Peanut Butter Brownie


Stress baking is both a pleasure and a further stress. First there is the release of beating batter by hand and letting the creativity flow with coming up with the new recipe. But then there is the oh I don't actually want to eat all of this. Followed by maybe I should invite someone over? No I daren't tidy the house

Either way, in the end the house smells delicious.

PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIE

PREP
175g butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
150g peanut butter
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
handful chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 180°C
Line a slice tray

DO
Melt butter over a medium heat. Add in sugar and peanut butter and stir until it is all combined.
Beat in the eggs one at a time. The mixture should look quite glossy.
Add the flour and chocolate chips and beat until it is all combined.
Pour into your prepared tray and spread evenly.
Bake for 35-40 minutes. When you insert a skewer you want it to come out with just a little bit clinging to the stick.
Cool in the tray.

Preserving tomatoes - puree


Every month or so I try to change one thing I am doing to live more intentionally. As ponsey as that sounds, it makes changing my habits to live more sustainably much easier.

I want to be more aware of seasons and cook with them mind. Fresh produce is more sustainable (you can read about that here) and it just tastes better. Much to L’s dismay, fresh vegetables taste more like vegetables and less like cardboard, but I love it. Seasonal produce is also much friendlier to my student budget.

Seeing as tomatoes are in season I thought I would preserve some to use when they go out of season.

I wanted my tomato puree to be pretty versatile so that I can add it to pasta, soup, or risotto, or whatever else may take my fancy in the winter.

I took a few kilos of fresh tomatoes and roasted them with some olive oil and salt. About half way through I added two onions which had been quartered. After they were squishy and smelling delicious I transferred them into a big bowl (juice and all) and pureed them with my stick mixer. Be careful not to splash yourself ‘cause it burns.

I sterilized some old jars and lids by placing them in a pot of boiling water and whilst they were hot, adding the hot pureed tomatoes and then sealing. As the glass and tomatoes cooled down, the lids sealed.

These are now sitting up in the back of the cupboard ready for the colder months. Now what to do with the left over jars I collected from my mum...

UPDATE: this didn't work :( It went off inside the jars even though they had sealed. I will put them in the freezer next time

Banana Donuts


He wanted muffins and instead he got mini banana donuts with a chocolate glaze. I think that was an improvement.

Sometimes the days go by very fast and very full, and all of a sudden it's been weeks since I last baked. And those times, L quietly asks will you be doing any baking this weekend? He's so sure that baking should be a hobby of mine rather than a chore, that he doesn't want to ask for anything specific. But there is nothing more homely than the smell of freshly baked muffins.

I used this banana muffin recipe and just piped it into my donut tray. The baking time was reduced to ~9 minutes.

The chocolate icing is white sugar, hot water, butter, cocoa and a little flour. The flour was just to thicken it seeing as I didn't have any icing sugar in the cupboard.

These are tasty, and moist, and delightfully bite sized.

Let me know if you give them a go :)
xo Kirsten Isabel

Ginger and lemon tea


I am sick again for what feels like the hundredth time this year. I've slept, and laid up in bed for 3 days now. On the positive side, I have got through most of Extra History which has kept me from boredom.

Lemon and ginger tea is one of the best things when you're sick. It's a little relief for the throat and the nose and the self. But getting up regularly to make the tea and chop the ginger can feel like a little too much when under the weather.

I boiled 4 cups of water with 2 1/2 inches of ginger (chopped) and the zest and juice of a lemon. After a few minutes simmering I turned the heat off and just let it sit. I then drained the tea into a jar and am keeping it in the fridge.

Just pour some into a mug and reheat with a bit of honey, and in the evenings a bit of brandy, and enjoy the soothing properties without wearing yourself out too much.

Or, guilt your partner/sibling/flatmate to make it for you :)

Birthday Cake - 2016


Every year I ask L what he wants for his birthday cake. And every year it is something totally different that forces me to really think about how I'm going to actually make it.

His initial idea was a town street  made of lollies and chocolate alike a scene in the Simpson's. What resulted was a cabin made of cake and other baked goods.

Trees: meringue piped with a star tip and flavored with some green apple extract. I painted the inside of the piping bag to create variations in the coloring. 

Grass: colored shredded coconut

Path: lolly cake cut into squares and glued down with melted chocolate

Windows: crushed lollipop which I sprinkled into circular cookie cutters and melted in the oven. The different colours come from different flavored lollipops

Door: melted chocolate which I painted with  a mixture of cocoa and vodka (the vodka makes it dry quickly). More cocoa was used to make darker lines to give the impression of wood grains. And a droplet of melted chocolate for the door knob. 

Logs: a flake chocolate bar cut into three

House:  I made sheets of banana cake and mocha cake (chocolate cake with some espresso powder and then the cooked cake is brushed with  espresso). I cut each sheet into two squares and then stacked them, alternating flavors, with Caramel buttercream and Caramel sauce. I then chilled the cake for a few hours before cutting two sections off the top to create a roof shape. This was then crumb coated. 

Icing: I separated the icing into two bowls and colored one blue-gray and the other a purplish terracotta. I had some difficulties with the buttercream separating at this point and found that heating the mixture ever so slightly and then whipping it for five minutes fixed that up nicely. The pattern on the walls was made by dragging the tip of my spatula upwards. I tried to replicate tiles by piping balls of icing and them dragging a spoon through it, doing this row by row. I think it would have looked better if I used less buttercream for each tile. 

All up this cake took about 4-6 hours and it didn't seem so bad cause I spread it over about a week. All the decorations were able to be done in advance.

Vege Muffin Bites


Over the past few years I have developed a clear lunch time. It's a set break, to eat and read and reenergise. The days without it feel strange. Fridays this semester feel strange. I have no breaks between my classes and they are just spread out enough that dashing between them takes the whole break. So I made these for something to eat while I run across campus between classes. Or more accurately, while I wait at the traffic lights. I thought something small and veg filled would be good to keep that brain functioning and energy high.

I don't want to say that these were a success. But they weren't bad either... I should probably have cooked the onions a bit first. Their flavour is a bit strong and smells out whatever container I put them in.

I will experiment with this a bit but if you want to try in the meantime, this was what I used:

Veges
2 kumara, grated
4 carrots, grated
2 zucchini, grated
1 red onion, chopped
a handful basil, chopped
⅓ cup grated cheese
 

Batter
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground chilli
salt and pepper
1 egg
50g butter, melted
enough milk to bring it all together

They might be tasty with a quiche batter too.

xo Kirsten Isabel

Freestyle Baking (aka throw everything into a bowl and hope it turns out okay)


Baking freestyle is freeing. It's a chance to be creative in the kitchen. And is the cornerstone for developing your own recipes.

I've really been enjoying this sort of baking lately. I melt some butter and then just add things to it. Everything comes out edible and at its worst, tasty. 

You'll notice that recipes are similar because baking is all based around ratios.
Fat: sugar: flour : whatever else.
Overtime these ratios will stick in your head. I can remember the first cookie recipe I learnt, it is almost muscle memory now. 

So I thought I would give some things that I do to make sure everything comes out edible:
- start with an idea in mind, cookies, brownie, whatever. 
- always have some sort of sweetener, but err on the side of caution. No-one wants cookies that are straight sugar!
- add your flour in a bit at a time.  
- remember your leavener. Baking powder is the easiest.
- have the oven on a lower temp, ~165C. Burnt baking is not good baking.
- test the doneness by feel rather than time. Can the cookies be nudged without breaking, does a skewer come out clean, that sort of thing.
- ask your taste testers what they do and don't like so you can make something even better next time

These brownies were freestyle, and they turned out alright. Should have baked them a little longer but that's okay :) L still enjoyed them.

Happy baking!

xo Kirsten Isabel

 

Mocha Cheesecake


Sometimes when L tells me there is something for me to bake for I get excited thinking up different ideas of what to make. Often they start off absolutely ridiculous, like triple flavoured cupcakes. Oh man, is he so sick of cupcakes! Eventually I calm down and think about a couple of things: how many people, any dietary restrictions, what do I feel like making.

Different types of baking invoke different feelings for me. Cupcakes mean I'm in a creative mood, brownies means I've had a stressful week and just want to smother myself in chocolate, cake pops mean I'm procrastinating. Cheesecake though, is for big news (good or bad) and family get togethers. 

Last weekend we went to a pot luck with L's's family and we were on a dessert and a salad. Which really means I was on a dessert and a salad... Cheesecake seemed like the perfect thing. 

I have to admit, I was incredibly pessimistic when making this. I don't know if I've ever come up with my own cheesecake recipe before and I didn't do a trial run. But it worked out absolutely fine! I would probably not bother with the caster sugar though as it would have been sweet enough without it. 

MOCHA CHEESECAKE

PREP
250g chocolate Oreos
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp gelatine
½ cup strong, warm coffee
500g cream cheese
½ cup caster sugar (you can omit this)
1 cup dark chocolate buttons
1 cup milk chocolate buttons
1 ¼ cups cream

Line a springform tin with baking paper on the bottom and either baking paper or glad wrap around the sides.

DO
Crush Oreos until they resemble fine crumbs. Stir through the melted butter well. Press the cookie crumbs into the bottom of your tin. Press the crumbs down until it compacts. Place in the freezer.
Sprinkle the gelatine over the coffee and leave to start to gel.
Beat the cream cheese and caster sugar together until the sugar crystals are dissolved.
Melt the chocolate together and allow to cool slightly.
Set the cream cheese to beat on low. Slowly pour in the gelatine coffee, cream, and melted chocolate as it beats. Do this slowly to avoid creating a mess! Continue to beat until the mixture is smooth and well combined.
Pour the mix over the oreo base and smooth the top. Place the cheesecake in the fridge and chill for a minimum of 4 hours.
Remove from the tin about 10 minutes before serving. Drizzle with some extra melted chocolate to decorate.

What do you like to make for family events?

xo Kirste Isabel

Easy Tomato Spaghetti


Happy new year! I hope your holidays went well. I'm now back at school and work but it was nice to spend time with family and get to the beach.

I don't want to come across like I'm horribly lazy, but damn do I hate cooking dinner sometimes. I've been trying to make a couple of things repeatedly that only take 20 minutes (like literally 20 minutes, not the bullshit 20 minutes if you've had someone spend forever preparing all your ingredients and what not beforehand).

This is my current go-to dinner. It's tomatoes + greens + pasta. How easy does that sound! I might teach it to L so it can become his go to instead of oven fries and sausages... 

EASY TOMATO SPAGHETTI

200g spaghetti
400g tomatoes (if using bigger tomatoes cut into quarters)
300g chicken thighs
1 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 handfuls of chopped greens
salt and pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan (or other cheese)

Preheat oven to 190°C
Cook spaghetti as per packet instructions

Toss tomatoes and chicken thighs with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray and cook for 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes are blistered and the chicken is cooked through.
If using a tough green (like the kale I used today) chuck it on the tomatoes for the last few minutes of cooking. 
Set aside 1-2 Tbsp of the pasta water. Drain the cooked spaghetti place back in the pot. Add in the tomatoes, chicken and greens (if using something that wilts easily like baby spinach add this in now), and the saved pasta water. Toss everything together.  
Serve while hot with a heavy sprinkling of cheese.
Serves 2 large, 3 medium or 4 small portions

xo Kirste Isabel

Strawberries and Cream Marshmallows

Strawberries are the quintessential summer fruit. They're sweet, sun ripened and just juicy enough that you get a little on your chin. They come in the early summer, around my birthday and I get so excited. Each year, these past few years, I have gone strawberry picking and ended up with a kilo of strawbs to get through!

This year we went to go picking and they were all picked out! It was only the first weekend of december too... So we bought some and went off on our way. As I walked up the road with my box of berries, I immediately knew what I wanted to make with them. Marshmallows!

Marshmallows are so much fun to make. They whip up rather quickly and egg whites are rather magical. These are super tasty, super summery, and damn delicious. I took them into work and the entire batch was gone in a day. 

STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM MARSHMALLOWS

PREP
250g strawberries
2 1/2 Tbsp gelatine
125ml hot water
2 egg whites
2 1/4 cups caster sugar
250ml water

Grease a tin with some flavourless oil. Then dust with a mixture of cornstarch and icing sugar (1:1 ratio).

DO
Cut the tops off the strawberries and pulse the flesh in a food processor until totally pureed. Pour through a fine toothed sieve to remove any seeds. Set this aside.
Pour hot water into a bowl and stir in gelatine. Set this aside.
Place caster sugar and water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil.
Continue to heat the sugar water until it comes to the hard boil stage, or 122°C.
When your sugar water hits about 115°C, place your egg whites in a stand mixer and start to beat. It should start to form stiff peaks.
Once your sugar reaches 122°C remove it from the heat and stir in the set gelatine. It will bubble up but that is okay.
Turn your egg whites to a low speed and slowly pour in the sugar syrup. Increase the speed and continue to whip until the mixture is thick.
Pour half of this into your prepared tin. Stir a few spoonfuls of the strawberries into the remaining marshmallow, and then pour this into the tin. 
Leave to set
 

Once the marshmallow is set, grease and powder your knife (like you did the tin). Roll each marshmallow into the cornstarch-icingsugar powder. These will keep in a airtight container for a couple of days.

The hard ball stage is at 122°C. If you don’t have a sugar thermometer you can test if it is ready using a glass of water. Fill a small glass with water and set it beside the stove top. Drop some of the syrup into the water. It should form a hard ball. When removed from the water it should stay hard but can still have it's shape changed by squashing it between your fingers. Check the syrup regularly (cleaning the glass of syrup in between) until it reaches this stage. If you take the syrup off the heat too early the marshmallow will not set properly. Here is a youtube clip to help you see what the hard ball stage is like.

xo Kirsten Isabel