XXXmas baking

(Mini lime bundt cakes with poppyseed icing)

My childhood Christmas fantasy was always a Northern Hemisphere-tinged version of this ultimate holiday season. Mittens, snow, sleigh bells, mistletoe, roasted chestnuts and dried fruit puddings. It was a ‘traditional’ Christmas that made no sense in Sydney, soaked as we were in sun and sweat year after year as my father, with a paper crown lightly plastered to his forehead by effort, perspiration and steam, plunged a blunt bread knife into the roast turkey.

Even with an air-conditioning upgrade, I couldn’t stomach the idea of all that hot food. We could have been feasting on chilled oysters, prawns, cold ham and salad, followed by sweet cherries and mangoes. And I suspected we often suffered from dry turkey because the beast continued cooking in the blistering Summer heat long after it left the oven. These days, our family celebrates the middle ground. Cold food, plus some hot food that if served even only moderately warm, will be no cause for complaint.

But, for dessert?

People who still opt for the more traditional approach might make a concession especially when it comes to the last course. Stirring crumbled pudding into store bought vanilla ice-cream before setting it in the freezer again is occasionally made a little more fancy with the addition of booze or toasted spices to qualify it as a “recipe”. I must admit, I like this approach. Learning from past experience however, I’ve decided against transporting anything frozen to a family dinner since it often arrives in the form a puddle, forcing me to hastily reinvent my dish as a chilled custard or dessert soup.

This year, if Santa doesn’t bring a heatwave, I will bake. It’ll be a variation on one of my favourite recipes made extra small, extra cute and extra delicious with limes and blackberries – both of which are plentiful and cheap at the moment. Of course, there’s always a plan B, which I shall mention in my next post.

What will you be baking for Christmas?

Comments (10)

Tags: , , , , ,

Orange and yoghurt drizzle cake

(Orange and yoghurt drizzle cake)

Icing a cake, it has to be said, is purely an optional exercise 99% of the time. At the discretion of the baker, a cake may be garnished with a pelmet of extra sugar to either hide inadequacies or enhance its visual appeal (ie. hide inadequacies). The icing I’m speaking of here is plain water icing; icing sugar and a tablespoon or two of lemon juice or water, mixed to a flowing consistency. Chocolate frosting, as everyone knows, is an entirely different matter altogether, as it is almost always a compulsory addition to any chocolate cake!

From the point of view of someone whose parents were fairly strict about their cake and sugar intake, I must admit this cake was iced with a large amount of childish glee, perhaps to the point of being over-iced. Take that, Choc-Top-free childhood, banned Jacobs gem biscuits with crispy frosting and total and utter lack of fairy bread! Hmm.. Maybe this is why I can’t have iced things.

Oranges are such a bargain at the moment, so orange and yoghurt cake was made twice this week. One cake served us well over many tea breaks. This iced one will hopefully take us through the weekend.

Orange and yoghurt drizzle cake :
(adapted from a recipe in Mix & Bake by Belinda Jeffery)

450g plain flour
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 eggs
400g sugar
250g softened butter
250g thin yoghurt (or kefir)
grated zest of 2 oranges, juice from 1 orange

Preheat oven to 150’C.

In a Thermomix or food processor, process the eggs and sugar until pale. Add the butter and continue processing until well incorporated. Pulse in the yoghurt, zest and juice, followed by the flour, baking soda and salt. Scrape the mixture into a greased and floured large bundt tin. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes before turning it out onto a plate or wire rack. While the cake is still warm, brush it with the orange syrup then allow to cool completely before icing (if you wish).

Orange syrup :
110g icing sugar
50g orange juice

Mix the icing sugar with the orange juice. Set aside until ready to use.

Comments (9)

Tags: , ,

Changing the seasons with a lime yogurt pudding

(Lime yogurt pudding)

A few weeks ago I bought the last of the cheap and flavoursome blueberries from the shops and stored them in the freezer for future consumption (a bit weird I know, but I like snacking on berries and grapes while they’re still semi-frozen).

Now that the days have gotten cooler, and the short sleeves have gone back into storage, I’ve been thinking of things I can bake with fleshy persimmons, custard apples and new season apples. This is the season when the dreamer in me also hopes to spend an afternoon at an apple farm, picking sweet and impossibly crisp apples to be later transformed into a hot pie or crumble.

In the meantime, the reality is that as I rarely have time to cook at home and usually obtain most of my produce more locally. It’s hardly romantic to enthuse about the bag of apples and limes you bought from the supermarket, but that’s what I ended up with the last time I went shopping. With the lime zest, I made a tangy and creamy yogurt pudding. The juice was reserved for a curd which I’ll feature in a future post.

We had the pudding with spoonfuls of apple compote, frosted blueberries and wheat-free Finnish cookies. A nice way to segue into a season of scarves, cups of tea, fallen leaves and if truth be told, also the season to find yourself side-stepping spiders!

Lime yogurt pudding :
(serves 6; based on a recipe in Wild Weed Pie by Janni Kyritsis)

4 sheets gold strength (10g) leaf gelatine, soaked
200ml 35%-fat cream
80g caster sugar
zest 2 limes
600ml plain yogurt

Combine half the cream with the sugar and lime zest in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring. Meanwhile, whip the remaining cream and keep chilled. Squeeze the gelatine to remove as much water as possible, then add to the heated cream and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little before whisking in the yogurt and finally folding in the whipped cream.

Divide the yogurt mixture between 6 greased dariole moulds or cups and refrigerate until set.

[NB : I set the whole mixture in a large bowl from which we scooped as much or as little as we wanted]

Finnish Barley Cookies (Ohrapiparit) :
(makes about 4 dozen cookies ; recipe from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas)

1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups barley flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In a large bowl, whip the egg and sugar. Add the melted butter and cinnamon. Combine the flour and baking soda and mix in until a smooth dough forms. Chill until firm.

Preheat oven to 200’C.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch or 3-inch rounds, then cut each round into halves to make half-circles. Place on lined baking sheets and bake until lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.

[NB : Instead of cutting into rounds, I cut the cookies with a rectangular cookie cutter]

Comments (37)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Next Page »