Saturday, June 11, 2011

Winter is the time for tea and biscuits...

...and what better biscuits than buttery, crumbly shortbread? They're a treat because they're SO full of butter, which makes them delish by default, and then, they have sugar on top. I feel like a fatty just thinking about them (it might have something to do with the fact that I already ate 2 pieces, just to "test" it).

I used Nigella Lawsons recipe from Forever Summer, which isn't a traditional shortbread recipe, but is a quick shortcut. Suits me down to the ground!! The end result doesn't taste anything like a shortcut has been taken, which suits me even more...

I dont have Nigellas book, so have gotten the recipe from the Baking with Gus blog, so go and have a look!

Heres the recipe

2/3 cup icing sugar

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, preferably Italian 00

2/3 cup corn flour

3/4 cup (180g) plus 2 tablespoons very soft unsalted butter

seeds from 1 vanilla bean

vanilla or ordinary granulated sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 160C (325F).


Put the icing sugar, flour and corn flour into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and give them a quick blitz before adding the butter along with the vanilla seeds you’ve scraped out of a bean. Process again until the soft mixutre coheres and begins to form a ball, loosely clumping around the blade. Turn this out into a jelly roll pan and press to form an even (or as even as you can make it) layer, using fingers of the back of a spoon, or both.

Using the tip of a sharp knife cut the pressed-out shortbread into fingers. Use the tines of a fork to make little holds in each marked-out biscuit.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, by which time the shortbread will be pale still, but not doughy.

Expect a little goldenness around the edges, but shortbread should be not crisp but melting.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes or so, before removing, with a palette knife and your fingers, to a wire rack.

Sprinkle with sugar and leave them to cool completely before storing in a tightly lidded tin.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Green Carrots?

I have found the solution to my green flecked carrot cake! Too much bicarb!

Here is the science behind why your carrots may turn green when you bake with them, from this Food Science website

"Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking, explains that carrots turn green when the batter "contains too much baking soda, or when the soda isn't evenly mixed in the batter."

Carrots contain pigments that are sensitive to changes in pH balance. When the shreds of carrot come into contact with the alkaline baking soda, a chemical reaction takes place that causes the pigments to change color.

Ipso facto, green carrots!

If your carrots turn inexplicably green with a recipe you've used many times before, the likely culprit is that the baking soda didn't get fully dispersed throughout the batter.

If your carrots are turning green every time you make the recipe, the ratio of baking soda in the recipe is probably off. Try reducing the amount by a quarter teaspoon next time you make the recipe.

Unappetizing though they may be, cakes and loaves with green carrots are perfectly safe to eat and taste no different than normal cakes!

Blueberries, sunflower seeds, and walnuts are also reactive to alkaline environments and experience similar color changes when the amount or distribution of baking soda is off."

BTW that picture is of Chard Muffins from the Apron Stringz blog... but you get the picture ;)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Too many carrots!!

We get our fruit and veg delivered by The Organic Collective, where we get a box full of random organic, local fruit n veg. Its awesome, its cheap ($37.50 for the 2 of us per week, in total), and its organic, WOOHOO! Anyway this week we got ALOT of carrots! We always get a few carrots but this week we got alot, and I was tired of roasting them, or putting them in a soup, so I decided to take action! Action in the form of Tessa Kiros' Carrot Cake, from Falling Cloudberries, which I havent cooked much from as yet, but we'll get there!
Anyway, 400g of carrot later, Ive definately made a dent in the carrot supplies, which is a relief... as delicious as roasts are, every night? A bit of variety is nice, and its been ages since I baked anything.

I didnt have many walnuts, maybe 20g left so I added a handful of mixed coconut, banana chips and dried pineapple to the batter, which were all pre mixed with the walnuts anyway - Im not fussy about these things, Im not likely to go sorting through the fruit and nut jar to find the lonely walnuts. It all goes in! Those who say baking is an exact science - pish posh, near enough is often good enough!

I decided to make cupcakes rather than a whole cake, as they're easier for my bf and I to take to work etc, and they're in friendlier portions (though, I dont know about you, but it DOES make eating more than one portion weigh much lighter on my concience than 2 slices of cake might!). The recipe calls for the cake to be baked for an hour, these cupcakes are done in about 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven... This is much better, I feel less guilty about eating more of them, AND they're baked in half the time. Enough to put a gleam in a gluttons eye!

They came out looking fab - they rose up beautifully (with 3 tsp of baking powder/bicarb, it'd wanna rise up!!) and didnt sink down at all. I obviously couldnt resist trying one straight away, warm, straight out of the oven... Its hard really, for cake fresh out of the oven to taste anything but delicious and that these were, it was to be expected.

After waiting for my bf to come home with cream cheese (with strict instructions which kind to get, where to get it and which ones NOT to get) he came home with the goods, and his parents, always willing cake testers! Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I am terminally half arsed. I often take short cuts, dont follow instructions fully and dont measure things out properly. About half the time things go better than expected... sometimes they fall slightly short of the mark and rarely do things totally just roll over and die. Thankfully the icing didnt roll over and die (or taste like someone would rather do that, than eat it) but it did turn out slightly lumpy, because I didnt sift the icing sugar. I had no intention of sifting it, and in turn, ended up with slightly lumpy icing. What of it, it hasnt affected the taste, and considering they're going to be mistreated by being thrown into my lunchbox on a hasty, late exit to school in the mornings, no one will notice or care but me. You'll notice there is one missing... I need not explain what happened to it - it was very nice!

Something quite strange happened though... Something I added into the mix, once it was cooked, underwent some sort of chemical reaction and turned green. I have no idea what, but little flecks of green are now in my carrot cupcakes! They have no taste, and you dont notice it, aside from the random green flecks. If it were banana, I could understand it goes brown and gooey, but carrot? Or maybe the pineapple, the coconut? Did the bicarb react with something? Who knows! It still tastes great. Ill still eat them! It'll take more than random greenness to stop me eating something delicious!! They're moist and quite light... with almost half a kilo of carrots in there you wouldnt be far off the mark to say they're almost healthy!! We wont talk about the 2 cups of sugar...... Regardless, here is the recipe for you guys to have a try!

Carrot Cake:
4 eggs, lightly beaten
250g caster sugar
185ml sunflower oil
300g plain flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
400g carrots, peeled and grated
55g chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting:
180g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
180g cream cheese
3 drops vanilla extract
Walnut halves to decorate (optional)

Preheat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas4. Grease and flour a 24 cm springform tin or bundt pan. Whisk eggs and sugar until creamy, then whisk in the oil. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon. Add this to the eggs and whisk. Add the carrots and nuts and mix together. Scrape into tin and bake for an hour. Once the cake has cooled; For the icing whip the butter and icing sugar together until its stiff. Beat in the cream cheese and vanilla. Spread over the cake.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

make my school a prison

An interesting perspective on school funding in the US, which anyone whos been to a public school in australia can relate to as well... Theres never enough of anything!

I think its worth taking a look at what is spent per prisoner in WA and comparing it to how much schools get per student (it doesnt quite work like that but would be an interesting comparison nonetheless...)

A school superintendent in Michigan has written a public letter to the editor asking Governor Rick Snyder if his school can become a prison instead. The full text is below. What do you think?


Dear Governor Snyder,

In these tough economic times, schools are hurting. And yes, everyone in Michigan is hurting right now financially, but why aren’t we protecting schools? Schools are the one place on Earth that people look to to “fix” what is wrong with society by educating our youth and preparing them to take on the issues that society has created.

One solution I believe we must do is take a look at our corrections system in Michigan. We rank nationally at the top in the number of people we incarcerate. We also spend the most money per prisoner annually than any other state in the union. Now, I like to be at the top of lists, but this is one ranking that I don’t believe Michigan wants to be on top of.

Consider the life of a Michigan prisoner. They get three square meals a day. Access to free health care. Internet. Cable television. Access to a library. A weight room. Computer lab. They can earn a degree. A roof over their heads. Clothing. Everything we just listed we DO NOT provide to our school children.

This is why I’m proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?!

Please provide for my students in my school district the same way we provide for a prisoner. It’s the least we can do to prepare our students for the giving our schools the resources necessary to keep our students OUT of prison.

Respectfully submitted,

Nathan Bootz, Superintendent, Ithaca Public Schools