Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Almond Tea Cake

This week Carmen of Carmen Cooks chose Dorie's Coconut Tea Cake. I know a few weeks ago I raved about the toasted coconut custard tart but in reality, that was enough coconut to last me about a year. So, rather than skip a week I simply skipped the coconut!

I opted to make an almond tea cake instead and it was wonderful.

All I did was use regular milk instead of the coconut and flaked almonds both in and on top of my little cake. And I do mean little - the photos are quite deceptive because I made just 1/4 of the recipe in a baby loaf pan, about the size of a muffin!

The taste test ...

I love 'plain' cakes like this. To me they are so satisfying and comforting and like Dorie says, they are something you can cut a slice from every time you walk through the kitchen. I was a little worried how it would turn out because the cake mix was like a runny pancake batter but it baked up beautifully and was fabulously moist.

While it was still warm I brushed the top with melted butter and dusted over some cinnamon sugar. It really doesn't get much better than that!

Thanks for a great pick Carmen!

And also my apologies to Jody of Beansy Loves Cake for skipping the Dulce de Leche Duos. My grandmother passed away last week, aged 84, and my heart just wasn't into baking.

I really have to credit my grandma for my love of cooking. While my mum was a pretty good cook she never really enjoyed it. Grandma, on the other hand, seemed to find it therapeutic rather than a chore and turned out some wonderful meals. I took Oscar to see her in hospital a few days before she died and she was thrilled to see him. She will be missed :-(

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Daring Bakers March - Orange Tian

Have you heard of a tian? I hadn't either but what a lovely dessert this turned out to be!

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

This dessert involved making several components including a citrus caramel, whipped cream filling and biscuit base, but the one that had me really excited was the marmalade. Yep, we had to make our own marmalade for this challenge!

I love jam and making it has been on my to-do list for years. I think the fact you need to sterilise jars and so on has scared me away but really, you can just make a small amount to store in the fridge and eat within a couple of weeks.

Almost everything for the tian came together really easily and I prepared all the components in one day. I opted to make just one small (4") tian as were in dessert overload that week.

In the end the only element I struggled with was the marmalade. I wasn't sure where to get pectin from but I had seen a jam setting sugar at the supermarket in the past so I went hunting for that. Once I had the sugar I needed oranges (obviously) and chose some lovely looking navel oranges. Now I think these were the wrong type to get because the pith was about 1cm thick on all of them. I blanched the oranges 5 times to hopefully remove any bitterness and it turned out fine. My issue was with the final taste. For some reason this tasted like jam that had been sitting around in a cupboard for too long. The sugar was still 1 year within the use-by date but I am not convinced. I still don't know whether it was the sugar or the oranges that gave the marmalade its strange aftertaste BUT I do know I am no longer scared of making jam!

The taste test ...

Surprisingly light! Lovely contrast between the crunchy base, smooth cream filling and fresh orange segments. I did add the citrus caramel after I took the photo but I think it was unnecessary and really dialled up the sweetness into excess.

This would be a wonderful dinner party desssert as not only does it look and taste spectacular, it can be totally prepared in advance.

Thank you Jennifer for a wonderful challenge!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Soft Chocolate and Raspberry Tart

My husband has had his eye on this recipe since day one so was very excited it was picked for March. Big thanks to Rachelle of Mommy? I'm hungry! for making his day!

I made a half recipe which fit perfectly in a 6" pan. I used all dark chocolate with frozen raspberries and it worked perfectly. Not so the sweet tart dough with nuts which I tried for the first time. The consistency was just plain weird, almost like a coconut macaroon and very crumbly.

The taste test ...

Chocolate and raspberry is a classic combination so I knew we would all love this. But what really sold me was the texture of the filling. At room temperature it was smooth and oh so silky. Straight out of the fridge it was like chocolate fudge. Absolutely delicious! I didn't love the crust though and probably won't make the tart dough with nuts again, especially when I know how good the original version is.

Thanks for a great pick Rachelle! You can find the recipe on her blog under today's date.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Daring Cooks March - Risotto

This month's Daring Cooks challenge was all about comfort food. The meal? Risotto!

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

I adore risotto so we tend to have it quite regularly. I do admit to cheating though and using premade stock. Not this time though.

The recipe in the MasterChef cookbook (which I happened to receive for Christmas) was for a pumpkin risotto. Hubby hates pumpkin with a passion so I chose to do a roast chicken and garlic risotto instead.

You don't really need a recipe for stock. I roasted 2kg of chicken drumsticks with 2 whole heads of garlic at 200 degrees for a couple of hours. I sauteed a couple of leeks in olive oil then added the chicken and garlic. Covered the whole lot with water, brought to the boil then simmered for 2 1/2 hours. Removed the meat from the bones and stored separately. Refrigerated the stock overnight then removed the fat on the surface. Bring the stock back up to the boil then strain and you are ready to go.

The verdict? Yum! The homemade stock really takes this dish from easy weeknight meal to dinner party showstopper. Absolutely delish and very easy to do.

Thanks for a great challenge girls! You can find the challenge recipe on MelbournefoodGeek or Jessthebaker.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Thumbprints for Us Big Guys

I do love recipes with jam. My grandmother used to make the BEST jam tarts with beautiful homemade shortcrust pastry. I would always get the leftover scraps of pastry shaped into a cookie with a big dollop of jam in the middle.

Here in Australia we'd call these jam drops, not thumbprints, but whatever you call them they rock! Buttery, nutty, jammy and just plain delicious.

I tweaked the recipe slightly using ground pistachios instead of hazelnuts, so my cookies had a lovely green tint. I also thought it was the perfect opportunity to open my jar of Maggie Beer's Burnt Fig Jam. This stuff is thick and as black as tar but the flavour? Out of this world. Burning the jam really intensifies the fig flavour and takes the edge off the sticky sweetness. Because it is so thick I didn't heat it as per the recipe, just scooped straight onto each cookie. Messy but good.

(On a side note, anyone else out there really miss The Cook & The Chef? Thank goodness for repeats.)

The combination of pistachio and fig was fantastic. I will be making these again.

Thanks to Mike of Ugly Food for an Ugly Dude for this week's pick!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Toasted-Coconut Custard Tart

If I'm 100% honest, my reaction to discovering Beryl of Cinemon Girl had picked the Toasted-Coconut Custard Tart was a groan. I'm not the hugest fan of coconut but really I was picturing hubby's reaction to learning his weekly TWD dessert contained two of his least favourite things, being coconut and rum!

After careful consideration of the recipe (and in light of our newly upheld participation requirements) I decided I would make the smallest possible version, just 1/6th of the recipe. My plans went astray though when I made the full batch of sweet tart dough and automatically pressed it into a 9 inch pan. I figured the universe had spoken so went ahead and made the full recipe hoping I wouldn't have to eat it all myself or worse, throw 90% of it away.

Well, this recipe has been one of the biggest surprises of TWD so far. I actually liked it. To the point of eating spoonful after spoonful of the coconut custard from the fridge while it was supposed to be cooling.

Sweetened shredded coconut is pretty hard to find in Australia. There is one brand that I know of but it contains all kinds of nasties so I went with good-old dessicated coconut which you can find in every supermarket here. This may have changed the texture of the custard quite a bit because after cooling in the fridge it had the consistency of cold porridge. Blech. But still tasty!

I used just 1 tablespoon of rum in the custard and that was plenty. I also left the rum out of the whipped cream topping and sprinkled the top with fresh lime zest.

The taste test ...

Fabulous! I did find it very sweet though the lime zest on top really lifted it. The coconut and rum flavours weren't overpowering and of course the sweet tart pastry was brilliant as always. I think next time I would add even more lime by making a lime and coconut custard. The fact I'm already thinking about next time is amazing! I was able to give a lot of it away and it got a positive reaction from everyone. Guess that makes it a winner!

A big thank you to Beryl for picking this tart, because I would never have made it on my own! You can find the recipe on Cinemon Girl.
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