Monday, 30 July 2012

That's a bit tarty

Sorry this post is a little late - I meant to get it sorted days ago but got sidetracked by too much rugby.  Poor Lucy got dragged along to two games in as many days - Taranaki's Ranfurly Shield defence on Friday and her dad's coaching debut in a seriously grassroots game on Saturday.  I've got a load of filthy, sweaty, bloodstained(!) jerseys in the washing machine right now.  I've never smelled anything like the stench wafting from that canvas bag and I change dozens of nappies every week.  I suppose I could've refused to wash them but then I'd have to change the name of my blog, right?

Anyway, while there's nothing elegant about a game of rugby, this week's baking was pure class.  I made creme patissiere!  I've always been a bit scared of it, to be honest.  It's the name.  Creme patissiere.  It just sounds complicated and failure prone - like souffle (which I'm also scared of).  Translated to pastry cream, however, it's not quite so daunting.

I've had a tube of vanilla beans in the pantry for a while now and figured it was time to put them to use and conquer - or at least tackle - my fear of creme patissiere.  So while Lucy slept (bliss!) one morning this week, I made a batch of profiteroles.

As it was also my first attempt at choux pastry, I didn't know what the mixture was meant to look like.  It turned out it was way too thin and the first tray was a disaster so I'm not even going to share the recipe I used.  With a few extra scoops of flour and a lot of extra beating, the second tray turned out OK.

Filled with creme patissiere and drizzled with melted chocolate, they were pretty delicious but thanks to the first-tray disaster I had HEAPS of creme patissiere left over.  I also had some frozen sweet shortcrust pastry and a bag of frozen blueberries so little blueberry tarts were the obvious choice.

They were super simple, super cute and super delicious.  Makes sense - blueberries keep appearing on those lists of superfoods, don't they?

BLUEBERRY TARTS

Preheat oven to 180 and grease two 12-hole muffin pans.
Cut rounds of pastry from pre-rolled sheets and use to line muffin pans.  Prick pastry with a fork, line with baking paper and fill with pastry weights or uncooked rice.  Bake for 10 minutes then remove baking blind materials and return pans to the oven for another four to five minutes until pastry is golden.  Cool completely.
Pipe or spoon creme patissiere into cooled pastry cases and top with blueberries.


CREME PATISSIERE

Ingredients
1 3/4 C milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways, seeds separated
3 egg yolks
1/3 C caster sugar
1/3 C plain flour, sifted

Method
Heat milk and vanilla seeds in a saucepan.
Whisk yolks and sugar in a bowl until thick. Whisk in flour, then milk mixture.
Return to pan and cook, whisking, over low heat for about five minutes or until mixture thickens. Cover surface with plastic wrap and chill.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

A close call with overcooking

This week's sweet treat had all the hallmarks of a dud and for a while there it looked like this post wasn't going to happen.  But, thanks to the microwave, I have something to write about.

After inhaling a delicious piece of chocolate brownie at a local cafe, I thought I'd have a go at making some of my own.  My only previous attempt at brownie was a dismal failure, thanks to my inability to accept anything still wobbling at the end of the cooking period could possibly be done.  The fear of underdone food goes back to childhood, when Mum served steaks super-mega-uber-well-done and eggs so solid you could bounce a coin off the yolk.  It's only recently I've started to like my steak medium and my eggs runny. 

But back to the brownie.  I trawled the web for inspiration and settled on this recipe for Chocolate Coconut Brownie.  After a few weeks of one-bowl-wonders, all the dishes at the end of the exercise were a bit of a shock to the system but there was more cause for alarm: I was meant to take the pan out of the oven after 35 minutes, max.  No way.  Nothing that sloppy is going anywhere near the cooling rack.  No, sir.  Not on my watch.

So, after giving it closer to 45 minutes and a few stabs with a knife (which still wasn't coming out close to clean), I reluctantly decided enough was enough and called it cooked. 

The end result was delicious - for the first 24 hours.  Then things headed downhill.  The day after baking, the brownie was dry and teetering between "crisp" and "rock hard" around the edges and I was looking for something else to blog about.  Then I remembered the microwave, resurrector of dry cakes everywhere.  After about 15 seconds, the brownie was back to its warm, fudgy best. 

Still, I don't know if I'm game to try it again.  I think brownie might just be one of those things I never add to my list of favourite recipes.  Nevermind, there's always the cafe.

Are there any brownie experts out there?  Was it just the extended cooking time that let my brownie down? 


Saturday, 14 July 2012

Go, Greased Lightning

I've never been the fastest mover.  In the days before motherhood, it wasn't uncommon for my morning routine to take the best part of an hour.   I'd start with a nice hot cuppa while watching the news on TV then take my sweet, selfish, quite inconsiderate time in the shower before getting dressed, made up and off to work.  I had all that time and yet somehow I always ended up rushing.

Now, having learnt to do a ridiculous amount in an even more ridiculous timeframe, I can be organised and out the door in under 20 minutes.  You'll notice there is no mention of the cuppa in my new routine - on the days it eventuates, it invariably goes cold before I'm halfway through.

So, in the spirit of speed, here's another throw-it-all-in-the-bowl-and-stir recipe.  It sounds too good to be true but I made this yesterday and it was mixed and in the tin before my oven had even preheated. 

10 MINUTE CARROT CAKE

Ingredients
2 C grated carrot
2 eggs
1 C sugar
3/4 C cooking oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/4 Cups self-raising flour
2-3 tsp cinnamon
2-3 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Method
Mix all together and pour into a greased tin (I use a ring tin but only because that's what Mum always used - I'm sure it'd be fine in a 20cm round tin).  Bake at 180 for 30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed.  Allow to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes then turn on to a wire rack.  When completely cool, ice with cream cheese icing.

I hope there's something this delicious at your house!   


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Rocking and rolling - mostly rocking

I wasn't going to write this post so early on but after last night's unpleasantness, it seems very appropriate.

I got this rocking horse for the bargain price of $5 while I was pregnant with Lucy.  He was more than a little worse for wear and spent a long time in the shed while I concentrated on getting from A to B without tripping over my own feet or my gigantic belly.

It wasn't until after she was born that I had the energy to get stuck into sanding, painting and reassembling the horse.  Snatching an hour or so whenever I could to work on it, it was a much longer process than I expected but the end result is so worth it.  He's still got a bit of a lean on but is already proving a hit with Lucy's cousin (the very cute Poppet over at Miss Molly Coddle).  I can't wait to see our own little monkey rocking away.

In keeping with the rocky theme, I made this rocky road fudge slice yesterday morning (about 12 hours before the earthquake - spooky!).  I usually make the uncooked slice with the cheapest wine biscuits available (Home Brand, Budget or Pams) and throw in a 70g packet of walnut pieces and a good handful of raisins or sultanas.  But lately I've had a hankering for marshmallows so I thought I'd change it up a bit this week.  It's a wonder I'm shifting any of this baby weight...  Anyway, here's the recipe.

ROCKY ROAD FUDGE SLICE

Ingredients
250g wine biscuits
3/4 C each of roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped glace cherries and mini marshmallows
2 Tbsp cocoa
1/4 C milk
90g butter
1/3 C sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence



Method
Crush the biscuits and put in a bowl with the peanuts, cherries and marshmallows.
Mix milk and cocoa together in a cup.
Melt butter and sugar in a pot and slowly add the milk/cocoa mixture.  Stir until combined.
Heat until boiling then add vanilla essence.
Pour hot mixture into the bowl and mix thoroughly.  Do this as quickly as possible so the marshmallows don't melt.
Press into a greased shallow tin about 20x30cm.  Cool in the fridge for an hour then ice with chocolate icing.

Yum!