Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Daring Bakers August Daring Baker Challenge: Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

Liz is away for a wedding at the moment and has kindly asked me to try and articulate our experience with the tart…

So here we are at our second Daring Bakers Challenge. This one was right up our alley. Caramel and Chocolate. Mm mmm!

August was a crazy month so we both knew we’d be putting this off till the end of the month. I had one weekend free when I knew I could do. I got everything I needed a few days in advance. Then Liz had the brilliant idea that we should do it together as I was flying home the following weekend. Having already bought all the ingredient I tried to think of something else I could create with the ingredients, but I kept worrying that DB members would notice and think I was cheating or something.

On the weekend I had planned to do this my boyfriend, Tony, spent the whole weekend pulling apart his computer, and I have to say, wasn’t great company. So by Sunday, I was itching to make the tart. My original plan was not to tell anyone, but being me, I did.

I followed what all the other DB members struggled with and the consensus was the caramel. I took special note to get extra sugar and how to do the wet method. When it came to the day I thought I’d have a go at the real way, according to the recipe but thought I’d fail. I kept the heat on medium and stirred throughout and was successful! I couldn’t believe it. Me – making caramel the hard way! I even managed it twice. Tony grunted when I tried to explain the sheer beauty of what I had done. I know this is terribly dumb of me, but I never knew sugar did that.

Everything went perfectly for me. Everyone who tasted it loved it.

So, this past weekend I was in Adelaide. I was on a tight schedule but made the tart a priority. Not hard, seeing as it also meant Liz and I got to hang out in the kitchen too.

This baking episode didn’t go so well. I think there may have been a few things that went against us, including a few too many wines before we got started.

Knowing Liz as I do, I tried to hang back and not get too involved. Firstly because, of the 2 of us, she is the whiz with baking etc and secondly, as I know how much it infuriates her when people get involved. I read the recipe, and mentioned what I did the weekend before.

Liz had made the pastry and baked that part before I arrived. I had told her in advance that I had far too much so she should halve it. Liz was unsure where she went wrong, but it didn’t come together nicely, but managed to press it all in and once it baked it was fine.

The caramel went perfectly as well.

Liz used thick/double cream for the mousse. Having followed my strict instructions to have everything out to room temperature I think the cream had gone sour as when Liz whipped the cream within a few seconds it was thick like butter. Maybe that’s just what thick/double cream does… Can anyone advise me?

Unfortunately when Liz got home later that night the mousse part looked like butter. Liz scraped the mousse off and re-did this part with whipping and cream and it worked! Here are her the photos she quickly sent me before she left.

So, all in all it was a lot of fun. We got to hang out in the kitchen together, which is rare these days and my confidence is building in baking.

The recipe is as follows.

½ lb (250 g) chocolate shortbread pastry (see recipe below)
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 cup thick cream or crème fraiche
¼ cup butter
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 ½ tablespoons flour
1 ¼ cups whipping cream (to us Aussie’s, that’s thickened)
250 g milk chocolate

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons icing sugar
½ cup ground hazelnuts
2 level teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 eggs
4 ½ cups plain flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder

A day ahead -in a mixing bowl of a food processor, cream the butter.

Add the icing sugar, the ground hazelnuts, and the cinnamon, and mix together.
Add the eggs, one by one, mixing constantly.

Sift in the flour, the baking powder, and the cocoa powder, and mix well.

Form a ball with the dough, cover in plastic wrap, and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 325 °F (160 °C) and take all needed ingredients out of fridge to come to room temperature.

Line the baking pan with the chocolate shortbread pastry and blind bake for 15 minutes.
In a saucepan, caramelize 1 cup of white sugar using the dry method until it turns a golden caramel colour. Incorporate the double cream or crème fraiche and then add butter. Mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl, beat the whole eggs with the extra egg yolk, and add the the flour.
Pour this into the cream-caramel mixture and mix thoroughly.

Spread it out in the tart shell and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

For the mousse: beat the whipping cream until stiff.

Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave or in a bain-marie, and fold it gently into the whipped cream.

Pour the chocolate mousse over the cooled caramel mixture, smoothing it with a spatula. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.
Toffee to decorate: melt ½ cup white sugar in a saucepan until it reaches an amber colour. Pour it onto waxed paper laid out on a flat surface. Leave to cool. Break it into small fragments and stick them lightly into the top of the tart.


Monday, 27 August 2007

Chilled Tossed Noodles

After a hectic weekend in Adelaide, and a long trip home, I couldn't wait to eat something home-made as well as out of the Gourmet Traveller magazine I bought for the trip.

I didn't follow the recipe much but here is what I did.

250g dried rice vermicelli noodles
1 cucumber, cut into fine matchsticks
3 spring onions, finely shredded
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 vinegar (I used half white and half balsamic)
1 tsbp sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp hoi-sin sauce
dash of tabasco

Soak the noodles according to the packet instructions.

Chop cucumber and spring onions.

Toast sesame seeds in a pan (no oil )until golden.

In a bowl, mix the soy, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, hoi-sin and tabasco till the sugar dissolves.

Combine all ingredients (leaving aside a few sesame seeds) and serve with a sprinkle of the sesame seeds.

If you put the spring onions in some iced water they go kinda curly at the ends, if you feel like jazzing it up a little.


Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Slow-cooked Chicken with Sweet Roasted Tomatoes

I found this recipe on Jamie Oliver’s website recently and thought it sounded great. As always happens with me and Jamie’s recipes half way through I realised it wasn’t going to work according to his recipe.

I thought it was going to be a bit of a disaster, but it ended up being delicious. Not as easy as Jamie announced though.

The chicken fell off the bone, it was that tender and had a wonderful smoky, sweet and spicy flavour.

Here’s what I did -

4 chicken drumsticks and 6 wings
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper1 bunch of fresh basil, roughly chopped
4 - 6 tomatoes, quartered
3 potatoes, chopped into large pieces
1 whole bulb of garlic, broken up into cloves
3 fresh red chillies, finely chopped
olive oil
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Put the chicken onto a deep tray and add all basil, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic cloves, chilli and salt and pepper and drizzle over some olive oil. Massage everything together. Put it in the oven for 40 minutes, covered.

After 40 minutes mixed everything around and separate the chicken and potatoes from the tomatoes etc. Return the chicken and potatoes to the oven for 20 minutes, till brown and crisp. Put the tomatoes etc into a pan and simmer on the stove mashing the tomatoes and removing the garlic skins and adjust seasoning.

To serve, place the chicken and potatoes on a plate and pour the desired amount of tomato on top.


Monday, 20 August 2007

Spinach and Feta Gozleme

I was introduced to these yummy treats at the Glebe Point Markets in Sydney when I first moved to Sydney by Kate, and now every time I go, I can’t help myself.

So when I came across the recipe for spinach and feta Gozleme’s and then found another recipe for the spicy mince filling the market operators add I was on a mission to make them. Now, I admit, they’re not as good as the Turkish ladies at the market, and I am, of course, much slower, but I think if I had as much practice as them, I could give them a run for their money.
They are salty, spicy, sour and crispy. Mmm.

3 cups flour
8g sachet instant dried yeast
pinch of salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 bunch English spinach
200g feta cheese, crumbled
lemon wedges, to serve

In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt and sugar.

Add 300ml warm water and olive oil and stir with a fork until the liquid has taken up all the flour.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes until it becomes elastic.

Place back into the bowl and cover with plastic film.

Stand in a warm place and allow the dough to prove for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Minced Meat Filling (optional)
350g minced beef/lamb
2 cloves minced garlic
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp paprika
1 red chilli, chopped
1 medium carrot grated
½ cup of tinned tomatoes
olive oil for frying

At the markets you have the choice of with or without a spicy meat layer. If you want to add this - pan fry the mince in a little oil until browned, add all the other ingredients and continue cooking until the carrot has softened. Finally add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.Once the dough has risen, cut the ball into 4 portions. Keep the dough you aren’t using under cover or it will dry out.

Roll each piece of dough out into a circle the size of a large dinner plate.

Place a quarter of the spinach, then the mince mixture (of using), over half of the circle spreading to the edges and then top with feta.

Fold the dough over and enclose the filling by pinching the edges together.

Preheat a flat hotplate, or a large frypan on medium-high heat.

Fry Gozleme with a little oil on both sides til golden brown and crispy. This should only take a few minutes.

Remove and cut the Gozleme into 6 pieces and serve with lemon wedges.


Friday, 17 August 2007

Spicy Bean Cakes

These are a favourite in our household, easy, quick, healthy and tasty.

I just do them under the grill but you can fry them, maybe coat them in a little flour first.

We have them for a mid-week dinner with salad usually, but you could try them as an starter of finger-food I guess.

2 cans cannellini beans, drained &rinsed
1 - 3 tsp Thai red curry paste (depending on strength)
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
handful coriander/basil leaves, chopped
4 spring onions, sliced
Sweet chilli sauce, to serve

Place beans in a food processor with the curry paste, lime leaves, coriander/basil and spring onions and process just until the mixture comes together.

Place rounded spoonfuls onto tray and place under hot grill for 5 - 10 minutes, turning over once.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Homemade Pizza's

The combination of a special anniversary and a generous gift of an aged bottle of red prompted me to make something a little different. Laura recommended this and it was wonderful!

I had some help in the kitchen, which made it fun and even easier.

Please, please take the time to make these. They are a taste sensation!

You don't need to make homemade pizza dough. Pita and or store-bought bases would be just fine.

375ml (1 1/2 cups) warm water
2 tsp (7g) dried yeast
Pinch of caster sugar
600g (4 cups) plain flour
1 tsp salt
60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil, plus extra for brushing

Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl and put aside for 5 minutes until foamy.

In another bowl, put the flour and salt and make a well in the centre. Add the yeast mixture and oil.

In a cutting motion mix until the mixture is combined. Use your hands to bring the dough together in the bowl.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Place in an oiled prepared bowl and turn to coat in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place to rise for 30 minutes or until dough doubles in size.

Pull off as much dough as you need and stretch and roll out to the shape and thickness you like your pizza at. It didn't rise a lot.

Side note - we had far too much dough, so we made little balls and rolled them in a little oil and then cinnamon sugar and baked them for 10 minutes. Yummo!

Back to the pizzas, the reason why all this came up in conversation with Laura was that she had sent me some wonderful tapenade or kalamatta paste from here work. See here -

Across the road from her gorgeous shop (if you're ever in Hanhdorf, please check it out) is another great place called Udder Delights who produce wonderful cheese including a chevre, see here -

Laura's topping, as they went on were (see very first photo) -

2 tbsps Kalamatta paste/tapenade
several slices of prosciutto
couple sprigs of fresh thyme
several cherry tomatoes, halved
crumbled chevre

Place in hot oven for 10 - 15 minutes, remove and sprinkle with fresh basil and eat!

The second one in the order the toppings went on (see below) -

3 tbsp tomato paste or tomato sauce
light grating of parmesan cheese
few slices of prosciutto (optional)
fresh basil
cherry tomatoes, quartered
more grated parmesan


Friday, 10 August 2007

Vegetarian Lasagne

My youngest sister Salome was here in Sydney recently. She's a vegetarian and a little fussy with what vege's she likes so I made this and she loved it.

It was nice and easy to make, not as treacherous as some vege lasagne's I've done in the past that my boy desperately wants me to make him soon, so you may see it here soon, as I do like to please in the kitchen.

3 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
100g unsalted butter
100g (2/3 cup) plain flour
1 litre (4 cups) full-fat milk
Good pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 cup good-quality pesto
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 large handfuls frozen (defrosted) or baby spinach
300g fresh lasagne sheets
300g grated mozzarella
100g grated parmesan
Optional: 8 vine-ripened cherry tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 5cm deep, 20 x 30cm baking dish.

Drain the tinned tomatoes, reserving juice.

Mix the drained tomatoes and the spinach together with the egg and set aside.

Place the tomato juice in a pan with butter, flour and milk.

Whisk over low heat for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens. Cook 2 minutes further and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and pesto.

Place a quarter of the sauce in the prepared dish and cover with a sheet of lasagne.

Add a little more sauce half the mozzarella, half the drained tomatoes & spinach and a lasagne sheet.

Repeat this layer.

Cover with remaining sauce and sprinkle with parmesan. (Optional - Dot vine-ripened cherry tomatoes on top).

Bake for about 35 - 45 minutes or until cooked through and golden on top.

Allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with salad.


Thursday, 9 August 2007

Aromatic Vietnamese Beef Stir Fry

My darling mother gave me her electric wok. It's in perfect condition so I am ever so grateful! One of the things that always puts me off doing a stir fry is managing a wok... I'm about as good at that as I am managing chop sticks! But with an electric wok all my problems are solved!

I was cooking a belated birthday dinner for Andy and Laura. Laura is trying to eat low carbs and I'm still on this no carb diet so I thought this recipe would suit us just fine! Unfortunately I forgot to buy fish sauce so I added lots of salt instead... It tasted fantastic. There wasn't a scrap of food left at the end. But I assume it would be even more delicious if I wasnt such a bimbo and forgot the fish sauce. I know there will definately be a next time for this dish though! It took ten minutes and was a breeze!

2 tablespoons peanut oil
800g beef strips
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 long red chilli, chopped finely
10cm stick lemongrass, chopped finely
3 medium bulbs garlic, crushed
4 cardimom pods, bruised
1 quill of cinnamon
1 star anaise
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
350g snake beans, cut in 4cm lengths
1/4 cup sliced almonds, roasted
1/2 cup fresh corriander, chopped

Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil to the wok and brown meat. Set the meat aside but cover with alfoil to keep it warm. Add the remaining tablespoon of peanut oil. Fry the onions until soft. Add the garlic, chilli, lemongrass, cardimom, cinnamon, star anaise and the beans. Fry until the beans are soft. Remove the cardimom pods, cinnamon quil and the star ainaise.

Drain the meat and return it to the wok. Stir fry for another few minutes and serve into a bowl. Sprinkle the almonds and corriander over the top. Serve.


Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Chicken & Mushroom Pie

I bought a copy of the latest Cuisine, which is a New Zealand foodie magazine a little while ago when I was sick. There was a gorgeous pie the cover and an article on a NZ pie-maker who was all the rage there.

I assumed the recipe would be on the next page and was upset to discover this wasn’t the case. They had just enticed me by how wonderful this pie-man was and then left me high and dry.

Being brought up vegetarian, I am not a pie- connoisseur like most Aussies. I can’t put my finger on it, but there has always been something off putting, to me, about all those meat pies in the bakeries, servos etc but the idea of a home made one sounded great! It kept popping into my head whenever I wasn’t somewhere where I could try and find a recipe. But finally, I had the chance and I did some recipe reading and comparison, plus I grilled Tony for some details on flavour etc (which if you know him, is quite a feat)!

And here is what I came up with. And, if I may say so myself, it was damn-near perfect! Yum!

What you’ll need to share in my pie-joy:

150 - 200 grams mushrooms, quartered
3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
25 grams butter
25 grams flour
200 - 250ml chicken stock
Olive oil
3 tbs cream
Salt and pepper
1 lemon
Fresh parsley
3 sheets of puff pastry (I just used plain old frozen style)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 220C.

I used a spring-form pan for this pie, but you could use any pie dish, really. I allowed the puff pastry sheets a few minutes out of the freezer and then cut a circle and put it on the bottom and then cut the 2nd sheet into 3 pieces (about the height of the pan) and used them to make the sides, but pinching each piece together.

Fry mushrooms in a little olive oil for a few minutes and set aside.

Melt the butter in saucepan and add the flour and fry for a minute for 2. Add the chicken stock and turn up the heat and stir till simmering. Add the cream and reduce till it’s syrupy. Add a squeeze of lemon, seasoning and the finely chopped stalks of the parsley bunch and allow to cook for a minute.

Take off heat and add the chopped parsley leaves, mushrooms and chicken and stir thoroughly, making sure everything is coated with the sauce.

Pour the mixture into your prepared tin. Cover with the final sheet of pastry cut to fit. Pinch sides together and brush with the beaten egg. Finally cut air-holes into the lid of the pastry.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Let the pie sit for a few minutes before cutting and serving with whatever your heart desires.


Monday, 6 August 2007

Banana Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Surprise

Here's my weekend baking people. Be warned, they are very rich but oh so damn fine.

Everyone's going nuts for them and then the sugar high hits. Wow. They were a little fiddly, but fun, now I'm gaining a little confidence in the baking department but the flavour and the texture of these babies are all worth it!

I had too many bananas and was sick of making banana bread and found this recipe here The recipes here are gorgeous. What an art! My choice was easy compared to some of the other amazing concoctions Chockylit has come up with.


Peanut Butter Filling
1/3 packed brown sugar
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 egg, lightly beaten

220 grams (11 tbs) unsalted butter
400 grams (14 ounces) dark chocolate
1 1/3 cup of caster sugar
4 eggs
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup mashed banana (1 banana)

Caramel Icing
2 tbs butter
4 tablespoons cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180C.

Start with the peanut butter filling - mix the brown sugar, peanut butter and egg together and put aside.

Now, for the cupcakes. Melt the butter and the chocolate over bainmarie.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and the sugar. Add the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and mix to combine.

Add the melted chocolate and butter mixture and mix. Add the mashed banana and mix.

Fill the cupcake patty pan one third full with this mixture and then dollop one teaspoon of the peanut butter surprise on top. Then top this with another third of the chocolate cupcake mix.
Bake for 25 minutes.

Allow to cool.

To make the caramel icing, its best to have everything ready as I noticed it set very quickly.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the cream and brown sugar and stir to combine.

Boil vigorously for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and mix in 1/2 a cup of the icing sugar. Cool slightly and add the other 1.2 cup of icing sugar.

Quickly spoon onto cupcakes and you're done!


Heartwarming Potato & Leek Soup

This is an old favourite of mine and nice and easy.

I generally don't add cream (although I did to make the serving looks fancy above). Feel free to though, I know a lot of people do.


3 leeks, well washed and chopped
5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 litre of stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 tbsp butter
small splash of olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tsp nutmeg

Melt the butter and the oil together in a large pot and fry off the leeks on a low heat for 10 - 15 minutes until very soft.

Add the potatoes and fry for a further few minutes.

Add the stock with the nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 20 - 30 minutes.

Some people prefer this soup like this, so feel free to serve now. I prefer it pureed.

Serve with bread and cream if desired.