Monday, September 17, 2012

Baking with the baby: Chocolate Avocado Biscuits

I have a little helper. Her favourite thing to cook with is eggs.  She calls them "eggy."  In her ideal world we would bake twice a day.  She is well known for her baking obsession at crèche, and they moved baking day there to accommodate her part time status.  From crèche baking she learnt the word 'turn' (applied of course only when she wants a turn and not to anyone else).  The first story that she ever told me about her day was saying her teacher's name's, 'egg' 'bowl' 'mix' 'fork.' 

In the last two weeks her vocabulary has greatly extended thanks to her new game of going to the pantry and pointing at different items, wanting to know what they are called.  Her father was quite surprised last night to hear her ask for pepper when making an omelette.

I don't know if this is a short lived obsession, or one that will continue for a long time.  At the moment I'm quite happy to indulge it, provided that we only bake every second day.  On alternate days I let her help with savoury food prep - it is her fondest wish to use the big knife.  She is very good at cutting mushrooms with a butter knife.  A month ago she was scared of the mixer - she can now turn it on.

This biscuits remind me a lot of the basic Edmonds biscuits that my Dad used to make when I was little.  I think he added Bournvita (can you still buy this stuff?) to make them semi-chocolaty.  These are a bit more decadent though.  I think that they taste best on the day that they are baked - the texture provided by the avocado is really apparent - soft and smooth.  On subsequent days the biscuits firm up, and it was this that reminded me of the Edmond's basic biscuits.  You can't taste a specific avocado taste - rather this recipe just benefits from the texture provided by the avocado.

Chocolate Avocado Biscuits (makes about 40 small biscuits)

120 grams butter
90 grams dark chocolate, chopped up (for melting, I used Whittaker's)
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large (no 7 eggs)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed avocado (normally just over one avocado, can use less if you don't have enough)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3 cups plain flour
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 180C.

Melt the butter and dark chocolate together.  Leave to cool (can put the bowl in a sink of cold water to hurry things along if you want).  Put both sugars in a mixer and mix with the paddle until well combined.  Add the chocolate/ butter and mix until sugar crystals have dissolved.  Add vanilla and salt.  When the mixture is cool, add the eggs and beat until well combined (if the mixture is hot when the eggs go in they will scramble and you will have a very disgusting slodge to clean).  Mix through the avocado.  Add the flour and baking powder and mix until combined, then stir through the chocolate chips.

I dropped spoonfuls onto baking paper the first time I made these, the second time I rolled them gently into a ball then pushed down with the back of a spoon.  Back for about 12-16 minutes until the top of the biscuit is dry then sit on the trays for five minutes to let the biscuit finish cooking gently.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool (if you leave them to cool on the tray they will be OK, but a lot firmer).

Once cool secretly freeze a bag for emergency afternoon teas!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Rainbow happiness

I came across two rainbow cakes online today and since birthday cakes are on my mind I thought I'd link to both of them.  One is a rather straightforward cake - I'm strongly in favour of these.  The other is more complex, but would probably be worth it for the look of surprise on the children's faces!

I then moved to Rainbow biscuits.  This was a really fun search.

While I liked the shape of the above biscuits for some reason I prefer the straight lines of these biscuits.  Add an extra egg if you try that recipe, the comments indicate that it was a very dry mixture.  On the same website I then found a further recipe for rainbow cubes, based on a cake recipe I've been searching for nearly two years!!  Then I began searching further and found some rainbow party theme ideas (including fruit kebab sticks).  I also loved this rainbow bento lunch.  It is a visually attractive and would be really adaptable as a party platter as well. For drinks I think it would be very impressive to have a giant clear jug of watered down juice with a rainbow of ice cubes.  You could even use different coloured fruit inside the ice like blueberries or strawberries. ------------------- The reason for all this searching?  My daughter has received two birthday invitations in the last week.  I've just realised that, due to the makeup of her class, all the class birthdays take place in the last half of the year.  By the time we get to her birthday there is a good chance that we will have been to a crazy amount of birthday parties and I will be desperate for ideas!  That being said, in January this year my daughter decided she wanted a sun and moon theme. I noted it down on the calendar to see if it changed.  Last I hear it was a 'pony princess in space' theme.  We'll see. ------------------ Rainbow photo credit

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

International chocolate festival/ chocolate master class

It may be some time before I finish talking about the Food Blogger's Conference.  I spent last weekend at the 2nd New Zealand Food Blogger's Association Conference and am still buzzing from meeting interesting people, eating lovely food and enjoying a range of fascinating presentations/ demonstrations.

Chocolate was a theme for the conference.  The conference opened just prior to the official opening of the New Zealand Chocolate Festival and the Food Blogger's were very kindly invited to the opening by the Intercontinental Hotel. Embarrassingly I was the last to arrive.  I hate being late, and was even making good time but I am very out of practice taking the bus into town at peak traffic and with the continuation of the horrid local roadwork's I was ten minutes late. I heard the last of a presentation by Juan Balsani (Kermadec) and saw him make caramelised white chocolate spaghetti! 
Juan Balsani making magical chocolate dessert!

The festival opened with a speech by the Wellington Mayor who mentioned that she had sampled fresh chocolate in Ghana.  I definitely would like to try fresh chocolate someday.  Once the speeches concluded we were free to enjoy the delights of the reception including sparkling wine, chocolate macarons and all the trade stands.  It was strange, I felt quite fraudulent, as though I wasn't supposed to be there.  Normally I love trade stands at conferences (hey - who doesn't like free sample shopping) but it has been three years since I've attended a conference and I felt out of practice I guess.  Luckily I came across the chocolate fountain room, this helped somewhat to comfort the nerves.  On entry you receive a cup, stick and two marshmallows.  Normally my handbag is full of child paraphernalia, so unfortunately I didn't have any baby wipes on me for when the inevitable happened and a little chocolate drip found its way onto my top.

It was during the reception that I discovered that my phone was nearly flat and that my charger was broken.  Luckily, Dick Smith's was around the corner so I dashed off and bought a new one.  Given that I'd forgotten the camera this would be my only visual record of the day.  So after arriving late, then popping out I was all flustered.  I went to purchase some chocolate but the stand didn't take EFTPOS and I didn't feel like leaving again!

There was a chocolate chess tournament as part of the conference - once you took a piece you ate it!  Not bad
I meet one of the owners of Bull Rush chocolates*.  Bull Rush is an Ashburton based company and they produce some delicious chocolates.  My favourite was their marshmallow Easter egg (sold in truffle form on the day).  It was beautiful and delicious.  Most of the large-scale Easter eggs are really quite horrid chocolate - with that greyish bloom on them that is an inevitable result of months of storage.  If you were going to blow it all on one egg for the family then this could be the one.  They didn't have any local stockists sadly but I have connections down that way so may have to grovel a bit! For a bit of a fun I also purchased a very small bar of their rhubarb and kumara dark chocolate bar.

Schoc chocolates were represented.  I can vividly remember going to their Greytown store five years ago and for the first time tasting really good quality chocolate with non-traditional flavours.  I thought that I was adventurous trying their sea salt flavour.  I purchased their new fennel flavour (amazing) and also carrot and coriander.  Is there no limit to flavours-that-go-well with chocolate?

A few years ago my friend Bronwyn introduced me to Berhamphore chocolate shop L'affaire au Chocolat.  If you have time you should stop by for one of their very delicious hot chocolates.  Since then I have regularly relied on their delicious products for gifts/ treats and at Christmas time bought packs of their special hot chocolate mix (pellets of dark chocolate mixed with spices, such as cardamom).  Their Easter Eggs are pretty amazing and are world famous in Wellington.  The owner, Jo gave a talk/ master-class at the  Food Blogger's conference.  Her knowledge and passion for chocolate are quietly evident - the talk and photos that she showed demonstrated a real fascination with the history of chocolate production and understanding of the politics and players. 

As this talk  took place first thing on the second morning of the conference we became rapidly used to starting the day with chocolate.  From what I have read on other blogs, it has been a hard return to reality, and some bloggers have introduced 'breakfast dessert' to tide themselves over.  Brilliant!

* No link, it appears that there is some problem with the website listed on the bar wrapper.