Cook this: Weet-Bix Slice

Fun facts about Weet-Bix:

1. Australian children use them to learn the points of a compass. Never Eat Soggy Weet-Bix. How does anyone else learn that??

2. They’re basically just little bricks of shredded wheat. I think most countries have their own version. They are not very exciting on their own.

3. I flat out refused to eat them for breakfast as a kid (see point 1 – I don’t like soggy cereal) unless dad smeared them with Nutella or strawberry jam and I ate them like crackers. Very dry, flavourless crackers. The only other exception was mum’s Weet-Bix slice.

4. Mum makes a few bloody good versions of a Weet-Bix slice – this is the one I like best.

Ingredients:
– 3 Weet-Bix, crushed
– 1 cup desiccated coconut
– 1 cup self-raising flour
– finely grated zest of half a lemon
– 1/2 cup castor sugar
– 180g butter, melted
– 1 tsp vanilla extract

– 1 cup icing sugar
– juice of 1 lemon
– other half of the lemon’s zest

 

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C and line a 12 inch square tin with non-stick baking paper.

2. Combine the crushed Weet-Bix, coconut, flour, lemon zest and sugar in a large bowl.

3. Pour in the butter and vanilla, mix to combine.

4. Get the mixture into the tin and press it down firmly with your hands. Bake 15 minutes or until set. When it comes out of the oven, leave it in the tin while you make the icing.

5. Combine the icing sugar, lemon juice and zest, mix it up and add more icing sugar if it’s too runny/more lemon juice if too dry.

6. After the slice has had a chance to cool for 5 minutes, pour the icing on top and spread it over evenly. Let the slice cool completely in the tin, the take it out, slice into squares and enjoy!

Cook this: Cadbury Creme Egg Easter Brownies

Being a chocoholic, Easter is obviously my favourite holiday, and Cadbury Creme Eggs are my favourite holiday treats. The big ones are getting too sugary for me, but I find the little ones just right – they have a much better chocolate to filling ratio.

 

Ingredients:
– 250g milk chocolate
– 150g butter
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 3 eggs, lightly beaten
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup plain flour
– 1 packet of mini creme eggs, wrappers removed

 

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line a rectangular cake tin with baking paper.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring continuously.
3. Once melted, remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the sugar.
4. Stir in the eggs and vanilla next until fully incorporated, then the flour.
5. Lastly, fold in the creme eggs and pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
6. Bake for 30 minutes and cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to finish cooking.

Cook this: Almond Amaretto cake

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Growing up, Sundays were always “family days.” They were spent with grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins. I’m sure this will ring true for a lot of others with an Italian background. As I’m getting older, that’s changing; I’m needing a little more time alone, time to look after me. The one thing that won’t ever change, though, that still makes me as happy and comfortable and safe as it did when I was a child, is seeing my grandparents. My paternal grandparents are two of the most incredible people I know. Well into their eighties, they are so self-sufficient it almost defies belief. That my beautiful little Nonna is still growing all of her own produce (literally everything from carrots to strawberries, zucchini to tomatoes, figs to grapes grow in their ENORMOUS garden – see below for a little bit of it), spending hours on her hands and knees digging up the sweetest carrots and that Nonno is still climbing up small step ladders to pluck me a small bowl of the figs I’ve loved since I was a tiny little person is both crazy, and at the same time, I can’t imagine it any other way.

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But don’t think it’s limited to fresh produce; Nonno does his own alcohol, too. A genuine purveyor of quality home brew. Wine and spirits, thank you very much. And every time we visit, we get sent home with half a car full of fresh fruit and veggies, as well as a little bit of whatever’s just been bottled; last visit was Amaretto, a sweet, almond-based liqueur. I really like Nonno’s Amaretto, particularly for use in baking. It’s insanely strong (really, I shudder to think of the alcohol percentage…), so you don’t have the problem of it all being baked out when you add some of the home brewed stuff to your cakes, which means it’s still got that distinct flavour and kick that I remember so vividly (and fondly) from all the cakes and biscuits that I used to eat when I was younger.

I didn’t really have a recipe in mind to use when I got the bottle from Nonno the other week, so I had a flick through one of my older cookbooks, the Larousse Treasury of Country Cooking Around The World (1975 edition), purchased for change at the Grub Street Book Shop a few years ago. I found this recipe which I screwed around with a little and ended up with a cake that Nonna and Nonno would have been pretty happy with, had husband and I not eaten it all within 48 hours.

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What I changed:

– Swapped the walnuts out for toasted, slivered almonds (left whole, not ground)

– Used the juice and peel of an orange instead of a lemon

– Added a standard shot glass of Nonno’s Amaretto

 

Other than that, I used the recipe and method as printed in the cook book, and got a great result – it was somehow dense, yet light and moist all at the same time, with the almonds really bringing out the flavour of the Amaretto, and the orange flavour sitting nicely with the almond. A bit of whipped cream would have been perfect with it (note to self for next time), and a little icing sugar dusted lightly on top wouldn’t have gone astray either (if I’d had any in the pantry). It’s one I’ll definitely make again (don’t think husband is going to give me much choice there), and I’ll double the recipe next time so I have some to bring to Nonna and Nonno!

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Cook this: Chocolate bourbon pecan pie

My contribution to our early family Christmas was chocolate bourbon pecan pie. Not a traditional Aussie Christmas dish at all, but instead I figured I’d do something a little more representative of the country I’ll be spending Christmas in. Also, the recipe I found in one of my cook books was for straight pecan pie, but I felt like the addition of bourbon and dark chocolate could only be a good thing.

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Ingredients
– short crust pastry
– 3 tbsp plain flour
– 150g brown sugar
– 2 large eggs
– 200g golden syrup
– 200 g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
– 30g butter, melted and cooled
– 2 tbsp vanilla extract
– 3 tbsp bourbon
– pinch of salt
– 300g pecan halves – half crushed into smaller pieces, half left whole

 

Method
1. Grease a 9 inch pie dish and roll out the pastry to line it. Prick a few holes in the bottom with a knife or fork, line it with baking paper, fill with pie weights/rice/dried beans and bake for 15min or until the edges start to turn golden.
2. To make the filling which the crust is blind baking, combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl.
3. Whisk in the eggs, golden syrup, chocolate, butter, vanilla, bourbon and salt.
4. Mix in the crushed pecans.
5. Remove the pie from the oven and pour in the filling. Arrange or sprinkle the pecan halves on top.
6. Turn the temperature up to 200°C and bake for 10min, then lower the temperature back down to 170°C and bake for a further 45min or until set.
7. Rest in tin until cool enough to handle, then transfer to a wire rack to cool a little longer before slicing and serving up – with ice cream or thickened cream, preferably!

Cook this: Gingerbread men!

Because we’re missing Christmas at home this year, a number of Christmas traditions, such as gingerbread men, have needed to be moved forward. Other traditions, like my husband’s repeated viewings of Chevy Chase’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, I’m not pushing quite as hard for an early start on.

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I’ve tried so many gingerbread recipes and it has taken batch after batch after batch to finally come up with a version I love – hope everyone else enjoys them, too 🙂

INGREDIENTS
– 125g butter, softened
– ½ cup brown sugar
– 100g golden syrup
– 100g maple syrup
– ½ tsp vanilla extract
– 2½ cups plain flour
– 3 tsp ground ginger
– 1 tsp baking soda

 

METHOD
1. Combine the flour, ginger and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer for 4 – 5 minutes, until pale and creamy. Add in the golden syrup and/or maple syrup and honey, as well as the vanilla, and beat for another 30 seconds, until combined.

3. Add in the dry ingredients, and beat on low speed until a dough comes together. Don’t worry if it is crumbly, you’ll be able to bring it together with your hands.

4. Roll the dough out to your desired thickness between two pieces of non-stick baking paper and put it in the fridge for half an hour.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C and line 2 large oven trays with baking paper.

6. Take the cold dough out of the fridge and cut out gingerbread men of your preferred size. You can see from the photo below that I made quite little ones – for your reference, I got 90 (yes, 90) little gingerbread gentlemen out of the dough made from the ingredients above. Re-roll the dough as necessary until it’s all been cut and placed onto the oven trays.

7. Bake for 7 – 10 minutes until lightly golden.

8. For a softer cookie, remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the trays for 10 minutes before moving to cooling racks. If you like them a little crunchier, turn the oven off and leave them in there to cool completely.

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