Category Archives: Local is Lekker

Tag-team driving and Chocolate Chip Pretzel Squares

There are a number of ways young South African’s have come up with over the years to try to get home safe and sound after night out and having had one too many, pushing them just a little bit over the legal driving limit.

And no, just cause the glass you drink out of is 500mls, doesn’t mean that you can still only drink one glass of beer and still be below the limit.

I’ve heard of everything, from the thumb method, where the avid party goer, once in the car, grabs hold of the steering wheel and points both thumbs upwards towards the roof. The idea is simple, if you’re pointing both thumbs up, you’re going straight. Anywhere else and you’re in trouble.

Then there’s the sneak method, wherein the driver chooses to use back roads to avoid and sneaky police roadblocks, and sneaks stealthily (as if a Toyota Tazz can do anything stealthily) across the busier intersections.

And then, when things go really bad, and you’ve been caught by the infamous sneaky road-block, many people turn to their trusted “Fisherman’s Friend” breath mints, in the hope of fooling the breathalyzer.

The best method, obviously, is to ensure that you don’t go over the legal alcohol limit if you’re going to be driving, and while most people seem to get this correct, there are times when other plans are needed.

Hence our invention, the tag-team drive home.

The concept is simple, a quiet discussion as to who would like to drive from which event. In our case, a Craft Beer Festival held in the early afternoon for me, and a house-warming party in the late evening for the LiveInBaker. These happened to be on the same day, so there was much coffee being consumed between the events, as well as one hectic power nap.

It’s an almost fool-proof system, except for the hangover which comes early if you’re going to be the late night driver. But I’m sure that it is a lot less painful than a weekend spent in the local “Chookie” (prison).

Oh yes, there are also more tangible rewards, it means that the LiveInBaker volunteers to bake some pretty amazing treats to ensure there’s enough energy for the drive home:

Chocolate Chip Pretzel Squares

Ingredients:

For the squares:

  • 500ml flour;
  • 5ml bicarbonate of soda;
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt;
  • 170g butter, softened
  • 185ml brown sugar;
  • 100ml white sugar;
  • 2 large eggs;
  • 10ml vanilla extract
  • 375ml coarsely chopped pretzels;
  • 3 slabs of Albany (Dark) chocolate; chopped into chunks.

Topping:

  • 2 slabs of Albany chocolate, broken up;
  • 125ml cream;
  • 24 whole pretzel pieces.
Chocolate Pretzel Squares

This is the size I thought we should leave the square

Preheat your oven to 180C.  With waxing paper, line a 20 x 25 cm metal baking pan.
Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl.  With a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients.  Stir in the chocolate chunks and chopped pretzels. Spoon dough into the baking dish.

Chocolate Pretzel Squares

The cutting begins

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden and just set. Once done, transfer the pan to a rack and let it cool completely.

While cooling, you can get started on the topping or ganache.

Place chocolate in a glass Pyrex dish.  Heat the cream on the stove top until scalding (or bubbles from around the edge). Pour the heated cream over the chocolate, and cover with a lid. Leave it as is for 5 minutes, before stirring until well melted and combined.  Let it stand for another 10 minutes to thicken.

Chocolate Pretzel Squares

Busy choosing my piece

Pour over the top of your giant pretzel square and use a pallet knife to even out the ganache. Press the pretzels, evenly spaced, into the ganache. Leave it to set completely.

Once set, remove from the pan, and cut into 24 even squares, so that there is a whole pretzel in the middle of each square.

Take one and eat it for yourself, and once done, serve to everyone else.

Chocolate Pretzel Squares

This recipe was inspired by The Ginger Snap Girl, her blog is awesome so go check it out.

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Redemption and Soft Gooey Chocolate Cake

So the LiveInbaker has been forgiven.

Miraculously, some of the cake that the LiveInBaker made has survived a week (pushing a new record) and has made its way back to me.

Unfortunately, it made it back at the end of a day filled with an assortment of puddings, and so all I have been able to eat is a small square from the corner. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as this cake is so decadent, that not even the lowest of cholesterol levels can survive its assault.

But it is good enough that it can get even the most heinous of baking crimes forgiven.

Soft and gooey chocolate cake:

Ingredients:

  • 250g plain chocolate;
  • 225g unsalted butter;
  • 80g golden syrup;
  • 5 eggs;
  • 175g caster sugar;
  • 55g plain flour.

Preheat your oven to 150C. Spray and cook a 23cm springform cake tin and then base line (which is to cover the base of the springform tin with baking paper, not something a DJ would drop at a club).

Gooey Chocolate Cake

Ready for melting

Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup using a double boiler. Once melted allow it to cool a bit before stirring until smooth.

Gooey Chocolate Cake

Fight the temptation to eat it just yet

In another large bowl, stir together the eggs, caster sugar and flour until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture and pour into the prepared tin.

Bake for 25-30 minutes (the cake will have a slight wobble in the middle). Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool.

Gooey Chocolate Cake

Almost ready

Once the cake has chilled a bit, remove the sides of the springform tin but leave the cake on the base and chill for around an hour in the fridge. The LiveInBaker actually made this the day before it was needed, so we just left it on the kitchen counter for around 24 hours in an airtight container (once it was completely cool). This results in the best end product. It should be firm enough to slip off the base of the tin when ready.

Gooey Chocolate Cake

Ready for eating

As weird as it sounds, the cake is best served with sour cream. Don’t question it, just do it.

Warning, this cake is dense and decadent, so when serving, rather go for thinner slices than you might normally, or risk putting your guests into a mammoth food coma!

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Cherry Loaf and sleeping on the couch

All deals are off!

The LiveInBaker has committed a cardinal baking crime, and I’m not too sure whether I will be able to forgive her.

She didn’t fall victim to this absurd trend of baking everything “gluten free” (or as I refer to it, fun free), and no she hasn’t started using some sort of “healthy” artificial sweetener instead of sugar (though to be fair, she normally only uses brown or unprocessed sugar, no complaints there though). She did something far far worse!

The LiveInBaker baked, without letting me lick the bowl clean.

I know, I know, you are all thinking how I can let this go unpunished, and don’t worry I won’t!

Since Friday, all the toilet seats in the house miraculously stay up, and empty milk bottles are placed back in the fridge.

Not only that, but all the lids of all the jars in the kitchen have been closed that little bit tighter, and don’t even get me started on what is not happening with the empty toilet roll spindles.

Maybe I’m just upset, cause I missed out on an opportunity to taste:

Cherry Loaf:

Ingredients:

  • 150g margarine;
  • 625ml cake flour;
  • 10ml baking powder;
  • 2ml salt;
  • 100g glace cherries, halved (yes “plastic” cherries, I never said this was a fancy recipe);
  • 1 egg;
  • 5ml vanilla essence;
  • 125ml water;
  • 225g condensed milk (which is less than a can, which is awesome as someone has to finish what is left)
Cherries

Not so fancy, but they still taste good

Preheat your oven to 180C and spray-and-cook a 26×10 cm loaf tin. Line the loaf tin with baking paper and spray-and-cook again. Cream the margarine until light and fluffy. Sift the dry ingredients together and add the cherries.

Cherry Loaf

Ready for the oven

Add to the butter mixture, along with the remaining ingredients (whisk the egg before adding), and mix well. Turn the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for around 50-60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Cherry Loaf

Just out of the oven

Allow to cool in the tin for a bit, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Cherry Loaf

The finished loaf

Now I might find it in my heart to forgive the LiveInBaker, but it would probably mean she would need to rebake this recipe, just for me, and yes I will be licking the mixing bowl clean afterwards!

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Doing Spring Day to taste – Lemon tart with berries

We might not have terribly cold winters here in Pretoria, but that doesn’t stop us celebrating Spring any more than any where else in the world. Picnics in the parks, outdoor concerts, and desserts that don’t use chocolate. Wait, seriously? If Spring means chocolate free puddings, maybe Winter isn’t so bad after all. Or maybe it just takes a really special dessert to convince me that not everything needs chocolate in it to be called a dessert.

So for Spring day the LiveInBaker decided to go for something a little bit lemony, a little bit tart, and all together pretty damn good:

Lemon Tart with fresh berries:

Ingredients:

For the pastry shell:

  • 150g cake flour;
  • 25g corn flour;
  • 40g icing sugar;
  • 90g butter;
  • 5ml vanilla essence;
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten.

For the filling:

  • 250g cream cheese;
  • Enough plain yogurt to thin cream cheese to desired consistency, around a quarter of a cup;
  • quarter to half a cup of lemon curd (done to your taste);
  • The grated rind and juice of one lemon (to taste);
  • 300 – 350g of mixed berries;
  • 1 table-spoon of icing sugar.

Sift the flour, corn flour and icing sugar together, then rub in the butter (don’t worry, I also don’t know what this means) until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Combine the vanilla and egg yolks, and then mix this into the crumbs to make a firm dough (you might need to add cold water if the mixture isn’t forming a firm dough).

The cling film stops the dough from sticking to the rolling-pin and counter top

Roll the dough out and line a 23cm round flan tin with it, pressing the dough up the sides. Prick the base with a fork (cover the entire base) and place in a fridge for 30 minutes.

Finishing lining the pastry tin

Preparing the tart shell for baking

Line the flan with baking paper and baking beans (or dried chickpeas for us). Place the tin on a baking sheet, and bake in a 200C oven for 20 minutes (turns out that blind baking is not in actual fact, baking while trying to keep both eyes on the rugby game), removing the paper and the beans for the last 5 minutes. Allow the pastry shell to cool completely before you start filling it.

Blind baking

Completed pastry shell

For the filling, cream the cream cheese, yogurt, lemon curd, lemon rind and lemon juice to your desired consistency and taste. We kept our quite tart.

Prepare your berries by washing and slicing the strawberries, and mixing it with 1 table-spoon of icing sugar. When you are ready to serve, fill the pastry case with your cream cheese mixture, and top with the sweet berries.

Decorating the tart with berries

You can either do the final preparation right before you serve, but you can also do this a couple of hours before. If you fill the pastry shell immediately before serving, the shell will remain very crisp and crumbly, and if you fill it a couple of hours before it will soften the shell a bit, but it won’t lose it biscuit like quality.

The completed tart, giving chocolate a run for its money

Drinking with this recipe:

We were drinking white and  rosé wine with this recipe, which, based on how the morning after felt, is not something I would like to remember.

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Spring Day hangover – Chocolate drizzled Biscotti

Spring is back in Pretoria! After one insane winter – okay in fairness there was only really one cold month, but it did snow during that month (the first time snow was seen in the city since 1968) which I suppose does make it a pretty special winter. But 1 September saw every warm-blooded Pretoria male donning their favorite pair of shorts. This is code for an uncomfortable amount of middle-aged men walking around in old rugby shorts, grease stains and all.

In true Pretoria style, everyone had their own way of celebrating planned. Ours this year being to drink more white wine than we have since drinking became legal (legal for us that is, not the world). Oh yes, if I remember correctly, there was dinner involved as well.

As we are such good planners, we had the post night out hangover breakfast planned and taken care of, thanks to the LiveInBaker. She did explain that these rusk-like “biscotti” were tasty, and a sneaky way of getting some early fruit in, but I couldn’t fail to miss the fact that there was more chocolate than anything else on them. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Really I’m not!

Walnut and Cranberry Biscotti:

Ingredients:

  • 300g cake flour;
  • 150g castor sugar;
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder;
  • quarter teaspoon salt;
  • 3 eggs;
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
  • 75g walnuts;
  • 75g dried cranberries;
  • dark chocolate to drizzle over.

Start by combining all the dry ingredients together (except the nuts and dried fruit) in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the eggs with the vanilla essence, and mix together with the dry ingredients. You should be left with a sticky dough. Lastly mix in the walnuts and the dried cranberries.

Divide the dough into 2, and form each one into a log shape, 25cm long and 5cm wide.

Bake each log in the oven (pre-heated to 150 degree celsius) for 40 minutes or until they are a light golden colour.

Immediately remove from the oven, and cut across the log so that you are left with slices that are between 1 to 2 cm thick.

Lay the slices on their side on a baking tray, and bake in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes or until the visible side is a light golden colour. Flip the slices over and bake for the same amount of time.

Remove from the oven and let the slices cool. We melted some dark chocolate and drizzled it over the slices. This is not compulsory but is highly recommended.

Once cooled, pack away into a convenient air tight container as quickly as you can. I find my stomach works well for this.

Read our first attempt at making Biscotti.

Drinking with this recipe:

I don’t really remember what we drank the night before, except that it was white and crisp, and there might have been a rosé involved as well, but with this recipe we were only drinking coffee, strong coffee!

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Apple Pie Muffins at midnight

When pulling all-nighters at work, people seem to have vastly different approaches to the serious problem of staying awake and focused. It seems that most people turn to those brightly coloured cans full of caffeinated promises. Some turn to pure and simple caffeine, served steaming hot, with a dash of milk (one of my preferred methods), and others who feel comfortable that they can go it alone, and “push through the pain”. Now during these all nighters, I might sneak off for a quick kip (okay, my real approved method) every now and again (lets call them micro-naps shall we, micro in this case being 20 minutes) but you can’t always let the rest of the people working with you take this route (someone after all needs to do all the work).

It doesn’t give you wings, but is damn good anyway!

In the interests of experimenting (and also cause all the energy drinks in a square kilometer radius had all already been drunk), I decided to try a new approach to getting everyone through our latest all nigther: feed them enough tasty muffins that they’ll feel inspired enough and have enough energy to push through the evening! And you know what, I think it worked. Either that or everyone was on one epic sugar rush, mixed with the inability to stand up from their chairs, that they actually had no option but to work until the rush wore off (strategically planned to be 6 hours later). Oh and why the apples? Well, you need to convince them that the muffins are for their health somehow.

Either way, the job was done. I suppose that in the end, that is all that really matters!

Apple Pie Muffins

(Makes 12 Muffins)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 1 tin (385g) pie apples, drained and roughly chopped

Topping:

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cake flour
  • ¼ cup oats
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line 12 muffin cups with paper muffin wrappers.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, bicarb and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, butter, vanilla and sugar until the sugar has dissolved.

Pour the wet ingredient mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined and fold in the chopped apples. Spoon the batter into the lined muffin cups.

Make the muffin topping by combining the brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon and melted butter until well blended. Sprinkle this over the uncooked muffin batter.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from the oven and cool in the tins for a few minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and when completely cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Drinking with this recipe:

As I don’t have a wish to be unemployed, the only thing I was drinking with this recipe was coffee and water.

Recipe inspired by My Baking Addiction

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Christmas in July Sugar Cookies

Fake Christmas sucks!
Yeah sure the food is amazing, there’s always more than enough drinks, and the company is normally not too bad either.
Okay, maybe its a bit more than amazing.
But for some reason there aren’t any presents. What the hell?
It takes a lot to get me out of bed before the sun rises, and this normally only happens a couple of times a year, and most of those times involve gifts of some kind. The other times, early morning rugby games. Maybe someone forgot to send Santa the memo, but for our Christmas in July, he definitely forgot to deliver the gifts.

I will be addressing this oversight on his part (and I am sure that he is very sorry), in writing, when I send him my annual Christmas wish list.

But cowboys don’t cry, so I got over my disappointment, and got into helping the LiveInBaker with the preparations for our first Christmas in July dinner. And on the recipe stand this time:

Fake Christmas Sugar Cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) butter, softened
  • 1 cup (250 ml) sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups (875 ml) cake flour
  • Coloured sugar / sprinkles / edible glitter (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 190°C. In large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed of an electric mixer for about 3 minutes or until creamy. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add flour and mix on low-speed until just blended.

Shape the dough into 2 balls, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough between 2 pieces of cling film (about 5mm thick), and use a cookie cutter to cut out your shapes (stars and christmas trees in our case). Place the cookies onto wax paper lined cookie sheets; decorate with edible glitter/sugar/sprinkles.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are a light golden brown colour. Cool cookies for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet and then move to a cooling rack (we use an amazing 3 tiered rack). Repeat with remaining dough, if you haven’t snaked on it all yet.

This makes about 60-70 cookies, which is more than enough to share if you can control yourself. Unfortunately, our cookies didn’t make it to the main course!

At least some cookies made it to the table.

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Some things are just better homemade

As much as I love having other people cook/bake for me (and by love I mean I once went for a whole 6 months only eating 4 home cooked meals), sometimes you have to get your hands dirty and get stuck in, even though my version of getting stuck in is normally supervising from a distance making sure no one dehydrates. What follows is our first attempt at making homemade pasta (and I’m hoping it’s success was not just beginners luck).

A guide to terminology used in this recipe:
My family has a long standing history of renaming everyday objects using words, that while making perfect sense to use, often leave friends and strangers alike, completely baffled. In a hope to avoid confusion, I would like to explain a word I have used while describing this recipe.

Machine (noun) – used to describe any device which performs any number of functions, either independently or by being operated by a user. For example a TV machine is used to control the TV, it can turn the TV on and off, change volume and select the channel you would like to watch. “Please pass me the TV machine so that I can change to the rugby”.
Also, the gate machine is a hand held device, which allows the user to to instruct another machine to open or close the gate, allowing a vehicle to drive through.
Other machines include: the A/C machine and the vacuum machine.
In the recipe below, machine refers to a hand cranked pasta maker, or an Imperial Dal 1932 to be exact.

First attempt at homemade pasta

You will need the following ingredients:

For the Dough:
· 250g cake flour
· 250g semolina
· 5 eggs

For the Mixed Mushrooms (serves 6):
· 500g mixed mushrooms (we used Woolworths exotic mix)
· Olive oil
· 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
· 2 – 3 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
· Salt and pepper (freshly ground)
· Lemon juice (1/2 to a whole lemon – do to taste)
· A large handful of grated parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
· A handful of parsley
· 70g unsalted butter

In a bowl or on the counter top, combine the 2 flours. Make a well in the centre and add your eggs. Using a fork, whisk the eggs and gradually bring the flour into the egg mix until it forms a dough. Knead the dough for 3 – 5 minutes until it is smooth, sticky and elastic. Shape it into a ball and wrap it in Clingfilm and leave it to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes.

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Once rested, divide the ball into 6 even pieces, flatten them slightly on a floured surface and begin rolling. This is where I stopped supervising and started doing. Slightly flatten each piece with your hands and then feed it into the pasta machine, starting the machine on its widest setting. We found at least 4 hands where needed here, one person cranking the pasta machine, and guiding the pasta into the machine, and one person controlling the pasta as it comes out. Send the piece through the machine a few times, keeping the pasta machine on the widest setting, and folding the sheet in half each time. This just gives the dough a bit more of a knead. Once you’ve done this about 3 times, turn the machine one setting down (smaller space between the rollers) and roll the sheet through, but only once this time.

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Again set the machine one setting down, and repeat, until you are at the lowest setting. By the time we reached our lowest setting, the pasta sheet was over a meter long (hence why two people where needed). Then feed the sheet through the tagliatelle cutter, attempting to catch the cut pasta on the other side. We did each piece or sheet from start to completion before moving onto the next one. Once cut, find something to rest the tagliatelle on, the only thing we could think of being a triple layered biscuit cooling rack. We also found it helps to keep your work surface well floured, to avoid the pasta sticking, as well as sprinkling some flour onto the pasta every now and again during the process.

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The LiveInBaker used a Jamie Oliver recipe for the mushrooms:

Clean the mushrooms using a pastry brush or damp tea towel and slice them thinly. Put olive oil in a very hot pan and fry the mushrooms for a minute, add the garlic, chilli and a pinch of salt. Fry the mushrooms over the high heat for another 5 minutes. Turn the heat off, add the lemon juice and season to taste.

In the meantime, cook your pasta in salted boiling water (should take 2-3 minutes as its fresh). Add it to the mushrooms and add the parmesan, parsley and butter. Toss it all together and serve to your brave dinner guests.

We served ours with extra parmesan, and toasted pine-nuts.

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Drinking with this recipe:
The pasta maker is one piece of heavy machinery you can operate while under the influence so don’t be modest. The LiveInBaker started with a gin and tonic, and myself with a Darling Slow Beer.
during the meal we all tucked into a bottle of Wolftap.

Don’t worry, no guests were harmed in the making of this recipe.

(This post, including photos, was done using only an iPad and iPod, so apologies for photo quality)

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World Baking Day – Lime Tart

Some people have some very peculiar allergies. I for one, am allergic to elastoplast plasters and bad beer (unfortunately I’m only lying about one of those, and the real allergy can even result in paper cuts being seriously blown completely out of proportion). The LiveInBaker on the other hand, use to have an allergy to citrus.

The strange thing about her allergy though, is that over time, it went away. This must be due to the copious amounts of tequila and lemons we’ve been through, purely in an effort to desensitize her (so in other words, really just for the sake of getting hammered). Since her allergy has gone away, she has embraced all things citrus, and her latest mission into the kitchen, was nothing less than amazing.

So in the spirit of celebration and World Baking Day, I give you:

(Who-ever-would-have-thought-its-so-hard-to-find-fresh) Limes Tart

ingredients:

  • 200g digestive biscuits;
  • 30ml brown sugar;
  • 60g unsalted butter, melted;
  • 1 can condensed milk;
  • 125ml castor sugar
  • 185ml freshly squeezed lime juice (between 5 – 7 limes)
  • zest of 2 limes;
  • 4 large egg yolks;
  • Pinch of salt.

Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Crush the digestive biscuits and 30m ml brown sugar in a blender, until fine crumbs form. Combine with the melted butter. Press mixture into the base and sides of a 23cm tart pan with a removable base.  Place pan on a baking sheet and bake until crust is slightly colored, this takes about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, lime juice, lime zest, egg yolks, castor sugar and salt. Whisk this until it is smooth.

Fresh out of the oven!

Pour mixture into warm crust and return to oven. Bake until filling is set around the edges, but still slightly loose in center (around 25 minutes).
Cool completely at room temperature; then refrigerate (it can keep for up to 2 days, if you can resist for that long) until serving time.

When serving we dusted each slice with some icing sugar, using a tea strainer (cause nothing else was available and it looked damn cool) or a mini sift. We would’ve served this with a dollop of mascarpone cheese to cut through the sweet and tart flavour, but unfortunately all the 24 hour Woolies where fresh out.

Ready for its close up!

Alternatives for this recipe, using the left over egg whites are:

  • Turning it into a lime meringue tart, by creating a meringue mix and topping the tart with it, browned in the oven;
  • Created a duo of deserts, one lime tart and one Pavlova;
  • make separate meringues to go on the side.

You may also be wondering about the title of this recipe. And in explaining why, I also need to make a request. Could everyone in Pretoria please stop drinking so much damn tequila, so that I don’t need to drive to 6 different fruit and veg stores just to find some fresh limes.

Happy World Baking Day!

For the inspiration behind this recipe, look here

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It’s Freedom Day, so feel free to indulge

Freedom Day 2012 saw South Africa having its 18th birthday since our first free and fair elections. So for the first time, the country is allowed to legally buy itself a beer (no more sneaking a few sips from its parents’ drinks), and finally can ditch that ridiculous learners licence and take the car out for a spin completely unsupervised (with much wheel spinning and racing other youths from traffic light to traffic light). It might even volunteer to be the designated driver now, just once in a while.

It’s also time for the country to start making some serious decisions, like what it’s really going to do with the rest of its life, and whether its going to make the big move to a university near the coast, or stick in land where things are a little faster and a little tougher. And if it’s going to buy those text books it needs, or if it’s rather going to save the money for something more important, like a crate of beer for the weekend?

The country might even think of entering into its first serious relationship, no longer messing around with silly child-like crushes.

It’s parents might sit it down, and explain that it’s about time that it finds a place of its own to stay, and to remind it that it is probably not okay to have breakfast for supper, even though that milk and cereal is just about the only meal it knows how to make without seriously stuffing it up.

The country, like most teenagers when they finally turn 18, probably thinks it’s really the man, but it won’t take long to find out its back at the bottom of the ladder, and that there are a lot bigger countries out there able and willing to put it in its place with a quick snot-klap.

But that’s all not its problem at the moment. Right now it really just needs to worry about how bad its first proper birthday hangover is going to be!

So to celebrate its birthday, and to celebrate the end of the countries high school year, we made:

Chocolate, Pretzel and Peanut Butter Squares

Ingredients:

  • 170g butter, at room temperature;
  • 250ml light brown sugar;
  • 125ml sugar;
  • 2 large eggs;
  • 2 tsp. vanilla;
  • 500ml cake flour;
  • 1 tsp. bicarbanate of soda;
  • ½ tsp. salt;
  • 100g milk chocolate (in slabs);
  • 170g of dark chocolate (in slabs);
  • 375ml mini pretzels, coarsely broken;
  • 60ml crunchy peanut butter;
  • 45g dark chocolate, either disks or a slab broken for melting.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Spray & cook, and line a square 23cm baking tin with wax paper.

Hot out of the oven.

In a large bowl, beat the butter with both sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour, bicarbanate of soda and salt and stir until almost combined. Add the dark and milk chocolate (both roughly broken up) and 250ml of the pretzel pieces and stir until blended.

Spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden. In a small double boiler, melt the peanut butter and remaining dark chocolate, stirring until smooth. Sprinkle the bars with the remaining crushed pretzel pieces and drizzle with the peanut butter-chocolate mixture.

The LiveInBaker uses a big knife, mostly to keep me from sneaking bits.

Allow to cool until set, then cut into squares. Make sure it is properly set and cool, otherwise the cutting part can get a bit messy (but that is all part of the fun I guess).

If you are making these to share, ensure you keep a few for yourself, as you are definitely going to want as many as you can get your hands on.

If you are on some sort of diet, you are going to need to wait for your day off, as these are seriously decadent, and seriously delicious.

These two were left at home, for our midnight snack!

Happy Birthday South Africa! Here’s looking forward to you entering your twenties!

To see the recipe that inspired this, look here.

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