Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Honey snaps

Part 3 of the biscuit bake off happened tonight with a quick batch of honey snaps. This is a small mixture that expands then flattens in the oven. I can honestly say it is one of the quickest recipes I have ever baked from go to woah! The biscuits are a bit too sweet for my liking (and I'm not much of a honey fan) but they will go well when dunked in a hot chocolate.

Honey snaps

Ingredients
  • 50 g butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Method
  1. Melt butter, sugar and honey together in a saucepan. Remove from heat.
  2. Add flour, baking powder and ginger and stir until mixture is smooth.
  3. Drop teaspoon lots onto a cold oven tray, leaving enough room for mixture to spread to double its size.
  4. Bake at 180°C for 10 minutes or until golden. Leave on tray a few minutes to cool before removing to a wire rack. Makes 20.
Honey snaps

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Gingernuts

The biscuit bakeoff continues! These gingernuts are very different in texture and taste to the singing variety (which resemble cardboard these days) and were very easy to make.

This time, I learned my lesson and only rolled tablespoonfuls of mixture into balls. It worked; I ended up with real biscuits instead of a flat cookie-imitating mess. I have also discovered that there is a big difference between the cooking time and 'just another couple of minutes' - golden cookies can become decidedly dark in a very short time! They still taste great, though. :-)

Gingernuts

Ingredients
  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 2 cups flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
Method
  1. Cream butter, sugar and golden syrup until light and fluffy.
  2. Dissolve baking soda in the boiling water. Add to creamed mixture.
  3. Sift flour, salt and ginger together. Add to creamed mixture, mixing well.
  4. Roll tablespoonsful of mixture into balls and place on a greased oven tray. Flatten with a floured fork. Bake at 180°C for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden. Makes 25.
Gingernuts

Monday, 23 January 2012

Telltale signs of ageing

Time certainly flies. I am often caught out thinking about what year it is, how long I have been doing a particular activity, or how long it has been since something significant took place. The years fall away and long ago events seem like they happened only yesterday. Amazing really, considering I don't seem to be a day older than ... well, that's pretty subjective.

Telltale signs of ageing
  • A young boy sitting across from you at the airport gate is dressed as a pilot. His uniform looks very authentic and he even has all the correct identification. Then he boards and flies your plane.
  • A student you taught when she was 8 years old stands up and reintroduces herself to you in a restaurant. You don't immediately recognise her but are thrilled to see her after all these years, figuring she must be about 21 by now. She asks where you are currently working. Her reply to your response? "Oh yes, they are one of our clients." Clients? Since when does an 8 year old have clients??
  • The sister of another student you taught as a 9 year old introduces herself from behind the counter at one of your favourite cafés. Not only is she now 23 and the café manager, but she has already completed her OE and has returned home to 'settle down'.
  • The young girl you see in the corridor at work is not here visiting her mother or father (or grandparent) but instead contracted as a consultant, currently conducting a very important staffing review.
  • A friend posts on Facebook that she just found a bunch of records she didn't remember even having: Wham, Inxs, Tears for Fears, Abba, Grease, Tour of Duty. Another friend comments, "that reads like my dad's music collection." Great.
  • You have to show a friend YouTube clips of Jem and the Holograms so she can understand what your Sevens costume theme is all about and what she should be wearing.


  • Someone who looks about 30 offers you their seat on the bus ... oh wait, this hasn't actually happened to me but I don't look forward to the day it does!
Do you ever feel that the world is prematurely ageing around you while you're still too young to even be considered a grown up?

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Hokey pokey biscuits

And so the great biscuit bake off begins! This is the first recipe I attempted from the biscuit section of the Edmonds Cookery Book, primarily selected because I have the ingredients already in my pantry and fancied baking something sweet.

The hokey pokey biscuits recipe is incredibly simple to make and smells delicious in the oven. I rolled my dough balls way too big and made 15 large biscuits (closer in size to cookies) that expanded into each other and went flat ... oops! You definitely don't need to grease the tray before putting the biscuits into the oven as there is enough butter already in the mixture for this. "Press with a floured fork" is an interesting instruction ... there is no way I could get any flour to stay on the fork! I think the flour is just intended to stop the dough sticking as you press it flat. Also, 15 minutes in my oven made them a dark golden colour so I'd suggest watching them closely as the timer nears the end.

Hokey pokey biscuits

Ingredients
  • 125 g butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
Method
  1. Combine butter, sugar, golden syrup and milk in a saucepan. Heat until butter is melted and mixture nearly boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool to lukewarm.
  2. Sift flour and baking soda together. Add to the cooled mixture. Stir well.
  3. Roll tablespoonsful of mixture into balls and place on ungreased oven trays. Flatten with a floured fork.
  4. Bake at 180°C for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 22.
Hokey pokey biscuits

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Biscuit bake off

The Edmonds Cookery Book (or Edmonds Cookbook, as it is commonly known) has been the staple in any New Zealand cook's recipe collection for the last century. It features a collection of simple, everyday baking recipes that are also economical to make. I finally got my own copy for Christmas (yes, better late than never) and have been browsing through some of the recipes.

As a baker, I have a fairly limited biscuit repertoire. I make some pretty mean chocolate chip cookies and have tried some basic cookie and biscuit recipes in the past, along with gingerbread and shortbread, but nothing fancy.

A thought occurred to me as I looked for something I could bake with the ingredients currently in my pantry. I put it to the Twitterverse ... pretty quickly, I heard back from @NessOldfield and @thedemlz - both had thought similar things in the past! A plan was forming: what if I baked my way through the biscuit section?

There are 23 biscuit recipes in the cookbook ranging from basic biscuits to yoyos. I figure this is a realistic enough goal to work through when I have the time and, as always, I'll share the recipes along the way. Hopefully they will give me enough practice at biscuit baking to leave me ready to tackle fancy stuff like the recipes featured on The Decorated Cookie blog. *drool*

Who's with me?

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Chocolate Seller on Broadway and his kids - Chris Grantham

It's been a while since I blogged about a book I've read, something I intend to do more of now that I'm making time to read for pleasure. I have just finished The Chocolate Seller on Broadway and his kids by local author and Chris Grantham. Published in 2009, it is the story of Mark Grantham, a man in his 30s who has cerebral palsy, as told by his father, Chris. The title comes from Mark's activity of more than 20 years: selling chocolates to passersby on the street to fundraise for the three children he sponsors in India through World Vision.

Mark has simple dreams: to live independently and to help others, but living with cerebral palsy means that this is anything but simple. For his family, making Mark's dreams a reality is a lifelong journey, some of which Chris shares in this book. There are tiny steps forwards, backwards moves, phenomenal successes and brick walls encountered throughout the story and Chris describes the various measures he, his family and support team took to repeatedly outsmart The System along the way, whose sole purpose often seemed to try and thwart Mark at every step. I was thrilled to find someone I know in the book - a former colleague who is mentioned as having a positive impact on Mark's life. Others do not come off in such a positive light in this open and honest account.

A simple, inspiring read about an everyday hero who doesn't understand what the word "can't" means.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Letter to me

Well, hello there! How are you? Forgive me for not writing sooner, despite every best intention. You see, the year has started in a crazy busy fashion and this is the first time since composing my recipe for living that the time and motivation necessary to write a blog post have converged. Anyway, here we are!

I started out by rereading some advice I wrote to myself a year or so ago. Gosh, I sounded really onto it then and everything I wrote is equally applicable today. I'm not sure how much of the advice I have actually followed (or will follow this year), but it's refreshing to know that I'm still thinking along similar lines.

So where am I at right now? Well, I've started my recipe for living with some small scale measures. I listen to lots of music at work and have totally fallen for my noise cancelling headphones. Already this week they have blocked out chainsaws, tree fellers, painters, scaffolders, building noises and a multitude of other unpleasantries.

During the week, I baked a just because chocolate cake using a recipe we found at home and of whose origins we are not entirely certain but it was well worth experimenting with. I foresee lots more just because baking and decorating coming up. Yum!

A friend and I are going to walk the Round the Bays in late February and I am aiming to continue with 10,000 steps a day in preparation. Most days I average 8-9000 steps, so that's a good start. Of course, fine weather helps with my daily total, but I really enjoy the space that a walk with my iPod offers in among all the madness. My almost-daily coffee also is a lovely wee haven. Ahhh.

I'm reading a few books for pleasure at the moment – the first time I've managed this in a while. I began with a recommendation from The Well Ready Kitty and am nearly finished Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran. It's an emotionally heavy read about women in China who have been forced through various circumstances to give up their baby daughters for adoption. I picked up The Chocolate Seller on Broadway and his kids by local author Chris Grantham and I'm about to start Life of Pi by Yann Martel soon as this has been on my TBR list for a long time.

So my recipe has begun well. I am pleased with the freshness of the ingredients and the method is working so far. :-)

Until next time ...
Café Chick

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Recipe for living

I adore Peta Mathias, not necessarily for her cooking or her ostentatious sense of style, but for her unshaking ability to be one person: herself. I recently read about Peta's recipe for living. I thought it was a brilliant idea and the recipe format appeals to the baker in me. I especially love how simple Peta's recipe is; there are three basic steps: wear red, beat egg whites until stiff and never, ever strangle your mother. Delightful!

Last month month, I came across this link to the top five regrets of the dying. I currently stand at 0/5 on this list. I am reminded of the Sunscreen song; I don't do too well on that list, either. That needs to change.

The holidays have really got me thinking. Last year, I finally learned why it's important to put your own oxygen mask on before helping someone else fit theirs; chances are, they're up and running again while you're still gasping for breath. It's unlikely they've even noticed you at all.

So, the new year is a time for some exciting changes. I've decided to create my own recipe for living and focus on perfecting it in 2012. I'm still experimenting with measurements and the order of each step but think at this stage that it's more important to get the ingredients right. What do you think?

Café Chick's recipe for living

  • Begin by cleansing the palette, peeling away all toxic elements and people. Discard these quickly and definitively; this may be difficult to do, as they tend to find their way back into your ingredients list without you even realising. It is important to review this step at least annually as the elements may have changed during the year and this will alter the flavour of your life.
  • Bake at every opportunity and not just on special occasions. Share your baking only with those who deserve and appreciate it and indulge in the rest.
  • Drink one cup of good quality coffee every day. Savour and enjoy it.
  • Add generous doses of smiles, cuddles and kisses from loved ones, nephews and nieces - the more, the better.
  • Ensure you ingest liberal amounts of natural light and daily doses of Vitamin D - directly from the source is most beneficial.
  • Sprinkle everyday life with massages - both giving and receiving. Do not make excuses justifying either.
  • Play with kittens, nephews and nieces daily. It is important to carry out this step (repeatedly, if possible) before attempting such activities as cleaning the house and folding washing.
  • Listen to the music you love, even if it is just privately. Use noise cancelling headphones if necessary. Do this for at least a couple of hours each day.
  • Go to concerts and shows of artists you enjoy whenever the opportunity arises - even on a school night. This is often more enjoyable when shared with someone else but can also be carried out alone; the most important thing is to do it and not let opportunities pass by.
  • Dance every week, even if it's just on the inside.
  • Read for pleasure at least once a week, even if it is just for fifteen minutes at a time. Doing this regularly enough will ensure you don't need to recap the plot of your novel every time you pick it up.
  • Stew at work for the exact number of hours stated in your employment agreement. Check the details carefully as conditions may vary and overcooking (or following someone else's recipe) will lead to a spoiled life.
  • Remove from heat at regular intervals as follows: at least one day every weekend, one full work day every month or two, and a couple of weeks every year.  
What's in your recipe for living?