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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Virgin Quick Brown Bread

Goodness! Doesn't that sound suggestive? But it adequately explains how I've have lost my bread-making virginity. Those who know me know that I have serious "yeast issues". No - not down there! This is not some personal lifestyle statement...or perhaps it is, because I am now a successful bread baker. I've never had anything I've made with yeast work properly before, other than danish pastry dough which doesn't count bc it hardly needs to rise and look like bread. My hot cross buns, which took me all afternoon and left me hot and cross, turned out like rock bun pellets. Tasted a bit like rock bun pellets too.

But, a few weeks ago at the pseudo-hippie market at uni I was browsing the second-hand books and found a fairly attractive looking British baking book. 'Cos I really need another cookbook, don't I?! But this one had such pretty pictures....
Anyway, as usual I flicked right past all the bread and yeasted pastry recipes to look at the cakes and biscuits. However, I've long had a nagging feeling that somehow I could never be a "real" home baker unless I made bread. And I don't consider making bread in an electric bread-making machine to be the same thing. I mean real, salt-of-the-earth bashing flour around stuff. Sure, any schmo can make a cake, but bread is where it's at, and I was a failure at it. So, out of a purely academic research interest (the university employee speaks here) I went back and had a look - and one recipe jumped out at me. Called "Quick Brown Bread" it already had two elements which appealed. (that would be "quick" and "brown" in case you....never mind) and had this written in the side column:

"For most breads the dough is kneaded, left to rise, kneaded, shaped and then left to rise again. This bread does not need the first rising - simply knead, shape, rise and bake"

Well, that not only grabbed my attention, it completely sold me. Plus it was wholemeal bread! One of the other reasons I've kept away from bread making is that I'm not eating any white bread at the moment (unless the need becomes too great and I go crazy. It happens..) and I don't want yummy white bread hanging around the house, but the recipes for wholemeal bread I've seen look so very virtuous and rock-bun like. The picture of this bread looked quite light. It was worth giving it a go anyway.

It was easier than I thought to make up the dough, and I even kneaded it all myself for a full ten minutes. Geez, that hurts. Unfortunately, my grandmother threw away the dough hook for her Kenwood Chef stand mixer, about 30 years ago (bc she didn't know what it was!), so it was hand kneading all the way. I don't think that's such a bad thing for a novice bc you get a feel of the dough coming together and how it feels. But I really must source a dough hook for the Kenwood if I plan much more yeast cookery.
I had read a tip somewhere - possibly on another blog - to guarantee good rising of the dough, which has been my major problem. My dough never rises, even if I stick it next to a sunny window for hours. This tip suggested putting your dough in the dishwasher just after it's finished a cycle. It's warm and humid in there, and apparently creates a perfect environment to get the yeast working. And whaddya know - it worked like a charm. Ten minutes after putting it in there, it had already started puffing up. I was ecstatic!

It baked up perfectly and even though I'd been warned about tearing bits off straight out of the oven ("hot bread is indigestible, and it compresses the crumb!" admonishes Stephanie Alexander) I couldn't help myself and was already armed with the block of butter. It was fabulous. The taste is quite wheaty, but in a pleasant way. It is dense but also quite a light-textured bread. It reminded A. of breads you buy in central Europe. I think it could have possibly done with another teaspoon or so of salt, but interestingly, when it's toasted I don't have the same feeling. Incidentally, the toast this easy bread makes is superb.
So, any of you out there still reticent about making your first bread, I'd suggest you give this a go. And afterwards you'll be so full of inspiration you'll pull down all your baking books and start making a list of all the breads and doughs and pastries and kuchens you'll make next!
Read on for the recipe: Tagged with

Quick Brown Bread

Makes 2x450g/1lb loaves.

700g / 1.5lb strong wholemeal flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp caster sugar
7g / 1/4oz sachet dried yeast
450ml / 3/4 pint warm water
2 tsp plain white flour, to dust (or beaten egg to glaze)

1: Preaheat the oven to 200C/400F 15 minutes before baking. Oil 2 x 450g loaf tins. Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a large bowl, adding the remaining bran in the sieve. Stir in the yeast, then makes a well in the centre.
2: Pour the warm water into the dry ingredients and mix to form a soft dough, adding a little more water if needed.
3: Knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
4: Divide in half, shape into 2 oblongs and place in the tins. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place for 40 minutes, or until risen to the top of the tins.
5: Dust generously with the plain flour (or glaze with the beaten egg).
6: Bake the loaves in the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until well risen and lightly browned. Turn out of the tins and return to the oven for 5 minutes to crisp the sides. Cool on a wire rack.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Florida Lemon Squares

These are another offering from the Maida Heatter Book of Great Cookies, so generously sent to me by Cathy, who is cooking her way through the entire book over a good few years! These are coming up for her in a a month or so, so I thought she'd enjoy seeing an advance preview.
I had excess lemons, a big bag of oats and some condensed milk, so had about half the essential ingredients for this; which I've used as another offering for my Baking-For-The-Mystery-Workplace project. These are described as "rich layered bars with a baked-in lemon filling." I'm sold! I guess it's the lemons that suggest the Florida connection, as I don't think it's a state known for its wide, brown oat crops?

This slice is easy to make, and I managed to do it all in our pantry, which has not a lot of workspace - but does house the food processor and stand mixer.
I did have some iss-yoos with the texture of the pastry mixture. Mrs Maida suggests that the mixture will be crumbly, and will not hold together. Hmmm. My mixture was very thick, buttery and pliable with no trouble forming a sticky blob. She then instructs you to sprinkle the mixture. Sprinkle? Ummm. She does mean dollop or splat instead, doesn't she? I ended up having to pull off pieces of the dough, flatten them between my palms and layer them across the top; creating an interesting brown cobblestone effect.
"Rustic daahling!" you must say as you serve these up on a silver platter...
I'd be interested to know if Cathy or anyone else has this problem. Perhaps it was partly due to my oats. There is a difference between oats and oatmeal, isn't there? I used oats, but that should've made the mixture more crumbly, not less!
This is an exceedingly sweet concotion. Very small pieces; the one in the photo above would easily make 2 portions. Best served refrigerated too, when the condensed milk topping is more solid, and the cold would work to reduce some of the intense sweetness.
Read on for the recipe:

Florida Lemon Squares
From Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies

1.5 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Finely grated zest 1 large lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice
5 1/3 ounces (10 2/3 tablespoons) butter
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup old-fashioned or quick cooking (not instant) oatmeal.

1 9X13 inch pan - greased and lined with baking paper.

Preheat oven to 350F (175C), and place a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Pour the condensed mik in to a medium bowl. Add the lemon rind then gradually add the lemon juice, stirring with a small wire whisk to keep the mixture smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl cream the butter. Add sugar and beat well. On low speed gradually add the dry ingredients, beating only until thorougly combined. Mix in the oatmeal. The mixture will be crumbly (apparently) and will not hold together (apparently!).
Sprinkle (??) slightly more than half of the oatmeal mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Pat the crumbs firmly to make a smooth, compact layer.
Pour the lemon mixture evenly over the crumb layer and spread to make a even layer. Sprinkle (dollop) the remaining crumb (dough) mixture over the lemon layer. It's ok if a bit of the lemon layer shows through in spots.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly coloured.
Cool completely in pan, then refrigerate for about 1 hour or more. Lift baking paper gently to remove cake. Cut with a small, sharp knife around cake to release it. Cut into small squares and remove with a spatula.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Wife of Lot Souffle

This was my other entry for the past IMBB - souffle edition, but it didn't make it because....well....it really was a failure. Yes, it looks good, doesn't it? Rose very high and got a crusty top and all that, but strangely it was WAAAAAY salty!
I'm really not sure what happened. I used the Pea Souffle recipe from Nigella's "How To Eat", which is basically just a cheese souffle, but with a cooked pea puree mixed with the cheese (Gruyere - and I even spent $$$ getting the real stuff from Switzerland!). The recipe suggested to 'season well' because the egg whites would dampen the intensity. So, I seasoned well, and the base mixture was a little salty, but definitely not too much. I added a small pinch of salt to the egg whites, before whisking, but again the sum total of salt flavour wasn't overpowering.
So, whatever happened in the oven is a chemical mystery. Somehow my souffle turned from food into a damn good replica of Lot's Wife. The taste of the fresh grated nutmeg also intensified into something too much and too powerful. Very weird.
We still ate it, though. Armed with tall glasses of water and, in my case, thick blobs of hot mustard over the top. And I'm somebody who loves salt; seasons things that don't need to be seasoned, and craves salt rather than sugar most of the time. Not as bad as my grandmother who automatically shakes salt over her pizza (!!), but still a definite salt tooth.
Not even that could redeem this. But, hey, it looks pretty doesn't it? Nice green colour...!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Research Project: CCCs No 4

See previous project attempts here! The initial, the second, the third.

Well, after having my self-imposed chewy Choc Chip Cookie research project mentioned in The Age, I thought I'd better actually do something about it and get back to you with an update on how it's going. I'm up to recipe no. 4, and I'm feeling pretty happy about the whole deal right now. I think I've just about cracked it!

A comment left on my last CCC post from Jessica inspired me with a new approach; wholemeal flour! And you know, it really works. It contributes a bit more texture to absorb the butter, so they don't get so crispy, as well as providing the heft and chew you get from adding oatmeal, but without adding oatmeal. It also gives the cookies an addictive, toasty flavour, and being wholemeal you can almost convince yourself that these are good for you. ;-) The flavour and aroma of these are gorgeous, and I didn't make the same mistake as before by using cheap-arse Home Brand dark chocolate. Lesson well learned there.
I did think they were just a tad too sweet for my tastes, but that could have been because I took Nic's advice and added 1 tablespoon of golden syrup for its hydroscopy (moisture retention) properties. You wouldn't think such a small quantity would have any effect but this tip really does seem to work - making these biscuits wonderfully moist and chewy. Nic suggested honey, which would also work; it's just that I had Golden Syrup to hand.
I'm not sure if 1 tablespoon of syrup would have dramatically affected the sweetness factor, so next time I might reduce the white sugar just a very little bit; only a little bc I don't want to alter the proportions if they're working for me.
These have definitely been my most successful CCCs to date. I did notice, however, that they did turn crumbly after a day or so; I had to treat them delicately, cradling them softly as I picked one up, as they tended to crumble apart in my hands. I'm not sure if this was normal. Jessica?
I love the use of the wholemeal flour, and will keep it in mind for other baking recipes; not only does it provide more texture, but using wholemeal flour is always a healthier option than refined white flour; and cutting back on refined flour and sugar is what many of us should be doing.

I think this is a great recipe to work with, however there is one more recipe I want to try. It is from a British baking book, and uses quite a different method to any other CCC recipe I've seen. Instead of creaming the butter and sugar, or melting the butter and adding to dry ingredients, you combine the butter with the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. It also has 4 tablespoons of golden syrup! This is quite unusual; so I'm keen to give it a go and see what it produces. Stay tuned!
Read on for the recipe:
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Su Good Sweets Chocolate Chip Cookies
With thanks to Jessica from Su Good Eats

½ c sugar
½ c brown sugar
2/3 c butter (150g), softened
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbls golden syrup or honey (optional)
1 ½ c whole wheat flour
½ c chopped nuts
6 oz. (170g) dark chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375F (190C). Mix sugars, butter, egg, and vanilla & golden syrup. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto greased baking sheets.
Bake for 7-8 min, or just until edges begin to brown. If using optional golden syrup or honey, these will take a minute or two longer: ~9-10 minutes.
Makes approx 40.

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Esurientes in The Age!

Thanks to Cin for giving me a heads-up about this article in the Epicure section of The Age newspaper, about the "Foodblog boom" - and featuring details of a few Aussie foodbloggers, including me! (the bottom of Page 2. Access and registration is free, but if you have problems let me know, and I'll email you a copy) You can imagine how excited I was after dragging myself in (late) to work, feeling very much like I wanted to go back home to bed. I'm like a puppy dog now! I'm pleased Aussie foodbloggers have their own article; especially after the mixed-feelings about this article reprinted from The Observer, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald a few weeks ago.

Incidentally, I've been meaning to write a post for the last few months now about the name of the blog and what it means. But I keep putting it off, thinking it will take too much time, too much energy, too much....Latin! ...and so I write about a nice cake recipe instead. It is coming, soon. But if you want a sneak preview; the name Esurientes is Latin, and has both culinary and musical connections (just like me).

As for pronunciation, it is: Eh-zoo-ri-ENT-es. Heh! Apologies to many of you who may have gone through the past year pronouncing it differently! I'm sure some of you probably feel like my friend did after discovering Hermione in Harry Potter wasn't pronounced HER-my-own. Not that it really matters to me how you pronounce it; if your'e visiting and enjoying it, that's good enough for me!

PS - And I wish I looked like the model pictured on the cover. Surrounded by a laptop and a lobster, writing a post by the kitchen sink. Yes, that's how it is around here. Hah! :-)

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Alice Medrich's Low Fat Chocolate Souffles

So, it seems I can make a souffle!....Yesterday I made bread for the first time, which actually looked and tasted like bread. Today I'm doing souffles...evidently I'm kitchen Superwoman! :-)
What's more, I can make a low-fat souffle, no nyah! :-P But if you read to the end of this post, so can you. It's very easy and, as Nigella Lawson puts it, there were no culinary pyrotechnics involved.
This is one of my entries for this month's Is My Blog Burning, with the theme we've all been waiting for with bated breath....the souffle. Go on with you, it seems to say - let's see if you really are the chef the photos on your blog suggest. Sure, you can make pretty cupcakes, but can you do the do? Can you do the souffle??

Well, we'll find out later tonight when I make a full-sized dinner souffle, but this was a way to warm up this afternoon. I had already decided my savoury souffle theme when I was flicking through my new copy of Alice Medrich's "Chocolate & the art of low-fat desserts", which really is all it's cracked up to be. Other bloggers have recommended this book, and likewise, I cannot recommend it highly enough; not only for the recipes, but for ideas on how to lower fat in everyday baking and cooking. And, in contrast to so many low-fat cookbooks, she doen't use any fake or spooky chemical ingredients. Everything is made using real chocolate, real eggs, real butter; just in different quantities and using different techniques.

So, in reacquainting myself with the book last night, I saw the page with chocolate souffles and knew I'd have to give them a go. Medrich notes:
"I like my souffles dark and very rich in chocolate flavour, never light and ethereal! These meet my standards - and no one will ever suspect how light they really are"
And she is right; these are gooey souffles, almost like one of those chocolate fondant desserts. They're light but taste very rich and very chocolatey; your guests would be very surprised to know they're made with cocoa, no butter and only 1 egg yolk. Only 2.6 grams of fat and 127 calories in each one. And you can see evidence that mine really did rise very high, like a 'real souffle'!

I served mine with a tart, fruity sauce made by warming up some raspberry preserves and lemon juice. I thought this combination worked very well, as the souffle on its own could possibly taste a bit too rich and bitter. It's definitely not a sweet dessert so those not into desserts or sweets would possilby enjoy this. I didn't sugar the ramekins (which was optional), which might have better balanced the bitterness but, of course, then you would be upping the calories...and that would defeat the purpose.
It'd also be pretty damn good with a blob of thick cream... ;-)
Read on for the recipe:

Tagged with: +

Chocolate Souffles
from "Chocolate and the art of low-fat desserts", Alice Medrich

Serves 8
5 teaspoons sugar, for cups (optional)
1 cup powdered (icing) sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup low-fat milk
4 egg whites, at room temperature

2 egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 1 cup souffle cups/ramekins.

1: Position the rack in the lower third of the oven and prehat to 250F (175C). Spray souffle cups with vegetable oil spray. If sugaring the cups, pour a little granulated sugar into 1 cup and tilk to coat the bottom and sides. Tap our excess sugar into the next cup and continue until all the cups are sugared.
2: Sift the powdered sugar, cocoa and flour into the top of a double boiler, or heavy saucepan. Add the milk and 1/2 cup water and whisk until smooth. Cook over gently simmering water (or not), whisking continuously, for about 10 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat. Set aside.
3: Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in sugar, beating at high speed until stiff but not dry.
4: Whisk the egg yolks and vanilla into the chocolate mixture. Fold about a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whites. Divide mixture evenly among the cups. It can c9ome to about 1/4 inch below the rims. Souffles may be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.
5: Place the cups on a baking sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes (19-20 if souffles were prepared in advance and refrigerated), or until souffles have puffed well above the rims. Do not overbake.

Note: Medrich suggests tucking a small piece of bittersweet chocolate deep into each souffle before baking, or folding 1/3 cup of chocolate chips into the batter with the egg whites for a splurge.

Calories per serving: 127
Fat: 2.6g
% calories from fat: 17%
Protein: 4.3g
Carbohydrates: 24.6g
Cholesterol: 53.6 mg.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Choccie present!

Oooh - look what we received by courier the other day from the sister of my friend for whom I was bridesmaid a few weeks ago! She wanted to thank my mum and I for hosting the hen's party at our house. This is in addition to the huge box of roses, pot pourri, essential oils and chocolate we received earlier from the bride and her mum as thanks! Feeling very spoiled now.
Max Brenner is a chocolate 'magnate' from Israel who has set up chocolate concept stores in Australia, UK and South-East Asia. Not just places to buy chocolates, they are also cafes that sell a wide range of Kosher hot chocolates and chocolate desserts. It's very popular at the moment, however I've had two very underwhelming taste experiences when trying the hot chocolate there; the orchid oil hot chocolate seriously tasted bland like dish water, and was far too expensive for what it was. Tasted like the chocolate powder was sprinkled from the top of a tall building. And In my opnion, the Suckao is an effective gimmick and great for a date, but not quite worth the excitement or cost. I had never had tried the individual chocolates because they were so darn expensive, but the dense chocolate souffle is pretty damn good, I agree. My opinion; go to Koko Black in the Royal Arcade or Lygon St for your hot chocolate and best truffles in Melbourne fix instead.

But in any case, I'm always eager to try new chocolate, so I was very excited by a delivery of expensive chocolates to my doorstep. I'm more than happy to change my opinion of something, if it deserves it.

The verdict: very good. Brenner has just about redeemed himself to me. :-) My favourite, easily, is the Chicao: 75% dark chocolate pellets with Ecuadorian cocoa bits. Very dark and bitter, and I love the crunchy cocoa beans. Mum found these too bitter for her, so I have the tin to myself. She preferred the milk chocolate caramel and coconut cubes, which I found a little too sweet, so she took posession of that tin. Worked well, eh? We both loved the praline and milk chocolate coated pecan nuts - yum!
We haven't yet opened the block of 65% Venezuelan chocolate, but something tells me its dark bitterness is going to be more to my taste than mum's, but you never know..... :-)
So, even though we were more than happy to put in the effort for my friend's party, we are so grateful and excited to receive such a thoughtful present! Thanks so much!

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Blog Party #3 - Rosemary-scented chorizo scallop skewers

These are my entry for the Big Game party being held at Stephanie's place this weekend. Lots of beer, lots of football. Woo-hoo....!
The brief is to make "hearty, yet bite-sized treats" so.....yeah.....those things in the picture don't look exactly footy-and-beer friendly, do they? No, sir. Little girly things on sticks? Where are the party pies? Where are the footy franks? Where's the VB??

Well, sir. October in Melbourne is a bit of a big-game desert. The AFL footy grand final was in September, along with that game they play up north. ;-) The Rugby Union Super 12 final was months ago and we lost The Ashes not so long ago. Until summer when we get into the cricket one-dayers, there's not much game watching going on. However, there's one sport that sweeps Melbourne for a few weeks every year: horse racing. Each spring Melbourne is home to the Spring Racing Carnival - about 10 big race meetings around Melbourne -and is temporarily centre of the world horse-racing community. Especially on that one Tuesday in November, when those of us in Melbourne even get a public holiday for the Melbourne Cup. Yep, a holiday for a horse race! :-)
The Spring Racing Carnival is all about glamour. Women put on their flippiest, most pastel-coloured cocktail dresses, and an elegant hat or fascinator is almost mandatory. Wedding guest - nice dress. Going to the races? Very nice dress! Men are always seen in their sharpest suit. It's reveals that Aussies are happy to abadon their casual life for a few weeks, but then again, Melbourne has never really been known for its casual lifestyle. Too reserved. And the weather's too cold. :-)

So, in acknowledgement of the big sporting event going on in our city, I made a little something that you might enjoy at about 3.10pm on Tuesday 1 November, as you stand by the TV, screaming and cheering at "the race that stops the nation". Yeah, I know, Cheesy! These little bite size savouries have scallops to please the girls, and manly bits of spicy chorizo sausage to keep the blokes happy.
It's really just a glamed-up variation on the classic scallops and bacon; revered for its British nursery food associations. I cut a few sprigs of rosemary from our garden and stripped them bare. Threw in some chopped rosemary needles and fried the slices of chorizo, then set aside. Dredged the scallops in seasoned flour and fried in the chorizo-flavoured oil for 3 minutes and then turned and cooked for a further 2. I then threw in a little white wine, some more rosemary and about 2 tablespoons of cream and reduced it to make a sticky sauce (not pictured), and then threaded the sausage and scallops onto the rosemary sticks.
Very tasty. Great combination of flavours and textures. Crispy chorizo and creamy, soft scallop work well. And in such a perfect little one-mouthful bite. Hearty, bite-sized, and yet elegant enough for a horse race.
And just to show that I'm not too posh to get down to my Aussie footy-girl genetic roots, here's a picture of an ice-cold stubby of VB. Because it's really not any kind of Aussie sport-watching party without a stubby. :-)

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Donna Day: self-frosting cupcake marathon!

Remember those swirly self-frosting cupcakes from a few months back? Remember how their ease and popularity found them appearing in blogs around the world?
They were a Donnay Hay recipe, and based on their obvious popularity, Barbara from Winos & Foodies in New Zealand has instigated Donna Day on November 19, with the inaugural theme of those very same swirly self-frosting cupcakes. Let's see how many people - bloggers or not - around the world can bake these in a single day. A prize for the prettiest swirls!

Check out the details here, and happy baking!
PS - I want that first edition!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Happy Birthday dear Bloggy...!": and a decadent dark chocolate fantasy

Yes, it was one year ago today that I made my first tentative steps into the foodblogging world, after being an enthusiastic observer for the previous 18 months. I had been toying vaguely with the idea of setting up my own, but felt daunted by the technology involved and the perceived lack of privacy of putting my life on a public forum. However, it was meeting Johanna of The Passionate Cook in London in early October 04 - and staying with her fabulous foodie parents when performing in Linz, Austria the week before - that really spurred me into action. That and the fact that I was filled with that typical flat depression of coming home after a wonderful month away with friends, to greet the mountains of study needed to finish my postgrad course, whilst my boyfriend was still over there having the time of his life gallavanting about Holland.
So, looking back, it was mainly procrastination that inspired me to finally set this up. Those who know me won't be surprised at that admission! And it has been a very inspiring year; looking at the stats for the year shows not much activity in the beginning; those first few desultory months that put so many bloggers off, and often lead them to abandon their new project. But it really is the comments from readers that inspire you to keep going, and I particularly remember Zarah Maria and Cathy (edit: and Anne!) being two of my first regular commenters, and who are still dropping by. Thank you so much for your encouragement. I'd also like to acknowledge Nic, Ana and Stephanie as well as the new supportive bevy from Australia for being some more of my most loyal commenters. I'd love to put links to everyone who has dropped me a line in this post, but I know I will leave peole out and that will cause sadness. And I don't want to cause you sadness!
It is partly through all of you readers, plus a genuine enjoyment for this project I set for myself, that I am still here one year, and 55,500 visits (wow!) later. And still really enjoying it. I love knowing that there are so many readers around the world visiting this little blog in Melbourne. At the moment I'm particularly enjoying reading the growing number of Australian foodblogs, especially those set in my own city; it's such fun recognising and relating to things posted by you Aussies!
If you're a reader and yet haven't commented, drop me a word or two. You don't have to be a blogger, you know. Comments really are what drives us on! :-)

In actual fact, there is some contention about the anniversary date. Yes, the first entry was 19 Oct 04, but it had nothing to do with food. The first "real" ie food-related entry came a week later, with a post about nasu dengaku, the Japanese eggplant & miso dish I love. So, what to do? Do I go for the literal or lateral date??
The answer came easily when I discovered the theme and date for the next Sugar High Friday: two days from now. Excellent! I could combine my blog birthday celebration with my entry for the next Sugar High Friday. No difficulty for me, as I adore THE DARK SIDE (ahem! dark chocolate. See my last SHF entry for my obvious love of the dark stuff: Dark chocolate custard tarts). And everyone knows that when it's your birthday celebration, you can make whatever you like! So, I went to town creating something that I wanted, and didn't bother if there'd be people around who didn't like cream...or sweet things....or berries or whatever. Bugger them all! This is MY cake, and I'm gonna do what I want to do!

Inspired by the latest edition of Donna Hay magazine, with its section on meringues, I decided to my my own version of the Milk Chocolate and Coffee Layer Cake. Because it just looked so good in the photo. Except I'd use dark chocolate ganache. And fresh strawberries. And raspberry preserves. And maybe make a little hazelnut praline to sprinkle over the surface. Because more sugar is good sugar, you know? Yep....and Diabetes Australia had better not read those few sentences.
Well, naturally mine wasn't as beautifully styled as Donna's, but I think you'll agree that it looks pretty damn decadent. Yes, this was very, VERY rich. Yes, you will feel sick after a small piece. And yes, you will want another one. :-) Mum and I alone have got through nearly half of it in two nights. That's some pretty damn serious sugar intake.

It's actually pretty easy to make, but did involve a few separate stages of construction. It's assemblage cookery, really. If you're not confident about baking cakes, but have an eye for design, this is the dessert for you. You make your meringue discs, which is really very easy; even I who have two left hands managed it, and layer each one with the dark chocolate coffee ganache and whipped cream. The middle disc I also layered with some raspberry preserves and halved strawberries, which I sprinkled with the same hazelnut praline I used for the top. Making the praline was lots of fun and I got to do a Jackson Pollock with my hot toffee over my chopped hazelnuts. Very avant garde. Then the sound when I pulverised it in the food processor was ear-splitting. Heh. Kewl!!

The crispy, intensely sweet meringue works well against the thick, dark ganache made even more bitter by the addition of coffee. In turn the soft clouds of whipped cream complements both of these through its masking dairyness. The praline is crunchy and provides more texture and sweetness - maybe next time I would leave it out; that extra sweetness really isn't needed. And then, a relief from the richness and sugar: the strawberries and raspberry preserves temper the sweetness of the whole confection with their fresh tartness. Definitely don't leave these out, or you'll fall to the floor in a diabetic coma.

This was truly a mind-blowing and calorie-blowing dessert. I'm so glad I took the time to create it, rather than just bunging a cake mix in the oven. And I'm so pleased I could use it not only to celebrate this blog's first birthday (little baby's all grown up now!), but also to fill the criteria for this edition of Sugar High Friday.
Read on for the recipe:

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Dark Chocolate and Coffee Layer Cake, with Summer Berries and Hazelnut Praline
150ml (4 3/4 fl oz) eggwhites (approx 4)
1 1/2 cups icing (confectioners') sugar
1/2 cup almond meal (ground almond)

400g (14oz) dark chocolate
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) single cream
3 teaspoons instant coffee
1 1/2 cups (400ml/12 3/4 fl oz) single cream, whipped

~50g hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
1 cup water
1/2 cup caster (superfine) sugar

1 punnet fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
~1/4 cup Raspberry preserves (lightly sweetened jam)

To make meringue discs:
Preheat oven to 120C (250C). Place the eggwhites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the icing sugar and beat until the mixture is thick and glossy. Fold through the almond meal until well combined. Use mixture immediately.
Draw 3 x 20 cm (7 3/4 inch) circles on 3 pieces of greased baking paper and place on individual baking trays. Divide the mixture between the circles and spread it out evenly with a butter knife. Cook for 25 minutes, or until the meringue is crisp to touch. Turn off the oven and allow to cool in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

For the dark chocolate coffee ganache:
Place the chocolate, 1/2 cup cream and coffee in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Allow to cool.

For the hazelnut praline:
Place toasted, chopped hazelnuts on a lightly greased baking tray in a small pile. Place the water and sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan and stir to combine. Heat until mixture turns a dark amber (~5 minutes) and pour quickly over the nuts. When the toffee has cooled, break into pieces and place in a food processor on high speed to crush into powder.

To assemble:
It is easier to work with each disk on a separate board and to top each disc before stacking onto a serving dish.
Spread one meringue disc with the chocolate mixture and top with a layer of whipped cream. Lift carefully with a wide spatula to serving tray. With the second layer, spread the meringue disc with a layer of raspberry preserves before adding the ganache and cream. Then top with the halved strawberries and a handful of the praline powder. Again, lift carefully with a spatula and place on top of the first layer. Repeat the ganache/cream process with the 3rd disc, and sprinkle with a large amount of the praline.

This will be easier to cut after refrigeration, but will be decadent and rich at whatever temperature you eat it. Enjoy!!

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Monday, October 17, 2005

Beekeepers' Honey Cake

Last week, I went back to my market honey-man, from whom I recently bought the spectacular unrefined Yellow Mallee Gum honey. I've nearly finished the tub and was looking to buy some more. I noticed he had a few different varieties there that day, and he recommended the Ironbark to me, as being a strongly flavoured, intense honey. I love strong, dark, honeys; Tasmanian Leatherwood is my favourite.
However, when I tasted his Ironbark I was a bit disappointed. It didn't have the same smell of the trees and flowers as the Mallee gum, which clings to your fingers for hours if you so happen to dip your finger in for a taste. It also had a thin, almost runny quality; whereas I had fallen for the crunchy, granular texture of the Mallee gum.
But, Mr Market Honey-Man's honey is very affordable, so I wasn't upset. I decided to make a cake with this honey, and go back next week for my favourite.

A few months ago I embarked on a mini research project to find a good Dutch honigkoek recipe. Because I'd ticked that off my list, I was left wondering what to make. A Google search revealed an inspiring-looking recipe for a Beekeepers' Honey Cake, named, no doubt, for the copious amount of honey it includes. It was loaded with the same spices as the Dutch versions, but indicated it would be much more moist, as it had not only 1.5 cups of honey (which is a full half a kilo! Honey is dense stuff), but sour cream and butter. The spices make this cake taste very wintery and Christmassy, so it'd be perfect for those of you heading into the cold months. However, the inclusion of walnuts and dried cranberries give it an unexpected lift. I do like dried cranberries. I just wish they weren't so expensive.
The recipe recommends leaving the cake for a few days to ripen in flavour and texture; I did this, but didn't really observe any increase in flavour or texture. It was tasty and moist when it was just baked, and it stayed that way. Apparently it has excellent keeping powers, so it would be a good thing to make ahead of time.

In my mind, this was an tasty, interesting variation on a Dutch honigkoek, but with butter and sour cream adding to the moist texture...and the calories. So if you are looking for a lower-fat version of this sort of warm, spicy honey-cake, I'd recommend you go for
this instead: yes, it will have a slightly drier, breadier consistency, but it also doesn't contain any butter or oil, so is lower in the calorie-stakes.
Read on for the recipe:

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Beekeepers' Honey Cake - Recipe
Adapted from All American Desserts,

Spices, dried cranberries, and walnuts added to moist honey-kissed cake make this a festive and delicious treat. Beekeeper’s Honey Cake is a keeper in more ways than one, since it will stay fresh and tender for weeks.

2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons canola or corn oil
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups wildflower or other medium-colored honey
1 cup sour cream
1 cup dried cranberries or sour cherries
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Sliced almonds for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt or 10-inch tube pan, tapping out the excess flour, and set aside.

2. Sift together the flour, spices, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, beat together the melted butter, oil, and both sugars in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the honey and sour cream all and once and beat until you have a smooth batter. Beat in the flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the cranberries and walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

3. Bake the cake until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Invert the cake onto a wire rack and let cool. As soon as the cake is cool enough to handle, press the flaked almonds into the top. Place the cooled cake in an airtight container to ripen for 2 days before serving.

Copyright: Adapted from All American Desserts, by Judith M. Fertig (Harvard Common Press, 2003). Copyright (c) 2003 by Judith M. Fertig.

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Friday, October 14, 2005

Creamy Comforting Lasagne

Heh. It's not called "The Comfort Zone" for nothing, you know!
Coming from a northern Italian family (on dad's side) means that I've grown up eating very good lasagne, or pasta al forno, as we know it. My nonna's version, with homemade pasta and a thick meat ragu, is my brother's desert-island dish (along with her puffy, light gnocchi). My aunt, who married a southerner, makes a great southern-influenced version with lots of tomatoes and not too much cheese, which we grew up eating as our entree at the family Christmas dinner. So, I've never been too tempted to try my own, as I know whatever I make will never live up to the high family standards.

But, a few weeks ago I was eyeing the many half-finished jars and tubs of sundried and semidried tomatoes in the fridge and wondering what to do with them. I'm the only tomato eater in our household (unbelievable, isn't it?), and though I adore semidried tomatoes, I was starting to find it a bit tedious having them pop up in every salad, sandwich or meat I ate.
I remembered an episode of Jamie Oliver I saw where he made a bolognese sauce, with a jar of sundried tomatoes, which he then baked in the oven. It took quite a bit of Googling to find, but was available on the internet, and I had all the ingredients needed. It was very easy to make, and the smells wafting through through as it was in the oven made the house smell like an Italian restaurant. The flavours in this are very strong; bacon, wine, dried tomatoes and lots of fresh herbs. Make sure you use fresh rosemary, not that nasty dried stuff, as it really contributes to the flavour and aroma.

So, I had this flavour-bomb sauce and, for some reason, I didn't want to just bung it over some boring spaghetti. I wanted to do something a bit more interesting, and anyway, wasn't it time that I started to learn the Italian mama domestic arts??
Because the sauce was so flavoursome, I thought an injection of thick, creamy bechamel would work well; it'd both complement and modify the strong flavours and provide a moistness that I appreciate in lasagne. I can't stand those solid slabs of the stuff you get in cafes, that are whacked into the microwave and come out resembling house bricks. I hate the feeling of dry food in my mouth. No, I like my food wet, and my lasagne sloppy. I also wanted to include some fresh spinach through the layers, just to get a vegetable injection into this meat&carb fest...

My nonna, interested, and quite possibly amused, by this quest offered me her own supply of the lasagne sheets she buys when not making her own - La Triestina (and evidently we're not the only fans) - and advised me to cook them for double the length of time specified on the packet. In the end, I followed the recipe in Stephanie Alexander's "The Cook's Companion" for the lasagne, apart from the bolognese sauce. And the home-made pasta sheets. If you're looking for a good, basic bechamel sauce, I recommend it. It was actually my first time making bechamel (can you believe it?), but it was as easy as everyone says, and with about a cup of mozarella and a few ends of jarlsberg and blue cheese grated in, it made a gorgeous cheese sauce I could have eaten from the spoon. It'd be fabulous over boiled potatoes.
Stephanie says to cook it for 45 minutes, so it went into the oven, and a glass of red wine went into my mouth.

Naturally, with such a creamy creation we had trouble cutting portions, despite letting it sit for about 15 minutes. It was pretty sloppy, but that was an advantage on a relaxed, stay-at-home Saturday night. All the components worked well together; I thought there was a bit too much bechamel, but others didn't agree. In fact, if you've ever had the lasagne at Pellegrinis in Bourke St, or Ti'amo in Lygon St, this tastes just the same!
But the real verdict came from my brother who generally isn't a big fan of what I make, claiming it's too 'weird' and 'gourmet'. I know he didn't have very high hopes for his sister's take on a family classic, but when I came home on Monday night and found the huge slab of leftovers all gone, I was pleased I had secretly cut myself a wodge and hidden it in the freezer beforehand. He even said he enjoyed the layers of spinach! Transpires he's not such a critic of his sister's food....
I haven't included all components of this dish, but if you'd like the great bolognese sauce recipe, read on:

Kinda Spaghetti Bolognaise
Jamie Oliver: Happy Days with the Naked Chef

"As far as I know, no decent Italian cook has any real recollection of what we know as Spaghetti Bolognaise. However, every region in Italy makes its own Ragu Sauce which very often features leftover stewed meats and game. For a great bolognaise it is worth whizzing up some chopped chuck steak to make your own minced meat. Here's my version." Serves 4.

10 slices Pancetta or smoked streaky bacon rashers, sliced
1 handful of rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped
olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
455gr/1 lb chuck steak, minced, or best minced beef
1 wineglass of red wine
1 level teaspoon dried oregano
1x 400gr/14oz tin of tomatoes
1 x 200gr/7oz tube tomato puree, or 1 small jar of sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
455gr/1 lb dried spaghetti
1 handful of fresh basil
2 handfuls of grated Parmesan or strong Cheddar cheese

Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F/gas4.

In a large hot pan that can go in the oven, fry the pancetta and rosemary in a little olive oil until lightly golden. Then add the onion and garlic and fry for a further 3 minutes until softened before adding the minced beef. Stir and continue frying for 2 or 3 minutes before adding the wine. Reduce slightly, then add the oregano, all the tomatoes and the tomato puree. Season well to taste, bring to the boil, cover with greaseproof paper or a lid and place in the pre-heated oven for an hour and a half. Towards the end of the cooking time put your spaghetti into a large pot of fast boiling salted water until al dente (check the packet for cooking time. When it's ready, drain it in a colander.

Just before serving, add some ripped-up basil to the sauce. Serve with your spaghetti and some grated Parmesan or strong Cheddar. A green salad is also nice with this.

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

PacMan Lemon tartlets

The final dish from the Hen's Party Spring Collection 2005. :-) These little lemon tarts are replicas of the lemon meringue tarts I made for my friend's going-to-Japan cocktail party (aka alcohol debauchery) in July. Again, I used my home-made lemon curd, and made my own pate brisee for the pastry.

Unfortunately, in a fit of over-organisation, I decided to prepare these the night before -see bottom picture. I added the hideously expensive blueberries (fresh blueberries in spring? $8 a punnet!!) and was happy with how they looked, so put them in the cool laundry overnight. The next morning I found the lemon curd dried, withered and cracked. Heh, Dried up like a potsherd! And the was pastry soft and crumbly, from having absorbed the lemon juice. Buggery bugger!

So, in an effort to save these, I added a small dollop of whipped cream to each one, and placed one on top of the other; handling them very carefully so they didn't disintegrate, so to make little PacMan tarts. Many did fall apart, so I wasn't left with a great deal, but with the cream and blueberries poking out, they did still look quite pretty, if not quite as dramatic as they did the night before. Ah well.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Pistachio, yoghurt & cardamom cake, with lime syrup

Edit: AugustusGloop has just reminded me that in Australia we usually pronounce cardamon with an 'n' on the end, rather than a 'm'. Both versions are widely used, so I'm putting in alternatives so those on all continents can find it again!

I had the remnants of a pot of Jalna natural yoghurt in the fridge needing to be used up immediately, and never one to shy away from baking new cake recipes, I flicked through my copy of Sweet Food (Murdoch Books, 2002) - the book with oh-so-pretty pictures but completely useless, random order of recipes and a damn-poor index. It's impossible to find anything except by flicking around in frustration. Whoever edited that should be ashamed. As it is I'm a little ashamed that I sat down and created my own categorised, alphabetised index for it, confirming that I am now a real dorky librarian. If anyone has this book and would like an index for it, let me know and I'll email it to you! It will turn a pretty, but useless (*cough* Paris Hilton...) book into something you will actually use.

So, I was flicking through this book because I remember seeing a few cakes made with yoghurt, and I found one that appealed in this pistachio and cardamom (cardamon) cake, which used just the same amount of yoghurt as I had left. It's extremely quick and easy to make, and doesn't dirty your kitchen with bowls and utensils, as everything is just thrown straight into the food processor.
I actually didn't have enough pistachios, so I had to make up the difference with walnuts. I was worried that the flavour would be all wrong and I'd make something awful (regular readers are familiar with my inability to follow a recipe to the letter...) .Luckily, the walnuts I used were sweet, fresh ones bought in bulk from the market, not the dark, bitter ones you get in tiny packets from the supermarket, so not only did the flavour work really well, but they contributed more to the lovely, moist texture already supplied by the yoghurt. The flavour of the cardamom(n) didn't really come through though, so I would double the amount next time.

The lime syrup is made later and adds a pleasant tartness to the cake. It was the flavour everybody commented on, but I don't think the taste would suffer if you didn't include it. I took this to a fundraising concert in which I performed on Sunday, to raise money for our vocal ensemble to tour Europe again in 2006. I brought it out at interval, which is usually when performers' blood sugar levels need a bit of a boost, and it was very well received.
A recipe to keep and make again, for informal events; picnics, morning coffee etc. As my favourite Amateur Gourmet says "It's all very casual. Very cazh. Wear your sandals."
Read on for the recipe:
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Pistachio, yoghurt and cardamom (cardamon) cake, with lime syrup
from: Sweet Food, Murdoch Books, 2002.

150g (1 cup) unsalted pistachio nuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom(n)*
150g butter, chopped
185g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
310g (1 1/4 cups) caster sugar
3 eggs
125g (1/2 cup) plain yoghurt
1 lime**

-Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/Gas 4). Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.
-Place the pistachios and cardamom in a food processor and pulse unti just chopped.
-Add the butter, flour and 185g (3/4 cup) of the caster sugar and pulse for 20 seconds, or until crumbly.
-Add the combined eggs and yoghurt and pulse for 10 seconds, or unti just combined.
-Spoon into the tin and smooth the surface.
-Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

-To make the syrup, peel the zest off the lime with a vegetable peeler - remove any white pith from the zest.
-Place the remaining caster sugar and 100ml water in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
-Bring to the boil, then add the lime zest and cook for 5 mnutes.
-Strain and cool slightly. Pierce the cake with a few skewer holes and pour the hot syrup slowly over the cooled cake.

*I would increase this to 1 teaspoon
**I used a few tablespoons of bottled juice

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hen's party spread

Due to popular demand (ahem) here are some photos of the hen's party afternoon tea we held at my house a few weeks ago for my best friend from school. I think I had mentioned there was quite a lot of food; now you can see the evidence.
Erm...in case you're wondering (and who wouldn't?) the pirate ship centrepiece is due to the "Pirates of Penzance" theme for the afternoon. My father brought it home with him from Mauritius about 10 years ago, fully assembled and weighing a ton. The box was so big it couldn't fit in the boot of our big car! We've never had such a perfect oppotunity to show it off than this party. Yes, we were all dressed as pirates and wenches - treasure chest, cutlasses and all. :-)
Apologies for the blurry photo below. Looking at it later was a real 'oh, bugger' moment.

So, with my mum taking care of savouries, and with me on sweets creation, we produced:

*semidried tomatoes, fresh basil and bocconcini sticks (so easy! so good!)
*smoked salmon and herbed cream cheese sandwiches (v. popular!)
*Chicken & pistachio sandwiches (my fave)
*homemade sausage rolls
*homemade mini quiches
*homemade salmon puffs (yum!)
*the now world famous
hot cheese puffs
Chocolate chilli shortbread
Brandy, orange & cardamom biscuits
*Lemon curd & blueberry tartlets
Dark chocolate custard tarts
Winter plum cake
Coconut, macadamia & lime cake
Chocolate Cloud cake
*Fresh strawberries
*Mountains of little tarts, cannolis and profiteroles from the incredible
Brunetti pasticceria in Carlton (ohh! Those coffee profiteroles..!)
*A big white chocolate-shrouded cake also from Brunettis (not even touched!)
All washed down with litres of champagne, and buckets of tea and coffee. Yes, there were leftovers, but it's better to have too much than too little; and there were 25 people turning up!
All up, a huge success. And the male strip show and private karaoke room later in the night, were pretty damn enjoyable too! ;-)

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Monday, October 10, 2005

The Research Project: CCCs No. 3

You can find others in the Choc Chip Cookie Research Series at your ABC shop! ....sorry, here and here.
I thought I'd cracked it. I really did. I even answered the phone with a squeal:
"I've done it! I've made the perfect choc chip cookie!"
Bah. I should know by now that any biscuit straight out of the oven is gonna taste good; chewy, crispy, warm, melty... It's when they cool down that the dark reality hits, and you realise you have another sub-par batch. And you hang your head and your heart sinks a little in acknowledgment of the many more batches of choc chip cookies yet to be baked to achieve the perfection for which you are searching; a perfection that seems so intangible. Can anybody achieve perfection? Maybe I'm not destined for its masterly power, but will remain a mere acolyte of mediocrity.

Anyway, maudlin navel-gazing out of the way! For this batch I tried Alton Brown's CCC recipe called "The Chewy". Sounds promising. It read well too. I liked the idea of chilling the dough before baking, and the method of melting the butter, rather than creaming it with the sugar suggested a reduction in puffy cakiness. All good.
All went well during the dough making and dough dolloping. But the cooking time seemed wrong; 14 minutes seemed a rather long time, so instead I set the time for 10 minutes and went to check on them then. At 10 minutes they were the colour you see above; pretty dark, yes? And that darkness equalled the exact crispiness I am trying to avoid. Mr Brown, your chewy cookies were crispy! So, if that was 10 minutes, at 14 I would have had charcoal! On reflection, the oven temperature he specifies seems rather high. Thus, if making this recipe, keep a close eye on your cookies' browning progress and possibly reduce the temperature.

Another rather odd thing that occured was a distinct lack of flavour. There was no lingering chocolatiness or butteriness or a fill-the-mouth fullness you get with other CCCs. This is partly my fault for buying cheap-arse Home Brand dark chocolate. Chocolate is expensive, you know! And I wasn't holding out hopes for creating a masterpiece that night, based on previous experience (a premontion?), so standing in front of the awful yellow wrapper, $1.50 for 375 grams, I thought "how bad could it be?"
The answer is very bad. Bloody awful. Home Brand dark chocolate tastes like brown crayons. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Another tip, kids; do not fall for the laws of false economy. Choc chip biscuits have few ingredients. All should be of good quality. I have learnt this lesson painfully.

However, the chocolate wasn't the only culprit. The whole flavour of these tasted flat. It was crying out for some salt to lift the flavour. I think an extra teaspoon of salt would have really improved things. This was an interesting observation for me, becuase I specifically bought the unsalted butter that Alton Brown specified. I don't usually bake with unsalted butter; in Australia salted butter is all the go, and I still add the teaspoon-or-so of salt specified in recipes in addition. 'Hello flavour? Where are you?' was the general consensus by all who tried these.... my friends emailed me to state that "they weren't very exciting". So, I wonder if we have become so accustomed to the taste of salted butter in our cakes and biscuits that using the unsalted stuff sends our tastebuds into hibernation? An interesting theory, and one I hope to explore further.

So, it's onward and upward. I still have about 8 recipes to go; a combination of ones I've compiled myself, and some emailed to me by enthusiastic readers. I do have to say though that I hope I crack the code soone rather than later. It'd be a shame to discover the perfect recipe only to never want to see a choc chip cookie ever again.
Read on for the recipe:

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The Chewy – Alton Brown
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen cookies

225g (2 sticks) unsalted butter
280 g (2 1/4 cups) bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
250g (1 1/4 cups) brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 190 degrees C / 375F
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

EoMEoTE!: John Henver's Runny Scotch Eggs

To the tune of: Take me home, Country Road:
Runny yolk, take me home
To the barn I belong
Best for dinner, mountain clucker
Take me home, runny yolk

...by that 70s song-stylin' dude, John Henver. :-)
There seems to be a lot of discussion on other websites about the runnyness of the yolks in these eggs, and how uninformed I must be. Yes, I know a Scotch Egg is supposed to be a hardboiled egg, but have you not noticed the song lyrics my friend invented?? This recipe reflects those lyrics!

The theme for this month's End of Month Egg on Toast Extravaganza is Seventies Song Lyrics, and all credit for both creations above to my old friend, L, who is truly the King of Cheese. L, who recently moved to Osaka to teach English (after that infamous cocktail party) and has the biggest collection of cheesy records I know (Tijuana Brass...Matt Monroe...!). We've known each other for years and spent countless hours together discovering our love for cooking, whilst living as poor uni students at a college with very dull dinners. It's amazing what you can do with a bar fridge, toaster and a kettle.... Only this weekend he started up his own foodblog, chronicling his culinary adventures in Japan. Good on you! I thought it couldn't get any better when you suggested John Henver "Runny Yolk", but when you emailed me and said "why don't you go for a complete 70s theme and make a Scotch Egg?" I bowed to your genius. :-)

Scotch Eggs seem to inspire involuntary shudders of disgust from, well, everybody. A. looked faintly disgusted when I suggested it, but agreed to give it a go. I mean, how bad can a boiled egg packed in sausage mince and breadcrumbs and then fried in a deep vat of oil be?? Besides going straight to your heart with its cholesterol-packed goodness. And possibly causing indigestion. Millions of Scottish can't be wrong!

So, I boiled me a couple of eggs and squodged a pack of commercial sausage mince around them til they were submerged. This is a messy process. Don't try to answer the phone or turn on a tap unless you enjoy finding dried bits of sausage meat greeting you the next morning. Then toss it around in a bowl of breadcrumbs; I used a combination of bog-standard stuff, and some Japanese panko - in deference to the Japanese connection. ;-) Then bung them in a pre-heated deep fryer for about 7 minutes or something. I seem to have a real thing about deep frying boiled eggs, don't I? We have an inbuilt deep-fryer so it was easy, but L. says he's baked them in the oven before, which would definitely be the healthier option! I cooked mine until the crust was very dark brown and crunchy, but as you can see, I still maintained my Runny Yolk....... Yay!

And the taste? Pretty damn good, actually! Not nearly as awful as we expected. In fact, we were a little worried that they could become a regular indulgence. It'd be a novel way to enjoy a sausage and eggs breakast...
So, John Henver 'Runny Yolk' Scotch Egg Perfection! To complement the cheesiest boy I know :-P

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

In the Pink: Slut Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly

Whoa! Can you imagine the types of hits I'm going to get with a title like that?! As it is, I have had people end up on my site through searching for 'dirty underwear in a saucepan' (?!), so if you're a teenage boy, off you go. This is not what you're looking for.
What this is is my entry to the inaugural In The Pink food blogging event, designed to raise awareness of breast cancer. I don't think there are many of us who haven't known somebody who has had it, and it is an issue quite close to me, as I have had relatives die from breast cancer, always at too young an age to for us to comprehend.

So...if I'm already thrilling the teenage boys by mentioning breasts in this post, I just couldn't stop myself going that step further and featuring SLUTTY RASPBERRIES! Well, with a name like that, how could I not??! This recipe, courtesy of an Australian friend of Nigella Lawson's, features raspberries steeped in an entire bottle of chardonnay (that's what makes them sluts, I guess ;-) ), to which you add sugar, vanilla and gelatine. And that's it! These are seriously boozy berries in a seriously alcoholic jelly, thus: very much an adult dessert!
It's not too sweet, and despite the fact that it is fat free, it tastes extremely rich. Sampling a few spoons of the liquid before refrigerating last night it left me with wobbly legs! I used frozen raspberries, it being early spring here, which only served to produce an even pinker-coloured jelly. How perfect for this event!
The raspberries are enhanced with flavour, the vanilla is aromatic and mellow, and the jelly...well, the jelly is amazing. I can't express how good it its; Nigella's description below does an excellent job, and believe me when I say that everything she writes about this is true. It really is heaven to eat, and to reinforce her words, I exhort you to try this. Not only a talking point, but an incredible taste sensation.

PS - Nigella says it serves 6, but I found it produced 3 generously greedy portions just fine! ;-)
Read on for the recipe:

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From 'Forever Summer" Nigella Lawson

Nigella: You might think that no recipe could live up to this title. It's a reasonable presumption, but thank God, a wrong one. This is heaven on the plate: the wine-soused raspberries take on a stained glass, lucent red, their very raspberriness enhanced; the soft, translucently pale coral just-set jelly in which they sit has a heady, floral fragrance that could make a grateful eater weep. If there's one pudding you make from this book, please, please make it this. This recipe was emailed to me from Australia from my erstwhile editor, Eugenie Boyd. I've fiddled with it a bit, but it is the best present a foodwriter could ever have. Now it's yours.

1 bottle good fruity Chardonnay
300g raspberries (frozen seem to be fine*)
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways (or a teaspoon of extract*)
5 gelatine leaves (or 1 packet gelatine granules*)
250g caster sugar
double cream to serve

1. Place the wine and berries in a bowl and allow to steep for half an hour.
2. Strain the wine into a saucepan and keep the raspberries to one side. Heat the wine with vanilla pod until nearly boiling and leave to steep on one side for 15 minutes.
3. Soak the gelatine leaves - which you can find in the supermarket these days - in cold water for about 5 minutes.
4. Remove the vanilla pod and reheat the wine stirring the sugar in until it dissolves; allow to boil if you want to lose the alcohol.
5. Add a third of the hot wine to the wrung-out gelatine leaves in a measuring jug and stir to dissolve, then add this mixture back into the rest of the wine and stir well. Strain into a large jug.
6. Place the raspberries, equally, into 6 flattish, clear glass serving bowls, and pour the strained wine over the top.
7. Allow to set in the fridge for at least 3 hours, though a day would be fine if you want to make this well ahead, and take out of the fridge 15 minutes before serving. Serve with some double cream in a jug, and let people pour this into the fragrant, tender, fruit-jewelled jelly as they eat.
Serves 6 (or 3 very generously!)
*Niki's notes

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