Sunday, 26 September 2010

When sour becomes sweet: a tale of friendship and sugar

Approximately two aeons ago, my lovely friend Cie gave me a true proof of our friendship. 'Do not kill' said the accompanying note. 'Failure to look after this embodiment of our friendship will bring my wrath and everlasting disappointment upon you.' It didn't of course; Cie is far too nice for that, but when she had to gently rescue Herman the friendship cake sourdough starter she had just given me from suffocation before we'd even left the pub I felt the pressure start to mount.

You've heard of sourdough bread starters? Well Herman is a sourdough cake starter. He is one hungry boy, however, and he also had a very sweet tooth. He needed feeding a whole cup each of sugar, flour and milk every three days, and a good stir on the intervening days. Thankfully he started to grow and bubble quite soon, so I had some regular reassurance that Cie was not going to have to unfriend me on facebook. He is also quite adaptable - my Herman was fed soya milk and a variety of different flours as well. Never able to resist tasting raw cake dough I was initially put off by his sour taste, but as the days went on he got progressively sweeter until at last, a week later, Baking Day arrived.

Herman, after a week of eating a lot of sugar

Herman is a friendship cake because you only use a quarter of the starter to make your cake, and pass the other three on to other people. Herman comes with a recipe for the finished cake, but with plenty of room to play with optional add-ins. I added white chocolate and - you guessed it if you can remember back that far - fresh raspberries. The final touch is some melted butter poured over the top which I must admit made him smell absolutely heavenly.

I took our Herman and one of his Herman progeny to some old college friends the next day. Their children were excited at the idea of their own Herman but didn't like the smell of the baked version - I like to think their foodie noses were picking up on the sourdough yeast smell. We were too full to eat him after lunch, but he got some good feedback later on.

And so, the buck was passed, my friendship with Cie was approved, and a few more of those raspberries met their cakey maker.

The End.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Kiwi treats

Kiwi Family moved house a few weeks ago and when I went to visit I took a couple of treats with me to remind them of their many recent travels. The first was a reprise of a New Zealand biscuit I made for the first time when they were away - Afghans. This time I used a recipe a Kiwi friend recommended, from the charmingly-named website Ladies, a plate. They are darkly chocolatey biscuits which contain cornflakes - which the recipe description says was a way of using up last bits and pieces in the pantry. Well, I don't need to tell any readers who are still left after being so disgracefully neglected for the past few weeks, that this appealed to my 'eke eke' philosophy immediately. The biscuits had a rich chocolate topping as well which I found I had to thin a bit more to spread - but which was very popular with the Munchkin as well as his parents.

The second treat was particularly for Kiwi Bro, who had just started his new job the day I went to visit. I'd remembered that he said he liked millionaires shortbread, so I made a Kiwi favourite tray bake - Tan Slice. Tray bakes seem to be particularly popular in both Australia and New Zealand, often using coconut and condensed milk. I got this recipe from Kiwi blogger Tammy who has posted several enticing variants and favourites. She also has a chocolate version I'm keen to try - and her philosophy of a greater caramel to base ratio has surely got to win all tasters over. It turned out as I made the slice that it wasn't quite what I had assumed when thinking of something like our millionaire's shortbread. Instead it was slightly more like a cake mixture which formed the base and also the top layer. The base didn't need baking before adding the caramel either which surprised me, but makes it all even easier. I was expecting a good response just from the sheer level of sugary goodness in the slice, but it did even better. Kiwi Sis texted me after I'd left to say they were swooning over it, and they had to fend off their dinner guests with pointy sticks (actually I made up the pointy sticks but there was definitely some fending going on).

So thank you to Alexa and Tammy - definitely a pair of Kiwi keepers!

Afghan recipe here

Tan slice recipe here