Saturday, July 28, 2007

Orange & Almond Torte

Here is a fabulous cake, another perfect chocolate & orange combination, this time from my ‘Slice of Port Douglas’ cookbook that I picked up holidaying there a few years back.
I managed to hold out over a week before using my fabulous new Kitchen Aid again, I am really trying to only bake sweet things when I’m either off visiting or having people over, any more & my waistline would be in more trouble than it could handle. This cake was well worth the wait, my parents were very impressed & so was I, it was very moist & the chopped & not too finely ground texture of the nuts & oranges was nice, without being dry or crumbly. One note though, the syrup is nice but if you cant be bothered I really don’t think you need it. When I make this one again I will not bother.

Orange & Almond Torte

2 Oranges
300g blanched almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 eggs
200g caster sugar

Chocolate Ganache
200g plaistowe dark cooking chocolate
½ cup cream

Orange Cointreau sauce
2 cups water
1 cup caster sugar
zest of 2 oranges
Cointreau, to taste

Place oranges in a saucepan & cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover & simmer for 2 hours. Discard water & set oranges aside to cool. Remove the seeds (if any).

Preheat oven to 160c. Process the almonds & baking powder in a food processor until consistency resembles crushed nuts. Set aside. Process the oranges (skin & all) in food processor until smooth. Beat eggs & sugar in a bowl until light & fluffy. Fold the orange & almond mixture into the egg & sugar mixture. Pour the mixture into a greased & lined 26cm (10 inch) spring form tin. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Turn onto a wire rack to cool.

To make the Ganache, place chocolate in a food processor & process until chocolate resembles course breadcrumbs. Heat cream in a saucepan over low heat & do not boil. Remove cream from heat & slowly add chocolate mixture, whisking until smooth. Immediately spread over the cooled torte.

To make the sauce, place water, sugar & zest into a saucepan & bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook over a low heat until sauce becomes syrupy. Add Cointreau to taste. Serve with a dollop of cream & some syrup drizzled over the top.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Cheats pierogi

You may previously have heard me mention my love of all foods Polish & in particular pierogi, a food I grew up eating thanks to my Grandma. Pierogi are little filled dumplings, everyone has there own version, we had ours with a potato & onion filling. Sadly my Gran is no longer with us & you may find it hard to believe but I am always too lazy to make this myself as I have memories of it being such a mammoth task. My gran would make hundreds so that whoever dropped in not only could eat a few but could also take home a bag for later! To make them involves making the pastry dough which needs to be kneaded for quite a while & then you make little balls (about golf ball sized) which then have to be rolled flat, these are then filled individually by hand. As a kid the most help I usually offered was to take a ball or two & make them into different animal shapes.

So a while back my mum & I had a craving & she being as bad as me at actually getting around to these suggested a quick fix. We used wonton wrappers & those little plasticy wonton press thingies you buy for a couple of bucks from the Asian grocery store. So we made our filling by boiling a load of potatoes in salted water, frying up a few chopped onions in lashings of butter & mashing the whole lot together. We then set up the assembly line. For each pierogi we stuck two wrappers together with water (one is too thin), lay the wrapper flat on the press, in goes a teaspoon of potato, wet the edges with water & press to seal, continue until you have hundreds & all of your wrappers or filling is gone. To cook, bring a pan of water to the boil, drop them in a few at a time & cook until they float or a few minutes each. When cooked, swirl around in some butter until melted & nicely coated & serve with lashings of good sour cream, we prefer Jalna. When you eat them the next day, fry them up in some more butter (yes this is definitely heart attack material) until crisp & golden on both sides & serve with sour cream again. Absolutely delicious & tasted the real deal too, now that I have my ‘cheats’ version, I can see myself making these more often which is very dangerous indeed.

Sweetcorn Fritters with Roast Tomato & Bacon

I have been rather busy the last few weeks & haven’t had a chance to cook up a big brekky for Michael & I for a while so I got out my trusty Bill Granger books who I always turn to when wanting a new idea for breakfast. This recipe comes from Bills Sydney Food. Let me tell you these fritters were sensational, easy to make, they held together beautifully & the flavour was a lovely sweet, soft sensation. I made heaps & the leftovers were just as good cold or heated up in the microwave. I’d say this breakfast was the best I have had in a long time & could stand up to a few of my favourite cafes & a lot cheaper too!

Sweetcorn Fritters with Roast Tomato & Bacon

1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon sugar
2 eggs
½ cup milk
2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob
½ cup diced red capsicum
½ cup sliced spring onions
¼ cup chopped coriander & parsley (combined)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 ripe roma tomatoes, sliced in half lengthways
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

To serve
Grilled Bacon

Firstly get your tomatoes roasting. Preheat the oven to 180c. Place tomatoes cut side up on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper & roast in the oven for 40 minutes.

Sift flour, baking powder, slat & paprika into a large bowl, stir in sugar & make a well in the center. In a separate bowl, combine eggs & milk. Gradually add the egg mix to the dry ingredients & whisk until you have a smooth lump-free batter.

Add vegetables & herbs & mix to combine. Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, then drop in 2 tablespoons of batter per fritter & cook 4 fritters at a time. Cook for 2 minutes or until golden underneath, flip & cook the other side until also golden. Serve with tomatoes, rocket & bacon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Finally my new toy arrives!

After my old cake mixer kicked the bucket a few weeks back I have been umming & aahing over various mixers with the Kitchen Aid being at the back of my mind the whole time. I wasn’t satisfied with any of the other brands in the shops & figured that if you’re paying a few hundred why not add a couple extra & get your dream tool, especially as I can easily justify it by pumping out a couple of cakes a week. So I ended up convincing myself that I had to have the Empire Red beast of mixers but there was no talking Michael into buying it for me even after I produced such a beautiful baby for him earlier this year, my birthday & mothers day came & went & still I was tool-less. Luckily a nice break on my tax return meant that I had the means to make the purchase myself & here it is, everything I dreamed of & more (sorry if I am sounding a bit over the top but it is a Kitchen Aid after all!)

So yesterday was the big day, I had bought it online for a discounted price that none of the other stockists would match so it arrived at my door which was much easier than dragging a 5 month old child through the rain to the shops, not to mention pushing a pram & lugging the box at the same time, would not have been easy. I was visiting the lovely Megan today who also popped out a beauty of a baby a few days ago so of course I had the perfect excuse to bake my first ‘Kitchen Aid’ cake. As it was an earlyish visit I chose this delicious but easy cake of Bill Granger’s from Bill’s Food. Once again he did not let me down & the cake was very yummy & I didn’t even make the custard that he suggested would go well with it. Oh and yes the mixer lived up to it expectations, it purred through the creaming like a dream & left me in no doubt that the right choice had been made.

Pear and Vanilla Cake

80g (3oz) unsalted butter
185g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest from 1 lemon
185ml (3/4 cup) cream
165g (1 1/3 cups) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
4 pears (I only used 2)
20g (3/4 oz) unsalted butter, melted
60g (1/4 cup) raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 180c (350f/Gas 4). Cream the butter & sugar together in a bowl until light & fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla & lemon zest & beat for another minute. Add the cream & mix until smooth. Sift the flour, baking powder & salt & beat until smooth. Pour into a 24cm (9 inch) non stick springform cake tin & smooth the surface.

Peel & core the pears, cut into 3mm (1/8 inch) slices & arrange on the batter in two concentric circles. Brush the pears with the melted butter & sprinkle with the raw sugar. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a skewer inserted comes out clean & te pears on top are lightly browned. Remove the side from the cake tin & slide the cake onto a plate. Cool slightly before serving.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

These cupcakes are luscious & moist & when you hit a cherry spot its beautiful. You could just as easily use any other flavoured jam to completely change the flavour, I think orange (marmalade) would be perfect too as cherry/choc & orange/choc are two of my favourite combinations, plum would be another great flavour to try. I didn’t find any natural coloured cherries so had to go with bright & fantastic red which didn’t pose a problem for me, I love bright colours. The recipe comes form Nigella’s Domestic Goddess.

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

125g soft unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g morello cherry jam
150g caster sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
150g self raising flour

100g dark chocolate
100ml double cream
112 natural coloured glace cherries

Preheat the oven to 180c & line a 12 hole muffin tin with cases.

Put the butter in a heavy bottomed pan on the heat to melt. When nearly melted, stir in the chocolate. Leave for a moment to begin softening, then take the pan off the heat & stir with a wooden spoon until the butter & chocolate are smooth & melted. Now add the cherry jam, sugar, salt & eggs. Stir & when all amalgamated, stir in the flour. Pour into muffin papers & bake for 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out.

When the cupcakes are completely cool, break the chocolate for the icing into little pieces & add them to the cream in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, remove from heat & then whisk until thick & smooth. Ice the cupcakes, smoothing with the back of a spoon & top with a cherry in the middle.

Makes 12

Friday, July 06, 2007

Kugelhopf with Honeyed Muscat pears

This week I made this lovely Kugelhopf which featured in the July ‘French’ issue of Gourmet Traveller. It is a dessert that comes from the Alsace region, hence the German feel to it and apparently the Germans & Austrians all lay claim to the cakes origins too. Not having any Alsatian Muscat on hand (who does??), I used a lovely muscat that I had lying around from a trip to Rutherglen’s Campbells winery. It goes without saying of course that a glass of the stuff alongside the dessert goes very well indeed. I loved the cake which to me was quite unusual & different to any I had made before. You make it very much like a bread & in the end it has the texture of bread yet beautiful & sweet but not overly so, the bits of dark chocolate & muscatels just make it perfect. I also found it really needed the pears & syrup drizzled over the top or else it was a bit dry on it’s own. Note my cake is not very high as I had trouble getting it to rise, not to worry though as the flavour was still up there.

Kugelhopf with Honeyed Muscat pears

1 egg
100ml warm milk
50g dried muscatels or raisins
60ml (1/4 cup) kirsch
250g plain flour
55g white sugar
1 teaspoon dried yeast
75g unsalted butter, softened
50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
14 whole blanched almonds

Honeyed Muscat Pears

440g (2 cups) caster sugar
2 tablespoons honey
6 corella pears, halved lengthways
2 cinnamon quills
140ml Alsatian Muscat or similar floral, sweet wine

Lightly whisk egg & milk together in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine muscatels and kirsch to soak & set aside. Combine flour, sugar, yeast & 1 teaspoon salt in a food processor & process until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add butter & process for 2 minutes, then add egg mixture & process until well combined. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface & knead for 5 minutes, adding more flour to stop dough from sticking, if necessary. Transfer to a large bowl & stand in a warm place for 1 ½ hours or until doubled in size. Knead dough again on a lightly floured surface, adding chocolate, muscatels & kirsch, kneading until combined.

Preheat oven to 180c. Lightly butter & flour a 5 cup capacity, 16cm diameter kugelhopf mould, shaking excess flour from mould, & press almonds into grooves of mould. Roll dough out into a log shape, long enough to fir mould, then join ends to form a circle. Carefully place log into mould & press down. Cover with a tea towel & stand for about 1 hour or until dough has risen to rim of mould. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown, then turn onto a wire rack to cool.

To make pears, combine sugar, honey & 2 cups of water in a saucepan & cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until mixture begins to simmer. Reduce heat to low, add pears, cinnamon & 60ml Muscat & simmer for 15-20 minutes or until pears are tender & caramelized. Remove form heat & stir in remaining Muscat.

Serve Kugelhopf with pears & drizzled with syrup.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Warm Pistachio Cupcakes

The latest issue of Delicious featured this recipe of Shannon Bennet of Vue de monde fame. How could I resist trying them out when apparently he sells more than 100 of them a week in his cafĂ©. Especially after last week when I was treated to a most amazing experience of dinner at his famed restaurant, all I can say is wow and you have to check it our for yourself (when your budget allows!) as my humble words could in no way express how fantastic the night was. The cupcakes were beautiful, very moist & quite unusual as you can see from the ingredient list, not your typical cupcake mix. One note though, they are very adult & the 2 children who tried them didn’t think they were that special at all & in fact wouldn’t eat them after the first mouthful. Oh and I think I went a bit overboard on the green food coloring, the effect is supposed to be more subtle than my fluoro green alien slime impersonation.

Warm Pistachio Cupcakes

130g shelled unsalted pistachios rubbed in a tea towel to remove skins, plus 12 shelled pistachios to garnish.
100g unsalted butter, softened
85g caster sugar
75g good quality marzipan (min 50% nuts), chopped
2 eggs
1 tablespoon kirsch
2 drops vanilla extract
30g semolina
250g ready made icing
2-3 drops green food colouring

Preheat oven to 170c. Line a 12 hole, 1/3 cup capacity (80ml) muffin pan with patty cases.
Place 100g of the peeled pistachios on a food processor and blend for 1-2 minutes until they are very finely ground (almost a powder). Remove 1 tablespoon ground pistachios & set aside. Transfer the remainder to the bowl of an electric mixer with the butter, sugar, chopped marzipan & a pinch of salt. Beat well until the lumps are removed & you have a smooth paste. Add the eggs one at a time, beating continuously, ensuring the mix doesn’t stick to the side of the bowl & is thoroughly combined. Roughly chop the remaining 30g of pistachios and beat into the mixture. Beat in the kirsch, vanilla & semolina until combined. Divide evenly among patty cases & bake for 25 minutes or until form to the touch. Remove & cool slightly in the tray.Gently warm the icing in a saucepan over low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until melted & smooth. Stir in the food colouring. Working quickly, spoon icing onto cakes. Place a pistachio on top of the icing & dust with reserved ground pistachios