Cooking the Books…and how to make Empire Slice

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Pic of the pic in the book

As I’ve been banging on for a few weeks now, I’m deep in deadline territory. That’s ok- I tend to respond well to dates and milestones. It’s settled into a bit of a manic rhythm: corporate gig during the week, blogging during the week, horoscopes and book on the weekend.

I’m not procrastibaking as much as I was, but I am still in the weekly baking habit- mainly because it’s my way of channelling my character, Max.

I bake the things that I think she’d be baking- although my styling is seriously crap, while hers is good. Plus, I’m the messiest cook in pretty well the entire world (a characteristic that I’ve generously lent to Max). This means that either:

  1. The kitchen bench is a mess so a good photo would require a clean-up first, or
  2. Someone has already started eating whatever it was that was being baked
  3. Much of what I bake tends to be brown. Unless you have amazing lighting, an indoor garden, an outdoor garden, rustic well-lit kitchen furniture, or some attractively faded fence palings to present it against, brown food just looks boring.
  4. My baked items never look as good as they do in the fabulously styled cookbook photos.

Take yesterdays gingernut dunkers for example. In the book they are evenly round and a little cracked on top.

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pic of the pic in the book

Mine look like someone has taken a bite out of them- they haven’t of course. This was just where they stuck together on the tray. To be fair, all the good ones were picked out to be taken to Mr T’s work.

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And yes, I know what I did wrong that caused them to spread a little more than they should have. The solution involved a fridge and a fork. Whatevs.

As for a recipe? There are plenty on the internet. I just happened to use one from The Cook and Baker.

It’s like last weeks’ Belgian or Empire Slice which, in the book, looks like the main photo above.

This is a gorgeously old- fashioned spicy, gingery, jammy slice. But it’s brown.

It has a pressed cookie dough base, a raspberry jam centre, and the top is crumbly, wormy grated cookie dough. The thing is, it’s brown, and tastes and looks better than it photographs- especially when dusted with icing sugar.

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I think Max would take both of these brown things outside into the herb garden on a lovely Spring day. She’d probably pile them high on a blue pottery plate, or perhaps one of those vintage china ones with flowers all over it. She’d place the plate at the edge of a garden table, perhaps one that had been battered or had the remnants of multiple paint jobs and potting days.

She’d widen the aperture on the lens, narrowing the depth of field so that the light and the flowers would blur into background prettiness.

I couldn’t be faffed.

Anyways, to the recipe. Also from The Cook and Baker, the grating of the cookie dough is a bit of a palaver- especially on a humid Sydney summer day when the dough keeps softening and you’re going from fridge to grater and back again. It is, however, worth the effort.

What you need…

  • 600g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon mixed spice
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 220g softened butter
  • 230g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs (preferably at room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 320g raspberry jam
  • icing sugar to dust

What you do with it…

  • Preheat the oven to 180C and do the usual lining and greasing thing with a slice pan.
  • Sift the dry ingredients together- with the exception of the sugar.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, mix well and then stir in the golden syrup and dry ingredients. Mix it all well.
  • You should have a large brown ball of cookie dough by now. Split it into two. One half will be wrapped in cling film and popped into the fridge to consider its future for 15 minutes or so.
  • The other half can be pressed into the tin. Spread the jam over the top of this.
  • By now the rest of your dough should be chilled so you can start grating it over the top. Use a coarse grater- the one you’d use for cheddar cheese. It looks a little gross, but I dare you not to pick all the cookie dough bits off the top.

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  • Bake it in the oven for around 30mins or until golden, you guessed it, brown.
  • Let it cool in the tin before cutting to give the jam a chance to firm up. Dust it with icing sugar and pour a cuppa…or take it next door so you won’t be tempted to eat it…

How do you style brown food, or can’t you be bothered? I’d like to know either way…

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