Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: (Not So) Perfect Party Cake

Hmmmm. I have a real problem with recipes that include the word 'perfect' in the name. To me that is just setting it up to be a spectacular failure! Carol of mix, mix… stir, stir chose Dorie's Perfect Party Cake this week and I made it for a special occasion, N's grandparents coming up from Melbourne to meet their very first great grandchild!

I made the cakes the day before and was a little disappointed at how little they rose. I followed all Dorie's advice including using new baking powder but I do have a dodgy oven so I'm sure that was my fault. I wrapped them well and left them overnight.

The next morning was a flurry of activity as I tried to get the frosting made, cake decorated and us all ready to leave mid-morning. I've never actually made a meringue buttercream before so was really pleased that it all came together so easily, no curdling here! I had heard a few people say this buttercream recipe was a little too heavy on the butter but I decided to make it as-is because I was a newbie. Well, let me say it was WAY too heavy on the butter for my liking and I actually felt a bit sick after eating it and needed something to take the taste away.

My cake slicing and decorating skills suck too (you can see from the bottom photo just how uneven my layers were!). I put the jam on the layers first so had major problems trying to smooth the buttercream over the top. In the end I wet my hands and smoothed it over the top using my fingers, kind of like working with clay. I did the same thing around the edges, pushing the buttercream into all the gaps like wall putty. I wasn't going to use coconut on the edges as it's not my favourite thing but it worked wonders in covering up my less than perfectly smooth cake!

The taste test ...

First bite for me was great! Then it went downhill. It was just so rich. Everyone else loved it though and the combination of lemon and raspberry flavours is always fantastic. I was originally going to fill the layers with whipped lemon curd cream and in hindsight that would have been better option. So the verdict? I'm really on the fence here. While I didn't love it, it was very well received and I know people had seconds. So maybe it was just me. N only had one piece also though and considering his sweet tooth that is pretty telling.

I hope everyone else's cake was more 'perfect' than mine! Make sure you visit Carol's blog to see her version and to get the recipe.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers June - Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

I love this sort of recipe - homey and a little bit old-fashioned. The type of thing that doesn't take too long to whip up but looks and tastes absolutely delicious. A good thing too because I didn't get around to making it until tonight!

I used chunky black cherry jam and a little less almond essence than the recipe said. We served it with big dollops of thick custard, but cream or icecream would work well too.

The taste test ...

I was a little worried about the tart being too almond-y because while we love almonds both N and I hate amaretto. I left out the almond essence in the pastry and used only 1/4ts in the frangipane and that amount was spot on for us. The cherry jam was the perfect complement to the other flavours. My only complaint would be that the pastry didn't cook through properly. I was surprised the recipe didn't call for it to be blind baked. It also took longer to cook than stated but I blame that on our dodgy oven. All in all, a tasty end to our dinner!

Bakewell Tart

Sweet shortcrust pastry :

225g plain flour
30g sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g unsalted butter, cold
2 egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside. Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Frangipane :

125g unsalted butter, softened
125g icing sugar
3 eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g ground almonds
30g all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

To assemble:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Roll out the pastry to line a 23cm tart tin. Trim the excess pastry then place in the freezer for 15 minutes. As soon as you remove it, spread the base with 250ml of jam or curd of your choice. Top with frangipane and bake for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, remove it from the oven and top with a handful of flaked almonds, then return to the oven for the last five minutes of baking. Allow to cool slightly before serving (you want warm not hot).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise

Wow. Seriously WOW. Andrea of Andrea In The Kitchen chose this amazing concoction and I'm so glad she did. I was a little daunted by this recipe as I don't make meringues very often and I find white chocolate very overrated. But boy was I pleasantly surprised. In fact I think this may be my favourite TWD recipe of the 47 I've made so far!

Basically what you have is an almond and coconut meringue with white chocolate ganache and roasted pineapple. I explained it in just those words to our friends who were over for lunch and I sounded like a contestant on Masterchef bringing their invention test dish to the judges. (Are there any other Aussies totally addicted to this show?!)

Anyway, I did have a few problems making this, mostly because I was incredibly tired and I didn't start making it until dinner time. Big mistake.

The drama started when I had made the meringue and as I came to spread it on the trays realised I was out of baking paper. N offered to get some more but I was in meltdown mode with Oscar and didn't want him to leave. I stupidly decided to go with greaseproof lunch wrap instead. I'm sure you can guess what happened. It superglued itself to the base of the meringue. HUGE thanks to N who spent probably a good half hour picking off the paper in teeny tiny little pieces!

I managed to avert a catastrophe with the baking. I always bake using the convection setting on our microwave as our only other option is a dodgy 30 year electric with broken seal (made worse by the fact that the last time we used it the loose end of the seal was actually inside the oven touching the element and we nearly burned the house down). While the recipe called for baking at 100 degrees our oven has preset temps of either 70 or 130. I went with 130 and only belatedly realised maybe they wouldn't take 3 hrs to cook at a higher temperature! I checked them at 2hrs and pulled them out immediately.

I'm a little bit funny about white chocolate. What with it not actually being chocolate at all and tasting sickly sweet. This time I went with Green & Blacks Organic and hallelujah! That stuff is dangerous and we ate our leftover half a block while prepping dinner.

The taste test ...

Oh. My. God. I think I have now found my go-to dinner party dessert! The contrast between the chewy, slightly crispy meringue, smooth as silk ganache and bite of the pineapple was sensational. Rich but not sickly, this is one awesome recipe. I did just a half batch and it made 6 generous serves. We had barely finished eating when we tried to think of the next occasion I could make this for. Definitely no leftovers with this one.

Make sure you check out Andrea's blog for the recipe!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Coffee Chocolate Fondants

I have a soft spot for chocolate fondants and seeing them made on Masterchef during the week reminded both N and I just how long it's been since we made any (maybe 3 years?!).

This is a Curtis Stone recipe which we found on the UK Good Food Channel website. My notes are in red.

Coffee Chocolate Fondants
Serves 4 (just 4 serves would have been ENORMOUS - there was enough mixture for 8 generous serves using 1 cup ramekins)

250 g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids broken into pieces
250g Butter
30g instant coffee (we had a 50g jar of Moccona and it seemed excessive to use more than half the jar! So we only added a few teaspoons and could barely taste it)
5 Eggs
5 egg yolks
125g Sugar
75g plain flour, sifted

1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, suspended above a pan of simmering water.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan.

3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the melted chocolate and butter. Add the coffee and stir until well-blended.

4. In a separate large mixing bowl, ideally using an electric whisk, whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy.

5. Pour the egg mixture onto the chocolate mixture and whisk together until smooth.

6. Add the flour, whisking until well-mixed.

7. Transfer the chocolate mixture into 4 (8!) well-buttered ramekins or dariole moulds, cool and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

8. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas 6.

9. Bake the chilled fondants for 10 minutes. (Ours needed 12 minutes and probably could have done with another minute or 2 to make them easier to remove from the moulds. Next time would grease and also line the bases of the remekins with baking paper as the centres stuck a little). Serve warm from the oven.

The taste test ...

In a word - decadent. Not something you'd want to eat everyday but as a treat it was absolutely divine. Rich and smooth with a deep chocolate flavour boosted by the coffee. The middles were fabulously oozy! Perfect served with a big scoop of vanilla icecream.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Honeyless Peach Icecream

Cold weather has never stopped me eating icecream but this week it almost stopped me making it! We've had a bit of a cold snap here and it's been casseroles, braises and puddings all round.

Tommi from Brown Interior chose Dorie's Honey Peach Icecream this week. This is the icecream picture in the book that made me want to lick the page when I saw it. So you can imagine I had high expections. I decided to leave the honey out because I hadn't gotten around to buying something a bit more interesting than good ole capilano.

The first issue was that being winter here stone fruit is definitely not in season. A few people suggested frozen peaches but I've never actually seen those so went the canned option instead. I drained them well but was still worried there would be excess liquid.

The second issue was that my custard reached temperature too quickly (stupid 30 year old electric cooktop). It thickened but didn't look like a normal custard. I left it overnight in the fridge after stirring through my pureed peaches.

Thirdly when I took it out the next day it looked like baby vomit. Seriously. All curdled and with little lumps. Ewww. It also smelt very eggy.

Lastly -

The taste test ...

Hmmm where has all the peach gone? I really could barely taste it. Apart from the colour I would have real trouble picking the flavour. It also left a horrible fatty coating on my the spoon, my mouth, the bowl. Damn. I was really disappointed by this one. Fruity icecreams (and desserts in general) are my favourite so I was really hoping this would be a winner! I definitely think fresh, beautifully ripened peaches would boost the flavour and the idea of steeping the peels and the stones could work too.

On a happier note I've already made next weeks pick and it was FANTASTIC.

To check out Tommi's version visit her blog or see the TWD blogroll to hopefully find some better icecreams than mine.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Daring Cooks June - Potstickers

I was both excited and daunted by this month's challenge. Not only because of the recipe itself but because it was chosen by the ever awesome Jen from Use Real Butter! We don't have potstickers as such in Australia, so to me these are modified dim sims. But whatever you call them they were in a word ... sensational!

The dough was a lot easier to work with than I thought. I made a double batch to cover the amount of filling and ended up with 40, half fried and half steamed. One discrepancy I noticed was that the recipe stated to use a tablespoon of filling for each one. I found just 1 teaspoon of filling per potsticker used up all the filling and dough perfectly, no leftovers.

The taste test ...

These were absolutely scrumptious! Of the 2 I preferred the potstickers over the steamed dumplings because of the contrasting textures but both were delicious. I made the dipping sauce with all the optional extras and it was the perfect accompaniment. I will definitely be making these again!

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

pork filling:
1 lb (450g) ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried - rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup (75g) bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 (55g) cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch OR

shrimp filling:
1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup (55g) ginger root, minced
1 cup (142g) water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp (5g) salt
3 tbsp (40g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

(double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches - or just halve the filling recipe)
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for worksurface

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Make the dough, Method 1:

Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

Make the dough, Method 2 (my mom’s instructions):

In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

Both dough methods:

Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders.

On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges.

Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side (see images in post for how to fold pleats). Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float. To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. It helps to rub the base of the dumpling in a little flour before setting on the baking sheet for ease of release. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in ziploc bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.

To serve: Serve dumplings or potstickers hot with your choice of dipping sauce combinations.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Parisian Apple Tartlet

Oh what a great month of TWD picks! The lovely Jessica of My Baking Heart chose the Parisian Apple Tartlet this week. It is a dessert that you can whip up in just a few minutes using ingredients you will likely already have on hand. With just puff pastry, apples, butter and brown sugar, this is definitely a case of the results being greater than the sum of its parts!

The taste test ...

You can probably already tell I was a fan of this one! Simple, elegant and truly delicious. We served ours with a scoop of french vanilla ice cream. I love having both hot and cold elements to a dessert. We will be making this again!

Thanks to Jessica for a fab choice. Make sure you check out her blog for the recipe.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Cinnamon Squares

Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures choses Cinnamon Squares this week. What a great recipe to ease back into TWD after a month off! It was made and out of the oven while Oscar was sleeping.

I was a little hesitant intially at just how much cinnamon was in them. Although being called 'Cinnamon' Squares that is just what you would expect! I made them exactly as per the recipes and had no problems with it being dry as some others did.

The taste test ...

I was a little 'meh' at the first tasting although my other taste testers gave enthusiastic thumbs up. However I had a second taste the next day straight out of the fridge and loved it! Somehow all the flavours had melded and mellowed. The chocolate icing was fabulous. I do think I should have cut it into 12 or even 16 squares rather than 9 as it was incredibly rich!

Thanks for a great pick Tracey! You can find the recipe on her blog.
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