Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Words To Eat By

Moscato Zabaglione and Lemon Polenta Cookies

When I come across a good thing I like to stick to it. I have a pair of brown sandals that I bought about three years ago that I refuse to replace. They are comfortable, stylish and are wearing a bit thin, but I have yet to find another sandal just like it and I am reluctant to let it go. A year ago, I came across a brand of organic muesli that I really loved. It had just enough crunch that when mixed with some yoghurt, it didn't turn into a soggy mess. After that I just couldn't bring myself to buy another brand, even when it costs me $8 a pop.

Call it loyalty or call it stubbornness, but when I see something that works I run with it, which brings me to these cookies. These cookies contain an ingredient that has proved itself a winner in our household; an established favourite, I have seen cookies that contain this one ingredient polished off even before I get around to prying the cookies off the baking sheet.


Don’t worry, you won’t need to scale steep cliffs or endure blistering weather conditions to acquire this ingredient. It doesn’t cost thousands of dollars per kilo and no, it wasn’t dug up by specially trained dogs, nor was it bred on beer and operatic scores or grown along the inclines of some Himalayan range only accessible with the help of a Sherpa.

Luckily you can get this ingredient at any supermarket and it will only set you back a couple of dollars. If you haven’t already surmised, the ingredient is polenta, just your everyday, coarse-grained, sunshine yellow polenta. I’ve waxed lyrical about polenta in baked goods several times before but there’s just something about combining butter, sugar, polenta and a little bit of citrus zest that makes my taste buds happy.

Lemon Polenta Cookies

These aromatic slabs have a crumb much like shortbread and melts easily in your mouth. Its taste is quite subtle although the raisins that speckle the cookies add a slight burst of juicy sweetness to them. As soon as I came across this recipe on Epicurious, I knew I had to make them, and because the cookies came with a recipe for Moscato Zabaglione, there was an even greater motivation to give it a go. Cookies with polenta I had done, but never zabaglione. I knew it was only a matter of perception but the notion of egg yolks and sugar somehow didn’t sound too appealing. Even after seeing pictures of the stuff over and over in glossy magazines and cookbooks, I had yet to be convinced.

To be honest my first encounter with zabaglione was merely a month ago at Pruniers Restaurant. Our waiter recommended it to me and because I wasn’t prompted by any of their other dessert options, I decided to go with it. And after hearing how the word “zabaglione” just delicately rolled off the French waiter’s mouth, I thought, perhaps I could be persuaded.


After tasting their passionfruit zabaglione, I thought to myself that the combination of yolks and sugar was pretty good, delicious in fact. I should have never doubted the Italians aptitude at creating desserts. So the next day I stuck this recipe up onto the fridge door and it hung there for quite sometime without any thought. Possibly it was a case of onomatomania and the sublime way the waiter uttered the word “zabaglione” or conceivably it was just his French accent that enticed me but I it worked. I couldn’t get the word “zabaglione” out of my head.

So while the cookies were in the oven baking, I set off to make the Moscato Zabaglione. Traditionally it is made with Marsala although I think any sweet wine would do. I personally love Moscato; I could easily drink the stuff as if it were cordial.

Moscato Zabaglione

The recipe can be made in less than ten minutes, depending on how fast you can whisk. By the time the cookies come out of the oven the zabaglione will be ready. It is best served warm, but it is just as good chilled.

So keep your taste buds happy with this recipe.

Moscato Zabaglione with Lemon Polenta Cookies
makes 50 cookies
adapted from
this recipe

Lemon Polenta Cookies Moscato Zabaglione and Lemon Polenta Cookies

110g unsalted butter, softened ½ cup sugar 1 tsp lemon zest ½ tsp salt
2 large egg yolks
½ cup polenta
1¼ cups plain all-purpose flour
½ cup golden raisins

6 large egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
½ cup Italian Moscato or Essencia


Preheat oven to 180°C.
Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until fluffy.
Beat in lemon zest and salt, then egg yolks.
Beat in polenta, then flour.
Fold in raisins.
Knead dough just to combine; transfer to sheet of plastic wrap.
Using plastic, shape dough into a log 3cm in diameter, cut in half and wrap in plastic.
Chill until firm, 3 hours or up to 1 day.

Slice dough log into 0.5cm-thick rounds.
Arrange rounds on prepared baking sheet, spacing 2cm apart and reshaping into rounds if uneven. (The cookies do not spread too much so there is no need to space them too far apart.)
Bake cookies for about 15 minutes or until they have become golden in colour.
Cool on tray for 2 minutes, then lift cookies from tray using a spatula and transfer to a wire rack.

NOTE: The dough can be made up to 48 hours ahead and stored in the fridge.


Whisk egg yolks and sugar in large metal bowl and gradually whisk in Moscato.
Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water) and whisk until mixture is thick and foamy, about 4 minutes.
Divide zabaglione among 6 cocktail glasses.
Serve immediately with Lemon Polenta Cookies.

Makes 4-6 servings

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Small Things

Little Lemon Cakes

I just have to get this off my chest…

We were at the movies the other night with a few friends and a little girl no older than 6 happened to be seated behind me. About 20 minutes into the movie I could feel her feet kicking my seat, I don’t know if she was just disinterested or restless, but she would not stop kicking my chair. I endured the kicking for a few minutes and thought that she was bound to stop, but she didn’t, so I turned around and asked her to please stop kicking my chair. She gave me a bratty look, scrunched her nose and reluctantly lowered her feet. Her mother, who was sitting next to her, was surprisingly oblivious to the whole incident.

The kicking seemed to stop for a while, although half an hour later, she started kicking again. So again, I turned around and addressed both the parent and the girl to please ask her to stop kicking the chair. The parent looked at me like I just recited her a theory in quantum physics and then carried on watching the movie.

Urrghhhh! The insolence!

Little Lemon Cakes

Now on to more pleasant little things.

There is just something about making things miniature that renders it appealing. You have a cake and then you reduce it to the size a cupcake, very cute. Then you take a cupcake and then shrink it into a mini cake and you get something doubly as cute. I should know a lot about cute; being what polite, politically correct people consider petite, I get a lot of people calling me cute. Not that I take offence to the word, I guess it just comes with the territory, of being small that is.

Other than aesthetics, I don’t know what else would be the benefit of having such small morsels as these. I assume portion control would be a logical intention, although in my experience this did nothing to foil the excessive amount of portions I ended up ingesting.

Little Lemon Cakes

You must avert your eyes, and your appetite for these mini cakes are deceiving. They make be small and they may be cute, but don’t think you can just stop at one. Unless you are planning on making these for company, don’t be left alone with a whole batch. They will somehow find a way into your stomach, seducing you with their cuteness.

I saw these little lemon cakes on Lara’s blog last year and I fell in love with them instantly. It was only a few days ago when I actually got to make the cakes and realised for myself, how addictive they really are. Tangy, sweet and sour, all in one delightful bite. And because the cakes are so small you get the perfect crust to crumb ratio, a flawlessly crusty exterior with a lovely springy interior. Thanks to the addition of yoghurt, it becomes the ideal catalyst for producing the cake’s sponge-like crumb. Soon after adding the yoghurt, you will notice tiny air bubbles forming in the batter.

Little Lemon Cakes

I also happened to have some leftover raspberry coulis sitting sound in my fridge, which was just the thing to pair the cakes with. But on their own they are just as good. These are a great way to serve petit fours, as Lara showed in her post, or even as regular cupcakes or a cake. Baking times will vary for different sizes, but the recipe remains the same. If you are not keen on having it paired with a side condiment, then a light dusting of icing sugar should do the trick. Enjoy!

Little Lemon Cakes Little Lemon Cakes

Lemon Yoghurt Mini Cakes
makes up to 40 mini cakes
adapted from
this recipe

Little Lemon Cakes

equipment: 24-hole non-stick mini muffin tray

60g unsalted butter
½ cup caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon zest finely grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup plain all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup full cream yoghurt or sour cream
¼ cup lemon juice
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Beat butter, sugar and lemon zest together until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and beat for about 2 minutes.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and gently fold in.
Then gently stir in the yoghurt and lemon juice.
Spoon small teaspoons of batter into the mini muffin tray. Be careful not to fill them all the way to the top.
Bake for 25 minutes. Check the middle muffin by inserting a toothpick, it should come out clean.
If they are not done yet, continue to bake at 5 minute intervals checking in between if the tops are golden brown and crusty.
Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then gently remove from tin by tapping on the bottom. The cakes should all come out cleanly.
Serve bottom side up as little mini cakes with a dusting of icing sugar and some raspberry coulis.

Little Lemon Cakes

Happy Australia Day

Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

I might be 24 hours too late, but I just wanted to wish everyone a great Australia Day. In whatever way you chose to celebrate it, I hope you did it with a bang.

The rocks at Avalon Beach
rockpool at Avoca

We have ourselves a magnificent country, so go ahead and enjoy every bit of it!

The face at Luna Park
Luna Park, Sydney

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Adventure on the high seas

Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches

Now that most of the bruises I sustained from my recent holiday are slowly starting to dissipate, I can concentrate more on doing some cooking and less explaining as to why I have bruises on my legs. You are probably wondering what kind of vacation causes such misfortune; I can tell you now it wasn’t some sort of boot camp. I would never intentionally bring that sort of pain on myself. Let’s just say that the bruising resulted from a combination of overly spirited recreation and clumsy misadventure.

I didn’t go and seek out to get bruised but after a day of sea rafting, sea kayaking, golf and tennis, my muscles were more than aching, it felt like they were bleeding internally. It served as a reminder of how unfit I actually was and I came to the stark realisation that my eat cake; exercise later philosophy wasn’t very effective. Excessive baking and vacationing are both perilous undertakings, who would have thought?

Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches

All I know is that while we were being prepared for sea rafting, we were instructed to wear dry suits, life jackets and helmets. All of a sudden it dawned on me, this wasn’t a leisurely meander in the ocean where you put your feet up and people serve you nice drinks with little umbrellas in them. No. This was an all out aquatic assault through waves, paddling for your life; and paddle we did.

There were 5 of us in the raft plus the guide and our mission was to get this seemingly flimsy inflatable raft past where waves were breaking in order to catch waves in. Sounds fun, right? Well, before this entire wave-catching spree could take place, we were given a brief on safety precautions, a how-not-to-injure-yourself type talk from the guide. I was very excited, although I have to admit my excitement was tinged with a little trepidation. After all, the activity required helmets, this was no afternoon of croquet.

With our helmets safely fastened to our heads, paddles in hand we ventured out to sea to face the waves. To heighten my anxiety, G and I were up front, which meant that we would be facing the brunt of incoming waves. Isn’t this just dandy, the smallest one of the group and I am up front.

Steve, our intrepid guide also taught us to keep our hands on our paddles at all times so as not to injure anyone as we were thrown about in the raft. Well this tidbit of information must have escaped G's mind while we were violently thrown about on the first big wave we encountered and unfortunately the bar of his paddle found its way under my chin. I could feel the throbbing starting, but there was no time for mercy, we were about to find out what sea rafting was all about.

Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches

Facing the waves head on was quite a thrill and a challenge, as we paddled harder and harder, the waves kept on coming. It seemed to take forever just to get out back behind the waves and all I can say is that I used every ounce of breath I had in me and I was exhausted. However, for the amount of effort we exerted, the excitement of catching a wave was reward well worth it. It’s the unbeatable feeling of sitting atop a cresting wave feeling its force pushing you towards the shore. All you can do is sit and take it all in. By the end of our trip my bruise-count totaled to about 10 bruises, although some of those bruises did result from my inbuilt propensity for clumsiness. I think I inherited it from my dad.

I guess it's fairly obvious that this post has nothing to do with these Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches. I apologise now if anyone was waiting for the in-depth exposition on these cookies, but I promised at the beginning of the year that I would share this recipe that's all. What I can say about these cookies is that they are quite addictive even without its cream cheese filling. To be honest, I preferred the cookies unfilled as that the cream cheese filling becomes, well, a little too filling.

The batter is much wetter than cookie batter and creates a more cake like texture; the cookies are actually very soft and have a moist crumb. A cookie that is more like a cake is how I can best describe it. Just think of it as a cake in the shape of a cookie. Here is the recipe, enjoy!

Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches
makes about 13 sandwiches
taken from here

Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches

1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
110g unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coarsely grated carrots (2 medium)
1 scant cup walnuts, slightly broken
1/3 cup raisins

1 cup cream cheese
1 tbsp hopney

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 180°C. Butter 2 baking sheets.
Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
Beat together butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla in another bowl until pale and fluffy. Mix in carrots, nuts, and raisins; then add flour mixture to this and beat until just combined.
Drop 1 1/2 tablespoons batter per cookie 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are lightly browned and springy to the touch, 12 to 16 minutes total.
Cool cookies on sheets for 1 minute, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.
While cookies are baking, blend cream cheese and honey in a food processor until smooth.Sandwich flat sides of cookies together with a generous tablespoon of cream cheese filling in between.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Slideshow Commentary

If you want some commentary with your slideshow, just click here.

Because I am so technically handicapped, I couldn't figure out how to put the captions in with the slideshow. So just click on the link above if you want to know more about the photographs.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

One Wedding and a Road Trip

So I promised to show you photos of my recent getaway, and a week later they are still a no-show. Well, you can finally inch yourselves away from the edge of your seats, sit back and watch this slideshow presentation of our vacation.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Back Home

Sitting by the pool

Hey everyone! I'm back home from my shortlived, yet rejuvinating vacation and am slowly finding way back into "normal" life. Goodbye sleep-ins, goodbye long walks on the beach, goodbye tan and say hello air-conditioned workplaces, 30-minute lunches and Sydney traffic. Isn't it just great to back from holidays?

Excuse that slight tinge of sarcasm in my tone, but it's just so hard easing back into routine after such a great holiday. The wedding we attented in Armidale was one to rival all weddings, we had an amazing time spent with friends and created some really treasured memories on the way. Here's just some of the photographs I took.

From the mountains...

Lookout at Walcha

to lush forests...

Waterfall Way

to picturesque beaches...


and coastal towns...

Coffs Harbour Marina

we covered them all,

Golf at Pacific Bay Resort

and not to mention a little bit of recreation in between.

It's been an amazing holiday, and I'll share more photos with you soon!

Mutton Bird Island

Friday, January 05, 2007

On the Road Again

on the road again

Were off on another road trip. This time to Armidale, although we've affectionately named it "Farmidale". It's a 6-hour drive, 567kms northwest of Sydney, so I am hoping to snap a kangaroo or some other Australian wildlife on the way. Were heading to the "sticks" for a goregous country wedding and then were off to a seaside romp in Coffs Harbour. If you are familiar with Coffs Harbour, you will know that it's the home of the Big Banana, which interestingly enough is where we purchased Cocoa the monkey. Trivial thoughts aside, I will definitely be posting some photographs of the New South Wales countryside as soon as I get back.


As for the topic of weddings, I hate to say this but I think that weddings will be the bane of our existence this year. It's only January and we are already slated to attend four weddings. Who knows what the tally will be by the end of the year. Maybe I shouldn't be such a wet blanket, I do love a wedding. I love getting dressed up, I love having an excuse to buy a new outfit, I love seeing old friends, I love being invited to share a meal, I love the free booze.

But for women, the whole process of getting married can not only be expensive for the bride but also for the bride’s friends. There is the engagement present, the bridal shower or kitchen tea, then the hen’s night and then there’s the actual wedding present. And who wants to give their friends cheap presents? Must I consider a second income just to support my wedding habit? If you see me selling cupcakes or lemonade on my front lawn please don’t hesitate to come and lend some support.

See you when I get back!

COMING UP: Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches (as seen on
this post)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I Got A New Rack...

Almond Berry Tart

Get your minds out of the gutter! What were you thinking, I meant a spice rack.

After cluttering our cabinets with countless jars and sachets of herbs and spices, I have finally found a new home for all my spices to live in. They proudly hang on the wall in small clear bottles marked with handmade labels, an arm’s length away from the stove. No longer do I have to stoop down on the floor, flashlight in hand, searching for rosemary and cinnamon in a dusty cavernous cupboard like some sort of geologist. No one should have to go through all that trouble just to get to some rosemary.

Also, most of you will probably be glad to know that I did receive my very own ice cream maker this Christmas. I can just make out the sound of a collective “woohoo!” resonating throughout the blogosphere. It seems that my insistent pleading proved convincing enough. I think if I hadn’t pestered everyone with the most obvious of hints to the verge of possible collapse, I would have just gone out and bought the darn thing myself.

I am determined to make all things iced this summer. That said, I still haven’t found enough time to make ice cream as yet; I’ve been caught up doing absolutely nothing during my holidays. I think I was born for the holiday, if this could be an occupation, I would be at the top of my game. Jen is my name, and lounging is my game. Although when I do go back to my “normal” routine, not that my life is ever routine or normal, ice-cream-making will be high on my list of things to do.

spice rack ice cream maker
My new spice rack still needs new bottles and my brand new Krups ice cream maker

Well, now that the New Year has been appropriately rung in and the vestiges of severe party-going has all been done away with (except for the bags under my eyes); all there is to do is look at what’s ahead. There’s an excitement that I get at the advent of every New Year, perhaps it’s just the post-Christmas sales, but there is something about the start of the year that I find thrilling. I suppose that it is the opportunity for a new beginning, another clean slate, no matter how well or how dreadful the year 2006 was for you, there is the chance to start over and do it all again, perhaps this time better.

One thing that I intend on doing better this year is pastry. After being knocked back several times from the Bourke St Bakery pastry course because there were no vacancies, I have decided to work on my pastry skills myself. I just don’t think I have the dexterity and finesse that most people do when it comes to pastry. Most times I am at the thing like a 3 year-old with play-dough, kneading, moulding and pressing the dough as if I was making bread. Sometimes I just don’t have the patience for it, and since I lack this virtue so imperative to making pastry, I am forced to take shortcuts that defeats its whole art.

But this year it's different. This time around, I followed the recipe to the letter, abiding strictly to all the instructions stated. The sheer beauty of this pastry recipe is that there is no need to roll the dough out, unless you are so inclined. But why would you go through all that rolling, dusting, and lifting, risking the likelihood of tearing the thing when all this pastry requires is to be pressed into the tart tin.

Almond Berry Tarts

This recipe and this method disguises my clumsiness with pastry and you wouldn’t even suppose that I fumbled my way through the recipe. And although I have come to the stark recognition that I have a long way to go at becoming one poised and self-assured patissier, I always have this recipe to fall back on.

These Almond Berry Tartlets were made using Dorie Greenspan’s pâte sablée recipe and Donna Hay’s almond berry filling. It seems that the theme of berries and summer cannot escape me and I am again posting another recipe including berries. If you are from the northern hemisphere where berries are long gone, I’m sorry, I know that all this talk of summer and berries might be deflating just going into your winter, but bear with me while I go ga-ga over berries. All this public display of affection towards berries might be making some uncomfortable; I probably look like those maudlin lovers kissing and cuddling in a crowded train, oblivious to the prying eyes stealing glances at them. But I just cannot conceal my affections, and all you will probably hear for the next two months are berry this and berry that.

But I hope you will still stop by and say hello, this berry thing is probably just a phase.

Pâte Sablée
adapted from
this book

1¼ cups plain all-purpose flour
½ cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
¼ tsp salt
110g unsalted butter, frozen and cut into small cubes
1 large egg yolk

Place flour confectioner’s sugar and salt in a dry bowl and whisk to combine.
Place frozen butter and the flour mixture into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mix resembles pea-sized grains.
Slowly pour in the egg yolk a little at a time, through the spout of the food processor while pulsing one or two times in between pouring.
When all of the egg yolk is in, pulse a few more times for longer until the dough forms larger clumps.
Using a spatula, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead the dough just to incorporate any remaining dry ingredients.
Shape dough into a ball and wrap in plastic, refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

The beauty of this dough is that it doesn’t need to be rolled, it can simply be pressed into your tart pan.
Cut the dough into 6 portions and work with one portion at a time keeping the other portions wrapped in plastic and in the refrigerator.
Press the dough evenly over the base and sides of the tart pan, making sure that there are no cracks and holes.
Repeat for the remaining pieces of dough for all the tart pans.
Freeze the crust for up to 1 hour before making.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Remove the crusts from the freezer and prick with a fork two or three times.
Line the crusts with little pieces of parchment paper and place pie weights on top.
Bake the crusts for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool the crusts without removing them from their tins.

Almond Berry Tartlets
this book
makes 6

Almond Berry Tarts

6 pre-made pâte sable crusts (see recipe above)
90g unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup almond meal
1 tbsp plain all-purpose flour
½ cup berries
icing (confectioner’s) sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 150°C.
Place butter and sugar in a bowl and bet until pale and fluffy.
Add the egg, almond meal and flour, and beat until smooth.
Spoon the mixture into prepared tart crusts and smooth over the tops.
Press 5-6 berries in each tart just enough so that their tops can still be seen.
Dust with icing sugar and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the tops are golden.
Remove from oven and cool before serving.