Jordan Rondel’s Pineapple upside-down cake with crème anglaise

Jordan Rondel, aka The Caker, is so sought-after, she has published a well-regarded cookbook just 3 years after starting her baking business. There are so many simple, gorgeous desserts in the cookbook, I poured over several recipes before picking this to bake for a small party of blogger friends coming over for lunch.

The Caker’s recipes depend on the best possible ingredients, and luckily, to do this justice, I’d just been gifted a dozen fresh eggs from my friend N’s farmlet. And wow, organic, farm-fresh eggs are nothing like the free-range eggs I’d been used to. Their massive bright golden yolks lend a beautiful richness to the cake.

Baked pineapple has a mellow sweetness, and the caramel gives the cake a wonderful crust. This cake is rich, but surprisingly light textured. This is a spectacular cake, in both appearance and taste. Continue reading

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Sweet New Zealand #26

When I was dipping my newbie toes into the blogosphere, I attended the inaugural New Zealand Food Bloggers Conference and heard Alessandra Zecchini talk about her experiences as a blogger and food writer. What Alessandra didn’t mention is that she is also a huge proponent of Kiwi bloggers, and one of the ways she does this is through a monthly blogging event called Sweet New Zealand. This is a fun event to share recipes and connect with both familiar and new bloggers.

After participating in several Sweet New Zealand events, I’m very pleased to be this month’s host. Have a tantalising look at the August roundup by the effervescent Marnelli of Sweets and Brains.

It’s easy to enter. Here’s how: Continue reading

Orange syrup cake

I didn’t think you could make a cake that was gluten-free, dairy-free with no added oil and have it still taste great. I was proven wrong. Superlatively wrong.

Many people have watched Nigella on television purring seductively while she made a flourless clementine cake. I remember thinking what an odd cake, and filed it to the back of my mind. At the recent Auckland Food Show, the Food Hub stand was giving away oranges and recipe cards. This recipe was on the card, and I was intrigued enough to take a closer look. When I got an invite to a Lesley’s house for a food bloggers’ afternoon tea where there would be gluten-intolerant blogger in attendance, I gave decided to give this a chance. Continue reading

Chocolate Custard Mousse Birthday Cake

Di turned 71, or 72, and his birthday was in January or is in 5 days. Confused? Join the party. The discrepancy depends on whether you follow the Western or the Chinese calendar. Di was born on the 13th day of the (Chinese) New Year, but when my illiterate Ma-Ma registered the birth at the Department for Home Affairs, this was duly noted as 13th January. To compound the confusion, in Chinese years, a baby is 1 year old when born, – rounding up the gestation term, as you are deemed to have started aging from conception. Brutal, but you can’t refute the logic. So, Happy (Belated) 71th (or 72th) Birthday Di!

I searched the cookbooks and internet sites for a cake that’s rich and indulgent, elegant enough for a birthday cake so doesn’t need frosting or much decorating, and would appeal to both adults and young. When I saw this article by Dan Lepard in The Guardian, I knew this would work. This has a layer of thick chocolate mousse sitting on top a light chocolate sponge cake. Di likes chocolate, but isn’t a fan of sugary treats, so this bittersweet concoction is perfect. Continue reading

Red Velvet Birthday Cake

For Mi’s birthday, I wanted to make a (easy) cake with pizzazz. I think no other cake makes more of a statement than red velvet cake. And Mi is a quite a lady herself. Happy Birthday Mi!  If you can take your mind off the bright carmine colour, the cake is absolutely delicious. It is made with buttermilk and cocoa powder, is not-too-rich, slightly crumbly and superbly moist. Red velvet cakes are traditionally iced with  cream cheese frosting, but I have seen some recipes using vanilla butter frosting.

Mi surrounded by the little people

My American friend, E, tells me that red velvet cakes are typically only found in the Southern States of the US. It’s surprising that red velvet cakes are not more popular among Chinese. After all, the colour red colour is a colour of prosperity in the Chinese culture; symbolising joy and good fortune. Brides wear red, red firecrackers are lit during Chinese New Year, and kids are given hong bao (red packets filled with money).

I have seen numerous images of red velvet cakes, but I had never tasted it, or seen one up close. So, I was surprised by just how vibrant this cake is, and how colour gets even more vivid after baking. Continue reading

Brown sugar-Pecan Shortbread Cookies

I am a quasi-food blogger. I have no desire to make it a life calling, prose doesn’t come easily and I haven’t the skill, courage nor conviction to create recipes. I wish I could write like Mel of Treehouse Kitchen, be a mistress of my foodie domain like Alli of Pease Pudding or have creative nous like the Brash sisters of Greet & Eat.

My goal is simply to be a better cook, and learn from those more accomplished. I just want to entertain well, and be one of those people who can whip up a delicious feast for 8 with a 2-hour notice. I am not there yet, but I am certainly closer than I was before I started the blog.

Writing a blog has enabled me to learn new flavour combinations, try new cuisines, ask more questions and for some obscure reason, allowed me to acquire 12 wooden cooking implements. It’s such a uniting topic; – everyone is happy to talk about food, be it their favourite restaurant, a family recipe or just a food memory. There is no right or wrong food preference, though I concede that there are odd and intriguing ones.

I haven’t the foggiest where this will take me, but so far, the journey has been exciting and fun. The best part is that it has allowed me a peek into the world of foodies, bloggers and artisan food producers.

What does all that have to do with pecan shortbread? Nothing.

I admit that shortbreads are among my favourite baked goods, and pecans are quickly becoming my favourite nuts to cook with; when lightly toasted, they take on a caramel taste. In these cookies, the caramel taste is enhanced by brown sugar. These are comfort cookies, crumbly, buttery, nutty and totally irresistible. I made these 3 days before Christmas, and they never even made it to Christmas.  Continue reading

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Happy New Year friends and fellow bloggers! A new year, and a new blogging resolution to write more regularly and to journal a bit more about my journey through this crazy adventure called life. My life seems to be on a never-ending cycle of wash, rinse, repeat at the moment. Punctuated with tasty foodie moments, of course. My resolution is to increase those moments and to savour them.

There have been so many family dinners and dinner parties during the festive season, and I’ve been making a veritable array of desserts and meals (though not blogging). I tend to fall onto my true and tested, but every now and then, when I chance upon a special ingredient, the cookbooks are dragged out. Like these. After a day getting partially sunburnt at the grounds of Goat Island Reserve, we stopped at Matakana for some ice-cream and sorbets, and I spied plump luscious organic blueberries at Nosh Food Market.

This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Kitchen to Yours. It’s one of my favourite cookbooks; Dorie has a delightful way with linking stories to her recipes and creates simply sumptuous and aesthetically pleasing foods. Fresh blueberries are best, but given the prices of blueberries and their short availability, I’ve made this with frozen as well, and it comes out nearly as good.

Mini crumb cakes

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A Melbourne interlude

A sample of murals around Melbourne CBD

It has been a very long time since Bren and I went away on holiday together. 15 years in fact. Before Christian, her oldest child (my godson) was born. Christian is now 14-and-a-half and towers over us. Time has not only flown, it installed supersonic jet engines. Since then, we have not lived in the same town, and in the last few years, or even the same country. We’ve talked about having a proper catch up for a while. The opportunity finally came up when Iwan, Bren’s husband gallantly volunteered to take care of the kids for a long weekend in exchange for his boys’ week. The date was set (Labour weekend), the place picked and a girls’ weekend was on!

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Raspberry and white chocolate friands

My cooking bible of the moment is The Cook’s Companion by the great Stephanie Alexander. There must be thousands of recipes in here, including suggested variations of classic recipes. I always check two or more cookbooks when I’m thinking of what to make, and The Cook’s Companion inevitably is one of them, and more often than not, the recipe here wins out, both for the succinctness of Ms Alexander’s prose and her clever twists. This recipe is case in point, – raspberries in a friand, of course, what a great combination! I thought of the chocolate, but then again, you can never go wrong with chocolate in anything sweet.

I recently purchased a friand tin, and had been waiting for enough egg whites to accumulate in the freezer. Muffin tins can be used as well, but the bullion shape is traditional. The raspberries lend a great tangy taste to the richness of the nuts, and I wish I had added more.

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World Peace Cookies

This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan’s ‘Baking from my Home to Yours‘. The buttery, crumbly chocolatey sablés are the brainchild of Pierre Hermé (creator of the famous Isaphan and is the person who popularised macarons) and were renamed World Peace cookies by Ms Greenspan’s neighbour who claimed a daily dose of these will ensure planetary peace and happiness. With a name and story like this, I simply had to try them out. And yes, these are as good as they claim to be.

Cookie dough logs that you slice and bake when required are also one of the best baking hacks. These are great stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or if you want to store them for longer, cut the chilled logs into rounds first, then freeze for up to 2 months. Continue reading