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Archive for the ‘baked goods’ Category

Okay. I’m sorry for the awful pun. Although, I know that once you taste this scrumptious little mound of deliciousness you’ll forgive me in an instant. I’ve been holding on to this little gem for a while now, not because I didn’t want to share, but because it somehow, as things occasionally do in the manic digital mayhem that can be our lives, got lost in the ether, so to speak. Having finally surfaced from wherever it is that pear puddings go to holiday, I’m finally getting around to sharing it. This pudding seemed to be thwarted at so many points in it’s short life at it’s time in the lime light. Having been originally made to appear as a piece de resistance at the end of one of more decadent dinners the ever fabulous Mr P and I hosted, it was politely refused it’s place of glory when a second dessert appeared, as if by magic, in the hands of one of our guests. Not having been the first time a guest has brought a dessert to the table (and let me tell you, what a dessert it was! A pear pudding knows when to gracefully bow out to superior forces) I was well versed at organising a suitable Sunday Tea for the consumption of said pudding. However, a pear pudding’s prime not being as long as Madonna’s, a new set of Tea Guests were sadly disappointed with a somewhat dry, if tasty, bit of pud. Not to be out done, Pear Pudding was dutifully recreated to it’s original glory and enjoyed by all. I love a happy ending, don’t you?

Having the visual idea in my head of what I wanted my pear pudding to look like, but no recipe to follow or adapt, I did the next best thing and combined a couple of different recipe’s. I used the basics from a Women’s Weekly Pear Tart Tatin (from their New French Food cookbook) to caramelise the pears and a basic pudding recipe for the rest (thanks grandma). Best served with clotted cream.

Caramelised Pear Pudding

for the caramel pears
3 large Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
90g butter
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup cream

for the pudding batter
½ cup butter, softened
⅓ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon

– slice the pears length ways into 1cm (½”) wide slices, keeping their peary shape. Keep the middle, pear shaped slices whole and chop the remaining bits into cubes. You need about 10 of the pear shaped slices for the sides of the pudding basin.

– heat the butter, sugar and cream slowly in a large, heavy based saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pear slices and chopped bits to the caramel and bring to the boil.

– simmer over a low heat, turning the pears every so often, for about 25 minutes, until the pears are tender. Remove from heat, drain pears from caramel, reserving sauce.

– preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease a 500ml pudding basin

– for the batter, beat the butter and sugar until creamy.

– beat in the eggs, one at a time.

– sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add to the egg mixture and mix until just incorporated.

– stir in small, chopped pear pieces

– line your greased pudding bowl with the pear shaped slices, alternating head to toe. Us two slices to line the bottom of the basin. (chop up any remaining pieces and add to pudding batter.)

– coat the pears in half the reserved caramel.

– fill the basin with pudding mixture and top with the rest of the caramel sauce.

– bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 35 minutes (checking often after 25 mins) until set in the middle.

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You know the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemon aide”, well my philosophy in life runs in the same vein: When the banana’s of your life turn black, make banana bread.” Which is my way of saying, when life’s being a little rough with you, eat cake. Also, it ties in rather neatly with my Waste-not-want-not upbringing. For a change, however, it being The Season of Great Changes and all, I eschewed all things expected and made something a little crazier. When asked to provide, and I quote, A Simple, No Fuss (with a pointed raised eyebrow, Ms Vickers) Dessert for an evening of screaming and gasping over the new series of Battlestar Galactica, what better remedy to such an unnatural request than brownies; and with those last two, very black banana’s staring at me from the bottom of the dusty fruit bowl, what else could I do but provide Banana Chocolate Brownies? These turned out to be a bit drier than my normal brownie recipe, which I usually diligently obey Nigella’s instruction on, but that made them just perfect with a big, yummy scoop of banana ice-cream.

*note: I put a cup of walnuts on top of the mixture before baking to make a walnut-like crust, but go ahead and mix them into the batter before baking. Ditto with the white choc chips, or go super wild and use dark choc chips for extra punch.

Banana Chocolate Brownies

adapted from The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

80 ml butter (⅓ cup)
185g dark chocolate, chopped (I used a mix of 60 and 70%)
150ml sugar (⅔ cup)
2 eggs
Heaping, oozing ½ cup mashed, ripe banana (the blacker the better)
2 tsp Vanilla
150ml flour (⅔ cup)
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
¼ cup white chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, broken up

– pre-heat oven to 350˚F

– line an 8″ square baking tin (or equivalent)

-in a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt chocolate and butter. Let cool a bit, then whisk in the sugar.

– in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the banana and vanilla. Add to the chocolate mix.

– whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, sift into chocolate and mix well.

– scraped into baking tin, top with nuts.

– bake for about 30 mins until set in the middle. Remove from oven, top with white chocolate chips and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before cutting.

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Manicotti Spinach Ricotta

Manicotti are much larger than cannelloni and therefore much, much easier to stuff.  Personally, I approach the whole stuffing process with joyless abandon.  Not for me the delicate process of cake forks and backs of teaspoons to get the stuffing in the tubes; it’s a roll up the sleeves, hands in the bowl affair in my kitchen.  Although, I must confess, it was the ever resourceful Mr P who beat the prissy out of me one afternoon and a cannelloni stuffing competition, which he won hands down, if you’ll forgive the pun and since then I’ve followed his example.

This is a lighter version of the usual pasta al fourno, foregoing the buttery bechemel in favour of an extra wop of tomato sauce.  And that tomato sauce comes out of a jar, mind you.  I don’t think I’ll be the type to be making bathtubs of my own tomato sauce any day soon and a good quality jar of ye olde tomato sauce does the trick perfectly.

*I used provolone on the top because it’s what I had on hand, but a good mozzarella would be wonderful as well.

** This recipe makes a full lasagna dish worth, enough for 4 – 6 people, so divide proportionately if you want, although it makes great left overs and freezes well too.

Manicotti Spinach Ricotta2

Spinach and Ricotta Manicotti with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives 

Olive oil
1 Onion (I used spanish red) finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch spinach (about 250g), washed and chopped
¼ tsp Garam Masala
½ tsp Nutmeg
10 sundried tomatoes (in oil), drained and chopped
2 Tbsp ground flax
⅓ cup black olives, chopped (I used little nicoise)
½ cup pine nuts
500g ricotta, drained
salt and white pepper to taste
1 jar tomato pasta sauce (I used tomato and basil)
provolone and parmesan, grated – enough to cover dish

– heat olive oil in a large skillet and saute onions and garlic until tender. Add spices and cook until fragrant.

– add spinach in batches, to reduce size, and saute until wilted.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.

– transfer spinach mix to a large mixing bowl, add tomatoes, flax, olives, pine nuts and mix well.

– mix in ricotta with a wooden spoon, breaking it up as you go to form a creamy mess.  Season to taste.

– butter a large casserole or lasagna dish and pre-heat the oven to 350˚F

– spread about ⅓ tomato sauce on bottom of dish.

– stuff each manocotti with spinach filling and place on tomato sauce base.  Continue until dish is full.

– top dish with the rest of the tomato sauce and top with the two cheeses.

– bake in the oven for 45 mins, until pasta is tender.

Manicotti Spinach Ricotta3

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Pear Patina

A small group of friends gathers now and then, on a rotation of residence basis, to toast a toast and marvel at each others themed cooking. You might remember a colourful affair a while back. We’ve had a lemon theme and a Childhood Memories evening, where we reminisced about such delights as Three Bean Salad, Tuna Casserole, Mac ‘n Cheese and Pineapple Upside-down Cake. The latest exploration was for Roman Food, and my, did we eat like Caesars, one and all. With stuffed grape leaves, and large, fragrantly cooked dishes of lentils and beans and cauliflower we stuffed ourselves just short of, well, you know…

A little space was left, thankfully, for dessert. Pear Patina, voila. Simply put, a sublime, slightly fragrant and utterly pear-y baked custard served with a white wine honey sauce. Perhaps this is what the Hun was looking for on his little trip through Rome? Thank goodness something is helping me get out of my cooking funk. The fresh, sweet taste of pears in this velvety concoction, after such a beautiful and flavoursome meal, has refreshed my cooking soul a bit.

Poached pears

Roman Pear Patina

2 large, ripe Bosc pears
500ml white wine
2 eggs
½ cup cream
½ cup milk
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp white pepper
pinch black pepper
1 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp best Olive oil

For the honey sauce:

2 big, oozing Tbsp honey
¼ cup white wine

– poach the pears, whole, in the white wine in a heavy based saucepan for 20 – 25 mins, or until very tender, turning the pears every few minutes.

– preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease and sugar a 500ml Pudding basin (or souffle dish/caserole)

– allow the pears to cool slightly before pealing and coring them. Mash/process the pears until smooth.

– beat the eggs and add to the pear pulp along with the cream, milk, cardamom, peppers, honey and olive oil.

– Pour mixed batter into pudding basin and bake for about 25 minutes until golden on top, but still jiggly in the middle.

– To make the sauce, warm the honey until it’s quite liquid, add the wine and mix.

– best served slightly warm.

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Fruitcake Bread and butter pud 1

Somehow, after all’s been said and done, after all the post-fest pickings and snackings and nibblings, there remains a large piece of Fruit Cake from the Christmas feasting, sitting sleepily on the counter. Now, I realise that fruit cake and Christmas Pud will keep until the next Snowy Season (indeed, traditionally, the top tier of a wedding cake is kept safe and sound for the celebration of the Christening of the first chile) but in all honesty, who would want to eat last year’s fruit cake, thrifty though it may be? One, surely, wants to experience the joy of Christmas baking afresh every year, non? Besides, isn’t it enough already? Out with the old to make way for the new, is my motto this week. My cupboard is starting to feel like that one house on the corner which keeps it’s Christmas lights up until the middle of February. I have a bit here and a bob there left over (still!) from the revelries of the fattening season and they must go, people! Fruit Cake, piles of odds and ends in the dried fruit ‘n nuts department and a quarter jar of boozy fruit mincemeat, as well as one last little Christmas Pud, which somehow escaped being given away or eaten at home. It’s time for the Christmas Spring clean.

Fruitcake Bread and butter pud 2

Christmas Fruit Cake Bread and Butter Pudding

4 – 6 slices fruit cake (or any other robust left over cakeiness)
4 Tbsp fruit mincemeat
Butter, about 2 Tbsp
1 egg
1 cup milk
nutmeg

-Preheat the oven to 325˚F and butter a 500ml pudding bowl (or a casserole if you prefer)

– beat the egg with the milk in a small bowl

– arrange slices of fruit cake in the dish, then dollop teaspoons of mincemeat around the slices.

– dot with butter and pour over the eggy milk mixture. Sprinkle with Nutmeg

– let the pudding sit for about 3 minutes before baking in the oven for 40 mins

– enjoy with cream or custard, preferable in front of a happy little fire with your feet on the coffee table. Mmmm. Leftovers.

Fruitcake Bread and butter pud 3

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Pizza rustica 1

Hello? Why, Hello! It’s been such a while since I last saw you, have you changed your hair? Yes, as you’ve no doubt guessed, life has been busy. But when isn’t it, and is that ever excuse enough for complete and utter neglect? I think not. Be that as it may, I have been somewhat distracted by other tasks, though here I am again, cooking it up and sharing what I can. Right! Lets get this year on the road! Lets finally, three weeks in, Whoop it up for 2008. Hope it’s cooking.

As a little make-up kiss, I give you a dish that sets my mouth to watering every time I think about it. It’s a dish that’s rich and warm and comforting and the perfect meal for that lazy, hazy, feet on the couch time between Christmas Feasting and New Year Bashing. Also, note to self for next year, would be perfect as a New Year Day Bash Recovery Unit. The recipe is from that Matron of the Mixing Bowl, Nigella, though I tinkered here and adapted there to come up with something better suited to a Dutch Father-in-law and a bacon-loving Mother-in-law. Also, I might add with a pat on my own back, I had enough foresight to pre-make the pastry during my initial Christmas Baking Bonanza in mid-December, which took a lot of the effort out on the day. Handy when you’re trying to keep guests vaguely entertained at the same time as cook up a brunch.

*Use a 23cm Springform Pan to make the pie.

Pizza rustica 2

Pizza Rustica a la Paesi Bassi

For the Pastry:
250g plain flour
1 stick (125g) butter, cold, cut into 1cm pieces
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp iced water
1 heaped tsp salt
1 Tbsp caster sugar

For the filling:
75g Luganega (Italian Pork Sausage)
1 Tbsp Olive oil
250g ricotta, drained
50g smoked provolone, diced
125g dutch Gouda, diced
50g freshly grated parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Italian Parsley, finely chopped
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
100g mortadello, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper
1 heaped Tbsp dry breadcrumbs

For the glaze:
1 egg yolk
2Tbsp milk

large pinch fleur de sel

Make the pastry:
– put the flour and butter in a dish in the freezer for 10 minutes. While this is chilling, mix the egg yolks, water and salt in a small bowl.

– When the butter is thoroughly chilled, add the sugar to the bowl and rub the butter into the flour and sugar until it resembles something between damp sand and oats porridge. Little lumps of butter are a good thing, you don’t want to overwork the butter into the flour.

– Add the egg/water mix and gently mix with your hands until the dough just comes together. It should still be a somewhat loose and crumble.

– Tip the pastry out and work it together with your hands to form one lump, more or less. Divide the dough into two parts: one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each in cling wrap and refrigerate.

Make the filling:
– Place a baking tray in the oven and pre-heat it to 400˚F

– Skin the Luganega, heat the oil in a skillet and fry the sausage meat for about 5 minutes, breaking it up as you cook it. Allow to cool

– Mix all the ingredients, including luganega, except the bread crumbs in a large bowl until well combined.

Assemble:
– Roll out the larger of the pastries to line the bottom and sides of your greased springform pan, allowing for an overhang. Sprinkle the bottom of the pastry wit the dried bread crumbs, then add the rest of the filling mixture.

– Roll out the smaller pastry large enough to cover the tin with an overhang. Roll up the two overhangs to seal the pie and press with prongs of a fork.

– glaze with the eggy milk mix and stab here and there with a fork to make air vents. Sprinkle the top with fleur de sel.

– bake for 10 minutes at 400˚F, then turn the oven down to 180˚F and bake for a further 45 minutes.

– Allow the pie to cool for 15 minutes before serving, although it’s excellent cold as well.

Pizza rustica 3
 

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Crunchies1

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.

Crunchies3

Crunchies

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.

crunchies2

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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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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…

xxx

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French Lentils

We haven’t had a housewarming, per se yet. But we decided last week that something was needed to make our house feel like home. And I also needed something to kick start the kitchen a little. A Winter Dinner was quickly put together, some friends asked around and the fire was lit in the hearth. With Winter having arrived a little earlier than I think we were expecting, the meal was warm and comforting, with loads of winter veg and a little bit of chocolatey goodness to help it all along the way. We started off with a Chestnut and Onion Soup, which is a traditional French soup and neither too hearty not too brothy; followed by a main course of Filo baskets filled with Beetroot, Butternut and Onion, topped with a Broccoli and Pepita pesto and accompanied with a variation of the divine Deb’s Curried Lentils and Sweet potatoes and some fresh Cherry Tomatoes. But my favourite bit was, of-course, dessert, as it so very often is. Le Dessert was a miniaturised variation of Nigella’s Nutella cake, topped with a precious marron glacè and swathed in a white chocolate and saffron ganache. Oh, yum. The little cakes were warm from the oven and slightly sticky on the inside. Chocolate heaven. Mmmmm.

An no, I’m afraid I’m not going to give you the recipe’s this time. I have Christmas Stuff to do! My, it’s busy this time of year. Instead, here are some temptingly yummy pictures to water your mouth over a little.

Fireside dinner 1

 

Fireside dinner 1

 

Fireside dinner 3

 

 

 

 

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