Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Year of Baking in Oceania

What a year! I have had a great time trying out recipes from various countries and people groups in Oceania. This was all to accompany a year of reading books set in the same region, which you can read about over on Reading Envy (or listen to the podcast to accompany it!)

In case you missed them, here are the posts from this year of Oceania (plus a few bonus desserts from previous years.)

Anzac Biscuits (Australia and New Zealand)
Banana Fritters (The Marquesas)
Masi Popo - Coconut Shortbread (Samoa)
Pavlova (New Zealand)
Banana Pancakes (Papua New Guinea)
Rock Cakes (Australia and New Zealand)
Panipopo - Coconut Buns (Samoa)
Lamington (Australia and New Zealand)
Po'e - fruit pudding (Tahiti)
Cocoa Pavlova with Cardamom and Pomegranate Jelly (Americanized but New Zealand)
Mini cocoa pavlovas (New Zealand)
Sydney Special aka Doormat (Australia and New Zealand)
Pandan Chiffon Cake (Indonesia)
Spekkoek (Indonesia)
Maori Bread (New Zealand)

Of all of these recipes, my favorite was either the cocoa-pomegranate pavlova or the spekkoek. My co-workers gobbled up the lamingtons and anzac biscuits, while my husband liked the po'e best.

Not pictured: a complete disaster trying to use tapioca in place of sago in a recipe from Papua New Guinea.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Fried Banana Cakes from The Marquesas

This recipe comes from Sam Choy's Polynesian Kitchen and is a use of bananas that seems prevalent throughout the South Pacific. This particular recipe comes from The Marquesas.

Fried Banana Cakes

4 very ripe bananas, peeled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 to 2/3 cup flour (depending on the size and moistness of the bananas)
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp grated lime zest
oil for frying
Cinnamon sugar (1 tbsp sugar and a few pinches of cinnamon) for garnish

In a food processor (or you know, with a fork) pulverize the bananas with the vanilla extract. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the lime zest and dry ingredients to the food processor. Mix until dough is of a light texture. Rest for a few minutes, then form the dough into 15 patties. Fry cakes in 1/2-inch-deep-oil, turning to brown evenly on both sides. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and serve hot.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Panipopo - Sweet Coconut Buns from Samoa

I previously posted about masi popo, coconut shortbread from Samoa. This recipe is the other one I've been planning to make all year! This is basically just a sweet yeast bun baked in a liquid of coconut milk, water, and sugar. Kind of like buns made into bread pudding. Traditionally it is served in the evening with kokosamoa (Samoan Cocoa) so I waited until I had some before making the panipopo!

Panipopo (Sweet Coconut Buns)
Recipe from

1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 1/2 -3 cups all-purpose flour

Let yeast bloom in water for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, adding the smaller amount of flour unless it needs more. Knead 10-20 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and leave to double in volume. (Optional: Punch down and leave to double in volume again.)

There are two ways to shape the buns.
  1. Roll into a long rectangle, and then roll up like cinnamon rolls, then slice into 12 even sized rounds
  2. Pinch off balls of dough and roll into 12 balls.
Place in 9x13 pan and let rise until almost doubled.

Preheat oven to 375 F and make coconut sauce: Mix coconut sauce ingredients together.

Pour coconut sauce over buns and bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes to ensure sauce is absorbed. Store leftovers in fridge.

Coconut Sauce

1/2 can coconut milk (full-fat)
1/2 can water
1/2 cup sugar

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wintermint Cake

My friend Kasia makes some version of a Wintermint cake all through the holiday season so I went looking for a recipe. This one was created by the guys who opened Baked in Brooklyn, although please use my recipe below as the one on the Sweet Paul Magazine website has a major error in the buttercream ingredients. I decorated mine with peppermint bark instead of crushed peppermint candies.

Wintermint Cake from BAKED in Brooklyn

Recipe from Renato Polifiato & Matt Lewis of Brooklyn's BAKED Bakery
As posted on Sweet Paul Magazine with buttercream error

Serves 12

Classic Chocolate Cake:
3⁄4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1⁄4 cups hot water
2⁄3 cup sour cream
2 2⁄3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1⁄2 cup unflavored shortening
1 1⁄2 cups sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla

Peppermint Buttercream:
1 1⁄2 cups sugar
1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
1 1⁄2 cups unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Mint Chocolate Ganache:
6 oz dark chocolate (60–72%), chopped coarsely
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon creme de menthe (optional)
1⁄2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  1. For the Classic Chocolate Cake, preheat oven to 325° degrees.
  2. Butter and flour 3 cake pans, line with parchment, and butter the parchment.
  3. Mix cocoa powder, hot water, and sour cream together and set aside to cool.
  4. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
  5. Beat butter and shortening together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add sugars beat until light and fluffy, about 5 more minutes.
  7. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Then, slowly add the dry mixture and cocoa mixture to the batter, alternating the 2 kinds and ending with dry.
  8. Divide batter between 3 pans and spread evenly. Bake for 35–40 minutes (rotate the pans halfway through) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Then cool for 20 minutes then invert onto a rack to cool completely.
  9. For the Peppermint Buttercream, In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk sugar and flour together. Then add milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil and has thickened. This will take about 10–15 minutes.
  10. Transfer mixture to bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high until cool, which will take about 7–9 minutes of mixing. Tip: Speed up the process by pressing bags of frozen berries or frozen corn against the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.
  11. Reduce speed to low and add butter. Mix until incorporated.
  12. Increase to medium-high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, about 1–2 minutes.
  13. Add vanilla and peppermint extract and continue mixing until combined. If frosting is too soft, put bowl in refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is proper consistency. If frosting is too firm, set bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.
  14. For the Mint Chocolate Ganache, place chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and set aside.
  15. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream just to a boil.
  16. Remove cream from heat and pour over bowl of chocolate.
  17. Let sit for 2 minutes, then slowly stir the chocolate and cream mixture until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Then, let ganache come to room temperature.
  18. To assemble the Wintermint Cake, place 1 cake layer on a serving platter.
  19. Trim cake layer to create a flat surface and use offset spatula to spread about 1⁄4 cup of ganache on top only.
  20. Let set for 1 minute in refrigerator.
  21. Spread approximately 11⁄4 cups of buttercream on top of ganache.
  22. Repeat with following 2 layers.
  23. Crumb coat cake and refrigerate briefly, for around 15 minutes.
  24. Frost sides and top of cake with remaining buttercream.
  25. Garnish cake with optional 1⁄4 cup of crushed peppermint candies and refrigerate for about 15 minutes to firm up the entire cake.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Treats from Down Under: Lamington

When considering the final baked good from Australia and New Zealand that I planned to make in 2015 (unless I get my act together and make mud cake for New Years Eve), it had to be the lamington. I had made pavlova multiple times, tried a few childhood snacks like rock cakes and Sydney Special, but something that came up everywhere was the lamington. In my mind it sounds like lamb because it looks like lamb - cake dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut.

The coconut and the cake vary - Cake Spy uses the more American sweetened shredded coconut, and Dan Lepard posted a delicious looking double chocolate version for The Guardian. I went with the recipe used by The Galley Gourmet, because it seemed rather traditional but was already using American measurements. Her recipes also always look so clean and straightforward, that they always have a lot of visual appeal for me.

People seemed to LOVE this lamington, but I have to tell you that they turned out huge. I cut the cake in the recommended 2 inch by 2 inch pieces, but by the time they were covered in the thick chocolate glaze and not-so-delicately rolled in coconut, they were giant individual sized cakes. One professor said one lamington provided a generous dessert split between she and her husband. Another thing I would say is that this has got to be the messiest dessert I have ever made, and I used to work up to my elbows in cake decorating supplies. Despite the glowing reviews and delicious end result, I'm not sure I would do it again!

makes 24 two-inch squares
Recipe from The Galley Gourmet, who adapted it from Martha Stewart Living

For the Cake
8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pans
2 2/3 cups cake flour, plus more for pans
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher slat
1 cup milk (2% or whole), at room temperature
2/3 cup raspberry jam

For the Chocolate Icing
1 cup milk (2% or whole)
2 (14-ounce) packages shredded sweetened coconut, chopped
2 ounces (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
8 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

For the Cake
Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Butter two 9x13-inch baking pans; line the bottoms with parchment and butter.  Dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time; beating until incorporated.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; add to the egg mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans.  Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  Cool slightly on wire racks.  Remove the cake from the pans and set on wire racks to cool completely.

Spread one of the cooled cakes with the jam.  Place the other cake on top. Lightly cover with plastic and freeze until firm.  (Cakes can be made and filled a day in advance).  Once frozen, use a sharp knife to cut the squares into 24 two-inch squares.  Keep the cakes chilled until ready to ice.

For the Chocolate Icing
In a medium bowl, warm the milk and butter in the microwave until the butter has melted. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Add the vanilla and espresso powder.  Using a wire whisk, gradually whisk in the confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder; whisk until completely smooth.

Place the coconut in a shallow dish; set aside.  Place a cake square on the tines of a large fork and dip the bottom of the cake into the chocolate icing.  Using a large spoon or ladle, coat the the cake with the icing until all sides are covered.  Allow the excess icing to drip off.  Transfer the cake square to the coconut dish and sprinkle the top and sides of the cake with the coconut, gently pressing to adhere.  Transfer the coated squares to a parchment lined baking sheet and allow to stand until the coating has set-- at least 20 minutes.  Continue with the remaining squares.  Cake can be kept in an airtight container for up to two days.  Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, April 2002

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Elusive Yeti: Samoan Coconut Shortbread

When I started researching recipes from Samoa, I found recipe after recipe, savory and sweet, with coconut. Coconut milk, shredded coconut, coconut meat, etc., etc.  It is no surprise that one of the recipes I came across on multiple blogs and recipe websites is this Samoan Coconut Shortbread. When you think Samoan, don't think of the Girl Scout Cookie, which is a shortbread (and coconut, no surprise) cookie that is dipped and drizzled in chocolate. They got the coconut part right but chocolate isn't as prominent. (However, you can buy King Koko Samoa, something I have yet to try, but it appears as if you brew roasted cocoa beans the way you drink coffee - ground and steeped in water. Can't wait to try it!)

I'm not a huge fan of shortbread. I'm still not convinced I do it right although people always assure me it is what they think of as shortbread. So I'm not sure I love this recipe. I do love that it's authentic and from Samoa ("Masi Popo") and I love the adorable cookie cutter my husband bought me of a sasquatch/yeti. That's what inspired me to finally make the recipe! I made a double batch of dough, which was a mistake since half of it is still in the fridge, but I made a bunch of yeti, glazed them, and sprinkled desiccated coconut on for a snowy look.

I like the double coconut, and you really taste it when you bite into the cookie. 

While this recipe is photographed many places and mentioned others, very few sites had the actual recipe. Since recipes can't be covered by copyright, I went a little deeper to find it. The Internet Archive let me down but a fun blog called The International Dinner Project still had it in their post. Check out their site; they will continue to be a resource to me as I cook and bake around the world.

Masi Popo (Coconut Shortbread from Samoa)


120gm butter (4½ oz)
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
200ml full coconut milk – not lite! (7 fl oz)
1 tsp vanilla essence or extract
4 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

  1. Heat the over up to about 180˚C (350˚F)
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together well.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well.
  4. Here comes the magic, add the coconut milk and vanilla, again mixing well.
  5. Now mix in the dry ingredients (flour and baking powder).
  6. The dough may still be a little sticky, so a little more flour may be needed.
  7. Cover your kneading surface with a generous amount of flour so the dough doesn’t stick to in and knead until it’s a nice and even consistency. (At this point I chilled the dough several hours so it would be easier to roll out.)
  8. I pinch of about a third of the dough and roll out onto lightly floured baking paper (so I don’t have to try to pick up each biscuit/cookie slice from the kneading surface individually)
  9. Roll out the dough until it’s about ¼” (6mm) thick, and cut into 3″ (75mm) squares. I find dipping the knife in flour every so often helps to keep it from sticking to the dough.
  10. Then just pick up your baking paper at the edges and place it onto your over tray and cook for about 25 minutes, or till just golden brown (a little browner than they appear in the photo above) The squares when cooled should be quite hard, not soft like biscuits, and have a nice “snap” when broken. (For what I used the cookies for, I baked them 10 minutes less, in order to have more of a soft cookie.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Treats from Down Under: Sydney Special (aka Doormat)

I declared November to be New Zealand November. If you are interested in what I'm reading, you can check out my initial post as well as my first week update.

One of the first books I read was the first volume of an autobiography by Lauris Dorothy Edmond - Hot October. Edmond is a well-loved New Zealand poet. You can read more about her life in my book review, but the book was also useful as an insight into food of the 1930s and 1940s. I previously made and posted about rock cakes, but had a chance to make Sydney Special. The following passage comes from her childhood.

"Greenmeadows was a village, and we took part in local activities and performances without question. Our mother was a faithful member of the Women's Institute, intermittently secretary or president of the Gardening Circle and always president of the Drama Circle. They wrote away to Samuel French and Co for hired sets of plays, English drawing-room comedies mostly, and either rehearsed or performed them in the Taradale Town Hall or did readings in one another's sitting rooms.  When it was our turn there was much preparation, the making of peanut brownies, rock cakes, Sydney Special (a concoction of rolled oats, coconut, sugar, butter, also known as Doormat) and orange cake."

I looked at quite a few recipes before selecting the recipe I used. Some didn't include coconut, some didn't include oats, some didn't have cocoa powder in the lower mixture. It almost has the texture of a Rice Krispie Treat, which you then cover in chocolate. It all sounded so sweet that I elected to use dark instead of milk chocolate. This rendered everything not very sweet, but my tasters (work colleagues!) preferred it this way. I think if I made it for kids, milk chocolate would be the ticket. This recipe also has cornflakes in it, an ingredient I came across multiple times in New Zealand sweets. It must be of the same era where every housewife was discovering the usefulness of processed food!

Another reason this makes a great treat for kids is that it is easy to make, and I can see involving kids in crunching together the parts in the layer before baking, and sprinkling the chocolate chips on top, spreading them as they melt.

Sydney Special (aka "Doormat")
Recipe from Leeks and Limoni, where she also refers to it as "Chocolate Crunch Slices"
(I found equivalencies for these but didn't keep track of them. Sorry! A simple Google search can convert ingredients to American measurements. Or you may use a scale.)
175g butter
110g soft brown sugar
25g cornflakes
50g dessicated coconut
1 tablespoon cocoa
150g self raising flour (or AP flour + a few additions)
pinch salt
200g milk (or dark!) chocolate for the top

A baking tin, 17 x 26cm approx, greased and base lined with greaseproof paper (I used a 9x9 pan and parchment paper.)

Preheat oven to 160°C (I did 350 F.)
Melt the butter and sugar together over a low heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
Pour and press evenly into the prepared tin (pan).
Bake for 20-25 mins. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin (pan).
Melt the chocolate and pour over the top. (I let the heat of the baked part do this for me!)
When cold, cut into squares or rectangles as you prefer. (The chocolate, once firm, dictated how big the pieces would be, and I just let it break apart as it seemed to desire.)

Monday, December 07, 2015

Fluffy Paleo Pancakes (gluten-free, low-carb)

I'm back again, happily posting about another adaptation of an outstanding recipe from PaleOMG. Her original recipe includes a lemon raspberry sauce, so please visit her blog to try it out. I just wanted to try the pancakes, so made a half recipe mid-week (with 2 eggs instead of attempting 1.5), and repeated the full recipe for the two of us today. I actually liked the first attempt better texture-wise, so I have added an egg here. I ended up thinning out the second half of the batter with a little more almond milk.  (Also: 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp is just about the same as 2/3 cup, so I've altered that in the recipe I've posted as well.)

The texture for these is really great, the batter has no problem sticking together (see: almond flour pancakes!) and actually bubbles the way normal pancakes do. I will absolutely make these again.

Fluffy Paleo Pancakes

  • 4 eggs, whisked
  • 2/3 cup almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey or sugar substitute
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • ½ cup tapioca flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  1. Whisk together pancake ingredients: eggs, almond milk, honey and vanilla extract in a large bowl.
  2. Then, while continuously whisking, add coconut flour, tapioca flour, baking powder and baking soda and a pinch of salt to the large bowl. Whisk until batter is well combined.
  3. Grease a large pan and place over medium heat. Once pan is hot, use a large ladle to pour a pancakes size pancake on the pan.
  4. Once pancake has cooked and bubbles begin to surface on the top of the pancake, flip it. The pancake should need to cook for 2-3 minutes each side.
  5. Repeat with the rest of the pancake mixture.
Yields 4-5 four inch pancakes (I got 6 3.5-4 inch pancakes, just perfect for two people)