March 30, 2014

Chocolate Meringue Drops

Since moving into my new house, I have been constantly frustrated at the lack on bench space.  In total, there might be around half a square metre.  That's it. Maybe not even that.  When I cook I use heaps of bowls, utensils, plates, spatulas.. you name it.  So every now and then while cooking I have a little moment where I yell out to my significant other "I hate this kitchen!!".  And I really do.  BUT, life goes on.

For the last three months my mum has had my big, shiny, new KitchenAid mixer.  Having no bench space, I let her "borrow" it.  But this weekend I went and got it back as I had to do some cooking.

I made these little guys this afternoon, and they are super delicious that I had to share straight away.  They are crunchy, chocolatey and sweet, and will hit that spot when having a coffee.  A note though, as I wish I had read properly before starting to cook, they require about three hours in the oven.  Yep, so don't start baking them at 5.00pm when you need to slow roast meat...  as I did.

2 eggs whites
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 teapsoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

Preheat the oven to 100C.  Line two baking trays with non-stick paper.

Beat the egg whites in a very clean bowl (I swish around a little apple cider vinegar to ensure there is no grease that will stop my egg whites from going stiff.  A wedge of lemon around the bowl also works well).

When the egg whites start to become stiff, slowly add the sugar while continuing to beat.  When the sugar is dissolved in the egg whites (you shouldn't be able to feel any grains when you rub the egg whites between your fingers), add the vanilla and sift in the cocoa, then slowly fold it all in until there are no grains of cocoa powder.

Pipe onto the tray about the size of a 20c coin for those in Aus, and about an inch wide for everyone else!

Bake in the oven for 2-3 hours, or until they are hard and slide of the paper with ease.  This will ensure there is no moisture left in the meringue, so it will keep in an airtight container for a couple of weeks..  but who are we kidding, these won't last two weeks!

Makes around 60-80 drops (depending on the size you pipe)!

January 27, 2014

Olive Oil Crackers with Rosemary & Sea Salt

Well hello there..  long time no see.  It's only been about four months since my last post.  Terrible.  However I never doubted in my mind that I would be back here eventually, sharing new recipes that I love.  In fact I have come across many recipes lately that I want to share, but I've been terrible at taking photos, which left me not blogging for so long.  

So four months since the chocolate shortbread.  Lots has happened - I moved house, still renovating two houses, I finished uni, then there was Christmas and New Year, and yesterday Australia Day.  Life has been so fast-paced lately, and it has left me wanting to take a break and slow down.  I've set myself a goal for 2014, to finish things and not procrastinate.  I miss the days of having nothing to do.  Every time I sit down to relax I can't switch my mind off, I just think of all the things I need to do.  Isn't it funny that a few big life changes can make you miss routine?  I used to be bored of routine life, now it's all I want. 

So in the midst of all the changes there has been the need for two changes in my eating habits - budgeting and eating more whole foods.  I'm pretty good at the second one, but budgeting has never been for me.  When it comes to food, if I love it, I'm happy to pay for it.  Not now though.  So to start my journey of cost cutting I have made my own crackers.  It's a small simple grocery item that can be stupidly priced sometimes.  Not these guys, cheap to make, thin, crispy and delicious!

Now I planned to use semolina flour with plain flour, but found out some nice little critters had gone and contaminated my bag of flour, so it's just plain, but feel free to mix it up with semolina or whole wheat flour.  Also, feel free to cut these into shapes, I just like the rustic look of them being long and broken.

PS. On another note, does anyone know how to get birds away from fruit trees?  I have this amazing fig tree but birds are getting to the figs before me!  

Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks
1 1/2 cups of plain flour (or mix of flours)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Sea salt flakes

In a large bowl add the flour, salt, rosemary and sesame seeds, and mix well.  Make a well in the centre and add the oil and most of the water.  Start bringing them together with your hards (or a spoon) and when it comes together start kneading.  Add the rest of the water a bit at a time (you might not need it all, or you might need more flour), then keep kneading for a couple of minutes until you have a nice smooth ball of dough.  Cut the ball into 8, then roll them into small balls using a little olive oil, then place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes to rest.

Preheat your oven to 200C.  Line two trays with baking paper.

One at a time flatten the balls of dough and pass through a pasta machine until it's around 2mm thick (setting 5 for me).  Take the long strips and place on the tray.  Continue with another 3 balls.  If you don't have a pasta machine then use a rolling pin and slowly stretch out the dough with your hands (it's quite elastic).

When four strips are on the tray, prick them with a fork all over - this will stop them bubbling. Sprinkle with a little sea salt flakes, then place in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden.  Place them aside to cool and continue with the other dough.

Makes 8 long pieces (roughly 30cm).

September 27, 2013

Chocolate Shortbread

This is a short but sweet post - sweeeeet yes it is!  I am a lover of shortbread.  I have made a few variations over the years, but never full on chocolate.  I took as standard recipe, added some cocoa powder and choc chips, and voila, you have the perfect accompaniment to coffee.  These come together very quickly, so were a great thing to bake last weekend when I had a urge to bake, but little time.

200g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 3/4 cup plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup dark choc chips

In a bowl, beat the butter and powdered sugar until smooth, and light and creamy.  Add the vanilla and salt, and continue beating.  Slowly add the cocoa powder and flour (sift if it is lumpy) and mix together well. Stir in the choc chips so they are evenly distributed.

Lay the dough on baking paper or cling wrap, and roll into a log.  The thickness of the log depends on how big you want the shortbread to be - I made roll about 6cm thick.  Place this in the fridge for 30 minutes, or the freezer for 15.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Line two trays with baking paper, then unroll the cold cookie dough log, and cut into 1 to 1.5 cm thick pieces with a bread knife.  Place the shortbread on the tray and bake for 15 - 20 minutes. If you made large ones, leave them in the oven longer.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 24 shortbread.

September 20, 2013

Short Break

There's a saying - life happens when your busy making plans - and that saying couldn't be more true for me right now.  I haven't done a post in almost two months, and it's not because I haven't been cooking, the complete opposite actually, but because so many things have been happening that I haven't had time to post.  I've been so busy with all life's plans, that days are passing so quickly.  What I thought was a few weeks, has turned into two months.  So sorry, if you continue to visit this blog and are constantly having to look at balls (my mum complained of this).

Things aren't going to slow down either.  In the last couple of months I have gone back to uni to finish my last unit - designing and printing on textiles.  I have been trying to finish off my home renovations (I tiled my own kitchen splash back which I am super proud of!).  And just recently my partner and I bought a house together.  So this means I will be packing up my little place and moving, not to mention the extra renovations that will need to happen to BOTH houses.

So it's busy times ahead.  But I am so determined to keep this space going, so hang in there!  I promise I will have some awesome recipes for you soon.  Some recipes are already half done, it's just the photo / editing part that holding them up (I think my camera has dust on it).

Tash x

July 23, 2013

Sugar-free Fruity Nutty Balls

July was supposed to be the month I cut out sugar - or at least tried to cut out sugar.  It started well.  I stopped having sugar in my tea and coffee, I resisted all urges to eat cake and sweets, I made stewed apples with Greek yogurt when I wanted something sweet.  I even baked an apple tart with no sugar - it didn't taste very good.  But then it hit - my birthday.  How could I not eat cake?!  In the last week my will to refrain from sugar passed, and I ate sweets.  And it was gooooooodd...

It got me thinking about these so called diets, which to me is when someone cuts out a food group/s for periods of time.  They never work because you know when the diet is over you will get to eat those foods again, so what's really going to change?  I've always been a firm believer in eating well as a lifestyle. Reducing my sugar intake is something I'm going to have to do slowly, and is something I've been consciously doing for a while.  For example, whenever I bake a recipe that calls for one cup of sugar, I'll halve it, or replace it with honey.  I won't make things that are heavily sugar based (except for marshmallows cos they are amaze-balls).  My tolerance for sugar has dropped as well - these days I find things too sweet.

I'm my efforts to not buy another bag of Mars bars and eat them all, I wanted to make a healthy snack that was good for me and involved NO SUGAR.  

These babies, they have no sugar, no gluten, no dairy, and no egg.  And, they're yummy!  Feel free to mix it up and use your favourite dried fruits or nuts (except keep the dates of course).  And if you can, try to use stuff already in your pantry, as these can get a little expensive if you have to go and buy everything!  When I made these, I only had to buy the apricots and cashews, everything else was randomly in my pantry.

150g dried dates
1/2 cup water
100g dried apricots, roughly chopped
100g cashews, roughly chopped
100g pistachios, roughly chopped
3/4 cup of shredded of flaked coconut (desiccated coconut tends to be too fine)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon flax seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 160C.  Line a tray with baking paper.

In a small saucepan, add the dates and water, and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until they are soft and the water has been absorbed.  Use a wooden spoon to mash the dates up a little, then place the mix into a food processor and blend til smooth.  You might need to add a little more water to loosen it should the mix be too thick.  It should be the consistency of baby food.

In a large bowl, add all the chopped fruit, nuts and seeds (all other ingredients!), then add the pureed date and mix well so it's all evenly incorporated.

Take a tablespoon of the mix, and using you hands, mould it into a ball, a bit smaller than a golf ball.  Place it on the baking tray.  When all balls are on the tray, place in the oven and cook for 20 - 30 minutes.  20 will give you chewy balls, 30 will produce a more crunchy ball (sorry, so many balls!)

Makes 30 balls.

Last ball reference, I promise.  Did I mention the nuts though?

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