Thursday, October 13, 2011

Peanut butter cups - Metric recipe!

There are many things Americans do that I do not understand. Like how they use decimal currency but refuse to adopt the metric system. And how they insist on giving new names to things that have perfectly good names already, like "baking soda". What's wrong with calling it bicarb? And combining maple syrup with bacon, that one is just too weird for me.
Another one I never really got was why they try to put peanut butter in so many of their desserts. I like peanut butter on a sandwich, but in a cheesecake? It just seems wrong! But recently a customer at work gave me a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and I have to admit it was rather yummy! And I remembered seeing on Pinterest that some people make home made ones, so I gave it a go.
I have to say, these were damn yummy! A little bit salty, and not too sweet, I'm quite pleased with my home made peanut butter cups. Though I only ever had that one little morsel of Reese's so it's hard to compare, but mine were pretty good. My friends loved them too.
But of course being such an American thing all the recipes I found online are in imperial measurements. So I had to make it up a little bit as I went along. Below is my recipe, but be warned, this made far too much peanut butter filling. I had to throw out a fair bit. The amount of peanut butter fillingg coule easily make another dozen cups, so you'd have to increase the amount of chocolate used. But I think next time I'll just reduce the amount of peanut butter filling.
Metric peanut butter cups
Makes 25
600g chocolate (I used a half/haf mixture of dark and milk)
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teapsoon vanilla essence
Melt 300g off the chocolate. Let it cool down so that it is still liquidy but won't burn your hand, and spoon it into 25 mini paper muffin cases. As you spoon chocolate into each case push it against the sides to form a cup. Put in the fridge until set.
In a bowl combine the peanut butter with the icing sugar and stir until well combined. Add the vanilla essence and stir until mixed in thoroughly. Spoon into each chocolate cup, leaving enough room for the chocolate topping. Using your finger push the peanut butter filling down until it's fairly flat in the cup. Refrigerate until set.
Melt the other 300g of chocolate, and spoon on to the top of each cup trying to make the tops fairly level. Refrigerate until set.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Soup-er winter!

I have been a naughty, naughter little blogger.. I haven't posted anything all winter!

I have been cooking plenty though. And this winter I rediscovered soup.

Sounds like a no brainer I know, but surprisingly I've not made a lot of soups before. But over winter I was craving hot lunches, and knowing chips and burgers were a bad idea it occured to me that depending on the soup and how it's made it can be a very low-calorie, vegie-filled meal. So I got to work experimenting with different soups. Here are the five I made this winter.

Pumpkin Soup

Again this seems like a no brainer - but I've only ever eating pumpkin soup my mum made. I used this recipe as a starting point, but made mine a little differently. I used nearly 2kgs of butternut pumpkin, two potatos, added two carrots, and left out the leek and the cream. Because I prefer to stir in sour cream at the end.

Results were oh so yummy. I've made this three more times since!

Pea And Ham Soup

Having had success with the pumpkin soup I decided to give another classic a try. Again I started with a recipe but did it a little differently. I used only one onion, and after sauteeing it in a frypan I put all the ingredients in my slow cooker for the day.

Results - not impressed. I'm told by others that tried it that it was lovely, so apparently I'm just not a fan of pea and ham soup.


I had friends coming over for dinner, and Little Princess had been playing with my cookbooks again, so my Morroccan cookbook (which these friends had given me for my birthday) was lying on the floor. I decided it was fate and had a flick through for something to cook. This lamb and chickpea soup caught my eye. This time I followed the instructions exactly.

Results were fantastic! This was a really thick, chunky soup, almost more like a stew. The lamb was so tender, the chickpeas were cooked through, and there was so much flavour. Totally worth the $15 the lamb cost me.

Carrot and ginger soup

I tried this twice, both using the same recipe. First time I left out the water, only using 1 litre of chicken stock, It was lovely and thick, but I didn't get much soup, I filled two bowls and had almost none left. The next time I put in the water, but ended up with a much more liquidy soup which didn't fill my tummy at all.

Overall very pleased with the taste. But definitely not a meal to eat after a hard workout at the gym. If left me quite hungry.

Sweet potato and chicken soup

Once again the recipe came from Taste. This was an attempt to make hubby and I feel better while suffering from a terrible flu. I used a brown onion instead of a spanish one, which I sauteed before adding the other ingredients. And the soy milk was swapped for sour cream.

Unfortunately I have no idea how it tasted. Once done cooking I discovered I had no sense of taste because of the flu. It had a nice texture, but that's all I can really say about it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rainbow cake - tutorial

An old friend from uni has been studying photography, and offered to come by and do a cake smash shoot with my Little Princess. So I decided it would be fun to make a rainbow layer cake I had seen on the Whisk Kid blog.

It didn't smash very well. She gave the big cake a good hard whack, but it did nothing and she lost interest, so instead we gave her just a slice to play with. We had more success and got some beautiful photos, but this left me with a very big cake to use up somehow, so I took it to work and left it in the staff room with a note telling my collegues to have at it.

The rainbow cake had a fantastic reaction, and as a result I found myself making another one for a work collegues birthday, so I took photos as I went to create my very own tutorial.

The first step is to make a cake batter. Any white cake will do, I used Donna Hay's Melt N Mix buttercake. I find this recipe makes 6 cups of batter, making it perfect for a rainbow cake because you can easily divide it into three portions to colour. So first I did red, yellow and orange, and baked each one for 20 minutes in a 20cm tin. Then I repeated the process, this time with blue, green and purple.

Once baked and cooled I like to wrap each cake individually in glad wrap and let it rest, overnight if possible, then I level them, cut off the crusts using a template to make sure all cakes are the same, and get to work layering them.

I made 1 1/2 times more normal buttercream recipe and coloured it white, and put 1/2 a cup between each layer. Measuring it makes sure the layers are even. I like to use purple at the bottom, but that's purely personal preference.

Finally do a quick crumb coat. This is just a really thin layer of buttercream spread over the sides of the cake. As you can see in the picture you will see the layers through the buttercream, and there will be crumbs visible in the buttercream. That's ok. Next step is to let it set in the fridge for at least a half hour so the buttercream crusts up, and then spread it nice and thick with a good layer of buttercream. The first crumb coat will hold all those nasty loose crumbs in place.

Personally I like to then leave the cake just white. It's like a disguise for the beautiful chaos that goes on underneath. But this cake wasn't for me, and I was asked to decorate it with something girly, so I played with my new butterfly and gerbera cutters. I wanted to get some ladybugs on there too, but got dreadfully sick so I couldn't make them.

So there you have it, instructions on how to make your very own rainbow layer cake.

Chocolate chip pikelets

I have no idea at all why it popped into my head, but recently I remembered one time when I was eight, and my parents went to a wedding so my Grandma came to stay the night with my brother and I. I remember two things about that visit - one is the skivvy my Grandma wore that read "Recycled Teenager" (she was a cheeky lady) and the other is the chocolate chip pikelets she made us for dessert. Which she made in the jaffle iron.

Why they were made in the jaffle iron remains a long lost mystery. As does, sadly, the recipe. My Grandma died when I was 14, and before she did I never thought to ask these questions.

But since starting this blog I've found myself getting more and more daring with food, and finally decided chocolate chip pikelets could, quite possibly, just be a process of adding chocolate chips to pikelet batter. So I made some pikelet batter I learned from my mum, who learned it from her dad (Poppy), and tossed in a fistful of dark chocolate chips. Interestingly Grandma wasn't mum's mum, she was dad's mum, so both sets of grandparents had a hand in this dish.

This is Poppy's recipe for pikelets:

1 cup self raising flour

1 teaspoon bicarb

3 tablespoons sugar

pinch of salt

1 egg

2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter

Stir the dry ingredients together, then whisk in the egg and milk. Melt the butter in a frying pan, and pour into the batter, whisking to incorporate it. Cook dessert-spoonfuls of batter in the frying pan until bubbles form, then turn and continue cooking until cooked through.

And as I said, I added a heap of chocolate chips.

Results - As you can see from the picture, the pikelets were not very pretty. Also I understand now why cooking them in the jaffle iron was a good idea. It cooked both sides at once. The chocolate chunks melting made it very hard to flip these pikelets. But OMG, so yummy! This is comfort food at it's best. Simple, warm, chocolately.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers Day

Yesterday was mothers day, so I treated my mum to a three-course dinner. Cooking for mum does have one tiny challenge though - she's a vegetarian. I've put all three dishes into one blog post, because I'm lazy that way.

Entree - Caulflower soup with onion and buttermilk bread

First of all the bread, it was really simple to make, just self-raising flower, chives, buttermilk, and a packet of french onion soup. I used my kitchen mixer to make the dough. But the dough was really sticky, and the resulting bread was very doughy. I didn't love it.

The soup was from Donna Hay's Seasons. It was supposed to have porcini oil drizzled over the top, but I had no luck finding porcini mushrooms. I made it ahead of time, adding the cream and reheating just before serving. I also swapped the chicken stock for vegetable stock, to keep it vegetarian. It was a nice soup, with a very subtle flavour. But it made the house STINK of cauliflower.

Main - spinach ravioli with basil oil

Another recipe from Donna Hay's Seasons, this one involved making the ravioli myself from ricotta, spinach, lemon zest, parmesan, basil and gow gee wrappers. The oil was just basil and lemon juice mixed into olive oil. Then the whole lot was sprinkled with some sliced bocconcini. It had a lovely flavour, but was a bit of a gow gee overload. It wayed my stomach down a bit, so I could only eat about two-thirds of it.

Dessert - Stewed apple and bluberries with coconut cobbler

Again from Donna Hay's Seasons (all these recipes were from the Autumn section). The filling was made up of red apples, blueberries (I used canned), lemon juice, sugar and a vanilla bean. It made my house smell like a candle shop while I was cooking the filling. The cobbler had flour, coconut, vanilla, oats and milk. I loved the fruit filling, the cobbler not as much. It didn't cook properly so it was doughy in the middle, and I think it would have been better without the vanilla. Still this was my favourite of the three dishes.

The most important thing of course was that mum loved her dinner :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Salted caramel fudge

This week we sadly lost a dear family member, and although I wasn't as deeply affected as some others in my family, I was rather sad and I did find myself in search of a bit of comfort food. And for some reason fudge came to mind.

I went in search of a recipe for Irish Cream fudge I had made a few times before and really liked. But while searching I happened upon this recipe for salted caramel fudge. I remembered hearing that salt and sweet work really well together, so I decided to give it a try.

However sea salt flakes cost $8 a pack, and since I have no other real use for sea salt flakes I decided instead to use a teaspoon of ground sea salt, which I stirred into the fudge rather than sprinkling on the top.

This was super yummy. With the condensed milk, the brown sugar, the glucose syrup, the golden syrup and the white chocolate you expect it to be really sickly sweet, but that kick of salt really does take the edge off the sweetness so you're left with a lovely caramel flavour. Though it's not something you can eat a whole lot of, it is very rich, and the saltyness did leave me reaching for a big glass of water. But it certainly is very good comfort food, so just what I needed this week.

Chocolate eclairs

I've always shyed away from trying choux pastry, because of vague memory of someone (no idea who) telling me it was really hard to get right.

Then a few weeks ago on My Kitchen Rules I saw two cops from Tasmania not only nail it, but do it en masse, at short notice, for hundreds of kids and parents. Not only that, they did well enough to earn kudos from a world class French chef. So I thought if they can pull that off, how hard can choux pastry really be?

As it turns out it's not hard at all, as long as you know exactly what you're doing.

The recipe I used came from a copy of French Cooking Made Easy that my mum bought me way back in 1997 when I first started studying French in school. It was my bible for many a French cooking project at school, and I still crack it out from time to time. The photography is a bit daggy, but the food I've made from this book always tastes great. I read the recipe over and over and over again, then read it once more to make sure I totally understood the process I was undertaking, then dove right in.

The pastry took me only ten minutes to make. The hardest part I found was stirring the flour into the boiled water and butter mixture, you have to stir really quickly to get a smooth consistency, and it goes into a stiff ball quite quickly, so stirring it took all my upper arm strength. Luckily after that the electric mixer does all the work as you add the eggs.

I'm proud to say I nailed my chocolate eclairs. The pastry turned out so nice and crispy, and using cream I'd whipped myself they tasted so much better than eclairs you buy in the shop. Ironcally the bit I got wrong was not the choux pastry I'd always believed was so hard to make, but the chocolate I put on the top. Chocolate being an ingredient I have much experience with. It seized, and became hard to spread.