Monday, 20 February 2012


I've never made yoyos before. For some reason, they looked like they required some kind of special trick or knack to master but thankfully they were just as easy to bake as most of the other biscuit bake off recipes I have tried so far. The secret is custard powder: my new favourite baking ingredient. Much like the ginger crunchies I made last week, custard powder gives yoyos a slightly 'short' texture.

Once again, I meticulously followed the recipe and rolled exact teaspoonfuls into balls then flattened to cook. I ended up with lots of teeny tiny bite sized yoyos (and way more than the 20 stated in the recipe), leaving me with some leftover mixture to experiment with bigger sized biscuits. Success!


  • 175 g butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • few drops vanilla essence
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup custard powder
Butter filling
  • 50 g butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder
  1. Cream butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla essence.
  2. Sift flour and custard powder together. Mix sifted ingredients into creamed mixture.
  3. Roll teaspoonsful of mixture into balls. Place on an oven tray. Flatten with a fork.
  4. Bake at 180°C for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. When cold, sandwich together in twos with butter filling. Makes 20.
To make butter filling
  • Beat all ingredients together until well combined. 

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Should We Stay Or Should We Go?

I went to my first Fringe Festival show for 2012 last night. Should We Stay Or Should We Go? is the classic story of an intercontinental relationship (played by a real life couple who are engaged to be married in April) where each half of the couple is literally from half a world away. So where should they settle down? In her home country or his? How about somewhere halfway between the two? Either way, someone is going to be missing out and some serious compromising is called for.

The show was well conceived, funny and generally work well. There were varying levels of success in the parts requiring audience participation but the couple's warmth and humour were apparent throughout. All in all, a great night out.

I saw the show with a very old friend. [Hold on - that doesn't sound too good.] I saw the show with someone I have been friends with for a very long time. (I am in no way suggesting she is very old; she wouldn't be impressed!) It seems like only a short while ago that she and I asked ourselves this very question as the couple in the show. At the end of our student days, we had similar goals: spend two years getting established in our chosen career then move to the UK for the great kiwi OE.

And then both our circumstances changed. She wanted to leave earlier than planned while I wasn't sure whether even our original timing was right. (OK, that's code for "there was a guy involved".) She left; I never made it out of the country apart from a few short trips. (The guy is long gone.) She came back to visit her parents every few years and we'd catch up briefly. "When are you coming to join me?" she would ask. It never happened.

Now, thirteen years later, I'm thrilled to have my friend back in my life after she moved back 'home' permanently a few months ago. Did it matter that I stayed while she went? Not at all! Our lives have taken on drastically different paths and she is finding her feet back in a city that has changed so much since she left but I am really enjoying us getting to know each other again at a time in my life when good friends are worth more than gold. In the meantime, there are coffees to be drunk, shows to be seen, dinners to be shared and many more years of friendship to look forward to.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Ginger crunchies

These ginger crunchies are somewhat different from the other biscuits I've made so far during my biscuit bake off. To start with, the recipe requires crystallised ginger, custard powder and cornflakes. The custard powder gave the biscuits a slightly 'short' texture. I was worried that the crystallised ginger taste would be overpowering but they were absolutely delicious!

The method is pretty much standard but I found that I needed to press the cornflakes into the mixture during the final stage as rolling them had no effect. I got 22 biscuits from this batch which means that my 'rolling' must be getting better. ;-)

Ginger crunchies

  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 5 tablespoons custard powder
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped crystallised ginger
  • 1 cup cornflakes
  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well.
  2. Sift flour and custard powder together. Mix into creamed mixture. Mix in chopped ginger.
  3. Roll tablespoonsful of mixture into balls. Roll in cornflakes. Place on a greased oven tray. Flatten with a floured fork.
  4. Bake at 190°C for 20 minutes or until golden. Makes 25.
Ginger crunchies

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Peanut brownies

I think these peanut brownies are the biscuits that my mother made when we were kids. As I continued my biscuit bake off tonight, there was something very familiar about this recipe and the taste proved it. Yum!

The yield for this recipe is much higher than the cookbook says. I was determined not to make the same mistake as with my hokey pokey pancake biscuits so carefully measured out the mixture with a tablespoon but still ended up with 30 large biscuits instead of the 20 medium sized peanut brownies I was expecting. Bonus!

Peanut brownies

  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 cup peanuts, roasted and husked
  1. Cream butter and sugar unti light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa together. Mix into creamed mixture. Add cold peanuts and mix well.
  3. Roll tablespoonsful of mixture into balls. Place on greased oven trays. Flatten with a floured fork.
  4. Bake at 180°C for 15 minutes or until cooked. Makes 20 (or 30).
Peanut brownies

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Downton Abbey marathon

I was very late jumping on board the Downton Abbey bus. I was barely aware that the programme had started last year and guess I wrote it off as yet another period drama that I wouldn't have time to follow. Suddenly, it became the topic of water cooler conversation at work and by then I had already missed several episodes. Prime TV doesn't play programmes on demand so I couldn't just catch up and before I knew it, the season was over! Yes, such are my first world problems. It was Fatso to the rescue and we had a Downton Abbey marathon watching series 1 this long weekend.

Wow - I'm well and truly hooked! Downton Abbey is a superbly written British period drama with well developed characters, a glorious setting, beautiful costumes and a sterling cast. Set in the early twentieth century, Downton has everything: drama, scandal, in-house politics and definite pecking orders among the family and their servants. Thinly veiled courtesies mask resentment for centuries-old property laws upon which British aristocracy is built. It is a very human look at a period in time that does its best to present an honourable front at all cost.

I know that series 2 is currently playing on Prime but I'll probably wait for it to come out on DVD and have another marathon. In the meantime, I am trying to avoid Twitter at 8:30 pm on Tuesdays while it is playing on television, lest I accidentally leave myself open for spoilers.

What do you think of the Downton Abbey phenomenon? Are you on board?

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Cheese scone obsession

I love cheese scones. My Twitter followers will know that Cheese Scone Friday is something I look forward to each week. I figure that if I've survived the week (particularly the nightmares I have been enduring recently), I deserve a treat on Fridays and a freshly baked cheese scone with my daily coffee does the trick.

Then there's my weekend coffee indulgence. I am lucky enough to live in an area where the supply of good coffee is plentiful and within just a few minutes' walk from home. If one of my regular cafés are full, I'm literally a minute's walk from another. That was very lucky today.

A friend who lives in Rotorua will drive to the other side of town for what she claims are the world's best custard squares. I thought that was a bit extreme until I realised today that I had walked out of one of my favourite cafés before ordering simply because they had run out of cheese scones. Even though their counter was filled with plenty of other yummy food choices, I wanted a cheese scone and nothing else would do. I found one further up the road and settled in with coffee and the Sunday newspaper before wondering if I'd developed a cheese scone obsession. Surely not?!

Apart from good coffee (which goes without saying), what food item would/do you go out of your way for?