Tag Archives: baking

Gazelle’s Horns and Fiesta Friday: a party with a sugary snowstorm

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Out of your forehead branch and lyre climb,
and all your features pass in simile, through
the songs of love whose words, as light as rose-
petals…

The Gazelle, Rainer Maria Rilke

The party starts at ten to three.
On the second floor, room twenty two
two co-hosts who had come down from Crewe were wondering just what to wear,
to the shindig going on down there.
They collided, both decided to put on Dame Edna frocks,
this was not a ‘do’ for cassocks or for smocks.

Fiesta, a SG travesty, with apologies to John Edward Smallshaw

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This pastry is pretty, graceful, messy (if you add a snow of icing sugar as I did). Its names (for the variations of this pastry), in English, Arabic, French, are exotic, pretty, alluring: gazelle’s ankles, gazelle’s horns, kaab el ghazal, tcharek el ariane, tcharek el mssaker, cornes de gazelle.

I saw one variation of this pastry on Linda’s blog, La Petite Paniere, and it went to the top of the baking list. Almonds, orange blossom water, vanilla, cinnamon, and more orange blossom water, can you smell the gorgeous smells?

I used a different recipe from the NYT archives, because it used far less butter in the pastry and avoided a late-night dash to the shop (and here’s a butter-less version). The NYT recipe probably produced a pastry that is less melt-in-your-mouth than Linda’s butter-ful one. Instead, the pastry was shattering-crisp, and scatters icing sugar in all directions when you bite into one.

Messy, and fun, especially at work with colleagues trying to protect silk blouses and ties from the sugary snow storm.

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And a sugary snow storm always makes a party better, yes? That is why, as your Fiesta Friday host this week, I’m bringing a few trays of these pastries to crank up the party vibe a notch. If you haven’t been to a Fiesta yet, please do! It’s a lovely bunch of peeps that bring tantalising food, drinks, DIY, sausages, Harry Potter theme park photos, and lots of bloggy love.

Your co-host Margot and I, we’ve even dressed up for this party. Because the only thing better than a sugary snowstorm is a sugary snowstorm on fancy costume. Right my possums (and gazelles)? Ps, don’t you think Dame Edna’s glasses look a little bit like gazelle’s horns? Coincidence? I think not!

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Ginger, ginger, fresh ginger cake, read all about it!

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*Another post while travelling, from the Shan mountains in northern Myanmar!! Also sending this to Angie’s Fiesta on a bumpy but oh-such-fun horse cart, or maybe that water buffalo with birds standing on his back*

Looking through the SG archives, I couldn’t believe I’ve never written gushed about my love of fresh ginger cake. David Lebovitz’s fresh ginger cake.

But first, is it a proper ginger post without a ginger pun? No? Ok, here we go: “What do you call a redhead that works in a bakery? – A gingerbread man/woman.”

Ahem, now we’ve got that out of the way, onto the fresh ginger cake.

This cake is described by the great DL himself as one of his most popular recipes, and one that appears in a number of Bay Area cafes. From a pastry chef/cookbook writer who is famous for his books devoted to ice cream, chocolate, and other contemporary good Parisian things, it is a big claim to say that a favourite recipe involves neither ice cream, nor chocolate, nor anything particularly Parisian.

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It is, indeed, a beauty of a cake. Especially if you like the zing, heat, tingly back throat warm, of fresh ginger. This is fresh ginger dialled up to 10.5, approaching 11.

And lest you worry about eating a mouthful of the root, the ginger is beautifully supported by equally strong flavours from the molasses and spices. I’ve tried a few variations on the spice mix, from the classic cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, to a generous dash of allspice in a pinch, to a light sprinkling of five spice powder (which adds a slightly deeper, savoury note). All of the above, happily, have been approved by family/friends/colleagues.

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One egg, two recipes: lemon curd and fabulous macaroons

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*When this post hits the blogosphere, and Fiesta Friday 21, I’ll be travelling. Since internet will be sporadic, I may not see your comments (or visit your blogs) for a while, but look forward to catching up when I’m back!*

Of eggs and introductions

How does one introduce a recipe? I’ve been wondering about this while scribbling up this post. And to double the trouble, how does one introduce two recipes that together use the whole egg? Chronologically? Alphabetically? Punningly?

I’ll go from the outside, starting at the eggwhite, finishing with the egg yolk.

The eggwhite

I’ve posted about the macaroons before, under the moniker ‘multi-tasking macaroons’. But these macaroons weren’t exactly the same. These, made with coconut chips rather than desiccated/shredded coconuts, were so pretty. This time, the coconut flakes looked like brown-tipped wings. The texture was different somehow, chewy in the middle, crispy on the outside, not too sweet, each coconut flake standing to attention. These, dear reader, were what Alice Medrich intended in her recipe.

But I took a shortcut. I mixed the coconut and egg whites, without half-cooking them as Ms Medrich instructs. These were a tad stickier, and maybe took a tad longer to cook, but they worked well with a fraction of the effort.

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And then, I dolloped rum-spiked dark chocolate ganache. And finished by sprinkling over flaky sea salt…

These macaroons were ready in about an hour, but they could have been eaten in much, much less time. Especially when I piled a few together and let the chocolate ganache pour over them. That was…well, fun, and decadent.

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Another journey, and simple pleasures (aka yum yum squares)

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I’m planning another trip!!! (I know, it feels like I’ve just got back from the last work trip, but this one is a real holiday)

I’m giddy with excitement.

Because, because, because, guy, I’m going to Myanmar!! Think thousands upon thousands of Buddhist temples, giant Buddha statues, rows of novice monks and nuns walking by with alms bowls, slow boats, languid horse and carts, and slower train trips on colonial railways. (See here, this, those and that, and much more. Click on the photos below to go to the original page where I took the images from.)

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This trip will be memorable in other ways, too. Apparently, internet is slow or nonexistent, and there are no internationally connected ATMs outside the two largest cities. And, it’s monsoon season. Friends are expecting lots of selfies standing in puddles, with crazy hair from the high temperatures and 80%+ humidity, and down to my last pennies after failing to find an ATM.

Why Myanmar, you ask?

Reading Naomi Duguid’s book, Burma: Rivers of Flavor (also mentioned here and here) first piqued my interest in the country. While it is a book about food, Ms Duguid also talks about the people, culture, customs, the many different tribes. Most of all, she made me want to go there, taste the mohinga, shan noodles, thoke, tea leaf salad, curries, eat pomelos, mangoes and other tropical fruits, and have a real Burmese meal with all the side dishes.

I wish I was going with Ms Duguid, not the least because, um, I don’t speak Burmese. Instead, I’m hoping sign language will go a long way. Ones like, I’d really like some food, preferably an awesome bowl of mohinga? Or, could you drive me to the massive Buddhas that you can climb into? Or, is this a scheduled stop or are we just sitting here for a wee bit while the overnight bus gets fixed?

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I decided on this trip barely a week ago and paid for the flights on Friday. In between international flights, hotels (thank you Tripadvisor!), visa (fingers crossed….), bus schedules, train fares, calculating how much money I’ll need, and finding the perfect Colonial era hotel for the last night in Yangon, it feels like I’ve barely had time to breathe.

What does a girl do at a time like this? Make something simple, comforting yet utterly indulgent, of course. May I present to you Yum Yum Squares?

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The alphabet post: Apples, Batlow, Cake

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We are almost at the end of our road trip, and have eaten our way around a few villages and towns.

Sure, there are more Aussie meat pies and pub steaks than you can poke a kangaroo paw at; and at least one dinner in an RSL (soldiers and veterans) club Chinese restaurant, which served local favourites like honey chicken and sweet and sour pork… But, we also had freshly caught trout from the pristine Snowy Mountains lakes, home made jams and tea cosies (ok, tea cosies aren’t food, but they might just deserve a post to themselves), local beer, wine and schnapps, just baked bread and pastries, good coffee in surprisingly hipster cafes, and new season apples from Batlow, one of Australia’s apple producing regions at the foot of the Snowy.

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If food was the icing on the cake for the trip, then the rural environment revealed itself to be a multi layered and endlessly fascinating cake.

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One day we were climbing the granite peaks of Mount Kosciuszko, snuggled up in gloves and beanies; another day we were bare feet on the beach, having driven through a patch of rainforest, across rich dairy farms, on a dirt road (in our small city car! and we made it!!) and to the ocean. We looked at a wooden cabin tucked away on oh-so-picturesque acres and wondered if it could become our holiday retreat (maybe, if we had a sea plane that can land on the nearby lake, or became a lady & gent of leisure).

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For days, I had that broad, slow-spoken rural Aussie accent in my ears. Farmer types that greeted each other with “G’day”, “yeah mate”, occasionally “strewth“, and generally as few words as possible. In the evenings, even in the smallest communities we visited, guys greeted other guys – and the publicans – in the local pub over a social beer or two.

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New season apples began appearing in the shops before Easter, and I made this apple cake. While apple season lasts, I’ll probably make this a few more times.

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The recipe is Marie-Hélène’s apple cake, from Dorie Greenspan and adapted by David Lebovitz. Many bloggers have written about this recipe, including the French Fridays with Dorie crew and Fiesta Friday party-goer Patty (though the experience was more, um, exciting for her). This really is a perfect example of pared back elegance.

The cake has more apples than cake batter, it really is all about the apples. The batter is simple, though heady with vanilla and calvados (apple brandy). The whole thing bakes into one moist, wonderful, fragrant whole. It tastes clean, homely, sweet but not too sweet. The combination of apples, vanilla, calvados tempts you back for just one more slice – time and again – until somehow there is no apple cake left.

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This time, I dared to temper with perfection and added a hazelnut/cream topping, which added an extra bit of crunch to the cake. Think of a streusel topping, but with less than a quarter the amount of streusel.

And, to make easy sharing, I baked these in mini cake pans and mini pie dishes. The pie-cakes stayed at home as dessert. The mini cakes went to work to be shared with friends.

I’ve found this is a great way to show off those heirloom apple varieties, as the minimal, simple batter sits back and helps the apples’ flavours to shine, rather than distracting you from the apples.

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Tonight, because it’s Anzac day, I’ll be serving some of our apple bounty baked, with an Anzac biscuits (cookies in American English 🙂 ) crumble topping. This is one of my go-to Anzac biscuits recipes, and the Sydney Living Museum blog recently featured a post about this Aussie and New Zealand food icon. Tonight’s crumble will be improvised with beach house pantry staples, probably with a handful of macadamia nuts and spoonfuls of local honey. I might even get some of the Fiesta Friday crowd to play two-up – but only if it’s legal to play on Anzac day in your state!!

Before my excitement bubbles over, I’ll leave you with the apple cake recipe.

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French apple cake
(based on recipe from Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table)

Ingredients

Cake
3/4 cup or 110g flour (I’ve also used 70g plain flour + 50g finely chopped almonds instead)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
4 large apples (a mix of varieties)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) sugar (I used mostly castor / granulated sugar plus a bit of brown sugar)
3 tablespoons calvados/apple brandy, substitute good brandy or dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or more if you don’t have calvados)
8 tablespoons (115g) butter, salted or unsalted, melted and cooled to room temperature

Topping, I made this bit up
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped hazelnuts
1 tablespoon castor sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven.

2. Heavily butter a 20-23cm springform pan and place it on a baking tray. (Or, 5-6 mini-things, like pie dishes / cake pans)

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, ground almond, baking powder, and salt.

4. Peel and core the apples, then dice into small-med bits. (If using mini-whatever, slice them smaller and thinner, as they will spend less time in the oven)

5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until foamy-ish, then rum/brandy and vanilla. Whisk in half of the flour mixture, then stir in half of the butter, do the same with remaining flour /butter.

6. Fold in the apple until they’re well-coated with the batter and scrape them into the cake pan.

7. Bake for 40 minutes for full sized cake (about 20-25 min for mini-versions), mix topping ingredients together and randomly dollop over cake(s). Return to oven for another 10-20 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean-ish. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, loosen from the pan and remove.

An adventurous Easter: sourdough hot cross buns

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On this road trip, we’ve noticed the different types of place names that you can find in Australia. Words from England, Scotland, other places in Europe, and from the Aboriginal languages.

We have our share of Inverary, Baden Powell, New England, Kingston, even Neuhaus. Words from the old world. Then, we have words from our first people, strange and beautiful sounds. Araluen, Adaminaby, Cootamundra, Tumbarumba, Wagga Wagga, Wee Waa, Jindabyne, Gundagai.

A trip into regional Australia becomes a jumble of these names and sounds. A pair of city slickers finding new sights and sounds, new air to breathe.

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We have seen a lake and a river (any large body of water inland of our dry continent is a mesmerising sight); so many cows and sheep, and glimpses of the Snowy Mountains. We have also seen old train stations with cast iron lace, rusty sheds, ruined timber bridges. And that’s only the first few days.

I knew we would be on the road, so I made hot cross buns early this year, and using sourdough starter called Patrick, no less! I’ve nurtured wee Patrick since Christmas, but have only started baking with him.

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Gubana: Italian Easter bread for an Australian road trip

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We are on a road trip!

Tonight, we are in the inland town of Gundagai. First stop in what is shaping up to be a trip through historic inland towns and villages.

I haven’t driven our car for weeks, and for at least a couple of months before that, since I prefer to walk or take public transport to get around our patch of inner Sydney. It took a while to get used to the manual gears, the road, other cars, but then I settled back into familiarity with our good little car, and we were away, to quieter and greener places.

When I was not driving, I nibbled on a slice of gubana.

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Gubana. A special Easter cake/bread I stumbled across almost by accident. I made the recipe, and found the flavours intriguing, lingering, in a way that says old fashioned good things. Bread-like, not quite as rich as brioche or challah, crammed full of walnuts, pine nuts, raisins, chocolate, hazelnuts, and more. The bread is almost like panettone, and filling is so flavoursome, with a lingering sweetness that comes from dried fruit rather than sugar.

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