Election day bake

Well today is Election day and I’ll be going to our local primary school to vote and serve at the cake stall/sausage sizzle.

This time, I didn’t do the cutesy-wutesy little panda cupcakes I slaved over in 2013… ain’t got time for that these days. I’m baking a date loaf, easy and quick and something my grandmother used to make a lot. So simple, but so delicious with melting butter.

Not my grandmother’s recipe. This is from The Commonsense Cookery Book, our school cooking class bible in year 7.

Election days are exciting days, and I like to mark the occasion by supplying a cake for the school cake stall. I didn’t bake for the last federal election in 2016, but I did bake cupcakes for the one before that between Rudd and Abbot in 2013…

I was inspired by some cupcakes I saw featured on Housegoeshome blog post 5 cake stall ideas (that will walk off the table)

The post featured cute panda cupcakes from baking website Bakerella

Except Bakerella’s looked liked this…

They are still one of the most popular posts on Bakerella, originally posted in April 2012.

Eleven-year-old Spider Boy George saw a picture of my version last night and said, “I remember those!” He was five when I baked them, and I’ve never attempted them since.

Let’s recap:

Bakerella’s panda cupcakes…

My panda cupcakes…

Nailed it! Don’tcha think?

Oh goodness, it’s already so late in the morning. I’ve got to get a date loaf in the oven before my cake stall shift later.

Will let you know how it turns out!

Will you be eating an election day sausage today? Or buying something from the cake stall? I’ll probably do both.

Recipe: Apricot and oat slice

IMG_7780

I aways want something sweet after dinner, or sometimes in the afternoon with a cup of tea.

I found this recipe in The Biggest Loser trainer Tiffiny Hall’s book, Weightloss Warrior (How to win the battle within). It’s full of motivational advice, exercise and recipes – it’s a great book. I remember thinking that when I first read it back in 2011. But winning the battle within is damn hard and I’ve gained 10kg since then (go Alex) but that’s me, a rebel.

Anyway, there’s a recipe in Tiffiny’s book for fruity oat slice. I like to call it apricot slice as that’s the dominant fruit for me.  It is simple, healthy (well not UN-healthy) and absolutely yummy. It has no refined sugar (just lots of fruit) and it is something you could enjoy a small bit of every day. It’s not the reason I’m overweight. That would be the ice-cream with chocolate sauce, soft cheeses, etc. but that’s another story.

IMG_7799

Thanks Tiffiny Hall for this recipe:

Makes 16 pieces

Ingredients

240g (1 2/3 cups) mixed dried fruit (for example, apricots, figs, prunes, apple, anything) roughly chopped

150g (1 cup) sultanas

440g can crushed pineapple in natural juice

150g butter

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

100g (2/3 cup) self-raising flour

150g (1 1/2 cups) rolled oats

8 dried apple rings

1 tablespoon honey

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.

Grease and line a 20 x 30cm lamington tin.

Put the dried fruit, pineapple and juice, butter and spices in a saucepan over a low heat until the butter melts. Allow to cool.

Add the eggs to the cooled fruit mixture and stir well. Add the flour and oats and mix until combined.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and decorate with dried apple rings brushed with a tablespoon of warmed honey. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes (that’s what the book says, but for me/my oven it’s always more like 25 – 30 minutes, but just keep an eye on it).

Let it cool then cut into squares.

I tend to keep them in the fridge (in a tupperware container) after the first day, because of all the fruit.

IMG_7778

I made another batch recently and this time added dessicated coconut and dark chocolate pieces to the mix. I also sprinkled shredded coconut on top before baking so it came out all toasty. So good.

IMG_8862

Enjoy!

Do you have a go-to, never-fail slice?

Warm choc-cherry coconut muffins

image

The mornings are getting chillier and the days shorter, reminding me that Winter is almost here. That means muffin season! Either as a sneaky treat with hot butter and cup of tea, or something extra in the school lunchbox, muffins are a wonderful tine in the fork of my baking adventures.

I love baking muffins because of the potential for variety; you can add fruit or veggies to them to really pump up the nutrients, or combine flavours for a more decadent muffin like white chocolate and raspberry, or caramel and date.

One of my favourite flavour combinations is chocolate and cherry. I’d had The Australian Women’s Weekly Kids’ Cooking book open on my recipe stand for weeks, on the apricot and coconut muffins page. This morning I happened upon a can of cherries in the cupboard, and thought of the dessicated coconut in the fridge. Cherry, plus coconut, plus chocolate (there is always a bag of choc-bits in the cupboard) equals a Bounty bar and Cherry Ripe combo in a cake, basically!

Whenever I bake something, I have a ready-made helper in Spider Boy. Today, he got his fingers into the buttery coconut crumble topping, he had a go of folding instead of mixing (in keeping with the lumpy muffin-mix ideal) and got the choc-bit to muffin mix ratio just right.

Ingredients

415g can cherries

1/2 cup choc-bits (give or take)

2 1/4 cups self-raising flour

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg

2/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup cherry jam

Coconut topping

1/4 cup plain flour

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1/3 cup dessicated coconut

30g butter

Method

Muffins

1. Preheat oven to moderate. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin. Drain cherries.

2. Make coconut topping and set aside.

3. Combine flour and sugar in large bowl; use a fork to stir in cherries, then combined egg, buttermilk, oil and jam. Add in choc-bits. Mixture should look lumpy, so don’t overmix

4. Divide mixture among prepared muffin tin holes; sprinkle coconut topping over each muffin mixture. Bake, uncovered, in moderate over for about 25 minutes. Stand muffins in tin for 5 minutes; place top-side up on wire rack to cool.

Coconut topping

Combine flour, sugar and coconut in a small bowl; use fingers to rub butter into flour mixture.

Makes 12 muffins.

The proof of the pudding

They weren’t ready after 25 minutes, so I gave them another 10. The result was perfect. Or as perfect as one of my baking adventures gets.

After the extra 10 minutes baking time, they were cooked perfectly. I’d had a wedge of paper in the broken oven door (I’ve been baking that way for a few months, the spring on the door has gone but is soon to be replaced).

The muffins were moist with a golden crumbly crumble topping. The tartness of the cherry perfectly balanced the chocolatey sweetness of the choc chips.

I met my friends Lulu and Mr. M later that day, so it was nice to be able to give them 1/2 the batch of freshly made muffins. Lulu texted later that she ate hers warmed up with ice cream.

My mum said, “You could sell those”,  which is a real compliment as mum doesn’t say anything unless she really thinks it.

Recipe based on apricot and coconut muffin recipe from The Australian Women’s Weekly Kids’ Cooking.

Baking with yoghurt: Mango and vanilla yoghurt cake with white chocolate ganache

098

I love cake, but in my efforts to be healthier, I’ve been thinking about ways I could reduce the fat. No butter? Yes, it is possible to make a cake without butter. But let’s not get too crazy. This cake does have some butter in it. But less than normal because today I’m substituting some of the butter for low fat yoghurt.

I don’t think about calories anymore. I am trying to shift my thinking from units of measure (I was never good at maths anyway) to good nutrition and balance. In other words, I would never let a few (hundred) pesky calories get in the way of me and my cake. But I do acknowledge that when food is lower in fat, without sacrificing texture and flavour, it’s a winning combination. Baking a cake using yoghurt is a way to achieve that.

Using yoghurt as a substitution for butter or oil in cakes is a smart and yummy way to reduce the fat content, as well as lending a lush texture and slightly tangy flavour to the cake. Plus it’s a great way to add a little bit of protein and calcium! As I’m a maniac for mango, I used a low fat mango and vanilla yoghurt. 042

Ingredients The cake bit

150g butter (softened)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup caster sugar

2 eggs

1 and a 1/2 cups low fat mango and vanilla yoghurt

2 and a 1/4 cups self-raising flour

1/4 cup milk

The white chocolate ganache bit

1/2 cup cream

360g white eating chocolate, broken into small pieces (Will make about 1 and 1/2 cups)

The mango yoghurt frosting bit

125g butter (softened) 2 and 1/2 cups icing sugar

1 and 1/2 tablespoons Mango and Madagascan Vanilla Yoghurt

Method

Cake

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius /160 degrees Celsius fan-forced. Grease deep 22cm-round cake pan and line with baking paper.

2. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl with electric mixer on low, until fluffy.

3. Beat in eggs one at a time

4. Fold in yoghurt

5. Sift flour into bowl and add milk gradually, stirring as you go. Add the flour and milk in two batches.

6. Dollop mixture into cake tin. Bake for 1 hour. Let cake stand in tin for 5 minutes before turning upside down on wire rack to cool.

7. Slice cake in half horizontally and spread the top of one layer with the white chocolate ganache

8. Sandwich the two halves together. While cake is baking, make the ganache and frosting.

Ganache

1. Pour cream into a small saucepan and bring to the boil.

2. Remove from heat and when bubbles have disappeared add white chocolate.

3. Stir until smooth

4. When ganache has cooled down, pour into a bowl and beat with electric mixer on medium speed.

Mango yoghurt frosting

Beat butter, icing sugar and yoghurt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Spread frosting on cake with a spatula.

Serve garnished with passion fruit pulp.

Serves 12

Keep cake in fridge. 074 064 076 112

Mortifying muffins and eye-candy neighbours

The beauty of uncooked meringue

The beauty of uncooked meringue.

I love baked goods. I own a lot of cookbooks. I look at baking blogs. I like to try to make something from the pages/posts of these books/blogs. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

A recent baking effort fell into the latter camp. I was determined to make a zucchini loaf and a batch of spinach and ricotta muffins to give my cousin whose husband was recuperating at home from a cycling accident.
After school drop-off I tried to scurry away quickly so I could do my important job-hunting/work-sourcing baking work. I said “no” to a P&C morning tea and “yes” to my own baking extravaganza.
I am not going to bore you with the details of how and why both these recipes went wrong, as I would be guessing anyway. But the outcome was that both the loaf and the muffins just refused to cook on the inside, yet insisted on going dark brown on the outside. My oven, the tanning salon.
“Oh, you can’t give her that,” Mum said helpfully as she peered at the zucchini loaf. Just for fun, I pinged one of the muffins at the kitchen bench and it actually made a pinging sound. I could get away with eating a muffin myself, but I couldn’t actually offer them to anyone else as I’m afraid they fell into my “mild disaster” category of cooking. The zucchini loaf was categorised “major disaster” so, although in conflict over the waste of ingredients, I binned it, because no one was going to want to eat that.
I forced myself to eat a muffin though, just so I could feel the ingredients/time wasn’t totally wasted. I had it with salad for dinner that night. It wasn’t bad, as it wasn’t actually charcoal and at least I could taste the feta and parmesan in it.
I had three egg whites left over from my yolk-filled baked goods. They were sitting in the fridge just waiting to turn into meringues. My grandmother had made them often. They were always a lovely pale milk-coffee colour, crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. Even though I had eaten them often as a child, I still didn’t know exactly how she did it.  To make meringues, I still had to consult my Commonsense Cookery Book (Metric edition – originally compiled in 1970 by the NSW Public School Cookery Teachers’ Association). I have the 1981 edition – it was my high-school cooking class bible.

Simple but effective.

Simple but effective. Dog-eared and reliable.

I enjoyed beating the egg-whites with mum’s 70s egg-beater. It’s quite the workout. A pinch of salt, more beating, then I poured sugar on to those stiff white peaks and beat again, until I had snow-covered mountains of meringue. After folding in more sugar, I spooned the confection into a piping bag and piped out coils, building up the outer ring to make little meringue nests. They looked like the effort of a beginner potter, Dali-esque clocks melting in the late afternoon sun streaming in my kitchen window. I popped them in the oven for a slow, low suntan.

The fragility of uncooked meringue

The fragility of uncooked meringue “coils”.

Later, when Spider-boy and I got home from school pick-up, mum announced “Ooooh, you should see the eye-candy that’s moved in next door”.
“What? Who? Tell me EVERYTHING!” I demanded.
So turns out the eye-candy that Mum was referring to was one bloke who’s paying rent and another who’s “just visiting” (or so he said). Then the next day we saw two women coming out of the flat, dressed as if they were going to a nightclub, but they each wheeled a pram and accompanying baby. And they have all been there every day for the past week, obviously living in our real neighbour’s two-bedroom flat that she is sub-letting to the two eye-candy families. Cosy.
They have nothing to do with this story, except to say that no way was I popping round next door Desperate Housewives-style with a basket of my mortifying muffins to welcome them to the neighbourhood. Nor would I be delivering them to my cousin. If my street were Wisteria Lane, then my mortifying muffins would be considered a weapon of mass obstruction (to being a good neighbour/to cousin’s husband’s recuperation).
But my meringues were a different story. I tasted one that night, and they weren’t bad. The palest shade of milk-coffee, crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. Worked a treat with a bit of vanilla ice-cream and blueberries. I had wanted to redeem myself with the meringues. It was a bizarre self-imposed My Kitchen Rules-style showdown where I was the only competitor and there were no attractive celebrity-chef judges. Maybe I could’ve knocked on the eye-candy neighbours door after all and asked them to join me for a bake-off. So all right, maybe I can bake a little, but it is a bit unpredictable. All I will say is that the zuchinni Loaf and the muffin recipes did not come from my Commonsense Cookery Book.

Redemption by meringue. I don't mind the crack - the beauty's in the flaws right?

Redemption by meringue. I don’t mind the cracks – the beauty’s in the flaws, right?

 And my cousin’s husband? He got a box of Lindt chocolates. My baking may be hit and miss, but I am very good at buying chocolate.