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Anzac Biscuits 2020

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Anzac Day is tomorrow – 25 April 2020. The day is always marked, though tomorrow will be quite different, with marches and services not happening in Covid 19  times. Traditionally Anzac biscuits are baked and eaten around this date.

While the biscuits were made during World War One by women’s organisations in Australia, my reading has come up with a recipe for the biscuits that predate WW1. There is a fascinating article from The Cook and the Curator, at Sydney Living Museums, which describes a recipe from the early 1900s. The link to the article is here. One thing is definite, coconut is a later addition. Which suits me fine, as I am tired of the presence of coconut shreds and shards in biscuits, cakes and muesli!

“It is universally agreed that an Anzac biscuit is oat based, contains no eggs, and is made with melted butter rather than butter creamed with sugar.”

The first-known published recipe in Australia appeared as “Anzac Biscuits or Crispies” in the Melbourne Argus in 1920. New Zealand lays an earlier claim for an “Anzac Crispie” in the St Andrew’s Cookery Book, in 1919. The titles of both recipes seem to answer the big question – should an Anzac biscuit be crispy or chewy? Crispy obviously.

I’ve made a few Anzac biscuits over the years, and I rather like this recipe. It’s from “Better Homes and Gardens” May 2015, and purports to be similar to the original recipe, the ingredients being rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water.
Golden syrup makes lighter coloured biscuits, while treacle makes the biscuits darker. Both are yummy!

Ingredients

125g unsalted butter
2 tbsp golden syrup or treacle*
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp boiling water
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
¾ cup caster sugar

*Golden syrup is more traditional in Anzac biscuits, but treacle also works well, giving the biscuits a nuttier flavour and darker colour.

Method

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line 4 oven trays with baking paper. Combine butter and golden syrup or treacle in a small saucepan and cook over a low heat until butter is melted. Add bicarb and water and whisk to combine. Remove from heat.

Combine rolled oats, flour and sugar in a large bowl, add butter mixture and beat until combined. Form into small balls and put on prepared trays, allowing space for spreading. Flatten slightly with a fork.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until biscuits are golden. Cool the biscuits on the trays then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sourdough Donut Top Muffins

 

Everyone is baking in the isolationist era of 2020, and many people are mad for sourdough bread. I’m all in favour – I have lots of recipes for sourdough on this blog and I would encourage anyone to have a go!

If you make sourdough, you inevitably end up with left over starter. There are lots of things you can make with it, from enriching ordinary yeast breads, to making crumpets and making muffins.

Here is a recipe for muffins using leftover starter. I blogged it last Easter, but actually, while it has Easter flavours, it would be delicious at any time, so here it is again.

These super simple muffins are full of fruit and spices, plus the added bonus that they are dipped in cinnamon sugar to give a donut crunch on the top!

I’ve called them sourdough muffins, because of the left over starter in the mix. It certainly adds to the flavour, but you can just as easily make lovely muffins without the sourdough starter. You don’t need to add anything extra to the mixture, if you leave out the starter, you will just have slightly less mix.

If you make the mixture with the starter you’ll get 15 or so muffins. Without the starter you would probably get 12 muffins. That’s using a regular muffin pan. So obviously if you make 15 you’ll need a second pan or you would need to use the pan twice.

However, this mixture keeps really well in the fridge for a couple of days, so you can bake as many or as few muffins as you like and keep the remaining mixture in the fridge!

Ingredients
1 cup sultanas and raisins
1/3 cup of rum/sherry/port or any liqueur
2 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking sofa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup milk
2 large free-range eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup golden syrup

For the topping
20g melted butter
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Method
Soak the sultanas and raisins in the rum/sherry/port/liqueur for half an hour or more, if you have the time.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease the holes of a regular 12 cup muffin pan.
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a second bowl, beat together the starter, if using, and the milk, eggs, oil, honey and golden syrup. Blend the wet ingredients with the dry, taking about 20 seconds. Gently stir in the fruit just until blended.
Fill the holes of the prepared pan two-thirds full. Or fill a little higher if you like muffins that have a “muffin top”!
Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. I check after 15 minutes. Ovens are variable, so you need to keep checking for doneness.
When the muffins are clearly cooked, remove the muffin pan from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing them from the pan.
Put the melted butter in a small bowl, and mix the caster sugar and cinnamon on a plate. While the muffins are still warm, dip the top of each one in butter and then in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Great with your isolationist  morning tea or coffee!

Bolognese 3 Ways


A quick note: this recipe is great for getting your daily veg (4 out of 5 ain’t bad!) – and it’s a no-brainer that it’s fabulous for giving children their veggies in kid-friendly yummy meals!

On Easter Saturday, midway in the Easter break you might be thinking about meat, after fish Friday.

I will be cooking lamb as usual tomorrow, Easter Sunday, but I have been thinking about some easy meat recipes to break the meat fast and also because we are all looking for meals we can cook up easily, in a time of isolation, with a few standard ingredients.Nothing too fussy!

I found this recipe watching a re-run of the excellent Jamie Oliver TV series “Jamie’s Comfort Food”. I have cooked a few recipes from the book of the same name with excellent results. In this episode Jamie made bolognese ravioli. I was taken with the bolognese part of the recipe. I thought it was a really good versatile recipe that could be tweaked in different ways.

While Jamie specifies minced pork and minced veal or beef, I made my bolognese with just beef – and it was great! I mention this, since, in these isolationist days, we may all have minced beef in the fridge, but not always pork or veal.

It’s quite thick, less a sauce, more a stand alone meal. In the post I cook up a big casserole pot full.

For Bolognese Number 1, serve up a plateful, on its own, and maybe with some crusty bread to mop up the leftovers.

Then, for Bolognese Number 2, you could put it over pasta for the traditional pasta bolognese. To do this, you might like to make it more sauce-like by stirring through a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water you cooked the pasta in – adding in just enough water to thin the sauce to your liking.

And for Bolognese Number 3 I piled some of the mixture into store bought puff pastry and made pies. This was really easy and the pies baked well, were good to eat on the spot, or could be reheated later or frozen. The procedure for this is at the end of the base recipe.

Here’s Jamie’s basic bolognese recipe.

Ingredients

400 g higher-welfare minced pork

400 g higher-welfare minced veal , or beef

olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

2 onions

2 carrots

2 sticks of celery

200ml red wine

2 x 400 g tins of whole tomatoes

100g Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

Method
Put all the minced meat into your largest pan on a high heat with a good lug of oil and a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Cook for 20 minutes, or until golden, stirring regularly.

Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the garlic, onions, carrots and celery. When the mince has got a good colour, add all the chopped veg and cook for a further 10 minutes, then add the red wine and cook it away.

Pour in the tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon, and add half a tin’s worth of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender and the sauce is super-thick. Remove from the heat to cool, then finely grate and stir in the Parmesan.

For Bolognese Number 3 pies:
You will need puff pastry, either in sheet or block form. How much you will need depends on the number of pies you make. I made 4 hearty individual pies from 3 sheets of puff pastry if that’s any kind of guide with lots of trimmings left over.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Cut out some rounds of puff pastry from pastry sheets, or roll out some pastry from a block, if that’s how your pastry comes. You will need 2 rounds, one for the top and one for the bottom of the pies. Use something like saucers or glasses as a guide for cutting the rounds. The bottom round is smaller, the top round covering the filling is bigger. So I used a glass as the cutting guide for the bottom and a larger diameter saucer for the top.

Pile some bolognese filling onto the bottom round leaving  1-2 cm edge on the round. Brush a little water on that edge of the round, then cover with the top round, pinching the edges to seal. You could score a few decorative lines on the pastry top, making sure not to cut the pastry all the way through. I like to have a go but I’m not very good! You could also egg wash the pies all over using a beaten egg. That’s if you like that eggy shine to your baked pie.

Place the pies on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is lovely and brown and puffed up. Serve piping hot as is or dress up with a green salad.

Easter Cookies


I posted a recipe “Hot Cross Bun Cookies”last Easter.  I’m posting again as “Easter Cookies” as they’re so easy to make and can be an alternative to hot cross buns. Not a replacement of course – Easter wouldn’t be Easter without hot cross buns! Children can make them too, keeping them busy and happy in these difficult times.

The recipe is based on one from Donna Hay, with some tweaks.

Ingredients

125g softened butter
175g brown sugar
2 free-range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
2 teaspoons lemon zest
375 self raising flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
80ml milk
80g sultanas
160g icing sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking tray.
Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor. Add the eggs and vanilla, making sure the eggs are well incorporated.
Add the lemon zest, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, milk and sultanas to the food processor and mix in. Be careful not to over mix in case you break up the sultanas.
Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes or until firm. Roll tablespoons of the mixtures into balls and place on the baking trays.
Bake between 10-15 minutes, depending on the hotness of your oven, until the cookies are pale brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking trays.
To make the icing, place the icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix to a paste. Place the icing mixture in a piping bag and pipe a cross on each cookie. You don’t have to be too precise, the flavour of the cookies is more important than a beautifully executed item! Or that’s what I think anyway.

Rose Biscuits from “Tea at Fortnum and Mason”.


I recently came across a wonderful blog the Kulinary Adventures of Kath. There are so many beautiful recipes! She has a lovely recipe for Rose Biscuits from the book “Tea at Fortnum and Mason”.  I had to get the book!

I love this great little book, so informative on the history and art of tea. I wanted to have a go at baking these gorgeous rose biscuits, and having done so, am now keen to make some of the other great recipes for sweet and savoury delights.

The biscuits are so easy. The only difficulty may be in acquiring crystallised rose petals as specified in the recipe. In Sydney, “The Essential Ingredient” stocks their own house brand of crystallised rose nibs. They also sell them online. They add a lovely fragrant flavour to the biscuits.

The recipe makes about 20 biscuits.

Ingredients

100g unsalted butter, softened + extra for greasing

50g golden caster sugar

1 tbsp rosewater

100g plain flour, sifted

50g ground almonds

15g crystallised rose petals, chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Lightly butter a baking tray or line the tray with baking paper.

Cream the butter, sugar and rosewater in a large bowl. Add the flour, ground almonds and rose petals and mix everything together to form a dough.

Take heaped teaspoons of the mixture and roll it into balls. Flatten them slightly on the baking tray. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until just golden. Leave to cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container. These biscuits also freeze well.

 

Summer Plum Muffins

Sydney in summer, January 2020. And what a summer. The drought and the bushfires dominate the literal and emotional landscape, as we swelter through hot, hazy and humid days.

Despite these conditions, there is still amazing summer fruit in abundance, to bake, preserve or simply to devour fresh as an antidote to the heat.

I love stone fruit in high summer. I’ve been jam making with apricots and with blood plums, fantastic for their rich ruby red colour.

I made muffins a while back with yellow fleshed plums, using my current go-to muffin recipe adapted from Matt Stone’s The Natural Cook Maximum Taste Zero Waste. Here is the recipe from 2018.

This recipe celebrates plums, baked in the muffin mixture and also as plum pieces on top of each muffin, but you could just as easily make it with other stone fruit – apricots, peaches or nectarines.

Ingredients

2 free-range eggs

140g raw sugar

1 Granny Smith apple unpeeled and grated

1 plum, diced

75ml vegetable oil

10-12 pecans, chopped (optional)

150g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp salt

3 plums, cut into segments, to decorate

A few pecan halves, to decorate (optional)

Method

Whisk the eggs together in a large mixing bowl and when  the mixture is foamy, slowly pour in the sugar. Keep whisking until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has doubled in size.

Whisk in the apple, diced plum and oil. Stir in the chopped pecans, if using. Use a spatula to gently fold in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger  and salt.

The mixture can be baked straight away but Matt suggests leaving it in the fridge overnight. This will give the flour a chance to hydrate and the baking powder to activate, resulting in a more consistent muffin texture. Even leaving the mixture for a few hours in the fridge is beneficial.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan-forced, 180 degrees C non fan-forced.

Grease a standard muffin tin and line 6 holes with squares of baking paper. Spoon in the muffin mixture, adding as many plum segments as you like on top to decorate, and pecan halves, if using.

Put the muffin tin in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes. Check the muffins at 15 minutes and every 5 minutes from there, using a skewer to check if cooked. From my experience, in my oven, they take about 20 minutes.

Remove the muffins from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5–10 minutes. Remove them from the tin and place on a wire rack. I leave the baking paper on as the muffins are easier to store.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Great on their own, as they are so moist, but also good with butter, or Greek yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.

Blueberry and Marmalade Tea Cakes

With spring very much in the air in September in Sydney, the produce that is available in fruit and vegetables is amazing. We are seeing in particular lots of early summer berries, and at great prices too. The markets are full of big juicy strawberries and punnets of oversized blueberries, with both kinds of berries going for a song. So delicious, so tempting!

September is the also the season for blood oranges, and I have been buying these to cook with, or just to eat, as I love their ruby red fresh and intensely sweet juice.

With so much lovely produce on hand, I have been jam making madly! My current favourite jam I call “Ruby Sunrise”. It’s a marmalade made from blood orange, ruby grapefruit and mandarin. It’s got a great colour and that blood orange tang. Recipe to be posted soon!

These little tea cakes were just an excuse to use my Ruby Sunrise marmalade and to make a rich sticky blueberry compote, to adorn those little cakes.

The tea cakes are made from my go-to easy cake recipe featured in the last post – Yoghurt Cakes with Middle Eastern Flavours. This is such a great recipe as its easy to make in the food processor, the cakes turn out really well and they are light and moist.

I halved the quantities from the original recipe this time. I got 5 good sized tea cakes baked in my popover moulds. I could have got 6, if I’d gone a little smaller. If you used ordinary muffin moulds, I think you could get 6-8 little cakes from the mixture. Or you can use the original recipe quantities if you are cake making for a crowd.

Ingredients
125mls canola or vegetable oil
165g caster sugar
1 free-range eggs
140g Greek yoghurt
150g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (or vanilla extract or almond essence if you prefer)
1 quantity blueberry compote
2 tablespoons any good marmalade

Method
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Grease and flour whatever moulds you are using – popover or conventional muffin tin.

Place the oil, caster sugar and egg in the bowl of a food processor. Process until well combined. Pulse in the yoghurt, followed by the flour. Stir in the orange blossom water to the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the popover or muffin moulds.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. If you’re cooking in muffin moulds, you might like to check after 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and cool for 10 minutes then turn out the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Spoon over some blueberry compote and some marmalade onto each cake while they are still warm. The quantities are up to you, but a good teaspoonful over each little tea cake seemed about right to me.

To make the blueberry compote:
Place a punnet of blueberries (125g) in saucepan with 3 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Stir gently till the sugar dissolves. Simmer for a few minutes only until the some of the blueberries have broken down, the compote is slightly reduced and is thick and syrupy.

Serve the little tea cakes more Greek yoghurt, or cream, with a spoonful more of the compote or marmalade if desired.

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