Tuesday 30 January 2018

Banana, date and walnut loaf

I do not like banana. My mother claimed this is because she fed me too much of it as a baby. She had a lot of weird theories so I've no idea if this is in any way accurate but for whatever reason I've long steered clear of banana bread, banoffee anything or that "one ingredient" ice-cream people swear is just like the real thing but to me tastes only of its one ingredient - blended up frozen bananas. Blechhh. But I had this tin.

It was my grandmother's. I can't remember what she made in it. Possibly nothing in my lifetime. By the time I came along, she'd retired a lot of her repertoire and mostly stuck to scones. But I always remembered the tin, which Mum inherited - specifically having to fossick around it in the cluttered cupboard full of bakeware to get to the more regular round ones. But there comes a time in your life when you yearn for something different. Something cylindrical. Something showcasing what you've eschewed for an eternity. 

To say I've been converted would be a bit much. In truth, you can't taste the banana at all in this and for me, that's all to the good. What shines through strongly are the dates and the walnuts - caramel and crunch in one perfect mouthful. The banana binds it together, keeps it moist. It has its place and I wouldn't think of substituting it. Not when it works so well. Especially sliced thickly and slathered with butter.

Thursday 18 January 2018

Custard yo-yos with roasted rhubarb icing

Lately, I've been the lucky recipient of several batches of homemade biscuits. Just before leaving for holidays I was presented with some of Elizabeth's amazing shortbread. On arrival in Hobart, a jar of assorted Ottolenghi was waiting for me by my bed. Back in Sydney, the postman delivered a batch of biscotti sent at great expense and with much love from afar, and last weekend, my friend from Canberra came to stay bearing cinnamon meringue stars. So I hope the ones I made for Christmas gifts inspired the same warm feelings.

I made a few different sorts (including these and these) but the custard yo-yos with roasted rhubarb icing were the undisputed stars of the show: a creamy pink fruity filling sandwiched by two perfectly pale yellow cookies. The secret ingredient is custard powder, but if you don't have it, cornflour (cornstarch) will do just as well though your biscuits will be a little less yellow. The pastel palette is part of the appeal I think so if you can find custard powder (it should be readily available in any supermarket), it's worth the sub-$2 investment for the child-like delight those nursery colours inspire. I'll definitely be making them again. Next time, all for myself.

Tuesday 9 January 2018

Lemon, blueberry and almond teacakes

It may have something to do with the season, but I have never embraced a cookbook as much as I have Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh's recently released Sweet. In Sydney, in late December, I made rhubarb yo-yos and orange and star anise shortbread as holiday gifts. A few days later, in Hobart, I collaborated with a friend (and fellow Ottolenghi disciple) on the rolled pavlova with blackberries and peaches for dessert on Christmas Day, and on a hot, sticky Brisbane afternoon just before new year, I whipped up these lemon, blueberry and almond teacakes with expert bakers Alice (10) and Emily (5) in their new kitchen in Fig Tree Pocket.

Well, to be honest, I really did nothing more than supervise, passing eggs to little hands to crack, reading from the recipe about what to add when and overseeing the distribution of blueberries in batter. Though these look fancy as fancy can be, they are super easy and super fun to make, and showcase the beautiful berries so plentiful at this time of year. You don't need any specialist equipment - they're made in a muffin tin and simply inverted and iced to make little cakes (genius!). Though they're not strictly gluten-free, you could easily make them so by substituting more almond meal for the very minimal amount of flour in the recipe. They're sweet, light and unbelievably good. This recipe makes twelve, which seems like a lot but having had one, you will almost certainly want another. Get in quick.

Lemon, blueberry and almond teacakes 
Adapted from a recipe in Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh

I'm sure you could swap the 45g of flour for the same amount of almond meal if you wanted to make this gluten-free - just make sure the baking powder and icing sugar you're using are gluten-free. Most are, but best to read the label, or check online.

190g unsalted butter, at room temperature
190g caster (superfine) sugar
finely grated zest of one lemon (1 teaspoon)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
190g ground almonds
45g flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
60ml lemon juice
100g blueberries, plus 70g to garnish

160g icing (confectioners') sugar
35ml lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Grease and flour all 12 holes of a muffin tin.

Beat butter, sugar and lemon zest together til light and creamy, then add eggs and ground almonds in three or four alternate batches. Fold in flour, salt and baking powder, then finally add the lemon juice. Spoon batter into the muffin moulds and divide the 100g of blueberries between them - pushing the berries down into the batter a bit.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until edges are golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of a cake comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool in tin for ten minutes then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely, making sure they are sitting upside down (ie: smaller end on top).

Sift icing sugar into a bowl and add lemon juice til mixture is thick but pourable. Spoon icing over cakes and top with remaining blueberries.