Thursday 27 February 2014

Baked mocha doughnuts

We grew up in the Victorian countryside as children.  It was mostly wet and cold there, with a few months (if you were lucky) of very hot weather and potential bushfires.   The tiny house we lived in had no hot water, flushing toilet or heating.  In fact, only a few months ago we were visiting relatives down there and came across roadworks as they were finally putting in town sewerage!
My parents were very conventional food-wise so meat and 3 veg were the go most of the time.  I only got to try a lot of different foods when I left home and went to live in share houses with hippies who were either vegetarian or vegan, dope-smoking, guitar playing, free loving, folk dancing crazies...
So, to get to my point, I had most likely never eaten a doughnut till I was in my 20's.  I don't like to fry foods- not because of health issues but because I am a total chicken when it comes to hot oil spattering at me.  I love kitchen gadgets, and I have quite a collection of variously-shaped baking pans so how could I resist the cute as a button doughnut pan at my local shopping centre?
There are some interesting-looking recipes for baked doughnuts on the Net, but I decided to have a go at this one from Shutterbean's blog.  I am a big coffee fan so the hint of coffee in this one attracted me, though I would like to try many more!


  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda- yes I stuck to this even tho I wondered if baking powder was meant
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil-I used peanut oil as you want one with very little taste
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the topping:

  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 90g. cream cheese, melted- I shoved this in the microwave for 25 seconds
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk- I found I needed very little milk; perhaps even none
  • chocolate sprinkles or whatever bling you have (optional)

  • Method:
Set your oven to 170C.  Grease your doughnut pan, by either spraying it with oil or rubbing a bit of oil around each little hole especially around the spindle.  In a large bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, coffee powder and salt together (or sieve them!.)  In a small bowl, whisk buttermilk, sugar, egg, oil and vanilla until smooth. Add wet ingredients to the dry ones; whisk together till well-combined.
Spoon batter into a jug with a good lip. Pour the batter into your oiled doughnut pan, making sure you leave a bit of room at the top so they can spread out whilst baking.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until doughnuts spring back when lightly pressed. Cool them in the pan for a few minutes, then carefully turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
In a small bowl, combine the coffee powder with hot water and stir until dissolved. Add melted cream cheese and stir until you get a lovely smooth dark liquid. Add the icing sugar in 2 or 3 lots, then stir in the vanilla, and add the milk to thin out glaze if necessary. If the consistency is too thin, add more sugar. If too thick add a bit more milk.  (I found it very thin, and probably should have used only 1 tbs of milk).
Dip doughnuts into bowl of glaze and allow the excess to drip back into the bowl. Place them on the rack. Top with bling and eat!

dry ingredients

wet ingredients

ready to mix in

batter ready for the oven

they look so cute when they come out

ingredients for the glaze

all blinged up and ready to eat!

pretty enough to eat

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Mango chutney

Mr Pickings and I are fast eaters so when we go to a restaurant we are usually in and out in about an hour. When we do eat out with friends, they often ask me to pick the restaurant.  This has turned out to be a good idea usually as the few times various friends have done the choosing, I have ended up with food poisoning. Co-incidence you may say.  A sinister plot I say!
Once, vegetarian friends chose a Himalayan cafe where the food was not only tasteless and disgusting, but it gave me the worst bout of food poisoning ever.  I could not believe that vegetable curry could make you so ill!   Anyway Mr Pickings loves a good curry and he loves a good chutney to go with it. So every year about this time, I make up a big batch of mango chutney as they are cheaper than in early summer. I add chillies from a friend's garden (kept in the freezer since last winter), and bio-dynamic garlic from Patrice Newell's farm.  (I buy a box in January and break up the heads into cloves, then freeze them to have over the coming year).
We were up in the Sunshine coast hinterland last week where mangoes were plentiful and organic.  Strangely enough Mr Pickings and I do not eat mangoes on their own but enjoy them cooked up into a chutney.  I use a recipe from an old Margaret Fulton book- you know, one of those little books that have her name on but really have little else to do with her.  We saw the same books in the UK years ago with the name of whoever was the cook du jour.  So this little book of Indian Cooking has been very useful over the years (it also has a fab recipe for home-made yoghurt).
1 kg of mangoes- I have used ripe or a bit green- either seems to work
2 cups sugar
2.5 cups of vinegar
5 cm piece of ginger- grated
4 cloves garlic-chopped finely
2-4 chillies- depending on taste
1-2 tbs of yellow and/or brown mustard seeds
1 tbs sea salt
1 cup sultanas


peel and dice the mangoes
place the sugar and vinegar in a medium saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes
throw the finely chopped garlic and chillies, and grated ginger into the pan and simmer for another 10 minutes
then add the mango and the rest of the ingredients into the mix and simmer away for at least 25 minutes, stirring now and then.  I have found it can take up to 40 minutes to get it nice and thick.
Spoon it into hot sterilised jars and store for up to a year in the fridge.

ready to cook-those mangoes look luscious

aromatics ready for the chop

mangoes being chopped

aromatics ready to be cast to their doom in a boiling pan

all go!


looking good!

Saturday 15 February 2014

German sour cherry cake

Who hasnt made a stoopid mistake now and then?  Well I have to confess I had a bit of a slip-up with this cake the other day.  I have had this recipe for ages (from Vogue magazine probably about a dozen years ago) and have made it a number of times but I always seem to have a bit of trouble getting it just right.  I think it is due to the tiny amount of flour, the very juicy cherries and the number of eggs which makes it a very soft batter, which I never get quite right in the oven.   (I have a very temperamental gas oven with a door that doesn't quite close so any recipe has to be adjusted by about 25-30C higher and a bit of a guess at timing.)  It is always an adventure with baking in my kitchen!  Like going on the high seas.  You never know quite where you will end up so to speak.   Anyway I gave it another try this week, only to have somewhat of a disaster.  But I am sure that anyone with an oven door that actually closes, and a good thermostat can get this to come out beautifully!
My cake almost ended up on the kitchen floor but I managed to save it so that Mr Pickings could enjoy it in a bowl with lots of vanilla icecream and a big spoon.

200g butter
200g sugar
4 eggs
200g ground almonds (tho I use a mixture of almond and hazelnut meal-try 100g of each)
100g of chocolate bits- I like to use the big ones that look like buttons rather than tiny choc chips
3 tbs of rum
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
75g wholemeal plain flour
1 jar of morello or other sour cherries, well drained

Beat the butter and sugar together till nicely creamed and smooth.  Beat in the eggs one by one till well-incorporated. At this point my batter looked curdled but never fear, it all comes together at the end.
Add the almond and/or hazelnut meal, chocolate, rum and cinnamon and beat it all into the batter till well combined.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl, and stir in, then plop in the cherries and fold them beautifully into the soft and luscious batter.
Spoon it into a springform tin that has been lightly greased on the bottom and lined with baking paper, then bake at 175C for about 45 minutes or till your skewer comes out clean.
I think it best to let it sit in the tin for 5 minutes then whack it on a cake rack to cool completely.
Dust with icing sugar and devour.

don't those eggs look gorgeous-just so round and orange-(try to use free range)
adding almond and hazelnut meal

all ready to be folded in
such beautiful little orbs
just out of the oven-before the big disaster!

batter about to go in the oven

here is where it all went to hell in a handbasket!

this is what it SHOULD look like!

Friday 7 February 2014

peanut butter pie

I must have been an American in a former life cos I just love peanut butter pie!  I grew up in Melbourne where it was peanut butter but here in Queensland where I live, it is definitely peanut paste which I think sounds like some kind of wallpaper glue.  But tastes great.  I usually buy Aussie brands if possible but this time I saw a new item on the shelf which had no sugar or salt added so I had to try it even though it is one of those dreadful foreign-owned companies.  And it is a marked difference in taste;  clearly it would have to be better for you but may take some getting used to for the average punter, including myself. So let's ignore the cream cheese, cream etc that make up this pie and pretend that we are eating something incredibly healthy and good for you!  I have an old clipping from an American magazine from many moons ago (this harks back to a former (brief) life in the USA) which has a recipe from Eagle brand condensed milk.  You can still find this recipe on the Net, which is pretty much the same as the one I have.  And I have found a version-here-which seems to be the same.  I spent a bit of time working out the conversions to metric as I hate using cup measurements for things like peanut butter.  What crazy person would ever shove peanut butter into a cup?  So here are my adjustments to the recipe:

For the choc crust-

75g of butter
1 cup (170g) of dark choc chips
2.5 cups Rice Bubbles

Melt the chocolate and butter together and stir into the rice cereal.  Mix well and push into a greased 9 inch pie plate (whatever that is in metric) and leave in the fridge for an hour before filling.

for the filling-

1 packet (250g) of Philly cream cheese left out of the fridge for a bit so it gets squidgy
1 can condensed milk
195g of peanut butter (see- no cups)
3 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (250 mls) thickened cream
2 tbs chocolate syrup

Beat up the cheese till fluffy; throw in the condensed milk and peanut butter and beat them in; then add the lemon juice and vanilla.  Now fold your lovingly whipped cream into the mixture- gently!; bung it all into the pie plate, and for that last touch, swirl the syrup around the top of the pie.  Chuck in the fridge for a few hours till firm.  And eat-with gusto.

what could be better than butter and chocolate?

ready to mix together


pie crust ready to be chilled for an hour before filling

that looks so good I could eat it straight out of the bowl

dah dah!  all finished and just needs chilling till firm.