Friday, February 29, 2008

Blog Party #31 - Fried Food Frenzy!

Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness is hosting yet another Blog Party - this time, the theme is Fried Food Frenzy! This is one event where you can find your inner Elvis and bring your favourite mini fried food to the party, together with a beverage.

I have chosen a relatively low cal option - mini vegetable fritters made from a recipe by Michelle Trute, as featured in the first Cooking with Conscience book.

You can see from the photo that the more fritters I made, the darker they became - presumably because the pan became hotter. I would not say that these fritters were exciting, and I think that they would benefit enormously from the addition of both seasoning and cheese. However, they tasted fine, although a little bland, and are a good way to use up some leftover veg at your next party.

To make these fritters, you need:

220g sifted self raising flour
enough skim milk to turn the flour into batter
(Michelle says 1 cup, I say almost 2 cups)

1 egg white
1 diced onion
150g tinned corn kernels
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup grated zucchini

Combine the milk and flour in a large bowl to form a batter of dropping consistency, then stir in the remaining ingredients until well combined. (I suggest adding salt and pepper to taste at this stage, and maybe some grated cheese - I found the end result a little bland.) Cook the batter in egg rings in a lightly oiled frypan, flipping the fritters to cook the other side when bubbles start appearing on the top. Drain on greaseproof paper.

Now, if I liked Bloody Marys, I think that that would make a perfect accompaniment to these fritters. However, being a classy kind of gal, I prefer a Cosmopolitan served in an elegant martini glass with my fritters:

The Blog Party roundup can be viewed here.

Daring Bakers - French Bread

Foux da fa fa
Foux da fa fa fa fa
Foux da fa fa
Ah ee ah

(From Foux Da Fa Fa by Flight of the Conchords)

This month is only my second Daring Bakers Challenge, but I believe that I have now earned the title "Daring Baker". Our hosts this month are Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like to Cook.

From the moment that I learned that this month's challenge was bread, I knew that I would be testing my abilities, as I am not generally a bread baker. And when I printed off the 15 pages of instructions and tried to digest them, I knew that I was in for a challenge!

When I read all the fabulous French names for the various shapes of this bread, I was immediately reminded of a novelty song called Foux Da Fa Fa by Flight of the Conchords, a Kiwi musical comedy duo, in which the word "baguette" is bandied around numerous times to comic effect. And, well, my efforts at making this bread were sometimes pretty comical, in between all the flour coating my kitchen, trying to wrap my head around the instructions, and trying to coax my bread to rise after shaping.

At stage 1 of the process, my dough looked pretty good:

This is the dough after being placed in the bowl for the first rising. You can see a mark on the right hand side of the bowl where it was expected to rise to:

At this stage, the dough didn't disappoint me - it rose almost out of the bowl, and the yeast looked as if it had been very active:

After deflation and another rising, it was time to shape the bread. I had to say that this step was good fun, especially making the round "cushion" shapes with the lovely soft dough. To see that smooth, round shape emerge from the irregular shaped pieces of dough was magic! To test my daring, I chose to make a batard, a boule and four petit pains. I found the batard harder than the round loaves, but it seemed to go OK.

However, this is where my problems began, because two hours after shaping, the dough had still not risen at all. As it was late in the evening, I used the oven trick mentioned by Sara and Mary to coax the bread to rise. Unfortunately, I knocked the batard shape around a bit by shoving it in the oven in a hurry, so the diameter along its length was no longer as even as it had been. After another half an hour, the petit pains had risen a treat, the boule had risen somewhat and the batard had risen a little. (I imagine that I would not have had this issue with varying rising times if I had made all of the dough into the same size and shape.) This is the point where I said "sod it" because it was getting quite late, and baked the lot. I did not find it necessary to use fleurage to prevent sticking of the shaped dough during the process of transferring it to the oven tray for baking - although I did process some pasta in readiness!

With the aim of producing "handsome" loaves as described in the instructions, I put a pan of ice cubes in the bottom of my oven to create steam, and painted the surface of the bread with water during the early stages of baking. Here is the bread after three minutes of baking, when I removed it from the oven to "paint" the crust with water:

The bread looks pretty handsome to me! The finished product is pictured at the top of the post, and this is what the bread looked like inside after having been left overnight to cool:

The bread looked fine inside and out (although you can see that the batard suffered somewhat from my impatience in not allowing it enough time to rise). Its texture is of the chewy variety (it contains no fat), just like restaurant dinner rolls. Unfortunately, this type of bread has never been a favourite of mine. I am not a big eater of bread, and when I do partake, my preference is for soft Scotch baps and the like. The bread tasted perfectly fine - it was just not my thing.

I ate one of the petit pains for breakfast - cold with jam on one half, and warm with promite on the other half. I much preferred it warm. However, I gave the remainder of the bread to my friend, Veronica. She likes bread, and proceeded to eat a petit pain with nothing on it while I was visiting her. This helped to confirm that my bread was not a dud - it is just that I am not a fan of this type of bread.

That said, I learned a lot from this challenge. In particular, I learned how crucial temperature is to bread rising; how to trick bread to rise when it steadfastly refuses to do so unaided; and how to achieve those gorgeous loaf shapes that you see in better quality bakeries. It also made me face my fear of bread-making head on. This is what the Daring Bakers is all about. Thanks to Mary and Sara for proposing a daring challenge indeed.

If you are simply curious about how to make French bread or would like to have a go yourself, the instructions can be downloaded from Mary's site.

You can check out the exploits of all the other Daring Bakers here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Meme - 5 Things About Me

This is another Meme post, so I thought that a good way to kick things off would be to give you a vague idea of what I look like. The photograph above is of me at Noosa, Queensland where I was attending a conference late last year.

Gretchen from
Canela & Comino has tagged me for another Meme - this time, on "5 Things About Me". The rules of this Meme are as follows:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.

2. Share 5 facts about yourself.

3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).

4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their Blogs.

When I first read this Meme, I initially panicked, because I couldn't think of 5 interesting things about me. However, once I thought a little more, I came up with the following facts:

1. The name of my hometown is derived from the Aboriginal word for "swamp". Does this make me a swamp creature?!?

2. As a child, I refused to eat my veges, and my mother wisely gave up trying to make me. Only when I left home to live at college, where you either ate your veges or starved, did I discover the diverse and wonderful flavours of vegetables.

3. I am the co-author of two legal texts. If you need a cure for insomnia, you may borrow them from me.

4. My favourite movie of all time is Casablanca. The performances, the script, the sets and the costumes (presumably high fashion at the time) are all wonderful. In particular, I love the rapid-fire wit that is exchanged between Rick Blaine and Captain Renault.

5. I do not own a car. In Australia, where cars are worshipped, this is regarded as strange, and I am constantly having to defend myself about this. However, it is common sense in my situation - I live within walking distance of everything I need, there is terrific public transport almost at my doorstep, it is cheap, clean and green, and I get great exercise without having to go out of my way, which allows me to eat more of my own cooking ;)

I am tagging the following fellow bloggers for this Meme (again, apologies if you have already done this one or if memes are just not your thing):

1. Ann at Redacted Recipes

2. Browners & Cowie from Around Britain with a Paunch

3. Gay of A Scientist in the Kitchen

4. Gail from Pacific Outpost

5. Happy Cook from My Kitchen Treasures

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Great British Pudding Challenge - Toffee Apple Pudding

The wonderful Rosie at Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake has created a monthly event called The Great British Pudding Challenge. This event is designed to prevent the extinction of that great British institution, the pudding. Being a huge fan of puddings myself, even though I am not British and it is currently summer in Australia, I have decided to rally for the cause and participate. This month's pudding recipe is for Toffee Apple Pudding.

Toffee Apple Pudding aims to recreate in pudding form the taste of those fairground treats, toffee apples, by combining apples and golden syrup. The cubed apples are fried lightly in golden syrup and butter, and are the crowning glory of the golden syrup flavoured sponge beneath.

I served this pudding with warm custard. It is delicious, and would certainly hit the spot on a cold winter's night.

Thanks to Rosie for this month's challenge - I really enjoyed it.

Weekend Cookbook Challenge #25 - Nigella's Buttermilk Chicken, Warm Potato Salad and Roast Asparagus

Ani at Foodie Chickie is hosting this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge, and she has chosen the theme of none other than The Domestic Goddess herself, Nigella Lawson. I am a huge fan of Nigella, so I couldn't miss this event.

For my entry, I have chosen two recipes from Nigella Express, together with a tip for roasting asparagus from How to Eat.

The keynote dish that I made was Nigella's Buttermilk Roast Chicken. A marinade of buttermilk, maple syrup, cumin and garlic gives the chicken pieces a wonderful golden colour and juicy, delicate flavour. It is also quick and easy to make - the time-consuming aspects of marinading and cooking the chicken do not require your attention while they are quietly happening.

To make this dish, you need (for a half batch):

6 chicken pieces
250ml buttermilk
60ml vegetable oil
1 clove skinned and bruised garlic
1/2 tablespoon crushed peppercorns (or pepper to taste ;))
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon maple syrup

Put the chicken pieces in a bowl and pour in the buttermilk and 30ml of oil, and add the peppercorns (or pepper), salt, cumin and maple syrup. Combine everything well and coat the chicken with the marinade mixture, then allow to marinade for at least half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius, and place the drained chicken pieces on an alfoil-lined tray. Drizzle the remaining oil over the chicken, and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

To accompany this delightful chicken dish, I made Nigella's Warm Potato Salad, also from Nigella Express. To make a half batch of this salad, you need:

1kg washed baby potatoes
2 finely sliced spring onions
1/2 tablespoon oil
4 rashers bacon OR a jar of bacon bits
1/2 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft and cooked through. Drain the potatoes then cut in half. If using bacon, cook it in a frypan until crispy. Put the potatoes in a large bowl and sprinkle over the spring onions. Combine the mustard and vinegar in a small bowl, and pour over the potatoes and spring onions. Toss the salad to coat it with the dressing. Just before serving, sprinkle over the crumbled bacon or bacon bits (to taste).

Finally, I followed Nigella's instructions for roasting asparagus from How to Eat. This simply involves spraying the asparagus with a little oil, placing on a foil-lined tray and roasting in a 220 degree Celsius oven for 15 minutes or so.

As ever with Nigella's recipes, I really enjoyed this meal, and would definitely make each component again.

Thanks to Ani for hosting this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge. You can check the roundup of some really great Nigella dishes

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Eat to the Beat - Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds and Marmalade Chicken

Elly Says Opa! is hosting a fantastic blogging event called Eat to the Beat! For this event, Elly wants us to make and blog about a food or drink that relates to a song, an album, a band, or anything else musical. As Elly says, the possibilities for this are endless, and I had a hard time choosing. However, I wanted to select a song that I love rather than just choosing any old song that had a food reference.

The Beatles and Crowded House are my two favourite groups, and I cannot separate them in my affections. Accordingly, I wanted to choose a song by one of those groups as the inspiration for my dish.

As my food appears to be taking on an orange hue of late, it seemed very appropriate to make a dish inspired by Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by The Beatles, of which the opening lines are:

Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies ...

Unfortunately, I can't get tangerines, but I certainly have marmalade, which is the feature ingredient of my dish. As a change from my usual sweet bent, I have made Marmalade Chicken. The dish is by Antony Worrall Thompson, and you can find the recipe here.

I used blood orange marmalade in my dish, and the deep orange colour of the orange skins looks great against the paler backdrop of the chicken. The chicken is not overwhelmed by the sweetness of the marmalade, as there is a sufficient mix of other flavours to balance it out. I served the chicken with a warm potato salad that will feature in a future post.

A fitting dessert to accompany the Marmalade Chicken is some candied orange slices. I originally made these to decorate
Boris's cake, then changed my mind. However, as it happens, they work perfectly here. These candied orange slices taste great just as they are, but if I was feeling energetic, I would have dipped the lower half of each slice in chocolate, just like the ones you can buy at Koko Black. If you would like to make your own candied orange slices, you can find the recipe that I used here. However, I boiled my orange slices in the syrup for about 10 minutes rather than just 3 to ensure that the skins were soft and permeated by the sugar.

For those who are following my
To Market, To Market post, I used half of the chicken and some of the garlic that I purchased at Prahran Market to make this dish.

Thanks to Elly for hosting this event, and you can check out all the great Eat to the Beat! dishes here.

Flourless orange cake for Boris

Our credit officer, Boris, celebrated his birthday on Sunday. I asked Boris whether he preferred his cake on the Friday before or the Monday after the big day. Luckily for me, he nominated the Monday after, which gave me some extra time to make it.

Boris is very fitness conscious, so I asked him what type of cake he would like me to make for him. After all, I wouldn't be doing him any favours if I made him a Black Forest Cake, resplendent with lashings of cream, chocolate and liqueur. Boris's preference (in lieu of the chocolate tofu and date cake that I have now made twice before and refuse to make again) was for a flourless orange cake. Brilliant! All I had to do was to find a good recipe, as the flourless cakes that I have tried in cafes tend to be dry and tasteless affairs.

Luck was on my side, as the recipe that I selected from a brief Google search, and which can be found here at Gluten Free South Africa, was really good. It is moist and definitely orange-flavoured, and bakes with a firm outer crumb and a delightful soft, golden interior. This is a lovely cake.

I iced this cake with orange glace icing (just icing sugar mixed with enough orange juice to make it comfortably spreadable over the cake), piped Boris's name on it using the red writing gel that I had left over from my conversation cupcakes, and decorated it with orange flavoured Starburst Fruitfuls. I think the overall effect was rather cute.

This is one of my favourite cakes so far, as it is moist, citrusey (is this a word??) and light. It also eliminated my prejudice against flourless cakes, as it proved that they do not have to taste like sawdust.

Happy birthday Boris!

Monday, February 25, 2008

In the Bag - Rhubarb, Orange and Yoghurt Cake

Julia from
A Slice of Cherry Pie is hosting this month's In the Bag event, with the chosen ingredients being forced (pink) rhubarb, an orange and sugar. Participants in this event must make something using the "in the bag" ingredients for that month (a bit like Ready Steady Cook without the celebrity chefs and with more generous time limits).

I made a rhubarb, orange and yoghurt cake that I took to Sunday lunch with my friend Asiye and her family and friends. The ingredients included the rhubarb, the orange and the Greek yoghurt that I purchased on
my visit to Prahran Market on Saturday.

If you had asked me what I thought of this cake on the day that I made it, I would have said that I found it OK but a little dry. However, half of the cake was leftover (we had way too much food!), which I took home and served for morning tea at work the next day. On the second day, the cake had improved in that the rhubarb and orange flavours were more developed, and the cake itself was moister. Accordingly, if you are tempted to bake this cake, I recommend making it at least one day beforehand so that you can take advantage of its improving qualities.

The recipe for this cake, from
Sweet Food (Murdoch Books, 2002), is set out below. The only changes that I made were to substitute the rosewater in the original for orange juice and to add the zest of an orange to the batter.

1 1/4 cups finely chopped fresh forced rhubarb

2 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
zest and 2 tablespoons of juice from one medium orange
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
125g melted butter

First, grease and line a 22cm round springform pan, and preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Mix the rhubarb, flour and sugar in a large bowl. Next, place the yoghurt, vanilla, eggs, orange juice and zest and melted butter in the bowl with the rhubarb mixture, and stir until all the ingredients are combined. Scrape the cake batter (it is rather thick!) into the prepared springform pan, level the top with a spatula and bake in the oven for about 1 hour. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

A lovely evening - Minzaman & Brunetti

On Saturday evening, I went out for dinner with friends to a Lebanese restaurant at 292 Lygon Street, Carlton called Minzaman. We all found that the meats in the main courses were a little dry (I had Shish Tawook, being chicken skewers marinated in garlic and lemon, and served with tabbouleh). However, the desserts were faultless - one of my friends had the baklava, which was just gorgeous because it wasn't drowned in honey, and the nutty filling was rich and fudgy. I had the rice pudding with orange flower syrup - again, a gorgeous dessert, and thankfully very light after a very filling main course. There were two different bellydancers to entertain us during the evening, who gave fun performances while interacting with the guests. To further add to the atmosphere, the men at our table smoked tobacco-filled shishas (like the hookah smoked by the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland).

Afterwards, although we couldn't eat another thing, we went to Brunetti, an Italian cake shop, that sells the most amazing array of wonderful cakes, slices, biscuits and sweets that I have ever seen. At Brunetti, I purchased the wonderful tart pictured at the top of this post to take home. The chocolate top is all style and no substance - it is like a scrunched up ball of chocolate (if this weren't a physical impossibility) which, although it doesn't taste all that amazing, looks spectacular. You can lift the chocolate top right off to reveal the tart underneath. It featured a pleasant shortcrust shell which, although a little thicker than I prefer, tasted pleasant. The custard filling was devine - smooth, silky and not overly sweet. I will definitely be back!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

To Market, To Market ... Prahran Market

Gay of A Scientist in the Kitchen is hosting a terrific blogging event called To Market, To Market where she asks us to blog about our local market, including a picture of the market and a description of its sites and sounds.

My local market is the historical Prahran Market, established in 1864, and situated in Commercial Road, Prahran, which is an inner suburb of Melbourne:

At Prahran Market, you can buy basically anything you need in the food department, and many other things besides. A slideshow of some of the goods on offer at Prahran Market is set out below:

I cannot generally get to the market other than on Saturdays, during its peak trading period. This means that when I shop at the market, it is packed to the rafters with people of all ages, many with prams or shopping carts, and you need a lot of patience and goodwill to negotiate the often narrow stalls. While the market itself is open on Sundays, most of the stalls that operate when the market is in full swing are closed.

There is a hum of human activity which permeates the market, that changes in the afternoon to a hawkers paradise as stall holders try to sell off their fresh produce before the close of trade. This happens around 2pm or so on Saturdays, when the best bargains on fresh fruit and vegetables are to be had. For example, F & J Fruiterers sells large bags of certain items for $2-$3 a bag. Just don't go when you are in a hurry or have a migraine headache.

One of my favourite stalls in Prahran Market is Cleo's Deli, where you can always buy 4 items for $10 from the fridges out the back of their stall. They sell beautiful flavoured Greek yoghurts, assorted cheeses, antipasto, dips and pestos, breads, meatballs, mayonnaise and even rice pudding in this manner.

The lovely lady pictured below is the key purveyor of the $10 specials for Cleos, and is always very friendly and helpful:

I often buy my olives in a $3 container from The Cheese Shop Deli. The man pictured below obligingly asked to pose for this photograph:

His obliging, friendly attitude is typical of the majority of stall holders at the market.

For general fruit and vegetables, I usually shop at F & J Fruiterers at the front of the market or Russos at the back. Some of their produce is featured in the slideshow. When berries are in season, I mainly buy them from Pinos, because they always have great looking berries at reasonable prices. However, the trick with the fruit and vegetables is to wander around the market before buying anything to compare the prices, as there will often be a variance in prices for products between the different stalls, even if there is no apparent difference in quality or size.

My absolute favourite stall at Prahran Market is the Crabapple Cupcake Bakery:

I have posted a number of times about this stall and the terrific cupcake cookbook written by its founder, Jennifer Graham. If I was a little girl, I am sure that I would want to live at the Crabapple Cupcake Bakery - it's pink, it's pretty, it's unerringly feminine. However, plenty of blokes patronise the premises for its delicious cupcakes - just check out the photograph above for proof. The proprietors rotate the flavours of cupcakes that are available (although certain flavours are available all the time). At today's visit, I was lucky enough to purchase a coconut cloud cupcake, being a coconut flavoured cupcake topped with marshmallow frosting and a gorgeous sugar flower:

The Sweet & Nut Shop sells large containers of the best ever turkish delight (I like the rose flavour best), as well as a large variety of dried fruits, nuts and persian fairy floss:

Next door to the fruit and vegetable stalls, there is a meat hall with a large variety of meats, poultry and seafood on offer. Some stalls have cooking demonstrations out the front, particularly those which sell gourmet sausages, and you can "try before you buy". As you can see, the meat hall is an especially busy part of the market:

If you are looking for an unusual gourmet ingredient to complete a dish, pots or pans to cook it in, or a recipe book for food ideas, you can buy it from The Essential Ingredient, situated next to the meat hall:

From time to time, you can also take cooking classes at The Essential Ingredient.

In a separate area at the front of the market is a variety of cafes, where you can refuel your flagging energy after a busy time shopping at the market:

My booty from today's outing to Prahran Market was as follows:

Looks delicious, doesn't it! Some of these items will pop up in future posts, so stay tuned.

Thanks to Gay for creating and hosting To Market, To Market ... - it's been a fun assignment!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pasta with Squash and Prawns

I have had a butternut squash languishing sadly and unwanted for over a week. The poor thing was bought with the best intentions of forming part of a lamb tagine that I found on the Martha Stewart website when I thought that I had lost the recipe for Antonia's tagine. However, luckily for me, and unluckily for the squash, I found Antonia's recipe again (and I reiterate that it's a really good tagine - a keeper!).

While I spent day after day avoiding "eye contact" with the neglected squash, it was edging nearer to the compost heap. However, salvation came for both of us when I spotted
this dish on Peter's blog. Now obviously, Peter's pasta looks better than mine, partly because I cheated and used pre-cooked, pre-shelled prawns so I didn't get that lovely pan-browned colour on them, and partly because my photography skills can only go up from here, but this is the same dish. To find out how you can make it, you can check out the recipe here on the Food Network site.

The only alterations to the recipe that I made, apart from the use of "cheat" prawns, were to leave out the basil (because I didn't have any!), substitute chicken stock for vegetable stock (because I didn't have vegetable stock) and to Aussie-fy the dish by using grated
Coon cheese instead of parmesan (not because Coon looks or tastes anything like parmesan, but because that is what I had in the fridge).

In my humble opinion, this pasta dish tastes better after it has been left to stand for a while and the sauce thickens - this seemed to bring out the squash flavour better than when it is straight off the stovetop. If I made it again, I would buy uncooked prawns from the fishmonger rather than the pre-cooked variety from Coles deli, if only because those pan-cooked prawns look so delicious. For a change from your usual cream or tomato based pasta sauce, or if, like me, you happen to have a squash to use up, you won't go wrong if you try this dish.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chris's birthday - Brown Sugar Bundt Cake

Chris is the newest member of our team, having started with us at the beginning of February. His timing was immaculate, because it is his birthday today, and in time-honoured fashion, I made him a birthday cake. I chose to make him Dorie Greenspan's Brown Sugar Bundt Cake from Baking - From My Home to Yours.

This cake is very good - it is not overly sweet, it contains two types of fruit (so hey, it must be healthy!) and has a moist yet light texture. And the smell in the kitchen while it is baking and cooling is just delightful. I used prunes and apples in my version (Dorie suggests prunes and pears but offers up various alternatives, including substituting the pears for apples). As this was a birthday cake so needed to look somewhat festive, I chose to decorate my cake with Dorie's maple syrup glaze, as used on her "All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake". The glaze obliterated the pretty arches of my cathedral bundt pan, but it tasted great. It is also quite a large cake, so it is a good one to make for a group.

To make this cake, you need the following:

2 1/4 cups sifted plain flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
a pinch of salt
230g softened butter, cubed
2 cups light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla esssence
1 cup buttermilk
2 apples
1/2 cup prunes

6 tablespoons icing sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
flaked almonds (optional)

Peel, core and dice the apples into pieces about 1cm cubed and set aside. (Squeeze over some lemon juice if worried about browning, but I didn't bother.) Using kitchen shears, cut the prunes into quarters and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and flour a 12 cup bundt pan.

Combine the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Turn down the mixer speed to a low setting, then add the dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately, starting and finishing with the dry ingredients. Once just combined, remove the batter from the mixer, and stir through the apples and prunes.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, and bake for approximately 1 hour or until cooked through. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Once the cake is cool, make the glaze by blending the icing sugar and maple syrup together until it reaches a dripping consistency, then drizzle over the cake. Sprinkle with flaked almonds, if desired, to decorate.

For other views on this cake, see posts by Lisa, Peabody and Haalo, among others. It seems that the unanimous verdict is that this cake is good!

MeMe - Food for gossip

The lovely Ivy from Kopiaste has just tagged me for my very first MeMe - Food for gossip. Some of these questions have really got me thinking - for example, what would I do if I were a millionaire? If anyone can tell me how to become one other than by winning the lottery, I'd welcome your thoughts ;)

In the meantime, here are the MeMe questions and my answers, which reveal a little bit more about me:

What were you doing 10 years ago?

I was languishing as a newly admitted solicitor in the property and finance section of a law firm - bleck!

What were you doing 1 year ago?

I was still in the honeymoon phase of my current role with a telecommunications company.

Five snacks you enjoy:

Wow, it is soooo hard to only pick five. However, based on what I regularly snack on (rather than what are my all time favourite snacks, which overlaps only partially with this list!), I would say:

1. Chocolate (my all time favourite!)

2. Lollies (especially chewy fruity things)

3. Rice crackers with cottage cheese or flavoured philly

4. Home-made muffins (for morning tea at work)

5. Fruit

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:

I will assume for this purpose that "millionaire" means a modest one million or so, rather than having absolute mega bucks.

1. Pay off my mortgage.

2. Buy my family new cars and take them on a nice holiday by the sea.

3. Travel the world for 6 months or so (to experience things rather than to stay in fancy places).

4. Make a charitable donation or two.

5. Invest the rest.

Five bad habits:

1. I drink Diet Coke or Coke Zero at every meal, including breakfast.

2. I often supplement my breakfast cereal with a couple of squares of chocolate or some lollies.

(Hey, I never said that I was a saint!)

3. I buy new gadgets and cookbooks on impulse that I rarely/never use.

4. When I get a "bee in my bonnet", I can't rest until I have dealt with it.

5. I have an ironing pile the size of Mt Everest, and only iron as I go.

Five things you like doing:

1. Cooking and baking (of course!)

2. Blogging/surfing the Net

3. Listening to music

4. Clothes shopping

5. Going to the movies

Five things you would never wear again:

1. Huge shoulder pads

2. Enormous baggy T-shirts

3. Fluoro anything

4. Pastel plastic spectacle frames

5. Grandma perms

Five favorite toys:

1. Computer

2. Digital camera

3. Stand mixer

4. Food processor

5. DVD player

Enough about me! I now tag the following 5 people to complete this MeMe (apologies if you already have):

1. Rosie of Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake

2. Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness

3. Tammy of Wee Treats by Tammy

4. Susan of Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy

5. Emiline
of Sugar Plum

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

SHF - Gonna Love Ya Til I Die Pie - Pies That Evoke Your Dreams

It is Sugar High Friday time again, and this month, it is hosted by Rachel of Vampituity. Rachel has chosen the theme of Pies That Evoke Your Dreams, inspired by the movie Waitress, which I have mentioned here before. The stars of the film include the imaginative pies with equally imaginative names created by the main character, Jenna, and it is through her pies that Jenna eventually makes a better life for herself.

I was excited when I learned of the theme that Rachel had chosen for SHF - I had wanted to invent my own pie and a catchy name for it ever since I saw Waitress, but never had the excuse or motivation to do so before.

For my entry, I have created a pie that evokes my personal dreams called Gonna Love Ya Til I Die Pie. This pie combines all of my favourite sweet foods (chocolate, cheesecake, raspberry, caramel and meringue) in one big pie, and it certainly evokes my dreams, as I have been dreaming about making it for weeks. It also evokes dreams of everlasting happiness, as symbolised by foods which make me feel happy. The name of this pie refers both to the fact that I have always loved these foods and am likely to always do so, and to the fact that it is something that I might make for a loved one as a token of my affection for them (if they had a sweet tooth!). And best of all, as the White Knight said to Alice in Through the Looking Glass, "
It's my own invention."

My pie consisted of a chocolate-flavoured pastry shell:

topped with a raspberry baked cheesecake filling:

spread with a thin layer of gooey caramel:

and crowned by a foamy sea of meringue:

Was it OTT? Perhaps a little - but it sure tasted good, as evidenced by the fact that when I took it to work, nothing was left except the last tiny skerrick that no-one was game to take. This pie is very sweet and very rich, but this means that you only need a small slice to be satisfied. The sweetness of all of the other components was offset nicely by the raspberries, which added some essential tang and prevented the overall combination from becoming cloying.

If you would like to make this pie, the recipe is as follows:

Tart shell

185g sifted plain flour
40g sifted cocoa powder
40g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
125g cubed cold butter
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cold water

Grease a 9 inch round pie tin (preferably with a removable base).

In a food processor, process together the flour, cocoa, icing sugar and butter until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the egg yolks and water, then process until the dough comes together into a ball. Press the dough into a rough disc shape, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out with a rolling pin between 2 sheets of baking paper to approximately 3cm in thickness, then line the greased pie tin with the rolled out dough. Chill the dough in the tin for another 30 minutes.

Although I generally don't have any problems with pastry, this recipe was quite soft and tended to stretch in odd places when I lined the tin, leaving holes. (Perhaps the 35 degrees Celsius heat in Melbourne last night had something to do with it??) However, it was very forgiving, and I easily mended the holes by patching them with extra dough and massaging the patches until they blended in.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Place a piece of baking paper over the pie shell, and fill with baking weights or uncooked rice, then bake the pie shell in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the pie weights and the baking paper, then bake the pie shell for another 10 minutes before removing it from the oven and leaving to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

Raspberry baked cheesecake

500g cream cheese, cubed
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
125g fresh or frozen raspberries (don't thaw frozen ones)

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Carefully fold the lemon zest, lemon juice and raspberries through the cream cheese mixture with a spoon, then pour the mixture into the cooled pie shell, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow it to cool while you prepare the meringue.

Caramel topping

You could boil a tin of condensed milk covered in water in a saucepan for three and half hours to produce caramel. However, I opted
for the lazy person's option, it being a school night, and used half a can of Nestle Top'n'Fill Caramel, which I spread over the top of the cooled cheesecake.

Meringue topping

I topped my pie with meringue made according to the
meringue recipe from last month's Daring Bakers lemon meringue pie, because I loved the sheer volume of this meringue. This time, I opted for a little less volume but a bit more art in the meringue by using my fingers to create tiny waves in the foamy sea, before baking for 15 minutes in a 190 degree Celsius oven.

If you make Gonna Love Ya Til I Die Pie, let me know how you went and what you thought of it - I'd love to hear from you! And do check out the roundup of other pies of people's dreams here. Thanks to Rachel for choosing such a great theme and for hosting SHF this month.

Sound delicious? Make a contribution to a non-profit helping to transform the world of food through pie - Pie Ranch. Please specify "Pie Ranch/Green Oaks Fund” in the "Designation" field of the online donation form (Pie Ranch is fiscally sponsored by the Rudolph Steiner Foundation) at: