Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gluten-free Caramel Slice and a visit with Michelle and Elijah

My lovely friend Michelle has just had her third baby...a beautiful little boy called Elijah...(one of my most favourite names). So the other day I went for a visit to get an Elijah-fix. And this little boy is a fix! He is snuggly and delicious and very very kissable. I didn't get to see his big sister Charlotte (who I call little Miss Lotts), but by all accounts she is pretty amazing with her new little brother. I did see Michelle's other baby Sammy who is fantastic with Elijah and very tactile and you can see in the photos which are to follow. 

Anyway my friend Michelle is a real doer. She never relaxes and chills out instead using her free time when the baby is asleep to do housework, cook and generally make things happen. Therefore I wanted to make her some food to maybe take the load off for a night. As she is reluctantly gluten-free it needed to be something that she could eat so I made a couple of lasagnas with one having gluten-free pasta and the other with normal pasta and the cheese sauce made with cornflour instead of the normal flour/butter roux. Of course something 'treaty' had to be in order too and as one of Michelle's favourite things to indulge in is caramel I knew it had to be a caramel slice. This is very easy to make gluten free or to keep 'normal'. I did add macadamia nuts to the topping as the recipe suggested but I think it was a waste as the thick caramel just hid the flavour of them instead just giving the slice a bit of a crunch. Next time I would leave them out altogether. By all accounts Little Miss Lotts liked the slice too so it obviously didn't have a distinctive gluten free flavour to it (I find as someone who isn't gluten-free that the flour can have a funny texture to it).

Michelle's Gluten-free Caramel Slice

1 c Healthries Simple wheat & gluten free Baking mix
½ c desiccated coconut
½ c soft brown sugar
125g melted butter

60g butter, extra
¼ c golden syrup
1 X 400 g can sweetened condensed milk
70g macadamia nuts, chopped (I wouldn't use these again but go for it if you to add them)

200g chocolate melted

Preheat oven to 180ยบ C. 

Combine the flour, coconut, brown sugar and butter. Press into baking paper lined 26 x 16cm slice pan and bake for 12 -15 minutes or until golden brown. 

Heat extra butter and golden syrup in a saucepan until butter has melted and add condensed milk. Stir over a medium heat for about 3-5 minutes or until caramel is becoming golden brown in colour. Pour over the prepared base and bake another 10 mins until it is gloden brown (but don't overcook it). 

Melt the chocolate and stir until smooth.Spread over the caramel and refrigerate to set before slicing.

And here are some photos of a slightly jaundice-looking Elijah mostly being held by big brother Sam...

Sammy and Michelle


Monday, June 13, 2011

Chocolate Custard Gloves

I didn't think I would bake today, instead trying to clean the house and then have a bit of relaxing time before I have to get Harry to swimming, then do his ballet practice (only 2 weeks until his exam!), and finally get ready for my night shift tonight. It's a busy life being a full time shift-working mum! However even though I didn't have any intentions of cooking clearly even the best laid plans and so on and so on and so on....

I always have a heap (and I mean a heap), of recipes that I have cut out of newspapers or printed out from the many blogs I follow, sitting on my cookbook holder which sits on my bench. It drives me crazy every time I look at the pile as it looks so messy but I know that once they make their way to my recipe box, I'll never see them again. The problem is that I also have a ridiculous amount of cooking magazines and cookbooks to complicate the matter further. I KNOW I'm not the only one with this affliction so that at least gives me some comfort....and er justification to keep on accumulating....

This recipe is one form Dean Brettschnider's book called 'Global Baker'. I have had my eye on this recipe for ages and after baking so many cakes and biscuits lately, thought it was time for a change. These buns are loosely based on something commonly found in China where Dean has a store/bakery. He describes this as being a soft sweet buns with a squidgy chocolate custard filling. This is an accurate description. The custard is made first and left in the fridge covered to cool while you prepare the dough. The dough itself is a breeze to make and is really quite sticky. Dean warns against adding anymore flour as this is how it's meant to be but despite that it is still pretty easy to work with. 

These buns are delicious. The dough is slightly orange flavoured thanks to the zest and this is just delicious with the lovely rich chocolate custard. They are not a fussy thing to make and the randomness of how they fall onto the baking sheet only add to their appeal. I'll take these to work tonight and I'm sure they won't last long. If you are scared of yeast don't be. Give these a go as they are super easy and pretty forgiving. 

Chocolate Custard Gloves

Chocolate Custard
2 egg yolks
20g sugar
15g plain flour
170g milk
30g sugar
few drops vanilla extract
65 g dark chocolate, chopped

Whisk the egg yolks and first quantity of sugar together until pale in colour, then whisk in the flour to form a paste and set aside. Heat the milk, the second measure of sugar and the vanilla into a pot and bring to the boil. Take off the heat then stir in the egg mixture. Return to the heat and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until it has thickened. Stir all the time. Take off the heat, stir in the chocolate and stir until it is well combined and melted. Put into a bowl, cover with clingfilm (push it onto the surface so it doesn't form a skin), and put into the fridge to cool.

300g high grade flour
5g salt
25g melted butter
25g sugar
zest of one orange
5g or 1 tsp active dried yeast
1 small egg
150ml water

Place all ingredients into a large bowl (I used my Kitchen Aid) and mix to form a dough mass. Then knead about 10 mins. The dough will be sticky but don't keep adding flour. I think it would be much easier to do this in a machine rather than by hand.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place until risen (about doubled in size).

Tip onto a floured surface and using a rolling pin roll out into a rectangle about 45cm long and 20cm wide. Using a palette knife spread 2/3rds of the chocolate custard over the whole surface of the dough. Then fold the two ends onto the centre so the edges meet. Then spread the rest of the custard over one half and fold that over (so you have 4 layers of dough and 3 layers of custard).

Cut into strips (I got 9 out of the recipe), and carefully place them onto a baking tray (line with baking paper) cut side up. Cover with clingfilm and leave for about 35 mins. 

Preheat the oven to 190C. Brush with an egg wash and bake 15-18 mins until they are light, golden brown. 

Brush with a sugar glaze when they come out of the oven (made by bring 60g sugar and 200ml water to the boil) and are still hot.

Place on a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Baking for Nightshift- Brown Sugar, Pecan and Pear Bundt Cake

Little pretty!

Inside the one I had to try

Still cooling so is unadorned with icing sugar

So tonight I once again start my night shifts. As you would know by now I like to take something with me on my first night (and occasionally on subsequent nights too...), for all the girls (and sometimes the occasional boy), to share. Last night I started getting Harry's cold and today I have a very sore throat so I really should just be lying down and resting before I have to go to work. However I am what you would call, an 'active relaxer' and I find it hard to sit down for too long instead preferring to be doing something I enjoy. That is first and foremost baking so after washing my hands almost obsessively, I chose this cake to make based on a recipe from Dorie Greenspans Book "Baking: From My Home to Yours' which is one of my favourites and is jam-packed with fantastic recipes. If you decide to get it don't buy it here in NZ as it is way more expensive than getting it from Amazon or Book Depository. As well as that I love love love using my bundt tins and I needed an excuse to try out my Nordicware Rose Tin so the decision was sealed almost immediatly. 

Awhile ago I made these Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbreads (also a Dorie recipe), and I just love the flavour combination of the caramel-like brown sugar with the pecan nuts. This recipe is one of those recipes you can mix up and change to make it into whatever combination you want. Dorie gives ideas for an all nut cake, apple and raisin, pear and prune, you can add in nuts...or not, so really it's up to your imagination. I had some pears which are in season at the moment sitting in the kitchen and when I looked into my container of nuts I found that I only had pecans and almonds. Therefore I thought the combination of pear with the brown sugar and pecans might work....and it does.

This cake has a delicious light texture. The pears keep it moist and the mix of pecans with the pear and brown sugar is delicious. I did think to make a glaze but I think I will keep it like it is with just icing sugar on top so as to not detract from the flavour. This is a cake well worth making. All those in the Tuesdays With Dorie seemed to love it and if you do a search for the cake you can see how all the others fared making it. Feel free to mix it up and let me know if you have tried a different and lovely combination if you can.

Brown Sugar, Pear and Pecan Bundt Cake

2 1/4 c flour
1/2 c toasted and ground pecan nuts (or you can use other nuts or else just use plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
230g butter
2 c packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 c buttermilk
2 medium pears cored and cut into small cubes (or else use apple)
1/2 c chopped pecans (or else other nuts, or prunes, raisins etc)

Oven to 170C. Grease a 12 c bundt tin (I used my 10c Bavaria tin as well as 4 of the little rose).  You could also use a 26cm tin but I would line the bottom as well.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda and ground nuts.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating for a minute after each. Beat in the vanilla.

On low speed beat in the flour mixture in 3  lots and buttermilk in 2 lots alternately beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Do not overmix and just mix to combine. Fold in the pears and other nuts.

Bake about an hour or until cooked.

Sprinkle over icing sugar and enjoy.

And to my lovely friend Michelle who is having her little boy tomorrow....good luck Hon, I can't wait to meet the little darling! And a big congratulations to little Miss Lotts who will be a big sister for the second time this time tomorrow. Lots of love to you all xxx

You can see this post over at  Sweet As Sugar Cookies who very kindly invited me to put this post on...Thanks!!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Feijoa Friands with Cream Cheese frosting

For the last two days I have been stuck inside looking after a sick Harry. To say that it is impossible to overdose of Cartoon Network and Children's movies would be a lie. Today I couldn't bare it any longer and just HAD to turn it off before I went crazy. Luckily Harry is on the mend so he was quite happy playing on his Playstation (which almost never gets used) instead, as well as drawing and 'making things'. I only had a few criteria for him which was to stay warm in his PJ's and slippers, no running around and to clean up after himself. We managed the first two but weren't so lucky with the third one. It's just as well he didn't manage to get into creating in full-on mode! 

While he was otherwise engaged and children's TV turned off, I turned to the main way I know how to relax which is to bake. I had some spare egg whites in the freezer so thought I might try these Feijoa friands from Helen Jackson's new book. As feijoas are pretty much out of season now, I remembered that I had some frozen in the freezer too. One thing I find with fruit like this is that they can make the cake/loaf or whatever else you are making a bit heavy and sometimes a bit 'gluggy'. Maybe this is because of the moisture content in the fruit- especially if it has been frozen first. 

I had to make these in my muffin tins as quite possibly one of the only tins I don't own is a friand one. I have also never made friands before, nor do I often eat them, so really had no idea of what to expect. The mixture itself is pretty easy and I did substitute the flour with rice flour as Dons is gluten free. I don't think this affected the end result all that much. However the one thing I found is that the end result was quite heavy. I think this is from the fruit but who knows. They are still really quite nice to eat, and lets face it, anything with cream cheese frosting has got to be that much better than it would have been unadorned with this delicious icing. 

Regardless of how good or bad they taste they will have to be given away to the neighbours as Dons found them too sweet, Harry isn't all that into them, Reuben is going to his Nana's house for the night, and I now have a very sore throat thanks to Harry, so I will be avoiding sweet stuff anyway. I'm hoping that a good sleep will put my sore throat to rest but as I sit here swallowing like just check if it is still sore, I think that may be a long shot. Anyway if you want to make these a similar recipe can be found here just substitute 1c of feijoa puree for the rapsberries. 

Baking for Nightshift- Coconut Ice Slice and Triple Chocolate Brownies

One of the cookbooks I have bought lately is Helen Jackson's new book called 'Helen Jackson Kitchen'. I have, for a long time now, listened to Helen on Radio Live's Saturday morning Kitchen and Garden Show, as well as being a frequent visitor to her Foodlovers website. The forums on this site are a really good little community of people who are always willing to help and contribute. When her book was released I knew I wouldn't be able to resist it for too long...and I was right!

One of the recipes I saw when I first opened the book was this one so I'm quite surprised it has taken me so long to actually make it, (well a couple of months anyway). I made it for the first of my last set of night shifts over Queen's Birthday weekend and I have to say it was very easy to whip up. If you have a very sweet tooth then this is the recipe for you however even for my tastes it was a bit too sweet. I also expected it to have a more solid topping but it was actually quite soft which made it less appealing. I don't think I will make it again as I don't think it was quite what I wanted or expected. I'm sorry but I also can't post the recipe as I would like to support Helen's book. However if you do want the recipe you can let me know and I can email it to you privately.

I am lucky to work with a great set of girls and we often organise a food night where we all bring something to share. The second of my night shifts was one of these. When I woke up I really needed something that was easy and fast to make. These triple chocolate brownies was just the thing., debauched...yes, decadent...yes. You can find the recipe here in my blog. Make these...they will become your go to when you need something yummy in a hurry.