Saturday, March 27, 2010

Scone Bread and Doughnut French Toast

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Scone Bread and Doughnut French Toast
Home Cooking


I'm a bit mad about scones. I've probably produced more batches of scones than anything else I've ever cooked. I devour these things religiously. I like plain. I like buttermilk. I like fruit scones and date scones. Actually, I LOVE date scones. I like pumpkin scones. I like savory scones. My heart skips a bit when I find new scones I've never tried before (blueberry? Spinach and feta?)

Honey drizzled on French toast

I buy scones from cafes, bakeries, chain grocery stores and private market stalls. Scones are one of the only things I can whip up without any recipe reference.

I like them plain. Or with butter. Or with jam and cream.


Now that I've made my point, I think you can understand my excitement at finding something labeled 'Scone Toast' at Coles. The packaging is gorgeous with luxe brown matte finish that makes you think of coffee and cafes (and irrelevantly, suede) just looking at it. I had to buy it obviously (or dye not knowing) but I'm not completely mindless. I had doubts about how 'scone-like' a loaf of bread could be. Was I falling victim to some clever marketing ploy?

Byron and I bought a loaf each. His was buttermilk. Mine was date and caramel (can one food item GET any more appealing???)

Bite-shot of bread

As soon as we got home, he ripped into his loaf. I waited the verdict and it came as 'tastes like bread. But really nice bread'. It was sort of what we were expecting.

I tried my own loaf the next day for breakfast. My opinion is thus: scone toast is nice for several reasons. 1) they are cut into huge, thick slices. 2) the texture, whilst not being exactly scone-like is denser and richer than plain toast. 3) there's a nice floury coating that makes you think 'freshly baked'. 4) there's a really subtle sweetness that just bets for accompaniment with cream.

Toasted scone toast :D

I like the scone toast warmed up (i.e. toasted... but I didn't want to point out the obvious). More than that though, I think it's great for using in desserts that require bread. I made French toast using this bread but I reckon it'd also be fabulous for bread and butter pudding.

Doughnut French Toast

Serves 1

Ingredients:
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 30ml full fat milk
  • 2 slices of thick white bread
  • tbsp of butter plus a drop of oil
  • 25g caster sugar
Procedure:

1. Beat the egg, milk and vanilla in a wide, shallow bowl.
2. Soak the bread in the eggy mixture for 5min a side.3. Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan and fry until golden and scorched in part on both sides.4. Put sugar in a plate and dip cooked bread in sugar until coated like a doughnut. Serve immediately.


This is originally a Nigella Lawson recipe but I found it through the Cookbook Maniac's food blog. As creative as the title is, it's basically a standard French toast crusted in sugar. Not that that's a bad thing.

In fact, it's a very, very good thing.

This was so easy for me to make. If you have eggs and milk at home, you really don't have an excuse. I had mine with a slight drizzle of honey, though of course you can serve your French toast with whatever you like.

The Scone Toast suited this dish perfectly. It's thick cut was great for soaking up the egg mixture without risk of falling apart.

MMM... texture shot

The outside of the French toast was sugary and crunchy whilst the inside was soft and slightly custardy. A really nice breakfast item or, if you're a night owl like me, perfect for light night snacking.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sams On Edward Street

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Sams On Edward Street
348 Edward St, Brisbane City (Corner Turbot St)


This is yet another of my regular lunch time spots. Part of the decision-making process as to where I should eat is how long I have and how far I want to walk. Sams is for those lazy days where I can't even fathom crossing a street for food. It's literally just a short stroll up from the dental school.


We nickname Sams Cafe as 'The revolving door cafe'. No prizes for guessing why. The cafe itself is on the ground floor of an office block (the IBM building, to be precise).

The usual cafe offerings are all here: paninis, sandwiches, muffins, pies, salad and of course, coffee. I practically live off cafe food so I'm developing a set of preferences and ideals.

My favorite thing about Sams is the steamed soy milk. Plain steamed soy with no coffee is one of my 'special' orders and I have a soft spot for any barista that does it for me without battering an eyelid or making irritable comments. At Sams, they've consistently only charged $1 for making my soy and it's absolutely delicious. I don't know what brand of soy they use, think it's fairly regular, but for some reason, it just tastes creamy, frothy and fabulous. Love it. Winter staple.

In terms of food, I've been on many occasions but will just talk about the items I took photos of.

Traditional lasagna

One day, our clinic group had a meeting with our course coordinator and we ended up eating there. Half the table ordered the lasagna. It's a huge serving with luscious, meaty layers and a fresh side salad. Everyone who got it enjoyed it and when the first plates of lasagna were served, some others changed their order to get lasagna as well.

Chicken and bacon toasted panini

The other half of the table ordered variants of toasted panini. I was one of this lot and had chosen a chicken and bacon panini. It was good (these things are rarely bad). Lovely and crisp on the outside with a hearty supply of filling. Some places push their toasters down hard and your panini ends up flat like a biscuit. Here, some volume is maintained and to me, that's a good thing.

Potato side salad

On one of my solo lunching occasions, I ordered a low-fat vegetable fritata with a side salad. They always have a salad of the day that you can order on its own or as a side, or you can get it take-away. I've tried the salad several times and though different each time, it's always been super fresh and well-balanced in terms of flavor.

Low-fat vegetable fritata

The vegetable fritata is something that's 'good' without being outstanding but I'll keep ordering it simply because it's prefixed with 'low-fat'. Yes, I'm a sucker for this kind of thing. It takes a bit like a moist savory muffin but with more vegetable than muffin base (I like it this way).

Inside of veggie fritata

There's a mildly Mediterranean flavor influence... probably because of the black olives. Only thing is it's a bit bland so I feel like cream cheese and/or chutney is warranted.

Latte

Coffee at Sams is nice and consistent. As I mentioned earlier, the standout for me has been steamed soy milk.

Overall, I've had only good experiences eating at Sams. It's a nice corporate environment that isn't too rushed, even at lunch times. The staff are efficient but friendly. There's a decent variety in menu items and they have a welcomed focus on freshness.

Sweet Beef Cashew Korma

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Sweet Beef Cashew Korma
Home Cooking


Another lunch party. Another curry. I think I'm falling into a rut here. Hey, is it a crime to be curry-obsessed? In all fairness, I was tossing up between several other dishes including satay chicken or a meatball pasta. My curry fetish prevailed.

I had a few goals. Firstly, I modeled this dish after the korma I had (and loved) at Mint. Another objective was to get my slow-cooker out and running. I decided on a beef korma that was started the night before with flavors adjusted just prior to serving.

Slow cooker propped up on my study desk

This is my own creation but I did use a supermarket bought curry to form the base of the sauce. I suggest you try whatever label appeals to you but I used Patak's Cashew Masala. The korma from Mint was very sweet but in a distinct way (i.e. not just 'sugary') so I tried to duplicate that with a combination of condensed milk, honey, cream and coconut.

Sweet Beef Cashew Korma
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
  • ~ 1kg beef chuck steak, cut into 3-4cm cubes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp each of tumeric, cayenne pepper, ground coriander, ground cumin and curry powder
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4-5 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 x 540g jar of Pataks 'Cashew Masala' simmer sauce
  • 100ml beef stock or water
  • handful of macadamia nuts, crushed (optional; can also use almond meal or crushed cashew)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/3 cup coconut cream
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 1/4-1/3 cup condensed milk
  • chopped coriander and steamed basmati rice to serve
Procedure:

1. Season the beef with some salt and pepper. Seal off the meat on high heat in a large pan. Add the spices and stir around.2. Toss in the onion and potatoes.3. Cover with the simmer sauce and water. Stir in the macadamia nuts and honey.4. Remove from heat and place in slow cooker. Cook for at least 5-6 hours.
5. Before serving, stir in the coconut cream, cream and condensed milk.6. Taste and adjust flavors and seasoning as required.
7. Served with a garnishing of coriander and a side of steamed rice.


My curry was but one part of a lot of food that was prepared for this lunch party. I had a sneaky taste before everyone got there and thought it was pretty awesome. It had a nice resemblance to the sweet curry from Mint and I was even pleased with my rice-cooking (normally when I try to make rice, it ends in tears).

When I offered some to Byron, he added in a whole heap of condensed milk before even tasting. He said that he couldn't comment on my original version but his version with the addition of more condensed milk was great and a lot like the Mint curry.

Close-up

As we've emphasized many times before, curries are very personal and every component is adjustable. I just wanted to encourage you to try making curry with a nut-based sauce and condensed milk. It's a great combination, especially for those who like mild curry flavors.

The other point is that the slow-cooked beef was to die for. The beef shrunk a lot after being in the slow cooker so I'm glad I bought as much as I did. Each piece was so tender and melty. It's nice to be able to transform such a cheap cut of meat into something so delicious.

Six Degrees Take TWO

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Six Degrees Take TWO
Shop 4/30 Station Rd, Indooroopilly


I've done a review on Six Degrees Cafe before but it's undergone some menu changes since then. It had been over a year since I last visited but a friend of mine decided to host her birthday dinner there (many birthdays this season) so I got to try the new stuff.


When I got there, most of the guests were already seated at a table so my friend and I (not the birthday girl, a different friend) were cast aside into a little booth.

I had done some sneaky online research in advance and decided we would be ordering the Dancing King pizza and a duck pasta to share. Another guest joined us and he ordered the chicken pasta so I snapped a few shots of that too.

Duckeska pasta - roast duck, fettucini, onion, garlic, chili and capers in a rich basil Napoli sauce

The duck pasta was a must-order for me because it was one of my previous favorite dishes from Six Degrees. It was still good. Rich, complex flavors that complimented the duck rather than masking it. The sauce is very creamy but it's not too heavy on the palate either.

Dancing king pizza - king prawn, smoked salmon, semi-dried capsicum on a rich layer of Napoli sauce with fresh basil leaves, mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of bonito flakes

When our pizza was served, I thought there were live prawns on it. The name 'Dancing King' comes from the fact that you have bonito flakes topping the pizza and they kinda (for want of a better word) 'squirm' on the pizza.

Close-up pizza shot

The pizza tasted alright but the bonito flavor overpowered everything else. I couldn't really appreciate the prawn pieces. I don't recall anything distinct about the sauce or base either.

Chickacini - chicken, fettucini, avocado and garlic in a creamy white wine sauce

This it the chicken pasta. I didn't have a taste myself but the guy who ordered it said it was good and finished the whole thing. I was unsure about avocado in warm pasta but apparently, it's a perfectly sane and well-adjusted combination.

Overall, I still enjoy the boutique atmosphere at Six Degrees. The staff are really wonderful and they make a mean duck pasta. Serving sizes are generous.

Six Degrees on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chewy Brownies

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Chewy Brownies
Home Cooking


I dedicate this post to that precious time slot between around 12 midnight and 2am when your brain starts bombarding your stomach with relentless hunger signals. This is usually when I have 5 browser windows open, each with a different food blog, recipe or restaurant review and I flip through and perve on the food. Every 5 seconds, I'll change my mind about exactly what I'm craving at that moment.


I found this brownie recipe one night. Well, more accurately I saw a bunch of absolutely irresistible photos and clicked into the recipe. They just looked sooooooo sticky and decadent and glorious. Very, very convincing. I set aside one task-free Friday afternoon to do a bit of therapeutic baking.

Chewy Brownies
Makes 20

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp instant coffee(optional)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 30g unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped (I used Lindt 80% dark chocolate)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 cups plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 180g bittersweet chocolate, cut into cm squared pieces (I used I Love Coles brand Belgium milk chocolate)
  • macadamia nuts (optional - I dropped about 1/2 cup in half the batter)
Procedure:

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a baking pan (recommended 20 x 30cm tin) with foil or baking paper.
2. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted.3. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous.4. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated.
5. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined.6. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.7. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes (mine took nearly an hour because the pan I used was too small and the batter was too deep).8. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool. If you want the texture to be really chewy, let the brownies cool completely before cutting.9. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.


Sunday was going to be a lunch party with some friends so it was a good excuse to do some baking. It so happens that half of the brownies didn't make it to Sunday which should be some indication of how they turned out.

The baking tray I used was too small so the batter was deep in the tray. As a result, my brownies took a long time to cook (~ 1 hour) and a few of the center pieces were uncooked. I took them out because I didn't want the outside to get dry or burnt.

Texture shot

The rest of the pieces were quite awesome. They were moist, chewy, dense and chocolatey on the inside with a cripsy and light meringue topping. The brownies smelt amazing in the oven and my housemate even complimented my baking based purely on the smell.

Crispy top

I didn't think the recipe was very difficult. These AREN'T 'healthy' brownies but unlike some foods with sinful ingredients lists, they didn't taste too heavy or oily. Having said that, you probably wouldn't eat more than 1-2 in a sitting (though Byron was happy to chomp them down by the handful).

At my lunch party, we ate them warmed up with vanilla ice-cream. ACE combination. Totally recommended. Will make again.

Best Coffee in Brisbane's CBD

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Brisbane City's Best Coffee


I feel cautious about writing this post. I enjoy eating out and taking amateur photos to share but I have no actual training/talent/skills in passing formal judgments on what I eat and drink. I like that my blog is a platform for expressing my thoughts but my thoughts tend not to surpass basic conclusions such as 'this tastes good' or 'I don't like that'. Occasionally, I'll push the limits of my food vocabulary by including such statements as 'complimentary flavors' or 'great texture'.

Basically, I am NOT a food critic nor do I want the responsibility of people actually taking my feedback seriously and using my recommendations just to end up feeling disappointed.

Having cleared all that up, how DARE I compile a list of 'BEST' of anything in Brisbane? Not only that but COFFEE?? People go nuts about coffee. There are barista championships and prize-winning blends.

I, on the other hand, am known to purchase coffee from Krispy Kreme in order to take advantage of their $1.50 small coffee between 7-9am deal. Hardly an authority on coffee.

So, readers, please please please take my opinions with a grain of salt. I am about The Most Average coffee-drinker you can imagine. Good coffee is probably wasted on me, yet here I am writing about it.

It so happens that in the past couple of weeks, I've been in 3 situations where I was faced with a claim of 'best coffee'. We all know that many restaurants brag about awards that don't really mean anything (close to self-fabrication) but these seemed to radiate authenticity.

I tried a coffee from each of the 3 coffee shops: Alen's Espresso, Coffee Hit and Sage Restaurant.

Rather than being a critical comparison of the 3 venues, think of this post as an introduction to coffee shops that you, perhaps, have not tried in the past.

Alen's Espresso

Alen's Espresso was my first venture. I walk past it every time I go to the gym from clinic and take note of the 'Winner, Best Cafe 2008' banner plastered across the front. This is a NATIONAL award and hence, not to be sneezed at.

Seating at Alen's

It's usually closed by the time clinic finishes but when I went around breakfast time, it was packed. By that, I mean PACKED.

Queue at Alen's

The queue was enormous but the service was friendly and super efficient. I ordered a latte and custard Danish. They took my name and I went upstairs to sit and wait. The order was then brought out to me.

Custard Danish

My custard Danish was average. It was served cold and the pastry didn't jump out at me.

Latte from Alen's Espresso

The coffee was intense and full-bodied. I could taste how it was different to other generic blends just from the richness of the flavor. It was, however, a bit bitter for me.

Coffee Hit

Next was Coffee Hit. This is a coffee shop I walk past on my way to clinic. I had tried coffee from there before and enjoyed it very much. On this day, I wasn't planning to get coffee but there was some event focusing on cyclists around Brisbane.

Seating at Coffee Hit

Coffee Hit was supporting the cause by providing cyclists with $1 coffee. The lady at the counter was kind enough to ask me if I was a cyclist despite my obviously anti-cycling appearance (pencil skirt and lack of helmet). I didn't bother lying.


What attracted me to Coffee Hit on this day was a claim that they had 'Australia's 3rd Best Barista' there that morning.

Coffee Hit baristas at work

Now, I can't be sure that this particular individual made MY coffee... but let's just assume.

Latte from Coffee Hit

I ordered a latte (my usual, in case you haven't figured it out) and it was a bit of a wait before it came. There were ALOT of cyclists waiting for coffee. When I got mine, I thought it was delicious. A slight drizzle was starting to come down in the CBD but boy, my coffee sure picked things up. It has a smooth flavor and not as bitter as the latte from Alen's.

Sage Cafe Restaurant

The last place I'm going to write about is Sage Cafe Restaurant.


It's included in the mix because of a sign stating 'Best Coffee in the City'. Apparently, the blend here is the standout because they stock DiBella Ali Reserve, something that won 'Australia's Best Coffee' (the sign didn't specify a year).


I ordered a latte and toasted muesli to eat there and went outside to a cute table. It was a bit like a booth but with zero privacy because I was facing the street.

Toasted muesli with milk and natural yogurt

My muesli was brought out almost instantaneously. The muesli itself is toasted with chunks of dried cranberry, large flakes of coconut and pumpkin seeds. With the addition of milk, it was absolutely delicious.

Addition of milk

I admit I generally like supermarket cereal over gourmet muesli but this stuff has me converted. I saw sheets of it on oven trays in the kitchen so maybe Sage toasts and mixes it on the premises. Whatever, I don't care. It's great.

Because I was so enthralled in my muesli, I was unenthusiastic about the coffee. It did look gorgeous though and wins points for presentation over the other 2 which were served in takeaway cups (photo of this latte is at the top of the post). The latte at Sage is also delicious and again, very full-bodied with a distinct bitterness.

Of the 3 I had, my preference is for Coffee Hit because it wasn't as intense as the others. Sage had the best ambiance for obvious reasons (well, Alen's is cramped and Coffee Hit only has a few outdoor tables to park your bottom). They are all standout coffees though and my understanding is that it is a combination of good blend, good machine and good barista. My criteria for coffee-judgment goes something like 'awful/watery' --> 'normal' --> 'great' and these fit comfortably in category 3.

I did notice that one thing the above cafes had in common... they were significantly busier than other CBD cafes that I've been to. I guess with coffee, reputation is crucial and if you're good, word-of-mouth will keep you going.