Tag Archives: Cooking

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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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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New years hangover cure

New Years eve is overrated.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve really found that no matter how epic a new years that is planned, it normally comes out the exact opposite. This might have something to do with the fact that I refuse to queue for 2 things in life, these being for beer and for the loo! Strange that these 2 things might be linked, I know.

So instead of heading out for “The most amazing party of the year”, over the past few years we’ve rather resorted to making sure that the cooler bag is full, the braai is lit, and the pudding is made.

Our pudding of choice for New Years Eve 2011:

Moch Chocolate Cheese Cake Continue reading

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Christmas Crab – Mozambique Style

Father Christmas exists, and I have irrefutable proof of this.

Think back to when you still believed in St. Nic, and think about the mountain of presents you used to receive.

Now think about the number of presents you received the year after you stopped believing. Fewer presents right? And the longer you stopped believing, the fewer the presents became!

See, irrefutable proof!

None of this has stopped me rising at birdsfart each and every Christmas morning (The sun rising over the Indian ocean did make it a little bit easier this year, I must say).

It was during my second cup of coffee, and while opening my final present, that I somehow managed to volunteer myself to cook the seemingly endless supply of fresh crab we had. I was the obvious choice for this task, taking into account my seemingly endless experience in cooking any type of sea food. And by endless experience, I really mean I was desperately looking for a Justin Bonello to show me how its done.

Blue swimming crab, or just yummy eating crab?

After a quick Google search (thank goodness for roaming) I had an idea.

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Not all desserts need chocolate, apparently

The only certainties in life are “death and taxes”. Oh and me not classifying anything as a proper pudding, unless it actually contains chocolate in one form or the other.

But even I’ve been known to push the boundary of what meets my definition of dessert, and decided to try out something a little bit different after a recent braai. And in a complete role reversal, I took charge of the dessert (well in the overseeing of the dessert making process at least).

On the menu, cinnamon braai’d pineapple with vanilla ice cream.

Making short work of preparing the pineapple

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A little peanut-butter motivation goes a long way!

I’ve discovered in life that there are 3 ways of motivating people.

1. Rewarding them;

2. Putting the fear of death into them;

3. Feeding them.

Now obviously only two of those options are realistic in todays modern society, I’m sure a lot of people are thinking back to the “good old” days where rewarding other people was the best way to obtain the desired outcome.

I had the need the other day, to inject some motivation into a group of people, and barring simply bringing a big stick (refer to method 2 above), I decided that the more politically correct method would be to shower them with delicious eats instead.

So it was back to the kitchen for the LIB, with a simple brief: a small snack, something that can be eaten with one hand, using pretzels, and something that we haven’t really seen before.

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Chop, Dop and Roll – part 1

On account of the fact that I missed out on Braai Day (Heritage Day) last year, and seeing as though it fell on a Saturday this year, it just made sense that instead of a Braai Day, we would rather have a braai weekend (Yes I know, sometimes I even amaze myself)!

We were lucky enough this year to actually be invited to the braai’s, and at neither of these did we have to supply the meat, so instead I ensure that the Live In Baker (LIB) focused her attention on areas that she is far better suited towards, and that of course is baking.

The first item on the menu was Malva Pudding, the dessert for the first braai. The decision to make Malva went something like this:

LIB: “You know, you haven’t had any Malva Pudding since before you left for the US.”

Me: “Impossible, don’t be silly!”

LIB: “Seriously, think about it.”

Me: “That decides it, you’ll be making Malva!”

Some decisions are easier to make than others!

The LIB gives a trade secret away, "Custard is just better if it comes out of a box"

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When it’s too early to braai, bake!

The 2011 Rugby World Cup is in full swing!

Superbru picks are being made, and countless work hours are being lost as people tend to spend most of their work day mornings “making” coffee. Based on the time given to this task lately, we should all be expert baristas by now.

The only problem with the World Cup, is it is being played in New Zealand. Now I don’t have a problem with New Zealand, except for when the Springboks are up against the All Blacks, but wow, could you have picked a more inconvenient time zone to host the games in?

Because of this, the Springboks were up against Fiji, and kick off was at a ridiculous 8 am on a Saturday morning.

So this left us with a bit of a situation on our hands. Now I know that no matter where you are in the world, somewhere an aeroplane has flown overhead, and this means that you can drink, but at 8 am on a Saturday morning might be borderline alcoholic.

Any way, we think we’ve come up with a workable solution. The rugby “baked” breakfast.

This involved the following:

1. Find a location – I selected the couch right in front of the TV.

2. Invite a few rugby mad fanatics – We are talking about South Africa right?

3. Plan out a meal – I delegated this responsibility to the LIB.

4. Delegate some of the menu items for the guests to bring – and yes I too delegated this to the LIB too.

5. Wake up in time for the game – and no this isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Luckily the LIB, as she always seems to, had it all under control, and on Friday the house was filled with wonderful smells of baking (or so I was led to believe as I wasn’t actually there at the time).

The Menu?

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