Shortbread cookies

Shortbread cookies use the sweet short crust pastry as a base.  After it is just a matter of having a few cookie cutters at home.  Children can decorate them with coloured sugar balls, sultanas, nuts or fondant.

Ingredients:
  • 250 g plain flour
  • 125 g softened butter
  • 125 g white sugar
  • 1 egg
Method:
  1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredient together and form a ball.  Over a few movements, knead it on the kitchen bench to ensure cohesion (20 seconds max). Rest for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Dust the kitchen bench with flour to prevent sticking. Place the dough on the kitchen bench.  Dust the top similarly. Roll with the rolling-pin to 6 to 8 mm thick. Ensure the bottom is not stuck by lifting the pastry gently. Add more flour underneath of necessary.
  3. Using cookie cutters make the shapes and transfer them onto a baking sheet covered with baking paper.
  4. If the children want to decorate, use sultanas or pieces of nuts or sugar balls. Smarties work well too.
  5. Bake 10-15 minutes on 160 degrees Celsius until light blonde. Remove from the oven and slide the base on a cooling rack using the baking paper.  Allow to cool.

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Black and white checkers cookies

This black and white cookies recipe is taken from the Williams-Sonoma Baking Book.  It is a recipe my eight year old daughter decided to do on her own.  As the recipe provides measurement in both the imperial american systems and universal metric system, there was a little confusion for her upfront on the different values.  Once that was sorted out, she ended up doing the cookies pretty much on her own (I was downstairs working).  With or without help from adults, this recipe is a great one to teach children some basic aspects of baking: making a shortcrust, measuring, diving, measuring, using egg yolk as a “glue”.

Makes about 40 cookies. Below is the recipe taken from Williams and Somona. The tips are my addition.

This type of cookie is made by forming dough into a log or rectangular block and chilling it thoroughly. You can also use different types of dough together (vanilla and chocolate, peanut butter and chocolate) to make patterned cookies. Cookies are then sliced off the log or block and baked. When slicing the dough, give the log or block a quarter turn after every half dozen or so slices to keep the cookies perfectly square or round.

black and white

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (315 g)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (125 g)
  • Pinch of salt –  Tip: remove if using salted butter
  • 250 g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder

Tip: for the butter, you can use soft butter or half melted butter.  When you rest the dough the first time, either leve it longer or use the freezer. 

Method:

Tip: I am not using a food processor here as in the original recipe. I find that best learning is achieved by doing by hand and also the mixing is not really hard, so does not warrant the use of a food processor.

  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Then, add the butter, vanilla  and egg yolks until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs and eventually holds together. Divide the dough in half. Transfer one-half to a lightly floured work surface and knead in the cocoa until incorporated. If the dough is very soft, wrap in cell-wrap and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  2. Lightly dust the work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out each dough half into a 8 by 21 centimetre about one centimetre thick.  Trim the edges to even out.

    Tip: instead of trimming the edges, you can use a dough scrapper to push and distribute the dough in a rectangle.
     
  3. Place each rectangle on a large baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes (Tip: or 10 minutes if using the freezer). Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat the whole egg until blended. Set aside.
  4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Using a sharp knife, cut each rectangle into 4 strips about 2 cm wide (you should have 4 strips of each color). Arrange 2 chocolate strips and 2 plain strips in a checkerboard pattern, brushing the beaten egg between the strips and gently pressing them together. Repeat with the remaining dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and use a knife to square off the edges of each block. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes or 10 minutes if using the freezer.
  5. Preheat an oven to 180°C. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or line them with parchment paper. Remove the blocks from the refrigerator, unwrap and cut each crosswise into slices 6-8 mm thick. Place them 4 cm apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies feel firm when lightly pressed, about 15 minutes. Let the cookies sit on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.

 

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Sunday night diner

Sunday night diner is the wrap up of the weekend and the last step before the start of the new week. It has this homy comfortable feeling. Yes, but…

We, or rather my daughters started a silk rope class on Sunday afternoon.  They love it! I find it great too. By the time we come home it is often after 6 pm , sometimes after 7 pm. So, not willing to cook much at this stage of the day, I devise a quick meal.  One that came back a few times recently is a bean and sausages bake.  Dessert tonight – yes, there is always dessert – was a flan patissier.

The bean and sausage bake

You can rarely do easier and it require strictly no cooking skills.  All you need are cans of beans, tomato sauce and sausages! Pretty simple! Still need the recipe? Click HERE.

sunday evening bake

A flan patissier for dessert

Flans patissiers need to be made in advance preferably as they taste better warm or cold.  I made mine this morning before heading across Scotland Island through bushland on gorgeous little tracks.  Flan patissier are a typical French dessert, it is like a (homemade) baked custard.  Quite nice.

The recipe is HERE.

flan

 

 

 

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No more porridge wastes!

This is it, no more porridge wastes! What do you do with left over porridge? Generally there aren’t any left over when there is porridge.  However, I must say,  quite recently my daughters have doubled up on breakfast requirements and I came home twice last week with a saucepan and left over porridge in it.  There is no such thing as serving porridge twice, eurrhh.

So, last night , while some left overs were heating up, I scooped the porridge, added a little this and a little that and Voila!

Moist (almost) gluten free porridge Cookies

No need to waste your leftover porridge, make these (almost) gluten-free cookies with your leftover porridge!

If you are wondering, which cereal I used, the recipe uses rice flour.

Recipe HERE.

GF porridge cookies GF porridge cookies GF porridge cookies

 

Note for GF people: Are oats gluten free?

It is a little complicated here. Oats are a different cereal to wheat. Oats do not contain any gluten.  They do contain, however a protein called avenin which can induce an immune reaction in one out of five coeliac persons.

Added to that is the fact that oats can be “contaminated” at the farm by equipment also processing (harvesting, storing or transporting) wheat.

As a result in Australia, oat products cannot be called gluten-free.

If you want more info, you may want to read Coeliac Australia ‘s position statement.

And look what just came out of the oven! I can still hear the crust cracking!

I don’t mean to be out of consideration to people who are unfortunately affected by coeliac conditions.  For those who read my blog for the first time, I am not coeliac and I have been making our bread for 2 1/2 years.  Today I increased the water ratio in the sourdough recipe, let it rise in the fridge when wandering around with the children all day and shaped and bakes these baguettes tonight.  I am very happy with the result!

high water content sourdough

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Gluten Free Porridge Cookies

I made these gluten free porridge cookies (and the recipe) one day as I had enough of seeing left over porridge go to the compost bin.

Now, if you are coeliac, you may need to be careful, this recipe contains oats, which has a protein that can trigger an immune reaction (but not always).

GF porridge cookies

Ingredients:
  • 1 egg
  • 230 g of porridge with sultanas.  If you need to cook the porridge, use 1 volume of oats for 2 volumes or water or a mix of water and milk (I prefer a mix).
  • 100 g of white sugar
  • 100 g of butter
  • 1 tsp of raising powder
  • 230 g of brown rice flour
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. Melt the butter and mix it with the leftover porridge to loosen a bit the mass.
  3. Add the sugar and the egg.  Mix well.
  4. Then mix in the rice flour and raising powder.
  5. Place little mounts, about the size of a tablespoon on a lined baking sheet.  Bake until light brown.
  6. Cool down on a wire rack.

Note: the dough is quite wet and sticky but not runny, it keeps its form when spooned on the tray. If your porridge is quite runny, you will need to increase the flour a little.

GF porridge cookies GF porridge cookies

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Pop Cakes!

Making and eating pop cakes was an amazing experience for the children.  Not only did they get to make the pop cakes and it tasted great, they also got to see them grow or “pop up” in the oven. They found that very exciting! And then they rushed to eat them!

Pop cake moulds are silicone moulds with bite size prints, the mould have a bottom part and a top part.  My mould upper part is transparent, this is how they saw them rise.

I used for the base recipe a very simple cake recipe called a “quatre quarts” which you can translate as “four quarters”.   The recipe has the same weight of eggs, flour, sugar and butter.  To ensure they little shape filled up the whole space I did increase the quantity of baking powder a bit.

Once the pop cakes are ready, we dipped them in melted some white chocolate and shredded coconut (and 100&1000s).

 

Ingredients:
  • 3 eggs
  • flour: the same weight as the eggs
  • caster sugar: the same weight as the eggs
  • butter: the same weight as the eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100 g white chocolate
  • shredded coconut
  • Toothpicks
Method:
  1. First weigt your eggs, this will be your reference for the flour, butter and sugar.
  2. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs together with a whisk (or using an electric mixer) until pale and creamy.
  4. Then melt the butter and add it once cooled to the mix.
  5. Add the flour and raising powder and mix, being careful not to do lumps (best to swap the whisk for a wooden spoon and start mixing from the centre out expanding the size of the circle as you go).
  6. Spoon the mixture in each bottom print to the top.Place the lid and bake until ready about 15 minutesTip: the mould print with the holes is the top one (it allows for the steam to escape)
  7. Remove from the prints and allow to cool down on a cooling rack.
  8. Melt the white chocolate and place some shredded coconut in a bowl.
  9. Using a toothpick, pick a little cake ball, dip in the white chocolate then in the coconut. Enjoy!

Tip: if you have left over cake mix, make a couple of muffins with it! Perfect for the lunch box! 

 

 

 

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It ended up with chocolate

It ended up with chocolate

I can’t remember how it all started.  I think I was browsing through some cookbooks .  As it happens (a lot) I got interrupted after a few minutes and left the books on the coffee table.  Fast forward a few hours, I can’t remember, my 8 y.o ., like a curious little possum, goes through the books and starts selecting pages. I am not even aware of that at the time.  In the end, we got these chocolate crackle tops for lunch boxes and a beautiful chocolate cake for dessert. Yes, you guessed right, those cookbooks I was browsing were all chocolates books, this is how it ended up with chocolate!

Chocolate crackle tops

These chocolate crackle tops are quite interesting.  By the way, the recipe is HERE.   It is best not to use a strong chocolate (50% or so is fine) and to add, as per the recipe, a good cocoa. And yes, please make me a favour, use a good cocoa and even preferably a dutch cocoa! But if like me you only have 70% cocoa chocolate handy and couverture chocolate on top of that (that was for the first batch- we did two batches over the week), you need to adapt a little the recipe.  I would recommend sticking to compound chocolate (i.e. your supermarket cooking chocolate) for this one.

chocolatebiscuits

We had a good time doing those, I think Ambrine has now mastered the centrifugal icing sugar coating force! Instead of pushing the ball in the icing sugar, we used a light plastic bowl with a handle which she could spin rapidly. It is a lot of fun to have several balls racing on the edges of the bowl (and not flying everywhere!).

Coating in icing sugar , ready, steady, roll!

And the chocolate cake?

mmmmm.  I need to do it again! Just for the photo, of course! It is a recipe from Valli Little called the Yin Yang Chocolate cake. Coming soon…

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Chocolate crackle tops

These chocolate crackle tops are easy chocolate biscuits to make. They suit all ages, can be used for parties, lunch boxes, morning or afternoon tea or with a simple dessert like yoghurt or stewed apples.  This is a recipe perfect for involving the children: mixing, adding ingredients including breaking the eggs, measuring ingredients, forming balls, coating the balls,…

I tried the original version and a version where I removed the cocoa because I was using a strong chocolate and did not see necessary to add the cocoa. Below is the original version and how to apply the variation.

Round 2, icing sugar finely sieved

Makes 35-40

Ingredients
  • 200 g dark cooking chocolate
  • 90 g of butter
  • 115 g of caster sugar
  • 5 ml of vanilla essence
  • 200 g of plain flour
  • ½ tsp of baking powder
  • Pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 25 g cocoa powder
  • 100 – 150 g of icing sugar for coating (see recipe)Tip:  Using or not cocoa powder. if you use a chocolate with a high level of cocoa, adding the cocoa will make the biscuits too strong in chocolate.  Either use a 50 % cocoa cooking chocolate and the cocoa or if using a 70% chocolate, do not add the cocoa and add one tablespoon of flour (or the dough will be too wet).
Method

 

  1. Melt chocolate and butter until smooth
  2. Add eggs one at the time, mixing in between each egg
  3. Add sugar
  4. Stir in vanilla essence
  5. Add in at once the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder.
  6. Your dough would be quite soft. Place a plastic film on top and place in the fridge for at least an hour (or a day!).  If you have used couverture chocolate, you dough would be fine to use straight away (couverture chocolate crystallise quite quick when cooling down).
  7.  Once the dough is hard enough, remove from the fridge.  Heat up the oven to 180 deg C. Use an ice-cream spoon or any strong spoon to form walnut size pieces. Roll in a ball. Place a couple tablespoons of icing sugar in a larger bowl and dust the balls all over.  Remove any excess by shaking it off.
  8. Place on a baking sheet covered with a baking paper or buttered. Insert in the oven for no more than 10 minutes (between 7 and 10 minutes). The top should be lightly firm. Transfer to a cooling rack.  You will need two rounds or two baking sheet to bake all the biscuits. Keep well for a week in a box.

Tip: Ensure the icing sugar is fully free of lumps for an even result.

Version 1- original (as you can see I had not sieved the icing sugar to full dust)
Version 2 – very thin coat of icing sugar , this batch omitted the cocoa

 

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Walnut, Honey, Orange and Ricotta Muffins

Walnut, Honey, Orange and Ricotta Muffins, or maybe in short the “back to school” muffin. Why? Because the flavours match the season of the first month back at school. These muffins are great for lunch boxes.  They keep for a few days in an airtight container or you can freeze them.

This is one of my own recipes, fresh off the press by trying to marry the ice taste of ricotta with something that children will go for.  I made another recipe that day, equally nice, the raspberry and ricotta muffin (CLICK HERE).

This is an easy recipe.

Makes 15.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup of ricotta
  • 250 g of plain flour
  • 2 tsp of raising powder
  • 130 g of melted butter
  • 200g of sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 very large tbsp. of honey
  • Juices of 2 small oranges (1.5 if large ones)
  • 1 cup of sultanas
  • 2 cups of walnuts
Method:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C
  2. Mix the ricotta, sugar and eggs until the mix is completely smooth (no ricotta lumps left)
  3. Add the honey and orange juice.
  4. Add the flour, raising powder, sultanas together, mix well.  Then add the walnuts and mix.
  5. Using a large spoon, spoon mixture in muffin cases and bake until well golden.

 

 

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Foraging for mulberries

Today, when we went back to our car after a few hours spent at the beach, we saw three young girls rushing away from a front yard with something that appeared to be very precious in the hands.  They were mulberries. The careful attitude had a lot to do with avoiding having blackened hands and squashing the fruits! This did it for us, it was time to go and check our neighbourhood trees and go foraging for mulberries!

Mulberry Trees

Mulberry trees are not an Australian native tree species and because of that, many councils have simply cut the mulberry trees over the last five to ten years.  In our area, this has not yet been the case.  The tree we went to is quite large, the season is just starting.  The fruits this year do not appear to be very big but there are plenty.

mulberry tree

 

A child’s adventure

This foraging expedition is best shared with children.  The children love it!  They get really excited, so I got them to gather our “kit” and we were ready.  We took boxes and a stool and off we went.

The first berries are easy to get to…

Then, a bit more strategy and skills are required…

20161003_152516

The other solution? Shake gently one branch and gather the fallen fruits, it is quite effective.

Now, our rule is to gather just what we need and no more.   It is a lot of fun and a great adventure!

After that, when we got home, we washed the fruits and removed the stalk. As a result, we did end up with fingers very purple, most of it has not washed off.

Mulberry Pie

The end purpose of collecting mulberries was to make a mulberry pie.  It is after dinner now and the left over of our pie is standing on the dinning table not far from me, I can smell its distinctive fruit and buttery aroma!

The full recipe can be found on its page HERE.

mulberry pie

mulberry pie

mulberry pie

 

 

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Strawberry crazy!

This week has been strawberry crazy at home! With 4 boxes of 500 g for less than 5 dollars, no wonder I bought quite a few boxes! Do you want to know how many? 16!  Yes, indeed! But they are now all gone, we had the last ones at diner (and everyone is not bored with eating strawberries).

In my strawberry crazy week, I did some jam, we had strawberry tarts, roasted, strawberry for breakfast, for dinner and for lunch boxes. Guess what, we finished the strawberries tonight!

Two recipes were a great success. I will share those with you now.

Again some madeleines, but these ones are strawberry and rosemary madeleines

strawberry and rosemarry madeleines

This madeleines were really a trial, I was trying to find something to go with poached pears and that could be done relatively quickly. These strawberry and rosemary madeleines turned out quite good. They were not as crunchy as the plain ones but the rosemary and strawberry do bring another dimension to that biscuit. Quite good with poached pears indeed!  Click here for the recipe.

Strawberry and rosemarry madeleines pile

And of course a strawberry tart

IMG_0009

I made the base with my younger daughter, the older one (7 y.o) did the rest of the tart with a bit of instructions. I use a few versions of strawberry tarts.  You can find more on the dedicated page for strawberry tart recipes. Basically, the tarts all have a sweet short crust pastry, you then choose or not to have a layer over the pastry before placing the strawberries.  The added layer can be roasted strawberries pureed or a creme patissiere (custard). On top of the strawberries, we use a bit of jam diluted and brush it on, it adds taste and shine.

IMG_0008

 

A few more  recipes already on this blog

cookies aux fraises et chocolat blanc

Stawberry and white chocolate cookies

 

 

 

roasted strawberries

Roasted strawberries

 

 

 

 

And if you keep looking , I will soon add the recipe I used for my strawberry jam.

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