretzels, I had a serious craving to straight German Pretzels. Sadly, I didn't read the recipe title, and so made soft pretzels instead. They were delicious anyway! But back to the main point- would Germans be offended by straight Pretzels? Or happy that someone made a practical shape? I'm sure this is related to how much they love Yoga.. 


Two things led to these pretzels: Alton Brown and the awesome guy that works with Ralph and looks like a beaver. I'm going to start with Ralph's colleague. After a couple of drinks he can be convinced to imitate a beaver. This is all we look for in a friend. On Saturdays our beaver man makes really delicious burgers at the Neighbor Goods Market. This market is... The best way to describe it would be like a land at the top of The Faraway Tree, a land that has intoxicatingly delicious food, but not just any food.. Food made with the right ingredients, fresh ingredients, made with love and, just as importantly: skill. The currywurst we had was spectacular, as was the pretzel that came with it, and the lemon meringue cupcake made ALL my nerve endings tingle with sour. I'm determined to recreate all of these dishes!!



As for Alton Brown - I have a new useless passion in life- Iron Chef. I've watched so much of it lately that I feel like Alton Brown and Michael Symon actually live with me.. Except for the absolutely mindblowing food that would exist if they did..

So naturally I found a recipe that Alton Brown had posted for pretzels, and wasted no time in making them! I love this trick of boiling the pretzels in bicarb to give them that gorgeous brown colour! Next on my list will definitely be pretzel dogs by Joy The Baker.

Soft Pretzels
from Alton Brown

1 1/2 cups warm water (midway between lukewarm and hot)
1 tblsp sugar
2 tsp salt
7 g packet dry yeast
624 g cake flour
57 g butter, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cup bicarbonate of soda
1 extra-large egg yolk beaten with 1 tblsp water
Course salt

1) Add sugar, salt and yeast to warm water in a large bowl, and allow to stand for about 5 minutes- until it begins foaming.
2) Add flour and butter to the mixture, and knead with dough hook attachments on a mixer. Keep kneading until the dough becomes smooth and stops sticking to the sides of the pan. This should take less than 5 minutes.
3) Take the dough out of the bowl, wash it, and coat it with oil. Put the dough back, cover with clingwrap, and leave to rise in a warm place for just less than an hour, until it doubles in size.
4) Preheat oven to 230 C, and either just grease two large cookie sheets, or layer them with silicone mats. DO NOT use wax paper- the pretzels will soak them and stick to them!
5) Take a medium sized pot, and add the water and bicarb. Bring to the boil.
6) Now, cut the dough up into about 16 equal pieces, each rolled out to make a 10- 15 cm rope.
7) Boil each rope in the water, by itself, for 30 seconds. Taking them out is a bit tricky, but you get the hang of it. I used the biggest spatula I could find.
8) Spread egg yolk mixture on boiled pretzels, and sprinkle with course salt.
9) Bake until they turn that gorgeous pretzel dark brown.

Because of my addiction to pickles, these pretzels were enjoyed in our home with Israeli cucumbers in brine. My absolute favourite. You might want to enjoy them with something more German?



Thursday, 10 May 2012

A French kind of Toast

Baked Creme French Toast

Happy mornings happen but twice a week. Ralph wakes up, roughly 2 hours before me. Our house is so tiny, that there's really nothing that he can do without waking me, except sit very still and be very quiet. Not only that, but when I do finally wake up- he does the best thing ever: he smiles. And sometimes he makes breakfast too. How awesome is that?! I do like to make a homely delicious breakfast though. When I'm busy in the kitchen, I feel like I'm slowing down time, extending the peace and happiness of the morning.


This was a particularly delicious morning. Weeks before I had found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen. But I never seemed to have the right ingredients around. This was the morning that everything came together- my mood, remembering to buy the ingredients, and finding the time to make the actual french toast. I should make clear how likely each of those conditions are: Very slim. This french toast is enough to convince me to make a change- with a little extra effort, we had such a happy morning.

I didn't quite do this recipe as required. I used french loaf instead of a proper white, and I had quite a bit of liquid left over. I've altered the recipe to make up for that. As usual, I don't have access to all of the correct ingredients- so I used what can get (cream instead of heavy cream, table salt instead of sea salt). Also, I didn't brulee them (which is why I use creme without brulee in the name)- I wasn't really interested, but there are instructions on how to do this in the original recipe. I'm not big on crunch, and rather enjoyed the gooey yummly things that this version created.

Baked Creme French Toast
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 french loaf
1 1/3 cups milk (I used 2%)
2/3 cup cream
4 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp orange essence
2 tsp vanilla extract

1) Slice loaf into thick 2-3 cm slices
2) Mix all ingredients except bread together in a large, deep and flat dish- but not bigger than will just fit all the bread. 
3) Preheat oven to 180 C
4) Place the bread, single layer, in the mixture to absorb. Turn over every 10 minutes or so, for about 30 minutes.
5) Now, take bread out, and place on a greased baking tray. Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on how well done you like it. I took mine out when they turned golden, and they were still soft and gooey inside.
6) Serve and enjoy. Particularly good with golden syrup, but enjoyed above with home-made strawberry jam.

I can't overestimate how much I love ooey gooey french toast.. And the only place to really have it is at home sadly, because everywhere else, it's well done, no goo allowed. I know some people like their eggs well done, but do we all have to suffer?? 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Soft Giants

Giant Soft Iced Cookies

These are just such a nice treat.. I made them around Valentines day- and the batch was so big that I really got to share the love with family, neighbors and pretty much anyone else who wanted one!


It's strange to think to back then- even though it wasn't that long ago. Things were so happy and whole.. We had this sweet happy routine and I was in a daze of smiling and cooking.. Then my gran passed away, and it's hard to remember happy pink things now. 

If you've read some of the other posts in this blog, you'll know my gran really inspired my cooking. She didn't live in South Africa, but when she visited I would get her to teach me how to cook. It's been hard trying to think about cooking and baking when I keep picturing her soft tiny hands doing the things I'm doing, the way she used to scoop flour with a normal tablespoon, her sweet velvety voice calling me endearments.. Ralph tells me this is going to get easier. And it is getting there I guess.. I'm feeling more like cooking lately, because it makes me feel less sad and rather closer to her. 

These cookies are, in my opinion, great for beginner bakers. They are simple vanilla cookies with vanilla icing, and your choice of decoration. They are difficult to ruin and real crowd pleasers. The kids ate them really easily too!



Giant Soft Cookies
From Annie's Eats and Cook Like a Champion

563 g cake flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
340 g unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large free-range eggs
5 tsp vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 180 C
2) Combine and whisk flour, baking powder and salt
3) In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until soft and fluffy.
4) Add the eggs, one at a time, each time beating until fully incorporated.
5) Add the vanilla.
6) Add the dry ingredients, and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
7) Pleace large balls of dough (about a 1/4 cup) on greased baking trays. Flatten a bit. Leave room between cookies.
8) Bake for about 10 minutes, until they start browning on the outside edge.
9) Let them cook without moving them for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.
10) Ice with buttercream icing (Made of butter, icing sugar and milk- sample recipe can be found here)
11) Sprinkle with your favourite sprinkles!

My little secret is that I don't tend to like cookies much. But these were so soft.. Like cupcakes in a cookie shape. Really simple and lovely!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Raspberries and Lemons

Raspberry Cake

I've rediscovered Smitten Kitchen.. I don't know how I didn't get completely obsessed with it before, but I'm making up for it this time. I bought a large punnet of raspberries and was looking up recipes, and I found one there. I love these kinds of cakes- I think they're called dinner cakes or everyday cakes? They're delicious and not so exciting that you can't eat them whenever.


This cake was a huge hit with grown ups! I made it on Sunday night for the office, and again on Tuesday for the family with the rest of my raspberries! The kids.. They detected the hint of lemon zest.. I still have an image of Emily scraping the cake off her tongue in my head whenever I think about this cake. Sophie ate it happily it but first picked out all the raspberries- which is where Ralph stands too. I don't know what they're talking about.. I could easily eat this entire cake myself - it's got just the right balance of sour and sweet and the top of the cake gets slightly crunchy while the inside is soft and squishy with raspberries.. And it's SO easy to make!

I didn't change the Smitten Kitchen recipe here, so I won't rewrite it. You can find it here.

This is exactly the kind of cake that that perfect pretty woman with the pouffy skirt and heels and red lipstick at home serves after supper (this is how I like to picture myself, though I'm mostly in pyjamas, barefoot and my lips tend to be covered in stolen cookie crumbs..). Because she wants to make dessert for a normal weekday supper, just because she's that awesome :-).

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Spaghetti Monsters

Pasta in Viennas for Kids

I've missed this blog!! I've been away for almost 3 months now? Wow it's been a long 3 months. But before we get to that, let's talk about Sophie. Sophie is a picky eater, and a picky everything else. Her being one of my favourite people in the whole world though, I'm determined to please. I wanna say these did the trick.. In all honesty, she did say 'yuck' between bites- but she finished it all!


And yes, this is super fancy kiddies food. You can see tomato sauce, mayonnaise AND the mysterious pink sauce there.  Haute cuisine indeed.


The past 3 months have been the most eventful of my whole life. Funnily the best and worst days of my life have occurred within a month of each other. Let's start with the best? OK! On Valentines Day, after   the best day EVER -  Ralph asked me to marry him!! Of course I said yes :-) and have since been dreamily planning our wonderful day. In about a year, Ralph will become Mr. Kitchen Treats!!

I've been cooking and baking since, but I think I just couldn't find the time to photograph and document it all. I'm back though- and excited!!

Pasta in Viennas for Kids

1-2 Viennas (I got nice German viennas from a butchery- and they went down well!)
package of dry spaghetti

1) Slice the viennas into chunks 1-1.5 cm each.
2) Break the spaghetti strands so that they will fit in your pot. Stick spaghetti through the vienna chunks- about 5- 8 per piece.
3) Cook as until spaghetti is tender.
4) Serve with dipping sauce.


I noticed that letting Sophie cook with me seemed to encourage her to eat the result. I love that cooking gave her some confidence with food!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Raindrops on Roses

Fondant Roses on Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

I wanted to make something absolutely decadent cupcakes for my dancing girls. They are gorgeous inside and out, and I wanted the cupcakes to be as well.


The real reason for the cupcakes was that it was Sarah's birthday. She's one of the girls that has been dancing with me for years now and has reached that status in my heart the demands feeding with delicious treats.


It was also a good time for me to practice making fondant roses. 


The cupcakes were supposed to be chocolate fudge, and I don't really think they were. However, they were chocolatey and delicious so I'm happy!

Chocolate Cupcakes

120 g dark chocolate (I used Bournville)
250 g butter
125 g cake flour
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence

1) Preheat oven to 165 C. Line two muffin tins with paper liners. You won't need all the holes in the second tin, but you can play it by ear.
2) Place a heatproof bowl on top of lightly boiling water. Put the chocolate and butter in the bowl, and allow them to melt. Then take them off the heat and allow to cool to lukewarm.
3) Put flour and sugar into a bowl, and whisk to air and combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat throughly. Stir in the chocolate and butter, and vanilla.
4) Pour into muffin pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes until shiny on top.

They were lovely, but I'm still on the hunt for like crazy chocolate fudgey cupcakes. I'm looking for something soft and gooey and just irresistibly moreish. Let me if you have any ideas!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Croquemsmoosh

Profiteroles

My little everest.. This is only my second time trying these, but I can see thousands more to come. It's a niggle in the back of my mind planning planning planning what I'll do differently next time and what I want to try. I want to make all the different variations of the dough, I want to try custard and cream fillings and I want to try toffee, caramel and all different kinds of chocolate on top.


These are my special something. I first tried to make them for my wonderful Ani's birthday. This is a BIG celebration for us. We always have a get-together, and we all exchange gifts- it's like our own little Christmas. Celebrating Ani with all her rawr and smoochability. Of course, the dish was a complete disaster- my profiteroles didn't rise in the oven! So instead I broke them into little pieces, mixed them with custard, and added the toffee to make one big pudding. Pretty? Not. But amazingly, tingglingly, lip-lickingly, eye-closingly, heard-poundingly, scrumptious? I've had to hire a sky writer to write "YES" in big enough letters.


One of the things I thought of when first making these was that Ane (the custard guzzling thing) would love LOVE LOVE these. I've waited for over a month to make these for her- and finally I had my chance. This time, my profiteroles rose beautifully, the custard was a velvety creamy caramel- like one would describe how Halle Berry looks? The toffee was sticky and super sweet. I actually found this combination really overpoweringly sweet (the toffee would keep kids up all night)- but Ane, the dessert superhero- absolutely loved it. I kept meaning to take photos of her eating these, but completely forgot when we actually sat down to eat- really kicking myself now..


Nigella's Profiteroles
From How To Be A Domestic Goddess

Profiteroles:

350 ml water
150f unsalted butter, in chunks
pinch of salt
200 g cake flour
4 large eggs

1) Preheat oven to 200 C, and line 2 baking sheets with wax paper, silicone or whatever you use.
2) Put water, butter and salt in a saucepan, and heat on medium until the water is almost boiling and butter has melted. While it's heating up, sieve the flour into a bowl.
3) Pour the mixture into the flour, and whisk in energetically.
4) Pour mixture back into the saucepan, and stir on the heat until the dough is nice and smooth, forming a ball and coming away from the sides.
5) Transfer the dough to a bowl, and now beat in the eggs one by one using your dough hook attachment. VERY IMPORTANT: You have to beat the steam out of the dough- I recommend using and electric beater.
6) Put the mixture, which should be pipeable but a bit firm, into a piping bag, and pipe drops onto the baking pans. The should be the side of half an egg.
7) Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden and crisp.
8) When you take them out of the oven, make sure to prick all of them to let the steam out. Put on the cooling rack to cool.

Custard:

250 ml milk
250 ml cream
6 large egg yolks
100g castor sugar
30g cake flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tblspn caster sugar
2 tsp water

1) Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan.
2) In the meantime, beat the eggs with the sugar until creamy then add the flour.
3) Add the heated cream mixture to the egg mixture, pour into your saucepan, and heat gently while stirring until it thickens. Add the vanilla extract and set aside.
4) Mix the sugar and water in a non-stick pan, and heat on high heat until the sugar turns brown.
5) Whilst whisking the cream mixture continuously, add the caramel to the mixture.
6) Leave this to cool. Once the profiteroles and custard are cool, cut round holes in the profiteroles bottoms, and pipe in the custard- don't be shy- more custard = more delicion!

Toffee:

6 tblsp Muscovado sugar
4 tblsp castor sugar
100g unsalted butter
300g golden syrup
4 tblspn cream

1) Put all the ingredients except the cream into a saucepan, bring to the boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.
2) Use about half the sauce to pour over the profiteroles while building a tower- it's so sticky that it does wonders for stablity.
3) Mix cream with the leftover sauce, to serve on the side.

Next time- same custard (am in LOVE with it) but maybe a chocolate ganache topping!!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Adventures with Paprika and a Veggie Treat

Goulash with Cous Cous and Baby Marrow Fritters

I've been trying to play with my schedule to get in some good cooking time. It looks like Tuesdays are working the best right now, and this last Tuesday, as Ralph was working late, I thought I would take on a proper Goulash, and try to make a healthy and delicious side.


I found a good looking Goulash here- now, I know MANY cooks really don't like allrecipes. But I've always taken care to read the comments and take them into account, and I haven't had a flop yet.

As for the baby marrow fritters, I've fallen in love with Smitten Kitchen (again) thanks to a colleague mentioning it recently. These fitters were lovely- not too veggie-like, just naughty enough to pass for healthy while still tasting doughy and scrumptious.

If you read this blog- you'll have noticed that I use the word 'home' quite often. I can't emphasise enough how much that means to me. Especially now. I'm SO in love with our house. It's happy, and beautiful, and it gets better every day. This weekend I planted some flowers in the garden, and I can't wait to see how they turn out once they're nice and settled. 

Part of really making this house a home for me is baking and cooking just as much as possible. I feel like every meal makes this house a home. This one was more special than some. It was this typical home-style lovely spicy stew, which the cous cous soaked up, and the baby marrow refreshed to keep from being overbearing.

Ralph and I both LOVED this, and I shared some with a colleague of mine, who also just loved it- he was biased though- I have found that supper leftovers are an easy winner for people away from home on business trips. It's a definite dish I'm going to make in winter!

One small note though- they dish calls for Hungarian paprika, which I happened to have. However, mine wasn't sweet, and so the final dish was quite spicy. It worked out great for us- we love spicy food. But it might be a problem for others, so either use less paprika, or make sure you have the sweet variety.

Hungarian Goulash

30 ml olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tblsp Hungarian paprika
1/2 tblsp salt
pinch black pepper
500 g goulash meat
70/80 g tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 clove garlic

1) In a medium saucepan, fry onions in oil until translucent.
2) Combine paprika, salt and pepper in a bowl, and toss the beef in it. Add the beef to the pot, and brown on all sides.
3) Add remaining ingredients to the pot. Stir, put the heat on low, and simmer for about 2 hours, or until beef is tender. Add salt to taste.

Baby Marrow Fritters

500 g baby marrow
1 tsp salt
1 extra-large free-range egg
black pepper
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Olive oil for frying

1) Preheat oven to 180 C
2) Grate baby marrow into the thinnest strips your grater allows. Mix with salt, and set aside for about 10 minutes. Now, squeeze out as much juice as you can.
3) Now, put the marrow in a bowl, add a little bit of salt. Add the pepper and the egg and mix in.
4) Mix the flour and the baking powder in a separate bowl and mix together. Then mix into marrow mixture.
5) Fry small lumps of mixture on medium heat, flattening with a fork when you put them on. Fry until golden on both sides.


6) Finally, when they're done, put them on a kitchen towel to dry, then put them on an oven try and into the oven for about 10 minutes. They will finish cooking and get nice and crispy.

It was all worth it when Ralph said "This is a proper home-cooked meal" - I mean, there simply isn't another reason why I do this. Now, onto my next project...

Monday, 30 January 2012

The leaning tower of deliciousness

Celebration Cake

So I've been dabbling a bit in decorating.. I've made a few cakes now,  and some of them have even not been that bad! My latest cake was one for work. Two of our finance engineers (Yay Katie and Dan!!) have recently passed some pretty tough exams and their manager wanted to have a celebration cake for them. I was beyond gleeful when he asked me to make it.


It's.. What?! Leaning?!! No- it's most definitely not. Don't you think I would NOTICE if it was leaning? I'll show you leaning!!

OK- it's leaning.. I'll call off my guys.. In the end, I think it was the lack of refrigeration that got me. You see, when you first make the cake, you freeze it. Freezing makes working with it easier, as there are less crumbs and less likelihood of breaking. But, once the cake is put together, it defrosts. I do put in some infrastructure to keep it upright, but sadly, because red velvet cake is oh so soft and gentle, the infrastructure moved around. Something to keep in mind for next time.

Let's talk about the bow though! I read the article on making a bow here and I just had to try it. It looked fantastic! I also used the Cake Boss website for another reference- and I liked that they made the bow with upright and sideways pieces. The construction starts off pretty easy. I wanted it to reach to the very edge, so I measured the diameter of my cake, halved it, and added a centimeter for the loop. I then made loops that were 2 centimeters wide, and the calculated length long. I needed to put them on something to keep the loop, and I found some shot glasses! I used largeish ones- the small ones won't be big enough to make a pretty loop.


I made about 22 loops- I used ALL of them, I recommend making a few more to be safe. I also made some stars on wire. These I used at the very last minute for decorating the cake.


Two days later, I made some royal icing and stick the loops together- taking care to make some upright and some on their sides so that the bow looks nice and messy!


This also has to dry for quite a while, until it's solid. And.. That's it! Be VERY careful when putting it on the cake! I broke a couple of loops this way..

Lemme skip to my favourite part? The cake!!! It was magnificent.. The freezing really doesn't affect the cake at all- just be sure not to freeze them on top of each other! It was irresistible: gentle and sweet. Just lovely. I was SO happy that they wanted a Red Velvet cake with white chocolate icing- it's my favourite!


Is that just GORGEOUS?? I want to just take handfuls of it and rub it on my face..

I should make a quick note- Ralph and I are in a teeny tiny little place at the moment, and this cake took up most of it. Not only did Ralph not mind- he REALLY helped me with putting decorations on the cake- the most tedious part, AND he drove me to work the next morning so that I could try to make sure the cake stayed in one piece. And.. It almost didn't! But we made it :-) Thank you thank you!!

Next time- I'll need to figure out how to refrigerate. I would change almost nothing else. If I can dry the bow in an air conditioned room- I would definitely go for that, as mine was very soft and difficult to work with.