Monday, October 13, 2014

Creating and cutting cookies

Cupcakes mastered thanks to the old family recipe so now I turn my attention to making those great little cookies and decorating them.
At the recent Brisbane Cake Expo I managed to buy some more food colouring gels, so I am keen to put them to good use.
Baking these cookies and getting them right requires a little preparation.  It's not onerous, but will help you get the best results.
The first thing I do is pay attention to the oven temp.  In this case we need the oven to be at about 180C and the racks towards the middle of the oven.
As usual, I make sure that the eggs and the butter are at room temperature.  This can vary between summer and winter so you need to judge how long the butter should be out.  The butter should be soft, yet still retain it's shape.

Whisk 2 cups of plain flour, 1/2  teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt together in a bowl and put it aside.
Cream 120 grams of  butter and 1 cup of caster sugar until light and fluffy.  I use the paddle with my Kitchen Aid.
Add in an egg, lightly beaten and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
Usually I give these a mix at low speed until they are just combined.

Once combined, I roll the mixture out of the bowl, and break it into two parts.  Wrap these two discs of mixture tightly in plastic film and refrigerate for at least and hour.

After the hour, roll one of the discs out to about 1/2cm.  This is where time and temperature are critical.  I work quickly cutting my shapes out and carefully positioning them on a tray lined with baking paper.  If it's warm I pop the tray back into the fridge for about 15mins before installing them into the oven.

Baking time is about 8-9 minutes.  Watch them carefully as you don't want them to brown too much, or burn.

Let them cool on the tray then transfer to a cooling rack.

These can be decorated with royal icing but they are very nice plain.

Store in an airtight container.  They will keep - providing no one want to eat them all.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mint - the ancient healer

I read recently that Mint has been used for its healing properties since ancient times.  Its been made into tea, rubbed into furniture, burnt for incense and added to baths.  I love mint, and my mint has been a most abundant provider this year.  I started off with just a litt
le that I managed to get growing by putting in some water just to get the roots established.  From there, it graduated to one of those old strawberry pots where I just shoved the mint into the sections.  This pot sits in a partly shaded area but receives a decent amount of water from my irrigation system.
Now that the weather has warmed somewhat, the mint has gone mad.
Apart form giving mint to my sister to plant around her hen house, I'm going to weed mine out and make some mint tea.

Making mint tea is relatively straight forward.  Just pick the mint early in the morning, rinse and pat dry.  I lay mine out on a baking tray and leave in the oven at about 160C util the leaves have dried out.  Watch them carefully so that they don't dry out and burn.
Once dried I store them in a glass container.  I put the leaves in my infuser and hello mint tea!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Spring time - new beginnings

I love September.  Spring has graced our area and the birds welcome in the morning with their song.  While that's lovely on weekedays - much nicer to wake to those cheery sounds, I do prefer to sleep in on the weekends.
As the holidays for Queenslanders loom, my intention is to get cracking on the Christmas cooking.  It seems to me that the gift giving time looms so suddenly and despite my best intentions I always find myself wishing I had been proactive some months previous.

This year I have begun mastering the art of decorated cookies.  My biscuits have always been a hit with the fam bam.  Now the second generation are asking for the jam biscuits.  The recipe I use comes straight from the Day to Day cookery book.  I find that the best jam to use is raspberry, and I prefer the home brand generic jams.  I'm not sure what happens to those jams during their own cooking process, but they seem to be just perfect for Jam Drops.
This is my jam drop recipe.
  • 125g butter, softened
  • (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • dash of vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cups self-raising flour
  • raspberry jam
 For best results I make sure that the butter sits out and becomes room temperature.  This is OK in winter, but in the heat of the tropical summer, sometimes an hour is more than enough time.  My other hot tip with biscuits is to beat the butter until it is white.  Regardless of the type of butter you use the beating seems to be the key.  For best results I only use butter, not the soft blends, not the unsalted types, just good yellow butter.
I place the butter and the caster sugar into the mixer and beat (using the paddle) until the butter is white and the sugar is just fine grains.  Break the egg and give it a whisk with a fork, and then add to the mixture making sure you beat it well.  Drop in the vanilla and slowly add the flour.
Your dough should be fairly firm.
Form small balls of mixture and drop these on a baking paper lined tray.  I make a small indent in the top of the ball and drop in some raspberry jam.  Pop these into a 160C oven and bake until golden brown.  If you want the biscuits to be hard and crunchy, decrease that temperature by a couple of degrees and keep an eye on them.
When cooked, I cool mine thoroughly before storing in containers.  I find this recipe freezes very well.  
Its a real treat to sift through the freezer and find a container of biscuits!