Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A story about apples.

My dad has a big apple tree growing in his back yard. No-body knows what kind of apples they are, but we do know that they are good for cooking.
You know what else is good for cooking? Pie is good for cooking.
When dad gave me this huge bag of apples, the first thing I thought of was pie. But the weird thing was, I didn't really know how to make the pie. I think that making pie is one of those things that people should just know how to make. But I didn't. I had to look up a recipe. I mean, I know how to make pastry, I just didn't know what to put inside the pastry. Other than apples, obviously.
But I found a recipe in the end. And I used a whole block of butter. And then my sister dropped over unannounced and she helped me peel all the apples. And then we juggled the apples, because we remembered that once upon a time, we knew how to do it. And then we ate lots of the peeled apples with some sharp cheddar cheese, because that is a really good combination. And we drank some tea and we had a really nice time.

Apple Pie
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

One serving of pastry from this recipe (also from Smitten Kitchen)
7 medium cooking apples
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 egg, beaten lightly (for glazing the pie lid)

Preheat the oven to 250C and make sure the oven rack is on the bottom shelf. This is important for a crispy pie base.
Peel, core and chop the apples (it's helpful if you have a sister or other nice sibling to help you do this).
Put them in a bowl and toss them with the juice and the dry ingredients. Set these aside.
Line the pie tin with half of the chilled, rolled out pastry, making sure there is enough overlapping the dish. Chill for 5 mins in the fridge.
Arrange the apples on the pastry case, piling them up in the middle.
Lay the other half of the rolled out pastry on top of the apples, making sure there is enough pastry overlapping the dish.
Fold the bottom layer of pastry over the top of the pie, like a blanket. This way, the pastry won't shrink and the apple juices won't escape.
Crimp and arrange the pastry so it sticks onto itself and looks nice. You could use the edge of a fork to make the crimps.
Cut four slits in the top of the pie.
Brush the pie with the egg.
Sprinkle the top of the pie with some granulated sugar.
Put the pie in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 220C. Bake for 25 mins until crust is golden.
Turn the oven down again to 190C, rotate the pie and continue to bake for another 30-35 mins.
Let the pie cool before cutting and serving to your nice family.

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Dad's hot cross buns.

What do you get if you put rabbits into a sauna?
Hot Cross Bunnies!

Every Good Friday morning, my dad gets up and makes bread. Not just any old bread, though. Hot cross buns. Made from a special recipe that comes from a really old book that is falling apart at the seams. He's had to change and adapt this recipe over the years: change the measurements into metric, rather than gils and pints, change the yeast content from fresh to (more convenient) dried. 

He's been making this recipe for as long as I can remember. I haven't attempted to make this myself yet, because it's Good Friday and nothing is open and I forgot to buy the ingredients yesterday. 
But you can trust me that this recipe is good. It must be good if Dad has been making it for so long. 

I'm going to try and make these on Sunday, even though that's not really the right day to be making them. And I'll post some pictures so you can see how great the buns really are. But for now, here's a picture of me and my dad together.
me and dad

My Dad's Hot Cross Buns Recipe.
2x 7g Pack Dried Yeast
1 ½ Cups  (400 ml) warm milk ( temperature of your finger )
2 tbs  caster Sugar
50g Butter
500g white Bread Flour
1/3 Cup (50 g) Mixed Peel
2/3 Cup  (100 g) Currants
1tsp Mixed Spice
 ½ cup warm Milk, 1 egg and tsp. caster sugar, mixed

PASTRY crosses
 75 g plain Flour
2 tsps Caster Sugar
30 g Butter

Dissolve the yeast and sugar into the milk and let it froth
Rub The butter into Flour, add the currants peel ,spice.  Make a well in the flour pour in the warm milk mix. Mix to a smooth dough, it will be sticky so use plenty of flour to work it. Let rise in the bowl covered in plastic wrap for 1 1/2 hours. Turn out onto a board, cut up into 15 portions. Roll them into balls, aiming for a good smooth skin on the top side of each bun. Place on baking tray leaving enough room for the buns to double in size. Leave for 45 mins – 1 hour to rise.
Preheat the oven to 200*C

Make the pastry Crosses by combining flour and sugar, then rubbing in butter. Mix in a few tsps. of cold water to make a firmish dough. Roll out thin and cut into skinny strips.
Brush the tops of the buns with a little water and cross the strips on top.
This step can be omitted and just a cut made in the top of the buns.

Cook about 15 -20 mins till brown. Just before they’re done brush all with the milk egg sugar mix (cook 1 or 2 more minutes)

Monday, April 18, 2011

On longing and rice snacks.


I long for the past.

For the simple things. The long days. The excitement of home-time. Playing kiss and catch in the playground. All the adventures that my Barbie dolls would have. Playing dress-ups. Getting home from school in time to watch all my favourite shows. Those were the days. Everything was simple. When you're little, you can't wait to grow up. You think it'll be the best thing in the world to be able to do whatever you want, whenever you want and not having parents tell you that you what to do.

Don't get me wrong, being an adult has it's perks. I can stay up as late as I want. Eat whatever I want. Watch whatever I want. But nothing is simple as an adult. People still tell you what to do. And you have to pay all your bills and stress about your assignments and you have to work all the time. I just want everything to be simple again.

Just for one day, I want my mum to tuck me in to bed and read to me. Just like when I was little. I want to feel like I don't have a care in the world and all I have to worry about is what game I'm going to play at lunch time. I want to spend all day reading and playing and colouring outside of the lines.

Eating these rice snacks makes me feel a bit like a kid. They're like the adult version of a
childhood favourite. When I get home from work, I can eat one with my afternoon cup of tea and not have to think about anything. I probably won't watch cartoons, but I can do all the things that my adult-self likes to do: Go on twitter and read a whole lot of blogs. And I can put off all the things I need to do for just that little bit longer.

Rice snacks.
Adapted from Vanilla & Lace

1/4-1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups organic puffed rice (or other rice cereal)

Heat honey and peanut butter over medium heat until it thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. (You could probably do this in the microwave, if you wanted)
Add vanilla.
Pour the honey mix over the puffed rice in a large bowl. It looks as if there isn't enough honey mixture to coat all the rice, but just keep mixing until it's all coated evenly. Press into oiled 20cm square dish.
Refrigerate for 1 hour, then turn out and cut into squares. Keep refrigerated.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bacon Bruschetta.

I'm not sure if I mentioned it already, but I work in a cafe. It's in a bit of a touristy area, but everyone who works there is really nice and the customers who come in are really nice and generally we have a nice time. The only thing that worries me, is that I don't really know what most of the food tastes like. And because all of the food looks really nice (small vocabulary, much?), I think I need to do something about this. But there is one problem. No one really likes going to work on their day off, or hanging around after work when they finish.

But I've taken all these (minor) problems into my own hands and have decided that I will make all these dishes at home. I'm constantly asking the chefs what ingredients they are putting into the meals so that I can learn how to make marinated fetta, veggie burgers and aioli, and now is my chance to use these techniques I've learnt and to share them with you.

So the idea for this bacon bruschetta comes directly from the cafe. Theirs is a little different from this one: they add some roasted red capsicum and marinated fetta, but the idea is the same. Mine really is just a BLT with a fancy name, but that doesn't make it any less tasty. Even Rooney liked it.

Bacon Bruschetta.
Serves 2

4 rashers of smokey, organic bacon, rind removed
1 olive ciabatta roll, halved
1 tomato, sliced
1 tbsp pesto
big handful of lettuce
1 tbsp homemade aioli

Grill the bacon rashers until crispy. While you're waiting, toast the roll on each side. When these are both browned, spread half the pesto on each half of the roll. Top with tomato, lettuce and then the bacon. Drizzle with aioli. Season with fresh pepper. Try not to let your cat touch it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Milo Brownies.

Looks like it's carb week around here (Mum, I promise I've been eating my fruit and veggies!). But sometimes I just need to eat something sweet and chocolatey and chewy (it looks like this happens...about once a month?). And I know I've posted a lot of brownie recipes, but that's because when I make them, I like to try out different recipe. This month, let's try milo brownies.

And you may be wondering why there are no photos on this post. That's because we ate the whole tin before I thought about taking any. We didn't mean too, promise. But when I turned back around, the tray was empty. Brent had eaten them all. I guess they were good, but you'll just have to take our word for it. They didn' taste overly like milo, which I was a bit sad about. Next time I think I'll put in more milo and less sugar. And maybe some wholewheat flour, just for substance.

But in the meantime, I'll leave you with this picture of Rooney inside the washing machine.
Milo Brownies.
The recipe is from Good Housekeeping, but I adapted it quite a lot. Basically I just used it as a meaurement guide.

80g butter
1/2 cup flour (plain or wholewheat)
1/2 cup milo
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsps vanilla

Preheat oven to 170C. Grease a non-stick loaf pan.
Melt the butter in a medium sauce-pan.
Add all the other ingredients and stir to combine.
Pour into the loaf tin.
Bake for 7-10 mins. I like my brownies to by quite gooey and underdone, so I don't bake them for very long, but they could be cooked quite well, too.
There's no need to let them cool. Just eat them straight out of the tin.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What to do with left over egg yolks.

After making the Rainbow Birthday Cake, I had heaps of egg yolks left over. As someone who doesn't like to throw things away, I had to find something to make with them. I made pasta and aioli. But you could make lots of different things. Be wild, imagination!

And because I'm so nice, I'm going to give you some links so that you can make some yummy things with your left over egg yolks too.

Smitten Kitchen's seven yolk pasta dough
Jamie Oliver's fresh egg pasta
David Lebovitz's Aioli
Joy the Baker's Tangerine lemon curd
Lottie + Doof's Orange and cinnamon creme brulee
Nigella Lawson's Lavender ice cream
Stovetop Revolution's Burnt fig semifreddo

I'll leave it at that, otherwise I might have to do a post about what to make with left over egg whites...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Birthday Cake.

Here is a list of things I like:
Family dinners

Well, tonight had all of these things. And more.
Tonight was my little sisters 16th birthday. That's a pretty important age. I remember when I turned 16, but that's another story for another day. Because this story is all about cake, and sisters who like cake.
That's my sister there. And that is a slice of the cake. Gotcha! I bet you weren't expecting that!
This cake was pretty epic. It took me a week of planning and two days of mixing and baking, but I got there in the end. And I think it was totally worth it. Don't you? If you've got an important sister or friend in your life, and they have an important birthday coming up, why don't you surprise them with a rainbow cake? It will brighten up their rainy birthday and everyone will think you're amazing, that much I promise you.
Picnik collage

Rainbow Birthday Cake.
Adapted from Love and Olive Oil.

As I said, this was pretty time consuming. Mainly because I only had one cake tin and I had to bake each layer individually. I wouldn't call this an everyday cake, not by any means. But if you've got a special occasion, it's probably worth it. The icing was a bit much though. I had about a cup of icing left over, and I originally was going to keep it for cupcakes, but I threw it out because I didn't ever want to look at it again. The icing was a lot of effort for something that I didn't think was particularly good. For starters, I don't really like white chocolate, it doesn't do anything for me. And for seconders, it had too many things in it, making it expensive and not really worth it for what you get. If I made this again, I think I would make a cream cheese icing, or something a bit more tasty. But if you really like white chocolate - I mean, if you're really all about it - then it's probably worth it. The icing does set hard though, which is really good if you have to run from the car to the house in the rain and you don't want your icing getting all messed up.

Also, the original recipe called for gel colours, but I couldn't find these, so I just used regular food dye and it worked fine. The icing originally called for nearly a kilo of butter, but I ended up using about 200g less, because I didn't think it needed it and I was right. The icing also called for 'sugar'. It took me a while to decide what type of sugar she meant: icing, white, castor; but I went with plain white sugar and it worked fine.

For Cake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 cup whole milk
6 egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsps almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups white sugar
4 tsps baking powder
1 tsp table salt
170g unsalted butter, softened
food dye.

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm (or smaller) springform cake pan.

Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into a bowl and mix. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and beat at high speed. Add butter. Beat at slow speed until mixture resembles crumbs. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at high speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to high speed and beat 20 seconds longer.
Divide batter between six bowls. Add enough food dye to each bowl, whisking until you get the right shade. Pour one colour batter into the cake pan. Transfer to oven and bake until cake tester comes out clean, about 9-10 minutes. Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Invert onto wire rack. Repeat with remaining colours.
Allow each layer to cool completely. 

For icing:
2 1/2 cups white sugar
10 egg whites
700g unsalted butter, chopped, softened
2 tsps vanilla extract
500g white chocolate, melted and cooled

Put sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 140F on an instant-read thermometer.
Take off heat. Beat on medium-high speed until fluffy and cooled, about 10 minutes. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to medium-low; add butter by the spoonful, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and white chocolate.

To assemble cake:
Place four strips of baking paper around outside of a cake plate. Place the purple layer on the plate. Scoop filling over the first layer and spread with a spatula so it extends just beyond edges. Repeat process with blue, green, yellow, and orange layers.
Place the remaining red layer on top, bottom-side up. Using a spatula, cover the top and sides with a layer of icing so that the colours cannot be seen. Gently pull out the layers of baking paper. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.

Friday, April 1, 2011

All of the lights, all of the lights.

The other night, I went to a light installation with my family. It was in the botanical gardens, which are really beautiful in the day. But at night, they got transformed into this crazy space of light and noise.
Some of the installations were really beautiful. Some were a bit creepy. But I took a couple of photos (on my phone) and wanted to share.


This song even kinda reminds me of the music that matched the lights.

Cauliflower and Bean Soup.

 It's starting to get cold.

The wind is whipping against my window panes and the heater gets turned on for the first time this year. The cold sneaks in under the door and through the window glass. You need to wear big socks to bed and snuggle right up close to the person you love. And even then, you might still be cold.

I had to dig through my summer shirts to find something warmer to wear. And when it’s still dark when you walk to work, you need lots of scarves and stockings and hats to wear (I don’t start early very often, but I’m setting the scene, go with it). I even had to buy some boots, because cute little flats just won’t cut it in the cold.

Sounds like it’s time to make soup.

I like soup a lot. It’s easy and quick and filling and tasty. I couldn't even make it all the way through this little bowl of soup, it was just so hearty. I like cauliflower too. Brent doesn’t like it though, so I normally make pumpkin or chicken soup. But it’s nice to make different things sometimes.

This soup is soft with cauliflower and creamy with white beans. It’s super fast, too. Just cook the cauliflower in some stock until soft. Add the beans and lots of yummy spices. Blend it all up. You’ll be warm before you even have time to out on another jumper. You might even have to turn off the heater.

Cauliflower and Bean Soup.

You could start this soup by heating 1 chopped onion in some oil and then add the garlic and then the cauliflower, but I didn't have any onions, so I skipped this whole step and just put the cauliflower into the stock and went from there.

1 head of cauliflower, chopped
1 can cannellini beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 litre chicken or veggie  stock
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Greek yoghurt or cream or creme fraiche to serve (optional).

Put the cauliflower, garlic and stock into a large pot.
Bring to the boil and then simmer until the cauliflower is really soft. About 15 mins.
Add the beans and give it a stir. Simmer for 5-10 mins longer, until the beans are warmed.
At this point, I added some paprika and lots of pepper and some chilli. Totally optional.
Let cool for a little bit, then blend it all up. (If you have an immersion blender, this would be heaps easier. Otherwise, a standing blender is fine. Just do it in batches.)
Stir in the parmesan.
Gently reheat.
Serve with yoghurt, and extra pepper.