Raspberry and coconut supergrain slice (+ WIN!)

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Looking for a slice that’s super simple to make but packs a punch, right from the base to the topping? Then you’ll love this easy raspberry and coconut supergrain slice.

Imagine a chewy and flavoursome base packed with cocoa, toasted coconut and six supergrains (think everything from quinoa to amaranth), topped with a sweet coconut filling dotted with freeze-dried raspberries and finished with a drizzle of dark chocolate, coconut flakes and a few more raspberries for good measure. Sounds good, right?

But the best part is that despite being absolutely packed with flavour and supergrains, this slice is a breeze to make – and you don’t need to spend hours trawling the supermarket aisles for all kinds of unusual ingredients. All you need to do is pop by the muesli bar aisle and grab a couple of boxes of Tasti Supergrain Bars.

Tasti’s Cocoa, Toasted Coconut & Quinoa Supergrains bars make this slice so simple – all you need to do is crush them up, mix with a little melted butter and you have a beautifully flavoursome base all sorted.

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The unique combination of quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, brown rice, oat and millet makes for a deliciously textured and flavoursome base that really is delicious – and you don’t usually rave about a slice base! This recipe uses eight bars (just under two boxes) which means you’ll have a couple left over to enjoy on the go – and you’ll totally want to, they’re that good.

With all that goodness going on in the base, this slice brings a bit of extra sweetness in with the filling – a beautiful combination of condensed milk, coconut and freeze-dried raspberries, with a couple of eggs to help it set nicely. Top that off with a topping that’s as pretty as it is flavoursome, and you’re onto a winner.

So pop in-store and pick-up some Tasti Supergrain Bars and get baking – I’m sure you’re going to love this one!

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Raspberry and coconut supergrain slice
Makes approx. 32 pieces

Ingredients

Base

  • 240g (8 bars) Tasti Cocoa, Toasted Coconut & Quinoa Supergrains bars
  • 50g butter, melted

Filling

  • 395g condensed milk
  • 225g desiccated coconut
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup freeze-dried raspberries
  • Pink food colouring

Topping

  • 50g dark chocolate, melted
  • ¼ cup freeze-dried raspberries
  • ¼ cup coconut flakes

Method

Base

  1. Break Supergrains bars into pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor. Blend to a fine crumb. Add melted butter and mix until well combined.
  2. Scoop mixture into lined slice tin and evenly spread across base of tin. Press firmly and set aside.

Filling

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, desiccated coconut and eggs. Mix until well combined.
  3. Gradually add pink food colouring until desired colour is reached. Add freeze-dried raspberries and fold through mixture until well combined.  
  4. Scoop over prepared base and spread until base is evenly covered. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool completely.

Topping

  1. Lift slice from pan and place on a chopping board.
  2. Spoon melted chocolate into a small bag and snip the corner. Drizzle around half the chocolate over the prepared slice. Sprinkle with freeze-dried raspberries and coconut flakes, then drizzle with remaining chocolate.
  3. Place slice in fridge until chocolate is set (approx. 5 minutes) before slicing into squares. Store in an airtight container.

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Thanks to the lovely team at Tasti I have a great little prize pack to giveaway to one lucky reader, including one box of all three Supergrains bars: Almond, Cranberry & Linseed, Pepita, Chia & Manuka Honey and (of course) Cocoa, Toasted Coconut & Quinoa.

To be in to win, simply leave a comment below letting me know which Supergrains bar you would most like to try.

This recipe was made possible thanks to Tasti. All comments, recipes and images are my own.

Entries close 11.59pm Monday 19 September. The winner will be chosen at random and notified on Tuesday 20 September. Winner must make contact within 3 business days or they will forfeit the prize a new winner will be drawn. Sorry – this giveaway is only open to New Zealand residents. 

 

Beginner’s guide to baking: How to make the perfect pavlova

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This post is part of our beginner’s guide to baking series – catch up on the other post here and here.

Ever wondered what the trick is to making the perfect pav? Just like everything in baking, it all comes back to a bit of basic science! Here’s everything you need to know to help you make the perfect pavlova every single time.

Do I really need to use old eggs?
If you’re after the best results, the answer is definitely yes! When it comes down to it, pavs are really just made from two key ingredients – eggs and sugar – so it’s important that you make sure these are spot on.

Fresh eggs have thick egg whites which, while great for some things, isn’t ideal when you’re whipping up a pav as it’s harder to get the right amount of volume. Luckily, as eggs age the egg whites thin and create more volume when beaten. Basically, with older eggs you can whip more air into the mixture, giving you a beautifully light and airy pav!

What type of sugar should I use?
While some recipes use standard white sugar, I always use caster sugar when making a pavlova – just like eggs, it all comes back to getting the maximum amount of volume into your mixture.

Remember what I mentioned last time about how sugar digs away at butter to aerate it when you cream them together? Well, this is pretty much the same principle.

Caster sugar is super-fine white sugar, so every spoonful of caster sugar has a greater number of sugar crystals than standard white sugar. When you whip them into your egg white, the jagged edges of the caster sugar help aerate the eggs so your finished meringue mixture is light and airy, just how it should be.

Plus, because the crystals are smaller in caster sugar, it’s easier to dissolve – saving both you time and the pav from being over-beaten.

Can I overbeat the mixture?
Absolutely! Overbeating your meringue mixture causes too many bonds to form between the egg proteins, which basically makes the mixture too tight. This can cause a range of problems like cracking, oozing and collapsing. Not ideal, right?

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Why do pavlovas have vinegar in them?
Adding vinegar to your pavlova mixture helps prevent those nasty side-effects of accidental overbeating by neutralising some of those tight egg proteins.

Vinegar is an acid which means it’s packed with positively charged particles. When added to your mixture, these seek out any charged proteins and neutralise them – helping prevent pavlova disaster!

How about cornflour – what does that do?
Just like vinegar, cornflour also helps keep your egg proteins in line by creating a buffer to help prevent them from overcooking during all that time in the oven. After all, a pav wouldn’t be a pav without being gorgeously marshmallowy inside!

Adding a little cornflour (or arrowroot) to your mixture also helps prevent the egg whites from weeping in the oven – that means no any sticky clear liquid hanging around the base of your pav.

So even though there are only a handful of ingredients in pavlova, there’s actually a lot going on, right? And with so much to keep in mind while you’re baking, it’s totally natural to feel a bit exhausted afterwards.

Fisher & Paykel totally get it, so have created a clever feature on some of their ovens that takes some of the pressure off busy bakers – the cleaning! A range of Fisher & Paykel ovens have a clever Pyrolitic self-cleaning function that takes the chore out of cleaning by naturally breaking down food residue inside the oven at a very high temperature. That means you can throw out those awful oven cleaning sprays and simply wipe out the light ash that remains with a damp cloth. Pretty impressive, huh?

To help Kiwi bakers and cooks get the most out of their time in the kitchen, Fisher & Paykel have created eight different cooking styles – if you know why you cook the way you do, you’re more likely to get the best results. Pop over to the Fisher & Paykel website and do their ‘What’s Your Cooking Style’ quiz – you might be surprised!

Now that you’re a bit of a pavlova expert it’s time to give it a go yourself. Here’s one of my favourite recipes for an awesome pav to help get you started – happy baking!

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Simple pavlova

Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp boiling water
  • 1 Tbsp cornflour
  • 1 ½ cups caster sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper. Draw a circle around a side-plate or small cake tin to use as a guide.
  2. Place egg whites in a large bowl and beat on high until soft peaks form. Gradually add caster sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time, until mixture is thick and glossy (approx. 10 minutes).
  3. Add vanilla, vinegar, boiling water and cornflour and mix for a further 20-30 seconds, until combined. Mixture should be stiff and bowl able to be tipped upside down without anything moving.
  4. Spoon mixture onto prepared baking tray, using traced circle as a guide.
  5. Place in oven and cook for 10 minutes before turning the oven off. Leave pavlova in the oven without opening the door for at least one hour – longer if you have time.
  6. Top with whipped cream and your favourite berries to serve.

This post was made possible thanks to Fisher & Paykel. All words, photos and opinions are, and always will be, my own.



Apple crumble ice cream pie

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Ever find yourself wishing that you could enjoy the beautifully comforting flavours of a good old-fashioned apple crumble without actually having to make one? I totally get it – whether you’re short on time, energy or ingredients, sometimes you just can’t make one.

Luckily Dairyworks gets it too and is celebrating winter with an incredible limited edition Traditional Apple Crumble-flavoured ice cream. Because let’s be honest, it’s never too cold for ice cream!

Packed with all those warm, spicy flavours that you love in a good apple crumble, this new ice cream is so good you’ll want to have a couple of tubs stashed away in the freezer all winter long – especially when you know that you can make this delicious apple crumble ice cream pie with it too!

Imagine a chewy oat and brown sugar biscuit base, filled with flavoursome apple crumble ice cream filling and topped with super-simple brown sugar apple compote for a little extra-something. Sounds good right?

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One of the great things about this dessert (other than how delicious it is!) is that you can get everything ready ahead of time. Why not make life easy for yourself and bake the biscuit base the day before, whip up the apple compote in the morning, then pop everything together just before you want to enjoy it? How you make it is totally up to you.

Like all ice cream desserts, this apple crumble ice cream pie is best served straight from the freezer. Simply cut into slices and pop on a plate with a little extra apple compote and you’re all set. Pop any leftover pie back in the freezer straight away – you won’t want to waste a single slice of this pie!

Dairyworks Traditional Apple Crumble Ice Cream is now in your local supermarket freezer – but get in quick, it’s only around for a limited time.

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Apple crumble ice cream pie
Serves approx. eight people

Ingredients

Oat biscuit base
Recipe adapted from Not Quite Nigella

  • 125g butter, softened and divided into 85g and 40g
  • 5 ½ Tbsp brown sugar, packed and divided into 4 Tbsp and 1 ½ Tbsp
  • 2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup + 2 Tbsp oats
  • ½ cup plain flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda

Apple compote

  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 30g butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • 2 green apples, cubed

Filling

Method

Base

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 85g of butter, 4 Tbsp brown sugar and the white sugar. Beat until light and fluffy.  Add egg and beat until pale.
  3. Add oats, flour, baking powder and baking soda, and beat until well combined.
  4. Scoop mixture onto prepared baking pan and press out evenly using the back of a wet spoon.
  5. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool.
  6. Once cool, crumble biscuit into a medium bowl. Add 40g butter and 1 ½ Tbsp brown sugar and mix until well combined and mixture sticks together when pressed.
  7. Grease a 25cm loose bottomed flan dish and evenly press oat mixture across the base and sides. Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes, then cool completely.

Apple compote

  1. Place brown sugar and butter in a small pot over medium heat and stir until butter is melted and ingredients are well combined.
  2. Add cinnamon, mixed spice and cubed apple, and stir until all apples are coated. Partially cover pot and allow to simmer for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender.
  3. Scoop apple compote into a bowl and refrigerate until completely cool.

Filling

  1. Place ice cream into a large mixing bowl (metal, if possible) and beat on medium until ice cream is just softened. Scoop into prepared base, carefully smoothing with a spatula until base is evenly covered. Return to the freezer for one hour.
  2. When ready to serve, remove from freezer and pop pie out of pan. Top with apple compote and slice. Serve immediately.

This post was made possible thanks to Dairyworks. All words, images and recipes are my own.

Make your cat fall in love with the cattery

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We’re heading off overseas for a month later this year which means one thing – our fur babies, Hunter and Sybil, will be enjoying a holiday of their own as they spend four weeks at a countryside retreat (aka. the cattery).

Whether you’re heading away for a week or a month, it’s never easy leaving your fur-babies behind – there’s usually a bit of crying when we drop Hunter and Sybil off for their little holiday… and it’s definitely not coming from them!

But luckily there are things you can do to help ease that separation. Here are my top five tips to help make your time apart as pain-free as possible – for both of you!

  1. Bedding:

Whether you’re a cat or human, there’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed. Pack your cat’s favourite sleeping spot with them for their holiday – we have little cushions that both Hunter and Sybil have loved sleeping on since they were babies. Don’t have one? Buy a bed or blanket the month before you head away and pop it in their favourite sleeping spot so they’re used to it and it smells like home by the time you jet off.

  1. Keep in touch

Don’t be afraid to ask your cattery to send you photos of your fur baby while you’re away. Many catteries will be happy to send you photo updates on how your cat is enjoying their holiday – all you need to do is ask! When Hunter and Sybil spent four weeks at the cattery last year, the lovely team sent us little photo collages every Friday morning – it was always a real treat to wake up to on the other side of the world and definitely made our time apart that little bit easier. Here’s a peek at some of the photos we were sent – awesome, huh?

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  1. Stay warm

Heading away in winter? Then don’t forget a blanket (or two!) for your cat. You can even cut up an old dressing gown or blanket you know your cat loves and use that. Think about investing in a cat-safe heat pad – your cat will love it! These clever little pads just need 10 minutes in the microwave to stay warm for up to eight hours – they’re the perfect solution for those chilly winter nights. We all know how much cats love lounging in front of the fire, heater or on a nice warm bed – let them bring this little luxury with them.

  1. Feed them well

Just because you’re away doesn’t mean your cat should give up on the things it loves – that includes their favourite food! Most catteries are more than happy to let you bring in your cat’s favourite food for them to enjoy during their stay – after all, they want them to stay happy and healthy as much as you do. Fancy Feast makes catering to your cat’s special tastes easy while making their holiday that little bit more luxurious. We’ll be sending Hunter and Sybil off with a stash of their favourite Fancy Feast pouches and cans again this time – they’re single serve, which makes it super easy for the cattery, and you can rest-easy knowing that your fur baby is eating well.

  1. Kick-off the holiday early

Rather than dropping your cat off when you’re in a rush to head away yourself, let them start their holiday earlier – it means less stress for both of you! They won’t have the stress of seeing you pack (and you won’t be bothered by the cat constantly sitting in your half-packed bag) and you’ll be in a better frame of mind to settle them into their home away from home. Remember, it’s not forever!

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Is your cat feeling the winter chill?

Thanks to the lovely team at Fancy Feast I have an awesome cat-safe heatpad to give away to one lucky person. These heatpads are filled with a clever gel that holds the heat for up to 10 hours – and your cat can’t chew through them!

To be in to win, simply leave a comment below and let me know how you’re keeping your cat cosy this winter. Bonus points if you share a photo of your beautiful fur baby too!

This post (and Hunter and Sybil’s holiday diet) was made possible thanks to Fancy Feast. All comments and photos are, and always will be, my own.

Entries close 11.59pm Monday 8 August. The winners will be chosen at random and notified on Tuesday 9 August. Each winner must make contact within 3 business days or they’ll forfeit the prize and a new winner will be drawn. Sorry – this giveaway is only open to New Zealand residents.

How to plan a winter-escape for $250

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Is it just me, or is there something about winter than can make you go a little bit stir crazy? While winter is perfect for cosying up with a good book and cup of tea, getting into a bit of baking or binging on Netflix without feeling too guilty, sometimes you just need an excuse to get out of the house.

But luckily there’s a simple solution: head off on the perfect winter mini-escape! Regardless of the season, there are so many beautiful places to visit in our backyard – sometimes the hardest part is choosing where to go. But the best part is a quick winter holiday doesn’t need to be expensive – all you need is a bit of forward thinking and planning.

Set your budget
First things first: decide how much you’re able to spend on your winter mini-break and use that to determine how long you go away for, how far you travel and what activities you do.

We recently switched our power over to Genesis Energy who have an awesome offer at the moment where you get up to $250 off your first month’s electricity bill when you sign-up your home to a 12 month fixed term Happy Winter plan.

Not only is Genesis Energy’s pricing super competitive (so we’re looking set to actually save money on our power bill each month), but making the switch left us with $250 extra in our budget. Because our electricity bill comes in a lot higher during the winter months thanks to our trusty dryer and having the heating cranked up, we were able to get $250 off our first month’s bill –  and that became our winter mini-break budget!

Sounds pretty tight, right? It is, but it’s totally achievable if you plan your little holiday the right way.

Pick your destination
Let’s be honest, chances are you aren’t going to be able to pick up return airfares anywhere on this kind of budget – at least not if you need to pay for accommodation and activities too!

The trick is choosing a mini-break destination that’s an easy drive away – somewhere you can drive to and from on a tank of petrol. Not only does this help keep your costs down, but it also means you can make the most of your time away from home, actually getting out and exploring rather than spending half the day sitting in the car. For us, the Coromandel is the perfect destination – and if you get a good winter’s weekend, the beaches are just as beautiful as summer (though we’re not brave enough to take a dip!)

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Think about activities
What are you actually going to do when you get there? Is just having a night away from home going to be enough, or will you want to head out and see some of the local sights? Before you get too set on your destination, have a quick think about what you’ll be able to do within your budget. A great way to keep your costs down while still having a great time is to make sure that there’s a good mix of free and paid activities – think nice walking tracks, window-shopping and hot pools!

Be clever with your accommodation
Accommodation is always one of the biggest costs when you have a night away, but there are loads of ways you can help keep this down. Why not see if any of your friends or family have a bach they wouldn’t mind you staying at for a night or two? If that’s not going to work, then booking a private room through Airbnb is a great option – not only are they super affordable, but there is usually a handful of options so you can find somewhere that suits you perfectly. If more traditional accommodation is your thing, then keep an eye on booking sites like Wotif to snag a great last-minute deal.

Still wondering whether it’s actually possible? Then check out how we managed to head away for a night with the $250 we saved, thanks to Genesis Energy:

Petrol We used a tank of petrol for the return trip. The trick was not driving too much when we arrived! $60
Accommodation We booked a lovely little private room in a house on the water through Airbnb near Whitianga which suited us perfectly. $90
Activities The weather ended up being so lovely that we spent all our time out and about enjoying the beach and bush walks. Instead, we used some of our budget for a nice drink by the water instead. $50
Food and drink We grabbed a few things from the cupboard at home (including a bottle of wine!) and picked up some chilled essentials for meals when we arrived at our destination. $50
TOTAL   $250

Want to head off on a winter-escape of your own? Then why not switch your home’s electricity to Genesis Energy on a 12 month Happy Winter plan – you’ll receive up to $250 off your first bill, which can absolutely be put towards a night out of the city. Pop over to Genesis Energy’s website for more info.

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Thanks to the lovely team at Genesis Energy, I have a $100 Prezzy Card to give away to help one lucky reader head off on a winter mini-escape of their own. 

To be in to win, simply leave a comment below letting me know where you’d head off to on your winter mini-escape. It’s that easy!

Thanks to Genesis Energy for sponsoring this post and providing me with $250 credit on a Genesis Energy Happy Winter plan. All comments and photos are, and always will be, my own. Entries close 11.59pm Wednesday 10 August. The winners will be chosen at random and notified on Thursday 11 August. Each winner must make contact within 3 business days or they’ll forfeit the prize and a new winner will be drawn. Sorry – this giveaway is only open to New Zealand residents.

Beginner’s guide to baking: Butter – why temperature matters

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This post is part of our beginner’s guide to baking series – catch up on the other post here.

Ever wonder why some recipes call for room temperature butter, while others need cold? Or what to do when a recipe doesn’t specify a temperature at all? I know it’s tempting just to grab a block of butter and start using it, but the temperature of your butter really does matter.  

Why do some recipes ask for room temperature butter?
Most recipes that call for butter to be room temperature have one of two things going on – you’re either going to cream it with sugar, or combine it with something liquid like milk or eggs.

Let’s start with creaming butter and sugar. Just like pretty crystals in a shop, sugar crystals have jagged edges – and that’s actually really important. As you cream room temperature butter and sugar, the sugar is busy digging out little air pockets in the butter. Leave them mixing away for a few minutes in this sweet spot and the mixture becomes smooth, pale and creamy – that’s how you know your creaming is done!

If your butter’s too cold, the sugar isn’t able to dig through the butter the way it should. Too warm? Then the sugar will just scratch around, rather than digging out little airy pockets.

When you’re adding milk or eggs to butter, you want them to combine together beautifully – and to do that, you need room temperature butter (and other ingredients!) If your butter’s cold, it’ll contract together into cold little pieces which stops it from blending together the way you need it to. That’s why you might end up with a curdled or grainy looking batter – not great!

When you bake, the little air pockets you’ve created in the nice room temperature butter give the mixture room to rise – the bubbles from your baking soda and powder fill the space and puff it up.

Psst – find more info about how baking soda and powder work here.

How can I tell if it’s room temperature?
This is easy – you should be able to press your finger into it and easily leave an indent, without your finger sliding around or the whole block caving in.

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I’m in a hurry – how can I warm my butter quickly?
While leaving your butter on the counter for an hour really is the best way to bring it to room temperature, that’s not always practical. Luckily there are a few other things you can try in a pinch:

  • Cube your butter into small pieces and line them up in a sunny spot to warm up. The increased surface area of the butter means it’ll get warmer, faster.
  • Cut the amount of butter you need and pop it on a plate. Fill a glass with hot water and wait until the outside of the glass becomes warm to touch. Pour out the water, quickly dry the glass and invert it over the butter like a dome. The butter will warm up in a couple of minutes – keep an eye on it!
  • You can always use a microwave! Cut the butter you need, place it on a plate and microwave on high for 5 seconds. Open the door, turn the butter and heat for another 5 seconds. Repeat for about 20 seconds until your butter is at room temperature – check by pressing your finger into it gently at each turn.

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Why do some recipes need cold butter?
Many doughs call for cold butter. This is so the butter doesn’t completely blend into the flour when you mix them together. This means that as you roll or press out your dough, the butter gets stretched out and you’re left with long, flat sheets of butter in the dough. Butter contains a lot of water, and this water turns into steam when baked – that helps create layers in your dough. Flaky pastry is the perfect example.

Not all recipes say what temperature it needs to be – what do I do then?
Just have a think about what else is happening in the recipe and go from there. Are you making a dough? Then the butter should almost always be cold. Mixing in liquids, creaming, or trying to make something that needs to rise up nice and fluffy? Then room temperature butter will be the way to go.

The more you learn about the ins and outs of baking the more you realise that it really is a science – every ingredient and instruction is there for a reason. It’s all about striking the perfect balance!

With so much to keep focussed on when you’re baking, it’s really useful to have knowledge and tools on hand to help take the guesswork out of the equation.

That’s why Fisher & Paykel have created a range of intuitive ovens with pre-set functions, which eliminates most of the guesswork when it comes to setting the temperature. This means that the oven sets the most common temperature for whatever you’re cooking –  It’s crazy how clever it is! These ovens come with a recipe menu and digital temperature control so you have exactly what you need to get perfect results every time.

To help Kiwi bakers and cooks get the most out of their time in the kitchen, Fisher & Paykel have created eight different cooking styles – if you know why you cook the way you do, you’re more likely to get the best results. Pop over to the Fisher & Paykel website and do their ‘What’s Your Cooking Style’ quiz – you might be surprised!

Now that you know the science behind baking with butter, it’s time to make the perfect buttercream. Here’s my absolute favourite recipe – I hope you like it!

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Perfect buttercream

Ingredients

  • 200g butter, room temperature
  • 3 – 3 ½ cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk, room temperature, to thin

Method

  1. Cube butter and place in a large mixing bowl. Beat with a paddle attachment until smooth, pale and creamy (approx. five minutes)
  2. Add 3 cups icing sugar and 1 Tbsp milk. Mix on low until just combined, then increase to medium and mix for a further 1-2 minutes until well combined.
  3. Add vanilla bean paste and mix for a further 1 minute.
  4. If icing is too thick, add 1 Tbsp milk. If icing is too thin, add additional ½ cup icing sugar.

This post was made possible thanks to Fisher & Paykel. All words and images are, and always will be, my own.



Beginner’s guide to baking: Baking powder vs. baking soda

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Ever wondered what all those different kinds of sugar are all about? Or why the temperature of butter really matters? Then you’ll love this new series covering off all the basics of baking – from why ingredients are important right through to how to set up your kitchen. Have a burning question? Then pop it in the comments below and I’ll try and cover it off in an upcoming post.

First off we’re taking a look at those two little white powders that seem to do the same thing, but you always seem to need the one you don’t have – baking powder and baking soda! While they’re both leaveners (which means they make things rise), they’re actually pretty different. So…

What is baking soda and when do I use it?
Time for my sixth form chemistry to shine! Remember the whole base vs. acid thing from high school? Well that’s pretty much what this comes back to. Baking soda is a base, which means that when you mix it with an acid it’ll react to create something – in baking, that means carbon dioxide which puffs up your baking.

Basically, when you see baking soda in a recipe there will also be some kind of acid in there – maybe lemon juice, buttermilk, yoghurt or brown sugar. You need to have this acid there for the baking soda to react with, otherwise your baking won’t rise and will have a strange metallic taste to it.
The trick is making sure you use just the right amount of baking soda in your baking – that means measuring carefully! Baking soda is pretty strong (about three times more powerful than baking powder) and you need to hit the sweet spot between having enough to react with the amount of acid in your recipe – that way, no metallic after taste.

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How about baking powder?
So baking powder is actually a mixture of a couple of things – baking soda, cream of tartar and often a little cornflour. The clever thing is that cream of tartar is actually an acid (just a dry one!), so the baking soda already has the right amount of acid to react with in every teaspoon.

Because of this, you’ll notice that baking powder is usually used when there isn’t another acid in a recipe. But, because life’s not always simple, there are always exceptions to this rule.

Sometimes you have a recipe that uses an acid that you don’t want to use up through a reaction with baking soda – for example, you might want a tang of lemon or yoghurt in your cake. In that case, you’d use baking powder instead of baking soda so the acid can live on the baking, bringing in all that lovely tangy flavour.  

Why do some recipes need both?
These recipes usually have some acid in them, but not enough for a reaction with baking soda to create the lift that’s needed. If that’s the case, baking powder is used as well to give the recipe that little boost it needs. You need to strike the perfect balance.

If I’m playing around with my own recipe, how much do I need to use?
As you can probably tell, it really does vary. But as a general rule, use around ¼ tsp of baking soda OR 1 tsp of baking powder for every cup of flour in a recipe.

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Pretty interesting, right? Whether you’re just getting into baking or are already a keen cook, knowing why things work the way they do is such a helpful skill to have – I know I love it!

If knowing the ins and outs of baking soda and powder was super interesting to you, then you might be a Curious Novice – you’re keen to improve your skills, enjoy a good recipe book, love giving things a go yourself and are curious about why things work the way they do.

Sound like you? Maybe not? Fisher & Paykel have created eight different cooking styles to help Kiwis get the most out of their time in the kitchen – if you know why you cook the way you do, you’re more likely to get the best results.

Either way, pop over to the Fisher & Paykel website and do their ‘What’s Your Cooking Style’ quiz – you might be surprised!  

Now that you’re a baking soda and powder pro, check out my recipe for blueberry and lemon scones below and see if you can work out why baking powder is used over baking soda. Good luck!

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Blueberry and lemon scones
Makes six. Recipe adapted from Radio New Zealand.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 4 Tbsp caster sugar
  • 80g butter, cold
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • ¼ cup natural, unsweetened yoghurt
  • ¾ cup milk

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with baking paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and caster sugar.
  3. Grate butter and add to dry ingredients, tossing to mix. Add blueberries and lemon zest and mix until combined.
  4. Combine yoghurt and milk in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Pour onto other ingredients and mix with a butter knife until just combined.
  5. Scoop batter onto a floured bench and shape into a rectangle around 3cm (two fingers) thick. Brush with a little milk and sprinkle with caster sugar. Cut into six squares.
  6. Transfer to a baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Cool slightly before serving.

This post was made possible thanks to Fisher & Paykel. All words and images are, and always will be, my own.



The ultimate cat birthday

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If you follow me on Facebook and Instagram you probably already know this: I am a very (very) proud cat mum. Like all good cat parents that means two things – that our ginger fur-babies, Hunter and Sybil, are quite simply the coolest cats on the block and that I love each and every one of their little quirks and details.

While I can hardly believe it, these furry twins just turned two – and obviously that’s something to celebrate! As rescue kittens we don’t know exactly when they were born, so always make a big fuss of them on the day they officially joined the family – that means a whole heap of cat-ty fun.

When we celebrated their first birthday last year I came across this awesome ‘catland’ idea and knew that we absolutely had to make it part of our cats’ annual birthday festivities. Seriously, why choose just one toy when you can let them have everything – and I mean everything!

This year’s cat playland featured every one of Hunter and Sybil’s favourite things: a blanket, ribbon and scrunched up paper ball, Christmas ornaments, hair ties and an old phone cable (encouraging bad behaviour, I know!), their favourite play tunnel and – of course – the perfectly sized cardboard box. And the cats absolutely lost it with excitement.

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With both cats exhausted, it was time to move on to part two of the celebrations – the food! Food is a big part of all birthday celebrations, so making sure you have the right things on the menu is key.

Maybe salmon, spinach, courgette and green beans? Or how about chicken with pasta pearls and spinach? Luckily you don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to pull together such a fabulously gourmet meal – Fancy Feast has got it covered.

We whip up a little cat birthday ‘cake’ for Hunter and Sybil each year using their favourite Fancy Feast flavours – for Hunter that means beef is on the menu, while Sybil’s more of a chicken girl.

It’s super simple (and way less gross!) than it sounds – just pop over a can or pouch of Fancy Feast (they’re single serve, so you won’t have open cat food lingering in your fridge) on a nice dish and top it with a little extra treat you know your fur-baby loves: think cream cheese, grated cheese or their favourite cat treats.

Oh, and a candle of course!

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Hunter and Sybil’s birthday is officially done and dusted for another year, but they won’t be longing for the next one to roll around too quickly – they can relive the magic of their purr-fect birthday every evening with Fancy Feast. After all, we all enjoy eating well, so why shouldn’t your fur-baby – love is in the details.

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Hands up if your cat’s mad about running water?

Thanks to the lovely team at Fancy Feast I have a cat water fountain to give away to two lucky readers – plus we’ll pop in a replacement filter with each one too, so your cat’s all set for the next six or so months.

To be in to win, simply leave a comment below telling me how you show your cat how much you love them. Let your inner ‘besotted cat parent’ out – it’s something we all have in common!

This post (and Hunter and Sybil’s second birthday celebrations) was made possible thanks to Fancy Feast. All comments and photos are, and always will be, my own.

Entries close 11.59pm Thursday 21 July. The winners will be chosen at random and notified on Friday 22 July. Each winner must make contact within 3 business days or they’ll forfeit the prize and a new winner will be drawn. Sorry – this giveaway is only open to New Zealand residents.