Crazy for Crackers

There are some things in my pantry and refrigerator that I would never have dreamed that I’d prefer to make than purchase.  Yoghurt, stock powder and pastes, muesli bars and cereals.  There are lots of things.  I think the item that I’m most surprised by however, is savoury biscuits.

My husband works hard and has a physical job, so he likes to come home and have a beer and something to nibble on before dinner.  Our cupboard was stocked with chips and crackers to have with cheese or with a dip; full of numbers that I was always too scared to investigate.  We’d tried crudités, but he didn’t want to have to fiddle with that, and I didn’t want to have to chop them while prepping for dinner.

Within week one of owning my Thermomix and having purchased Tenina Holder’s For Food’s Sake, one of the first things I made was the Quinoa and Spelt Crackers.  Little did I know that I was about to start making something that would become a staple in our house.

Throw in the ingredients and a little over a minute later, you have a gorgeous pliable dough to work with.

Raw mix

I often change the recipe and use whatever herbs are flourishing in our garden, but our favourite is still rosemary or thyme.  Sometimes I’ll throw in some dukkah, or I’ll just add a healthy teaspoon of cumin and coriander seeds.  The recipe really is that flexible when it comes to flavourings.  Grated parmesan is another favourite flavour and I love not having to waste the hard edges of the parmesan cheese any more.

Once you’ve got your dough, it’s just a case of rolling it out between sheets of baking paper.  I roll mine as thin as possible as I find this gives the crispest crackers.


I’ve tried breaking them up afterwards, but that’s just a little too rustic for us, so I just use a pizza cutter to score the dough.  A quick sprinkle of sea salt flakes or maybe a home-made spice mix, and into the oven they go.


This recipe makes a lot of crackers.  I fill a 750g Tupperware container, however they are that delicious that the container empties fairly quickly.

Quinoa and Spelt Crackers

Here is a similar recipe from Tenina’s website if you want to give them a go, however I much prefer the recipe from For Food’s Sake.  If you don’t already have a copy, put it on your wish list.  It really is a cracker of a book.  😉

~ Justine

Posted in For Food's Sake | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Baked Cinnamon Donuts

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These are as delicious as they look! Trust me :o)

I have been eye-ing off the Baked Donut Trays at Big W for sometime…imagining lovely baked delights I could make for lunchboxes to please my kiddies when we return to school.  So while picking up the last of our school supplies I decided to make a quick detour and picked up a tray.

I have made donut flavoured muffins previously.  I kind of set about using what I liked in several recipes and this is what has resulted. I have made a couple of batches now and have found both dairy free milk and spelt flour are fine when substituting.

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My first batch I kind of spooned the mix around the donut well, but after doing a bit of research, I decided to fill a freezer bag with batter and ‘pipe’ direct into the donut wells. This proved both more time efficient, as well as resulting in a more rounded top on my donuts.

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Straight from the oven these donuts are incredible! With the yield of 24 donuts we were able to enjoy half warm and the other half I popped into the freezer.

2013-01-28 15.34.24 Makes 24 donuts (using a 12 donut tray)

Baked Cinnamon Donuts


  • 50g butter
  • 100g raw sugar
  • 70g brown sugar
  • 50g macadamia oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups plain flour (360g)
  • 1 cup milk

Cinnamon Sugar
Blitz 100g raw sugar and 2 teaspoon of cinnamon  5 sec/sp 9


  1. Preheat oven 170-180 degrees (replicate the heat your oven would best bake muffins)
  2. Grease donut wells in donut pan with melted butter.
  3. Soften butter  by mixing for 40sec / 50degrees / speed 4.
  4. Add raw sugar, brown sugar and oil to TM bowl.  Mix for 10 seconds / speed 3.  Scrape down.  Add eggs, one at a time, mix for 10 seconds/speed 3 each. Scrape down.
  5. Add baking powder, baking soda, ground nutmeg, salt, vanilla extract, flour and milk to the TM bowl.
  6. Mix 5 seconds / speed 4.  The batter should look smooth and lump free.
  7. Place a plastic bag in a jug folding edges of bag over edges of jug.  Pour batter into plastic bag. Tie off or twist and fix with a peg.  Snip a corner opening approx 1 cm and use to pipe mixture into donut wells evenly, half fill each well.  Do not over fill.
  8. Bake in an oven for approx 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden in colour.
  9. Turnout donuts immediately onto a cake rack. Add portions of cinnamon sugar as required to a clean freezer bag. While the donuts are warm, add 6 donuts at a time and shake sugar and donuts in sealed bag coating donuts in cinnamon sugar.
  10. Best enjoyed warm, but I have been assured that they are just as yummy cool (quoted by our professional team of TTD testers ‘aka my kiddies’)


Choc Chip: Add 3/4 cup of choc chips to mix at step 5.

Iced: Make vanilla/chocolate /caramel/ strawberry icing and sprinkle with hundreds and thousands (ice after muffins have cooled on cake rack)

Glazed:  channel your inner Crispy Crème Donut…

  • 1/2 cup (113g) butter
  • 3 cups (375g) powdered sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 6 -9 tablespoons (90-135ml) evaporated milk (can substitute regular milk or water for milder flavor)
  • Melt butter in TM bowl as above.  Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla, mix until smooth.  Add milk (or water) and stir until desired consistency is reached.

** I have not tried these variations, but thought they may be worth noting during my (ahem) research**    :o)

~ Karen

Posted in Baking, Sweet Treats, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

Dairy Free Caramel Slice

Dairy Free Caramel Slice

After the excitement of making a dairy free sweetened condensed milk, it dawned on me that while it tasted like a coconut’y sweetened condensed milk, and that it scooped like sweetened condensed milk, I needed to see whether it cooked like sweetened condensed milk.

Unfortunately, the day after making it, we had a record breaking day temperature wise and there was no way that I was going to turn the oven on.  The upside of this is that I discovered that sweetened condensed coconut milk will wait patiently in the fridge for quite a few days.

On the first day that got below 30c, I decided to test it on a caramel slice.  My batch of condensed milk made a 500g jar, plus a little extra – just perfect for a small bowl to *ahem* taste test over a few days.  Let’s just say that the family that ‘dips in’ together, stays together. 😉

We absolutely loved it, and I think my little friend who is dairy intolerant will like it also.  Here’s the recipe.

~ Justine

Dairy Free Caramel Slice

Slice Base

  • 80g nuttelex
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 60g fine desiccated coconut

Caramel Layer

  • 500g sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 80g golden syrup

Chocolate Topping

  • 150g dairy free chocolate

 Slice Base

Add nuttelex to bowl and cook for 3 minutes/60c/sp. 2 until melted.  Add brown sugar, flour and desiccated coconut.  Mix for 40 seconds/sp. 4, scraping down the sides halfway so all ingredients are combined well.  The texture will be like a fine breadcrumb.

Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper and press base mix firmly into the bottom, smoothing with the back of a large spoon.

Bake for 15 minutes in a 180c oven.

Caramel Layer

Add golden syrup and sweetened condensed coconut milk into the Thermomix bowl.  Mix for 3 minutes/80c/speed 2 or until ingredients are smooth and well combined.  Pour over the top of the slice base and cook in a 180c oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

When the slice is first cooked and hot, it looks like the caramel layer splits, however once cooled the caramel becomes firm.  Any coconut oil that rests on the surface can be removed by laying a paper towel over the top, however wait until the slice is almost cold and the caramel is firm.

Refrigerate until cold.

Chocolate Topping

Break chocolate into squares, then chop for 10 seconds/sp. 9.  Cook for 2 minutes/50c/sp. 4, or until melted.

Pour over the top of cold caramel slice and refrigerate until chocolate has set.

This is super rich, so consider cutting into 1 inch squares before storing in the refrigerator.

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Dairy Free Sweetened Condensed Milk


I have a simple enough family to feed in terms of allergies and intolerances – nothing is off limits.  However, this is not the case with our extended family and circle of friends.  Maybe because I’m not used to catering for intolerances, I find that I need to think extra carefully about what I can cook before I visit friends who do need to be careful about what they eat.

My daughter’s favourite cookbook (this month’s favourite anyway!) is a freebie that I was given if I bought three tins of sweetened condensed milk.  That was a fair deal I felt, as we’re sweetened condensed milk lovers in this house.  If you offered any of us caramel or chocolate, we’d run with the caramel.  Anyway, the recipe book is a cracker, and I love it when my daughter experiments in the kitchen.  Last year we were off to visit a friend with a dairy intolerance.  Of all the books my daughter could choose to cook from, this was probably the worst.  Back to the bookshelf went the book.

We’re due to visit this friend again next week, and remembering a recipe that I saw on the Recipe Community for regular sweetened condensed milk, I decided to give a coconut version a try.  I was a little doubtful, however I’m thrilled to say that it worked!

Once cooled, it has the same consistency as regular commercial sweetened condensed milk so I’m convinced it will be a suitable dairy-free replacement.  I expected the coconut flavour to be concentrated, but the flavour is relatively subtle.

Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk

  • 800ml coconut cream
  • 320g sugar

Place ingredients in bowl and cook for 40 minutes/varoma/speed 4/MC off but strainer over the top of the lid.  This is like molten lava, so be super careful while it’s still hot.

Cool before use.

This recipe makes approximately 500 to 600 grams

~ Justine


Posted in Back to Basics, Dessert | Tagged | 8 Comments

Hazelnut Shortbread Trees

Hazelnut Shortbread Trees


In the lead up to Christmas I envisioned making pretty homemade gifts (with the help of my Thermomix) and set out making lists of possibilities.  One of the ideas that formed was after finding a set of star cookie cutters and remembering a beautiful image I had seen in one of my Women’s Weekly magazines of a shortbread Christmas Tree, and thought it a perfect project to undertake.

While a little labour intensive first time around – I think next time I would make the shortbread cookies and brandy butter cream in one sitting, and then build the shortbread trees the next day…and perhaps avoid the disaster that occurred.  The cookies and butter cream both came out perfect (tick), built the tasty Christmas Trees (tick), placed them in the fridge to set hard (tick), removed from fridge ready to wrap and … dropped my top heavy third tree (massive fail) leaving me short one tree for teacher gifts (sigh).  Another handy tip…make an extra tree for accidental mishaps.

Anyhow I had back up homemade gifts so not a complete fail…and we enjoyed our Hazelnut Shortbread Trees as table decoration and dessert on Christmas night.

This recipe is perfect for a Thermomix, especially as the icing sugar, rice flour, grated orange rind, hazelnut meal can all be blitzed fresh.


Straight from the oven…

(converted from Women’s Weekly Christmas and Holiday Entertaining magazine)

Makes about 6 trees (my size)

  • 250g butter (softened )
  • 2 teaspoons of grated orange rind (app. 3-4 strips of orange rind blitzed for 3-4 sec then measure amount keep rest for brandy butter cream)
  • 80g icing sugar (I use pre-blitzed raw sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons of rice flour
  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 75g hazelnut meal (1/4 cup) (pre-blitz your own meal)
  • Silver cachous
  • 1 tablespoon of icing sugar (extra)

Brandy Butter Cream

  • 60g butter softened
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated orange rind
  • 120g icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons brandy
  1. Blitz the orange rind (see above) scrape rind into a separate bowl and measure out amount required to TM bowl.  No need to clean bowl. Add butter and icing sugar.
  2. Beat butter, rind and sugar in TM bowl 20-40 seconds on speed 5-6 until light and fluffy.
  3. Add flours and spice to TM bowl. Mix on speed 1-2 for approx. 10 seconds until combined. Then add hazelnut meal in two batches, repeating until mixed.
  4. Knead on Interval setting for 45-60 seconds. Turn out dough on floured silicon mat and form into a smooth ball. Roll dough between sheets of baking paper until 5mm thick.  Refrigerate for 30 mins.
  5. Preheat oven 180 degrees/160 degrees  (fan forced)
  6. Using 3 star shaped cookie cutters approx 3cm/5cm/7cm cut out cookie shapes. NB: this is best done with the dough really cold. As it warms it is more difficult to work with.
  7. Bake smaller stars for about 10 mins, larger stars about 15 mins.  Cool on wire racks.
  8. Make butter cream.
  9. Sandwich two of each size cookie together with butter cream. Assemble 3 levels of cookies in tree shape. NB. I placed a small amount of butter cream on the foiled covered trays I presented the trees on to keep them stable)
  10. Decorate trees by fixing cachous to stars with tiny dot of butter cream. Finish by dusting trees with sifted icing sugar.

Brandy Butter Cream

Beat butter, rind, sifted icing sugar and brandy in TM bowl for approx. 20 seconds on speed 5-6. Check  consistency.

Not suitable to freeze. Not suitable to microwave.

~ Karen


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Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Milk Crumb and Berries

Earlier this year I was asked to cater a 40th birthday “dinner party” …for 35 adults.  Yep, no barbecues or spit roasts involved.  *gulp*

I hate spending someone else’s money so I made cost and ease of serving the main criteria for what I decided to cook.   This vanilla panna cotta with a milk crumb and berry coulis is what we served, simply because they can be made the day before.  I also felt that if the panna cottas were going to be stubborn on the night, I could serve them in the glass and just top them with the berries and crumb. Luckily, the panna cottas complied, and with a bit of help from a few guests, we had wobbly, creamy puds sitting on plates.

I found some perfect glasses from IKEA at $5 for 6.  I use them for everything.  We drink out of them, we use them for mousse, jellies and other desserts.  We’ve even been known to have dinky little prawn cocktails in them.  We don’t mind a bit of dagginess here. 😉

If you don’t want to muck around with a berry coulis, you could macerate some berries.  I sprinkle a bit of vanilla flavoured caster sugar over a mix of frozen blueberries and chopped fresh strawberries.  You could also leave out the vanilla and stir through finely sliced basil.  Trust me, berries and basil are a match made in heaven.

The milk crumb is a nice way to add a bit of crunch to desserts that need a bit of oomph in the texture department.  I could eat it by the spoonful.  Make a batch and store it in the fridge for something to sprinkle over ice cream or other soft sweets.

Here is the newly converted recipe.  It makes 10 servings so it might be a nice idea for a Christmas dessert or a large party.  You might even consider having them two nights in a row as they will keep for a couple of days if covered in the refrigerator. 😉  I’m sure you could easily halve the recipe.  Just reduce the cooking time by a third.  There’s no hard science, you just need the cream to reach simmering point and for the gelatin to dissolve.

Let me know how you get on if you do decide to try them!

~ Justine


Vanilla Panna Cotta with Berry Coulis and Milk Crumbs

Makes 10 x 125ml sized panna cottas.

  • 20g powdered gelatin or 8 gold strength gelatin leaves.
  • 800g thickened cream
  • 300ml milk
  • 190g white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean (a dried one is better than a plump one) or 2 teaspoons of vanilla paste.

If you’re using leaf gelatin, soak the gelatin as per the packet’s instructions.  If you’re using powdered gelatin, stir it through 300g of milk and set aside.

Place sugar and vanilla bean into the bowl and blitz for 10 seconds on speed 9.  If you are using vanilla paste, add later when you add the gelatin.

Add cream and cook for 10 minutes/100c/speed 2.  You want the cream to be almost simmering.

Add vanilla bean paste (if using), milk, and gelatin.  Mix for 3 minutes/70c/speed 4.

Transfer mixture into a pouring jug and rest for 10 minutes.

Pour into 10 x 125ml dariole moulds or small glasses.

This is best made the day before so the panna cotta can set.

Refrigerate overnight.

Milk Crumb

Makes about 2 cups – keep refrigerated and sprinkle over anything soft and sweet!

  • 90g butter
  • 75g sugar
  • 70g plain flour
  • 70g milk powder
  • 20g cornflour
  • ½ – ¾ teaspoon of sea salt

Add butter to bowl and cook 3 minutes/60c/speed 1.

Add remaining ingredients and mix for 10 seconds on speed 4.  You may have to push the mix back into the blades.  You’re after a crumb texture.

Place crumbs onto a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 150c.  Stir the mix every 10 minutes so that the crumbs turn a light golden colour.  Cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Macerated Berries

  • 1 portion of blueberries (frozen are fine)
  • 1 portion of strawberries chopped
  • Caster sugar to taste

Sprinkle sugar over berries and let sit in the fridge for a few hours.  The sugar releases the berries’ juices.  You could also add vanilla or basil to this mix.

Posted in Dessert, Sweet Treats | 1 Comment

Macaron Mania

About 12 months ago on the wave of all the macaron hype, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.  Actually, to call it a wave is an understatement.  I’d liken it more to a macaron tsunami, with those petite biscuits flooding pinterest, blogs, magazines and a few of my favourite cooking programs.  I was flicking through a cookbook, Zumbo, and counted no less than 23 different flavours ranging from the ubiquitous salted caramel to a salt and vinegar flavoured macaron.  I’m fairly adventurous, but I’m still struggling to imagine that flavour mix incorporated into a sweet biscuit.

My youngest son who is my fussiest eater but also my most adventurous cook asked more than a few times if we could make the salted caramel macarons together.  I like to let my children take a hands on role in the kitchen and I wasn’t sure that my nine year old would manage Zumbo’s fairly technical instructions.  I found what seemed to be a reasonably straight forward recipe in one of my foodie magazines, so we ran with that.  While I wouldn’t necessarily call them a fail, I will say that the labour involved was not really worth our results.

Fast forward a year, and rather than die a quiet death like fondue and cupcakes (are they still popular?) macarons seem to have become even more popular.  Adriano Zumbo has released another cookbook focussed solely on his famous Zumbarons which sits alongside a half dozen more macaron cookbooks at my local bookshop.  When I saw a macaron ready-mix in my local supermarket, I didn’t look twice.  Call me a bake snob, but I haven’t cooked a cake from a box in years.  But then I started to notice a few blogs posting pictures of their ready-mixed macarons with spectacular results.  I was impressed.  Back from the supermarket with my purse $8 lighter, Mr (now) 10 and I had another attempt at macarons.  This time we decided that the results definitely outweighed our efforts and the $8 seemed pittance for 25 perfect little macarons. (We squeezed every single drop of mix out of the piping bags).

After a few baking sessions my conscience started nagging that I was cheating, even though I was honest with everyone who ate them and giving full credit to Mr Zumbo.  I decided that with a bit more experience behind us, we might be able to have another go at ‘from scratch’ macarons – and this time I had the Thermomix to help out!  A quick Google led me back to one of my favourite blogs.  I don’t know how I’d missed this recipe!  Mara who writes for Super Kitchen Machine has fantastic instructions and tips.  I was ready to go.

One of the things my children love is when I make icing sugar and the sugary mist swirls around when the lid comes off.  Mr 10 assures me he’s able to catch the mist in his mouth.  …I’ll admit that I have tried, but my sugar-mist catchers mustn’t work as well as Mr 10’s do.

We then had to mill blanched almonds.  This sound is one of the things my children do not like about the Thermomix, and Mr 10 made a point with his ear-plugs.  Yeah buddy, ha ha.  Point taken.

Next step, the filling.  A perfect opportunity to make the Everyday Cookbook’s Hazelnut Chocolate Spread.  I cannot believe that I have not made it before now.  It’s not as sweet as Nutella, but that’s a good thing.  My kids had a rare treat of it slathered over white bread.

A few pointers.  Mara says that it is a crucial step to lift the trays of piped macarons and then drop them onto a hard surface four times.  She’s not kidding.  I was a bit too gentle and only lightly tapped the trays instead.  Mara cautions that any air bubbles will cause cracks.  She’s right.  Trust the experts!  Next time I won’t be so timid with my tapping.  I also increased my oven temperature to 160c with no fan.

One other tip Mara offers is that the macarons are better after 24 hours.  I’m afraid that one is going to be tricky. 😉

My final tip.  Don’t drop the macarons after taking the money shot…    :-/

~ Justine

Posted in Baking, Dessert, Sweet Treats | 2 Comments