Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Rosemary Blondies – a guest post from The Labyris Bearer

The Labyris Bearer is a woman who relishes a challenge. (This may be why she was earliest of us all to adopt the Bourke Street Bakery Cookbook, not to mention trap possums and go to Iceland during Eyjafjallajökull and many, many other challenges.) So when I washed my hands of a baking failure which happened to taste fabulous, The Labyris Bearer thought it worth resurrecting the flavours for another shot and, thanks to her tenacity and analytic approach, transformed them into something all her own, something fabulous and rich and caramelly and just right. I might have had four. 

In a special guest appearance, I give you ... The Labyris Bearer!
Macarong recently produced the most delicious…cookie-things. Unfortunately their texture and appearance were not perfect. One co-worker unkindly but accurately described them as ‘like pools of cat vomit’ [Macarong: Take a bow, Quiltmaker!]. So we decided to try to improve the recipe. My first attempt was more floury, so stood up instead of pooling, but it also fell apart; at this point I gave up on biscuits, and decided to transfer the pleasing flavours into something better suited to such a texture

At about this time, I discovered that my culinary hero, Anthony Telford, author of the wonderful The Kitchen Hand, had done a cookbook: The Basics: A really useful cookbook. This is truly ‘the only cookbook you will ever need’. I found his chocolate brownie recipe (p.346), which, of course, in the ‘Hints and Tips’ that accompany every recipe, gave directions for the white chocolate version, the Blondie. Simply adding the finely chopped leaves of four sprigs of rosemary produced the richest, most delicious, perfectly slightly-gooey-inside slice.

250 g white cooking chocolate
250 g unsalted butter
5 eggs
500 g castor sugar (I used half light brown sugar/half castor)
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
200 g plain flour (wholemeal or wholewheat works well)
½ teaspoon salt

1.       Preheat oven to 170oC. Lightly grease and line a large slice tray with baking paper.
2.       Place the butter and 200 g of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting. When melted, set aside to cool slightly. (Not too long: it kind of coagulates and cannot be made to mix together again. Doesn’t seem to affect the cooking, but it just looks less pleasing as you’re making your blondies.)
3.       Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer for about 10 minutes or until light and fluffy.
4.       Beat in the cooled chocolate mixture, sift in the flour and salt, add rosemary and stir until well combined.
5.       Beat in the remaining 50 g white chocolate, chopped into small pieces.
6.       Pour into the prepared tin, place in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out with some mixture still on it. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack; if it drops in the centre and forms a cracked crust, then you have just made the perfect blondie.

Due to the white chocolate, these are not only totally delicious and more-ish, but also sickeningly wickedly – sweet and rich. Only the addition of rosemary makes them into something that can be served to adults! Most people have difficulty guessing this mystery ingredient.

But to return to Mr Telford’s The Basics: as you can tell from the recipe above, these really are basic straightforward recipes of everyday foods that anyone will have encountered growing up in Australia. There is not a single picture in the book. There are 471 pages of recipes, followed by almost 100 pages of the A–Z ‘Really Useful Information’ that first appeared in The Kitchen Hand (e.g. three pages about salt; four pages about rice and its cooking). Then info on food allergies and intolerances, with tips on substitutions; complete list of food additive codes; cooking techniques explained (such as BBQing, microwaving, steaming); preserving; conversion and equivalency tables – THE LOT for anyone who wants to learn to cook.

Rather like an updated and greatly expanded CWA/Presbyterian Womens Cookbook, this really is a book that beginner and experienced cooks will use and enjoy browsing through. The PERFECT moving-out-of-home present for young people.

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