The Kiwi’s Rock Cakes

Growing up in New Zealand, Rock Cakes were a Kiwi classic known to practically every family through their presence in the ubiquitous Edmonds Cook Book—the mainstay of Kiwi home baking for the better part of a century. We used to eat them at half-time while watching rugby on TV, or as a treat for lunch on a cold winter Sunday. This Sunday being the occasion of the Super Bowl, you {not us though—we don’t have a TV} have the opportunity to sort-of combine both. Maybe eat them halfway through the first quarter, before they get cold.

This recipe is adapted from an ancient version of the venerable Edmonds Cook Book owned by my maternal grandmother, and originally used Edmonds “Cake Baking Powder”. This was a substance introduced during wartime rationing to replace eggs. Lauren tells me that egg is used not only as a binding agent but also as a leavening agent, and I believe Cake Baking Powder fulfilled the latter purpose. When it was eventually withdrawn from sale in the late 1980s, it was to howls of protest, widespread stockpiling and supermarket riots as old grannies fought each other in the aisles for the last few cans as over baseball bats in a Zombie Apocalypse. OK, I made that last part up, but the stockpiling was real.

Cake Baking Powder was replaced in this recipe by regular Baking Powder, and everyone agreed that you couldn’t tell the difference.

The Kiwi's Rock Cakes from Kiwi and Peach

Rock Cakes

{makes 8-10 cakes}

110g {4 ounces} butter
¼ cup sugar
1¾ cups flour
110g {4 ounces} dried currants
1 heaping tsp baking powder
½ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 390°F/200°C.

In a large bowl, soften {but do not melt} the butter in the microwave. Cream the butter and sugar together, then sift in the rest of the dry ingredients and add the currants. Add enough milk to make the dough stiff—the measurement is not exact and depends on how soft the butter is.

Cover a cold baking tray with baking paper and spoon around 8–10 dollops of your mixture onto it using a pair of spoons. Don’t worry about making them neat and round—that’s very much not the point here.

The Kiwi's Rock Cakes from Kiwi and Peach

Bake at 390°F/200°C for 15–20 minutes until they just start to turn brown {test with a skewer if you’re not sure}. Turn them out onto a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.

Rock Cakes are best eaten warm, liberally buttered on the flat side. They’re good with jam too. And, if you want, they’re not a bad snack to have around for the next days lunch. Butter a pair and stick them together and you can even take them to work with you without making too big a mess.

The Kiwi's Rock Cakes from Kiwi and Peach

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Oliebollen: A New Year Staple

It wouldn’t be New Year’s without Oliebollen!

Lauren has turned the blog over to me {the Kiwi} for the day to tell y’all about this Dutch New Year’s Eve tradition which, alongside the excellent Apple Cake, is one of the many perks of having Dutch grandparents. The name Oliebollen literally means “oil balls”, but don’t let that put you off—they’re essentially a deep-fried fruit dumpling, a bit like a doughnut. When I was young, my grandmother used to make them every New Year’s Eve without fail. When she was no longer able to do so, the mantle passed to my uncle. Despite not being Dutch himself, he threw himself into the task of developing the perfect oliebol with an energy reminiscent of my later {successful} quest to master Southern Biscuits.

Last year at this time we were in New Zealand, and thus able to sample the delicacy for the first time in 3 years. Now we are half a world away again, and after the second or third emailed photograph {sent deliberately, I suspect, to torture me} I decided to just make my own. The results were not up to the level of a practiced master in terms of shape, but they were better than adequate. Not bad for a first effort! This recipe is adapted from my uncle’s—chiefly in reducing it by a factor of four{!}—which was in turn adapted from my grandmother’s.

The term “mixed fruit” will be familiar to fellow Kiwis as a ready-made confection of raisins, sultanas, currants and dried orange peel that is available in any supermarket. {Avoid the ones containing fake cherries though, which is most of them.} You can make your own by just combining those individual ingredients. I just used whatever we had lying around, which happened to be raisins and dried cranberries. Note that this fruit has to be soaked for at least 8 hours before you begin, so start early.

The key to success, I am reliably informed, is to keep the temperature of the oil low enough to cook the oliebollen all the way through before the outside is burned to a crisp.

Oliebollen: A New Year Staple from Kiwi and Peach

Oliebollen

{makes about 8}

250g {½ lb} mixed fruit
½ cup milk
¼ cup warm water
1¾ cups plain flour
1½ tsp sugar
7.5g {¼ oz} butter
15g {½ oz} dry yeast
¼ egg {about a teaspoon once it’s beaten}
squirt of lemon juice
about 1L {1 quart} canola oil or other vegetable oil {I used rice bran oil.}

Wash and then soak the mixed fruit in water overnight {or for at least 8 hours}.

Preheat your oven to around 100°C/220°F.

Pour the milk and water into a large mixing bowl. The resulting liquid needs to be lukewarm—though be sure to keep it below 40°C/100°F, otherwise it will kill the yeast.

Beat the egg and melt the butter. Stirring in one direction only, add the flour, sugar, egg, butter and lemon juice into the milk and water. Drain the water from the fruit and stir that through as well. The resulting mixture should be sloppy, but not runny since you have to form it into balls later. If it’s not quite right, add a little extra milk or flour as required. Finally, stir in the yeast.

Switch the oven off. Cover the bowl with a clean, moist tea-towel and place it in the warm oven for 25-30 minutes, until the mixture has roughly doubled in size. While the dough is rising, begin heating the cooking oil to a moderate heat. {I set the dial exactly halfway on the stove, and it turned out perfect.} You’ll be deep-frying, so try to use a pot with a fairly small base to minimise the amount of oil you need.

When both the dough and the oil are ready, you can begin frying the oliebollen. Scoop the batter into round balls using a large tablespoon and a rubber spatula. Fry them until golden brown {not dark brown}. They will continue cooking for a little while after you remove them from the pot, so it’s OK to take them out when they are still slightly undercooked. Use a kebab skewer or similar implement to check if they are done.

Oliebollen are best served warm and fresh, though if you’re making a double or quadruple batch you can, and we usually do, keep them in the fridge for several days. {They can be reheated in the microwave too, though not without introducing a little bit of sogginess.} Sprinkle them with icing sugar {aka powdered sugar, or confectioners sugar} through a sieve before eating.