The Christmas contender. White chocolate lamingtons.

(White chocolate lamington)

Coconut and white chocolate remind me of white Christmases, of which I’ve experienced a grand total of 1. It happened several years ago when we visited B’s parents in Northern Ireland over the holidays and on Christmas morning, it partially snowed, much to my excitement and awe. We got dressed, tumbled down the stairs and not long after, the guests arrived and were sitting down to a very traditional lunch of roast turkey, baked ham, sprouts and potato salad, followed by mince tart, Christmas pudding and iced fruit cake. Later we tried with modest success to make a dent in an impossibly large tin of Quality Street that someone had unwrapped.

This Christmas will be celebrated at my parents’ place in sunny Sydney, hopefully feasting on typical Summer fare : oysters, prawns, whole baked fish and a family favourite – cold glazed ham.

As usual for most of our gatherings, I have been charged with the responsibility of supplying the dessert. I’ve been vacillating between wanting to make something chock full of traditional yuletide spices and dried fruit, while also thinking that perhaps we should be having something lighter with plenty of seasonal mangoes, peaches and cherries.

After making these white chocolate lamingtons however, I think we may have a real contender for our final Christmas course.

White chocolate lamingtons :

For the cake :

170g (6 ounces) couverture white chocolate, melted
2 eggs
240g (8 1/2 ounces) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g (3 1/3 cups) plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
220g (1 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
125g (9 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 180’C (350F). Line a 8 x 12 x 1 1/2 inch rectangular baking tin with greaseproof paper and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk until all are incorporated. Add the white chocolate and beat until well mixed through.

Transfer the batter to the baking tin and bake for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before cutting and glazing.

To coat the lamingtons, melt 220g couverture white chocolate with 100g milk in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Remove from heat and stir, then allow to cool and thicken before using. If your kitchen is too warm, place the bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes or so, to help speed things up. Cut the cake into squares, trimming off the crust. Dip each square into the glaze, then roll in a bowl of dessicated coconut.

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Sunday. Strawberry buttermilk muffins

Sunday. Second breakfast o’clock.

Those couple of hours after you’ve had the regulation two pieces of toast or that austere bowl of bran flakes. The moment when someone in the room finally says, Right, I’ll make the tea, shall I? Then it’s off to the kitchen, pulling out the mixing bowls, trying not to get batter on your pajamas while making something suitably Sunday.

Some people think it’s the wrong move, having muffins for second breakfast. I’ll agree, because usually I’m too busy eating sticky buns or some very large cookie that I’ve convinced myself is breakfast food worthy because it has oats in it.

But the derision poured on muffins being false cakes in paper jackets is unwarranted if you’ve ever had a really good muffin. These are one of my favourites. They’re tender, not too sweet and capable of feeding a crowd, or a pair of pajama clad couch potatoes with enough leftover for afternoon tea. Easy pleasey.

Strawberry buttermilk muffins :
(makes 10; recipe by Lorraine Godsmark)

380g plain flour
150g caster sugar
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs, lightly beaten
300ml buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g melted butter
1 punnet (250g) chopped strawberries
Demerara sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 200’C. Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl. Combine eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and butter in a separate bowl. Add egg mixture to flour all at once. Add strawberries and fold gently, leaving a few lumps. Do not overwork mixture. Spoon mixture into 10 muffin tins and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until cooked and golden.

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Summer tendencies. A chilled buttermilk soup

(Cold buttermilk lemon soup with fresh mango and biscotti)

“But here they were, and Olive pictured two slices of Swiss cheese pressed together, such holes they brought to this union – what pieces life took out of you” — Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout.

It’s a terrible cliche, but every time B goes away, it feels as though a little piece of me is missing. It’s like, all spiders and no boyfriend, in this empty house.

Especially since I’m about to leave my current job to embark on a quiet holiday. What mad timing! But I’ve resolved to try to be productive with this abundance of spare time that I’m now faced with. In the next few weeks, I’d like to read more, listen more, learn more and eat better. Starting with breakfast.

This buttermilk soup, also known as Kærnemælk Koldskål in Danish, doubles as breakfast, an afternoon snack or a very satisfying light dessert. As the Summer heat and the fruit it reaps is starting to slowly creep into our lives here, I’ve dressed my soup up with a little fresh mango.

Cold buttermilk lemon soup:
(serves 4; from The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann)

1 vanilla bean
3 egg yolks
6 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
juice of 1/2 lemon
6 cups buttermilk

To garnish : 1 whole lemon and homemade biscotti

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife. In a bowl, beat together the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla seeds until pale and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and juice and the buttermilk. Chill for 1 hour.

Cut the whole lemon into slices and add to the buttermilk soup just before serving. At the table, break biscotti over the soup and eat immediately.

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