Thursday, August 19

Mexican chocolate crackle biscuits


Dear internet, meet my new favourite biscuit. New favourite biscuit, meet the internet. Don't be shy, introduce yourself. It's not that hard to say "hi, all name is Mexican chocolate crackle biscuit".

I've developed quite and affinity for these biscuits, just looking at them makes me feel pleasant. It's not an irrational attraction I'm feeling towards these biscuits either. My attraction is perfectly justified; these biscuits are darn good.

I bookmarked this recipe many months ago with the intention of making them as soon as I could. Needless to say, like many of my plans, I never got around to it. In the meantime I made many other things. The truth is, I completely forgot about my plans to make these biscuits. I wish I hadn't.


I've made biscuits that look just like these before but they were never as good as these are. I think I could eat a whole batch of these myself, but I won't because I fear my teeth will fall out. The wonderful combination of chocolate, cinnamon, and ancho chile keeps me coming back for more. Not to mention the sugar, oh the sugar. There's nothing good for you about these biscuits but they taste so lovely that it's completely ok.

I think next time I have an event of some form I'm going to hand these out as thank you for coming presents. That way more people will get to try them. Spread the love, or something.

Mexican chocolate crackle biscuits

(adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking)
makes about 20 biscuits

20g (1 1/2 tablespoons) butter
2 teaspoons coffee liqueur
85g (3 oz) bitter-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 large egg
50g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar, plus 50g (1/4 cup) extra
50g (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
45g (1/4 cup) whole almonds, lightly toasted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon anco chile powder
45g (1/3 cup) unsifted icing sugar

Bring 5cm (2in) water to the boil in a small saucepan. Place the butter, liqueur, and chocolate in a heat-proof glass bowl. Turn off the heat, then set the glass bowl over the steaming water. Stir with a spatula until the mixture is smooth. Remove from saucepan and let cool slightly whilst you whip the eggs.

Place the eggs and 50g (1/4 cup) of the granulated sugar in the bowl of a mixer and whip, on high speed until the mixture is very light in colour, about 5 to 6 minutes. Scrape the melted chocolate mixture into the eggs and whip until well blended, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl.

Place the flour, nuts cinnamon, baking powder, and chile powder in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts are finely chopped, about 60 to 90 seconds. Add the flour mixture to the eggs and beat on low speed until just combined. Stir mixture gently with a spatula to ensure all the flour is incorporated. At this point the dough should vaguely resemble a thick mousse. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F), line a biscuit tray with baking paper.

Roll tablespoon sized amounts of dough into balls. Place the remaining 50g (1/4 cup) of granulated sugar in a small bowl and the icing sugar in another. Roll each ball of dough in the granulated sugar and then in the icing sugar. Be generous with the icing sugar, ensuring that each ball enough is cover with enough icing sugar so that you cannot see the dough underneath. Space the balls 5cm (2in) apart on the baking trays.

Bake the biscuits for 11-14 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through. The biscuits should be puffed and cracked when they are fully baked, if you nudge them they should slide on the tray rather than stick. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Monday, August 9

Lime & ricotta baked doughnuts

Lime and Ricotta Baked Doughnuts

I'm not sure how I feel about these. There's something a little off about baked doughnuts, something not quite right about them. I get the same feeling from these doughnuts I get when I accidentally buy low-fat sour cream, or fat free yoghurt. it comes from the knowledge that someone is telling a lie when they say the 'healthier' alternative is just as good as the real thing.

I'm not converted to baked doughnuts. It's not that these don't taste nice, because they do, it's just that they don't taste right. They're shaped like doughnuts, sugar coated like doughnuts, coloured like doughnuts but they're not doughnuts. If you put a plate of these next to a plate of real doughnuts, everyone would spot the impostor in an instant.


Nevertheless, these aren't bad - in fact they're pretty good. They're just not doughnuts. The lime flavour goes rather well with the ricotta. I'm definitely going to make lime doughnuts again in the future but it certainly won't be with this recipe. The orange and cinnamon doughnuts I made earlier cry out to be lime flavoured and filled with ricotta.

I'm definitely a deep fried doughnut kind of girl.

Anyway, I'm making it sound like these were bad but really they weren't. they were actually thoroughly enjoyable, I'm just a bit of a negative nelly sometimes! I also love deep fried things, so there in lies the problem with these doughnuts. It's not them, it's me.

Lime & ricotta baked doughnuts

(adapted from Gourmet Traveller)
makes about 12 small doughnuts

For the doughnuts

375g plain flour
70g caster sugar
4g instant dried yeast
Finely grated rind of 1 lime
125ml milk, lukewarm
40ml yoghurt
1 egg, at room temperature
15g butter, melted
Oil, for greasing
Milk, for brushing

For the ricotta filling

125g ricotta
25g caster sugar
Finely grated rind and juice of 1/2 a lime

For the lime sugar

80g caster sugar
Finely grated rind of 1/2 a lime
50g butter, melted

For the doughnuts, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and lime rind in the bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.

In a large jug, whisk together the milk, yoghurt, egg, and melted butter and, with the motor running, add to the flour mixture. Mix on low-medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 4-5 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1-1 1/2 hours.

meanwhile, process all the ingredients for the lime ricotta filling in a food processor or a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until required.

Once the dough is fully risen, knock it back and turn it out on to a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough 5mm thick then, using 5cm and 6cm cutters, cut an equal number of rounds out of the dough. Place the smaller rounds on a lined baking tray. Place heaped teaspoons of ricotta filling in the centre of each round. Brush the edges of each round with a small amount of milk, then cover with the larger rounds and press to seal the edges. Trim with a a 5cm cookie cutter if required. Stand the dough in a warm place until well risen, about 1-1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Bake the doughnuts for 8-10 minutes, or until just golden.

Whilst the doughnuts are baking, prepare the lime sugar. Combine the lime zest and sugar in a bowl, then spread out on a tray. Once the doughnuts are baked, dip them in the melted butter and toss in lime sugar. Serve hot.

Wednesday, August 4

Almond, ricotta, & raspberry cakes


Sometimes I like to imagine that I'm a champion for ugly food. I pretend I'm battering down conventional norms of beauty with my ill-formed and slightly bizarre creations. It's my way of reassuring myself that it's okay if things aren't perfect.

My imaginings make me feel better, they stop me worrying about my seemly constant ability to create ugly food. Still, I don't consciously set out of create food that looks odd, it just happens again, and again, and again.

The comforting thing about ugly food is that it's not necessarily bad food. In fact, there's something wondrous about imperfect food. Sure, you don't want to be served it at a restaurant, but if a friend makes it for you it becomes oddly comforting. It says: "hey, I made this for you and you alone." You can tell it came out of the oven of someone who is as imperfect as the food they're giving you, someone who as imperfect as you are. You don't feel awkward when you get crumbs everywhere, or when you greedily go back for more.

Ugly food is utterly unpretentious (unlike me, I'm hugely pretentious). It sets the mood for an unpretentious event. In a world where there's so much showing off, ugly food says "don't worry, I'm not perfect either."


Yet, when I serve ugly food I find myself trying to justify why it's ugly over and over again. I'll say "it wasn't meant to look like this, it's because I didn't have the right ingredients" or "they would have risen properly if I used the right pan", or whatever reason I have this time. I'm completely insecure, utterly paranoid that my creations won't be enjoyed because they're not as pretty as they could have been. It's a challenge to accept that, frankly, no one else really cares what they look like.

Essentially, what I'm trying to say is that these cakes aren't pretty but they taste damn good.

Anyway, if you do make these, I highly recommend you make them in the specified metal moulds. I made the error of baking half of mine straight into paper cups and found they didn't rise particularly well and, despite being cooked, sunk as soon as I removed them from the oven. The cakes baked in metal moulds fared much better and did not sink. I transferred the ones in metal moulds to paper cups once they were cool enough to handle.

Almond, ricotta, & raspberry cakes

(adapted from Gourmet Traveller)
makes 9

90g butter, softened
120g caster sugar
65g brown sugar
Zest of 1/2 an orange
2 eggs
50ml milk
100g gluten free plain flour
80g almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
300g ricotta
50g sour cream
40g caster sugar, extra
50g raspberries, fresh or frozen
50g toasted almonds, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 180°C, grease and flour nine 180ml metal dariole moulds and place them on a baking tray.

Beat butter, sugars, and orange zest using an electric mixer until lightened in colour and texture, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the milk and beat to combine.

Stir in the flour, hazelnut meal, and baking powder. Spoon into prepared dariole moulds and set aside.

Process ricotta, sour cream, and extra caster sugar in a blender or food processor until smooth. Divide evenly among the batter filled moulds. Scatter mixture with raspberries and almonds.

Bake cakes until they are well risen and golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Cool cakes in moulds for 5-10 minutes, then run a small knife around the sides of the moulds and careful remove cakes. Transfer to paper baking cups, if desired. Cool on wire rack.

Tuesday, August 3

Poffertjes with mandarin jam


Poffertjes machines went through a bit of a craze over Christmas, every catalogue featured one and many, many shops had awful bulky machines for sale. The kind of speciality machine that gets pulled out every once in a while and used to make things that will never be appreciated to their full extent. Coupled with the frenzy for the machines, there was a frenzy for pre-packaged poffertjes mix.

I've tried pre-packaged poffertjes mix myself (it came with my poffertjes pan, needless to say) and didn't find it particularly impressive. I'm by no means immune to the ease of pre-packaged mixes - or the lure of owing a poffertjes pan, or that matter. I justify mine by telling myself: well, at least it's smaller than an electric machine. I say this about my crepe pan and waffle iron too, why one person needs so many speciality kitchen... things, I don't know. It's quite tragic, really.

It saddens me to think that the many, many people who bought poffertjes pans will only ever use pre-packaged mix. It's not the fact that it's pre-packaged that saddens me, it's merely that poffertjes made with yeast taste so, so much better. When made with yeast, poffertjes are just like little doughnuts. Yum!

Sure, pre-packaged mixes are easy but so is this recipe! Admittedly, you do need prepare the batter in advance as the recipe contains yeast. In the grand scheme of things an hour isn't a long time and, if you can't spare an hour, you can always make the mix the night before and leave it in the fridge to mature. By the time you wake up, it'll be ready to go.


The thing I like about poffertjes is that, once the mixture is made, they're quicker than pancakes to make. By the time you've finished squeezing the batter into the holes, the poffertjes are ready to be turned. There's hardly any waiting around. It's bam, bam, bam, done! Not to mention people are always seem to be exceedingly pleased when you feed them poffertjes. They react as though you've made something difficult, when you've actually made something even easier than pancakes.

So, essentially, this recipe is quite fantastic. If you have a poffertjes pan that's crying out to be loved, I implore you to pull it out and make some poffertjes totday. You won't be disappointed. The jam is by no means mandatory but it's pretty delicious.

Poffertjes with mandarin jam

(from Gourmet Traveller)
serves 4

Buckwheat poffertjes

90g (1/4 cup) golden syrup
375ml (1 1/2 cups) milk
150g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour
150g (1 1/4 cups) buckwheat flour
1 3/4 teaspoons instant dried yeast
2 teaspoons ground ginger
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
3 eggs
Icing sugar, to dust

In a small saucepan over low heat, or in the microwave, combine the milk and golden syrup. Heat the milk until it is lukewarm. Stir to dissolve the golden syrup.

Combine flours, dried yeast, lemon rind, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine then make a well in the centre. Add the eggs and half the milk mixture, stir until the batter is smooth. Add the remaining milk and beat, using a spoon, to combine. Cover and stand in a warm place for 1 hour. Alternatively, cover and place the mixture in the refrigerator overnight.

Transfer poffertjes mixture to a large sauce bottle. Heat poffertjes pan over medium high heat. Brush a bit of butter into each cavity and then, when it is sizzling, fill each cavity with batter. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then turn and cook for an additional 30 seconds, or until cooked through. Dust poffertjes with icing sugar and serve with mandarin jam.

Mandarin jam

Makes about 350ml

6 mandarins, peeled with pith removed
340g (11 oz) caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons fresh ginger finely chopped

Break mandarins into pieces and combine in a large saucepan with all the remaining ingredients. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a simmer and stir occasionally until the mixture is thick and jammy, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a sterilised jar, cool, and then refrigerate until required.