Monday, 16 December 2013

'tis the season!

We have been experiencing a heatwave in Perth, but it hasn't kept me out of the kitchen - mainly because we still have to eat and because I love all the baking that the festive season brings!
There are those people that we have in our lives who we appreciate but giving a gift can make them feel a bit awkward and like they have to give you something in return - my answer to that is giving them food. This year that has been in the form of chocolate shortbread and biscotti, packaged in a lovely little box, it's such a nice treat and people appreciate the effort (and hopefully the taste!).
As I write these words, I can smell my Christmas cake baking in the oven (I will share that recipe soon) and the lads are once again trying to tear apart our Christmas tree for sport, despite my many threats that Santa will not visit if they keep it up. Those threats are lost on the little lad and apparently we have talking tinsel that  just keeps calling his name. The big lad simply cashes in on the opportunity, but at least the thought of Santa not coming terrifies him... for five minutes at least.
Anyway the chocolate shortbread keeps them both happy and quiet, so I will share that next. But I've been having fun experimenting with different biscotti flavours and so far fig and almond seems to be a favourite. The base recipe is from the divine Donna Hay, who in my eyes is somewhat of a dessert queen, so anything sweet she shares immediately catches my eye.

Fig and almond biscotti

2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup raw caster sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 cup toasted blanched almonds
1 cup dried figs, roughly chopped 

Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl and add sugar, mixing to combine.
Add eggs, vanilla, figs and almonds and mix until a smooth dough forms. Add more flour if necessary. 
Place the dough on a floured suface and knead until smooth. 
Halve dough and roll into two logs, flattening slightly. Place them on a tray lined with baking paper and bake for 30-35 minutes or until cooked through. 
Well cool, cut the logs into thin slices using a bread knife and place the biscuits onto baking trays. Bake again for 10 minutes until golden and crisp. Cool on trays. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Will the real cocoa please stand up

Cocoa. Cacao. Did I make a spelling mistake? No, they are two different things. Basically, cocoa powder is made from roasted cacao beans. Cacao powder is the raw version and has become a popular term for the hipsters and their raw food diets. Both are derived from the same plant, Cacao and both lead down a deliciously, chocolatey road.
Now I'm not a hipster, so I'll stick with my cocoa powder. But something happened last week that blew my Everyday Baker mind just a little bit. Rather than my usual cocoa powder, I opted for the premium variety - the one without "flavours" in its ingredient list (I was slightly disgusted to read that) and simply "cocoa". I cooked with said premium cocoa, okay it was the Nestle Plaistowe variety, and I shall NEVER go back to that mundane "flavour" cocoa again. Holy moly, now that's flavour!
Don't take my word for it, just try it - you can see in the colour of the cocoa that it's richer and it's tastes that way too. I made my Mum's retro Swiss Biscuit Slice and it's never tasted so good! (sorry Mum).

Swiss Biscuit 

125g butter, melted
1 cup plain flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut
2 tablespoons premium cocoa

1 cup icing sugar (I've been using the low GI cane sugar variety)
2 tablespoons premium cocoa
30g softened butter
splash of hot water
extra coconut for sprinkling

Pre heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a slice pan with baking paper.
Place flour, sugar, coconut and cocoa in a bowl and whisk to mix. Switch to a spoon and add the melted butter. Press into pan and bake for 20 minutes.
Allow slice to cool. To make the icing, mix all ingredients together until smooth and spread over slice. Sprinkle with coconut.