Five Things: Lemon Aid

Life has been pelting me with lemons. Hard.

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Fortunately, I LOVE lemons!! But – no cliche’d making of lemonade for me, no sirree! Imma put them zesty projectiles to good use. (Does anyone even LIKE homemade lemonade? It always looks so good in those movies set in the american south, but then when you get it from those craft drink places its just grey, fizzless, diluted lemon juice).

{squidgy lemon cake! sunshine-flavoured carbs}

{squidgy lemon cake! sunshine-flavoured carbs}

{light as a lemony feather - souffles on the half-shell (this works with oranges too!)}

{light as a lemony feather – souffles on the half-shell (this works with oranges too!)}

{i've used this easypeasy microwave recipe often - spread it on toast, top it with marshmallow fluff, and call it one of your five-a-day}

{i’ve used this easypeasy microwave lemon curd recipe often – spread it on toast, top it with marshmallow fluff, and call it lemon meringue pie for breakfast}

{preserve them to add some zestiness another day. i first ate this in Morocco back in my youth, with chicken and green olives. i still drool whenever i catch sight of a tagine at Le Creuset}

{preserve them to add some zestiness another day. i first experienced this in Morocco back in my youth, with chicken and green olives. i still drool whenever i catch sight of a tagine}

{who am i kidding? it's alcohol that's got me through the last few weeks with sanity intact. try them at starlite diner (open 24 hours!) if you're too lazy to make them yourself}

{who am i kidding? it’s alcohol that’s got me through the last few weeks with sanity intact. try the electric lemonade at starlite diner (open 24 hours!) if you’re too lazy to make them yourself}

PS: With regard to those lovely lemony quotes up top of this post (check out my moving-parts skillz!) – yes, indeed, someone has tried the lemon-bomb, crude lemon-battery, and the lemon-boobs.

Put A Ring On It

I know I just recently waxed lyrical about being a chocolate cake snob, and only the very best made from the sweat of Taye Diggs (ok not strictly true) will do.

no brainer

But then this recipe made its way through a long chain of people, and arrived on my desk a few weeks back… Charlotte Gomes Microwave Chocolate Cake. When it comes to cake I would normally balk (yes. balk.) at the word Microwave. My encounters with microwaved ring cakes have generally been of the rubbery, chewy variety that bears no comparison with “real” baking. But this particular recipe had this gorgeous photo of a voluptuous chocolate ring cake with frosting oozing down the sides and winking seductively at me…

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a chocolate cake fan but seriously, if you don’t have the time or means or inclination to go through the entire convoluted process of making the shmancy cake I posted earlier then this is the recipe for you. No pre-planning or foraging for exotic ingredients is needed (it’s stuff everyone has in the cupboard and fridge), no arm-numbing creaming of butter and sugar, and no firing up of the oven. Plus it’s yummy!

It’s moist and light and (in my humble opinion) better than any of the regular convection chocolate cakes. It’s not like those microwave cakes of the early 90s that somehow tasted of magnetron – no-one would guess that this one took 20 minutes from start to finish. Remember those recipe books that came with microwaves back then? If you really splurged on a top-of-the-range piece of technology the book would even be in colour! With lots of sad, anaemic-looking sunken cakes and flaccid yellow-skinned chicken. I’m giving away my age now so I will stop.

hold onto your hat

 

One cake made about 16 slender slices. Of course if you are greedier, you could make it 8 slices. Or 4 even. Or just don’t bother slicing.

lovin it

take another little piece my heart

improv

oops

I’ve made a tiny amendment or two to the recipe, as one does…

For one magnificent microwaved cake:

  • 1 cup Cake Flour
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 3 tablespoons Cocoa Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Espresso Powder (optional – I think it brings out the best of the chocolate flavour)
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Sunflower Oil
  • 2 Eggs

First prepare your cake pan – don’t use metal, unless you want to enjoy the fireworks as your microwave dies a fiery death. Use a microwave safe ring-shaped cake pan, and if you don’t have one then improvise like I did, using a regular drinking glass and a round glass bowl; give it a blast with nonstick cooking spray. The ring shape is so that you don’t end up with a vulcanised-rubber-like core – it’s just one of those things that come with microwave cooking.

Mix the dry stuff together in a bowl. Mix the wet stuff together in a bowl or jug. Add the wet mix to the dry and stir together (do not beat with an electric beater). The only way you could screw this up, honestly, is if you are lacking opposable thumbs.

Pour into the prepared cake pan – I’d say leave at least 5cm for rising. Bake for 10 minutes on High, right in the centre of the microwave. I used a dish that was only just big enough, and it started to vaguely overflow at 6 minutes – I popped a plate under it to minimize the mess. Once it’s done, turn it out (it just popped right out, as if I’d asked it politely) and allow to cool completely.

For the super-easy frosting:

  • 1 cup Icing Sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Margarine
  • 2 tablespoons Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Milk

Prepare the frosting only once the cake has cooled – it takes no time at all, but does not like to be kept waiting.

I can’t believe how much of my life has been wasted making fluffy buttercream when actually I could have been whipping this up in no time. Grrr gnash.

Put all the ingredients into a microwave-safe jug (for easy pouring after) and microwave for 40 seconds on High. Give it a good beating for a minute so that it is smooth and glossy and thick, then pour it over the cooled cake. Liberally apply sprinkles, glitter etc. If you can find a decorative item that will fit in the hole in the centre – yay! The only thing I could find at the time, with the right circumference, was a bottle of cat shampoo. I figured it would detract from the overall appeal and chose (wisely, I think) to omit it. I don’t even own a cat anymore.

Quite Easily Done

Thank you Charlotte Gomes and Sheila 🙂

slice of heaven

That’s it! And now I’d like to borrow a line from Ina Garten (only she uses it when cooking things like truffle butter lobster on gold-plated foie gras) – “How easy is that?”.

snort

 

Smellogram!

OMGee Whiz! I love science and technology and food so much that, actually *nerd-guffaw*, I’m finding this more exciting than the prospect of hover-boards from Back To The Future.

The first “Olfactory Tweet” has been sent, i.e. sending smells to someone in another physical location!!

Read all about it at Edible Geography.

Slightly lower tech but possibly more accessible until odour-transmitting phones become same ol’-same ol’ is this SCENTSATIONAL app from Kraft:

{the danger being that i'd bite into my phone every morning}

{the danger being that i’d bite into my phone every morning}

Scented phone cases do not count.

 

Things Are Gonna Get Ugly Round Here

Shameful secret time: I’m not a huge fan of chocolate cake. I never, ever order it in coffee shops or help myself to a slice of it at parties, because it’s ALWAYS a disappointment. Either it’s dry and scratchy, or it’s oily, and either way it tastes nothing like chocolate. Plus it’s generally slathered in frilly faux-cream rosettes and sprinkles and those sticky red pseudo-cherries that stain your fingers, which I’m pretty sure is an cosmetic attempt to hide the sadness that is the cake. Usually I’m happy and grateful to eat whatever’s put in front of me but I am not afraid to unleash my inner Cake Snob when it comes to chocolate. Anyhoo, this is the only chocolate cake I ever bake and the only one I’ll eat without a grimace.

word

It all came together several years ago in this bizarre cross-country series of events, summarized thusly:

I met a lovely woman from Singapore in South Africa, who later married a lovely Swiss man and they sent me a beautiful hamper of really spectacular chocolate which arrived on the same day that I found a recipe for a French chocolate cake. It was just absolutely meant to be. I feel it in my waters, even.

(I don’t know what that means but I read it in Sophie Dahl’s debut novel The Man with the Dancing Eyes, and it stuck).

This cake has very few ingredients, mostly chocolate – meaning it truly tastes like chocolate, and is not just a brown cake which tastes exactly like the plain white one next to it, only more “dusty” from the cocoa. It has no leavening agent other than pure air bubbles, and it can easily be converted to gluten-free for the Celiacs (doesn’t it sound like maniacs almost?) in your life.

{heartburn birthday cupcakes}

{heartburn birthday cupcakes}

{raspberry white chocolate picnic cupcakes}

{raspberry white chocolate picnic cupcakes}

 

{spot the sunken cupcakes in the black liners, hiding between the roses}

{spot the sunken cupcakes in the black liners, hiding between the roses}

It is truly the ugliest cake in the world. Looks-wise it’s the runt of the cake litter; no-one ever picks it out of a lineup – which is a good thing (more for me!). This is the Ugly Duckling of Cakes. It behaves kind of like a soufflé, forming a delicate meringue-like top crust which collapses in on itself. I’ve found that the closer down to sea-level I am, the more the cake collapses – cupcakes practically form a little bowl, which is perfect for holding a wodge of whipped cream, but can be slightly more challenging to eat in a lady-like manner. Don’t even consider trying to cover it neatly in icing (it will just crumble and collapse); it responds best to cream or light-as-air buttercream piled up top with artistic abandon.

It’s light as a feather, and melt-in-the mouth fine-textured but outrageously chocolatey at the same time; best of all it is that it gets along so well with other flavours – I’ve added ground dried chilli (a friend told me that it tasted familiar, then eventually identified the flavour as “heartburn”), peppermint essence, espresso powder, all to delicious effect.

taye before

i digg it

the before

after

streaky bakin'

pouffy

cracked up

To make one U.G.L.Y. chocolate cake (you ain’t got no alibi) of the Gods:

  • 100g best possible dark chocolate – 70%. Only the best, mind. Rubbish-in rubbish-out theory applies.
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened. Don’t you dare insult this cake with margarine *fixes stern eye on you*
  • 3 large eggs, room-temperature
  • 100g sugar
  • 50g cake flour or corn flour

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease a baking tin well with soft butter. Get into all those nooks and crannies! (Doesn’t “cranny” sound like a rude word to you? *tee hee*).

Melt the butter in the microwave, then break the chocolate into it and stir until it’s smooth and glossy and beautiful. When it resembles Taye Diggs, you know you’ve got it right.

taye be, or not taye be

Allow the chocolate/butter/Taye mixture to cool while you whip the eggs and sugar together to form a lighter shade of pale, aerated, volumised foam. I guess since I used a human reference for the chocolate, I should use one here too… aim for a 1980’s hairdo. I’m thinking the entire female cast of Steel Magnolias right now. Frothy, fluffy, and quadruple its usual volume.

closer to god

When you are absolutely sure that the butter/sugar foam is ready, beat it five minutes more anyway. Immediately trickle in the Taye mixture as well as the sifted flour and watch it all sink straight down, then oh-so-gently fold it all together with a spatula. Gently, like it is a fractious colicky baby you are trying to put to sleep (except so much better in that it is edible and won’t be ruthlessly extracting money from you for the next 20 years). It doesn’t have to be perfectly uniformly blended – a bit of streakiness like in the photo is perfectly fine. Gently ease the batter into the prepared tin, then gently slide it onto an oven rack. Do not go banging the baking tin all over the place, because you will knock out all those precious air-bubbles.

Give it 20 minutes in the oven or until a poke with a toothpick comes out clean; you will notice that it rises promisingly – yep, it’s too good to be true.

Remember once the cake is safely stowed away in the oven to lick the spatula as well as the mixing bowl before anyone else gets to it. Best part about being the baker, in my opinion.

{you know you want to...}

{you know you want to…}

When it’s ready, gently remove the cake from the oven – see that strange feathery crust on top? It’s all gonna collapse in a moment. Regardless, leave it to cool in the tin to firm up some before very carefully turning it out.

The cooled cake will look sad and despondent. It will be cracked and fissured and scarred. It will look like the ugly step-sister of those colossal 5-storey-tall over-embellished chocolate cake monstrosities at your local supermarket, but it will kick every other cakes butt in the taste department. Don’t bother trying to prettify it – it can be beautiful in its own right. Usually I just give it a dusting of icing sugar, but it is great with a drizzle of white chocolate and fresh raspberries, or a really light (1980’s hairdo!!) white chocolate buttercream. I guess this cake should serve 8, but don’t plan to share it amongst more than four people so that everyone can have seconds. It’s that kind of cake.

prettyful

Five Things: More Phun in the Philippines

You know how they say be careful what you wish for? Well I’ve been bitterly miserable about this cold weather and have been thinking how awesome it would be to follow summer around the world, instead of having to wear all my clothes to bed and then wonder how many icicle toes will survive the chilly night.

So.

I’m going to Philippines tomorrow!! Whoop Whoop!

would you like fries with that

awesome cupholder

crispy corsage

{check out other photo's - plus the most awesome blog name EVAH}

{check out other photo’s – plus the most awesome blog name EVAH}

I know absolutely nothing about the country, but if it’s anything like other South East Asian countries I’ve visited then I’m bound to come back with double my current circumference :-).

 

 

 

 

This Ish Is Bananas

B. A-N A-N A-S.

OK so now that I’ve got my Gwen Stefani moment out of the way…

up close and lickable

It all started moribundly enough. There they were, four bananas looking abandoned and forlorn at the end of the workday (we get fruit on Thursdays – yay for not getting scurvy!) and with a long weekend coming up I worried that they would become sad and brown and not fulfill their true destiny (i.e. be turned into cake). So there’s banana bread, or banana muffins… but those are kind of… meh. They are awesome in their own right but I was thinking of doing something light and airy and beautiful, which is practically the dictionary definition for Cupcakes, right?

textbook case

So off I tootled with the four bananas and when I got home I did a bit of a scavenge and found, amongst other things,  frozen buttermilk (it was one of those “thought it was cream” purchases and I panicked and threw it in the freezer) and the dregs of a batch of cinnamon sugar. They seemed like they would make good bedfellows so I got out my trusty purple notepad and started working on the formulation. Snaps to Martha Stewart and a bunch of others for providing a basis for me to tweak away (I almost typed twerk!) to my heart’s content.

So the thing is, I am the biggest nerd. I can do maths in my head – most of the time. In this particular case, I carefully formulated my cupcakes to yield 12, just enough to distribute at tea-time. I’m still not sure where I went wrong but by the end of the evening I had 30 cupcakes staring back at me… which is perfectly ok by me, a very happy accident – cos they were AWESOME!!

If these were any lighter, they would have floated right up off the kitchen counter. They were at that exact perfect intersection of light, moist and flavoursome – the little bit of cinnamon really brought out the best of the banana. It was like the triple point of water. But the triple point of cupcake:

cupcake chemistry

 

So anyway, the thing is these cupcakes are the best I’ve ever churned out of my kitchen… and that’s before I even get to the icing.

O.

M.

G.

Admission: I don’t really even like buttercream that much. But add a bit of buttermilk (a but of bittermilk? tongue-twister!) and it transforms into the lightest, fluffiest cupcake embellishment EVAHHHHH. Plus it counteracts that tooth-achy sweetness that buttercream often has. I’ll never make cream-cheese icing again. I may never even make cupcakes again, and just pipe out tall towers of this icing of the gods instead.

wheres the pyjamas

trifecta

done and dusted

 

So. 30 cupcakes happen like this:

3 cups cake flour

1.5 teaspoons baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

250g soft butter

1.5 cups brown sugar (I use Demerara)

3 large eggs, room temperature

4 large ripe bananas, mashed thoroughly to within an inch of their lives

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

Cinnamon sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Like, duh.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Mix the mashed banana and buttermilk together.

Cream the butter and sugar until really light and fluffy – it should be the texture of a mousse. Make like Michael Jackson and Beat It (BEAT IT! beat it. BEAT IT! beat it. JUST BEAT IT).

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between addition. Beat in the vanilla essence. (BEAT IIIT! YOW!! *high kick, rude crotch maneouvre*). I used a stand mixer for this part and had it running for about 20 minutes total, so it was really light. Quite literally a lighter shade of pale.

Add 1/3rd of the dry mix to the butter/egg “mousse” and fold in gently with a spatula. Add 1/3rd banana/buttermilk and fold in, and keep alternating wet and dry til all is folded in. Every so gently. Gently like it contains a sleeping baby which you do not wish to wake up.

Scoop into paper cases (half-full), sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar over the top (optional – purely the result of my cupboard-foraging), and bake for 20 minutes.

buttercream of the gods

Buttermilk Buttercream:

Approx. 100g butter, soft and yielding

Approx. 300g icing sugar, sifted

Approx. 50ml buttermilk

Beat butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon to form a very thick pasty stodgy icing; use a stand mixer or electric beater to beat in the buttermilk and leave it running until very light colour and fluffy texture that is soft but still possible to pipe. Embellish your cooled cupcakes and sift a little ground cinnamon over the tops for (this word gives away my age) Pizzazz.

perfection on a plate

This cupcake topped with the buttermilk icing is absolutely synergistic. It’s elevated to a higher state of cupcakery. We should all bow down and chant to this cupcake. It’s so good it’ll give you a smile wide enough to fit a banana sideways…

PS: Don’t you just love Adam Liaw?

adam in canberra

 

Five Things: Dot Your i’s, Drink Your Tea’s

Brrrrr!! It’s Frostier than Flakes here in Jozi – my toes are completely froze! The only thing helping to thaw my innards right now is tea – vast quantities of piping hot, aromatic, therapeutic infusions of soothing botanical loveliness.

If it gets any colder, though, I will have to replace the contents of my teapot with something a little more potent…

{found these awesome herbal teas in pretty little fabric bags at Le Chameleon and Sowearto}

{found these awesome herbal teas in pretty little fabric bags at Le Chameleon and Sowearto}

{it's always tea-time}

{it’s always tea-time}

{one day when i am a full-time mad cat lady - i will knit this}

{one day when i am a full-time mad cat lady – i will knit this}

{make these most divine lavender bath teabags}

{make these most divine lavender bath teabags and steep in the tub for a few hours :-)}

{when tea just isn't enough}

{when tea just isn’t enough… imma diy this with lead glass paint}

PS: Where there’s tea… there should be cookies.

Say Cheese!

Grrrr Gnash – that feeling you get when you’ve been having this brilliant, epiphanic, life-changing idea burning away on the backburner of your medulla oblongata, and you’ve kinda sorta been tinkering around with it, and it’s like that hide and seek game where you’re going warmer… warmer…. warmer………….. And then BAM! Someone else pips you to the post and does something to make it an actual Thing and not just a random brain-fart??

Dang frikkin nabbit.

Happens to me all the time. It’s like I’ve missed my true calling as Chief Genius of Awesome Inventions by a few millimeters (Caribou – do you remember that t-shirt you used to have that read “yes, you may refer me to as super-genius? That was an awesome t-shirt, is all). So my most recent dashed hope is all about cheese. I love cheese. I love cheese in all it’s different formats, but one of the things that really makes me happy is crispy frazzled cheese – you know, when you’ve overstuffed a cheese sarmie (it is the only way to make a cheese sarmie) and some spills out when you grill it, and it turns into a little crispy, crunchy nugget of intensified cheesy, heavenly hallelujahs? It makes my knees go weak. If I had to pick between crispy cheese nibblets and, say, Jon Bon Jovi, I’d be all like Jon Bon Who?

{suddenly, Abe Lincoln takes on a whole new appeal...}

{suddenly, Abe Lincoln takes on a whole new appeal…}

I’m the person who likes a good cheeseburger – but hold the burger, the bun, the pickles and the sauce.

And so for months I’ve been experimenting, trying to make a paleo version of my other big weakness (potato chips) (clearly, I was destined to be an obese couch potato and not Jon Bon Jovi’s significant other). And I was this close *holds forefinger and thumb one quarter of a micrometer apart* when I saw this article.

Well done, Ms. Kerschner, well done *slow clap*. I doff my cheese hat to you.

I applaud the company for taking what they could have sneered at as a whackadoodle idea, and trying it out anyway. Awesome!! So I don’t know quite how this product is made, but here are some of my own versions of frazzled cheesy crisps which will have to suffice until FROLLIcKS All Cheese Crisps takes the world by storm and becomes available at the corner shop down the road. Next to the liquor store with the dodgy uncle behind the counter.

{i imagine that this is what the corridors of heaven look like}

{i imagine that this is what the corridors of heaven look like}

They’re like those parmesan crisp things that everybody and their aunt likes to pop next to a bowl of soup. One. Just one. What is the point of one chip? (Unless it is a Dorito, then it has three points – sorry, couldn’t help myself).

All you need is a semi-hard to hard cheese with a mild flavour – I find that a really loud flavour, like an aged cheddar, results in quite a bitter chip. Emmenthaler and Edam work phenomenally, as do a nice subtle young cheddar. Some will go flat and crisp to the point of shattering, and some (Babybel, Imma pointing at you right now) will puff up and make cheese cookies – technically this is a fail since I was aiming for crisps, but actually it was one of those happy accidents cos ain’t nothin’ wrong with cheese cookies.

{babybel before}

{babybel before}

{babybel after}

{babybel after}

Pre-heat your oven to screaming hot and line a baking tray with baking paper or a silicon mat.

Then, prep the cheese – either slice it thinly (for rectangular or square shapes) or grate it and pile it up in little heaps (for round shapes) leaving plenty of space for the splodges to spread out when they start to frazzle. Although I would normally NEVER buy sliced cheese (portion-control for cheese is a ridiculous concept) it does make prep much easier. These are redonkulously expensive snacks, by the way. You can tell that something is suitable for a paleo diet when you have to take out a loan to cook a meal.

I’ve been experimenting; mixing a bit of finely chopped sautéed onion with grated cheddar works gorgeously. I want to try them with chopped nuts as well sometime (before Ms. FROLLIcKS tries it).

Pop your prepared cheese into the hot oven – now keep a close eye on them, some cheeses will be ready in no time. You will know it’s done when the cheese has frazzled (it’s got little holes all over the surface and is sizzling) right to the centre. You also want to see a bit of golden-browning happening along the edges. If you want the top to be as brown as it’s bottom (ooh!) you might want to give it a blast with the grill element.

{emmenthaler before}

{emmenthaler before}

{emmenthaler during}

{emmenthaler during}

{emmenthaler after}

{emmenthaler after}

Remove from the oven and wait a few moments for it to cool a bit – don’t be alarmed at the pools of cheese oil that may pool around the crisps, it’s bizarre but as the crisps cool down they seem to re-absorb the fat. I guess that is pretty alarming since you will end up eating it and it will probably line your arteries but it’s cheese so in my books it’s worth it. That’s where all the flavour is, as with all food that is bad for you.

{emmenthaler forever after tralalaa}

{emmenthaler forever after tralalaa}

Season the crisps while they are hot – the seasoning sticks better that way. Experiment! As soon as they’ve firmed up a bit, remove them from the tray and let them get completely cool and crisp before serving. They go amazingly with any kind of dip – cheddar and wholegrain mustard, Emmenthaler and cream cheese (I can feel my arteries cringe as I type that), Babybel and something sweet and spicy… the possibilities are endless.

Here is some cheese porn for your viewing pleasure – I kept the best for last:

if piles were this good i'd totally want them

sizzzzzle

frazzled

ooooh better than jon bon jovi

Now, find a quiet corner. Remember how I said that these are quite expensive? Well, what I meant was that you should cut costs by only making them for yourself and no-one else. Anyway, it’s paleo so I don’t know, it’ll make you faster and more feral or something.

PS: Think you’re a cheese person? Check out THESE Cheese People.

PPS: If Jon Bon Jovi allowed me to do this to him… I totally would.

Son of a Stitch

Yeah. I managed to miss the boat for posting something in time for Mothers’ Day AGAIN this year, dang nabbit.

Anyway, the edible giftlet that I prepared isn’t really Mothers’ Day-specific. It would totally work for … Spinster Day? Old People Day? Stitch ‘n’ Bitch/Sewing Circle gifts? Because… these cookies are not just any ol’ cookies, these are appliqué cookies.

failure to prepare...

If you’re scratching your head at the word “appliqué” you are most likely a guy, or under the age of 60. It’s a beautiful stitchcraft, like embroidery but with more layers. I’ve seen it emulated on cookies and even wedding cakes; I’d like to say I know about appliqué because I’m totally into craftsy stuff (big shout out to Pinterest!!), but let’s face it: Deep down, I possess the soul of a cranky 70 year old who snorts at all things newfangled and thinks ADSL is a disorder in children who eat too many artificial colourants.

and you can't even eat the end result

 

I first saw the technique described in the Ideas magazine, but I’ve changed it a little to suit me; I did stick to their design of simple florals and polka dots, though.

The easy part is the cookies – all you need is a nice smooth surface ready for you to unleash your inner artist and/or needlework-prone old lady. Buy or bake, doesn’t really matter so long as they taste good. Life is too short to endure those vegetable-fatty “variety pack” cookies that leave a waxy coating on your palate.

Next, whip up a batch of royal icing.

one wishes to be eaten

For years, I was slightly terrified of royal icing. So intimidatingly pristinely white, plus it has a title (Well. It’s royal). So when I finally gave it a go I was kinda embarrassed that it took me so long – super-easy! One hand behind my back! Blindfolded!! You get my drift.

My version makes enough icing to pipe, oh I don’t know, about 3 dozen cookies depending on their size and how elaborate your design is. Beat one egg white until it’s frothy, with lots of big bubbles (we’re not going for any form of “peak”). Then add icing sugar, bit by bit while beating, til it’s white and glossy and thick but still pourable. The quantity of icing sugar is also difficult to pin down because every egg is different, I’d guess 250g-ish. I added a tiny drop of pink food colouring and vanilla.

Be sure to cover the icing up tight with a bit of cling over the surface – or it will solidify to the same consistency of wall plaster. Anyone remember the Iced Zoo Biscuits of the 1980’s? Yep, the ones that used to crack the enamel off your teeth – that was proper old-school royal icing. (Nowadays they aren’t nearly as scary, much gentler on the teeth. Meringue-like even).

Spoon some into a piping bag or syringe with a very fine nozzle and keep a toothpick handy.

a stitch in time

Pipe floral patterns onto the cookies – one design element at a time. As soon as you’ve piped it, drag a toothpick in short strokes through each piped line towards the centre of the flower shape to form the appliqué “stitches”. It may help to practice on a plate at first. That, or keep several spare cookies handy in case there are any duds. In my kitchen, there are always duds and that’s why I have to go to gym eight days a week.

signed sealded and almost delivered

Let the cookies hang out in the open for a bit until the icing is dry and solid to the touch, then arrange them nestled in tissue paper in a pretty box and surprise everyone with your awesome stitchcraft skillz:

word indeed

Simply the Nest

Remember Rice Krispie treats? I mean the proper homemade ones, not those nasty inedible prepacked ones in the shop (you have to do a tooth count after to make sure all 32 are still present and accounted for).

Well I had this idea that the treats would make good nests, since they have the right appearance and seem to be fairly malleable if Food Network challenges are anything to go by. Who knew that they’d spread their sticky goo into every possible kitchen crevice? Anyhoo. Totally worth it to make these adorable mini Easter nests – perfect if you’re having to cater for a large crowd.

nest best thing

I don’t often purchase marshmallows so I was gobsmacked at the huge variety – it was like Bubba from Forrest Gump had turned his attention from shrimp to the confectionery aisle. I settled on twisty ones whose colour I thought would be good for nesty appeal, but I guess it doesn’t really matter.

I don’t remember the Rice Krispie treats of my youth (you know, back when we knocked rocks together for music on a Friday night) being this insanely sticky and stretchy… it was a bit scary at first but I’m willing to bet this is any kid’s idea of sugar-coated heaven.

let the madness beginicky sticky

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This makes roughly 24 nestlets – it’s hard to give an accurate yield, it really depends how large you make them (I’d say aim for the type that can be crammed into one’s face whole).

1/4 cup butter

4 cups marshmallows

5 cups puffed rice cereal

First – melt the marshmallows and butter together in the biggest bowl that will comfortably fit in your microwave. Marshmallows swell up super-fast when nuked! Keep an eye on those suckers. Literally pop them in for seconds at a time – as soon as they are mostly melted, give them a stir and start adding in the rice krispies. Keep stirring; don’t worry about the weird gloopy strands that start landing all over the kitchen, as if the Willy Wonky version of a giant spider is doing it’s thang in there.

While the mix is still warm, scoop out blobs and with lightly greased paws press into lightly greased muffin tins to form an indented nest shape. Ta-da! How easy was that? There’s a high impressedness vs. effort ratio on this one. Let them cool down and set completely before attaching little chocolate eggs to each nest using a tiny bit of melted chocolate, then using a teaspoon to ease them out of the muffin tin.

Do all countries have “speckled eggs”? The jelly ones with the chocolate and crunchy candy coating. I hope so because they are awesome; I suspect that the supermarkets hide them till just before Easter so they can watch us panic and try to find substitutes – either buy them way before or like the day before Easter Sunday.

sweet like chocolate

Go impress large volumes of children this Easter Sunday J then watch from a safe location as the sugar courses through their weeny little bloodstreams. Send them back to their rightful owners before the sugar rush hits.