Tuesday, February 26, 2019

TWD - Almond Stripes

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Almond Stripes.  The name does not really befit these beautiful, chewy, almond flavoured biscuits. which are incredibly elegant and would hold their own on any high tea table.

I had the benefit of reading the reviews of this recipe from the other Dorie bakers, with the biggest issue being how difficult the mixture for these biscuits is to pipe into the stripes for which they are named.  Unfortunately, even knowing that, I had exactly the same issue.  I added the whole egg white instead of just a tablespoon to the mixture, but still managed to tear a sturdy plastic piping bag in the process of trying to force the biscuit dough through the piping tip.

No matter - they worked out in the end.  I decided to dip one end of my almond stripes into dark chocolate because - well, chocolate!  It also made the biscuits appear more striking.

These biscuits were a winner taste-wise, but the relative difficulty in piping them is a factor against making them very often.

To see what the other Dorie bakers made this week and what they thought of them, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

George Banks Bistro, Toowoomba

While I was on leave over Christmas, I spent time with my family in Toowoomba, Queensland.  One of my friends and former colleagues is also from Toowoomba, and we were lucky enough to find the time to catch up with each other over the break.

My friend chose George Banks Bistro as the venue for our catch up.  George Banks is a rooftop bar and restaurant with magnificent views across the CBD:

It is very stylish and modern, and streets ahead of the types of establishment that I grew up with in Toowoomba: 

Here is one of the views from the balcony of George Banks, overlooking the street scape:

As it was a girls' day out, we both decided to have a cocktail.  Because it sounded so fabulous, we both had a Supercalifrangelisticexpialidocious - vanilla infused Belvedere, passionfruit, passoa and sparkling ($17):

I can attest to the fact that this cocktail was wonderful, and went down a treat on a hot January day.

For main, I had the Schulz pork with peach, baby leek, chilli and skordallia ($34):

This dish was absolutely delicious, with the sweet peach complementing the pork nicely, and not being too much food to handle.  My only minor issue was that the skordallia was very garlic-y and knocked my socks off a bit.  I hope that my friend could not smell my breath afterwards.

My friend ordered the Wagyu burger, with comte, spiced ketchup, smoked onion and pickles on a brioche bun ($18), served with a side of polenta chips: 

My friend also enjoyed her meal.  her only disappointment was that there was no sauce or mayo to have on the chips.

The service was friendly and efficient, and the atmosphere delightful.

I highly recommend a visit to George Banks Bistro if you are in Toowoomba - I will be back based on this experience.

George Banks Bistro
Corner Ruthven and Margaret Streets
Toowoomba Qld 4350
Ph: (07) 4580 0808 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Steamed brown sugar and coconut milk cake

On 5 February, it was Chinese New Year, marking the start of the Year of the Pig. In a recent column in the Good Weekend magazine, Helen Goh noted that cakes are important during Chinese New Year celebrations as they symbolise a rich, sweet life.  I knew there was some reason I love to make cakes!

Helen's recipe for Chinese New Year cake was a Steamed Brown Sugar and Coconut Cake.  I already had some coconut milk and the remaining ingredients are pantry staples for me, so I just had to make this cake.

The pleats in the cake are there on purpose, as the cake is meant to look rustic.  I ended up cooking my cake in a pudding steamer, as I did not have a bamboo or metal steamer large enough to accommodate the batter and leave room for rising.

I thought this cake turned out pretty well (after an initial emergency when I turned it out after the advised cooking time and noticed it had "sprung a leak" - back into the steamer!).  The cake is light and fluffy, and is a perfect vehicle for the sweet, heavy golden syrup with which it is served.

If you would like to make this cake, you will need:

5 eggs
180g dark brown sugar (I just used light brown)
zest of 1 orange (I left this out)
90ml vegetable oil
100ml coconut milk
220g plain flour
25g custard powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
golden syrup to serve

Grease and line an 18cm round cake tin (or if you don't have a steamer big enough to hold the tin, just use a pudding  steamer).  Fill a large saucepan two thirds full and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar and orange zest until the mixture is thick, pale and trebled in volume.

Whisk together the oil and milk in a jug and set aside.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, custard powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

When the egg mixture is ready, fold through the oil and milk mixture using a hand whisk.  In two batches, sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold in gently.

Scrape the cake batter into the prepared tin and place in a metal or bamboo steamer.  Increase the heat on the water to a rolling boil, and place the steamer with the cake inside over the water, and seal the steamer tightly with its lid.

Steam the cake for 40 minutes or until cooked through when tested with a skewer.  (I omitted to test mine and it was not quite ready at 40 minutes.)  Remove the tin from the steamer.

Let the cake rest in the tin  for 5 minutes before turning it out onto a serving plate.  Leave the baking paper on the pudding until ready to serve, then remove the paper  and drizzle with golden syrup to serve.  The cake can be eaten warm or cold.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Baked chicken and peaches with Dijon sauce

For a bit of variety, today I thought I'd post a savoury dish.  The last of the summer fruits are still around here, so I have been trying to incorporate them into my cooking and baking as much as possible.  Cue this dish - Baked Chicken and Peaches with Dijon Sauce from the January-February 2019 Woolworths Fresh magazine.

I know that not everyone is a fan of fruit and meat together, but I am not one of those people.  Give me some mustard flavoured fruits in a rich thick sauce any day.  I recommend using ripe peaches in this dish as you will taste the sour if they are underripe.  I also recommend not using clingstone peaches, because you need to halve and de-stone the fruit, and clingstone peaches are a right pain to de-stone.

Make yourself some rice or other carb-rich side dish to soak up the delicious sauce from this chicken, because believe me, you won't want to waste it.

If you fancy giving this dish a go, you will need:

1 tablespoon olive oil
600g chicken thigh fillets, halved crossways
1 finely chopped brown onion
3 yellow peaches, halved and de-stoned
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons thyme leaves

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius.  Heat the oil in an ovenproof casserole dish on the stovetop.  Season the chicken to taste with salt and pepper and brown in the casserole dish on the stovetop.  Transfer the browned chicken to a plate.

Add the onion to the casserole dish and cook over medium heat until softened.  Add the peaches, sugar, mustard, vinegar and chicken stock, and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring from time to time.

Add the chicken back to the casserole dish with the thyme and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Transfer the casserole dish to the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  

Serve with veges and rice.

This makes a relatively quick and delicious dinner, and makes great use of fresh peaches.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

TWD - Date-Nut Pinwheels

This week's Tuesday with Dorie challenge is Date-Nut Pinwheels.  In my case, these cookies are ironically named, because as you can see, I made square "wheels". The truck ain't goin'  nowhere this week!

These cookies comprise a brown sugar dough filled with a boiled mixture comprised chiefly of dates and walnuts.  The dough is very soft and takes a fair bit of chilling and rechilling before baking.  Unfortunately, all of that chilling did not stop my cookies from spreading like mad into each other during the baking process.  The only solution was to cut them apart, hence the square shape of my cookies.

I thought I'd love these cookies, but I found the sweetness of the filling a little overpowering. Not bad, just not something I want to make again.

 To see what the other Dorie bakers made this week and what they thought of them, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Raspberry and White Chocolate Pound Cake - Queen Baking Club

Love isn't considered or wise. If love was sensible, it wouldn't feel as magical as it does …
                                                                             Kerri Sackville

It is Valentine's Day today.  It is a date which seems to be very polarising, with some people liking it and others loathing it.  I am pretty neutral, but I think it is a good way of spurring people to express affection for their loved ones even if in the hurly burly of life, they forget to otherwise do so.

The Queen Baking Club recipe for this fortnight is Raspberry and White Chocolate Pound Cake.  You can find the recipe online here.  I thought this pretty red and white cake was a perfect way to celebrate Valentine's Day in a hearts and chocolate box kind of way.

Did I also mention that this cake is delicious?  It is moist, packed with raspberries, quite sweet because of the white chocolate (which is balanced out somewhat by the tartness of the raspberries), and is topped with a tangy cream cheese frosting swirled with raspberry juice.

Also on the subject of Valentine's Day, Krispy Kreme were selling Strawberry and Cream donuts and Chocolate Cream donuts in the shape of hearts:

I am not a huge Krispy Kreme or donut fan, but I enjoyed this tasty and visually eye-catching donut.

I hope that you had a wonderful Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

TWD - Dark Chocolate Mousse

… love feels so damn good.  Even the tiniest hint of romance can be intoxicating …
                                                      Kerri Sackville

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Dark Chocolate Mousse.  It is the kind of rich and decadent dessert that I believe would be perfect if you were making dinner for your Valentine on Thursday night.

This Dark Chocolate Mousse recipe was given to Dorie by Pierre Herme, so it is pastry-chef type material involving the use of candy thermometers and the like - that is, not what I would usually bother with.  However, for the purposes of this group, I went ahead and made a quarter of the mousse recipe (the original serves 8).

I think it went OK and tasted good, although chocolate mousse is a little too rich to rate on my favourite dessert lists.  I did find adding the hot syrup to the eggs a bit of a nightmare as I had used a hand-held mixer (having already used my stand mixer to whip the cream), but I just removed the few little solidified sugar clumps from the egg mixture before proceeding further.  This mousse also went better than the last time I made chocolate mousse from one of Dorie's books.

To see what the other Doristas made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Peach and blackberry sour cream cake

Last night, I attended An Evening with Nigella (Lawson - who else!) at Hamer Hall.  This was the fourth time I have heard Nigella live, and I can honestly say it was the best yet.  For the first half, Nigella was interviewed in a scripted fashion by Gary Mehigan of MasterChef, and it was clear that they had a magnificent rapport.  Nigella just seemed so relaxed and happy, more so than at the previous speaking engagements I have attended.  The second half of the evening involved uncensored questions from the audience, which was a bit of a wild card.  However, she handled it with aplomb, even when there was the inevitable try-hard guy who tried to proposition her with the offer of a romantic dinner.

Some of the highlights of the evening included:
  • the fact that Nigella had worked for a time as a chamber maid in Florence;
  • that Nigella told her parents she was going to study at the British Institute when she was in fact working as a chamber maid;
  • that Nigella did try on the odd jacket or spray on the odd scent from guests' rooms;
  • that when Nigella introduced herself to Italians as "Love in the Mist" (the British name for the nigella plant) while in Italy, it got her into a bit or trouble;
  • Nigella's sage advice to young women (along the lines of "work hard and be true to yourself");
  • Nigella's admission that, especially when you are a mother with children, there isn't always energy to cook fancy meals, so an egg on toast or noodles with butter and kimchi is just fine;
  • that during the filming of Nigella Bites, the film crew had to hide the fact that Nigella's real oven had "danger - do not use" tape on it because of an issue with the gas;
  • that Nigella missed the publisher's deadline for completing the manuscript for How To Eat (for very good reasons), but that her very decent publisher paid her as if she had delivered it to help her over a rough patch.
It was all round a terrific evening, and I am so glad that I went.

I am not bringing you a Nigella recipe today.  Instead, as it is summer and the gorgeous summer fruits are still lingering on (just!) in Australia, I am bringing you a recipe for a gorgeous cake which takes full advantage of the wonderful summer fruit bounty.

This cake is a Peach and Blackberry Sour Cream cake, and comes from p18 of the Jan/Feb 2019 edition of Woolworths Fresh magazine.

This lovely cake features sliced peaches and blackberries nestled in a light as a feather sponge cake.  It is amazingly good, and is just the kind of fresh and fruity delight that I adore.  You could serve it with cream, icecream or even custard, but heck, why mess with perfection.

To make this cake, you will need:

160g butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup Greek-style yoghurt (I used sour cream instead)
3 yellow peaches, halved, stone removed
125g blackberries
1/4 cup apricot jam

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

In a mixer, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until creamy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat in well after each addition.

Sift the flour and baking powder over the butter mixture and fold in until just combined.  Add the yoghurt or sour cream and fold in.

Cube one and a half of the peaches and fold gently into the cake batter.  Spoon the cake batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth the top.

Thinly slice the rest of the peaches into wedges and place on top of the cake batter with the blackberries on top.

Put the cake into the oven to bake for one hour and ten minutes or until cooked through.

Just before the cake comes out of the oven, put the jam and 1 tablespoon of cold water into a cup and heat in the microwave until the jam melts (around 60 seconds).  Strain the jam, then remove the cake from the oven and brush the top of the hot cake with the strained jam.

Leave the cake in the pan on a wire rack to cool completely being unmoulding and serving.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

TWD - Smoky Hearts

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Smoky Hearts, in reference to Valentine's Day in 9 days' time.  

These little biscuits gain smokiness from smoked paprika and smoked almonds peppering the dough, which perfectly complement the chocolate flavour from the cocoa.

The biscuits are cut into heart shapes for Valentine's Day, and Dorie found that they were popular with her male customers as treats for themselves.

I made a half batch but that made over 50 biscuits using a 1 1/2" cutter - plenty to go around.  These biscuits are truly delicious, so if you can retain the patience to cut out this many biscuits, it is well worth it.

I presented the biscuits on my kissing cockatoos' plate and decorated the plate with my Valentine's Sonny Angel and a kewpie to complement the spirit of these biscuits.

To see what everyone else made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Anja Dunk's Baked Pancake with Raisins and Lemon Zest (Schmarren)

My mother is of German and Prussian heritage, with her ancestors migrating to Australia in the late 1800s and settling on farms. I enjoy exploring this heritage through food, so I was excited to see the release of a new English language book focussing on German cooking by Anja Dunk called Strudel, Noodles and Dumplings.  Anja is of German descent on her mother's side of the family, and grew up eating traditional German dishes brought to Wales by her mother.

I enjoyed flicking through this book as a reference, although many of the recipes do not sound like something I would naturally gravitate to.  However, I love the sound of the stews, tray bakes, preserves and baked goods in her book, and  I will attempt to make some of these as time goes by.

As an easy introduction to the recipes in Anja's book, I made a half recipe of Baked Pancake with Raisins and Lemon Zest (Schmarren) (p37 Strudel, Noodles and Dumplings) for my Saturday morning breakfast.  Baked pancakes are common in many cuisines, and I have previously made another type of baked pancake, the Dutch Baby

I liked that this pancake was packed with juicy, sweet raisins, which really made the dish for me.  When serving this pancake, I also had some berries on the side to add more flavour and moisture.  The toasted flaked almonds on top added some crunch and flavour, while the cinnamon flecked icing sugar dusting the top of the pancake added sweetness to a pancake that is not of itself particularly sweet. 

I was surprised at how filling this pancake was - it filled me up more than my usual porridge, despite the pancake being based on white flour.  A half recipe was plenty for me.  I liked the sound of Anja's suggestion to soak the raisins in rum - this would be a great way to serve this pancake for dessert.

To make a baked pancake for yourself, you will need:

1 tablespoon icing sugar
pinch of ground cinnamon
1 egg, separated
90ml milk
45g plain flour
1/4 tablespoon vanilla sugar
pinch of salt
zest of 1/4 lemon
25g raisins
small knob of butter
1/2 tablespoon toasted almonds

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Combine the icing sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

In a larger bowl, beat together to egg yolks, milk and flour until smooth.   Fold in the vanilla sugar, raisins and lemon zest.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then fold through the pancake batter.

In a small oven-proof skillet, melt the butter over the stovetop.  Pour the pancake batter into the skillet, and cook until the base of the pancake is golden brown.  Flip the pancake over and place it in the skillet in the preheated oven for 5 minutes.

Remove the pancake from the oven, dust with the cinnamon -icing sugar mixture, and scatter over the toasted flaked almonds.

Serve and enjoy while warm!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Fresh Cherry Cake

It was the Australia Day long weekend last weekend, so I took advantage of the extra day off to go and visit my mother interstate.  The days are long and hot in Queensland at the moment, and summer fruit is in abundance.

Mum had bought me a lot of cherries (500g) for just three days, and I didn't want to waste them, so I decided to make a Fresh Cherry Cake (against my mother's wishes - she doesn't like me using her kitchen).

The recipe that I chose for my cake came from An Italian in My Kitchen.  You can find it here.  I chose this recipe for its simplicity - oil instead of butter (my mother only has margarine), not too many steps, and not too overdone.  There wasn't any Greek yoghurt at home so I used a little cream and upped the milk. The hardest part was pitting the cherries without a cherry pitter or even a skewer - I ended up chopping the cherries in half and removing the pit by hand.  It was a little messy, but pitting cherries is messy no matter how you do it - just make sure you do it over the sink and protect your clothes from any stray juice.

I think my cake came up quite handsomely and it tasted delicious.  I paired my slice with a little icecream:

When it is cherry season at your place, make this cake!  You will need (with my adaptations to suit what I had on hand):

2 cups pitted cherries
1 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar (hey, I did what Rosemary said and it worked)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil or other flavourless vegetable oil
1/4 cup light cream
1/2 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease and line (with baking paper) an 8" springform pan and put it on a baking tray (so that the butter or oil you greased your pan with doesn't leak into the bottom of your oven during baking).

Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda together into a bowl and set aside.

Crack the eggs and place with the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (though the paddle is fine!!) and beat together until creamy, fluffy and roughly doubled in volume.  Beat in the vanilla extract, then pour in the oil slowly in a steady stream, continuing to whisk.

Change the mixer attachment to the paddle.  Combine the milk and cream in a cup or jug, add to the cake mixture and combine well.  Eyeball the flour into thirds and add a third at a time to the cake batter, gently just combining each lot of flour with the cake batter before adding the next lot.  Don't overbeat unless you want a hockey puck.

Remove the bowl from the mixer.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold half of the pitted cherries through the cake batter, then scrape the batter into the lined springform pan.  Top the batter evenly with the remaining cherries and press them down gently so they meld with the top of the cake.

Bake the cake in the preheated oven for approximately 45 minutes or until cooked through and lightly golden.  (Use a cake tester and see if it comes out clean when pushed into the middle of the cake, or press gently on the middle of the cake and it will spring back if cooked.)

Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin for around 20 minutes (fruity cakes tend to be more fragile than others and can fall apart if unmoulded too soon) before unmoulding onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Slice, serve and enjoy!!