Monday, April 11, 2011

Nan's Vanilla Slice

Looking back through my childhood, this was one of my most favourite treats. Nan's Vanilla Slice was always something to look forward to and was a common visitor to birthdays and family get-togethers.

This recipe is very simple and I believe is even better than the vanilla slice variations found at bakeries in Australia. Instead of fiddling around with pastry, it uses Arnott's Lattice pastry biscuits with a sugary sweet cream cheese filling. Just writing about it makes my mouth water!

Ingredients for Nan's Vanilla Slice
2 packets of Arnott's Lattice biscuits
250g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
250g cream cheese (I use Philadelphia Cream Cheese) (at room temperature)
2tsp vanilla extract/essence
1tbsp powered gelatine
1/2 cup caster sugar
A little icing sugar for dusting

Line the bottom of a lamington or slice tray with baking paper. Once done, place the Lattice biscuits along the bottom (making sure the glossy side faces down). The biscuits won't fit perfectly so you might have to cut a few around the edges.

Dissolve the gelatin in 1/2 cup of hot water, stir and put it aside to cool. Mix together the butter and cream cheese using a fork or spoon. It is very important that both ingredients are at room temperature otherwise you will have trouble trying to get it smooth.

Add sugar and vanilla and mix well. Again make sure there are no lumps, as they will set when the slice is refrigerated. Stir through cooled gelatine.

Before pouring the mixture over the face-down Lattice biscuits, take note of how the biscuits are positioned (i.e. where the off-cuts are). This way the bottom and top biscuits will be line with each other when you go to cut through the finished product. Pour mixture into the tin and carefully lay Lattice biscuits on top, glossy side up. Refridgerate for 2 hours and dust with icing sugar before serving.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Plum Buckle

During Summer we get to experience a range of amazing fruits and in particular, stone fruits. Blood plums are one of my favourite and very importantly my Pa's. I found this recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Baking Book that I bought in my local coffee-book-shop. It gives the reader American soulful recipes that I can imagine grandmas baking in their kitchens all over the South.

As soon as I saw the recipe I thought it would be a wonderful thing to bake for my Pa and on my next visit I made sure to give it a go. Not only did the cake look amazingly rustic and homely, but Pa loved it. This is my first attempt at a Buckle cake and it was very simple. The result is a dense moist cake with a lovely crumbley top surrounding the baked fruit.

Ingredients for Plum Buckle
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
250g softened unsalted butter 
1 cup caster sugar
2 large eggs
6-8 blood plums (pitted and quartered)
1tbsp of caster sugar
1/4tsp of ground cinnamon

Pre-heat your oven to 180'C. Grease an average 24cm circular spring-form tin and lightly flour it. Alternatively you could line it with baking paper. 

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer/beaters until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat well. 

Place mixture evenly in the tin and poke plum quarters into the cake batter. It is important that the slices are close together, and don't be scared to push them deep into the batter. Combine the remaining caster sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and liberally sprinkle over the cake. This will lightly caramelise during the baking process and add great flavour to the plums.

Bake for 50mins or until the top is golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cake. Set the cake aside to cool before serving.