Monday, August 27, 2012

Baking for Nightshift- Lemon Madeira Loaf

Anyone who lives in Auckland (and beyond) will probably have heard of, or been to, a cafe called Little and Friday. Kim Evans who owns it wrote a cookbook not so long ago and I think it has been very very popular. As someone who buys a lot of cookbooks, I tried to resist this one telling myself that I didn't need it, and that I probably wouldn't use it anyway. I manged to hold off....a bit BUT then I made the clinching fatal error and finally went to Little and Friday. OMG this place really is phenomenal and it is worthy of all the accolades it has received. Even though I had just had breakfast I felt obliged to try the extremely popular doughnuts. I mean all good Kiwi's love a good doughnut. I was brought up with those school lunch doughnuts which I still have very fond memories of....those ones with the mock cream and dab of the fake tasting jam.....YUM!!!! However L & F's doughnuts are in a whole league of their own. They are hard to describe except to say they would have to be the best I have ever ever had....ever!!! The book was effectively sold the minute I tried my hardest not to stuff that delicious doughnut down my throat. I NEED to make these! Look for the post where I actually do give them a go.

Anyway last week I was actually on a day shift....shock and absolute horror! As I usually bake for my first shift I thought I might as well bake for our morning tea so decided upon this recipe. I love Madeira cake and this one is made that little bit more special with the addition of a lemon syrup (I just made a simple sugar syrup with lemon juice added) and then adorned the top with a lemony glaze to make it look pretty. In the book she makes a simple syrup with 1 cup of sugar to 1 c up of water and the juice of 2 lemons. She brings it to the boil until the sugar is dissolved and then pours it over the hot cake. In the photo the topping looks really sugary but mine never looked like that and when I think about it how could it? Therefore I think a sugary mix of sugar with some lemon juice is probably the way to go. The ground almonds really gave this cake a good texture. I have already made it again and successfully halved the recipe for afternoon tea at a friends house yesterday. I would strongly suggest you give this recipe a go. It's easy and well worth it. I think it would keep well but I never got the chance to try this theory out. As the recipe makes 2 loaves try not to freak out about the amount of butter in get 2 for 1!

Lemon Madeira Loaf

350g butter, softened
1 1/4 c caster sugar
6 eggs
zest and juice of 3 lemons
1 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 c ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 170 C and grease and line 2 loaf tins.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add the lemon zest and juice and mix to combine.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold through the egg mixture with the almonds. Don't overmix.

The tins can be filled to 1 cm from the top but mine were both a bit smaller than that as my loaf tins must have been a bit bigger.

Bake about 50 mins or until cooked. Put the glaze on or else a nice lemon's up to you.

This would be delicious with lemon curd, whipped cream or yoghurt.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sticky Lemon Shortbread

Everyone knows that I have a 'thing' for lemon. Anything lemon is a go as far as I'm concerned and I'm always on the lookout for a new lemon thing to bake. This recipe comes from the latest Dish magazine. Dish would have to be my most favourite cooking magazine. The recipes are innovative and pretty much always work and the ingredients available here in NZ. Therefore as soon as I saw this I decided to give it a go. I already have my most favourite lemon recipe which you can find here. It's hard to go past this recipe but in the interests of lemon research I felt obliged to give it a go. This recipe was delicious. The lemon flavour was very pronounced and very creamy. However I still prefer my favourite recipe. For those with a lemon addiction, however, you will not be disappointed with this recipe.

Sticky Lemon Shortbread (Dish Issue 43)

120 g softened butter
1/4 c icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3/4 c flour
1/4 c ground almonds
pinch salt

Lemon Topping
4 eggs
2 c caster sugar
1/4 c flour
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
2/3 c lemon juice

Grease and line a 24 cm x 24 cm tin.

Preheat the oven to 170 C.
Beat the butter, icing sugar, vanilla and zest together. Add the flour and ground almonds and salt and mix until just combined.
Press into the tin and bake 15 mins until golden and firm.

For the topping whisk together the eggs, sugar and flour until smooth then whisk in the zest and lemon juice until well combined.
Pour over the shortbread and bake a further 25-30 mins until the filling is set and golden.

Cut into bars and dust with icing sugar.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Baking for Nightshift- Ginger Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream and Praline

After having had such a busy and full on last couple of months, I'm really trying to getting my baking and blogging mojo back. Even though I have still been baking, it has been some of the tried and true recipes that I have already blogged about so I didn't want to bore you with repeats. I still have quite a few stockpiled photos to blog BUT half of them I'm struggling to remember where I got the recipe from. This is the story of my baking/cooking life. I'm sure for those of you who have stupid amounts of cookbooks, cooking mags, tagged favourites and numerous blog to follow as I do, that you can relate to this! I thought I would pull my finger out this time and post these delicious cupcakes that I made for night shift on Friday.

After a day away from home (I actually took myself to the movies for the first time in months), I wanted to whip something up for the girls who were working. Our unit has been crazy busy lately with a high acuity so everyone has been frantic and working very very hard on every shift. Baking really does equal love so I really wanted to share some of that. I defaulted to one of my favourite cupcake books 'Celebration Cupcakes' by Tamara Jane. Let me tell you, if you want a cupcake book where the recipes work, then this is the one you want. I found a recipe for Gingerbread Cupcakes but as I didn't have any crystallised ginger (and in fact I can't bear it anyway), I left that out. They were delicious....gingery and light. I made a Vanilla Bean buttercream (using some of that fantastic Heilala vanilla paste) and topped it with some praline. I got the idea for the praline from a recipe for Kumara cupcakes in the Viva a few weeks ago. The praline really added a bit of va-va-voom to them so I'll remember that for a cupcake party trick next time.

Ginger Cupcakes

300g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
150g softened butter
400 g caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
160ml (2/3 c) sour cream

Preheat the oven to 170 C and line 24 muffin tins with cupcake papers.

Sift the flour, salt, soda and spices together.

Cream the butter for a couple of minutes then add the caster sugar and beat until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each (this really helps to keep the cupcakes light so give it a minute after each). Beat in the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream but don't overbeat.

Bake 20-25 mins until cooked, then remove from the tins to cool on a wire rack.

Ice with a buttery buttercream and top with crumbled up praline.

1/2 c caster sugar
1/2 cup blanched almonds (I use almond slivers)

Heat the sugar over a medium heat. Do not walk away from it and do not stir it. Swirl the pan to get the melted stuff away from the edges so the rest of the sugar can melt. Don't worry if there are lumps because it will all melt. Also don't have the heat too high or it will burn around the edges. Once it is melted and brown, add the nuts swirl them to coat in the caramel and pour immediately on to a baking paper or non stick foil lined tray. Once it is cool, pulse in a food processor to crumb up. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Family Trip Away Part 2

At the entrance to Ruakuri Cave

Stalactites hanging from the roof

Photos looks better without the flash

A 'sheet'

A bit fuzzy but these are the glowworm 'fishing lines'

The actual glowworm...the glow comes from all the waste sitting in their back area which they can't excrete. The brighter the light, the more the waste!

Shell fossil thought to be over 34 million years old and was also thought to be sitting on the bottom of NZ when it was underwater....amazing concept!

The Pretty's cave and although it doesn't look like it from these photos it was breath-takingly phenomenal

And again

A Tomo...but not quite as it doesn't have an opening on the land

Trespass notice as apparently when you own a piece of land you own it all the way to the centre of the earth...minus any gold, silver and oil!

Dons waiting for us in the stunning cafe

An exhausted pup on the way home
After we had been to the snow, we left Ohakune mid morning and drove the 2 hours to Waitomo caves to see the glowworms. Glowworms only live in NZ and in Australia (the bottom parts that is), but I'm sure they shine brighter here... ;-) We did two of the caves....the Ruakuri Cave and the Waitomo Cave. We were only allowed to photograph the Ruakuri and even thought the photos are amazing, they don't do the incredible and majestic beauty of the cave. The Ruakuri cave has only been opened for 7 years and is an absolutely amazing experience. The Stalagmites (the formations that come up from the ground) and the stalactites (the formations that come from the roof) are just phenomenal. You go to about 60 metres underground and walk through a series of walkways in semi darkness with only the right amount of lighting making it look even more stunning than it already is, all the while hearing the water running through. Reuben is keen to come back and go black water rafting but I couldn't think of anything less appealing! However I can't tell you how incredible this experience was.

After the Ruakuri cave we did Waitomo cave which really, although stunning, was just not like the Ruakuri cave. This one you walk through then get onto a boat which is quietly pulled along by the guide using a series of pulley's so you can see the glowworms hanging above you like stars in the sky. Stunning and moving but just not long enough. There was something special being in pitch black darkness and looking above you at these glowing lights on all levels. Makes you realise and appreciate this beautiful country we are so lucky to live in. It's no wonder everyone wants to move to NZ! It's beauty is unsurpassed (in my opinion).

So that was our whistle stop trip of the middle of the North Island. The kids had a ball and we loved it too. Next time Rota-Vegas here we come!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Family Trip Away Part 1

In Tirau for a coffee break

Prawn Park Tour

Prawns- Ugly but delicious!

Fishing Pools

Looking out from where I was fishing

Feeding the trout

View from inside the restaurant

Yum fresh prawns!

Huka Falls

Sledging on Turoa

After I went to Sydney earlier in the year, we made a promise to the boys that we would take them to the snow as I had changed my mind about taking them to Sydney with me. So last weekend we finally got to fulfill than promise. The itinerary was pretty chock-full. We left on the Sunday early morning after filling my new/old little car to the brim and started the drive down to Taupo. You could tell that Harry hadn't really seen much of the country other than Auckland and up to Mahurangi where his dad has a beach house, when we heard a sharp intake of excited breath. However we were only about 25 minutes from home and were passing the very unattractive East Tamaki Estuary, which although it is water, it also has power lines through it! The poor thing thought we were in Taupo already. We told him that we were actually still in Auckland and that Taupo was at least another 3 hour drive was going to be a looooonnnng trip! 

We stopped off in Tirau which is a cute little stopover town geared for those of us needing a coffee and some sustenance before continuing on our journey. They have those giant dog and sheep buildings....I guess that's a nod to our farming history and the farming area we were in. Fortified we set off to Taupo and the Prawn Park which my friend Michelle had told me about.

Taupo is a beautiful town and has huge tourist appeal. We didn't get to see much of it as we spent most of our time at Prawn Park. I love prawns and it was really interesting to find out more about them. We went on the tour and learned that they are cannibalistic little buggers, including the mother who will happily eat all her young unless they are separated. I KNEW I ate prawns for a reason! All I could think of was that movie District 9 where the aliens were called prawns because of how they looked. We had a chance to try to catch some and whatever you eat, they will cook for you for free. If that wasn't motivation then I don't know what is. However I am not a natural fisherwoman and both Harry and I lasted about 45 minutes before we got bored and wandered off to check out the rest of the park and feed the trout. None of us caught anything but it didn't stop us from enjoying some in the beautiful restaurant along with the divine chips (see the photos and try not to salivate too much). After our snack we headed into town for a few supplies and then to our accommodation which had not only a spa bath but an outdoor spa and small heated pool. Gorgeous and relaxing!  

The next morning we were once again up early to grab breakfast and coffee before heading off to Turoa and our snow experience. While snow looks pretty in photos and from the window of a car or house, I find it awful stuff. I just don't see what the appeal is to get wet, cold and have to wear all those layers. However this wasn't about me but about the boys having the experience. They loved it. Harry had a blast on the sled and playing in the snow and Reuben and Dons went snowboarding. Both picked it up quickly and neither needed a lesson to get the hang of it. The weather held up and even though it snowed a bit while we up there, that only added to the fun and experience for Harry. After that it was back down the mountain to our accommodation and a spa in the amazing outdoor spa. We went back for a second one after we had been out for dinner and that was amazing with the stars twinkling (well the ones we could see through the clouds), and the beautiful fresh air. 

The final part of our trip is to come in part 2...

At dinner in Ohakune