Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Daring Bakers Challenge - Tiramisu

This month the Daring Bakers were challenged to prepared Tiramisu. Not so difficult many of you say. Made it before -easy! Yes, that may be so but when we checked the recipe carefully we soon realise that what was required was no mean feat. Everything was made from scratch. No going down to the shop for store bought marscapone or savoiardi biscuits. No, no, no! We were challenged to make it all at home. This recipe also included pastry cream and zabaglione.

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

I decided to stick to the original recipe given and the result was truely heaven on a plate! 

The Savoiardi biscuits proved easy to make....

......and delicious to eat! I made these several times as they are so yummy we kept eating them. Yes, they do last a week or two that's if you can resist munching on one or two as you pass the biscuit tin.

My only experience of Zabalione was not a good one but I now realise that it was not cooked long enough. This Zabaglione was all it should be - airy, sweet and rich.

Pastry cream is something I have made many times and I always covered with plastic wrap directly on
the cream to prevent a skin forming.

Mascapone is quite easy to make by simply heat cream up to 95C adding lemon juice, heat a bit more, cool and pour into cheesecloth lined sieve. I have made it previously for the Cannoli challenge with no problem. However this time I used boiled chux cloths in place of the cheesecloth and found a great portion of my mascapone escaped through the too large holes of the cloth. So, the moral of the story is don't use a
cloth with too much open weave.


Each componant of the Tiramisu was delicious so I knew we were onto a very good thing! I used a plastic lined spring form pan to assemble my tiramisu and refrigerated it overnight to allow it to set and the flavours to meld. The next day, like many other Daring Bakers, I found the result although devine was very soft, oozy and didn't slice neatly at all. So, following our hosts advice, I froze the tiramisu. 

Now I could slice it neatly and in our summer heat each slice defrosted within minutes. My mini food critics claimed it a success and for a few days in a row was their after school treat. Not too many kids go home from school to tiramisu! I wonder what sort of food monsters I am creating!


I seem to love all the challenges but I particularly like this one and I can see this recipe will be prepared in my family for years to come. You too, can join the tradition by following the recipe here.  My thanks go to Aparna and Deeba for a brilliant challenge and their constant support to all Daring Bakers throughout the month of February. Check out Oonsky, Shaz, Audax and the other Daring Bakers and see the brilliant creations they have all come up with. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Salad for all Seasons

As the scorching heat of our tropical summer begins to give way to the humidity of the relentless rain of the wet season, I find I am still wanting and enjoying salads of all types. This is a slightly substantial salad which, I guess, could be a light lunch but I enjoy it as an accompaniment to BBQ's and picnics and, in fact, many other meals. A good friend introduced me to this salad and I was immediately hooked.  
Basically, it is just fried bacon, hard boiled eggs, fresh, thinly sliced mushrooms with baby spinach leaves but the dressing is the clincher - a small amount of Indian curry powder adds zing. 


This combination is irrisistable.

You can, of course, use this dressing on other combinations of salad ingredients... 
...or use a favorite dressing on this combination.   
But first do yourself a favour and try it as it is before you make up your mind that it can be improved. Some things just can't. This is one of them.


160g baby spinach leaves
150g lean bacon rashes
4 or 5 button mushrooms, sliced
 3 hard boiled eggs, sliced

The Dressing:
1/3 cup light olive oil
40ml white wine vinegar
20ml dry white wine 
20ml soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon Indian curry powder
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper

Remove rind from bacon, dice and fry until crisp. If you're pedantic, remove the stalks from the spinach
(I don't). Arrange spinach, bacon, mushrooms and eggs on a wide flat plate. Combine dressing ingredients in a jar....shake well. Drizzle dressing over salad and enjoy!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chocolate for Valentines Day

What does Valentines Day mean to you? Bunches of red roses, carefully written love letters, thoughtful gifts all from your loved one? Opinion is divided as to the origin of Saint Valentines Day. There were numerous Christian martyrs named Valentine.The one probably remember at this time was a priest in Rome at the time of Emperor Claudius ll who performed secret marriages in defiance of the Emperor who had decreed weddings be suspended. He was arrested and imprisoned awaiting his execution. During that time he restored the sight of  the jailers blind daughter. On the eve of his death he penned her a farewell note signed, "From your Valentine". He was executed on February 14, 269 AD. Also the pagan festival of Lupercalia connected to fertility was celebrated at this time. It is thought that perhaps the early Christian church tried to christianize the pagan festival so decided to celebrate the feast of Saint Valentine at the same time. Through the years it has become associated with love and affection and Saint Valentine is the Patron Saint of engaged couples and married lovers.

I like to celebrate the day by spoiling the people I love - my husband and two beautiful children -with a little something delicious! This Truffle Mud Cake is just the thing. Simple ingredients, even easier method and the taste? All chocolate!

Use the very best chocolate that you enjoy eating and serve it with fresh berries or a cherry sauce. It is very rich and really you only need a small slice so it will serve 12 easily. Simply dust with cocoa or make a chocolate ganache to guild the lily.

Rich Truffle Mud Cake (adapted from Bake by the Australian Woman's Weekly)

6 eggs
100g brown sugar
350g dark eating chocolate
50g white eating chocolate
300ml thick cream, (48% fat content)
80ml liqueur of choice ( I like Frangelico)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a deep 22cm round cake pan. Line the base and sides with baking paper. Melt the chocolate seperately. Beat the eggs and sugar until well mixed. Strain egg mixture into a large bowl (to remove any "bits") and continue to beat until thick and creamy. Beat in melted chocolate until combined. Then using a spatula, gently fold in cream and liqueur. Pour mixture into pan. Place pan in baking dish and pour enough boiling water into the baking dish to come halfway up side of pan. Bake 30 minutes, cover with foil and bake 30 minutes more. Discard the foil, remove the cake pan from the baking dish, cool cake in pan. Turn cake onto serving plate cover and refrigerate overnight.

To "guild the lily" as I have done, melt 100g dark chocolate with 50ml cream and spread over the cold cake. Melt a further 40g white chocolate with 20 ml cream and pipe in circles around the top of the cake. Draw a toothpick gently from the inside circle to the outside and even intervals around the cake.

Enjoy the day with the ones you love, don't forget to tell them how special they are and give the most important gift of all - time!
Happy Saint Valentines Day!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fig Tarte Tatin?

I purchased the most wonderful farm, fresh figs on the way home from our holiday - some for myself and some for my sister. So thrilled I was with my purchase that I sat smugly in the car all the way home with a silly grin on my face. You see, living the hot, tropical climate of North Queensland we eat mountains of mangos, lychees, bananas, snake beans and other tropical fruit and vegetables but cooler climate foods are only generally available at supermarkets and grocery stores. Often they have travelled from all of the country and are not worth the price you have to pay. However, three farmers on the Atherton Tablelands have recently branched out into figs with great results. The Tablelands being much cooler than the coast are able to grow many different types of foods.

Once home with my wonderful produce, I pondered my choices and immediately decided to caramelize my figs. These were wonderful with rich vanilla icecream - so luscious!But lets take it one step further and produce a "tarte tartin". Now, I know the purists will lament that this is not a true "tarte tartin" and sure, the lack of puff pastry certainly attests to the fact. However, preparing home made puff pastry in our tropical heat is only for the very brave! So, ahead we go with a very short buttery pastry that melts in your mouth and what ever it is, I can guarantee that it is devine! You might like to try it.

Melt 60g butter and 90g brown sugar in a small frying pan. Once it's bubbling cook over medium heat 5 minutes. Arrange about 600g halved figs in one layer in the pan. Cook for 10 minutes turning once during that time. Remove the figs to an 20cm pie plate cut side down. The figs should still be holding their shape but have started to soften and their juices should be released. Reduce the sauce to thicken. It should only take 5 or 10 minutes.
Pour the sauce over the figs. Don't they look like shiny golden, brown jewels?

Now make the pastry. Take 250g plain flour and 60g castor sugar, rub in 185g butter or process in the food processor until the mixture looks crumbly. Stir in 1 beaten egg. Roll out larger than your pie plate so you can tuck the sides in. Then chill the pastry for 15minutes. Lay the pastry over the figs like a blanket. Now this is rustic. It's not meant to look perfect. Tuck it in and don't worry too much. Bake at 200C for 15 minutes then lower to 18oC for 10 minutes until the pastry is nicely browned.

Allow your tarte tartin to cool for about 5 or 10 minutes then carefully take a large flat plate place it over the pie dish and invert the tarte tartin onto your plate.

Voila`! There you have it - a Fig "Tarte Tartin" with melt-in-your-mouth pastry and sweet, delicious figs nestled in sticky caramel sauce. A perfect way to honour this special, ancient fruit.
Now, what did my sister produce with her cache of figs?

Fig and Chocolate sauce with hint of cloves and all the flavour and richness that you would expect from such a combination. The recipe? Well, that's her secret!