Sunday, 25 January 2015

Lovely lunchbox treats

How has it come around so fast?  Yes, it's back to school time again!  This means that I'm back to super-sonic organisation levels.  I prepare all of our baked goodies for the week on a Sunday.  This can include mini savouries for snacks or lovely little baked treats for morning or afternoon tea.  What I love about preparing these things in my own kitchen is that I know each and every ingredient that goes into them and am guaranteed to be feeding my darling family food that is free of the nasties that exist in most store-bought lunchbox items.  Plus, let's face it, homemade ALWAYS tastes better.

These Blueberry and Coconut Muesli Bars are the perfect addition to my lunchbox repertoire.  They are enough to give you that afternoon sweet boost, without overdosing on sugar.  One small bar is enough to fill you up and get you through your afternoon slump (with a nice cup of tea, naturally).  Even better, they've received the approval of everyone in my house, this afternoon!  They were a sinch to make - all mixed together in a matter of minutes - and you can easily substitute in other dried fruits or flavours.
Blueberry and Coconut Muesli Bars
4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup plain flour, sifted
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup brown sugar
140g dried blueberries
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius and line a large slice tray (mine was 30cm x 30cm).  
Add all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir.  Separately, combine all wet ingredients.  Incorporate combined wet ingredients with dry ingredients and mix well.  Put mixture into your slice tin and press down evenly. Place into your oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown and crisping at the edges.  Allow to cool completely in tin before removing and slicing into bars.  Makes around 30 small bars.

I think it's time to pop the kettle on,
F. x

Monday, 5 January 2015

It's a date, darling!

How fantastically wonderful are dates?  They are versatile and so incredibly good for you.  Not to mention, sweet and 'caramelly' and decadent.  Today's recipe is brand new and incorporates - you guessed it - dates!  This Caramel Date Loaf is based on a very old recipe from one of my favourite 'research' cookbooks.  (Yes, my cookbooks have categories!)  It's called "Jim Fobel's Old-Fashioned Baking Book: Recipes from an American Childhood" and is an insightful reference to how it should be done.  We take so many short-cuts and use so many convenience ingredients, these days.  I think it's wonderful, when you have the time, to immerse yourself in baking and do it the 'right' way.  So with Jim as my inspiration, I've tweaked his Date Loaf recipe (from the coffee cakes chapter of the book) and it's fantastic!  My Caramel Date Loaf is dense, but not dry...sweet but not sickenly so....perfect to share with friends, or to slice and freeze to have a little every day, all for yourself.
Caramel Date Loaf
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup fresh dates, chopped
1 cup boiling water
80g unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a loaf tin.  In a bowl, dissolve sugar in water before adding the dates and butter.  Leave to soak for around 15 minutes.  Sift in your flour and baking powder and mix.  Stir in the egg and vanilla.  Pour your batter into the lined tin and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin before transferring to a cooling rack. 

Caramel Glaze
1/2 cup brown sugar
50g butter
2 tbsp milk
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
Place the brown sugar, butter and milk in a saucepan over a low heat.  Cook, stirring, for a few minutes until the sugar has dissolved.  Continue to stir and allow to thicken slightly.  Remove from the heat, sift over icing sugar and beat to ensure no lumps.  Drizzle over the loaf while the loaf is still warm.

F. x

Friday, 2 January 2015

Peachy keen.

There isn't a meal better than afternoon tea.  It's perfection.  Not a super heavy meal, usually of the sweet variety (my favourite), involving rather large amounts of chatter, and it's completely acceptable for it to go on for more than a few hours.  This week, I baked this fabulously light cake in the morning for an afternoon tea catch-up with friends.  It has a consistency much like a tea cake and the lemon comes through to save it from being overwhelmingly sweet.  

Lemony Peach Cake
175g unsalted butter, softened
165g caster sugar
3 tbsp lemon rind, finely grated
3 eggs
150g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
70g natural yoghurt
2 peaches, sliced

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees celsius and line a 25cm round, springform tin in readiness.  Beat together the butter, sugar and lemon rind until light and creamy.  Gradually mix in the eggs, one at a time.  Add your flour, baking powder and yoghurt, stirring until just combined (much like you would do with muffins).  Pour your batter into the prepared tin and even out the top with a spatula.  You now have two options for adding the peaches.  My preferred choice is to neatly arranged them on top in a circular formation.  Otherwise, you could take a more rustic approach and plop the peaches into the batter.  Both work well.  Bake the cake for 50-55 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.  Allow to cool before dusting with icing sugar and serving with whipped, thickened cream.

Happy afternoon tea-ing!

F. x

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

After the craziness of the end of the school year, it's been lovely to be back at home with my family.  This basically means loud chatting, baking, copious cups of tea, shopping trips and lunches out.  I always take advantage of staying at my mother's house because she has two ovens...yes, two.  It's absolute heaven.  This necessity arose when I was a teenager and poor Mum would always have to compete to use her own oven.  She'd be wanting to cook dinner but we'd have a batch of something-or-other baking that just couldn't wait.  So the solution to that problem has served me well and I can have TWO different things baking at TWO different temperatures.....it's the best.

I only ever make biscotti at Christmas time.  Not sure why, exactly but it just feels right.  Biscotti, or biscotto, means "twice-baked" and this scrumptious, crispy little biscuit holds its own against a strong cup of coffee and loud family chatter.  I love this particular recipe because it's not too sweet.  The sugar, chocolate and roasted almond crunch complement each other perfectly.
Chocolate and Almond Biscotti
270g plain flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
30g dark cocoa powder, sifted
165g caster sugar
3/4 cup blanched almonds
3 eggs
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees celsius and line a flat baking tray.  Mix together the flour, baking powder, cocoa, sugar and almonds.  Add the eggs and the vanilla and combine to form a dough.  Your dough consistency can range between smooth and sticky depending on the size of your eggs, but don't add any more flour.
Divide the dough in two and lightly knead each piece on a floured surface until smooth - this won't take long.  Shape the logs and flatten slightly.  Place on your pre-prepared tray and bake for 35 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.
Use a serrated knife to cut the log into 5mm slices.  Place back onto your baking tray and bake for a further 15 minutes until your biscotti are crisp.

Happy baking,
F. x

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Ultimate problem solving.

Let me set the scene...
Every Sunday, I bake for the week ahead.  What I bake will change from week to week except that I always bake a batch of biscuits for lunches and a sweet treat.  Those who know me well, know that in my life, routine is key and I do not like to deviate from my routines unless absolutely necessary.
Today, I had quite a dilemma.  After all of the week's baking, I didn't have enough butter to whip up a batch of bikkies! So I thought and I thought and I searched and I searched (just in case there was some more butter hiding in the nooks of the fridge where butter tends to hide).  After my thinking and much searching I was left standing in the kitchen with a block of Philly cream cheese.....lightbulb!
Here is the recipe for my Chocolate Chip 'Lightbulb' Cookies.  Oh, they are amazing.  These will be becoming a regular part of my Sunday bake routine!

Chocolate Chip 'Lightbulb' Cookies
120g unsalted butter
75g cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup caster sugar
 2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cornflour
2 1/4 cups plain flour
200g chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.  Cream the butter, cream cheese, sugars and vanilla.  When we//-creamed, mix in the egg.  Sift in the baking soda and flours.  Mix well and then give the dough a quick knead until smooth.  Use a spatula to incorporate the chocolate chips.  Roll into tablespoon sized balls and push to flatten a little.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until cooked to your liking.

Wishing you many a successful Sunday bake!

F. x

Friday, 5 September 2014

Cupcake Craziness

This week has been a week of meetings, cupcakes, work, cupcakes, fete, AND cupcakes! I simply adore cupcakes but this has been a little much and I will be happy not to make another late-night or early-morning cupcake for a few weeks.  My little ladybug has also taken to skipping around the house singing the word "cake" so you can see how much cake has featured in our lives, this week!

Thursday afternoon marked our annual school fete.  As is now 'tradition' (or my personal tradition, at least),  my class was responsible for the cake stall.  Even though I knew this was going to be THE craziest week at work, I just couldn't help but get excited about planning my baking.  So I used A moment on the lips... as my recipe book and here's what happened...

Whole Orange Cupcakes with Zesty Cream Cheese Frosting
I used my Orange Cake recipe and baked the cupcakes for 20 minutes.  They turned out perfectly.  Take care not to overcook, however, as they'll get dry very quickly.  The sharpness of the frosting cuts through the sweet orange beautifully.

Sticky Date Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream and a Salted Caramel Drizzle
Sticky Date is my all time favourite dessert and these cupcakes completely did it justice.  Again, I used my Sticky Date Cake recipe and baked for 20 minutes.  They were light and spongy like a steamed pudding - beyond amazing! This is the buttercream recipe and I used the caramel sauce that I drizzle over the top of my Salted Caramel Cheesecake.

Chocolate Sponge with Chocolate Whipped Cream and Sprinkles
The only Chocolate Cake recipe I ever use is my Mum's because it's the best.  The batter is ridiculous and you have to make sure that you employ some self control so that you manage to get some cake into the oven!  These were topped with chocolate whipped cream and sprinkle because they make me smile.  

White Chocolate Mud Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream
This is such a lovely recipe that works every time and is absolute heaven for white chocolate lovers....mmmm.  The cupcakes take a lot longer to bake than the others (45 minutes) but would still be worth it if they took 45 hours!  Cupcakes like this make people happy.

They looked amazing all packaged up and the rush was on to get in quickly enough to purchase a box of loveliness!

I urge you to try at least one of these wonderful recipes and let me know all about your beautiful baking adventures!

F. x

Friday, 11 July 2014

Winter + White Chocolate

Think about it...
It's a cold winter evening and you're snuggled on the couch with a lovely knitted blanket over your knees.  What could make this a better picture?  Only biting into a warm white chocolate chunk cookie!

Heaven!  You see, white chocolate and I...well, we have a bit of a 'thing'.  But please don't allow this to hold you back from experimenting with this recipe!  Instead of white chocolate, you could use ANY type of chocolate, chocolate bar, nut or dried fruit.  This is the wonderful cookie recipe of my childhood and you really can do anything with it.

White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
250g butter, unsalted
70g caster sugar
70g brown sugar
1/2 can condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla essence
350g S/R flour
80g plain flour
200g good quality white chocolate, chopped roughly

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.  Cream the butter and sugars until well combined and lightened in colour.  Mix in the condensed milk and vanilla before adding your flours. When your mixture has come together, add the chocolate.  Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place onto baking trays, allowing room for spreading. Bake for 15 minutes or until lovely and golden.

This recipe makes a whole lot of cookies so you could halve the mixture but what would be the fun in that?

F. x