Friday, 28 September 2007

Caramel Popcorn

We are having PorkChop's first birthday party on Sunday. It is incredibly strange to think that he is going to be one. I still look at his birth photos and almost cry! (which is even stranger really!)

His first year has totally run us over with all its illnesses! We have had at least one of us sick almost constantly since March. Boof was sick last week, PorkChop, GKGK and I all got sick from Boof, but we seem to be over it now, so hopefully we can all hold out for 2 more days so we can at least have PorkChop's party on time! After all, we can't possibly have it next weekend, because THE RACE is on. (We are a car house, not a football house!)

Anyway, mum came over today to help look after PorkChop while I decorated the cake. PorkChop obviously understood the gravity of the situation, and slept from 8:30am til 12! That left mum with not much looking after to do, so I got her cracking on the caramel popcorn. It's fabulous stuff - you can make it days in advance and it's still great on the day.

Mum made one batch, but it looked a bit small, so we decided that we probably needed another batch. This was an excellent idea, because the whole problem with making caramel popcorn in advance, is that it gets eaten in advance! It is so incredibly addictive. It's light and sweet, and you don't even realise that all of its own accord, your arm has just reached out and taken your 14th handful, and maybe you should probably stop now. I must admit, a good chunk of the popcorn mum made today is now nowhere to be seen! But don't worry partygoers, there's still plenty and I have hidden it away where I am not constantly looking at it, so there should be at least a handful left for Sunday!

This is not my secret recipe. I think have mentioned it before when I made it for Boof’s birthday – the recipe is off the back of the popcorn packet! (I omit the nuts though – so maybe I’ll claim it as my own after all!)

Caramel Popcorn

½ cup popcorn kernels
5 tbs oil
125g butter
¾ cup sugar
2 tbs honey

In a large saucepan (much larger than you think, compared to the ½ cup kernels), slowly heat the oil over medium heat. Drop in a couple of kernels, and once they start slowly spinning, the oil is hot enough. Add the remaining kernels, put the lid on, and give it all a good shake. Cook, giving a shake every now and again, until the popping stops. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

In a medium saucepan, heat the sugar, honey and butter. Stir until butter has melted and sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes or until mixture is a deep golden caramel colour (or whatever colour you like your caramel).

Quickly pour caramel over popcorn and mix well until caramel is evenly spread throughout. Spread out over a baking sheet lined with baking paper to cool. Once cool, break into small pieces.

It really does taste better once it has cooled, but if you are anything like me (and my mum) you will probably burn your mouth trying to shovel it in while it is still hot! (I am going to be sooooo in trouble for writing that!)

Friday, 21 September 2007

Blog Code Names!

Just a little note: for those of you in my life who are complaining about not having your blog code name yet, you need to do something which inspires me to write about you! Otherwise I have no need to give you a code name! Be bold! Cook me something which demands my attention and forces me to wax lyrical about you all over my blog! It's not up to me, it's up to YOU!

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Patty Cakes


The other day, I was having my standard Friday catch up with the girls (FattyBoomBah, Mrs F and ButterLover), and they were hassling me for a patty cake recipe. What kind of dodgy food blogger would I be if I didn’t have a decent patty cake recipe?!?! More importantly, what kind of cooking mother would I be if I didn’t have a decent quick and easy patty cake recipe!?

I love this recipe. You don’t need to remember to get the butter out of the fridge to let it soften, everything goes in at once, and while it does use an electric mixer, the whole mixing process takes about 1 minute. I whipped up some more today because I wanted to test out a few things. I got some of those mini silicon patty cases (in pretty colours, see!) and I wanted to see if they were any good. I also wanted to test out some smaller cakes for PorkChop’s upcoming party, and I also wanted to test out my new cake flour – to see if it made my cakes any softer.

So off I went this morning, with 2 kids snapping at my heels the whole time. I forgot to use unsalted butter, I put too much butter in, I forgot to change the setting on the oven, and once I had put them in the oven, I realized I had introduced way too many variables to find out whether the new flour made any difference at all! Doesn’t matter! They still tasted great! I think the unsalted butter really does make a difference to the taste, but don’t worry if you only have salted – we managed to scoff them this morning without any problems!
The silicon cases seemed to work pretty well. The cakes weren't quite as golden brown as usual, and the silicon may have something to do with this. Also, they domed up quite high in the centre but not on the edges - kind of like a bell shape, so maybe the edges were well and truly stuck to the silicon and found it hard to rise. Then again, they came out very easily and I didn't grease them at all. This is a very big thing for me because I am a slack greaser and I want everything to just fall out its tin with minimal effort! So the silicon is great for that. I haven't washed them yet, not that there was much cake left in them, but if that proves traumatic, I'll auction them off the highest bidder!

Patty Cakes
(adapted from Australian Women’s Weekly)

125g unsalted butter, chopped
1 tsp vanilla essence
¾ cup (165g) caster sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups (225g) SR flour
½ cup (125ml) milk

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl of electric mixer. Beat on low speed until ingredients are combined. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth and changed in colour. Drop 1 ½ tbs mixture into paper cases. Bake in moderate oven about 18 minutes. Turn onto wire rack to cool.

The original recipe said this makes 24. I reckon it makes about 18 – and fairly small cakes too. I always find that I am making more than 18 for parties and stuff, so I scale on the basis of 1 egg = 9 cakes and then go from there. This morning I used 1 egg and it made 24 of the little cakes in the silicon cases. I recommend cooking small ones that size for about 10 minutes.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Taylors Patisserie has opened!

Taylors Patisserie has opened! It actually opened last week, but I have been slack and haven’t posted. On their first day we tried the stuff in the photo: a nienish tart, a berry almondine and a Portuguese custard tart. All were excellent! Since then, we have also had a mini face cake, a pineapple tart, a donut and a croissant. (That’s actually a scary list when you consider the place has only been open 8 days! I promise I don’t usually eat that many cakes – it’s just cause it’s new and I have to try it out!)

While the nienish tart’s success was very close to my heart, today was the biggest test of all – the sponge cake. David’s Cakes make the very best sponge cakes, so it was going to be a massive challenge for Taylors to live up to that standard. I bought a passionfruit sponge today, to share with some friends. I had all my fingers and toes crossed, hoping it was going to reach those same lofty heights. And the verdict………..

10/10!!! Everyone loved it! I am never attempting sponge ever again! I have a 7-day-a-week supply 500 metres from my front door. Wooohoooo!!!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Mini Friands

Lately, I have been trying out some recipes for my gluten-intolerant father-in-law. We have the PorkChop’s first birthday coming up in a couple of weeks, and I like to have a range of sweet things for everyone to munch on. I think we need some new gluten free things other than meringues and caramel fudge. (I don’t need anything in life other than meringues, but some people are just plain weird and want cakes and sausage rolls and stuff. Hmmmmmm... maybe I should change the name of this blog............)

The latest delicious magazine came with a recipe for gluten-free fruit and nut loaves, so I thought I would give them a try. (The recipe doesn't appear to be on their website just yet). They were pretty good for a gluten free baked good, although they were a bit dry – however this may not be the fault of the recipe. It is more likely it had something to do with the fact that the recipe asked for 250g yoghurt, but I only had 200g, so I just went with that ! (and didn’t make any corresponding adjustments) Oh well! It was just a test run. GKGK still managed to eat most of them (the recipe made about 48 - that was too much even for him!)

It got me thinking though. The recipe was quite similar to a friand recipe, and I really was after something with a chocolate flavour, so I thought I would apply some of the gluten-free ideas to my standard friand recipe, and just add chocolate! The whole friand thing also proved quite useful because it used a lot of egg whites. I am on a bit of an icecream kick at the moment, so I have egg whites falling out my bum and I need to do something other than meringue. (or do I?)

So this morning I baked some gluten-free chocolate chip mini friands and served them up to some friends, and all 24 are well and truly gone! There was not even chance for a photo! So it would appear that the recipe was a success – they all demanded copies – so here it is!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Mini Friands
Makes approx 24 mini friands or 6 normal sized friands

105g butter, melted and cooled
120g icing sugar
30g rice flour (or plain flour if you have no gluten issues)
30g cocoa powder
75g almond meal
3 egg whites
100g white choc chips

Pre-heat the oven to 180° C. Grease a 24-hole mini muffin tin.
Sift icing sugar, almond meal and flour. Lightly beat egg whites until frothy, but not stiff.
Fold into dry ingredients. Add cooled butter and mix.
Add the choc chips and mix.
Fill the tins almost to the top.
Bake for 13-14 minutes or until a skewer in the centre comes out clean.
Allow to rest in pan for 5 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.
If making normal sized friands, bake for approximately 20 minutes.
If you want to take a photo of them, do it before they are GONE!

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Warm Chicken Salad

I seem to be having some weird lunch salad thing happening. My body has been telling me to eat salad quite a few times in the last week or so - it's all the extra poundage from Turtles Crossing I think! Anyway, I have been doing as instructed, and I have made one salad 3 different times, 3 different ways! It's a great way to create something new. I just stood in front of the fridge, picked some random stuff and threw it all together. It actually worked out really well, and, dare I say it, healthy. Eeewwww!

There's no real recipe. I generally peel, chop and construct til it looks like there's enough in the plate. But I can give you a list of the ingredients.

The first one came about because GKGK and Boof wanted satay chicken for lunch. So we marinated some chicken tenderloins in satay sauce (from a bottle, nothing creative there) and threw them on the BBQ. I also couldn't go past some BBQ'ed onions, so they went on too. The salad bit contained: watercress, carrot, snow peas, tomatoes, pineapple, corn and avocado. I was way too lazy that day to make a dressing, so I just used one out of a bottle - olive oil, balsamic and lemon juice or something like that. (It's actually very good, so I have used that for all the salads.) The chicken and the onion ended up on top of the salad, with some parmesan shaved over the top, and it was tasty tasty tasty! Easy, healthy, and tasty!

The second one came about when Peace and her family came around for lunch. Because I was making a salad for everyone, and we were barbecuing other meat, I left out the chicken, as well as the onions and parmesan. I may have also left out the carrot - I can't remember. I jazzed it up with some very finely sliced eschallot, (As Jamie says, no-one in their right mind likes big chunks of raw onion in their salad) then dressed it with the same dressing. Peace absolutely loved it and demanded the recipe.

The third one came about today. I ate a lot of junk on the weekend, so I had to have another salad. (hmmmmm.... seems to be a theme there somewhere!) Same basic idea, slightly different to keep things interesting! I didn't have any chicken today, so I thought I could have some protein in the form of bacon and eggs! I had previously bought some organic free range eggs from the butcher to bake with, without looking in the pack, and as it turns out, each egg is a totally different size, so I don't think they would give me the best results for baking. So they have to be eaten in things like this! The base salad bits today were: tomato, corn, pineapple, snow peas, carrot, paremsan and cucumber (a new addition). I left out watercress and avocado - for no good reason other than I was sick of chopping by then. Today's new bits were some diced bacon, fried til it was crispy, and a poached egg. Unfortunately, Boof had a toilet incident while the egg was poaching, so it was way overcooked and I couldn't be bothered cooking another one. The dressing was the same.
Today's wasn't quite as good. Maybe I'm just over these particular ingredients. Maybe it would have been better if the egg was cooked right. I think maybe it was the onions. The barbecued onions added so much fantastic flavour to the first one. I think I would try to include them again in the future.
Anyway, it was all a good lesson. In order to be creative and find something new, just stand in front of the fridge and see what you can see!
PS: for those who read my previous post about the new cake shop down the road, I am hoping the shop is finished and I can go there this afternoon and get my very first nienish tart. I have everything crossed hoping they are just as good as Davids!



Thursday, 6 September 2007

Very Good News and Very Bad News!

The bakery at the shops down the road is currently being refurbished. They have said it will take one week. That seems very quick to me, but go ahead, please, take one week, because I want my fresh rolls back!

Anyway, while I was down there today visiting the butcher, I happened to walk past the bakery. I noticed a man standing out the front wearing a t-shirt bearing the name of my absolute favourite bakery/cake shop - David's Cakes - which is about 20 minutes drive away. He looked like he was somehow involved in the refurbishment, and exciting little thoughts started dancing around in my head. What if? Could it possibly be? Maybe...just maybe...they were going to open a branch here right under my very nose! I walked past, then I stopped, and had another look. Should I ask? Surely they wouldn't mind if an interested customer asked a quick question. Being the nosy and impatient person that I am, I decided the question was essential. I held my breath, and asked. Could it possibly be?

No, was the answer. Disappointment swelled. I acknowledged his shirt, hence the reason for my question. Well actually, he said, he is indeed taking over this bakery, and as it so happens, he is wearing that particular shirt because he worked at David's Cakes for 14 years and he expects his bakery, right here on my very street, will be about the same!!!

I swooned, I yelped, I almost died! My favourite nienish tarts, now 500m from my front door.

Which is where the very bad news comes in. Do you realise how much weight I am going to put on?!?!?!

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Rosti with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg and Hollandaise

Last weekend we had the annual migration to Turtles Crossing. Turtles Crossing is a very big house just near Forster, about 3 hours drive north of Sydney. We are up to our fourth visit now, and the only thing that has changed is the number of children. The adults have now officially been overtaken. We had 11 adults and this year, 12 children! All in one house! (It's a very big house!) I think we were all a bit sceptical this year - we thought maybe there were just too many children and this year would be the last year, but it all worked out beautifully.

Every family has a turn at cooking either a dinner or a breakfast. This year, I volunteered us for a breakfast. GKGK doesn't get a say what we do, because he doesn't cook. I must must say though, this year he helped out quite a bit. I think he probably had an ulterior motive - but this is a family blog so I won't go there!

Anyway, I don't think I've ever cooked breakfast for a big group before, and I didn't want to do the standard bacon and eggs, so obviously I needed to get some more cookbooks!! Amazon helped me out as per usual, with two breakfast/brunch cookbooks to get my creative juices flowing. I finally decided on a variation of eggs benedict, along with some apple crumble and some spiced date pastries.

For the apple crumble, I used GKGK's standard family recipe that they have for breakfast every Christmas. It's out of the Australian Women's Weekly Barbecue cookbook, so I can't put it up here. (Yes, work that one out! Apple crumble, cooked in the oven, in a barbecue cookbook!) Initially, everyone struggled with the whole crumble-for-breakfast thing, but they were hungry and it was sweet and tasty so they got over it quick enough!

For the spiced date pastries, I used a recipe from donna hay magazine. I'm not sure I would call them pastries. They're really just a scone-ish dough, rolled out flat then sprinkled with mixed spice and sugar, then rolled up and sliced up into scrolls. The magazine said to cook them in baking paper in individual muffin tins, but that sounded like way too much work to cut up all that paper so I just threw them all in a baking dish together. And I have to say, they were excellent! Unfortunately though, I was unprepared for their excellentness and I didn't make enough. They were good in my trial run at home but they turned out much better the second time around. I can't believe I undercatered. I think I must be someone else masquerading as me.

The piece de resistance was the eggs. I can't have any meal without potatoes coming in somewhere, so I started off with some potato rosti. Nothing fancy, no eggs or flour or anything to take away from that perfect potato flavour. On top of that, some rocket for a bit of colour and bite. Then an option - smoked salmon for the snobs, ham for the knobs who don't like seafood. A poached egg came next - I used those little poaching doovalackies that stand up in a saucepan. For the hollandaise, I had my cheat's version ready to go (It's a holiday. I wasn't going to stand there for half an hour whisking butter in). I also bought a jar just in case my version didn't work, but I was really hoping mine would perform, because I thought the jar one was dodgy. And of course, we sprinkled some chives on top to make it pretty. Which of course, makes you ask - where are the photos??? I only took photos of the first two serves, and they don't really look that pretty at all, so they're not going up here! But here is the recipe. Make it yourself and take your own photos! (Unless it all gets scoffed before you get the chance for the photo!)

Rosti with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg and Cheats Hollandaise
Serves 1

Rosti
1 medium potato, peeled and grated
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper

Hollandaise
1 egg yolk
1/2 tbs lemon juice
40g melted butter, hot

Smoked salmon or leg ham off the bone
Rocket
1 or 2 fresh eggs
Chives, chopped

For the hollandaise, blend the egg yolk and lemon juice in a blender. With the blender running, drizzle in the butter until sauce is slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming.

For the rosti, squeeze all the moisture out of the potato. Season generously with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan to medium. Add the butter and oil. Squeeze handfuls of potato together and place in the pan. Flatten out with a spatula or egg flip. Cook until golden brown, then flip and repeat for other side. You should get 2 rosti from one medium potato. Drain on paper towel.

While the rosti are cooking, poach the egg. Put the poaching doovalacky (that's its technical name) in a saucepan of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat so that there are no bubbles breaking the surface of the water. This is below a simmer. Break the egg into a teacup or small bowl first, then slip the egg into the poacher. If you crack it directly into the poacher, you are much more likely to get egg white all through the water rather than in the poacher. Gently lower the poacher into the water. Cook until soft or firm, as you like.

Construct your breakfast. Rosti, rocket, salmon/ham, egg, hollandaise, chives.

Eat!

Note: I just noticed there is a recipe almost exactly the same as this on taste.com.au. But this hollandaise is better than that one!!!