phenomenal carrot salad

My camera’s playing up and it’s kinda frustrating.

I’m trying to bake and photograph a vanilla buttercake decorated in a festive style for Christmas for you. But my camera is playing up.

I’m sure it doesn’t help that it’s a point and shoot from about 2006. And I may have dropped it more than once in it’s long and fairly faithful lifetime.

But still. I just need it to hold out for oh, about six more months? Six months, people. Six months. Then (all going well) I’ll be getting a DSLR.

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chocolate muffins

Warning: Another photo-heavy post coming up.

Mostly because I’m still kinda scattered.

But sunsets are something that helps me to stay calm.

Even though I’m behind on my uni work and I’m nervous about camp.

So, less words.

I am a big fan of Greek-style yogurt.

And I love five:am yogurt.

And I love chocolate!

And I love cake. And snacking. So they’re all represented here.

And sometimes you just gotta bake.

Hence, the chocolate yogurt snack cakes. Again, from Smitten Kitchen: one of my major inspirations in cooking and in photography and in blogging.

Beware of the tiny ones, though. They’re dangerous. They slip under your guard and suddenly, BAM! You’ve eaten twelve.

How do you de-scatter? Calm down? Refresh?

Baking

running

spending time with God in the sunset, sunlight, good times and deep in the funk.

And the chocolate. Always the chocolate.

Chocolate Muffins

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I doubled the recipe because I have a lot of yogurt to use (and I’ll be making more this week because as I mentioned I have a camp that I am going to 🙂 and it made 36 cupcake sized muffins and 12 mini muffins. So I’ll give the doubled recipe with the original measurements in square parentheses.

400g [200g] dark chocolate, coarsely chopped- I used a combination of 72% and 54% cocoa

1 cup (250ml) [1/2 cup – 125ml] vegetable oil

1 cup (250ml) [1/2 cup – 125ml] yogurt (I used Greek-style – plain yogurt is fine too)

2 cups (400g) [1 cup – 200g] sugar

2 1/2 tsp [1 tsp] vanilla extract

(I didn’t use almond extract but Deb suggests 1/2 teaspoon)

3 cups (400g) [1 1/2 cups – 200g] plain flour

3 tsp [1 1/2 tsp] baking powder

1 tsp [1/2 tsp] sea salt

 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line two muffin tins with patty pans.

Melt chocolate and half the oil in a ceramic or glass bowl over a pot of simmering water or in the microwave. Meanwhile, stir together the rest of the oil, yogurt sugar and extracts together.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yogurt mix and the slightly cooled chocolate mixture. Stir together.

Divide between the patty pans (use more if you need to) and bake about 20 minutes . Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream and berries. Or, you know, as is. With milk.

spring sunday

On Sunday, I went to the farmer’s market, baked bread, planted seeds to start a veggie garden and made chocolate yogurt muffins. It was a pretty productive day all around, except for the fact that I did not work on the essay that is due this Friday that I specifically stayed home to do. Ah well.

So this post will be pretty photo heavy. But they’re pretty! Look:

I didn’t write this yesterday because I was having a bit of a hard time finding words. My brain’s been a bit muddled up recently; I’ve been busy and stressed and I just can’t wait till uni’s over and I have a break.

In the meantime, I take time out from not studying to go to farmer’s markets and gobble up the amazing produce and products they have on offer. I start a garden. I run. I read. And I spend more time than I should on the internet.

I also have been spending time with some amazing friends recently and it’s been so good to catch up with people and really feel supported and loved. Sometimes, although I live in a house with a lot of people, it gets lonely and I start to descend into a bit of a funk.

Sometimes it’s worse than others, sometimes it lasts longer than others, sometimes I don’t admit it to myself and sometimes I do. Sometimes I’m a little bummed out for no reason, other times I’m a lot bummed out for no particular reason.

Sometimes there is a reason. It doesn’t really matter; what matters is that I push through, that there is light at the end of the road, that there is chocolate cake and homemade bread and good friends to laugh and hang out with.

And so, to bread!

As I’ve mentioned before, bread is an amazing food to make yourself. It really brings you to the essence of food – this most basic of sustenances is such a miracle to behold. I’m serious.

This bread I adapted from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef and while it’s not bad, I probably preferred the peasant loaf I made a little while ago. Still, I’m not really one of those people who will stick to one amazing recipe – I have to try them all!

This is better, I think, than bread you make in a bread machine. For starters, you get to get your hands dirty. Secondly, the texture is much nicer .

I had this with roasted tomato jam from jam lady jam and sharp cheddar cheese. It was divine. If you are in Healsville or about the area, you have to find jam lady jam or handmade in Healsville products. They are amazing.

This has been a kinda jumpy-aroundy post again and I do apologise for my erratic thought patterns and complete randomness. I hope to be much more organised in the future (namely, when uni has finished) although I’m not promising anything.

Bread

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef

325ml tepid water

10g active dry yeast

15g sugar

15g salt

250g bread flour

250g plain flour

olive oil

polenta

Whisk together sugar, yeast and water. Set aside.

Whisk together salt and flours in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in wet ingredients. Stir together using a wooden spoon or your hands. When incorporated, flour your bench and dump dough on it. Knead for 5-10 minutes, then form into a ball.

Lightly brush oil all over your large bowl and place your ball of dough in and lightly brush oil over it so it’s covered. Cover the bowl with glad wrap or a damp tea towel and leave in a warm spot to rise for about an hour to an hour and a half.

Gently deflate and knead another minute or so. Shape into the type of loaf you want and sprinkle polenta over your baking tray (or the bottom of your loaf tin) and place dough on the tray. Let rise till doubled, about another hour. You can preheat your oven now to about 225 degrees celsius.

When dough has risen, slash a few cuts in the top with a sharp knife and place in oven for about half an hour. To check if it’s ready, when it’s deep golden brown, tap the bottom of the loaf and if it sounds hollow, it’s ready. Let cool for about twenty minutes before ripping into it with your bare hands like a heathen slicing into it and scarfing it down.

it’s my party

Wow! It was my birthday six whole days ago and I still haven’t told you about the amazing food experiences I experienced!

This is terrible. I am a bad food blogger. I haven’t even written since then. At all. It’s been pretty busy.

Well, there’s time enough to rectify. For me, birthdays are a lot about the food, pretty much equally about the people, and not much about the presents (although the presents are very nice. Thanks for the presents.)

So I decided to have my favourite meal for my birthday – brunch. I love brunch. It combines sleeping in/lazing in bed in the morning, and breakfast food. Best. Ever.

Unfortunately, I don’t know a whole lot of brunch places near my house so we decided to go to one I’d been to before, even though it’s in Abbotsford – three bags full.

I have to pause here for the amazingness of the place to sink in.

Wow. So, we drove to Abbotsford to eat brunch – well, I had brunch, in the form of twice-baked french toast with chestnut cream and quinces. So good. My tummy’s rumbling remembering the deliciousness. It wasn’t too soggy or crisp,  it was beautifully creamy and eggy and the chestnut cream was amazing. The quinces weren’t too sweet and there was exactly enough for me to finish it and be full, but not too full.

And I drink coffee in the form of cappucinos. three bags full has some good coffee. They get it from Five Senses and offer a range of blends and signature origins and different kinds of brews… I just drink cappucino. And it’s really really good.

For dinner, then, we changed scene and went to Grill’d. Grill’d, for those of you who don’t recognise the name, is a chain of burger places. Now before you click away, hear me out – they’re not burgers like McDonald’s make burgers. These burgers are amazing.

Being vegetarian must be a bit of a hindrance, you might be wondering, but you’d be wrong! There are three different vegetarian burger options, each with their own toppings and custom name, even. They have lamb, beef, chicken, steak sandwiches, salads and amazing chips. People, we have a winner. Let’s just say that I don’t often enjoy vegie burgers. I love Grill’d.

All right, all right, you must be wondering about the cake. It’s a birthday, right? There must be cake.

Well, there was a slice of New York Cheesecake from Secret Recipe which was lovely and creamy and pretty good as store-bought cheesecakes go, although I have to say that the real cake is on it’s way! Stay tuned for some fun times!

easter bunny macarons

Well. It is Easter.

I have a bit of a fetish with macarons. I tend to have these loves; in 2008/9/part of 10 it was cupcakes, cupcakes galore; any kind of miniature cake that could be decorated and cute, I fell for. Now it’s macarons. I’ll get one if they’re available with my coffee, I drool over the rows and rows in Larent Boulangerie Patisserie and the Lindt Chocolat CafĂ©s. I read about the best methods to make them, I dream about them. I dreamt about these ones, actually; piping the little ears on weird, bright pink carnival colours. Strange dreams, I have sometimes.

I got the idea for these from raspberri cupcakes, who makes the most amazing macarons, really, but I decided to take the recipe from Secrets of Macarons by Jose Marechal, for no reason whatsoever except that I had it on hand and I couldn’t be bothered printing out the recipe.

I’m still a macaron baking newbie; a lot (and by a lot I mean probably most of them) of my bunnies have cracked faces or bums. But they taste delicious. And they are cuter than a button.

Easter Bunny Macarons

Adapted from Secrets of Macarons by Jose Marechal

100g almond meal

100g hazelnut meal

200g icing sugar

75ml water

200g caster sugar

2x80g egg whites (that’s 160g egg whites in total, about six eggs’ worth)

Food colouring, if desired

For the decoration; I used blue and white muisjes balls for the eyes and noses, which are Dutch aniseed sprinkles. You can just as easily use silver cachous or white sugar balls for the noses, and edible marker pen lines for cute smiling eyelids or eyes. Chocolate sprinkle whiskers and white chocolate chip tails.

For the ganache:

200g dark (70% cocoa solids) chocolate, chopped

200ml cream

50g butter

Sift the ground nuts and the icing sugar together and set aside.

Bring the caster sugar and water to boil and keep boiling until the mixture reaches soft ball stage, 105-115ÂșC, if you have a sugar thermometer, which I don’t. When the sugar is almost ready, start beating 80g of the egg whites in a stand mixer. When it makes soft peaks, add the hot sugar and water in a thin stream while still beating.

Continue beating after all the mix has been added for about ten minutes, to cool it down. (This is the Italian meringue. If you want to add colours, like I did, add them now. I added about half a capful of pink food colouring.)

While this is beating, combine the rest of the egg whites with the ground nuts and icing sugar. Incorporate about a third of the Italian meringue in, to loosen the batter, then fold the rest in gently. Whatever you do, don’t over mix the macaron batter. When it’s ready, it should be kinda like thick pancake batter; a spoonful dropped back on the surface should disappear in about thirty seconds.

Preheat oven to 150Âș. Line two baking trays with non-stick paper and pipe 3cm rounds of batter. Make sure you leave enough room to pipe bunny ears on half of them.

Rap the trays on the benchtop and let them set for about half an hour, in which time you can decorate them (i.e., put faces and bunny tails on them. If you don’t have white chocolate chips, you can wait until after you’ve incorporated the Italian meringue into the rest of the batter to colour the mix, and before you put pink colouring in, take out about a half cup of mixture to pipe onto the bums.)

Bake about 14 minutes, and gently place the baking paper on a damp benchtop to make it easier to remove the shells.

For the ganache: bring the cream to boil, then pour it over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Cool down a little, then whisk in the butter. Keep at room temperature and pipe onto the bunny bums; sandwich with the heads and show off to all your friends.

onion soup

I love winter. I love the rain, I love snuggling up in my pyjamas and a doona, watching movies and drinking hot chocolate. Or coffee. Or tea. I love watching the rain fall. I love skirts and tights, leggings, boots, socks and legwarmers. I love hoodies and scarves and coats and jumping in puddles.

And I love soup.

Pumpkin Soup.

Minestrone.

Potato and Leek, possibly my favourite type of soup, despite its simplicity.

And I’ve been hanging out to try a whole list of soups, and waiting for winter, and proper soup weather, to arrive for me to do so. On my list, no longer onion soup but 44 clove garlic soup, baked potato soup, homemade tomato soup (maybe with the homegrown heritage tomatoes we have here at the family home) and some sort of dumpling soup. A vegetarian kind of dumpling soup, which by all accounts will be hard to come by. We’ll get there.

There isn’t much to say about this soup, except that it is weepingly delicious, started out life in Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, and was the perfect antidote to my flu-like symptoms. They haven’t disappeared, but they are definitely on the back burner of my mind right now. All due to this soup.

Onion Soup

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking via Smitten Kitchen

780g thinly sliced brown onions

3tbsp butter

1 tbsp/slosh of vegetable oil (I have no doubt that the original olive oil requested would elevate this soup even further than it is, however, there was none in the house. We make do.)

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp sugar

3tbsp plain flour

approx 2 litres brown stock (we used mushroom; you can use beef if you’re not vegetarian; but please, for the love of all that is good in this world, make your own. We had 50g of dehydrated shiitake mushrooms and boiled them for about an hour or two. THAT’S ALL IT TAKES PEOPLE. Just remember to keep topping up the water if it reduces too much.)

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 tbsp brandy or cognac (optional but recommended. You can definitely add more to taste; the original recipe called for three tablespoons but we didn’t actually have that much.)

For the gratinée (also optional but recommended.):

About 350-400g sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Crusty bread to cover six bowls, toasted until hard

Butter

Melt butter and olive oil in the bottom of your soup pot or Dutch oven (about 4 litres) and add the onion; stir to coat and turn the heat down low for about 15 minutes, until the onion is translucent ish. You don’t need to baby them; just cover them and let them go.

After the 15 minutes or so, sprinkle the salt and sugar over the onions and stir to coat; turn the heat up to medium and caramelize for 30-40 minutes (or longer if the spirit so moves you) stirring often. Don’t skimp on the caramelization. It’s worth it.

Sprinkle the flour over the caramelized onions and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add all the wine and a little bit of stock at a time, stirring well in between additions. Lower heat to a simmer and cover, partially, to simmer for about 30 minutes or so; skim off the scum if you need to (we needed to).

Correct seasonings and stir in the cognac or brandy. Set aside until needed, or serve immediately, if not gratinéeing the tops.

For the gratinée:

Preheat oven to 170ÂșC. Line a tray with foil and place six soup bowls on it (we had to use two trays); Fill them with soup. Sprinkle a little cheese into each bowl. Butter the crusty croutons and float them, butter side down, on the soup, covering as much surface area as you can. Cover the croutons with cheese and place in the oven for about 20 minutes; grill them for a few minutes at the end to brown the cheese. Serve immediately and carefully – the bowls will be hot. Cures all manner of ailments.