Sunday, 18 August 2019

Christmas Bauble Ornament Biscuits (or cat version)

Christmas bauble biscuits in August probably seem quite unseasonal.  Yes and no!  I am still catching up on our Christmas in July lunch posts.  These bikkies (that my daughter insists on calling cookies) were made to eat after the lunch.  They were easy to whip up and good for making with children.  We tweaked the biscuit dough from Easter and had so much that half of it sat in the fridge for a few weeks until we had a need for cat biscuits for a cat birthday party.

Sylvia and I had different ideas on how to decorate the biscuits for our Christmas in July lunch. I went with the minimalist M and Ms on white, while she went all out with sprinkles.  Both worked.  They were enjoyed at the lunch.  I liked that we gave them a little more flavour than the ones we had made at Easter.

However, like the biscuits we made at Easter, we only used half the dough and put the other half in the fridge to make later.  When we had taken out the biscuit dough after Easter it was so hard, we could hardly roll them out.  With this batch, I took the dough from the fridge on a day I had planned to bake but got waylaid so it went back in.  This worked well when we took it from the fridge the next day and it was firm but not rock hard.

We made the second batch of biscuits with the Christmas in July dough when Sylvia decided to hold a cat birthday party.  I will write more about the "party" soon.  You can see that our attempts at piping the outline of our cat biscuits was not so great.  I thought they looked more like sheep or goats.  Rolling out the fondant and cutting it with the same cutter worked much better.  The biscuits are not very sweet so some sort of decoration balance this.

I am very fond of this biscuit recipe and hope to experiment a little more with it.  It is one of the good things in my life along with other things like Sylvia's pride in her own library card and finding a stamp in my purse when it spilled its contents in queue to buy a stamp at the post office.  Little stabs at happiness are very welcome at the moment while life is very busy and I despair every time I look at the news.  One of the nicest things about these biscuits is that they are easily vegan but originally from a mainstream magazine.  I had looked for some good vegan biscuits and found this a challenge.  However I can see this becoming a go-to recipe and highly recommend it.

More vegan biscuit (cookie) recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chocolate and black tahini cut out biscuits (v)
Chocolate tahini cookies (v)
Flourless almond butter choc chip cookies (gf, v)
Lego sugar cookies (v)
Walnut and quince thumbprint cookies (v)
Zimsterne (Cinnamon stars) (gf, v)

Christmas bauble ornament biscuits
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe

250g butter softened (or margaine for vegan biscuits)
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp molasses
2 cups plain flour
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp custard powder
2 tbsp rice flour
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon

To decorate:
white icing
M and Ms
cardbury discs or rolos

Cream butter, brown sugar and molasses.  Gently mix in remaining ingredients until they clump together.  Use your hands to bring this together into a ball and knead a few times until the dough is smooth.  (This could be done in the food processor too.)

Wrap dough in clingfilm and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.  (We left the second half of the dough in the fridge for about 3 weeks.  I took it out the day before I used it and brought it to room temperature.  Then I returned it to the fridge overnight and it was easy to roll out.)

Roll out to about 3mm on a lightly floured surface.  Cut into circles (About 6cm in diameter) or the size of a scone).  Place on a lined baking tray.  Bake at 160 C for 12-15 minutes (15 minutes for us).  Cool on a wire rack.

To decorate: Spread cooled biscuits with white icing (we made ours from icing sugar, boiling water and little butter but if you want absolutely white do not add butter or you could use royal icing), place a disc or rolo at the top of the circle and then decorate with rows of different coloured M and Ms.

These biscuits can be cut into other shapes.  We used the second part of the dough to make cat biscuits.  Trying to pipe around the outline of our cat shapes was not so successful.  For some we rolled out black fondant thinly and cut out with the same cookie cutter, then piped a bit of icing around the outline and inside of the cookie and put the fondant on top with a red line of icing piped around the neck to be a collar.

On the stereo:
The Greatest Hits 1966-1992: Neil Diamond

Friday, 16 August 2019

Coburg Street Art V

As always I have seen some interesting street art around Coburg.  It can be cheery or colourful, yarn bombing, political, cute or downright silly.  The last five photos are council art, including yarn bombing trees in Victoria St Mall, the lights on a public toilet and then Coburg Library (which is housed in a building that used to be a supermarket).  Enjoy!

To see my previous posts on Coburg Street Art:

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Tahini scones for International Scone Week #ISW2019

International Scone Week finishes today.  I always treat it as a time to try new scones.  I wasn't so happy with my first batch of scones but instead of tweaking it I tried a different batch of scones.  The common factor between the two batches was experimenting with tahini instead of butter.  Both could be tweaked but both were enjoyed in our household.

I had lots of ideas for International Scone Week.  Cauliflower cheese scones (which Sherry actually did), a scone ring (as seen on Tiffin), or pinwheel scones with pizza sauce and cheese.  But I thought of what I really needed to use in my kitchen.  There were sun dried tomatoes that seem to get lost in the fridge and there was the parsley we brought back from my mum's garden.  My natural instinct was to add cheese but I was curious to try tahini, especially once I read about it being used instead of butter in scones.

I have always made scones by rubbing butter into the flour with my fingers.  So I did this with tahini.  The scone dough and resulting scones seemed fine but the flavours were a little off balance.  My mum was visiting to help with the big winter pruning of the roses.  She thought they were not quite right.  I agreed.  So in the recipe below I have upped the salt and lemon juice which I think would help.

And despite the tahini making the taste a little dour, we enjoyed these.  I had some with my lunch, my tea and took one for morning tea the next day.  E also had some and before I knew it they were gone.

I had good intentions of trying these savoury scones again before International Scone Week was out to test my theory on the scones needing more lemon juice and salt.  But today when I finally had a  chance to bake again, Sylvia had decided that lunch would be for our black cat, Shadow.

It was quite a festival of cats.  If you look closely at the mixture below you will see a toy cat from Sylvia's tablepiece had fallen into my mixing bowl.  The dark mixture is black tahini.  I use my usual beige tahini from time to time.  The black tahini is harder to find recipes to try it in.  Being recedes into the background but black is in your face.  It seemed the perfect time to try it with a black cat at the heart of celebrations.

I think the tahini made a little impact but the copious amounts of cocoa helped too.  I added more cocoa when the mixture was really sticky and not dark enough.  I should have added a bit more sugar to balance the extra cocoa.  However  I liked these intense chocolate flavour of the scones, even if it wasn't very sweet.  They were far better with butter and cherry jam than the more traditional raspberry jam and whipped cream.  I really wanted to try them with peanut butter but did not get the chance.

Scones don't last well so I have put some of the chocolate scones into the freezer and look forward to snacking on them during the week.  (I will write more soon about our cat's birthday celebrations.)

Meanwhile I send thanks to Celia who started International Scone Week and to Tansy who has kept the event alive that past few years.  It has inspired me to do some fun scone experiments.  I am sending these tahini scones to Tansy for International Scone Week 2019 and look forward to seeing the scones baked by others who have joined in this event.

More scone recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Beetroot, apple and walnut scones (v)
Gruyere scones
Kale scones (v)
Pumpkin scones
Pumpkin, pecan and poppyseed scones (v)
Strawberry marscapone scones
Walnut, brie and apple scones

Chocolate and tahini scones
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 18 small scones

juice of one lemon
1 cup milk
2 cup SR flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tbsp sugar, or more 
Pinch salt
4 tbsp tahini
4 tbsp maple syrup
extra milk and sugar to glaze

Preheat oven to 220 C. Lightly grease a baking tray.

Mix milk and lemon juice and set aside. 

Place flour, cocoa, sugar and salt in a bowl. Rub in tahini with your fingertips (or as you normally would do – pastry cutters, food processor etc) til it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gently stir in milk mixture and maple syrup til it forms a soft and sticky dough.  I use a knife to make sure I go easy on the dough.

Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface and knead lightly til smooth. Press dough out to a 2cm thickness. Dip biscuit cutter or glass in flour and cut as many scones as possible from dough. Place scones on a baking tray. Lightly knead off cuts into a ball and press out again and cut more scones. Repeat until all dough is used.

Brush the scones with a little milk and sprinkle with sugar (I used raw sugar). Bake in over for about 15-20 minutes until lightly browned and sound hollow when tap on top. Remove from tray and wrap in a clean teatowel. Eat hot with butter and jam or cream and jam or your choice of toppings.

Sundried tomato, parsley and tahini scones
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 9 scones

juice of one lemon
1 cup milk
2 cup SR flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp tahini
1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomato
handful parsley, finely chopped
extra milk to glaze

Preheat oven to 220 C. Lightly grease a baking tray.

Mix milk and lemon juice and set aside. 

Place flour and salt in a bowl. Rub in tahini with your fingertips (or as you normally would do – pastry cutters, food processor etc) til it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add milk mixture and stir in gently til it forms a soft and sticky dough.  I use a knife to make sure I go easy on the dough.

Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface and knead lightly til smooth. Press dough out to a 2cm thickness. Dip biscuit cutter or glass in flour and cut as many scones as possible from dough. Place scones on a baking tray. Lightly knead off cuts into a ball and press out again and cut more scones. Repeat until all dough is used.

Brush the scones with a little milk. Bake in over for about 15-20 minutes until lightly browned and sound hollow when tap on top. Remove from tray and wrap in a clean teatowel. Eat hot with butter, cheese spread or your choice of toppings.

On the Stereo: 
Don't try this at home: Billy Bragg

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Festive Chocolate Bark for Christmas in July

Leading up to our Christmas in July lunch this year we were busy, tired and could not decide what to make.  Chocolate bark seemed an easy idea.  Narrowing it down not so easy.  And it was not quite as straightforward as it looks. However we were very happy with the three types of chocolate bark we made: White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Lamington.

 The White Christmas bark was Sylvia's choice.  This is one to appeal to kids.  I found the white chocolate too sweet but I loved all the variety in the toppings: m&ms, jelly beans, caramel popcorn, pretzels, maltesers, candy eyes, marshmallow.  It was a lot harder to put the toppings on than I expected because our chocolate set rather quickly.  We meant to add sprinkles but were too slow.

The best thing about this bark was that it was easy to cut.  It didn't matter how it cracked once I pressed down with the knife.  In fact, I loved all the interesting shapes.

If only the same was true about cutting up the Rudolph the Reindeer chocolate bark.  This was the hardest of the three.  I started it with cutting up the pretzels into reindeer ears.  That was a hit and miss exercise.  Then I laid out my reindeers so I had them ready for when we had the chocolate.

Thanks to our preparation, we got the faces into the chocolate nice and quickly before it set.

Cutting up the reindeer faces sounded easy but was anything but.  While some slice up just the right way, others cracked right through the face.  I ended up keeping the jigsaw pieces of the broken faces, melting more chocolate to spread on some paper, rearranging the pieces and having another go at cutting them out.

As you can see, most of the reindeer faces worked but some had scars of earlier breaks and there was the occasional one eyed gunner.  I liked these better than the white chocolate but the milk chocolate was still rather sweet.

The Lamington chocolate bark was my favourite.  You may be wondering if lamingtons are Christmassy.  No, not at all.  But we noticed that we were holding Christmas in July on National Lamington Day, so it seemed fitting.  And I love chocolate and coconut at any time of year. 

We used dark chocolate melts.  I also added drops of quince jelly, made by my mum.  My name often served us lamingtons (from a shop) and they always had jam in them.  The chunks of marshmallow were for a bit of colour and textural contrast.  I am not sure they are necessary but it was hard to think what else to add.  The main problem with this bark was that the jelly was a little sticky so they were hard to stack and pack.

I was not brave enough to use good chocolate because I am no expert at tempering but this would make it much nicer. There is a lot of advice about tempering chocolate for bark that I need to draw on.

The chocolate bark was nice to sit and snack on at the end of the meal.  As usual, the kids finished their meal first, scoffed some bark and then rushed outside.  I would definitely try this at Christmas time for gifts.  It is quick and looks rather impressive with not too much work.

More fun ways with chocolate for the festive season from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chocolate covered honeycomb (gf, v)
Chocolate salami (gf, v)  
Chocolates with peppermint filling (gf, v) 
Rocky road (gf) 
Vegan bacon and seed chocolate bark (gf, v)

Chocolate bark

1 packet chocolate melts 290 g melts

Firstly have toppings ready to go because once the chocolate melts, you will need to work fast.  Then line a medium baking tray with baking paper.

Melt chocolate in the microwave.  (If you decided to use good chocolate instead of melts, the advice I have seen is to melt 2/3 of the chocolate until all chocolate is melted and then add the remaining third to bring down the temperature - to about 89-90 F or 31-32 C).

Spread it over lined tray.  Quickly scatter with toppings and press gently into the chocolate.  Cool and allow at least 12 hours (overnight) to set.  I did this in the fridge but have seen some advice to avoid the fridge if possible.

Once chocolate is set, cut with a clean knife (I had to clean my knife a few times while cutting).  It is easiest to let the cracks go where they will.  If you need particulate shapes, a warmed knife will help (and bringing the chocolate to room temperature).

NOTES: We used three chocolates so we started with the white chocolate, used a silicone spatula to scrape it out well and then melted the milk chocolate in the bowl without washing it.  We scraped out the milk chocolate likewise and melted the dark chocolate in the same bowl.  A few bits and piece fell off the white bark.  I tried running a spoon until boiling water, drying it well and then pressing on the place til it melted and pressing the piece of topping back on.  It worked in a limited way.  When some of the reindeer faces cracked we spread more melted chocolate on the baking paper and rearranged pieces of faces on the melted chocolate.

Chocolate Bark toppings:

White Christmas Chocolate Bark
white chocolate base
caramel popcorn
jelly beans
m and ms
candy eyes

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Chocolate Bark
milk chocolate base
pretzels, cut to resemble antlers
red M and Ms
candy eyes

Lamington Chocolate Bark
dark chocolate base
shredded coconut
quince jelly or other jam

On the Stereo:
Curiouser: Kate Miller Heidke

Monday, 5 August 2019

Whole cauliflower cheese

Cauliflower cheese is such a great side dish for a roast dinner! It was always part of my mum's roast dinners and she sometimes made extra for us to walk over to the kitchen of our neighbour.  We still have family roast dinners.  These days it is often my sister making us gluten free cauliflower cheese.  It is always popular.  So I decided to make cauliflower cheese for our recent Christmas in July lunch.

Usually I chop the cauliflower cheese before pouring cheese sauce over it but it seemed a good shortcut to leave the cauliflower whole and an impressive way to serve it.  Whole cauliflowers seem to be more trendy in recent years and I am not alone in making my cauliflower cheese this way.

I could claim that I am more unique in making my cheese sauce with coconut milk.  Not coconut milk out of a tin but a coconut milk that was made as an alternative to dairy milk and was incredibly watery.  Actually, I only used it because Sylvia had decided she wanted to try it and only needed a mouthful or two to decided she had had her fill of it.  So I probably would not use them milk again but it does show that you can use all kinds of milk here.

No matter how often I make cheese sauce, it is always a relief to see the lumpy roux turn into a creamy mixture when I add the milk.  It often seems so unlikely that it might be a miracle it works.  Of course it is not miracle.  Just a lot of rigourous stirring! 

The downside of using a whole cauliflower rather than florets is that there is less surface of cauliflower to douse in cheese sauce.  Mine had lots of sauce around the outside that, once cooked, we scooped up and spooned over the cauliflower.

Once the cauliflower is covered with sauce, then it is time to load it up with grated cheese and breadcrumbs.  This is not a moment to start thinking about your latest diet. 

Of course, once you see it baked with its gorgeous crispy cheese crust, it glows like the supermodel of the meal.  You will want to ignore all other dishes and just have a large spoonful of it on your plate.

However, as I mentioned, it is quite rich and with any luck there will be leftovers.  Because leftover cauliflower cheese is great.  You can bake it on a pizza, blend it to make a spread for sandwiches or put it into a soup.  Then your cauliflower cheese will be gone and you will want to make another batch all over again.

More cauliflower cheese love at Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Cauliflower cheese soup (gf)
Cauliflower cheese macaroni
Leftover cauliflower cheese, vegetables and rice soup
My mum's cauliflower cheese 
Vegan cauliflower cheese (v) 

Whole cauliflower cheese
An original recipe from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Serves 10-12

1 cauliflower head
2 dessertspoons of butter
2 tbsp plain flour (I used wholemeal)
1-3 cups milk (I used coconut milk)
2 packed cups cheddar cheese
1/4 cup gruyere
1 tsp seeded mustard
few pinches salt
grind of pepper
pinch herbs
extra cheese and breadcrumbs on top

Steam cauliflower head in a large saucepan with about 1-2 inches of water at the bottom.  Then turn off heat and leave while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce melt butter in a large saucepan or frypan.  Stir in flour to make a paste and stir for a few minutes until cooked - often it is easier to tell by smelling the cooked flour but you may notice a slight darkening in colour.  Gradually add the milk: just a little at first and stir until combined and creamy, continue to add in ever increasing amounts until the liquid becomes thin (this is when you stop adding: it should not be too thick as it will thicken more when you boil it and when you add cheese - you can always add a little extra milk later but it is more work to thicken).  Bring to the boil and it should thicken slightly but still be thinnish.  Now stir in the cheeses and it should thicken more.  Season with mustard, salt, pepper and herbs to taste.

Place the steamed cauliflower in a round medium baking dish.  Pour sauce over the top of the cauliflower.  It should be thick enough to cling to the cauliflower as it pours down the side.  Generously top with more grated cheese and breadcrumbs.

Bake at 200 C for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

NOTES: My sister often make a cauliflower cheese with a gluten free flour and it works well.

On the stereo: 
Word Gets Around: Stereophonics

Friday, 2 August 2019

In My Kitchen: August 2019

I feel like I say this every month lately but goodness, July was a busy month.  We had school holidays, so so busy at work, Christmas in July and last week just finished it off with an extra dollop of craziness.  Like missing the train to take my bike to get a puncture fixed then not having enough time before book club instead which was cancelled when I arrived.  Like the dentist drilling the wrong tooth.  Like rushing to get ready for a cake stall that wasn't one.  I have hopes for less craziness in August.  It promises some fun with White Nights, International Scone Week and International Cat Day.  Let's have a look at my winter kitchen

I bought these maple corn snacks at an Asian Grocery in the city.  As I love maple syrup, I was intrigued.  I asked an Asian worker if she could read the ingredients for me.  She said she did not read Korean.  I felt shamed at assuming all Asian people can read all Asian writing!  The snacks were a little sweet for me.  Perhaps too weirdly sweet as they looked like a savoury chip like cheezels but were sweet.

These were the purchases I made at KFL to get some cash out to pay for my Vegan365 lunch.  I am yet to use the young green jackfruit.  The milk cocoa wafers have disappeared.  I confess to having a bit of a thing for little wafer squares lately.

I bought this cheese and olive fougasses at the Coburg Farmers Market a few weeks back when we were busy rushing about to a doughnut party and shopping and cooking.  It filled the hole nicely to keep us going.  I hope the Q Le Bakery comes back to the market as they had very fine baked goods.

Sylvia made this vegan coconut ice (with coconut condensed milk) for the cake stall that wasn't on.  I am not sure how I got the date in my head but was glad I hadn't put too much effort into baking.  Then I took it to bookgroup which was cancelled.  So I took it to a work morning tea even though I wasn't on the roster.  It got eaten.  Finally!

I have been trying so hard to avoid buying cookbooks.  Then I found myself browsing this Lunchbox Express by George Georgievski and had to buy it.  I think I liked it as it just had lots of simple visual ideas for lunchboxes rather than recipes.  Sylvia loved it and has been inspired in her lunches and dinners.  A green capsicum has been a little basket for cucumber and tomato a few times.  At the top of the post is one of her regular lunches (with charcoal bun with vegemite - a bit less regular).  I recently bought her a new lunchbox so we will see how that goes.

Aldi is the source of E's latest tea bag love.  I quite liked the retro packaging on this box.

These freeze dried strawberries and coconut activated charcoal are from Terre Mardre in Northcote.  I have only used the charcoal in one batch of bread so far. So I am glad I only paid about $10 on this bag rather than $60 at a large jar I saw at a health food store a few weeks back.  The strawberries are surprisingly tart.  Sylvia has enjoyed snacking on this.

Here is my loaf of charcoal bread with a big pot of stew.   I am often making stews that will get me through the week with work being really busy.  This stew was a bit lacking.  so I added some small macaroni.  It was delicious.  After a few nights I added some leftover gravy.  Not such a great idea but it was ok for another night or two.  Lots of beans and vegeies.

I made this pizza with fast track sourdough base, tomato sauce, cauliflower cheese and olives.  It was fantastic.  A great way to use up leftover cauliflower cheese.

I recently wrote that I have been doing some knitting.  This scarf was made out of some remnants that a friend gave me.  (Thanks Kerin!)  It is wonderfully warm and cheery to wear around on our winter mornings.  While there are a few little rough links, it is great to know I knitted it and that it is indeed one of a kind.

When knitting my scarf, I had the challenge of doing the tassles.  I haven't done this on scarves before.  I had to look it up online and dig out some old loom hooks to help drag wool through a loop of knitting at the end.  I also had to sort the wool to have some sort of pattern.  I did this last weekend before picking up Sylvia from a sleepover.  When I left, I locked our cat out because I feared he would have a field day with the tassles laid out on the kitchen day.

This photo is from making Smitten Kitchen's Mom's Apple Cake.  It was an excellent way to us up lots of apples.  I have also posted a photo of the finished cake.  It wasn't perfect but it tasted great.

Although I had many old apples to use up for the apple cake, I feel we are doing ok with fruit considering we are now in deep winter.  We have been enjoying Granny Smith apples, the occasional orange juice for breakfast and some kiwi fruit.  Above is a photo of blood oranges from Coburg Farmers Market.  They certainly are strange looking fruit.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to peek into more kitchens.