apple pie

Writer’s block is not fun.

I have plenty of other ways to procrastinate, I don’t have to blog.

Some options include:

Sow seeds (in life and in the ground).

Organise possibility of being a lead tenant for Youth For Christ next year.

Organise possibly extending my trip to Perth so I can hang out with Peace Tree. (and visit Georgia and Dave?)

Study for my quiz tomorrow.

Make more chocolate muffins for September Camp.

Upload my study questions for Sep Camp.

Go for a walk. Or a run. Or do some yoga. Or some other kind of physical exercise to not. stress. out. Because I have this essay I keep procrastinating from doing.

So yeah, I wrote up a complete running sheet for the last few days before camp. I have an illness. I have lists upon lists and I HAVEN’T STARTED MY ESSAY YET (Mum and Dad, just forget you read that, yeah?)

It’s ok, I planned time to write the essay. It’s gonna happen. I haven’t got a back up plan so it HAS to happen (hopefully with little to no effort on my part.)

Besides, I have apple pie to calm my nerves.

Technically, it’s apple and pear pie. I got fruit from the farmer’s market on the weekend because it’s almost not apple and pear season anymore and I wanted pie. I love pie.

And thanks to Pam’s Pie Tutorial courtesy of The Pioneer Woman (thank you, Ree!) I made a perfect pie. I’m not kidding. It tastes amazing, it was perfectly cooked, it looks incredible and it’s just as good cold as hot.

I know. I’ve already had more than I need.

Apple and Pear Pie (two crust)

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Pam says that pie making is not a recipe, it’s an approach. It’s about the technique. So while this is a recipe, it’s a very loose one. Play around. Enjoy. Make pie.

2 1/2 cups flour (plain or pastry)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

250g butter, cold, cut into chunks

1/4 cup ice water

about 6 cups (8 pieces of fruit) fruit, peeled and chopped (if needed)

1/2 cup (more if needed) sugar

2 tbsp cornflour or other thickener

juice of one lemon

2 tsp cinnamon

pinch ground cloves

pinch nutmeg (more than cloves)

Pulse 2 cups flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs (alternatively, whisk together dry ingredients and use fingertips to rub in butter.) Pulse in 1/2 cup flour (just) and place in a bowl or on your counter. Sprinkle water over, knead in and form into two discs.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Celsius.

Stir together fruit, lemon juice, thickener and spices. Make sure all the fruit pieces are even and that the mixture coats each piece.

Now, to roll out the dough, take two pieces of parchment paper (or baking paper) and place a dough disk in between them. Roll out to fit your pie pan (this recipe makes enough for one two crust nine inch pie). Place one rolled out disc into the bottom of your pie dish and prick all over with a fork.

Place the fruit in the dish and dot with butter (about four or five tablespoons). Cover with the other half of the dough, rolled out. Crimp the edges however you like and slit the top a few times. (You may choose, as I did, to decorate the top with the scraps of dough left over.) Brush with a beaten egg or some heavy cream.

Bake at 250º for about half an hour, until nicely browned on top. Cover with foil to stop browning and lower heat to 200 degrees for anywhere from 1/2 hour to 40 minutes – apples will need longer, berries will need less.

Let rest for about ten to twenty minutes on the counter before you eat with heavy cream or ice cream.

choc malt ice cream

My room is a mess. I desperately need to do some washing (I’m wearing dirty jeans, people. Not just worn, I know some people don’t wash their jeans, but these have work stains on them). I’m busy from pretty much today until the end of semester. I’m turning twenty tomorrow. Today. I don’t even know what day it is!

But I made ice cream. From scratch, for the first time, pretty much, without an ice cream machine. I. Made. Ice. Cream.

And it’s delicious.

Sometimes, you just have to do what you do. Don’t worry about the lack of sleep or the fact that you have to get up early to do it, the fact that it may be a little less than perfect due to the fact that our freezer isn’t as cold as it should be and I could’t baby it because I had to run out to go see the last (sob!) Harry Potter film. Sometimes you just have to go with a whim. Which happened last night, as I was trawling through the blogosphere and came upon this beauty.

Isn’t she gorgeous?  My friend was over and we both decided we wanted it. And so we decided to make it this morning.

I had to run to the shops to get some of the ingredients, and living as I do in the hills, I couldn’t get plain malt powder – so I got chocolate malt powder instead. I don’t think this compromised on the taste AT ALL. In fact, although I’m planning on making it again with plain malt powder (it’s that good people. THAT. GOOD) I don’t think it needs it.

And, yes, I know it’s the depths of winter. I know it’s 12° outside. I understand that ice cream is usually considered a summer food. But guys, I read all these blogs from the US and even though I’m definitely a winter person, sometimes I get season envy. Because you over there, you get to pick fresh berries and make ice cream (even combine the two and make ice cream with fresh berries…) and wear shorts and go to the beach.

I’ll just sit here, rugged up next to the heater and eat my choc malt ice cream with mixed in maltesers. Yum.

Choc malt ice cream

Adapted from the brown eyed baker

1 cup half and half – in Australia, I think you could use Jersey milk or extra light cream (labelled “cooking cream”) – I used a mix of 100ml thickened cream and 150ml Jersey milk. Jersey milk is higher in protein and fat than regular milk, and contains A2 beta proteins, which are better for you.

3/4 cup sugar

pinch salt

2 cups heavy cream – I used thickened and think it could probably have been heavier, so use real heavy cream.

2/3 cup malted milk powder – I used Ovaltine

teaspoon vanilla extract

6 egg yolks

 

Heat the half and half/light cream/Jersey milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and it’s all steamy up in there.

Meanwhile, whisk the cream, malt powder and vanilla together in a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over it. Set aside.

When the milk mix is ready, whisk the egg yolks in a smallish bowl. Add a small amount of the hot milk and sugar, and continue whisking as you add in small amounts of the milk mixture. Pour it back into the saucepan and stir continually over low heat for forever (not really!) until the custard is quite thick, coating the back of the wooden spoon. Pour it into the big bowl with the cream and malted milk powder, and whisk them together.

Put a whole lotta ice cubes in an even bigger bowl than the one you already have and fill it with water. Put your soon-(ish)-to-be ice cream bowl in there and stir/whisk until it’s cold. Refridgerate until really really cold. This will take a while. If you are impatient, it will seem like forever.

If you have an ice cream machine, at this point, haul it out and set it to good use.  If not, you can follow these directions. Our freezer isn’t quite up to the task, as I mentioned, so it took quite a bit longer than the two to three hours David reckons it’ll take but trust me, this is worth the wait.

 

almost muffins

I say almost because I kinda forgot an important ingredient.

See, when you make muffins – even awesome muffins born from the cinnamon walnutty goodness of last post’s cookies – it’s kinda important to have some sort of ingredient that works together with the other ingredients and does some sort of scientific thing that not only helps it to taste awesome but makes it rise and makes the texture fluffy and lovely.

It’s a leavening agent. Yes, ladies and gents, I forgot the baking powder AND the baking soda. I am a very smart cookie.

But I’m a nuff nuff muff muffin.

They taste really really good, don’t get me wrong. They taste just as good as the cookies. (maybe even better. I don’t have a direct comparison. We ate all the cookies already.)

I get this feeling I’m missing something in my life. Flour one day, baking powder the next… I don’t know what’s going on. Baking still calms me down and makes me happy, but I think I need to … re-evaluate or something. Journal more. Be more. Just be.

This is why it’s a good thing that holidays are around the corner. This is also why I’m trying not to freak out about the fact that I’ve got two exams in the next two days, and I’ve been procrasti-baking and procrasti-cleaning and procrasti-tooling around on the internet for the past week. Or so.

It’s ok. I have almost-muffins. And hot chocolate. And Glee.

I’m ok.

And I’ll be even more ok when I visit my Oma on Friday for her birthday.

It’s a pretty special occasion. She’s turning 21! No, that’s me next year. She’s… thirty! No, no one needs that freak out again. Or do they?

40? She is looking pretty good for her age.

Keep going… Ok, no, we’re actually going to stop there. Let’s just say that it’s rude to ask a lady her age, and my Oma is grand and wonderful and mature and sometimes giggles like a schoolgirl with me and my sister and our mum.

And her party is going to be so much fun! But I can’t think about it until after my exams.

Well, after these two anyway. I do have another (yep, I chose four subjects that have exams in my first year of university) but it’s not for a couple of weeks and I’m going to smash it out of the water. Just like I’ll smash these and the one I did today.

Ok, time to stop talking about [exams] and tell you about these muffins you absolutely have to make.

Just don’t forget the baking powder. And soda.

P.S. Please tell me about them! I was totally going to make a new batch but I’d run out of walnuts. And dates. And there weren’t any apples. And my nose is cold. And this blanket is warm.

Make these.

Date-Walnut Muffins

125g butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

1/2 cup greek style yoghurt (I’m sure other plain yoghurt would work just as well)

1/2 cup milk

1 cup walnuts, chopped

about 3/4 cup dates, chopped

2/3 cup flour

1/3 cup ground almonds

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Beat the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla and scrape down the bowl, beating until fluffy again. Stir in the yoghurt and milk.

Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients (you can sift ’em first if you want to … or not…) and the walnuts and dates. Scoop tablespoonfuls into patty cases lining muffin tins (I have a feeling these would be brilliant in the kind of huge, Muffin Break-esque texan muffin incarnation. Try it. I dare you.) Bake… in a 180 degree oven… well, mine took about twenty-five minutes but I don’t know how leaveners change the baking times. So, check them regularly. Then eat them.

I know what I’m having for breakfast.

whoopie pies

I’d heard of whoopie pies before the other day but never knew what they were. They look kinda like UFOs or maybe gigantic Oreos, (which, by the way, I hadn’t encountered before the age of 13 or so and don’t actually like. Please don’t hurt me, it’s just the way it is. I don’t like Oreos, I don’t like bananas, I don’t like orange and chocolate together [most of the time…])

I’m weird. It’s been proven over and over.

So anyway, I saw this book, the Whoopie Pie Book. Claire Ptak, who owns Violet Bakery in London at which she serves whoopie pies, (and who apparently is Jamie Oliver’s favourite baker) has written this book solely about whoopie pies.

The traditional whoopie pies are like chocolate muffin tops sandwiching liquid marshmallows. This idea has expanded over the years to incorporate many different flavours and fillings, glazes, drizzling, fruit, caramel, cream, vegetables even.

Like carrots. And pumpkin.

So I had a rare day off (both work AND uni.. woohoo!) so I brought some cool people over to my house to bake. And we made whoopie pies.

I think our first ones were much too big. See, I have this muffin top pan and it’s really cool. And I figured, since whoopie pies were basically two muffin tops with stuff in between, I’d use the muffin top pan.

WAY. TOO. BIG. I shared one of the massive whoopies with someone and we couldn’t finish it on our own.

So we made smaller ones. Carrot and chocolate. They’re pretty darn good if I may say so myself.

And perfect for a baking expedition.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Marshmallow insides

Adapted from The Whoopie Pie Book

Now, these whoopies I felt were lacking slightly in flavour. If I were you, I’d see if I could substitute my favourite chocolate muffin recipe and just bake them like cookies.

175g plain flour

100g cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp bi carb soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

125g unsalted butter, softened

200g sugar

1 large egg

225ml buttermilk

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180°. Line two trays with baking paper

Sift together first five ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in egg well. Add buttermilk and vanilla and beat until well combined.  Add in dry ingredients in two batches, mixing just until incorporated.

Spoon tablespoons of mixture onto the baking paper if you want about ten centimetre large whoopies (these are plenty big enough) or teaspoonfuls if you want minis. Make sure you have an even amount of mounds on your baking tray, as you’ll be sandwiching these together.

Bake about 12 minutes for large whoopies or 10 minutes for small. Keep checking them, just in case. Let cool completely before filling with marshmallow fluff.

Apparently there’s a jarred version of this in America. This tastes so good, though, you should make it yourself.

3 egg whites

150g caster sugar

2 tbsp golden syrup

Pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla extract or ½ tsp vanilla bean paste

Place all ingredients into a heatproof (stainless steel or Pyrex or ceramic) and put it over a saucepan of boiling water. Whisk continuously by hand until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is frothy. Remove from heat and whip on high speed with an electric hand mixer until it’s white and thick. Use straight away.

Pipe or use a tablespoon to put generous scoops of the marshmallow fluff onto half the chocolate muffin tops. Top with another chocolate disk. Don’t gorge yourself otherwise you might be sick.

Carrot Whoopies with Cream Cheese insides

Adapted from The Whoopie Pie Book

250g plain flour

1 tsp bi carb soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

125g unsalted butter, softened

100g caster sugar

100g brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

2 carrots, peeled and grated

zest of 1 orange, optional (only because we forgot and it didn’t mean they tasted any less wonderful. I encourage you to try it, though, it’s probably awesome)

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line two trays with baking paper.

Sift first six ingredients together. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Mix in carrot and orange zest, if you’re using it. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

Scoop out tablespoons of mixture or teaspoons if you’d like smaller whoopies. Make sure you’ve got an even amount of mounds of mixture and bake about 12 minutes for large whoopies and 10 minutes for small. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling with cream cheese filling.

300g icing sugar

55g softened unsalted butter

115g softened cream cheese

1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1 tsp maple syrup, optional

Whip butter until creamy, then whip in cream cheese, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add sifted icing sugar gradually and beat until light and fluffy. This is where you’d add the maple syrup and vanilla, except I didn’t. I would, however, next time add more cream cheese, less icing sugar and a dash of lemon juice. Just to put it out there.

Scoop onto half the whoopies, top with the rest, and share with your mum for Mother’s Day.

comfort, again

Like I said a few days ago, I like to bake to calm myself down, it makes me happy. Today I made choc-chip condensed milk cookies, which I’d never made before – I never thought of using condensed milk in biscuits.

I was going to make them last night because I was super frazzled and basically at the end of my tether, but we ended up whiling the night away by other means, like eating pizza and chatting with friends, then getting into a long discussion on what actually happens when we die; what happens at the end; and how we would cope if we didn’t have hope in Jesus. Because really, at the moment, that’s what’s keeping us together.

So I was home alone for a few hours and I couldn’t just spend it all trawling the internet, much as I’d love to; I’d go stir crazy simply because I need to DO something. So cookies it is.

I promised them for after Easter, because I was giving chocolate up for Lent; I’m sure I’ll pontificate at some point on sacrifices and the importance of them, but that went out the window approximately a week ago and for some reason, I don’t think God will mind. So here they are; a day late and a buck short, but here they are.

Choc-chip condensed milk cookies

This makes a lot of cookies. A LOT of cookies. I fit about five or six on each pizza tray (we don’t have baking trays; pizza trays work just as well. We’re students. We make do.) Also, I think you probably won’t need as much butter, I felt there was too much there.

adapted from the back of the Nestle Sweetened Condensed Milk* can

450g butter

½ cup sugar

1 can sweetened condensed milk

3 ½ cups self raising flour

250g dark chocolate, chopped

250g milk chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line baking trays with baking paper (I used two and reused them. It worked fine, even though I didn’t really let the trays cook in between uses). Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in condensed milk; add flour and stir till combined. Mix in choc bits. Roll teaspoonfuls of mixture into balls, place on trays and flatten gently with a fork. Bake approximately 15 minutes, or until golden.

*Look, I know Nestle are evil; I’ve read the articles and I totally support fair trade and ethical eating and shopping (check out the ethical consumer’s guide to shopping for more on that) but it was either this or home brand and that’s just as bad. We wanted to make condensed milk cookies and after the week we’ve had, ethics are pretty much the last things on our minds.

flourless chocolate cupcakes

I love love love to bake. So any occasion where I get to bake and not have massive amounts of leftovers (living, as I used to, pretty much by myself) is  a happy occasion. Today, I had an incredible day where I heard many stories of everyday missionaries, people who live their lives for God just as they are. These people live in urban areas and just live life with people, reaching out to all different types of people, and making a worldwide community of hope. And I get to be part of that. Isn’t that awesome?

I brought cupcakes, in case you couldn’t tell by the title and/or first paragraph. One of the people I was spending the day with is allergic to gluten, so I made these amazing flourless chocolate cupcakes that I found on Smitten Kitchen, where Deb calls them chocolate soufflé cupcakes and tops them with mint white chocolate cream. I dislike the pairing of chocolate and mint (call me a heathen, call me a pagan, call me an idiot, it’s not going to change my mind. I’m sorry, I know it’s a classic, it just does nothing for me.) so I omitted the mint but I still got raves about them. They look awesome, too.

So. Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream. Made while listening to all released albums of The Cat Empire on shuffle.

For the cupcakes:

170g dark chocolate, broken up into pieces (I used a combination of 85% cocoa and 70% cocoa solids; I’m sure regular dark chocolate would be fine although I suspect milk could be overly sweet. Use your discretion.)

90g unsalted butter, cubed

1/4 tsp ground espresso coffee (apparently you could also use instant. I’m a snob so I don’t keep it in the house. It doesn’t add any coffee taste, just enhances the chocolateyness.)

3 eggs, separated

6tbsp caster sugar

1/4tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line eighteen cupcake cups with paper pans – I managed twelve cupcakes and nine mini cupcakes, so I’m speculating as to the exact amount, because I was told there would be nine or twelve cupcakes. Maybe the Smitten Kitchen cupcakes are larger than these cupcakes. I wouldn’t make them any bigger, although the minis were  well received.

Stir butter, chocolate and coffee in a small heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat until almost melted, then remove and whisk until fully melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat yolks and 3tbsp of the sugar in a large bowl until thick and pale. Briefly beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla extract.

In a separate, clean, dry bowl, beat (with clean, dry beaters/whisk) egg whites until soft peaks form; add 3tbsp sugar and salt gradually and beat until glossy and stiffer. Fold into chocolate mix with a metal spoon in three batches.

Fill cupcake pans to about 3/4 full – if any fuller, they will overflow, I promise. 3/4 means they will puff up beautifully, almost like soufflés.Bake in preheated oven 15-20 mins. Mini cupcakes will take 10-15 mins. Keep an eye on them, though.

For the white chocolate cream:

60g white chocolate

200ml thickened cream

Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering. Place white chocolate in a bowl and pour the hot cream over; stir constantly until chocolate is melted. Chill at least two hours in the fridge or overnight. Beat to soft peaks and scoop quenelles over cupcakes. Scatter with dark chocolate shards. Eat and enjoy.

sugar, baby

I like to cook to music. Today I made scones, lemon curd and meringues, all from the Masterchef Cookbook (Volume One – from the first season. The first season in Australia, I should add. I couldn’t find a copy in Amazon OR on the official website, so it’s just a link to the website at the moment. Sorry!) I am a huge sweet tooth, in case you couldn’t tell – for instance, meringues, for you poor unfortunates who live under rocks, are basically sugar and egg white.  I think that the egg whites are there to make the sugar stand up on it’s own two feet, because basically it’s just SUGAR, all the way.  But that’s ok.

Back to the cooking to music – for my scone lemon curd meringue marathon (well… ) I listened to The Cat Empire’s So Many Nights – I feel that TCE (apart from being my favourite band in the world) make the best music for cooking to. I have yet to find someone who can best them for getting me upbeat when I’m down, as well. I am a big comfort eater, I have to admit, but cooking and music always cheer me up. In fact, for dinner I had one of my favourite (savoury) comfort foods: poached eggs. Thanks to Kickpleat over at Everybody Likes Sandwiches for the perfect way to poach eggs.

Happy January 2.

Buttermilk Scones

I used buttermilk instead of milk in this recipe because I had it on hand and also, I think it gives a great taste. However, I added more than the recipe called for because it was too dry. Just add as much as you feel is right without you having to overwork the dough – the death sentence for scones. Also, I like to cut my scones into triangles, because then you don’t have to re-roll the scraps.

Makes 6-8 largeish triangle scones

2 1/2 cups s.r. flour

30g butter, room temperature

1 cup buttermilk

milk to brush over

jam and cream, to serve. or butter and jam. or lemon curd, below.

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a large oven tray with baking paper. Sift the flour from a height into a bowl and rub the butter in. Make a well and add the buttermilk; cut in with a knife. Turn the bowl out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead together. Flatten into a large disc shape and cut with a sharp knife into six or eight triangles. Alternatively, you could cut circles out with a cookie cutter; use a rolling pin if you like, but I don’t like to make more dishes than I need to. Place onto the baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes. (The recipe suggested 12-15; I checked at twelve minutes and put them in for another eight. Use your discretion and your knowledge of your oven.) Serve with any or all of the above suggested accompaniments.

Lemon Curd

I would probably add more lemon juice than I did today; I didn’t have many options, our tree only just squeezed out three lemons as it was. However, I do suggest you use home-grown lemons. If you don’t have a tree yourself, ask around, they tend to hide in people’s backyards. Or side yards.

3 eggs

2 egg yolks

3/4 cup caster sugar

1/4 tbsp cornflour

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

juice of 3 lemons

125g butter, chopped

Whisk together eggs, yolks, sugar and cornflour until sugar has dissolved. Whisk in zest and juice then place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (half a lemon in the saucepan will mean that the water doesn’t leave any discolouration on your pan) without letting the bowl touch the water. Stir in one piece of butter at a time, waiting until it melts before adding the next piece; the curd is done when it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. I find it useful to use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl at intervals. It should look like a large, sunny egg yolk. Very large. Cool and spoon into a wide-mouthed jar, package up with a gingham square and a pretty label and give to your neighbour as a gift.

Meringues

This was part of a larger recipe for Aussie Mess, based on Eton Mess – add cream and seasonal fruits and a coulis, and voila! Pudding. Or dessert, as we Aussies would say. I piped them into large nest-like shapes, to be piled with cream and berries; I’ve also seen tiny meringues served at a café with the hot drinks. Very cute.

6 egg whites

1 1/2 cups caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 120°C and line two large baking trays with non-stick paper. Beat the egg whites with electric beaters until soft peaks form; add sugar gradually (very gradually – you don’t want grainy bits. Let the sugar dissolve.) and beat until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Pipe or spoon onto prepared trays and place in oven for five minutes. Reduce heat to 100°C and bake a further 45 minutes.