Jam Drops

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Jam drops, sweet old fashioned jam drops have been in my biscuit making rotation for what seems like a long long time.  I know I’ve been making them since having children as page in the recipe book the recipe comes from has been drawn on (several times) by small children wielding pens.  

They’re a particular favourite in our house and everyone even our autistic son who’s super fussy about the food he eats, loves them.

They are so simple to make and have never let me down. This is my my tired and true recipe which I add coconut too, but that optional and you can leave it out if coconut isn’t your thing.

 

Jam drops – recipe adapted from The Country Women’s Association of Australia Country Classics

125g softened butter

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 cups self raising flour

2/3 cup desiccated coconut

Strawberry jam (or whatever other jam you fancy)

 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs one at time and beat them in well.  Mix in sifted flour, then coconut.

Roll into balls about the size of a walnut and flatten slightly.  Using  end of a wooden spoon dipped in flour make a hole in each biscuit (its best if you kind of move the end of the wooden spoon around to make the hole a bit bigger then the size of the wooden spoon handle).

Fill holes with jam

Bake for 10 to 15 mins, then cool for a bit on trays before moving to cooling rack.

Enjoy

Fig and Olive Oil Cake

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I truly believe that there are few things in the world that a cup of tea and piece of cake cannot fix. Bad day at work, cup of tea and cake make it better. Kids channelling the devil, tea and cake to the rescue. I’m quite sure many of the world’s conflict could be chatted out over a cup of team and a piece of cake.

I was recently given a bag of figs. These figs were bordering on over ripe and were sweet and soft. I felt rather lucky as they are so expensive at the shops and never as nice as home gown as they are so fragile. Given they were pretty ripe I set to working out what I could do with them. Of course being the baking addict I am I was like let’s make a cake with them. Out came the recipe books and internet searches before I settled on this recipe. I was a bit hesitant a you 1/2 bake the cake then add the figs, but it totally worked. It was moist, citrusy and figgy and perfect with a cup of tea.

Fig and Olive Oil Cake – recipe adapted from Shutterbean.com

1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup ground almonds
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup extra olive oil
1/3 cup milk
5 figs, cut into quarters
1 1/2 tbsp. honey

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease a loaf tin and line with baking paper.

Mix together the flour, ground almonds, and baking powder in a bowl.

Using a whisk attachment in a mixer whisk the sugar and eggs until fluffy. Add the citrus zest and juice, then stir in the olive oil and milk. Gently fold in the flour mixture then pour the batter into a prepared tin and bake in the oven for approx. 40 minutes.

Push the figs into the top of the loaf. Drizzle with honey and bake for another 30-40 minutes, or until the top is caramelized and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool fully in tin, then remove from the tin.

Brew cup of tea, cut a large slice of cake and enjoy

Biscuits – roll them out, cut them up into shapes kind

Right it’s the second week of school holidays here.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had time off from work these holidays so I’ve been with the kids every day of the holidays. It’s been lovely to spend time with the kids, but when you’re peppered by chorus of I’m bored, what can I do, plus add one autistic child thrown out of routine into the mix and the 2 weeks can seem long time.

So in order to combat the boredom these holidays we’ve been making the most of this lovely spring bordering on summer weather and doing lots of outside stuff. We’ve been hiking to see waterfalls and as a bonus saw koalas, been on waterslides, been to the beach, gardened together, had picnics, visited play grounds. But we’ve also had some indoor time too doing arts and crafts and cooking in the kitchen. We’ve made butter from scratch, baked cakes and made biscuits. I made these at the kids request as they wanted a biscuit they could write their names with. So I pulled out my stock standard rollout and cut up shapes biscuit recipe and out came our newly acquired alphabet biscuit cutters and we made biscuits.

I love the smell of butter and vanilla and all the ingrediants created a very tasty dough.

Roll out, cut out biscuits – recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson How to be a Domestic Goddess

175g butter at room temp

200g caster sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

400g flour

1 tsp baking powder

Cream butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.

Beat in eggs one at a time then beat in vanilla

Mix together flour and baking powder and add into wet ingredients. Mix until dough starts to form. I usually tip it out onto a kitchen bench while it’s almost a bit crumbly and then shape into 2 discs. wraps each disc in cling wrap and place in fridge for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees

Once chilled its ready to roll out. I roll mine out between 2 lightly floured pieces of baking paper and roll till about 1/2 cm thick. cut out into desired shapes using biscuit cutters. left over dough can be reworked together and rolled out again.

Place shapes on baking paper lined tray and bake for approx 10-15 mins, or until lightly browned. leave to cool on trays for about 5 mins before moving to a cooling rack.

Blue Ribbon Baking- My Royal Show Baking

If you’ve been living under a rock this week in Adelaide the Royal Adelaide Show was been on. For those of you outside Australia it’s similar to a State Fair. About 500 000 people attend the show. There’s rides, show bags, animals, wood chopping, fireworks food, wine, a cornucopia of stalls selling stuff and an incredible variety of competition categories form including cookery.

Last year we had a look at the baking entries and I thought I reckon I could give that a go, so this year I did. for most of the open cookery there is no qualify you just fill out your entry form and pay your entry fee and turn up on allocated day with your baked goodies.

Instead of starting small and entering 1 category I thought I’d tempt a baking induced nervous breakdown and enter 3 categories. Chocolate cake, carrot cake and Anzac biscuits. I bake really good version of these (see my Anzac Biscuits post) so thought I’d give it go.

In the months leading up to it I was intent on baking these things often to get a consistent result. I didn’t bake them as much as I really should have but people I’d still have to suffer through multiple tastings of these baked goodies. My husband at present can’t really face another Anzac biscuit.

So I had the day off work the day before I had to enter my goods. I imagined the day being spent listening to some tunes while I got my bake on. In fact it started with a dog chicken disaster and a sick child at home. None the less behind schedule I started baking. My first carrot cake was good as was my first batch of Anzac biscuits. The chocolate cake however was a complete and utter failure. It fell apart as I was getting it out of the cake tin. I also wasn’t happy with how high it had risen. So back to the drawing board I used another recipe with some modifications. it rose well, but then it too fell apart coming out of the tin. I drunk what seems a bazillion cups of tea and lunch had been cake batter so I was feeling all nervous and jittery on a caffeine/sugar high and getting panicked by the chocolate cake. So I baked another batch of Anzac biscuits which again worked well, then gave the chocolate cake a third time lucky go. Hallelujah it worked. I hadn’t put walnuts in my first carrot cake so thought I might make another with walnuts. By this time it was 9pm and I was all baked out. I put the walnuts in the cake, but forgot the bi carb/orange juice mixture. I realised this after I’d just popped the cake in the oven so pulled it out and stirred it through. But when I go the cake out of the tin it looked 2 toned as I hadn’t stirred it through thoroughly. But I had my first carrot cake so all good. I then iced the carrot cake and chocolate cake without incident (a miracle given it was near 11pm)

So after 12 hours baking and an insane amount of eggs, flour, butter and sugar later I was all done .

I lined up with everyone else to drop off their baked goods the next day. Which was itself fascinating seeing all the people with all their cooked goods, as well as seeing frantic last minute preparations for setting up the show

Well how’d I go? No ribbons for me as you can see in the picks below my entries were different form the winning entries. But I’m ok with that. I’m more impressed that I did it.

My Anzac biscuits

The winning Anzac biscuits (noticeably smaller)

My chocolate cake

The winning chocolate cake

My carrot cake

Th wining one (clearly the cute little carrots on the icing were a winner)

Would I enter again, sure, next year I’m aiming to enter the Anzac biscuits because mine were pretty damn good, just bigger than the ribbon winners, the rock cakes and lamingtons (see my blog post for my amazing lamingtons).

Pavlova

I’m not a big fan of pavlova. Yeah its un Australian to admit it, but it’s just not my thing.

Now we have that confession out the way, I’ll also confess I’ve only made pavlova 3 times, including making it for this blog post.

Why am I making it if I don’t really like it. Well it all starts with last Christmas. We were hosting 20 + people at our house for lunch. If you’ve been to our house you can kind of understand this was a feat in itself (we have a small house). So because re arranging the whole house and cooking a meal for 20 people wasn’t enough of a challenge I thought I should serve Pavlova. I mean it’s the quintessential Australian desert (or maybe it’s from New Zealand, I’m not even going to go into that argument), perfect for summer and Christmas.

So I studied a few recipes, did a test Pavlova, took it to work where everyone said it was great. Was feeling confident. Well….

I was planning to make the pavlova Christmas eve and put the cream and fruit on it on Christmas day. Fairly sound plan, except with so much to do I only remembered the pavlova at 11:30pm Christmas eve. I mean that’s ok. We had so much else to do we’d be up till 2am anyway. So I go to make the pavlova and immediately stuff it up by adding the sugar to egg whites without whipping the egg whites up. Ok, stress levels starting to rise, I was down to my last 6 eggs. So I give it another attempt. no mistakes, it turns out perfectly. I leave it in the oven to cool as the recipe states.

Now for breakfast Christmas morning we have croissants for breakfast. I stick the oven on to cook them, get distracted, come back 15 mins later to put croissants in oven, opps pavlova is still in there. Ok it’s now kinda double cooked but still seems ok. So we move it to the kitchen bench were it sits quite happily until husband opened upper cupboard and box of crackers falls out and lands on pavlova.

At this point I’m really beyond caring. It’s Christmas day I’ve got 20 people coming for lunch, 2 kids who have opened toys and are over excited. There is mess everywhere. I’m like lets shove whipped cream and fruit on it and hope for the best. We do and people love the pavlova (ok lots of wine was drunk with lunch so it might have clouded people’s opinions but hey I’ll take the positive feedback).

So why make it again. Well it’s so quintessentially Australian I have to make it as part of my classic Australiana baking series. And also because I used to be scared of the idea of making pavlova. Really its not that hard, plus if it gets crushed by a falling box of crackers, it can totally be saved by whipped cream and beautiful seasonal fruit.

So let’s make Pavlova

There’s eggs or egg whites to be precise (lots of them)

Bit of salt

Bit of whipping

Sugar (lots of it) and then more whipping

Vanilla + vinegar + cornflour

Pavlova – recipe adapted from Julie Goodwins Our Family Table

6 egg whites

1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups caster sugar

1 tlbps cornflour

1 tsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

600 mils cream

seasonal fruit (although in this case I used frozen berries)

Preheat oven to 170 degree C (150 if fan forced). Line baking tray with baking paper.

Beat egg whites and salt together until soft peaks appear.

Add in in sugar a little bit at a time. Once all added beat until stiff and glossy

Fold in cornflour, vinegar and vanilla. Be very gentle when doing this as you don’t want to knock the air out of the mixture.

Spread mixture on baking paper. make sure it’s not all the way to the edges.

Bake 30 mins then turn down heat to 140 degrees C (120 fan forced) and bake another 40 mins. Turn oven off and leave pavlova to cool in oven (its fine to leave it in there overnight or several hours).

When ready to assemble whip cream, spread on pavlova, top with fruit, serve bask in glow of having made and excellent pavlova.

Anzac Biscuits

On Anzac day I attend our local dawn service. I’ve been to the one in the city and its moving, but I prefer the local one. It closer and obviously easier to get to and has a community feel. But mainly I prefer it because it’s on the beach front and is hauntingly beautiful with the waves breaking and the seagull’s cries as dawn’s first light casts its glow over the service.

I go to the dawn service to pay special respects to my grandfather who fought at Gallipoli, my father who fought in WW2 , My uncles Dan and Dermot who also fought in WW2 and my Uncle William (Bill) who made the ultimate sacrifice at Kokoda.

My children are still young so when I talk to them about Anzac day I talk about how it’s a day for us to commemorate those soldiers who have served our country when asked. I am also pleased to see the kids also learn about it in school.

I also make Anzac biscuits. These are one of the easiest biscuits to make and of course they are delicious in an oaty golden syrupy kind of way. Some people put fruit or nuts in them but I think they are pretty good plain.

At the moment I’m tweaking my recipe as I want it to be perfect as I intend to enter my Anzac biscuits in the Royal Adelaide show (the blue ribbon shall be mine). I’ve used brown sugar here but have successfully used normal sugar as well (same quantities). I also used plain flour but have successfully used self raising flour (again same quantities).

Let’s make Anzac Biscuits

We’ve got sugar action

oats

flour

desiccated coconut

butter and golden syrup

bi carb foamy action

Anzac Biscuits

1 cup brown sugar (or white sugar)

1 cup plain flour (or SR flour)

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup desiccated coconut

125 butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (bi carb)

2 tablespoons boiling water

Preheat oven to 160 C

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Combine butter and golden syrup in small saucepan, stir low heat until melted. Add boiling water, then add bi carb, stir. it will foam up at this stage which is good

Stir the foamy mixture into the dry ingredients. Take teaspoonful’s of mixture and place on lightly greased oven trays and press down slightly.

Pop in oven for about 20 minutes (or lightly brown). Cool on tray for a few minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Passionfruit shortbread

I love passionfruits, there is something intoxicating about thier scent, its all tropcially and summery or maybe its just I always remember my grandmother serving sponge cake with passionfruit icing.

I also love shortbread so when I read this recipe which combined beautiful shortbread with passionfruit cream I knew it had to be made.  Plus at the moment passionfruits are in season and you pick up bags of them fairly cheap, perfect for making all things passionfruity

Lets make passionfruit shortbread

Of course we’ll be needing passionfruits

and food processing butter sugar, egg and flour

bake it till its beautiful

and sandwiching it together with amazing passionfruit cream

Passionfruit Shortbread

Recipe adapted from Julie Goodwin’s Our Family Table

125g unsalted butter

1 2/3 cups plain flour

125g sugar

pinch salt

1 egg

extra sugar to sprinkle

Passionfruit cream

2 tbs room temp unsalted butter

1 cup icing mixture

1 1/2 tbs passionfruit pulp

Preheat oven to 180 c. Grease spring form pan, I also like to line the base with baking paper.

In food processor process butter and flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add sugar, salt and then pulse to combine, add egg, pulse until combines and formed a dough.

Turnout onto floured surface and gather together with your hands

Press dough into prepared tin, rough up top with fork and sprinkle over extra sugar (about 1 tsp)

Bake for 30 mins or until lightly golden (which in my oven takes way longer than 30 mins). Cool in tin about 15 mins then release and slide off base onto cooling rack.

Make passion fruit cream by beating butter and icing sugar together in mixer until combined and add in passionfruit pulp a bit at a time. Mix it until its light and fluffy

Cut now cool shortbread into wedges and sandwich together with lashings of passionfruit cream.

Eat several pieces as it’s just so damn good

Hot Cross Buns No. 3- Aunty Jenny’s recipe

When I told people about my quest to make the perfect soft hot cross bun (see hot cross bun no.1 & hot cross bun no.2), I got given a few recipes to try. One of them was from my husband’s Aunty Jenny. She gave me the recipe at a family birthday party. I had a quick look at it and it seemed similar to the other recipes I had baked. But decided to bake it as she was adamant it produced soft and fluffy hot cross buns, that I feared her wrath if I didn’t bake them.

It wasn’t till I re read it after the party that I noticed the proving times of this recipe were a lot shorter than others. and it had a lot of yeast for the quantity of flour. Also it had gluten and bread improver in the ingredients which of course I totally didn’t notice till I went to make it (details details) and don’t really have them in the cupboard, as such I made it without gluten and bread improve and used bread flour and hoped for the best.

And……………..They were prefect, soft and fluffy (so soft that when I went to glaze them I thought they weren’t cooked properly as they were soft).

Let’s make hot cross buns (again)

Fancy bread flour plus of course spices

mixed up with butter and water by my lovely mixer

sultanas were the fruit of choice

I even piped on crosses

baked and glazed them

Aunty Jenny’s Hot Cross Buns (recipe adapted by me) – makes 6 buns

1 3/4 cups bread flour

1 tsp salt

3 tsp sugar

3 tsp yeast

1 tsp all spice

1 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3 tsp butter

3/4 cup warm water

2/3 cup sultanas

for the crosses

1/2 cup cornflour

2 tbl sugar

1 tbl flour

2-3 tbl water

Mix dry ingredients (except sultanas) together

Add butter and water

Mix to form dough, mix in mixer with dough hook for about 1 min (or by hand 3-5 mins)

Place in lightly oiled /bowl, rest for 15 mins

Punch down and kneed in fruit – his took about 1 min in mixer with dough hook (maybe 3 mins by hand)

Rest for 10mins
divide into 6 even pieces and shape into ball. Place on greased or baking paper lined tray allowing room for them to rise. Prove for 30-45mins (or doubled in size)

once risen preheat oven to 190 degrees

Mix together cross ingredients to stiff paste, pipe on buns

Bake in oven for 20 mins

I glazed them using the same glaze as in hot cross buns no.2

Enjoy fresh from oven with real proper butter

Hot cross buns no. 2

I bake a lot, much more than the average person it would seem. I bake more than the average household should or even could eat, so what do I do with all this baking? Mainly I take it to work to share with my colleagues. It’s not that I want to load them up with butter and sugar or use them as test guinea pigs for my baking (well not all the time), it’s also the fact that there is something nice about bringing home baked goods, a way of saying thanks for putting up with my constant talking, my lack of attention to detail at times. I also particularly like the fact it makes people stop what they are doing and come to our work tea room and acquire some baking treat, and thus converse with their colleagues over non work stuff. If I ever own my own company I’m totally having daily morning teas and work kitchen fully stocked with baking supplies and a workplace cat, heated throw rugs, nanna naps… ok now I’m digressing.

But this like of sharing my baking with my colleagues is probably why I chose this recipe as recipe no. 2 in my great quest to bake the perfect soft hot cross buns (see here for history of the quest). It’s by Nigella, but she does the first lot of proving in the fridge overnight. This meant instead of getting up at like 4:30am to whip up a batch of hot cross buns to take to work I could start it the night before, take it out in the morning, shape it, prove it in the car on way to work, then bake at work. Which is what I did. And yet again the result whilst good wasn’t quite soft or fluffy enough

Let’s make hot cross buns (again)

There were whole spices and orange zest

Which then infused milk and melted butter

Of course there was yeast, more spices and fancy bread flour

and of course sultantas

kneaded by my fabulous dough hook

left to rise overnight in the fridge

And be shaped the next morning

And baked at work (because every respectable workplace should have an oven)

Hot cross buns – recipe adapted from Nigella Kitchen

FOR THE DOUGH:

150ml milk

50g butter

Zest of 1 orange

1 clove

2 cardamom pods

400g bread flour

2 teaspoon yeast

125g mixed dried fruit (I used just sultanas because that’s all I had)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

1 egg

FOR EGG WASH:

1 egg, beaten with a little milk

FOR THE CROSS ON THE BUNS:

3 tablespoons plain flour

½ tablespoon caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

FOR THE SUGAR GLAZE:

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1 tablespoon boiling water

Heat the milk, butter, orange zest, clove and cardamom pods in a saucepan until the butter melts, then leave to infuse (or cool as I over heated mine, you probably want it to be about blood temp when you add it to the dry ingredients)

Put the flour, yeast and dried fruit into a bowl and add the spices. When the milk is suitably infused and has reached blood temperature take out the clove and cardamom pods, and beat in the egg. Pour this liquid into dry ingredients.

Knead with a dough hook (or by hand if you don’t have a mixer with dough hook) if it is too dry add a little more warm milk or water. Keep kneading until you have silky, elastic dough

Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl covered with clingfilm, and leave to prove overnight in the fridge. You could leave it in a warm place to double for about 1- 1 1/2 hours instead of popping it in the fridge, but Nigella advises the flavour is better is you leave it to rise overnight in the fridge, plus it’s all ready to go in the morning when you wake up.

The next morning preheat oven to 220C. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.

Punch the dough down, and knead it again until it is smooth and elastic. Divide into even sized balls and shape into buns.

Sit the buns on a baking paper. Make sure they are quite close together but not touching. Using the back of a knife, score the tops of the buns with the imprint of a cross (good luck with this I always mangle the damn buns attempting this). Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove again for about 45 minutes – they should have risen and almost joined up.

Brush the buns with an egg wash, and then mix the flour, sugar and water into a smooth, thick paste. Using a teaspoon, dribble two lines over the buns in the indent of the cross, and then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

When the hot cross buns come out of the oven, mix the sugar and boiling water together for the glaze, and brush each hot bun to make them sweet and shiny.

Enjoy fresh from oven with real proper butter<!–

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Hot Cross Buns No. 1

Every year I give homemade hot cross buns a crack.  I don’t know why I mean it’s not like the moment the supermarkets open their doors after Easter they are hard to get.  And quite frankly I rather like the supermarket ones (yeah I’ll confess to buying them way before Easter). They’re all soft and fruity and spicy.

And this I suspect is why I make them every year as I can never get them as soft or fluffy as they do in the supermarkets. It’s like the challenge of trying to get them soft is why I cook them. I usually just pick a recipe at random and make it and though its tasty it’s never soft or fluffy and that’s that. 

But this year I was contacted by my friend Hannah who asked me how to get soft and fluffy hot cross buns.  Clearly my copious baking had tricked her into thinking I was some kind of expert. She provided me with her recipe and the only change I could suggest was to use bread flour.

It all started some sort of obsessive quest to bake the perfect soft fluffy hot cross buns.  Ok the supermarkets have the advantage of preservative and other unpronounacle ingredients but surely the average home cook could make soft and fluffy hot cross buns

So I’ve set myself the challenge of making 3 different hot cross bun recipes.  This one is the first. 

It’s the recipe my friend Hannah asked for my advice on.   I accidently left out the sugar and omitted the crosses, but overall they still turned out pretty good, but alas not soft and fluffy. 

let’s make hot cross buns

There was fancy bread flour mixed with spices

And some sifting

butter and milk melted together

then together with sultanas mixed up into dough

then left to rise

and baked and glazed

Hot Cross Buns –  recipe adapted from SBS food

 teaspoons dried instant yeast
500g bread flour
90g sugar
300mls milk
1tsp salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground all spice
¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
60g butter
1 large egg
140g sultanas

Crosses (if you choose to make them)
2 Tablespoons self raising flour
2 Tablespoons cold water

Glaze
4 Tablespoons of sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
150mls boiling water

Sift together flour, spices, salt and yeast

In a saucepan heat the milk over a low heat and melt the butter into it.

In a separate bowl beat the egg.

Add the milk and butter mixture to the flour and mix . Add the egg and mix well to form a dough.  I used the dough hook on my mixer to do this

Add Sultanas

Knead with dough hook in mixer (or by hand) until it feels smooth and is no longer sticky (approx 3 mins).

Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to prove until doubled in size (about 1 hour).

Punch the dough down and then separate it into equal portion ( it doesn’t matter the size as long as they are about the same size as each other)s.

Place the buns close together on a lightly greased baking tray.

Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size (approx an hour).

For the crosses: Mix the flour and water thoroughly to form a thick paste. Spoon into a zip-lock bag, cut a little hole out of the corner of the bag and use it to pipe the mixture in crosses on top of the buns.

Bake the topped buns at 220°C for 15-20mins.

For the glaze: Mix together all ingredients, dissolving the sugar in the boiling water. Brush over the buns lightly while still hot.

Enjoy Fresh and hot from oven with real proper butter