Friday, October 30, 2009

Chocolate fudge brownies

When I began this blog, I intended to photograph and enter at least one of the meals I make each day. Looking back, Issometimes achieved this, but most often fell short.

The biggest hurdle of blogging each dish was writing the actual post, most days I just simply could not think of anything new to write and therefore chose not to write anything. Talking about weather and particular ingredients became a little repetitive after a while. If something really deserved to be posted, and my mind was still blank, it would be a 'short and sweet' post - I think there may be quite a few of those.

At the moment I am in a 'reading' stage - voraciously devouring tens of library books each week, with little desire to do anything else, especially write. Too much effort, I thought. Why write when I can read someone else's writing?

Well, it has been over a week since my last post, and only eleven this whole month (granted Mr Salmonella kept me busy and eating nil for one week). No where near my desired thirty which saddened me. And then I thought, well perhaps I am trying to achieve too much at the detriment of the posts and the meals they showcase. Perhaps three, at the most, four dishes a week would be more manageable, more fun and less taxing on my limited creative thinking funds.

And so I return, with a new aim of three/four posts a week, to start on a Friday with a decadent but comforting chocolaty treat.

prep time: 20mins - includes cooling chocolate.
cooking time: 40mins.
total: 1 hour (plus brownie cooling time).

taste: 4/5. Your teeth crackle the chewy crust to sink deep into fudgy, sweet chocolate, occasionally grazing past a crunchy walnut buried beneath the deep brown gooeyness. The texture is divine, not too sticky but with enough moistness to avoid becoming cake-like - I do not like my brownies to be springy or crumbly, they must be able to make your lips smack with their density. They are a touch of the sweet side, with the unmistakable caramel streak of brown sugar.
I did not cover the brownies with foil and bake for an additional 20mins, after 40mins in the oven they were already starting to burn so I took them out and cooled them in the tray.
I substituted the macadamias for walnuts.

would I make it again: Yes. Whilst not the best brownie I have ever eaten, they are the best I have made so far. I would decrease the amount of brown sugar next time though.

recipe: Chocolate fudge brownies

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Baked pears with spiced mascarpone

Whilst most of my desserts are selected due to their desirability, aesthetics or occasion, sometimes they are chosen in an endeavor to use up left over ingredients that I do not wish to waste.

When I am choosing a dessert for this reason I look for one that would require me to purchase few additional ingredients, after all, the purpose of its selection is to save money by not wasting ingredients I already have, not to spend accruing more.

Pears are wonderful creatures; they are the perfect size for a quick snack, they pare incredibly well with certain meats and add a refreshing element to salads. What I love most about pears is that they can be an elegant, easy dessert with just a little baking or poaching. One of my most memorable desserts was a Poire belle Hélène - a gorgeous poached pear, vanilla ice cream and the most decadent of decadent chocolate sauces. Simple yet divine.

Less is always more with stand-alone pear desserts, just a simple syrup and maybe something dairy on the side. This recipe was not only easy and cheap regarding additional ingredients, but it looked like it would deliver on flavour and after all, flavour is everything.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 1hour (includes 15mins resting).
total: 1 hour & 5mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Delicious, warm and satisfying.
The pears are firm but yield willingly to the curve of your spoon.
The first taste you get is the lush, buttery vanilla syrup, slightly sweetened by the caramel brown sugar.
The mascarpone is cool and creamy on your tongue, imparting heady spices, soft sweetness and bitter orange before the gorgeous juicy pear comes through once again.
The pear is the star and although it gives way momentarily to the syrup and mascarpone, it shines through the end leaving you palate refreshed and ready for another bite.

I made the following modifications:
  • I used 2 pears
  • I quartered the pear syrup
  • I used 1tsp vanilla seed paste instead of a vanilla bean since I quartered the recipe
  • I quartered the mascarpone
  • I used 1tsp mixed spice
  • I used 1/2tsp orange zest
  • I used 1tbs icing sugar
would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Baked pears with spiced mascarpone - from Super Food Ideas - July 2008, Page 82

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I have never tasted a dessert with so much variation than the Tiramisu.

I have had dozens of them. Each different, even when made by the same people. More cream, less coffee, more alcohol, less mascarpone - after eating my fair share I seem to have narrowed down my likes.

Mascarpone rather than cream. I prefer the denser and substantially creamy texture much more. When it comes to the fingers, it has got to be savoiardi. Coffee? Yes, but don't overdo it, something like a vanilla blend not a face-slappingly strong and bitter espresso. Alcohol, definitely, it needs that kick. I am open to the type, I have had Marsala (a firm favourite), Kahlua (not bad) & Tia Maria (probably the least favourite). Also, as with the coffee, a light touch please, I don't want to end up face deep in my dessert. Chocolate shavings or coca dusted on top also lands in my 'like' list.

With those specifications made I went on the search for a recipe. What I liked even more about this one is that it whisked the egg yolks, sugar and marsala over a heat, something I have eaten on its on and absolutely love. With everything ticked I was pretty sure this recipe would be perfect.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 20mins (using store bought fingers).
cooking time: 3 hours at least in the fridge.
total: 3 hours & 20mins.

taste: 4/5. Quite nice, however the original picture and my result look nothing alike.
First of all, the mascarpone mixture was not snow white, more of a pale yellow in colour.
Next, the texture was smooth and silky right up until I added the egg whites, then it got a little 'foamy'. Not sure what I did wrong there, I beat my eggs only to soft peaks as instructed, but it made the mixture a little too airy.
In terms of taste, the biscuits (I used store bought) were perfectly soaked without being soggy, they are faintly soft but firm, spiked with sweet Marsala and bitter coffee with a tinge of vanilla from the beans I used. They helped to cut through the rich mascarpone mixture, mildly sweet and soft, but not cream-cheese smooth, more like a mousse I guess. The dark chocolate sprinkled on top punctuates perfectly. Although it is not overly sugary, it is still a rich dessert. Whilst I enjoyed it, I was wishing the mascarpone had been smoother with a little more weight.

would I make it again: Yes - I wanted the Tiramisu in the picture, smooth white mascaprone, not pale yellow and airy. Might add a little less Marsala next time to the yolks as well.

recipe: Tiramisu

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chocolate & salted butter caramel mousse walnut brownies

How hard is it to string a few words together to make a sentence? Very for me today.

Whilst my hands have been super busy, I feel as though my brain has taken a siesta with an undisclosed return time. I was trying to think of what topic I should write about today and nada. Nothing but an empty shop up there. And then I thought, well, I shall write about my lack of something to write about. And what do you know? An almost decent paragraph's worth.

In regards to today's dessert, it was chosen to please five people all with different tastes. Whilst I do foresee it failing to please one particular guest, I am hoping everyone else will find it pleasant, perhaps even lovely. Caramel and I have had many disagreements; our relationship is quite tempestuous, I have a feeling it too is a Scorpio. I'm always the most hesitant when browning, how dark is dark? Whilst I prefer my caramel mild, most like that deep toffee which comes from pushing it as far as it will go before burning and becoming too bitter. Well, here's hoping Miss Caramel is in a good mood today.

ease: 3.5/5.
prep time:
45mins to get brownie cooked.
cooking time: 3 hours. (includes cooling time)
total: 3 hours & 45mins.

taste: 4/5. They look nothing like the lovely Tartlette's but they still tasted fab.
The ganache is as silky and dark as a ganache can be, it melts instantly and envelops everything in a dark sharpness.
The caramel mousse dissolves instantly on your tongue, with a deep bitterness, mine made all the more bitter because of my use of dark chocolate, I could not taste the salt unfortunately.
My favourite layer, the walnut brownie base, has a large soft crumb, more cake-like in its adhesiveness but with a definite 'fudge-like' quality. It is the sweetest component for me and along with the dotted walnuts it helps to soften the other bitter layers. Upon eating, the ganache and mousse meld into each other before yielding to the friendly brownie beneath.
Alterations I made:
  • I used dark chocolate throughout (had no milk chocolate to use for the mousse darn it).
  • I cooked my brownie for just under 30mins.
would I make it again: No - multi-component desserts stress me out and they have to be a 5 for me to make it again (see Triple Chocolate Praline Tart).

recipe: Chocolate & salted butter caramel mousse walnut brownies

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Strawberry & vanilla cream sandwich

I do not like to play favourites; being one half of two siblings, I found it often left the unpicked feeling unwanted and unliked, as as the shy recluse, I tended to be the latter.

Saying that, I do have a favourite berry, which is difficult, as berries in general are all beautiful beings, some tart, some sweet, some plump and soft, and some firm and juicy. They, along with cherries, are the 'pin-up's of the fruit world with their vivacious colours and edibility. I love them all and would gladly take any offered (even those undesirable when eaten raw I will find a use for cooked). I would love to be original and say that the burgundy mulberry is my favourite but I'm going to side with the masses and pick the strawberry (both figuratively and literally) as my favourite berry.

If I had to list some reasons here would be a few examples:
  • whilst their peak season in Australia is from September to January, they are grown all year round.
  • they taste wonderful in all their unadorned rawness, as well as baked or pureed or sliced into sweets.
  • they are fairly easy to grow in a pot on my back porch
  • I haven't met one person yet who doesn't like them
One thing I do not do is buy frozen strawberries; absolutely horrible things. Whilst other berries freeze with flair, strawberries lose what makes them wonderful. Sinking my baby teeth into a luscious, fragrant strawberry gave me great joy, the same joy is experienced when taking a bite with my giant orthodontic-corrected adult teeth - years have not changed a strawberries taste.

I'm sure strawberries would bring joy to any hour they are eaten, but strawberries at breakfast are truly tantalising.

Like a mille-feuille with a leather jacket and a Harley - the thick, buttery brioche forms the foundation for this tower of carmine and magnolia. The squished berry remnants trickle onto the vanilla flecked, lush cream whilst the icing sugar lovingly powders the three tiers in readiness for it's drooling recipient. A fruit sandwich is sweetness in a conventional package.

Strawberry Sandwich
Makes 6

3 brioche rolls (80g each), cut into 1/2cm thick slices
1/2 cup thick cream
1 1/2 tbs icing sugar, plus extra to serve
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
350gm strawberries, hulled and thickly sliced

Toast brioche slices. Combine cream, 1/2tsp icing sugar and vanilla past in a bowl and whisk until thick.Place strawberries in a bowl, add remaining icing sugar and crush using a fork.
To serve, place 1/3 of brioche on a bench, spread with half the cream and top with half the strawberries. Repeat layering, finishing with a piece of brioche. Serve dusted with icing sugar.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
total: 10mins.

recipe: 4/5. The buttery brioche, sweetened with powdered sugar dissolves to a hint of vanilla cream before your mouth is filled with the juices of tartly sweet bruised strawberries. Quite light depsite it's other decadent ingredients.
Make sure you do not slice larger than 1cm as you may have trouble opening your mouth wide enough. The only downside; missed strawberry stains on your cheek whilst out in public.

would I make it again: No - it was lovely, but not lusting after another one (and brioche loaves are a little hard to find in my area).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rice puddings with caramel gala apples

Man, getting sick really gets you behind.

When you are rolled up into a ball, in a dark room, with no lights or sound, and in horrible pain, time drags it's feet as though they were made of gold bullions. Once you have recovered, it melts them down and goes gallivanting past you like a wild horse released, making it that much more difficult to catch up on everything you haven't done whilst incapacitated (which most of the time, also includes eating).

The obligatory mountains of cloth - patterned, solid, and stained, was the first task to be dealt with. Along followed streaky cupboards, littered bench tops, and of course the double sinks filled with all sorts of charcoaled pans and dishwasher queues.

Once the mess was tidied and the laundry loads finished, a trip to the butcher, grocer and supermarket entailed resulting in an exhausted wife. It was all well and good as I knew that the next day I would plan to do absolutely nothing that I considered arduous.

Come late afternoon with its Spring shower, I felt like making a 'cup' dessert that I could slowly eat with a teaspoon over the space of say, 40mins. I had an accidental extra packet of carnaroli rice and so figured a rice pudding would be in order. Two gala apples were looking neglected amongst the larger fruits so I thought I'd save them as well.

ease: 4/5.

prep time:
cooking time: 1 hour & 20mins - my rice took ages to reduce
total: 1 hour & 40mins (includes 15mins chilling time).

taste: 2.5/5. As soon as I added the sharp apple cider vinegar I knew I wasn't going to like it. I hoped the apple cider vinegar would dissipate as it cooked but it didn't, coupled with the tangy lemon these apples were much too tart and acidic for me. One reviewer suggested Calvados in place of the vinegar, a much better choice I believe.
Unfortunately the rice didn't fare much better. It was quite sweet and had more of a grainy texture rather than a lusciously coated creaminess. Put together, this was a big let down for me.

would I make it again: No.

recipe: Rice puddings with caramel gala apples

Friday, October 9, 2009

Porridge with strawberry & banana brulee

A lack of posts has been due to a lack of eating food.

On Tuesday night I went out to dinner. Wednesday morning and afternoon I found that I had no appetite at all. Wednesday evening came along as did severe stomach cramps followed by vomiting and overall lousiness. A trip to the doctor the following day resulted in a diagnosis of Salmonella poisoning. It is now Friday afternoon and I have just begun to feel a little better, less pain, less nausea, less fevers. My appetite has still to return, but I thought it best to try to get some food into my stomach.

With little energy I needed something that needed little prep and little active cooking. Porridge is always easy, and this recipe only called for a an extra minute to slice and torch (my first time using my torch, and I loved every electric blue flamed minute of it). My porridge was sans brulee, as I thought sugar shouldn't be something I should eat right now - but hubby got the full deal.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 10mins.
total: 12mins.

taste: 4/5 (hubby's not a porridge fan, I'm sure I would have rated it higher). Creamy porridge, with sweet banana and tart, juicy strawberries with a gorgeous crunchy toffee taste - an indulgent but healthy breakfast.

would I make it again: Yes.

Strawberry, banana, oatmeal brulee

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sofia's Kitchen - Greek Doughnuts (Tsirihta- Pontian)

Here we are again, for installment #2 of Sofia's Kitchen.

The first half of the day we made delicious, crispy doughnuts with a fluffy doughy center soaked in a lovely sweet syrup. You can play around with the syrup, perhaps a rosewater syrup with a sprinkling of pistachios, or even perhaps skip the syrup altogether and just roll them in a cinnamon sugar. Sometimes we also add a sprinkling of walnuts and cinnamon. A word of warning; these are addictive, ask my husband who scoffed down five whilst I had me head turned.

Tsirihta (Greek Doughnuts)
makes around 30

2 cups plain flour
1 tbs dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 ¾ cup water
olive oil - for deep frying
sesame seeds – dry roasted

200g honey
½ cup sugar
2 cups water

Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine. Gradually add the water to mixture and whisk to make a smooth batter. Batter should be slippery but cohesive. Cover bowl with glad wrap and place in the sink filled half way up the bowl with hot water. The heat will help the batter rise. Once batter has risen to double its original size, re whisk to combine all ingredients.

Heat oil in a deep frying pan. Make sure oil is hot. Dip tablespoon in a cup of oil (to avoid batter from sticking to spoon) and scoop a portion of the batter and drop into hot oil. Continue this process allowing enough room in the pan for them to float around without sticking together. Turn donuts over once golden brown. Remove with a perforated spoon when golden brown on both sides and place into a bowl with paper towel to absorb the oil.

Make syrup by adding all ingredients into a pot and boil till sugar has dissolved and mixture has thickened slightly. Make sure syrup isn’t too watery as will not stick to the donuts properly. Drop the cooled donuts into the hot syrup mixture 3-4 at a time and toss around to coat all sides. Remove and place onto the serving dish. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and ENJOY!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chocolate fudge cake

Today was filled with un-expectations.

The first un-expectation occurred at 3:30pm when I spotted my father heading towards the very butcher shop I had just stepped out of. He then invited my husband and I over for dinner which was quite a nice surprise. I told him I would whip up a chocolate cake to bring along.

The second un-expectation occurred approximately one hour after as I was patiently waiting for a gentleman to back out of his car spot. Once the car park was vacated I began to reverse into it when an extremely rude citizen decided to drive into it and steal it from me. I sat there, staring at him through my rear view mirror with extreme indignation whilst he just shrugged his shoulders and went about shopping. I would have to say that having a car park stolen after waiting for it, with your indicator on, rates highly on my 'anger' list. I truly, and I mean truly, had to refrain myself from keying his car and then once again, from throwing sheeps milk yoghurt in his smug face when I came across him at the dairy section.

It took a little while for the steam to dissipate from my head (some venting to my husband helped greatly). On my way home to offload said groceries I saw two men with a whippet off his leash (another high rater on my list). I muttered to myself about 'irresponsible owners' and 'leashes' whilst I arrive home and packed everything away.

Fifteen minutes later I was once again in my car, on my way to pick up my husband from work when I noticed again, the same caramel whippet from before. This time, after scanning around, I noticed a woman with another two dogs also not on leashes, so I assumed the whippet must be hers. Some more muttering occurred before I drove off.

Then the third un-expectation happened on the way home, on our street, at approximately 5:25pm, when lo and behold, a caramel-coloured whippet ran in front of my car. Yes, the dog I had already seen twice ran right in front of my car as I slammed on the brakes and blared the horn. He or she then sheepishly went around to stand in front of my husbands passenger door, sad and puppy-eyed. We were only 8 houses from home so we decided to take the car back, get the local councils number and then head back to the dog to wait for them to pick it up. In the 1 minute we were gone, the dog had disappeared. We drove through the streets a couple of times before we thought that perhaps the owners had finally found their dog and taken it home, it had been loose for over an hour. Well that is what I really hope, as the thought of a lost doggie wandering the streets really saddens me.

The two following un-expected events meant that the chocolate cake intended for my father's dinner did not make it in time. His phoned us to announce the readiness of the chicken roast he had made, a good 20mins before the cake would even be ready. So alas, it was left at home, to be eaten the next day for breakfast. Of course, I did drop off a hefty chunk to my father's house, as a chocolate cake was promised, and there is nothing worse than expecting a chocolate cake and not getting one.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
7 mins (whip eggs and get chocolate ready whilst sugar comes to a boil.)
cooking time: 1 hour.
total: 1 hour & 7mins.

taste: 4/5. This is my kind of gluten-free dessert.

The cake is lusciously fudgy as you sink your teeth through its crackled, chewy top, dusted softly with earthy cocoa. It's sweetness is understated, I believe the light muscovado sugar is to thank, as it lends just enough sweetness to soften the bitter, dark chocolate, none of that tooth achingly sugary business here.
This fallen, deep chocolate cake with gorgeous sticky textures is satisfying but also, does not have you reaching for a glass of water, as some chocolate cakes do.
It is made all the tastier by its comparative easiness and ability to be eaten by those without restrictions and those with wheat restricted diets.

The only changes I made were to use 54% dark chocolate throughout (Ryan doesn't like the deep bitterness of really dark chocolate like I now do) and to cook the batter all at once, rather than in two stages, as I was desperately trying to make the dinner deadline.

would I make it again: Yes. Yummy, and not overly dense and rich flourless chocolate cake.

recipe: Chocolate fudge cake

Lemon, Poppyseed & Yogurt Tart

This weekend was stuffed liked a stomach at a 12 course degustation.

Apart from our work hours on Saturday we also managed to squeeze in shopping, errands and another visit to my grandmother Sofia's house for more recipes from her kitchen (results coming soon). Luckily we were blessed with copious amounts of sunshine and an extra hour of sunlight thanks to daylight savings to get everything done.

This tart was meant to be eaten on Sunday, but as its particular recipients were not attending Sofia's kitchen part II, I stored what I had begun to assemble in the fridge and rescheduled its baking for the following day.

This morning 8:50am truly felt like 7:50am and I was a little sleepy eyed and wobbly on my feet (you might think a 8:50am wake up is late, but I realise that once the tiny stomping of feet come along I will never be able to sleep in anywhere close to 8-something, so I am enjoying it while it lasts).

After driving my husband to work I spent a good hour or so nibbling through a bowl of yoghurt and home-made muesli pondering what I should do today as I caught up on a weekend's worth of blogs. During my regular opening of the refrigerator door, I spied with my little eye a half-made, postponed tart desperately waiting to be made. It might not have been intended for my tummy, but in 45mins it would very well be heading there.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time:
1 hour & 30mins (includes chilling and thawing time).
cooking time: 45mins.
total: 2 hours & 15mins.

taste: 3/5. This tart was originally baked for my gluten-free in-laws,however they cancelled their visit and it was left for me and my sugar-loving husband to eat.
I am not a fan of the texture of rice flour, I find it too 'gritty' so the base wasn't to my taste at all. Whilst the light, airy filling was pleasant, I would have loved more lemon, and probably more sugar for my sweet tooth. For a very healthy dessert it is lovely, but I love my naughty treats so I didn't enjoy this as much as people who actually have a gluten-free diet probably would.

would I make it again: No - I have plenty more gluten-free recipes to try that I might love as well.

recipe: Poppyseed, Lemon Yogurt Tart, the French way

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tropical smoothie

My husband, dog and I are smoothie lovers.

We have at least one smoothie per week, more in Summer as the heat rises and our desire for something cold and refreshing (but also filling) increases. Most often I throw in whatever I have on hand, which often includes frozen bananas as a base. They add thickness, smoothness and coldness which are three things I need in a smoothie. I've tried a few recipes, some have been great, some not so great. The ones I make randomly tend to be best. Whilst a banana and cinnamon smoothie is our classic go-to, I felt like something more 'tropical' today.

Tropical Smoothie
serves 2 generously

1 small, chopped frozen banana
1/4 fresh pineapple, chopped
1 kiwi fruit, peeled and chopped
1tbs honey
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup Greek yoghurt (or any plain)
1 scoop (2tbs) Vanilla protein powder

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
5mins (chopping involved).
cooking time: 1min (to blend).
total: 6mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Pineapple, with its juicy, clean sourness comes out first followed by citrusy orange juice, tart, seedy kiwifruit and finally creamy, tangy yoghurt. The smooth, creamy coconut milk comes in next before a hint of sweet vanilla and honey round it all off. Refreshing, interesting and bursting with Summer time tastes.

would I make it again: Yes.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chicken & leek vol au vents

No, these are not DB vol au vents, it is only a mere coincidence - also, my lovely hay coloured puff pastry stacks are store bought.

Another month has come and gone.

As a child the days dragged like a heavy anchor, seeming to take an eternity to pass. Along came graduation and it was as if I was on fast forward; forget to hit pause and weeks flew by without any recollection as to what events they had contained. Ask me what I did last week, and without my trusted diary in hand I would stare at you blankly wondering what day it is.

I guess youth is wasted on the young, although I don't think a life like Benjamin Button's would be any better. Before I get ahead of myself, I am still young, not climbing-trees-and-enjoying-sleepovers-with-my-girlfriend's-young, but young enough to still ignorantly enjoy lying in the sun (with sunscreen) without thinking of the damage it will inevitably cause down the track (although I think this too will be over soon).

But I digress, time is abundant as long as I live in the moment rather than sleepwalking through it. For instance I went many places and did many things today whilst also having time to read a book and get a head start on dinner. I also saved time by buying pre-made vol au vents, leaving me more time to spend with my husband and dog. I was definitely a time-utiliser today.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 15mins to pastry stage.
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 30mins.

taste: 4/5. Ryan said they taste better than they smell. He loved the buttery pastry and creamy chicken.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Chicken & leek vol au vents