Updates on the Spoons

As well as knitting a little, and not updating my blog, I have been cooking bits and pieces.  It’s difficult to blog them though, because 9 times out of 10 I finish dinners and deserts when it’s already dark, and the photos don’t turn out very well!

 

But, I have been baking…

 

Sweet things – these are Lemon Bars from A Second Helping (more from Ladies, a Plate).  The recipes is actually online, as a preview for the book, available here!  I hiiiiiiighly recommend these – they have just the right amount of sweet to sour, and crunchy to gooey, and the chocolate on top is lovely.  I actually used a little less icing sugar than the recipe suggested, mainly because I didn’t have enough…

 

I love lemons, and have also made one successful batch of Macaroons/Macarons – my first ever!   These are flavoured with a little lemon rind, and are stuffed with lemon curd and mascarpone cream laced with lemon juice.  As you can see, this photo was taken in the dark!  They didn’t last until the morning light… Even my dad, who doesn’t usually eat sweet things, had one.

Look how perfect they are!  Now, I have one confession… Though my first batch turned out perfectly, the second batch that I attempted were a complete flop.  As in, they flopped and spread out and cracked and just didn’t look very nice at all.  But, they still taste OK (although a bit chewy), and I am eating one right this moment with my tea.  I have a friend coming for dinner on Friday night who does not eat gluten, so will attempt another round of Macaroons/Macarons.  They don’t have any flour at all in them, the texture comes from ground almonds (and I have found some quite cheap almond meal at Countdown – only $4 for 150 g, which would make about 3 batches of Macaroons/Macarons).  Oh, and the recipe I used is from the book entitled, unsurprisingly, Macaroons.  It’s a bit of a confusing book actually, it looks gorgeous but includes instructions for making certain stages of the Macaroon the same consistency of shaving cream, or ribbons…  I think the ribboning texture is standard, but I would venture that the target market for this book doesn’t use much shaving cream…

Well, that’s my update on my lemony baking!  Hopefully I’ll get back into regular updating, and I’ll let you know how my next lot of Macaroons/Macarons go…

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Apricot and Date Bars

My boyfriend loves storebought museli bars for a snack – you know the ones that are all nicely wrapped up in foil, and that you can grab on your way out the door?  Very handy!  I agree that they are convenient, but in my opinion they are:

 

a) overpriced

b) oversweet

c) undersized

 

The other day his favourite kind were on sale (pfff) and still worked out to 2 packages of 5 tiny bars for $6!  That’s 60c each!  I pointed that out to him too, and told him that I would make him some much more delicious museli bars which would be far more healthy and much, much tastier.

 

Even though the store-bought bars are tiiiiiny (about 35 g each), I can hardly eat a whole one because they are soooooo sweet.  I’m not a huge sweet tooth, and for someone who can eat a whole packet of Toffee Pops in an afternoon (ahem), maybe that is OK.  But anyway, I thought that I could do better.

 

The other day I saw a recipe for Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars on River Cottage, and I based what I made on this recipe.  I think I’ve sufficiently adapted it to be able to call it its own recipe, so I’ll put it down here…  All my ingredients are approximate, as I don’t tend to record/weigh things (I started out loosely following the River Cottage recipe for the butter, sugar, peanut butter and honey, and then improvised based on what I thought it should look like – you can, of course, do the same).

 

 

Apricot and Date Bars

  • 150 g butter**
  • 150 g brown sugar
  • 2 heaped tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1.5 heaped tablespoons honey
  • Zest of one lemon
** I used an Olive Oil spread instead of butter, purely because I forgot to buy butter at the supermarket.  I think it made the bars a little softer than they would have been with butter, given the “spreadableness” of the Olive Oil spread, but it worked fine, and is a good option if you are cutting out dairy or fat…
Combine these first ingredients in a pot, and heat slowly until they are all melted and combined.  Set aside.
  • 250 – 300 g whole oats (depending on what else you add)
  • 2 handfuls of chopped dried apricots
  • 2 handfuls of chopped dates
  • 2 handfuls of chopped walnuts
  • whatever is leftover in the sesame seed jar (about 1/3 cup is what was in mine)
Add these ingredients, and mix well to combine.  You want a mixture that is not too sloppy, but also not so dry that it won’t stick together in the oven.  Add more oats if your mixture is too wet.  If it’s too dry, you might want to melt a bit more butter and add that.
Press into a lined baking tin (size depends on how thick you want your bars, mine are quite fat!) and bake for 20 – 30 minutes at 160 c (until it goes golden, and before the edges start to burn too much).  Remove from the oven, and if you want to, melt some dark chocolate to spread over the top (I suspected that the chocolate chips on the store-bought bars were a large part of their appeal).  Wait until they are completely cool, and then cut into slices.  I made mine into 12 large bars, you could just as easily make 24 more manageable-sized bars…
Would you like to see mine?  Yes?  OK!
And a close up of the insides…  I spy a date!
Of course, store-bought muesli bars are really, really convenient.  They are all individually wrapped in colourful foil packages, so you can just pop one in your bag (you won’t even notice the extra weight!  They are so light!).  So, I wrapped mine individually in wax paper.  When you do this, remember (unlike me) that waxed paper has a waxy side and a non-waxy side.  You should probably put the waxy side inside the packet…
Look – a blog post that combines Wool and Spoons!  You could also use rubber bands if, unlike me, you don’t have a lot of spare time…
And you can’t have all those muesli bars running wild in your pantry, so they all need to be packaged into their special own box:
One thing I forgot to put on the box was the weight, which even after my dad took one bar for himself, is 1.2 kilograms (1200 grams)!  Compare that to the 175 gram store-bought box.
The price per serve (per bar) for these, which I worked out using some fancy Excel workings, is about $1.50 which may seem quite expensive (it did to me!).  However, I did use some pretty pricey ingredients such as “gourmet” dates, and the nice apricots from Otago instead of Turkey, walnuts, and organic peanut butter.  You could make them a lot cheaper by using other dried fruit such as raisins, and using a lot of seeds like pumpkin seeds instead of more expensive nuts.  I made these ones especially with all my boyfriend’s favourite things in them, to prove to him that they can be a zillion times more delicious than store bought ones!  You also have to remember that my bars weigh about 100 g each, compared to the store-bought ones (costing 60 c per serve), which weight only 35 g each…  So, my bars aren’t super-cheap, but they sure are a lot tastier, judging by the crumbs I have been eating off the bench..
And of course, mine have an extra ingredient, and it’s not high fructose corn syrup…

Anzacs and Afghans

Before we went camping for Easter, I did a whole lot of baking to take with us.  I’ve had the cookbook Ladies, a Plate for a while now, but haven’t cook much out of it.  For camping, I baked two New Zealand classics – Anzacs, and Afghans.  I have to say that these are the best recipes for these biscuits I have used.

These are my Afghans:

And from another angle:

So close up you can see my fingerprints on the chocolate icing – I’m an advocate of using hands for cooking!  They are not too sweet, nice and have heaps of cornflakes in them for crispiness (if you don’t know what Afghans are, they are a cocoa-y chocolaty biscuit, with crunchy cornflakes in them, chocolate icing and always a walnut to top it off!).  Yum.

I have always had problems with ANZAC biscuit recipes, but this one is great.  I have made them several times before from recipes which end up as one big pool of golden-syrupy buttery oats, but these ones spread out nicely – not too much!  They melt in your mouth too.  ANZAC biscuits are made from mainly oats and coconut, and are flavoured with Golden Syrup.  For the first lot I made, I used some walnuts as the recipes suggested – apparently they are one of the traditional ingredients, but not used so much these days because they are quite expensive…  Are you ready for the photo?

Absolutely delicious – they just melt in your mouth!  I was so impressed with these recipes, I’ve now bought the second Ladies, a Plate book so I can do some more yummy baking!

Wedding Present Plum Jam

Remember the plummy preview I treated you to?  Well now that I have given away the gift that they became, I can share some lovely photos of the Black Doris Plum Jam that I made my friend Sarah for her wedding present.  On her register at Briscoes (awesome), she asked for some preserving jars.  I wanted to buy something from the register, but also be able to personalise it in some way, so these were perfect!  I ended up with some wonderful plum jam that actually set, which I think is rather praiseworthy for a first effort of jam making!  I had enough of the leftover product to have a bit of a taste test myself – luckily – and it passed quality control before becoming a lovely wedding gift.  This is the finished product:

I found a perfect basket at the Papamoa market, which fit all four (large!) jars in it.  Now for most people, I would be a bit worried about how they would manage to use a total of 2 litres of plum jam, but I’m sure Sarah will manage just fine!  Visit her blog, and you’ll see why!

Anyway, Sarah (and of course, the lucky new husband), congratulations!  And I hope you enjoy the jam!

Incidentally, the packaging of my plum jam worked very well with the gorgeous wedding decorations…

Plummy Preview

I have made something which I am so proud of, but I can’t show you yet, as it has to be given first as a gift!  Here is a preview of the delicious and beautiful concoction…

Black Doris Plums at … Ooooo should I say it?  Why not, I always skite about a good bargin!  99c a kilo!

Stay tuned…

Family Baking

Last week I volunteered to do the food for a small “family reunion” that my Dad and Mum were hosting at our house in Tauranga.  I love having an excuse to bake, and especially to present things lovely-ly and bring out the fancy plates.  Here is what I made:

Some delicious macadamia nut and dried apricot biscuits.  These are similar to the ones I have made previously, but these ones don’t have the maple flavouring, and the dough is shortbread.  I got this idea from my mum, and it makes deliciously light biscuits which melt in your mouth!  Yum!  They are quite crumbly though, so not ideal for carrying around in your handbag.  I find Gingernuts to be best for that…

 

Also, what’s that in front of those melt in your mouth macadamia biscuits?

 

Yes!  My favourite lemon cake, with lemon and honey drizzle!  The recipe is in the Edmond’s cookbook, although as I’ve said earlier, I replace the sour cream with thick, plain yoghurt, since the sour cream has gelatin in it…

 

I love this lemon cake recipe, it’s perfect with a cup of tea!  This time though, it’s dressed up in it’s finery – a lovely glass cake stand of my Mum’s, and a dusting of icing sugar – yum yum…

 

Bet you wish you were related to me…

Chocolate Cake

Dear Emily, I know I’ve been naughty and not updating my blog.  Here is a chocolate cake to ease your pain:

I made it yesterday.  I wouldn’t usually make a chocolate cake, but that’s the flavour that was requested 🙂  This one though is soooooo yummy – it’s got so much cocoa in it, and lots of sugar (brown and white) too!  I used the recipe from the Smitten Kitchen blog.  I just didn’t have any buttermilk, so I used soymilk with the juice of half a lemon in it, and two small eggs instead of one large one (haha).

 

Picnic in the Park

I’ve been so busy the last week, I haven’t had any time to put up pictures of my Picnic in the Park, which I had last Saturday to say goodbye to Wellington!  I had a wonderful afternoon, with cakes, muffins, bread, cheese, crackers, wine, and of course, awesome friends!  In the morning it was all cloudy, but by the afternoon it had cleared up, and Wellington produced one of its famous “Good Days” (the saying is that you can’t beat Wellington on a good day, and how true it is!)

Here is the proof that it is spring – the trees in my (now ex) neighbours’ yard, they even have tamarillos!  Jealous…  Wish I had a tamarillo tree.  More about my garden produce tomorrow though…

For the picnic I made all sorts of goodies..

Pumpkin muffins (use any banana muffin recipe, substitute the banana for cooked mashed pumpkin, half the regular sugar for brown sugar, and add cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to the mix):

Lemon cake (recipe is in the Edmonds, but I use thick yoghurt in place of sour cream, and drizzle lemon juice mixed with melted honey over the finished product)

I also made a focaccia bread from the Pizza Dough recipe in the Edmond’s, but substituted half of the flour for wholemeal flour.  Here is me attempting to fly my $2 kite at the park:

What a delicious day.  The next day, I had High Tea at my friend Sarah’s house (check out that link for some pictures of it!) – it was such a fantastic weekend of fantastic food!  And on the Friday night I had teriyaki salmon with my other friend, I’ll put up a recipe for that some time soon!!!

Maple Macadamia Biscuits

Last Sunday was a beautiful sunny day.  I had a friend coming around for a cup of tea in the sun, so I thought I’d make some biscuits to go with the tea and the sun.  I had a bottle of maple syrup (a vestige of some beautiful blueberry pancakes) in my cupboard.  But what else to put with the maple flavour?  Chocolate?  Banana?  Tamarillos?  Nothing quite worked in my head, until I found a bag of macadamia nuts in my cupboard, which were grown by my lovely Mum and Dad in Tauranga, and have been in my cupboard for aaaaaages.  Probably because they are SO hard to get into!  But on a sunny day, I took a hammer to the macadamias in the sunny back…  concrete yard?

I used the “Basic Biscuit” recipe from the Edmonds, but replaced half of the sugar with about 1/4 of a cup of maple syrup.  For the macadamia nuts, I toasted them a little in my cast iron pan (a birthday present a few years ago from my Great Aunty June).

You can do this with any nuts and seeds – with pumpkin seeds it makes them go all poppy!   When I make this biscuit recipe (with various variations) I usually bake half of it, and freeze the other half – now I have one frozen lot of chocolate apricot biscuits, and one lot of maple macadamia biscuits.  I’m going to unfreeze them and cook them up for my picnic this weekend!

Finally, what your hungry eyes have been waiting for… The final product(s)!  They were very yummy, not overly sweet and with those lovely oily macadamia nuts hiding in them.  Absolutely perfect companions to a cup of tea in the sun!

Legendary Lemon Cheese Pudding

Last Friday night, my friend Sarah and I had a baking date.  Our baking dates are always wild nights, full of soup, bread, and desert!  Last time we met up, we made an amazing Lemon Cheese Pudding, which my Mum has been making ever since it was made for us by some friends of the family.  In fact, I’m pretty sure Sarah’s boyfriend only proposed to her to get access to this pudding.  Or because she’s an awesome girl, and an amazing baker!   Anyway, this Lemon “Cheese” Pudding is worth a try – it’s so simple and incredibly delicious.  Is is a recipe from the Edmond’s Cookbook, but doesn’t seem to be included in the later version.  It’s in my Mum’s cookbook, but not mine.  I don’t know why they wouldn’t include it!  I think it’s called “Cheese” pudding, because the lemon juice curdles the milk and butter a little, meaning that they puddingy bit looks a little like ricotta cheese or something.  That’s my theory anyway!

– 1 tablespoon of butter (or marg)

– 1/2 cup of sugar

– Juice and rind of one lemon

– Pinch of salt

– 1 cup of milk (usually I use soy milk, and it works fine)

– 2 eggs

– 1 tablespoon of flour

Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  In another bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add flour, lemon juice and rind, milk and a pinch of salt to the butter and sugar.  Gently fold your egg whites into the lemony mixture, trying not to pop too many bubbles!

Spoon or pour the mixture into ramekins, and place the ramekins in a dish.  Pour boiling water into the dish so that it comes to about half way up the ramekins – Sarah tells me this is so it cooks evenly..  Bake for about 20 mins at 170C.

Here are some happy snaps from our baking date:

Sarah making the lemony mixture.

My wonderfully whipped egg whites.

Sarah mixing the wonderfully whipped whites into the lovely lemon mixture.

Check out Sarah’s blog too, she has some lovely pictures of our baking date (including one of the insides of the pudding – I was in too much of a hurry to eat it to take a photo)..