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Sweet Baking Recipes

24 April 2008

ANZAC Biscuits


Anzac Biscuits (cookies are called biscuits in Australia and New Zealand) represent something special. On 25 April 1915, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) landed at Gallipoli in Turkey where thousands lost their lives.

The soldiers' bravery in that campaign has become legendary in both countries. I am not one for patriotic fanfare, but, if you're a Kiwi or an Aussie, you can't help but feel the emotion of this story.

ANZAC Day is celebrated in Australia and New Zealand every April 25. Each year we reflect on the valour these young men showed as they were "going over the top". And, as always, you cannot but be struck by the staggering waste of life and the wretched futility of war.

Anyway, this post is about biscuits. It is believed that ANZAC biscuits were made by soldiers' families and wives during the First World War. They were specifically made to endure the long journey at sea to the troops. The recipe has changed in the intervening century to now include butter and coconut.

ANZAC biscuits are baked and enjoyed all year round, although they have a special significance on April 25.

The biscuits themselves smell great - even while you're mixing the dough, it's hard to be restrained. They are buttery and have the perfect combination of sweet and salty. The coconut is perfect for them and it's hard to stop at eating just four... or five.

Continue reading "ANZAC Biscuits" »

24 February 2008

The Pavlova: Queen of Desserts


I revisited an old recipe that I made last year: the Pavlova.

It is my third time making one. The last time I made it, the meringue sank when I opened the oven door. The same thing happened again today. But it wasn't the end of the world and this time my heart didn't drop when I saw the meringue slowly deflating before my eyes.

To remedy matters, I just put a little extra whipped cream where the hole was and piled on loads of strawberries to give the Pav a little extra height. So despite the hole, I still had a very successful dessert.

I cooked the meringue slightly longer this time by about 10 minutes. This gave the base a delicious, almost caramelly chew to it.

There are only four ingredients in the meringue: egg whites, castor sugar, cornstarch and a little bit of white vinegar. When I was beating the egg whites, I was thinking about how amazing the chemistry of food is. The transformation of the egg whites with the addition of sugar into a thick, glossy substance like shaving cream, is quite amazing to watch.


Another thing that crossed my mind was, how in the world did people make the Pavlova or meringues before the time of electric egg beaters?

It must have been a terrible ordeal but at least you'd have strong arms! I thought that if I'd been alive in pre-beater times, I would have invented a bicycle-ilke contraption so my legs would do all the work instead of my poor little arms.


06 February 2008

Pandan Soufflé -- a soufflé with a Thai twist


Over the past few weeks I have been attempting to make a soufflé. Let’s just say that each time has been miserable in its own special way.

The first recipe I used omitted the flour resulting in a rocket of egg whites, at first so promising and then so demoralizing, when it grew as tall as a chef’s hat and then proceeded to fall from that great height.

In my second attempt, the soufflé failed to rise at all. In fact, it looked like a shriveled up little toad. I must admit though, it was a delicious little toad. But that’s not the point: because it looked awful and so I cried.

Anyway, I finally plucked up the courage to try my hand again, and, as the saying goes: third time lucky.

I decided to do something a little different – to give my soufflé a twist, a Thai twist. Some of the most common ingredients found in Thai desserts include coconut milk, palm sugar and the deliciously fragrant Pandanus leaves, known in Thai as Bai Toey.

Pandanus leaves are very versatile. They are used to not only flavour desserts but savory dishes as well. They are often folded like origami to make little containers for the desserts. They are used to flavour iced water and for their natural green food coloring. And, because they smell so good, they are even used as air fresheners in taxi cabs!

The combining of coconut milk with pandanus leaves is a perfect alchemy. Their combination adds a fragrant complexity whenever they appear together.


So, there you have it: a soufflé Thai-style. It was delicate, subtle and delicious. The only thing I would change next time would be to add a little more palm sugar. I used three tablespoons, next time I will use four. I also think this recipe would be even better with duck eggs but I can't seem to find them in Vancouver. Duck eggs, which also feature largely in Thai custard desserts, are much richer than chicken eggs.

I was lucky enough to buy a whole bunch of the fresh pandanus leaves from the South China Seas Trading Co however they always carry frozen packets as well.

Now that I know I have an endless supply of the leaves, I have been giddy with all the coconut-pandanus possibilities. Coconut-pandanus pie, coconut-pandanus crème brulee, coconut-pandanus cheese cake, coconut-pandanus gelato – it’s endless. If any of these should emerge from my kitchen, I shall be sure to let you know.

I am submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging which is being hosted this week by Ulrike from the blog Küchenlatein.

Weekend Herb Blogging 

Continue reading "Pandan Soufflé -- a soufflé with a Thai twist" »

03 February 2008

Saturday Afternoon Scones


It is Saturday afternoon, it is 4 degrees, the sun is shining and I can see the snow-capped Coast mountains through my open window. The crisp February air is mingling with the warm scent of baking from the oven.  It's 3 o'clock. Time for some afternoon tea.

I discovered this particular scone recipe on one of the first blogs I ever stumbled upon three years ago - Baking Sheet. Incidentally, Baking Sheet now goes by the name Baking Bites.

I have made these scones ever since and have always been pleased with the delicious results. I think it's the buttermilk that makes them so special. Unlike some scones I have eaten since living in North America, these taste and feel more like Australian scones - they are light, moist and most importantly, they are fluffy.

Scones, which originated in Scotland, are little round cakes that go by the name of 'biscuits' in North America. In England and Australia, they are usually served in tea houses where they are eaten with clotted cream and jam. This is known as a Devonshire Tea or Cream Tea.   

My jam of choice is Bonne Maman. I usually get raspberry but this time in my haste, I grabbed the cherry and didn't realise until I bit into the scone. But this was one of those good mistakes.

Continue reading "Saturday Afternoon Scones" »

23 January 2008

Open Sesame!


I've never been to Morocco, but it's somewhere I've always wanted to go. My desire to experience Morocco first-hand has increased ever since I bought myself a Moroccan cook book and started cooking Moroccan dishes.

Food is often a reflection of the people who make it and the place it's made. Even though I have no direct knowledge of the people or the place, these cookies seem to me to reflect the images of Morocco that I exist in my imagination.

I can imagine these sand-coloured cookies being baked by the sun in that desert land. The cookies are crunchy and dry. I imagine them sitting alongside the crumbling spine of the Atlas Mountains. They're not indulgent - there is no serving of buttered guilt or chocolate-chip shame here. But they're certainly not dreary and lifeless, either. The delicious flavour of roasted sesame seeds seems to me to be quintessentially Moroccan. And the sweet scent of orange blossom water is colorful and exotic.

Until I travel there - and I undoubtedly will - I'm happy with the little pieces of Morocco that tumble out of my oven.


Moroccan Sesame Cookie Recipe
(Makes 24)

1.5 cups of white sesame seeds, plus about 1/4 of a cup extra
1 cup of unbleached organic flour
3/4 cup of sugar
1.5 tsp of baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbs of orange blossom water
1tps of orange zest


  1. Set the oven temperature at 180C.
  2. Roast the sesame seeds in a pan over a medium heat until lightly browned. Set aside to cool slightly. Once cooled, place the seeds into a blender and blend until a powder is formed.
  3. Heat the flour in the same pan over a medium heat stirring constantly until the flour browns just slightly. Make sure you don't burn the flour though. Place it into the blender with the ground sesame seeds. Add the sugar, orange zest and baking powder to the blender and blend mixture thoroughly.
  4. Place the sesame mixture in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs and orange blossom water. Stir mixture with a wooden spoon and then and then knead it and roll into a ball.
  5. Have the extra sesame seeds ready on a plate. Line a baking tray with baking paper and grease it with butter.
  6. Break off walnut-sized pieces of the dough and roll it into balls. Press the balls into the sesame seeds and flatten slightly. Place the cookies on the baking tray with the sesame seeds facing up. Allow for about 5 cm between each cookie and bake for about 15 minutes. Leave the cookies on the tray for 5 minutes and then move to a cooling rack. 

29 December 2007

A Christmas Morning Feast


This year we decided to forgo cooking a large and time-consuming Christmas lunch. Instead, we headed to Kirin Restaurant for a dizzying ten course Chinese banquet but more on that next time.

To tide us over until the lunchtime feast, we opted for a light Christmas breakfast of freshly baked mini croissants served with either raspberry jam or smoked salmon and crème fraiche and a platter of fresh fruit.

Now let me tell you about the croissants. They were incredible...impossibly light, flaky and organic! We bought twenty of the little dough crescents from Vancouver Croissant. Actually, we had intended to buy them but the kind manager, Maged Sedky, wouldn't hear of it and, even though we'd never met before, he gave them to us free as a Christmas present!

Continue reading "A Christmas Morning Feast" »

18 December 2007

Bite-sized Banoffis


Bite-sized Banoffi pies are little mouthfuls of heaven. The fact that they are so small doesn't make you feel so bad about eating such wicked litlte treats. They are also far easier to serve rather than having to slice up a large and delicately assembled dessert.

Banoffi pies are filled with toffee (dulche de leche), freshly whipped cream and topped with slices of fresh banana. I made the toffee from sweetened condensed milk which I gave a kind of steam bath for 1.5 hours. Another way to cook the condensed milk is to boil it unopened in the can for several hours, however this method can lead to the can exploding. As exciting as that prospect is, I decided that a nice steam bath would be more relaxing for both me and the condensed milk.

The Banoffi Pie was invented by the Hungry Monk Restaurant in East Suzzex, England, in 1972. The original recipe, which can be found on their website, includes coffee and castor sugar, both of which I left out. I think the toffee is sweet enough as is.

The complete story about the Banoffi can be found on Chef Ian Dowding's Blog. Ian was the original head chef at the Hungry Monk who invented the marvellous pie. Bravo Ian.

My recipe differs slightly but I do believe that my bite-sized Banoffis are just as pleasing! I used fresh pastry dough from the A La Mode Pie Shop, which I buy at the Public Market on Granville Island, in Vancouver. Their pastry is always excellent and the slight saltiness of the crust really complimented well the sweet toffee.

I am submitting this post to Blog Party #29 which is being hosted by Stephanie of the Blog the Happy Sorceress. The challenge was to make 'just a bite of dessert' and so you have it...Bite-sized Banoffis.


Continue reading "Bite-sized Banoffis" »

16 November 2007

The Humble Lamington


The humble Lamington: a squarish piece of sponge cake dipped in chocolate icing and then rolled in desiccated coconut. They can also come with a cream or strawberry jam filling.

The Lamington is a quintessential part of every Australian's childhood, because they are sold at tuck shops (canteens) around the country and they are the most popular treats to sell at school fairs.

Lamingtons are believed to have been named after Charles Cochrane-Baillie, 2nd Baron Lamington, Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901.

Governor Lamington is reputed to have been highly displeased with his name being lent to the little sponge cake due to his rude utterings about them. I won't repeat what he was alleged to have said but let's just say he would have preferred to have been remember for other things.

I found an excellent recipe for Lamingtons on the Joy of Baking website. The sponge cake, which I was a bit apprehensive about making, turned out perfectly. It was light, moist and delicious.

Continue reading "The Humble Lamington" »

01 November 2007

Upside Down Caramel Banana Cake


I saw the recipe for this cake in a Delicious magazine a few years ago and promised myself I would make it one day. Well that day came and last Sunday was my Caramel Banana cake day. The recipe was measured in metrics which drives me nuts.

I understand how neat the metric system is when you're converting cubic centimetres to litres and I far prefer Celsius to Fahrenheit (0°freezes, 100°degrees boils - Mr. Fahrenheit must be kicking himself: "Why didn't I think of that?"). I'm sure the metric system is very useful when you're building a house, but I have a very hard time trying to work out what 180 gms of flour is. Cooking lends itself to measurements in cups or teaspoons - we have cups and teaspoons just lying around... Why complicate matters?

So to aid me in my cooking conversion crisis, I use the site ConvertMe.com. It's pretty handy and will help you convert measurements from anything from butter to shelled walnuts.

Anyway, the Caramel Banana cake was a success. I added a touch of pure Mexican vanilla which gave the cake a deliciously rich aroma. Another addition was a big dollop of freshly whipped cream.   


Continue reading "Upside Down Caramel Banana Cake" »

29 August 2007

Peach Crème Fraîche Tart with Wild Blossom Honey


This recipe was adapted from a tart featured in the August 2006 Gourmet magazine. I used a raw wild blossom honey, which I buy from Capers, to sweeten the crème fraîche The honey has a very unique and full-bodied flavour and actually tastes slightly different each time I buy a new jar.

We made two versions of the tart, one topped with peaches and one with a blueberry glaze.



Peach Crème Fraîche Tart with Wild Blossom Honey
(makes 2 small tarts)

Tart Crust

1 1/4 cups of unbleached flour
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of sea salt
7 tbs of cold butter, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large egg

Tart Filling

1 cup of cream cheese
1/2 cup of crème fraîche
1 1/2 tbs of wild blosson honey
1 1/2 cups of blueberries
1 tbs of cornstarch

Special Equipment

Fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (3"X 3/4")
Pie weights


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Celsius.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar and sea salt in a large bowl. Add the pieces of butter and mix well until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs with small lumps of butter. Add the egg and knead for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Set the tart tins on a baking sheet and fill them with dough. Press the dough along the bottom and up the sides of the tin. Once this step is completed, cover the tins and refrigerate for about 1/2 an hour.
  4. To bake the tart shells, set the tins on a baking sheet, butter one side of some foil and then press the buttered side down on to the base of the tart. Add the pie weights on top of the foil to cover the base. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden. Once ready, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  5. Next, mix together the crème fraîche, cream cheese and honey until a smooth cream is formed. Set aside.
  6. Add the blueberries to a small pot on the stove over a medium heat. Add the sugar and about 1/2 a cup of water. Stir and bring to the boil.
  7. In a small cup, mix the cornstarch with about 1/3 cup of hot water to dissolve.
  8. Once the blueberries are boiling, add the cornstarch mixture slowly and stir until the blueberry mixture thickens. Remove the blueberries from the stove and set aside to cool.
  9. When you are ready to assemble the tarts, spoon the crème fraîche mixture into the tart shell, spread on the blueberry mixture evenly and then arrange the peach slices on top.
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