27 Apr 2015

white chocolate coconut cakes


I am a chocolate snob: it’s dark or it’s nothing. So I quite surprised myself when I tore this recipe out of a magazine. There’s coconut in there too — another surprise, because apart from lamingtons, I’m not a huge coconut lover either. Maybe it’s because the magazine’s picture looked like a giant blanc lamington I was tempted.

These cakes (I made cupcakes and mini loaves rather than one large round cake) are a doddle to make: melt the butter and white chocolate, then stir thru the remaining ingredients. As they bake, they fill the kitchen with that intoxicatingly sweet coconut aroma. They are dense and not-too-sweet; you can top them with a white chocolate ganache and sprinkle them with shredded or toasted coconut, but I like them as they are, with a cup of tea, or after dinner served warm with a spoonful or two of stewed fruit. Something sharp like F’s summer greengages or rhubarb really complements the fudginess of the cakes, and a spoonful of tangy frozen yoghurt doesn’t hurt either.

So here’s for overcoming chocolate prejudices and realising that white chocolate cakes are a good thing! Though you still won’t find me eating a block of it …
White chocolate coconut cakes
Adapted from the Woolworths April magazine. I have made this using my mini-loaf tin and cupcakes, so the final quantity varies each time, but the recipe specifies a deep 20cm round cake tin.
  • Preheat oven to 180 and prep your baking tins.
  • In a large saucepan, melt over a gentle heat 220 gms white chocolate, 180 gms butter, and ¾ cup water, stirring til smooth.
  • Remove from heat and stir in 1 scant cup sugar. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
  • Whisk thru 2 large eggs (or 3 small bantam eggs!) and 1 tspn of vanilla (I have also used the speckled vanilla essence, and the vanilla paste).
  • Sift in 1 ½ cups plain flour, ½ cup SR flour, and ½ cup desiccated coconut.
  • Pour or ladle into your chosen baking tins – it’s a pretty runny batter.
  • For cupcakes or small cakes, bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and the cakes shrink away from the sides a little. Rest on a wire rack, then remove from tin and cool, especially if you wish to ice.
  • For the ganache, the recipe specified 440 gms white chocolate and 2/3 cup thickened cream — but I halved this, and still had oodles of ganache left over (keep in fridge and then eat it as is for a decadent treat. Warning: addictive). To make the ganache, combine the two ingredients in a bowl suspended over a gently-simmering saucepan of water and stir until combined. Allow to cool until thick and spreadable.

19 Apr 2015

what's your cookbook?

Yes, I know there's a Vogue book in there. Girl's gotta have a bit of glamour

If you could have a cookbook that was ‘you’, what would it be like? I don’t necessarily mean a book that you write; rather, what collection of recipes would reflect your tastes and desires, your style of cooking and eating, how you shop, harvest, cook, eat and think about food? What would be in it?

I started thinking about this when I was working my way along the cooking shelves of my local library. I’d pick out a book, the colour and words along its spine tempting me, the covers making me want to take it home before I’d even cracked open the pages.

I’m sure you’ve done the same thing in your library or a bookshop; flipped and thought oooh! Look at all these delicious meals! And then had a closer look and thought, in a disappointed fashion, hmmm, maybe not. Too much of this, not enough of that, is what I thought as I put the book on the shelf.

I recalled that most people only make three recipes from a cookbook. When most cookbooks, I think, have around 100 recipes in them, that’s not a good strike rate.

So imagine holding in your hands a cookbook that you’d make everything in it. What would it be like?

Chuck out all the rules. I must admit I’m amused by books that start with a breakfast chapter. Me, I eat the same thing every day: rolled oats, nuts, stewed fruit, soy milk; cold in the summer and warmed through in the cooler months. I’m apparently not alone: someone at work told me that when it comes to brekkie, most of us are creatures of habit; changing your breakfast choice is one of the most difficult things to do (especially before 7am). I cannot fathom making a different breakfast every day, even on the weekends. So no need for a breakfast chapter for me.

I wouldn’t have a soup chapter either. My mother is horrified that I recently confessed I wasn’t a big fan of soup. After years of her freezing little portions just for me, each time she made her own big batches! I like chewing things, and while I do enjoy mum’s soups (I do, mum, really!), I could never be bothered making my own. I tried once, and it was just soggy vegetables floating about in water. But then I reserve the right to be contrary: recently I made tomato soup. But it was pretty thick, so more likely I’ll use it as passata.

So let’s get on with what I would have. Lot’s of chunky, healthy salad recipes: substantial, colourful, nutritious, hearty bowls full of vegies, chickpeas or lentils, nuts, and some leafy green things — but not too much; remember, I like to chew. Salads that are main courses in disguise. Different textures and colours exploding from every gorgeous bowl, all assembled in a flash. I actually have pictures of these kind of meals, torn from magazines and stuck on my fridge, for constant inspiration. So a few pages in a book would be very satisfying.

Next would be a chapter that would inspire my weekend meals. Like things on toast or between two bits of bread, but better than what I do at the moment. I need my weekend lunches to be quick because I’m usually in and out of the garden, but I know I could jazz things up a bit. Something to get me out of my summertime cheese and tomato and basil rut (which is pretty good, but a rut nonethless).

The next savoury section would be dedicated to the oven, because I love my oven. I’m thinking colourful vegie gratins, filling pasta bakes (but not too stodgy), warming risottos, wibbly-wobbly quiches, rustic zucchini-scattered galettes. Like the salads, a good emphasis on good-for-you as well as good-tasting. The sort of dishes you make in the wintertime, on the weekend when you have more time (as opposed to those quick toss-it-all-together bowls in the salad chapter).

Then we have, of course, the cakes and puddings and sweety things. Very old-school, old-fashioned. No chai puddings or avocado-chocolate mousses here, nor fancily decorated three-tiered constructions, no celebration or ‘special occasion’ gateaux.

We’d have plain cake, lemon cake (which I now know you love too!), orange and apple cakes, one or two fail-safe chocolate cakes (because everyone needs a go-to chocolate cake). There’d be a small selection of boozy cakes, because you know I love soaking my sultanas in sherry, or sploshing some tia maria in the brownies. A selection of biscuits made for dunking in a mug of tea. And after-dinner fruit crumbles and bread and butter puddings; homely and comforting, a little bit stick-to-the-ribs. All very CWA and what-granny-used-to-make-on-Sundays. Because they are the kind of recipes I love looking at and that inspire me to get in the kitchen.

So there we are. Some of those recipes I’ve already collected here at Dig In, or I have squirrelled into folders, in my own kind of recipe book. But it would be good to have all my favourite and favoured recipes all in one place. I have no desire to write a cookbook (I’d be scratching to reach that target of 100 recipes), but it’s a fun process once you start plotting.

So do tell me: what would be in your cookbook?

12 Apr 2015

lemon almond cake, lemon sour cream cupcakes

Trust me on this one. I know it doesn't look like much, but trust me...

When I served F this buttercup-yellow lemon and almond cake for afternoon tea, she said lemon cake was her favourite. What serendipity! It’s one of my favourites too (I also have a soft spot for orange cakes, apple cakes, and plain buttery cakes).

A good lemon cake should be zingy and refreshing, with or without icing; it should be equally invigorating on a dull winter’s day or hot summer evening - though it must be said, at this time of year, with darkening days and chilly afternoons, a good lemon cake really shines. It lifts your spirits and your tastebuds. And if the recipes says juice or zest of one lemon, it can’t hurt to give a little extra squeeze or scrape, can it? There is nothing worse than a lemon cake deficient in lemon.

After that, I do not mind if the cake if fluffy as a cloud or dense and pudding like. Both these cakes are on the richer end of the scale, and this lemon-almond cake is definitely more pudding than cake – especially the next day, when the zingy icing has had time to soak in (a transformation like this reminds me of Nigella’s damp chocolate cake, which gets better over time). The word ‘squidgy’ springs to mind!

Cakes made with almond meal (or full-fat sour cream) are usually wonderfully moist. However, the fact I used a lot less meal than the recipe specified — my digital scales blanked on me while measuring the meal, and what I had already weighed out looked like an awful lot anyway — I’m sure is the main reason this heavenly, lemony slab was so good (I've made it since with the reduced quantity and it works every time). 'The best', as F later emailed me; so good that she did not share the piece I gave her to take home with anyone. So best I share the recipe with you.

Lemon almond cake
Adapted from Ross Dobson’s ‘Market Vegetarian’. The original recipe specified gently toasting 250 gms whole blanched almonds before whizzing them to make your own meal. However, I was feeling poorly — the cost of the blanched almonds would have made this a very expensive cake — and I had almond meal in the pantry.
  • Preheat oven to 180 and prep a 20 cm square brownie tin.
  • Cream 200 gms soft butter, 200 gms sugar and the zest of at least two lemons. Maybe a little more! Then beat in 3 eggs.
  • Now fold thru 75 gms plain flour, 1 tspn baking powder, and 175 gms almond meal.
  • Finally, stir thru at least 80 mls lemon juice. Maybe a little more!
  • Spoon the batter into your brownie tin, and bake in the oven for 30–35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and the cake shrinks away from the sides a little. Rest on a wire rack, then remove from tin and cool a little before icing.
  • For the icing, combine 150 gms icing sugar with 2 tbspns of lemon juice. Yes ... maybe a little more! Pour over the cake. Lovely with a cup of earl grey, and even better the next day. I recommend eating this with a fork.

Lemon sour cream cupcakes
Another favourite lemon cake; Another lovely dense, moist texture. Adapted from AWW ‘Food we love’: I halved the recipe and made cupcakes.
  • Preheat oven to 170 and prep a 12-hole muffin tray.
  • Cream 125gms soft butter, the zest of at least two lemons and 1 cup sugar.
  • Beat in 3 eggs then the juice of one lemon.
  • Sift and fold thru 1 cup plain flour, half a ¼ cup of SR flour, and 90 mls sour cream.
  • Divide into the cupcake and bake for 20–25 minutes or until done.