A twist on banana cake – with green tea and lemon icing

Last weekend, there were three rather old bananas sitting at home so I decided to bake and made use of them. I would typically make banana bread from David Lebovitz’s recipe but this time I wanted to try something new. After some googling, I settled on Mary Berry’s banana and lemon drizzle cake recipe and put in my little twist in it and it turned out amazing!

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BANANA MATCHA CAKE WITH LEMON ICING
Ingredients:
175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
300g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 ripe bananas – mashed
Zest from 1 lemon
2 tbsp milk
2-3 tsp matcha powder

Topping ingredients:
Juice of 1 lemon
80g granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter the bottom and side of your round cake tin. Place all the cake ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Using a hand-mixer, mix together until smooth. Pour batter into the tin and smooth the top out.
Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes, until golden brown. Use a skewer to see if the cake is cooked through. If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is ready.
For the topping, mix the lemon juice and sugar together in a bowl. Pour it over the warm cake and leave it to cool completely before slicing.

This is such a simple cake to make but it definitely satisfy!

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ANZAC biccies

The best ANZAC biscuit recipes are ones that deliver a slightly chewy biscuit with lots of rustic oats.  Here’s a recipe which delivers on both factors.  I’ve been using this recipe since I was a little tacker, and am never disappointed.  The key elements to the recipe is it’s low flour content, which doesn’t make them too solid and ‘biscuity’ (if you know what I mean?), and using unrefined whole oats.  Don’t, whatever you do, use instant oats!  The instant oats all mush together and there is no texture.  You need TEXTURE and CHEWINESS!  Another vital step is to rescue the ANZACs from the oven a couple of minutes before they’re cooked.

So, here it is:

2 cups whole oats

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar (tightly packed)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 tablespoon golden syrup

2 tablespoons boiling water

1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

1 pinch of salt

Mix all the dry ingredients together.  

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Then mix in the wet.

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Make into small balls and place on a baking tray.  Be careful to leave enough space on the tray for the biscuits to spread – they spread a lot.  Cook for 15 minutes in a 180 C oven.  Keep an eye on them – they may need to come out earlier.

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* Raw ANZAC mixture is by far my favourite mixture to eat from the bowl.  You may notice you make a few more biscuits than I did.  Whoops.

This easter…

I have never celebrated Easter in my life but since I was little, I know of the nursery rhyme “Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!“. I had my first hot cross buns when I moved to Australia and I grew to love these spiced and fruited buns. I love to heat mine up in the oven to get the toasted top. Together with butter, the warm spiced bun is the perfect breakfast/ tea time treat.

Last year, I got the Heston Blumenthal x waitrose earl grey and mandarin hot cross buns. This year, I decided to make them instead. I read a few recipes and decided to test out The Little Loaf’s recipe. Given that I am a bit of a chocolate addict, I added dark chocolate bits to some of the buns I made.

Hot Cross Buns (recipe adapted from The little loaf)
Makes 13 buns

Buns

Ingredients:
225g strong white flour
225g wholemeal flour
7g dried yeast
5g salt
50g light brown sugar
2 tsp all spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
50g unsalted butter
250ml milk (full fat)
Orange zest (1/2 orange)
1 large free range egg
100g raisins
80g sultanas
85g mixed peel
Dark chocolate bits (depending on how much you want in your buns)

Crosses & Glaze

Ingredients:
50g plain flour
4 tbsp Water (adjust accordingly)
2 tbsp golden syrup

1. Mix the flours, salt, sugar, yeast and spices together in a large bowl.

2. Melt the butter on the stove then remove from heat and stir in the milk. Add the orange zest then beat in the egg.

3. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the milk mixture. Use your hands and mix them together to form a soft dough.

4. Lightly flour the kitchen top and knead for about five minutes until the dough gets stretchy and elastic.

5. Flatten the dough out and sprinkle over the raisins, sultanas and mixed peel. Press them into the dough, then continue to knead for a couple of minutes more until fully incorporated. Shape the dough into a ball and put in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a tea towel and set aside for about an hour until the dough doubles in size.

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6. Lightly flour the kitchen top again before tipping the risen dough. Flatten the dough slightly and then divide them into 13 portions. Each should weigh about 80g. Gently shape each one into a round and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, about 2cm apart. Cover with a tea towel and set aside for a further 40 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 200 degC. To make the crosses, mix the flour with about 4 tbsp water until a thick paste forms. Fill a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle or cut the corner off a sandwich bag. Slash the top of each bun with a cross and pipe the flour paste on. As I had neither, I basically used a spoon and spreaded mine into the slits.

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8. Place buns in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes until the buns get a lovely golden brown colour.

9. Gently heat the golden syrup in a small pan. Remove the buns from the oven and brush all over with sticky syrup. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

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Serve warm with tea and butter!

Side note: Home made hot cross buns taste so much better than store bought ones!

We are not all perfect…

It’s been a few weeks since Chinese New Year and I have been wanting to make these almond cookies which I have had whilst visiting relatives during the festive season. Since finding out the recipe from Peaches & Donuts’ blog, I bought the ingredients straight away.

Almond Cookies that melts in your mouth
Recipe from Peaches and Donuts

Ingredients:
(Makes about 40)

100g ground almonds
150g plain flour
70g light brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
approx. 100ml light olive oil (adjust accordingly to pastry)
1 egg yolk, beaten

1. Sieve the flour, light brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into your food processor.
2. Add the ground almonds to the above mixture.
3. Slowly trickle in the oil while pulsing, until a cohesive dough is formed.
Adjust the amount of olive oil depending on the humidity/moisture levels – the aim is to achieve a dough which is just able to hold it’s shape (and doesn’t crumble) when you attempt to roll it into a ball. .
4. Heat the oven to 180degC.
5. Roll the dough into 2.5cm balls, and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Repeat until all the dough is used up.
6. Using a pastry brush, lightly glaze the tops of the cookie balls with the beaten egg yolk.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cookies become slightly golden.
8. Cool on wire rack.

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Do keep an eye on your cookies as they cook. For my two batches which were in the same oven, the top batch came out brown. They still taste good but the golden ones are the ones which stand out.

To be somebody…

Over the last few days, I woke up wondering what I am doing with myself. Nearly 32 and nowhere near where I thought I would be. Perhaps it is normal for everyone to have days like this. I find it perplexing and it catapults me into a whole thought process. At age 16, I wanted to be a sports coach/athlete. Being the smallest girl in class, I was always sheltered by my parents and people often thought that I was too ‘small’ to make it BIG. This brought out the fighter in me, always wanting to prove others wrong. I did in some ways but in other ways, I lost. Losing my first dream was tough but I got over it and am an architect today. Today I fight a battle of my own, my struggle to find inspiration.

On days like this, I find a way of escaping. Baking brings me into a different world whilst eating remains my indulgence. From my total inability to cook nearly ten years ago, I have managed to learn and fumble my way through. The ability to produce a tasty baked end product makes me smile. There is just that therapeutic feeling I get whenever I bake. I am no masterchef but I am good at baking. There have been thoughts about a small cafe with my photography, baked goods and good coffee when I retire. A little bit like this amazing cafe, De Laatse Kruimel which I came across in Amsterdam (Stay tuned for Amsterdam Part II!). Satisfaction for me comes from my happy husband and friends who love my baking.

As I had some leftover matcha (green tea) powder left, I decided to have a second attempt at making another marbled cake.

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Lemon and Matcha marbled cake
Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker:

2 2/3 cups plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
zest of one lemon & juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp matcha powder (depending on the matcha powder – I put 2 tbsp in mine)
150g melted unsalted butter (approx. 15 tbsp)

1) Preheat the oven at about 180 deg C.
2) Butter the loaf pan and dust the insides with flour. Tap out the excess.
3) Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
4) Whisk the eggs into the sugar until the eggs and sugar are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the vanilla extract followed by the sour cream.
5) Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients in a few batches. The batter will become smooth and thick.
6) Finish by folding in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions.
7) Divide the batter in half into two separate bowls. In one bowl, add the lemon zest and juice. In the other bowl, fold in the matcha tea powder.
8) Alternate pouring the lemon and matcha batter into the loaf pan. Fill the loaf pan with about 2cm room at the top. Use a fork to swirl through the batter.
9) Bake for 55 – 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from oven.
10) Allow the loaf to rest in the pan before running a knife along the edges of the pan and inverting the cake onto a cooling rack.

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On this occasion, I had some leftover batter which I made into little muffins. Always a treat to have extras!

Feel free to experiment with flavours.

Bake your own bread – the lazy way

When I first came across Nigel’s lazy loaf recipe, I was wondering what the catch was. The naive me always thought that the bread machine is the answer to bread. I always imagined tedious kneading and a difficult process otherwise. I was proved wrong. This is probably one of the easiest thing to bake and I don’t even own a bread tin so go figure! All you need is a cast iron casserole pot and possibly 40 minutes and the bread is done!

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Soda bread with sunflower seeds
(adapted from Nigel’s lazy loaf)

Ingredients:
225g wholemeal flour
225g plain flour
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
350ml buttermilk
sunflower seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 220degC. Put the large casserole dish and its lid into the oven.
2. In a large bowl, mix the flours, sea salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda together with your fingers.
3. Pour in the buttermilk and begin working the mixture into a soft dough. Pour some sunflower seeds into the dough whilst working it.
4. Shape the dough into a shallow round loaf about 4cm thick.
5. Remove the hot casserole dish from the oven and dust the inside lightly with flour. Lower the dough slowly.
6. Cover the lid and put it back in the oven. (I have also baked the bread without the lid on and this browns the bread more)
7. Check the bread after 25 minutes as it should be ready.
8. Let it cool before turning it out.

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Soda bread is extremely tasty when eaten warm. It is such a satisfying feeling to bake your own bread and taste pretty good as well!

Chocolate bottom meringues with fresh berries…

I recently offered to whip up a dessert for a friend’s dinner party.  I wanted to cook something that reflected the warm weather we’re having in Melbourne, plus took advantage of the beautiful berries that are in season.  After a little brainstorm I decided upon one of Donna Hay’s recipes for meringues dipped in chocolate and stacked with whipped cream and fresh berries.  It was a super easy recipe which is great for the coming summer months.

Ingredients:

150 ml eggwhite (approximately 4 eggs)
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
2 tablespoons of cornflour, sifted
2 teaspoons of white vinegar
100 g dark chocolate (I used 85%)
1 cup (250 ml) of single pouring cream
400 g of mixed raspberries and strawberries
Icing sugar to dust

Method:

Preheat oven to 150°C.  Place the eggwhite in a clean bowl and mix with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Ensure the bowl is 100% clean as if it’s greasy, the eggs wont whip.  If in doubt, wash it twice!

Slowly add the sugar, whisking well, until the mixture is stiff and glossy.  Add the cornflour and vinegar and whisk until just combined.

Spoon ½ cupfuls of the mixture onto baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper.  Immediately reduce oven to 120°C  and bake for 1 hour.

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Turn the oven off and allow the meringues to cool completely in the oven (allow a few hours).  Do not be impatient and take the meringues out of the oven while they are still warm as the sudden drop in temperature will cause them to collapse.  If time is on your side, it’s a good idea to make the meringues the night before and leave them in the oven overnight to cool.

Once the meringues are cool, dip the bases of them in melted chocolate, place on non-stick baking paper and set aside for the chocolate to set.

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Whisk the cream until soft peaks form.  Spoon over the meringues, top with berries and dust with icing sugar.  Serve immediately. Serves 8.

Sunny Lemon Drizzle Cake

The sun’s rays streamed through the window of our living room and I stretched out on the couch like a cat, contemplating what I would do for the next couple of hours.  It was Sunday afternoon and we weren’t due at a friend’s house for dinner for a few hours.  I had two hours up my sleeve to kill.  I pondered what to do… Online shopping?  Nope.  Organise upcoming holiday?  Nah.  Bake?  Yes, BAKE!  I would bake a cake to take as dessert.  The sun must have gone to my head as the only cake I could imagine baking was… Sunny Lemon Drizzle Cake.

I picked up this fabulous recipe a few months back at Cookery School.  It’s super easy, can be whipped up quickly, and tastes fantastic.  It’s a light and delicate cake, and with the addition of the citrus lemon drizzle, it’s beautifully moist.

Here’s the recipe… I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

Ingredients
Cake:
2 large or 3 small eggs
4 ozs butter
6 ozs sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch salt
6 ozs flour
Rind of 1 lemon grated
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons of milk

Icing:
1 cup icing sugar
4 tablespoons of lemon juice

Method:

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs and continue to mix well.

Then add the lemon rind and juice.

Lightly fold in the flour, baking powder and salt.

Gently mix in the milk.

Pour the mixture into a greased and floured loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes at 1700C or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven.

While still hot, prick cake well with a skewer (I used a strand of uncooked spaghetti, because couldn’t find the skewer!).

Pour over the lemon syrup made from melting the icing sugar with the lemon juice over the stove.

Leave until fully cold before removing from tin.

It’s the perfect cake to have in the afternoon with your feet up and a cup of tea.  If having it for dessert (as we did), team with a dollop of yoghurt or a scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream.

Green pistachios

Whenever I get some gelati, there are always some flavours that entice me more than others. Pistachio is one of them. I always get the pistachio gelato wherever I go. Some might call me boring but I am still looking for the best pistachio gelato!

Of course, when I came across this recipe for pistachio cookies, I had to try it. Too easy and simply amazing!

Pistachio cookies (makes about 16) (from Trissa’s blog)
– 90g PLUS 100g Pistachios (raw & shell-ed)
– 100g almond meal
– 120g caster sugar
– 50g egg whites (from approx. 1 – 2 eggs)
– Green food colouring (optional) – I didn’t use this

1. First, lightly toast the pistachios for around 10 minutes in a preheated oven at 160c. If you are using ready to eat pistachios, you can skip this roasting step. Chop the first 90 grams of pistachio finely (you can use a food processor for this but I used my pestle & mortar) and the other 100 grams of pistachios roughly.

2. In a bowl, place the finely chopped 90g of pistachios, almond meal, sugar and egg whites and mix well until you form a paste. Should you like to add a few drops of food colouring, you may do so in this step.

3. Scoop the cookie batter and form into little balls, then roll them in the remaining 100 grams of pistachios. If you find the batter too sticky, do add a little bit more almond meal to the batter.

4. Place on a baking sheet, leaving around 2 cm space between them and bake for around 13 minutes at 170°C (fan forced).

5. Dust with icing sugar when cool. (You can also skip this step if you like)

*Store in airtight container when cooled.

This recipe makes a delicious batch of pistachio cookies and you can easily have 5-6 at one go. Perfect combination with a cup of good coffee.

Addiction: Cheese biscuits

How much is your biscuit addiction costing you?

Well, I’m glad you asked because when I was younger, my brothers’ and my biscuit addiction was costing my Mum a packet. Many years ago, Mum, always a lover of fine food, discovered these wonderfully addictive cheese biscuits. Mum would regularly buy them at the ridiculous price of $8 to have with a glass of wine with Dad or when friends came over. Then one fateful day, as I reached for the Arrnott’s BBQ Shapes I accidentally put my paws on the infamous cheese biscuits. From that day on, I was addicted. At $8 a pack (well that’s what mum always told me the price was), as a 16-year-old, I had myself (well, actually, my parents) a costly addiction. You see, there were only a handful of biscuits in each pack so before the three hungry teenagers had even began to whet their appetite, the pack was gone. My brothers and I would be turning our noses up at the prospect of eating Arnott’s Shapes. As you can imagine this caused Mum a considerable amount of annoyance. When she’s standing there at the end of the day, wine in hand, and wanting one of the biscuits she’s bought from a specialty food store three suburbs away and there are none left because of her greedy teenagers, she needed a solution. Fast.

I don’t know how Mum did it but she invented/stole/sourced from somewhere the mysterious recipe (and it certainly wasn’t from the shop… why would they voluntarily cut their profit margins and lose one of their best customers?).
Here, I present to you, the recipe.

Recipe:
125gms blue cheese
250gms butter
2 cups grated parmesan
2 cups cheddar
2 tablsp lemon juice
2 cups plain flour
4 tablsp S R flour
2 tsp curry powder

Combine all together (mix with hands) and roll into long sausages (say 4). Wrap in cling wrap and put in freezer.

Remove, thaw, slice into 1 cm discs.  Cook on a baking tray in a hot oven for about 15 mins until lightly brown and smelling good and cheesie (ensure you leave a few cms space for the biscuits to spread). This recipe makes a lot so you can keep some ‘sausages’ for later.

Enjoy. And happy saving.