Wednesday, 14 December 2011

bake~athon {the starting line}

On your marks. Get set. Go.

I love being in my kitchen. Making a mess, not cleaning it up. I also love to give extended family and friends edible gifts at Christmas time. Part of the reason is I have an illness which forces me to give gifts I made with my own two hands. Because I can. Not bragging, just stating the facts. Some people are good in the crafty and/or baking department, some are not. I am lucky to know my way around a sewing machine and a mixer. My mum is great too. Thanks for the crafty genes mum. Another reason is that it is cheaper than buying something. Call me a scrooge, I don't mind. It's true. I just can't bring myself to pay $15 for a box of fancy pants biscuits or chocolates that I could make myself with an hour or so in the kitchen, for a quarter of the price. We are a family of five living on one income people. This time of year is expensive for all, though that thought is definitely at the rear of my mind, not riding shotgun. Wherever it resides, it is still a deciding factor for us mums in charge of all the lists to keep everyone gifted and happy at this shiny end of the year. The bonus for the {sometimesoften} late night festive baking and bagging and tying with pretty string? The recipient is always so appreciative for the effort {and love} that has been put into those tiny morsels wrapped up in all their pretty glory.

I have tried quite a lot of Donna Hay's recipes. More the sweet than the savoury. I have an irresponsible sweet tooth. I find her recipes to be simple and unfussy {is that a word?} and her instructions are always very clear. I don't think I have ever made anything of hers that was a complete failure. I don't subscribe to her mag, but I think Santa should bring it down my chimney. Seeing as I have bought the last three. I wanted to test her shortbread recipe from the latest edition, because I have banged on before about the awesome shortbread recipe I have always used, and was interested to see how it stacked up against a seasoned pro. The jury is still out.

While Santa stands guard at the biccie jar (which was a hell of a lot fuller 24 hours ago so clearly he's doing a crap job), I am still undecided which shortbread is better. The recipes are quite different in the amount of cornflour used. Donna's is quite a traditional shortbread flavour and quite hard to work with I found. Very short, so it was quite crumbly to roll out, but the biscuits held together really well. Quite odd. My recipe is much more pliable, I think because it has more butter, yet you still end up with a very melty biccie in the end. Perhaps I will try Donna's again, or perhaps I will stay with my old faithful because when I am tight for time, I know they will work and I don't have to curse the rolling pin.

One can never bake just one lonely little recipe while the oven is on. Better bang in a cake too. How much are you loving 99c/kilo bananas again??! The kids have turned back into monkeys. I have been stockpiling the freezer. The blacker the better. Our local grocer was practically throwing out the poor siamese rejects. I let them enjoy a short stay in my kitchen and swiftly threw them in the freezer. Just to keep the theme going, this one is Donna's too. A first try on this one also, I usually use my mum's recipe, or that of a gorgeous friend of mine (the one who prefers bright yellow icing to my hot purple) but I was keen to find out what difference the sour cream would make. Donna loves to add it to everything. The difference? Heavenly dense, yet perfectly spongey and airy banana-ry goodness. It's like a cakey magician. There is only half of this left. Since last night. And I only shared one little piece with Cole. Hmm.

So, I'll let you be the judge on the shortbread saga.

Donna Hay's Shortbread

150g butter, softened
1/3 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 cups plain flour, sifted
2 tbsp cornflour, sifted

Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer and beat for 8-10 minutes or until pale and creamy. Add the flour and cornflour and beat until a smooth dough forms. Roll the dough out between two sheets of non-stick baking paper to 5mm-thick and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to 180C. Use your choice of cookie cutters to cut shapes from dough and place on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper, leaving room to spread. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until light golden. Allow to cool on wire racks. {I love it when they state the obvious in recipe instructions - I was planning on putting the scorching biscuits straight into the biccie jar. Thank goodness she told me otherwise.}


Pam's Best Ever Shortbread {I don't know who the hell Pam is, and I didn't name it this - this is the way it appears in my mum's recipe book!}

8oz butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 1/4 cups cornflour
1 1/3 cups plain flour
pinch of salt

Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add sifted flours and salt. Mix well. Turn mixture onto lightly floured board. Knead lightly. {The dough will be quite a wet mixture here, and I keep adding a little bit of flour while kneading to make it a little drier.}

Divide mixture into three and shape into logs approximately 5cm in diameter. Wrap logs in foil and refrigerate until firm. Cut into slices approximately 2cm thick and place onto lined baking trays. Alternatively, wrap dough in foil as a whole and refrigerate until firm. Roll out and use cookie cutters to cut shapes, arrange on lined baking tray. Bake in moderate oven for 20-30 minutes (depending on your oven) or until cooked. {I bake at 160C for 30-ish minutes, turning halfway to gently colour evenly - this recipe won't colour like a normal shortbread, they stay quite pale.}  This dough freezes well so you could make a double batch and put half in the freezer for a rainy day. Then all you have to do is thaw, cut your shapes and bake.

So there. Let me know if you try either, and what you think.

And just because ~ a really bad photo of our backyard glitter. I thought the kids would love it, before my sieve-like-brain remembered Daylight Savings. They go to bed at 6.30. I think the glitter is going to stay long after Christmas is over.


  1. Oohhh I'm definitely going to try both of these one day soon (when I am back in my own kitchen might be a good idea). LOVE trying new recipes and I'm finding so much inspiration from blogs these days .... YUMMY inspiration too :)

    Thanks for the comment on my blog ... so appreciate you dropping by x

  2. Sunday tomorrow and I think it's a day for baking and these posts of yours are getting me inspired ( at 2 am!)
    Did have to chuckle to myself as initially I thought you had rotten bananas (with mould) then realized they were frozen ( so no, not mould, ice!) sorry. But I sure did chuckle!
    Kelly x

    Also if I haven't offended you greatly, with my awesome banana observation, can you lead me to the direction of those gingerbread teacup houses-amazing! Thank you


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