Friday, August 1, 2014

Great Aunty May's Romany Creams

A few months ago I was entrusted with one of our family heirlooms - a tatty, splattered, literally falling-apart cookbook that belonged to my Great Aunty May. It fits perfectly into my bookshelf where it sits snuggly next to my grandmother's equally worn cookbook (as well as my mothers!). Such a serendipitous reunion seeing as though both books were lovingly penned by sisters. 

My three most treasured possessions: Mom, Great Aunty May, and my Grandmother's cookbooks. 
These are the books I turn to when inspiration is low, when my passion for baking wanes or if I simply need a moment to be close to these three amazing women. Each recipe, whether handwritten, torn out of a magazine, passed on from a friend, or even jotted on the back of a shopping list, has a story and sometimes I wish I knew where the recipe came from and what made it special enough to be incorporated into the family repertoire. 

I found this recipe for copy cat Romany Creams jammed into the back of Aunty May's book - written on a piece of notepad paper which had clearly been folded and refolded too many times. As it's become extremely trendy recently to recreate homemade versions of childhood favourites, Great Aunty May was truly ahead of her time and it's not the first time I have invented a recipe only to discover that Aunt May or my grandmother thought of it first! 

This is a truly moreish cookie - simple to make and delicious with a cup of tea! Best of all, it reminds me of the biscuit tin my best friend and I used to keep in our treehouse for tea parties; filled with romany creams bought with pocket money we saved! Thanks for the great recipe Aunty May!

Romany Creams
Makes about 20

250g butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 ½ cups desiccated coconut
2 cups cake flour
50ml cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
100g dark or milk chocolate, melted, to sandwich

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the coconut and sifted dry ingredients and mix to form a soft dough.
Roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into 3cm sausages then place on a lined baking tray and flatten slightly with your fingers. Scratch the surface of the biscuits with a fork to create a rough texture.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 10-12 minutes or until firm.
Allow to cool then sandwich two biscuits together using the chocolate. Allow to set then store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lemon meringue cheesecake

I have a serious soft spot for lemon meringue pie but not because of the coconutty crust or the velvety smooth filling (made with condensed milk please!) or even the puffs of crispy-marshmallowy meringue that adorn the top. Nope, it's not because of any of those things. In fact it doesn't even have anything to do with the pie. It's because it's my dad's ultimate favourite dessert and that makes it special in our family. 

This version, made with a baked lemon cheesecake filling, combines the best of both pie and cheesecake worlds and the layer of tangy lemon curd that oozes out the bottom when you cut it, adds an extra heavenly dimension. And if you'd like to go to a little extra effort, I think cute little mini versions of this (made in ring moulds or even clean tins!) would make a memorable dessert! 

Lemon meringue cheesecake
Serves 10-12

400g biscuits, crushed
100g butter, melted
540g full fat cream cheese, softened
150g castor sugar
3 eggs
20ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
½ cup store-bought lemon curd (optional)
4 egg whites
120g castor sugar 

Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease and line a 22cm springform cake tin with baking paper.
Combine biscuits and butter and press into the bottom and up the sides of the tin to form a crust.
Beat the cream cheese until soft and smooth then add the castor sugar, eggs, double cream, vanilla, juice and lemon zest. Spread a thin layer of lemon curd over the crust then pour in the cheesecake filling.
Whip the egg whites until soft peak stage then add the castor sugar gradually until the meringue is glossy and the sugar is dissolved.
Top the cheesecake with the meringue mixture, using a spoon to create soft peaks.
Bake for 1 hour then leave the door slightly ajar (or place a wooden spoon in the oven door to keep it open), switch the oven off and allow the cheesecake to cool completely.
Refrigerate until set then serve.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Peanut Butter and Cocoa Nib Granola

Breakfast doesn't get any better than homemade designer granola. It's so darn easy to make and I love how you can tailor it to your own taste. If you've ever read the back label of a pack of muesli or granola, I won't need to tell you why you should be making your own. But incase you don't know, glance over the amount of sugar in your favourite so-called 'healthy' granola next time you're in the cereal aisle; you might as well be eating cake for breakfast - and let's be honest cake will ALWAYS win over granola!

 At least with making your own,  you can control just how much sugar is going in. Nothing is hidden in a sneaky back label.  You can add as much of the good stuff as you want and leave out all the stuff you don't like (here's looking at you raisins and banana chips!) 
If you’re not keen on peanut butter, then swop it out for any nut butter – cashew, almond; although it’s fat, it’s good fat. I wouldn't skimp on the cocoa nibs though, they are a fantastic source of antioxidants and really give you an energy kick first thing in the morning and basically it means you're eating chocolate for breakfast, but without the guilt! 

Peanut Butter and Cocoa Nib Granola
Makes 6 cups

3 cups large flake oats (not instant oats)
1 cup mixed seeds (flaxseeds, sesame, poppy and pumpkin - whatever your heart desires)
4 tbsp brown sugar (you can reduce this if you like)
pinch of salt
4 tbsp honey
4 tbsp smooth peanut butter
½ cup extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
2 tsp water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup raw almonds, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup cocoa nibs*

Preheat the oven to 180C. In a large bowl, combine the oats, seeds, brown sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the honey, peanut butter, olive oil, water and vanilla together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well, making sure everything is coated well. Spread onto a lined baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring well every 5-10 minutes so the granola toasts evenly. Remove from the oven and stir in the almonds and cocoa nibs. Once completely cool, store in an airtight container.

*Cocoa nibs are available at health shops.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Chocolate tiramisu cake

Tiramisu, meet chocolate cake. 

Photograph by Gunther Schubert of Vorsprung Studio
Why it's taken me this long to introduce these two decadent desserts to each other is beyond me because they are sweet soul mates. Meant to be. BFF's. You get the point.
The secret to making ANY cake special (and I'll even go out on a limb and include box cake mix here) is to soak the cake in a simple syrup - even the driest sponge can be magically transformed with a slathering of flavoured (and liquored) syrup. And of course, tiramisu has sponge soaked in espresso syrup - coincidence? I think not. All that's missing is the light and fluffy mascarpone which I transformed into a not-too-sweet frosting and a generous dusting of cocoa powder and it's like the two were destined to live happily ever after...   

Photograph by Gunther Schubert of Vorsprung Studio

Chocolate tiramisu cake
Serves 10-12

3 large eggs
3/4 cup (180ml) melted butter or oil
3/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
375ml (1 1/2 cups) cake flour
180ml (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
7,5ml (3/4 tsp) bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
410ml (1 2/3 cups) brown sugar

Espresso syrup
250ml sugar
250ml water
125ml espresso coffee, cooled
80ml coffee liqueur (optional)

Mascarpone frosting
250ml cream
1 tub (240g) mascarpone cheese
½ cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cocoa powder, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line 2 x 22cm springform cake tins.
Beat the eggs and oil for 3 minutes on high speed. Add the water and beat for 1 minute on high speed. 
Sift the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt together. Add the sugar and mix into the wet ingredients. 
Divide the batter between the tins and bake for 55 minutes or until cake is cooked when tested with a skewer. If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is cooked.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
Remove from the tin and place on cooling rack, cool completely before cutting each cake in half horizontally with a sharp knife.
To make the syrup, gently heat the sugar and water together and stir until melted then bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly before adding the coffee and liqueur. Allow to cool completely.
To make the frosting, whip the cream and mascarpone together until stiff peaks then whisk in the icing sugar and vanilla. Place in a piping bag with a fluted nozzle.
To assemble the cake, place a cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand, soak the cake in the espresso syrup then pipe frosting on top. Repeat the layers with the cake, syrup and frosting finishing with a layer of frosting on top. Pipe dollops on top of the cake to decorate and dust with a little cocoa powder.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Honey and oat toast with caramel macadamia spread

By now we're all pretty used to food trends and how they work. It's a simple formula; take something that we eat everyday and gourmet-ify it. It's been done to cupcakes, burgers, hotdogs, and of course the dear cronut (the love-child of a croissant and doughnut) and now, we have... gourmet toast. Also known as 'artisan toast' and 'hipster toast'. 

Toast has been popping out of our toasters for ages without anyone getting excited about it. Most of us actually consider it a pretty mundane breakfast. Well, that was before some hipsters in San Francisco decided to turn it into a big deal and charge customers $7 a pop. 

But we're not talking about putting government white loaf in a toaster here, or spreading it with boring jam or peanut butter. This is the real deal; sourdough bread, thickly cut, toasted to perfection and spread with hand-churned butter and organic jam. While I'm a big fan of going back to the way our grandparents used to eat with food being handmade and seasonal with honest ingredients, I'm not sure I'd pay $7 for a slice of toast. I mean, all it takes is a toaster and we can make it at home ourselves, but I suppose that misses the point, if we did that, who would be there to see us eating #hipstertoast? 

But let's forget the hashtag for now, if you'd like a damn good piece of toast, then give this recipe a try. The bread is delicious and the spread is uberly decadent. 

Honey and oat toast with caramel macadamia spread
Makes 2 loaves

120g porridge oats
4 tbsp honey
30g unsalted butter, chopped
360ml boiling water
500g stoneground white bread flour
250g stoneground wholewheat bread flour
1 tbsp salt
10g instant dry yeast
360ml warm water
120g oats, for rolling

Caramel macadamia spread
300g good-quality white chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
100g macadamia nuts

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the oats in a bowl and drizzle over the honey. Add the butter, pour over the boiling water and stir to mix. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. 
Place the flours, salt and yeast in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook and add the cooled porridge mixture and warm water and mix to form a soft dough. Knead for 8-10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size in a warm place. 
Once doubled in size, knock the dough down and divide into two. Roll each piece of dough out then roll up and pinch the end piece to stop from unravelling to form two sausages. Roll the dough loaves into the oats then place in two standard greased loaf tins (you could also make the loaves more rustic and leave them unshaped). Leave in a warm place to double in size again. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes or until the crust is golden, the bread feels light and the loaves make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Invert the loaves on to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

To make the caramelised white chocolate, preheat the oven to 120C. Spread the chocolate on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Place in the preheated oven for 10 minutes then remove and stir with a clean, dry spatula. Continue to cook for 30-60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Don’t worry if the chocolate looks lumpy and chalky at some stage, it will smooth out and caramelise. 
In the meantime, roast the macadamia nuts lightly then placing in a blender or coffee grinder. Process on high speed until the nuts begin to form a smooth paste (you can add a drizzle of vegetable oil if the paste doesn't begin to form). If you're a patient person, a pestle and mortar would also do the trick.
Once the chocolate is golden brown, stir the macadamia spread. If it’s still lumpy you can place it in a food processor to smooth it out and add a little cream or oil if necessary. Store in a jar at room temperature. If the spread hardens, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it, then stir in a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil. 

To make the toast, cut the bread into thick slices and toast under a preheated grill until the outside is crisp but the inside is still soft. Serve with lashings of caramel spread.