A Life Half Lived - Breakfast Discoveries

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ok, it might be a little far fetched to suggest that life is only half-lived* before discovering a particular food. But it's cheese**. And it tastes indulgent and satisfying, but is actually good for you. How did I survive *coughspluttercough* years without discovering the deliciousness of ricotta on toast.
It's slightly less healthy, I suspect, when served on toasted slices of golden brioche from Bourke Street Bakery for a weekend lunch. But it looks so much more appetising than the eaten-at-the-desk version that make a regular appearance on weekdays, sprinkled with cinnamon...

Brioche toast with ricotta from Bourke Street Bakery
Brioche toast with ricotta (which really wasn't burnt round the edges - the lovely flaky golden brioche just doesn't come across in hasty photos)

Sitting beside the Other Penguin, who's eating a sausage roll, also makes your own lunch feel more nutritious...

Pork and fennel sausage roll from Bourke Street Bakery
Pork and fennel sausage roll (perhaps a little on the crispy side underneath, but still very tasty)

He has a better iPhone, too. Although photos are always a little dodgy when they're standing between a penguin and her lunch!

* Well, a type of cheese. Going this long without any cheese whatsoever is a terrifying thought...
** Maybe 10% less lived would be more accurate? Thinking about numbers definitely needs a good breakfast. And not thinking about numbers is greatly improved by one, too!


Chasing Your Tail

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

There are some days where it feels like you’re running to catch up to yourself all day. Whether you’ve started out behind and are working furiously to climb the to-do list equivalent of K2, or you just can't get into the swing on things from the get-go, there are just not. enough. hours. to. get. it. all. done. Eep!

Sometimes, it feels like if you could only run fast enough, you’d eventually catch your cruisier, lazier self a lap behind (or on the couch with a plate of cookies), give them a shake and get them to run with you so you could get more done*. Or perhaps you’d just flake out beside them on the couch and accompish the ever-admirable goal of eating twice as many cookies!

Moomin blanket by Ekelund from Scandinavian Design Center

Aside from being my favouite shade of periwinkle blue**, this blanket has a Moomin. A Moomin! Or possibly two, depending on how you look at it. It might be entirely too cute and obvious with just one, centrally placed Moomin – but with a wrap-around pattern it becomes so much more striking.

It would be a cosy addition to the couch, too. Perhaps along with these cookies...

Moomin cookies from Lindsey Bakes as featured on Kitka Design

Why did the Moomin cross the road? To escape a gluttonous penguin trying to turn him into a cookie!

* This is also a more drastic way to check your back view compared to the pedestrian utility of a full-length mirror.
** Maybe my equal favourite with seafoam green (although not not necessarily together). But, as a total inability to confine my blog design to an subtle and minimal palette, and a repeated admiration for rainbow-hued baking will attest, this might rapidly turn into a much longer list.


Canned Heat

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When left to my own devices with too many distractions (and a dishwasher), I seem to end up accumulating half-finished (or, for the optimists out there, half-started) cups of tea all over the place. They get cold, they get forgotten, they get replaced with newer hotter ones*. They also make an awful lot of clutter.

While my favourite Emma Bridgewater mug offers a bit of encouragement to remember a cuppa, perhaps a way to keep the contents hotter for longer could come in handy. Especially if it was to resemble a penguin in a sombrero!

Penguin mug from ModCloth

At this time of year, even penguins could do with a bit of added warmth!

* Which is a bit of a slippery slope to get started down...


Holding Court

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Queen for a day, king for a lifetime? The thing that strikes me about this Disney-regal cake is that it looks positively pedestrian after Princess Beatrice's recent millinery madness...

Crown cake via Bright Ideas
Cake from Bright Ideas

I do like the thought of scaling this back to a simple white and silver version - tiara cake, anybody?


Sugar High Brownies – Fairy Penguins

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What do you do when you drive your partner to distraction and your workmates to hungry frustration by your constant talk of baking? When every time you catch up with a friend, you take a package of a little something (or three) that you thought they might like to try? When your last waking thoughts are of what on earth to do with a jar of lavender and how to tinker with the proportion of flour in cookie dough. And when you sleepily ask your aforementioned and infinitely patient partner, who is tinkering on his phone, potentially in a most-probably-futile effort to stop you going on about varieties of brownies at a ridiculous hour of the night, could he please write down salted caramel marshmallows in case you forget before morning?

Home-made cherry-flavoured sprinkles - get ready to pipe lots (and lots) of lines!

It’s time for a Plan (and if it has Capital Letters, then it has to be Serious Business). To bring just a bit of order to the chaos, and a little momentum to the whimsy. Finding other like-minded souls who share the obsession with wielding spatulas into the wee small hours would also be good*. Joining a baking group sounded like the ideal solution.

The Domestic Goddess’s Sugar High Fridays look like a perfect place to begin. It’s monthly, so there’s enough wriggle room to fit it round non-baking-related real life. The themes are wonderfully broad, so they can push you as far as you let them and be a prompt to realise some of those percolating ideas and experiment more, without sending me in a worry to a culinary dictionary.

When I came across this month’s theme, which is hosted by Little Bitty Bakes, all thoughts of a fast-approaching deadline and better-to-put-it-off-till-next-month drifted away. Because it was sprinkles. Sprinkles! Once more, for the people up the back who’ve stopped paying attention until I stop waffling on and actually cook something... SPRINKLES! Or hundreds and thousands, for the local folks.

The finished cherry sprinkles - I love it when something actually looks better for looking home-made...

On last season’s Australian Masterchef, a jar of sprinkles was included in one of the mystery box challenges, and the judges treated it with the utmost derision. Any thought of actually using the sprinkles (rather than chuckling at them smugly and going on to make something with duck and cinnamon and hollandaise sauce from scratch – or possible all three combined) is met with an arch expression and the risk of imminent doom. It was like a red rag to a stubborn penguin. Then, a couple of months ago, my interest was piqued further by a recipe for making your own sprinkles. I started wondering about how to incorporate them into a brownie, because that is my starting point for all baking. And sometimes also my finishing point.

So, after far too much ado, I’m very pleased to introduce you to Fairy Penguins. They’re small, they’re cute, they’re ever so chocolaty, and they leave fairy bread in a pallid heap in their wake (and that takes some doing, especially when it’s this sort).

Here’s how they’re made...

Sticky Penguin's Fairy Penguin Brownies
What you need
For the sprinkles
(variation on a recipe from BraveTart
An important note: if you plan to make your own sprinkles, this needs to be done at least the day before (although they do keep, so you can be prepared in advance if you prefer). Alternatively, this could be a good excuse to use up a lurking jar of bought hundreds and thousands, or to treat yourself to some of those cute little colour-themed or fancy-shaped sprinkles that are popping up in corners of stores. This recipe makes (at least) twice as many sprinkles as I used in the brownies.
227 g / 8 oz icing sugar
1 egg white
½ tsp salt
Flavouring and / or colouring of your choice – I used a couple of drops of Roberts Confectionery cherry flavour oil and several drops of red food colouring

For the cookie dough
(based on a recipe by Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)
These quantities make twice the amount of cookie dough needed for a batch of brownies. It keeps well in the fridge (if you let it - be warned, it's highly addictive!)
113 g /½ (US) cup butter
155 g / ¾ (US) cup (densely packed) dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
288 g / 2 (US) cups plain flour
400 g / 14 oz sweetened condensed milk (I used Nestle low-fat condensed milk, and 400 g equates to one whole can. Possibly minus a couple of sneaky teaspoons for the cook...)

For the brownies
(as evolved by the Sticky Penguin)
198 g / 7 oz / 1¾ sticks butter
118 g / just over 4 oz dark chocolate
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
163 g / 5¾ oz granulated sugar
70 g / 2½ oz dark brown sugar
75 g / 2.65 oz self raising flour (yep, I know these imperial conversions don't look pretty, sorry)
1½ tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder

What to do
To make the sprinkles
1. Line baking sheets with non-stick paper (or silicone mats, if you’re being fancy well-equipped). I used four baking trays and still had some mixture left over at the end, but was running out of places to put baking trays.
2. Sieve the icing sugar and stir through the salt. Whisk in the egg white until you have a smooth paste.
3. Add the colouring and flavouring and mix thoroughly to combine.
4. Spoon the icing into a piping bag fitted with a narrow tip (or, if you’re like me and have too many gadgets and an unsteady hand, one of those small concertina piping bottles makes the next step so much easier and stops me getting icing all over everything!).
5. Pipe long thin lines of icing the length or width of the baking pan, repeating until you have filled each pan or run out of icing and making sure the lines aren’t touching each other(I started out very cautiously piping the width of each tray, and as I got further along was able to pipe down the length of each tray with the lines further together – practice definitely seems to help with icing).
6. Allow the icing to dry out and harden over at least 24 hours (really).
7. Use a sharp knife to cut the icing into short pieces, and there you go... sprinkles!

To make the cookie dough
I like to make the cookie dough before starting on the brownies – it takes a bit longer this way (you could also make the dough during the half hour that the brownie batter is refrigerated), but it’s a little less frantic this way round and it makes the cookie dough a bit easier to handle if it has some time to rest before it’s used.
1. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes in a stand mixer), scraping down the sides of the bowl part-way through.
2. Add the vanilla and beat in thoroughly.
3. Keeping the mixer on low speed, add a few tablespoons of sieved flour. Follow this with a few tablespoons (or a glug or two from the can) of condensed milk. Continue alternating between flour and condensed milk until both have been fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth. 
4. Using a metal spoon or a spatula, stir in around 4 tablespoons of sprinkles and mix in thoroughly.
5. Leave the cookie dough to rest for around half an hour before using it so that it firms and is easier to handle. To make it even easier, refrigerate it for this period, or make it the day before when you make the sprinkles.

 To make the brownies
1. Line a 23 cm / 9 inch square baking tin with greaseproof paper (there’s no need to butter or spray the paper).
2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl rested on top of a saucepan of gently simmering water. Remove it from the heat just before the last pieces of butter are fully melted – the residual heat in the mixture will melt this, and it avoids it being overcooked. Allow to cool slightly (around 10 minutes is enough).
3. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and vanilla with a fork or small whisk and add the granulated sugar and the dark brown sugar. Mix well so that the sugars are evenly combined with each other and with the eggs and vanilla.
4. Gradually pour the eggs and sugar into the melted chocolate, whisking as you go (doing it this way round, rather than adding the chocolate to the eggs and sugar, seems to make it easier to scrape out the bowl and makes the washing up less messy!). Mix thoroughly.
5. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into the brownie batter and mix gently until combined and there are no floury streaks at the bottom of the bowl.
6. Pour about half the brownie batter into the prepared tin and refrigerate for half an hour, so that the mixture firms a little.
7. Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F.
8. Using your fingers, or a rolling pin dusted with icing sugar, flatten out the cookie dough to around 3 mm / ¼ inch thick. Arrange the dough evenly over the cooled brownie batter, making sure you go right to the edges of the tin and that all of the batter is covered.
9. Pour the remaining brownie batter over the cookie dough, making sure that it is completely covered. Spread out evenly with a butter knife or spatula (this also helps to get rid of air bubbles).
10. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges of the brownie are pulling away from the tin, the top has formed a thin crust, and the centre has just set if tested with a thin skewer.
11. Allow to cool completely in the tin before removing and cutting into pieces. I let mine cool overnight, and it helps them firm up considerably, so that they keep a lovely squishy consistency without descending into a gooey mess (which is what happens if you go near them when they're warm - which could actually be scrumptious if made in individual pans for a dessert...). I cut them into 20 pieces when using a tin this size.

The finished brownies had a distinct layer of cookie dough sandwiched between the fudgy chocolate brownie.  The pink sprinkles were less pronounced after baking than I would've liked, although still discernible. Interestingly, the cookie dough actually tones down the richness of the brownie a little - I'd expected it might have the opposite case and be painfully rich, so was happily surprised to discover that the Other Penguin had the capacity to eat more than one of these in one sitting!

When I make these again, I'd try using more of the sprinkles to make them more apparent in the finished brownie. I suspect that bought sprinkles (with all those additives they have) might well hold their shape more during baking - and would be a hit as an alternative to fairy bread at parties. Overall, though, I was satisfied with how they turned out, and it was fun to finally realise a recipe I'd been imagining for quite a while.

* And, because things always seem to happen at once, is also happening in real life about now, too. Eep! Squee! Bake something before I start to panic...


Macaron Mania

Friday, May 20, 2011

I still have never braved the ferocious challenges of macaron making (although there has been plenty of sampling to make sure I know what the finished product should resemble!). A couple of days ago, the Evil Smeg was finally attended to and received a new thermostat. While warned that it still runs 10-15°C hot, that's an enormous improvement on its previous pick-a-number-and-double-it dysfunction. So, perhaps macarons are gradually creeping a little closer.

Could a fabulous necklace be the way to distract myself from thinking of those tricky little confections a while longer?

Seafoam bauble necklace from Oliphant

Or is it really just a variation on a theme...?

Macaron photo by sfgirlbybay via the Paris Hotel Boutique Journal

And, once again, it all comes back to food...


Simple Things...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Some things can be so simple that you just take a deep breath of astonishment and wonder how on earth you never thought of them. And then you're just glad that they exist, wherever they came from...

Nutella fairy bread from Kidspot

I'm thinking of a slightly more grown-up version, with speculoos spread on slices of brioche and topped with dark chocolate hail. This needs to make the leap from delicious daydream to actual plate very soon!


What The Wild Things Eat

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Whether it’s the skill required to create the perfect disguise, or the surprise of discovering something quite different to what was first expected, I have a definite thing about food that looks like... other food. Because when you think of an ice cream cake, I suspect this isn’t the first thing that comes to mind (although it might be a much more practical choice than the real thing, given Sydney’s current chilly snap*)...

Ben & Jerry's ice cream cake by Hey Cookie
Ice cream cake from Hey Cookie

It’s not just food that pretends to be something else, though. Some penguins will cheerfully dance on tables, dye their hair feathers purple and dream of hooning down narrow cobbled streets on anything from a Vespa to an Aston Martin**. Other penguins find alternative ways to express their wild side...

Where The Wild Things Are Penguin from My Dear Darling
Where The Wild Things Are penguin from My Dear Darling

I’ve only just discovered the shop and blog of My Dear Darling, who make all sorts of distracting things – best of which are their customised penguins. Oh, how I long for a Sticky Penguin mascot wearing polka dots and brandishing a spatula!

And where are the wild things? The only possible natural habitat for a wild penguin could be the vast and gently swaying expanses of asparagus... in the form of one of Sweetapolita’s ever-more-extraordinary layer cakes...

Asparagus layer cake by Sweetapolita. I’ve shared one of these before, but this is the latest marvel, with eight layers (so there's even more wonderfully fluffy filling in every bite).

* Ooh – a chilli snap! It could be like a brandy snap with extra kick... Now, is that an idea worth pursuing...?
** Those penguins don’t just dress like James Bond, you know...


When It All Goes Pear-Shaped

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, baking is a thoroughly sticky business. It sticks to your fingers. It sticks to whisks, spatulas and wooden spoons alike (except when you flick them to try and remove it, and then it sticks to whatever it finds). It sticks, without careful application of baking paper, to cake tins (and occasionally, when the application of baking paper isn’t careful enough, it sticks to that as well). You get the sticky picture...

Not content with sticking to everything in its path, baking can also be very effective in sticking to itself. Carefully placed dollops of biscuit dough creep flatly across the tray, spreading into an amorphous mass. Huddled fluffy scones unite to be become the enormous beast that is The Mega Scone!
Much as it’s ultimately the taste that counts, removing a tray of conjoined cookies from the oven causes a pang of disappointment. It’s likely to be met with a sympathetic hug when offered round at home, hopefully followed by a surprised exclamation when it turns out to taste so much better than it looks. It’s not likely to draw a hungry horde if taken to work. And how on earth am I going to photograph it?
Don’t despair! Help is at hand with these brilliant plates that can make your baking hiccup look like you planned it all along...

Skyscraper plates by Maxime Ansiau, via Hovering Cat (although I bet they’re a nightmare to fit in the cupboard...)

But, if you don’t have the perfect plate to display your latest creation with pride, perhaps there’s another solution... Present it with a Picnic bar alongside, secure in the knowledge that it’ll look wonderful in comparison, and that delicious ugliness can be embraced as a rather unconventional distinction. 

At the risk of incurring the wrath of Matt Moran, is it better when these ugly ducklings of the baking world taste as questionable as they look and can be turfed unceremoniously onto the compost heap without mounting guilt at the very real problem of food wastage? Or that they’re a delicious mess to be treated not with disappointment but with tenderness and perseverance? What do you do with a recipe that doesn’t quite go according to plan?


Like Strawberries And Cream

Monday, May 16, 2011

Some things are just made for each other. And, along with the usual suspects - strawberries and cream, chocolate and penguins, fish fingers and custard - there are other pairings that might be less obvious, but that are equally indisputable once you see them.

When I first saw this delicate porcelain bowl adorned with a flurry of flowers, I imagined it upside down, as an alternative to a glass dome on a cake pedestal. It couldn't help but make you wonder about the possible astonishments concealed beneath - or it could be a handy way to dress up a rather more rustic offering!

Porcelain flower bowl by Emma Clegg
Flower petal bowl by Emma Clegg from Miratis

And then I found its sugary soulmate...

Domed two-tier cake with icing roses
Domed rose two-tier cake by I Am Baker

I'm not even sure where to begin with that cake. Despite all my previous protestations about the starchy formality of white cakes and the tooth-numbing richness of buckets of buttercream, I simply adore this cake. It's unusual but doesn't shout at you. It's classic but oozes originality. It's elegant but just invites you to indulge. It has a beautiful home-made charm but leaves you in no doubt that its perfect imperfection took some very serious work. If this cake was a person, I'd love to meet her...

It surely can't be sensible to start imagining what sort of person a cake would be. Have you ever wondered about your cake equivalent?


Real Men Eat Bacon

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I’m convinced there are far, far fewer differences between men and women than popular opinion* would have us believe. But, before I clamber atop a soap-box that I happen to have prepared earlier, let me steer this pondering in a slightly less controversial direction for today... towards food.
While most of the men I know (and, certainly, the one I’m married to) don’t rate recieving flowers terribly all that highly on the list of preferred ways to be spoiled, these ones might go over quite a bit better with the gents and the ladies...

Bacon roses from Instructables
Bacon roses from Instructables

Would a rose by any other name smell as... salty?

If you want to capture that just-eaten-a-rose feeling but don’t have a bouquet handy, this might be the answer...

J&Ds bacon lip balm
Bacon lip balm by J&D's (picture via Loft 965)

I’m a little divided on the lip balm, I must confess. To some, the very idea might be a bridge too far. But stashed in my handbag (in addition to a portmanteau and a medium-sized walrus**) are the following lip balms in the following flavours: Coca-Cola, chocolate (M&Ms, to be specific) and lemon-flavoured Skittles. Sweet tooth, much? While a slick of lip balm’s never going to triumph over a dollop of ganache, the availability of the former does seem to make it a little easier to resist over-indulgence in the latter. And yet, savoury lip balm just doesn’t seem quite right – I can’t shake the thought that it might just feel a little like the aftermath of a greasy fry-up for breakfast (perhaps that could make it a perfect hangover cure, though!). And it might be a not-entirely-welcome surprise for your significant other. Unless they’re the type to send you bacon...

P.S. It might be untoward to end without an honourable mention to Chocolatesuze, whose husband took over her blog to contemplate sending pizza on Valentine’s day instead of flowers. If you can’t have a bunch of irises, thin and crispy cheesy goodness might be an admirable alternative, I think!

* And by popular opinion, I might be focusing entirely too much on the tattle rags. 
** By all means laugh, but they’re very handy to hide behind in a crisis or a stiff breeze. And, if there isn’t a walrus in there, then what on earth is making it so damn heavy...?


A Cup Of Tea And A Small Morsel – Earl Grey Cookies

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I’m hungry! You think to yourself, at about half past three in the afternoon, when lunch is a fading memory but the time before the next meal stretches out into the distance like the thought of a heaped basket of ironing or the prospect of preparing your taxes. Or perhaps it’s in the morning, and you had an early start and have been rushing round scarcely pausing for breath since wolfing down some toast and a scalding cup of coffee. Or it’s a lazy weekend afternoon and your mind starts drifting from your book, your football game, your rabble of domestic chores that you're putting off by gazing out the window... 

Sticky Penguin's Earl Grey tea cookies
All photos on this post are by the Sticky Penguin, who is completely in love with her shiny new(ish) Emma Bridgewater mug which was definitely worth carting back from London

It could be almost any time, really – once that impudent little gremlin starts to poke a miniature fork in your innards in a most impolite manner, he can be very hard to ignore. And that’s where these cookies come in. They’re a couple of bites of pale golden gently crumbling faint sweetness that just satisfy the little gnawing hole inside, without being achingly sugary or leaving you guiltily licking buttery fingers. They can be enjoyed without any fancy accompaniments, although they’re perfect with a hot cup of tea. And they have a hint of something familiar but slightly unexpected that can keep you coming back for just one more as you try to pin down just what is that taste. The answer might already be in your cup – it’s Earl Grey tea.

These cookies were the first time I’d made a dough that is chilled before being sliced off into pieces and baked. I tend to think of recipes that need resting or cooling time part-way through as an unwarranted bother unless I’m in the mood to make something complicated. But these cookies have converted me – that half an hour they spend in the freezer gives just enough time to sit and relax, to get the washing up done and stick a load of washing on, or – far more likely – to get started on the next recipe for the day’s baking frenzy!

Theoretically, you can leave the raw dough wrapped up in the freezer until you need it (perhaps for some of those unexpected guests!), but while I love the idea of being so organised, it’d need a freezer bigger than the current overflowing chilly and creaking shoe-box. And it would feel entirely unfair to the Other Penguin to start making what have turned out to be his favourite home-made snack, only to thrust them, half-formed, into the freezer and deny him freshly baked cookies right then...

Sticky Penguin's Earl Grey tea cookies

Earl Grey cookies have already become a recurring fixture on the baking list in the penguin household, which is definitely saying something, given my frequent impatience at making the same thing twice when the list of possibilities grows ever longer.

If you’d like to enjoy a few small crunchy morsels for yourself, here’s how they’re made:

Earl Grey Tea Cookies (adapted from The Kitchn)
What you need*
1 cup / 125 g plain flour
¼ cup / 55 g granulated sugar
¼ cup / 31 g icing sugar
1 tbsp Earl Grey tea leaves (I used 3 bags of Twinings' Lady Grey)
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
1-3 tsp water
½ cup / 113 g butter (I've also tried this recipe using a low-fat butter blend, and that worked fine, too)

What you do
A quick preparation note: I’ve only ever made these cookies using a food processor. While that doesn’t worry me at all (it’s still such a novelty to have one!), if you don’t feel the same, or don’t have one, I suspect it can be done pretty easily with a wooden spoon and some elbow grease, as noted in the steps below. If you do go down that route, it's probably a good move to let the butter come to room temperature before getting started.

1. Place the flour, white sugar, icing sugar, tea leaves and salt in the bowl of a food processor (which means there's no need to sieve it - hooray!) and pulse in quick bursts until the tea is finely ground. If you're using good tea leaves and/or making the recipe by hand, I suspect this step can very easily be left out without being missed, and just stir the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
2. Add the vanilla and butter and pulse in quick bursts until it is just combined. Add water a little at a time until a dough is formed (the amount I've needed has varied a little each time I've made this recipe, so I've found it's best to add it last, and only use as much as is needed for the dough to move cleanly around in the bowl. If you're not using a food processor, some vigorous mixing and a little pressing and kneading should get the same result.
3. Turn the dough out onto a piece of non-stick baking paper or kitchen wrap. Divide the dough into two roughly equal pieces. Shape each piece roughly into a sausage shape around 3-4 cm in diameter (about as round as the circle made by joining your thumb and middle finger). You can have a thicker log, and larger cookies, but I've found these dimensions a good combination of easy to handle and just big enough for a couple of bites - they're not the sort of flavour that lends itself to a whopping great size like a chocolate chip cookie might. And, of course, when they're so small and cute, it's very easy to have more than one!
4. Wrap the sausage of cookie dough in the non-stick paper or kitchen wrap, and repeat the process with the remaining half of the dough. 
5. Place the wrapped sausages of dough in the freezer to firm up (or the fridge will do if you're not baking on a sticky Sydney afternoon) for around half an hour. Or, if you're organised and want to prepare things in advance, leave them in there for a few days or a couple of weeks until you want to enjoy some fresh cookies. That's if you can resist the lure of fresh cookie dough for long enough - not an option in the penguin household!
6. Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F and line two baking sheets with non-stick paper.
7. Remove the chilled dough from the freezer and, using a serrated knife, cut into slices of around ½ cm thick. The recipe makes around 24 cookies, depending on how round and how thick you've made them. And how much cookie dough you may have snaffled along the way.
8. Place the cookies on the baking sheets (re-shaping them a little if they're not quite circular and if that's important to you), and bake for around 10-12 minutes. When the cookies are done, they should be light golden brown around the edges (not a uniform golden brown all over, in which case they will probably be a little too crispy).
9. Allow the cookies to cool on the trays or on a wire rack. If kept in a cool place (or in the fridge, if you happen to inhabit a badly insulated apartment), the cookies will keep well for at least 5 days. If you let them... 

Sticky Penguin's Earl Grey tea cookies

I'm hungry! you think to yourself... and that's quite ok, because now you have Earl Grey cookies to nibble while you take a break and curl around your cup of tea...

* Cup measurements refer to US cups, which aren't the same size as Australian (and other) ones - this is why the alternative weights are also shown.


Muddled In The Middle - Keeping Track Of Recipes

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It used to be so easy. Most of the recipes that were made regularly were ones you just knew, that probably weren't written down anywhere, unless it was by hand. And most of the others came from two or three cookbooks that led a quiet existence in a murky corner of the kitchen. And now...

Now, there is a cupboard of cookbooks positively bursting at the seams and considering a bid for freedom (from where total domination of the apartment may swiftly follow), a clutter of pages cut from magazines and newspapers and, most unruly of all, list upon list and link upon link of online recipes which I swear seems to multiply when I'm not looking (and most certainly grows even faster as soon as I pay it any attention).

Karl Lagerfeld's library by The Selby
So, it's a bit of an exaggeration. But it gives you the gist. Amazing library (it's Karl Lagerfeld's) photographed by The Selby

And, when you want to cook something, where do you even start to look for a likely option? Or, more often, how do you try to pin down that elusive recipe you were certain you'd seen, but weren't sure where. Which, after digging through half a dozen books turns up in an old Donna Hay magazine. Or which, after a solid half hour of hunting through bookmarks, browser histories, Instapaper folders and badly tagged Google Reader feeds, dangles just out of reach, taunting you with delicious promise and the prospect of using up three-quarters of a cup of buttermilk, half a packet of dark chocolate or some stray almonds. Until, defeated, you look for an alternative and end up bookmarking another half a dozen must-try recipes. It's like trying to cut the head off a hydra...

The latest attempt to bring order to the chaos is this one - which makes a bit of sense, given the "I think, therefore I cook" mindset that so often prevails. But, useful as the Thinkery is turning out to be, it just doesn't have the glamourous minimalism of a luxurious notebook like this...

'Have your cake and eat it' leather notebook from Smythson

Are you being overrun by an avalanche of recipes? I'd love to hear how you stay on top of the towering heap!


If I'd Known You Were Coming, I'd Have Baked A Cake

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Do you have a jumpy Gah! They're HERE?! moment when visitors arrive? Whether they're genuinely unexpected, planned-but-semi-absent-mindedly-half-distracted-from-preparing-for, parents (in which case you can start getting sorted out a full two weeks in advance and still feel utterly caught on the hop), or just organised people running anything earlier than the fashionable 15 minutes late (in which case, please give lessons in how you manage it), I always seem to feel like I fell into a time warp and lost a seemingly-critical hour along the way. I suspect the only seemingly-critical thing is potentially the hostess - of herself...

Fiona Cairns Victoria sponge cake
Fiona Cairns Victoria sponge cake; picture by Jason Lowe via The Independent - this was a recent highly successful but sadly un-photographed expansion of the baking repertoire. Although mine replaced a whipped cream filling with a lemon and cream cheese frosting, as well as the traditional jammy middle. There will be a reprise (with camera) as soon as a halfway decent excuse (or, failing that, a little more time) presents itself...

Much as the thought of being Martha Stewart-esque kitchen queen who throws together an exquisitely measured shindig without a hair or a dribble of gravy out of place, there's the resounding feeling that it's so much more welcoming, fun and sanity-preserving to be a domestic goddess Nigella-style. To be found in your natural habitat with unruly hair, wafts of promise escaping from a clutter of saucepans and licking the wooden spoon. And to smile, secure in the knowledge that the important bits will all somehow come together once the important people have done the same.

P.S. The title of this post might belie (and oh, how that word looks wrong however I attempt to spell it...) the likely eventuality that I will have baked a cake (or, even more probably, brownies) regardless of even the unlikeliest of visitors or any vaguely tenuous justification.

P.P.S. And for anybody who knows me in real life, this post isn't intended in the slightest as a deterrent from bringing yourselves round, or as a plea to arrive four hours late so I can finish running, chicken-like, about (as that may lead to Gah! They're not coming! and subsequent arrival being met with a pjyama clad appearance). It's just a small musing on the peccadilloes of penguins...


Yee Ha!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wow, it's been quite a while! There's been a little more going on in the penguin corner of the world that was quite expected*. Rather than try to cram an explanation of the goings-on into the unwieldy vessel of an ill-chosen analogy (for once), this cake sums it up much more effectively...

Rollercoaster cake from Hey Cookie
Rollercoaster cake from Hey Cookie (and the Mazel Tov Will isn't an obscure part of the analogy, by the way)

Except that, if a specific rollercoaster were to be chosen as representative of the past few weeks, it'd be Space Mountain, where you're strapped in and hurtle through the dark with no idea what's coming next and when it's ending. And then you get to the end and line up, on unsteady feet, to go again!**

Hopefully, normal programming is about to resume. With recipes. And pictures. And something resembing an occasional articulate thought. And a sticky penguin keeling over from shock... But you never know what's around the next bend...

* Which is a right pain - planned madness allows for scheduled blog posts, whereas unplanned madness results in radio silence or, potentially, actual madness if attempting to be in ten places at once. What was it about needing minions? Butler! Fetch me my minions!

** Also much like Space Mountain, I suspect it'll seem a whole lot tamer with the benefit of a bit of time and the benefit of hindsight...


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