The Blog I Left Behind

Oh, dear, it’s been some time since I’ve posted a blog. The days just keep getting sucked into a vortex, don’t they?

What’s been happening? Well, in July I went to London and Amsterdam. I made a decision to pack in as much as could into every waking hour because life is simply too short. Had the time of my life, and not just because I finally saw the stage production of my all-time favourite movie, Dirty Dancing. In the Netherlands, I stayed with my sister and family. I soon found that the translation app on my iPhone was embarrassingly inaccurate. I tried SO hard to practise my Dutch “skills” with cheese shop assistants and the like. They, of course, were quick to realise my ineptitude and responded to me in English. One of the many highlights of the Netherlands trip, apart from seeing my family again, was a visit to the Rijksmuseum, which had been closed for a decade or so. There I saw Nicolas Cage. Or someone who looked just like him.

Nicolas Cage never ages...

Nicolas Cage never ages…

Bikes in Breda, a Dutch town.

Bikes in Breda, a Dutch town.

London was spectacular. 30 degrees most days. Who’d have thunk it? Teeming with millions of happy summer-loving people. I found riding the Tube and buses unbearable in the heat, though. (Is there no aircon on London public transport?) Pimm’s was a most effective antidote to the heat. It was better to walk everywhere anyway, up to seven hours a day, surviving on salads from Pret a Manger. I’m convinced I saw Samwell from The Game of Thrones checking out of the Hotel Russell when I was checking in. Also sure I saw Liza Minnelli having a ciggie outside a restaurant in the West End. And I’m 100% positive I saw Hugh Jackman. People were screaming his name after all. He was in town for the Wolverine premiere. By pure luck, I stumbled upon the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A Museum. Seriously could have spent an entire day there. Another highlight was St Paul’s Cathedral. I climbed almost 400 steps to the top. What really took my breath away was the incredible view of London from up there.

The view from the top of St Paul's Cathedral.

The view from the top of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman

I can assure you London Bridge is not falling down.

I can assure you London Bridge is not falling down.

Aside from travel, I’ve ventured into low-budget filmmaking. I helped my husband’s band, the Model School, shoot a music clip (below), and also did their band photos. The band last week released their third album, Backwards Down the Highway. Most of the songs were inspired by an Arizona road trip, parts of it recorded in our Sydney home studio and Brendan, the singer’s, car. And the CD was mastered in New York by the guy who did Springsteen’s Born to Run album. It sounds fantastic.

The Model School

The Model School

So that’s my latest brag update. I’ll be back sometime in the future…

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Brown is Beautiful

There is no end in sight to my baking odyssey. Today, my boss (he who wants me to write a blog post about the demise of The Bold and the Beautiful’s Stephanie Forrester), had a hankering for raspberry brownies, and I was happy to oblige.

raspberrybrownies

Here’s the recipe, adapted from a treasured cookbook given to me by a lovely colleague:

  • 250g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 250g butter, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar (I used about a cup, really. I was tempted to use stevia, but wasn’t sure it would give the same fudgy result)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened chocolate powder (I used Cadbury’s powdered drinking cocoa, which contains sugar)
  • 1 1/3 cups of plain flour
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh raspberries
  1. Preheat your oven to 170C.
  2. Grease a 20cm square cake tin and line with baking paper. Leave enough paper hanging over the edges of the tin so it’ll be easy to lift the uncut brownie cake out after baking.
  3. Melt the dark chocolate and butter together in a pan.
  4. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together, then mix in the brown sugar.
  5. Whisk the chocolate-butter mixture into the eggs-and-sugar bowl. You will be tempted to eat a large spoonful of batter at this point. (Maybe that’s just me.)
  6. Sift in the dry ingredients. Mix well. You will again be tempted to eat an even larger spoonful of the batter. Go ahead. I would.
  7. Stir in the raspberries, then pour the mixture into the baking tin.
  8. Bake for 50 minutes. It’s deemed ready if you jab a skewer into it and find a few moist crumbs on the stick. (I tested it at the 40-minute mark and it there was a lot of moist goo as well as crumbs on the skewer, so I turned off the fan and baked for a further 10 mins.) Ironically, even though this recipe called for plain flour, it came out double the height of my famous low-cakes. Take the baking tin out of the oven, and let the brownie cake sit in the tin for at least 15 mins. The middle part of it deflated after a while — this is probably not normal. Lift the brownie cake onto a board/bench, then cut into squares.
  9. Devour.

Back to writing now…

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.

IMG_2524

Mm-mm! Apple teacake.

IMG_2534

Best served drowned in pure cream.

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

Mascarpone and Me

We had some friends over for brunch this morning, and this gave me the chance to use them as guinea pigs for two recipes I found yesterday:

This is the crushed biscuit/almond meal base and the mascarpone and cream filling. Honestly, I wasn’t going to put the base mixture on the sides of the dish because I didn’t think it’d stick…but it did! Cookery miracle right there, everyone.

And this is the finished product — a topping of peaches, strawberries, raspberries and a tiny bit of mint.

I saw these baked egg cups on Pinterest yesterday and had to have a go at making (and eating them). I had an Elaine-from-Seinfeld moment, though (ie. the muffin-top episode). The recipe called for scooping out the flesh of the sourdough buns to make room for the egg. But what to do with the leftover bread? Use them to make breadcrumbs, of course!

Both recipes were easy, easy, easy. The tart was especially good because it involved no baking, which is ideal in this heat and humidity. The guinea pigs were well pleased and offered themselves up for more experimentation. But for now, it’s back to writing for me!

It’s Not Doomsday Per Se…

It’s December 21*, the last day of the Mayan long-count calendar. Naturally, according to some, this can only mean one thing — it’s the end of the world as we know it. At 11:11 UTC, to be precise. Alarmists predict an apocalypse. So I guess we’re talking earthquake fissures wide enough to swallow whole cities, Himalayan peaks exploding one by one in a daisy-chain formation, and/or widespread destruction that’ll leave the LOLcats to inherit the earth. If that’s not enough, we’re also set for a collision with planet Nibiru.

good

If you’re concerned about an imminent astronomical disaster, I have good news for you. NASA is confident Nibiru does not even exist.

There’s no cause for panic. As NASA explains in the link above, just because a calendar runs out doesn’t mean it’s the end of days. The I Can Has Cheezburger calendar my cats appeared in runs out on December 31, and no-one’s running around saying we’re all gonna die because there are no pages left. Well, okay, the Model School is. (See their post-apocalyptic music video below. Buy the song here for $1!) Some would argue the Mayans actually anticipated a new beginning after Dec 21. Further to this, my favourite psychic astrologer, Jessica Adams, has given her forecast for January 2013. No mention of a world-destroying event. If that’s not proof our hearts will go on after today, then I don’t know what is.

I usually set up a playlist of 11 songs for each chapter of my work in progress. But in the spirit of things, I’ve put together a list of 21 songs that I think are doomsday-appropriate.┬áSome are morbid, others a bit more cheerful and optimistic. Kate Miller-Heidke’s The Last Day on Earth is one of them. No apocalypse would be complete without a final listen to the Smiths’ There is a Light That Never Goes Out. Duran Duran’s Anyone Out There is a song I’d play on repeat as a siren call to summon survivors from all corners. The rest:

What songs are on your end-of-the-world list? Got a fave doomsday movie or book?

*in Sydney, Australia

Drink Up, Cool Down

It’s going to be a 30-degree Sunday, and I should be outside enjoying Sydney’s summer. Instead, I’m indoors and attempting to add another 2,500 words to my latest manuscript. As you can imagine, I’ll need a bit of nutritional help to reach this goal. So far today I’ve consumed a block of Lindt chocolate, had an affogato (husband’s secret recipe), and now I’m drinking this refreshing homemade beverage — my summer special:

IMG_1428Summer Special ingredients:

  • 250mL soda water or mineral water
  • 10 or so mint leaves, slightly bruised to release da flavour
  • Juice of half a lemon or to taste
  • Ice, loads of it

Mix it and drink it. Add sugar if you like, but I think it’s fine unsweetened. I just remembered I have two punnets of strawberries in the fridge and I reckon I could put a chopped-up berry in the next batch. A good splash of gin or vodka would work well too.

Speaking of all things summer, my hubby’s band recently released their latest single, Pictures of Summer. Filmmaker Alex Munt shot the film clip for them in Bondi:

The song is on my playlist for Chapter Seven of my WIP.

What’s on your summer playlist? Do you have a favourite cooling drink?