My dream Coffee Walnut Slice perfection

I went to a very cute little cafe/delicatessen the other day and had a big piece of Coffee Walnut slice. It was really good… but, as is often the case when I eat out, I get to thinking…

‘I’d like mine with more [insert ingredient]’… or

‘If they hadn’t baked it so long it would be better’… or

‘If it had more base and less icing it would be SO much better!’

Anyway, you get what I mean right? Sometimes, as nice as something is, you just know it would be even nicer if you could make it to your exact taste.

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So today, that’s what I did.

I don’t like a ‘dry’ base – I like it slightly sticky, gooey even. And I like a good thick base, with a little bit of icing – but the icing has to pack a real coffee punch. And I like lots of walnuts… preferable fresh walnuts, not the rancid moldy old things you buy in a pack (thankfully I bought some fresh walnuts at the market last weekend, so I was able to be picky!).

My dream Coffee Walnut Slice

For the base:

400gm plain sweet biscuits (crushed so you have a mix of crumbs and chunks)
180gm butter
1 tin sweetened condensed milk (around 375ml)
100ml boiling water
3 heaped tsp coffee powder (or as much or as little as you like)

Gently melt the butter and condensed milk. Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water then add to the butter mixture, and combine. In a large bowl add the crushed biscuits, then pour in the coffee mixture. Gently fold through till all the biscuit is coated, then press into a tin lined with baking paper (my tin was 20cm by 25cm but anything around that size will do). Put in the fridge to chill completely.

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For the icing:

50gm softened butter
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp boiling water
2 tsp coffee powder (or as much or as little as you like)

Dissolve the coffee in the hot water. Beat the softened butter and icing sugar together. Add a little of the coffee at a time until you get a nice smooth spreading consistency, and a light brown colour.

Spread the top of the cold slice with icing, and sprinkle with chopped walnuts then refrigerate again to set the icing. Once it’s all cool, take the slice out and cut it into generous pieces.

Enjoy with a cup of tea (is that weird…? – or coffee!).

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A Sour Cream Coffee Cake (or the cake with two tops)

My first outing with my brand new cookbook Homemade Decadence by Joy the Baker was her delicious sounding Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Brown Butter Glaze. It was a total success flavour-wise – so delicious (you should have seen the size of the slices I was cutting!)… but technically, I totally stuffed up.

Reading recipes all the way through BEFORE beginning to bake has never been a strength of mine. No, far from it. I would say it is a kitchen skill there is some serious room for improvement on!

Normally I am so keen to get on with the fun part – eating the creamed butter, eating the creamed butter with raw egg in it, eating the batter, eating the frosting, eating the finished product – that I tend to hurry the boring stuff, like reading the recipe, ensuring I have the correct ingredients, and ensuring I have the right tin and have properly lined/greased it.

So this time, instead of reading the part where the recipe says ‘sprinkle the streusel on top and loosely swirl it into the batter’ before baking it, I just sprinkled it on top… that’s right, absolutely NO swirling occurred!

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The first time I realised something had gone terribly, horribly wrong, was when I went to turn the cake out of the tin after baking it. See the right hand photo above – the lovely looking cake in the tin, covered in delicious, crunchy, nutty, cinnamon-y streusel? Well, now imagine trying to get that baby out without all that delicious streusel falling right off… yes, MAJOR issue!

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But – there is a happy ending to this tale of woe. I managed to prise the cake out eventually, not too much of the streusel was lost, AND miracle of miracles, once I had topped the bottom of the cake with glaze (added glaze to the bottom of the cake which was now on the top), I had a cake with TWO tops! I know – how amazing is that… because, as we all know, the top of the cake is far superior in taste, texture and all round cake-y amazingness, so to have not one top but two…?

That’s a win!

Replenishing my elderflower cordial supplies

Spring is the time for delicate, fragrant elderflowers to begin springing up around the countryside – amongst many other things.

Since we moved out of the city three years ago to a very small town in a rural area, I wouldn’t say we have become more ‘in tune’ with the countryside, but we are certainly more observant and aware of what is growing and when.

So I have now learned to be on the look out for elderflower around the end of October, and in my little rolodex of a brain, I catalog Elderflower trees when we are out and about, remembering them for when I need to go and raid them (like just now for flowers, and around February for berries).

We have an Elderflower tree in our garden, but we cut it right back last year because it was growing in a rather strange, untidy way. This year it has had the grand total sum of four flower heads on it, so… not exactly going to make a year’s worth of cordial with that measly amount!

I made Elderflower cordial and Elderflower champagne last year – but the cordial was the real hit! I serve a dash of cordial in sparkling wine, and it’s refreshing, perfumed and oh-so-sophisticated! (WARNING: grand visions of playing croquet on the lawn, dressed to the nines Downton Abbey-style, being served by suited wait staff come to mind when drinking this). Not to mention the vaguely smug feeling I always get from using something I have made from something I have grown…

So, for Elderflower Cordial you will need:

20 Elderflower heads (if you can pick them when they have just opened, they will be at their best)
4 cups caster sugar
1.5 litres of boiling water
2 lemons (sliced)
1 orange (sliced)
50gm citric acid

1) Gently wash the Elderflower heads to remove any dirt and bugs.

2) Place the sugar in a pot and pour the boiling water on top. Give it a good stir, and leave to cool down a bit.

3) Add the fruit, flowers, and citric acid, and give a gentle stir. (If you are a little hasty, as I was, and add the flower to the water before it cools, it turns the flowers brown – which apparently effects the flavor of the syrup… but I can’t taste it!)

4) Leave it for 24 hours in a cool spot – give it a gentle stir when you remember.

Elderflower cordial
Elderflower flowers steeping in water, sugar and citric acid

5) After 24 hours strain the cordial through fine muslin cloth (this will get the remaining bugs out), and then bottle in sterilized bottles with a tight fitting lid (I used bottles my husband has for making homebrew, which are absolutely perfect – except for being brown glass, so you can’t really see what’s inside).

Straining Elderflower Cordial
Straining the flowers (and bugs) out of the cordial

I doubled the recipe this time and ended up with five 750ml bottles with a bit left over – just perfect for sampling with glass of good New Zealand sparkling wine, out on the deck on a warm spring afternoon.

Once you open a bottle of cordial it pays to keep it in the fridge. I’m not really sure how long the unopened bottles would last for, as in our house they don’t have much of a chance to stay unopened!!

Elderflower cordial
Cordial made – it’s time to celebrate!

Broad bean bonanza – broad bean and dill pilaf

With yet more broad beans in the garden to use up, I decided to try a pilaf and did a bit of looking around for a suitable recipe. I think the flavours of broad bean and dill go so well together, so when I found a recipe for a Broad Bean and Dill Pilaf on the BBC Goodfood website I was keen to try it keen to eat it! Delicious hot buttery pilaf dotted through with the delicate crunch of fresh sweet broad beans… it’s a winner.

Broad bean and dill pilaf
Broad bean and dill pilaf – served with herby chicken meatballs

During my scouting around for a suitable pilaf recipe, I came across one from Martha Stewart where she served meatballs with the broad bean pilaf. Meatballs are such comfort food, and I thought they’d be a nice accompaniment to the pilaf… I can’t find her recipe now (and didn’t use it anyway), so you’ll just have to take my word for it – the meal was delicious!

Homemade Decadence and Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book

I cannot express my excitement at receiving a package from Amazon this week – it was there waiting for me on the doorstep when I returned from a weekend break in Christchurch, which I must mention was super fun and quite an interesting place to be right now with so much post-earthquake development.

We packed our weekend full of eating excursions (Pomeroys – great food, and extensive craft beer selection; Mexicanos – the Barbacoa beef is highly recommended, melt in your mouth spicy/smoky deliciousness; The Tannery – steam punk styled Victorian shopping mall with plenty of eating opportunities) and have probably come back 5 kgs heavier…

But anyway, I digress, and have more pressing issues – which recipe to make first from my brand new cookbooks?? I splashed out and purchased two gorgeous new cookbooks this week. The first, Joy the Baker’s Homemade Decadence, and second Four and Twenty Blackbird’s Pie Book. Now… the dilemma of which recipe to choose to make first is a wonderful one to have, and I will have some tough choices to make this weekend – can’t wait!

 

 

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The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book and Homemade Decadence – in my clutches at last!

Do you have either of these cookbooks? Can you suggest an amazing recipe to try? Do you get as excited about new cookbooks as I do…?

Mini banana cinnamon bread

I’m always on the look out for delicious ways to use up the bananas that turn brown and manky in my fruit bowl. They sit on the bench in my kitchen just begging to be made into something, rather than being given to our chickens (or stuck in the freezer to be given to our chickens much, much later on!).

I came across a rather nice looking banana bread recipe in Donna Hay’s ‘Modern Classics 2′ book, which I’ve had for a very long time. It’s full of pretty reliable and easy recipes, so I thought I’d give it a go – but since I’m also always thinking about ways to fill up my girls’ lunchboxes, I decided to go mini.

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Mini banana breads ready for baking

Donna Hay’s Banana Cinnamon Bread (minified)

140g softened butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup ground nut meal (I used almond, Donna uses hazelnut)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I love lots, so I doubled her rather measly amount)
1 large banana or 2 small, sliced
Sugar for sprinkling (I used muscavado, Donna uses demerara)

Preheat oven to 180c. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add egg and beat well. Add the flour, baking powder, nut meal, buttermilk and cinnamon, and fold through until smooth. (Here I added mashed banana – Donna doesn’t, but I wanted my bread to be extra banana-y – and I had multiple bananas to use up!)

Grease a loaf tin, or use a 12-cup muffin tray if you want the mini versions. Brush the top with butter, arrange your sliced banana so it looks aesthetically pleasing to you, and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 35 mins (for the big version) or 15 mins (for the mini versions) and remove from the oven when golden and lightly springy. When I took mine out they weren’t quite as golden as I wanted (although the cake was cooked) so I stuck them under the grill for a couple of minutes… just to get that slightly burnt, caramelised sugar look!

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A golden brown, caramelised top – thanks to a minute or two under the grill!

I’m happy to say they turned out nicely. The sugary banana on top was particularly good, but the nuts and banana in the ‘bread’ were good too… I would just mention however, that calling them ‘bread’ is a little misleading – to me they were more cake-like than bready. I put a few remaining ones in the freezer, and they did go a bit soggy and weird on defrosting, so maybe this is an ‘eat when fresh’ kind of recipe.

Tiramisu cupcake delights

These are delightful little mouthfuls of coffee deliciousness!

I made a basic vanilla cupcake – my ‘go to’ Hummingbird Bakery recipe, a bowl of Espresso Cream Cheese frosting, and a bowl of Espresso and Kahlua syrup.

All elements assembled and ready to go
All elements assembled and ready to go

Then once they were perfectly baked, I cut out a little bit of the middle.

Hole-y mole-y - cupcake centres ready to fill
Hole-y mole-y – cupcake centres ready to fill

Then I added a scoop of Espresso Cream Cheese frosting, and dipped the cut-out middle in the Espresso and Kahlua syrup.

imageimageThen I squished it back in the hole so it was nice and snug (I’m not sure why, but that part of the process is particularly satisfying… somebody call Dr Freud!) then cover it all back up with more Espresso Cream Cheese frosting.

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12 pieces of cupcake perfection waiting for their final touch – a light dusting of good quality cocoa, and a couple of coffee beans. Who can resist that?!

imageThough now I’ve seen REVAMERATE’s beautiful looking Espresso Frosting with pretty little speck’s of coffee bean in it, I think I’ll try that next time….