Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daring Baking! Perfect Party Cake

How exciting, I got to try another recipe from the wonderful 'Baking-from my home to yours' by Dorie Greenspan. Every recipe I've made from this book has turned out just beautifully, I think she shares my taste, not to mention meticulously tests the recipes. I loved the ginger chocolate cake, the oatmeal breakfast bread, and this recipe is just delicious! I have to say, I'm not big on cake, especially white or yellow types of cakes, and this was so yummy, moist and wonderful I'll be making it at every opportunity!

I decided to follow the recipe exactly first. I had a birthday to bake for and this was the perfect opportunity. I made the delicious lemon cake, and the lemon buttercream and used a lingonberry jam from IKEA. I'm glad I used a really tart jam, as I found the buttercream extremely sweet to my taste. The cake is just the most wonderful I've ever tasted. Its not too spongy, not too dense and wonderfully creamy and light with the buttercream.

The second time I tried a bit of a twist on the original recipe. I made an orange cake, subbing orange zest for lemon, and adding orange essence. I used the blood orange marmalade instead of jam, then substituted chocolate ganache for some of the butter in the buttercream. I decorated with chocolate shavings and orange segments.

I took this second version to bookclub and most of it disappeared very quickly, everyone kept going back for more. It was delicious with the orange and chocolate combination!

The buttercream caused me a bit of a headache as it curdled a little, and never seemed to come together. I found that this didn't really seem to matter when I put it on the cake, it wasn't visibly separated, but I think I should have made ganache with the butter instead of cream as that was just too much water. Tastewise I much preferred it, the bittersweet chocolate toned down the sweetness.

Its a long recipe, so I'll link to one of the other daring bakers, Rosa if you'd like to see a really beautiful version! Or buy Dorie's book, its jolly good.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Well, I'll start off with the fun picture, of my little princess reclining on a piece of discarded cardboard, a very comfy resting place where she can turn to the patio doors and watch over the garden to see whats going on.

Unfortunately we've been dealing with repeated occurances of fleas and worms. Apparently fleas carry the worms, so this time we're starting by trying to kill the fleas then we'll deal with the worms in a couple of days. Oh dear. How gross. And princess tina is not happy about the flea stuff, as you can tell! Hopefully she'll keep away from us as we're not really that interested in hanging out until the visitors have gone.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Blood Orange Marmalade

Every year when I was a little girl my mum would look out for the Seville oranges, and when they arrived she'd make a big pot of marmalade, which lasted for years, and improved with age.

I saw some wonderful blood oranges at a market recently and I thought it would be great to make a beautiful pink marmalade with them. Unfortunately I took my eyes away from the bubbling cauldron for just a minute and it became very dark and welded to the bottom. I was careful not to stir after I burned it, so I salvaged most of the marmalade, but it certainly wasn't a pretty pink.

I think madam Delia was a little off with the timing, I don't think it took 2 1/2 hours to reach the setting point, more like 45 mins. I think one of my mistakes was to use a pan that had a bottom that wasn't thick enough.

I'd say you'd want to do this while you're pottering about in the kitchen, check every 5 minutes or so and give it a stir.

The recipe is made over a couple of days, and be warned, you'll end up very sticky! Its very rewarding though, and a wonderful gift for friends.

I'm putting a recipe, but I think this is one of those things that you kind of play by ear. I didn't discard any of the water that I boiled the oranges in, and I reduced the sugar significantly, as I was using much sweeter oranges.

Marmalade, adapted from Delia Online

Makes around 7 500ml jars

3lb Oranges, scrubbed
2 lemons
1.8kg Sugar

1.Take the fruit, cover with water and boil in a large saucepan for around 3 hours. Cool until ready to handle.

2. Cut each of the fruits in half and scoop the flesh into a medium saucepan. Discard the lemon peel. Boil the flesh with the remaining water for around 10 mins (I boiled a little longer to reduce the liquid down)

3. Meanwhile, slice the peel of the oranges thinly.

4. Place some gauze over a nylon sieve and pour the fruit into it to strain. Leave for a while, then gather up the fabric and squeeze all the important pectin out.

5. Combine all the peels and the strained fruit and leave overnight in a large saucepan

6. The next day add the sugar and then slowly heat until the sugar has all dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil and stir occasionally. This is the tricky part. You want to bring the stuff to a jam without completely ruining it and your saucepan, and you dont want to stop too soon and have runny syrup instead of marmalade. Delia says check every 15 minutes, but I say that after 30 mins you should keep a fairly close eye.

You know when its done because when you put a bit on a plate and push your finger through it, it stays completely separated.

7. Meanwhile, sterilize the jars. I usually put a teaspoon in them and pour boiling water in them and leave for a few minutes.

8. Leave for a few minutes to cool, this will ensure that the peel is well distributed, then pour into jars.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fabulous Foodie Weekend!

Well, I was so excited to return to The Better Half for the third time that I thought it couldnt possibly live up to expectations, but it was just wonderful again. We had a wonderful little mushroom crostini for our amuse, then the boys had a beautiful charcuterie, the highlight appeared to be the 'jewish bacon' pastrami(as described by the chef). I enjoyed an amazing spinach and chickpea soup with moroccan spices. My goodness it was wonderful, I should eat soup more often, its just so filling usually!

We were brought little lemon sorbets, which we loved, it made us feel like giants again and provoked much giggling.

For main course I had the tart de jour, which was delicious, with perfect pastry, and the boys had veal cheeks on a bed of a lentil type legume. They were blown away with it.

Dessert was also just wonderful. A delicious nutty almond and cherry rice pudding, and a sweet creme brulee with maple syrup. I really enjoyed this creme brulee, it was very sweet but the texture was just perfection, smooth and silky as I feel it should be.

Our second foodie trip was to check out Eclipse Chocolate. We had paninis, and they were both excellent, especially the beef one. I enjoyed a lavender truffle with salt on top. I've never had rock salt on top of chocolate like that before and it was truly amazing. I didnt really taste the soapy lavender much. I think it was more an infusion in the salt, which worked much better than other lavender things I've tasted.

Sorry, no piccies, I'm a bad blogger!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kedgeree-the perfect sunday supper

Wow, Jennywenny did it again, another ugly but tasty dinner! Kedgeree started off as an old colonial dish of the British Empire in India. Its traditionally a combination of rice, smoked haddock, and curry. This started off life as a breakfast dish, but its good for any meal and seems like a perfect sunday 'tea'. I followed Jamie Olivers lead and added chopped hard boiled eggs, lime juice and cilantro. I added some raisins for sweetness and a little veggie stock for flavor. I didn't have any smoked haddock, so I used some smoked salmon. Trader Joes came to the rescue with some ready cooked jasmine rice as it was getting a little late.

Kedgeree-adapted from Jamie Oliver-Naked Chef
Serves 2 hungry people or 3 with a salad!
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp curry powder
8 oz cooked rice
1 tsp better than bouillon in 1/3 cup boiling water
1 smoked salmon fillet
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
Lime/lemon juice
Handful of raisins (optional!)
Chopped cilantro to taste

Slowly sautee the onions for 5 mins in the butter, adding the garlic for the last minute. Add the curry powder and stir, then add the cooked rice and stock. Mix carefully, ensuring the rice grains get separated, add the salmon and warm through, then the rest of the ingredients. Mix together and serve with a salad or warm veggies.

WCB-we're a bit sad

I was very sad yesterday to find out my very dearest favourite cat in the blogosphere is having a hard time. I check in every week to see how the lovely Upsie is doing, and it turns out she has another health challenge and doesn't have much longer for this world.

I've had fun hearing about her adventures in the garden, her trials and tribulations with the squirrels and enjoy seeing her fabulous outfits.

When I read the news yesterday morning, I had a little cry, and tina came over to see me. I later remembered about Upsie, and Tina came and sat on the arm of the sofa and put her chin on my arm. She always knows when I'm upset and comes over and comforts me. I'm sure Upsie has done her fair share of being a comforting presence in everyone's lives she's come into.

Hopefully the new cat at 'What did you eat' is going to bring just as much happiness into Sher's life. As far as I'm concerned, as a brit, a black cat is always good luck and little Laura is just adorable.

This is the first time anything on anyones blog has affected me this much. I'm so sad for my favourite virtual cat.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Separated by a common language

I just came across this wonderful blog, which goes into great detail explaining some of the nuances between the british english and american. I sighed a deep sigh of contentment as a myriad of my questions were answered! If I ever confuse you maybe she'll have the answer:

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The fruit stand

I popped to the Costco on Morena Boulevard and I'm so glad that I finally stopped by this fruit stand on the way. They had beautiful oranges, lemons etc outside, then I went in and found all kinds of lovely stuff, asparagus, big beautiful lettuces, broccoli, tomatoes, celery etc. I also got some blood oranges as I'm thinking of trying a blood orange marmalade.

Everything was really cheap and great quality. I made off with an enormous bag of produce for only $19.

They had a selection of delicious looking nuts and dried fruit too. I'd highly recommend stopping off here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Double Chocolate Double Peanut Cookies

I keep meaning to mention some of the goodies I've been making for my farmers market fundraiser. These were my go-to cookie for a while a few years ago and I didnt have a reason to bake anything like this until recently and I remembered them.

Decadent and delicious, with a nice crunch of peanut and lovely creamy chocolate chips. I'm not a huge peanut butter fan, but I do like these, the chocolate cuts through the peanuts and balances things out.

I made a slight change to the recipe in that I used peanuts instead of peanut chips, which just seemed a bit gross, and I added white choc chips for more sweetness. They do break easily so I was glad I didnt flatten them out on the pan as they were small and sturdy like this.

Double Chocolate Double Peanut Cookies -Gourmet March 1994
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup chunky or creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (6 ounces) roughly chopped peanuts
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

reheat oven to 350°F.

In a bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. In another bowl with an electric mixer cream butter, peanut butter, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour mixture and stir in chocolate chips and peanut-butter chips.

Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto buttered baking sheets and bake cookies in batches in middle of oven 10 minutes. Flatten slightly before baking. Cool cookies on racks.

Cookies keep in airtight containers 5 days, or freeze well.