Friday, May 28, 2010

Mini Bread and Butter Puddings

I need to share with you one of my eccentricities (one of many I'm afraid!). This one has to do with breakfast.

I have a significant dislike of almost all traditional breakfast foods both hot and cold when served first thing in the morning. Husband will happily eat Weet Bix every day in summer and porridge every day in winter so he is well taken care of but me...

In this regard I was definitely born in the wrong country - I saw a fabulous documentary the other day on Thai breakfasts- rice and chicken and satay sauce would suit me beautifully first thing!

I also find that if I don't want to eat what's available then I just won't eat at all, which isn't really ideal when you're heading out for a long day at work, so I've spent my life searching for other options that are quick and easy.

Other than dinner leftovers one of my breakfast favourites are these mini bread and butter puddings. If you think about it they are really similar to many breakfast foods- milk, eggs, bread, butter, sugar (and vanilla) but seem so much better to me. I tend to make them the night before whilst I'm pottering about with dinner and then pop them in the fridge. 40 second in the microwave brings them back to life beautifully.

I've simplified the recipe over time to the point of it being totally mindless to make. My usual choice is to use croissants rather than bread but we only had stale wholemeal about the place last night so that's what made the cut.

1 cup of milk (I used soy and it still tasted good and set well)
1 egg
1 Tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Whisk these together in a jug.

Spread 2 slices of bread with butter and dust with nutmeg. Cut each into 4 pieces and pop the pieces into 2 ramekins. Pour over the egg mixture until 3/4 full.

Dab the exposed tops f the bread pieces with butter and sprinkle with demerara sugar.

Bake in a 180C oven for about 20mins or until puffed and golden. As they cool they will sink a little.

It was a fabulous wintery comfort breakfast this morning. MMMM.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

White Chocolate Cupcakes

So I'm in the midst of a cupcake frenzy at the moment!

Last night I did my third batch of cherry ripe cupcakes (and have still only eaten one), they have been such a hit - work, welcoming new baby niece to the family and bible study supper - to be honest I'm getting sick of making them even though they are delicious.

This all hasn't been helped by the fact that Husband despises coconut so I've been doing half batches with the essence and shredded coconut and half batches without!

Ready for something new I tried a new recipe for a friend's farewell last week.

White Chocolate Cupcakes.

They are stunning, the most moist and delightful crumb ever, all due to the sour cream I think but the batter is lighter than air and they went down a treat here at work - I'm afraid I'm developing a bit of a reputation as the "cupcake lady" :)

The recipe is originally from "Couture Cupcakes" but has been blogged to death with tons of people tweaking it so I'm not sure if it resembles the original - it sure is great though - maybe the cupcake version of an idealistic Wiki - everyone improves it until it is the best it can be :)

I did a plain buttercream frosting with a bit of melted white chocolate added to it. I also did a double batch and made the second lot milk chocolate with 2 Tablespoons of cocoa and replacing the white choc with milk. They went down well with the chocolate purists who are anti white chocolate.

White Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes

1 cup plain [all purpose] flour
3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
63 grams white chocolate
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In mixer, combine flour, sugar and salt.
3. Melt chocolate with butter and water. Allow to cool slightly.
4. Add melted chocolate mixture to flour mixture and mix lightly.
5. Add sour cream, vanilla, baking soda and egg and beat for 2 minutes.
6. Divide batter evenly into cupcake liners and bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
7. Place pan on a rack for 10 minutes to cool. Turn upside down and release the cupcakes onto a rack to cool further.
8. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cherry Ripe Cupcakes

Again I'm blogging about something I haven't eaten yet! In fact as I write a whole staff full of people are standing around a table with my Cherry Ripe cupcakes laid out on it sampling them and all I know is that the batter tasted great.

I've been discovering lately that the life of a Stepford wife is one of constantly dashing about. Making cupcakes ends up being an activity that is slotted between making dinner and dashing out to meetings and dinners. This was my experience last night where I had from 4pm until 6pm to make dinner for Husband - poor guy works 12.5hr shifts so I could hardly go out for dinner without leaving him something - wash and straighten hair, clean kitchen and bathroom and make cupcakes for an event today. They were iced and decorated at 5.55pm with me all glamoured up and swathed in an apron to protect my clothes.

The recipe comes from - you can head there if you want it and search under cupcakes - and even if you don't want it I recommend you do anyway just for fun! I switched her ganache for a buttercream with a little dark chocolate added to firm up the icing for transport purposes.

I also added a slice of Cherry Ripe on top to glamour them up. It's amazing how something so simple like that really impresses people (plus gives them a clue on the flavour of the cakes when I won't be there to explain!)

When the leftovers come back I'll taste test for you :)


Well! they've just arrived and my gorgeous pink cupcake courier trays are empty! I've even had 2 complaints from people who didn't get to try one and the overwhelming verdict is that they were great - I'm even getting happy feedback passed on through others. Think I'll have to do another batch so I can taste and then bring in for the disappointed folk! (people pleaser much!)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tuna, Tomato and Rice Bake

Comfort Food! As soon as the weather turns cool my mind turns to fires and PJs and casseroles, risottos and puddings. But so often I find that they have a lot of fussy chopping and stirring involved, and on the days where you get home at 6.30pm and want a warm squishy dinner with minimal annoyance or cleaning up those winter warmers are all a bit much.

Today I tested a recipe I had cut out of some magazine or another years ago and had never tried out - and it turned out to be just wonderful. A store cupboard secret, it is all tins and simplicity but still gives your tummy that lovely warm feeling. I've tweaked it a bit to make it a bit more grown up!

Chop an onion and soften in a little oil, stir through one cup of arborio rice until coated and then add a 425g tin of tuna (Sirena is always my pick but any would do), a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste and one cup of white wine - this could be water if you don't have wine nearby. I also added lemon zest and the juice of half a lemon plus a handful of chopped parsley. Cover with a cup of tasty cheese.

Put it in a casserole dish and stick in a 170C oven for an hour - check the rice is tender before you serve.

I absolutely adored snuggling up with a warm bowl of this in front of the TV. You could easily prepare the night before and pop it in the oven after work.

It might not be true Stepford glamour but my excuse is that proper Stepford wives didn't work full time - plus I'm not mechanical, and we all need a throw together stand-by :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Satay Noodle Salad

Posting about something I haven't yet eaten seems a bit odd I suppose but I just can't wait!

It all begins with my obsession with cooking shows (that I get from my mother!) I have been in swirls of delight with Channel 72's 'kitchen time' every afternoon beginning with the formidable Martha Stewart and then on to the selection UKTVfood provides - love it!

I discovered 'Ching's Kitchen' last week and was fascinated by the back story. She owns a massive factory that produces Asian style salads that sell in stores like Harrods and the show is based around her trials in their test kitchen - plus some extra treats.

So feeling inspired last night I invented my own Asian style salad for Husband and I to take to work for lunch today.

I layered up in the good old Tupperware - soaked rice noodles (pad thai) spritzed with a little sesame oil, grated carrot, sliced cucumber, red capsicum and sugar snap peas.

Then I dunked some chicken pieces in seasoned flour and shallow fried them until crisp and added them on top.

And then a satay sauce. I've made this in so many different ways and there has never been a recipe but last night I just used the residual heat in the frying pan to fry off some shallots and garlic, added peanut butter, tamari, lime juice, and a chopped kaffir lime leaf (from the garden - finally a use for them!)

My Stepford Secret here was a touch of Golden syrup. Recipes often use honey or sweet chilli sauce for the 'sweet' factor but Husband is allergic to chilli and the only honey in the house was a really strong Manuka. The golden syrup added depth and warmth, and was really helpful in rounding out the flavours.

A splash (or more) of coconut milk creamed it up and gave it a luscious texture. That went on top with a sprinkling of salted peanuts and it looks wonderful.

I promise to comment and let you know if it tastes as fabulous as it looks!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Birthday Cake!

I've always been fascinated with those professional cakes - the smooth white icing and fondant embellishments that just seemed impossible.

So for my friend's birthday party I decided to blindly have a go! Well not completely blindly, the good old Women's Weekly Birthday Cake Book has become a bit posh of late and has expanded it's range from buttercream to the more fancy varieties.

I copied their idea for an apricot jam layer and a white chocolate ganache to seal the packet chocolate cake (you can't get too ambitious) and then had a play with the ready to roll icing. Despite getting a bit dry it turned out smooth and clean even though I (yes super overachiever!) decided it would be fun to make all the cakes different sizes and so had to fiddle a bit to cut the dimensions for each correctly.

The real trouble I ran across was in making the red icing to do the decoration and I have one vital piece of Stepford information for you - Find food colouring pastes or powders! I searched everywhere and found nothing so I attempted it with liquid colouring which was SO hard. To get the right consistency of icing - not sloppy! and the right colour - not pink was a real drama.

And it had to be RED - our theme was 'High School Musical'

eventually after a lot of massaging, chemistry with icing sugar and 'Pillarbox Red' food dye, and Pillarbox Red stained hands and clothes (and I had gloves on!) we got there, and I was pretty proud of the finished product.

It's not too hard if you do it right (pastes people!!) and everyone, especially Miss Fiona the birthday girl loved it.

I was pretty happy too :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lemon and Herb Chicken

I wouldn't be able to blog along for very long without mentioning my love of Donna Hay. I've purposely not subscribed to her magazine because I love the joy of discovering a new one is out!

I know - tragic :)

Tonight's dinner was a new recipe out of the Autumn issue, Lemon and Herb Chicken. It's a one pot meal and only takes half an hour by recipe (about 45 Min's reality).

Unusually the recipe had a small mistake - no lemon in the ingredients or recipe although it appeared in the picture so I had to take a punt on that one! It smelled beautiful and looked great but lacked a bit of flavour, it really needed a good seasoning and extra lemon in the sauce to bring up the flavours but it was a good new dinner for the repertoire. I served with Broccoli and dressed with a little extra virgin lemon oil.

I also worked out a little Stepford Secret. I had to drain just a tablespoon of salted capers and discovered the ideal tool. My tea strainer got a workout and performed (and recovered) beautifully.

Lemony Capery White Wine goodness.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Triple Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles

My next adventure is a disaster come good. The official recipe was called two-tone chocolate fudge and was supposed to be a creamy white layer sandwiched onto a creamy brown layer both nice and firm and full of hazelnuts.

Well, my creamy white was more of a dismal brown and my creamy brown became soft and dark due to my switching the milk chocolate melts (that were the worst kind of compound flavour) for some gorgeous 70% I had in the fridge. My top layer was too soft and melty because I didn't cook it for long enough. All of this make it yummy but uncuttable and untransportable - I was pretty sure Husband and I couldn't manage a whole tray of it with a spoon!

And so I had a scathingly brilliant idea. The whole thing was the exact texture and flavour of the inside of a gourmet truffle. All I needed was a chocolate coating and it would solve my cutting and transporting isssues. I set the fudge in the freezer, cut it into squares and dipped it in 2 blocks of melted Cadbury's Daily Milk. A bit of fussing with skewers and a sprinkle of Hazelnut meal hid the messy bits.

The lovely ladies/ taste testers in the office at work loved them! Phew!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cranberry Muffins

In Australia we don't have a lot of access to cranberries. We have the juice and the dried kinds but never fresh and so when I come across recipes involving them in all the fabulous US and UK cookbooks I pass right by them - until this summer when I came across a frozen box of them (far too expensive!) and decided to take them home.

Unfortunately they sat in the freezer waiting for an idea for too long until I came across a simple recipe in the Stephanie Alexander kitchen garden cookbook for Chocolate chip muffins and decided it was their time to shine - The results look stunning, rustic and melting in their fabulous Donna Hay french pleated papers. Unfortunately the flavour was a little too unusual for Husband who preferred the plain chocolate chip I made (in case of disaster!).

Even I think that next time I will reach for my favourite frozen raspberries instead - but it was fun to have a go. There's still some left in the freezer if anyone has another idea!