Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Passionfruit Caramels...aka Crack Caramel

Crack caramel
Passionfruit and dark chocolate dipped caramels with dried flowers

Whether it’s an indecent sauce, sliding all over your dessert plate or a chewy after dinner treat, caramel has this undeserved reputation as being something that’s difficult. And yes it can burn to the pot, turn darker than you’d like it to and if left unattended stick your wooden spoon permanently to the base of your pan. BUT if you follow a few simple rules, keep an eye on it and use a sugar thermometer, it’s really as easy as pie. And sometimes its fun to embrace the panicked thrill that comes with cooking something threatening.
These passionfruit caramels are oh so pretty on the eye and take the humble caramel beyond what you might find at a church fete. The slight tartness of the passionfruit makes a perfect bedfellow for the chocolate and toffee flavours. And the dried flowers make them giftworthy.
Did I mention you need a sugar thermometer? Buy one. Yes that’s right, repeat after me, su-gar ther-mom-eter. Important stuff.
I have two other warnings - remember not to stick your fingers in the mixture, as delightful and tasty as it may look. That stuff burns.  And excessive caramel consumption does lead to sore teeth.

Makes approximately 24 pieces

250g caster sugar
60 ml passionfruit juice (strained, no pulp)
250ml (1 cup) cream
75g liquid glucose
30g butter
dried edible flowers
75g dark chocolate

Line a 20 x 20cm high-sided baking tray with baking paper.
Combine the sugar, passion fruit juice, cream, glucose and butter in a heavy-based saucepan and stir to combine, being careful not to let the mixture rum up the sides as this has a tendency to burn. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and cook until the mixture reaches 120C on a sugar thermometer. This should take between seven and ten minutes and the caramel should be bright and golden in colour. Working quickly, pour the caramel into the prepared tray and sprinkle over some dried edible flowers. Let stand until firm.
Using a hot, wet knife, cut the caramel into desired shapes. Melt the chocolate and dip the ends of the caramel pieces into the chocolate. Sprinkle over additional dried flowers if using. You can store caramels in the fridge but they are best eaten at room temperature to prevent breaking your teeth!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Kitchen Kit Road Test & Giveaway

If you are anything like me you find yourself with a thousand and one baking pans or none. There is no happy medium. Ever. Its sort of like underwear. You have all these matching sets and then one day wonder if you can leave the house because there is nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Not even a pair of bonds and a singlet to make yourself respectable.

So I was pretty happy when I was sent a 20 x 26cm Profiline Push Pan as part of the launch of the pans with the tv show The Great Australian Bake Off. I have been using my grandmothers loose-bottom tin - I love it but I also get concerned about the over use - its one of her possessions that I hold most dearly to my heart so a new loose bottom tin was in order. And it meant I could organise a giveaway set for you lovely peeps so of course I obliged!
These tins are a little different - which is why I thought them worthy of the Kitchen Kit Roadtest. There is a silicone seal on the lose base which is very handy if you are a bit slap dash with your batter like me. None of the mixture can make its way out into the world of your oven and you can also use them to cook in a water bath without the angst of a watered down cheesecake/pudding etc etc.

What's there to say, a round cake pan is a round cake pan but this shot from Profiline does show the silicone seal so you can see how it works.
They are slate/chrome in colour - quite similar to the Chicago metal colour and have the weighty feel of a quality baking pan.

Made of heavy gauge steel with some uber fancy Swiss non-stick coating. I can't speak to it because I've never trusted a non-stick. Ever. I've worked too hard on my cake to throw caution to the wind and have half of it stuck to the sides so I'm passing the info on here rather than claiming its non-sticking wonder. Someone let me know?

Oh and the prices range from $18.95 - $35.95 so they are pretty wallet friendly. Sizes range from 12cm - 26cm. More deets at

They've got all the important stuff. You can throw them into the dishwasher. They'll bake at fisson inducing temperatures - up to 260C.

I've found after a few uses and goes through the dishwasher that the silicone seal tends to roll a little bit. Its an easy fix - you just have to make sure its back in place after you've washed the tin and I've found it is easiest to do this once it is just out of the dishwasher and the seal is still a bit warm and stretchy.

I used the 20 x 26cm tin to bake this earl grey crumble tea cake for my weekly Daily Life Column. The cooking time was standard and it achieved a consistent brown colouring in the tin despite the upper left hot spot in my oven. 

Earl Grey Tea Crumble Butter Cake

I am the first to ooh and ahh over the petite perfection of professionally produced patisserie, but there is something more gratifying about making, baking and tasting the more robust home baked tea cake. Tea cake, preferably with a cup of tea, fills the house with amazing smells and can make you feel everything is ok with the world in a way that very few other forms of cooking can. I’ll take cake over quinoa every other day of the week and often find myself daydreaming of a world where “everything stops at 3.30 for tea and just a slice”.

I’ve incorporated tea (surprise, surprise) directly into your standard butter cake here with a caramelized tea crumble topping – the result is light, lovely and fitting for many an occasion, from those requiring starched white napkins and funny little forks to those enjoyed over the kitchen sink with a mug of builders tea when no one is watching.

2 tbsp looseleaf  earl grey tea
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup plain flour
75g cold butter, chopped

2 cups plain (all purpose flour)
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
125g butter, at room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup Greek yoghurt
¼ cup earl grey tea, cooled

Preheat oven to 180C.
To make the topping place the brown sugar and flour in a bowl, add ingredients to a bowl and rub butter in with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. To make the cake, sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Place butter and sugar in a bowl and cream together. Add the eggs and tea and mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the yoghurt, mixing well after each addition. Pour the cake batter into a greased 23cm (9 inch) spring-form cake tin. Sprinkle with topping mixture and bake the cake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, topping side up to cool. Serve with your finest brew of tea.

Just leave a comment on this post and a winner will be selected at random on 30th August. The lucky winner will receive:
4 x 12cm PushPans
2 x 20cm PushPans
1 x 26cm PushPans (this is the one I used)

OMFG....Oh My Fried Goodness. It's Parmesan Pesto Fries

Parmesan Pesto Fries
I often fall into the camp that deliberates the sides as much as the main meal. In fact a “side” done well can serve perfectly as the main event and has done so for me on many an occasion. Take the humble spud – roasted, mashed, boiled, baked, fried and steamed – a meal is not a meal without a touch of tatie on the side. It translates into patatas bravas, fritters, samosas, hashes, caldo verde, colcannon, bubble n squeak and the ever-humble hot chip. I’ve taken the typical soak up the beer, feed the seagulls special here and spun it with parmesan, sea salt and pesto so if you squint at them, you could almost imagine you were eating your greens. I’ve left the quantities for the pesto fairly large, if you are anything like me you’ll tend to cover your fry like a sock with the stuff.
The key to the perfect chip is in the soak. By soaking the fries in water, you draw out the starch, so when you cook them you make them crunchy on the outside and light and potatoey on the inside. Also make sure you serve them up hot and fast – these are definitely the sort of pomme fritte that you blow on, eat and still burn the roof of your mouth for fear of missing out.

900g baking potatoes, peeled, cut into ¼ inch thick sticks or cut into shoestring using a julienne peeler
vegetable oil for frying

1 bunch basil leaves
1 bunch coriander leaves
1 large clove garlic, peeled, chopped
50g pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup finely grated parmesan
zest of 1 lemon, plus a little squeeze of juice
1/3 cup olive oil or grapeseed oil

To serve
Rock salt
Shredded Parmesan

Add the potato to a large bowl. Cover with water and refrigerate for 8 hours, even better if you do it overnight.
On the day of serving make the pesto by combining the basil and coriander leaves, garlic and a pinch of sea salt in a mortar and, using a pestle, coarsely crush. Add pine nuts, parmesan and lemon zest and pound to a rough paste, stir through oil and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside until ready to serve. Alternatively you can blitz these in a food processor – just don’t over work it, you want a rough pesto.
In a large saucepan, heat 2 inches of oil to 160C. Line a baking tray with paper towels. Rinse the potatoes and pat thoroughly dry. Working in batches, fry the potatoes until they are almost tender and look slightly translucent (usually about 3 minutes). Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Increase the oil temperature to 190C and fry the potatoes for another 3 minutes or until golden and crisp. Transfer to the paper towels to drain and season generously with salt. Sprinkle the fries with the shredded Parmesan and dollops of pesto and serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Cherry Ripe Redux

Cherry Ripe Chocolate Tarts
I had a very dear friend visiting from London recently and one of the first things she went for in the food department was a cherry ripe. Funny how you skip straight past the old school favourites when right in front of you, but they are one of the first things you seem to crave on a return trip home to the golden shores. For international readers who may not be aware, the cherry ripe is an Australian confectionary aisle staple, the kind that friendships are formed and lost over. In fact, I'd say they are close to the Tim Tam as part of our national eating psyche. If you can get your hands on one, try one - they are definitely worth it.

In my world, there is only one thing wrong with cherries, and that is they are too expensive. But this dessert just wouldn’t be right if you used anything other than the variety that come in a jar. And hopefully these tarts will stem the craving until the cherry season is properly upon us (not long now).  They are super simple to make, and I’ve added a “touch of schmaancy” so you could serve these as dessert at a more well heeled dinner party should you feel the need to move it beyond morning tea. Its best to use a good quality dark chocolate – it offsets the sweetness of the cherries and coconut beautifully. It’s a dessert that is maximum impact with minimum effort.
In other words, the very best kind.

1 x 300g sheet of chocolate shortcrust pastry (I used Careme)
150g red maraschino cherries + 3 tbsp juice + 6 tsp juice
75g dried cherries
75g dark chocolate
75g coconut
3 tbsp condensed milk

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line 6 pastry tart moulds. Line with pastry and trim to fit. Blind bake for 10 minutes, remove the pastry weights, and bake for an additional 5 minutes. While the pastry shells are baking, add the maraschino cherries with 3 tbsp juice, dried cherries, chocolate, desiccated coconut and condensed milk to a blender and blitz until a rough paste consistency is achieved. Scoop the mixture into the six pastry cases, pressing down gently. Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly before drizzling over the melted chocolate and 1 tsp of cherry juice per tart.  Best served warm.