Friday, August 30, 2013

Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate and M&M Cookies......... I know its crazy

This may come as a surprise but sometimes I'm not very good at talking about feelings. I know this may seem strange considering how much I talk about them on this little blog. From time to time however, saying the important things in life terrifies I'm sure at times it scares everyone as well.

So instead of being an adult and saying something lovely, or meaningful in a good sober way I must fall back on my default way of expressing myself.......cookies. Last week I wanted to express something to someone, but couldn't quite find the words so instead I gathered together all my favourite ingredients and baked them into a cookie.

These cookies are no light weight business. If you want to pack feeling into food these are the perfect vehicle for the job. Peanut butter get mixed in with oats, vanilla, dark chocolate chips and some m&ms just to seal the deal. I think if you gave these cookies to someone and they didn't understand the warmth packed into them......then you are obviously giving your cookies/emotions to the wrong person. However I baked these little treats, packed them into a paper bag and send them onto someone special.

The best thing about making these cookies is really the mix. I recommend you make them alone so no one is there to witness how much raw cookie dough you eat, or invite some of your most accepting friends around and unashamedly eat dough together. Whatever works for you.

The recipe comes from one of my most favourite cook books 'Baked, New Frontiers in Baking.' I think the boys who write this book are geniuses. They combine the perfect amount of chic with home-style baking and their recipes are so deliciously indulgent.

Monster Cookies
(or as I'd like to call them "I really have a big crush on you but an inability to communicate feelings at times, cookies." Thats too long for a cookie name though.)

You will need:
  • 1/4 cup of plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 2/3 cups of oats
  • 95g butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cups of white sugar
  • 2 1/2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp of honey
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of peanut butter (I use crunchy........because people who eat smooth peanut butter are weird right?)
  • 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup of m&ms (I use peanut ones because they are my favourites and that way if there is any left over I can eat them.)
What to do:

  • Make a cup of tea (this step is integral to the process.)
  • In a large bowl mix flour, baking soda, salt and oats.
  • In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream together butter and sugar until light and creamy looking.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well in between each addition.
  • Add honey and vanilla.
  • Add peanut butter.
  • Take out of the mixer and by hand mix in the flour and oat mix.
  • Add chocolate chips and m&ms.
  • Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for 5 hours to set. In this time you can totally watch a heap of 'breaking bad' and come and 'check on' the cookie dough every so often (aka eat it from the bowl).
  • Preheat the oven to 190.
  • Roll cookie dough into 2tbs sized balls and press down lightly on a baking tray lined with grease proof paper. Leave room for spreading.
  • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly golden.
  • Let the cookies cool on tray a little.
  • Transfer cooling rack...or your mouth.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Glazed Chocolate Bundt Cake

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the how to get inspired about the things I want to do in life. I have such a long list of all the things I want to achieve. The thing is though, life is so busy, we can sometimes miss our opportunities. It's so easy to get caught up in day to day living (and watching episodes of breaking bad) that we can forget what is really important to us.
Lately I have been spending so much time working on my career, doing long days, doing long weeks, not getting enough sleep and running around like crazy. When one of the chefs at work asked me today what I actually wanted to be doing, I was a little stumped on what to answer to him. "Ummm make cakes?" I wanted to say, but let's be honest, that is only really skimming the surface of what I want to do, or why I do what I do. I by no means get up at 5a.m, nine days in a row just so I can bake cakes. There is so much more I wanted to express, but couldn't find the words for it because I had no practical plan. How do you tell someone you want to simply continue doing something beautiful, be part of creative communities, produce ethical food that makes a statement about who you are? Or feel strongly about feminism and the things that matter in life, unless you can actually explain how you are going to go about this.

So it is time to get inspired. Time to start doing things. It's action time. So put down your glass of wine (but please finish it first, there is no point in letting good wine go to waste) and make a plan. Lets get a little bit excited about life. Lets start this by making some cakes.
This is a pretty simple chocolate bundt cake I got out of the most recent Donna Hay magazine. Its super simple but just very elegant. I made it for a little dinner party at one of my girlfriend's house and it was pretty lovely.

Glazed Chocolate Bundt Cake. 

You will need: 
  • 330ml of milk
  • 1 cup of caster sugar
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 250g butter
  • 200g of dark chocolate
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 and 3/4 cups of self raising flour
  • 1/3 cup of dutch cocoa sifted
For the glaze:
  • 200g of dark chocolate
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup of liquid glucose
  • 1 tsp of vegetable oil.
What to do:
  • Preheat oven to 160
  • Grease a 2.75 lt capacity bundt tin (I have a pink one and it's glorious.)
  • In a large bowl mix together the milk, vanilla and both sugars.
  • In a small pot melt together butter and chocolate on a low heat. Stir from time to time to make sure the chocolate doesn't burn or stick to the bottom. 
  • Add the chocolate mixture, cocoa , flour, and eggs to the milk mixture and mix to combine.
  • Pour into the bundt tin and bake for one hour and ten minutes or when a squire is inserted, it comes out clean.
  • Let the cake cool completely before turning out of the tin.
  • To make the glaze melt together the butter, chocolate and glucose until melted.
  • Stir in the oil.
  • Place the cake on a cooling rack with a tray underneath.
  • Pour the glaze over the cake making sure the glaze is spread evenly.

Also.......let's be honest, I added chocolate chips to this cake as well, just to make it a little more decadent. It probably doesn't really need them, but I think chocolate chips improve most situations. If you want to do the same just about 3/4 of a cup along with the flour and cocoa.

(This last picture is totally not food related but how lovely are my new shoes!)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

How To Make Labneh

Some days are not magic. Some days you will wake up sure that your jeans have mysteriously shrunk at least one size, your brioche bread will not rise properly, you will look at the clock at least five times every hour, only to find that time has decided to slow down at work today. Some days you will have a headache, you will eat too much chocolate at work, and all the coffee in the world could not wake you up. Some days you will realise you have made a dreadful mistake dyeing your hair brown and decide to cheer yourself up by spending way too much money on goats cheese, smoked chicken and heirloom tomatoes, making you afraid to look at your bank account. 
Today was one of those days, where the mundane ho hum of life took over all the magic. Everyone has these days. Looking ahead at my nine day work week to come I have been thinking long and hard about what things keep us afloat in life when we are feeling a little flat. What are the beautiful things that keep us with a cheeky smile on our face and the will to push through a long eight hour day of rolling bread dough and organising functions? 

The thing I've been learning lately is that life doesn't always just feel great on its own, and no amount of coffee, wine or chocolate can fix a thing. I think its so important to keep inspired creatively when things are starting to feel a little gloomy. This week coming I've been setting myself some little goals to pull myself though the work week. I've been very inspired by the book 'Homeward Bound', which is about women feeling empowered to learn new skills and promoting more environmental awareness in the home. It makes me want to run outside and plant a garden, start a home business, and learn how to forage for mushrooms and wild herbs. These things aren't super practical for my life at the moment however; so I'm starting small, with a project of making some home made labneh.

For those of you who don't know Labneh, it is a strained yoghurt. It'

s a little like a cheese, and seems to be popping up all over the city on breakfast menus. It can be made sweet to serve with muesli or savoury to serve with bread. I thought I'd give the sweet version a go so that I could eat it as a cheering breakfast before I trundle off to the city at 5am.

The best thing that I've learnt from all of this is, the more creative and inspired I push myself to be, the more inspired I get. One thing leads on to another good thing and before you know it long days at work don't matter too much and you're glad you spend too much money on heirloom tomatoes so you can cook your boyfriend a beautiful dinner. You can put a ribbon in your brown hair to cheer it up. You can be thankful you have a job to go to at all, and you can enjoy the naughty amounts of chocolate you ate that day, and if your jeans feel too tight, you can buy new ones. You can put on some music and be glad you're alive, and feel happy to be the sort of person who wants to be inspired on a daily level.

Sweet Labneh

You will need:

  • 500g of yoghurt
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • One small piece of muslin cloth
  • Kitchen string
  • A large bowl 
  • A colander
What to do:
  • Mix together the yoghurt sugar and vanilla.
  • Give your muslin cloth a wash and place it in the colander.
  • Pour the yoghurt mixture into the middle of the cloth.
  • Gather together the edges of the cloth so that the yoghurt forms a small ball. 
  • Wrap the string around the fabric at the top of the ball of yoghurt and tie a knot.
  • Place the colander over the top of a large bowl so that all the liquid can drain out of the yoghurt and into the bowl. 
  • Place a plate and something a little bit heavy (such as a can) on top of the little parcel to add some extra pressure.
  • Place in the fridge and leave to drain for 24 hours.
  • Once the majority of the liquid had drained from the yoghurt you can remove it from the cloth to find a little bundle of labneh!
  • Serve on top of granola with poached fruit and it will be truly wonderful.