Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Because I read a lot of American food blogs, sometimes I get a bit out of sync with the seasons. Lately online it's been all about turkey and cider and staying in where it's warm, when here in Sydney it's time for tee shirts, swims (to cool off) and summer fruit. I had my first mango for the season this week and it was magic. But! I wasn't waiting til next year to try this cake, especially when pears are so readily available everywhere. Caramel in colour and flavour with its combination of sweet fruit and sticky brown sugar, this cake is undeniably autumnal. The oil/butter blend makes for an extraordinarily soft and smooth texture, with chunks of pear nestled into the crumb for contrast. Warm spices - cardamom and cinnamon - infuse everything and the brown butter glaze is the perfect nutty note to end it all on. If a cake can be cosy, this is it.
Tuesday, 21 November 2017
I had a traumatic week last week. Not world-endingly traumatic, just the kind that could be cured by cake. So I made one. During a heatwave in southern California a few months ago, I came across this recipe while flipping through my friend's cookbooks, laying low, sapped of energy by the sun. Molasses is such a fantastic sounding word and conjured up how we all felt at the time, sticky and slow. It wasn't the weather for it then, but now in November, during these days of crisp, cool, sunny Sydney weather, the time was right. The fresh ginger sings in this not-too-sweet, incredibly soft, dramatically dark cake, which goes perfectly with a cup of tea. The original recipe is for a layer cake, vanilla cream slathered between the layers and atop, but I just halved the quantities, made a single layer, dusted it with icing sugar and called it done. Delicious.
Wednesday, 8 November 2017
I bought a bundt tin. Actually, it was my sole souvenir from my recent trip to the US. I found it at the Nifty Thrifty on Orcas Island, so I like to think I purchased a little bit of baking history along with my hardware. It's fun imagining who it might have once belonged to, and the cakes it made before it got stuffed with socks, packed in a suitcase and spirited to Sydney, where this weekend it was put to work producing something most spectacular.
In this cake - another from the new Ottolenghi baking bible Sweet - prunes are soaked in brandy overnight and wound through a batter bolstered with walnuts and orange zest. The prunes, plumped with booze, are silky soft, the crumble through the middle a nice contrasting crunch. And the orange goes suprisingly well with coffee.
It's a winner all round. As endorsed by the king parrots of the Illawarra.
Tuesday, 31 October 2017
The weekend before last I flew down to Melbourne, which called for carry-on cake. I alighted on a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's new cookbook Sweet (stupendous - buy it in bulk and distribute to anyone on your Christmas list who loves baking), adapted it accordingly for airline travel (basically, just halving the quantities of ingredients so it could be made in a loaf tin) and before long I was slicing it in my friend George's South Melbourne kitchen.
As students, George and I toiled together in a suburban Brisbane café serving Saturday shoppers coffee and cake, which probably explains why all these years later we particularly delight in staying in on the weekend with a pot of tea and a whole cake all to ourselves.
This is Ottolenghi and his co-author (Australian!) Helen Goh's riff on Rose Levy Beranbaum's revered recipe for "Perfect Pound cake". Light, moist and fragrant with coffee, cardamom and cocoa, it's just as good the next day, and the day after that. If indeed it lasts that long.
Wednesday, 11 October 2017
This week I made two chocolate cakes. Both were oil (rather than butter) based. One was a triumph and the other... the less said about it the better. The big difference in the recipes was in the choice of chocolate. The flop used melted dark chocolate, the success story cocoa.
This cake - from former Chez Panisse chef Samin Nosrat's Salt Fat Acid Heat - is deliciously dark and amazingly, dairy-free (should you choose to serve without the cream). It's brilliant for birthdays and celebrations, and easy enough for weekday cooking. Because of the oil, it keeps beautifully so can always be made ahead of time. Not that it's at all labour intensive. Including cooking time, it takes about forty minutes. So simple. Spectacular. Sold.
Wednesday, 4 October 2017
Wednesday, 27 September 2017
I didn't make it to the east coast on this latest trip to the US, but I transported myself there in a California kitchen by making Christina Tosi's famous compost cookies. Tosi is chef and owner of Milk Bar, Momofuku's bakery offshoot in New York City (and now scattered all over the country... and Canada). Her creations include crack pie - which is as advertised - and these similarly addictive cookies.
Potato chips, butterscotch, pretzels, graham crackers, oats, ground coffee... more is more here - sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy... These have it all. The name is deceptive, implying something just thrown together without much thought but there's a science to these, a precision that speaks to the process Tosi goes through to create. She's an alchemist, engineering quite possibly the perfect cookie. They don't look like much but believe me, they're memorable, and appeal to adults and kids alike. They're especially fun to make with kids as they get to crush up potato chips and pretzels, and sample all the sweet stuff along the way - shout out to Linus, my able apprentice, and his mum for the beautiful photos.