Sunday, 25 May 2014

Toffee milks

Toffee milks
sold unwrapped in dairies
Here's a blast from the past. Who remembers toffee milks? These were staple lollies growing up in New Zealand in the 80s. You'd buy them individually at the dairy for 10 cents and they sat in an open box before being wrapped in a paper bag that didn't quite cover the top, much like the original peanut slabs.

Back when you could buy 1 cent lollies, a 20 cent mixture provided abundant treats and a 50 cent mixture could last for days, spending 10 cents of your meagre pocket money on a single toffee milk was a sizable investment  but one that was entirely worth it. These chocolate covered toffees were notorious for numbing teeth if you bit directly into them but would soften in your mouth and last for ages if you did it just right.

Toffee milks had other uses, too. At our school, they were great gambling currency for knucklebone competitions. This craze swept our school (around the same time as dodgeball, elastics and skipping) in the mid-80s, so much so that the school had to relax its "play outside at lunch time" rules and gave us one classroom with carpet to play in each day. I guess they figured it was better than us all scraping our fingers trying to play outside on concrete.

We would play each other for toffee milks and you could only start a game if you could prove you had a toffee milk to give the winner if you lost the 1-1 bout. A few people tried promising IOUs; sometimes these were a safe bet as they often meant the competitor wasn't very good so you were sure to win but not always guaranteed they'd front up with your prize. I'm quite proud to say that I was really good at knucklebones and, along with one other girl, regularly accumulated a stash of toffee milks I had won in the pocket of my school uniform. Between us, we did pretty well ... and I was thrilled to beat her in a one-off Champion of Champions match.

The other day, a colleague and I spied a jar of toffee milks on the counter at Superfino. We talked about how much we'd loved toffee milks as kids, ordered our coffees and I rushed back to work for a meeting. Shortly afterwards, I found a toffee milk waiting on my desk. Just like that I was taken back to 1985 when I always had a packet of knucklebones ready to go in one pocket of my school uniform and a bag of toffee milks in the other! Yes, Whittaker's toffee milks easily make it onto the list of #myfavouritethings.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Single Origin Monday

Ahh, coffee. It's my preferred feelgood pick-me-upper – but strictly one a day for me, for various reasons. Because of this, I make my daily coffee a good one. It is something I look forward to enjoying and drink mindfully; I don't gulp down buckets of instant each day and call it "time for a coffee" every hour or so (like my manager – but don't worry, I'm doing some 'educating' there).

One of my coffee locals, Superfino, features a different single origin coffee bean each week. I usually waltz past the sign each day and order my takeaway latte (or don't even need to do that as they know my regular order), but last week, the coffee menu caught my eye. As a stovetop espresso drinker in weekends, I like to experiment with different types of beans and learn about their origins. Basically, what you grind and brew directly affects the flavour nuances you get. And so an idea was conceived and Single Origin Monday was born.

Be warned that I do intend to cheat and add sugar to my espresso. Don't judge me - my barista has already done that once he got over the shock of me drinking black coffee bug before realising he had already got rid of the bag saying where this week's single origin beans came from. Never mind!

So, today kicks off Single Origin Monday. Much like Cheese Scone Friday, which is my reward for surviving another week intact, I see Single Origin Monday as a great way to kick start the working week with a concentrated shot of caffeine. During winter, it may also be just the reason to get out of bed on a Monday morning. I also look forward to caffeinating my way around the world, if such a thing exists.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Raspberry marshmallow frosting

I have made a new discovery and declare it to be my current baking obsession: raspberry marshmallow frosting. This stuff is magical! We call it sticky icing, for  reasons that become immediately obvious once you make it.

The original recipe comes from Gran's Sweet Pantry and is three times this size so I have written it out with adjusted measurements. A single recipe will easily ice a standard cake. A double mixture will also fill it with some left over. A triple mixture means there is plenty to ice a cake, give away to other bakers and still have some left in the fridge. You can use any flavour powder (such as the Fresh As freeze dried ingredients range) or essence. I've topped lemon cake and banana cupcakes with raspberry marshmallow frosting with great results.

Raspberry marshmallow frosting (aka sticky icing)

  • 1 egg white
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ tablespoon flavoured powder (or essence)
  • 170 g sugar
  • ¼ cup boiling water
  1. Whisk the egg white, cream of tartar, flavour and sugar together slowly in a mixer.
  2. When fully combined, pour the boiling water in while still mixing slowly.
  3. Turn the mixer up to a higher speed and whip until soft peaks form. Leave to cool before frosting cake or cupcakes.
Raspberry marshmallow frosting
aka sticky icing
The mixture goes firm in the fridge and softens again (but holds its shape) when at room temperature. It is best used within hours of making it, especially if you want to pipe frosting onto cupcakes. It is delightfully sticky and unbelievably yummy!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Gran's Sweet Pantry - Natalie Oldfield

As a baker, I am amassing a reasonable arsenal of recipe books to go with all my baking toys equipment. I love thumbing through beautiful glossy pages and imagining how I could recreate this for various special occasions. Food porn, much?

There are a few titles on my wish list that I will eventually buy, but they are not necessarily the trendy ones you'd expect. I'm pretty fussy now in that I no longer buy recipe books full of what I call 'silly' ingredients, that is, a recipe that requires 1/4 teaspoon of something that is hideously expensive and that I will not realistically use again before it reaches its best before date. Give me good, simple recipes using variations on basic ingredients and I'm happy. It also helps me decide what to keep and what to put on Trade Me.

Enter Gran's Sweet Pantry by Natalie Oldfield. I can honestly say that every recipe I have tried (only four so far, but with plans for more) has turned out almost-perfectly first time. Apart from the odd cooking time, or discovering that some of the fillings and toppings easily make twice the quantity needed, this is a book that I can pick up and confidently try a new recipe without needing a practice run.

For example, after a lifelong fear of baking sponges, I successfully managed my first ever hot water sponge cake with both chicken and duck eggs. Last week, I made marshmallow frosting for the first time and declare it a great success - so much so that my 6-year-old nephew, who has recently decided he no longer likes raspberries or marshmallows, declared "that sticky icing was actually really nice". Score!

Lemon cake with raspberry marshmallow frosting ... well, what was left of it.
I look forward to baking more goodies from Gran's Sweet Pantry, which I'm adding to the list of #myfavouritethings.