Category Archives: Baking

The best Easter buns

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Home-made Easter buns studded with fruits are an extra special way to start the day on Easter Friday, either for breakfast or brunch feasting, or with an afternoon cup of tea.

Makes 12

1 tbsp active dry yeast

1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp caster sugar

1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk

4 cups plain flour, sifted

2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

2 tbsp mixed spice

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup dried cranberries

50g butter, melted

1 egg, lightly beaten

CROSS MIXTURE:

1/2 cup flour

1/3 cup cold water

GLAZE:

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

1 tsp gelatine

1 Place yeast, 1 tablespoon of measured sugar and 1/2 cup measured milk in a bowl and leave for 5 minutes until foamy.

2 Combine flour, cocoa, spices, raisins and dried cranberries and remaining sugar in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add yeast mixture, remaining milk, melted butter and egg to well. Mix together until a sticky dough forms.

3 On a lightly floured surfaced, knead dough for 5 minutes or until dough feels smooth and elastic. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (this will take up to 1 hour).

4 Grease a 20 x 30cm lamington tin and line with nonstick baking paper. Divide dough into 12 equal portions; roll into balls and place in tin in neat rows. Cover and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise.

5 Preheat oven to 200°C. Make crosses by blending flour and water together until smooth. Place in a piping bag and pipe crosses onto buns. Bake 25-30 minutes or until browned and springy to touch.

6 Remove to cool. Brush with warm glaze made by boiling all glaze ingredients together until sugar and gelatine dissolve.

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Chef’s tricks: Foaming yeast mixture indicates that the yeast is activated. It is important to leave the dough to rise in a warm place to stimulate the yeast. Cover the bowl of dough with either plastic wrap or a damp, clean tea towel.

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Serve hot (or toast to reheat) with lashings of butter and jam.

Feijoa season is short but sweet…

Cook up a heavenly treat using some of the best fruits of autumn: feijoas. Although these fruits require no work to eat fresh and at their best, when cooked they are transformed into warm, sticky, translucent, sweet creations. Feijoas have a natural affinity with pastry, butter, sugar, cream, coconut, dried fruits, nuts and spices, so lend themselves beautifully to sweet muffins, cakes and comforting puddings. Originally cultivated in South America, the feijoa is now a classic New Zealand fruit that seems to be grown in nearly every second back garden. Here’s my most favourite Feijoa cake recipe for you to try.

LITTLE FEIJOA AND COCONUT CAKES

While the cakes cook the slices of feijoas caramelise giving the fruit a more intense flavour that is further heightened by the tangy lemon syrup. If you like feijoas then you will find these cakes truly scrumptious.

Makes 6

100g butter, softened

1/2 cup caster sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup fine desiccated coconut

3/4 cup plain flour

1 teaspoons baking powder

4 feijoas, peeled and sliced

1 Preheat oven to 160°C fan bake. Grease and lightly dust with flour 6 x 1 cup capacity cake tins.

2 In a bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in coconut, sifted flour and baking powder. Spoon mixture into prepared cake tins. Arrange a few feijoa slices over the surface of each cake.

3 Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool cakes in tins. Once cold, remove cakes from tins and saturate with hot lemon syrup (recipe follows).

LEMON SYRUP:

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Juice of 6 lemons

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 To make the lemon syrup, place all ingredients in a saucepan.

2 Bring to the boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer hard for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick and syrupy.

 

Gifting made easy

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I’ve always been keen on making Christmas gifts centered around giving foodie treats to friends and family. This year, I’m packaging up some wonderful Alison’s Pantry delicious foodstuffs in a variety of craft creations. I thought I’d share my ideas with you because they’re a great way to make fun, low-cost, homemade gifts and I hope you find them inspiring.

You really only need a few simple craft items to make my creations. Check out Alison’s Pantry at New World stores nationwide (NZ) and stock up on their delicious dried fruits, nuts, treats and blends so you can get started. These are just a few crafty ideas to help you share the love of homemade giving this Christmastime.

And be sure to visit http://www.alisonspantry.co.nz for more great festive food recipes.

Reindeer Noses:

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First up, I’ve popped Alison’s Pantry Choc’o Berry Bites into little brown paper bags and decorated the bags to look like reindeer faces. You need some brown pipe cleaners to twist into antlers, stick on some googly eyes and pompom noses. I call these gift packs “Reindeer noses” and they’re perfect to give to children.

Santa Snacks:

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Fill recycled jam or pickle jars with Alison’s Pantry Superboost blend – a great mix of dried fruits and nuts studded with chunks of dark chocolate. Decorate the jars with a wide red ribbon around the center (to look like Santa’s belt) and stick on a belt buckle cut out of gold or silver card. Stick on a few buttons if you like and top the jar with a fluffy Santa hat cut out of red felt. Superboost is a delicious snack for active people (a bit like a trail mix). I also like to add this blend to rolled oats to make an awesome natural muesli.

Snowman Body Fuel:

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I’ve got a couple of different snowman concepts going on here. Both contain Alison’s Pantry Body Fuel – a tasty blend of nut and seed bites, chocolate chunks, and various toasted nuts – it’s great to serve as a healthy nibble with festive drinks. Either, fill recycled jam jars with Body Fuel and then decorate the jar lids with snowmen made of white pompoms. Stick on eyes and carrot-coloured felt noses and tie a ribbon around each snowman’s neck to look like a scarf. Or, fill cellophane bags with Body Fuel and pop inside white paper cups. Decorate the cups with googly eyes, a felt nose, and a big smile.

Festive Fruit & Nut Loaf Kit:

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This one is for the bakers out there. I’ve printed out my favourite Fruit and Nut Loaf recipe, rolled it up like a scroll and tied it with a red ribbon. I purchased some loaf tins and packed the quantities of Alison’s Pantry Orchard Fruits and Deluxe Natural Nuts required to make the Fruit and Nut Loaf recipe into each tin. You might like to search on-line to find some fun labels to print out, like the one pictured here, or simply cut a label out of coloured card and write your own words onto it. Adding a spatula or wooden spoon is a nice option too. Tie the whole thing together with a ribbon or two and you’ve got a wonderful gift for your favourite foodie friend.

Gift Boxes:

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This idea is super easy, inexpensive and very stylish. Noodle boxes are the perfect gift vessel for filling with any combination of Alison’s Pantry dried fruits, nuts or snack blends. All you need to do is tie a festive ribbon around the middle and voila, you have a beautiful gift box of healthy deliciousness.

Enjoy the festive season and I wish you happy creating and happy gift giving! Julie xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The magic of Pavlova

 

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There’s a magic about the alchemy of combining eggs whites and sugar to create fluffy, whipped peaks of white meringue. This magic, combined with nostalgia and a big dollop of deliciousness are the reasons why the great Kiwi Pavlova holds such a special place in our hearts as our most loved egg-based dessert. My twist on this wonderful tradition is the individual Pavlova. Made with brown sugar, these Pavs have a caramel taste and gooey texture that guarantees they will be a memorable treat and a highlight of any celebration.

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Individual brown sugar Pavlovas with mango, passionfruit and toasted coconut

Makes 12

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4 egg whites, at room temperature

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

3/4 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 vanilla bean, split in half

400ml thickened cream, to serve

1 mango, thinly sliced

Preserved passion fruit, in syrup (available from supermarkets)

Toasted fresh coconut, or threads (see chef’s trick)

  1. Preheat oven to 130°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Whisk egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add caster sugar, whisking continuously until the mixture is very thick and glossy.
  2. Add brown sugar, whisking well until dissolved. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean and whisk seeds into the meringue mixture.
  3. Spoon mixture onto prepared baking trays to make 12 mounds. Bake for 1.5 hours (do not open the oven door during this time). Turn oven off and leave Pavlovas in the oven to cool completely.
  4. Spoon cream on top of Pavlovas, top with sliced mango, passion fruit pulp and toasted coconut.

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Chef’s trick: Buy a whole fresh coconut and break it open to remove the flesh. Using a vegetable peeler, peel thin strips of coconut. Place on a baking tray and bake at 180°C for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Alternatively, toast desiccated thread coconut in the same manner.

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Nature’s sweetest gift

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It’s always a delight to receive an unexpected gift and that’s exactly how I felt when a parcel arrived from Mother Earth. I was delighted to know they’ve launched their first ever UMF Manuka Honey, naturally made by New Zealand bees. UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) is a quality mark that assures purity and quality, which is wonderful news for us honey-lovers who really value true Manuka honey and its benefits. (For more information see www.motherearth.co.nz)

This lovely gift came all done up like a Christmas cracker. The wrapping made from NZ Honeywrap, a natural reusable food wrap, which is a brilliant thing in itself. Bees are certainly clever and magical beings. I read recently that worker bees are willing to travel thousands of kilometres and forage nectar from millions of flowers to make less than half a kilo of honey. Wow! I feel indebted to them for giving many of my favourite recipes sweetness and life.

As it’s now the festive season, I’ve got a gift for you too. I’m happy to share this divine recipe for my Honey Cheesecake studded with almonds and cranberries. This truly sensational cheesecake is naturally sweetened with Mother Earth Manuka Honey and does not contain any refined sugar at all. It is full of perfumed honey flavours and has a wonderful creamy texture punctuated by lovely toasted almonds and dried cranberries. It’s a healthy festive treat full of the extra goodness only found in UMF Manuka honey. Please make and enjoy with my best wishes to you and yours! Julie xx

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A delightful gift of Mother Earth UMF Manuka Honey, wrapped in NZ Honeywrap (a clever reusable food wrap).

FROZEN HONEY, CRANBERRY AND ALMOND CHEESECAKE

Serves 12

200g refined-sugar-free biscuits, crushed

75g butter, melted

500g cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup Manuka honey (I like to use NZ Mother Earth brand)

1 tsp vanilla essence

300ml thickened cream

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup roasted unsalted Almonds, roughly chopped

  1. Grease a 22cm round spring-form cake tin, and line sides with baking paper. Combine biscuit crumbs and butter and press mixture over the base of prepared tin. Freeze for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup measured honey until smooth. Add cream and vanilla and beat to combine. Stir in cranberries and almonds. Spread mixture into prepared pan.
  3. Drizzle remaining honey over the top of the cheesecake. Use the blunt end of a bamboo skewer to swirl the honey through the creamy mixture to create a marbled effect.
  4. Cover cheesecake and freeze overnight until firm. Remove cheesecake from freezer. Stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Tip: This cheesecake can be kept frozen for up to 2 months. Alternatively, if you prefer not to freeze it, this cheesecake will still set in the fridge and will last well for up to a week.