Monday, July 13, 2009

apple and caramel dumplings

The following train of thought sums up me in a nutshell. Upon wandering aimlessly into the kitchen, I think to myself:

I'm tired! It's COLD! I'm hungry. What am I making for dinner? What am I going to eat now? I want dumplings!

So dumplings is what I made. After less than 10 minutes of prep, thanks to my unnecessary-but-oh-so-useful-for-pastries food processor, I had them in the oven and starting to bubble. Oooo, the yummy gooey goodness!

apple and caramel dumplings
recipe from Donna Hay Magazine June/July 2009

2 cups self-rising flour, sifted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
150 g cold butter, chopped
1/2 cup milk
small red apples

caramel sauce:
60 g butter
1.5 cups brown sugar
2.5 cups water

Preheat oven to 180 C/320F. Make caramel sauce by placing butter, brown sugar and water in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil, then remove from heat and set aside.

Place flour, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl and stir to combine. Add the butter, using your fingertips to rub it into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs (I first whiz the ingredients without butter in the food processor to mix, then drop in the butter, pulse to mix and voila!). Gradually add the milk, stirring until a dough forms (do not use the processor for this step). Divide the dough into 6 round pieces, place into caramel mixture, and top with the apples.* Bake for 30 minutes or until the dumplings are cooked when tested with a skewer.

*I don't have a saucepan that can accommodate all this and fit in the tiny oven. I put the dumplings in a glass baking dish, quarter the apples and fit them in between the dumplings, and then I pour the caramel sauce over. This time I chose too small a dish, as the sauce bubbles and the dumplings expand, but it all works out.

Monday, June 15, 2009

cinnamon sugar-coated maple apple cakes

That name is a mouthful, but so are these:

In a word, YUM! The recipe came from the April/May 2009 issue of Donna Hay Magazine, a new discovery for me and quite a staple here Down Under. It's autumn/turning winter here, so comfort foods are increasingly on our minds (and in our bellies!). Warm baked goods have double the appeal now that it's around 60 degrees in the house. Somehow the smell makes you feel warmer before you even get to the food...not that these will let you down! These cakes are seriously delicious! Not too sweet, they make an absolutely perfect companion for a morning or afternoon cuppa. For you Northern Hemisphere folks in the early throes of summer heat, squirrel this recipe away for a few months. You will thank me in October.

cinnamon sugar-coated maple apple cakes

2.5 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
250g butter, melted (that's 2 sticks for you Americans)(I never called these health-food)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 eggs
6 red apples, peeled and grated (this amount is very ambiguous; apples I bought were big so I used 3 with great results)

2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
Place flour and cinnamon in a bowl and mix to combine.
Add butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, eggs and apple. Mix well to combine.
Spoon into greased 1 cup capacity (250mL) Bundt tins. (I used 6 larger Bundt tins and 10 regular muffin cups)
Bake for 20 minutes or until tester comes out clean.
Turn out immediately onto wire rack.
Place extra cinnamon and caster sugar in bowl and mix to combine. Coat the cakes in the cinnamon sugar and cool.
I recommend serving them slightly warm! Delicious!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fabulous chocolate birthday cake

When my gorgeous redhead girlfriend needed a cake for her son's birthday party, I quickly offered to bake it for her rather than have her order from a bakery. She had houseguests and preparations, and she knew she wouldn't get to it. The bakeries here can turn out cute cakes, but we know from experience that the flavor just isn't there. I was happy to step in, though my perfectionist side made it into a major undertaking.

I've been a long time fan of Smitten Kitchen, so I headed straight over there for recipes when my girlfriend requested a chocolate cake shaped like a drum. Smitten Kitchen raved about this chocolate cake, so I gave it a test run sans frosting early in the week. YUM! We aren't chocolate cake eaters (thus my recipe search), but this recipe could change our minds. Seriously, do yourself a favor and try it! I also turned to Smitten Kitchen for frosting ideas, since I tend to goop on a basic sugar frosting that is WAY TOO SWEET for an entire cake. She made a wedding cake with this buttercream frosting, so I knew it would behave itself and stay put for the party (Note: if I made it again, I'd add another half cup of sugar). I've never decorated a cake so carefully in my baking career, but it paid off. The frosting behaved beautifully, the cake was delicious, and thanks to Markus's drumsticks whittled out of carrots, it even looked like a drum!

I had never made/used genuine buttercream, but look at how thinly it spreads:

This was particularly good news since my girlfriend isn't a frosting fan. I was also really impressed with the cake itself. She cut thin slices, and it held up exceptionally well. It didn't crumble to bits. It held its shape without the texture being dry or dull or anything close to boring (quite the opposite!). Thanks to Smitten Kitchen for testing and sharing such great recipes!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Aloo Samosas

Since I bought my copy of Vegan Lunch Box (highly recommend it, by the way!), I have been wanting to try out the Aloo Samosas. My gorgeous friend gail introduced me to the joy that is Indian food (she is responsible for so many of my foodie inclinations!), and I am a happy convert. I do enjoy a tasty samosa, but the fried thing is a bit of a turn-off. The recipe in Vegan Lunch Box intrigued me because 1) they were samosas to make at home, 2) they were baked, and 3) their size and mild flavor might potentially appeal to my super-choosy eater. To make them lunchbox-handy, you fold up the little parcels to fit inside the individual cups in a muffin tin. Look at the result:

I gotta tell ya, this opens up a whole new world of possibilities! Look at those adorable little pies! I see so much potential for lunch box treats here. Little tiny apple pies, rhubarb pies, vegetable pot pies...oh, the baking excitement! Usually, I follow new recipes completely, so I know if I don't like them, I'll know I need to change something rather than wondering if I don't like it because of the change I preemptively made. That being said, I did find these a tad too mild for my taste. Since my super-choosy eater would have nothing to do with them, I would add more spice next time. I baked them in my usual pie crust (which is not vegan; I adore butter). An adaptation I would make is adding an extra half teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of cumin to the crust itself. Our local Indian restaurant rolls their samosas in cumin salt for a super-yummy (though overly salty) result. I initially did the same and ended up knocking as much off again as I could, thus the adaption to include it in the crust.

By the way, although Ellie wouldn't touch these, Markus was a HUGE fan. Between the two of us, we polished off 10 of the 12 yesterday. Yum!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas dinner

This year, I wanted to make something special but not difficult. Turning holiday meals into an ordeal inhibits enjoyment for me and for my family. Everyone wants to help and I just want them to go away so I can work work work, which is not at all the spirit I like to cultivate at this or any time of year. With my mighty principles in mind, I had no idea what I wanted to cook for our Christmas meal and waited for inspiration. It came on December 22nd during a trip to the local upscale grocery store. I spied a bottle of pomegranate molasses on the shelf and remembered coming across a fabulous-looking recipe that called for it once while I was living in The Hague. At the time, I had no clue where I might find pomegranate molasses (I struggled to find baking soda!), so I dismissed the recipe...but the ingredient name stuck. And here it was. Of course I bought it and brought it home, where I turned to epicurious to find what I could do with it. I came across this recipe, and Christmas Eve dinner was planned! I served it with baby spinach tossed in balsamic vinaigrette with sultanas and cashews and we enjoyed some local cleanskins Classic White wine. This was definitely fancy enough for a special occasion without being painful in the least to prepare. My only suggestion is go easy on the pomegranate molasses. It has quite a tangy bite, which some may love but others may not.

Crisp Cheese-Filled Eggplant Sandwiches with Pomegranate Molasses
Bon Appétit | September 2003
by chef Brenda Langton
Cafe Brenda, Minneapolis, MN

Pomegranate molasses is sold at Middle Eastern markets and some supermarkets; panko is in many supermarkets' Asian foods aisle.
Yield: Makes 4 servings

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
5 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup water
1 large long eggplant, cut crosswise into sixteen 1/3-inch-thick rounds

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
4 ounces coarsely grated sharp provolone cheese (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Pomegranate molasses

Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray, then brush each with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Mix panko, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl. Place flour in another medium bowl. Whisk egg and 1/4 cup water in shallow bowl. Coat each eggplant slice with flour; shake off excess, then dip into egg mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Coat with panko. Place on prepared sheets. Bake until bottoms are golden brown, turning once, about 12 minutes per side. Cool slightly on sheets. Maintain oven temperature.
Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Cool slightly. Mix in both cheeses, parsley, and basil. Season with pepper.
Divide cheese mixture among 8 eggplant slices on 1 baking sheet; spread to cover. Top with remaining eggplant, pressing to compact and making 8 sandwiches. Bake until eggplant is crisp, about 15 minutes. Divide sandwiches among 4 plates; drizzle with pomegranate molasses.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I've been a bit of a pancake connoisseur lately, sampling the pancakes at various local cafes. Brekky is a popular meal to eat out, and many cafes serve breakfast all day. I had been in raptures over the pancakes at Vans in Cottesloe. Those are served with slices of banana between the warm pancake layers...but the real key is the citrus butter melting over the top. This weekend, I tried eat cafe's crepe-like pancakes, topped with toasted coconut and maple syrup and served with thinly sliced fruit salad (strawberries, bananas, pears, and melon) in between the layers. Look at how beautiful:

I ate every bite! And I am taking notes, adapting my own pancakes at home to reflect the deliciousness I find while out. Citrus butter is super easy! Just mix freshly squeezed orange juice with melted butter and let the butter re-solidify in the fridge, stirring occasionally so they won't separate. Give it a try, and I promise you will be happy you did!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I am immensely proud of having made bagels, and good bagels too! These take more time than the bread, but if you like bagels, I say it's worth it! Both of our girls are big bagel fans, so this recipe is a great discovery for us. Bagels are good on the go, and they are extra-handy for a baby who wants to feed herself (and wants to eat constantly). In fact, we read once in a bagel place that bagels were created as bread for babies, because the ring shape is easy for them to grasp. Who knew?

Again, I followed a recipe from Feed Me I'm Yours by Vicki Lansky, and again I added wheat germ and dry milk. My biggest tip is add the flour carefully! I mixed the dry ingredients in a bowl (4 cups of flour plus the add-ins) and planned to add them gradually to the wet, only to have the whole contents shift half-way through my "gradual adding" and slide right into my other bowl...creating a very hard, very lumpy wad-o'-dough that went in the bin. Sigh. Lesson learned! You'll also see in the photo that some of the bagels got quite brown. The ovens here are TINY, and the baking sheet you see goes from wall to wall. One dozen bagels is all I can make in one go, but lemme tell ya...they're almost already gone!


1.5 cups warm water (105-110F)
1 package dry yeast
1 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar or honey (I used super-fine raw sugar)
4-6 cups flour (white, whole-wheat or a combo)(I used all whole-wheat)
1 egg
poppy or sesame seeds (optional)(I omitted)

In a large bowl, mix warm water with yeast. Add salt and sugar (or honey). Cover bowl with a damp cloth and let stand 5 minutes. Gradually add flour until a soft-to-medium (but not stiff) dough is obtained. Knead on a lightly floured board (5-10 minutes) until shiny and smooth, adding a little more flour as necessary for kneading. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until dough is doubled (about 30 minutes). Punch down and knead lightly.

To form into bagels, roll out approximately 1/4 cup of dough into a strand about 7 inches long and pinch the ends together firmly. Place bagels fairly close together on a floured board or baking sheet. Cover and let rise again (about 30 minutes) in a warm, draft-free place.

Bring about 5 inches of water to boil in a fairly large, open pot/kettle. Turn the heat down to simmer. When bagels have risen, gently lift one at a time and drop into simmering water. Turn them immediately and simmer for about 2 minutes until puffy but not disintegrating. Several bagels may be put into the water at one time, but do not crowd the pan. Remove the bagels to a towel-covered rack to drain and cool while you boil the next batch.

Place the cooled bagels on a greased baking sheet. They can be close together. Beat the egg briefly with 1 Tablespoon of water and brush the mixture over the tops of the bagels. Sprinkle with seeds if using. Bake for 30-40 minutes.