Sunday, January 20, 2013

No Bake Lemon Slice

What can I say about lemon that I haven't said before?

I've told the story of my mother's lemon tree that fruited three seasons of the year. And I think I've told the story of the minature lemon tree my husband and I were given for our wedding (which incidentally has fruited more lemons this year than we've ever had from it before).

Lemon is one of those classic flavours that just cannot be outdone. It's up there with chocolate and vanilla in my opinion.

When I was pregnant, I was surprised to find I craved lemon (and tomato). I would happily have eaten nothing else, which probably wouldn't have agreed with me since both are so high in acid. Yet those were the two flavours I wanted most.

I've had friends say in the past that a vanilla cake with lemon icing is the next best thing to heaven. Lemon when it is allowed to retain it's simple nature is a beautiful thing in cooking. So all hail the humble lemon! Here is my mornng snack tribute to lemon.

500g Milk Arrowroot biscuits
2 cups desicated coconut
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
250g butter, melted
1 cup condensed milk

1. Finely crush the biscuits and combine them in a large bowl with the coconut and lemon rind.
2. Gently heat the melted butter and condensed milk.
3. Pout over the biscuit mix and stir until combined - make sure all crumbs are wet.
4. Pour into a 30cm x 20cm brownie tin and press to compact. Keep pressing until the biscuit base becomes firm. Make sure you press the mixture evenly and fill the corners so that the base is level. If you have a small rolling pin you could you it to finish the top to make it smooth. I used a rice spoon which has a wide flate back.
5. Chill the biscuit base for half an hour.

2 cups pure icing sugar
3 tblsp lemon juice
3 tblsp desicated coconut

1. Combine the icing sugar and lemon juice and mix until combined. Make sure there are no lemon seeds in the juice.
2. Spread the icing over the top of the biscuit base.
3. Sprinkle the coconut liberally over the top.
4. Allow to stand for an hour so that the icing sets. Return the slice to the fridge if you like - this will help it cut better.
5. Carefully loosen the sides of the slide from the tin and slide it out onto a chopping board. Cut into 16 rectangles or 32 smaller ones.

Note: I think this slice is best stored in the fridge but you can also freeze it and thaw before eating.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Chocolate Coconut Slice

One of the odd things about being a part time baker is, while I'm busy supplying quality baked treats to cafes and customers, I then get a cafe cake from the espresso bar where I get my coffee at work. I always find the choice limited and the quality questionable.

So this year, I've decided to be my own customer for cafe cakes. It means I get a treat to go with my coffee that I know will be good, I'll save about $3.50 a day which adds up to $17.50 a week. Plus I will keep my husband supplied with morning snacks too - although I think he eats the snackies I make him in the afternoon.

So here is my first cafe cake for the year - chocolate coconut slice, which has yielded 18 slices. We only need 10 for the week, so eight can go in the freezer and be enjoyed some other time.

2 cups plain flour
2 cups desicated coconut
1 cup caster sugar
4 tblsp dutch cocoa powder
370g butter, melted
1 tblsp vanilla essence

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius and line a 30cm x 20cm brownie tray with greaseproof paper and set aside.
2. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Pour into the prepared tin and press to cover the enitre area. Try and get it as flat on top as you can. Pressing it with your fingers is best.
3. Bake in the oven for 30mins. Allow to cool completely in the tray and then carefully transfer to a wire wrack.

1.5 cups pure icing sugar
2 tblsp cocoa
45g softened butter
3 tblsp hot water
2 tblsp desicated coconut - for decoration

1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with an electric hand mixer until thoroughly combined.
2. Spread the icing evenly across the slice.
3. Sprinkle with the coconut and allow the icing to set - at least an hour.
4. Cut into 18 slices.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Three Cheese Potato Bake

In 1998 my friend Sophie came to visit from France. It was the second time we met face to face, having been penpals since we were high school kids.

Sophie came armed with a swathe of genuine French recipes, which we attempted to cook for a dinner at my mother's house. While Potatoes Au Gratin had been served in our home before, the recipe we'd used was not like Sophie's. Hers was based on beef stock and creme fraiche, which unfortunately was unknown in Australia at that time (or at least in Penrith). It also had bacon interspersed through the layers of potato, and if I remember correctly, needed topping up with more creamy stock as the potatoes cooked.

My mother and I messed with Sophie's recipe so much, I don't think it resembled the French version much at all. And don't even get me started on the disaster of a cherry clafoutis, which we had no idea how to handle! It turned out rubbery and we could tell by the look on Sophie's face that it wasn't right. Needless to say cherry clafoutis is now produced by every would be Masterchef who is trying to impress which I simply cannot understand.

Potatoes au gratin is very common in Australia these days but has degenerated into "potato bake". Not very glamorous! When it's cooked with respect to French tradition it can be heavenly, but thanks to the cream in it, one serving always fills me with guilt. So I've developed this recipe which is light on fat but plentiful on cheese. I hope you like it.

6 medium waxy potatoes
1 chicken stock cube made into 2/3 cup of stock
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup grated mozarella
1 tblsp parmesan cheese
1 tblsp grate tastey cheese

1. Slice the potatoes thinly on the mandolin (or with a knife).
2. Arrange in a loaf sized baking dish. I put the potatoes on their side for a pretty effect.
3. Pour the milky stock over the potatoes, leaving the edges of the potatoes peeping above the fluid.
4. Sprinkle the cheeses over the potatoes.
5. Bake in an oven preheated to 180 degree celcius for one hour.
6. Allow to stand for 10 minnutes before serving.

Serves six.