What does the last of the housewives do?

Tag: Baking

KitchenAid Thoughts

I was going to bellyache about the weather today and count up how many times I’ve got wet. Especially that bit where I had to chop off a giant seed pod that was a good six metres up an Alexander palm in the back yard, if you leave those things they go everywhere. As it was, it nearly crushed the dog, my aim is shocking.

But I have friends doing Coastrek today, walking 50 kilometres to raise money for the Fred Hollows foundation, and they were probably so wet that they may as well have done the trek in the sea, so I really don’t have anything to complain about.

I’ve been meaning to tell you about my KitchenAid. For most of my baking life I’ve been happy to use a fork for all my beating, creaming and mixing needs. A fork has a multitude of other uses and creaming butter with one builds up the forearms, because you need to swap arms every so often when you cramp up. But last Christmas a friend was looking for a new home for her old KitchenAid because the bowl had started to come loose when making bread. I’m perfectly happy to knead my bread by hand, so offered to love and care for it until the end of its life, hopefully many years hence, and she got a new one for Christmas.

I approached it warily. I found it a spot on the bench where it wouldn’t get in the way, it was far too heavy to be lugging it out of a cupboard every time I wanted to use it. At first I only used it to cream butter, a job it does quickly and efficiently. But the butter creaming brought a small problem, and that is because I’m finally using properly creamed butter, it has affected the texture of the biscuits I use it in. With a bit of trial and error I’ve found that I should reduce the amount of butter by about five grams. Sometimes a bit more, but that seems about right.

Finding that it did that job in a workman like manner, I started letting it mix in flour, beat eggs and soon it was doing the lot. The paddle and bowl go in the dishwasher, there are a good range of paddle speeds and there’s something hypnotic about watching it cream cold butter. Which is another plus, a dough made with cold butter seems to be easier to work with.

It has meant that if there is only an hour to go before school pickup I’m much more likely to make biscuits or muffins for afternoon tea, it is really great to be able to just chuck in the ingredients. I’m also more likely to make more technical recipes, it does all the hard work and I just prepare the ingredients. But now I want a second bowl, wouldn’t that be great for making sponge fingers? Yes, I know they’re only three dollars fifty for a packet at the IGA, but I want to see how much better homemade ones are, and anyway we shouldn’t be eating food that’s had to come half way around the world. Apart from Harmonie butter. I’m looking at some on Amazon, they’re a hundred bucks if you buy them here.

I don’t think I would have bought one for myself, they are eight hundred dollars. Having said that, I am using it nearly every day, so it would only be because I didn’t know what I was missing out on.

Isn’t it beautiful? I thought about making something special with it for the previous owner of this machine, but she’s a fabulous cook, so instead I’ll get over and sponsor her on Coastrek and hope she doesn’t dissolve completely during her ordeal.


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.


Green Apple Muffins

I’m guessing that the Moose and the Horror are growing, all they seem to do is eat, sleep and hit each other with various objects, ranging from nerf bullets to a set of keys and, of course, a rubber chicken.  I’m having difficulty keeping the pantry stocked, which means that it’s time to make some muffins.

In my wondrous collection of cookbooks is a comb bound number in faux handwriting font given to me by a friend who was very grateful for my Anzac biscuit recipe (see my collected works for the same recipe).  It’s a whole lot of muffin recipes and they range, to use a phrase you’ll hear regularly from me, from the sublime to the ridiculous. They are all apparently family recipes, so my kids are devoutly thankful not to belong to the family that regularly gets served up Sandy’s Seafood Muffins.  I have adapted Lorna’s Apple Muffins, because you know what I’m like, I can’t leave it alone.

Beat together one quarter of a cup of olive oil, one quarter of a cup of caster sugar, one half a cup of brown sugar and an egg.  Mix in a teaspoon of vanilla essence, a teaspoon of cinnamon and half a teaspoon of mixed spice.  Mix in a cup of plain flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of bicarb and a generous tablespoon of sour cream.  I found this mix to be a bit dry today, so I added a couple of tablespoons of milk.  Mix in two chopped green apples, skin on.  Today I tried chopping the apples very finely to fool the Horror, who is my main Doesn’t Like Bits In It offender.  I find that this makes eleven muffin cups if you’re going for ones that don’t overflow the paper case, and eight if you like them with a Muffin Top.  You can mix these babies in the time between your hairdresser sticking a clip in your freshly dyed hair and calling you back to the sink.  What do you mean you don’t get a hairdresser coming to your house?  How do you get anything DONE?


Maple Syrup Cakes

If you live in Sydney, you’ll know it as the day you cursed the fact that you’d washed and put away your winter jumpers.  Shortly I’m going to have three wet, cold and hungry kids here for whom a plate of crudites is just not going to cut it.  The Horror will be coming home from camp, so will in addition be hysterically tired.  What these kids need is Maple Syrup Cakes.

This is another Donna Hay recipe, and at the risk of this becoming a baking and pet peeves blog, her cookbooks really annoy me.  The recipes are terrific, don’t get me wrong.  I just can’t stand the whole matchy matchy blue thing, or the random words drifting across pages.  She seems like the kind of person who’d have those cursive wooden block letters spelling out delicious in her kitchen.  I have been tempted to buy a set of these blocks so I can spell out testicles across my kitchen windowsill, but it seems like too much effort.

I get the feeling this recipe has been translated from another set of measurements, as there are a few fractions involved.  I have discovered that rounding makes little difference, so here you go.

Cream together 90 grams of butter with two thirds of a cup of brown sugar and two tablespoons of caster sugar.  I’ll have to try without the caster sugar, I can’t believe it would make too much difference.  Also, butter at the temperature my kitchen is at isn’t going to cream, so put it in a metal bowl and sit it in the oven at 50 degrees for a bit.  Add 2 eggs, one at a time.  Add 2 tablespoons of milk, half a cup of maple syrup, one and two thirds of a cup of plain flour and two teaspoons of baking powder and mix until blended.  If, like me, you can’t be bothered washing up a muffin tin, put cupcake papers in the twelve holes and divide the mixture between them.  Bake at 180 degrees for about twenty minutes.


These cakes keep fairly well, as if they’re going to last more than the afternoon.  Time to find my woolly hat.

Dark Victory Chocolate Brownies

Yes, I do need an excuse to bake brownies, and now I have two.  We’re hosting an end of season bbq for the Muffet’s team, and as we’re providing the meat I am naturally compelled to make something to have with coffee.  I’m not that fond of meat.  I’m also being nagged to make brownies by the Muffet’s schoolfriend, Lindy Lu.  Lindy loves my baking and often sends requests home with the Muffet, because her mum never bakes anything.  It makes a nice counterpoint to the Muffet, who complains that she never gets normal food in her lunchbox, like everyone else.

Even before the web it was easy to find multiple brownie recipes, everyone has a favourite.  The one I’ve been making for a while comes from The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle, and I haven’t even altered it.  Except to convert those absurd American measurements.  A stick of butter, forsooth!  How far can you get from SI??

I don’t use a double boiler, because guess who washes up?  I use a metal bowl balanced over a saucepan of boiling water and it seems to do the trick.  Place in the metal saucepan 200grams of very nice butter and 100g of dark chocolate.  These, along with the cocoa, are the ingredients that will make people beg you for the recipe, their quality makes a big difference.  I use Harmonie Organic Butter.  I was using Belcolade chocolate drops and they were quite good, but then I bought one of those chunks of Callebaut chocolate you see at Harris Farms.  Why do they sell them like that?  How on earth are you supposed to break them down?  The first one I got I just surreptitiously nibbled at until it was all gone.  The second one was fortunately exactly the right size for these brownies, which was when I realised I couldn’t go back.  Now I get Callebaut in chip form either at the IGA, or from the nice man at my local chocolate shop.

Place your bowl over the saucepan of boiling water and wait for the contents to melt.  This took about as long as making a coffee, taking a phone call from my husband to ask why his Blackberry wasn’t syncing properly (I blame Google) and reheating the coffee in the microwave.  Probably time he moved to an iPhone.  Stir it with a wooden spoon then take it off the heat.  Stir in half a cup of Dutch cocoa (mine comes in a dark brown container from Norton St Grocers and I can’t be bothered digging it out of the cupboard to get the brand), one and a quarter cups of caster sugar, and three eggs – one at a time.  I also try to get nice eggs, but I can’t say that I can taste a difference.  Then stir in one third of a cup of sour cream, once again, can’t taste the difference between Barambah Organic and Dairy Farmers, and two teaspoons of vanilla essence.  Vanilla is the salt of the sweets world, you won’t necessarily pick it as a flavour but it makes everything taste nicer.  Speaking of salt, I’ve recently started grinding a turn or two of sea salt into my brownie, but you really don’t want to overdo it.  Last, stir in half a cup of plain flour.  The recipe also suggests stirring in a cup of pecans, which sounds like a wonderful idea except, as you would have gathered by now, my family Don’t Like Bits In It.

Scrape mixture into a baking paper lined square or rectangular cake tin.  Mine is square and 20cm a side.  Bake at 160C for about 45 minutes.  It will be all cracked on the top.  I don’t bother dusting it with icing sugar, but you can if you’re a presentation kind of person.

I might have to take some to my choir committee meeting tonight, seeing as how making it delayed me sending out my treasurer’s report by at least an hour.

Bread Sticks

I think I just wanted an excuse to turn on the oven today. I am having a hard time reacclimatizing. Maybe in twenty years time I’ll be one of those bleached blonde leather bags sitting on the Esplanade in Cairns sipping shandies. That conflicts a little with my plan to be a velvet clad cat lady, but I’m sure I can work something out.

I’m having a hard time getting something filling in my kids’ lunch boxes. They’ve all gone off sandwiches recently, the Horror was never into them at all. The Moose has access to a microwave at school, so he sometimes takes pasta. I’m sure they’d all like to eat just cakes and biscuits, but we’re not having that. Moderation in all things. I thought I’d give breadsticks a go.

The recipe is taken from a very learned tome called the Cook’s Book, and has detailed instructions on many complicated recipes you wouldn’t make in a pink fit. It has an excellent bread chapter, so I went from there. This is half the recipe they give, I wanted to make sure they’d get eaten before I went overboard.

Dissolve 5 grams of fresh yeast in 180 grams of water. I have one of those scales that you sit your bowl on and zero after putting in each ingredient, it’s revolutionized my cooking. My hairdresser made me buy it, that man has far to much influence on my behaviour. I get fresh yeast from my local IGA in little cubes, you might have to ask around at the deli’s in your area. Or you could use dried yeast, I’m pretty sure it converts to half a teaspoon.

Add 250 grams of flour. Mix it into a fairly wet dough with your hands, then leave it for about ten minutes. When you come back, sprinkle some salt over it, add a glug of olive oil and knead it a bit. Because I’m not making a soft, fluffy loaf of bread, I added another handful of flour to make a stiffer dough. Knead it until it’s smooth. The instructions then said to roll it out to one cm thickness, but I found it soft enough to spread it out with my hands onto a floured bread board. They also add that this is where you get finicky with a ruler and a sharp knife to get nice even sticks.


I’m actually going for lunchbox size and I favour the rustica look, which translates as frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn how they look, so that’s what my cutouts looked like. You can now roll each stick to get the traditional shape, or just lift each rectangle onto a biscuit tray that has been lined with baking paper and sprinkled with cornmeal. You then leave them to rise for the time it takes to rescue the washing from a sudden rain shower and pay a conductor and a rehearsal pianist for a month of work. Bear in mind that I also had to calculate superannuation. Spray them with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt. If you do it the other way around you just blow the salt onto the splashback. Put them in a 180 degree oven for about thirty minutes, but keep an eye on them. I like them fairly brown for extra crunch, you may like to leave them in for less time for a more bready result.

I do like the result, they’re like very miniature loaves of bread. I think if I’d made them a bit thinner they’d be crunchy all the way through, but this lot has a chewy centre. They’d be really good for dips, they don’t shatter.

I put the apple in there so you could see the size, not to be artsy fartsy. But will they pass the ultimate kid test? And can I be bothered making them regularly if they do? It’s unlikely, I have a very short attention span.

Choc Chip Banana Cake

I don’t think two posts counts as a recurring theme, but I need to use up some bananas. My husband alleges that he eats bananas all the time, but I’ve never seen any evidence of it. I sometimes give one to the Muffet on her way to school when she’s been too busy in the hour since she woke up to eat breakfast. Lying on the floor singing, losing your shoes and bothering your brothers takes up a lot of time.

As it turns out, it appears that you can slap together any old combination of bananas, sugar, butter, eggs and flour and you’ll end up with some kind of cake. I pick a recipe from a school fundraiser cookbook that I have and give it a whirl. Remind me to take you on a tour of my cookbooks some time, sublime to the ridiculous just about covers it.

I never have butter at room temperature, although not for any good reason – my Nanna used to keep butter in a covered ceramic butter dish on the kitchen bench and it was always fine. Especially if you go through scads of it, like I do. However.

What you do is put your 125 grams of butter in a metal mixing dish and put it in the oven at 50 degrees while you go and hang out the washing. When you come back, add to it half a cup of caster sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla and beat with a fork until creamy. Or stick it in your Kitchen Aid if you’re a fancy pants with a giant marble clad kitchen. Beat in two eggs, one at a time. Squash in two overripe bananas and mash them in until there aren’t any bits for your fussy nine year old to complain about. Gently fold in 2 cups of plain flour and 4 teaspoons of baking powder. Or 2 cups of self raising flour if you haven’t been listening. Stir in half a cup of milk. Actually, I stirred in a quarter of a cup of sour cream and quarter of a cup of milk, and I’ll bet a half a cup of buttermilk would be pretty good too. Stir in 125 chocolate chips – nice ones, don’t even think of using supermarket ones you cheapskate.

Scrape mixture into a loaf tin lined with baking paper. Baking paper revolutionized my life, I go through metres of it. Bake for about thirty five minutes at 160 degrees, and make sure you test it with a skewer, because banana fudge is not a thing.

I’m definitely adding this one to the repertoire. It wouldn’t quite be sweet enough without the chocolate chips, it’s light and moist with a crunchy crust and I’d seriously consider adding about a third of a cup of coconut flakes next time if it wasn’t for fear of audience backlash. You may not have such an exacting customer base.


There must be the perfect strawberry muffin recipe somewhere

Strawberries are sucking me in. They’re red and shiny and cheap. I keep buying them. Yet they’re often a little disappointing, and the kids are over them anyway like the fickle butterflies that they are. It’s very sad watching a punned of strawberries grow little beards and gently disintegrate on the kitchen bench top. One solution would be to stop buying the wretched things, but my peasant genes keep shouting Fruit! Cheap! Buy it!.

There’s a plethora of lemon recipes out there, but very few for strawberries that aren’t just chop them up and place them decoratively on top of something that doesn’t actually contain strawberries. I have made a strawberry lemonade, which I may share with you one day when I’ve run out of other housewifery things to blog about. I really want to make them into muffins, and as you’ve been following me like a bloodhound, you’ll know I’ve had a stab at a recipe that was fairly unsuccessful. They were quite nice, light and tangy, but the kids object to bits in their baked goods.

This means cooking the strawberries first. Take a punnet of strawberries, chop them up, bung them in a saucepan over low heat, put the lid on and leave them. My pots are fancy non stick ones, so if you’re worried about sticking, you could whack a small amount of butter in there too. After about half an hour you should be able to mash them up with a wooden spoon. I got about a cup of cooked strawberry mush.

Next I need a muffin recipe that has a wet component in it. For their own inexplicable reasons, Americans regard the pumpkin as a fruit you should shove into all kinds of baked goods. Sounds gross to me, but it does mean there are a few pumpkin muffin recipes out there. I found a likely one, and changed it completely. Here’s what I did.

Beat together 2 eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 cup of brown sugar because I think it tastes more interesting than white, and 1/3 cup of wheat germ because I’d like to pretend this is a healthy recipe. Also, I like wheat germ. Add the strawberry mush. If you can’t be bothered waiting for it to cool down, the stuff will start cooking, so work fast with the rest of it. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of plain flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Mix until smooth, but don’t beat it because you just don’t do that with muffins, they don’t like it.

Spoon the mixture into a greased twelve unit muffin tray. Actually, I put them in paper muffin cups, because I hate washing up muffin trays. Bake at 180 degrees for about fifteen minutes. They came out pretty well, kids were initially concerned about the brown colour, but that was from the brown sugar. They haven’t all been eaten yet, and are still pretty good after three days. I think next time I’ll put in a teaspoon of vanilla, and possibly a touch more sugar.


Better Lemon Slice

Most recipes that I tweak with only usually need an adjustment in the type of sugar, or a bit more or less butter, or something fairly minor for me to add it to the collection. Not this one. I had been on the hunt for the perfect lemon slice for some time, but the Women’s Weekly one was just adequate, the Donna Hay one a bit gloopy and I didn’t like the base. The recipe I lay before you today is almost right. Possibly still a little gloopy, but not unacceptably so.

The recipe for the base I unashamedly stole from a fascinating book called The Good Cookie, by Tish Boyle. This book was given to me by my worthy and esteemed brother-in-law, who also happens to be a B grade celebrity chef. If you’re the kind of housewife that lounges about the place watching telly and eating chocolate, you would have seen him on daytime TV. His celebrity status should be much higher, as he is an excellent chef, festooned with hats.

Place in a bowl one and a quarter cups of flour, 125 grams of room temperature butter, one quarter of a cup of brown sugar and two tablespoons of finely chopped crystallized ginger. The ginger is optional, but try it with, I love it. You could possibly use the stuff in syrup in a jar if you can’t find the sugar coated crystallized stuff, but gosh you’ll be sticky after chopping it up. Get in there with your hands and rub the butter in until what you appear to have is a bowl of breadcrumbs. Tip this into your roasting pan line with baking paper (mine is 20 by 27 cm) and press it down. Bake in a 180 degree oven for about twenty minutes, or until it is starting to colour on top.

Meanwhile, you’ll be making the topping. Separate five eggs into two different bowls, you’ll be using the yolk component. You could just use three whole eggs if you’re not planning to make friands at the same time in the other bowl. To the five egg yolks add one and a half cups of caster sugar, one third of a cup of lemon juice, one quarter of a cup of plain flour, half a teaspoon of baking powder and the zest of two lemons. Obviously lemons come in a wide range of sizes, so let’s say two moderately small ones. I zest citrus fruit a lot and use the Microplane for it, it’s also super for grating nutmeg and am I starting to sound like Martha Gardner? I’d recommend growing your right thumbnail long if you’re going to use the Microplane regularly, emery boards are cheaper than band aids.

Whisk that lot together and pour it straight onto the base you’ve just taken out of the oven. It will make a pleasing sizzling sound. You don’t really have to do it straight away, that’s just how it worked out today. Stick it back in the oven and bake it for a further twenty minutes or so. You want the top fairly well coloured to make sure that it sets when it cools down. Don’t even think about cutting it up before it has cooled down. When you’re piling it into the Tupperware you’ll have to separate each layer with a sheet of baking paper, because they do tend to stick together.

One slight disadvantage to this recipe is that if your kitchen is on a lean because your house is slowly sinking into the swamp, there will be one side slightly more lemony than the other. But who could be bothered turning it halfway?