What does the last of the housewives do?

Month: November, 2013

Winter is Coming

For us, anyway. We’re going to Europe. I’ve been in an absolute lather preparing for it on top of the usual end of year stuff, it’ll be a relief just to unburden my brain onto the Internet just so I can see where I’m at.

We’ve booked the tickets, done the passports and travel insurance, and booked some accommodation. Sometimes we’re going to wing it, other times we know where we’re at. Last time I went to Europe the Internet did exist, but only in a very limited form. I could pop into Eindhoven University to online chat to my boyfriend in Sydney for free (split screen, all blinking green text on a black background, just like in the movies!) but that was the extent of it. I think the World Wide Web was actually invented that year. If you wanted to book accommodation, you had to physically lug yourself and backpack there anytime after two and enquire as to rates and bedbug densities. Time consuming. I’ve just got to book a car, but that’s it for the Europe side of things on my to do list. Apart from getting an international drivers license, just in case the husband can talk me into driving. Which means I’ll need a passport photo. Ok.

I’ve borrowed luggage (thanks Aunty Sarah!) and warm coats (thanks Karen!). I’ve paid the phone bills twice. I’ve arranged the house sitter, his girlfriend is coming for coffee tomorrow, even though it’s her birthday. I wonder if she’d like some lemon slice? I’ve had the kitchen and bathroom painted. You didn’t hear about that because it was very uneventful and they were really nice. Didn’t complain about moving the furniture or anything, unlike almost every other tradesman ever. Suspended my gym membership. Used my Athletes Foot voucher to buy a new pair of running shoes before it expired. They weren’t the very best ones I tried on, but the most comfortable ones looked like the kind of thing a unicorn would have nightmares about after eating too much cheese. Why? I’ve done the family Christmas presents, except for my littlest nephew. I’ve bought many many socks. Souvenirs and Christmas presents for our hosts. I bought myself a new handbag, to the universal disapproval of my children.

“What an ugly handbag” said the Horror. “Nice man bag” said Muffet. “Erm” said the Moose. I’ve always wanted a Crumpler bag, it’s light, spacious, waterproof, has lots of secret pockets and they’ve changed the material so it doesn’t wear a hole in your clothes. This isn’t it’s best angle, but I’m very fond of it, so ner.

What have I left to do? Clean the oven and inside fridge. Organise someone to collect the Choir mail while I’m away. Wash everything. Bleach the school shirts. Organise a new internet provider for next year as ours is slowly fading away. Think of something small, useful and delightful to give the kids on Christmas Day. Run down the pantry. Get the dogs washed and de-fleaed. Start packing. Oh, and a lot of knitting. Such a lot of knitting. I’m going to save that for another post.


Poppyseed Crackers

I’m averaging about one committee meeting a week at the moment. One likes to be involved with ones community, and for me joining committees is the form this takes. Tonight it’s the choir meeting, we’ll be chatting about superannuation and to whom it is paid, and accompanists, and how much do you pay a children’s choir and are we ever going to have a website, that kind of thing. These meetings are very kindly hosted by the choir president in her beautiful home, so one wishes to bring a little something to snack on, to keep up the energy levels and to soak up the white wine. I generally forget, and grab some dried fruit or a bottle of wine as I head out the door, but today I’m organised and I’ve made crackers.

There’s generally cheese at these binges, so I wanted something fairly unassuming and a bit dry. Cracker recipes seem to fall into two categories, flaky and cheesy, and dry and plain. I took a standard recipe and did this with it.

The suggestion was for 250 grams of flour. I have a Thermomix, as I may have mentioned once or twice, so I put one hundred grams of whole wheat in the jug and Thermomixed it into flour.

I actually put in the leaves of a couple of sprigs of rosemary too, but as you can’t taste them in the finished product, ignore that. Except to say that if you want a rosemary flavour you’re going to have to use a sprig longer than two centimetres.
Then added a hundred and fifty grams of plain white flour. And a teaspoon of baking powder. Add sixty grams of Pepe Saya butter and zap it until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Pour in a hundred grams of cold water and two tablespoons of poppy seeds and mix on reverse speed about three until the dough starts coming together. Dump half of it it onto a sheet of baking paper, add another sheet over the top and roll that dough out until it’s really thin.

You could put the other half in the fridge meanwhile. Or you could not bother. Cut out lots of little shapes and put them on a baking paper lined biscuit tray. Sprinkle with salt, this is where you use your fancy salt. Do the same with the rest of the dough. You’re only doing it in two batches because it takes up so much bench space when you roll it out thin. Bake at 160 degrees for about twenty minutes, until they’re just starting to brown.

I tasted one and it was pretty much what I was after. I like the texture from the whole wheat, the poppy seeds and the ground salt. The flavour was suitably unassuming. Yet subtly moreish. I am really enjoying making cookie cutter biscuits, they look so neat!

I’m also really enjoying having a break from being a committee treasurer this year. But I believe all that will change next week, at the Womyn’s Collective committee meeting. I’m a sucker for being treasurer.

Arrowroot biscuits with Butterscotch Cream

Two failed concepts. What started me off was one of my regular trips to The Source. I needed dried fruit for the First Fruitcake of the season (since made, please someone come and eat some before I finish it off singlemouthedly), more of their dark maple syrup for the large amounts of caramel icecream my children are getting through and some five grain mix because I’ve run out of muesli. Well, dear reader, they had arrowroot flour. Apparently it’s ground up tapioca, but whatever. Arrowroot biscuits!

Considering what a staple of Australian childhood the Arnotts Milk Arrowroot biscuit is, replica recipes are very thin on the inter webz. They’re possibly flooded out by the huge number of recipes for arrowroot biscuit toppings, because who would want to eat them plain, hey? In fact I couldn’t find any, and no, I didn’t look very hard. I did find an American arrowroot biscuit recipe, it looked a lot like a plain sugar cookie only with some arrowroot flour substituted for wheat flour. I had some vague idea that the Australian version has condensed milk in it, so I substituted a quarter of a cup of condensed milk for the egg that was the only liquid in the recipe. Here’s what I did.

Cream 60 grams of butter (Pepe Saya, of course, I’ve still got about a kilo left) with a quarter of a cup of white sugar. Beat in a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a quarter of a cup of condensed milk. Beat in a cup of plain flour, half a cup of arrowroot flour, half a teaspoon of baking powder and a couple of grinds of the salt grinder. It makes a really white dough. You roll it out on a sheet of baking paper quite thin, and I’m pleased because I’m amassing quite a collection of cookie cutters and I love a chance to use them. And cut biscuits look very neat. Bake in a moderate oven for not very long at all, maybe ten minutes?

So they’re not anything like the Arnott’s biscuit. They’re a perfectly fine plain sweet biscuit, quite finely textured. I could possibly have reduced the sugar even more.

I wanted to zap them up a bit, and I had rolled them quite thin, so it was time for my second failed concept. Salted caramel ganache. It’s everywhere, probably because it’s delicious. Back to the webz for ideas. Did you know that it isn’t a ganache if it doesn’t have chocolate in it? So this isn’t ganache, for a start. I only wanted a little bit, because I know what I’d do, and did actually do, with left over stuff of this nature. Eat it with a spoon. Spread some on toast. Then eat the rest with a spoon. At least I’m using cutlery.

Keeping it simple, I put into the Thermomix thirty grams of Pepe Saya creme fraiche and thirty grams of caster sugar. I put it on Varoma temperature for fifteen minutes at speed two. The idea is to caramelise the sugar, it should turn brown. I had a peek after the time was up, and it was a sunny yellow. Put it on for another five minutes and convinced myself it was light brown. I didn’t want to burn it! I probably would have paradoxically been bolder (or more careless) with a saucepan and wooden spoon. I added thirty grams of Pepe Saya butter and a couple of grinds of salt, and zapped it until it was combined, only about five seconds. I poured it into a small metal bowl and bunged it in the fridge, trying to forget about it.

It did solidify into something satisfyingly spreadable after a few hours, so I spread it on some of the biscuits.

Wow that stuff was delicious. Very smooth, I’d go so far as to say unctuous. Slight tang taking the edge off the sweet from the creme fraiche. Just enough salt. I couldn’t kid myself, it wasn’t caramel, but it definitely was butterscotch. That’s why I’m going with “butterscotch cream”. Can I make up my own name? I’ll work on it. It did demonstrate that the caramel I’m using in the icecream is a faux caramel, getting its colour from brown sugar and maple syrup. I don’t want to mess with that, it’s perfect. But I will really have to have another crack at this not ganache. After I’ve worked the first lot off at the gym.