Thursday, October 21

White chocolate & blueberry muffins


Stress baking can take two forms. When you stress bake you can either make something super complicated and inevitably mess it up a lot, or you can make something incredibly simple and mess it up but only a little bit. Yesterday I opted for the latter - what I ended up with were these muffins which, despite my small mishap, are delicious and fill some kind of void in my stomach.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who stress bakes (or cleans, or sews.) Stress baking helps to take my mind off whatever is causing the stress. And I end up with something to eat too - something that too often gets forgotten when I'm stressed or worried. We all have bad habits.

Stress baking is the same as nervous baking, which is the same as worry baking. They're all caused by different things but the result is essentially the same. Regardless of what brings on the kitchen frenzy, the result is always something tasty with something ever so slightly wrong with it. I do all these kinds of baking but mostly I do 'for fun' baking.

Truthfully, I wasn't stress baking at all yesterday. I was nervous/excited baking. Nervous baking is better than nervous giggling because no one else knows you're doing it.

What do you know when you're stressed or nervous about something?

So, this recipe is incredibly simple and will probably become one of my go to recipes when I need something quick and easy. When I made mine I accidentally doubled the oil, the recipe I've included has the correct amount of oil. If you do, for some reason, put in twice as much oil, don't worry, your muffins will be fine.

(Also, yesterday was my birthday which would make me 22 now. I'm currently making an awesome mousse cake - expect pictures!)

White chocolate & blueberry muffins

(adapted from Simple Essentials: Chocolate by Donna Hay)
makes 9 small muffins

150g (1 cup) self-raising flour, sifted
80g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
125ml (1/2 cup) sour cream
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
30ml (1/8 cup) vegetable oil
125ml (1/2 cup) milk
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup chopped white chocolate

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Line 10 standard (125ml, approx) muffin cups with papers.

Place the flour and sugar into a bowl and mix to combine. Combine the sour cream, egg, lemon zest, vegetable oil, and milk in a separate bowl and whisk together. Stir the sour cream mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Fold through the blueberries and white chocolate.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, then bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

Tuesday, October 19

Savarin with poached pears


Some things are so weird. This is one of them. It's so bizarre that I'm at a loss as to whether or not I like it. This is apparently savarin, I've never had (or made) savarin so I'm not sure if it's supposed to be as weird as my rendition is.

Probably more knowledgeable folks that I will have eaten savarin before made by someone who actually knows how to make it - someone who knows good and bad. Someone who is decisive about their likes and dislikes.

I feel I should like this because taste-wise it's rather nice, but texture-wise it's just weird. There's so much syrup in it that it's completely squishy. I'm not a squishy food kind of girl - I can't stand things like bread and butter pudding - the way the liquid filled solid thing squelches around in my mouth. Good description there?

Anyway, looking at the picture (not my picture, the picture in the magazine) there's looks just as squishy. That's good, I suppose?

Though I'm umm-ing and ahh-ing about the savarin, I am definitely not torn about my feeling towards the poached pears. They're delicious, and this is coming from a girl who claims not to enjoy red wine. They're sweet, pretty, soothing delicious.

Savarin with poached pears

(from Gourmet Traveller & Decadence by Philip Johnson)
makes 8-10 savarin and 8 poached pears

For the savarin

175g plain flour, sifted
2 teaspoons caster sugar
3/4 teaspoon dried yeast
125ml lukewarm milk
2 eggs, at room temperature
60g butter, softened and coarsely chopped
30g raisins

Preheat the oven to 180°C, butter eight 7cm savarin moulds or six 10cm bundt tins.

Combine flour, sugar, yeast, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. With the mixer on low, add the milk and the eggs and mix until smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Add the butter and beat on medium-high speed until the dough is smooth and homogeneous, about 8-10 minutes. Add the raisins and mix to combine. Then half-fill the prepared savarin moulds or tins and stand in a warm place until risen, around 10-15 minutes. Bake until golden and well risen, about 6-10 minutes. When cooked, turn the savarin out on to a wire rack, piece each one several times with a thin skewer, then transfer to a deep tray.

For the syrup

250g caster sugar
500ml water
60ml light bodied red wine

While the savarin is rising, begin the syrup.

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and stir over medium-high heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, add the red wine, then pour the syrup over the cooked savarin. Stand, occasionally turning the savarin, until they are puffed and saturated, or 5-6 hours.

When you are ready to serve, transfer the savarin to a non-stick pan and pour over any remaining syrup. Warm gently over low heat. Serve with poached pears or ice-cream.

For the poached pears

Zest of 1/2 lemon, peeled into strips
1 cinnamon stick
100g caster sugar
375ml (1 1/2 cups) light bodied red wine
250ml (1 cup) water
4 ripe but firm pears, halved, peeled, and cored

Combine the lemon zest, cinnamon stick, caster sugar, wine, and water in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then reduce to a simmer. Immerse the pears and cover with baking paper and a plate to keep them submerged. Poach for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.

Allow the pears to cool in the poaching liquid, then transfer them to a bowl and set aside. Strain the poaching liquid through a fine sieve and return to the saucepan - discarding the aromatics. Return the pan to medium heat and simmer until reduced by one-third. Pour the syrup over the pears and refrigerate until required.

Friday, October 8

Brown sugar sponge cake with cream cheese icing


Always make sure your camera battery is charged before you set up a photo. In fact, always make sure your camera battery is charged before you even think about taking pictures. Don't go to check if it's charged after you've set up a picture. Worst of all, don't set up a picture, discover your camera battery isn't charged, charge it for under 10 minutes, and expect to be able to take more than 6 shots. Just don't do it, it won't work, you'll just be disappointed.

Can you tell I just did this? In fact, I do it all the time, I rarely charge my camera battery unless I actually need my camera and, as you would expect, when I actually need my camera is when I want to take photos. But I can't because I forgot to charge the battery, as usual. You would think I would just get into the habit of charging my camera after I use it. Or, even forbid, keeping one battery charged at all times. That's right, there's more than battery... and they're both flat. All the time.

This cake is pretty flat too, but that's only because it's small. Small and delicious. So delicious I wanted to be able to share more than one picture of it with you, but I can't because I forgot to charge my camera battery. Surely I'm not the only one like this?

I made this cake for J because he likes sponge cake and I normally don't. I do, however, like brown sugar and cream cheese. J likes brown sugar and cream cheese too so this keeps us both happy.

I wouldn't say this is a sweet cake, in fact it's rather tart. That'd be the pomegranate molasses I decided to add on a whim. The pomegranate molasses I explicitly went out to buy for a reason then promptly forgot what that reason was. My life has a bit of a theme at the moment and that theme is forgetting things.

Anyway, I'm glad I didn't forget to take this cake out of the oven. Really glad.

Brown sugar sponge cake with cream cheese icing

(adapted from Gourmet Traveller
makes one 20cm cake layer

3 eggs, at room temperature
40g (1.5 oz) brown sugar
40g (1.5oz) caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g (2.5oz) plain flour, triple sifted
1/16 teaspoon baking powder (or just a pinch)
30g (1 oz) butter, melted then cooled

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Butter one 20-diameter cake tin, then line the base with baking paper.

Whisk the eggs, sugars, and vanilla using an electric mixer on high speed until the mixture has tripled in volume and holds a trail, about 60-8 minutes.

Sift half the flour and the baking powder over the egg mixture, and fold gently through. Sift over the remaining flour and fold to combine, then fold in the butter.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cake is dark golden and the centre springs back when gently pressed. Cool slightly in tin and then turn out and cool complete on a wire rack.

For the icing

125g cream cheese, at room temperature
250ml (1 cup) pouring cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
30g (1 oz) brown sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until it is soft and malleable. Swap to the beater attachment, then add the cream, vanilla, pomegranate molasses, and brown sugar. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until required.

To assemble the cake

Slice the cooled cake horizontal into two equal halves. Remove the top half, then spread the lower half with cream cheese icing. Sandwich the two halves. Ice the outside with remaining icing mixture, then refrigerate until required.

Monday, October 4

Blueberry linzer biscuits


I think I like biscuits more than I like cake, maybe it's because they're not so heavy, or maybe it's because you an eat more of them and not feel guilty. I don't know. Maybe it's because biscuits are often ridiculously cute.

As a child my favourite biscuits were jam fancies, however as an adult they're not quite as exciting. Like wagon wheels they don't quite live up to expectation. They're still pretty good though, I don't know what it is I like so much about them. I know I shouldn't enjoy them so much but I just can't help it.

I'm a big fan of the good ol' jam filled biscuit so these blueberry linzer biscuits certainly hit the spot. The original recipe calls for raspberry jam, I chose blueberry because it compliments the slight spiciness of the biscuit. I'm sure they're great with raspberry jam too.


Blueberry linzer biscuits

(adapted from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri)
makes about twenty-five 5cm (2 inch) biscuits

225g (8 oz) butter, softened
140g (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
100g (1 cup) almonds, finely ground in the food processor
385g (2 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cup blueberry jam
icing sugar, for sprinkling

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle on medium speed until soft and light in colour, about 5 minutes. Decrease the speed to low and beat in the ground almonds.

Mix together the flour, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat into the butter mixture, continue beating until the dough holds together.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a spatula, give the dough a final mix. Scrape the dough on to a piece of plastic wrap then shape it into a round 1cm (1/2 inch) thick. Wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or up to 3 days.

When you are ready to bake the biscuits, set the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 180°C (350°F). Line two biscuit trays with baking paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 3 equal parts. Place 1 piece on a lightly floured work surface; return the remaining pieces to the refrigerator. Lightly flour the dough and press it gently with a rolling pin to soften before rolling.

Roll the dough about 6mm (1/4 inch) thick. Using a 5cm (2 inch) round biscuit cutter, cut the dough into disks. Arrange the disks 5cm (2 inches) apart on the prepared trays. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, gently kneading in the scraps as you go.

Using a 1.5cm (1/2 inch) round cutter, make a hole in the centre of half the biscuit bases. Bake the biscuits until they are firm and golden, about 15-20 minutes. About halfway through place the pan from the lower third of the oven on to the upper one and vice versa, turning the pans back to front at the same time. Once cooked, remove the biscuits from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

When cool, dust the windowed cookies with icing sugar. Turn the bases over so the flat side is facing upwards, spread with blueberry jam when sandwich the bases and tops together.