Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

Easy. Delicious.  Worth doing.

Also, a thanksgiving treat.  Thank you America for holidays revolving around food.

Of course, people often make pumpkin pie with canned pumpkin, because they are insane.  Use butternut pumpkin.


Half a medium sized butternut pumpkin.
 1 can evaporated milk
1 egg + 1 yolk
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger (ground)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves (ground)
1/2 tsp allspice

(for all spices, adjust as per preference.  I tend to use more ginger and nutmeg than stated above)

1 1/2 cups flour
100 gm butter (v. cold, grated)
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Splash of water/milk/buttermilk (whatever you have.  Alternatively, use an egg yolk)

To make dough, mix flour/cinnamon/sugar.  Add cold grated butter, and combine until mixture is breadcrumby.  Add a dash of your liquid of choice (a single egg yolk will probably be about perfect, alternatively start with 1-2 Tbsp of liquid, and add more if necessary).  Bring dough together.  it should form a smooth ball.  Set in fridge to cool before rolling out.

 Filling goes like this:  De-seed and peel the pumpkin.  Chop in inch sized chunks, boil until soft.  Allow to cool a little.  Mash/process the pumpkin, with the sugar, spices.  Place in pan with evaporated milk, heat until boiling, simmer for 3-5 minutes, take off heat.  When cooled slightly, mix through egg + yolk.

Shape cold pastry into a pie dish.You can blind bake the pastry if you want, but it isn't needed.  Add filling, cook at 180c (fan oven) until filling is firm (about 50-55 minutes).

Eat. Yoghurt works with it.
Went to a beer tasting at Blackhearts and Sparrows yesterday.  Cavalier Brewery in West Brunswick had some samples going, as seen below.  I was impressed by their Weizen, as most Australian brewers don't really seem to understand what a Weizan is meant to be.  They also sold me by saying that they wanted more esters in the next batch.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Taste Photos

Guess who was too busy eating things to take photos?  Me!

2 things that escaped...  A pork and fennel slider, and pistachio panna cotta with caramel salted popcorn.

Phone Photos!

One of the biggest problems I have with having a smartphone is that I use it to take photographs, which then sit on the phone, not uploaded, and not thought about, for months on end.  And I use it instead of my camera, which just makes things worse...

Pikelets with cinnamon poached apple, honey roasted mixed nuts and maple syrup, drizzled with Greek yogurt.

Peated strong beer, awesome name, awesome label, delicious (if intense) taste.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Daring Cooks September: Consommé

Peta, of the blog Peta Eats, was our lovely hostess for the Daring Cook’s September 2011 challenge, “Stock to Soup to Consommé”. We were taught the meaning between the three dishes, how to make a crystal clear Consommé if we so chose to do so, and encouraged to share our own delicious soup recipes!

I decided that simplicity would be key for this challenge, and so I made a shiitake/bonito stock, spiced up with white peppercorns, then turned it into a lovely consommé served with pumpkin and snow peas.

The stock base is made by taking an onion, diced, half a dozen dried shiitake mushrooms, 2 bay leaves, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and some bonito flakes (I used 2 heaped tablespoons, but I like the fishy flavour).  Add to 1.5 liters of water and simmer for a couple hours.  You might want to add further flavour, i have a japanese mixed spice I use.

When the flavours have sufficiently infused, strain the solids from the soup base and leave aside to cool for 10 minutes or so.  While it cools, separate 2 eggs, and whisk the whites to soft peaks. You do this because I follow the 'egg raft' method of consommé preparation.  Fold the whites into the cooled soup, and simmer very gently for about 35-40 minutes.  As it simmers, scrape a hole in the centre of the egg raft so you can watch the stock clearing as the particles attach to the raft.  When the stock is clear (use a soup spoon to look at it if it is hard to see while it is in the pan), take the whole off the heat and rest again for 10 minutes.

Now, you need to remove the consommé from under the raft, without breaking the raft and releasing the bits back into the mix.  You will need to use a ladle or similar, and to take your time.  You cannot strain it, the raft will collapse.  You might be able to pour off from underneath the raft, but this is delicate, and seems to release some bits and pieces, no matter how carefully you try, so I would recommend ladling.

Upon successfully extracting the consommé, discard the raft.  pour consommé over lightly steamed snow peas and pumpkin, serve with something in character with your soup.  In this case, it was shredded cabbage and Japanese mayonnaise, and sushi rice with shredded dried salmon and smoked tofu.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chocolate-Caramel pudding!

So, who knew that if you boil a can of sweetened condensed milk for a couple of hours, it turns into delicious, delicious caramel?  I did, and I do it semi-regularly.  it is good.

Once you have said delicious, delicious caramel, you can put it in the bottom of a 1 1/2 cup ramekin, and add a chocolate pudding base on top (melt butter with chocolate, mix sugar/cream/flour/eggs together, add the two together, layer over caramel).  Bake the resulting awesome, and you get a choc-caramel pudding.  Yum!  (Hint: add cream for bonus goodness)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Outpost: No

St Ali's Outpost, in South Yarra, should be good.  The coffee is nice, the food is good, but... The service would be bad for Canberra.  For Melbourne, it was almost enough to make me wonder if this is a new variation on hipster cafe snobbery.  Be obnoxious enough to your customers that they stand up and walk out before you actually have to give them their meals.

I kid, but only a little.  The atrocious service seemed to be incompetent rather than malicious.  Terribly disappointing, as I wanted to like the place.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Daring Cooks June: Potato Salad

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. [The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads.]

I went for a simple salad of kipflers, boiled, and shaken through a dressing of wholegrain mustard, salad vinegar and japanese mayonnaise.  A bed of rocket, cherry tomatoes, chevre, boiled eggs, olives and smoked trout rounded it out.

Simple as anything to prepare (assuming you don't plan to catch and smoke the trout yourself).  Take a half kilo of kipflers, slice roughly, boil until soft, drain dry.  Mix 2-3 tbsp each of mayonnaise and vinegar together with 1-2 tsp mustard.  Place potatoes in a pot with a tight fitting lid, add dressing, and shake well (holding lid securely on).  Pile potatoes onto rocket, and amass everything else you are using in as decorative a manner as desired.  Top with some extra virgin olive oil if you want a bit more dressing over the remainder.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Daring Cooks May Challenge: Gumbo

  Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.

I went for a seafood gumbo, using crabs and prawns, bulked out with a bit of chicken on the bone because things like oysters are expensive here.

1 cup Duck Fat
1 cup flour
2 large onions, diced
2 blue swimmer crabs, quartered
1 chicken maryland & 1 chicken breast on the bone
1/2 kg chorizo
1 stalk celery, diced
1 green capsicum, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
250 gm sliced fresh okra, ½ -inch slices
Sprig of fresh thyme
2 litres chicken stock
2 bay leaves
300gm peeled and deveined medium shrimp.
1 cup (240 ml) (100 gm) (3½ oz) minced green onions (scallions, or spring onions)
Freshly ground black pepper
Basic Creole Spices, to taste (recipe below)
4-6 cups cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice (recipe follows)

1. Prepare stock.
2. Prepare homemade Basic Creole Spices.
3. Prepare all vegetables and meat... cut, dice, chop, mince!  You must stir the roux continuously to prevent it from burning.

4. In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the duck fat over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil – it will start to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate, and continue whisking until the roux becomes deep brown in color, about 15 minutes.

5. Add the onions. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the onions into the roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue stirring until the roux becomes a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.

6. Add the blue swimmer crabs, chicken and smoked sausage and stir for a minute before adding the celery, bell peppers, garlic, and okra. Increase the heat to moderate and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes.
7. Add the thyme, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally.
8. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, skimming off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.
9. Add the shrimp and green onions to the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Make sure everything is ready to serve before adding the shellfish to the gumbo. DO NOT OVERCOOK your shellfish.
10. Season with salt and pepper, Creole Spices, and hot sauce.
11. Serve in bowls over rice.

Delicious.  The creols spices and Louisiana rice added extra depth to it, recipes are as follows:

Basic Louisiana White Rice

Adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
Servings: About 4 cups
1 tablespoon (30 ml) (30 gm) (1 oz) chicken fat, extra-virgin olive oil, or butter
1 small onion, minced
1½ cups (360 m) ((280 gm) (10 oz) Louisiana (or another long-grain white rice)
3 cups (750 ml) Basic Chicken Stock
1 bay leaf
1-2 pinches salt
1. Put the fat, oil, or butter and the onions into a medium saucepan and sweat the onions over moderate heat until they are translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Pour the rice into the pan and stir for 2 minutes.
3. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
4. Add the bay leaf and salt.
5. Cover the pan with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 18 minutes.
6. Remove the pan from the heat, fluff the rice with a fork, and serve.

Basic Creole Spices

From My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
Makes ½ cup
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (33 gm) celery salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) sweet paprika
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (18 gm) coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (6 gm) freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) garlic powder
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) onion powder
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (4 gm) cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) ground allspice
Mix together all spices in a bowl. Transfer the spices to a clean container with a tight-fitting lid. Store up to six months.

Finally, I made a Pecan Pie to finish things off.

1 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 tsp salt
125gm butter, cold and diced
1 egg

Mix dry ingredients together, rub in butter until the whole mixture is gritty (like cornmeal) with some bigger (pea sized) lumps of butter remaining.  Add lightly beaten egg and stir until just combined.  Press into a flat disc, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate for half an hour minimum.

Roll out to 30cm round, about 5mm thick.  Press into a 9" pie dish, and use foil or baking powder to fill the centre for blind baking.  Bake at 200c for 20 minutes or so.  (This is a good time to prepare the filling below).  Remove blind baking weights.  Either return pie without weights to the oven for 5-10 minutes, or if you prefer a softer crust, move immediately to filling and final baking. (follow filling recipe)

100gm butter
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup golden syrup
2 cups pecans (whole, sliced, raw, toasted... whatever your preference)
3 eggs, lightly beaten.
2 tsp vanilla

Combine butter, sugar and syrup in a pan over medium heat.  Bring to boil, then boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Take off heat and add vanilla and pecans.  Mix through.  In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs.  After sugar mixture has cooled for 5-10 minutes, mix eggs through, and stir with a fork until well combined.

With pie crust blind baked and filling prepared, add the filling to the crust (just pour it in!).  Cook at 180c for 40-45 minutes. Edges should be firm, and centre still a little soft.  It will harden as it cools.  Set it aside, and serve with cream. (Whipped with maple syrup!)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Daring Bakers, March 2011: Meringue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter
The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake


For the yeast coffee cake dough:
4 cups flour
¼ cup  sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 package (7 g) active dried yeast
¾ cup whole milk
¼ cup water
135 g unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature

For the meringue:
3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar

For the filling:

100 g chopped pistachios (shelled beforehand, of course! or buy them shelled and packed)
100gm dreid cranberries
100gm grated 70% chocolate
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Egg wash: 1 beaten egg

Prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.  In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted. Gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup flour and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining as required) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed. I used pretty much all the flour.

Place dough in a greased bowl and leave to rise for an hour or so. (Until it doubles)

Combine all ingredients.  Try not to eat too much of it.

In a clean mixing bowl beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form. 

Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into 50x25cm rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 3 cm from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling evenly over the meringue. Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.
Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 ½ cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.

Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.

Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Daring Cooks March: Ceviche and Papas Rellenas

Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.


450gm snapper fillet, cubed (1-1.5cm cubes)
1 chilli
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
handful of coriander leaves
salt & pepper
1/2 red onion, finely sliced.

Cut up the fish, mix it in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients, and leave until 'cooked' enough for you.  Snapper is a fairly firm fleshed fish, so it took about 40 minutes before I was satisfied.  You can I hear leave it much longer, even overnight, but it would get a bit limey for me, and really, if you don't like raw fish... be more daring.

(The salad in the background is pasta, black tomato, smoked mozzarella and rocket)

Papas Rellenas:

2¼ lb (1 kg) russet potatoes
1 large egg

2 tablespoons (rice bran for me, but whatever) oil
250 grams lamb mince
6 black olives, pitted and chopped (use more if you love olives)
3 hard boiled large eggs, chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
½ cup raisins, soaked in 1 cup (240 ml) boiling water for 10 minutes, then minced
1 finely diced jalapeno pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) (1/8 oz) ground cumin
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) (2 gm) (1/16 oz) sweet paprika
¼ c. white wine, water or beef stock for deglazing
Salt and pepper to taste

1 large egg, beaten
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) all-purpose flour
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash salt
1 cup dry bread crumbs (you can use regular, panko, make your own or use store-bought)

To make the dough, boil potatoes until soft, let cool, skin, and mash thoroughly (or use a potato ricer, they need to be as smooth as possible).  Add egg, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly.

For the filling, brown onion and chili and garlic, and minced lamb and brown for a couple minutes.  Add cumin, paprika, raisins, and cook a few more minutes. Deglaze, add olives, take from heat, add and stir in eggs.  Cool filling.

To assemble, flatten 1/6 of the potato in the palm of your hand, add filling, and fold over to make a potato shaped casing completely around the filling.  Repeat until all potato is gone.  Roll each in flour, then in egg, then in breadcrumbs, and deep fry at 170-190c until golden brown, a few minutes each.  You can do these in batches if you cannot do them all at once.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Daring Bakers Challenge February 2011

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

I made the Panna Cotta as asked, but refuse to support Nestle, especially not when what they are attempting to pass off as Florentines are actually oat cookies dipped in chocolate.  So I made Florentines instead.

Panna Cotta turns out to be close to the easiest thing in the world, which is nice, because it is also delicious.  One trick:  I used Unhomogenised milk, and probably should not have, as it is more likely to separate than your standard milks.


1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 packet (7 gm)  unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups (720 ml) cream
1/3 cup (80 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) granulated sugar
pinch of salt

  1. Pour the milk into a bowl or pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk (make sure the bowl/pot is cold by placing the bowl/pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes before you start making the Panna Cotta). Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
  2. Pour the milk into the saucepan/pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes. (I whisk it a few times at this stage).
  3. Next, add the cream, honey, sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn't boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin.
  5. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve.
I also layered the Panna Cotta with a Coffee Gelee.  This is easy enough to make, i prepared some coffee (500mL), added sugar, sprinkled gelatine over it, let it soak in a bit, then stirred it in until dissolved.  When cool but not set, poured on top of the Panna Cotta to create a layer, which countracted the sweetness of the dessert a bit.  Important thing to remember, is to let the Panna Cotta set before layering onto it.

The florentines were a bit more work, but again, really not much.  Because, as I said, I don't consider oat cookies to be Florentines, I made real florentines.  Equal parts Brazilnuts, Hazelnuts and almonds (150gm of each), roughly chopped (I used a food Processor, giving both big chunks and some powder), with cranberries, glace cherries, mixed peel, and coconut shreds.   (About a cup of each).  Mix together in a big bowl, add 3/4 cup of flour, stir to coat everything, then heat a cup of honey with some sugar until the sugar dissolves, add to the nut mixture, and combine.  Press the whole thing into a walled baking tray and cook for 35-40 minutes, until cooked and browning.  The mixture will hold together much better after cooking than it does initially.  Once cooled, pour melted chocolate over the top, let set, then cut into squares.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More from Japan! Crab in many courses

We also had a many course crab lunch in Tokyo, with crab boiled, raw, in and out of the shell, in soup, baked, as sushi, on things, under things, every which way.  It was all good.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Daring Cooks Challenge, February 2011: Tempura

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including,, and

Soba was easy because I didn't try to make them from scratch.  So cooked to packet directions and let cool.  A dipping sauce to go with them, 1 part soy, 1 part mirin, 6 parts dashi.  Spring onions and nori strips to serve.  Pick up the noodles and dip into sauce, then eat.  Messy, but good.
Tempura is trickier, because frying is fun.  You want the oil at about 160c (170c for fish/prawns), and the things you are tempura'ing to be nice and cold before they get dropped into the oil.  So pre slice and then chill them, and keep your tempura batter iced (put the bowl with the batter inside a larger bowl of iced water).
1 egg yolk
1 cup iced water
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Dipping things:
I used Kumara and sweet potato, snow peas, nori, prawns, mushroom, eggplant and fish.  I wouldn't use kumara again, it is a bit too starchy, the rest were amazing, especially the snow peas.  Slice sweet potato thinly and blanch it first, the rest can be done raw.  Butterfly the prawns and cut the fish thinly, to help with cooking time (About a minute in the oil, minute and a half if you are paranoid about seafood)
Mix yolk and water, add flours and baking powder, quickly combine using chopsticks.  It should be runny and a bit lumpy.  Drop your slices of things in to coat them, then slide them a few at a time into the oil.  Cook for a minute or so, until the batter is just colouring.  Fish out and drain them, serve asap.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Daring Bakers January: Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

Joconde Sponge

Makes one big sheet of sponge.

85g almond meal
75g icing sugar
25g cake flour *See note below
3 large eggs - about 5⅓ oz/ 150g
3 large egg whites - about 3 oz/ 90g
2½ teaspoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

  1. In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.
  2. Sift almond flour, icing sugar, cake flour. (This can be done into your dirty egg white bowl)
  3. On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light. (If using a stand mixer use blade attachment. If hand held a whisk attachment is fine, or by hand. )
  4. Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.
  5. Fold in melted butter.
  6. Reserve batter to be used later.

Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste

Makes one big sheet worth of paste.

100g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar
3 large egg whites
80g cake flour
30 g cocoa powder.


  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (use stand mixer with blade, hand held mixer, or by hand)
  2. Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously.
  3. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together before adding to creamed mixture.  Fold in. 
To make the nifty patterns, lay down some baking paper in a baking tray.  Pipe or spread the cocoa paste onto the tray in the pattern you desire, then freeze it solid, before pouring the sponge over it and baking the whole thing in a hot oven (250c) for 12-15 minutes, until cooked and springy.  I went for a simple pattern, made by spreading a layer of paste over the entire tray, and running a fork through the paste to make patterns.  You could pipe words or pictures onto the tray instead, for much more intricate designs, but as I have a small freezer, I was doing this in two parts, and wanted a sturdy design.  Will experiment with prettier ones at some other stage, because this challenge was fun.

Once cooled a little, flip the sponge onto a clean surface.  The side that was in the bottom of the pan becomes the visible one, and you should see a pattern where you had traced out designs in the paste.  Cut the sponge to size, and fit around the edge of your mould.  I used a high walled easy release cake tin.

Your cake will need some filling.  What you choose is up to you.  I went for three fillings, plus a base of leftover sponge from making the side-walls.  The first layer was chocolate mousse, followed by a stack of blueberries, an unbaked cheesecake layer, a caramel layer, then blueberries on top.

Heston Blumenthal recipe, stupidly easy.  One 200gm block of chocolate, 200mL of water.  Melt the chocolate and water together.  Sit an empty mixing bowl inside a second, slightly larger mixing bowl that has been filled with ice and water.  Pour chocolate/water mixture into the empty bowl, and whisk until thick.  Use an electric whisk, it takes a while.

Unbaked Cheesecake.
Also stupidly easy.  300mL of cream, a cup of icing sugar.  whisk together, add 250gm ricotta, 250gm cream cheese, and whisk/whip until thick and smooth.  Add a touch of vanilla essence if you want.  I also strained this through a wire seive to make sure there were no lumps of cream cheese or ricotta in the final product.

Take a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Submerge it completely in boiling water.  Boil for 3 hours, making sure there is always enough water that it remains submerged.  Open it.  You now have caramel.

Layer these into the cake mould.  Once done, you will have something that looks like a prettier version of this:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Food in Japan (Part 2)

This marvellous looking creature is a fish shaped pikelet, cooked in large batches on a heavy iron griddle, and filled with (in this case) vanilla custard.  Other popular fillings include red bean paste, chocolate custard, and strawberries.  The custard is amazing, intensely vanilla, and the pastry is delicious.  These things are cheap (100-200 yen) and ubiquitous.

These are some nifty form of glutinous rice, shaped into balls, grilled on sticks and drizzled in a sweet soy-ish sauce, then served hot with ground nuts to dip the entire thing into.  Also incredibly tasty, not as cheap as the fish above, but well worth a try.  Some people might not appreciate the texture, but... 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Food in Japan (Part 1 of some)


There was a big market held at Toji Temple in Kyoto the day fter we arrived.  It was the last market of the year, and just before the Emperor's Birthday, so things were crowded and delicious.  We managed to eat the vanilla custard filled fish shaped pikelet and the sugar coated fried sweet potato without taking photographs, but the candied strawberries on a stick (above) and the okonomiyaki (below), a delicious shrimp, cabbage and assorted sundries filled rice flour pancake, topped with an egg and smothered in dried tuna flakes, sweet soy and mayonnaise, were both incredible.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Daring Bakers December Challenge: Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Stollen Wreath

Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Serves 10-12 people


¼ cup  lukewarm water
2 packages (14 grams) active dry yeast
1 cup milk
40 grams unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
5½ cups (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup (115 gms) sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract or orange extract
¾ cup (135 grams) mixed peel (link below to make your own)
1 cup (170 gms) firmly packed raisins
45ml rum
100 grams flaked almonds
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath


In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside.

To make the dough
Pour ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely. In a small saucepan, combine milk and  butter over medium - low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts. In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.
Then stir in the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate.

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn't enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

Shaping the Dough and Baking the Wreath

1. Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.
2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
4. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.

Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder.  Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape.

Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough.  Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.

Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot. Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter.Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first.
The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar.  Let cool at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh - especially if you intend on sending it in the mail as Christmas presents! When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.