Sunday, 14 October 2012

Very Berry Good Cupcakes

Berry Good Cupcakes

Monday mornings are usually my morning for baking.  The children are at school, MOH (my other half) is out working and the house is peacefully quiet.  I had bought a punnet of blueberries on Saturday and was planning to pop them into moist cupcakes.  Gathering together the essential ingredients, I noticed the blueberries had disappeared, most likely on top of the pavlova offered on Sunday.  Luckily there was a packet of frozen mixed berries in the freezer, for exactly these moments.

Today when I was creating these berry cupcakes, I was reminded of our neighbour when we were still in infants school.  She was an amazing baker of sweet goodies, going on to train as a home economics and craft teacher for high school children.  Back then though, she was simply 'Barbara' Mum's friend who would occasionally baby sit my brother and I after school at her home when my mother had to work.

What I particularly remember is that when she mixed delightfully yummy sweet treats in a bowl, she would never let us get a spoonful of uncooked mixture.  Thereafter I always played in the back yard looking forward to when her sweet delights were cooked and we were invited in for afternoon tea.

 Wash a home grown lemon, or at least an unwaxed one and grate the zest into a large bowl.
 Mix the zest with 1 1/4 cups of caster sugar, rubbing the mixture with your fingers to agitate the zest and envelope the sugar with the amazing aroma of lemon zest.

 Add plain flour, sifted baking powder and salt along with ground almonds.

Mix all together with spoon and place the frozen berries on top.

In another, smaller bowl,   place the eggs, yoghurt, vanilla and almond essences.  Lightly mix together.

In another small bowl, melt 4 tablespoons of butter and add rice bran oil.

Lightly stir the berries into the flour bowl to coat them with the dry powder.
Pour the egg mixture and butter mixtures into the combined flour with berry bowl.
Lightly fold until the mixtures are just combined.

Preheat oven to 175 degrees celcious.
Grease and line cup cake pans with paper wrappers.
Fill to the top of the paper with mixture as these do not rise very much.

Bake in middle of oven for about 20 minutes, rotating half way through to help evenly brown them.
When cupcakes are gently risen and light brown on top, remove and place them to rest for 2 minutes before turning them onto a wire rack to cool.

This quantity makes 16 berry delicious cupcakes.

Berry Good Cupcakes

1 lemon, zest finely grated
1 1/2 cups fine caster sugar
1 slightly raised cup of plain flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups mixed berries, fresh or frozen
3 eggs
1/2 cup natural yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup rice bran oil (or similar flavourless vegetable oil)
4 tablespoons melted butter

Bake at 175 degrees celcius for about 20 minutes.
Makes 16.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Bees bees bees buzzing bees

Bee Hive Arrival

Our long awaited bee hive is ready!  MOH  (my other half) and I drove 30 kms  into the country just on dusk, passing grazing wallabies along the way.  We found the bee keeper, albeit passing the entrance initially only to back track and discover his driveway. This beekeeper had numerous hives, a large dam in which they could drink fresh rain water, bromeliads, varying flowers, and many eucalyptus trees.  He loves his hobby of beekeeping and entertained us with stories such as 'when the wind blows strongly and they arrive home, they get confused sometimes and you should see them fighting when some go to the wrong hive' or 'when a hive beetle enters, you can see the bees coral them into a corner'.
When we first saw our hive it was purely a joyous feeling.   So much planning and waiting had finally come to fruition.  There it was, with full honey aroma and glamorous white paintwork.

The brood box - the bottom box had been closed up ready for travel and the bees were very quiet.  We lifted it onto the back seat of MOH's ute, as we felt it was disrespectful to place them in the back tray.
Driving very gently, we arrived home 40 minutes later, at which time MOH gently lifted the hive out of the car and placed it in it's new home.

Then, you could hear a distinct buzz buzz buzzing noise from our Italian bees.

We opened the small lower entrance and let them rest for the evening.

The next morning, bright and early I rushed to inspect the hive, shown here with the strap still attached to the top. You will note the two bee 'bodies' on the lower entrance to the left and right.  The beekeeper warned us that we would lose a couple in transit, and bees being the very clean animals that they are, push the bodies outside of the hive.  Two however, wasn't a large number when you consider of the eight frames in this brood box, four are already filling with brood.  One, apparently is totally closed over with capped honey, but we have to wait until this weekend to open the top and inspect inside, as the bees have to recover from their initial trip.

The Lone Ranger

Two bees are better than one!

We are excited to welcome these gorgeous Italian bees to our household and I will publish new photos when delightful ones are taken.  Not only will our garden benefit from the introduction of a hive, but our lives have been enriched by nurturing a unique species.  Any organic honey we extract, will only be a beautiful bonus.

Cheers Merryn from the mid north coast of New South Wales.