Nature Study

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sugar flowers on cakes can be spectacular, and even so realistic that you'd have to poke them to know they're more than a garnish. But they're not exactly an endangered species. The modern but classic style of botanical prints seem to be having a bit of a resurgence in interior design - is it going to filter through to sweet creations as well?

It could be an interesting trend, if the intricate details in this pairing are anything to go by...

Painted botanical cake from The Frosted Butterfly

Antik Batik silk kaftan from Net A Porter
Cake from The Frosted Butterfly and Antik Batik Hava Djellabah printed silk kaftan from Net A Porter

And it gives me an excuse to share the picture that got me hitched to the botanical bandwagon - I just love this chair from Black & Spiro...

Multi-coloured botanical print chair from Black & Spiro
Chair from Anna Spiro at Absolutely Beautiful Things


I’m Talking To You, Pumpkin*

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I cannot, in a lifetime of porcupines, imagine having triplets. Having more offspring than hands sounds like certain trouble. However, if I did have triplets... it occurred to me that they could be named Cameron, Robert and Bree**.

Camembert. And brie. Oh dear.

With so many sets of twins and triplets having matching or alliterative names, would it really be so bad to name my children after cheeses***? Would anybody spot it? Would they ever forgive me? Well, I like them as names by themselves, and if any child of mine could fail to love cheese, well, they’d have to be returned post haste to the cabbage patch (which might be more to their liking, if cheese isn’t their thing...).

Babybel cheese faces from Cute Food For Kids
Babybel cheeses from Cute Food For Kids via Tastespotting

There are probably pretty limited options for food-inspired names without venturing entirely the wrong side of Schapelle****. Although, it’s interesting that so many (so-called) terms of endearment are foods (pumpkin, honey, muffin, sugar...) and so few actual names. Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter might be the obvious example – although at least the food is healthy! I’m sure there must also be little girls out there named Cupcake. But going hunting for other possibilities is a source of enormous amusement.

I wonder if there is a child out there, somewhere, named Cassoulet...?

Grilled camembert from Asado Argentina
Grilled camembert picture from Asado Argentina on Flickr (with more details available from here)

* It’s just far enough past Christmas (and Thanksgiving, for Americans and / or readers of food blogs, suffering from a recent plague of pumpkins) to contemplate them in even a non-edible way...
** This is when it also occurs to me to wonder whether it is actually possible to have triplets who are aren’t all one gender.
*** Important clarification: Naming babies after cheeses is an entirely different kettle of fish to baby cheeses, a la Kath & Kim. Just in case there was any confusion...
**** I came across this reference in an article I read a while ago about a couple naming their baby, which talked about the line between originality and... for want of a better word, scariness. And can I track down where I found that article? Can I, hell!


Having Your Cake And Chasing It Too

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Exercise should be fun, at least some of the time. It’s unlikely to be quite anywhere as fun as a boisterous evening trying out a new restaurant with a crowd of friends. It’s also unlikely to compare to curling up on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate and a glossy new magazine. If it’s an abject misery, then perhaps you just haven’t found the right sort yet*.

And it makes it (even) easier to thoroughly enjoy all sorts of coronary-inducing deliciousness**

Hazelnut-crusted fried brie from The Family Kitchen
Hazelnut-crusted fried brie from The Family Kitchen via Tastespotting

But exercise and food tend to be uneasy tablemates (at least at the same time). If you’re eating while you’re working out, it distracts you from both activities so that neither gets the attention it deserves. And you end up, more often than not, with a jumped-about feeling, which is not good at all.

So, much as I thought it was unquestionably cute, I have a few reservations about this...

Pink cupcake bicycle bell from Adeline Adeline
Cupcake bell ... for the bike ride home to your gingerbread house! From Adeline Adeline via Simplesong

In case it’s not immediately apparent (because it’s doing a very effective job of pretending to be a cupcake), that’s actually a bicycle bell. It looks so distractingly tasty that it could pose a risk of sending you careening into ditches and into rubbish bins and little old ladies. It would just sit there, making you feel hungry. And reminding you that exercise just isn’t as much fun as food. Until you tried to take a great big chomp and ended up with a mouthful of metal...

I think any cupcakes during exercise need to be dangled consistently out of reach (a bit like the fake rabbit at a greyhound track). The carrot cake is definitely a better motivator than the stick!

Carrot-shaped cake from beccadilley on Flickr - by Sweets Bake Shop
Now that really is a carrot cake - from beccadilley on Flickr (the cake is originally from Sweets Bakeshop)

I now have a song stuck playing on continuous repeat in my head... Queen's Fat Bottomed Girls! Can't imagine why...

* A rationale that I was highly suspicious of until finding the right sort. And it definitely wasn’t the treadmill (shudder).
** Without either the assorted less pleasant physical effects of unchecked overindulgence or (if you’re that way inclined) any lurking guilt.


A Colourful Life

Friday, January 28, 2011

Excess energy, an overactive imagination and an inner colour contrast turned up to 11...

This description* of Florence Welch (of Florence And The Machine) felt a little close to home. Maybe I've been spending too long huddled in front of the computer poking around with saturation levels, contrasts and mixed success. A continuum of quirky, vibrant idiosyncracy feels so much more real than there being a yawning chasm between creative eccentricity and sensible normalcy. Shades of celadon, scarlet, ultramarine and lemon paint a corner for the frivolous-minded who fall in the middle.

But perhaps it would be fun to abandon the sophistication of neutrals and the safe eternity of black, and live in technicolour...

Live in colour photo
Photo from Conversation Pieces

Pantone cookies by Kim Creative Star
Cookies from Kim Creative Star

Easton Pearson printed multi-coloured maxi dress
Dress from Easton Pearson via Net-A-Porter

Stripy and bright kitchen
Interior via Ada & Darcy and Vintage Home

Anything else is just like shades of grey after those!

* by Sylvia Patterson in Bohemian Rhapsody, published in Sunday Life magazine on 23 January 2011.


Perfect Pairings

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Going together like... penguins and typography, perhaps?!

Spaghetti & Meatballs ampersand print
Ampersand typography illustrations from Behance

I love some of these – especially the spaghetti and meatballs – but a few of the others look a bit too... oozy for me. Although perhaps that’s part of enjoying the eating!

Bruger & Fries ampersand print

Pizza & Beer ampersand print
That's more like it...

Wine & Cheese typography print
More ampersand typography illustrations from Behance

Perhaps the pasta-loving penguins would be better off with one of these... because it's always good to finish a meal with something sweet!

Spaghetti and meatballs cake pops from Busy Mommy
Meatball cake pops from Busy Mommy


Keeping Cool On Australia Day

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Australia day holiday isn’t really long enough to get away terribly far unless it bookends neatly with the weekend*. Much as I wish it was longer, there’s something fun about a mid-week day off. So many options for small pootles – wandering to a beach or a park, maybe having a gelato, catching up with friends and maybe ending with a batch of baking, or just a snooze in a shady spot with a good book. Lovely!

But if I had longer (and bottomless pockets), Antarctica would be one of my dream destinations. And in the middle of a Sydney summer**, it’s even more appealing. So this cake seemed like a perfect fit for today, with its holidaying penguins...

Penguins On Holiday cake from Threadcakes
Penguins on holiday cake from Threadcakes

The sheer scale of the cake (or cakes, as each penguin is a separate cake, not just the polar bear) is quite astonishing. A total of 17 individual cakes*** assembled with 8 batches of buttercream, hand carved, and with the ingenious addition of rice krispy treats (now there’s something to do with them) to form the smallest penguin and some of the other details.

A bit like an iceberg, it’s what you don’t see that really (polar) bears some thinking about...

Happy Australia Day – hope you find a fun (and tasty) way to keep cool!

* Surely the spirit of patriotism would dictate that a three-day weekend is, if not quintessentially Australian (after all, plenty of other places get three-day weekends as well!), at least a very good idea, and a surivival target after the post-Christmas flatness (when you wonder when you might next get a rest).
** Even if the usual public holiday murk-or-bucketing applies...
*** And I love that they made almost every single component from scratch and not just out of packets - so amazing!


Cake Pops Made Simple?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A rustic baker only has to look at a bowl of icing and they turn all to fingers and thumbs. Spatulas become leaden and unwieldy. Ganache (or buttercream, or glace icing - it's not picky) gets instantly runnier. Smears and daubs of icing get everywhere... except in the desired spots on the cake. Which means I'm all the more in awe of cake pops...

Bakerella cupcake cake pops
Bakerella bee cake pops
Bakerella sheep cake pops
Bakerella Sesame Street cake pops
Bakerella ice cream cone cake pops
All of the above are by Bakerella (the last word in cake pops!)

All the fidgeting of cake decorating - but small. I might as well try to write my name on a grain of rice with a kitchen marker.

Perhaps this is more my level - a cake popsicle pan...

Cake-sicle baking tray
Cake-sicle pan from Norpro via Incredible Things

I like the idea of making these and then dipping them into ganache tinted in fruity gelato shades. Perhaps that rustic messiness would given them an appealingly drippy quality?


Tastier Than The Sum Of Its Parts? When Aussie Baking Icons Collide...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Coco Chanel would not approve of these biscuits. Not one little bit. They fly in the face of her minimalist elegance and advice to always take one thing off before you leave the house. They are too, too much and proud of it. They are Versace, Pucci and Lacroix rolled into one. They combine a Tim Tam with a lamington, for heaven’s sake!

Can you combine two chocolaty legends of the Australian kitchen and scale new culinary heights? Should you even try – such matters are surely not to be trifled with lightly. Tinkering with a Tim Tam is a risk many have taken (well, that Arnotts has taken numerous times) and that rarely succeeds. Attempts to improve on perfection*, while possibly good for sales, can upset a delicate balance. Dark chocolate is one thing (and a very good thing indeed), but strawberry? A raised eyebrow and dismissive shrug don’t begin to cover it.

But I thought they might look pretty, and after the tasty-but-aesthetically-challenged lamington brownies, that was appealing. Although it was the fun of experimenting with so much excess (in the name of national holidays, of course) that was the real motivation, as part of Delicious Delicious Delicious's 2011 lamington reinvention. So, in the spirit of noble failure, I set off to make… The TimTamington.

Challenge #1 – Can we build it? (Yes, we can!)
So many tough decisions... regular Tim Tams or giant ones? Flavoured ones or the original recipe? Sandwiched with jam and cream, or with jam alone? Topped with ganache – no question – but how to make the ganache stand out amidst all that chocolate? What to do about the coconut, which just might seem like a passing afterthought?

I decided the key things about a Tim Tam (especially as distinct to a square of sponge cake) was its glossy crunchy chocolatyness, and that any attempts to turn it into something else should try to preserve these features.

Introducing the TimTamington...

6 Tim Tams (the original flavour and size)
3 tbsp jam (I used the strawberry and blueberry jam I’d made for the more legitimate lamington reinvention)
50 g white chocolate
25 g cream
2 tbsp chocolate hail

1. Heat the cream until it just boils, then remove from the heat and pour over the white chocolate, stirring madly until it melts and combines into a smooth, shiny mixture. Set aside to cool – if making in summer, sticking it in the freezer for half an hour is a good idea. (I actually made twice this amount, as I was wary of scaling the quantities down too much and having the ganache misbehave… that was my excuse, anyway!).
2. Poke several small holes part-way into one Tim Tam with a thin skewer or similar implement**. Spread the Tim Tam with a tablespoon of jam (thick jam works best – if using a runnier jam, drain off some of the syrup).
3. Spread the white chocolate ganache on the un-jammy Tim Tam and sprinkle immediately with chocolate hail (before the ganache has a chance to set).
4. Carefully place the ganached Tim Tam on the jammy Tim Tam and bask in the glow of your creation!

Even making something this simple seems to use an awful lot of stuff...

Challenge #2 – The tasting
They did indeed look prettier than the lamington brownies, but were just no match in terms of taste… the Other Penguin declared that there was just too much going on, and that really said it all. In the brownies, the jammy middles (especially with ricotta), blended just enough with the surrounding mixture to merge gently from one flavour and texture to another, and the ganache added a darkly indulgent stickiness it might otherwise have, if not lacked, then had a little less of.

In the TimTamingtons, the biscuit remains a separate element, and the jam huddles in between looking charming but uncomfortable. The traditional milk chocolate Tim Tam is sugary enough that more isn’t better (hence why the Tim Tam slurp / slam*** is so effective – it tones this down and changes the texture).

The ganache topping fares more successfully in merging with the Tim Tam, but is rather more-of-the-same, rather than introducing something new.

How many layers does it take to make a TimTamington? Lots!

So if I accepted that tinkering with a Tim Tam is tricky, and wanted to do something a bit different with them again, I’d try these two options:
- Keeping them one layer (two is definitely too much of a good thing!), and icing them with a coloured, or maybe flavoured, ganache. Coffee or raspberry spring to mind as options.
- Using them as the pre-bought biscuit / cake element in another dish, so that by changing their texture they can integrate better with other ingredients.

* And by perfection, I mean the best possible mass-produced chocolate biscuit – where sugary and sticky things are concerned, there are numerous categories and manifestations of perfection. While I love a Tim Tam, I’d cheerfully given them up forever for a lifetime supply of Pierre Herme salted caramel macarons!
** I’d thought this might enable
*** One of the (many) good things about a Tim Tam is the squishy wonderment that comes from slurping your hot beverage of choice through one, after nibbling off opposite corners, then gobbling the chocolaty remains before they collapse into the cup.


Through A Glass Jar, Not So Darkly

Sunday, January 23, 2011

All those rows and shelves of jewel-coloured jams, preserves, sauces and mysterious-but-oh-so-enticing condiments are one of the things I love about providores and gourmet grocers*. They shine with sugary promise, and have the same I’ll-take-one-in-every-colour allure as crisp stacks of Kookai t-shirts and Sambag ballet flats.

The glistening richness of the essence of the fruits distilled into a glass jar makes you want to hold it up to the light as if you’ll still be able to capture an outline of the plump forms that went into it, or see tiny worlds spinning inside. It can be almost a little hypnotic when stirring pans of home-made jam or syrup (which is when you stop paying attention and end up with a sticky mess).

The Marmeled jelly lamp gives out the same luminous glow...

Marmeled jelly lamps
Marmeled lamp from Semiki Studio via Design Fetish

It’s refreshing to see food-inspired design that isn’t either too cute for words (all those cupcakes!) or better suited to a children’s room than a modern apartment. The red one’s my favourite (although the online shop doesn’t seem to have it, only a pink equivalent), with orange a very close second.

Orange Marmeled jelly lamp
Picture from

I think they’d be a great addition to warm up a murky corner at home. Or perhaps a row of them on a shelf in the kitchen – they’d also avoid that slightly abandoned look that kitchens sometimes take on once the lights are turned out.

* For some funny reason, jars of mass-produced stuff under fluorescent lighting in gigantic supermarkets just don’t have the same effect... can’t imagine why!


What Do Celebrities Eat On Holiday?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Even the most famous faces in the world sometimes want to get away from it all. Away from the noise and the cameras and the endless people looking at them and wondering if they’ll be as amazing in person as they expected (and disappointed when the answer is almost inevitably a resounding no). However glamorous it might be, sometimes they just long for some peace and quiet. And an ice cream...

Mona Lisa with an ice cream
Mona Lisa with an ice cream via Fred & Friends

Maybe they’re not so very different to the rest of us!*

* But we knew that already, really...


It’s All About The Filling

Friday, January 21, 2011

When you were young, did you ever wonder what was inside the TV?* If the people you could see really lived in there, and what they did when you changed the channel or (heaven forbid!) turned it off... **

TVs are actually very like onions (well, they’re both ubiquitous and can sometimes reduce you to tears). When you peel an onion, there’s just another layer of onion underneath. And inside a TV... there’s just more TV...

TV test pattern cake with escaping filling from Threadcakes
Test pattern TV cake from Threadcakes

* If you’re so young that TVs have always been too flat to fit anything inside, then I really don’t want to hear about it...
** A long departed predecessor to the trifle-eating cat certainly once did, and was fascinated by ads with food sliding into view.


Coconut Shy - What Happens When You Cross A Brownie With A Lamington?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Brownies, Brownies, Brownies! Oi, Oi, Oi!

Is it un-Australian not to love a lamington? Is it, in fact, un-Australian to use terms like un-Australian anyway?* There are probably quite enough contenders of all shapes, sizes, origins and flavours to contest the title of the national dish, and maybe even the national baked good or dessert.

Lamington Brownies by the Sticky Penguin

But perhaps there's a vague sense of patriotic duty about reinventing a lamington to try to take it beyond the often-encountered dry-chewy-sticky-clagginess that might need a cold shandy to wash it down. There are better incarnations out there - fluffy cubes of cake with just the right amount of dark chocolate coating and jammy interior to be neither too plain nor too overwhelming. There might be room for tall poppies in the bakery (especially with the current macaron mania), but not for the likes of the humble lamington.

A few months ago, the idea of crossing a brownie with a lamington and what the resultant offspring might taste like skittered across my mind on a quiet evening. And the thought sat there quietly minding its own business, while other brownies were invented and eaten. Then I came across the Delicious Delicious Delicious Reinventing the Lamington 2011, and my lamington mojo returned!

Lamington Brownies by the Sticky Penguin

The lamington experimentation also provided the perfect opportunity to try out my shiny new brownie tray with dividers - a Christmas present from the Other Penguin...

Divided brownie pan

My experiments involved three variations on a theme:
- Brownies with jam baked in the middle
- Brownies with a mix of jam and sweetened ricotta baked in the middle
- Double-decker brownies sandwiched together with jam after being baked
All of the brownies were iced with dark chocolate ganache and sprinkled with coconut - some elements of a lamington were not going to be trifled with!

The verdict was that the sandwiched brownies looked the prettiest, with the filling visible between the two layers - and perhaps most closely resembled a typical lamington. On taste, though (and, especially for a rustic baker like a sticky penguin, it's always going to be about whether it tastes good rather than whether I can get it to look pretty), it was edged out by the other two. The jammy brownies were rich, fruity and very sticky, while the ricotta and jam brownies had a slightly brighter and perkier taste which contrasted with the chocolaty flavour. The jam and ricotta also formed a lilac-tinged layer through the centre which was quite pretty, although there's definitely more practice needed on the presentation front**. Dessicated coconut travels far and wide across the kitchen in inexperienced hands!

Lamington Brownies by the Sticky Penguin

If you'd like to try Sticky Penguin's Brownie Lamingtons for yourself, here's how they're made...

What's in them
Brownie mixture
(the amounts below are for half a normal-sized batch, and made six large brownies)
100 g butter
85 g dark chocolate
60 g caster sugar
30 g soft brown sugar
1½ large eggs (this equates to 75 g of egg, without shells - oh, the bother of halving recipes!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
40 g self-raising flour
10 g cocoa powder
Around ½ to ¾ cup of jam of your choice - I used raspberry and blueberry jam which I'd made the day before - the recipe will go up in a future post
For the jam and ricotta lamington brownies, you will also need 1/3 cup ricotta
200 g dark chocolate
125 ml ( ½ cup) cream
Dessicated coconut for sprinkling

What to do
To make the brownie mixture
1. Line a cake tin with non-stick baking paper (I used 8 sections of a 12-section divided brownie pan - a good alternative would be a loaf pan. If you're making the double-decker brownies, a 9 inch square cake tin will be fine, as the brownies should be half-height to allow for being stacked. Or do them in a loaf tin and have sky-high lamington brownies if you prefer!).
2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a mixing bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
3. Lightly whisk the egg-and-a-half and combine with the caster sugar, soft brown sugar and vanilla extract in another mixing bowl.
4. Add the sugar and egg mixture to the melted chocolate mixture stirring all the time (you don't need to wait for the chocolate mixture to cool down, but whisk as you add it to avoid the eggs cooking). Be careful not to over-mix.
5. Sieve in the flour and cocoa powder and stir until just combined.
6. Preheat oven to 160˚C.
For the jammy lamington brownies
7(a). Put half the brownie mixture into the prepared tin*** and refrigerate for half an hour. Spoon jam evenly over the chilled brownie mixture, going right to the edges. Pour the remaining half of the brownie batter on top, ensuring that all the jam is covered. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the sides of the brownie are just coming away from the pan. The top will have crackled quite a bit, and it may still look a little squishy in the centre - this is a very fudgy, gooey brownie.
For the jam and ricotta lamington brownies
7(b). Put half the brownie mixture into the prepared tin and refrigerate for half an hour. Mix the jam and ricotta until combined and spoon evenly over the chilled brownie brownie mixture, going right to the edges. Pour the remaining half of the brownie batter on top, ensuring that all the jam and ricotta mixture is covered. Bake for 25-35 minutes (as noted for the jammy brownies).
For the double-decker lamington brownies
7(c). Put the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes (for half-height brownies) or 25-35 minutes (for full height brownies). This mixture doesn't need to be put in the fridge - this step is to help firm up the base layer so that fillings baked inside don't sink to the bottom.
To make the ganache
8. Break the chocolate into pieces and put in a mixing bowl.
9. Heat the cream in a medium-sized saucepan. As soon as the cream reaches the boil, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate, stirring until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Put the ganache aside in a cool place (or the fridge if making these in an Australian summer) until the brownies are baked and cooled.
Note: You could probably get by quite comfortably with half this amount of ganache - I'm a little wary of making ganache in small batches in case it misbehaves, so went with the more equals better approach (which leaves extra ganache either for snaffles or for another project - it will keep for several days in the fridge).
After baking
10. Allow the brownies to cool completely in the tin before removing and placing on a flat surface.
11(a). For the jam and the jam and ricotta lamington brownies, spread the brownies with the ganache and sprinkle with dessicated coconut. Allow to set before cutting into squares.
11(b). For the double-decker lamington brownies, cut the brownies evenly into pieces. Spread half the pieces with jam, and stack another brownie on top. Spread the tops of the stacked brownies with ganache and sprinkle with dessicated coconut. Whether it's less messy doing this assembly process in a slightly different order (cut, ice, stack versus cut, stack, ice) is something I'll experiment with when doing these a second time...

Lamington Brownies by the Sticky Penguin

* And to ask annoying semi-rhetorical questions and use double negatives at the start of a post...?
** This was my first time making lamingtons of any kind (I've not tried to make the traditional variety yet), as well as my first time having a go at an online baking round-up.
*** This is a fidget if using a divided pan and trying to get equal-sized brownies, and a very quick exercise with a normal baking tin. But in a divided pan, you can try making three different types of brownies at the same time.


Whichever Way You Cut It

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Would Shakespeare in the kitchen make you bored? Or board?

Some objects seem so utilitarian and unremarkable that, although there are occasional attempts to improve their efficiency*, most of us never think about how they could be made more beautiful. Or even just a little less unremarkable. They come to resemble inanimate maths teachers – all substance and not enough style**. Chopping boards would certainly be on that list of objects (although they’re so unremarkable that they might inadvertently be forgotten, except when they clatter over in the kitchen cupboard and make us jump***).

And then I found this...

Romeo & Julienne chopping board from Atypyk Paris
Romeo and Julienne chopping board from Atypyk Paris via Design Fetish

I think it looks wonderful – simple, natural, not overcomplicated... and most importantly, with a sense of humour****. But. But...*****

It makes it take up more space. Which a commodity that’s likely to be at a significant premium in most kitchens. And, even when you scrub or wip your chopping board with the greatest of vigilance, it tends to still be a little damp, or to carry a faint scent of ingredients past (especially the wooden ones). Do you really want that cosying up beside your beloved collection of recipe books?

If it could be used to store other chopping-related accoutrements inside (blades for food processors and small zesters and other bits that never find a comfortable home), I’d be one step closer to convinced. But it would still need to be easy to clean, and not have to be emptied out after every onion was diced.

So, would you rather that your kitchen gear be utilitarian and unremarkable, or have a bit more character (with its attendant flaws)?

* In the kitchen, these redesigns can have a nasty habit of leading to the item doing one thing really well, and if you want to do any of the other things it used to do just adequately, you have to have a whole pile of other uni-purpose stuff cluttering up the kitchen.
** In the unlikely event of any incredibly stylish maths teachers reading this, you should be so used to challenging the stereotype that you aren’t offended. I had been going to say accountants, but that’s just a whole pile of penguins in suitcases that I’m not even going to go near...
*** Or is that just me? Baggage about accountancy and jumping at kitchen equipment... my, we are antsy today!
**** Never mind women supposedly making lists of what we look for in a partner – some of us even have criteria for our apparently highly anthropomorphic kitchen tools. Picky, much?
***** Because whenever there’s a list, there’s always a But.


Bubbling Over With Kitchen Experiments

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heston Blumenthal’s used one to make “champagne” – with suprisingly effective results (apparently in the kitchen it is possible to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear – or at least to crumb and deep fry one to crunchy and golden effect). But did you know that the penguins were getting busy with the fizzy first?

Penguin Sodastream
Sodastream Penguin via Seltzer Bottle Info

I’d love it if it was possible to have a drink that was slushy and fizzy... unfortunately you have to give up one to get the other, it seems (well, you do in the sort of chemistry I remember). Unless you get the slush and the fizz from different places, but much as it can be delicious to put sorbet into sparkling wine and so on, there’s a two-partedness to it that just isn’t quite what I have in mind.

Chin-Chin Laboratorists
Chin-Chin Laboratorists via The Urban Grocer

Although thinking about combining different fizzy elements brings up the possibility for a savoury version of an ice cream float (or a spider, depending on where you come from). Some sort of sparkling soup or stock, with a sorbet that dissolves into it and adds another flavour. The initial thought was of the fizziness being chilled, but perhaps it could also work with a hot liquid (to dissolve the sorbet more rapidly, and create a contrast). I suspect either that Heston’s been there and done that already, too. Or that it would just make an interdeterminate gloopy and entirely unconvincing mess. Perhaps both*.

Somthing to think about for any molecular gastronomists, maybe...

* Because Heston definitely offers proof that the initial baking fail can be a necessary stop on the route to culinary impossibility and seven impossible things for breakfast. Or perhaps he knows the answer all along, and just likes getting a Mythbusters element into the kitchen...


First, Take A Very Big Pot

Monday, January 17, 2011

Here’s a recipe book that takes difficult-to-obtain recipes to new and exciting heights... Dinosaur Soup. Maybe it’s like making mock turtle soup, and there’s a recipe for what you can use when you can’t get a genuine dinosaur. Because I suspect not even G. Detou has a range of dinosaur steaks stashed away out the back where the really exclusive stock is kept.

Dinosaur Soup recipe book
Dinosaur Soup available from Bob's Your Uncle

It turns out Dinosaur Soup is a collection of recipes written by children – and not the prodigious cheflings of Junior Masterchef. And that sounds way more fun than considering how you’d really cook a dinosaur if you caught one. After all, if a batch of soup gets a bit boring after eating it for a couple of days, imagine how sick of brontosaurus broth you’d be by the end of the pot. Or the enormous freezer you’d need...

Strawberry Pie recipe from Dinosaur Soup
The sort of entertainment to be found in Dinosaur Soup (via Shelterrific)


Everything Is Always About Cheese*

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sometimes I wonder if I just don’t pay enough attention (because who pays attention to the radio, really?). And sometimes I’m sure that however hard I concentrate, I’d still be convinced I’d heard what I thought I heard (shades of Tweety Bird here – I taut I taw a puddy tat!).

Tweety Bird cake from Fantasticakes
Tweety Bird cake from Fantasticakes on Flickr - the detail is just brilliant!

Mondegreens can occur at the slightest provocation (in this case in a taxi with a pile of Christmas shopping – perhaps all those bags blocked my ears?). A song came on the radio, and I was certain, almost positive, even, that the lyrics related to cheese sticks. And, much as I never have food very far from mind, I didn’t think that was terribly plausible. Or that I was hungry enough to be imagining it.

The joys of the interwebs led me, via the ARIA chart, to this:

Like A G6 by Far East Movement

Which leads to the other source of mondegreens – your mind inserting random possible lyrics because the actual words are stuff it hasn’t heard of. Which makes me feel pretty ancient. Or at least like I don’t run round drinking until I fall over anymore (see ‘pretty ancient’, just before)**.

Perhaps I should just have a cup of tea, a cheese stick and a nice lie down...

Cheese sticks from Mein Kleiner Kuriositatenladen
Cheese sticks from Mein Kleiner Kuriositatenladen

* Even if you don’t think it is. Even if you don’t understand how or why. Everything. And the Pioneer Woman's panko cheese sticks in particular...
** {insert ‘granny voice’} I remember back in my day, songs had some real romance to them. None of this going about getting tipsy business. We used to listen to proper music like {insert artists of choice, such as James Brown, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, etc, etc}


Of Bravery And Elderberries

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Badgers, rumour has it, eat elderberries. Well, according to the Stoat Appreciation Society* they do. Quite why they specifically prefer elderberries is something that may not be entirely understood, and certainly shouldn’t be questioned. Elderberries, even before this, have provided a disproportionate level of entertainment to the trifle-eating cat’s family, given their reference in Monty Python and the Holy Grail...

“Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled of elderberries”

My Mother Was A Lion Tamer - print
My mother was a lion tamer print from Paul of Navarone on Etsy

A considerable amount of time was spent, and unsuppressed laughter emitted, a couple of Christmases ago, when at least half of this phrase was forgotten and attempts made to remember it resulted in the invention of a foolish number of even-more-foolish alternatives.

There is a risk, if your father smells of elderberries, that he may fall prey to a ravenous badger. Accordingly, here are a selection of recipe alternatives to satisfy a hungry badger and preserve your pop...

Chocolate layer cake with elderberries from hedonistin
Chocolate layer cake with elderberries from Hedonistin

Elderberry jelly from Simply Recipes
Elderberry jelly from Simply Recipes

Elderberry ice cream from She Eats Bears
Elderberry ice cream from She Eats Bears (but what do the bears eat, I wonder? Very well, if the blog's anything to go by...)

Elderberry pie from Namely Marly
Elderberry pie from Namely Marly

Having fed the badgers, a small but niggling thought has crept along about what sorts of animals prefer other sorts of berries, especially given the range of juicy and promising looking berry-related recipes discovered in the process.

In particular, I wonder what it is that hankers after gooseberries? Geese seem to be far too obvious to be an option...

Gooseberry tartlet from Lara Ferroni
Gooseberry tartlet from Lara Ferroni

I bet my mum would do something wonderful with elderberries (from what I hear, the rhubarb pies are pretty amazing). She gets up to all sorts of things...

My Mother Was A Hired Gun - print
My mother was a hired gun print from Paul of Navarone on Etsy

* Or, at least, the Stoat Appreciation Society’s subconscious mind...


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