Tag Archives: quick

Not your average box mix brownies

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Lately, it feels like life is spinning, rushing past, so, so quickly, and I barely have time to say “woa!”.

Times like this, I like to bake and cook, take time out, slow down, and feel (slightly more) grounded. Baking and cooking helps me to remember that I don’t have to do everything at work before we head off on holiday. Other people will step in and help out, because they are good colleagues, smart people and good friends, and we’ve always helped each other out.

But, when baking starts at 9 or 10pm at night, I’ve been at a loss about what to bake. Nothing that takes too long (baking past midnight is fun but slightly surreal), or requires the Bosch kitchen mixer (our neighbours will start to give me odd looks). And I don’t want to beat eggwhite by hand and develop hausfrau muscles in my right arm only (that would be funny, but surreal and possibly impractical clothes-wise).

Last night, I found the answer. Box mix brownies – with home made box mix.

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I was thinking about house warming presents for some friends we’ve known forever. They have never wanted very much, and have always been happy with what they have. Instead of giving them the usual wine glasses or home furnishings, we wanted to give them something that won’t end up cluttering their modestly minimalist life.

And last night, it came back to me: box mix brownies. I give them the mix of dry ingredients and add-ins, and all they need to do is add butter and eggs. Home made brownies within 30-40 minutes, including baking time.

I used an Alice Medrich cocoa brownies recipe to make up a box mix. I first saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, where Deb explained how she was converted to the idea of a good cocoa brownie, where cocoa is intentionally used in preference to blocks of dark, shiny chocolate. I was intrigued, and this idea lingered in the back of my mind like one of those cat pictures that never quite stop doing the rounds of office emails.

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Ceci n’est pas une madeleine, here’s honey beer bread instead

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines,
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.
They left the house at half past nine … the smallest one was Madeline.

Tuesday 16 April was our next assignment for the Tuesdays with Dorie group. In place of a real entry, here is a post-processing enhanced and slightly tongue-in-cheek image of madeleines baked in non-madeleine pans.

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Work got in the way of a more thoughtful post about how to make this classic French cake-cookie. A quick search on the internet, however, revealed a range of fail-proof recipes and one contentious debate – whether baking powder should ‘even be in the same room with madeleines’ (Lebovitz, 2007).

I went with the recipe in the book Baking with Julia, which was a genoise batter without baking powder and enriched with egg yolks. It made a light, but slightly drier cookie-cake, with the requisite crispy, lightly golden edges. They tasted a little richer than cupcakes, and the addition of lemon zest made them bright, cheerful little things.

They almost walked in two straight lines. And the smallest one was almost called Madeline.

The recipe from Baking with Julia can be found at the blog Counter Dog. To see what other TWD bakers have done, please visit Tuesdays with Dorie.

In lieu of proper madeleines, here’s a buttery honey beer bread instead. Although Madeline and her friends are more likely to have eaten baguettes in their old Paris house covered with vines, I like to think this bread is hearty and homely enough to have occasionally graced their table too.

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Jazzin’ it up: blue cheese pesto

It seems time passes more and more quickly every year.

Australia is traditionally known for its long summer holiday, and I still remember a time when the summer months were leisurely, humid, and never seemed to end. But this year, we are still working overtime in the week before Christmas and are already lining up meetings in January (haven’t people heard about the Mayan calendar?). When I got home on Friday, I wanted something quick that will be on the dinner table in 20 minutes flat.

20121216181423-630Enter blue cheese pesto.

Home made pesto is always more flavoursome than store bought. But, a bit of blue cheese can make the pesto that much more exciting when the parmesan cheese in our fridge is a bit ‘meh’ (and maybe not actually from Emilia-Romagna….).

Blue cheese, such as gorgonzola dolce, adds a lingering tangy depth of taste, and surprises the diner every time – in a good way of course.

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