Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Belgian Squares- Kiwi style

While The Experimental Gourmand is away gazing at the snow-topped mountains of Andorra, one of her brothers has offered to talk about his adventures in cooking with his children.

Our ten-year-old daughter started intermediate school this year, so she’s now doing home economics (sorry – ‘Food Technology’). On the first day, they made lemonade. The nice thing for me was that I’ve made lemonade with the girls for years. It was the first thing we ‘cooked’ together. At first, they would wash the lemons and mix the lemonade, while I did everything else. As they got older, they learned to squeeze the lemon halves and measure the sugar and water. Sometimes, I would put the lemon squeezer on the floor, which made it easier for them to push down on the lemon halves.

Now, Miss Ten can do it all herself, including cutting the lemons. She told me that she likes Food Technology because she gets to cook all by herself (does that mean we hover too much?). She also likes that she is starting a recipe book in class.

Miss Ten and Miss Eight are both getting more interested in cooking and baking. I made salt-water taffy last weekend and they helped. Miss Ten measured out the flavouring and colouring for me, and both girls helped pull the taffy once it was cool. It reminded me that, no matter what I’m cooking, there’s usually something they can do to help.

There’s a range of desserts in New Zealand, where we live, that are called ‘slices’. They are square like American brownies, but the texture can be somewhat cakey or somewhat fudgey. They also often have icing (frosting). Some of the common ones are ginger crunch, peppermint slice, chocolate fudge, caramel slice, and lollie cake.

Miss Ten has learned to make Belgian (or Belgium) square, which is like cakey gingerbread with frosting. I helped Miss Eight make a batch for their lunches this week. She did a lot of it herself – measuring the ingredients and mixing it up. I made sure she followed the recipe and did the final stirring and baking. She also chose the colour for the icing.

Here’s the recipe, originally from grandma and copied from my wife’s handwritten recipe book:

Belgian Square

4 oz butter
4 oz sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbspn golden syrup
1½ cups flour
1 tspn baking powder
2 tspns mixed spices
2 tspns cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and syrup and mix well. Add dry ingredients. Press into sponge roll tin (or 8” baking tin). Bake approximately 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Ice when cool (with butter frosting – just on the top) and sprinkle with jelly crystals (that is, Jell-O powder from the packet – or use cake decorating sprinkles). Cut into squares or fingers.

Miss Ten has made this several times with Mum, doing a bit more each time. There are several standard operations involved (‘Cream butter and sugar’), so it’s good for learning about baking. Overall, the recipe is pretty forgiving. The hardest part is waiting for the cake to cool enough to ice it.

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