Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Monte Carlo cream biscuits

These biscuits are based on a manufactured brand by food company, Arnott’s.  I have no idea why they are called Monte Carlos.  Possibly a small market research focus group sat around choosing a name.  I once sat on such a team for Cadbury’s Dream (white chocolate). I imagined I’d be in choccie heaven tasting all that chocolate but after a few samples, I didn’t want to try any more.  It did not have a lasting effect however…
These are sweet biscuits sandwiched together with buttercream and raspberry jam fillings.  They could also be eaten on their own.  They’re a bit less dainty than melting moments and if I had to choose then melting moments would win.
Traditionally the biscuit shape is oval but I found it easier to take a tablespoon and make them into a round shape, as the dough was quite sticky.  You can make them smaller or larger – just adjust the cooking time. 
Fill them just before serving otherwise filled biscuits will soften up. I stored the unfilled biscuits in a plastic bag in the freezer and spooned a little buttercream and jam on two halves in the morning and had it with mid-morning coffee.  Perfect.
I find store-bought raspberry jam too cloyingly sweet so used my homemade plum jam instead and that gave a nice sharp contrast to the sweetness of the biscuits and cream filling.

Monte Carlo biscuits
185g (6oz) butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla essence
110g (1/2 cup) light brown sugar
1 egg
185g (1¼ cups) self-raising flour
110g (3/4 cup) standard flour
40g (1/2 cup) desiccated coconut
160g (1/2 cup) plum jam (raspberry is more traditional)

For the buttercream filling
60g (2 ounces) butter, softened
120g (3/4 cup) icing sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
2 teaspoons milk

Pre-heat oven to 180°C (350°F).  Grease two oven trays.

Beat the butter, vanilla and sugar in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy.   Add the egg and beat until well combined.  Sift the two flours together and add to the mixture.  Add the coconut and stir lightly to combine.

Take about a tablespoon of dough and place on the baking tray.  Leave a space of about 4cm (1½ inch) between biscuits.  Score the surface of each biscuit with a fork to rough up the surface and to flatten slightly.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes.  I baked one tray whilst preparing the second.  I always find I get better results with one tray only in the oven when it comes to biscuits. Cool on trays.

While biscuits are cooling make the buttercream filling by beating the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy.  Beat in the extract and milk. 

When biscuits are completely cold, place about one teaspoon buttercream on the middle of one biscuit and one teaspoon jam on the other.  Gently press together so jam and buttercream are visible round the edge but not spilling over.

Recipe adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly afternoon tea cookbook.  So far the recipes I’ve made from this have all turned out well.

This was a mini-version I made.
The hand is not mine!

I am heading off to Europe shortly so if family, friends and travel are not too much overload, I may get in some mini-posts!  There won’t be too much cooking going on but I’m never far from food (and coffee) of some kind.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Baking - There was a whole lotta baking going on at the weekend.  Saturday’s predicted “weather bomb” showed up as gusts of wind and showers so baking in a warm kitchen seemed the right thing to do.

I’d started a barm brack loaf the night before – just because my partner loves it. Instead of soaking the dried fruit and sugar in Earl Grey tea, I used the fragrant Kiwi Christmas Tea from NZ Live loose tea (yep, Christmas came and went without it being opened).   The smell alone was enough to convince me it would spice up the tea loaf in a good way.  And it did.  A blend of Assam tea, chocolate, orange, clove, star anise and cinnamon, with manuka leaf and pink peppercorns (wow, that’s a lot of star attractions), gave the loaf a gorgeous spicy flavour and turned it a warm reddish colour.  It may permanently replace the Earl Grey.

Next up were some Monte Carlo biscuits (more of in another post).  And following on from my stint in the kitchen, my daughter made a caramelised apple pie.  It's all going down rather well!

Appearing everywhere - Often when I‘m considering blogging about a recipe or ingredient I suddenly see that same thing occur everywhere – it’s a really strange phenomenon.  Reading The Kindness Of Your Nature by Linda Olsson (a book which I highly recommend), the main character was asked to name things she liked and one of her preferences were blood oranges.  I love the appearance of a blood orange and the name.  It conjures up something both rare and exotic, which is odd because you’d think the word “blood” would put you off.  Next thing, I was browsing the web and blood oranges were everywhere.  OK I exaggerate they were here and here and here (with mango oranges which I have never heard of).  But really, is it just coincidence that they kept cropping up, seasonal activity or something else (cue strange paranormal activity music)?

Ballet – At the opening night of NYC staged by the Royal New Zealand Ballet, I noticed there were lots of young women in the crowd.  For those who watch the behind the scenes TV programme, The Secret Lives of Dancers, Sergio has arrived and is hot!  Gasps of delight accompanied his “stripped to the waist” stroll across the stage in the second act.  This man has one hell of a body. As one tweet summed it up, “the walk alone was worth the admission price”.  Apart from the smouldering Sergio, the ballet was the best I’ve seen from the RNZ Ballet – youthful, energetic, and sexy, with some outstanding solo performances.

Updating - I’ve been removing links to blogs that haven’t posted in a while.  So if you’re missing, it’s not that I don’t love you anymore, it’s just that you’re not around.  Let me know when you’re back.