cooking

SUNDAY / 19

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Have I got a story for you! Or a recipe, anyway. Well, some vague instructions since I adapted the whole thing from two recipes and the memory of some muffins I made a few years ago. I got the new Nigella book from a friend for my birthday, and was taken by a sweet sounding pumpkin bundt cake - and it's autumn, so you know, the season for that kind of thing. But I don't have a bundt tin, and without the bundt it's just a pretty plain cake. So I adapted it with a streusel recipe I had, so it would be softer, and added a pecan crumble to the top because I just felt like it needed it. That and some extra ginger and nutmeg to give it a kick. And an orange zest / juice syrup at the last minute. It was quite something.  

After a morning of yoga and a late breakfast, I pulled this out of the oven just after 12 and made a pot of Monk Pear and spent the afternoon researching NYC, LA and Mexico for October.

INGREDIENTS

* 300g brown sugar
* 125 ml of vegetable oil
* zest and juice of half an orange
* 3 eggs
* 1.5 cups of pureed pumpkin
* 400g plain flour
* 2 teaspoons of bicarb soda
* 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
* half a teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice
* 40g of butter
* three tablespoons each of flour and brown sugar
* handful of pecans, diced
* juice of half an orange
* half a cup of icing sugar

METHOD

Lightly grease and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Steam and puree the pumpkin and while it's cooling, mix together the brown sugar, the orange zest and juice and the eggs. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, bicarb soda and the spices (instead of sifting, I use a whisk to break up the clods). Once the pumpkin has cooled, add it to the wet ingredients and beat softly until combined, then slowly add the flour until the whole thing is smooth and creamy (don't over mix). It makes a fairly wet batter, and there's quite a bit there so make sure you use a full sized tin.

In a small bowl, mix together the last of the flour and brown sugar and rub the butter in till you get a crumble, then add in the diced pecans. 

Pour the batter into the tin, add the crumble to the top and bake at 180 celsius for about 40 minutes, checking at 20 and 30 to make sure it's browning evenly. Mine rose quite a bit and took an extra ten minutes to firm up all the way through the middle. 

Once it is cooked through, allow it to cool on a wire rack while you mix together the last of the orange juice and some icing sugar - drizzle over the top of the crumble* and serve with tea. Happy Sunday folks!   

* I know what you're saying - drizzle cake or crumble, make up your mind Meg! But dammed if you can ever have too much of a good thing when it comes to cake. 

YEAR THREE.

YEAR TWO.

YEAR ONE. 
 

MONDAY + TUESDAY

I started my week in the kitchen.

On Monday I thought the cold weather was all too much so came straight home from work and poached a few pears in vanilla, cinnamon, star anise and cloves. The house smelt like Christmas, so toasty and warm. I used Mark's recipe, but cut the (brown) sugar by half and added the other spices. My friend D and I have a Porridge Club at work (which is really just us making porridge first thing in the morning - and actually just I call it Porridge Club, he calls it breakfast). Anyway, these pears were so good I have officially declared myself Queen of Porridge Club.

On Tuesday I had friends over for dinner and made the most amazing molasses ginger cake. I'd saved it from the paper and pinned it to the fridge a few weeks ago just knowing it would be good (now online here). The golden syrup, the brown sugar, the cloves and ALL THE GINGER. I probably went a bit far with the ginger because I love it so much, but this cake was all the better for it. It was one of the best I've made (and I have made a lot of cakes). I'm already thinking about when I can make it again, and suspect it will be one of those cakes I make for the rest of my life.

And because you can't serve your friends just cake (or even just cake and wine), I also grilled some chicken and made a beautiful winter salad from Ostro. Another one I will be looking to make again, and soon - I loved the sweet beetroot, the walnuts, the lemony greens and hearty lentils. Just right for a rainy night in with a bottle of red.

That's a good Monday, a good Tuesday.

* Image, B Chaet

SUNDAY / 23

20140629-165515-60915886.jpgThe nice thing about waking early yesterday and running around like a madwoman trying to do all my chores before 11 AM, is that it meant I got to take today slow. Bed till 8, breakfast with the paper (egg and kale and feta on sourdough), and then a pot of tea at my friend's beautiful table in her sunny kitchen. She even had Monk Pear, which those who know me will know is my very favourite of all the teas. Granola was the order of the day and we hit up the wholefoods in Balmain for exactly $4.25 of supplies, then back to hers to mix and bake. We went for rolled oats, a big heap of shredded coconut, dried apricots, cranberries and blueberries, walnuts and pecans, a little linseed and chia, and I think some pepitas and sesames. We followed SCB's lead and baked it off with a mix of brown rice syrup and honey and a dash of cinnamon. And coming in from the garden (after I'd taken a few cuttings from her pots), the kitchen smelt like heaven. Sweet, fruity, jump-out-of-bed-for-a-crunchy-bowl-of-granola heaven.

I think it's going to be a good week.

LAST YEAR.

PEAR AND BURNT-BUTTER DREAMS

20140507-234521.jpg Or, 'the one where it becomes apparent that I've just learnt all about burnt-butter and feel the need to put it in everything'.

I mean, obviously I knew about burnt-butter before (the gnocchi and sage combination is one of the best), but of late, the idea of burning it back and cooking off all that water (water! ha! who needs water in their cake anyway!) is all I can think about - so it's just nutty brown, speckled, flavoursome oozy butter that will kick-start your sweets like nothing else. From last month's donuts, to this little dream, the burnt-butter has not let me down.

I am sorry to say that  can't tell you where I found the recipe (what a dill), but I do remember that it was taken then adapted from Heidi's Super Natural Everyday with what I had in my pantry. It's a book I've been wanting to buy for a while, and the origins of this delight might now be my official excuse. Plenty more good where that came from, methinks...

INGREDIENTS

* 1.5 cups of plain flour * 1 cup of spelt flour * 1 tablespoon of baking powder * ½ a teaspoon of ground ginger * ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon * ¼ of a teaspoon of all-spice * ½ a cup of brown sugar * ½ a teaspoon of salt * 2 eggs * 1 cup of buttermilk * ¼ of a cup of butter, melted until brown and cooled (see here for how-to) * zest of ½ a lemon * 1 medium-sized pear, grated

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180c and grease and line a tin.

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, all-spice, sugar and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and the buttermilk, then slowly add in the melted butter, the lemon zest and the grated pear. Pour the wet mixture over the flour mixture and stir until just combined (best not to over-mix).

Bake for 40-60 minutes or until cake is golden brown and a knife comes out clean (or, in my case, a small screwdriver that you found in the second drawer and have never actually used as a screwdriver)(in my defence, it is as narrow as a tooth-pick so rather more dainty to pierce the cake with that a big old knife).

I made this a couple of weeks ago, when my family was in town. I was lucky enough to have Daisy as my wooden spoon sidekick and chief bowl-licker and we were both of us very happy with our work. I think this one will be in high-rotation over winter - so soft (the buttermilk), warming (the ginger and all-spice) and fruity (the pear). Just right with a pot of Earl Grey or Orange Pekoe, in case you have the kettle on.

BAKING MY WAY TO HEALTH

20140404-081607.jpg Last week, when I thought I was on the mend from this cold and cough, I decided to venture down to the kitchen and do the one thing that always makes me feel better: BAKE. The bad news is I wasn't on the mend at all - one week, two doctors visits, a secondary respiratory infection and a dose of antibiotics later, I'm feeling much better (as my friend Sean says, 'better living through science'). And the good news about the whole business is that the scones I made were amazing, and might just be my new favourite thing to have with tea.

I hadn't really wanted to leave the house, so decided to wing it and pull together a batch of warm, sugary goodness with the bits and pieces I had to hand. Tola and I are pretty good at making sure we always have the basics well stocked; flour, sugar, butter, eggs. I browsed through a few bookmarks I keep on hand for just such an occasion, and thought Heidi's wholewheat blackberry ricotta scones were as wonderful a place as any to start. Well, it turns out they were from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook I got the Christmas before last (thanks Jordy). And while I didn't have blackberries, or ricotta, I knew I had frozen raspberries and some buttermilk, so this is kind of how things worked out...

INGREDIENTS * 1 cup of plain flour * 1 cup of spelt flour (I use Bob's Red Mill, so gloriously available in Australia now) * 1 tablespoon of baking powder * 1/4 cup of brown sugar * 75 grams of unsalted butter, grated (or chopped into small pieces) *  1 cup of buttermilk * 1 tablespoon of maple syrup * ground nutmeg * 1 cup or so of frozen raspberries

METHOD Pre-heat the oven to 180 and line a tray with baking paper. Start by mixing the two flours, then add the baking powder and sugar and stir till everything is nicely combined. Use a box-grater to grate in the cold butter in, straight from the fridge. This is the easiest way I know to make a nice crumb without using a food processor. Then, using your fingers, rub the butter into the mixture till the batch feels pretty even, and it resembles course breadcrumbs. Add in the buttermilk, the maple syrup and a little nutmeg and mix together with a wooden spoon. You may need to add a little more buttermilk - you don't want the batter too wet as you are going to roll it out on the counter, but you also want to make sure the scones are nice and moist.

Lightly flour the surface of the bench and cover the batter in a little more flour, enough to allow you to easily stretch it out into a 1 inch thick round. You can then use a biscuit cutter or glass to make round scones, or, as I did, just slice the round into six equal wedges. This is the American style, so you have lovely big triangles of scone, and I have to say, I don't mind it at all.

* Inspired by Heidi making Deb's scones.

HOMEMADE SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE

20131107-212052.jpgSo, yeah. This is a must. I'm not going to lie to you, this is without question the best thing that has ever happened in any kitchen of mine involving butter, brown sugar and cream. Last Sunday was a usual day of quiet that happened to end with a glorious dinner for twelve. One of Tola's signature roasts with three chooks, mountains of sweet potato and pumpkin, a beetroot and pear salad with fresh mint and soft-as-chalk feta, brussel sprouts all warm and sweet with balsamic and honey, rather too many bottles of red and - to follow - my first foray into homemade caramel.

I used Stephanie's lovely 3191 recipe because I defer to her in all matters, and also it was about the only recipe that didn't necessitate a cooking thermometer. And glory be, if I knew things were this easy I'd have done so years ago and never looked back (and probably never fit into my shorty shorts, but there you have it). I skipped the cardamom, as we served our friends a kind of vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, crumbly peanut, banana sundae thing, but I think it would otherwise be a lovely addition.

INGREDIENTS: * 1/4 cup of heavy cream * 4 tablespoons of butter, roughly chopped * 1/2 cup of firmly packed brown sugar * 1/2 a vanilla bean * a generous pinch of salt (I used Maldon's)

METHOD Mix the vanilla bean and cream in the base of a small pot, then add the butter and brown sugar and heat over a medium to high flame until the butter has melted and the sides of the pot are bubbling along nicely. Reduce the heat to its lowest and simmer, uncovered, for five minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add in the salt (you might like a little more, for a kick - but please do go slow to start with). I let mine cool a few minutes before pouring over ice cream and spoiling my friends with.

* IMPORTANT NOTE: Is this picture taken in glary overhead lights at nightime using my phone, I hear you ask? Yes. Do I have a lovely camera that I spent good money on that would produce much better pictures than this? Obviously. Have I currently misplaced the charger for it following my move? Maybe. Is this completely forgivable since it is the fourth time I've moved in 12 months and sometimes you just need to worry about more important things like washing your hair and reading the paper? I couldn't agree more...

BAKED GOODS

APPLEOne of the things that I like to do, and do often, is bake. It calms me and gives me an hour or two to myself to listen to music, listen to stories, or listen to my thoughts as they jump all over the place, my arms dusty with flour and a terrible tendency to use all the bowls and far too many spoons to pull together a plain old cake or pie. Spending my lunch hour today longing for the best ever apple and walnut biscuits, the blueberry crumble I've made 100 times, the strawberry cake that changed my life or near anything with ginger was probably not a very good use of my time. I haven't had a chance to bake since a pavlova for a friend's picnic two weeks ago, so hoping I find some time this week. Those are favourites I come back to often, and for good reason, though it might be nice to try something different. I have a Pinterest board that I use to keep track of all the sweet things that take my fancy.

I'm thinking the Sprouted Kitchen Hearty Apple Loaf (above) might be on the cards. I love Sara and Hugh's recipes, so have high hopes. I also found two new sites via a special looking raspberry and walnut tart with cacao nibs, and some very more-ish caramel banana bread.RASPBERRYCARAMEL

POUND CAKE

20130804-202619.jpgAgain with the  cake. Again on a Tuesday, as it happens. I don't quite know what came over me, but sitting at my desk at work, just after five, writing a list of what vegetables I needed to pick up for dinner, I found myself adding ingredients like 'cream cheese' and 'sugar' and 'dark chocolate'. Evidently I'd been spending far too much time over at Joy the Baker (again). Good thing I had too, because this cake took my week from normal to just lovely.

The recipe was an easy one, and I loved Joy's idea to flavour the sugar with the orange zest, instead of just throwing them both in the mix. I used a bowl to rub in the zest and infuse the whole pile of sugar, and have to say my hands and the kitchen smelt like sunshine (if that is even a thing). I'll definitely be using this technique again, and may even modify the recipe with greek yoghurt in place of the cream cheese, and leave out the chocolate, for a dense and zesty tea cake. Anything to get more of that zesty sugar in my life.

NOTE: I do think you need a Kitchen Aid or some kind of electric mixer for this one, to get the best blend out of the cream cheese and butter, and to give the volume to the eggs as you go.

INGREDIENTS * 2 cups of plain flour * 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder * 1/2 a teaspoon of salt * 1/2 cups of white sugar * zest of one orange * 220 grams of cream cheese (I most certainly did not use low-fat) * 175 grams of butter * 4 eggs * 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence * 1 cup of dark chocolate pieces

METHOD Pre-heat the oven to 180 or so and lightly grease and line a loaf tin. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Use another good sized bowl to blend in the zest and the sugar with the back of a spoon. I took my time with this step - mostly to make sure there was an even mix of zest and sugar - so the colour and flavour were alive throughout - but also because it smelt so damn lovely.

Using the paddle attachment on your mixer, beat the cream cheese and the just-softened butter for a few minutes. It takes a while for them to combine nicely, as they're both so thick. Add in the zesty sugar mixture and continue beating. With the setting down a little lower, add one egg at a time, waiting till each is thoroughly mixed before adding the next. Include the vanilla essence with the last egg and scrape down the sides of the bowl a little before beating for another minute. Add the dry ingredients all at once and allow to combine before folding in the dark chocolate.

The batter is lovely and thick, and will rise beautifully with all those hard-beaten eggs. Pour into the cake tin and bake for a good 50 minutes (depending on your oven). I always prefer to go low and slow, and add a little foil to the top if it is browning too early.

It's a golden, delicious cake that sure added some sunshine to my working week.

 

GOOEY ST LOUIS

20130716-215255.jpgThis is not how my standard Tuesday night looks. Tuesdays for me are usually all about grey marle track pants and an episode of Law and Order if there's any going. But this week, THIS WEEK, I dreamed big and baked up a variation of the Gooey St Louis butter cake I went mad for last year (so mad I made it three times in one month)(which is pretty mad, when you consider the ingredients). Deb had made a few changes to the recipe for her Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, which I very graciously and hungrily got for Christmas, and I had been meaning to give it a try. In the interest of research, of course. This version is more of a cake batter as it doesn't use yeast, and the addition of cinnamon - which got all caramelly and creme-brulee-like on top - was a delight. My house smelt like love.

It's a little busy with all the dishes, and uses far too much sugar than is good for you, but I wouldn't change a thing. I'd note that my oven runs quite hot, mostly just at the base, so it can easily be over-cooked. And this is a big issue - the charm of the Gooey St Louis is in the gooey. It feels wrong to get it out when the top layer is all a-wobble, just lightly set on the surface, but make sure you do. If overcooked the base dries out and you lose all the joy of the gooey part, till it's just plain old cake. Remember that it will set as it cools, so you really just want a little depth or firmness at the sides, and a whole lot of soft batter in the middle.

I took it to work to share for a pot-luck lunch and it didn't last the day. Which is to be expected, really...

Adapted (very vaguely) from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

INGREDIENTS (BASE) * 115 grams of butter (soft) * 1 1/2 cups of flour * 1 teaspoon of baking powder * 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda * 1/4 teaspoon of salt * 3/4 cup of white sugar * 1 egg * 1/4 cup of milk (GOOEY BIT) * 1/4 cup of maple syrup * 1/4 cup of heavy cream * 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract (though I used essence - I'd ran out of the good stuff) * 170 grams of butter (soft) * 1 cup of white sugar * 1/4 teaspoon of salt * 1 egg * 1 1/4 cups of flour (TOPPING BIT) * 1 tablespoon of white sugar * 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

METHOD Preheat the oven to 180 and grease and line a large baking dish. You will need a little height on the dish and a rectangle is the best for cutting once it's baked.

To make the base, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl (or an electric mixer if you play like that), mix together the soft butter and sugar with a whisk until they are light and fluffy. Add the egg and milk to the mixture and beat until combined. Then add in the dry ingredients and beat for a further few minutes until the mixture is thick and even. Pour into the baking dish and spread to the edges (the batter is quite thick and sticky).

Next, mix together the maple, cream and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside. In a bowl (or that fancy mixer), beat together the butter and sugar for the gooey layer and then pause. Take a moment to appreciate just how much butter and just how much sugar you are about to ingest. Be grateful for the chance to indulge so widely and gooey-ly, then beat in the egg and the salt. Once it feels rich and even, slowly add part of the flour and part of the creamy maple mix, stir some more, and repeat until everything is just combined. Dollop over the base and spread out to the edges of the dish with the back of a spoon.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the gooey layer in the baking dish. This makes for the caramel / creme-brulee-like business.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, keeping your eye on the oven the whole dang time. If needs be, turn it down a little to make sure you get the base cooked without the top drying out. Once golden, allow it to cool for at least ten minutes before serving. It's lovely warm, but will be a runny mess if you try to share it straight out of the oven. Have a little patience and, if you like, a little cream on hand to cut the richness that is the GOOEY ST LOUIS.

SUNDAY / 24

20130707-121858.jpgGosh, anyone would think I'm hiding myself away in the kitchen with these last few SUNDAY posts. All kinds of baking and then, this morning, pickling. I loved the idea of sweet and salty pickles and had a spare hour or so to pull it together. I'm using Deb's simple and beautifully coloured recipe - just vinegar, sugar, salt and mustard seeds. And I went with cauliflower, snow peas, yellow capsicum, carrot and, of course, radishes.

They're in the fridge now, getting good and pickled and ready to go with some sticky ribs for dinner. Sundays are nice like that.