Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TWD - Rum Drenched Vanilla Cake

I have finally moved into my own flat. Sure, it still resembles a warehouse with boxes everywhere, but I am actually in, and the things that I really need have been unpacked. I found out the hard way that I am not built for hard manual labour, as today, my entire body feels as though it has been through a threshing machine because of the unpacking and lifting process. And the best part is - I am only half way there!! Oh well, it should be great for my arm strength.

One of the joys of moving into my new flat is getting to know the new oven. It is a gas oven, and is unlike anything I have used before (I am an electric oven kind of girl). It has a little red starter switch that you have to push in while you turn the dial and get the oven to light. The best part is that it doesn't have your usual temperature gauge - it has gas marks!! Thank God for Nigella - except for her frequent references to gas marks on her TV shows, and her handy temperature conversion table in How To Be A Domestic Goddess, I would have been up the creek without a paddle. Perhaps I have been sheltered, but I have never seen such a contraption before, and even armed with my library of Nigella knowledge, it took me a while to work out what was going on with the oven.

Having conquered the oven, I moved on to this week's Tuesday with Dorie challenge, hosted by Wendy of Pink Stripes. She chose Dorie's rum-drenched vanilla cakes. In my case, it is cake singular, as I halved the recipe - after all, 6 eggs and 215g of butter later, what would I do with 2 cakes?

Here is the finished product, cooling on a rack - rather handsome, don't you think?

The cake contains a dash of rum and is brushed with a rum syrup while still warm. Even then, I would hardly say my cake was rum "drenched", but it had a lovely moist texture inside and out as a result of the syrup and the cream content.

This cake was soft and delicious, and really didn't need anything more. However, I couldn't resist serving a slice warm with custard:

Thanks for hosting us this week, Wendy. If you would like the recipe, buy the book or visit Wendy's site on Tuesday, US time. To see what everyone else though of this cake, visit the
TWD blogroll.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Marscapone Mousse

I love pavlova and meringues. There is something about that crisp, crunchy shell with the soft, mallowy centre that really appeals to me, regardless of whether it is dressed up with anything else. The Kiwis and the Australians hotly debate who invented the pavlova, named after the prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova, because someone thought it resembled her tutu. I don't really mind who actually invented it - it is is a fine dessert, regardless, and one which has always been a favourite with my brother and I (though not with my Mum, who finds it too sweet.

This leads me to this month's Daring Bakers challenge, which involved a very upmarket version of the pavlova, which will rarely be seen at an Aussie barbecue, no matter how delicious it is.

The June 2010
Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

I had never made chocolate pavlovas (or meringues really) before, so this was new for me. I am still living away from my cooking gear, so I didn't have a piping bag or the patience to persevere with paper piping bags, and I made my pavlovas free-form:

These turned out well, but I like their vanilla cousins better.

We also had to make a marscapone cream to drizzle over the dessert:

This cream was delicious, and my favourite part of the dessert; I actually liked it best as a plain creme anglaise before the marscapone was added, but in the end, it was still delicious. It was a shame that so little of it was used on the dessert - in the end, I ate half of it and tossed the rest. (Someone made icecream out of their leftover marscapone cream, but icecream is the last thing that I want right now - you just have to feel the brisk temperatures outside to know why.)

The final element was a chocolate mousse, flavoured with orange:

This was my least favourite part of this dessert - it was immensely rich, and I have to confess to throwing out what I didn't use on assembling the dessert. I assembled my dessert with free-form quinelles of mousse, as I refrigerated my mousse after making it in advance, and it set to a point where piping it wasn't going to work.

In short, the dessert is assembled by piping (or in my case, spooning) chocolate mousse on top of the pavlovas, and drizzling them with marscapone cream. The richness of the mousse was balanced out somewhat in the assembled dessert, but I found the whole effect rather overwhelming.

I served these pavlovas as dessert when I had a guest to dinner, and they did make a great dinner party dessert - my guest enjoyed them.

Thanks for being our host this month, Dawn. To get the recipe for this dessert, visit Dawn's site. To check out how the other Daring Bakers fared with making this dessert, visit the Daring Bakers blogroll.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Banana Cake

After 3 weeks, the boys are back from holidays tomorrow, and my stint Russell-sitting will be over. I have to say that I will miss him. Sure, he gets me out of bed every morning by 6.15am to feed him, plaintively mewing until I give in, even on weekends. However, I love him chatting to me when I come home - it doesn't matter that I don't know what he's saying. I also love him jumping on my lap for a cuddle, asking to be brushed, and purring like a little motor as I tickle his tummy on both sides while he flips from side to side on the floor, presumably so that I don't miss a spot.

To welcome the boys home, I have made them a banana cake. I used a recipe that I found
here. Hilariously, I left out the brown sugar, and I didn't even realise it until I came to write this post. The cake was plenty sweet enough without that extra half cup, so it just goes to show that you can take tremendous liberties with some recipes and still end up with a good result. It's gluten free and dairy free so that both boys can enjoy it - I subbed in gluten free plain flour, soy milk and Nuttelex for plain flour, milk and butter. I also used lime juice in the icing instead of lemon juice, as I had half a lime in the fridge to use up.

I was rather bemused to find on my final baking outing at the boys' place that they have baking powder. I had been studiously avoiding recipes with baking powder or using self-raising flour instead, and had even found out how to use baking soda and cream of tartar as a substitute, when all along, I could have been using baking powder.

I made two little muffins out of the batter as well as the cake so that a friend and I could try it without me cutting the cake itself.

My verdict on this cake, even sans the brown sugar, is that it was delicious. It is light and fluffy and not overly sweet, but the icing gives it that extra little sugar and citrus kick to lift the cake from pedestrian to really good.

I had some incidents while the boys were away - the fuse in one circuit flicked and I couldn't find the fuse box and had to ask the nice lady across the way where it was; I had a grand argument with the boys' ailing vacuum cleaner; I set off the burglar alarm a couple of times, including once when I couldn't get the device to switch it off to work for about 20 minutes at 10pm (the neighbours would have loved me!); I continually bruised my leg for the first week on the pointy edge of the bed; and as a grand finale, last Sunday afternoon, the safety switch in the power box burnt out and failed, so I had to pronto find an electrician to come in and fix it (not easy on a Sunday!) before the tropical fish I am also looking after and the boys' freezer full of meat became history.

However, I also had a marvellous time with Russell, having a friend over to dinner, drooling into the beautiful shop windows on Armadale High St every day on the way to work (Amaline Vitale is a favourite, with her gorgeous dresses), and on my last Tuesday night, finally having the $18 chicken schnitzel and wine special at Morri's Place (which was wonderful by the way - it was served with chips, salad and sauce, and there was so much food I barely made it). Here's hoping that I have some good times in my new flat, which at the moment resembles a warehouse full of boxes more than anything else.

Have a great weekend folks!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TWD - Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake

I am a self-confessed chocoholic, but when it comes to chocolate desserts, it can be a bit hit and miss for me. I don't like the chocolate flavour to be insipid, but if it is too full on and rich, I don't like it either. Case in point is chocolate icecream - the artificial chocolate flavour that you find in Neopolitan icecream and many supermarket icecreams does not appeal to me, but give me a "proper" chocolate icecream from a gelateria, I will lap it up.

This week's
Tuesday with Dorie challenge can thankfully never be called an insipid chocolate experience. Our host, Amy of Amy Ruth Bakes, chose Dorie's Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake, and what a fabulous chocolate experience it has been. This cake is comprised of a devilishy dark sour cream chocolate cake, filled with two layers of jam and topped with a chocolate and sour cream frosting. Insipid? No. Decadent - yes.

My loaf pan was not big enough to contain all of the cake batter, so I ended up with three muffins (which spilled over the top of the muffin holes) as well. I ate one of those warm with a scoop of vanilla icecream - and OMG, that was my idea of heaven!!

Without further ado, here is my baked cake sans adornment (or, if it is "dressy" once completed, here it is completely nude):

Here's a shot inside the layers while being filled with jam:

Look how deeply, darkly decadent this cake is! Remember, it contains sour cream, so it has just the right amount of tang and moistness. I used papaya jam that I bought at a craft market on Saturday at Malvern Town Hall:

The cake frosting gave me a little grief, probably because I had neither enough chocolate or enough sour cream to make the quantity of frosting suggested by Dorie. I found the frosting to be something like mortar, and I felt like a brickie's labourer while I applied it to the cake. In the end, I used my hands to try and pat it on and smooth it out a little.

Thanks Amy for choosing this delicious cake for us this week. Check out Amy's site for the recipe, or the
TWD blogroll for other versions of this cake.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Maple Glazed Pear Meatloaf

Brrrrr ..... I have recently moved back to Melbourne, and the last week has really tested my mettle with the weather. Last weekend, we had a long weekend to celebrate the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, and it was the coldest, bitterest weekend yet this year. Sunday was the worst day - grey, cold and cheerless.

However, I created my own cheer inside on Sunday. I had invited a friend to dinner, and thankfully needed to cook - which of course warmed up the house!

I wanted to make something easy yet delicious - and I stumbled upon a gorgeous looking maple glazed pear meatloaf in the June-July edition of Donna Hay Magazine (p67). This meatloaf appealed to me, not just because of its simplicity, but also for its unusual maple glazed pear topping that looked visually interesting. I also got the chance to make Donna's caramelized onions - yum!

To make this meatloaf, you will need:

500g pork mince
500g veal mince
1 1/2 cups cooked cous cous (ie 3/4 cup uncooked cous cous - it doubles in size on cooking)
2 tablespoons thyme leaves (I used 1 tablespoon dried thyme)
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
1/2 cup caramelised onion (home made or store bought)
2 pears, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons maple syrup

To make 1/2 cup caramelised onion (from p32 of the same edition of Donna Hay magazine):

1/2 tablespoon oil
1 sliced brown onion
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup red wine vinegar (I used balsamic)

Heat the oil in a frypan, and cook the sliced onion for 10 minutes or until soft. Add the brown sugar and vinegar and cook, stirring, until the mixture is thick and caramelised.

For the meatloaf:

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Mix the mince, cous cous, thyme, garlic, uncooked sliced onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper together in a bowl - I used my hands for this. Press the mixture into a greased 1.5L baking dish. (The amount of mixture is huge, so make sure your dish is big enough.)

Spread the caramelised onions over the top of the meatloaf, then top with the sliced pear. Brush maple syrup over the top of the pears.

Bake the meatloaf in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until cooked through (mine took an hour).

I served mine with gravy, mashed potato and beans a la Sunday (or in my case, a la my Mum, who has always done beans like this):

I can't go without mentioning the lovely macarons that my guest brought me:

Aren't they gorgeous? And there are so many different flavours. I haven't tried them all yet, but my current favourite is the licorice one - it looks scary (because it is the grey one you can see above - inside the shell is purple), but tastes just like a licorice allsort with a chocolate centre. Although the tangy lemon is up there too ... Yum!! These macarons came from Cacao in Melbourne.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

TWD - Raisin Swirl Bead

This week's Tuesday with Dorie is hosted by an Aussie blogger, Susan of Food Baby. She chose Raisin Swirl Bread from Dorie's book for our challenge this week.

My biggest challenge with yeasted products in winter is getting them to rise. However, I had no trouble with this bread, as I stuck it in front of the gas fire for the rising periods.

I was surprised my loaf rose at all, as I thoughtlessly subbed in about half of the flour for buckwheat flour, which is gluten-free (as I'd run put of plain flour and it was too cold and dark to go to the shops). Hmm ... Despite this, the bread rose happily anyway.

Instead of raisins, I used sultanas, and I used all of the inclusions in the recipe except nutmeg (which I don't have at present). I also sprinkled sugar on top of the bread before baking.

This bread tasted rather delicious, espcially when fresh. Here is the first slice being generously spread with Nuttelex:

To check out the recipe, buy the book or visit Susan's site. For other opinions on this bread, visit the TWD blogroll.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

TWD - Tender Shortcake

When I was growing up, Happy Days was a staple of afternoon entertainment in our house. In Happy Days, Fonzie's pet name for Joanie Cunningham was "Shortcake". I had no idea what a shortcake was back then, but I thought it sounded delicious - after all, it contained the word "cake".

However, until this wee
k's Tuesday with Dorie, when our host Cathy of The Tortefeasor chose Dorie's Tender Shortcakes, I had never actually made a shortcake. A shortcake is, in my view, very similar to a scone, but perhaps sweeter and flakier, and is traditionally split and filled with fruit and cream. The most popular version of the shortcake is the Strawberry Shortcake - so popular, in fact, that Strawberry Shortcake was the name of a strawberry scented, red headed doll when I was a child. (I understand that Strawberry Shortcake has undergone a makeover and has re-emerged for today's children as a more glamorous version of her former self.)

Here are the shortcakes themselves - they are very delicate and crumbly, as Dorie said they should be:

I filled just one of my shortcakes with blackberries and cream, and enjoyed it for breakfast. The rest are still sitting on the tray, and I will most likely eat them "naked", as a TWD member suggested.

If you want to try these, Cathy will have the recipe on
her site. Otherwise, go and check out how the other TWD members went with these shortcakes at the TWD website.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Best Key Lime Pie

Last week, I saw a recipe for Best Key Lime Pie on Anna's Cookie Madness. It appealed to me because it used three egg yolks - exactly the number I had left over from another baking project.

The great thing about this version of key lime pie for those who don't like using raw eggs is that the pie filling is baked - so the eggs are cooked.

Like Anna, I used the grated zest of two limes in the pie, and it took three fresh limes to give me the 2/3 cup of juice required by the recipe. I was very enamoured of the electric juicer that I found in Steve's pantry cupboard - I need to get me one of those!

The only change that I would have made is to add more butter to the graham cracker (morning coffee in my case) crust; I found that 5 tablespoons was not quite enough, and my crust was a little crumbly.

I left off the whipped cream topping, because Lord knows my hips don't need the extra cream, and I also did not freeze the pie before serving.

This pie was delicious - zesty and creamy at the same time. I really enjoy condensed milk desserts and citrus-flavoured anything, so this one was right up my alley.

I had better go now - my charge, a big black cat called Russell, is reminding me in no uncertain terms that he should have his dinner.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gluten free, dairy free chocolate and pecan brownies

I am still baking dairy free, gluten free. This week's treat is brownies, found here at Taste.com.

These brownies are very rich and fudgy. Even without the white chocolate chunks (which I skipped), they were fabulous, and you'd never know they were gluten free. The boys (and me!) loved them.

I think these brownies speak for themselves, so this post is short and sweet.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

TWD - White Chocolate Brownies

This week's pick for Tuesday with Dorie comes from Marthe of Culinary Delights, who chose Dorie's White Chocolate Brownies (which were apparently long awaited by some TWD members).

From the TWD forum, I knew that these would be difficult to set in the centre - and so it proved to be. The meringue on top makes it impossible to see whether the centre of the brownies is cooked, and sadly, mine were definitely not cooked through.

I had to use an 8" springform pan for my brownies:

As it is winter, fresh raspberries are not an option, so I used dried rascherries (which tasted like glace cherries to me, only a whole lot more expensive).

I baked them at 180 degrees in a fan forced oven (ie equivalent to 200 degrees Celsius in an ordinary oven) for 45 minutes. Alas, despite this, my brownies were still not cooked in the centre, and oozed out everywhere when I tried to slice them the next morning.

Some brownies were salvagable, however, so I got to taste them and distribute some to my friends. I found them a little too sweet for my liking, but the recipients loved them, so it is a matter of personal taste.

I probably won't make these again, as they are very expensive to make, and are too sweet for me.

To check out the recipe, buy Dorie's book or visit Marthe's site, and to check out what the other TWD members thought, visit the TWD blogroll.