Monday, 22 April 2013

Irresistible chocolate biscuits

I'll admit, once I find a recipe I like I hold onto it, to the detriment of trying new ones.
I'm a bit of a perfectionist so it can't be any old recipe, which is why I'm still searching for the perfect chocolate cake recipe.
When it comes to chocolate biscuits though, this recipe takes the cake.

It's decidedly versatile and the biscuits are demanded by family and friends alike.
In fact, I left a jar of them at the last place I house-sat and am being invited back, possibly in the simple hopes that I'll refill the cookie jar. On other occasions, friends across the waters have seemed incredibly disappointed that I have arrived to visit them without a filled jar firmly wedged into my suitcase.
Strangely, offering up the recipe doesn't seem to provoke the same response.

As always, the exception to this is CM who has taken up the recipe and made it her own adding glace cherries, nuts or whole fantales to the batter for an entirely different experience in decadence.
I'm a little less adventurous, preferring to tweak the amount of chocolate to levels some would consider obsessive, or  play with the cocoa depending on the colour I desire.

Take 75g caster sugar (the original recipe calls for golden castor sugar, but I'm just lazy and refuse to spend that sort of money when white caster sugar more than suffices.), 75g soft brown sugar  and whisk with 75g softened butter until pale and creamy and fluffy.
Add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence ( I often forget this or double/triple the quantity depending upon my mood).
Whisk again until it's uniform in texture, light and fluffy and almost stiffening slightly.
Sift (I often can't be bothered) in 1 pinch of salt (again, often forgotten), 150g (1 1/4 Cups) of self raising flour and 25g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder. (Now, I tweak here. provided the total weight of dry goods is 175g, it really doesn't matter if this amount contains 50g cocoa powder to 125g flour, or no cocoa powder whatsoever. However I do recommend getting the lumps out of the cocoa powder.)
Now is also a good time to dump in the chocolate chips (or finely chopped block of chocolate if you refuse to pay choc chip prices). The recipe calls for 100g. 200g is probably a more accurate measure if you want to replicate what I make. Think of it as the batter being there to hold the chocolate chips together, so test this to the limit by throwing in the kitchen sink.
Form into balls and press onto a tray. Teaspoon size is good as it gives you lots of biscuits. Soup spoons are even better if you have no intention of sharing.
Bake at 180C for 10-15 minutes depending on crunch vs chew preference.

Convince house-mates you haven't been baking and enjoy a relaxing cuppa.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

That House

In Fremantle exists this house, an old Federation house with a history of prominence, life, dereliction and disaster, and every time I pass it I feel the need to pause and just stare at the facade that sits back from the street surveying the world as it passes by.

It is just an old house, significantly larger, more stately than the typical Federation house that dots the Fremantle hills. Large shady verandahs in perfect symmetry frame the front steps leading up in through the front door and down towards the coast and the sun setting over the sea below. It is just another old house, yet when I pass it, I feel drawn to stop by something more than its dilapidated stateliness. The paint in flaking, the colours fading but even before its newly manicured lawns were created it had a peace and serenity about it.

It is like a Greek grandmother who secure in her old age, her position in her community, what she has achieved and seen of life, sits out the front of her house and watches the world pass, watches the younger generations worry about settling down, supporting their lifestyles, finding their place in the world.

The history of the place is in keeping with the area, unseen, unexpected until one start listening to the stories of one's elders and digging through the archives. It was the home of Elias Solomon, Mayor, Member and business man for Fremantle before becoming Nurse Sheedy's Maternity hospital in the 1920s. The next I know of it, it was the setting of a murder by an escaped prisoner in the late 1970s/early '80s, but digitalised newspapers are unable to verify this.

For me it is a house that inspires. Inspires dreams of what I want to own, what I want to discover, uncover about the past, what I want to create and fictionalise even if it never lives up to the incredulity of reality.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Wedding Bliss

I've never been a fan of weddings.
Is that bad of me?
I just don't get excited as others do.
Yes, they are beautiful occasions filled with love and happiness and joy, and they are a time for family and friends to come together and share in these emotions that are radiating out of your lives.
But I've just never been an avid fan.

I suppose the prime reason is that for me, weddings are superfluous. An expensive surplus I might add. The use of hard earned funds that would be better spent on a mortgage or holiday.
My parents aren't married.
Never have been - to each other. Have never needed to be. So yes, I am a bastard. But it's never been an issue. I have never had to deal with negativity as a result. When people find out they're surprised more than anything, but by then they know me for me, not me for my parents marriage license. Perhaps there are a few stories floating around, of the struggles my mother underwent to stop my school referring to her as Mrs.  But nothing more than that.

I suppose it hasn't helped that the 'happily ever after' of Disney's princesses never reared its ugly head in my childhood. Marriage was taught through real people. Family members who decided not to marry. Family members who married and then divorced. Family members who married and perhaps should have divorced had religion or financial circumstances allowed. Family members who married and then ignored the conventions of marriage altogether. Family members who weathered the storm and came out stronger.
It was never viewed through rose-tinted glasses.
Never treated as a life ambition. Education and Self Identity held that position.

However I understand that most people are not like me.
I do.
Most people like a wedding. Most people like to witness the beginning of a marriage, of a new start to a new life together. But unless its the wedding of acquaintances rather than family and friends, its a (quasi)religious ceremony followed by the same conversations by the same people at greater expense.
And as the evening unfolds, stories emerge of the torment of arranging the venue, annoyance of chasing up rsvps, expense of getting the dress fitted, anguish of choosing the photographer, disgust at the selfishness of a bridesmaid, time involved in making the place settings, time involved in writing the invites, time involved in addressing the bonbonerie, time involved in making the table decorations, time involved in setting up and cleaning up the reception hall...
So, by all means, get married, it is after all your decision, not mine.
Just give me something to do so that I may ease your burden as opposed to adding to it.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Mastering Macarons: Wedding Edition

My neighbour got married.
This weekend.

And his angel of a sister has put aside her studies to construct the wedding cake, a tower of multi-coloured, multi-flavoured macarons capable of feeding 200 guests. It is a truly selfless act to which I have been witness and willing collaborator as these macarons have been tweaked and twisted while A is driven to the brink of frustration in a bid to ensure they are the very epitome of perfection. Each filling was perfection in taste, some  'requiring' more than the smallest of tests before the piping began, the cooks making the most of the delicious fillings before they would have to be shared with the stampede of wedding guests they guaranteed.

By the time I came on board close to 1000 shells sat carefully stacked in boxes in the freezer awaiting the preparation of fillings before the frustrating construction of each individual macaron. As a rainbow of colours spilled onto the kitchen counters A and I set to work solidifying each filling before pairing, filling and twisting the macarons together before they could be returned to the freezer for their journey down south.

The colours themselves were divine, but when combined with the array of fillings...
Red the colour of thick matt lipstick, softened by a butter cream flavoured with rose.
Oranges ranging from the soft warm tones of dawn to the vibrancy of a perfectly ripe orange. These were filled with a seriously delectable salted caramel that deemed itself too delicious to stay sandwiched between bright orange shells.
Yellow of lemons twisted together with a glob of delectable passionfruit curd.
Green contrasting between a brilliant chartreuse and a rich dark shade usually associated with moist wooded forests. These were filled with a rustic pistachio ganache.
The Blue of a blue hawaiian cocktail complete with a toasted coconut Malibu ganache and
a dusty Purple, a suitable accompaniment for the lavender butter cream within.

After the dramas of semi-solid filling, fillings dripping as they sat waiting for their moment in the light, fillings running out the door... we got it. It worked. Each one looked spectacular, the colours aligning with the bridal party. Each one sat perfectly still, waiting to be devoured. And each one tasted divine.

So to my darling friends, and family. While it looked spectacular and tasted even better, think long and hard before you dare ask.

I refuse to devote that much effort and that much pain without some serious bribery.
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