Saturday, February 28, 2009

Daring Bakers: February

choc valentino

I’ve never really understood the hype about Valentines Day. I’m not bitter, I just think it’s overly commercialised. I would rather show love on a daily basis, rather than on one day a year when society wants me to. That’s what it’s all about. I don’t need flowers to feel loved (though chocolate is always acceptable). It’s the sweet and thoughtful gestures that I (and I think most women generally) appreciate the most. The time that he cooked dinner for us when I was busy finishing up an assignment, that he bought the box of tissues with cute puppies on it to make me smile when I was sick, that he express-posted cupcakes to me on my birthday.

The February Challenge consisted of:
- A Flourless chocolate cake
- An accompanying ice cream of our choice

I was excited when I heard about this month’s challenge. And completely without meaning to, I baked this up on Valentines Day itself. The reason behind that is sort of amusing – we are doing a big kitchen renovation and the oven was to be ripped out the following day, so it was my last chance to complete the February challenge! It was nice to send the oven off in style. I used semi-sweet dark chocolate with about 60% cocoa solids, since the cake recipe doesn’t contain any sugar and I didn’t want it to be too bitter. It amazes me that a cake with only three ingredients can turn into something so rich and delicious. The taste depends entirely on the chocolate you use, so pick one that you love.

ice cream (46)

My favourite thing about the challenge was the ice cream component. You see, making ice cream is my new obsession, especially now that I don’t have an oven handy. I had made this Dulce De Leche ice cream from Gourmet magazine before, without an ice cream maker so I was very keen to try it again with one. The result was unbelievable - so creamy and perfect, which is even more surprising given that it isn’t a custard-based ice cream recipe! The only problem was, when served with the cake, the intense chocolate flavour slightly overpowered the dulce de leche. I imagine that this ice cream would be amazing with something like a banana tarte tatin.

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Chocolate Valentino

• 454g semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
• 146g unsalted butter
• 5 large eggs, separated

1. Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water and melt, stirring often
2. While the chocolate mixture is cooling, butter your baking pan and line with a circle of baking paper, then butter the paper.
3. Separate the eggs and put the whites and yolks into two separate large bowls and whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
4. With the same beater, beat the egg yolks together, and then add to the cooled chocolate.
5. Add 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with the remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.
6. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and bake at 190ºC (375ºF) for 25 minutes. The top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet. Cool on a cake rack for 10 minutes before unmolding.

Dulce De Leche Ice Cream
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes about 1.4L (1 ½ quarts)

• 2 cups whole milk
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 2/3 cup dulce de leche
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Bring milk and cream to the boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, then remove from the heat and whisk in the dulce de leche until dissolved. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
2. Transfer to a metal bowl. Quick chill by putting into a sink filled with cold water and ice cubes, stirring occasionally until cold, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Freeze in an ice cream maker until almost firm, and then transfer to an airtight container and put into the freezer to harden, for at least 1 hour.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Buttery, Delicious

peach galette (45)

I just love the look of a rustic pastry, perhaps even more than the too-pretty-to-eat ones. Rustic pastries look like they have been made with love, and that is important to me. When it came to picking recipes for the Tartine Cookbook project that Mark from No Special Effects and I are doing this year, the fruit galettes were an absolute shoo in, and what better time of year to make them than when stone fruit is in season and summer berries are abundant.

I was a tiny bit nervous about making the pastry for this recipe, as I’d never done anything like it before. I need not have been because it turned out just perfectly and wasn’t difficult to make at all. Buttery, delicious, and amazingly flaky, I couldn’t have been happier with how it turned out! One thing I especially like about the Tartine Cookbook is the very detailed instructions and explanations. Just reading through the recipe makes you feel more confident, even if it is a technique you’ve never tried before.

galettes

I made one large plum galette that was taken to my Aunty’s house for dessert that night where it was a huge success. I also made six small ones with a variety of fruit fillings using white and yellow peaches, raspberries, blueberries and several combinations thereof. My favourites were the white peach and raspberry and the yellow peach and blueberry. It is definitely important to taste your fruit before you sweeten it though, because you may need more or less sugar than the recipe states depending on what you are using. I think I’ll definitely be making these again in the future, and I’m looking forward to trying them with other fruits, perhaps some sautéed apples and pears in winter, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream to serve.

galettes

Fruit Galettes
From Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson
Makes 2 large or 12 small galettes

Dough
• 455g unsalted butter, very cold
• 1 cup water
• 1 ½ teaspoons salt
• 5 cups all purpose flour

Filling
• About 6 cups fruit (peaches, nectarines, apricots, berries, sautéed apples or pears – your choice), cut up if necessary
• Granulated sugar

Egg wash
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 tablespoon cream
• Granulated sugar, for sprinkling

1. To make the dough, cut the butter into 1-inch cubes and put them in the freezer. Measure the water, dissolve the salt into it and put into the freezer as well. Chill both for about 10 minutes.
2. Measure the flour onto a large, flat work surface and spread into a rectangle about 1cm thick. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour and toss a little flour over the butter so that your rolling pin won’t stick, and begin rolling. When the butter starts flattening out into long, thin pieces, use a bench scraper to scoop up the sides of the rectangle so that it is the size that you started with. Repeat the rolling and scraping 3 or 4 times.
3. Make a well in the center and pour all of the water into it. Using the bench scraper, scoop the sides of the dough into the center, cutting the water through the dough. Keep scraping and cutting until the dough is a shaggy mass and shape into a rectangle.
4. Lightly dust the top with flour and roll out the rectangle until it is half as large again, then scrape the top, bottom and sides together to the original size and re-roll. Repeat 3 or 4 times until you have a smooth and cohesive dough. Transfer rectangle of dough to a large baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and chill for about an hour.
5. While the dough is chilling, prepare the fruit. Hull berries, pit the peaches and cut into eighths, etc depending on the fruit you are using.
6. When you are ready to roll the dough, divide it into 2 equal portions if making large galettes or 12 equal portions for small ones. Roll the dough into circle shapes by rolling from the center to each end, not flattening the end points. Turn the pastry so the flattened out corners are at the top and bottom. Again, roll from the center towards the points nearest and farthest to you, stopping short of the top and bottom. Roll the thicker areas and you will begin to see a circle forming. Transfer to baking sheets and chill for 10 minutes.
7. Fill the center of each dough circle with fruit, leaving a 5cm edge uncovered on the large galettes or a 2cm edge on the small ones. Taste the fruit for sweetness and determine how much sugar you want to use to sweeten it. Sprinkle with granulated sugar, typically using 2-4 tablespoons for large galettes and 1-2 teaspoons for each small. Fold in the sides of the circle to cover the fruit partially. Chill for another 10 minutes.
8. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 190ºC (375ºF). To make the egg wash, whisk egg yolk and cream in a small bowl. Crush the egg wash over the pastry edges and then sprinkle with granulated sugar.
9. Bake the galettes until the crust has visibly puffed and baked to dark brown and the juice from the fruit is bubbling inside – 45-60 minutes for large galettes and 40-50 minutes for small galettes. Rotate the baking sheets at the midway point to ensure even baking. Remove from the oven and serve hot or at room temperature.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Raving About

cheesecake (25)

I cannot take the credit for this gorgeous cheesecake. I didn’t make it, and I wasn’t even at home the night it was served, because I was at the Arctic Monkeys concert – amazing! All I did was excitedly snap up the February issue of Delicious magazine and come home raving about the amazing looking cheesecake recipe on page 73. My sister took it from there. She’s becoming quite a good cook these days, but I especially enjoy when we are cooking together in the kitchen. She likes to chop chocolate while I sift flour, though occasionally we disagree about who should do the whisking.

She ran into problems at one point when she found that she didn’t have enough white chocolate. The recipe called for 200g but we had less than half of that. It meant that the cheesecake took a longer to set, but I think it would have been way too rich with the whole amount of chocolate. I really loved the taste as it was – unlike most cheesecakes I’ve eaten in the past, it wasn’t too rich or too sweet. I have adapted the recipe below to include less chocolate but slightly more gelatine to allow it to set properly. Apart from that little hiccup, the cheesecake was easy to put together and tasted delicious.

I loved the raspberry and vanilla sauce most of all. The original recipe used strawberries but we struggled to find nice sweet ones at the time and opted for raspberries instead. It was such a wonderful, vibrant colour, and really complemented the creamy cheesecake. It also tasted great spooned over vanilla ice cream. My sister did a great job with this dessert, and you might even see her contributing more to my blog in the future.

Raspberries and Cream Cheesecake
Serves 6-8
Adapted from Delicious Magazine

You will need to begin this recipe the day before you plan to serve it.

• 200g shortbread biscuits
• 100g unsalted butter, melted
• 3-4 teaspoons gelatine powder
• 500g Philly cream cheese
• 395g can sweetened condensed milk
• 300mL thickened cream
• 100g white chocolate, melted and cooled
• 2 punnets raspberries (or strawberries)
• ½ cup caster sugar
• 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

1. Grease and line the base of a 23cm round springform cake pan. Place the biscuits in a food processor and process to fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and process to combine. Press into the base of the pan and chill for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, process cream cheese and condensed milk in a food processor or stand mixer until smooth. Heat 100mL cream in a saucepan over low heat. Add the gelatine to the warm cream and stir until completely dissolved.
3. Stir cream mixture into cream cheese mixture. Beat remaining cream with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Fold into the cream cheese mixture with the cooled chocolate. Pour over the base, and chill overnight until set.
4. Place the sugar, vanilla bean and seeds and 1/3 cup water in a heavy based saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer without stirring for 5 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly. Add the berries and cook for a further 1 minute. Cool completely and then pour over cheesecake just before serving.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Climatic Backflip

parfait

Here in Sydney we have had record hot days and then record cold days all in the space of about a week. After the 40+ temperatures of last weekend, it has been cold and rainy ever since. It’s the biggest climatic backflip I’ve ever seen. From feeling slightly foolish looking at all the new autumn/winter fashion popping up everywhere, I am starting to feel that yes, buying that great winter coat and a new pair of boots may be necessary, even though it is only mid-February.

I wanted to tell you about this amazing honey parfait when the weather warmed up again, but cold weather has never been enough to make me stop eating ice cream anyway. I just couldn’t wait any longer because this dessert was absolutely amazing. It came from a gorgeous cookbook called Decadence by Phillip Johnson that my sister was given for Christmas last year. I wonder if she’d notice if it mysteriously went missing one day. It’s the kind of book where you want to stick a post-it note to almost every page, because all of the recipes look and sound incredible. This was the first one we tried and it certainly didn’t disappoint!

The honey and vanilla flavours together were delicious, and the plated dessert looked beautiful served in slices and drizzled with the deep purple cooking juices from the grilled plums. The plums this season have been exceptional, and I think I have eaten several dozen over the last few weeks. They made the perfect accompaniment, although apricots or peaches would have also worked beautifully. The recipe suggests also serving with a scattering of pistachios, which I imagine would be wonderful also.

Honey Parfait with Grilled Plums
Serves 8
Recipe adapted from Decadence by Phillip Johnson

• 1 cup milk
• ¼ cup good quality honey
• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthways, seeds scraped
• 6 egg yolks
• ½ cup caster sugar
• 350mL pouring (whipping) cream
• 10 ripe plums, cut in half, stones removed
• Caster sugar, for sprinkling
• ¼ cup shelled, unsalted pistachio nuts, blanched and skinned (optional)

1. Place the milk, honey, vanilla seeds and the bean itself into a saucepan over medium heat and stir to dissolve the honey. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and allow to infuse for at least an hour. Re-heat it to boiling after it has infused.
2. In a bowl, lightly whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in about ¼ cup of the hot milk to temper the mixture and then add the remainder of the milk, whisking constantly. Return to a saucepan over medium heat.
3. Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Do not allow to boil. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until cool. Refrigerate until completely cold or quick-chill by placing the bowl into a sink filled with cold water and ice cubes.
4. Whisk the cream until stiff peaks form. Using a whisk, carefully fold the cream through the custard mixture a little at a time.
5. Line a 28 x 10 x 8cm loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing a 4cm overhang around the sides. Spoon the parfait mixture into the tin and tap gently against the benchtop to expel any air bubbles. Gently cover the top with the overhanging plastic wrap and freeze overnight, or until set.
6. When ready to serve, preheat the grill (broiler) to medium. Sprinkle the cut surface of each plum liberally with caster sugar and place on a baking tray. Grill for 6-8 minutes or until the plums caramelise on top.
7. Turn the parfait out of the mold onto a cutting board. Using a hot knife, cut into slices about 1.5cm thick, then arrange on a serving plate. Place plum halves on top, drizzle with some cooking juice and scatter with pistachio nuts if desired.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Summeriest

sangria

It was hot this past weekend, really hot. On Saturday, the temperature got up to 43 degrees in some parts of Sydney, and up pretty close to that where I live. I am certainly thanking my lucky stars that the air conditioner is working again! But, it is a little bit hard to complain when you’re wearing your favourite summer dress, your hair is in a messy but stylish bun, and at dusk you’re eating perfect home made pizza, cooked on the barbeque (something that you will be hearing more about soon, I promise) and sipping the summeriest of drinks – a wonderful pomegranate and white wine sangria.

I still had a bottle or two of POM Wonderful in my fridge from Darcie at Zing, and it recently occurred to me that I haven’t shared a single drink recipe here! Pomegranate juice is just wonderful in so many different cocktails, from the Pomtini, a modern twist on the classic martini, to a refreshing pomegranate and lime caprioska, the pomegranate juice is not only a delicious addition but so pretty too. I don’t know about you, but I think cocktails taste so much better when they’re pink!

While not your traditional red wine sangria, this one is an inspired and delicious combination of ingredients, and I’m only too keen to find another occasion to make it again. The flavours complemented each other perfectly, with the lemon and mint making it nice and refreshing. The deep red colour was absolutely stunning. Served ice cold, this is the perfect drink for casual entertaining on a summer night.

sangria

Pomegranate and White Wine Sangria
Serves 6
Recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller

• 45mL lemon juice
• 200mL POM Wonderful juice
• 250mL white wine (I used a nice Sauvignon Blanc)
• 60mL white rum
• 60mL sugar syrup
• 10-15 mint leaves
• 1 lemon, cut into thin slices
• ¼ cup fresh pomegranate seeds
• Ice cubes, to serve

1. Add the lemon and pomegranate juices, white wine, white rum and sugar syrup to a 1 litre size jug or carafe with the mint leaves, lemon and pomegranate seeds.
2. Mix and top with ice cubes just as guests arrive. Pour into wine glasses and serve.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Taste of Sydney

taste of sydney

Sydney is a unique city food-wise, with an amazing blend of cultures shaping our cultural landscape. The Taste of Sydney Festival coming to town after successful events in cities like London, Dublin, Dubai, Cape Town and Melbourne. You can experience the best cuisine that Sydney has to offer, all in the one place. The festival runs over four days, between March 12th-15th in the gorgeous Centennial Park, and features some of the city’s top restaurants including Bécasse, Bird Cow Fish, Longrain and Sailors Thai.

It was very exciting to receive an invitation to the Media Launch and have the opportunity to preview it all beforehand. It was also a wonderful opportunity to catch up once more with some food blogger friends over some great food and wine. But unfortunately I was a little too busy chatting and eating to take many photos! For the full run-down, of everything that was served, head over to Jen’s blog and check out her amazing photos.

wagyu burgers

There were a few highlights of the night – the amazing and visually stunning beetroot macaroons with foie gras by Centennial Parklands Dining, and the mini wagyu burgers from Bécasse & Etch which I had been looking forward to trying for a long time. I also loved the truffle risotto balls with mozzarella and spinach and fennel sauce from Berowra Waters, I think I ate at least three! There was some excitement when the guy serving the tray of ‘etli borek’ teased us, telling us they had snake inside the crispy filo pastry. We actually believed him at first, but it was veal shank with currants and pine nuts and was really delicious.

The dessert that took the cake, so to speak was the wonderfully jiggly vanilla panna cotta from Jonah’s at Whale Beach. It was served with pomegranate molasses and lavender honey. Both the presentation and the taste were sensational. The double chocolate and hazelnut baklava from Civic Dining was also amazing, but very very rich. I was very impressed with the variety of dishes and the wonderful location. I am really looking forward to the festival itself!

panna cotta (35)

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