Comforting Rhubarb Cinnamon Cake and the onset of Christmas

Sometimes I think that the following confession makes me quite un-Australian. But I cannot change the way I feel, I just really love Winter. Summer is nice and I like to go to the beach and spend time outside just as much as the next person but there is something so snuggly about winter that makes it my favourite season. I love winter pjamas, flannel sheets, hot chocolate, reading in bed on a blustery, rainy morning, roast dinners, open fires, winter wardrobes, is there anything not to love? I have spent christmas in the european winter a few times now and I love that you can eat all the traditional food and its not stinking hot. I mostly love that I can cook whatever I want whenever I want because it’s never too hot to have the oven on.  So im not particularly put out by this crazy change in the weather we are currently experiencing in Sydney as it makes the putting up of decorations and the cooking of christmas treats much less sweaty. And so, my lovelies, I put the oven on today, this cold and rainy day in DECEMBER… and made this

Stephanie Alexanders’ Rhubarb Cinnamon Cake

The recipe was astonishingly simple with no need to stew or pre-cook the rhubarb. The yield was one family size delicious cakey/puddingy dessert with tangy sweet rhubarb, fragrant cinnamon and lots of crunchy munchy topping. Just the thing to eat with a cup of tea while watching Love Actually (lets face it, it really is time to break out the Christmas movies).

 

All you do is start with some ruby red rhubarb stalks

Chop them up. I think the chopping is quite theraputic

See, the red and green of the rhubarb marks the onset of the festive season. In fact you might want to bust out some of your christmas cds to listen to while cooking this

Whiz your cake batter in the food processor. Look! It matches the stand mixer from my last post 😀 hooray! And it’s red… see… christmas….

Stir through the rhubarb pieces and dump it all in a cake pan

And not too long after you can pop this baby out

Perfect delicious crispy crunchy top, and moist crumb with flecks of deep pink rhubarb.

JOY!

Just a step up from a plain old tea cake, the cinnamon addition gives it a bit more depth and the rhubarb adds colour and texture. You could probably cook it a bit longer to get it firmer in the middle but I love it more moist and pudding like. A super easy way to warm you up on a cold Summer winter day. I defy you to eat this cake and not feel comforted and cuddled. So, my lovelies, what do you like to cook/eat to warm you up when you are cold and feeling miserable?

Rhubarb and Cinnamon Cake from The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander

Ingredients

80 g unsalted butter

300g plain flour

380g brown sugar

2 eggs

a few drops of vanilla essence

1 tsp salt

1 tsp bi carb soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

grated zest of 1 lemon

1 cup sour cream

400g rhubarb (cut into 1 cm pieces)

1/4 cup brown sugar (for the topping)

1 tsp ground cinnamon (for the topping)

Method

1. Mix together the butter and sugar

2. add the eggs and vanilla

3. sift together the flour, salt, bi carb and cinnamon then add to the food processor and pulse a few times to combine

4. Add the lemon zest and sour cream then transfer to a large bowl and stir in the rhubarb

5. pour into a 24 cm round tin that has been greased and lined with paper

6. Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the top of the cake

7. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 1 1/4 hours or until a skewer inserted comes out clean

Australian Pavlova Blog Hop: Chocolate M&M Pav Sundae with Orange Cream

I’m not afraid to say that i’m an ideas-woman. I have killer ideas. Ideas for TV shows, ideas for books, ideas for outfits, ideas for travel, mostly ideas for food. Perhaps I just have an overactive imagination? Anyway, with this gift also comes a curse. I’m not really what you would call a do-er. I never finish things. I rarely get things done. I see deadlines whoosh past me. Which is why, despite the best of intentions, when I heard about the Australian Pavlova Blog Hop on twitter (yes, i’m now a twit) deep down I knew I wasn’t going to make the deadline. But, im also not a quitter so when I made up my mind to make this Chocolate M&M Pav Sundae, even though it would end up being a week late, I knew I was going to get around to it.

Ok, so it isn’t the prettiest dessert but boy was it yummy!

There were lots of recipes floating around (including a particularly spacey Tardis Pav recipe by Mel from Crunchy Tiger) but I thought I would give a delicious looking chocolate pav recipe a crack. I didn’t want to do a traditional fruit pavlova, mostly because it was a bit same old same old and I wanted to do something different. But also a tiny bit because I hate passionfruit seeds and didnt want to do the chopped-fruit-with-passionfruit-pulp-on-top thing. Bah, who am I kidding, I just wanted an excuse to use…

THIS

Yes, that is 1.4 litres of Hershey’s chocolate sauce. Thank you Costco.

The other pretty big reason why I wanted to turn my pavlova into a sunday was mostly because of this:

I think that because I left it out overnight (and the outside had cracked) the marshmallowy inside disintegrated in the humidity into, well lets face it, quite a tasty pool of chocolate slush.

But all turned out well in the end and it was quite a theraputic process, cooking this baby.

And I got to use the new kitchenaid stand mixer! Yay!

The recipe called for the mixing in of some chopped up chocolate but I figured m&ms would but much more colourful and fun

Because of the extreme shadows in my oven I didn’t realise that my pav had collapsed until it the morning 🙁 boo!

so then I whipped up some cream, stirred through the rind of two oranges and some Grand Marnier, poured some Hershey’s liquid gold over the top and had myself a delicious

Chocolate M&M Pav Sundae

as if you could resist a close up of that crispy, gooey, messy, creamy, orangey, chocolaty deliciousness

So, my lovelies, what is the coolest/craziest/best idea you’ve ever had?

I make this Pavlova in participation with the Sweet Adventures: Australian Blog Hop. You can find instructions on how to join by clicking on the link below.


         

Chocolate M&M Pavlova Recipe – adapted from this recipe

Ingredients

6 egg whites
1½ cups (330g) caster sugar
¼ cup (25g) cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
100g m&ms

Method

1.  Whip your egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form

2. Gradually add the sugar making sure that the sugar dissolves between additions

3. When the sugar is dissolved, fold in the sifted cocoa, vinegar and m&ms

4. Draw a 22cm circle on a sheet of baking paper and spoon the pavlova mix inside. Smooth the sides and top

5. Place the pavlova in an oven heated to 140 degrees celsius (fan forced) then immediately reduce the temperature to 100 degrees. Bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until dry to the touch. Turn the oven off and cool the pavlova in the oven with the door ajar

Orange Cream Recipe

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup thickened cream

finely grated rind of 2 oranges

2 teaspoons Grand Marnier

Method

1. Whip your cream until soft peaks form

2. stir in the orange rind and grand marnier

Construction

1. Break of spoonfuls of your pavlova making sure to get a mix of crunchy outside and marhsmallowy inside

2. layer pieces of pavlova with dollops of orange cream

3. top with a slug of Hersheys Chocolate Topping and a few m&ms

Zumbo for Beginners: The “It Mayo Shock You” Cake

For my birthday recently I was delighted to receive several cookbooks that I had been hankering after. As I have recently had to buy a new bookcase to store my ever increasing stash of cookbooks, I vowed to do more than just look at the pretty pictures and actually cook a proper amount of recipes from each book. My resolution was strengthened by the fact that holidays start in three weeks and after that I will have no colleagues/students to give my excess food to and my ever expanding waistline will soon begin to rival the equator. Fact.

And lets face it, with this selection how could you not be dying to have a crack at the recipes?

Anyway, back to the story. After the serendipitous meeting of Zumbo the other weekend (see here), I was determined to make something from the book, no matter how hard the recipes looked. The first recipe I opened to was this “It Mayo Shock You” cake and after the initial URGH reaction to the thought of mayo and chocolate (both of which I love but previously only separately) I was intrigued by the relative simplicity of the recipe.

Love the full page photos but intrigued by the continuous presence of tiny people. Any ideas?

I used the Kewpie Mayonnaise which is available at most supermarkets

(I also like to eat this squeezed on carrot sticks… mmmm…)

Yep. Equator. Told you so.

All you do is mix all the ingredients together then stir in the raspberries. So far so good…

The recipe made two small loaf cakes and my tins were a little too small so I had extra batter to make some cupcakes. No point in letting the excess go to waste!

Good lord, these cakes looked and smelled so good coming out of the oven

So the cakes came out fine, but then I hit a snag. I should have known that all would not be as it seemed. To go over the cake the recipe called for a chocolate glaze that seemed simple enough, but required the making of a mirror glaze which required an ingredient called Pectin NH. I’m familiar with normal pectin as ive used it in jam making many times before. One voice in my head said “go ahead lazy bones, just whack some jamsetta in and be done with it” while the other voice said “Katie, do you really think that someone with this degree of expertise in finnicky ingredients would just use normal pectin? Nuh uh.” For once, I made the right decision, as I found out later on that you cannot substitute normal for NH as they are totally different and act differently under heat. So I decided to admit defeat and use a normal chocolate ganache with raspberries on top of my cake.

But, I had my own secret weapon.

Ok, so not quite so secret, but pretty cool nonetheless. These babies are pretty much popping rocks and I thought I would put them on top of my ganache to give it a bit of a Zumbo lift.

You just have to remember that the star dust will lose its poppyness after it comes into contact with moisture so you don’t want to put it on your ganache before it has set.

This was quite possibly the lightest yet richest chocolate cake i’ve tried so far.

It was impossibly light. It was impossibly chocolaty but without being overly sweet.

Smothered in rich ganache with the pop of raspberry and the magical mouth popping star dust, this was the dessert of champions!

So, unfortunately I couldn’t fully reproduce the recipe as it was written, but I feel an immense sense of achievement just from making the cake. Next on the list are the “toasted lammyjammit” and the “honey comb-over” yes, I am going to work my way up to the much much more challenging ones. Baby steps peeps.

So, my lovelies, what is the craziest dessert you have ever made or eaten? Did you do a fist pump in the air when you completed it? I may have…

It Mayo Shock U – From Zumbo by Adriano Zumbo

Ingredients for the Cake

291 g japanese mayonnaise

210g caster sugar

6g vanilla extract

300g plain flour (sifted)

6g baking powder

5g bi carb soda

65g unsweetened cocoa powder

285g water

165g fresh raspberries plus extra for decoration

Method

1. Mix the mayonnaise, sugar and vanilla for 3-5 mins until the sugar begins to dissolve

2. Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the mayo mix. Mix on a low speed to combine

3. With the motor running, add the water and mix until combined (beware of the splatter potential though, I don’t know if I didn’t use a big enough bowl or of the mixture was just super wet but I ended up with cake batter everywhere!)

4. Remove the mixer and carefully stir the raspberries through using a wooden spoon or spatula

5. Pour into two small loaf tins (7.5 X 7.5 X 20 cm) that have been greased and lined with baking paper

6. Bake on 170 degrees celsius for 45 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out just a little moist

7. cool the cakes in the tins and turn out carefully, making sure that you leave them the right way up

Ganache

I was super lazy and just melted some dark chocolate and then added some cream until I had the right consistency. You could always just pour melted chocolate straight on as well I suppose. Super super chocolaty!

Then garnish with raspberries and strawberry star dust!

Home Made Granola: Channeling my inner domestic goddess

I’ve never been a big at-home-breakfast kinda girl. If I ate before leaving the house it would be a piece of nutella toast or two weetbix. But the times, they are a changin and so to must (some of) my eating habits. As I haven’t been able to squeeze any more time into my mornings I knew I would need to figure out a breakfast that was quick and easy to assemble. Unfortunately that meant I had to say goodbye to my fantasy of pancakes and crispy bacon 🙁 the natural replacement would have to be cereal.

If you’ve looked down the cereal aisle of the supermarket recently you might have noticed several things.

1. the number of cereals that have sugar as ingredient #1 or 2 in their list. A big bowl of sugar disguised as cereal is not exactly what I consider the best way to start the day

2. the sizes are are wildly out of proportion for a single person’s breakfast supplies. Either they are tiny tiny bags (accompanied by wildly inflated prices) which will require repurchasing within days, or they are massive boxes which I will never get through

3. the prices for anything that looks any good are ridiculously high. What is wrong with the world when the healthier the food the more expensive it is? How will that help anybody?

So the decision was made for me that I would have to make my own. Strangely enough, I already had all the ingredients necessary!

Some vegetable oil, vanilla essence, honey and maple syrup

plus an assortment of nuts, seeds and dried fruits

And the method really couldn’t be easier. Whack on the oven, mix together your wet ingredients

mix in everything except for the coconut and fruit

spread out on two drays and cook in the oven for 15 mins

mix in your dried fruit and coconut, spread on two trays again and bake for another 10-15 mins until golden

cool, and eat with milk or yoghurt!

The best thing about this recipe is that you can really add or subtract ingredients according to what you like or what you have on hand. You can also adjust the sweetness or substitute the maple syrup for something healthier (but why would you?)

I started off with this recipe but I think I adapted it enough that the recipe im going to post below I will call my own.

Katies’ Granola of Greatness

Ingredients

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla essence

125 ml (plus extra as needed) maple syrup

a sprinkle of cinnamon

300g rolled oats

50g sunflower seeds

4 tbsp Linseed kernels

50g slivered almonds

4 generous dessert spoons wheatgerm

 50 desiccated coconut (you could use coconut flakes but I didn’t have any)

100g craisins

roughly 5 chopped up dried pears

roughly 5 chopped up dried peaches

Method

1. Mix together your wet ingredients in a large bowl

2. Add everything except the dried fruit and coconut and mix well until all the ingredients are coated in your maple mix

3. If the ingredients look too dry, add another slug of maple syrup and mix well

4. sprinkle a little cinnamon (perhaps around 1/2 – 1 tsp depending on your taste) over the top and mix well

5. divide mixture between two trays covered with baking paper. Smooth in an even layer and bake at 150 degrees celsius for 15 mins or until lightly golden

6. Place mixture back into a large bowl and add the coconut and dried fruit, mix well

7. Spread mixture on trays again and bake for a further 10-15 mins or until golden. You might want to stir the mixture after 5 minutes to make sure it is cooking evenly

8. cool, then store in an airtight container.

9. serve with milk or sprinkled over yoghurt

 

So, my lovelies, what do you like to have for breakfast? Anything fancy? And if you do have something labour intensive, how on earth do you find the time?!