food for thought

by michelle

Archive for the ‘cakes & desserts’ Category

almond and strawberry trifle

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On the first Tuesday of November, everything in Australia (and particularly Melbourne) stops for the Melbourne Cup, a prestigious annual thoroughbred horse race. Everyone dresses up for the occasion and hats or fascinators are almost compulsory. For those who don’t go to the races it’s a great excuse for a party, usually involving sweeps on the races of the day. This dessert was perfect for our Spring Carnival celebrations. Easy to make ahead and transport and a perfect combination of decadence and freshness.

Take an 8″ (20cm) square pound or madeira cake and cut it into thin slices, leaving them out to dry for an hour or two. Meanwhile make your custard. Whisk 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1½ tablespoons of cornflour (cornstarch) and 3 egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Carefully whisk in 2½ cups of milk in a thin stream. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the custard thickens. Remove from the heat, whisk in 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and allow it to cool. Meanwhile mix strawberry jam with lemon juice to taste. This cuts the sweetness and makes it a little thinner and easier to spread. When you’re ready to assemble, spread the jam onto ⅔ of the cake slices and make triple sandwiches. Cut the sandwiches into cubes and arrange or scatter them into your serving bowl. Coarsely crumble 1 cup of amaretti biscuits and scatter them amongst the pieces of cake. Drizzle with 1 cup of Marsala and then pour the cooled custard over everything. Now whip 2 cups of cold whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar and continue to whip until stiff. Pipe or spoon the cream onto the trifle. Cover and chill at least overnight or up to 3 days. When you’re ready to serve decorate the trifle with a lot of fresh strawberries and some toasted sliced almonds.

*adapted from a recipe in The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

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Written by michelle picker

December 13, 2017 at 12:08 am

chocolates

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I was researching sous vide cooking when I came upon some information on Serious Eats about tempering chocolate by that method. I had to try it. It was certainly easy but not absolutely necessary, as you can see in Three Ways to Temper Chocolate. My first attempt was nice and crunchy, melted nicely in the mouth and had a good shine.

My moulds were small round silicone ones and I painted the chocolate in with a brush which was not too wasteful and worked well. I decided on two different fillings. For the first I soaked dried cherries in vodka for a day or two and then added some shredded coconut. The cherries were quite sour and needed some sugar. The second filling was made from natural salted crunchy peanut butter, sweetened a little with powdered sugar and watered down to a good consistency. When the chocolate shells were set, I heated a small frypan and used the bottom to melt the first half of each chocolate flat. When I’d mounded in as much filling as I could I melted the second half and stuck the halves together. The only problem was that the chocolates were a little too large, if that’s a problem!

Written by michelle picker

November 22, 2017 at 12:19 am

sour cream panna cotta with berries

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Cindy made this panna cotta (Italian for ‘cooked’cream’), the perfect dessert to follow our home-made pizzas. It’s a great make-ahead recipe that’s always elegant and delicious. She followed this recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen.

For the panna cotta pour 1 cup of milk into a saucepan and sprinkle with 2½ teaspoons of unflavoured gelatine powder. Allow the gelatine to soften for a few minutes then place the saucepan over low heat and, without boiling, stir until the gelatine dissolves. Now add 2 cups of whipping cream, ½ a cup plus 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Continue stirring, still without boiling, until the sugar has dissolved. Allow this mixture to cool for a few minutes. In another bowl, whisk 1 cup of sour cream then, while whisking, pour in the warm cream mixture. When this mixture is smooth divide it into 6 – 8 glasses or ramekins and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until fully set. For the berry sauce combine 1 cup of raspberries with 1 cup of halved strawberries. Place half of this mixture (1 cup) in a saucepan with ½ a tablespoon of lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook until syrupy. Add the remaining berries and immediately remove from the heat. Allow the berries to cool completely before spooning them onto the chilled panna cottas to serve.

Written by michelle picker

November 1, 2017 at 12:12 am

torta di cioccolata

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This Italian-style flourless chocolate cake has a crisp crust, a wonderful rich dark chocolate flavour and a light, moist, melt-in-the mouth centre. I prefer my cakes not too sweet so I reduced the sugar in this recipe which comes from one of my favourite cake books, Bake your cake & eat it too! by Tamara Millstein.

Preheat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and prepare a 22cm (8″) springform tin by greasing and lining the bottom with baking paper. In a heat-proof bowl over a bain marie, melt 350g (12⅓ oz) of good quality chocolate pieces and 100g (3½ oz) of chopped butter until smooth and glossy. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of dutch cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon of instant coffee and set aside. In another bowl beat 5 large eggs with 220g (7¾ oz) of caster sugar until thick and pale. Add 5 tablespoons of ground walnuts and 100g (3½ oz) of walnut pieces. Gently fold in the chocolate mixture until well combined. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 40 minutes. Switch off the oven and leave the cake in the closed oven until completely cool. When cool, remove from the pan. Combine 1 tablespoon each of cocoa powder and icing sugar and dust the top of the cake to serve.

Written by michelle picker

October 11, 2017 at 12:26 am

baclava cheesecake

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My friend Deborah made this for a recent celebration. What a brilliant combination of two delicious cakes!

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350ºF). Place ⅓ of a cup each of blanched almonds and hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake for 5-8 minutes until toasted. Meanwhile, make the honey syrup by combining ½ a cup each of caster sugar and honey, ⅔ of a cup of water and a cinnamon quill in a saucepan. Place over medium heat until the sugar dissolves then simmer without stirring for approximately 15 minutes until syrup thickens slightly. Discard the cinnamon and set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C (320ºF). Butter a 22cm (8″) springform pan and line the bottom with baking paper. Finely chop the almonds and hazelnuts plus ¼ of a cup of walnuts in a food processor and transfer to a large bowl. Add ½ a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Now add ¼ of a cup of the honey syrup to the nut mixture and stir to combine. Clean the food processor and add 500g (1 lb) of cream cheese (at room temperature), 300g (10½ oz) of sour cream and ¾ of a cup of caster sugar. Process until smooth. Add 3 eggs and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla essence and combine. To assemble you will need approximately 10 sheets of filo pastry and melted butter. Brush the first sheet with some melted butter then fold it in half. Place it in the pan allowing it to overhang slightly. Repeat with the remaining filo and melted butter, turning and overlapping each sheet slightly to line the pan completely. Pour half of the cream cheese mixture into the pastry and top with the nut mixture. Pour in the remaining cheese mixture then fold the edges of the pastry over the top of the filling. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the centre is just set. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly and leave cheesecake inside until cooled completely. Chill in the fridge for 6 hours and serve with the remaining honey syrup.

* This recipe is from Taste.com.au

Written by michelle picker

September 20, 2017 at 12:17 am

blood limes

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I’ve been interested in native Australian finger limes for a while so I chose to plant a blood lime as it suits the cool climate here. A cross between red finger lime and Ellendale mandarin, their colour ranges from lime to burgundy and they’re a little sweeter then standard limes. The skin and flesh can both be eaten and the juice is both in and around the little vesicles which pop in your mouth. As they’re so small, I thought laterally about how to juice them and I came up with the idea of a garlic press! It’s a bit like a mini Mexican-style lime squeezer and as long as it’s stainless steel the garlic taste won’t linger.

 

I decided to make a blood lime and coconut ice cream. First, squeeze the limes (any limes will work) and keep the skins. Measure 2 cups of milk and take out 2 tablespoons to make a slurry with 2 tablespoons of cornflour (cornstarch) and set this aside. Heat the rest of the milk in a saucepan with 1¼ cups of heavy cream, ⅔ of a cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of glucose, 1 cup of desicaated coconut and all the lime skins. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour in the cornflour slurry. Stir and return to the heat to thicken. Meanwhile heat the lime juice with 2 tablespoons of sugar until the sugar has dissolved. In another bowl whisk 3 tablespoons of softened cream cheese with ⅛ of a teaspoon of salt. Pour the hot milk mixture and the lime syrup into the bowl and mix until smooth. Cool the mixture down by placing the bowl in an ice bath. When the mixture is cold, strain to remove the coconut and lime skins and it’s ready to churn.

 

Written by michelle picker

August 31, 2017 at 5:28 am

coconut and pineapple upside down cake

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Wonderfully caramelised ripe pineapple crowns this coconut cake.

Preheat your oven to 175ºC (350ºF) and grease a 20cm (8″) round, deep-sided cake tin. Peel and slice half a very ripe pineapple into thin slices. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a large pan over medium-high heat and cook the pineapple slices for 3 minutes on each side or until lightly caramelised. Arrange them in the base of the prepared cake tin, overlapping them so no gap remains. In a bowl beat 200g (7 oz) of butter and 150g (5¼ oz) of sugar until fluffy and pale. Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time, then add 200g (7 oz) of plain flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 45g (1½ oz) of desiccated coconut, 1 cup of milk, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and ½ a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix to combine well. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin over the pineapple and bake for 50 minutes or until the cake tests clean. Cool in the tin before turning out.

* Adapted from a Jill Dupleix recipe on delicious.com.au.

Written by michelle picker

August 13, 2017 at 5:25 am