Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Maple Mousse and Salted Pecan Dulce de Leche in Chocolate Cupcake Patties

This is my first Daring Baker’s challenge, and I actually almost didn’t do it. I just had so much stuff on. French assignments and tests, a criminal law assignment and another one in contracts...Plus all the regular uni work. On top of that, I’ve had some illness in the family (my little sister by a year) had to get emergency surgery, and my own emergency trip to the doctor (after which I am left with no answers, but a referral for an unspeakable and highly uncomfortable test next Thursday). Life’s just been a little hectic lately. But somehow everything settled down last week and I was able to not only do the challenge, but cook other things as well!


The challenge this month, hosted by Evelyn for Cheap Ethnic Eatz and was to make a maple syrup mousse and an edible container. It was actually a dual challenge, so the daring cooks also had to do the same thing (though they’re edible containers could be filled with whatever they wanted!).

I like how much freedom this challenge gave me. All I really needed was the maple mousse, and everything else was up to me.


I decided to keep things simple though, for fear that something else would come up and I wouldn’t be able to finish the challenge, so I made edible cupcake patties, with salted pecan dulce de leche and maple mousse. Easy!

Maple Mousse:
1 cup pure maple syrup (this was so expensive! $10 for just 1 cup! I could have died!)
4 large egg yolks
3 tsp agar agar (the recipe actually called for 1 packet of gelatine, but as a veggie-eater, I don’t use gelatine in my cooking)
1 1/2 cups whipping cream (35% fat content)

1. Bring maple syrup to a boil, and add agar agar. Stir in, making sure that all of it dissolves.
2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking. Do not pour in the lot, otherwise you’ll cook your yolks and have a great big mess on your hands.
3. Slowly add the rest in a steady stream, continuing to whisk.
4. Whisk ¼ of the whipping cream into the mixture and set aside for about an hour, whisking occasionally.
5. Whip the rest of the cream, and fold into the mixture.
6. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Salted Pecan Dulce de Leche
1 can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup pecans, roughly chopped
I tsp sea salt (or more to taste)
½ cup sugar

1. Place the condensed milk in a large pot filled with water, making sure it is fully immersed. Boil for an hour or two. The milk can be boiled longer and will develop a darker colour and stronger flavour. The less time boiling, the paler and less caramelly it will be.
2. Once the dulce de leche is done, wait for it to cool, before opening the can and poring the contents into a bowl.
3. In a sauce pan, dissolve the sugar with enough water just to moisten it all, and allow to caramelise.
4. Once the mixture starts to darken, add salt and pecans.
5. Once the mixture is fully caramelised, pour into the dulce de leche and, working quickly, mix it in until fully incorporated.


Chocolate Patties
250 g chocolate
Cupcake Patties

1. Melt chocolate in a bain-maire.
2. Remove from heat and, using a tsp, dollop a small amount into a cupcake patty.
3. With a pastry brush, brush chocolate up the sides.
4. Do the same for each patty, then refrigerate for twenty minutes.
5. Remove from fridge and coat with chocolate again, as above. The chocolate may need to be melted again, then refrigerate.
6. Follow the same process one more time. It is important that the chocolate is not thinly spread, so if you feel you haven’t made it thick enough in places, go over it again.
7. When the chocolate it set, peel the paper away.


To Assemble:
1. Spoon dulce de leche into chocolate patties.
2. Spoon mousse into a piping bag with a wide tip and pipe into the patties.


Not too bad, huh?

Now, this is a VERY sweet dessert. Too sweet for me, though my boyfriend, best friend and housemate (plus their other halves) all loved it. Even though the agar agar hadn’t completely dissolved and there were small particles of it in the mousse....

All in all, it was a fun challenge, with a pretty good outcome.

I left some in the fridge for our other housemate (on his shelf), but unfortunately I didn’t have time to see him before I left for uni to tell that they were for him. I ended up getting a text half way through the day saying ‘Hey Jen...I’m really sorry I accidentally ate one of those cupcake things in the fridge...It was really good! I’m sorry if you wanted it for something else though.’ To which I could only laugh.



Just as a bit of a warning to everyone, because of my health issues (which I have succeeded in ignoring for quite some time) I’m going to have to get serious about the food I eat. Otherwise, I’m going to have some pretty big problems later down the track. This means that you should expect a lot more healthy recipes, and a few less unhealthy (albeit delicious) ones. I’ll still occasionally make something awful for me, but (hopefully) it’ll happen a lot less!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cranberry and Hazelnut Biscotti

This coming Tuesday, I’m getting together with a friend and our boyfriends (incidentally, they’re brothers!) for a bit of cheese and wine goodness. Everyone has to bring something (or a few somethings actually...), with the aim of the game being to provide a diverse spread. Now, it being three days away, I hadn’t thought too much about what I was going to do, I’s THREE WHOLE DAYS AWAY. However, yesterday I got a text from my lovely friend informing me that she had gone crazy with purchasing things for the night. She bought blue gorgonzola cheese, triple brie, olives, crackers, fig paste, pear paste, marinated chillies, dates, grapes and a pistachio terrine leaving me to gawk at the text describing all of it and ask ‘well did you leave anything for me to sort out!?’

So after I lot of thinking and a few more texts exchanged, I went and picked up a nice pecorino, some goat’s cheese, fresh figs and almonds. The goat’s cheese I’m going to stuff into dates, and I’ll roast and spice the almonds. I also bought ingredients to make biscotti, mustard batons and nougat (one of our mutual favourite foods).

Now, I actually attempted the nougat yesterday but...well...although it tastes delicious it refuses to set, so I have to work out how to salvage it (ideas, please!) before I write a post on in.
I made the biscotti today and was incredibly happy with the results. Particularly after my disastrous attempt at nougat!


85g brown sugar
1 large egg
140g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground allspice
60g dried cranberries
80g hazelnuts, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Beat together the sugar and eggs until pale and thick enough to form a trail.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder and allspice into the mixture and fold together.
4. Stir in the cranberries and hazelnuts.
5. Lightly flour hands and shape the mixture into a long roll, about 28cm long. Press to flatten slightly.
6. Transfer onto baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.
7. Remove and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
8. Slice log into 1.5cm thick slice and arrange on baking tray.
9. Bake for another ten minutes, or until exposed surface is golden.
10. Let cool on a wire rack.


My confidence is now a little less shaky, because these little babies are incredible! Enjoy with a nice hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate (at the end of a long night of cheese and wine!)


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Roast Beetroot and Apple Salad

Now that autumn is rolling in, I really feel like something nice and warm for lunch. Not too warm, mind! It’s still not time to break out the soup and stew recipes, but a nice warm salad, I think, is would be wonderful.

And this roast beetroot and apple salad from ‘Good Taste’ magazine is just that.


Roast Beetroot and Apple Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
1 bunch (800gs beetroot bulbs, trimmed)
4 royal gala apples, cored and cut into 1cm-thick wedges (I used granny smith)
1 ½ tbs olive oil
1 tbs sugar
2 bunches rocket, trimmed
55g walnut halves (about ½ a cup)
2008 goats cheese, crumbled

1 egg yolk
2 ½ tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil
2 ½ tbs poppy seeds.

1. To make the dressing, whisk egg yolk, vinegar and mustard in a bowl until combined. Add the oil in a thin, steady stream, whisking constantly. Stir in the poppy seeds. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Preheat oven to 180˚C. Wrap each beetroot blb in alfoil and bake on tray for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until tender. Set aside to cool, then peel and cut into wedges.
3. Meanwhile, place the apples in a roasting pan. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with dugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until soft and golden. Set aside to cool.
4. Combine beetroot, rocket and apple in a bowl. Divide among plates. Top with walnuts, goats cheese and dressing.

And there you have it! A delicious, warm (but not too warm) salad to hail in the colder months! Yum! Plus, it's healthy! Who could ask for more!?


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Upside-Down Pear Cake


Blame the very talented Jennifer from Delicieux, whose beautiful Upside Down Pear Cake started all of this.

See, my initial plan was to simply bake some pears. Delicious. I love baked pears. But then SHE had to come along and infect my mind with gorgeous images of upside down cakes and really...let’s be serious. How could I refuse? So, rather than baked pears as I had intended, I bring you a Honey and Orange Upside Down Pear Cake (honey and orange seems to be a theme with me lately... honey and orange mascarpone anyone?

Anyway, I looked long and hard for a recipe that I liked, and one that could be easily tweaked to suit me and finally decided on this one from Gourmet Traveller, which I then mutilated changed it.


This is the recipe, with my amendments:

Honey and Orange Upside-Down Pear Cake
150g caster sugar
100g almond meal
100g hazelnut meal
60g desiccated coconut
100g rye flour
200g canola oil
200g honey
3 eggs, at room temperature, lightly whisked
Zest of two oranges
1 tsp vanilla essence (if you can though, DEFINITELY se scraped vanilla seeds as they give a MUCH better flavour).

Roast pears:
4 large pears (I used Williams)
Juice of 1 orange
Honey to drizzle
3 or 4 tsp granulated sugar to sprinkle.

1. Preheat oven to 150C.
2. Peel pears and halve lengthways.
3. Place cut-side down in a baking dish, sprinkle over sugar and drizzle with honey and orange juice.
4. Cover with foil and bake for up to 4 hours or until tender.
5. Cool. (At this stage you can remove the cores and stems, however I left mine on because it added a rustic charm...or so I think)
6. Strain liquid through a sieve and reserve. Pears may be cooked the day before and refrigerated.

1. Preheat oven to 160˚C.
2. Place caster sugar in a small saucepan, add enough water to dampen and cook over high heat for 10 minutes or until caramel in colour.
3. caramel into a 20cm-round cake pan with high sides and swirl to coat base and sides.
4. Mix together almond and hazelnut meal, coconut and flour.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange zest, vanilla and honey. Add eggs a little at a time, whisking to incorporate before adding more.
6. Mix dry mixture into wet.
7. Arrange roast pears, round-side down onto cake pan, then spoon over the cake mixture.
8. Place the cake pan into a baking dish and cover base with 5mm of water.
9. Bake for 2 hours, or until firm and golden.
10. Allow cake to cool in pan, however, before inverting onto a plate, warm the base over the stove to melt the caramel.



This would be sensational served with some vanilla bean ice cream or some Chantilly, though being lactose intolerant myself, I haven’t tried it with either. On its own it was incredible!


The cake has a distinctly nutty flavour, unsurprising given the amount of almond and hazelnut meal in it! It’s beautiful, moist and just sweet enough. And the pears! Oh dear sweet lord! The pears! Heavenly. Seriously, I have never had pears that good in my life. They were like...oh, I don’t even know. Better than chocolate. Yes. Better than chocolate. That’s a big call. But they’re pretty special pears.

I had a few that wouldn’t fit in the pan, so tentatively I tried a piece of one that had sort off...fallen off. And then I pretty much inhaled the others. I couldn’t stop myself. Peary perfect.