Last year November we had friends of ours (from South Africa) visit us out of the blue. I can’t explain what a surprise and treat it was! We haven’t seen any of our friends since we left in 2008.
At the time they were here for a “look see”. Our friend had a few interviews lined up over their 10 day stay and they also had a short tour of the north island as they made their way through to each interview. We were blessed to have them visit us one of the evenings they were in Auckland. I made a traditional bobotie and we visited into the late hours of the night.
Fast forward 7 months and our friend secured a job and has come over to settle until his wife and children joins him in 2 months time. We invited him over for dinner tonight because being a man on his own living in a Motel for the first few weeks, who knows what he is eating?!
Good company calls for good cake and this upside down pineapple cake played right into our delightful stomach.
With Mother’s Day around the corner, I started working on a new cookie flavour combination. I’ve always wanted to work with lavender but the thought of it tasting like soap always put me off. I knew getting the correct type of lavender (culinary lavender) will be beneficial so my search started. We have several lavender farms in New Zealand of which some are local, but most of them grow the fragrant lavender meant for soaps and lavender rich products. I finally found a farm in Masterton who grows cooking lavender, or more precisely . I ordered 2 packets and couldn’t wait to experiment with it.
Now, I didn’t want to only make a lavender cookie and looked at options that will elevate the lavender yet still stand out flavour wise. From what I read lemon and lavender are great friends and I know lemon adds a gorgeous citrus flavour to any dish.
Obviously I didn’t want to be heavy handed when adding the lavender, so I first grind it a little finer to release the lavender fragrance and then pinch-by-pinch added it to the wet batter until I could slightly smell and taste it. Once in the oven and baked, the most beautiful aroma oozes from the cookies. The most subtle lemon flavour followed by a stream of lavender.
I am really happy with these beautiful cookies and every small mouthful is a pleasure.
My husband and I were invited to his work mates wife’s 40th birthday party. The theme: 70’s and yes it’s a dress-up.
I don’t mind dressing up. It is the preparations that I don’t often have time for that bothers me. I certainly didn’t want to unnecessarily spend money on buying our outfits as these dress-up kits can easily cost $20 plus per outfit. I decided to instead purchase 2 white t-shirts from The Warehouse and 1 packet of tie-dye and create do-it-yourself tie-dye shirts. The dye cost me $4 and the shirts were $5 each.
I had some time to spare during dinner the previous night to quickly tie-dye the shirts. I strategically tied elastic bands around selected sections of the shirts. The dye powder was dissolved in 3.75L of steaming hot water, the shirts inserted and stirred for a short while before leaving it to soak for approximately 45 minutes. Afterwards I rinsed them thoroughly with cold water and put them in the washing machine on a rinse only cycle. I removed the elastic bands and hanged the shirts to dry overnight. We were pleasantly surprised with the outcome and would most likely be wearing the shirts on a casual basis.
The night itself was pleasant. We didn’t really know anyone there but we made the most of our time. My husband even went into a photo booth with me and we have 4 fun and funky photos to show for it!
You know the saying “Biting off more than you can chew”? Today was just such as day!
I had the privileged to bake a cake for a lovely lady who was, like me, made redundant. We worked together for 3 1/2 years for a company who went into receivership, was bought by a new owner and then started making huge changes with most of those changes being departments closing and people loosing their jobs. She had been very fortunate to have been in a position where she was needed, seeing as she had been in this position for 12 years. She was the last person I thought would be let go but I guess when money speaks louder, then selfish decisions are made.
The cake is one I have baked on several occasions. It is Nigella’s Devils Food Cake, a rich and tasty cake, easy to make and you can dress it up which ever way you want. I layered it with a strawberry buttercream filling, made a white chocolate ganache to spread over the top, blitzed chocolate speckled eggs to decorate the edges.
My son also had a shared morning tea for which I baked 72 mini vanilla cupcakes, with a vanilla buttercream frosting, shaved milk chocolate and mini speckled eggs as decorations. These little morsels were so much fun to bake. Petite bites of happiness.
And to top it off, I started on an order of 35 packets of the Easter Speckled Egg cookies of my Say It With Cookies label. I made a small change in that I switched from traditional icing to a royal icing to stick the colourful speckled egg on. The only downfall is that the royal icing takes longer to dry if applied in a thicker consistency, but it is actually tastier than normal icing.
The kitchen smells of a whirlwind of cakes, cookies and chocolates…best smell ever!
Tonight is the season finale of the Great British Beak Off (2015), and I have my money on Nadiya. I am always inspired to bake every time I watch this show. These are ordinary people; mothers, fathers, labourers but all with a common interest, home baking. They strive to improve and correct their mistakes. But what I am most impressed with is the their determination to create difficult bakes with each challenge. I would have withered into a ball of hopelessness if I had to come across a ‘flop’.
In honour of the show, and to finish off my own baking challenge, I decided to bake éclairs. I have made choux pastry before and it is such an easy dough to make, but for some reason I have always thought that making an éclair is much harder than profiteroles. I found this easy to follow coffee éclair recipe.
I find it therapeutic beating the choux with all my might to get it shiny and to a dropping consistency, and lightly squeezing the piping bag to create perfectly even (yeah right) finger size shapes. My mind escapes to an old bake house, where I bake in for the small village community. The residents waving as they pass the window and greeting me with their thick yet delicate accent. I have no worries, no concerns, no anxiety.
Once the oven buzzer goes off, I noticed the top tray’s éclairs didn’t rise as well as the bottom ones. It wasn’t after they came out that I realized I never sprinkled water on the grease-proof paper before piping the dough. I did however do that for the second batch and they are perfect. From what I understand the sprinkle of water provides the moisture for the dough to create steam. I surely wasn’t going to waste the not so perfect éclairs and also filled them with vanilla cream and dipped them into the coffee icing and you couldn’t tell the difference, basically you fake it till you make it!
Baking feeds more than the soul, it nourishes the mind too.