Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rich Shortbreads

Like any blogger I take a keen interest in the visitors to my blog. In particular, how people find me. A lot arrive through google or some other search engine. The keywords people use are endlessly interesting. Some make me wonder what is going on in their lives. Like the person who googled 'can jelly keep an egg from cracking'. Just what were they wanting to do with this egg? The mind boggles.

Then of course 'KJ' has an unfortunate association with certain kind of lubricant jelly. I imagine those people don't find much use for my recipes for banana cake and biscuits. Or maybe they do - who knows? The world is a strange place.

But what amazes me most of all is the number of people who are looking for Jamie Oliver's shortbread recipe. I blogged about this over two years ago. But this accounts for a full one-third of the keywords that have lead to my site. There were five people looking for this just yesterday. I guess I shouldn't be surprised as it is labelled as the 'world's best shortbread' after all. Jamie Oliver just can't help himself.

I however respectfully disagree. When it comes to shortbread this is far and away my favourite.

This rich shortbread recipe has been our family Christmas shortbread recipe for as long as I can remember. Incredibly light and tender it melts in the mouth. Half the batch always gets dipped in dark chocolate, which makes it even richer and extra delicious. Yum!!!

This was the shortbread I had in hand when my oven kicked up it's toes two days before Christmas. Thankfully, the electrician returned as promised and all was well. The shortbread dough did not seem to suffer from a night in the fridge. And we got to enjoy an incredibly tender and juicy cut of pickled marinated five spice pork for Christmas lunch. It was so good!! A perfect Christmas.

Rich Shortbread

250gm butter
4 tbspn icing sugar
1 cup cornflour
3/4 cup plain flour
1 tspn vanilla

Have the butter at room temperature. Cream the butter and icing sugar. Add the sifted flour and cornflour. Mix in the vanilla. Beat until smooth.

Place the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm star tube. Pipe onto lightly greased oven trays,in shapes about 5 cm long.

Bake 180C oven for 12-15 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then remove to a wire rack. If desired, melt some dark chocolate over a double boiler and dip half the biscuits to half way. Leave to set.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rumballs and a Christmas Crisis

My oven has been a faithful old soul. With nary a murmur of complaint it has journeyed with me through countless cakes, tarts, pies, biscuits, casseroles and roast dinners. We've had the odd falling out over burnt biscuits and rare roast chickens, but overall it's been a happy partnership. Until last night that is, when my devoted culinary retainer turned it's toes up and died.

I had just launched a major baking sesssion when this catastrophe came to light. There I stood with a tray full of carefully tended shortbread dough in one hand and a handful of hair in the other. No amount of twiddling with knobs, jiggling of elements or good old swearing could coax a celsius of heat from the thing.

And this was two days before Christmas. TWO DAYS!!!!

First thing this morning I started some serious finger walking through the yellow pages. And low and behold an electrician, otherwise known as the nicest man on earth, appeared on my doorstep late this afternoon. Fingers, toes and everything else crossed he will be back tomorrow with a new element. The family may yet be spared cold ham and raw stuffing.

If the worst comes to the worst I plan to buy them off with these rumballs.

They are a family tradition going back as far as I can remember. They have always been there. I just love them. They are made with wheet bix which gives them a great texture. I hate heavy mushy rumballs made from biscuits.

They are kinda messy to make, as the mixture has tendency to stick to fingers. But that is part of their fun. I always add a dash more rum as well. Just to give them that extra something something.

I can't wait for Christmas Day just to tuck into these!!!

Merry Christmas everyone


8 wheet bix1 cup sultanas, chopped
1 can condensed milk
2 tbspn cocoa
1 tbspn rum
dessicated coconut

Crumble the wheet bix with your fingers or a rolling pin. Mix in the remaining ingredients except the coconut.

Roll heaped teaspoons of the mixture into balls. Roll in the coconut. Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Challenge Book #28 - Lemon Mousse

These are a just a few reasons why I love summer so much. I'm up to my little pink ears in sweet juicy peaches and nectarines. Not to mention the cherries, apricots and strawberries. I'm in heaven!!!!!

As far as I am concerned there is no better summer dessert - perfectly ripe sweet stone fruit or berries served just as they are. I never ever cook them because I simply cannot improve on perfection. I could cry when I watch TV chefs, usually the english ones, take a bowl full of glossy sweet perfect berries and turn them into a stew. Oh the humanity!!!

But there are times when I want to look as if I've made a bit of an effort, other than just visiting the markets. So I am always on the lookout for gorgeous light desserts. At the end of a hot day nobody wants to plough their way through a pudding. All that's needed is a gentle hit of sweetness.

Which is how I came to make this lemon mousse. It met the criteria perfectly. Pity it was absolutely awful. This was all my own fault, of course. It is based on a kind of lemon curd mixture that is lightened with egg whites. Which would be fine if I had actually read the recipe and added the egg yolks to the curd. What I ended up with was a thin liquid curd that tasted of butter. When mixed the egg whites and cooled, it separated out a bit and went all kinda grainy. Not nice!!!

I don't know what I was thinking. I wanted egg yolks to make ice cream, so I think my mind just blanked out the whole egg yolk thing to make me happy. Which worked wonderfully well right up until I tasted my mousse.

So if you like aerated vaguely lemony flavoured butter, then you'll love my mousse. If not try the recipe below, it's probably delicious.

This is by the way Book #28 in the KJ wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge - bills food. I have had this book for years but have really not made much from it. The one thing I can highly recommend is the recipe for buttermilk cake with raspberry syrup - delicious!!!!

Lemon Mousse
(adapted from bills food)

4 eggs, separated
60ml lemon juice
zest 3 lemons
185gm castor sugar
150gm unsalted butter

Mix together zest, sugar, juice and yolks in the top of a double boiler. Stir over a low heat for about ten minutes until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Slowly stir in the cubes of butter.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. Carefully fold into the lemon mixture with a metal spoon.

Spoon into glasses and refrigerate until firm.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Simple Banana Cake

I find it hard to properly regulate my banana buying at the moment. I buy a few and suddenly I can't get enough of them. I then buy a big bunch and the thought of eating them makes me feel positively sick. Illness can do funny things to your appetite.

Typically, once bananas start getting long in the tooth I throw them into the freezer with the promise that I will do something with them soon. This is all very well, but as usual, I do not quite get around to it and so their population builds at a rabbit like rate.

Last week I realised that I had frozen bananas in plague proportions. The freezer was so fed up with the situation that it had taken to hurling them at my toes every time I was silly enough to open the door.

What else was there to do but to make a banana cake. I have only ever used one recipe for banana cake - Simple Banana Cake in Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion. It's such a good recipe I have never had to look elsewhere.

It's hard to beat banana cake. Not only is it delicious there's also that illusion of healthiness - after all it's full of fruit which is full of fibre and vitamins and all that. I choose to believe.

Simple Banana Cake
(adapted from Cook's Companion)

125gm unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
few drops vanilla
250gm plain flour
1 tspn bicarbonate soda
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1/8 tspn ground allspice
1/2 cup buttermilk or 1/2 cup milk with 1 tspn lemon juice

Butter and flour a 20cm square cake tin, then line the base with baking paper.

Cream butter and sugar and then beat in eggs, banana and vanilla. Sift the dry ingredients and add to the mixture, alternating with the milk or buttermilk.

Spoon into tin and bake in a 180C oven for 45 minutes to an hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for a few minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack.

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