Sunday, May 27, 2012

breakfast in a bar

No, breakfast in a bar is not about having your first meal of the day in a drinking establishment, even if some days it might seem like a good idea.  Although you could call it brunch and then a glass or two of bubbly is acceptable and that’s what I sipped today at our Auckland food blogger catch up brunch, hosted by Allison, Pease Pudding, way out west in Muriwai.  Thanks Allison for a relaxing Sunday morning at your home.  Particularly pleased to meet Food Opera’s Ingrid and Vanessa’s lovely new babies who led us to believe that motherhood is all coffee and cake and sleeping babies.  But hey, they didn’t fool us – we know what they get up to at home.

My contribution to the brunch was these muesli bars.  If muesli means “healthy” to you, think again.  These bars tip the other end of the scale, in more ways than one, so you have been warned.  On the other hand, if you like sweet, sticky buttery goodness, crammed with fruit and nuts and crispness, say hello to these.

The recipe states it makes 12 bars.  They must be giant sized as I managed 30 portions of 4cm x 6.5cm bars (a reasonable-sized bar, I thought).  Halve the recipe, if you don’t want so many.

muesli bars

Adapted slightly from a recipe in the lovely The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.

320g unsalted butter
240ml golden syrup
250g soft brown sugar
250g rolled porridge oats
200g desiccated coconut
100g dried apricots, chopped finely
85g dried dates, chopped finely
125g cornflakes
125g sunflower seeds
60g dried cranberries
60g raw almonds, chopped
60g raw brazil nuts, chopped
125g raisins

Line a 33 x 23 x 5cm baking tin or tray with greaseproof paper.

Gently heat the butter, golden syrup and brown sugar in a saucepan, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. 

In a large bowl, mix the porridge oats, coconut, apricots, dates, cornflakes, sunflower seeds, cranberries, almonds, brazil nuts and raisins until it is well mixed. 

Pour in the liquid mixture and stir to combine thoroughly, making sure all the ingredients are evenly coated in the liquid.

Press the mixture into the baking tin or tray and level with a spoon (I used a stainless steel rolling pin to flatten and compress it).  Cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper, then a tray, covered with weights (I used filled tins e.g. baked beans) to further compress the mix

Leave to cool, then refrigerate overnight.

Cut into bars or squares.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mini black forest gâteaux

I feel I am just settling back in after almost five weeks away overseas.  It’s always exciting to get back and to relate stories and experiences to willing friends, but after a couple of weeks the memories start to fade into the background.  Food is one way of keeping memories alive.  I’ve been thinking of Black Forest gâteau since my return.  I don’t know why except to say it used to be something my father made when we were younger and it was grand and delicious.  I want to say this is for you, Dad, to say thank you and happy birthday.

I’ve taken this gâteau and kind of deconstructed it into a slightly simpler cake.  It's light and airy but still packed with cherry and chocolate flavour.

Use Texas muffin pans for the recipe and size featured.  The traditional cake is flavoured with Kirsch, a cherry brandy.  I omitted this only because I didn’t have any so please use it if you have some to give it its’ true flavour.

Mini black forest gâteaux

90g butter, softened
165g caster sugar
3 eggs, separated
55g self-raising flour
35g cocoa powder
1 tablespoon milk

Ganache topping
¼ cup cream
110g dark chocolate, chopped

½ cup cream
1 425g tin stoneless black cherries
or use fresh cherries in season
a small splash of Kirsch liqueur (optional)

Makes 6 large (Texas) muffin size cakes

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.  Grease the Texas muffin tray. 

Beat the softened butter, caster sugar and egg yolks with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  

Sift the flour and cocoa together and fold into the egg mixture, along with the milk. 

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with an egg beater or electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the cake mixture until just incorporated.

Divide the cake mixture between the muffin tray and bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the chocolate sponges spring back when lightly pressed with fingertips and a metal skewer inserted in the middle is clean.

Stand for 5 minutes then using a plastic spatula gently loosen the sponges around the edges of each cake. Turn the pan upside down onto a wire rack and tap against the bench once or twice to loosen the sponges onto the rack. 

While the sponges are cooling, make the chocolate ganache by heating the cream in a saucepan until it is boiling.  Remove from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate.  Stir the chocolate until it is smooth.   Put aside to cool – it will thicken as it cools.  If it thickens too much, warm it gently over simmering water in a pan (without the bowl touching the water).

With the sponges turned upside down (the widest part being the bottom of the cake i.e. an upside down muffin), use a sharp, serrated knife to slice the cakes in half horizontally.

Whip the second measure of cream to just slightly-firmish peaks (don’t go too firm).  Drain as many of the cherries as you want to use and fold them gently into the cream, along with the Kirsch (if using).  Save some cherries for decoration.

Spread some cherries and cream filling onto the bottom half of the cake and press down with the top so that the cream and cherries show around the middle of the cake. 

Using a palette knife, spread the chocolate ganache over the top of the cake. Decorate with two cherry halves or shaved chocolate.

This cake is my entry for Sweet New Zealand, hosted this month by the lovely Jemma at Time for a Little Something.  See here for more details.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Oh Fudge…

…that was my reaction when daughter gave me short notice to “bring a plate” (a quaint New Zealand expression which means one is requested to bring a plate of food to the event one is attending) to her pre-ball party on Saturday. 

My head was in a vague place from jet lag, having just returned the previous day from a 5-week visit to the UK and Europe. I spent a while woozily leafing through cookbooks for something easy and fast. Then I looked at a tin – a can of condensed milk actually, which directed me to the Nestlé website where I found this recipe for caramel fudge, and altered only slightly.

I can’t believe I was brave enough to try fudge, as the previous attempt had a certain “undissolved sugar” taste. I hadn’t simmered and stirred the mixture long enough. But courageous I was (or stupid with Circadian rhythm sleep disorder?). It worked well. Creamy, caramelly – and addictive. Thankfully when we left the party I only had to collect the plate (you do get the plate back!). I’m not sure that it’s good etiquette to keep digging into your own contribution to the table?

I said earlier that I was back. I had the most wonderful time in each and every place I went to and soon I will write a little about it. I miss the fun and laughter of having family and friends around; the nightly games of Scrabble and walking, walking, walking, always with something to see.

The sun is out for the first time in five days, the reds and golds of autumn are deep now and it is so peaceful to be home. I have a heart in both places I know as home - Edinburgh and here. It’s good to be back.

caramel fudge

125g butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 x 395g can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup brown sugar
100g white chocolate, broken into squares (I used Whittaker’s Smooth White Chocolate)

Melt butter in a saucepan. 
Add golden syrup, condensed milk and brown sugar.
Stir over low heat until boiling, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat, add white chocolate pieces and mix until smooth.
Pour into foil lined 7cm x 25cm bar pan, refrigerate until set. 
When set, cut into squares.

Recipe slightly adapted from one at