Monthly themes


What a big month!

I resigned from my job.  Started another.  Prepared for Christmas, our special visitor and all our festive entertaining.  Oh, and somehow managed to squeeze in some Christmas baking in between!

The beginning of the month hailed the end of my job for six years.  I returned to work from maternity leave at the end of August, but quickly started to search out a part-time alternative – as the work-life balance in the Mélanger household lacked the necessary harmony, to say to least!  Fortunately, a few months later, I secured the perfect part-time alternative at a brand new company, and immediately made the switch.

But there was no time to dwell on leaving my old job, as Christmas was fast approaching.  Much to organise and prepare!

I have to say, this year has been one of my best Christmases yet, thanks to my pint-sized minature.

It may technically have been baby Melanger’s second Christmas, but it certainly felt like her first.  With bub only a few months old last year, the day came and went without much fanfare.  This year, however, was bursting with endless shrieks, giggles and laughter at the endless stream of everything ‘new’.

The tree attracted the greatest attention.  There was nonstop pointing and ‘talking’ with lots of fast hand movements.  And there were quite a number of dances in front of the tree, including the odd twirl or two for added effect.  It seems to have made quite an impression!

Our visit from bub’s Ukki, also added much to the festive cheer.  It was such a delight for baby Mélanger to meet her grandfather face-to-face for the first time, and for her Ukki to see her BIG personality first hand.

I also had a lot of fun baking up some new traditions this year.  The Joulutortut and Joulupulla were the firm favourites.  And I have no difficulty visualising baking these goodies up year after year (whilst trialing some new flavours and ideas, too!).  Many thanks again to my friend Celina Laaksonen who was an enthusiastic guide in this month’s menu.

I hope you all enjoyed the selection this month, too?  I may or may not take a little break in January, but I hope to post a new exciting theme again soon.  In the meantime, here is the round up of this month’s recipes.

:: I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday and that 2012 brings much joy and happiness to you all xxx ::

{ Joulutortut :: Finnish Christmas Stars } For some time I have greedily eyed off these tender butter pastries, simply shaped as a festive star, and dotted with a small kiss of sweet prune filling in the centre.  This recipe produces a soft, cream based pastry.  It is incredibly simple to put together, and fairly easy to work with.  These little Finnish Christmas stars got an immediate thumbs up from Mr Mélanger{ Read more here…. }

 

  { Jouluriisipuuro :: Finnish Rice Pudding & Joulupiparkakut :: Gingerbread } Traditionally, this Christmas rice pudding can be served alongside a dried fruit soup (sekahedelmäkeitto), and there is always a whole blanched almond hidden inside (a bit like hiding a sixpence in a Christmas pudding!).  But I could not resist sharing this combination as a tribute to Celina!  The idea is genius.  The creaminess of the pudding, goes deliciously with the spicy, crunchy gingerbread.  I particularly love the gingerbread.  As soon as you warm up the spices with the syrup, the entire kitchen starts to smell a little of Christmas.  { Read more here …. }

  { Taatelikakku :: Finnish Christmas date cake } Finland has some light, fragrant and curiously bundt shaped Christmas cakes.  Far different from my Christmas cake memories.  I selected to bake up the taatelikakku, as part of this month’s experiment.  This is a wonderfully light yet moist cake.  The addition of coffee to the mixture adds a lovely depth of flavour against the sweetness of the dates.  And in my opinion, this cake should not be reserved just for Christmas.  It is simply too delicious!  { Read more here….}

  { Joulupulla :: Finnish Christmas buns }  This is really just a basic pulla dough shaped into the special festive shape.  I have made pulla more times than I can remember, and I have ultimated adapted this recipe from a few different sources (Beatrice Ojakangas, the Nordic Bakery Cookbook plus my friend Celina Laaksonen).  My father-in-law mentioned his mother’s pulla was less sweet, but he preferred the extra sugar in this recipe.  So feel free to experiment! { Read more here….}

 

Juggling the demands of life is a daily challenge for most people.

As Mr Mélanger continues to survive full time work obligations with writing a thesis (brave man!), and I the art of juggling full time work and the inevitable “always feeling like you are falling short” role of mum to baby Mélanger, our spare time is spread incredible thin.

The volume of collective commitments and responsibilities in our lives seems to create a massive deficit in the family time bucket.  So snatching a precious minute here and there together is a priority.  But the reality is, a weekend breakfast may be the only genuine time we get to spend together all week.

This month’s theme has reinforced my goal to create a new food tradition for my family.  But more importantly, it has become the catalyst to earmark what little time we have, and steal a few moments enjoying breakfast together on the weekend as a family.  I cannot think of a more delicious way to spend that time.

Here is a roundup of this month’s recipes.  For versatility, ease and speed, our favourite pick is the Pannukakku, the Finnish baked pancake. 

 { Wholemeal English Muffins }  Topped with homemade marmalade or jam this dish is the epitome of simple.  With a boost of wholemeal flour for added nutrition, this little recipe is a keeper.  Prepare the dough the night before, for freshly baked English Muffins in the morning.  Left overs are great to freeze for breakfast on the run. { Read more here … }

 

  { Clementine curd crêpes with seasonal fruits } Citrus curd makes a perfect complement to a stack of crispy, wafer thin crêpes.  Prepare a stack in advance, or freeze leftovers for a quick crêpe snack any time.  Enjoy with any endless combination of fruit.  Whatever you have on hand.  Ditch the fruit if you prefer! { Read more here … }

 

 

{ Marinated mushrooms on bacon bread toast }  The hearty bacon bread marries well with the light, fragrant flavour of the marinated mushrooms.  This dish is a bit of a twist on a childhood of ‘mushrooms on toast’.  { Read more here … }

 

 

  { Baked Apple Pancake }  This baked pancake is popular for dessert or as an accompaniment for coffee, or, as here, makes a nice main dish for breakfast or a brunch served with juice, smoked sausage and coffee (always coffee, of course!). { Read more here … }

Life sure gets busy. And when it does, you want to make the most of every spare moment.

Now I am back at work, full time, the spare hours and minutes on the weekend are precious.  Sure, the weekend is packed to the gills with chores and errands, but you need to grab a little time as a family when you can.

Family time is so important.

I was inspired by a friend’s tweet a couple of month’s back.  She was talking about a weekly breakfast ritual she shares with her husband.  Instantly, I wanted in on the idea.  How great would it be to create your own food tradition?

I responded similarly to the tweet, but only for my friend to then encouragingly reply, “So, why not start this weekend?”

I smiled and thought, “Touché!”

Now, I am not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of girl.  If I am going to make a decision about a breakfast dish, one that will grace the Mélanger kitchen table week after week in a new family tradition, I need to make sure the right dish is selected.  That requires some experimentation!

So this month’s theme is inspired by my friend, that thought provoking tweet, and the comforting thought of creating a new food tradition for my family.

I hope you enjoy the dishes that are up for consideration.

It seems like only yesterday I announced, “It’s a girl!”  Believe it or not, this month, baby Mélanger celebrates her first birthday.  My little baby girl turns one!

But what is a birthday, without a birthday cake?  Formulating the flavour, shape and style of her very first cake has been a preoccupation over the recent months (yes, of course I started thinking about this early).  But while doing so, I became giddy with excitement at the realisation of all the many cakes, cookies, sweets and pastries in my birthday party organising future.

This birthday will be very low key, but there will be many celebrations over the years.  To mark the occasion of reaching our first year as a family, and baby Mélanger’s great milestones of turning one, join me in ‘Kids Party’ month.

I hope to experiment with a few pink themed ideas that are sure to show up in future birthday celebrations.  I hope you enjoy this month!

Picking up baby Mélanger from her first day of child care, a carer gave me a run down of how she managed (without me!) during the day.  At the end she remarked, “She is quite an inquisitive baby.”

All babies are inquisitive, I am sure, as they have so much to learn about the world.  But baby Mélanger’s daily discoveries reminded me of my own curiosity in life.

For some time now, I have been nagging myself to explore a selection of never-before-been-used ingredients, test out new taste combinations, and experiment with different recipe techniques and methods.

In particular, inspired by Asian flavours.

Sure, I can soak up some detail in a well thumbed food magazine, flick through a cookbook, or read up on some great food blogs as a substitute.  But for me, there is nothing quite like trying something yourself.

Besides, you get to eat the goodies at the end!

So for this month, I hope you enjoy my Asian inspired assortment.  For many of you, the flavours and style will be very familiar – I would love your feedback if that is the case – but if you are like me, hopefully you will also discover something new!


I entered this month’s theme with a little trepidation.

I set myself the challenge to investigate homemade alternatives for four (4) popular, and standard packaged good items.  The plan was to create my own recipes for each, and bake them from scratch.  But I truly had no idea how it would all turn out.

As I started this challenge, I was wondering would it require an enormous amount of time to prepare and bake some of these goods?  Would the cost of the ingredients significantly exceed the store bought item, and blow the case for homemade out of the water?  Would some of these items be a little tricky to make, and not necessarily practical for most people?

But fortunately, after creating the four (4) recipes, the case for homemade has been made (well, I think anyway!).  Most items only required 5-10 minutes preparation time, the raw ingredients were a fraction of the cost of buying prepackaged (as low as 1/4 of the cost of store bought!), and all the recipes were pretty simple to put together.

It is no secret the side of the fence I sit on, but if homemade is not your thing, I hope this month has encouraged you to give it a try?

Mrs E.P. – I am very proud of your homemade banana bread effort. :)

  { Buckwheat & nutmeg banana bread } Banana bread is very popular. Not only in children’s lunchboxes, but as a staple in coffee shops and cafes around town. It will certainly make a regular appearance in baby Mélanger’s daycare lunch box – as well serve as breakfast-on-the-run for the busy working mum I know I will soon be!  { Read more here … }

 

  { Homemade milk arrowroot biscuits } Even though these biscuits are not an exact replicator of the biscuit you will find in store, it still imparts a characteristic softness from the arrowroot flour, is only slightly sweet from the small dose of sugar, has a slight crunch but still melts in your mouth like a good arrowroot should. { Read more here … }

 

  { Homemade nut-free muesli bars } After three muesli bar trials, this recipe version was my favourite.  Lightly crunchy, these muesli bars are a snap to make, and stay fresh and crisp for up to 2 weeks in an air-tight container.  Feel free to adapt the combination of seeds and fruit to your own preferences, and include nuts if nut-free is not an issue. { Read more here … }

  { Homemade olive oil wholemeal crackers } Hardtack crackers (made from a simple combination of flour, water and salt) are quite popular and easy to make, but I wanted to mimic the depth of flavour and crunchy texture of a soda cracker.  So enter here some leavening agents, a hint of shortening, and a few rounds of experimentation, et voilà!  { Read more here … }

Experimenting with the techniques of baking an Indian flat bread (without a tandoor!).

Testing new flour blends in some gluten free baking recipes.

Playing around with a Mélanger household staple to introduce new flavours and textures to rye bread.

And daydreaming of future travel plans creating a sweet Moroccan tradition.

This month it has all been about fruits and nuts.  Each and every single recipe fundamentally relying on the clever combination of the two.

I hope you enjoyed the selection!

{ Peshwari Naan } A combination of pistachios, almonds, dried coconut and sultanas are at the centre of this popular Indian flat bread.  ‘Baked’ quickly and simply in a non-stick fry pan, you can make beautiful naan in a matter of minutes.  You could also omit the fruit and nuts and experiment with a range of other fillings.  { Read more here … }

 

{ Gluten free Linzertorte } Here the classic Austrian pastry is transformed by gluten free flours.  A combination of gram (chickpea) flour played the stable structure role, and then tapioca flour lightened the mixture. An interesting test of gluten free pastry.  Will not be the last, I am sure.  { Read more here … }

 

{ Orange date and walnut rye bread } This bread is lovely and soft and is perfect with both sweet and savoury accompaniments.  The flavour of the dates was fairly subtle so when I bake this bread again, I will eliminate the walnuts and boost up the quantity of dates – or vice versa.  The orange provided a lovely overall freshness to the bread but could be omitted if you prefer. { Read more here … }

 

{ M’hanncha :: Moroccan ‘snake’ cake } When cutting into this M’hanncha, the light, delicate crunch of the filo pastry is a glorious enticement.  The first taste will not disappoint either.  The texture is moist and the flavour is fragrant.  The rose water is subtle and works well with the confident citrus flavours.  Overall it is not overly sweet, which is as refreshing as the mint tea traditionally served with it! { Read more here … }

 

{ Raspberry lemon frangipane slice } The sweet bread dough base is much lighter than its tart dough or biscuit base counterparts, making it a more delicate sweet indulgence.  The flavours of raspberry and lemon are a classic.  The subtle almond flavoured frangipane helps retains a level of richness and moistness.  The arrangement altogether, is one very easy to eat treat.   { Read more here … }

 

{ Fig and raspberry hazelnut cake } A play on a Dorie Greenspan favourite.  This little fig cake is injected with ground hazelnuts, and the figs were matched with a handful of raspberries. The overall result was a very easy to make, moist and flavoursome cake that is perfect not only for autumn, but any day of the year really.  { Read more here … }

 

 

{ Gluten-free, dairy-free orange almond cake } If you are a fan of the rich, intense flavour of orange marmalade you should try this cake.  There is no hiding the essence of the core ingredient here.  It is bold and concentrated.  The cake is very moist and a delicate slice (or two) is delicious served with a coffee or tea for a bit of an afternoon pick me up.  { Read more here … }


{ Almond Berry Slice } This little nutty fruity sweet was the very first thing I baked after bringing Nina home from the hospital.  Chosen for its speed of assembly (only minutes to prepare!), and simplicity of ingredients.  There is nothing fancy or chic about this humble slice but it sure is wholesome and soul feeding – particularly knowing it is very likely to grace the lunchbox my baby daughter in years to come.  { Read more here … }

 

 

{ Bakewell Tart } This tart is very easy to make.  It is essentially a very simple sweet short crust pastry, topped with jam and then a deliciously rich frangipane (almond paste).  I made this tart with blackberry jam, but would love to experiment further.  Perhaps create little individual tarts next time that showcase a variety of flavours.  { Read more here … }

She is only 8 months old, but baby Mélanger has taught me a thing or two.

Typically driven by the impulse to constantly think 5, 10, 20 paces ahead, I can often focus too much on the future, to miss out the here and now.

But my little bundle of cheeky and mischievous joy has changed that.

She has forced me to be appreciative of the moment.  To bask in a rapturous giggle….To witness a slightly coordinated clap….To cheer on her first tentative cruising adventure.

She has made me aware of the small detail.  The small patch of curly hair on the back of her head….How she favours one hand over the other….Which toys she prefers.

And she has made me enthusiastic to seize the moment.  To stop and point out the birds chirping in the trees….To throw out the baby food plan and try something new on a whim….To let my hair down and sing, dance and laugh to entertain her.

So what has this got to do with this month’s theme?

In baking, the ingredients of fruits and nuts can be overtly used, but often can be subtlety used.  Not necessarily concealed, but not necessarily explicit.

So, with the new skills my daughter has taught me under my belt, I want to simply see and appreciate a recipe.  Be more aware of the small detail.  More aware of the ingredients.  And simply enjoy the act of baking without any other consideration.  (A big step for me!)

I hope you enjoy the selection.

Okay, sure, all right.  I know this theme has showcased only a very small sampling of recipes from the Ladurée Sucre cookbook, but hopefully as you have all since rushed out to claim a precious copy of your very own, you are continuing your own sampling at home?

I do have to admit, as much as I adore all things Ladurée (and oh how I do!), my baking enjoyment comes from being somewhat more fluid in the kitchen.  Being a little experimental – and not being worried if my plans do not always come of.  I find it harder to follow a selection of recipes strictly from one book.  Hmmmm, not sure what that says about me?

In saying that though, my very-greatly-loved-copy of this cookbook sits with a sticky note on practically every second page.  So needless to say this sweet Ladurée journey will certainly not be my last.  Those sticky notes will be tackled, all in good time.  But just not all at once.

Until then, here is a round up of my small, but well loved selection of adapted recipes from the Ladurée Sucre cookbook.

 

{ Ladurée :: Orange flower & almond kugelhopf } I had high expectations of this recipe (and every recipe in this treasure of a book, in fact), but my expectations were blown away.  This kugelhopf recipe is simply superb.  But I am not surprised.  It is Ladurée, after all, no?  { Read more here … }

 

{ Ladurée :: Hot chocolate & vanilla marshmallows } When there is a chill in the air, is there really anything more comforting that nursing a mug of warm chocolate (really should be called chocolate sauce), and some bitesized cubes of homemade vanilla marshmallow.  I think not!  { Read more here … }

 

{ Ladurée :: Hazelnut and chocolate macarons } These Ladurée inspired macarons were sensational.  Every element exaggerated.  The shell was excessively delicate and fragile and gave away to a thick and beautifully chewy centre.  This flavour is not in the Ladurée book but is a tribute to one of my favourite things in life.  Nutella.  { Read more here … }

 

{ Ladurée :: Brandy rice pudding } Sultanas have been soaked in brandy to add a depth of flavour to this simple rice pudding.  With or without the brandy addition, the pudding is very rich — hence the small serving size.  As such, it seems such a delicate dessert, even though it is a very straightforward recipe.  { Read more here … }

The instant I clapped eyes on the celadon green coloured store front, there was no question I was in Paris.  It was undeniably stylish, tasteful and very French.

I am talking, about Ladurée, bien sûr!

It is no secret I am a fan of this celebrated patisserie.  Of the elegant treats ranging from macarons to cakes and pastries.  Of the handsome presentation boxes that adorn the counter space and shelves on the walls.  Of its certain je ne sais quoi that you cannot deny.

So for me, it was one of the most anticipated cookbook releases … ever.

Until then, all their delectable sweet secrets were only available in French.  Now, for the first time, the precious tome had been fully translated into English.  I could not hide my excitement that an English edition of the Ladurée Sucre cookbook was to be released.

My French is limited to only a handful of words, so any attempt to eagerly bake from the original edition would have been fraught with much frustration.  So a big special thanks to Kerrin Rousset (author of one of my favourite food and travel websites, MyKugelhopf), for being the bilingual talent behind the translation.

Ladurée in Paris may be 10,000 miles away from where I sit here in Brisbane, but this precious collection of sweet recipes is now never far from reach.

As way of personal gratitude to Kerrin, I will kick off this new theme showcasing the Kugelhopf recipe.  The choice seems to perfect for words, no?!  And for the other sweet assortments to then be featured?  Well, you will just have to tune in to find out what I select!

I have never showcased a theme of recipes directly from one cookbook before.  But, for me, this is not just any old cookbook. This is special….This is Ladurée.

 

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