Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Anti-Snob

I am not afraid to admit to liking and using store brought cake mixes. The convenience of them can't be argued. I also like them for the fact that they are great confidence boosters for beginning bakers as they are virtually fool proof.

Along with the required fat, liquid and eggs I always add a few other goodies to packet mix cakes. A very liberal dash of vanilla, buttermilk instead of milk, grated chocolate or chocolate bits.

A friend swears by adding raspberry lollies to store brought white cake mix.

Store brought cake mixes are terrific time savers too. Last weekend was hectic what with catching up with work friends, wedding dress shopping, a cousin's 30th and 'helping' the fiance write job applications. Sunday evening rolled around and I still needed to bake a cake for a colleague's birthday.
Thank goodness for packet cake mixes and store brought icing.
I love vanilla essence. Of course a second drop was added just before I poured the cake batter into the baking pan.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

When a pasta lover meats their match

I could eat pasta for breakfast, lunch and tea. Every single day of the day. No joke. The fiance lives for meat. He devours steak. He craves beef. A BBQ sans the salad is his idea of a good eat. I think I've finally found a compromise. Spaghetti Bolognaise.
Recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly Italian Cooking Class Cookbook.
725grams of mince beef (as lean as you can get)
1 large onion
2 tablespoons of olive oil
400grams of peeled canned tomatoes
4 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 chicken stock cubes
basil, thyme, salt, pepper
4 cups of water (I only added about 2 cups)
pinch of white sugar (A trick that both my Nonna and mother use when making their traditional pasta sauce)
red wine
Peel and chop onion finely. Cook in heated oil until onion is golden.
Add the mince, cook well. Pour off any excess fat.
Add canned tomotoes with their liquid. I add the water element via the empty cans to ensure I get all the tomato juice out. Add in the pinch of white sugar. Add tomato paste, chicken stock cubes, herbs, salt, pepper and red wine to taste.
When sauce comes to the boil, reduce heat and cook very gently for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, uncovered or until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.
Spoon sauce over hot pasta. Top (or drench) with parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Back to Basics - Butter Cake

For Bastille Day last week I wanted to bake a French version of the rainbow cake using red and blue food colouring. I started pouring over my cookbooks but couldn't seem to find a simple butter cake to use as the base. As conincidence would have it one of my favourite blogs Smitten Kitchen, had just posted a yellow cake recipe. Perfect!
My baking in honour of Bastille Day got a little lost in translation though. My fancy rainbow cake full of French meaning somehow morphed into a traditional butter cake smothered in my new favourite chocolate icing and topped with pink marshmallows.
Recipe from here.
I really like this recipe. It calls for both cake flour and buttermilk, always a good sign in my experience.

Butter and sugar compliment each other so nicely.

Adding the eggs. One at at time of course!

The cake waiting to be dressed.

The dressed cake

The eaten cake.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Embarrassing Travels on a Tuesday

Image found here

I’m a little late with last week’s blog tour post.
‘Tell a funny story about yourself’ is the post topic. The funniest story about myself involves both travelling and food (two of the five loves of my life) with a mortifyingly embarrassing end.

I love donuts and had wanted to try Dunkin Donuts from the minute I first caught a glimpse of one of their shops in Berlin while travelling there in June 2004. Sadly I was travelling with a super-budget-conscious boyfriend and a super-diet-conscious sister. I had to endure five days of passing numerous Dunkin Donuts’ outlets around Berlin until I threw caution to the wind and purchased two from Zoo station on our way to Weimer. Yes I ate both donuts and no, that is not the funny part of the story.

We arrive in Weimer, head to our hostel and find our three beds in a dormitory filled with German high school drama students. The rest of the day was a normal day in the life of a traveller, exploring Weimer while trying to spend as little money as possible.

Eventually we head back to the hostel to call it a night. I had the top bunk, my sister the bottom bunk and the boyfriend had a bunk on the other side of our dorm room. I go to hop up on my bunk bed and instead of settling into my sleeping bag I fall straight through the bed. The slats of my top bunk had become dislodged from their railing and I landed on my sister’s bunk below. I found myself entangled in slats and my sleeping bag with the mattress jamming me against the wall.
The hysterically high pitched laughter from my sister and boyfriend gained the attention of the German high school students who joined in with finger pointing, exclamations in German and yet more laughter. I too admit that I was also laughing at myself while being extremely embarrassed. The worst part was that I couldn’t pull myself out of the broken bed without someone’s help. I was stuck. My Australian and German rescue squads were too busy dying of laughter to assist me.

As my sister eventually helped me out of what remained of my bunk bed, she very seriously said to me, “I guess you won’t be eating Dunkin Donuts again.”

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fresh biscuits...straight from the fridge

This recipe was one of the very first 'blog' recipes that I tried to bake back in early 2008. I found it from this blog and I was fascinated by the concept of setting a biscuit mix in the fridge before proceeding to the baking stage.

These biscuits are rich in chocolate goodness but not too sickly sweet. Which means you can stuff as many of them into your stomach as will fit. A very dangerous situation for a biscuit obssessive like myself.
Next time I make them I'm going to roll the uncooked biscuit mixture in silver balls.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rain means mud pies

In my childhood it certainly did. My sister and I enjoyed nothing more than heading outside with our two cousins to make mud pies after a good downpour.
I remember how we would carefully line up the 'pies' along the edge of our sandpit. We'd sprinkle golden sand onto the 'drying pies' as a decoration. Sometimes we'd get extra creative and put leaves or twigs on top of the mud pies.
It has been raining here.
A lot.
Which is fantastic because we need the rain desperately in this desert state of Australia.
It has left me wondering. Now that I'm an adult, why should I miss out on the rain bringing me some mud pies?
So I decided to bake a Mississippi Mud Pie. The recipe is from here.
I wanted to make my own pastry so I went with the first recipe. The recipe was great except for the fact that in the filling it did not list butter as an ingredient but made mention of melting butter when giving the directions for preparing the filling. That will teach me for not reading through a recipe properly before I commence my baking! So I decided to just add in 100 grams of butter and hope for the best. It worked a treat.
This pie is a slice of heaven.
I compared it to eating the sauce from a chocolate pudding that has gone cold and set.
Super chocolatey and super sugary.
The hint of extra sweetness that comes from the golden syrup (which I substituted for the corn syrup) gives it that extra little kick. Mmmm. The pastry is pretty tough to cut through though. Perhaps I need better knives.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A tart with heart

My first trip outside of England in 2004 was to Paris.
For Valentine's Day.

Anyone who knows the future Mr High Heeled-Backpack would laugh at the idea of him and such a romantic gesture.
To be honest, neither of us are at all soppy romantics.
The timing of the trip owes more to the English school year.
Valentine's Day in the UK tends to coincide with the first half term break of the year.
So we took the opportunity to head to Paris.
I'm so glad we did or else I may never have had the chance to eat strawberry tart featured below:

How fabulous is this little box? It makes my heart melt with happiness.

I love that the tart is so stuffed with strawberries and glaze that it is almost too big for the box. You can see where the top of the box is meeting the strawberries.

Look at that gorgeous pastry and shiny glaze. How could you not give your heart to this tart on Valentine's Day?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Why wasn’t 25 March 2008 eventful?

Before finding my 2008 diary
Without digging through my belongings to find my 2008 diary I have no way of knowing what joys, stresses or thoughts were my life on the 25 March 2008. I can make a few random guesses though:

I was unhappy with my job
I was studying
I was looking for a new job
I was stressed about studying
I was stressed about looking for a new job

I am a big stress-head. I also have the tendency to over think things. My DNA is comprised of worry genes, panic merchant genes and ‘but what if this happens’ genes. I am 100% sure that there would have been many things that I was worried about on 25 March 2008. The simple fact that twelve months later I can’t clearly remember the specifics of any of these worries is proof that I need to work on de-stressing myself and managing what life throws at me without a drama.

After finding and reading my 2008 diary
The entry for 25 March 2008 shows that my first uni assignment was due that day.

My first uni assignment for 2008 caused me great stress at the time. Interesting how over twelve months later I have no recollection (without prompt) of the stress I would have put myself under that week. This realisation demonstrates that the daily issues that cause me great stress, that make me snap at my nearest and dearest, that aggravate me, that inflame my insomnia, that form knots in my stomach need not be so debilitating.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The mysteries of unwinding on a Sunday evening

Nothing beats Chocolate pudding on a wintry Sunday night.

I can't seem to enjoy my Sunday night wind-down routine without a British murder mystery on the ABC. Four weeks ago I was in bliss as the ABC started screening a new run of Agatha Christie series. I love Agatha Christie, especially during the winter time.

Sadly tonight's episode will be the last of the current screening of Agatha Christie mysteries. In honour of farewelling my beloved Sunday night television show I thought it fitting to bake a self-saucing chocolate pudding from The Australian Women's Weekly cookbook circa 1970.

2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup milk
1 teapsoon vanilla (I always put in much, much more than this meagre amount)
1 cup self-raising flour
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
2 cups hot water

3/4 brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cocoa

Heat butter and milk in a saucepan, stir unti butter melts and remove from heat, add vanilla. Sift dry ingredients into basin, add butter mixture to well in centre, stir until smooth, pour into deep, greased 2 pint ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with topping, carefully pour over hot water. Bake in a moderate oven 40-45 minutes.

Serves 4 or 1 greedy person who is mourning the disruption to their Sunday night routine.

Pictures begin with the end result and work their way back to the mixing bowl. Just for something different.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pick Me Up

I have a fantastic tiramisu recipe.

Unfortunately I couldn't find it in time for a dinner party I needed to make it for last week.
So this is my "I give up looking so this will just have to do" tiramisu recipe. I didn't like it. It wasn't creamy enough for my tastebuds.

Fortunately I happened to find my fantastic tiramisu recipe today while I was looking through my bank statements. Maybe it is a sign that my bank account needs a 'pick me up'.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Christmas in July

I've been experimenting with White Christmas recipes for Robin from Cookie-Exchange. She has a book deal and would like to include some Australian Christmas treats.
I immediately thought of White Christmas, of which any Australian Christmas table is naked without.
One small problem though. You can't buy Copha in North America. It seems to only be available in Australia.
So I made two version of White Christmas, one using Copha and another using a Copha substitute consisting of Crisco and coconut cream.

I must admit that I loved the non-Copha version. Copha wasn't the only thing I substituted. I left out the coconut (of which I'm not a huge fan) and added in marshmallows, extra rice bubbles and dried cranberries.

As much as I love my traditional White Christmas it is nice to have another version up my sleeve.