Friday, December 24, 2010

Daring Bakers: Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

HOORAH! Now you know where my marzipan went!

As much as I love Christmas, I'm not big on "Christmassy" sweet food - fruit mince tarts, fruit cake, pudding, I don't really like any of it. Common theme here? I hate fruit mince. And dried fruit. And muesli with dried fruit in it. So I wasn't overly enthused about making the Christmas Stollen. And then I started making it, and got told I wasn't even allowed to use the fruit mince because then we'd have less fruit mince tarts. So this turned into more of an Australian Christmas stollen - dark chocolate, coconut and almond. By Australian, I mean Emily-friendly.

I also learnt the phrase "mise en place", meaning you weigh/measure everything out BEFORE you start cooking. Ingenius, I must say. 

The Christmas Duck

Merry Christmas, guys!

Hope your day is going splendidly. Mine is, because Gordo got me a NEW CHRISTMAS DUCK on Monday and he is the best. To be fair, I wrote this yesterday (oooo transcending space/time continuums) so I have no other presents to compare it to/gush about.

I sense your confusion about the Christmas duck.

The Christmas Duck is an amazing(ly ridiculous) family tradition.

The Christmas duck originated when I was very clumsy and dropped a glass nativity scene ornament when I tried to put it on the Christmas tree. Understandably ~distraught~ because I thought I'd broken a really expensive ornament, I salvaged the main section because essentially, the stable had shattered away from the nativity and it was still kind of fine. I thought I'd just put it on the mantle where it still looked nice, and Dad came downstairs a while later and was like "... Why do we have a duck ornament?".
Why indeed.
The new Christmas duck, however, is amazing and useful and CUTE. Its a tiny tea infuser that Gordo got me for Christmas (with a doctor-warning that with my iron levels, he shouldn't have bought it. Thanks buddy). LOOKY, ITS ADORABLE.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gingerbread Men

I don't understand what its like to have a small family or not know how to act around small people. On my mum's side of the family, I'm one of thirteen cousins, and one of the 'old bunch' (to be fair, if you categorize us that way, the 'middle bunch' is only one cousin who's a couple of years younger than I am and a couple of years older than the start of the 'young bunch'; the system is inherently flawed). I digress - the main point is, I love having a gigantic family. And I'm learning to love babysitting as well :P My youngest cousins are six and three, and very energetic (which is my main qualm about babysitting, because I am lazy). I actually invented a game called Tickle Monster which they love, where the Tickle Monster (me) has to sit on the couch and CAN'T GET OFF THE COUCH (this is a very important rule), and everyone else (ie the boys, who have energy) has to run around and try not to get caught by the tickle monster. In my defence, I also play soccer and dodgeball and chasey and the like.

The other day, though, knowing it was going to be stinking hot (and wanting to mold them into the next Junior Masterchefs), I prepared for babysitting by bringing stuff to make gingerbread men. I was going to make chocolate spiders with them (easy and delicious), but I did that last time, and its CHRISTMAS. Not that I think we've ever made gingerbread men as an exclusively Christmas food, I think I've probably made them twice before and never at Christmas, but it seems to be the done thing. I also got to teach Mr Six about fractions (possibly above his age level, but he's ridiculously intelligent, and it makes sense when you can look at how many 1/2 cup or 1/3 cups go into 1 cup). And it kept them occupied, which is the main thing, its nice to come home and be able to say that you had a great day babysitting!

Side notes: I did get their mother's permission before I put these photos up, and they washed their hands first so Mr Six flattening the brown sugar with his hands isn't quite as concerning as it could be. And I don't know why Mr Three is wearing a diamond bracelet.


125g butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup golden syrup
1 egg
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tbsp bicarb soda

1. Line two trays with baking paper

2. Mix the butter, sugar, golden syrup and egg until combined.

3. Add the flour, ginger and bicarb soda and mix with a wooden spoon.

4. Lightly flour a chopping board (or clean bench space), turn out the gingerbread mix onto the board and knead until smooth.

5. Roll to desired thickness and cut out shapes to put on the baking tray. We used letters, numbers and animals.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Boysenberry Crumble Bars

Its not a secret that I love Christmas. I think I love it only 0.5% less than Tara, and thats saying something. In fact, I'm so delirious with Christmas joy that I tried to link to Which is not her blog at all. Or maybe its the heat thats making me delirious. I don't know. It must be over 40 today, right guys?

(Note: The Bureau says its forecast at 32. I say that's a lie.)

I had a very nice baking day with The Uber Blonde earlier this week. If you've been following her blog (and if not, why not!?), you'll know that she's recently had to join the ranks of The Vigilante in gluten-free-ness. I was going to nickname The Vigilante as Allergen Girl because she's SO DIFFICULT TO BAKE FOR with all her intolerances (just kidding, I love you really), but I drew her as a superhero vigilante once and it made me pleased.

So UB and I made these delightful crumble bars from this gluten free recipe, although we made some substitutions (almond meal for hazelnut flour, a lot less jam than we needed, no vanilla essence - although the latter was just because I've lost it. The essence, not my mind. Or... never mind). They were gosh-darn delicious, so when Dad came to stay with us and brought some boysenberries with him, I snapped up half of them to make a glutenous version of the bars. Mmm, wheat.

I'm going to warn you - these bars are decadent. Not quite in a Cinnabon-y way, but in a "share with a large group of friends or eat over two weeks" way. I know the recipe looks complicated, but it really isn't! Trust me, I am not one for difficulty, and definitely not twice in two days.

Makes 24 slices
Adapted from Gluten-Free Goddess

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup boysenberries
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
5 tbsp butter
2/3 cup slivered almonds*
4 tbsp butter

*in the GF bars I made with UB, we used dessicated coconut as well (the original recipe calls for flaked coconut, but beggars students can't be picky) and it was amazing, so I'd strongly encourage that, I was just lazy the second-time around when I actually took a photo.

1. Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Combine all ingredients from the first section except the butter. Then cut in the butter to a sandy consistency.

3. Line a baking pan with baking paper, allowing some overhang so you can just lift the bars out when you're done. Pour in the mixture and pat down to make a firm base. Bake for seven minutes in the preheated oven to "set" the base.

4. Take the base out and "smash" the elderberries to make a layer across the base. As a reference point - in the original recipe, jam is used as the middle layer, so you want a fairly thick filling or it will just be crumble on crumble.

5. Speaking of that second layer of crumble - combine the flour and brown sugar, and rub in the butter to create a crumble. Top the elderberry layer with crumbly goodness.

6. Melt the 4 tbsp butter gently in a pan, and coat the slivered almonds in butter. Spoon this mixture onto the top of the crumble.

7. Bake for 20 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

The original recipe says you can bag and freeze leftover bars - I can't vouch for this as I haven't had any leftover as of yet, but I trust her!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Joy

I can't even explain why I haven't been posting. I think it has something to do with laziness, forgetting to take photos, and production week. Ah, production week. My nemesis. But its almost Christmas, I've nearly finished my shopping, and work is over. So hopefully this gets you in the Christmassy mood, because I gosh-darn love Christmas :)

What I'm Listening To: Fairytale of New York by The Pogues.

What I Desperately Want: These fantastic gingerbread biscuits from A Work in Progress

And if I play my Christmas list (or new year presents-to-self) right, I could make some with these


Antidotes to all of the food I'll be consuming over Christmas:

This gorgeous gingerbread house ring from DIVINEsweetness. The details! The photography! I am in love.

Or these macaron rings from shayaaron - lemon & lime, menthe, blackcurrant, or praline. Learning to make macarons PROPERLY, with feet, is my challenge for 2011. 

Stepping away from food for a second, I LOVE this headband from Janine Basil. And speaking of challenges for 2011, I also need to learn how to use liquid eyeliner. 

OK, back to food. I want Jacques the French Toast and his baguette buddy! (*Not a euphemism) From Pumpkin Pye.

What is happening with this sushi hair barette/why don't I ever pin my hair back? Gimmeswords, you have my undying love.

Any other cute food finds?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Baking Basics: Marzipan

Being at Mama and Papa's house this weekend, I decided to make some marzipan because Dad and I both like it (and thats as good a reason as any, right?). Marzipan is really versatile, and great to colour and shape to make marzipan fruits or what have you. This recipe is great because its quick and you don't need to cook it like in other recipes. This is from the perennial favourite of our household for Christmas treats, The Book of Chocolates and Petits Fours.

Makes 500g

250g ground almonds
250g icing sugar + extra for dusting
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp sherry or brandy
almond essence
2 egg whites

1. Combine almonds and sugar in a bowl.

2. Add lemon juice, sherry or brandy (as you wish), and a few drops of almond essence.

3. Gradually mix in the egg whites, making sure that the pastry is sticky but not wet (YA-HOY).

4. Dust a pastry board with the extra icing sugar and knead the marzipan until smooth.

5. Break off a bit and eat it. You know you want to.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Danish Fritters

Take note, dear readers. This is my favourite recipe ever. I only acquired the actual recipe a few weeks ago, but its a perennial favourite, it is...

Food from Grandma's house!

If I remember correctly, this is a recipe from The Pennywise Cookbook, which is an old softcover that Grandma still has. Mum never made these for us, but Grandma always did, so we always begged her to make them (or get chicken and mango rissoles from the butcher, but that's another story).

So please treasure this recipe. It is delicious and easy and goes really well with mashed potato and boiled veges and plum sauce. I'll admit, I adulterated it a little bit, but only in that I didn't sieve the flour! Why would you tamper with perfection?

Serves four hungry students

500g mince
One small onion, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to season
1 egg, beaten
300mL milk
Oil for frying

1. Stir the chopped onions into the mince.

2. Mix (...or sieve, if you are so inclined) the flour, salt and pepper into a bowl.

3. Gradually blend the beaten egg and milk into the flour to make a smooth batter.

4. Stir the mince and onion mixture into the batter, and set aside for half an hour. Watch some 30 Rock or The Office. Find your 30 minutes of daily exercise. Read a chapter of a book. Its entirely up to you, really.

5. You're back? Good! Heat the oil in a frypan. If you just got your 30 minutes of exercise, I apologise for making you stand in a hot kitchen for the next step.

6. Spoon rounded tablespoons of the mixture into the hot oil. Lower the heat and fry fritters, turning as you need to, until the batter is crisp and the meat is cooked through. I then leave them on a paper towel to remove excess oil, but each to their own!