What does the last of the housewives do?

Tag: Pepe Saya butter

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.


A Trip to Tempe

We were actually going to IKEA. I hadn’t been to the big one at Tempe before. So when my good friend and neighbour requested my services as sidekick I was more than happy to oblige.

I don’t know that they’ve achieved anything over the smaller store at Rhodes. Acres of fairly cheap looking fabric. Much cardboard furniture that’s good for if no one will see it or you’ll only need it until you find somewhere permanent to live. The odd dozing boyfriend on a bed or lounge. Many shelves that will never attach to the plaster of my walls, composed as it is of sand and a century of paint, laid over diamond hard brick. An assortment of jars and containers I know from experience aren’t water, air or moth tight. I was uninspired.

I did pick up some cheap Christmas wrap and a set of biscuit cutters that will feature in a blog in the near future. And it was mildly entertaining. But it was what my friend, let’s call her Daniela, said next that made my day. “You know the Pepe Saya factory is in Tempe. Do you want to see if we can find it?”.

You know how I feel about Pepe Saya butter. It’s revolutionised my pastry making. As it’s expensive (not for what it is mind), I save it for best. You betcha I wanted to see if we could find it, even it wasn’t open to the public. I looked it up on Google maps. It appeared to be right next door to IKEA. A quick glance out of the car park showed that the shortcut would have involved scaling a set of quite fresh looking barbed wire fences. If only we’d bought one of those ten dollar throws that don’t appear to have any other use! But we must not repine. “Let’s go around the long way”, I suggested. “It’s just a block”.

Quite a large block, as it turned out. Down a little street lined by nondescript factories, skip bins and badly parked trucks on one side, tiny weatherboard houses from the past on the other. “Is it really down here?” asked Daniela. “It doesn’t look like anything and we’ve walked a really long way. We should have driven. Why didn’t we drive? Lucky I didn’t go to the gym today, I’d never have made it this far.” Down an even smaller street and right at the end was quite a tiny sign for a whole lot of gourmet dairy businesses. And Pepe Saya’s. Up a steep driveway littered with boxes and more apparently abandoned trucks and white vans and pallets and a forklift.

It was just a small glass door, behind which was a set of stairs. “Maybe it isn’t open to the public” I said. “I’m ringing them,” said the ever resourceful Daniela. As she pulled out her phone, the roller door opened to admit the forklift. A young man with very blue eyes started guiding it in. “Erm”, I said. “Do you sell to the public?” asked Daniela. “Of course, come on in, have a look around, there’s a fridge just behind there”, the young man said.

We wandered in. There was a fridge, as advised, looking like the sort of the thing the school canteen might have put in the cleanup. It had a couple of containers of creme fraiche, a pat or two of the familiar foil wrapped butter and not much else. We got chatting with the young man about dairy products and baking. He clearly knew his stuff, and I found out why when one of the forklift guys called out “hey, Pepe!”. Lucky I hadn’t realised who he was when we started chatting, otherwise I would have confined myself to “erm”.

We bought three containers of creme fraiche, a litre of buttermilk, Daniela got a pat of butter and I bought myself a two kilo wheel of butter. I’ve been feeling some baking coming on for quite some time and two kilos was the wholesale amount. It’s a beautiful thing too, lovingly shaped, wrapped in waxed paper, tied up with string and tightly sealed in cling wrap.

“You have to look after it” Pepe said. That didn’t involve reading it a bedtime story, as it turned out, just wrapping it up tightly every time you use it. “How far are you from home?” he asked. Daniela explained that we weren’t far, but we had undertaken the hazardous and windswept walk all the way from the IKEA car park. So he gave us a styrofoam box and lovingly loaded up his produce, tucking an ice pack in with it. We left him to look after his half tonne of freshly delivered fresh cream.

Having bought the bulk of the stuff, I gallantly offered to be the one to carry it back. I wasn’t met with any resistance.

Oh, do I have big plans for this stuff. Ice cream, fruit cake, shortbread, little tarts. I’ve started on the butter already, carefully wrapping it back up again so I can be worthy of it. It’s so FRESH! I don’t really like the taste of the cultured butter straight off a knife but because it’s so fresh the cultured flavour is only just a hint. That’s it, I’m going to have to go to Tempe every time I go through two kilos of butter. At the wholesale price and with Christmas coming up, that’s going to be quite often.

Not even Slightly Papa’s Ricotta Tarts

The Horror’s birthday is coming up and I like to get in early with cake requests. As anticipated it went something like this: “Strawberry cake. No, friands. No, caramel cake. Oh, some people like chocolate, how about half strawberry and half chocolate cupcakes? Or how about a ricotta cake?”

Anyone in the Inner West know that the the best ricotta cakes come from Papa’s Pasticceria. On weekends they have a line out the door and down the street of slavering hordes buying them as fast as they come out of the kitchen. Actually I don’t know if they are the best, I’ve never tried anyone else’s version. They are excellent. I knew I couldn’t replicate them, not with a week’s notice anyway, but I could have a stab at the ricotta tarts.

These are what you have if you just want a taste of ricotta cake. Not as widely known as the cake, I’m surprised they sell anything other than the cake at the weekend because the surging crowds rather obscure the long glass counter. You need to be in the know. I am, being a local, so I braved the throng last weekend and procured some for research purposes.

Hmm, pastry quite short, maybe some cream? And there are many recipes about for ricotta cheesecakes, I might just take an average. Here’s what I did.

Pastry. Into the Thermomix chuck 50 grams of cold Pepe Saya butter, two tablespoons of sugar, two tablespoons of cream, a cup of flour, a teaspoon of baking powder. Zap. In a few seconds you’ll get a jug full of damp crumbs.

I pressed these into fifteen fluted Bakers Secret tart tins, the ones with the removable bottoms. There was enough for sixteen, but I’ve lost the bottom out of one of them. Surprised its only one, really. Baked these for a touch over five minutes, until they just started to colour.

Cheesecake filling. Bung into the KitchenAid bowl an egg and two tablespoons of sugar. Beat until the stuff goes white.

In another bowl mix together 125 grams mascarpone, two tablespoons of cream, 250 grams of fresh ricotta and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. You can do this with a fork. The old skills remain. Fold the cream mixture into the egg. Spoon into the tart shells. Bake at 140 degrees for about forty minutes, I like to go easy on the cheese. Take it out when it’s just starting to tan a little around the edges. The cheese filling will be puffed up, but will subside once it cools.

I would recommend de tinning them before putting them in the fridge, though they’re pretty fragile at this point.

Oh, they were good, all right. “A lot like custard tarts”, remarked the Moose as he embarked upon his third. The pastry was quite fragile, but melted in the mouth. The whole lot was just sweet enough. The ricotta filling was light and fluffy, quite a bit lighter than Sam Papa’s version. And that’s what the Horror couldn’t get past. He couldn’t even finish one. “It just isn’t right”, he said, handing me half. “I can’t forget that they’re not Papa’s”. Well, he’s right, they’re not. I need a tougher pastry and a creamier filling.

Having said that, I’ve just sampled one two days later and they age in the fridge very well indeed, as do Papa’s. The pastry is still fresh and delicious, but not nearly as fragile. The filling has compacted a little. I may see if the Horror can bring himself to try another one. But you know what? Papa sells these for less than two dollars each. I have an excellent tart recipe for my next afternoon tea extravaganza and I’ll buy the Horror his birthday cake from the Pasticceria.

Meat Pie

Now don’t go reading this as a recipe. I did make a meat pie. It was very good. But it wasn’t what I’d hoped and dreamed it would be.

I’ve been asked by a member of the audience about making pastry in the Thermomix. I haven’t had so much a rocky relationship with pastry as a uniformly rotten one. I suck at making pastry. So when my parents in law were coming for dinner yesterday I thought I’d make a meat pie to try out two different types of pastry in the Thermomix. I’m sorry, Christina, it was far and away the best best pastry I’ve ever made. My problem was with the insides.

First the pastry. I like a shortcrust on the bottom of a meat pie and a puff on top. To make the shortcrust you place in the Thermomix jug one hundred grams of cold butter cut into pieces with two hundred grams of plain flour and a pinch of salt. This is an ideal situation in which to use Pepe Saya butter. Zap it on speed six for ten seconds. Add fifty to sixty grams of cold water and knead on interval speed for ten to twenty seconds. Peek in through the lid, stop it when it has formed a dough mass. Haul it out and put it on your cold, floured Caesarstone bench top and gently squash it into a disk shape. I then put it in the pie dish and stuck it in the fridge for twenty minutes. And this is where my experience deviated significantly from every other time I’ve made pastry. I put the pastry back on the bench top and rolled it out and it looked like pastry! It usually cracks and breaks and is generally a pain in the neck. But this lot stayed in circle shape and even held together as I gingerly transferred it back into the by now greased and floured pie dish.

That got baked for twenty minutes, and even though I didn’t bother blind baking it held its shape.

Then I made the meat filling and wasn’t that learning experience. Normally I’d brown the meat in a saucepan and stew it in some chicken stock with two tablespoons of corn flour mixed into it. This is because my dear children don’t like their meat too flavoursome and they certainly don’t like bits of onion or carrot in it. The Horror goes so far as to say that he doesn’t like gravy either, and why can’t I just make an empty pie and stick some bits of roasted meat in there? We’ve got a long way to go with him. But now I can chop up the flavoursome vegetables into microscopic bits! So I put I the Thermomix jug a halved onion, a clove of garlic, a thick slice of fennel root, a roughly chopped stick of celery and a roughly chopped carrot. I zapped that lot, then cooked it at a hundred degrees for seven minutes with a slice of butter. I then put in five hundred grams of diced chuck beef, half a cup of chicken stock and two tablespoons of corn flour. What I should have done was brown the meat first. And possibly used red wine instead of stock. I cooked that at ninety degrees on speed slow with the blades in reverse for fifty minutes. The result was delicious but extremely visually unappealing. Also way too much gravy. I drained off most of the gravy and have it in the fridge until I can work out what to do with it. Just look at that colour.

No good at all. The specks on it aren’t mould, it’s leftover flour, really it is.

Emboldened by my success at the shortcrust pastry I made half a recipe of rough puff pastry. I put in 125 grams of plain flour and zapped it with the turbo button a couple of times to aerate it. I added in 90 grams of cold chopped Pepe Saya butter, a pinch of salt, fifty grams of cold water and a good squeeze of lemon juice. The recipe suggests using half lard, but I don’t happen to have any. I wonder if there are different grades of lard, like there are for butter? From the stuff scraped off the abattoir floor all the way up to the results of Kim Cowdashian’s latest liposuction? Something to investigate. Anyway, set the dial to the closed lid position and knead for ten to twenty seconds on Interval speed, once again peeking to see when it forms a dough.

Extract the dough and slap it onto the floured bench top. Pat it into a rectangle shape. Possibly refrigerate it for twenty minutes at this point, but I didn’t. Roll it out until it’s about 40 by 12 cm. That does seem a bit specific, doesn’t it, so maybe just long and thin. Fold the bottom third into the middle and the top third over that. Rotate it through ninety degrees and roll it out again. Repeat the folding and rolling three more times. Refrigerate it again before rolling it out into circle shape. I didn’t, as it was still fairly cold and I had a pie to get in the oven. I spooned the gravy less beef into the shortcrust base and lifted the rough puff circle onto the top where it settled nicely. I poked some holes in it and baked it for about twenty five minutes.

I forgot to photograph it in the excitement of grandparents, but here’s the last scraps of the Muffet’s bit if you’d like to see how great the pastry looked.

There was none left at the end of dinner, so it can’t have been too bad. Definitely needs work, but. That pastry needs an amazing filling to do it justice.

Lime Shortbread

The Moose must have been bitten by a Boy Scout because last week, on his way to tennis, he helped an elderly man load some boxes into his car. His reward was some tiny limes from the tree in the man’s front yard and he was very excited to show me the fruits of his virtue. And you know that I always love unconventionally acquired food.

It had to be something with lime zest. Fresh limes straight from the tree, no wax and looked like no juice also. I thought about cola, but the Moose isn’t that keen on it. I am though, so was tempted to go ahead anyway, but while doing some bedtime reading of Tish Boyle’s The Good Cookie, a constant source of inspiration, I came across a recipe for lime shortbread. Winner.

I would strongly recommend hauling out the wallet and getting some Pepe Saya butter for this one. I’ve done a fair bit of testing now and if you’re rationing yourself then you should save this butter for pastry and shortbread. For those perusing from a different country, Pepe Saya is a cultured butter made from the milk of contented cows and is a very fine thing indeed.

OK, recipe. Place in a bowl two cups of flour, three quarters of a cup of icing sugar, a quarter of a teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of ground ginger and a tablespoon of fresh lime zest and mix them all up. Scatter over the top one hundred and seventy grams of cold butter chopped into chunks (I actually did the conversion this time). Cut it into the flour mixture until the butter pieces are quite small. The KitchenAid did a perfectly adequate job of this. Stop the KitchenAid and pour in two tablespoons of lime juice and a teaspoon of vanilla essence. I had to get the lime juice from conventionally acquired limes, those tiny ones were solid with green seeds inside. Mix very slowly until the dough just starts coming together. Squish it about a bit with your hands to make it smooth, then divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a log shape and wrap in plastic wrap. Stick it in the fridge until it’s good and solid again. You may want to go and process some concert subscriptions and work out how to convert a sheet into a toga for when your youngest son goes to the Literature Festival as Zeus. No, I didn’t think Zeus was a literary figure either, but he got it past the librarian.

Take the plastic wrap off and slice the logs into biscuits about four millilitres thick. They don’t spread very much, so you can place them quite close together on your lined baking sheet. Bake them at 160 degrees fan forced (180 degrees not) until they’re just starting to go golden around the edges, it will take about fifteen minutes and keep an eye on them. Don’t let them brown.

Those aren’t the limes, they’re just for illustrative purposes. I warned the kids that the green flecks in the biscuits weren’t mould, they were lime zest. That could be an issue with their visual appeal, but goodness they taste good. Not as soft as shortbread often is, almost crunchy and a very definitely limey. You can’t really taste the ginger, but I think it adds a bit of complexity to the flavour. Like I said, winner.

Viennese Shortbread

The Horror has decided that I’ll be reproducing his favourite cafe treats. We’ve succeeded with the pistachio friands. The chocolate chip biscuits still need work, but are acceptable for the moment, especially as the cafe up the road from school has started stocking them again. How about Viennese shortbread then, hey? And what about baklava?

I have a phobia of filo pastry so no baklava for the foreseeable future, but Viennese shortbread seems doable. I’ve never understood why people like it, it’s two stodgy biscuits sandwiched together with some red flavoured plastic and dipped in dubious chocolate at one end. I think it’s because I keep a fairly close eye on the Horror’s chocolate intake, he can pretend he’s eating a biscuit, when he’s actually in it for the chocolate.

I found an excellent recipe which worked perfectly, a bit unusual for the net. It is this. Cream together 220 grams of butter with 55 grams of icing sugar. I highly recommend the Pepe Saya butter for this recipe. Go nuts with the creaming, you’ll probably need a machine for this. I will eventually review the KitchenAid, just hold your horses. Cream in half a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Mix in (gently does it) 55 grams of corn flour and 170 grams of flour. Let it rest while you go and mark up the attendance records for your choir. Now comes the tricky bit.

Have a think about Viennese shortbread. It has a distinctive shape that can only be produced with some kind of piping arrangement. Knowing this I popped out this morning and purchased a syringe style piping mechanism. It only had icing nozzles, rather than batter nozzles, but it looked as though it would do. I loaded it up with the very soft dough, it really was almost a batter. The wretched thing disintegrated almost immediately. Look.

Utterly useless. But I had to find a replacement for the plunger, that batter needed piping and I had a coffee date coming up. I looked around the kitchen for something that might fit into the barrel. Tiny schnapps bottle, no, rolling pin, no, dogs ear wash, no thank goodness. Off to the beading table. Aha! Empty spool of artistic wire fit perfectly, you can see it behind the torn plunger in the photo. I had to push it down with my muscular thumbs, but it worked a treat. Because it was an icing nozzle I had to lay down a triple width to make a nice sized biscuit.

Bake those at 160 degrees for fifteen to twenty minutes, or until pale golden in colour. While they were cooling I dashed off an opprobrious email to the distributors of my self destroying syringe. They emailed back almost straight away saying that such a thing had never happened before in the illustrious history of their company and I should return it straight away for a new one which would most certainly not collapse immediately on me. Hah.

Anyway, when the biscuits are cool, get out some jam. Not fancy stuff, you want a smooth thin layer. Also melt some chocolate in a heatproof bowl over boiling water. Jam pairs of biscuits together. The dip the end in melted chocolate. Very gently. These biscuits are fairly delicate, you may want to spoon the chocolate over them. Place them back on the baking tin and stick them in the fridge to harden the chocolate.

They may look like the Viennese shortbread you get in cafes, but they are so so very much better.

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.