Cook this: 6 ingredient chestnut jam thumbprint cookies

Having grown up in a very Italian family, I love roasted chestnuts in winter. Nonno used to make them for us when we were kids, and I loved sitting at their dinner table, digging my little fingers in the split in the shell, peeling the charred layed off those golden little nuggets, and eating them until dad said I couldn’t have any more because I’d be sick. So, when I found St Dalfour at the Good Food and Wine Show a few weeks ago selling chestnut jam, I got more than a little bit excited. I only bought one jar, and have been kicking myself ever since!


I’ve been using a spoonful of it to mix through my porridge, along with a handful of blueberries and a sprinkle of cacao nibs, but I wanted to make something sweet to eat with a cup of tea as it gets colder. I also wanted something quick and easy, that I could make whenever I wanted them without having to get changed out of my PJs to go buy ingredients for. Same base recipe as the lemon cookies I posted a few weeks ago, but the secret ingredient is absolutely the jam – find a way to get your hands on some!!

Ingredients:
– 100g butter, softened
– 100g caster sugar
– 1 egg yolk
– 200g plain flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– St Dalfour chestnut jam!

 

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 170° and line an oven tray with baking paper.

2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and creamy, followed by the egg yolk until completely smooth and combined.

3. Stir in the flour and baking powder until combined.

4. Roll the dough into balls (about tablespoon size works well) and space them out on the oven tray.

5. As the recipe might imply, press your thumb into the centre of each cookie to make space for the jam, and drop a little jam in each thumbprint.

6. Bake for 15min, or until golden brown.

Cook this: Vanilla raspberry protein loaf (lactose, sugar & gluten free)

I actually really enjoy baking with protein powder, and think it can be a bit of an underrated ingredient in the kitchen. If you can find one with a good flavor (I love a strong vanilla), it’s a great addition; it’s also a convenient way to pass off treats as “healthy”  ; )

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Anyway, when I saw this recipe on my blog roll a few weeks ago, I saved it to make later, and I finally got around to it this week. It’s a great one for those with special diets (you can substitute flour for more nut meal or GF flour if you’re coeliac), there’s no refined sugar unless you want to add some (but I find the sweetness from the berries good enough for me), you can use oil instead of butter if you prefer, and you can use any milk you want if you need a lactose free version. While the original recipe uses raspberries (and used them too because they’re my favourites), you can really use any frozen berries.

Also, it’s Friday – and if you want to treat yourself without totally eating crap, you may as well 🙂 Here’s my version of the protein berry loaf, inspired by Healthy with Anja’s recipe.

 

Ingredients:
– ½ rolled oats
– ½ cup plain flour, sifted
– ½ cup almond meal
– 2 scoops protein powder (I like vanilla Vital protein, which also happens to be vegan and dairy/soy free)
– 1 tsp baking powder
– ¼ heaped cup shredded coconut
– 2 large eggs, whisked
– 25g butter, melted and cooled
– ½ cup milk
– 1 heaped tbsp plain Greek yoghurt
– 1 cup frozen raspberries

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC and line a loaf tin with non-stick baking paper.

2. Combine the oats, flour, almond meal, protein powder, baking powder and coconut in a large mixing bowl.

3. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the eggs until completely combined, then add in the butter, again mixing until completely combined.

4. Stir in the milk next, a bit at a time (you may not need it all) until it comes together in a good cake-batter consistency.

5. Pour half the batter into the prepared tin and spread about two thirds of the raspberries over it. Cover the raspberries with the rest of the batter, and sprinkle the remaining berries over the top.

6. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and cover with foil; bake for another 15 – 20 minutes, until cooked through.

 

 

** Note – this is definitely more of a loaf than a cake in terms of sweetness, so if you want it a bit sweeter, add a tablespoon or two of caster sugar in with the dry ingredients **

Baby shower baking like a boss :) Cook this: orange blueberry tart

As a general rule, I don’t have a maternal bone in my body. I’m closing in on 30 and still feel no urge to procreate – I don’t think I have that “internal clock” so many women my age freak out about when they hear ticking. I’m not much at all into babies or kids, and don’t really enjoy spending time with them – don’t even think about asking me if I want to hold one. The only exceptions at the current time are my two nieces, who are deliciously cute, and pretty cool little monkeys, thanks in large part to their amazing mum/my sister-in-law. You know how some women just have it? Like, they’ve just got the whole mothering thing down pat, they make it look almost fun, even on the crappy days, and they somehow handle those crappy days with dignity and grace? She’s one of those mums, one of those freaky magical unicorns who you don’t think can actually exist in real life. What a star.

Anyway, my other sister-in-law is also pregnant, which I predicted would happen when I booked my trip to Japan, and we’re going to have another little lady joining the family soon!

Side note: How was I able to predict a baby with travel? Simple; every time I whip out my passport and book a trip overseas, someone in the family has a baby. Niece #1 was born on our honeymoon. Niece #2 was born a few days before we went to Egypt/Europe. Cousin’s baby was born a few days before America. So when I booked Japan, it was pretty obvious someone was going to be getting knocked up, and true to form, niece #3 is due the day before I’m due to fly back to Melbourne. So, sisters and sisters-in-law, upcoming trips I’m planning include one either October-ish or Christmas time-ish 2016, and another one around the same time in 2017. One or more  of you will be having babies over the next 2 years. Consider yourselves warned.

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But back to my lovely sister-in-law currently carrying the newest addition to the family – she’s going to be just as amazing a mum as her older sister. Again, calm beyond belief, so very level-headed, and very drama free, she’s a totally amazing woman; I couldn’t be happier for her 🙂 And, despite my dislike of baby related things and gatherings, I was stoked to be asked to do some baby shower baking for the day, which went off beautifully yesterday, hosted by my mum-in-law and with my sister-in-law surrounded by a whole lot of happy, supportive friends and a few pink balloons!


I arrived armed with freshly baked mini lemon meringue tarts, raspberry pistachio blondies, chocolate fudge cupcakes and a blueberry orange tart (can’t even tell you how exhausted I was after baking all that between 6pm Thursday night and 3pm Friday afternoon)…

While I’m generally a chocoholic, I surprisingly really love the blueberry orange tart, a super quick and easy recipe I found months ago in one of those freebie supermarket recipe magazines that sit at the check out. Actually, that’s a lie – the recipe I found was for a lemon blueberry tart, but I like orange blueberry better, so (as usual), I made some changes. Anyway, it’s a delicious one that’s pretty easy to throw together, especially if you need something relatively last minute, got heaps of flavour (the orange zest always comes through so well), and you can play around with it a little, using other berry/citrus combinations – I’m thinking of trying raspberry and lemon, or maybe strawberry and lime next…

Ingredients:
– 2 sheets of frozen shortcrust pastry, or 2 serves of this homemade stuff
– 2 eggs, at room temperature
– ⅔ cup caster sugar
– finely grated rind of one orange
– ½ cup plain flour
– ⅓ cup milk
– freshly squeezed juice of half an orange
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
– icing sugar to dust (optional)

 

Method:
1. If you’re going to make the pastry from scratch, follow the link above and make that first. Once it’s rested for half an hour in the fridge, pre-heat the oven to 180°C and roll out the pastry. Then, carefully lay the freshly made or pre-made frozen pastry into a large greased pie, tart or rectangular cake tin.

2. Place a sheet of non-stick baking paper over the pastry and throw in some pie weights or rice, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the baking paper and weight, and bake for another 10 minutes.

3. While the tart shell is baking, make the filling – whisk the eggs, sugar and orange rind together, then sift in the flour and whisk in until completely combined.

4. Whisk in the milk, orange juice, and vanilla. Then, once the pastry is baked, pour the mixture in, sprinkle the blueberries over the batter and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden and just set.

5. Let the tart cool enough to handle before removing from it’s baking tin to cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar to serve, if that tickles your fancy.

Cook this: Cake drops V.2 – the Jaffa edition (orange, polenta & cacao)

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So, last week I posted a recipe for “superfood” cake drops, made with goji berries, cacao nibs and chia seeds, the inspiration for which came from Heather at Skinny Fat Girl. Anyway, over the week, I was thinking about other ways I could play around with this versatile little recipe, and make it more my own. One of my all time favourite sweet combinations is orange and polenta (looove orange and polenta cookies!), and I’m obviously a chocoholic (thanks, dad), so I decided to combine the lot to give it a bit of a Jaffa spin – while I absolutely cannot stand Jaffa lollies, with their crappy quality chocolate and rancid imitation orange flavouring, I absolutely love the combination of REAL orange and REAL chocolate!

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Ingredients
– ¼ cup plain flour (gluten free if needed)
– ¼ cup almond meal (if you don’t have this lying around/don’t want to buy it, just use another quarter cup of flour instead)
– ½ cup polenta
– 1 tsp bicarb soda
– ¼ cup caster sugar (alternatively, honey for refined sugar free version, maple syrup for FODMAP friendly version, or Stevia or similar for lower calorie version)
– 125g yogurt (I like Liddells lactose free plain vanilla, but if you’re not lactose intolerant, plain, natural Greek yogurt is perfect)
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
– 1 egg white
– 2 tbsp toasted cacao nibs
– finely grated rind of 1 orange

Method
1. Preheat to 180ºC.
2. Combine the flour and/or almond meal, polenta, bicarb and sugar in a large bowl, then stir through the yoghurt, vanilla extract, orange juice and egg white until completely combined.
3. Stir in the cacao nibs and orange rind, until they’re evenly mixed through.
4. Baking option 1: scoop out tablespoons of batter onto a lined oven tray.
Baking option 2: scoop batter into mini muffin tins, either lightly spraying the tins first with a neutral cooking oil, or lining them with mini cupcake cases.
5. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden on top. Once cooled, these can be stored for almost a week in an airtight container

Just like the original “superfood” cake drops, these are light and airy, moist and delicious. And because they’re so quick and easy to make, come from all pantry staples, and can be made to be so tummy friendly, they’re now basically a staple in our house!  polenta cake drops 3

Cook this: vanilla bean powder Easter biscuits 

Happy Easter! I hope everyone’s enjoying the holiday, the time off work, the time spent with family and friends, the chocolate and other Easter treats! I’m a massive chocolate addict, but I figured there’d be enough chocolate going around for Easter, so I wanted to do something a little different; also, I know not everyone loves chocolate as much as me. I love baking cookies, and found some Easter themed cookie cutters I had tucked away in a drawer in the kitchen. I made a batch of tea cookies last week to bring in to work, and also visited Terra Madre recently where I bought some vanilla bean powder. Throw all of that together and you’ve got cookies made with vanilla bean powder infused butter, which can be made for any occasion, not just Easter  : )

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Ingredients:
– 100g butter, chopped
– 3 tsp vanilla bean powder (I get mine from Terra Madre in Northcote)
– 100g caster sugar
– 1 egg at room temperature
– 1 tsp vanilla extract (should have used more!!)
– 200g plain flour
  

 

Method – this is the same as the way you’d make the tea cookies:
1. Melt the butter and stir in the vanilla bean powder. Set aside until the butter has solidified again, but still soft – this will take around an hour or so.

2. Beat the soft butter (not melted!) and the caster sugar on medium/high speed with an electric mixer for around 3 – 5min, or until really smooth, lighter in colour and creamy.

3. Add in the egg and vanilla, and keep beating until totally combined and smooth (another minute or so).

4. Sift in the flour and mix until a thick dough comes together (you may want to use your hands to really bring it together) – roll that big clump of dough into a ball, wrap it in cling wrap, and sit it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 170˚C and line a big baking tray (or 2 smaller ones) with non-stick paper.

6. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out between two sheets of non-stick baking paper to a thickness you’re happy with, and cookies out of whatever shape or size you want.

7. Lay them on the tray (they won’t expand so you can put them fairly close together), and bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until they are just getting a light golden edge.

8. Let them cool for a 5-10 minutes on the tray, then transfer them to a cooling rack. Then, decorate as you wish! Clearly, as you can see above with that blue and red circled cookie, my decorating skills and steadiness of hand leave much to be desired hehehe

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