What does the last of the housewives do?

Category: Confectionary

The Kids’ Favourite Ice Block – So Far

It is mango season, but I’m finding the classic eating mango, the Kensington Pride, a little pricey at the moment, and I’m not willing to commit to a case of them. There are a lot more varieties of mango about than there used to be in the olden days, and the ones I’m buying are the giant ones that evoke Star Wars for us, the R2E2. The kids aren’t that keen to eat them straight, though will at a pinch, but there’s such a lot of flesh on them that they just groan with potential.

The first thing to do when you get the kids all hot and sweaty from school is to cut the cheeks off an R2E2 and scoop the flesh into the blender. Pour in a slug of the lime syrup we made a few blogs ago, add a cup of ice and press Smoothie on your fancy blender. Instant refreshment for three kids, if you use the small glasses. But the way they like them best is in iceblock form.


My iceblock moulds are the rocket shaped Avanti ones that you can put a wooden paddle pop stick into. It makes them feel like a real iceblock. So take the flesh of one giant mango and insert it into your blender. Add the flesh of half a pineapple, cut that really hard core bit out. Add one lime, from which you have removed the peel and hopefully saved the zest for cola syrup. Add a third of a cup of coconut cream. You put the rest of the tin into a little Decor plastic container for the next batch that you will inevitably be making the next time Graham Creed talks about high pressure systems over central Australia. Press the Smoothie button on the aforementioned fancy blender. I get about twelve ice blocks out of this, which annoys me a little because the moulds are in sets of eight. The kids whinge a little about the fibrousness of the result, because I will insist on making the iceblocks with an actual pineapple rather than a chemical facsimile, but it’s still their favourite.

So far.

Homemade Iceblocks

I actually went Christmas shopping, with kids, on the weekend. Fortunately the residents of inner Sydney are late risers, and we were there before it got to the point where you have to strip yourself naked and cover yourself with chicken grease to squeeze through the crowds. We were successful in our purchases and were heading gratefully to the car when we passed a homewares shop. It contained ice cream moulds, something I’d been meaning to add to my collection of kitchen gadgets ever since I first made sorbet weeks and weeks ago. I avoided the ones shaped like adorable bugs and went for the ones in eight packs, mainly because they use disposable sticks. My memory of homemade iceblocks, apart from them not being very interesting due to consisting of home brand lemonade, is tarnished by the thought of the plastic sticks covered in the teeth marks of multiple mouths.

So far I have made Strawberry and Watermelon and Apple Cinnamon iceblocks. Truth be told, all you really need to do is whiz the fruit up in a blender, stick it the moulds and Bob is your uncle, or in my case, great uncle. But when do I ever pass up a chance to get fancy?

For the Strawberry and Watermelon, I blended up a punnet of strawberries, an equivalent volume of watermelon, the juice of a quarter of a lemon, eighty grams each of icing sugar and condensed milk. It made eight iceblocks. A tip that you may wish to take on board is that it’s a little trying getting them out of the mould. The instructions suggest a gentle squeeze of the plastic is all that’s necessary, but that’s absurdly optimistic. More like thirty seconds dunked in hot water. So what I’ve done is to wait until they’re frozen, unmould them, stick them in a ziplock bag and back in the freezer. Then it’s easy for the kids to get at and the moulds are free for your next batch. Here’s what the Strawberry and Watermelon pops looked like

They were utterly delicious and surprisingly creamy. They also melt quite fast, which makes me wonder what commercial iceblocks must have in them. Fortunately the volume is small, so none of it was wasted dripping down arms. I even went to the trouble of working out a cost per unit, just for kicks. Two dollars for the strawberries, about sixty cents for the watermelon, sixty cents of condensed milk and let’s say forty cents for a quarter of a lemon and the icing sugar. That’s forty five cents each for ingredients.

I will do some water ones based on my syrup recipes, but first I wanted to try a flavour that it only just occurs to me is vastly underrepresented in ice cream flavours. Apple. Why is banana icecream so prevalent, but not apple? I blame the Fabian society, the darlings of conspiracy theorists. Take four green apples, peel and quarter them and chop out the seeds. Place them in a small saucepan with a third of a cup of brown sugar. Cook, covered, over low heat for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until apples soften. Tip them into the blender. Add a teaspoon of cinnamon and eighty grams of condensed milk. Blend. I was rather annoyed that this only made seven iceblocks, I shall use larger apples next time. It also occurs to me that if I had some plain biscuits or shortbread I was trying to get rid of, I could break it up and mix it into the blended fruit and the result would be apple pie flavour. I have a feeling the kids won’t like this one, they’re not that fond of cooked apple. Of course this means more for me. I won’t know until after dinner, they take a bit over four hours to freeze. This is what the set looks like

What I need now is more paddle pop sticks. Pity someone wiped my brain while I was at the shops this morning. Bloody Fabians.

Orange and Grapefruit Jelly

My dear ole grandma has many fantastic qualities, she’s eternally optimistic, she’s everyone’s friend, she has been a stalwart of her community wherever she’s lived. But goodness me, she can’t cook. I have vivid memories of, after spending half an hour trying to shred apart a dry grey piece of unidentifiable meat, being served a dessert of tinned apricots, a slice of custard and a slice of jelly. I still don’t know how she managed that, I’ve made jelly from a a packet and not had it turn into skin all the way through. She has never been able to explain it herself and long ago gave up making jelly. I wonder if she’d like what I made today? I’ll have to take her some next time I visit.

I have some nude citrus fruit lying around, as I often do, as a result of finding the peel more useful that the insides. In this case I had made a new batch of candied peel for my next lot of fruitcakes, leaving with a naked pink grapefruit and defrocked oranges. My helpful hairdresser suggested slicing them in half, applying a citrus juicer to them and drinking the results, but I always think that it’s a lot of effort to go to to be consumed in seconds. It was time to try something I’d been meaning to for ages, turning them into jelly.

Half the fun in trying something new is trawling the interwebs for recipes. You get such an insight into other cultures, particularly the ever fascinating Americans. They tend to use pectin for their jellies, and using fresh juice doesn’t seem to happen very often. I don’t know if they don’t have as much access to fresh fruit, but most recipes I saw involved the sweetened and the concentrated. However, it wasn’t nearly as complex as I’d always thought. I was pointed in the right direction by an article in The Guardian. What an article full of inspiration that was. The author claimed to have once made an entire Christmas dinner in jelly form. There’s a thing to make you go hmmm.

Get yourself a packet of gelatin leaves and try to shake off that uneasy feeling you get when something is measured in quantities so far from SI as leaves. Measure how much juice you have. One pink grapefruit and two oranges gave me a cup of juice. Tip it into a bowl with three cut up gelatin leaves. Go hang out the washing and deflea the dogs. Come back and put the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. I went with my gut feeling and added two tablespoons of sugar, because things don’t taste as sweet when they’re cold. Leave it to heat up for about five minutes. Stir it occasionally to see how much the gelatin has dissolved. When it has completely dissolved, remove from heat and strain into another bowl, which you will place in the fridge and not poke for at least four hours.

It’s divine. I can’t believe how good it tastes. It’s a very soft jelly, you wouldn’t want to leave it out of the fridge for long. I don’t think I should tell the children about it. That’s started a whole new thing for me. First syrups, then sorbet, now jellies. What else have I been missing out on?

Bounty balls

I feel like there’s a pirate joke in there somewhere, but I’ll let it go.  I’ve learned my lesson and am doing a test run of Bounty Balls before unleashing them on the general public.  I may also need to come up with a better name.

I really love it when people give me raw ingredients.  A friend of mine recently accidentally bought two and half kilos of shaved coconut rather than the five hundred grams she’d intended.  It could happen to anyone.  She was correct in assuming I’d be delighted to take some off her hands.  Earlier this week I was trying to convert some of it into desiccated coconut in my coffee grinder, now that the hand held blender has gone into the cleanup after it refused to be a substitute for a Thermomix. The result was useable on top of a raspberry slice, but it was more of a coconut meal than little shreds.  It also smelled gorgeous and I was keen to use it something else.  Combined with my recent chocolate mint experience, the obvious choice was to have a crack at the Bounty Bar.

How people found new recipes without an entire library of cookbooks or access to Google is beyond me.  Tons of trial and error, I’ll bet.  I was surprised not to find lots of Bounty recipes, I guess people are pretty happy with the commercially available version.  The one I decided on was on, but came with a warning that it hadn’t been tested and there weren’t any reviews.  It was also half in metric and half in ozzes.  It looked like it might possibly work though, so this morning I gave it a go.

Mix together 100 grams of desiccated coconut with 200 grams of condensed milk.  If you’re processing the coconut in a twenty year old coffee grinder, be aware it will only take 20 grams at a time.  It will smell very good, though.  It’s also not the best idea to wipe out the crumbs with your finger without turning it off at the wall, but I like to live dangerously.  Start mixing in 200 grams of icing sugar.  That will be quite wet, so you work more and more in until you have a fairly stiff dough.  It actually behaves like a flour dough, I think it probably took about 300 grams for this batch.  You can knead it and everything.  Interesting.

Pinch bits off to roll into little balls, put them on a tray lined with baking paper and whack them in the freezer for ten minutes.  Meanwhile melt 300 grams of good quality dark chocolate over a double boiler.  I used metal tongs to dip the coconut balls, more lenticular than spherical, really,  into the chocolate, then placed them on a tray lined with baking paper.  Not as fiddly as it sounds.


I have them in the fridge now, but the Horror snaffled one on the way.  He snarfed it down, choked quite a lot, had two glasses of water, then asked for another.  He’s not getting one, but be warned, you can’t just breathe them in, they should be savoured.  I hope they set nicely.  Might be safest to keep them in the fridge.  Hidden behind the pickles, so the Horror can’t find them.


After dinner mints

Well, why not make your own after dinner mints? I have discovered a few reasons why not, but I’m sure that in the fullness of time I’ll be able to overcome them. Because I do love a good after dinner mint.

In my search for likely recipes I once again marveled at the sheer range of ways to make after dinner mints. Again, the Americans have a whole different idea of what these constitute, I even found an Oprah sponsored recipe involving cream cheese. There was one that I’ve filed for future reference called Butter Mints, two of my favourite flavours, but that will wait for another day.

I’ve used a recipe I found on the British Delicious Magazine website. It’s pretty simple. Melt one hundred grams of dark chocolate in a double boiler. Spread it over baking paper in a 20 by 28 cm baking tin. Stick it in the fridge to harden. Make a peppermint fondant by mixing one egg white with 110 grams of icing sugar and a tablespoon of peppermint essence, then mixing in a further 110 grams of icing sugar. They suggest colouring it with a drop of green food colouring, but we are above such things. Spread this on the chocolate layer, then whack this in the fridge. When that has set, spread on a further 100 grams of melted dark chocolate, and back to the fridge it goes.

That’s all well and good, but then what do you do with a large sheet of after dinner mint? The magazine suggests placing on the dinner table and encouraging your friends to have at it with sharp implements. I wanted to take it to a party, so I broke it up with a knife, which may not have been the best idea. It didn’t help that the day of the party was a jillion degrees with one hundred percent humidity, which meant than even after freezing the things, they were an unattractive, but delicious, sticky mess, the remnants of which can be seen here:

Even by my low decorating standards, these were unacceptable. They did get eaten, though. I have found that after a couple of days in the fridge they have dried out a lot, so though they look sticky, they are not. I’m going to have another crack at these, I might investigate a more solid fondant and consider cutting them up with a hot knife and a lot more patience. Actually what would work is hot piano wire, but my piano wire is currently in use inside the piano. I’ll have to violate someone else’s piano.

Bulgarian Rock

When you’re the parent you sometimes get to the point of ultimatums at ten paces.  The Muffet has declared that she would rather starve to death than apologise profusely for behaving like a toddler at dinner last night.  I’m hoping that some Bulgarian Rock will change her mind.

I’ve been meaning to make this ever since Darrell Lea went kaput.  We traditionally buy it for my father-in-law at Christmas, so time has been running out for a practise run.  I found a recipe at that had the basics, but was a little light on detail.  I’ll try to fill you in.

This one is time consuming, plan it for a day you’ve got some pottering about to do.  Place in a large saucepan 450 grams of liquid glucose (you can get it at the supermarket where you get the vanilla essence and baking powder and so forth), three and a half cups of sugar and one and a quarter cups of water.  Bring it to the boil while stirring with a wooden spoon to make sure everything dissolves properly.  When it’s boiling, reduce the temperature a bit, you want it more than simmering, but less that boiling its head off.  Now comes the bit that people seem to find challenging about confectionery making, boil it until it is at the hard crack stage.  This will take AGES.  For me, today, nearly two hours.  It doesn’t need much attention until right at the end, just wander past every so often and give it a stir.  When it’s starting to look a little thicker, start testing it.  You drop some from your wooden spoon into a cup of water.  It’s at the hard crack stage when it forms a crunchy ball in the water.  Before that point, take a bowl and drop an egg white into it with half a teaspoon of vanilla essence and half a teaspoon of almond essence.  Beat it with electric beaters until soft peaks form.  Now go back to concentrating on your sugar.  It will start to go yellow and quite thick.  I usually panic and take it off too soon because I don’t want a pan of burnt sugar, and I think that’s what I’ve done this time.  Anyway, take it off the heat before you burn it and start beating it with the electric beaters.  It will start going white quite quickly as you incorporate air into it.  Tip in the egg white mix and keep beating.  The instructions on say beat it until it is thick, but it’s pretty thick to start with.  So I only beat it for a minute or two.  Fold in three quarters of a cup of UNsalted almonds and pour the lot into a roasting pan lined with baking paper.  Before it is cool you can lift it out of the pan and start chopping it up with a large knife.

Mine has cooled down now, and because I didn’t wait until the sugar was at the hard crack stage, merely at the really chewy stage, I appear to have made Bulgarian Fudge.  However, it tastes right.  I might try putting it in the fridge.