Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Daring Bakers - Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

Ring out the Filbert Gateaus it's Daring Baker time. The blogosphere will shortly be awash with hazelnuts, cake, chocolate and buttercream.

If I am perfectly honest I was a teeny bit disappointed to find another layered cake as this month's challenge. There have been quite a few lately. But I should not have doubted this month's host, Chris of Mele Cotte, because this cake is superb.

Yes it was a lot of work. But the end result was worth it. Let's go through the list:

1) hazelnut genoise - light, airy, soft and deliciously nutty
2) sugar syrup - flavoured with cointreau
3) praline buttercream - impossibly smooth, light and strewn with toffeed hazelnuts
4) whipped cream - always a good thing
5) glaze - tangy marmalade laced with cointreau
6) chocolate ganache - deep and rich and chocolatey

I had few problems in making it. The only issue was that the cake was not terribly high. I was convinced that if I tried to cut it into three layers it would crumble into crumbs. So I played it safe and stayed with two. I really need to learn how to do this better because one layer was double the size of the other.

There were no complaints though. Everbody loved it, including me.

The recipe can be found on Chris's blog. If it is not there just yet it will be in the next day or so.

To see a million other delicious versions of this cake, visit the Daring Baker blogroll.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Challenge Book #21 - Pineapple Tea Cake

This is a photo of a black swan swimming on a lake at the Tidbinbilla nature reserve just outside of Canberra. I took this photo when I was at Tidbinbilla for a picnic a few weeks ago. Australia has the only native black swans in the world. They are also found in New Zealand where they were introduced.

And here is Mum and Dad swan with a selection of their five adorable little babies. I was actually this close to them. I was standing on the edge of a boardwalk and they swam right up to me and then paddled around by the shore. As you can see by the little ones dunking their heads they eat weeds and things found in shallower water.

While I wanted to show off some of Australia's beautiful wild birds, I have an ulterior motive for posting these pics. It's to draw attention away from this cake.

In the normal course of events I wouldn't post it. But I'm kinda stuck by the KJ wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. When I started this challenge I knew it would come to this. I was going to have to make something out of this book - Day to Day Cookery (although mine is an earlier edition).

I really don't know how I came to own this. I have a feeling that it was an old home economics textbook of some ancient flatmate. They moved out and conveniently 'forgot' to take it with them. Somehow it gravitated into my belongings.

This always seemed to happen in share houses. There was always a pile of things everybody disclaimed. And a pile of things that everyone would swear was theirs. I had an almost knock down argument over a cake rack once. I won. I've still got it.

Anyway, back to this cake. It's a pineapple tea cake. And it's alright. I mean it is perfectly edible and okay. If you eat it straight away, because it turns rather rocklike after a few hours.

But really if you put this next to one of those mass produced cakes out of Woolworths or Coles supermarkets you could not pick the difference. And that's because this book and all its recipes are mean. Don't get me wrong I'm all for economy. But I can't help thinking that this book was written with the mindset of a population on war rations. You know the type - how to make the largest cake with the least amount of eggs, butter, milk and sugar. All the meat recipes are made with scraps of stewing steak. Desserts are tapioca, creamed rice, blacmange, sago and thin watery custards.

This is exactly in accordance with my own memories of home economics. The teacher didn't have much faith in the future prospects of the youth of today. She seemed to think we would all be ekeing survival out of welfare cheques.

There was one whole year where we just made tuna mornay, rice pudding and stewed apples over and over again. What's worse we had to take them home in old ice cream containers. So appetising. I remember my Mum getting mad because she had to keep spending money on ingredients for these dishes when the whole family detested them.

I'm not even going to bother posting the recipe for this cake.

Instead, I will leave you with a photo of Mr/Mrs Emu, another Australian native bird. The emu is unusual for being very large (up to almost 2 metres tall) and flightless, but even more so because the males hatch and raise the chicks. Those Mrs Emus have it all worked out. There was big kerfuffle a while back when two male emus co-shared a nest of eggs and chicks. Possible evidence of homosexual activity in the bird world apparently.

This particular emu and about four of its friends kept a handy eye on our picnic activities.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Challenge Book #20 - Chocolate Marshmallow Clouds

Believe it or not, these biscuits are called marshmallow clouds. You can't really see it can you? Puffy, fluffly, cottony....? No. More like deflated marshmallow balloons. Like they've smacked into a rosebush and fallen splat onto the ground

This is all my own fault. It was only when I was in the kitchen surrounded by ingredients and all set to bake that I realised that the marshmallows were supposed to be frozen. BOTHERATION!!!!

I reasoned that the mallows would have plenty of time to freeze while I was making the batter. So I hurled them in and got started. It was a bit optimistic to say the least. By the time I came to form the biscuits they were only a bit frozen around the edges.

So I fidgeted around for a while. Then I fidgeted around for a bit more. Then I got fed up. Watched marshmallows never freeze!!!!!! I decided to just get on with it.

I'm hopeless at this kind of thing. I was not born with a waiting gene. I am the kind of person that constantly pokes at things to see if they are done yet - jelly that is trying to set, jam that is trying to gel, bread that is trying to rise, cakes that are trying to cool, sauces that are trying to reduce, meat that's trying brown. I'm there doing minute by minute reports in forensic detail.

Fortunately, in this case it really didn't matter too much. Yes, they don't look fantastic. I wouldn't serve them at any formal occasion. But they tasted great. The biscuits are quite soft and fudgy with the chips providing hits of chocolately goodness. With the addition of marshmallow - yum.

I found this recipe in the Mrs Fields Cookie Book, which is Book #20 in the KJ wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge (where I have to make a recipe from every book I own before I can buy a new one). I bought this book somewhere back in the depths of time. It has been well used but not by me. I think I have lent it to everyone I know at some point or other.

I'm kinda fascinated by Mrs Fields. In her picture in this book she is the very archetype of the late 1980's - big hair, big nails and big lipstick. Apparently, she is no longer Mrs Fields, having divorced and remarried. Whooooops!!

Jessica's Marshmallow Cloud
(adapted from Mrs Field's Cookie Book)

3 cups plain flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tspn baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
225gm unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
2 tspn vanilla extract
2 cups of chocolate chips
225gm mini or chopped marshmallows, frozen

Combine flour, cocoa and baking soda and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla. Beat at a medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture and the chocolate chips. Blend until combined. The mix will be quite stiff.

Group some marshmallows in your hand and encase them in the cookie dough. Make a ball about 5cm across.

Place on a non-stick baking sheet spaced well apart. Bake 8-10 minutes in a 200C oven. Leave to cool for 3-4 minutes on the tray and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Apple Paste

Earlier this year I made membrillo - quince paste. It was something I have been wanting to try forever. It was a huge success. I was delighted.

So when I spotted a recipe for apple paste in this month's Delicious Magazine. Well I was there. There was no way I was not going to try it.

The magazine actually belonged to my Doctor's Surgery. I am of course banned from buying any new cook books due to the KJ wants a Kitchen Aid challenge. But I had a pen and a couple of old receipts. Some old dear was occupying the doctor well into my appointment time. So some mad scribbling, and voila, a hoard of scrumptious recipes were mine.

What a stroke of luck, because this apple paste is delicious. The apple flavour really comes through and the lemon juice provides a lovely acidic contrast.

It was simple to make. Pushing the softened apples through a sieve takes a little effort. But otherwise it just takes a bit of time and patience to allow it to come to the right consistency. As with my membrillo, it started to catch and burn at the end. I think next time I might try using a simmer mat for the last part of the cooking process.

I served this at a dinner party hosted by some friends. I served it with some Piano Hill Ironstone cheddar. Oh my golly gosh, I love this cheese!!!! It is really sharp and crumbly and intense. I love the combination of sharp cheese and fruit.

As if the taste is not fantastic enough, to buy this cheese I have to go into the cheese room at Manuka Fine Foods - a local gourmet store. You open a big sliding door and there is a whole wall of cheese in front of you. And they let you try anything you want. It is heaven!! I could spend all day in there.

Apple Paste
(adapted from Delicious Magazine July 2008)

2kg of granny smith apples
600gm castor sugar
juice 1 lemon

Roughly chop the apples with skin and cores. Place in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for about 10-12 minutes or until soft.

Strain and discard the liquid. Push the apples through a sieve into a bowl. Return the puree to the saucepan.

Add the sugar. Cook over a low heat, stirring often, until the mixture is thick and coming away from the sides of the pan - about 2 hours. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper. Spread the paste evenly to form a 2cm slab. Leave to cool completely. Invert onto a plate. Leave for a day or two to dry. Store in an airtight container.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Challenge Book #19 - Chocolate Custard Tarts

Sometimes posts just write themselves and sometimes I sit for ages just twiddling at the keys. Like I am doing right now. All I can think to say is that these tarts are absolutely delicious and I love them. That's the whole story really.

The pastry is crisp and buttery. The filling is soft and deeply chocolately. It's just all good.

They are also easy to make. Using bought pastry simplifies thing magnificently.

They are also quite versatile, just by changing the type of chocolate and subsituting the water in the custard for a fruit puree. I have made these tarts as raspberry and white chocolate, as you can see here. They don't look terribly attractive, but they do taste fantastic. I've also made raspberry and dark chocolate and white chocolate and passionfruit, both also good. I am also keen to try a banana and milk chocolate version one day soon.

This recipe is from bills open kitchen by Bill Granger, which is Book #19 in the KJ Wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. Bill Granger has some great recipes. I can highly recommend the yoghurt panacotta recipe from this book.

Chocolate Custard Tarts
(adapted from bills open kitchen)

3 egg yolks
55gm caster sugar
2 tbspn (8 tspn) cornflour
1 tspn vanilla extract
185ml cream
150gm dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 sheets puff pastry

Whisk together the yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla. Add the cream and 125ml water. Pour into a saucepan.

Stir over a medium heat until the mix is thick. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Once the chocolate is melted, leave to cool.

Layer the two sheets of puff pastry one on top of the other. Roll up like a swiss roll. Cut into 1 1/2 cm sections. Lay the rounds flat and roll out into discs.

Lightly grease a muffin tin and gently push a round of pastry into each hole. Chill in the freezer for about ten minutes. Divide the custard mixture evenly between the shells.

Bake in a 220C oven for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden. Remove and leave to cool.

White Chocolate and Raspberry

Replace the 125ml of water with 125ml of raspberry puree. Replace the dark chocolate with white chocolate. Add a whole raspberry or two to the tarts just before you pop them in the oven .

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Challenge Book #18 - Ginger Lemon Eton Mess

I have a confession to make. You know I am Australian and all, right. Well....I am afraid that I......cannot make pavlova to save my life. There I said. I'm a national disgrace. If you never hear from me again I have been bundled onto the nearest means of transport and shipped to parts unknown.

Pavlova is Australia's national desert (mitts off Kiwis ;-}). My aunts seem to churn them out effortlessly. There is a pavlova at any family occasion. Me, not so much. But not for lack of trying.

I've tried everything. Recipes from all the tried and tested Australian cooks - Margaret Fulton, Stephanie Alexander, Women's Weekly. Every tip and trick and bit of advice has been put into practice. And I've come up with nothing. They always seem to spread out so they are very thin and pancake like. Most often they are tough and sticky and plain awful.

I'm not giving up though. I will crack this eventually.

In my latest attempt I turned to an overseas chef - Jamie Oliver to be precise. Cook with Jamie has a coconut, banana and passionfruit pavolova that looks simply mouthwatering. I had to have a go.

But at the last moment I swerved off in a different direction. In discussing meringue's Jamie talks about the different flavours that can be added. I was seized by the idea of making a ginger and lemon pavlova. Served with strawberries I thought it would be absolutely delicious.

So I dived in. And well, as you can see above, I got the usual result. A flat pancake of a pavlova. At least it was marshmallowy on the inside and only slightly sticky. That's an improvement, believe it or not.

The thing is, it tasted FANTASTIC!! The heat of ginger with a tang of lemon all wrapped up in sweet cripsy and marshmallowy meringue. YUM!!

So what do you do when life gives you a deliciously sorry excuse for a pav? You make a mess that's what. An Eton mess. A gorgeous concoction of broken up meringue, cream and strawberries. It's all served in a bowl. So what the meringue looks like is no never mind.

I served it to some friends for lunch. It was a smash hit!!!! Not only the taste, but it was a bit of a novelty. We Australians are conservative with our pavlovas. The meringue is always vanilla and its always served with whipped cream and some combination of banana, kiwifruit, strawberries and passionfruit.

I didn't measure the ginger and lemon additions to my pav that closely. I've included approximations in the recipe. I actually used crystallised ginger, but I think its sugar coating may have contributed to my sad result. So I have suggested using stem ginger. I would be reluctant to add too much more lemon juice, but I think the zest and ginger can be increased or decreased as you like.

Cook with Jamie is Challenge Book #18 in the KJ Wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. This is where I have to make a recipe from every cookbook I own before I can buy a new one.

Ginger and Lemon Eton Mess
(adapted from Cook with Jamie)

6 large egg whites
300gm castor sugar
zest 2 lemons
1 tbspn lemon juice
2 tbspn stem ginger, finely chopped
2 tspn ground ginger
whipped cream
strawberries, sliced

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add the sugar. Beat until the sugar is fully dissolved into the egg whites. Rub the mix between two fingers. It should be completely smooth. If you can feel any grains keep beating. It may take 7-10 minutes.

Gently fold in the ginger, lemon zest and juice.

Heap the mixture into a mound on a lined baking tray. Bake in a 150C oven for about an hour. The meringue should be crisp on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside.

Let the meringue cool completly. Break it up into small pieces. Divide into bowls. Top generously with whipped cream and strawberries.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Meme times 2

Elle at Feeding My Enthusiasms tagged me for this meme. Thanks Elle. I have to answer the following questions.


Get Smart. Before that was Kung Fu Panda. Oh dear, this is sounding bad!! Before that was Moliere, so see I do have some sophistimication.


Oh crumbs. The Devil Doctor - a Fu Manchu novel. I know, I know. The blatant racism is galling. Put that entirely to one side, and these books are so bad as to be almost brilliant.


The way things are going I should say Hungry Hippo. In fact, I rarely play board games, but I do like scrabble.


I had a mischevious urge to say Zoo Weekly. But it is in fact Delicious.


Freshly baked bread, freshly baked biscuits, freshly mown grass, fresh flowers.


Magpies warbling, rain on the rooftop, laughter.


Knowing that I have let somebody down.


If it's a weekday it usually goes something like this - I want to go back to sleep, I don't want to get up, go away world.

If it's a weekend or holidays it's usually - what's the weather like and what's for breakfast.


Lemongrass Thai for pad thai noodles. I also like Kingsley Chicken for their chips - but I don't eat them very often.


Girl - Murgatroid Snufflepops

Boy - Egbert Wrigglebott


Travel the world, renting little cottages here and there, trying out all the local eateries and produce and specialities.


Ummm yes (hangs head in shame).


No, I really don't like stuffed animals.


Cool. I love storms.


A Honda. It was over 20 years old when I bought it and it ran fautlessly for another seven years.

Otai a fruit coconut drink from Tonga. YUM!!


Buy a car and drive across the United States.


Yes. Why? Am I not supposed to!! Am I going to die now?


If I had the nerve I would choose green. Not kermit the frog green you understand. A nice tasteful shade.


Pick some for me. They will probably be more interesting.


Cricket and tennis.


I don't know much about Elle, but I do know that she posts the kind of recipes I like. I'm always thinking 'oooh I would love to try that'.


Dust, odd socks and stuff. Even I don't want to know what's under there!!


Yes. But it woud be even better if I was the heiress to a great fortune.


Neither. I need a lot of sleep.


I like runny yolks. So whichever one of those that is.


On the lounge with a good book, tasty snacks and something nice to drink.




What? I can only choose one!! The pressure!! Mint choc chip. Or caramel. Or cherry coconut chocolate. Or....


I'm not tagging anyone. Feel free to participate if you wish. Really, go right ahead. Do!!


The next meme is kind of a follow on from an earlier meme. If you read it you will see. The less I say about it the better.

Oh hai, I am the food mill in Kitchen Chez KJ. When I heard that KJ had let that complete imbecile - the toaster - answer a meme, well........ I mean why him?? What makes him so special?? Big noting, two bit nothing special.... ‘I’m an actor’ my a...

Anyway, after a bit of healthy discussion (okay, a few grinding discs maaaaaay have been thrown across the kitchen) KJ said I can do one too. Fortunately, Dolores from Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity also tagged KJ for this meme. So here goes.

What was I doing ten years ago?

I guess I was hanging out as polymers or chemicals or some such. I’m not into the past. I’m all about the future.

What are five things on my to do list for today?

Well I generally sleep in until lunchtime. Then I’ll wander over to the tupperware corner. They always have a poker game going. You’ve got to watch yourself though. There’s a lot of odd mismatched lids that have gone a bit strange. They skulk around in the corners a lot. And they don’t muck around. I got in a bit over my head a few months back. I had to borrow off the spice grinder to keep things sweet. He always seems to have a lot of ready cash. I do wonder....

Anyway, then I will rice some potatoes for dinner. Then I’ve got a hot date with the magimix. Read it and weep bread boy!!!

Snacks I enjoy

Well I’m a veggie man. Mainly potatoes and tomatoes. I’m well known for my light fluffy potatoes. I did some apples a few days back. Superb if I do say so myself.

Things I would do if I was a billionaire

I would turn myself into a post-modern sculpture and live in the Louvre.

Then I would commission an autobiography of my life. Of course the book would be turned into a musical. Naturally, there would be a movie version of the musical. Followed by a TV series of the movie, based on the musical.

5 places I have lived

Well before I moved to the cupboard under the sink, I was a highly esteemed item in Cooking Coordinates - a select kitchenware store specialising in quality cookware and ingredients. I don’t slum it in department stores unlike some appliances I could mention.

I was great friends with the Le Creuset range. We're both European after all, we have a lot in common.

5 jobs I’ve had

Well, I’m a food mill. I mill. That’s what I do? I’m a highly trained specialist. I can do fine, medium or coarse. I don’t chop. I don’t grate. And I certainly don’t mash.

So there you have it. I'm sure you've enjoyed getting to know me. People usually do.

KJ said not to tag anyone specific. Anyone who wants to answer can join in.

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