Monday, June 30, 2014

Christening Cake for a Baby Boy

Last weekend I had the pleasure of making a christening cake for a baby boy. The recipient was very happy with the cake, and part of me felt like I had cheated a bit-using molds to form the fondant baby and texture mats to achieve a lace look to the fondant. I felt there was little skill involved and yet, somehow, still an impressive effect at the end. I you would like to know how to make a fondant baby, here's a tutorial.



Sunday, June 29, 2014

Tandoori Prawn and Pawpaw Pizza

If you had a pawpaw, what would you do with it? I had no idea how to use a pawpaw, because I have never tasted it. It's not available all year round and is a tropical fruit, so some may find it hard to get their hands on-which sort of makes it the holy grail of fruits because it tends to be rare in parts of the world. I live in a sub tropical climate, so I see those pawpaw trees all over the place. And I still didn't know what it tasted like!
What does a pawpaw taste like? It doesn't have a strong flavour, and while some say it reminds them of mango and pineapple, it does not hold the same sweet and aromatic qualities. It isn't really comparable to any taste I have experienced before, and while some say its texture is like that of a ripe banana, I also find this quite unique. It almost has a buttery quality to it. In a nutshell, it's indescribable, and must be tasted! I personally think it's a little like cantaloupe.
I initially was thinking baking it into something sweet, but on cutting open that golden baby, my husband and I decided it should be paired with curry. So the Tandoori Prawn and Pawpaw Pizza came into existence. Its a great pizza recipe for the base, requiring no proofing and no kneading. That makes this recipe a quick and easy dinner or lunch choice, and perfect for those days you just need to quickly whip up a meal. I used my chef's toolbox saute pan to make this pizza in the oven without the lid on. You can use any round pan or pizza tray for this, but I used the saute pan because I liked the size of it, and I could mix up the pizza base in there also, and just press it straight into a disc before topping.
So-what did the tandoori prawn  and pawpaw pizza taste like?
Imagine an open front cafe so close to the beach that you can dip your toes in the sand. There's a warm fresh breeze tangling your hair and swaying the palm trees, and you can hear the waves pummeling the sand close by, on the shores of some exotic holiday destination. Biting into a slice of this pizza is like being carried away there. If you close your eyes you immediately forget you can't literally feel that sand and breeze because the flavours that hit you are so deliciously distracting-that exotic indian tandoori flavour combined with the tang of greek yogurt, the subtle yet very present tropical vibe of the paw paw and the seafood thrill of the crunchy prawns at the end. Who needs a holiday when you have a slice of this pizza in your hands?

NOTES: This pizza is great for the family table and would be very appealing to teenagers and adults alike, and if you wish to serve this to children (while it is not very spicy due to the addition of the greek yogurt) you may wish to adjust the quantity of tandoori paste to 1 tsp for their little pallets!(my 2 and 4 year olds ate this pizza with 1 heaped tbsp tandoori paste in the sauce, and loved it! I added a little sour cream to the top of their pizza just in case it was too spicy for them.)




TANDOORI PRAWN & PAWPAW PIZZA

Base:
1 cup SR flour
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp dry yeast
pinch salt
1 tsp honey
1 cup luke-warm water

Sauce:
1 heaped tbsp tandoori paste (this is concentrated tandoori paste. For children, you may wish to reduce the tandoori to 1 tsp.)
1/2 cup greek yogurt

Topping:
1/4 yellow pawpaw, seeded, skinned and sliced thinly
1 1/2 cup raw prawns, tails removed (about 20 prawns)
3/4 cup grated cheese (I used Tasty cheese)

Preheat the oven to 190C. In a bowl, combine all the base ingredients and combine until a soft dough forms. Dump this mixture onto a greased or non stick round pizza tray and using your fingers, push around the tray until it forms a disc. (You may like to dust your hands with a little flour if it's sticking to your hands)
In a small bowl, combine the tandoori paste with the yogurt, and spread it over the pizza base.
Arranged the sliced pawpaw on the tandoori paste, along with the raw prawns. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top and cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the base is golden brown on the underside, and the prawns have turned pink and curled into themselves.
Set aside for 5 minutes before slicing to serve.




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cinnamon French Toast with Berries, Cream and Maple Syrup

Cinnamon french toast with berries, cream and maple syrup is the perfect Sunday breakfast, and also great served as brunch when entertaining. It's also a fantastic way to clear out aging or crusty bread, and staleness increases the absorbability of the egg used in this recipe. It looks and tastes decadent, and probably isn't too unhealthy for you-which is more than one can say for most recipes on this blog!


CINNAMON FRENCH TOAST WITH BERRIES, CREAM AND MAPLE SYRUP (adapted from Just A Taste)

8 slices bread (thick cut is the best-day old bread or bread that is turning stale is also good as it absorbs more liquid)
4 large eggs
1 cup thickened or heavy cream
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vanilla essence
butter to cook
maple syrup, berries and cream to serve

Cut each slice of bread into four even fingers.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until broken down. Then add the cream, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla and whisk again to incorporate. Dip each of the bread fingers into this egg mixture, until it is well coated on all sides and saturated. Place these drenched bread sticks on a large plate and continue until all are processed.
Heat the butter in a fry pan and cook each of the bread sticks until golden brown. Serve with maple syrup, berries and cream if desired.

serves 4-6





Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Zesty Lime, Prawn and Avocado Appetizers

My husband and I just got a wee bit closer to the big 3.0. I am loathed to say those two numbers together, probably because as a kid, 30 was so, so over the hill already! Now, getting closer to topping that "hill", it looks pretty darn young. My kids must think we're geriatric. Hold on-is that a grey hair? Darn!
Sometimes, the tolls of running around as a mum of three toddlers hits me. That aching back. My knees, why don't they do that any more? Since when did I become unable to vigorously tree climb? Life can get so fast paced, sometimes we, young and old, forget to slow down and sit down until we crash-or our knees give out. (Says I, sitting at the computer with a cup of coffee and a block of chocolate-my feet are up!)
When things get crazy though, and you still want to impress the socks off your visitors with snazzy hors d'oeuvres, these zesty prawn appetizers come to the rescue, and will delight you with their easy assembly and gourmet-ity. (yeah I made that up). I served them at a party I held for hubby and they were gone within a few minutes. They were delightful not only in appearance but in their exquisite taste and that array of different textures all experienced simultaneously. Citrus and seafood are such a winning combination. And I cannot say no to avocado. Ever.




ZESTY LIME, PRAWN & AVOCADO APPETIZERS (adapted from I Wash You Dry)

24 raw prawns, peeled, tails removed
salt to taste
1 lime, zested and juiced

3-4 soft bread wraps (alternatively use 24 tortilla chip scoops if you can source them)
1 large avocado (I used Hass variety-always a winner!)
1/3 cup sour cream
bunch of fresh coriander or basil

Preheat the oven to 190C (375F)
Line a shallow tray with baking paper, and spray with a thin coating of oil. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine 1 tsp of lime zest and 1/2 tsp salt and mix together until combined. Rub each of the uncooked prawns in this mixture and arrange on the prepared tray. Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until the prawns turn pink from grey and start curling up into themselves.
Let to cool and then place them in a container in the refrigerator.
To make the shells, cut the bread wraps into 24 rounds with a cookie cutter (mine is approximately 4cm wide) Place each of these rounds into a greased 24 hole mini muffin tray and weigh down the centres with pastry weights or rice. Bake at 180 C until browned and crispy (about 15-20 minutes)
Remove from oven, take out the weights, and allow to cool.
Before assembly, peel and deseed the avocado. Place it in a small bowl with 1 tbsp of the lime juice and combine, mashing the avocado to combine the two ingredients. To assemble the appetizers, dollop a little sour cream into each cup, spoon some of the avocado on the side and top with a prawn and a leaf of corriander or basil. Serve.

Makes 24








How to make the bread wrap cups (in picture form)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chocolate Mint Ganache Tart

There's an insane quantity of chocolate right here. When hubby went to pick up the three blocks of Lindt Excellence Mint, and two Cadbury Dream whites, the check-out-chick must have thought he was out on a weekend binge-or his wife was having an emotional breakdown of catastrophic proportions. Despite being made with five blocks of chocolate, I made two tarts with this quantity, and both measured about 15cm in radius. So that's one giant 30cm tart coming right up! (or a thicker 28cm or 25cm tart, whatever you have on hand in this size range would be fine. I highly recommend using a springform tin if you have one) It will feed an army, and it will be gone before you can look twice at it.

Ever had the pleasure of sinking into one of those delightful Choc mint slice biscuits? They're moreish. And this is just like a giant choc mint slice biscuit, but made by Lindt. And laced with creme de menthe to take it up a notch. 

There is no substitute for good quality chocolate, and I recommend only using the very best for this tart. It will be well worth the money. Also, don't go out and spend up on a bottle of creme de menthe, unless you have it handy already in your liquor cabinet. A little peppermint or mint essence/flavouring will be a budget friendly alternative, and a lot of the mint flavour comes from the top layer of ganache any way. So go lightly on the essence if you use it-the subtle flavours in this made it a heavenly experience for the taste buds.
When you let that splade glide down through the layers, you'll pass through a thick, dark minty lindt layer of fudgy, smooth chocolate ganache, through to a pale green filling made with white chocolate and creme de menthe- finishing off with a thin crust of chocolate shortcrust pastry.



 CHOCOLATE MINT GANACHE TART (Adapted from Australian Good Taste - January 2012 , Page 84)

Pastry: 

1 2/3 cups plain flour 
125g butter, chilled and diced
1/3 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp dark cocoa powder 
1 egg yolk
1 1/2- 2 tbsp cold water (I used a little more, to get a smooth texture)

White Chocolate Ganache:

150ml (2/3 cup) heavy or thickened cream
300g white chocolate, roughly chopped (I used about 1 1/2 blocks of Cadbury Dream Chocolate)
2 tbsp creme de menthe liqueur (or about 1/2 tsp mint or peppermint essence/extract)

Dark Chocolate Ganache:

250ml (1 cup) heavy or thickened cream
3x 100g Lindt Excellence Mint Intense Dark Chocolate blocks


Grease your  spring form round tin (I used 2 15cm tins to make this recipe. To make one tart, use a tin any where around 25cm) To make the pastry, process the flour, butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (feel free to use your hands!) Add the egg yolk and enough chilled water so that the mixture starts to form  a soft dough. Kneed until smooth, then form into a disc shape and wrap in plastic wrap. Rest the dough in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up. 
Remove from refrigerator and place between two sheets of baking paper. Roll to fit into your desired tin, ensuring the pastry comes up the sides of your tin. Trim any excess. Place in the refrigerator for a further 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Place the tin on a baking sheet and blind bake for 10 minutes. (this is done by placing pastry weights in the tin, or placing a piece of baking paper inside the tin with rice on top of the paper to weigh it down)
Remove the weights. Bake for a further 10 minutes. If any cracks appear, smooth them over with a little egg white. Set aside in the tin to cool.
To make the white chocolate ganache, place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. As soon as it begins to boil, remove from heat and add the white chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts and mixes in well with the cream. Add the creme de menthe and incorporate.
Pour this over the cooked pastry and chill for 1 hour to set.
To make the dark chocolate ganache, place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. As soon as it starts to boil, remove from heat and stir in the Lindt chocolate until melted and well combined. Pour over the set white chocolate ganache and smooth. Chill for three hours before serving.

Notes: Run a knife under boiling water before cutting for a smooth cut. This tart freezes well, so it's great to make ahead! Once the tart is set, wrap in plastic wrap, ensuring the wrap is close against the ganache. Then wrap again, or place in an airtight container and freeze. Thaw by placing on bench top or in refrigerator for several hours.


How to blind bake without pastry weights:










Monday, June 2, 2014

Choc Mint Vacherin

The french have it sorted. Fine dining with simplicity-good, uncomplicated flavours, impressive without pretense. So it was at Boucher in Graceville where I celebrated my birthday on Sunday with some beloveds, after tucking away succulent rib eye beef with chive and sour cream roasted potatoes, roasted beetroot, picked onions, a salad of lightly dressed rocket and a side of bread, butter and the airiest, lightest, Yorkshire puddings you've ever passed between your lips. The dessert was incredible, and I only managed to fit it in due to having one of those dessert stomachs many women in particular find they have after a large dinner (presumably a separate organ from the stomach we all carry around our middle region.) It consisted of a lofty, rectangular slice of sponge cake, thinly layered with dark chocolate ganache and was accompanied by orange and a most exquisite ice cream flavoured with fennel seeds. It was heaven on a plate, and so gorgeously presented.
Going to Boucher reminded me of all the hot spots in Queensland we're yet to hit, and when my husband found this list of 50 meals you should have eaten if you live in Brisbane, I knew we had to make this a more frequent expedition.  It can rack up a bit of a bill though if you're out fine dining every weekend though so we keep an eye out for great food coupon deals where you can get the gourmet experiences for less. That always makes the experience more enjoyable. Fine dining for less. Bring it on.
But if you're stuck at home as I am this weekend, and you can't make it out to any nice restaurants, you might like to try making this Mint Vacherin at home for dessert. It's a show stopper and makes you look like a pro in front of your friends, but it's simple and elegant and easy (it's french, once again!)
So what's it like to sink your teeth into it? There are three layers of chocolate speckled meringue, wedged with a filling of whipped, mint infused cream and the richness of dark chocolate, topped with mint leaves and lashings of more of that dark chocolatey goodness and cream.
Irr├ęsistible!



CHOC MINT VACHERIN (adapted from Today's Nest)

Meringue:

3 egg whites
3/4 cup caster sugar (or superfine sugar)
1 tsp corn flour (or corn starch)
45g dark chocolate, finely grated

Filling:

140g dark chocolate
1 1/2 cups thickened cream (or heavy cream)
1 tbsp. mint leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp caster sugar (or superfine sugar)

Garnish:

Extra chocolate to grate or drizzle
fresh mint leaves to decorate

Preheat the oven to 135C.
Take a pencil and one sheet of baking paper and place draw out three identical rectangles approximately 4 inches wide by 10 inches long. Place this paper into the baking sheet. Set aside.
To make the meringue, beat the egg whites in a clean dry bowl. When you have achieved soft peaks, gradually add 1/2 a cup of the sugar. Whip into stiff, glossy peaks. Fold in the remaining sugar, the corn flour and the grated chocolate shavings until only just incorporated. (Over folding will deflate your egg whites.)
Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tipped nozzle. Pipe horizontal lines of the mixture across each drawn rectangle on the baking tray, making sure that each line of meringue mixture touches the next slightly. (This ensures the meringue rectangle is one solid piece once cooked.) Bake for 45 minutes, then rotate the tray. Continue to bake for a further 45 minutes.
Turn the oven off and leave the meringue to cool in the oven.
When cooled, remove the tray and gently take the three rectangles off the baking sheet. You may need an egg flip to assist you.
To make the filling, carefully melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl in the microwave, stopping at 20 second intervals to stir until smooth. While the chocolate is still warm, spread it on to two of the meringue rectangles. Set aside.
With a mortar and pestle, muddle the mint with the sugar. Add this to the cream in a medium sized bowl, and whip into soft peaks.
Place one of the chocolate covered meringues onto your serving dish. Pipe one third of the cream over the chocolate. Add the other chocolate coated meringue on top of this cream, and repeat with another third of the cream. Top this with the final layer of meringue, and pipe the remaining cream down the centre. Decorate with the extra chocolate and remaining mint leaves.

NOTES: heat a very sharp knife under hot water before cutting, using a sawing motion. This helps to cut through the hardened chocolate layers without breaking and ruining the look of the delicate dessert.