Tag Archives: sugar

Pot-Pourri Post: Nerdy Nummies, Sugar Geodes and Jam Sugar

A post all about sugar, what a surprise at this time of year!  Today is horribly hot, and I’m sitting inside, obsessively tracking the cool change across Western Victoria via the BOM weather observation map, and there is no way I am doing any kind of baking right now.  But as it happens, I have been playing with some very fun things recently, so this is basically a post about several things that aren’t long enough for a post of their own, but which I wanted to share with you nonetheless.

First, please let me draw your attention to the Nerdy Nummies Cookbook.

It is, in my not at all hyperbolic opinion, the best cake decorating book ever.  I love it with every fibre of my being.  It’s as though someone took the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book and then added the periodic table of the elements and blood cells and the moon landing and rainbow unicorn poo and twenty-sided dice every other bit of science fun or geek culture it could find and made it into a book.  It is AWESOME.  I have scientifically tested this on real scientists, and they agree that it is AWESOME, so we know that this is true.

So far, I’ve only made one recipe from it, but I have no hesitation in recommending it to basically anyone who likes cakes or science or just fun silly things.

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Recipe: Coconut Macaroons (Gluten Free)

OK, these are *marginally* trickier than my other super-easy cookies, but only marginally, and they are awesome, because I think I may have actually reverse-engineered the macaroons my Oma used to make when I was a child.  They are perfectly chewy and delicious, and basically, I just love glacé cherries, so any excuse to use them is a good one for me.

Enjoy!

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2 egg whites
100 g sugar
150 g shredded coconut (not the evil desecrated kind, the kind that comes in long strands)
150 g almond meal
glacé cherries

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Recipe: Rose-Scented Sugar

And what is this?  A genuine post from Germanz, that’s what.  On a genuine German keyboard, too, which is tripping me up every time I try to punctuate anything or use a Y or a Z.  This may need to be a post without either of those letters…

I will, of course, post extensively (almost certainly far too extensively) about my travels when I get home, but suffice it to say that it has all been wonderful so far, and I have neither fallen into a glacier, nor been eaten by a wolf, nor even shipwrecked by the Lorelei.  And yes, I had opportunities to do all of these things.  I didn’t even break my leg in Darwin, which seemed like a near-certainty, and while Paris was full of tourists, the actual French people I met there were all extremely nice and helpful.

In fact, here I am, in a boat on the Rhine river, not being drowned by the Lorelei.  Though I do admit to singing the Lorelei song often enough that my fellow passengers may have wanted to drown me instead… (I was singing under my breath.  Mostly.)

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So much for the stereotypes.  Now let’s get on with the sugar!

You may be asking yourself why I am making rose-scented sugar.  It’s a fair question.  You see, as we were eating dinner last night, the rose sitting in a vase on the table abruptly dropped half its petals into a bowl.  And the petals smelled so amazing  – these are real, old roses from the garden of Anna’s mother and their scent is rich and heady and intoxicating – that I had to think of something to do with them.  So I decided to see if I could make a perfumed sugar.

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It turns out that I can.  It’s hardly a recipe, but it really is a lovely thing to sprinkle on raspberries, or on a plain cake, or even on rye bread – so it’s definitely worth recording here.

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Petals from the last rose of summer (left blooming alone, or not, as the case may be).  Make sure it is a rose that actually smells of something, though.
Caster sugar.  Nope, I can’t tell you how much.  Enough to cover it.

Now what will you do with it?

Put the petals in a bowl, unless they fell there of their own accord.

Cover with sugar.

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Massage the petals and sugar together well with your fingers for several minutes, to help release the rose oil into the sugar.  The sugar will go slightly pink and the rose petals will break up.  Also, your fingers will smell of roses, which is a definite bonus.

Cover and leave overnight, or for a few days, before eating.

Enjoy.  I suspect that you might want to seive out the roses after a few days, though the sugar may well preserve them.

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Variations

I suspect this method would work with violets or lavender.  And yes, this recipe is vegan, nut-free, gluten-free, low fructose and not even a little bit low GI.  But you knew that already…

I totally love this on rye bread, but I think it would be particularly fantastic on the sort of little sugar biscuits that you roll in sugar as they come out of the oven.

Alternatively, this sugar would be lovely as a topping for raspberry muffins – raspberries and roses go supremely well together.

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And it’s so much nicer than letting those last petals fall and disappear into autumn.  Let them stay with you for just a little longer.

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Recipe: Absurdly Cute Meringue Easter Bunnies

This is yet another one of those recipes that happens when I decide to make lemon curd, and then have to figure out something to do with all the egg whites.  I was just going to do plain meringues, but then for some reason my brain (which is not usually a particularly visual organ) came up with this image of stylised bunnies.  I drew the design on a piece of paper to see if it actually looked bunny-like outside my brain, and it did!  After that, it was just a matter of figuring out what colour to make the paws and ears, and how to do little bunny-like faces…

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Your Shopping List (for 12 bunnies, which is what I would have had if I hadn’t managed to stuff up on separating one of my eggs)

4 egg whites (use the yolks for lemon curd, or maybe a huge batch of mayonnaise)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/3 cups of caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
food colourings and flavours to taste – I used rose, violet and orange essences. 
coloured mini choc chips, or silver cachous, or other decorations for faces.
several piping bags, if you don’t already own them – you will probably need one for each colour, unless you are much bigger on washing up than I am

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Recipe: Pineapple & Lime Pectin Jellies

I’m all jellies all the time right now – ten batches so far this weekend, and two more to make – so I fear that all the recipes you’ll be seeing around here will be confectionery-related.

Here’s an invention from yesterday which turned out very well, I think.  I apologise for the paucity of illustrations – I was really focusing on getting the jellies made rather than recording the method for posterity!  You will have to imagine for yourself what my kitchen looks like when I am hacking apart a pineapple in it…

Pineapple is traditionally a poor choice for jelly making – the fresh fruit contains enzymes which break down gelatine, and leave you with Pineapple Goo, as I have learned to my cost.  But pineapple also contains a fair bit of pectin, so for once, the vegans win out over the omnivores, because *their* pineapple jellies actually work!  The flavour of these jellies is mellow and fresh rather than tangy, and not too sweet – the lime is a background flavour, but is mostly there to make sure there is enough citric acid going on.  I really like these.

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1 smallish pineapple
20 g pectin
50 g + 350 g white sugar
1 lime
175 g glucose syrup
15 g citric acid solution (I will explain all below, just buy citric acid for now)
caster sugar, for dredging

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Recipe: Vegan Almond & Salted Pistachio Caramel Nougat

This recipe follows exactly the same method as my recipe for coconut caramels, but where the coconut caramels came out tasting buttery and caramellish and almost popcorny, these almond caramels came out tasting almost exactly like nougat.  It’s kind of fascinating, actually – I wasn’t aiming for vegan nougat, but I seem to have invented it anyway.  Better still, unlike real nougat, it’s very straightforward to make, and doesn’t require a cement-mixer-grade stand mixer to deal with the batter – the boiling process does all the stirring required.

I took the caramel a little further in this recipe, so they are both sturdier and chewier than the caramels from yesterday, but not filling-destroyingly so.  I’m also suggesting a little less salt in this recipe than I actually used, because I think it was a touch too much, though certainly not unpalatable.

Once again, this recipe has been scientifically tested on real scientists and shown to be very tasty.  What would I do without my hungry scientist-guinea-pigs?

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350 g sugar
500 g almond milk
45 g almond meal
1 vanilla bean
300 g glucose syrup
100 g cocoa butter (I used Mycryo powdered cocoa butter)
125 g pistachios
10 g flakey salt

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Recipe: Vegan Coconut Caramels That Taste A Bit Like Popcorn

This recipe has been haunting me for nearly a fortnight.  Actually, my kitchen has been haunting me generally.  “Caaaaaatherine!“, it has moaned in the dread hours before dawn “Why have you forsaken me?  Why is my oven cold and empty?  Why are all the candy thermometers broken?  Where, oh where, is the frivolous baking of days gone by?”

Actually, I don’t think it was really asking about the candy thermometers.  My kitchen knows as well as I do that candy thermometers don’t last a month in this household.  Sometimes, they don’t last a week.  If my kitchen were saying anything about candy thermometers at all, it would only be to taunt me.  Which is, admittedly, a possibility.

Anyway, judging it foolish to meddle with caramels when I did not, in fact, have a working candy thermometer, let alone a working brain, I’ve been ignoring my kitchen’s siren song, but yesterday at lunchtime I decided the time had come.  I went into town and bought a digital thermometer which I am assured will not die within 48 hours like the last one did.  And then, because I did not actually believe this, I also bought an analogue one.

And last night, I shuffled zombie-like into the kitchen after dinner and finally – finally! – gave these caramels a try.

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Not to put too fine a point on it, they are weird.  Not so much in taste – they taste quite good, actually, though they don’t really work for my palate – it turns out that I really don’t like coconut *that* much. However, extensive scientific testing (on real scientists!) suggests that this really is a personal taste thing – people who like coconut-ish sweets really loved these, and the extremely large batch (approximately 125 caramels, I think) had mostly disappeared by the end of the day.  And this on Cup Day, when very few people are at work.

You can tell I’m tired, because this post rambles even more than usual.  What I was actually trying to tell you here was that from start to end, this recipe looks as though it isn’t going to work.  It starts of with a mixture that is quite unappetisingly grey, and this then goes through various stages of unpleasantly opaque white to reach a not-particularly-caramel-coloured beige.  I put this down to the fact that coconut milk and coconut cream already have a much more greyish-white tinge too them than the faint yellow tinge of dairy products, and when you add specks of black vanilla, this is only accentuated.  Seriously, these are absolutely unsightly in all stages of preparation, so don’t worry if your batch looks awful – you are probably doing it exactly right.

You probably could cook these caramels longer, to reach a more traditionally caramel-coloured stage, but I like my caramels chewy (think a Columbines sort of texture), so beige is what you get.  Having said that, I might have taken them a little further if I’d known what I was doing.  (Which, really, I didn’t.  It’s astonishing I ended up with anything edible at all, really…) It’s also tempting to try making these with brown sugar, to see what sort of effect that would give.  Maybe next time.

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375 g coconut milk
160 g coconut cream
350 g sugar
1 vanilla bean
300 g glucose syrup
50 g cocoa butter
20 g flaky salt

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Recipe: Simple Mint Syrup / Mint Cordial

drinkThis recipe is a very simple one, born out of the fact that my husband really, really loves mint.  I thought it would be nice to make a fresh, minty drink for these hot days.  Though, having made it, I can’t help thinking that it would be gorgeous added to a rich hot chocolate drink, too.  Or drizzled over berries and ice-cream, for that matter.  Or frozen and churned into sorbet.

Or just eaten with a spoon.  Why bother freezing it first?

Your Shopping List (makes about 2 1/2 cups)

35 g fresh mint leaves – this would be the leaves from one nice bunch of mint, or from two dodgy bunches of mint, which is what I had.
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 cups water
 

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Recipe: Subtly Strawberry Agar Jellies

I’ve been making agar jellies for a few years, since agar is a good vegetarian substitute for gelatine, and also because it’s fun to feed scientists agar, because they either love it or get really appalled by the idea.  (Agar gels are used for a variety of purposes in the lab, none of which are edible)

The one problem I’ve found with agar jellies, however, is that they tend to be very, very sweet. Yes, they are confectionery, but I have limits when it comes to how sweet I like my confections to be.  Nobody else seems to complain about this, but it has kept me from going all out with agar. 

Anyway, while I was sick last week I had this brainwave – I could make all sorts of weird and wonderful agar jellies and package them in petri dishes to sell, because who wouldn’t want agar jellies in petri dishes, really?  (Yes, I’ll be making and selling confectionery again this year – I’m just waiting for this cold to wear off, but expect news on this front within the next few days) And then I remembered that I had this bottle of strawberry vinegar from Wild Dog Organics (aka the potato and garlic and strawberry guy at the market), and thought, well, that should cut the sweetness…

It does.  My first batch is, I think, a little light in flavour, so I’ve upped the quantity of vinegar for this recipe (there’s nothing wrong with the batch I made, but who wants subtlety in an agar jelly, really?).  Don’t be put off by the extreme sharpness of the mixture when you first add the vinegar – it mellows a lot as it sets.

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200 g water
7 g agar agar powder
300 g white sugar
175 g glucose syrup
10 g citric acid solution (this is 5 g citric acid dissolved in 5 g hot water.  Which is very, very niggly and silly to make.  I usually make up a big batch of citric acid solution and then use it for multiple batches of sweets)
160 ml really good strawberry vinegar (you need one which is quite sharp, but also very strawberryish rather than primarily vinegary)
caster sugar, for dredging

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Recipe: Lemon Drink for a hot day

This post was going to be called Lemon Drink for Shakira, only then it turned out I had lost my copy of the recipe, but on the bright side, I actually had given it to Shakira already, and she still had it, and so she very kindly emailed it back to me.  So I suppose it is now Lemon Drink from Shakira, though in fact the recipe originally came from my mother-in-law, so it should really be Betty’s Lemon Drink.

Anyway.  The weather is horribly, hideously, obscenely hot today.  And yes, I know I’m a wuss, but anything over 30°C is not weather designed for a happy Catherine.  Riding home from work yesterday was particularly vile – there was a hot, dry, northerly wind blowing me backwards as I rode up the hill after not cycling for a month and suddenly that verse in the Waters of Babylon about the tongue cleaving to the roof of one’s mouth made unpleasantly visceral sense. 

I wish I could say that it was, nonetheless, all worthwhile, because when I got home I had a lovely, cooling glass of this delicious lemon drink waiting for me, but alas, this is not so.  There was no lemon drink, and if there had been, I suspect it would have been wasted on my dehydrated self.

Still.  It would be lovely in this weather to sit down and relax with a cold, not-too-sweet, perfectly lemony drink, and just because I have failed to do so doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it…

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1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (zest the lemons before squeezing them, and freeze the zest for your next lemon cake or biscuit)
1 1/2 cups sugar (caster sugar would be best here)
2 cups of hot water and 4 cups of cold water (strictly speaking, you shouldn’t need to buy this.  Unless you live in Adelaide, in which case for heaven’s sake do not drink what comes out of the tap.  I know I used to like saying that it was an acquired taste, but that was basically teen machismo)
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