Heat Busting Key Lime Pie

If you live in Sydney then I must begin this post by applauding you for still being here. After the extreme prolonged heat yesterday (37 degrees Celsius – that’s 98 degrees F my European and American friends!) anyone who didn’t dissolve into a puddle on the floor must be commended as having superhuman strength. That was one damn hot day, and on a damn hot day you need something light, cool and refreshing. Which, I imagine, is why we have the Key Lime Pie.

And thank god we do.

Because I totally heart Key Lime Pie.

And biscuit crumbs.

(see what I did there?)

 At the moment with the heat and general busy-ness that comes with the winding down of the year, I am feeling the easy/quick prep dishes, and this one is about as simple as you can get. The base is just cookie crumbs, butter and coconut. The filling is sugar, eggs and condensed milk. The topping is cream, vanilla and a little icing sugar. I think that the cooking time was about 15(ish) mins each for the base and the filling and you can make it in short bursts over a few days. This is particularly good if you are lazy (like me) or if you are sweltering under a series of hot days and can only manage having the oven on for a short amount of time.

I started off with some Butternut Cookies and as I was sans food processor, I bashed them out with a rolling pin. Did I mention that this recipe was also good for stress relief?

Soon I was left with a mountain of crumbs

to squish into the pan and blast in the oven

Then I sampled baked the filling.

Whipped the cream, sugar and vanilla for the topping

and spread that baby over the top of the pie

What you end up with is a tangy, cool and refreshing Summer dessert, perfect for cooling you down. Delightful! I used the recipe from the wonderful blog Mangada [to eat] who always floors me with her creativity, simplicity and beautiful photography. The only change I made was the omission of the ginger cookies from the base as the mothership malfunctions when fed anything containing even a hint of ginger.

So, my lovelies, what do you do/eat/drink to cool you down when it feels as though the world around you is melting? And are any other Aussies freaking out at the prospect that days like yesterday are the shape of things to come?

Quarter Century Celebrations and the Quarter Life Crisis

Time passes. We get older, and this year saw me approaching the grand old age of 25. However, with the impending arrival of this number I have been hearing increasingly about an interesting phenomenon. Ever since I read about the concept of the ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ I have thought about my 25th birthday with a curious combination of concern and excitement. As far as I can gauge, the Quarter Life Crisis is a result of Gen Y’s predilection for indecision and general faffing around before getting down to business. Apparently after spending years studying at university we get out into the workforce and realise that we hate our jobs and in fact want to go back and study something entirely different. We then have a bit of a melt down while realising that we have to take a significant pay cut and either have to move back home or continue living at home while we redirect our lives. This is often accompanied by a major relationship meltdown/marriage crisis/body clock crisis and a slow realisation that we will never again fit into the clothes that we fit into in our teens. Depressed yet?

Well, I hate to be the optimist but my 25th birthday earlier this week was accompanied by none of the above. Instead, I feel quietly content in my career, my relationships and, well, I am a little flabby but only because i’ve been eating so much amazing food over the past few weeks. So on that note, let me share with you some of the lovely happy things that happened on my birthday.

First, the cake.

Amazing creation bought from a bakery in Five Dock by my co workers.

Not only does it look amazing and say my name, but inside it is cake and icecream! Hooray!

Second, the cake.

Hang on, rewind, ANOTHER cake? You bet!

This one purchased by my mum from the Pure Gelato shop in Croydon Park. Another ice cream cake, this one was chocolate and hazelnut and absolutely delicious! Well worth the flab.

Then there were some chocolate cupcakes. As in, chocolates in the shape of cupcakes! Also delicious. I was also given a box of the most delicious chocolates in the world, Haighs’ Violet Creams which silly me didn’t take a photo of. Oops.

I received many beautiful gifts, although I only took photos of the food related ones to post here. The boyfriend gave me a beautiful set of mis-matched tea cups and saucers and hostess apron which should all get their own post soon(ish). His family gave me some lovely serving dishes and the Country Show Cookbook pictured above. Lucky we recently bought a new bookshelf to house the ever growing collection of cook books! My mum also gave me (among other things) the two other cook books above, The Birthday Cake Book and Zumbo by Adriano Zumbo. The former has given me many ideas for future cakes while the latter have given me much food for thought but has left me in abject terror at the prospect of actually attempting to make one of these magnificent creations. Watch this space!

Which leads me to my last picture which is pretty cool…

Mr Adriano Zumbo himself! Who I met at The Lakes while watching the Australian Open Golf Tournament. One of my idols and all time favourite chefs Who would have thought it? I almost fell off my chair in surprise! Just as charming as he is on tv, he was very gracious and lovely to talk to. Although I didn’t really do much talking.

I was a little bit star struck.

So, all in all, it was a pretty damn good birthday but i’m still stuck on what I should be doing for my quarter life crisis? I feel like I shouldn’t let this opportunity for legitimate drama pass me by. Do you have any suggestions my lovelies?

Little Drops of Sunshine – Lemon Curd Tartlets

When the mercury hits 30+ degrees (celsius, my European friends) you know that Summer is well and truly here. Despite the fact that technically, it is still Spring. So to celebrate the sunshine and the general laziness that long beautifully warm days brings, I thought I would make some easy peasy lemon tartlets.

If you think these babies are looking a little on the large side, take not that they are sitting in a mini muffin pan not a normal sized one

What really started this off was a little road trip I took a few weeks ago to the NSW Southern Highlands. It was a great weekend away with great company, amazing food, lots of antique shops and second hand bookstores. The first place we explored was Berrima which is a pretty little town that has a bit of everything – history, beautiful flowers and gardens, food and knick knacks. I was also surprised to come across a working jail which I am going to request if I ever get convicted of a crime. I might even plead guilty to something I didn’t do if I could be guaranteed I would serve my time out at Berrima such is the (external) beauty of the sandstone building and splashes of bright tulips. Lets hope it never comes to that!

So after I had pondered my career as a criminal mastermind and thought through my Plan B, we made our way to a store called the Little Hand Stirred Jam Shop. With a name like that how could you resist? Lucky I succumbed to my frivolous whims as I left the store with these

Lemon Butter and Creamed Honey.

Far out brussle sprout.

Show me a person who doesn’t like either of these and i’ll show you a fool.

Fool I tell you!

A bottle of sunshine.

And Bronze at the Sydney Royal Easter Show! Hooray!

Although if this baby only won bronze, I desperately want to try whatever won silver and gold, they must be like liquid crack.

All you will need for this recipe is three things. A packet of Butternut Snap Cookies, a jar of Lemon Butter or Lemon Curd and a mini muffin pan. You can use chocolate to decorate them but it isn’t strictly necessary.

Pop a cookie on the top of an empty muffin hole and place the tray in the oven for 5-7 minutes.

When they are soft, make a light impression with a tea spoon but be careful that you don’t break the biscuit. The place the tray in the fridge until the biscuits are hard again.

Once the biscuits are cooled, spoon the Lemon Butter on top until they are filled to your satisfaction. Then place back in the fridge until they are set.

At this point you can pipe some chocolate on top of your tarts, I just melted some dark chocolate and added a little glycerine to make it more pipeable.

Cute!

Quite simply, they are little mouthfuls of happiness.

I adapted the recipe from this one  although if you follow the link you will see that my laziness is incredible as the recipe was originally one for quick and easy lemon meringue pies. Except that I couldn’t be bothered with the meringue. But I think these are just as tasty as a snappy citrus tart!

So,  my lovelies, what short cuts do you take in the kitchen? What can you never be bothered to do?

 

Spiced Pound Cake and teachable moments

 I would like to begin this post with a picture of the delicious crunchy bits that form on the top of some cakes. Enjoy.

Now back to business. Sometimes during the course of a lesson we are lucky to get what we call a ‘teachable moment’. When something unexpected happens (inside or outside of the classroom) from which we can draw a moral, life or course related lesson. Sometimes it’s as simple as seeing what can happen when you swing on your chair – and inevitably fall off and crack your head. Sometimes it’s as complex as discussing the international ramifications of a tragedy such as 9/11. It can be anywhere along that spectrum and it gives the lesson a bit more of an edge and relevance that you hope will leave the students with a lasting impression and a more insightful view of themselves and the world around them.

As i’m a very slapdash cook (and person!), my kitchen disasters often lead to such ‘teachable moments’ in which I realise an important lesson. I don’t often post the recipes that don’t work out. Don’t get me wrong, this recipe is amazing and my lesson is nothing to do with this cake. It is more to do with cutting corners….

It starts with basic cake ingredients. A few eggs, a little butter and sugar…

Then we put the batter into a bundt pan. Trust me, everything tastesbetter as a bundt!

And then we have a delicious fragrant, spicy pound cake!

This cake doubles as a room freshener as the smell of the spices wafting out of the oven while it bakes fills the house making everything smell delicious.

So where’s this ‘teachable moment’ I hear you ask?

well, its nothing to do with the deliciously soft and spongy interior to this cake

or the way its moist innards contrast with the crunchy munchy exterior

instead, my lesson was…

never skimp on greasing the pan.

I said I was lazy and often cut corners. I wing it and fly by the seat of my pants. Sometimes I don’t grease the pan properly. This time, it bit me in the ass. Hard.

While still tasting delicious, I couldn’t help but feel sad for my mangled cake and wonder if it would have tasted even better if I had shown it a tiny bit more love and care and taken time to grease the pan properly. Que sera.

So, my lovelies, what baking (or life) lessons have you learned when you were least expecting it?

Spiced Pound Cake Recipe – Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients

230g unsalted butter

650g caster sugar

5 eggs

240ml full cream milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

400g flour

1/2 tsp bicarb soda

1/2 tsp salt

Method

1. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream until light and fluffy

2. add the eggs one at a time mixing well before adding the next

3. beat in the milk and vanilla extract until well mixed

4. Stir the spices, bicarb and salt into the batter until well combined

5. Pour the batter into a bundt tin and bake in at 170 degrees celsius for 60-70 mins or until golden brown

Enjoy!