Sunday, 25 November 2012

A quiet morning in the kitchen

Sometimes I make decisions quickly, mostly I make them slowly. When it comes to baking, I'm slow. I like to take my time, pour over recipe books, my favourite magazines and sometimes I consult the internet; although I’ve learnt that there is a LOT of dodgy recipes out there! So, with a discerning eye (some may call lazy) I find at least 3 recipes I like parts of. I’ve always thought that with baking you have to be precise, it’s such a science. Mostly, this is true – to make a mousse set, fillings not ooze out of their encasings and the right ratio of butter to sugar for that perfect cupcake. However, I have learnt that I can adapt – yes, a huge revelation for me – as long as I keep my measurements about right, I can add flavours and subtle changes to my baked goods.
Spreading out my Australian Women’s Weekly ‘Old Fashioned Favourites’, my collection of photocopied recipes from various sources - friends, old magazines (in the waiting rooms of medical clinics...shhh you have to be quiet when ripping out pages while people are sitting in close proximity) and the internet, which I usually document the origin but with this particular Chocolate Mousse layered cheesecake I did not. The layer I used was adapted from Dorie Greenspans Baking: From My Home to Yours. The 3rd recipe I really liked was from Doughmesstic’s Toasted Raspberry Coconut Cheesecake - for the addition of a raspberry coulis layer. Making life complicated for myself? Hmm.... I've always taken the long road, the scenic route – often coming back to the start but somewhat wiser...I think!

I contemplated getting out of my jammies, but I was comfortable and it’s my kitchen, so what’s the point of getting dressed? Only at the moment where I realised (in mild panic) that my spring-form cake tin was NOT going to fit in any of my roasting dishes. And, yes, I’d already done the base and filled it with the creamy lusciousness of the cheesecake filling. There was no going back to the smaller tin. It was time to face reality and get dressed to solve this problem. Normally I would've rung around my friends – Katie being first, she is an awesome cook and has lots of goodies! But, we are in technological silence here in Port Fairy with the phone exchange being burnt down – no Internet and no phones. Well, extremely limited. I could get in the car, drive around to all my friends’ places until I found a large pan. Or, I could go next door (with my ruler, oh dear....) and see if my lovely neighbour Mary has anything. I know they entertain a lot, so my hopes were high. I knocked on the door and waited...nothing, bugger. I looked around my quiet street and worked out my next target. Judy on the other side has a fabulous fruit and vegetable garden and we are always chatting over the fence. Just as I was walking away, Mary called out to me. She was just getting out of her pyjamas too! That’s ok, it’s only midday. She had the pan, I measured it up, Mary laughed at me and my ruler.
I laughed at me and my ruler.

Back to the (now) epic baking session at hand....all ready for the oven in its cosy water bath, I gently and lovingly placed my lemon cheesecake in to bake for and hour and a half. Now, waiting time until I can lavish it with lemon curd. That will have to wait as I have run out of caster sugar. Talk about organised!

Notes to self: Make sure your spring-form cake tin fits into a roasting dish before you fill the tin and realise your dish isn't big enough and like me, need to run next door and ask your neighbour. Not such a bad thing for community good will.

Mental note – make your kind neighbour something special to thank her. There will be no leftovers on this cake you can be sure, especially when you are taking it to your work Christmas party where it will be devoured in a breath full.

Post it note: I used a different recipe for my lemon curd this time. I consulted the September 2012 edition of Delicious where they had a nice, simple version of this delicious treat, using whole eggs instead of just the yolks. It was either going to be scrambled lemony eggs or a silky lemon delight!

So far, all is well in lemon curd land. Looks like there will be leftovers to pop in a jar with my label and thank my neighbour. [Print Recipe]

Saturday, 17 November 2012

A Sunny Saturday

It's chocolate cake Saturday here by the sea. The morning was spent wandering around the local farmer's market - sourcing free range meat (trickier than I thought), eating Rita's samosas - the best in the district with the queue 10 deep, and checking out the range of macarons, finally choosing triple chocolate. Doggie's nose was on fire with the delectable treats on display - the stall holders guarding their goodies protectively.
The farmers market is always a social event, I never expect to just walk through without a chat. 

After discussing farming methods with a local producer of pork and lamb, I walked away feeling somewhat disheartened at the difficulty in obtaining not only good quality meat products, but sustainable, environmentally friendly and cruelty free. Easier to be vegetarian, but I do like meat, so it's a difficult choice. I will keep on researching. My aim is to find local meat producers, that do not consider their animals as 'waste' products at any stage of their lives and are free to range all of the time. We as consumers are so brainwashed it's scary. Ignorance truly is bliss.

Ok, back to chocolate. My 11 year old son stated earlier in the week that he wanted to make a chocolate cake with chocolate icing today. He wants to give some to his teacher at school and eat the rest, of course. Finding a basic chocolate cake recipe amongst my array of cookbooks and magazines was harder than I thought. Most of them involved extra ingredients and methods - I wanted him to start with an easy one that he could do totally on his own. Baking is such a science and for a 'word' person like myself, I am not brilliant at science. But I am a very ordered kind of person, so baking is perfect - exact measurements and times (well, generally). I helped with the measuring and little things that make baking easier - softening the butter for 10 seconds in the microwave for example. You've no idea how many years it took me to realise this! The amount of times I creamed sugar and butter straight out of the fridge! 

Little friend Oscar turned up, just in time to help clean the beaters (err...lick them 'til glistening). After adapting a recipe from The Women's Weekly Old Fashioned Favourites, we poured the velvety batter into a large cake pan and let the oven do the rest. The boys are outside in the sunshine playing cricket with doggie (he tends to run off with the ball a lot). I wonder how long it will take them to remember the cake in the oven? Hopefully, I will eat my own words along with a moist, chocolately cake that may or may not make it to school on Monday. After all, there are children and a whole Sunday to go before then....

P.S They did remember the cake! We ate half of it when my dear friend Maria and her lovely Irish fella popped in - with pink champagne of course! No time to ice it, straight down the hatch. Now, for that second slice with chocolate icing....