July 26, 2009

Bastille Day Wrap Up - Almond Frangipane Tart with Toffee Pear

Almond frangipan tart with toffee pear 4

And now for another installment of the ongoing saga that was Bastille Day. For all you following along, we are now up to the dessert section of the meal. Let me tell you I am very impressed with myself with this little dessert. The images here are of my "experimental" tart. I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to achieve, I just wanted to test whether it would come together well or if it was a massive flop. I cheated, again, and used ready-made shortcrust pastry for the trial. I knew I would use sweet almond pastry and that always works well, I just wasn't sure about the actual pear component of the tart.

Almond frangipan tart with toffee pear
I'm one of those people that always strikes it lucky when I cook something for the first time, well usually.....my macaron effort broke my lucky streak! Damn you macaron! But with this tart I wasn't overally confident. I wanted to achieve something that was restaurant quality, both in look and flavour. I had never used an oven to dehydrate fruit before, bread?....yes, cakes?...yes but dehydrated cakes are usually not the intended result. My dehydrated fruit turned out awesome, so much so I've been dehydrating up a storm! Its a perfect way to use that fruit that is so close to making it to the compost bin. The second part of the pear was dipping it in some toffee and getting a good crunch when biting into it. Chilling the toffee quite quickly after it is added to the pear achieves a nice teeth splitting crunch.
Almond frangipan tart with toffee pear 3

Jolly gosh was I stoked with myself. I served it up to the unsuspecting Daz and let him eat it without saying a word. After he had consumed the last crumb, I asked him, in the calmest voice I could muster, "do you think that is a restaurant recipe?or something I made myself?" Without a split second of a pause he said "Restaurant! No way that's you!" Score, mission accomplished.

When I served it at the party, everyone wanted more pear. I had made about 20 pear slices dipped in toffee, it was all gone....very quickly.

So here is my recipe for Almond frangipane tart with toffee pear.

Makes 8 tarlets


For Dehydrated Pears/Toffee Pears
2 pears sliced thinly
100 g Castor sugar

For Sweet Almond pastry (this makes alot of pastry, but it freezes really well, just defrost in the fridge overnight to use again)

1¼ cups plain flour
1/3 cup pure icing sugar
¼ cup almond meal
125 g cold butter, coarsely chopped
1 egg yolk

For Almond Frangipane

80 g slivered almonds, lightly toasted
50 g butter
50 g pure icing sugar
50 g almond meal
1 tsp plain flour
1 egg, lightly whisked
20 ml port

To Garnish

Icing sugar to dust
Cream, whipped and flavoured with vanilla essence or vanilla beans


For Dehydrated Pears/Toffee pears

1. Line a flat baking tray with some baking paper. Arrange the pear slices on the tray making sure that the slices do not overlap.

2. Place in the over with it at the lowest setting possible. Bake for about 4 hours or until dehydrated but still soft, i.e. not crunchy. Alternatively you can put the pear slices in a hot over, after its been turned off, and leave them in there overnight, similar to making dried bread crumbs.

3. Prepare a baking tray by lining it with some baking paper and putting it in the fridge to chill, this is important to get a very crunchy toffee. To make the toffee, place sugar in a small heavy based saucepan, add a few tablespoons of water, enough to wet the sugar. Heat over medium heat until toffee in colour and smell, remove from heat. Take tray from the fridge and working quickly, one by one, dip the half the dehydrated pear slice in the toffee. Place the slices on the tray and return to the fridge. Remember to be very careful as the toffee is extremely hot. Adriano Zumbo's tip of having a bowl of cool water near by is spot on. If you get a drop of the toffee on your fingers, quickly dip them in the water to solidify the toffee before it burns you.

dehydrated pear

For sweet almond pastry

1. Using a food processor, process dry ingredients until combined,

2 Add butter and process until fine crumbs form.

3. Add egg yolk and 1 tbsp cold water and process until mixture just forms a dough.

4. Dust a work surface with some flour and knead briefly to bring together. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 180C. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to 5mm-thick, grease and flour the inside of 8 tartlet tins then line them with the pastry. Trim edges flush with sides. Prick base with a fork and bake blind until starting to colour (10-15 minutes). Make sure not to overcook the pastry or it will be dry and brittle

For Almond Frangipane

1. Combine icing sugar, almond meal and flour in a separate bowl

2.Beat butter in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy.With motor running, gradually add the dry mixture to butter until completely combined.

3.Add egg, beating well to combine, then slowly beat in port. Fold in the almonds.


1. Spread frangipane in the tart cases. Make sure not to overfill as the frangipane will puff up some. Bake at 180C until slightly golden on top, about 10-15 minutes

Almond frangipan tart 2
This is what happens when you fill them too much

Almond frangipan tart

2. Once the tarts have cooled, turn them out and place on a plate. Dust the top with some icing sugar. Place a quenelle on top, sorry my quenelles are not as perfect as Gordon Ramsays! Shove a toffee pear slice in the middle. Hopefully it will stand unassisted!

You can make these in advance, especiall the pastry.

Almond frangipan tart with toffee pear 2

July 23, 2009

Bastille Day Wrap Up - Crispy Skinned Salmon

crispyskinned salmon

Who can resist a nice piece of crispy skinned salmon? I dare anyone to pass it up. More flavoursome than crispy chicken skin and healthier to boot, how can anyone lose? When I served this up at the Bastille day celebrations it went down a treat. Coupled with potato salad, made with herb mayonnaise, and wilted spinach it was delicious. I kept the serving size small because I was concerned about the courses to follow, and besides don't things in smaller bites always taste better?

I made a burnt butter sauce to go over the top of the salmon, the nutty flavour was a nice accent to the creamy potatoes. The spinach helped to cut through the oiliness of the fish and richness of the butter. I really enjoyed this dish, and its pretty simple to prepare. The potato salad can be made well in advance, always a bonus when you are throwing a french dinner party with loads of boozy french wine!

So here is the recipe, so dead easy that anyone can make it!

Serves 4

For Salmon

4 small fillets of Salmon
150 grams butter
small handful of parsley leaves

For Potato Salad (adapted from Pearl recipe)

6-8 Kipfler potatoes, cooked with their skins on then peeled and diced into small cubes
1 cup (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup (loosely packed) basil leaves
200 ml olive oil
2 egg yolks
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp white wine vinegar

3 large handfuls of baby spinach, wilted and seasoned

1. For herb mayonnaise, process herbs and olive oil in a food processor and stand overnight, then strain through a fine sieve, discarding solids. Whisk yolks, mustard and vinegar in a bowl to combine, then gradually whisk in herb oil in a thin stream until emulsified and thick. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Makes about 1 cup. Mix with diced potatoes and set aside until needed

2. Season Salmon with salt and pepper. Rub a little extra salt into the skin of the salmon. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Place salmon, skin side down, in the frying pan. Cook until skin turns extremely crispy 5-6 minutes. Turn the salmon over and add remaining butter. Spoon melted butter over the fish until it is cooked to your liking.

3. Place the cooked salmon on top of a small bed of spinach. Place 2-3 parsley leaves on top of the spinach and add some potato salad to the side. Return butter to the heat and continue to cook until it begins to turn brown and smells like toasting nuts. Spoon butter on top of salmon, over paisley. The parsley with crisp and crackle a bit due to the hot butter. Serve immediately.

Nom nom nom.....crispy crunchy salmon skin!

crispyskinned salmon 3

July 18, 2009

Bastille Day Wrap Up - Mushroom Puree

mushroom puree

Bastille Day is over! And thank goodness for that, there were a couple of moments there where I thought I was in a Masterchef pressure test! I had stupidly thought that I could buy a bulk of my ingredients on the day, and I ended up only giving myself 4 hours prep/cook time. But in the end the whole thing went fantastic, I judge that by the number of people who suffer food poisoning, less than 5 is a success! I hope to post a series of recipes from the night. I'll keep them short so the enjoyment level will be high.

mushroom puree 3

So for the amuse bouche I made a mushroom puree topped with sauteed mushrooms and a drizzle of truffle oil. Just in case any one is wondering, I get my black truffle oil from my local veg grocer. It cost me $9.10, I have bought white truffle oil from the french cheese shop at Queen Victoria market before. Its quiet easy to come across, just thought I would let people know. As a funny side note, you need to use the oil pretty quickly or else all the flavour will be lost. Daz likes to drizzle it on his 2 minute noodles. Yep, two minutes noodles with truffle oil....who said instant noodles were a poor mans food!?!
black truffle oil

Here is the recipe for Mushroom Puree


Serves 4 entree sized dishes

250g mixed mushrooms, chopped, any variety or size as long as there is a mixture of different types
250mL beef stock
1 sprig of thyme, plus extra for garnish
2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
50-80 gram butter
2 tbsp of sour cream
truffle oil


1. Place 1 tbsp of butter into a medium sized sauce pan. Melt butter over high heat then add the garlic. Cook garlic until fragrant, 10-20 seconds. Add the mushroom and cook until they collapse a little, 2-3 minutes. Add the leaves of 1 sprig on thyme to the mushrooms. Set aside a few mushroom to use for garnish later on.

2. Add the beef stock and let it come to the boil. Decrease the heat to low and cook until half the stock has evaporated.

3. Place in a food processor and blend until very smooth. Return the puree to a saucepan and heat over low heat. If the puree is too thick, add a little hot water, or beef stock. Add the sour cream and butter. Stir until fully incorporated into the puree.

4. Spoon puree into individual bowls, top with a few sauteed mushrooms and a few thyme leaves. Drizzle some truffle oil ontop and serve immediately.

mushroom puree getting truffle olive put ontop

Despite this dish's appearance, brown on brown, it taste delicious! The earthy mushroom flavour is fantastic, and the truffle oil ontop takes the dish to a whole new dimension. You can skip adding the truffle oil if you like, and replace it with some good Olive oil. Either way, the dish will still taste great!

mushroom puree 2

July 13, 2009

Bastille Day

French flowers
My flower arrangement in honour of the french flag

Tomorrow is the French National holiday Bastille Day. Last year I celebrated the occasion by hosting my own french party and cooking up a french feast. It was heaps of fun, and I really enjoyed making all the different french dishes. So this year I've decided to host the party again!

As a bit of a laugh I asked all my guests to come along dressed in the french spirit. The person voted with the best outfit would win a prize, a box of french truffles! (The chocolate variety). There were a variety of get ups. Daz came as a french mime, right down to the facial makeup. He even gave us an impromptu mime, I'm pretty sure the photo is of him trying to pull a rope, but it looks very similar to holding a gun or even pretending to be a magician. Hey...I didn't say he was a "good" mime.

Daz as a french mine

I came as the mimes wife. I had pale face makeup, a perfectly position beauty spot and some tiny little bright red lips. It looked good at the start of the night, but slowly wore off over time.

me as a french mine's wife

There was an appearance of some french designer shoes. They looked awesome (despite a glitch at the start of the night...hence the gladwrap). They even have an added bonus, after you've finished wearing them they could double as dinner! I'm sure I saw these on all the catwalks last year. And the trend started at my very own little party!

french designer shoes

The winner on the night was the french chef. She won with a massive majority. Because she couldn't vote for herself, she was the only person that cast a vote for anyone else....and it was me for the record. She looked awesome (see photo below). She had a pharmacists jacket as her shirt, a tea towel as her apron, a massive red bow, a chefs hat and a meat cleaver. She made everything herself, except the hat. That's right, she made the cleaver herself! No wonder she won, and she looked pretty awesome so I totally agree!

I don't have many photos of the food I prepared, this was way before I had my very own food blog. But I did have pictures of the desserts. We had pistachio and white chocolate cream cigars, you can find the recipe here.

cream cigars

I also had a live demonstration cooking event. Yep, Good food and wine show eat your heart out. I prepared crepe Suzette with cointreau. Considering the french chef was already fully prepared for the job, we gave her the honour of preparing the dessert, with my guidance.

french chef making crepes

I had already cooked one batch and I told her to take it easy on the cointreau. Since we were in a Little room and the very flammable curtain was right beside her, I didn't want her to singe her hat and burn my house down in the mean time. Some how, and I think everyone in the room was egging her on, she poured a little too much alcohol into the pan.

french chef making crepes 2

When she lit the match to get the alcohol burning, she took the safe option and turned around. A massive, but impressive fireball ensued (note: I have a tendency to over dramatise things). I have to admit though, her batch of crepes tasted alot better than mine did!

crepe suzette

So onto this year, at this very moment I'm baking my 4th batch of macarons. Not because I have loads of people coming, but because I've managed to stuff three batches already! I thought I would post what I have on offer for Bastille Day. There is a french version and then an English version. Excuse me terrible french, I know at least 2 of those dishes named incorrectly, so please go easy on me. I'll post some pretty pictures in the next couple of days. So until then....Viva la France!

Purèe de Champignon
Gougères avec les Anchois et le Thym

Poularde au Champagne

Saumon à la Meunière
Salade Pommes
Epinads Mére Louisette

Tarte de Poire et D'amande

Truffes au Chocolat et Contrieu


Mushroom Puree
A mushroom puree topped with sautéed mushrooms and a drizzle of truffle oil

Choux Pastry with Anchovies and Thyme
Warm Choux pastry, made with gruyere and parmesan cheese, topped with anchovies and thyme

Chicken in Champagne
Bread crumb and herb stuffed chicken legs, slow roasted and served with a Champagne sauce and crispy sage

Salmon in Burnt Butter
Crispy skin Salmon in a burnt butter sauce

Potato Salad
Potato salad, with a homemade herb mayonnaise

Spinach Louisette style
Sauteed spinach with miniature garlic crutons

Almond Frangipane Tart with Toffee Pear
An almondnfrangipane tart, encased in a sweet pastry chell, topped with vanilla bean whipped cream and dehydrated toffe pear slice

Petit Fours, Coffe or Tea
Almond macarons filled with white chocolate and raspberry ganache

Chocolate and Cointreau Truffles
No explaination needed!

July 11, 2009

The Cupcake Challenge: White Chocolate Mud with Blackberry Buttercream Frosting

white chocolate mud cupcakes with blackberry buttercream frosting 2

Since visiting the Crabapple cupcake bakery in South Yarra I've wanted to bake my own White chocolate mud cupcakes. I knew that Jennifer Graham had written a cupcake cookbook with all of Crabapple's famous recipes, but true to my style, I couldn't be bothered going out and purchasing the book. I know, I'm terrible, But I'm sure this book will join my collection sooner or later. I happened to come across Katie's Kitchen Blog and found that like me she loves to bake cupcakes. A little digging found the Crabapple cupcake recipe.

white chocolate mud cupcakes with blackberry buttercream frosting 1

The cup cakes are actually called Lady Tarryn’s wedding cakes, what a quaint little name. To be honest when I first tried these from the bakery I wasn't so impressed. They seemed a little dry and tasted a little old. But I've heard that Crabapple doesn't have the best reputation going around. I still enjoyed them enough to seek out the recipe.

white chocolate mud cupcakes with blackberry buttercream frosting 4

So here's the recipe, courtesy of Katie's Kitchen Blog

Lady Tarryn’s wedding cakes
4 cups plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
500 g/1.1 lbs butter, chopped
2 cups milk
4 cups Castor sugar
300 g/10 oz white chocolate, chopped
4 eggs, whisked
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 155 c/310 F. Lightly grease 20 dariole moulds.

Sift flour and baking powder together into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Set aside.

Put butter, milk, Castor sugar and white chocolate into a metal bowl and place over a large saucepan of simmering water. Stir continuously using a flat-bottomed wooden spoon until chocolate has melted and sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Use a rubber spatula to fold the eggs and vanilla extract into the cooled chocolate mixture. Pour this mixture into the well in the flour and fold together until well combined.

Divide the mixture evenly between the dariole moulds. Bake for 30 minutes or until a fine skewer inserted comes out clean. Place moulds on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before turning out. Allow to cool for a further 30 minutes before frosting.

To frost them I thought blackberries would go perfectly with the white chocolate. So I made a blackberry puree and made a buttercream frosting from there. Here's the recipe.

Blackberry Buttercream Frosting

1 punnet (150gram) Blackberries
25 gram Castor sugar
200mL water
250gram butter (cut into cubes and at room temperature)
3-4cups of icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons of milk

1. In a small saucepan, add the water, Castor sugar and blackberries. Over a low heat cook blackberries until they are soft and the most of the water has evaporated, about 45minutes. Cool completely

2. Strain mixture through a fine sieve. making sure the extract as much liquid as possible. The more puree you can push through the sieve the better. I like to add the skins and pips to the puree as well, but if you want a perfectly smooth frosting then discard them. If you have added the skins and pips to the puree, you will no be able to pipe the frosting onto your cupcake.

Blackberry puree for whitechocolate mud cupcakes

3. Beat butter with and electric mixer on high until it is very pale and fluffy. Add blackberry puree and beat until combined.

4. Add icing sugar, one cup at a time, beating for at least 1 minute between cups, until you reach the consistency and sweetness you desire. I like mine not too sweet so usually 3 cups are enough. Beat until very fluffy, usually 5-6 minutes

5. At the very end add 2 tablespoons of very hot milk to the frosting, while beating on high. Beat mixture for 2-3 minutes. Frost your cupcakes!

whitechocolate mud cupcakes ready to be frosted

I've actually made this recipe twice, the first time I made a half batch and true to my style again, I cut down on the sugar and butter. About 1 cup less sugar for the full recipe and about 100grams less butter. They turned out perfect, not too sweet and not too buttery. But the second time, I thought I would be brave and use the whole lot. It was WAAAYYYY too much butter. When I took my cupcakes out of the muffin tin, the bottoms were swimming in butter. The next day, Daz said he couldnt taste the white chocolate anymore and could only taste butter! So I would suggest cutting down on the butter. I will definately make these again, but with the slight changes.

I've been meaning to have a little play with rolled sugar paste for a while, and never really had an excuse to use it before. The first time I made these I decorated them with cute but simple fondant flowers. I thought this would be a perfect topper again, and they are really dead simple to make. So here is a simple step by step on how to make them.

You'll need a couple of things before starting:
Fondant, you can by this in the supermarket, Orchard makes some
Petal cutters, these are miniature cookie cutters or you can buy special fondant cutters
rolling pin
sugar glue, I make this by boiling together equal part sugar and water in the microwave. About 40ml will be more than enough

Step 1. Take a small ball of fondant, about the size of a squash ball and knead it until it is smooth and soft. Dust your worksurface or a piece of baking paper with cornflour, you can use icing sugar but cornflour is best. Roll your fondant out until it is fairly thin, about 2-3 mm thick.

petal cutter for fondant flowers
Step 2. Take your petal cutter, and making sure that it is dusted well with cornflour cut petals from your fondant
fondant petal for flowers
Once you have cut enough petals to make the flowers, cover them with a bowl or some gladwrap, that way they don't dry out

making the fondant flower center
Step 3. To make the centers of the flowers, take a small pinch of the fondant and roll it into a small ball between your fingers. While rolling, pinch the end so that it forms a tear drop

fondant flower centers
Try to make all your centers roughly the same size. Difficult....I know! Make enough centers to make all your flowers, then leave them out in the open. I find them easier to work with if they are a little dry.

putting together the fondant flowers step 1
Step 4. Take 3 petals and a center and begin the assemble. Using a toothpick, place a tiny drop of sugar glue on the end of the petal. Then stick the center to the petal. Wait at least 30 seconds to move onto the next step. I try to set a whole heap up so I have a mini production line

putting together the fondant flowers step 2
Step 5. Place a small drop of glue on your second petal and stick the center/petal combo onto this. Repeat for the last petal

putting together the fondant flowers step 3

simple fondant flower
And viola! Flower is made, simple huh? leave them to dry upside down for about 2 hours. That way they are nice and firm and easy to stick into your frosting.

fondant flowers

The Cupcakes were a huge hit. It was the first time I had given them to Daz to transport in the cupcake courier, so there were a full 36 of them! They were gobbled up quickly and thats exactly how I like it!

white chocolate mud cupcakes with blackberry buttercream frosting 3