My first meeting with baking queen Anneka Manning at last Saturday's farmers markets was a long time coming. I had admired her work in the food publishing industry for many years and have been following her latest initiative BakeClub for the past few months so when we finally met, I felt we'd known each other for ages.
BakeClub is both an online collection of baking tips and recipes and program of baking classes aimed at encouraging everyone to get their bake on and do it with confidence.
To accompany both of these, Anneka has also written, and recently released a book called Bake Eat Love. And having just read it cover to cover, I honestly think that anyone even a little bit interested in baking successfully should grab themselves a copy and smartly. It's also a book that all food bloggers/recipe writers might find useful on their desk. Since discovering it last week, I've changed the way I approach creating new recipes and am hugely grateful for Anneka's distance-education course on writing them properly.
For a taste of Anneka's baking expertise, I highly recommend the below recipe for her hugely popular recipe for Melting Moments. You can also watch the lady herself whip them up via this video.
These melt-in-the-mouth buttery biscuits, sandwiched with a creamy, sweet buttercream are an all-time favourite. This version has the addition of orange zest in the filling, which adds a subtle citrus tang. They’re the perfect accompaniment to a cuppa.
250g butter, cubed, softened
250g butter, cubed, softened
110g (2/3 cup) icing sugar
11/2 teaspoons natural vanilla essence or extract
250g (12/3 cups) plain flour
60g (1/2 cup) cornflour
Orange buttercream filling
60g butter, softened
1 orange, zest finely grated
125g (1 cup) icing sugar, sifted
- Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.
- Use an electric mixer on medium to beat the butter, icing sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy, scraping down the side of the bowl when necessary.
- Sift the flour and cornflour together over the butter mixture. Mix on low speed (or use your hands to mix) until just combined and a soft dough forms.
- Use lightly floured hands to roll heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place on the lined trays, about 5cm apart (you should have about 36 balls). Dip a fork in flour and use it to flatten the balls to about 1cm thick and 4cm in diameter.
- Bake in preheated oven for 16-18 minutes, swapping the trays after 8 minutes, or until the biscuits are a pale golden colour. Remove from the oven and cool on the trays.
- While the biscuits are cooling, make the orange buttercream filling. Put the butter and orange zest in a small mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat on medium speed until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar and beat on low speed, scraping down the side of the bowl when necessary, until well combined and smooth.
- To join the biscuits, spread a little buttercream on the base of a cooled biscuit and sandwich with another biscuit. Repeat with the remaining biscuits and filling.
Tips - These biscuits will keep in an airtight jar or container in a cool place (not the fridge) for up to 4 days.
In our first Local is Lovely Q&A, here's a little more from Anneka...
What is BakeClub all about and why did you start it?
BakeClub is a baking school that gives home cooks the know-how and confidence to bake - basically we are bringing 'real' baking back into Australian homes. We provide many different ways for people to get involved including demonstration-style workshops and hands-on BakeClasses held in Sydney as well as numerous outside cooking schools in major cities and regional areas. We also offer a range of online resources including downloadable recipes, baking resources, the BakeBlog and a monthly newsletter. BakeClub is firmly based on fail-safe techniques, tried-and-true recipes and clever tips. We just don't show you the ‘how’, we also focus on the ‘why’ to give a complete understanding of every aspect of baking. BakeClub is for any home cook who wishes to improve their baking ability, no matter what their current skill level, and to join a community where they can share baking experiences, get personal baking advice and communicate with others who are passionate about baking.
Can you describe your cooking philosophy in one sentence?
I believe that the best food is simple food done well, relying on sound basics, simple techniques and quality ingredients.
What have been the most popular recipes/classes you've offered to this point?
So far the Low-GI Banana Bread from the Healthy Kids Lunch Boxes BakeClass, the Baked Mini Cinnamon & Jam Doughnuts that were part of a BakeBlog last month and the Melting Moments that are from my new book Bake, Eat, Love (thanks to this fab video) have gained the most attention….although I suspect the heavenly Layered White Chocolate Cake may claim the popularity prize once that is revealed in our new Let's Eat Cake BakeClass in September!
You've had a bad day and can't wait to get in the kitchen and bake something...what is it? Ahhhhh, now there's a question……..usually something simple, satisfying and good to share……pizza if I have the 'need to knead', shortbread made with an old family recipe if I'm feeling nostalgic, muesli bars if I need to multitask (and fill the biscuit tin for the kids lunch boxes), or an orange cake if Paul, my husband, has any say in it!
Butter- pure, rich and as natural as I can lay my hands on. I prefer unsalted in most of my baking.
Lemons - Especially at the moment as our tree has supplied us with never-ending lemons since easter….there is nothing quite like a more-than-juicy home-grown lemon to use in marinades, lemon tarts and fresh lemon and ginger tea to finish the day.
Quinoa - like everyone at the moment, I'm mad for this supergrain (or seed as it really is). I even make a delicious carrot cake from Chrissy Freer's Supegrains book that uses quinoa…yum, actually I feel like a piece now!
Pomegranates - they are out of season now but in Autumn I can't resist the jewel-like seeds in salads of beans, feta and mint; with late-season berries to top a pavlova; sprinkled over cumin-roasted cauliflower; or stirred through thick natural yoghurt - YUM!
Who are your food heroes?
Julia Child, Nigel Slater, Diana Henry and Alice Waters…they have all influenced my cooking and baking for many, many years – in different ways but all substantially. One thing they all have in common is a wonderful way with words - they make me want to sit down and read their cook books, not just cook from them.
Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer and Margaret Fulton are my trio of Aussie food heroes - fabulous Australian women who have strongly influenced the way we eat and cook in Australia today.
When are you coming to the Farm Kitchen!
November...date to be advised very very soon.
Photography credits; melting moments photo by Julie Renouf and portrait by Bree Hutchins.