What does the last of the housewives do?

Category: Baking


The store cupboard is looking a little bare, so I thought I’d ask the kids what they’d like by way of biscuits. Then I thought, save my breath. They’ll want snickerdoodles.

This is a recipe I’ve adapted from one in The Good Cookie, by Trish Boyle. Being an American recipe, it makes lots.

Cream together 180 grams of butter with one and a third cup of caster sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a tablespoon of some form of syrup. The original recipe suggests molasses, but I found that to be a little distinctive for the Australian palate. I use maple syrup, but you could also use golden syrup. I don’t use golden syrup because it features heavily in other biscuits I make a lot of of. Beat in two eggs, one at a time. I sometimes buy my eggs from AC Butchery because they look excitingly free range. These ones were large and very very white, even the yolks were really light coloured. They are indistinguishable from Swedish models. Mix in two and half cups of flour, one tablespoon of baking powder and a quarter of a teaspoon of nutmeg. Actually, I don’t measure the nutmeg, I just grate in a fair old sprinkling with the trusty Microplane.

Roll balls of mixture about the size of a walnut (in its shell) and dip them in cinnamon sugar. You make up cinnamon sugar by mixing a tablespoon of cinnamon with a quarter of a cup of caster sugar, I like to keep some on hand for cinnamon toast. The dough is quite sticky for biscuits, but that’s correct. Place them on baking trays lined with baking paper and bake at 170 degrees Celsius for about sixteen minutes. Keep an eye on them, you only want the tiniest amount of brown. These biscuits are quite soft on the inside, which means that my husband won’t eat them, and the kids tell me that they’re not as nice when they’re crisp all the way through. Know your audience!

Before on the bottom, after on top.

Cinnamon Scrolls

Of course I brought too much dessert to Christmas, but that’s much better than not bringing enough, surely? Some of everything went, it’s nice to have a choice. The most popular were the cinnamon scrolls and my Christmas present to you, dear reader, is to share the recipe.

I’m not entirely sure who gave me this recipe, it was in the days before, but I suspect it may have been our Washington correspondent, Kathleen Brady. Way back before my dear husband was able to grow hair in his chest he spent six months working in the US, an experience that marked him in many ways, the most permanent of which is an annoying assumption that all shops are always open, like they are in the US. He struck up an acquaintance with a girl on a beach there, and she turned out to be quite terrific, I spent two weeks sponging off her in her home about eighteen years ago, and even though it’s very hard to see her when we don’t really spend a lot of time over there and she’s only come over here in the distant past, we manage to keep in touch. I believe it was she that gave me a handwritten recipe for TJ’s Cinnamon Rolls to which dear husband had become much attached during his US sojourn. It’s a little involved, I only make it for special occasions. Here it is.

If you’re planning to take these to Christmas lunch, or serve them for morning tea, start the night before. Place in a bowl twenty grams of fresh yeast with half a cup of water. Squash it about with a fork until the yeast is dissolved. Mix in three cups of flour, a teaspoon of salt, one third of a cup of sugar, one cup of milk, one third of a cup of vegetable oil and two eggs. This will be quite a wet mixture. Gradually add in a further cup and a half of flour. You should now be able to turn it out onto your floured bench top and start kneading it. Knead in more flour until you have a soft, smooth dough. Bung it back into the bowl, cover it with a damp tea towel and stick it in the fridge overnight.

Next morning, remove it from the fridge where it has hopefully doubled in sized in the night. I hope you didn’t bother cleaning down the bench top, because you’ll be dumping it back onto the floured bench top and rolling it out into a very long rectangle, thus:

Place in another bowl 125 grams of butter, a cup of brown sugar and three teaspoons of cinnamon. Mix it until it’s combined. You can continue mixing it until it goes creamy if you want it to be more spreadable, but it really doesn’t matter. Scrape it onto the rectangle, making sure it’s evenly distributed along the long axis. And here’s a picture.

Roll it up so that you have one really long sausage. Have a couple of pans handy lined with baking paper. Start slicing off rolls about seven centimetres wide, but you can use your own judgement for this. Place them in the lined pans, not too close together.

Leave these until they’ve expanded so that they’re all squished together. I had to put them in the oven with just the light on for this, it was unseasonably chill this morning. Bake at one hundred and eighty degrees for about twenty five minutes, or until brown on top.

There’s an addendum to the recipe for a drizzled white icing to go over the top, but I feel that it’s excessive and have never made it. These are best warm, you can see in the above picture that some escaped shortly after leaving the oven. They’re good for about two days, then they go a bit hard and challenging. This is a big recipe, I often halve it.

It just occurs to me that I haven’t actually had any today. Too late now. If I have any more to eat I’ll slip into a coma, and then the kids will be playing Lego Lord of the Rings on the Wii all night and nobody will feed the dogs. Perhaps a carrot stick and a glass of water for dinner. They’ll still be there tomorrow if I get up early enough.

Cheese and Olive Rusks

I’m over thinking it. Just because I’ll be bringing a plate tonight to some drinks with the mates doesn’t mean I have to bring anything fancy. There’s no expectation from those who read my blog that I’ll be bringing anything other than a box of Jatz. Good. Now that we’ve sorted that out, here’s a little something I’m whipping up in between shouting at the Horror and Muffet who likes to wear her cranky pants when she has friends over.

It’s along the same lines as biscotti, only with completely different ingredients. You can make it any flavour, really, you use a cup of assorted cheeses and three quarters of a cup of some other excitingly savoury ingredient. Like bacon. Or in this case, olives.

Beat together 125 grams of butter (yes, I’m using the salted Pepe Saya again) with a cup of cheese. The recipe I’m using, from The Good Cookie, suggests half a cup of feta and half a cup of Parmesan. I’m using a cup of Pizza Cheese, which I think is Parmesan, cheddar and mozzarella. Beat in, one at a time, two large eggs. You can only really get large eggs these days, I don’t know what they’re doing to the chickens but they’re getting larger every year. Mix in a quarter of a cup of milk, one and three quarter cups of flour, one teaspoon of baking powder, some pepper and three quarters of a cup of finely chopped olives. I thought I had a jar of pitted black olives in the fridge, but what I actually had was a jar of olive pickling liquid with a teaspoon in it. Fortunately right down the back I found a jar of green olives stuffed with pimentos. They’ll do nicely.

Knead it all together until it’s well mixed, then separate it into two halves. Shape each half into a log and place it onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. It will be a very sticky mixture at this point. Bake for about thirty five minutes or until they just start to brown. Remove from the oven and cool for a bit while you peel some potatoes for dinner and turn the television down. Slice the logs as thinly or as rustically as you’d like and place the slices back on the baking sheet. You might need another one. Bake for a further twenty minutes or so with the oven at around 150 degrees or until they are looking dry and a bit coloured around the edges.

This recipe makes quite a lot of little tasty rusks, so it should carry me through a few Bring a Plate sessions. I’ve made them before, and I’m really looking forward to nibbling some with some champagne. They smell delicious, or as the kids would say “Errr, we’re not having that for dinner, are we?”

Golden Lemon Tarts

There are many motivations for baking. You’re hungry, the kids are hungry, you’ve found a new recipe, you want to use up some coconut, you want to try out an exciting new butter. I wanted to make this recipe because of the little introduction printed above it.

I have two Pillsbury cookbooks from the late fifties, given to me by my Nanna when she couldn’t be bothered baking any more. I’ve flicked through them partly for amusement value, goodness those American housewives served up some odd stuff! But they certainly loved trying new things and using lots of flavours in their baking. The cookbook I’m referring to today is a thousand recipes from the Pillsbury Best of the Bakeoff collection, with coloured photos on the inside of the covers of hundreds of jolly housewives in aprons baking at rows of stoves while men in suits walk up and down tasting their food. I’m guessing that this was one of the Bakeoffs in question. Most recipes in this book have cute little descriptions between the heading and the baking instructions. Like “Here is a refreshing pie . . . the filling boasts fresh lime juice and crushed pineapple and calls for no cooking at all!”. Or “Plenty o’ apricots between crumb base and topping. Yummy with whipped cream”. Here’s the descriptor for the recipe that caught my eye.


How could I not make it. Of course, I also wanted to give the Pepe Saya butter a go in pastry. I should point out that it isn’t strictly a fair experiment, usually when I make pastry I’m fairly slapdash about it, with results that are invariably disappointing. Today I made the Lattice Pastry as directed, and now I don’t know if it was because I was being obedient or if it was the butter, but it is hands down the best pastry I’ve ever made.

Sift one and half cups of flour into a bowl with half a teaspoon of salt. Actually, I didn’t do that, I just dumped it in. Cut in half a cup of shortening (in the olden days they might used suet, but I went with 125 grams of Pepe Saya unsalted butter). You should use a pastry cutter for this, or extremely long fingernails. The idea is to not warm up the butter. I took a deep sigh and cut it in with a knife, a fairly time consuming job. Next time I’m up at the shops I’m getting a pastry cutter. When the average size of the butter bits is close to that of a pea, start sprinkling over tablespoons of cold water while tossing the flour with a fork. It was suggested that five would be sufficient, but I used six. Gather it together in a ball of crumbly dough and plonk it on your flour covered bench top. Flatten it down with your hands, then roll with a rolling pin until it’s about half a centimetre thick. Mine always crumbles around the edge, it’s never a nice circle like in the illustrations. Am I doing something wrong, or are they just cheating? I found that rolling into the centre makes in less crumbly. I’m going to put this lot into those little fluted tart tins with removable bottoms, so I pick a circle cutter with a slightly larger diameter than the tins. Cut out circles of pastry and very gently press them into the tins. Squash up remaining dough and reroll until you fill all of your tins. If you have the patience, you should blind bake these for ten minutes at 220 degrees, then uncovered for another five. I didn’t, so mine are a bit puffy.

You’re now going to fill these with lemon curd. You can buy quite nice lemon curd, but I’m sure you’d like to know how the Scottish lady in the concentration camp did it.

In the top of a double boiler place eighty grams of butter, one cup of caster sugar (actually, next time I’m going with three quarters of a cup, it was a bit sweet), the grated zest of a lemon, one third of a cup of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Wait until the butter has melted, then gradually stir in four egg yolks. Continue stirring fairly continuously, only pausing to take phone calls pertaining to your daughter’s social life, for about ten minutes. The curd will still be fairly runny, but form slow moving drips when you hold up your whisk instead of falling straight off. Here’s my double boiler setup.

I’d wait a bit for the curd to cool down and thicken up before ladling it into the tart cases. I probably wouldn’t serve them with whipped cream, as suggested, but possibly a quenelle of King Island double cream would complement it nicely.

Or not.

Shortbread with Pepe Saya butter

If I’m going to the trouble of making something from scratch then, as you may have gathered by now, I like to use the best ingredients I can reasonably lay my hands on.  I’ve been fairly happily using Harmonie butter in my baking for some time now, but the distance that little yellow block of joy has to travel to end up taking pride of place in my fruitcake bothers me.  I want to buy local.  I do occasionally see dairy stalls at markets when I manage to escape my family for half an hour, but if you think I’m the type that can wander up and ask for a sample then you are very very wide of the mark.  So I’ve been taking recommendations.  And what I keep hearing is Pepe Saya.

The first thing is locating it.  Go to the factory in Tempe, advises my hairdresser.  Ah, but the school holidays have started and I’m trying to minimise time in the car with my darling children, especially the Horror who still lacks an inside voice.  The website is very spartan and I’m tempted to send them a list of improvements, for example a list of vendors of their product.  Or opening hours for their shopfront.  Or if they have a shopfront.  As it turns out, Harris Farm carries it and I’ve been walking past it for ages because, for reasons best known to themselves, they package it like it’s a cheese.  Round, in a shiny foil like substance, and they also have a picture on it of someone looking down their nose which I also find to be a questionable marketing technique.

OK, I’ve got some, and I’ve prevented the Muffet from getting a surprise when she wanted a wedge of it on a cracker.  I want a recipe that showcases the butter, and what can be simpler than shortbread?  I don’t need the internet for this one, I have plenty of shortbread recipes in my less loony cookbooks and I’m going for the classic Women’s Weekly one.  Although I am tempted by the one in the Good Cookie that involves infusing the butter with tea leaves.  Hmm.  I’ll bet that’d also work with lavender.  Another time.

Unwrap the butter and load 185 grams of it into a bowl.  I don’t usually use cultured butter, basically because it’s not what I’m used to.  It’s a much more complex flavour, with slightly yoghurty overtones that I’m a bit concerned about for my recipe.  Sift in two cups of plain flour, a quarter of a cup of icing sugar and a tablespoon of ground rice.  I ground the rice in my extremely handy coffee grinder that has been getting a hell of a workout since I killed my stick mixer.  I’m also adding a half a teaspoon of vanilla for a bit of fragrance.  Knead it all together, then dump it onto a floured work bench.  I don’t get it to form a smooth ball, but I roll it out anyway.  This is one that looks lovely with fancy cutter shapes because it doesn’t spread out.  I’m almost tempted to use my set of heart shapes, but in the end I use a four leaf clover shape.  I want the boys to eat them too.  You can place them very close on your baking sheet because of the lack of spreading out.

I baked mine at 180 degrees for about twenty minutes, and you can see from the photo that this was too high a temperature.  I have a fan forced oven, so next time I’ll go with 160 degrees and will keep an eye on them.  You don’t really want them to brown.  My fears about the tang were completely unfounded, I’ve got a subtle flavoured, beautifully textured biscuit that will reward contemplation over a cup of tea.  Pity I don’t drink tea.  Also a pity that the dripping wet little boys that rushed past and inhaled a few didn’t bother contemplating the subtle flavours.  They did say “YUMM!!”.


Lucky that worked out so well, because I bought quite a lot of the butter.  Christmas baking coming up, after all.


Baked Rice Pudding

I was driving the rather reluctant Moose to his surfing lesson this morning through the wind and rain when I suddenly remembered that the loose objects rolling around in the back of the car were two cartons of milk. In my day young men learned to surf by stalking older surfers and watching grainy surf videos. You can buy anything these days. However. Milk.

Contrary to the opinion of my brother, milk doesn’t go off when left out of the fridge for more than ninety seconds. I remember travelling through Eastern Europe when there was still a Czechoslovakia and being amazed that the dairy goods in the supermarket (and it really wasn’t that super) were stacked in an irregular pyramid on the concrete floor. The milk in the back of my car had been given to me last night after a complicated series of events that I won’t bore you with, except that there was a lot of singing involved and not nearly enough wine, as we were all driving home. It was a cool night last night and the milk had been bought that day, so I was confident that it was still OK.

Not confident enough to let the kids put it on their cereal, I’d never hear the end of it if they contaminated their precious palates with off milk. Did you know that in France they let it go off, even in encourage it by leaving it on the heater, then call it fromage blanc and eat it with a long spoon and a honey biscuit? Travel certainly broadens the mind. What I needed today was a recipe that involved a lot of milk and that resulted in a product that would be soothing to a set of tonsils that had had a very rough weekend.

I was going to go with creamed rice, of which I am very fond, but didn’t have an hour to stand around stirring the stuff, what with transporting the Moose and having an appointment with some coppery highlights delivered by my very talented hairdresser who today had to wade through dogs AND children. The labour saving and slighter lighter version of creamed rice is the baked rice pudding, and this recipe comes from the 1970 Women’s Weekly cookbook.

Rub a stick of butter around a small casserole dish. Dump in half a cup of short or medium grain rice, a teaspoon of vanilla essence, three cups of milk and a quarter of a cup of either brown or white sugar. The version with brown sugar, which I went with, looks less appealing because it’s a bit brown, but I prefer the flavour. Stick it in the oven at 140 degrees for bit over an hour or until the skin on top is a caramel colour. Eat hot or cold or in between. It’s solid enough to slice, and not very sweet so it would be good with a fruit compote if you’re being fancy, or tinned apricots if you’re being retro. I’m eating it on its own, it’s very soothing to a throat that’s got to produce a whole lot of Christmas Carols tonight and a Gaudeamus Igitur tomorrow night.


Passionfruit Muffins

I didn’t actually kill our passionfruit vine. It was a combination of strangulation by a virulent bougainvillea (that we had to pay someone to dig out before we lost a child in it) and a lawnmowing man with a short attention span who kept whippersnippering it at the base. In the fullness of time I shall pick a spot and plant another and possibly even water it occasionally, but until then I’ll just have to wait until the fruit shop is selling nets of them for five bucks a pop.

To make passionfruit muffins, one must first locate a recipe. You can skip this step, there’s one happening further down as you may have surmised from the blog title. Many recipes with fruit in the title are misleading, the fruit goes on top as decoration or in icing. I’m as happy as the next person to make passionfruit icing, but I like my flavour to go all the way through, and you shouldn’t be putting icing on a muffin anyway, that turns it into a cupcake. I’ve adapted this recipe from one I found in a slightly stilted article published in a range of New Zealand newspapers. My researches indicate that cooking with passionfruit may be a bit of a New Zealand thing.

Mix in a bowl the wet ingredients, which are one egg, sixty grams of melted butter, sixty grams of softened cream cheese, three quarters of a cup of milk and three quarters of a cup of passionfruit pulp. Today, that was six passionfruit. Add the dry ingredients, which are two cups of flour, four teaspoons of baking powder and three quarters of a cup of sugar, and after tasting these guys I’d also add a pinch of salt. Mix lightly, then fill up a twelve hole paper lined muffin tray. One day I must see how using squares of baking paper works, so I can pretend I’m running a cafe, but I still have about fifty of those accordion style cups, so I’ll use them up first. Get the batter in quickly, it seemed to be starting to react with the baking powder as I was spooning it in, I’m guessing because of the acidity of the passionfruit. Resist the urge to go and hang out the washing halfway through. Bake at one hundred and eighty degrees for twenty five minutes.

These have come out fairly cakelike, probably because of the extra fat in the cream cheese. I added the cream cheese in mainly because I thought it would be a nice flavour combination and I actually had some. They’re very light and not too sweet and I don’t expect them to last long.


Peanut Butter Cookies

My pair of Pillsbury cookbooks from the early 1960s could constitute a fully formed blog in themselves. I’ve really only looked into them in the past to laugh at the jellied salad recipes, but I’ve been trying to expand my biscuit repertoire lately and these books are a treasure trove. For my American readership, your cookies are our biscuits. Your biscuits are, well, who knows, we definitely don’t eat that kind of thing here and certainly not with chitlins.

I’m working out of the Pillsbury Family cookbook today, and I’m going to make Peanut Butter Cookies. I’m ignoring the blandishments of the more imaginatively titled Holiday Riches, Cherry Winks, Cinnamon Dandies and Starlight Mint-Surprise Cookies, and am going for something that may kill one of my children’s fellow students if they breathe on them inappropriately, I like to walk on the wild side. It may be for this reason that my children have discouraged me from trying this recipe whenever I suggest it, but they’re at school so what are they going to do?

Cream together 160 grams of butter with half a cup of peanut butter. I’m using that freshly ground peanut butter from the health food shop. That stuff has some fascinating rheological properties that would interest the chaps studying particulate flow at the Department of Theoretical Chemistry, but possibly not you, so I won’t go on about it. Any peanut butter would do, really. Beat in a cup of brown sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Actually the resulting bowl of deliciousness would work very well as the filling in some kind of roll. Mental note for another day.

Mix in an egg. Add a cup and a half of plain flour, a teaspoon and a half of baking powder and about five turns of the salt grinder. Mix it in good. I’m going to quote now. “Shape dough into balls, using a rounded teaspoon for each. Place on ungreased cookie sheets”. Not me, I’m a firm believer in baking paper. “Flatten balls with fork tines, crisscross fashion. Bake at 375 degrees for ten to twelve minutes”. Of course, in SI units that’s 453 Kelvin, but that’s not much use to you either, so let’s go with 180 degrees Celsius.

I tried baking one sheet for ten minutes, or until just golden, and one for twenty minutes, or until well browned. I think the kids will prefer the slightly chewy just golden version, but the man of the house will choose the crunchy ones then sigh that they’re not gingernuts. See, I did do the crisscross, that kind of low level decoration I can do.


Cheese and Bacon Rolls

Great excitement in the house of muttering, the Muffet’s school social is on tonight, and there’ll be boys. Not that the Muffet is too fussed, she gets way too much boys at home, that’s why she likes going to a girls’ school. She’s bringing home Lindy Lu so that they can spend the afternoon giggling and doing each other’s hair in preparation. They’ll be hungry. The boys both have sport today, they’ll be hungry too. I think cheese and bacon rolls are in order.

This is yet another idea I got from the Thermomix demonstration, it’s the party that keeps on giving. Why did I never think of it myself, I’ve made my own bread quite a lot. You need a loaf’s worth of bread dough, and you may have your own recipe for that. If you don’t, here’s what I do.

In a metal bowl, place ten grams of fresh yeast, which if you live where I do you can purchase at the local IGA for about sixty cents for fifty grams. Dissolve it in 350 mls of water. If you remember any high school science you’ll know that the density of water is one kilo per litre, so you can just weigh it out. Add five hundred grams of flour and about ten turns of the salt grinder and mix it up. Cover it and leave it for about ten minutes, then come back, pour a teaspoon of olive oil over it and knead it in. Repeat a couple of times. Leave it until it looks about doubled in size. If you want to speed that up because it’s a cold wet day, put it in the oven with the light on. I’m still excited to have an oven with a working light, it’s just had its first birthday.

Then dump it on to a floured bench top and knead it some more. You really don’t need to go overboard with the kneading, despite what you may hear. Just make sure it’s smooth and elastic. Roll it out into a big rectangle and start getting creative. I sliced off a couple of rectangles and pulled them out to be longer. Some of them I spread Vegemite on for the Moose who doesn’t like melted cheese. I know, I know. Some I sprinkled with chopped up bacon and grated cheese. some just cheese. If you’re a bit reckless with your shaping and actually start with a long triangle, when you roll it up it’s shaped like a croissant. I also did traditional cheese and cheese and bacon rolls with the stuff on top. Because I ran out of bacon, I also did some square plain rolls.

Pop these back in the oven with the light on for about half an hour, or not if you’ve run out of time. Bake for about half an hour at 180 degrees Celsius. This way you can use nice Australian bacon rather than that alarming pink rubbery stuff you get up at James’ bread shop. That’s going to be a really nice smell to come home to.


Orange and Poppyseed Friands

The cupboard is bare, so what shall I make? I know, raspberry slice. But I’ve already blogged about that, so lucky for you I’m also making orange and poppyseed friands at the special request of the Horror who very kindly didn’t give his piano teacher a nervous breakdown yesterday. It makes a nice change not to have to reconstruct the poor man before sending him on his way.

Friands are based on almond meal and icing sugar. You can get almond meal at the supermarket most of the time, but sometimes you find that only slivered almonds are available, and then only in a one kilo bag. You take them to the checkout and spend some quality time noticing that the pink lady behind you seems to not only have applied her own fake eyelashes, but to have actually made them herself out of what appears to be black cotton and hairspray. These are harsh economic times, my friends.

You can convert your slivered almonds into almond meal quite easily with the cup attachment on your stick mixture. At least, you could if you hadn’t fractured it while trying to convince it that it was just as good as a Thermomix. Failing that, a blender will also do an adequate job, though the resulting meal won’t be as homogeneous as one would like. It’s OK, though, we’re not making macarons.

With your fingers, mix in a bowl the dry ingredients. These are one cup of almond meal, one and two thirds of a cup of sifted icing sugar, three quarters of a cup of plain flour, half a teaspoon of baking powder, the shredded zest of two oranges and a tablespoon of poppyseeds. Mix in five egg whites, then 125 grams of melted butter. You can then spoon the mixture into very well buttered and floured friand tins, or make life easy for yourself and use paper muffin cases. These don’t rise very much, so if using the friand tins you can fill them nearly all the way up so they do that cute little break in the middle as they rise out of the tin.

This is the only flavoured friand recipe I’ve found (Donna Hay again) all other so called flavours just have bits of fruit piled on top. The flavouring has to be dry not to mess up the recipe. I guess you could use dried fruit, but isn’t very friand like. I’m working on a pistachio one, but the Horror thinks I have a way to go. It’s tricky, because every time I buy shelled pistachios they get all eaten. You can also use three eggs instead of five egg whites in this recipe, it’s a little richer. You could use other citrus zest too, but not lime, whenever I use lime zest it goes all brown and chewy.