Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas Cookies: Florentines

Hard to believe but there are only 5 weeks until Christmas ... 5! We are planning on making most of our gifts this year and I am going to tackle jam making for the first time which i'm looking forward to. I'll be posting about all the goodies we make over the coming weeks.

I first made florentines as a child and have fond memories of very sticky fingers from both the making and the eating! It is the perfect Christmas biscuit made with with cherries, dried cranberries and of course chocolate. I must admit they were pretty messy to make in the current weather. Humidity and chocolate are not friends! But the end result is absolutely worth it.

This post is my submission to the second annual Eat Christmas Cookies Event run by Susan at Food Blogga. Click here for all the details on how to participate and make sure you visit the round up page to see all the scrumptious submissions by clicking the logo below:

This is a Karen Martini recipe which I copied down while watching Better Homes & Gardens back in September

250g cornflakes
380ml (1 tin) condensed milk
2 tbs honey
150g roasted peanuts
100g dried cranberries
60g glace ginger
100g glace cherries
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
zest of 1/2 lemon
250g dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 2 trays with baking paper and set aside.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a very large bowl then pour over the honey and condensed milk. Stir well to combine. You can start off with a spoon but you may need to use your hands as it will be very sticky.

Using a 6cm cookie cutter as a guide, spoon the mixture onto the prepared trays. Allow space between them as they will spread a little. (I made half this way and the other half on a biscuit tray).

Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the trays. Don't try to move them until they are completely cool because they will crumble and break apart.

While the biscuits are cooling, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Allow to cool slightly.

Using a palette knife, spread a little melted chocolate over the base of each biscuit and then place chocolate side up on a cooling rack to set. This will take around 20 minutes.

Makes approx 30. The biscuits will keep for a week in an airtight container, if they last that long!

Key Lime Cheesecake with Candied Lime Slices

Could there be anything that screams 'Summer!' more than this? The instant I had this idea I knew I would be making it, it was just a question of when. That time came with Sunday lunch with N's mum and it was the perfect end to a meal of perfectly cooked roast lamb.

I've made a lime cheesecake for years now but this recipe will probably become the new go-to cheesecake. I didn't get a great shot of the layers due to bad light but the contrast between crunchy biscuit base, tangy lime custard, creamy filling and smooth sour cream topping was absolutely sublime. Then the candied lime slices on top gave it an extra zesty boost!

There are no other words ... just make it!!!

Key Lime Cheesecake

For the lime custard...
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons fresh Key lime juice (I used 4 tbs bottled)
1 teaspoon lime zest

For the crust...
250g plain sweet biscuits (I always use Nice)
125g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling...
500g cream cheese, softened at room temp
2/3 cup sugar
2 large whole eggs
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice w/pulp
1 tablespoons lime zest

For the topping...
500g carton sour cream
3 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

In a small sauce pan, combine all ingredients for the lime custard and whisk over medium heat until it thickens and bubbles around the edges of the pan. Let bubble about 30 seconds then remove from heat to cool slightly before scraping into a bowl to cool to room temp.

In a food processor, crush the biscuits until they form fine crumbs. With the motor running drizzle in the melted butter and process until combined. Press mixture onto the bottom and about half way up the sides of a 9 x 3" springform pan which has been wrapped tightly with layers of aluminum foil. Place in the fridge to set.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine cream cheese, sugar, eggs, pulpy lime juice, and zest. Mix until smooth and creamy.

Once the crust is set (approx 20 minutes), carefully spoon the lime custard into the bottom and smooth evenly. Then spoon the filling over the lime custard, again carefully smoothing to completely cover the first layer.

Set the springform pan inside the large baking pan and then place on the oven rack. Slowly pour very hot water into the large baking pan until the level reaches about half way up the side of the springform pan. Bake for 45 minutes. It should not be puffy and center will move slightly when shaken. Combine the sour cream with the 3T of sugar and then carefully spread over the top of the cheesecake. Put it back in the oven and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, just until the topping is set.

Remove the springform pan from the water bath and let cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes. Using a sharp knife, carefully run the knife around the edge of the pan to loosen it a bit. Then cool completely at room temperature. Cover the pan tightly, and refrigerate overnight. Release the sides before serving. Serve cold.

Candied Lime Slices
(I can't remember where I got this recipe from!)

3 limes, scrubbed to remove wax etc
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar, extra
1 cup water

Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Slice the limes into thin rounds and blanch the slices in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and repeat.

Using the same pot, combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer then add the lime slices. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the white pith becomes translucent. The thinner your slices the quicker this will happen.

Remove the lime slices and place on a cooling rack to drain and dry for a couple of hours.

Place the extra sugar on small plate. Once the limes are dry coat both sides of each slice with sugar. You may need more sugar.

Store in an airtight container, with greaseproof paper in between the layers to stop them sticking. The slices can also be frozen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Black & White Arborio Rice Pudding

First let me say I adore rice pudding. It is pure creamy comfort in a bowl. But oh how I wish I had read the P&Q before making this one!

I did a few double takes while reading this recipe. First at just 1/4 cup of rice with that much liquid for 4 serves. Ummmm, what the...? Next at just 30 minutes cooking time to absorb 80% of the liquid into such a teeny tiny amount of rice? Eeek.

I have made rice pudding with arborio many times and we always have it in the pantry. The parboiling worked well but there simply was not enough rice. Even after close to 50 minutes cooking time it was still pretty soupy and never really thickened in the fridge.

The taste test ...

Despite the soupiness this was lovely. I much preferred the plain vanilla to the chocolate, partly because the chocolate flavour was too intense but also because it ended up with an odd grainy texture which was not at all appealing. Let the record show that N disagrees with this point - he is all about the texture. So, next time more rice, more cooking and less chocolate. Then we will have a winner!

Thank you to Isabelle of Les Gourmandises d’Isa for this week's pick. Even the weather cooperated, with temps dropping from mid 30s to low 20s (celsius). Perfect for rice pudding!

Next week: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Kugelhoph

Another first for me this week but this one was an absolute winner! Considering I have never made brioche and breadmaking is generally a bit hit and miss I was delighted with how this turned out.

I used a fluted tube pan which was conveniently exactly the size needed so I didn't need to fiddle with baking times etc. While it rose beautifully (I leave the bowl in the oven with the light on) I was a bit concerned by how soft the dough was. The instruction to "pull the sides of the dough away and let it slap down in the bowl" didn't happen because as soon as I touched it I was left with sticky stringy cobwebby bits of dough stuck all over my fingers. After it's final rise in the pan before baking I was still concerned by the consistency because it wobbled like a bowl of jelly, unlike any dough I've ever seen before!

Still, you can't argue with results and this was divine.

The taste test ...

Warm, incredibly buttery and very delicate. I love fruit breads so I left the raisins in and also added the zest of an orange to punch up the fruit flavours. This also helped to give a lovely golden colour. To be honest it really didn't need the soaking in butter at the end but I really wasn't complaining as I licked my fingers clean after my third piece!

I will definitely be making this again. And again and again and again. Yum!

Thanks to Yolanda of All Purpose Girl for this week's pick.

Next week: Arborio Black & White Rice Pudding.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Spreading the Love

I have been very slack in posting a couple of blog awards I received recently. Which is even more shameful considering how gleefully I received them. It's the nicest thing in the world to receive a compliment, which is essentially what all blog awards are, so now it's definitely time to spread the love and pass them on.

Firstly from Karen of Something Sweet by Karen came the E is for Excellent award way back in September. Karen is one of my favourite bloggers and I was stunned that the day she received her award she was considering deleting her blog! That would have been a real loss. Make sure you check out her site if you haven't already for yummy recipes, great stories and truly beautiful photography.

I have picked 5 blogs to pass this on to:

Sass & Veracity

Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

Joy the Baker

What Geeks Eat

Mevrouw Cupcake

Next more recently came the Yum-Yum Blog Award from Cakelaw at Laws of the Kitchen, a fellow Australian who whips up yummy (usually sweet) treats on an amazingly regular basis. It's always a pleasure to stop by for some inspiration. I'm not sure what the rules are for this one but I have picked another 5 blogs to pass this one on to:

The Food Librarian


Something Sweet by Karen

Engineer Baker

Veronica's Test Kitchen

Over the next few days I will get around and let everyone know!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Despite the lack of posts over the past week or so I have actually been cooking. And I've managed to make some pretty tasty dinners despite the recent development of light headedness practically every evening. Blah.

So in no particular order (and without recipes because to be honest I just made this stuff up) ...

Chicken Caesar Salad with giant homemade croutons, bacon and lots of crispy cos lettuce

Quick ham and asparagus macaroni cheese

Herb and mustard marinated pork steaks with herbed couscous and greek yoghurt

Chargrilled greek style chicken with rice and coleslaw

Quick vegetable fried rice with bbq pork belly


Tuesdays with Dorie: Rugelach

I have to admit I had never eaten, seen or even heard of rugelach before this week. I actually don't even remember seeing them in Dorie's book when I first flicked through so I had no idea what I was going to find!

While I intended to make them exactly as in the recipe, time and energy ran out so I made do with what was in the pantry ... strawberry jam, flaked almonds, 72% cocoa chocolate and no currants.

I loved the dough. LOVED. Well I love anything with cream cheese actually and ate quite a few little chunks of it while I preparing the dough ... for quality assurance purposes of course!

I also rolled the dough into a (rough) circle but got nowhere near as many triangles as Dorie suggested.

The taste test ...

Hmmm. I have to say these really weren't my favourite thing. They were ok. Not great, but nice. Not sure if that was the combination of ingredients or just me. I can definitely see potential for making them with other fillings and the dough would be fab in a whole range of things. I think it needed a sweeter chocolate too.

Oh well, can't love everything and I'm glad I had a go!

Thanks to Piggy of Piggy’s Cooking Journal for this week's pick. Make sure you check out the other TWDers for better results than mine.

Next week: Kugelhoph!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers October - Pizza!

A big thank you to Rosa from Rosa's Yummy Yums because I loved this month's challenge! We make pizza at home pretty regularly but lately have resorted to pre-made bases because none of the dough recipes have been turning out very well. Until now that is!

We made 5 different types on 2 occasions and can honestly say the bases were some of the best I have ever eaten, at home or abroad. I am delighted to be able to add this recipe to my repertoire.

We also kept the toppings to a minimum on each - a maximum of 4 ingredients or flavours per pizza which is just how I like them usually. Light and simple and not overly weighed down with cheese.

Apologies for the bad photos. The light in our kitchen is shocking and I wasn't about to let my slices get cold while I played around!

Classic Ham and Pineapple

BBQ Chicken with Red Onion and Mushrooms

Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella

Cheesy Potato and Spring Onion

Dessert - Nutella with Flaked Almonds and Raspberries

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast (I used 1 1/2 ts)
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) olive oil or vegetable oil
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil (a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss. ( My dough was too sticky and delicate to toss)

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time. During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes. (I needed 10 – 12 minutes)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

Anything with chocolate in the name is sure to please in this house! This week's recipe was chosen by Clara of I Heart Food4Thought.

It seems lots of people had problems with the cupcakes being dry so I decided to use greek yoghurt instead of buttermilk and used a very rounded 1/2 cup of it for extra moisture. I also kept a really close eye on them while baking. They ended up need only 18.5 minutes instead of the 22 to 25 Dorie suggests.

While I toyed with the idea of Halloween style decorations I decided against it for a few reasons. Firstly that Halloween isn't recognised here at all so there aren't a whole lot of orange and black anything and secondly, I'm very anti food dye at the best of times but particularly now which limited my choices even further!

So I went with toasted flaked almonds both for flavour and crunch and it was perfect.

The taste test ...

Oh my god. These were anything but dry! I found them rich, fudgy and intensely chocolatey ... and that was before I added the glaze. Hubs loved them too, managing to eat 2 of them after a slice of pie and a slab of steamed pudding (both of which I will be posting about in the coming days)!

Next week another first for me - Rugelach

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Perfect Ginger Cookies

Being Australian we would call these biscuits not cookies but seeing it's not my recipe, cookies it is! These really caught my eye when I saw them on Priscilla's blog. I absolutely love anything with ginger and in fact have a big mug of ginger tea first thing every morning (and not just because i'm pregnant!).

I changed the recipe slightly, using golden syrup instead of molasses and adding a little baking powder to give them some lift. I also made them smaller, getting 16 out of the mix instead of 12.

The smell of these freshly out of the oven was intoxicating ... warm, sweet and spicy. I ate 3 while they were really to hot to handle and they were fabulous broken up over vanilla ice cream or just with a cup of ginger tea.

You can find the recipe at Priscilla's Baking Adventures. Yum!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins & an Announcement!

You may have noticed posting has become a little scarce of late. This has been partly the result of blog fatigue but mostly because there has been something much bigger and much more exciting happening ... i'm pregnant! N and I are thrilled to be able to announce that come April we will be parents.

I've been very lucky not to have had any morning sickness but my tastes have definitely changed and I haven't been cooking much lately, at least nothing blogworthy anyway. I'm planning on remedying that starting this week.

I had to sit out last week's TWD. Apologies to Gretchen of Canela & Comino, the biscotti looked great but I just didn't have the time or energy. I did however, get to this week's recipe for Pumpkin Muffins chosen by Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp.

Whenever I hear pumpkin in a recipe it sounds very American (with the exception of our very Australian pumpkin scones of course!). You can't buy canned pumpkin in Australia so I steamed and mashed my own.

I decided to follow the recipe exactly as I am one of the seemingly rare TWDers who actually like raisins! They came together easily but I generally prefer the melt and mix type muffins where you simply add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Creaming butter and sugar is what you do for cupcakes in my opinion.

The taste test ...
I really enjoyed these though I have to say they smelt divine while baking but weren't as fragrant in the mouth. Next time I would increase the spices considerably. I ate mine warm out of the oven with butter and marmalade and it was the perfect morning tea. Due to an unfortunate misunderstanding the rest of the batch got left out on the bench overnight and weren't edible the next day. Boo. N hates pumpkin so it was doubly disappointing because he was actually going to try these! Oh well. I'm sure there will be a next time.

Next week we have the scrumptious sounding Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes.
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