Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

There is no nicer day in my opinion, than one that starts with hollandaise and ends with pavlova. It is quite the perfect situation that using egg yolks to make one yummy things results in spare egg whites to make something else just as yummy!
I often make pavlova when presented with lots of left over egg whites, and given that berries are now widely available (and so cheap and tasty!) I really wanted to give this chocolate pav of Nigella's a go.
Nigella pretty much does a different version of pavlova in each of her cookbooks, but I have never quite brought myself to try this one given what a departure it is from the classic recipe. Well, I have been missing out on something quite exquisite, even though it is somewhat different it is no less yummy for the addition of chocolate.
Pavlovas are truly the simplest dessert one can make, and since investing in a Kenwood mixer, I just love the ease with which I can now whip one up! This one was no exception, instead of the usual cornflour you add in cocoa powder and dark chocolate and instead of malt vinegar you add balsamic vinegar, which I think rounds it all out very nicely.

For the chocolate meringue base:

6 egg whites
one cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons best quality, unsweetened cocoa powder, sieved

1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

for the topping:

2 cups heavy cream
4 cups raspberries
2-3 tablespoons coarsely grated bittersweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar, and the chopped chocolate. Then gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in.
Mound on to a baking sheet in a fat circle approximately 9 inches in diameter, smoothing the sides and top. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150C and cook for about one to one and a quarter hours. When it's ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you prod the centre you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the chocolate meringue disc cool completely.When you're ready to serve, invert on to a big, flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the cream till thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter over the raspberries. Coarsely grate the chocolate so that you get curls rather than rubble, as you don't want the raspberries' luscious colour and form to be obscured, and sprinkle haphazardly over the top, letting some fall, as it will, on the plate's rim.Serves 8-10.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Motivated to bake

It seems the only reason for cooking lately is to do something in way of thanks for all the lovely kindness we have been shown by our friends and family through this shitty thing that we are going through. We are blessed to have the comfort and support that we do, it certainly helps a great deal. This recipe looked like a nice way of saying thanks to a couple of people who have just been so good to us, it seems like so little to bake a cake, but it is what I can do and I know they appreciate it.

This loaf looked mouth watering so I had to give it a go. I have a huge bowl of lemons and just the most fabulous lemon zester that is always motivation enough to get cooking!!!!! I was also given some utterly gorgeous free range bantam eggs, which I think helped to make it even more delicious!It is a breeze to make and I will be giving it another go.......making loaves is so much easier for some reason, and I always seem to have the right shaped container to give them away in!
Crunchy Topped Lemon Loaf (I doubled this recipe to make 2 loaves)

For the loaf:
115g butter
150g caster sugar
2 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
2 eggs
180g flour
1 tsp baking powder
125mls milk

For the topping:
70g caster sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

Set oven to 180C. Lightly grease a medium size loaf tin and line the bottom with baking paper.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy then beat in lemon zest. Add eggs, one at a time, then fold sifted dry ingredients and mix in alternately with the milk. (I just banged it all into the food processor, I am a heathen!!!!)
Pour mixture into prepared tin and smooth top. Bake for 40 mins. The cake will be a beautiful golden brown with a long crack running along the top and should be just pulling away from the sides of the tin. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack, still in the tin.
For the topping, combine the sugar and juice in a bowl and spoon over the baked loaf while still hot. Finish cooling the loaf in the tin then turn out carefully. Store in an airtight container

Friday, June 12, 2009

How life can change in an instant....

I haven't had the inclination to post here for quite some time as we have had some very bad news in our lives. My dear husband, after weeks of uncharacteristic behaviour, was diagnosed with a brain tumour and after surgery the pathology came back only to inform us of the worst possible news, the tumour is a glioblastoma multiforme. Which is an ultimately incurable cancer so treatment is for life extension, and who knows how long that will be. The surgery was very invasive and so a lot of 'trauma' took place in order to remove the tumour- which resulted in a much longer than expected recovery. So for the last six weeks I have been in hospital every day, sometimes in and out up to 3 times and between making sure my kids are cared for and organised and feeling in a pit of despair, I have not felt like cooking or baking. Besides which, I have had the most amazing support from my family and friends, who have been feeding us so well, keeping the cake tins and freezer full. I am constantly amazed by the outpouring of kindness that has flowed since we got the news, I feel utterly humbled by the love that has been shown us.
I have always turned to cooking or baking in times of stress, but this news has just blown everything out of the water. The idea of being alone with my thoughts is more than I can cope with so cooking has been off the agenda!
We have in the last few weeks been in a more positive place, Glen is regaining physical strength and building stamina so he is more mobile and consequently more upbeat. This has flowed over into his mental recovery and we have seen amazing progress recently which fills me with hope. He has had a couple of overnight visits home and we hope to have him home at the end of next week. He starts treatment of chemo and radiation next week, which will likely slow his recovery, as all his energy is likely to be sapped by it. We are taking one day at a time, it is the only way to stay sane, as every time I think ahead I absolutely lose it as I contemplate not only how this disease is likely to play out (cruelly, by most accounts), but the idea of life without my lovely husband and my children's life without their awesome father.
So right now the focus is solely on what we CAN control, not what we can't. Which brought me back to baking.......the staff on the rehabilitation ward that Glen has been on for the last 3 weeks have been amazing, encouraging and supportive to both of us, so I felt the need to spoil them and bake some cupcakes for them. I used some gorgeous wee paper cases my lovely friend Fran from Violet's Pantry had sent me. When I got them I had the feeling that I would never make use of them as the idea of baking again seemed so far away, but here I am, using them, and the gorgeousness of how they look is just a small thing that has the ability to bring joy to a day. And that is about as good as it gets!!!!!They were devoured instantly, so that brought some joy too.
I used Jo Seagar's Best Birthday Bash Choccy Cake - the recipe is here- it is a lovely moist cake that made in cupcakes works very well too. I made a basic ganache icing to pipe on top and topped them with smarties (colour co-ordinated of course!).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Happy Easter

I reprised my hot cross buns from last year, (the recipe is here) it is nice to come back to a recipe and have it work so well after a while of not making them! My new house has a hot water cupboard in it, so I did the kneading part in the bread machine, then tipped the mix into a large bowl and raised the dough slowly in the hot water cupboard. It took about 2 odd hours to get it to double in size. I then shaped them and left them to rise a further 30 mins. I haven't yet got the measure of the oven in my new kitchen, it seems a little hot so I have to keep a close eye on things! I need to invest in a proper oven thermometer I think......
Anyway, as per last year I glazed them straight out of the oven with a sugar syrup, then piped on crosses with icing. It gives a nice sweet kick to the buns! I have indulged despite my low carb regime, I have restricted myself to a few and the rest have been given away. They were utterly delicious!Hope you have a happy Easter, I will have my nose in academic articles unfortunately, I have an assignment due next week which I really need to get on with.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sugar Fiend

I have mentioned many times what a love affair I have with sugar! As well as I have been doing with cutting back I just can't resist a yummy dessert and this one is dangerous in it's quick preparation. We gave Rex Jamie's Ministry of Food: Anyone Can Learn to Cook in 24 Hoursfor Christmas- it is his first serious cookbook. He is becoming such a great cook and since we moved house he has not really spent any time in the kitchen (that makes two of us!!). So I decided to remedy that by suggesting he cook something from his new book and what should he choose but this lovely recipe. He has made Jo Seagar's microwave puddings before- her version has jam and tinned peaches in the bottom and was ok.
To be honest I have never been much of a fan of 'cakey' things made in the microwave, to me you just don't get an acceptable enough result. Well, these puds of Jamie's are better than acceptable- and because they are a 'steamed' pudding they definitely work in the microwave. The steaming aspect is something that microwaves do well and Jamie extends this by putting a wee circle of greaseproof paper on top of each pudding to maximise the steam. I will getting Rex to make this again and with this basic pudding recipe I reckon you could mix things up a bit and pop different things in the ramekin, like stewed fruit etc. The mix itself is quite runny but don't be alarmed, it cooks up beautifully. Just don't muck with the size of the ramekin - Rex made these first in coffee cups and divided the mix by 4 - they didn't cook evenly despite adjusting the cooking time. I actually made them again in coffee cups (cappuccino size) and they worked really well.Just another quick note. I am a truly Kiwi cook in that I have always had an aversion to baking in weight measurements- if it didn't have cup measurements I didn't want to know. I overcame that by investing in some good electronic scales (they are about $50 on special at Briscoes) and I honestly haven't looked back, so many cakes and sweet recipes turn out better now that I bake this way!!!!

Quick Steamed Microwave Puddings (Jamie Oliver- Ministry of Food)

175g plain flour
50g brown sugar
75 g butter melted
1 level tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
2 large eggs
juice and finely grated zest of an orange (it's ok to leave this out!)
150ml milk
11 tbsp golden syrup
butter for greasing

Grease the inside of 6 little microwaveable dishes or teacups with butter until well coated. Tip all the ingredients into a large bowl (except the golden syrup) and mix well. Add in 1 tbsp of golden syrup and mix until well combined. Spoon 1 tbsp of golden syrup into the bottom of each cup/ramekin, then divide the pudding mix between them.
Tear or cut 6 circles of greaseproof/baking paper a little larger than your dishes. Grease them with a little butter and then butter side down, pop them on top, pressing down gently onto the pudding mix. Place all dishes in the microwave and cook on medium heat for 7 1/2 minutes. Leave the puddings to stand for a further 5 minutes before carefully removing the paper.
To serve:
Warm 4 tbsp golden syrup in a microwavable jug for a few seconds. Turn the puddings onto serving plates and drizzle over the warm golden syrup. Accompany with creme fraiche, custard or icecream!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A wee makeover

I was so impressed with Granny and Sally's blog makeovers that I decided to follow suit. I used the Blogfairy, and what a simple and excellent processs it was. So easy and I am really happy with the new look. It's nice to have a wee change I must say, and even nicer to have someone else do it for me!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Castle Cake

Many moons ago (September last year to be exact, my archive of unused photos is really mounting!) I made my daughter a fourth birthday cake. The brief was that it had to be a castle cake of some description, at the time she had thought that maybe a Dora 'cloud castle' might be do-able! I am NO cake decorator and as usual the real detail and planning was left to the last minute (thank God for our resident cake decorating expert Gail on Violet's Pantry and that she was answering my frantic emails that day -the internet is such a life saver isn't it?!!!!) but in the end I was really happy with the result. So was my daughter, thrilled would be an understatement and that was all the thanks I needed for the effort. And it was not a small effort I have to say, it took some considerable time to do!
I had scoured the internet for ideas and set upon a basic shape with icecream cones for turrets and a few flowers and appropriate figurines (princesses and fairies galore!). To be honest, it was a very basic design, the tricky part was getting it nicely covered and making mock cream to put in the middle (then having to put the cake together and have it 'set' hard enough to then cover the whole thing with buttercream. I have never made mock cream before, the very idea of it turned my stomach, but I gotta say, this was flipping delicious and gave a real sturdiness to the cake.The recipe for the cake was a Jo Seagar one that my sister had made a few weeks before and upon I trying it I immediately requested the recipe! It is made in large quantities and absolutely perfectly named as a celebration cake, it truly will feed the hoards!!!!!(or serve to be cut up into lots of separate parts to then assemble a castle from!!!!) It is a gorgeously moist cake which keeps incredibly well, so along with the mock cream and butter cream (and given that you have enough space in your fridge to store it), it can be made well in advance. Of course I made this the night before, that is advance for me I am telling you!!!!!!
I iced the cones with royal icing, and let them thoroughly dry out for 48 hours and they turned out pretty cool I thought. They were probably the fiddliest part, but not onerous in the slightest.
So, I am not going to give instructions on the assembly of the cake. If you are anything like me you will use this as a source of inspiration should you be looking to make/do something similar. That is much help as I can be bothered offering!!!!:)
Here are a few stage by stage photos though, they might paint a better picture!
I doubled the cake recipe to make a large rectangle, a round cake and some muffin sized ones as these were what I decided would work best.However, the recipes I will provide are all failsafe and delicious, so go ahead and get stuck in!!!!

Celebration Chocolate Cake

2 cups Chelsea Caster Sugar
3 cups self-raising flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
2 tbsp malt vinegar
2 tbsp Chelsea golden syrup
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups cooking oil
1 egg
whipped cream and icing of your choice for finishing cake - we recommend chocolate Frosting/icing:
Chocolate Frosting:
2 cups Chelsea icing sugar
3 heaped tbsp cocoa
25g butter, melted
boiling water

(Makes a deep average-large sized cake)

Combine all dry ingredients. In a large bowl beat the 3 egg whites until stiff. In a separate bowl, combine milk and vinegar, then add the rest of the wet ingredients, including the whole egg and the 3 egg yolks, and beat. Mix wet and dry ingredients together, then fold in beaten egg whites. Pour into two well-greased or baking paper lined cake tins about 20-23 cm. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 180°C. Cool on a wire rack. To serve, pile whipped cream on one cake , place the other cake on top and ice - try chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Frosting:
Mix all ingredients, adding enough boiling water to make a smooth paste.
Spread over cooled cake and decorate with strawberries if preferred.

MOCK CREAM (it looks like a wierd recipe but trust me it works!!!!)

1 ½ teaspoons Edmonds Cornflour
½ cup Milk
2 tablespoons Icing Sugar
2 tablespoons Butter.

Mix cornflour and milk together into a smooth paste, then boil 3 or 4 minutes. Cream butter and sugar, and add cornflour gradually when cold. Beat well. Flavouring may be added. (I added cocoa to make it chocolate flavoured!!)


This makes about 500g of Buttercream

125g butter softened or use soft margerine.
1 tablespoon milk
375g of icing confectioners sugar (NOT pure icing sugar)

Put the butter into a mixing bowl
Add the milk and any flavouring
Sift the icing sugar into the bowl a little at a time beating well (do this in your mixer not worth the effort any other way) until the sugar has been incorporated and the BC has a light creamy texture.
This can be stored in the fridge or frozen

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Happy New Year 2009!

Well, it feels like I have slipped off the edge of the world as far as blogging goes! Too many things going on in my life right now and to be honest, it is just too hot to cook! The summer we are having is one right out of the box, ridiculously hot and dry, and it is just sapping what little energy I have! Add to that trying to sell a house, get another house ready to sell and moving to another city and you have a recipe for a very chaotic and time starved life. Not to mention the fact that I too will soon be back at university so again things will move up another gear. Phew, it is all just a blur right now!
My lack of blogging has also coincided with changing my way of eating, of which the main side effect has been minimal baking, which are usually the kind of recipes that are most blog worthy! I have embarked on a low carb eating regime and am feeling extremely good for it, as well as 8kg lighter! It has been quite a revelation to me how huge a part of my diet sugar actually was and since cutting back and eating food that is satisfying, I feel so much more in control.
Eggs of course are quite a feature of the low carb lifestyle and my favourite way to eat them is as some kind of omelette (oh, and eggs benedict, without the bread!)- I tried this version today, where you separate the yolks and whites, whip the whites up until stiff, stir up the yolks with a little cream, then fold the two together to get this adorably light fluffy omelette- I can definitely recommend trying it for something different!This one I served with spinach, mushrooms and brie- so filling, so delicious and so satisfying. Which is why I am so happy to keep eating this way!