Archives for posts with tag: Baking

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Beautiful and historic, the Rocks precinct is the perfect place for weekend strolling, gallery visits, market trawling and lazy lunching. Nestled between Sydney Cove and Walsh Bay, a walk in The Rocks affords some spectacular views of Sydney Harbour, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. It’s a popular area for tourists and on market days it can be hard to navigate your way amongst streaming tourists, but well worth the effort if only to admire the sandstone beauty and historic charm of the area. A walk taken further afield to the backstreets will take you through some quaint looking alleyways and winding staircases, with more expansive views of the harbour the higher you climb. On this occasion, we walked all the way around to the Walsh Bay area, an urban industrial locality home to numerous performing arts venues, theatres, restaurants and other gentrification projects. At the inner core of this harbour strip between the historic Rocks and Walsh Bay area lies the infamous Sirius Building, a 1970s concrete apartment block built to house public tenants displaced during redevelopment projects of the 1960s and 1970s. Residents of this one and only high rise building in the Rocks will be safe to stay until 2030, when ownership transfers back to the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. It will be interesting to see what comes of the building then. Other public housing properties remain in the area and many are marked with yellow ribbons in doors and windows, signifying opposition to redevelopment plans in nearby Millers Point and Barangaroo.

If you have the energy to walk up the hill to Sydney Observatory, you’ll be rewarded with some great views of the city and the harbour, not to mention the sky. Also, you will feel righteous enough to stop off on your way  back down at Le Renaissance French Patisserie for some delectable macarons and super-fine pastry treats.For lunch in the Rocks, my favourite spot is the MCA Cafe and Sculpture Terrace at the Museum of Contemporary Arts. With a seasonal menu, a stunning view of the harbour and contemporary art exhibits at your fingertips, you simply can’t go wrong.

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I’ve been doing some baking of my own this weekend for my sister’s birthday. This recipe for Chocolate Brownies is tried and true in our family. I added a little bit of extra dark chocolate this time around, but they are delicious with or without it.

Chocolate Brownies, Tried and True

150g butter

1 1/4 cups castor sugar

3/4 cup cocoa

3 eggs

1/2 cup plain white flour

100g dark chocolate, finely chopped

1 tsp vanilla extract

2-3 tbsp pure icing sugar

Preheat oven to 160°C and grease and line a 23cm square baking tin. Melt the butter, sugar and cocoa together over a medium heat and the sugar is dissolved and the butter melted. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl, then add in the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate mixture. Fold in the plain flour, followed by the chocolate pieces. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let the brownies cool completely, then dust with icing sugar and cut into squares.

 

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Even though I understand coconuts are available year round, for me they are the essence of summer. Just the scent of coconut transports me straight to the beach no matter how far from one I may be. Conjuring memories of road tripping the NSW north coast with my surfer brother, coconut surf wax drifting through the haze from the boot outwards, coconut is the emblem of vacation. It also recalls golden days of childhood adolescence reaching for the third fourth piece of coconut slice in that special tin of Mum’s, always and ever a family token. Memories aside, coconut has also captured my imaginations of the present this summer, and it’s been the feature ingredient on my mind these past few weeks. A morning tea at work this week gave me the perfect excuse to bring out an old and treasured family recipe for coconut slice that is so easy and quick to make that it can be done in half the time it takes to get to the supermarket and back.

Since I can’t be on a proper holiday this summer I’ve been making the most of what my home city has to offer, and Sydney in January really isn’t such a bad place to be. The roads are quiet, the nights are long and there’s plenty going on around town as part of the annual Sydney Festival. I couldn’t resist including some pictures from a recent trip to Palm Beach, Sydney’s northernmost beach and a beach haven/heaven for lovers of sunshine, surf, beach walking and lazy summer days.

My tips for this recipe are to make the slice a day ahead and to let the slice cool completely before icing. I tend to pour the icing on to the slice and pick up the tin to move it around, because if you use a knife or spatula the crumbs from the slice will mix into the icing. After icing, store in the fridge overnight before removing to slice and serve. This will ensure that you get nicely cut, even squares (or rectangles, if that’s how you like to roll).

Coconut Slice

125g unsalted butter, melted

1 cup self raising flour

1 cup desiccated coconut, plus extra to serve

1/2 brown sugar, firmly packed

~2 cups pure icing sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease and line a 28 x 18 cm slice tin. Combine the flour, brown sugar and coconut in a bowl. Add in the butter and mix well. Press into the slice tin and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in the lemon juice. You may need to adjust the amounts to get the consistency you are after, which should not be too thick. Scatter the desiccated coconut over the slice and set in the refrigerator.

*Makes 18 squares.


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As the festive season draws nearer I can sense that I am fast catching the baking bug, something which is somewhat of a challenge in my lilliputian kitchen! Nevertheless, for me there is always something therapeutic about baking, so long as I have the time and the right ingredients to hand. I’m not entirely sure why it is that I enjoy baking so much, but I think it might be that baking is a timeless tradition that goes down through the centuries. Although the instruments we use may change with the innovations of time, the overall process remains largely the same, as does the tradition of coming together to eat, celebrate, mourn or commemorate. Sometimes I dispense entirely with the trappings of a modern kitchen (I don’t yet own a food processor!) and simply blend/cream/chop/fold ingredients by hand. Although this extends the time taken to complete the task somewhat, I enjoy the prolonged process and the chance it gives me to retreat into my thoughts or to fully appreciate a good album, the company of others or even just the solitude of silence. I’ll never forget reading about Sadie in Mr Rosenblum’s List, who emigrates to Britain from Germany with her husband in 1937 and bakes layer upon layer of sadness and memories into a Baumtorte (a very tall German “Tree” cake with layers of almond pastry). Sadie’s loneliness is relieved somewhat when some women from the village smell her cake and invite her to the town meeting, to which she dutifully takes the Baumtorte:

The women ate, and it was the most remarkable cake they had ever tasted. It was sweet and perfectly moist with a hint of lemon but, as her mouth filled with deliciousness, each woman was overwhelmed with sadness. Each tasted Sadie’s memories, her loss and unhappiness and whilst they ate Sadie was, for once, not alone in her sorrow. 

I loved the way that in sharing the cake, the women were able to cross an emotional divide that helped them to understand one another better. On the one hand, Sadie was able to express her sorrow and the difference of her experience, while the women were able to see (and taste) another perspective that gave them an insight previously unseen of an outside and foreign member of their community.

Reflections aside, baking can also be really fun! As I have mentioned in a previous post, I am still in the midst of planning my European Odyssey next year. Given a significant bulk of my trip will be spent in Greece and the Greek Islands, I have all things Greek on my mind and decided to cook in theme with my future travels again. And what better way than with these delicious Greek Kourabiedes! It is a delicious almond shortbread made with a hint of brandy and orange rind which has a great texture and is perfect for a mid morning or afternoon treat. Also great for the gift giving season. Kalí̱ sas órexi̱!

Kourabiedes (Greek Almond Shortbread)

250 g butter, softened

60 g icing sugar

1 tspn orange zest

1 egg yolk

1 tbspn brandy

100 g almond meal

310 g plain flour

1½ tspn baking powder

60 g extra icing sugar, for dusting

Cream the butter, sugar and orange zest in a small bowl until pale and fluffy, then add the egg yolk and brandy and beat until thoroughly combined. Use a metal spoon to fold in the almond meal, flour and baking powder, and mix until well combined. Gather together and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1–2 hours, or until chilled.

Preheat the oven to 160°C and line two large baking trays with baking paper. Shape ½ tablespoons of the mixture into crescents, using lightly floured hands. Place on the prepared baking trays. Bake for 12–15 minutes, or until pale golden. Cool on the trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. While still warm, dust with the sifted icing sugar. The Kourabiedes can be stored in an airtight container for weeks..if it lasts that long 😉

*Mr Rosenblum’s List is the first novel of Natasha Solomons, published by Sceptre in 2010.

 

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Euforia sits at the sleepy harbour end of Darling Street in East Balmain, a corner cafe with an enviable view of the harbour bridge and a general vibe of sun drenched happiness due to its north facing aspect. For lovers of shade however, there is seating inside with a great view of the street outside. The menu offers the very best of most breakfast genres as well as an appealing selection of Italian flatbread and grilled sourdough sandwiches for lunch. The coffee is good and it’s clear that the standard of delivery is high in the barista’s corner. This doesn’t appear to be the only area of finesse however, as everything I’ve had from the kitchen has also been without fault. On my last visit I had the poached eggs rolled in quinoa on sourdough with fresh avocado, and my sister ordered the American Bacon Breakfast plate, from which I may or may not have surreptitiously pinched some tasty green olives 😉 Both meals are on my go-to list for future visits and I’m also particularly keen to try the french toast brioche with blueberry compote, vanilla ricotta, almonds and honey.

What I love about Euforia: I’ve been here three times since moving to Balmain and on each occasion my most lasting impression has been the friendliness of service and welcoming atmosphere. However, I would hate to neglect the fact that the quality of food is also one of the reasons I will keep going back. Oh, and three other little words to mention: All Day Breakfast! Nothing more to be said 😉

58 Darling Street, Balmain East, Sydney, Australia, 2041. Mon – Fri 6:30 am – 2:00 pm, Sat – Sun 8:00 am – 2:00 pm. (02) 9810 9969

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I’ve been promising a friend to do some baking as a very belated birthday gift, so I thought I’d finally hop to it and share with you this great recipe for Lime + Passionfruit Friands. It’s a tried and true recipe torn out of a magazine by my mum some years ago now and I guarantee it’s a winner!

Lime + Passionfruit Friands

3/4 cup plain flour

1 and 1/3 cup pure icing sugar

100g almond meal

2 tsp lime rind

5 egg whites

1/3 cup passionfruit pulp

Preheat oven to 200°C and lightly grease six 1/2 cup friand pans. Sift the icing sugar and flour into a bowl, then stir in the almond meal and lime rind. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until frothy, then fold into the dry mixture with a large metal spoon until just combined. Gently fold in the passionfruit pulp. Spoon the mixture into the friand pans until they’re about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 mins or until a skewer inserted to the centre of a friand comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, dust with icing sugar and devour.

Bon Appétit xo