Monday, 24 March 2014

Profiteroles


The amount of profiteroles I have eaten in the past week is really not good. 

For a couple of days there I thought I was going to have to go to Mr LP's retro party as Mama Cass instead of a Charlie's Angel. There is an urban myth going around that Mama Cass choked on a ham sandwich after a concert in London in 1974, our retro theme year. If I owned a kaftan, it was a definite option.

In the end, Farrah Fawcett wasn't happening either. Wigs are horrid things, all hot and itchy. So my flicky blonde Farrah ebay hair spent the night looking like road kill on the floor instead of on my head. Also, I am short and quite cuddly, this week more so than usual thanks to a thousand profiteroles, so what was I even thinking?

At least the food was on theme! We did, as promised, serve devils on horseback (prunes wrapped in bacon then grilled), vol-au-vents and cocktail onions with annoying toothpicks. There was also cob dip, stuffed potato skins and mini shepherd's pies. I had plans for ham steaks with pineapple but I couldn't find them anywhere. Go figure! Thanks to Mum, Jan, SJ and the amazing Alison for your help in taking everyone for a fun foodie trip down memory lane.




On the dessert table: a superb classic cheesecake made by Mum from her hardback copy of the original Women's Weekly cookbook, my party rocky road, those profiteroles sprinkled with gold dust, and a very tall and melty caramel ice cream birthday cake with caramel sauce, inspired by the one they used to serve at The Paragon cafe in Katoomba. Perfected, the cake might be one for a future post, but today is all about those gold dust rolls.

Did you know that profiteroles are surprisingly easy to make? I wish I didn't. And they freeze very well. So you could, in theory, make them up to three weeks ahead of your planned event and then fill and coat them on the day, or even the day before.

I used this Australian Gourmet Traveller unsweetened choux pastry recipe to make the profiteroles and then filled them with vanilla chantilly cream and dipped them in melted chocolate. The recipe made about two dozen. Keep them in the fridge until you're ready to serve, then pile them on a big plate with berries or, if you are a gold dust woman like me, gently sift a teaspoon of edible gold dust over the top.



Sunday, 16 March 2014

Lemon Coconut Slice


Is anyone else a little fed up with the I Quit Sugar brigade? Well never mind me, but the people who frequent my north shore and city cafes surely are. Double orders of cakes over the past couple of weeks, which is outstanding, but I am in the middle of planning a large party and my work load is interfering. I realise this is a first world problem, but it always seems that life chooses the most inconvenient times to go berserk. 

So what do I do? Add a new product.

These lemon bars may or may not fit into my retro series, but I made them for Bacino because they needed something lemony and a bit more robust and homely than a poshly piped meringue tart. There is nothing worse than seeing my pretty little tarts smudged and withered after a couple of days in the display. So I called time and offered these lemon bars instead. And, double orders! So far, so good. Shhh, just don't tell anyone they're about a thousand times easier to make.



Lemon Coconut Slice
(Makes 12)

Base:
80g butter, melted
2/3 cup self-raising flour
2/3 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup caster sugar

Topping:
2 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
Zest of one lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup plain flour

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm square cake tin and line with non-stick baking paper, making sure the paper overhangs the tin slightly on each side.
Combine dry ingredients for the base in a bowl and mix in the melted butter.
Press mixture into prepared tin and smooth with the back of a spoon.
Bake for 10 mins or until light golden. Set aside on a wire rack while you prepare topping.
Reduce oven to 160C.
For topping, whisk together the eggs, sugar and zest until pale and thick.
Whisk in juice, then flour.
Pour topping onto the base and carefully place back in the oven for 12-15 mins or until light golden brown and the centre doesn't wobble.
Cool completely. Loosen the slice with a knife if needed and then gently lift it from the tin by holding the edges of the overhanging paper.
Cut into straight slices using a knife dipped into hot water and dried with paper towel.
Dust with icing sugar before serving. Slice will keep in the fridge for up to a week.


Monday, 3 March 2014

Pineapple and Raspberry Upside-Down Cake


I have been dabbling in a bit of retro baking in preparation for Mr LP's 40th birthday bash. It's a 1974 theme, the year of his vintage, so it's only fitting that the food be just as hip.

Of course there will be mini everything and loads of annoying toothpicks and paper umbrellas. There will be Vol au Vents (a Mr LP favourite), prawn cocktails and devils on horseback. Can you tell I've been having fun? I mean, when else is it acceptable to serve up prunes at a party? Hot prunes at that.


The best part has been researching desserts. They had some great names. Cherries Jubilee, Bombe Alaska, Bananas Foster. Do any of these ring a bell from your childhood? The 70's are also responsible for chocolate fondue. So many options!

Nigella Lawson has a great retro section in her Nigella Express book and in there is this Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. She uses glacé cherries but I loathe them, so I have replaced them with raspberries.



I need to practice a few desserts in the coming weeks so maybe this will be part one of a retro series. 

Groovy.


Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
(Recipe from Nigella Express)

2 x 15ml tablespoons sugar
6 slices pineapple rings
Plus 3 x 15ml tablespoons of the juice
11 glacé cherries (or appx 16 frozen raspberries if using my adaptation)
100g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g soft butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 200C. 
Heavily grease with butter a 23cm cake tin, (neither loose bottomed nor springform).
Sprinkle the buttered base of the tin with the two tablespoons of sugar and then arrange the pineapple slices on top in a circular pattern.
Fill each pineapple ring with a glacé cherry (or raspberry) and then dot one in each of the spaces in between.
Place the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, butter, caster sugar and eggs into a food processor and blitz until you have a smooth batter. Pour in the three tablespoons of pineapple juice to thin it a little.
Pour this mixture carefully over the pineapple rings. It will only just cover it so spread it out gently.
Bake for 30 minutes* then ease a spatula around the edge of the tin, place a plate on top and turn it upside down in one movement. 
Serve hot from the oven with ice cream or thick cream.
* Resist the urge to get it out early, as I did; you risk the pineapple not being caramelised and sticking to the tin.




Friday, 24 January 2014

Chilli Crab Spaghetti



Like some of the best, this recipe came about by accident when Mr LP and I found ourselves with nearly half a kilo of raw crab meat to use.

It was my fault. I bought the wrong sort, frozen at the time, from a posh fishmonger and whacked it in the fridge to defrost without a second glance at the packaging. 

The next morning, when Mr LP began to chef up his famous crab balls, I heard a panicked shriek from the kitchen. No, shriek is wrong. It went more like this: "Fuck! This crab meat is raw!" Oops. Maybe that's why it cost close to $50. 

Mere hours from when the crab balls (and us) were due at our friends' for lunch, I was dispatched to buy the right sort, lest we murder a small fortune in blue swimmer crab for the sake of a few croquettes. I went to Woolies and got the canned stuff. It worked just as well. Uppercut to me.

Back at home, determined to make something fabulous with the very expensive tub of crab in my fridge, I came up with this spaghetti. It was, dare I say it, money well spent to create one of the sweetest, most delicious pasta dinners I've ever had. We are still talking about it, weeks later.

So, I'm on holidays right now up on the gorgeous NSW far north coast, and what does my uncle bring for us a couple of nights ago? Fresh mud crab, caught in his own traps. 

He cooked them and picked the meat, so all I had to do was warm it through in the sauce. It too was beautiful and sweet so I'm not going to be bossy about what variety of crab to use. Well, maybe not canned in this one...

Use a thin pasta or angel hair if you can. And don't skip the lemon zest!


Chilli Crab Spaghetti
Feeds 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 to 3 Birdseye chillies, finely chopped, depending on desired heat
12 cherry tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups tomato passata 
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
Packet of dried angel hair spaghetti
250g fresh raw or cooked and picked crab meat
Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
Zest of half a lemon

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy based frypan over medium heat. Add garlic and chillies and fry until fragrant. Add the chopped cherry tomatoes and white wine. Simmer for about a minute, then add the passata, oregano and a good grind of salt and pepper. Leave sauce to simmer slowly while you prepare the pasta.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Season with a pinch of salt, then add your spaghetti. Cook  according to packet until al-dente. When the pasta is almost ready, add crab meat to the tomato sauce. If using raw crab meat, stir gently for about three to five minutes until cooked through. If using cooked crab meat, place the crab meat in the sauce only to warm it through (about two minutes).
Drain pasta and place in the pan of tomato crab sauce. Gently combine the two using tongs or pasta servers. Transfer to a large serving bowl or platter. Scatter with lemon zest and torn basil leaves and take to the table. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Tiramisu


If nothing else, these here pudding files are a great place to stash my favourite recipes. My recipe tab saves me having to dig through a mountain of cookbooks and food magazines (because I am ridiculous and keep all of them), and allows me to access staples, like the birthday sponge, instantly. And, you know, it's always good to make sure that they work.

I'm adding another one with this Tiramisu.



It's not a traditional version, so purists will tut. But it's my mum's absolute favourite, especially when the coffee liqueur has had a couple of days to work its magic, soaking right through the sponge fingers and cream.

We have been making this recipe since we first discovered it in an early issue of Donna Hay magazine. It is a very simple combo of sponge finger bickies dipped in cooled espresso and coffee liqueur, cream and mascarpone whipped together, and a decadent smothering of chocolate ganache over the whole thing.


To be honest, it's a bit on the rich side for me, so I can only do half a slice at a time and I pile it with berries. But I make it so much, particularly in summer, that it would definitely help to have the recipe permanently on hand. 
And maybe I can lure a few purists to the dark side with the promise of ganache and short cuts...

Chocolate Tiramisu
(Recipe adapted from Donna Hay Magazine, issue 9)

20 sponge finger biscuits, the thinner ones
3/4 cup single pouring cream
200g best quality dark chocolate
100g best quality milk chocolate
1 1/2 cups single pouring cream extra
1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese
1 cup cooled espresso coffee
1/3 cup coffee flavoured liqueur (I use Tia Maria or Kahlua)

First, make your espresso and leave it to cool.
Line a 20cm loaf tin with non-stick baking paper and make sure the edges of the paper are long enough to over-hang the tin. This will make it easy to pull off when serving.
Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heat-proof bowl.
Heat the 3/4 cup of cream over low heat in a small saucepan until almost boiling, then pour it over the chocolate. Leave for 5 minutes then stir slowly until combined, smooth and glossy. Set aside to cool.
Whisk the extra cream and mascarpone until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over whip.
Place the cooled espresso and coffee liqueur together in a shallow bowl.
Now you're ready to assemble.
First, pour 1/3 of the cooled chocolate ganache into the bottom of the prepared loaf tin, spreading evenly to the corners. 
Next, top the chocolate layer with half of the cream and mascarpone mixture, again spreading into the corners with a pallet knife or spatula.
Then quickly dip each side of the biscuits one at a time in the coffee mixture and line up snugly on top of the cream.
Top this with another layer of dipped biscuits, followed by the remaining cream and mascarpone.
Spread another 1/3 of the chocolate ganache over the top and cover the tin with plastic wrap.
Place in the fridge for at least two hours, but I'd recommend overnight or a day or two to allow that beautiful coffee flavour to develop.
Reserve the remaining ganache in a container in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
When serving, heat the ganache in a microwave for 20 or 30 seconds until slightly warm. Give it a stir until it becomes its glossy impressive self.
Run a knife down the ends of the tin and then turn your tiramisu out onto a long serving plate with enough room on the sides to catch any ganache drips. Carefully peel off the baking paper.
Pour the warm ganache over the top, gently coaxing it to the edges, and take to the table just as it drips down the sides. Listen to the ahhhhs and gasps from your guests and lap up general adulation.
I like to serve mine with fresh red berries - whatever's in season and not going to send you broke.



Monday, 6 January 2014

Passionfruit Tart with Italian Meringue


A little party never killed nobody.

It sounds like a line uttered by the fabulous Jordan Baker. But no, it is from the lips of Fergie. 
It's on the soundtrack, though, so lets roll with it. 

*** G A T S B Y ***




This is how we rang in 2014, with champagne, toy guns, glittering headpieces, bow ties, black satin and an opulent, silky, passionfruit meringue tart.

Isn't my date a cutie?






It wasn't a huge party, so I'm afraid Ms Baker may not have been impressed. It wasn't very private. But there was family and old friends, sassy frocks, and the kind of laughter you want to bottle and savour for the rest of the year.


I first read The Great Gatsby as an insolent Year 10 know-it-all. It was completely wasted on me, like most of high school. But even then I was seduced by the language of F. Scott Fitzgerald, by the beauty of his imagery and the ever poignant last line of the book.

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Words perhaps even more fitting at the beginning of a new year than Fergie's.

But not as fun. Or maybe I'm wrong. What will you make of it?



Here's wishing you a cup full of promise this coming year. That our resolutions may stick, that our loved ones are safe and happy, and that we look for and find the beauty in our every day. But also, that we continue to dream.

Larissa x

***

Passionfruit Curd Tart
(Serves 12)
*It is best to make the passionfruit curd and the pastry shell the day before

Pastry:
250g plain flour
50g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
125g cold butter, cubed
1 egg, lightly beaten 
Dash of milk

Place flour and icing sugar in a food processor and blitz until combined.
Add cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Whisk the egg and milk together and add to the processor while the motor is running.
Pulse until the mixture just comes together to form a dough. 
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C.
Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to form a rectangle, about 3mm thick, enough to cover the base and sides of a long rectangular loose bottomed fluted tart tin.
Place pastry in the tin, press into the edges, trim excess and place in the freezer for 5 minutes. This will help to prevent shrinkage when the tart bakes.
Bake for 15 mins or until the tart shell is golden.
Cool and store overnight in an airtight container.

Passionfruit Curd (makes enough for the tart and a jar extra to gift or just smear on toast):
8 egg yolks
180g caster sugar
Zest of one lemon
100ml passionfruit pulp
50ml lemon juice, passed through a sieve
200g cold butter, cubed

Whisk together the egg yolks and the caster sugar in a bowl until pale and thick.
Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and passionfruit pulp and whisk until smooth.
Transfer mixture to a saucepan. Add the butter and stir over a medium heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil or it may curdle. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly before pouring into a container and refrigerating until ready to use.

Italian Meringue:
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
170g caster sugar
1/4 cup water

Place egg whites and cream of tartar in clean, dry bowl of electric mixer with the whisk attachment fixed so they are ready to go.
Place sugar and water in a saucepan and stir over a medium high heat until the sugar dissolves (about 2mins). Push down any stray sugar crystals on the inside of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush.
Bring the mixture to the boil and stop stirring. Boil the syrup until it reaches 121C on a sugar thermometer (about 3 mins).
Turn on the electric mixer to maximum speed, whisking the egg whites until they reach a soft peak, then turn the mixer down to slow (level 4 on a Kitchenaid) and pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites in a steady stream. Scrape all the syrup in with a spatula.
Turn the mixer back up to almost full speed (level 8 on a Kitchenaid) and whisk for 10 minutes. The meringue should be thick and glossy. Use immediately.

To assemble:
Place pastry shell on a long serving plate or chopping board. Spoon in passionfruit curd, gently coaxing it into the corners with a spatula or palette knife. 
Next, make the meringue.
Spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a plain 12mm nozzle and pipe single puffs or "kisses" in even lines on the top of the tart. 
Lastly, using a small kitchen blowtorch, gently brown the top of each puff.
The tart will be fine if kept in the fridge until ready to serve.



Saturday, 21 December 2013

I'm dreaming of a quiet Christmas...


Not really. A quiet Christmas would hardly support my Accoutrement habit now would it.

Things are pretty frantic around here, as they are with everyone at this time of year, but the other day I took an afternoon off and made gingerbread men with my big boy. His favourite.



We took them out to Nanna's, where we decorated the tree and he helped string our little golden brown men onto ribbon for a garland.




The rest he demanded we dress properly with icing and smarties. A few made it on.

Merry Christmas to you all. I hope you can steal a few special moments in the craziness ahead of the big day. Happy baking and see you in 2014!

Larissa x

Gingerbread Men Garland
(Recipe from Donna Hay Magazine, December 2013)
Makes about 32

125g unsealed butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup golden syrup
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat oven to 160C.
Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer for 8-10 mins, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally until pale and creamy.
Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until the mixture forms a smooth dough.
Roll out between two sheets of non-stick baking paper to 4mm thick and refrigerate for 30mins.
Using a small gingerbread cutter, cut out 32 men, re-rolling dough as necessary.
Place on two large baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper.
Using the tip of a 6mm round piping nozzle, cut two holes from the chest of each gingerbread man.
Bake for 6-8 mins or until golden.
Turn off the oven and allow to cool completely.
Thread the gingerbread men onto a length of ribbon and tie the ends.
* Tip: place a piece of sticky tape around the end of the ribbon for easy threading.

Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days and hang on Christmas Eve. Yum!