Sunday, June 26, 2011

No Fail Sponge Cake

I had a card with this recipe of my Mum's that I wrote out years ago for this "No-Fail Sponge Cake".  When writing it down, I'd written next to the title "...yeah, sure".

Some years later, (and many failed sponges later) I came across the recipe card and thought I'd give it a try. Much to my utter amazement, I made my first successful sponge cake!

I've made it many, many times since and have even left out the raising agents and it still worked, though wasn't quite as light.

Recently in Nyabing, the local CWA held a cooking morning where we demonstrated how to make Cream Puffs and my No Fail Sponge Cake.

Here's a photo of a couple of successful students with their sponge:

Unfortunately, the commercial oven wasn't ideal and they didn't rise quite as much as they should have, but they were still good sponge cakes!

No Fail Sponge Cake

4 large eggs, room temperature (stale eggs are best)
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup cornflour
1/2 cup custard powder
1 tsp plain flour
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
1 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 180C fan forced
Grease and line the bases of 2 high sided 20cm cake tins with baking paper and flour the sides.
Using whisk attachment of mixer, beat eggs for 8 minutes. Beat for an extra 2 minutes if you have beater blades.
Meanwhile, sift flour, custard powder and raising agents three times.
Add sugar and beat for a further 3 minutes.
Use whisk from mixer (or beater blade) to incorporate dry ingredients.
Pour into tins and tap gently to remove large air bubbles.
Bake for 18 - 20 minutes.

Ginger Sponge
Use raw caster and add 2 tsp ground ginger and 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Chocolate Sponge
Replace 1/4 cup cornflour with 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder. Increase sugar amount to 2/3 cup.


Getting Organised - Menu Planning

Menu Planning is something I do in fits and starts. During very busy times like seeding and harvest, it's invaluable as I can plan meals that will either cook while I'm out in the paddock waiting, waiting or are quick and easy to prepare when I do get home.

Having a template makes it that much easier. Normally, I just use a note pad, but the page will be lost back in the pad as many other notes get written. I've developed a simple template that can be downloaded or printed from Google Docs:

Menu Plan

Lunch has been included as, often, in the quieter times, the men will come home for lunch. I still quite often will make a soup or wraps, depending on the season as I like to sit down for lunch with my daughter when she comes home during her lunch break.

Here's my plan for this week. I'm hoping to do a little shopping on the way home from Perth on Tuesday.

Monday 27th June

Normally, I'll just print it off and write my menu down so it can be changed. This time, I just used a handwriting font, found here: Angelina Font

Off to make custard for ice cream and ANZAC's. Enjoy your menu planning!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Getting Organised - Shopping

Recently, I helped out a friend in need and did a quick run around the supermarket for her. She handed me a Grocery Check List where she'd just ticked off all the items she required. It was so easy to use and on querying her about it, the list is a downloadable pdf from a blog. There's loads of these blogs out there, written by young mums, mostly, trying to get their lives into some sort of order and sharing their ideas with their avid readers.

The Grocery Check List was obviously from a US 'gal' and, while still really handy, didn't quite include the things that I would normally buy. I mean, where was the MightyMite? (I no longer buy Vegemite as it's not an Australian product anymore..)

So, I've developed my own check list. Since I buy very little pre-prepared stuff, it won't suit everyone, but I've left plenty of spaces to add your own items. (I didn't actually add MightyMite, but put in the item 'Spreads', and space to write the particular spread needed.)
I also make my own toiletries washing up liquid and cleaning products, so didn't include those either. Since I don't have babies, there's no nappies, baby food etc. either.
I don't usually buy eggs as I have a friend and a daughter with chooks and we swap eggs for soap.

If you'd like me to create one with these items, let me know what you need and I'll try to fit it in. Tell me what I can take out of the list that you don't normally buy.

I don't buy these items every week, of course, but it's still handy to have the whole list of things that I use.

This link will take you to Google Docs. You can then click 'File' and 'Download' or 'Print'. Let me know what you think, I'd love some feedback. I haven't made it all fancy with pretty pictures, that's just not my thing!

I'm sure there'll be something I've left off the list!

Grocery Check List 
(modified 3/7/11)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Creamy Cauliflower & Brie Soup

This particular soup came about when our outside fridge (beer fridge - but contains a lot of stuff that doesn't fit in the inside fridge) had a little fit and froze everything on the top shelf. A whole cauliflower was frozen solid.

What to do? Cauliflower Soup came to mind. I remember many years ago going to a restaurant where there was a Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Blue Cheese on the menu. So, I thought, "Why not?".

Unfortunately, I didn't have any Blue Cheese and there wasn't any at our local store. I would have liked to use a Blue Castello, a very light 'blue' cheese. Brie was available, so that's what I used.

Creamy Cauliflower & Brie Soup
1 onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 whole cauliflower
1 litre milk
2 tsp chicken stock powder
125g Creamy Brie (I use Australian Gold brand)
cracked black pepper
chopped chives, to garnish (wish I had some in the garden)

Saute diced onion in olive oil. Add milk, chopped cauliflower, stock and stock powder. Cook for 20 - 30 minutes. Put into a food processor or blender and puree. Add Brie and seasonings to taste and puree again.
Top with chopped chives to serve.
For Thermomix:
Chop onion on speed 5 for a few seconds. Scrape down and add oil. Saute on 100/speed 2/5 minutes. Add cauliflower, stock, milk and stock powder. Cook on 100/speed 2-3 20 - 30 minutes. Bring up to speed 7 slowly to puree for a few seconds. Add Brie and seasonings to taste, repeat.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

TangZhong Bread

TangZhong is the name of a starter that is used in the making of asian style soft sweet bread. I read about it on this blog and decided to try it out as the consistency of the cooked bread looked so soft and luscious.
I used the Thermomix to make the TangZhong, but you can use a saucepan easily enough.  I reduced the sugar to make the loaf less sweet. It had a lovely texture and didn't have that 'yeasty' smell that home made loaves often get after a few days.

Tang Zhong Starter

250ml water
50g bread flour
Place in  locked and cook for 5 1/2 minutes/60/speed 4, or cook on stove, stirring constantly until thick and glossy.
Scrape out and place in a bowl on the bench (or fridge if you're in a hot area) to cool to room temperature.

500g bread flour (Wallaby)
160g TangZhong starter
200g water
2 tsp salt
30g sugar
2 tsp yeast
50g melted cooled butter (I just melt in the microwave)
I also added my 90g of mixed seeds
Place all in  locked and mix on  corn for 15 minutes. If you have a breadmaker, let it go through the knead cycle twice. This will give it a fantastic start.
Remove (flour hands so they don't stick to dough) and prove in a warm spot until doubled. Orr you can an allow the dough to prove in the TMX and then do next knead in the TMX as well)
Knead again by hand for a few minutes and then place in bread tin in a warm spot. Cover with a billowed plastic bag. It should rise above the tin.

Bake at 220C for 25 minutes. Remove from tin and bake a further 5 - 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Here's another picture of a much better loaf that I made with this starter after I realised that my yeast was out of date:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Apple & Fennel Pork Steaks

I bought some lovely pork steaks in Albany recently which were just too good to bash out to make schnitzels. So, I decided cook them as regular steaks and serve with a creamy apple & fennel sauce.
We all know that apple and pork have a wonderful affinity for each other, but not many people would think of fennel in this mix. I adore the aniseedy deliciousness of fennel seeds and normally will make a cabbage dish with fennel seeds and apple to serve with pork.
This time, a sauce was called for, so the apple and fennel seeds made a delicious debut. I didn't measure everything as I cooked, so amounts are estimates only. Use your own judgement and taste as you go!

Apple & Fennel Pork Steaks
8 pork steaks
1 Tbsp oil
pepper, salt
2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, sliced
1 green apple, sliced (place in a bowl of water with some lemon juice to prevent browning)
1 Tbsp  brown sugar
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 cup chicken stock (or water with 2 tsp chicken stock powder)
2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup pouring cream (or skinny tinny if you're watching your fat intake)
1 Tbsp or so of cornflour

Heat oil in a large heavy based fry pan. Season pork steaks and cook on both sides for a few minutes on high heat until browned. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.
Heat butter in pan and add onion.  Saute for a few minutes and add sliced apple and brown sugar, fennel seeds and balsamic. Saute until softened and caramelised.
Add chicken stock and cover with lid. Cook for 10 minutes or so until very soft. Test for seasoning.
Add cream mixed with cornflour and cook until thickened.
Return steaks and any juices to pan and reheat.
Serve with vegetables in season. I served with french beans, minted matchstick carrot and smashed potatoes.