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February 2015
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April 2015

Friday Food: Simnel Cakelets

One simnel cakeI would never bake a properly large Simnel Cake, but The River Cottage Simnel Cakelets are perfect. They are a kind of Easter Fruit Cake, with marzipan inside. If you aren't quite sure about the marzipan's almond hit, then substitute some plain chocolate Easter Eggs.

I used packaged mixed fruit, but you can tailor your own, and maybe use a lemon instead of an orange for flavour. I love that this is really a one bowl mix, you just have to remember to soak the fruit an hour before you start baking. I have cheated before now and added a little boiling water to the fruit along with the juice, to speed along the plumping. I also like to soften the butter and warm the sugar for a few careful minutes in the oven while it is heating up. Whole nutmeg is definitely the go if you can find it in your supermarket.

I topped the cakelets with a simple glace icing, but you could roll out more marzipan, colour the marzipan or use fondant shapes. River Cottages suggests soaking the fruit in some alcohol for the adult Easter celebrations. The little cakes will keep in an airtight container for a week.

 

Simnel Cakelets    makes 12-16, depending on your cup cake tray

  • zest and juice of an orange
  • 250g mixed dried fruit
  • 175g softened butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 1 tspn mixed spice
  • 1/2 tspn grated nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • 75ml milk

To fill and decorate

  • marzipan
  • mini chocolate eggs
  • pure icing sugar
  • water

 

Orange and fruit soaking

Combine the zest and juice of the orange with the dried fruit and leave to soak for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190*C.

Butter and sugar

Gently soften the butter and warm the sugar in the oven, or microwave or sun, so it is easy to beat.

Start to mix

Add the butter and sugar to the flour, spices and eggs. Start to beat with a mix-master or hand beater on a low speed. The mixture will look lumpy to begin with.

Cream and combine

Gradually increase the speed and beat for about 2 minutes., The cake batter will be thick and creamy. Mix the fruit and cake batter.

Marzipan

Prepare the marzipan rolling it into small balls. I weighed mine and used 12g for each. Then gently flatten the marzipan balls into a disc. Line the muffin tin with papers and half fill with the cake batter. Then put in a disc of marzipan or a chocolate egg. I used half an egg. Then fill the paper cases almost to the top. Bake for about 25 minutes. The cakes should spring back when the top is touched and be nice and golden. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then place on a rack. I cooked half with marzipan and half with chocolate and made a mark on the side of the baking tin with some of the cake batter so I knew which was which. You could also just use different coloured paper cases!!!

Fill and bake

Mix pure icing sugar and water to make an icing and pour over the top of the cakes. I like the way the paper case makes a dam wall. Mostly. Then decorate as you wish with more chocolate, or little marzipan, eggs.

Simnel cakes


Maintain The Range!!!

I have made a slide show. Click the right arrow to start, but I have no idea how to stop!!!

Gilly and Peri, mainly Gilly, are digging a hole. It is a long term project and they are jointly managing it. It started off as a bit of a dip and they put a lot of effort and energy into making it large enough for a Labrador to hide in. The dirt goes out the back and then, often, through the fence. Luckily my NextDoor Neighbours are collecting the nice dirt and using it in their garden. There is a new batch of pine bark to try and alleviate the dirt + water = mud problem that has arisen lately. Peri likes to lie on it. The pine bark must have nice insulating properties.

I have worked out why my dresses have worn out in a rather unusual place: under the bust on the left rib cage, which is a place that experiences very little action let me tell you. My Pear dress has been repaired, and then I noticed my favourite green dress with a circle skirt is developing wear in the same place. Then the other day as I sat in the car and pulled over the seat belt it dawned on me: seat belt wear. Enter the Seatbelt Cover 1.0.

Seat belt cover 1.0

It is made from RowanSpun Tweed, 10ply and various buttons. I used the Seat Belt Snuggles pattern from the old MagKnits. I spurned the bobbles as buttons idea and made sixteen button holes, and sewed on a variety of buttons. Sadly, it is not quite right. It is too wide and the buttons too small for the holes. But the general idea is good and I will ponder upon it.

Our Sewing/Quilting group has started again. We have sewn one block already, but I can't find mine. This week we sewed The Holiday Ribbon block. It was quite easy, and the others were surprised at how well it went together. I am sure they just have better sewing skills now.

Ribbon block

And it wouldn't be a post without a tote bag. I sewed this one for my sister. She has a SharPeri and I have to find some appropriate material, but I made do with a variety of dogs.

Dogs' bag

Malcolm Fraser died this week. I am all about Maintaining The Rage. I think The Dismissal was a misuse of the Governor-General's power and undemocratic. I wasn't sad when Fraser cried when he lost the election in 1983. But now I am ambivalent. He came to stand for things that I believe in too. Can a leopard change its spots?? I don't know, but I think Fraser was more of a statesman after he left office. Or maybe I have mellowed over time. Still, I do Maintain The Rage.

I like to think that's three: Malcolm Fraser, Terry Pratchett and Leonard Nimoy. No more dying for a while please PTB.

Peri and Gilly had THREE walks today: one by themselves, a shorter one with Sandy who was walking down to the gate at the dam as we left, and then an even shorter walk with Rafa who came as Sandy left. We were all very tired and had a very long sleep till the afternoon. I am trying to stay awake so I can sleep tonight, but The Labradors never need to budget their sleep time. They could sleep for Britain!!! Gilly is lying on the couch, gently snoring. Well maybe not so gently!!!

Peri and Gilly cute as buttons

 

 

 


Friday Food: Easter Macaroon Nests

A macaroon nestYes. Well. There was going to be a different kind of nest, but even though I followed the instructions ever so carefully, the jolly nests stuck to the tin. I should have trusted my instincts and lined with baking paper. Not to be deterred, I forged ahead and started again.

Luckily I bought two packets of sweetened flaked coconut, so I sought a better baking plan. I have never used the sweetened coconut before, but I found a recipe. My packet was a little light in weight, so I used less condensed milk. These are the old fashioned macaroons made from coconut or almond meal and egg whites, and not the French macaron which is very trendy and features on all the baking shows. Actually these are child friendly macaroons because there is no need to whisk egg whites to any kind of peak and condensed milk hides a multitude of sins.

Oh dear

I decided not to use chocolate eggs in my nests, instead I found some very cute tiny jelly beans. Some are speckled so they look quite eggy. You could use chocolate hazelnut spread, oh Nutella, to fill the nests. I used a little melted chocolate.

These will keep, unfilled, for at least a week in an airtight container. I made 12 large nests,  but the mixture lends itself to 18 smaller ones too.

 

Easter Macaroon Nests   makes about 12

Filling

  • melted chocolate: white, milk or dark
  • or Nutella
  • little jelly beans, or chocolate eggs or whatever lollies you fancy

 

Preheat the oven to 165*C and line a tray with baking paper.

Mix the wet ingredients

Put the egg white, salt and condensed milk into a large bowl and whisk a little with a fork to combine.

Add the coconut

Pour in the coconut and mix, making sure it is thoroughly coated with the wet ingredients.

Forming the nests

I used a heaped tablespoon as my measure and wet hands to roll into balls. I made 12. Flatten each macaroon slightly and then press a finger/thumb, or the end of the handle of a wooden spoon, into the centre of each one.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. I baked mine for 20 minutes and swapped the tray around half way through.

Baking and making bigger nests

Cool on the tray for 5 minutes and then press down the centre of the macaroon again to make the nest more defined. The macaroons rise during baking and so the hole for the nest gets smaller.

Cool

Cool completely on a rack. Now you can put the macaroon nests into an airtight container for at least a week. Or you can fill them right away. I drizzled a little melted milk chocolate into the macaroon nests and then gently arranged a few jelly beans to represent eggs. I think 3 is a good number. If I had some Fairy Floss I would use that instead of chocolate. What Fun!!!

Macaroon Easter nests


GreenHouse Of Cards

Regardless of my care and attention, I fear the greenhouse teeters on the edge of collapse. It has made progress: basil and coriander have poked their little heads up and the watercress is going great guns. Gilly and I sampled a little and it is deliciously peppery.

Greenhouse progress

It rained quite heavily this morning, for just long enough that The GardyGardeners went home after ten minutes and there was No Morning Tea. Peri and Gilly were sad. Gilly was so sad that she sat on The Ottoman at the window and/or looked longingly through the fence for an hour or so. Peri is used to life's disappointments. Gilly is more Oliver Twisty: please may I have some more?? She is just as cute as a button and I cuddle her and squeeze her tight. She asks with her paw so beautifully.

Gilly asks with her paw

Peri is more independent, though not averse to a good tummy rub. When we walk down the hill she is allowed off the lead. She walks more comfortably at her own pace and is relatively trustworthy.

Run Peri Run

I was lucky enough to visit The Dutches on Monday and see Toddler Zoe and her mum. Toddler Zoe is talking so well now and has a wicked sense of humour. Of course, I had sewn some tote bags. One is a lovely reindeer Christmas print and the other is really little houses but I like to think of them as TARDISes.

Still more bags 2015

I have had to put my knitting away. One of the four dogs on our walk was taking a treat, not very gently, and split the quick on my important knitting forefinger. Now around the nail it is all red and puffy. I wrapped it in a hot cloth this morning and then slathered on some ointment. I have to watch I don't get a line running up my finger. I saw my very excellent psychologist on Monday and we looked at the things I do every week and I realised that the beginning of the cooler weather signalled a rapid increase in my level of activity. No wonder I was feeling harried. I have homework: to draw up a chart for the rest of the year, for every month, and write in all the important things I must do, and the things I would like to do. And then make a reasonable plan.

Almost a kaled and dalek

I have liked working on the Dalek-table Dalek, it is almost complete. My Kaled is too big, so I have to make the opening in the Dalek larger.

I started new socks in some marvellous striped Heart and Sole sock wool. I love stripes.

Heart and sole sock one

I am not planning to do any knitting for the rest of the week, in the hope my finger will miraculously heal. I might just wrap it in a warm cloth again and see what happens.

I have been perusing lots of Easter recipes and I have plenty of time to bake something cute and delicious by Friday. I am a tad excited!!!

 


Friday Food: Creme Egg Brownies

One cream egg brownie!t is not long till Easter, so I am going to try out some new Easter recipes. After baking this, I wonder if it might not also be great as individual little bars or muffin sized brownies. I shall have to trial those and see.

Cadbury Creme Eggs are not cheap, and six cost $10-20. You could make a more budget friendly version with some of the cute little peppermint, caramel or strawberry filled mini eggs. The Creme Eggs have a nice line all around the centre, where the halves are joined, and it made them easy to cut. Only 1 of the 12 halves was a bit iffy.

This is a very straight forward and easy recipe. And I followed the recipe exactly, (I know, how unlike me!!) even the brand of cocoa.

I think this is a decadent brownie, not one for the lunch box, but maybe with coffee or tea after a long Easter Sunday lunch. If you have one. There is time for three more Easter themed posts on the Fridays leading up to Easter. I love Easter baking and look forward to some new baking ideas.

 

Creme Egg Brownies      makes 12 generous pieces

  • 125g butter, cubed
  • 125g good dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 tspn baking powder
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 6 Cadbury Creme Eggs, halved

Preheat oven to 180*C.

Melt

Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave, over some simmering water, or as I do: in the oven while it is heating. Just mind the hot bowl! When the chocolate is almost melted, remove from the heat and stir till smooth. Then add the brown sugar and mix well.

Add eggs

Whisk the eggs and add to the chocolate mixture. Stir thoroughly.

Dry ingredients

Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa and then fold into the batter.

Ready to bake

Grease and line a slice tin, approximately 30 x 20, and pour in the brownie. Smooth the top and bake for about 30 minutes, turning half way through. I checked at 25 minutes and that was plenty for my brownie.

Eggies

While the brownie is baking, cut the Creme eggs in half. Take the tin out of the oven and press the half eggs into the top of the brownie, cut side up. I arranged mine in a 3 x 4 array. Hip hip array.

Baking eggs, cooling, cut

Bake for another 5-7 minutes and then cool on a rack until cold. Cut into 12 pieces and store in an airtight container. 

Creme egg brownie


Up, Down And Away

When I am not really thinking about what to call my blog posts, my mind wanders. Hot, Cold, Thermometer, Temperature, Up, Down: and there you go. The TAA advertisement from long, long ago. And would you believe it is on The YouTube? Of course it is.

 

I am not sure whether I was, or desperately wanted to be and was not, a member of The TAA Junior Flyer Club. All I remember is that we knew "With Ansett, You chance it". You have to say it to rhyme.

Well, I have a thermometer, hence all the Word Association Football. My GP said I should have one, and if my temperature was high it was an indication of a proper bacterial infection and I should go immediately to see a doctor. I was feeling poorly, so I took my temperature. The thermometer goes under your tongue for 10-15 seconds and then beeps. My temperature is always, always low. 35.6*C , or 36.1*C, never 37*C. Of course, now I wonder why it is so low, but since I feel better I should stop worrying. MrsDrWho suggested two things:

  1. I should record and chart my temperature. Yes!!
  2. I should take The Labradors' temperatures. No!!

Since I really only want to be at the doggy end with the wet nose and not the tail, and I thought they might chomp down on a thermometer, I decided to give #2 a miss.

Gilly has a new job: Mission Cricket-possible. Her mission, and she chooses to accept it, is to find and dig up all the noisy crickets. And to make them stop cricketing in ten seconds. Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one ...

Gilly 's new game, cricket and Peri

Peri has a new trick: she can open the gate into the bush from the difficult side. This is a terrible picture, but she's so deft and speedy and I am so not capable of operating any machinery quickly. She sticks her nose and/or paw into the tiny opening and pushes and turns and voila, the gate is open. This is not the scary thing. The scary thing is that she has taught Gilly and Rafa to do this too. It's The Dawn of the Planet of the Dogs.

Clever Peri but fuzzy photo

The weather is slowly cooling. Not very much, but enough that we can sleep at night. Yesterday morning it was raining on the way to the dam, it was so dull we had to have the car lights on. This morning it was chilly, but sunny. I like to think of Autumn as a lovely slow decline towards Winter. Peri and Gilly are happy to be going home after an excellent walk. Breakfast awaits.

Happy walked labs

TinkingBell gave me a Jamie Oliver Greenhouse and I finally assembled it and planted the seeds. It came with a small square of what looked like peat moss, which expanded at a very fast rate once you poured water on it. I crumbled it up to cover the base, which is like a rectangular shoe box lid, but plastic.

Jamie greenhouse soil

Then I planted the seeds: basil, coriander, cress and chives. After just two days the chives (I think) have germinated. I carry the greenhouse carefully in and out of the direct sunlight, so I don't kill all the little seeds. It is Very Exciting, especially for me. I should really have a green thumb.

Seeds sprouting

And here it is on the verandah.

Greenhouse

On the way to the Wool Shop this morning, I passed a sale table of sandals and found a pair to fit me for $5. They were only $30 to begin with, but as I don't need any more green Summer sandals, I couldn't really justify it. But $5 was obviously my price point.

5 dollar shoes

I may have knitted another sock. This time some Mini Mochi 105 for MrsDrWho. The worrying thing is that I can only find one ball. So she may just have one sock for the time being. The toe is ready to graft, but I don't trust myself to do it properly the first time when I am tired. Maybe in the morning.

Sock 105 colour

At the dam there is a large hedge of hydrangeas. We had them growing along and high up the side of the garage when I was a little girl. You can do all kinds of clever things to make the flowers different colours. I am not quite sure what is going on here, but we have the whole range, from red, to pink and purple and light and dark blue. Wallabies hide under here. Sometimes Gilly spooks one and it runs out. She never catches them, they hop speedily away. Peri looks on with, I am sure, a superior smile.

Labradors and colour change

Everyone has gone to bed. It starts getting dark around 8pm now. We still have almost a moth of Daylight Saving left, so it will be a big shock when we revert to Real Time. Peri will want to go to bed straight after her tea. She's very funny. Gilly goes too, but she has both ears on alert in case of crinkly paper. I expect I shall go to bed now too, since everyone else has!!!


Friday Food: Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes

Perhaps I shoulLittle beetroot caked just give in and call this Friday and/or Saturday Food.

This recipe is just the thing for a quick plate of cute and quirky cakes. It has two steps: blend and bake. Oh you can make a ganache icing, or you can just sift some icing sugar over the top and they will look quite festive.

We can buy already cooked little beetroot in the fresh fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket. Otherwise you would have to boil some beetroot.

I think it would be a good idea to pulse the beetroot in the blender before you add the other ingredients, as I had to blend for almost twice as long before I could feel the batter was smooth. Still, the cakes are light and fluffy.

I used Dutch cocoa, because it is more chocolaty and smooth.

The ganache was too runny for my taste. Next time I would probably add a half to two-thirds more chocolate for the amount of cream.

I made 2/3  of the recipe, mainly because I went to the supermarket with 180g packets of beetroot, rather than 250g. I put 1/4 cup of the cake batter into the paper cases and still made 12 cup cakes and if I really scraped the food processor out properly I could have made 14. According to my calculations where 12 = 2/3, then a whole batch would be 18.

 

Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes     makes 18

For the ganache

  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped 

For the cakes

  • 250g already cooked beetroot, drained. Very cute they are too.
  • 100g good dark eating chocolate
  • 200g butter, at room temperature
  • 220g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 225g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 60g (1/2 cup) Dutch cocoa
  • 3 tspn baking powder
  • 2 tspn vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) milk

Preheat the oven to 190*C or 170*C fan-forced. Line two muffin trays with paper cases. 18 seems like a good bet.

Ganache

Make the ganache by heating the chocolate and cream in the microwave, or in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Either way, heat gently and remove before the chocolate is properly melted and stir till smooth. Refrigerate for about 30-40 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Blend

Put all the cake ingredients into the food processor and blend for about 20 seconds. Spoon 60ml, or 1/4 cup, of the batter into the paper cases and bake for 20-25 minutes. I always swap the trays up and down, and turn them round to try and ensure an even bake. The cakes are cooked when a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. Mine took 30 minutes. I was wary of over baking them, but they are still nice and moist inside.

Bake and cool

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then on a rack until totally cold. Stir the ganache once more and then dollop and swirl onto the top of the cakes. And you are done.

Ice with ganache

The un-iced cakes can be frozen. Once they are iced they won't keep as well.  But, my word they look marvellously chocolaty!!!

Chocolate beetroot cupcakes


Pease Porridge Hot, Peas Rice Cold.

I was meant to be Dining Out with my knitting group tonight, but I wasn't up to it. I rested and napped, but in the end I just stayed home and had steamed rice and peas for tea. Very sad, especially when the menu at the restaurant is fabulous. Next time.

Peri and Gilly are happy, they have had some stewed plums and we opened a minty tasting rope toy for Gilly too. The Labradors love the cooler weather, there is a forecast for snow down to 800m and we have quite a bad bush fire to the north; too far north to worry us, but the residents were evacuated. All the dogs have been so happy on their walks, running very fast and playing fast games. Gilly is running down the hill to catch up to Sandy, who is strangely close to Peri, who usually spurns him.

Wheeeeee Gilly Peri and Sandy

My camera stopped working. No, technically it only worked intermittently. I took it to the camera shop and would you believe, it turned on first time for the camera man. Then, it refused to turn on. Good. It is too expensive to fix the battery contacts, so I used my Christmas Gift Card from my mum to buy a new one. I am learning to drive it.

I made a new bag for MrsMadCage. It is called Lillian's Bag from Esme's Patchwork Shop and it is very cute and useful. She didn't want a zip, which can be inserted on long strips of material, but it can also have a button or a magnetic clip. When you put it down, it sits open and you can easily see your knitting or sewing bits and bobs. It takes three fat quarters, but next time I'd use one nice fat quarter for the outside, and plain cotton for the lining. It sewed together very easily and I need one for my embroidery. Stat!! I can't find the pattern on the website, but I know Lillian posts things off for people.

Lillian's bag is good

I sewed two more tote bags. One is a Doggy bag and it has Peri and Gilly's Spoonflower material on the front. The other is for MrMadCage's birthday and I baked him some brownies as well.

Doggy and mad bags

I am knitting some socks: slow and steady through the warm weather I am up to the heel turn on the second sock.

New un named second sock

And now we are off off to bed. I have some baking to do tomorrow for The GardyGardeners to take for afternoon tea. I plan to make a small batch of something nice. And then rest. I think it is a case once again of the cool weather, like a siren, enticing me to do lots of things and then I realise I should have done less.

Peri and Gilly are very good companions and when they are not with me they are always at the fence hoping for a seaweed rice cracker.

Peri and Gilly by the fence

Oh, and a Dalek.

Dalek-table