IT’S not every day that we get the chance to honour the most important woman in our life — our mums. With today being Mother’s Day, there may still be some of you out there who’ve yet to decide what to get your mum.
Every year, it seems to get a little harder to think of something that’s not so ‘-cookiecutter’. Something original and from the heart. I have, with great shame, given my mother two “I LOVE YOU” mugs in the span of 10 years. And while she finds them amusing, I know I can do better.
So, for those still mulling for ideas, here’s one. If there’s one thing that most mothers have in common, it’s that they value effort. Especially if you make something with your own two hands. It’s the reason they have kept your childhood drawings safe under their beds for the last 20 years.
Now, you’re probably thinking you should just make your mum a home-made card and be done with it. But there’s still something else you could do. Something that I have found to be a real winner in the last few years — bake them something.
Some of you might struggle with this concept. After all, not everyone spends their time honing their skills in the kitchen. But the product doesn’t need to be a complicated one. All you need is a few ideas to get you started.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
The first thing you should consider, if you’re a little worried about making something good, is to go with the boxed cake mixes. There’s nothing wrong with resorting to this. Remember, it’s the effort that counts. Boxed cake mixes in grocery stores have a near 100 per cent success rate. All you need to do is add a couple of fresh ingredients like eggs, oil or milk and you’ll have an amazing batter to bake.
The great part about this simple plan is that you can choose from an amazing array of flavours, from vanilla to chocolate to red velvet — it’s all there. You can even customise the flavour by adding in the ingredients that your mother likes. For example, if she likes lemon, just add in the zest of a couple of lemons to a vanilla box cake. If she likes walnuts, add it to the chocolate brownie batter. It’s quite simple really.
If you don’t have an oven and you still want to make her something today, don’t worry. There’s such a thing as “No-Bake Desserts”. Go online and you’ll find a plethora of options. It’s possible to make ice-cream cakes to tiramisu without having to use an oven. All you need to do is just purchase an affordable plain cake or some type of cookie and adding whipped cream, cream cheese or ice cream to it. Pair it with a little fruit, chocolate or caramel and you have yourself a winning dessert.
BAKING FROM SCRATCH
However, if you’re an avid baker and you find the idea of purchasing a box of pre-mixed cake offensive, or the idea of re-purposing store-bought stuff vile, then why not just bake something from scratch?
What can you make? After all, if you’re already an avid baker like me, then your mother has probably sampled all that you have to offer. And with the short amount of time you have, there’s no way you can create a new recipe. But all is not lost. You just need a new perspective and some ideas to get you through.
All bakers have their go-to-recipes. While your mother has probably had it a thousand times, there are still ways to make it special. For example, I have three things that I’m known for: chocolate fudge brownies, vanilla milk cake and a poached pear cake.
Through the years I have re-purposed these recipes for my family members in countless ways. All it took was changing some ingredients and I suddenly had something new.
For example, my milk cake recipe involves using a large quantity of butter and milk. This high fat content is what gives my cake its signature moistness and flavour.
So, I focused on maintaining it albeit with a slight change. Milk was replaced with full-fat yoghurt or buttermilk. Butter was substituted with nut oils or browned butter. This “switch-up” in ingredients without affecting the chemistry of your recipe) will give it a new and distinct flavour or texture.
More importantly, it would be something your mother has never tried before either. Even changing the way that it’s baked can give you interesting results. For example, my brownies have taken on many forms through the years to impress my family members. They have been made into cupcakes, the base for a birthday cake and even as a “pie crust”. The possibilities are truly endless.
However, if you’re still a little worried about affecting the chemistry or how you bake your product, there are ways to make it special that you might not have considered. I find cookie cutters to be my greatest ally when making something adorable for my mother.
My mother is the kind of woman that has many interests. Just two years ago, she took up bird watching. When I found out about it, I immediately bought some inexpensive canary-shaped cookie cutters and voila, I had bird-shaped brownies for the following Mother’s Day.
Surely, your mother will have some sort of hobby and I assure you, there’ll be a cookie cutter out there that will best represent that. If you can’t find any in your local stores, find them online.
SOMETHING TO TRY
If you haven’t had time to come up with something, why not try out one of my recipes? I prepared two this year because my Mother just turned 60 and I felt she deserved two presents for putting up with me and my siblings for over half a century!
The first recipe is for chocolate ganache & strawberry jam mini tarts; the second is rose-flavoured cookies, coated with white chocolate and sprinkled with rose petals. Both recipes are extremely easy to pull off. The best part is you can adapt both of them to suit your needs. You can, for example, make the mini tarts into a large one and replace the strawberry jam with caramel and nuts. And as for the rose cookies, you can always change its flavour and shape.
So good luck and happy baking everyone!
Mini Strawberry Tarts & Chocolate Ganache Tarts
300g All purpose flour, cold
205g Unsalted butter, cold and cubed
Ice water, as needed.
215g Whipping cream
215g Dark chocolate
Edible gold beads
1. In the bowl of stand mixer (using a paddle attachment) mix the butter, salt and flour together until a sandy texture forms. Add in spoonfuls of water slowly until the dough comes together.
2. Form the dough into a disc and wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for 20 minutes.
3. For the ganache, place the cream, salt and chocolate in a bowl and microwave it for 1 minute at a time, stirring the mixture after each minute. Repeat process until the mixture is fully melted, with no lumps. Wrap it in plastic wrap and set it aside.
4. Spray tart tins with oil and set aside.
5. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it to 1.2 cm in thickness. Cut circles and place them into the mini tart tins.
6. Place the tart tins in the freezer for at least 30 minutes*.
7. Bake the frozen tart shells in a preheated 200C oven for 20 minutes, or until it browns.
8. Cool the tart shells.
9. Place 1 teaspoon of strawberry jam and pour the ganache on top until the mini tart shell is full. You can also pipe a shape if the ganache is cool enough.
10. Place a strawberry on top and keep the ganache tarts refrigerated.
*If you want to do this in advance, you can cling wrap it and store in the freezer for up to one month.
Rose Cookies Coated in White Chocolate
130g Unsalted butter, room temperature
150g Castor sugar
2 Egg yolks
2tsp Rose extract
1tsp Pink food colouring
250g All purpose flour
Organic rose petals (or rose tea petals)
1. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture turns white.
2. Add in egg yolks and mix until combined.
3. Mix in rose extract and pink food colouring.
4. Mix in flour, be careful not to overmix. Just mix until combined — not any further.
5. Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes*
6. Dust your work surface with flour and roll out dough to 0.5 inches.
7. Cut out shapes and place them on a parchment-lined baking tray.
8. Place the cookies in the fridge to rest for at least 20 minutes.
9. Bake them in a 200C oven for 15 minutes or until browned. Let them cool completely.
10. Melt white chocolate and dip half a cookie inside it. Sprinkle rose petals on top and let it set.
11. Cookies need to be placed in an airtight container and will last for three to six days.
* You can do this a week in advance.