Pink Grapefruit, Brown Butter and Bay Leaf Cakes

Pink Grapefruit, Brown Butter and Bay Leaf Cakes

(Pink Grapefruit, Brown Butter and Bay Leaf Cakes)

There are no flowers in my garden at the moment. Zilch. Not from lack of trying, mind you. It’s just that everything feels as though it has come to a standstill. I could blame Winter, or I could just feel a bit grateful that the nasturtiums, lovage and bay tree are still moderately flourishing despite my attempts at love (read : possible over watering).

The bay tree is probably the oldest survivor of our garden. A gift from my mom many years ago, it has proven useful in flavouring soups and stews, as well as custards, ice-cream and cakes like the ones below. A few fresh bay leaves are even said to be the prescribed natural remedy for preventing an infestation of weevils in your kitchen cupboards.

Pink Grapefruit, Brown Butter and Bay Leaf Cakes

Despite the lack of flowers, it’s hard to begrudge Winter its lack of colour when there are pears and quinces to poach and all manner of citrus fruits to eat and bake with. Left with a single pink grapefruit languishing in the fruit bowl on our kitchen counter, I decided to turn it into a batch of small cakes. The cakes are pretty easy to put together, and can be customised to suit the season (blueberries in Summer, cherry blossoms in Spring..).

Pink Grapefruit, Brown Butter and Bay Leaf Cake

Pink grapefruit, brown butter and bay leaf cakes :
(makes 12 little cakes)

110g unsalted butter
3 bay leaves
3 large eggs
180g plain Greek-style yoghurt
finely grated zest of 1 large pink grapefruit
225g plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of sea salt
170g caster sugar

Grease a 12-hole mini bundt tray. Preheat oven to 170’C.

Brown the butter with the 3 bay leaves. Strain, discarding the solids. You should have 80g of bay leaf-infused brown butter. Allow to cool a little before using.

In a large bowl, combine the plain flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown butter, eggs, yoghurt and grapefruit zest, and add this to the dry ingredients. Mix well. Pipe mixture into the greased bundt tray. Bake for 18-20 minutes. The cakes should spring back when lightly pressed.

Unmould the cakes and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Make a drizzly icing with icing sugar and some of the juice from the pink grapefruit (to make the icing more pink, tint it with beetroot powder) and decorate the cakes with as much or as little icing as you please. Finish by dusting with bay leaf powder (dry a handful of fresh bay leaves in a low oven for 10-15 minutes until crisp. Blend to a powder in a spice grinder).

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A trip to Wellington, then a soup and a scone.

Every time I travel to New Zealand, it feels as though I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and ended up in a place that might not be physically that far away, yet seems worlds apart from my daily life. Paradise, perhaps? Last week, paradise was Wellington, at the southern tip of the North Island of New Zealand. A place where you’re seemingly only one block away from good coffee, great food, and plenty of scenery to inhale.

If you ever find yourself there, I would recommend a walk around the bay, or a trip to Somes Island, which is a mere 20 minutes away by boat. Or steel yourself with a breakfast burrito from Fidel’s Cafe or Floriditas’ eggs on toast before a hike up Mt. Wellington, then come back down in anticipation of dinner at Ortega Fish Shack. On Sundays, both the City Market and Harbourside Market are great places to visit for a self-styled breakfast degustation. If it’s feijoa season, you can get the sweet, perfumed fruit at the markets for as little as $2/kg. And if it rains too much and you want to stay dry, the Wellington City Library has a collection of graphic novels that would rival most actual book stores. Which is exactly my idea of an indoor paradise.

Now that we’re back home and the weather has gotten a little cooler, I’ve started thinking about soups and braises for dinner. While we were away, I came across a recipe by Dean Brettschneider for sweet plaited scones which I’d planned to make over the weekend. Somehow that never eventuated and one evening, to accompany a hot bowl of roasted cauliflower soup, we had these savoury scone loaves instead.

The scone dough is quick to make, since it precludes the proving time required with yeasted loaves, and is easily adapted to include a range of fillings; both sweet and savoury. For our dinner, I made one with herb and cheese, and another with Branston pickle and cheese. Both were equally well received.

Plaited Scone Loaves :
(makes 2 small plaits; adapted from a recipe by Dean Brettschneider from Global Baker)

380g plain flour
pinch of sea salt
25g baking powder
60g soft unsalted butter
1 egg
190g milk

In a bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Rub the butter into the flour mixture, then add the egg and milk and gently combine to form a dough. Divide the dough in 2 portions.

Roll the first portion into a rectangle roughly 30cm long x 20cm wide, with the longest side facing you. Spread a thin layer of soft butter (1-2 tablespoons) over the dough then sprinkle your filling of choice over the dough, leaving a 1cm border all around. Roll the dough up tightly, pressing the ends together. Cut the roll in half, lengthways. With both cut sides facing upwards, intertwine the two strands of sliced dough to form a simple plait. It will look a little like this. Place the plait on a greased or lined baking tray. Repeat the above with the second portion of dough.

Preheat 175’C oven, then bake the plaits for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

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An update on the kids

A long overdue update on a couple of kids

Another thing to love about the warmer weather : suddenly all the plants on my balcony that looked like they were on the verge of death during Winter, have sprung to life. Can’t wait to have.. erm.. a tomato, snow pea, and spring onion salad!

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