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Strawberry Eclairs

Strawberry Eclairs

Two things I really love about the month of June are all of the roses which are blooming profusely in our garden at the moment and all the fresh strawberries we grow and enjoy. The roses in these photos are some of our wild roses, which are just so beautiful.  

When you look at the beauty and perfection of these two things, its pretty hard not to be grateful that we are blessed to live with such abundance.  Some of our berries are very tiny, almost as small as the wild strawberries that I remember from my childhood.  The smaller the berry the sweeter and more concentrated the flavour.  I decided to use some of these smaller berries today and make some delicious Strawberry Eclairs for us to enjoy!  I had also been sent some lovely new cake sprinkles and so rather than simply dusting them with icing sugar, I glazed them with a light pink icing and sprinkled them with some of the Dr. Oetker Unicorn Confetti . . .  just the name of these sprinkles automatically puts a smile on my face.

Dr. Oetker has just launched an exciting new range of sprinkles that will make even beginner bakers look good! Sprinkles have always been a firm favourite for cake decoration, so Dr. Oetker are launching three new pots that will cover your entire cake with sprinkles. From dazzling strands and metallic stars to brightly coloured spheres and orbs, the Ultimate Sprinkles Range turns ordinary bakes into showstopping instagramable cakes.

The Glamour & Sparkle Jar – scatter metallic stars and dazzling strands to get your cakes looking red-carpet ready. 

The Unicorn Confetti Jar– be a part of the unicorn craze and shower your cake with bright coloured strands and spheres. 

The Midnight Magic Jar – sprinkle a few shiny stars, orbs and strands for an out of this world cake.

  I really love all of these new sprinkles, not only are the colours rich and beautiful, but I also really like the new sleeker look of the container and that lovely larger hole in the flip-top cap for ease of sprinkling!! 

I used some of the gel colouring to tint the glaze a light pink also, almost the shade of the pretty petals on those roses . . .

They turned out lovely and oh-so-pretty  . . .  I think this was the perfect use for these smaller strawberries that might get lost amongst the larger ones.   If you don't have smaller strawberries to use, by all means use larger ones, even if you have to cut them into smaller pieces, or you can use raspberries, which are also delicious.

I was really pleased with the way my choux pastry for the eclairs turned out.  I am not the best piper in the world, so don't judge, lol.  The art of finesse has never been one of my strengths . . . 

I can draw just about anything, but don't ask me to draw a straight line . . .  likewise piping.  I can't pipe a straight line for love or money.  Never mind . . .  I was still really pleased with the results. 

My pastry was perfect . . .  crisp and golden brown  . . .  without any doughy centres.  They were as light as air.  Check out my tips to see how yours can be too! 

*Strawberry Eclairs*
Makes 12 
The strawberries in these lovely June treats can be replaced with whatever fruit or berries you wish at any other time of year.  Light as air, crisp and delicious! 

55g butter, cubed (1/4 cup)
150ml cold water (5.2 fluid ounces or 10 TBS)
70g strong flour, sieved (1/2 cup bread flour)
2 large free range eggs, lightly beaten

To fill:
240ml double cream (1 cup)
2 TBS icing sugar plus extra for dusting
110g berries (3/4 cup) 
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*f/ gas mark 6.  Lightly oil a large baking sheet and line with greaseproof paper.  Spritz the paper with a little water.

Put the butter into a saucepan with the cold water. Heat until the butter melts and the mixture starts to boil. Remove from the heat.

Beat in the flour with a wooden spoon, beating until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a smooth ball of pastry.

Done properly you should be able to stand your spoon up in the ball of dough.

Stir in the beaten egg, a bit at a time until you have a glossy, pipeable paste. (You may not need all of the egg)  Spoon the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe onto the prepared baking tray in 4 inch long lines, leaving space in between.

Bake for 10 minutes and then increase the oven temperature to 22*C/425*F/ gas mark 7 and bake for a further 10 minutes.

(Don't laugh too hard at my lousy piping skills, lol.)

 Transfer to a wire rack to cool, cutting a  slice down the side of each one with a serrated knife so that the steam can escape. Allow to cool completely before proceeding. 

Whip the cream with he icing sugar until thick.  Spoon onto the bottom of the eclairs and top with some fresh berries.  Dust the tops with some icing sugar prior to serving.

Note - I chose to glaze the tops of mine with a thin icing drizzle and sprinkle with cake sprinkles, tinting the glaze with a bit of pink gel colouring.  Simply measure a quantity of icing sugar into a bowl, add a drop of colouring and whisk in enough water to give you a thinnish consistency drizzle icing. Dribble over the eclairs and sprinkle on the cake sprinkles.  Let set prior to serving. 

  • Gently heat water and butter until butter has melted and then bring to the boil.
  • Once boiling quickly shoot in the flour.
  • Using a wooden spoon, beat vigorously together until the mixture is well combined and leaves the sides of the pan.
  • Cool to hand temperature and GRADUALLY beat in only enough egg to give you a  smooth dough, with a somewhat reluctant dropping texture. (Not stiff but not too loose.)
  • Once piped, wet your finger and press down any peaks.

I really love all of the Dr Oetker baking products and I use them all the time. They have a quality you can rely on and I consider them to be just about the best available on the market today.  When I am baking I like products I can depend on to work and perform exactly as I expect them to.  Many thanks to Dr Oetker for sending me these new sprinkles to try out.  They also sent me a few other goodies to use, which was a lovely surprise!  Do note, that although I was sent these products free of charge, any opinions are entirely my own and I was not required to write a positive review in exchange.  I happen to really like them.  Truth.  Happy Sunday and Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Blueberry, Lime & Coconut Friands

Blueberry, Lime & Coconut Friands

I fell in love with Friands a few years ago when I discovered a fabulous recipe on What Katie Ate. It is the single recipe which inspired me to want to buy her cookbook, and I have to say, I fell in love at first bite!!  This recipe today I am showing is inspired by one I found in the Hamlyn book 200 cakes and bakes for a raspberry and coconut version.

It only makes 9 versus 18 and is every bit as delicious as Katie's.   I chose it because not only does it make fewer which is much more realistic in my tiny kitchen/home/family, but it also uses fewer egg whites, which means I have fewer egg yolks to dispose of. (Spaghetti carbonara is the perfect way to use these up by the way!)

Some of you may be wondering what exactly a friand is.  A friand is a small almond and butter cake, usually containing fruit of some kind, and is closely related to the French Financier cake. Meant to be just a few bites, they are fabulously delicious and quite popular cakes  in Oz and NZ. 

Today I have decided to use blueberries in the cakes, as well as finely grated lime zest . . .  blueberries, coconut and lime are a beautiful trinity of flavours and textures.

These cakes are just gorgeous . . . delicious flavours  . . .  and the texture of the cake is just beautiful . . .  with crisp buttery edges  . . .  and a light crumb that almost floats away . . .

But again, that is not all as they are also a tiny bit chewy . . .  almost in a macaroon kind of a way, if you know what I mean.

I also think they are very pretty, and would work well on the tea table . . . impossible to resist . . . 

 I think you could replace the blueberries with  any fruit  . . .  chopped fresh apricots would be lovely, especially if you replaced the coconut with an equivalent amount of finely chopped toasted pistachio nuts  . . .  mmmm . . .  in that case, I would also add ground cardamon, just a pinch and leave out the lime zest.

No need to worry if you don't have a friand pan.  A friand pan is a baking tin like a muffin tin except that the holes are oval in shape, which gives you the traditional oval cakes . . .  but if you don't have one, feel free to use a medium muffin tin. They will still bake up beautifully.  My friand tin only has six holes and I always use 3 muffin cups to make up the lot.  Not a problem.

These cakes are so beautiful and light they almost float  . . . like an angel's wings  . . .

I really think you are going to also fall in love . . . really  . . .

*Blueberry, Lime & Coconut Friands*
Makes 9

These lovely little cakes are very simple to make and oh so moreish. Almost dangerously so!  

75g plain flour (1/2 cup +1 TBS)
200g icing sugar (1 1/2 cups +2 tsp)
125g ground almonds (scant 1 1/2 cups)
50g dessicated coconut, unsweetened (2/3 cup)
the grated zest of one lime
5 egg whites
175g butter, melted (3/4 cup)
fresh blueberries
icing sugar to dust 

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Butter your friand tins (or muffin tins) well and set aside. 

Sift together the flour and icing sugar.  Stir in the almonds, coconut and lime zest.  Beat the egg whites until stiff.  Fold into the flour mixture.  Stir in the melted butter until thoroughly combined.  Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared friand tin cups/muffin cups.  Top each with a few blueberries. 

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Let cool in the tins for 5 minutes before tipping out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.  Dust with icing sugar to serve.

My brain is going a mile a minute here this morning thinking of other flavour combinations.  Chopped fresh pear with candied or preserved ginger.  Cubed apples and cinnamon.  The sky is really the limit! Bon Appetit and Happy Weekend! 

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Marie Rayner
Tomato & Bacon Pasta Twist Salad

Tomato & Bacon Pasta Twist Salad

I am a huge fan of pasta salads.  For one thing you have a multitude of shapes and sizes of pasta available to use in them.  Secondly, unlike potatoes, you simply boil pasta and drain it. There is no peeling or chopping involved.  Just boil, drain and add to your dressing or whatever.  Cooked pasta makes a fabulous base for a multitude of flavours and textures!

When I worked at the Manor, one of their favourite pre-dinner drinks nibbles that I would prepare for their dinner parties was these fabulous little cherry tomatoes, that I hollowed out and then filled with a mix of finely chopped cooked bacon, spring onions and mayonnaise. This salad is  bit of a riff on that.

Without all the faffing about of hollowing and draining cherry tomatoes.  In this salad you simply cut them in half.  I got some lovely cherry tomatoes at Costco the other day, a mix of yellow and red, and they are fabulously tasty.  I have been really enjoying eating them out of hand and they added a lovely mix of colours to this salad.

I used pasta twists because they really know how to hug a salad dressing, with lots of nooks and crannies to hang onto every smidgen of it.  And you will love the dressing, which is a delicious mix of mayonnaise and blue cheese dressing . . .  some cider vinegar, seasoning and a bit of sugar. YUM!

There is also plenty of bacon as well. A full pound.  Make sure you get it nice and crispy, so that it crumbles well.  Limp bacon doesn't work well in this.  Crisp is the way to go.  Make sure you remember to save some out to garnish the top of the salad.  I forgot, and so what you see here are bacon salad sprinkles, which do provide crunch and flavour, but I really prefer the real thing.

Another essential element is the spring onions.  Finely chopped, the white and light green parts, on up into the dark green, but I tend to cut off and discard the really dark green and tougher bits of the spring onions.  I believe you call them Scallions in North America, or green onions. 

There is also some celery which adds a lovely crunch and extra texture.  I love the celery this time of year.  It has a nice and mild flavour, unlike the celery from later in the season which is much stronger in taste. You want to use the milder celery as you don't want the flavor to be too over-powering.

There should be an equal balance of flavours and textures in this.  If you are making the salad ahead of time, then do hold back some of the dressing to stir into it just prior to serving.  It will absorb the dressing as it sits, so if you want it to be creamy, save a bit aside until just before you put it out for eating!  Your guests/family will love this!

*Tomato & Bacon Pasta Twist Salad*
Serves 10 to 12 as a side dish

Fresh cherry tomatoes and plenty of savoury bacon in a refreshingly tasty pasta salad, with a mild blue cheese dressing. What's not to like? 

225g of Pasta Twists (2 cups)
4 to 5 spring onions, washed, trimmed and chopped
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, washed and halved (about 2 cups)
 2 stalks celery, trimmed and diced
1 pound of streaky smoked bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
240g of good quality mayonnaise (1 cup)
60g of blue cheese dressing (1/4 cup)
2 TBS cider vinegar
1 TBS sugar
salt and black pepper to taste
chopped parsley to garnish 

Cook your pasta according to the package directions.  Drain well.  Rise in cold water and drain again.  Set aside.

Whisk the mayonnaise, blue cheese dressing, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper together in a serving bowl.   Stir in the spring onions.   Add the cooked pasta and cherry tomatoes.  Toss to coat well.   Cover and chill for at least an hour.   Remove and stir in 3/4 of the bacon.  Sprinkle the remainder on top along with some chopped fresh parsley.   Serve.

I served this the other day to some hungry missionaries and they licked the bowl clean. They really loved it.  That makes me happy when the food I prepare is so well received.  That always makes all my work more than worth the effort!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Lemon & Herb Chicken 4 Two

Lemon & Herb Chicken 4 Two

I do confess that I am rather lazy when it comes to cooking.  If I can find an easier or quicker way to do something I will find it. I also like to use as few an amount of dishes that I can when it comes to cooking.  Lets face it, washing up is not really anyone's favourite way to pass the time. That is why I love sheet pan cooking! 

Sheet pan cooking really lends itself to cooking for the smaller family, and really you can easily adapt any sheet pan recipe to cooking for more or less, by using two baking sheets, or a smaller baking sheet.  I sure wish I knew about this type cooking when my family was growing up. With five growing children, it would have come in quite handy!!

This recipe today is sized perfectly for just two people.  As empty-nesters, I cook mainly for two people. I have become somewhat of an expert at sizing things down, as I hate waste. You can very easily double this recipe however.

You begin by cutting new potatoes into wedges and tossing them with melted butter and seasonings and roasting them on a rimmed baking tray for about 15 minutes . . . 

At the end of that time period, you add some boneless skinless chicken thighs, and asparagus cuts, which have also been tossed with a bit of melted butter and seasoning.  At our local shop you can pick up "Wonky" vegetables. I often buy them. There is nothing wrong with them. They are just "odd" shaped when compared with the perfection we usually see.  I am okay with "odd" shaped vegetables, especially when you are using them in a dish like this where they are going to be cut up and roasted. Both my asparagus and potatoes were "wonky" and I bet you can't tell! 

A tsp of honey is spread on each chicken thigh, and then I like to top them with a spring of fresh thyme and a slice of lemon . . .

Bang the tray back into the oven for a further 17 to 20 minutes and Bob's your uncle!  Dinner is done! 

With perfectly cooked vegetables and tender flavourful chicken with  tangy lemon, honey and buttery juices to spoon over top . . .  and a slight touch of herbiness . . .   All you need on the side is perhaps a tossed mixed salad and some crusty bread if you so desire!

*Lemon & Herb Chicken 4 Two*
Serves 2

I love sheet pan dinners. Not only are they fairly simple to create and delicious, but they are pretty much no fuss no muss with very little clean up afterwards, especially if you line your baking sheet with aluminium foil. 

2 TBS butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 pound new potatoes, unpeeled and quartered into wedges
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 pound asparagus, washed trimmed and cut into pieces
4 tsp honey
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced (Plus additional wedges for squeezing, optional)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme 

Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7.  Line a baking tray with sides with aluminium foil and spray the foil lightly with low fat cooking spray.

Melt 1 TBS of the butter in a bowl in the microwave.  Add your potatoes along with the 1/4 tsp each of the salt & pepper, the garlic powder and paprika. Add the potatoes and coat them in the mixture.  Spread out on the baking sheet, skin sides down, in a single layer.  Roast in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Melt the remaining butter in the same bowl in the microwave.  Add the asparagus cuts and the chicken pieces, along with the remaining salt and pepper. Lay them  out amongst the potatoes, opening up the chicken and scattering the asparagus evenly in the pan.  Spread 1 tsp of honey over each piece of chicken.  Top each with a sprig of thyme.  Top with a lemon slice.  Scatter any remaining thyme over the vegetables.

Roast for a further 17 to 12 minutes, until the chicken juices run clear when pierced with a fork in the thickest part.  Divide the chicken and vegetables between two heated dinner plates and serve with a wedge of lemon for squeezing, if desired.

This is so delicious I am always glad that it serves only two people because if I made any more of it, I would be temped to eat the lot, glutton that I am.  I do hope you will give it a go!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner

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