Tuesday, December 30, 2008

december away... the away part

December away...

I am trying to track down this Donna Hay cake I saw the recipe for in that No Time to Cook book in a bookshop recently. It was like a giant raspberry friand (siiiiiiiigh) and I need to use up the egg whites in the fridge. It is not to be found! I'll have to wing it.

So on the topic of December away, it has been quite a month for fruit picking, just wait for my photos, but they shall be in the next post, because this one goes to those crazy 'bakers'. More like daring freezers, ha. Yes, darling readers. I complain, but do I stop following?

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand
.. search it if you like. It's an ice cream cake, AKA a litre of cream and a few blocks of chocolate, with layers amillion. Well, eight-ish.
The half piece is because it was really hard to cut without breaking, even left out of the freezer. Some components softened more quickly than others. So we just cut huge fat pieces and served them in halves.

Starting from the top, we have:
chocolate icing (does that need stating?)
milk chocolate semifreddo in which everything else is set, i.e. frozen mousse
baked creme brulee
more chocolate mousse
praline feuilleté (hazelnut praline crushed with crisp-baked crepe biscuits, chocolate and butter)
mousse again
dark chocolate ganache (hands up if this is your favourite part. me, pick me!)
and hazelnut dacquoise, of which I could have happily eaten a bit more.

Yum. I won't be making THAT again anytime soon!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

spring-clearing the klog

PP. I am having date problems with when Blogger is saying I published. This post was written on the 30th of November.

It's the last day of spring in Australia. For fifteen minutes. Here I go!In no particular order, a backlog of spring things:
Above, barbecued ocean trout and potato salad (adapted from Sally James' recipe from Simply Sensational, an aptly named favourite book of mine), scandalously and deliciously bastardised with iceberg lettuce and salmon.
On the sides - not really spring, but we had them in spring anyway.
What began as that nigh-orgasmic (see how close nigh is to thigh? interesting..) appley dessert I had in France, became known as Sophie's 'the french apple crumble' and to me, now, is Dad's specialty. Nothing crumbly about it, this was in our house about the same time as my sisters made Donna Hay's caramel slice (even better, don't kill me, before they had added the chocolate) and was THE thing that I had thought I was over and not been so keen on in a while but that night at 11pm when I'd got home not having had the roast lamb that had filled up everyone here, well, this was what brought me back around to the idea of caramel. I accepted for what it was this non-crumble. Caramelised apple slice? It's like a solid, crisp biscuit on top.mmmmmmmm.

Back to spring..
asparagus quiche. Actually inspired by a vegan friend of my sister's, but don't let that put you off. It didn't me, that's the important thing. Bench art...

...a delightful by-product of florentines.

Below, roasted cauliflower salad from dear old Maggie and Simon. Not the best photo, but never mind. This was the second time I've made it, and won't be the last. A new favourite lunch, methinks! Neither of the times have I had quite the right herbs.. it's been parmesan instead of gruyere or goaty, parsley for coriander, etc. Burnt cauliflower, possibly both times. Do the antioxidant properties of cauliflower, olive oil and walnuts cancel out the carcinogens of burntness? I'll eat it anyway.yummo.
I don't even SAY yummo.
As I hope you have been waiting for, Yoghurt Goes with (Chocolate, Coconut and) Cream Part 2.
It was good.. not as moist as the first one. I probably wasn't paying enough attention because there was another seriously worthwhile distraction in the oven.

My best sourdough yet.
It's been UBERbusy around here lately.
Including some baked and unbaked goods and very goods.
I hope you have enjoyed feasting your eyes on my mouthwatering photography (ha).

you put the salt in the caramel and eat it all up!

This months' darling bakers decided on a caramel cake with caramelised butter icing (defiantly Australian am I, frosting I will not acknowledge) (and yes we caramelise with an S).

I admit I reduced the sugar, but I can't remember how much.. a good amount. And made somewhat less of the icing, with not too much syrup. The icing turned out to be a very repeatable thing (mmmm). I made a half quantity of the suggested syrup and had enough left over for a toffee and banana cake.
Even reduced in syrupiness I doubted my friends and family's will to demolish the golden thing, so I took it to an all-day choir rehearsal where it happily disappeared. Thanks singers!

Anyway, as you can probably tell from my flattish tone, I have never been that excited about caramel, except obviously for sticky date pudding! and banoffee pie which I have yet to try! and homemade caramel slice!
This was a nice cake. I could even have eaten some hokey pokey ice cream with it. Hokey pokey ice cream is a bit like English toffee flavour, for any non-Australasian readers.

And now the referencing.
Recipe courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon from Eggbeater as published on Bay Area Bites, challenge hosted by Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity and co-hosts Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo, Jenny of Foray into Food and for gluten-free daring bakers not quite daring enough to eat the gluten, help from Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.
Optional was an extra challenge, Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111

Saturday, November 15, 2008

salted caramel

Back to fashion.

It's my fashion to be frantic and slightly late everywhere I go. Which is part of the reason I am typing this when I should perhaps be in the shower, knowing I have to leave the house in half an hour.
That rhymes.

When I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 2000, it was after a couple of years of wanting to resist, purely on the basis that everyone was reading it and it was everywhere. But the thing about a book in vogue is no matter how many people talk about it, you read it alone (just like you die, apparently, but I haven't done that yet, plus it was a bit of a morbid analogy). It's still your own discovery when you read it for the first time. And the next, and the next.

Well, I bet you know it: so it goes for flavours.

Thank you trendies for alerting us!

I am converted.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

yoghurt goes with cream - part 1


I am fascinated with the stuff.
Cinnamon yoghurt gelati from Tutto Bene, a month or two ago, began the resurgence of my obsession. Began? No, I was already very much besotted, and that was why I tried it, which was a GOOD move.

And the other night after finishing uni and being too excited to sleep and driving around dangerously the next day and wandering palely around Brunswick Street and a disappointing lunch at Babka... where was I? (Needs to learn to use commas.)
I had a blondie from Sugardough.
It was gooey and strange.

My dessert Thursday night: blobs of blondie with cooked pear, blackberry evia yoghurt, vanilla icecream and roasted salted macamadamias. Salted caramel, lick my battery!

Anyway the point of this post was to show you my beautiful yoghurt cake.
Recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini, first food blog I laid eyes on and have ever since adored. I bought the book and it is still sitting on the bench, open on Yoghurt Cake. I decided about a week ago that I wanted to make a coconut one - which is still on the list - but the other day it was raining, raspberry was calling out and I'm glad it did.

Frozen raspberries would be better because they would hold together, but we had a big Fowlers-Vacola jar from picking last year. So in went about a cup, and a little bit of cinnamon.
It is moist, a bit sweet, and a bit sour from both the raspberries and the yoghurt. Just what I wanted!
Though the batter looked and felt a bit like muffin batter so I was ultra-wary of overmixing it, perhaps a bit too over-wary, see those bits of flour. They're kind of good though.

I suspect this would make an excellent apple teacake. And can't wait to try it plain. And the raspberry one, well, I haven't tried it with cream yet but it's tangy and reminds me of raspberry jam, so.. better go and do that now.

By the way, I don't make only cakes. Just have to blog about them because they are just exciting in this special special way.. it's ridiculous how excited I get about cake.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I'm a little bit more interested in clothes now that I have finished uni for the year and have time to sit down (I'm sitting down right now, in fact, and plan to do a bit more of it today). I would like to think I don't care much about keeping up with trends, but there are some good clothes around in Melbourne.. it's going to be a good looking summer.

Culinary fashion, on the other hand, intrigues me.

What's with caramel? Who started it this time? Is it just like, Jacques Reymond or a world class equivalent made a caramel something that made an impact on someone and they were so excited that they told everyone, and everyone thought, hey yeah, I'd forgotten about caramel! and they all get inspired and it just spreads?
Not that you need an expensive restaurant to start the wave at all, it could start with just a little blog somewhere.
Or does the food media have an evil corporation somewhere with a person at the head of a meeting deciding what this season's fashionable flavours will be (other than obviously, what is actually in season)?
Salted caramel, especially. Everyone's writing about it, eating and making it.

Chorizo has been cool for a fair bit longer.

Uni has rendered me sleepless so that's about as far as my profound observations go for today.

Hello holidays :) out comes the sun as I click 'publish.'

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

brief thoughts

I am on a quest.
Perfect apple teacake. It is such an art!

The old-fashioned apple cake, I reckon, is not often done really well. When it is, it is impossible to beat.

The best I have had was in a quaint little cafe in the far-out hills.. Kallista Tea Rooms, I think. It was still warm when I saw and pounced (What's that cake there?) and we had had a delicious lunch with fairly poor service.. debating whether or not to bother getting cake/coffee afterwards, and SO glad am I; we'd decided not to when I saw this ugly beauty. The cake was collapsing on itself, sinking in the middle as it sat, and the piece we had fell apart, melting in our mouths. More apple than gooey cake, it was lazily punctuated with sultanas, so sweet, just the right amount, and oh... had disappeared.
When we got the bill, they gave us the cake on the house, wisely recommending we remember them not for the poor service we'd had that day (my aunt, a regular, said it was unusual) but for the cake. Worked on me!

My attempts so far have been well received but I will not rest until I find the One.

I was too lazy to take photos, but I made Lucy's Apple and Olive Oil cake from Nourish Me - that was good, I'll make it again.
And this Jewish one from Smitten Kitchen. Nice, but I want it moister.

On we go. I made banana cake today because the spotty bananas were there. Thankyou, Andrew McConnell, genius man.

Anybody got a worthwhile apple teacake? I'm wondering if it's going to take some walnut meal and/or yoghurt...

The List
Clotilde's Gateau de Mamy from Chocolate and Zucchini
Women's Weekly - will have something

To be cont...!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

ricotta, leftovers, and other fun things

Hey reader. It's been a while between posts, I know, on a not-very-frequently updated blog. And I have been exceptionally busy lately, leaving not much time for eating, let alone cooking and going to exciting food places!

But I did get very excited the other day, about ricotta. It is just the best stuff and I can't seem to get enough of it, especially after I had some incredible simple spinach and ricotta agnolotti done just perfectly with the right tomato sauce at Vegie Bar a month or two ago. Spinach and ricotta. Ricotta in cakes. On top of turkish bread with avocado and lemon scented oil at Kanteen on the Yarra (technically that was cottage cheese, but oh so good).
Fetta has made an appearance too; lucky enough to have a day at home the other day, after my family had had roast lamb without me the night before... I got to make this Donna Hay-modelled salad I've been eyeing off over at Kitchen Wench. Roasted sweet potato and tomato, almonds, leaves, marinated fetta, and the dressing features that apple cider vinegar I've been meaning to get around to using. Thanks, Ellie!

Tonight I have finally dragged myself all the way upstairs to get my camera and cord and then all the way back down again to import photos. It was worth it, too.

Anyway. The other day after a long hot bike ride in the sun, a friend and I went to this amazing fruit shop where we got some amazing yoghurt and in their amazing fridge there was some Mamma Lucia ricotta! I got two tubs because I've been wanting to make a cassata out of Good Weekend a few.. months ago, and wasn't sure how much it needed.
There hasn't been enough time to put into the making of the caking and the filling and all, so this I made instead when I saw that the use by date was soon:
Ricotta, honey, rosemary and pine nut tart.
SOOOO much better the next day. delicious baked cheesecake goodness. I think I am becoming a cheesecake person. Hmm, no, more that I have discovered baked cheesecake. (If you have a good recipe for white/dark chocolate cheesecake with a chocolate crust, by the way, let me know. I tasted one - evilly good - in the Blue Mountains and am on the hunt.)

Also recently, lemon yoghurt cake, (no photos yet, alas and alack) thankyou very much Brigitte Hafner, legend I love to read in the paper. Saw the recipe flicking through a Spring recipe book in a bookshop in the Blue Mountains. Semolina, lemon, yoghurt, almonds, syrup, you were meant for me and I was meant for you, so I tracked you down on the internet. Poetry if ever there was!

Rehearsals, shows, assignments, cars, trains, lessons, sandwiches, pianos, books, makeup, bike rides, phone queues, and my diary, used so much that the cover has fallen off. That is my life at the moment. And occasional blog lurking.
Hope your life is fun, even if it too is ridiculously busy at this mental time of year. Send me a comment or a post!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Le lavash que je viens d'avoir fait

Ta da!
Ready for my Lethlean rip-off phrasing? Aussie foodie journalism at its easy reading best. What can I say, I know some of you other Melbournian bloggers have a thing about him and his writing, but I love it. (How can you not enjoy his loveable adventures in A2? My favourite comfort food reading on a Saturday morning.)
Pasta machine worked a dream.

On the left, poppy.
Smelled like bread in the oven.

Some got a bit overdone. Let's call it toasted (tastes good, tastes toasted). Some puffed up like a pillow, or Arnott's goldfish, but better.. one bite and you're hooked.

Sesame smelled even better.

P.S. I'm not really sure why we made lavash. So easy. Just bread dough rolled flat. I don't mean to complain, it's just, it didn't feel all that daring. I'll make some vegan friendly - that was one of the reasons behind lavash I think - dip later, but even without, this is good stuff. Who doesn't love a good dry biscuit. Even if it isn't very daring.

late lavash

Oops! Daring Bakers was yesterday and I've been out of the house for the last two weeks!
Life is increasingly hectic this last month. A catering-sized cupcake bake with Kris of A Bit o' Culture, a week in the beautiful Blue Mountains (some photos may follow soon), a googolplex rehearsals, several hours spent planning projects and recital material, stressing, reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, walking, laughing, driving, sitting on trains, writing, a short film soundtrack..
and somehow, my lavash got left behind. It awaits me now! to lovingly roll and bake it. I plan to be terribly lazy and squish it through the pasta machine. Poppy and maybe sesame shall be my decor.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

This time of the month

...in a totally male-friendly way. The end of the month means one thing in baking blogs all over the world.Daring Bakers, thankyou for not even threatening my sanity with this month's chocolate eclairs!

I thought choux pastry was meant to be hard? The only part I struggled with was piping the dough/paste onto the trays, because either my piping skills or equipment (most likely both) are not quite up to it. Never mind, roundish globs became pretty profiteroles!

I freaked out when I saw instructions to boil the pastry cream, and to my delight discovered that cornflour stops the yolk curdling! Genius. I actually was surprised to see that the recipe called for a chocolate custard and that other bakers going for a chocolate non-overload had used a set custard rather than just whipped cream, which I had thought was the more traditional way to fill an eclair. Custard suits me perfectly.

What else is there to tell you... let me know if you want the recipe, it's quite easy.

Mum came in as they were in the oven and said they smelled right. She used to make them all the time and she said Grandma (of the trusted sponge kisses and luince jelly) used to just spoon the paste onto the tray and smooth it out in eclair shape with a knife. I'll do that next time, and there will be a next time, because these were not only easy but fun to make.

And after taking photos to show off how wonderful they looked, I'd forgotten that they would have a taste! and delicious they were.
P.S. Reading other Daring Bakers' commentaries, I thought lavender and chocolate sounded gorgeously good, especially as spring arrives here, so my cream is subtly lavender. Enjoy :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

sweetness of the old fashioned sour

It may have come to your attention that I like baking. And bread.

So way back before the start of this blog, last summer in fact, I enrolled myself in a sourdough making course. A six-hour day in Hampton, in a house with the most amazing kitchen garden you could imagine and a homemade cave of an oven in the backyard.

Some things the tutor made clear: bread is bread, and this is bread - the real thing. No need to give it special names. Bread won't make you fat if you don't eat lots of it loaded with dense fuel, eg hot with butter and honey (he kept saying this). Bread is made of flour, water and salt; anything else and it is a specialty bread, so if you go adding oil, that's fine, but he'd call it oil bread. The bread we witnessed the making of in the class was from sticky dough - had been allowed to rise for too long because of circumstances - so got specialised into cheese bread (haloumi and mint, perfect!).

Our tutor was a man who is not a fan of the new culture we have where everything is fast/instant. I think it was for this reason that he so detested the idea of hot bread, fresh bread that we all seem obsessed with. It was interesting to question the value of freshness. Making bread the real way is something you would do every week or two.. and if you really like it fresh, you could easily make a few loaves at a time (you end up with enough starter to do this) and freeze them. I liked his philosophy. If I were a hermit, I would join the slow food movement.

Sourdough - as we all kept calling it, even being informed that it's just bread - seems to be the way they made risen bread before instant yeast came along. Leave dough for a few days, it turns sour. Voila, sour dough.
But there is more to it than that. Many of the other people in the class had tried to make sourdough before and found that it was far too sour and dense, hardly rising at all.

Here is the basic understanding I got:
Dough ferments - yeast forms from bacteria (very mysterious) - needs fuel - fed flour, it grows. It takes feeding to keep growing, like any living thing, otherwise it just gets sourer and sourer. So when you feed it (dissolve it a bit in water and a bit of salt, add flour, make into dough again) the sour taste is diluted and the yeast in it has fuel to multiply.

That's basically all you have to do. Of course there are details and the best way to learn is by experiment, and I've been dabbling lately.
How To: Start with a paste of water, a little bit of salt, and flour; the thicker the better, and leave it (covered). When bubbles rise to the surface or it grows noticeably, add some water, mush around to dissolve a bit, and knead/mix in more flour. Repeat. The more flour, the more it will grow. When it has risen for a day or two it may smell like nail polish remover... that's normal.
As our tutor said, if your original paste/dough is thin enough that bubbles rise to the surface that's fine for the first time, but after that make it stiff. This didn't mean much to me until I experimented, not only with the texture of the dough but the length of time I left it and the gooeyness of the resulting hungry dough. The moral of the story was make it stiff, which I think you get when you do it.

When you and your dough are ready to make loaves, a quarter is a good amount of starter to make up the final dough. Knead it a lot. Leave covered until the surface cracks or the dough has doubled in size. If this doesn't happen after about 8 hours, I'd recommend chucking it on a tray/in a tin, letting it try to grow for an hour or two and cooking it anyway. That's what I did with my last loaf and it was bread's answer to my favourite very dense and moist Irish tea cake. But it was delicious!

Finding somewhere relatively warm for the dough to rise is the hardest part. My last loaf I probably didn't feed enough when I fed it, and definitely suffered a lack of warmth, because my house hasn't been more than 17 degrees (celsius) since May. After I had shaped the loaf I was so frustrated that I set the oven really low and turned it on and off for a couple of hours and it worked, but obviously you can't do that for days with all the feeding and breeding of the dough. This lot is living above the microwave and going very well so far - the question is, what happens when it gets too big for the space?

Monday, August 4, 2008

madeleines and other dainty cakes

Though I have had many good adventures lately, none of them particularly wild, this post was to be about madeleines.

Honey and lavender.
Les madeleines aux miel et lavande. ou di-t-on au miel et à la lavande? je ne sais pas.
One of my friends with whom I did French at school, and went to Montpellier, mentioned recently that she had a recipe for honey and lavender madeleines. As I had been wanting to make maddies for some time, I jumped with enthusiasm, and soon after found myself in Greensborough on a cold morning. Looking for coffee, I saw that the cafés open at 10..
The cake deco shop opens at 9 :)
So I came home coffeeless but with many new clothes and a madeleine tin, and the following weekend there appeared a batch of soft but firm madeleines.

We used fresh lavender from the garden. I suspect it would be prudent to pick some and dry it while it's good. Anyway, it tasted elegant, and not too much to enjoy.

The event that actually spurred me to finish this post, though, was the Vanilla Pod Café where I went to meet a relative in Heathmont the other day. Said relative had to cancel, but I bought myself lunch (ham and cheese croissant, served cheerfully on a wooden board like at Base Kamp, and a side salad that came with some fantastic dressing in a little pot) and then bought some cupcakes to take to my nanna's house.

I wish I had had a camera with me... usually I haven't bothered writing about places if I have no photos, but please, if you are in Heathmont, pop into the Vanilla Pod.
I bought a strawberry cupcake and an orange one to take to Nanna and for ron, a flourless chocolate. All aMAZing. The icing on each adds something as wonderful as the ganache was on my hazelnut gateau.
The strawberry cupcake ($2.50) was pink all the way through with strawberries which must have been folded through the batter, the cake was moist and not too light or dense, and what was the icing? It was like slightly sweetened whipped cream, coloured pink to match the cake, and topped with a gorgeous red half strawberry. Cream cheese icing has never been so good! And dare I say it, would make cream a completely superfluous partner. The orange one was similar, with candied rind as the top garnish.
Flourless chocolate is one of the world's presents that occasionally make me think I could be happy as a gluten-free. There is no way I can possibly do justice with these rambly words. I recommend you find an excuse to visit the little strip of Heathmont shops on Canterbury Road.
What's your favourite cupcake recipe? How can I recreate this perfect slightly sweet icing? Please advise!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Flaring Bakers go the hazelnut genoise

So, I am still going strong in the second month of claiming Daring Bakership.

The majority of this pack of strange people (I feel myself becoming addicted already) live far away in the US of A or far away elsewhere. So it seems they are likely to come up with slightly different challenges to what another Melbournian might think of.. a super-duper layered torte-ish gateau with creamy fillings, requiring hours of fridge time, for example, I think I would have been more inspired to make in summer. Teacakes call to me lately now that winter is settled in for the last coldest stretch...

That being said, I came home looking for the last piece of this creation about a day after completing it, and nowhere was it to be seen...!! So nobody had a major problem with it.
Nobody else in our house minded my lack of decoration skills either - well, maybe the noises coming from the kitchen during the decoration process! - so I am pleased.

Some books seem to say filberts and hazelnuts are related but slightly different, while other sources say they are the same thing. Whatevs.
Layers of Frangelico-brushed hazelnut meringue, held with praline buttercream and whipped cream, all swept over with a pear and vanilla glaze and finished with a second glaze of ganache (my favourite bit ;) and decorated (sigh) with more praline buttercream.

I left the skins on all my hazelnuts because going on my little experience of the sweetness of the DBs I -rightly, in all our opinions- predicted the cake would be sweet enough to take a tiny hint of bitterness. And maybe even some nutrition (fibre is in the skins, yes?). No laziness there at all.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Welcome to the NT... beach!

It has been a while since my last post, eh. I have been away. To the beautiful big flat hot and cold Northern Territory! And July is escaping.

Apart from some very nice (inexpensive, too!) barramundi NT didn't really yield a great many culinary secrets to me.
But Darwin! is so warm all the time! and frangipane, and mangroves and bougainvillea and coconut palms are eeeeverywhere.
The Queenslanders and the locals couldn't believe how amazed I was at all the fauna!

Anyway, seeing as I was deeper into the tropics than ever I had been before, I decided to make it my business to try fresh coconut. Mirth abounded!
I know they talk about how hard coconuts are, but who knew!? Wow. One girl reckons you get a clean tea towel and swing it around and bash it on concrete.
We had a little tomahawk.
And crunchy coconut flesh. It was like coconut flavoured, creamy raw broccoli. I am sure there are many much more appropriate analogies, but anyway, yum.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

the silly baker

I may have been out of my mind, but I joined the Daring Bakers for a little bit of ... something.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I was up half the night (I happened to be up half the night in a head-cold-induced trance) pondering fillings and rollings and my arms .. what's the underside of the forearm? .. were sore for two days after the rolling, we definitely need a rolling pin on a wheel, rather than a big fat stick that requires much awkward wrist twists.

Was it worth it?
My Danish Braids. It made a truckload of pastry and with my offcuts there is a little family of darling croissants. I think I forgot to take photos once the croissants were done, but they are sugar and spice and all things nice.

Apricot Almond Danish braid. and below, apple.

I am worn out! ....but vaguely proud.