linzer cookies

24 Feb 2014

Each month we hold a mega morning tea at work where every-one brings along something to share. Some-one brings dip, another person brings potato chips, someone else will bring fruit and I usually bake something. This month our morning tea had a Valentine's Day theme where we had to bring along something pink, red or heart shaped. 

I haven't been well the past week so I spent most of Valentine's Day in bed feeling sad and a bit sorry for myself. Thankfully I found enough energy to pull these together. I thought I had all the ingredients in the flat but discovered I'd run out of butter requiring a trip up to the Junction. I always have a few blocks of butter lurking in the fridge so I don't know where it went to. 

I've not made Linzer cookies before but they've been on my Christmas cookie list for quite some time. I adapted a Martha Stewart recipe which you can find hereNow great minds think alike 'cos look what I found on Deb's blog, Smitten Kitchen.

I already had hazelnut meal in the cupboard so I toasted the meal and used it in the cookies. I whizzed the whole mixture in the food processor and honestly it took about 2 minutes to make the dough from woe to go.

Here's the recipe for you.

Linzer Cookies
70 g (2½ oz) hazelnut meal
110 g (4 oz) unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
¼ cup caster sugar
1 egg yolk
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour, plus more for work surface
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
icing sugar, for dusting
¼ cup raspberry or berry jam

Place the hazelnut meal in a small frypan and lightly toast over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and place the meal into a small bowl. Leave to one side until cool.

In a food processor, combine the hazelnut meal, the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whiz for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter mixture and whiz until the mixture forms breadcrumbs. Add the vanilla to the lightly beaten egg and add to the mixture. Process until a soft ball forms around the blade. Remove the dough from the blade and form into a flattened disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. On a lightly floured work surface, thinly roll out half the dough. Using a medium size fluted cutter, cut out cookies. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking tray. Using a small cutter, cut the centres out of half the cookies. Combine the scraps, reroll and cut. Be careful not to incorporate too much flour or the pastry will be too crumbly to roll. You may need to add a few drops of water to the cookie dough.

Bake in the preheated oven until the edges are golden, 8-9 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through the cooking time. Remove the tray from the oven; allow the cookies to cool a little before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lightly sift the icing sugar over the decorative tops; set aside. Place a teaspoon of jam on the bottom of each cookie, and sandwich with the sugar-dusted tops. Makes about 20 sandwich cookies.

Now these were so popular they disappeared before I had a chance to try one. I froze some of the dough so when I have time I'll bake a few for my cookie jar.

I hope you all had lovely weekends. 

See you all again soon,


junior mr. potato bread

17 Feb 2014

Hi Every-one,

At Christmas I met an old school friend for afternoon tea and she told me how she'd had a pizza base bake-off with her husband. They used the same bread mix and he made the pizza base by hand whilst she used the dough hook on her stand mixer. The stand mixer base rose twice as high as the hand made version so I returned home from my Christmas break determined to make some bread.

I've been a bit rubbish at baking bread of late and I now realise it's because I just don't have the arm strength to knead the dough sufficiently. Since I've discovered the joys of the dough hook I've made bread or pizza dough every week since my return from Brisbane. Emboldened by my new success, I dusted off my almost unused copy of the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook and decided to make some sourdough bread. 

May I introduce you to Audrey, my sourdough starter. I think she's about 3 weeks old now and I have 3 versions of her on the go. Audrey is brewing in one of the 8 Kilner jars kindly sent to me by the folk from Kilner in the UK. I haven't been brave enough to go completely yeast free yet, so I decided to make one of the semi sour dough bread recipes from the book, a junior Mr. Potato Bread.

Yes you will need sourdough starter which takes 1 - 2 weeks to prepare or you can buy it here. The whole recipe itself is a bit time consuming - I made it over 2 days - but by 10.30 Sunday morning I had a piping hot loaf of rosemary flavoured potato bread coming out of my oven.

Here's the recipe for you, lightly adapted from the Bourke Street Bakery – the Ultimate Baking Companion by Paul Allam and David McGuiness.

Junior Mr. Potato Bread - makes 1 loaf
60 g potato cut into 3cm cubes
10 ml olive oil
55 g white sourdough starter
115 g plain flour
115 g wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp dried yeast (not instant)
150 ml water
2 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F. Put the potato cubes onto a baking tray and pour over the oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until you can almost pierce them all the way through with a knife – the potatoes only need to be half cooked at this stage as they will continue to cook when the loaf is baked.

Put the sourdough starter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Add the wholemeal and plain flours, the salt, yeast and water. Mix on slow speed for 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then continue mixing on high speed for 6 minutes or until smooth (it will not be elastic).

When the dough is properly developed, fold through the half cooked potatoes and rosemary by hand. Lightly grease a container with olive oil spray and sit the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to bulk prove. I left the dough in the fridge overnight and brought it to room temperature the next day before continuing.

To knock back the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and press out into a rectangle, about 2.5 cm thick. Use your hands to fold one-third back onto itself, then repeat with the remaining third. Turn the dough 90 degrees and fold it over again into thirds. Place the dough back into the oiled container and continue to bulk prove for a further 30 minutes.

Shape the dough into a round. Place the loaf onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, seam side down. Place in the fridge loosely covered with a plastic bag for 1 hour.

Remove the loaf from the fridge and let it rest in a humid place (25°C) until the loaf has grown in size by two-thirds. This could take anywhere between 1 and 4 hours. If the loaves push back steadily and quickly when you push lightly into them with a finger, then they are ready. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to its highest setting. Score the loaf and place it in the oven.

Spray the oven with water and reduce the temperature to 220°C/425°F. Bake the loaf for 20 minutes, then turn the tray around and bake a further 10 -15 minutes watching carefully to make sure the loaf doesn’t burn. Check the base of each loaf with a tap of your finger – if it sounds hollow, it is ready. Baking should take no longer than 40 minutes in total.

Now that my bread making mojo has returned, I'm planning to bake something bready or yeasty every couple of weeks. Would you like me to share these recipes with you?

I'm off to Brisbane for the weekend and with no plans to bake, I'll write up my belated Valentine's Day cookie post on my return.

See you all again next Monday,


broken hearted chocolate pavlova

10 Feb 2014

Hi every-one, I hope you all had great weekends. I did quite a bit of trip planning and when I wasn't chained to the computer, I was in the kitchen baking up a storm. One of the things I made was a chocolate pavlova for Valentine's Day. I've made this chocolate pavlova many times but until recently I'd never tasted it. It disappears so quickly, all I ever got to try were the crumbs. When I did taste it, I found the pavlova so sweet it was almost sickly. The pavlova also cracks like crazy and spreads far more than a regular pavlova. I think that might be due to the cocoa powder but I'm not really sure.

I've been working on trying to stop the pavlova from spreading so much so added some cornflour to the mixture. To reduce the sweetness I decided to leave out the grated chocolate 'cos sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.

To rein the pavlova in, I decided to bake it in a spring form tin instead of free form on a baking sheet. Well, look what happened.

The pavlova rose like crazy and then sank while cooling leaving this great crevasse. I went to bed mulling over what to do. Should I scrap it and start all over again or should I just embrace my failure and move on?

Well I'm made of sterner stuff than that, so I decided to create a shell from the pavlova and filled the centre with a cloud of gently whipped cream. I topped the cream with the chocolate hearts and raspberries that were my topping of choice for Valentine's Day accompanied by some of the chocolate meringue shards.

And so a new dessert was born. Here's my recipe for Chocolate Pavlova and it serves 8 - 10. If you want to make a broken hearted version, just bake it in a 23 cm springform tin lined with baking paper and crack open the top! P.S I had a little taste of it today and it tastes pretty good.

6 x 60 g egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1½ cups caster sugar
2 20 ml tablespoons dutch process cocoa, sifted
1 20 ml tablespoon cornflour, sifted
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

To serve
500 ml cream
Seasonal berries
Chocolate curls/hearts


1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (conventional oven). Draw a 22cm circle on baking paper and place on an oven tray.

2. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add caster sugar a tablespoon at a time until meringue is stiff and shiny.

3. Add the sifted cocoa and cornflour and the vinegar and lightly fold in with a metal spoon or spatula.

4. Spoon the meringue onto baking paper to form a 22cm circle and place in the oven. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 135°C/275°F and bake for 1½ hours. Turn off the oven and allow the pavlova to cool with the oven door slightly ajar.

5. When completely cold, gently remove the pavlova from the baking paper and place on a flat serving platter. Beat the cream until it forms soft peaks and spread over the pavlova. Top with the berries and chocolate curls, if desired.

We're having a belated Valentine's Day morning tea at work next week so expect some more hearted shaped items to appear on the blog in the next short while.

Happy Valentine's Day for Friday,

See you all again soon,


double chocolate caramel slice

3 Feb 2014

Do you remember I made nanaimo bars a few months back? Every-one at work liked the base but found the filling a bit too sweet. I started thinking of ways I could adapt the base and decided to use it as the base for my chocolate caramel slice.

Now my chocolate caramel slice is a real favourite at work and I was a bit worried about tampering with the recipe as my work mates are very set in their ways.

I added ground walnuts to the base and a few tablespoons of cocoa to the mixture. My golden syrup went AWOL so I used some maple flavoured pancake syrup instead. I figured as it was only a few tablespoons, no-one would notice. The slice came out of the oven and when topped with melted chocolate, it was a thing of beauty. I had a little piece and I thought it was absolutely scrumptious.

Here's the latest incarnation of the recipe for you.

Double Chocolate Caramel Slice
125 gm butter, melted
½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup plain flour
½ cup desiccated coconut
¼ cup ground walnuts

Combine the ingredients for the base. Spoon into a non-stick baking paper lined 7 x 11 inch tin. Place in a pre-heated 180°C oven for 10 – 15 minutes or until lightly coloured.

2 x 395 gm tins condensed milk
75 gm butter
4 x 20 ml tbl golden syrup

While the base is cooking, combine caramel ingredients in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the butter melts. Lower the heat and cook the caramel mixture, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until golden. Pour the caramel over the cooked base and return to the oven for another 10 – 15 minutes or until the caramel is golden brown. Allow to cool completely.

150 grams chocolate
30 grams butter

Melt the chocolate in a bowl, over a pan of simmering hot water over a low heat or in the microwave. When just melted, add the butter and stir until melted. Carefully smooth the chocolate over the surface of the slice. Allow the topping to set for 20 minutes before cutting the slice. Store the slice in a sealed container in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving. Makes 24 pieces.

I took the slice into work last week and waited for the verdict. 

When word went around there was chocolate caramel slice in the Department, people came from far and wide. By day's end there wasn't a crumb left so I  think it was a success. If you try out the recipe, let me know what you think.

I'm very excited as I've just booked a flight to Europe for May. I'm flying to Amsterdam for a conference followed by visits to Brussels, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Paris and Zurich. I can't wait!

See you all again next week,


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