Thursday, December 8, 2011

Xmas morning muffins {Recipe}


The pirate party is over and we're finally into the swing of the Xmas season here at Di-licious HQ.

On Monday, Olive had her Kinder Xmas concert.  Fifty-five children dressed up in festive colours belted out the special songs they'd been secretly rehearsing in their bedrooms for past five weeks.

Olive off to the kinder Xmas concert with a plate of little Di-licious Gingerbread men.

This week I thought I'd offer up a suggestion to take along to a Xmas themed morning tea.  I'm on playgroup duty tomorrow with my darling friend Lisa and we've planned some gorgeous xmas crafts.  The duty roster also means we're in charge of morning tea so today I'm keeping it simple by baking up Nigella's Christmas Morning Muffins.

Orange and cranberries scented with fresh nutmeg are a fabulous flavour combination that just shout Xmas. Muffins are quick to whip up (important at this time of year) and if you measure out the dry ingredients on Xmas eve, you could easily whip these up on Xmas morning for a leisurely breakfast in front of the tree with a cup of coffee.

I like that these muffins aren't overly sweet.  You could happily follow Nigella's suggestion of serving them with unsalted butter and marmalade.  [I just now realised that I forgot to add the cinnamon sugar on top.  Whoops....]

For convenience I've substituted the melted butter with olive oil (one less step). I also decided to add the zest of the orange to the mix as well as a half teaspoon of cinnamon and cardamom. That's the kind of girl I am. The choice is entirely up to you.

Olive and I picked a new tree decoration each this year - the cupcake for me and the Nutcracker for her.

Olive and I also finally decked the halls at home today - goodbye Jolly Rodgers and hello Christmas tree!  We also created a new tradition - sitting down to watch Olive the Other Reindeer after trimming the tree.

The strings of Norwegian flags are a traditional tree decoration for Xmas,




On a personal note, life has gotten a little more hectic than usual this week.  My mum had a fall and managed to break both her hip and wrist.

I've been at the hospital almost every night this week so baking and writing Xmas cards have slipped down the priority list and I've been absent from The Mummy Di-alogue and Facebook as well.  We're not sure she'll make it to Olive's ballet concert two weeks away but optimistic she'll be hone for Xmas.  

All of a sudden wishes for good health in the new year have taken on a new level of importance.

What do you eat for breakfast on Xmas morning?


Recipe: Christmas Morning Muffins
Recipe by Nigella Lawson (How to be a Domestic Goddess)  Makes 12 regular sized muffins

1 1/3 cups plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup sugar
good grating of fresh nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1//2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
juice and zest (optional) of one small orange or clementine
approx 1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted or 1/4cup olive oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup dried cranberries - this makes for heavily fruited muffins

For topping:
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Method:

  1. Load up the CD player with your favourite Xmas tunes.
  2. Preheat oven to 180C.  Line 12 cup muffin tray with baking cups.
  3. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and spices.
  4. Squeeze juice into a measuring cup  and then pour enough milk on top till it comes to the 3/4 cup mark.
  5. Mix together milk, juice, butter and egg - beat until well combined.
  6. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. (Remember that a lumpy batter make light muffins!)
  7. Finally stir through the cranberries.
  8. Spoon mixture into baking cups.
  9. Mix together the sugar and ground cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of the muffins.
  10. Bake regular sized muffins for approximately 20mins (mini muffins for approximately 12 minutes) or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when tested.
  11. Allow to cool slightly before serving - as they are or like Nigella, still warm and slathered with unsalted butter and marmalade.
  12. If making ahead, allow muffins to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.  Muffins can be happily frozen.




Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The pirate birthday party


Arrrrghhhhh! Captain Olive and her scurvy crew of pirates celebrated on the high seas this weekend with a Pirate Birthday Party to remember.


Mr Di-licious and I had a lot of fun putting it all together - from making the bunting and treasure bags to constructing the 'Pirate's Den' and last but not least the food.

Captain Olive
The Pirate Barbie Cake
Olive's birthday cake this year brought together four of her favourite things: Barbie, pirates, cake and chocolate. The vanilla buttercake was filled with blackberry jam and vanilla buttercream before being swathed in chocolate ganache and the chocolate fondant skirt.

I found the Barbie pirate costume on eBay and had it shipped over from the US.



So what do you feed a horde of hungry pirates?

----x----
Pirate Party Menu

Fish finger boats
Octopus frankfurts

Pirate hat Oreo pops
Buried treasure chocolate crackles
Chocolate dipped [pretzel] swords

Pirate Barbie cake

Tropical punch
----x----

The Pirate Hat Oreo pops disappeared very quickly!

Buried Treasure chocolate crackles....a timeless classic

The mini pirates really enjoyed playing What's the time Captain Hook? and walking the plank to get their farewell treasure loot bag.

Walking the plank!

Happy 4th birthday Olive!
Playing What's the Time Captain Hook
Pirate HQ
Ready to sail the high seas!
The take home loot bag filled with chocolate gold coins

A special  big thank you to all our wonderful guests, family and friends who helped make it such an amazing day.  A pirate theme is immensely popular and Olive still loves to don the hat and wave her sword while saying "Arrrggghhhh!!!"

What's your favourite birthday party theme?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Serenakake -Norwegian Butter Biscuits {Recipe}




These biscuits hold a very special place in my heart.  It's the first Norwegian recipe my mother gave me.

Back in the day when I was a government PR girl, I would bake a big batch and gift wrap them in cellophane bags to give to my work colleagues.  After a couple of years they guys would get expectant looks on their faces in the last week of work - yes, they are that di-licious!

I like to think of these as Norway's version of the Danish butter cookie you often see in gift tins at Christmas time except its made with love and not in a factory.


The dough is really simple to make - cream the butter and sugar, add the egg and sift over the flour and mix til it forms a soft dough.  And when I say soft, I mean soft.  It has to be refrigerated otherwise its unmanageable. Ideally you would whip it up the night before and bake it the next day.

You might also be interested to know that you can make these cookies with a heart smart margarine like   Gold'n Canola Lite.  My mum has been watching her cholesterol for eons and has substituted the spread so she can still enjoy one of her favourite yuletime treats.

I can't say that its exactly as nice as the original recipe intended but sometimes in the interests of health concerns we have to make concessions.  I haven't tried making them with gluten free flour but I'd be interested to know if they turned out.  If you have nut allergies you could omit the chopped almonds and sprinkle coffee / demerara sugar on top instead.

I was able to use some of my home made vanilla sugar.

In keeping with the nordic theme, Olive and I made some Scandinavian woven hearts.  She was fascinated about how they turned into little baskets that could hold things like biscuits.  Mind you, you'd need to line them with greaseproof paper first...as I soon discovered when taking photos!

Are you getting crafty this Christmas?


Recipe: Serenakake (Norwegian Butter Biscuits)
Makes 40+ biscuits

Ingredients
150g butter or cooking margarine
100g caster sugar
1 egg (60g), lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
200g plain flour
-----------------------------------------
1 egg white, beaten (for glazing)
chopped almonds

Method
  1. Put on your favourite Xmas CD and hit play.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together in mixmaster til white and creamy.
  3. Sift in flour, baking powder and vanilla sugar.
  4. Add egg and mix all together to form a soft dough.  Wrap in cling film and and chill for at least one hour. (My mum recommends chilling overnight for best results.)
  5. Preheat your oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
  6. Roll dough up into small balls (approx 2 tsp worth) and place onto the lined tray, allowing generous room around each for spreading.
  7. Using a fork dipped into flour, flatten each biscuit with the tines - to leave a ridge pattern.
  8. Glaze biscuits with egg white and sprinkle chopped almonds on top.
  9. Bake biscuits for 10-15 mins or until golden in colour.
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Bake ahead tips:
Unbaked biscuits can be frozen at the end of step 7.  Place tray of flattened cookies into freezer to flash freeze.  Transfer to a freezer safe container and label.
To bake from frozen, place biscuits onto lined baking tray (allowing room to spread) and glaze with beaten egg white. Sprinkle chopped almonds on top and bake in preheated 180C oven for 10-15mins or until golden in colour.



Monday, November 14, 2011

Birthday cake rewind


December is not just about Xmas in our household - its also Olive's birthday.

So aside from all my Xmas baking, I'm also thinking about birthday cakes and party food.

With a birthday the week before Xmas I guess I feel like I need to make an extra fuss and plan something fabulous each year. Olive loves a party and has been actively planning this year's celebration since March!

This year she's picked a pirate theme. I can't wait to see Olive and her scurvy crew running around in their costumes, climbing aboard her pirate ship sandpit and sailing the high seas to seek buried treasure.

The cake is under way (and under wraps until the party).  Olive's excited because it combines three of her favourite things - you'll have to check back next month to see what they are.

My interest in cake decorating really started with her first birthday cake. So for a little bit of fun, here's Olive's life in birthday cakes (and the evolution of my decorating skills).

1st Birthday/Naming day - Butterfly cake


Hmmm...I think Olive's cousin had a little taste test of the icing!

Any of you familiar with the Australian Women's Weekly party cakes book will instantly recognise this butterfly cake.  It was the first time I'd ever covered a cake in buttercream and I was on a steep learning curve:

  • buttercream melts - you need to keep the cake refrigerated.
  • Smarties bleed colour when refrigerated - don't keep the decorated cake in the fridge!

I'm not sure why but we never managed to get a proper photo of the cake - clearly this is way before my blogging days - now I take more photos of the cake than the event!



2nd Birthday - Beehive cake



For her second birthday we had a Teddy Bears Picnic themed party.  Hence the beehive cake.

This was the first time I'd ever used fondant on a cake!  The yellow fondant 'honey' dripping over the cake was cut freehand and draped over the cake.

The honey flavoured cake was cooked in a dolly varden tin and glazed in a honey syrup to make it sticky and glossy. The bees are made out of yellow jelly beans with black writing icing stripes and almond flake wings.

Buzz buzz buzz


3rd Birthday - Tea party cake



My first ever fondant covered cake! Again a steep learning curve but not nearly as hard as I thought it would be.  The strategically placed flowers hide a multitude of sins!

The triple layered white chocolate mud cake is filled with strawberry buttercream and covered in white chocolate ganche and fondant. I did make all the flowers and the lettering but took the easy (smart) option and used a porcelain tea set for the main decoration - who said everything has to be edible?

Another important lesson learned: white chocolate mudcake/buttercream/ganache/fondant combination is ridiculously sweet - you only need the tiniest slice!

Happy 3rd birthday my beautiful girl!

Do you love making birthday cakes for your children?




Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Maureen’s Mistletoe Mince Pies {Recipe}



This week I’m sharing with you a recipe given to me by my one of my best friend’s mum, Maureen.

I was bemoaning my lack of a tried and true mince tart recipe for the blog recently when Shelby talked up her mum’s pies – the pastry has orange zest in them which gives it a special lift.  “Just ask her – she’d love to share it with you”, she said. So I did.  And to my delight, Maureen said yes.




Chatting with her a few days later, Maureen told me she’s been making these mince pies for forty years.  She found the recipe in a little four page leaflet from The Australian Dried Fruits Association that she picked up in a health food shop. It is so old it is in imperial measure so you will need to convert, she told me. 

Like many recipes of its age, it’s deliberately vague about the final quantity it makes. I was able to make 20 using domed tartlet pans but I rolled the pastry out too thin.  Next time I‘ll make the pastry a little thicker, say 3mm thick – that will most likely yield 15 pies.

Next time?  Yes, I’ll definitely make these again.  I know my first attempt wasn’t perfect but its opened my eyes up to the possibilities. 

For the first time in my life I’ve tasted a mince pie that I actually like. It must be the divine orange pastry. It’s more like biscuit pastry than shortcrust. In fact you can bake the leftover dough as small cookies.  Yum.

For the purposes of this recipe I have used an off the shelf filling - Robertson’s Traditional Fruit Mince.  They bear the royal seal so I figure if it’s good enough for Lizzie and Phil, it’ll be good enough for us. I soaked the fruit mince in brandy overnight but you could do it for as long or as little as suited you.  
Next time I think I might try making my own mince (now that I know I kind of like them).




To make cooking more efficient, you could make the pastry the night before and bake the next day.  I work with half the dough at a time and chill it in between.  Today was pretty humid here so the pastry melted fast. 

Few of us have an inbuilt marble slab in our bench but I improvise using a large white tile. You will need to roll the dough between sheets of baking paper to minimise sticking.  I also dust the dough with icing sugar instead of flour.



The cooked tartlets can be frozen – hooray – and re-crisped in a slow-moderate oven (160°C), covered in foil for 10-15minutes. 

Christmas is all about giving so I feel honoured to receive this lovely recipe gift from Maureen, especially since she has been such a great supporter of my cooking adventures and this blog. I hope I've done her recipe proud.


What are you giving this Christmas?





Recipe: Maureen’s Mistletoe Mince Pies
Original recipe from The Australian Dried Fruits Association, circa 1970
Makes 15+tartlets

Ingredients
Orange pastry
3 oz. (90g) butter, softened
2 oz. (60) caster sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 egg yolk
1 dessertspoon water
1/2  teaspoon vanilla essence
3 oz. (90g) plain flour
2 oz. (60g) self-raising flour
1 oz. (30g) cornflour
pinch salt

Filling
1 1/2 cups of prepared fruit mince (or 410g jar Robertsons fruit mince), flavoured with 4 teaspoons (1 tbls) of brandy 

Method
  • Cream together butter sugar until light and fluffy. Add the orange rind, egg yolk, water and vanilla, beat well. Sift together the dry ingredients and blend into the mixture making a firm dough. Kneed lightly and chill for about an hour. This pastry may be made the day before required.
  • Roll out the pastry thinly. Using a 7cm cutter, cut out fluted rounds and line tartlet or patty tin trays.Chill for 10-15minutes.
  • Fill with a small quantity of fruit mince and level off. 
  • Roll out remaining pastry and cut into shapes such as stars, bells or Christmas trees.
  • Arrange pastry tops over the fruit mince.
  • Place in a hot (200C /180 fan) oven and bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to moderate (180C/160C Fan), and bake a further 16-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and cooked through.
  • Allow to cool on a cake rack.
  • Serve dusted with icing sugar.

COOKING TIPS
  • The dough should be approximately 3mm thick. Too thin and it will overcook and be especially crisp (just like my first batch!); too thick and the pastry won’t cook through properly.
  • Don’t put too much fruit mince in – it will boil and bubble during baking and could bubble over the edges of your tarts (like mine did). Also try to level the mince surface before you put the pastry shape on top.
  • Chill the filled tarts for 10-15minutes before you bake them.  It will stop the pastry top from melting as soon as it gets into the oven and give you a prettier looking pie lid.
  • You will have leftover fruit mince. If you don’t, you have over-filled your tarts.
  • Left over pastry makes di-licious biscuits.  Roll into balls and flatten. Bake for approximately 8 minutes til just golden – yummo (I like to call this the official cooks treat!)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Norwegian almond cookies - Kransekake {Recipe}



I'm ashamed to say that I’m not very fluent in Norwegian but I do have the important things down pat like
chocolate - sjokolade,
cake - kake, and
thank you for the meal - takk for maten.
Then of course there’s the important social greetings like
“Hello” - Hei!“Happy Birthday” - Gratulerer med dagen, and
Merry Christmas - God Jul.
But there’s another part of the Norwegian language that I am slowly mastering – cookies.

Cookies are the traditional language of Christmas in Norway.  Each year on Christmas Eve, families lay a feast which must include seven sorts of classic Christmas cookies.  My mum tells me the number varies according to the region you come from – she remembers her mum making twelve different cookies but these days seven is more common.

These days most families buy their cookies for the Christmas table but there are still some husmors (housewives) who still bake the holiday favourites. 

There are over twenty classic Christmas cookies to choose from but one of my favourites is a recipe that I've already shared with you before: Kransekake.


Kransekake is Norway's answer to the macaroon.  Jaw achingly chewy, they are highly addictive.  Baked as rings, Kransekake makes an impressive centrepiece at important holidays and celebrations – remember the one I made one for my sister's wedding cake

But I think that they're equally di-licious and a lot simpler to bake as little cookies.




Leave them plain or ice them with royal icing.  Either way they’d make a wonderful gift presented in a pretty jar. 

The baked cookies also freeze like a dream, making them a fantastic bake-ahead recipe for the silly season.  I’ll be baking a few more batches before December in order to meet the family demands.


And if you’re looking for a little Scandinavian inspiration this Christmas, why not check out IKEA.  I picked up these gorgeous reindeer tree decorations last week.  They also have the sweetest Nordic cookie cutters... you’ll be a Scandi baker before you know it.

God Jul!


Recipe: Norwegian almond macaroon cookies (Kransekake)
Makes: 50+ cookies

Ingredients
330g pure icing sugar
330g ground almonds
2 egg whites
5 drops almond essence

Royal icing
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 egg white


Method

  • Preheat oven to 200°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
  • Using a food processor, grind together the icing sugar and almond meal.
  • Tip into a large mixing bowl and then add egg whites and almond essence.
  • Mix together until the mixture becomes a smooth dough.
  • Sprinkle your benchtop with icing sugar and using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1 cm. (If the dough is too sticky, use a sheet of baking paper between the dough and rolling pin to make rolling easier).
  • Using a 2cm round cutter, cut out rounds of dough and place onto the lined baking sheets.
  • Bake cookies for approx 10min until slightly coloured.  They should be dry and firm on the outside but slightly chewy on the inside.
  • Allow to cool on tray for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Royal icing

  • Whizz your icing sugar in a food processor (cheat's way of sifting).
  • Add the egg white and mix on low speed until egg white is incorporated and then on medium speed until icing is smooth.
  • Fit a piping bag with a small plain piping tip.
  • Load up your piping bag with icing and decorate cookies as desired.


Baking notes:
  • The recipe is simple enough – almonds, icing sugar and egg whites.  I cheat and use ready-ground almond meal and use a food processor to whizz the icing sugar with the almond meal so I don’t have to sift it (purists would grind the nuts themselves and sift it with the icing sugar). 
  • I've added almond essence to imitate the taste of bitter almonds.
  • If you don't have a small round cutter, roll the dough into walnut sized balls and flatten slightly before baking.  They'll be just as di-licious.
  • Baked, uniced cookies can be frozen for 3-6months.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Recipe rant

This is not a macaron Donna

I did something yesterday that I'm not very proud of.

I ranted on Twitter and Facebook about a bad recipe experience and named and shamed the culprit.

This morning I felt a little ashamed for my lack of manners.  But then I got some feedback from friends and fans that they too had had a bad experience with the recipe and agreed it wasn't up to scratch.

If the situation were reversed, I'd be mortified.  But then again, I'm a little voice in the blogging net-osphere. The magazine/author I targeted is a household name with 10+ years standing.

I guess what really gets my goat is that the magazine blatantly promotes the fact that they test and retest the recipes to make sure that they're perfect.

I followed the recipe to the letter and even I could see that the wheels were coming off early in the piece.  But I was following their recipe and I persevered. In the end I ended up with flat, grainy meringues, not beautiful macarons.

I am a reasonably good baker and I can apply my understanding of baking principles to iron out obvious errors in a recipe.  But for most people picking up a magazine and being seduced by the beautiful photos, they follow the recipe verbatim - and on this basis, the recipe should deliver the promise of the photo.

I'm disappointed for me because I hate wasting ingredients on a bad recipe.

I'm disappointed for my girlfriends who will be eating grainy coffee meringues this afternoon instead of di-licious macarons.

And finally, I'm disappointed for everyone who tried the recipe and wondered what they did wrong.

It wasn't you.

Here end-iths the rant.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grand Marnier & Macadamia Fruit Cake {Recipe}





This year I started my own family Christmas tradition with Olive.  We made the fruit cake together.  She helped me stir the fruit every day for two weeks and stood next to me while I made up the cake batter.


While the cakes baked we played Barbies and read stories. It was a very special time for us, one I hope we will continue to share each year. No doubt she'll still be stealing the glace cherries and macadamias out of the mixture when she's 21!

I only made this cake for the first time last year.  I'm not a fruit cake fan myself but Mr Di-licious is.  His only Christmas wish last year was for a fruit cake.

Not having a family recipe to turn to, I did the next best thing; I consulted the Australian Womens Weekly Test Kitchen (AWWTK).

I know some purists out there will criticise me for this but I fiddled with the fruit.  I have enough stuff sitting in my pantry without having half open bags of glace apricots and pineapple.  I just used good ol' Sunbeam Mixed Fruit. I also substituted the walnuts and slivered almonds with macadamias. OMG!


All things considered, this is a pretty easy cake to make if you're not scared of making toffee. Its actually pretty easy to do - use a medium sized, thick bottomed saucepan and have all of your ingredients measured out and ready to go.  The toffee gives a very special flavour to the fruit and is worth the little extra effort.

Oh and while we're talking about being organised, don't look at this recipe on Christmas Eve. This is NOT a last minute cake.  The fruit needs to macerate for 10-14 days.  Fruit cakes also improve with age so making it at least two months before Christmas Day will produce a cake with a better developed flavour. Melbourne Cup Weekend is an ideal time to start your fruit.


You'll also need a REALLY BIG bowl for this recipe.  A glass or ceramic one is ideal - you need cling wrap to be able to seal tight to it. And a sturdy spoon to stir the fruit every day is also helpful.

This year I decided to get a little bit big for my boots and divide the mixture into two six-inch pans.  Seven inch pans would have been better....live and learn.  They still look pretty damn cute!

What are your family Christmas traditions?


Recipe: Grand Marnier & Macadamia Fruitcake

Serves 36    You will need to begin this cake at least two weeks ahead.                                                                                             
Recipe adapted from Australian Womens Weekly Christmas & Holiday Entertaining (2008)

Ingredients
1400g mixed fruit
130g macadamias, chopped coarsely
1 tbls finely grated orange rind
½ cup caster sugar
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup Grand Marnier

250g unsalted butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
5 eggs
2 cups plain flour
2tbls Grand Marnier, extra

22cm (9inch) deep round / 19cm square cake pan
brown paper
baking paper
white ready-to-roll  fondant and ribbon for decorating
2 tbls marmalade

Method
Fruit mix
  • Combine fruit, nuts and rind in a large bowl.
  • Heat caster sugar in large heavy based pan over low heat, without stirring, until it begins to melt, then stir until sugar is melted and browned slightly.
  • Remove from heat, slowly stir in juice, return to heat, stir until toffee dissolves [do not boil].
  • Add liqueur, pour over fruit mixture, cover tightly with cling wrap.
  • Store in cool, dark place for 10 -14 days, stirring every day.

Baking the cake
  • Preheat oven to 150°C/130°C fan forced.
  • Line base & side of deep 22cm round or 19cm square cake pan with one thickness of brown paper and 2 thicknesses baking paper, extending papers 5cm above edges. (I use a paper clip to keep the side strips of paper in place and an apple to weigh down the base papers whilst I mix up the cake.)
  • Beat butter and brown sugar with electric mixer until combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
  • Stir butter mixture into fruit mixture, then sift over flour and stir through.
  • Spread mixture into prepared cake tin.  Tap pan firmly on bench to settle mixture into pan. Level mixture with a wet spatula.
  • Bake cake for approximately 3.5 hours.
  • Remove from oven and brush with extra liqueur; cover hot cake pan with foil, then turn upside down to cool overnight. Cover pan with a towel.
  • Wrap cooled cake in plastic wrap and foil and store in cellar until ready to decorate.

Decorating the cake
  • Make stars out of rolled out fondant icing.
  • Brush top of cake with melted & strained marmalade.  Decorate with fondant stars. Wwrap base of cake with ribbon.
Unwrapping the cake....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Individual Sticky Date Puds {Recipe}




One thing I love about Christmas in summertime is it gives you permission to re-write the rules of tradition. I mean, who honestly wants to cook a hot roast on a stinking 35-degree day?

The same can be said for dessert.  Back in the day my Nanna would make a plum pudding for the family get together.  There was a lot of pomp in entombing the pudding info the huge [scary] pressure cooker and it would boil away for hours. Eventually it would be lifted out steaming and I would run and hide. Not even the promise of finding the sixpence could convince me to eat it.  It was hot and full of raisins and I just wanted ice-cream.

But even I have to concede that for some people it’s not Christmas without pudding.  So this week I’m suggesting you open your mind to something a lot less stodgy and a whole lot easier to make and serve – individual Sticky Date Puds.


Baked in a standard muffin pan, these puddings are not only easy to make, they freeze like a dream. And most importantly, they taste di-licious with a generous helping of Easy Butterscotch Sauce (recipe below) and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

And with the time you’ve saved making these little puddings, why not dabble in a little festive craft?  I started making my own Christmas cards this week...



Recipe: Individual Sticky Date Puds
Recipe from Frost Bite: Everyday Food Fresh from the Freezer (Susan Austin)
Make 12+ individual puddings (depending on the size of your muffin pans)

Ingredients
200g pitted dried dates, chopped roughly
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 cup (250ml) boiling water
120g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
180g (1/4cup) caster sugar
1/2tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
230g (1 ½ cups) self-raising flour, sifted

Special equipment: 12 hole muffin pan

Method
  1. Put on your favourite Christmas CD to get yourself in the festive mood.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together dates, bicarbonate soda and boiling water. Set aside and allow to cool.
  3. Preheat your oven to 180°C.  Grease and flour your muffin pan.
  4. In a mixer, beat together the butter and sugar for a few minutes until the mixture is pale and fluffy (you might need to scrape down the sides a few times).
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix through completely.
  6. Mix through the sifted flour and then stir through the cooled date mixture.
  7. Fill muffin cups half way (these babies rise a lot) and bake in oven on a low shelf for approximately 18 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  8. Leave cooked puddings in pan for 5 minutes before transferring face down onto cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely.
Y Di-licious Time Saving Tips Y
You can freeze the puddings.  Simply wrap each pudding in cling wrap and place in a freezer-safe container and freeze.
To defrost, leave wrapped puddings on kitchen bench or in the fridge overnight.
To reheat, microwave individual defrosted puddings on low heat for a minute or so.  For a crowd, place defrosted puddings on a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Cover with foil and gently reheat in a 180°C oven for approx 15minutes or until warmed through.

Serve reheated puddings on individual plates or bowls with generous splash of warmed Easy Butterscotch Sauce and scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Recipe: Easy Butterscotch Sauce
Ingredients
3/4cup (185ml) cream
200g brown sugar
80g butter

Method
  1. Put all of the ingredients into a small saucepan.
  2. Over low heat, stir mixture until butter completely melts and sugar has dissolved completely.
  3. Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat and allow to cool.
  4. Store the sauce in the fridge for up to a week in a microwave safe container.
  5. To reheat, reheat on low for a few minutes until sauce is hot.