Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blueberry Jam Doughnuts with Lavender Sugar + 13 Ways with Lavender!

blueberry jam doughnuts with lavender sugar

Lavender is one thing that epitomizes spring for me. I seem to buy bunches of lavender flowers every year, and this year I went all out and bought a whole plant! I also love a little bit of subtle lavender flavour in sweets, though if you go too overboard on the lavender, it can end up smelling like Grandma's perfume. So go easy, and you're in for a real treat.

lavender title
Last month's rhubarb list was such a hit that I've decided to make it a regular feature with different ingredients each month, so here are 13 unique things to do with lavender! I hope you'll visit some of these great blogs and try out some of the delicious sounding recipes!

drink it
13 Ways with Lavender!
Picture Credits: Sunday Suppers & A La Mode

1. How magical and totally girly does this Lavender Lemonade from Sunday Suppers look? I can imagine this would be equally perfect for a casual spring picnic or a classy ladies brunch.

2. I can’t wait til winter to try this beautiful Lavender Hot Chocolate from A La Mode. The combination of quality chocolate, cream and lavender sounds so dreamy, and I’m in love with the gorgeous photos on this great blog!

13 Ways with Lavender!
Picture Credits: Martha Stewart Weddings & Cookie and Kate

3. If you like some booze with your lavender (I know I do!) this Lavender Whisky Sour from Martha Stewart Weddings would suit you (and me) down to the ground.

4. Another drink that I think would be perfect for the warmer months is this Blueberry Lavender Lemonade (with a splash of vodka for good measure!) from Cookie and Kate. I love that you can make it in individual glasses, or in a jug for a crowd. I’m definitely trying this recipe out before the summer is over!

bake it
13 Ways with Lavender!
Picture Credits: Country Days & Spicy Icecream

5. This simple recipe for Lavender Scones from Country Days shows how versatile flavoured sugars can be! The combinations are endless, but lavender sugar is definitely a favourite of mine. Imagine how delicious these would be with homemade strawberry or rhubarb jam. Yum!

6. I absolutely loved these Honey and Lavender Cupcakes that I made, it’s a match made in heaven! With a generous slathering of cream cheese icing on top, you can’t get a more perfect or dainty spring-like cake.

13 Ways with Lavender!
Picture Credits: Spicy Icecream & Melanger

7. Another great recipe from the archives that I just loved was this Honeyed Ricotta, Fig and Lavender Galette that I made last summer. The flavours worked so beautifully together, which made this a perfect afternoon treat, and it couldn’t be more simple to prepare. Perfect for those times when you’re feeling too lazy, err, busy to bake!

8. Lavender and honey are best friends, so I can imagine how lovely and floral this Lavender Honey Crème Caramel from Mélanger would taste! It is made all the more special as it was inspired by memories from her honeymoon to Tasmania. I love your blog, Julia!

freeze it
13 Ways with Lavender!
Picture Credits: Margaret and Joy & Raspberri Cupcakes

9. Unfortunately there is no recipe with this one, but this Salted Caramel and Lavender Ice Cream from Margaret and Joy sounds delicious in theory, and the photos are absolutely stunning! I think this is one combination definitely worth testing out.

10. My friend Steph from Raspberri Cupcakes gave her ice cream maker a whirl for the very first time to make this gorgeous Lavender and Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream, which uses fresh lavender flowers for a more subtle flavour, and the swirls of raspberry are so pretty!

infuse it
13 Ways with Lavender!

11. This Lavender, Honey and Pomegranate Panna Cotta from Desserts for Breakfast feels deliciously festive! I had never thought of putting Lavender and Pomegranate together before, but I think it would work really well, especially with the creamy panna cotta to balance it out.

12. If you’re thinking about giving homemade Christmas gifts this year, these Lavender Truffles from Tartelette would be perfect! Packaged up in a pretty box, I can’t imagine a more thoughtful gift for friends or family.

blueberry jam doughnuts with lavender sugar

13. I mentioned before that I love lavender sugar and how versatile it is, but I had never used it for doughnuts before now. One of life’s simplest pleasures is a freshly made jam doughnut, so I decided to play around with that theme and came up with these Blueberry Jam Doughnuts rolled in Lavender Sugar. The recipe I used for the doughnuts was so simple, and would be great for first-time doughnut makers. It doesn’t contain yeast, which means no waiting for the dough to prove. You don’t even have to roll it out – just drop tablespoonfuls of dough into the hot oil, and as soon as they’re done, roll them in lavender sugar.

I have to mention this amazing jam too. It's so good that I've been sneaking spoonfuls every time I go to the fridge. With blueberries being so cheap at the moment, I had been buying punnets upon punnets of them, and making jam is the perfect way to preserve them. I had initially meant to pipe the blueberry jam into the doughnuts themselves, but I had made the jam a little too chunky, oops! Nevermind, it was still totally delicious spooned on top of the still-warm doughnuts. If you prefer, you can use a store-bought version, or a different type of jam entirely – strawberry or rhubarb would work wonderfully I think!

Blueberry Jam Doughnuts with Lavender Sugar
Makes about 20 doughnuts

Lavender Sugar
• 1 ½ cups sugar
• 2 tablespoons dried lavender

Place sugar and lavender into a plastic container and seal tightly. Shake to combine. Allow to infuse at least overnight, but preferably for about a week.

Blueberry and Vanilla Jam (adapted from Taste)
• 4 punnets blueberries
• 2 cups raw caster sugar
• ¼ cup gin (optional)
• Juice of half a lemon
• 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

Place blueberries, sugar, gin, lemon juice, vanilla seeds and bean into a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to the boil. Use a large metal spoon to skim froth from the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often for 30-35 minutes. To test if the jam is ready, place a teaspoon of the ham onto a chilled saucer and place in the freezer for 1-2 minutes or until cooled to room temperature. If the surface of the jam wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it’s ready. Spoon hot jam into clean, sterilized jars and seal. Invert for 2 minutes and set aside to cool.

Jam Doughnut Drops (adapted from Home Beautiful)
• 2 cups self-raising flour
• ½ cup caster sugar
• 2 eggs
• ¾ cup milk
• 60g butter, melted
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• Vegetable oil, for deep frying

Sift flour into a bowl and whisk in sugar. Whisk together eggs and milk, then add to the flour mixture with butter and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and set aside. Pour oil into a large saucepan or deep fryer until 6cm deep and place over medium heat. If using a saucepan, clip a candy thermometer to the side. When oil reaches 170°C (340°F) drop 3 separate tablespoons of batter into the oil and cook for 2 minutes, turning over once, until puffed and golden. Drain on paper towel. If the doughnuts are browning too quickly, adjust the temperature. Place lavender sugar into a shallow bowl and toss hot doughnuts in sugar to coat.

If your jam is not too chunky, like mine was, heat about ½ cup of jam until smooth and soft enough to pipe. Fit a small piping bag with a ½ cm plain tube and fill with jam. With the tip of a knife, make a small incision in each doughnut and pipe a little jam into the center of each. If jam is too chunky, spoon jam on top and serve warm.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Xanthi, Westfield Sydney

xanthi, westfield sydney

It’s been a long while since I finished a meal without dessert, but as always, I underestimated the Greek hospitality at Xanthi. If you loved the original (and firm favourite among Sydney food bloggers) Perama in Petersham, you’ll love David Tsirekas’ ambitious new venture on Level 6 at Westfield Sydney. While Perama was warm and cozy – and often racous – Xanthi, named after a region in Greece, is elegant and rich with colours and textures from tapestries, to mosaics and gorgeous hanging lanterns.

With a mixture of old favourites and some delicious new dishes on the menu, it’s no wonder that Xanthi is already very popular. My cousin Roslyn and I visited for lunch on a rainy Sunday after a hard morning’s shopping, in need of some good Greek comfort food.

One dish I could I could never go past was the BBQ Haloumi, with its telltale grill marks and smoky taste. Xanthi uses Locally produced Cypriot style haloumi cheese, which is served with fresh lemon and oregano. To go with that, the Honey Peppered Figs, an unbeatable combination of dried figs, pepper, honey, balsamic and spices. You can’t have one without the other. They make for one epic combination.

xanthi, westfield sydney

I’ve been loving seeing Fried School Prawns on a lot more menus lately and these were a fine example, tossed in a honey and fish sauce dressing, topped with sesame seeds and flaked almonds.

xanthi, westfield sydney

The Fried Calamari was also delicious and perfectly cooked, with a combination of squid and baby octopus. It was served with a lemon ouzo mayonnaise.

xanthi, westfield sydney

The Rabbit Stifatho was a great dish – Rabbit braised in a tomato, honey, cinnamon, clove and red wine sauce is then shredded and wrapped in fresh filo pastry, which at Xanthi is made fresh, and rolled and baked to order. I loved the dish, except I found quite a few small rabbit bones inside the pastry. There are also other delicious fillings available like Lamb Fricasse or Prawn and Scallop, both of which sound amazing!

xanthi, westfield sydney

And of course I couldn’t leave without introducing Roslyn to the Pork Belly Baklava, a favourite from Perama that has been adapted slightly to use the fresh filo. Between the layers, you’ll find delicious shredded pork belly with a date and pistachio filling and crackling, which is then served with a date and mastic sauce. While different from the old favourite, this new version is still delicious, but my thoughts are, why mess with a good thing?

As I mentioned, by this point I realized I had over-ordered and we were struggling to finish, let alone even think about dessert! But I know I’ll be back very soon to try the meat cooked on the spit – every day a selection of Lamb, Pork or Goat, and to try the desserts, which from what I’ve seen look like artworks on a plate.

The staff were very friendly and attentive, and David even recognized me from my numerous visits to Perama and came to say hello. So while the location and atmosphere have most definitely changed, the hospitality and great food certainly haven’t. Xanthi is definitely worth a visit, or in my case, a second visit. Just remember to save room for dessert!

Xanthi Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Xanthi, Level 6, Westfield Sydney. Cnr Pitt St Mall & Market St, Sydney (02) 9232 8535

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mixed Berry Lattice Pies

mixed berry lattice pies

I’m a big believer that things happen for a reason. Although sometimes it’s not easy to see what that reason is straight away when everything seems to be going wrong. But I’ve found that with a little bit of faith, things tend to work out even better than you’d hoped. The older I get, the harder it is to follow that advice. I’m not too good at waiting for things to happen, but I’ve learned better than to force things before the time is right. Especially when major life decisions are involved. Maybe in a few months if all things go to plan, I can elaborate. But for now I must be patient.

mixed berry lattice pies

When I thought up the idea for these pies, I had planned to make them with a vodka pastry. It might sound strange, but the science makes sense. Having pastry shrink is one of my biggest pet hates, but because vodka is just 60% water, it will give your pastry the moisture it needs to roll out beautifully, but won’t evaporate in the oven (and therefore make your pastry shrink) like water will. Plus being colourless and odourless, you won’t even know it’s there.

mixed berry lattice pies

But unfortunately the vodka pastry was a bit of a failure. I knew it long before I rolled it out and lined the tins, but I persevered and wasted some of my precious berry filling on the damn failed pies. I think was my own fault, but it’s definitely dissuaded me from using shortening in pastry. From here on out, it's butter all the way. In a moment of panic, I turned to a recipe I’ve used before. It’s totally delicious, with a hint of vanilla, and is absolutely perfect for pies. Why on earth didn't I just use this pastry to begin with?!

berries

I’ll say it simply, I loved these pies. The combination of beautifully ripe strawberries, blueberries and raspberries made them perfect for this time of year when berries are in season, abundant, and affordable! Served simply with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream, you can’t ask for better than this.

And perhaps there’s a lesson here. And maybe next time I’ll pay attention. Don’t try to force something else when you can feel in your gut that it’s not right. It’s okay to stick with something tried and true. And when it tastes this good, it would be crazy not to! So here's to patience, and to pies.

mixed berry lattice pies

Mixed Berry Lattice Pies
Serves 6

Vanilla Pastry (adapted from Gourmet Traveller)
• 450g plain flour
• 120g pure icing sugar, sifted
• 225g cold butter, coarsely chopped
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3-4 tablespoons iced water

Pie Filling
• 150g strawberries, hulled and cut in halves (or quarters if strawberries are large)
• 100g blueberries
• 75g raspberries
• 1 tablespoon raw sugar
• Juice of half a lemon
• 1 tablespoon cornflour

• 1 egg, lightly whisked
• Raw Sugar, for dusting

To make the pastry, combine flour, icing sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add 3-4 tablespoons iced water and vanilla extract and pulse until mixture just combines. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, form into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Combine ingredients for pie filling in a bowl and stir gently to combine. Set aside.

To assemble pies, roll two-thirds of the pastry between sheets of non-stick baking paper to 3mm thick and use to line 6 buttered 9.5cm diameter pie pans. Fill with berry mixture. Roll out remaining pastry to 3mm thick and cut into 1cm strips. Place strips over tops of pies in a lattice shape, press down and trim edges. Brush tops with egg wash and scatter with raw sugar. Bake pies for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Vanilla Malt Sprinkle Bark Cake

vanilla malt sprinkle bark cake

This post is dedicated to my dear friend, baker extrordinaire, Steph.

It's a rare and special thing to find a friend you'd almost call your soul mate. But seriously, we can practically read each other's minds sometimes. She is one of the most beautiful and creative people I know, and totally my favourite person to brainstorm baking ideas with, which made it all the more tricky to keep this birthday cake idea a surprise! And in the end, the cake she made was remarkably similar to what I came up with. Mind reader I tell you!

vanilla malt sprinkle bark cake

The idea for the cake came after I saw Sweetapolita's genius idea to make cake batter sprinkle bark. While it looks completely awesome, the process is so simple - just melt, spread, chill, then repeat with white chocolate, and then go totally nuts with colorful sprinkles. I thought it would be cool to cover a whole cake with the sprinkle bark! I used a nice 70% dark chocolate and a good quality white chocolate, which made such a huge difference to the end product. I also threw some strawberry flavoured popping candy into the mix as an extra little surprise, and the reaction from Steph was absolutely priceless when she realized.

vanilla malt sprinkle bark cake

For the cake itself, the decision was tricky because many cake flavours would work well here. Steph has always loved anything malt-flavoured, so I made a Malted Vanilla Bean cake based on one of her favourite recipes, with a gorgeous vanilla bean buttercream. I totally loved the cake, and I don't say this often, but I could seriously eat that buttercream from the bowl with a spoon.

I was sooooo happy with how the cake turned out and Steph loved it. I love that sprinkles never fail to bring out the inner child in everyone, so I think this cake would be perfect for young or old. Huge thanks must also go to my sister Beth who helped a lot with making the sprinkle bark and icing the cake.

Happy birthday Steph! I hope you have an amazing day filled with love and sprinkles!

vanilla malt sprinkle bark cake

Vanilla Malt Sprinkle Bark Cake

Vanilla Malt Cake (adapted from Raspberri Cupcakes)
• 195g butter, room temperature
• 150g caster sugar
• 3 eggs
• ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 195g self raising flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 120g Horlicks (or Milo for a chocolate malt cake)
• 60ml milk
• 60ml boiling water

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line the bottom of two 20cm round springform tins. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and then vanilla seeds and vanilla extract, beating to combine. Sift flour, baking powder and Horlicks together and then fold gently into the mixture until nearly combined. Add milk and fold again, then add water and fold once more.

Quickly divide mixture between the two prepared cake tins and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove and cool in tins for 10 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Sprinkle Bark (adapted from Sweetapolita)
• 180g high quality dark chocolate (I used 70%), chopped
• 320g high quality white chocolate, chopped
• Sprinkles of your choice, I used sprinkles, hundreds and thousands and popping candy

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Melt the dark chocolate, and then pour onto your parchment/mat and spread (with a small offset spatula for ease) until desired thickness is achieved. Freeze for 20 minutes to set.

Melt the white chocolate, and let sit for about 3 minutes. Remove tray with set chocolate from the freezer. and pour white chocolate on top, repeating the same spreading technique as you did with the dark chocolate. Toss sprinkles on right away. Freeze for 20 more minutes. Once set, break or cut into pieces. Store in the refrigerator.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream (adapted from Cupcake Project)

• 1 1/2 cup icing sugar
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
• Seeds of ½ vanilla bean, scraped
• 1 tablespoon milk

Mix together sugar and butter until they are blended and creamy. Add vanilla bean and milk and continue to beat for another minute.If desired, add more vanilla bean to taste, or more icing sugar to make it stiffer.

To assemble, place one cake onto a plate or cake stand. Cover top with vanilla bean buttercream. Place second cake on top. Cover top and sides with vanilla bean buttercream and smooth with an offset spatula to get a nice finish. Place pieces of broken sprinkle bark over the top and sides of the cake, and serve.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Turkish Delight and Pistachio Semifreddo

turkish delight & pistachio semifreddo

It's a little strange for a me to be without an ice cream maker, especially considering the name of this blog and the fact that it's coming into the warmer months. But I suppose it's the perfect opportunity to make lemonade from these here lemons and experiment with frozen treats that don't need any special equipment. At least until I save up for my new Cuisinart baby! Semifreddo is the perfect introduction, meaning 'half cold' in Italian.

It is basically a frozen mousse, where egg yolks are whisked over heat with sugar until pale and thick, and then folded into gently whipped cream. It's simpler than making a custard base for ice cream, that's for sure! And like ice cream, the flavour combinations are virtually endless. A splash of booze, some fruit swirled through, it's really up to you how you choose to flavour your semifreddo.

I decided to go with a Middle Eastern inspired dessert using rose water, Turkish delight, pistachios and pashmak, and I've got to say, it was delicious! The one thing I have noticed with semifreddo compared to ice cream is that any 'mix ins' don't seem to distribute as nicely, and sometimes sink to the bottom since the mixture is not as thick as ice cream to keep them suspended throughout. But when set into a loaf shape and cut into slices it hardly matters at all.

I loved how creamy it was, and the subtle rose flavour was really lovely. Add to that crunchy pistachios and sticky, chewy Turkish delight, this dessert was a winner. It would also be beautiful with some raspberries thrown in. While I can't deny that a new ice cream maker is definitely on the Christmas wish list, I'll happily enjoy making and eating semifreddo in the meantime.

turkish delight & pistachio semifreddo

Turkish Delight and Pistachio Semifreddo
Serves 6
Adapted from Fruits and Vegetables

• 4 egg yolks
• 1 egg
• 100g sugar
• 400ml whipping cream
• 1 teaspoon rosewater
• 100g Turkish Delight, cut into 1cm cubes
• 50g unsalted, shelled pistachios
• Pashmak, optional, to serve

In a heatproof glass bowl, combine egg yolks, egg and sugar. Place bowl over a double boiler and whisk constantly until mixture is pale and thick. Remove from the heat and set aside. Whip the cream until soft peaks form, and fold gently into egg mixture. Mix in the rosewater.

Cover the inside of a rectangular loaf pan with plastic wrap and then pour in the egg mixture. Freeze for about 30 minutes before gently mixing in the Turkish Delight and pistachios. Freeze for an additional 4-6 hours, or overnight.

When frozen, take out of the freezer and remove plastic wrap. Cut into slices and serve on plates with pashmak.

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