Cinnamon & pear muffins

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I’m finding myself with a lot of tinned goods recently, not unlike many people in our little shaky isles in the wake of our 7.8 earthquake.  It pays to be prepared.

I’ve heard the comment more than once that tinned pears are the least exciting of the tinned fruits….pale, bland, only good when topped with ice cream.  I had a hunch that this was wrong, but how to prove it?  By coupling tinned pears with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, that’s how.

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I’ve taken my inspiration for the muffin base from Donna Hay’s basic muffin batter.  Which is delicious if you’re on the hunt for a reliable basic muffin, by the way.  I will of course buy a replacement tin of pears for our emergency food stash, but this idea for pear-topped muffins could not wait any longer.  Sunday night requires a sweet little pick-me-up, amiright?

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For these you will need (makes 12):

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence

For the topping:

  • 1 tin of pear quarters, drained and cut into thin slices
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 knob of butter, melted

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

Place the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine.

In a smaller bowl, mix the egg, milk, oil and vanilla essence.  Add this to the dry ingredients and mix only until just combined.

Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin tray cups.  Arrange the sliced pears on the top of the batter.

Combine the topping ingredients and distribute over the top of the pears.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

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Chocolate and ginger Anzac biscuits

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These little lovelies simply wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the mighty Anzac biscuit, which inspired me with its comforting blend of oats and golden syrup. I shan’t be going into too much more detail on this point, because Anzac biscuits will be coming up shortly as part of my Edmond’s challenge and I’d hate to spoil anything, except to note that the Anzac biscuit is a source of national pride for many an Antipodean baker.

Whenever I feel in need of a bit of nourishing, I turn to my trusty jar of rolled oats and all kinds of delicious are never too far away. These biscuits are easy to make and although my ones have apricot and raisins, any dried fruit you had in residence in your pantry would make a happy union with the rest of the recipe. Ditto the chocolate; I like milk chocolate and dark is also most toothsome. I’ve yet to try white chocolate, but I reckon this would also be pretty fabulous.

Enjoy these with a steaming hot mug of tea, and with the oats and the fruit, I do believe they would make an acceptable breakfast. They are pretty much porridge in a biscuit, after all.

Happy Baking.

You will need:
1& 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup Raisins
1/2 cup apricots, chopped
2 t fresh grated ginger
200g chocolate of your choosing, roughly chopped
150 g butter
2 T Golden Syrup
2 T hot water

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In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients, grated ginger and chopped chocolate.

Melt the butter and golden syrup together in a pan over medium heat.

Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water and then add this to the melted golden syrup and butter. This will cause the mixture to bubble up. Tip it quickly into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Put tablespoon-sized dollops of the mixture onto greased baking trays (I get about 20 out of this recipe).

Bake the biscuits at 180 celscius for 15 minutes or until they are golden, and then cool on a baking rack.

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Lime and polenta cake

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You can tell the state of the economy by the price of a lime, or so the saying goes.  What it’s meant to tell you, I’m not sure, but I can reliably inform you that limes in these here parts cost a small fortune at the moment.

This is why I can never resist the bags of juicy, home-grown limes which perch temptingly by the counter for only five dollars a pop when I visit the lovely Shannons to attend to matters of personal grooming.

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I’m never at a loss for what to do with a lime  and with a whole bag in hand, my thoughts turned to this delicious orange and almond cake that my lovely sister brought along for a lunch visit a few years ago.

Curiously, I learned, the orange is boiled to provide a flavoursome, moist base.  It may feel sacrosanct to boil a precious lime, but with a whole bag, I was feeling reckless.  Having never considered the possibility of boiling fruit for the purposes of cake before, my imagination was on fire.

A little polenta to the recipe, inspired by Nigella’s lemon polenta cake recipe, gives this cake a lovely texture and just the right amount of chew to the crust.  I enjoy the tanginess of the limes, but for the more faint-hearted, include a little extra sugar if you like a touch more sweetness.  And, if you make sure to use gluten-free baking powder, this even ticks the gluten-free box.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 limes
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup polenta
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Butter and line a 21cm springform tin.

Put the limes in a saucepan, cover them with cold water and pop them on the stove.  Bring to the boil and boil for an hour.

Drain the limes, watching for your fingers as they will still be a little hot.  Chop the limes into bits and pick out any seeds.  Use a blender or masher to puree the limes, skins and all, until smooth.  Set this aside.

In a largish bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale.

Add the pureed limes, ground almonds, polenta and baking powder to the egg and sugar mixture.  Gently fold in until everything is just combined.

Pour the mix into the prepared cake tin.

Bake in a 180 degrees celsius oven for 45 minutes, or until a skewer prodded into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the cake is just beginning to pull away from the sides of the tin.

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Leave the cake in its tin on a baking rack to cool before turning out. I can heartily recommend this cake warm, with a little yoghurt or vanilla ice cream on the side.

 

 

 

Herman the German Friendship Cake

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Herman came into my life my accident.  My plans were to have morning tea with my sister and gorgeous little niece.  This did happen.  But what I didn’t expect was to leave my sister’s house with my very first sour dough starter for my own Herman the German Friendship Cake.

 

Herman is the chain letter of sour dough.  A lucky Herman recipient is given a portion of sour dough starter and instructions on how to feed, love and nurture Herman for 10 days.  On the tenth day, Herman is split into four portions.   Three are given away to new Herman owners to start the process again.  The fourth portion is kept to be made into one’s very own Herman sour dough cake or bread.

 

I love the savoury chewiness of sour dough.  Ever since reading the lovely Clotilde’s sour dough adventures on Chocolate&Zucchini I’ve been keen to try my own but just a little too scared.  My unexpected acquisition of Herman was just what I needed to kick-start my own sour dough adventures. Herman and I were meant to be.

 

Sour dough starters are rather fascinating.  The happy little bugs and bits who occur naturally in flour develop into a culture that will rise dough if they are left for long enough and treated to water, refreshment and the right temperature.   And so, Herman took up residence on top of my microwave.  Devotedly following the Herman instructions, I heartily stirred Herman each of the first four days.  He was developing an interesting bubbly texture.

 

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On day four, the instructions informed me, Herman is hungry.  Dutifully, I fed Herman (or refreshed him, as it is known in sour dough parlance) with 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar.  Days five to eight: more stirring.  My Herman now had a sticky-looking top and plenty more bubbling.

Day nine was a big day.  Three quarters of my Herman were packaged up and shipped off to their new homes.  It was time to turn my mind to baking for day 10.

 The Herman website has plenty of delicious ideas for when it’s time to bake your Herman.  My sister made the original Herman, and it is indeed lovely.  I played around with the original recipe, borrowing heavily from my most favourite Christmas cake recipe, Nigella’s chocolate fruit cake (because why wait until Christmas to make a delicious cake?).  Prunes, chocolate, orange and coffee combined to make this Fruit and Chocolate Herman.  This recipe produces a dark, dense cake with a pleasant hint of spice.

 

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Fruit and Chocolate Herman

Ingredients:

  • 1 portion of Herman starter
  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 cup of cocoa
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups of pitted prunes
  • 1 & 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1 cup of currants
  • 1 cup of cranberries
  • 2 oranges, juice and zest
  • 1/2 cup of espresso coffee

Grease a 23 cm round cake tin and line the bottom.  Heat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Stir the flour, cocoa, baking powder, brown sugar, mixed spice and vanilla essence into your Herman starter, which will be in the large mixing bowl as per the Herman instructions.   Add the eggs and mix in.

Next, tip in the prunes, raisins, currants and cranberries. Add the orange juice, zest and the espresso coffee, and stir all ingredients together.

Pour the cake batter into a 23cm round cake tin.  Bake for 50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cool on a cake rack.

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