Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Ah the scone...that quintessential NZ baking icon which has graced many an afternoon or morning tea from posh homes placed on dainty beautiful plates and topped with homemade jam and cream to farming homes at 'smoko' time served in proper 'man' sizes laden with butter and jam. The scone comes in all flavours and is the perfect vehicle limited only by your imagination. My mother used to make cheese scones (yuk...I don't eat cheese) or date scones regularly and for a real treat the cinnamon scroll (my favourite to this day). For families struggling the scone can provide a filling and delicious lunch especially as all you need is some flour, baking powder, a bit of butter and some milk to whip them up. My kids love them for lunch in the weekend and will scoff them all down if I let them. 

It all seems to be so easy to make a scone, surely anyone worth their salt in the kitchen can whip up a batch of scones....surely? Well the delights of making a good scone has eluded me for years. I just could not get them right and would often end up with things resembling doorstops. In fact I even, (and this is a huge confession here), ended up using for some time.....scone mix!!! I know how could I???!!! My friend Leigh always had the scone touch learned through cooking at the IHC for years. Leigh is the queen of all food comfort...scones, pikelets (although I have held for a few years now the most perfect pikelet recipe so I think I could match her here finally), custard, white/cheese sauce are just some examples of what I have had to compete with in the comfort food stakes for over 20 years!

Until now! While I freely admit that I will never achieve scone-queen status as Leigh has, these are pretty bloody good. For me the secrets have been to a) grate in the cold butter before lightly rubbing it into the flour, b) make the dough quite wet, c) mix and handle it as little as humanly possible. You will be rewarded with light, delicious scones you can be proud of...and I am! If you happen to have any leftover, they reheat well in the oven the next day.


2 c plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
50 g cold butter
1 c milk

Heat the oven to 205C fan bake (or 230C normal bake)

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Grate the cold butter into the flour and lightly rub it in.

Using a knife gently mix in the milk.

Turn onto a floured bench and shape in the widish log. Cut into 8 pieces (you can also use a round cutter if you want them to be more uniform. '

Bake 12 mins.

Enjoy with butter (try the Lewis Creamery butter for an authentic and totally divine flavour of butter made the old fashioned way), jam (try Te Horo...yum!) and of course freshly whipped cream. I also love them with lemon curd too.

Place reasonably close together on a baking paper lined cold tray and brush with milk.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Marble Cake

What is not to love about a good Marble Cake? Easy to whip up for maximum effect. The key is to make sure you don't over-marble it so the two colours end up making a light brown colour instead of giving you the definition you need for it to be a proper marble cake. Get a knife and just do some basic zigzags (I think I only did 2 full zigzags through the cake), and you will be rewarded with something like this. The flavours were chocolate-orange and lemon and I really liked the texture of it....before I gave it all away that is!

Marble Cake

125g butter
1 c caster sugar
2 eggs
2 c self raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c milk, warmed
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp boiling water
zest of an orange
1 tsp vanilla
zest of a lemon

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a 20cm ring tin then dustit with flour making sure you tip out the extra. I actually used a 20cm tin and lined the base after greasing it with butter. This did increase the cooking time but as I don't have a ring tin (yes you read that first here), I didn't have the option.

Beat the butter until creamy then gradually beat in the sugar until light and creamy. Beat the eggs together and then add those gradually to the butter mixing in 1-2 Tbsp of the measured flour as you go.

Sift the rest of the flour with the salt then add to the butter mix alternately with the milk. 

Divide the batter between two bowls. Mix the cocoa with the boiling water and stir into one lot of batter along with the orange zest. To the other add the vanilla and lemon zest. 

Drop spoonfuls of each batter into the tin then marble with a knife...remember to not overdo it.

Bake 40-50 mins or until cake is cooked.

Once the cake is cooled spoon over a glaze made with sifted icing sugar and orange juice.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Baking for Nightshift- Orange Blossom Water Butter Cookies

I also made these yummy little biscuits to take last night and to put into Gaga's container. I found the recipe in Allyson Goftons Cookbook "Bake' but ended up zhooshing them up with a drizzle of icing which I think made them look less plain and more pretty. Orange blossom water gives them a delicious Middle eastern vibe and the biscuits themselves had a nice crunch and a texture. I got about 30 biscuits out of this dough.

Orange Blossom Water Butter Cookies

250 g butter, softened
1 c icing sugar
grated rind of 1 orange
2 tsp orange blossom water
2 1/2 c sifted flour

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a couple fo baking trays with baking paper.

Beat the butter and icing sugar together until very light and fluffy. Beat in the orange rind and the orange blossom water.

Gently mix in the flour until you get a nice firmish biscuit dough.

Roll teaspoonfuls into little balls and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake about 12 mins then remove to a rack to cool.

Drizzle with an icing made with icing sugar, some orange blossom water and a bit of hot water to get the right consistency.

Baking for Nightshift- Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Cake

Last night for work I whipped up a couple of things so I could return my lovely Philipina friend's container to her. Ning (or Lady Gaga as we call her), brings me in the most most amazing Philipino food. My favourites are Adobo or Pancit so the other night I got a container of chicken adobo and rice which I had all to myself for the dinner the next night....to say this dish is delicious would be a gross understatement!!! Anyway I thought I would return her container filled with biscuits which was why I made a couple of things.

This recipe was one that I tore out from the Listener. I liked the look of it because anything chocolate and raspberry has got to be good and it also didn't have any chocolate in it. You do have to use good rich cocoa and while she recommends Valrhona, I used the fantastic Equagold cocoa which to my mind, is as good as Valrhona. This was delicious. Mine took about an extra 10 mins to cook but that was because my tin was only 20 cm square instead of 22 cm. However I'll be glad to have this on my list of quick, easy and lots of bang-for-your-buck recipes.

Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Cake

200g butter
400g caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
75g cocoa
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1 c fresh or frozen raspberries
Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 170C and grease and flour a 22 cm square tin (I lined mine with baking paper too.

Cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time with the vanilla and beat well.

Sift the dry ingredients together and fold into the butter mix carefully.

Put half the mixture into the tin, top with half the raspberries then top with the remaining mixture before topping the lot with the rest of the raspberries.

Bake about 45 min until a skewer comes out pretty much clean (mine still had crumbs on it and those pieces we yummy), and coming away from the tin. Dust with icing sugar once it has cooled.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Basic Vanilla Butter Cake

Not so long ago (well about 4 issues ago) I discovered you can now subscribe to get the Donna Hay magazine onto your Kindle, or in my case the Kindle app on my ipad. What a revelation. The added bonus is that it is so much cheaper especially if you don't live in Australia. Once you get your head around having a magazine in Kindle format instead of as a hard copy taking up space on your coffee table and filling your bookshelves and once you figure out how to navigate it (I promise it isn't hard), you will be pleased you took the ipad/kindle plunge. I love it when I get a notification saying there is a new magazine ready to download....mind you I get excited when a shiny new cooking magazine arrives in the post too....I think I'm a lost cause! In fact I have also been discovering the, (much cheaper), joys of buying cookbooks online too. Sometimes they are a pain to navigate and really nothing totally compensates for the smell and physical feel of a new cookbook. However when you have as many cookbooks as I do all taking up valuable space on the bookshelf and needing to be culled every couple of years to make way for the new additions, it seems like a better and better idea. I recently bought a cake decorating book I have had my eye on for less than a third of the shop price, and today I bought Gordan Ramsay's new book for less than half of the shop price. Total bargain I say!

Anyway I digress. This recipe is from the latest Donna Hay magazine (Spring) and is in her little compilation at the back of the cakes she is most asked to recommend. I love vanilla and sometimes you don't want all the icing kerfuffle and you just want a nice, light and easy cake to go with your afternoon or morning cuppa. This is it. You can turn it into a Coconut and Lemon cake or a Raspberry Butter cake too but if you love Vanilla, go for this one. The method is a little different but I went with it and it really was successful.

Basic Vanilla Butter Cake (Donna Hay)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
120 g unsalted butter
1 c caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c milk
2 tsp vanilla (I used 1/2 tsp vanilla paste and 1 tsp vanilla extract)

Preheat the oven to 160C and grease and line a loaf tin.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.

Beat the butter in an electric mixer on medium speed for 3-4 mins or until smooth. Gradually add the sugar scraping down the sides of the bowl every now and then and continue to beat 5-6 mins until very pale and fluffy. Gradually add the egg 1 Tbsp at a time. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mix and milk until smooth. Add the vanilla and beat on low until combined (don't overmix).

Bake about 50 mins or until cooked. Leave in the tin for 10 mins before turning out to cool on a wire rack.

To make the Lemon and Coconut cake add 1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest and 1/4 c desiccated coconut with the vanilla.
To make the raspberry cake add 1/2 c frozen raspberries.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Caramelised Onion, Tomato, Sausage and Olive Pissaladiere

So this is yet another triumph from Annabel Langbein's new cookbook 'Simple Pleasures'. I made it for our DVD family night last night and it was absolutely delicious. The base was a revelation. Instead of the usual yeasted pizza dough, this is an Olive oil base which goes fabulously crispy and tastes wonderful and has the added bonus of being very easy to whip up. The topping is some caramelised onions, pork and fennel sausages (which I bought from the Westmere Butcher), cherry tomatoes and olives. Another reason to buy this book!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cupcakes for an 18th Birthday

A photo post of these cupcakes I made for a friend of a friend's daughter who was turning 18. They are just my usual yummy chocolate cupcakes with a chocolate buttercream. I made the flowers beforehand but didn't make enough big ones which explains those that just have the little ones on them. Unfortunately the colours don't show as well as they looked but I have to say they looked pretty lovely in the 'flesh'. The lustre dust (gold for the jade ones and silver for the pink ones), and edible glitter just completed the prettiness of them. Most importantly she seemed to like them.

Flash-Roasted Pesto Salmon

Before going into the oven

Just out of the oven
Just a quick post and a dinner one for once. My new favourite cookbook has got to be the new one in the Annabel Langbein Free Range Cook series 'Simple Pleasures'. As I have been trying (and I mean trying and not always successfully), to meal plan, I trawled through the book and have a few things to make out of it this fortnight. This looked quick and easy enough to cook on a post night shift night and seemed pretty healthy. Like all of Annabel's recipes (well 99% of them), it turned out beautifully. 

You pretty much heat your oven to a massive 220C fanbake and line a shallow tin. Pin bone your salmon pieces (fresh in today at good old P and S), spread over some pesto, sprinkle over some lemon zest, capers and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle over some EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Then bake about 6-8 mins and enjoy. We had ours with some new season roasted asparagus. 

Other things in my plan for this fortnight are Sausage, Tomato and Olive Pizza, Bang Bang Salad, Chicken and Leek Gratin and Burgers with Spicy Chicken Patties. Hopefully I'll end up making them all! If you are thinking about getting this book I would highly recommend it.

Lemon Yoghurt Cake with Lemon Buttercream Icing

This is my tried and true Lemon and Buttermilk Cake which I have made countless times. I made this cake, (you can see it is sitting on a rather unattractive dish but this is my cake container base), for Harry's ballet teacher and her partner after a particularly harrowing week. I figure there's nothing like a bit of cake love when you have had a hard week. I quickly piped the buttercream into rosettes which, while a little rough, still looks rather pretty. Add to that a bit of yellow edible glitter and I think it looked ok. 

Salted Caramel Sauce

I have just realised how many photos I have off things I have yet to blog about....I think I have been a little bit slack for the last few months! So I'm going to try to hammer these out over the next few days. It's a pity because while I know where some of the photos have come from, I can't remember where I got the recipe from. So frustrating but my own fault. Anyway the dialogue will be short and sweet so I can get onto all these posts. 

For those caramel lovers out there you will either love me or hate me for posting this recipe because this is AMAZING!!! I have some fleur de sel salt sitting in my fridge from when I made salted caramels ages ago. This is the perfect salt for this kind of caramel. Whatever you do DO NOT use table salt! It will taste awful. I found my fleur de sel salt at the French cafe Pyrenees in Mt Albert so if you have trouble sourcing it try there. The best thing about this caramel is what you can use it for. So far I have used it as a topping on a plain cheesecake, as a hot caramel sauce on ice cream and to sneak spoonfuls of when no one is looking. As it is stored in the fridge it thickens up so I think it would be perfect as a cupcake filling. Yum yum yum!!!! 

You can find the recipe here.