Friday, 25 December 2009

Daring Bakers: Gingerbread House

December 2009 Daring Bakers 2

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

I’m beginning to think that my Daring Bakers motto should be “best laid plans” because this was another month of shenanigans. I was very excited when I saw the challenge and started planning a very Aussie Christmas Gingerbread House i.e. backyard cricket, dry grass, tin roof. There were plans and engineering meetings and decoration conferences in the confectionery aisle of the supermarket.

And then . . .

I chose Y’s dough because I had all the ingredients in my cupboard and I liked the spices that were involved but I had a few issues with the dough - it came together easily enough but after chilling overnight, it did not roll, it crumbled. So, I stood there smushing it back together to try and get a flat enough thin to cut my wall out of. Finally, I had all my pieces and they had a cooled and it was time for the simple syrup.

Let's consider this for a moment. Me + molten sugar + pretty decorationing + tiredness = me burning myself with said molten sugar. And then Esther burning herself on the syrup. So I thought "oh well, I won't decorate it as nicely as I wanted to. I mainly just want to put it together!"

So I did. And, holy mackerel, it was ugly. SO UGLY! SO UGLY THERE AREN'T ANY PICTURES!

There's another reason why there aren't any pictures.

I smashed it. With my rolling pin. A lot.

I snapped and had had enough of this ugly gingerbread house - all the time and energy that had gone into the construction for an UGLY outcome was too much for me - it was smashing time.
At first, it wasn't very carthatic but then I hit my smashing stride and I felt a lot better.

The problem, of course, was that now there was no gingerbread house for the challenge at all. Esther to the rescue! We cut some slices off the (ample) excess dough and made some tiny gingerbread houses.

December 2009 Daring Bakers 6

And, if i say so myself, they are about 10000 times cuter than I could have ever imagined. And so adorably cute! They are living on our coffee table and it is pretty funny watching our cats walk next to them as they look like huge panthers attacking the tiny village.

So, all in all, a less than successful challenge but I got to work some anger out. The challenge was certainly there and I'm glad that I had a go! Thanks, Anna and Y!

December 2009 Daring Bakers 7

Monday, 14 December 2009


Factory 1

It has only taken a year or so for Esther and I to walk the 5 minutes down the road to try out Factory and we are very glad we did! We took the lovely Josie along with us to try it out and we spent a lovely couple of hours eating, drinking and playing scrabble.

The menu isn't huge but surprisingly varied! 11 vego options! 1 outright vegan option and other veganiseable (total word, ok) things! Nice looking omin things! Coriander features quite a bit - hooray!

Factory 3

I went with the Vegan Brekkie - scrambled tofu with mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach and coriander, finished with a soy & lime reduction. Verdict - a one-way ticket to delicioustown! I love these sorts of flavours at breakfast and it didn't disappoint! A little bit of chilli wouldn't have gone astray but, apart from that, the flavours were nicely balanced and the nice sourdoughy bread that came with it (no butter! they totally got the vegan!) was great to dip in the sauce bit that was left.
To be honest, just writing this up makes me want to nip around the corner for some more. Yum.

Factory 4

Josie and Esther both went with the French Toast with banana, maple syrup and bacon and it smelt amazing and looked great. Both said that it was delicious - good quality maple syrup, nice fresh banana and excellent flavours.

There are a bunch of other things on the menu that I want to try - the ricotta pancakes, the poached pears, the baked eggs with tomato and coriander salsa and haloumi - I could go on and on. The coffee with great, there's a nice courtyard and there are plenty of tables.

Hooray for our local!

Factory Cafe
453 Victoria Street
Brunswick West
T-S 8-4

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Cookies and Cream Truffles

Just a mini-post about my vegan Christmas baking. Except there is no baking involved. There is deliciousness though . . . read on.

With all my other Christmas baking being a dairyfest, I needed something to make for my vegan peeps. Josie had told me about this 'recipe' ages ago and I forgot about until I was eating Oreos at the cinema the other night. BRAIN WAVE TIME!

Vegan Cookies & 'Cream' Truffles

1. Crumble up a tube of Oreos until breadcrumby
2. Add toffuti and mix. I added a spoonful and mixed it and kept adding until the consistency seemed right. I think it was about half a little tub of tofutti.
3. Melt chocolate
4. Roll the oreo/tofutti mixture into balls, dip in chocolate and leave to set.
5. Eat.

I enjoyed them immensely and the vegans seemed to enjoy them too. Easy and delicious!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Birdie Num Nums

Oh, Birdie Num Nums. I had such high hopes for you and in the end you gave me a very mixed bag.

Sunday morning, Esther and I picked up our bffs for breakfast. I had declared that I wanted to go somewhere new so we drove down Nicholson Street where the place I had sort of picked was. It was closed. Tip for Melbourne cafes – open for Sunday breakfast. Anyway, we continued down Nicholson Street and arrived at Birdie Num Nums. I loved the interior – it’s previous life as a butcher was very obvious with rails and meat hooks.

Birdie Num Nums 1

Unfortunately, breakfast went from delicious to fairly horrible. My breakfast (above) was delicious - eggs perfectly poached, hollandaise good, asparagus excellent. The only down side was the insubstantial, airy toast. As Esther said, the bread was like something from Baker's Delight.

J & D got the Egyptian Eggs - crispy fried poached eggs rolled in dukkah on a potato and pumpkin stack with mint and crispy onion. From what the guys said, they were good but lacking balance. It needed something fresh or some lemon to squeeze over it.

Birdie Num Nums 2

And now for the bad - Esther's breakfast. The bacon was undercooked but covered in burnt bits and oil. The sausage was cold. The spinach was overcooked and not seasoned. There was the same issue with the bread as with my breakfast. The hashbrowns were fine but nothing special and obviously from the freezer section. The eggs were meh. She felt queasy for the rest of the day after her breakfast which generally means that place is struck of the breakfast list forever.

Farewell forever, Birdie Num Nums.

Birdie Num Nums

745 Nicholson Street, Carlton North

Friday, 11 December 2009

Christmas Baking Hooray!

Christmas Treats 3

Last Thursday, I had a half day of work - YAY! My plan was to use the afternoon to plan my Christmas baking and ended up baking all of our baked Christmas gifts whilst Esther organised their packaging and helped me out in the kitchen. How productive of us! *preens*

Our gifts were made up of three things - two of which I had seen on the interwebs days before and one which my mum always used to make at Christmas time.

1. Walnut Shortbread from Lottie + Doof.

Walnut Shortbread 3

This was some amazing shortbread - not too walnutty (which was my fear as I was chopping them), 'sandy' and moist at the same time, made of deliciousness. I highly recommend heading over to Lottie + Doof for the recipe. This was also the first post in their "12 Days of Cookies" and each has been very delicious sounding.

2. Peppermint Bark from Judy in her natural habitat

Peppermint Bark 2

Peppermint Bark isn't a thing in Australia - at least, I've never really noticed it - but it seems to be big in the US, seeing as I've seen approximately 10932890 recipes for it in the last couple of days. In conclusion, melted chocolate and crushed up candy canes - yes, please.

3. Chocolate Boozy Puddings from my mum!

Chocolate Boozy Puddings 2

As I said, my mum used to make these all the time and they were the most fabulous and impressive thing when you are a littlie. The thing is, they are so easy.

1. Purchase a fruit cake from the supermarket
2. Crumble it and sprinkle it with brandy
3. Roll into balls
4. Dip in chocolate. Leave to harden.
5. Drizzle/dip white chocolate on top. Top with green and red things of your choosing to make holly.
6. Impress people.

So delicious. So decadent. So boozy. Now to make some more.

We packed up them up in cute boxes from Spotlight, added a note, packed them in the car and spent Saturday driving around the greater Melbourne area dropping them on people's doorsteps. Yay, Christmas is for the baking!

Christmas Treats 6

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Et in Arcadia ego . . .

I’m sorry for ridiculous overplayed title but I couldn’t resist! After months of studying Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia for Year 12 Lit, I have a fondness for all things Arcadian. And, in retrospect, I should have had rice pudding with jam which I could swirl through it and have delightful chaosy fun.

Arcadia 1

Anyway, our lovely friend AB has just arrived from Qld and it was time for some delicious breakfast, Melbourne-style. I sent her a list of cafe names and told her to choose without any research whatsoever. Without any hesitation, she chose Arcadia (mainly, I believe, because she is living around the corner) and I was very happy with her choice, having had the Most Delicious Savoury Muffin of my life there a few weeks earlier.

We got the last indoor table at about 9:30 or so and felt very smug about the whole situation. Coffee order was taken straightaway which always makes me happy and we perused the blackboard. My eye was immediately drawn to the mushrooms because whilst I love mushrooms, I don’t cook them at home because they are not Esther’s bag at all. I was also interested in the eggs with chilli – I can’t remember the details but it sounded a bit like the Hot Indonesian Eggs at CERES which is high up on my favourite breakfasts of all time.

Arcadia 3

Esther and AB both went with (and I quote) "pan-fried mash potato cake with spinach, bacon, poached eggs, mayo and pesto" and it looked fantastic – I don’t partake in meat anymore but that was some delicious looking bacon.

The mushrooms were great and the goats’ cheese was perfect – it’s classic for a reason, peeps.

Arcadia 2

Arcadia knock out a great breakfast but there are two downsides:

1. They only do breakfast from 8 to 11:30 (M-F) and 9 to 4 (S&S). I understand that limited kitchen space sometimes means you need to shut down breakfast so you can cook lunch but their breakfasts are so good that I would love to be able to eat them all day.

2. They are a bit pricier than a lot of other places. The quality is amazing though so the extra cost might be worth it.


193 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Rain, Rain.

Doughnuts 1

I feel like the last person in Melbourne to make it to Hellenic Republic. I’ve also never eaten at the Press Club. *shame* And, after the whole George Calombaris hating on the bloggers, I wasn’t rushing out to try them. However, the promise of feta at breakfast time was enough to convince me and we finally made it there last weekend in the middle of the stormy weather that had our roof leaking and anxiety levels high.

Tash had been raving about breakfast at Hellenic Republic since she moved to Melbourne a couple of months ago; she and her housemate had gone one morning and all I’d heard since was “breakfast spanakopita”. Never one to shy away from filo at breakfast, I was intrigued and excited to check it out. Fast forward, two months and we had finally made a date to go and eat.

Spanakopita & Eggs 2

We hadn’t booked but it seemed easy enough to get a table as we were pretty early for Sunday morning breakfast (9:30). I felt strangely pleased to see that their roof was also leaking, even though it did result in Tash getting wet at the end of the meal. There were buckets set up in a couple of places over the dining room to catch the drips and the staff looked a little bit harried as well. That said, the service was great and our coffee order was taken very quickly. (One of tweeps was inspired by my early morning tweet about going to HR for breakfast and also decided to breakfast there that morning. I believe she had a 20 minute wait for her coffee order to be taken. Bad news.)

The menu isn’t huge and it is the usual breakfast stuff with an interesting spin on it. I had already decided I was having the spanakopita but I was also interested in the omelette with feta, leek and potato and, if I ate meat, I’d definitely try the breakfast souvlaki. Tash had tried the omelette before and loved it but one of her Perth friends had tried it the week before and found it a little bland. I will have to go back and try it myself soon.

Spanakopita & Eggs 3

The spankopita was outstanding – there was a lovely balance of flavours with the feta being nice and salty but perfectly matched by the mix of spinach and herbs, the filo was great with the bottom being particularly crispy and delicious and the eggs added a lovely element to the whole dish. This isn’t really ‘fancy’ food but it is pretty frickin’ ‘fancy’ on flavour. A+++++++++++++++++++++++

Tash also had the spanakopita because she’s an addict.

Esther had a very simple but very delicious breakfast of sourdough, spreadable feta, avocado and tomato. I’ll be honest and say that it didn’t look that exciting to me but Esther assures me that it was lovely – the avocado nice and ripe, the tomato well seasoned with good olive oil and pepper and the feta was outstanding. She was very happy with her choice and I think if I was in the mood for simple or light (for a certain value of light), this would be my choice.

Spanakopita & Eggs 4

And then we shared breakfast dessert because that’s how we roll. Greek doughnuts with honey and walnuts. Amazing.

So, all in all, I really enjoyed it – the food and coffee were excellent, the service was great and the atmosphere was nice. It is a bit more expensive than our usual breakfast haunts but I think it was worth it.

Also, George, I’m sorry if my unsophisticated palate and amateur review isn’t good enough for you.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Daring Bakers: Cannoli

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

November 2009 Daring Bakers 4

Oh, peeps. Cannoli! One of my loves at Brunneti! One of my loves pretty much anywhere! This month I got to make my own and the results were . . . mixed.

After my last minute panic baking the last couple of months (which resulted in me not participating or not having time to give things a try if they didn’t work 100%), I scheduled a baking day as soon as we had received the assignment. BEST LAID PLANS. I chose a day towards the middle of November, little knowing that we would have a heat wave. 38C + deepfrying didn’t work for me so I postponed. Then it was Esther’s birthday and I had birthday cake to make. Then I had work, volunteer and social commitments every single day for the rest of the month. Finally, on Sunday night, as I was busy cooking up things for dinner with friends on Monday, Esther suggested making the dough so it would be ready to fry up when I got a chance. Genius woman!

The dough came together very quickly and easily and I started to worry that maybe I’d been a been over the top with my worries about making cannoli. I popped it in the fridge until Tuesday morning when I didn’t start work until ten. So I rolled and cut and fried at 8:30 in the morning. My mine problem was that I wasn’t able to roll the dough to the thinness to ensure that it went all bubbly and cannoli like. Reading through the recipe again, I realise I should have actually let it rest a bit more but I was on a schedule so it was overly thick

I made a rose and vanilla cream to fill them with, melted some chocolate and put it all together. They were delicious and fun and I may make them again one day when I have learnt how to roll dough properly.

November 2009 Daring Bakers 1

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Happy Bee-day!

Chocolate Honey Cake 7

On the weekend, it was my lovely girlfriend Esther’s birthday! Hooray! Even though we went out to high tea with a bunch of friends and there was more cake than you could poke a stick at, I still declared that you cannot have a birthday without a homemade cake and any thoughts to the contrary were a travesty. So, a week ago, we sat down with How To Be A Domestic Goddess and Feast to start the labourious task of choosing a cake.

Official Birthday Cake Choosing Process

1. S-J to read out likely looking cake names from the book. Esther to register interest in certain cakes. Shortlist created.

2. S-J to show pictures of shortlisted cakes to Esther. More cuts made.

3. S-J to read out Nigella’s description to Esther. More cuts made.

4. Ultimate winner declared.

So, you see, birthday cakes are very serious business.

Esther chose Nigella’s Chocolate Honey Cake from Feast mainly, I think, because the bees on top were so cute. She does love honey though so it might have been a combination of factors. There was going to be more rounds of voting as I brought in my 195 delicious bookmarks but there was a clear favourite from the outset.

Chocolate Honey Cake 6

This was a lovely cake to make – it was fairly easy and not particularly time consuming. The best thing about it was that it filled the house with a lovely rich honey smell which was delicious. My only issue was the top of the cake catching a bit but I think that had more to do with the FrankenOven and me upping the temperature a bit to compensate for the lack of insulation of the oven and Nigella did warn against it. After about 30 minutes, I put some aluminium foil over the tin and it was fine. It wasn’t noticeable at all in the final product so hooray!

To me, this is one of those infuriating cakes where you have to let it cool completely before glazing which is just epic baking mocking in my book – the cake is there but don’t eat it! I wasn’t entirely sold the glaze until I had a finished piece of cake (why yes, I did dip a spoon into the glaze to . . . test it). The bees were made by the birthday girl herself who is supremely talented at the fondant-related crafts.

Chocolate Honey Cake 4

This cake was seriously delicious – the cake somehow managed to be cakey & dense and light & smooth at the same time. It was rich but not so rich that you rub your tummy and cry afterwards. And, most surprising to me considering the quantitiy of honey, the honey flavour was very subtle and added a lovely note to an outstanding chocolate cake. Well done, Nigella.

Chocolate Honey Cake
From Nigella Lawson's Feast

for the cake
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
275g brown sugar
225g butter, soft
125ml honey
2 eggs
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarb
1 tbsp cocoa
250ml boiling water

for the glaze
60ml water
125ml honey
175g dark chocolate
75g icing sugar

for the bees
25g royal icing/fondant/marzipan
flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 180c and butter and line a 23cm springform pan.

Melt the chocolate in the manner you prefer. Leave to cool slightly.
Beat the sugar and butter until airy and creamy and then add in the honey. Add the eggs one at a time, with a spoon full of flour in between each egg. Fold in the melted chocolate, the rest of the flour and the bicarb. Add the cocoa and mix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then (carefully) beat in the boiling water. Mix well and then pour into the prepared tin.
Cook for an hour but check regularly and cover with foil if it catches.
Let cake cool.

To make the glaze, bring the water and honey to the boil in a smallish saucepan, take of the heat and add the chocolate, swirling it around so it melts. Sieve in the icing sugar and whisk until smooth.

When the cake is cold, pout the glaze over the cake and smooth it down the sides. It takes a while to set so prepare at least an hour before you want to serve it.

To make the bees, add some yellow food colouring to the bee makings of your choice and mix in. Pinch a little bit off and roll into a little sausage. Use a skewer to paint on some stripes of left over glaze (and eyes if you wish). Use the flaked almonds to make wings.


Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Tempeh Lasagne

Tempeh Lasagne 11

I have always loved lasagne. Feel free to picture me as a big fat ginger and black-striped cat who answers to "Garfield" if you wish. Also, vegans, you may wish to look away now - epic dairy ahead!

When we first became vegos, I found this amazing recipe which I tried despite it seeming a little bit weird. It is delicious and has served me well, having been my contribution to a Christmas dinner and various other things. While I encourage you all to go and have a bash at that recipe, in the last few months, I've wanted my mum's lasagne.

When I was making the Tempeh Shepherdess Pie from Veganomicon, I had a brainwave (recreated below):
Me: *stirs things*
Brain: You know, you could totally use this technique and make it into bolognese sauce and then make lasagne.
Me: Huh? *stirs*
Brain: Lasagne! Like Mum's!
Me: Yeah, ok, whatever. *chops*

Luckily, I listened to my brain and my tempeh lasagne was born!

Tempeh Lasagne 9

I think it is pretty damn tasty and a bunch of omni (including Esther's 21 year-old brother) agree. In fact, Jen the carnivore has raved re: my tempeh bolognese. HIGH PRAISE INDEED.

As I write it out, it seems like a long and overly-complicated recipe but it doesn't feel that way when you are making it and, frankly, you get lasagne at the end!

This recipe is dedicated to my mum and to Esther's littlest cousin Samantha who has recently become a vegetarian and loves lasagne.

Tempeh Lasagne 10

Tempeh Lasagne
feeds many and makes a good lunch at work!

for the mince:
1 pkg tempeh
3 glugs of soy sauce
red wine

for the mince-y sauce:
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced/diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, grated
1 - 1.5 zucchini, grated
tomato paste
1 big can of tomatoes
misc other vegies (delicious ones I've used in the past - capsicum, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, corn)
chilli flakes

for the white sauce:
6 tbsp plain flour
4 tbsp butter
2 cups milk (plus a little bit more)
nutmeg (please grate some yourself - it makes all the difference)

misc other things:
lasagne sheets (I only used one packet this time but sometimes it is 1.5)
2 handfuls of spinach (I used baby spinach this time but silverbeet would also be grand)
cheese of various types - generally speaking, a cheddar/tasty and something bitey like parmesan or pecorino

1. Crumble the tempeh into a deep frying pan over medium-high heat and add the soy and enough water so that it is covered in liquid. Add a slug or two of wine at this stage if you want. Bring to boil and keep there until most of the liquid is absorbed (about ten minutes). Pour into a bowl and put aside.

2. Put the pan back on the heat (turn it down to medium-medium for this bit) and add some oil. Sauté the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes until fragrant and delicious. Add the carrot, celery and zucchini and let that cook away for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add a spoonful or so of tomato paste - I use the squidgy bottle stuff and it is generally about three squirts and let that cook for a minute. Now, add your BIG can of tomatoes, the other veggies, herbs, spices, your tempeh mince that has been waiting patiently for you, an empty tomato can of water or stock and a good slug of wine. Stir and leave to simmer for as long as you like - the longer the better.

4. After about 30 minutes, check on your sauce and see how it's going. It should go from this:
Tempeh Lasagne 5
to this:
Tempeh Lasagne 7
When it looks good, make your white sauce. I stole this technique from The Pioneer Woman's Cauliflower Soup and it hasn't failed me yet. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk the flour into the milk. When the butter is melted, pour the flour/milk mixture in and stir until thick, adding a handful (or more if you like gluttony!) of cheese and some fresh grated nutmeg into the mix. Take off heat and put to one side as you set up the lasagne production line.

5. Spoon enough of the liquid from the tempeh sauce to lightly coat the bottom of the lasagne dish. I don't know if this actually does anything but I like to think so. Layer some lasagne sheets and then layer some tempeh mince. You will probably need to add a bit more milk to make your thickened white sauce easy to pour/spread. Add a third on top of the tempeh. Put a handful of spinach on top. Repeat!

6. When you run out of room in your dish/tempeh, do another layer of sauce and spinach and then one last layer of lasagne sheets. Pour the remaining white sauce on top and then cover with grated cheese.

7. Put into a moderate oven (180C) for half an hour.

8. When done, eat it rest for about ten minutes before serving.

9. Eat. Rub your tummy in glee.

Tempeh Lasagne 12

Daring Bakers: Macarons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

October 2009 Daring Bakers

I now officially have a baking nemesis.

Is it a bit melodramatic to turn an entire (delicious) subset of biscuits into your nemesis? I feel after four failed batches that I'm entitled. I love to eat macarons but, boy howdy, do they not want to be baked by me.

October 2009 Daring Bakers

I was excited when I saw this month's challenge as I'd made two batches of macarons previously with about half a batch of successful biscuits and I was looking forward to beautiful macarons with well-defined feet. I carefully measured and weighed and ground and folded and heated and baked . . . all to no avail.

October 2009 Daring Bakers

So I tried again and had the same results. It's not that they are bad as such. They just aren't macarons.

Reading through the DB forums, I feel like other people had issues with this recipe and I think it was a combination of that, my impatience (even though I tried really really hard!) and our FrankenOven. One day, my precious. One day perfect macarons will be mine. (It doesn't help that the amazing Zumbo macarons are just one post down. Way to sabotage yourself, me!)

My Spiced Chocolate Ganache was DAMN tasty though! Hooray!

October 2009 Daring Bakers

Equipment required:
• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
• Rubber spatula
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
• Sifter or sieve
• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
• Oven
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)

Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Delicious Zumbo Treats . . .

that I forgot to post pictures of last time!

All these photos were taken by my lovely partner (in life and crime!), Esther who is very clever at many things, including photography, quilting, psychology, teaching and being awesome.

I wish my macarons look like this. Let me assure you that they don't.

I'm going to level with you - I have next to no idea what any of these were. They were all delicious though.

Adriano Zumbo Cafe Chocolat
Shop 5, 308 Darling Street

(02) 9555 1199

M-F 8-4
Sat 8-5
Sun 9-5

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Catastrophe Cookies (Or, the biscuits previously known as Afghans.)

I'm a walker.

Ridgeway this way (Sep '08)To your right: a fence and then the Silvan resevoir.OH HAI ENTIRE WALK!Wind-blown

I love walking and discovering things and/or seeing things in a different light and/or just taking the time to see. My favourite walk has been The Ridgeway which I walked half of last year (and photos can be seen here) but I've done some amazing walks in and around Melbourne (which can be seen here.)

But what does all this walking have to do with biscuits, you ask?! Well, in March, Not Quite Nigella posted a recipe that is very close to my heart: Afghan Biscuits. I've always loved these biscuits and they are easily obtained in Perth i.e. every single cafe has them. I suddenly realised I'd never seen them in Melbourne and I was aghast.

Catastrophe Cookies 2

I did a very scientific poll of my friends and the results shocked me - nearly everyone who grew up in the Eastern 2/3rds of the country had never heard of, let alone eaten, an Afghan biscuit.

I took it upon myself to write this terrible wrong and made many batches. And it was with one of these early batches that a new (and not so racist) name was bestowed on them. I'll let J, one of the members of my walking posse explain:
Just as we were leaving civilisation (well, we were about to walk into CFA territory rather than MFB territory), our map failed us somewhat by not matching up with what was on the ground. G kindly offered to ride up ahead to see whether one part of the path ended where we thought it did, and the rest of us asked ourselves why we didn’t bring a cyclist all the time. Our question was soon answered as G came off his bike, and we rushed to see what had happened. His elbow was well and truly grazed up, with one significant gouge expelling large amounts of blood. I emptied my waterbottle over his wound to wash as much of the gravel out as I could, then tied a hanky around it. We all walked to the nearest houses and knocked on doors until someone was home and let us use his bathroom. We cleaned G’s elbow a bit more and applied some Dettol cream (thank you, random man), and I cleaned the hanky and reattached it.

SJ called E, and she came with a first aid kit, cleaned the wound with saline, and attached a better dressing than my hanky! As we were waiting for her, we drank the rest of our tea and ate more delicious biscuits. It was at this point that we renamed them Catastrophe Cookies, because they were pretty much the ideal thing to eat at this stage of a catastrophe. E drove G and me to RMH emergency room, where we waited for a couple of hours before G was anaesthetised, cleaned up properly, stitched up, and given a tetnus booster. D and SJ called a taxi and took G’s bike back into SJ & E’s place.
- from here

Anyway, now you know the story of the name, let me explain why these biscuits are so delicious.

1. They are crunchy and crumbly at the same time

2. Chocolate

3. Icing. On a biscuit.

4. They are damn fine with a cup of tea.

Catastrophe Cookies 6

They are also exceptionally quick and easy to make - the only frustrating moment is waiting for them to cool before pouring icing on them.

They are the kind of biscuit you expect to see at the cake stall at a school fête and, to me, that is the highest compliment there is.

Catastrophe Cookies 4

Catastrophe Cookies

makes approx 16

170g butter, softened
100g brown sugar
180g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp cocoa
60g cornflakes

3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp caster sugar
190g icing sugar
3 Tbsp cocoa
walnut (or pecan) halves

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Cream butter and sugar together while getting the dry ingredients ready to sift.

2. Sift into creamed butter and sugar and mix until combined. The mixture will (most likely) become one big sticky ball of deliciousness.

3. Stir in the cornflakes (or, if you are lazy like me, pour the cornflakes in and mix on a low setting until combined).

4. Roll into balls and place on a lined baking tray. Flatten them a little bit and try not to overcrowd the tray - they don't spread a lot but you do want them all to bake at the same speed.

5. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. They'll be quite fragile at this stage but they become more hardy as they cool.

6. Cool. (Boo.)

7. Make the icing! Spoon the icing onto the biscuits and press a walnut (or, in this case, a pecan) onto the biscuit.


Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Quinoa-stuffed Capsicum

So many delicious things in one pan!

Confession time! I love reality television. A lot. I mean, ask me a question about America's Next Top Model. No, really. I'll know the answer. Or about Project Runway (US, Canadian or Australian versions). Or Top Chef.

Or, and this is the hardest to admit, Australian Idol. I CAN'T HELP IT! IT IS SOME SORT OF ILLNESS!

The way this relates to food? One of my BFFs, Daniel, and I like to watch AI together and make fun of it and give hard-hitting criticism while I make some sort of dinner that is hopefully delicious. This tradition has fallen off a bit in the last two seasons of FAIL but Sunday was different. Sunday was LIZA MINNELLI DAY! (It is important to note that both Daniel and I are epic musical theatre hacks - him more than me). LIZA. ON OUR SHOW! LIZA WITH A ZEE!

Step One A: take photo of all these things

Liza-excitement aside, I was feeling relatively lazy when it came to cooking so I turned to an old faithful, Stuffed Capi. I first saw this version of stuffed capsicum over at The Kitchen Sink and I loved the idea of using quinoa as the stuffing. I adore quinoa - it is fricking delicious.


Looking at The Kitchen Sink recipe, I'm actually pretty surprised at how much my version is like the original recipe but the beauty of this recipe is that you can use it as a bit of a "clear out the fridge" recipe and it is really customisable. It is already gluten-free, easily vegan and I've made it for people with fructose malabsorption.

Stuff 'em!

I also love this recipe as it is delicious as leftovers and makes a handy and filling lunch. The stuffing is also delicious by itself and, whilst I haven't tried it, I reckon it would be a pretty delicious salad as well.

Et viola!

I won't put the recipe here as it is pretty much The Kitchen Sink recipe but I will urge you all to make it and enjoy!