10 July 2008

Sugar Never Tasted So Good

____________________________________________________


I have been a little frugal with my posting lately. This is partly due to the useless light for food photography (it's pitch black outside at 5.30pm and glaringly lit within by energy-saver bulbs), but also, happily, because my mother and godmother were in town on a conference and have been recklessly indulging Tim and I in many meals out in town. Being relatively impoverished students we rarely go to restaurants and cafes so this was rather thrilling. As you may have read in my last post, I have been making a lot of soup for dinner - it's so cheap - but there has been the occasional sweet respite hither and thither amongst the lentils and wholegrains. When it's this cold outside - and inside - can you see your breath when you exhale in your house? - dinner alone isn't always enough, one needs more, more more in the form of something (inevitably) buttery and sugary.





Crumble is the pudding I always turn to when I am cold and require quick solace and am unable to ignore my instinct to continue eating after dinner. The other night, as with all nights, I was feeling that way, and decided that an apple crumble for Tim and I wouldn't be the end of the world. I plumped out the apples with a diced kiwifruit, and made a veeeerry generous topping of crumble (well, what's the point if it's only a mere sprinkling?) out of all manner of good things - butter, flour, custard powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, oats, bran...


They were, like every crumble in the world, absolutely perfect. In particular I liked the nuttiness of the oats, the creaminess that the custard powder imparted, and the sharpness of the kiwifruit...



.
I made the Pineapple Upside Down Cake from Nigella Express quite a while ago now but never got round to blogging about it what with one thing and another. It couldn't be easier to make and is very good, I do love canned pineapple (drinking the leftover juice straight out of the can was always something I loved doing as a child) and it caramelises nicely under the batter. Unfortunately my can of pineapple rings didn't cover the tin properly so I arranged some dried apricots here and there to fill in the gaps. Though you may think Nigella's assertion that the inclusion of pineapple juice makes the cake layer fluffier is fanciful at best but honestly, it does...


Pineapple Upside Down Cake

100g each of butter, sugar, and flour
2 eggs
1 can of pineapple slices in juice (by my calculations you need 7 pieces), juice reserved
1 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
2 T sugar, extra

Set oven to 200 C. Nigella recommends either a 20cm tarte Tatin tin or a 23 cm cake tin, I, like perhaps many of you, do not own a tin de Tatin and so used the 23cm cake tin...I think a 20cm one would be better but then I do prefer a thicker layer of cake. Anyway, if you're using a cake tin it's not allowed to be a springform or loosebottomed one - for once. Sprinkle the 2 T extra sugar over the base of your tin and arrange the pineapple on top. Then, simply throw the rest of the ingredients in the food processor (or proceed with a wooden spoon) and make sure you remember to add 3 T of the reserved pineapple juice. Spread this over the pineapple, and don't go eating any batter because there's not a lot to go round. Bake for 30 minutes then carefully invert onto a plate. Slice into golden wedges of retro-deliciousness.

___________________________________________

Overheard In Our Kitchen:

Me: I think I might make those apple blondies again today.
Tim: (more animated than I've seen him in years) Yeah!
Me: But I mean, I don't really neeeed to make them. Butterexpensivemythighs...
Tim: You should make them.
Me: We don't even have any apples.
Tim: Yes we do.

*dramatic pause*

Me: I'm gonna bake them. Now.

_______________________________________________
.

It's not all puddings. Sometimes a gal's just got to bake gratuitiously. Oh sure, I can tell myself it's for when Tim gets low blood sugar - and these have justified its existence in that respect more than once - but really, I just made these Apple Blondies for the sheer what-the-heckery of wanting to bake. As you can tell by the above-transcribed conversation, I didn't even truly want to be talked out of making them. I knew as soon as I saw the recipe on Kelly-Jane's blog - and see it too for reference - that I was going to make them, and soon.





The first time I made these, I reduced the sugar greatly (Well, there's 5 cups! In once recipe! *clutches pearls*) and halved the icing. They were great, but I realised the icing was there for a reason: it's frigging magical. So, when I made them again just the other day, I was a bit more careful. I reduced the sugar in the batter, and replaced some of said sugar with dark, crumbly muscovado, which is so dense and caramelly and perfect with apples. I reduced the sugar by about a third in the icing, which meant there was still a nice thick spread of it. I doubled the apple content of the batter and added some milk because it seemed quite dry, which made for a much nicer blondie than my first batch. So, I might as well give you my adaptation of the recipe, but see Kelly-Jane's blog for the original if, unlike me, you have the metabolism of a toddler. Can I just point out though, that the original recipe calls for 2/3 of a cup of butter. Are there any Americans out there who can enlighten me how you measure butter in this way? America has bestowed upon us some fabulous things - Motown, The Baby Sitters Club, Idina Menzel, Johnny Cash, the concept of peanut butter as an ingredient...but I can't fathom how measuring butter in cups is a good way of going about things.
.


.
Apple Blondies with Brown Sugar Icing
.
180g butter, softened
1 1/4 cups brown sugar (or a mix of brown and muscovado sugar, which I recommend)
2 eggs
2 apples, skin on, diced
2 cups plain flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 cup milk
As many walnuts as you like...although I find Brazil nuts lovely here.

This recipe is delightfully simple. Set your oven to 180 C and line a medium brownie tin (13 x 9 inches is what the recipe says) Beat the butter and sugar till fluffy and aerated, then add the eggs. If you are using a wooden spoon like I was, this will take a bit of muscle. Next, merely fold in the rest of the ingredients carefully, adding a little more milk if you deem it necessary. At this point do not whatever you do taste the mixture or you will never make it to the finished product. It is truly delicious stuff. Spread it into your prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes. Once cool, make the icing...

125g butter
1/2 cup muscovado sugar
2 T milk
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
.
Melt the butter and muscovado sugar together in a saucepan, then add the milk, stirring all the time. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in the icing sugar once it has cooled a little, I didn't actually measure the icing sugar at all, just stirred it in till I was happy with the consistency. Using a spatula, spread over your now-cooled blondies...





This stuff is wickedly, ridiculously, marvelously delicious. Prepare to win friends and influence people as they bid for a slice of it. If you can possibly help it, hold out till the next day (baking this at midnight if you have to) because it gets even better with a bit of time sitting round. I say this as a big fan of caramelly flavoured things, but it seems to be a crowd-pleaser across the board. Such superlatives have not been bandied about in my flat since the Chocolate Guinness Cake I made for St Paddy's.


It has been a busy week, inbetween having a lovely time catching up with Mum, Tim and I were also in our first week back at uni. So far my classes are interesting (I'm in my third year of tertiary education and 'interesting' is the best I can come up with?) but I think it will be full-on as far as assignments are concerned.


Next time: I try Quinoa for the first time, thanks to Mum for giving me a bag of it...

15 comments:

  1. Ah, the apple blondies finally appear. Man, that was some serious arm twisting right there. I mean you REALLY had to be persuaded :)

    They look delicious, and I am totally going to try adding apples next time.

    Still being a college kid myself, I really identify with not eating out much, and taking advantage of mom when she comes over. There's even been times where I purposely don't buy food, so she can gasp at my bare fridge and help her son out :)

    And I wouldn't worry about thighs, don't they keep you warm in the winter? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aaah,Wellington! Had a wonderful time - haven't eaten out so frequently for......ever. We finished our cafe-a-thon on Thursday, (apres the Rita Angus exhibition) at Mac's Brewery, having steamed mussels and beer-battered fish and chips between us - almost made me want to consider sea food as a regular addition to my diet.
    Arrived home safely (with hotel room key... ooops). So, can warmly recommend Wellington's: Black Harp (Irish pub), Leuven (Belgian)cafe, Red Tomatoes(Italian) cafe in Kelburn- with fabulous art work by N Zer,Christopher Wilkie - gotta track him down; Smith the Grocer for wonderful caramel nut square and truffle with coffee; Jean Jacques hair salon on Lambton Quay - also with wonderful coffee and freebies-with-a-haircut (that's where your lip gloss came from).

    Was great to be able to catch up with you and to visit some of the "as seen on Hungryandfrozen blog" locations - (Kelburn deli, Belgian chocolate shop, Black Harp).
    Looking forward to hearing about the quinoa cooking/eating experience.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So many great looking sweets! I like the sound of the apple and kiwi crumble!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ooooo love the apple blondies. Gonna have to give that one a go.

    If your kitchen is photon challenged, try using a desk lamp with a piece of parchment paper wrapped around it to diffuse the light. I use a $10 Ikea desk lamp that has a rice paper shade for almost all my photos because even in the middle of summer, I get almost no natural light into my shoebox of a kitchen.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Not had upsidedown cake since primary school (a good 12 years ago now). Yours looks great, will have to make it soon!
    Mike

    ReplyDelete
  6. In the US, butter, most of the time, comes in sticks with the measurements printed right on the wrapper. Also, most the time I've bought it(maybe everytime...) one stick of butter equals half a cup.

    I'm living in Israel/ Palestine right now and have been having a terrible time baking without my convenient measurements right there. Lots and lots of guesstimating!

    When I first arrived here, I made a TERRIBLE banana bread that basically fried itself from the inside out, too much butter. YUK. But, those apple blondies look fantastic! Hope I can find some apples tomorrow!

    P.S. Love your blog! Yay tastespotting for helping me discover you!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Adam: Hee yes, that's one of the good things about mothers visiting...
    Mum: was awesome to see you, the fish and chips at Mac's Brewery sound lovely :)
    Kevin: Thanks!
    Marc: Great idea, thanks for the tip. I'll have to try that.
    Mike: Thankyou! I hadn't had it in ages either, nice blast from the past.
    Laila: Thanks for stopping by, yay indeed for Tastespotting! Hope your next baking ventures go better :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Bless!
    I want the metabolsim of a toddler!
    Yum going to try the blondies one day when medicine gets less cray-zee-ness-ious. (like, I'm not bragging, but I pulled a 15 and a half hour day on thursday)
    The pumkin salad was yumyum! see you soonish!
    Scotty

    ReplyDelete
  9. 19,000 posts. That's pretty impressive!

    Speaking of impressive, Julian made an extremely impressive lasagne for tea on Sunday night. It was delish. It would seem you are not the only one with cooking skills in the family.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Custard powder in the crumble topping - you're a genius! I'm so jealous I didn't think of it. I also drink the pineapple juice straight from the can ... ahh Golden Circle, delicious ;)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Haha, I'm going to use the low blood sugar excuse on myself! These all look fantastic. I think I'll start with the pineapple upside down cake.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm so glad you enjoyed the blondies, they look great - in fact everything does =)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Everything looks so gooooood! Excuse me while I whine and pout because I have no good snacks right now. Oh and I'm buying Nigella Express because you've strong-armed me with all of your talk about the food in the book. I have a cookbook addiction and you are such an enabler! She's one of my faves, though, so it's all good.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Am back from the wild outdoors (North Western tour Aust) camping expedition. Did not get to do campfire cooking as you are not allowed to light fires in National Parks over here (or in camping grounds LOL). Did however have two excellent fish and chip meals - one in Shark Bay and one at Kalbarri - prawns, scallop, fish, squid rings in each 'basket' (who needs chips). Am right into soups also. Before the trip, made two batches - vege and lamb chops and veg and bacon ankle - my favourite was the bacon with basic soup mix, celery and onion chopped, grated potato, kumera and pumpkin with diced carrot and a couple of dsp vegetable seasoning. Have bought a stock pot on the way home today plus another bacon ankle (hock to the uninitiated LOL)and veg to make this week's batch.

    ReplyDelete
  15. That Kelly-Jane is responsible for my Amazon bill!!

    Have you tried Kitchen Goddess's caramel blondies - I reckon they are the best yet!

    ReplyDelete