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Author Archives: The quirk and the cool

Blood Orange Mini Cakes

This is the “mini” cake version of a larger blood orange cake I make. See here for the recipe. I thought that little cakes might be good for an afternoon tea, so I have adapted the recipe to make lovely little jewel bright cakes which are just delicious. Nothing beats the flavour and colour of blood oranges!

Ingredients

Candied orange slices

2 blood oranges
200g caster sugar

Cakes

2 blood oranges
200g  caster sugar
125g very soft butter
2 free range eggs
½ tsp vanilla essence
125g plain flour
75g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder

Method

Candied Blood Oranges
Finely slice 2 of the oranges, discarding the ends and keeping as many slices intact as you can.
Dissolve 200g of the sugar in 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan, and bring to the boil. Carefully place the orange slices in the syrup and simmer them until they are soft and sticky. Remove from the syrup using tongs. If the syrup is not reduced enough, cook it for a few minutes extra to thicken – but don’t let it go to toffee.

Cakes
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.
Grease a mini cake tin which has removeable bottoms. Line the bases with circles of baking paper. If you don’t have a tin with removeable bottoms, you could use an ordinary muffin tin, but turning out the mini cakes will be tricky, as you need to keep the candied orange slices intact.
Chop 2 of the blood oranges in quarters and remove each end. Blitz in the food processor until reasonably finely chopped – there should still be some small chunks in the mixture.
Add the butter and 200g of the sugar and blitz in the food processor. The mixture will look very curdled! Add the eggs and vanilla and blitz again, the mixture will still look very curdled!
Gently fold in the flour and baking powder, making sure not to over mix or the cake with toughen. The cake mixture will now look “normal”.
Place the candied orange slices on the paper bases in the tin, as artistically as possible, remembering, as this is an upside down cake, that the bottoms become the top!
Place the batter over the top of the slices. Bake for 20- 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean. As these cakes are small, they may need a little less cooking, but they are also quite moist, so may need the allotted time. My advice is check after 15 minutes and keep checking thereafter.
Remove from the oven once cooked and cool the tin on a wire rack. When the cakes are cool (not cold), carefully remove each mini cake from the mold.  Even more carefully, take off the bases and peel away the baking paper.
Brush the mini cakes with the blood orange syrup and serve.

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Hot-Smoked Salmon Pasta: Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients

I’m in love with Jamie Oliver’s new book, 5 Ingredients. It is so simple, with a ton of recipes that read well, cook well and more importantly eat well!

This is the second recipe I’ve tried this week since acquiring the book. I made St Clement’s Polenta Biscuits a couple of posts back, this time I went savoury.

I’m a blogger because I’m passionate about food and it’s fair to say I’m cooking addicted! However for the last month I have been without a kitchen, as my old one has been demolished and the new one is very slowly taking shape.

So my long time friend and partner in crime in many adventures Ms D, kindly asked me over last night to cook dinner in her large and well equipped kitchen. How lovely to cook on an actual stove – bliss!

I made Hot-Smoked Salmon Pasta, a beautiful pasta dish with heaps of fresh asparagus to go with the hot-smoked salmon. It takes about 15 minutes all up, and can be made just before your diners want to dig in! Thank you too, to the enthusiastic R, his partner S and the taste taster Bella, their beautiful golden Labrador.

Igredients

350g asparagus

300sdried taglierini or angel-hair pasta (I used the latter)

250g hot-smoked salmon* skin off

1 lemon

100ml half-fat crème fraiche (I couldn’t find half-fat – the full fat seemed to work fine!)

Method

Use a speed peeler to strip the top tender half of the asparagus stalks into ribbons. Finely slice the remaining stalks, discarding the woody ends. Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions, then drain, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Meanwhile, roughly break the salmon into a large non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the sliced asparagus stalks, and toss occasionally until the pasta’s ready.

Finely great half the lemon zest into the salmon pan, squeeze in half the juice, then toss in the drained pasta, a good splash of the reserved cooking water and the crème fraiche. Add the asparagus ribbons, toss again, then season to perfection with sea salt and and black pepper. Serve with lemon wedges, for squeezing over.

*store bought is readily available, but here is a link to hot-smoking salmon, you can make it yourself if you have the time.

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Steely Dan in the Hunter Valley 2011 – Vale Walter Becker

It was sad news today hearing that Walter Becker had died, one half of that amazing musical collaboration that has created the various incarnations of Steely Dan.

I’m a long time fan and a Steely Dan tragic. I wrote a post a few years back on a wonderful outdoor  performance in the Hunter Valley where Steely Dan featured, so I thought I would reproduce that review today in memory of Walter Becker and his quirky genius.

One of the nicest ways to enjoy live music – particularly rock acts – is an outdoor concert at one of the wineries in the Hunter Valley NSW. Part concert, part festival, part picnic, a Day on the Green is seriously cool, and very retro.

I have been to quite a few over the last few years, and it’s now the only way I want to enjoy rock music. I’m tired of large internal arena spaces where you’re seated so far away that binoculars are the best way to enjoy the act you’ve paid mega dollars to see.

On the Green the buzz of several thousand people, with a variety of ages from those not yet born when the bands were in their heyday, to the seriously geriatric, all gathered to listen, watch, drink, eat and mingle, is exhilarating.

The night is always clear, moonlit and starlit. I don’t know how the promoters manage it. A good upstairs connection I suppose! There’s something about being in the country, with that vast expanse of land and sky that is awe-inspiring, and makes you realise just how constrained our city lives are…

Santana, Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Carole King were all memorable winery concerts. But as a Steely Dan tragic, the two concerts I’ve been to in the Hunter are my standouts. However I can’t tell you much about the 2007 gig. It was Steely Dan’s first time in Australia. I was so overcome with actually seeing them in the flesh that I sat completely transfixed, unable to do anything except feast my ears and eyes on the band that I was finally seeing live. I couldn’t even bring myself to take photos.

In 2011, I am relieved to say I was less awe struck and up to viewing them a little more critically and actually documenting my memories with photos.

I should mention the other act of the night was Steve Winwood. If you’re a fan of the man or of Traffic, you would have had a blast. He looked and sounded great! No apparent aging unlike some other rock legends who look exhumed or exsanguinated rather than animated…

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys from the album of the same name was a standout.

As this is not really a concert review I’ll stop here. Suffice it to say that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen and the Steely Dan 2011 tour line-up were fabulous.

The Miles High Big Band
featuring The Embassy Brats
Jim Beard Keyboards
Keith Carlock Drums
Jon Herington Guitar
Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery Vocals
Michael Leonhart Trumpet, Keys
Cindy Mizelle Vocals
Jim Pugh Trombone
Roger Rosenberg Baritone Saxophone
Catherine Russell Vocals
Freddie Washington Bass
Walt Weiskopf Saxophone

Just listening to the opening riff of Josie gave me goose bumps. The reference to Muswellbrook in Black Friday from the 1975 album Katy Lied, at a concert in the heart of the Hunter was funny and sweet and somewhat disconcerting from our American friends. Every number was consummately performed, at least in the somewhat biased view of this writer.

 

St Clement’s Polenta Biscuits – Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients

 

 

I’ve just acquired Jamie’s new book, 5 Ingredients  – see here for link. It’s exactly what the name suggests, lots of great recipes using 5 ingredients. 5 is a really good number to create recipes with – enough to make a recipe coherent, but not too many to over complicate things.

Today I made St Clement’s Polenta Biscuits from the book.  I can attest to how easy the recipe is. I am currently cooking without a kitchen, as mine is being renovated. So I made these biscuits on my dining room table, using my food processor and an old camping oven friends have lent me. Thank you Roger ‘n’ Ruth –  lifesavers as usual in times of crisis!

So the biscuits couldn’t be easier. I had to make them in batches of 6, as the oven could only hold a tiny baking tray. I didn’t quite get 24 biscuits out of the mix- maybe I made the balls too big.

They are delicious, with a slightly crunchy texture from the polenta, and a real orange tang.

Here’s Jamie’s recipe:

Ingredients

100g unsalted butter (cold)

50g fine polenta

150g self-raising flour

100g golden caster sugar

2 oranges (or lemons)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper and rub with olive oil. ( I used baking paper and left out the olive oil). Cube the butter and place in a food processor with the polenta, flour and sugar. Finely grate in the zest of 1 orange (or lemon), then pulse to combine. Squeeze in the juice of half an orange (or lemon), and pulse again to bring the mixture together into a ball of dough.

Divide into 24 pieces (or however many the mixture yields), roll into balls and place on the trays, leaving a 5cm gap between them. With your thumb, create a 1cm deep dent in the centre of each ball. Finely grate the remaining orange (or lemon) zest and scatter into the dents, followed by a little sprinkle of caster sugar. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Pear and Marzipan Cake with Poached Pears

 

This is a lovely moist cake, as it has chopped pears cooked in the cake mixture. Serving the cake with poached pears and the sticky syrup they have been cooked in also adds to the lusciousness of this dessert cake!

The recipe I have created, like many good recipes, is a “hybrid”, based on one I found in a Delicious Magazine, with some tweaks from Gourmet Traveller. The following recipe is the result of “tailoring” the recipes to suit what I was after in a delicious pear cake.

Ingredients 

250g butter, softened
250g marzipan, softened
315g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 free range eggs
150g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
2 ripe pears, chopped, + 3 whole pears for poaching

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm springform cake pan with baking paper.

Place the butter, marzipan and 150g sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.

Beat for 3-4 minutes on medium speed until creamy. Add almond and vanilla extracts, then add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour and ground almonds. Gently fold through chopped pears  and then spoon into the lined cake tin.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To poach pears, place remaining 165 sugar in a saucepan over a low heat with 750ml water, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add the pears, and poach for 15 minutes or until tender. Remove the pears and set aside to cool. Increase the heat to medium, and cook the poaching liquid for 10-15 minutes or until reduced and syrupy. Set aside to cool.

To serve, place the poached pears on the top of the cake and drizzle the pear syrup over the top. Lovely with lashings of whipped cream, or ice cream or Greek yogurt!

 

Kouign Amann and Cruffins: Variations on Croissant Dough


I’m re-blogging my 2016 post on two pastries that are kind of variations on the ubiquitous croissant. I felt compelled to do so after reading an article in the August 2017 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller, in which pastry “fads” were discussed, albeit tongue-in-cheek!

What is the next baked sensation, quips Larissa Dubecki, as she reminisces on pastry trends from Sex in the City’s cupcakes, through macarons, cronuts and kouign amann, with éclairs being dubbed the newest big thing in 2017.

So here are my (simplified) recipes for kouign amann and cruffins, the former still having baking currency because they’re a classic, the latter sadly fulfilling their destiny as a food fad.

I am firmly of the view that BOTH pastries should be up there in the baking hall of fame as they are not that difficult to make and are really quite delicious!

Kouign amann (pronounced queen amarn) are Breton pastries that are similar to croissants. They have a layer of sugar in the dough, and are baked in a unique shape with four distinct corners.

Cruffins are that curious hybrid, the love child of a croissant and a muffin and the sibling of the cronut.  They have flaky croissant layers yet are compact enough to hold and eat as they have that neat muffin shape.

While the dough for both these pastries is not identical, they are close enough to use one batch of croissant dough to create cruffins and kouign amman. And both pastries can be baked in a muffin tin.

I essentially made a croissant dough and used 1/4 dough for each type of pastry. I layered one dough portion with sugar, and used that for the kouign amann, while the other dough portion I merely had to shape into cruffins before baking. So you end up with 6 cruffins and 6 kouign amann. Just double the quantities for 12 of each.

So here is my simplified recipe for both delights. You can find lots of variations, some quite complicated for both, online, but I wanted recipes that were reasonably simple and not to technically challenging. The kouign amann recipe is adapted from Emma Christensen’s helpful post from her Kitchn blog.

Kouign Amann

Ingredients

1/4 batch croissant dough *(recipe follows below)

1 cup caster sugar + additional for rolling

1/4 cup icing sugar for dusting

Icing/glaze

1/2 cup icing sugar

Juice of 1/4 lemon

Method

Roll out your pre-prepared croissant dough to a long rectangle, about 1/2 cm thick. Sprinkle the rectangle with 1/2 cup sugar and press lightly with the rolling pin to help it stick. now fold the top (narrower end) third down and the bottom third up, like folding a letter.

Rotate the dough 90 degrees so that the open end is facing you, like a book. Roll the dough out to a rectangle about 1/2 cm thick. Sprinkle the rectangle with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and press lightly with the rolling pin to help it stick. Fold the top third down and the bottom third up. If any sugar falls out, press it back into the folds.

Put the dough into large plastic bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

 If you haven’t already done so, generously butter a 6 or 12 hole muffin tin. (If making cruffins at the same time, you will already have buttered your muffin tin.)

Sprinkle the rolling surface with caster sugar.  Transfer rested dough to the rolling surface. Sprinkle a little additional sugar over the top of the dough. Roll the dough out to a rectangle about 1/2 cm thick.

Cut the dough using a pizza cutter or sharp knife into 10cm squares. Fold the corners of each square toward the center. Pick up each pastry and tuck it firmly into the muffin holes. You may have to push it in gently. You should get about 6 pastries.

Place a large plastic bag over the muffin tin and leave to prove for about an hour, or until the kouign amann  are slightly puffed up.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through baking. The kouign amann are cooked when they are puffed up and a rich golden brown croissanty colour. Be careful that the tips don’t burn. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes; don’t  let the kouign amann cool completely in the muffin holes or the sugar will harden and make the pastries pretty tough to remove.

Remove the kouign amann to a wire rack or large plate. Drench with 1/4 cup icing sugar while still warm. To  ice the kouign amann, mix the icing sugar and lemon juice to make a dribbly sort of icing/glaze. Using a pastry brush, paint the kouign amann with the icing/glaze.

Cruffins

Ingredients

1/4 batch croissant dough *(recipe follows below)

1/4 cup icing sugar for dusting

Icing/glaze

1/2 cup icing sugar

Juice of 1/4 lemon

1 tbls raspberry fondant creme (optional)

1 tsp freeze dried raspberry powder (optional)

Method

Generously butter a 6 or 12 hole muffin tin.

Roll out your pre-prepared croissant dough to a long rectangle, about 1/2 cm thick. Cut it in half lengthways if it is too big to deal with. Cut strips of dough again lenghthways, about 10cm wide, using a pizza cutter or sharp knife. The strips can be wider, the wider the strip the higher the cruffin. The trick is to have dough, once rolled, big enough to rise high, but not so big that they flow over the muffin tin without support.

Carefully roll up each strip starting from a short end (10cm end), fairly tightly. Place each roll cut side up in a muffin hole. You should get around 6 cruffins.  At this stage you can leave to prove as is, or wait, as  I did, to fill the other muffin holes with kouign amann pastries.

Place a large plastic bag over the tin and leave to prove for about an hour, or until the cruffins have grown in size.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

Once proved, bake for about 30 minutes until the cruffins are puffed up and a rich golden brown croissanty colour. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cruffins to a wire rack or large plate. Drench with 1/4 cup icing sugar while still warm.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar, lemon juice raspberry fondant creme if using, to make a dribbly sort of icing/glaze. Using a pastry brush, paint the cruffins with the icing/glaze. For added artiness and a lovely intense raspberry taste, scatter a little freeze dried raspberry powder over the cruffins.

Croissant Dough recipe

This recipe is that of the inimitable James Morton, finalist on the Great British Bakeoff 2012. His book Brilliant Bread is full of great recipes that make bread making, and in this case, croissant making, a common sense affair.

So here is James’ recipe (for the dough only).

Ingredients

900g strong white flour

50g caster sugar

2 x 7 g sachets fast-action yeast

14g salt

20g unsalted butter, chilled

500g full-fat milk

200g sourdough starter (My Note – you could leave this out if you haven’t got a starter, but it does improve the flavour)

500g unsalted high quality butter, chilled

Method

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, yeast and salt until combined, rubbing the yeast and salt in at opposite sides of the bowl. Roughly rub in the 20g butter until crumb-like, then add the milk and starter if using and form into a dough.

Knead the dough vigorously for 10-15 minutes until it has become smooth and doesn’t break when stretched. Wrap in cling film (I use a large plastic zip lock bag)  and refrigerate for at least an hour  but preferably overnight.

Once the dough has rested, take the additional butter and place it between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper (I find cling film works well). Using a rolling pin, bash the butter until it flattens into a square, roughly 20cm x 20 cm and 10 cm thick. Return the butter to the fridge and remove the croissant dough.

Roll out the dough on floured surface until it is a rectangle about double the size of the flattened butter (20cm x 40cm). On one half of this, place the flattened butter.Fold the dough over the butter and pinch all around the edges to seal. Turn the dough round a quarter turn.

Gently roll the dough out into a new rectangle about three to four times as long as it is wide. Gently take both ends and fold them over towards each other, so that they meet in the middle (your rectangle should now be half as long as it was). Then, fold the new shape in half again, closing it like a book. Wrap in cling film or place in the plastic bag,  and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Carefully, repeat the instructions in the last paragraph twice more, so that the dough has been folded and rested three times altogether. Rest for 20 minutes one final time.

The dough can be used immediately or frozen for future use.

I  can thoroughly recommend  freezing the dough. The basic recipe makes a HUGE quantity of dough. It make so much sense to divide it into two, or even four, bake with some now, and freeze the rest for use at a later date.

 

 

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Blood Orange Breakfast Sorbet with Granola and Fresh Fruit

It’s blood orange season and I love finding opportunities to use this beautiful fruit with its gorgeous colour and fragrant flavour. I made blood orange friands recently – here is the link to the post.

This is a super easy breakfast recipe which could translate into dessert with ease!  The sorbet is made by blending frozen blood orange segments with yoghurt – instant frozen delight. Add some granola, store-bought or home made, and any fresh fruit you fancy and you have a zingy, taste-bud tantalizing breakfast to start your day.

Here’s the recipe or the assembly – it’s pretty easy!

Blood Orange Sorbet

Peel and segment a blood orange, place on a plate, cover with cling wrap or a ziplock bag and freeze for at least a few hours or overnight.

Put the frozen segments into a food processor or blender with a couple of tablespoons of full fat yoghurt. The exact quantity is up to you – start off with a couple of spoonfuls, you can always add more for a creamier texture. Blend well until you have a sorbet like consistency.  You should wack the sorbet back in the freezer if you are not serving absolutely immediately – it does melt fast!

Granola

If you want to make your own, here’s a recipe:

Ingredients

2 cups of rolled oats

1 cup of any combination of seeds – I used chia, linseed, sesame, poppy, pepitas

1/2 cup of any nuts you like – I used macadamias, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts

1/3 cup honey, warmed to pouring consistency in a microwave

1/2 cup of any dried fruit – I used apricots, mango cheeks, cranberries, sour cherries

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C.  Line a large baking tin with baking paper. You need to be able to spread the mix out without too many piles.

Mix the oats, seeds and nuts together in a large bowl. Pour the warmed honey onto the mix and quickly stir it through. The mixture will be quite sticky, so stir fairly aggressively. Sometime I loosen the honey before microwaving with a little bit of water to make it more runny and easier to mix. Up to you.

Spoon the mixture onto the baking paper in the tin, spreading it out so that it covers the base of the tin and there aren’t any big lumps.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture is golden brown and thoroughly toasted. You will need to turn the mixture over half way through cooking, so that the underneath mixture gets its time on top and gets toasted. The oven time is a bit of guess work – just keep checking and remove when the mix is golden and not burnt!

Let cool for 5 minutes then add the dried fruit, combining everything well. Don’t worry if there are some clumpy bits stuck together with honey – they are a bonus!

Breakfast Assembly

Put a big spoonful or two of granola on a plate and scatter on some fresh fruit  – more blood orange slices, and some strawberries and raspberries work well.  Lastly, add as much of the blood orange sorbet as you want to the plate, and you have a lovely breakfast to go.

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