Monday, November 20, 2006

Stephanie's Passionfruit Shortbread

Who can resist shortbread? Melt in your mouth goodness. Add in some passionfruit and you have an irresistible combination. The tartness of the passionfruit contrasts beautifully with the sweet butteriness of the shortbread. I'm munching on one right now.

I love passionfruit. It takes me straight back to my baby salad days when we had passionfruit vines growing in the backyard. Dessert was always ice-cream and it always always had freshly scooped passionfruit and our home grown bananas scattered over the top.

Anyway back to the shortbread. This recipe is from Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion. It is very simple and quick. The piping was no problem. I would prefer more passionfruit to give more than just a hint of flavour. I think the trick would be to adjust the icing to suit your own taste.

Passionfruit Shortbread
(by Stephanie Alexander from the Cook's Companion)

Cream 180g soft unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and 2/3 cup of icing sugar in a food processor. Mix in pulp of 3 passionfruit, 100g of cornflour and 180g of self raising flour. Chill for 20 minutes.

Pipe on lined baking trays and bake in 220C oven for 5-8 minutes.

Ice when cold. For icing, melt 50g of unsalted butter, add pulp of 1 passionfruit and 1 cup of icing sugar. Beat for 1-2 minutes over hot water until shiny.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Jamie Oliver's Gingerbread

I am quite happy to admit that I am a Jamie Oliver fan. I like his style of cooking and I admire his enthusiasm, commitment and willingness to take risks to achieve good things.

So I couldn't resist his new cookbook "Cook with Jamie". I snapped it up last week and have been devouring it ever since. I have to say that I am quite pleased with my purchase. The recipes are straight forward and appealing. There's quite a bit of interesting information about ingredients. I found the info on how to use different cuts of meat very useful. I think the vegetable section in particular is excellent. I think it's a smart approach to pick a few vegetables that everyone eats day in and day out and show what can be done with them. I can't wait to try the onion gratin.

On the downside, I don't think this is a book for absolute beginners. If I knew nothing about cooking, I would prefer step by step photos. I would want to know what creamed butter and sugar or stiff egg whites should look like and so on. There's nothing worse than going through a whole process and then sadly dumping all those beautiful ingredients into the bin because in the end it was inedible.

I also think there is also far too much emphasis on seafood. 91 pages worth, 30 odd pages more than beef, lamb, pork, chicken, duck, and rabbit combined. As you can tell I am not a fan of seafood.

Anyway, what got me really excited was the recipe for gingerbread. This recipe is an attempt to recreate the famous gingerbread that's been sold in Grasmere in the Lakes District of England for the last 150 years. I tried this gingerbread on a vist about ten years ago and it was sublime.

So naturally, this recipe was first cab of the rank. And it was a success. It's based on shortbread and Jamie gives a recipe that can be used. Not having the time, I used bought shortbread - UNIBIC real butter fingers to be exact. This was fine. Mine is quite a bit thicker than Jamie's as I didn't have the right size tin. So the texture was a bit chewier than is probably intended. But I really liked it.

I kicked up the ginger a bit by adding tablespoons of ground ginger rather than teaspoons, as ginger is a flavour that I love. It came out just right for my taste. And there's a lovely crunch from the demerara sugar. At first bite the taste is fairly mild, but as you continue munching it starts to build and by the time you finish you are left with a full ginger flavour that lingers in your mouth. So, so good.

Ultimate Gingerbread
(by Jamie Oliver from Cook with Jamie)

Process 400g of shortbread, 2 teaspoons of ground ginger and 170g of demerara sugar in a food processor. Set aside 100g. Add 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 40g of chopped mixed peel, 40g of chopped crystallized ginger, 70g of plain flour and pinch of baking powder to remaining crumbs and mix.

Melt 40g of golden syrup, 40g of treacle and 70g of unsalted butter. Mix with the crumbs (with the extra ginger, peel etc) and press into a 20x35cm baking tray. Press flat with a potato masher. Bake in 170C oven for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the hot gingerbread with the reserved crumbs pressing down with a potato masher. Cut into pieces and leave to cool.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Almond and Orange Marble Cake

Something a bit different for today. A deliciously moist marble cake. I'm a sucker for a marble cake. They are old fashioned and homey and the type of things that nannas make. All my favourite things.

When I was young, one of my jobs was to make a cake each week. It went into lunch boxes and that sort of thing. Bored with with making the same old butter cake over and over again I used to find ways to jazz it up. One way was to get hold of the food colourings and turn it into a marble cake. Not just any old marble cake either. I'm talking green, purple and yellow. Blue, pink and chocolate. There was no limit to my imagination. So making this marble cake was a trip back in time - kind of.

The recipe can be found here on the BBC website. I found it through a recommendation on the BBC foodchat message boards. These boards are great for tried and true recipes.

Anyway, the cake itself is easy to make. It is lovely and moist. I'm not so sure about the addition of almond essence. I added half the amount, but it was still a bit too much. To me the flavour is very chemical and fake. I have read that almond extract provides a much better flavour, but I have never been able to source it in Canberra.

Next time I would also add more orange zest. As the recipe is, the zest is totally overpowered by the almond essence.

Still I highly recommend this cake. I enjoyed it and will be making it again.

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