Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Vanilla cupcakes with coffee buttercream.

These are perhaps the scrummiest cupcakes I have ever made. I found a new recipe for the vanilla base. It's from the Hummingbird Bakery and it uses less sugar and less butter than usual and you also mix it a different way.

For the cupcakes:

To make
Preheat the oven to 170°C. I put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter into the kitchen aid and beat on slow speed until I got a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.
Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.
Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched.
A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

The recipe states that this makes 12. I was using normal sized cups - the bog standard ones you can buy in any supermarket and it only made 8. So be warned!

But man, do they taste good!

So, the cakes are done. Next, the coffee buttercream. I've not made coffee buttercream before so after a wide search I though this sounded good - and it's amazing!

Icing ingredients

1 1/2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules
1 1/2 Tablespoons water
1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
320g unsalted butter, softened
3 cups icing sugar

Combine water, coffee granules, and vanilla extract in a small bowl; stir to dissolve coffee.  Set aside.

 Beat butter in bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.  Reduce mixer speed to low.  Add icing sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating for a few seconds between each addition.  Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes.

 Add the coffee mixture; beat on low speed to combine.  Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl.  Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Frosts 18 cupcakes.

This really is amazing buttercream. The secret is in the amount of time it's whipped - it really makes all the difference.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Pineapple Upside Down Cake...old school

I've never made one of these before, but I saw a picture somewhere yesterday, and thought - yum, that looks nice!

Can't go wrong with glacĂ© cherries as far as I'm concerned.

1/2 cbutter, melted
1 cbrown sugar
1 smallcan of sliced pineapple
10maraschino cherries
3eggs, beaten
1 ccaster sugar
1 csifted plain flour
1 tspbaking powder
1/4 tspsalt
5 Tbsppineapple juice
What to do
  In a heavy 10 inch cast iron skillet melt butter and add brown sugar and blend well.

Arrange pineapple slices and cherries in the skillet on top of brown sugar and butter. In a large bowl mix remaining ingredients and pour over pineapple mixture in skillet.  Bake at 170C for 35 minutes. 

Out of the oven...

Let cool in the skillet then turn upside down onto serving plate.  Yummy!

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Garden Share Collective - April

I have to say, I am loving these Garden Share Collective posts. They give me a monthly calendar of the veggie garden. I've just been looking back over them and it's very cool to see what it all looks like month to month!

So, April...

The main thing this time is the veggie garden. It was well past its best. Lloyd and I have just spent a couple of hours totally clearing it.

Loads of dead stuff, pumpkins and squash all over the place. Just general mayhem!

Now that it's clear, I can get my head round what I'm going to plant and where. I don't work well in chaos. I need order!

A few more before and afters. Pumpkins growing all over the asparagus ferns ( which really needed cutting down)

Nice clear beds, and the pumpkin haul. Not too bad from only one crown pumpkin plant and one butternut squash.

I'm really pleased with these. I only bunged them in because I had a spare bed and didn't want to waste it.

So that was a hard graft, but it feels good to have got it done. We are enjoying an Indian Summer in Northland in NZ so we have to make the most of it.

In the greenhouse
I am still getting hundreds of tomatoes. One of the plants I planted last autumn is STILL producing tomatoes! It's the wonder plant!

These cherry tomatoes are so sweet. (Sweet 100)

There are chillies coming out of our ears. We've got about 5kg of them in the freezer. Lloyd does a stockpile then makes a gigantic batch of chilli sauce when we've picked them all.

Theres some more basil in there and a few tomato seedlings to go in as well.

This month - PLANTING
I don't do a lot of winter veggies. But this year I am going to do broad beans - always do these, and some parsnips.
I just planted a load of sweetpea seeds.

Also will collect a huge trailer load of alpaca and horse poop - put it on some of the beds -  definitely the asparagus bed - then cover with a thick layer of hay. By spring it will have mulched right down and will make a weedfree ( almost! ) bed with lovely top soil!

Tomatoes, potatoes ( Agria and Maori) loads of herbs, chillies, the luffahs, globe artichokes, passion fruit, feijoas, figs, bananas, spring onions...

In the rest of the garden...
we've got flowers all over the place

Brugmansia like a detura !

Castor oil plant flowers

My swan plants are still bearing up under the onslaught of monarch caterpillars. This year has been great, so many of them have hatched! It's so cool!

This month the alpacas were all injected with their boosters, drenched, toenails trimmed and the ones that have genetic dermatitis got their cream put on. We don't do all this ourselves. The lovely Keenan from Waiheke Alpacas comes and does it - I run around like a daftie trying to catch them and generally making a fool of myself. This year one of the girls spat in my eye! That wasn't fun!

Oh and remember the elderberries from last month?  Well, I did make something from them. I made 2 batches of elderberry elixir - its lovely!

Today was a good day and incredibly productive. I also cleaned out all the chicken houses and put new bedding in them.


The Garden Share Collective is the brain child of Lizzie from Strayed from the Table. There are a group of bloggers from all over the place who chat about what is going on in their gardens, with hints and tips. Pop over and check out all the others.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lemon and Rosemary Shortbread AND Feijoa Crumble

I haven't shared a recipe I've baked for ages, so will rectify that now.

Mum has gone home and, as usual, I'm sad. So, to make me feel better I baked and stewed.

First off the Lemon and rosemary shortbread.
I love shortbread, but have always gone very traditional. No flavours, just butter! But today I found this recipe and wanted to give it a go


2 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature ( i always just use our normal salted butter)
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice.


1. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, salt, lemon zest, and rosemary. Set aside.
This is how fine the rosemary needs to be.

2. In the kitchen aid, beat the butter and icing sugar until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon juice. Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Form the dough into a disk shape and wrap in glad wrap. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour or until firm. Chilling the dough stops it spreading when it's in the oven.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silicone baking sheet ( If you've not tried these, they are FAB) and set aside.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 1/4 inch thick square. Cut into any shape you want, using a lightly floured cookie cutter. Place shortbread cookies on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 16 (ish) minutes, or until cookies are very lightly browned around the edges. ( or up to 25 minutes if you like them crispier) Remove cookies from baking sheet and cool completely on a wire rack.

It would appear that I've always over cooked my shortbread! I like it crispy, but it's also really amazing like this. And the flavours are very subtle. It's definitely one to be repeated.

Feijoa Crumble

Also today, I stewed some feijoas so that Lloyd and I could have some crumble for after dinner. 
Feijoas are very seasonal and they don't travel well so I think we're dead lucky to have 3 feijoa trees in the garden. They are laden with huge fruit this year.

They are very beautiful, and almost impossible to describe what they taste like. 

I had a whole trug full and cut them in half and scooped out the middles. Put them in a large pan with a good skelp of sugar and stewed them for about 20 minutes. Just simmer them gently. 

About a quarter of what I stewed went into a baking dish for the crumble and the rest went into the freezer in bags. 

Crumble Topping
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar 
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 cup whole rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup soft brown sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 250g butter, melted
  • (this amount would be for a large crumble, I had mine in a pie dish - it did the 2 of us 2 dinners. ( so basically it would serve 4 at one sitting!) so I halved it. 
I've never done the melted butter technique for crumble topping before and its a little odd! It sort of dollops onto the top of the stewed fruit, so I added a wee bit of sugar and oats to the top for crunchiness. Then bake in the oven at 160 for about 30-40 minutes, or until all golden and bubbly. 

And tonight we're attempting a fry pan pizza - you make dough and then do it all in a frying pan! I'll be amazed if it works, but it looks good!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cyclone Lusi

I love a good storm. I don't want it to hurt anyone or cause damage, but I love listening to the wind and rain, love the wildness of it all. So when we were told that Cyclone Lusi was heading our way I took all the usual precautions - went all round the place making sure nothing could blow away, moving various bits of outside and deck furniture. Stocking up on water in case of a power cut etc. Then waited... and waited... and waited!

I know! New Zealand is a tiny country, and where we live is very narrow so it's difficult for the forecasters to really be sure of exactly what will happen, but at our place all we had were some gusty winds and rain. Not even torrential rain.

But as you can see, it was expected to be huge! We are right near the top of the North Island at the bottom of the very narrow bit ( more or less!)

So, against all warnings, I went off in the jeep with my trusty camera and searched out anything I could find that was storm related! I drove over to the coast, to Paihia, and oh wow, poor old Paihia was getting the brunt of it all. It was high tide and the sea was going crazy.

This is the road along the front. Usually Paihia is lovely and calm, I swim here a lot. There is no sea wall or anything like that, cos there really hasn't been a need for one!
However it seems like half the beach was washed onto the road. It was worse further along.

The usual flat waters round the beach, the boat area and the beach cafe.

More beach on the road further along the front. There were numerous fire engines here pumping out water from various places.

This wee dinghy broke its mooring right in front of me. It started bobbing along in the sea.

Very difficult to show the scale of these waves, but take my word for it, they were huge!

As far as I know, this yacht survived! It was well tied on!

And today it's al over. Rain has stopped and the sun is trying to come out.

Usually Paihia looks like this..

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Mum's Here!

Last weekend mum arrived! Lloyd and I picked her up from Auckland then headed straight to Waiheke Island for a 2 night break. Mum had never been before so we thought it would be a nice treat.

Lloyd managed to get a wee sneaky pic of mum arriving! I think it would be fair to say we were happy to see eachother!

We visited our friend Rhona, this is her dog, Baxter.

Mum and Lloyd had to sample the local wine - it would be rude not to!

Outside Man o' War Winery

A 'selfie' taken by Lloyd - Mwahahaha!

Then it was my birthday - which was really lovely. I made myself some cakes! Well, I ate one and mum and Lloyd had one each too.

Big Yum!

Since arriving home we've been doing stuff every day. Today we went out with Nick and Sara on their boat and met up with Simon and Ali who were out on Roxi. Here we all are - having a rather lovely time.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Elderberry Elixir/syrup

My friend Alison is amazing at using up everything in the garden. When she comes over here she has a right good forage around the place and goes home with lots of goodies. She puts me to shame. A few days ago she was over feeding my chickens for me, while we were picking mum up from Auckland. She's been holding out for the eldeberries to get ready, and they were!

Anyway, yesterday we were over at Simon and Alison's and she let me taste what she'd done with them. And YUM!

So when I got home I wandered around the garden and managed to find a lot of elderflower berries. There's still loads left, but the majority of them are very high up.

I read a tip that if you freeze them first the berries come off the stalks a lot more easily, so I bunged them in the freezer over night. And it worked a treat.

I ended up with three cups.

This is what I did.

Elderberry Elixir Recipe

3 cups fresh elderberries
7 cups water
1 cup soft brown sugar
1 cup manuka honey
9 cloves
2 teaspoons ground ginger ( I didnt have any fresh ginger and this is why mine is cloudy. Well not crystal clear!)
2 teaspoons cinnamon

(There are lots and lots of recipes online. Mine is a muddle up.)

So, put the berries, water and spices into a large pan and bring to the boil. Then simmer for 45 minutes so it reduces down.

Put through a fine sieve. I then added the cup of sugar and stirred it in. I suppose you could have done this at the first stage...

Once the mixture has cooled down a bit add the cup of honey and mix well.

My syrup/elixir is quite sweet - but I like it like that! You could add less sugar.

Then bottle.

It's supposed to have all sorts of amazing qualities, and boost your immune system. I have no clue if it does or not, all I know is that it tasted really good and I wanted to finally use some of the millions of elderberries we get in the garden.