Saturday, December 22, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Soft Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

This year, more than I ever remember before, it seems my Christmas flavour is gingerbread. There was the mousse recipe I posted last week that I still need to try, then there are the gingerbread cupcakes that I m going to be making on Monday to take to our Christmas gathering, and then there are these little beauties.

I have mentioned before being part of the Queen Baking Club on Facebook. Each fortnight they put up a challenge for the members to make. This week, they put up two. The first was for a Chocolate Salami and the other was for these Soft Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies. I made them for the sous chef to take for his team's morning tea and I ended up taking half. One of the reviews from my co workers was that these were the best thing I had ever taken in, which is a big call because I do take a lot of delicious baking into work.

Somewhere I saw that these are inspired by German Lebkuchen biscuits. There's a couple of other German recipes I am intending to try at some stage, most notably a Beesting cake.

I really want to be able to find this recipe next year so I am sharing it with all of you here too.

For this year though, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Soft Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

100g butter
½ cup (180g) honey
2 tsp orange zest
1 tsp Queen Vanilla Bean Paste
1 large egg, lightly whisked
1 1/3 cup (200g) plain flour
¾ cup (75g) almond meal
¾ cup (75g) hazelnut meal
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup (110g) dark brown sugar, firmly packed
Pinch salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
150g milk chocolate

Pre-heat oven to 180°C (fan forced). Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Combine butter and honey in a large saucepan over a medium heat until butter has melted. Set aside and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Add orange zest, Vanilla Bean Paste and egg to cooled honey mixture and stir to combine.

In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour honey mixture into flour mixture and mix to form a dough.

Roll heaped teaspoons into balls and place on prepared baking trays 5cm apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, allowing to cool on tray.

Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30 second increments in the microwave until melted. Dip face of cookies in melted chocolate then allow to set before serving.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Gingerbread Souffle

Recently I went to the Cake, Bake and Sweets Show that was held in Melbourne. It is kind of like the Good Food show but is just about the sweeter things in life.

Throughout the venue there were lots of vendors selling various gadgets and different types of chocolates, fudges and cakes, and there were plenty of tasting opportunities too.  We were very controlled and I only ended up buying one cookbook. I do kind of regret not buying one other, but that night we were also going to see Bon Jovi in concert so we couldn't really carry too much around with us all day and night.

The thing that makes these shows more than the gadgets and shopping though is the demonstrations. I think I said this last time I went to the Good Food Show, but I need to be more strategic about planning out the demonstrations I go to. We were working on our deck (more about that another time) in the morning so didn't end up going in until lunch time but if you planned your day better I am sure you could see multiple demonstrations and still see all the exhibits without too much difficulty

As it was I did see two demonstrations and picked up a couple of handy hints along the way. The first demonstration was by French patissier Eric Lanlard and the other was a chocolate demonstration by Jessica Pedemont.  The tip that I have used most since learning it related to piping bags. The first tip is that piping nozzle goes inside the piping bag. I had been putting it on the outside and hoping that the pressure would hold the tip in.  Who knew!

The other tip was about putting the nozzle in and then twisting the piping bag and almost tucking it in the nozzle which creates a lock. You then fill the bag, untwist it and then you are ready for piping and nothing has run out the end unexpectedly!  Simple but effective

Today I am going to share one of the recipes that was shared in the demonstration by Eric Lanlard who apparently has a British TV show called Glamour Puds, several cookbooks and a baking app available from his website. He made two recipes. The first was Gingerbread souffle, which is the recipe below, and the other recipe was a Jamaican Chocolate tart.

The demonstration was lots of fun. Plenty of banter, especially between Eric and the cameraman, lots of encouragement and tips were shared along the way, and the food looked amazing! A couple of the things that he mentioned were to never buy your chocolate from the baking aisle, but buy good quality chocolate from the confectionery aisle. The other thing he talked about was making your own pastry. He totally gave us permission to use shop bought puff and filo pastry but said that shortcrust pastry is totally doable. Not that I needed his permission but still.

So onto the recipe. Now admittedly Eric Lanlard is a professionally trained patissier so of course he makes things look easy, but this recipe really, really did look as though it is something that I could do, and if I can so can others!! He did say this is a recipe for small dinner party. It's not something you want to do for 20 people, but make it straight before you want to eat it. Get it out of the oven and take it to the table and wow your guests. And it is a perfect dessert for this time of the year with the spices making it feel very festive.

Gingerbread Souffle (Eric Lanlard)

50g (2oz) unsalted butter
135g (43/4oz) caster sugar
210g (71/4oz) dark or couverture chocolate
(70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp dark rum
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
5 eggs, separated

To serve

vanilla custard or creme fraiche


1. Preheat the oven to 180.C (fan 160.C)/350.F/gas mark 4. Melt half the butter and use to brush the inside of eight small ramekins. Tip 25g (1oz) of the caster sugar into one ramekin and tap around the sides to lightly coat. Pour the excess into the next ramekin and repeat until all the ramekins are butter- and sugar-coated.

2. Melt the chocolate with the spices, rum, vanilla extract and remaining butter in a large heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water (the base of the bowl must not touch the water). Stir until smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and mix the egg yolks in one at a time.

3. In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft, moist-looking peaks. Mix a little into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the rest, using a large metal spoon.

4. Divide the souffle mixture between the ramekins, spooning it in, and place the ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for exactly 11 minutes.

5. Serve with vanilla custard poured into the centre of each souffle


These souffl├ęs must be cooked just before eating; they will flatten within 2 minutes of being removed from the oven. Be careful not to open the oven during cooking, as this may prevent them from rising.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Cook books?

I recently was looking for a specific recipe and thought I would have a look through the cookbooks that I have on my shelf. I did think that, surely, at least one of them would have the recipe I wanted. It turned out that they didn't actually have exactly what I was looking for but the exercise did have me pondering a couple of things about cookbooks and what their current roles are in our cooking lives?

I wouldn't say I have a lot of cookbooks, maybe 50 or 60 or so, but I am always looking at buying more longingly.

When I looked at my shelves, there are a number from the mid 90s that I bought when I lived in the UK and that I bought back with me when I returned to Australia in late 1999. I can't remember what my thinking was in selecting which ones to bring back although it looks as though any chef whose name is either Ainsley or Delia was a criteria. I am not sure if they were books that I loved cooking from, or perhaps books that I didn't necessarily think I could get here easily. I do know that I left a lot behind though.

When I found the book above though I was surprised to see the tag line there of 'A new edition for the 1990s'

Currently my cookbooks are organised into two distinct groups. There are two shelves of cookbooks by Australian authors, and then another couple of shelves of overseas authors.

I do love looking through cookbooks, and often find inspiration to try new recipes as a result of this. I wonder if this makes cookbooks more glorified coffee table books rather than truly every day items. The truth is though that I get a couple of magazines each month and often these for trying new recipes. And if I am completely truthful, the reality is that most of the time these days I think of a recipe, or see it on a cooking show,  and then search for it online.

So how do you see the role of cookbooks in your kitchen? Has it changed over the years?

And the recipe that I was looking for? I really wanted to make some Viennese biscuits. Normally you can have these sandwiched together with jam but I really just wanted to make the biscuits and then dip them in chocolate and cover in sprinkles because I saw them done that way on Instagram. In the end though it was really hot here so my butter was too soft, I should have put the biscuits in the fridge before baking them so they spread everywhere, the biscuits were too soft to dip in chocolate so I had to just spoon the chocolate over. It was actually too hot for the chocolate to set. So, in the end it was a bit of a baking fail, but gee they tasted good. These were the last two and they are gone now!

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Weekend Cooking: What's your cooking passion?

I have mentioned once before that, in addition to doing the Bake It Boxes, I have also joined a baking club on Facebook called The Queen Baking Club (where Queen is the name of a company that makes all sorts of flavouring, food colouring etc).

They set a fortnightly challenge for the members in the club and so far I have made the following .....

Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake

Coconut Rough Magic Cake

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Creamy Ginger Nut Cheesecake

Strawberries & Cream Sheet Cake

Oozing Eyeball Marshmallow Slice

And I have just made Baklava Slice and I am planning to make Easy Vanilla Bean Fudge tomorrow to take for work on Monday

This week they asked a question though about what kind of baking people wanted to have set as challenges in the club (slices, desserts, cupcakes, cake, foodie gifts, healthy baking etc) and it's prompted me to ask a similar question to all my fellow Weekend Cooking bloggers

If you could cook just for pleasure, where you had access to all the ingredients that you needed, time was no object, what would you cook? What's your cooking passion?

If you asked me a couple of years ago, I wouldn't have said baking but these days baking is definitely my thing. I have so many recipes I want to find and make. For example, a couple of months ago, the sous chef bought me some half dome silicone moulds. My intention over the next few weeks is to try and locate a recipe to make in that, even if it means having several steps like maybe doing chocolate domes filled with lemon mousse and a sponge base. I don't know exactly what but something. I also still want to try making choux pastry, and so much more!

Just the other day I mentioned on Twitter that my Instagram account is now all about the cakes and that provides extra inspiration too!

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Weekend Cooking: The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden (Lemon Crunch Cake)

Recently I finished reading The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden. Actually, let me start again. Recently I finished listening to the audiobook of The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden. It is one of my favourite kinds of books - dual storylines in the past and the present linked together.

The story starts with Kit who has been called to the bedside of her ailing grandmother, Katherine. In their final conversation, Katherine surprises Kit by revealing a life long secret. It shocks Kit to think that she didn't know such a big thing about her grandmother as they had always been incredibly close. That is just the beginning as Kit begins to uncover secret after secret. Katherine had never really talked about her early life, and it turns out there were big reasons why. Kit isn't even sure how it was that Katherine ended up living in Australia despite being born in the US

Katherine's story starts in Hawaii, in the weeks prior to the bombing of the fleet in the harbor that was the final impetus to draw the US into WWII. Kitty McGarrie, as she was known then, was the 16 years old daughter of a Rear Admiral and lived a very comfortable life of parties, going to the movies with her friends, and spending time at the beach. The only dampener in her life is really her mother, who is determined that Kitty must be the perfect daughter at all times.

On her 16th birthday her family throws a glamorous party for her, and it is there that Kitty meets Charlie, a sailor who her parents will never approve of as he comes from a lower social class. They fall in love and are determined that they will be together, but fate has a way of having other ideas.

As Kit tries to trace her grandmother's history, she finds herself attending the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing in her stead. She meets people who knew Kitty and can help fill in some of the gaps. She also meets Adam, a man who is self assured to the point of arrogance, but who agrees to show her around Hawaii, in particular taking Kit to places which help her see glimpses into how Kitty's life would have been in the lead up to that fateful day when everything changed.

Adam also had a tendency to challenge Kit about her own past and how it is affecting her life now.

The narration was quite good on this one. I do some times find it difficult to transition from one audiobook to the next as I am used to listening to one voice and the new voice can be jarring. At first, the narrator's voice sounded a bit light (particularly seeing as the previous book I listened to was Lethal White, the latest Robert Cormoran book) but overall it was a good performance, and I found myself thinking about the book when I was doing other things. When I started my next audiobook after this one I once again had the transition issue, so I guess that means that I was invested in this performance.

Recently I have had a couple of conversations on Facebook where people had asked whether we are at saturation point for stories set in WWII. I will admit that I have been at saturation point for the Tudors for many, many years. The difference for me is that the Tudors were all about one family, with three or four main characters, covering a period of 50 - 60 years but there is so much scope for a WWII story. It covers a shorter period but the story can be set in numerous countries in Europe, in the Pacific or even the stories of people left at home. There are literally millions of people whose story can be told and more often that not, the stories I love are not necessarily about the mechanics of war but rather about the stories of people living with extreme adversity and still managing to survive and find happiness.

There is still plenty of scope for the big events though. As I mentioned above the main historical part of this book is set around the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Whilst I am sure that there are plenty of books set in that time and place, this is the first time I recall reading it, especially hearing it from the perspective of the sailors who were on the ships as they were bombed.

There are quite a few mentions in the book of different food that you would have found in Hawaii in the early 1940's including something called shave ice, but the item that caught my attention was  called Lemon Crunch Cake. I have been looking around for recipes and found one at Fork to Belly which looks pretty good. Most interestingly, the blogger has added a bit of history about the cake and the places it used to be and still is served in which was interesting reading, especially seeing as I was hearing about some of those same places in the book.

A few weeks ago I posted about my evolution as a baker, and I think that this cake represents that pretty well.  There was a time when I wouldn't have been confident enough to try making a layer cake with lots of elements, but I very nearly ended up taking bits and pieces from numerous different recipes to put together.

I was a bit concerned about making a cake using American measurements rather than the Australian ones I am used to, and there was also a couple of ingredients that were initially a bit unfamiliar to me. I was also keen to use real lemon juice rather than lemon extract.   I was therefore looking around for other lemon sponge cake recipes that I could use, and I almost got to the point where I was going to take a sponge cake recipe from one website, and the pastry cream and the toffee crunch from the original recipe. The other thing was that the recipe called for shop bought lemon curd, but I have made that before when I made a lemon mousse cake a couple of months ago, so I already knew that I was going to make my own curd. In the end though, I decided to go with the original recipe because it looked like such a light, fluffy sponge and I didn't want to make a cake that was too dense. It turns out that those unfamiliar ingredients really just have different names here.

So here is my take on the Lemon Crunch Cake. It is a super light lemon sponge, with a layer of pastry cream (which I have never made before), a layer of lemon curd, covered with lemon flavoured whipped cream and then topped with a toffee crunch. So delicious! I will make it again, although I might make half the toffee and only put it on the top

And with all that delicious leftover lemon curd we could have pancakes with lemon curd or mini lemon tarts with some leftover pastry that I have in the fridge. Or crumpets with butter and lemon curd! I'm sure we will find something.

I have a bit of the travel bug really, and I came home several times and said to the sous chef that I wanted to go to the Arizona Memorial. It was already on our list of places to go one day, but this book just reiterated it. And if I do go, I will be sure to make my way to The Alley, one of two places who still serve this cake.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Weekend Cooking: "Fried" chicken

When we aren't eating cake we are trying to eat a little healthier, but I am struggling a little bit with it. One of the reasons that I am struggling is that the sous chef has decided that we are going to eat more low carb high fat/keto rather than the traditional low fat/calorie counting philosophy of losing weight. This means we have been doing things like eating cauliflower mash and cauliflower fried rice. Where I am struggling is with things like eating bacon and eggs for breakfast on a regular basis or eating keto cheesecake as dessert. I have 30 years plus of conditioning around eating low fat yoghurt, drinking low fat milk, not frying anything, and certainly not having a kind of cheesecake for dessert.

Having said that, we are currently watching a British cooking show called Lose Weight for Good. It is hosted by a chef called Tom Kerridge. Tom was very, very overweight and lost a lot of weight by cutting out carbs and exercising but his show is all about how to eat delicious low fat, calorie counted food because that is what the UK government recommends as the best way to lose weight.  I am interested in getting hold of his previous book where he talked about the food he actually ate to lose weight.

It does make it a bit challenging to have the two different ways of eating but at the end of the day it's about trying to find tasty food to enjoy.

One of the early recipes in the series was for a Southern "fried" chicken and it looked so delicious that we had to try it, and the recipe was definitely a winner. We took it for lunch a couple of days with salad. Definitely a recipe to try again and again. If fact we had it for dinner again tonight!

We did also have an avocado dressing with the salad. I don't love avo but the sous chef is very keen on it, but it was very tasty to have with the chicken and salad.

Southern "fried" chicken (Tom Kerridge)

12 boneless chicken thighs (1kg/2lb 4oz in total), skin and visible fat removed
sunflower oil spray

For the crispy coating

75g/2½oz plain flour
1 tsp garlic salt
1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp flaky sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the marinade

200ml/7fl oz low-fat buttermilk
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp flaky sea salt
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried sage
¼ tsp white pepper

For the marinade, mix the ingredients together in a large bowl, add the chicken and coat well. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least four hours.

Preheat the oven to its hottest setting and line a large baking tray with baking paper.

For the crispy coating, mix all the ingredients together in a shallow bowl. Dip the chicken into the mixture and turn to coat well on all sides. Place on the lined baking tray. Spray each thigh 4–5 times with the oil.

Cook on the top shelf for 20–30 minutes, or until crispy, browned and cooked through. To test, poke the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer, the juices should run clear.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Lemon Meringue Pie

Last week I made Mary Berry's Lemon Meringue Pie, and I have been pondering the way that I have, in effect, been learning the different basics of baking. A couple of years ago I wouldn't have actually attempted making this. Pastry from scratch? Not likely. Meringue? Even more unlikely. But gradually, by taking a series of small steps, I have got to the point where it doesn't feel as thought it is impossible.

So, what were the steps along the way?

Firstly, in relation to pastry, I started out by making Donna Hay's Lemon Tart (actually making the pastry twice due to my own rookie error), and then recently I made chocolate chess tart which starts with a chocolate pastry.  I am most definitely not ready to start making filo pastry or even puff pastry, but I think that shortcrust pastry is something that doesn't intimate me anymore. I do intend trying to make a rough puff pastry at some point, and also to try choux pastry, but not sure when that will be.

I had some exposure to making the lemon filling when I made the lemon tart, but also a few weeks ago I made a lemon mousse cake that started with making lemon curd which was delicious be itself, but then it was folded through cream etc to make a lemon mousse that was so good! As in really, really good!

Meringue has been a little more challenging, but I think that is because it can be influenced by so many factors. You can get the mixture right, but it still might not cook correctly because of humidity or even your equipment not being scrupulously clean. 

I started trying to make meringue last year when we made Eton Mess but that wasn't 100% successful. Since then I have made meringues a couple of times, most recently when I made meringue kisses to put on my mother's 70th birthday cake. Next steps will be to make a pavlova from scratch!!

Now don't be fooled. Whilst I my confidence is definitely up, I don't have these techniques mastered! Today I managed to not get the lemon filling exactly right because I didn't pay attention when I was adding the sugar to the egg yolks. I forgot to reset the scales to 0 and so when I realised I didn't know  how much sugar I had already added. I suspect I was a bit under so the lemon is very lemony, but it still tasted delicious. I guess if you want to eat something lemon, you want to taste it as lemon!

This is actually a Mary Berry recipe. Mary Berry has been a TV cook in the UK for many years, but I first heard of her when I started watching Great British Bake Off a few years ago. That show, the spin-off that features professional pastry chefs (Bake Off The Professionals), and the Australian version all are part of my must see TV viewing.  To get some idea of how long Mary has been on TV, her she is making Lemon Meringue Pie back in 1973!

And now, here is the recipe for the current recipe. You can also watch a more recent video for a variation on this recipe here and there is a link to the recipe I made below

Lemon Meringue Pie (Mary Berry)

For the pastry
225g/8oz plain flour
175g/6oz butter
45g/1¾oz icing sugar
1 large free-range egg, beaten

For the lemon filling
6 lemons, zest and juice
65g/2¼oz cornflour
250g/9oz caster sugar
6 free-range egg yolks

For the meringue topping
4 free-range egg whites
225g/8oz caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour


Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

First make the pastry. Measure the flour and butter into a food processor and blend together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the icing sugar, egg and one tablespoon of water and whizz again until combined to a ball.

Tip the pastry onto a work surface and roll out to a 3mm thickness. Use the rolling pin to lift the pastry up and transfer it to line a 23cm/9in loose-bottomed flan tin. Be careful not to stretch the pastry as you tuck it into the corners. Cover in cling film and place in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Take the pastry-lined tin out of the fridge and trim the excess pastry. Press the top edge of the pastry so that it stands slightly higher than the top of the tin.

Line the pastry case with parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake for about 15 minutes then remove the beans and parchment and return to the oven for a further five minutes.

Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 170C/340F/Gas 3½.

For the filling, mix the lemon zest and juice with the cornflour and stir to form a smooth paste. Measure 450ml/16fl oz of water into a pan and bring to the boil. Add the lemon cornflour mixture to the hot water and stir over the heat until the mixture has thickened, then remove from the heat.

In a bowl mix together the sugar and egg yolks and carefully whisk into the lemon mixture in the pan. Stir over a medium heat until thickened. Set aside for a few minutes and then pour into the baked pastry case.

For the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a free-standing mixer until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Add the caster sugar a little at a time, still whisking until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Add the cornflour and whisk again.

Spoon on top of the filled pastry case and spread the meringue to completely cover the lemon filling. Then create a swirl on the top of the meringue.

Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until the filling is completely set and the meringue is lightly golden and crisp. Allow to cool completely before cutting or serve very slightly warm.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.


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