Tuesday, April 28, 2009

TWD - Chocolate Cream Pie

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - one of the reasons why I enjoy food blogging as part of a group is that it pushes me to make things that I would never in a million years have chosen to make myself, and I am more often than not pleasantly surprised by the results.

This week's Tuesday with Dorie, hosted by Kim of Scrumptious Photography, is another one of those weeks where I made something that I otherwise would have never have chosen to make. Kim's choice was Dorie's Chocolate Cream Pie. This is a dish which I believe is all American, as evidenced by Dorie's opening description of it as resembling something served at a roadside diner. Now, I would be lying if I said that chocolate and cream served separately aren't good - I am a chocoholic, and cream can make many dishes just that little bit nicer (if a bit naughtier in the kilojoule department). However, the sound of the two together in a chocolate shortbread crust with chocolate curls on top sounded way too rich for me.

I made Dorie's recipe as is, without any changes, as many TWDers who made this before me said that this was just perfect.

Unfortunately, I have not as yet tried the pie combination because I am taking this for the Legal-Finance morning tea today. A lot of TWDers said that while they weren't that keen on the separate elements of this pie, together, they found them to be awesome. I can say that I have tried the crust (rather dry and not at all sweet), and the chocolate custard (devine) and the whipped cream (which is, well, whipped cream) alone. An update on my views on the flavour combination will be provided once I have sliced the pie.

Newsflash - the Verdict: This pie is incredibly rich - it knocks a sucker punch. The cream actually helps to smooth out some of the richness, so I would not leave it out. However, it was very popular at the party as well, making me a happy girl :)

You can check out hundreds of other versions of this chocolate cream pie, and have your fill, so to speak, by visting the
TWD blogroll, and you can find the recipe at Kim's site (remembering that Kim will post behind me because we are in different time zones).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers - Say Cheese! Ginger Lime Baked Cheesecake

Are you wondering as you casually surf the blogosphere today why every foodie on the planet appears to simultaneously have decided that baked cheesecake was next on their "to do" list? Never fear, this is not just your imagination or a sense of deja vu - it's Daring Bakers time again!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

However, as Jenny says:

The real challenge this month is to take this basic recipe and play with it. Make it unique. Make a showstopper of a dessert. Add flavor, sauces, decorations – dress it up and show it off.

I am a fan of cheesecake of all types (baked or unbaked), and fruity cheesecakes are my favourite because the acidity of the fruit balances out the rich decadence of the cheese. However, I tend to avoid making cheesecake because I know that it is pretty full on in the calories stakes, and I tend towards being a couch potato. (Since I began this blog, I have gained a certain amount of weight that won't budge.) However, with Jenny's choice for Daring Bakers this month, I have the perfect excuse to make a cheesecake.

There is also no danger that I will be left holding the cake, so to speak, because my team is hosting a morning tea on Tuesday this week. Apparently, my new work friend Ruth tells me that unless Legal holds a morning tea soon, we will be cut off from the Finance morning teas, with Finance being our nearest neighbours. It is perhaps not so sinful that Legal hasn't had a morning tea for a while, because until I arrived, there were only two people in Legal (as opposed to 20 or so people in Finance!). However, I made it clear that I love to bake and HAVE to bake, so I was more than happy to ensure that Ruth doesn't get "excommunicated". I was also impressed to learn that my new boss, Rod, cooks and bakes. No excuses then!! (I understand that Rod is thinking of making creme brulee spoons for the morning tea - wow, who thought that a guy would up the ante on my baking standards! No offence fellas, but the majority of guys that I know are not food bloggers or chefs, and rely on their significant female other to feed them.)

I originally was going to make a ginger and chocolate cheesecake, but if you have been following TWD this month, you will know why I am suffering somewhat from chocolate overload. To give me some ideas, I did a quick Google search on ginger cheesecakes, and lo, I found a recipe for ginger & lime cheesecake. Accordingly, I used Abbey's recipe, but used gingersnaps for the crust instead of graham crackers, laced the batter with glace ginger and lime zest, and substituted the lemon juice in the cheesecake recipe for lime juice. To decorate the cheesecake but leave it simple so that I can transport it to work, I piped whipped cream around the edge.

As this post goes to air, I have no idea what my cheesecake tastes like (other than a lime-y lick of the rim of the springform pan after being removed from the cheesecake), as our morning tea is not until tomorrow. However, I will update you with my verdict once it has been sliced.

Update - the Verdict: this cheesecake was absolutely amazing - light yet creamy, melt in the mouth, and the ginger and lime were dream flavours. It went down really well - it was definitely a hit. I would rate this as my top cheesecake recipe ever.

To see all the other fabulous cheesecake variations by the other Daring Bakers (and believe me, there are some absolute stunners!!), please visit the
Daring Bakers blogroll. Jenny's site will have the recipe, should you want to make this cheesecake yourself.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pear Ginger Muffins and Some Farewell Gifts

I have at last moved more or less into my new home, and this weekend has been the first opportunity that I have had to bake in a while. (I have been keeping up with TWD by strategic baking in advance!). My spare room still looks like a scene from the movie Iris, with stuff absolutely everywhere that I am not sure what to do with, but thankfully I can shut the door on it and ignore it for a while.

To christen my oven, I made Pear Ginger Muffins for my morning tea, using this recipe from Coconut & Lime. These smelt divine while baking, as they contain ginger and brown sugar. Instead of sour cream, I used (cheesecake flavoured!) low fat yoghurt, and I used William Bartlett pears, which are juicy, delicious and in season at the moment. Unlike Rachel, I removed the skins from the pears before dicing.

The pears make these muffins quite moist, and they have a wonderful ginger zing to them, because they contain a 2 inch knob of grated fresh ginger. I have never used fresh ginger in baked goods before, but I would gladly do so in the future, as the taste is more pronounced than using ground ginger. Overall, I enjoyed these muffins and would make them again.

Although it's about 3 weeks since I left my last jobs now, I wanted to share the lovely parting gifts that I received from my lawyer colleagues (I was seconded two days a week, so I really had two part-time jobs).

From Alison and Terry in Sydney, I received these lovely tulips and lillies, pictured in my wonderful Melbourne kitchen (my new kitchen is not anywhere near as big and has no window):

and from Loretta, Jason, Cameron, Kate and Rob in Melbourne (and chosen by Loretta and Kate), I received these lovely baking goods (they know me well!):

There is a cupcake apron by Davis & Waddell, a Wilton cupcake pan, heart-shaped silicone muffin cups, pink Wilton icing and pink and red heart decoration lollies. Watch this space for the ways in which I use these marvellous gifts.

(PS I miss you guys!!! I wish that circumstances could have been different, and I hope that I will work with you again or at least catch up at some time in the not too distant future.)

Finally, this afternoon, I saw The Boat That Rocked at the movies, about pirate radio broadcasters in the late 1960s. (Oddly, it seems that radio was once tightly regulated in the UK, and the BBC only played 45 minutes of rock and roll per day, so pirate broadcasters based in the North Sea played rock and roll for the masses 24 hours per day.) It is very funny, although not as good as I had hoped, and it features a fabulous 60s soundtrack. Rhys Ifans looked absolutely gorgeous in it, although I would hate that kind of guy in real life. The other Rhys, Rhys Darby from Flight of the Conchords, and Bill Nighy, plus the guy from The IT Crowd, provided some chuckle-worthy comic moments, and the young Carl (Tom Sturridge) was a cutie. If you like a good chuckle or a fan of 60s fashion or music, this is a fun movie to see.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

TWD - Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding

This week's Tuesday with Dorie is hosted by Lauren of Upper East Side Chronicle, who has selected Dorie's Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding. Well, I thought, if it's worth four stars, it must be pretty good - and of course it appeals to the chocoholic in me.

I made this while staying with my mother in between homes. Now, I love my Mum dearly, but she is a force to be reckoned with, and I don't think she would have been too impressed if I snitched seven of her precious eggs to make the full batch of this. Also, it was likely that no-one but me would eat it. Accordingly, to save myself all sorts of grief, I only made a quarter of the recipe - which in itself produced a substantial dish of pudding.

I just used stale white sandwich loaf for the bread component, and for the chocolate component, I used dark chocolate solid Easter eggs chopped into small bits. I left out the raisins - not sure that I would have liked them in this dish!

This pudding was easy to make - it caused me no problems, and I was glad that it didn't involve food processors, electric mixers or any other appliances, because my resources at Mum's are rather basic - phew! (Lauren, you must have ESP - thanks!)

The end result was rather nice - a squishy, comforting bread pudding. I ate my serve warm rather than at room temperature or cold as suggested by Dorie, and it was just fine.

Thanks to Lauren for hosting this week. You can check out the efforts of all the other TWDers at the
TWD blogroll.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TWD - 15 Minute Magic - Chocolate Amaretti Cake

Who of us can resist a good chocolate cake? Not me, for sure. I am a self-confessed chocoholic,and have to exercise plenty of discipline to keep myself away from it - even though I still manage to eat some every day. The chocoholic in me issued a loud triumphant "Wheeeeee!" when I saw the recipe for this week's TWD, hosted by Holly of PheMOMenon, as it was for a solid-gold, full on, chocolate cake - well, actually a European style torte, called "15 minute magic - Chocolate Amaretti Cake".

All I can say is - I am in lurrrrrv with this cake. It was dead simple to make in the food processor, and it is rich, fudgy and devine:

and to top it all off, it is covered with a rich, gooey ganache:

My photos don't do it justice - this is a wonderful cake. To save myself from annihilating it all by myself, I took it to work to share with colleagues, who also loved it.

This cake is unusual in that it contains crushed amaretti biscuits and nut meal instead of flour. In my quest to find the amaretti, I finally made the effort to go to Mediterranean Wholesalers in Sydney Road, Brunswick, just before I left Melbourne. Boy oh boy, do I wish that I could have gone sooner. It is a huge Italian grocer, with everything you could ever want at very reasonable prices. If you are ever in Melbourne, go visit them - you won't be disappointed.

To check out how everyone else went with this cake, and make yourself very hungry in the process, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Berry oat muffins

Recently, I saw a lovely recipe for healthy, low fat berry muffins by Maria of Two Peas and Their Pod. Full of oats and berries, these muffins looked perfect for my morning tea at work. You can find the recipe here on Maria's blog.

Maria had described these muffins as healthy AND delicious - well, with a rap like that, how could I resist? And I agreed with her - even though I dumbly managed to leave out the oil when I made them. Oh well, perhaps mine were even healthier without the oil - just perhaps not as tasty, but still very good.

These muffins are perfect for a quick brekkie or a guilt-free treat.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mixed berry jam

Greetings to everyone on this Good Friday, the holiest of holidays in the Christian calendar. I hope that you and your families are having a relaxing break.

I have moved out of my Melbourne apartment and I am currently "homeless", in that my furniture is in transit who knows where, and I have no keys to my apartment at the other end. I won't call it my "new" apartment, because I have lived there before - it is more of a homecoming, although I have lived in it over two stints that total less than the time I lived in Melbourne.

It hadn't been part of my life plan to come "home" yet, so over the summer, I busily stocked up on berries while they were cheap and plentiful and froze them to last me over the long, grey, cold, non-berry season. When I had to move, I knew I couldn't just take the frozen berries as is with me (which is such a shame!). However, I couldn't bear to part with my hard-won berry booty, so I decided to make jam with it. I was awfully surprised at how many berries I had stored - I had over a kilo of them in 125g punnets!

Here are my beautiful berries (raspberries, blackberries and blueberries) sitting in the pot waiting to be transformed into jam:

and here is the jam mid-"rolling boil" before it reached setting point:

In theory, jam making is easy - boil up equal parts of jam and sugar together with the juice of a lemon until it reaches setting point, then pour into sterilised jars and seal. However, I have never been able to get the setting point right. Of course, this was only the second time I have tried to make jam (if you discount my failed attempt at making microwave chilli jam), and both times I have overboiled the jam, so that I end up with a very thick, if very delicious, paste that is rather hard to spread easily without warming it first. Oh well, it helped me to preserve my precious berries so that I can continue to enjoy them in my new home. I also figure that too thick is better than too thin - who wants to put berry coulis on their crumpet?

Happy Easter everyone!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TWD - Banana cream pie

This week's Tuesday with Dorie is hosted by Amy of Sing for Your Supper, and she has chosen an all-American Banana Cream Pie for us to make this week.

I have never made Banana Cream Pie before, and I somehow imagined it to be a whole lot of whipped cream and bananas with nothing else. Wrong! This banana cream pie consists of a tart shell filled with a wonderful spiced pastry cream based on brown sugar, bananas and cream on top:

I used Dorie's pate sable for my tart shell because it is my favourite, and I didn't have much fun with her Good for Everything pie dough the last time I made it.

What can I say? This was heavenly. I honestly didn't expect to think much of it, but it was truly devine, and a new treat for me. My friend Veronica and my colleagues also enjoyed it.

You can check out how everyone else fared with this pie at the TWD blogroll.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Toasted Almond Tea Cake

It was a rather poignant and sad day for me last Friday, as after two and a half years, I am changing jobs and leaving my spiritual home of Melbourne to return to my Queensland roots. My mother is very happy about this, and I have had some wonderful messages of support from friends "back home" for my homecoming, but I am on some levels confused and unsure. Regardless, there had been some seminal events in the past couple of months which made me decide that it was time to move on, so that my destiny remains within my control, and all roads led back home for now.

Of course, I had to have a farewell cake - it would have been the ultimate irony if, after making leaving cakes for everyone else, I did not have one. My selection of cake was driven by practical matters - that is, what did I have in the fridge that I needed to use up, and what could I make that didn't require me to buy anything else?

I landed on a cake that I have wanted to make for some time, being the Toasted Almond Tea Cake from Sky High - Irresistable Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. I painstakingly converted the recipe into a double layer cake because I only had 3 eggs left (and those measurements do not divide easily, I can tell you).

Ultimately, I ended up with a single layer which I had to slice in two, because when I was unmoulding my cake layers, one of them hit the side of the cooling rack and disintegrated. As it was already nearly midnight, I was really tired and had already had the trauma of saying farewell at my secondment job that day, I promptly burst into tears. However, the practical side of me took over, and I refrigerated the surviving layer overnight so that it would be firm enough to divide into two the next morning.

After slicing the cake in two, I slathered it with warmed, strained homemade berry jam:

and instead of the lemon curd used in the recipe, I filled the cake with pastry cream left over from Andrew's Martini Cake the previous day:

then popped the "lid" on (note where my slicing efforts went somewhat awry with the "air vents" in the roof):

and iced the cake with the recommended amaretto glaze, using amaretto that I have carted with me since 2001 when I received two complimentary nip bottles with dinner on the island of Murano off the coast of Italy while on a European tour holiday:

You can find the recipe for the full triple layer tea cake here. It is a delightful cake, and it is unfortunate that I did not have the ingredients to make it in all of its glory.

To all the wonderful friends that I have made during my time in Melbourne, thank you for making my time here so special. This is not goodbye - rather, it is a necessary absence while I move on to the next phase of my life, and when the stars align, I will be back. In the meantime, I will of course be back to visit whenever I can, and you are welcome to stay with me should you wish to escape "up North" for a while.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pomegranate Martini Cake

Andrew, who shared my corner of the office at my recently-ended secondment, asked me in January to make him a martini cake. He was going to provide Millers gin for me to incorporate into a cake, but asked me to leave it until the end of January while he was on a special diet. Well, the diet continued, and I was asked to delay it until the end of February, then the end of March, and finally until his birthday in April. However, it eventuated that I was not going to be there for his birthday, so I made it this week and brought it to the office on my last day.

Now, the brief of a martini cake was very loose indeed, so I searched the Web for a recipe that satisfied the criteria and which I liked the sound of. After a few aborted searches, Celina Bean came to the rescue with a recipe for Pomegranate Martini Cake by Holly Storm of Cardonas in Albany, New York.

If you visit the original recipe you will see that it makes enough for 3 cakes and 2 lots of filling, so I downsized the recipe for one completed cake. I also substituted the marmalade for blackberry jam, the pomegranate juice for cranberry juice and the vodka for gin (Andrew never came forward with the Millers, so I used Bombay Sapphire), and I left out the orange segments as the orange that I had purchased was very dry - and besides, I had already subbed out the marmalade because I didn't have any.

This cake tasted absolutely delicious, and got rave reviews, even though Andrew decided that we should eat it at 8.30am! The pastry cream filling balanced well with the other components of the cake, and the pomegranate seeds gave the cake some marvellous texture and crunch.

The converted, modified recipe for this martini cake is as follows:


4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
50ml ice water
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt


3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup cranberry juice
90ml gin

Pastry cream

500ml milk
60g sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
30g cornflour
60g sugar
25g butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

To assemble the cake:

Marmalade or berry jam
300ml heavy cream
1/4 cup icing sugar
seeds from 1 pomegranate

To make the sponge cake:

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Spray a 10 inch springform pan with oil, line the base with baking paper, then spray the paper with oil.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder, and set aside.

Place the egg yolks into the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat with the paddle attachment until thick and pale and they form a "ribbon" when the paddle attachment is lifted out.

Gradually beat in the sugar and ice water, then on low speed, mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated.

In a separate bowl, beat together the egg whites together until they form stiff peaks, then add the vanilla and the salt and combine.

Fold the egg whites carefully into the other batter, being careful not to lose volume. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, and bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the syrup:

Combine the sugar, water and juice in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the gin. Allow the syrup to cool completely before use.

To make the pastry cream:

Place the milk and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, and bring just to the boil before removing from the heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and cornflour together until smooth. Pour a small amount of the hot milk into the eggs, whisking all the while. Once smooth, pour in the remainder of the milk in a steady stream while continuing to whisk the mixture.

Place the mixture back over a medium heat on the stovetop, and whisk over the heat until it thickens into the desired consistency. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the vanilla extract and butter, and whisk in until smooth.

Spoon the pastry cream into a bowl, and press cling film against the surface the pastry cream to form a seal. Allow the pastry cream to cool completely.

To assemble the cake:

Using a serrated knife, cut the sponge cake in half, and place the bottom half on a cake board.

Brush the top of the cake later with the cooled syrup until well covered:

Spread a thin layer of jam on top of the cake layer:

Spread the pastry cream in a generous layer over the top of the jam (I only used about two thirds of the pastry cream that I had made). Sprinkle half of the pomegranate seeds over the pastry cream, then place the top cake layer on top of the cake, smooth side up:

Whip the cream and icing sugar together in a bowl until medium peaks form.

Brush the outside of the cake with syrup, then spread the whipped cream over the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle the remaining pomegranate seeds on top of the cake:

This is a delightful tasting cake, and is fancy enough for any special occasion - or no occasion at all! It is also not hard to make, but it does take some time. I recommend making the cake, syrup and pastry cream one night, and assembling the cake the next night so that the components have time to cool and the flavours have time to develop.

Thanks to Celina Bean and Holly Storm for providing the basis of this recipe.