Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie 37: Chocolate Cream Tart

You cannot begin to imagine how excited I was when I found out this week's recipe was a chocolate cream tart. I love tarts, especially creamy ones, and anything chocolate, so this literally was my perfect dessert. I actually hadn't really noticed the recipe before, but I think that's mainly because it wasn't accompanied by a delicious looking photo. So a huge thanks to Kim of Scrumptious Photography for picking it- look what I could have been missing out on!

With the chocolate pastry cream, it is really important that you choose a chocolate that you really like. If you don't like dark chocolate for example, then don't use it. The pastry cream comes out tasting exactly like the chocolate you have chosen, which is why I'm so glad I went with my favourite Valrhona Caraibe. The pastry cream was unbelievably delicious! So impossibly rich and smooth. I am honestly going to be making it again, just to eat out of little pots for dessert by itself. S particularly loved the tart shell- it was so delicate, it just shattered in your mouth. Paired with a big dollop of vanilla flavoured whipped cream, it was superb! All three elements worked together harmoniously. I am missing it, just thinking about it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Daring Bakers 7: Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

I am not new to baking cheesecake, however, I was excited to see that it was chosen for April's Daring Bakers challenge. I am always on the hunt for the perfect cheesecake, mainly because I don't seem to ever like any I taste. S on the other hand, thinks that cheesecake is the bee's knees. He ranks it in his top 5 favourite desserts of all time (yes, he has a top 5). And it can't be just any cheesecake, it has to be baked. I really dislike baked cheesecakes in particular as they often get that chalky, mouth coating thickness about them. The trick is to only just bake it- it should still wobble when jiggled. Believe me, it will set up nicely once cooled.

We were given quite a bit of freedom for this challenge so I opted for a chocolate Oreo base, a lemon flavoured cheesecake, topped with a lightly gelatin set lemon cream glaze. Oh my god. This cheesecake was amazing. AMAZING. This is coming from she who would rather pass on dessert than eat a cheesecake. I actually feel quite ripped off; where has this cheesecake been all my life? Needless to say, S is over the moon that I too have embraced cheesecake now.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

Oreo Crust

1 1/2 cup Oreo cookie crumbs (about 25 Oreo cookies, cream removed and finely chopped)
2 tablespoon melted butter


3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)

Lemon Cream Glaze

1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

2 gelatin sheets for half of the lemon cream mixture

Lemon Cream Method

Getting ready: Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

1. Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.

2. Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

3. As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.

4. Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

5. Split the lemon cream mixture in two. Add the softened gelatin sheets to one half, and keep the other half for another recipe.

Cheesecake Method

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter.

6. When the cheesecake is room temperature, pour the lemon cream glaze over the top. Refrigerate until set. It is best to serve this cheesecake at room temperature, not straight out of the fridge.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lest We Forget

Today in Australia, we honour those members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC's), who fought in World War I and II. For me, this particular ANZAC day is made all the more solemn, as it is the first since my Grandad passed away. For as long as I can remember, our family has spent the day watching him march with his batallion, medals hanging from his chest. This was always followed by drinks, lunch and laughs at the nearest RSL (Returned and Services League). While it was the same ritual every year, it was exactly that, a ritual. And now I find myself sitting here, missing every moment. My Grandad, Wally, fought in World War II at the tender age of 18. When I think back to when I was 18, I cannot fathom walking a mile in those soldiers' shoes. Bravery. Mateship. Lest we forget.

ANZAC biscuits are what childhood memories are made of. They are such an iconic Australian biscuit, that I wonder why they aren't more readily available. It only seems to be in recent years that they have slowly disappeared. When I was growing up, at the local cafe there would always be a jar of ANZAC biscuits next to the Smartie cookies and melting moments. The perfect ANZAC biscuit differs with each person; some like them chewy, while others like them crisp and crunchy. I fall into the latter category.

ANZAC biscuits were first invented during World War I. The soldiers were given 'biscuits' which fondly became known as 'tiles' because they were so hard and tasteless. Loved ones back home made it their number one priority to make a delicious biscuit that would withstand months travelling by ship and wouldn't spoil. The ANZAC biscuit is the end result.

ANZAC Biscuits

(recipe from Bills Sydney Food by Bill Grainger)
Makes 25 cookies

1 cup plain all-purpose flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
125g unsalted butter
1 Tbsp golden syrup
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 Tbsp boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 160C. Place flour, coconut, sugar and oats in a bowl. Mix well.

2. Place butter and golden syrup in a saucepan over medium heat and melt.

3. Place bicarbonate of soda in a small bowl and add hot water. Stir to combine. Add bicarbonate mixture to saucepan and stir. Pour over oat mixture and stir all ingredients together.

4. Roll teaspoons of biscuit mixture into balls and place on a greased and lined baking tray, leaving room for spreading. Flatten each ball gently with a fork.

5. Bake biscuits for 15 - 20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown at the edges. The centers will be slightly soft but will harden when cooled. Allow biscuit to cool slightly on trays before transferring to a wire rack.

6. Store in air-tight containers.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Orange Berry Muffins

For some reason, I have really bad luck with muffins.  I can never seem to get them to be airy and fluffy like the ones you buy.  I don't really understand where I am going wrong!  My conclusion is that the ones you buy are actually just giant cupcakes, and that's why they are so soft and fluffy.

These muffins are from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook, Baking: From my home to yours.  This was a Tuesdays with Dorie recipe that was chosen long before I joined.  I had seen it a few times while flicking through the book and it caught my eye.  I actually have the intention of baking all the recipes that were chosen before I joined, so this is another one under the belt.  Like I said earlier, my muffins weren't overly light and fluffy, but they were still tasty.  I love blueberries in anything, and combined with the fragrant orange zest batter, it was delicious!

Orange Berry Muffins
from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook, Baking: From my home, to yours

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
About ¾ cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons honey
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) sugar
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries - fresh, preferably, or frozen (not thawed)
Decorating sugar, for topping (optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Pour the orange juice into a large glass measuring cup or a bowl and pour in enough buttermilk to make 1 cup. Whisk in the eggs, honey and melted butter.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of orange strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough - the batter will be lumpy and bubbly, and that’s just the way it should be. Stir in the blueberries. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. If you want to top the muffins with decorating sugar, sprinkle on the sugar after the muffins have baked for 10 minutes. When fully baked, the tops of the muffins will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I recently made a batch of Brigadeiro's for a Brazilian friend of S's. He has been living in Australia for 15 or so years now, and we thought it would be the perfect Easter present for him and his family. When I first started looking for Brazilian candy ideas, Brigadeiros were without a doubt the most popular in my searches. To me, they didn't really sound that appetising though- condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter? Tasty...

While I was not a huge fan of these little soft balls of sweetness, S thoroughly enjoyed them, as did his friend (thankfully). Since I had not made Brigadeiros before, I wasn't sure if the texture should still be soft, or more chewy like a toffee. I was told that I had made them perfectly though, and that they should still maintain a softness about them. My next project is to try making Dulche de Leche!

Brigadeiro, from GroupRecipes:
  • 1 can of Condensed Milk
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of powered chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla

Put the condensed milk into a sauce pan

Add the butter and the chocolate

Mix it all and turn on the fire to medium

Stir during the whole process

After about 7 minutes, it will start boiling

Stir the mixture constantly until it starts to lose contact with the pan

Stir for a couple minutes more and turn the fire off

Wait about 30 minutes for the mixture to cool

When it is cooled, put some butter on your hands and start making little balls with the mixture

After that roll them in the chocolate sprinkles and put in mini cupcake wrapers

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie 36: 15 Minute Magic- Chocolate Amaretti Torte

Well in the end, I would hardly call this cake '15 minute magic'. I searched high and low for Amaretti, to no avail. I thought it would be easy to find them, but after checking all of my regular foodie places (five or so of them), nothing! I really didn't want to skip this week's recipe though, so I ended up making my own. Understandably, this took a lot longer than 15 minutes! It proved to be a lot more work than I had bargained for, but thanks to Holly of Phe/MOM/enon for choosing this week's recipe.

I found the recipe for my Amaretti at Amanda's Cookin'. She too decided to make her own, so I really appreciate her help! I wouldn't exactly call my cookies authentic though, as I didn't have any almond extract or Amaretto on hand. The cookies still had a distinct almond taste though from the almond meal, which worked well in the torte. I had read Amanda's concern about the cookies being too chewy for the torte, so I dried mine out in the oven a little longer.

With Easter just gone, the last thing I felt like baking/eating was more chocolate! This cake was really tasty though, so I'm not complaining. It was definitely very rich though, so as Dorie recommends, serve small slices.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie 35: Banana Cream Pie

Firstly I just need to get off my chest that yes, I am feeling extremely guilty about deserting my poor blog for the past couple of weeks. Funnily enough, this is technically my 36th week of participating in Tuesdays with Dorie, because I actually did make last week's recipe (Coconut Butter Thins) but I just didn't get time to photograph them. In the past couple of weeks I have also made brownies, scones with jam and cream, panacotta with pomegranate jelly, lemon mousse pots... the list goes on really- it's just finding the time to photograph them. I (or should I say S) relies on natural lighting only, and we are often not home during the day. I really want to get a Lowel Ego Light, but in Australia they are just so expensive (if you can find one). Anyway, enough whining.

I can honestly say that I have never had a Banana Cream Pie before, which is the recipe that was chosen this week by Amy of Sing for Your Supper. I was very apprehensive about making it too, believing that I would hate it. Bananas really aren't a favourite food of mine, and until I was making the recipe, I didn't realise the bananas weren't cooked! For some reason, I had imagined this pile of warm mushy cooked banana sitting in a pie! I actually avoided cooking this for my boyfriend's mum as she has a particular dislike for cooked banana. When I finally realised it didn't contain cooked banana, my whole perception of the pie changed. All of a sudden, all I could think about was the cool, aromatic pastry cream enveloping perfectly ripe banana slices, and the shattering crunch of the pie shell, all melding with the superbly tangy cream topping. A 180 I know. I can't tell you if my imagination was accurate just yet, as I have not eaten the pie fully assembled (hence no innards shots). From tasting each component though, I can tell it will be just perfect. My first Banana Cream Pie (and certainly not the last)!