Monday, March 28

fig & raspberry bakewell tart

As much as I miss my dear friends and small family, there are certainly perks of living in a new, larger city. An abundance of choice of farmer's markets is one of those perks, and one that I'm not taking for granted. I know it's a much more common thing to buy directly from the supplier these days than what is was five years ago for many people. I also know that the whole city-farmers markets 'trend' has been written about to no end, so I won't go there. What I love the most is how it's changed the way I bake. I'm searching for recipes to utilise what produce I'm buying, rather than lusting over a recipe and letting it dictate what I'm buying. I don't feel as swept up in chasing ingredients. There are elements of calm in cities.

On a tangent, I must stress how much I have fallen in love one particular new ingredient, not sourced from any farmer's markets - ground. vanilla. bean. Having faith in Equagold, and experiencing low stocks of vanilla bean paste, I purchased this far superior product from a local deli. Needing only 1/4 tsp to substitute a whole vanilla bean, it's incredibly economical. It's flavour is also intense, and oh-so-perfect in shortcrust pastry. I've been putting it in almost everything I'm baking over the last few months, and am still so giddy with lust for it. If you are lucky enough to encounter it, buy it.

This recipe utilised a bounty of figs and fresh raspberries purchased at a recent farmer's market visit. It's wonderfully simple, requiring only a food processor to mix the pastry and the filling. Rasberry coulis is not essential, but you'd be crazy not to.

Recipe from December 2010/January 2011 issue of delicious.

For shortcrust pastry:
1 2/3 cups (250g) plain flour
40g icing sugar
1/4 tsp ground vanilla bean, or 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
125g chilled unsalted butter, chopped
1 egg yolk

For filling:
100 gms unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
100 gms almond meal
1/4 tsp ground vanilla bean or 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
1/4 cup brandy
1 cup raspberry jam
8 figs, halved
125 gm punnet raspberries, plus extra to serve
1/4 cup icing sugar
Double cream, to serve

For the pastry, place the flour, icing sugar, vanilla seeds and butter in a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs. Add the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons iced water, then whiz until the mixture comes together in a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out pastry and use to line a 33cm x 12cm rectangular loose-bottomed tart pan, trimming to fit. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 180°C. 

Line tart with baking paper and fill with pastry weights. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove paper and weights. Bake for a further 5 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool in tin. 

Place butter and caster sugar in a food processor and whiz to combine. Add egg, almond meal, vanilla seeds and 1 tbsp brandy, then pulse to combine.
Spread half the jam over the base of the pastry case, then top with the almond mixture. Arrange the figs, cut-side up, on top of the filling, gently pressing down. Scatter fresh raspberries on top if desired. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the filling is set and golden. Cool slightly. 

Meanwhile, blend the raspberries to a puree. Place raspberry puree in a pan with the icing sugar, 2 tbsp brandy and remaining jam, then cook over low heat, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until thickened. Cool slightly. Garnish with extra raspberries, and when ready to serve, to with raspberry puree and a dollop of cream.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Alela Diane - To Be Still

Sunday, March 27

jasmine & citrus pound cake

My affection for cake is only second to one other - my love and dependency on tea. As much as I love a good coffee and newspaper combination, I never really crave coffee. I don't think of myself as caffeine dependent. But a day without tea is a long and arduous one, and no other experience comes remotely close to have an uninterrupted afternoon cup of tea in a fine cup. I like to tell myself the headaches I get from a day without tea is not a sign of caffeine withdrawals but is, in fact, a result from being away from the one I love for simply too long. As much as I love black tea, I don't like to discriminate. White tea; green tea; fruit tea; floral tea - you especially: I love you all.

This following recipe is taken from a glorious book filled with recipes to accompany tea and that incorporate tea. I love tea infused cakes, as you may have guessed from my gushing over lady grey madeleines.


For cake:
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp loose jasmine tea
4 eggs
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup pouring cream
2 tsps finely grated lemon zest
2 tsps finely grated orange zest
2 3/4 cups plain flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice 

For jasmine ganache:
1/2 cup thickened cream
2 tsps loose jasmine tea
100 gms white chocolate (chips or finely chopped, good quality pls!)
1 1/2 cups pure icing sugar
1 tbsp finely grated orange zest

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease and line a 21cm round cake pan. 

In a small saucepan, heat milk until  just below boiling over medium heat. Remove from heat, add tea leaves and cover, allowing to steep for about 8 minutes. Strain into a heatproof bowl and set aside. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar and salt. Add cream, milk and zests and stir to combine. Gradually add flour and baking powder while mixing on a low speed. Add butter and stir to combine. 

Pour mixture into prepared tin and bake for 60 - 70 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. While hot, prick the top of the cake with skewer and brush with orange juice.  Allow cake to cool completely in the tin before transferring to a serving plate. 

For white chocolate ganache, in a small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to just below boiling point. Remove from heat, add tea leaves, and cover, allowing to steep for eight minutes. Strain cream into a large heatproof bowl. Whisk in white chocolate, icing sugar and orange zest. Chill for at least fifteen minutes until at spreading consistency. Spread ganache generously onto cake - I had enough to cover both top and sides. Smooth with a knife dipped in boiling water, if necessary. 

I recommend keeping this cake at room temperature as much as possible - the pound cake can get a little too firm and heavy straight from the fridge. And please, whatever you do, don't skip out on the icing in this recipe. It is simply gorgeous, and without it I don't think the jasmine flavour would be anywhere near as noticeable. I'll definitely be trying this recipe with some rose black tea. 

Recommended baking soundtrack - Pepper Rabbit - Beuregard

Thursday, March 17

chocolate guinness cake

It's far too rare that I make a simple melt and mix cake and there really is no good recent as to why. There's something about simple cake recipes that makes the result even more rewarding, especially when it's as satisfying as this cake - aesthetically and otherwise. It's as though throwing everything together one morning before work and slapping on a bit of icing without barely dirtying a bowl lowers ones expectations. I would never dare doubt a Nigella recipe, especially after stumbling across others' reviews post-tasting, but I was a little wary of the unfamiliar.

If it weren't for a hefty cooking time and the necessity to cool this cake completely before removing from the tin (and it really is a necessity - this baby is dense), this cake could be created in mere moments. Despite being unlikely to require any further convincing, I believe this to be one of the best chocolate cakes I've made, perhaps polling second position behind Bourke St Bakery's flourless variety. Tall, dark and handsome, this cake also manages to be strangely light and although it contains only cocoa and no chocolate, it's gorgeously chocolate-y. And like Nigella describes so perfectly, the stout gives it a warmness and tanginess that's similar to gingerbread, only without the spices.

Recipe from Nigella Lawson

For the cake:
250 mls Guinness
250 gms unsalted butter
75 gms cocoa
400 gms caster sugar
140 mls pot sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
275 gms plain flour
2 1/2 tsps bicarbonate of soda

For the frosting:
300 gms cream cheese
150 gms icing sugar
125 mls pouring cream
Preheat the oven to 180°C, and butter and line a 23cm springform tin.

Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter and heat until the butter's melted. Whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream, eggs and vanilla until combined, and then add to beer mixture. Whisk in flour and bicarb soda. 

Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack.

For the frosting, lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sifted icing sugar and beat to combine. Add the cream and beat again until fluffy and light, and at spreadable consistency. Generously spread frosting onto cake. 

My coworkers were the first to sample this cake, and despite them being kind with all of my creations, this seems to be a new favourite. Labeling it a very "adult" cake, it's best recommended with a strong coffee and a glass of port. 

Happy Saint Patrick's Day.

Recommended baking soundtrack: The Smiths - s/t. 

Wednesday, March 16

guinness gingerbread cupcakes

For Saint Patrick's Day last year, I made an kitschy Irish feast for my Irish-born boyfriend - the ever predictable Irish stew, followed by Guinness & chocolate mousse. Yes, you read me correctly - Guinness mousse. I served it in a very generously sized beer glass and topped it with Bailey's spiked cream. He ate it, and then some, and I was so impressed with how Guinness can work in not only stews and cakes, but other sweet treats, too.

There's something so comforting about gingerbread and ginger flavoured things. The rich and warm spiciness always makes me happy, despite not really being able to eat nearly as much crystalised ginger as my Mum loves to. So naturally, the combination of spicy ginger and bitter stout would be a great match for this year's necessity for a somewhat-Irish recipe. And of course, David Lebovitz has a recipe for this very combination.

Ingredients (makes 12)
Recipe adapted from 'Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes' by David Lebovitz

For cakes:
125 mls Guinness
1/2 cup mild-flavoured molasses or treacle
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 tsp bicarbonate soda
3/4 brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/3 cups plain flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsps ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup glacé ginger, finely chopped

For frosting:
125 gms cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
zest and juice of 1 lime

For candied lime peel:
3 limes, washed
2 cups water
1 cup caster sugar
1 tbsp light corn/glucose syrup

For the candied peel, remove the zest from the limes in strips with a small shard knife or vegetable peeler. Try to avoid removing the white pith as it will be bitter, but if this is unavoidable, it's easy enough to remove it by laying your strips flat on a chopping board, pith side up, and run a small sharp knife along the strip to remove it. Cut the strips of zest into matchstick size slices.

Put the peel into a medium saucepan and cover generously with water. Bring to the boil and cook until the peel is soft and translucent, about 5 - 6 minutes. Drain the peel and discard the water.

In the same saucepan, bring 2 cups water, sugar and corn syrup to the boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add the drained peel and decrease the heat over a gentle boil for about 20 minutes, or until the syrup is thick and the peel is translucent. Allow to cool. You can store any unused peel and syrup in a clean jar in the refrigerator for  about 2 months.

Preheat the oven to 175C. Line a standard 12 capacity cupcake tin with cupcake liners.

For the cakes, in a large saucepan bring the stout, molasses and oil to a boil over a medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the baking soda until dissolved - this will foam up but will quickly settle back down. Stir in the brown sugar and allow to cool until tepid.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, spices and salt. Whisk the eggs into the stout mixture, followed by the flour mixture until just incorporated. Gently stir in glacé ginger. Divide the batter evenly among cases and bake cakes for about 22 - 24 minutes, until just set. Cool completely on a wire rack.

For frosting, beat cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Add 1 cup icing sugar and beat on a low speed, increasing to a high speed as powder is incorporated.  Add remaining icing sugar, lime zest and juice. You may need to add more icing sugar (I just pour it in, unmeasured, as I go) depending on the humidity and your preferred consistency. Spread or pipe a small dollop onto each cooled cake. Top with cooled lime zest.

In the midst of cooling and mixing ingredients into the stout mixture, I had serious doubts-- It just smelled far too musky and malty to be delicious. But it really works, and works very well. The lime cream cheese works really well to offset the cake, and next time would make the lime as tart as I could. You could omit the candied peel if you're not feeling up to the extra step, an decorate with some more finely chopped glacé ginger.

Recommended baking soundtrack - Wooden Wand: Wither Thou Goest, Cretin.

Monday, March 14

strawberry tarts

Sometimes, I have great difficulty choosing my favourite fruit. I've always been a strawberry person from a very young age. As a little girl, I would choose strawberry flavoured things over any other - milkshakes, ice creams, candy, you name it. I would be absolutely delighted when my mother allowed me to choose absolutely anything from the specialty bakery we frequented, as I would always, always choose a strawberry tart. But as I've gotten older and strawberries have gotten firmer, paler and sometimes even fuzzier, peaches, raspberries and even ugly duckling pineapple have fought and won my affections. Strawberries sometimes slipped into the back of my mind.

Last week, I bought a five-dollar punnet (obscene, I know) of strawberries and all of the reasons why I loved them rushed back to me, quickly. Each one was perfect, soft, juicy and made me wonder what I was ever thinking to choose any other. Each one cemented strawberries as my all time favourite fruit. I adore strawberries. I always will. Swoon.

Ingredients (makes 8)
Recipe from March issue of delicious

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/3 cup icing sugar
100 gms chilled unsalted butter, chopped
2 vanilla beans, split, seeds scraped
1 egg
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 tbsps red currant jelly
250 gms mascarpone cheese
500 gms strawberries

For pastry, place flour, 2 tbsps icing sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and half of the vanilla seeds, then whiz until mixture looks like sandy crumbs. Add the egg and process until mixture comes together in a ball. Shape into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 180C and grease eight 10cm wide, 2cm deep loose-bottomed tart tines. Divide dough into eight portions, roll to about 5mm thick and line tins. Chill for a further 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, for the toffee glaze, place caster sugar in a small pan over a low heat with 2 tbsps of cold water. Stir until sugar dissolves, then increase heat to medium-low and cook, without stirring, for 5 - 6 minutes until golden caramel. Remove from heat and carefully add 1/2 cup water. Return to medium-low heat, add red currant jelly and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature. 

Remove tarts from refrigerator, line with baking paper and fill with pastry weights. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove baking paper and weights and bake for a further 5 minutes or until pastry is a deep gold and is evenly dry. Cool in tins on a wire rack. 

Combine mascarpone with remaining icing sugar and vanilla seeds. Fill cooled tart cases with mascarpone mixture, top with berries and drizzle with toffee. Eat ASAP!

As I was making these and keeping them all to our household, I filled each tart shell as needed to keep the pastry fresh and crisp. The toffee mixture can be kept covered, at room temperature and the tart shells in an airtight container for a few days. It's quick and easy to make each tart up as needed and it's certainly worth it if you're serving eight people at once. 

You could try this with raspberries or even cherries... but you probably shouldn't.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Beach Fossils - What a Pleasure