Choc Chip Oat Biscuits

These biscuits smell like what my granny’s kitchen smelt like – such a beautiful warm welcoming smell that wraps you up in a delicate warm and fuzzy feeling.  What more could you ask for!  These are so good that even my ever loving Pete who isn’t a biscuit person kept saying how fabulous they are.

Choc Chip Oat Biscuits 1

Choc Chip Oat Biscuits

Ingredients

115g all purpose flour
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼tsp baking powder
¼tsp salt
115g butter
115g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla essence
85g oats
170g chocolate chips

Choc Chip Oat Biscuits 6

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Combine the flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugars together.
  4. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the flour mixture and beat until thoroughly blended.
  6. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips.
  7. Place teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets, spacing the dough about 1 inch apart.
  8. Bake for approximately 12 minutes until just firm around the edges.
  9. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Choc Chip Oat Biscuits 3

International Scone Week 2013 – Rustic Olive Oil Scones

Our dear friend Celia over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial hosts our International Scone Week which has become a firm annual favourite amongst a lot of us and seems I have just made the deadline for this year.

Last year I made yoghurt scones and this year I wanted to try something a little different and I was impressed with the result.  These lovely rustic scones were delicious with strawberry jam and lightly whipped cream as well as some grated Gouda cheese and made for a lovely lunch with a cup of tea which I enjoyed with my mom. 🙂

Rustric olive oil scones

Rustic Olive Oil Scones

Ingredients

500ml cake flour
20ml baking powder
2.5ml salt
15ml white sugar
100ml mild olive oil
1 egg
±125ml buttermilk – yoghurt and milk would also work well

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 230°C.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Measure the oil in a 250ml measuring cup, add the egg and fill to the 250ml mark with the buttermilk.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to form a rough dough using a knife.  Don’t over mix.
  5. Divide the mixture into 12 and place in muffin tins sprayed with non stick spray, alternatively divide the mixture into 12 and place on a prepared baking tray and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown on top.

No need to brush the top of the scones with an egg wash before baking.

Orange Poppy Seed Muffins

These lovely light flavoured muffins are perfect for with tea and come together in just a couple of minutes.  The longest part of this recipe is grating the orange zest and waiting for them to bake.  I was tempted to add a glacé (royal) icing drizzled over the top but thought they were nice enough just as is.

Orange Poppy Seed Muffins 1

Orange Poppy Seed Muffins

Ingredients

½ cup sunflower oil
¾ cup caster sugar
2 extra large eggs
¾ cup milk
5 tsp orange  zest
2 cups self raising flour
½ tsp salt
7 tsp poppy seeds

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Line 12 muffins pans with paper cases.
  3. Beat the oil and sugar together.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time and beat in.
  5. Add the milk and lemon zest.
  6. Fold in the flour, salt and poppy seeds.
  7. Divide the mixture between the 12 muffins pans and bake for 15  minutes.

Orange Poppy Seed Muffins 2

Olive Oil Chocolate Chiffon Cake

And yes I turned it into cupcakes! 🙂

My mom gave me this Angela Day recipe which she saw in the Monday 03 June 2013 issue of The Star’s Verve.  Angela was running a series for using olive oil in baking as a healthier alternative to other oils.

I love the idea of healthier baking, just wish it worked out more cost effective though as olive oil isn’t a particularly cheap product to use.   I would also stick to using a mild flavoured olive oil as the more robust oils may alter the taste of the cake.

The original recipe called for a chocolate glaze, which would have been lovely but sadly I didn’t have any dark chocolate on hand so made my standard icing.

The cupcakes turned out beautifully and I enjoyed lots of compliments when I served them for dessert with friends.

Olive oil chocolate chiffon cupcakes

Olive Oil Chocolate Chiffon Cake (Cupcakes)

The mixture made 18 muffin sized cupcakes

Ingredients

80ml cocoa powder
125ml hot water
250ml flour
10ml baking powder
125ml castor sugar
3ml salt
4 eggs separated
125ml olive oil
80ml extra castor sugar

Chocolate glaze
100g dark chocolate chopped
100ml cream

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Mix together the cocoa and hot water and set aside to cool.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a bowl.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the egg yolks, olive oil and cooled cocoa mixture and mix until smooth.
  5. Beat the egg whites until stiff, then beat in the extra castor sugar.
  6. Fold this mixture into the cocoa mixture.
  7. Pour into an ungreased chiffon cake tin alternatively divide the mixture amongst 18 muffin tins lined with paper cases.
  8. Bake the cake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean alternatively if baking the cupcakes, bake for 10 minutes.
  9. Combine the chocolate and cream in a bowl and microwave on 50% power for 2 minutes and stir well until smooth.
  10. Refrigerate until thickened then pour over the cake or cupcakes. (The glaze is thinner than a ganache).

No-Knead Crusty Artisan Bread

I have to open this post by saying, I think Celia over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial will be proud of my first attempt at this lovely recipe which I saw over at Georgia’s, The Comfort of Cooking.  For some strange reason I have not been receiving Georgia’s updates for a while (sorted now) so missed this wonderful recipe.  I have never seen a recipe for a loaf of bread where you leave the dough to rise for between 8 and 24 hours; a novel and interesting idea I thought, plus being baked in a Dutch oven was also a new concept to me.  This is guaranteed to be a winner of a recipe in any home and highly recommend you bake a loaf.


No knead crusty bread  2

I left my dough to rise for 18 hours before baking.

No knead crusty bread  1

This loaf is guaranteed to take your low-carb, low fat eating habit and throw it right out of the window.  I enjoyed slice after slice of this warm from the oven with lashings of cold butter, cut thick like cheese!  The crumb is moist and slightly chewy like a ciabatta with a fabulous crispy crust and base.  Not sure if the chewiness was due to the flour I used.  All the same, I would enjoy it again, exactly the same way.

No-Knead Crusty Artisan Bread

Ingredients

3 cups all purpose flour
2-3 teaspoon kosher salt – I found 2 tsps way too salty so reduced this to 1 tsp
½ tsp dry yeast – I used instant yeast
1½ cups lukewarm water – I used approximately 1¼ cups

Method

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt and yeast.
  2. Add the water and stir using a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a shaggy but cohesive dough.  You may not need the full amount of water so start with 1 cup and slowly add more until you have a nice soft dough.
  3. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave the dough sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours.
  4. After dough is ready, preheat the oven to 230°C.
  5. Place a Dutch oven or casserole dish uncovered into the oven for 30 minutes.  I left my casserole dish in for 15 minutes.
  6. While your dish preheats, turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and with floured hands form the dough into a ball. Cover the dough loosely with cling film and allow to rest.
  7. After the 30 (15) minutes remove your dish from the oven and place the dough into it and place the lid on.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes covered then remove the cover and bake for an additional 7-15 minutes.  The loaf is ready when it is golden brown and crispy.

No knead crusty bread  4

Nutty Wheat Banana Muffins

These moreish muffins are perfect for last minute tea time guests or a tasty breakfast when everything else breakfasty just isn’t quite cutting the mustard – simply throw a few ingredients at a bowel et voila, a taste bud tantalizing muffin in 20 minutes.  You could add some texture with chocolate chips or something healthier like seeds or nuts – these variations only came to me when I was taking them out of the oven so mine are just plain.  No matter as they are delicious as is with a light moist crumb.

Nutty wheat banana muffins 1

Nutty Wheat Banana Muffins

Ingredients

500ml nutty wheat flour – you could substitute with any flour
200ml brown sugar
5ml salt
5ml baking powder
5ml bicarbonate of soda
2 bananas mashed
80ml oil
10ml vanilla essence
250ml plain yoghurt
1egg lightly beaten

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Prepare 12 muffins tins with paper cases.
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and mix through.
  5. Divide into the 12 muffin tins.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.

Nutty wheat banana muffins 2

Lando’s Daughter’s Birthday Cake

Lando is our deaf handyman / gardener who takes wonderful care of our home and garden every week.

Lando only became deaf as an adult and has adapted to being deaf as if he was born that way.  He reads lips perfectly and we are still in the stop start throws (when time allows) of learning sign together.  We have created a few of our own signs to better communicate with each other for the days when my Afrikaans and his English aren’t quite on the same page.

Lando's daughters cake

Lando asked if I would bake his daughter a birthday cake for her second birthday.  He said he didn’t want those little things that I like making (cupcakes), he wanted one big cake.  So not knowing which cake recipe would be best as I make all of them into cupcakes, I decided to use the one I converted last which was the dairy free recipe, you know, my new favourite recipe.  I made a double portion and was thrilled with the result even though I probably turned the cakes out a wee bit soon and left a morsel of the centre of the cake at the bottom of the baking tin.  Oops.

Only problem I had was when it came to the icing – I wanted princess pink for this little 2 year old but alas it kinda came out orangeish which did not sit well with my OCD issues but time did not  allow to remake the icing plus there was barely any time to ice the cake before it had to get whisked off to the birthday girl.  I wonder if it is because my food colouring is getting old?

No matter, all’s well that ends well and the cake was a hit!

Dairy Free Chocolate Cupcakes which were meant to be a cake

But we know what I am like – a cake just has to be turned into cupcakes – I just cannot help myself!  I saw this recipe on the reverse side of a piece of paper for Kedgeree which I was supposed to make for Pete.  Oops!  Well, I never had any salmon or smoked trout on hand so couldn’t make the kedgeree anyway plus I have all these baking cases which need to be used and icing nozzles and piping bags and and and…  You know how it is, right?

Dairy free chocolate cupbakes

This recipe was printed in the 24 March 2013 edition of The Sunday Times, I think, as we only kept the one page insert and it doesn’t make any reference to the newspaper at all on either side of the page.

The cake was titled – Wacky one-pan eggless chocolate cake, you know one of those recipes where everything is mixed in one bowl – my kinda recipe.

No matter where the recipe came from, its fabulous – quick, easy and results in a lovely light, moist and spongy cupcake.  I made my normal butter icing and if you replace the milk with water, it is still technically dairy free as butter is classed as a fat.

dairy free chocolate cupbake 2

Dairy Free Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients

1½ cups cake flour
¾ cup caster sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder sifted
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt – I would take this up to at least ½ tsp
5 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup water
Fresh berries to serve – I never used berries
Icing sugar for dusting – I made icing, recipe below
Whipped cream to serve – I iced the cupcakes instead

Icing

300g icing sugar
50g butter at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla essence
±2 tbsp milk (water)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Spray a 20cm cake pan with non stick cooking spray.  If you are making cupcakes, use a 2.5 litre jug.
  3. Place the flour, sugar, cocoa, bicarb and salt in this pan (jug) and mix.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, make one large indentation in the mixture and two smaller ones.
  5. Pour the oil into the large hole and the vinegar and vanilla into the smaller holes.
  6. Gradually add the water mixing until just combined.  Don’t over mix.
  7. Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes.  Cool in the pan before turning out onto a rack.  Top with berries, dust with icing sugar and serve with the cream.
  8. Alternatively if you are making cupcakes, pour the mixture between 10 muffin sized prepared baking cases and baked for 15 minutes.  They dome beautifully.
  9. Combine the icing ingredients for 3 minutes and ice cupcakes once completely cooled.

dairy free chocolate cupbake 1

Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book – Park 17

Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book – Part 17

I have really been trying to savour the last few chapters but think it high time I shared another one with you.

The chapter on Cookies reads as follows:

“Were the cookies in a blue jar or a brown one at your house, and did they sprinkle sugar on them or put raisins in them?  Were you allowed to cut them into fancy shapes all by yourself?  What kind did you ask for when you went away to school or camp?  Answers will vary, but the basic fact is that cookies have always had a happy and honorable place on the pantry shelf.  Let’s hope they always will have.

Ingredients

Flour:  Unless otherwise specified, all-purpose flour is called for in the recipes in this chapter.  In some recipes either cake flour or all-purpose gives satisfactory results, but if the all-purpose flour in your locality is a strong one – that is, made from very hard wheat – it will make a slightly harder cooky.  A soft-wheat flour makes a tenderer cooky.

Shortening:  A number of shortenings are suitable for making cookies,  Butter is always a favorite one for flavor, but margarines and vegetable shortenings are more often used because they do a good job and are less expensive.  In a bland cooky in which the flavor of the shortening is distinctive, part butter and part vegetable shortening gives good results.

Sugar:  The sugar called for in the recipes in this chapter is granulated sugar unless otherwise specified and the finer grains are preferred.  For butterscotch flavor use brown sugar, medium or dark.

Milk:  Either whole milke or evaporated milk may be used.  Because cookies require so little liquid, undiluted evaporated milk is convenient and practical.  In some recipes calling for 2 or 3 eggs, 3 tablespoons of evaporated milk may be used in place of 1 egg.

Eggs:  In making cookies, fresh eggs are best for flavor.  Eggs vary in size, and in cases where the dough must be exactly of a certain stiffness the size of the eggs may make a difference.  For this reason, and also because flours vary in thickening properties, it is wise to bake one or two cookies as a test before baking the whole batch.

Mixing and Shaping

Cookies may be made by hand or with an electric mixer.  In either case, assemble all the ingredients and measure them before starting the mixing process.
In general there are two types of cooky mixture, soft doughs and stiff doughs.

Soft-dough Cookies:  Soft doughs contain a larger proportion of liquid than stiff doughs.  Cookies made from soft doughs include those dropped from a spoon and those spread in a plan like a thin layer of cakes, of which brownies are a familiar example.

Stiff-dough Cookies:  Cookies made from stiff doughs included rolled cookies, refrigerator or sliced cookies and cookies shaped by forcing the dough through a cooky press.”

The chapter continues with correct ways to bake and store your cookies as well as all the different forms of decorations and has 28 pages crammed full of different cookie recipes.

Peach Cobbler

Remember John’s From The Bartolini Kitchen magic plum cobbler I made a while ago, well it is still talked about in my family.

I was invited out for dinner a couple of evenings back and as per usual I got the proverbial suckers on my butt and sat at my computer way later than I should have before thinking about what to make to take with for dessert and seeing I am still watching what I eat (sort of), I didn’t have any fruit in the house but did manage to find a tin of peaches in the pantry cupboard which immediately made me think of a cobbler and then naturally I went straight for John’s recipe.

I was a bit concerned the peaches would be to heavy for the magic to happen so a placed the mixture over the peaches as opposed to the other way around and just as I hoped, success and yes, I did enjoy a wee portion.

Peach cobbler 1

Also delicious with a ball of ice cream, or custard or lightly whipped cream

Peach Cobbler

slightly amended and halved from John’s recipe

Ingredients

410g tin peach slices
½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup sugar – I used brown
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
¼ cup butter melted

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  2. Place the peaches in the bottom of a baking dish and pour over half of the syrup from the tin.
  3. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix.
  4. Add the milk and butter, mixing until just combined.
  5. Pour the batter over the peaches.
  6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown.
  7. Serve warm or cold.

In My Kitchen – April 2013

In My Kitchen – April 2013

During my stay in Johannesburg to be with Mom while she recovered from her foot surgery, there was a morning out for breakfast with Dad and a spot of shopping which resulted in a few spoils. 🙂

In my kitchen…

Is a set of icing nozzles which Dad bought for me – such an awesome pressie.

icing nozzles

In my kitchen…

Is some black decorating glitter – it’s more blue than black but still very pretty on top of cupcakes.

black glitter

In my kitchen…

Are 2 offset spatulas which I have been wanting for the longest time.  They are such handle tools to have in the kitchen.

offset spatulas

In my kitchen…

Are 2 more icing bags – they were dirt cheap so I could not pass on the opportunity – they are fabulous!

Piping bag

In my kitchen…

Is another gift from Dad – 500 cupcake / muffin cases – they too were dirt cheap – awesome!

cupcake cases

In my kitchen…

Is another gift from Dad.  I have been on the hunt for a dough cutter / scrapper for what feels like forever and even had mom on the search for me but alas we were unable to source any, then Dad found one for me and one for Mom in Makro – yippee!

pastry cutter

In my kitchen…

Is ANOTHER gift from Dad – a very handy micro grater.

grater

In my kitchen…

Is an early wonderful birthday pressie from my brother Greg and sister-in-law  Karin – a Jamie Oliver garlic press and slicer – I highly recommend you get one of these.

garlic press cutter

What’s in your kitchen this month?  Please remember to link back to Celia’s blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial if you partake in the fun.

Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book – Part 16

Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book – Part 16

I guess I cannot put off the last 4 chapters forever, so here is another chapter for your enjoyment.

The chapter on Candy reads as follows:

“Whether you make candy just for fun, or to keep the children from buying less wholesome candies at the corner store, or for profit – many woman have made a paying business of candy-making – you will want to make good candy.  With the right equipment and attention to the fundamental techniques of candy-making you will be surprised what attractive and professional-looking candies can be made in your own kitchen.

Candies are either crystalline in structure – that is, composed of minute crystals – like the fudges and fondants, or non-crystalline  like the taffies, brittles and clear hard candies,  The temperature or concentration to which the sirup is cooked decides the type of candy – soft, chewy, or hard; the manipulation after cooking determines the texture – grainy or smooth.

The proper equipment adds to the pleasure of making candy and contributes to the success of results.  For the occasional candy-maker t is enough to have:

SAUCEPANS large enough to allow the mixture to boil up – 2 or 3 quarts capacity.  Heavy metal ones are better than thin ones because the sirup will not stick so readily.
WOODEN SPOONS for stirring and beating.  Better still for stirring is a broad wooden paddle like the old-fashioned butter paddles.
CANDY PANS for cooling candies.  They may be square or rectangular, but they should be straight-sided and less than 2 inches deep.  Never cut candy in the pan unless it is used only for candy.  Instead, loosen the candy at the edges, turn out of the pan and cut on a flat surface.
A LARGE HEAVY PLATTER for working fondant if you do not have a marble slab.
A CANDY THERMOMETER is strongly recommended even for the occasional candy-maker.  Thermometers are reasonable in price and the greater accuracy made possible saves much time and effort.
In addition to the foregoing, the following inexpensive items will come in handy.  A broad kitchen SPATULA for working fondant – an inexpensive putty knife will do very well; a MEDICINE DROPPER for adding acid and flavoring oils; a PASTRY BRUSH for oiling pans or slabs, and for distributing water evenly; kitchen SCISSORS for cutting taffies: WAXED PAPER or CELLOPHANE for wrapping candies; a WOODEN CUTTING BOARD kept just for candies.

For making candies on a large scale you should have, in addition to the equipment described above:
A large MARBLE SLAB, which makes the best working surface for beating fondants and fudges, pouring caramels, brittles and hard candies, as well as for hand-dipping chocolates.
DIPPING FORKS for glacé work or for coating bonbons and chocolates.  They may be purchased or made at home out of a 2-foot length of strong thin wire – preferably copper wire.  Double the wire and twist the ends together, leaving a loop about ¾ inch long at the doubled end.  The twisted part serves as a handle.
CANDY IRONS to regulate the thickness and size of a batch of candy poured out on the marble slab.  They should be smooth and approximately ¾ inch thick and 2 inches high.  A set of four 12-inch and six 6-inch irons will be adequate for most work.  The short irons are used for small batches and to separate the parts of a batch when different flavors have been added.
RUBBER MOLDS for shaping mints and wafers.  Round, heart, diamond and club shapes are popular for bridge parties and special designs for Easter, Christmas and other occasions may also be purchased.
A POURING FUNNEL and GAUGE for regulating the flow of drop fondant.  They prevent  waste, make the prices more symmetrical and are useful in decorating candies.
A CANDY HOOK attached to a strong base if a great many pulled candies are made.

These may be purchased in a confectioners’ supply shop if they are not available elsewhere.”

The chapter also covers all the varies ingredients, how to properly cook candy, the importance of temperature, how to use a thermometer, how to make a cold-water test for all the different types of candy, how to care for your candy, all the different fondants as well as a myriad of recipes over 24 pages for every candy you can think of.

Seeded Loaf

This recipe has been sitting in the folder of recipes to try for over 18 months – so very sad!  I tore it out of the Food and Home magazine and if I have it correct, (as I only tore out the section with the recipe) it seems credit needs to go to The Cake the Budda Ate:  More Quiet Food.  This loaf is full of wonderful flavour and texture and paired beautifully with a lasagne, beetroot and green salad dinner I made for when my brother and his family arrived on holiday.  I will definitely be keeping an assortment of seeds on hand to make this regularly.

Seeded loaf 1

Seeded Loaf

Ingredients

4 cups nutty wheat flour
5ml bicarbonate of soda
5ml baking powder
5ml salt
25ml brown sugar
500ml plain yoghurt – I used full cream Greek yoghurt
50ml sunflower oil
50ml milk
1 cup mixed seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, poppy) – I never used poppy as I never had any
Sesame seeds to garnish

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a loaf tin.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients.
  3. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Mix the yoghurt, oil and milk.  Combine with the dry mixture and mix thoroughly.
  5. Stir in the mixed seeds.
  6. Spoon into the loaf tin.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 45 minutes.
  7. Switch off the oven and leave for a further 15 minutes.

Seeded loaf 2

Chocolate Mousse

My responsibilities for Christmas lunch was the starter (Smoked Salmon Terrine) and one of the 3 desserts – Chocolate Mousse.  Thankfully I was able to make both dishes the day before leaving just the finishing touches and plating to be done on Christmas Day.  Sadly I woke with the spider bite migraine on Christmas morning which rendered me somewhat unable to complete my dishes.  Thankfully I had a few elves come to my rescue to plate the starer and prettify the individual chocolate mousses.  Family is awesome!  Sadly I took all of 3 photos the whole day so am unable to share my Mom’s beautiful Christmas table with you.  I was however able to get a quick semi in focus shot of the mousses as they were being decorated.  I made 3 times the quantity of the recipe shown below.

Choclate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

200g dark chocolate
4 egg separated
250ml cream

Method

  1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water.
  2. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time and beat until smooth and thick.
  3. Lightly whip the cream and fold into the chocolate mixture.
  4. Lightly beat the egg whites and fold into the mixture.
  5. Spoon into 8 glass bowls or ramekins and refrigerate until set.

Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book – Part 15

Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book – Part 15

With all of us getting organised for the holiday festivities and baking preparations – there is always more baking down over the holidays, I thought it apt to share the chapter on cakes.

The chapter on Cakes reads:

“Whether it’s a blue ribbon at the fair or appreciate ah’s from the family, a perfect cake wins approval enough to give its creator a warm glow of pride.  And what is a perfect cake?  Why, everybody knows.

To begin with, the perfect cake looks right – whether round or square or loaf-shaped, it’s the shape it was meant to be, without cracks or humps or dismal depressions.  The crust is golden brown, not burned but thin and crisp.  And when you cut into it, you find it’s feathery light (unless it’s a fruit cake, meant to be freighted with goodies), and moist and mellow, with a texture like velvet.

Everybody knows a good cake, but not everybody can make one – that is the common opinion.  Aunt Jane just as a knack, Mrs. Green has a gift for it, other people have good luck.  Actually, of course, you don’t need gifts or luck, but the right equipment, including good recipes, and a laboratory degree of accuracy in doing what the recipes tell you to do.

Cake-making is a game you play by the rules.  Try to cheat the recipe ever so little, and it’s likely to make a big difference; or at least enough to explain why your last cake was almost too solidly independent, why today’s attempt turns sulky and clings to the pan.  These variations in temperament aren’t due to a witch in the oven, but – perhaps – to measuring cups and spoons that aren’t standard.  Or do you fail to sift before you measure?  Perhaps you thought that a foolish direction?  But flour, especially cake flour, packs down under its own weight.  Unless you sift first, you cup holds more, and that little more may ne the cause of coarse-textured cake with a cracked top and a tough crust.

Then it may be that you aren’t a good mixer of cake batter; you may beat at the wrong time.  Beating should be done before the dry and liquid ingredients are combined. After that decisive step is taken, stir gently to blend but don’t beat unless the directions actually specify beating or you may have a coarse, dry cake with tunnels.

What it all comes to is this: you can make a good cake if you try.  Give the matter your very best attention – it’s worth it.

Cake Pans

Correct size and shape of baking pan is important.  The capacity of the pan is exactly right when the baked cake fills the pan but does not bulge at the rim.  Some cakes are more adaptable than others and may be baked in various types of pans, with suitable adjustments in baking temperature and time.  Generally speaking, thin layer cakes and sheet cakes are baked at a higher temperature for a short time, to prevent drying out.  Thicker cakes require lower temperature and longer baking time to insure even baking throughout.

Prepare the pans before mixing the cake.  For butter cakes only the bottom of the pan should be greased.  Better volume is obtained if the sides of the pan are very lightly greased or not at all.  A piece of waxed paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan may be placed in the greased pan if desired; the top of the paper need not be greased. Pans for sponge cakes should not be greased at all unless the cake is to be baked in layer pans or a sheet pan, when the pan should be greased on the bottom only and lined with waxed paper.  Do not fill pans more than two-thirds full.”

This lovely chapter is packed full and talks about selection of ingredients from flour to leavening, shortening, sugar, eggs and liquids with very specific instructions on how to mix and bake your cake and how to cut a cake for a crowd, with graphics on how to cut a tiered (traditionally a wedding) cake.  There is even a paragraph on caring for your cakes after baking and there are 50 pages of recipes for cakes and frostings.  My favourite part of this chapter is the 12 pages on cake decorating. 🙂

Chocolate Tart

I read about this lovely tart (pie) over at Beth’s Of Muses and Meringues and eagerly printed the recipe.  Sadly at the time I had no evaporated milk or volunteers to enjoy it with, so it had to wait until now.  It was a great success.  I would however have baked it a little less than stated as I was wanting a bit more of a gooey centre, so reckon you should check it after about 35 minutes.  I sprinkled a little icing (confectioners) sugar over the top for serving.

Beth’s post didn’t include a pie crust recipe, so I have included mine for you.

Choclate Tart

Ingredients

Crust

125g butter
½ cup sugar – I used brown
1 egg
2 cups self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder

Filling

1½ cups sugar
3 heaped tbsp cocoa powder – I used 4 tbsp
½ tsp salt
150ml evaporated milk – (0.6 cup)
¼ cup butter melted
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence

Method

Crust

  1. Cream the butter and sugar.
  2. Add the egg and 1 tablespoon of the flour and mix well.
  3. Add the flour and baking powder and combine to form a dough and roll into a sausage.
  4. Wrap half the sausage in cling film and freeze for another day.
  5. Press the remaining dough into a 23cm pie dish and set aside.

Filling

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the sugar, cocoa and salt.
  3. Add the evaporate milk, butter, eggs and vanilla essence and stir until everything is combined.
  4. Pour the filling into your pie crust and bake for 35 to 45  minutes until set but still slightly wobbly in the centre.
  5. You may need to cover the pastry with tinfoil to avoid it getting too dark.
  6. Serve warm or cold.

John’s Magical Plum Cobbler

This is one of those MUST MAKE recipes.  When I saw this on John’s From The Bartolini Kitchen blog, I immediately printed the recipe.  To quote John on why it’s a magical cobbler, “the topping starts in the bottom of the baking dish but rises to the occasion during baking, giving you a perfectly formed topping to the rich fruit/berry filling.”

Now, firstly I must confess when making this the first time, I used a dish that was far too narrow and deep so the magic didn’t quite happen, although it was still absolutely scrumity!  The reason the magic frizzled a wee bit is due to the fact that there was too much of a thick layer of fruit on top of the batter.  I am putting it down to the fact that I was still traumatised by the rain damage to our home – sad but true, oh, and not reading the recipe correctly!  So second round and a bigger dish et voila, a magic plum cobbler, oh and I also halved the recipe the second time around.

Magical Plum Cobbler

Ingredients

½ cup butter melted
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups sugar – divided
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup milk
4 cups plums pitted and chopped
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  2. Pour melted butter into a 23cm x 33cm x 8cm baking dish.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix well.
  4. Add the milk, mixing until just combined. Pour the batter into the baking dish containing the melted butter. Do NOT mix.
  5. In a medium saucepan, combine the plums, lemon juice, with the remaining cup of sugar and bring to a boil over a medium high heat, stirring constantly.
  6. Carefully pour the plum mixture into the baking dish. Do NOT mix.
  7. Bake on a baking sheet in the centre of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  8. May be served warm or cold, garnished with ice cream or whipping cream.

Tandy’s Crème Caramel

I thoroughly enjoy a good Crème Caramel and loved the recipe I saw over at Tandy’s blog, Lavender and Lime.  I was thrilled with the result when I made them and will definitely be making them again.  I must admit though that majority of the caramel stuck to the base of the mould and can only assume that I let it colour a little too much before spooning it into the moulds.  I would suggest you remove the caramel as soon as it starts colouring to prevent it sticking like toffee in the mould.

Crème Caramel

Ingredients

50g sugar
½ tsp lemon juice
½ tbsp water

1 cup milk
1 vanilla pod, split down the middle
1 egg
2 egg yolks
62g caster sugar

Method

  1. Spray 4  moulds.
  2. Heat the sugar, lemon juice and water until pale in colour and divide amongst the moulds.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  4. Place the milk and the vanilla pod into a saucepan and bring the the boil.
  5. Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar.
  6. Strain the milk into the eggs and whisk quickly.
  7. Pour the custard over the caramel.
  8. Place the moulds into a bain-marie (water bath) using hot water and bake for 25 minutes.
  9. Remove the moulds from the bain-marie and allow to cool.
  10. Turn out and leave to cool before serving.

Modified Must Make Muffins

Remember the Must Make Muffins, well they have just got a whole lot nicer.  I omitted the sugar altogether and have added a cup of grated carrot and a cup of grated sweet potato.  The mixture still needs to stand in the fridge overnight and is seriously worth the wait and because of the added ingredients, you will easily get another 12 muffins from the mixture.  I bake six to twelve at a time and with the mixture waiting in the fridge, I can have fresh hot muffins from the oven every morning for breakfast.  Fantastic!

Modified Must Make Muffins

Ingredients

1½ cups brown bread flour
1 cup bran
1 cup oats
3tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp ginger
1tsp nutmeg
1tsp salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped dates
2 cups grated apple
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup finely grated sweet potato
1 banana mashed ± ⅓ cup
2 eggs
4 tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup oil
2 cups milk

Method

  1. Combine all of the ingredients, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  3. Stir the ingredients and spoon into prepared muffin tins lined with paper cases.
  4. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Remember to submit your Christmas Menu by 30 October to stand a chance of winning a copy of my Cook Book.

Win a Copy of my Cook Book

Christmas lunch this year is being hosted at my folks place here at the River which basically means Mom is responsible for the menu; Starter, Mains and Dessert.  Nothing out of the ordinary there, but as it goes, we tend to gravitate to the same types of dishes every year.  This year with the aunts, uncles, cousins and little ones, it seems the final count will be 20 adults and 10 children.

The last time Christmas lunch hosted at my folks place was 4 years ago while Pete and I were still living in Mauritius so we missed out on:

Starters:
Mock crayfish cocktail
Mains:
Beef fillet with a brandy and cream sauce served on blanched baby marrow
and carrot match sticks with crispy roasted potatoes
Dessert:
Individual crème brûlée’s & individual berry pavlova’s

This is where you come in.  

  • Submit your dream summer Christmas lunch menu in the comments section below and stand in line to win a copy of my book, “The Complete Cook Book”.
  • Entries close 30 October 2012.
  • This competition is open to everybody worldwide and Mom will be the judge and decide on the final menu entry to be used.

Entry Criteria:

  • Starter, main and dessert courses
  • Starter course must be a cold dish
  • Dessert must be able to be made in individual portions

Come 25 December we may be eating your dream summer Christmas lunch.

Good luck and looking forward to your entries. 🙂