Rainy day baking

(Tangerine shaped pineapple tarts)

We have been experiencing a lot of wet weather in Sydney this week. A recurring theme for our dwindling Summer that makes it seem as though our world has gone completely umbrellas!

So I’m stuck at home, wishing I’d invested in a good pair of gumboots because my favourite sneakers have more holes in them than the plot of a Michael Bay movie. But at least there is tea, and books, an iPod and some sweet pineapple tarts. By the way, I’m rereading Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections and subsequently rediscovering what an immense book it is.

As for the tarts, it didn’t take long after I first made them, to clue in to the fact that the amount of time required to patiently roll each tart compared to how quickly they were dispatched into willing mouths (mostly mine), was grossly disproportionate. So I stopped making them. And yet, it is these slushy, puddle filled days that are surprisingly perfect for rejecting quick-fix bakes to try something more time consuming but potentially more rewarding.

The recipe is the same one posted here several years ago. All you need to do now is wait for the rain. Then open the windows, let the smell of soggy lawns drift in, and spend an afternoon making these little tarts. Perhaps even have your favourite podcast playing in the background. Mine is currently NPR’s Fresh Air. What’s yours?

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Having your cake and eating your tart too


(Ananastaart : Pineapple Tart)

Brown food, it has to be acknowledged, is not the easiest thing to capture in enticing light. For someone who bakes, golden brown is probably one of the most attractive colours you could pull out of the oven. But for someone who also tries to take pictures of their baked goods, the same colour can be quite challenging to make look appetising.

I’ve noticed that I bake a lot of brown things, and that’s probably why I end up baking more than I blog. Let’s just say, for the majority of the time, I’d rather be eating than trying to take pictures of brown food 🙂


(Engadiner Nusstorte : Swiss Walnut and Toffee Pie)

This Engadiner Nusstorte, made a week ago, was so delicious that I struggled to hang on to that last piece in order to take a picture. Early on in the week, I sternly pointed to the remaining slice in it’s plastic container, declaring to B that it was Strictly Photo Pie, so Hands Off. Even so, I managed to secretly (I think) shave bits off the slice until it was nearly in danger of becoming non-existent. Not long after a picture was finally taken and the pie was relegated back to Edible status, the slice disappeared.

The reason why I was so adamant about taking a picture this time was because I wanted to highlight a cookbook I bought recently, that has rapidly become one of my current favourites : Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra.

I love a cookbook that respects baking audiences enough to use not only cup measures, but also weight measures in grams and ounces. It also scores highly with me if it happens to feature a collection of interesting pictures, and not just ones that have been styled to the hilt. For example, check out p301 to see how kataifi pastry is traditionally made.

It also extends beyond what you’d expect from a typical baking book. There are none of the usual suspects here – no chocolate brownies or endless variations on a single cupcake recipe. Instead, Warm Bread and Honey Cake plays host to a fantastic collection of unusual recipes such as a pink-tinted Caribbean coconut roll (Salara), Chilean layered ‘drunken’ apple cake (Kuchen Borracho), Chinese steamed red bean buns, a whole chapter on Turkish sweets and savouries, and many lovely looking Dutch recipes (the author also has a book on Dutch baking called Windmills in my Oven).

Not to mention the pineapple cake tart above either. Cake and tart in one hit? What’s not to like? It was delicious, but perhaps slightly overshadowed by the power of a pie that encases nuts and toffee in a single breath. The recipe for the pie is below.

Swiss Walnut and Toffee Pie :
(Engadiner Nusstorte or Bündner Nusstorte, from Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra)

Pastry :
300g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
150g butter, chilled and cubed
100g icing sugar
1 egg, beaten

Filling :
250g caster sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons honey, light corn syrup or liquid glucose
150ml double (heavy) cream, warmed
250g walnuts, coarsely chopped [Note : I used macadamia nuts]

Make the pastry first. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the icing sugar and rub in until well incorporated. Or simply put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, then transfer to a bowl.

Reserving 2 tsp egg, add the rest to the bowl and use your fingertips to bring it together. Add a few drops of water if necessary. Cover with clingfilm and chill while you make the filling.

Have a pair of oven mitts standing by. Put the sugar, water and honey in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and let it continue to boil until it becomes a dark golden colour. Stir from time to time.

Put on the oven mitts and pour the warm cream into the saucepan in a steady stream, stirring continuously. It will hiss and bubble ferociously, but the mitts should protect your hands and arms. Keep on stirring the mixture on medium heat until it is creamy and slightly thickened. To test, pour 1 tsp onto a cold saucer and tilt it after a few seconds. The mixture should spread slowly and not disintegrate into rivulets. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the walnuts, coating them well. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Grease a 24cm springform tin.

To assemble the pie, the pastry should be chilled but still malleable, or it will break when you roll it. Divide the pastry into two portions, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger portion between two sheets of clingfilm to a 30cm circle and use it to line the tin. (Use the bottom sheet of clingfilm to help move it, removing the sheet once the pastry is in place). Press the edges of the pastry against the side of the tin.

Scrape the filling onto the pastry. Level the top as well as you can, but don’t apply too much pressure, or you may tear the pastry and the filling will leak out. Fold the excess pastry inwards over the filling.

Roll the second piece of pastry to a neat 22cm circle. Trim if necessary. Moisten the edges of the pastry base in the tin with a little water and position the second pastry circle on top of this. Use a fork to crimp and seal the edges. Brush with the reserved egg and prick with a fork in several places. If you like, you can score a plaid pattern onto the surface with the fork.

Bake for 35-40 mins, or until golden brown. Leave to cool until lukewarm in the tin, then loosen the sides, release the clip and carefully transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Playing favourites


(Sticky Carrot, pineapple, ginger and macadamia cake)

This is my favourite carrot cake. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.

To think, I didn’t even give it a second glance when I first saw the recipe in one of my favourite cookbooks. It was a chance conversation with a friend that led me to give it a go. You know you have to when people whose opinion you trust, exclaim, “You must make it! It’s soooo good!”, while their eyeballs are rolling to the back of their head and they’re dribbling a little at the thought.

So after I’d cleaned up the mess she had made to the carpet, I resolved to buy some carrots and try the cake. This was almost a year ago. Since then, I’ve made it a few more times and it’s still as luscious and lip-smackingly moist as ever.

Don’t be daunted by the seemingly long list of ingredients. It takes less time to measure out than you think. Don’t stint on the frosting either. If you’re on a New Year’s health kick (like many people I know), you could substitute some of the sour cream for thick yogurt. Whatever you do, don’t omit the frosting entirely! It truly completes the entire cake-eating experience.

The recipe? Why here it is, but should you attempt it, please don’t blame me if any random drooling occurs.

Sticky pineapple, carrot, ginger and macadamia cake :
(serves 12 – 16; from Mix & Bake by Belinda Jeffery)

for the cake :
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
440g caster sugar
35g shredded coconut
120g roasted macadamias, roughly chopped
6 pieces crystallised ginger, finely chopped
3 eggs
60ml buttermilk
60ml macadamia oil or light olive oil
2 cups grated carrot (approximately 4 medium-sized peeled carrots)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 x 440g can crushed pineapple (in natural juice), drained
toasted coconut chips, to serve

for the sticky glaze :
110g caster sugar
60ml buttermilk
60g unsalted butter
2 teaspoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the vanilla cream :
250ml thickened cream
190ml sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 180’C. Butter two shallow 23 or 24cm round cake tins. Line the bases with buttered baking paper then dust the tins with flour. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into a large bowl. Add the sugar and mix everything together with a balloon whisk for 1 minute. Add the shredded coconut, macadamias and ginger and toss them about so they’re well coated in the flour mixture.

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, then whisk in the buttermilk and oil until just combined. Use a spatula to stir in the carrots, vanilla extract and drained pineapple. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir them together until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the cake tins. Sit them on the middle shelves of the oven and bake them for about 40 minutes or until the centre of each springs back when lightly pressed.

Meanwhile, to make the sticky glaze, put all the glaze ingredients except the vanilla extract into a small saucepan over medium-heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then bring it to the boil. As soon as it boils, reduce the heat to low-medium so the syrup bubbles steadily and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract, then set aside in a warm spot.

When the cakes are ready, transfer the tins to a wire rack. Leave them in their tins and immediately pour half of the sticky glaze over each cake, tilting them so the tops are evenly coated. Leave them to cool for 30 minutes. Remove the cakes from the tins, discard the baking paper and let them cool completely on wire racks.

For the vanilla cream, put all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk carefully just until soft peaks form. Gently loosen under one of the cake layers and sit it on a serving plate. Spread about half of the cream evenly over the top, leaving a slight border all around (this is so the cream doesn’t squish out the sides when the next layer goes on). Sit the second layer on this. Spread the remaining cream evenly over the top. To finish it off, dot the toasted coconut flakes over the top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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