Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits

Unknown.jpegThis book has been a part of my life for my entire life. My mum had it, and sometimes baked from it. When I left home, my mum got me a copy… but it was the new version: Unknown-1.jpeg

And… I did cook from it, but it never felt like the proper book. Then when my Nana moved into a smaller place and wasn’t cooking any more, I was lucky enough to inherit her copy; I gave mine to someone else who didn’t mind the cover as much.

At one stage I thought I would try to cook my way through the whole thing, but that kinda petered out. Nonetheless, I have cooked a lot of the recipes. And they are fine. So very fine. The recipes are easy to follow, they use straightforward ingredients, and they are invariably delicious. The book is straightforward and – look, it’s a Women’s Weekly book. It’s trustworthy. It’s arranged by ingredient – almond, chocolate, peanut, walnut) – which is brilliant for this sort of book. Pick your star ingredient, then pick your recipe, and go. Also, calling this a biscuit book is selling it short. There’s lots of slices, there’s meringue, rum balls, chocolate crackle… look, if I was forced to have only one book for cooking sweet things, this would probably be it.

A sample of the recipes, alphabetically: Continue reading “Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits”

Acts of Kitchen: Cherry Cakes

AoK_logo_v2In which I talk about waffles and I get to talk to Cherry, of Cherry Cakes, and marvel at her baking prowess.

We’re sitting at John Gorilla Cafe, which is why it’s a bit noisy; if you want to try Cherry’s products for yourself that’s an easy way to do it!

Cherry Cakes – for your dessert catering needs

Cherry on Instagram: I just… these cakes are amazing

Caroline Khoo’s I’m Just Here for Dessert: the book, and the food9781743368824

 

Luke Mangan’s Sharing Plates: the food

Unknown.jpegWhen you have friends coming over for dinner, it makes sense to experiment on them with recipes from a book called Sharing Plates (sent to me by the publisher, Murdoch Books, at no cost; discussion of the book itself).

Rosemary popovers: these are in the Bread section of the book. You make a batter of flour, eggs, milk and rosemary, and then pour it into a muffin pan to bake. These were ok; they popped right out of the muffin holes (maybe mine were deeper than the 60mL specified in the recipe), which was amusing. I found them a bit too eggy to really enjoy like a bread roll, which is what I was assuming they would be like. The recipe calls for it to be served with seaweed butter (adding dried seaweed); I neither have easy access to an Asian grocery nor the inclination to try seaweed this way at home. I put thyme into some butter instead, which is still in keeping with the book as it does say you’re allowed to experiment with other herbs. I made 8, so they certainly count as ‘sharing’ food.

Salad of roasted pumpkin, chorizo, chickpeas, quinoa and blue cheese: from the Snacks and Salads section. I’ll be upfront and say I am made a few alterations to this. I don’t like blue cheese so I used a very good Persian feta instead; I left out the roast capsicum because I couldn’t be bothered; and I didn’t make/use the cabernet sauvignon dressing because I thought the chorizo left enough oil to dress the quinoa, and the chorizo and seasoned pumpkin and feta together all seemed to add enough zing. I did like the combination here of using quinoa and a few chickpeas with the chorizo and roasted pumpkin; the walnuts on top added a good crunch, and the preserved lemon a piquant tang. In the past I have made similar salads with couscous; I think quinoa is a bit lighter, and I’ll tend towards it from now on (remembering to not let it burn in the pot…). I guess salad counts as a sharing food?

Chermoula lamb: I wanted to use the salad, above, so I mixed n matched with the Chermoula lamb with pumpkin couscous, from the Meat section. Perhaps you can buy chermoula somewhere in Australia as a marinade, but I’ve not noticed it. I assume this because the ingredients list says “30g chermoula; 6x80g lamb loins…”. I’ve used chermoula before so I was happy to go make it, but I was really surprised to see if referenced here as something you would just buy. The chermoula/lamb combo was fine. To be honest I don’t really see how this counts as a ‘sharing plate’ since there’s nothing more ‘sharing’ about this than with any other recipe that serves 4-6 people.

Bounty bars: from the Sweets section. I was pretty excited about making these – the ingredients are straightforward (butter, sugar, condensed milk (!!), coconut, chocolate) and I love a Bounty. And yes, they were very tasty, and of course licking the bowls was lovely. However the instruction that “Using two forks, dip a bar into the melted chocolate and roll to coat all sides. Use one fork to remove the bar from the chocolate and the other to wipe off the excess chocolate” (p213) is deceptive. That process was far more difficult than implied: the bars had been in the freezer, to solidify, so the chocolate just stuck to them really quickly – removing excess was hard. And just getting them into and out of the chocolate was a process. Perhaps I need to use a wider-mouthed bowl, but that’s not specified in the instructions. In the end, because of how annoying the process was and because of just how much chocolate was ending up on each bar, I gave up on covering the whole thing and went with fairly serious drizzling instead. This was far easier and still, I think, deposited a good amount of chocolate on the bar. Having learnt this trick I would be happy to make these again. I did indeed make the 15 suggested by the recipe… they do count as a ‘sharing’ plate in that respect, although given that they are meant to last for a week in an airtight container, you could just as easily not share them…

At other times

Sumac-spiced pork and vela meatballs with fontina mash: the meatballs were great, although I couldn’t pick up the sumac, which was sad and perhaps not surprising since you put in the same amount of ground coriander, and then some allspice, paprika, and pepper as well. The recipe calls for you to have bacon in the mix, which I think is intriguing, as well as pork back fat… which I couldn’t find, so I just left it out. Not sure what difference it would have made, of course; perhaps smoother texture? I thought they were fine, anyway. The tomato sauce had anchovy in it, which I like for the salt and umami flavour. The potato mash was intriguing – milk, cream, butter, parmesan, and fontina. I did not add cream, because I don’t tend to have it just sitting around, but I did go out and buy some fontina specifically. Fontina is not a cheese I would willingly eat, being much stinkier than I enjoy… but I was intrigued by its addition to the mash, and I quite liked it. Having said that, I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to source fontina for future mash: it’s not that easy to find, and it’s not particularly cheap, either. I’d be happy with either more buttery mash, or adding parmesan. The meatballs and the tomato sauce were very nice. Once again, unconvinced that this really deserves the moniker ‘sharing plate’; yes you can share it, yes it would be a nice cosy dinner party meal, but… it’s not something other than that.

Lamb empanadas: certainly count as sharing plates, and these were delightful. However, the info bar at the top said it made 10 empanadas; the ingredients list specifies 4 sheets of puff pastry; and the instructions say to use a coffee mug or glass to cut “10 rounds from each sheet”…

Things I haven’t cooked but give a sense of what the book is like: the first recipe is Quail eggs benedict with chilli kale on mini muffins; the final recipe is Soft Swiss meringue with berries and almond anglaise (actually the very last recipe, in the Basics section, is Wasabi Dressing).

Acts of Kitchen: Tas on Greek Cypriot food

AoK_logo_v2In which I make  another chiffon cake (this one chocolate), and Tas talks about Greek Cypriot food and makes me hungry.

Some of the recipes Tas mentions:

Sheftalia

Kolokasi

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Interview with Kate, whose jam I used in the cake.

Monday Morning Cooking Club interview

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Acts of Kitchen: tasting with Alisa

AoK_logo_v2In which I make a few new things, and I taste Melbourne Kit Kats together with Alisa!

The Melbourne Kit Kat Chocolatory

 

Anne the preserving queen

Mexican tortilla ‘casserole’ (discussion of my version, and the disappointing cake)

Alisa’s previous appearance 

My Kit Kats:

Chocolate cupcakes

IMG_1192.JPGIn the cupcake book, these are dark chocolate wedding cupcakes. And they’re good, ok, but I don’t think they’re quite that good. Now maybe that’s my fault because I didn’t use Grand Marnier – I used orange blossom water instead – and I used Greek yoghurt instead of creme fraiche – but whatever. I also didn’t make the very rich chocolate icing, which in the recipe included double cream; icing sugar, milk and cocoa seemed to me to do the job.

Guest post!

UnknownPreviously, on BakeClass

This post is brought to you today by my sister. She’s craftier than me – she even has an Etsy shop , how cool is that – and image4as she’s gluten intolerant she was very interested in the flourless recipes in BakeClass… like this hazelnut chocolate one.

image5I have a bad habit of not following recipes, including when baking. For some reason I seem to think I know better than the recipe writer. The good thing about gluten free baking is there seems to be more leeway for minor adjustments than non-GF. But for once, I actually did what I was told. The only change I made was using rum instead of brandy – I thought I had enough, but sadly not. All measures were by weight, I find it to be a more accurate option.

My only real quandary came when I had melted the image2chocolate – do I leave it to cool for a few minutes while I whip the egg whites or do I risk scrambled yolks? I went with the former. It worked perfectly.

image1My oven can be a bit temperamental, so I only cooked it for 40 minutes and it came out perfectly.

It’s rich and delicious; a small piece is enough to satisfy even this chocolate fiend. It’s an easy recipe to follow and I’ll be making this again in future.

image3I can only presume that this last picture was taken before she licked the bowl. The spoon used to belong to our mother; I know this because when I properly moved out of home I managed to wheedle one out of her myself, and at that very moment my sister basically wrote her name on another one to make sure it didn’t end up… somewhere else. I don’t know where else, since our brother was unlikely to want it, but there was no way she was letting it go.