Wednesday, March 12, 2014
This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay recipe was chosen by Sarah, and is a lovely dessert - Baked Pear Custard.
To make this dessert is super easy - you make a simple custard mix, float some pear slices on top, and bake.
Twenty-five minutes later, dessert is ready:
I ate this totally ungarnished, although, I am sure it would be lovely with cream or icecream.
To see what Sarah and Margaret thought, visit their websites.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
We are here to fight, to think, to love, to rebel, to bake.
Signage on Ana's Bakery in Stranger than Fiction
Food 'n' Flix is a blogging event that is new to me. I found it by accident when randomly surfing the Net a few days ago, but it grabbed my attention immediately. Food and movies are two of my favourite things, so this event is a perfect match for me.
This month's host of Food 'n' Flix is Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, who has chosen Stranger than Fiction, starring Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, for this month's movie. I had never heard of this movie before, but boy, am I glad that Deb chose it. It is a pearler of a film, and features Will Ferrell in a role that I like him in. The movie is set in Chicago, which excites me because I am going to visit there for the first time in April.
The plot goes something like this: Harold Crick (Ferrell) is an IRS agent who is sent to audit a bakery owned by Ana Pascal (Gyllenhaal) for unpaid taxes. Harold begins to hear an unknown woman's voice in his head narrating his every move as if reading a novel aloud, which is disturbing enough, but Harold panics when the narrator foreshadows his imminent death. Desperate to avoid that conclusion, Harold seeks help, first from a psychiatrist (Linda Hunt), who thinks he is schizophrenic, and then from a literary professor, Jules Hilbert (Hoffman). Hilbert agrees to help Harold after deciding that he isn't crazy. Together, they identify that the voice in Harold's head is the elusive author, Karen Eiffel (Thompson), who only writes novels in which the hero dies, and that Harold is the hero in her latest novel, Death and Taxes. Harold then races against time to find Eiffel and persuade her to change the plot of her latest novel before she writes his death.
The subplot revolves around Harold's unexpected crush on Ana, the rather hostile baker whom he is auditing. She has deliberately not paid all of her taxes because she doesn't agree with how all of them are used. Ana eventually warms to Harold, too, and we learn that she is a Harvard law dropout who turned to baking to change the world.
My recipe for Food 'n' Flix was inspired by the following monologue by Ana, in which she explains to Harold how she became a baker:
And anyway, we would have to participate in these study sessions, my classmates and I, sometimes all night long. And so I baked so no one would go hungry while we worked. Sometimes I'd bake all afternoon in the kitchen, in the dorm, and then I'd bring my little treats to the study groups and people loved them... I was always looking for better and better recipes until soon it was ricotta cheese and apricot croissants and mocha bars with an almond glaze and lemon chiffon cake with zesty peach icing...
(From the script for Stranger than Fiction by Zach Helm)
"Lemon Chiffon Cake with Zesty Peach Icing" stuck in my head. How wonderful does that sound! Accordingly, I hit the books to look for recipes for lemon chiffon cake and zesty peach icing.
I selected the recipe for Lemon Chiffon Cake from Tartine by Elisabeth M Pruiett. I have had this book for years and have rarely used it, so it was great to be able to put it to good use. The zesty peach icing was harder, because I did not in fact find any recipes for it in my books or on the Net. Instead, I took inspiration from a recipe for Peach Buttercream by Cathlin Cooks, and combined it with my favourite buttercream recipe by the Primrose Bakery. I used peach puree in place of milk to make the buttercream, and tinted it a subtle shade of peach using red and yellow food colouring. For the zesty part, I added the zest of about half an orange to the buttercream. I halved the buttercream recipe because I didn't want stacks of icing left over, but on reflection, given the size of the cake, I should have used the whole recipe. This is why my icing is a bit scant.
The resulting cake is like an enormous sponge, which tastes only faintly lemony. For me, the highlight was the frosting, which lifted the flavour of the cake and had a distinct yet subtle peach flavour.
To make this cake, you will need:
2 1/4 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup water
1/4 lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
10 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Peach Buttercream (full recipe)
60ml peach puree (made by processing then straining about 16 slices of canned peaches)
500g icing sugar
finely grated zest of half an orange
Red and yellow gel food colouring combined to desired peach colour
To make the cake:
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line the bottom and sides of a 10" round springform pan with baking paper. (Don't grease it.)
Sift the flour and baking powder together into a large bowl. Mix in 1 1/4 cups of sugar (reserving the other 1/4 cup) and the salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, egg yolks, water, lemon juice and lemon zest. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, pour in the oil mixture, then whisk the ingredients together until smooth.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites together until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar and slowly add the reserved 1/4 cup of sugar and continue to whisk the whites until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold a third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold through the remaining egg whites.
Pour the batter into the prepared springform tin and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until cooked through. (I needed an extra ten minutes - this cake is huge!)
Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack in the tin. Run a knife around the inside edge of the cake tin to loosen the cake from the sides, then leave the cake to cool in the tin. Don't skip the loosening step - I did, and my cake contracted from the sides of the tin as it cooled and became rather wrinkly in appearance. Apparently leaving the cake in the tin while it cools helps it to hold its shape.
To make the icing:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, peach puree and half the icing sugar together until smooth. Gradually add the remainder of the icing sugar and beat until the buttercream is smooth and creamy. Mix in the orange zest and food colouring.
Halve the cake using a serrated knife (I did a terrible job because I was trying to rush it), and put about a third of the icing in the middle of the bottom half of the cake, and spread evenly over the surface. Place the other half of the cake on top, then spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake.
Slice, eat and enjoy!
I am looking to see everyone else's Food 'n' Flix creations inspired by Stranger than Fiction, which is a terrific film.
Monday, March 10, 2014
Yesterday, Tim and I went to the Bubbles and Tea event at Café Vic in the Arts Centre, Melbourne as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. For $45 a head, you received unlimited sparkling wine (bubbles), tea or coffee, a high tea tray and a dessert buffet.
We started with a glass each of Yarra Glen pink sparkling wine:
This was a lovely, sweet drop. Tim subsequently tried the white version, which he found drier and not as sweet, and much preferred the pink.
Our high tea tray featured two scones each - one plain and one fruit:
I adore the golden glaze on top of the scones. I did find it odd that quite a few people didn't eat the scones, although they are an integral part of a high tea. The scones could be liberally slathered with berry jam and cream, which was on every table:
On the bottom of our tea tray were two mini meat pies each - one shepherds pie and one beef pie:
My favourite was the shepherds pie with lamb mince and a potato crust.
As a high tea demands, the bottom tier of the tray also featured ribbon sandwiches in chicken and mayo, egg and lettuce, and salmon with mustard and capers:
My favourite was the salmon; the chicken version was a little too chunky for my liking. Oddly, the people on the table next door to us ate neither their scones nor their sandwiches, the two key components of a high tea. It seemed a shame to me, but I guess it's their money and they can do as they please.
If you still had room after the high tea tray had been polished off (I didn't, but I made room), there was an extensive dessert buffet. I tried a lemon curd filled, meringue topped éclair, a coffee macaron and a crème brulee:
I was not a fan of the éclair, but I adored the crème brulee with its crunchy top and smooth as silk custard.
The very odd part about this high tea was that the tea part was very hard to procure. The couple on the table next to us seemed to get coffees out of the blue, and they informed me that they had gone to the counter to order them. I followed suit and was dismissed with the statement that the waitress in our section would take our order. Problem was, there was no waitress in our section at all. After seeing several more people mysteriously procure tea and coffee, I went back to the counter and spoke to a different person, who took my order. Two cups (no pot) of English breakfast duly arrived after that:
It would be usual for them to have taken our orders at the table when they delivered the tea trays. It was therefore a little disappointing to only get tea as the last thing that I had, and only after two attempts to procure it.
Despite the irregularity with the tea service, Tim and I enjoyed our high tea experience. Special mention goes to the waitress who delivered the sparkling wine, who was smiling and friendly, and made us feel welcome. Taking high tea was a lovely way to spend a rather hot Melbourne afternoon, inside in the air conditioning and away from the Moomba crowds.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
One of the best things about summer is the fruit that is available. Summer fruit is plentiful, varied and features my personal favourites, mangoes and cherries.
Summer has sadly passed here for another year and we are into early autumn. We are still getting some nice days, but the sun is rising much later, and the mornings and evenings are markedly cooler.
Plums are stone fruit that are at their peak in summer. The last of the plums are still in the stores, so I decided to seize the day and buy some plums to make a recipe that I have longed to make since last August from Gesine Bullock-Prado's G Bakes! website. The recipe is for Zwetschgendatschi, a Bavarian plum cake. I would describe this cake as being more like a tart, as it comprises a pie dough base topped with nothing but sliced plums and sugar.
Some versions of Zwetschgendatschi feature a yeasted dough base instead of the pie dough, but personally, as a lover of pie over bread, I choose the pie dough base. It is the easiest dough in the world to make - you just wazz everything up in the food processor, and the dough is pressed, not rolled, into the tart pan. For the record, I left out the condensed milk and added ice water instead.
For the filling, I was unable to obtain damson plums, so I used dapple dandy pluots (yeah, crazy name!). I also could not get the hang of separating the halves so that they still hang together at one end, like Gesine suggested, because I had to twist the two halves to get the stones out, which separated the halves completely.
I was pretty pleased with the end result:
This tart is not particularly sweet - in fact, it is slightly on the tart side. However, I thought it was delicious, especially given how simple it was to make.
It is a long weekend for Labour Day here in Melbourne, so I am looking forward to relaxing and doing not much. Have a great weekend folks.
Friday, March 7, 2014
For this week's French Friday with Dorie, I think it is more descriptive to borrow Trevor's description and tell you that it is "stuff on toast". There - much easier to conceptualise than "two tartines from Le Croix Rouge", although I don't think Dorie's publishers would have allowed her to call it that.
At the top of this post, we have tartine number one, being the Norwegian one - whole wheat bread sliced thickly, toasted on one side, buttered (I used cream cheese) then topped with smoked salmon slices, capers, lemon, salt and pepper.
I loved this - something to definitely make again.
Tartine number two is the St Germain version - whole wheat bread sliced thickly, toasted on one side, slathered with mayo, sprinkled with chopped gherkins and topped with thin slices of roast beef, and seasoned with salt and pepper:
There you have it - stuff on toast two ways. To see what the other Doristas thought, visit the LYL section of the FFWD website.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
A couple of weekends ago, Tim and I spent the weekend in Woodend, a country town in the Macedon Ranges region of Victoria. On our first night, we drove into town looking for a likely place for dinner. We couldn't go past the prominent Holgate Brewhouse looming large on the main street.
The Holgate Brewhouse does gourmet pub grub, and has its own range of craft beers.
There is a great range of snacks and sharing plates at the Holgate Brewhouse. Tim and I decided to start with one of those in the form of grilled chorizo, topped with parmesan ($10):
What's not to like about spicy grilled sausage?
Mains were a difficult choice, because I could have eaten everything on the menu. In the end, Tim chose the generously portioned and exotic-sounding venison, duck and bacon burger with tomato, wild rocket, kasundi (no, I don't know what it is either), onion marmalade, cranberry mayo and chips ($20):
This looked amazing, and Tim rather enjoyed it. However, given its size, I was glad that I opted for the slightly less generous pork sausages with caramelised onion gravy and celeriac mash ($20):
See how rich that gravy looks? If you can imagine how good that tastes, that's what it was like - superb.
We had a great night in the convivial farmhouse-themed atmosphere, with fast and efficient service from the bar staff. If you happen to pass through Woodend, the Holgate Brewhouse is a great place for a meal and to have a relaxing time.
79 High Street
Ph: +61 3 5427 2510
79 High Street
Ph: +61 3 5427 2510
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay dish was chosen by Chaya. She selected Carrot and Parsnip Fritters with Marinated Goats Cheese. The recipe for these fritters is available online here.
I made big fritters instead of the small ones in the recipe because I couldn't be bothered fussing around with heaps of small ones. I also skipped the rocket.
I thought these fritters were a little bland - I think I should have maybe fried them a little longer, and added a little more seasoning.
To see what Chaya, Sarah and Margaret thought of these fritters, visit their websites.