Sunday, July 31

apple & blackberry pandowdy

Incase I haven't already toted on enough about how I prefer the milder seasons to an all imposing Brisbane Summer, let me bust into a monologue about desserts. Ice cream, sorbet and gelato are all wonderful. There are few things I love more than spontaneously deciding to go out for gelato at 8pm on a weeknight. But, these few things include Wintery desserts such as custards, crumbles, puddings, pies, pandowdies... Pandowdies?! According to my bible - AGT - a pandowdy is a pie whose lid is smashed (dowdied!) during the cooking process. The result is delicious jumble of pastry, berries and sweet juices making a mess all up in your oven.

This recipe uses a sour cream pastry which is so easy to make, and is wonderfully rich against apples and blackberries. Or, any other fruit, I imagine. A sprinkling of demerera (or raw, if you're desperate) sugar adds a little sweetness and crunchiness that is always welcome in my house.

Recipe from AGT August 2011

For pastry:
250 gms plain flour
40 gms pure icing sugar
rind of 1 lemon, finely grated
seeds of 1 vanilla bean
140 gms cold butter, cubed
120 gms sour cream (no low fat, please!)

For filling:
4 each granny smith and pink lady apples, cut into eighths
300 gms caster sugar
150 gms frozen blackberries
40 gms plain flour
juice of 2 mandarins
rind of 1 1/2 lemons, finely grated

demerera sugar, for sprinkling

For your pastry, process the flour, sugar, vanilla seeds, rind and 1/2 tsp salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse for about 30 seconds, until only small lumps remain. Add the sour cream, and pulse until mixture beings to come together. Turn the mixture out onto your bench top, and bring together with the heel of your hand. Form into a disc, wrap in plaaaastic, and allow to rest in the refrigerator for two hours.

Preheat your oven to 200C. Combine all of your filling ingredients in a large bowl before transferring to a generous pie dish.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until 4mm thick. Brush the edges of the pie dish with water before placing pastry over the filling and pressing the rim of the dish to seal. Trim the edges with a sharp knife, and pierce a hole in the centre of your pastry. Lightly brush your pie with water and generously scatter the demerera. Bake for about 35 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Remove from the oven, and break pastry into pieces with a fork, pressing down into the filling. Bake until the filling bubbles over the pastry, and the pastry is dark and golden brown - about 25 minutes.

I usually have an inability to love the results of my baking unless it is aesthetically perfect, something that can be very exhausting at times. But I love the appearance of this dowdied pie, and can see myself squashing and re-baking plenty more pies in the future... It's strangely very satisfying. I can also see bakers with pie failures now feeling confident knowing their pies aren't deformed misfits, but are in fact a new and delicious addition to their dessert repertoire!

Recommended baking soundtrack: Grass Widow - Milo Minute.

Wednesday, July 27

happy belated birthday, heidi!

About two weeks ago, my dear sister turned thirty, and all has been a blur before, during and after. Choosing a loved one's birthday cake is always something I will start months in advance. I will search for a recipe or flavour combination almost as early as the day following their birthday the previous year. I'll decide upon a favourite, and then change my mind, and then lose a recipe or two until I settle on something I hope will be perfect, and that they will love. But, it's always particularly difficult choosing a cake to make my sister, and certainly not because she's fussy-- her and I definitely share our love of all things sweet and cakey. But each year, the cakes we make for each other have to be bigger and grander than the last. Two years ago, my sister made me a Cherry Ripe mudcake that weighed more than my cat. Last year, I made her a six layer black forest cake. I imagine (and hope) this will continue until forever.

This year, it may seem as though I've toned it down a little, but when I saw Sweetapolita's neapolitan cake, I knew I'd found 'the one'.  This cake is made from chocolate, strawberry and almond-y vanilla layers, and was big enough to feed all our friends and family. In my haste to get this cake finished, and in the excitement of my sister's birthday dinner, I took no real photos of the cake, much to my disappointment. So, since then I have re-created miniature versions for photographic and eating purposes. Okay, mostly for eating.

Each cake was beautiful and moist, and sandwiching them with some homemade strawberry jam was all they needed. The buttercream has strawberry extract and pure cream, which gives it a taste surprisingly close to old-fashioned strawberry ice cream. Please see Sweetapolita's blog for so many more perfect recipes accompanied by magnificent photography.  But be warned: you will feel inspired to bake absolutely every recipe within.

Recommended baking soundtrack: Tallest Man on Earth - Shallow Graves

Thursday, July 14

raspberry crème brûlée

Joyeux Quatorze Juillet! Last year, I bastardized a week's worth of French sweets, and this year I've had my Bastille-Day-week all mapped out with five flavours of crème brûlée. Then both of my kitchen torches failed, time sped up, and before I knew it I was cooking my sister's 30th birthday cake over three nights after work, and not giving a damn about making anglaise and crystalising sugar.

I did manage one recipe before my sense of organisation escaped me, and I'm glad it was such a tasty one. I decided to add raspberries to both the mixture and in the bases of each serving. It's nice to get a tart surprise at the bottom of sweet custard.  I love crème brûlée served in shallow dishes to maximise the amount of crunchy toffee, and these small ceramic spoons were the perfect choice.

Ingredients (makes 4 modest servings)

For custard:
500 mls pouring cream
1 vanilla bean, with seeds scraped
4 yolks
1/4 cup caster sugar

For raspberry puree:
200 gms raspberries
2 tbsps icing sugar

sugar for toffee
raspberries to garnish

For the raspberry puree, place berries and icing sugar in a small saucepan and stir, squashing the berries, over a medium heat until you have a pour-able consistency. Press the sauce through a fine sieve, and set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 160C. Place the cream and vanilla in a small saucepan and heat gently until cream is almost at boiling point - small bubbles will start to appear around the edges of the pan. 

Meanwhile, whisk the yolks and caster sugar in a medium sized bowl. When the cream is ready, slowly begin to pour into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Whisk for about a minute to bring the temperature down slightly, before returning to the saucepan. Heat over a low heat until mixture is thick enough to thinly coat the back of a spoon. Stir through half of the puree.

Pour the remaining puree into the bottoms of each dish or vessel of your choise. Strain the custard, and gently pour on top of the puree. Place the dishes into a baking dish and fill the dish with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of each. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, keeping a close eye as cooking time will vary depending on the size of your servings. The custard should look set on the surface, but still have a gentle wobble. Remove from oven and water and allow to cool completely. 

To serve, generously sprinkle with sugar and caramelise with a kitchen torch until sugar begins to bubble. Serve with raspberries. 

The raspberry through the custard was quite subtle, so feel free to add more puree if you'd prefer. You could also add whole or crushed raspberries, but I wanted my crème brûlée to be as smooth as possible. I think there's little room for failure with custard and berries. 

Bonne Bastille!

Recommended baking soundtrack: Françoise Hardy - Et Si Je M'En Vais Avant Toi

Sunday, July 3

red velvet whoopie pies

While documenting my previous whoopie baking day, I came across a back shiny ball of fur in my backyard, which has been a little neglected since the weather has cooled. Scared that it was a creature, and that this creature may be dead, I sent my boyfriend down to poke and prod before I wanted to know what it was. Thankfully, it was alive, and most importantly, it was a cat! I adore cats dearly, and miss one in particular so much on a daily basis and this little (well, rather large) visitor was so much more than welcome. I spent what felt like two minutes - but what was probably more accurately about thirty minutes - sitting in my backyard patting and swooning over this handsome cat. Now,  I might have been cat-drunk, but it was during those moments that I realised how beautiful my backyard had become, full of dead leaves and Winter light.

The following weekend, I re-created the experience. Same time of day, but different whoopie recipe.
I'm quite ashamed to admit that I've never made red velvet anything - cupcakes, layer cakes... nothing. And so, red velvet cake came into my life. The cat didn't come back that day, but has another time since, and that's good enough for me, for now.

Recipe slightly adapted from Sophie Grey's Let's Make Whoopies

For whoopies:
180 gms plain flour
20 gms cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
70 mls buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
80 gms butter, softened
150 gms brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
red food colouring (I use Wilton gel colours)

For filling:
50 gms butter, softened
150 gms cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 - 2 cups icing sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 200C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Sift the cocoa, flour and bicarb soda into a bowl. Mix buttermilk, vanilla and food colouring and set aside.

Beat the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and creamy - scrape down the sides of your bowl regularly. With the motor running, slowly add the egg and mix well until completely combined. Fold in the wet and dry ingredients with a large metal spoon, being careful to not over-mix. If mixture is too dry, add more buttermilk with caution. The mixture should be quite thick, almost the consistency of smooth peanut butter.

Place mixture in a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain tip, and pipe eight even mounds of mixture onto each baking tray, leaving plenty of space between each to spread whilst cooking. Bake for 9 minutes - they will still be very soft to the touch, so cool completely on trays.

For filling, mix cream cheese and butter together in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, until smooth. Add vanilla, then gradually spoon icing sugar into mixture while motor is running. After 1 cup has been added, increase speed until mixture is smooth and silky. Add more icing sugar if needed, a little at a time, until you get your desired consistency - because I was piping mixture on to the tops of each whoopie, I wanted mine quite firm.

Pipe filling onto half of your cooled whoopies, and sandwich with remaining halves. Change your piping bag's tip to a closed star, and pipe a small dollop onto the top of each whoopie. Top with a sugar pearl, flower or... anything you like.

In retrospect, I probably would have put more red food colouring into the mixture, but was taken over by the need to eat them as soon as possible. I haven't added an amount to the recipe so you can be the judge of how intense you want the colour to be, especially because it will vary dramatically depending on if you're using liquid, gel or powder. 

Recommended baking soundtrack: Micah P Hinson - Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra.