Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Ahhh birthdays. I love making a big deal of other peoples’ but I tend to largely ignore my own. For the last few years, I’ve had to keep celebrations simple because my birthday always seemed to fall right in the middle of my dreaded mid-year deadlines week at college. Unfortunately it’s no different this year, but you only turn 20 once. I’ve been freaking out a little for the last month that my teenage years are over; that it’s the end of an era, so to speak. But while it feels like a chapter may be closing, a new one is most certainly opening. And I’m okay with that, even if it does mean finding a grey hair (!!)
The last year has been quite a roller coaster ride, with highs and lows and everything in between. It feels like I’ve learned a lot about myself – the things I’m capable of and the things I want from life now that my college course is nearing its end – as well new skills that I’ll continue to use years in the future. I’ve crossed things off lists, then replaced them with new things to explore, experience and discover. It’s hard to believe that in less than six months I’ll have a degree and, fingers crossed, a real job…which would be handy, as it’s hard to finance cookbook purchases on a paltry student income! So, I’m excited about the year ahead and the changes it will bring.
In an effort to avoid birthday candles this year, I decided on a semifreddo for dessert rather than a cake. The recipe combines several of my favourite things – chocolate, coffee, figs, hazelnuts… and liqueur! I liked the suggestion of serving it in slices rather than scoops for a more elegant presentation. It was deliciously rich with nice textural contrasts from the crunch of hazelnuts and chewy figs. I especially liked the espresso syrup, which would also be nice on vanilla ice cream, or even drizzled over a chocolate cake. I firmly believe that birthday calories don’t count; mind and metabolism have an unspoken agreement. Though I’d say this is worth blowing the diet for any day.
This is also my entry to the fantastic Frozen Desserts event hosted by Mike's Table. There's still time to get an entry in, I can't wait to see the round up!
I should also mention that I’m leaving for another little holiday in Perth on Friday morning. I must like it there or something! I’ll be back home in early July, but with some luck there may be a post or two written ‘on location’ to document our eating adventures. Hopefully this time I’ll get to visit the two patisseries that were unfortunately closed when I was there in January, try a much-anticipated Little Creatures pale ale, and a repeat performance of those amazing frites!
Chocolate, Fig and Hazelnut Semifreddo
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
• 2/3 cup espresso
• ½ cup Frangelico liqueur
• ¾ cup caster sugar
• 4 dried figs, halved
• 5 eggs
• 1 ½ cups milk
• 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
• 220g dark chocolate, finely chopped
• ½ cup pouring cream
• 125g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1. Combine espressp, Frangelico and ½ cup caster sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add figs, then simmer over low heat until figs are soft. Cool, remove figs and refrigerate the syrup. Coarsely chop figs and set aside.
2. Whisk eggs and remaining sugar until pale. Combine milk and vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan. Bring just to the boil over high heat, and then pour slowly over egg mixture, whisking continuously until combined. Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until thick. Remove from heat and place over a bowl of iced water to cool.
3. Melt chocolate, cool to room temperature and then whisk into the egg mixture. Set aside.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk cream until soft peaks form, then gently fold into chocolate mixture. Fold through hazelnuts and figs and pour into a greased, baking paper lined loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. Slice with a hot, dry knife and serve drizzled with syrup.