Carrot cake: the cake of carrots (that isn’t gross)

Whilst the fundamental concept of carrot cake is, well, a little weird, it’s actually a delicious cake. And a home made one even more so. It doesn’t taste like carrots. You can’t even see the carrots. It’s not a carrot surprise (thanks for that one, Dad). It’s just nutmeggy, sort of sweet, non-dry and altogether delicious.

For one super fantastic cake (I made mine in a loaf tin, but I think you could get around 12 muffins out of this, too) you will need:
– 1/2 cup of butter, softened
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup-worth of finely shredded carrot (I used 2 big-ish carrots)
– 1/2 cup walnuts (toasted in a dry pan) (optional!)
– 1/2 cup sultanas (optional!)
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 1 cup self-raising flour
– 1/2 teaspoon bi-carb
– pinch of salt
– nutmeg
– cinnamon

For the super epic cream cheese frosting, you will need:
– 180g cream cheese
– 4 tablespoons icing sugar
– about 1 tablespoon of butter, softened
– 2-3 of tablespoons of lemon juice

Step 1 – it’s cake time: heat your oven up to 180 degrees celsius. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and airy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. At this point, add your other cake-related ingredients. I’m quite bullish on nutmeg and cinnamon so I literally added about 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and half a fresh nutmeg; add less if you’re less of a fan (and therefore less awesome). Pour into a greased pan and bake for about 40-50 mins (if it’s in a cake tin), prob about half that time if they are muffins.

Step 2 – filla: mix together all of the frosting ingredients in a beating-fashion. When the cake is cool, cut it in half and spread the frosting in between the two halves. Bloody good.

Carrot cake. A cake of carrots.

Carrot cake. A cake of carrots.

Advertisements

Lemon meringue cupcakes: the blog returns

Life. It was life that got in the way of me, that old chestnut. Moving house…well, look that’s actually my only excuse and that was completed in a weekend. So where has the rest of the time gone? Who knows…

Anyway, I’m back! Back with a cheeky little afternoon tea treat I made a couple of weekends ago. I was lucky enough to be the recipient of the gift of a blowtorch from my wonderful parents a while ago. I also had a frustrating amount of egg whites lying around from tales of creme brulee past. What better way to kill two birds with the one stone than to whack up a batch of lemon meringue cupcakes!

You will need:
for the cupcakes…
– 125g butter (make sure it’s a little bit soft)
– 140g caster sugar
– 3 eggs
– the zest of a lemon
– 1 tsp vanilla paste/essence/whatever you’ve got
– 200g self raising flour
– 100g almond meal
– 1/3 of a cup of milk

for the lemon curd
check this one out. It’s not too sweet and REALLY lemony: http://marmadukescarlet.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/lemon-and-lime-curd.html

for the meringue…
– 4 egg whites
– 200g caster sugar

Step 1 – cupcake kingdom: start by lining a muffin tray (it’ll make around 12 muffins). Also whack your oven up to about 180 degrees. Cream together your butter and sugar, along with the lemon zest. Then add your vanilla. When this is all pale and creamy, add in the eggs, one by one. Beat pretty thoroughly after each addition. Then, add a bit of the flour and almond meal and a bit of the milk – in alternate batches until it’s all combined. Bake these bad boys for around about 20 minutes, but check after 15 for a nice golden, springy finish. Get them out on a cooling rack for a while.

Step 2 – fill ‘er up: while the cupcakes are baking, make your lemon curd. Set it to cool – and even put it in the fridge for a little while to let it thicken. When your cupcakes have cooled a little, cut a little divot out of the top – maybe a 3/4 of an inch deep – and spoon in about a teaspoon of your curd. Proceed to eat the little bits of cupcake you have cut out as a “taste test”.

Image

Step 3 – is that a cumulus cloud: crack out those forearms that you’ve been working on for so long. Get your egg whites into a clean, dry, non-oily bowl. Did you know you can freeze egg whites? Well, you can. I did, for three weeks, in a little sandwich bag. Anyway, quit thinking and start whisking. Get them to stiff peaks and then add your sugar in three or four batches. You really want to make this as firm as you can, because it doesn’t get “cooked” per se. Once you’re happy and you’ve done the bowl-upside-down-over-the-head trick, either spoon or pipe on your meringue on top of the lemon curd-filled cupcakes.

ImageImage

Now get that blow torch cranking. Gently torch the meringue so you get those nice little caramelise-y bits on top. Devour like a ravenous lion.

You old (pear frangipane) tart

There used to be this really good cake shop, Jenny Cake, in this beachside town of Byron Bay, a few hours from where I grew up. There I was introduced to the world of chocolate eclairs, cherry strudels and one of my favourite tarts – the frangipane tart. So feeling fairly tarty – as I have been lately, what with the goats cheese and asparagus and pecan varieties of late – I’ve decided to go with a pear frangipane tart in the hope of reliving memories of Jenny Cake gone by.

You will need:
– 125g softened butter
– 125g caster sugar (for the frangipane)
– 125g almond meal
– 2 eggs
– 1tbsp plain flour
– 3 large pears (depending on how peary you like your tarts), peeled
– 200g caster sugar (for the pear poaching)
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 5-6 cloves
– the juice of half a lemon
– the zest of half an orange (as in, big strips of)
– vanilla – I use about a teaspoon of those bottled vanilla pod/seed things, or you could use a vanilla pod, or just some vanilla essence
– one lot of everyone’s favourite shortcrust pastry, from that pecan pie recipe from a while back, baked and shell-like

Step 1 – like a frangipani: in a mixing bowl, cream the butter and first lot (125g) of caster sugar. Once that’s nice and fluffy, beat in the eggs, one by one (or, as I did, accidentally all at the same time). After that, fold in the almonds and flour. I just left this in the fridge until I was ready to bake.

Step 2 – get poached: in a saucepan, dump your second lot (200g – or less, depending how sweet you want your pears; 200g is not overly overly sweet) of caster sugar and then also about 500ml of water. Heat on medium until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cinnamon stick and cloves, as well as the lemon juice, orange zest and vanilla to the pan (if you’re using an actual vanilla pod, split the pod in half and scrape out the seeds and whack the lot into the pan). Add your pears and some more water to just cover the pears. Whack the lid on and bring to a simmer (or if you’re being all fancy pants, you can do the cartouche thing – cut a circle of baking paper and lay over the top of the water, touching the water and simmer – it slows down the moisture reduction process…orrr you could just put a lid on). Simmer for about 20 minutes and then remove the pears from the liquid and cool.

Poaching pears

Hi pear!

Step 3 – fill ‘er up: pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees celcius (fan forced). In your beautifully baked tart shell, spread your frangipane mix – I filled it about halfway up the shell. Slice your pears how you like – I went for long, chunky slices – and place these into your tart. You could lay them delicately on top of you like; I went for the “dig into the frangipane mix” method. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until it’s all looking delicious and golden and the frangipane is set. Serve with a nice, big fat dollop of cream or something equally delicious and wolf down! (Oh, PS, I’ve been using a smaller tin in the dumb hope that I’ll eat less junk food – so the recipe will actually make a bigger tart – like one of those 23cm tart tins 🙂

Yumbo!

Give me the chips!

Kale. Beautiful green, wriggly, wiggly kale. If you’ve read anything in the last little while, anything at all, I’m sure that one of those things you’ve read is a tout on how great is kale. It’s low fat, it’s high fibre, no fat, high in iron, high in vitamin k (for all of you people out there that think everything is caused by cancer, vitamin k is supposed to reduce it all), high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory powers, can help lower cholesterol, high in vitamins A and C and high in calcium. Seriously – remember back in school how there was always that obnoxious over-achiever? Was his name Kale? No? Well, it should’ve been.

My super healthy snack for today is kale chips. Yes. You heard it – chips. I’m going to blow your minds by showing you how to make healthy chips quicker than you can zip down to the local store and buy a bag of oily, fatty, salty potato chips.

Let’s make like a tree and leaf

For all of you health nuts out there who are about to rebut my claims of making healthy chips out of kale, yes I get that cooking leaves takes away the goodness. I get that fresh it best. But considering these things are so damn healthy, and considering that if you do like them, it’ll mean you eating lots more kale than you otherwise would…hell, why wouldn’t you chip these things?

To make these little leaves of godliness, you will need:
– Kale. I used about half a bunch – say, 5 leaves, washed and dried
– Olive oil – enough to lightly coat the leaves, so, about a teaspoon
– The smallest amount of salt – half a pinch
– Grated parmesan – just grate as you go, to nicely cover the leaves

Step 1 – tear me apart: preheat your oven to 190 degrees fan forced. Rip apart the kale leaves, discarding that thick stemmy stem, into, say, half the size of your palm. They’ll shrink a little during the baking process. Chuck these in a bowl.
Step 2 – mixaroo: drizzle over a small amount of olive oil – start with about a teaspoon, and then sprinkle over literally half a pinch of salt. Get your hands in there and mix the leaves around, so that they’ll all evenly coated with the oil.

Kale and friends

Step 3 – shake and bake: lay your leaves on a lined baking tray, flat. All we want is one layer. You want the leaves to dry and crisp, not to steam and wane. Whack the tray/s into the oven for 5 minutes, then take out, grate over some parmesan to coat nicely, and put back into the oven. I’ll say that it takes another 5 minutes, but you want to be watching it closely. It only takes half a minute for the leaves to go from epic crunchy bright green-ness to bitter gross brown-ness. When they are still green, but ever so slightly going golden (or as golden as the colour green can go), you want to take them out. Brown = overdone.

So leafy

So wrinkly

Let your trays cool for a couple of seconds, and then eat! Don’t worry – you won’t die – just give it a go. They’re crisp, nicely salted from the parmesan and disappear in your mouth. If they taste bitter, then they’re probably a little overdone. Cook them for a minute less next time.

Munching right on to good heatlh

 

Muesli bars – the non gross variety

So just last week I went for this epic hike with an old housemate of mine from my uni days. We drove 6 hours from our respective homes and walked 70km in 4 days, up hills, down hills, through long grasses, stumbling over rocks, crossing waist-deep creeks, warming ourselves by roaring fires, dodging stinging nettles and generally having an awesome outdoorsy time.

I appreciate that this sounds like absolute HELL to most people, but fear not, this post is not about convincing everyone that camping out for a week will benefit human kind; I’m here to tell you about food, of course! Walking along in the bush you end up burning up a heck of a lot of energy, so you need something that’ll (a) give you a quick hit to get you up those hills; and (b) provide some longer sustenance to get you through those many, many kilometres.

I stumbled across a recipe for some home-made muesli bars. Packed full of nuts, dried fruit and seeds, as far as muesli bars go, they’re actually pretty healthy and epic-ly tasty!

You will need:
– 1 cup of flour
– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 cup rolled oats
– 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
– 2/3 cup brown sugar
– 2/3 cup sultanas
– 1/2 cup cashews
– 1/2 cup almonds
– 1/2 cup dark chocolate in little pieces
– 1/2 cup various seeds (I used a mix of sunflower, pine nut and pumpkin)
– 10 dried apricots
– 10 dried dates
– any other dried fruit you like – I used in total about 1/2 a cup of dried apple and dried pear
– a dash of vanilla essence
– Honey to drizzle (I used about 3 tablespoons)
– 1 egg, whisked lightly
– 125grams of cooled, melted butter

You can basically use whatever ingredients you like. Don’t like dates? Leave them out! The thought of almonds gross you out? Don’t bother with them.

Step 1 – gettin’ hot and heavy: Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celcius, fan forced. Grease a slice tin with butter and line with baking paper.

Step 2 – mix it up: this is quite possibly the easiest recipe since those raspberry muffins I made a little while back and is pretty much the same theory: chuck everything into a bowl and mix it up. You’ll want to be cutting up your apricots / dates / any other large bits of dried fruits into smaller bits (I cut my dried apricots into quarters) – this way the various ingredients mingle better and you don’t end up with a huge bite of apricot and nothing else. So whack in your oats, coconut, brown sugar, nuts, fruits, seeds and chocolate and mix it up. Then add your egg, vanilla essence and butter and stir until it’s all well combined. Spoon this nutty conglomerate of a mixture into your slice tin and really give it a good press to flatten it all down (this way it’ll all hold together better in the end). If you so choose, you could sprinkle a few extra nuts / seeds on the top…not outrageously necessary though. Drizzle the honey all over the top. Bake for around about 15-20 minutes – until you can see everything turning a delicious, welcoming, scrumptious golden brown. Once it’s cooled, slice and enjoy.

Fruity, nutty, seedy deliciousness