Sunday, June 27, 2010

Experiments at conquering my nemeses

Due to some messy, unexpected contract issues at work, I'll be taking an unforeseen week and a half off work from Wednesday. Rather than sit around the apartment watching movies all day, I figure I can use the time for something more productive - attempting to conquer those parts of baking that either scare the living crap out of me, or that I just plain suck at. Whether or not I'll be successful remains to be seen. But at this point in time, I have three experiments on the cards. I may not get through them all (I may explode from trying to eat the products of my experiments!), but I'll do my best.

The three experiments are as follows:

1. Pie. It's not so much the pie that presents the issue as the pastry. I'm fairly certain I made pastry from scratch without any problems in my high school Home Ec classes. But I haven't tried it since. And so pastry falls into the category of things that scare the living crap out of me. I don't think it helps that I don't usually have the desire to spend the better part of a whole day standing around rolling out dough...

2. Yeast-involving baking. I've made bread in the past, and it turned out vaguely okay. Although from memory, the bread ended up more like a sourdough loaf than like a standard loaf of bread. Due to not owning a loaf pan, I'm thinking I'll start with either pizza dough or some form of bread rolls. So I think this one falls into both categories - I didn't do particularly well last time I made yeast-based products, and it scares the crap out of me. The latter is, of course, the result of having seen containers of spent yeast at the end of the brewing process *gags repeatedly*

3. Decorating. Unless it just involves frosting, decorating is my week spot when it comes to cakes. With cupcakes, it's easy enough to pretty them up with chocolate chips or hundreds and thousands or grated chocolate. But on a larger cake? Those things just tend to look cheesy and amateurish. Not to mention lazy! So I'm thinking I might try and persuade my mum (who'll be visiting while I'm taking my unexpected time off) to part with her piping bag (hopefully not too hard a challenge - I have no memory of her ever using it!), and try out some piping as well as decorating with chocolate curls/drizzles/ganache/whatever.

So watch this space - we'll see how far I get, and how many of these turn out to be complete disasters!!!

K :) xx

PS. I plan on doing my fair share of sitting around watching movies too. It's just far less interesting! ;)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mmmmm, cookies...

I decided at the weekend that I needed to bake. But couldn't be bothered finding a new recipe or following instructions or whatever. So instead, I made my mum's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They're basically Anzacs that are a bit undercooked and have chocolate chips added to them. And they're delicious!! Here's what you'll need:

That bag of stuff in the front is desiccated coconut for the record!

Start with 125g of butter. Chop it up, dump it in a bowl, and stick it in the microwave until it's melted. That's what you do if you're actually following the recipe. If you're me, you get forgetful and do things in the wrong order. It didn't really make a difference though!

The way *I* did it was to add the golden syrup (2 tablespoons, FYI) BEFORE I put it in the microwave. Whoops. Oh well. It didn't really matter in the long run.

Once the butter is melted, you (unless you're me!) add two tablespoons of golden syrup, and two tablespoons of boiling water.

Set the liquids aside to cool. While it's cooling, mix up the dry ingredients. Start with 3/4 cup of brown sugar:

Sift in 1 cup of self raising flour:

Then add a cup of rolled oats:

And a cup of desiccated coconut:

Mix it all together with a fork:

Add the butter, golden syrup and water mixture:

Mix it together to form a dough:

Then mix through 100g of dark chocolate chips. Allow me to recommend the Cadbury ones over the Nestle ones. I'm not sure quite what the difference is. But the Cadbury ones are a million times better!

Roll dessertspoon sized balls of dough and place them on a baking tray:

I apologise about the burn mark on my cookie tray. I forgot that I'd been using the stove top when I pulled a batch of cookies out of the oven one day, and that it was still hot...

Bake them in the oven at 180 degrees for around 12-15 minutes. The official recipe says 18 minutes, but I'm sticking with Mum's scribbled notes on this one!

Mmmmmmm, cookies...

Leave them on the tray for about 5 minutes to cool slightly, then move them to a cooling rack. And that's all there is to it!!

K :) xx


It was Queen's Birthday long weekend a couple of weeks ago. Sara and I decided that spending a long weekend in Canberra was too depressing for words, so jumped on a bus and headed up the road to Sydney. In addition to seeing Wicked on the Friday night, we went on a harbour cruise, went to the Aquarium, the museum, the Opera House, the botanic gardens, and Bondi. Let's start the scenic tour with the harbour cruise. Here's the harbour bridge.


And then Opera House.

Here's the city from the harbour:

Here's the Opera House, complete with scenic ferry!

Aaaaand from the front:

From a little further away, you get the city, the Opera House AND the bridge.
Here's the bridge with Admirality House in the centre and Kiribilli House on the far right:

Look! Teeny tiny people climbing the bridge!

The bridge looks different from every angle:

Ooooh, the Maritime Museum - complete with tall ships! Tall ships make me happy. Sadly, we ran out of time and didn't get to go. Next time...

Then it was a stop off for some afternoon cocktails. Mmmmm, daiquiri...

Then it was on to the aquarium, where Sara posed for many slightly ridiculous photos, such as this:

I've developed an unfortunate habit of finding text panels that I wish I'd gotten to write and taking photos of them. This is one of them. Mostly because it amused me...

And this is another - this time because of the image. Who wouldn't love to be in charge of morphing a crocodile's head onto a chicken's body????

Then it was onto the undersea beasties. Seahorses:

And dugongs:

And leafy sea dragons - oh my! Okay, not quite the same as the Wizard of Oz, but hey. I saw Wicked. What did you expect??

This is a stonefish. He'll kill you in a second due to horrible spiny things on his back. He's also possibly the fugliest beastie I've ever seen............

Here's a bunch of cuttlefish. They were so cute!!

Then it was on to the shark tank. Which also contained the BIGGEST ray I've ever seen. I can remember what species it was, but I do remember that they can grow up to 4 metres across...

He was absolutely massive................

There were a couple of green sea turtles in the shark tank too. Apparently they like to wedge themselves into corners - weird little beasties!

This is the Great Barrier Reef tank. It was pretty impressive!

It had sharks in it too!

The next day, it was off to see the Opera House up close!

You get nice views of the bridge from there too:

Then it was into the botanic gardens. They encourage you to hug the trees - Sara was most impressed!

Here's the bridge and the Opera House from the botanic gardens. Sick of it yet?? ;)

Here's some nice fungus.

And the fernery:

It contained some funky looking flowers from Brazil:

The succulent garden was pretty cool - here's some nice agave plants...

These were kind of fun:

And this is a custard apple. I think... Some kind of a cactus-y thing involving the word 'apple' anyway...

Then it was on to the museum. On the way there, we passed the cathedral, which was quite impressive. I'm a bit sad I didn't get a photo of the statue of John Paul II - he looked like he was flying. He he he.

The museum was filled with fun things. Including more signage I wish I'd written:

Delightful velociraptor models. I often wonder if palaeontologists have done any work on velociraptors since Jurassic Park came out. Or if they just make the models based on people's expectations...:

Hello, Mr Stegosaur! You're cool...

Aaaaaaaand here's a nice tyrannosaurus rex.

This beastie was freaking bizarre. It was like a cross between something from Jurassic Park, Dr. Seuss, and Labyrinth...

And then a T-Rex ate Sara's head...

Then it was onto the skeleton room, which featured fun stuff like this guy:
And his friend, who even had pets:
Finally, it was on to Bondi Beach. It was a wee bit chilly by the time we got there... And it was mildly subarctic once the sun went down!
Sara decided she needed to brave the Pacific Ocean:

Aaaaand then she got mildly drenched...

Some mental people were surfing:

The sunset was quite purdy...

And finally, here's the lifeguard tower where all the Bondi Rescue action takes place:

And from there, it was back to the 'berra. Which featured three hours on a bus with a puking woman and a 10 degree drop in temperature - lovely, no??????? ;)

K :) xx
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