All posts by Victoire

Doubleshot coffee and tea Braamfontein Sustenance review

Doubleshot coffee and tea

Doubleshot Coffee and Tea in Braamfontein
Doubleshot Coffee and Tea in Braamfontein

Doubleshot recently invited Sustenance into their cozy yet trendy coffee and tea shop for a coffee, tea and casual chat – and what an experience it was!

Doubleshot is situated in the rejuvenated Braamfontein district where we met up with Daniel, whose passion and energy for coffee is tangible.

We ended up spending just under two hours learning all two newbies could know about tea and coffee from plant to cup.

Doubleshot coffee and tea Braamfontein Sustenance review

Doubleshot is a collaboration between Alain, the owner, and Alex, who owns a farm in Malawi, supplying most of their green, black and white teas, as well as their Malawian coffee beans. This partnership ensures a high standard of quality in the Doubleshot end product. In addition, Doubleshot works with other farms or estates through incentive programs, thus supporting the originating farms in improving their product.

Doubleshot coffee and tea Country of origin Sustenance review

All the coffee sold at Doubleshot features the Country of origin as well as the name of the Estate the bean comes from on the packaging. The coffee beans are roasted on-site by Alain, who is also the Master tea blender. Basically, they have a hand in every stage of the process, from farming to roasting and blending to training of baristas.

Fun fact: The coffee bean is actually the pit of the fruit from the coffee plant, which is called a coffee cherry.

Once a new bean arrives in the store, Alain takes small batches of the bean through a roasting process in an effort to pin point its particular “sweet spot”. This is the art of coffee roasting. The science comes in in trying to replicate the roasting flavour with every batch of each particular bean, for which they have special logging software paired with probes in the roaster measuring the temperature of the beans and the environmental temperature.

Doubleshot coffee and tea Braamfontein Sustenance review

As part of Daniel’s research and development role he will then take the roasted bean and try it in a siphon, as an espresso, a cappuccino, etc. to find out where it works and where it doesn’t. Finally, the coffee is added to the menu.

“… we’re not a one blend pony.”

According to Daniel, Braamfontein is becoming a coffee capital, in the way that people go to Parkhurst to find craft beers. What sets Doubleshot apart from other coffee establishments is their openness and willingness to share information and knowledge about their craft with those who enter through their doors.

Doubleshot coffee and tea Training Sustenance review

If you want to learn the difference between a Costa Rican, a Brazilian and a Malawian coffee they will happily guide you on your journey of discovery. It is not only the final destination but the journey that makes the Doubleshot experience unique. That is in addition to the abundance of choice between top quality coffee roasts and tea blends. As Daniel humorously put it, “we’re not a one blend pony.”

Being a decaffeinated coffee drinker, the topic of caffeine and decaffeination soon came up. There are various methods of obtaining decaf coffee, one involves a chemical wash, another involves saturating the beans in water loaded with “flavour particles” which then extracts the caffeine whilst leaving the flavour in the bean. Another method of decreasing the caffeine in a bean is by dark roasting it, which then breaks down the caffeine within the bean. At the same time this tends to break down the acids and sugars, giving the coffee less flavour. Each decaffeination process has its own pros and cons, but they all affect the flavour in some way.

Doubleshot Coffee and Tea Bean bags Review Sustenance

I must say that after the conversation we had about decaffeination, I am not keen about drinking it any more! I will have to either delve further into teas or switch to regular jo. Needless to say, Doubleshot do not stock decaf coffee, but have a large selection of flavoured rooibos teas! If you, like me, are looking to switch from decaf to regular coffee, the best way to do this would be to go for smaller portions, such as a single shot cappuccino, as suggested by Daniel.

“What people don’t realise is that filter coffee has more caffeine than espresso”

That leads to the question of which cuppa jo offers the best caffeine punch? As it turns out the popular myth that an espresso is sure to keep you going all day was busted. If you had to choose between a single espresso and a cappuccino, the caffeine in the cappuccino would last longer because the caffeine bonds to proteins in the milk and lasts in your system for 4-5 hours as opposed to 45 minutes to an hour for the espresso. Likewise, filter coffee contains more caffeine than a single espresso because the brewing process is slower, meaning that the beans are in contact with the water for a longer time, releasing more caffeine into the coffee.

Doubleshot Coffee and iced tea Sustenance Review

With our heads buzzing from all the information we’d just acquired it was time to try out some of Doubleshot’s offerings. Doubleshot are known for their iced teas, so I had a delectable Strawberry Rooibos iced tea, served in a lovely glass jar. Nico started off with a flat white Malawian bean coffee. I could say that it was one of the best coffees I have ever tasted (of course I took a sip!). Sweet, creamy, a little bit of dark chocolate bitterness with a hint of nuttiness – pure yumminess.

Next, we were treated to the incredible experience of the coffee siphon. The siphon is a device which brews coffee at a constant temperature, and provides a spectacular show in doing so! The way it works is as follows, water is poured into the bottom chamber and heated. As the water evaporates it forms water vapour, which pushes the heated water up the funnel to the top chamber. The coffee grounds are then added to the top chamber. Once the brewing time for the coffee has been reached the heat source is removed, which causes the  water vapour to contract in the bottom chamber causing a vacuum, which pulls the coffee through the filter and back down the funnel. We highly recommend trying out the siphon, it is a must-do experience – both scientific and magical.

Daniel kindly organised a tea tasting for me since I have a low caffeine tolerance. This was, for me, the highlight of our visit. I so enjoyed the tasting that I feel warrants a separate blog post.
Doubleshot coffee and tea tasting Sustenance review

We finished off our visit with a tour of the kitchen and an espresso made by our host, which Nico thoroughly enjoyed. We also discussed their plans for an exciting new product launching in the near future – watch this space!

“You have to try a place three times before you can really say this is great or this is terrible.”

Doubleshot Coffee and Tea Espresso Sustenance review
Daniel was an incredible host, bursting with knowledge on what one can tell is one of his favourite subjects. We could easily have spent our day chatting and sampling the great beverages on offer in their relaxed atmosphere. Daniel told us that “[y]ou have to try a place three times before you can really say this is great or this is terrible.”, well we owe two more visits but we can already say that Doubleshot is one of our favourite coffee and tea destinations.

Visit them at:
Offline: 1 Peppermint Place, Corner Juta & Melle Streets, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
Online: www.doubleshot.co.za

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Quick and delicious chicken soup

Chicken soup Paleo

Nico is travelling – Paris! – and the children and I are developing colds / coughs back at home. Added to that the fact that Winter is fast approaching, with a definite chill in the air, we needed something warm and healthy for dinner. Instead of heading to Woolies for a packet of pre-prepared soup I decided to up the anti and try my hand at a homemade broth. It was fun to make, Arnan was keen to help out quite a bit and it turned out to be delicious. The chicken was incredibly moist and tender when it came out of the pot. My two helpers just about gorged themselves on juicy pieces of chicken before I could even get it back into the broth! A winner all round.

Notes:

  • I used our electric pressure cooker for this recipe, if you want to use a stove top pressure cooker you can get directions from the original recipe here.
  • The original recipe called for egg noodles. Since we are following a Banting (LCHF) diet I simply omitted them.
  • This recipe is adapted from Democrat & Chronicle.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp unflavoured coconut oil or any other vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (I used 2 of those giant cloves Pick n Pay sell)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 carrots, grated on thick grate
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly cut
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 whole chicken, 1.4 kg – 2.3 kg, giblets discarded
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Method:

  1. Set the pressure cooker to the “Sauté” setting and heat the oil until shimmering
  2. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes
  3. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds
  4. Stir in the water, carrots, celery and soy sauce
  5. Season the chicken well with salt and pepper and place, breast side up, in the pot
  6. Put the lid on and lock into place, making sure the valve is set to “Pressure”
  7. Set the pressure cooker to the “High Pressure” setting for 20 minutes. If your chicken is larger than 1.8 kg then you will need to add about 10 minutes to the cooking time
  8. When the timer signals the end of the cooking time switch the pressure cooker off, ensuring it doesn’t switch to the “Warm” setting or your chicken may overcook, and use the quick release valve to relase the pressure. Carefully remove the lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.
  9. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones – two forks work well for separating the meat, it came out so tender the meat literally just fell off the bones.
  10. Stir in the shredded chicken and parsley
  11. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you like you could add a little soy sauce and some fresh chopped chillies

The children requested chicken soup for breakfast this morning. If that’s not a testimony to how good it is then I don’t know what is!

Roasted butternut, feta and baby spinach salad

Roasted butternut, feta and baby spinach salad

Baby Spinach and Roast Butternut Salad
We often buy butternut (or as the Americans would say, butternut squash) in bulk on special and then run out of ideas on what to do with it because, let’s face it, there are only so many ways you can cook a butternut before getting sick of it. This recipe, however, has changed my outlook on butternut for good – it is the yummiest salad I have eaten in a very long time, and I’d even venture to say it was more delicious than similar salads I’ve eaten at restaurants. This recipe for roasted butternut, feta and baby spinach salad is adapted from Gina’s skinny recipes.

Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut, peeled and diced
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp golden syrup / honey
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar / white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp minced baby green onion
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and fresh black pepper
  • 2 cups baby spinach, washed and spun dry
  • 1/4 cup raw chopped almonds
  • 12 fresh cherries, quartered and pitted
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the butternut with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon syrup, salt to taste and fresh ground pepper.
  3. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the centre of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until tender, turning half way.
  4. Remove from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.
  5. Meanwhile combine the vinegar, onion, 1 tablespoon syrup, mustard, oil, pinch of salt and black pepper to make the vinaigrette.
  6. Toast the almonds in a pan on medium heat, being careful not to burn them
  7. Divide the spinach on 4 plates and top each salad with the roasted butternut, cherries, crumbled feta cheese and the toasted almonds.
  8. Drizzle the vinaigrette over each salad and serve immediately.

Note
This salad can be served as a main meal, as we did, or a side salad alongside a main.

Tuna fishcakes with paprika lemon mayonnaise

The inspiration for this meal came from a Pick n Pay Fresh Living booklet titled “Dinner time: 7 Quick & easy family meals for under R350″, the mayonnaise recipe was found via Epicurious. These are delicious and really simple fishcakes, with a great flavour. Our two year old loved them!

Ingredients:

Fishcakes

  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 3 cans (170g each) light meat tuna chunks in salt water
  • 2 tsp fish spice / fish rub
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 extra-large eggs, beaten
  • Cake flour, for dusting
  • Canola oil for frying

Mayonnaise

  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • Dash cayenne pepper

Method:

Fishcakes

  1. Mix all the fishcake ingredients together in a medium bowl
  2. Shape 1/4 cupfuls of the mixture into patties
  3. Dust with the flour just before frying
  4. Heat a generous glug if oil in a pan
  5. Fry fishcakes for 1-2 minutes per side or until golden
  6. Drain on paper towel
  7. Serve with fresh coriander, a fresh salad (we had ripe mango on a bed of mixed baby salad leaves), chips, and the mayonnaise

Mayonnaise

  1. Whisk together all mayonnaise ingredients in a small bowl until smooth

Mint sauce

Mint sauce

There are a few flavours I will always associate with my childhood, and my Mom’s home made mint sauce served with a roast leg of lamb is one of them. Nothing beats that tangy, sweet and minty flavour! For me, the only way to serve roast lamb is with a mint sauce, and the stuff you buy at the shops cannot compare to this recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup grape vinegar
  • 1/2 bottle (50 ml) dried mint
  • 1/2 cup apricot jam

Method:

  1. Add the sugar and vinegar to a small pot
  2. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar over a medium heat
  3. Add the mint and boil gently for about 5 minutes
  4. Scoop in the apricot jam, stir to combine and boil gently again for about 5 minutes
  5. Adjust to taste by adding more vinegar if too sweet
  6. Bottle, cool and refrigerate

The consistency should be pretty runny, however if you prefer a more jam-my consistency you can boil the sauce for longer at Step 4. You could also add chopped fresh mint with the dried mint to the sugar and vinegar mixture in Step 3.

Jello Play Dough

Jello play dough

I received this play dough recipe as part of an end of year gift exchange in Arnan’s music class at Be Sharp Beetles last year. It turned out to be a great play dough recipe – I used it both to make a Christmas gift for my nephew and in the party buckets, with a cute plastic cookie cutter, for Arnan’s first birthday party – and the dough was a hit with all who received it. The jelly (American jello) gives the play dough a great spongy texture, as well as colour and scent. It is entirely edible, if a bit salty, so it’s kid-safe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 80g jelly (any flavour)

Method:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium pot
  2. Stir over low to medium heat until the mixture thickens and clumps together into a ball, pulling away from the sides of the pot
  3. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface dusted with flour
  4. Allow it to cool for a minute
  5. When the dough is cool enough to touch knead it for a few minutes to ensure enough elasticity is built up
  6. Let the dough cool completely before storing in an air-tight container

General Playdough Tips:

  • If you want to alter the colour, or enhance the colour, add some food colouring
  • Glitter or fine, brightly coloured craft sand adds nice texture, and using a contrasting colour can really make the play dough fun
  • If the dough begins to dry out you can knead a bit of water into it again
  • If it gets soggy you can reheat the play dough to evaporate the extra water

Cheese and herb muffins

Savoury tea treats
Roasted vegetable tart (left) & Cheese and herb muffins (right)

I have a new “go to” recipe for a savoury option for tea! These muffins are moist, full of flavour and super easy. What a pleasure. I made them for my birthday tea party last weekend, but they could also be a wonderful accompaniment to a hot soup on the suddenly cold winter days we’re having. The recipe has been adapted from the “Cook and Enjoy” (“Kook en Geniet”) recipe book.

Ingredients:

  • 500 ml (2 cups) cake flour
  • 20 ml (4 tsp) baking powder
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) cayenne pepper (or a little less if you prefer less of a “bite”)
  • 500 ml – 750 ml (2 – 3 cups) grated cheese
  • handful fresh chopped herbs, such as thyme, origanum, chives, rosemary, parsley
  • sprinkle dried mixed herbs (optional)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk
  • 120 ml (8 Tbsp) + “a bit” melted butter
  • 1 egg, well beaten

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and grease a muffin pan with 12 large hollows
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients
  3. Add the cheese and herbs to the dry ingredients
  4. Blend the milk, butter and egg
  5. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Do not stir, but mix by folding in the liquid until the flour is just moistened. The mixture will look lumpy
  6. Drop uniform spoonfuls of the dough into the muffin pan hollows and bake for 10 – 15 minutes (I usually bake for 20 minutes, but insert a skewer to check for done-ness at 15 minutes)

Tuna casserole bake

I had some leftover canned tuna the other day and decided to make a nice warm tuna bake to ward off the wintery chill in the air. A quick Google search later, and I had a basic recipe and some ideas to start with. The recipe is mainly adapted from About.com’s Tuna Casserole Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 packet pasta screws, cooked al dente
  • 1 splash olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 packet soup (I used garden vegetable soup), prepared according to instructions on packet
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables or peas, precooked
  • 2 cups grated cheese
  • 1 or 2 cans tuna, lightly drained

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius
  2. Saute the onion and celery in a medium pot until softened
  3. Add the soup, milk, precooked frozen veggies, 1 cup cheese and black pepper to the pot
  4. Simmer, stirring, until all the ingredients are combined and the cheese has melted
  5. When it begins to boil turn off the heat and gently fold in the tuna
  6. Add the precooked pasta and toss to coat
  7. Pour into a casserole dish
  8. Top with remaining cup of grated cheese
  9. Bake in the oven for 15 min
  10. Grill the top for a few minutes until the cheese is lightly browned

The About.com recipe suggests using buttered breadcrumbs or potato chips as a topping instead of the cheese. This sounds yummy, I’ll definitely give it a try sometime! You can also check out the many interesting variations on this dish listed after their recipe.

Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the dish before we tucked in! Everyone enjoyed it, including my one year old who usually avoids tuna. A winner in my books.

Awesome veggie pasta sauce

I had no idea what to cook for dinner tonight, not a clue… so I took out what I had (mostly fresh veggies) and started cooking. The end result was a most delicious veggie pasta sauce, yummy, fresh, crispy-crunchy, divine, you-don’t-even-miss-the-meat. You can make this with whatever fresh vegetables you have in your fridge, in the quantities of your choice, I’ll list what I added tonight.

Ingredients:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Olive oil for stir-frying
  • 1/2 Green pepper
  • 6 Courgettes
  • 2 Carrots
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic (or to taste)
  • 1 can Chopped peeled tomatoes
  • 1 can Tomato & onion mix
  • Dried mixed herbs
  • 2 sprigs Fresh origanum, chopped
  • 1/2 sprig Fresh Rosemary, chopped
  • Tomato paste
  • 1-2 Tbsp Tomato sauce
  • 1-2 Tbsp Mrs Balls original chutney
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Steam the broccoli and cauliflower until al dente, or even slightly underdone
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot on a medium heat
  3. Cut the green pepper into strips and begin to stir-fry
  4. Cut the courgette into medium-sized rounds
  5. Add the courgette to the pot when the green pepper starts to soften, stir-fry. You may add a splash of water if the veg starts to burn. This will steam the vegetables a bit.
  6. Grate the carrots on a large grate
  7. Add the carrots to the pot when the courgette looks about done.
  8. Add some garlic to taste and stir-fry the veg until it starts to soften / is al dente
  9. Add the broccoli and cauliflower to the pot
  10. Add the tinned tomatoes and tomato & onion mix along with a little water
  11. Add some dried mixed herbs and the fresh chopped herbs
  12. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce and chutney
  13. Season to taste with some salt and pepper
  14. Stir and leave to simmer for a few minutes before turning off the stove
  15. Serve with pasta of your choice – I used wholewheat organic Penne Rigate – some grated cheese, and if you like it spicy add some chilli paste and/or Tabasco sauce

Bon Appetite!

Chocolate fudge cake

Our Mothers’ Day tea on Sunday turned into lunch at short notice, and I was tasked with bringing dessert! I’m one of those people who prefer to bake something homemade than buy, but I’m not ashamed to resort to a Woolies alternative if pressed! And believe me, it does not take much to foil my well-intentioned baking plans, being four months pregnant and with an active one year old running around. So I had to come up with a good, easy, recipe quickly. Thankfully I had spotted a delicious-looking recipe on one of my favourite foodie blogs, The Gorgeous Gourmet, a few days previously, so this was a great excuse to try it!

I made the Chocolate fudge cake with caramel icing, go check out the recipe and bookmark it, you’ll thank me later :)  The only adaptations I made were to use Decaf plunger coffee (for the kids’ and my sake), and I added halved strawberries in addition to the chopped Rolo, who can argue with strawberries and chocolate?

I will spare you the drama I went through in baking this cake, too much to mention! None of it relating to the recipe at least! I will say that when using spring form cake tins you should make sure they are airtight, or line with baking paper for good measure, and nothing will change the flavour of even slightly rancid butter, so always make sure you have enough fresh butter and check the butter before you start, especially for the icing… :) Yip, I had to make the icing twice…

Here’s the end result:

Chocolate fudge cake with caramel icing

The cake was moist and gooey around the outside, pure bliss. The caramel icing, however, was not a hit. It was very sugary-sweet and not caramel-y at all – perhaps it was something I did, I’m not sure… Thankfully Candice has promised to have a look at the recipe to make it more caramel-y for me, if so, this will be my go-to cake for a very long time.

If you would like to try out other icings you could do a chocolate ganache or sandwich the layers with white chocolate mousse and dust the top with cocoa powder/icing sugar. Let me know if you find a winning combination!

Peanut butter banana snack

As with most babies, Arnan’s first solid food was rice cereal and banana. He quickly decided, however, that he did not like purees and particularly did not like being spoon fed them! So as soon as he was able to hold a piece of banana and take it to his mouth, that’s what he ate.

Imagine my surprise then when, biting into a banana today, he spat it out. It seems that Arnan no longer enjoys the texture. I don’t know what made me think of it, but I’ve been wanting to try out a peanut banana snack I’d heard of, so that’s what I made with the rest of the banana.

You can give this just as is to your baby or you can turn it into a tasty sandwich filler.

Ingredients:
(In proportions according to your preference and taste)

  • Banana (I used about half a small banana)
  • Peanut butter (I used about 1/2 a teaspoon)
  • Toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Method:

  1. Mash the banana to the consistency your baby prefers
  2. Add the peanut butter and mix
  3. Watch your baby gobble up this tasty goop snack

Crumbly pap – porridge

Crumbly pap is a nice variant to the traditional “putu pap” eaten at braais. Serve with tomato and onion gravy or with milk, sugar and a little butter for breakfast the next day.

Ingredients:

  • 500ml water
  • 5ml salt
  • 750ml Traditional Braaipap

Method:

  • Bring water and salt to the boil in a pot
  • Add pap, cover with lid and simmer for 15 minutes
  • Stir with a fork until porridge becomes crumbly
  • Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally

This recipe serves 4-6.

Beta Test: Rolo Brownie Bites with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

I have been a huge fan of The Cupcake Lady‘s cupcakes ever since I tried a couple at Gina‘s birthday party last year. They really are “heaven in paper cups”! Imagine my joy when I saw that there was an opportunity to be a beta tester for one of her new creations… Doubly so since Nico’s birthday was approaching and I had not yet thought of a birthday gift, nor had the time to bake anything for his office. Perfect.

The inspiration for this beta test was chocolate, how divine. It was not easy to choose just one item, but those were the rules so…

Here’s the list of chocolate temptations:

  • Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes with Cookie Dough Butter Icing
  • Dark Chocolate Cherry Fudge
  • Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies
  • Perfect chocolate chip cookies
  • Rolo Brownie Bites with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

ALL of the goodies sounded delicious, but since Nico and I have been on a quest for the perfect chocolate brownie I knew I had to go with that one.

I received 18 brownie bites, and tasted about 3 or 4 of them for this review, the rest went to Nico’s office.

Ok, so on to the review of the brownie bites…

These brownies are delicious, and ultra sweet. They are very close to the “perfect” brownie Nico and I have been looking for with a fudgy consistency rather than a cakey one. The brownie is nicely chocolatey, a little crumbly, and contains nuts – walnuts and pecan I think. Add to that a gooey Rolo caramel center, yum. The cream cheese frosting adds a hint of sour to balance the sweet of the brownie, however I’m not sure it adds enough contrast to justify its presence. These bites could easily be served without it. Being bites they are quite tiny, I felt that I had hardly savoured the full flavour of the bite before it was gone. I would suggest making them slightly bigger, perhaps a mini-bar instead.

Similar feedback was received from Nico’s colleagues. The bites were described as “fantastic”, “a foodgasm”, “very rich rather than sweet”, and “it is absolutely awful that there are so few of them”. As for the size, the general consensus was that the brownie should be bigger – about three bites in the shape of a bar.

So there you have it! What a treat to be able to trial these delicious desserts. I really hope that I’ll get another chance to try some more of The Cupcake Lady’s creations in the future.

Cook & Enjoy

I am so chuffed! This weekend I found that the old favourite South African cookbook Kook en Geniet has been revised and published in English! We always used to cook out of my mother’s Afrikaans Kook en Geniet when growing up and especially loved their pannekoek (pancake) recipe… I could not be happier, except if I actually cooked a meal out of it… and that I will hopefully do soon!

Macadamia and Cranberry Nougat

Who can resist the challenge of making your own nougat? Certainly not me! Well, although this is not a complicated recipe, it proved quite stressful, mostly my worrying about whether I had done everything correctly. In the end everything worked out fine – even though the nougat did lose its shape, melting into a mound of chewyness, it was delicious… and that’s all that counts!

Macadamia cranberry nougat

Lessons learnt:
This recipe calls for several unusual ingredients and utensils, the rice paper you should find at a Chinese store, liquid glucose is not stocked by the supermarkets but I found some at a small baking shop, and a sugar thermometer is quite essential for a variety of edible goodies including sweets and jams.
Make sure that you get the correct rice paper! You will need the thinnest paper you can find, usually found in rectangular sheets. The thick rice paper used for spring rolls is no good for this sweet…
The nougat turned out to be very sticky making it difficult to cut and almost impossible to get out of the tin. I would suggest lining the sides of the pan with rice paper as well to assist with the removal of the sweet.

Recipe source:
Food & Home Entertaining, December 2009

Ingredients:
450 g (2 1/4 cups) sugar
250 ml (1 cup) liquid glucose
80 ml (1/3 cup) honey
2 sheets rice paper (plus extra for lining the sides of the tin)
2 extra-large egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
250 g macadamia nuts, toasted
60 g dried cranberries
cornflour, to serve

Method:
Place the sugar, glucose and honey in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Keep brushing the sides of the pan with extra water to prevent any sugar crystals from clinging.
When the sugar has completely dissolved, increase the heat and bring the syrup to a rapid boil until 140 degrees Celsius is reached on a sugar thermometer.
Line the base of an 18 x 28 cm rectangular cake tin with rice paper (remember the sides as well as the base!)
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar mixture in a steady stream until it is incorporated and continue beating for about 5 minutes until the mixture is slightly cooled and thickened. Add the macadamia nuts and cranberries, whisking them in by hand.
Pour the mixture onto the rice paper and press gently with a spoon to flatten. Cover with another piece of rice paper and allow to set for a few hours before cutting.
Cut into desired shapes, using a very sharp knife. Dip each piece of nougat in cornflour to give it a very light coating before wrapping in parchment paper or cellophane wrapping.