Monday, March 31, 2008

Chocolate Coconut Banana Bread

Every Sunday I buy the Sun Herald newspaper. But the stories about the failing health system and football stars gone feral can wait. The first thing I do is open up the lifestyle magazine and check out Karen Martini's recipes.

Her feature always has three recipes based around a particular ingredient or theme. They are always droolworthy. But Easter was a new benchmark when the recipes were, what else, chocolate.

The star of the show was this chocolate coconut banana bread. I simply had to, HAD TO, try it.

And it was delicious. The chocolate and coconut and banana flavours all meld nicely together. The chocolate chips and banana chunks on top of the cake add lovely little rich bursts of flavour. As Karen suggests the best results come from using good quality cocoa and chocolate. And the riper the bananas the better.

The crumb is moist and dense. It's a little crumbly when first out of the oven, but seems to condense down as it cools.

And it's easy. It's a fairly basic cake recipe. I used a bit smaller tin than the recipe specifies so it took a bit longer to cook. But I think it looks quite spectacular.

I've made it twice already and I shall be making it again and again.

Chocolate Coconut Banana Bread
(adapted from Karen Martini's Sun Herald Newspaper Column)

250gm of plain flour
20gm cocoa powder
2tspn baking powder
120gm butter, softened
130gm raw sugar
2 large eggs
2 very large ripe bananas (about 500gm), plus one extra
60gm shredded coconut
80gm dark chocolate chips

Sift flour, cocoa and baking powder together.

Cream butter and sugar and then add the eggs one at a time. Beat well.

Mash up the two ripe bananas and stir in. Fold in the flour mixture. Then add the coconut and chocolate chips. Stir until well combined.

Pour into a greased and lined loaf tin (22x12cm). Slice the extra banana and lay it over the top of the batter. Bake for 60-65 minutes in a 195C conventional oven (or 175C fanforced) or until a skewer comes out clean.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daring Bakers - Perfect Party Cake

It's Daring Baker time and I have to say I am a bit disappointed with my effort for this month. I was so excited when I saw we were making Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. I was all set to create a stunningly beautiful delectable cake. I plotted and planned my little heart out.

Two things let me down:

1) I totally forgot how much I suck at cake decorating. I actually did a course a few years back. At the end of every class I would present myself to the instructor covered head to toe in buttercream clutching a complete mess. The instructor was very kind and would always praise my effort. Think toddler and fingerpainting. It was when, in obvious desparation, she complimented me on my 'lovely touch with sprinkles' that I knew I was a lost cause.

2) I made it during the weekend from hell. It was the only opportunity I had. But really it got to the point where I could not have cared if this cake lived or died.

I have already related the events of Friday night, when my car died a horrible death. The rest of the weekend went something like this.

Saturday - I hike over to the mechanics to sort everything out with the car. I hike back in a foul mood, thoroughly depressed about the state of my finances. It's a stiflingly hot day, about 35C. I'm in a kitchen with a hot oven just wanting it to be over. As soon as the cakes are out of the oven, I throw in the towel. The rest will have to wait.

Sunday - I discover I'm out of butter. I hike over to the shops. I hike back in the blistering heat and decide to take a shortcut through a vacant block to the side fence. I fail to see a pointy rock in the long grass and fall over twisting my ankle.

I limp into the kitchen. The last thing I feel like doing is standing over steaming pot making butter cream. But it's now or never. So I swathe myself in an apron and tea towels, sit myself up on the kitchen bench by the stove and start beating.

I slap all the filling onto the layers. I swipe the buttercream over the outside. I couldn't find the proper little cake decorating spatula thingy so I used the little ice scraper thingy for defrosting the freezer. It works. I realise I didn't add vanilla or any flavouring to the buttercream. I don't care. I sit and throw handfuls of coconut at the cake - literally. What sticks, sticks.

I decide I should make some effort at decorating it. I hapharzadly squirt some lemon curd around. Bad decision. It looks terrible. Again, I don't care.

I randomly snap some photos and decide it's done. With huge relief, I hobble to the coolest spot in the house with a bunch of ice packs and icy cold drinks.

And how did the cake taste after all that. Well, not bad. I had made up some lemon curd a few days beforehand which gave a lovely tang.

I also sprinkled some whole raspberries into the layers which gave a lovely contrast. The buttercream was bland and really needed some flavour - my fault (see above).

As for the cake itself. Well, I'm not totally sold. But then, it is probably all down to my rather careless effort. It seemed light and fluffy, but was actually a little bit gluggy and gluey when you cut it and chewed on it. It was also a bit too sweet for my taste.

And it was very, very sticky. But the time I came to ice it the whole outside layer would peel off at the touch. From my understanding, this is because the sugar has not been beaten into the batter properly. But given that I had beaten it forever I'm not sure what else I should have done.

You may have noticed that there are only three layers. That's because one cake had stuck in the tin and broken around the edges when I dumped them out of their tins. So I trimmed both cakes down. Then I realised that the cake would now be too narrow to support the height of four layers. So I only used three. Oh well.

So there you have it. I hope to try making this cake again, in better circumstances. There are hundreds of far more beautiful creations scattered over the blogosphere from my fellow Daring Bakers. I encourage you to check them out.

Thanks to Morven, this month's host, for a great challenge. I only wish I had done it justice. You can find the recipe on her blog - Food Art and Random Thoughts. If it is not there yet it soon will be.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Taste & Create: Amish Sour Cream Corn Bread

It's Taste and Create time again. This terrific event was created by Nicole over at For the Love of Food. The idea is that you are teamed up with a fellow food blogger and you each make something from each other's blog.

Last month I made delicious cinnamon sugar donut muffins from Laura Rebecca's Kitchen.

This month I was teamed up with Janaki from The Spice is Right. What a great name for a blog! Janaki has set out to bake a new bread recipe everday in 2008. Amazing!! I feel tired just thinking about it. She has tons of delicious looking bread already posted.

After lots of perusing I settled on Amish Sour Cream Corn Bread. Corn bread is not big here in Australia. We've all heard of it from American books and movies and things. But it's not the sort of thing anyone here eats very often, if at all. I have tried it a few times in restaurants and really liked it. So I was keen to try making it myself.

It turned out to be a great choice, because this bread is simply delicious. Incredibly light, soft and tender, with just a bare touch of sweetness. I had hoped to serve it with dinner. But it didn't last that long.

And so deadly simple. It's really just mix and bake. I accidently bought lite sour cream, but it didn't seem to matter. So if you are worried about the calorie count, this is a good option.

Janaki has included a link to the original recipe which she found on an amish recipe site. After trying this bread, I'm thinking this site is worth a closer look. I have reproduced the recipe here also.

Amish Sour Cream Corn Bread
(adapted from The Spice is Right)

3/4 cup corn meal
1 cup plain flour
2 1/2 tbspn white granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tspn baking soda
1 tspn cream of tartar
1 tspn salt
2 tbspn butter, melted
1 cup thick sour cream (I used lite sour cream)
4 tbspn milk

Sift together the dry ingredients. Add the egg, sour cream, milk and butter.

Beat well. Pour into a greased 9 inch bread pan. (I used a 27cmx15cm loaf tin).

Bake at 220C for 20 minutes. (It may take a bit less time in a loaf tin).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Return of the Easter Bunny - Part II

A few days ago I brought you Part I of my super exciting easter egg review with the Easter Bunny. Here is Part II.

[snap, crackle, pop]

[sound of door slamming as Mr EB re-enters the room in a cloud of smoke]

KJ: Too bad about your bet, Mr Bunny? What has the tooth fairy won?

Mr EB: Who says she's won anything? It depends on whether little birdies get to talking. Doesn't it now? [stares very pointedly]

KJ: Err, quite, quite. Ahahaha. Errr, do you make your own eggs, Mr Bunny?

Mr EB: Hell no. I outsourced that years ago. You gotta specialise. Everyone knows that. I'm all about the delivery. I can deliver eggs like nobody's business.

KJ: Yes, I see. Well, let's start off with these Cadbury Turkish Delight eggs.

Mr EB: Righto, well these are your good safe solid option. Hard to go wrong. Cadbury chocolate is nice and familiar, most people have grown up with it. And most people like turkish delight. The ground's a bit shakier if you want to move to say, your mint chip. And with these you have the advantage of quantity. A lot of a little is always more, if you know what I mean.

KJ: I agree, they are delicious. But I can't help feeling that they're not very special. Really, you can eat this any old time of the year, just not in egg form. You'd be better off with just the cabury block wouldn't you. It's cheaper and you get more.

Mr EB: Hhhmphh [slightly affronted]. Well, you can look at it that way. If you're a cheapskate skinflint tightwad.

KJ: Aaah, well ummm... let's move on. How about this one, it's a Splashy Duck Beanie Ba...

Mr EB: [sharp intake of breath] [Mr EB sits frozen in his chair]

KJ: It is a duck and not a...a.....On second thought, maybe we'll just leave that one for now. [sounds of splashy duck being shoved behind a cushion]

KJ: Next, we have a....a.....ahhhhm.

Mr EB: What, what? Show me!!!! [sounds of an egg being placed on the table]

Mr EB: What the hell is that!!! [rather loudly]

KJ: It's a wombat egg from Pink Lady Chocolates. [rather miserably]

Mr EB: [springing forward in his chair] A wombat egg! A WOMBAT EGG!!!! @#%&*# wombats are trying to get in on my act now! As if those manky feather dusters weren't bad enough!! What the hell have wombats got to do with Easter!! What, they were taking a stroll through ancient Germany and bumped into some pagans or something!!!!

KJ: Well we Australians are very fond of our native animals and rabbits are an introduced pest that does a......lot.....of.... damage.

Mr EB: P....p......p..... [lots of heavy breathing and wildly glaring eyes]

KJ: I didn't mean.... it's not that....[sound of KJ squirming in her chair]

KJ: I know, let's try The Lindt Golden Bunny. [sounds of a wombat egg being whisked away and shoved down the back of a chair] Just look how beautiful it is. I don't know how anybody can resist it. [in a nervous rush]

Mr EB: Well that's because it is the epitomy of rabbithood. Sleek, handsome, elegant, refined and of the very highest quality and reputation. It doesn't get much better [very, very pointedly].

KJ: Oh yes. Quite, quite. I agree absolutely. Just gorgeous. Absolutely. Yes. He he.

KJ: Ahhh now, these are really interesting. Here's something new. On the right is a chocolate truffle in a real eggshell.

Mr EB: Aaah yes [voice softening]. Now this is exciting. It's taking easter eggs back to their roots, while still being fun. Noone's actually interested in getting boiled eggs after all. My Dad tried it one year.... disaster. Toddlers can get ugly. This is what easter is all about. [mumble]...birds....[mumble]... wombats....[mumble]...polar bears next...[mumble]...Himalayan dirt worms come on down....[mumble].

KJ: The one on the left there is a sugar coated egg. I don't actually know what's inside it. Shall we open it up and see.

Mr EB: Let me do the honours. [sound of a meat mallet smashing through an egg with more than necessary force]

KJ: Oh aaah thanks, very thorough job. Let me just put that away [sound of meat mallet joining splashy duck behind the cushions].

Mr EB: [muching and crunching] Well, I can't fault it on appearance. It looks just like a real egg. But that shell stuff is a bit hard on the old teeth.

KJ: I have to agree. [holding mouth in pain] Well Mr Bunny, that was our last egg.

Mr EB: Excellent, I've just got time to get down the TAB and put some bets on. I gotta hot tip on the fourth at Randwick. My second cousin's best friend's uncle is in with the rats that hang out behind the stables.

KJ: Oh right, well all the best with it. Thank you so much for doing this. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. Would you like to say anything to my readers.

Mr EB: Just remember, if you want the best, you want the BUNNY!

[sound of a door slamming. sound of a lighter snapping on and off. sound of paws pattering away]

[snap, crackle, pop]

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed meeting the Easter Bunny as much as I did. Happy Easter everyone.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A very exciting mystery guest - Part I

Oh this is so exciting!!! You are not going to believe it!!!

Easter is just around the corner, so I had this idea of reviewing Easter eggs to find the best one. I thought it might be fun to have a celebrity reviewer, if I could find one.

Well, who better to review Easter eggs than the Easter bunny himself. I almost died when he agreed to do it.

Yes, it's really him. I promise. He wanted to preserve his anononymity for the sake of his private life. And obssessed pre-schoolers are a real security issue, apparently.

To preserve this historic moment, I taped the whole thing. Here is an exact transcript. I've added a bit of description here and there to make sure you get the full picture.

Here goes.

[snap, crackle, pop]

KJ: Welcome to A Cracking Good Egg, Mr Bunny. Thanks so much for agreeing to do this. It's so exciting to meet you.

Mr EB: No problem. [sounds of a deep hacking cough]

KJ: That's a bad cough you've got there, would you like some water? [sounds of a glass being filled]

Mr EB: Taaa, it's the fags. I quit smoking at New Year. Bet with the tooth fairy. Quitting will be the death of me.

KJ: Oh, right. Well, good luck with it. Shall we start with a bit of background. How did you get started in the Easter business?

Mr EB: Well, it's a family tradition isn't it. We've always done it. My Dad, and his Dad, his Dad before him. I dunno why exactly. Something about fertility. [Mr EB looks smugly into a nearby mirror]. Look it up on Wikipedia if you're that interested.

KJ: I'll do that. Do you enjoy the job?

Mr EB: I suppose I do. It's nice bringing joy to the kiddies. It's not like it used to be though. It's getting tougher every year. You know I'm being sued don't you?

KJ: No. [quite shocked]

Mr EB: Yeah, by the West Wagga Chicken Massive. Scraggly little b..[mumble, mumble]. Apparently, I'm infringing copyright because eggs - chocolate or otherwise - are the natural property of birds, montremes, amphibians, fish and insects. Last year I caught a whole bunch of those glorified drumsticks up on the rooftops chucking eggs down chimneys. They're in tight with Santa Claus. A whole 'nother story. I told them, it's all about the fertility. Not something that springs to the mind is it - chickens and %&;*#*@. But they don't care. They've got their beady little hearts set on fame and glory for chickenhood. After all, what popular icons have they got now.. Foghorn Leghorn. [snorts of derision]

Mr EB: [leaning forward] You wouldn't happen to have any smokes on you, by any chance? [whiskers twitching madly]

KJ: No sorry, have you tried nicotine patches.

Mr EB: Have I what? [pulls up his sleeve to reveal at least a dozen patches]

KJ: It must be a bit painful with all that fur.

Mr EB: You're telling me.

KJ: Nice tatts though. What does it say? [MR EB has a long lists of tiny words Angelina Jolie style running from his shoulder to his paw.]

Mr EB: They're my kids names in ancient Etruscan.

KJ: Oh, you speak ancient Etruscan?

Mr EB: No.

KJ: Oh. How many kids do you have?

Mr EB: Dunno. I stopped counting after fifty. My wife has litter every three months or so. I'm not a symbol of fertility for nothing. [Mr EB wobbles his head, smirks into the mirror and straightens his ears.]

KJ: I see. Are your kids involved in the family business?

Mr EB: Only my oldest, Trevour [not his real name]. I want him to take over the business eventually, but I dunno. Kids these days just don't care. I keep telling him, don't just shove a couple of eggs in a pot plant. You gotta be inventive. If the parents aren't still finding the things six months later, you're not doing the job.

KJ: Maybe he'll grow into it.

Mr EB: I doubt it. He wants to be a pop star. [eye roll....snort] Last year I gave him his own town to deliver to. I thought the responsbility would do him good. But no. I turn up to find some ancient granny up to her ears in eggs and him down behind the bike sheds smoking carrot tops. [mumble] lazy [mumble] kick in the... [mumble] won't see the light of.....[mumble, mumble].

Mr EB: [leaning forward and whispering] How about your neighbours, do they light up? [sounds of paws drumming on the arms of the chair]

KJ: No, sorry. Well, good luck with Trevour [not his real name]. I hope it all works out. Shall we take a break and then start with the egg tasting.

Mr EB: Good plan. [sound of a door slamming and paws pattering away towards the corner shop].

[snap, crackle, pop]

So there endeth Part I. Part II will be with you shortly. See you then.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Challenge Book #3: Rocky Road Ice Cream

I have just eaten two scoops of this. And I'm pretty sure I'm about to eat another two. After what I've just been through who could blame me? Who? Who who?

It all started when my miserable wretch of a car decided to die a sudden death on the way home from work. Smoke was pouring through the vents.

After a few pathetic efforts to move it myself, two lovely gentlemen came to my rescue and dodged the buses and taxis to push the heap of rubbish up onto the footpath. They then proceeded to lend me a phone to ring the NRMA and then run around madly to find out the name of the street I was on. You will never, never read this I'm sure, but THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. I can't tell you how grateful I was.

Twenty minutes later the NRMA arrives to tell me that the starter motor has burnt out and I will need a tow truck. Which is just such good news given that I only replaced the dam thing a year ago. I hate cars so much.

So there I sat for an hour and a quarter as darkness descended. I was almost in tears when an angel of mercy arrived in the form of a man on a bicycle. He then rode on to his house and came back with his phone, so that I could ring to check on what's happening. You will never, never read this I'm sure, but THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for your kindess. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated it. Really, truly, really.

After about five phone calls back and forth, it turns out that the tow truck was on its way to me when it broke down. So then they had to send out another tow truck to pick up that tow truck and take it back to the depot, to put the drivers in the back up tow truck to come and get me. This was going to take another half an hour, apparently.

None of my friends would answer their phones either. Which made me wonder what they were all doing on a Friday night without me. It's just a tale of woe.

An hour later, I'm sitting locked into my car in pitch black reconciling myself to spending the rest of my life beside this hideous bit of road. Then the most beautiful tow truck on the planet arrives and whisks my cretin of a car off to the shop. I was never so relieved in my life.

My only worry now is that I have to leave it sitting outside the garage in the open overnight. I hope it's still in one piece in the morning. Not that the rotten thing deserves my consideration.

So obviously there was no choice but to eat ice cream. What else is a girl to do?

This ice cream is top notch. However, I think the mojo for the recipe is the add ins, rather than the ice cream. Which is a shame becase the ice cream itself is delicious.

I only used about half the suggested amount of add ins. Otherwise, your are basically eating marshmallows and nuts with a bit of ice cream wrapped around it. I have, however, included the full amount in the recipe I've included here.

I also subbed in some turkish delight for the cherries. I love turkish delight. But really I think your imagination is the limit.

My only other piece of advice is to chop the add inns to a small dice. That way you get a bit of everything in one bite, rather than just a mouthful of mallow.

This recipe is from Iced: 180 Very Cool Concoctions, which doesn't seem to have an author. And this is Book #3 in the KJ Wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. Basically, I have challenged myself to make at least one recipe from every cookbook I own before I buy any new ones (including magazines). If I succeed I can buy myself a new mixer (yaay!!!).

I bought this book about six months ago and this is the first thing I have ever made from it. Shocking!!!! It won't be the last either. There's recipe in there for citrus and poppyseed ice cream that I have my beady little eyes on.

Rocky Road Ice Cream
(adapted from Iced)

375ml of milk
375ml of whipping cream
80gm of caster sugar
5 egg yolks
200gm of finely grated milk chocolate

Heat the milk, cream and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved and the mix is just about to boil. Remove.

Whisk the yolks. Slowly whisk in some of the hot milk mix to temper the eggs. Whisk in the rest of the milk mix. Return to the saucepan and stir over a low heat until the mix thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Make sure the mixture doesn't boil.

Remove from the heat. Add the grated chocolate and stir until smooth. Refrigerate until cool.

15gm dessicated coconut, toasted
60gm of marshmallows, chopped
40gm of peanuts, toasted and chopped
80gm of glace cherries, chopped
80gm of dark chocolate, grated

Pour chilled mix into an ice cream maker and churn. When it's done, spoon into a freezer container and quickly mix in the ingredients outlined above. Freeze. Scoop and serve.

Alternatively, freeze in a 1.5 litre loaf tin with the surface covered in gladwrap. To serve, dip the base into some warm water. Invert onto a serving plate and cut into slices. You can also melt some extra dark chocolate and pour over the ice cream.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Meme time

The lovely Chriesi over at Almond Corner has tagged me for a meme. Thanks Chriesi.

The rules for the meme:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post, and list their names to link to them.
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

I decided to make my facts TV chef related. Just because.

1. I think Ainsely Harriot is the most entertaining TV chef. Has Gordon Ramsey ever cooked an entire meal on a single gas burner held between his knees while sitting in a canoe floating down a river. No, no he hasn’t. Has Nigella ever had the plain bad sense to try and cook a meal on an open hilltop in Chicago. Sadly, no again. All the pinches of herbs that had been set out in little dishes blew away in about the first five seconds. LOL, good times!!

2. Ainsley is closely followed by Simon Bryant on The Cook and the Chef (shown in Australia only I’m afraid). It’s always soooo obvious when the producers have made him cook something he doesn’t want to do. He starts off all unethusiastic and then just decides he can’t be assed. Like the time he made ice cream cones but couldn’t be bothered with the whole moulding thing so they had big holes in the bottom which the ice cream, melting under the lights, just ran straight through . Or like the time he was supposed to make a croque em bouche, but couldn’t be bothered beating the batter properly, whipping the cream or waiting for the profiteroles to cool before he filled them. But he only filled about three because he couldn’t be bothered with the whole filling thing either. After dipping about two, he was sick of the whole dipping them in caramel thing that would stick them all together. So he threw about five on a plate and poured the caramel over the top. Poor Maggie (his lovely co-host) had to taste the soggy sorry mess and say something nice about it. I simply admire his ability to get away with it.

3. Jamie Oliver drives me mad because he doesn’t scrape out his bowls properly. He makes a cake batter or something and only makes a few token swipes at the bowl with a spatula. No batter gets left behind - that’s my motto.

4. My all time most hated show is Surprise Chef. A plus sized sweaty man would ‘randomly’ bail up shoppers from central casting in a product placed supermarket and go through their trolleys (which somehow only ever held about five items) in a manner reminiscent of a homeless person going through a rubbish bin. He would then invade their homes and cook them a revolting three course meal while blabbering on about his mum. He had rhyming nicknames for ingredients – my mate gargoyle for olive oil. That sort of thing. Thank God it’s long gone.

5. The worst dishes I have ever seen on TV were on James Can Cook (again Australia only - count your lucky stars rest of the world). I have strong memories of a pasta dish made with gherkin juice and vegemite and a chocolate omelette for dessert!!!

Sorry I'm not going to tag anyone in particular. Feel free to join in if the mood takes you.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Chocolate Toffee Oaty Slice

You may or may not recall that the theme for January's Sugar High Friday event was cooking with candy. I got all excited because I had the perfect recipe. I couldn't wait to make it and post it. So I raced out and bought a stash of these.

And then stuff happened. So they sat on the kitchen bench for a while. Then stuff happened, and they got relegated to the cupboard. And then gradually they got shoved to the very back behind the sauce bottles and old dregs of vinegar. It's a bit of a metaphhor for life really.

So anyway, I stumbled across these good intentions again last week and decided the time had finally come. This is the end result - chocolate toffee oaty slice.

Unless someone told you, you probably wouldn't know that there are mars bars in there. The filling is deeply chocolately with a lovely mouthcoating gooeyness. There's an undercurrent of nougaty, caramelly, toffeeness. The oaty base and topping provide a lovely biscuity contrast. In other words, it's just really good.

I took it into work and it disappeared in short order. It always has, from the dozens of times I've made it.

I found this recipe on the BBC food chat board. It was posted by a very generous regular Sue L. I'm sure she she won't mind me posting it here. It's freely available on the BBC site.

Chocolate Toffee Oaty Slice
(adapted from BBC Food Board)

Line a 9x13 inch baking tin with paper.

225gm plain flour
110gm of oats
150gm light brown sugar
1/2 tspn bicarbonate soda
150gm of butter
1 egg, beaten

Blitz flour, oats, sugar and bicarbonate soda in a food processor for a few seconds. Add cubed butter and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and process until the mix sticks together.

Press 3/4 of the mix into the base of the tin.

225gm dark chocolate

Melt the chocolate and pour over the dough base, leaving a small margin around the edges. Refrigerate until the chocolate has hardened.

150ml double cream
4 chopped up mars bars

Bring cream to the boil and lower heat to a simmer. Add the mars bars and stir until melted. Whisk until the mix is creamy. Pour over the hardened chocolate and dough.

Crumble the remainder of the oat mix over the top.

Place on a baking tray and bake for 25 minutes in a 180C oven until golden. Allow to cool for two hours before cutting.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Challenge Book #2 - Plums in Marsala

This recipe is to die for. Literally!!!! I don't think I have ever come so close to disaster in a kitchen.

It all went something like this.

Day 1

Scene 1 - KJ puts some plums into a baking tray with some marsala, some sugar, a few cinnamon sticks and a vanilla bean. The tray goes into a 180C oven.

Scene 2 - KJ is pottering around in the lounge room when she hears a sort of a roaring sound followed by a banging noise coming from the kitchen. She blithely assumes that something has toppled over inside a disorganised cupboard...... or something. She wanders into the kitchen and carefully opens every cupboard, the fridge and then the freezer expecting to be showered in an avalanche of tupperware or frozen peas or something. Nothing. KJ opens all the cupboards and the fridge again. Absolutely nothing.

Scene 3 - KJ stands just inside the kitchen door pondering in puzzlement. When......the door of the oven flies open......a kinda white flash of light kinda bursts forth.......the oven door slams itself shut again. Peace and harmony reign. Birds sing. It's as if it never happened.

Scene 4 - KJ stands completely paralysed with shock. She then flings herself at the oven, turns off the gauge and throws open the door. She then retreats to a corner to tremble, huddle, whimper and do all those kinds of things. The spectre of the whole house going up in flames hangs heavy in the air. KJ decides that she will no longer be hanging her tea towels on the oven door. It's suddently clear that this has never been a particularly bright idea.

Scene 5 - KJ pulls herself together and assumes that the alcohol must have ignited. She decides that she can burn off any remaining alcohol with a match and all will be well.

Scene 6 - KJ gives up on finding any matches, vows never to spring clean again and throws the plums in the fridge to be tomorrow's problem. KJ goes to lie down for a while.

Day 2

Scene 1 - KJ digs up the matches from a dark forgotten recess. She strains the sauce into a saucepan, warms it up and holds out a long handled match at absolute maximum arms length. We're talking fingertips here. Nothing. Rinse, repeat. Nada.

Scene 2 - Comforted somewhat, KJ returns plums and sauce to the tray and gingerly puts it back in the oven. She stands by with an eagle eye and a battalion of fire fighting equipment.

Scene 3 - Thirty minutes later KJ pulls the most absolutely freaking delicious plums out of the oven. No kidding!!!

Believe it or not, the recipe was from an impeccable source - Delia Smith the cooking Rock of Gibraltar. And I followed it to the letter. Talk about living and learning!! Next time I will be burning off the alcohol before it gets anywhere near an oven. This is how I have constructed the recipe I've included below.

There was actually a bit more to the plums than I have let on. I used sweet sierra plums which are firm and crisp. But oh so sweet and delicious. The tray I used was too big so the plums roasted rather than poached and so stayed a bit too firm. I think you want them sitting quite snugly in the liquid.

Once the plums are out of the oven the liquid must be reduced. So I simply popped the plums in as I did this. I wanted them nice and soft but still firm enough to hold their shape and texture.

The sauce is thickened with a little arrowroot and there you have it.

The sauce is a wonderfully complex mix of plum, marsala, cinnamon and vanilla. You can serve them hot or cold, but I think they are best when they are just warm, slightly above room temperature. Add a dollop of thick double cream and it doesn't get much better.

So this the second recipe in what I am officially calling - The KJ Wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. It's from Delia's How to Cook Book One. Ironically, this is probably my most used cook book. I think I've already made around half the recipes.

Plums in Marsala
(adapted from Delia's How to Cook Book One)

1.35 kilos of firm plums
75gm of golden castor sugar
570ml of marsala
1 vanilla pod
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tspn arrowroot

Place plums, cinnamon sticks and the vanilla pod in a deep baking dish.

Heat the marsala and burn off the alcohol. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Pour over the plums. Place in an oven preheated to 180C. Bake for 40 minutes, turning plums over about half way through.

Remove the plums and set aside. Strain the liquid into a saucepan and discard the vanilla and cinnamon sticks. Bring the liquid to a simmer and let it reduce for a few minutes.

Mix the arrowroot with a little water to form a paste. Whisk into the liquid and continue simmering until it is slightly thickened and glossy.

Pour back over the plums. Serve just warm with thick double cream. Delia also suggests serving it with rice pudding, which could be nice (can't stand rice pudding myself).

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A resolution with a serve of ice cream

A week or so ago I was in Borders, with a brand new cookbook (bills Holiday)clutched in my hot little hand. I was headed toward the checkout, when something just snapped. What on earth was I doing???? I had only bought a new cookbook less than a week ago and I was yet to make a single thing out of it. Why was I buying yet another one????

I pushed it back onto a shelf and beat a retreat to a nearby coffee shop. Staring down into a cup of hot chocolate I made a decision. I was going cold turkey. No more cookbooks until I had made full use of what I already had. I probably have some absolutely fantastic recipes sitting right there on my bookshelf and I don't even know it. That's just criminal.

So I decided - I must make at least one recipe from every cookbook I own before I can buy any any more, including foodie magazines. I have about 50 books so I figure this will take about a year. If I get through all those before 23 February 2009 (a year to the day), I have to start on my huge stack of magazines.

This is not to say that I can only make recipes from these books. Any I can get for free -internet, blogs, friends etc - is fine. I just can't pay for anything.

The best bit of this self made bargain is that if I succeed, I can treat myself to a new mixer, maybe even a Kitchen AID. Yipeeee!!! I have been wanting one forever, but I can never bring myself to hand over the vast sum of cash. If I actually save some money I can justify it.

I've made it through week one just fine. What's more I've even made a start. First up is The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. An easy choice, it's all just so good. I couldn't make up my mind between toasted coconut and pear caramel, so I made both. HA!!!!

If anyone has any bright suggestions about how to make brownish ice cream look attractive I am all ears. I did my best, but I'm afraid I did not have much success.

This is the toasted coconut ice cream. It is not only delicious, but super silky smooth and creamy. Yum.

This is pear caramel. As always I was a bit nervous about making caramel. I am never confident that it will not end in pain. But it all turned out fine. It too was absolutely delicious. Not quite as smooth as the coconut, I think mainly because of the pear. But lovely nonetheless.

Toasted Coconut Ice Cream
(adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)

Toast 1 cup of shredded coconut until golden brown. Spread the coconut on a baking tray and toast in a 175C oven or use a dry pan on the stovetop.

Warm 1 cup of milk, 1 cup heavy cream, 3/4 cup sugar, a pinch of salt and a split vanilla bean in a saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the coconut, cover and let stand at room temperature for about an hour.

Whisk together 5 large egg yolks. Rewarm the coconut mixture and then strain out the coconut extracting as much liquid as possible. Slowly pour the coconut liquid into the eggs, whisking constantly.

Pour into a saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens. It should coat the back of a spoon. Strain the mixture and then stir in another cup of heavy cream.

If you wish, add 1/2 tspn vanilla extract or 1 tspn rum. I did not add either and it was still delicious.

Refrigerate the mixture until cold. Churn in an ice cream maker and freeze.

Pear Caramel Ice Cream
(adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)

Peel and core 3 ripe medium sized pears and dice.

Spread 3/4 cup plus 2 tbspn of sugar over the bottom of a heavy saucepan. Heat until the sugar begins to liquefy around the edges. Stir very gently to encourage the sugar to melt in the middle. Continue to heat until the sugar is a deep amber colour.

Stir in the pears. If the sugar goes a bit hard keep stirring and it will become liquid again. Continue until the pears are cooked through, about 10 minutes or so.

Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Mix in a further 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream, 1/8 tspn of salt and a few drops of lemon or lime juice.

Let cool to room temperature and then puree until smooth. Strain the mixture.

Refrigerate until cold. Churn in an ice cream maker and freeze.

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