Monday, 28 May 2012

the resurgence of the golden syrup dumpling

If there's one thing that will prevent gens y and z from overtaking their predecessors in almost every way possible, it's this: the fact that golden syrup dumplings are missing from their lexicon. They are, incomprehensibly, totally out of vogue. I'm no child of the Depression, and these certainly hail from then, but there is so much more to them than mere economy. They are synonymous with childhood, with safety, with tenderness. Plus they are incredibly easy to make and quick to cook, whilst being perfectly fluffy and absolutely rolling in caramelly syrup. You don't even need an oven. So, if you have little people, or you just want to feel like one momentarily, make these. And watch the world get better.

220g (1 1/2 cups) self raising flour
150g (3/4 cup) soft brown sugar
80ml (1/3 cup) golden syrup
185ml (3/4 cup) milk
100g butter
2 cups water from the tap
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

In a medium to large saucepan, put the water, 60ml (1/4 cup) syrup, essence and 50g butter. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a gentle simmer.
While you're waiting, put the flour and remaining butter into your food processor and pulse until combined. You can do this by hand, rubbing the butter into the flour with your fingertips, if you don't have a processor - it just takes a little longer. Now add the remaining syrup and milk, and pulse/mix to combine. If you have a sneaky taste, you'll find the batter not at all sweet, but don't worry - the syrup will be more than enough later.
Into your hot pan of syrup, now add the batter: using two dessert spoons, form little oval-shaped dumplings (or quenelles, if you're feeling French) and just drop them in. When they're all in (don't worry, they will fit) turn the heat down so the syrup is barely simmering. Cover with a lid and leave alone, happy in the knowledge that pudding is only 20-25 minutes away.
After that time, poke a skewer in - it should come out clean. The dumplings will be hot, fluffy and perfect.
Serve them swimming in the thick sauce, and with either cream or icecream for balance.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

how to win friends and influence people

My mum's sticky date pudding... the very last word in puddings. Pudding, as opposed to dessert, of course. Pudding is for comfort, for winter, for making people love you. Feed to those whose approval you desire, and watch them melt.

1 1/4 cups dried pitted dates, chopped roughly
1 cup water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
60g butter, cubed
2 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar (golden is my preference)
1 1/4 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

for the sauce:
3/4 cup brown sugar
150ml cream
125g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celcius. Butter a 20cm square cake pan (or equivalent size) and line it with baking paper.
Place date chunks and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil, then put a lid on. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then cook gently for about 10 minutes until the dates are jammy and there are no offensively big chunks.
Mix in the bicarb soda and the butter cubes. Mix in all the other ingredients, then whisk the two eggs lightly with a fork and add them too, mixing everything gently until smooth and combined. Make sure you taste the batter, it is almost spicy from the dates. You could even add a touch of cinnamon or mixed spice to amp this up, if you wished - just a thought.
Now pour the batter into the lined pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the cake is springy under your finger. A skewer should come out clean.

While your pudding is cooling, make the sauce by combining all ingredients in a small pan. Bring them to the boil, then simmer gently for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve generous squares of the pudding, pouring the sticky, caramelly sauce over with reckless impunity.

Feed to the deserving, and bask in your well-earned love and admiration.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

the brownie to end all brownies...

In the days before these brownies entered my life, I thought, brownies, ho-hum: sugary, corn-syrup laden, american-style baking. But if you give these a go, I promise they'll change your mind, like they did mine. For good. Not just your own good, but the greater good.

200g dark chocolate (at least 65% cocoa solids, for preference) chopped into rough chunks
200g butter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
50g plain flour (1/2 cup)
25g almond meal (1/4 cup)
25g cocoa powder (1/4 cup) - use the good, if expensive, stuff - you'll taste the difference

200g (1 cup) caster sugar - if you can track it down, use golden caster sugar - again, it just tastes more fudgy and caramelly
200g white chocolate, chopped into rough chunks

1x 20cm square cake pan (or equivalent size) buttered and lined with baking paper. If you keep the paper a bit higher than the pan sides, it will be easier to lift out later.

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celcius/340 degrees fahrenheit.

Put dark chocolate and butter into a medium microwave-proof bowl. Heat for about 10 seconds, then stir. Keep going in 5 second increments, stirring in between, until everything is melted and amalgamated. Be very careful not to burn the mixture - this will happen easily, so try not to get impatient!
Cool for a few minutes, then add the vanilla essence.
In a nice wide bowl, sift the flour, almond meal and cocoa. Mix in the sugar, eggs and dark chocolate mixture until just combined. Lastly add the white chocolate chunks, again, stirring as briefly as possible.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the house smells like brownie.

Cool (if you can bear to wait) before cutting into squares and devouring. The white chocolate will have taken on an almost caramelly richness and is a perfect foil for the crumbly, dark, fudgy slice.
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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

spicy apple cake

If you live in Melbourne, winter happens quickly. Only a few weeks of crisp autumn air and warm afternoons, and then the leaves are off the trees and you're pulling out your gloves. This cake is just what you need to remind you of cold-weather pleasures. It came from my grandmother, via a venerable tome known as the Binya cookbook. The well be-splattered pages of this volume contain the collective culinary wisdom of a few generations of farmers' wives... and are the provenance of my food-love.
Eat this perfectly soft, cinnamony cake while still warm. All you need is a rainy afternoon, something wonderful to read and a cup of lady grey. Winter bliss.

170g butter, softened
170g caster sugar (1 cup)
2 large eggs
125ml milk (1/2 cup)
150g self-raising flour (1 1/2 cups)
50g plain flour (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon mixed spice
5 granny smith (green cooking) apples
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, extra
2 tablespoons caster sugar, extra
1/2 tablespoon mixed spice, extra

1x 20-cm, buttered, baking-paper-lined springform cake pan

Preheat your oven to moderate/180 celcius/350 fahrenheit.
Peel your granny smiths and slice them into a medium saucepan. Add about 1/4 cup water from the tap, and the extra cinnamon, sugar and mixed spice. Cook them gently for 20 minutes or so, just until they become soft but not mushy. Cool, then drain off excess liquid.
Now for your cake mixture. Using an electric mixer (handheld or freestanding, it doesn't matter) cream together the soft butter and the sugar til fluffy. You can't really overdo it, so don't worry. Now add the eggs. Beat very briefly. Now take the mixer out just for a minute and sift in your flours and spices. Continue beating and while you do, add the milk in a thin stream. As soon as all is incorporated, stop beating.

Spoon half the creamy, cinnamony batter into the prepared pan. Now gently add the apple mixture on the top. Cover the apples with the remaining batter. I find it easiest to dollop the mixture on top and then smooth it together with the back of the spoon. Be sure to cover all the apples.

Now bake your cake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is deep golden and a skewer inserted comes out sticky from the apple but not covered in batter.

Cool for a few impatient minutes, then carefully undo the springform pan. Cut into lovely generous wedges and eat just as it is. Cinnamon heaven.