Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

New city, new job and n20140513-202943.jpgew kitchen… I’m back and a lot has changed since my last post. However some things haven’t and our loveof food, cooking and eating hasn’t. This week is a bit crazy at my new job, long hours, lots of politics and the prospect of working on Saturday. I came home from worktonight and really had major chocolate cravings. I was just going to buy some chocolate but instead thought I would bake.

Over the weekend my brother and I stumbled across a slice recipe that our Mum used to make for afternoon tea when we were young. Now, the slice is called Chinese Chews… I have know idea why and there is certainly nothing Chinese about them. My brother thought his Chinese wife would find the name hilarious. So I decided I would make this randomly named slice.20140513-194233.jpg

It was a very easy recipe and one I don’t think I have ever made. In a large bowl I mixed together 1 cup sugar, 1 cup mixed dried fruit, 1 self-raising flour, 1 cup desiccated coconut, 1 tablespoon cocoa. While I was combining the dry ingredients I had 125 grams of margarine melting.

When the butter was melted I added it to the dry ingredients along with an egg and a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Then I just mixed it all together. It is quite a stiff mixture so I got my hands in there to finish combining it all.

20140513-194241.jpgI then pressed the mixture into a slice pan that I had lined with baking paper. You don’t need to grease the tin or line it but I did this so I could easily remove the slice. Once evenly and firmly pressed into the pan I popped it into a moderate oven for 20 minutes.

While it was baking I mixed together the butter icing. Check out my recipe here. When the slice was baked I iced it while it was still hot. The icing melts into the slice and makes it chewy and yummy. The final touch was just to sprinkle some coconut over the top.

I let it cool before tucking in… Organising lunches, dinner and cleaning up while it cooled.20140513-194251.jpg

Then it was ready…. One bite and I was 10 again. Chewy, chocolaty and full of fruit! I behaved and only ate one piece and will take a lot into work tomorrow but it was worth the effort of baking just for that one slice of Chinese Chews….

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20131023-151549.jpgSo I’m scanning yahoo the other day and came across this really easy Mexican dessert recipe.  I took a quick look at the list of ingredients and saw that there was cheese involved with the dessert which sounded interesting… plus one of the comments on the bottom mentioned that the consistency/texture is similar to flan, but with nowhere near the amount of calories which really started to get my attention.
Talk about one of the more simple recipes out there!  I’ve included the info below:
Ingredients:
2 eggs
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
5 ounces of Mexican/Latin cheese (I went with a mixture of cojita cheese and queso fresco which you can find in any latin grocery store)
 Butter to spread on the baking dish20131023-151534.jpg
I mixed the eggs, milk, sugar, and cojita cheese/queso fresco in a blender but I also added some cayenne pepper just to give it a little heat with the sweet of the sugar and the saltiness of the cheese.  I then preheated the oven to 350F andrubbed the butter along the bottom and sides/corners of a square glass pyrex dish.
Threw in the blended mixture and placed it in the oven for 40 minutes or until the top was golden brown.  Let it stand to cool then I threw it in the fridge with a cover.
20131023-151525.jpgAfter a few hours, I had some for dessert that night and it really was like flan but a little bit more “chunky” because of thecojita cheese.  I thought it tasted great but I might be a little bias!  If you think you’d like a cheesy kind of flan, then give it a try.  The cayenne gave it a nice kick but I would enjoy it without the pepper as well.  I even put some in a bowl and threw on some chocolate syrup which gave it a nice chocolate flavor as well.
Enjoy!

Mums Apple Pie.jpgSince my unexpected arrival back in Australia 2 weeks ago, I have been bunkering down at my parents’ house.  It has always been a place that I feel at home, get taken care of and can take some time to get my head on straight. I was fortunate to have one of my Apples.jpgclosest friends K and her baby and husband come up the first weekend for Sunday lunch. This was a wonderful distraction and enjoyable afternoon, a great way to get my mind of my own troubles.

I managed to help Mum whip up some food, making a mushroom risotto and some fresh bread. However in my less than stellar state I let Ingredients.jpgMum cook dessert. Mum’s apple pie (that is actually her sister’s husband’s grandmother’s recipe… yes it is one of those recipes) is sweet, delicious and not like the apple pies you get in the US. It has a sweet shortcrust pastry rather than the more savoury kind you get in the US.Pastry.jpg

Firstly put on the apples to stew… Just peel and slice up some granny smith apples and add them to a pot with 2 tablespoons of sugar.

For the pastry, beat 125 grams of butter and ¾ cup of sugar together until creamy. Add in 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Next mix in 1 teaspoon of vanilla Rolling.jpgand a pinch of salt. Then gradually mix in 2 cups of self-raising flour, ½ cup of plain flour and ½ cup of cornflour. Mix this until everything is combined.

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The rest is simply rolling out the dough for the base and the top. Filling the pie with thecooled apples and then baking.

It bakes in a 180C oven for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. The great thing is that because the apples are cooked you’re Pie.jpgjust cooking the pastry until it is crispy.

This is now my new go to sweet choice for when I am down… not chocolate or icecream… Mum’s apple pie. Served with a dollop of icecream or fresh cream, it is just the perfect way to end a Sunday lunch or any lunch or dinner or breakfast… my new comfort food. Thankfully though it isn’t hard to make it is just time consuming enough for me not to make it too often… otherwise I could be in big trouble! Delicious, sweet and crispy… give it a try, it is guaranteed to help warm your heart!

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Time to eatBeing the foodie in our office has lead to me bringing in cakes for birthdays. Fortunately we have a staff of 6 so it doesn’t happen too often. Earlier in the year I made a Mum’s Sticky Chocolate cake for everyone which was a huge success. This time around I gave the birthday girl a few choices and she went with the Triple Chocolate Marble Mud Cake… well really, who wouldn’t!?

Step 1

The only problem… I had never made it before! How difficult could it be.

In a small pan I combined 250 grams of chopped, unsalted butter, 2 cups of caster sugar, and 1 cup of hot water. I mixed this until it was all melted and combined. Then I just set this aside to cool for 15 minutes and got on with the rest of the recipe.

Base mixture

While it was cooling I melted 150 grams of white chocolate in a bowl and in another bowl I melted 150 grams of dark chocolate. I used 70% dark so that it wasn’t too sweet. There is so much sugar in this recipe already I didn’t think I need extra in the chocolate. I then set these aside.

Going back to my sugar, butter and water mixture I whisked in 1 cup of plain flour, 1 1/2 cups of self raising flour and a teaspoon of vanilla. I added 2 eggs that I had already lightly beaten and whisked everything together. Now the tricky part… I had to divide the mixture into 2 equal parts, putting them in separate bowls. After a bit of back and forth, I think I got pretty close.

Two mixtures

To the halved mixture I added the melted white chocolate to one and the melted dark chocolate to the other. I just quickly mixed the chocolate into each mixture and the cake was ready to assemble.

Layering

In my large cake tin I spooned a spoonful of the white mixture in one corner and then next to it a spoonful of the dark mixture. It was easy just alternating between the two, layering them on top of eachother, until the mixtures were completely gone.

This went into a preheated 150C degree over for 1 3/4 hours. I couldn’t believe how easy it was, well relatively easy. I then just sat back with a glass of wine and waited for it to cook.

Cream and chocolate - Copy

When I opened the oven I discovered it may not have been as easy as I thought. The middle of the cake had sunk! Oh well, that was what the ganache was for… to fill up the large crater in the cake.

Ganache

I turned it out and let it cool. Of course as it cooled the center dropped more… What could I do? More room ganache is what I say!

When it was cool and ready to coat in ganache, I quickly combined in my double boiler 300 grams of milk chocolate and 3/4 cup of thickened cream. I slowly melted these together over a low simmering pot of water. I stirred this continuously until the chocolate had completely melted and was combined with the cream.

I took it off the heat and set it aside. As I was preparing the cake I realized that the square cake didn’t quite fit in my round Sunken but deliciouscake carrier… being the ideas woman I am, I angled off the corners to make a shape that would fit in the container… Later people in the office commented on how cool it looked – I didn’t tell them it was purely to get it to fit, not make it look pretty.

The ditch

My cake now fit in the container, it was time to ganache it! I poured my ganache onto the cake and filled up the huge crater in the center. I then smoothed it down and around the edges until it was completely covered. It looked great! You couldn’t even tell that the cake looked like it had been hit by a meteor. A few quick decorations with fresh strawberries and I was done!

I held my breath when we cut it in the office, praying that it was actually marbled and that the puddle of ganache wouldn’t run off the cake like a waterfall. Luckily it didn’t!

Iced

The best news is that everyone in the office, including the birthday girl loved it. The cake is moist, dense and incredibly rich (especially the parts in the center with an inch of ganache on top). The cake was an afternoon snack for everyone for the rest of the week. I even managed to sneak J. home a slice. He really liked it, he thinks the texture is like a soft, dense cookie.

For a first attempt at this recipe I think I did well. It wasn’t as great as my mum’s but I rarely make her recipes as well as she does. It was a hit and it was delicious, I couldn’t really ask for more but I think I will need a little more practice to be able to make it as easily and as well as I make my Mum’s Sticky Chocolate.

Close up of marbling

Mango Coconut Panna Cotta.jpgJ. and I like to make bets with each other at different times. Whether it is on the AFL, NFL, the Olympics or who was in a particular movie, it makes for some fun teasing and competitiveness between the two of us which we both enjoy.

Most often the bets will involve payouts of dinners out or dinners made or chores done… I hate to say that I am often on the loosing end of these bets. For example last summer I lost a number in a row and ended up having to change the cats litter box for 2 months straight… not fun.

Ingredients.jpg

J. won a bet again recently that let him decide on a 3 course, homemade dinner and then chose this past weekend to redeem it! The meal he chose was scallops, followed by roast lamb and potato gratin and then panna cotta for dessert. He really didn’t have any preference for how I cooked the scallops or what flavor panna cotta I made, so I got to play a little.

First I chopped up 2 ripe mangoes and puréed them in the blender. The mixture should become Mango.jpgrelatively smooth. I then set this aside. I added 500ml of thickened cream (whipping cream) and 500ml of coconut cream to a saucepan. This went onto medium heat and I added 1/3 cup of caster sugar to this mixture. I kept stirring this until it was completely heated through, (around 3 minutes) and the sugar had melted.For dessert I decided on a Mango Coconut Panna Cotta… nice and light and very summery. The great thing about panna cotta is that I can make it early on in the day and it just sits in the fridge ready to go for dinner. First thing Saturday morning I got to work.

Cream mixture.jpg

In a small bowl I put 2 tablespoons of boiling water and 1 tablespoon of gelatin powder and stirred this until the gelatin had melted. Setting this aside I went back to the cream mixture.

I added the puréed mango to the cream mixture, mixing until it was completely combined. I put this into a jug (passing it through a sieve to make sure I got out any chunky bits of mango). Finally, I added the gelatin mixture to the jug, stirring quickly until it was completely mixed in.

Ready for pouring.jpg

That’s everything done! It was easy. I just then poured the mixture evenly into 6 ramekins and placed them in the fridge. They took around 5 hours to set but they were in there a lot longer just to make sure.

I removed them from the fridge about 20 minutes before we were going to eat them just to soften them a little. I topped each with some slices of fresh white peaches and grated dark chocolate.

Panna Cotta.jpg

They were delicious! J. really enjoyed it – he love both mango and coconut. I was happy with how they turned out. Perfect consistency and texture and then they tasted pretty amazing as well. A perfect summer dessert…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the big advantages of my job is that I get to travel. In the last few months I have been to Las Vegas, Charlotte and Austin… all for work. There will be posts about all the deliciousness I ate on those trips.

In the next couple of months I am going to Washington DC and Dallas for work and then on vacation to Hawaii.

With all this upcoming travel, I have a lot of food planning to do. This is usually J’s responsibility but he isn’t coming to DC with me, so it falls on my shoulders.

Ben's Chili Bowl

I have been to DC before and done all the sightseeing. Last time we were there  was around 3 years ago. We ate some great food on that

Capitol City Brewing Company – I don’t have any photos of the food we had here but it was good quality pub fare. Most importantly they had a large and delicious range of their own beers which were most enjoyable.trip!

Ben's Chili Dog

Ben’s Chili Bowl – From everything I hear, this is an institution in DC! We dragged our friend with the meat phobia here and even convinced   her to try one of the chili dogs. Telling her that President Obama had eaten here convinced her it would be ok. It was fantastic! It was my first chili dog and I probably will never have one anywhere near as delicious as this was. This place is an example of exactly the kind of food and place we love – simple, hole in the wall just doing what they do very well and deliciously!

The Dancing Crab – This was one of J’s discoveries when he was researching our trip. Being huge seafood lovers, it was a must and we weren’t disappointed. Giant trays of spicy crabs were brought Dancing Crabout. Dressed in our plastic bibs, tools in hand, we dug in and ate ourselves silly! Again, this is the perfect kind of place, out of the tourist areas with great service and food. This crab was unlike any I had eaten before – I might have to make a trip back to this place – if I can figure out how to get there!

Oyamel – If you have read any of our posts about Mexican food, you will be familiar with exactly what our thoughts on it are… if you haven’t read J’s entry about this topic. Oyamel is not our usual Mexican fare. It is pricey, fancy and more like a tapas restaurant then the hole in the wall, divey places we usual frequent. However, the Oyamel Tacosfood was good and it was our chance to take a friend out for their first Mexican restaurant experience in the US. We ate tacos, mole, yummy desserts and I can’t remember what else. It is a restaurant with an interesting concept combining Mexican food and tapas, with good service and food. I have to admit though that I still prefer my hole in the walls back here in Arizona.

So that was our first trip to DC! There were other places we ate, including a random Oyamel MoleBBQ place that none of us can remember the name of, but these were by far the best experiences we had.

I would like to have great food experiences on this next trip too. This is where I need your help and advice if  you know of any great places in DC. I will be staying downtown, close to the Convention Center and am limited to public transport and taxis…

Where should I eat? I can’t wait to hear your recommendations!

Grilled Qual.jpgJ. and I like to watch a local PBS show called Check Please, Arizona. It is a funny little show that reviews restaurants here in Arizona. We have discovered a few places from watching this show and have also written off quite a few.

A few months back we were watching, looking for places we could possibly take my parents when they came to visit and Rancho Pinot was reviewed. It is a little fancy for our usual tastes but the Wild West décor and some of the menu items caught our eye.

We do occasionally like to try out some of the fancier restaurants so we decided try it out to see if it was the kind of place we would want to take visitors. The restaurant is decorated with a giant cactus skeleton in the middle of the restaurant – who knew they had skeletons. The walls are then decorated with Southwest themed photos, painting and bits and pieces. All very quirky and different.  I thought that it was something different for visitors.

Anyway, to the important stuff… the food.

Scallops.jpg

To start we ordered the small plate of grilled quail with sweet corn polenta, sautéed greens and peach mostarda. This was delicious and we were hoping it would set the tone for the rest of the night.

J. order scallops for his main course. He had seen them on the TV show and they were one of the main reasons we went there… His plate came out with 3 diver scallops that had been mesquite grilled, on a bed of corn risotto with tomato broth and bacon-fennel relish. Doesn’t that just sound amazing!! It was a small serving and I knew it wasn’t going to be enough for him so I had ordered accordingly.

Berkshire Pork.jpg

Though there was nothing wrong with the dish J. wasn’t raving about it and considering this was the main thing he had wanted to try, it was a little disappointing. He was also still well and truly hungry after he had finished it.

Fortunately I had ordered the Berkshire Pork. This was huge and served with creamy polenta, green beans and a roasted tomato. The pork was tender and flavorful, the polenta was tasty. Thankfully there was plenty for J. to finish it off.

Since we were out on the town for the night we ordered desserts. J. wanted to try the Olive oil cake with meyer lemon curd, which was tasty. I had the Shaker Meyer Lemon Tart, which was different from other tarts I had tried, more like a lemon pie, with pastry on the top as well as the Olive Oil Cake.jpgbottom. It was yummy and tangy, as a good lemon tart should be.

I don’t like giving bad reviews, and this isn’t really bad, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the food or the service. I would never tell someone not to go here. You will get good food and good service and be in an interesting restaurant. Plus they have a really good wine list.

Unfortunately though for us, it wasn’t memorable and it certainly wasn’t worth the price we paid. The most memorable thing for me all night was the Arizonan wine I had with my meal! As you can probably tell from this entry we weren’t really impressed or disappointed… it was all just fine. Not what you want when you spend $100+ on a meal.

Lemon tart.jpgWhen we are going somewhere nice for a special occasion this won’t be at the top of our list, there are other places that are more memorable and places that we rave about that come before this. They do have seasonal menus which means we might go back some day and try a new menu and could be wowed!

However, this is just our opinion and what we like – maybe you will have a better experience and it will be exactly what you want.

Plus, where else can you get Wild West fine dining!

Italian Thick Chocolate.jpgAustralia is in the middle of summer right now, when we arrived in Brisbane back on the 21st it was hot, steamy and overcast. We had our lunch out with friends and had decided to explore the city center a little. We jumped on a bus and trundled into the city and watched the rain clouds gather…

Now this preamble is leading to a food adventure but I need to set the scene…

We arrive in the city and wander down the Queen Street Mall, the rain starts falling gently… we walk further… across the river to Southbank and the “beach”. Those of you who don’t know Brisbane, they have created a man-made beach right in the center of town on the south bank of the river. I am pretty soaked at this stage and even though it is hot and muggy the last thing I want to do is risk getting sick on our first day of vacation.

Then I saw it, an oasis from the rain… Max Brenner. This is a chain of “restaurants”/ “cafes”/ Spicy Mexican Chocolate.jpg“chocolate shops” that can be found around Australia… actually when I was just googling I found that there are some here in the US too, including Vegas – How did I not know this!?! They do some decadent waffles and sweets not to mention delicious chocolates. I suddenly wanted a hot chocolate! J had never been to Max Brenner for some reason so I suggested a short respite from the rain and a cup of hot chocolate to share!

So in we went to dry off and order a cup to share… well as if that was ever going to happen… we ended up ordering 2 cups, because we could! I wanted what I have always had, the Mexican Spicy Chocolate with Milk Chocolate and then J ordered the Italian Thick Chocolate with Dark Chocolate.

We sat down and sipped away at our mugs of steaming hot chocolate… they were so delicious and I have to say that J’s Italian Thick Chocolate is now my new favorite… (that sounds dodgy). Anyway, the chocolate wasn’t too sweet and was nice and hot. My Mexican Spicy one could have been a bit spicier but it was delicious anyway. J was pretty pleased with his choice and he would normally stay away from a hot drink in that kind of weather.

After we had dried off and consumed our drinks we were ready to get back out walking again! When I say consumed, I mean licked the cups clean…

What a way to force ourselves to stay awake and avoid jetlag. Hot chocolate in the middle of summer, I think hot chocolate anytime works really!

Baileys Chocolate Balls.jpgEvery year for as long as I can remember my mother would make rum balls for Christmas. I would even spend hours in the kitchen helping her make them… getting my hands all sticky rolling the balls and covering them in coconut. When I was young I was never tempted by them and then when I got to an age where things with alcohol in them were mighty attractive I found out I had a bad reaction to rum… (not just from drinking too much). So even after all these years I hadn’t ever enjoyed these delicious bites. This year I thought I was going to make rum balls but make them so I could eat them.

I started this process by checking out what alcohol we had in Fruit in baileys.jpgthe house… bourbon, whiskey, vodka and Baileys… the obvious choice to me was the Baileys, plus it is really the only one J. would like. Yes, I drink the other things. I also had the challenge of replacing weatbix, which mum uses in her recipe, that I can’t find here in the US. I decided to use a plain cookie as a substitute for these. I just picked up some plain butter cookies from Cost Plus World Market

Cookies.jpgNow the problems have been solved… time to cook.

In a sealable container I put 2 cups of mixed dried berries, I used cherries, cranberries and raisins. To this I added 1 cup of Bailey’s Irish Cream and mixed everything together. I then refrigerated this for 24 hours…

24 hours later…Dry ingredients.jpg

I took the berries out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. In a large bowl I put 2 tablespoons of cocoa, 1/2 cup of shredded coconut and 1 packet of plain cookies that I had already blitzed in the food processor so it was a chunky crumble. I added the berries and Bailey’s mixture to the bowl and mixed everything together Condensed Milk.jpguntil it was all combined.

Last thing for the mixture was to add 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and stir everything together. This is of course where it gets very sticky and quite difficult to mix together. If necessary get in there with your hands to make sure everything is evenly combined.Ready to roll.jpg

Now it gets really messy. I had to roll teaspoons of the mixture in my hands and then drop them into a bowl of chocolate sprinkles and cover them completely. I found the trick to rolling these successfully was to keep a bowl of hot water next to me that I could regularly dip my hands in to clean them Rolling.jpgoff. So I rolled and rolled and rolled and 70 balls later, yes 70, I had finished.

I put them into the refrigerator to harden and sat down and relaxed! J. was my guinea pig and I gave him one to try. He really liked them, he is not a big alcohol person so this was a success. If he didn’t think they were too boozy then everyone, including people at his office, would be fine with them. I must admit they were really tasty… just tiny, single bites Chocolate Sprinkles.jpgof boozy, chocolaty goodness! These got added to my little boxes and bags of goodies for friends, something decadent and a little different too.

So I finally tasted rum balls, well kind of… I am calling these Bailey’s Chocolate Balls… my favorite new invention!

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Shortbread cookies.jpgWe leave for Australia in a week and I wanted to make sure I gave our friends each something special for Christmas before we left. I thought this year since I had the time I would make them all gifts. I spent the weekend baking and cooking for our friends and for us. All of this so I could make little gourmet gift boxes for everyone. J. actually woke up Sunday morning, walked into the kitchen and couldn’t believe the disaster area I had going. I was making 3 different recipes at the same time so it got a little crazy!

First up, I wanted to make something very Christmassy so I decided on shortbread Christmas trees as one of the goodies. IButter.jpg really like shortbread, the melt in your mouth quality of a good piece of shortbread is unbelievable. I only make it at this time of year because it is so incredibly bad for you!

To start I beat 500 grams of softened, unsalted butter in a large bowl. Keep beating this until it is light and fluffy. To the butter I added 1 cup of sifted confectioners sugar. The trick here it to beat all of the sugar and butter together without getting covered in a fine dust of sugar… I did not succeed.

Mixing it all together.jpg

When the butter and sugar has been combined I sifted 2 cups of rice flour and 1 ¾ cups of plain flour into the bowl. If you want to go gluten free you can certainly just use rice flour but they are very delicate. I went with the recipe Mum had given me. When the flour was all sifted I began folding it into the butter and sugar mixture. This can take quite a bit of time and work. Don’t worry if it seems like it won’t come together, it does eventually.

When it had started forming a ball I got in there with my hands and kneaded it all Dough.jpgtogether for a few minutes until it was nice and smooth. Traditionally you would press the dough out into the pan you were going to cook it in. However I wanted to make shaped cookies so I turned the dough out on to a floured surface and rolled it out until it was about 1cm thick.

Make sure you use lots of extra flour for rolling and cutting because this is a sticky dough. I then just proceeded to use my cookie cutter to cut out the trees. Placing each cooking onto the greased cookie tray. You can put them reasonably close together because they don’t rise Cookie Cutter.jpgor spread too much. Before putting the cookies in the oven I pricked them all a few times with a fork, I actually made them look like lights on the trees instead of just random holes.

Then they went into a 285F degree oven for 35 minutes. Keep an eye on them though because they can brown quickly. Once cooked I removed them from the tray and let them cool. This recipe made 50 large Christmas tree cookies so it goes a long way.

J. and I had a couple and loved them. They aren’t too sweet which I like and the texture is Ready for the oven.jpgamazing. J’s workmates also really enjoyed them when he took them into the office on Monday. They are really easy to make and relatively quick, and so yummy and delicious.

I put a few of these in each of the boxes and gift bags I was making, with a few left for us to share. I think they look great! As for the chocolate balls in the photo that you see, well that is Friday’s recipe! I did have fun playing Santa this week though.

Edible gifts.jpg