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Delayed Valentine’s day cake February 28, 2010

Posted by croissantandbagel in desserts.
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Doing honours has meant that I don’t really get to cook anymore, and when I do it tends to be something practical and unexciting. I have promised myself that I will start cooking through all the cookbooks I acquired last year so Valentines Day seemed to be a good excuse. Flipping through Desserts by Pierre Herme I discovered the blueberry and marscapone cake. I had leftover marscapone in the fridge there are always blueberries that have inevitably migrated towards the back of the fridge and become lost. Combined with the beautiful picture, my mind was made up.

I think I ended up underestimating the time required to actually make the cake. There are about 6 components and it takes me a while to make each of them. They are:

  • Blueberries in sugar syrup
  • Lemon syrup to brush the ladyfingers with
  • Ladyfinger batter piped into disks and bands
  • Marscapone mousse
  • Italian meringue
  • Blueberries in blueberry jam for the top

Although it sounds daunting, several of the components can (and should) be made ahead of time. The blueberries should rest overnight in the syrup, the lemon syrup can be made ahead of time and the ladyfingers can be kept in an airtight container for 2 days. I think this also gives them a change to dry out and prevents them becoming soggy when they are brushed with the lemon syrup. The mousse is based on Italian meringue so these two components are made at the same time- make the Italian meringue, use 1 cup for the mousse and set the rest aside to decorate the cake with.

I decided to make several small charlottes instead of the 1 large cake because I wanted to be able to take the dessert to Phillip’s house. I also think little ones look cute. The mousse is very very rich and I think I would have preferred something a bit lighter, or with more fruit to cut through the cream. That said, I love the sponge cake and I’ll definitely make something similar, just perhaps using less cream and marscapone.


Phil’s birthday cake February 20, 2010

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I promised Phillip I’d make him whatever birthday cake he chose. I should have known he would choose one that took the best part of a day to make because the desserts he likes the best always seem to be the ones that take the longest to make. His ultimate favourite is a cheesecake that takes 8 hours in a water bath at a very low temperature, but I can understand that because it is particularly nice.

His birthday cake is made up of layers of chocolate cake and chocolate mousse studded with cherries, wrapped in biscuit joconde and topped with chocolate ganache. To get the stripes, spread a thin layer of pate au cigarette on to a silpat mat and create the design by running a comb through it. I’ve tried a few methods but I’m still trying to find one that eliminates smudges- I’m going to try and make a proper stencil for my next attempt.

Pate au cigarette

  • 30g unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sifted icing sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder (I used Dutch process for a darker colour)
  1. Cream butter and sugar until very smooth. Add egg white gradually and scrape down the bowl.
  2. Add flour and cocoa powder and process further until very smooth.
  3. Spread a thin layer on a silpat mat and create your pattern. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes (or while you make the joconde)

Biscuit joconde:

  • 13 oz. tant pour tant, sifted (equal parts icing sugar and almond meal)
  • 5 eggs
  • 5 whites
  • 2 tbsp. caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp. melted butter1/3 cup flour
  1. Preheat oven to 250C.  This seems hot but it needs to be.
  2. Beat tant pour tant & whole eggs to ribbon.
  3. Whip whites, gradually adding sugar until they form firm peaks.
  4. Fold butter into whole egg mixture, then flour and finally the whites.
  5. Spread the batter thinly on a silpat baking mat (as in 3/4cm) and bake for about 5 minutes. I cook mine until the middle is done, which means the edges can be very crisp but it makes it easier to work with.

Chocolate mousse (adapted from mum’s Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, 1970)

  • 113g dark chocolate
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 285ml cream
  • 1tbsp brandy
  • 1tsp gelatin, sprinkled on 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1tbsp sugar
  1. Chop chocolate roughly, put into top of double saucepan, stir over hot water until melted.
  2. When chocolate is cooled a little, blend in egg yolks one at a time. Beat until mixture is smooth and thick.
  3. Place gelatin in microwave for 15 sec until melted. Add gelatin and brandy to mousse mixture. (The original recipe doesn’t use gelatin, but as I needed to mousse to be firm enough to cut I added it in)
  4. Whip the egg whites with the sugar to stiff peaks (again I added the sugar in to give the egg whites a bit more body).
  5. Gently fold in whipped cream and then egg whites.

To assemble

  1. Line a springform pan with biscuit joconde.
  2. Trim chocolate cake to fit in the pan and place a disk at the bottom. Brush it with a little cherry juice.
  3. Spoon in enough mousse so that it comes half way up the pan. Stud the mousse with cherries (I used tinned ones because they’re softer)
  4. Place another layer of chocolate cake in the mold and repeat the mousse and cherries as above. Top with a thin layer of cake (I didn’t have this layer as by this point Little Sister and Father had been sneaking cake)
  5. Refrigerate well (overnight) before topping with chocolate ganache.

Christmas left-overs January 11, 2010

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I ended up cooking so much at Christmas (and as a result eating so much sugar) that I’ve kind of given up desserts and attempted to take up exercising. Funnily enough that hasn’t been much of a success. It is also just too hot to cook anything other than what I need to live. In 43 degrees it is just easier to pull out the tub of ice cream. Yes, I do need chocolate and ice cream to live.

That said, these were one of the desserts I made at Christmas and I actually took a photo  because I was so amazed at the fact that it worked. I don’t have a thermometer, so my tempering involved asking random family members and Phil to guess whether the chocolate was at 32 degrees. My disorganisation meant that I was still doing it at noon on Christmas day, so my aunt arrived in the middle and was rather dubious about my attempt. The problem with that kind of disorganisation is that if it doesn’t work out, everyone knows about it. Luckily, I think they look kind of cute.

They are actually a layer of chocolate cake, topped with a layer of vanilla bean mousse studded with fresh raspberries. I left the mousse to set in the molds, then chopped up plastic overhead sheets, spread them reasonably thickly with vaguely tempered chocolate and then wrapped them around the mousse cakes. I left the chocolate to set in the fridge before pulling the plastic off. The plastic comes off easily but it can be tricky to get a start without breaking it. Next time I’d leave a bit of an edge of plain plastic that I could start pulling from. I topped them off with berries sprinkled with icing sugar and a Christmassy ribbon. Without the chocolate, the mousse, raspberry and cake combination tasted kind of like trifle, anyway they were yummy.

I also continued my quest for the perfect macaron, and while the chocolate and matcha ones were a bit of a failure the strawberry ones were good! Smooth tops, egg shell crust with softer middle. I filled them with buttercream flavoured with fresh strawberry puree and a bit of raspberry coulis.

A recipe from Grandma November 30, 2009

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Mum and dad have gone away, leaving Little Sister and I at home. Little Sister doesn’t tend to cook so I have been flipping through books to find recipes to make so that we don’t starve (or live on take-away Chinese and pizza from down the street). Mum has folders and folders of cut out recipes (badly organised), some of which go back to 1982- thats older than me!

While doing this I found Grandma’s pineapple chiffon pie recipe, which was the dessert at many family festivities. She eventually stopped catering for these events, but i still remember eating it outside at her house. My grandmother had a notorious sweet tooth and I guess she passed that love of making desserts on to me. The written in her school teacher’s writing and must have been handed down because it says to cook the custard on the fire.

The original was served in a bowl lined with crushed cornflakes and sugar. I edited the presentation a bit, but next time I will have to thicken the mixture as some of it ran out of the bottom. She used to serve it with mounds of whipped cream but i finished it off with pineapple jelly. I ran out of time so I used packet jelly, but I think a slightly tarter layer (lime or maybe fresh pineapple juice?) would lift it.

Grandma’s pineapple chiffon pie


  • Place 4 cups of cornflakes, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup melted butter in a blender. Mix until cornflakes are crushed.
  • Line pie dish with mixture and compress it with the back of a spoon (I used cake rings with no bottom and created a crust a few millimeters thick)


  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • bare 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 3/4 cup crushed pineapple (you may need to chop it up further in a blender)
  • 1 dessertspoon of gelatine dissolved in 8 tbsp cold water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 sugar
  1. Mix egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, pineapple juice and pineapple in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Stir constantly until it thickens
  3. Add gelatin mixture and leave to cool.
  4. Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks and gradually add sugar.
  5. When custard mixture is cooled, mix 1/3 of the egg whites in with it and then mix the custard mixture with the rest of the egg whites.
  6. Pour into pie dish/molds and place in the fridge.
  7. Meanwhile, make jelly and place in fridge until cool and just starting to set.
  8. Spoon jelly on top of custards.

Passionfruit souffles November 4, 2009

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I have sort of been neglecting cooking over the last little while. But now, as exams approach and I should be spending all my time reading about defamation or lightly skimming through 1300 pages of the corporations act, I am spending more of my time procrastibaking (I can’t take the credit for that term, sadly).

I came across this souffle and realised I had to make it for several reasons. Firstly, with mum trying to avoid gluten and dairy it is practically the only dessert she can have. Secondly, if you squint, you can pretend it is almost healthy. As far as a non-fruit salad dessert can be anyway. A warning, they don’t have flour so they fall quite quickly, as can be seen in the photo. I didn’t want to spend too much time taking photos and get left with a shrunken souffle…

Passionfruit Liqueur Souffles (from Womens Weekly Cookbook for all seasons)

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup passionfruit pulp (between 4 and 5)
  • 2 tbsp Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 icing sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  1. Grease the sides of 4 3/4 cup ramekins. Ensure they are well greased as this is what allows the souffle to rise.
  2. Whisk egg yolks, passionfruit, liqueur and 2 tablespoons of icing sugar in a  medium bowl until combined.
  3. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add remaining icing sugar and beat until they hold stiff peaks.
  4. Fold a quarter of the egg white mix into the passionfruit mixture, then fold in remaining egg white.
  5. Spoon into ramekins and bake in moderate oven (about 180C) for 12 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, dust with icing sugar and serve.

I think my ramekins are smaller because I filled up 6, with a little remaining. The Grand Marnier was a little strong for my taste (or perhaps I just got a spoonful with concentrated liqueur) so next time I might heat it slightly to get rid of some of the strong alcohol flavour. The passionfruit flavour is really nice without being over-dominant so I think this is something I’ll work on again, particularly as I am always on the lookout for gluten-free desserts.

Raspberry macarons (attempt 1) October 4, 2009

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miscellanous food 022

Macarons seem to have experienced a huge jump in popularity. Suddenly there are books, magazine articles and blog posts devoted to them. Living in Adelaide, this macarons trend has mostly passed us by. In fact, I’m not sure I had ever actually had a macaron, but they always looked appealing.  Maybe it is the beautiful sheen they seem to have in pictures (missing here but I’m working on it), or the promise of more than enough sugar to get you through the afternoon. Perhaps it is just that I grew up on meringues (grandma’s signature treat) an in my head these were like them, but because of the almond meal and filling they would be less sugar and more… something else.

Anyway, it turns out that they were nice. I’m not sure if the texture was exactly right, having nothing to compare it to I just had to guess. After a day in the fridge they were quite soft and the top wasn’t quite as crunchy as I think it is meant to be. I had reviews that varied from my father’s wordless demolition of three before I had finished, to the comment ‘it tastes pink’.

I was pleasantly surprised without how my first foray into the world of macarons turned out and I have enough optimism to give it another go later on. I’m not exactly sure how to make the top so smooth, any thoughts? I thought that maybe the batter wasn’t moist enough, or the almond flour was too coarse? The next time I make them I think I’ll follow Pierre Herme’s instructions for chocolate ones.

Livestrong Day 2009 September 13, 2009

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lemon biscuits

I happened across a food blogging event for Livestrong Day 2009 and although I think I might be too late, I thought I would post about it anyway. The idea is that you cook something with a yellow ingredient and then blog about it to raise awareness for cancer. I think it is a great idea and reading some of the stories is incredibly inspiring. After someone I am very close to had a brush with cancer several months ago I am just so thankful that everything seems to have worked out for them : )

My original plan turned out to be a bit disappointing- I did want to make a sort of lemon curd and almond and hazelnut dacquoise sandwich (Mum and P love lemon curd, and mum is trying to avoid flour). What I ended up with was a bizzare comination of sweet, tangy, crunchy and liquid. My teeth protested at such abuse. So while it didn’t live up to my hopes, I was left with an excellent icecream topping. I whipped the left over lemon curd used it for making little daisies instead, which ended up being more popular.

Sugar biscuits

  • 225gm unsalted butter, cubed and softened at room temperature
  • 100gm caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • Finely grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • 320gm plain flour
  • Granulated sugar (for top)
  1. Cream butter and sugar. Add lemon zest and salt and beat until well mixed.
  2. Sift in flour. Mix until just combined, no more (it will look crumbly).
  3. Chill dough for at least an hour.
  4. Spread granulated sugar on a baking paper.
  5. Roll out to 7-10mm thickness between two sheets of baking paper (as dough gets sticky) and cut out shapes.
  6. Cut out small circles from half of the shapes (top layer). Lightly press these into granulated sugar. Place on top of base shapes and press down lightly.
  7. Chill the biscuits well before cooking them (at least several hours).
  8. To bake, preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the cookies onto a silpat mat. Bake until the edges are just starting to colour, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Pipe whipped lemon curd into cut out circle.

Two nut chocolate torte August 29, 2009

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chocolate almond torte

P’s mother is allergic to gluten, so there aren’t that many cakes that she can eat. P and I had been watching Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef and decided that we would make this when we were going over for dinner one night. She asked for the recipe, although I think she was slightly horrified at the amount of butter, eggs and chocolate that went into it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, if you are going to be unhealthy, do it with something that tastes great. This cake, with ~116% of your daily fat intake per slice, is a pretty delicious way to do it.

Two nut chocolate torte (from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef)

  • 150g almonds
  • 150g walnuts
  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp cocoa power
  • 250g butter
  • 100gm caster sugar
  • 6 eggs (separated)
  1. Preheat the oven to 190C and line the base of a buttered tin with baking paper.
  2. Finely grind up nuts in a food processor. Add cocoa and 200gm of the  chocolate and whiz until chocolate is ground up (approximately 30 sec). Set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating between each addition. Mix together with chocolate mixture.
  4. Whisk egg whites in a separate bowl with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks.
  5. Gently fold egg whites into chocolate mixture.
  6. Pour into prepared pan. Chop the remaining chocolate into pieces and press these into the mixture, covering them over to form chocolate chips.
  7. Bake for about an hour. The cake is cooked when a skewer comes out fairly clean.
  8. When cooled, sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with icecream and strawberries.

That said, I think that the amount of butter and chocolate in this could be easily reduced without sacrificing much of the taste. The nuts mean that the cake does not dry out and so probably doesn’t need so much butter in it. Perhaps next time someone has a birthday I’ll try it.

Carrot cupcakes August 26, 2009

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carrot cupcakes

My best friend is having a champagne and cupcakes 21st and I volunteered to make the cupcakes. These were a weekend experiment to try and prevent any disasters on the day. I had never made carrot cake before, which is odd when I think about it. Or maybe not so odd, seeing as when little sister discovered these were carrot she put her cupcake down and said ‘I just cleaned my teeth’. Subtle.

Since these cupcakes have to be finger food I thought a small size would be better. These were made in mini muffin pans and can be eaten in 1-2 mouthfuls. I kept the icing minimal because I don’t really like those cakes that have a tower of icing about the same height as the actual cake. They are also a bit small for a really strong cream cheese flavour so I used 50-50 Philadelphia/butter. I topped them off with a small piece of grated carrot that I had soaked in hot water for 10 minutes.

Carrot cupcakes (adapted from Womens Weekly ‘cupcakes by colour’)

  • 1 cup peanut oil (the recipe says vegetable but I ran out)
  • 1 1/3 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups firmly packed coarsely grated carrot
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 2 1/4 cups self raising flour (sifted)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line mini muffin pans with little patty pans. I did some big as well because otherwise it makes a lot of mini cakes.
  2. Beat oil, sugar and eggs together in small bowl with electric mixer until thick and foamy.
  3. Transfer mixture to food processor, add carrot and walnut and blend until they are the desired size.
  4. Transfer mixture to larger bowl and mix in sifted ingredients.
  5. Fill the cases about 1/2 to 2/3 full. The cakes rise so take care not to overfill the patty pans.
  6. Bake about 15 minutes.

It might seem annoying to keep transferring bowls but I found the carrot and walnut was too chunky for a little cake if it didn’t get blended in. I guess for a larger cake it wouldn’t matter so much. The cakes keep quite well, they were still nice the next day and the day after.

Potato and Leek soup August 23, 2009

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P and I went out for dinner the other night and rather ambitiously ordered the degustation. It was good because I got to try things I ordinarily wouldn’t have ordered (even if there was more food than I knew what to do with). One of these things was potato and leek soup. We don’t eat a lot of soup, except perhaps pumpkin but after this I decided we were missing out. This soup is a healthier recreation of the one we had. It was hard to imitate the flavour of about 2 cups of cream and copious amounts of butter while still keeping it heart friendly, so I didn’t really try. The end result was still creamy and tasty without being (too) unhealthy. After all, if you are going to blow your health regime you may as well do it on something more exciting than soup. Like cake.

Potato and Leek soup

  • 1 brown onion (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 leeks (green removed, white chopped)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 potatoes (peeled and chopped into quarters)
  • 2.5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tin evaporated milk
  • Chopped parsley
  1. Fry up onion and leeks in 2 tbsp olive oil until they begin to soften (5+ minutes)
  2. Add garlic, salt, pepper and cumin and continue frying for a few more minutes.
  3. Add vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Add potato and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover.
  4. When vegetables have softened, use an immersion blender to puree the mixture.
  5. Pour in the evaporated milk and leave to simmer until the correct consistency.
  6. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with chopped parsley.

I pureed the soup until it was very smooth because I wanted a very liquid consistency. I also pureed it again the next day while I was reheating it because it thickens overnight. I used pink skinned potatoes.