Rain, rain, go away
come again another daaaaaay!
My children keep singing those lyrics, but Spring is nothing without rain. Showers still are going to pouring, on and on, over and over again, every single day. And the worst yet to come: a coldsnap. I can hear drops of hail on our rooftop, making noisy tap above our heads. We have to light the fire again. In Spring!
Sometimes, when I look up the sky, it has one part of clouds grey, and the other half parts blue and sunny. It seems weird, but it is not so if you are in New Zealand. It seems that the sky is split into two parts: the wet one and the sunny one. Each one is interchangeable, making the split second weather cast unpredictable. But yes, we are warned by the forecast. We are the country of 4-Seasons-in-A-Day.
As a country people who keep garden and orchard, we enjoy the spirit of Spring. Spring means a joyful display of enlivening fruit trees. With their blooms so pretty, we can comprehend that they are going to produce, and that means we can start giving them a good supply of manure, working around them to free their weeds around their feet, and keep them in shape.
Plum trees with their creamy white blooms, nectarine, peach, peacherine, and peachcott trees with their pale pink to bright pink blossoms which start sending some kind of invitation to bees or other insects to come and pollinate them are eye-pleasure views.
A group of wax eyes are having a ball up there, too. We just don't know what they're doing. We just found out they are doing it this year. Perhaps, they help us with the pollination or eating insects. So far, they don't do any damage really.
In the very early of Spring, our plumcott (the cross between plum and apricot) trees have started blooming. They are always the first fruit trees to start the display. Unfortunately, it is often the time when bees are not many buzzing around, as it is often too windy. We have to start hand-pollinating until bees are back to work. We use a spare lens brush as it is so fine and can catch pollen easily with one swap. I can see the results now as the blooms are faded to be little tiny young fruits. We can't be satisfied yet, until the young fruit have come to mature and give us rewards for what we've done. It takes time, but we are patience.
Spring is so beautiful with magnolia tree near our master bedroom blooming and sending wonderful mild perfume carried by the wind. Its pale pink with purplish shade petals are just lovely, blown by the wind and dropped a handful at a time to the ground, like a carpet around the feet of the tree. Soon when the petals are all dropped, this tree will be all dense with foliage.
The spirit of Spring has lifted up my mood with its rather generous availability of sun (the precious days which can be counted by fingers) that allows me to attend the garden more often than before and with a new hope to relive the garden with new seedlings.
It is a lovely feeling to see splash of colours in the garden and orchard with Spring bulbs cheering up with their different colours and shades, perennials start shooting out, and my roses which grow young shoots. A promise for colourful Summer.
It is a lively feeling to have a contact with dark earth on my fingers, to witness the freshness of dew hanging tightly on flower petals, and to hear buzzing bees in the garden. And the seeds I have been germinating in our newly home-built greenhouse have started sprouting, giving promises of a range of self-sufficient fulfillment of needs in the future. It's all good.
We order a lot of seeds from the King's Seeds this year. Vegetables I often miss much from Indonesia, such as snake beans (long yard beans), bitter guard/squash, and kangkung (water spinach), are now available from seeds in this particular nursery. I am so excited to see how they are going to take in. I also germinate peanuts and soy beans besides many other vegetables, such as celeriac, beetroots, beans, buttercup, leeks, onions, etc. There are so many I can make a long list here. We'll see if they can grow well. I'll let you know.
With it all rain and sun coming in almost equal length of pour and shine, come all sort of weeds that have become the occupant of most of our vegetable beds. From early Spring until today, we have been bending our knees, pulling out weeds with the help of forks and what's not. They've been my most challenge in the garden. There is always something to do though, and that is fine with me.
Rain gives me a more opportunity to browse recipes and try out many of them. I did more cooking these days rather than baking. I have been busy cooking something traditional since the end of Ramadan. My children are the ultimate reason for me to cook a lot. I think they are growing up more with all the muscles they have been building through karate and swimming, not to mention running around the paddocks, climbing up and down the hills, riding bikes or scooters many times a day, or chasing calves who happen to jump over the fence to the side of the road. They are just so busy with their homeschooling and extra activities as well as home chores and responsibilities. And that makes me a busy Mum who provides healthy food to help them growing with value of good nutrition.
Indonesian food suits them much, although we also cook sushi, won ton, lasagna, or other pasta from scratch every other day, just for a change. It is good for them to taste different varieties of food.
I often bake as a treat for them. And also for me. Chocolate is the top option of all the baking treat. I bake PennyLane Brownie Cookies the other day, and they just love them. I'm sending these chocolate brownie cookies to Sweet NZ, hosted by Alessandra Zecchini.
These cookies are originated from Joy of Baking, and made popular in the Indonesian cooking and baking group by Riana. I don't care if the cookies do not meet the standard of success--like some people are fussing about. They are just as delicious no matter what. I love them soft-baked with just 12-13 minutes baking time. They are best eaten warm when the chocolate chunks in the cookies are still oozing and smeared my fingers. My opinion.
These cookies can be addictive. I have warned you.
PennyLane's Chocolate Brownie Cookies
original recipe by Joy of Baking
Modified by Riana
I have to convert this recipe into a gluten-free treat. I replace the flour with Gluten-Free flour, use caster sugar instead of white sugar, use margarine, and use Whittaker's 50% for the mixture, Whittaker's Dark Ghana 72% for the dark chocolate chips, and Whittaker's White Chocolate for the white chocolate chips. I also use hazelnuts, toasted and chopped, skin on.
Here's what I do.
60 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
450 grams bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
60 grams unsalted butter or margarine
250 grams granulated white sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 gram instant coffee powder, diluted with a few drops of hot water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
175 grams semisweet dark chocolate chips
175 grams white chocolate chips
200 grams your favorite nuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
Sift flour and baking powder. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler on a low heat, stirring until smooth. What I do is to let everything melt, then stir even I still can see some chocolate chunks. Just keep stirring, so I will end up with thick chocolate mixture rather than thin one. Remove from heat and set aside.
Beat sugar, eggs, and salt until fluffy and pale in colour, around 5 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture, diluted coffee, and vanilla. Fold in the flour and mix lightly until just combined and you can't see any streak or lumps of flour. Stir in the chocolate chunks and nuts. Cover and refrigerate until firm, around 30-60 minutes. I baked half of the cookie dough and freeze the other half for later use, in case I'm craving again.
Preheat the oven to 170C. Prepare the baking tray and lined with baking paper. Spoon the cookie mixture on to the lined baking tray, flatten if you like, but I just mound the balls as they will be flatten by itself while baking.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies appear to have cracked skin. I soft-baked them, slightly undercook, for I love the gooey chocolate chunks from warm chocolate cookies smeared my lips on each bite.
Remove from the oven, let cool on the tray, then transfer to the wire rack to cool completely. That when you can wait. I just love eating them warm!