Gingerbread Cookies

Merry Christmas and happy new year and merry Christmas again! South African Christmas is really not our typical. It’s generally a scorcher of a day, and if you’re lucky, you get a “White Christmas” in the form of a massive hailstorm at the end of the day. There’s no Christmas jumpers, but maybe you’ll wear red “Christmas” shorts or a tank top, because really anything more than that and you’ll melt like Frosty the snowman.

Gingerbread cookies 1

Pardon my sad excuse at trying to write “The Kendz” with some leftover dough… At the end of the day, at least my name tastes good!

 

That doesn’t mean we don’t get to enjoy some other Christmas traditions like overeating and innumerable desserts. This year I made a meringue roulade filled with whipped Chantilly cream and strawberries. I didn’t even know such beauty existed until I got asked to make one, and wow! Really, do yourself a favour!

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Christmas is the perfect excuse to indulge in as much cooking and baking as you like, so I used the opportunity to make some Christmasy gingerbread biscuits for Mr Kendz’s mother. I initially wanted to use a recipe that didn’t use molasses or honey or those weird ingredients, but they absolutes sucked! So I had to give in, get some golden syrup, and it made the absolute world of difference to the cookies!

They are perfectly chewy and soft, a gorgeous golden colour. They are officially my new favourite biscuits… I tried to make a YouTube video of myself making them…

… But I got distracted and ended up eating them before I could make a complete video…

Last year I decided was my adventure year. I think I did pretty well: I started rock climbing, went on an overlanding expedition through Africa, and Mr Kendz’s and I went camping independently for the first time (and learnt what not to do on future trips). My goal for this year is creativity. I’ve already painted a pot for my coffee plant (check out my Instagram), and I got creative with some chalkboard paint I got as a stocking-filler. Big plans ahead for this year!!! And hopefully it’s also filled with more biscuits just as amazing as these babies.

Gingerbread cookies 2

Gingerbread cookies
Makes as many as you want it to (about 35 small cookies, or 20 gingerbread men)

Ingredients

  • 125g softened butter
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 125ml golden syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 375 plain flour
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together
  2. Add the egg and syrup and mix well
  3. Sift the spices and bicarb together with the flour and add to the wet mixture. Mix well until a well-incorporated dough has formed
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for 20-30 minutes
  5. Preheat oven to 170
  6. Roll out the dough to about 4mm thick (fairly thick, almost like shortcrust pastry) and cut into shapes using a cookie cutter
  7. Place cookies on a grease proof baking sheet/baking paper and place in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove when edges start to brown and let cool on a rack

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Chopper at Ngorongoro

Living in South Africa is great, but I must just clarify that we don’t all spend our time on a safari, we don’t have lions in our gardens and we don’t ride elephants to work every day (only some days). I know many people have cottoned on to the fact that we are actually a pretty progressive country, but we still get asked some of the most absurd things (see here and here).

Elephants in the mist

Elephants in the mist rain

Speaking of safari… I have never been to the Kruger National Park, even though I live in South Africa. Apparently some people think that is a little bit of treason… I, however, have not yet learnt how to appreciate seeing buck after buck after buck. It’s kind of like going bird watching when you know nothing about birds…

You don't need to know anything about birds to acknowledge just how majestic this one is...

You don’t need to know anything about birds to acknowledge just how majestic this one is…

So going into Ngorongoro Crater was a massive breath of fresh air. It was the last leg of our big adventure. We though we might attempt doing the crater, going across into the Serengeti, and traveling up through to Kenya from there, however, there were supposedly really dodgy border crossings there, so we chose not to risk it. It also transpired that Serengeti was ridiculously expensive, so it worked out well for us that we couldn’t make it.

In fact, most of Africa is just geared to wealthy (American) tourists who have lots of “dollas” – we had to pay to get into the Ngorongoro national park, for both of us as well as our Landy, Chopper. Then we realised that we had to pay AGAIN to get into the actual crater. As if we were just driving into the national park “on the way” to somewhere “better”. Yeah right, you need to actually see this place.

The crater has its very own climate as well... I can't even begin to tell you how quickly rains came and went and came again and then disappeared like they had never happened

The crater has its very own climate as well… I can’t even begin to tell you how quickly rains came and went and came again and then disappeared like they had never happened

Ngorongoro Crater is this massive bowl full of the most incredible African wildlife you could imagine, all enclosed in a natural game reserve of sorts. Except you don’t feel like the animals are actually caved in at all. They also live happily alongside some Masai people. So maybe some African people do have lions in their back gardens…

We saw all the animals. I didn’t realise that I hadn’t actually seen a buffalo in real life, but when I saw this thing, I finally learned the difference between them and wildebeest. It’s largely based on size, in case you weren’t aware.

Sup buffalo

Rolling buffalo

Judgmental Zebra is judging the buffalo who really just knows how to have a good time...

Judgmental Zebra is judging the buffalo who really just knows how to have a good time…

The animals in this little oasis are completely comfortable in their home, they show no fear about tourists because they know that they are the ones in charge. It is really great to see how conservation efforts are paying off, and it reminds you of why they are so important.

IMG_7781 IMG_7888

We had a really friendly and informative tour guide by absolute chance who we somehow managed to squeeze in the Defender with us. It was useful having him there because he knew were to go to find the specific animals, like the lions (who were asleep in the heat of the day. You know, cats and stuff) and the hippos.

Hippo and baby

The drive in and out of the national park as well as into the crater was extremely hectic uphill and downhill with blind rises and hairpin bends and of course, in true Landy style, we had a bit of a smokey moment, which was repaired in no time at all (again, in true Landy style).

Before the trip, I had never even heard of Ngorongoro, but I would highly recommend a trip there if you are ever considering a trip to Africa. It is the reason that going on Safari is so highly revered – nature is awesome, Africa is powerful and we will never truly be able to tame it. And that’s what makes it so special.

Ngorongoro Landscape

Achievement Unlocked – Level Macarons!

achievement

Macarons have been my biggest challenge to date. Generally I am quite satisfied with my ability to follow a recipe and get my expected result. With macarons, however, this was not the case.

Christmas Macarons

[Let me just clarify something quickly: macaroon vs. macaron. Think: coconut vs. almond flour.

Quick recipe for a macaroon: condensed milk and desiccated coconut, mixed in a ratio that lets you form little balls and place on a baking tray to bake at 180º until the edges start to brown and the biscuit is pretty firm]

My first attempt at macarons used a recipe from Dan Lepard‘s cookbook, Short and Sweet, which has proven delicious and basically perfect every time… until now. Then I tried Mary Berry and Great British Bake Off‘s chocolate macarons. I followed the instructions to a T, and they ended up burning anyway.

I figured it was time for a troubleshooting guide, when I stumbled upon this absolute gem. She even linked to her step by step guide to making macarons, which I tried after re-attempting Dan’s recipe using some of her advice. This was my result:

Her recipe was the first to start coming out right. But surely I didn’t have to follow all of her steps? Who has time to wait overnight for egg whites to mature? As it turns out, it is important, and it makes a substantial difference.

What also helped, was this guy. I absolutely love his work! His tutorials on macarons showed me that I might have been over-beating my eggs, and maybe I was “not overmixing” too carefully. Fully incorporated, people!

Red Christmas macarons

Eventually, I ended up with these bad boys, which I made for our Christmas party. Aren’t they beautiful! And added bonus was that they were gluten free, so everyone, even the fussies (though not the Banting folk), could enjoy dessert.

They were accompanied by vanilla cupcakes with green cream cheese frosting, and cute little marshmallow reindeer that my little cousin thoroughly enjoyed.

Marshmallow reindeer

Marshmallow reindeer

Vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Macarons

Makes about 30 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp creme of tartar
  • 210g powdered (icing) sugar
  • 125g ground almonds/almond meal/almond flour
  • 30g caster (granulated) sugar

Method

  1. Separate the egg whites. Leave overnight to mature in the fridge, and remove from fridge well ahead of time to allow to come to room temperature
  2. Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds together. Place this into a food processor and blend together until very fine and resembles a flour. Do this in stages, and make sure you’ve scraped down the sides of the food processor to break everything up. Also don’t go for so long that the mixture starts to heat up (we are making macarons, not over-sweetened almond butter)
  3. Sift the icing sugar-almond mix back into the bowl. If there are any remaining chunks of almond, remove them, they will make the mixture lumpy – DO NOT PUSH THEM THROUGH
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and creme of tartar until very soft peaks form – peaks should hold their shape for long. Add the granulated sugar here in two stages, beating until stiff peaks form (but not hard peaks – they should have some movement to them still). Colour your meringue mixture now, using powder or gel food colourings – don’t use liquid colouring
  5. Add one third of the almond mix and fold in gently. Once it has started to combine, add the second third, and repeat with the final third. Ensure mixture is of the same consistency and there are no dry patches
  6. Place mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle about 0.5-0.8cm in diameter. Pipe this onto a stencilled mat or template, taking care not to put too much mixture for each biscuit as they spread quite a bit. Tap the baking tray firmly onto your working surface to remove any air bubbles. If there are remaining bubbles on the surface, give these a pop with a tooth pick
  7. Leave to form a shell at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Just before that time is up, preheat oven to 160ºC
  8. Place baking tray in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 140ºC and continue to bake for another 5-7 minutes
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before sandwiching together with filling. I filled mine with canned caramel (boiled condensed milk trick) sprinkled with some salt (salted caramel), a coffee buttercream, and some leftover green cream cheese frosting from the cupcakes

My local – Urban Angel Café

It’s taken me ages to get this post out, purely because I love this little café so much that I would rather spend my time eating there than being tortured by the glorious memory of it. That’s before I even have to edit all the photos of their amazing food. Gosh no, it’s just too difficult. Urban Angel Café is my new favourite little hot spot, and it’s less than 3km from home!

Amazing range of breakfasts and café meals - quinoa with apple and salted caramel, french toast with banana and nut butters (homemade), and hugely delicious chicken prego burgers

Amazing range of breakfasts and café meals – quinoa with apple and salted caramel, french toast with banana and nut butters (homemade), and hugely delicious chicken prego burgers

So I’m writing this post in the comfort of their wafts of freshly baked bread, with an unhampered view of their mountain of fresh biscuits, sitting on the counter, whips of steam still practically floating above them.

This is my first draw once I walk in the door: every day they have something new and interesting on offer, from bagels and mince pies to protein bars and cheesecake brownies. Cookies and doughnuts and all sorts of different breads keep the meals special on each visit

This is my first draw once I walk in the door: every day they have something new and interesting on offer, from bagels and mince pies to protein bars and cheesecake brownies. Cookies and doughnuts and all sorts of different breads keep the meals special on each visit

What I absolutely love about this place, is their modern menu. And I don’t mean modern in a pretentious way, where owners are trying to sell the “next best thing”. I mean they genuinely care about producing meals that taste amazing and happen to have all these amazing new superfoods in them. You can go to Urban Angel café on pretty much any diet, and you will probably find something that suits you – and it’s guaranteed to be delicious.

The bagel bun is my go-to breakfast as a protein filled bun of fresh sour dough bread. Their meals are original with everyone's favourite toppings, like cream cheese! "Eggs done your way" is also one of the awesome things about the  cafe

The bagel bun is my go-to breakfast as a protein filled bun of fresh sour dough bread. Their meals are original with everyone’s favourite toppings, like cream cheese! “Eggs done your way” is also one of the awesome things about the café

And if you’re not on a diet, they have these incredible brownies that were recommended to me by everybody – friends and strangers alike – that I tried to resist for so long. I knew that if I gave in, it would be over for me. And it was… My advice: stay away from the brownies if you value your waistline.

Sweet and salty mocha with a swirl of caramel. Literally best drink ever!

Sweet and salty mocha with a swirl of caramel. Literally best drink ever!

For the most part, their creativity is pretty spot-on. My first experience of their food wasn’t that great though. I ordered a peanut butter espresso milkshake and was highly disappointed to find it was made with homemade nut butter, a combination of peanut and cashew. In the end it just tasted like very milky coffee with chunks of nuts. But hey, that’s what happens when you try to be too healthy, it doesn’t always work out. Pretty good otherwise!

Their meals are reasonably priced and really generous, full of healthy goodness! Grilled chicken with beautifully flavoured sides - their mash was some of the best I've ever had!

Their meals are reasonably priced and really generous, full of healthy goodness! Grilled chicken with beautifully flavoured sides – their mash was some of the best I’ve ever had!

Their service is great as well, always extremely friendly.

Urban Angel Café: Bakery, Café and Food Store can be found just behind the shopping centre in the office park (President Fouche Drive And Hawken Avenue, Randburg, Johannesburg). It’s a bit difficult to find, but I guess that way it can be a little piece of hidden gold until everyone learns about its magnificence.

Condensed milk biscuits

One more day of exams left and I am still baking up a storm. There were 60 scones in my kitchen today! There are only 3 people that live in my house, and no, I am not planning a party… They are actually for a fundraiser at my old primary school.

Surprisingly, my food has all gone to fairly good causes this week. And when I say “good cause”, I mean that it didn’t get eaten by only me, my mother and my brother. I baked “healthy” choc chip banana bread which I took to a fabulous games evening. I also shared these cookies with them.

Condensed milk cookies with milk and condensed milk

Condensed milk is one of my guilty pleasures. We hardly ever have any in the house unless we actually have a recipe that requires it, and generally then the recipe will require all of it (though we don’t scrape the tin out into the recipe, we reserve that for teaspoons of sneaky deliciousness). These biscuits are incredibly delicious as they are, but they also serve as a great base for other biscuits, such as chocolate chip, or macadamia and cranberry cookies. I also made some chocolatey choc chip cookies that were amazing, and they didn’t want to be left out of the photoshoot, so you can get a sneak peak at those as well.

 

Condensed milk cookies with choc chips, macadamia nuts and cranberries, and plain goodness

Condensed milk cookies with choc chips, macadamia nuts and cranberries, and plain goodness

Condensed milk biscuits

Ingredients

  • 340g cake flour
  • 225g butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 200g sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ tsp baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC
  2. Cream the butter and sugar
  3. Add the condensed milk, flour, vanilla and baking powder and mix thoroughly. Add extras at this stage
  4. Roll cookie dough into 4cm balls and place on a prepared baking tray
  5. Flatten the balls slightly with a fork
  6. Bake for 15 minutes until the biscuits are golden. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the baking sheet
These chocolate bad boys come from the recipe book I used for my bread. I had a hankering for chocolate cookies, so I went a bit wild and made all the cookies

These chocolate bad boys come from the recipe book I used for my bread. I had a hankering for chocolate cookies, so I went a bit wild and made all the cookies

I made bread…

…and it was wonderful!

Perfect buttered bread

This time last year, I was baking brownies. Brownies upon brownies upon brownies! It was definitely my thing.

This year, I am at home, with my own oven, my “own” (mother’s) kitchen, and I don’t need to borrow a kitchen from someone, where I would have to take all my own ingredients that were stored in the top of my cupboard above my clothes and linen in my bedroom… Yeah, it’s definitely good to be home!

It’s both a blessing and a curse though. Now I get to cook all the time. Which I love but which is also really bad, especially now that I am writing my final honours exams (from Monday. OMG I’m going to die! Wish me all the luck!). So, in between all the studying, and sometimes even instead of all the studying, I bake. And that is how this loaf came about.

I love cookery books. Aren’t they pretty? I really should use them since I have so many! It’s my “post-exams resolution”. That, and tidying up all the clutter in my room that has accumulated since I have had more pressing things to do (like “study”, which can be seen here and here). I have all these exciting cooking plans for the end of exams, it is so difficult to actually wait until they are over to start! Hence, procrastibaking.

Procrastibaking

 

So cookbook number 1 is a really cool baking book which I will share with you soon, once I have tried and tested a few more of its recipes. It is very educational, which, of course, is the whole point of me baking and sharing my lessons and experiences with you here on my blog! It doesn’t have enough pictures though, but I feel like complaining about that makes me sound like a child complaining over the quality of their picture book (or why grown up book are so boring). Time to grow up and get this honours degree I guess. Real world next year, bring it on!

 

Simple white bread loaf

Ingredients

  • 400g white bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 300ml warmish water

Method

  1. Place flour in a bowl. Place the salt in on the one side of the bowl and the yeast in on the other (don’t let them touch just yet)
  2. Add the water and mix well. Don’t be afraid to get your hands in there!
  3. When all the ingredients are well-combined (but don’t over-mix!), place the ball of dough in the bowl, cover with a cloth and leave for 10 minutes
  4. Remove dough from bowl, place on an oiled surface (not floured), and knead, 6-8 turns (not too long)
  5. Replace dough in bowl, and leave for 10 minutes. Repeat twice more
  6. On final kneading, leave the dough in the bowl for 45 minutes to increase in size (still with a cloth over the bowl)
  7. Remove the dough, and place onto a floured surface. Shape into an oval, or a weird circle, or whatever shape you manage to get out of it, no one will judge you if it’s not perfectly oblong
  8. Place almost-loaf onto the pre-floured pan that the bread will cook on, cover with a cloth, and leave to prove (increase in size) for around 45 minutes
  9. Preheat oven to 220ºC, dust loaf with a bit of extra bread flour, slash it down the length, not too deep, and place in the oven for 35-40minutes. Mine took 35 minutes, but ovens may vary
  10. Remove from oven, allow to cool a bit, then lather with butter and devour, making sure you save some for soup later (there is still a springy nip in the air at the moment after all!)

 

Zucchini brownies? Not for me thanks!

Alternative title for this post: How to get kids to eat more vegetables. Or: How to mess with your friends who say they don’t eat vegetables. Or: A slightly healthier brownie recipe (but still includes sugar).

Not your typical background props for brownies

Not your typical background props for brownies

Zucchini was stalking me. It was like a green veggie monster lurking in every corner of my life saying “Eat me, eat me!” (In the creepiest veggie monster voice you can imitate). I was like, “ew, no! Vegetables!? Too much green! Too much health! Too much not chocolate!”

That peanut butter stripe... That melted dark chocolate... That richness that looks like it translates to goodness...

That peanut butter stripe… That melted dark chocolate… That richness that looks like it translates to goodness…

I figured though, since I had given in and made the carrot cupcakes, I would just have to give these babies a shot. Problem is, zucchini isn’t the same as it is overseas. We have mini zucchini, which I took an unfortunate while to realise is what we refer to as: baby marrow. I assume it’s the same thing???

I follow quite a lot of blogs, and there was a week where every single one of those blogs sent me some form of zucchini cake/brownie/muffin/savoury-thing recipe, and they all looked so amazing! But still… Vegetables… When I got this one from Yammie’s Gluten Freedom, I decided that that had to be the one. Her recipes are reliable, and her brownies have always come out tops in my books. Alas, my trust has been broken!!

Box of brownies

Just kidding, she will always be amazing, and these brownies aren’t half bad. The peanut butter topping definitely makes them worthwhile. My major complaint with this recipe is that they kind of taste like vegetables… Kind of a lot… We gave some to a friend though who refuses to eat veggies – we didn’t tell him – he actually said he enjoyed them, and that they had a nutty flavour. So the key to this recipe is: deception. Obviously, as the baker, this didn’t work so well for me, and all I could taste was green…

Zucchine, baby marrow, grown up marrow, courgette, by any other name does not belong in a brownie

Zucchini, baby marrow, grown up marrow, courgette, by any other name does not belong in a brownie

Zucchini brownies – made in SA

Ingredients

  • 2 cups finely grated baby marrows/courgettes/zucchini (I used the zester to grate mine superfine – I didn’t feel like having huge chunks of the stuff)
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1 ¹⁄³ cup applesauce (mine was a good jar of the stuff)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ²⁄³ C oat flour/food-processed oats (ground down to a flour)
  • 1 C cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Additional: chocolate chips of whatever degree of healthiness suits your taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC, and line a 11×11″ baking tray/dish
  2. Mix the sugar, eggs, apple sauce, vanilla and baby marrows
  3. Mix the oat flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and salt together
  4. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix well, ensuring there are no floury dry bits
  5. Pour mixture into prepared pan/dish
  6. Bake on the middle shelf for 1 hour
  7. Remove and leave to cool before frosting – I frosted mine with melted chocolate and a mix of melted chocolate and peanut butter
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