Monday, September 15, 2014

Blood Orange Marmalade and Almond Thumbprint Cookies

Those 2 pots of blood orange and vanilla marmalade have been sitting on the kitchen bench untouched since they were made. 

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Early on Sunday morning I remembered these raspberry thumbprint cookies I made back in 2012 were originally made with marmalade and now that I've belatedly decided I do like marmalade, I decided it was time to revisit the recipe.

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I just made one small but important change to the recipe. I figured oranges go really well with almonds so instead of using hazelnut meal, I ground some unskinned almonds in the food processor to make whole almond meal. I don't know if you can get whole almond meal in your grocery store, but I can't. Instead I ground the whole almonds with a spoonful of sugar to help the grinding process.

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Here's the recipe for you.

Blood Orange Marmalade and Almond Thumb Print Cookies, adapted from this recipe by Mike McEnearney of Kitchen by Mike fame.

Makes 16

125 gm softened butter
50 gm (½ cup) pure icing sugar, sifted plus extra to serve
½ tsp vanilla extract
110 gm (¾ cup) plain flour plus extra for dusting
45 gm cornflour (cornstarch)
35 gm ground whole unskinned almonds or whole almond meal
blood orange marmalade

Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixture until light and fluffy, add vanilla and beat to combine. 

Sift the plain flour and cornflour together. Stir the flours in followed by the whole almond meal to form a soft dough.

Wrap in plastic and refrigerate the mixture for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.

Roll the mixture into walnut size balls (20 gm) between floured palms.  Flatten the biscuits with the base of a floured drinking glass leaving space for biscuits to spread. Bake for 5 minutes. 

Make an the indent in the cookie with the handle of a wooden spoon, then spoon a teaspoon of the marmalade into the indent.

Return the jam filled cookies to the oven and baked until they're golden, a further 
10-15 minutes. 

Cool on tray, then dust the cookies with icing sugar and serve.

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These are best served on the day they're made but they're still pretty good a few days later.

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I crumbled one of the cookies for the photograph (I call it my 'stunt' cookie) which of course meant I had to eat it, because I can't tolerate waste. These cookies are really, really good. I think they're probably even better than the raspberry jam version and that's saying something. Just in case you were wondering, I picked up the platter
on Saturday at Small Spaces in Redfern while I was out furniture shopping.

As I spent last weekend cooped up in a Physiotherapy Department attending a workshop, this past weekend I went out sourcing furniture and light fittings for my living room refurbishment. I bought a new sofa and installed new blinds soon after I came back from my holidays. I've now decided I need to change the rug in the living room, the light fitting and the side tables and would like to buy a storage unit as well. I actually think I'm close to making a decision about the rug, the side table and floor lamp and as my middle name is 'indecisive', that's quite a big statement. Next month the living room is being repainted so the refurbishment is definitely on it's way.

I hope you all had great weekends. See you again next weekend,


Monday, September 08, 2014

blood orange polenta cake

As you know I’m a bit of an Ottolenghi fan. His recipes always work and they’re packed full of flavour. I’ve had this recipe for orange polenta cake bookmarked ever since I took ownership of Ottolenghi, the Cookbook.

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The recipe mentioned how nice the cake was made with blood oranges, so as soon as they appeared in the shop I bought a few then started looking through my cupboards for all the other ingredients. I didn’t have any orange blossom water but I thought I could safely leave that ingredient out. I went on the hunt for quick cook polenta without any luck. All I could find on the shelves was pre-cooked polenta and I was pretty sure that wouldn’t work in a cake. I had polenta flour in the cupboard leftover from these little cakes so I used that instead.

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I used to make toffees all the time when I was growing up so the caramel section was a cinch. As they’re smaller than a regular orange, 2 blood oranges won’t cover an 8 inch cake tin so make sure to buy at least 3 oranges. As I wasn’t using orange blossom water I used a teaspoon of vanilla and some additional grated blood orange rind from the third orange.

The mixture was quite thick so I added ¼ cup of blood orange juice. I’m not sure if that was due to the polenta flour. The recipe makes a lot of batter and I’m wondering if it would work better in a 23 cm tin. It would certainly cook faster because despite the instructions to bake the cake at 170°C for 40 minutes, my cake took an hour to bake at 190°C in my old gas oven.

I’ve had a few disasters in the past when turning out upside down cakes, so I held my breath when turning this one out. It didn’t crack but next time I’d let it rest for a little while longer before turning it out just to reduce my stress levels a bit.

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Once the cake cooled, I glazed it with some of that homemade blood orange and vanilla marmalade I featured on last week’s blog. It looked pretty special. I served the cake with a dollop of sour lite cream or I guess you could use crème fraiche.

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Here’s the original Ottolenghi recipe for you, very slightly adapted.

Blood Orange Polenta Cake, from Ottolenghi the Cookbook

Caramel topping
90g caster sugar
2 tbsp water
20g unsalted butter, diced
3 blood oranges

50g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
200g unsalted butter
200 g caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp orange blossom water
240g ground almonds
120g quick-cook polenta

4 tbsp orange marmalade
1 tbsp water

1. Lightly grease a 20cm round cake tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment. If using a loose-based tin, make sure the paper circle you cut for the base is large enough to go some way up the sides as well, to prevent leaking.

2. To make the caramel, have ready by the stove small pastry brush and a cup of water. Put the sugar for the caramel topping in a heavy-based saucepan and add the water. Stir gently to wet the sugar through and then place on a low-medium heat. Slowly bring the sugar to the boil. While it bubbles away, brush the sides of the pan occasionally with a little of the water in the cup to get rid of any crystals that from close to the bubbling sugar. After a few minutes the water should evaporate and the sugar will start to darken. Be sure to keep your eyes on the sugar at all times as it can easily burn. As soon as it reaches a nice golden colour remove the pan from the heat. With your face at a safe distance, add the chunks of butter. Stir with a wooden spoon and pour the caramel over the lined base of the cake tin. Carefully but quickly (so it doesn't set) tilt it to spread evenly.

3. Grate the zest of the 2 oranges, making sure you don't reach the white part of the skin. Set the grated zest aside. Using a small, sharp knife, slice off 1 cm from the top and bottom of each orange. Standing each orange up on a board, carefully but neatly follow the natural curves of the orange with the knife to peel off the remaining skin and all the white pith. Cut each orange horizontally into roughly 6 slices. Remove the pips and lay out the slices tightly over the caramel. (You might need to peel and slice another orange to cover the whole space).

4. Now move on to the cake batter. Heat up the oven to 170°C/325°F. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

5. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together lightly. Make sure they are well combined but do not incorporate much air into the mixture. Gradually add the eggs while the machine is on a low speed. Next add the reserved orange zest and the orange blossom water, followed by the almonds, polenta and sifted dry ingredients. As soon as they are all mixed in, stop the machine.

6. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake tin, making sure that the oranges underneath stay in a single neat layer. Level the mixture carefully with a palette knife. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out dry. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 5 minutes.

7. While the cake is still hot (warm it up a little if you forgot, otherwise the caramel will stick to the paper), place a cardboard disc or a flat plate on top. Briskly turn over and then remove the tin and the lining paper. Leave the cake to cool completely

8. For the glaze, bring the marmalade and water to the boil in a small saucepan and then pass through a sieve. While the glaze is still hot, lightly brush the top of the cake with it.

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Jillian’s adaptations
I used polenta flour instead of quick cook polenta and added ¼ cup blood orange juice.

I didn’t have any orange blossom water so I used the zest of 2½ blood oranges plus 1 tsp vanilla instead.

You really need 3 blood oranges for this recipe.

I baked the cake at 190°C and it took 1 hour to cook. I’d also cool the cake for about 10 minutes next time – I was a bit worried the cake might break into pieces.

I think the cake would work just as well baked in a 23 cm tin with 50% extra caramel and more oranges for the topping.

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The cake is really moist, quite dense, intensely orange flavoured and absolutely delicious. I’m wondering whether I’d be able to renovate this recipe for Passover using regular oranges as blood oranges will be out of season. Watch this space.

See you all again next week with another blood orange creation.

Bye for now,


Monday, September 01, 2014

blood orange and vanilla marmalade

Hi Every-one,

the sun finally came out in Sydney yesterday after almost 2 weeks of daily rain. The rain has played havoc with my routine and each weekend I find my living room doubling up as a laundry. The joys of having to get a uniform washed, dried and ironed in 2 days when you don't own a tumble dryer. However when the rain is tumbling down what better way to spend your time than cooking? 

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Blood oranges have reappeared in the fruit shop so I've decided to make September blood orange month. So far I have 4 blood orange recipes in the pipeline starting with this one for blood orange and vanilla bean marmalade. While I've cooked jams and chutneys over the years I've never made marmalade before. There's a good reason for this - I don't like or even eat marmalade so what came over me? Well one of the recipes I'm planning to make needs marmalade and rather than buying a bottle, I decided to make some.

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I found a recipe online at SBS which sounded quite nice so I prepared the oranges and soaked them overnight in the fridge. While hunting around I found another recipe on SBS, which suggested pre-cooking the rinds before adding the sugar or they'd be too tough to eat. That sounded sensible so I combined the 2 recipes. When I checked my digital thermometer I found the batteries were flat so I relied on the old frozen saucer method to check the setting point and it worked a charm.

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Even though I halved the quantities, the recipe made a generous quantity of marmalade so I'm either going to have to learn to like it or give it away to friends. I tried the learning to like it approach first and started with my breakfast - blood orange and vanilla marmalade on sourdough toast. 

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I'd love to claim I made this sourdough bread but Audrey, my sourdough starter, has been languishing in the deep freeze since I went overseas in May. I must defrost her and bring her back to life.

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I don't know if it's the blood oranges or the salt in the recipe but this marmalade wasn't in the slightest bit bitter or too sweet - the reasons why I don't care for marmalade. It's absolutely delicious!

Here's the recipe for you, adapted from here.

Blood Orange and Vanilla Marmalade - makes 750 mls

5 medium blood oranges
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthways
¾ tsp salt, plus 1 pinch extra
Water, to cover
Caster sugar
1 tbl lemon juice

You’ll need to start this recipe the day before.

Wash the blood oranges then using a sharp knife, slice the oranges in half lengthwise removing any seeds, then cut across the fruit into thin slices. Place the sliced oranges into a bowl. Add the salt and vanilla bean, with the seeds scraped into the orange. Cover the oranges with water then leave the bowl covered in the fridge to sit overnight.

The following day weigh the contents of the bowl and then, in a separate bowl, weigh out half the amount of sugar. Place the oranges and liquid into the widest heavy-based pot you have. Bring the mix to the boil then lower to medium and cook the oranges for about 15 - 30 minutes or until the orange skins have softened. Meanwhile, place 2 saucers into the freezer. You'll need these for later. Add the sugar to the pan and stir until completely dissolved. Cook for a further hour or until the marmalade reaches its setting point.
To test the marmalade's setting point, place a teaspoon of the marmalade onto one of the cold saucers and allow it to cool. The marmalade should “jell” on the plate and not run when the saucer is tipped. If the marmalade fails to jell, cook for another few minutes before checking again.

Once the marmalade has reached setting point, take it off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and an extra pinch of salt. Allow the marmalade to completely cool before spooning into hot sterilized jars. If you like, you can loosely tighten the lids on the jars before simmering them in hot water for about 10 minutes to form a vacuum. Allow the jars to completely cool before fully tightening the lids. Store the jars in a cool dark place, then refrigerate once opened.

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I hope you all enjoyed your weekends. I have a delicious blood orange cake recipe to share with you next week so until then,


Monday, August 25, 2014

tropical hummingbird cake

Hi Every-one,

I hope you all had lovely weekends. Saturday was another wet day here in Sydney and when it rained most of day, I thought this poor cake would be spending another week in the frosty depths of the deep freeze. I adapted and made this Pineapple Crush Cake recipe from Belinda Jeffrey's book, Mix and Bake, 3 weeks ago now. I ran out of time to decorate the cake and I was out of town last weekend, so it's been stored in the freezer since then. Yesterday I woke to sunshine so I took out the butter and cream cheese ready to make the passionfruit cream cheese icing.

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When I looked through the pineapple crush cake recipe in 'Mix and Bake' it looked very much like a Hummingbird cake with some tropical elements added like the macadamia nuts. I added passionfruit to the cream cheese icing and adjusted the proportions a little to fit my special little spring form tin. As always if you double the ingredients it will make a 23 cm/9inch cake and the cooking time remains the same.

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I decorated the cake with some macadamia nut brittle adapted from a recipe in the the Ottolenghi Cookbook and a few wisps of toasted shredded coconut.

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When the rain stopped falling, I decided to take the cake outside for it's photo shoot and yes I did put the cake up on a pedestal. I have no idea where the pedestal came from but it's been a feature of our back yard for about 2 years now.

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Here's the recipe for you.

Tropical Hummingbird Layer Cake, adapted from Belinda Jeffery’s Mix and Bake. 

Makes a 16 cm cake 

¾ cup SR flour 
¼ cup Plain flour 
pinch salt 
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
pinch ground nutmeg 
25g roasted macadamias, coarsely chopped 
1 egg 
 cup caster sugar 
½ cup vegetable oil 
½ teaspoon vanilla extract 
 cup canned crushed pineapple in natural juice, undrained 
 cup mashed banana 

Passionfruit Cream Cheese Icing 
60g softened unsalted butter, diced
125 g softened cream cheese, diced
2 teaspoons passionfruit juice 
2½ cups icing sugar mixture, sifted  

Optional - Macadamia Nut Topping 
75 g macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped 
50g caster sugar 
tbl water  

1) Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Grease and line the base of a 16cm round cake tin with baking paper. Lightly dust the tin with flour. 
2) Sift the flours, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl. Stir in the chopped macadamia nuts. 
3) In another bowl, beat the egg lightly with the sugar. Whisk in the oil and vanilla extract until well combined. Add the pineapple and mashed bananas and mix thoroughly. 
4) Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir them together to form a batter. If the batter is too thick, add a little more pineapple juice. 
5) Bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Cool the cake before turning out of the tin.  
6) To prepare the nut topping, scatter the nuts over a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 140ºC/275ºF for about 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan with a thick base. Heat the sugar mixture gently until it turns into a golden-brown caramel. Do not stir the mixture at any stage or the toffee may crystallise. Carefully add the toasted nuts and mix gently with a wooden spoon. When most of the nuts are coated in caramel, pour them on to the lined tray and leave to set. Break bits off and chop them very roughly with a large knife.  
7) For icing, put all the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment beat the mixture until it becomes light and fluffy, 8-10 minutes. 
8) Using a serrated knife, halve the cooled cake horizontally. Sandwich the two cakes together with about a third of the icing. Spread the remaining icing on top of the cake. 

I decorated the cake with macadamia nut brittle and a tablespoon of toasted shredded coconut. If you like, you could just drizzle the iced cake with some passionfruit pulp.

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The cake is really moist as it's studded with nuggets of pineapple, banana and macadamia but I found it a bit too sweet. I'm sure I'll be making it again so maybe next time I'd cut down the sugar just a little or ditch the the macadamia nut brittle. It's such a sunshiney cake though, I'm glad I could finally photograph it outdoors.

See you all again next week,