Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gingerbread and biscotti recipes

Just to round things out, here are the gingerbread and biscotti recipes I used this year.

(paraphrased and adapted from Donna Hay magazine, issue 6, p 96)

125g (4 oz) butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) golden syrup
2 1/2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
2 tsp ground ginger tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius (375 F).
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Add the golden syrup and beat well. Add the flour, ginger, and bicarb soda and stir to combine. Knead the dough lightly to form a smooth dough.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, or between two sheets of non-stick baking paper to 5mm (1/4") thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes from the dough and place them on a baking paper lined tray. Be careful! The dough will be very soft.
Bake for 8-10minutes or until golden brown. Cool on the trays.
Ice with lemon icing. The lemon with the ginger 'lifts' the flavour considerably.
Makes 25.

(paraphrased and adapted from The Essential Mediterrananean Cookbook, Murdoch Books, p 148)

2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup (8 oz) caster sugar
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp grated orange rind
3/4 cup (3.5 oz) natural pistachio nuts

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius (350F).
Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper and dust lightly with flour.
Sift the flour and baking paper into a large bowl. Add the sugar and mix well. Make a well in the centre and add 2 whole eggs, the egg yolk, vanilla essence and orange rind. Stir until just combined. Mix in the pistachios. Knead for 2-3 minutes on a lightly floured surface. The dough will be stiff at first but quickly become soft. Add a little water if necessary.
Divide the mixture into two equal portions and roll each into a log about 25cm (10") long and 8cm (3") wide. Place the logs on the trays, allowing room for spreading. Slightly flatten the tops.
Beat the remaing egg and brush over the logs to glaze.
Bake for 35 minutes and remove from the oven.
Reduce the oven temperature to 150 celcius (300F).
Allow the logs to cool slightly, then cut them into 5mm slices.
Place slices flat side down on the trays.
BAke for 8 minutes. Turn the over and bake for a further 8 minutes, or until slightly coloured and crisp and dry.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Belated baking

So it's days and days after Christmas, but I'm getting around to the Christmas Baking post. It's 39 degrees celcius outside today, so the only gardening going on is lots of water to keep the plants alive (tomorrow - NYE - is forecast a whopping 43 degrees celcius).
So, as you might have gathered, Christmas to me means going crazy in the kitchen. I like to give baked goods as gifts.

SP helped in her own way.

This year I started with orange and pistachio biscotti, and almond biscotti.

Then I made Viennese fingers (recipe)

And Viennese 'drops' too.

The cookie trees were a bit of a hit. I was going to do all vanilla cookies (recipe), and then I got bored and added in gingerbread too, all iced with lemon icing.

The leftover biscuits made a bigger tree, which we took to my mother-in-law's house for her annual Christmas Eve birthday party.

D made his famous Christmas puddings.

He also used my leftover biscuit dough to make pastry for mince pies by re-kneading the dough with an egg.

Everything, naturally, was delicious. Perhaps the best of all was the bumper raspberry crop out of my MIL's garden.

Merry Christmas to all readers, and may you have a Happy New Year. All the best for 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Purple Capsicums.

I picked a capsicum today, a purple one, although I think 'black' would almost be a better description as it was almost that dark and hardly purple at all. I have been eyeing it off for some time, wondering when would be the right time to pluck it from it's parent and today was the day.

When I cut it open I found it was a virulent green beneath the skin.

I stir fried it with zucchini, onion, garlic, and tomato. To be perfectly honest, it was a little on the bitter side, although still quite edible.

In other gardening news, we are mere days away from picking our first yellow zucchini.
I am astounded at how fast they have grown!

I caved in and bought a pink-flowered strawberry, which is very pretty indeed.

And the nasturtiums are doing beautifully. These are from the local nursery, and not from the nature strip. I wonder, though, if they'll self-seed everywhere and I'll regret the bright colours, as I have an idea for a 'black and white' garden and the fluorescent oranges here won't quite fit. I did splash out on both black and white nasturtiums recently, but they have no flowers just yet.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Earwiggy update

A quick update on the pest 'situation.'
My traps are most definitely attracting a whole assortment of insects! The earwigs are stuck on the bottom of the tins among slater beetles and millipedes and bloated grey slugs. Cue evil laugh... Actually, it's quite revolting but strangely gratifying to see how much has fallen into the traps. I think it will need a little more time to see if it's actually working to protect my plants or not. The best way will probably be to buy something cool and expensive and plant it somewhere especially vulnerable, with a trap strategically nearby, and see if it survives.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Earwig Post.

So 'something' or 'somethings' are eating my plants. I don't think it's slugs or snails, because although I do see them around there are rarely any silver trails on the plants. My carrot seedlings barely saw the light of day before they were all gone; pooh. The rhubarb, which has been hanging on gamely since it was planted, currently has the most amount of leaf I have seen on it since it was bought from the nursery, and it looks quite sad indeed.

My other, fancier, 'Sydney Crimson' Rhubarb has been enjoyed more by the bugs than I can ever see us enjoying it.

Beans have been left as mere stalks in the ground. This is one of the survivors.

And my raspberries, my poor harassed raspberries! Just as they were starting to look OK, some little sod has come along and eaten almost all of it.

So, who are the culprits? My mum suggested earwigs, and I have seen them about in the garden, although not in enormous numbers. I did some googling and reading, and they are currently top of the list of suspects. Apparently they are scavengers, omnivorous, and have a particular fancy for seedlings. They like to live in damp and shaded areas... like under pea straw mulch, perhaps?!

There are a number of ways of controlling them, for example you can roll up newspapers and leave them overnight. They'll lurk in there, and in the morning you take them and burn the lot, or shake them out into soapy water. However I have opted for another method of control: the beer can buried with it's top level to the ground, and one third full of beer. The earwigs (and slugs and snails for that matter) are attracted to the beer, fall in and drown. I've also popped a couple of bean cans about the place, with a bit of Kecap Manis and canola oil in them. The KM being my version of 'soya sauce and molasses' which I've read about. Let's hope it works, and my pests have some South Australian loyalty and a taste for Dr Tims; I'd like to see at least a few carrots this year!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Christmas Experimentation Continues

So the earwig post will have to wait for another day, partly because I was side-tracked by cookies, and partly because I have not yet attempted to do anything about the little buggers (and I know you were all just dying to read all about it...)

I was flicking through my Donna Hay magazines, of which I have far too many, looking for cookie recipes when I came across this picture in issue 6.

I thought I'd try something like that to go on top of my cookie trees, so out came the star cutters again. I used two different sizes to make a dough outline from rolled out cookie dough (recipe at end).

I had no idea how hard it would be to find red boiled lollies (I wanted red, dammit, not orange, not yellow, definitely not green and certainly not sugar free!). I ended up buying a mixed pack of fruit lollies, but I'll need another source of just red lollies because I don't eat them and there are hardly any red ones in the packet.

Anyway, you roughly chop up the lollies and pile them in the centre of the stars. Conveniently, it's about one lolly per cookie.

When you cook them in the oven,
the lollies melt and spread out and fill the space.

And once they are cool, they're lovely cookie stars with transparent, glass-like coloured centres.

They looked beautiful, and tasted better than I thought they would (not being lolly eater myself). The idea is that you hang them on your tree as decorations, but I don't think the sugar centres would last well if it was humid.
Incidental, I thought I'd try to make a sugar-bark with demerara sugar (as suggested by chef-husband). I found this recipe on the ABC 'The Cook and the Chef' website but if it were used in cookies they would burn before the sugar was melted. Thinking that perhaps another sugar would work I tried again with white and raw casters, and raw sugar, but unfortunately the same thing happens so boiled lollies it must be.


'Turtle Dove Cookies'
Paraphrased and adapted from Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 6, page 90.

185g butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 egg
130g boiled lollies, roughly chopped

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until smooth.
Add the flour and egg and mix to form a smooth dough.
Knead the dough lightly.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350F).
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, or between sheets of baking paper, until it is 5mm (1/4") thick.
Use a cookie cutter to cut out your cookies. Place them on cookie trays lined with baking paper.
Use a smaller cookie cutter to cut out borders from your larger cookies. Use the leftover dough to make other cookies.
Place 7g of boiled lolly in each cookie border (about one lolly's worth).
Bake for 10 minutes or until golden and the lollies have melted.
Cool on the baking trays.
Makes 18.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tomato lovin'

My tomatoes - all various heritage Digger's varieties - seem to be the only thing in the garden at present not being gradually decimated by earwigs. All but one are doing beautifully (that 'one' got eaten right in the middle of the stem when it was small. It's hanging on, but I don't have high hopes for a recovery). They're all fairly compact bushes, lush and green. I adore the smell; pungent and humid, they smell like dust and hot North winds, of long slow Summer holidays and boredom.
Some of them are starting to get little yellow flowers, others are following closely behind with tiny hairy flower buds. I photographed a few of them, but even though I was looking closely it took me some time to notice that there are little fruit already on one of them, my 99c pot-bound bargain is well ahead of the pack.

I had a heritage tomato seed mix, also from Diggers', and I sprinkled some of the seeds in pots a few weeks ago and they are starting to sprout and look like proper mini-tomato plants already.

In other garden news, the yellow zucchinis have their first flowers, the capsicums have some small fruits, and some beans have sprouted and I'm hoping they will survive the voracious earwig population.

And some babies have appeared in compost heap. I suspect they might be pumpkins because they look like the pumpkin seedlings I planted a few weeks ago. I'm going to leave them and hope for the best. Free plants, woot!

Next post: attempting to deal with the earwigs!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

More Christmas Cuties.

I've been busy crafting during SP's (rather brief) naps and I finished half a dozen new Christmas girls. I dithered over whether or not to put wings on them - I only have a couple of sets left - but decided I liked them just as they are. It's so nice to actually finish something!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Angels are up!

Finally, some Christmassy bits and pieces are finished and up in my Etsy shop. There are still a few more to come, and I'm all out of good feathers for wings, but I think they're kind of cute. Now, people, shop!

This one is my favourite...