Monday, 2 June 2014

White Chocolate Yoghurt Pots with Black plum and Roasted Fig




















Two good things; it's finally winter in Australia, hurray, and Mamamia is running a competition for food bloggers, "Food Blogger Idol"! Just come up with a recipe using Rachel's gourmet low fat yoghurt and blog about it. Simple right..?

While it's technically winter in Sydney, seasonal fruits still reckon it’s autumn, so the black plum and roasted fig yoghurt was the choice for me. Cue white chocolate pots with hazelnut madeleines. Impressive, decadent and super easy to make; this could be the perfect dish! 

The yoghurt pots are creamy, silky and slightly tangy, and paired with fresh fruit and crisp, buttery madeleines they are the best :) For breakfast or brunch; there's dairy, fruit, carbs, that's the major food groups covered... Ditto as an after lunch dessert. 

It's all made ahead, and served in beautiful glasses it's perfect for a dinner party. Just take the glasses out of the fridge for the 15 minutes it takes to bake the madeleines, your guests should be super impressed, seriously, the madeleines smell amazing while they bake! Go the extra step and halve some figs and plums, dust with icing sugar then pop under the grill until the sugar bubbles and starts to brown. If your guests don't call you Martha, don't invite them back :) 




White Chocolate Yoghurt Pots

250g Rachel's black plum and fig yoghurt (1 large tub)
300ml thickened cream
220g white chocolate
vanilla bean (or 1tsp vanilla bean paste)

• weigh out your 200g of Rachel's yoghurt, set aside. Scoop out the remaining yoghurt, put in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for when you're looking for a snack... Divide the black plum and fig compote from the bottom of the pot equally between 6 glasses. Set aside.
• tip the white chocolate and 50ml of the thickened cream into a glass or metal bowl, and place it over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water, white chocolate burns really easily!) stir until smooth, set aside to cool
• split the vanilla bean in half, scrape out the seeds and add to a bowl with the remaining cream; whip until soft peaks form
• fold the cooled, melted chocolate into the cream, then fold in the yoghurt, divide between your 6 glasses, cover and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours to set



Hazelnut Madeleines

15g melted butter, for greasing the tray
20g four, for flouring the tray
155g caster sugar (I used golden, but it's neither here nor there)
155g butter
80g flour, sifted
80g hazelnut meal
3 jumbo eggs (approx 200g)
1tbsp frangelico

• melt the butter over a gentle heat, keep heating until the butter turns golden brown, and smells gorgeously nutty and caramelly (so totally a word...) remove from the heat and pour into a bowl, this stops the cooking and prevents the butter burning
• put the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer if you have one, or use a hand held electric mixer, add the sugar and whip until thick and pale
• add the flour and ground hazelnuts and gently fold in
• add the frangelico and melted butter, mix until combined
• cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for somewhere between 2 hours and overnight
• when you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180ºC
• if you have a piping bag and you're not afraid to use it (!) pipe the batter into the trays, filling each shell 3/4 full, alternatively just use a couple of spoons :) if you're making them for a dinner party, just put the trays back in the fridge, then pop them in the oven while you're clearing the main course
• bake in the centre of your oven for 12-15 mins, the madeleines should be brown and crisp around the edges, and spring back when lightly pressed in the centre
• tip the little cakes into your serving bowl and eat while still warm, if not definitely on the day they are baked




Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Lost and Found Department. Baking Masterclass. Nadine Ingram. Flour and Stone

















If you've seen my instagram feed it's no secret I love Flour and Stone, the small inner city bakery cafe in Woolloomooloo, Sydney. For me it has the trifecta; it's unpretentious, has beautiful baked goods and friendly staff. I don't drink coffee, don't judge me, so can't comment on that!


There are so many choices, my top three; the doughnuts, filled with either lemon curd and ricotta, or raspberry compote and vanilla custard, can't decide which I like more, you'll need to try both; the gorgeous fine apple tart; and the much blogged about panna cotta lamington. Who decides to poke holes in slabs of sponge, pour panna cotta over the top, leaving it to soak, transforming the sponge to light, vanilla-y, custardy deliciousness? I'm very happy someone did. For me it's the fine apple tart that sums up Flour and Stone; it has few ingredients, is beautiful in its simplicity, yet the skill behind it is obvious.


Although happy to "stalk" Nadine Ingram, owner of Flour and Stone, over on instagram, I was pretty damned excited when I learned about a baking masterclass she was holding at the Lost and Found Department. It took just a few minutes to buy two places, and less to convince Deb, my food adventure buddy, to come along. That's Deb, holding the basil in the image towards the bottom of the page; she first took me to Flour and Stone last year when I moved back to Sydney, so it was great to go to the masterclass together. 


This venue is incredible, more on that later. Introductions were made outside, under the vast open sided tent. Nadine filled us in on her background and experience, wow, was friendly, genuine and unassuming. Talking about Flour and Stone, Nadine's passion was evident, as was her support and commitment to her staff, I'm guessing she's a great boss. You can't go wrong with a baker who has a gorgeous old Breville mixer called Neville! She was also, I'm struggling for the right word here, steely maybe, I don't think she'd take any crap from anyone! 




We covered 3 recipes in 5 hours, alas not the apple tart or doughnuts, but, zucchini, gruyere and chilli rolls, chocolate salted caramel tart and lemon drizzle cake. Nadine was very open about where the recipes came from. I didn't take notes, from memory the pastry was based on a Lorraine Godsmark recipe, another, I think the bread dough, was Bill Granger's. The lemon drizzle cake recipe may even have been her grandmother's, or perhaps I'm making that up, the point though, there is no ego here. 

I like to think i can bake, am comfortable in a kitchen, but Nadine, she is at a whole new level! Making caramel can be a bit stressful, for me there's always a wet pastry brush on hand, occasional burnt fingers and pans of useless crystals... I'm guessing she's caramelised a LOT of sugar, but Nadine was sooo comfortable. With a pan and stove she'd never used, Nadine turned her back on the sugar and moved on to something else.  There was occasional swirling of the pan, but generally it was left alone until it was good and ready, and it was perfect :) All of the recipes were cooked with ease, and lots of tips and tricks shared in the process.

I've made the lemon drizzle cake a few times now, still tweaking the recipe to suit my oven and cake tins, but it's a keeper. I'm still hoping to bake more bread this year, I know, it's nearly June :) But the pastry method was the best tip for me, leaving grape sized lumps of butter, then smearing the dough on the bench until just streaks remain. The chocolate salted caramel tart is next on my hit list, I'll keep you posted.




















Now, a few words about the workshops at the Lost and Found Department, trying not to gush, bear with me. The workshops are held at a property on Sydney's Northern Beaches, it's actually Sylvia, the business owner's, home, but I'll call it prop heaven. Everything here is BEAUTIFUL, everything. I could have spent the day taking photos, vignettes everywhere. The kitchen is all marble, mirrors, timber and chandeliers, a butcher's block and vintage pieces. Serious kitchen envy. The fabulousness continues in the garden; there's garlic, herbs, finger limes, yes, finger limes, i've wanted to plant one for ages... chickens and bees. So maybe not "a few words"! Let's go with more photos :)






Under the big top tent festooned with chairs, the long table was set for lunch. Silvia is all about the detail, the table setting was amazing. Vintage cake tins and spanish moss lined the centre, and from the string garland above dangled mini pastry moulds, muffin papers and rosemary. There was mismatched vintage cutlery and tea cups, raw edged squares of muslin for napkins. I'd love to see what happens at Christmas.





Silvia's lunch was delicious, lamb slow roasted on a slab of pink salt, with salads and Nadine's zucchini gruyere rolls. Then, after a small breather, tea in those vintage cups and slices of lemon drizzle cake.  Back in the kitchen to finish off the chocolate tart. While it cooled, waiting to be sliced, boxed and added to our take home bags, we wandered the gardens, picked finger limes, basil and nettles. Sylvia was super generous, sharing the bounty from her garden.

 
All that gushing about the kitchen and garden, I forgot to mention the natural rock pools, one big enough to swim in, others smaller, and a solitary, perfect water lily. Of course.

If you're lucky enough to be in Sydney, I definitely recommend the workshops, for the escape as much as the class itself. I think Nadine is holding another masterclass, later this year, well worth it. In the meantime, get on over to Four and Stone and pick a favourite...

Friday, 9 May 2014

Of May, Mother's Day, and Morning Tea



It's finally feeling like autumn, my favourite Sydney season. May in Australia is all about Mother's Day and morning tea. Mother's day festivities occur on the second Sunday in May, in our family that's lots of baking and a long lunch. Weekends here are a bit crazy at the moment; three kids, winter sports, so I may have bought my own gift. I'd planned on flowers, the book delivery was purely coincidental. I won't spill the beans on my gift giving plans, there's an outside chance my mum may read this before Sunday ;)

"Australia's Biggest Morning Tea" is a fundraising initiative. Friends, families, school kids, colleagues get together, share morning tea and raise dollars for the Cancer Council; socialising, cake and supporting an excellent cause, it's a "win win". Thursday 22nd is the date this year, but tea is drunk and cake eaten all through May and on in to June.  I've hosted before, this year though, I baked for a local event, and went "virtual".

It was beautiful on Wednesday morning in Lane Cove, and In the Cove's biggest morning tea was a lovely event. Jacky, Lane Cove local and community powerhouse, and Nikki from Stella Bella Home hosted lots of locals, who sat in the shade enjoying coffee, tea and the delights of the dessert table. Yes, I sent macarons, but was totally inspired by those butterfly cakes!


On to matters virtual; the very clever Erika Rax and Gemma Ryan devised the very modern virtual tea party and parcel swap.  The virtual tea party is happening this week; a compilation, over on Erika's blog, of links to bloggers doing all things morning tea, one giant online tea party. Hopefully this post will link up, and you can "hop" on over to other sites and see what they are up to.

Apparently people have been parcel swapping for ages, who knew? Check out #postaparcel on instagram and prepare to be both amazed and intimated. For more beautiful parcels and a whole new level of intimidation, search #thecreativeexchange, remember, I warned you...

This was my first swap, and Nia our swap hostess, paired me with Tammi in WA; Tammi and I exchanged addresses and collected 5 items, morning tea themed, to post to each other.


I had a legitimate excuse to seek out op shops, trawl my fabric stash, and even plugged in my 11 year old clunky sewing machine to make napkins. Now call me a one trick pony, but macaron shells are perfectly postable... I made chocolate shells, added chocolate, orange oil and the ganache recipe, a cute little plate and the napkins, wrapped it all up and popped it in the post. My parcel from Tammi arrived the same day. A lovely vintage tea cup and saucer, pyramid tea bags, a jar of melting moments, strawberry jam and Tammi's grandmother's scone recipe - just perfect, lucky me! I've eaten the melting moments, drunk the tea, and plan to test drive the scones next week, yep, for morning tea. Those gorgeous labels are hand printed on vintage linen napkins, totally stealing that idea.

The parcel posting bandwagon, I've jumped right on! It seems to stem from Instagram, where I've been following Bianca from Sunday Folk for a while. Bianca organised another parcel swap, what folk eat. Now, cue spooky music, I joined the swap and was paired with Erika Rax! The freakiness of that coincidence was completely lost on my family...


A chocolate chunk cookie kit with gorgeous handwritten instructions came my way. I finally got around to making them this week and they were gooood, my son "rates" them :) you can find the recipe here. They are a little cakier, less chewy, than the recipe I usually use, I think they'd make perfect whoppie pies...

More op shop finds and home made napkins went in the parcel I sent, a chocolate hazelnut sundae kit; thanks Erika for sharing your photo :)


I'm loving social media, I may turn into a parcel swapping junkie. It's kind of strange how nerve wracking it was, waiting for someone you've never met to receive their parcel, really hoping they don't hate it!

Mother's Day or not, I hope you have a lovely weekend, maybe even bake something and do the morning tea thing :)







Saturday, 26 April 2014

Matcharons



Inspite of my intense dislike for green tea I was convinced to make matcha macarons, from here on in to be known as matcharons. If you're in Australia, and have seen the ad with the man pulling a "soy milk aftertaste face" that's what I look like when I drink green tea! Matcha lovers tell me the taste is worlds apart from regular green tea, I'll take their word for it. Matcharons have a really subtle taste, the buttercream centre fluffy and light with a slight herbaceous hint. Go on, give them a try, if only for their gorgeous colour :)


matcharon shells

75g egg white
100g ground almonds
100g icing sugar
1 tsp matcha powder (don't increase this, it does weird things!)
100g caster sugar
25ml water

 line 2 baking trays with baking paper
 combine the caster sugar and water in a small, heavy based pan and set aside
 put the ground almonds, icing sugar and matcha powder in a blender and blitz on the pulse setting for a minute or so • push the nut powder through a sieve into a large bowl, if you have a small amount that won't be pushed through the sieve just toss it out, any more than a teaspoon and it's worth repeating the blitzing stage
 divide the egg white in half, use scales for this stage, you may need to lightly beat the egg white with a fork to break it up • put half in the bowl of a stand mixer, set the other half aside
 over a low heat stir the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves • increase heat to high and bring the syrup to a boil, it's ok to swirl the pan but do not stir (!) • use a wet pastry brush to remove any crystals that form on the side of the pan • check the temperature with a sugar thermometer, you are aiming for 118ºC, but when the temperature reaches 110ºC whisk the egg whites until firm peaks form
 when the sugar syrup reaches 118ºC turn the mixer to low and slowly pour it into the bowl, once all the syrup is in, turn the speed to high and whisk until cool
 pour the unbeaten egg white over the nut/sugar/matcha powder, tip the meringue on top and using a spatula, mix together in a circular motion, lifting the batter from underneath • this method takes a bit of mixing, the batter is ready when a ribbon of batter falls from your spatula and disappears back into the mix within 20-30 seconds
• use a spot of batter under the corners of the baking paper to stick it to the trays
• fit a piping bag with a 10mm nozzle and fill with the batter • pipe 3cm rounds, about 2cm apart, onto the baking paper • tap the trays on the bench, turn through 90º and tap again
• preheat the oven to 150ºC while the macarons rest on the bench for half an hour or so
• bake for 18 minutes until firm, lightly push a macaron from the side, if it moves away from the ruffled foot around the base put them back in the oven for another couple of minutes, then check again
• cool on the tray for a few minutes then transfer to a cooling rack
• pair each shell with a similar sized partner; pipe the buttercream filling (recipe below) on the underside of one shell and gently press its partner on top
• store in an airtight container in the fridge overnight
 allow to come to room temperature to eat and enjoy!!


matcha swiss meringue buttercream

3 large egg whites
180g granulated sugar
230g butter, at room temperature, cubed
pinch salt
1 heaped tbsp matcha powder

 combine the egg whites and sugar in a bowl, place over a pan of simmering water, don't let the bowl touch the water • whisk constantly until the temperature reaches 72ºC (beware the perils of simultaneous mixing and temperature measuring...)
 transfer to a stand mixer and whisk on medium high until the mixtures cools, has doubled in size and forms stiff peaks 
 change to the paddle attachment and add the butter a piece at a time, mixing to incorporate each piece, the mixture may look alarmingly curdled but keep mixing and it will magically come back together
 once all the butter is incorporated add the salt and matcha powder, mixing on slow until combined
• transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 10ml plain tip and you are ready to fill your macarons

~~

After advice from my matcharon testers (thanks JJ, Nikki and Sarah) for my latest trial I upped the matcha in the buttercream and piped yuzu curd in the centre, a hidden surprise. Yuzu juice is one of my new favourite things, no fresh yuzus here, only the bottled juice, but it is amazing! Expect more "things yuzu" to come:)

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Food Styling and Photography Masterclass in Daylesford

It started with a beautiful image of a cake in my instagram feed; cake, an orange, a pomegranate, and the simple text overlay;

Daylesford
Food. Photography. Workshop

I investigated, followed links to the brochure, "Join us for 4 days in regional Victoria to explore food, photography and the rural charms of Daylesford" who could resist? I emailed the link to Mr B, subject heading, birthday gift?, just as a joke really, but 2 days later I was booked in, and 10 days later, on the plane!

This is quite out of character for me; I find spending large amounts of cash on myself uncomfortable, and flying interstate to spend 4 days in a remote farmhouse with 5 people I hadn't met, definitely unnerving, bordering on risky. I blame Wolf Creek...




The drive out to Daylesford was really beautiful, golden grassy hills glowing in the light (and it's ALL about the light :) ). I stayed awake, always a bonus, I'm shocking in a car out of the city, just can't keep my eyes open! The old farmhouse was perfect, the balance of the heritage building with modern comfort, just right.  The grounds were gorgeous; enormous old oaks, herb gardens, a tyre swing, a pizza oven... Inside, features abound; marble bench top, vintage meat safes, an open fire, a claw foot bath, and cushions, cushions, cushions; I could have spent 4 days photographing the house :)
Our hosts Ewen and Billy were really welcoming, genuine and warm, the other "attendees" relaxed and friendly; no crazy people here. We settled in with a beautiful lunch, prepared by Billy, that pretty much set the food benchmark for the weekend. There was a lot of food. Billy cooked breakfast each morning, we ate at some excellent restaurants, I struck gold finding fellow late night bakers, I made brownies, recipe below! Billy and Michèle had a "scone off" rosemary vs lemonade that morphed into prosecco; prosecco was definitely the winner for me, check them out over at ironchefshellie.com. We had a midnight bonfire, ate timtams and roasted bacon instead of marshmallows. 
And the field trips! The farm tour at Jonai Farm was a highlight. Tammi is so passionate about the farm; the animals so obviously well looked after on acres and acres of land. We wandered about checking out the heritage-breed large black pigs, lowline cattle, chooks, a huge rooster called Marlon Brando, hens called Gertrude. I loved the rambling seasonal garden, the barn with a chandelier, and the refrigerated container where the charcuterie magic happens. We ate bacon and sausages from the farm and they were delicious :) 

Trash and treasure at the Daylesford market then over to the Mill Markets, vintage shopping heaven. We didn't even make it Daylesford itself. I was seriously hampered by my hand luggage only ticket.
The photography and processing sessions were excellent, Ewen really knows his stuff and is incredibly patient. He generously loaned his cameras and lenses, introduced the magic a "tilt shift". We took home gorgeous giant prints from the Epsom printer.

I learned loads, not so much that I wouldn't do it again...
I'd baked a whole load of macarons for a function the day before I left so naturally bought some along, they've never looked so pretty. Thanks so much Carly for the raw files :)

ridiculously chocolatey brownies

180g butter
180g dark chocolate
3 eggs
275g caster sugar
110g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
180g block white chocolate 
220g milk chocolate (or there abouts...)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Quick confession number 1 - the chocolate measurements in this recipe are based on the sizes of my preferred chocolate bars, I generally use nestlé club, milky bar and cadbury diary milk. I'd stick to the 180g dark chocolate, but if your white and milk chocolate weight varies your brownies will be fine :)

Quick confession number 2 - I love the image, but the brownies in the photos above were horribly over cooked; unfamiliar oven, cooked in 2 small tins, excuses, excuses, but they are usually fantastic, I promise, my "go to" brownie recipe

• preheat your oven to 175ºC
• line the base of a 23cm square cake tin with baking paper, lightly grease the sides
• put the butter and dark chocolate in a pan over a low heat and stir until melted and smooth, set aside to cool
• sift together the flour and cocoa and set aside
• break the milk and white chocolate into squares and put them in the freezer
• in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a large bowl and electric hand whisk) whisk together the eggs and sugar until really thick, creamy and pale, then fold through the melted chocolate and butter
• gently fold through the flour and cocoa, then take your chocolate out of the freezer and stir through
• pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, and bake in the centre of your oven for 30 mins if you like your brownies fudgy, 40 mins if you prefer them firmer.
• leave brownies to cool completely, then slice into squares; if you've opted for fudgier brownies I'd refrigerate them for an hour or so before slicing.
• brownies should keep in an airtight container for about a week; if they start to dry out, pop them in the microwave and serve them with ice-cream!


~•~


Oh, back to Daylesford, there was also fire writing, Milkyway shots (that's actual shots of the stars, not a drink), lots of instagramming, inappropriate hash tags, much hilarity when the only station available in the car was the BBC World Service, and finally an "oscars selfie". Thanks so much Ewen, Billy, Shellie, Carly and Maureen, there's not a lot better than making new friends :)







Friday, 14 March 2014

Experimenting...


Do you stash things, put them in a safe place then forget about them and/or their location? I do it all the time; Christmas presents, important notes for school, chocolate...

Last week, in a moment of weakness, I let my kids make slime; my 7 year old loves experiments, google has a lot to answer for. The slime was a disaster, clag clearly is not pva glue; our second attempt, with my quite possibly toxic craft glue, was deemed a health hazard, we binned the lot. The upside of gluegate, we found my stash of popping candy, purchased on a trip to the US last year, and very carefully hidden in the food colouring container on the highest pantry shelf. I don't use food colouring often, even my red velvet cakes are "nude"!

I'd bought the popping candy to add to the ganache for some macarons, I had visions of a fabulously smooth, but crackling centre. IT DID NOT WORK, it mostly vanished with a few crunchy remnants. There must a product out there, it works for Cadbury, and I've definitely had fancy popping truffles. The macarons themselves were lovely, if a bit sedate! It was my mum's birthday, so naturally I made jaffarons, recipe here.


We also got crafty and made a birthday card, totally stole the idea from Jane at emerald and ella. I spent a lovely escapist half hour in a florist, choosing the most beautiful flowers, then belted them in on the front seat and hit the road...






Thursday, 6 March 2014

Salt and Pepper Silken Tofu with Szechuan Berries


Salt and pepper tofu is one of my favourite things to order at a restaurant, it's often my favourite dish on the menu, dessert included! We don't eat out regularly, and when we do we end up at one of a handful of restaurants, friends may mock, but when it's a rare treat who wants to risk disappointment? Maybe I need to take more risks or just get out more...

Fried tofu is a really simple dish, its contrasts make it special; the crispy crunchy exterior and silky smooth centre, the creamy, almost bland, tofu perfect for the super salty, peppery crust; throw in some chilli sauce or a sweet tangy dipping sauce and I could eat it all night. It's that "share" dish I want to order just for me. The szechuan berries add another dimension, citrusy and tongue tingling; it was fun watching the kids try them for the first time!

It takes a quite a bit of frying to achieve the golden crust, but the tofu is crisp long before it turns golden, so if you lose patience just fish it out and enjoy its crispy, pale, salty goodness! I used tapioca flour because it turns super crispy and I have loads of it in the cupboard. I'm pretty sure most flours will work, it's such a light coating, you can even fry the tofu naked, it's not as crunchy, but browns in a flash and puffs up beautifully.




salt and pepper tofu

300g silken firm tofu
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp szechuan berries
60 tapioca flour*
canola oil for frying, I used about 600ml
1 red bird's eye chilli
1 shallot (spring onion, green onion, scallion - I never know what to call them...)
small handful coriander leaves
chilli sauce
ginger dipping sauce (recipe below)

• slice the chilli and shallot and set aside
• pour the oil into a small wok or deep frying pan, gently heat to 185ºC (approx 370ºF) if you don't have a thermometer, drop in a cube of bread, it should turn golden brown within a minute 
• combine the salt, pepper and szechaun berries in a mortar and pestle and roughly grind until you have a mix of fine power and lumpier bits!
• sieve the flour into a bowl, add half of your salt/pepper mix and combine
• drain the liquid from the tofu and carefully tip it onto a board, slice into 12 cubes, carefully turn your cubes of tofu in the flour to coat all sides
• use a slotted spoon to lower the tofu into the oil, I fried 6 at at time
• remove when golden, or when you've lost patience, and drain on kitchen paper
• pile your tofu on a plate, sprinkle with a pinch of the reserved salt/pepper, the chilli and shallot
• serve with chilli sauce, ginger dipping sauce and the remaining salt/pepper powder 



ginger dipping sauce

75 ml rice wine vinegar
2cm piece ginger, sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp sugar

• put all ingredients into a small pan, heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, leave to cool
• when cool, strain into your serving bowl
• add a couple of slices of chilli and shallot, stolen from the tofu recipe, no taste benefit, purely aesthetic :)

I plunge my tofu in this sauce then dip a corner into the salt/pepper powder; crispy, salty and zingy,  soft and sweet, the best!




Do you tofu?