Monday, April 28, 2008

wowsers

before i squirrel myself away to write a truly fascinating essay on the social and economical effects of cycle tourism, i should just say a big fat thanks to all of those lovely daring bakers who have left such kind comments on my post from yesterday.

it has inspired me to dip the few pops i had left in the freezer (this and it's cold and i fancy something sweet with my tea).

thanks guys!!! (please also note the apple in the bottom of the picture! cheers susan!)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

daring bakers begin

i was trying to think of some cool title for this post, but the large amount of alcohol i had on friday is still playing with my brain i think, so i could come up with nothing. i know there's something about cheese out there dying to be used.

but this is my first daring bakers challenge, and thus my rather boring title.

this month's challenge was cheesecake pops. now, i have two confessions to make. firstly i absolutely love cheesecake. really. totally. secondly, and this is more shocking, i'm not really that big a fan of chocolate. i've grown to like it more over the years, and if it's put before me i'll eat it, but i've never really understood what the fuss was. so getting perfectly good cheesecake and covering it in chocolate seemed like a bit of a waste. but i'm reformed. these were just great, i really liked them, but there's story that goes with them, like almost everything i make. but to start off with, here's the official recipe:

Cheesecake Pops

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white with 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

method
Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.


now: here's where i went wrong. firstly i totally got the weight conversions wrong and came home from the supermarket with not nearly enough cream cheese. not having time to go back i just halved the recipe. the cake took much long to cook than it was supposed to, but i've read lots of comments from other bakers who have had the same problem. so i didn't have enough to scoop out balls, so i cut mine into cubes instead (oh yeah, i was also too impatient to turn out the cake so it hadn't set probably, so about a quarter of that was just eaten straight away, can you see my number of pops disappearing????)

but the rest went into the freezer nicely. i couldn't find plastic lollypop sticks, although i didn't look too hard, but i'm not a fan of putting plastic stuff in my mouth (sticks, cutlery, that horrible plastic cheese stuff) so i used tooth picks instead.

i was unsure about the shortening in the chocolate, but did it anyway and it did add a crack to the chocolate and didn't change the flavour at all.

my biggest problem was what to do with the pops as i dipped them. i added some of those funky 1950's-esque metallic cachous on the top, so didn't want to invert them and loose most of the chocolate, and my colour along the way. with the first one dripping in my hand i grabbed what ever way lying around - a champagne cork and a shot glass. not everyone has these things lying around their kitchen, but you probably don't drink as much as i do.

this allowed me to do about four at a time and then rest them for a few seconds before starting again.

if you're making these my advice is to only take a couple out of the freezer at a time anyway. they thaw very quickly and then disintegrate in the melted chocolate.


overall, mistakes of quantity, time and adequate setting locations aside, these were a great success. i actually took the sticks out and served them on a plate. they reminded me of cobbers - the caramel squares covered in chocolate that i was very fond of as a child. and the creamy cake inside the chocolate was really lovely.

if you want to see some fabulous ones, visit Joey Biscotti! these are total works of art. i will certainly be trying these again at some stage and hope to get as fancy as these guys have

Friday, April 25, 2008

tra la la la la

yes, i'm procrastinating. i have an essay to write. having an essay to write normally results in my having a very clean house. today mucking about on other people's blogs is filling my day. i've even volunteered to host cupcake hero one month.

AM I INSANE!!!

every one who reads this needs to go to quirky cupcake and volunteer too, so laurie has more people than she needs and overlooks me.

nah, it'd be fun i think.

.... right?

Monday, April 21, 2008

cookie carnival, april

my last attempt at a cookie carnival challenge was pretty dismal!

this month kate, from the clean plate club issued us with vanilla bean thins:

ingredients
1 vanilla pod, split and steeped in 3/4 cup icing sugar for at least 24 hours (i left mine a week)
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/2 tspn salt
1/2s tspn baking powder
1 stick plus 5 tblspn butter (or 200g if you go metric!)
1 large egg yolk

method
remove the vanilla bean and place sugar in a food processor with the flour, salt and baking powder and combine. add butter and pulse until it forms small lumps. add the yolk and pulse until it forms a firm dough. divide into two balls, flatted to 12cm discs, wrap in plastic and chill for an hour

(aside: i don't' have a food processor. mostly i'm a hard core yia yia and i just make cakes, bread etc on the bench top. i did use a bowl for this. it's a very crumbly, buttery mix)

Roll out the first disk on a lightly floured surface. cut out shapes and re-chill scraps to use again. repeat with the second ball of dough. only collect and re-use scraps once.

(aside: my dough was waaaaayyy to crumbly to roll out. maybe i mis-calculated the butter conversions. it's ok, my cookie cutters are all really boring. what i did do was break off pieces, roll then into a ball and flatten them out in the palm of my hand. i know i'd just chilled it, but once the butter warmed up a bit this was much easier).

place 2cm apart on a lined baking tray and back at 180 degrees until golden brown (about 15 minutes). transfer to a rack to cool. if your rack is busy, use the iron maiden.

these biscuits look much less freaky than my last ones. they almost look like they're supposed to i think. as for taste? well, they taste basically like butter short bread. they're nice. i had some at work with my 11 o'clock cup of tea. but they're not great. if i were forking out the $4.50 for the vanilla pod again, i'd probably be making pana cotta (mmmmmm... pana cotta). but i couldn't really taste it properly in these.

but my biscuit baking is definitely getting better! roll on may. by december i'll have this game licked!!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

oh, my metric heart

have been baking today, mostly from recipes from america and the quantities have been sending me batty. mostly in australian recipes things that have no form (flour, sugar, milk, spices and the like) are done in cup or spoon measurements. things that do have form (butter, cheese etc) are done by weight, although quite often flour and sugar are given by weight and milk given in mls etc. but you know what i mean.

half a cup of butter is totally useless to me. how do you get the butter into a cup measurement? and how can this be an effective way of getting the same quantity each time? I have worked out what a stick of butter is (125g), so that doesn't throw me. but a stick plus 5 tablespoons of butter sends me into a total lather.

so I found the following conversions on O Chef:

Butter Measurement Translation Chart to Defeat Nefarious Recipe Writers
Volume Sticks Weight: US & British Weight: Metric
1 Tbsp 1/8 1/2 oz 14 g
2 Tbsp 1/4 1 oz 25 g
3 Tbsp 3/8 1-1/2 oz 42 g
1/4 cup 1/2 2 oz 57 g
5 Tbsp 5/8 2-1/2 oz 72 g
6 Tbsp 3/4 3 oz 85 g
7 Tbsp 7/8 3/1/2 oz 98 g
1/2 cup 1 1/4 pound 113 g
9 Tbsp 1-1/8 4-1/2 oz 126 g
10 Tbsp 1-1/4 5 oz 142 g
11 Tbsp 1-3/8 5-1/2 oz 155 g
3/4 cup 1-1/2 6 oz 170 g
13 Tbsp 1-5/8 6-1/2 oz 184 g
14 Tbsp 1-3/4 7 oz 198 g
15 Tbsp 1-7/8 7-1/2 oz 212 g
1 cup 2 1/2 pound 227 g
17 Tbsp 1-1/8 8-1/2 oz 241 g
18 Tbsp 1-1/4 9 oz 255 g
19 Tbsp 1-3/8 9-1/2 oz 270 g
1-1/4 cups 1-1/2 10 oz 284 g
21 Tbsp 1-5/8 10-1/2 oz 298 g
22 Tbsp 1-3/4 11 oz 312 g
23 Tbsp 1-7/8 11-1/2 oz 327 g
1-1/2 cups 3 3/4 pound 341 g
25 Tbsp 1-1/8 12-1/2 oz 355 g
26 Tbsp 1-1/4 13 oz 370 g
27 Tbsp 1-3/8 13-1/2 oz 384 g
1-3/4 cups 1-1/2 14 oz 398 g
29 Tbsp 1-5/8 14-1/2 oz 412 g
30 Tbsp 1-3/4 15 oz 427 g
31 Tbsp 1-7/8 15-1/2 oz 441 g
2 cups 4 1 pound 454 g

this site also works well for the ounces/pounds/grams dilemma, as well as volumes and temperatures.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

blast from the past

i was in sydney, on the way to a friend's wedding when i heard that paul hester had killed himself. splitz end on count down on a sunday night were a big part of my formative years, and the early crowded house years my early high school years. it's one of those moments. like being in seeing ears with gavin and karl when our previous prime minister (still can't bear to say his name) announced the first persian war.

i saw them play about a million times, usually at the thebby theatre. this song was a regular on their play list and still makes me dance in some silly pseudo-c&w style.

how i stumbled upon in on you tube is a long story. best if you don't ask

Monday, April 14, 2008

happiness

ok, so the picture's not that great, but i was hungry.

today i skived off work, and sat at home, watching crap on you tube, and spending time with my cats. i've also been extraordinarily hungry. there's been a lot of toast today.

but for dinner i had the last of the curry that i got myself after i got back from camp on saturday night. there was some rogan gosht and palak paneer, but most of all there was dahl. oh, how much i love dahl. i could tell you, but there are not yet adjectives in the english language that are superlative enough for me to qualify my love of the creamy, melt in your mouth goodness that is a big bowl of dahl. i would seriously consider moving to india just to improve the quality and quantity of my supply. it's just sooooo very, very good.

i hope you all ate something today that makes you as happy as this! i'm still looking for the perfect dahl recipe, so if you have one to suggest i'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

sleepy

a lot of my favourite bloggers have been really quiet recently. i have my own excuses: work's busy, uni's busy, it's starting to get cold and i'm getting decadently lazy (i assume some others are out and about enjoying an initial burst of spring). however i did take some lamb out of the freezer today that tomorrow will end up in my first casserole of the season and i'm really looking forward to that.

also this weekend i've been away on a camp for uni. we spent two days and one night in the murraylands region of south australia. i've not really seen much of australia, even less of south australia, and this is not a part of the world i've ever really been to before - although i have driven through it on the way to somewhere else.

and it was gorgeous. the murray river flows through the area (i was pleased to see it flowing. drought, climate changed and morons growing rice upstream have totally fucked the river. excuse language, but it makes me extraordinarily mad!). water levels were low, and some of the ferry crossings are shut because of this, but the area is totally beautiful. these photos don't even vaguely do it justice. you 'll need to come one day and see it for yourselves!
as a class of tourism students we went to many local sites and operators, including yabbie farms (yabbies a indigenous australian crustaceans. i used to catch them from the damn on my uncle brian's farm when i was little. apparently they're big news on the dinner plates of tokyo, but i've never eaten, or thought of eating, one), paddle steamers, ecotours, almond groves and museums. we also visited a fantastic sight called ngaut naguat, pronounced nought nought. sitting on the banks of the river it was a traditional camping and hunting sight for the local Nganguraku people and home of the black duck dreaming. non-australians probably don't know much about the dreamings, and as a white fella i'm in no place to give a decent lesson, but basically the dream time was the period in history when the land, its features and all its inhabitants were formed. so the black duck dreaming describes how the black duck came into being.

we were taken around the site by one of the local people (you can only get access with an aboriginal guide) who explained how to read some of the rock carvings, and showed where some early archaeological work had been done, and talked about the history of the site, from both a dreaming and geological perspective. the carving below is thought to show that the river sometimes housed estuary dolphins, before weirs were established by white people and the occasionally salinity of the river was stopped - the area is pretty far inland.

this was by far the highlight of the trip for me. unfortunately the STUPID and IGNORANT people in the group made great fun of the way the guide talked - which was pretty much like an aboriginal person would - and displayed no end of lack of cultural sensitivity or understanding. that night, pissed as farts on half a glass of apple cider, the also made horrible fun of the international students in the group, who had paid huge sums of money to come from japan, china, laos, india and papua new guinea to study in australia.

i tell you it made me so mad. the PNG lady told me there was no point being angry and if i didn't enjoy myself they'd win. i'm afraid to tell you they won and i spent the rest of the trip seething!

my plan now is to go back to the area one day really soon and enjoy myself thoroughly, just to stick it to these imbeciles. and these people are studying cultural tourism. i put it down to too much of daddy's money!

on a totally different note, once again i have failed to come up to standard for the cupcake hero challenge. no surprise, my marshmallow, and particular the icing, were a bit of a failure. but it was good fun and i've never cooked marshmallow before so i learnt something new.

this month's challenge is 'earth hour'. i was totally stumped, but have now come up with a killer idea, so expect news of that next weekend!

Friday, April 4, 2008

where the bloody hell are you meets the rock and roll dreamer

last night i spent a glorious, feedback filled hour with every one's favourite weegies. Yes!!! the brothers Reid played the Palace Theatre in Melbourne last night and I was there. oooooooooo... they were so totally, utterly delectable. all my youthful moments of love, fear, hate and belonging all came washing back over me. we were all in black. we all sang along. the room was full of fans and i was going berserk with the best of them. they played all your favourites - sidewalking, happy when it rains, reverence, darklands.

i had to post some of their songs, because the Jesus and Mary Chain have to be one of every one's favourite bands! right? no?????? well, to get you to change your minds, here's an old one:



and a new(er) one:




sing along, dance the good dance! don't believe me, well here's a review!

on a totally different note, there was a conversation on cupcake rehab about the location of different visitors. i have noted of late i've that i've had a visitor from Bowling Green, and another from Athens.

now, Bowling Green has to be the best name for a town i have ever heard of. if you come back,
post
a comment and tell me what it's like.

as for Athens? Athens is one of my favourite places on earth. if you have never been you must book yourself a ticket this instant. now, i tell you! stop reading this and get down to the local travel agent this instant. particularly if you are of the foodie description, oooooo... mousaka, yemista, pasticio, coffee, all that would melt your heart! and if you're a boring history girl type of foodie, athens is obviously the place. the parthenon, home of athena my very favourite god/goddess, the stoa of the ancient agora, the bronze statue of poseidon in the athens museum and so, so much more. what, you're still here?? pame!