Ricki had kindly remembered Sylvia's birthday and found a wonderful card with a giraffe on it. I have never seen such a fantastic birthday card that doubled as a memory book with little sections to fill in information about the birthday. No doubt this will be something that Sylvia will love to look back on when she is little older.
Ricki also sent a little clothes package for Sylvia's birthday. I am sure she will proudly wear her Canadian clothes as soon as she fits into them. And isn't the denim jacket gorgeous!
Most exciting for me was the packet of butterscotch chips. I have read of them on blogs but never encountered them in Australia. Having a partner who is constantly asking for butterscotch in baking means I am constantly coming across recipes using them. I was so excited I had to use them that very night.
We all know the feeling of seeing every recipe requiring a particular ingredient when it is not available and once you have it in your hands, all these recipes disappear. Fortunately the butterscotch chips gave me a double opportunity to show Ricki some appreciation of her generosity.
Which brings me to my shame file! A long time ago I received another parcel from Ricki with a Whole Foods shopping bag, a Canadian t-shirt and a cookbook titled Toothsome Recipes & Historical Sketches. The bag has been filled many times, the t-shirt has been worn and loved, and, while I have spent many happy hours pouring over the book, I have never cooked a recipe from it. It was time to make amends!
Let me tell you a little about the book. It is a scrapbook of recipes from historic collections. I love some of the names like Cut and Come Again Cake, Blueberry Pandowdy, Slippery Jacks and Pumpkin Jam. The recipes are often delightfully vague and incomplete in the way of cooks who knew their methodology so well that they only needed scraps of information to make a cake or batch of cookies. If only I was so well versed in baking as our foremothers.
But I like using recipes as a crutch, even if I often change them depending on whim and availability. I found a recipe for banana choc chip muffins and decided it would be a good one to start cooking with butterscotch chips. I seem to always have bananas around the house now that Sylvia eats (and rejects) them far more than E or I ever have. I also had buttermilk and used brown sugar to increase the caramel flavour.
The butterscotch chips had been in the mail box for most of a warm autumn day. When I opened the packet I seemed to have a butterscotch sludge but if you looked beyond that, many of the chips had kept their shape despite the Australian heat. Some butterscotch chips for the muffins and a few melty ones clinging together for me.
When the butterscotch banana muffins came out of the oven, they smelt amazingly good. Rich, buttery, caramelly, sweet and delicious. In fact they were so good that I think it is probably just as well I don't have them at my beck and call in the supermarket just down the street. E also was very partial to the muffins. Not only did they smell heavenly but the texture was also just the right softness. These muffins would have been excellent without the butterscotch and it has crossed my mind that it would be worth trying them with regular chocolate chips.
Even Sylvia was quite fascinated by them and quite disappointed that she couldn't just shove them in her mouth when she helped me photograph them on her new rug. I thought that Ricki would have appreciated the muffin moose on the rug!
I thought that the rest of the butterscotch chips should be used in something full of chocolate. I found a generic rich brownie recipe and substitute butterscotch chips for walnuts. They were good - you can see from the photo how dense and fudgy the brownies were - but not as good as the banana muffins.
The few remaining chips then disappeared quietly and quickly - and not just into me. I am now torn between begging Ricki to send more butterscotch chips and sternly admonishing her never to send me such sweet temptations again. I am very grateful for the chance to try them and wish life was as simple and sweet as a bag of butterscotch chips.
Butterscotch banana muffins
Adapted from Corinne Thimot of Amie de Grand Pre in Toothsome Recipes and Historical Sketches
- 1¾ cup plain white flour
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 3 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup butterscotch chips (or choc chips)
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup cooking oil
- ¼ cup buttermilk (or milk)
- 1 cup mashed bananas (3 medium bananas)
Brownies with butterscotch chips
Adapted from Chrissy Freer, Delicious magazine, August 2003, via taste.com.au
- 200g dark chocolate
- 140g unsalted butter
- 200g brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 85g plain flour
- 100g walnuts, lightly toasted, chopped (I used butterscotch chips)
- Sifted cocoa powder, to dust
Melt chocolate and butter together. (I did this in the microwave.) Stir in the sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Whisk in the eggs one at a time and then add the egg yolk and flour. Beat well until smooth. Fold in the walnuts (or butterscotch chips).
Pour batter into the prepared cake tin. Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs attached – ie it does not need to be cooked dry but should not be too gooey. It can be cooled in the tin or turned out onto a cake rack to cool after about 15 minutes. If desired you can dust with cocoa before serving (but I didn’t’). Keeps for 2-3 days in an airtight container or freeze up to 2 months.
On the stereo
John Denver’s Greatest Hits