The weather; it's always been a talking point no matter where you go. Meet a stranger at a bus stop and strike up a conversation about the weather and you find yourself a mate for life. And I do mean "mate" as in the Aussie idiom and not in that biological sense that results in procreation. But nonetheless, I think that the weather has the efficacy of bringing people together in the same way that food does.
I know in Sydney it has become a bit of a past time to talk about it's wild and wacky ways, especially with its ferociously destructive bent of recent times. The weather has become a little bit of a farce, seeing that we have seen it all in the past couple of months. It's probably been one of the hottest, coldest and wettest summers in history. And, like mine, many Sydneysiders tongues have been sent wagging with all this unprecedented, history-making weather.
I stood in a queue at the Post Office and struck up a conversation with one woman about the recent hailstorm and how long it took the SES to come and patch her roof. Then another lady behind us piped in and recounted about how she had to quickly get all her greyhounds inside as their corrugated iron shed was no match for the golf ball sized hail stones. At that point I could feel those warm and fuzzy feelings, that only usually turn up come Christmas time, well up in my gut. Now this is what community feels like.
And I guess this is where my fondness for food stems from- it's inclination for community. Meals bring people together, food is such a rallying force- and when you get a collection of people gathered together in united mastication, it's a beautiful thing. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's more fun when you get to share the calories around, and what's a few kilojoules between friends?
Now here is one dessert that is definitely meant for sharing; the cakes are made individually so there is enough for everyone. And you don't have to feel like you are taking on the Spanish Armada as the cakes are incredibly light and airy. When you think of oranges, you think winter, but when you're in the midst of a cold spell like we are today it's the perfect thing to warm your belly.
Yesterday may have been ice cream and short-shorts weather but just like your luck in Vegas, Sydney-weather can turn just like that. And just like that, it's now back to long-sleeve, scarves and sweet indulgent cakes weather. I guess you can't complain, when you get to sit in front of the television, feet curled up under you with a plate of this. I know right now, I'm not saying a thing.
And if you are hankering for more, then head over to the The Garden of Eating soon and check out the round up of other comforting treats in the 2008 Comfort Food Cook-Off that is sure to weather any cold snap you might be amidst of.
Little yoghurt and orange blossom cakes
Recipe from the Australian Gourmet Traveller
300g (2 cups) plain all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
300g vanilla yoghurt
60ml (¼ cup) buttermilk
160g unsalted butter, softened
220g (1 cup) caster sugar
½ tsp finely grated orange rind
100g vanilla Persian fairy floss, to serve (optional)
FOR ORANGE BLOSSSOM ICING
60g unsalted butter, softened
600g icing confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 tsp orange blossom water (see note)
1½ tbsp vanilla yoghurt
Preheat oven to 160ºC.
Grease and line twelve round dariole cake pans (see note).
Sift flour with baking powder and a pinch of salt and set aside.
Whisk yoghurt and buttermilk together in a bowl and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and orange rind until pale and creamy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating briefly between each addition to combine.
With mixer on low speed, add one-third of the flour and mix to combine, then add one-third of the yoghurt mixture and mix to combine.
Repeat with remaining mixtures, alternating, until incorporated.
Mix just until batter is smooth, then divide evenly among prepared cake pans.
Tap base to level and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted withdraws clean.
Cool completely in pans on a wire rack.
Remove cakes from pans.
FOR ORANGE BLOSSOM ICING
Beat all ingredients and 1½ tbsp water in an electric mixer for 1 minute or until smooth.
Working with one cake at a time and using a hot, wet spatula, ice cakes starting with sides, then top. (If icing becomes difficult to spread, continue to dip spatula in hot water until icing is completely even.)
Set aside and stand for 1 hour or until icing is firm to touch, then serve each cake topped with a little fairy floss (optional).
NOTE: Orange blossom water is available from The Essential Ingredient (www.theessentialingredient.com.au/) and other specialty food stores.