Scrumptious Sunday: Quiche Lorraine with a Twist

As you know, I live to please people with my food. It’s how I love. It’s how I apologise. It’s my way of giving comfort, and support. To celebrate and to mourn. I live by the philosophy that good food, in fact, makes everything better. So with that in mind – our latest Scrumptious Sunday! Quiche Lorraine with a Twist. My beau adores quiche, and he hurt his back at the start of the weekend, so the poor man was in pain and had to stay in a vertical position. So to comfort and heal him, I decided to make him a quiche for Scrumptious Sunday. I had to fly solo on this one, but he was very encouraging from the sidelines (the couch). Quiches are funny things. I’ve never been a fan, because most of the time it just tastes like someone put some ingredients into scrambled eggs and filled a tart pan with that. Ugh, no. I just can’t. I don’t deal well with quiche like that, so I’ve always been reluctant to make it. Clearly this was very much a challenge for me because: 1 – I had to do it alone and 2 – It was very scary virgin territory for me.

I paged through my cookbooks (of which you can never ever have too many), and finally settled on Gordon Ramsay’s Leek and Pancetta Quiche Recipe. Except, I would be winging the filling part, just using his recipe for the pastry recipe, but eyeballing the custard quantities. I have to say, I was majorly impressed with myself for that pastry. Gosh, it was so good. And really, not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. So off we go!

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Quiche Lorraine with a Twist

Pastry Ingredients:

  • 200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g butter, at room temperature and cubed

Custard and Filling Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 6 tbsp double cream
  • 100g finely grated Cheddar
  • 250g mushrooms (any kind, I jused Button mushrooms)
  • 100g Cooked Ham
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, minced
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Parmesan, for sprinkling

Method:

First make the pastry. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour, lifting the mixture up and dropping it back into the bowl – you want to keep the mixture light and airy. When it resembles fine breadcrumbs, mix in 2–3 tablespoons of cold water. Bring the pastry together, then knead lightly on a floured work surface to create a smooth, solid ball. Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Oil a 25cm loose-bottomed tart tin. (I didn’t have one, so I used a normal tart tin)

Flour a work surface and roll out the pastry to a thickness of 3 mm. Use to line the prepared tin, pushing it into the corners and sides with a small ball of leftover pastry. Leave some excess pastry overhanging the edges, then prick the base with a fork. Chill for 10 minutes.

Line the chilled pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with ceramic baking beans or uncooked rice. Blind bake in the preheated oven for 10–15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans, then bake for a further 5–8 minutes until golden. Trim off the excess pastry with a sharp knife, then set the case aside.

Meanwhile fry onions in a pan until they become soft and golden. Add salt & pepper, and minced garlic and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Let the onions cook down until well caramelized. When they are done, empty them into a large mixing bowl. Using the same pan, saute your mushrooms until golden brown, but still quite firm. Add the ham and saute for another 5 minutes or so. Add to the onions.

In a smaller mixing bowl, crack 6 eggs, add cream and three quarters of the cheddar, season well with salt & pepper and whisk together well. Pour the egg mixture into the onion, ham and mushroom mixture and stir until combined.

Pour the mixture into the cooked pastry case, sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and cook in the preheated oven for 15–20 minutes until golden and set.

Remove the quiche and allow to cool slightly before serving.

I was so proud of my quiche, that I was actually doing a little dance! The pastry was perfect, the filling was delicious, the custard had set and best of all: IT DIN’T TASTE EGGY! It was so good that we ate half of the quiche on Sunday, and the other half on Monday. And to quiche I say this: I’m coming to get you! Watch out world, I know how to make pastry now – and I’m not afraid of egg-based tarts any more!

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What’s your opinion on quiche? Any ideas of different quiches to make? I’m excited about our next Scrumptious Sunday already! And I owe you a delicious mustard recipe! (It’s coming!) And I want to try my hand at Bacon Onion Jam. So many things to cook, so many calories to burn! Until then, good eats and much love.

Amsterdam: A quick guide

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I thought I’d do a quick post about our favourite places in Amsterdam. We so love Amsterdam, and it is our favourite European city. We find the people to be friendly and happy, with generous spirits, and I feel a major affinity to the people and the culture. I could go on for hours about my love for Amsterdam, but I won’t bore you with that. Instead, I’m just going to give you a run down of where to eat, what to eat, what to drink (I’ll give you a hint: it’s always beer), and things to see. I’ve even done the work for you and added all the links you need!

  • Stacey’s Pennywell – The best place to have lunch. Have a Stacey’s All Time Favourite Sandwich. Trust me. It. Is. The. Bomb. Located very close to Rembrandtplein.
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  • Café Luxembourg - Some of the best Croquettes and a very good Eggs Benedict, located on Spui.
  • Coco’s Outback – Out favourite spot for Bitterballen and beer. It’s an Australian pub with very reasonable prices (quite cheap actually), with a good vibe. It’s located right by Rembrandtplein. Bitterballen is an absolute must on your trip.
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  • De Brabantse Aap – Another favourite for Bitterballen, but a little more pricey than Coco’s Outback, located also on Spui.
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  • De Ysbreeker – If you recall, I did a post about our Croque Monsieurs, and I mentioned where the best Croques I’ve ever eaten was. This is the place. Do it. You won’t be sorry. They are pricey, but well worth it. You could also do an Uitsmijter, which is amazing too. Located on Weesperzijde.
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  • De Biertuin - Amazing burgers for a decent price. It’s a little bit further from the centre of the city, so it’s not very touristy. It’s where the local young people hang out, and reservation is a must. Find directions here.
  • Café Stevens – A lovely little bar with an amazing variety of beers to try. It’s quite close to the bustling touristy red-light district (De Wallen), so if you take a stroll down there to have a look-see, Café Stevens is the perfect place to fill your belly with plenty of beer.
  • Café Kale – This is our favourite place to eat Vlammetjes, which is also a must have while you’re there. Located on Weteringschans.
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  • Bar Lempicka – A bar with a great atmosphere, day or night. It’s situated right on the Amstel river in Sarphati straat.
  • Vooges (Harmsen Restaurant) – A lovely place to have dinner, if you’re looking for something that doesn’t include burgers and run of the mill food. The cuisine is exquisite, the service so friendly, and the frites are to die for. Located on Utrechtsestraat
  • McDonalds. Don’t shoot me. Yes, I just suggested you go to McDonalds. But hear me out. The franchises in the Netherlands have a speciality not available anywhere else. And I am recommending that you have it. It’s the McKroket. Try it. Please.
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If you’re staying in Amsterdam for an extended period – and not necessarily in a hotel, then you might need to buy some supplies. Our favourite go-to shop for anything from bread, milk, cheese, to surprisingly tasty ready-made Creme Brulee, meat, wine and everything in between was Albert Heijn. Just a traveller’s tip though – they won’t let you pay with a Visa card. Even if it’s a debit card. There are ATM’s in the shop though, so it’s not that big of a deal.

For more of a farmer’s market feel, you should definitely visit Albert Cuypmarkt. It has fresh (FRESH) fish, homemade breads, cheeses of all shapes and colours, poultry, fresh vegetables and flowers. While you’re there, stop by the Stroopwafel stall, and get a fresh and hot Stroopwafel. It will change your life. It is crispy on the outside, made with a ginger and cinnamon infused dough, filled with a sweet, all-butter, very sticky and sweet caramel. Mmmhmmm. You can also find almost anything else at the market, from socks, to beads, crockery, fabric and upholstery, clothing, shoes and bags. It’s a lovely outing.
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You can’t visit Amsterdam without doing the historical and cultural circuit. So here’s a quick run down. I’m going to start with the Anne Frank House. We go every time we’re there. I’ll keep going. Every time. It is something so powerful, a humbling experience like no other. It teaches us what humanity can be if we let it. It’s a somber reminder of what cruelty truly is. It also teaches us that the human spirit is an unyielding and beautiful thing. You really should visit. You can (and I recommend that you do) book your tickets in advance online. And try to book it for the earliest time slot possible. It gets busy, and it’s really an experience you want to have when there aren’t that many people around. And please, if your children are not old enough to understand the gravity of the place they’re standing in, keep them reigned in. The people who go there have an emotional experience, and unruly little brats running around screaming, not only lessens – nay, ruins – the experience for other visitors, but makes you look bad too. (Preaching over) When you’re done there, you can pop in right next door at the Westerkerk. There is also the Oude Kerk to visit, which is located right by the red-light district. Two museums worth seeing: Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. You can buy your tickets online. Try to get there early too, to avoid the masses.

The squares I mentioned in the food section of this post, are all beautiful places too. Even if you don’t visit the restaurants, take a stroll through Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein, Frederiksplein and Spui. For shopping I highly recommend going to Kalverstraat. You can find just about anything there, and it includes some of the world’s most popular brands – like Guess, Steve Madden, Levi, Fossil and so on. You should be able to pick up some great bargains if you’re there around the time that they have end of season sales. I also love walking through Utrechtsestraat, which has more of a quirky feel to it, with smaller stores, speciality shops and small eateries. It also happens to be very pretty. If you happen to be strolling through Utrechtsestraat, you should pop into Kaldi. It’s a speciality coffee and tea shop, where I could spend hours selecting teas. It’s lovely. My last little shopping gem is the 9 Straatjes. It is a 3 streets x 3 streets block of little cafés and specialty stores, ranging from a shop that exclusively sells buttons, another selling only board games, vintage shops, toothbrush shops and tea shops. The shops there only open at 11am on a Monday – remember that.

In terms of transport, you could rent a bicycle and do it the way the locals do it. I don’t though. The rules are very different than they are in my country, there are trams all over the place, cars, buses and pedestrians. It’s scary. But if you have the bravery – go for it! Many family members adore cycling in Amsterdam. I prefer using the trams and metros when I need to, but we tend to walk most places we go. In fact, the walking helps ease the guilt of consuming so much beer and Bitterballen. You can buy a chip card to use on the metros and trams, which works on a prepaid basis. You load your card with a certain amount, and every time you use it the card will be deducted with the fee of your trip. This is important though: REMEMBER TO CHECK OUT EVERY TIME YOU GET OFF. Other wise it will deduct about 4 Euros from your card. The trams are very easy to use, super accessible and there are regular trams coming and going throughout the city. There’s a very useful app that you can download which can tell you which tram to take depending on your destination, and their stops, and their times. The app can be downloaded on iPhones and Android phones – just search for 9292 OV app.

That’s it from me, I think. If you have the opportunity to see Amsterdam, you should grab it. It is a magical place.

Weekend Escapades (Review of Taste of Cape Town)

It’s Tuesday already, could you believe it? Mondays are normally such a blur for me, that it takes me a day to catch up. Be that as it may, I wanted to tell you what I got up to this weekend… (Eating mostly)

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You wouldn’t necessarily know this about me, but I am a competition junkie. I enter every competition I come across. Well, not every one. Only the ones with cool prizes. Especially with the wedding planning and budgeting (eeeeek!), I’m entering a plethora of bridal/wedding-related competitions. Also ANY kitchen competition. So when I saw that The Pretty Blog was giving away double tickets to the Taste of Cape Town I just knew I had to enter. I ended up being one of the 20 winners who got tickets! I asked my bestie to come with me, and I was elevated when he told me that he was in Cape Town for the weekend anyway, and would join me for the festivities. Among our many shared interests, food is a major one. We love it. We email each other almost daily, and the majority of our conversations are either about food, or being hilarious. Obviously.

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We met up at the Green Point Stadium, where we had to park, and the festival was held at the Green Point Cricket Club. In terms of venue – it was quite good. There was plenty of space to mill about, looking at the food and drink stalls, but there was VERY little shade in which to sit, so every bit of shade was a revolving mess of people sitting down to eat, getting up to get something to drink, and back to searching for a cool place in the shade (Saturday was a scorcher).

The festival works on a voucher basis, where you buy a booklet with 20 vouchers in for R100.00, and everything inside is paid with that (except the products that you buy to take home like olive oils, pesto’s, chili jams and so forth). Bestie very graciously purchased a booklet for me, and a booklet for him. So, to taste some wine would cost 1-2 vouchers. A pint of craft beer would cost 5. A cocktail 6. And most foods was between 5-9 vouchers. This system is a bit of a rip off, I feel. I mean, even to taste wine, you have to pay? Not even for a full glass of wine. Literally a sip or two. Really?

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Then, I’d also like to mention the variety of food stalls. Or lack thereof. There was maybe 15-20 food stalls, each with 1-3 items on their “condensed menu”. There was about 3 or 4 Asian options. I found it somewhat disappointing. I ended up drinking two pints from Mitchell’s Brewery – South Africa’s oldest craft beer, which was really good. I almost always go for a Lager, and this time I wasn’t disappointed. Bestie had some Paella, which was wonderfully tasty. The portion wasn’t big – but the aromatics were spot on. We also got some Jalapeno Poppers from Beefcakes. The filling was delicious, and they weren’t too spicy (not spicy enough for me, but I do like the burn!), however, since they weren’t exactly made to order, they weren’t hot anymore, and the batter was no longer crispy and crunchy. Which was a big downer, because I adore Jalapeno Poppers…

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He also had a Spanish Chorizo Sandwich, which looked wonderful, but disappointed tremendously. The chorizo was not cured, so it had to be cooked before serving. And because the sandwiches looked so great, the line was super long. Which probably led to the person who was responsible for cooking the sausages to spinning a little, and leaving us with a raw sausage sandwich. Yum… Our last stop however, saved the day! We got some Fish Tacos and I’m sad to say that I forgot what the vendor’s name was. The fish was lightly battered, incredibly fresh and gloriously golden and crunchy. The tacos were just lukewarm making them just pliable enough, and cool enough to handle. Inside, there was an almost sweet but still amazingly acrid red cabbage slaw, and some chunks of mandarin to lighten the whole shebang. It was amazing. I had three. I have no shame.

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We’ve come to this conclusion though: We would not buy tickets to go again. If it wasn’t for me winning the tickets, it would have ended up being a ridiculously expensive day, and to be fair, not really worth the money. Maybe if they can step it up a little, and work on the pricing structure. Maybe. But for now, I’d much rather go to The Good Food and Wine Show. But, it did give me the opportunity to see my friend for the first time in ages, and I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) put a price on that.

Did any of you go? How was it for you?

The Girls Who Bake: March 2014

Yes, it’s that time again! Settle in, grab a cup of hot coffee, and share our latest baking shenanigans! For our latest installment of Baking Day, it was my turn to host again! I spent a lot of time thinking about what recipes to try. We’ve done cupcakes/muffins three times in a row. So that was out. We did some form of filled-rolled-baked-rolls. So that too, was out. I also had to take my brother in law into consideration – who doesn’t like cream cheese frosting. I know, I know! Absurd! Who doesn’t like cream cheese frosting?? Be that as it may, (and that being incomprehensible), I just knew I couldn’t whip out my cream cheese again. I would get some serious stink-eye action from him. I also thought about how we always tend to bake sweets. Which isn’t necessarily what Baking Day is about. The only rule is to choose recipes that we haven’t baked before. And that’s when I decided – to hell with sweets! (Wait! Wait just a minute before you chastise me. I didn’t mean it. Only for the purpose of hosting baking day would I give up sweets. Promise.) So I chose two savoury recipes. I also decided that in between all the baking and drinking, I should whip up some real food too – to feed the masses as it were. We were baking for 8 this time and 6 would stay for dinner. I’ll do a lasagna recipe later, because I forgot to photograph it before we dove into the well deserved dinner.

I chose to make two forms of doughy delights. The first, being a deliciously dense, somewhat sweet, somewhat salty Bacon and Sweetcorn Bread. I got the recipe from one of my work friends, who brought a loaf in for us a couple of weeks ago. We finished it before lunchtime was even close. I decided to add bacon to the recipe. Because BACON. And sweet and salty goes so well together. It is intensely satisfying, and ridiculously easy to make. If you’re a novice (much like me), and afraid to jump into baking – start with this. It is absolutely foolproof. The second item on my savoury menu was actually quite easy to decide on. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try, and regret not having when I had a 12 hour layover in New York on my way to Cancun two years ago. I decided to get my Americana on, and go for Soft Pretzels with a Beer Cheese sauce. Yeah. Think about that for a minute… I’ll wait. Now, all together… USA! USA! USA!

The day started out quite frantic. I had to race to the shops, to get my ingredients. Then to the liquor store (obviously). On my way home, my sister phoned me to tell me they were already at the gate. I got home, dropped the groceries, my sister and I jumped back in the car, liquor store again (for her and her husband’s consumption), grocery store again (for dinner ingredients), and when we got back, my beau’s sister was already there. Her husband would join us after his round of golf. Also joining us for the first time was the beau’s younger brother’s wife. (What a description… From now on I’ll just refer to them as my sister-in-laws. It’ll be true soon enough anyway.)

If you’re planning to try the pretzels, make sure you have quite a bit of time. They have to proof twice. And the rolling part takes some patience too. But I’d like to start with the Bacon and Sweetcorn Bread.

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Bacon and Sweetcorn Bread (makes 1 Loaf)

Ingredients

500g Self-Raising Flour
1 can (415g) Creamed Sweetcorn
1 can (385g) Condensed Milk
125g Back Bacon (cut into bite-sized bits)

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celcius/ 360 degrees Fahrenheit

Fry your bacon until just crispy. Don’t let it get too crispy, or it will get too hard while baking. I added some salt and pepper to the pan, as well as a healthy dash of sweet chilli sauce. You want enough sweet chilli to just coat all the bacon bits and get them sticky.

In a large mixing bowl, add your self-raising flour, sweetcorn, condensed milk and cooked bacon and mix thoroughly by hand. The mixture will be quite stiff, but don’t worry. That’s how it’s supposed to be. When all the flour is incorporated, tip mixture into a greased loaf pan. Bake for 60 min, or until a knife comes out clean. The top should have a gorgeous golden colour. When you take the loaf out of the oven, immediately rub the top of the bread with butter. You can remove the bread from the pan and cover the whole bread with butter to melt, but we didn’t find it necessary. When you’ve slathered the butter onto the bread, cover the bread with a clean dishtowel to steam. You can remove it when the bread has cooled.

That’s it! Easy right? I told you. Now I should note that this recipe makes one loaf, if you have a standard 30cm-ish loafpan. We were using disposable tins so everyone could take one home. In the slightly smaller loaf tins that we used, each batch of dough made 1.5 loaves. So the four batches of dough made 6 loaves. (And I’m glad they did – because it’s delicious and I’m still eating bread!) It’s scrumptious with just a bit of butter on, slightly warm. As the bread gets older, it doesn’t lose it’s moisture. I bring some with me to work in the morning, pop it onto a panini press and lightly toast them. Add to that some golden melty butter and a cup of coffee and breakfast is a treat!

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Looks good right? It really is. Try it. And you know what? Even if you don’t love sweetcorn, the taste isn’t really overpowering. It just adds a sweet, creaminess to the bread. Delectable. I wish I brought some extra today…

On to the more challenging part of this post. The soft pretzels. These are baked until golden and puffy, the crystals of salt baked on to the tops. We did half with salt, and half with sesame seeds, which added a nutty depth which I found delightfully surprising. We found the rolling of the dough into strips quite challenging, since the recipe didn’t give us any helpful tips. But don’t fear! That is why we endeavour these challenges. So that I can give you the tips that you might not find in a normal recipe. But more on that later. I found the recipe here and here.

Soft Pretzels with Beer Cheese Sauce (makes 8)

Ingredients:

1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup baking soda
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup, rice syrup, or dark brown sugar (We used dark brown sugar)
1 large egg, whisked with 2 tablespoons warm water
Coarse sea salt or pretzel salt

Method

  1. Make the pretzel dough: Combine the warm water and yeast in a medium-sized bowl. Let stand a few minutes, then stir to dissolve the yeast. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon to form a floury, shaggy dough.
  2. Knead the dough: Knead the dough against the counter for 5 to 7 minutes. The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, slightly tacky, and holds a ball-shape.
  3. Let the dough rise: Clean out the bowl, film it with oil, and return the dough to the bowl. Cover and let rise somewhere warm until the dough is doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

→ Make Ahead Tip: At this point, the pretzel dough can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for three months. Thaw frozen dough in the refrigerator before using. Refrigerated dough can be shaped into pretzels while still cold, but allow some extra time for the pretzels to puff up before dipping and baking.

  1. Divide the dough: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a bench scraper to divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.
  2. Shape the pretzels: Working with one piece of dough a time, roll the dough into a long, skinny rope against the counter using the palms of your hands. Aim for a rope about 20 inches long. If it shrinks back on you, set it aside, roll another piece of dough, and come back to it after it’s rested a few minutes. We found that this way was extremely hard, and we couldn’t get the dough to 20 inches long. What we did was this (it was easier and made for a good couple of dirty jokes and many a giggle…I was also very unceremoniously slapped in the face with a rope of dough by my sister): I rolled the dough into a rope that was about 6 inches long. You can do that easily between your hands or on the counter. Then, my sister held the top part of the rope, and with a back and forth motion of my hands, I rolled the dough thinner and thinner towards the end of it. Then we would just swop the ends and repeat to get a long rope of even width.
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  3.  Lift the ends of the rope toward the top of your work surface and cross them. Cross them one more time to make a twist, then fold the twist back down over the bottom loop to form a pretzel shape. Set the pretzel on a parchment-lined baking sheet and continue shaping the rest of the pretzels. When all the pretzels are shaped, cover them loosely and set them aside to rise until puffy, 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F. Place a rack in the middle-bottom position.
  5. Prepare the water bath: When the pretzels are starting to look puffy, measure 8 cups of water into a large, wide pot and set over high heat. Make sure the pot has high sides because the water will foam, nearly doubling in volume, when you add the baking soda. Bring the water to a rapid simmer, then add the baking soda and the dark brown sugar/barley malt syrup/rice syrup. The baking soda will make the water foam up the sides of the pot. Stir to dissolve the baking soda and syrup, then reduce the heat to medium to maintain a simmer.
  6. Boil the pretzels: Lower 2 to 3 pretzels into the water bath — as many as will fit without crowding. Simmer for 30 seconds, then use a slotted spoon to flip the pretzels over. Simmer for another 30 seconds, then scoop the pretzels out of the water and return them to the baking sheet. While in the water bath, the pretzels will puff and take on a doughy, puckered appearance. Repeat with the remaining pretzels.
  7. Brush with egg and sprinkle with salt: Once all the pretzels have been dipped in the water bath, brush them with the egg and water mixture and sprinkle them with salt.
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  8. Bake the pretzels: Bake the pretzels until they are deep brown and glossy, 12 to 15 minutes.
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  9. Cool and eat! Transfer the pretzels to a cooling rack and let sit until cool enough to handle. Pretzels are best when eaten fresh and hot, but will still be good for up to a day later. Store them in a paper bag at room temperature. While they’re cooling, you can make your Beer Cheese Sauce.

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Beer Cheese Sauce

Ingredients

2-3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups light beer
1 cup heavy cream
2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, add the butter, stirring until melted. Add in the garlic and cook until the garlic is golden brown.
  2. Add in the flour, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes. The color will begin to change to golden, and this is what you want to achieve. Add in the beer and the heavy cream, continuing to constantly stir the mixture. Bring to a simmer and remove the saucepan from the heat.
  3. Begin adding in the shredded cheese in small amounts while whisking the sauce mixture until you have reached the desired consistency.

Now take that happy, soothing, pale yellow cheese sauce and serve with your warmish pretzels. As you tear off a piece, dip it and greedily pop it in your mouth before you waste one little bit of a drop, you’re transported to what I imagine going to a Baseball game would be like. Or having a bunch of people over for Superbowl Sunday.

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It was everything I imagined. It made me happy. And that, my darlings, is what baking is ultimately about, isn’t it? Doing what makes you happy. And boy, it does.

Scrumptious Sunday: Croque Madame & Monsieur

Hi kids!

Our latest Scrumptious Sunday took a decidedly French twist when we decided that our next experiment would be Croques. It was my absolute favourite breakfast/brunch, but you just know it’s yummy enough to eat any time of the day. There is a restaurant in Amsterdam (one of our favourites) that makes the best Croque Monsieur I have ever had the privilege to devour (stuffing my face would be a more accurate description). Seriously, if you find yourself in Amsterdam, make sure to drop by De Ysbreeker and have a Croque Monsieur. The rest of their food is excellent too, and you can get anything from a muffin, croissant, full on breakfasts, sandwiches and even soups and things… Another recommendation to have there is an Uitsmijter. Go ahead. Click on the link. Get ready to drool. I’m getting distracted again. Let’s get back on track. Here’s a look at the Croque Monsieur I had at De Ysbreeker.

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You can find a Croque Monsieur or Madame at most cafés in France too, but oddly enough – I enjoyed my Amsterdam one more than the couple I had in Paris. The basic formula for a Croque is some good, thickly sliced, fresh, almost sweet white bread, some ham, some cheese (more than one type FYI) and a Béchamel so good it tastes like it could have dripped straight from heaven onto your bread. It’s warm, and salty from the ham, and sweet from the bread, and savoury from the cheeses and oh so gooey from that Béchamel. The difference between a Croque Monsieur and a Croque Madame is an egg. That simple. The Monsieur is sans egg, the Madame, well, you can guess I’m sure, has the egg. So predictable. Ironically, whenever the beau didn’t have an Uitsmijter, he would have a Croque Madame. We had a couple of Har-di-har-har moments with some waiters in Paris… “One Monsieur for ze Madame, one Madame for ze Monsieur..” Har-har-har. I know you’re rolling your eyes at me. That’s okay. We know the level of corny I can reach is astronomical. Enough chit chat though, let’s get to it. We used a Barefoot Contessa recipe. As much as the beau disdains watching Ina’s show (he’s fine with all the other food programs I watch, just not HERS), I adore her.

We found that the most efficient way was to start with the Béchamel. Once that’s done, you can let it stand since it will be warmed up in the oven again anyway. Also – grate your cheese before you start assembly. Get everything in order so that it goes smoothly. The less stress in the kitchen, the better time you’ll have. So here’s the recipe (from here):

Croque Monsieur

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon Maldon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
5 cups Gruyere, grated (We used a strong Cheddar – Gruyere is ridiculously expensive in South Africa)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
8 slices white sandwich bread
Dijon mustard (I used some of my homemade mustard – I’ll share the recipe next week when I cook up a new batch)
4 slices ham (anything should do fine – we used Cooked Ham), sliced but not paper thin

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/ 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere/Cheddar, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere/Cheddar. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere/Cheddar, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

To make this into a Madame, fry an egg when the sandwiches are ready to be broiled, and when they come out, just slide the egg on top. Easy-peasy, right? I will say this though: next time I’d want to try it with the Gruyere. They were really good the way we made them, and you shouldn’t even for one second doubt whether to make this if you don’t have Gruyere. They were delicious with the cheddar. And melty. And really satisfying. The perfect end to a Sunday. I just think that the Gruyere would add more of a sharp and savoury note, and give it that final touch of authenticity. Here are our results:

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Give it a try… You won’t be sorry. I promise.

Much Love

 

Scrumptious Sunday: Scotch Eggs

Hi kids!

It looks like winter is finally arriving in Cape Town. We had lovely rain all day yesterday, and today is sort of rainy, sort of overcast, somewhat windy but gloriously grey. You remember I love winter right? As I am typing, I’m sitting with a freshly brewed mug of coffee right under my nose – letting the aromas of strong, bitter, black coffee waft up my nose and entice my senses. And whilst I’m lost in my heady coffee aromatherapy, I’m daydreaming of soups and stews and one-pot wonders which naturally comes with the cold season – served in one bowl, perfect to cradle in my lap while I’m snuggled under a blanket in front of my TV, watching my stories. Winter. A wonderful, whimsical season. A wonderful, whimsical reason to indulge in bowls of steamy, hot, edible comfort.

But alas, I totally just side-tracked myself, and need to stop my rambling and get to the matter at hand. Agree? Okay. So the back-story is that the beau and I have started something new on Sundays, which I have (after our successful first adventure) dubbed Scrumptious Sundays. This is different to our failed Try-It Tuesday misadventure last year. Here’s why: I don’t want to feel pressure while cooking during the week. I just don’t have the time to try something entirely new, have it fail, and then whip up something else on a Tuesday (or any other weekday, for that matter). However, during the weekend we’re more relaxed. We’re laid back. And yes, then we have the time and energy to try an entirely new recipe, and run the risk of failing. Because it’s Sunday. And we have time (and I have the patience with my sous chef)! So obviously, we take time during the week to discuss what we want to make on Sunday. We only have 3 criteria. 1. It has to be a recipe we haven’t made before. 2. It has to be a treat. Something that wouldn’t be on our weekly rotation. 3. We have to do it together. The third point is clearly aimed at me – for I do not share well in the kitchen. When we have made our decision, I spend some time sourcing the recipe, taking the time to look at as many recipes as I can before deciding which would suit us best.

Our first attempt was something we’ve eaten only once before, bought at an artisinal fresh food stall, but after we ate it (about 3 years ago, mind you) we knew we loved it. So it was a natural decision that we would have to make it. Have you ever had a Scotch Egg before? If you had, you can skip this part. If not, hold on to your pantaloons! It is a soft boiled egg. A lovely, golden, sunny, happy example of what a soft boiled egg should be. Just barely holding it’s shape. A soft boiled egg cocooned in perfectly seasoned pork meat, breaded and then fried. Yes, fried. Deep fried. When you bite into it, the crunchy, crispy, golden exterior belies the goodness that awaits you. The pork is salty, and savoury. It is juicy and dripping down your chin is an absolute given. And then you get to the egg, the yolk still miraculously runny, golden and rich, almost sweet. Then you take another bite, and relive the entire joyride of scrumptiousness. It is magic. It is pure heaven.  And honestly, not that hard to make. Let’s get to it.

Scotch Eggs (makes 4 large Scotch Eggs)

Adapted from http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1414645/scotch-eggs

Ingredients:

  • 7 large eggs
  • 500g* good-quality fresh pork banger sausages, skinned (they MUST be fresh – no processed junk!)
  • 200g bacon strips, roughly cut into bits
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp English mustard powder
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp dried Italian herbs
  • Plain flour (for breading stage)
  • Dried breadcrumbs (for breading)
  • about 1 litre sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying
  • scraps of bread, for testing oil

Method:

  1. Put 4 eggs into a large saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, set the timer for 5 mins. When 5 mins is up, quickly lift the eggs out with a slotted spoon and plunge into a big bowl of cold water. (We cooked the for 4.5 minutes, which was great, but you must then be careful because they are very fragile and the yolk WILL break and run). You can give the eggs a quick crack on one end and then put it into the cold water. This will cause the cold water to seep in, stopping the cooking and making peeling easier.
  2. Put the sausage meat, bacon, herbs, Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder and nutmeg into a food processor with plenty of seasoning. Break in 1 of the remaining eggs and mix everything together.
  3. Crack remaining 2 eggs into a bowl, beat with a fork. Tip the flour into another bowl and season well. Finally, tip the breadcrumbs into a third bowl.
  4. When the eggs are cool peel them carefully. If you hold the eggs over the bowl of water as you peel, all the shell bits will collect in there and you can dip in the egg to wash off any fragments.
  5. Now coat the eggs. We set up the ingredients along our counter like a conveyer belt: cooked eggs, mince, then flour,  beaten egg and finally breadcrumbs, plus a baking parchment-lined tray at the end to put the finished scotch eggs on.
  6. Take a good chunk of mince and pat out to thinly cover one hand. Sit the egg on the meat, then mold over the mince to cover, squeezing and patting so it is an even thickness. If you keep moving while you spread the mince, it’s much easier. You’ll probably have a gap (depending on how big your hands are – just patch and pat with a bit more mince). Roll carefully in the flour, shaking off excess. Dip in the egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs to coat, gently squeeze the finished eggs to compact the breadcrumbs – this will ensure a crunchy exterior, and transfer to your tray. Repeat to cover all 4 eggs, then cover with cling film and chill for 4 hrs or overnight. (You can fry them immediately, which is what we did. The chilling will just keep them together better. It really wasn’t an issue though.)
  7. To cook, pour the oil in a large, deep saucepan to about 4cm deep. Heat until a small chunk of bread browns in about 1 min. Carefully lower in a scotch egg and fry for about 5-8 mins, turning gently, until evenly browned. Depending on your pan, you can probably do 2-3 at a time, but don’t overcrowd. Lift out onto a kitchen paper-lined tray. If you like your scotch eggs warm, pop them into a low oven while you fry the rest – but they stay hot quite long on their own too. Keep an eye on the oil – if the scotch eggs start browning too quickly, the oil might be too hot and you risk the pork not being cooked before the scotch egg is browned. If the oil gets too cool, the scotch egg may overcook before it is browned. Enjoy warm or cold; best eaten within 24 hrs of frying. We loved it served with a bowl of mayo, but it’s really up to you.

* We ended up having a little bit too much of the pork mixture. I wouldn’t use less pork though – rather have too much than not enough to cover all your eggs. We just used the remaining pork mixture, rolled mini meatballs, breaded them and deep fried them too! They were darling and delicious!

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So? What do you think? Are you going to try it? Let me know how it goes if you do!

Until next time, Much Love.

Childhood Revisited: Banana Bread

When I was a kid, my mom used to bake banana bread. That was her thing. She’s not the “I’m gonna bake a cake and a hundred cupcakes just because” type of lady. Cookies and cakes and tarts? Not her thing. But she had two things that she would bake regularly. Bran muffins, and banana bread. So banana bread was always something you could chow at our house. There was always some to be found. And when she took her freshly baked loaf out of the oven, she would barely wait for it to cool before she would start slicing. With a simple slathering of butter. Sometimes with some cheese. Always with a cup of tea or coffee.

With my teen years, came the rebellion. Against anything and everything. And along with the rebellion came a sudden dislike of my darling mom’s banana bread. Petulant, you might think. I agree. I just felt that after years of banana bread feasts, I had had enough. No more. I didn’t like it anymore. But then, I grew up (eventually we all do). I still maintained the no banana bread rule, long into my relationship, even though the beau adores banana bread. I wouldn’t have any of it. However, about a month ago, after I did a detox, I had some bananas sitting on my counter, ripening by the minute. I couldn’t eat any more bananas after the detox. And so there they sat. Blackening. Menacing. Judging me for letting them go to waste. So, I decided. Screw it. I’ll give banana bread another shot. Worse comes to worst – he’ll have a whole loaf to himself. Besides, I also just recently discovered (after trying it for the first time in years) that I, in fact, do like beets. I was being brave.

So I baked it. And it was good. It was dense and moist and soft and pale yellow on the inside. And instantly I was sitting next to my mom, sipping on some tea, munching on her freshly baked love offering. And I was proud for trying it. And being able to once again say that I, in fact, do like banana bread. Even more than that; I was ecstatic about how beautiful it looked, sitting there in my never before used loaf pan. And I realised that even if you don’t like to bake, baking a banana bread that comes out looking like that, is really satisfying. And I got why my mom did it. So, in reverance to my dearest mommy, a banana bread recipe:

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Adapted from http://allrecipes.com/recipe/banana-banana-bread/

Ingredients:

  1. 2 cups all-purpose flour

  2. 1 teaspoon baking soda

  3. 1/4 teaspoon salt

  4. 1/2 cup butter

  5. 3/4 cup brown sugar

  6. 2 eggs, beaten

  7. 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas

  8. 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

I challenge you to test your tastebuds. Try something you stopped liking as a kid. Who knows, you might have a new obsession! Let me know how it goes!

Much Love

The Girls Who Bake – February 2014

Hi guys,

Sorry it’s been SO long! No excuses, I know. Bad blogger! Let’s move on though, okay? Let’s talk about our Baking Day! This time, it was my sister’s turn to host – and we had a blast! Her choices of treats to bake were Nutella filled rolls with an Espresso Glaze, and Triple Chocolate “Skinny” Muffins. The skinny muffins was a choice very cunningly made to soothe our guilty consciences, because, you know…it’s skinny! Before we started, my sister and I went to a group yoga session on the beach at Blouberg. We were very nervous since we’re new to yoga, and have never done a group session – we just do yoga at home. It was such an amazing experience though (except for the minor back injury I got)! My future sister-in-law joined us later that afternoon to help as well. Although, the two “helpers” generally mostly sit and drink wine… ;)

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Back to baking! We should have just made full-blast fattening triple chocolate muffins…Because the skinny ones were not so good. (That’s an understatement) I’m not entirely sure where we went wrong, but they were the most bland thing I’ve ever eaten! We tried one after they came out of the oven and we were shattered! Ugh. We ended up dousing them with some of the Espresso Glaze just to add some moisture and sweetness… Ah well, you win some, you lose some, amiright?!

As much as I disliked them, I’ll still post the recipe. If you try it and they come out well, let me know!

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TRIPLE CHOC CUPCAKES

Adapted from: http://dashingdish.com/recipe/triple-chocolate-chunk-muffins/

Ingredients

1 3/4 cup Oats
3 Egg whites
3/4 cup Unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup Unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 cup Plain greek yogurt (or regular plain low fat yogurt)
1/2 tsp Cream of tartar (or 2 tsp. vinegar)
1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1 cup Hot water
1/2 cup Baking stevia OR 1 cup sweetener of choice that measures like sugar – we used honey
1/2 cup Semi-sweet chocolate chips – we used dark chocolate, which might have affected the taste, so go for semi-sweet…
Tip Foil cupcake liners, remove the inner paper lining (because paper liners tend to stick to muffins!)

Method

THE ESTIMATED TOTAL TIME TO MAKE THIS RECIPE IS 35 MINUTES.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with foil cupcake liners, or spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a blender, (or food processor), mix all of the ingredients together, except for the chocolate chips. Blend until oats are ground and mixture is smooth.
  3. Place mixture in a bowl and gently stir in 1/2 of the chocolate chips (set the rest aside). Scoop mixture into prepared muffin pans.
  4. Place muffins tins in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove muffins from the oven (but don’t shut oven off), and distribute the other half of the chocolate chips on top of each muffin.
  5. Place the muffins back into the oven and bake for an additional 2-5 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. We had to bake them an additional 5-10 minutes longer to finish cooking.
  6. Cool muffins before removing from pan. ENJOY!!! Here is where we drowned them in Espresso Glaze to at least try to impart SOME flavour. You’ll find the Espresso Glaze recipe in the Nutella Rolls recipe.

Now, let’s get to the good part. Nutella Rolls with Espresso Glaze. You could even stop reading after Nutella and you’d know that it was going to be fantastic. Because who doesn’t love Nutella? Who??? So, let’s go!

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RECIPE: NUTELLA ROLLS WITH COFFEE GLAZE

Adapted from: http://heatherchristo.com/cooks/2013/12/15/nutella-rolls-with-coffee-glaze/

For the dough:

Ingredients

2 cups whole milk

½ cup canola oil

½ cup sugar

4 1/2 cups AP flour

1 package yeast

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons butter

Instructions

1. In a large pot, heat the milk, oil and sugar to a simmer. Then set aside to cool to luke warm.

2. When the milk mixture is luke warm, add 4 cups of flour and the yeast and stir well. Cover the pot with the lid and let sit somewhere warm for 1 hour.

3. When the dough has risen, stir in the last ½ cup of flour and the baking powder, baking soda and salt until well combined. Let sit another 30 minutes.

Devide dough in half and roll out into approx. 30x40cm rectangles.

Filling:

13 ounces nutella

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Coffee Glaze:

3 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons Espresso (or strong coffee)

2 tablespoons cream

pinch of salt

Instructions

1. When the dough is finished rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare a sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper.

2. Dust the countertop with a tiny bit of flour and roll the dough out into a big even rectangle.

3. Spread the nutella evenly over the top of the dough.

4. Gently roll the dough and nutella up into a log.

5. Slice the log into 12 rolls. Place them on the sheet pan and brush them all with the melted butter.

6. Drape a kitchen towel over the top of the nutella rolls and let them rise for 30 minutes.

7. Bake the Nutella rolls for about 15 minutes or until golden.

8. Take them out and transfer them to a cooling rack. While they are cooling make the Coffee Glaze.

9. Whisk the coffee glaze ingredients together in a small bowl and drizzle the glaze over the rolls. Let them set up and then serve immediately.

How good do they look?! They were amazing. Gooey and oozy and sweet and sticky and all the things you want from a baked good. As per usual the wine was flowing, and we were barely snacking, much less eating, so after our day of baking we were ravenous and somewhat tipsy. Which led to us going out for a beer and then getting fast food… Yes, I know. You can shake your head at us. We deserve it. But this had led me to the following conclusion: We must find time to eat properly in between  baking. So, I have decided that from this month forward – which incidentally is my month to host – there will be food to feed us all… Not just sweets, but real food too, although who could say no to a life lived on sweet delights?!

If you make these, let me know how it went! I’d love to know about your baking adventures too!

Much Love

Officially Off the Market

Gasp!

You guys, I’ve been such a bad blogger…I’m so very sorry. BUT, I have huge news!

I’m engaged!… Here’s our story:

We planned a trip to Europe with his family, and the family decided to rent a chateau in France for Christmas. As the time grew closer, I kept thinking that a proposal in Paris would be epic! When I finally jokingly mentioned it to him, he very emphatically (and repeatedly) stated that the trip to Europe was all I could hope for, since he was taking me for almost 4 weeks, and travelling in Europe is super expensive. A couple of weeks before our departure he told me that he had the choice of a ring, or our trip, and he obviously chose the trip. I was clearly disappointed, and he apologised and told me that we might be able to afford a ring in 2014. Then, a couple of days before we left, he told me that we would have to use some of the money I had kept aside for my planned IKEA shopping spree (it should be noted that this was money I had saved for almost a year, and had kept separate from our joint Europe savings) to pay for the accommodation in France, and our visas. I was fuming. Livid, really. We had a huge fight, and I couldn’t understand where all his money went, and I was upset that I had to sacrifice MY savings! (Yes, I was being a brat – I know that…I am quite ashamed of that… ) He told me that the flights were more expensive than what he budgeted for, and that we really didn’t have a choice but to use my IKEA fund. We left it there, and moved on. I didn’t give it another thought.

Throughout the first week and a half our trip, we were in Amsterdam, visiting with Faul’s eldest brother and his wife and kids. I secretly kept hoping that there might be a proposal, but knew in the back of my head it wouldn’t happen.

We departed for France in our rental car on 22 December, and spent one night in Brussels, before driving the rest of the way to France. On the 24th, we went into Paris for the first time. (Our house was about 40mins’ train ride outside of the city) We were shown around by his eldest brother, with almost the entire family with us. We went to go see the Notre Dame and then walked to the Pont Neuf – the oldest bridge in Paris, where his brother told us a bit about the city. We all decided to go to a café for drinks, but Faul held me back. He said he wanted to go down the stairs at the bridge, because the bridge runs over a little island and he wanted to go look. I wasn’t really feeling it, because it started drizzling a bit, and it was cold! I told him we had a whole week in France, and that we could come back another day…But he insisted, so down we went. As we walked to the tip of the island, he grew quiet, holding my hand very tightly. We got to the end of the island, and there were three very dodgy looking Eastern European guys just standing around, smoking and talking in hushed tones. It was very freaky, and we felt the need to leave! He then said we should just take a picture and get out of there, and he looked quite sad.

We started walking back to the bridge, and halfway to the stairs, he stopped and snaked one arm around my waist and kissed me. We were kissing in the cold wind, with tiny droplets of rain falling on our skins – when I felt a smile on his lips against my lips. I felt his body moving a bit, and could tell his free arm was reaching into his pocket, when without moving his lips from mine, he said that he had something to ask me…

I started squealing, and jumping up and down, when he took the box out of his pocket. When he opened it, my heart stopped. It was the most gorgeous ring I have ever seen – and exactly what I wanted. He said he wasn’t going down on one knee, because it was wet (and he had new pants on!) but he wanted to know if I would marry him. It took me a couple of minutes to answer, after all, talking is difficult if you’re squealing and kissing the love of your life all over his face.

We walked to a café, where his family were waiting with a bottle of French Champagne to congratulate us, and I was showing my ring off to anyone who even glanced our way!

We added a padlock in the lovers tradition to the fence on the Pont des Arts, the bridge right next to the Pont Neuf. We placed it directly in line with the tip of the island – forever commemorating the place where we got engaged.

It was such a magical day. It is such a magical time.

I’ve entered a competition to win an AMAZEBALLS prize for our wedding, and would love it (and adore you) if you would click on this link and leave a comment: http://saweddingvenues.com/proposals-2014/marle-faul/

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More about our trip later!

Later, dolls. (Go comment – do it. Do it now.)

 

The Girls Who Bake – September Edition

It’s here! I finally got the balls (hah!) to sit down and actually type out the recipes from handwritten ones, to share with you guys. Last weekend was our second installment of Baking-and-Drinking-Day, hosted by my future sister-in-law. The host gets to pick what to make, and her choices were Crème Brûlée and Almond Biscotti. I bought some beautiful ramekins, since she had six, but we wanted to make twelve. (Any excuse to buy goodies for the kitchen, right?) My man was also in a very good mood, so I didn’t get in trouble, and he even posed for a picture with his sister without pulling a face! It’s a wonder it didn’t start snowing immediately!

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The boys had another PlayStation day, but this time, it was much more active. And loud. And hilarious. There is a video, but I suspect I might be ‘mysteriously’ killed in a ‘freak accident’ if I share it with you. It does not paint either of them in a flattering light. I do have a picture though!

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I don’t really want to get into the Crème Brûlée, since we failed. Miserably. As South Africans, we use different measurements than what American recipes call for – so let’s just say our conversion was a horrible miscalculation. Horrible. Which we only realised when we finished baking the damn things. Let’s just say, instead of using the almost 2 litres of cream required, we used 500ml of cream. Yeah. Instead of converting a quart into millilitres (which is 946ml, by the way), we just kind of glossed over the word quart and somehow thought it meant cup. All THREE of us missed that! (Maybe we should stop drinking and baking at the same time…? Gasp! What am I saying?!)

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In short, we doubled the recipe, but instead of using almost 8 cups of cream, we only used 2. Hilarity ensued. We couldn’t figure out why we could only fill 9 ramekins 3/4 of the way up, when we should have been able to fill 12 all the way to the top. When we took it out, it looked…. spongy. And cakey. And as it came out of the oven they started deflating almost immediately. It was NOT pale and custardy. It was yellow and squidgy. We decided not to even bother with the sugar burning bit, and rather move on. We also learned how NOT to separate eggs…

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We did taste it though. It wasn’t bad. The texture was very odd. But it didn’t taste bad. We will however try again. And then it will be gorgeous!

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Onwards! The Almond Biscotti. We doubled this recipe too, since we share the spoils between three couples. Let’s start with the recipe (I’ll post the doubled quanitities, but you can halve it if you want less). It will yield about 40 large fingers of biscotti.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Flour
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 2 tsp Baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 6 large Eggs
  • 4 Tbsp Amaretto (or 4 Tbsp Rum + 2 tsp Almond Extract)
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tsp Anise Extract (Optional – we skipped it)
  • 2 cups whole Almonds, toasted and chopped a few times

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F)
  • Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper
  • Combine dry ingredients
  • Whisk eggs, Amaretto (or Rum mix), Vanilla and Anise (if using) until well blended
  • Add dry ingredients and mix well – You WILL need at least a hand mixer with the dough kneader attachment for this. We tried using a wooden spoon, it’s too difficult.
  • Dough should be thick and sticky – DO NOT ADD FLOUR AT THIS POINT. It is extremely thick. Really. DON’T ADD FLOUR.
  • Divide dough in half, and scrape each half onto a lined baking tray.
  • Flour your hands and shape into a long flat loaf – 25 cm long and 13 cm wide (10 inches x 5 inches)
  • Bake for 50 mins, until firm and dry
  • Remove from oven and cool for 10 mins
  • Using a long serrated knife, slice the loaves. You should get about 20 slices per loaf. We made each about 1.5 cm by 13 cm
  • Lay the slices cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for an additional 20 mins
  • Turn the slices over and bake for another 20 mins, or until slices are light brown
  • Cool biscotti on a rack
  • Wait until completely cool before storing
  • Enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea (or wine…)

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It is VERY sticky. Don’t worry. It’s going to be fine.

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It’s a long process, but well worth it. The almond is fragrant and envelops every sense. I should mention that we didn’t have Amaretto, and we weren’t going to buy it just for this! So we used the rum and almond extract substitute, and it works a charm. It even smells exactly the same!

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Now, since the Crème Brûlée failed, we were quite disappointed with only having one treat. So we decided to whip up quick chocolate cupcakes. This is my grandmother’s recipe. The recipe is actually for a super easy, moist sheet cake. And it’s totally delicious like that. But this recipe also makes great (super easy) cupcakes. Now, let me tell you: when I say this is easy, it really is. Promise. The recipe as is, makes about 30 cupcakes. Here we go:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Flour
  • 4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1 tsp Bicarb
  • 4 Tbsp Cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3/4 cup Cooking Oil
  • 2 Tbsp White Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F)
  • Mix dry ingredients
  • Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl
  • Mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients
  • Spoon into lined muffin tin (or greased cake pan if you’re doing the sheet cake)
  • Bake for 30 mins (or 35 mins for the cake)
  • Cool on a rack

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That’s it! Easy, right?! Told ya! You can ice with whatever you like. You could do a deep chocolate ganache, or some coffee buttercream. Or whatever you want! Since this recipe wasn’t really planned for, we didn’t have anything to top the cupcakes with. But, my sister-in-law did have a tin of Condensed Milk. And I remembered from my childhood that you could put a tin of condensed milk in a pot of boiling water and boil it for 2-4 hours and it transforms into caramel (the time you boil it depends on how deep you want the caramel)! So that’s what we did! We then ‘iced’ our cooled cupcakes and topped with chocolate sprinkles. Because we’re fancy like that!

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Let me know if you try one of these recipes! I’d love to know what you think. The October Edition of Bake Day is at my darling sister’s house. She has yet to decide what we’re making, but I’m excited!

Also, I will be sharing a recipe for homemade mustard that my father’s mother used to make soon. It’s so good.

Much Love