merry christmas and another gingerbread cookie recipe

magical gingerbread

Sometimes, you just gotta make a magical Christmas scene out of gingerbread. Sometimes, cookies are the only answer. Sometimes, 22 types of cookies just isn’t enough. Sometimes, gingerbread is all you need.

to start with

most important

Sometimes, Christmas is about these kinds of things. Of gingerbread, and ninjabread, of shortbread and yoyos and taking over someone else’s oven because yours stopped inexplicably stopped working in the middle of making a batch of the above biscuits. Or cookies, if you’re American. You know the word cookie most likely came from the Dutch koekje meaning “little cake”? This is especially cool for me since I have Dutch heritage.

flour

molasses

But sometimes, Christmas needs us to find its roots again amongst all the commercialism and competition. And not only that, but we need to find the de-sentimentalised Christmas. The Christmas that isn’t just about family and togetherness, lovejoypeaceJesus. Christmas is about more than that. Continue reading

life happens

When does one become an adult?

When can a young man or woman stand in front of their peers and older adults and declare themselves to be officially grown up?

What are the markers that show the world that you have left  that middle space between complete dependence and complete independence behind? And why the heck do we have to go through it in the first place?

What happens when we get to adulthood, and how do we deal with leaving our safety net behind?

Life happens to all of us, but only some people happen to life.

Continue reading

pizza night

Having people over for dinner is one of the best experiences ever. Especially when you’re making pizza together, watching the sunset, talking about, well, stuff. Like how we can make the world a better place. Pretty much an ordinary night with my awesome friends.

Pizza, garlic bread, sunsets, Christianity. But Christianity where we try to analyze our behaviours and make them better. Especially seeing as Christmas is coming up!

Mary-Ann Bryant is one of the Christians I wish didn’t actually exist in real life, but I have a feeling they do. (Can you tell I’m watching Easy A at the moment? I think it’s hilarious. I’m a little distracted. Sorry.)

I always think, when Rhi is going on about no George being sexy, that she’s missing out on a whole lot. George Clooney, anyone? That girl needs to watch some ER. Ocean’s Eleven, maybe. Geez.

I love smart people. Or at least, I love watching smart people movies. Like Easy A. And also having smart conversations. Having good conversations with good people, eating good food, sharing life together. It doesn’t get much better.

So invite some people over, make some pizza, some garlic bread. Have someone say grace over the phone for you. Eat cake, drink tea, make smart conversation – or just rent some awesome movies and watch them and stay excellent.

P.S I’ve been doing some baking recently, as you can probably tell. Recipes coming soon, I promise.

father’s day breakfast buns

What do you love?

I love breakfast. I love coffee. I love family. I love eating, I love food.

I love sunsets, especially ones shared with friends. Especially ones from my own porch. (They’re beautiful!)

I love winter. I love socks. I love loving stuff, getting so uncontrollably, jump-up-and-down-in-your-chair LOVING stuff. Being so excited by something you literally cannot control yourself. I love uncontrollable laughter with friends.

I love reading. I love writing.

I love baking and cooking. I love sharing, especially something I’ve made, with other people. I love giving.

This week, I got uncontrollably excited about the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. I started reading a book I bought there (I currently have four books I’m juggling, five if you count the Bible. Not that you wouldn’t – it’s just that it’s always being read in some capacity:). I finished writing my essays and drank surprising amounts of coffee (surprising considering the amount of stress I put myself through with those essays). I watched several sunsets from my porch, one from my lecture hall and one in my rearview mirror. I celebrated socks by wearing two pairs at once at the start of spring, the end of winter but still a pretty good season.

I gotta say, I pretty much love all seasons. For different reasons.

This week, I heard about some things that other people love. What other people do in their everyday lives that expresses their love for something bigger than themselves. I gave a piece of myself in the form of a poem. I got a stir in my belly that warned me of getting stuck in a rut.

And I baked breakfast buns for my family for Father’s Day. I didn’t get to be at home for as long as I’d have liked to, but I was there for long enough to make and enjoy these immensely. I’m hoping the next time I try, they’ll rise a little better, though.

What do you love?

Lemon Raspberry Breakfast Buns

Adapted from Joy the Baker

 

So, my yeast wasn’t exactly alive. Not quite dead, but I couldn’t make it into the scrolls that the original recipe requested, so I rolled it out as best as I could and cut it into rounds and we ate it that way. It was still delicious, and I’ll put in instructions for both ways.

1 cup milk

2/3 cup sugar

1 pkt active dry yeast (1 1/2 tbsp)

1/2 cup (110g) butter, room temperature)

2 large eggs

1/2 tsp lemon zest

1/2 tsp salt

4 1/4 cups plus 1/2 cup plain flour, plus more for sprinkling

For the filling:

1 heaping cup fresh raspberries (or frozen, not thawed, unless you’re making buns not scrolls) (I used a mixed berry mix because that’s what we had)

1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp cornflour

1/4 cup butter

 

Warm the milk to just under body temperature (in a saucepan or in the microwave). Pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir the sugar and yeast into the warm milk and leave it to froth if you like, but you should probably know if your yeast is alive. (HINT, HINT).

Add the butter, eggs, lemon zest, salt and 4 1/4 cups flour. Beat on low speed for a few minutes, then scrape down the bowl and mix again for a few seconds. Now you can use a dough hook, if you have one, and mix on medium speed for ten minutes, or take out the dough and knead it for the same amount of time. Use the 1/2 cup of flour, plus more if needed, to sprinkle on your kneading surface. It should be soft and slightly sticky.

Place in a large, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place either in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or in the refrigerator overnight.

If you left it in the refrigerator, take it out for half an hour while you do this next bit.

Grease a 9×13″ pan or line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside.

Combine raspberries, 1/3 cup sugar, lemon zest and cornflour and set aside. If you’re making the scrolls, brown the butter in a saucepan and set aside.

Roll out the dough. If you’re making buns, preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius, and roll the dough out to about an inch or so thick and cut out 2″ rounds. Place on the baking trays and bake about 20 minutes. Serve with the butter and raspberry mix scattered over.

If you’re making scrolls, roll it out to about a centimetre. Brush with the browned butter and scatter the raspberry mix all over. Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar over and carefully roll the dough and filling lengthways into a log.

Slice it into inch thick rounds and nestle into the baking dish. Cover with a tea towel and let rise another hour in a warm place.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius and bake 20-25 minutes, until the filling is bubbling at the edges and the tops are golden brown. Let cool about half an hour and then gobble them down with your family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

birthday cake

AKA my favourite kind.

I mean, who doesn’t like a slice of birthday cake?

[Especially when it’s been blenderized.]

I’m sorry this post is a little late. Try a lot late, actually – my birthday was almost two months ago. There are pros and cons to baking at home. One pro is getting to use Mum’s fancy camera. A con is that between using that camera, not bringing my computer and relying on a certain brother to email me the photos I took meant that I actually had to wait till I went home again to get those photos back.

But look! I made you cake!

Ok, I made me a cake. My mum was worried I’d be psychologically scarred, baking my own birthday cake. Not really. I love baking, I’m picky with my food. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I like to try new things. Therefore, it made perfect sense for me to make my own birthday cake.

Unfortunately this one didn’t turn out as well as I would have hoped. I’ve wanted to make red velvet cake for a while now and so this seemed like the perfect opportunity (especially since my favourite colour is red. Most of the time).

I think the problem was that I used a teaspoon of baking powder instead of baking soda, although even baking soda would have had a difficult time inflating this cake. Which is especially disappointing considering the fact that I was at the parents’ house, which meant I had access to a stand mixer, and I didn’t utilise it to its full potential.

Ah well. We’ll just have to wait until Christmas, when hopefully I will get one from, uh, Santa. Yes, I still leave milk and cookies out for Santa, and a bucket of water and carrots for the reindeer. Although that may be difficult this year. I hope Santa finds us.

So, cake. Birthday cake. It was yummy anyway, despite its density, and I got to practise decoration (with pink cream cheese icing! yum! and! pretty!)

You should make this cake. Maybe you’ll make it better than I did. Maybe there is actually something wrong with the recipe. Nevertheless, it was pretty good, and especially so because of the cream cheese icing. I love cream cheese icing. Yum.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Joy the Baker

 

8 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

5 tbsp cocoa powder

4 tbps red food colouring (I used 50 ml and it turned out plenty red) mixed with 2 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

2 1/4 cups plain flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

3 tsp distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and flour two nine inch cake pans and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl and add eggs. Beat until well incorporated, scraping down bowl as needed.

Mix cocoa and vanilla with the water and red food colouring, making a thick paste. Add to batter and beat until well incorporated. You will probably want to scrape the bottom of the bowl several times to make sure the colouring is fully mixed through.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the buttermilk. Add half the flour and salt and mix until incorporated. Repeat, and mix until smooth.

Add the baking soda and vinegar and beat on high speed for a few minutes, until fully incorporated and smooth.

Divide between the two cake pans and tap them against your bench a few times to get rid of air bubbles. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for about half an hour, then invert onto a baking rack until cool. You can make the frosting in this time.

To make the cream cheese frosting:

1 1/2 cups butter (about 300g), softened

8 oz (200g) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch salt

4-6 cups icing sugar

2-4 tbsp milk

Cream the cheese in an electric mixer for a few minutes, until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and add the butter, beating until well incorporated and smooth. Add sugar, salt and vanilla, beating until incorporated.

Turn off the mixer and add 2 cups icing sugar. Mix on low, adding more icing sugar and milk until you get your desired consistency.

Wait until completely cool before frosting your cake.

brownies without eggs

You know what I love about cooking? The sounds. The clink of the spoon against the bowl, the bubble of boiling water, the hiss of escaping steam (beware escaping steam!) the whirr of the oven, the crackling of the plastic packaging, the crunch of the salt grinder.

I love music. I love a lot of different music, you may have even noticed a few songs I picked out to share with you on this blog, and I love cooking to music. Music’s a big part of my life. It helps us to connect to others, it takes us to another place.

It’s important to hear the music in everyday life. The sounds of baking delicious, egg-free brownies, the calling of one friend to another, click clack front and back, train choo choo, all of that. It’s important to listen to the cadence of another’s voice.

The science of noise is fascinating and completely confusing (although click here for a really cool, funny, not-too-confusing intro) but what interests me is how we all connect to it. We are all searching for something, but the weird, sometimes comforting, other times frustrating thing is that someone else has probably felt it before you, and even if you feel like you are all alone in the world, chances are that someone out there cares. It may be someone who’s been down your particular black hole before and so therefore can empathise with you, or it may be someone who’s seen someone not come back.

Perhaps it’s just that you don’t look hard enough in your own life to find the person close to you who cares that much about you and can have an actual conversation without being awkward about it. Perhaps you have online friends, who although they’re a million miles away or close enough, are closer to you than those you see everyday.

Hopefully you have some people you see, so you can share brownies and sad stories (or even hopeful ones) but have some virtual brownies on me anyway, and know that I care, and that maybe I even love you.

[what is this, esther day?]

Egg-free brownies

So originally these were vegan but I don’t keep soy milk or margarine around the house (sorry lactose intolerant and vegan people. It’s not that I don’t love you. I just don’t like the taste of those things) so I just made them egg free, which was what I was looking for anyway because I ran out of eggs. I also accidentally cooked them at 200 degrees for fifteen minutes and then realised my mistake and dropped the temperature to 150. So just try to keep it at one eighty, yeah?

**UPDATED** These do actually taste of coffee. A lot of the time the espresso is just put in to enhance the coffee flavour, but these do taste like coffee. Just a warning!

adapted from Milk’N Cookiezzz

4 ounces dark chocolate

3 ounces butter (substitute margarine for vegan version)

1/3 cup milk (substitute soy milk for vegan version)

2/3 cup sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp instant coffee powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp cocoa

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line an 8″x8″ baking tray with foil and spray it with baking spray.

Melt chocolate and butter together. In a seperate bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, cornflour, coffee powder and vanilla.

Combine chocolate mixture and milk mixture. Sift in flour, baking powder and cocoa. Pour into prepared pan and bake about 20 minutes.

white bean tomato stew

It’s funny how cooking can cheer me up. I was not in a good mood when I got home today. I got super stressed out about the essays I’ve got due next week (I’m not procrastinating – I’m cooking dinner. HUGE difference) and I didn’t have a good train trip and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball with a large block of chocolate. Thankfully, I had chores to get me out of this funk.

I took in my washing, cleaned up the kitchen and started up on dinner, then my housemate made me coffee – so good! The little upticks of life just make the day that much better. It’s not about grand sweeping gestures but more about the small pieces of happy sprinkled around.

By the way:

So, about that stew. It’s tomatoey, beany, and all around delicious; this stew ticks all the boxes. Sometimes I’m jealous of all you meat-eaters out there. It’s true, sometimes I just crave the warmth that a big pot of beef bourginon emulates but seriously, try this and you won’t go back. Served with that bread I told you about yesterday, some shaved parmesan and a beautifully poached egg, I could not have asked for more tonight.

It’s almost spring but those August winds are picking up, so make this stew and share it with your friends and family. I promise you, they will be begging for more. I’m lucky to have leftovers. Hello, lunch tomorrow!

White Bean and Tomato Stew

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I made quite a few adaptations to this recipe. I was cooking for seven so I upped some of the ingredients. I don’t like celery so I left that out, I accidentally used diced “Italian” (read: with extra herbs and capsicum, not a bad idea but not one I particularly wanted to invest in this time) instead of pureed tomatoes, I used silverbeet and spinach instead of kale, although I would have liked more greens and less tomato. I will most likely be making this again. I feel it will become a staple.

Serves 8

About 400g (or more) spinach (can swap out for silverbeet or kale or any other greens) stems removed, washed thoroughly (especially if you picked them from your own garden like I did!

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

approx 1 cup chopped carrots

2 medium-large onions, diced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

350ml dry white wine

3x400g cans white beans, drained and rinsed (I used cannelini beans)

2 cans pureed tomatoes

1 litre (more or less depending on desired consistency) vegetable stock

salt and pepper to taste

three or four thyme sprigs

bay leaf

fresh crusty bread, poached eggs and parmesan to serve (optional)

Half fill a medium pot with water, well salted. Bring to the boil and cook the greens 1 minute (no need to cook anything like baby spinach, but silverbeet or anything heavier) drain and squeeze excess water. Chop roughly and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions, garlic and carrot and simmer for about15 minutes. Pour in the wine and reduce by about half.

Add the beans, tomatoes, vegetable stock, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Take out the thyme and bay leaf, add the spinach and cook a further five minutes. (This is the point you would poach your eggs and toast your bread, if you wanted to serve it that way). Serve with crusty bread, poached eggs and parmesan, to friends and family.