Tag Archives: recipe

Strawberry & Macadamia Nut Muffins

Tonight, I converted a healthy punnet of fresh strawberries into scrumptious Strawberry and Macadamia Muffins with dubious nutritional worth.

Not so long ago, I could well have called these “Healthy” without a second thought. No guilt whatsoever… just like banana cake.

However, thanks to the wowsers, “healthy” has now been redefined. No matter how well you disguise it, anything with refined sugar is now evil! This means, of course, that even though my muffins are overflowing with fresh strawberries and macadamia nuts, they’re now “from the wrong side of the tracks”.

Just like me!

I’m usually not just adding evil sugar to my recipes, but also that evil of evils…chocolate!

Indeed, I was sorely tempted to add white or dark chocolate chips to these muffins but resisted.I wanted the strawberries to be the hero. I didn’t want to sacrifice their flavour to the chocolate and see how the muffins went without it.

We didn’t miss the chocolate. We ate our muffins hot straight out of the oven. With their lush strawberry flavour and macadamia nut crunch, they were scrumptious.

These muffins would make a delicious treat with a refreshing cup of tea, with enough goodness to escape being what I’d call an “indulgence” and you don’t have to feel too guilty after all.

strawberries

 

After all, strawberries are packed full of goodness. They’re an excellent source of antioxidant-promoting vitamin C and manganese. They are also a very good source of dietary fiber, iodine, and folate. Plus, strawberries are a good source of copper, potassium, biotin, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B6, and omega-3 fatty acids.

All that goodness tells me, it’s time to go and grab seconds before I miss out!

DSC_1630

Strawberries, Macadamias and Sugar…Yum!

Strawberry & Macadamia Nut Muffins

Ingredients

  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) milk
  • 80 grams butter, melted (1/3 cup or 5 1/3 Tbsp.)
  • 1 large egg
  • 475 grams sifted flour (2 cups)
  • 160 grams caster sugar (2/3 cup)
  • 2 teas baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 punnet fresh strawberries
  • 120 grams chopped macadamia nuts
  • Extra castor sugar & chopped macadamia nuts for topping.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180 °C (400°F)
  2. Grease the bottoms only of 12 standard-size muffin cups, or line with paper wrappers; set aside.
  3. Finely chop all but 3 of the strawberries and put aside.
  4. Finely chop roasted Macadamia nuts.
  5. Melt butter in the microwave on high for around a minute.
  6. In a large bowl, beat together the milk, melted butter, and egg.
  7. Stir in the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt just until combined; do not overmix.
  8. Gently fold in the strawberries and macadamia nuts.
  9. Hull and slice through strawberries and place a slice on top of each muffin.
  10. Roughly chop Macadamia nuts and sprinkle around the slice of strawberry.
  11. Sprinkle the top of each muffin finely with castor sugar.
  12. Spoon batter into the prepared tins; sprinkle with sugar, if desired.
  13. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until golden and puffed.
  14. Immediately invert onto wire racks.
  15. Serve warm or cool.

Enjoy with Love!

xx Rowena

The Ultimate Lunchbox Cheese, Veg & Bacon Muffin

As if what to cook for dinner isn’t stressful enough, preparing the kids school lunches is the ultimate headache, especially if their school lunches keep coming home untouched and the dog needs to go on a diet.
While there is much discussion about childhood obesity, my kids are lean and my daughter actually is on a weight-gain regime. This means our kids need the full fat, the cheese and can have a bit of bacon without concern. Our problem is that they don’t eat, NOT that they over-indulge.
The other thing I’m now appreciating about our kids is that they’re not simply fussy but discerning. They both have fairly refined palates and can comment about particular tastes and textures, which is pretty impressive for their age. That said, I’ve worked in market research and so they’ve never got away with “yuck” or “nice”. They’ve always had to explain or walk me through why they’ve liked or disliked my cooking.
Lately, we’ve also been watching Masterchef where we’ve all been watching the contestants prepare their meals and then heard the judges reviews. Back on the home front, I have been elevated to Masterchef (or cook) and Geoff and the kids have become the judges. Unfortunately for the dogs, they were cast as “home viewers”, hungrily watching the action and praying for a few crumbs. Sorry!
So after all this Mastercheffing of sorts at home, it is hardly surprising that the humble sandwich isn’t good enough. They want more.
I made these on the run before school this morning as we’d run out of bread, wraps and the kids lunches had started coming home again. Of course, there were no guarantees they were going to eat these but they do love cheese and bacon rolls and I thought they’d probably enjoy this “healthed-up” alternative.

My first observation was that these went quickly and my son, fussy eater numero uno, devoured two straight out of the oven before he went to school. This is a glowing endorsement, as he is even very particular about the chocolate he eats. He did comment about the “garlic flavour” which was the onions so take it easy with the grated onion. A little bit goes a long way.The cheese was still hot and gooey. I had mine a bit later and again noticed the onion flavour but also the beautiful bacon flavour. The top was also pleasantly crunchy.
Yes, we will definitely be making these again and wanted to share our efforts on the blog.
xx Rowena

A look inside our muffins.

A look inside our muffins.



Cheese Veg & Bacon Muffins

Makes 12

Cooking time: 30 minutes
Ingredients
2 cups self raising flour

3 cups vegetables We used: ½ cup grated carrot
½ cup corn kernels
½ cup grated zucchini
a tablespoon grated onion (go light on the grated onion!)
½ cup finely sliced baby spinach leaves

1 1/3 cups grated tasty cheese.
½ cup milk
3 eggs
60g butter, melted
bacon pieces, optional
12 cubes of tasty cheese
fresh thyme, optional
Directions
1. Preheat oven 180°C (160°C fan forced) and grease a 12-hole (1/3 cup) muffin pan with cooking spray. I lined mine with muffin cases.
2. Take eggs out of the fridge. They fluff up better when beaten at room temperature.
3. If you are adding bacon bits, slice bacon into squares and fry in a large frying pan until crunchy. Put aside and cool. I use bacon with a bit of fat so it crunches up.
4. Sift flour into a large mixing bowl and create a well.
5. Grate carrot, zucchini,onion and add to flour.
6. Finely slice baby spinach leaves. Add to flour.
7. Add grated tasty cheese and fresh thyme to flour mix. Blend well.
8. Melt butter in the microwave on high in a mug for around a minute and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
9. In a separate bowl, whisk milk and eggs together and add cooled melted butter.
10. Pour wet ingredients into the veggie flour mix and stir gently with a large spoon until the ingredients are just incorporated. The flour should be mixed in and the mixture should resemble a batter. So, depending on the wetness of your veggie mix, you might need to add an extra splash of milk as I did.
11. Place a tablespoon of mixture in each muffin hole. Each muffin needs to be around the same size to make sure the muffins bake evenly.
12. Push a cube of tasty cheese into each muffin and spread mix back over the top so the cheese is “buried” inside the muffin. The cheese will melt during cooking and flow through the top, while leaving a scrumptious, cheese interior.
13. Sprinkle crunchy bacon bits over the top if desired. You can also stir some through the mix if desired.
14. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean.
15. Cool in the tin before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely. That is, if someone doesn’t nab them while they’re hot. Mine vanished very quickly and this time it wasn’t the dog!

This recipe is loosely based on muffin recipes by Julie Goodwin and Curtis Stone infused with a bit of me. Next time, I’m going to try adding some olives and you could easily swap the thyme for fresh basil.

Life Lessons from the Cupcake Catastrophe.

A few days ago, I survived the Orange Cake Catastrophe (see previous post). As you may recall, the mixture spiraled out of the bowl and splattered all over the kitchen. The poor dog, who usually hovers around while I’m cooking, even ended up with a Rorschach-like splat painting on the back of her head. A seeming miracle, I somehow patched it all up and the results were perfect. The cake even had an even texture which any show cook would be proud of and the squeeze of orange juice in the chocolate icing was inspired. I was very proud of my Choc-Orange Cupcakes and my ability to recover from yet another catastrophe in the kitchen.

What a waste of good mixture...Attack of the Killer Orange Cake Mix.

What a waste of good mixture…Attack of the Killer Orange Cake Mix.

It was confirmation that “all’s well that ends well” and not to get too upset about the bumps along the road even though they might feel like the end of the world at the time.

Since becoming a parent and slipping out of the full-time workforce, I have become more and more aware of the intelligence, the life lessons that we pick up on the road. That life can’t simply be learned through a book. As a well-educated and avid reader who has devoured a smorgasbord of philosophy and instructional books,this change has been a cosmic shift. After all, Kahlil Gibran’s: The Prophet is my favourite book and Malcolm Gladwell’s: Outliers has been a serious life changer as well. The thing is that no matter how inspiring and life-changing these books might be, we still need to experience the practical and everyday so we don’t trip over both feet and not know how to get up.

There is also a risk that by worshiping the big name intellectuals and speakers, we can miss those small but equally essential life lessons which are learned in the school of hard knocks.”A man gazing at the stars is proverbially at the mercy of the puddles in the road” (Alexander Smith) and the image of the astronomer walking at night stumbling into an open well while looking at the stars, goes back to the ancient Greeks.
Yet, do we adjust our focus as we walk along the road with all of its obstacles and bumps while gazing at the sky at our visions and dreams? Do we manage to observe and process all aspects of the picture…both the big and small? Or, are we too focused on the bright lights to look where we’re actually walking..at our feet?

I must admit that I’ve had more than my share of scraped knees and sprained ankles caused by too many cracks in the footpaths…or perhaps the problem has really been chasing too many clouds in the sky!

Eight years ago, I read a wonderful book called: Letters to Sam by Daniel Gottlieb. Gottlieb, a psychologist, became a quadriplegic through a car accident. Due to his health, Gottlieb doesn’t know if he will be around to see his grandson grow up and decides to write him a book of life lessons. He naturally wants to share the benefits of his experience. As the book unfolds, Sam is diagnosed with a form of autism and Gottlieb addresses what it means to live with a disability. What I also like, is Gottlieb’s Jewish cultural references which add a lot of depth and character to the story.

Inspired by Letters to Sam, I started writing my own book of life lessons for my kids and wrote about 50,000 words which I’ve never revisited (must get back to that. I can be my own worst critic.)

Anyway, when I found out I was having chemo to treat my auto-immune disease just before Christmas last year, all my memoir activities notched up several levels. I only had three days before chemo began and what if instead of saving my life the chemo took me out instead? In that case, I potentially didn’t have time to record anything…just tie up a few loose ends and it would simply be: “Game Over”.

Sometimes, we run out of coins before we know it.

Sometimes, we run out of coins before we know it.

What was something really, really important that my kids needed to know which I could teach them quickly in less than ideal circumstances? My kids were spending weekdays with my parents at the time so I wasn’t even going to be seeing a lot of them either.

In this is pressure cooker environment, I decided to teach my kids how to cook. This wasn’t intended to be some lofty, philosophical project. It was practical. My family needed to eat and I might not be there to do it. Their Dad can cook and reminds me that he wasn’t starving during the 10 plus years he lived out of home before we got married but I figured the kids could be useful. That they could extend themselves beyond cyber-reality on Minecraft and do some real chores.Nothing more annoying than seeing them feeding the dog on Minecraft and forgetting to feed the dog in real life.

The Abominable Doughman

The Abominable Doughman

What I didn’t consider when I launched into this project. was that you actually learn a lot of valuable life skills through cooking. Moreover, after surviving the ravages of chemo and chemo brain, these were important skills for me to develop as well. After all, while the chemo had “fixed” my auto-immune disease, it had destroyed all sense of time and I really struggled to multi-task. Even just by cooking your basic roast, you are learning to juggle tasks and manage your time. After all, you want the meat and veggies to be ready at the same time and this is not as easy as it looks.

I also enrolled the kids in Sea Scouts for some outdoor activities but that’s another story.

Coming back to my cupcake fiasco, I’ve learned that baking a cake while making dinner may not be the best idea, especially when I’m using a new and unfamiliar recipe.

Do one thing at a time. Seriously, who really can multitask well anyway?!!

I’ve also learned that as much as we would like to get it right the first time, that there are often mistakes along the road and we need to learn how to address and overcome these hurdles to achieve success…not just fall in a screaming heap when the going gets tough. I turned the beaters back on, finished the cake and kept going.Oh yes, I also cleaned up the mess!

The epitomy of  perfection: my Choc Orange Cupcake.

The epitomy of perfection: my Choc Orange Cupcake.

Also, that when we look at the achievements of others, we often put them up on a pedestal thinking they’re perfect, their lives are perfect and being only too aware of our own faults, feel like we’ve failed. We’re losers, inept. But we don’t know what they’ve been through to get where they are now. You would bite into my sweet little orange cupcake with the scrumptious chocolate icing with that expert squeeze of orange juice and tell me they’re perfect. You’d be overflowing with praise. “Have you considered selling these? You could certainly sell them to a cafe!” Nobody eating the cupcake would have any idea of the catastrophe along the way. That these cupcakes really were what you’d classify as a disaster.

Never look at other people and think their lives are perfect and they get everything right the first time. Once you scratch the surface, you usually find they also have feet of clay. Everybody makes mistakes!!

I was also encouraged by my fellow bloggers to believe in myself. While I hadn’t made something fancy like Duck a L’orange I’d intended with my stash of oranges and had almost botched up a simple quick mix cake, they still praised my efforts. I could have just cut the oranges up or even left them in the fridge until they were bin fodder. We all know that we can be our own worst critics but the challenge comes in how to be more accepting of ourselves.

Even when we do some crazy, weird and zany stuff and cake mixture splats in our face, we are still valued, precious human beings and these so called catastrophes really are insignificant in the overall scheme of things. Or, they live on as funny stories. That’s what I like to do with my disasters.

I would love to hear any stories you’ve had about overcoming similar “disasters”.

Have a Great Day!

xx Rowena

Cooking: creativity in action!

Cooking: creativity in action!

Recycling the School Jam Sandwich

Despite the stories of starving children in Africa and “waste not, want not”, our kids stubbornly refuse to eat their school lunches.After even more full lunchboxes arrived home, this time with sandwiches made using my own homemade strawberry jam which was just  oozing with lusciously plump delectable fruit, I became desperate. I could not… I would not… throw them out.

Somehow, they had to be eaten!

I'm getting sick of the sight of these full lunchboxes arriving home again completely untouched. What is it going to take to get my children to eat?

I’m getting sick of the sight of these full lunchboxes arriving home again completely untouched. What is it going to take to get my children to eat?

You see, I hate waste…particularly food waste.

For awhile there, I dutifully fed their sandwiches to the dog and I swear he could pick a lunchbox from space. Code-named “Garbage Guts”, he simply doesn’t stop eating.

Walking with the dog

Out trying to walk off more than a few kilos worth of school lunches. Bilbo alias Garbage Guts just can’t say “no”.

But there’s waste and then there’s waistline. Unfortunately for the dog, avoiding waste on my part meant he packed on the kilos. After getting slammed by the vet, there were no more sandwiches for the dog.

Yet, I still hated the thought of throwing out perfectly good sandwiches spread with lashings of my home-made strawberry jam so I decided to take up Bob the Builder’s environmental challenge to “reduce, reuse, recycle” and came up with this little invention:

Jam Sandwich Bread & Butter Pudding

Ingredients

6 eggs

4 tablespoons castor sugar

2 teas vanilla essence

1140 ml (2 pints) full cream milk

Cinnamon

125g or ½ cup blueberries or sultanas

4 jam sandwiches, crusts removed

Spreadable butter

Directions

  1. Pour milk into a large mixing bowl and heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, using a medium-sized bowl, crack in the eggs. Add sugar and vanilla essence. Beat together lightly with a fork or hand-beaters.
  3. Add the egg mix to warmed milk gradually and stir to combine evenly.
  4. Pour into a shallow, ovenproof dish.
  5. Sprinkle blueberries or sultanas evenly over the surface.
  6. Turn oven onto 180° C and grease a shallow, ovenproof dish.
  7. Now to prepare the sandwiches. Using a bread knife, cut the crusts off the sandwiches. Pull the sandwiches apart. They need to have plenty of jam and I prefer my homemade version which contains large, juicy pieces of fruit so you might want to add some extra butter and jam.
  8. Crusts
    Crusts
  9. Arrange the pieces of bread over the top of the custard and they’ll float across the top like boats.
  10. Add a few bits of butter on top of the bread if desired.
  11. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  12. Carefully place the dish inside a baking tin with enough water to reach halfway up the sides of the dish. This is called a water bath. See note below.
  13. Bake in a moderate oven at 180° C (160° C fan-forced) for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to moderately slow oven to around 160° C (140° C fan-forced) and bake for a further 20-30 minutes or until set. My oven timer broke sometime ago so cooking times are an approximate science for me.
  14. Serves 8.
The pudding baking in the oven.

The pudding baking in the oven.

Obviously, while this approach worked well with jam sandwiches and could be adapted to include the honey sandwich, obviously it really isn’t an option for your leftover Vegemite or peanut butter sandwiches. Yet, where there’s a will, there’s a way. It looks like I’ve just set myself my next food challenge.

Enjoy!

Xx Rowena

Note: Why do you bake custard in a water bath?

Baking your custard pudding in a water bath is your best insurance against curdled custard. You see, although you set the oven temperature to 180° C ,the egg proteins which thicken the custard, set below 212°F.This means that unless these egg proteins are protected from the high heat of the oven, they’ll overcook and tighten or shrink, causing your custard to crack or separate into curdled egg and liquid. A water bath insulates custards from the direct heat of the oven because the water can’t exceed 212°F, unlike the air in a 350°F oven. Without a water bath, the outside of your dessert would also overcook before the centre is done. Moreover, in a water bath, you have more time to bake your custard to the perfect degree of doneness.

Cooked with Love

Last Saturday night, we were going to have a German Food Night to celebrate what would have been my grandfather’s 100th birthday. However, true to form, we wandered off course and ultimately ended up where we were meant to be. As John Lennon said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

You might recall that we had Irish Night a few months ago to commemorate when one of my Irish ancestors arrived in Sydney 160 years ago https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/irish-nightcelebrating-a-journey-from-cork-city-to-sydney-1854-2014/. Well, we were going to use my grandfather’s birthday as a catalyst for sharing my German heritage with the kids. My mother’s family has German ancestry and in 1992 after I finished university, I actually lived in Heidelberg, Germany for about 8 months with a German family.

Moreover, in addition to wanting to share my cultural heritage with the kids, these cooking projects are also part of my ongoing efforts to teach the kids how to cook. This process has taken quite a holistic approach as we’ve moved beyond simply trying to replicate a meal or bake cakes and biscuits, to learning more about the ingredients themselves, nutrition, caring for the environment and also the meal’s cultural heritage. It’s amazing just how much both you and your kids can learn simply by cooking a basic meal.

Of course, any kind of cooking and eating, involves bonding and that never goes astray especially in our frenetic modern world. In too many households, the family meal is on the endangered species list.

Just to explain our German heritage.

My grandparents in the 1940s

My grandparents in the 1940s

My grandfather was a Haebich born in the German-Australian town of Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia. While his Paech and Hartmann ancestors had arrived onboard the first ships of German immigrants back in 1838, Johann George Haebich and family had arrived a little later in 1846 onboard The Patel. George Haebich set up his blacksmithing business in Hahndorf’s main street and in the late 1850’s and built the family home which is known as “Haebich’s Cottage”. It is a substantial ‘fachwerk’ (basically a timber skeleton with infill of pug [straw/mud], brick or stone) cottage. This was where my great grandfather was born and it provided quite a family hub, along with the blacksmith shop next door. We are very proud to be able to point to Haebich’s Cottage and say that’s where we’re from…or, at least, that’s where a part of us came from. The house is no longer in the family.

The Kids and I outside Haebich's Cottage 2013

The Kids and I outside Haebich’s Cottage 2013

Up until World War I, the Adelaide Hills and the Barossa regions had pretty much been a German enclave within Australia and a mixture of German and English were spoken. Anti-German sentiment during and post WWI, suppressed much of this German heritage and Hahndorf had its name anglicised to Ambleside and it was only changed back around 1938 to honour the centenary of German settlement in South Australia.  We believe that my grandfather’s parents spoke German at home when he was quite small but as WWI progressed, they started speaking English instead. This became apparent as Papa aged and sunk deeper and deeper into the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease and he spoke more and more German before talking less and sleeping more.

Getting back to our celebratory dinner…

As much as I love German food and we had liverwurst on rolls for lunch and made Honey Biscuits, as the day drew closer, I realised that these German main courses didn’t resonate with me and were quite foreign. They weren’t what my grandfather ate. His favourite meal was undoubtedly Honey Prawns from the local Chinese takeaway. They appealed to both his love of seafood and his incredible sweet tooth. While it would have been easy just to order takeaway, that defeated what I was trying to achieve, share, convey.  No! We had to have something home cooked.

After all, isn’t there something magical even mystical about home cooking? As any home cook will agree, it has to do with that special, magic ingredient… love. Love pours straight from our hearts and into the saucepan, mixing bowl or the old battered roasting dish, binding family together with glue. That is, unless you want to be purely scientific and say it has something to do with our genes.

There is also something extra special about celebrating those precious, special occasions in your own home where the photos almost talk to you through the glass and their aged frames and several lifetimes of tea cups, table cloths, precious read and re-read books all morph together into some kind of memory soup. Memory soup is a regular on our menu both because I have always loved those extra-special, old family stories and have wanted to share them with our kids. I have also wanted our children to know where they come from…the much bigger picture. Our family tree is a huge, sprawling giant with massive branches spreading from Sydney to Perth, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and back to Ireland, Germany, Scotland, England, Poland and maybe even a touch of France. Surely a tree this big, must have enormous roots which tunnel so deep into the earth that it could never fall down. It is anchored deep into bedrock, giving our family such stability…at least in theory!

When you are making memory soup, the dish itself also has to have meaning…deep and personal meaning. Of course, I’m not talking about the roasting dish here but the food…the recipe… itself.

This was where I was having trouble. I was struggling to remember what my grandparents ate. Then all of a sudden, like being hit by an ancient Greek thunderbolt or the proverbial flying brick, inspiration struck my otherwise dim and empty head. We had to have Roast Duck. We could only have Roast Duck for Papa’s dinner. While living in Marburg in rural Queensland, my grandfather used to raise and sell ducks to supplement their income and in later life, a beautiful farming family used to drop a duck off for my grandparents each Christmas.

Duck it was.

However, that’s when things began to get complicated. Of course, this thunderbolt hit less than 24 hours before the big event and although I’ve never cooked duck before, I had a hunch that duck wasn’t easy to find. First thing in the morning (which for us is something like 10.00am) Geoff received his instructions. He had to ring every single butcher in town and beyond until he’d found that elusive duck. Of course, this is the modern, urban equivalent of being “Man the hunter”. That is when the woman sends the bloke off “hunting” for weird or hard to obtain ingredients at the very last minute and, of course, he is expected to prove his manhood by coming up with the goods even if he has to drive inter-state and across the desert and back to succeed.

Alas for Geoff’s manhood, things weren’t looking good. Although there are families of ducks inhabiting practically every street corner and puddle where we live, “eating ducks” are actually rather scarce and considered a luxury. Apparently, you not only have to order them in, you also have to give a week’s notice. No such thing as an instant duck…or so I thought!

However, Geoff persevered. He found a butcher with frozen duck breasts and some sort of mysterious cooked duck. I didn’t quite know what a butcher was doing with cooked duck but duck was duck. We were on our way…Quack! Quack!

Cheat's Duck

Cheat’s Duck

Well, this so-called cooked duck was interesting stuff. The duck came in a plastic packet and you just emptied the contents into a roasting dish and cooked it for 15 minutes and then finished it off with 8 minutes under the griller to crisp the skin. It was too easy especially for your truly who has never roasted a duck before. I felt a bit guilty cheating like this and wondered whether I was being a little wicked. I mean it was my grandfather’s 100th birthday party an event you associate with traditionand going to great effort, not whizzing up some new fangled instant roast which comes in a plastic packet.  It seemed to be the roast you have when you don’t have a roast. Or was it?

Our roast duck served with the types of vegetables Papa used to grow in his garden.

Our roast duck served with the types of vegetables Papa used to grow in his garden.

Actually, our funny fangled duck actually appeared almost perfectly traditional. All the same, you’ll have to agree it was smarter than your average duck.

Stay tuned for more about our birthday celebrations and last year’s trip to Hahndorf retracing Papa Bert’s footsteps.

xx Rowena

Chocolate Hazlenut Indulgence Cake- My Own Creation.

If you are looking for a very indulgent chocolate cake that’s literally chocolate on chocolate on chocolate then this is the cake for you! It even has chunks of scrumptious hazelnut praline perched on top for that ultra gourmet touch. I have to admit that the end product really looked quite gourmet, almost professional in a home-baked kind of way.

I developed and made this cake for Geoff’s birthday the other night. I recommend using your usual chocolate cake recipe as we all have our favourites and if you are anything like me, you are quite particular. However, this recipe works well and is a very easy, quick mix recipe. You just throw everything into the mixing bowl and press the button. How easy is that?!!

I even surprised myself with the hazelnut praline “accessories”. I had never made praline before but had seen a recipe incorporating almond praline in a magazine at the hairdressers. They had crushed their praline up in a food processor but, as usual, I developed my own interpretation or “style”.

I love a good chocolate cake with hazlenuts so I decided to try a hazelnut praline and consulted Google for a recipe.

I was going to let the praline set as a slab. However, while I was pouring it out, I noticed strings of toffee and thought they would make a great decorative touch. I ended up pushing the hazlenuts apart with two forks (to prevent burning my fingers), which created some interesting, twisted shapes trailing with toffee threads. These looked quite spectacular for something so simple and tasted quite heavenly!! After all, who doesn’t like toffee?

Unfortunately, we’d gone out for Indian for Geoff’s birthday dinner and could barely squeeze in much of the cake…especially being so rich! So I’ve taken the toffee bits off and put the rest of the cake into the freezer for when Geoff’s sister visits on the weekend. I am thinking I might somehow turn it into a chocolate cake tiramisu. I could even recycle the praline. That does sound a bit ambitious but I have shocked myself quite a bit lately pulling things off.

Who knows? Perhaps, I might even make it onto Masterchef one day! You know how modest I am!

Chocolate Cake

185g butter

2 teas vanilla essence

1 3/4 cups castor sugar

3 eggs

2 cups self-raising flour

2/3 cup cocoa

1 cup water

Method

Grease and line a deep 23cm round cake pan.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat on low speed until all ingredients are combined. Increase speed to medium for about 3 minutes or until mixture in smooth and changed in colour. Pour into prepared pan.

Chocolate Ganache

200g dark cooking chocolate

1 cup of cream

Place the chopped chocolate and the cream together in a small saucepan and melt gently over low heat.  Stir until the mixture is melted, glossy and smooth.  Place in a bowl and refrigerate until cool.  Once cool, use a whisk to bring the mixture together and ice as usual.

Filling

Whipped cream

Nutella Hazlenut Spread

Hazelnut Praline

½ cup sugar

1 cup of lightly roasted hazelnuts with skins removed.

Method

Lightly roast hazelnuts making sure you don’t over cook them. I emphasise that they should be lightly roasted.

Rub roasted hazelnuts in a dry tea towel to remove skins.

Lightly grease a baking sheet.

In a dry heavy saucepan cook sugar over moderate heat, stirring with a fork, until melted and cook, without stirring, swirling pan, just until a golden caramel. Add hazelnuts, stirring until coated well. Immediately pour mixture onto baking sheet.

You can arrange this as a slab and then cut the praline with a large sharp knife or you can do it my way and separate the hazelnuts with a fork and create smaller pieces with stretched threads of toffee, which looked quite stunning. Try not to touch the praline as this removes its glossy appearance.

Assembly

Cut the cake in half and coat the bottom half with about 1 cm of Nutella using a warm knife. Cover in whipped cream and add the top half of the cake.

Ice the top of the cake with chocolate ganache. Again use a warm knife.

Decorate the top with hazelnut praline.

Bon Appetit!

November 22, 2012