Friday, April 30, 2010

Without a Doubt

banana cake

Friends, a quick post today, but we need to talk about banana cake. Bourke St Bakery’s banana cake in particular. You see, this is the best banana cake I’ve ever baked, without a doubt. Perhaps it’s because everything is better covered with cream cheese icing, in my opinion, but this cake was truly something special. It never fails to surprise me how the bananas turning brown and sad on your kitchen bench can be turned into something so delicious.

The cake is beautifully moist due to the sour cream, with a lovely caramelly taste due to my new favourite ingredient, raw caster sugar. I deviated from the original recipe, which used a caramel sauce poured over the top, because I didn’t have all the ingredients. But, I had everything I needed for cream cheese icing, my favourite.

The recipe below makes one very large cake, but I made half as cupcakes (road trip snacks for our trip to Orange) and the other half as a smaller 20cm round cake. I can also tell you, it didn’t last long, it was all gobbled up pretty quickly. It’s another fabulous recipe from a truly fabulous book.

banana cake

Banana Cake
Adapted from Bourke St Bakery
Serves 16

For the cake
• 250g unsalted butter
• 335g raw caster sugar
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 4 eggs
• 200g sour cream
• 300g (2 cups) self-raising flour, sifted
• 2-3 ripe bananas
• 20g golden syrup or soft brown sugar

For the cream cheese icing
• 250g cream cheese, room temperature
• 1 cup icing sugar, sifted
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Grease a 28cm round cake tin and line the base and sides with non-stick baking paper. The paper should be about 2.5cm above the tin.

Put the butter and golden caster sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the vanilla and whisk on low speed until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing each to be completely incorporated before adding the next. Add the sour cream in two batches, then add the flour in 2 batches until combined.

Lightly mash the bananas and drizzle with golden syrup or sprinkle with brown sugar, then fold through the cake mixture to combine. Spoon into the tin and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake. Cover the top of the cake loosely with baking paper if it starts to brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a cake rack.

To make cream cheese icing, place cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until smooth and creamy. Smooth onto the top of the cooled cake.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Nothing Better

doughnuts

One Wednesday morning, a little over two weeks ago, I was struck by an urge for doughnuts. Not to eat them, as I assume would be a common craving, but to make them, something I’ve only ever attempted once before. I’m convinced, there is nothing better than a homemade doughnut, dunked quickly into cinnamon sugar and devoured within minutes of coming out of the fryer. Hot and crispy with a gooey chocolate inside, I couldn’t get them out of my head. It was lucky then, that I had five of my favourite food bloggers coming over for lunch a few days later. And so it was set, there would be doughnuts for dessert!

doughnuts

Denea did a great job of kneading and the yeasted dough was an absolute dream to work with. For some reason, deep frying is off putting to many people, but I think the promise of fresh doughnuts is reason enough to face your fears. The hardest part is keeping the oil at a consistent temperature, and therefore if you don’t have a deep fryer with temperature control, then a candy thermometer is essential.

I made much smaller doughnuts than the recipe specified. They were very cute, and I was really happy with how they turned out. It was magical to see the warm melted chocolate oozing out of the freshly cooked doughnut. And they were so insanely delicious, we couldn’t stop at just one. For a decadent twist I served them with ice cream, but they are perfect on their own or with a great cup of coffee.

doughnuts

Milk Chocolate Filled Cinnamon Doughnuts
Recipe from Gourmet Traveller
Serves 15

• 7g dried yeast
• 250ml (1 cup) buttermilk, at room temperature
• 55g (¼ cup) golden caster sugar
• 710g (4 ¾ cups) plain flour
• 100g unsalted butter, melted
• 3 eggs
• 100g milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
• Milk, for brushing
• Vegetable oil, for deep frying
• Cinnamon sugar, for dusting

Combine yeast, buttermilk, sugar and ¼ cup warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer and stand for 10 minutes or until foamy. Add flour, butter, eggs and a pinch of salt and mix using the dough hook attachment. Turk onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap and stand for an hour until doubled in size.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll to 3mm thick. Using a round cutter (the recipe specifies a 7.5cm cutter, I made small doughnuts using a 4cm cutter) cut out rounds, re-roll dough and repeat. Divide half the chocolate among the rounds, placing in the center. Brush the edges with milk and top with remaining rounds. Press to seal. Place 2cm apart on a lightly floured tray and stand for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Heat oil in a large, deep saucepan or deep-fryer to 160°C (320°F). Deep-fry doughnuts in batches, turning occasionally for 2-3 minutes or until puffed and golden. Roll in cinnamon sugar and serve immediately.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sassafras Creek, Kurrajong

sassafras creek

Top left photo by Denea

Lunch with a view, I can’t imagine a better way to spend a Thursday! If you’re following spicyicecream on Twitter, you may know that I spent a lovely long weekend in Orange with Denea to check out their fantastic Food Week. I’d never been to Orange before, but was pleasantly surprised at every turn. It’s a beautiful little town in rural NSW, only three hours from Sydney on the other side of the Blue Mountains. But on the drive there, we stopped to visit Sassafras Creek, a lovely café and shop in Kurrajong.

sassafras creek

We decided to have some lunch, and I can’t imagine a more beautiful view. Or a better way to spend a Thursday, for that matter! We picked out a nice bottle of wine, a lovely Verdelho from Western Australia. Sassafras Creek had only just got their liquor license a few days earlier and were still working on putting a wine list together, so we BYO from a little bottle shop across the road.

sassafras creek

We shared dips, olives and warm Turkish bread. My favourite of the three was the Taramasalata, although the hommos and baba ghanouj were delicious also. I don’t usually love olives, but these were some of the best I’ve ever had, with a little slice of roasted garlic slipped into each.

sassafras creek

Denea picked the Crispy Skin Ocean Trout on Pumpkin and Basil Risotto with Rosemary and Basil Tuile ($24), which was delicious, perfectly cooked and beautifully presented. I think there might have just been too much risotto because I prefer to have a few more varying textures in a dish to really make it special.

sassafras creek

I decided on the Char Grilled Pork Fillet with Kumera Mash, Sauté English Spinach and Plum and Cinnamon Ketchup ($24), although I must admit the choice was a tough one, the whole menu looked fabulous! I couldn’t believe how well cooked the pork was. The kumera mash was a little under-seasoned but I really loved the plum and cinnamon ketchup, and it really tied all the elements of the dish together in an interesting and unique way.

sassafras creek

Of course we just had to get dessert too, another tough choice as the dessert specials all looked equally delicious. We finally chose the Apple and Rhubarb Crumble, because neither of us can go past rhubarb. It was absolutely fantastic and it was polished off so quickly, it was almost indecent.

sassafras creek

Dessert board photo by Denea

What I loved the most about Sassafras Creek was that it was unfussy yet surprisingly delicious, and a great testament to the value of using fresh, local produce. It was like the best home cooking you’ve ever had, with an interesting twist to each dish, like the parmesan tuile or the plum and cinnamon ketchup. The service was warm and friendly and that view was absolutely incredible! It would be a fantastic spot for brunch or lunch with friends. Kurrajong is only about an hour from the city but it feels a world away.

Sassafras Creek - 83 Old Bells Line of Rd, Kurrajong

Monday, April 19, 2010

Just Lovely

baked pears

I love cooking for friends and family. To me it’s the most perfect to show my favourite people that I love them. I love planning menus (and of course changing my mind countless times), setting the table and sharing food and laughter. Last Sunday I had five lovely ladies come from far and wide to visit my place for lunch. I wanted to create a nice autumnal meal with seasonal ingredients and I couldn’t go past pears. You may remember that I just love them around this time of year. They’re one of my favourite thing about cool weather cooking.

I decided to make a lovely dish of baked pears with herbed goat’s cheese and prosciutto, which were served on a bed of rocket with a light honey and balsamic dressing. I used a Pukara Estate cinnamon and vanilla balsamic that I picked up in Surry Hills that was just lovely with as a dressing, but I imagine would be fantastic as a reduction or glaze too.

It was super easy to prepare and only took around 20 minutes in the oven. The flavours were absolutely incredible together – the tang of the goat’s cheese seasoned with parsley and basil offsets the sweetness of the pear. Combined with the saltiness and crispiness of the prosciutto, this ticks all the boxes for a great entrée. It even looks beautiful on the plate, if I do say so myself! Best of all, my efforts incited cheese-o-phobe Karen to try the goat’s cheese and declare it “not bad”, which I will definitely claim as a small victory on my part! It was a big hit with the girls and set the mood for a great meal.

Roast Pears with Goats Cheese and Proscuitto
Recipe adapted from taste.com.au
Serves 6

• 200g soft goats cheese
• Finely chopped parsley and basil, to taste
• Salt & Pepper, to taste
• 6 small pears
• 12 slices prosciutto
• Olive oil, to brush
• Rocket leaves, to serve

Dressing
• ¼ cup Cinnamon and Vanilla Balsamic (Pukara Estate)
• 1 tablespoon quality honey


Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F)

Combine the goats cheese and herbs and season with salt and pepper. Peel pears, slice in half and scoop out the seeds and core (a teaspoon works well for this). Fill the cavity with goats cheese mixture. Wrap pear halves with prosciutto slices, brush with olive oil and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pears and soft and prosciutto is crisp.

Combine the vinegar and honey and whisk to combine. To serve, divide rocket amongst serving plates, place two pear halves on top and drizzle with balsamic dressing. Serve warm.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Chocolate Perfection

aria chocolate tart

I must have changed my mind fifteen times about what to make for the annual Easter lunch at my Grandmothers place with the whole family. All I knew was that it had to have chocolate. I realised I’d never made a really great chocolate tart. There was one I’d tried a few years ago, not mentioning the names of any major publications, but I was more than disappointed. It was a birthday present to myself, I’d spent more than I could afford as a poor student on quality chocolate, and in the end I think I threw the thing out.

aria chocolate tart

As it turned out, there’s no way I could have picked a better recipe this time, in fact I think this may be the best way to eat chocolate save nibbling squares of dark chocolate on their own. This is an adapted version of the Aria chocolate tart from the Masterchef Australia finale, by Matt Moran and Andrew Honeyset. It’s quite a bit more, uh, minimal than the original but I don’t think it needs the sorbet, or the macarons, or the chocolate pipe. Heck, if we’re being honest, I don’t even think it needs the glaze!

aria chocolate tart

While the original is perfectly suited to a two-hat restaurant, this suits me down to the ground. It’s impressive without being difficult, and absolutely delicious. I can completely understand why Karen got a little excited about this one. It’s sexy, seductive, decadent and absolutely divine. It’s halfway between mousse and truffle, combined with the most delicious biscuity chocolate pastry. With a glass of nice port, in tiny slices, this is chocolate perfection in anyone’s language.

Aria Chocolate Tart
From Masterchef Australia Cookbook
Serves 10-12

Chocolate Pastry
• 320g plain flour
• 60g cocoa
• 160g caster sugar
• 160g cold unsalted butter, diced
• 2 eggs

Chocolate Tart Mixture
• 210g quality dark chocolate, chopped
• 60g milk chocolate, chopped
• 60g unsalted butter
• 315ml cream
• 3 eggs
• 2 egg yolks

To make the chocolate pastry, place the flour, cocoa, sugar, butter and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add eggs and process until dough just starts to come together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead until smooth. Flatten into a disc shape, wrap in clingwrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick. Line the base and sides of a tart tin (I used 23cm round, the book says 10x34cm rectangular) with the pastry, and trim any excess. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes to rest. Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with baking weights or rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove paper and weights and bake for a further 5-10 minutes or until firm to the touch.

To make the tart filling, preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Place the dark chocolate, milk chocolate and butter in a bowl. Heat cream in a saucepan until boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Stir in the eggs and yolks. Fill the tart shell with chocolate mixture. Bake the tart for 25 minutes or until cooked. The tart should have a slight wobble in the center when it is ready. If it’s not done, place it back into the oven for a further 5 minutes. Cool the tart to room temperature. Remove from the tart tin and cut into slices.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Buzo Trattoria

buzo trattoria

Monday night is the new Friday night. Or at least that seems to be the pattern in my social life of late, for the previous five Monday nights at least. The Monday before last saw a few of Sydney’s finest Twits Tweeters, as well as a few lovely bloggers head on out to Woollahra to visit the lovely Buzo Trattoria. I’d heard a lot about the great food and I was really looking forward to finally trying it for myself. Steph, Karen and I were early, snagging a spot by the window, nibbling on olives while waiting for the others, and perusing the interesting and extensive menu.

buzo entrees

We are lucky enough to be served tasting plates of all the entrée dishes, a main of our choice and desserts to share. First up was the salami, goats’ cheese and parmigiano gnocco fritto, a really lovely way to start the meal. I loved cutting into the crisp, deep fried crust to reveal the oozy melted cheese inside and happily polished off Karen’s portion too since she’s not a fan of cheese.

The Savoy cabbage, pine nut, raisin, pecorino and pangrattato insalata was like the most delicious coleslaw I’d ever tasted. The textures were fantastic – the crunch of pine nuts and bread crumbs with the burst of sweetness from the raisins worked well. I really enjoyed the salad with the Pollo Fritto, deep fried chicken wings with aged balsamic vinegar. It was a match made in heaven.

buzo entrees

Another beautiful dish was the Grappa cured Atlantic salmon with lemon and crostoni, and although I knew it was a bad idea to fill up on bread, I couldn’t help it, this was too good! I didn’t try the Pan fried sardine fillets with crushed chick peas, chilli and oregano but it got the thumbs up from the girls. The Grilled Scallop on the half shell with chorizo and pangrattato was a great combination of flavours and textures – the juicy scallops teamed perfectly with the salty, meaty chorizo and the crunch of the pangrattato. The platter of prosciutto crudo was also quickly devoured.

lasagne

In true blogger fashion, we all coordinated to order different mains, which we then shared, meaning that we’d get to try many more dishes from the menu. Steph was immediately drawn to the Vincigrassi - porcini, mushroom, prosciutto, truffle and parmigiano lasagne, which was very rich and filling. It was delicious, but perhaps better in small doses, as Steph couldn’t finish it.

ribs

For my main I couldn’t go past the Rosticciana - sticky beef short ribs, vin cotto, agro dolce and lemon. I hardly even needed my big steak knife, because the meat literally fell off the bones and melted in your mouth. The flavours were big and bold, comfort food at it’s very finest. I think it could have only been better accompanied with a nice glass of red. I was very impressed and would definitely order it again.

pappardelle

Jen tried the Pappardelle, which was another dish I’d also had my eye on. It had pork sausage, chorizo, tomato and rosemary ragu with parmigiano on beautiful house-made pasta. It was a winner of a dish, a beautiful Italian classic executed perfectly. This would be absolutely perfect on a cold winter’s night.

jewfish & clams

Karen is a seafood fiend so the Jewfish and clams steamed in white wine, chilli, garlic and fresh herbs was her choice. It was much lighter than many of the other mains, which meant she still had the stomach capacity to finish off what we couldn’t from ours!

braised pork

The Maiale Brasato - pork braised with treviso, pancetta and reggiano belonged to my neighbour Robert (@_montagu) which looked particularly delicious, although I didn’t get to try this one.

I was seriously lacking stomach space and ready for a nap by this point, but there was still dessert to go! These were brought out as shared plates so that everyone could have a taste of all of the dishes.

buzo desserts

The Sicilian Cannoli were filled with ricotta, candied lemon, pistachio and chocolate. They were quite heavy and not very sweet. The Torta Di Verona with mascarpone, pandoro, blueberries and almond trifle looked more like something you’d see on the breakfast table but it was a nice blend of flavours, although quite boozy. I don’t really remember the Baked Meyer Lemon and mascarpone cheesecake with preserved plum except that it wasn’t as lemony as I would have expected. But the dessert that stole the show was the Warm Baked Chocolate with almonds and vanilla gelato. With a sublime soufflé like texture, this dessert was rich without being heavy and sweet but not cloying. The almonds on top gave it a nice textural crunch. The vanilla gelato was delicious and creamy, the perfect accompaniment.

It was a fun (although late) Monday night, and a chance to meet some great Sydney tweeters and catch up with the girls. The food at Buzo was great, although it was on the pricey side, and the service was excellent. It’s a great place to come for honest Italian comfort food. I’m still thinking about those sticky beef ribs…two weeks after the dinner! I think there will definitely be a return visit in my near future.

Buzo Trattoria - 3 Jersey Rd, Woollahra

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