Sunday, 14 June 2015

walnut and white chocolate brownies


Lots of baking in the simmer & boyle kitchen this month; a couple of morning teas for the Cancer Council, some catering, and loads of recipe testing. If you'd like to join JJ and me for our virtual biggest morning tea, or drop some coins in our virtual Cancer Council jar, check this post for instructions :)

I'm still on that pear bender and they're completely dominating my insta feed #sorrynotsorry! Loving walnuts too and putting them in almost everything.  I may have eaten a poached pear with walnut sablé cookies and mascarpone this morning, dessert for breakfast on a Sunday is totally a thing...














There's still at least a kilo of walnuts in my fridge so I toasted some and threw them into my favourite brownie recipe with some white chocolate; the family are split on the addition of white chocolate, but it has such an alliterative ring :) This is a really reliable brownie recipe, take out the walnuts and white chocolate if they're not your thing, add the same volume of whatever takes your fancy; hazelnuts and milk chocolate, chopped dates with the zest of an orange and maybe some cointreau, pecans and a shot of instant coffee... I like my brownies fudgey so intentionally undercook them, half an hour generally just about does it, 35 to 40 minutes if you prefer them cakey.


walnut and white chocolate brownies

180g butter
180g dark chocolate
3 eggs
275g caster sugar
110g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
125g white chocolate, roughly chopped
125g toasted walnut halves, keep 6 or so whole, roughly chop the rest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

• 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
• in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a large bowl and electric hand whisk) whisk together the eggs, sugar  and vanilla until really thick, creamy and pale, then fold through the melted chocolate and butter
• gently fold through the flour and cocoa, then stir through the white chocolate and chopped walnuts 
• pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, lightly press the remaining walnut halves into the brownie batter, then 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 for about 20s and serve them with ice-cream or cream



...

a gratuitous pear shot from one of those morning teas, just because...



Friday, 29 May 2015

chocolate and walnut meringues with salted caramel



Good morning! It's almost time for tea... If you're in Australia then you're probably aware of the Cancer Council's annual fundraiser Australia's Biggest Morning Tea; it's in full swing, aussies everywhere #RaiseYourCup to raise funds for vital research, prevention and support service programs.

I don't think I know a family that hasn't been touched by cancer, and while there are so many worthy organisations that need support, the Biggest Morning Tea is a good fit for me.

This year JJ from 84th & 3rd and I are hosting a Virtual Biggest Morning Tea and we'd love you to take part! JJ has a way with words (and cake) so I'm borrowing hers...

If tax-deductible charity donations are your thing...
  • Click on through to our ABMT page and drop a coin in the bucket (thanks!)
If cooking and blogging are your thing...
  1. Make a morning tea treat - sweet or savoury, it's up to you - and post it on your blog between now and the end of June
  2. Click on through to our ABMT page and drop a coin in the bucket (thanks!)
  3. Send JJ a link to your Virtual Morning Tea post and we will add you to the lists at the end of our posts
If neither are your thing...
  • Go hug (or call) someone you love

"Don't mess with the Mexicans" that's what this post should be called, well, "South Americans" really... I wanted to make alfajores; those crumbling, melting mouthfuls of caramelly deliciousness from America Latina. I don't have a great relationship with dulche de leche out of a can and haven't had success making it, so I changed the recipe. Big mistake. So what do you make at 10 o'clock at night when you're tired and want to whip up something pretty?

Meringues. They are no nonsense, work every time, and I'm pretty much guaranteed to have the ingredients in my kitchen somewhere. I found the eggs and sugar, even added chopped walnuts and dark chocolate too! I made them small. Beautiful, dainty and delicious, you can always have more than one, or heap them in a bowl with whipped cream and salted caramel. Morning tea can be a party, South Americans like to party...

meringues with chocolate and walnuts (not alfajores)

3 egg whites
165g caster sugar
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
pinch cream of tartar
60g walnuts, chopped
40g dark chocolate, chopped

• pre-heat oven to 100ºC, line a baking sheet with baking paper
 put the sugar, egg whites and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer, lightly whisk together to break up the sugar
 place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, make sure the bowl does not touch the water, whisk the egg whites until the sugar has dissolved, they have increased in volume and feel hot
 put the bowl on the stand mixer, add the cream of tartar and whisk until the egg whites are marshmallowy and are cool
 fold 40g of the walnuts and 30g chocolate through the meringue, drop small spoonfuls of meringue onto the lined tray
 sprinkle the remaining nuts and chocolate over the meringue and bake for approximately an hour, until the meringues feel crisp and dry
 store in an airtight container, the meringues will keep for 2 weeks


salted caramel sauce

200g caster sugar
80g butter
120 ml thickened cream 
1 tsp sea salt flakes, optional 

• tip the sugar into a small/medium heavy based pan and heat on a medium to high setting, stirring until the sugar starts to melt
• continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar has melted, turned a lovely caramel colour and has started to smoke
• as soon as you are happy with the caramel, whisk in the butter, take care, it will bubble and spit 
• remove from the heat and whisk in the cream, if your caramel has formed clumps, return to the heat and stir until smooth
• off the heat add the salt flakes, pour into a clean jar and leave to cool
• once cool, cover with the lid and store in the fridge, it will keep for 2 weeks


Virtual Morning Tea Party

drop you coins in the bucket









JJ's kumquat upside-down tea cake









Sally's walnut and chocolate meringues with salted caramel








Ali's rhubarb, orange and hazelnut cake











Shez's lamingtons






 Sally's walnut and white chocolate brownies
Melissa's flourless choc-chunk cookie for, ahem, one










Nicole's sticky date cake with caramel custard cream cheese icing

Thursday, 21 May 2015

vanilla poached pears with mascarpone and sablé biscuits



                                                                                                  image thanks to the wonderful Luisa Brimble

"Simple, seasonal" a culinary mantra, last week I finally got it.

On Sunday Nia and Johan Neve from The Assembly Co hosted an autumn lunch, their first seasonal gathering, a wonderfully warm, relaxed afternoon. Anna the floury baker, pastry goddess, provided the savoury, I was delighted to bring the sweet. 

I'm not known for restraint when it comes to dessert. I made a few different things, but for me the vanilla poached pears were the star, honestly the nicest thing I've made in ages. Paired with crisp buttery sablé biscuits and whipped mascarpone, so simple but perfectly matched. Walnut brownies with hot salted caramel shared that table, stiff competition, lends weight to my claim.

I'm off to buy more pears first thing, if you're in the southern hemisphere maybe buy some too; it's pear season, poach away and enjoy. Simple, seasonal.

For more details of the magical day and Luisa Brimble's wonderful images click over to Nia's blog.





























vanilla poached pears

400 g caster sugar
350ml bottle of dessert wine (I used a botrytis something or other, pretty bottle, $15, don't really do wine)
strip orange zest
juice of 1 orange
strip lemon zest
juice of 1 lemon
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
approx 500ml water
6 beurre bosc pears

• pour the orange juice, lemon juice and wine into a jug, make up to 1 litre with tap water, then pour into a medium/large wide bottomed pan with the sugar, split vanilla bean and seeds, lemon and orange zest
• stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, remove from heat
• peel, halve and core the pears, pop them into the pan with the syrup as you go, this will prevent them browning (i used a parisian scoop to core my pears, a melon baller will do the job as long as your pears are not too firm)
• cover the pears with a circle of baking paper, carefully place a plate on top to weight the pears down, over a medium heat bring the syrup to a simmer, turn down the heat, gently simmer until the pears are tender (poaching time will depend on the ripeness of your pears, mine took between 15 and 25 minutes)
• remove from the heat and leave the pears to cool in the poaching liquid
• store the cooled pears in their poaching liquid in an air tight container in the fridge
• allow the pears to come to room temperature to serve, while the pears acclimatise, put 400ml of the poaching liquid in a small pan, bring to the boil and reduce by half
• serve the pears with the syrup, whipped mascarpone and sablé biscuits




sablé biscuits

200g butter, at room temperature
100g icing sugar (not icing mixture)
1 large egg, yolk only
250g plain flour
pinch salt

 put the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat for a minute or so to soften
 sift the icing sugar over the butter and beat together until fluffy and pale, add the egg yolk, beat to combine
 sift the salt and flour over the butter mixture, mix together on low speed until just combined, tip the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into a disc, cover with the plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for 2 hours
 preheat your oven to 180ºC, line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper
 lightly flour the bench, unwrap the sablé dough, bash it a few times with a floured rolling pin to soften, then roll the dough to your desired thickness, mine were about 3mm thick, probably as thin as you'd want to go (if you plan to sandwich something, say salted caramel or nutella, between 2 cookies make them at least 5mm thick, but no more than 8mm)
 cut rounds using a plain 7cm cutter (again you can go larger or smaller, or fluted...) place on the baking sheet
 collect together any scraps, knead together, reroll and cut as many rounds as you can, summon your willpower and discard any remaining dough (I have been known to roll into small balls, freeze and add to ice-cream ...)
• bake for approximately 10 minutes, until they colour around the edge (if you have made smaller/thinner biscuits check them after 8 minutes, larger/thicker cookies will take slightly longer, just look for that golden colour around the edges)
 cool on the trays, when completely cooled, transfer to an airtight container
 makes around 20 biscuits

















                                                                                                               image credit and thanks to Luisa Brimble


whipped mascarpone

250g mascarpone
80ml whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 tbsp sugar

• tip the mascarpone into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whisk for 30 secs or so to loosen
• add the cream, sugar and vanilla, whip together until it thickens slightly, and is billowy and cloud like
• use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days














                                                                                                            image credit and thanks to Luisa Brimble

Monday, 20 April 2015

pistachio madeleines


I'm so mad for madeleines, especially fresh from the oven, dunked in something, preferably sticky, then dipped in nuts... I made these last week, right before we headed off up the coast for a week of family time on the beach. Half were baked in a cute vintage cast iron pan, the rest in my new favourite pan. The vintage pan, not such a good idea. The little cakes had black rusty butts, we trimmed them and ate them anyway, still delicious.
The shells i dunked in passionfruit curd then lightly pressed into an emerald mound of chopped pistachios. We packed them in tupperware and I nursed them on my knee all the way to our coffee stop at Taree. Emerald incidentally is the birthstone for May, a question we failed to answer at Wednesday night trivia at the Port Macquarie golf club. Our 15 year wedding anniversary, parmies and trivia with 6 kids in Port :)

I'm not done experimenting with madeleines and nuts; maybe some praline or popcorn, definitely more caramel, would peanuts or macadamias with smoked salt caramel be a step too far?


pistachio madeleines

15g melted butter, for greasing the tray
15g four, for flouring the tray
155g caster sugar 
155g melted butter, cooled
80g flour, sifted
110g shelled, unsalted pistachios
3 jumbo eggs (approx 200g)

• grease and flour the madeleine tin
• 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
• put the flour and 80g pistachios in a food processor, blitz until the nuts are finely ground, then gently fold into the eggs/sugar
• add the melted butter, mix until combined
• cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for anywhere between 2 hours and overnight
• when you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180ºC
• using a piping bag, pipe the batter into the trays, filling each shell 3/4 full, if you don't have a piping bag just use a couple of spoons
• 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
• while the madeleines are baking, roughly chop the remaining 30g pistachios
• tip the little cakes onto a cooling rack,  allow to cool for five minutes or so
• dip the base of each cake in passionfruit curd, then press into the chopped nuts, then pop into your mouth!
• uneaten madeleines should be stored in an airtight container, they will keep for a few days, but are best eaten the day they are baked
• click here for the passionfruit curd recipe

Thursday, 9 April 2015

hazelnut browned butter madeleines with whiskey caramel


Madeleines!! I am ridiculously, disproportionately excited by these little cakes. Last week JJ from 84th and 3rd was just back from Japan having totally aced the madeleine tin challenge. I've been hunting high and low for a particular scallop shaped baking tin for a couple of years, I knew it came from Japan, but no amount of internet scouring could source it. JJ found Kappabashi St, the madeleine tin and kitchen equipment heaven. There's a girl's trip in the planning :)

Sunday was a pretty amazing day; my house was full of wonderful, creative women, a car load of beautiful props, endless conversation and baked goods. Even the kids were well behaved despite their chocolate high. We baked, photographed, shared stories, and surprisingly ate! I'll post all the recipes eventually, but for today, with autumn finally here and cup of tea in hand, these hazelnut madeleines are just perfect.


hazelnut madeleines

15g melted butter, for greasing the tray
15g four, for flouring the tray
155g caster sugar 
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 with hints of caramel, remove from the heat and pour into a bowl, this stops the cooking and prevents the butter burning, leave to cool a little
• 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
• generously butter your madeleine tray, dust with flour then tap the tray on your bench to remove the excess
• using a piping bag, pipe the batter into the trays, filling each shell 3/4 full, if you don't have a piping bag just use a couple of spoons
• 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 onto a cooling rack,  allow to cool for five minutes or so
• dip the base of each cake in the whiskey caramel then press into the chopped nuts, consume as soon as possible!



whiskey caramel

200g caster sugar
80g butter
120 ml thickened cream 
1 tablespoon whiskey
1 tsp sea salt flakes, optional 

• tip the sugar into a small/medium heavy based pan and heat on a medium to high setting, stirring until the sugar starts to melt
• continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar has melted, turned a lovely caramel colour and has started to smoke; things can be a bit tricky here, you want to cook the caramel enough to develop that deep toasted flavour that offsets the sweetness, but it's a very fine line, leave it too long and it will burn and become inedibly bitter, as always, practise, practise, practise...
• as soon as you are happy with the caramel, whisk in the butter, take care, it will bubble and spit 
• remove from the heat and whisk in the cream, if your caramel has formed clumps, return to the heat and stir until smooth
• off the heat add the whiskey and salt flakes, pour into a clean jar and leave to cool
• once cool, cover with the lid and store in the fridge, it will keep for 2 weeks

roasted hazelnuts

100g hazelnuts

• preheat your oven to 180ºC
• put the nuts onto a baking tray and roast for 10-12 minutes, until the skins have darkened and started to split
• tip the nuts into the centre of a clean tea towel, gather up the edges and gently rub the nuts together
• remove as much of the skin as possible as it can be bitter
• roughly chop, store in an airtight container until required



Thursday, 2 April 2015

chocolate hazelnut sponge




It's April already! Can you believe it? Things have been a bit hectic since I last posted waaaay back in November, hectic and stressful. We renovated the house, in November and December I worked a few days a week in an amazing bakery, there was Christmas, a ski trip in Canada... Well, I'm back, it was my birthday at the weekend, so here I am with cake.

Chocolate and hazelnut are such a perfect combination, so hard to beat. I probably make a version of this cake every year.  This year the sponge is light, the filling is rich and there are flowers, flowers, it's just so pretty. There are also cupcakes, bunnies bathing in salted caramel atop pillowy buttercream mounds, it's almost Easter, so totally excusable.  Hopefully I'll get around to posting them too, if only that delicious, evil sauce.

I used to be really suspicious of social media, of meeting people online, particularly meeting people online, I'm a child of the seventies... How can it be safe? How? I took a "real life, met in the traditional manner" friend along to my first instameet. Instagram has been amazing, I've met so many lovely, incredibly talented people. 

Before it was my birthday cake, this cake was a tempting prop. My totally sane, new insta friend Rebecca from Chu Chu came over with her beautiful ceramics, the lovely Emma brought foraged flowers and styling awesomeness, we hung out, took photographs and ate cake.

chocolate hazelnut sponge

165g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
50g ground hazelnuts (hazelnut meal)
80g butter  
7 jumbo, or 8 large, eggs at room temperature
200g sugar
150g hazelnuts, roasted and skinned (see below)

• preheat oven to 160ºC, butter and flour two 20cm cake tins
melt the butter in a small pan over a gentle heat, allow to cool (feel free to use the microwave, if a small child hasn't set fire to it attempting to pop corn...)
• tip flour, cocoa powder and ground hazelnuts into a food processor, blitz for 30 seconds then repeat
• sieve the mixture over a large bowl, if there is more than a teaspoon of nut rubble left in your sieve, repeat the processing stage, sieve your nut/flour/cocoa mix twice more
• using an electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer so you don't run the risk of RSI, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and thick, this will take between 6 and 8 minutes...
• sift a third of the four mix over the eggs/sugar, fold in gently using a metal spoon; repeat twice more with the remaining flour 
gently fold in the melted butter, make sure to lift the mixture from the bottom of the bowl as the butter will pool there
• divide your mix evenly between the tins, bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, when cooked the cake will have shrunk away from the side of the tin, the centre will spring back when gently pressed
• gently run a knife around the inside of the tins and turn the cakes onto a cooling rack
to roast your hazelnuts; tip the nuts onto a baking tray and pop them into the oven after you remove the cake, roast for 10-15 minutes until the skins have darkened and started to split. Place the nuts in a clean tea towel, gently rub the together. Remove as much of the skin as possible, it can taste bitter

ganache filling

175g dark chocolate
125ml cream

• finely chop the chocolate, put into a small heatproof bowl
• heat the cream in a small pan until just simmering, simmer for 1 minute then pour over the chocolate, do not stir, let stand for 5 minutes
• stir cream and chocolate until smooth and glossy
• cool at room temperature until it is thick enough to pipe, think smooth peanut butter; you can put it in the fridge to speed the process up, but the ganache will lose some of its gloss

cream filling

300ml whipping cream
1 tbsp caster sugar
30ml frangelico

combine ingredients in a bowl and whip until thick, soft and pillowy

to construct the cake

• set aside 2 tablespoons of roasted hazelnuts, roughly chop half
• choose the neatest cake, keep this for the top layer
• place the bottom cake layer on your serving plate, spread with a thick layer of ganache (reserving some for decoration) then scatter over the whole hazelnuts
• spoon roughly 2/3 cream onto the centre of your cake, gently spread outwards, stopping just short of the edge; when you add your top layer it will squish the cream to the edge
• gently top with the other layer, bottom side up
• dust with cocoa; decorate using the remaining ganache, chopped and whole hazelnuts and any flowers you are confident will not poison your guests!I piped little mounds of ganache in a rough crescent, sprinkled the chopped then whole nuts around and between, finally adding some violas from the garden.
• serve with a scoop of ice-cream and any left over cream.






Thursday, 13 November 2014

Chocolate macarons with yuzu curd


I'd pretty much decided not to post macarons again for a while, if ever; mostly people are over them, they're everywhere, even in McDonald's. I still love them with their neatness and symmetry, such a perfect blank canvass for flavour tinkering.  A very lovely person recently called me the "macaron whisperer" and I thought f*#% it, go with what you love, so here's another macaron post.

Chocolate and citrus work so beautifully together; I'm a chocolate orange girl, a gorgeous friend's favourite gelato combo is chocolate and lemon, passionfruit might as well be a citrus fruit and it works perfectly with chocolate. I've been on a bit of a yuzu bender of late, so here we have chocolate yuzu macarons. If you're over macarons maybe just make the yuzu curd, it's a beautiful thing :)

If fresh yuzus are available here in Sydney I haven't found them, but we have a great Japanese supermarket that sells bottled yuzu juice. Now if bottled yuzu juice follows the same pattern as bottled lemon and lime juice, the fresh stuff must be pretty damn amazing. Yuzu are beautifully fragrant and taste decidedly citrusy, somewhere between a mandarin and a grapefruit. So far I've just made the curd, but I'm thinking yuzu sorbet or mousse would be awesome. Roll on mid December when I may actually have a kitchen to bake in...

macaron shells

75g egg white
90g ground almonds
90g icing sugar
20g cocoa powder
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 cocoa 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 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/cocoa 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, 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 a circle of ganache filling on the underside of one shell, fill the hollow centre with yuzu curd 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!!

chocolate ganache

175g dark chocolate (or a 50/50 combination of milk and dark)
125ml cream

• chop the chocolate into small pieces and put in a heat proof bowl 
 heat cream in a small pan until just simmering, allow to simmer for a minute then pour over the chocolate 
 leave for 5 minutes, do not stir! 
 stir cream and chocolate together until smooth and glossy
 cool at room temperature until it is thick enough to pipe, a similar consistency as smooth peanut butter, you can put it in the fridge to speed the process up, but the ganache will lose its gloss




Yuzu Curd

2 eggs 

2 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
80g cold butter
70ml yuzu juice

• whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar together then tip into a small pan with the yuzu juice and butter

• heat gently, stirring constantly, until the butter has melted and the mixture has thickened (enough to coat the back of a spoon)
• strain the curd through a sieve into a sterilised jar, cover the top with cling wrap as it cools to prevent a skin forming
• seal the jar and store in the fridge for up to two weeks