The food and drink were wonderful, never had a bad meal. Coffee and tea were available everywhere.
The Australians love their coffee, drinking it all day and late into the night. Coffee shops are on every corner and most of them are not marketed chain stores. Lattes are called flat whites, pictured above. At home in the U.S. I have pretty much given up coffee and milk, so drinking these were a leap of faith. The cows in Australia must be happier because the milk was creamier and frothier and didn’t make me ill. The baristas made each cup of flat white with love swirling me their signature on each one whether it was a ceramic or paper cup. I saw very few Starbucks but McDonald’s restaurants were quite prominent and they all had McCafe’s inside. McCafe’s served coffee and tea and were lovely respites serving, wait for it…..macarons!
I didn’t abandon my love for hot tea. It was everywhere also. All of the hotels we stayed at had kettles to boil water for tea.
The best part about drinking coffee or tea at a shop was enjoying a sweet or pastry.
Tim Tams are Australian favorites so I stocked up at duty free on my way home. They are chocolate covered cookies with caramel filling. They now come in a variety of flavors.
Family friends from Australia had told us about the Tim Tam Slam for years. The first coffee shop we saw in the Brisbane airport validated that it really exists. The steps are: 1) bite off the diagonal corners of the Tim Tam. 2) use it as a straw to slurp up a warm cup of tea or coffee, 3) pop it in your mouth and enjoy the melted Tim Tam.
We’ve been home for a few weeks now. I have returned to my daily spot of tea, sans sweets and pastries. The relaxed feeling of sipping coffee or tea lingers in memory. A moment of civility. Cheers.
I spent the past week in the snowy mountains. Upon returning home the trees have burst out with flowers, shoots of grass have sprouted, and the sun has warmed the earth. I’m feeling green. The color of spring.
Two months ago for the tea party I made goodie bags with Matcha green tea. I started drinking it during menopausal years for an energy boost. According to Wikipedia Matcha green tea is a finely milled or fine powder green tea. Japanese tea ceremonies focus on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha. Matcha is used to flavor and dye foods such as sobi noodles, ice cream, pastries and even a Japanese candy called wagashi.
Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves. The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before harvest & can last up to 20 days, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight.This slows down growth, stimulates an increase in chlorophyll levels, turns the leaves a darker shade of green, and causes the production of amino acids in particular L-Theanine. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked. After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled out before drying, the result will be auokuro tea. If the leaves are laid out flat to dry, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tencha. Tenchacan then be de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.
It can take up to one hour to grind 30 grams of matcha. Now I know why it is so expensive. I purchased 1.5 ounces for $14.
My fellow blogger, jothetartqueen has made many recipes with Matcha green tea. She is a trained chef and I appreciate her talents and daring skills.
For my challenge I made macarons and candy laced with matcha.I’ve made macarons before check out this earlier posting.
Match tea macarons from Mélanger :: to mix
100 g egg whites
35 g egg white powder
125 g almond meal
125 g powdered sugar
2 tsp Matcha green tea powder
Syrup: 150 g sugar and 50 ml water
Process the almond meal and icing sugar together. In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks. Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer. Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes). At the final changes of whipping the meringue, and add the matcha tea powder. Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.
Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality. Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes. Fill with ganache or filling of your choice. Refrigerate to set.
120g dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir. Let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.
Makes about 10-12 mini cups
For the outer shell:
140 grams good quality white chocolate (at least 30% cocoa solids)
About 1/2 teaspoon Matcha – or enough to get a nice pastel green color
For the filling:
1 cup pistachios, shells removed
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon flavorless oil, but you may need less or slightly more (I used canola)
pinch or two of Matcha
25g icing sugar
For the filling, place pistachios and salt in a food processor and blend until it starts coming together in a ball. This could take up to 15 minutes and you’ll have to scrape down the sides of the bowl often. If you’ve ever made your own nut butter, it’s basically the same process. With the motor running, add some oil slowly until the nut butter begins to thin out. Do not use too much though as you don’t want it to be runny. About the consistency of commercially prepared peanut butter is good. Add a pinch (or two if you like) of Matcha to the nut butter and blend again until well combined. Set aside.
Place 12 mini cupcake wrappers into a mini cupcake baking tray. Note, I only got 11 1/2 cups using this recipe!
For the outer shell, melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring constantly. Do not let the bowl touch the water, and do not get water into the chocolate. When chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat, immediately sift over matcha and stir until well combined and matcha is dissolved. Do this in small amounts so you can ensure you get the green color you want. If you put in too much matcha, you might get an unappealing dark green color that no one wants to eat!
When you reach your desired color, place about 1 even teaspoon of melted chocolate into each mini cupcake liner. Using the back of a small spoon, bring the chocolate up the sides of the paper liners and smooth down the bottom to make it flat. Repeat for each liner. Place the tray in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes to set.
Measure 96 grams of pistachio butter and transfer this amount to a clean bowl. Sift over the icing sugar and stir (or use your hands) to thoroughly combine. Form 12 balls from the pistachio butter/icing sugar mixture using about 1 teaspoon, just slightly rounded, each. Place on a clean surface. Take out the baking tray from the refrigerator, ensure the chocolate is hardened, then slightly flatten the pistachio balls with the palm of your hand and place 1 ball into each chocolate cup.
Pour 1 teaspoon of chocolate (you may need to re-melt it) on top of each pistachio ball, ensuring the filling is completely covered. To get a smooth top, do not use a spoon or knife to flatten or spread it; just pick up the tray and tilt it around (you may need to tap it gently on the countertop) to get the chocolate to cover the filling and you should end up with a completely smooth top. Repeat for each cup. Refrigerate until set, around an hour.
To serve, let the cups come to room temperature and for a more intense matcha flavor, dust some matcha over the top of the cups.
1. Loose green tea that is steeped, cannot be blended into Matcha tea. I tried doing that before reading the Wikipedia article. How silly! A coffee and tea shop owner thought it was a good day also. I was also surprised she had never heard of matcha green tea. Only a few shops carry Matcha green tea. I have found better prices on the internet but haven’t delved into purchasing it as yet. I have purchased “shots” of Match green tea that was added to a smoothie which was yummy.
2. Macarons are fun to make, now that I have mastered them. I whipped out the batches in about 2-3 hours. I sprinkled the Matcha tea atop each cookie for a nice accent.
3. The candies were actually pretty easy to make. Unsalted pistachios can take a while to find, look somewhere where they have bulk items. These candies are so rich, they don’t need any additional salt so try to get the unsalted type. I had to make adjustments to the amount of powdered (icing) sugar so make sure to taste it as you mix it.
4. These treats are quite rich, so eating one or even half of one was plenty for me to sample. They made nice treat bags.
What a fun way to use tea! Another culinary adventure!
Everyone claims to be Irish on St Patrick’s Day but I actually am an Irish descendent. My mother let everyone she knew of her heritage and she was quite proud. Char gave me this great cookbook awhile back and it was time to crack it open. We tried many of the dishes inside and a few others to make up our early St. Patrick’s Day party.
The menu was Guinness Beef Stew, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Potatoes and Carrots, Brown Soda Bread, Irish Soda Bread, Molasses Bread, Traditional Colcannon, Colcannon with Kale, Buttered Kale with chives & lemon, Buttered Vegetables, Apple Cake, Chocolate Stout Cake, Homemade Irish Cream, Irish Coffee, Smithwick beer, Jameson’s whiskey, Kerry butter and Irish cheese.
Since time was of the essence most items were made in advance before the cooking club members gathered. The group project was a soda bread throw down. Before we started working we had to loosen up and make Irish Cream. Remember when I made it last Christmas? Same recipe. It was a treat to see everyone marvel at how much whiskey and cream went into it!
Now that we were relaxed, we dove into the soda bread. Traditional soda bread has four ingredients. That’s it. The other had nine.
Irish Soda Bread from The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook Parragon Books 2012
- 1 lb (450 g) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 400 ml (14 oz) buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place parchment paper atop or prepare an oiled baking sheet.
Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in most of the buttermilk . Mix well with hands. The dough should be soft but not too wet. Reserve then add, if necessary the remaining buttermilk.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly. Shape into an 8 inch (20 cm) round. Place the loaf atop the making tray. With a serrated knife cut a cross into the top. Bake for 25-30 mintes under golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.
Brown on the left, Traditional on the right.
Brown Soda Bread from Cook’s Country February/March 2013
- 2 C flour
- 1 1/2 C whole-wheat flour
- 1/2 C toasted wheat germ
- 3 TBSP sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 3/4 C buttermilk
- 3 TBSP melted butter
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in large bowl. Combine buttermilk and 2 tablespoons melted butter in 2-cup liquid measuring cup.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until dough just comes together. Turn out dough onto lightly floured counter and knead until cohesive mass forms, about 8 turns. Pat dough into 7-inch round and transfer to prepared sheet. Using sharp serrated knife, make ¼-inch-deep cross about 5 inches long on top of loaf. Bake until skewer inserted in center comes out clean and loaf registers 195 degrees, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.
Remove bread from oven. Brush with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter. Transfer loaf to wire rack and let cool for at least 1 hour.
Traditional on the left, Brown on the right
1. General consensus of the party guests were that both breads were good, just different. The brown bread was very hearty. The traditional was lighter. Both were great slathered in butter! I favored the traditional myself.
2. The day before, a couple of members were at another potluck and tasted other soda bread versions. Some with currents or raisins and some with caraway. Soda bread is how your family made it special and traditional for you.
3. I used bread flour. I think it helps the texture of any bread you make at home.
4. I had never made soda bread before this challenge. Hard to believe? It could have been because my mother’s father was Irish and the traditional foods didn’t get passed down through him. She loved Bailey’s Irish Cream though 🙂
5. This was an European cookbook, so many of the ingredients are in metric. It is always good to have a scale for dry ingredients. I’m a nurse so the liquids are easy for me to convert.
How joyful that spring is nearly here. On St Patrick’s Day we Think Green. But as my mother used to say Think Irish!
The Fearless Cooking Club and friends gathered to celebrate all things tea. We had food steeped from tea in eggs, candy, fruits, vegetables, and salmon. We also drank tea as well. Culinary Tea written by Cynthia Gold, the tea sommelier at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers, was the basis of most of the recipes. Char visited Boston last fall and enjoyed an afternoon tea a the hotel. She delighted us with her cooking skills and beautiful setting to enjoy a culinary tea.
Char and Debbie greeted us at the door with a flute of champagne infused with raspberry truffle tea syrup. Wow!
Each guest was presented with a card to keep track of types of teas tasted.
We started with a flowering tea pod or bud.
After pouring hot water atop, the bud opens into a beautiful flower
Our first course was marbled eggs. They were hard boiled eggs, the shells cracked but left intact then steeped in green tea with brown sugar. After two days of steeping in the refrigerator, the shells were removed and voila marbled eggs.
The marbled egg was served with rose petal and wine salts and mixed green salad.
Each guest brought a tea pot. We all went around the room telling the story of our teapot and the type of tea we were sampling. This was an opportunity to share our teas with others.
The main course was salmon en papillote steeped with darjeeling tea and acorn squash with chai cherry walnut tea.
To cleanse our palate before dessert we had a Blackberry tea sorbet. I was surprised it wasn’t made with a blackberry tea. Instead fresh blackberries, sugar and Darjeeling or Assam tea.
And for dessert (I was so full by this point), Riesling Poached Pears with Cardamon cream and
White Chocolate chai and Earl Grey Chocolate truffles
1) Everything was sumptuous and beautiful. Char hit a high mark with her beautiful presentation and culinary tea skills. Her dining room was a beautiful tea room.
2) Char said that if she could change one thing she would’ve put more cracks in the egg shells before steeping them in the tea for 48 hours to add more marbling. I thought they were wonderful. The salts made of rose petals and wine were Mary Beth’s contribution from her trip to Europe this past fall. Thanks Mary Beth, they were a spectacular addition.
2) Everyone had a touching story to tell about their tea pots, given to them by loved ones or special memories of purchasing it. I didn’t have a remarkable story to tell about my tea pot, I had just purchased a new one the day before as I had broken mine. Pictured below is a combination tea pot and cup that belonged to my mother. She purchased it in Ireland (I believe), made in Galway. My father is caring for it at present. I carefully dusted the glass shelving it sits on along with twelve Irish coffee cups. I hope to collect it someday.
Thank you Char for a wonderful afternoon of all things tea!
The Fearless Cookers have three members who are of Polish descent with family names of Bilikiewicz, Figinski, Wisniewski. It was just a matter of time before we had a Polish celebration.
Last fall when we went to a Polish restaurant to celebrate Joy’s birthday at Cracovia. We decided right there we would have our Polish dinner party. Now that the holidays are over, we could focus on cooking and learning some new recipes. We picked a weekend with no football and gathered the group and spouses.
All good cooking adventures begin with a shopping trip. We started at the Chicago Market in our neighborhood. The website link is all in Polish.
Authentic Polish food, shipped in from Chicago distributers, the hometown of the owner, Krystyna. What a wonderful, gracious person who helped us with our shopping list. There were also Polish-Colorado food items like locally produced honey.
Golumbki (pronounced gwumb – key)
Polish sausage and sauerkraut
Cold beet borscht
Next up were Chrusckis. These lovely delicate fried pastries that took a village to make.
1. I had never heard of Cabbage rolls until I was an adult and thought they sounded odd. But, if you grew up in Chicago, Baltimore or Philadelphia you would find pockets of Polish heritage. Cabbage rolls to me, were akin to church ladies gathering together to make, sell or serve for a potluck. If you searched the internet you would also find that different types of cabbage rolls native to some South Pacific and Asian cultures as well.
2. I had never understood how to separate the cabbage leaves from the head until I saw this website on how to softened cabbage leaves. Boy, did that help!
3. Wrapping cabbage leaves around the stuffing of meat can be done two ways: like wrapping a burrito or “pinning” the leaves together with a toothpick while steaming. It depends on how large the cabbage leaf is that you are working with. You can steamed them on a stove top, bake in the oven, or heat in a crockpot. Pretty versatile. You can make them plain or place a tomato sauce atop.
4. Chrusckis are also a group project. Joy said that they should never be made solo. As you can see in the above pictures, there are many steps involved. Mixing the ingredients, kneading the dough, rolling it to a proper thickness, frying at the right temperature, draining and sprinkling with icing sugar. We actually used a pasta roller to get it a good thickness.
5. There are numerous recipes for chrusckis some have baking powder, some without. Joy referenced a recipe from a friend from her teenage years .
Bow Ties from Alvena Brudzinski
1 heaping TBSP butter
4 whole eggs
1 oz whiskey
1 tsp vanilla
4 C flour
3 TBSP baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 small can Pet (evaporated) milk (about 6 oz)
Mix butter, eggs, vanilla, and whiskey.
Mix flour, salt, and baking powder.
Add dry mix to egg mix gradually at the same time add the evaporated milk gradually.
Knead the dough
Roll thin, cut into strips, cut a slit and pull one end of the dough through the slit.
Fry in vegetable oil or Crisco (325 degrees)
Drain on paper towels or paper bags
Dust heavily with powdered sugar.
Joy kept us organized with all the menu items to combine. A Polish village of Fearless Cooks
Oh we all donned a babushka before sitting down to eat.
Belvedere vodka is Polish vodka We kept cold in the front yard snow bank.
I think that is a lovely picture worth advertisement in a magazine eh?