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

Monday, 17 September 2018

boysenberry and hazelnut friands

Friands, they're awesome you should bake them, feel free to skip to the recipe below tout de suite!

I'm having a nineties moment. Like many Australians a couple of decades ago, I was obsessed with friands, scouring cookbooks and food mags for a recipe. There was no google, I don't think we even had a computer at home, so my search lead me to a fabulous shop called The Cookery Book, above an equally fab shop selling books about boats. The recipe revealed a friand is essentially a financier with added bits, less chic than the french version, every bit as delicious. 

My now mother-in-law headed off on a trip to Europe, still back in the nineties, and was tasked with buying some tins. I hadn't realised they were baked in aspic moulds, probably a key piece of information. In an amazing cook shop in the beautiful town of Tours, Marge asked for what approximately translates as "little metal boxes for cooking little cakes" and surprisingly found exactly what I was after, M is fabulous with a task! I probably should have used them today, but was distracted by my collection of tiny tart tins...

Friands are definitely comeback worthy, they're light, yet buttery, and have the most perfectly crisp edges. My version includes hazelnuts, and the caramel depth of browned butter, don't be tempted to skip the jam, it adds a wonderful fruity lift. If you have friand tins the recipe makes 12, muffin and mini muffin pans work well too, 12 regular sized or 18 mini; I'm so glad I tried the tart tins, their fluted edges maximising those crispy bits. 

boysenberry and hazelnut friands, for Barker's of New Zealand

60g almond meal

60g hazelnuts
200g icing sugar
90g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
5 egg whites
125g butter
3-4 tablespoons Barker's New Zealand boysenberry jam
40g chopped hazelnuts
extra butter for greasing

preheat oven to 180ºC fan, 200ºC conventional, grease 12 friand tins or an 18 hole mini muffin tray

• melt the butter over a gentle heat, keep heating until the butter turns golden brown, and smells wonderfully nutty and caramelly, remove from the heat, set aside to cool
• put the hazelnuts and icing sugar into a food processor and blitz until the nuts are finely ground, tip into a mixing bowl
sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl with the hazelnuts and sugar, add the ground almonds
lightly whisk the egg whites until foamy, add to the dry ingredients with the cooled browned butter, whisk until just combined
• fill the friand tins or muffin pan 2/3 full, dot the surface with jam, taking care that it doesn't touch the tin, sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts
• bake friand tins for 25 minutes, mini muffin tray for 15 minutes, until the edges are golden, and the cakes are just set in the centre
• remove from the oven and immediately turn out onto a cooling rack

friands are best just barely warm from the oven, but will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days

Monday, 27 August 2018

blood orange, walnut and browned butter madeleines

After being blown away by the intense flavour of the hazelnuts I bought directly from the grower in Tasmania, I set out to try and find some equally fresh walnuts here in Sydney. A local fruit and vegetable store had a big sack of walnuts in their shells, I was so excited to find them I forgot to ask when and where they'd been harvested. I shelled half a bag, and roasted them, for the madeleines below. The flavour was definitely superior to the walnut halves I buy from the supermarket, but not the revelation of fresh Tassie hazelnuts! Lucky blood orange season tempered my disappointment. 

I love these madeleine trays, and because I know someone will ask, they came from Japan, so sorry! I'm lucky to have a friend who regularly visits Japan, and generously ferried a tray back for me, twice! There's a similar tray here, but so far I've resisted purchasing...

blood orange, walnut, and browned butter madeleines

15g melted butter, for greasing the tray
2 tbsp flour, for flouring the tray
155g caster sugar
155g butter
80g flour
80g walnuts
3 jumbo eggs (approx 200g)
zest of 1 blood orange

• 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, pour into a bowl and set aside to cool
• put the walnuts and flour into a food processor and blitz until the nuts are finely ground, set aside
• put the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer if you have one, if not use a hand held electric mixer, add the sugar and whip until super pale and thick
• gently fold the walnut flour through the egg mixture
• add the blood orange zest and melted butter, fold 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, turn upside down and tap on your bench to remove the excess
• using a piping bag, pipe the batter into the tray, filling each shell 3/4 full, if you don't have a piping bag use a couple of spoons
• bake in the centre of your oven for 15 minutes, the madeleines are cooked when their edges are golden brown and crisp, and spring back when lightly pressed in the centre
• madeleines are best eaten when just barely warm, but if, like me, you love blood orange and all things pink, make the icing below, dip the cooled shells in, then gently place on a cooling rack until the icing has set
• makes 18 regular sized madeleines


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 (why is it so difficult to describe the consistency??)
• use immediately

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

strawberry and apple breakfast panna cotta

It's winter in Sydney, but feeling like spring, heck yesterday felt like summer! Early spring mornings are my favourite, just warm enough, without summer's humidity, and perfect for lazy brunches. So, with languid weekend brunches in mind, here's my recipe for a strawberry and apple breakfast pannacotta. Half the cream has been subbed for greek yoghurt, so while still beautifully smooth, it's lighter than regular pannacotta, with the sweetness of strawberry and apple, a slight yoghurty tang. 

This is the first in a series of recipes I'm developing for Barker's New Zealand, and uses their strawberry and apple compote, but it could absolutely be swapped for either of the other flavours. You can make and serve your pannacotta in glasses, or use dariole moulds and turn them out to serve, the plastic moulds work really well.

strawberry and apple breakfast panna cotta

3 sheets gold strength gelatine

150 ml thickened cream
150ml milk
50g caster sugar 
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
150g Barker's strawberry and apple compote, plus extra to serve
200ml pot set yoghurt

• place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of iced water, set aside

• tip the milk, cream, sugar, and the half vanilla bean, include the seeds, into a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer over a gentle heat, take off the heat and set aside
• take the gelatine leaves out of the bowl and squeeze gently to remove the excess water; add to the pan and stir until dissolved, strain through a sieve into a bowl
• add the yoghurt, and using a whisk, stir until combined
• add the compote, stir to combine
• pour into your serving bowls, take care not to splash the sides, cover and pop in the fridge for 4 hours, or until set
• serve chilled with granola, additional compote, and fresh fruit 

If you made the pannacotta in dariole moulds, run a sharp knife around the outside of the pannacotta, gently pressing against the mould to keep the knife against the plastic. Place your serving plate over the pannacotta in its mould, quickly turn over, give the mould a gentle tap, and your pannacotta should slip out onto the plate - if this fails, gently squeeze the mould to break the air lock and try again :)

serves 6

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

chicken and mushroom potstikcers

Potstickers. Quite possibly the best snack. Ever. 

In our house we've made them a meal, one giant bowl of chilli spiked, crisp bottomed deliciousness. I always make loads, planning to virtuously freeze half, ready to whip out at a later date, smug smile on my face. Never happens, we eat them all, every time. My son had a few friends over for his birthday last year, I made 120 as an entrée, they ate them all too.

My love for home made dumplings was sparked last year, at a private dumpling workshop in a friend's gorgeous studio kitchen. We had a riotous afternoon, the patient Vanessa sharing her dumpling knowhow. It's a lovely, in my case slow, process. The dough and filling are simple to make, rolling and shaping the dumplings, a little trickier. I've tried to explain the process below, it may be worth googling the technique, or attending one of Vanessa's workshops!

This recipe makes 48, if it's your first time making them, or you're a bit slow like me, pop the first half in the fridge while you make the rest. If you do plan to freeze any, put the tray of dumplings, uncovered, in the freezer for 15 minutes then transfer them to a ziplock bag or freezer container, store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. The dumplings can be cooked from frozen, just add a little extra water and steam them for 8 minutes not 4. You will need a non stick pan with a tightly fitting lid, I use a large 34cm pan to cook mine, the pan in the images is just for presentation, it looks so pretty! 

Big thanks to the lovely Aimee from Twigg Studios who spent an afternoon making these dumplings with me, sharing her styling and editing tricks, "thanks so much Aimee" I love these shots. As much as I love dumplings? Maybe...

Chicken and Mushroom Potstickers

dumpling wrappers

450g plain flour
200ml boiling water
100ml cold water

• tip the flour into a large bowl, add the boiling water and mix together, you're looking for a crumbly texture
• add the cold water, keep mixing until you have a shaggy dough, then continue kneading with your hands until the dough comes together as a ball
• turn out onto your bench and knead for around 8 minutes, the dough should be smooth, and spring back slowly when lightly pressed
• return the dough to the bowl, cover with cling wrap and stand for 20 minutes


400g chicken mince
250g assorted mushrooms, chopped finely
2 tsp peanut oil
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp cornflour
1 tbs shaoxing wine
2 tbsp soy
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
40g shallots

vegetable oil for frying
cold water for steaming
ground szechuan pepper corns, if you can find them

• heat the peanut oil until just smoking, add the mushrooms, fry until golden then add the garlic, continue to cook until soft, and all moisture has evaporated, set aside to cool
• in a large bowl combine all the filling ingredients, including the mushrooms, mix well, the filling should come together as a single mass (?) the mince will no longer look like mince, more of a paste

• line a baking with tray with baking paper, dust lightly with flour
• uncover the dough, divide in quarters, work with one quarter, keeping the remaining dough covered
roll the dough into a sausage, cut into 12 pieces and dust with flour 
• working with one wrapper at a time, keep the other pieces covered, roll the dough piece into a ball, squash with your palm to flatten, then use a thin rolling pin to roll the wrapper into a rough circle, roll the wrapper from the inside out, turning the wrapper with your other hand as you roll, the wrapper should be slightly thinner around the edge, the wrapper should be roughly 8cm across
• place a heaped teaspoon of filling in the centre of the dumpling wrapper, fold in half so the edges meet in a semi circle, pinch together at the corner to seal, then form little pleats in one edge of the dumpling, squeeze the pleat against the other edge to seal; continue until you reach the other side, make sure the pleats are sealed and there are no gaps, place the dumpling on the baking sheet, gently flattening the bottom, cover with a damp cloth, and repeat with the remaining wrappers.

• heat a tablespoon of oil in a non stick pan, quickly fill with dumplings, flat side down (my large pan will fit 24 dumplings in 2 concentric circles) fry for 2-3 mins until golden, add 1/3 cup cold water, immediately clamp on the lid, leave to steam for 3-4 mins, remove the lid, allow the water to evaporate completely then let the dumplings fry again for a minute or so, serve immediately, sprinkled with ground szechuan pepper and a generous bowl of dipping sauce!

dipping sauce

2 tbsp soy
2 tbsp black vinegar
1 tbsp chiu chow chilli oil
splash sesame oil

• combine well, share between dipping bowls; recipe can be doubled/tripled and so on for sauce lovers!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

cinnamon and orange sticky date pudding

It's really kinda chilly in Sydney right now, finally winter, and definitely pudding weather.  Last year I partnered with Williams Sonoma Australia to create a recipe for one of their Nordic Ware bundt tins, after many, many rounds of testing this is it, cinnamon and orange sticky date pudding. Fragrant with spices and orange, it's beautifully light and moist, with a crisp yet chewy caramel crust, perfectly warm and comforting for these brisk conditions!

Kitchenware is definitely my thing, I'm a collector of cake tins, old and new, and have a fair few Nordic Ware pans. This pan though, may be my favourite; it's not overly complicated, I love the sauce hugging ridges, but it's the name that seals it, it's the "Party" pan...

Cinnamon and Orange Sticky Date Pudding

250g dates, stoned and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
zest and juice of 1 orange
90g unsalted butter
120g caster sugar
110g brown sugar
3 large eggs
250g self-raising flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

• preheat oven to 180°C
• carefully butter and flour a 10 cup bundt tin, take your time to ensure you do not miss any spots, particularly any ridges
• pour the orange juice into a jug, add water to make a total of 460ml, tip into a pan with the chopped dates and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat, add the bicarb soda, give it a quick stir and set aside for 10 minutes to cool, then using a stick blender or food processor, blend until smooth
• sieve the flour, cinnamon and cloves into a bowl, set aside
      • cream butter and sugars until fluffy and the colour noticeably lightens, add the orange zest, then the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each
      • fold in the flour gently, then stir in the date mixture, the batter will be very wet, pour into your prepared tin
      • bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes, the pudding is cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (while the pudding is cooking make the sauce)
      • as soon as it’s out of the oven, invert the pudding onto a shallow oven proof dish or plate, pour a little sauce over the pudding and pop it back in the oven for 5 minutes or so, the sauce will form a deliciously chewy crust
      • sprinkle with flaked sea salt and serve generous slices with extra caramel sauce, a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, and maybe a candied orange slice or two
       Any leftover pudding can be stored, covered in the fridge, best eaten within 3 days

orange caramel sauce

550g caster sugar
300ml cream
100g unsalted butter
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick

• combine the sugar and 200ml water in a saucepan, bring to the boil over medium-high heat, stir until the sugar dissolves, then brush down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals, cook until the caramel darkens and starts to smoke (10-15 minutes)
• add the cream, butter, orange juice and cinnamon stick (take care as the hot caramel will spit) stir until dissolved, remove from heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Strain in a jug, stir through the orange zest and set aside

sauce can be kept in an airtight container, in the fridge for a week

soft candied oranges

These soft candied orange slices will be slightly bitter, their bitterness works wonderfully with the sweetness of the caramel drenched pudding.
4 unwaxed oranges
500g caster sugar
500ml water

• wash oranges well and carefully cut into 2-3mm slices
• tip the sugar and water into a large pan, stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves
• increase the heat and bring the syrup to a gentle simmer, add the orange slices, continue the gentle simmer for 25 mins, or until the orange skin is almost translucent and can be easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, you may need to top up your pan with water as you go, to keep the orange slices covered
• carefully transfer the orange slices to a clean jar, pour the syrup over the top, cover your jar with its lid and store in the fridge. Any leftover slices will keep for a week or so, much longer if you use a sterilised jar.