Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Choc Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake

Cheesecake is one my 'things' - I love making it, I love eating it and I am very particular about it. I hate those artificial tasting ones with the rubbery jelly on the top. I hate the gummy, claggy overcooked ones that taste like creamy nothingness. So while I was thrilled with this week's choice, I was also curious to see how Dorie's version would stack up!

We were asked to bring a dessert for Christmas lunch and rather than make the Key Lime Cheesecake as planned I decided to use this week's TWD recipe to kill two birds with one stone (so to speak).

To make it slightly more festive I chose a chocolate biscuit base with a chocolate cheesecake swirl, fresh raspberries and raspberry coulis. Unfortunately this did not make for a particularly photogenic cheesecake in poor light at someone else's house.

I am actually embarrassed to post this photo so please be kind.

The taste test ...

Ok so it looks crap but it tasted really nice! Honest!

I used 3/4 sour cream and made up the volume with cream so it had a lovely tang. It was really everything you want a cheesecake to be - rich but not sickening, sweet without being cloying. Yum!

I think for a true test I need to make it again with a plain biscuit base and no adornments (or maybe just a swirl of fresh passionfruit and some mango pieces). I preferred the plain to the chocolate swirl parts because the chocolate flavour was too intense. The fresh raspberries in the filling were lovely and you can never go wrong with raspberry coulis either.

I plan on making this again sometime in the next week or so and today purchased some cute mini springform tins (2 round and 2 heart shaped) for that very purpose.Link
Thanks to Anne of Anne Strawberry (whose blog I have only just discovered) for this pick. It's a keeper! You will find the recipe for the original Tall and Creamy Cheesecake here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Daring Bakers December - French Yule Log

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

Wow what a challenge! While I was tempted to say I was too busy to even attempt such a complicated recipe I'm very glad I had a go. And really after reading through the recipe a few times and deciding which variation of each component to do, it seemed achievable!

Really this recipe is 6 relatively straightforward recipes in one (or 7 if you count the praline I had to make from scratch for one of the components).

Despite making a huge mess and using practically every pot, pan, spoon, spatula and appliance I own, I only struck a few problems.

Firstly while making the Chocolate Mousse component. The basic technique was to make a sugar and glucose syrup which is heated to the soft ball stage and then to beat this into already whipped egg yolks. My first attempt resulted in this ...

a stringy sticky cobwebby tangle of sugar around the beater which was incredibly hard to remove! Being pregnant I was already concerned about this mix being hot enough to cook the egg yolks and I don't think even a single drop of the sugar mix actually touched the eggs at that point!

So I made 2 extra batches of the sugar syrup, hoping that enough of it would get in to do the job. It certainly thickened up beautifully and became incredibly glossy so I took that as a good sign.

My other main issue was weather related. It was a very hot and humid 33 degrees the day I made this and neither the mousse or ganache actually became firm despite hours in the fridge. In the end I just ladled my soupy mousse over each layer and drizzled in the ganache and it seemed to work.

I also ended up with nowhere near enough icing to cover the log. What I should have done was attempted to spread the icing over the whole log (like a crumb coat) and then made a second batch. But by that stage I was pretty much over it so left it with a relatively festive drizzle which ran down the sides.

The only other issue came with the praline layer. I used my homemade praline with crushed oat flake cereal and ended up with quite a thick slab. This ended up being easy to eat once it was in pieces but none of us had the strength to break it with a spoon in our bowls. 'Scuse fingers!

This was an incredibly impressive dessert which I served at our early Christmas Eve Dinner on the 21st. It was relatively easy to slice after 20 minutes in the fridge and definitely rich enough not to need any extra decoration or accompaniments.

From top to bottom the layers are:
  • Milk/Dark Chocolate Icing
  • Lemon Daquoise
  • Milk Chocolate Mousse
  • Vanilla Creme Brulee
  • Milk Chocolate Mousse
  • Dark Chocolate Ganache
  • Praline Crisp
  • Milk Chocolate Mousse
  • Lemon Daquoise
What a mouthful!

Thank you to Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux for choosing such an exciting and challenging recipe. There is no way I would have attempted this on my own otherwise and their advice in the forum over the past month was invaluable!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Cooking

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone had a happy day yesterday. We had a lovely Christmas lunch with N's family/friends and as our only obligation was to bring a dessert it was also very relaxing! As usual there was far too much food despite a sincere effort to cut back this year.

On the menu there were 5 (!) types of meat - chicken, turkey, ham, beef and lamb, a potato bake and 3 types of salads, followed by plum pudding with custard, trifle and cheesecake. Yum! Not to mention the prawns, fruit, nuts, cheeses and other nibblies to start with (and can I just say that prawns and I do not mix well at the moment - the smell was nauseating and I made sure to sit upwind of them!)

On a better note we've had a tradition for the past 6 years of so of having a Christmas Eve dinner. Held at one of 3 homes, it is usually with the people we won't be able to spend Christmas Day with. This year was our turn to host and I'm just so thankful the weather cooperated. It was a lovely 27 degrees on Sunday which made the day in the kitchen much more pleasant considering I've reached the stage in my pregnancy where my back and feet are starting to hurt regularly!

Our Menu:

Entree: Fresh beetroot ravioli with walnuts and goat's cheese
Main: Roast turkey breast with cranberry and macadamia stuffing, greens and spicy plum sauce
Dessert: a Daring Baker's challenge to be posted in a few days!

Apologies for the terrible photos but I completely forgot to get out my camera until we were already sitting down at the table ... twice! So don't let the photos put you off, this was a truly fabulous meal!

Beetroot Ravioli with Walnuts and Goat's Cheese
Recipe from The Cook and the Chef

Yes this really is pasta not raw steak!
250g 00 flour
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon olive oil
100g pureed cooked beetroot

150g goats cheese
50g ricotta
3 tablespoons parmesan, grated
4 cloves garlic, roasted (in foil and squeezed)
2 tablespoons chives, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 tablespoon lemon thyme
salt and pepper to taste

To Serve
lemon zest
20ml walnut oil
50g butter
1 tablespoon chives and lemon thyme, finely chopped
2 tablespoons walnuts, toasted and chopped
cracked pepper and sea salt
parmesan shavings

Peel the beetroot and boil in a very little water until it is overcooked, then puree. This is one time when you want the beetroot to bleed.

Place the flour in a bowl; add the egg, oil and beetroot pulp. Using a pastry cutter or your hands bring the flour into the egg mixture and gradually combine it until you have a dough. Knead the dough on the work bench for a couple of minutes until it is firm and smooth. Cover with cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Combine the filling ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season to taste.

Roll out the pasta, using dustings of flour to stop it sticking to itself.

Cut and fill the ravioli, pressing out the edges so that you don’t have double thickness of dough at the edge. Moisten the edge of the ravioli if you need to get a good seal.

Dust off any extra flour, and place in a saucepan of boiling salted water (with a dribble of oil on the surface) until they rise to the top. Drain and douse with evoo.

For the sauce, melt the butter and add the walnut oil and walnuts. Season with herbs and zest and salt and pepper.

Place the ravioli on a plate, drizzle the sauce over the top, and garnish with parsley and parmesan.

Serves 4 as a main (we made double to serve 6 people and still have a big ball of pasta dough in the freezer for another time)

Roast Turkey with Greens, Cranberry and Macadamia Stuffing and Spicy Plum Sauce

We were actually intending to have duck but balked at the price ($10 per breast!) so turkey it was. We choose a 2.6kg turkey breast on the bone, rubbed with Szechuan seasoning and roasted at 200 degrees for just under 2hrs and then rested under foil for 30 minutes. We also made sure to add some chicken stock to the roasting pan for extra moisture and a delicious 'gravy' to pour over the cut meat. The result was one of the juiciest, tastiest turkeys I can ever remember having. Even the leftovers were tender!

We baked the stuffing in a log separately to guarantee the turkey would be cooked through. This is the same stuffing I made for Thanksgiving and you can find the recipe here.

We also served blanched green beans and broccolini drizzled with the remnants of the pasta sauce and extra walnut oil.

The plum sauce was a brilliant find. It would go perfectly with duck (as it was intended to be) but it also elevated a simple roast turkey to something truly amazing.

Spicy Plum Sauce
From Taste.com.au

150ml red wine (we just used some of the plum juice)
2 tbs brandy
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
1 star anise
1 orange, juiced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbs redcurrant jelly
825g can plums, drained, pureed

Place the wine, brandy and spices in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add orange juice, then return to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the mustard, redcurrant jelly and plum puree. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve (making sure to remove the spices).

I had the best turkey sandwich EVER with these leftovers. Fan-friggin-tastic!!!

I'm already looking forward to next year :-)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Baking

We decided to take the homemade option this year and made lots of yummy things to give as gifts and of course to enjoy ourselves!

Passionfruit Melting Moments
These were lovely but I am slightly discomforted by the little speckles of food colouring that refused to dissolve! You can find the recipe here.

Espresso-Chocolate shortbread
Another successful Dorie recipe. That makes 3 in a row, woo-hoo! These were fabulous. Incredibly easy to make and roll and with a real flavour hit (as long as you like coffee and chocolate and really why would you make or eat these if you didn't??). I only had one little piece as not-yet-born people don't like caffeine.

Fruit Mince Truffles
A variation on a basic truffle recipe (just chocolate, cream and vanilla). You can find the recipe here. We left out the brandy though so I could have some!

Peanut Butter Squares
My all time favourite that I could eat by the truckload! These are Nigella's version of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and they come as close as anything else I've tried. Only annoying thing is that is impossible to slice without the chocolate layer cracking (and I've tried everything from letting it sit out, a hot knife, slicing upside down etc ... all to no avail)

Ingredients for the Base

50g dark brown sugar
1 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar
50g unsalted butter
200g peanut butter

Ingredients for the topping

200g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate
20g unsalted butter

Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer (or just a wooden spoon and a bowl), stir all the ingredients for the base together until smooth. You may find that some of the dark brown sugar stays in rubbly but very small, lumps, but don't worry about that. Press the sandy mixture into a 9-inch square brownie pan and make the surface as even as possible. Place in the fridge to firm up. To make the topping, melt the chocolates and butter together and spread over the base. Place in the fridge to set. When hardened, cut into very small squares as it is incredibly rich and more-ish!

Classic Christmas Cake

It's become a tradition that I make this cake, one for us and one for my grandparents. I was actually quite organised this year and managed to not only soak the fruit for a few days but make the cakes 3 weeks ahead of time so they would mature and taste even more amazing. You can find the recipe here. A huge oversight is a lack of spices (?!?!?) so I always add at least 3 teaspoons of mixed spice or whatever takes my fancy.

We turned all these goodies into gift plates to be handed out on Christmas Day. Yummy!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

Just the name says sweet, cosy comfort food don't you think? I don't really have much experience with sugar cookies. I remember making a few as a child and decorating them garishly but they've never been a big thing in our family.

I was originally planning on cutting shapes from these but after reading how puffy and mishapen they could be I went for the easier slice and bake option.

Again, no problems making, chilling, cutting or cooking these. I love it when things go according to plan!

The taste test ...

Oh. My. God. How can something so simple taste so good?? I only baked 1/4 of the dough and the instant they came out of the oven I was wishing I'd done more. They were sweet without being overpowering, slightly crispy around the edges and a little chewy in the middle. Absolute cookie perfection. I was planning on adding a basic lemon glaze but honestly they didn't need anything. Thank you Dorie's Grandma and Ulrike of K├╝chenlatein!

Update - I have since made the rest of the batch, sprinkling some with cinnamon sugar after baking, and rolling a log in raw sugar before slicing and baking. Both divine! These have ended up on some Christmas gift plates and been very well received!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Linzer Sables

One bite of these and I was instantly transported! I can't remember where or when I've eaten these but the taste and aroma of these lovely biscuits was incredibly familiar.

I had no issues at all making these. The dough came together easily, rolled out well, cut well and cooked perfectly. I used hazelnut meal and raspberry jam for these but really the possibilities are endless. I ended up using an apple corer to cut out the little holes in the middle because nothing else was the right size!

I made a full batch of the dough but only cooked 3 biscuits, 1 for each of us. The rest of the dough is biding it's time in the freezer, ready to be made into Christmas gifts. I took the advice of others and made sure to roll the dough very thin, so the whole cookie sandwich is probably 1/4 inch.

The taste test ...

Simply fabulous. The hazelnuts and ground cloves gave it a rich, aromatic earthiness which worked perfectly with the raspberry jam. Loved the crunch! I much prefer crunchy biscuits to soft cakey ones any day. I will definitely be making more of these!

Thank you to noskos of Living the Life for this wonderful pick.

Next week: Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies (which I've already made but will wait to post next Tuesday).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Buttery Jam Cookies

So I made these early for a few reasons. Firstly they were the least likely gifts of all the cookies this month. Secondly, I apparently can't read and thought these were actually supposed to be made this week. Doh!

The making of these cookies heralded the arrival of Summer in Brisbane.

Without really thinking I got the butter out of the fridge about 9pm the night before. I got up to a puddle of oil with a blob of yellow in the middle. Ew. I decided to persevere though as these were destined for a morning tea in just a few short hours so I weighed the blob, made up the amount with extra butter and waited a mere 20 minutes for it to be soft enough.

The dough itself was incredibly soft. I think I can blame that on the weather rather than the recipe, but I'm interested to see what everyone else thinks.

The taste test ...

These were very different from what I expected. 'Buttery' made me think of cookies that are slightly crispy around the edges and soft in the middle. These ended up being very soft and very cakey the whole way through.

My tip ... choose your all time, absolute favourite jam for these because that is where the bulk of the flavour comes from. However just as Dorie says, the jam really does add something to the texture, making them slightly denser and chewier than you would expect.

Because of the cakeyness these are screaming out for add-ins. Next time I make these (and I do foresee a next time!) I would add some toasted almonds to the apricot jam, or use raspberry jam with dark chocolate chips.

My only other issue came from baking these in batches. You can see from the photo that some look smooth and others look textured on top. The smooth ones were the first batch. By the time the tray was cool enough to use again the baking powder was doing its job and 'fluffing up' the mix. I liked the look of batch number 2 better!

Thanks to Heather of Randomosity and the Girl for this pick which of course was supposed to be for next Tuesday, 16th December. It was fun!

Sometime in the next 2 weeks - Linzer Sables and Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Coming Soon

No TWD this week for me but keep an eye out for the Linzer Sables over the next few weeks! We are planning on making our Christmas presents this year and these gorgeous cookies will be a wonderful addition. I know they are freezable but I would rather make everything fresh closer to the day.

Thanks to Laurie for being so flexible with this month's posting. I plan on making everything but it won't probably won't be in order or on a Tuesday!

And just because this is such a short and boring post, here is a pic of one of our cats... Yes he is sitting in a paper shredder :)

Giving Thanks

Hmmm about 6 days ago I said this post would be coming 'tomorrow'. Woops!

Even though Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in Australia we decided to have a special dinner, and of course we had Thanksgiving Twofer Pie for dessert. It obviously wasn't a holiday here so 'special' in this case meant a lovely roast chicken (which I never do midweek), real gravy (which I hardly ever do) and stuffing (which I only ever make for Christmas). It was really nice to sit down together and enjoy a meal a like this, for no real reason ... just to be together. Which is, I think, the point of Thanksgiving??

Despite a difficult year we do have a lot to be thankful for. Not the least of which being that after our 19 week scan last Wednesday we now know that we are having a healthy baby! Everything looked perfect and we could even count the little fingers on each hand.

We also know the gender because curiosity got the better of us and ...
Back to food for a moment seeing as this is a food blog. This is my recipe for Cranberry and Macadamia Stuffing (which never actually got stuffed anywhere but you can if you want to).

Cranberry and Macadamia Stuffing
a Food.Baby original

approx 200g day old bread, preferably sourdough
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup macadamias, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
1 red onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 rashers of bacon, diced
a few good pinches of dried thyme and any other herbs you like
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs

Tear the bread into large pieces then pulse in a food processor to form large crumbs. Set aside.

Heat a frypan over medium heat and fry the bacon until it starts to crisp, add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent. You shouldn't need to add any oil as the fat will render from the bacon.

Add the remaining ingredients (except the egg) and check for seasoning.

Add as much egg as you need to bind the mixture. It should hold together but not be stodgy.

Pour the mix onto a large piece of alfoil lined with baking paper. Shape into a rough log, roll up and twist the ends to seal.

Bake at 180 degrees C for approx 45 minutes.

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