chocolate halva brownies

29 May 2017

Brownies. I thought I'd baked every flavour combination there was until I started seeing chocolate halva brownies popping up on instagram.

I grew up eating halva though I haven't had a piece in years. I decided to make some chocolate halva brownies and looked online for recipe ideas. 

I found a few recipes that added tahini to the mix. I'm a bit ambivalent about tahini as I find it too bitter. I measured out a small amount of tahini to add to the batter then at the last minute didn't use it.

In the end I used my regular brownie recipe and added 125 grams of coarsely chopped vanilla halva that I bought at my local deli. I grew up eating Israeli halva so assumed it was a middle eastern sweetmeat. The deli from which I bought the halva was Macedonian. My Maltese colleague also grew up eating halva as did a Greek work mate. I had no idea halva was eaten in so many countries.

The brownies came out of the oven suitably squidgy and I couldn't wait to try them. If you'd like to make a batch of chocolate halva brownies, you can find the recipe below. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Chocolate Halva Brownies
125g (4 oz) vanilla halva, cut into 1-2 cm chunks
½ cup plain flour then remove 1½ tbs of the flour
1½ (20 ml) tbs cocoa
125g (4 oz) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
185g (6 oz) dark chocolate, chopped
⅔ cup caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (conventional). Grease and line the base and sides of a 9 inch (23cm) square pan with baking paper or aluminium foil, making sure the paper goes up all four sides. Place the halva cubes over the base of the tin.

Sift the flour with the cocoa into a small bowl. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl placed over a medium saucepan filled with simmering water, stirring until smooth. You could also do this in the microwave. Remove the bowl from heat and beat in the ⅔ cup sugar, the vanilla then the eggs.

Mix in the flour and cocoa mixture and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the batter becomes smooth and glossy. Spread the brownie mixture evenly in the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated 180°C/350°F oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the batter in the centre of the pan is just set. Cool on a wire rack, then lift out of the tin and peel away the foil or paper. Cut the brownies into squares or bars.

These will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days and they also freeze well.

I took these into work and they were a roaring success with most people intrigued by the unique flavour of the halva. One of my workmates declared these the perfect brownies, as they were crusty on top and squidgy inside. They are moist, darkly chocolate and not too sweet. I still have half a container of halva in the fridge so I guess I'll be making another batch soon.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



pink finger buns

22 May 2017

Growing up, a finger bun slathered with butter and topped with icing (and the icing had to be pink) was one of my favourite treats. Sure you could get ones with plain icing (boring) and ones topped with coconut, which I thought was and still think is an abomination. 

When I was last home in Brisbane I went through my old recipe file and returned to Sydney with this finger bun recipe that I'd cut out from the Australian Women's Weekly. It's yellowed and faded and must be at least 30 years old.

I haven't had a finger bun in ages so I pulled out the recipe and stuck it to the fridge with a fridge magnet and went to work. I changed the recipe ever so slightly by adding some dried apricots and soaking the fruit first in hot tea. I just used an English Breakfast tea bag but I'm sure any other flavour would do just as well.

I shouldn't cook when tired so there were a few disasters along the way. I forgot to grease the tin so the cooked buns stuck a bit to the tray. 

Once I glazed the buns, I managed to rip the tops off half the buns while trying to get them out of the tin. Memo to self - don't bake when tired. I also ran short of icing but couldn't be bothered making any more.

Am I the only one that makes silly decisions when over tired? Thankfully I still had 4 left that were suitable to photograph and the pink icing covered a multitude of sins in the remaining buns.

I already had some natural pink food colouring in the cupboard so used a few drops to tint the icing. The finger buns looked exactly as I remembered so once they were photographed, I slathered one with butter and enjoyed it with a cup of tea. 

It tasted pretty good but honestly the finger bun would be nothing without that pink icing. If you'd like to make a batch at home here's the recipe for you which will make 8 buns. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. If you need to feed a crowd then just double everything. 

Pink Finger Buns – makes 8

¼ cup sultanas
2 tbs each dried currants and coarsely chopped dried apricots
1 tea bag
½ cup boiling water
2 tsp (7 g) dry yeast
25g caster sugar
2/3 cup warm milk
2 cups (300g) plain flour
30 g (1 ounce) butter, chopped
1 egg, beaten lightly

2 tsp caster sugar
½ tsp powdered gelatine
2 tsp hot water

1 cup icing sugar
2 tsp butter, melted
1 tbl milk, approximately
Pink food colouring

In a small bowl combine the dried fruits, add the tea bag and cover with boiling water. Leave to one side to steep for at least an hour. Drain well before using.

Grease a 20 cm x 30 cm (8-inch x 12-inch) lamington pan. Combine yeast, sugar and milk in small bowl. Cover; stand in warm place about 10 minutes or until frothy. Sift flour into large bowl, rub in butter. Stir in yeast mixture, the beaten egg and the well-drained fruit and mix to a soft dough. Cover; stand in warm place about 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F. Knead dough on floured surface about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Divide dough into 8 portions; shape into buns 15 cm (6-inches) long. Place eight buns into the pan; cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap, stand in a warm place until buns are well risen. Bake buns 8 minutes; cover loosely with foil, bake a further 5 minutes or until golden brown.

For glaze, combine ingredients in small pan; stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar and gelatine have dissolved. Turn buns, top-side up, onto wire rack; brush with hot glaze, cool.

For icing, sift icing sugar into small heatproof bowl, stir in butter and enough milk to make a firm paste; tint pink with colouring. Stir over hot water until spreadable. Spread icing over top of cold buns.

My junior taste testers gave the buns the seal of approval as did the adults. I can't wait to make them again.

See you all again next week with some more baking.

Bye for now,


shopshoot - the sydney finders keepers

15 May 2017

This weekend I made a pilgrimage to The Cutting at Barangaroo, the newest location of  The Finders KeepersI've been attending the markets for 7 years now and go to visit my old market friends; see if there's anything new and different and on this occasion take the opportunity to visit the new venue.

The markets were housed in The Cutting, a dramatic new exhibition space.

I arrived just as the markets opened so it was quiet and easy to roam around.

I mainly took photos of the venue and not the stalls. 

The light in the new venue was great at the perimeter then petered out on the other side making photo taking a bit tricky especially when one too tired photographer failed to change her ISO setting from 200 when she needed to be using 1600. 

My hand holding in low light is good but not that good so I took lots of shots that had too much camera shake to be used.

One favourite stall I did manage to photograph was Bridget Bodenham's.

One of her beautiful vases.

I always make time to visit Kylie from Paperboat Press.

and Alischa from Bespoke Letterpress who was working the door.

There were lots of places for resting. I loved those stools and wouldn't mind having one in my little flat.

And of course you can always enjoy live music at the Finders Keepers.

Here are a few new to me stalls.

Someone (that would be me) forget to collect business cards so I don't have any contact details to share with you.

It was at this stage I decided I should probably leave and started to make my way home.

I'd not been to the Barangaroo Reserve since it's opening and as it was a gorgeous autumn day I wandered along the sandstone wall down by the water before jumping on a bus back to the eastern suburbs.

I hope that gave you some idea of what you'll find at the Finders Keepers.

See you all again next week with some more baking my kitchen.

Bye or now,


passionfruit meringue tart

8 May 2017

Whilst rearranging my deep freeze I found some almond shortcrust pastry and decided it was time to bake a tart. I found nets of passionfruit at the store so I came home with a bag and set about creating a passionfruit meringue tart.

This tart recipe was inspired by the one for mini passionfruit tarts I found in 'The Cook and Baker' recipe book. The filling is a key lime pie filling which uses eggs, condensed milk and lemon and passionfruit juice instead of lime juice. The filling comes almost directly from the book, whilst the pastry and topping are my own. 

The recipe has a number of steps. You can certainly make the tart shell ahead of time but there's a lot of cooling and resting involved so leave plenty of time when making this. However the end result is so delicious I think it's worth the effort.

The tart is topped with masses of billowy meringue and the meringue is only lightly sweetened so it nicely balances out the filling.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 17 cm tart. If you'd like to make a 23 cm tart, just double all the ingredients for the filling and topping as the almond pastry recipe is sufficient to make a 23 cm tart shell. Please note for all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Passionfruit Meringue Tart
Almond shortcrust pastry
110 g (4 oz) cold unsalted butter, diced
¼ cup icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
¼ cup almond meal
1⅓ cups plain flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
Cold water

2 egg yolks
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
200 g condensed milk
60 mls lemon juice
65 mls strained passionfruit juice

2 egg whites
113 g caster sugar

To make the pastry, combine all the dry ingredients in a food processor, and whiz for a few seconds until well combined and free of lumps. Add the cold butter and whiz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and sufficient cold water and whiz until a soft dough just starts to form around the blade. Remove the dough from the food processor and gather the pastry into a ball; flatten slightly before wrapping in plastic and placing in the fridge. Refrigerate the pastry for 30 minutes. You’ll only need about half of the pastry dough for this recipe. The pastry freezes well so just wrap the remaining pastry in plastic wrap and store in the freezer.

Grease a 17cm springform tin. Roll out the pastry quite thinly then line the base and bring the pastry 3 cm up the sides of the tin to form a pastry case. Line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Chill for 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 190°C and bake the pastry shell for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 170°C. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks with the lemon rind. Stir in the condensed milk followed by the juices. Mix thoroughly before pouring the filling into the pastry case. Bake for 30 minutes or until the filling is just set. Allow to cool completely before refrigerating the tart for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer and best until whites form stiff peaks. Add the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time beating well in between. Beat for a further 5 minutes or until the sugar has completely dissolved. Place the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5 cm plain tube and pipe decoratively over the filling starting from the pastry edge. Place the tart case on 2 folded tea towels on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes or until the meringue is lightly coloured. Cool on a rack before returning to the fridge to firm up the filling.

The tart keeps for a few days, stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

I shared the tart with my neighbours and enjoyed the rest of the tart all on my own because I decided the tart was a bit too fragile to transport to work via the gym. Well at least that was my excuse!

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


Chocolate, apricot and oat slice

1 May 2017

Do you like cacao nibs? I'd never tried them before I bought a packet at the supermarket a few months back. When I brought them home, I realised I didn't know how to cook with them either. Thankfully last months Australian Gourmet Traveller included a few recipes which contained cacao nibs so I set to work.


I planned to make the chocolate sour cherry and oat slice but I didn't have quite enough sour cherries so I used dried apricots instead. I can't tolerate cream so I used a simple chocolate glaze instead of the chocolate truffle topping and also sized down the slice to fit an 8 inch square tin. The slice takes no time to put together and it was in the oven in no time.

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Chocolate, apricot and oat slice - makes about 16 pieces
150 gm (1 cup) plain flour
150 gm rolled oats
100 gm brown sugar
50 gm dried apricots, roughly chopped
40 gm cacao nibs
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt flakes
135 gm melted butter, cooled slightly

Easy chocolate glaze
200 gm dark chocolate (56%-60% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped
80 mls boiling water
20 gm butter
Sea salt flakes, to serve

Preheat oven to 180°C. Butter a 20cm x 20cm square tin and line it with baking paper. Combine flour, oats, sugar, apricot pieces, cacao nibs, baking powder and sea salt flakes in a bowl, stir in butter, then press mixture evenly into the tin. Bake until golden brown (15-20 minutes). Cool to room temperature.

To make the glaze, combine the chocolate, boiling water and butter in a heatproof bowl. Microwave in 30 second bursts until chocolate starts to melt and then whisk until smooth. Let stand for a few minutes and when the chocolate mixture starts to thicken, spread the chocolate glaze over slice, sprinkle with sea salt and refrigerate until firm (1-2 hours).

To serve, cut into portions with a sharp knife (heat the blade in hot water, then wipe it dry before cutting for a clean slice). Chocolate, apricot and oat slice will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

I took this slice into work and it was absolutely demolished by the throng. And as for me? I discovered I don't like the taste of cacao nibs and I'm wondering how best to use the rest of the packet???? As it's such an easy slice I'm sure I'll make it again but next time I'll use some chopped nuts instead of the nibs.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,

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