Sunday, 27 May 2012

Haupia cake

I have been fortunate enough to have spent quite a bit of time in Hawaii over the years and on one of my more recent visits, I was introduced to a delightful Hawaiian specialty- the Haupia cake. Haupia is a cold, jelly like coconut pudding, and this, the cake version, is a layered dessert of meltingly tender sponge and fantastically wobbly Haupia. My first taste of this cake was during a girl's trip to Honolulu with my mother and sister, Rachael. Rach took a particular fancy to this coconut creation and insisted upon ordering it at every establishment with Haupia cake gracing its dessert menu.

On the occasion of Rachael's Birthday, this past week, I was stuck for ideas on which cake to make her, when I suddenly remembered her fondness for the Haupia cake. I went searching online and came across a recipe by renowned Hawaiian chef, Roy Yamaguchi of Roy's Restaurant. I'm generally not too keen sourcing recipes online without knowing the reputation of the author. I felt assured, though, in this case, that the recipe would be a good one, because I have heard nothing but positive reviews of Roy's Restaurant. You may even recall an episode of the Family Jewels, in which Gene takes his wife, whoops, I mean girlfriend, to Roy's; they liked the food so much that he went and chased down Roy to make a private dinner for the two of them the following evening.

The recipe, as expected, worked a treat. It is really one of the most interesting cakes you'll ever have. I would say, in terms of texture, that it is more like a trifle than a cake, with its lovely mellow coconut jelly and moist sponge. By the way, if you've never before seen candles in jelly, it is a sight to behold. My how they jiggled about as I carried the cake to the table! The most important thing of all was that Rach was thrilled with her birthday cake, which was, after all, the whole purpose of its being made.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Cinnamon Buns for Mumsy Daisy

Cinnamon buns are a true favourite of my mother's. She is not the kind of person with a really sweet tooth, in fact she rarely orders desserts. Cinnamon buns, however, she can devour by the dozen. I decided to make her a batch for mother's day and, to shake things up a bit, I added some mashed bananas to half of these lusciously sticky, oozy, gooey buns. I'm not going to lie to you, I too adore these buns. It is hard to convey in words and pictures just how moreish they are, not least because, as the italians would say, they are brutti, ma buoni (ugly, but good). To fully comprehend, one must encounter the buns when they are fresh from the oven, their heavenly spiced scent permeating through the corridors and into every  nook and cranny of the house, and their sticky cinnamon centres oozing from each and every crevice of these wonderful buns. Because the word 'enough' doesn't exist in my vocabulary, I top it off with a cream cheese drizzle for good measure.

The recipe I use is based on Nigella's 'Norwegian cinnamon buns' from How to Be a Domestic Goddess, a wonderful book that I can't recommend highly enough. It has been a long time since I made these following the recipe to a tee, having tinkered with them substantially over the years to create my own recipe. I'm not yet ready to share mine, I'm afraid; cinnamon buns are, you see, one of MY things. I wouldn't want anyone to take over now, would I? Maybe one day when I'm feeling more generous and not too lazy to type it up, I may consider sharing with you, my privy counsel. Until that day, try Nigella's recipe and play around- you may come up with something even better. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Banana nut muffins

In Honolulu, there's a fabulous little place that sells my favourite muffins in the whole wide world. It is a small, unassuming takeaway joint in the Ala Moana food court called 'The Paradise cafe' and its muffins are out of this world. The banana nut muffin is my particular favourite: a golden, crunchy muffin top with a fragrant, moist and oaty interior. Ever since I first tasted it, some 6 or so years ago, I have made it one of my life's greatest ambitions to replicate the magnificent banana nut muffin of 'The Paradise Cafe'.

This muffin was the closest I've ever come to the perfection of 'The Paradise cafe': close, but not quite. I'm seriously contemplating just asking for the recipe next time I'm in Hawaii just to get me through to the next visit. Honestly- I'm sick of these dry, cakey things that vendors are calling muffins these days. I'm also equally unimpressed by homemade muffins sans crunchy top- don't be afraid, people, to fill 'em up right to the top, even a little over, to get a wonderfully crunchy muffin top.


200g Wholemeal spelt flour (my preference, but you can use ordinary plain flour too)
100g rolled oats, coarsely ground, or oat bran
2 tsp Baking powder
2 tsp Cinnamon
125g Brown sugar + 2 tablespoons for the topping
2 eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup
80ml natural yoghurt
100ml vegetable/canola oil
4 bananas, mashed
50g macadamias, coarsely chopped


Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.

In a large bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients, except for the macadamias and reserved additional sugar for topping. Make a well in the centre. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients until amalgamated. Pour this into the well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Mix gently a few times, just enough to mix the wet into the dry so that there are no huge patches of flour remaining. DO NOT STIR MORE THAN THIS. A light muffin is made from a lumpy batter, so don't be tempted to whisk or you'll end up with dense muffins.

Place muffin papers into a 12 muffin pan. Delicately scoop the muffin batter all the way to the top in the awaiting muffin papers. If it looks as though you won't have enough batter for 12, though you should, it is better to have fewer muffins filled up properly. In a little bowl, mix together the reserved sugar and macadamias. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the muffins.

Place tray in preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. I know it seems a long time for a muffin, but these are rather large. Still, be sure to check yours after 15 minutes and then at five minute increments- ovens vary enormously in temperature.

Once manageable, remove muffins from pan and leave on a cooling rack. They will keep for several days in an airtight container, although I warn you that they are never as good on days 2 or 3. The muffins are so moist, you see, that putting them into a container rather destroys the wonderful crunchiness of their tops. If you have time, put the day old muffins back into the oven for 5 minutes or so to revive their texture.

Monday, 14 May 2012

White vienna loaf

 Enjoying a freshly baked loaf of bread is one of the simplest and greatest pleasures of life. Indeed there is nothing remotely exotic about a loaf of plain white bread, nor is there any great challenge in its preparation; there is, nonetheless, a certain pride that can be attained only from baking with yeast. A cake comes to life only when it is consumed by the heat of the oven. Bread, on the other hand, comes to life before your very eyes on the kitchen bench. The dough, nurtured by the gentle touch of your hands and guarded carefully by your watchful eyes, miraculously grows, doubling in volume. It is the closest thing, I can only imagine, to raising a child; the only difference being that we tend not to eat our children once they are grown. 


This recipe is 'The essential white loaf' from Nigella Lawson's How to be a domestic goddess. Nigella suggests using potato water for its excellent starchy properties. I, however, didn't have any potato water on hand, so I substituted some similarly starchy pasta water and reduced the quantity of salt to 2 teaspoons. It has a lovely crumb and the ratios seemed to be spot on.

One thing Nigella doesn't mention is how best to shape the loaf. You can of course have the loaf in any shape you desire. One thing I do suggest is that wherever you seal the dough together (make no mistake- there will be a seam somewhere), be sure to place that seam face side down on the tray or in the loaf tin. This way you can slash the bread with a super sharp knife/blade before it goes in the oven and you won't have any un-slightly cracks from seams, but lovely big slashes only where you want them to appear. I like lots, but 2 or 3 would be ample. Now what are you waiting for? Go on- get baking!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Chocolate and Almond truffles

Jumping back two posts ago, you may remember that I made a steamed chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce. Well, the sauce in question was actually a ganache, made from chocolate and cream, that sets quite hard once cooled. I had quite a bit of ganache left over from the pudding and, not wanting to let it go to waste, I turned the solid, chocolatey mass into chocolate truffles. You could make just about any kind of truffle that you fancy with ganache as the basis: add a dash of Cointreau for orange truffles, peppermint extract  for peppermint truffles, limoncello, cherry herring, or unadulterated for a perfectly plain chocolate truffle.

I went with Amaretto for these truffles. Just add a splash of your chosen liquer/extract into the cooled ganache, place in the fridge to set, then, with lightly greased hands, shape small moundfuls of ganache into rounds, or whatever shape you fancy (logs look nice). The truffles need to be coated in something to prevent them from sticking to one another. Here I have finely chopped some almonds and rolled the balls in the nutty flakes to give them an even coating. You could also use cocoa powder, coconut, sprinkles, other finely chopped nuts or some melted . You can really coat them and flavour them however you please- plenty of scope for the imagination and a really quick and easy little treat to make.

Nigella's chocolate sauce (ganache)

  • 125g milk chocolate, chopped
  • 125g dark chocolate, chopped 
  • 250ml double cream 
  • 75g golden syrup 
  • 4tsp vanilla extract

  • Put all these ingredients into a saucepan and stir occasionally over a low heat until combined. Cool this sauce, add your liquer/extract of choice and then refrigerate to set completely before shaping (see above). You can actually omit the golden syrup and vanilla from this recipe for a slightly less sweetened truffle. It is also possible to alter the type of chocolate used. Feel free to play around and use milk, dark and/or white chocolate, according to your preference. 

  • Read more:

    Thursday, 10 May 2012

    Anzac Biscuits- better late than never

    I know what you are all thinking- 'What a slacker?'. I know, I know. Anzac day has long since past, but I still wanted to share with you some photos of the biscuits I made on the day, as well as my mother's recipe for Anzac Biscuits. My mum's Anzac biscuits are a little different to the everyday variety: they contain currants. Not raisins, definitely not sultanas, but currants. Having grown up eating Anzac biscuits with currants, I wouldn't have them any other way. I urge you to try them with currants and see for yourself what a wonderful addition they make.

    I must admit that mine turned out a little differently from how my mum's usually do, but then again she did neglect to tell me that she doesn't really follow the recipe, but rather measures by eye. This being said, if you prefer your cookies to stand up more like my mother's, rather than spread like mine, I'd suggest you reduce the quantity of butter to 100g, to make for a stodgier dough.

    My Mum’s Anzac Biscuits


    110g of Rolled Oats                                       2 Tablespoons of Golden Syrup
    150g of Plain Flour                                       ½ Teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda
    175g Caster Sugar                                         1 Tablespoon of Boiling Water
    65g desiccated Coconut                                 ½ Cup of Currants (Optional)
    125g Unsalted Butter                                   (3 Baking Sheets)


    Preheat oven to 160º C (140 º C Fan Forced oven).
                Combine Oats, Sifted flour, Sugar and Coconut in large bowl. Heat Butter and Golden Syrup together in a saucepan over gentle heat until melted. Set aside. In a second large bowl, mix Bicarb soda with boiling water and then add to butter mixture. Do make sure you use a large bowl as the mixture expands enormously in volume as the bicarb fizzes away. Add the liquid mixture to the oat mixture and stir to combine.
                Place tablespoon’s full of the mixture onto baking sheets lined with baking paper. Do make sure to leave sufficient room on all sides of each biscuit for spreading, otherwise you’ll end up with one giant Biscuit. Cook in the oven for about 15. If you like your biscuits soft, like I do, check every 2 minutes after the ten minute mark. They should look slightly golden but when touched, they should be very soft. They might seem like they need longer at this stage, but trust me, they will harden out of the oven and end up being perfectly soft and chewy. I like these best still warm from the oven, but you can’t eat a whole batch straight away, so I recommend that you leave them to cool on the trays before stowing them into airtight containers. They should last for nearly a week.

    Yields 25-35 biscuits

    Monday, 7 May 2012

    Death by Chocolate pudding

    There is so much to love about a steamed pudding, not least because they can be prepared well in advance and left to simmer away gently on the stove for a few hours, but also because an unmoulded steamed pudding is such a joy to behold. Standing proudly, thick chocolate ganache oozing down its perfectly sloped sides, the steamed pudding has, let's face it, a great deal more charm than its baked cousin. Why is it then that the steamed pudding seems to have fallen off the radar? I just don't know why.......One thing's for sure, I plan on reintroducing it into my household in the approaching winter months: What better sight on a cold winter's night than a lovely pudding?
    Very messy indeed!

    Do try and make this pudding, 'Chocolate pudding for Christmas pudding haters' from Nigella Christmas, for your own family. I'm afraid that I wasn't able to try it myself, as I have been unwell, but the feedback was this: the sponge is light as a feather and wonderful on its own. I think everyone agreed that the ganache, lovely as it was, was just a bit too much on top of the pudding. So, if you are a chocoholic, you'll probably love it with the ganache. If not, either make a half batch of ganache to serve alongside, so that each portion has just a drizzle, or eliminate completely. Serve hot with custard, cream and/or ice cream. And for goodness' sakes, be careful when you unmould the hot pudding.

    The uncooked pudding- If, like me, you don't own a plastic basin, pour the batter into buttered ceramic basin, then cover the top with on layer of baking paper and two layers of foil. Smooth down around the rim and secure tightly with twine. NEVER put a ceramic pudding basin into boiling water as the temperature difference between the basin and the water could cause your basin to crack. Place in a pot with cold water, coming halfway up the side of the pudding. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Check the water level as you go and top up with water from a recently boiled kettle if it gets too low. If you tie the top as I have above, you'll be able to remove it very easily from the pot to serve.