Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cobbler Gobbler

cobbler

What happens on a day when a blogger doesn’t have a camera in her handbag?

* She meets for the first time, the distant relative and now good friend from Norway she’s been talking to via email for the last, oh, eight years, who happens to have travelled to Sydney for World Youth Day.
* She passes by the new Babycakes by Renee city shop shop on Erskine St and resists (though probably wouldn’t have if she did have a camera with her, and will certainly remember it on her inevitable return visit)
* She walks past the awe-inspiring Sydney Harbour. Even though she’s lived in this city all her life, the view still takes her breath away. Then she visits The Rocks, with its quaint old architecture that she loves so much.
* She goes to the Australian Heritage Hotel for a particularly patriotic lunch – pepper kangaroo pizza, complete with native berries, and a famous pale ale from Little Creatures Brewery in Western Australia. Both were spectacular. For those who haven’t tried it, kangaroo is similar in flavour to beef but incredibly tender. Even more amusing was that Norwegian relative said he had been patting one at the zoo only the day before.
* She has some lovely gelato from Gelatissimo in Circular Quay for dessert.
* The delicious lemon meringue pie she made, comprised of Dorie Greenspan’s pâte sablée, LemonPi’s delicious lemon cream, and a slathering of just-torched meringue was completely gobbled down with no leftovers.

At least I got a photo of the cobbler I made! It was partly inspired by the recent Tuesdays With Dorie challenge and partly by an apple and rhubarb pie I made during my recent trip to Perth. I really loved the combination, though I think it would be hard for me to not like a dessert containing rhubarb. With some pink lady apples hanging around in the fruit bowl, and the mountain of rhubarb I’ve recently acquired in waiting the fridge, the deal was sealed.

On the subject of cobblers… They are not something we see a lot of in Australia. Fruit crumbles are much more popular, no doubt a gift from the British. As I understand it, a British cobbler is a savoury dish, with meat and vegetables cooked under a crust, while a crumble is sweet with a fruit filling. In America, the cobbler and crisp share similarities in that they both contain fruit and taste delicious with ice cream, yet the toppings differ between a scone/biscuit for the former and an oat and/or nut based for the latter.

I loved the warmth and homeliness of this dessert. Next time I would probably swap a vanilla bean for the lemon in the filling to balance the tastes better. I am a little undecided as to whether the cinnamon really works here, and if adding vanilla to the filling I would tend to continue that with the topping. Move over Cookie Monster, I'm a Cobbler Gobbler!

Rhubarb and Apple Cobbler
Adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller
Serves 4-6

Filling
• ½ bunch rhubarb, cut into 2cm lengths
• 3 pink lady apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
• 5 tablespoons caster sugar
• 2 tablespoons cornflour
• Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Topping
• 1 cup self-raising flour
• 2 tablespoons raw sugar
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 50g butter, coarsely chopped
• 90mL buttermilk
• Raw sugar and buttermilk, extra

1. Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F)
2. Place apple, rhubarb, sugar, cornflour and lemon zest and juice in a bowl and stir to combine. Transfer to a 1.5L capacity oven safe dish.
3. To make the topping, process flour, raw sugar, cinnamon and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add buttermilk and process until mixture forms a dough.
4. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll out to 4mm thick and using a round pastry cutter, cut rounds and arrange them over the rhubarb mixture, overlapping slightly.
5. Brush tops with a little extra buttermilk and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until fruit is bubbling and pastry is golden and risen. Cool for 20 minutes and serve with whipped cream, yoghurt or ice cream.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Grand Plan

granola

You know that grand plan I had, the one where I was going to eat breakfast every day? Well it worked for a while, but I soon sunk back into my old ways. I was bored with the breakfast options on offer at home, yet had no time to make something more interesting on a normal morning, between important wardrobe decisions and catching the early train – the only one on which I manage to get a seat! When granola recipes popped up on several blogs that I love, I thought that this could be a great option for me. It could be made in advance and filled with lots of good stuff, unlike mass-manufactured cereals with lists of ingredients you can’t pronounce. It could also be adapted to include the things I like.

But it took me a while to actually get around to making it. It seems like quite a turning point, the day you decide to make your own cereal, like stepping over to the other side, and I just wasn’t ready yet! Even yesterday, when I did make granola for the first time, I was slightly hesitant. Quietly prepared to be converted and knowing that what I was doing – measuring oats and chopping almonds – could be something I do every weekend from now on. And I think I was right, judging by how excited I was about breakfast today. Simply adorned with some chopped strawberries, this granola is wonderful.

I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly and easily it came together, and the amazing smell that wafted through the house as it baked had everyone asking what I was cooking. I adapted the recipe slightly from Molly’s, adding sultanas instead of the chocolate, using macadamia oil, and adding a little vanilla. I am already looking forward to further tinkering with the recipe. Next time I might add some cinnamon, some sunflower seeds, and some dried cherries. And I’m definitely making a double batch!

Oh, and here’s a question for those in and around Melbourne. I’m going to be visiting for eight days in early October. Last time I was there it rained every day and we didn’t get to explore very much, unfortunately. From an insider’s perspective, what should we make sure to see and do? Which markets are the best? And more importantly, where should we eat? I have a special interest in patisseries, chocolate and coffee!

granola

Honey and Almond Granola
Adapted from Orangette

• 3 cups rolled oats
• ½ cup shredded coconut
• ½ cup natural almonds, finely chopped
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• Pinch salt
• 6 tablespoons honey
• 2 tablespoons macadamia oil (or vegetable oil)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ cup sultanas or other dried fruit, chopped if necessary

1. Preheat oven to 150ºC (300ºF) Combine rolled oats, coconut, almonds, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
2. In a small saucepan, warm the honey, oil and vanilla, whisking occasionally until combined. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir well.
3. Spread the mixture evenly over a rimmed baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden, stirring at the halfway point to ensure granola cooks evenly. When it’s ready, remove from the oven and stir well. Cool completely.
4. Transfer to a large bowl, jar or zip-lock bag and stir in sultanas or other chopped dried fruit. Store in an air-tight container and serve with milk or yoghurt.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Former Glory

lattice

Sometimes you just can’t help yourself. I’m usually pretty good with curbing impulse purchases, because I don’t really need another pair of jeans, and I bought a new cookbook only last week. But when it comes to food shopping, I seem to lose all self-control. I could literally spend hours in the produce section, eyeing off the fruits and vegetables. I’m even worse in the cheese section! One day at college, I went to buy some lunch and came back still hungry with the latest Donna Hay magazine and two ruby grapefruits. I inevitably buy things that weren’t on the list, and then curse myself later on because I must find a recipe in which to use it, lest they turn to liquid in the fridge, or mush in the fruit bowl.

Rhubarb is one thing that always tempts me when I’m shopping. The relatively mild weather in Australia means that its available all year, so for a long time I wasn’t sure when it was actually in season. Gourmet Traveller magazine however tells me that it’s right now – in winter, rhubarb grows more slowly, so the stalks are thinner and redder (the article is also a very interesting read about rhubarb’s history) When I saw the beautiful red stems, I knew I had to buy a bunch.

I was about seven years old when we first moved into our house. In our big backyard, there was a beautiful garden growing all kinds of flowers and vegetables. I used to love pulling out the carrots and getting dirty while digging up the potatoes. Among other things, we also grew spinach and rhubarb, but gave most of it away because my parents weren’t sure what to do with it at the time. Unfortunately after a while the garden suffered because my parents didn’t have the time to maintain it like the retired couple that lived here before us. We do have plans to try to restore the garden to its former glory and I would just love to grow rhubarb again!

This recipe came from the recent autumn issue of Donna Hay magazine in a wonderfully styled and particularly inspirational section on sweet pies. In winter I love warm desserts with melted ice cream so pies are perfect. I added strawberries to the rhubarb and vanilla filling because I’d never tried the two together before. I really liked Donna’s vanilla pastry recipe – it was buttery and delicious, but not overly sweet. I will definitely use it for other sweet pies in the future.

pie

Rhubarb and Strawberry Lattice Pie
Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 38
Serves 6

Vanilla Pastry
• 1 2/3 cup plain flour
• 1 tablespoon caster sugar
• ¼ teaspoon baking powder
• 180g cold butter, chopped
• 1/3 cup iced water
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Rhubarb and Strawberry Filling
• ½ bunch rhubarb (about 200g), rinsed, trimmed and thinly sliced
• 1 punnet strawberries (250g), rinsed, hulled and quartered
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon cornflour
• 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• 1 egg white, lightly beaten, for brushing
• Granulated sugar, for sprinkling

1. To make the pastry, place flour, sugar and baking powder in a food processor and process to combine. Add butter and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Gradually add the water and vanilla and process until the mixture comes together to form a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes before rolling out. Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F)
3. To make filling, place strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, cornflour and vanilla in a bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside.
4. Halve the pastry and roll out each piece to 3mm thick. Line the base of a lightly greased 22cm metal pie tin with a piece of the pastry. Spoon the filling mixture into the pastry shell.
5. Cut the remaining pastry into 12 x 2cm wide strips. Arrange the strips on top in a lattice pattern. Press the edges to seal and trim the excess. Brush with eggwhite and sprinkle with sugar.
6. Bake for 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Serve warm, with custard or ice cream.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One Whole Year

cupcake

I honestly don’t know where the time goes, it’s already mid-July and the year is absolutely flying past. I can’t believe it was one whole year ago that I sat down to write the very first post here on Spicy Icecream. Inspired by blogs like La Tartine Gourmande and Delicious Days, I decided to start my own little blog to share my cooking adventures and keep track of all the different recipes I tried. I would often snap a photo of my dinner before I started eating, so writing about it naturally seemed like the next step. And so, with nary an introduction, I launched into an essay about meat pies.

My first year of food blogging has been quite a journey, but I have enjoyed it immensely. I’ve learned so many new skills, tried cooking with new ingredients, and overcome food dislikes that I’d harboured for years, though there are a few I’m still working on. And, as expected, my collection of kitchen gadgetry and cookbooks has expanded significantly, though my waistline hasn’t, luckily! So many memorable moments in the last year have revolved around food, whether I cooked it myself or I shared it with someone else. It's a huge part of my life, and I want to keep it that way.

I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that cooking is not just about eating for survival, it’s also about sharing, and I think that is one of the things I like the most. I love to sit down with my family to a meal I’ve prepared, I love to plan menus, and I love to surprise my friends with cookies or cupcakes I’ve baked. In the next year I want to have more dinner parties, try new things – cuisines, dishes, techniques, ingredients – to expand on my knowledge, skill and experience in the kitchen, and to make the time occasionally to cook purely for pleasure.

A quick word about the cupcakes… I love pumpkin. I just don’t understand how people can dislike it – yes, I’m looking at you Steve! I loved the idea of using pumpkin in a cake and I have wanted to make these since I saw Fanny’s post about them, and the episode of Jamie At Home about squash, within days of each other late last year. They are so easy to put together in a food processor! I used my favourite cream cheese icing with them and they were very nice. They sort of reminded me of a carrot cake, though I think in a blind taste off, my delicious carrot cake recipe would win.

Butternut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing
Adapted from Jamie At Home by Jamie Oliver
Makes 18

• 400g butternut pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped
• 350g brown sugar
• 4 eggs
• Pinch salt
• 300g plain flour
• 2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
• Handful of walnuts
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 175mL extra virgin olive oil
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Icing
• 250g cream cheese, softened
• 1 cup icing sugar
• ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped (or 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract)

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a muffin tin with paper cases.
2. Whiz the pumpkin in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the sugar and eggs. Add a pinch of salt, the flour, baking powder, walnuts, cinnamon, olive oil and vanilla extract. Whiz together until well beaten. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
3. Fill the paper cases three quarters full with the cake mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool on a wire rack.
4. To make the cream cheese icing, combine ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Smooth onto the cooled cakes.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Past Tense

chicken and leek pie

I love a good pie, with good being the key word. I like almost any kind of sweet pie, I like beef pies and pork pies, but try as I might, I never really liked chicken pies – even those I made myself. Call me picky but I always felt that something wasn’t quite right, that there was something lacking, and I was always disappointed. But as you might be able to tell from the use of past tense, things have changed.

When I was in Perth, I decided to try something a little different in my chicken pies and was very impressed with the results. I couldn’t wait to make it again for my family when I got home. The secret? Leek.

I’ve used leek in risottos and soups before, but never in a pie. I love its delicate oniony sweetness that teams perfectly with the creamy chicken filling. I chose potato, carrot and celery because that is what we had on hand at the time, but I think it would be nice with peas or mushrooms included as well.

The filling is quick and easy to make so it’s good for a weeknight meal, and is especially satisfying on a cool winter evening. This is the perfect way to use up leftover cooked chicken and the vegetables that have been kicking around in the fridge for a while. I would imagine that the cooked filling could also be frozen, so it’s ready for pie assembly whenever you are.

Chicken and Leek Pies
Serves 4

• 50g butter
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 leek, chopped
• ½ onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
• Salt & Pepper
• ½ cup white wine
• 1 carrot, chopped
• 1 stalk celery, chopped (optional)
• 1 potato, chopped into small cubes and cooked until tender
• 1 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded
• 400mL cream
• Puff pastry, store bought, thawed
• 1 egg, whisked

1. Preheat oven to 200°C (390°F)
2. Melt butter and oil in a frying pan. Add leek, onion and garlic, and stir until softened. Add parsley, and season with salt and pepper.
3. On high heat, add wine. Then add carrot, celery (if using), potato and chicken and cream. Simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
4. Cut pastry rounds to fit individual pie dishes. Spoon filling evenly into each. Cut rounds for the lids and press down to seal. Cut a small slit into the top of each pie, and brush with beaten egg.
5. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until pies are golden. Serve with mashed potato or salad.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Aroma Festival

coffee!

If it were ever doubted, it was proven today – Sydney is obsessed with coffee. In the city, there is a café (or a Starbucks) on practically every corner, so it’s no wonder that I navigate my way around based on where the coffee is.

The Aroma Festival is an annual event held in Sydney’s historic Rocks district. It has expanded in the last few years to include tea, spices and chocolate as well as coffee. What a turnout there was today! The weather was fantastic, much better than for last year’s festival when it rained... And really, what better to do on a beautiful Sunday in winter than sample coffee and tea from dozens of roasters and suppliers, as well as chocolates, cupcakes, cookies and fudge from many more.

cupcakes!

After a cup of coffee and a wander around, we found ourselves looking for something sweet. Sydney has well and truly embraced the cupcake trend, with numerous cupcake bakeries popping up over the last few years. However, most of the cupcakes I’ve tried have been kind of disappointing. No matter how cute, they are either dry on the inside or the icing is far too sweet for my liking, and I’m left with the feeling that I could have made it better myself.

Online Cupcakes had a gorgeous display, and we sampled a chocolate flavoured and an espresso flavoured cupcake. For the first time I was surprised at the quality of the product! The cake was tasty with a nice crumb, and even though the icing could have had a more of a coffee kick, it was still delicious.

cups

As far as the coffee goes, we only tried two different ones because of the crowds and my need to actually get some sleep tonight. I wanted most of all to try Toby’s Estate, but every time we walked past, the long line seemed to be getting longer! It just gives me an excuse to visit their café and ‘tea emporium’ in Chippendale – which is something I should have done long ago anyway!

I really enjoyed the Aroma Festival today, and look forward to another caffeine hit next year. The atmosphere was fun, the crowd was as diverse as they come, and you just can't beat a good cup of coffee for only $1 on a winter's day.

aroma festival

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Extreme Sport

cake

Some foods should come with a warning label. Not like “may contain traces of nuts” on a packet of peanuts, but useful, helpful advice like “may cause addiction” or “may induce a diabetic coma”. Making some recipes is almost like an extreme sport – a feat of skill, precision and often insanity, but for this cake, the extreme part comes with the eating.

I’ve been in Perth for the last twelve days or so – a fun trip even though I got sick for about half of it. There was however, finally, a trip to Choux Café, a gorgeous little patisserie that I’ve wanted to visit for months now. We had macarons, opera cake and an amazing caramel religieuse. We cooked at home a lot, mostly because I didn’t feel up to going out, but that was okay because I managed to perfect my chicken pie recipe, which I’m looking forward to sharing with you soon.

On my final night in Perth, we invited Steve’s ‘parental shaped people’ over for dinner, and as luck would have it, it was Bob’s birthday the next day. I decided there needed to be cake, and not just any cake, to go with the roast chicken and hasselback potatoes, made with rosemary picked fresh from the garden. Dinner was great, even if I did slice two fingers with a new, and therefore sharp (!) knife while chopping carrots. But the winner of the evening was definitely the cake.

chocolate

The sinfully rich chocolate cake is paired with a caramel and milk chocolate frosting that reminded me a little of Cadbury Caramello, which is definitely a good thing, in case you were wondering. The frosting had two and a half blocks of milk chocolate, plus some dark chocolate thrown in there for good measure. But to be fair, the frosting came from a cake recipe meant to have three layers and mine only had two, so there was a lot leftover. I’d also never made caramel before but it worked out wonderfully. Every girl needs a good classic chocolate cake in her repertoire and I really liked this one (in tiny slices). It was moist and very rich on the inside. I think it would be nicely adaptable to other kinds of frosting you might decide to try.

The cake got rave reviews, especially from Bob who took most of it home with him. I’d be surprised if it lasted a day. As for a warning label, I think this cake should have “do not eat alone” – food tastes better with the people you like anyway.

frosting

Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate and Caramel Frosting
Adapted from Epicurious
Serves 8-10

Note: You may want to halve the frosting recipe if you don’t want leftovers.

Cake
• 2 cups plain flour
• 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
• 220g butter, softened
• 1 cup brown sugar, packed
• ¾ cup sugar
• 4 large eggs, room temperature
• 50g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
• 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 ½ cups buttermilk

Frosting
• 650g milk chocolate, finely chopped
• 85g dark chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 ½ cups sugar
• ½ cup water
• 2 ¼ cups whipping cream

1. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F). Line two 22cm round cake pans with baking paper.
2. To make cake, sift flour, cocoa and baking soda into a small bowl. Cream butter, brown and white sugar together with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add chocolate and vanilla and beat until just combined.
3. On low speed, add flour and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with flour mixture until just combined. Divide evenly between prepared cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean.
4. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack. Peel off baking paper and allow to cool completely.
5. To make frosting, combine milk and dark chocolate in a large bowl. Stir sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Boil without stirring until syrup is dark amber in colour, about 10 minutes. On low heat, carefully and slowly add the cream – the mixture will bubble up. Stir until any solids dissolve and the mixture is smooth.
6. Pour the caramel over the chocolate, stand for 1 minute then whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Chill for 2 hours until completely cooled, and then let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
7. Using an electric mixer, beat frosting until the colour resembles milk chocolate and the frosting is spreadable. Be careful not to overbeat.
8. Place one cake layer on serving platter, flat side up. Spread frosting evenly over the top. Top with the second layer, flat side up, and spread frosting over top and sides of the cake.

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