Dessert

De-constructed Lemon Tart

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

We saw chef Jowett Yu on MasterChef (on Dan Hong’s team) make a de-constructed lemon tart for the first Battle for Immunity Challenge this year, I searched the internet a couple days later hoping to find the recipe on the MasterChef website. The judges had made such wonderful comments, I felt like I needed to try this dish. Unfortunately I could not find the recipe. So I decided to try and make my own, based on what I could remember from the show.

Depending on the lemons you use this recipe may be a little tart, no pun intended. You can always add extra sugar to the granita or curd if you prefer. I wanted to make sure the granita was nice and ice-y, and not syrupy which is why I didn’t add more sugar here.

I know this dessert is unlikely to be as nice as the one made by Jowett, although experimenting with food is so exciting, and rewarding even when it’s not perfect. I have only had a chance to make this once, and try to write out the recipe as I went along. I hope if you try it, you enjoy it.

P.S. So happy my yellow dancing oncidium orchid has re-flowered. I bought it last year in flower, probably grown in Queensland where it is much hotter than Sydney, so I had doubts as to what our winter would do to it. I have had it outside with my cymbidium orchids, without a greenhouse, and it seems very happy. (much happier than inside where it shrivels a little). I have a few more oncidiums that I haven’t seen flower, so in a few years I hope to update you with the results of keeping them outside.

De-constructed Lemon Tart

Recipe by Anita @ Leave Room for Dessert
Serves; 4
You may need or want to make some components the night before

Lemon Granita
1 lemon, juice (~70ml) and zest (no pith)
1 ½ cups water
1/3 cup caster sugar

Place all the ingredients into a small/medium saucepan, stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, turn to high/medium and cook until boiling. Boil for five minutes. Remove from heat and strain into a loaf tin. Place the tin into the freezer once the mixture has cooled. Once frozen (leave overnight or a few hours), use a fork to break into ice crystals. You can do this twice to make the granita fluffier. Store in the freezer until ready to serve.

Lemon Curd
2 lemons, juice and zest
2 eggs
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
80g butter

Whisk together the eggs with the caster sugar and cornflour in a medium saucepan, until light and thick. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest. Place the butter in the saucepan with the other ingredients and place on medium heat. Whisk until the butter melts into the mixture, and then the whole mixture comes to the boil and thickens. Once thickened, strain the curd into a bowl and cover with plastic film touching the curd to prevent a skin forming. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Lemon Toffee
Zest of 1 lemon (no pith, this will make it bitter)
½ cup caster sugar
¼ cup water

Place all ingredients into a small/medium saucepan. Place on low/medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring and turn the heat to high.Cook on high until the mixture turns a golden colour (~150-160C). Pour onto a tray lined with baking paper. Once cooled, you can break or chop into small pieces. Store in an airtight container if storing, although best used on day of making.

Pastry
120g plain flour
20g icing sugar
25g pistachios
60g butter, chilled and chopped
1 egg

In a food processor, process the flour, icing sugar, pistachios for a few pulses. Add the chilled butter, process until like breadcrumbs, and little butter can be seen. Add the egg yolk, reserving the egg white. Blend together, If the mixture does not start to come together, add a bit of the egg white, until the pastry starts to come together.

Place the pastry on a lightly floured board and knead until it comes together. Roll the pastry between two sheets of baking paper until 3mm thick. Place the pastry on a baking tray and remove the top piece of baking paper.

Preheat oven to 180C. Once the oven is at temperature, place the pastry on the tray into the oven and cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until the pastry is lightly golden. Once cooked, remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on the tray, Then cool on a cooling rack. Break into pieces (removing any parts that are too brown). Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

To Serve:
Spoon the lemon curd into the bottom of a large bowl glass. Place the broken pastry and toffee on top. Top with lemon granita and serve straight away.

Armenian Nazook & Nutmeg Cake – Daring Bakers Challenge April 2012

Saturday, April 28th, 2012


The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

I love a fragrant slice of Armenian nutmeg cake. My mum has been making it for years, since I was a child, and now I have also been making it (although can’t seem to get it as perfect as my Mum’s). Like most cakes, there are always changes people make to recipes, and our recipe differed from the one mentioned here in two ways that I can think of.

This cake has walnuts on top, whereas ours has slivered almonds. Both are a great addition to the cake. The other change my Mum made to the original recipe she was given by a friend, was only using 1/3 of the mixture for the base, making a thinner base (depending on your preference, this may be an improvement, or perhaps not), I’ll leave it up to you to decide. I enjoyed making the nutmeg cake to someone else’s recipe and obviously enjoyed eating it, as it has a lovely spiced flavour.

The Nazook was an exciting addition to this months challenge, and was the first of the two recipes for me to try. The pastry was quite easy to make, which I placed in the fridge overnight (it required quite a bit of work to get it soft enough to roll though as it was quite solid). The mixture for the inside and the assembly was also quite easy. When the pastries came out of the oven the fillings had come out a bit, and didn’t look as together as I had expected. The taste was lovely, and they were best eaten on the day of making.

Jason’s Recipe Source: The nazook is my Aunt Aida’s recipe. I’ve tried a LOT of nazook, and have to say hers is the best I’ve tried. The Armenian nutmeg cake is adapted from a recipe for the same in The Commonsense Cookery Book, by the NSW Cookery Teachers’ Scholarship Fund.

Nazook

Yields 40 pieces

Pastry dough

3 cups (720 ml) (420 gm/15 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
2½ teaspoons (12½ ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) sour cream
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) softened butter (room temperature)

Filling

1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (210 gm) (7½ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (340 gm/12 oz) sugar
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) softened butter (room temperature)
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract

Wash

1-2 egg yolks (for the wash; alternatively, some yogurt, egg whites, or a whole egg)

Directions:

Make the Pastry Dough
1. Place the sifted flour into a large bowl.
2. Add the dry yeast, and mix it in.
3. Add the sour cream, and the softened butter.
4. Use your hands, or a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, to work it into a dough.
5. If using a standing mixer, switch to a dough hook. If making manually, continue to knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl or your hands. If it remains very sticky, add some flour, a little at a time.
6. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3-5 hours, or overnight if you like.

Make the filling
7. Mix the flour, sugar, and the softened butter in a medium bowl.
8. Add the vanilla extract.
9. Mix the filling until it looks like clumpy, damp sand. It should not take long. Set aside.

Make the nazook
10. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
11. Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters.
12. Form one of the quarters into a ball. Dust your working surface with a little flour.
13. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle or oval. The dough should be thin, but not
transparent.

14. Spread 1/4 of the filling mixture across the rolled-out dough in an even layer. Try to spread the filling as close as possible to the edges on the short sides, but keep some of pastry dough uncovered (1 inch/2.5 cm) along the long edges.

15. From one of the long sides, start slowly rolling the dough across. Be careful to make sure the filling stays evenly distributed. Roll all the way across until you have a long, thin loaf.

16. Pat down the loaf with your palm and fingers so that it flattens out a bit (just a bit).
17. Apply your egg yolk wash with a pastry brush.

18. Use your crinkle cutter (or knife) to cut the loaf into 10 equally-sized pieces. Put onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

19. Place in a preheated moderate oven for about 30 minutes, until the tops are a rich, golden brown.

20. Allow to cool and enjoy!

Armenian Nutmeg Cake

Makes one 9”/23cm cake which yields 12 servings

Ingredients

1 cup (240 ml) milk (I use whole, but nonfat or lowfat should be fine; non-dairy might work just fine, as well)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking soda
2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour (I suspect pastry flour or another low-gluten flour might even work better to achieve a light, fluffy crumb)
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) baking powder (I used single-acting, because it’s aluminum-free, and it turned out fantastic)
2 cups (480 ml) (400 gm/14 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) butter, preferably unsalted, cubed
1/2 cup (120 ml) (55 gm/2 oz) walnut pieces, may need a little more
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons (5 to 7 ½ ml) (5 to 8 gm) ground nutmeg (try to grate it fresh yourself; the aroma is enchanting)
1 egg

Directions:

Directions – the Traditional Way (The Fast, Easy Way further down)
1. Preheat your oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
2. Mix the baking soda (not baking powder; that’s for the next step) into the milk. Set it aside.
3. Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl. One sift is fine
4. Add the brown sugar. Go ahead and mix the flour and brown sugar together. Or not.
5. Toss in the cubed butter.

6. Mash the butter with a fork into the dry ingredients (you can also use your fingers if you want). You’ll want to achieve a more-or-less uniform, tan-colored crumbly mixture.

7. Take HALF of this resulting crumbly mixture into your springform (9”/23cm) pan. Press a crust out of it using your fingers and knuckles. It will be easy.

8. Crack an egg into a mixer or bowl.
9. Toss the nutmeg in with the egg.
10. Start mixing slowly with a whisk attachment and then increase to medium speed, or mix with a hand whisk if you’re doing it manually. Once it’s mixed well and frothy (about 1 minute using a standing mixer, or about 2-3 minutes of vigorous beating with a whisk), pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until uniform.
11. Pour in the rest of the crumbly mixture. Mix that well, with either a paddle attachment, or a spatula. Or continue to use the whisk; it won’t make much of a difference, since the resulting batter is very liquidy.

12. Pour the batter over the base in the springform pan.

13. Gently sprinkle the walnut pieces over the batter.

14. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 30-40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the top is a golden brown, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
15. Allow to cool in the pan, and then release. Enjoy!

An Even Easier Way…if you have a Food Processor

1. Preheat your oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4 .
2. Mix the baking soda (not baking powder) into the milk. Set aside.
3. Put the flour, baking powder, and the brown sugar into your food processor. Pulse until uniformly mixed.
4. Toss in the cubed butter. Pulse until uniformly mixed into tan-colored crumbs.
5. Pour HALF of the crumbs into your springform (9”/23cm) pan. Press out a crust using your fingers and knuckles.
6. Crack the egg into the food processor with the rest of the crumbs still in it.
7. Grate 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Toss that into the food processor, too. Pulse until well-incorporated.
8. Pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until a slightly lumpy tan batter is formed.
9. Pour the batter over the crust in the springform pan.
10. Gently sprinkle the walnut pieces over the batter.
11. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for 30-40 minutes. It’s ready when the top is golden brown, and when it passes the toothpick test (comes out clean).
12. Cool the cake in the pan, and then dig in. Yum yum!

Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: Nazook will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of weeks, and the Armenian nutmeg cake will keep (covered) at room temperature for 2-3 days. Both taste even better still warm from the oven.

Allow to cool completely before attempting to freeze. Nazook will freeze best if put in a freezer bag with all the air squeezed out. Armenian Nutmeg Cake will also freeze fairly well if completely sealed. Both can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Additional Information:

Both recipes might be able to be adapted to be gluten-free and/or vegan, although I have not tried myself. Gluten-free flour, coconut oil (instead of butter), pureed silken tofu (instead of sour cream), and nut milk (instead of egg yolk) might be useful starting points.

Pear and Custard Tart

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Pears have come into season, and are ripening beautifully on the kitchen counter.

This tart is quite easy to make, with the custard being able to be prepared far in advance, and just cut the pear up soon before baking (to prevent browning of the pear).

The pear is not pre-cooked, so retains the fresh pear flavour, so make sure it is a nice ripe and firm pear you choose for your dessert.

The dessert combines crispy pastry, creamy rich hot custard, fresh pear and cold ice cream. I hope you enjoy.

I have entered this into the “What can you pear with a pear” challenge run by the Australian Pear Industry. Although I may not have gone far out of the box (or out of the box at all), I am certainly happy with how this recipe turned out, and managed to make it three times this month. I hope you enjoy this recipe and the others that have been entered into the competition.

Pear and Custard Tart

Recipe by Anita @ Leave Room for Dessert

Serves: 4

1 sheet puff pastry, cut into 4 squares
1 ripe (and still firm) pear, peeled, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup (50g) caster sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons (~13g) cornflour
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (or 1 teaspoon vanilla essence)
Vanilla ice cream, home-made or store-bought
Icing sugar or icing sugar mixture, to serve

To prepare custard, heat milk and vanilla bean pod and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat until warmed (if using vanilla essence, add at the very end of the custard recipe). Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a small/medium bowl, until lightened in colour and thickened. Slowly pour in the warm milk while whisking the yolk mixture. Strain this mixture back into the saucepan, removing the vanilla pod. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly until the custard has thickened. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl (add essence at this point if you are not using a vanilla bean). Place plastic cling film over the custard, touching the custard to prevent a skin forming. Refrigerate until required. (The custard can be made 1/2 hour, or even a few days, before using).

Preheat oven to 180C.

Place squares of puff pastry on one or two baking trays with baking paper. Place the custard in the middle of the pastry squares, leaving an edge of 2cm. Fan out the thinly cut pear slices over the custard.

Bake for 20-25 minutes (checking after 10-15 minutes, and rotating if necessary). Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, place on plate and dust with icing sugar and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Sans Rival – Daring Bakers Challenge November 2011

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

I can’t believe how close the Christmas and New Year holidays are. This year I was so sure I was going to make a fruit cake – not for myself, but for some of the special people in my life who do like or love fruit cake… I had grand plans of soaking the dried fruit in alcohol for weeks before making the cake and then allowing the taste to mature. I’m not even sure if this is the right way of going about making a fruit cake – so would love any tips from readers who can point me in the direction of some great (and maybe some that are also quick) tasty fruit cake recipes.

If I don’t get around to making fruit cake, I think there are already orders in for custard filled profiteroles with toffee. Hopefully a new Christmas tradition for our family – I know I love it.

I’m also hoping the next daring bakers challenge will be a non time consuming one, due to every weekend being filled with social activities, and days filled with work I want to get done before the quick break.

Luckily for this challenge, I decided to make it as soon as possible, and am glad I did, as the weekends filled up fast. I decided to make the chocolate Sans Rival, and found it to be lovely, but quite rich – it worked well with some vanilla ice cream to cut the richness.

The meringue was very difficult for me to get right, as I only have two spots for trays in the oven, and needed to make 4 layers – I did these on trays rather than cake pans, as I didn’t want to wash up between each bake. I also think I made the buttercream on a particularly hot day, causing a bit more of a butter taste than I would prefer.

You can also see in the background a bouquet I made from flowers from my garden, including a “red” hydrangea, sweet peas and some roses I planted back in July and have now been flowering beautifully.

Thanks to our host for this month, I understand how much effort must go into organising these challenges.

Sans Rival

Servings: 12

Ingredients
10 large egg whites, room temp
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) cream of tartar
¼ cup (60 ml) (20 gm) (2/3 oz) Dutch processed cocoa (optional and not traditional)
2 cups (480 ml) (240 gm) (8½ oz) chopped, toasted cashews (about 2/3 finely ground, and 1/3 chopped for decorations)

Directions:
Note: You will need four layers which will mean that you might have to bake in two batches. Be sure to use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.

1. Preheat oven to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.
2. Line cake pan bottoms with parchment paper and butter and flour the sides really well.
3. In a large clean, dry glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium until foamy (2 mins.). Sprinkle with cream of tartar. Gradually add sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, continuing to beat now at high speed until stiff shiny peaks form. (about 7-10 mins.)

4. Fold in nuts, reserving enough to use for decoration.

(Note the more finely ground for folding into meringue. The coarsely ground for is decoration of finished cake.)

5. Divide meringue into four equal parts. Spread in pans, evenly to edges. If doing batches, use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the meringue from the baking pans while still hot; allow to cool slightly. Peel off the parchment paper while it is still warm, it is difficult to remove sometimes when they have completely cooled.

7. When cool, trim edges so that all 4 meringue layers are uniformly shaped. Set aside.

French Buttercream:

Ingredients
5 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) white granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
1¼ cup (300 ml) (2½ sticks) (285 gm) (10 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
Optional Flavorings: 2 oz (55 gm) unsweetened chocolate, melted, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) almond extract, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) vanilla extract, or any flavor you like

Directions:
1. Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Beat at high speed until the yolks have doubled in volume and are a lemon yellow.
2. Put the sugar and water in a heavy pan and cook over medium heat, stirring the sides down only until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup reaches 235°F/112°C (or thread stage).
3. With the mixer on high, very slowly pour the syrup down the sides of the bowl, until all has been added. Be careful as the very hot syrup could burn you if it splashes from the beaters. Continue beating on high until the mixture is ROOM TEMPERATURE (about 15 mins). Still on high, beat in the soft, room temperature butter a tablespoon at a time. Add flavoring after you beat in the butter. Refrigerate the buttercream for at least an hour, and whip it smooth just before you use it.

Assembly:
Set bottom meringue on cake board with a dab of butter cream to hold it in place. Spread a thin layer of buttercream and then place another meringue on top. Repeat with a thin layer of buttercream, meringue, thin layer of buttercream, meringue, and finally buttercream the top and sides. Decorate with reserved nuts.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. It is easier to cut cold. May freeze.

Pineapple Sorbet and Tropical Granita with Fruit Salad

Thursday, October 6th, 2011


Daylight savings has just begun, it is no longer dark when I get home from work (and only mildly darker when I leave). I am able to stop and smell the roses (and this is not just a saying in my case, as my first roses are opening for the season, and it just so happens to be a double delight rose).

It is starting to feel like summer, with the all the extra light, although I would not wish Spring gone too soon – as it is my favourite season.

More fruits are coming back in season, and we can start eating icy cold sorbets again.

As pineapples are one of my favourite fruits, I started making this pineapple sorbet at least a year ago now. It can certainly be eaten by itself, although it also pairs perfectly with this refreshing tropical granita and the fruit salad.

This is certainly a great way to make a fruit salad stand out a bit more and grab attention.

I have tried to plate the fruit salad artistically. It is simpler to serve it in a bowl, but it looks very pretty this way.

I have only tried the sorbet using an ice cream maker and it becomes almost creamy in texture. It’s amazing how the colour changes too, lightening up and becoming whiter as the mixture thickens. I am sure you could make it using the alternate method of removing the mix from the freezer and mixing it every hour for 3 or more hours and returning to the freezer. Although I am unsure as to whether it will result in the same creamy texture.

I am entering this recipe into a competition held by King of Fruit, a Queensland based business that supplies fresh pineapple to most outlets in Australia. I was lucky enough to be sent 3 lovely pineapples to inspire some recipes. If you have a chance, please check it out and vote for me 🙂 ( I think you only get one vote per email address.)

I have also entered my Herb and Orange Chicken with Pineapple and Capsicum served with Pomegranate, Orange and Baby Spinach Salad recipe into the competition.

Pineapple Sorbet and Tropical Granita with Fruit Salad

Recipe by Anita @ Leave Room for Dessert

Serves: 4 (with some leftover sorbet and granita)

Pineapple Sorbet

Makes: 1-1.4L sorbet

650g pineapple, cut into pieces
200g sugar (white sugar or castor sugar) (1 cup)
200ml water

Process the pineapple in a food processor. Place the pureed pineapple, sugar and water into a medium saucepan and cook on medium/high heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to the boil (this may be difficult to see as the pureed pineapple can create a layer at the top). Boil for 5minutes, then strain into a bowl or jug. Allow to cool and refrigerate for a few hours or preferably overnight until very chilled.

Churn in ice cream maker according to instructions of machine. Eat straight away or freeze in a sealable container until ready to serve. Lasts at least 2 weeks in the freezer.

Tropical Granita

150g caster sugar (3/4 cup)
500 ml water (2 cups)
150g pineapple, cut into pieces
100g strawberries, cut in half
100g passionfruit pulp, fresh or frozen

Process the pineapple and strawberries in a food processor. Place the sugar, water, passionfruit pulp and pureed pineapple and strawberries into a medium saucepan (you can use the saucepan that was used for the pineapple sorbet if you want to save on washing up). Bring to the boil on medium/high and continue to boil for 5min. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Place a piece of muslin cloth over a sieve, place this over a large pan that will take more than 1L of liquid (20cm x 30cm x 5cm). Pour the granita mix into the muslin cloth and allow the liquid to pass through. Use a spoon to help more liquid through, or use your hands to squeeze excess liquid out. If you don’t have muslin cloth, using a sieve on its own will work fine.

Place the pan in the freezer until solid (overnight). Use a fork to scratch the granita into fluffy ice crystals. Return to the freezer for another 2 hours (if longer, place in a sealed container) before serving.

Fruit Salad

2 slices pineapple, cut into wedges
1-2 apples (I used pink lady apples), cut into slices
2 oranges, peeled and cut into segments
1 punnet (125g) blueberries
1-2 punnets (250g – 500g) strawberries, cut in half or quarters
1-2 bananas, sliced

Mix all fruit together in a bowl or place artistically on a plate.

To serve the Pineapple Sorbet and Tropical Granita with Fruit Salad, prepare the fruit salad and place the pineapple sorbet on top. Place the granita on the fruit salad just before serving.

Any component of this dessert can be served independently.

Chocolate Truffles and Peanut Butter Fudge – Daring Bakers Challenge August 2011

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at http://www.chocoley.com offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

I have just been away for a fabulous 2 week holiday, leaving the rainy Sydney weather and enjoying beautiful 25 degree days in Port Douglas and the sand under my feet. I hope to give a short post on a few of my recommendations of restaurants and activities for those who are going there on a holiday soon.

We came home to lawn that needed mowing and the destruction of the first tulips I have planted in our garden, some fresias, irises, jonquils and snowflakes. We think it was either cockatoos, rabbits or a dog that destroyed some of the flowers and plants, but I am so excited about the flowers that weren’t destroyed and hope to post some of those pics soon as well.

I should get started talking about this month’s challenge though, and I must admit my delight at the array of recipes we were given to choose from for this challenge. We needed to make a chocolate and non-chocolate sweet, and were given methods for tempering chocolate, making truffles, chocolate coated sweets, filled chocolate, jellies and fudge.

Two of the recipes that I really wanted to make required specialised equipment and/or ingredients, which I did not have time to source before the challenge was due, although I am thinking of looking on the internet to find the moulds and ingredients so I can make these in the future.

Due to time constraints, I decided to make some of the easier looking recipes, and I have never made fudge before, so this was also an exciting new recipe to try. I found the truffle recipe a lot easier than a previous truffle recipe I have tried, and the fudge was easy as well, not needing a thermometer.

I woke up this morning and thought perhaps I would just coat my truffles in crushed nuts, but decided to push past my troubles with tempering chocolate, and tried to temper some of the nicest chocolate I have ever bought, using my marble slab. Unfortunately I still have some way to go before I manage to temper chocolate correctly, although I guess practice makes perfect…

Thanks to this month’s hosts. Everyone who has tried these sweets has loved the challenge, and loved that I’m a member of the Daring Bakers! 🙂

Milk Chocolate & Hazelnut Praline Truffles

Servings: Makes +- 30 truffles, recipe easily doubled or halved
Adapted from the Cook’s Academy Curriculum, Dublin
Active Time: 1 – 2hrs
Ganache Setting Time: 2 – 4hrs or Overnight

Praline Ingredients:
½ cup (120 ml/2 oz/60 gm) hazelnuts, shelled & skinned (or a combination of nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios)
½ cup (120 ml/4 oz/115 gm) granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) water

Making the praline and ganache. Once set, making balls of the set ganache then rolling in crushed hazelnuts

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to moderate 180°C / 160°C Fan Assisted (convection oven); 350°F / 320°F convection / Gas Mark 4
2. Place whole hazelnut on a non-stick baking tray and dry roast for 10mins
3. Allow to cool
4. Place hazelnuts in a clean dry kitchen towel and rub to remove the skins
5. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicon mat
6. Place the skinned hazelnuts onto the prepared tray
7. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved
8. Turn the heat up and bring to the boil (do not stir), brushing down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove any sugar crystals
9. Boil until the mixture turns amber (160°C – 170°C / 320°F- 340°F on a candy thermometer)
10. Remove from heat immediately and pour the syrup over the hazelnuts
11. Allow to cool completely
12. Break into small pieces
13. Transfer pieces to a food processor and process until desired texture, either fine or rough
14. Set aside

Ganache Ingredients
1¾ cup (9 oz. / 255 g) Milk chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup (4 oz. / 125 ml) Double/Heavy Cream (36% – 46% butterfat content)
2-3 Tablespoons (1-1 ½ oz. / 30ml – 45 ml) Frangelico Liqueur, optional

½ – 1 cup Crushed or Ground Roasted Hazelnuts for coating (I used pistachio and almonds)

Directions:
1. Finely chop the milk chocolate
2. Place into a heatproof medium sized bowl
3. Heat cream in a saucepan until just about to boil
4. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir gently until smooth and melted
5. Allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes
6. Stir in the praline and (optional) liqueur
7. Leave to cool and set overnight or for a few hours in the fridge
8. Bring to room temperature to use

Forming the truffles:
1. Using teaspoons or a melon baller, scoop round balls of ganache
2. Roll them between the palms of your hands to round them off
Tip: Handle them as little as possible to avoid melting
Tip: I suggest wearing food safe latex gloves, less messy and slightly less heat from your hands
3. Finish off by rolling the truffle in the crushed roasted hazelnuts
Tip: You can also roll them in hazelnut praline
4. Place on parchment paper and leave to set
Tip: They look great when put into small petit four cases and boxed up as a gift!

Peanut Butter Fudge

Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 20 mins
Yield: 64 squares

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (120ml/115g / 4oz.) Unsalted Butter
2 1/4 cups (540ml/450g / 16oz.) firmly packed Brown Sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) Milk
3/4 cup (180ml/200g / 7oz.) smooth Peanut Butter
1 teaspoon (5ml) Vanilla Extract
3 1/2 cups (840ml/425g / 15oz.) Confectioners’ (Icing) Sugar

Directions:
1. Place butter into a medium saucepan and melt it over medium heat.
2. Add brown sugar and milk, stirring.
3. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Remove from heat.
5. Mix in peanut butter and vanilla.
6. Place confectioners’ sugar into a large mixing bowl.
7. Pour hot peanut butter mixture over confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth.
8. Pour fudge into an 8 by 8 inch (20cm by 20cm) pan.
9. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.
10. Cut into 1-inch (25 mm) squares.

Strawberry Fraisier – Daring Bakers Challenge July 2011

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011


Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

I’m glad this challenge came this month and not the previous month, as we have just started getting beautiful strawberries back into the fruit stores.

The challenge was quite good, especially being able to make all three components after work, then assemble it the morning, for a lovely weekend dessert.

I had my fingers crossed that the fraisier would stay up by itself once the plastic wrap was removed, but unfortunately it collapsed quite a lot when the first cut was made. I’m not entirely sure where I went wrong, so I may have to do a bit more research.

I used a bigger tin than the one used in the recipe (22cm vs 20cm) and found the cake sunk a bit in the middle once it cooled.
I also needed at least double the pastry cream filling – although only figured this out once it was too late to make more – so I used whipped cream in the middle of the filling. (this extra may have been needed because I used a bigger tin, or very large strawberries.) I didn’t use the almond paste either, as I had none.

It was a beautiful dessert that everyone enjoyed and I would consider making again, although trialling out the filling, to make sure it stayed together more when serving.

Basic Chiffon Cake

1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3 gm) lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3).
Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.
In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.
Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Removed the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.

Pastry Cream Filling

1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon (1/2 ml) (¼ gm) salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (10 gm)cornstarch
1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz/55 gm) sugar
1 large egg (I used 2 egg yolks – as there were extra from the cake)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz/30 gm) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (4 gm) gelatin
1/2 tablespoon (7½ ml) water
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) heavy cream

Directions:

Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine
Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.
Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.
Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days.
In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.
Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
Heat the cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.

Simple Syrup

1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) (2⅔ oz/75 gm) of sugar, flavored or white
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) of water
+ 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Directions:

Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup.
Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.
Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.

Fraisier Assembly

Components:
1 baked 8 inch (20 cm) chiffon cake
1 recipe pastry cream filling
⅓ cup (80 ml) simple syrup or flavored syrup
2 lbs (900 g) strawberries
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
½ cup (120 ml) (5 oz/140 gm) almond paste

Directions:

Line the sides of a 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan.
Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.


Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.
Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tbsp. (15 ml) of the pastry cream.



Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.
Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners’ sugar and roll out the almond paste to a 10-inch (25 cm) round 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Marquise on Meringue – Daring Bakers Challenge May 2011

Friday, May 27th, 2011

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

This challenge looked very time consuming at first, which is the main reason I put off making it until the last weekend. I was able to make the chocolate marquise the night before, then quickly make all three other components in 30 minutes (all the while making a huge mess in the kitchen).

I thought I had a little trouble with the spiced nuts, although this was the component of the dessert that people liked most and commented on. (I had made the meringue and mixed in the nuts, poured and spread it on a lined tray, then halfway through thought the nuts wouldn’t crisp up, so I took to the meringue with a spoon to expose the almonds so they would brown) – sorry no pics – I couldn’t take photos as I needed one clean hand to feel the sugar dissolving for the torched meringue (check out the recipe below)… 🙂

I still have some of the chocolate marquise in the freezer, and look forward to serving it (although in smaller portions, and probably with more spiced almonds).

It was certainly a well liked challenge by all. Thanks Emma and Jenny!

Chocolate Marquise

Plated marquise
Servings: 18 2.5″x2.5″ cubes (I would say ~24-36)

11 large egg yolks at room temperature
4 large whole eggs
2/3 cup (150 grams/ 5.3 oz) sugar
1/3 cup (2⅔ fluid oz/ 80 ml.) water
Chocolate Base, barely warm (recipe follows)
2 cups (16 fluid oz./ 500 ml.) heavy cream
2 cups Dutch process cocoa powder (for rolling) (Note: We used extra brut, like Hershey’s Special Dark. Make sure it’s a Dutch processed cocoa, not a natural cocoa powder.)
Torched meringue (recipe follows)
Spiced almonds (recipe follows)
Cacao nibs (optional)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg yolks and whole eggs. Whip on high speed until very thick and pale, about 10 – 15 minutes. (It probably only took 5 minutes in my KitchenAid)

When the eggs are getting close to finishing, make a sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring the syrup to a boil and then cook to softball stage (235F/115C). If you have a cake tester with a metal loop for a handle, the right stage for the syrup is reached when you can blow a bubble through the loop (as seen in the following pictures).

With the mixer running on low speed, drizzle the sugar syrup into the fluffy eggs, trying to hit that magic spot between the mixing bowl and the whisk.

When all of the syrup has been added (do it fairly quickly), turn the mixer back on high and whip until the bowl is cool to the touch. This will take at least 10 minutes.

In a separate mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Set aside.
When the egg mixture has cooled, add the chocolate base to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Try to get it as consistent as possible without losing all of the air you’ve whipped into the eggs. We used the stand mixer for this, and it took about 1 minute.

Fold 1/3 of the reserved whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, and then fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Pour into the prepared pans and cover with plastic wrap (directly touching the mixture so it doesn’t allow in any air).

Freeze until very firm, at least 2 – 4 hours (preferably 6 – 8 hours).
When you’re ready to plate, remove the marquise from the freezer at least 15 minutes before serving. While it’s still hard, remove it from the pan by pulling on the parchment ‘handles’ or by flipping it over onto another piece of parchment. Unmold the frozen marquise

Cut it into cubes and roll the cubes in cocoa powder. These will start to melt almost immediately, so don’t do this step until all of your other plating components (meringue, caramel, spiced nuts, cocoa nibs) are ready. The cubes need to sit in the fridge to slowly thaw so plating components can be done during that time. They don’t need to be ready before the cubes are rolled in the cocoa powder.

Plate with the torched meringue and drizzled caramel sauce, and toss spiced almonds and cocoa nibs around for garnish. You want to handle the cubes as little as possible because they get messy quickly and are difficult to move. However, you want to wait to serve them until they’ve softened completely. The soft pillows of chocolate are what make this dessert so unusual and when combined with the other elements, you’ll get creamy and crunchy textures with cool, spicy, salty, bitter, and sweet sensations on your palate.

Chocolate Base

Servings: n/a – this is an ingredient for the chocolate marquise, not meant to be used separately

12 oz (340 grams/ 1½ cups) bittersweet chocolate (about 70% cocoa)
12 oz (355 ml/ 1½ cups) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (I left this out and used 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon)
1/4 cup (60 ml/ 2 fluid oz.) tequila (I left this out)
1/4 cup (60 ml/ 2 fluid oz.) light corn syrup (I used glucose syrup)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons/ less than an ounce) cocoa powder (we used extra brut, like Hershey’s Special Dark, but any Dutch-processed cocoa would be fine. Do not substitute natural cocoa powder.)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I left this out)
1 oz unsalted butter (2 tbsps./30 grams), softened

Place the chocolate in a small mixing bowl.

In a double-boiler, warm the cream until it is hot to the touch (but is not boiling). Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.

Allow it to sit for a minute or two before stirring. Stir until the chocolate is melted completely and is smooth throughout.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Set aside until cooled to room temperature. Do not refrigerate, as the base needs to be soft when added to the marquise mixture. If you make it the day before, you may need to warm it slightly. Whisk it until it is smooth again before using it in the marquise recipe.

Torched Meringue

Servings: Makes about 4 – 5 cups of meringue. If you aren’t planning on serving *all* of the marquise at once, you might want to scale this recipe back a bit.

11 large egg whites
1 ¾ cups (14 oz or 395 gms) sugar
Splash of apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the egg whites, sugar and vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using your (clean, washed) hand, reach in the bowl and stir the three together, making sure the sugar is moistened evenly by the egg whites and they make a homogeneous liquid.

Over a saucepan of simmering water, warm the egg white mixture. Use one hand to stir the mixture continuously, feeling for grains of sugar in the egg whites. As the liquid heats up, the sugar will slowly dissolve and the egg whites will thicken. This step is complete when you don’t feel any more sugar crystals in the liquid and it is uniformly warm, nearly hot.

Remove the mixing bowl from the saucepan and return it to the stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk until you reach soft peaks. In the last 10 seconds of mixing, add the vanilla to the meringue and mix thoroughly.

When you’re ready to plate the dessert, spoon the meringue onto a plate (or use a piping bag) and use a blowtorch to broil.

Tequila Caramel

Servings: Makes about 1 cup of caramel

1 cup (8 oz.) sugar
1/2 cup (4 fluid oz./ 120 ml.) water
1 cup (8 fluid oz./ 240 ml.) heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tequila (I left this out and used 1 teaspoon vanilla)

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water on medium-high heat. Boil until the water completely evaporates and the sugar caramelizes to a dark mahogany color.

Working quickly, add the cream to the darkened caramel. It will bubble and pop vigorously, so add only as much cream as you can without overflowing the pot.

Return the pot to the stove on low heat and whisk gently to break up any hardened sugar. Add any remaining cream and continue stirring. Gradually, the hard sugar will dissolve and the caramel sauce will continue to darken. When the caramel has darkened to the point you want it, remove it from the heat. Add the salt and tequila and stir to combine. Set aside until ready to serve.

Spiced Almonds

Servings: Makes about 1 cup of spiced almonds

1/2 cup (4 oz.) sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (I left this out)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white
1 cup (145 grams/ 5 oz.) blanched whole almonds

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and salt.

In a larger mixing bowl whisk the egg white until it’s frothy and thick.

Add the spice mix to the egg white and whisk to combine completely.

Add the nuts to the egg white mixture and toss with a spoon.

Spoon the coated nuts onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake the nuts for 30 minutes, or until they turn light brown. Allow the nuts to cool completely and they will get very crunchy. Set aside until ready to serve.

Chocolate Panna cotta with Florentine Cookies – Daring Bakers Challenge February 2011

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Both the chocolate panna cotta and florentine cookies were a bit hit this month. I was grateful that both were very quick recipes, as I’ve said in previous posts – our garden has gone crazy this spring and summer and we have been spending much of our time trying to sort it out, and the rest of our time has been spent with family. The panna cotta has already been requested again, with some people saying it tasted like a chocolate mousse.

I tried to out-turn the panna cottas – like I have before, although they didn’t have enough gelatine for the tall ones to stand, and the ones from the glasses ended up looking a little naughty (some dark chocolate chocolate fell to the base of the glass – I’ll leave the imagery to your imagination).

Thanks again to the Daring Bakers and our hosts every month!

My notes: I found the panna cotta served 8-10 people. I accidentally made my florentine cookies a little big, so they look a little longer to cook and made a few less than expected. I also made some large rectangles of florentines, so they could be cut into clean rectangles after cooking.

Chocolate Panna Cotta

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
2 cups (480 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
½ cup (115 gm) (4 oz) sugar
¾ cup (145 gm)(5 oz) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) vanilla extract

Pour milk into a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the top, set aside for 2-5 minutes.

Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir in cream, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a low boil.

Add chocolate and whisk until melted. Whisk the milk/gelatin mixture into chocolate cream mixture. Whisk until gelatin has dissolved.

Transfer to ramekins, or nice glasses for serving.

Cover and chill at least 8 hours, or overnight

Nestle Florentine Cookies

Recipe from the cookbook “Nestle Classic Recipes”, and their website.

2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5.3 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (480 ml) (160 gm) (5 2/3 oz) quick oats
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (95 gm) (3⅓ oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) dark or milk chocolate

Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5). Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.

To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.

Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.

While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).

Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).

Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.

This recipe will make about 2 1/2 – 3 dozen sandwiched Florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).

Crostata con la Crema – Daring Bakers Challenge November 2010

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Spring is almost over, before it even really begun. This year we had two lovely days of Spring weather at the beginning of September, followed by many days of rain, cold days and lots of windy days.

This last week has been beautiful. Quite warm, but not too hot (I say this, even though I work in an air-conditioned building). Our garden is going crazy – plants and weeds alike. Three plants in particular are quite exciting at the moment: our fig, blueberry and raspberry. All three plants are in their second Spring season and are very happy, we have a number of figs forming, quite a few blueberries and many raspberries.

One thing I didn’t understand when I bought the raspberry is the shop assistance’s advice: Watch out, the raspberry can take over… What? Isn’t that a good thing? Surely people aren’t unhappy about loads of raspberries.

What he should have said was: Watch out, the raspberry sends suckers through the lawn and new plants shoot up more than one metre away from the original plant meaning you have no control of where are how far it will travel… Whoops!! Luckily running the mower over them have stopped new plants forming in the middle of our yard – I hope!

Although my baking (and blogging) has been hindered by the lovely weather and constant maintenance of our yard, this recipe chosen for the daring bakers this month was great, as many components can be made the day or night before, and cooked while everyone is eating dinner.

My family are huge fans of Portuguese custard tarts, so I had no trouble picking pastry cream to fill my tart shell.

I must admit I used the food processor for the dough to make the tart shell. It seemed a bit dry and wasn’t coming together, so I added a touch more egg white (ok, accidentally – a bit more than a touch – making it a little too soft).

I didn’t blind bake my tart, I just added the pastry cream and cooked it for 40 minutes or more, until the pastry cream was set and the pastry golden. The pastry was lovely in texture and taste – very lovely. I thought I needed more pastry cream for the tart, although perhaps because the pastry was a little soft, it shrunk or fell a little at the sides, making it more level with the pastry cream when cooked.

I was very happy with the length of time required for this challenge and was more than happy to try out another pastry and pastry cream recipe – and my family was more than happy to have it for dessert 🙂

Thanks to our host for this month, for trialling so many recipes for people to choose from and be inspired from.

Crostata con la Crema (crostata with pastry cream filling)

Recipe Source: There are many recipes for pasta frolla and different ideas about how to make it. I will give you two versions that I have been using for some time. They have been inspired by those in the book La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene by Pellegrino Artusi (1820-1911). The book was first published in 1891, and is available in English translation as Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well (further details are given in the Additional Information section).

Pasta frolla

1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar (see Note 1) or a scant 3/4 cup [180ml, 90g, 3 oz] of powdered sugar
1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
grated zest of half a lemon (you could also use vanilla sugar as an option, see Note 2) (I didn’t use this)
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

Note 1: Superfine sugar is often also referred to as ultrafine, baker’s sugar or caster sugar. It’s available in most supermarkets. If you cannot find “superfine” sugar, you can make your own by putting some regular granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and letting it run until the sugar is finely ground.

Note 2: There are different ways of making vanilla sugar. I keep vanilla beans in a jar half-filled with sugar until I need to use them, for example, to make vanilla ice cream. After I remove the split bean from the custard that will go into the ice cream maker, I rinse it, dry it and put it back in the jar with sugar.

Making pasta frolla by hand:

Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.

Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice.

Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on – place in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).

Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg mixture.

Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.

Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.

Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.

Making pasta frolla with a food processor:

Put sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest in the food processor and pulse a few times to mix.

Add butter and pulse a few times, until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal.

Empty food processor’s bowl onto your work surface

See step 3 above and continue as explained in the following steps (minus the lemon zest, which you have already added).

Pastry Cream

2 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
500ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 tablespoons plain flour

Heat milk in a saucepan until almost bubbling. Whisk eggs with caster sugar, then whisk in plain flour. Slowly pour half the warm milk over the egg sugar mixture, mixing well to stop the eggs cooking. Pass the egg mixture through a sieve back into the saucepan. Place the saucepan back over medium heat and continue stirring the mixture until it bubbles. Pour the pastry cream into a bowl and place the bowl in a sink or bowl with cold or icy water, add the vanilla essence and stir the pastry cream until cooled. Refrigerate until cool.


Assembling and baking the crostata con la crema:

Heat the oven to 350ºF [180ºC/gas mark 4].

Take the pasta frolla out of the fridge, unwrap it and cut away ¼ of the dough. Reserve this dough to make the lattice top of the crostata. Refrigerate this dough while you work on the tart base.

To help roll the crostata dough, keep the dough on top of the plastic wrap that you had it wrapped in. This can help rolling the dough and can also help when transferring the dough to your pan. You can also use parchment paper for this. However, you can also roll the dough directly on a work surface if you prefer.

Lightly dust the top of the dough and your work surface (if you’re rolling directly on a work surface) with flour. Keep some flour handy to dust the dough as you go along.

If the dough is very firm, start by pressing the dough with the rolling pin from the middle to each end, moving the rolling pin by a pin’s width each time; turn the dough 180 degrees and repeat; when it softens, start rolling.

Roll the dough into a circle about 1/8th inch (3 mm) thick.

If you used the plastic wrap or parchment paper as rolling surface, flip dough over the pan, centering it, and delicately press it all around so the corners are well covered. Peel away the plastic wrap.

Trim the excess dough hanging over the edges of the pan. Press the remaining dough around the border into the sides of the pan making sure the border is an even thickness all the way around.

Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places.

Take out of the fridge the reserved pasta frolla you had cut away earlier. Roll it with your pin and cut into strips or use cookie cutters to make small shapes (this is not traditional, but it looks cute); or roll with your hands into ropes.

Instead of jam or fruit preserves, cover the bottom of the crostata crust evenly with the pastry cream.

Use the prepared strips or rolls of dough to make a lattice over the surface, or decorate with the cut shapes. (Note: You can use dough scraps to make cookies: see the Additional Information section for some pointers)

Brush the border and strips of dough with the reserved beaten eggs. You can add a drop or two of water to the beaten eggs if you don’t have enough liquid.

Put the tart in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

After 35 minutes, check the tart, and continue baking until the tart is of a nice golden hue. (Note: Every oven is different. In my oven it took 45 minutes to bake the tart until golden.)

When done, remove the tart from the oven and let cool. If you have used a tart pan with a removable bottom, then release the tart base from the fluted tart ring. Make sure the tart is completely cool before slicing and serving.

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