Tag Archives: sweet new zealand

Beatty’s chocolate cake

Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.
~ Michael Levine

It’s been one of those weeks where things go a little crazy and your body brings something akin to OOS to the party. And all there is to do is say NO to eating toast one night, and instead roast a free range chook with lemon, herbs and potatoes till golden, crisp and juicy.

And bake a cake, even if your hands cry and tingle while you whisk on… and on… and even if you tip the cake out of the tin before it’s completely cooled and ruin its otherwise flawless bottom.

Luckily, frosting provides excellent coverage for facial imperfections of the cakey sort.

Happily, the cake has been reasonably well-received by visitors and flatmates :-) If you make it, expect a moist, easy-to-eat cake and frosting which provides an immediate sense of luxury… and don’t expect the cake to last long if you have people in your house!

    Ingredients:
    Butter for greasing the pans
    1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
    2 cups sugar
    ¾ cups good cocoa powder
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 cup buttermilk, shaken
    ½ cup vegetable oil
    2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
    Chocolate frosting:
    6 ounces good semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
    ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1¼ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
    1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
    Method:
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180°C). Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
    Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
    Place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.
    Chocolate frosting:
    Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.
    Modifications: I used a mixture of demerara sugar and caster sugar – and just over a cup of sugar all up (and it was sweet enough for me). Skipped the parchment paper. Substituted vanilla essence with kahlua. Made it without an electric mixer – possible, but I’d go with an electric whisk if I had one!

I’m also taking the chance to enter this for this month’s Sweet New Zealand, hosted by the lovely Sue of Couscous & Consciousness.

Mid-Autumn in Spring

The moon’s an arrant thief,
And her pale fire she snatches from the sun.
~ William Shakespeare

Spring is whizzing by in a blur of tulips, work and windy sunshine… and I nearly forgot all about Mid-Autumn / Mooncake Festival! Luckily, Jeremy didn’t – and him and Char prepared a delicious celebratory feast for us lucky folk last weekend :-)

It was a blustery blustery busy busy Saturday for me, so walking through the doors to see and smell ALL THIS was especially amazing!

Tofu with a sweet chilli marinade, deftly stacked into an inviting tower…

Mussels with melting cheese and bacon bits… mmmm!

Prawns, corn and greens tossed in a pretty stir-fry:

Jeremy’s version of san choy bau (生菜包) – traditionally made with chicken / pork mince and water chestnuts, with the cooked mince rolled up in fresh lettuce leaves immediately before consumption. Classy finger food :-) This (addictive!) version incorporated lamb mince, bamboo shoots, tinned baby corn, carrots, oyster sauce, and a host of other ingredients.

Roast duck – bought, but made to look homemade ;-)

Of course – the necessary mooncake. I’ve heard that each one carries approximately 1,000 calories, but the truth is I am clueless about calories so I eat them even though 1,000 sounds like a lot. Growing up, I tried mooncakes with all sorts of crusts and fillings – yam, red bean, lotus paste, snow skin… they are different in each region of Asia and even now the sight of mooncakes makes me smile and intrigued to know what is inside.

This one hid within itself pandan and salted egg yolks. Pandan is a happy scent for me, don’t often get to inhale it now – and I loved this!

Mooncake on its own would have been sufficient for dessert, but out popped a second surprise – mango pudding, made from scratch! Creamy, rich and so mangoey, for lack of a better adjective! I asked Char for the recipe she used, which she kindly sent to me – see below :-)

    Ingredients:
    3 cups Alphonso mango pulp
    3 tbsp plain gelatin
    2/3 cup cold water plus 2/3 cup boiling water
    1 cup evaporated milk
    1 cup superfine sugar
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    Method:
    Place the gelatin into a bowl and stir in the cold water. Add in the boiling water and stir until the gelatin is thoroughly dissolved. Set aside to cool a few minutes.
    In a bowl, add sugar to the evaporated milk and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
    Place the mango pulp into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the gelatin mixture, then add the sweetened evaporated milk and vanilla extract. Give everything a good stir, then pour into 8-9 custard cups or bowls (we used plastic cups, as shown in the picture above).
    Chill for at least 3 hours, or until set. Serve with a garnish of fresh fruit and evaporated milk poured gently over the top.
    Yields 8-9 servings.

Thank you Jeremy and Char, and happy Mid-Autumn Festival, everyone :-)

P.S. Somehow I’ve missed eight rounds of Sweet New Zealand! Grazie mille Alessandra for reminding me (incidentally, she is also the gracious host of this month’s Sweet NZ!). Don’t forget to send in your entry if you are a NZ food blogger and haven’t already…

Wake up and smell the cookies

I love reality. I love the world. I love the smell of it. I love it.
~ Andrea Corr

Bake these soon, won’t you? Preferably in the black of night. With the brightest lights in your kitchen switched on – and no competing smells in your kitchen (i.e. well after dinner time). Eat some* till two in the morning. With company, so the blinding temptation to eat them all doesn’t engulf you and make you very ill indeed.

* Slip the remaining “some” into a container, and leave them in a safe place. Away from prying eyes, teeth and fingers.

Your oven will sing with maternal pride as the little balls of dough stretch and change and become ready for consumption. The cookies will lead you into a happy drunken stupor, as your eyelids take on the world-slicing powers of a kaleidoscope and show you tiny identical wedges of cookiecookiecookie.

Your nose may tell you it never wants to smell anything else ever again.

When at last sleep clutches at your eyelids and happy brain, you will find that you sink into a deep spell of sleep and the richest of dreams…

* And in the way the best dreams go (when you wake and wish it weren’t just a dream), you’ll find a hidden stash of cookies in the morning that smell just like the ones in your dreams. You can still dream your Sunday away.

Thanks Kath for the recipe! :-)

I’m also submitting this entry for Sweet New Zealand, hosted this month by Arfi at HomemadeS by Arfi. Click here to join in the Sweet NZ fun!

Prune and apricot clafoutis

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
While the secret sits in the middle and knows.
~ Robert Frost

It is my friend Jane who caused me to take a second look at prunes.

She made a marvellous stovetop lamb tagine once, and from then on I no longer regarded prunes as ugly things prescribed to people battling with constipation. No… despite their dull appearance, they shone in that dish. They were rich and mysterious, exotic and strangely exciting. Sticky-sweet and tinged with a faint liqueur-like flavour. In my imagination they are a little like intoxicated summer fruits waltzing in winter coats.

Incidentally, Jane is also the girl who introduced me to the world of tagines long before I visited Morocco (and in my memory, her tagines rival the ones I tasted there). She didn’t have a tagine pot, but she made beautiful tagines just in a deep saucepan on an electric stove…

Mmmm… I can still remember my first taste of that delicious prune and spice-flavoured lamb. The meat fell gently off the bone with minimal coercion, the moist prunes collapsed clumsily and sweetly as soon as they passed from the fork to my mouth, and everything tasted of love and distant lands.

Somehow, prunes haven’t made their way to my kitchen very much. I’ve eaten them in restaurants once or twice (with duck), and I’ve taken them to work as snack food on occasion, but I can’t remember the last time I cooked with them at home. I guess I also regard them as one of those things that people can have Strong Feelings about, and thus omit them when cooking with/for others (this group of evocative food includes mushrooms, offal, lentils, red bean and eggplants – some of my friends’ faces seem to nearly change colour when I even mention those things).

So recently the prunes called out to me from their home in the baking aisle in the supermarket, and I bought a pack of them without knowing what I was going to do with them. As it is, I cooked them with lamb chops the other night and enjoyed that (though I still prefer Jane’s lamb!) – and I had a faint idea of making something sweet with them…

This morning, I woke up wanting to make something for my friend E but unsure of what to make. Various pruney ideas paraded through my mind, but nothing seemed right… till I chanced upon Molly Wizenberg’s recipe for black plum clafoutis. I hadn’t tried clafoutis before, but I was inspired reading this and so my prune and apricot clafoutis experiment came to be.

Verdict: I’ll make clafoutis again, but I won’t make it exactly this way again. E seemed to like it, but I liked the “clafoutis” part of it (somewhere in between custard/milk tart/a soufflé) better than the prunes and apricots in it, as the fruits were still more chewy than tender. I think it would work brilliantly with fresh fruit, or if I had soaked the prunes and apricots for longer. Might try soaking dried fruit overnight next time!

    Prune and apricot clafoutis
    Inspired by Orangette
    Ingredients:
    olive oil or butter, for greasing
    1 cup prunes (or use other fruit)
    1 cup dried apricots (or use other fruit)
    juice of half a lemon
    1 cup dessert wine or brandy (I used a dessert wine – thanks Jono for this!)
    1/4 cup + 1 tbsp caster sugar
    pinch of salt
    3 eggs
    1 tbsp vanilla
    1 cup milk
    1/2 cup flour
    icing sugar
    Method:
    Place the apricots and prunes in a small bowl and pour the lemon juice and wine over them. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for 40 minutes (I think it would be better if you soaked them for longer though! See note above).
    Preheat the oven to 170°C. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie dish with olive oil or butter. Set aside.
    In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and the sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow (approximately 1 minute). Then add in the vanilla, salt and milk, and whisk further to combine. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture with your fingers and continue to whisk till you have a smooth batter.
    Using a slotted spoon, take out the prunes and apricots from the wine and arrange them in a single layer in the bottom of the pie dish. Pour the batter over gently and evenly across the fruits. Do not stir.
    Bake the clafoutis for around 45 minutes or until puffed and golden around the edges. Then remove the clafoutis from the oven, and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

I’m also submitting this entry for Sweet New Zealand, hosted this month by Arfi at HomemadeS by Arfi. Click here to join in the Sweet NZ fun!

Banana and chocolate chip upside down cake

How did it get so late so soon?
~ Dr. Seuss

I’m dedicating tonight’s cake to my friend Kath.

She’s the girl who reminds me to keep my head on, who has a stylist’s fingers and a clever mind, who is creative and organised, who plans ahead but is open to spontaneity too. She’s strong (anyone who is close to me has to be especially so ;-)…) – on all fronts. I really respect her for the way she ‘walks her talk’ and speaks her mind, and I like it that hours whiz by delightfully whenever we hang out. This last phenomenon only happens with a precious handful of people for me, so I think of them as human gold nuggets!

Kath… is an excellent human.

And this… is a fun recipe to follow. If you run out of bananas halfway, like I did, just make an outer ring of banana slices (at step #2 in the recipe). Best to be prepared and have more bananas on hand, though, so you get to coat your cake with a pretty blanket of banana slices. If you’re lucky enough to have WAY too many bananas, why not make a few of these cakes and freeze some?

It’s the perfect cake to have around and eat with your favourite people; preferably with good yoghurt, a glass of red wine and, if you’re in the mood for music – perhaps some Brooke Waggoner?

Tonight Kath was trying to get me out of the kitchen and on to eating some cake, as usual she was the brain and I was the flyaway woman taking photos of her arty hands and the glossy cake and muttering “yes yes, I’m COMING!”…

She could be a hand model, don’t you think? I think so.

See, this ringlet of banana slices wasn’t too bad given my banana shortage today, but this cake would look pretty cool if it were ablaze with bananas, don’t you think? Please buy lots of bananas (i.e. more than five) before you make it. Oh, and while I’m on the subject of this cake, it won’t hurt to put in a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon in it and substitute kahlua for the vanilla essence. Just sayin’.

I’m also submitting this entry for this month’s Sweet New Zealand, hosted this month by Bron Marshall whose photos place my laptop in danger of being coated with my drool. Want to join in the Sweet NZ fun? Click here!

Ottolenghi – The Cookbook: page 199

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche
~ Supposedly spoken by “a great princess”

Midnight baking and conversation. Burnt caramel. Singing oven. Cheeeeesseee. Golden goodness. Icing sugar (fairy dust). Ottolenghi’s caramel and macadamia cheesecake. There were a few laughs, a few disasters – but all was fine in the end and we all had cake complete with caramelised macadamias and even a caramel sauce. I attribute this strongly to my friend Rahul who is visiting from Wellington… when you are baking at midnight and SCORCH the bottom of both of your only saucepans with rock-solid brown caramel sauce, I recommend that you place yourself in the company of someone who can make you laugh and who thinks fast to solve problems. With Rahul’s help, the cake and saucepans both survived. Much to my delight, of course.

So at the moment John, Brad and I are sitting in my lounge, we are drinking wine, and I am rudely blogging… just wanted to submit my entry on time for Sweet New Zealand (see note below!)

I have so much from recent days to blog about – but I really have to go (multi-tasking is not my strength at all)… so here’re some photos for you, and I will post again soon. Ciao!


This post is my entry for this month’s Sweet New Zealand – the lovely Sue from Couscous & Consciousness is hosting it this time. Click here to join in the fun!

Honey, cinnamon and plums

He felt like he was in a kind of moon soup, with the stars turning slowly above him and his thoughts floating past like ingredients. He felt he was drowning in it.
~ Nigel Cox, Waiting for Einstein

They won’t come.

The pictures and words I’ve been saving up over the last few days to share with you… some in my camera, some in my mind. Snapshots of a (wonderful and mostly sunny) weekend in Wellington; thoughts on life; stories of eating, giving and receiving.

I’m almost irritated that they are piled high behind the door, refusing to come out. But it’s no use – I’ve been hovering here for over an hour, perched on the edge of my seat with a hot water bottle on my lap, typing and erasing, sighing and humming. They’re refusing to let me post them here.

I’m not sure why.

So I’ll let them simmer on in hiding… meanwhile, would you like to talk about Cake?

With my friend G’s birthday coming soon, I’ve been looking for a ‘yes cake’. You know, a recipe for cake that makes you say YES, I’m going to make you…?

I flicked impatiently through what felt like TONS of recipes in blogs, magazines, cooking websites – lots of lovely pictures and tasty sounding things, but no ‘yes cake’… and then, late this afternoon, I found it. Nigel Slater’s Pudding Cake of Honey, Cinnamon and Plums. An absolute ‘yes cake’!

Making this, I could imagine myself leaping into a mountain of Autumn leaves, feeling them envelope me in playful laughter, and gazing up at clouds and winking sunshine…

There’s the scent of warmed golden syrup, lyrical like someone you love saying “Honey, I’m home!”; the look and feel of butter – a generous hug, a glove around your senses; the kiss of cinnamon – a sweet and spicy fairy dust, making all it falls on special. All three together make for pretty delirious inhaling.

Oh, and the BROWN in this recipe – the different shades are glorious and luxurious, and chocolate doesn’t even make a guest appearance! There’s the shimmering, luminous brown of the honey + butter + golden syrup melting on the stove – which reminds me first of George’s Marvellous Medicine (Roald Dahl) and then of liquid gold. There’s the butterscotchey, dulce de lechey, yummy-caramelly look and flavour of the flour + golden syrup stirred together into a thick creamy mix – miracle I managed to avoid licking the spoon! Finally, towards the end when the elements combine to form the batter, there comes a demure woolly brown that reminds me of slim ladies, cashmere sweaters and milk chocolate melting in the sun.

This cake presents nearly no challenges – it’s mostly a breeze to make. There is just one point when it’s hard to imagine the cake turning out, those few minutes when the egg mixture splashes and swirls around the flour + golden syrup mix and you’re trying not to associate it with Things of the Bathroom… If not for the saving line in the recipe “it will resist incorporation and look weird at first”, I might have despaired. In the end, however, it comes together very nicely and reminds me that perseverance can sometimes lead to good surprises.

The cake rises effortlessly and proudly in the oven – and oh, I do so enjoy the look of the plums, round and sweet and delicate, on the risen cake, in the square tin. Smile inducing.

I did change a few things in the recipe, mostly due to pantry limitations. Sure hope the taste isn’t compromised – I’ll let you know tomorrow after the birthday girl has had a chance to try it! :-)

[edit] We managed to surprise G with a birthday morning tea. J brought a scrumptious lemon cake, dense and moist and luscious, with crunchy miniature sugar crystals on the top. M brought brownie squares laden with invisible coconut threads. I brought Nigel’s cake. We had a rich morning tea – and all, it seemed, were smiling! I took home an empty cake tin. Happy, happy birthday, G. [/edit]

    Nigel Slater’s Pudding Cake of Honey, Cinnamon, and Plums
    Adapted from Orangette
    Ingredients:
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 slightly heaping tsp baking powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 very generous tsp ground cinnamon
    2 pinches salt
    2/3 cup golden syrup
    2 tbsp maple syrup
    125g unsalted butter
    1/2 cup dark muscovado sugar
    1/4 cup caster sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 cup (250ml) milk
    5 ripe plums, pitted and quartered
    Method:
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish, and set aside.
    In a large bowl, sift and combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk well.
    In a saucepan, warm the golden syrup, maple syrup and butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. When the butter is melted, stir in the muscovado and caster sugar. Remove the pan from the heat, and set aside to cool for a minute or two.
    Break the eggs into a medium bowl, add the milk, and whisk the mixture.
    Pour the golden syrup mixture into the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. The batter will be very thick at this point. Pour in the egg mixture, and continue to stir – don’t worry if it doesn’t resemble a good cake mix – it will come together and form a loose batter with no traces of flour
    Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then arrange the plums on top. (They will sink.) Bake for 30 minutes; then place a piece of foil loosely over the top of the cake, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more. The cake should look mostly set at this point. Remove the piece of foil, turn off the oven, and leave the cake in there for another 15 minutes. Let it cool for at least 20 minutes, then loosen from the pan and cool completely before slicing.
    See Molly’s recipe here for her version, and additional notes.

This is my first post for Sweet New Zealand (if I’m not too late!) – hosted by the lovely Allison of Pease Pudding this month.