Guest Post: Beginner’s Luck Fudge-Up

Thanks to Ashley for an awesome fudge recipe! I was a bit surprised to see egg in there – despite having enthusiastically sensory-evaluated the fudge myself, when I read the recipe through I kind of imagined the result to be chocolate-chip scrambled eggs! But that’s just silly because, as a colleague pointed out, egg is used in those fudge-y chopped-marie-biscuit squares that one often finds for sale on the counter at Spar. A friend was also intrigued by the use egg so did a bit of research and found a similar (if not the same) recipe with a few pictures to boot. 

This fudge is divine – nice and firm, and then it melts in the mouth, plus it contains my most favourite thing in the whole world ever, even more favourite than alpacas (because I think they look like cake pops) and cake pops (because I think they look like alpacas). The first sentence I ever constructed was a request for a bottle of Milo, and it’s still a weakness several hundred years later. And even better – the egg contributes protein! Atkins-dieters the world over – rejoice! Whoop Whoop!

words to live by!

“The day started out sunny, perfect. Why would I ruin it by attempting fudge for the first time? Because I thought it was a good idea. And it was an especially good idea when it meant that I could bribe my way into my boyfriend’s good books with the awesome chocolaty deliciousness of Milo fudge. Muhahahaha.

Well, as my kitchen escapades go, it was quite messy. How I managed to mess egg all over a counter when only one egg was involved, is beyond even me.

It started with the recipe hunting. Which took an hour and a half (the length of the movie Rise of the Guardians. iBurst was slow that day. . . ) I knew it existed somewhere in my mailbox, but ended up googling it. Sigh

Firstly I melted the butter (¾ cup), nervously attempting to get the other ingredients ready. Chucked in the tin of condense milk and 500g of icing sugar. The recipe said castor sugar, but the packet I bought mysteriously turned into icing sugar since I bought it (I have a slip to back me up on this)

But, not being a person to let a stupid little recipe decide for me what to put in, I continued with the icing sugar, making a note of whom to blame for it if it failed miserably.

The recipe says that it should be stirred until it has a ‘lovely smooth texture’. I was mildly surprised when indeed ‘lovely smooth’ was the perfect description for the mixture.  Note that this was done on low-ish heat (For people whose stove top buttons range from L to 8, it was somewhere around 3).

After this, take your pot off the heat and add egg wash. For those who are uneducated in baker’s jargon (as I am), egg wash is eggs that are scrambled with some sort of liquid (water in this case). This egg wash needs one egg.

Mix 3 heaped tablespoons of cocoa in a cup of boiling water. I used a tablespoon big enough to feed a baby elephant with. Then add your ¾ cup of Milo and cocoa powder mix into your pot.

Whether your pot should be on the stove or not when the chocolaty stuff is mixed in, the recipe does not state. I did it off the stove.

Lastly add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla and stir.

Stir some more.

The recipe states that the mixture should be on high heat for 10 minutes and shouldn’t ‘over boil’

As this does not clarify much, and lacks pictures and notes and examples, I got a bit panicky, whishing my gran would walk by and save the day. It’s not as if I could stop stirring and go look for her.

The last clue of fudge-making I had received was, do not let it boil, and let it heat slowly. Mine kept on boiling -_- And it would never in a million years reach the “Soft ball” temperature on the thermometer without boiling over (which is just below 120 degrees Celsius)

So I did the only thing a sensible person would do in this situation – Keep on stirring and don’t take advice!

So with my mixture at 105 degrees Celsius, and me slowly inching up the temperature, telling myself that the bubbles in the fudge does not mean that it’s boiling. . .  .I stirred.

I stirred until my hand cramped and my arm went spastic.

Then I got bored and risked not stirring for short intervals, trying to clean the mess in the kitchen (which involved carrying all the dishes to the sink).

That’s when I saw it. The cup of Milo I supposedly added, and had assured everybody that it had been added. By this time my gran was there to rescue what needed to be rescued.

Once again, I asked myself ‘What would any reasonable person in this situation do?’ . . . The Milo went into the pot.

A tip from an experienced baker: Drop a drop of fudge into a cup of cold water to test if it will harden.

By this time my nerves are shot. The fudge mixture doesn’t seem fudgy, and I have no idea if it will set. Then the mixture suddenly fudgefied. It literally got the same consistency as the fudge you see in the Fudge Shop when they prepare it on those big tables.

So, the mixture got scooped into a buttered pan and the pot got licked out.

Knowing my skill in the kitchen, I started preparing pudding ideas in my head for the failed fudge, but it turned out quite well. The copious amounts of cocoa broke the sweetness and the late Milo episode led to crunchy Milo yumminess with every bite.

All in all it was a good day and the fudge was delicious. Two weeks later I attempted this recipe again, with two pots, one using caramel treat and the other I added in nuts and cranberries.

I obviously remembered every ingredient, therefore not reading the recipe again. . . those last famous words led me to discover a way to make toffee. I mean, who would not confuse ¾ Cup with ¾ Kg butter, right?

fudge overloooooad

A special thanks to my gran for putting up with my stubbornness and to my boyfriend for stirring when my arms failed.”

 

What can I say, Ashley, this is totally the Venus de Milo of fudge!! 

{Milo Fudge rocks!}

{Milo Fudge rocks!}

 

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Random: Edible Ensembles!!

I thought that it couldn’t get any better than Food Porn – until now.

Sunday morning’s are sacred. Sunday mornings are to be dedicated to sloth-like motion and slitty-eyed malevolent glances at the To-Do List on the fridge, chain-coffee-drinking, and for checking out what’s happening on my favourite blogs (see the list down the right hand side of this post –>).

Bear in mind that all of this outrageous Sunday-morning-ness takes place in pink cupcake-printed flannel jammies – so imagine how ecstatically excited I was to find this article about food-themed clothing! Please go read it. I was tempted to copy-paste the whole thing but it seemed wrong and unethical. Click on the link already!! Here it is again if you missed it that first time. Aaand again.

{Dear Santa, I want this one}

{Dear Santa, I want this one}

Happy Sunday everyone! Time for a toasted cheese, methinks…

Five Things: Frosty Friday

Brrrrrrr! It’s the Winter Solstice here in deepest darkest Africa, and it’s making itself felt!

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
― Edith Sitwell

Word, Ms Sitwell. To be honest I only ever manage to read that quote up to the first comma, at which point I start thinking of what nourishing sustenance I’d like to warm myself up with…. and so I found a site dedicated to Food Porn. Bring it on! Here’s some of my own Food Porn… enjoy, and if you’re also here in the freezer formerly known as South Africa, stay warm, it’s going to be a lo-0-0ng night tonight!

porn 7

{savoury cheesecake with creamy dreamy mushroom sauce at Petit Four}

{oh-so-hot chocolate}

{oh-so-hot chocolate}

porn 6

{spaghetti a la carbonara at Ai! Spaghettari}

{cheese and ham never looked so good}

{cheese and ham never looked so good}

{french toast and bacon sandwich with maple syrup for taking a dip}

{french toast and bacon sandwich with maple syrup for moisturisation}

 

PS: On the upside – it’s all the way downhill to summer from here on out! Whoo-hoooo!

Cheat ‘n’ Eat

If you’re reading this, it is probably because you enjoy cooking. If you enjoy cooking, you probably enjoy doing the from-scratch square-one type of cooking that I do.

And you probably also experience those days where, despite your best intentions, you run dangerously low on time and have to *looks down in sorrow and says in hushed voice* cheat. It’s ok… so long as it tastes good, and you don’t let ready-made pasta sauce or gravy powder (gak!) become staples. Life is too short to try to manhandle a vast mass of pizza dough when your guests are already banging on the door and baying for food; cooking should be a pleasure not a last-minute pain in the gizzard. A grumpy cook makes miserable food! Which makes miserable guests!

resent this

Having a few cheats in your back pocket is useful when time is of the essence. This one came about this past Saturday: I knew I wanted to make a pizza but I’d long run out of homemade frozen pizza dough and by the time I got to the supermarket I had only 30 minutes to shop, get back home AND do all the pre-preparation before the doorbell went. And also look like I had NOT been rushing around all day (this is very important, otherwise they will take your Domestic Goddess badge away). I could not bring myself to go to the pizza place next door to the supermarket – no, I’m not that much of a food snob, it’s just that I lived on fast food before I learned to cook. The smell of cardboard-y pizza base or fried chicken fat makes me turn a greener shade of pale, and if I don’t eat it I certainly wouldn’t expect visitors to.

So. Dilemma.

scratch cooking

Then I remembered that this particular supermarket has a huge bakery section, with every possible variety of bread ever (including, once, a bread crocodile complete with sunflower seed claws). And I figured pizza dough… bread…. they’re kinda sorta in the same family. Like – carbohydrate cousins. So I grabbed a large round bread, pizza toppings (I forgot one of them – I was in a rush. It’s not like anyone notices the absence of asparagus on a pizza). I waved my magic wand aka bread knife in the loaf’s direction and a yummy hybrid of pizza and sub appeared. Awesomeness!

Precheat

naked base

paint the base red

cheesy cheaty

stuffed to the crust

For one absolutely deliciously shameless faux-pizza:

1 large round loaf of bread. The shop only had the revolting “Mushroom & Cheese” type left when I got there, if I’d been a bit earlier I would’ve gotten a plain one instead. Don’t get the fluffy mass-produced white sponge type – a solidly built home-made type is called for.

Approx. 4 tablespoons of tomato paste – stick the rest into a little zippy bag in the freezer for another time, another pizza.

Lots of cheese, one of which MUST BE mozzarella. What’s the point of pizza without gooey cheese strings?

Pizza toppings of your choice – I like a concoction of chopped up roast chicken, sliced brown mushrooms fried with butter and garlic, ripped-up black forest ham, asparagus (oops) and crumbled feta (oops again), and then lots of fresh rocket to add freshness and bite. And also to create the illusion that salad was involved.

Righty-o. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Using a bread knife, slice the top crust off the bread. The amount you slice off will depend on the density of the bread – if it’s a light airy whisp of bread, you don’t need to take much off. If it’s a denser loaf that could be used as a door-stop on a windy day – give it a good trim, you don’t want to be chewing through all of that. Pull a bit of the soft stuff out to make a bit of a crust round, being very careful not to rip out any holes in the base, or make it so thin that it cannot support the hot topping. Pay attention because I speak from experience – the reason the base of my pizza appears to be so lumpy is that I tried filling the holes with ripped-out bread. It did not work, and the affected pizza wedges disintegrated on me. They still tasted good though.

Turn the crust and bread inners into breadcrumbs to go into the freezer for another recipe. Unless it is covered in greasy mushrooms and cheese the texture of chewed bubblegum, in which case the bin is the safest place for it.

Spread the tomato puree over the prepared base, followed by grated or ripped up cheeses. I used mature cheddar and lots of mozzarella; the cheese will act as the glue to keep the toppings on. This is the point at which I stopped, with the prepared filling in a separate dish (I didn’t want the bread to start sucking moisture out of the filling, and going soggy on me). When the time is right, lavishly apply the prepared topping and pop it in the oven (10 minutes! I kid you not) so that it can be eaten hot – cold gummy pizza will not win you any fans. The crust will be golden and crispy and the toppings heated through. Garnish with fresh rocket leaves and the tiniest of tiny trickles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar (see? It is kind of like eating a salad. Kind of).

{salad/pizza/sub mongrel}

{salad/pizza/sub mongrel}

To make up for cheating on the base, impress everyone by cutting it with a shiny mezzaluna and large flourishes of your knife-wielding arm. Use the words “rustic” and “artisanal” if you must. No-one is going to turn their nose up and say “well, you didn’t make it yourself” – these are your friends, not those catty people on Come Dine With Me.

happy hour

Happy Cheating & Eating!

PS: The pretty but naughty vintage pics are all by Anne Taintor, with whom I have a little obsession.

PPS: You may read this and ask incredulously “but why not just use those readymade pizza bases from the frozen food section of the shop, you madwoman?”. It’s because I firmly believe that a base made of corrugated cardboard would be more tasty and nutritious. That is all.

Let The Wild Rumpus Start!

I love good food. I love good books.

And in a spectacular coincidence of these two loves, there is Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. If you haven’t read it yet, complain to your parents that you suffered a deprived childhood and hotfoot it down the library – this is one of my favourite books ever, and even includes a bit about eating:

{“Oh, please don't go—we'll eat you up—we love you so!”}

{“Oh, please don’t go—we’ll eat you up—we love you so!”}

{“And [he] sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day  and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him and it was still hot”}

{“And [he] sailed back over a year
and in and out of weeks
and through a day
and into the night of his very own room
where he found his supper waiting for him
and it was still hot”}

Okay I agree, food is not exactly central to the story – but I read the following many years ago, and it is what prompted me to go find the book in the first place:

I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a postcard and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim, I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.

– Maurice Sendak

Today would have been Maurice Sendak’s 85th Birthday. I was alerted to this fact by today’s Google Doodle designed in his honour – I was pretty bummed to discover that he passed away the day after my 30th birthday but with such an amazing book he’s in no danger of being forgotten. Happy Birthday, Wild Thing!!

PS: The movie version is also brilliant – but you are not allowed to watch it til you have read the book. That’s the rule.

Happy Fathers Day, Pops!

Whoop Whoop! Look who’s getting all organized and posting things ahead of time! *jumps up and down pointing at self* Lately I find that I’m missing all sorts of self-imposed bloggy deadlines, no matter how many underlines or exclamation marks I make under and after things on my Anne Taintor calendar. I missed World Environment Day, World Ocean Day, MOTHERS DAY (I know – the shame!)… the list is endless. So when I saw Pie Pops in a DIY Wedding edition of my favourite magazine (Ideas; I got the wedding one by accident – when I flipped through it I noticed bunnies on cakes. Enough said)… I just knew that they would be perfect for Fathers Day!

an ode

Cake Pops are gorgeous, and I love them even though they are fiddly and a pain to make and look nothing like Bakerella’s EVER…. but they are extremely girly. Pie Pops, on the other hand, are simplicity itself to make and they are definitely less girly. Unless you make them heart-shaped. Which I did. I am a girl, after all. Plus these are easy enough to involve the kiddies too… except for the oven operation, of course.

pops for pops

Pie Pops aren’t actually a new idea, just another one that I somehow missed. Clearly, I live under a foodie rock. How do I miss these things??

Anyway. New. Not new. Who cares, they are adorable and I’ve managed to post this in time for you to go get a roll of shortcrust pastry and a jar of jam to make these for your own Pops on Fathers Day. Which is the 16th of June, don’t forget to put it on your calendar using a thick marker to make lots of underlines and exclamation marks…

you're a star

sweet heart

pressing matter

eggy wash

my heart runneth over

starstruck

pour some suga on me

stardust

For approximately 16 Sweet Nibblets-on-a-stick (8 of each variety):

400g ready-made shortcrust pastry – I used the frozen supermarket stuff. Mistake.

A few teaspoonsful of jam. Don’t bother with the posh whole fruit type.

Half a tart green apple, peeled and finely chopped

3 teaspoons castor sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinammon

1/2 teaspoon cake flour

A few squirts of lemon juice

Extra castor sugar

Cinnamon sugar (made with castor sugar)

An egg white, lightly beaten

Lollipop sticks/ice-cream sticks

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Roll the shortcrust pastry out until very thin but not to the point of emaciatedness. It shouldn’t tear easily, or resemble one of those girls from Fashion TV.

Anyway, pick out cookie cutter shapes and cut out even numbers (so that you have a top and bottom crust).

If you’re doing the apple filling, mix the apples, sugar, cinnamon, flour and enough lemon to moisten the lot. Easy peasy!

Place half of the pastry shapes on a lined cookie sheet, give the perimeter a quick brush with the eggy wash then lightly squish a lollipop stick into one end. Place a dollop of filling into the centre, then cover with another pastry shape and use the end of a spare lollipop stick to squidge the edges down – this is critical, so that the filling (especially the jam, which will boil and bubble) does not escape, although this is probably unavoidable.

Give the completed pops an eggy wash, then sprinkle liberally with either castor sugar, or cinnamon sugar before baking for 15-20 minutes. If the shapes you have made are quite pointy, keep an eye on them as they tend to burn a little more readily.

When they’re lovely and tanned golden-brown, let them rest for a few minutes before carefully moving them to a cooling rack. When they’ve cooled down, give them another go with the castor sugar or cinnamon sugar for extra flavour – the shortcrust I used was really bland so I needed the extra sweetness. I agree with Bakerella’s comments that they could be improved with a greater fruit:pastry ratio – next time, I’ll make my own sweet shortcrust pastry, roll it out even thinner and try out new fillings.

twinkle twinkle

Come on, let’s give the Old Farts a break from the Argyle-patterned socks and crunchy scrambled egg breakfasts. If you really want to go all out, I bet you little tiny Steak Pie Pops would totally make his day 🙂 (nope, sorry, haven’t tried them out because I’ve only just thought of them, dang nabbit).

heart pops

star pops

PS: Bakerella did not invent these – but she does credit this incredibly smart person (people?). OMW. The photography. The miniscule scoops. The labels. It’s almost spooky with everything appearing to float in this weird half-light in a laboratorial kitchen. I humbly kowtow to whoever is behind it.

9 July 2013:

FINALLY I found my copy of Ideas Magazine: DIY Weddings 2013 that first gave me the idea – check out their pie-pop wedding cake:

i do ... eat pops

Five Things: Propose a Toast

It all started with a discussion about my new sleep-depriving obsession – making teeny tiny things out of gumpaste to embellish cupcakes. I’m not talking pretty pastel flowers – I’m talking random everyday objects… such as .. um… a towel (read Douglas Adams if you are feeling foncused right now. It seemed like a good idea at the time). It’s just amazing to me that using a bit of sugary squidginess one can create edible Barbie’s Dreamhouse* accessories. True, it probably tastes just like the plastic counterparts from Toys R Us, and it will stain your tongue for a worrying length of time, but it’s so nunu-pie-cute!! (pics coming soon…).

Somehow the discussion took a turn to those fake dishes of noodles that Asian restaurants use to try to explain the menu to us Westerners – you know, those creepily life-like bowls of food that look like steam should be coming off them. And from talking about fake noodles, I let slip my love of fake food. This began way, way back, many centuries ago, when I was a teen. I’d seen fake toast slices in a arty magazine, and decided that one day when I was all grown up and had an enormous house with room for a pony, I would tastefully embellish some of the tiles in my kitchen with fake toast slices. I haven’t grown up yet, but as soon as I do I’ll be getting me some faux toast.

Anyway, I digress. On a whim, I thought I’d check if fake toast tiles are even available… I had no idea that toast slices are such a popular theme:

{pity this turned out to be a hoax - it's an awesome idea}

{pity this turned out to be a hoax – it’s an awesome idea}

{hot buttered money}

{hot buttered money}

{knitted toast! that get turned into a buttered toast scarf!!}

{knitted toast! that gets turned into a buttered toast scarf!!}

{found my toast! it's even "soft-touch"}

{found my toast! it’s even “soft-touch”}

Well this is me outta here… this post is toast 🙂 (can’t help myself).

*Talking of Barbie’s Dreamhouse – did you hear the story about the real life-size one in Berlin, that was attacked by a nekkid woman who climbed up a fountain brandishing a burning crucified Barbie? And people say German’s are boring…