Tag Archives: smitten kitchen

The easiest, most delectable cookies

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There’s something to be said for creating a recipe that is both easy, and yields delicious results.

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I don’t even know what to say. See for yourself. Swoon with the simplicity of it all. And if you’re still reading this … don’t hesitate. Bake a batch of these lovelies* and give the best-shaped one to your clever husband**, and watch his eyes light up.

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Eat up.

You’re welcome.

* I skipped the freezing step – instead just placing the dough in the fridge for approximately 15 minutes while the oven was heating up. It turned out well enough!

** My man suggested that we use our baking dish – something a little like this one – rather than our usual steel tray, to help the cookies cook more evenly. Mini batch #1 – baked my way – came out after 23 minutes cooked to perfection on the top and slightly burnt on the bottom. Mini batch #2 – husband’s way – emerged after a lengthy 40 minutes, cooked to perfection all the way through. And guess who’s the patient one in our family!

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If ever a routine is to claim my morning

Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.
~ Faith Whittlesey

Some people have morning routines. I am not one of those people, except that I am loathe to begin any day without brushing my teeth/washing my face. But I don’t do morning runs, or yoga; I don’t stumble to the coffee pot or walk out the door at precisely 7.45 every morning.

If ever (however unlikely this “ever” is) I am to adopt a morning routine, I hope it’ll have something to do with sunrise and cooking. Honestly, cooking is one of the very few things I have ever felt wonderful waking up for at 6am. Not even catching an early bus to go to the airport makes me feel that way (and that is saying something, because I really like going to the airport to catch a plane).

This morning at 6.15, I skipped down the stairs two at a time, and headed into the kitchen. My corner of the world was still quiet and half hidden by shadows.

I baked, half feeling like I was in a trance, half feeling like dancing. Three eggs, propelled by my handheld mixer, whirled swiftly and became like custard. With a sharp knife, three peeled Bosc pears became quarters, then strips, then smooth white dice. I relaxed into the sweet, nutty scent of browned butter.

I dressed for work while my oven worked. Just after 7.40, the cake proclaimed that it was ready to pop out of the oven. I walked out the door while my kitchen waved goodbye, with the scent of chocolate, cake and the promise of a good day lingering at the doorway.

Recipe here.

P.S. I am very excited that my dear friend Tabitha arrives today!! (She has been hiding in Canada).

P.P.S. I keep forgetting to mention it, but you can now find me on Facebook, if that is your sort of thing!

Walking on a cake dream

Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.
~ Audrey Hepburn

The cake aliens have arrived with one mission: to turn me into Planet Cake. Will I retaliate, escape my fate, and live to tell the tale? We shall see…

Right now, I have three kinds of cake in my kitchen – (1) fountain mini no-bake cheesecakes in the fridge, (2) Smitten Kitchen’s strawberry summer cake, and (3) Ottolenghi’s chocolate fudge cake (currently at stage two in the oven).

This is the fountain cheesecake, so named due to its consistency. I made it without a recipe, just for fun, from due-to-expire cream cheese, sour cream and cream in the fridge. I added honey and an egg to the cheese mix, poured it on an impromptu base of biscuits and melted butter, and topped it all with Hakanoa ginger syrup and a slice of green kiwifruit. Not bad taste-wise, according to my sweet flatmate, but the texture needs some work!

We’re having a bake off at work tomorrow, and from serving as Guest Judge at previous bake offs, I know I’ll be up against formidable competition. So I turned to a blog that has often inspired me – Smitten Kitchen.

I haven’t tried this cake, but I can tell you that it is a minimum-fuss, sweet-smelling cake involving pretty fruit… also, when it is a Smitten Kitchen recipe – you don’t have much to worry about :-)

I did use less sugar than what the recipe stated though. One cup looked like a bit much!

And now, chocolate fudge cake. This is a birthday gift for E, a person whom I am so grateful exists. E is truly herself, bold, bearer of truth and love… I respect her as much as I love her.

Among my favourite memories is the one where we dressed up as cows and went to a party when we were in uni… you know, even if you find a person who is willing to do this with you (and I promise you I haven’t met many such courageous folk) – not everyone makes the experience gigglingly fun.

Now she is wife to a great man and mother to a baby who actually, miraculously, awakens my mostly dormant maternal instincts… I use the word “miraculously” because most babies do not manage to do this.

This cake is a twice baked, dark chocolate cake (I used both 50% and 72% cocoa content Whittaker’s chocolate) which is decadent in every way – rich, deep, extravagant and sweet, the way E has been to me.

And of course the recipe is from Ottolenghi – The Cookbook (page 196). I made two modifications to the recipe: (1) having no light muscovado sugar, I mixed dark muscovado and caster sugar, and (2) I had to set up an impromptu bain-marie to melt the butter/choc which I should have cut into “small pieces” as listed in the recipe.

I don’t have a picture of the final cake as it’s still baking in the oven… but it will be dusted with cocoa tomorrow, and I will try to take a picture then. Just for you.

P.S. Beware of the cake aliens. They don’t like being told to go away.

In other (non-cake) news:

    NZ bloggers who are attending the inaugural NZ Food Bloggers’ Conference this weekend – I hope you have a SUPER time and wish I could join you! I’ll look forward to reading all about it.
    Auckland readers – eat well and do good this Saturday – see Garden to Table. A portion of the $ will go towards supporting programmes in NZ primary schools to teach children to grow, harvest, prepare and share food through gardening and cooking.
    “It’s more expensive but your budget is tight, you believe in supporting sustainable products but what does that ‘Go Green’ sticker actually mean?” – from ‘Greenwashing’: consumers beware. Interesting read, and one that begs more thought… does sustainability matter to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts/point of view.

Chocolate and pear cake

Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
~ Abba, Thank You for the Music

2.02am. Eyes sleepily open. Ears ringing with songs from Moulin Rouge. I have always loved this soundtrack, and one of my best memories is dancing to “Elephant Love Medley” on stage with P… but for some reason I have never watched the movie! K watched it with me tonight – I think she was surprised to learn that I hadn’t watched it, and (rightly) thought it was a wrong that should be put right.

It has been a really nice Saturday. I made a new friend G, we chatted at the charming Little & Friday (Newmarket)… which, by the way, you may like to visit on your next trip to Auckland. With mint-infused water, a spotless interior, smiley staff and a delectable selection of goodies like lamingtons resembling mini brown mountains caught in a snow blizzard, berry-filled bread and butter pudding and crisp, inviting savoury tarts – it’s hard not to fall in like within five seconds of entering the place!

I then caught up with one of my favouritest people in Auckland – M. As always, an illuminating exchange. M constantly reminds me of what is true, and real, and everlasting. I make it a point to keep friends who carry truth in their hearts and wear it on their lips – they are worth more than gold.

And this evening, K came over and we cooked together. Have I mentioned how much I love cooking with this girl??

We made lemon risotto, ratatouille and Al Di La’s Torta di Pere – adapted from Saveur, Molly’s recipe in A Homemade Life, and Smitten Kitchen respectively.

There were two half-full boxes of arborio rice in the pantry, which were both sadly infested with moving black dots…(!) So we thought it best to discard them… and K made risotto with normal long grain rice instead.

So I had not known that you could make risotto successfully with non-arborio rice, but we had a very yummy risotto tonight. Cooking mainly by sight, taste and instinct, K whipped up a dish soft, subtle, creamy, punctuated with the fresh flavour of lemons. When in doubt, she just added a little more pinot gris – a good thing to do when making risotto me thinks ;-)

Last time I made ratatouille, it was nice but all cooked in the oven – so this time I decided to try Molly’s recipe. I modified it slightly for quantity and presence/absence of ingredients in my fridge. A bay leaf, fresh rosemary needles and basil, dried mixed herbs, salt and pepper were the primary seasonings.

I really like how Molly’s recipe involves roasting the eggplant beforehand, then cooking all the vegetables in stages – it’s so easy to overcook vegetables especially when you are trying to cook one dish combining a few different types of them! So this was so nice to eat, because they were all cooked just the right amount – soft, but not soggy; lightly scented with the herbs; warm… mmm.

The cake. With such ingredients as dark chocolate, Bosc pears and brown butter, I think we would have eaten it no matter how it emerged from the oven (ok, I would have…)

So luckily I did not have to eat gobbledy gop by myself because, as it turns out, the mix became cake.

What emerged was, as K says, reminiscent of apple pie – but in pear cake form (and with the addition of dark chocolate which provided a rounded, subtle sweetness). We sliced it into slabs, like brownie bars, and ate them with dollops of Greek yoghurt.

For me it tasted like softly roasted, sweet pear cubes tangible against the smoky, mellow, creamy flavour of warm dark chocolate set on a cloud of disappearing cake. By that, I mean the cake was so fluffy that it was like a floating cloud, a fairy’s wand waving itself in and out of my consciousness as I ate.

You know those days when you crave a sizeable chunk of silky rich, calorie-laden, so-decadent-your-teeth-tingle chocolate cake?

This is not a cake for those days.

This is a cake for picnics on a grassy hill, for the moments when your eyes troll through the menu 10,000 times and still nothing sounds ‘right’. It’s a cake to accompany a musical, and nights of singing; a cake to eat whilst standing by the sink, or from the depths of a plushy couch. Most of all, it’s a cake to enjoy with others.

And now it is nearly 4am. Evidently, I am starting to get sleepy and tomorrow morning I will probably read through this and find an incoherent post with more than one typo – but you’re used to that, aren’t you? And you will forgive me, and go and make some cake? Good night world.

[Edit] Recipe as follows:

    Al Di La’s Torta di Pere [Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake]
    Recipe adapted, with a few modifications, from Smitten Kitchen
    Ingredients:
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3 eggs, at room-temperature
    115g unsalted butter
    1/4 cup muscovado sugar
    1/4 cup caster sugar
    3 Bosc pears, peeled, in a small dice (next time I will dice them smaller than I did this time)
    3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks (I used Cadbury’s 70%)
    Just a quick initial note: if you can find a cake partner for this one, do – unless you are a whiz at multi-tasking (I am not). You will see why once you get into it!
    Method:
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Oil and flour a 9-inch springform pan (we used a square tin with a removeable base).
    Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside
    Using an electric handheld mixer, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick – approximately nine minutes (it should take around five minutes with a professional Kitchen Aid). It should resemble velvet custard.
    While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. Melt the butter in a medium-sized skillet (because it will foam a lot) and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty/like caramel (about 6 to 8 minutes). Scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes as necessary, to ensure even browning. Remove from the flame but keep in a warm spot.
    Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more.
    Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to loose volume, turn the mixture down to stir (we just switched to a normal whisk at this stage), and add the flour mixture and brown butter. Add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Whisk until just barely combined — no more than a minute from when the flour is first added — and then use a spatula to gently fold the batter until the ingredients are combined. It is very important not to over-whisk or fold the batter or it will lose volume.
    Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 minutes, or a tester comes out clean. Make sure it is fully done before you take it out – if the top is overly brown and it is not cooked in the middle, put a sheet of foil over it and bake till it’s done.
    As mentioned above, we ate it slightly warm with dollops of Greek yoghurt and it was very good. Possible variations include barely whipped cream with a drop of almond extract in it, or buttermilk ice cream, as listed in the original recipe. Enjoy!

[/Edit]

Spiced Applesauce Cake

I believe that some of us are genetically predisposed to love food, whereas others are not so blessed.
~ Judith Jones

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen – Spiced Applesauce Cake (adjusted the quantity of some ingredients).

Haidee has the cake, so I’m not sure if it was a success – we’ll find out tomorrow!

As for yesterday’s brownie, thank you for your comments – they were delightful to read :-) My flatmate Matt took the brownie to work and his colleagues apparently ate it! :-O

Happy Friday!

Feels like Christmas Eve

There’s more to life than chocolate, but not right now.
~ Author Unknown

It’s only August, I know, but right now it feels like Christmas Eve. The night is calm and pregnant with smiles. I don’t need Santa and his sleigh, or trees, or shopping – I have a chocolate & hazelnut meringue cake (for Matt’s early birthday present) and a dark chocolate tart with gingersnap crust (for my colleagues) resting in the fridge, waiting for tomorrow.

My house smells of Christmas (post-gingersnap-crust baking), and I am listening to Christmas carols, with egg yolk on my face (not entirely without reason – I’ll explain below).

Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringue Cake – recipe adapted and slightly modified from Tartlette

Oh luscious chocolate, you smelled too good!

Slightly reminiscent of bubble bath, don’t you think?

Yay – base of the cake done!

Meringue done too… (the hazelnuts I folded into the meringue mixture took forever to shell, but on seeing this – I felt it was all worthwhile).

Looks pretty stately, if I say so myself – thank you Helene from Tartlette!

Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust – recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

MORE chocolate! And cream! I’m so glad my colleagues are going to be helping to eat this! ;-)

Pouring the chocolate mix into the gingersnap crust was one of my favourite parts of tonight! (Though I have to say, taking photos with one hand while pouring with another, under bad dim lighting, is really quite an exercise.)

Oops, I think I didn’t use enough melted butter in the crust, so it looks like it may disintegrate easily… also, my tart tin was once again too small so I had to make it in a normal cake tin!

Hmmm. I’m just going to hope for the best!

These two desserts are great ones to make if you want to bake two things in a night, because they use exactly four 200g blocks of chocolate between them, and you don’t waste eggs, because you can split the required egg yolks and whites for each recipe and have two egg yolks left over to make an impromptu face mask.

Which you can slap on to your face and leave for a few minutes while you wash the dishes and/or blog.

I’ll edit this post tomorrow with a brief report on how they taste(d)!

[edit] It appears that the tart was really well-received by my colleagues AND by Cam :-) Yay!

Cake was killer-rich, especially coupled with Matt’s stovetop hot chocolate, so I think our guests went home much heavier than when they first stepped into the house, but they all needed it anyway! [/edit]

Zest and berries

The merry year is born like the bright berry from the naked thorn.
~ Hartley Coleridge

Good morning, and best wishes for a merry Monday.

    Ingredients:
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 tbsp sugar
    2 eggs
    1 and 1/2 cup milk
    2 tbsp melted butter, cooled
    zest of 1 lime
    frozen blueberries
    To serve:
    lime or lemon wedges, sugar, maple syrup, banana slices or toppings of your choice
    Method:
    Preheat oven to 100 degrees C.
    In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and lime zest. Set aside.
    In another bowl, beat egg yolks into milk, then stir in the melted butter. Gently stir this mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to moisten flour – don’t worry about a few lumps.
    In a small bowl, whip the egg whites till stiff. Fold the egg white into the batter. Golden rule: do not overmix.
    Heat a large skillet over med-low heat. Drizzle olive oil in to cover the base of the skillet. When the oil shimmers, ladle batter on to the skillet, making pancakes of any size. Drop a handful of frozen blueberries onto the pancakes as they are cooking. Adjust the heat of your stove as necessary; usually the first batch will require higher heat than subsequent batches.
    When bubbles appear on the surface and the bottom browns (approximately 2-3 minutes), flip pancake and cook until the second side is lightly browned.
    Serve immediately with toppings of your choice, or hold on an ovenproof plate in the heated oven for up to 30 minutes.
    Yields 4 servings.