Spice Cookies

So… Hey. It’s been, 3 years? since I’ve written a post for this? Crap, that’s no good. Sorry about that. I haven’t really been cooking because my Mum’s really tight with the grocery budget; I’m actually paying for a lot of the ingredients myself now. I’m 19 by the way, in can’t you can’t tell.

Anyway… I found this really interesting cookie recipe in Ottoloenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem. It’s a really beautiful book, if you’ve yet to see it.

I thought it’d be fun to blog my second time making it owing to the fact it was for my Grandma’s birthday, but, I only had half the ingredients on hand and couldn’t be f#*%ed going to the supermarket – Yes. Even for my Grandma…

Since I made a couple substitutions, I’ve included a link to the original recipe as well. It’s got American measurements which may be of help! – http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/spice-cookies-51115800

If you do make this, let me know. It was a fun challenge which I’m sure you’d enjoy too. You can also make them really cute with glacé cherries, candied peel, crystallised ginger. and since their flavour’s fairly complex, and moreish, you can really steal show at a shared lunch – send your kid along to primary school with this and everyone will think you very posh, even if you do drive that Nissan Tida.

 

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125g of cranberries/sultanas/glacé cherries/apricots…
2 tbsp brandy/bourbon/rum
150g plain flour and 100g ground almonds
1 heaped tbsp cacao powder
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp each ground cinnamon, allspice/cloves, ginger and nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
150g dark chocolate, crushed in blender
125g soft butter/coconut oil – I used 1/3 butter, 2/3 coconut
125g brown/caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp grated lemon/lime peel
½ tsp grated orange/mandarin peel
½ an egg – sorry about this

To finish:

  • Make a glaze with – 3 tbsp lemon juice &160g icing sugar
  • Sprinkle over a tbsp of fine-chopped candied citrus peel, glacé cherries
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Saturate the dried fruit in bourbon for 10 minutes, even overnight. Mix together the dry ingredients (excluding sugar), and dark chocolate in a food processor. Turn out to a bowl.
  2. Process the butter, sugar, vanilla and zest ’til lightly aerated – About 1 minute. With it running, ease in the egg and then the dry ingredients and fruit. Pulse ’til combined.
  3. Turn out to a bowl and roll it to a ball shape. Divide into about 20 balls and handle lightly – I have a lot of practise in this. Set onto a couple trays (greased or lined with paper), spacing widely apart.
  4. Bake for between 12-20 minutes – until the top firms up but the centre’s still a little soft. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks and drizzle over the glaze while still warm – coating the biscuit with a thin, translucent layer. Decorate with of candied peel and either serve or leave in the fridge. They’re best within 5 days.

 

Need a gluten-free alternative? My Grandma has Coeliacs, so for hers, instead of flour, I used 250g of almonds – ground in a food processor. You then make it the same, except line a cake tin instead and firmly press the dough into it. Bake for 12-20 mins – still slightly soft in the centre – glaze and drizzle more bourbon over the top.

Alternatively, you could use almond or gluten free flour – though you may have to play around with the ingredients to disguise the rice flavour, e.g. adding more butter.

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Step by step

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  • Grated whole nutmeg – Mind your fingers! I nearly lost one

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  • Crushing the chocolate

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Carrot Cake and my attempt at the 5:2 diet

You may have noticed I haven’t written anything for ages; did you miss me? Please God let one of you have! With my hugely impressive 20 or so followers I’d expect nothing less.

I hope you’ve had a nice week and cooked up a storm at home. My one was really busy. Today I enjoyed a full day of baking for my 17th birthday. 

Tragically, almost everything was inhaled beforeI got back with my camera. They said it was so good they weren’t even sorry; bastards; so I’ll go and bake them again for you soon. This  even includes my birthday cake.

My Grandma’s fake fudge is here though, and also this beautifully simple carrot cake I made for Mum’s tennis club. It was nearly gone when she’d finished her set so was clearly well received. I’ve even made it for dessert. It’s that good.

This same week, I also gave the 5:2 diet a whirl. I’ve been wanting to lose weight for ages but was pathetic at calorie counting and couldn’t force myself to exercise. If you haven’t heard of it before, the idea is that you eat normally five days a week. For the other two, just 600 calories. They aren’t consecutive and if you’re organised and thoroughly motivated, you can lose weight. How much? And will it come screaming back once you’ve reached your target? – Uncertain for most.

I was initially attracted because I loath being chained to notebooks and calculators.  And amazingly,  it’s supposed to get easy once you’ve jumped the first hurdle. Guess eating bugger all isn’t that impossible if you’re enjoying wine, cheese and crisps the next day. 

5:2 doesn’t just work because you consume less calories. Fasting damages your body. On the five days you’re unrestricted, your body burns more calories than normal to repair itself and even has to use that nasty fat around your internal organs, so you lose weight quite rapidly. And that’s always fun isn’t it?

But. I am in no way endorsing it. My first day, after enduring the saddest bowl of porridge I’ve ever had, sans brown sugar and banana, I had a cup of strong coffee with no sugar, and ice cubes, for lunch. Then I dissolved stock cubes in hot water and chewed on corn thins with Vegemite. In the afternoon I accidentally ate my sister’s jelly, rather than my Stevia one, which was choked with sugar. Forgive me for being a total moron there but I was ravenous.  Dinner was homemade hummus on toast with Jerusalem artichokes, roasted capsicum and some celery sticks… That was pretty good actually.

If you think you can stomach this diet though, listen to this – the following day I learnt just how evil the laxatives in vegetables are to an empty stomach. You get diarrhoea. Non-stop. I’m a very thorough cleaner with my bathroom but this time I literally had to scrub the crap out of my toilet.

That was my last day with 5:2 (If that wasn’t clear).

If you’d like to find out more about this event, or would like to take part, then follow this link to the host blog Bunny Eats Design – http://bunnyeatsdesign.com/our-growing-edge/

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My Mum’s Carrot Cake recipe 

Serves 20 well.

The best carrot cake ever

1 cup each of wholemeal flour (unsifted) and plain
2 cups of raw sugar (It’s honestly not too much)
2 tsp of baking soda and cinnamon
½ tsp of salt
Just under 1 cup of vegetable oil I use rice bran
4 eggs, pref. free-range and at room temp.
3 cups of grated carrots, that’s about 3 medium sized ones

Icing –
100g of Philadelphia cream cheese (my favourite), or an equally good cream cheese
50g of butter
2 cups of sifted icing sugar
1 tsp of natural vanilla extract
Handful of chopped walnuts to garnish  
Mix dry ingredients together then add the oil and stir well.

Stir in the beaten eggs and next, the carrot.

Pour into a greased cake tin that’s about 23 cm (10 in) across, or you could use one of those cool doughnut-shaped tins (Really easy shape for divvying among a large crowd).

Bake at 180C, 350F, for an hour. Do check it 15 mins early. If you need to check it a lot, cover with either baking paper or tin foil so the grill won’t burn the top as it reheats.

Leave to cool in it’s tin and then start the icing.

Blend cream cheese before adding butter, blend again, and add other ingredients.

Note -You can mix this by hand or with an electric beater, but I always use electric to get a lighter, creamier icing which spreads quickly.

Garnish with walnuts and serve. And be prepared to hear ooohs and aaahs of admiration. You could just shrug them off and point them in the direction of my blog for the recipe?

Herman the German

Herman the German is quite a new discovery of mine which you probably haven’t heard of before and is obviously, the subject of this new post.

My Granddad got given a split of culture recently from his very good friend and hairdresser Mike, and he grew it and made a delicious German sourdough cake with it, and quite successfully. When the time came for him to split his culture, he passed some on to me and I have been having great fun cooking with it.

What is it?

It’s essentially just a yeast culture that you grow for ten days and you have to remember to stir it daily and you have to feed it twice with 1 cup of milk, flour and sugar. Then you can make a cake with it. At the end of the ten days you split the culture into four and give two to your friends. You keep the other two to yourself, one to start a new culture with, the second to bake a cake. Each time you split the culture, you have to start it as on day one of the instructions.

It’s really easy and is a great excuse for people to go and see family members and friends face to face (as you have to find some people to unload your split cultures on) and you can talk experimenting, give tips and exchange advice and so on.

And it is made all the more worthwhile by its delicious results.

I also think that this would be a fantastic project to start with small children, especially in winter. If you like to grow herbs and small plants with them in Summer, then why don’t you grow culture and bake cakes in Winter with them? It makes great sense and seeing that it’s alive, it bubbles and gets bigger each day, it should definitely be very exciting for them to play with.

To start –

You can easily make a Herman culture at home and grow it to be used in a cake; or you can wait for a friend to give you a quarter of their culture for you to grow yourself.

How to make the culture –

Ingredients –

  • 140 g / 5 oz plain flour
  • 225 g / 8oz castor sugar
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast (2tsp)
  • 235 mls / Half a pint of warm milk
  • 59 mls / 2 fl oz. of warm water

Method –

  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water for 10 minutes then stir.
  2. Add the flour and sugar then mix thoroughly.
  3. Slowly stir in the warm milk.
  4. Cover the bowl in a clean cloth.
  5. Leave in a cool dry place for 24 hours
  6. Now proceed from day one of the 10 day cycle.

Now that it’s made, you can start growing it!

The Herman the German Cake Instructions –

I recommend that you bake a double cake if you can’t find enough/or any people who want some of the culture. But if you don’t want to do that, then there is still hope. You can actually freeze the culture for a couple of months. Just ensure that you take it out and give it a day or two to thaw so you can see it’s still bubbling, because if it isn’t then it’s dead! Then use as on day 10.

Or restart it on day 1 if you’d like. It’s a pretty cool culture.

If you’d like to find out more about Herman then simply type him into your search engine and it should come up with the official Herman the German Friendship Cake website, which is dedicated to the cake and gives you tips and new recipes, even ones for bread!, and it allows you to engage with other bakers and talk experimenting.

This is just the recipe for the basic cake. My Granddad and I have adapted it though as we found the recipe on the official website to be far too gluey and, actually, not very nice, so we’ve dropped the quantity of flour by half. That’s all we did.

Enjoy!!!

Recipe –

Ingredients –

2 cups of flour, sugar and milk (skim or full-fat. DO NOT USE TRIM THOUGH! Trim is beyond revolting and tastes like watered down white wash. Honestly, use slim milk! I cannot say this in enough capitals.)

Method –

Stir each day for 10 days. Leave uncovered on your kitchen bench, or somewhere where it won’t get knocked over. Leave covered with a paper towel (if you have cats or rabbits in the house, also cover with a wire cooling rack. It should keep them off it). On the fourth and ninth days also add 1 cup of flour, sugar and milk and stir thoroughly.

On the 10th day split the mixture into 4, give two parts away, keep one to start a new culture and use the last to bake a cake. See recipe below.

Note –

If you are not very confident in the prospect of forcing two spare cultures onto your friends and relatives, or in being able to hand it over and have it received gladly even; then there is hope! You don’t have to just bake a double cake and freeze some if you don’t want to. I came up with the idea of not adding the cup of flour, sugar and milk on day 9 and splitting into two on day 10. You effectively have two cultures as opposed to four and the weights roughly add up. I pulled this off quite successfully. But if it doesn’t for you then please comment at the bottom.
German Sourdough Cake
Ingredients –
1 cup of raw or brown sugar (225g, 8 oz)
1 cup of plain flour, sifted (150g, 5.3 oz
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of flowing salt
2/3 cup of oil
2 eggs, pref. free-range and at room temp.
2 tsp of vanilla extract
2 tsp of cinnamon
1 cup of raisins or sultanas
Large handful of crystallised ginger cut into chunks (it may say glacé ginger on the packet)
1 split Herman the German (on day 1)

To top – (optional)
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of melted butter

Vary by adding whatever you’d like. Walnuts, apple chunks, dessicated coconut, citrus peel, anything you have on hand that you think would suit. Change essence to compliment.

Method –

Combine everything in a large bowl, preferably in that of a cake mixer, and mix well to combine. Line your chosen baking tin with baking parchment and pour in the mixture. Drizzle over the butter and brown sugar, if using, and bake at 180 degrees C, 350 degrees F in a fan-forced oven for 45-60 mins. When it’s been in for 45 test with a skewer to see if it’s cooked (so no bits of gungy mixture) and if it comes out clean – you’re away laughing. A nicely cooked and delicious cake! If not, pop it back in for a few mins, check again and keep checking until it’s ready.

Important to note –

If you notice that the top of your cake is looking a little too brown  or just perfect and you don’t want it to brown further, simply cover with either baking paper or tin foil. This will prevent it from colouring further.

This cake freezes well and should be kept for no longer than 1 year. Check on it after 3 months though. Wrap carefully.

STONE FRUIT GALETTE, NEVER ENOUGH OF A GOOD THING

This is a really simple and sure to be delicious dessert from cookbook author Grace Parisi, that I found on her food blog.
After university, I really want to be a food writer like her, Jeffrey Steingarten, Nici Wickes. It sounds like a really cool career.

Grace Parisi

Making my way through the farmers’ market in August puts me into stone-fruit sensory overload on (healthy) par with my annual pre-Halloween trip to Economy Candy. Of the peach variety, there are Saturn, yellow, white and donut peaches (also yellow and white). Nectarines are yellow and white as well. Plums are even more diverse: there’s Damson, Greengage, Mirabelle, Golden Sugar, Yellow Shiro, Italian prune plums, Metlley and Santa Rosa. Then there are apricots, and apricot-plum hybrids: pluots, plumcots and apriums—each one more delicious than the next.

Peaches and nectarines are easily my favorite for eating out of hand, but unfortunately, I must wait until I get home to peel them first or cook them. A fairly recent development, relatively speaking, I developed a sensitivity to stone fruit about 10 or so years ago which I noticed after eating a few handfuls of cherries. My lips, mouth and throat had become…

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Orange Chocolate Loaf Cake

It’s just been my school holidays so I’ve had the chance to do a lot of baking at the moment. I’ve made all sorts of delicious, sweet treats. Peanut butter Chocolate biscuits, Rock Drops, Caribbean Coconut Cake, and this recipe right here – Orange Chocolate Loaf Cake, which I very much enjoyed. This recipe hails from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook – “Kitchen, it’s sort of a cookbook with all the best recipes from her other cookbooks, so if you own all her others I would recommend that you don’t bother with it, but if you’re new to Nigella, or want to grab a cookbook to try out some of her recipes then I would definitely recommend it to you. It’s packed with all sorts of lovely recipes. Her Coffee and Walnut cake looks gorgeous.

Back to the recipe – After baking the loaf cake I found it to be everything Nigella said it should be in her description. Rich, gungy and light. The kind of cake that you could easily take a bite of between meals. It is also inordinately simple to make, something which is typical of most of Nigella’s recipes. The oranges in it also give a nice, nearly bitter depth of citrus to the cake yet they don’t seem to overshadow the cocoa flavor, despite the small quantity of it stipulated in the recipe. It’s a sort of smoky, deep, spicy resonant flavor that lingers in the background. This making the cake that bit more special. A very suitable recipe for beginner bakers or for people with little time on their hands. Give it a try on your next weekend! You won’t regret it.

Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake
Serving suggestion –
Pair with a large glass of Drambuie liqueur which would nicely compliment the spicy notes of orange in this cake. Lightly whipped cream would also work nicely; or maybe some marmalade, although I don’t think it needs it.

Recipe – Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake
(From the cookbook – “Kitchen”  by Nigella Lawson).

Ingredients –
150g of soft unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
Dab of flavourless vegetable oil, for greasing syrup spoon
2 tbsp of golden syrup
175g of muscovado sugar (dark cane sugar)
150g of plain flour
½ tsp of baking soda
25g of your best quality cocoa powder, sifted
2 eggs, pref. at room temp. and free-range
Zest of 2 oranges and the juice of 1

Method –
Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius / 340 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 900g (2lb) loaf tin, or line with baking parchment.
Beat the soft butter with the golden syrup – if you dab a little oil onto your measuring spoon with a bit of paper towel then the syrup shouldn’t stick to the spoon, or submerge into very hot water which also works very well – and the sugar until you have a fairly smooth, light coffee cream, though you’ll find that the sugar will always retain a bit of grittiness about it.

Mix the flour, baking soda and cocoa together in a bowl, and beat into the syrup mixture 1 tbsp of these dry ingredients before beating in an egg. Add another couple spoonfuls of dry ingredients and add the second egg, beating well.

Carry on beating in the rest of the dry ingredients and the put, still beating, the orange zest and gradually, the juice. At this stage, the batter may look suddenly look dimpled, as if slightly curdled. No need to panic!

Pour and scrape into your loaf tin and bake it for ¾ of an hour, though check 5 mins before and be prepared to keep it in an extra 5 as well. A cake tester will not come out entirely clean, the point of this cake, light though it may be, is to have just a hint of inner gunge, but not brownie type gunge. Leave to cool a little in its tin on a wire rack then carefully turn out and leave to cool down.

Make ahead note – The cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead. Wrap tightly in clingfilm and store in an airtight container. Will keep for 5 days total.

Freeze note –
The cake can be frozen, tightly wrapped in a double layer of clingfilm and in a layer of foil for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight at room temperature.

Rock Drops!

Hi there everyone! I hope you’ve been having a brilliant week since my last post and have been jumping up and down in excitement for my next one. This week I’m covering rock drops. These make for a lovely and delightfully simple bit of baking. They’re also quick to make and are easy enough that you can make them with small children in tow. They are also something that you might not have heard of before. Think scones but crumbly like biscuits and moist like cake. I can’t really think of a better way to describe them to be honest. They’re really nice though and are more than ideal for trick or treat day in the office when it’s your turn to bring in something yummy or maybe for a picnic or an afternoon snack. Whatever time or place takes your fancy.

Note – The last time I made these I was halfway through making them before I realised that I hadn’t any demerara sugar on hand and had to use brown sugar instead. They turned out fine. If you don’t have any demerara in your pantry then just use what you do have.

Recipe – Rock Drops

Ingredients –
100g of butter, diced, plus extra for greasing
200g of plain flour
2 tsp of baking powder
75g of demerara sugar (brown sugar will work as well)
100g of sultanas, or other dried fruit
30g of finely sliced glace cherries
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp of milk

Method –
Pre-heat your oven to 200C or 392F. Lightly grease a baking tray with a little butter.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter with you fingertips until the mixture becomes crumbly and fine. Stir in the sugar (just use your hands), sultanas or other fruit and the cherries. Also mix in the beaten egg and milk and bring together to form a soft dough.
Spoon nine rough balls of the mixture onto your tray and flatten them a bit with your palm. Maybe also roughen them up a little as well. Remember to allow room between them for expansion while cooking.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins, or until firm to the touch, like with scones. But softer. Remove from the tray and leave to cool on a wire rack or serve piping hot, accompanied with an ample amount of soft butter and perhaps jam, but they’re so delicious that they don’t need anything anyway. Enjoy.
Recipe from the about sean’s food blog and sourced from the Cakes & Bakes cookery book. Published by the Love Food Company.

Easy Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake

Every baker worth their salt has got a great chocolate cake recipe that everyone loves… Here’s my one. – Simply called “Easy Chocolate Cake”, it is, as the title suggests delightfully easy to make and it always turns out well. I would even go so far as to say that this is a recipe that’s near impossible to cock up. Perfect for making with small children or for beginner bakers.
To attest to the fact of how easy it is to make I should tell you about the time I made it with my Nana. First off, It was supposed to go into the base of a dessert so it wasn’t exceptionally important, but anyway, I accidently put in 1 1/3 cups of water instead of 2/3 of a cup; after I realised that the cake was far too runny and that I’d made a mistake; and also after being shouted at by my Nana we still put it in the oven. After about an hour and a half it was cooked. Rather nicely actually. It was just a little paler than normal. I wouldn’t really say it was a success but I certainly wouldn’t call it a failure.
My Nana was still angry at me afterwards though.
I should say that I still can’t be entirely sure of how well it tasted as I never got to try it. My Nana refused to let me have even a tiny bite, even though it was going to be squished up into a dessert and even though I was burning with curiosity. She said that if I was so interested in its taste then I should make it again that way myself… I have still yet to try it out. I also still disagree with her about not letting me try it too. It wasn’t like it was going to be sold at a fete or something. After expressing that to my Nana, more shouting followed.
If you’re a keen experimenter in the kitchen then why don’t you try adding more water and tell me how it went. I would be very interested to hear the results. If you’re not though then I strongly advise you to read a recipe more than once.
Anyway – This cake is chocolatey, rich, moist, yummy and light, and is most importantly near impossible to cock up! Why don’t you try it out at your next birthday party, coffee group meeting or neighbourhood watch evening. I’m sure that everyone will enjoy it.

Notes –

I have also included my recipe for butter icing below but any icing would work well with this recipe.
For decoration I simply advise stirring up the icing into swirls with a fork which always looks attractive. You could also get some of those little flowers you find in baking shops. They’d look very cute on top. Or just make it your own.

But definitely give it a go. You won’t be dissapointed.

Credit – Thank you Aunty Tracy for the great recipe, 😉

 

Recipe – Easy Cocolate Cake – Serves 8-10 people

Chocolate cake

Ingredients –
1 1/3 cups of plain flour
1 1/2 tsps of baking powder
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
125g of butter
1 tsp of vanilla essence
1 1/4 cups of caster sugar
2 eggs, pref. free-range and at room temp.
2/3 of a cup of water

Method –
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and line a cake tin and sift the flour and cocoa into a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Beat on low speed with an electric mixer until ingredients are combined. Increase speed to medium and continue to beat for a further 3 mins or until the mixture is smooth and paler. Pour the mix into your cake tin and shake it a little so everything is evenly dispersed. Bake in oven for about 15 mins, check it, cover the top with a sheet of baking paper and continue to check on it with a skewer every 3-5 mins until an inserted skewer comes out clean and light prod causes it to spring back lightly. Leave to stand in tin for 10 mins then turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Use below icing to decorate when stone cold and serve.

Chocolate Butter Icing –
This icing recipe is a rough guide and will require you to play around with it a bit to make it perfect. Feel free to use your own recipe if you’d prefer and don’t feel afraid to use the optional kahlua to spike it.

Ingredients –
6 or 7 heaped dessert spoons of sifted icing sugar
2 heaped dessert spoons of sifted cocoa
Large knob of softened butter
dribble of vanilla essence or to taste (this should not be necessary if using kahlua)
Kahlua to flavour and loosen (optional), or a bit of water

Method –
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and slowly mix with an electric mixer. When combined continue to beat until very smooth and a little paler. Taste. Add more cocoa or sugar or kahlua or butter and mix again. Continue to taste until it’s good and if you haven’t enough for the cake then make more.