Teacake for Two

Yet another post about baking, not writing. Sorry. Although…I do think about my manuscript while cooking, so it’s not a total departure. (My characters had a whole conversation in my head while I mixed the batter — fellow fiction writers will understand this, I’m sure.)

Anyway, last week my husband mentioned he likes apple teacake. I LOVE apple teacake. After the low-cake disaster from a few weeks back, I was ready to go back into the kitchen and give it a go. My lovely friend Kandy Shepherd, who is a baker and author extraordinaire, had a couple of suggestions for me about baking — the most important of which was to stop substituting ingredients. Makes a lot of sense, really!

The My Nana’s Recipes blog had a very simple apple teacake recipe using ingredients I already had on hand. If I may say so, it turned out beautifully and it broke cake-height records in my household — a whopping four centimetres!

Kandy, if you’re reading, you might want to close your eyes now, because I have to admit to tweaking the recipe. I used gluten-free self-raising flour again, and egged on by hubby, I added an extra egg. He’d read somewhere about putting an extra egg into cakes to make them richer… Oh, and I creamed the sugar and butter properly. By “properly,” I mean I didn’t take my usual lazy-baker’s route. i.e melting the butter. (On further reflection, this is prolly why my previous cakes haven’t risen to the occasion. Ahem.) No, I worked with softened butter and elbow grease. Great tips for creaming butter and sugar by hand can be found in this post on The Kitchn blog and in its comments trail. Also, in the batter, I put in half a finely diced apple, though I wish I used more or made them chunkier pieces because I can’t detect the apple in the finished cake!

I can’t offer you a taste-test (there’s only two slices left anyway), so here are a couple of piccies. I used a filter for the first shot, so the cake looks more yellow/orange than it actually is.

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Mm-mm! Apple teacake.

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Best served drowned in pure cream.

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My Friend the Chocolate Coconut Cake

My boss wanted me to blog about Stephanie Forrester, the Bold and Beautiful character who was finally killed off in the episode that aired here yesterday. (I’ll write that post another day, my dear leader!) Today is someone very special’s birthday, and you know what that means? Cake time!

Let me tell you about my chocolate cakes. They. Never. Rise. Ever. (Except for the Nigella Lawson Nutella cake I made last year — a birthday wish come true!) I’ve used fancy ovens, average ovens, ancient ovens. I measure carefully. Don’t overwork the mixture. Use the correct flour. Yet, no matter what I do, when they come out of the oven, my chocolate cakes resemble flying saucers. I’ve now embraced failure and consider height-challenged cakes my specialty!

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My “world-famous” low cake! How low can it go? Two centimetres of cake + one centimetre of icing.

The original recipe for this chocolate coconut cake can be found on the most excellent Taste site. I rebelled a little against the list of ingredients — swapped normal self-raising flour for gluten-free self-raising (admittedly I almost forgot to put in the last 1/2 a cup of flour), brown sugar instead of caster sugar, and coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. The icing is made of pure deliciousness — 200 grams of mascarpone and approx 1/4 1/2 cup of Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate powder. Can’t wait to have low cake for breakfast. It’s sure to give us a sugar high.

Happy birthday to my very special person! Enjoy your low cake! x

Experimental Sunday Roast

I’m experimenting with food again. You might be thinking, “Shouldn’t you be writing?” but studies have shown writers have big brains that need constant feeding*. So today, for my brain’s and my book’s health, I made a lamb pot pie using a recipe I made up all by myself. It’s very rustic and simple. A bit like me, really! I meant to make this yesterday to celebrate Australia Day, but we went out for Vietnamese food instead.

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Lamb Pot Pie (serves 2 hungry adults)

A measurement conversion calculator can be found here.

Lamb Pie ingredients

  • 500g diced lamb (you can use mince if you don’t like chunky pies)
  • 1 to 2 cloves of roughly chopped garlic
  • 10cm spring of rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tbspn olive oil (I use extra virgin for everything)
  • 1 tspn hot English mustard
  • salt’n’pepper
  • 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, cut each tomato in half
  • 250mL red wine
  • 250mL beer
  • 2 large potatoes – I used Pontiac. You may need more depending on the baking dish you use. See point 9 below.
  • cream
  • 1 tbpsn Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tspn Vegemite
  • 1 tbspn plain flour or cornflour

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C, fan-forced.
  2. Heat the olive oil, then add rosemary and garlic. Keep it moving so the garlic doesn’t burn.
  3. On high heat, add the lamb and brown it off. Add the tomatoes.
  4. Next splash in the wine and beer, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. By the way, the beer was hubby’s suggestion and it totally worked in well with the wine.
  5. Stir in the mustard.
  6. You want to the sauce to be like a thick gravy (or I do, anyway) and the lamb to be tender. If the gravy is too thin, put the flour and a few tablespoons of the sauce in a cup and whisk till all the lumps come out, then stir into the lamb mixture and simmer gently for up to 10 mins.
  7. Season to taste with salt, pepper, Vegemite and Worcestershire sauce. If you don’t have or like Vegemite, use a stock cube or whatever kind of seasoning you prefer.
  8. Take off the heat.
  9. Peel one of the potatoes (preferably the biggest one), chop into thick chunks and boil till soft. Add a good slop of cream, and mash.
  10. Scoop the lamb mixture into a baking dish. I used four ramekins as individual pie dishes – 9cm wide, 4cm deep.
  11. Top with an even layer of mashed potato, then sprinkle with cheese. I also put teeny bits of butter on top…
  12. Thinly slice the other large, uncooked potato and artfully arrange two or three slices atop the mash. Reserve some slices for the salad (below).
  13. Place in the oven for about 10 mins or until the potatoes are brown and the cheese is bubbling. Take out and leave to cool a little.

Salad ingredients

  • 1 large potato (left over from the pie portion of this menu), sliced chip-thin
  • 1 small fennel bulb, sliced a little thicker than the potato
  • a big handful of washed rocket (aka arugula)
  • 1/2 tbspn extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the grill (aka broiler) to 200C.
  2. Spread the oil in a baking tray.
  3. Toss the potato thins and fennel into the tray, and then spread them around in an even layer.
  4. Grill until softened/cooked. It took about 5 mins in my oven. Just keep an eye on them so they don’t turn into charcoal.
  5. Place the rocket leaves in a bowl. Add the warm potato and fennel mixture, and use the oil from the baking dish as a dressing. Mix well with tongs.
  6. Serve with the lamb pie, which should now be cool but not too cool enough to eat.

Bon appetit!

In other news, it’s my cat’s 14th birthday today. She’s all grown up and has her own cyber place at P & P Furball Factory. She is not having any of the lamb pie, nor is she having the apple galettes I’m making later…

*I don’t really know of any specific studies to support this, but it makes sense, don’t you think?

O Christmas Feast… O Christmas Feast…

Happy holidays! Or as we Dutch say, “Prettig kerstfeest!” Or…as our cats say, “Merry Catmas!”

Bow-Peep

We’re heading off soon for our traditional “waifs” Christmas feast with friends. Each year we either have lunch or dinner together — I guess it’s dunch or lunner this time, because we’re tucking in at about 3:30. I’ve made these delish pots of salted caramel sauce for our hosts:

Three Wise Jars

Three Wise Jars

Actually, um, the third jar is my Christmas present to myself. The jar on the left contains a generous splash of Frangelico liqueur. Next time I’ll try adding Cointreau. I’ve been saying forever that I’d like to make caramel sauce, since it’s one of my favourite things on earth to eat. I kept buying the ingredients for caramel-making, but I put off making a batch because I had nightmares about burning the sugar so badly I’d have to throw out my pots. However, this recipe by Stephanie at the Lick My Spoon blog was stupendously easy to follow, and the results are gorgeous. Clean-up was a cinch. No burning or crustiness whatsoever! The consistency is a little thin (it’s still cooling), but it will solidify a little more over time. It’s perfect now to drizzle over vanilla ice-cream, but I really should save room for dunch/lunner.

Hmm… Maybe a little tablespoon of caramel by itself won’t hurt…

In goes the cream... Click on the photo for the Lick My Spoon blog's recipe.

In goes the cream… Click on the photo for the Lick My Spoon blog’s recipe.

Frangelico salted caramel sauce + non-alcoholic salted caramel

Ta-da! Frangelico salted caramel sauce + non-alcoholic salted caramel

Enjoy your cooking adventures, everyone! Have a safe and happy break.

Bits

Lit agent Michelle Humphrey of uber talent agency ICM, who represents my wonderful 2010 Golden Heart sister Jen McAndrews, is offering the chance to win a 10-page critique at the Class of 2k10 blog! (Gosh, what a long sentence!) You’ve got until Sept 14 to enter, so…RUN!

If you’re in Brisbane, the writers festival is happening right now. My girls Anna Campbell and Christine Wells, both historical romance authors, are running a workshop. Those two are a great double act, so go along and see them if you can.

I’m not in Brisbane, so among other things, I’m going to attempt something rather ambitious–making macarons. I had a salty caramel macaron at a Sydney cafe recently and the memory of this sweet morsel continues to linger! Culinary goddess Not Quite Nigella learned how to make them at Baroque Bistro. Check out her experiences here. It looks like a long and drawn-out process, and if I fail, I’ll probably go out and buy some instead. Either way, I shall have my way with macarons this weekend!

Mmmmacarons!

More mmmmacarons!