Tarte Tatin

Tarte tatin is my favorite.  Hands down, no more to say, drop the mike, walk off stage and leave the building favorite.

The first time I had tarte tatin was from The Ivy.  A good friend  worked there after college and introduced me to the deeply flavored, almost burnt caramel and robust apple of this rustic french dish.  At The Ivy, it’s served hot and when that scoop of vanilla ice cream hits it, it turns into the best thing you will ever put into your mouth.

There is quite a bit of mythology around the origins of tarte tatin.  The stories agree that it was created at the Hotel Tatin run by two sisters in the picturesque town of Lamotte-Beuvron in central France.  From there things get a little hazy but my favorite version is that they were making an apple tarte, forgot to make the crust and so popped it on top of the apples.

While the ingredient list is incredibly simple: apples, butter, sugar (a pinch of salt) and puff pastry, it doesn’t seem to get as much love as apple pie.  I suspect it’s  because it needs to be served fairly quickly after it is done to get the full experience.  Left overnight, the pastry goes soggy (but the apples are still delicious.  ‘Aint no shame in taste tatin apples and a strong cup of black coffee for breakfast.

I’ve tried several tarte tatin recipes over the years and my favorite comes from the New York Times.  In this version, you peel and quarter the apples the day before and then refrigerate them.  This allows them to release some of their juices before cooking, creating less liquid to manage during the stove-stage and ultimately, a richer caramel sauce.

Tarte tatin can be made with all kinds of fruit, but apple is my favorite.  Just like apple pie, the kind of apple you use is up to you.  I like to mix some tart (usually Granny Smith) with something a little sweeter.  When shopping for this tarte tatin, I came across a new (to me) variety called envy.  They’re a really delicious eating apple and, because they’re a little crisper than some of the other sweeter varieties, they held up well.

This dish starts on the stove top in a cast iron pan.  First comes a layer of butter, then a layer of sugar.  The the apple quarters are arranged in a rosette. Pack them in as tightly as you can.  They’ll shrink.

The dish is then topped with either puff pastry or pate sucre.  I prefer puff.  And yes, this is what we’re doing with the first eight ounces of the rough puff from last week.

On goes the heat and in about five minutes your kitchen will start to smell insanely delicious.

The sugar and butter melt together to create a caramel that the apples cook in until everything is dark gold.

Then it all goes into the over so that the pastry can puff and crisp.  This is a great dinner party dessert.  Have everything ready to go before your guests arrive.  As you sit down to dinner, pop the dough on the top and start the stove.  Just as the group is finish their first course, it’ll be time for the oven.  Forty-five minutes later, you have dessert.

The scariest part of the whole endeavor is flipping the tart upright onto the serving platter.  And even that is no big deal.  If an apple or two sticks to the pan, just pull them off and pop them back into the tarte. NBG.

Serve warm with either vanilla ice cream or a healthy dab of whipped cream.

I swear, once you go tarte tatin, there is no going back.

Tarte Tatin

adapted from the New York Times, recipe by Julia Moskin

Ingredients

  • 8-10 large, firm-fleshed apples (buy a couple of extra–you want to pack the pan tightly)
  • 6 TBS (80g)  salted butter, very soft
  • 2/3 C (135g) granulated or light brown sugar
  • 1 sheet (8 ounces) puff pastry

Directions

  1. At least one day before you plan to cook the tart, prepare the apples: Slice off the bottom of each apple so it has a flat base. Peel and quarter the apples. Use a small sharp knife to trim the hard cores and seeds from the center of each quarter; don’t worry about being too neat. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate, lightly covered, for at least one day or up to three days. (This key step reduces the amount of liquid in the tart. Don’t worry if the apples turn brown; they will be browned during the cooking anyway.)
  2. When ready to cook, heat oven to 375 degrees (or 350 if using convection). Thickly coat the bottom of a 10-inch heavy ovenproof skillet, preferably nonstick metal, with butter. Sprinkle sugar evenly on top.
  3. Cut one piece of apple into a thick round disk and place in the center of the skillet to serve as the “button.” Arrange the remaining apple pieces, each one standing on its flat end, in concentric circles around the button. Keep the pieces close together so that they support one another, standing upright. They will look like the petals of a flower.
  4. On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry about 1/8-inch thick. Place an upside-down bowl or pan on the pastry and use the tip of a sharp knife to cut out a circle about the same size as the top of your skillet. Lift out the circle and drape gently over the apples. Use your hands to tuck the pastry around the apple pieces, hugging them together firmly.
  5. Place the skillet on the stovetop over medium heat until golden-brown juice begins to bubble around the edges, 3 minutes (if the juices keep rising, spoon out as needed to remain level with pastry). If necessary, raise the heat so that the juices are at a boil. Keep cooking until the juices are turning darker brown and smell caramelized, no longer than 10 minutes more.
  6. Transfer skillet to the oven and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until puff pastry is browned and firm.
  7. Let cool 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a round serving plate. (Or, if not serving immediately, let cool completely in the pan; when ready to serve, rewarm for 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven before turning out.) If any apples remain stuck in the pan, gently use your fingers or a spatula to retrieve them, and rearrange on the pastry shell. Cut in wedges and serve warm with heavy cream, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

 

Roughing up the puff

Admission time: I was very late to the Great British Bake-Off party.  Like I don’t think we started watching until fall of 2015 late (five seasons in if my research is correct).

People kept telling me I should watch it.  However, I’m a lackadaisical television viewer at best and downright neglectful at worst (like if I can’t immediately find the remote I don’t bother).  Also, with the exception of Top Chef, reality competition shows aren’t really my jam.  I think its because I was writing my dissertation (ie living under a rock) when Survivor kicked-off and so basically missed that genre’s bus.

Luckily I finally got the hint about the Great British Bake-Off and tried an episode.  From the first episode, TD and I have been periodically hooked.  The show is delightful.  Since I’m the last person on the planet to join in, you don’t need me to tell you all the reasons why. But I’ll give you two.  First, I love how nice everyone is.  I know that respect and cooperation are not generally considered the cornerstones of good reality TV.  But here (as in real life), it shines.   Second, the amazing baked goods (just call me captain obvious).  I’ve taken quite a bit of inspiration from the novel-to-us-in-the-U.S. bakes.

Case in point: rough puff pastry.

We made puff pastry in the baking course I took a few years ago.  And while I loved making it, puff pastry, like most laminated doughs isn’t really worth the time and effort.  In the full recipe you beat a block of butter into submission and then try to incorporate it into the dough by carefully rolling it in over many turns (there are more steps but they’re tedious and you don’t care).

However, rough puff is an entirely different story.  It’s kind of a combination of traditional laminated puff and pie dough.  The key is frozen, grated butter.

The reason we love puff pastry is in the name.  All of those beautiful layers of crisp and tender dough that surround any number of delicacies are as impressive to look at as they are delicious to eat.  This recipe achieves this through  three turns of the dough.  Turns refer to the laminating process whereby the dough is rolled out, folded, rested in the fridge and then the process is repeated.

Why should you make your own rough puff?  Well, it’s fun for starters.  With a little patience, it’s easy to make.  It’s also economical.  Puff pastry retails for about $5.50 for just over a pound (.32 per ounce).  The only real cost in rough puff is the butter.  Nice middle of the road domestic butter costs about $5 a pound where I live (or .31 an ounce).  The recipe calls for 13 TBS, or about 6.5 ounces of butter to yield a pound of dough.  That’s about $2 in butter.  Add in another .50 for flour and it’s still less than half the cost of store bought.  Finally, it’s probably better quality.  Pepperidge Farm is the king of puff (not bashing on them–I use it all the time).  However, if you check the ingredient list you’ll find that butter is not one of them.  They use shortening instead.  Shortening absolutely has its place in flakey pastry (it has a higher fat content than butter from a density perspective and so can create a more tender bite).  However, everyone knows butter tastes better.

If I still haven’t convinced you to make your own,  at least hear me out for the next two weeks.  I’m going to show you what I made with my rough puff.

Until next week…

Rough Puff Pastry

makes about 1 lb (16 ounces) of dough

not adapted even a little from Epicurious

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 13 TBS FROZEN unsalted butter (1 stick plus 5 TBS)
  • 5 to 6 TBS iced water

Directions

  1. Sift together flour and salt into a chilled large metal bowl. Set a grater in flour mixture and coarsely grate frozen butter into flour, gently lifting flour and tossing to coat butter.
  2. Drizzle 5 tablespoons ice water evenly over flour mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated.
  3. Test mixture by gently squeezing a small handful: When it has the proper texture, it will hold together without crumbling apart. If necessary, add another tablespoon water, stirring until just incorporated and testing again. (If you overwork mixture or add too much water, pastry will be tough.)
  4. Gather mixture together and form into a 5-inch square, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 30 minutes. (Dough will be lumpy and streaky.)
  5. Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 15- by- 8-inch rectangle. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you, then fold dough into thirds like a letter: bottom third up and top third down over dough. Rewrap dough and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
  6. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you on a floured surface and repeat rolling out, folding, and chilling 2 more times. Brush off any excess flour, then wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.

Note: This dough does really well in the freezer.  Double wrap and then bag it and it will be just fine in the freezer for up to a couple of months.  Thaw in the fridge for a couple of hours before using.

 

It’s sunbutter and jelly time!

You knew this was going to happen right?  And, can anyone explain to me why it’s a banana doing the dance?

Anyway.

If  you’ve been around for a while you know I love back to school time.  Summer is a’right I guess, but fall is where it’s at.

And so, in the tradition of new school shoes and fresh notebooks, I give you this year’s lunchbox treat.

What could be more back to school than peanut butter and jelly? Turns out, most things–unless you want a call from your child’s principal about breaking the nut free zone policy.

What’s a kid to do?

This is where sunbutter saves snack time.  Made from sunflower seeds rather than tree nuts or the dreaded P legume, some schools allow this creamy (or crunchy) peanut butter stand-in.

Paired with your jam or jelly of choice (you could even wax healthy and go no sugar added), these make a hearty school lunch or after school treat (and will save well for care packages).

These aren’t delicate little fancies.  They’re hearty, slightly sweet and nutty.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that if you fed one to a kindergartener, they might not be hungry until the fifth or sixth grade.

Happy back to school everyone!

Sunbutter and Jelly Bars

adapted from Ina Garten’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb, 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs at room temp
  • 2 C creamy sunbutter (just use the entire jar–mine was 16 ounces)
  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 C of your favorite jam (I used grape here because it’s tradition but would have rather used strawberry or raspberry, just my opinion)
  • 1/4 C roasted and salted sunflower seeds tossed in 2 TBS granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9X13 inch pan with parchment paper then grease entire pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a Kitchenaid fitted with a paddle, cream together butter and sugar until mixture is light, about two minutes.
  4. Turn speed to low and add vanilla and eggs one-at-a-time.  Add peanut butter and mix until well combined.
  5. With mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture.  Mix until just combined.
  6. Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared pan using a knife (offset is easiest) to spread it evenly.
  7. Spread the jam evenly over the dough.
  8. Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the  jam.  Don’t worry if the topping doesn’t cover the jam completely.
  9. Sprinkle with sunflower seed and sugar mixture.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes until top is golden brown.  A note on this–start checking at 35 minutes–the last two times I’ve made this recipe they were perfect at 38 minutes.
  11. Allow to cool completely.  Cut into bars and store in air-tight container.

Caramel slice

Ah the caramel slice, or, in Misanthropic Hostessland, the baked good formerly known as JB Bars.

Way back when I first encountered these, I thought the middle was a penuche, or brown sugar fudge. While I’m a fan of the penuche variation, the mana-like substance that makes up the middle layer of this variation is actually a caramel made of sweetened condensed milk.

Think dulce de leche.

Ah!  Now I have your attention.

In this take on the treat, the shortbread base includes coconut.  If you haven’t already clued-in,  coconut is like the Australian version of Frank’s Hot Sauce.  They put that s*&t in just about everything.

But back to the caramel.  In this version, sweetened condensed milk is heated along with some butter and golden syrup (also in everything Australian) until everything is combined.  Then it is baked on top of the shortbread base until it looks like Deadpool without the mask.  Trust me, though it be ugly, it’ll taste exactly like you imagine Ryan Reynolds tastes.

I had a tough time getting this part just right.  I went through four iterations before I was brave enough to leave it in the oven long enough to let it set up.

Once cooled, the unsightly caramel gets a gorgeous layer of chocolate.

The recipe below makes a 9X9 inch square.  It won’t seem like enough–but –cut these into 1X1ish inch squares.  The term decadent could take a lesson from these bad boys.

Store them in the fridge.  However, they’re safe at room temp (they’ll just loosen up a little…kind of like I do when thinking about what Ryan Reynolds smells like).

Speaking of Ryan Reynolds–TD and I saw the most recent Deadpool movie in Australia.  Guess what?  Not the least bit different from going to the movies in the U.S.

Caramel Slice

Recipe cobbled together from several.  Read through before you start baking!

Ingredients

for the shortbread base

  • 1 C (150G) all purpose flour
  • ½ C (40G) desiccated or shredded and chopped coconut
  • 1/2 C (about 125G) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ C (90G) golden brown sugar

for the caramel

  • 1/2 C (about 125G) unsalted butter
  • 2 X 395G cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 C (115G) golden syrup (light corn syrup will work)

topping

  • 1/2 C (200g) semisweet chocolate, chopped or chips
  • TBS vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 9X9 pan with parchment going both ways so that there is 2 inches overhanging the lip of the pan all the way around (see photo above).  Oil parchment
  2. Sift flour into a medium sized bowl.
  3. Add-in coconut butter and brown sugar until everything is just combined (dough will be very soft and moist–it won’t feel like shortbread)
  4. Press dough into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden on top.
  5. While base is cooking, melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on very low heat.
  6. Stir-in milk and golden syrup.  Bring heat up to low-medium and stir for 8 minutes until mixture is slightly thickened (the difference is subtle).
  7. Once shortbread base is out of the oven, pour caramel over.  Return to oven and bake for at least 30 minutes.  The top should be golden and while it will still have some jiggle, it shouldn’t be liquid.  Err on the side of over-done here.
  8. Refrigerate until completely cool.
  9. Melt chocolate and vegetable oil together.  Pour over chilled caramel.
  10. Refrigerate until set-up (ideally at least a couple of hours)
  11. Cut into 1 inch slices (you’ll be tempted to go bigger but these are very rich).
  12.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
  13. Will keep up to 5 days.

Is it a cookie or is it porn?

We’re still in Australia.

I spent the first half of my trip to Australia in Sydney for work.  We were based right in the middle of the CBD with access to all of the great shops, restaurants and, of course, coffee spots.

Australians take their coffee very seriously.  Home of the flat white, Australia has a vibrant coffee culture and with it, all of the bits and goodies associated with a strong cup.  It was early in the week and my travel partner (and frequent Australia traveller) noted that she was on the hunt for a melting moment.

“A what?” I asked as my 15-year-old-boy mind immediately went somewhere sexual.

Much to the disappointment of my pubescent brain, a melting moment is not a sex toy, but a sandwich cookie.

Often lemon, these little treats entail two shortbread cookies that bookend a generous dab of buttercream filling.  Once identified, I saw them at just about every coffee shop, bar and kiosk, often stacked invitingly in big glass jars.

Turns out, melting moments are also known as Yo-Yos.  In fact, they are the first recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh’s 2017 volume, Sweet.  Helen Goh is the pastry chef for Yotam Ottolenghi’s namesake restaurant, Ottolenghi, in London.  And, she’s originally from Australia.  This is a fantastic cookbook and while it was already sitting on my shelf before I left for Australia, it wasn’t until earlier this summer–and after I made the batch shown here–that I discovered her recipe (more on this cookbook and my current favorite chocolate cake in a couple of weeks).  The recipe below is actually modified from a mango version I found on Food 52.

Now that I know about Ms. Goh’s  Yo-Yo recipe, I promise to make them as well.  In the name of research of course.

Melting Moments

adapted just slightly from a recipe for Mango Melting Moments   by Emiko on the Food 52 site.

makes 12 completed cookies (this recipe doubles well)

Ingredients

For the cookies:

  • 2/3 C (80 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 C (250 grams) of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C (75 grams) cornstarch
  • 1 C (250 grams or 8 ounces) butter, softened
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • Finely grated and then chopped zest of 1 lemon

For the lemon buttercream:

  • 1/4 C (65 grams) butter, softened
  • 1 C (125 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 TBS (or more to taste) fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 320° F (160° C).  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment
  2. Sift sugar, flour, and cornstarch together in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter, vanilla, and lemon zest. When creamy and soft, combine with the flour mixture and begin folding together with a spatula or by hand. Continue combining the mixture until you have a perfectly smooth, soft ball of dough. Be patient, it will take a few minutes.
  4. Roll into walnut-sized balls or use (try to get the same size each time; about 2 level teaspoons-worth is ideal) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.
  5. With the tines of a fork (easier if you dip the fork into flour each time), gently flatten each ball until the cookie is about 1/2-inch thick (it will spread a little more when baking and you do want these fairly thick rather than thin).
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cookies are still very pale but feel dry to the touch. They will still be quite delicate and soft, so let them stand on the tray for 5 minutes before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. They will harden when cooled.
  7. Make the lemon buttercream by whipping the butter, sugar, and lemon juice together until smooth and creamy.  While called buttercream, the consistency will be more like play dough.  Roll small 1/4 tsp-sized balls of buttercream and place in the center of half of the cookies.  Gently top with the other half, pressing down until the buttercream reaches the edges of the cookies.   Let them set in the fridge in an airtight container for 30 minutes before serving. They will keep a few days stored like this, but make sure to bring them back to room temperature before serving. Plain cookies without the buttercream will keep 1 week in an airtight container.

 

No hedgehogs were harmed…

Continuing our tour of Australian treats!

While in Melbourne we visited the Queen Victoria Market several times. Like Vancouver’s Public Market, Florence’s Mercato de San Lorenzo or even Los Angeles’ own Original Farmer’s Market ,  Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market is an eclectic circus of produce, fish, meat, and bespoke food stuffs.

While it was delightful pursuing the long rows of fresh produce and authentic Australia goods (kangaroo paw anyone?), our true fascination (read infatuation) was with the collection of tiny fine goods stalls in the original building.

We spent a good deal of enjoyed time oggling the fresh cheese, pasta and cured meat stalls.

And of course there were the patisseries and bakers.  It was while TD was standing in line for his daily flat white that I spied a new-to-me treat at one such shop.  The handwritten card labeled the brownie type good as “hedgehog slice.”  Intrigued, I bought a wedge of the zebra (not really hedgehog) like confection.

First things first, the term “slice” appears in tandem with many Australian treats: hedgehog slice, caramel slice, cherry ripe slice, lemon slice, jelly slice…you get the idea.  Generally, slice in Australia seems to fall into the same category as square or bar here in the U.S.

Sometimes slice is baked, while other times, like with the hedgehog, things are just sort of thrown together and then refrigerated (kind of like magic or nanaimo bars).

And, as with nearly every Australian baked good and candy we encountered, coconut plays a central roll.  Our first impression (in the name of research) of hedgehog slice was that they were a sort fudge with vanilla cookie bits lightening up the deal (bet you never thought you’d see “cookie bits” and “lightening things up” in the same sentence).

Luckily, a review of recipes revealed that these are even easier to make than fudge.  They require no baking and can be infinitely varied (I suggest subbing-in Tim Tams for the Marie cookies).

And, like the Anzac biscuits, these were a surprise hit.

About the name.  I couldn’t really find a single answer as to why they’re called hedgehog slice.  In fact, hedgehogs aren’t even native to Australia.  Of course, neither are the British.

Hedgehog Slice

source: I tried out a couple of methods for making hedgehog slice.  The method using sweetened condensed milk was delicious but didn’t set-up properly.  The recipe below worked well the first, second and third times I tried them.  As what happens with recipes, several I came across referred back to an original posting in a magazine called Women’s Weekly.  The recipe below is a repost from a blog called Honey Kitchen

I’ve converted the appropriate measurements to US customary

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ x 200g packets Marie biscuits, coarsely chopped
  • 1 C chopped walnuts
  • ½ C desiccated coconut (shredded works just fine)
  • 250g  (about 1 1/4 C) butter, chopped
  • 1 ¼ C granulated sugar
  • 1/3 C cocoa powder
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 150g  (3/4 C) dark chocolate, melted
  • ½ tsp vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Grease a 9X9 pan and line base and two long sides with parchment paper, extending paper 2cm above edges of pan.
  2. Combine biscuits, nuts and coconut in large bowl.
  3. Place butter, sugar and sifted cocoa in a medium pan; stir over heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; whisk in egg.
  4. Pour chocolate mixture over biscuit mixture; mix well. Press into prepared pan. Cover; refrigerate overnight.
  5. Turn slice onto a chopping board; cut into pieces. Spoon combined warm, melted chocolate and oil in a small snap-lock plastic bag. Squeeze chocolate to one corner; twist bag, then snip tip of bag. Drizzle chocolate over top of slice; refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until chocolate is set.

And the meek (biscuit) shall inherit the earth

I was lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks in Australia last May.  The first week was work in Sydney and then I flew over to Melbourne and met TD for a little RNR.

We’d been to Melbourne before but left behind some unfinished business in the form of the Great Ocean Road as well as a host of untried restaurants, as yet to be imbibed cocktails and un-strummed scenic fall strolls.

We enjoyed ourselves immensely.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I like to pick up a few new recipes while in-country as opposed to hauling back souvenirs.  This practice helps keep my luggage weight under control and is a delightful excuse to try exotic treats in the name of research.

To wit, our last trips to Australia yielded a batch of Lamingtons, Cherry Rip Bonbons and Jude Bolton Bars.

Funny thing about those Jude Bolton Bars…I actually met him while in Sydney during this trip.  The faculty I was traveling with arranged to have him meet our group while we were touring the Sydney Cricket Grounds, where the Australian Football League’s Sydney Swans call home.  My faculty friend is friends with Mr. Bolton and in the days leading up to the visit, she sent him the post I wrote.  Now, it’s been a few years so I’ll remind you, the post was written as a humorous but genuine tribute to Jude’s…athletic superiority.  It was also not meant to be read by him.  Nor did I intend to ever meet him in real life.

When the moment of the meeting came, we were both embarrassed.  His embarrassment was charming.  Mine was that of a dirty old woman who had been caught, literally, with her hand in the cookie jar.  Thanks JP.

But anyway.  Back to baking.

The first recipe I “brought back” with me from Australia is for Anzac biscuits.  I’d heard of Anzac biscuits prior to our trip–mostly through literature.  I swear there is mention of them in M.L. Steman’s, Light between the Oceans.  And there is an entire scene about them in Liane Moriarty’s The Hypnotist’s Love Story (one of my favorites of hers).

Since they aren’t as well known here in the States, I’ll give you the two sentence explanation.  ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps. During World War I, families would pack their soldiers these oatmeal-coconut cookies in care packages because while they would harden, they wouldn’t spoil.    Australian’s celebrate ANZAC Day each year in late April.  Similar to Memorial Day in the U.S., the day is one of remembrance for those who fought and died in any conflict for Australia or New Zealand.

I’ll admit, I completely underestimated these wholesome little treats.  I thought they’d be fun to make once and then I’d be done with them.  Well, I was wrong.  These seemingly simple biscuits are rich and flavorful.  The oatmeal gives them a bit of heft while the coconut and brown sugar make them taste like an exotic far-off-island (or in this case, island nation).  Need further proof that you should make these?  Several people asked me for the recipe.  That never happens!

Anzac Biscuits

(read through the ingredients and my notes first–these call for a couple of unusual additions).

Ingredients

  • 1 C rolled oats (in reviewing recipes I saw calls for both old fashioned and quick cooking.  I opted for old fashioned because I wanted the additional texture)
  • 1 C all purpose plain flour
  • 2/3 C golden brown sugar
  • 2/3 C desiccated coconut (desiccated coconut is hard to find.  The first time I made these I ordered the coconut via Amazon.  After that I just chopped up unsweetened shredded and hoped for the best.  It’s work just fine so far)
  • 1/2 C or 1 stick of  butter chopped
  • 2 TBS golden syrup (you can find this on Amazon.  If you aren’t committed to tryin golden syrup, sub-in corn syrup)
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Line 3 baking trays with parchment.
  3. Fold together the oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a bowl.
  4. Add butter, syrup and 2 tablespoons of cold water to a saucepan over medium heat.
  5. Stir for 2 minutes or until butter has melted.
  6. Stir in baking soda
  7. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients and fold until combined.
  8. Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls. (as a note, the uncooked cookie balls freeze well)
  9. Place on trays, 2 inches apart and flatten slightly.
  10. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden.
  11. Leave on the baking trays for 5 minutes.
  12. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Holiday 2017

As I walked into our student store the other day (I work on a college campus), I was  blasted simultaneously by air conditioning (yes!) and Christmas music (whaaat?). Turns out they were having a Christmas in July sale.

If you can believe it, I’ve already begun the pre-planning (otherwise known as daydreaming) phase of my holiday baking.

Which has reminded me that I have a blog.

That hasn’t been updated since December of last year.

I don’t really have an explanation.

But I do have a nice little back log of posts at the ready.

For this post, I present an array of marginally mediocre snaps from our 2017 holidays.

Amazing effort on your first post of 2018 you say.  I don’t disagree.  But anyhow.  Holidays 2017:

There was baking.

And candy making.

And packaging.

And boxing.

About the time all that was done, my family arrived.

So there was more baking.

And some holiday decorations.

And butter trees.

Then there’s this. That’s TD.  In our as-yet-to-be-landscaped side yard. In a cougar ski mask, holiday appropriate t-shirt and thermo BBQing gloves.

Rest assured, he was the only one of us wearing a costume.

 

 

Puttin’ suckers in fear

Photo circa 2014.

Don’t call it a comeback (but it really is)
I’ve been here for years (just haven’t had a kitchen)
I’m rocking my peers (with baked goods that is)
Puttin’ suckers in fear (literally, no sugar source is safe)

Song credit: Mama Said Knock You Out, L.L. Cool J.

On Saturday, October 14, 2017, after a three year hiatus, I officially kicked off my 2017 holiday baking.  If you follow me on Instagram (@tmhostess), you’ve already been harassed by the crappy instastories and mediocre ‘grams. I’ve even got a hashtag going: #misanthropichostessholidaybaking2017. #worsthashtagever.

While I plan to keep most of the visuals on Instagram, I thought it would be fun to include Holiday Baking 2017 analytics.  And of course, a contest.

First the analytics.  I’ve created a separate page on this site with a live feed of my baking analytics.  That’s right, real time baking data on:

  • Running total of units in-production and completed
  • Running total, pounds of butter used
  • Running total, pounds of sugar used
  • Running total, pounds of chocolate used
  • Running total, pounds of nuts used

To follow along at home, go here:

2017 Holiday Baking Analytics

Each Tuesday I’ll upload some photos and remind you of where to go to see the latest stats (because I’m a data pimp).

A box (or extra box) of goodies goes to the person who can get closest to the sum below without going over:

  • Total pounds (lbs) of: butter + sugar + nuts + chocolate

If you want to play along, cast your vote via comment to this post no later than midnight, November 9th.

Here we go, here we go, here we go again…

Chai Butternut Squash Muffins

Brace yourself.

This is the annual post where I talk about how much I don’t like squash or root vegetables  and then incorporate it into a recipe (the eve of the fall equinox seemed appropriate). You know, just like I did with these carrot cupakes , pumpkin oatmeal cookies, pumpkin blondies, and zucchini brownies.

I’m nothing if not consistent.

This year I’ve chosen butternut squash as my quarry.  To be fair, I actually like butternut squash. Especially in savory dishes like lasagna and ravioli.

I should have a good story about adding in the chai, but I don’t.  It just seemed like a complimentary set of flavors.

Somewhere I read that if you put uncooked rice in the bottom of your muffin cups it will absorb some of the grease that appears on the papers.  It wasn’t life changing, but it did work pretty well.

I was cruising the bulk aisle in our local Sprouts, spied some roasted, salted pepitas and thought it would be fun to sprinkle some on top.  It wasn’t until later that it occurred to me that putting pumpkin seeds on top of butternut squash muffins might be construed as false advertising.

You know, it’s all gourd with me.

TD said these were like “fall in his mouth.”  Of course this was then followed by an un-printable list of other things he said he’d like to put in his mouth and book ended with “if you know what I mean.”  Yes, I’m married to a 12 year old. But, you knew that already.

Happy autumnal equinox!

Chai Butternut Squash Muffins

adapted from Food and Wine

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon crushed chai tea (from 3 bags)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1C butternut squash puree (make your own or buy it canned)
  • 1 1/3 C  all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Roasted and salted pepitas or nuts of your choice

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°,  line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the chai tea.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar, butternut squash puree and chai butter until smooth. Whisk in the flour, baking soda and salt until incorporated.
  4. Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and top with the pepitas.
  5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  6. Transfer the muffins to a rack to cool completely before serving.