Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Afghans



In the biscuit world, there are the elegant – the macacrons, the madeleines, the sabl├ęs… (the French have it all sewn up basically) and then... there are these.  Hailing from New Zealand via Bedrock, these delicious pebbles of chocolaty goodness are fabulously low-rent, containing as they do, a certain secret ingredient: cornflakes!  I can imagine Fred Flintstone throwing down a few on his coffee break at the quarry, but they’re equally appropriate to serve to friends who come over with their fancy cameras (and IT skills) to help you with your blog.  Ironically, the photographs that resulted make these biscuits look as chic as their more high-class relatives.  But so much more approachable.




Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Pear, pistachio and chocolate cake

This cake will change your life.  This is no small claim I know, but it’s true.  This cake is so good it’s starred at a wedding reception, been immortalised in a script (not written by me) and its recipe used as leverage to extract fundraising dollars at a preschool.  Unlike other loaf cakes, it’s far from homely, its cross-section studded with pistachios, chunks of pear and chocolate and flecks of orange zest.  If you’re a person who isn’t a confident baker, or even a baker at all, then this is the cake for you.  It takes one bowl, five minutes to prepare and about an hour later, you will be swimming in compliments.  Guaranteed.  

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

French toast


 
I never got French toast.  The appeal of soggy, milky, eggy fried bread was lost on me.  Everything changed when I was introduced to this distant cousin of the original by my own distant cousin on my first trip to the United States. The difference here was that the bread was soaked not in milk, but orange juice (though an egg was still involved). It was not fried, but baked. And even better than that, the underside crisped and caramelised as it cooked, with no supervision required. I've made this French toast for years now and it has many converts, including my parents, who have been known to break with their routine porridge/muesli breakfast for it on my visits home. It's a great way to use use odd ends of stale bread, or oranges after you've used the zest for something else. I like to serve it with a dollop of yoghurt to undercut the sweetness, some raspberries and pistachios for texture (other combinations of fruit and nuts would work just as well I'll bet), and maple syrup for tradition. Any old ovenproof dish will do to bake it in but in my experience it tastes best (like most things) cooked in a cast iron frypan.


I first posted this recipe in September last year but somehow - in one of the great mysteries of the internet - it got knocked back into the draft section of my blog. So I'm reposting it, with better photos taken from this weekend, when I had the honour of making it for its creator - the one and only Ann Darling - who is visiting Australia and staying with me at the moment.


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Apple pie

  

You have to start somewhere and this seems like a good place.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the United States over the years and perhaps this is why.  Pie is uniquely American and comes in as many varieties as there are states in the union, maybe more.  Over the years, I’ve tried to sample as many as possible and been shuttled around by various friends and family (good sports, all, particularly the gluten intolerant ones) in my pursuit of the perfect slice.  The truth is I like them all – marionberry, rhubarb and strawberry, blackberry, apple, key lime, cherry, loganberry, pecan, peach, blueberry, lemon meringue….  though I think they always taste best when consumed with a bottomless cup of stale coffee in a dingy diner on the side of a highway.  On a rainy day. 

Generally, I enjoy eating pie more than I enjoy making pie.  This is largely due to my crust rolling technique, or more precisely, lack thereof.  No matter how many online tutorials I watch or tips I read in recipe books, I never seem to be able to roll out pie dough without swearing as I watch it spread into a shape that in no way resembles a perfect round.  Each time, I manage to piece it together into a sort of crazy frankenpie, and somehow in the baking process it magically transforms into a smooth, perfect whole, making me forget all the pain I went through in its construction. 

A gift given to me on my last trip to the US was Adrienne Kane’s opus The United States of Pie.  This apple pie is the first recipe in the book.  By the time I get to the last I hope to have conquered the crust, once and for all.