Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Kitchen Reader

Last month I stumbled across (I say stumbled but it was on Cakelaw's blog which I visit frequently) The Kitchen Readers, an online group reading their way through foodie related books. As it combines two of my great loves ie. food and books, I decided to join at once!

Unfortunately I don't have a book to review this month. Literally. Neither of the next few month's selections are available in our library system or indeed any b0okshop in the country (or so it seems) so I resorted to buying online and they haven't arrived yet.

My apologies to Jennifer and the other members!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Triple Treat Chocolate Chip Cookies

After the hot weather we've had lately, it was a relief that yesterday was grey, misty and cool. The kind of day that is perfect for curling up with a good book, a hot drink and something sweet to nibble on.

Which brings me to these.

There is much debate on what consitutes the 'perfect' chocolate chip cookie but I say, to each their own. If your preference is for thin, crunchy or chewy these are not for you. Or they may just convert you!

Triple Treat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from 'Chocolate Chip Cookies' on p16 of Modern Classics Number 2 by Donna Hay

125g butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1ts vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups plain flour
1 ts baking powder
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
2/3 cup roasted salted peanuts

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until thick and smooth. Add the eggs and beat to combine. Using a spatula, fold through the flour and baking powder until just barely combined. Add the chocolate and nuts and fold through.

Roll dessertspoonfuls of mixture into balls and place on prepared trays allowing room for each cookie to spread.

Bake at 180 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, or until puffed and lightly golden. They will still be very soft. Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte

This week's TWD selection was another decadent delight!

April of Short & Rose chose Dorie's Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte and really the name says it all don't you think? Cherry, fudge, brownie, torte. I'm there!

I made only minor changes to the recipe, using dried cranberries instead of cherries, black cherry jam instead of cherry preserves and leaving out the kirsch (I just used all water instead and this really allowed the flavour of the fruits to shine through).

My topping was not even remotely pourable - it somehow managed to achieve to achieve the consistency of a baked New York cheesecake. Fluffy and delicious but not at all mousse-like!

I was all set to do the chevron pattern on the top so I still piped the jam on top.

The taste test ...

I think this would have to be in my top 5 TWD recipes so far! Exactly like a black forest cake but in brownie form and with (an unintentional) cheesecake topping. And of course a lot easier to make. Absolutely delicious.

The tartness of the fruit cut through the richness but I was happy to be able to give most of it away. My MIL was having a working bee on Sunday to give her backyard a makeover. N and I couldn't make it so I sent the torte down to feed the hungry horde. It apparently went down really well and there was none left over, that's always a good sign!

I will definitely be making this again, perhaps for Christmas. Thanks April! You can find the recipe on her blog.

Daring Bakers October - Macarons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Oooh boy, this month's DB challenge was a doozey! For the first time since I joined the Daring Bakers over a year ago I don't really have a finished product to blog about.

So many bloggers seem to have a macaron obsession that I was really keen to try them myself. After all, I'm not a complete novice now. How hard could they be?

Attempt #1 - I followed the DB recipe for a plain macaron. I weighed and measured everything carefully, aged the egg whites and ended up with these ...

Now I know they're not terrible but they're also not macarons. I didn't bother filling them since I had to scrape them off the baking paper (they were stuck like superglue) and I naievly assumed my next lot would be better. Ha!

Attempt #2 - I tried a different recipe (chocolate flavour) which called for them to be rested on the bench for an hour before baking. This time I didn't even make it to the baking part. Once I folded in the dry ingredients my mix turned almost solid. I could have rolled the dough into balls it was so stiff and dry. It just seemed like the ratio of eggwhites to dry ingredients was completely off. It all went straight in the bin.

Attempt #3
- Same recipe as attempt #2 but this time I added only half the amount of dry ingredients (I stopped as soon as the consistency seemed right).

Dry ingredients weighed, blitzed in the food processor and seived

Aged eggwhites at room temperature whipped with sugar until thick and glossy

Piped onto trays and hoping the peaks will soften

After 1 hour - nope, they look exactly the same

After 15 minutes at 150 deg C

Definitely not right

The best 2, sandwiched together with rosella jam

I am completely in awe of everyone else who made these successfully. Some of the results were absolutely stunning! But for me it was stressful, frustrating and a waste of time as I don't feel any closer to mastering them. I can't even learn from my mistakes because I have no idea what I did wrong.

As much as it pains me to say it, the macarons won. Final score Macarons 3: Susan 0.

Bring on November!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


It's time for a change around here. What do you think of the new header?

Please bear with me over the coming weeks as I tweak the blog. I have zero skills in web design and am flying blind here. Help and comments greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Sweet Potato Biscuits

Erin of (one of my favourite blogs) Prudence Pennywise chose Dorie's Sweet Potato Biscuits this week and they definitely had me intrigued. Basically they are an American version of our Aussie classic, the pumpkin scone. Unfortunately I've never made a scone I've been totally happy with, and over the years I've tried dozens of different recipes!

My other concern was using fresh sweet potato when recipe specified canned. I know Dorie said just use 1 cup of fresh mash, but that didn't seem to equate to 2 x 15 ounce cans. And I was right, because these were dry.

The taste test ...

Golden, flaky and great flavour but like I said, DRY. I knew at the time the mix was too crumbly. It did cross my mind to add some extra moisture but I second guessed myself and we ended up with hockey pucks. Boo. No time for a redo this week but I would love to have another go sometime.

After last month I feel like I've conquered my fear of pastry, maybe now I will work on perfecting the scone!

And now for something totally off topic but my sweet Oscar is 6 months old today!

Happy half birthday baby!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daring Cooks October - Vietnamese Pho

Daring Cooks time again!

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

I was really excited about this month's pick, not only because it was chosen by Jaden but also because I love Vietnamese food! It is definitely my favourite Asian cuisine - fresh, fragrant and flavoursome. That being said, I've never actually had pho before.

We were given the option of doing either a long or short version of the dish. I originally chose the short version (which uses a premade stock) because I intended to make it again later in the month. Unfortunately I ran out of time but no matter, we will definitely be having this again!

I only made minor changes to the recipe, using chicken thighs because I feel they have more chickeny flavour, and using vermicelli noodles instead of the wider rice stick ones.

The taste test ...

Well, I didn't pick the best day to make soup for dinner. It was a hot and sticky 35 degrees in Brisbane that day, definitely not soup weather but it didn't matter. This was AMAZING! For really very little effort and a short list of ingredients we had a phenomenal meal. Light, fragrant and absolutely packed with flavour. I was also impressed with how clear the broth remained even after simmering the chicken. All I can think is if it tastes this good using purchased stock, it must be unbelievably good with homemade. I can't wait to try!

Vietnamese Chicken Pho

For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 litres store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
7.5 cm chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce
500 grams dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)

2 cups bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice


To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.

In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently. Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.

Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed.

Strain the broth and discard the solids.

Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.

Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.

Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.

A big thank you to Jaden for introducing us to pho!

You can find the long version of the recipe here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Allspice Crumb Muffins

Last week's pudding was a nice change but for this week I was happy to get back into baking. Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table chose Allspice Crumb Muffins, yet another recipe I really liked the look of. (Wondering what will be left for my pick in oh, 50 weeks time!)

I much prefer muffins to cupcakes because you can whip them up in a matter of minutes and they don't need any accompaniments, other than maybe a smear of butter when they are still warm from the oven.

These muffins with their crunchy streusel topping didn't need anything else at all. Dorie said they taste better the next day but I loved them fresh. The next day they had dried out a little bit.

I made half the recipe and got 16 mini muffins.

The taste test ...

Allspice is so underrated. Every time I use I wonder why I don't use it more often! Same with star anise. These tasted like Christmas to me, warm, buttery and lightly spiced. I'm sure I'll be making these again.

Thanks for a great pick Kayte! You can find the recipe on her blog.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Caramel Swirl Cheesecake

Maybe I should rename this blog instead, as I seem to make a lot of them! I realised I wanted cheesecake quite on the spur of the moment, having begun devouring a packet of butternut snap biscuits and thinking how perfect they would be for a crumb base.

I started with Dorie's Tall and Creamy Cheesecake recipe and then tweaked it a little. Can I just say again how much I adore this recipe? Seriously, the BEST one ever. That and the fact it calls for my little cheesecake to 'luxuriate in a waterbath'. Gets me every time!

Caramel Swirl Cheesecake - Cheats Version


250g buttersnap biscuits (or your favourite plain sweet biscuit)
125g unsalted butter, melted


1 tin of caramel top and fill (basically a premade condensed milk caramel - you can definitely make this yourself but with cats and a baby I don't want to worry about exploding tins!)


500g cream cheese (2 packs) at room temp
2/3 cup sour cream at room temp
2 eggs at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
2 ts vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Grease an 8" springform pan and wrap the outside in 2 layers of alfoil. Set aside. For the base, blitz your biscuits in the food processor then pour in the melted butter and combine well. Press over the base of the pan and up the sides as much as you can (I got about 2cm).

Wipe out the food processor bowl to remove any crumbs.

Blitz the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth (about 4 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about a minute after each addition. Add the vanilla and sour cream and process for a few minutes. The mixture will become smooth and velvety.

Pour about half the cheesecake mixture into the prepared base. Spoon teaspoonfuls of caramel randomly over the top. Pour over the remaining cheesecake mix and dot with more caramel (it will sink during the baking). Drag a butterknife through the mixture to create swirls of caramel, being careful not to touch the biscuit base. (I totally forgot to do this step and ended up with blobs of caramel. Still delicious).

Place your springform pan inside a baking dish. Pour boiling water into the baking pan, until the water reaches about halfway up the side the springform pan. Carefully place in the oven.

Bake at 160 degrees C for about an hour. Turn the oven off and leave your cheesecake to 'luxuriate in its waterbath' for another hour. Remove the pan from the water, allow to cool then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Serve with an extra drizzle of caramel (not that it needs it). Delicious!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Split Level Puddings

Garrett of Flavour of Vanilla chose Dorie's Split Level Puddings this week.

My very first TWD way back in July 08 was Chocolate Pudding which we absolutely loved, so I was curious to see how this chocolate and vanilla version would compare. Unfortunately, this fell into the liked not loved category.

The vanilla layer thickened nicely on the stove but when I blitzed it in the food processor it turned into vanilla soup and never really thickened up in the fridge. Think of the photo above as an action shot, taken before all the pudding slid off the spoon!

I also didn't really get any layers. The vanilla and chocolate parts blended together resulting in some random swirlyness.

The taste test ...

Not bad, just not something I would rush to make again even though I really do enjoy creamy desserts. Am curious though. Is it the addition of cornflour that makes this a pudding as opposed to a custard? Whatever you call it, hubby loved it and it was easy to make. That gets a thumbs up from me!

Thanks Garrett. You can find the recipe on The Flavour of Vanilla.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Scrummy Six Layer Slice

My MIL mentioned this recipe a few weeks ago and I have been keen to give it a go. There's nothing particularly special about the ingredients, rather it is the method that is unique - nothing is mixed! You simply pour each ingredient into your baking pan, cook and somehow it transforms into a tasty slice.

The only change I would make for next time would be to add some dried fruit - maybe apricots or cranberries just to cut through the sweetness.

I baked the full recipe yesterday and sent most of it off to work with N this morning. Definitely don't want something this yummy sitting around at home with me all day!

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