14 March 2011

Yesterday I made two plumcakes – one to keep and one to share (which I think is always the best strategy with cakes, especially if your household is not large or greedy enough to eat a large cake before it goes stale or mouldy).

I call this recipe a plum shortcake, though I’m not sure that it’s a true shortcake. It’s adapted from this recipe for a rhubarb cake, which I also make often and enjoy. The great thing about both these recipes is that they look spectacular but take very little effort to make.

:: ingredients

175g butter, softened
3 eggs, separated
150g and 120g caster sugar
250g self-raising flour
3 tbsp milk
1tsp vanilla essence
4-5 plums, each cut into 8 wedges

Two circular baking trays or pizza trays, lined with baking parchment (I use the bottoms of spring form cake tins)

Preheat the oven to 180C
Use a wooden spoon to beat together the butter, 150g sugar, vanilla and egg yolks, until soft and fluffy.
Add the flour and milk and beat with a wooden spoon until a dough forms (add a bit more flour if it’s sticky).
Divide the dough in half. Flour your hands, and spread and push each lump of dough on the lined tray until it’s roughly circular and about 1 – 1.5cm thick.
Arrange the plum slices on top of the dough.

In a clean bowl and with a clean whisk or handmixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, and then beat in the 120g of sugar until the mixture is a stiff and glossy meringue.  Spread half the meringue over each plum-topped base. Don’t worry if the plums poke through in places.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the meringue is pale brown and a little bit cracked.

Eat hot or cold.

Will keep in the fridge for a week, though the meringue will lose its crispness after a day or so.


last xmas post

23 January 2011

I made these Baci di Dama (ladies’ kisses) to take to Xmas dinner at the in-laws’ place.

They were delicious. I think you should all make a batch.

saturday struedel

17 October 2010

Yesterday morning it was unseasonably cold and I had an urge to bake something (not least to help warm the house). The cupboard was fairly bare of baking necessities, and I had no desire to battle the freezing winds and rain to bring any home.
What I did have were apples, sour cream and frozen pastry. And what came to mind immediately was the easy apple struedel that my mum used to make and sell on cake stalls to raise money for the school.

In the small town where I grew up, there were cake stalls most Saturday mornings on the main street. Two trestle tables would be loaded with home-made cakes and biscuits and the occasional craft object; there would be a raffle for a meat tray* or a hamper**; and all the money would go to some good cause or other, a school, a sporting team, the senior citizens centre and so on.

A baking bonanza would take place in our kitchen the night before and the morning of the cake stall. My mum used to make dozens of these struedels because they sold well and were easier and quicker than cakes (though she did make many cakes as well).

This is what I could remember of the recipe. It turned out fine.  If you wanted to be more authentic, you could make your own pastry, but if it’s a cold rainy Saturday morning where you are, use the frozen stuff.

:: saturday struedel ::


1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, defrosted

1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1cm cubes

3 tbsp sultanas

3 tbsp sugar (any kind)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground coriander (yes I know this seems odd, but trust me on this)

200 ml thick sour cream.

A little milk, for brushing

Preheat the oven to 180 C

Mix the sugar and spices in a bowl.

Add the apple and sultanas and toss until the apples are well-coated in sugar and spices.

Pile the apple mixture into the centre of the pastry in a rough rectangle.

Spread the sour cream over the top

Brush round the edges of the pastry with milk.

Fold the pastry to meet in the middle and pinch the edges together firmly.  Fold and pinch the pastry together at the ends.

Prick the top of the struedel with a fork and brush with milk.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden.  The strudel might split along the top seam, but this doesn’t matter.

Allow to cool a little before eating.

* for the uninitiated, a meat tray is an Australian raffle tradition. It is a polystyrene tray of all different cuts of meat and a bunch of sausages. It is only worth winning if you can get it home pretty quickly and you’ve got a freezer; or if you were planning a big BBQ that night anyway.

** ‘hampers’ at my school consisted of a plastic washing basket, filled with all the tinned goods that everyone’s mums wanted to get out of their cupboards. I can imagine that if you won one, you would get a lifetime supply of things like spam, condensed milk, tinned peas, and tuna. I suspect that some hamper contents had been part of several hampers in their time, and were on an endless cycle from the back of one pantry to a hamper to another pantry to another hamper and so on.

more baking

28 October 2009

rhubarb muffins

The craving for afternoon tea usually strikes me around 3:15pm. On a weekday, this means a quick trip to the cafe downstairs, or in emergencies, the vending machine.  On weekends, I’m always frustrated by the lack of afternoon tea delights in the house, and too lazy to walk to the shops.

On Saturday, and I don’t know why, I had pre-emptive thoughts of afternoon tea at around 2pm.  So I baked rhubarb cinnamon sugar muffins, which came out of the oven just in time to accompany a pot of earl grey tea, in the sun.

(If making them again, I’d add some vanilla, because the muffin is a little bland.  But they are still pretty tasty).


This is my fruit bread recipe which is an amalgam of several recipes and some remembered wisdom.  Without wanting to sound conceited, it really is awesome.  I made some last weekend and resolved to make it more often.

:: ingredients

1/4 cup sugar
150ml hand-hot water
1 tbsp dried yeast
3 1/2 cups of flour
3 tsp mixed spice
1 egg, lightly beaten
50g butter, melted
50ml milk
At least 2 1/2 cups of dried fruit – you can use whatever takes your fancy.  In the picture above, I used half a cup each of sultanas and mixed peel, and made the rest up from dried figs, prunes, dried apricots, and dried cranberries.

:: instructions

Mix 1 tsp of sugar with the warm water, and add the yeast.  Leave to stand until it has a thick foamy head on it, like a pint of Guiness.

Mix the remaining sugar with the flour and mixed spice.  Add the fruit, and mix around with your hands so that all the fruit is coated with flour (this stops it sinking when the bread cooks).

Stir the milk into the melted butter.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the milk/butter, the yeast/water and the egg.  Mix until a stiff dough forms.  If it’s a bit dry, add a touch more water.

Knead the dough by hand for about 5 minutes or until it’s springy and smooth.

Put the dough back in the bowl, pop the bowl in a plastic bag, and leave in a warm place for an hour or until it’s doubled in size.

Knead the dough back to its original size again and shape into a loaf

Place the dough in a greased loaf tin, put the tin in the plastic bag and stand in a warm place for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200C.

Bake the loaf for 30 minutes – it should sound hollow when you tap the top, and the top should be a nice light brown colour.

If willpower allows, let it cool in the tin.  If not, eat slices straight away with butter and enjoy licking the melted butter off your fingers afterwards.