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June 2016
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August 2016

Lie-low and Stitches

In between the snow and rain and wind, we have had some sunny days, and there is nothing a Labrador enjoys more (well, apart from eating and walks) than lying in the sun soaking up the Winter warmth.

Lying in the sun

All went well when Hedy went to the Vet to have her stitches removed. We went straight into a consulting room as there was a very barky unhappy-to-be-there dog in the Waiting Room. The nurse whisked Hedy out to the surgery and Gilly waited for her. Waited and waited, even though it was only five minutes. She was quite worried.

Gilly worries about hedy

Hedy cared not one jot, she was ready to run and play again.

Hedy at the vet after stitches removed

Instead of being like an angry giant parrot on the end of a stick, Hedy was allowed to run free at last. I am not sure Gilly was so happy, she liked being Boss of the Walk. You can just see Gilly, being Boss of the Walk, far away up the hill. She was rather naughty to run up there, but since Hedy was on the lead, she took the opportunity when it arose.

Gilly far away

Now things are back to normal, with Hedy Lamarr at Lorelai Gilmore's heels.

First walk off the lead

We all went to bed yesterday and most of today as I had a migraine. The DVR in the lounge-room has decided not to Timer Record any more, so I had to use the others. I have two old DVD recorders that can only tune in SD stations. The remote control may have been on the bed so I could turn the news on. Late this morning I was awakened by a strange noise.....

Demoted remote

Oh dear, this is Hedy's first official Naughty Thing. Gilly was shocked, shocked and horrified. It can not be all Hedy's fault as she had access to the remote. It still works, but intermittently. What good luck it is the remote for the DVR that is broken. Household appliances know when your Tax Return is expected. They know. So far we need a new DVR, a new Rice Cooker and a new mixer. The Rice Cooker costs less than $20 and works very hard almost every day, so I am not so bothered by that.

I am knitting WeeJock&Bessie's Mum a hat in some soft and luxurious Debbie Bliss Andes: mulberry silk and alpaca. I have only made the ribbing, twisted ribbing, thus far and I need to buy some more short 4.5mm ends to do the actual hat. This will be the not so slouchy version.

Hat band

I am also sewing a Star Spangled Jacket. Here is a tip: always cut sequinned fabric out on a sheet or some other protective covering. Ask me how I know. There are sequins from dawn till dusk all over the house. The jacket doesn't have a full lining, and the spangled fabric is not solid, so I needed to make my brain work extra hard to figure out how to work the full lining and facings. I am almost to the putting it all together stage. When you are about to take a photo and you say "Wait" to The Labradors, this is what happens: Gilly waits patiently and Hedy just rolls on into the picture.

Star spangled jacket with help

Our Sewing night has changed this term, so I have to be organised and sew this fortnight's block and bake some cakes for tomorrow night. I am thinking of baking the Cherry Ripe cupcakes from this month's Taste magazine. I bought some fresh cherries to tizzy them up. I am not sure about the overflowing chocolate ganache. Sure, it looks great, but it is not very eater friendly.

Cupcake

 


Friday Food: Salted Caramel Brownie

Slice of brownieThis brownie does not follow the recipe as written on the BBC GoodFood website, because I wasn't completely paying attention as I baked. Regardless, it worked out very well, all things considered.  Not only did I confuse the method, I also baked it in the wrong tin. It was not my best baking hour, but MrsDrWho and her mum pronounced it delicious. The recipe uses ingredients that are usually in my pantry and I just needed to buy some caramel in a tin, or Top'n'Fill as it is called here. The recipe calls for two different kinds of dark chocolate, I compromised with 100g of the 70% cocoa and then just some ordinary dark chocolate of unknown percentage. We can't buy golden caster sugar, so I substituted roughly 2/3 caster sugar and 1/3 light brown sugar.

I made a quick chocolate sauce from a runny ganache at the last moment, because my friends are like the Masterchef judges and love a dessert with a saucy addition!!!

There isn't much to add, I used a hand whisk and other than that there is just some melting and combining before you bake. In a warm climate I would store this in the fridge, but here in Winter it will keep for a week in an airtight container in the cupboard.

 

Salted Caramel Brownies     makes 16 pieces

  • 200g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 100g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
  • 100g dark chocolate, 50% cocoa solids
  • 1 395g can of Top'n'Fill or other caramel
  • 1 tspn salt flakes, and a little extra for sprinkling
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 60g light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 130g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa, I used Dutch processed

 

Preheat the oven to 180*C/160*C fan-forced and grease and line a 20cm square cake tin, sides and base.

Melting chocolate and butter

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt with the butter in the microwave in 30 second bursts. Stop melting just before all the chocolate is melted and then stir until smooth.

Caramel eggs sugar

Put half of the caramel, the salt, sugar and eggs into a large bowl and with a mixer, or hand whisk, beat until well combined. Whisk in the chocolate and butter mixture.

Add choc butter flour cocoa

Finally sift in the cocoa and plain flour and fold in until the batter is smooth and even.

Brownie base and caramel

Spread half the brownie batter into the base of the tin, then spread over an even layer of the remaining caramel in the tin. Dollop the rest of the brownie mixture over the top of the caramel and swirl through with a spoon or knife.

Top and bake

Sprinkle a little of the extra salt over the top and then bake for 25-30 minutes. There should be a firm crust on top, but the centre will still jiggle when you wriggle the tin. Let the brownie cool completely in the tin and then cut into 16 even pieces. Serve with a chocolate ganache sauce for an extra indulgence.

Salted caramel brownie


The Powering Inferno

We have been living in interesting times at our house: so many social outings for the holidays and with overseas visitors, an operation for Hedy Lamarr, our land-line has not been working for almost a fortnight, there were terrible storms and our power was off for two days. There has been a little bit of teetering on the edge, but I think we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

The Labradors went to visit at MrsDrWho's house and met The Overseas Visitors. Much hilarity ensued.

Gilly and Hedy playing

Hedy Lamarr went to be de-sexed. We had been practising all the important things like having your ears, eyes and teeth checked, having a pretend injection and a new addition- having your leg shaved. Gilly and I dropped Hedy off at 7-45am.

Operation Vet

Gilly and I went for a walk together,

Gilly all by herself

and then we had hardly been home at all before the power went off. A tree had fallen on the power lines and in our street the house next door had power, the next three didn't and then the house on the corner did. Our houses very weirdly wired here, the suburb is old and houses were built and connected willy-nilly. This is not the tree that fell on our power lines, just one of the many that blew over in town. Towns were flooded, roofs blown off and almost 20,000 people were without power at one point. It has been a very bad year for wild weather.

Tree down

Hedy was well enough to come home at 1pm and then we bunkered down, waiting for the power to be reconnected.

Hedy on the way home from the vet

The land-line doesn't work in a power outage anyway, so were were home along together with no way to communicate with the outside world!! The Hydro rang the neighbours later in the evening to say the power was not going to be fixed and then MrsDrWho brought a thermos of hot sweet tea and more thermoses for the hot water bottle and some hot food.

Oops cloud collar

The power was finally restored late the next night, and oh how I appreciated a hot shower and a cup of tea whenever I wanted one. And the internet. I still need to organise for the land-line to be fixed. The phone company just tells you to ring them about the fault, and of course I have no phone, so I can't. I did email, but they are just hopeless.

On our walk this morning

Hedy is allowed to go for a walk on her lead with Gilly. The entire time she barks, crossly and loudly. She is Not Happy At All to be restrained. As soon as Gilly is on the lead, Hedy is as good as gold and as quiet as a mouse. Hedy has recovered incredibly fast and is in total denial that she had an operation at all. She wears her cloud collar when I go out, but otherwise she doesn't seem too interested in her stitches, which come out at the end of the week. She now has smaller cloud collar #2 as she somehow punctured larger cloud collar #1 and pulled it off.

Blurry Gilly and hungry Hedy

I have caught up on lots of reading. We were slightly prepared for the power outage with a torch and radio and spare batteries. I read by hanging the torch from the lamp that wasn't working. Unfortunately, the emergency services urged people to check websites and online for all the relevant road closures, snow falls and power outages and we don't have a smart phone so we were in the dark: metaphorically and literally!! We could have decamped to someone else's house but with Hedy only just having had her operation, I decided she was better at home in the place she knew, safe and sound with Gilly.

I haven't done any knitting or proper sewing. I made a toile for the Gold Star Spangled Jacket, and I finished The Extermin9 Hat for Uncle Dutch's birthday. This time I used the most up-to-date iteration of the pattern and so all the slipped stitches lined up. I like the variegated red colour too.

Extermin9 hat 2016

I have done an awful lot of sleeping, all day and all night. When things are difficult, sleep is a great refuge. And so to bed again, even though we didn't officially get up until 1pm this afternoon.


Friday Food: Tray Bake Kits

Vanilla cakeReading a cooking magazine I spotted new Woolworths Tray Bake Kits. Of course I had to have them all. Not that I am affected by advertising but really: tray bake kits with a tray and all the bits and bobs. What's not to want???

I really wanted them and so, in the end, I went to three supermarkets before I finally had all the kits in my hot little hand.

There are three types: vanilla cake, chocolate cake and brownies and they cost $4 each. You add a little butter, two eggs and milk to the cakes and one egg, oil and water to the brownies. They come with a folded tray that opens and slots together and icing and sprinkles for the cakes. The whole thing is as cute as a button. Some Woolworths had all three kits, some two and some none at all.

New traybake kits

So dear Reader, I have taken it upon myself to test the kits and taste the vanilla cake at least.

 

Tray Bake Kits    makes 18 pieces

The cakes require additional ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 190ml (3/4 cup) milk

The icing also needs:

  • 60g butter, softened
  • 20ml milk

Contents

Vanilla cake kit contents. The chocolate cake kit has a chocolate cake mix and 100s and 1000s.

 

The brownies require additional ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • 100ml water

There is no icing or frosting for the brownies.

 

 

Preheat the oven to 180*C or 160*C fan-forced for all the kits. Unfold and assemble the tray and grease it. I tried both butter and oil, and the butter seemed to work best of all. I folded the creases of all the tray edges and made sure the openings were open so the little arrows slid in easily. They are pretty good trays and maintain their shape quite well. I got better by #3!!!

Tray assembled

To make the cakes, put the cake mix, butter, eggs and milk into the mixer bowl and beat slowly to combine. Once everything comes together, beat on Medium speed for 3 minutes. Then just mix with a spoon to make sure everything is properly combined.

Vanilla cake batter combined

Pour into the tray and bake for 30-35 minutes. I baked mine for 30 minutes and turned the tray half way through. It is cooked when the cake is golden, comes away from the side of the tray and a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.

Vanilla trayed and baked

Set aside to cool completely.

Vanilla icing

While it is cooling make the icing. Put the icing mix, softened butter and milk into a bowl and beat slowly to combine and then on a high speed for 2 minutes. It will be pale and light.

Vanilla cake iced and sprinkled

Spread the icing on the cake and top with the sprinkles. There is just the right amount of icing, a little more than you think you need, but not too much.

De-traying the cake

It came out of the tray quite easily and didn't stick at all when I used butter to grease the tray.

Here's the chocolate cake:

The chocolate cake

And vanilla and chocolate cake pieces.

Vanilla and choc tray bake

I think the vanilla cake is delicious, it is quite vanilla-y and the icing is light and tasty. It till tastes faintly like a packet mix, but not too badly. My next-door neighbour tasted it and thought it was very yummy. She liked the chocolate one a lot and the icing was very fudgy and rich.

 

To make the Brownies, put the cake mix into a bowl with the egg, water and vegetable oil and mix with a spoon until combined.

The brownie

Pour into the tray and bake for 30-35 minutes. I baked this one for the full 35 minutes.

Cool and slice and it is done.

Choc brownie

I did taste the brownie and I think it was the least successful of the three. I thought it was a bit too flat and the edges were crusty while the centre was moist. While I might consider the cake kits, I would not buy the Brownie one again.

In reality, I like the cake kits for their novelty value, but I will always make a cake from scratch. I like knowing the ingredients I am using are as local as possible, or Australian at least. I like the whole baking process and as we don't have a proper life at our house, it fills in the time some days. Baking cheers me up!!!