Sunday, September 26

salted peanut & caramel ice cream with hot fudge sauce

There is a serious gap in the recipe-market for good, dark chocolate sauces. Ganache has its place in my heart and in desserts, but it's just no substitute for a good rich and fudgey sauce. I've tried many, from multiple sources: they may have been rich, but by no means thick, gooey and fudgey. And then at last, I found it, thanks once again to Australian Gourmet Traveller. And it was then that I discovered the secret ingredients to a good chocolate fudge: liquid glucose, and cooking time long enough for the ingredients to emulsify.

I've also neglected my beautiful ice cream maker for far too long. What better excuse could I possibly have to make fudge sauce than a need to dust off the ol' ice cream machine.

So here is the simple recipe, accompanied by another for a fantastic recipe for salted peanut ice cream. This combination, says my better half, is snickers in ice cream form. I think it's better.

Recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller

For ice cream:
180 gms raw unsalted peanuts
290 gms caster sugar
900 mls pouring cream
60 gms butter, chopped
8 egg yolks
200 mls milk
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

For fudge sauce:
65 gms dark chocolate, chopped
10 gms unsalted butter
75 gms caster sugar
70 gms liquid glucose
2 tsps cocoa powder

For the ice cream, preheat oven to 180C. Place peanuts on a baking tray, roast until golden and fragrant  then rub between a tea towel to remove skins. Coarsely chop and set aside.

Combine 140 gms of sugar and 50 mls water in a saucepan, stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and cook until dark caramel in colour. Remove from heat, carefully add 100 mls cream, butter and 1 tsp sea salt and stir to combine. Return to heat, cook until smooth and then cool to room temperature. Stir in 40 gms roasted peanuts.

Meanwhile, whisk yolks and remaining sugar in a heatproof bowl until thick and pale. Bring milk, vanilla bean and seeds, remaining cream and remaining roasted peanuts to the boil in a large saucepan, then pour over egg mixture, whisking to combine. Return to pan, stir continuously over medium heat until mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon thickly. Strain into a bowl placed over ice, discarding any solids. Cool completely, then freeze in an ice-cream machine. Fold through salted peanut-caramel to form a ripple effect and freeze until firm. Try to chose a container that's as close to the capacity of ice cream you've made as possible - the more airspace you have in the container, the more likely ice crystals will form. - this recipe makes about 1.2 litres.

Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth and combined. Combine remaining ingredients and 80 mls water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then add chocolate mixture. Return to the boil and cook over high heat without stirring, shaking pan to dissolve lumps until well emulsified. Set aside and keep warm until ready to serve.

This sauce does get better with age, though I haven't been able to experiment to determine exactly how long it lasts. It also reheats splendidly on the stove or in the microwave. It does this marvelous thing when it hits the cold ice cream where it begins to harden again, becoming a little chewy, which is just amazing. A winner of my heart.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Real Estate - Reality

Tuesday, September 14

mint chocolate tarts

To say that I love the combination of mint and chocolate would be an understatement, a love my sister and I have always shared. I adore mint slice biscuits, but something is... missing with them. I eat them in enjoyment, but could never put my finger on why I was always a little disappointed, or what I would change about them.

I have also, more recently, fallen in love with Christine Adams, responsible for the wonderful desserts at Neil Perry's Rockpool restaurants. This is mostly due to her six page dessert spread in this months Australian Gourmet Traveller, but also because she has helped me find the elusive something missing from mint slice. Ooziness. Simply put, they're not generous enough. Mint slice give you the flavour, but not in the quantity I need. I want oozy but still slightly firm mint. I want a thicker coating of soft dark chocolate. This tart, my friends, is all of these things and more, and it's such a well written and simple recipe.

Ingredients (makes 6 small, or 12 slightly smaller)
Recipe adapted from September issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller

For pastry:
200 gms unsalted butter, softened
140 gms pure icing sugar, sifted
1 egg yolk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
200 gms plain flour
30 gms Dutch-processed cocoa

For mint fondant:
200 gms fondant, coarsely chopped, softened
10 mint leaves
3 - 4 drops mint oil or extract

For ganache:
70 gms softened butter
285 gms Valrhona Guanaja (or the best quality 70% cocoa solid you can afford) chocolate, finely chopped
310 mls pouring cream

For the pastry, preheat oven to 180C. Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale and creamy (4 minutes). Add yolk and vanilla and mix until combined. Sift flour and cocoa together, add to butter mixture and mix until just combined. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, then knead lightly to combine and form into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled (1-2 hours).

Divide mixture into 6 or 12, depending on size of tart tins you're using, then roll out each piece on a lightly floured bench to 3-4mm-thick and line twelve 6cm or six 9cm tartlet cases sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Trim edges, refrigerate until chilled, then prick bases and blind bake until set (10-12 minutes). Remove paper and weights and bake until for 8 - 10 minutes, until pastry is cooked on the base. Cool on a wire rack, then remove tart tins.

For mint fondant, process fondant and mint in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a heatproof bowl, cover with foil and melt over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat, add 1-1½ tsp water to thin to pouring consistency, then add mint oil drop by drop to taste. Divide among tart cases and stand at room temperature until set.

For ganache, beat butter in a bowl with a spatula until soft and creamy. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set aside. Bring cream to the boil in a small saucepan and pour over chocolate. Stand for a minute, then stir slowly with a spatula until melted and smooth. Add butter a little at a time, stirring gently until incorporated, then pour into tart cases over fondant. Stand for about an hour or until chocolate has set.

The result is simply beautiful-- it's so nice to get a fleck of fresh mint in the fondant, and the soft just set shiny-ganache is beautiful with the crispy shell. Keep in mind the strength of the mint has to compete with the double chocolate, so I made it quite strong for this reason, which I was very happy with. I just adore everything about this recipe, and imagine it becoming a regular rotation in my sweets schedule. I do have to share it with my sister, after all. 

Recommended baking soundtrack: BenoƮt Pioulard - Temper.

Sunday, September 12

chouquette: a review

I don't usually do reviews. I feel somewhat uncomfortable about taking photos in restaurants - mostly due to my camera being so old, me never deleting photos, and the reload speed unbearable as a result of both! - and I also have a terribly sparse and sporadic memory, so by the time I sit down to write my experiences, the finer details are a little faded. Also, how many synonyms for "lovely" could there possibly be? 

It's been a while since I've blogged, but not baked. I seem to have many excuses, including working on and  submitting assessments coming close to 25 000 words and baking for and hosting my sister's baby shower. So today when my better half and I headed to New Farm to visit Chouquette, I figured now is as a good time to come back into orbit of the blogosphere. Ugh, I hate that word. A dear friend and coworker of mine recommended this tiny, character-riddled patisserie months back, but I've just never found the time or opportunity to visit. It took Australian Gourmet Traveller to mention in its 2011 Australian Restaurant Guide for me to make it a priority. 

We arrived around 10:30am to find this little cafe bustling, all seats taken, and very shortly a line out the door after us. We were served by friendly, efficient and patient staff, and each chose two treats, which was hard only because of the variety and quality on display. We then ducked off to New Farm park to enjoy the morning and our bounty of goods. My first course: a macaron. Of course. 

Chocolate macaron - $2.70

I should have placed this baby next a 50c piece to show its size - it was huge! More importantly, it was delicious - slightly crispy, chocolatey and chewy. Despite sharing a little, what impressed me most was my ability to eat it all. It wasn't sickly sweet like macarons can be. 

Tarte au chocolat & Tarte au citron - $6 each

After a break, a walk and a coffee, we went halves in a tarte au citron and tarte au chocolat. The pastry on each was beautiful and crispy. The lemon tart was rich and eggy, and the chocolate ganache filling was velvety smooth. Despite my boyfriend's resistance to eating aluminium foil ("It's silver leaf!", I tell him through laughter), we were both in heaven. 

I will definitely be back to Chouquette, but will plan to arrive a little during weekends. I appreciate and admire cafes and restaurants that cook a batch and simply sell out if there's high demand, rather than churning out a product en masse and have an abundance of stock in cabinets. It makes you appreciate acquiring something special. My macaroon left two lonely ones behind, and they were all out of chocolate eclairs, so if you're after something in particular best get there early. 

19 Barker St New Farm QLD 4005
07 3358 6336

Wednesday to Saturday - 6.30am to 5.00pm
Sunday - 6.30am to 12.30pm

Sunday, September 5

ginger kisses with espresso cream

As a general rule, I think most things taste better homemade. Most. There are those few exceptions that, no matter how hard I try (or sometimes, simply don't!), I just can't beat the store bought experience. Until recently, doughnuts were in this category. Another: the ginger kiss. Has anyone tried the supermarket variety? How do they get the sponge so soft?! And light. And gingery! I've tried a variety of recipes, some with vanilla cream, one with honey (which actually worked really well), and reading through Philip Johnson's 'Eating In', I discovered a partnership with espresso that I simply couldn't deny. So, on this lovely rainy day, I tried to replicate that beautiful texture once more.

Ingredients (makes 24)

For kisses:
40 gms unsalted butter, at room temperature
125 gms caster sugar
1 tsb golden syrup
225 gms plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs, beaten
icing sugar for dusting

For espresso cream:
150 gms unsalted butter
300 gms icing sugar, sifted
3 tsp hot espresso (or more, to taste)

Preheat oven to 200C. Grease and line two baking trays with baking paper. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and golden syrup until light and pale. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Gradually add the beaten eggs to the butter mixture, alternating with the dry ingredients, mixing well to combine. 

Pipe mixture onto trays using a 1cm plain tube - use about 1 tsp of mixture for each. Bake for 10 minutes until lightly golden, and cool completely on trays. 

For espresso cream, cream the butter and icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and pale. Add the espresso and mix well - I ended up using about 4 tsp for a stronger taste and added some more icing sugar to balance the texture. Spread or pipe cream onto the base of a ginger kiss, and sandwich with another biscuit. Dust with icing sugar to serve. 

The end result is surely the closest I've come to the store-bought variety. It's a lovely and simple recipe, and the espresso flavour is fantastic, though I added a little more than suggested. However, I will still be a frequent consumer of supermarket kisses. They're just too smooth and soft to say no to. 

Recommended baking soundtrack: Lower Dens - Twin-Hand Movement