Monday, July 27, 2009


I love the cool retro styling of Dualit, and the colours their appliances come in. The first Dualit item I drooled over and longed to get was a 4 slice toaster, preferably in glacier blue or cream. But these machines are big and heavy, and if I was going to fork out that much money on a toaster, then I would want it on the bench top where I could admire it, but bench top space is prime real estate in our little kitchen, and in the end when my faithful little Kambrook toaster started to behave erratically after 15 years of service, I replaced in a spur of the moment decision with a cheap plastic Breville - well, at least I won't burn myself on it, and it is nice and light and easy to get in and out of the cupboard as needed.

The other Dualit items I have been admiring are their hand mixers and, more recently, blenders. My gorgeous KitchenAid stand mixer lives on the bench top, ready for use at a moment's notice, but there are jobs Charlotte cannot do - like beat the mixture for a sabayon / zabaglione over a simmering pan of water. I used to own a cheaper model of hand mixer - a Sunbeam, I think, but accidentally overtaxed the motor one day expecting the poor thing to beat cream cheese that was still too firm. I now have a replacement - a Dualit soft touch hand mixer in cream :)

I was even more determined to get one after I saw Rachel Allen using her chrome Dualit to make peanut butter and white chocolate blondies on YouTube a couple of weeks ago. I love the rubberised 'soft grip' outside, which is what made me go for a colour rather than the chrome, though I think the chrome has the rubberised surface under the handle for grip. I love the shape of the handle - very comfy to hold. I love the fact it has a whisk attachment as well as the standard beaters. It also has dough hooks, but I am more likely to use the KichenAid for dough, and more likely still to use the breadmaker. I love how the cord can be retracted into the unit.

I have yet to use my new toy, but I am enjoying admiring her for now.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bakewell bars

I have a confession: I absolutely adore the bright red jam you get in baked goods such as jam donuts. I have always wanted to be able to buy it to use in cooking, or indeed just to slather on toast. Nothing similar seems to be readily available in supermarkets, but I recently discovered it is possible to buy it online at Simply No Knead, so I purchased several small containers which arrived earlier this week. This mysterious jam turns out to be apple and raspberry jam, with more apple than raspberry.

Today I decided to put the jam to use by making bakewell bars. Bakewell tart has a layer of jam over the base of the pastry case, topped with a layer of frangipane (almond sponge); these bars are the same but are cooked as a slice instead. The recipe is from Rachel Allen's book 'Bake'. It is slightly different from other recipes I have seen as the frangipane layer contains an equal quantity of semolina as it does almond meal. It also has almond essence so you still get a nice almondy flavour. Having Dutch heritage and consequently an adoration of marzipan, nothing can ever be too almondy for my taste, so the addition of almond essence is a welcome one to make up for having less ground almonds. The semolina obviously changes the texture of the top layer - it is more crumbly and less fine, a more cake-like texture, I suppose. I will have to try it with all almond meal next time to better compare.

The pastry layer covered with jam. The instructions were to roll the pastry out, but I just pressed the dough straight into the tin to cover the base with my fingers and smoothed it out a bit with the back of a spoon.

The almond sponge layer

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Licence to grill!

I have been coveting a grill pan for awhile now so that I can have nice charred lines on my meat. I originally intended to get a new electric health grill, my old one having sustained a broken hinge at a friend's birthday party about 5 years ago. But my experience with non-stick coatings on electrical appliances hasn't been the best lately, so my second thought was to purchase a really good quality pan with a nonstick surface. But all nonstick surfaces eventually wear, so I decided in the end to pay a little extra and invest in a Le Creuset which should last a lifetime.

This is my very first item of Le Creuset, and I was very excited as you'll probably gather from the photos of my new baby below! I was tossing up between the cobalt blue (gorgeous), dune, or kiwi, but decided to go with the kiwi. When I eventually get some other Le Creuset pieces, I might go for the cobalt blue, though currently I have my eye on a risotto pot in kiwi.

I love the graduation of colour from darker at the base
to less saturated towards the top.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Honey-baked pumpkin risotto

This recipe is from Valli Little and can be found here on the Taste website. The only changes I made to the recipe were to lightly spray the pumpkin cubes with olive oil rather than drizzle with 2 tbs oil, and I used chicken stock instead of vegetable stock as that was what I had available, but I think chicken stock is a tastier option for cooking risotto for non-vegetarians anyway. It worked out to 6.5p / serve (using Pantalica brand mascarpone which was a lot lower in fat than the other brand stocked by my local Woolworths).

honey-roasted butternut pumpkin

Stirring the risotto - still slightly chalky in the centre here.

Simmering chicken stock - I included this photo mostly because
I love my Nigella Living Kitchen enamel ladle :)

Adding the parsley and lemon juice (I also love my
lemon / lime squeezer!).

The completed risotto served with a dollop of
mascarpone and a drizzle of honey :p

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Lemon and blueberry muffins

When I was shopping on the weekend, I saw these neat muffin wrappers in Woolies (made by Multix), so of course I had to bake more muffins! I bought the wrappers as they were aesthetically pleasing, but actually they turned out to be quite practical too. My old muffin pan was in need of replacement last year, and I bought a Wiltshire one - just chosen out of convenience (happened to see it reduced at Woolies last year, so I grabbed one). It has mostly been used for making Yorkshire puddings when we have roast beef. Anyway, after I had purchased it I noticed the cups are quite shallow - definitely shallower than my old pan. This recipe made a generous amount of mixture which rose above the level of the pan as you can see from the photos, but these wrappers provided a surprising amount of support and the muffins came out a nice shape. I can't remember how much I paid for the wrappers, but they are probably a pricey option (compared to normal cupcake / muffin cases) as there are only 24 in the box. So I will be on the lookout for a new muffin pan, and the Wiltshire one can go back to Yorkshire pud duty.

The recipe is from 'Mix & Bake' by Belinda Jeffery - I adore this book. Although the recipe is called lemon and blueberry muffins, citrus or even orange would probably more accurately describe the taste of mine. The recipe calls for the zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange, and I got a lot more juice and zest from my navel orange than I did from the lemon, so of course the orange flavour from the zest is more dominant. This is not a complaint though, the muffins are delicious!

Calculated the Weight Watchers points - 4 per muffin :o (the peanut butter and white chocolate brownies also worked out to 4 p each). I think you could make a bit of an argument for the health factor of the muffins though - blueberries being high in antioxidants and vitamin C, good fats from the oil, some wholemeal flour...

You can see here how the muffins rose above the level of the pan.

I think they look beautiful in their wrappers cooling.

The recipe
  • 185g plain flour
  • 160g wholemeal plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarb. soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 300g fresh or frozen blueberries (I used frozen and not quite the whole pkt.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 125ml light olive oil (I used rice bran oil)
  • 125ml milk (skim, in my case)
  • 60ml sour cream (I used WW brand of low fat sour cream)
  • grated zest and juice of one lemon
  • grated zest and juice of one orange
  • demerara sugar for sprinkling (about 3 tsp)
Preheat oven to 200ºC. Either lightly butter a 12 cup muffin tin or line with paper cases.

Combine the flours, baking powder, bicarb., and salt in a large bowl - stir with a whisk to combine thoroughly. Add 190g of the blueberries and gently mix to coat them in the flour mix.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil, milk, sour cream, zests and juices. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix gently until just combined.

Divide mixture between muffin holes. Press some of the remaining blueberries lightly into the tops of each muffin, and sprinkle tops with demerara sugar.

Bake for 20-25 mins or until golden brown and springy to touch. Cool for 1 minute, then transfer the muffins from their pan to a cooling rack.

Serve as is, or with butter, ricotta or cottage cheese.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Peanut butter and white chocolate blondies

This is the first recipe I have made from Rachel Allen's 'Bake'. For fans of peanut butter obviously, which I most certainly am.

This recipe is fantastic - quick and easy to make, and utterly rewarding to eat :p. I made a slightly healthier version, though still naughty. I used Devondale Light butter (just because I hadn't softened any proper butter) and light peanut butter as that was what I had to hand. I did wonder if these alterations would change the brownies much in terms of texture. Normal peanut butter is softer than the reduced fat version, so I thought it mightn't beat as well with the butter, but then the light butter is much softer than normal butter, so it seemed to work out fine. The resulting brownies were moist and moreish, so it didn't seem to matter too much that I reduced the overall fat content slightly.

The recipe...

  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g butter
  • 150g crunchy peanut butter
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 75g white chocolate, chopped
Butter and line a 20 x 20cm square cake tin.
Preheat the oven to 170º C.
Sift the flour and baking powder and set aside.
Cream together the butter and peanut butter until very soft. Add the brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Beat until combined. Add the flour / baking powder and chocolate and mix to form a dough.
Spread the dough into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and almost firm in the centre.
Allow to cool in the tin, then remove and cut into squares.

Years ago from my Family Circle slices cookbook I learnt the trick of extending the baking paper up two opposite sides of the tin to make it easier to remove the slice. I didn't leave much paper extended here, but it was still enough to make it very easy to remove the cooked blondie.

Even though it says to cool in the tin, I didn't wait until it was completely cooled before removing it using my baking paper handles to cool on the rack. I was feeling impatient to get stuck in as it smelt so good!

Sliced while still just slightly warm - yuuuum!

While I was baking the blondies a courier arrived with another parcel for me - gorgeous snowflake cookie cutters, and 2 stunning Nordic Ware bundt tins - the original bundt tin and the star tin. This joins my Nordic Ware cathedral bundt pan and pancake pan. I have my eye on several others, but how many bundt tins can a girl justify having?!

The baking bug

... has definitely bitten again. Well, it has been coming. I ordered some new Wilton goodies which arrived today, plus on Saturday I bought David Herbert's 'The Really Useful Cookbook' which has some delish-looking recipes for biscuits and cakes, and yesterday I picked up Rachel Allen's 'Bake'. I think first on my to do list will be Rachel's peanut butter and white chocolate blondies - I saw a clip of her making them online last week, which is what inspired me to hunt down her book 'Bake'.

I am very excited about my new Wilton goodies. I really want to get into doing some cake decorating. I think I should eventually do a course. My mum studied cake decorating when I was young and we were living in Perth, and she is great. She made both my wedding cake and my brother's wedding cake, and when my brother and I were young, we always got to pick out a cake from the Women's Weekly birthday book for her to make for our birthday cake. She isn't doing as much now and has promised me her icing equipment :). But for now I am trying to get together a few Wilton tips and bags and things. The most I have done with piping work is piping swirls on cupcakes - not very challenging!

Practice cupcakes for the cupcakes I made last year for DS2's christening. I used a Wilton 1M tip for the swirls, with bought icing flowers and in the background you can see some of the chocolate toppers I made for the cupcakes for the big day. The cupcake recipe is Nigella's (from How To Be a Domestic Goddess), iced with buttercream (recipe from Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook) - the icing was supposed to be blue but the yellow from the butter turned it aqua.

Here are some of the cupcakes I made for DS2's christening. I ended up deciding to use Betty Crocker vanilla frosting, thickened with some pure icing sugar so that I could get a true blue colour. The toppings are white or milk chocolate shaped in a mould made by Wilton (teddy bears, prams, rattles and booties). Some I added 100s and 1000s (non pareils) to the chocolate for some colour - this was my own idea and I was quite pleased with the effect.

Birthday cake I made for DS2's 1st birthday this year. The bow loops are made from plastic icing (fondant). Unfortunately despite having made them 48 hours in advance, the weather was humid, and they didn't dry enough to stay in the this nice shape and had flattened somewhat by the time it came to cut the cake :(. The colour dots are just Wilton giant sprinkles. Here I did use buttercream made with butter, hence the aqua tint despite having beaten the butter until it was as pale as possible.

My new Wilton goodies which arrived today :)

I am particularly happy I managed to get the snowflake pan, which I think is gorgeous. I saw it on the Wilton site last year, but couldn't find it available in Australia and was so disappointed. I may well make something as a bit of a Christmas in July thing...

outside of Wilton Dimensions snowflake pan

inside of pan

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Banana muffins

Over-ripe bananas - doesn't happen often at our place with my 2 boys, but today there were a couple. I am watching my weight, and so have sworn off baking, but the oven is now fixed, and we can't let a couple of bananas go to waste, so out came How To Be a Domestic Goddess...

This recipe, like almost all muffin recipes, is very easy (it is even in the children's section of the book - aimed at cooking with your children). And I have even myself convinced they are quite healthy! They contain fruit, no sugar - but honey instead (and honey's a health food, right?!), plus I used iodised salt (lots of publicity lately about how low in iodine our diets are), so that clinches it - they are a health food :p. The recipe said it would make 10 muffins, I got 7¾. For anyone that is concerned about their waistlines, I used normal butter and the muffins worked out at 2.5 points each (Weight Watchers) for 8 muffins. I'm sure you could lower the saturated fat and therefore the overall damage by using a reduced fat spread instead of butter, but that would affect the taste and I don't like to compromise on taste with these things.

This is the first time I've used the oven since it has been repaired. I was happy to note that it is heating up pretty much to the temperature I set on the dial (before I always had to reduce the temperature by 50°C).

The recipe...

Place 30g of butter, 60g of clear runny honey and ½ tsp vanilla extract in a saucepan over low heat and leave to melt. Set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly.

Combine 150g of plain flour, 1 heaped tsp of baking powder, ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda, ½ tsp ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt in a bowl. (I was too lazy to sift this, and Nigella will virtually never suggest sifting unless absolutely necessary as she hates it too - I just combined it with a wire whisk. I came up with this method myself and thought I was the only lazy person who would do such a thing, but was happy to read Belinda Jeffery confessing to the exact same method to avoid sifting in her book 'Mix & Bake'. So seeing I am in such good company, I will now happily 'fess up.)

Mash 2 large ripe bananas. Add the melted butter and honey mixture to the mash. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

Mix just enough to combine, ignoring the inevitable lumps. Otherwise the gluten in the flour will be overworked = tough muffins.

Got this idea from Nigella, and I love it - use an old-fashioned spring-loaded icecream scoop to dole out the mixture into the pans. I find this works wonderfully with the thick mixtures you tend to get with muffin batters which can't be poured in. It gives a much neater portion of batter in each muffin case and makes it quick, easy and even. The recipe said the yield is about 10 muffins; I got 7¾.

Bake for 25 mins at 190°C. I baked mine for 20 mins at about 185°C - I probably should have dropped the temperature a bit more than I did to allow for the fan-forced oven. Smelt sooo good while they baked!