Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Ricotta hotcakes

A week or so ago I was in Anglesea, in Victoria, on the Great Ocean Road. Hanging out with two of my oldest, dearest friends. Walking on the beach. Watching Pride and Prejudice on the couch in front of the heater. Drinking on the terrace of a pub overlooking the sea. And eating ricotta hotcakes. It was a pretty great weekend. Especially because the sun was out when rain was predicted. And because my friends had all this amazing stuff going on in their lives that merited celebration. It called for a memorable breakfast.

A lot of recipes out there for ricotta hotcakes use a hefty amount of cheese. I prefer this version, which is less dense, lightly sweet, and brilliant for when you have a little ricotta to use up. It's basically a pancake mixture - egg, flour, sugar, milk - but with a small amount of ricotta crumbled in so that each hotcake is studded with airy little clumps of white. Perfect for celebrations, feeding friends, or just because it's the weekend.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Strawberry sour cream streusel cake

Strawberries are a summer fruit, synonymous with Christmas and hot weather and pavlova. So why markets are blanketed in plump red berries now at the tail end of winter/beginning of spring, I'm not sure. I should probably be worried but instead I snapped up a punnet for a pocketful of loose change and made cake. Naturally. 

Until recently, I was quite sniffy about strawberries, seeing them as somehow inferior to their more rarified relatives like raspberries, blackberries, mulberries... I liked them fine but found their taste by comparison a little... well, bland. But then I learned something that changed my bad attitude about strawberries forever. It's likely you already know this but I'll share it with you anyway. Are you ready? Here it is. Don't eat them cold. That's it. Out of the fridge, at room temperature, their flavour is fully experienced and it's every bit as distinctive and delicious as those other berries that cost twice or three times the price. But don't eat too many or you won't have enough for this cake.

Rich and buttery, with a ribbon of red running through it and a crunchy, crumbly topping, this is the best kind of morning coffee cake or afternoon tea cake. You could make it with any kind of berry probably but there's something particularly sweet about strawberries, whatever the weather, whatever the season. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Spaghetti alla Foriana

I love a good nationally televised event. The sort of thing that's an excuse to have people over for an informal meal - to eat, to drink, to shout at the screen. The Ashes have come and gone, and while I count the sleeps til next year's World Cup, I'll make do with what's on offer and last Saturday here in Australia, that was the federal election... which really in the end, was all about this pasta. It was simple, delicious and - unlike Australian politics last weekend - completely surprising.

Surprising because of how few ingredients the recipe called for and how unexpected their combination. Nuts are par for the course in pasta (pesto being case in point), but nuts with sultanas is more commonly trail mix than main course. And dried oregano, while standard in Italian cooking, isn't an obvious pairing with either of those two. But together, somehow, they work. The nuts are crunchy, the garlic fragrant and the sultanas like little bursts of sweetness perfectly complementing the salty bite of the parmesan.

A note to all of you sultana/raisin-phobes out there - I served this to one of your kind Saturday night (after first giving them the option of a different sauce, which they bravely declined) and they not only had seconds but went searching for extra sultanas at the bottom of the serving dish! What did I tell you? Surprising!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Coco the burlesque wonder cake

It's been a year. 52 weeks, 52 recipes since I started a blog called Alice Bakes a Cake with a post on... apple pie. It seems appropriate then, for more than one reason, to mark the occasion with cake. And not just any cake but the most over the top in my repertoire, the fabulously-named Coco the burlesque wonder cake.

The name befits a more blousy floral adornment but I couldn't resist the bright yellow of the wattle that's all over Sydney at the moment and plucked a couple of branches from a neighbourhood tree to bring home, where it promptly shed little yellow polka dots all over my apartment. But I digress. This cake is, like all other recipes I've posted here over the last year, so easy to make - a pile-all-ingredients-in-the-food-processor kind of affair. It's basically a chocolate cake, with a rich, decadent chocolate frosting. But there's nothing basic about its taste. The magic ingredient is golden syrup, which gives Coco a lovely can't-quite-put-your-finger-on-it point of difference from your standard chocolate cake. Along with the sour cream - also a feature of both frosting and cake - it gives a nice tangy intensity to the sweetness. A complexity of flavour in a cake that couldn't be more simple.

Huge thanks to everyone who's eaten things I've cooked for the blog over this last year (I couldn't get through all those cakes and pies single-handedly), as well as to those who've read it, commented on it, and most of all, made things from it. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. The biggest pieces of cake go to my good friends Elizabeth, who inspired and encouraged me to start a blog, and to Tammy, whose IT help and photography favours have been so appreciated. Like any good speech, I'll keep this short. It's time to tuck in.