In the latest Australian Women’s Weekly issue (New Zealand edition (November 2015)), Nigella speaks about the therapy of baking. I don’t often buy the AWW as I have to limit my magazine purchases in order to keep to my assigned budget but occasionally something on the cover calls out to me. Most often it is a kiwi food writer or chef and I always buy the December issue because I LOVE the recipes. In my experience, AWW recipes are very good and so they should be, triple tested and all. I triple test my own recipes because I want them to be as “good” and fail-safe (and because the piglets in my house eat all the baking as I’ve forgotten I need to take photo’s. I still haven’t posted my Apple Caramel Slice recipe because as soon as I make it, it is demolished).
But back to the therapy of baking, I agree with Nigella – when I am feeling antsy, I either get out in the garden and start pulling weeds or I get into the kitchen and bake. Either way, it settles me down and I feel grounded for a little longer. I have to admit, though, I couldn’t say it as eloquently as Nigella: “the practical manifestation of a sense of engagement in life”. Some of my joy of baking has diminished since The Anster has began his after-40 life habits. As both his maternal and paternal grandfathers had premature deaths due to heart health issues, The Anster has adopted a very good regime to keep his heart healthy. Unfortunately for my baking, that means he snacks on bananas and boiled eggs while the Lemon & Currant cake languishes in the container until I fell sorry for it and have a piece for breakfast. I tried the whole healthy baking thing – and made loaves of sprouted quinoa and raw truffles but the problem is the quantity. Sprouted Quinoa loaf is very appealing to me and The Anster but PML won’t even try it. Actually, Mr L tries it but only sometimes likes it. I have a fridge full of little containers of bliss balls and raw truffles as only The Anster & I eat them. I tried non-baking until PML ate what was available but they just whinge and sneak bought biscuits into the shopping trolley when they think I’m not looking.
So I am back to baking for PML but with baby steps to healthy sprouted quinoa stuff. I wish that I’d bought them up on all this type of food but when I was a new mum (18 years and counting), I wasn’t so much aware of a lot of different food although I do remember making vege mash and freezing it in pottles though this was more of a budget consideration than a food additive one.
And so all that waffle brings me to the Rhubarb & Caramel Slice. Caramel slice is probably the most favourite of all baking for Miss M while everyone else likes it but finds it quite rich. Caramel slice is very popular here in New Zealand – most cafe’s sell it in some form or another. It usually has a biscuit-y base, a thick rich caramel filling and a chocolate topping. I have tried to make the slice a little more healthy by using wholemeal flour in the base and swapping out some of the flour for ground almonds. I have also increased the base mixture so to even out the ratio between base and caramel. Then I added some fruit puree to the caramel to lighten the richness. And I let it loose on the family. Miss M took some to school and shared with her friends, one of whom declared it the best caramel slice ever. I allowed them to eat it all as I knew I needed to make it again to make sure it wasn’t a one hit wonder. The second batch (in the fridge now) hasn’t set up quite as well – I forgot to chill the slice down before trying to cut it and the chocolate has shattered rather than sliced nicely. So a third batch is on the way as soon as the rain stops enough for me to go and collect some more rhubarb. In the meantime, here is the recipe for the Rhubarb Purée.
Rhubarb & Rosewater Puree
500 g diced rhubarb (about 4 cups, or 8-10 fat rhubarb stalks)
75-110 g (1/3 – ½ cup) white sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (approx. ¼ cup)
5 ml (1 tsp) rosewater
Place the rhubarb, sugar and lemon in a medium-sized saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft. Taste and add more sugar if the rhubarb is still too tart (the amount of sugar depends on the tartness of both the rhubarb & the lemons used). Stir in the rosewater and allow to cool. For a silky smooth purée, pass the rhubarb through a food mill. Makes about 1 ¾ cups purée.
- red rhubarb stalks will give a very pink purée as in the photograph. I also made purée with my greener stalks which doesn’t look nearly as pretty. You can add a little beetroot juice or pink food colouring if pretty is what you need/want.
- I passed the first purée through the food mill but not the second. It’s personal preference but I felt the extra work wasn’t required for a home kitchen.
- I needed the full sugar quantity when using Lisbon lemons (they sure are sour).
- The rosewater gives just a hint of flavour – add more if you like more.
- If you don’t like rosewater, then omit it or use orange water, orange extract or orange juice (you will need more orange juice – just add it 1 tbsp at a time until the flavour is as you want it) instead.