Annabel Langbein's recipes to fill the baking tins with ease - and drink matches from Yvonne Lorkin for a drop to sip with these sweet treats
My paternal grandmother, Maude, was a legendary baker. She was my grandpa's second wife, having married him after my father's mother died very young. Maude (Nan) grew up in an era that demanded thrift and, as a result, she was immensely resourceful.
Every Sunday we would all hop into Dad's massive red Plymouth and drive down from the Karori Hills to their big white house on Waterloo Rd in the Hutt Valley for Sunday tea. I was always excited by the prospect. For starters, they had a television (we didn't), which took pride of place in the very formal front room. I would sneak in to watch it, play with the three ebony carved elephants on the mantelpiece and fiddle with the knob on the fancy 1930s ashtray stand that cleared out the cigarette butts from the tray. I don't think my grandparents even smoked but smoking was very fashionable, so they had this smart gadget for any guests who did, so they wouldn't have to see or smell the dead butts.
Nan had only a coal range to cook on. There was no thermometer — she just used to put her hand in to gauge the heat — but she could cook anything to perfection in that oven. Cream horns were one of her specialties — she would make puff pastry and then spiral it around little cone-shaped metal moulds. Often when we turned up, a rack of golden crispy horns would be sitting on the bench, waiting to be filled with whipped cream.
Sometimes she made waffles, always our favourite and usually there was a big roast of lamb with mountains of vegetables from the vast vege garden out the back. She always made mashed potatoes as well as roast potatoes and lots of gravy.
My grandfather was a very formal man and prone to being a little curmudgeonly. He hated Nan buying food from the shop, especially if it could have been made at home. But she had her tricks to manage him. One hot summer Sunday, when we were having sausages and chops instead of the usual roast, she was in the kitchen hunting for the tomato sauce. The big glass sauce bottle with the cork top was nearly empty. Checking that my grandpa was well out of sight, she pulled out a big container of Wattie's tomato sauce, carefully hidden in another cupboard and siphoned some into
the bottle. She winked at us and laughed. "He never notices the difference."
This week, I'm sharing recipes that use my secret weapon in the kitchen – my Magic Baking Mix. It's such a useful shortcut to speedy baking. Keep it in the fridge and all kinds of loaves, cakes and muffins can be prepared in a flash.
Magic Baking Mix
Ready in 5 mins
Makes 8 cups
With this useful baking mix at hand you're just minutes away from tender pikelets and pancakes, light muffins and scones and delicious cakes and loaves.
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7 cups plain flour
4 Tbsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
150g cold butter
Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a food processor and pulse for 15 seconds. Dice the butter, add it to the food processor and pulse until the mixture is similar in texture to coarse sand. If you don't have a food processor, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl, grate in the cold butter and cut it into the dry ingredients with a knife until the mixture is similar in texture to coarse sand. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for several weeks until needed.
I thought about whether five minutes of my time was best spent putting together Annabel's baking mix or whether that time would be better used to fang out to the fridge in the shed to grab a bottle of the brand new Kererū Tommancho Ancho Chili & Smoked Nectarine Golden Ale 500ml ($8). The beer won. I sipped on it while carving out baking time in my diary. Crafted by the freakishly talented Chris Mills from local barley and wheat, Ancho chilies, hops, yeast and ripe nectarines cool-smoked with pōhutukawa wood by old cobber Will Thompson at Tommo's Low & Slow American BBQ truck, it's a rich, smoke-laced, fruit-saturated style boasting balanced bitterness and boatloads of character. Fat, fresh and frisky.
White Chocolate and Raspberry Muffins
Ready in 25 mins
These muffins are best eaten the day they are cooked but also freeze well.
60g butter, melted
½ cup soft brown sugar
1 small, ripe banana, mashed
1 cup milk
2½ cups Magic Baking Mix (above)
1 cup fresh raspberries or well-drained, thawed frozen raspberries
160g white chocolate, coarsely chopped, or 1 cup white chocolate buttons
A little icing sugar, to sprinkle (optional)
Preheat oven to 200C fanbake and lightly grease 18 medium muffin pans.
Beat together butter, sugar, eggs, banana and milk (the mixture does not need to be smooth). Fold in baking mix, then berries and chocolate chunks until just combined (do not over-mix).
Three-quarter fill prepared muffin pans and bake until muffins have risen and are lightly golden and the tops bounce back when pressed (about 12 minutes). Cool before removing from pans and, if desired, sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.
Inject a glimmer of glam into your morning tea muffins by giving your chums a chilled tulip of No.1 Family Estate Methode Traditionelle Rosé Brut NV ($47). I love the creamy-soft, marshmallow and almond aromas and cherry and berry brioche characters. It's an elegant, statuesque sparkler with ultra-fine beading (that's wine-speak for "bubbles") and a lengthy, stylish finish which foists you into fashionality (new word) from the very first sip.
Nan's Date Loaf
Ready in 1½ hours + cooling
Makes 1 medium loaf
This lovely old-fashioned loaf is great for afternoon tea or in lunchboxes. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
1½ cups chopped dates
1 cup lightly packed soft brown sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup neutral oil
2 Tbsp golden syrup
2 cups Magic Baking Mix (above)
2 cups chopped walnuts
Place dates, sugar and water in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring continuously for 2 minutes over medium heat until quite thick and jammy. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 160C fanbake. Grease a medium (6-cup capacity/about 22cm x 11cm) loaf tin and line with baking paper.
Stir egg, oil and golden syrup into the cooled date mixture, then gently stir in baking mix and walnuts. Pour into prepared loaf tin, smooth the top and bake until the top bounces back when pressed and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (60-70 minutes). Allow to cool in the tin. Serve warm or cold, sliced and lightly buttered.
To pair perfectly with a slab of this spicy-sweet loaf, you'd be looking for a juicy, aromatic example like the Chard Farm Central Otago Gewurztraminer 2019 ($26) because the second I sniffed it, I did that really cringy thing where I closed my eyes, threw back my head, shook out my hair (I know, so bad), and blurted, 'Oh, holy mother of [something unmentionable].' Couldn't help it. Luscious lychee, glorious ginger, wildflower, and musk all coat your oral cavity and make a serious impression when consumed with this luscious loaf.
Photos: Annabel Langbein Media