Friday, July 31, 2009

Caramel Cookies

The simple things are often the best, aren't they? From lying on freshly mown grass staring at the blue sky with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair, to holding the one you love, to watching a puppy bound around, it is life's basic pleasures that bring the most joy.

Similarly, the most basic of recipes can be the most appreciated and reap maximum rewards. So it is with Donna Hay's recipe for caramel cookies from The Sunday Mail on 19 July 2009. They are very simple to make, with limited mess, limited fuss, and limited ingredients - but taste truly delicious. These cookies would be perfect to get your kids to make on the weekend while hanging with their friends, and best of all, they can eat the fruits of their labour.

Tempted? The recipe is as follows:

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup golden syrup
60g butter
1 ½ cups self-raising flour
8 jersey caramels or other soft caramels, halved

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Melt the sugar, golden syrup and butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

Remove the butter mixture form the stove and stir in the sifted flour to form a dough.

Roll tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls, place on baking paper-lined baking trays, and press flat with a fork. Press half a jersey caramel into the top of each biscuit, then bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on trays.

Have a great weekend folks - take some time to enjoy the simple things.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

TWD - Vanilla Icecream

For a change of pace this week, the Tuesdays with Dorie group are making Vanilla Icecream at the selection of this week's host, Lynne of Cafe Lynnylu.

Previously, I had wondered why anyone would make their own vanilla icecream when you can readily buy quality icecream in this flavour. However, this icecream recipe informed me why - it is truly one of the most delicious, creamy icecreams that I have ever tasted. I only made a half batch but wished I had made the full batch - I enjoyed this, and ate it all very quickly.

Thanks to our host, Lynne, for broadening my mind on the icecream making front. To see what the other TWD members thought of this icecream, check out the TWD blogroll.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers - Milan Cookies and Mallows

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge really did end up being a tale of two cookies for me, with vastly different outcomes, and tested my determination in the face of adversity.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at
Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

We could choose to make just one or other of the cookies if we didn't want to do both, and I almost skipped the Milan cookies. However, I changed my mind on the day before posting day and decided to make them as well (I had made the mallows a couple of weeks earlier).

Hmmm ... I began to think that I was wise not to have made the Milan cookies, as my first batch looked lumpy and ugly:

My first thoughts were to abandon the Milan cookies, throw them out and pretend I never attempted them. However, on reconsideration, I thought that it did not show much Daring Baker spirit to opt out like that, so I had another go.

Luckily, I had only made a half batch the first time around, so I could make the other half without feeling so bad about wasting ingredients. For my second effort on the Milan cookies, featured at the top of this post, I changed a number of things - first, I measured all of my ingredients by weight instead of using volume. Second, I used three egg whites instead of the 4 that I accidentally used the first time. Third, I substituted orange essence (I had no lemon essence) for the lemon juice I used the first time. Fourth, I beat in the egg whites for longer. And finally, borrowing for
Audax's idea of shaping the cookies in mini tart pans, I spooned tablespoons of mixture into muffin pans lined with muffin papers.

I still can't say that I was excited by the result - I ended up with what looked and tasted like mini cakes filled with ganache, and it really wasn't my thing. I don't think I would have changed my mind even if I had repiped these cookies and allowed them to spread more thinly, because I tasted the fugly batch and the taste was similarly cakey. I like a crunchy cookie rather than a cakey cookie. I know that a lot of other Daring Bakers loved these and preferred them over the mallows, but as for me, I will pass on these in the future.

The mallows on the other hand were another story:

I adored these, and they turned out well for me. I love the commercial version of these cookies, and if possible, these mallows tasted even better, although messy and time consuming to make.

Like most of the Daring Bakers, I ended up with way more cookies than marshmallow and chocolate coating (54 to be exact, despite mine being larger in diameter than the recipe recommended):

Here are my mallows just after being topped with marshmallow. I had no difficulty with the marshmallow not setting - in fact, I had the reverse issue in that the last of my marshmallow started to set before I could pipe it, so I had to spoon it roughly onto the cookies:

I didn't use vegetable oil or cocoa butter or shortening in my chocolate coating - I just used melted chocolate spooned over the top, and it worked like a dream. My coating set and stayed set, so I could store them outside the fridge.

With the leftover cookies, I sandwiched them together with cherry jam and iced them:

Here is a peek inside one of the mallows:

Some of the Daring Bakers came up with truly amazing variations on the original recipe, so for some fun, check out their efforts at the
Daring Bakers blogroll. Thanks to Nicole for being our host this month. She will have the recipes on her site if you are interested.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Pusher" Biscuits

On Wednesday, Ruth asked me if I would bake again, so on Wednesday night, I decided to make what my mother refers to as "pusher" biscuits. These are just biscuits made using a cookie press.

Now, in theory, these biscuits are simple to make, but my experience tells me otherwise. The biscuit press is a fickle machine, as my friend Tammy recently mentioned, and you have to get the dough just right. If you don't, the whole exercise can range from a battle of wills to a downright failure.

From bitter experience, I have learned that I should not use reduced fat margarine when making these, as the dough does not reach the correct consistency to extrude properly. I know, I should cook with margarine, but my mother always did, and her recipe actually calls for margarine. In my cold-addled haze the other night, I forgot about the reduced fat margarine no-no, and used it in my biscuit dough. It made it quite a struggle to press the biscuits out, requiring me to aid the process by lifting the biscuits off the end of the presser with my hands (they should just fall off), and eventually to abandon the presser altogether and roll out the rest of the dough and cut it into star shapes. However, a selection of the cookies that I managed to press are featured at the top of this post, sandwiched together with water icing.

I recommend skipping the margarine and going for the butter for the best results. My mother's recipe for these biscuits is as follows:

120g butter
1/2 cup sugar

1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups self raising flour less 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons cornflour
1 pinch salt

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla essence.

Remove the bowl from the electric mixer, and sift in the flour and cornflour. Stir until well combined to form a relatively stiff dough. (Add more flour if the dough is still sticky.)

Put portions of the dough into the biscuit presser, press out onto biscuit trays lined with baking paper, and bake in the preheated oven. Remove the golden baked biscuits from the oven and allow to cool on the trays.

Once cool, sandwich the biscuits together with water icing, if desired.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Orange ricotta tart

One thing that I love about the winter is the abundance of citrus fruits, and in particular, oranges. There's nothing like the sharp, tangy smell of an orange as you peel it, then bite into its soft, juicy flesh. My love for oranges meant that I could not pass over a recipe for orange ricotta tart by Sophie Hansen in the August 2009 issue of BBC Australia Good Food magazine (entitled "Blood orange lady").

I didn't have blood oranges, but found that good old Australian navel oranges worked just as well. The tart comprises a flaky pastry base topped with a creamy ricotta filling, and decorated by orange slices and caramel. My caramel ended up being a little overdone, and more like toffee, but by the time I brought it to work the next day, it had largely dissolved into a sauce, which saved the day even if it was a little sticky. If you like your desserts not too sweet and decidedly grown-up in flavour, then this is the tart for you.

Although the recipe author says it is easy to make, I am not so sure that I agree with her, as I had a few glitches (including the said toffee incident). I guess it also helps if you don't try and watch TV while making it - I wasn't concentrating, so I read the recipe as including the juice of 2 oranges when only the juice of one orange is required, causing me to add the remaining 50g of ricotta that I had on hand plus an extra egg to bind it up!

If you would like to make this tart, the recipe (without my emergency adjustments!) is as follows:


1 2/3 cups plain flour, sifted
180g cold, chopped butter
60ml ice cold water

Orange and ricotta filling

1 cup ricotta (I used low fat)
1/4 cup + 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 oranges, peeled and sliced into 5mm wide slices

(Tip - I found it easier to peel the slices after cutting than to peel the orange neatly then slice it)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

To make the pastry:

Put the flour, and butter in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the water and process until the mixture forms a ball. Scoop the resulting pastry out of the food processor and press it into a disk before wrapping it in cling film and refrigerating for 30 minutes.

Grease a 24cm diameter loose-bottomed pie pan.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll it between two sheets of baking paper to a thickness of 2mm. Position the pastry in the pie dish and press it firmly into the sides, then trim off the excess. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, then return it to the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Remove the tart shell from the fridge, line it with baking paper, and fill it with pie weights or rice. Place the tart shell in the oven to bake for 15 minutes, then remove it from the oven, remove the pie weights and baking paper, and bake it for another 5 minutes or until golden. Remove the tart shell from the oven and allow it to cool.

To make the filling:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta, the 1/4 cup of sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange zest and juice, cardamom and ginger until smooth. Pour the mixture into the cooled tart shell, then bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes or until the filling is just set. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Arrange the orange slices over the top of the cooled ricotta filling.

In a small saucepan, mix together the 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup of water, and stir over low heat until the sugar melts. Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to boiling point, and allow to boil until it turns a rich brown colour. Remove the mixture from the heat and spoon it over the top of the oranges.

Remove the tart from the pan and serve immediately. (Or if you don't mind the caramel turning to a sticky, dissolved sauce, you can refrigerate it and serve the next day.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TWD - Raspberry blanc-manger

This week's very elegant TWD recipe is for Raspberry Blanc-manger, and was chosen by Susan of Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy. This blancmanger is not at all like the pudding that I grew up with knowing as "blancmange", which is more like a thick, smooth custard. Rather, this is a creamy, moulded dessert containing almond meal and raspberries.

I chose to add both touches in the "Playing Around" section of the recipe, in that I placed the blancmanger on a sponge base, and topped it with a quince jelly glaze. For the cake base, I used half the recipe for the sponge portion of Nigella Lawson's Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake from Forever Summer. You can find the recipe at Not Quite Nigella's site here.

I chose this because I knew it would only result in a small layer of cake without the need to cut it or waste any. However, the challenge was that the batter is so thick that I had difficulty spreading it over the base of my very deep 8" pan, so the disc of sponge did not quite reach to the edges of the pan. What I did like about it was that it turned out almost biscuity in texture, making it a solid base and a perfect foil for the softer blancmanger topping.

Unfortunately, as it is mid winter in the Southern hemisphere, raspberries are not in season. I could have used strawberries, but I absolutely adore raspberries, so I took the risk of "bleeding" and used frozen raspberries, which I thawed and patted dry as best I could. I was happy with the result, as the raspberries gave the sweet creamy backdrop some much needed tang.

I also ground my own almonds. The little flecks in the dessert are because I used almonds with the skin on; as some TWD members said, this gives it the "rustic" look, and I am happy with that.

Here is my blancmanger before I brushed it with the quince glaze and sliced it:

Pretty, yeah?

I was relieved that the blancmanger set, and that it didn't have big rogue globs of gelatin through it (as gelatin was used as the setting agent).

This blancmanger tasted delicious - it was smooth and creamy, with a wonderful tang from the raspberries and nuttiness and texture from the almond meal. It is a truly elegant dessert that would not look out of place at a dinner party.

I liked having the cake base, but if I made this again, I would probably make a full size sponge layer and cut it to size to ensure complete coverage of the base.

Thanks to Susan for being our host this week. You can check out the interpretations of this dessert by the other TWD members by checking out the TWD blogroll.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Danish for Breakfast at Tiffany's - Dinner and a Movie

Nothing very bad could happen to you [at Tiffany's]
Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's

This month's
Dinner and a Movie is hosted by Susan of Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy, and she has chosen one of my favourite movies of all time - Breakfast at Tiffany's!

I adore this movie, despite its darker subtext - it is quirky and funny and sad all at the same time. Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly is just gorgeous in it, and her wardrobe is devine (after all, it was designed by Hubert de Givenchy). George Peppard is also remarkably young and clean cut and handsome in this movie - although he is a "kept man", his character, Paul Varjak, is just the sort of guy you could happily bring home to mother.

One of my favourite scenes has to be the mad party in Holly's apartment, to which the police are eventually called. There are so many memorable moments in that one scene, you cannot look away.

Breakfast at Tiffany's
opens with Holly arriving at Tiffany's in New York in a taxi at 5am, where she proceeds to window shop while sipping a coffee and nibbling on a danish. Apparently, Audrey wanted to lick an icecream cone instead, because she hated pastries, but the director, Blake Edwards, insisted on the danish - and the rest is history.

Inspired by that memorable opening scene, I have made Apricot Danish in the form of the apricot twists from
Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More by Carole Walter.

These delicate pastries tasted absolutely devine, and smelled heavenly fresh out of the oven. There is a little fussing around involved in making the danish pastry, but once you have that up and running, the rest is not too taxing.

I made a half measure of Carole's danish pastry recipe, and only half of that again is required to make the apricot twists (I froze the rest for another day). The half recipe for the danish pastry (on page 258 of the book) is as follows:


290g butter
1/8 cup plain flour


1/6 cup warm water
1/6 cup + 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 eggs, cold and lightly beaten
1/2 cup ice water


Line an 8 inch square metal baking pan with 2 long strips of glad wrap, laid at right angles to each other.

Put the butter and flour in an electric mixer bowl, and beat for 10-15 seconds or until the butter is just smooth. Spoon the butter into the prepared baking pan, spooning it into each corner before covering the rest. Spread the butter in an even layer over the base of the pan, and refrigerate while you make the pastry.


Warm a small bowl by running it under hot water. Pour the warm water into the warmed bowl, and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the top of the water, and allow the mixture to stand in the covered bowl, without stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove the cover, stir the mixture with a fork, then allow it to stand for a further 3 minutes.

Put the flour, remaining sugar and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer and mix briefly on low speed to combine. Add the butter to the flour mixture and mix for 30 seconds.

Combine the eggs with the ice water in a small bowl, then add to the flour mixture and mix on medium speed for around 1 minute or until a rough dough is formed.

Line a cookie sheet with baking paper.

Take the butter out of the fridge; it should be firm but pliable.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work bench, and roll it into a 10" x 18" rectangle, with the short side running parallel to the bench top.

Centre the block of butter on top of the rolled dough. Pick up the lower edge of the dough and fold it into the middle of the butter, then do the same with the top edge of the butter, so that you have folded the dough into 3, like you fold a letter to place it into an envelope. Pinch the edges of the dough together to seal them.

Flour the bench top, and turn the dough 1/4 turn to the right. Press the top of the dough to flatten it. Roll the dough into a 12" x 22" rectangle, flipping it once or twice as you roll and continuing to reflour the bench as necessary to avoid sticking. (If the dough sticks, use a metal or plastic pastry scraper to lift it off the bench without undoing your hard work.) Remove any excess flour with a pastry brush, then fold the dough into 3, like a letter, by folding the lower and upper edges into the middle. Press the dough to seal the layers. Place the folded dough onto the paper-lined cookie sheet, cover it with another piece of baking paper, and refrigerate it for 15-20 minutes.

Remove the dough from the fridge, flour your benchtop, and place the dough onto the floured bench with the open seam to the right. Roll the dough into a rectangle measuring 12" x 22", flipping and flouring as before. Once again, remove any excess flour with a pastry brush before folding the dough into 3, then pressing it with your hands to flatten it, place it back on the paper-lined cookie sheet, cover with another piece of baking paper, and return it to the refrigerator for another 15-20 minutes.

For the last time, remove the dough from the fridge, and repeat the rolling and folding process described above before placing the folded dough back onto the cookie sheet, covering it with another layer of paper, and returning it to the fridge to rest overnight.

Apricot filling

110g dried apricots
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond essence

Chop the apricots roughly. (The recipe does not say this, but the apricots did not disintegrate after cooking, and the whole apricots are too bulky to use for filling.) Put the apricots, water and jam into a small saucepan, and bring to the boil before reducing the heat, covering the pan and allowing the mixture to simmer for 18-20 minutes or until the apricots are very soft.

Remove the pan from the heat, and stir through the brown sugar and almond essence. Mix with a fork until smooth. (This didn't work for me - I ended up whizzing it in the food processor for a short burst.) Set the filling aside to cool.

Apricot twists

1/2 of the danish pastry recipe given above
1 quantity apricot filling
1 beaten egg (for egg wash)
2 tablespoons sparkling sugar
1 quantity sugar syrup (recipe below)

Line two cookie sheets with baking paper.

On a floured bench, divide the dough into two. Roll one half of the dough into a rectangle measuring 18" x 7" (again, use a pastry scraper to lift the dough from the bench if it sticks). Prick the rolled dough with a fork at 1" intervals.

Spread half of the apricot filling lengthwise over half of the dough, leaving a margin of 1/2" from each edge. Brush the far edge of the dough with egg wash, then fold it over the half of the dough spread with the filling, and press the edges to seal. Trim any excess dough as necessary.

Cut the filled dough into strips which are 2" wide. In the centre of each strip, make a 2" slash, like a buttonhole, and thread the top edge of each strip through that slash to form the twist. Place each twist on the lined baking trays, and push each end of the twist towards the centre so that it is slightly curved, like a bow tie.

Repeat the above with the second half of the dough.

Cover the twists with a teatowel and place in a warm place to rise for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Uncover the twists and brush them with egg wash and sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Bake the twists in the oven for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190 degrees Celsius and continue to bake them for another 10 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the trays top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking.

While the twists are baking, make the sugar syrup:

Sugar syrup

Put 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup of sugar into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil on the stovetop, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Use the syrup while it is hot.

Once the twists have finished baking, remove them from the oven and immediately brush them with the hot sugar syrup.

The twists can be served warm or cold, and keep stored in foil for 2-3 days.

To see the roundup of recipes inspired by Breakfast at Tiffany's, check Susan's blog on 25 July.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chocolate fudge cake

Do you ever buy a food magazine just because you are taken by the photo of the dish on the cover? I have to blushingly confess to this habit; recently, I purchased Australian Gourmet Traveller because of the gorgeous picture of pink macarons on the front cover. While I am a subscriber to Australian Good Food, I opened it in double quick time when I saw the magnificent chocolate cake on the cover of the August edition, and I knew that I had to make it.

Now, the cake that you see in my pictures bears only a passing resemblance to the one on the cover of Australian Good Food, because when I went to make the frosting, I realised that I was clean out of butter. Not in the mood to venture out for more, I used water icing instead, decorated gaily with Nerds. This was functional, but made the cake less luscious in appearance than the cousin that inspired it. Oh well, it still tasted good!

The cake is called "Easiest ever chocolate fudge cake", but unless you make the fudge icing, it is not really fudgy at all; in fact, it is disappointingly similar to a zillion other recipes for chocolate cake that I have tried. It was no better or worse, just not striking. Such is the power of the picture - I was hoping for an amazingly moist chocolate cake, and ended up with a fairly ordinary, sandy textured chocolate cake. I figure that the virtue of my version of the cake is that it was less calorific - the fudge icing contains some serious quantities of butter and chocolate!

However, don't take this as a negative; it is a perfectly good chocolate cake recipe if you are looking for a basic crowd pleaser that is not out of the ordinary. The recipe, including the original fudge frosting (in case you are more organised than me and actually have enough butter to make it) is as follows:

1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
250g butter
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
75g melted dark chocolate


200g butter
200g icing sugar
200g dark chocolate, melted

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease and line two 20cm round cake tins.

Put the flour, cocoa, baking powder, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and melted chocolate into a food processor and process until smooth. (The authors state that if your mixture is too thick, add 2-3 tablespoons cold water and pulse through the batter.)

Spoon the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through when tested with a skewer. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool in the tins for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.


Place the butter and icing sugar in a food processor and process until combined. Pour in the melted chocolate and pulse until smooth.

Spread half the frosting on one half of the cake, and top with the second half. Spread the remaining frosting over the top of the cake.

Slice and enjoy!

I liked my version with the water icing and Nerds; the tangy Nerds contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the icing and the cake. It also looked cheery and colourful, so although it is the wallflower to the Australian Good Food version, it sure tasted good.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bastille Day - Macarons with White Chocolate and Raspberry Ganache & Hearty Lamb Stew

Ah, France! Doesn't it conjure up images of beautiful, picturesque countryside, the elegance of Paris, the musical language, and of course, wonderful food?

Today is Bastille Day in France, so to mark the occasion, I have made two French-style recipes.

Pictured at the top of this post are macarons with white chocolate and raspberry ganache. I have wanted to make macarons for a very long time, but I have read about how difficult they are to get right (for example, see Duncan's article on Melbourne's "finest"). (For a list of desirable macaron qualities, see this article on Serious Eats.)

I decided to bite the bullet and aim just to make them, rather than for perfection. After all, I have never made them before! And for the record, I think I did OK - it's not Laduree, but it's not bad either. My macarons tasted very good (IMHO), and - best of all - they had feet!! (To read about feet on macarons, which puzzled some of my friends no end, see Helen's terrific article on demystifying macarons in Desserts Magazine.)

I used the recipe for Macarons with White Chocolate and Raspberry Ganache on page 40 of the July 2009 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller. Interestingly, the recipe said that I would end up with 40 macarons (presumably counting each half as one) - I ended up with 19, so I halved the ganache recipe.

If you would like to take up the macaron challenge, the recipe that I used is as follows:

130g pure icing sugar
110g almond meal (I made my own from blanched almonds)
105g (~2) egg whites left at room temperature overnight*
65g caster sugar (I used granulated sugar - probably made my macarons coarser, but it worked)
4-5 drops pink food colouring (or perhaps more - note that mine are a pale egg shell colour)

(To see why, read Helen's article referenced above. She mentions that you can age them quickly by microwaving them on medium heat for ~10 seconds - but be careful, because I ended up cooking half of my first batch of egg whites.)


50ml heavy cream
100g white chocolate
45g raspberries, coarsely chopped

Line baking trays with baking paper.

Put the almond meal and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse until finely ground, then sift into a separate bowl and set aside.

Whisk 90g of egg whites with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer to the soft peak stage (or if you are me, you forget and whisk all of them!) to the soft peak stage. Add the caster sugar in tablespoon batches while continuing to whisk the egg whites, until the mixture is thick and glossy, then beat in the food colouring (if using).

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, and fold in the almond meal/icing sugar mixture in batches until well combined and the mixture slides down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining egg white to loosen the mixture (if you remembered to save some!), then spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain tip. Pipe 3cm diameter circles onto the paper lined baking trays, leaving 3cm between each one, and tap the trays on the counter to remove air bubbles. Leave the raw macarons to stand for 4-5 hours or until a crust begins to form. (This crust will seal in the heat and cause the "feet" to form at the base of the macaron.)

Preheat your oven to 140 degrees Celsius and bake the macarons in it for 10-12 minutes until they are firm but not coloured. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely on the trays. Use a small flat egg lifter to carefully remove the baked macarons from the trays once cool (or follow Helen's tips for loosening them).

To make the ganache, bring the cream to the boil in a saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Leave the pan to stand for 5 minutes to give the chocolate time to melt, then stir the mixture until it becomes smooth. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes, then stir again until smooth.

Stir the chopped raspberries through the ganache, then spoon one teaspoon of ganache onto one half of the macarons, and spread it out to the edges. Place another macaron on top of each half, then refrigerate the macarons until set. (They keep in the fridge for 1-2 days.)

My other Bastille Day recipe was a Hearty Lamb Stew (Civet d'Agneau). This recipe is from page 314 of On Rue Tatin by Susan Loomis, a delightful autobiography peppered with recipes. The recipe is from Susan's butcher in Louviers, M. Jean-Louis Richard. It is a truly wonderful stew - it is rich and full-flavoured, and smells devine. Susan states that this stew is "an uncommonly delicious treatment for lamb". If that doesn't tempt you, I don't know what will!

My only tip is - be prepared to wait. The meat marinades for 48 hours before cooking (I only had 24 hours up my sleeve), and it rests for an hour outside of the fridge before you begin to cook. You also need to cook the prepared stew for 1 1/4 hours, so this dish is best made over a leisurely weekend.

I altered the recipe by using less meat, correspondingly less wine and garnishing with baby spinach rather than parsley. However, the original recipe is as follows:

1.5kg lamb, diced
750ml red wine
2 dried bay leaves
20 sprigs fresh thyme
20 black peppercorns
3 tablespoons butter
2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 onion, cut into thin slices
3 tablespoons plain flour
salt and pepper
1/2 cup parsley for garnishing

Put the lamb in a shallow, non-corrosive casserole dish, and pour over the wine. Add the herbs and peppercorns, mix to combine, then place on the regrigerator to marinade for 48 hours, stirring every now and again.

On cooking day, remove the lamb from the fridge an hour before cooking.

Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Remove the lamb from the marinade (which you should reserve) and pat it dry. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed frypan, and lightly brown the lamb. Remove the lamb from the pan.

In the same pan, cook the carrots and the onions until golden and soft, then remove from the pan.

Still using the same pan, add the flour and cook, stirring, until it becomes golden. Pour the marinade into the pan with the flour, and cook until it thickens into a sauce.

Put the lamb and vegetables back into the casserole dish used for the marinating process. Season with salt and pepper, and pour over the thickened marinade. Cover the casserole dish, then place into the oven to cook for 1-1 1/4 hours.

Remove the cooked stew from the oven and allow it to stand for 5 minutes before sprinkling over the chopped parsley and serving.

I served my stew with mashed potatoes, but you could try a traditional French potato dish in its stead.

I loved this stew - it was thick and rich and delicious, and except for the time factor, I would make it often.

Happy National Celebration to those who are French. Vive la France!

TWD - Plum Brioche Tart

Having recently conquered Dorie's sticky buns, I was delighted this week to find that, courtesy of Tuesdays with Dorie and our host, Denise of Chez Us, I would be making another recipe based on Dorie's golden brioche. This time, it was a Plum Brioche Tart.

Plums are not in season here, so I used canned plums, which I dried between paper towels for around half an hour. Despite this, my finished tart was still very juicy, with pools of juice on top. However, I didn't think that this detracted from the flavour - it was not so soggy as to turn my brioche to mush, and I enjoyed the fact that this was not an overly sweet baked treat.

The only other change that I made from the recipe was to use chopped pistachios in the topping rather than walnuts or almonds, primarily because that was what I had in the cupboard.

Doesn't it look lovely with its golden centre:

To see how the other TWD bakers went with this tart, visit the TWD blogroll.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chocolate Caramel Slice & Lemon Cupcakes

One of my colleagues, Ruth, is a big fan of my baking, and I recently made a couple of things at her request. After all, you don't let your fans down!

Last week, when Ruth asked for some baking to help her day go better, I made chocolate caramel slice, pictured above. (No matter how many photos I seemed to take of this, none of them turned out well - the above shot is the best of a bad bunch). This slice started out life as my school chum Katrina's caramel marshmallow slice, the recipe for which is printed out on an old dot matrix printer on the paper with the holes up the side to feed through the tracks on the printer. (Remember those printers?? As you can guess, it's been a while since I have been at school.) Unfortunately, when I got to making the marshmallow, I realised that I had no gelatine, and there are no shops open near my place that are open at 9pm at night. Accordingly, the marshmallow topping was hastily ditched for a chocolate topping, as I had plenty of chocolate in the pantry cupboard.

This slice is relatively easy and quick to make (hence why it was a "school night" choice), and is an amalgam of the base recipe for ginger crunch minus the ginger (as alas, Katrina's recipe merely states that you put the topping on a "biscuit base"), Katrina's caramel topping and melted dark chocolate. The "recipe" (if this is what you call this mish-mash from various sources) is as follows:

(adapted from the Ginger Crunch recipe in Cook by Kate McGhie)

125g butter
125g sugar
215g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius, and grease an 18cm x 28cm slice pan.

Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy.

Sift the flour and baking powder together into a bowl, and fold into the butter mixture. You will end up with a sandy textured dough. Press this dough into the prepared slice tin, and bake in the prehated oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Caramel topping

1/2 cup condensed milk
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 egg yolk
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Place all of the imngredients into a small saucepan, and bring slowly to the boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat, and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until it thickens and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan and turns a caramel colour. Remove the pan from the heat and spread the caramel over the hot biscuit base. Allow the base and the caramel to cool completely.

Chocolate topping

Melt 125g dark chocolate in a saucepan over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, pour over the caramel and spread out to cover the slice evenly. Leave the chocolate topping to set at room temperature.

Once the topping has set, cut the slice into squares (makes ~24 slices).

I also made these lemon cupcakes topped with white chocolate ganache when Ruth requested lemon cupcakes (as she is thinking of having cupcakes at her wedding):

The recipe is the Crabapple Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes, with part of the milk substituted with the juice of a lemon, and with the zest of a lemon in the batter. The ganache topping was leftover from the Pineapple Dacquoise.

Unfortunately, the cupcakes did not taste very lemony, so I will have to work on this, as I prefer a stronger lemon flavour.

Hope you enjoy these random recipes, and that you all had a good weekend.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pecan honey sticky buns

We'll build a world of our own
That no-one else can share
The Seekers, A World of Our Own

Don't you love sleeping in on the weekends, then waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread? Sticky buns remind me of Sunday mornings, sleeping in, then waking up pretending that the world doesn't exist while you continue to snuggle up under the covers and just be.

Accordingly, I was instantly attracted by Dorie's pecan honey sticky buns, although they are not really the kind of breakfast treat you can just decide on a whim to make. No - they require hours and hours of rising time, although you can make the dough the day before and rise the next day to bake these deliciously gooey, nutty, caramel covered treats.

I cheated on the risings, having fewer than suggested and cutting down on time by placing the dough in an oven that was just barely on (~30 degrees Celsius). However, these buns were so worth it - sticky and finger-lickingly delicious.

I think that I am one of the last baking bloggers on the planet to make these, so you can find the recipe all over the place, including
here at Cathy's blog.

Despite the effort, these are so worth it - go on, I know you want to make 'em.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cauliflower mustard pickles

When I attended Regional Flavours recently, one of the stall holders was selling jams and cauliflower mustard pickle. Everyone was raving about the pickle, so I tried it too, despite it being visually rather repulsive to me (being cacky yellow). Boy, was I pleasantly surprised! It was delicious - just the right blend of sweet and sour to tickle my tastebuds.

When I mentioned the pickle to my Mum, she said that she used to make it. I honestly can't remember her making it, but it inspired me to have a crack at it myself.

Armed with a cauliflower, a bottle of white vinegar and some mustard, I looked up a recipe for cauliflower mustard pickle in the Schauer Fruit Preserving Book. (Later, I found a few recipes on the Internet that were a lot less vinegary - oh well, maybe next time!)

Because this recipe was in old measures, and I was only making a half batch, I had a guess at a lot of things, including how much cornflour to use as thickener. However, my pickles worked out OK in the end, and are delicious in corned beef sandwiches, where the salty meat and the sour pickles play off against each other.

To make your own cauliflower mustard pickles, you will need:

1/2 head large cauliflower, divided into florets
salt solution (50g salt dissloved in 500ml cold water)
500ml vinegar (recipe suggested malt vinegar; I used white vinegar)
1 tablespoon mustard (I used Masterfoods Australian mustard)
1/2 tablespoon turmeric
1/4 cup cornflour
extra cold vinegar

Soak the cauliflower in the salt solution overnight, then drain. Mix the cornflour with just enough vinegar to make a paste. In a large saucepan, combine the 500ml of vinegar, the mustard, the turmeric, and the cornflour paste, and bring to the boil. Add the salted cauliflower, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened. (You may need more or less cornflour; you need just enough to thicken the pickle.) Spoon the pickled cauliflower into sterilised glass jars (I used 2 x 300ml jars for this quantity of pickle).

Spread the pickle on thick, crusty bread in place of margarine, and top with corned beef, tomato and cheese, then toast in a sandwich maker - delicious!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ginger Lime Loaf

Like many food bloggers, I have a cookbook addiction. There, I've said it. I am not sure if they have CBAA (Cook Book Addicts Anonymous) meetings, but I don't think I'd want to go - I'd have to be dragged there kicking and screaming. I love cook books - there is nothing like cosying up under the doona with a pretty recipe book full of enticing photos and seductive recipe titles.

Recently, Nanette of The Gourmet Worrier posted about a cook book that she had learned about through the Air New Zealand in flight magazine called Gran's Kitchen - Recipes from the Notebooks of Dulcie May Booker by Natalie Oldfield. You can read Nanette's enchanting post, which explains the story behind the book, here.

After resisting for about 5 seconds, I decided that I had to add this book to my collection. After all, it contains lots of baking recipes (among others) of the kinds of things that mother used to make, and I have found that New Zealand and Australian women seemed to make the same sorts of things, so it would appeal to my taste buds.

This book did not disappoint - it is a truly beautiful book, with lots of photographs of Dulcie May Booker and her family, and a photo of each dish. The lovely people from whom I bought my copy, Cook The Books, suggested that I try the honey gems - and I will. However, for my first outing, I made Dulcie's Ginger Lime Loaf, which apparently was one of her "new" favourites. This is a lovely dense loaf cake flavoured with lime and fresh ginger, and with the most devine lime icing on top.

To make your own Ginger Lime Loaf, you will need:

250g butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup golden syrup
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon lime zest
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self raising flour
2 lightly beaten eggs
3/4 cup plain yoghurt


2 cups icing sugar
1/4 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 tablespoon lime zest

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a loaf pan. (The book doesn't specify size, so I just used what I had.)

Put the butter and golden syrup into a medium sized saucepan, and melt over medium heat on the stovetop. Add the sugar, ginger and lime to the saucepan, and stir over low heat until dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Sift the flours together in a large bowl.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs and yoghurt until combined.

Add the egg mixture and butter mixture alternately to the flours in two to three batches, stirring until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin, and bake in the preheated oven for around 50 minutes or until cooked through. (My cake ended up being a little cracked and domey on top, but tasted fine.)

When the cake has cooled, ice it by combining all the icing ingredients together and spreading over the top of the cake. (I used more than the suggested 2 tablespoons of lime juice in the icing - I just used up the juice from the whole lime, but the consistency of the icing is up to you.)

Enjoy sliced for morning tea with a hot cuppa.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

TWD - Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies

I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun.
Katharine Hepburn

This week is a special TWD, because we are baking with a non-TWD host, Lisa of Surviving Oz, who is the designer of our brilliant new logo:

She has chosen the Tribute to Katharine Hepburn brownies.

Apparently, Kate once said that you should never have too much flour in your brownies, and these brownies are a testament to that. They are of the gooey, fudgy variety rather than the cakey, firm type.

I baked my brownies according to the directions, and I think they were just perfect. The chocolate chunks were just on the right side of oozey, and when served warm - mamma mia, they were devine! This has to be one of my favourite Dorie recipes by a country mile.

To check out how the other TWD bakers went with these brownies, please check out the TWD blogroll. Here's hoping that Kate would approve.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Puff Pastry - Diplomat Torte and Strawberry Tart

I find baking very zen; it usually soothes my nerves and gives me a sense of accomplishment. Each week, in addition to my baking group and blogging event projects, I love to be able to make a little something just for me.

In July last year, I attended a Baking Essentials class at The Essential Ingredient at Prahran Market, taught by Loretta Sartori. On the strength of Loretta's class, I purchased Loretta's book entitled The Cook's Book - Patisserie. It is a very useful book, because it teaches you how to make the various individual components in most well known pastries and cakes, so that you can mix and match them as desired.

Ever since I did Loretta's class, I had wanted to make the Diplomat Torte that we made as a class, and which appears as one of the recipes in Loretta's book. The Diplomat Torte is comprised of two well-baked discs of puff pastry, between which is sandwiched a sponge layer with creme patisserie, and which is decorated with icing sugar and toasted flaked almonds.

After almost 12 months, I had the perfect opportunity to make the Diplomat Torte, because courtesy of Tuesdays with Dorie, I had made Nick Maglieri's rough puff pastry and had enough egg yolks to make creme patissiere.

Behold the fruits of my labour:

I took my photo at the most flattering angle I could find; I will confess that in reality, my torte looked a little wonky on one side. However, it worked (hooray!) and tasted great.

If you would like to try your hand at the Diplomat Torte, the recipe for which is on page 167 of The Cook's Book - Patisserie, you will need:

2 discs of puff pastry ~ 30cm in diameter

Sponge (1/2 recipe from p35 of Loretta's book)

3 eggs
60g sugar
50g plain flour
25g cornfour

Creme patissiere (from p244 of Loretta's book)

500ml milk
50g sugar
1 vanilla bean, split with seeds scraped out
3 egg yolks
50g sugar (yes, there's 2 lots)
50g cornflour

Sugar syrup (from p263 of Loretta's book)

100ml water
50g sugar

1 tablespoon Cointreau

Toasted flaked almonds for decorating the sides of the cake

Puff pastry discs

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Lay each disc on a baking tray and prick all over with a fork, then bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.


Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease and line 1 x 26cm cake pan.

Separate the eggs. Whisk the whites with a stand mixer until soft peaks form, then gradually add the sugar while continuing to whisk.

Reduce the mixer speed, then beat in the egg yolks until just combined.

Sieve the cornflour and plain flour together into a bowl.

Using a rubber spatula, fold through the flour mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove the baked sponge from the oven, and turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Creme patissiere

Put the milk, vanilla bean and first batch of sugar in a small saucepan, and bring to the boil over medium heat.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and second lot of sugar together to form a paste.

Pour small amounts of the hot milk onto the egg yolk mixture while whisking continuously to temper the eggs. Once half the milk has been added to the egg yolk mixture, return the other half of the milk to the stove and bring back to boiling point, then to that saucepan add the tempered egg mixture, whisking continuously, until the mixture thickens and returns to the boil.

Once the custard has thickened, remove it from the heat and spoon (or if lumpy, sieve) into a clean bowl, and press cling film against the top of it. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until required (up to 5 days). When you are ready to assemble the torte, beat the chilled custard until smooth.

Sugar syrup

Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to the boil over medium heat, then simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir through the Cointreau. Transfer to a sterilised jar and refrigerate until required.

To assemble

Trim each pastry disc until it is only 1cm larger in diameter than the sponge cake.

Put one pastry disc onto a cake plate or cake board, and spread with a 1cm layer of creme patissiere.

Place the sponge on top of the creme patissiere layer, and brush with enough sugar syrup to wet, but not soak, the cake.

Spread another 1 cm layer of creme patissiere on top of the sponge cake, then place the second pastry disc on top of that, with the puffy top side facing downwards.

Spread creme patissiere over the sides of the cake to mask the layers, and press the toasted almonds into the sides of the torte.

Dust the top of the torte with icing sugar. Refrigerate to set, and bring back to room temperature before serving.


With the leftover puff pastry, I made a simple banded fruit tart, filled with the leftover creme patisserie, sliced strawberries, and toasted flaked almonds:

The technique for making the banded tart base is on page 163 of Loretta's book.

Both desserts were delicious, although I think that I enjoyed the simpler strawberry tart the most. If you find yourself with some spare puff pastry, either of these projects would be a perfect way to use it up.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rhubarb Strawberry Muffins

Here comes the sun, do do do do ...
George Harrison, Here Comes the Sun

I am having a marvellous time reading all the summery recipes posted by folk in the Northern Hemisphere using summer fruits. It makes me feel all cheery and summery myself, even though we are smack in the middle of winter here. (Mind you, winter in Queensland is pretty mild.)

These recipes inspired me to buy up big at the local fruit shop - I bought a basketful of fruit and veg that I really had no clear idea what I was going to do with, but it looked wonderful. My purchases included 2 punnets of strawberries and a bunch of rhubarb stalks.

The challenge then was - what should I make?? Initially, I was tempted by Dorie Greenspan's rhubarb and strawberry (well, cherry) cobbler, then Margaret Fulton's rhubarb and strawberry crumble. However, the practical genie kicked in and suggested muffins for work. A Google search later, and I came up with this recipe for rhubarb muffins by Fiona Haynes, to which I added about 8 strawberries, chopped into quarters. As a member of TWD (think lots of butter and chocolate), I need some low fat recipes in my life, so I was delighted to read that this recipe is also low fat. Bargain!

The verdict? I think these muffins turned out very pretty, and they tasted devine with the wonderful juicy rhubarb and strawberries in them. For all of you lucky enough to be in the middle of summer fruit season, you could do a lot worse than give these muffins a go. And just think of all the extra Katherine Hepburn Tribute Brownies I can eat next week for TWD after being so virtuous ;).