Brandy Snaps

Watching contestants make Brandy Snaps on The Great Australian Bake Off last year inspired me to give them another go myself. The last time I made Brandy Snaps (or should say, tried making them) as a child, mine were a messy failure.

Growing up, Mum let my siblings and I have the run of the kitchen and we regularly baked cakes, biscuits and confectionery. We spent hours flicking through Mum’s recipe books, which were mostly fundraiser cookbooks from local schools, a few Australian Womens Weekly cookbooks and Mum’s recipe clippings from the newspaper, looking for nice things to make the family for afternoon tea on the weekends or school holidays. Once our recipe had been chosen, we ran it by Mum and then we would be off, measuring, mixing and cooking (leaving the dishes in the sink for Mum, who always washed up later while the culprit dried).

The first time I made Brandy Snaps I burned most, couldn’t manage to roll the good ones, and spent the next thirty years buying them from bakeries. After watching the contestants on the GABO successfully bake Brandy Snaps, I summoned my courage, gathered the ingredients and baked. Yum. Not to mention easier than expected. Just make sure before you start cooking that your wooden spoons have round handles.

50 gm butter
1/3 C brown sugar
1/4 C golden syrup
1/3 C plain flour
1 tspn ground ginger

300 ml thickened cream
1 Tblspn icing sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 tspn brandy (optional)

Place the butter, bown sugar and golden syrup into a heavy saucepan and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Don’t let the mixture simmer or boil (if it does, throw the mixture away and start again, as they won’t work).
Take the mixture off the stove and cool for a few minutes before mixing in the sifted flour and ground ginger.

Drop two large teaspoons of mixture onto oven trays (you could grease the trays, but I prefer to use baking paper) leaving loads of room around each because the mixture will spread like a rash all over the tray.

Cook the Brandy Snaps in the oven at 180.C for approximately seven minutes and then start watching them like a hawk, because they need to come out of the oven before they start changing colour. When the biscuits are ready, they will be thin and lacy.

Slide the Brandy Snaps, baking paper and all off the tray and onto a wire rack as soon as possible, as the Brandy Snaps will continue to cook on the hot tray out of the oven. After about 45 seconds the biscuits will be cool enough to handle and you can roll them around your wooden spoon handles. Let them cool for a few minutes wrapped around the handles before sliding them onto the wire rack.

Whip the cream, icing sugar and vanilla together and stir in the brandy once the cream is thick. Use a pipe to fill the brandy snaps with cream.

Plan B (which is much easier than rolling the biscuits around wooden spoon handles) is to make Brandy Snap Baskets. Just drape the hot Brandy Snaps over an upturned drinking glass to mould a basket. Baskets are also much easier to fill with cream than the traditional rolled Brandy Snaps.

Grease the Musical at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne, Australia

I was lucky enough to see a performance of ‘Grease the Musical’ a few days ago at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne, Australia, which was a Christmas present from a very kind and generous relative.

I first saw the movie Grease at a drive in with my parents and siblings in the 1970’s. To my disgust, my brother fell asleep during the movie. Me, my sisters and all of our female friends at primary school for years afterwards sang  ‘You’re the One That I Want’ into our hairbrushes, danced around to ‘Greased Lighting’ on our record players in the lounge room and couldn’t wait to be older so that we could be Pink Ladies and have someone wearing a leather jacket fall in love with our version of Bad Sandy. Even at that age we knew Bad Sandy was going to have more fun than Good Sandy.

The stage show of Grease at Her Majesty’s Theatre was loads of fun. The storyline wasn’t exactly the same as the movie (after reading the show program I learned that the stage show actually came long before the movie). All of the big songs from the movie were sung, but quite a few songs that were only background music in the movie were major features in the stage show, and all were fantastic. Doody and the T Birds singing ‘Those Magic Changes’ was a stand out.

The singing and dancing was energetic and joyful. The stage looked great, the costumes were perfect and the band were an absolute treat to hear.

Rob Mills as Danny was terrific and Gretel Scarlett’s voice is beautiful. Lucy Maunder who played Rizzo was fantastic. Her petulant teenage attitude and strut were spot on. I would have said that she stole the show, except that Todd McKenney, as Teen Angel, stole it from her. Todd McKenney had the audience in the palm of his hand, working our cheers as if he was a conductor conducting an orchestra. I really wish I had seen him in ‘The Boy From Oz’, as he must have put on an incredible show.

The romance between Sandy and Danny wasn’t as strong of a storyline in the show as in the movie, but I won’t be giving anything away if I say there is a happy ending. I left the theatre singing ‘Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee’ and feeling good.

“Chains of habi…

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

Warren Buffett made this quote about habits, which was used in Janet Lowe’s book, ‘Warren Buffett Speaks’.

Buffett’s quote resonated with me, as even though I’m not really a New’s Year’s resolution type of person (been there, failed at that), I’m working on developing better habits after reading a fantastic book on the subject last year called ‘The Power of Habit’.

In a nutshell, the book’s author, Charles Duhigg says we are the sum of our habits. The message I took was that we all have the power to create a better future for ourselves, by regularly making good choices which go on to become habits and which eventually shape who we become.

 

Pancakes

The most important thing to know about making pancakes is that if you don’t wipe the bench of any spills and wash out the bowl, beaters, spatula and any other utensils you have used to make the batter immediately after use, the left-over batter will harden and stick to everything like concrete, and you will be chipping away at it for ages in an attempt to clean up.

2 eggs

1/4 C brown sugar

2/3 C milk

1 C self raising flour

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour about half a cup of mixture at a time into a buttered frypan, turning with a spatula when bubbles come through the pancakes.

 

 

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

I would like to start by saying that I haven’t written a book review since I was in school, and the reviews I did then were because I had to, which is a very different thing from reading a book and writing a review for my own enjoyment.

As the wife of F Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ and other novels and short stories, Zelda Fitzgerald was a Southern Belle who became a celebrity when her husband’s works became popular during the 1920’s.

Zelda was a dancer and a writer, a daughter, sister, mother and friend. Her husband called her ‘The First American Flapper’. As a couple, they scandalised society, drank too much alcohol and appeared to be having loads of fun, particularly in the early stages of their marriage. On the down side, their finances were unstable and they frequently moved, partly to try and resist the temptations which Fitzgerald believed were undermining his productivity. Everywhere they moved, temptations continued to find then, particularly Fitzgerald, and their marriage became more and more unhappy. Zelda developed a mental illness and later died in a fire in a metal hospital.  

I enjoyed ‘Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald’ by Therese Anne Fowler. I day hangovers and purposeless outings with people I’ve long forgotten”.

I also enjoyed the name dropping of their friends, many of whom were famous writers and artists of the time.

However, I didn’t really believe Zelda’s character as portrayed by Fowler. In this book, Zelda was always supportive of her husband, always bright and chirpy, regardless of the upheavals of constantly moving, her husband’s drinking, their money problems or their marriage problems. Maybe Zelda never complained in her letters or journals, but I don’t believe that the little voice in her head was always cheerful. Also, there were no hints in Zelda’s narration that she was becoming mentally unstable, although early in the book we are told that people say that she is crazy, and so was her brother, and that the craziness comes from her mother’s side.

Sometime in the future I plan to read Zelda’s novel, ‘Save Me the Waltz’ and Fitzgerald’s novel, ‘Tender is the Night,’ as both are said to be semi-autobiographical accounts of their marriage, which should be an interesting comparison of their marriage in their own voices.

 

 

 

“a made in heav…

“a made in heaven pair like cherries and chocolate”

This quote comes from Therese Anne Fowler’s book, ‘Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald,’ where the narrator, Zelda Fitzgerald, describes her husband and their new neighbour, Ring Ellis as “fast friends right from the start, a made in heaven pair like cherries and chocolate.”

I agree completely with Fowler’s description of cherries and chocolate. Cherry Ripes, chocolate cherry biscuits and the chocolate covered cherry liqueurs my mother always gives me at Christmas are a hard combination to beat.

Funnily enough, no one else in my household like the combination of cherries and chocolate, which means that I don’t have to share my favourites.

Frozen Mars Bar Mousse

Image
I have had this recipe for years and can’t remember where it originally came from.

I wrote it into a recipe book which my mother gave me when I left home. In my neatest hand writing I wrote that this recipe “Lasts for up to one week,” but the mousse has never lasted long enough with my family to confirm that is actually the case.

180 gm chopped Mars Bars

2 Tblspns boiling water

2 eggs – separated

300 ml thickened cream – whipped

2 Tblspns caster sugar

Grease the mould and place it into the freezer while you make the mousse.

Melt Mars bars (I use the double saucepan method), stir in the water and leave to cool. Stir the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the whipped cream. Beat the egg whites to a soft peak, then beat in the sugar. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then spoon into the mould and freeze.