Monday, 10 December 2018

walnut dacquoise with chocolate and cherries



Two weeks, it's Christmas in two weeks! I'm at odds with Christmas. Growing up in the UK, I find Christmas in short days and long nights, overcast skies or pale winter sun, gloves and scarves, roasted chestnuts, the Wizard of Oz, walnuts and satsumas rattling around in the bottom of a Santa sack. Not in a vast blue sky towering over bleached sandy beaches, that high contrast Aussie summer light; stifling nights, sundresses, salt crusted hair and cricket. But it's all those things, and more, for my kids, and Christmas is essentially about family. So let's say I'm happily at odds with Christmas.

This desserts pairs the festive walnuts of my youth, with the beautiful cherries of an Australian summer, and it's equally delicious whatever the hemisphere. A wonderful dessert for Christmas day, beautifully nutty, with a crisp meringue shell and soft chewy centre, layered with chocolate, cherries and cream. Make the components in advance, then put it together about an hour before you serve, give those flavours and layers a little time to meld, slice with a serrated knife and enjoy! 

walnut dacquoise
preparation time 30 minutes, serves 12*

190g walnuts
110g almond meal (ground almonds)
40g icing sugar
9 egg whites
525g caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar

500ml thickened cream, whipped
Chocolate ganache
Cherry compote
Icing sugar, for decoration
Cherries, for decoration
Candied walnuts, optional for decoration

• pre-heat oven to 170ºC
• grease and line 3, 20 cm cake tins
• spread walnuts evenly over a baking tray, toast in the oven for 10 minutes, leave to cool completely
• tip walnuts and icing sugar into a food processor, and pulse until the walnuts are finely ground, the same consistency as the ground almonds, set aside
• whisk egg whites until stiff, continue whisking adding caster sugar 2 tbsp at a time until glossy and stiff, and the sugar has dissolved
• carefully fold through ground walnuts, almonds, and vinegar
• divide the mixture equally between the 3 tins, bake for 35 minutes
• cool in the tins
• when completely cool, remove the dacquoise discs from the tins, keep the prettiest disc for the top layer
  place a dacquoise layer on your serving plate, gently spread with half the ganache, top with half the cherry compote, finishing with half of the whipped cream; your dacquoise may crack and sink slightly, this is part of the charm, the dip perfectly housing the delicious filling
• repeat with your second dacquoise layer, finishing with the pretty top
• dust icing sugar, and decorate with fresh cherries and caramelised walnuts

chocolate ganache
preparation time 10 minutes

200g dark chocolate
300ml thickened cream

• finely chop chocolate, tip into heat proof bowl
• heat cream to simmering point, pour over chocolate, leave for 5 mins then stir until smooth
• cool completely


cherry compote
preparation time 25 minutes

500g pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
60ml cherry brandy
60ml orange juice (can use all juice if don’t want alcohol, although its’s cooked off)
50g granulated sugar

• tip all ingredients into a pan, bring to boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved
• simmer for 10 mins or so, until cherries soften
• strain cherries over a bowl, return juices to pan, simmer until thick and syrupy
• pour over cherries, cool, store in airtight container

candied walnuts
preparation time 15 minutes

200g granulated sugar
125g walnut halves

• line a baking try with non- stick baking paper, or lightly greased foil
• tip the sugar into a heavy based frying pan/skillet
• cook the sugar over a medium heat until it is melted and golden, do not stir the sugar, but gently swirl the pan to ensure the sugar melts evenly
• add the walnuts to the pan, stir until they are coated with caramel, then tip them onto the lined baking tray, separate the walnut halves, don’t worry if a few stick together, you can try to break them apart when they have cooled
• when they have cooled completely store in an airtight container


* the recipe can be easily adapted to a 2 layer dessert, 8 generous slices, by reducing the quantities by 2/3







Monday, 3 December 2018

christmas sandwich cookies



I love baking, I love Christmas, I really love Christmas baking. There's something special about a homemade gift, the thought behind it, time spent, using your hands. A box of cookies, a bottle of vanilla extract, a Christmas decoration; cue Frank and Bing, I'm starting early.

These festive cookies are based on the European Linzer Cookie, a mini version of the Linzer Torte, popular at Christmas. The traditional cookies are lightly spiced with cinnamon, sometimes lemon zest, and sandwiched with blackcurrant jam; I've left out the citrus and spice, instead opting for a buttery, vanilla flavour paired with sweet strawberry jam. They're one of my favourites, easy to make, delicious and really pretty; perfect as a gift, and a great "bring a plate" for the party season. 




christmas sandwich cookies

100g ground almonds
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
225g butter
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
Barker's New Zealand strawberry jam
icing sugar for dusting

makes approximately 15 sandwich cookies
preparation time 30 minutes, not including chilling and baking

• in the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand held mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the vanilla and egg yolks, and mix to combine
• add the ground almonds, and with the mixer on slow, beat to combine
• sift the flour and salt together, then add to the dough, mix slowly until just combined
• divide the dough in half, roll each half between two sheets of baking paper to 5mm thick, leaving the dough between the sheets of baking paper, transfer to baking trays and rest in the fridge for at least an hour
• preheat your oven to 175ºC fan, 195ºC conventional
• use a 6cm cookie cutter to cut rounds from the sheets of dough, transfer to lined baking trays, leaving 2cm clearance around each cookie
• collect the off cuts together and re-roll, popping it back into the fridge for 10 minutes or so if it becomes too soft to handle
• use a smaller, approximately 2.5cm cutter to cut a circle from the centre of half the cookies, save these little rounds, bake them separately to make mini sandwiches cookies
• bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges, then transfer to racks to cool
• when the cookies are completely cool, turn the solid round cookies upside down and top with a teaspoon of jam; dust the cookie rings with icing sugar then gently press onto the bases
• using a couple of teaspoons, very carefully top the centres of the cookies with a little extra jam
• cookies will keep in an airtight container for several days, you can make the cookies in advance, but fill them just before serving as they will soften quickly once filled

vanilla extract

300ml mini bottle of vodka
5 vanilla beans

• split the vanilla beans in half length ways, drop into the bottle of vodka, tightly replace the lid
• store in a cool place, away from direct sunlight for 8 weeks
• remove the vanilla beans and your vanilla extract is good to go!
• it would be more economical to buy a large bottle of vodka and decant into several smaller bottles, but I just loved the shape of this one!






Thursday, 29 November 2018

blood orange, chocolate, and buttermilk bundt




Chocolate, orange, and a party bundt, what's not to love? This chocolate, blood orange and buttermilk bundt is a bit of a favourite; the sponge is light and moist, the gentle chocolate flavour and tangy blood orange, a perfect pair. The recipe suits a 12 cup bundt pan, but if yours like mine is a 10 cup, it also makes 6 bonus cupcakes! This bundt pan is genuinely called the "party bundt", it's a Nordic ware pan from Williams-Sonoma, and is my absolute favourite; it's really pretty, not too intricate so is less likely to stick, and its lovely symmetrical pattern makes for perfectly even portions. If you've missed blood orange season, a regular orange will work just as well, your only sacrifice the most perfect shade of pink!

chocolate, blood orange bundt

325g plain flour, cake flour if you can find it

2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
330g caster sugar
375ml canola oil
zest of 1 blood orange
2 large eggs
250ml (1 cup) buttermilk
2 tsps white vinegar
1 1/2 tsps bicarb soda

blood orange icing, recipe below


 preheat your oven to 175ºC 

• carefully grease your bundt pan with softened butter, ensuring you coat the entire surface, particularly any creases, then dust with cocoa powder. If you are using a 10 cup bundt pan you will have extra mixture, enough for 6 small cupcakes, so pop 6 cupcake liners into a cupcake pan, 
I generally use dark or foil cases, I think they look better when baked. 
 over a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt, set aside
• using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or hand held mixer, mix together the oil and sugar until combined, then add the eggs one at a time, make sure your first egg is completed incorporated before you add the next 
• add the blood orange zest and mix to combine, the batter looks really weird at this point, but stick with it!
 with the mixer on low, tip in 1/3 of the flour/cocoa comb and mix until just combined, add 1/2 buttermilk, mix until combined. Repeat with remaining flour and buttermilk, finishing with the last 1/3 of the flour/cocoa
 in a cup or small bowl, mix the bicarb soda and vinegar together, it will foam up, tip into the cake batter and mix until combined
 fill your cupcake cases 2/3 full, I use an ice-cream scoop with a release for this, it helps me to keep the cakes the same size. Tip the remaining batter into the bundt pan
 bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, the bundt cake will take 30-35 minutes, up to 40 minutes for the 12 cup bundt pan, check it after 30 minutes by gently poking the centre of your cake with a skewer or piece of uncooked spaghetti, the skewer will come out clean when the cake is cooked. Immediately invert the bundt cake onto a cooling rack and leave to cool
 cool your cup cakes on a wire cooling rack, when completely cold they are ready to ice
• drizzle the cake (and cupcakes) with blood orange icing and enjoy


blood orange icing


125g icing sugar

juice of 1/2 blood orange

• sieve the icing sugar into a small bowl

• gradually add the blood orange juice until you have a thick icing, you want it to just drop off your spoon, slightly looser than a paste
• use immediately

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Chocolate, coffee, and hazelnut chiffon cake



Chocolate, coffee, and hazelnut, definitely a flavour combination you should try. I made this chiffon cake for my son's birthday, I wasn't planning to post to it, but after many requests, here it is. It's a slightly tweaked, more flavourful version of the nutella chiffon I made for him a couple of years ago, stronger on the coffee, with a good dollop of nutella in the sponge.

We barely made it to the restaurant on time, so there's only a couple of images, check my instagram highlights for the waiter's thumbprint! One of my favourite things about this cake is the nutella swiss meringue buttercream, it's just the right combination of hazelnut and chocolate with a hint of salt, I want to put it on all the things...

chocolate chiffon

200g cake flour
30g cocoa powder
10g baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
250g caster sugar
180 ml hot black coffee
60g nutella
125 ml canola oil
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped or 1 tsp vanilla paste
6 eggs, separated
1 extra egg white
1/2 tsp cream of tartar (not essential, but will stabilise the egg whites)
50g caster sugar

nutella swiss meringue buttercream, recipe below

cooled nutella ganache, recipe below
ferrero rocher, hazelnuts and as much foliage as you like, to decorate

serves 16


 preheat your oven to 170ºC

• add the nutella to the hot coffee, mix to combine and set aside to cool (I made my coffee with 2 strong coffee pods)
• combine the cake flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt, sift into a the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one, and with the paddle attachment mix through the 250g caster sugar 
• make a well in the centre of your flour mixture, add the cooled coffee, egg yolks, oil and vanilla extract, mix until smooth
• in another, really large bowl whisk the 7 egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar then mix until you have soft peaks, gradually add the additional 50g caster sugar, whisking until you have firm peaks and the sugar has dissolved
• fold the egg whites into the batter in three stages
• pour the batter into an ungreased, unlined angel food cake tin and bake for 55-60 minutes; check after 55 minutes, the cake should spring back when gently pressed, if not, put it back in for the extra 5 minutes
• remove the cake from the oven, and immediately invert to cool; if your tin doesn't have "feet" balance the upturned tin over a bottle, guiding the neck of the bottle through the centre tube of your pan
• when completely cool, to release the cake, run a sharp knife around the inside and tube sections of the cake tin, remove the cake leaving it sitting on the centre section of the tin; this next stage is tricky, slide a strong thread, I use dental floss, between the base of the cake and the tin, slide the string all the way around the cake, crossing each end around the tube. Invert the cake onto a turntable if you have one, or your serving plate, and put in the fridge for 15 minutes or so.

• frosting step one is the crumb coat, it uses a super thin coating of frosting to glue any loose crumbs to the cake
• starting from the top and working your way down the sides and into the hole through the centre of your cake, use an offset pallet knife to spread a layer of buttercream over your cake;  using the edge of your pallet knife or a cake scraper, gently scrape back as much of the frosting as you can leaving a super thin crumb filled layer behind
• return the cake to the fridge for at least 15 mins to set the crumb coat
• again with the offset pallet knife, cover your cake with a final thicker layer of frosting and return to the fridge for at least 15 minutes, this will firm up the frosting and help the ganache set 

• carefully pour the ganache over the top of the cake, you may need to encourage it over the sides, allow to drip, return to the fridge to set
• decorate with ferrero rocher, hazelnuts, and foliage of your choice
• slice giant slabs of cake with a serrated knife and enjoy
• the cake will keep covered in the fridge for 3 days

nutella swiss meringue buttercream


3 large egg whites

180g caster sugar
230g butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature

180g nutella
pinch salt
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean

• combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, place over a pan of simmering water, don't let the pan touch the water; whisk constantly until the temperature reaches 72ºC 

• return the bowl to the stand mixer and whisk on medium high until the mixture cools, has doubled in size and forms stiff peaks
• change to the paddle attachment and add the butter a piece at a time, mix to incorporate each piece before adding the next; the mixture may look alarmingly curdled at times but keep mixing and it will magically come back together
• once all the butter is in, add the salt and vanilla seeds, mixing on slow until combined, finally add the nutella, again mixing slowly to combine

• the frosting should be firm enough to scoop, if it's too soft, put it in the fridge to firm up, checking in 5 minute intervals until it is ready
• buttercream will keep for a week in an air tight container in the fridge, allow to soften at room temperature before use

nutella ganache

100g nutella

60g chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
125ml cream

• finely chop the chocolate, tip into a small heatproof bowl with the nutella

• heat cream in a small pan until barely simmering, simmer for 1 minute then pour over the chocolate and nutella, stir to ensure the chocolate and nutella are covered by the cream, then let stand for 5 minutes
• stir until smooth and glossy, leave to thicken as it cools


Thursday, 1 November 2018

easy no churn lemon curd ice cream sandwich cookies

Home made ice cream, it's awesome, the very best. Ice cream makers, though, I've killed two. Not the fancy counter top variety, but the kind where the chiller bowl lives in the freezer, inevitably ejected for space, neglected, later exploding in the Sydney heat. No churn ice cream is the answer, it's ridiculously easy, and so so delicious.

This easy lemon curd ice cream has 4 ingredients, takes no time at all to whip up, and simply needs a few hours to chill out in the freezer. The ice cream is perfect as is, but I love it sandwiched between two cookies; you could follow the cookie recipe below, or why not buy your favourites, have those sandwiches in your hands pronto.

Chocolate and lemon is a fabulous combination, not as popular, but perhaps a more sophisticated take on my all time favourite combination, chocolate and orange. The bitter chocolate works so well with the sweet and tangy lemon, the biscuits softening beautifully as they rest in the freezer. 

For the sandwich cookies, pour the ice cream into a shallow, rectangular cake pan to freeze, mine is 24cm x 30cm, but something similar will work just as well; if you are just making the ice cream a loaf pan is perfect. The recipe makes 9 large ice cream sandwiches, and a couple of minis with the left overs.



no churn lemon curd ice cream

200g Barker's New Zealand Lemon Curd
600ml thickened cream
125g icing sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon

• line a 24cm x 30cm cake pan with baking paper if you're making ice cream sandwiches, or an unlined loaf pan for just the ice cream; clear a level space in the freezer for the cake pan and leave it in the freezer while you prepare the ice cream
• sift the icing sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, add the lemon curd, lemon juice and zest, and using the paddle attachment, beat until smooth
• switch to the whisk attachment, add the cream, and whip until soft peaks form
• pour the ice cream mixture into to the chilled cake pan, smooth the top, cover with cling wrap and return to the freezer for a least 6 hours, or overnight
• the ice cream will keep covered in the freezer for up to a week
• makes approximately 1.5 litres


chocolate biscuits

220g plain flour
80g cocoa powder, dutch processed
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/4 tsp fine salt
190g butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
25g light brown sugar
1 egg yolk

• line 2 baking trays with baking paper, set aside
• sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl, set aside
• in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until the colour has lightened and the mixture is fluffy, add the egg yolk, beat again to combine
• tip half the flour mixture into the butter mixture, with the mixer on low, mix to combine
• add the remaining half of the flour mixture, mix until it forms large clumps of dough
• tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently until smooth, wrap in cling wrap, pat into a disc shape and pop into the fridge for an hour
• just before the hour is up, preheat your oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan)
• take the biscuit dough out of the fridge and let is sit on the bench for about 5 minutes to soften slightly
• lightly flour the bench and a rolling pin, roll the dough until it is approximately 3mm thick; using an 8cm round cutter, cut rounds from the dough and place 9 on each of the baking trays
• bake for 20 minutes, or until just firm, turning the trays after 10 minutes
• leave the cookies on the trays until completely cool
• the cookies will keep in an airtight container for a week
• makes 18 cookies, for 9 sandwiches

construction...

• turn half of the biscuits top down on your bench
• working quickly, with the cutter used for the biscuits, cut discs from the ice cream
• place an ice cream disc on an upturned biscuit, top with another, and pop into a freezer container, return to the freezer for at least 2 hours for the ice cream to firm up, and the biscuits to soften slightly
• ice cream sandwiches will keep in the freezer for up to a week





Monday, 24 September 2018

strawberry and cream chiffon cake



Madness. Australian strawberry farmers have been devastated recently by an appalling act of sabotage, recklessly compounded by numerous copycats. It made me furious and so sad for the farmers, images of mountains of berries dumped by the truckload. Farmers are doing it tough, so many family businesses struggling. In celebration of the strawberry and support of our farmers, I'm buying lots of strawberries, and making cake. 

The soft pink of this sponge against the creamy frosting is just lovely, I'd like to pack in more strawberry flavour, next time roasting the strawberries with some of the sugar before they're puréed. Usually I wouldn't share a recipe before I'm completely happy with it, but the timing is right, and any suggestions on that strawberry flavour would be great! Chambord is a wonderful black raspberry liqueur, it adds depth but is not essential here, you could sub it for another liqueur or just leave it out entirely and increase the strawberry purée to 180ml. As always I was a bit carried away with the decoration, so many strawberries, mint, thyme, and the sweetest little flowers from our hedge.

Come on Aussies, keep buying strawberries, they are so good right now, "cut them up don't cut them out"...










































strawberry chiffon

225g cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
250g caster sugar
200g strawberries
30 ml Chambord, or liqueur of your choice
125 ml canola oil
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped or 1 tsp vanilla paste
6 eggs, separated
1 extra egg white
1/2 tsp cream of tartar (not essential, but will stabilise the egg whites)
50g caster sugar

vanilla mascarpone frosting, recipe below
strawberries to decorate, fandom foliage optional

serves 16

 preheat your oven to 170ºC

 trim the leaves from the strawberries, blitz the berries in a food processor or blender and push through a sieve into a measuring jug, you'll need 150ml, keep any excess to serve with the cake (you can mash the berries by hand with a fork, just add a little lemon juice to help the process along)
• combine the cake flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt, sift into a the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one, and with the paddle attachment mix through the 250g caster sugar 
• make a well in the centre of your flour mixture, add the strawberry purée, Chambord, egg yolks, oil and vanilla extract, mix until smooth
• in another, really large bowl whisk the 7 egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar then mix until you have soft peaks, gradually add the additional 50g caster sugar, whisking until you have firm peaks and the sugar has dissolved
• fold the egg whites into the batter in three stages
• pour the batter into an ungreased, unlined angel food cake tin and bake for 55-60 minutes; check after 55 minutes, the cake should spring back when gently pressed, if not, put it back in for the extra 5 minutes
• remove the cake from the oven, and immediately invert to cool; if your tin doesn't have "feet" balance the upturned tin over a bottle, guiding the neck of the bottle through the centre tube of your pan
• when completely cool, to release the cake, run a sharp knife around the inside and tube sections of the cake tin, remove the cake leaving it sitting on the centre section of the tin; this next stage is tricky, slide a strong thread, I use dental floss, between the base of the cake and the tin, slide the string all the way around the cake, crossing each end around the tube. Invert the cake onto a turntable if you have one, or your serving plate, and put in the fridge for 15 minutes or so. (I've had a few questions about how to remove the cake cleanly from the tin, Jen hijacked my phone on a baking date last year, and took a video of just that, I'll upload it to my instagram stories...)

to frost the cake

• frosting step one is the crumb coat, it uses a super thin coating of frosting to glue any loose crumbs to the cake
• starting from the top and working your way down the sides and into the hole through the centre of your cake, use an offset pallet knife to spread a layer of buttercream over your cake;  using the edge of your pallet knife or a cake scraper, gently scrape back most of the frosting leaving a super thin crumb filled layer behind
• return the cake to the fridge for at least 15 mins to set the crumb coat
• again with the offset pallet knife, cover your cake with a final thicker layer of frosting and return to the fridge for at least 15 minutes, this will firm up the frosting and stop your strawberries sliding of the cake!

• decorate with strawberries, flowers, herbs :)
• slice giant slabs of cake with a serrated knife and enjoy
• the cake will keep covered in the fridge for 3 days

vanilla mascarpone frosting

200g soft cream cheese
250g mascarpone
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped or 1 tsp vanilla paste
150g icing sugar
100ml thickened cream

• tip the soft cream cheese and vanilla into a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat on low speed until smooth
• sift the icing sugar over the cream cheese, starting on low speed, then increasing to medium, beat until combined
• add the mascarpone, mix on medium speed until just combined, add the cream, again mixing until smooth, use immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days