Thursday, 18 January 2018
Lately, I've been the lucky recipient of several batches of homemade biscuits. Just before leaving for holidays I was presented with some of Elizabeth's amazing shortbread. On arrival in Hobart, a jar of assorted Ottolenghi was waiting for me by my bed. Back in Sydney, the postman delivered a batch of biscotti sent at great expense and with much love from afar, and last weekend, my friend from Canberra came to stay bearing cinnamon meringue stars. So I hope the ones I made for Christmas gifts inspired the same warm feelings.
I made a few different sorts (including these and these) but the custard yo-yos with roasted rhubarb icing were the undisputed stars of the show: a creamy pink fruity filling sandwiched by two perfectly pale yellow cookies. The secret ingredient is custard powder, but if you don't have it, cornflour (cornstarch) will do just as well though your biscuits will be a little less yellow. The pastel palette is part of the appeal I think so if you can find custard powder (it should be readily available in any supermarket), it's worth the sub-$2 investment for the child-like delight those nursery colours inspire. I'll definitely be making them again. Next time, all for myself.
Tuesday, 9 January 2018
It may have something to do with the season, but I have never embraced a cookbook as much as I have Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh's recently released Sweet. In Sydney, in late December, I made rhubarb yo-yos and orange and star anise shortbread as holiday gifts. A few days later, in Hobart, I collaborated with a friend (and fellow Ottolenghi disciple) on the rolled pavlova with blackberries and peaches for dessert on Christmas Day, and on a hot, sticky Brisbane afternoon just before new year, I whipped up these lemon, blueberry and almond teacakes with expert bakers Alice (10) and Emily (5) in their new kitchen in Fig Tree Pocket.
Well, to be honest, I really did nothing more than supervise, passing eggs to little hands to crack, reading from the recipe about what to add when and overseeing the distribution of blueberries in batter. Though these look fancy as fancy can be, they are super easy and super fun to make, and showcase the beautiful berries so plentiful at this time of year. You don't need any specialist equipment - they're made in a muffin tin and simply inverted and iced to make little cakes (genius!). Though they're not strictly gluten-free, you could easily make them so by substituting more almond meal for the very minimal amount of flour in the recipe. They're sweet, light and unbelievably good. This recipe makes twelve, which seems like a lot but having had one, you will almost certainly want another. Get in quick.
Lemon, blueberry and almond teacakes
Adapted from a recipe in Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh
I'm sure you could swap the 45g of flour for the same amount of almond meal if you wanted to make this gluten-free - just make sure the baking powder and icing sugar you're using are gluten-free. Most are, but best to read the label, or check online.
190g unsalted butter, at room temperature
190g caster (superfine) sugar
finely grated zest of one lemon (1 teaspoon)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
190g ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
60ml lemon juice
100g blueberries, plus 70g to garnish
160g icing (confectioners') sugar
35ml lemon juice
Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Grease and flour all 12 holes of a muffin tin.
Beat butter, sugar and lemon zest together til light and creamy, then add eggs and ground almonds in three or four alternate batches. Fold in flour, salt and baking powder, then finally add the lemon juice. Spoon batter into the muffin moulds and divide the 100g of blueberries between them - pushing the berries down into the batter a bit.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until edges are golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of a cake comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool in tin for ten minutes then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely, making sure they are sitting upside down (ie: smaller end on top).
Sift icing sugar into a bowl and add lemon juice til mixture is thick but pourable. Spoon icing over cakes and top with remaining blueberries.
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Because I read a lot of American food blogs, sometimes I get a bit out of sync with the seasons. Lately online it's been all about turkey and cider and staying in where it's warm, when here in Sydney it's time for tee shirts, swims (to cool off) and summer fruit. I had my first mango for the season this week and it was magic. But! I wasn't waiting til next year to try this cake, especially when pears are so readily available everywhere. Caramel in colour and flavour with its combination of sweet fruit and sticky brown sugar, this cake is undeniably autumnal. The oil/butter blend makes for an extraordinarily soft and smooth texture, with chunks of pear nestled into the crumb for contrast. Warm spices - cardamom and cinnamon - infuse everything and the brown butter glaze is the perfect nutty note to end it all on. If a cake can be cosy, this is it.
Tuesday, 21 November 2017
I had a traumatic week last week. Not world-endingly traumatic, just the kind that could be cured by cake. So I made one. During a heatwave in southern California a few months ago, I came across this recipe while flipping through my friend's cookbooks, laying low, sapped of energy by the sun. Molasses is such a fantastic sounding word and conjured up how we all felt at the time, sticky and slow. It wasn't the weather for it then, but now in November, during these days of crisp, cool, sunny Sydney weather, the time was right. The fresh ginger sings in this not-too-sweet, incredibly soft, dramatically dark cake, which goes perfectly with a cup of tea. The original recipe is for a layer cake, vanilla cream slathered between the layers and atop, but I just halved the quantities, made a single layer, dusted it with icing sugar and called it done. Delicious.
Wednesday, 8 November 2017
I bought a bundt tin. Actually, it was my sole souvenir from my recent trip to the US. I found it at the Nifty Thrifty on Orcas Island, so I like to think I purchased a little bit of baking history along with my hardware. It's fun imagining who it might have once belonged to, and the cakes it made before it got stuffed with socks, packed in a suitcase and spirited to Sydney, where this weekend it was put to work producing something most spectacular.
In this cake - another from the new Ottolenghi baking bible Sweet - prunes are soaked in brandy overnight and wound through a batter bolstered with walnuts and orange zest. The prunes, plumped with booze, are silky soft, the crumble through the middle a nice contrasting crunch. And the orange goes suprisingly well with coffee.
It's a winner all round. As endorsed by the king parrots of the Illawarra.
Tuesday, 31 October 2017
The weekend before last I flew down to Melbourne, which called for carry-on cake. I alighted on a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's new cookbook Sweet (stupendous - buy it in bulk and distribute to anyone on your Christmas list who loves baking), adapted it accordingly for airline travel (basically, just halving the quantities of ingredients so it could be made in a loaf tin) and before long I was slicing it in my friend George's South Melbourne kitchen.
As students, George and I toiled together in a suburban Brisbane café serving Saturday shoppers coffee and cake, which probably explains why all these years later we particularly delight in staying in on the weekend with a pot of tea and a whole cake all to ourselves.
This is Ottolenghi and his co-author (Australian!) Helen Goh's riff on Rose Levy Beranbaum's revered recipe for "Perfect Pound cake". Light, moist and fragrant with coffee, cardamom and cocoa, it's just as good the next day, and the day after that. If indeed it lasts that long.