Saturday, February 18, 2006

Lemon Cookies

A recent direction to this website helped me to discover and make these cookies. While I am loathe to participate in Valentine's day I did end up taking a plate of them to work on that day to share with my colleagues.

In noticed that when a person is queried about whether he or she or their partner participates in Valentines day, the most common response is "Yes because we want to eat some chocolate" so I guess in essence I too am one of the masses because I too used Valentine's day as the reason for making these cookies. But if I am truly honest I love the whimsy of the heart shape and pink icing any day and really wanted to make them anyway.

Personally I hope that anyone else wanting to make them doesn't have to wait for 12 months to next Valentines Day because they are really lovely to make and eat any time.

While you can find the recipe on "Joy of Baking" I have also replicated the recipe here. One thing worthy of noting, is that the butter icing while very tasty is not so good in Brisbane while it is humid so I mainly had to keep them in the fridge and eventually I opted for a chocolate icing without as much butter so I could send a few to school in lunch boxes for my nephew and son. Chocolate ones pictured below (with some Afghans which I will post about in due course).

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 large lemon
2 1/4 cups (315 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups (230 grams) confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk or light cream

Assorted food colors (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in centre of oven.

Line two baking trays with parchment paper.

For Cookies: Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add to the butter and egg mixture and beat until combined. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and, with a floured rolling pan, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch (1.25 cm).

Using cut the dough into shapes. Save the scraps and reroll. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them a few inches apart.
Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes time will vary depending on the size and shape of cookies) or until the bottoms of the cookies are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cookie comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
Once the cookies have completely cooled, frost with icing.

For Frosting: In an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. Add the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add a little more milk or sugar, if needed. Tint the frosting with desired food color

Makes about 18 - 2 1/2 inch (6 cm) cookies.

Monday, February 13, 2006

"A simple cake to serve with summer fruit"

This weekend we didn't host any lunches or dinners so it was high time to catch up on some baking. This cake is one of the goodies I got to make. I baked so Elliot could take some goodies to school and this cake I brought to work today to celebrate two birthdays for some of my team members, one birthday last week and one today.

The photograph below is how I decided to serve my cake, with double cream and peaches and nectarine poached in vanilla syrup. It was a hit!
When I would first opened the cake carrier, we were hit by the fragrance of zested lime, and then the richness of peach. The cake itself has a smooth velvet texture (due to the ground almonds) punctuated by small pieces of dried peach.

For some time I have been wanting to bake a cake that I research and choose myself. I am hoping this cake might serve as inspiration for someone else to try to make. I am usually on the receiving end, being inspired by so many of the wonderful food blogs out there, just for once I want to be derivative of one source rather than two.

Since Christmas last year I have acquired a few new cookbooks; "Simply Bill" Bill Granger , "How to be a domestic goddess"Nigella Lawson, Jill Dupleix "Very Simple Food" and Nigel Slater's "Appetite" plus a subscription to the very excellent "Delicious". I spent a bit of time pouring over recipe books in search of, for a change, a non-chocolate cake. Summer fruit and stone fruit in particular abound at the moment at marvelous prices so I wanted to make something that would also incorporate peaches and nectarines.

I had made some of Nigel's dishes over the past few weeks so I thought, his recipes usually only consist of four or five ingredients and are fuss-free. You would think with a title like this "a simple cake to serve with summer fruit" and in addition qualified with Nigel's comment "absurdly easy to make" how could I go wrong . One other thing I like about his recipes are the slight variations he lists for each dish - so you can certainly play to some extent with his recipes but he suggests that the basic elements for cake should be adhered to. One of the reasons why I keep to recipes with cakes is I consider baking to be first and foremost a science.

Well having made this cake, I have to say that I think the title is a tad misleading because this cake involves are a number of steps and processes, it starts very familiarly - creaming butter and sugar, but there is also processing dried fruit, lightly beating four eggs, zesting and squeezing the juice of a lemon, combining flour and ground almonds then incorporation of the lightly beaten eggs a bit at a time, combining the flour a third at the time.... well I think you have the picture and you will hear all about it in the instructions.

butter 250g
caster sugar 250g
a lemon - organic or unwaxed
ground almonds 75 g
plain flour 100g
soft-dried apricots - 100g (I used some dried peaches I had in the pantry instead)
eggs- 4 large free range, lightly beaten

A shallow 23cm cake tin (I used a deeper 20 cm cake tin as I did not have the required one) the base lined with baking parchment. Set the oven at 180C/Gas 4.

Grate the zest from the lemon and squeeze its juice. Mix the ground almonds and flour together, then whiz the apricots in a food processor until they are very finely chopped. Nigel suggests that the the dried fruit be finer than candied peel - almost but not quite a puree. While I didn't get my dried peaches that fine, I don't think it was to the detriment of the texture of the cake at all.

Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until white and fluffy. Add the lightly beaten eggs to the butter and sugar mixture a little at a time, with the beater on slow. Turn the machine off and add the lemon zest and a third of the almonds and flour, then turn the mixer on slow until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add the second and then the third lot of almonds and flour, switching the machine off each time. If you do this too quickly you will end up with a heavy cake.

Lastly, with the machine still on slow, mix in the lemon juice and the apricots. Transfer the mixture to the lined cake tin with a spatula, gently smooth the top as you go and bake the cake till firm to touch. Nigel suggested about 35 minutes, mine took a little bit longer due to the deeper cake tin probably 10 minutes more. Test the cake by inserting a thin metal skewer into the centre; if it comes out clean, without any cake mixture attached then the cake is ready otherwise bake a bit longer.

Nigel suggests running a palette knife around the edge of the tin and turning the cake out on to icing sugared greaseproof paper. Peel off the lining paper, then flip the cake back on to a plate.

I, however, cooled the cake on a rack then made a thin white icing and let it drip slowly at whim down the side of the cake ("run carelessly" is Nigel's instruction) .

I also decided to add the extra embellishment of the zested lime, though next time I would wait for the icing to set before adding it to the top. I thought it might look a bit like I put some herb or grass bits on top, but everyone at work really liked the lime touch.

Nigel suggested that the cake is wonderful served with poached fruit, especially pears, greengages (don't know what they are), apricots or rhubarb - or with thick yoghurt.

Having now made and eaten the cake, I am wondering whether Nigel meant "simple" as in simple flavours there is nothing complex about the flavour of this cake. I find the smell of citrus evocative and whets my appetite - I served it with the poached fruit a little more complex with its vanilla syrup, my friends who were not even keen on the fruit tried it and thought it a wonderful addition.

The verdict: ultimately this not so simple cake is worth every bit of effort.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Warmed Turkish Bread, olive oil and dukkah

Very, very little effort is involved here.

Use a big splash of extra virgin olive oil and put out some dukkah that you bought from a great deli. You could make the dukkah but really there is so much of it being made so well out there by different people for the various delis all over town, why bother I say.

Buy some turkish bread and reheat for 10 minutes in the oven or under a grill and cut into cubes. Serve with drinks as an appetizer.

Prosciutto wrapped figs with gorgonzola and torn basil.

This is one food combination I actually crave. So given that I was and the figs were looking good I was able to satisfy this craving last week. Fresh figs from my favourite fruit and vegetable shop and thinly sliced prosciutto and gorgonzola from the attached delicatessen. Fresh basil torn into pieces.

Slice the figs into eighth's and cut a small piece of gorgonzola. Wrap a piece of prosciutto (which has been cut into half lengthways) around the fig and gorgonzola. Serve as Anti pasti.

Also the figs, gorgonzola, basil and prosciutto make a great salad when combined with baby spinach. I usually made a balsalmic vinaigrette to go with the salad. Great with a veal cutlet sauteed in sage butter.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Berry Trifle

Preparing Berry Trifle for Feast No. 4

Last Sunday, having been inspired by my latest purchase Nigel Slater's Appetite, I decided to make Berry Trifle for our dessert. I decided that Nigel and I are completely in synchronicity when it comes to our approach to trife (did I mean trife as a play on words for "life"? My friend at work asked me when she read this post - I guess so but it wasn't intended!). I like Nigel, prefer to use a bought cake and while he buys his custard, I make mine from a custard powder so the approach is very much a pedestrian one.

What I did take from Nigel though and incorporated into my recipe was the combining of whipped cream into the custard used for the layers.

1 unfilled sponge cake (cut into 1 cm cubes)
1 punnet of raspberries
1 punnet of strawberries
1 punnet of blueberries
berry coulis
500ml of whipping cream
1.5 litres of cold custard
dessert wine or sherry
extra whipped cream for a topping
flaked almonds (toasted)

For the berry coulis: I pureed a semi-thawed packet of frozen mixed berries and add 1/4 cup of sugar and warm in a pan on the stove. Let cool and strain through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.

For the custard: I made mine from some Fowlers Custard powder. In a jug/bowl mix thoroughly about 3 heaped tablespoons of the custard powder with about 1/2 cup of the milk . Put the remainder of the milk in a med-large saucepan and gently bring to the boil on the stove. I added sugar (about 1/2 cup) to the milk and stirred to dissolve the sugar.

Once the milk came to the boil I whisked through the custard powder/milk mixture till the custard became quite thick. Leave the custard to cool. In fact you could even make it the day before.

In a separate bowl whip the cream until soft peaks form, it should not be stiff. I then decided to take some of the custard out from the larger bowl and combine it with an equal amount of whipped cream in a smaller bowl. I thought that the combining of the cream with the custard made a very luscious mousse-like custard, which will give the trifle a velvet texture rather than the gell texture that thick custard when cold is want to do.

In a trifle bowl or the bottom of some glasses (this quantity made about 6 huge red wine glasses full) place a few pieces of sponge and soak with some coulis and dessert wine/sherry, top with a few of each of the berries. Top with a few centimetres of the cream and custard mixture. Begin the layers again, sponge, coulis, sherry, berries then custard etc. Leave some room near the top of the glass or bowl and make sure you end with a custard layer.

Just prior to serving top with whipped cream and toasted flaked almonds.

From the table

To the mouth

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Cheese biscuits

Okay, okay, there actually has been heaps of kitchen action in the Lushlife household for the past three weeks, just no time to photograph and write about them. Counting tomorrow it will be the fourth major feast we will have prepared in the past three weekends.

The first weekend, we prepared a barbecued butterflied lamb which turned out so well we would definitely prepare it again, dessert that night was a disaster of monumental proportions, a failed chocolate mousse and some successful hazelnut meringue. (The hazelnut meringue morphed into an ice-cream sandwhich drizzled with the chocolate sauce - which was the separated chocolate mousse- egads!)

24 hours after that dinner, the failed chocolate mousse was restored to it's intended glory (if you get the gist) after a gentle reheating and re-chilling. We enjoyed the mousse after the more pedestrian dinners which are a feature of our working week.

Some of the other highlights of that feast (which I will identify as Feast 1) that I intend to record here eventually, are the making of a Romesco sauce this link is of a different version to the one I made but it will give you the idea). This is one of those foodie recipes you have never heard of then like some kind of existential coincidence it pops up everytime you open a cookbook, magazine or search the recipes on a blog you have never searched on before, much like the Bellini which has become a fixture of late in the late, summer afternoons in our backyard, with our other latest semi-permanent physical fixture being a badminton net.

Last weekend (Feast 3), it was Bellinis with a blood orange twist, chorizos and garlic broadbeans with dill and mint, marscapone and gorgonzola stuffed pepperdews, dukkah, turkish bread, Persian feta, pesto & tapenade and the cheese biscuits above (belatedly getting to point of this post) Oh!- and the badminton and the kiddies and a couple of our most wonderful friends.

Back to the cheese biscuits. Just before Christmas last year, we had a huge dinner at a good friend's place (and in fact whom I credit with providing me with the recipe for the main course I produced for Feast No. 3 and I will publish later) one of the couples was tasked with bringing the Antipasti and she arrived with beautiful marscapone and pesto dips, gorgeous brie and these melt in your mouth shortbread cheese biscuits. She had not made them but sourced them from one of our town's finest baked good providores. Once I had tried one I couldn't forget them and I was determined to find a recipe for something like them which I am glad to say only took me a little more than a month from the first taste. I think that the bought ones had a higher butter content than mine but nevertheless I am more than happy with the product I have made in any case.

The recipe source: my every so handy little book of Small Food (snack-sized bites to share with friends) by Murdoch Books.

1 cup (125g) plain flour
2 tablespoons self-raising flour
1 teaspoon curry powder (optional - I decided against it)
125g butter
1/2 cup (50g) Parmesan
2/3 cup grated cheddar
20g crumbled blue-vein cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup (25g) finely grated Parmesan extra

Place the flours, curry powder and butter in a food processor. Process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the cheeses and the lemon juice. Bring the mixture together into a ball. Roll into a 30cm (or two logs). Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to moderately hot 200c (400FGas 6) Slice into 5mm slices (although I thought thicker was better and opted for just under 1 cm) Reshape, if necessary. Place on baking paper-lined oven tray, allowing some room for spreading. Sprinkle tops with Parmesan. Bake for 15minutes, or until biscuits are golden. Cool on trays. Makes plenty (40+)

I have to say I did prefer them thicker and not so crispy, so you could get a big cheesy buttery mouthful, perfect topped with some Persian feta or pesto or tapenade.

Yea - a post I have done it . Oh and by the way Tomara and Brenton or Tom if you do find my website this weekend or at another time, please be kind enough to leave me a comment!

About Me

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Mother of two with one of each. Wife of one.Dogless. Busy working five days a week, baking and cooking when time allows. Writing rarely these days. Wishing I had time to read more often.