Malta: Puddina

I was flicking through my Food Safari cookbook the other day looking for inspiration.  I’ve mentioned before I get itchy to bake, and this day was no exception.  I turned to the pages on Maltese food.  My son’s best mate is Maltese, so I thought it only fitting I try my hand at Maltese cooking (doesn’t everyone do this?)  I found a great recipe for using up stale bread.  Puddina!


The recipe calls for day old bread or bread rolls etc.  Also mixed fruit, sugar, eggs etc.  My husband and I are not at all keen on candied peel.  In fact, I think it should be banned.  It ruins perfectly good food.  Yuk!  So instead of buying chopped mixed fruit I bought various dried fruits and chopped them up myself to ensure no candied peel crept into my Puddina.  I also added sultana’s into the mix.


This pudding is not really what you would define as a pudding.  Although, I imagine heating it and eating it with a bowl of warmed custard would be divine (note to self: do this tonight).  It’s a really moist cake that can be eaten anytime.  Morning tea, afternoon tea, midnight snack … anytime.  With all that dried fruit and almonds I like to think it’s a healthy option for a snack…maybe.



Because you use a whole loaf of bread it yields a massive cake.  But I don’t think you will find this is a problem.





You might be able to see from the above picture a little bit of bread.  I think it should probably be all mixed in and the actual bread should be unidentifiable.  But this was my first attempt and it didn’t make any difference to the overall taste in my opinion.


So I bravely decided to give a large portion to my Maltese friends.  Of course I doubt it was like Grandma used to make but I handed it over anyway.  Thankfully they were really pleased to receive it and they loved it!  Success!





Donna Hay: Flourless Chocolate Truffle Cake – A Review

Those of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning would know that I have a little aversion to packet cake mixes.  I don’t “hate” them.  In fact, I made one the other day with my 3year old niece who has the attention of a goldfish (I figured she didn’t have the patience to sit through all the sifting, adding etc.).  So I am not so much “anti” cake mixes.  But given the choice, I would bake from scratch for sure.


Having said all that, Donna Hay’s PR department sent Bells and I a packet of us a Chocolate Truffle cake each to bake and review.  It’s nice that our little blog was one of the many (I imagine) to be chosen to review this product.


I’m not a huge rich chocolate fan.  I had a bad experience with a Max Brennar restaurant once, which I won’t bore you with the details.  Suffice to say, I ate too much chocolate one evening and was reminded of the fact throughout the rest of the (very long) night.


So when I baked this cake I made sure I had friends and family to share it with.



The packet mix was dead simple.  You did need to melt some chocolate and some butter together, but that is about as tricky as it got.  The instructions were clear and easy to understand.  The strange bit just before popping the mixture in the oven was covering the uncooked cake mixture with a foil dome.  You had to fold the foil over in one corner so you ended up with a small pleat which enabled the foil to cover the tin and also point upwards. (There is a picture on the back of the box – so no need to freak out).


The cake comes out a little wobbly in the middle. I know this goes against all we know about cake baking, but trust me, this is normal.  You need to pop it in the fridge straight away and allow it to completely cool – 4 hours at least.  I did it overnight as I was cooking ahead.


And the final result??  Really, really good.  You need to think of it differently from your average fluffy cake.  It’s made with almond meal, which straight away will give you a completely different texture to your cake made with flour.  I actually liked the texture.  It was a little gritty (probably not the best word to use for cake).  The cake was firm and very, very chocolately.  Too much chocolate for me.  But that’s just personal taste.  If you are a chocolate lover, then this is the chocolate treat for you.


I served it up with whipped cream and raspberries.  The cake had such a special feel about it, it is definitely the kind of cake you want to bring out when you hope to impress someone.  Restaurant quality, I believe.


So would I make it again?  If I was pushed for time and I had someone coming for dinner who adored chocolate on a scary scale then… yes I would.  It doesn’t have that “packet cake’ flavour which is a big bonus for me.


Back to delicious home-made goodies next time.



Breakfast Cinnamon Rolls

It was my birthday a few days ago and I decided this year I was not going to bake my own birthday cake.  I’ve done this before and enjoyed the experience, but this year it was not going to happen.

However, there has been a recipe that has been teasing me for quite a while and it’s been wooing me to make it.  So I thought what better time than my birthday to bake something purely for me.  So I hit the kitchen to make my Birthday Cinnamon Rolls – to be enjoyed at breakfast with my husband and son.

The recipe suggests using a mixer with a dough hook or a large mixing bowl to do by hand.  I decided it was a good opportunity to use my bread maker and use the “dough” setting.  This required me to throw all the ingredients, set it to “dough” and walk away.  However, the recipe below will instruct you with the slightly longer way to do it.

Cinnamon Rolls


1 cup lukewarm milk

2 large eggs, room temp

1/3 cup butter, cut into cubes (I made sure it was slighty softened)

4 1/2 cups plain flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

7g packet rapid rise yeast


1/3cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon


1 1/2 cups icing sugar

1 tablespoon maple syrup or flavouring

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

2 Tablespoons (or more) milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the dough: mix all the ingredients in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer until mixture comes together.

Either knead the dough by hand for 5-8 minutes or until smooth; or using the dough hook in a stand mixer knead for 4-7 minutes at medium speed.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place somewhere warm for about 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the filling ingredients together.  (I found popping the mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds helped the mixture be a more spreadable consistency).

Take the dough out of the bowl and punch it down.  Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 40cm x 50cm rectangle.  Leaving a 2.5cm border at one end of the short ends, spread the dough evenly with the filling.

Starting at the opposite end from the border with no filling, roll the dough into a log shape and pinch the seam to seal.  Cut into 12 equal size rolls and place cut side up ina rectangluar greased baking pan.

Cover and refridgerate overnight.

The next morning, remove the cinnamon rolls from the fridge and let sit on the counter for about 60 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 190c.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until browned.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together with icing.  If it’s too stiff add more milk until runnier.

When rolls are golden, remove form oven, allow to cool for 10-15minutes.  Pour glaze over the cinnamon rolls.  Serve warm.



These rolls were not too sweet to be enjoyed in the morning.  It was fabulous knowing they were sitting in my fridige overnight all ready to go when I arose.  Most of the work had already been done.  All I needed to do was pop out to the kitchen an hour or so before I wanted to put them in the oven and it would be not be too long before they were ready to enjoy.


We all enjoyed them the next day as well.  Thirty seconds in the microwave on high and they were soft and warm again – ready to eat.


These rolls were a lovely way to celebrate my birthday with my boys.



Nigella Lawson: Chocolate Mint Cookies


I think I went on a bit of a baking frenzy recently.  You know those moments (or perhaps you don’t), when you start looking at cookbooks and next thing you know you have highlighted several recipes that you absolutely MUST create!  This happens to me from time to time and forces me to glue myself to the kitchen until the moment passes.


Usually when this happens I have to look at the calendar to see what events are coming up so that I can share some of my baked goods (this helps me justify excess baking).  Thankfully, my family and I head off to church every Sunday, so I always have somehwere to take my treats – morning tea often features something I have baked.  This is satisfying for all concerned.


Recently I baked Nigella’s Chocolate Mint Cookies. These are funny little rock cake like cookies that seem to check all the boxes for a great biscuit.


The thing I liked about these biscuits (apart form the fact that they disappeared in seconds) are that they are so easy to make.  They are a no fuss biscuit, packed with chocolatey flavour and a hint of mint.  They come together so quickly and they sit on the biscuit tray in little piles of dough.  They are so unassuming in their yumminess.  The texture also works as there are little choc chips throughout the dough which adds to the little surprise when you take the first bite.


Another lovely aspect of these biscuits is the peppermint glaze drizzled over the top of the cooling biscuit.  It’s unexpected.  I loved watching people’s faces as they took the first bite.  The hint of mint is a surprise and very welcome.


If you are looking to whip up some biscuits for friends or just needing options for kid’s recess boxes, then these biscuits really work.  I imagine they would freeze well too (although mine never made it that far).  I love baking ahead and having biscuits ready in the freezer for my son.  It makes me feel like such an accomplished parent (I take whatever I can to achieve that).




A Decadent Birthday Cake

Earlier this month, it was my birthday. I knew some weeks ahead that I’d be having a lunch with my parents and other family members in attendance.

It was the perfect opportunity to create a birthday lunch of my choosing. I roasted a 3kg leg of lamb, served it with polenta crusted potatoes (which were, I have to say, nowhere near as good as Delly’s potatoes she’d served me just two weeks earlier. C’est la vie!) and a couple of lovingly selected bottles of red wine.

It was all lovely. But the cake. Oh the cake. That was something I was very excited about.

I put the call out on Twitter one night for people to suggest their favourite birthday cake ideas and a friend from Ireland said I could do worse than check out what Smitten Kitchen had to offer. I knew of Smitten Kitchen by reputation but hadn’t ever really checked out her stuff. As of that moment, I became a new, instant fan. Beautiful food with a philosophy I took to right away. On her About page, she describes how her blog is about “comfort foods stepped up a bit” – it’s not all fancy schmancy – which is of course a matter of opinion. It doesn’t seem fancy to me but maybe if your idea of fancy cooking is to throw in a tin a champignons in your bolognaise (yes I once knew someone who thought that was fancy) then her food is going to seem intimidating. But to me it’s just good, every day ingredients cooked lovingly and creatively. I’m gobsmackingly hooked and there aren’t a huge number of food blogs that do that to me.

I found her Best Birthday Cake seconds after landing on her page and it was all a done deal.

She calls it a yellow cake. I’m reliably informed this is what Americans call a butter cake. Once I understood that, it was all good. Have a look at her cake – the photo she has of the inside of her cake is far better than any I took. Beautifully double-deckered with a generous layer of chocolate icing in the middle. Sublime. Sometimes chocolate on chocolate is too much for me. Chocolate on a buttery vanilla laced cake struck just the right note for me.

Here’s mine. A light, but not too light yellow buttery delicious cake. I think the eggs from my chickens contributed to the colour and taste of this gorgeous cake.

my birthday cake

It felt like a monumental cake, for someone who doesn’t often do monumental. It felt fun, exciting and oh so celebratory. And my lovely niece Alice loved it as much as I did. From the moment I’d iced it and set it on the cake stand on the table, she was hovering with her little spoon, waiting to dig in. That girl is so related to me and Delly. One of her earliest words was ‘cake’ and it’s still a great way to get her attention.

me alice and cake

This is a cake that I know I’ll return to again and again. For a first taste of Smitten Kitchen’s work, it was a great introduction. I’m going back for more.

A note on the icing – it was a first for me. Sour cream, dark chocolate and corn syrup. I’ve never used corn syrup. I was surprised to see it in the recipe but understood her desire had been to create a glossy, rich icing without using icing sugar. So not using icing sugar meant using corn syrup. Makes sense. It was such a gorgeous icing. Rich and glossy and quite grown up. The sour cream tang was delightful.

I need another birthday as an excuse to make this again!


Bakefest 2011: Monkey Bread

Hi everyone.  It’s been a while hasn’t it.  The blog may have been quiet but my kitchen hasn’t, hence the title.

Recently, my husband and son went away on a “Boys weekend” (actually it was a weekday but it doesn’t sound as catchy).  So, before they left I decided I needed to send them on their way with a hearty breakfast.  I found a recipe for something I had never heard of before. Monkey Bread.  It checked all the boxes – doughy, sugary, buttery, warm with cinnamon.  Yum!  It rang my bell and it was immediately put on my menu.

Bells and I have discussed a lot about preparing bread overnight so that it can be popped into the oven in the morning.  She has proven it is possible, but I needed to try it myself.

Thankfully Ken (my Kenwood Chef) took a lot of the kneading responsibilities for the bread.  He’s such a compliant little appliance.  All I had to do what stand and marvel and then give my dough a warm place to rise.  After the first rise, the dough is cut into many pieces (recipe says 64 pieces) but I didn’t count.  You roll each piece of dough between your hands and then (this is the best part), dip them in melted butter and THEN brown sugar and cinnamon!!!  How about that!

And then they rose overnight in the cold fridge!

All crispy and golden from the oven and then iced with a simple mix of icing sugar and milk.


The fun thing with this bread was slowly piling up all the delicious little balls in my bundt pan.  It was so relaxing and gave me a great sense of achievement as I kept peaking in the fridge at the little morsels growing by the hour.  I loved serving it up to the boys (and myself).  Obviously, it was way too much for the three of us to devour at once.  We found ourselves nibbling on it during the morning.  I have frozen the remainder for another day…soon…maybe tomorrow…

You may wonder why I have titled this blog post “Bakefest 2011”.  Well, as my boys were going away for a few days I decided to have a few girlfriends over to feast on some sweets and chat the night away.  So I went a little crazy and baked a few things for their arrival.

A gorgeous Lemon Meringe Pie from another blogger’s site (mine tasted great but was not as pretty – so you can see her creation instead). Nigella’s Crunchy Peanut Nut bars and some gorgeous little mini-cupcakes.


Of course, I over catered.  I couldn’t help myself.  Never mind… my workplace benefited the next day.  However, I am now temporarily “baked-out” after Bakefest2011.  But I think it’s safe to say that I will be back in the kitchen any moment now…



Donna Hay: Molten Chocolate Chunk Brownie

Bells and I were recently asked to review Donna Hay’s “Molten Chocolate Chunk Brownie” packet mix.  We were very surprised to be asked as well as a little bit pleased.  I’ve never received a little media pack before with the product in question plus some information.

We had both often talked about whether we would every review a product on our blog and we always came to the decision that we wouldn’t.  However, this box was sent to us with no strings attached, and we thought it might be fun to give an honest review.

Many of our friends would know that Bells and I are pretty scathing when it comes to packet mixes of any kind.  I’ve had some friend apologize for using a cake mix when I’m around.  It’s so silly really.  My moratorium on cake mixes is really for myself only – not for my friends.  I am always just glad someone has baked and been in the kitchen.  One should not force their food snobbery on others (all the time…).

We had friends over last Sunday afternoon and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to bake these brownies and have them assessed by my guests.



They were really easy to make (as most packet mixes are).  There were only a few steps between opening the packet, throwing it into a bowl and mixing it all together.  Donna suggests we serve these warm.  I managed to serve them up cool and they were still well-received (in fact my 7yo was still eating them 2 days later – he loved them).

My guests enjoyed the brownies very much.  They were crisp on the outside and squishy on the inside with bursts of chunky chocolate squares scattered through the cakey goodness.  I am happy to report that they were genuinely surprised when I mentioned that they were packet brownies.  They thought they were made from scratch.  A compliment to Donna, I believe.



I didn’t really try them myself.  I’m not really into chocolate on chocolate.  It’s a bit too much for me (yes, there is such a thing as too much chocolate).  However, my family and guinea pigs, I mean – friends, assure me that they were delicious and everything a good brownie should be.

Would I make them again?  No.

Why?  Because I can make brownies myself without the help of a packet mix.

However!!!  As a backup in your cupboard, an emergency treat for guests or perhaps you just love packet mixes – then YES!  These brownies would be great for your pantry.  They don’t seem to have that typical “packet mix” flavour which I feel is usually easily detectable.

So all in all – they get the thumbs up from me.  Word on the street is that they are available in supermarkets – I’m yet to see them though.  I believe they retail at $7.99.

Happy Weekend Baking!




Previous Older Entries