I’m liking pears at the moment. I don’t know why, but pears have a groove that I’m in tune with. My inner break dancer is spinning on its head to the beat of the pear. And also I’m making up terrible, terrible metaphors. Somebody please stop me. Anyway, I had some pear cider the other day. It’s good – you should have some. Mac’s Issac Pear Cider. I think. Unless of course, you go to the supermarket and such a product does not exist, then I certainly didn’t give you that name at all and stop imagining things, okay? So I figured, lets continue with the pear theme. It worked last time, with the alcohol. Except that it gave you a headache, but that’s mostly because you’re a light weight. Oh my god. Enough rambling!
I made a spiced pear cake with homemade caramel sauce. There, I said it. You actually know what this post is about, rather than some vague ramblings about pears and headaches. Why did I make this? Why yes, I had a specific purpose and wasn’t just feeling the urge to trash the kitchen. The parental units and I were going to my godparents for dinner, as their son has recently returned from Korea. I was volunteered to make dessert. Which is fine, you may have guessed that I like doing such things.
I would like to make a disclaimer, so that certain friends and fellow bakers don’t kill me, use freshly ground cardamom and nutmeg if you can. Don’t be lazy like I was.
Spiced Pear Cake
4 medium pears, peeled and diced
¼ c sugar
1/8 c water
Juice of half a lemon
125 g butter
½ c white sugar
½ c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ c sour cream
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cardamom
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ c flour
1. Attack the pears. Or alternatively, peel and dice them.
2. Biff them in a pot with the lemon juice, sugar and water. Give them a quick stir and then pop the lid of the pot on and cook them down on a medium heat for about twenty minutes, or until they are soft to touch.
3.Take them off the heat and cool. While that’s happening, make the cake mix!
4. It starts out pretty typically; cream the butter and the two sugars together until they are light and fluffy. My mixer never does this particularly well as the bell whisk doesn’t reach don far enough into the bowl.
5. Add the vanilla and crack in the eggs one at a time. Once things are all combined, set a timer for four minutes and let them beat on a medium speed. They’ll end up all.... fluffy like. Sort of. You’ll definitely notice a difference in texture.
6. Mix in the sour cream, which will make the butter, sugar and egg mix a bit smoother and runnier, which is useful ‘cos next comes the dry stuff.
7. I kinda gave this step away; add the dry stuff in (spices, leavening agents, flour) and mix until just combined.
8. Now return to your somewhat cooled pear ... stuff and blend the hell out of it! It should end up like a thick saucy like thing.
9. Dump the pear stuff into the cake mixture and mix it through briefly. No over mixing!
10. Into a pan – I used a bundt pan – and into the oven on 160 degrees Celsius. It’s ready when you stab with a skewer and it comes out clean. The cake is dense-ish though, because of the fruit in there, so it will have a moist crumb.
1 c brown sugar
½ c butter
¼ c evaporated milk
1. Dump it all into a small saucepan!
2. Slowly heat it up to a rolling boil, and once it is there, let it boil for two minutes. You have to stay stirring the whole time, otherwise it’ll stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. And nobody ever wants to smell burnt sugar. Ew.
3. Tada! Done. Pour it into a jug and then over the cake. You can make this quite a while in advance and just warm it up in the microwave for 20 seconds before serving – it needs to be warm so that it pours easily.
God, it’s been a while. In fact, so long that people have been stabbing me in an effort to motivate me to update. Figuratively, mind you. But it makes my writers soul bleed! The soul that I so desperately wanted to exist when I was a teenager, and am not so sure really does, these days. I thought I would write the most inspiring prose... the most innovative stories... Whoa, okay. Tangent, anyone? I’m sorry about that – but tangents are great fun. I like to tangent...alise? Tangentify? Tangentilate? Personally, I like that third one the most. It’s kind of titillating and serious at the same time. ... And yes, I do realise I just went off on a tangent about tangents.
Staying on topic! I do actually have recipes to update with. Just actually doing the updating bit is the hard part. The uploading and resizing of pictures, the hunting and organising of my haphazard thoughts, and then collating them in some manner that is understandable. These are seriously difficult things, people. I think I might take a nap, in fact.
But actually, you really do need to know about these peanut butter, chocolate and oat cookies. Oats you say? Why are these healthy things in my cookies? Usually this is my opinion too. If I’m eating cookies, I’m not going to muck around adding things like oats to make myself feel better about all the calories I’m consuming. I’m a purist. Keeper of the secrets. Traditionalist. Except when I’m not. Anyway, these cookies have oats in them, and they should stay there. They counter the sweet and salty and richness and it is good.
I made these for the first time a few weeks ago and promptly burnt the first half of the batch. So keep an eye on them, they cook quickly. My second – and tripled mix – effort was much more successful and delicious. I was visiting a friend in Auckland, and apparently even when I travel to the other end of the country, I deign it necessary to take baking with me. Even when she and the others I’m visiting don’t. It’s rather ridiculous, especially when I’m visiting very skilled bakers in their own right. I’m calling it bizarre habit. Anyway, they all liked these cookies and needed the recipe. So here it is!
120 g butter
½ c white sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ c creamy peanut butter
1 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ c rolled oats
1 c chocolate chips (I use milk or half white, half milk)
1. Suddenly remember you have a very expensive cake mixer you don’t use nearly enough and get it out of the cupboard. Oooh, shiny! Wipe the dust off it.
2. Cream the butter, sugars, peanut butter and vanilla until all creamy and smooth. It won’t get as fluffy as if you were just creaming butter and sugar, cos that peanut butter is in there. I find heating the jar of PB in the microwave for 20 seconds is helpful to soften it up before you measure it out. Or you could just swear at it like I did the first time. That helps too.
3. Try and remember what you did.
4. Oh! Flour, oats and the egg. And the other dry stuff. Like. Um. Oh, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Mix in gently so that they are incoporated, but not heavily mixed.
5. Finally fold in the chocolate! Any variety you like. The original recipe calls for dark chocolate, but I have some strange aversion to that and use milk chocolate in my cookies.
6. Scoop onto the cookie tray. I put about nine cookies onto each tray and I didn't press them down, because they flatten and spread as they cook, and again when they come out of the oven.
7. Bake carefully! They colour quite quickly - in about 8 minutes at fan bake on 180 degress celcius. Take them out when they are light brown, otherwise they get too crispy.
It’s been a long time. A really, really long time. I must admit to a certain lack of baking inspiration – when I feel the need for baking goodness, I’ve stuck to quick, proven recipes rather than experimenting (Salted Caramel Bars, anyone? Om nom). And the last few weekends have been somewhat hectic – and the weeks hence are about to get crazier with a six week teaching practice. I cease to function on a level that is not required for school when on practice, so if you see a post, be amazed. Be very amazed. Because something magical will have occurred.
Anyway, today’s bakingy goodness is probably not something I’d actually eat. Because it has dried fruit in it, and its slight healthiness might taint me and my world will come to a crashing halt. But my mother requested baking goods to take with her on her weekend away, and she seems to like these muesli-bar-fruit things. But I’ll admit they are kind of fun to make – all that chopping and mixing together. Just making it makes me feel all alternative and healthy, even though I don’t at all intend to follow through with the good intention it inspires.
Honey and Dried Fruit Muesli Bars
200 g finely diced dried fruit and nuts
210 g honey
200 g rice oil
260 g oats
80 g desiccated coconut
40 g sugar
60 g almond meal
1 tsp cinnamon
2 pinches of salt
1. Spend for goddamn ever chopping up fruit and nuts. I used cranberries, goji berries, mango, apricots, walnuts, pecans and peanuts. I decided to reconstitute the goji berries quickly, because they were quite hard.
2. Measure the liquids (honey – because it’s easier to manipulate when warm – and rice oil) in grams... weird, right?
3. The easy part! Measure the rest of the ingredients out and biff them into the bowl and mix it until all is combined.
4. It looks pretty! And the thief says it tastes nice.
5. Press it firmly into a large plan and fling it into a oven preheated to 160 degrees celsius for thirty minutes, or until nicely golden.
6. Take it out when it is nicely golden and let it cool. Once it is cool you can hack it into smaller peices and store it in an airtight container. Because most of the ingredients were already dried, it should keep for a fairly long time.
My father just told me I was not allowed to give this away to anybody because it was too good, which means he wants to hoard it for himself. I guess I’ll have to make him some more as it’ll be good for him to take a piece when he goes off doing... well. I’m not sure what. He seems to just vanish for the day, and not necessarily accomplish anything. But it certainly tires him out, and something like this would be good, because it’s full of energy-stuff.
So I guess they were a success? I had heaps of fun making these at least! And the bits without fruit in them taste good. Maybe I’ll make a non-fruit version? Ooooh. That sounds like yum.
I believe I’ve gone a little bit insane. So far today I’ve baked six things and the content of this blog makes number seven. And I could keep going! Except I’m going to run out of butter soon, and I so can’t be bothered paying service station prices for some more. Plus I’m kinda out of ideas. Why am I baking so insanely? Well, a prize in a recent raffle was some of my baking. I didn’t actually expect anybody to want the prize, but apparently somebody does and so here I am baking like mad. And I also organised to swap baking for a hat – and said hat is adorable, cute, and now in my possession. So baking for her too! My kitchen looks like the cupboard and fridge threw up on it. That’s a delightful image for a baking blog, isn’t it? Vomit, it makes the world go ‘round.
I’m making ‘halfway cookies’ now, which I think is an entirely useless and stupid name. It is actually a biscuit based chocolate meringue slice. I don’t quite understand the American obsession with naming everything that isn’t a cake a cookie. Do they not believe in slices? Are they slice-ist? This is serious business, people. Anyway, this is a slice.
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup brown sugar, separated
2 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1. Cream the butter and two types of sugar until light and very fluff (only 1/2 cup of the brown sugar).
2. Remember you have banana bread in the oven, and swear as you grab it out.
3. Try not to be too spastic, and attempt to separate two eggs. Add the yolks into the butter mixture one at a time. At least, pretend you’re following the recipe, but completely disregard it and throw the yolks in at the same time.
4. Biff in all the dry ingredients nd the water in and mix until it forms a nice, cohesive dough.
5. Then you press it into a pan, and cover with chocolate chips!
6. Remember the separated eggs? And how you have whites left over? Well now you get to beat them! When they’re getting all frothy and starting to stiffen, slowly add in the second lot of brown sugar, and then continue letting them beat until they form glossy, stiff peaks.
7. Skilfully spread over the stuff in the pan. If you manage to do it skilfully, you’ll be doing better than me.
8. After it’s been in the oven for about five minutes, cover the meringue with a piece of cooking paper so it doesn’t colour any more. As we’ve used brown sugar in this meringue, it’s going to be a bit chewier, and a bit nuttier in flavour. I’m totally looking forward to it! Let cook for another 15 minutes.
9. Rather than take it out of the oven immediately after it’s finished cooking, leave it in the oven once you’ve turned it off for ten minutes. It’ll keep cooking a bit, which is why I’ve cut the original cooking time down, but it’ll also help make sure that the meringue doesn’t flop.
10. Slice into squares and consume. This is extra yummy while still warm.
It's been a while. I feel a bit out of the swing of things, though that may have to do with the fact that I'm baking at 3 am, rather than baking at all. But still, getting into the blogging thing is hard! All this typing, and thinking.
Anyway, I’m making something called salted caramel chocolate bars, which as you can tell, involves caramel and salt. And chocolate. Sounds pretty damn awesome right? It better, because I have very high expectations at the moment; I want something easy but awesome to bake. I’m easing myself back into the strenuous world of midnight baking. And that jar of Hershey’s caramel was expensive, though come to think of it – it wouldn’t really take that much more effort to make my own and replace it in the recipe. I might do that if I make this a second time. Somebody remind me I said that.
On with the show.
Salted Caramel Chocolate Bars
1 ½ c flour
1 ½ c rolled oats
1 ¼ c brown sugar
200g butter, melted
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
Enough chocolate chips to evenly cover the base
5 tbsp flour
16 ounces caramel sauce (I used Hershey's)
¼ tsp flakey sea salt, ground up roughly (no chunks, but not as fine as table salt)
1. Locate your mixing bowls. If you live in my house, they like to go wandering. To obscure places in the kitchen. I suspect my sister again, she’s back from Australia for a holiday.
2. Gather all your measuring cups (and drop them), and measure out the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and baking soda. Biff them all into the bowl and mix together.
3. The original recipe says you now need a cup of butter – what a stupid measurement, right? (I’ll measure it for you, so you don’t have to battle!)The best way to actually do this is have soft butter and smush it into the cup, then melt and pour into the mix. Not all at once though. So let’s see how this goes!
4. Unexpectedly, it works out perfectly. The dough is still very crumbly, but it’s moist and the butter covers everything.
Insert rant: Yummm. This mixture is awesome. Very Anzac biscuit-y, but with a deeper, slightly nutty flavour (from the cinnamon and brown sugar). I think I might have to play around with this; half the baking soda, add some baking powder and make some awesome biscuits.
5. Restrain yourself from eating it all, and press half the mixture into a square baking tin. Then throw it in the oven for ten minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.
6. Open the jar of caramel sauce. Yell at it if you need. Swear words are acceptable, because what the hell? Those things are so hard to get into! Anyway, after you’ve done that, pour it into a smaller bowl.
7. Add the 5 tablespoons of flour, and mix away!
8. Once your base is out of the oven, let it cool for ten minutes, then spread the chocolate over top of it and then sprinkle the course salt over top (you can add more chocolate if you like). Salt seems weird right? But it’s unbelievably awesome with things like caramel and chocolate, as it brings out the flavours and provides and awesomely vivid contrast. Omnomnom.
9. Finally, sprinkle on the rest of the cake mixture stuff. Do not press it down – you can pat gently, but even that is going to make it squidg around. I could have done with a slightly bigger pan, but anything else I had was too big... so that’s what I was stuck with. Plus, it has a false bottom, so makes for easy removal later!
10. Then into the oven for twenty minutes. My tip would be to put a tray or some baking paper under the baking pan so that if any caramel does escape, it won’t get onto the bottom of your oven and become horribly stubborn and refuse to leave.
11. Leave it to cool completely before you cut into it, otherwise the caramel will just ooze everywhere.
While this tastes like a giant chocolately, gooey anzac biscuit ... thing, and is very tasty, next time I would halve the caramel. It's just all over the place! But then again, lots of caramel is yummy... so it's your own choice, I guess.