As the Offspring and I are totally paranoid about decontaminating everything that comes to the house, fresh vegetables, especially the ones eaten raw, have been an issue. So, like a lot of our neighbours, we sowed some seeds and waited for our own produce to appear. And here it is!
Snow peas! You have no idea how much pleasure it gave us to harvest these beautiful, fresh peas. I think this was the moment that the Offspring really got the gardening bug. 🙂
But there was better to come. This is what the Offspring turned those lovely fresh peas into:
I have to tell you, the Offspring’s stir fry was delicious. It included the snow peas [of course], fresh red capsicum, fresh wombok cabbage, fresh spring onions, frozen broccoli and ‘shelf fresh’ singapore noodles.
The best things in life really do boil down to just a few simple things: good food, good music and good people. 🙂 To all the good people in the US – you did. You did it. Nothing can stop the march of progress now. 🙂
Do I really need to spell out what this last pic is about? Mwahahahaha!
I bought all of these pretties from the little Vietnamese bakery in the Research shops [right down the end near the roundabout]. I was really impressed by the plastic screen installed in front of the cash register and the restraint of the two guys behind me. One was just inside the door – well over 2 metres from me. The second was outside the door, a safe distance from customer no. 1. And we were ALL wearing masks.
“Today is turning into a very good day,” says Meeks as she licks her chops.
Today’s delicious offering was baked by the Offspring based on a recipe given to me by a fellow kindergarten mum, Diana. I won’t tell you how long ago she gave it to me. 😉
The thing I like about this recipe is that it’s very easy. It’s also very forgiving of variations. In the following recipe, our variations are shown in italics after the base recipe.
1/2 cup soft butter [we used Lurpak Slightly salted spreadable butter which contains a small amount of vegetable oil],
1/2 cup of white sugar [we used caster sugar],
1.5 cups of self raising flour,
1 cup of plain yoghurt or milk. Yoghurt makes it rise more. [We only used 1/2 a cup of yoghurt so we could add more banana]
1 cup fresh fruit [we used 2 cups of bananas, chopped into decent sized ‘chunks’. NOT mashed]
a little extra butter to grease the muffin tins [we used paper cupcake thingies? to save on clean up]
Preheat oven to 200 C [392 F]. If using fan bake, lower the temperature a couple of degrees.
Grease muffin tins [or use paper thingies for easy clean up].
With an electric mixer, blend the butter with the sugar until it changes colour and looks ‘creamy’.
Beat in 2 whole eggs. If the mixture starts to separate or ‘curdle’, add a tablespoon of the flour.
Beat in the yoghurt.
Remove from beater and fold in the chunks of banana. [This is a trick I learned by accident. If you mush the banana the flavour will be very bland. If you leave the banana in chunks, you’ll get a burst of strong banana flavour whenever you bite into a piece].
Fold in the flour [no need to sieve].
Spoon mixture into the muffin tin [or into the paper cupcake thingies inside the muffin tin].
Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from the muffin tin and place onto a cooling rack
You can eat these muffins straight from the oven with a bit of butter, just watch out for the chunks of banana, they are hot! Or you can eat them plain, hot or cold. Either way they’re delicious with your beverage of choice.
I’ve loved profiteroles – also known as cream puffs – for decades but never tried my hand at making them because I thought they’d be ‘too hard’, ‘too fiddly’, and probably wouldn’t work anyway.
Part of that negativity stemmed from the fact that I ordered a Croque-en-bouche [Croquembouche in English] for my wedding cake, and it really was a gastronomic delight. Mine didn’t have strawberries, otherwise it looked a lot like this:
No way in the wide world I could make something like that…right?
Wrong. In fact, as the profiteroles at the top prove, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Making them was probably one of the easiest things the Offspring and I have ever done. And we owe it all to my good friend Marian Allen, author extraordinaire, and a damn fine cook!
If anyone’s interested, I first met Marian via her book ‘Sideshow in the Centre Ring’ which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve since read just about everything she’s published and…I’ve fallen in love with her cats. Waves to Tipper and Chickie. And now back to dessert…
The only thing I messed up that didn’t quite work was the chocolate ganache on top of the profiteroles. I was getting a bit tired by the time it came to putting the profiteroles together and the ganache [the chocolate on top] turned into a delicious, but runny sauce instead.
Oh, and if I’m being honest, I made one more mistake: I made seven profiteroles. Not six, or four, or any other number that is easily divisible by two. No, in my infinite wisdom I made seven…
Have you ever tried to cut a profiterole in half so both of you could share equally? Don’t. Just don’t. 🙂
Anyway…the Offspring and I were so impressed with the profiteroles I decided to do this post and give you guys the chance to try them as well. Without further ado, here is Marian Allen’s recipe for profiteroles/cream puffs with my comments in brackets!
1/8 cup unsalted butter [or 30 gms or 1 oz]
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup all purpose flour [plain flour to us Aussies]
1/8 teaspoon salt
cream for whipping [however much you want or have on hand]
chocolate and extra cream for the ganache [we used about 3 oz of each but the ratio wasn’t right. Maybe 3 oz of chocolate to 1 of cream?]
This makes about four biggish puffs. I doubled this and made them smaller and got 10. [I compromised and made 7. Next time I’m making it an even number!]
Bring water, salt and butter to a boil. Add the flour and stir it until it forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the pan. If you’re not making a large batch, you may need to take it off the heat immediately. [The Offspring did this part and the dough came together very quickly so don’t wander off!]
Let this rest for 5 minutes while you crack and mix up your egg(s). Add the egg(s) to the flour ball. It will look alarming, but keep mixing: It WILL combine. [So glad Marian made that comment because we looked at the dough plus egg and might have given up otherwise. The Offspring used a wooden spoon to start with but then I had a go with a whisk and it mixed beautifully, exactly as Marian said it would]
Pipe into the shape you want using a pastry bag, or plop it in spoonfuls (the MomGoth method onto an ungreased baking pan. [We used the MomGoth method too but placed some baking paper on the baking tray first. Easier clean up. 🙂 ]
Bake at 375F [180 C for us, a tiny bit less if using the fanbake setting of the oven] for about 1/2 hour, or until there is not one glint or bubble of moisture on the surface of any of the puffs. Don’t check very often. I got a stove with a glass front just so I could make creme puffs. Crazy.
When they’re done, cool them on a rack.
Meanwhile, make ganache for the top. Dead easy.
Measure equal amounts of chopped semi-sweet chocolate or good chocolate chips and cream. [This was where I messed up. I weighed the chocolate and the cream. I think I should have used a cup measurement instead.]
Put the chocolate into a bowl. Heat the cream until it just begins to simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir until it’s all mixed together and dark and glossy. [This really was as simple as it sounds!]
Put the cream into a piping bag. I don’t have one (have one on order), so I put the cream into a plastic sandwich bag and cut off the tip. [We didn’t have a piping bag either and decided to use the cookie machine instead. It worked but made a mess as the cream was wetter than cookie dough. Oh well. Piping bag placed on order too].
Poke a hole in the side of a puff, stick the pointy end of the bag into the hole, and squeeze the cream in. [We whipped the cream with about two teaspoons of icing sugar, so sweetish but not gaggingly sweet. Adjust to suit your own tastes].
You can feel the puff inflate with it. When the puffs are all filled, dip the tops into the ganache or spoon it over them.
And then see how fast they disappear! Honestly, we could have eaten another whole batch, they were so delicious. I can see us baking these scrumptious goodies on a regular basis because the process really was easy.
This is another Offspring special, a basic shortbread recipe with added chunks of Plaistowe dark cooking chocolate. My contribution was the milk. 😀
The photo is a little washed out because it was taken at night with a flash. The shortbread actually looks more like this:
For those who have never tasted shortbread before, it’s an odd combination of dry, crumbly texture that literally melts in your mouth. It’s very easy to make and we love it. If you want to try it yourself, the recipe follows:
Traditional Shortbread [with added chocolate]
Note: the recipe is on the back of the McKenzie’s rice flour packet, and you will need rice flour in addition to ordinary wheat flour.
225 gm of plain flour [all purpose flour], sifted,
115 gm of rice flour, sifted
115 gm of caster sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
225 gm of unsalted, room temperature butter [do NOT use spreadable butter as the oil and/or process used changes how the butter works in recipes].
about 1/4 cup good quality cooking chocolate, chopped into smallish ‘chunks’. We used Plaistowe cooking chocolate because it’s actually good enough to eat on its own so long as you don’t like your chocolate very sweet.
Pre-heat oven to 150 C. This is a slow oven.
Grease your baking tray [we didn’t, we lined it with baking paper instead].
Combine both flours, sugar and salt in a bowl.
Rub in butter and knead gently until a smooth dough forms.
Add the chopped chocolate and gently mix into the dough.
The recipe says to transfer the dough to a floured surface and ‘shape as required’. That basically means you can cut pretty shapes out of it. We don’t do any of that. We place the dough directly onto the baking tray and spread it out by hand or with the back of a spoon until it’s about the right ‘depth’. Shortbread should not be thick! 1/2 an inch is more than thick enough.
Prick the dough with a fork. We also ‘score’ the surface lightly with a knife. This makes cutting the cooked shortbread easier.
Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until a light, golden brown. The end.
A tip from us: leave the shortbread on the tray and gently cut along the scored lines while the shortbread is still a bit soft and pliable. The shortbread will firm up as it cools. Cutting it once it’s cold and crumbly is…not very successful.
And there you have it. Another day, another treat. If you have favourite treats of your own, please link to them in comments. Oh, and if you have favourite cups or dishes to go with the treats, please link them as well.
I did no work for this post whatsoever. The Offspring made the sweet bread rolls, and I can’t even tell you where the cup-and-saucer came from as the mark is so small and smudged I couldn’t make out even a single letter. But it is pretty. 🙂
The bread rolls turned out to be delicious, and vaguely reminiscent of croissants. Not as fluffy and flaky, of course, but the kind of flavour that you could eat with either jam or something more savoury. Definitely a hit.
The Offspring found the recipe for the bread rolls on Youtube and followed the instructions on the video. There are a lot of breadmaking videos so here’s a selection of good ones:
All three videos use plain [all purpose] flour, egg, butter, yeast, salt and sugar, but the techniques are slightly different. Oh, and the buns won’t rise quite so well if you make the gap between each ball too wide – i.e. they need to be close enough to support each other as they rise.
And now for the red tea. I couldn’t get the same ‘pink’ tea as before, so this time I tried Twinings ‘Cranberry & Pomegranate’. The flavour is great but it’s the smell that blows me away. I think they add hibiscus to the tea because the aroma is strong, distinctive and fruity/flowery.
-blush- Apologies, I sound like some wine buff waffling on about the ‘bouquet’ but honestly, the smell is divine, and that’s coming from someone who loves coffee!
If you’ve had a special treat lately, I’d love to hear about it. 🙂
For your gastronomic pleasure, I present the Offspring’s home made apple pop tarts!
And one of my beloved lustreware cup-and-saucer sets:
Oddly enough, it wasn’t until today that I noticed this set is made in Japan as well:
I really have had a love affair with Japan for most of my life!
And now for the pop tarts. This is not a hard and fast recipe so you’ll have to adjust the quantities to suit your own tastes.
The pastry is plain old, shop bought, frozen shortcrust. You should be able to use flaky or puff pastry as well. It just so happened that shortcrust was what we had in the freezer.
The Offspring allowed the sheets to thaw and then cut each one into quarters. One quarter for each pop tart.
The filling is where things get truly yummy. The apples are Granny Smiths but any tart, cooking apple will do. Sweet apples just don’t have enough flavour.
After washing the apples, the Offspring simply cut out the core and chopped the apple into bite-sized chunks. No peeling required. The skin actually adds to the flavour.
The apple went into a saucepan with some brown sugar [suit your own tastes], a lot of cinnamon, 1/2 a teaspoon of allspice and…a splash of champagne. The champagne is not mandatory, but like the pastry, it was what we had left over from the Un-Christmas dinner last year.
And before you ask, the Offspring doesn’t drink and I don’t like champagne so cooking is a great way of not wasting a perfectly good bottle of booze. I also use it in my Bolognese because I’ve been out of Shiraz for months. The champagne is ‘dry’ so it works pretty well.
The trick to making the apple is not to overcook it. Any liquid you add, whether it be wine or water, should only be enough to stop the apples from burning before they release their own juices. You really do not want to make apple sauce! As soon as the apples are cooked but still firm, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to moderate [about 375F or 180C].
To assemble the pop tarts, place a generous spoonful of the cold apple in the middle of the square of pastry, moisten the edges with a little water [so the pastry will stick to itself], fold over, removing as much air as you can [without going insane about it], and press the edges closed.
Make a few small holes in the top of the pop tarts with the point of a sharp knife. This is to allow the steam to escape. Otherwise you might end up with exploding pop tarts. 🙂
Place the pop tarts on a baking tray and glaze with a little warm apricot jam [optional]. Bake in the middle of a moderate oven for about 10 minutes. The exact timing will depend upon your oven.
When the pop tarts are golden brown, remove from the oven and transfer to a cake rack to cool a little.
Warning: the apple inside these tarts is VERY hot. We discovered this the hard way…;)
The pop tarts will keep in the fridge for about three days, and we’ve found that they reheat beautifully. Just pop them back in the over for about 5 minutes.
p.s. I’m trying hard to get back into writing so I won’t be posting as much for a while. Don’t worry though, we’re both quite healthy!
The title of this post should have been ‘Coffee and Cake’, but we made the Triple Choc Chocolate biscuits last night, and it was too late for coffee, so…
Ahem. The Offspring and I adore these biscuits because they really are made with three lots of chocolate. There’s cocoa and melted chocolate in the biscuit dough, and then there are lumps of chocolate in each biscuit as well [the recipe is at the end of this post].
You can see how gooey and melted and divine those lumps of chocolate are here:
That’s why these biscuits are at their most divine straight from the oven. They are delicious cold as well, but not quite as delicious. 🙂
Now, a word about sweetness. If you love super sweet, commercial biscuits, you will not love these triple choc biscuits. There is sugar in the biscuit dough, but not a huge amount, and the chocolate is unsweetened, dark chocolate. The cocoa is unsweetened, Dutch cocoa as well so the overall effect is not overly sweet.
There, you have been warned. For everyone else, I hope you enjoy the following recipe. 🙂
[We only ever make half quantities at a time so I’ve provided the cut down quantities in brackets. They’re not exactly half quantities, but they work.]
1 1/4 cups plain or all purpose flour [1/2a cup and a ‘bit’] 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch cocoa [1 tablespoon ] 1 teaspoon baking powder [1/2 a teaspoon] 3/4 of a teaspoon salt [1/4 teaspoon] 500 gm good quality bittersweet dark chocolate [250 gm] 125 gm unsalted butter [60 gm] 1/2 cup sugar [1/4 cup sugar] 3 large eggs [add 1 whole egg, then crack a second egg into a bowl, beat it and add half of the beaten egg only]
Preheat oven to 180o C or 356 F [make it a little less if using fan forced]
Line a large baking sheet with baking paper
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt
Melt 3/4 of the dark chocolate [about 190 gm if making half quantities] with the butter in a small saucepan – don’t let it burn!
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the sugar [I let the mixture cool a tiny bit before the next step]
Stir in the eggs, one at a time until well mixed
Add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined
Cover the dough with cling wrap and chill for up to 1 hour
Remove teaspoon sized balls of dough and place on the baking sheet, about 3.5 cm or 2 inches apart [the balls will expand a lot as they bake]
Push small [or larger] chips of the dark chocolate into each biscuit [we like big gooey lumps so tend to use 1 large piece in instead of 2 or 3 smaller ones]
Bake in the middle of a hot oven for 10 minutes or until just done. I set a timer for 8 minutes, turn the sheet, and reset the timer for another 2 minutes. The biscuits should feel slightly squishy to the touch. This is what you want as they will harden as they cool. If you leave them in for even 2 minutes longer, they’ll be hard and biscuity instead of soft and chewy.
Allow the biscuits to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. That’s the official line. The unofficial line is that you can eat them as soon as they don’t burn your fingers….
Have a wonderful day, and don’t eat the Triple Choc Biscuits all at once!
I was tempted to change the title to ‘Coffee and Toast’ but decided to go with consistency instead. 🙂
I’d like to start by thanking Robbie for the bread recipe. I had to make a couple of substitutions, but the end result was a million times better than I’d hoped. You can find the recipe at the end of this post.
And now for the cup and saucer. Back in the dim and distant past, my Mum gave me two cup-and-saucer sets. They’re Lustreware and quite beautiful.
Ever since then, I’ve been haunting op. shops [second hand opportunity shops] to add to my collection. I now have quite a few beautiful pieces. Most are not Lustreware but they are lovely in their own ways, so I thought I’d give each set its own 5 minutes of fame. Ta dah:
As always, apologies for the photography.
If you look at the bottom of the cup you’ll see a mark that says ‘Hand painted, Nippon.’
Nippon was the old name for Japan, but I can’t imagine that a Japanese company would put a mark written in English on its product, so…? No idea. If there are any experts out there, I’d love to know the story behind this piece.
And now for the bread recipe. I’ll start by saying I’ve rarely baked anything this easy. Plus, the recipe is most forgiving of substitutions. And finally, I love the fact that I almost always have the ingredients in my pantry and fridge.
Robbie’s Cheese & Olive bread [my substitutions are in italics]
Ingredients 500 grams self raising flour (I didn’t have SR flour so I used cake/plain flour and added 15 ml (3 teaspoons) of baking powder); 2 cups (500 ml) grated yellow cheese (I used strong gouda) [I only had mozzarella so used that, not cheesy enough but okay]; 5 ml (1 teaspoon) salt; 2 cups (500 ml) plain yogurt; and 200 grams of black olives, drained, stoned and halved [I didn’t have olives so used 2 rashers of middle bacon cut into small squares] Method Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the grated cheese and olives. Make a well in the centre and add the yogurt. Mix until it forms a sticky dough. [I found that I couldn’t incorporate all the dry ingredients without making the dough too tough so about 2 tbspns of dry mix left over. I used thick pot set Jalna yoghurt which may have been less ‘wet’]
Place in a prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for 50 minutes at a temperature of 190 degrees Celsius. [I used fan bake which may have been a little too hot. As each oven is different, check the bread before the 50 minutes just in case].
This is what the loaf looked like when it came out of the oven:
The loaf is a tiny bit over done, but I love a good crust so I’m very happy with both the taste and the texture.
There are many things I miss not doing during this pandemic, but the one thing I miss eating is nice bread. We’ve never liked commercial sliced bread, the Woolworths bakery bread is…not that nice, and my home made efforts have been a little disappointing. This is the first time I’ve managed to reproduce a type of bread I used to buy once a week, as a treat.
Do you have a special treat that makes you happy? Please share in comments. And remember, it doesn’t have to be DIY!
I don’t actually like the taste of sourdough, sorry, but I absolutely loved this Youtube demonstration of how to create your own sourdough starter.
You know how I’m obsessed with teaching ‘absolute beginners’? Well, this video how-to is literally the best I have seen. It’s clear, perfectly paced and step-by-step, with no small-but-vital bits of knowledge taken for granted.
Seriously, if sourdough is your thing, this video could change your life.