Archive for December, 2007


Mom’s Christmas Cake

May all your tables be full, your bells a-jingling and your tummies full over the holiday season, where ever you are in the world, in Summer Sun or Winter White.  The mad dash of shopping and bopping are finally done and it’s time to unwind in front of a roaring fire with some mulled wine, Christmas Pudding and those near and dear.

Christmas on Sumach 1

Christmas on Sumach 2

Christmas on Sumach 3

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Persimmon for Pudding

persimmon pudding1

So these Persimmon things and I have not had the most understanding of relationships. In fact, there seems to be a complete lack of communication and I feel rather like I do nothing but give, give, give and the persimmon does nothing but take, take, take. I was on the verge of walking out of that door forever, citing irreconcilable differences when, lo and behold, a breakthrough. Suddenly, it seemed, the Persimmon was a changed fruit, a giver not a taker and quite willing to do it’s fair share in the relationship.

The problem was, you see, that I had been buying hachiya persimmons, which have to be squishily over-ripe to be eaten, and there-in lay the seed of my trauma. No matter how many fruits I bought, all gorgeous, orange, firm and shiny, not a single one bothered with what I would consider the normal path a fruit’s life follows, namely: ripening. I put them in paper bags, in warm spots, in cool spots, with other fruit, on their own. Oh, I tried it all, and everytime the fruit would sit there, glaring at me, hard firm as a green mango until it started shriveling and turning muck. And I had just about given up hope of ever coming to terms with this intriguing fruit when I noticed a tray of persimmons in the market that looked just a little bit different to the usual bright globes. They were … Ripe! Squishy and jellyish and just sitting there in their little trays begging for some love.

So finally, here it is. A recipe I’ve been holding hopefully onto for nearly 18 months now in the hope that one day, One Fine Day, I’d meet Mr Persimmon-Perfecto. Please don’t ask me where the recipe is from: it’s been kicking around, scribbled hastily onto a piece of paper, for just too long. If anyone recognises it, do let me know so that I can pay tribute correctly as this delicious pudding deserves.

*note: the left overs are great cut into cookie-sized squares for tea time

**note: this is not strictly a pudding, but more of a cake-meets-pancake. But who’s counting, right?

persimmon pudding2

Persimmon Pudding

1 cup persimmon pulp (from 1 big, super ripe persimmon)
½ cup dark brown sugar (demerara)
1 egg
½ cup buttermilk
½ tsp bicarb
½ cup evaporated milk (from a can)
½ tsp vanilla essence
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
¼ cup vegetable oil, such as canolo

for the filling:
3 or 4 Tbsp cream cheese
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
couple drops of vanilla
honey, to taste

– preheat the oven to 325˚F. Grease 2 23cm cake tins.

– mix fruit, sugar and eggs in a large bowl.

– stir the bicarb into the buttermilk, then combine both milks together.

– mix fruit and milk mixtures, then add vanilla.

– mix the flour and the baking powder well then add to the milky fruit mix.

– lastly add the oil. Allow mixture to sit for 5 mins before baking.

– divide between 2 cake tins and bake for about 45 – 50 mins, until golden.

– the cake will rise quite dramatically then fall again, don’t worry. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.

– to finish the pudding, mix the filling ingredients, to taste, and spread between the cooled cakes.


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Crunchies are something a lot of South Africans grew up with, like Hershey’s Kisses in North America, or hot, roasted chestnuts in Europe. Yet, I never ever thought that they were in fact a purely South African treat.

“What are those?” I was often asked when giving out Cookie Gifts last year at this time.
“Crunchies. You know, like your Mum used to make.”

Blank stares all around. Which is when I discovered, with a little help from my friend Google, that the reason most people here in Toronto had never heard of a Crunchie is because they’d, well, never heard of Crunchies. Hmm. This didn’t seem right to me when I had such marvelous memories of my own Mum baking batches of them for us kids every winter and every birthday. Yummy, the smell of bubbling golden syrup, the crunchy, chewy squares we were somehow allowed to eat so many of. We never thought of them as even vaguely healthy as kids, when somehow healthy meant things like broccoli and lentils, blech, and yet, as an adult, I can see why these were the cookies our parents were so keen to get us eating. Not that they’re made of lentils, mind you, but when you compare them to so many of the other choices out there, they’re positively angelic, and getting children to eat their oats porrige … well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. So here it is, North America. Go forth and Crunch for all you’re worth. You’ll not regret it.



1½ sticks butter
2 Tbsp golden syrup (eg: Lyles)
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp bicarb
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups whole rolled oats (not the quick cook kind)
1 cup coconut
1 Tbsp orange rind, finely grated

– preheat the oven to 350˚F

– melt the butter with the sugar and syrup. Bring to the boil and as soon as it starts to bubble, add the bicarb and mix, removing from heat

– mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and add the butter mix, using your hands if need be to mix evenly.

– press the mixture into a greased roasting tin or swiss roll tin, getting the mixture to about ½ an inch thick.

– bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple minutes before cutting into squares. Allow to cool for a further 10 mins before removing from pan.


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basler brunsli

These little hearts of joy were a new thing for my cookie collection this year. This is traditional Swiss cookie-making at it’s best, if you ask me. Chocolate, cinnamon, cloves and almonds, what’s not to like? And with no butter or other fat in it, it’s a conscience-soothing nibble at this cookie-glut time of the year. Goodness, it doesn’t even use the yolk of the egg, so you have a great excuse to make real custard for your Christmas pudding this year as well. I’m just so in love with these cookies, I made two batches instead of one and intend to extend their seasonal allocation right past Christmas Nibbles on to Spring Snack and Summer Ice-cream Garnish.

A friend gave me lovely gift of fair-trade cocoa and vanilla sugar, which I used to make the second batch. Just too yummy.

basler brunsli 2

The dough can seem a little tricky the first time you make these, not being quite so doughy as crumbly, but just keep the batches you work with small, the rest in the freezer, and keep working the crumble, nutty, chocolatey mass together one cookie at a time if need be.

*note: I used turbinado (Raw) sugar for the top sprinkling because I like the slightly golden colour and the texture, but you can get large sugar crystals in all sorts and colours so don’t feel limited.

**note: for the first batch I used Callebaut Couverture, chopped up and on the second batch I got a little lazy and used Callebaut Choc Chips. I found the chips a little harder than the couverture and ended up having to warm them, along with the cocoa and spices, over a bowl of warm water until just before the chocolate started to melt in order to grind the chocolate up.

***note: if you don’t want to use the alcohol, substitute water or apple juice. Although, the actual alcohol will evaporate during cooking, so it’s perfectly fine for children. Also try using Kahlua for some fun.

basler brunsli 3

Basler Brunsli

250g good dark chocolate, 70%, chopped
⅓ cup cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
2 egg whites
¼ cup icing sugar
3 cups ground almonds
3 Tbsp Brandy or other
Course sugar for sprinkling (about ¼ cup)

– blend the chocolate, cocoa and spices in a food processor until finely ground

– add almonds and mix well

– in a large bowl, whip the eggwhites until frothy. Add the icing sugar in two batches, whipping well between additions, until firm peaks form

– fold in the chocolate-almond mix and the brandy

– form into two logs, wrap in plastic and freeze for at least 30 mins

– preheat the oven to 325˚F

– working with one batch of dough at a time, sprinkle your pastry board with sugar and roll dough out carefully over sugar until 1cm thick. Cut shapes (traditionally 2″ hearts are used) and place on a cookie tray. Sprinkle each cookie with sugar crystals, pressing slightly on each cookie to embed the sugar a little.

– bake in the oven for 18 – 20 mins

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And just as I finally turned the oven off, the skies turned the snow on and poor, dear Toronto was generously bedded down in a thick blanket of white, bringing the city to an eerie, ghostly quiet as most people stayed indoors, drinking hot beverages by the fire, no doubt. Not, I, naturellement, as I just couldn’t resist a snowy exploration. At least there’ll be a white Christmas this year, non? A perfect way to celebrate the occasion, along with all sorts of goodies and treats.

winter treats

Nothing like some mulled wine and fire-side nibbles after a Winter Walk in a Wonderland.  Will Christmas ever be the same again without the snow?






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Christmas Cookie selection

Phew! Finally I can sit down to a nice cup of tea, wipe the flour from my forehead and, more importantly, wash my apron. The poor thing is starting to look more like a piece of modern sculpture than an apron, so covered is it in flour and cookie dough and various bits of other pastry. But what a bake it was! Even though I didn’t get around to making the shortbread I wanted to, or those cheddar and rosemary crackers, my freezer is chock-a-block full of a large enough variety of Christmas Cheer. Enough to make me wonder quite seriously about that gym membership pamphlet the postman so kindly popped through my letter slot this morning. I’ll need a team of hungry elves to get through this lot!

I truly do revel in this time of year, here in the cold, white north. Each season brings its own joys and flavours, but somehow, despite my love of all things fresh in the Summer, and warm in the Autumn, it’s the Winter that puts a smile in my heart. Just put a pot of hot, mulled apple cider on the stove and I’m in heaven. I’ve always been a Winter person, loving, from an early age, the bite of cold on my cheeks and nose, and the burrowing one must do into warm woolens and snuggly sweaters. Thank goodness the somewhat more Winter-weary Mr P puts on a brave and tenacious spirit when ever I want to walk to Destination B instead of taking a warm and comfy street car because I do love a stomp in the snow. It’s the time of the year when any one can act like a child again and not risk immediate institutionalisation.

Christmas Cookie selection 2

I made this year pretty much what I made last year, in terms of cookies, which include traditional seasonal favourites like the somewhat crunchy, somewhat chewy Molasses Spice cookies; Gingerbread men with silver buttons and Royal smiles; peanut butter cookies, perfect with a glass of milk, plus a couple less traditional types like chocolate-orange harlequins, South African Crunchies and Basler Brunsli (which is currently my favourite Christmas treat).

One or two recipes to follow…


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Broccoli pepita pesto

The Christmas bake is upon us, here. My kitchen is covered in a fine and persistent film of various flours and sugars and nuts and fruits and the ever wafting air of things being baked greets the marvelous Mr P every time he comes in to see what’s what. It’s perfect weather for it too, snowy and chilly and Winter-wonderland gorgeous out there, and toasty, spicy and afternoon-napish in here. There’ve been pots and pots of hot spiced apple cider and mulled wine and steaming mugs of hot tea going around, along with many friends to keep the spirit kicking. As soon as I get a chance, I’ll post all that’s been happening, but in the mean time I thought something a little savoury was in order to cut through all that sugary yum. Here is that rather delish broccoli pesto I made for our first, fire-side dinner last week. It’s equally good on a pasta as it is stirred into leek and potato soup, or grilled with cheese on whole grain toast.

*note: only use the flowery bits of the broccoli as the stems can be a bit bitter. I kept the stems for a soup later in the week.

**note: as with most pesto’s, the ingredients are a guideline only. Add more or less of each according to your taste.

Toasting Pepitas

Broccoli and Pepita Pesto

1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 large head broccoli, florets only
⅔ cup Pepita’s (green pumpkin seeds)

¼ cup finely grated Parmesan
⅓ cup good virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

– toast the Pepita’s over a medium to high heat. Remove from heat as soon as they start to brown.

– peel the shallot and garlic and blend, along with the broccoli in a food processor until finely chopped

– fry over a medium heat until broccoli is bright green and tender, about 4-5 minutes. Allow to cool.

– chop Pepita’s in food processor. When broccoli is cool, add to Pepita’s along with cheese and process until fine. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper.

Broccoli pepita pesto 2

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