Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saffron & Rose Cupcakes

When I was 16 years old my sister and her boyfrfiend took me for dinner at a restaurant called Zorba The Buddha. I was utterly thrilled with this outing as it was in the city, to be specific, it was in Darlinghurst which was in my opinion, edgey, and it was on a school night! Zorba The Buddha was in fact run by Orange People. Or to be precise, the followers of the Bagwan Rajneesh who was at the time embroiled in some kind of sex scandal.

His followers dressed in robes dyed the same saffron colour as that of the Hari Krishnas and ran the restaurant presumably to raise money for their cult. Whatever the Bagwan was up to, it had no effect on the food served at the restaurant, or the jazz music played by the saffron clad staff. I can still hear the strains of the trumpet today.

But recently when I watched a documentary about the origins of saffron, it wasn't the Bagwan and his cult that immediately came to mind. It was whether or not saffron could be incorporated into a cupcake. Saffron is actually the thin thread centre of a purple crocus-like flower. It's grown in thE deserts of Morocco and is hand picked, dried in the sun, then shipped to the markets where it fetches an enormous price. I wondered whether it would make sense to put such an expensive spice into cupcakes. But since the saffron I have was just sitting in the cupcoard, I thought why not!? See what you think!

Ingredients
125g butter
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
1.5 cups self raising flour
a big pinch of genuine saffron threads
the seeds of one vanilla pod

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line a muffin tin with cup cake papers - you'll get between 12 - 16 cupcakes out of this mix.
2. Place all ingredients in the bowl of your Kitchenaid and mix on first gear to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate any unmixed ingredients. Increase speed to sixth gear and beat for three minutes.
3. Drop spoonfuls of mix into each cupcake paper. I use a size 6 icrecream scoop to get each cake the exact same size.
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until cakes are golden brown and spring back when touched.
5. Cool on a wire rack.

Icing
500g pur icing sugar
75g softened butter
1 tsp rose water essence
6 drops pink food colouring
3 tblsp milk
3 tblsp water

1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of your Kitchenaid, then increase speed to sixth gear. Beat until all ingredients are well combined.
2. Pipe icing onto cold cakes and decorate with a sugar flour.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Coconut Biscuits

When I applied to appear on Masterchef a couple of years back, there was a question in the extremely lengthy application which asked who my cooking influences were. I listed several women in my family, including my mum and my nana. Nana really was the epitome of the country cook, only I don't think she was in "the association" which has achieved so much notoriety in the past few years. She was a master of very good ordinary cooking, and her specialities stretched from roast dinners to pies, cakes and of course to biscuits.

At home with my little son last weekend, I decided I wanted to cook the most traditional cookie I could think of. I flicked through my Women's Weekly Bake cookbook and found nothing but fancy schmancy cookies that all looked a bit complex for my liking. So I rang my mum and asked for her coconut bickie recipe. This is one that figured heavily in my childhood. It was cooked with regularity throughout the year, but was also trotted out at Christmas decorated with pink or green sugar.

It turns out that recipe is one of Nana's. I have seen in replicated in some modern cookbooks and I've baked them using that recipe only to find the resulting product lacking. Mum was quite right when she said Nana's recipe is the best. Nana has been gone for nearly four years now, and really she was gone for about three years before hand, thanks to that cruel disease, alzheimer's. But I like the fact that I can connect my little boy to my nana through her cooking. He stood up at the bench with me and dipped each bickie in sugar before helping place it on the baking sheet. Nana would have liked that - she always liked to help a kid learn how to cook.

Ingredients
125g butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup desicated coconut
1 cup self raising flour
3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup corn flour
coloured sprinkles

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius and line two baking trays with baking paper.
2. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of your Kitchenaid and beat until creamy. Add vanilla and egg and continue beating until light and fluffy.
3. Add coconut and all the flours. Mix on first gear until ingredients are completely combined but do not over mix! This will make your biscuits tough.
4. Roll heaped teaspoonfuls of dough into balls. Pour sprinkles into a saucer and drop each ball of cookie dough into the sprinkles and press to flatten slightly.
5. Place on cookie tray with a good five centimetres between each as these cookies spread a lot.
6. bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Be careful as these cookies can burn suddenly.
7. Cool on tray for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 25 biscuits.
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