Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Date and Frangipane Tart

I love dates - they are lollies from a tree. When I saw Neil Perry's recipe for a date and frangipane tart, I was immediately on to it - delish!

This tart combines dates boiled in brandy and apple juice with plum jam and frangipane.  I wasn't a fan of the pastry recipe (Dorie Greenspan's is better), but if I made it again, I would just use Dorie's recipe for the pie crust.

If you are a fan of dates and would like to try this tart, the recipe is as follows:


250ml apple juice
125ml brandy
12 halved fresh dates, seeded
150g plum jam icing sugar, to dust
300ml thickened cream, whipped to serve


250g plain flour
70g butter, softened
pinch of salt
90g icing sugar, sifted
60ml milk
2 egg yolks


125g butter, softened
125g icing sugar, sifted
3 eggs
125g almond meal
25g plain flour


Put the flour, butter, salt and icing sugar in a food processor and process until they have a fine breadcrumb like texture. Add the milk and egg yolks and process into a dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured bench and knead before forming into a ball, wrapping in plastic wrap and chilling in the fridge for 1 hour.

Spray a 24cm round pie dish with cooking oil. Roll out the pastry on a floured bench to a thickness of 3mm. Line the pie dish with the pastry, cut off the excess, prick the base with a fork, and allow the crust to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180C. Line the pie crust with alfoil sprayed with oil on one side (oil side down), fill with rice and blind bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove rice and baking paper and return the pie crust to the oven and bake for a further 5-10 minutes.

Put the apple juice and brandy in a saucepan, bring to the boil, then add dates and simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Drain the dates and set aside, reserving the liquid.  Set aside 25ml of the liquid, then reduce the remaining liquid in a saucepan over medium high heat until syrupy, about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To make the frangipane, beat the butter in a stand mixer until light and creamy. Add the sugar and mix until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir through the almond meal, flour and 25ml reserved liquid and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180C. Spread the plum jam over the base of the tart shell, top with the drained dates and gently spoon enough of the filling over the jam and dates to cover. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool until just warm, dust with icing sugar.

Serve the tart with icecream and drizzled with reduced apple-brandy liquid.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tasty Beef Casserole

The weather has been less that salubrious lately (by Australian standards - I realise that we have it easy compared with some of you).  Cold, wet, windy grey days have become the norm, and even the sunshine has no real warmth.  I have also had a cold for the last week or so which has made things rather unpleasant - I am over the worst of it now, but I had quite a few sleepless night coughing and spluttering, and the dreaded feverish sweats.

The August Red Tractor recipe is a very appropriate hearty stew - a Tasty Beef casserole.  Here is the calendar quote for this month:

It's so true for dogs isn't it - they get so excited when they think adventure is on the way.

This stew contains fruit chutney for additional richness - it really was good, and hit the spot on cold, wintery nights.

To make this stew, you will need:

1kg chuck steak, cubed
1/2ablespoon olive oil
2 brown onions
2 carrots
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 cup beef stock
400g tin tomatoes
1/2 cup sweet fruit chutney
(I also added some frozen peas)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

In a large casserole dish, brown the beef in batches in the oil on the stovetop, then transfer to a plate.  Fry onions until soft.  Add carrot slices, garlic, tomato paste and flour.  Stir to combine.  Add lemon rind and juice. stock, chutney, beef pieces and tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook in the oven for two hours or until the beef is tender.

Serve with potato mash or rice.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Eat Me - Cranberry Lime Cake for Melbourne Cake Club - Magic Cakes

Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words `EAT ME' were beautifully marked in currants. `Well, I'll eat it,' said Alice, `and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I'll get into the garden, and I don't care which happens!'

Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

This month's Melbourne Cake Club theme was Magic Cakes.  I knew immediately that I wanted to make, not one of the three layer custard cakes that are currently in vogue, but the "Eat Me" cake from Alice in Wonderland with magical powers to make Alice grow very, very tall.

However, I wanted to modernise the Eat Me cake - currants on top of the cake as decoration didn't sound tempting - so I searched the Web for some ideas, and found this recipe on Hello Giggles for a cranberry lime cake.

I did make a boo boo in that I didn't remember to buy cranberry juice, so I just used lime juice instead.  Hey, it worked for me.  This cake is reasonably healthy for cake, with applesauce and yoghurt replacing some of the fat.  I doubled the recipe, as one batch (for 6 little cakes) only made a single thin 8" layer cake.  To mix things up, I added a cup of cranberries to the batter.

I used a lime flavoured buttercream instead of the glaze, and decorated the cake with "Eat Me" spelled out in cranberries.  To give definition to the edge of the cake, I used brightly coloured cachous around the edge. 

This cake was not my favourite cake ever, as the healthier aspects of it gave it a denser texture than an ordinary full of butter cake.  However, it tasted quite good, and the zesty lime buttercream was delicious.

John Farnham once said that one is the loneliest number, and so it was for me at Cake Club this week.  I did a poll on the weekend before to check if anyone was coming as a couple of people had to pull out, and I had three confirmees, and several people who'd RSVPed to come on Meetup but didn't reply to my email.  For this reason, I didn't cancel it.  However, after half an hour at the venue, it became plain that I was it, so I gave half of the cake to the staff at the venue before departing.

This poor cake was unloved at work too - I threw a few slices out at the end of the day.  Whether it was because they didn't like the cake, or they were worried they would catch the heavy cold I am currently "blessed" with from eating it, I don't know. 

Oh well.  I had fun coming up with the concept of this cake and making it - two months in the planning.  Sometimes you just have to please yourself.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

TWD - Double-Corn Tea Cake

Our last recipe for August's Tuesday with Dorie is Double-Corn Tea Cake.  This is a rather unusual cake - it is made with yellow corn flour, so it is gluten free, and contains corn kernels.  Dorie came upon this recipe by accident when she bought yellow corn flour instead of cornmeal.

I used steamed fresh corn in my cake.  The flour itself was from a specialty shop so was rather pricey - if you have suggestions for other things to make with it, I'd be pleased to hear them. 

This double-corn tea cake was delicious.  It straddled the line between sweet and savoury in a good way.  It had a crisp, crunchy exterior and was light and fluffy on the inside, with the sweet, juicy corn kernels providing contrast.

To see what the other Dorie bakers made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Avocado and Blueberry Pancakes

I am a sucker for pancakes, but I don't get to make them very often.  They take a little longer than porridge, and are a little bit fussier, so pancakes tend to get relegated to relaxed weekend breakfasts.

I recently found a recipe for Avocado and Blueberry Pancakes on Well Nourished.  You can find the recipe here.

These pancakes did not take any longer than other pancakes to make and have lots of ingredients that are nutritionally good for you.  The avocado flavour is quite prevalent, so if avocado is not your thing, these pancakes are not for you.  However, if you like avocado and you like blueberries, a serve of these pancakes with maple syrup drizzled on top is just the ticket for a delicious, nutritious breakfast.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

TWD - Crash-O-Cookies

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Crash-O-Cookies.  These cookies are named after Dorie's family friend, Crash, who paints guitars.  They are basically oatmeal cookies with raisins chocolate added.  The recipe is online here

I used sultanas (golden raisins) and instead of chopped milk chocolate, I used a mixture of white and dark chocolate chips, because that is what I had in the house.  I am pretty sure you could mix these up with your favourite dried fruit and chocolate.

The verdict? These cookies are delicious - chewy and comforting.  I understand why Crash likes them.

To see what everyone else thought of these cookies, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Emily Dickinson's Coconut Cake

With the advent of the movie A Quiet Passion, Emily Dickinson has come to the fore of public consciousness.  I had never previously heard of Emily and her poetry (it wasn't part of our English curriculum), so I am grateful for the movie making me aware of Emily and her work.

I was really excited to discover that Emily was a passionate baker.  Hooray!  A kindred spirit.  There are a number of her baking recipes floating around online.  The recipe for black cake contains 19 eggs and feeds 60!

I decided to make Emily's more modest coconut cake.  You can find the recipe online here.

What a lovely cake this is, and so easy to make.  The outside bakes up to be crunchy and firm, while the inside is fluffy and soft.  You could dress the cake up with a glaze if you have a sweet tooth, but I thought the cake was lovely just as it was.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

TWD - Profiteroles, Ice Cream and Hot Chocolate Sauce

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Profiteroles, Ice Cream and Hot Chocolate Sauce.  I didn't make the icecream from scratch, but I did make the pastry cream, profiteroles and hot chocolate sauce.

I have long been a fan of profiteroles, so making these was a no-brainer.  In this weather, icecream and hot chocolate sauce were not what the doctor ordered, but I went ahead and made the hot chocolate sauce to pour over the profiteroles and some store bought icecream,

I was pleased that my profiteroles did not deflate after being removed from the oven, as that has happened to me so many times it is not funny.  I tried all the tricks I have learned, and this time, everything came together for some puffy profiteroles that stayed puffy.

The combination of the profiteroles, the icecream and the chocolate sauce was rich but delicious.

To see what everyone else made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Date and Ginger Scones

When I saw Lorraine's Incredibly Soft Date and Ginger Scones, I knew I had to make them.  I love dates and I love ginger, so what could be better than both of them together.

I didn't use the maple glaze, as I thought the scones were lovely without it.  Mine aren't as golden as Lorraine's because I have a very strange oven that has the heat emanating from the bottom only, so you are likely to burn the bottom of things before they'd get golden on top.

These scones were delicious, nonetheless. I especially enjoyed the one I ate warm with melting butter on top.

If you like scones and are a fan of dates and ginger, I highly recommend these lovely scones. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

TWD - Anytime Tarragon-Apricot Cookies

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Anytime Tarragon-Apricot Cookies - except in my case, they are Anytime Rosemary-Apricot Cookies.  Fresh tarragon is not that easy to find, and when Mardi said she'd used rosemary, I decided to do the same.  I too grow rosemary and can get it for free, and save money and boot leather on searching for fresh tarragon.

These cookies are not particularly sweet, with most of the sweetness coming from the dried apricots in the cookies.  The rosemary gave the cookies a wonderful aroma. 

I enjoyed these cookies - not my favourite, but good all the same.

To see what everyone else thought of this week's cookies, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.