Sally Wise's Comfort Bakes the perfect antidote to a busy life

Rum and raisin brownies. Picture: Supplied
Rum and raisin brownies. Picture: Supplied

Baking is the perfect antidote to busy times, providing a double dose of solace: the contemplative act of baking itself, and the great big buttery prize at the end, which tastes even better when shared or given away entirely.

You don't need fancy equipment or specialist skills. In this foolproof recipe collection, icon of good old-fashioned country cooking Sally Wise serves up recipes that are big on comfort and low on fuss.

  • The Comfort Bake: Food that warms the heart, by Sally Wise. Murdoch Books. $39.99.

Rum and raisin brownies

These delicious brownies, I have to say, are the best I've ever made. The generously rum-soaked raisins give a gourmet quality to this version, which is finished with a decadent rum chocolate fudge icing.

Ingredients

For the brownies

120g raisins

90 ml rum (any sort)

100g dark chocolate, chopped

60ml pouring cream

180g softened salted butter

350g white sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs

160g plain flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

60g cocoa

pinch of sea salt

For the icing:

100g dark chocolate, chopped

60ml pouring cream

60g icing sugar, sifted

2 tsp rum, or to taste

Method

To make the brownies:

1. Soak the raisins in the rum for at least two hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease an 18 x 28cm slab tin, 5cm deep. Line the base with baking paper and grease again.

3. Place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Heat the cream to boiling point and then pour it over the chocolate. Cover the bowl and leave to stand for two minutes, then stir to melt the chocolate. Set aside and stir every now and then so it does not set.

4. Using hand-held beaters or a stand mixer, whisk the butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy, then whisk in the eggs until well combined.

5. In a separate bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt. Using a large metal spoon, fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Finally, fold in the rum and raisins and the chocolate cream mixture.

6. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until a metal skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

7. Leave to stand in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

To make the icing:

1. Place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Heat the cream to boiling point and then pour it over the chocolate. Cover the bowl and leave to stand for two minutes, then stir to melt the chocolate. Stir in the icing sugar and rum.

2. Allow the icing to cool a little until thickened slightly (if necessary) and then spread it over the cooled brownie.

3. Leave to stand for at least 15 minutes to set before cutting and serving.

Makes 12-16.

Bakewell tarts

Bakewell tarts. Picture: Supplied

Bakewell tarts. Picture: Supplied

These lovely tarts are filled with jam and the flavour of almond, and traditionally topped with a smear of vanilla icing and half a glacé cherry. Sometimes I like to top the tarts with whipped cream and a piece of fresh or preserved fruit to match the jam inside. Any flavour of jam can be used in these tarts; my favourite is apricot, but I often use a variety of flavours and prepare some with each.

Ingredients

1 egg white, lightly whisked

250g jam

For the pastry:

130g plain flour

30g almond meal

pinch of baking powder

pinch of sea salt

90g cold salted butter, diced

1 egg yolk

For the filling:

125g very soft salted butter

110g white sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp almond essence

120g almond meal

For the icing:

180g icing sugar

1 1/2 tsp softened salted butter

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

boiling water

12 glacé cherries, halved (optional)

For the cream and fruit topping:

250ml cream suitable for whipping

1 tsp icing sugar

fruit to match the jam in the tarts (raspberries, apricots, peaches, strawberries), sliced if required

Method

To make the pastry:

1. Place the dry ingredients and butter in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. (Alternatively, this can be achieved by rubbing the ingredients together with your fingers.) Transfer to a large bowl.

2. Whisk together the egg yolk and 50ml water, then mix this into the flour mixture to form a soft dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to firm up before using.

To make the filling:

1. Using a hand whisk, mix the butter and sugar together until pale, then mix in the egg until creamy. Use a large metal spoon to fold in the almond essence and almond meal.

To assemble for baking:

1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease a 24-hole x 30ml scoop-shaped patty pan tin.

2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out to around 3mm and cut out 24 x 8cm circles to fit into the tin. Press the circles into the holes and brush with a little of the whisked egg white to seal.

3. Place half a teaspoon of jam in the base of each. Top each tart with two teaspoons of the almond mixture.

4. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and set. Allow to stand in their tin for five minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing:

1. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, add the butter and vanilla, then stir in enough boiling water - a little at a time - to make a smooth spreading consistency. Spread over the cooled tarts and top with half a glacé cherry (if using).

To make the cream and fruit topping:

1. Using hand-held beaters or a stand mixer, whip the cream with the icing sugar until soft peaks form. Place a spoonful on each tart and top with fruit.

Makes 24

Plum pies

Plum pies. Picture: Supplied

Plum pies. Picture: Supplied

These small plum pies are a little unusual in that they can be made from any variety of plum. In fact, even tinned plums could be used in an emergency. However, the best result is achieved when plums are in season, bursting with sunshiny goodness and loads of sweet and sticky juice. The pastry is laced with a little custard powder for its vanilla tones, which matches very well with the flavour of any plum.

Ingredients

1 egg white, whisked

For the filling:

500g plums, weight with stones removed, any variety

60g white sugar (quantity will depend on the variety of plum used)

31/2 tsp cornflour mixed to a paste with 40ml cold water

For the pastry:

250g very soft salted butter

250g white sugar

1 egg

440g plain flour

60g custard powder

1/4 tsp baking powder

Method

To make the filling:

1. Cut the plums into 1cm pieces and place in a saucepan with 80ml water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often until soft. Stir in the sugar, adding a little more if needed for the sourer varieties. Gradually stir in enough cornflour paste to reach a thick custard consistency. Set aside to cool.

To make the pastry:

1. Using a hand whisk, mix the butter and sugar until pale, then add the egg and whisk again until combined. Using a large metal spoon, fold in the dry ingredients until well combined. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up before using.

To assemble for baking:

1. Preheat the oven to 190C. Grease a 24-hole x 30ml scoop-shaped patty pan tin.

2. Cut one-third from the pastry, cover and set aside. Roll the remaining pastry out on a lightly floured surface to around 3mm.

3. Cut 24 x 8cm circles to fit the patty pan tin bases and sides. Press the circles into the holes, then brush with some of the whisked egg white to seal.

4. Place two teaspoons of the plum filling into each pastry case.

5. Roll out the reserved pastry (re-rolling any scraps from cutting out the bases) and cut slightly smaller circles to cover the tops.

6. Place the lids over the plum filling, brush with the egg white and crimp the edges with a fork to seal well. Prick each in the centre in a cross shape with the tip of a sharp knife.

7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave the pies to stand in the tin for five minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: Any trimmings or left-over pastry can be refrigerated for up to two weeks or frozen for two months.

Makes 24.

Vegan blueberry and peach muffins

Vegan blueberry and peach muffins. Picture: Supplied

Vegan blueberry and peach muffins. Picture: Supplied

The tangy flavours of blueberries and peaches make these simply prepared muffins come to life. For those choosing to follow a plant-based diet, this recipe is ideal.

Ingredients

70ml apple purée or 50g finely grated carrot or 80ml aquafaba

190g white sugar

grated zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1 lemon or lime

230g self-raising flour

190ml coconut milk

80ml vegetable oil or light olive oil

150g blueberries, fresh or frozen

2 peaches, stones removed and cut into 8mm pieces

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 15-hole x 50ml muffin tin with muffin papers to suit.

2. Whisk together the apple purée, grated carrot or aquafaba with the sugar until well combined.

3. Add the zest, juice, flour, coconut milk and oil all at once, without stirring, until all are in the bowl. Whisk until the batter is smooth.

4. Using a large metal spoon, fold in half of the berries and then the prepared peaches.

5. Spoon evenly into the muffin papers to two-thirds full. Top with the rest of the blueberries.

6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and a metal skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

7. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 12-15.

The Comfort Bake: Food that warms the heart, by Sally Wise. Murdoch Books. $39.99.

The Comfort Bake: Food that warms the heart, by Sally Wise. Murdoch Books. $39.99.

This story Food that warms the heart first appeared on The Canberra Times.