Throes of Winter | Spiced Strawberry Ricotta Cake

The last few weekends have been pure Bri-bliss. Grey, cloudy, rainy, general miserable weather. Monday’s small talk around the coffee machine end in my gleeful recounting my weekend tales – ‘I didn’t leave the house¬†once‘ – and then my colleagues looking at me like I’m mildly crazy and back away slowly.

You see, that is my heaven. In the throes of winter (as much of one as we get in our fair city), you bet your ass I’m going to build a nest on my couch, read books and drink more cups of tea than recommended.

I was struck with idea lightning on one of these weekends – all the tea I was drinking needed a side of cake to go with it. The idea came to me fully formed: I didn’t want to spend much time in the kitchen (it was a really good book I was reading), I wanted the lightness of ricotta, nothing too sweet, but maximum Wintry spice flavour. And so, this came to be.

This is one of those perfect cakes that you serve up for a friend who’s come over for coffee and a catch up. Then, once they’ve gone home, it just sits on the kitchen bench, and every time you walk past, you cut off a sliver to munch on as you go about your business. Sliver by delicious sliver, the cake won’t last the weekend!

Spiced Strawberry Ricotta Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit

1¬Ĺ¬†cups¬†plain flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¬ĺ¬†teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1¬Ĺ¬†cups¬†ricotta
¬Ĺ tsp ground cinnamon
¬Ĺ tsp ground ginger
¬ľ tsp ground cardamom
¬Ĺ¬†teaspoon¬†vanilla extract
57g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup strawberries (or any berries, fresh or frozen), halved of large
Icing sugar, to dust.

Preheat oven to 180¬įc. Grease a springform cake pan with butter or oil, and line the bottom with baking paper.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl.

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In a medium sized bowl, beat together the eggs, ricotta, and vanilla until smooth. Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the butter, and again fold to combine.

Pour the batter into the cake pan, and then poke the strawberries evenly into the mixture.

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Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then cool completely on a wire rack. When ready to serve, dust with icing sugar.

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Cops & Spiders| Apple Pie Biscuits

If you follow me on any form of social media, you will know The Spider Story.

If you don’t, here’s a quick recap:

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Essentially, I had a great time joking around (mostly… Seriously, I need an on-call spider killer. Please. Apply within.) with the Kensington Police about sending someone to squish a spider for me. Before long, it had taken on a life of its own, and I found myself delivering morning tea to the station to say thanks for them having an excellent sense of humor.

I had a really great morning getting to meet Senior Sargent Goy, Constable Roberts and the rest of the team. But what I enjoyed the most was getting to chat to them about their love for Vic Park, swapping coffee tips and restaurant finds, and generally sharing the love for an up-and-coming hub. It was really lovely to spend time with people who genuinely love the city that they serve and protect, and are working towards making it a better place. Hats off to you, Kenso Cops!

Biscuits are essentially American scones, typically made with buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk (it’s in the fridge section of the supermarket with the milk), this is my favourite substitute. Works a treat!

Coming into Spring, these are a great treat to take along on a picnic (that still happens, right?) or barbecue. If your kids are on holidays, this is also a great recipe for them to make themselves.

 

Apple Pie Biscuits

From Joy the Baker

 

For the apples:
1  apple
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

For the biscuits:
2 cups Self-Rising Flour
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2/3 to 3/4 cup cold buttermilk

For the topping:
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

 

Preheat the oven to 220 C/425 F. Line a baking tray with baking paper, and set aside.

For the apples, peel and slice thinly with a mandolin. Toss together the apple slices with the melted butter, cinnamon and brown sugar until coated, then place in a baking tray. Place in the oven for 5 minutes, then set aside (you don’t want the apple cooked through).

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To make the dough, place the flour and cold butter in a bowl bug enough to get your hands in to. Work the butter into the flour with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the sugar. Add 2/3 cup of buttermilk, then mix together until well combined and the mixture is moist, soft and holds together. Add more buttermilk if needed.

Dust your bench well with flour, then turn out the dough. Shape the dough into a rectangle, the, with a rolling pin, roll out to a large rectangle about ¬Ĺ inch thick, about 18cm by 25cm.

Spoon the apples in a single layer over half of the dough, leaving a small border. Fold the rest of the dough over the apples, and press the edges together to seal. Cut the dough into 12 then place on to your baking tray.

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Combine together the sugar, cinnamon and salt. Brush the top of the biscuits with the egg wash, then sprinkle over the sugar mixture.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden. Enjoy warm or cold, with custard or cream. Or ice cream. Or on their own. It’s all good.

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I found that they went a little soggy the day after, so they’re best eaten the day you make them (they’re still delicious the next day though, so don’t let a little soggy stop you).
P.S. If you know of a cop in your community who’s doing an amazing job, why not nominate them for a WA Police Excellence Award?

Old school

Canteen. Tuck shop. Cafeteria. School lunches hold a
special place in our hearts, for better or worse. I had the
pleasure of growing up pre-food revolution, so my school canteens
were stocked with chicken rolls, noodle cups, vegemite cheesies
(which are still a comfort food of mine to this day) and packet
soups in winter. The only thing better than vegemite cheesies, is
the treats section. Vanilla slice. Yogos. Little Petit Miam
tubs?Mars Bar slice. Anzac biscuits. My highschool made the best
hedgehog slice I’ve ever had, and I’m too scared to try them
anywhere else, least it doesn’t live up to my expectations. What’s
missing from this list? ONLY THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL. Caramel
slice is a classic, the kind of thing that’s met with very confused
faces should you admit to never having tried it. There may even be
claims of being denied caramel slice being akin to child abuse.
Don’t be offended, it’s just really that good. I made this for my
friend Jan’s birthday recently. He explained
that he loved it, but hadn’t had a good one in some time. It’s
everything you remember.

Caramel & Ginger
Slice

From Cuisine Magazine Base 1 cup
shredded coconut 190g unsalted butter, melted 1 and 2/3 cup plain
flour 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed 75g crystallised ginger, finely
chopped
Preheat the oven to 180*. Gently toast the
coconut in a dry frying pan until lightly golden. Combine the
butter, brown sugar and flour in a bowl, then add the coconut. Line
a slice tray with baking paper, then press the mixture the bottom
of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes until golden. IMG_6640 Sprinkle with crystallised
ginger, then set aside to cool.
Caramel 395g can sweetened condensed
milk 2 tbsp golden syrup 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed 75g unsalted
butter, chopped 3 tsp ground ginger Put all the ingredients into a
small saucepan, and over low heat, cook,
stirring continuously so it doesn’t burn. Pour the
caramel over the base and then bake for a further 15 minutes or so,
until the caramel bubbles. IMG_6643 Remove from the oven and
leave to cool. Ganache 1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped Bring a saucepan of water to a
simmer, then place a heatproof bowl with the cream and chocolate
over the top. Stir the two together until smooth and glossy. Spread
the ganache over the cool caramel, then put in the fridge for at
least an hour to set. Cut into squares before serving. IMG_6650 IMG_6645 If you’re not ginger
inclined, you can leave it out entirely. Another option is to
sprinkle flaked sea salt over the caramel before you put in the
oven for a shot of salted caramel goodness. Oh. This weekend? Northbridge O-Day. It looks fantastic,
there are activities and fun and snacks. You should go, take your
friends and kids!

Language warning

In the tradition of¬†Triple J: There is bad language comin’. It’s kind of necessary for the enthusiasm I have about this.

Oh my fucking god. Have you ever eaten something that sends your world spinning off its axis?

This. Here. Today. Now.

I know, I know. I get a little excited by things. I wax lyrical about how good things are. And I know that this is going to be a little bit of a leap of faith, because shit gets weird. I need you to stay with me here, because the results are well and truly worth it.

We put salt in caramel and chocolate. Pepper with strawberries. Fruit in savoury salads. We live dangerously with our flavours, and it’s all good.

So, imagine salty vinegaryness in a baked good. I know. Crazy, right? I’m talking leftover chips. In a cookie.

This recipe comes from Christina Tosi. Remember her? She’s the genius behind the Sprinkle Birthday cake I made back in September. This cookie here is one of her signature moves, and for good reason. It’s fucking awesome.

The best part is, no one will believe you that there are chips in there and no one will know if you don’t tell them. Unless they get a big chunk of the stuff, like one of the guys in my office did. He choked a little, and I did a really bad job of stifling giggles. But he’s ok, folks. Nothing to see here. I’ve made 3 batches of these for various groups of friends lately, and while they all thought I had finally fallen off the edge of sanity, they all lost their shit once they tried them.

I didn’t say I told them so. Actually… Wait. I did. BOOYA.

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I have changed the recipe a little bit, simply to make use of what I had at home. You should do the same! Add crushed¬†biscuits, or leftover chocolates. I do¬†not¬†suggest that you use twisties¬†instead of the S&V chips though. While we are baking dangerously, lets not get stupid here. If you want to see the original recipe, it’s here.

 

Compost Cookies

Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi

250g butter, at room temperature
200g caster sugar
150g light brown sugar
1 egg
¬Ĺ teaspoon vanilla extract
225g flour
¬Ĺ teaspoon baking powder
¬ľ teaspoon bicarb soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
¬ĺ cup chocolate chips (I used mini M&Ms)
¬Ĺ cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cups porridge oats
2¬Ĺ teaspoons ground or instant coffee
2 cups potato chips (I used salt & vinegar)
1 cup mini pretzels

1. Beat the sugars and butter together in a bowl until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat for another couple of minutes.

2. Add the flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt, and mix until only just combined.

3. Gently fold the choc chips, M&Ms, oats and coffee into the mixture. Then, add the chips and pretzels, still folding gently so not to crush them too much.You kind of want big chunks of chip goodness!

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4. Tip: An ice cream scoop is the perfect size for these bad boys. Scoop the dough into balls, and put onto a tray lined with baking paper. Put in the fridge for at least an hour. *WARNING* Do not bake at room temperature!

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5. Heat oven to 190*c. The cookies spread more than you think – I was baking 6 on a tray at a tine so they wouldn’t crowd – give them a lot of space. Bake for 18 minutes, or until browned on the edge only. They will keep cooking once you take them out of the oven, and you don’t want them to be crispy.

This is what happens if you don't space them out

This is what happens if you don’t space them out

6. Cool on a wire rack before keeping in an airtight container. For the record, they keep for 5 days – but I’ve never known them to last that long.

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Note: You know those times where you read a step and think, ‘I don’t need that’? Overnight marinating, or resting a cut of meat? We all do it. There’s no judgement here. But today, you do not¬†know better than the recipe.¬†Refrigerate¬†the damn cookies. If they don’t work, and you didn’t do this step, it’s your owwwwwn fault. You don’t want that, because these are worth every single second.

P.S. What have you got on this weekend? There are so many incredible things going on! Fringe World, Perth Festival, Chinese New Year! Everything is exciting!

Shortbread n not-so-sweet

Savoury treats. They exist! Who knew? Not me, because I like sugar. But there are people, those strange, puzzling people who like salt and they deserve treats too.¬†I feel bad for those people because I just don’t think about them when I’m baking. Given that I live to cook for other people, I feel terrible when someone is left out.

There is only one girl on my team at work who has no sweet tooth. She politely smiles at me when I bring in cake, when I know she’s really wishing I had brought chips. When I stumbled on a recipe for savoury shortbread while trawling the archives of Raspberri Cupcakes, I made a mental note to make them immediately.

What I love about this recipe, is that you split the dough in half and chill prior to baking. One roll made at least a dozen biscuits, so the other roll can be frozen for use another day – great when you have surprise visitors and nothing to eat! I love having things stashed away in the freezer like that, ready to whip out at a moment’s notice; it makes me feel like a Supremely Organised Martha Stewart-esque Domestic Goddess. Functioning adult FTW!

I loved these with a little roasted garlic and a gorgeous Camembert from Over the Moon. The garlic is simple – peel half a dozen cloves of garlic, throw them in a roasting dish with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, roast for 20-30 minutes at 200*c until soft and lightly browned. Mash with a fork, add a little more olive oil until a paste forms, taste; add more seasoning if required.

Kalamata Olive & Black Pepper Savoury Shortbread

From Raspberri Cupcakes

100g well-drained, pitted and finely diced kalamata olives
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp salt
3 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
280g unsalted butter, softened
4 tbsp white sugar
1 large egg yolk

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, bicarb soda, salt and pepper then set aside. Beat together butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the egg yolk and combine thoroughly. Mix in the flour slowly, then fold through the chopped olives.

On a floured bench top, bring the dough together. Halve the dough and roll them into logs, about 4cm. Wrap them up in glad wrap and freeze for an hour to firm up.

Heat the oven to 180*c. Unwrap the dough, and cut into half centimeter slices.

Place on baking trays lined with baking paper. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges gently brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack, and store in an air tight container for up to a week.

Spring! Sprang! Sprung!

It’s OFFICIALLY Spring. I know it’s still raining, but it’s ok. Before long, there will be deliciously sun dappled days for frolicking in fields, dusting off your nautical themed pashmina afghan for a jaunty sail on one’s yacht… Ok, yes, I’ve been watching too much TV. So, no one actually does those kinds of activities. But you know what? I think people should.

Weekends are usually spent running around, frantically playing Life Catch Up. Cleaning, shopping, running around. I vote that you spend one day doing something ridiculously, frivolously fun. For no reason other than you can, and why the hell not?

My awesome friend Jacqui from Where the Wind Blows Her has decided to do one new thing every month, and I’m 100% on board. I’m thinking trapezing, running around in the mud, sailing and mazes. I’m also planning on packing a picnic, a blanket, a really good book and going to lie in the sun (always with sunscreen, peeps) and just chillaxin’. Because doing nothing is good for the soul too.

The Urban Locavore box this month contained some beautiful potatoes and chorizo from Mondo’s. I couldn’t resist this savoury slice I found on the Fitness for Foodies blog, it’s practically good for you! It’s a great breakfast/lunch/on the go/picnic snack.¬†I made it as a welcome home fridge-filler for my parents who had been away from a week – Frankie ate a third of it in a sitting.

Chorizo & Potato Bake

From Equilibre

2 chorizo sausages
4 large potatoes, peeled
1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 bunch spinach
200g plain feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino or parmesan
4 free range, organic eggs
250 mls single cream
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Italian parsley, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C.

Thinly slice chorizo and cook in a medium sized fry pan for 2 mins each side until browned. Remove and drain on paper towel.

Cut potatoes and sweet potato in half and place in a large saucepan of cold, salted water. Bring to boil and cook for 8-10 mins until just tender. Drain, cool and slice in to rounds.

Blanch the spinach in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 30 seconds and drain well.

Layer a third of the potatoes in the base of a greased 23cm springform tin lined with non stick paper. Layer spinach and chorizo, sprinkling cheese between each layer, and finishing with potato.

Whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper and pour over potatoes. Finish with a sprinkling of parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins. Remove foil and bake for a further 50 mins until set and golden.

Sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley before serving.

Man Vs. Bread

I love men.

Not in a ‘It’s raining men’ kind of way. In a general, all round appreciation for them. They squish creepy things, they reach things that are juuuust out of the way of my tiny 5’3″ reach. Men have an excellent array of jackets, ready to be¬†chivalrously¬†donated to¬†temperature¬†sensitive¬†women. They come to my house and fix broken things (thanks Frankie). They cook for you when you really only have the energy to ‘cook’ cornflakes (thanks Wade). Men¬†even¬†¬†chaperone¬†you to Scitech when you want to gaze in wonder at animatronic¬†dinosaurs and generally act like a toddler (thanks Blair).

Sometimes, men just don’t want to be served another pretty cake. Men don’t always give a crap about flan. I even heard a¬†rumor¬†that real men don’t eat quiche (one that my dad and his highly impressive¬†mustache¬†refute). Sometimes, they just need man food.

So, to these men, I dedicate this pull apart bread. It’s got everything men could want. Beer. Cheese. Strong, punchy flavours. One handed simpleness so that way they don’t spill their beverage. Did someone say “perfect for sport game watching”? Oh wait, I did. That was me.

So here it is.

Thanks Men. You’re awesome.

Cheddar, Beer & Mustard Pull Apart Bread

From: Smitten Kitchen

Bread
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup beer, preferably dark but whatever is on hand
2 1/2 cups plain flour, divided
1/3 cup rye flour (use plain flour if you don’t have this)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Filling
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Dijon or a mustard of your choice
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Several grinds black pepper
1 1/2 cups (about 200g) shredded cheddar

Make dough: In a small saucepan, melt the 4 tablespoons butter in 1/4 cup of beer. Remove from heat and pour in the additional 1/3 cup beer. Set aside for a couple of minutes to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, sift together 2 cups of plain flour with the yeast, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. With the mixer set on low, slowly pour in the beer and butter mixture, dampening the flour mix. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. If the mixture looks lumpy, that’s ok! Add the last of the flour, and mix until combined. If at this point the dough looks too dry (mine did), add a tablespoon of beer at a time until a better¬†consistency. Knead for a couple of minutes until a supple dough forms.

Cover the dough with glad wrap, and set aside to prove in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour

To make the filling; In a small saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Remove from heat and add the Worcestershire, mustard and Tabasco. Mix until smooth and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, add paprika, mustard powder, salt and a couple of cracks of fresh black pepper. Add the cheddar and mix until the cheese is evenly coated with the spice mix. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

To put it all together: Spray a loaf tin with oil and set aside.

Flour up your bench top, and roll the dough into a 50-by-30-cm rectangle. Brush the mustard mixture evenly over the dough, right to the edges. Cut the dough into 5 strips. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese across the first strip of dough. Gently place another strip of dough on top of the first, sprinkle another 1/4 cup of cheese, and repeat with the remaining dough and cheese.

Very, very gently, cut the stack into 6 segments. The dough will stretch, so be careful! Tip the loaf pan up on its short end, and stack the segments. Wrap the loaf tin in glad wrap and rest for a further 30 minutes.

Bake the bread at 180*c for 25 to 35 minutes, until brown and puffed. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.