Monday, June 13, 2016

the most gorgeous coconut cake


Perhaps you've seen the posts of this gorgeous cake of mine.  I mean......the cake that is to date the very best cake I have ever baked and I don't think it's just because I served it on a sunny winter morning at the beach with champagne and raspberries although those are a fantastically good circumstances.  Cheers to one of my best swimming friends, Dee and to her husband Peter's brilliant suggestion of a coconut cake with some fruit flavor for her birthday celebration.  The big day is also World Ocean Day which brings the whole thing rather full circle.

I have never baked a coconut cake, but have tried many so I knew what I wanted to happen but had no idea I'd pull it off on my first attempt.  I combined at least three recipes for this one.  The cake batter was fairly easy and would be good on it's own or with some other icing arrangement.  The lemon curd is standard and easy as long as you do not get distracted (you can focus on one thing for 10 minutes, I assure you, or you'll have to zest and juice again plus who keeps that many lemons around unless you have a tree like many people do here and I am jealous).  The real buttercream is worth the effort and a little counterintuitive.  More butter than sugar unlike quick buttercream with powdered/confectioner's/icing sugar, but here it is absolutely a good measure of the success of this recipe.  I did bake this cake and make the curd in the afternoon and then returned to the buttercream and assembly in the evening post pre-birthday bubbles and it still turned out beautifully.   Allow a good 40 minutes or so for the buttercream making and cake assembly, you may not need it but not being rushed would help.

Since I baked this on a dreary day and finished it at night in my already dark kitchen, there are no process photos.  I could bake another one this week just for the pictures, and I might.  But we are just one week past a huge storm that left the ocean unfit for swimming and if I'm not swimming a mile every day, I possibly do not need a gorgeous cake in the house.  Possibly.  It's very chilly here this morning so there is a high probability that baking will happen if for no other reason than to warm up the house.  Or I will do what I'm doing now, snuggled up to an outdoor heater at my cafe home writing and not being cold.  Such a different life I have right now.  Kind of like it if you haven't heard.

Coconut Cake
6 egg whites at room temperature (reserve two of the egg yolks for the lemon curd)
1 1/3 C coconut milk (basically a can's measure)
2 tsp vanilla
4 C flour (all purpose is fine, cake flour works too)
2 C sugar
5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
16 T (228g) unsalted butter, room temperature
Lemon Curd
Buttercream
Sweetened flake coconut to decorate (at least 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350F or 180C.  Prepare two round cake pans (8 or 9-inch, whatever you have) lining the bottoms with parchment and then spraying bottom and sides with non-stick spray.
In a medium bowl whisk together the egg whites, coconut milk and vanilla until combined.  Set aside.  In a stand mixer (oh, how I miss my KitchenAid) or in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer (current state of affairs), combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt at low speed.  Add in the butter at low speed increasing to medium.  Note:  this did not work for me with my hand mixer, but maybe my butter was too cold so I had to add a little of the liquid mixture to get everything working.  Add in the liquid mixture in three parts, scraping down sides and beating for 30 seconds after each addition.  Scrape batter into prepared pans and smooth the tops.  Bake cakes for 30-40 minutes or until a tester in the center comes out clean.  Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes and then invert onto baking racks to cool completely.  

Lemon Curd
2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
3/4 C sugar (caster sugar in Australian terms)
1/3 C (80g) cold unsalted butter
zest and juice of 2 lemons

Whisk eggs, yolk and sugar in a small saucepan until smooth then turn the heat to low.  Add in the butter, juice and zest and stir to melt butter.  Keep whisking continuously over low heat until thickened, maybe 5-10 minutes.  Curd will thicken a bit more upon chilling but get it good and thick over the heat first.  Strain through a sieve into a bowl or jar.  Cover and refrigerate until needed.


Buttercream

1 1/2 C sugar
1/3 C flour
1 1/2 C milk (I used skim because that is what I had)
1/3 C heavy cream
1 1/2 C (340g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour and sugar.  Add the milk and cream and whisk frequently over medium heat until mixture comes to boil and thickens or about 10 minutes.  Transfer the hot mixture to a stand mixer bowl (or mixing bowl with hand mixer) and beat on high until cool, about 8-10 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add in the butter a few pieces at a time until fully incorporated.  Add in vanilla.  Turn up the speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy.  Note:  I actually had to add in 1/2 C or powdered sugar to get the consistency I wanted but that could have just been me and my hand mixer problems.

Assembly
Place one cake layer on serving plate.  Thickly cover with lemon curd stopping before the edges to allow for the second layer to spread the curd a bit.  Top with the second layer.  Frost with buttercream and a spreader thickly coating the top and sides of the cake.  Press on coconut.  This is messy business, keep at it and clean up the cake plate at the very end.  Keep refrigerated.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

winter baking: pumpkin olive oil cake with browned butter glaze

So very blustery, so very dark on an early winter's night along the Tasman Sea with an East Coast Low angrily rolling through this weekend.  Finally settling in for the evening after spending much of the day securing our property because our patio furniture is menacingly moving every which way, the party lights are swinging off the tree and the wind and rain are blowing right through our big sliding glass doors.  Here's something you don't think about when you move around the planet:  you have no old towels to use as rags.  No ratty t-shirts when you get into something messy.  No old shoes to slog through a muddy trail.  Now, we've been abroad 20 months and thanks to a brutal old washing machine and countless hikes we've got some things we can sacrifice.  But not heaps.  It's too dark to worry about it.  As Greg said (from summery Shanghai), it's a good night to live in a concrete bunker on a cliff.  That is a fairly accurate assessment right now of our apartment that on summer days would be really offended by that description.  In other words, I'm hunkered down (praying for daylight, as the family saying goes) with time and inclination to finish this post I started last week. 

Last week when I was winding down autumn and you were most likely welcoming summer heat.  Let me review, seasons here do not officially change with the sun and the moon, but rather with the first of a month on a quarterly basis, hence the very practical start of winter in Australia is June first  instead of the more traditional (to Americans) June twenty-first (you know, the one based on actual science of the earth's tilt and rotation).  So it's chilly and it's pumpkin season, but pureed pumpkin is not sold in cans (or tins) here so to bake anything pumpkin you first need to roast a whole pumpkin and then puree it yourself.  It's not hard, but it's certainly not as easy as opening a can or tin, as they are called here.  So far every tin I have encountered has a pull top so you wouldn't even need a can opener for your pumpkin puree if it could be bought, which it can not so never mind how easy that would be.   

So I bought a pumpkin, cut it in half, scraped out the seeds, brushed it with a little bit of canola oil and roasted it face up in a medium hot oven (400 F or 200 F) for about half an hour (until tender when the flesh was poked with a fork).  After about 10 minutes, the flesh could be scooped out and then pureed with a stick blender (or stand mixer or blender or whatever you have).  Pumpkin baking crisis averted.  

The whole baking with browned butter thing is still a very strong trend at my house.  The single-layer cake gets all trendy with olive oil in the batter and browned butter in the icing.  Slice by slice, it's disappearing rapidly being delicious with breakfast, tea of as a dessert.  If it's just about summer where you are, file this one away and bake it up in a few months.  Enjoy your summer and all the fresh fruit desserts.  Have something with luscious ripe peaches for me.  

Cake

1/2 C white sugar (I know white sugar is the devil, substitute if you must)
1/4 C light or dark brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 C pumpkin puree
2 T milk
1/2 C nice fruity olive oil
1 C flour (also the devil, substitute away)
1 C whole wheat flour 
1 T baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground cardamon (optional)
1/2 tsp salt

Glaze
3 T unsalted butter
1-2 C powdered/icing sugar
2 T milk
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 C.  Line an 8 or 9-inch round cake pan with parchment and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamon (if using).  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, using a stand or hand mixer on medium high speed beat sugars and eggs together until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in pumpkin puree and milk until combined.  Lower the speed of your mixer to avoid a big splashy mess, and slowly add in the olive oil.  Scrape down the sides and slowly mix in half of the flour mixture.  Scrape again and add the other half of the flour mixture until well-combined.  Pour batter into prepared cake tin (see, I've been here a while automatically typing tin instead of pan).  Bake 25-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean from the center of the cake.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully invert the cake onto the wire rack to finish cooling.

Prepare glaze by melting butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring a bit and watching it carefully until it just starts to smell nutty and turn chestnut brown (this might happen in just one part of the pan, that's good enough).  Turn off heat and take pan off burner to avoid scorching the butter.  Cool slightly.  Whisk together powdered sugar, browned butter and pinch of salt (just a little one to bring it all together and cut the sweetness) adding milk a tablespoon at a time until the glaze is pourable or spreadable (however you like it).  Pour or spread over cooled cake.  Can be stored at room temperature.  

Try not to eat the whole thing in one day.  I think it took us two days with some help from lovely guests and great restraint on the part of all four of us.  Sorry for the lack of photos, it's very dark in my kitchen this time of year and well, we ate the cake so quickly I only got a good photo of the very last piece. 




Friday, April 22, 2016

purple rain day: maple oatmeal coffee break bread

Here I type in the middle of a moody grey afternoon in paradise, after a wake-up text I didn't see coming that just knocked me a little sideways and left me tuned into Double J's commercial free Australian state radio all-day, all-Prince broadcast.  The first time Greg and I saw him live was the night after he won the Oscar for Purple Rain.  Man.  1985.  The year I graduated from Purdue.  I was supposed to be lining up interviews in downtown Hartford, Connecticut so I put on my interview suit and pumps and went straight to stand in line at Ticketmaster for two tickets that were barely in the newlywed budget.  Don't worry, I graduated with a job but first we went to a crazy good Prince concert.  Fast forward 31 years to our second Prince concert just two months ago at the Sydney Opera House.  This time I was supposed to be getting my morning rice milk flat white, which I did but shortly thereafter I found out he was playing his "Piano and a Microphone" tour that night and within minutes I was online buying two tickets that were probably still out of the budget but, you know.

Let me give you a visual.  The small stage is dark with just a few cast iron candelabras on the periphery.  A golden light shines through the stage door with a silhouetted Prince in all of his Prince glory with a cane by his side.  And that's all he had to do.  Appear.  We were spellbound for the next two hours.  He'd stop mid-song and just strut the stage with his light-up shoes like my kids loved when they were little.  He had a wicked sense of humor.  He was ridiculously prolific, so we didn't know all the songs but it mattered not at all, we were completely immersed in the magic.

This has virtually nothing to do with this recipe other than the fact that I'm so intent on enjoying the Prince thing they've got going on the radio that I might as well write.  It's autumn here in my current hemisphere and warm enough to swim, but cool enough to bake. And so yesterday morning I baked two dozen of my famous buttermilk mini donuts (one dozen chocolate-espresso with powdered sugar and one dozen vanilla with a bit of nutmeg dipped hot into melted butter and cinnamon sugar) to share with my swim friends as we sat and drank our coffee and warmed up in the bright sun. Yesterday evening I roasted cauliflower for dinner, kept on roasting and threw rhubarb/vanilla bean/orange juice/brown sugar in a pan for muesli topping and lowered the heat for today's cake recipe.  The flavors or maple and oatmeal just sounded good (because it does get chilly in Sydney, it's paradise but we have seasons).  I had buttermilk that I couldn't open properly for the donuts and felt compelled to use it up rather than repackaging it after I had to slice open the top (hate that).  I had some nice walnuts to toast and searched for some ideas online.  It was getting late, so something one bowl, no mixer and one pan baking would be just right.  It's dark now by 5:30, so my ability to stay awake (even without the jet-lag) without Greg home to nudge me, is seriously in doubt past 8:00. With this soundtrack, I'm good to go tonight.  I'll get some words down with the occasional dance break.  You can't sit when they play "Let's Go Crazy".  Well you can, but why would you.  Almost my entire life here in Australia is of the "dance like no one is watching" theme.  If they're watching, I hope they can hear the digital radio.  It would explain a lot.

So here you go, this is a hybrid of things I found online and things I bake often.  It's a good little loaf that could be toasted.  It's definitely made for coffee and or tea.  It's not too sweet.  It's not overly indulgent.  Pretty sure it will keep nicely if that's something that actually happens at your house.

Rest in peace, Prince.  Thanks for the soundtrack to my 20's that's carried on through to my 50's nicely.  Thanks for being.  Thanks for that Super Bowl halftime show.  You'll be missed.  Too bad you could never stop by for some cake.  "Oh no, let's go....."


Maple Oatmeal Coffee Break Bread

2 C old-fashioned oats, not quick cooking
1 1/2 C flour (white, whole wheat or mixed)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 C maple syrup
1 C buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 C brown sugar
4 T melted and lightly browned butter (melted butter, not borwned is fine too)
1/2 C walnut pieces, lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 C.  Coat loaf pan with non-stick spray.

While warming up oven, lightly toast walnuts on parchment paper on a baking sheet (5-10 minutes, keep a watch on them) or lightly toast them in a dry non-stick pan over medium heat on a cooktop.  Cool slightly and quickly chop them in the food processor.

Process the oats until coarse, maybe 30 seconds.  Empty into large mixing bowl, leaving about 1/2 C in the food processor to process into a finer flour texture.  Pour into the mixing bowl and whisk together with the flour(s), soda, baking powder, and salt.  

Measure maple syrup into a liquid measuring cup and add buttermilk, vanilla and eggs.  Whisk together and pour into flour mixture along with the browned or melted butter. Whisk or stir together the batter until just well-combined.  Stir in the walnuts.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake 45-50 min or until tester in the center comes out clean.  Remove pan from oven and cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.  Turn out onto the rack and turn again to finish cooling right side up.

Sydney Opera House sails lit purple at dusk on our ferry ride in for the Prince concert 20 February, 2016

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Browned butter goodness: chocolate (and chai) buttermilk mini donuts

In preparation (and as therapy for the waiting) for our girls (plus one boyfriend) arriving Christmas morning dozens of little donuts have popped out of my oven spreading Christmas cheer around paradise.  Assuming all the ingredients are in my kitchen (because honestly, last Saturday they were not and I made 3 trips down the stairs past the beach and to the grocery all before noon but I was also baking cookies for which I kept forgetting something too), they take me less than half an hour to turn out.  So they are ostensibly quick, but it's the softness, the taste and the cuteness that keep me experimenting.  I started with chocolate with peanut butter glaze.  Peanut butter is particularly American; so when I asked one of my pint-sized Australian friends which flavor she would like, she chose chocolate with chocolate glaze (with snowflake sprinkles).  Then I wanted to try a little chai and almond flour riff on the Mexican wedding cake/Russian tea cake or whatever your family calls those little balls of flour, butter, sugar and nuts rolled in powdered sugar (which is icing sugar here, in case you need to decode the many sugar choices), I made a chai version.  Because when you are measuring out a bunch of spices, you might as well do it twice.

I am killing it on the parentheses in this post.  Sorry.  This is what happens when I take a big break from posting.  Words just everywhere.  Literally everywhere.  We are one year into this fun study abroad program also known as my husband's international assignment.  One year and maybe three posts?  Not exactly crushing my goals for keeping this little project going.  I honestly think if I had a gorgeous kitchen, I'd be posting more. But maybe not, it's hard to say.  I definitely would have posted more if my MacBook didn't spend the last few months in slow decline/barely functioning/getting almost completely rebuilt (under my Apple Care warranty, phew).  But maybe not, it's hard to say.

And it matters little why, because I'm writing now.  You need this donut recipe in your life.  You also will then need a little mini donut pan.  I had mini and regular-sized donut pans in the states, but did not move them.  My oven here is possibly not as wide as your microwave, so it's just as well that they are in storage.  I bought a cute little mini one made by Wilton here at Big W which is the general merchandise branch of Woolworth's which is a grocery chain in Australia.  You need the pan.  You might need a pastry bag, but I left that at home too so I use a ziploc bag with the corner cut at an angle to pipe the batter into the pan.  But I have used too many ziplocs, so I'll be buying a new pastry bag (saving the planet, as you do).  You also need buttermilk.  You may not regularly buy buttermilk, but it makes lovely moist baked goods, is tangy and light in smashed/mashed potatoes and makes a great marinade with onion, garlic and spices for chicken.  I'm a big fan.  Buy a small carton and mind the expiration date.  In the states, buttermilk is usually labled lowfat (good for a lot of reasons) and usually has a long life in the refrigerator.  Neither is a given here so I always buy the little carton and sometimes that means I have to run to the store one more time.

But the game changer here is the browned butter.  The nutty, caramel taste of the browned butter has radically improved these little baked donuts.  So much so that I baked a peanut butter snack cake last week just to see if substituting browned butter for the canola oil would be as good as it sounds like it would (it was).  Heat your butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat and keep an eye on it, maybe stir it but maybe not.  Just as soon as it starts to brown (you will see small flecks of brown in the otherwise golden butter), remove it from the heat. You can miss the golden brown, toasty flavor stage and careen towards an undesirable burnt appearance and taste pretty quickly.  It's not hard, I'm just telling you not to multitask away from the stove while you are browning the butter.  I'm making the assumption you have kitchen/housework ADD like me and can't simply stand at the stove and watch the butter brown with out some pain.  Put on some good music and stand there, well you can dance while you wait you don't just have to stand there for the 2-4 minutes this might take.

I have made these donuts so many times recently, I have the recipe all straight in my head.  It's baking so you actually have to measure correctly.  Cooking for me now rarely means a recipe or measuring, but baking demands precision.  I don't even double baking recipes very often.  I generally question the results if I were to exactly double the spices or double the leavening.  I'd rather make two batches and have them much more likely to turn out as expected.

As a little bonus here, keep scrolling through for Chai Spiced Buttermilk Baked Mini Donuts since the only process pictures I have are from that little experiment.  You would be wondering why my chocolate donuts are so blonde.  One little aside here on being blonde in Manly:  there are so many lovely Swedish students and expat families here.  As they do, on the 13th of December the Swedish cafe here hosted their Lucia celebration.  Had to go.  I've read of St. Lucia and heard the carol they sing as the young girls in white dresses with red ribbons wear the crowns of candles on their pretty heads.  One girl was passing out the lyric sheets before the procession and spoke to me in Swedish as she handed one to me.  Not Swedish, just blonde.  But thank you just the same.


Chocolate Buttermilk Baked Mini Donuts

1 C flour
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa
4T packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C buttermilk
1 large egg
4 T (57 grams) unsalted butter, heated until just browned
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C).  Spray the cups of a mini donut pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through salt).  If you have one, use a 2-cup liquid measuring cup to measure out the buttermilk then whisk in the egg and the vanilla.  Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and whisk to begin to combine then add the browned butter to combine thoroughly.
Here's really the only tricky part:  however you manage it best scrape the batter into a quart ziplock bag or a pastry bag.  I use my silicone spatula, but if you had a helper it would be easier for someone to hold open the bag while you scrape.  Alternately, you could scoop out the batter.  But work in a timely manner, once you have combined wet and dry ingredients you need to get them baking to maximize the rise and keep the finished donut light.  It's not a race, I almost hesitate to put that in there, but keep moving.  You can have donuts start to finish in 30 minutes.  Pipe the batter in cute little circles in the prepared pan.  This is super easy until the last 3 or so when the batter level gets low.  No worries, just scrape it in there and make sure the wells are equally full.  You can move the batter around a bit with a knife or spoon.  Pop them in the oven for 8 minutes.  If they smell done at 7 minutes, go check them.  If the batter has begun to pull away from the sides and the donut springs back to a light touch, they are done.  With hot pads, flip them onto a wire rack to cool.  Or just eat them now because warm donuts are delicious.

Sprinkle the cooled donuts with powdered sugar or ice them with the following glazes.  Glaze or sugar the donuts with the bottom side up (nice and rounded side which looks very donut-like).


Peanut Butter Glaze

3/4 C powdered/confectioners/icing sugar
2 T creamy peanut butter
pinch of salt
2-3 T milk
1 tsp vanilla
sprinkles, if desired

In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, peanut butter, salt, 2 T of the milk and the vanilla until smooth.  If mixture is too thick, thin with another T of the milk.  Dip donuts in the glaze or make the glaze a bit thicker so you can spread it on the cooled donuts with a knife or spreader. Sprinkle on sprinkles, if desired.

Chocolate Glaze

3/4 C powdered/confectioners/icing sugar
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch salt
2-3 T milk
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, pinch salt,  2 T milk and the vanilla until smooth. Whisk in another T of milk if needed to thin.  Dip donuts to glaze or make the glaze a bit thicker to spread on the cooled donuts with a knife or spreader.  Sprinkle on sprinkles, if desired.  

Chai Spiced Mini Buttermilk Donuts

1 C flour
4T packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 C buttermilk
1 large egg
1tsp vanilla
4 T (57 grams) unsalted butter, heated until just browned

Follow directions above for Chocolate Buttermilk Baked Mini Donuts whisking together dry ingredients, whisking together wet ingredients (buttermilk, egg, vanilla) and combining both with the slightly cooled browned butter.  Pipe into prepared pans and bake at 325 F (160 C) for 8 min.  Flip onto cooling rack and dust generously with powdered sugar when cooled.  They would also be good with espresso glaze (whisk together 3/4 C powdered sugar, pinch salt with 2 T cooled espresso).

clockwise from yellow bowl:  browned butter, dry ingredients, buttermilk and egg


chai batter
mini donut pan ready to go

 piping the batter with a ziploc bag

 baked donuts in my tiny oven 

flipped out onto cooling rack 

powdered sugar goodness


Lucia carols at Fika 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Going Pro: All About the Crumble Muffins (and Crumble Granola)

Woo hoo!  Sold my first cake (writer's note: now I've sold three)!  Going pro after all these years of amateur status.  I bake for many reasons (the order of importance varies widely):  to show love, to make friends, to feed hungry people, to feed me, to do something productive, to feel accomplishment, to change my mood, to calm me down, to taste the batter, to challenge myself, to try something new, to justify a cookbook purchase......I could go on.  I'm living in basically paradise, but winter's just over and spring is new and even though it's mild (usually 60-70 F during the day) it's almost always cold in our apartment without central (or any, really) heat.  It's nice to run the oven just for a little extra warmth.  It's also good to work in the kitchen in the evening so I don't just fall asleep watching television or Netflix (currently binge-watching Parks and Rec).  And no matter the weather, I can always use more friends. Baked goods are excellent ice breakers.  Plus, I definitely need someone to eat most (if not all) I bake because paradise requires wearing swim wear and Australian paradise pretty much requires that to be of the two-piece variety or a wetsuit which is possibly even less friendly than a bikini.

Anyway, I've never baked for profit to this point.  And even though I'm selling baked goods to my favorite cafe on a pretty casual basis, going pro in a highly semi-pro way, it's clearly not about the money.  A little pocket money will be fun, but baking for resale will be something new to do and truly it will simply be something to do.  Currently weekly orders of peanut butter snack cake and weekend dinner service orders of creme brulee cheesecake are on my baking schedule (along with these muffins because they are favorites). You would think with all this free time my empty nester expat life affords that I might have written a few more blog posts.  Up until a few weeks ago, I just couldn't get comfortable in my apartment kitchen. But I've been back from two trips home to the states for over a month now and the whole thing is feeling more like home, not just the kitchen.  It's still a very dark and fairly ugly space, but the appliances and I have a better relationship now and I'm pretty good at overlooking things I can not change.  I have yet to find attractive options for photos, so for now you will get mainly photos off my iPhone.  I need to construct a good white space for photography and that just may never happen here.  The joys of living some place that's not your own.

But I do have a warming drawer.  There's that.  I love that thing.  Since most of you are about to enter the cool weather, here's a semi-pro tip for you:  warm your plates (and serving bowls, if appropriate) before serving dinner.  The warming drawer is perfect for this, but a quick microwave (if microwave safe) or a good running under hot water works too.  You've bothered to assemble a delicious hot meal and it would be tragic to have it quickly cooled from a cold plate.  That is for sure my favorite thing about my kitchen.  Well, that and my kitchen is just a few hundred yards from the Tasman Sea/Pacific Ocean.

Do you want a recipe?  You know, I might get around to that for you.  That is the whole point of this blog.  (I do have the other one for expat musings).  One of my cookbooks that made the trip down under, is "Huckleberry" from the cafe/bakery in Santa Monica.   The cover features a brioche loaf with a fresh blueberry swirl which I have yet to make because that swirl would cost me about $20 here (blueberries are crazy expensive no matter the season).  But I have made the brioche which is lovely.  And I've made a vegetarian tartine with a brilliant bechamel sauce that employs a jalepeno.  I will share it.  You may have to remind me.  The current favorite from the book is this muffin.  I've changed it just a bit based on ingredients I can easily find.  The muffins are not too sweet and are full of nutty tasting good things, but the best part is the crumble topping.  It's so good, I've actually made it into a granola recipe which is a little bonus at the end of the post.  Because the tops crumbled into my morning yogurt with fresh blood oranges and strawberries were a happy accident that is now a regular routine.  Don't let the millet put you off. It is pretty funny that I spent lots of money buying deluxe bird food for our backyard birds in Indiana, deluxe usually meaning a low percentage of millet, and now I am buying lowly millet it from the bulk bins to use in my baked goods for humans.

One more little side note.  I can not find kosher salt in Sydney.  Closest thing would be sea salt, but the crystals are massive and I think must be ground to add to baked goods.  On the other hand, finishing salts are plentiful and not expensive.  Maldon flaky sea salt is actually much cheaper here. Neither here nor there, but an interesting side note (at least to me).  Bake on.







All About the Crumble Muffins

Crumble Topping
1/2 C oats, preferable old-fashioned (not quick) oats
1/4 C whole wheat flour
3 T unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 T brown sugar
1 T honey
1 T millet
1 T chia seeds (poppy seeds are also good, but one or the other)
1T flax seeds
1T wheat germ
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt

Muffins
1 1/4 C whole wheat flour
2 T almond flour
1 T wheat germ
1 T millet
1 T chia or poppy seeds
1 T flax seeds
1 T oats
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 C brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 C granulated sugar (I like superfine, here that is called caster sugar)
1 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1/2 C buttermilk
1/2 C canola oil
1 egg
1tsp vanilla
1 large apple, peeled and coarsely grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray or line muffin cups with papers (which just seem silly if your baked goods are being consumed at home).

When you are measuring out dry ingredients for the crumble topping, go ahead and measure out the dry ingredients for the muffins too because there are a lot of duplicates.  Just a timesaver.

Make the crumble topping combining all crumble ingredients in a small bowl and blending them with your hands (warms up the butter) and helps form the crumbs.  Set aside.  You will have to wash your hands with nice hot soapy water (which you should already be doing in the kitchen), but before you do, feel free to have a taste of that crumble.  Yum..

To make the muffins, in a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients:  whole wheat flour, almond flour, wheat germ, millet, chia/poppy seeds, flax seeds, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, sugar and salt.  In a liquid measuring cup or in a small bowl, whisk together the butter, honey, buttermilk, canola oil, egg and vanilla extract.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold together with the grated apple just until combined.

Fill muffin cups to the top (or pretty close) and top with evenly distributed crumble.  Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean and or the center of the muffins springs back when lightly pressed.  Cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before carefully lifting muffins out to continue to cool on a cooling rack right side up (you don't want to lose the crumb topping).

Makes 12 (delicious) muffins

Bonus recipe a modification of the crumble topping.

Crumble Granola

3 C oats, not the quick cooking kind
3 T unsalted butter
4 T brown sugar
2 T honey
2 T millet
2 T chia seeds (poppy seeds are also good, but one or the other)
2 T flax seeds
2 T wheat germ
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon, optional

Melt the butter and stir in the sugar and honey.  Toss with all dry ingredients and modify to taste. You may want to add some canola or other oil (coconut oil would be tasty) by the tablespoon if your granola is too dry.  You can always replace the butter with oils of your choice.  Add the cinnamon if you want.  Add some almonds or walnuts or sunflower seeds.  After baking, toss in some dried fruit of choice.
Spread the granola evenly on a baking pan/sheet lined with parchment and bake in a 325 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, stirring so it evenly toasts but does not get too brown.  Store in an airtight container.



Hehe.  Note this whole bag of indoor bird food is $1 AUS.  Look at all those little pearly grains of millet.
Side note.  Men's Speedos are aka as "Budgie Smugglers" in Australia.  They are a funny lot.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

new addiction: peanut butter snack cake

Ahhh, even in paradise there are cool and rainy days in fall.  My tendency to bake on dreary days continues even in my upside down world in Australia.  It's such a compelling feeling in my gut on days like this.  Must bake.  Must warm up the kitchen. Must measure.  Must move through the kitchen logically, economically, purposefully and rhythmically.  Must produce something that makes me happy because it makes other people happy. The challenge here is to find someone with which to share the good things I am drawn to produce.

Today I made my second peanut butter snack cake in 10 days and I'm afraid it might become a small addiction.  And I kind of had to make it because I have a week to clear out the refrigerator before I fly home and it's just me.  What to do with the buttermilk?  I could marinate some chicken (but then I'd have leftover chicken).  Nah, baking is more fun and easier to share.  I've boxed up some to take to my favorite couple behind the counter and behind the espresso machine at my favorite coffee place. And the two pieces I saved for myself are already gone.  Challenge met.


Peanut butter is also not really a thing here.  You can find bulk nuts of all kinds, but peanuts are not always amongst your selections.  Have yet to see a honey roasted peanut which is a little sad.  I'd love to make some of my peanut butter.  I might be able to change some minds.  The natural peanut butters in the groceries are good, just expensive but you can say that about most food in Australia.

This little cake is a winner.  I make it in an 8 x 8 pan so there are 16 cute little pieces.  It's not overly sweet.  You can eat it without utensils.  It's not crumbly.  It would be easy to pack in a lunch sack. But mainly it's just yummy.  I haven't tried stirring in some chocolate chips, but I would imagine you can easily add some of the mini ones for extra deliciousness.

I do miss mini chips.  I can certainly endure the bigger drops or disks here or chopping some bulk chocolate, but I may smuggle a few bags of mini chips back in.  Shhhhh, don't tell.

You can make this cake in just over half an hour and in just one bowl and a few measuring cups. Finish this cake with a nice blanket of powdered sugar.  Just for the happiness of it.

Peanut Butter Snack Cake

1 C sugar
1 C flour
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 C lowfat buttermilk
1/4 C canola or other neutral flavored oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
6 T water
1/2 C natural creamy peanut butter (just peanuts and salt, no added sugar or whatever)
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8 x 8 pan (or an 8 or 9 inch round pan) with a square of parchment paper on the bottom and then spray the bottom and sides with non-stick spray.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.  In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup measure the buttermilk and then measure the oil on top.  Whisk in the vanilla and egg, water and peanut butter until smooth.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk or stir together until well-combined.  Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden and a cake tester in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then invert pan and cake onto a cooling rack to cool completely.  Dust generously with powdered sugar.  Cut into squares and serve.  Store in an airtight container (if you have any leftovers).

Australian versions of familiar American ingredients

dry and wet

still needs some whisking-see the lumps?  you don't want lumps

ready to bake

golden

inverted with the parchment-you don't need the foil, I had a scrap and was minimizing clean up, but I should have rotated this for you, although sideways is often appropriate for me

again, do not use the foil, your cake will steam while cooling 

yum






Saturday, April 25, 2015

my kicthen rules (well, kind of since I am a little under equipped): chocolate meringue cake





Ahh, and we find an unposted draft.  Hmmmm..... how did I miss hitting the publish button?  It's always a good time for a chocolate cake post and this one is a good one.  Small and different enough to serve for a celebration or just because you need little chocolate.  When this cake was about to go in the oven, Greg texted me that an Aussie celebrity was getting his haircut in the chair next to him at the barber shop just down in town.  So I hit the timer on my phone, jumped on my bike and waited until the haircuts were done to get a picture.  There is a hugely popular reality series here, MKR or My Kitchen Rules, a home cook competition for aspiring chefs.  The two-person teams come from all over Australia and from "instant restaurants" where teams decorate their homes and cook in their own kitchens for the other competitors and the very intimidating judges to cooking challenges including catering a wedding, cooking for an airline and feeding campers the teams have been reduced from 18 to 5.  The team of "Poms" which is Aussie for Brits from Manly and nearby Mosman are still in the top 5.  And my new friend here, Steve Flood (the Manly half of the duo) and his friend Will are clearly favorites to win.  He was very gracious and we had a good chat about baking, Australian eggs, oven thermometers, kitchen scales and of course, MKR.  Good on Greg for tipping me off.  Greg loves the show and is now traveling and terribly sad to miss the finals.

I own the ridiculousness of this brush with Aussie fame:  MKR's Steve Flood of Manly and me
This is the cake that was in the oven during that fateful afternoon.  About a month ago we had a proper little dinner party for our Manly Airbnb hosts who in a very lovely way have become good friends.  I wanted to bake an apple galette, but could not find pie apples (and it is fall here) at the shops I could easily reach on my bike.  But I did find my favorite Belgian chocolate, Callebaut (good news for Sara who is coming to visit soon), on sale at a price less than what I paid in the states (but I bought it at Whole Foods, mind you).   Chocolate in the house, I then fortuitously found a recipe for a single layer chocolate cake on Instagram from an Aussie lifestyle personality, Donna Hay who's not quite a Martha Stewart but that is clearly her goal.  I tweaked it a little, but I do like how in many baking recipes here they include almond meal for part of the structure instead of all flour.  The flours are different here with some milled coarser, some finer, self-rising being a popular thing and the like.  I buy my almond meal from a bulk seed, nut, and etc. stand at our bi-weekly farmers market.  It's fairly coarse, but works well. But even the grocery brands of almond meal/almond flour are less expensive than in the states probably because it is more commonly used.

The measurements here include grams and a close conversion.  I actually brought a kitchen scale to Australia just for this reason.  Easier and more precise to weigh, but you will be fine with my conversions.  If you want to buy a kitchen scale someday, they are kind of cool to use.  Surely better for baking measurements.  This is another baking win all by hand.  I even whisked the meringue by hand.  Quite a workout, but after a while, glossy peaks did indeed form.  

Anyway, this cake is yummy.  The base is almost like a brownie.  The base is baked first and then topped with a meringue and returned to the oven.  Meringue topping trumps frosting in my book.  It just kind of melts into the base layer and is a delightful texture.  I served it with a bit of vanilla ice cream, but it's a good rustic cake that is good for snacking without a scoop of ice cream (or even utensils), if you have some leftover.  I also bake a vanilla meringue cake which is really nice with some macerated strawberries (berries tossed in a little sugar to release the juices) and Spring-y.  Both are a nice one-layer size giving you just enough for dessert, but not too much.

Chocolate Meringue Cake

250 grams dark chocolate  (ha ha, unless you have a food scale that's 8.8 ounces for you and don't sweat it the chocolate measurement is not the most important measurement and you can use milk chocolate or a combination of the two, if you like)
180 grams unsalted butter (6.7 ounces or about 3/4 C)
2 eggs
4 additional eggs, used as yolks first for the cake layer than whites for the meringue layer
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 C almond meal (almond flour in the states)
1 C superfine sugar (here it is called caster sugar, ok)
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp espresso powder (even finely ground coffee beans work)

2 T cocoa powder (dutch process if you have it)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line the bottom of a springform pan with a circle of parchment paper and then spray the sides and the paper bottom of the pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth.  Set mixture aside to cool a bit.  In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, extra egg yolks, brown sugar and vanilla until pale and thick (yep, you can do this by hand too but it is way easier in a stand mixer).  Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate mixture, flour, baking powder and almond meal folding gently to combine (this is actually best done by hand).  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until a tester in the middle comes out clean and or the cake springs back when lightly touched in the middle. I'm a cake tester kind of girl, but when I baked this the light touch spring back method worked.  So did my tried and true indicator of "when you smell delicious baked goods, they are probably done".  Remove the cake and turn up the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the meringue layer by beating the reserved egg whites on high (or really get your forearms a workout and whisk it by hand) until soft peaks form.  Gradually add the sugar and beat until the meringue is thick and glossy.  Stir in the cream of tartar, espresso and cocoa powders gently until evenly mixed through.  Scrape the meringue out of the bowl and smooth evenly across the baked cake.  Return the cake to the oven and bake another 20-25 minutes until the meringue is lightly browned (it's kind of hard to tell since it is chocolate, but 20 minutes should be enough).  Cool on a wire rack until room temperature.  Carefully run a table knife around the sides of the springform pan along the baked cake to release.  Remove springform and place cake, covered loosely, in the refrigerator to cool for at least two hours.  Cut in slices and serve with ice cream or berries, if desired.


baked cake layer

hand whisked meringue

baked cake and meringue layer

ready to plate and serve



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

comforting: mushroom and ricotta pasta

Where did April and the sunshine go?  Our first guests to our beach apartment have come and gone after three fun weeks of showing them our Sydney, wine country and our first domestic flight to explore the outback.  You can read more about that on my expat blog.  Mike and Tina arrived on Good Friday for what we thought was the rainiest Sydney weather ever until they left in the middle of what truly was the stormiest couple of days in decades yesterday and today.  Gale force winds and driving rain for over 48 hours with the most impressive high seas I have ever seen (9-10 meter swells).  Somehow, they safely got on their way back to the states and Greg made it to Kuala Lampur on Malaysia Airlines (the one carrier you really want to be on during basically a hurricane/cyclone). 

It is well and truly fall here.  The days are much shorter.  Sadly, my tan is fading.  The ocean is cooling a bit and my wetsuit (I really love that I have a wetsuit) has replaced all two piece options. The prevailing southerly winds (on normal days when it's not the storm of the century) are chilly (southerly winds are the cold ones which is just as strange as living on the Pacific Ocean and being on the East Coast). It's very strange and confusing to live with the opposite seasons.  I completely stumble over seasons in conversation going between hemispheres.  And unlike your excitement over the coming salad and grilling days,  my cooking is going back to the warm comfort foods.   This is not just because we have no heat in our apartment, but a warm stove or oven is tempting me to finally get back to the kitchen.  I've really struggled to spend any time in there.  It's still not feeling like mine and probably never will, but the spice rack is filling up and I'm getting a little rhythm to my food shopping and that's a good feeling.

For a pasta dish, this is not terribly heavy and is good with just a salad or a little grilled protein on the side.  We buy little lamb cutlets from the farmer who comes into Manly for the organic market every couple of weeks.  Lamb here is fantastic especially straight from the farmer.  I wrestle a little with the virtues of eating meat and lamb and veal are tough ones for me, but they are delicious.  There is a lovely farm stand that comes into the market every week with the best mushrooms.  I always buy a big paper bag full of the assorted ones and find a new way to enjoy them.  At home in the states, Meijer almost always has a good fancy blend in 8 or 10 ounce packages (maybe called gourmet? been too long to remember acurately).  One of the commercial markets makes a good fresh ricotta, but the packaged brands are perfectly fine for this dish.  As they say in Australia, the mushrooms are the star of this dish.  But fresh ricotta is very nice.  Try it if you haven't already.  This is an adaptation from Saveur magazine and it's just excellent.  Easy, quick and very tasty.  I have made it once with and once without the walnuts.  If I'm serving a little meat alongside, the walnuts seem a bit much and I leave them out.  I did get some really gorgeous walnuts at the market, but they are so good they are best eaten out of hand or with cheese.


Mushroom and Ricotta Pasta
6 T unsalted butter
2 lb. mixed mushrooms, such as chanterelles, cremini, hen of the woods, oyster, and porcini, cut into bite-size pieces (if you just have a nice box of baby bellas/creminis that's fine too)
1 tbsp. roughly chopped fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. pasta (pappardelle, linguini or even medium shapes whatever you like)
1 cup ricotta, fresh if you can find it
½ cup toasted walnut pieces, optional

Melt butter in a large skillet and cook mushrooms (possibly in batches if your skillet is not big enough for 2 pounds to cook without being crowded), 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, garlic, salt and pepper about 10-15 minutes stirring often until mushrooms are tender and golden.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (use at least 1 T of kosher salt in the water for the tastiest pasta). Cook pasta as directed until al dente, but before draining ladle out 1 C of the pasta water into a measuring cup to use in the sauce.  Drain the pasta and toss in a large bowl with the ricotta and 1/2 C of the reserved pasta water to combine. Use a little more pasta water if needed for the right consistency (fresh ricotta can be a bit thinner and need less water than packaged ricotta). Gently toss in the cooked mushrooms.  Garnish with a little more fresh thyme and the toasted walnuts, if desired.  


Serves 4-6 people



Saturday, March 28, 2015

success at last: mini German pancakes


Finally gaining some momentum in my not so favorite Australian apartment kitchen.  I'm starting to get the hang of baking with my tiny little oven.  Fairly certain I need to buy an oven thermometer (one in celsius)*.  And pretty sure I need at least the Aussie version of my immersion blender with the beaker, bowl and whisk.  The food processor I bought off gumtree (like Craig's List) is too big for small jobs (and also unhappily, not very powerful).  Oh, I miss all my tools from home.  The motors would die sad deaths here with the different current, so they are all living in someone else's kitchens while I am away.

My baking failures have possibly as much to do with hand creaming butter and sugar as they do with the giant eggs I was buying.  But after a 0 for 3 start on baking, I have turned the corner and built up some arm strength.  Greg's been away and I'm good at hauling things home on my bike and on foot, but I had to draw the line on small appliances.  Just a luxury that could wait. Groceries (still learning to buy less to carry less), table lamp (yep, missed the delivery and I had to carry that big box home by the beach which was lovely and funny), new Birkenstocks (yes, they are ugly but supremely functional at the beach), print leggings (right,  I do not need more leggings but the ones here are so much lighter and well, they are prints so they are, you know, cuter) and a new bikini (yes, bikini, I am telling you no one cares here and they are just easier to layer) can all find their way home.  But small appliances, no.  So I've creamed butter and sugar until light and fluffy with a wooden spoon and whisked egg whites into meringue all by my own power and the baking success ratio is now evened up with 3 wins.  March Madness I tell you.

Here's a super quick recipe that you can whip up for breakfast now, but it's probably dinner time where you are and sunrise here.  You have what you need and if you have a blender, that luxury kitchen item,  you are golden.   Maybe you've made a Dutch baby pancake before in a big 9 x 13 pan where it puffs high in the oven and immediately falls when you take it out.  This is the same idea, but little individual serving pancakes get all cute and puffy in muffin tins and then fall leaving a well you can fill however you see fit.  You could go savory with a little cheese and cooked bacon or sausage and some fresh herbs or a chutney.  Or you could be me and go sweet with jams and or nutella. Pretty sure kids would find this whole process fun.  

Blend away and be thankful for your well-stocked kitchen, but if you have to use a whisk like me you'll be fine.  You can also easily half this recipe.  I did.  Better fresh than to have leftovers.  If you do, just freeze them right away so they don't get too heavy.  

Mini German Pancakes
1 cup milk (skim is fine)
6 eggs
1/2 C flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour (all white flour is fine too)
2 tsp honey (optional, especially if you are filling with savory things)
1/2 tsp vanilla 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C melted butter
powdered sugar
jams, nutella or whatever for fillings

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.  
In a blender (or vigorously with a whisk), blend together the milk, eggs, flour (s), honey (if using), vanilla and salt pulsing until the batter is smooth and without lumps (scrape sides with motor off, as necessary).  Add melted butter slowly, blending until incorporated.  Pour batter into muffin cups a little more than half full.  Bake at 400 degrees until puffy and golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Make sure you peek to see how cool and puffy they look before you open the door and they start to fall. Carefully turn them out of the tins and dust them with powdered sugar (if going the sweet route).  Fill and serve while warm.  

Makes 16-18 in a standard size muffin tin

the old-fashioned way and the ingredients 

whisking away

tins filled

super puffy half batch


dusted with powdered sugar (note the little pool of melted butter, nothing wrong with that)

filled, yum

breakfast with a view
*credit Steve Flood of Australian reality television My Kitchen Rules (aka MKR) fame for the oven thermometer tip.  Greg texted me he was in the same barber shop in Manly and I hopped on my bike to get this shot and as it turns out, to have a nice long chat about the show, our kitchens and baking.  I hope Steve and Will win this season, but if Steve was not telling in case you want to know.

MKR's Steve Flood (Brit, but Manly local now just like me)





Tuesday, March 10, 2015

adopting a new kitchen: corn fritters with roasted tomatoes for brunch

mediocre at best corn fritter photo from my old iPhone 4S,
please note I made these for dinner, not brunch (hence the red wine)
"I write a cooking blog", I say when I'm meeting people during the expat adventure in Australia. "Well, it's been on hiatus.  But I'm ready to get back to it", is what I usually say as the conversation continues.  We're pretty settled now.  Greg's in the middle of more than 3 weeks out of the country. So I'm really out of excuses.  

I did manage to blow up our microwave/oven thing last week.  Big bang, the whole apartment without power.  But the repair man came today.  Nice guy (of course, everyone's been super nice here).  He asked how I was employed here.  "Oh, my husband's employed, I'm just here enjoying life, but I do have a working visa and could get a job".  He said, "No, if you don't have to, you should just enjoy life.  Enjoying life should be your job".  I'd have to agree with him there.  It's easy to enjoy life living on the ocean between two beautiful beaches.  I'm writing a blog all about the parts of living abroad that do not involve cooking (well, that will probably sneak in there too).  Please follow "BlueSkies Abroad" too if you are so inclined.  

I've resisted adopting my new home's kitchen as my own.  Our apartment is lovely, the location leaves us in wonder and awe on a daily basis.  But, our apartment is tired.  All the gorgeous kitchens I've seen, but I did not get one.  Small price to pay for the view.  The flat grey laminate countertops are stained and the seams are sealed with the ugliest, bumpiest, caulk job ever.  The stainless steel backsplash is scratched, the cabinets worn leaving sawdust on the floor, the floor never looks clean. It's got to be the German in me (I'm half German), but it just never seems clean and it's been hard for me to spend much time in there.  Ah, but now it's pretty much my dirt which is a little easier to handle mentally (we all have our challenges).  We have a cute little barbecue so I've been grilling, tossing salads and just avoiding the kitchen.  I am three for three on baking fails which is an all-time record. Everything has been flat.  I clearly need to buy some kind of mixer because I have yet to achieve light and fluffy by hand.  The eggs are giant and the yolks are very rich and orange and everything tastes to "eggy".  Greg would really roll his eyes at that, but I think the eggs are part of the problem.  Anyway, despite my efforts I can't post a good recipe yet for flourless macadamia brownies or mixed berry ricotta muffins, two of my big and expensive fails.  

Then there is the whole opposite season thing.  It's actually fall here now, but the produce is still says summer.  Which is delightful.  But while you are thawing out and still enjoying comfort foods, I'm eating avocado toast and salads.  But enough of the excuses.  I do cook.  I do eat.  There has to be something here.  We'll wind back to the nice kitchen I had in the charming Airbnb I stayed in before we found our apartment.  The hosts have become friends which is a delightful turn of events. Anyway, she has a very well-stocked and equipped kitchen and a good cookbook selection.  I stumbled upon brunch at a rather famous Sydney restaurant when I lived in the CBD (the city, our first apartment stop), "bill's".  I enjoyed their corn fritters with roasted tomatoes and was so happy to find the "bill's Sydney Food" cookbook on the shelves of the Airbnb.  It's still a few months away from Indiana corn (cherish it, Australian's don't do corn nearly as well), but when it's in season give this recipe a try.  Serve it with greens, avocado (or guacamole) and bacon (if your brunch is not complete without bacon).  Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt would be nice dolloped on top too.  The roasted tomatoes are good even with standard grocery tomatoes, in fact it's a good way to use less than high season tomatoes. Fritters are a common brunch food and brunch is a big deal in Sydney. Food is a big deal in Sydney. Good news all around for me.  

Corn Fritters with Roasted Tomatoes

1 C all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika (smoked is a nice twist)
1 T sugar
1/2 C milk (skim is fine)
2 C fresh corn kernels
1/2 C red pepper, cut in small dice
1/2 C scallions, sliced
1/4 C chopped cilantro (leaves only) or a combination of cilantro and flat leaf parsley 
4 T canola or other neutral vegetable oil

Roasted Tomatoes
4 medium ripe tomatoes (Romas or Campari or whatever you have), halved lengthwise
2 T olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Start the roasted tomatoes first by heating the oven to 350 degrees and tossing the tomatoes with the olive oil and 1/2 tsp of salt and a few good grinds of pepper.  Spread the tomato halves on a baking sheet lined with parchment (or on a seasoned stoneware pan, but the parchment trick is good for fast clean-up).  Roast in the oven until caramelized and brown, about 40 minutes.

Make the fritters by first whisking together the flour, baking powder, salt, paprika and sugar.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Whisk together the milk and eggs.  Pour the egg mixture into the well and whisk together with the flour mixture until lump free.  

Place the corn, red pepper, scallions and cilantro (and parsley, if using) in a mixing bowl and add just enough batter to bind them.  In my case, since I didn't actually measure my corn and red pepper, I used all of the batter and all was well.  

Heat about 2 T of oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Drop about 2 T of batter per fritter into the hot pan and cook for 2-4 minutes until golden on the bottom and then flip to cook the other side another couple of minutes.  Transfer to a serving plate and keep warm while cooking the remaining fritters.  

To serve, put a handful of greens on each plate (if desired), stack two fritters on the greens and top with a couple of roasted tomatoes.  Add some diced avocado or a good serving of guacamole and a couple of pieces of bacon , if desired.  Serve with some sour cream or plain Greek yogurt on the table and if you're inviting Greg, get out the hot sauce too.  
vegetables, herbs, wine and the Aus Open on my iPad (photos from January 30th)

dry ingredients and wet ingredients side by side in front of borrowed cookbook

batter all nice and smooth in the prettier Airbnb kitchen

fritter batter ready

first flip

waiting for the others