ginger

Dark Moon Solstice

This weekend is Solstice weekend and many of us in the southern hemisphere will be celebrating the Winter Solstice. Also known as Midwinter, the Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. After the Winter Solstice, the nights get shorter and the days longer but the weather most definitely gets colder! This year Midwinter also coincides with a Dark Moon and an Eclipse, making it a very dark and powerful night!

To warm up after the evening festivities, I’m going to indulge in a seasonal treat – gingerbread in the form of cupcakes! I love the warm, spicy taste of ginger in anything, but particularly in sweets. Ginger cakes, cookies, candies and sodas are treats I regularly indulge in, as is ginger tea.

To truly get into the spirit of culinary indulgence that is Midwinter, I’ll be topping my gingerbread cupcakes with a rich brown butter frosting.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Brown Butter Frosting
(makes 10)

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Ingredients
for the gingerbread cupcakes
1 + 1/3 cups plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
115g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 + 1/2 tablespoons golden syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the brown butter frosting
115g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, roughly chopped
170g (6oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 + 1/2 cups icing (powdered) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 12-hole muffin pan with 10 paper cases.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and ginger in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the golden syrup and vanilla and beat until combined.
Add the flour mix and beat until combined.
Using an ice-cream scoop, spoon the batter evenly into 10 paper cases.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the brown butter frosting, place the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stirring constantly, cook until the butter becomes tan in colour. Do not allow to go dark brown or black.
Once tan, remove saucepan from heat and pour butter into a heatproof bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or until it reaches a soft butter consistency.
Place the butter and cream cheese into a bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy.
Add the salt, sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy and combined.
Spoon frosting into a piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes.

Autumnal Nights

The Autumn Equinox is here and I’m excited. Even though there still may be hot days ahead, the Autumn Equinox signals a shift in power between day and night. The Equinox is a time of balance, a time when the hours of day and night are relatively equal. After the Autumn Equinox, the long days and short nights will slowly be overtaken by shorter days and longer nights. As a creature of the night, I’m looking forward to a return to the dark half of the year.

One of the things I love doing in cool weather is curling up with a good book. The one I’m reading now is The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, edited by Kate White. It is a collection of over 100 recipes from mystery writers. Each recipe is accompanied by fascinating facts about the author and their murderous works.

My recipe below is adapted from Margaret Maron’s recipe for Granny Knott’s Baked Toast which is a French toast recipe which gestates overnight before being baked and devoured the next day. I’ve added autumnal gingerbread spices to the recipe and serve it with an optional scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Gingerbread French Toast
“An I had but one penny in the world, thou shouldst have it to buy gingerbread,” wrote William Shakespeare in Love’s Labour’s Lost. This delicious and warming bread is definitely worth a penny or two.

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Ingredients
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
75g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons treacle*
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
brioche loaf**
2 eggs
1 + 1/2 cups milk

for serving
vanilla ice cream (try experimenting with different ice cream flavours)
maple syrup

Instructions
Sprinkle the sugar over the base of a 20cm x 20cm (8 x 8 inch) baking pan.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
Add the treacle, ginger, cinnamon and cloves and stir until combined.
Pour into prepared pan.
Cut brioche into enough 1.5cm (1/2 inch) slices to fit snugly into the baking pan.
Place the slices in the pan.
Beat the eggs in a bowl.
Add the milk and beat until combined.
Pour over the bread.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
While the oven is warming, remove pan from fridge.
Carefully pour any unabsorbed liquid into a bowl, making sure you don’t disturb the bread.
Spoon over the top of the bread.
Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until the top is browned.
Serve with a dollop of ice cream and a drizzle of maple syrup.

*you can substitute molasses for the treacle.
**you can use any heavy bread like sourdough or wholemeal.

Evolving Oat Slice

When my friend Sue from New Zealand shared a recipe post on FB, I took one look at the Oaty Ginger Slice and knew I would be making it! The recipe is an adaption by Chelsea Winter, a past winner of MasterChef New Zealand, of a Jo Seagar recipe, a much loved New Zealand chef. Inspired by these talented women, I had to make my version of this classic treat 🙂

The oat base looked too good to mess with, so I followed the recipe exactly for that. While the ginger icing also looked delicious, I really wanted to make my stamp on the recipe so I went for a coffee icing. I replaced the golden syrup with maple syrup and the ground ginger with ground coffee. This is another great base for a recipe that you can add your own flavours and tweaks to 🙂

Coffee & Ginger Oat Slice

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Ingredients
for the oat slice
150g butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
3/4 cup plain flour, sifted
1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, sifted
1 + 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, sifted
1 + 1/2 cups whole oats
3/4 cup desiccated coconut

for the coffee icing
150g butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon instant coffee
2 – 3 cups icing sugar, sifted

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 32cm x 22cm baking pan with baking paper.
Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir gently to combine. Once combined, remove from heat.
Stir in the flour, baking powder and ginger until combined.
Fold in the oats and coconut until combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, pressing into the sides.
Smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until it reaches your preferred level of crunchiness*
Remove from the oven and leave in the pan while you make the icing.
Add the butter, maple syrup, coffee and 2 cups of icing sugar to a saucepan.
Stir over medium heat until melted.
If the mixture is too liquid and not coming together, slowly add more icing sugar, but no more than a cup. Stir until you have a smooth, pourable icing.
Pour warm icing over the warm slice.
Leave in the tin to cool then cut into slices.

* The longer you bake it the crunchier it gets but you don’t want it to be too crunchy to eat! You may have to bake a few to decide your optimum crunchiness.