Baking Day: September Edition

It’s been quite a while since I posted our Baking Day (Mis)Adventures. It’s really tough to line up our calendars to find a date that works for all 5 of us. So after much rearranging and postponing, we ended up deciding on a date that worked for 4 out of the 5 girls. Unfortunately Roxanne, who is a dance instructor, couldn’t attend due to auditions. She very gracefully bowed out, making it the turn of one of my other Sister-in-Law’s turns to host. This was our first baking day at Marguerite’s house (you’ll notice I’m now starting to use names, because I’m sure you’re staring to get confused with all of us!), and she had decided to make a Chocolate Mug Cake recipe she got from her friend, as well as a Pavlova.

We were all so very excited for the Pavlova – it’s not something we eat often. Let me tell you though, as much fun as it was getting into our usual shenanigans and almost-failures, here is my TOP TIP for Pavlova. You need an electric whisk/mixer. Marguerite has a hand whisk, which we all thought would be fine. We watch our favourite TV chef idols whisk cream and egg whites into submission by hand in no time all the time. How hard could it be, right? Ha! Lesson learnt. Unless you’ve got the arms of The Hulk and the stamina to run a marathon, don’t even bother. We had to take turns, we had to switch arms. It was a mess. We just couldn’t get those egg whites to submit to silky, shiny stiff peaks. No sir-ey. We eventually gave up when we deemed them to have soft peaks. We figured we couldn’t do any more. It was a lost cause, but we had no time to grieve for our epic failure – it had to go into the oven! BUT… Since the eggs weren’t stiff enough, it just would not hold a round shape. And we couldn’t find a springform to use as our shape. We had to improvise. Quickly. We ended up using a roasting tray, lined with baking paper, with rolled up logs of more baking paper to help make a rudimental shape. And in the oven it went.

I’ll tell you this though – it came out really well if I think how big of a flop it could have been! It was delicious. The exterior of the meringue crunchy, crispy and golden. The interior a pillowy, fluffy, sweet delight. And the fruits! Gorgeously plump little bursts of colour with major pops of flavour, layered with gloriously decadent whipped cream. Side note: The whipped cream was yet another fiasco… We couldn’t get it to whip! It. Just. Wouldn’t. Luckily, a valiant hero (Marguerite’s friend, Reg) wanted to pop in to say hello, and in a desperate attempt to save our dignity, we cried out in unison: “Bring CREAM!”. The cream was brought, the Pavlova assembled, and after taking some photos, it was greedily gobbled up. The fruits we used were pomegranate seeds, blueberries, raspberries and a double dose of strawberries. We used fresh strawberries, but I also cut half of the strawberries in halves, and with a touch of sugar and a glug of bubbly, let them macerate – allowing them to make their own sweet and thick syrup. Here’s the recipe, adapted from Sarie:

Pavlova with Mixed Berries and Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

  • 8 Egg whites
  • 630g Castor sugar
  • 20ml white wine vinegar
  • 30ml cornstarch
  • 250ml cream
  • 400g berries of your chocie
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 140 ˚C.
  • Whisk egg whites until it reaches soft peaks. Then start adding the sugar while whisking.
  • Whisk until stiff peaks are reached and the mixture is glossy. Fold in vinegar and cornstarch.
  • Line a baking sheet with baking paper and spray with greaseproof spray. Gently spoon mixture into a round form of about 30cm in diameter. You can use the back of a spoon to press into the top lightly, and then lifting, to form little peaks on the top of the meringue.
  • Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the exterior is golden, crispy and dry, but the interior still soft and chewy.
  • Let the meringue cool completely before starting with the decoration. When it’s cooled, it can be placed on a serving plate/cake stand.
  • Whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks. Ladle the cream onto the meringue.
  • Now, add the berries in any formation. Here’s where your creativity can come out to play.
  • Lightly dust with powdered sugar and VOILA!

Serve in “cake” slices with a glass of champagne and feel extra decadent!

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Now, for the Chocolate Mug Cakes. (Phew, this is a long post!) These little pots of dark delight is the perfect way to end your day, if you’ve had a rough day, after dinner, exhausted and just need a treat. The whole thing takes less than two minutes from start to finish! This is the first Mug Cake recipe that I’ve seen that really works, and delivers what it promises. Marguerite’s friend Magdel, (whose recipe this is), says she makes it often when she’s put the kids to bed and feels the need to satisfy a craving. I can see why. It’s quick, and delicious! And I can only imagine the variations you could try! Served with a scoop of ice cream, and off to bed! What’s better than that?!

Chocolate Mug Cake (makes 1)

Ingredients:

  •  1/4 cup Flour
  • 2 Tbsp Cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp Milk
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Hazelnut Spread (Like Nutella)

Method:

  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Pour into a microwave safe cup/mug/ramekin
  • Microwave for approx. 60 seconds. The less time it is microwaved, the gooey-er the middle will be. We found that 60 seconds delivered a cake-like consistency. Obviously every microwave is different, so it might be a good idea to experiment with times, and finding that sweet spot that delivers the consistency that you’re jonesing for.

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All in all, it was a successful baking day. We drank wine, we ate a lot of cheese. We baked, and laughed, and failed, and were surprised by how great our attempts turned out. And that, is ultimately what we’re aiming for.

 

Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

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This novel was quite tough. I chose to read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee from my Summer Reading List as my next literary journey. As you can see, this book was well-loved by it’s previous owners, and I bought it from a charity book fair earlier this year. This was my first time reading it though, for some reason my school’s syllabus didn’t include this as prescribed reading. I’m stalling. I know. There’s just so much to say about this Pulitzer winning novel – I don’t really know exactly what to say.

It’s a story of love, family and friendship set in the South of the US in the 1930’s. It’s about the relationship between siblings, and how that friendship changes as one sibling seemingly grows up faster than the other. And about how even though the nature of the sibling friendship changes, the bond remains. It’s about the childlike exploration of the imagination by storytelling. Conjuring up fantasies and demons alike in the mind, all in the name of playing pretend. It’s a beautiful story of the love of a father for his children – and how raising them unconventionally would affect them for years to come. How neighbours help to love and raise these children. It’s about how a young girl can be a rough and tumble little tomboy – but be so adored by the people around her – even capturing the heart of a boy who (I think), would love her until the day she died.

More than that though, it is a story that shows the reader how cruel human nature is. Unflinchingly, the author takes us through the injustices of the automatic judgment passed onto people who are different than ourselves, and the consequences of these judgments. It deals with class. The automatic banding together when others are different than our own class. It also, very humblingly, shows the reader how absurd this bigotry is. The distinction between race, class, occupation or even heritage are redundant when one chooses to look at the person behind these labels, and reveal their true nature and humanity – good or bad.

As always – I am trying not to reveal too much… I can tell you that through the narration of Scout Finch, she tells us the tale of her life. The good, the bad, the heartbreaking and the moments of pure joy. I understood how they were raised by her mannerisms, her attitudes and her actions during what was arguably the toughest, most trying time in their family’s lives. All throughout the novel, I had this complete feeling of foreshadowing – pressing on my heart. And when I couldn’t hold it anymore, I found out. And I wept. The author so very cunningly made me a part of Scout’s story that I couldn’t understand the feelings I was feeling until the very end.

It is an excellent read – but really not a lighthearted novel. I feel enriched as a human being for reading it.

Deep Fried Tequila Bites

Recently, we had a team building getaway, where we had a cook off between two teams – Boys vs Girls. Obviously, us girls won! (It was to be expected, and very unsurprising, really) It was such a fun night, filled with seductively flirty bubbles from the champagne to the absolute worst grimacing from the Jagermeister. We played with our colleague’s gorgeous little girl, we played with dolls on our own (don’t ask), ate amazing food and tried to play 30 Seconds, but couldn’t get far… Our boss is a cheat!

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We decided that since we would win anyway, we would take care of dessert. We found a new recipe that’s been making the rounds on the internet recently, and decided we would give it a try. Deep Fried Tequila Bites. What’s not to love, right? It’s really simple if you don’t make the cake. We bought some Madeira cake – which is just a traditional English sponge cake. We cut the cake into big cubes, soaked them in tequila and deep-fried them in canola oil. Just dust them with some icing sugar when they come out, and you’re done! We also got some Cloudy Lemonade Lollies to serve with these boozy little morsels.

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The reception to them was not so good. But the concept is. They were just VERY Tequila. So here’s what we learnt: Don’t soak the cubes. The longer you soak them, the stronger they get. We used an entire bottle of gold Tequila, which should have been an indication for us that we might have been too heavy-handed. Next time, I’ll just brush the cubes with Tequila with a pastry brush. I also think that I’ll try to use lemon sponge cake, to tie the concept together. Also, make sure your oil is hot enough, so the cubes will brown and crisp up quickly and evenly. Our oil started out too cold, but very quickly turned to too hot. If we could have just evened out the temperature at that sweet spot, it would have gone great. We would have liked to serve it with Lemon Sorbet, but couldn’t find any. The lollies were great though, but the sorbet would have been the perfect smack in the face for this dessert.

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Give it a try if you’re brave enough! I think it would work really well with a Mexican themed dinner party, but really, who needs an excuse for anything Tequila??