Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Chocolate sour cherry cookies

My oldest friend came to visit last weekend. We've known each other since we were babies, both of us brought up by mothers who were not only good cooks but instilled in us the idea of food as something to be shared - something to welcome, something to celebrate, to comfort, to say thank you. To this end, I made a batch of my favourite cookies for her arrival and she turned up with a tin of her own. Hers were delicious but I don't have the recipe for those (yet!) so here's what I made - the Bourke St Bakery's chocolate sour cherry cookies.

Sour cherries are a little hard to find (if you live in Brisbane, I got mine at the amazing The Source Bulk Foods store in West End on a recent visit) and when you do, they're expensive, but you could easily substitute a good quality dried cranberry as the two are quite similar in texture and taste. Chewy and rich and studded with plump pockets of fruit, these are my regular indulgence if I'm passing the original Surry Hills bakery in Bourke St. But really, you can't beat homemade. We took our cookie smorgasbord to the park with the papers and ate them in the warm winter sun. They spoke volumes.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Cardamom pear sour cream cake

I first discovered cardamon in sweets through Scandinavian baking. Over there, it's a dominant flavour in cinnamon buns, the reason their sort are so different to the American kind. Speckled through dough, or cake batter, it brilliantly balances out the sweetness around it, transforming what would otherwise often be plain and homely into something sophisticated. Here, it works its magic in a cake enriched with sour cream and crowned with petals of pear. It couldn't be less fussy to make or to take... I transported thick slices of this one to Sydney Swans match on Saturday night and down the south coast on Sunday for Mother's Day. I couldn't make it for my mum, but I could feed my friends, and she would have liked that.. and this cake. Very much.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Rhubarb upside-down cake

For the last month or more I've had to work through weekends. Consequently, I haven't been socialising much, or sleeping either, so Sunday, faced with an actual day off, I found myself a bit confused, like a zoo animal released back into the wild, who doesn't know what to do with their new-found freedom. To get my bearings, I baked. I'd had this recipe bookmarked for a while and on a trip to the shops had been seduced by fat pink stems of rhubarb on sale. There was some rye flour I had in the freezer that needed using up. It was raining outside. The oven was warm, my KitchenAid comforting and familiar. So I greased and floured and measured and chopped and stirred and beat and folded and poured. And unwound. And, as a bonus, vindication of my decision to stay home and bake, the finished cake was fantastic. I ate a slice warm with whipped cream. It was wonderful.

The rhubarb was soft and sour/sweet, the rye flour gave a nice heft and chew to the crumb. There's lots of thoughtful touches in this recipe - from the very talented Yossy Arefi of Apartment 2B Baking Co - the addition of lemon zest to the fruit topping, the use of buttermilk to enrich the rye, a double dose of vanilla with bean and extract... Trust me, it's good. An upside-down cake to make life feel right way up again.