Ginger Kisses and 80’s Rock Stars

80’s rock stars, how I loved your imperfect teeth, your curly hair, your baggy pants and billowing white pirate shirts. Your castaway on a desert island looks, your exuberance and subtle sexuality.

No overt flaunting of your nibbles and nobbles, be you lady or man. Just a luscious and gorgeous sensuality in the way you moved and dressed.

I am talking about you; David Bowie, Michael Hutchence and all of INXS. Yes, you Sting, the strangely sexy Prince, The Police, U2, The Church and The Cure. Yes; you Split Enz, Crowded House, Pat Benatar, Blondie and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, Icehouse, Depeche Mode and New Order.

If I could, I would give you all a big Ginger Kiss. Rest assured, I am not smothering my lips in ginger sauce and going in for the pash. (Not that I wouldn’t mind giving a few of the above a smooch or two.) I am talking about that delightful New Zealand cake like biscuit, sandwiched with a buttery, mock cream type icing.

My childhood is embedded with memories of my paternal grandmother Nana J opening a packet of these wee puffy clouds from heaven. The spicy smell of them would waft towards you and your mouth watered with great expectation. Mr Bagpipes has memories of his mum baking them from scratch back in the day but by the time us grandkids had come along, Nana was busy running the business side of things for their trucking business. So, opening a packet of these ginger kisses was quicker by far. Nana still baked and cooked, her pavlova roll was legendary.

Baking these has been on the old ‘to do’ list for a while and I was very happy with the result. Warming, gingery and sweet. They were a real treat. Sure they weren’t quite as puffy as the store purchased ones, as I used a wholemeal flour but they had more substance. Try using the same amount of plain flour if you want an even lighter result.

GINGER KISSES

WHAT YOU NEED
115g butter, softened
85g caster sugar
1 egg, room temperature
2 tsp golden syrup, placed in a small dish and warmed slightly
125g/1 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp hot water

Filling
30g butter
120g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla essence or 1/4 tsp vanilla powder
2 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp ginger or 1 tbsp preserved ginger

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C or 170C non-fan forced oven, line two baking trays with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg, followed by the golden syrup.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and spices.
Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the butter mixture and lastly, stir in the baking soda, dissolved in the hot water.
Put the mixture in small teaspoonfuls (I did large teaspoonfuls and they spread quite a bit) on the trays, or use a piping bag with a 1cm/1/2 inch opening. (I am not a fan of the intricate art of piping so I didn’t.)
Bake for about ten minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.

Finishing
Making the filling by beating the butter, icing sugar and vanilla together. Slowly add the boiling water a little at a time and continue to beat until the mixture is very light and creamy. Once the icing looks light and fluffy enough, stop adding the water as you may not need all of it. (I added too much water too quickly and had to add extra icing sugar, so my filling was a little heavier than it should have been.)
Pair up the Ginger Kisses, matching the sizes, smear a small amount of filling on each lower half and stick them together.
Store airtight, this made about 12 very large Ginger Kisses, next time I will make them a tad smaller.

Recipe from Ladies A Plate, Traditional Home Baking by Alexa Johnston. Published by Penguin Books 2008

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Christmas advent calendars and cranberry chocolate pistachio shortbread

It has become apparent to me recently why ‘child friendly Advent calendars’ were invented. It was to assist parent conversations with time conscious, anxious seven year olds. In a Christmas nutshell; it was to avoid the parent in question, doing their nut and rocking in a corner with their thumb tucked safely in their mouth.

Kid 2, in his hyper awareness of the universe and it’s going ons, likes to know exactly what we are doing and when, what time it is, how many days until…..I mean it folks. He wants to know the answer to these questions, more than once a day.

Kid 2, to me, for the zillionth third time: ‘Mum, how many more days until Christmas?’
Me: (Imagine a sweet mummy voice here full of patience and infinite love.) ‘I don’t know darling, go and count the days on the Advent calendar.’

It is because of this calendar that, when faced with a constant barrage of Christmas time questions, I can present a patient, non-yelling like a deranged banshee parental face. This mummy can now rest safely at night, knowing that the authorities will not be knocking on the door anytime soon.

I blathered on about what shortbread means to me last year. In short, Christmas is shortbread and shortbread is Christmas. Up to today, this Cheergerm has baked good old fashioned shortbread, gluten free shortbread and chocolate ginger shortbread. (Hmm, I see a pattern.) Now I present to you a very grown up chocolate, pistachio and cranberry shortbread.

The buttery goodness of this biscuit mixed with tart berries, rich dark chocolate and a nutty crunch, is a festive delight and a wonderful Christmas edible gift. To top it off, this recipe can easily be made gluten free or not. The flour is a straight swap, just make sure you use a good quality gluten free flour blend.

It’s not so bad being a grown up if you get to eat biscuits such as these. Even if you do get asked the time and date more than one very human being ever should be.

CRANBERRY, CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO SHORTBREAD, GLUTEN FREE OR NOT

WHAT YOU NEED
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 3/4 cups of gluten free plain flour or regular plain flour (I use a good quality gluten free flour such as White Wings.)
1/4 cup rice flour
1/2 cup lightly toasted pistachios, finely chopped
1/2 cup dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and sift the flours together into a bowl.
Cream the butter and add the sugar gradually (I used a mixer), beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Work in the flour gradually until the mixture is just combined.
Add the pistachios, cranberries and chocolate and knead lightly to bring together to a dough. (I do this in the bowl.) Knead a little longer for a regular version.
Divide the dough in half, roll each half out to a 3-4 cm log. Wrap in clingwrap and refrigerate for half an hour to an hour.
Slice the logs into 1-2 cm thickness, depending on your fancy, place 10mm apart on a baking tray and prick each piece all over with a fork. This mixture was a bugger to cut due to the chocolate and nuts, so the colder the better. Some shortbread may go out of shape but just form it back into a similar shape using your hands.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp and straw-coloured. (Regular shortbread will be quicker to bake, probably only 15-20 minutes.)
Cool down on wire racks.
Makes about 20-25 pieces.

Cooking Notes: When adding the flour to the mixture, I pop a teatowel over the mixer to stop the flour ‘floofling’ (an exact culinary term) all over the joint.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a Margaret Fulton recipe from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook

Old school shortbread:
https://cheergerm.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/shortbread-for-christmas/

Gluten free shortbread
https://cheergerm.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/shortbread-for-a-hungry-silly-yak/

Chocolate, ginger and spelt shortbread
https://cheergerm.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/chocolate-ginger-spelt-shortbread


Pavlova zen and my hive

With a trio of family birthdays to celebrate, the house was packed to the rafters. Fizzy wine bottles were popping and we all talked over each other (nothing new there). We began the evening by chowing down on a selection of Bruny Island Cheese Co cheeses and some fat, salty olives.

At one point I was in another room in the house, collecting something or other.
I managed to stop and still myself (not an easy task) and listen to the hubbub. It was a loud and happy buzz, which made me think. This is my hive, my source of happiness. It’s not always harmonious (we ain’t a cult for goodness sakes) but even when our voices are raised in gleeful disagreement, there is no better sound.

To help celebrate three birthdays there were fittingly, three desserts. The pavlova, Sister 2’s amazeballs baked cheesecake and some decadently iced chocolate cupcakes.

The Yak adores pavlova and it is a super gluten free dessert. This rather large version is as light as a unicorns tinkle and as fluffy as a fairy tutu. It has a crisp outer shell and a marshmallow interior that is synonymous with a good pavlova. (Well, that’s how we like them here, feel free to disagree.) My very favourite fruit to accompany this dessert is that somewhat saucy, acidic passionfruit. This crazy fruit brings a wonderful acidic zing that perfectly counterbalances the sugary hit of the pav.

I pride myself on my meringue skill. (This is up there with my other useful talent of attracting the attention of random crazy strangers in the street.) You may have heard this all before but for what it’s worth, here are my top meringue tips.

1. Don’t use new eggs, older egg white works better.
2. Bring the eggs to room temperature.
3. Make sure your bowl (stainless steel or glass) is very clean and totally dry. Water is your enemy at this point.
4. No egg yolk in your whites.
5. Beat your eggs to a stiff peak before adding the sugar, always add that pinch of salt first.
6. Add your sugar slowly, then beat until the sugar is dissolved and no longer gritty. Do not rush this process. You will not regret this, this is the Zen of Pavlova. Patience is a virtue when it comes to meringue. This is not a job you can rush if you want to achieve that stiff, white glossy goop that is synonymous with this much beloved dessert.

PAVLOVA

WHAT YOU NEED
6 egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 cups caster sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder or 1/2 tsp vanilla paste or essence
1 tbl cornflour
2 tsp vinegar

HOW YOU DO IT
Heat the oven to 180C.
Place baking paper on a large tray and draw a 22 cm circle for a flatter pavlova or a 20cm circle for a taller version. (It will spread a little.) Turn the paper pencil side down on the baking tray.
Beat the egg whites and pinch of salt with an electric beater on low until they stand in firm peaks.
Keep beating the egg white on low adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time.
Once all of the sugar is added, continue beating on a medium speed until the meringue is no longer gritty to the touch. This takes about 5 minutes or so.
Fold through the vanilla, cornflour and vinegar.
Spread the mixture with a large spoon onto the prepared tray and place in the oven. Drop temperature down to 130 (120 fan forced) and bake for one hour. Rotate every 20 minutes to ensure even baking and colouring.
Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the pavlova cool down in the oven.
Expect cracks on the surface and the pavlova may collapse a little as it cools, don’t panic, this is all ok.
Topped with whipped cream and your favourite fruit. Think passionfruit, strawberries, mangoes, nectarines, peaches and kiwi fruit. Use one fruit or make it a fruity salad.

A Cheergerm adaptation based on a crazy New Zealand teatowel recipe, a Margaret Fulton recipe and an online Annabel Langbein recipe

IMG_4816


http://www.annabel-langbein.com/recipes/fantasy-pavlova/62/

http://www.brunyislandcheese.com.au/


Hungry Games and Scott’s Farewell Square

As of late, I have been immersed in what is known as YA (Young Adult) fiction. It happens to involve a lot of ‘end of the world’ type scenarios. It is here we usually read of a hapless teenager who has found him or herself in a dystopian society where survival of the fittest is the order of the day. They fall chastely in love with another luckless adolescent or mayhaps a vampire, all whilst changing the course of history.

I have come to the conclusion that if I were to be suddenly transported into such a scenario, I would not last long. I would simply poop my pants and suffer a major heart attack whilst being shot at/hunted by mutated animals/jumping from train to train/taking part in a battle to the death or wearing a shimmering on fire mockingjay type outfit. I would be the sad loser who lay down and just died of fright.

With that, I give you this old school Weet-Bix slice. In my own adolescence there was often a version of this wheaty bake waiting at home. Made by mum in an attempt to ward off any ‘Hunger Games’ type scenarios that may have occurred between myself and my three sisters. In turn, it is now one of my lads fave morning or afternoon tea delights.

My mum usually baked a melt and mix version but I have provided here a creamed butter and sugar version from my fave NZ baking cookbook, ‘Ladies: A Plate’. This slice is named Scott’s Farewell Square due to the fact that the famous explorer Captain Scott’s last expedition, sailed from Port Chalmers New Zealand, in November 1910. Alexa Johnston, the author of this cookbook, tells us that the recipe appears in a 1960’s Dunedin church recipe book. She imagines that a plate of this moreish slice may have been given to the ill fated Scott and his team before they sailed away to the South Pole.

This is the kind of hearty baking that will sustain hungry adventurers of all ages. (I have decided to enrol my lads in a survivalist course, just to maximise their chance of staying alive if things go bottoms up in the future. At the very least, they need to know how to shoot a bow and arrow or stake an evil vampire if needs be.)

SCOTT’S FAREWELL SQUARE

WHAT YOU NEED
115g butter
1 cup/140g brown sugar, coconut or rapadura sugar
1 egg
2 tsps golden syrup
1 1/3 cups/170g wholemeal flour
1 pinch salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbl Cocoa powder
4 Weet-Bix finely crumbled
1 cup/85g desiccated coconut
3/4 cup/100g chopped dates

Icing
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 tbl Cocoa powder
1 tsp butter, melted
Extra coconut for sprinkling

WHAT YOU DO
Preheat oven to 180C and line a shallow tin with baking paper. (The slice is roughly 22 x 22cm so I used a bigger tray but not all of it.)
Cream butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl (I used a mixer) until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and golden syrup and mix until it comes together.
Sit in the flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa powder.
Mix in the Weet-Bix, coconut and dates and stir thoroughly to combine.
Spread evenly (about 1.5cm – 2cm thick) into a baking tin and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, let cool in the tin for about 15 minutes then put on a wire rack to cool.

Icing
Sift the icing sugar and cocoa together into a bowl.
Make a thin chocolate icing by adding the melted butter and a little hot water to mix to a spreading consistency.
Spread over the cooled slice, sprinkle with the extra coconut and cut into squares when the icing has set.
Makes 16 squares.

Cooking Notes: the original recipe also calls for 55g each of raisins and chopped walnuts. I leave them out due to sproglets preferences but feel free to chuck them in. I have knocked back the amount of sugar and icing sugar from the original recipe and used wholemeal flour.

A Slightly Cheergerm adaptation from ‘Ladies A Plate’ by Alexa Johnston.

A gluten free Weetbix made from sorghum was recently released in Australia so a GF version slice will be posted in the near future, as well as a melt and mix chocolate Weetbix slice recipe.


Why is there a bicycle pump in our bedroom and Louise Cake

Living with small children means that you may find particular accoutrements of childhood in your bedroom.

Definition of a grown up bedroom : The place where the so called ‘magic happens’. (Yeah right.) A serene escape from the world, lush with soft furnishings in soothing contemporary prints. Flickering soy candles abound and the room is resplendent with enough Europeans pillows to well, make a European happy. (Not a husband as they will defiantly and often state ‘I hate all these cushions, they have no effin point anyway.’)

In our boudouir today I found:

A bicycle pump, a small soccer whistle, a paint with water book, a pretend plastic childrens winner medal, one grotty little boys sock and a teeny tiny plastic toilet.

The magic that happens in our bedroom is ‘how the hell did this crap get here and why?’

The other magic that happens in our household is how quickly tasty treats can be gobbled up by said small children. Especially Kid 1 who eats as if he is part of a family of ten and is afraid of missing out on his fair share.

This slice is one of those goodies, an old school New Zealand classic comprising of a thin layer of biscuity cake (or is that a cakety biscuit?), a sandwich layer of tart jam, topped off with another thin layer of coconut meringue. I have no idea who Louise was but man, that chick had it going on in the ideas department.

My memory could be playing tricks but a hazy recollection of this slice oozing with homemade apricot jam in the middle, is knocking around the old brainbox. The original recipe has been slightly cheergermed by using wholemeal spelt flour, raw sugar and knocking back the sugar quantity a tad.

Unfortunately, the cupboard was bare of home made jam, hence, store purchased jam was used. Some of Mums homemade stuff would have been like, totally ace. (Mum??)

LOUISE CAKE

WHAT YOU NEED
Base
70g butter, room temperature
55g sugar (panela, raw caster sugar, rapadura)
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon juice
150g wholemeal spelt flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Topping
4 tbsp raspberry or tart red jam
2 egg whites
80g sugar (I used organic panela, an unrefined sweetener made from evaporated sugar cane juice)
55g desiccated coconut
Extra coconut for sprinkling

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 170 and line a shallow 30 x 21 cm or 12 x 8 inch tin with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light then beat in the egg yolks and mix thoroughly.
Add the lemon juice, then sift in the flour and baking powder and mix to a firm dough.
Press the dough evenly into the prepared tin and spread over the jam. You don’t need a thick layer.
Beat the egg whites until stiff then gently fold in the caster sugar and the coconut using a metal spoon. Spread carefully over the jam, trying to keep an even thickness. Sprinkle with a little more coconut.
Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the coconut is just turning a golden brown. (As I used raw sugar, it does get a bit browner.)
Remove from the oven and cut into squares whilst still warm.
Store in an airtight container, makes 12 squares.

Recipe slightly adapted from ‘Ladies: a Plate.’ By Alexa Johnston


Chocolate ginger spelt shortbread

Kid 2: I am bad at smelling things but really good at hearing.
Kid 1: I am good at everything except doing the splits and things like that.

Me, I am good at baking shortbread at Christmas time. (I am not good at the splits and things like that either.) The kids had been asking for shortbread a lot lately. Being the kind and doting parent I am, I acquiesced and thought I would bake them some.

The idea of spelt shortbread has been creeping and a crawlin around the deep dark recesses of my brain box for quite a while now. A little flavour experimentation was in order. (Cue mad scientist laughter.) Then it dawns on me. Chocolate and ginger. A culinary match made in heaven. (They got married quite a while ago but nobody asked me to the wedding.)

These biccies give you a punch of bitter chocolate with a peppery ginger hum in the background. Kid 2 loved them, Kid 1 wasn’t a fan. All other grown up human beans who consumed them were enamoured. You be the judge.

Chocolate and ginger spelt shortbread

WHAT YOU NEED
1 cup spelt white flour (I use an organic brand of spelt flour)
1 1/2 cups wholemeal spelt flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 tsps ground ginger (seems like a lot but you need it to get past the chocolate)
250g butter, room temperature (but not too soft)
1/2 cup raw caster sugar

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Sift the spelt flours, rice flour, cocoa powder and ginger into a large bowl.
Cream the butter and add the sugar gradually, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Work in the flour gradually and with a light hand, knead to form a dough. (I do this in the bowl.)
Divide the dough in half, roll each half out to a 3-4 cm log. Wrap in clingwrap and refrigerate for half an hour.
Slice the logs into 1-2 cm thickness, depending on your fancy, place 10mm apart on a baking tray and prick each piece all over with a fork.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until crisp. It is a bit tricky telling when chocolate shortbread is ready. Also, because of the wholemeal spelt, hese little beauties needed a little more time in the oven than regular Joe shortbread.
Cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 20-25 pieces.

A cheergerm adaptation from a Margaret Fulton shortbread recipe


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Spelt Anzac Biscuits

With Easter a not so distant chocolatey memory, those of us in Australia and New Zealand, turn our attention to Anzac Day this coming Friday. Anzac stands for ‘Australia and New Zealand Army Corp’ and this important national holiday marks the anniversary of the first military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces in World War I.

Anzac Day has become a day to commemorate those brave soldiers who fought in the battle of Gallipoli in 1915 and also serves as a way of remembering all of our soldiers who lost their lives in World Wars I, II and and all military operations since then.

This brief description fails to convey the intangible ‘spirit of Anzac’ that is ingrained in the psyche of both our nations. It speaks of courage, humility, humour, mateship, understatement and facing unbeatable odds. The humble Anzac biscuit imbues this spirit and is a much loved biscuit, especially on Anzac Day.

A little bit of Anzac bikkie history, according to Alexa Johnston’s ‘Ladies: a Plate’. This biscuit wasn’t actually sent to New Zealand soldiers at Gallipolli as popular legend has it, at least, not under this name. Professor Helen Leach of Otago University researched the history of this biscuit and discovered that is wasn’t named until the year after World War I ended.

My adapted version is a little more like the recipe published in the 1933 Ideal Cookery Book, published by the Plunket Society. A Mrs Wyvern Wilson (strangely my mothers maiden name but no relation, I think!) used a well known formula of wholemeal flour and walnuts without oats. She also used much less sugar than today’s regular recipes. I do use oats and avoid nuts so they can be sent to school. If you have no spelt flour, it is just as good using wholemeal plain flour.

Not overly sweet, these biscuits have caramel undertones. The initial bite is crunchy but morphs into a delicious chewiness as you munch your way through it. The smell of them baking cries ‘childhood’ and ‘eat me now!’

Even though I consider myself somewhat of a pacifist, I am thankful for the sacrifices these brave men made to ensure the freedom of many. There exists a photograph of my maternal grandfather from World War II. He is on a horse, in Egypt. A young, handsome New Zealand soldier version of Lawrence Olivier. My other Pop worked on the railways back in New Zealand as he was unable to enlist due to health reasons.

Both of these men contributed to the war effort, as did all those left at home who assisted in other meaningful and valued ways. How lucky we were that our Pop came back. (Well, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here and that would really suck.)

Lest we forget.

Spelt Anzac biscuits

YOU NEED
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
3/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour (or wholemeal plain flour)
2/3 cup coconut sugar (or raw caster sugar, rapadura sugar)
115g butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp boiling water

WHAT YOU DO
Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. If you like, pop the trays into the fridge to get them cold, this does help the biscuit (somehow!) but I don’t always do it.
In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, coconut, flour and sugar.
Place butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon until they have melted together.
Put the baking soda in a cup, add the boiling water and mix to dissolve the soda before pouring it into the mixture in the saucepan.
Stir with a wooden spoon then tip it into the dry ingredients and mixture to a crumbly mixture.
Drop heaped teaspoonfuls on the trays, or roll into balls for a more even shape, leaving 3cm of space around each biscuit as they do spread.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until they have spread out and are a dark golden colour. I like to give them 8 minutes then turn the trays around to ensure even baking.
Cool on a rack, Make sure they are fully cooled before storing as this helps to keep them crisp. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 18 biscuits.

A cheergerm adaptation from ‘Ladies, A Plate. Traditional home baking’ by Alexa Johnston


Hot cross buns, a love letter to mum

Growing up, our mum baked bread. The aromas of rising yeast and mouthwatering smells of fresh loaves, speak to me of childhood. The warm crust slathered with butter and homemade jam was the best bit. These memories transport me back to our paddock surrounded ‘Billenya’ house in Holloway Road.

Of course, the bread was mostly wholemeal. My plea of ‘Mum, can’t I just have store bought white bread?’, must have driven her nuts. Rarely do my own sproglets have white bread. My, we really do turn into our mothers.

Mum also made her own hot cross buns. Having children of my own, helped me to truly appreciate what our own mother did for us. Not everyone is lucky enough to have mothers as emotionally and physically present as she was. (Even when things were less than idyllic.) As time has passed, some friends have sadly lost their mums. I am feeling very thankful for mum today.

Apart from pizza, yeast based products have never been my forte. That is about to change. On this slightly cloudy and drizzly day, with Easter on the horizon, something in me longs for the aromas of mums kitchen. These hot cross buns are a homage to her. In every knead of the dough, I pour in gratitude for all of her hard work, commitment and for always feeding her four girls so well and healthily.

No matter how much we may have moaned about it.

Hot cross buns

Light, airy with a lovely warmth from the spices, these were absolutely delicious, scoffed down with a cup of tea. Ambrosia.

I have slightly adapted an SBS website recipe by halving it, adding a touch of spelt flour and using less fruit. I have also provided the full recipe quantities if you would like to make about 20 buns. (See after the recipe.) I made 9 out of this quantity.

I only added sultanas as the kidlets don’t like a lot of dried fruit, but feel free to add some chopped apricots and currants if you like. (Maybe 50g or so.) Keep in mind the 1 hour and 45 minutes resting time.

YOU NEED
200 ml milk
60g butter
2 cups bread (high protein ) flour
1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
40g raw caster sugar (or regular)
1 x 7g yeast sachet
120g sultanas
2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp salt
Zest one lemon
1/2 beaten egg

Cross paste (this makes too much for 9, its the full amount for 20 buns)
1/2 cup plain flour
75 ml sunflower oil (I used rice bran oil)
65ml water

Spice glaze
1/4 tsp mixed spice
70g raw caster sugar
50ml water

HOW YOU DO IT
Place the milk and butter in a small saucepan over low to medium heat and stir until combined. Let cool slightly.
Place the sugar, yeast, flours, sultanas, cinnamon, mixed spice, salt and lemon zest into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir to combine.
Stir in the egg, then the milk mixture.
Knead for 9 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and elastic.
Turn the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and please in a warm and draught free spot for 1 hour or until doubled in size. (This process is called ‘proving’.)
Knock back the dough and divide into 9 or 10 equal pieces. Knead each piece for 1 minute until it is a smooth ball.
Place in rows on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm, draught free spot for 45 minutes or until dough doubles in size.

Preheat oven to 220C (conventional, 200C fan forced)
To make paste for the cross, place flour, oil and water in a bowl and stir to a smooth paste. Place into a piping bag with a small nozzle (or a small ziplock plastic bag with the tip cut off) and pipe a cross shape onto each dough ball.
Bake for 10 minutes at 220C (conventional, or 200C fan forced) for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 200C (or 180C fan forced) and bake for a further 9 minutes or until golden.

Make spice glaze while buns are baking, put mixed spice, sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, dissolving sugar. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Brush buns generously with glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature with butter.

A tip from one of my lovely sissies: If your house is draughty, try proving in the microwave! (Just don’t turn it on).

To make 20 buns:
400 ml milk, 120g butter, 4 cups bread (high protein ) flour, 1 cup wholemeal spelt flour, 75g raw caster sugar (or regular), 2 x 7g yeast sachet, 240g sultannas, 3 1/2 tsps cinnamon, 1 tsp mixed spice, 1 tsp salt, zest one lemon, 1 beaten egg.
The paste recipe is the same, for the glaze, use 1/2 tsp mixed spice and 125 g caster sugar.

Go here for the original recipe: http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/hot-cross-buns-0


Ginger cat crunch

Kid 2: In the olden days did they use to eat ginger cats?
Me: Ummm no, dear, why?
Kid 2: Oh, what about when they needed ginger?
Me: Well, ummm, actually, ginger is from a plant.

His relief is palpable. For those of you who were also concerned as to the true origin of ginger, you can all breathe a sigh of relief.

The lads adore this Ginger Crunch. A crisp and crunchy biscuity slice topped off with a spicy thin layer of icing. I have made two small changes to a recipe from a beloved cookbook that the mothership once gave me. The book, ‘Ladies: A Plate’ is a gorgeous conglomeration of classic New Zealand baking recipes.

Ginger Cat Crunch

WHAT YOU NEED
The Base
80g coconut sugar (or raw caster sugar, rapadura)
200g wholemeal flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking powder
115 g butter

Icing
55g butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 tsp ground ginger
55 g icing sugar, sifted

HOW YOU DO IT
Base
Preheat oven to 180C and line a shallow 30 x 21 cm tin with baking paper.
Put all the dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse briefly to combine them. Drop in the butter and process just until the mixture forms fine crumbs. (You can do all this by hand, rubbing the butter into the flour but this is easier!)
Pour the crumbs into the tin, spread them out evenly and press down firmly using your fingers to compact them slightly. They will stick together properly as they bake.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the mixture is a pale golden brown.

Icing
While the base is cooking, put the butter, golden syrup and ginger into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring. When they are melted and combined, tip in the icing sugar mixture and mix to a fairly runny consistency.
Remove the base from the oven and immediately pour on the icing. Spread it evenly over the surface with a spatula.
Cut the mixture into fingers or squares, leave to cool then break it apart along the cuts and store in an airtight container.
Makes 12 squares or about 16-20 fingers.

Note, to make it really crunchy you can make it thinner than I did. My mixture didn’t quite fill the whole pan so the slice was more, ummm, slicey than super crunchy.

Recipe slightly adapted from ‘Ladies: A Plate. Traditional home baking.’ By Alexa Johnston

Please note, no ginger cats were harmed in this recipe


Something yummy for a post school tummy

My memories of growing up in the outskirts of Melbourne invariably included weather extremes. 40 degree hot days that turned your eyeballs inside out and icy cold wind that made you question which hemisphere you actually lived in.

No matter what the weather, one consistent memory was coming home to Mum’s pikelets. Light, airy and always delicious.

These are not those pikelets.

No matter what I do, whenever I tried to replicate her recipe, they never quite tasted the same. Only bitterness and self loathing ensued.

A few months ago, whilst perusing the internet, I found a neat wee recipe on a blog called Cupcakes and Cauldrons. I have tinkered with it a tad (yes, I am on a buckwheat spree) and these pikelets now pop up on the afternoon tea menu at least once a week. The lads scoff them down every time they are placed before them. A tad of butter and a smear of jam and all is once again, right with the world.

The ulimate praise from The Kids has been ‘They are almost as good as Nana’s.’

I can live with that.

WHOLEMEAL AND BUCKWHEAT PIKELETS

YOU NEED
1 1/4 cup wholemeal flour
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
3 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tbl coconut sugar (or raw, rapadura, caster)
2 tbl butter, melted

METHOD
Beat eggs, buttermilk and milk.
Sift flours, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and gradually add the milk mixture. (I sometimes use an electric hand beater to do this.)
Add the melted butter. (If the mixture is a little stiff, add a tad more milk.)
Let the batter rest for 30 minutes to an hour.
Heat a non-stick pan, grease lightly.
Place spoonfuls of the batter on the pan. When bubbles begin to form on the surface, turn over and cook on the other side.

Go here for the original recipe: http://cauldronsandcupcakes.com/2012/09/22/nanas-pikelet-recipe-and-a-few-good-yarns/