Monthly Archives: February 2013

Dutch Apple Cake

Dutch Apple Cake 3Every now and then you just want to bake something that is a “no brainer” but tastes fabulous and is just the trick for those Coffee and Cake scenarios.

This cake could not be more simple and uses ingredients that you are likely to always have in the pantry……hmmmm, only of course if you’re like me and always keep tinned applie pie filling in the pantry or a family that always has apples.

20130223_144311All you do is put all of these ingredients into a bowl, mix together, into the oven and an hour later you’ve got a delicious cake that can be served with cream, yoghurt or just dusted with icing sugar. (Confectioner’s sugar if you are in America).

Here’s the list. Bake at 160 deg for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  I baked mine in a kugelhopf.

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Dutch Apple Cake

Ingredients

1 ½ Cup Flour
½ Cup Walnuts (Chopped)
1 Cup Sugar
1 Egg
1 Cup Raisins
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Mixed Spice
1 ½ Cup Sliced Apples (or tinned)
125gm melted butter

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Baking with Free Range Eggs

Last week I was chatting a man in the office and somehow got onto the topic of eggs…an excess of eggs.  It turns out that he lives on the outskirts of Auckland where he and his family have, amongst other farm animals, chickens……and therefore lots of eggs.

Now you can’t even begin to compare a store bought egg with a free-range-from-the-backyard-of-someone-you-know eggs so I offered to take some off his hands on a regular basis.  (yes, I know, how kind of me!)  We agreed on a no-money approach so I had to come up with some way of paying him for the eggs…..It wasn’t too hard given that he’s got kids……so I get eggs, they get baking!

Firstly though, I wanted to talk about egg sizes.  When you are getting free range in this fashion they come in all sorts of sizes.  It’s important to make sure that you aren’t using too large a size as this can alter your batter consistency.  There is a lot of information on Wikipedia on egg sizes, so I’d recommend using this as a guide.  I just pop the egg on the scales and quickly check that it’s going to fit my needs.  Most recipes us what we call a Size 6 in New Zealand which is 53-61gms.

Biscuit Choc 1Anyway, this weekend is my first batch of “Swap Cookies” and I decided to go for a recipe that I hadn’t used before….risky, I know!  Then I heightened the risk by not using those pre-made milk chocolate chips that the recipe called for, electing to roughly chop up some white chocolate instead since that was what I had in the cupboard.  What’s the worst that could happen?

Biscuit Choc 1aWell, it’s turns out that the worst that can happen is that it was one of those Chocolate Chip Cookie recipes that has so much butter that the cookies spread far and thin across the baking tray.  Luckily I only put them in for 12 minutes or I could have easily burnt the whole batch!

I have tasted one of them and they actually taste pretty good.  Next time I think I’ll claw back on the volume of butter, but hey, you’ve got to give new recipes a go, right?

Here’s the recipe that I used:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 18

Ingredients

125g butter, softened
150g light brown sugar
1 egg
½ t vanilla essence
1C plain flour
½ t baking powder
pinch of salt
175g milk chocolate chips

  • Preheat oven to 190 deg C (375 deg F). Lightly grease two baking sheets.
  • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the egg and vanilla.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and add with the chocolate, mixing until incorporated.
  • Place large teaspoons of the mixture onto the baking sheets, leaving enough space for them to spread.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until pale golden brown.  Allow to cool slightly before transferring them to a wire rack.

Granny Square with Round Center

Granny Square 1.14When I’m lampworking I love to make flowers out of glass, so when crocheting I wanted to explore what types of flowers I could make with a Granny Square.  First though, I had to work out how to make a Granny Square that had a round center.  There was plenty of information on the internet, but I thought I’d put together some simple to follow instructions.

If you want to download a printable version of this pattern, here is the PDF: Round to Square Granny Pattern

Round to Square Granny

MATERIALS
5 coloured yarns.  (Colour 5 is the colour that will be the colour that you will sew all of the squares together with.)

ABBREVIATIONS
Beg
= Beginning.
Ch = Chain.
Dc = Double crochet.
Rep = Repeat.
Rnd(s) = Round(s).
Sc = Single crochet.
Sl st = Slip stitch.
Sp(s) = Space(s).
St(s) = Stitch(es).

INSTRUCTIONS
Note: Ch 2 at beg of rnd counts as dc.

Round 1: (Colour 1) Start with a magic ring, Ch 2, 11 dc in ring. Pull ring tight, sl st to join to the 2nd chain stitch and finish off.

Round 2: (Colour 2) Join. Ch. 2, 1 dc, 1 ch, (2 dc, 1 ch) 11 times, sl st to join to the 2nd chain stitch from foundation loop. Finish off.

Granny Square 1.1

Round 3: (Colour 3) Join. Ch. 2, 2 dc, 1 ch, (3 dc, 1 ch) 11 times, sl st to join to the 2nd chain stitch from foundation loop. Finish off.

Round 3

Round 4: (Colour 4)  Join.Ch 2, work corner (2 dc in sp, 3 ch, 3 dc) in same sp, *1 ch, 3 hdc in next sp, rep from * 1 more time, 1 ch, work corner (3 dc, 3 ch, 3 dc); rep from * two more times, **1 ch, 3 hdc in next sp, rep from ** 1 more time 1 ch, sl st to join to the 2nd chain stitch you crocheted at the beginning of the round. (Do not finish off colour).

 Round 4

Round 5: (Colour 4) Work 2 sl sts so that your crochet hook is adjacent to the sp formed by the closest set of chain sts in the corner. Ch 2, work corner (2 dc in sp, 2 ch, 3 dc) in same sp, *1 ch, 3 dc in next sp, rep from * 2 more times, 1 ch, work corner (3 dc, 2 ch, 3 dc); rep from * two more times, **1 ch, 3 dc in next sp, rep from ** 2 more times 1 ch, sl st to join to the 2nd chain stitch you crocheted at the beginning of the round. Finish off.

Round 5

Round 6: (Colour 5) Join in a corner. Ch 2, work corner (2 dc in sp, 2 ch, 3 dc) in same sp, *1 ch, 3 dc in next sp, rep from * 3 more times, 1 ch, work corner (3 dc, 2 ch, 3 dc); rep from * two more times, **1 ch, 3 dc in next sp, rep from ** 3 more times 1 ch, sl st to join to the 2nd chain stitch you crocheted at the beginning of the round. Finish off.

 Granny Square 1.14

Super Easy Black Doris Plum Sponge Cake

Black Plum SpongeOn our route home from work there is a little fruit and vegetable shop that is convenient when we have our last minute thoughts about what to have for dinner.  Last night we called in to get some supplies for making salads and when eyeing up the fruit I noticed that they had some Black Doris Plums that were nearing their end of life and were on sale.  I looked at them and thought to myself “Yessss, they would make a delicious Plum Sponge Cake”.

047There are a couple of things to note with this recipe.  It says “butter softened” and it means it.  There is no creaming of the butter and sugar so butter won’t easily incorporate into the other ingredients if it isn’t soft.  Secondly, it says ‘ground almonds’ and it’s at this point that I usually realise that I don’t have any.  But I do always have blanched almonds in the freezer, so don’t be shy about grinding them in one of those chopping things that you use with a whizz on a stick.  And lastly, note the lower temperate…..only 160 deg C.

I wanted to also touch briefly on how to easily chop up the plums.  I learnt this when I made my first batch of plum chutney.  You’ll notice that the plum has a ‘crease’.  The stone inside is in line with this.  Therefore if you cut just slightly to the left and right of this crease you will find it easy to cut the plum almost into halves.

Cut Plum1Cut Plum2

Plum Sponge Cake

 

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Ingredients

1 C flour
2 t baking powder
175gm butter softened
3/4 C caster sugar (you can use Golden Caster Sugar if you want)
3 eggs beaten
¼ t almond extract
70gm ground almonds
About 6 plums (depends on the size of the plums)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 160 deg C (320 deg F). Grease and line a 23cm square cake tin.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add the butter, caster sugar, eggs and almond extract. Beat well until mixture is smooth.
  • Stir in the ground almonds.
  • Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and smooth out flat with a palette knife.
  • Lightly place the plums onto the mixture.  Do not press them down.
  • Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Leave to cool slightly then turn out to cool on a wire rack.

054When I baked this cake I also had a few blueberries sitting in the fridge so I threw them in too.

This is delicious served warm with yoghurt or cream or just dusted in icing sugar (confectioners sugar).

What’s your favour Summer fruit for baking with?

Fluffy Caterpillar Crochet Pattern

Black and White CaterpillarNaturally one of the fun things about crocheting is the endless number of things you can make.  After sitting in the sunshine one day reading a book, I spotted a little caterpillar shuffling along the stems of one of the herbs in my garden.  After gentling shifting him to a part of the garden that I’m happy for him to eat, I got thinking about how I could make a cute stuffed crochet caterpillar.

You can download a printable PDF version here:  Fluffy Caterpillar Toy Pattern

MEASUREMENTS
Approximately 10 ins [25.5 cm] around x 19 ins [48 cm] long.
US Stitches

MATERIALS
40gm Moda Vera 8ply 50g in White
40gm Moda Vera 8ply in Black
10g Moda Vera Flurry Black
10g Moda Vera Flurry Cream
Size 5 mm (U.S. H or 8) crochet hook
Stuffing.
2 x 7mm black buttons and white felt for eyes.
Black sewing thread.

ABBREVIATIONS
Beg = Beginning.
Ch = Chain.
Dc = Double crochet.
Rem = Remaining.
Rep = Repeat.
Rnd(s) = Round(s).
Sc = Single crochet.
Sl st = Slip stitch.
Sp(s) = Space(s).
St(s) = Stitch(es).
Yo = Yarn over hook.

How to incorporate the “Flurry” yarn into the Double Crochet stitch:

0-07645-4151-X_0602

INSTRUCTIONS
Note: Ch 2 at beg of rnd counts as dc.

First section: With Black ch 3. Join with sl st to form a ring.
1st rnd: Ch 1. 6 sc in ring. Join with sl st to first sc.
2nd rnd: Ch 1. 2 sc in each sc around. Join with sl st to first sc. (12 sc.)
3rd rnd: Ch 2. 1 dc in same sp as last sl st. *1 dc in next sc. 2 dc in next sc. Rep from * to last st. 1 dc in next sc. Join both yarns with sl st to top of ch 2.
4th rnd: Ch 1. 1 sc in each dc around. Join with sl st to first sc.
5th and 6th rnds: As 3rd and 4th rnds once more. (27 dc)
7th rnd: Ch 2. 1 dc in same sp as last sl st. (1 dc in each of next 2 sc. 2 dc in next sc) 8 times. 1 dc in each of next 2 sc. Join with sl st to top of ch 2. (36 dc)
8th rnd: Ch 1. 1 sc in each dc around. Join with sl st to first sc.
9th rnd: Ch 2. 1 dc in each sc around. Join with sl st to top of ch 2. Rep last 2 rnds 4 times more. Join A and place marker at end of last rnd.

2nd section: With White yarns, rep 8th and 9th rnds 6 times more.

3rd section: With Black yarns, rep 8th and 9th rnds 6 times more.

4th section: With White yarns, rep 8th and 9th rnds 6 times more.

Head: With Black yarns, rep 8th and 9th rnds 5 times more.

Stuff Caterpillar before continuing.

Next rnd: Ch 1. 1 sc in same sp as sl st. *Sc2tog in next dc. 1 sc in each of next 2 dc. Repeat from *. 1 sc in next dc. Join with sl st to first sc. 27 sts.
Next rnd: Ch 2. 1 dc in each st around. Join with sl st to top of ch 2.
Next rnd: Ch 1. 1 sc in same sp as sl st. (Sc2tog over next 2 dc. 1 sc in next dc) 8 times. Sc2tog over next 2 dc. Join with sl st to first sc. 18 sts.
Next rnd: Ch 2. 1 dc in each st around. Join with sl st to top of ch 2.
Next rnd: Ch 1. 1 sc in each dc around. Join with sl st to first sc.

Complete stuffing of Caterpillar.
Break yarn leaving a long end. Using hook draw end through rem sts, pull tightly and fasten securely.

FINISHING
Weave Black/White yarn through 5-6 stitches of first rnds of each section and tie tightly to define each section of Caterpillar as shown in picture. Fasten securely.

Feet – Make 12
Row 1: Ch 6, work 2 sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in next 3 chs, 2 sc in last ch, ch 1, turn.(7 sc)
Row 2: Sc in next 2 sc, 2 sc in each next 3 sc, sc in next 2 sc, ch 1, turn. (10 sc)
Rows 3 – 6: Sc in each sc across, ch 1, turn.
Row 7: Sc in each sc across, fasten off.
Stuff firmly before closing and sew feet to body.
Stitch eyes to head as shown in picture.

The Fine Art of Recipe Storage

febc780f-6768-41c2-a35c-e53864dfa41c_A_200001One of my simple pleasures in life is browsing through my collection of cookbooks.  Especially when I’ve had the book for something silly like 20 years and can’t remember the last time I used it…..it’s always good to be refreshed on what goodies it contains to be cooked or baked.

One of the challenges is, of course, how to do you keep a track of what recipes you want to try, or find the ones you have already tried and loved so much you want to use it again?  Or maybe more importantly in this ‘paperless’ world, how do you store recipes so that you can easily lay your hand on them?

Well, because I’m somewhat process driven…..love to be organised…and am, quite frankly, somewhat ‘anal’ about these sorts of things, I have a well embedded system to deal with all of this.  <Yes, I hear the nodding and chuckling from my good friends out there>.  Since I’m also a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel, I thought I’d share what my systems are so that you can adapt to your style and use.

Recipe Journal:
Recipe Journal Cover (Copy)Most of us have seen those Recipe Journals you can buy, which tend to be organised by topics such as Poultry, Meat, Seafood, Pasta, Desserts, and Baking etc.  If you don’t already have one…this is an easily justifiable shopping opportunity.  I’ve had mine for nearly 20 years and it’s my little treasure trove of my favourite recipes.  This is the key to the system.

Like all good things, how I use it has evolved over the years; initially I used to painstakingly write the recipe into the Journal.  This might be your kind of thing….but I quickly got over it.  Firstly, you might write it down incorrectly, secondly it takes too damn long, and lastly, it takes up too much of the valuable space in your journal.

The ‘New and Improved” process is that I write down the name of the recipe, where I’ll find the recipe in the house, and what page it is on.  Quick and easy to jot in and only takes up 2 lines.

Recipe Journal 2 (Copy)If, when browsing through recipes, I think to myself “I must give that a go sometime”, I either grab a Post-it and scribble it down and slap it into my Recipe Journal, or I make a note in MS OneNote (see below for more on this).  Sometimes I also add a small note such as “only uses egg yolks”, or “requires preparation the night before”.  Pretty straight forward huh?

Ok, so more on the “where I’ll find the recipe in the house” comment…..

Cookbooks:
If it’s in a cookbook that I own, it’s pretty straight forward…..I just write down the name of the book.

Helen’s Recipe Folder:
This is a ‘pretty’ ring binder that I bought 20-odd years.  It’s a wonderful place to put those recipes that you tore out of a newspaper or magazine, or printed from the internet.  I try to have some semblance of order that lines up with my Journal (Poultry, Meat, Seafood etc).  I guess I could buy some dividers….hmmm, that might just be a shopping opportunity…….

Sorry, distracted by the thought of shopping….

MS OneNote:
OneNoteThe third place you’ll find my favourite recipes is on my PC.  I use MS OneNote.  If you haven’t tried this application give it a whirl, it’s one of my favourites!  My husband would probably argue that there is some fancy shamcy storage place in the ‘Cloud’ that I could store them…..but, well, whatever!  I like OneNote.

What I like about OneNote is that I can surf the internet for a recipe, right click on the recipe, and click “send to OneNote”.  I have a special folder for Recipes and can organise by topic (Baking, Cooking, Preserving etc).  What’s also great is that it captures the URL of where the recipe came from so you can easily go back to the original page if you want to look for more recipes on that site.  When I decide to use the recipe, I print it off and if it met the “Yeah Baby, I’m gunna be making that again sometime soon” criteria it gets filed in the folder I mentioned above and entered into my Journal.  Of course the other snazzy thing about OneNote is that if, for example I need to use up some egg yolks, I can search the folder for the word “yolk” and fnd which of my recipes lists that an an ingrediant.

Well, that’s pretty much my system.  Having written it up, it sounds quite complex, but it’s not really.

I’d love to hear how other people store their recipes, and keep a track of which books their favourite ones are in……

Easy Rhubarb

rhubarbFor me Rhubarb is one of those comfort foods.  My Dad was an avid gardener and like all good Kiwi backyards, that included a rhubarb patch.  On a hot Auckland Summer’s afternoon, as kids we used to snap off a stalk, cut the poisonous leaves off and suck on the rhubarb stalk.  When I was six, I fell off the local school’s Jungle Gym bars and did a face plant into the concrete below (none of this ‘soft cushioning’ they lay down these days).  I successfully managed to chip one of my front teeth.  I was home from school for several days and during that time my Mum served me Rhubarb and Custard whenever I wanted it.  When I was ten and fell off my bike and hurt my foot, out came the Rhubarb and Custard again.  In between these events my Mum would cook Rhubarb Pies, Rhubarb Crumble etc etc etc.  What a great ‘vegetable’.

Rhubarb Dec 10Today, I live in a ‘modern’ house with a bit of lawn and about 1 square metre of soil where I can put my Rhubarb.  Some of these plants came from my Grandmother’s patch to ours, then when we moved 4 years ago I dug them up and relocated them again.  It goes to show just how hardy they are!  I’ve added some store bought plants too and each year the stalks get fatter and taller.  As you can see from the photo, I had pushed all the herb containers in front of the Rhubarb.  This is to force it to grow up as I was having problems with it growing ‘out’ not ‘up’.  Whilst I’m proud of my little patch, I still groan with envy when I visit my parents who now live in Christchurch….how does Dad manage to get the Rhubarb to grow so purple?  So upright? So tall?  Oh well.

So, how to cook Rhubarb?  It’s pretty straight forward.  Wash, cut into inch long pieces, into the pot, add some sugar (not sure how much….go with your gut on this one) and cook on a low heat until soft.  DO NOT add water!  I’ve met some of ‘those’ people.  All this does is literally water down the taste.  Experiment from here.  Brown Sugar or White?  Honey instead of sugar?  Artificial sweetener if you’re avoiding sugar.  Throw in some strawberries or maybe some root ginger.  You’ll be surprised with how many fruits go great with Rhubarb.

Take this and make a crumble, or maybe a pie.  Or just have it with custard in Winter or ice cream in Summer.

If you ever have left over stalks from the store, or the patch in the garden is overflowing, just cut the stalks into a size that will fit into container and pop them into the freezer.

When it comes to baking with Rhubarb, below are my two current favourite recipes.  The muffins are somewhat low fat because of the buttermilk.  If you don’t have any store bought buttermilk in the house, just make your own:

  • Place one cup of milk in a bowl.
  • Add one tablespoon of white vinegar

Allow the mixture to stand for five minutes

Rhubarb Buttermilk Muffins

Ingredients

1 1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 cup salad oil
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups finely diced rhubarb (about 1cm)
1/2 cup pecan pieces (optional)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Method

  • Preheat oven to 200 deg C (400 deg F). Grease a 12 muffin tray.
  • Combine in large bowl brown sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Stir into mixture buttermilk, rhubarb, and pecans.
  • In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add this mixture all at once to rhubarb mixture and fold until all ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix!!
  • Fill prepared muffin pan 3/4 full with batter.
  • Bake in preheated oven on center shelf 15 to 20 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.

Rhubarb and Ginger Slice

Ingredients

1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
175gm butter softened
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 eggs beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cornflour
200g rhubarb finely diced rhubarb (about 1cm)
30g stem ginger, finely chopped

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180 deg C (350 deg F). Grease and line a 23cm square cake tin.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add the butter, caster sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Beat well until mixture is smooth.
  • Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and smooth out flat with a palette knife.
  • Toss cornflour with the rhubarb and scatter with the ginger over the top of the batter. Lightly press the rhubarb and ginger into the mixture.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Leave to cool slightly then turn out to cool on a wire rack.