cooking success

Spong Drops are a big thing in my family. Only Nan could make them exactly right – with light fluffy sponge baked just so. My sister, my mum and me have all tried and failed to recreate them in past years. But lately I was thinking that I’ve upskilled heaps in baking. I’ve gotten so much better through practice and learning through reading.

For our October birthday celebrations I decided to try making sponge drops. I can remember making them with Nan, and her pearls of wisdom “you have to have the oven on fan bake” and “these beaters are no good, my ones at home are much better”. I have Nan’s recipe carefully printed out in my own 12 year old handwriting with circles over the lower case ‘i’s.

I made good sponge drops in October, but I made one major mistake: one of the egg yolks broke into the egg whites and that meant the whites didn’t get as stiff as they should have. The resulting drops were still very good, they tasted right and although they were pretty flat they were declared a success by my family. We can all remember Nan’s ones pretty well, she used to make them every time she visited.

On Friday night I resolved to make sponge drops again for Thanksgiving dinner dessert – my reasoning was that they are light and easy to eat. We’d have heaps of pie as well and I thought they’d be a good counter point. I was careful to separate the eggs over a third bowl, one by one so it didn’t matter if one broke. I didn’t break a single yolk, it all went perfectly. I even used my Nan’s method of egg separating (hold the egg insides in your hand and let the white drip through your fingers. It’s a bit gross but very effective.) I beat the whites extra hard, concentrating on being patient and beating after every addition of sugar and the egg whites. The batter looked perfect and behaved differently from the last lot I made.

The drops baked in our hot oven in just about 4 minutes, a lot quicker than the 15 I have on the recipe, but they came out rounded and puffy and then folded down into crinkle top pikelet-looking things, just like Nan’s. Yesterday I added the cream centre (some with jam inside at Lee’s request) and covered them with icing sugar. I tried one, heart in my mouth…

They’re good. I think I managed to make them like Nan did. The final (true) test comes this morning, I saved some for my Mum and Dad to try. Sally who had never had them before, declared them a ‘mouth party’ which is very encouraging and there was general appreciation after dinner, along with the chocolate covered strawberries and various pies.

But it was both moving and exciting to get so close to the perfect turnout on this particular recipe. I want to say that my Nan was guiding me, but I don’t think she was. I think I’ve just accepted her wisdom and learned enough skill of my own.

Speaking of Thanksgiving dinner, the other thing I am very happy with myself for cooking is the turkey. I bought it, defrosted it, removed the giblets and neck (ew), washed it thoroughly, rubbed the inside of the cavity with lemon and salt, filled it with moist, flavour giving things and roasted it and it came out awesome.

Here is the recipe I used. The secret to the not-drying-out is all the oven bag. The meat was lovely, not dry at all, just flavourey and good. It was a big 5kg turkey and it was well admired. I feel like a proper 50s house wife or maybe just a proper hostess of Thanksgiving dinner.

It was awesome to see all my friends and eat all the delicious food they brought too. Sophie’s cornbread, Sally’s mashed potatoes and the corn and the broccolli and the peas…it was all so good.

This Sunday, suffering from an overeating hangover I am thankful to my husband, who carved the bird and made the gravy. To my lovely friends who are so much fun to be around. To my Sookie Stackhouse dress for keeping me cool on a stinking hot night while looking pretty. To the internet for providing advice and excellent recipes. To my Mum and my Nan for teaching me so much about cooking and giving me free range in the kitchen when I was growing up and curious.

I’m also thankful to the weather, for finally starting up summer. I’ve worn dresses three days running now and I love it.

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Delicious cookies

So I followed a link in Gala Darling’s blog to a new recipe blog and then I became overwhelmed with a need to make these cookies. They’re called, rather inelegantly, garbage cookies. I think because you can chuck in whatever you like, but I gotta say they rock.

The amazing recipe for Garbage cookies, from I Am Baker.

I bought a packet of pebbles to add into them when we went food shopping. When Lee was at rehearsal I made them up and chucked in the pebbles and a big handful of chocolate buttons. The recipe was easy and quick. It calls for you to use a 1/4 cup to measure the cookies out, I used a dessert spoon so that the cookies weren’t too huge, and they’re plenty big.

Straight out of the oven these were amazing. The chocolate all melty and delish, the oats give them a bit of a nutty flavour. I think I’ll try adding in some peanut butter next time, like she suggests, because I think that would put them into orbit.

S’Mores topped Brownies

Recipe from Stolen Moments Cooking which I was shown by my workmate Jen.

I had told my mum I’d make a dessertish thing for our midwinter Christmas gathering and I’d been eying up some rather more complicated looking s’mores cupcakes and contemplating making marshmallow whip frosting and trying to work out how much time it would take. This brownies recipe looked much much easier, so I decided to make that instead.

I’ve never really made brownies before, since I know a few people who reliably make awesome (but different, and each the best ever) brownies. Although one of those people is living in Rarotonga now, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the recipe. I found it easy to follow and fast as well. It was very gooey and strange to deal with, but I managed to get it all into my slice tray without too much spillage.

Variations for the NZ baker include not bothering to wait for the mixture of chocolate, butter and sugar to cool to room temp for fear of it adhering permanently to the saucepan. Instead I just cooked it on a low heat and let it relax while I dealt with whisking the eggs and stuff. You can’t get graham crackers in NZ so I substituted girl guide biscuits chopped up in the kitchen whizz. I also used Cadbury dairy milk for the topping and pascall’s marshmallows cut in half with scissors.

Before the baking

Before the baking

I was quite excited watching it bake, although it was pretty hard to tell when the brownie was baked through since the usual ‘shake the pan gently and see if it moves like fluid’ was thwarted by the sea of melted marshmallow on top. I gave it an extra five minutes to be safe and then stuck a skewer through a non-marshmallowed gap. It was still not cooked, but I figured it could finish off at my mum’s house.

When we came to eat the brownies they weren’t in fact cooked through. The edge parts and the corners were nice and cakey and the middle was nice and gooey. Kind of like chocolate pudding. It was still good but I think next time I’ll try and cook the brownies on their own before I add the topping, because I hate to give people baking which isn’t all baked through. I think it was to do with the size of my pan as well, the recipe indicates that you should bake it in a wider more shallow pan, and mine was small.

The reception of the brownies was very good, though.

Toasted marshmallows. Nom

Toasted marshmallows. Nom

The marshmallow caramelized along the side of the pan a bit, the Cadbury chocolate was delish on top and I think next time I make it I’ll put more on top. The biscuits were hard to make out though, so next time I think I’ll just crumble them with my rolling pin instead of crushing them in the whizz. I kind of wanted more crunch.

In conclusion, delicious. Will bake again. Probably quite soon.

Cookies of awesome

I’m big on biscuits. I’m big on biscuits straight from the oven so they’re all warm and melty. I’m also big on drooling over new recipes while sticking solidly to trusted old favourites like Highlander chocolate chip and the Ladies, a Plate afghan recipe which I have made a bajillion times now. (BTW, there is going to be a sequel to Ladies, a Plate! Second helping!)

What I’m trying to get at is that I sometimes have the fear of new recipes. For weeks I’ve been eying up this graham cracker recipe, but when I showed it to Lee he said Meh. Actually, he said ‘only if you make them into s’mores’, and I don’t have any marshmallows. Instead I showed him the other recipe I’ve been shyly looking up every couple of days peanut butter filled chocolate cookies, which I found on flickr. His eyes kind of glazed over.

I stuck on some Gossip Girl for company and made the recipe. It was easy enough with my trusty kitchen whizz. The rolling stuff into little balls and then covering them with the other kind of batter was time consuming but pretty fun. The result?

Om nom nom nom

Om nom nom nom

Huge, sprawling, American style cookies that seduce you with their…uh…cracks…I have only eaten one. It’s a miracle of light cookie dough and smooth creamy peanutty centre. I think I groaned out loud. The good thing about them being so large is that you only have to eat one at a time and you feel satiated. Mostly I’ve been making really small cookies, so these ones look decadently huge. I can’t wait for Lee to get home and try one.

In conclusion, a good straight forward recipe with a very rewarding and delicious result, assuming you like peanuts and chocolate that is.

(And in case you were wondering where the Wednesday writing entry is, i had a long nap after shopping this afternoon, I have a mind blank on how to end my children’s book I’m writing and I’ve been trying to edit Kiki and procrastinating, hence the cookies. And the Gossip Girl.)

You may also notice in that picture my first attempt at crazy patchwork. I wouldn’t call it a success, but the owls are cute. More on patchwork soon.

Wednesday pie day

I was writing, I think I did a solid half hour, and I was blasting Mr Leonard Cohen and I was basking in the sun and then I just kind of…stopped. My mind was blank. I tried to keep writing and I managed it for a couple more pages and then I stopped again.

So I made a pie.

I wanted my old Little House on the Prairie recipe, which is in this black slipcover folder with a heap of other good recipes. This recipe folder has evaporated and is nowhere in my house. I checked all the places I thought it could have gotten to but no, gone. And I forgot completely that the recipe was here because my mind was blank. So I used this one, which differs in that there is sugar in the pastry.

Making apple pie is pretty fun, it’s easy just involved. I listened to Coldplay and Red Hot Chili Peppers and thought about tonight’s game of Fall and yeah. It was what I wanted to do. I am making progress on my novel, but something Debbie said in yesterday’s comments resonated with me: Sometimes the idea is great but it needs to simmer away in the back of your mind for a while for the inspiration to kick in.

So I’m not pushing it. I’m mellow and I’m zen and I’m allowing the novel to simmer away in the back of my mind. Nothing helps you become more zen than baking, assuming that you have all the ingredients you need, the recipe is simple to follow and you don’t use salt instead of sugar.

Mmmmm Apple pie

Mmmmm Apple pie

Point of Fashion: My lil outlaws
Current Obsession: pie!

Pikelets

In the pan
I made the pikelets from the recipe in my favourite book Ladies, a Plate. It’s a pretty stock standard pikelet recipe except that it includes a tablespoon of golden syrup. It was quick and easy to put together.

I mixed it up with the electric hand beater the first time. The second time I did it I beat them by hand, the first mixture was better, so I’ll stick with the beaters in future. The hand mixed ones were a little lumpy but they still tasted good at the end. The mixture doesn’t make that many, so if there are many people I’m making them for I’d do a double or triple recipe. The regular mix was plenty for me and Lee’s breakfast on Sunday and for my Tuesday night roleplaying group.

Golden brown
Pikelets are a timing game. You have to let the pan heat for a while and then once they’re on you have to flip them as soon as they’re ready for it. When the bubbles come up and pop you have to flip them and then the other side only needs about 30 seconds. If you give them any longer then they start burning pretty darn fast.

The good thing about the slightly burned pikelets is that they’re still tasty with strawberry jam, bacon and bananas or just on their own. They just don’t look as nice.

As per my upbringing, and the instructions in the book pikelets must be served from a clean teatowel in a basket. The teatowel actually keeps them nice and warm and it looks all nice and homey. Delish!

Nom, delicious pikelets

Nom, delicious pikelets

Banoffee verdict

Not a thing of beauty

Not a thing of beauty

The second banoffee pie was not a thing of beauty, I’ll admit that right now. I managed to keep it intact for the drive up the coast and stuck it into my mum’s fridge as soon as we got there. I managed to cut up the pie with minimal pain, the banana slid around some but the all biscuit base was very easy to cut and pretty much stuck together as I’d hoped.

The pie was good with and without whipped cream on top. It was described variously by family and family friends as delicious, yummy, great and beautiful (as in taste rather than appearance). I enjoyed it too, the biscuit base was tasty and the caramel, even though it wasn’t diluted with cream wasn’t too rich. The extra banana made it a really good level of banana tasting. I’m pretty chuffed with that recipe. It’s easy and tasty and….well, what else do you need in a pie? Pie slice

It was great seeing so many people this weekend, Lee’s family yesterday, Giffy and Erik last night, my family and family friends today and then a visit to Matt and Debbie. I am going to do some editing for Debs, and I’m really looking forward to reading her book!

Point of Fashion: red unicorn
Current Obsession: Gossip Girl