Monday, September 01, 2014

blood orange and vanilla marmalade

Hi Every-one,

the sun finally came out in Sydney yesterday after almost 2 weeks of daily rain. The rain has played havoc with my routine and each weekend I find my living room doubling up as a laundry. The joys of having to get a uniform washed, dried and ironed in 2 days when you don't own a tumble dryer. However when the rain is tumbling down what better way to spend your time than cooking? 

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Blood oranges have reappeared in the fruit shop so I've decided to make September blood orange month. So far I have 4 blood orange recipes in the pipeline starting with this one for blood orange and vanilla bean marmalade. While I've cooked jams and chutnies over the years I've never made marmalade before. There's a good reason for this - I don't like or even eat marmalade so what came over me? Well one of the recipes I'm planning to make needs marmalade and rather than buying a bottle, I decided to make some.

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I found a recipe online at SBS which sounded quite nice so I prepared the oranges and soaked them overnight in the fridge. While hunting around I found another recipe on SBS, which suggested pre-cooking the rinds before adding the sugar or they'd be too tough to eat. That sounded sensible so I combined the 2 recipes. When I checked my digital thermometer I found the batteries were flat so I relied on the old frozen saucer method to check the setting point and it worked a charm.

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Even though I halved the quantities, the recipe made a generous quantity of marmalade so I'm either going to have to learn to like it or give it away to friends. I tried the learning to like it approach first and started with my breakfast - blood orange and vanilla marmalade on sourdough toast. 

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I'd love to claim I made this sourdough bread but Audrey, my sourdough starter, has been languishing in the deep freeze since I went overseas in May. I must defrost her and bring her back to life.

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I don't know if it's the blood oranges or the salt in the recipe but this marmalade wasn't in the slightest bit bitter or too sweet - the reasons why I don't care for marmalade. It's absolutely delicious!

Here's the recipe for you, adapted from here.

Blood Orange and Vanilla Marmalade - makes 750 mls

5 medium blood oranges
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthways
¾ tsp salt, plus 1 pinch extra
Water, to cover
Caster sugar
1 tbl lemon juice

You’ll need to start this recipe the day before.

Wash the blood oranges then using a sharp knife, slice the oranges in half lengthwise removing any seeds, then cut across the fruit into thin slices. Place the sliced oranges into a bowl. Add the salt and vanilla bean, with the seeds scraped into the orange. Cover the oranges with water then leave the bowl covered in the fridge to sit overnight.

The following day weigh the contents of the bowl and then, in a separate bowl, weigh out half the amount of sugar. Place the oranges and liquid into the widest heavy-based pot you have. Bring the mix to the boil then lower to medium and cook the oranges for about 15 - 30 minutes or until the orange skins have softened. Meanwhile, place 2 saucers into the freezer. You'll need these for later. Add the sugar to the pan and stir until completely dissolved. Cook for a further hour or until the marmalade reaches its setting point.
To test the marmalade's setting point, place a teaspoon of the marmalade onto one of the cold saucers and allow it to cool. The marmalade should “jell” on the plate and not run when the saucer is tipped. If the marmalade fails to jell, cook for another few minutes before checking again.

Once the marmalade has reached setting point, take it off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and an extra pinch of salt. Allow the marmalade to completely cool before spooning into hot sterilized jars. If you like, you can loosely tighten the lids on the jars before simmering them in hot water for about 10 minutes to form a vacuum. Allow the jars to completely cool before fully tightening the lids. Store the jars in a cool dark place, then refrigerate once opened.

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I hope you all enjoyed your weekends. I have a delicious blood orange cake recipe to share with you next week so until then,


Monday, August 25, 2014

tropical hummingbird cake

Hi Every-one,

I hope you all had lovely weekends. Saturday was another wet day here in Sydney and when it rained most of day, I thought this poor cake would be spending another week in the frosty depths of the deep freeze. I adapted and made this Pineapple Crush Cake recipe from Belinda Jeffrey's book, Mix and Bake, 3 weeks ago now. I ran out of time to decorate the cake and I was out of town last weekend, so it's been stored in the freezer since then. Yesterday I woke to sunshine so I took out the butter and cream cheese ready to make the passionfruit cream cheese icing.

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When I looked through the pineapple crush cake recipe in 'Mix and Bake' it looked very much like a Hummingbird cake with some tropical elements added like the macadamia nuts. I added passionfruit to the cream cheese icing and adjusted the proportions a little to fit my special little spring form tin. As always if you double the ingredients it will make a 23 cm/9inch cake and the cooking time remains the same.

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I decorated the cake with some macadamia nut brittle adapted from a recipe in the the Ottolenghi Cookbook and a few wisps of toasted shredded coconut.

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When the rain stopped falling, I decided to take the cake outside for it's photo shoot and yes I did put the cake up on a pedestal. I have no idea where the pedestal came from but it's been a feature of our back yard for about 2 years now.

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Here's the recipe for you.

Tropical Hummingbird Layer Cake, adapted from Belinda Jeffery’s Mix and Bake. 

Makes a 16 cm cake 

¾ cup SR flour 
¼ cup Plain flour 
pinch salt 
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
pinch ground nutmeg 
25g roasted macadamias, coarsely chopped 
1 egg 
 cup caster sugar 
½ cup vegetable oil 
½ teaspoon vanilla extract 
 cup canned crushed pineapple in natural juice, undrained 
 cup mashed banana 

Passionfruit Cream Cheese Icing 
60g softened unsalted butter, diced
125 g softened cream cheese, diced
2 teaspoons passionfruit juice 
2½ cups icing sugar mixture, sifted  

Optional - Macadamia Nut Topping 
75 g macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped 
50g caster sugar 
tbl water  

1) Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Grease and line the base of a 16cm round cake tin with baking paper. Lightly dust the tin with flour. 
2) Sift the flours, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl. Stir in the chopped macadamia nuts. 
3) In another bowl, beat the egg lightly with the sugar. Whisk in the oil and vanilla extract until well combined. Add the pineapple and mashed bananas and mix thoroughly. 
4) Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir them together to form a batter. If the batter is too thick, add a little more pineapple juice. 
5) Bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Cool the cake before turning out of the tin.  
6) To prepare the nut topping, scatter the nuts over a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 140ºC/275ºF for about 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan with a thick base. Heat the sugar mixture gently until it turns into a golden-brown caramel. Do not stir the mixture at any stage or the toffee may crystallise. Carefully add the toasted nuts and mix gently with a wooden spoon. When most of the nuts are coated in caramel, pour them on to the lined tray and leave to set. Break bits off and chop them very roughly with a large knife.  
7) For icing, put all the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment beat the mixture until it becomes light and fluffy, 8-10 minutes. 
8) Using a serrated knife, halve the cooled cake horizontally. Sandwich the two cakes together with about a third of the icing. Spread the remaining icing on top of the cake. 

I decorated the cake with macadamia nut brittle and a tablespoon of toasted shredded coconut. If you like, you could just drizzle the iced cake with some passionfruit pulp.

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The cake is really moist as it's studded with nuggets of pineapple, banana and macadamia but I found it a bit too sweet. I'm sure I'll be making it again so maybe next time I'd cut down the sugar just a little or ditch the the macadamia nut brittle. It's such a sunshiney cake though, I'm glad I could finally photograph it outdoors.

See you all again next week,