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Festive Christmas Desserts

It’s 14 December. Just 11 more sleeps till Christmas! My Christmas baking is well under way, that is, I have made an awful lot of gingerbread and shortbread this last week, to give as small gifts to friends and colleagues.

I haven’t completely settled on a menu for the day itself. In Australia it’s usually hot, but we have sometimes had a chilly spell taking everyone by surprise. I usually cover both weather situations by having the festive meats hot accompanied by lots of cold salads.

Hmmm. Dessert. What to do this year? I have 4 main Chrissie desserts. Trifle – everyone’s favourite. Ice cream bombe, great for those hot days. A tiramisu style dessert for something a little different. Or the Great Australian Dessert, pavlova! Always a winner in my experience.

I know which way I’m going this year, but you’ll have to wait a bit before the big reveal.

I thought it would be good to recap some desserts that I’ve made at Christmas over the years. Maybe you might even get some inspiration if you’re looking for the perfect end to the meal!

Here are the links to some sweet treats, in no particular order, that I have made for Christmas in the past, or that would be perfect on the big day.

Peach, Passionfruit and BlackBerry Meringue Trifle – my own concoction and full of all the flavours I love at Christmas!

Christmas Pudding Cake, a Nigella Lawson recipe that celebrates tiramisu and trifle.

Christmas Festive Trifle, based on a very bright and colourful Queen Vanilla recipe.

Pavlova with Blackberries, Raspberries and Toasted Macadamias, a fabulous dessert whipped up by a wonderful friend who has a deft touch with pavlovas!

Christmas Cherry Cheesecake Semifreddo, a lovely ice cream bombe from Jamie Oliver.

Mango and Berry Easy Ice Cream

This is a really simple way to make a “cheat’s” ice cream that is super refreshing, super simple and super good for you! It’s not new – everyone has been doing it, including Jamie Oliver in Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals.

It’s less a recipe than a procedure. Really, it’s just frozen fruit blitzed with yoghurt with a little honey for sweetness, to make a kind of frozen delicacy with a lovely ice cream like texture.

I have listed what works well for me, but find your version by varying the fruit used and the ratio of frozen fruit to yoghurt. My chosen fruit was mango and mixed blueberries and raspberries.

Ingredients 

A quantity of frozen fruit – mango, banana, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, papaya, peaches, nectarines, plums

Yoghurt – Greek yoghurt is nicest, but the recipe works well with low fat yoghurt too.

Runny honey 

Mint leaves, fresh berries for decorating 

Method

To make ice cream for two, or one greedy person, put 3 handfuls of frozen fruit into the bowl of a food processor with 3 tablespoons of yoghurt. Add 1 tablespoon of runny honey, or less, if you want less sweetness.

Blitz in the food processor until you have a creamy frozen mixture. Add more fruit or more yoghurt if you are not satisfied with the consistency and then blitz again.

 I don’t weigh my quantities – I really think you need to judge whether you have the ratio right by the look and texture of the resulting ice cream. 

Serve immediately in glasses, bowls or cones. It will melt quite quickly so speed is of the essence. Chilling the glasses or bowls is a good idea too. You can freeze leftover ice cream, but in my experience it’s a little grainy. Just make enough to eat in one sitting!

Jamie’s Cherry Cheesecake Semifreddo for Christmas

Here’s another recipe from the archives for a Christmas dessert. It’s a lovely Jamie Oliver ice cream bombe from 2013.
This cherry cheesecake semifreddo bombe is pretty spectacular when frozen in a domed bowl and then turned out. And a cold alternative to a traditional hot Christmas pudding or perhaps serve both  – that’s what I usually do!
I remember finding this dessert from a magazine of Christmas recipes produced by Woolworths, our Australian supermarket for whom Jamie is the signature chef, so the recipe was created as a seasonal dessert for Australia.
Jamie has combined three great ideas – cherries, luscious cheesecake and semifreddo for all who love ice cream.
It’s an easy recipe but you need to be prepared for a quite a few steps, and of course freezing time overnight.
I made these changes to the original recipe:
I used frozen pitted cherries rather than fresh (simply to save time pitting the fresh cherries).
I used ginger nut biscuits for the biscuit crunch component instead of digestive biscuits. This really worked as the biscuit crunch had a great festive ginger flavour!

Ingredients

150g digestive biscuits (I used ginger nuts)
75g unsalted butter
250g fresh cherries (I used frozen pitted cherries)
250g golden caster sugar
1 lemon
4 large free-range eggs
250ml double cream
250g cream cheese
50g dark chocolate
A large handful of cherries or mixed fresh berries

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until fine. Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and stir in the blitzed biscuits and a good pinch of sea salt.
Empty the mixture into a small baking dish (roughly 15 x 20 cm), pat down and bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until golden and firm. Leave to cool.
Meanwhile, halve and de-stone the cherries and place in a small pan with 200g of the caster sugar. (Or use frozen cherries). Finely grate in the lemon zest and squeeze in the juice of half and place over a medium-low heat.
Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 6-8 minutes, or until softened and syrupy. Leave to cool completely, then blitz two-thirds of the mixture into a purée in a blender.
When you are ready to assemble the semifreddo, separate the eggs into two large mixing bowls and pour the double cream into a third bowl. Whisk the cream to soft peaks and beat in the cream cheese.
Whisk the egg yolks with the remaining caster sugar until creamy and pale and doubled in volume.
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of sea salt until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold the whites into the yolks, using a large metal spoon to keep the mixture as light as possible.
Beat a large spoonful of the egg mixture into the cream cheese mixture to loosen it, then carefully fold through the remaining.
Marble in half the puréed cherries and crumble in most of the biscuit mixture in large and small pieces, then fold through most of the whole cooked cherries. Spoon the semifreddo into a 1.5 litre ceramic bowl, then crumble over the remaining biscuit and ripple through most of the remaining purée. Put the dish into the freezer for at least 6 hours.
When you are ready to serve, dip the bowl 2/3 of the way into a large bowl or pan of just-boiled water, being careful not to submerge completely. Hold until you start to see the semifreddo loosen from the sides of the bowl. Place an upside down cake stand or plate on top of the bowl, and quickly turn over, holding one hand on the bowl and one hand on the cake stand.
The semifreddo should come out in a beautiful dome. Serve garnished with the remaining puree, cooked cherries, shavings of dark chocolate and a handful of fresh cherries or mixed berries.

 

 

Praline and Nutella Ice Cream

This is the easiest ice cream as it’s no churn, ie you don’t have to use an ice cream maker. The basic ice cream mix is from a recipe from the wonderful Annabel Langbein, See here for the link to a recipe for the simple Ice Cream Base.

I have made this ice cream many times with lots of variations. I blogged My Passionfruit Ice Cream Slice a while back.

So here is the recipe for ice cream with lots of nuts, toffee, peanut butter and Nutella! Great on it’s own but even nicer in a waffle cone!

Ingredients 

Praline

3 tbls caster sugar
75g nuts – macadamias, hazelnuts, almonds work well

Ice Cream Base

3 eggs
10 tbsp caster sugar, divided in half
2 tbsp boiling water
2 cups cream, chilled

2 tbls peanut butter
1 tbls Nutella

Method

For the praline, spread the nuts onto a piece of baking paper on baking tray. Put the caster sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a heavy based frying pan. Carefully melt the sugar over a medium heat, being careful not to stir the sugar or it will crystalize. Once the sugar has melted and turned a tea colour, carefully pour the hot toffee over the nuts and allow to set.

Once set, break the praline into two. Bash one half into smaller pieces. Grind the other half to a fine powder.

For the ice cream, line two small  loaf tins with cling wrap, making sure the clingwrap overhangs the tins for easy removal of the ice cream. You could also use 6 large silicone muffin mounds. You could line them too, but the ice creams should just slip out if you run a hot knife round the edges.

To make the Ice Cream Base, separate the eggs. Place the egg whites in your largest bowl and the egg yolks in a smaller bowl, ensuring no yolk gets mixed in with the whites. Add 5 tbsp of the caster sugar to the egg whites and beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks (about 6-7 minutes). Set aside.

Add the remaining 5 tbsp of caster sugar and the boiling water to the bowl containing the three egg yolks. Beat until pale, thick and ribbony. You will know it is ready when it holds a figure of eight.

In a third bowl, beat the cream to soft peaks. Gently fold the egg yolks and cream into the beaten egg whites using a large flat spoon. This is your Ice Cream Base.

Fold in the praline pieces and the praline powder, and the peanut butter. Spoon the ice cream into the loaf tins or mounds. You can stir through the Nutella at this point, or as I did, ripple in the Nutella after the ice cream has been in the freezer for 30 minutes. This creates a more defined swirl.

Place in the freezer for several hours. If freezing for longer than that, cover to prevent freezer burn or flavour taint.

To serve, remove from the fridge and scoop into waffle cones, or lift out of the tin and cut into slices.

Drizzle with more Nutella, or sprinkle with any left over praline pieces, if you like.

Blood Orange Breakfast Sorbet with Granola and Fresh Fruit

It’s blood orange season and I love finding opportunities to use this beautiful fruit with its gorgeous colour and fragrant flavour. I made blood orange friands recently – here is the link to the post.

This is a super easy breakfast recipe which could translate into dessert with ease!  The sorbet is made by blending frozen blood orange segments with yoghurt – instant frozen delight. Add some granola, store-bought or home made, and any fresh fruit you fancy and you have a zingy, taste-bud tantalizing breakfast to start your day.

Here’s the recipe or the assembly – it’s pretty easy!

Blood Orange Sorbet

Peel and segment a blood orange, place on a plate, cover with cling wrap or a ziplock bag and freeze for at least a few hours or overnight.

Put the frozen segments into a food processor or blender with a couple of tablespoons of full fat yoghurt. The exact quantity is up to you – start off with a couple of spoonfuls, you can always add more for a creamier texture. Blend well until you have a sorbet like consistency.  You should wack the sorbet back in the freezer if you are not serving absolutely immediately – it does melt fast!

Granola

If you want to make your own, here’s a recipe:

Ingredients

2 cups of rolled oats

1 cup of any combination of seeds – I used chia, linseed, sesame, poppy, pepitas

1/2 cup of any nuts you like – I used macadamias, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts

1/3 cup honey, warmed to pouring consistency in a microwave

1/2 cup of any dried fruit – I used apricots, mango cheeks, cranberries, sour cherries

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C.  Line a large baking tin with baking paper. You need to be able to spread the mix out without too many piles.

Mix the oats, seeds and nuts together in a large bowl. Pour the warmed honey onto the mix and quickly stir it through. The mixture will be quite sticky, so stir fairly aggressively. Sometime I loosen the honey before microwaving with a little bit of water to make it more runny and easier to mix. Up to you.

Spoon the mixture onto the baking paper in the tin, spreading it out so that it covers the base of the tin and there aren’t any big lumps.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture is golden brown and thoroughly toasted. You will need to turn the mixture over half way through cooking, so that the underneath mixture gets its time on top and gets toasted. The oven time is a bit of guess work – just keep checking and remove when the mix is golden and not burnt!

Let cool for 5 minutes then add the dried fruit, combining everything well. Don’t worry if there are some clumpy bits stuck together with honey – they are a bonus!

Breakfast Assembly

Put a big spoonful or two of granola on a plate and scatter on some fresh fruit  – more blood orange slices, and some strawberries and raspberries work well.  Lastly, add as much of the blood orange sorbet as you want to the plate, and you have a lovely breakfast to go.

Dinner by Heston, Melbourne, and other Melbourne Food Delights

I recently visited Melbourne, Australia’s southern foodie destination. It’s fair to say that in 48 hours my travel companion Ms D and I sampled quite a few notable Melbourne food institutions.

The Cellar Bar, the late night wine bar of its big sister Grossi Florentino next door, was a brilliant spot to eat in the city, on the pavement, after a show. Their spaghetti cacio e pepe was outstanding!

The next morning we lined up at Lune Croissanterie in Fitzroy, for their famous croissants. I had also wanted to try their kouign amann pastries, and cruffins, the first of which was created by Lune Croissanterie in 2013. I was disappointed that neither was available on that day, as I would have liked to taste as a comparison, as I have tried my hand at making my own kouign amann and cruffins, see my post. The croissant was very good, with excellent lamination, but worth traveling from Sydney for? Hmmm.

Croissant making on the premises.

The second breakfast that morning was at East Elevation, in Brunswick, a warm, rustic cafe in a huge open warehouse type space. The food was good! And they make chocolates too!

Some breakfast offerings at East Elevation.  Me – Ricotta Pancakes with Peaches and Berries; Ms D – Coconut and Lemon Tapioca

One of the main events of the trip was to dine at Maha, a sophisticated take on Middle Eastern cuisine in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. Ms D is a huge fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, even more so than me, so we were both looking forward to the experience. While really enjoying the banquet style dishes, the lighting was so dim you couldn’t really appreciate the visuals of the food properly. I would be keen to visit again, to see more! So no photos for this post.

Sunday lunch was the much anticipated visit to Dinner by Heston, one of Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants that is inspired by historic British gastronomy. Dinner, as defined on the Dinner website, is “the main meal of the day, taken either around midday or in the evening. A formal evening meal, typically one in honour of a person or event”.

Located at the Crown Towers in Melbourne, one could be forgiven for being turned off dinner or even lunch, on arrival, as the garish surrounds of a casino are not conducive to refined dining. However, once in the restaurant itself, calm and dignity prevailed,  as we were ushered to a large and comfortable table window-side, with a view over the river to the city.

I have photographed the menu for the day and the dishes we ate. The dishes are so intricate, clever and multi faceted, that describing them in any detail in this post would be a poor substitute to actually enjoying them. Which I did. Absolutely. While there are photos of Ms D’s courses, I only sampled a little of her dishes, being too intent on eating my own. However I believe she enjoyed her courses too.

First course for both of us – Salamagundy

Second course. Me – Chicken Cooked with Lettuces; Ms D – Slow Cooked Pork Belly

Third course. Me – Cherry Isle Bar; Ms D – Tipsy Cake

For me, ice cream is the Queen of Desserts, so the highlight of Dinner By Heston was the “extra” dessert, nitrogen ice cream made at the table Heston style! Our waiter explained that the custard base was given texture by the addition of sour cream, and the Madagascan vanilla really gave a rich, vanilla hit. We could choose from a variety of toppings – I chose freeze dried raspberries, which I use a lot in my own cooking, and popping candy.

The visual spectacular with clouds of nitrogen, as the waiter deftly poured the flasks of custard and nitrogen was amazing, but the taste of the ice cream was even better. Rich and velvety, with a soft texture, the ice cream had a proper consistency, and made for a heavenly eating experience. A fantastic way to end the “dinner” and our Melbourne food excursion.

 

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Christmas Cherry Cheesecake Semifreddo

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If you’re looking for cold pud ideas for Christmas lunch , this is what I did last year. Jamie Oliver had come up with a delightful frozen ice cream bombe using seasonal fresh cherries (at least for us in the Southern Hemisphere). But you could use frozen cherries if you are living in northern climes.

Cherries + cheesecake mixture =  cherry cheesecake semifreddo bombe, spectacular when frozen in a domed bowl and then turned out. Utterly delicious to eat…

Jamie has combined three great ideas – cherries because they’re seasonal for us in Australia, cheesecake which is always a winner and semifreddo for all us ice cream lovers!

It’s an easy recipe but you need to be prepared for a quite a few steps. It took me an hour or so on Christmas Eve, then freezing time overnight. It was ready to go for lunch on Christmas Day. I made these changes to the original recipe:

I used frozen pitted cherries rather than fresh (simply to save time pitting the fresh cherries)
I used ginger nut biscuits for the biscuit crunch component instead of digestive biscuits. This really worked as the biscuit crunch had a great festive ginger flavour!
Ingredients

150g digestive biscuits (I used ginger nuts)
75g unsalted butter
250g fresh cherries (I used frozen pitted cherries)
250g golden caster sugar
1 lemon
4 large free-range eggs
250ml double cream
250g cream cheese
50g dark chocolate
A large handful of cherries or mixed fresh berries

Method
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until fine. Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and stir in the blitzed biscuits and a good pinch of sea salt.
Empty the mixture into a small baking dish (roughly 15 x 20 cm), pat down and bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until golden and firm. Leave to cool.
Meanwhile, halve and de-stone the cherries and place in a small pan with 200g of the caster sugar. (Or use frozen cherries). Finely grate in the lemon zest and squeeze in the juice of half and place over a medium-low heat.
Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 6-8 minutes, or until softened and syrupy. Leave to cool completely, then blitz two-thirds of the mixture into a purée in a blender.
When you are ready to assemble the semifreddo, separate the eggs into two large mixing bowls and pour the double cream into a third bowl. Whisk the cream to soft peaks and beat in the cream cheese.
Whisk the egg yolks with the remaining caster sugar until creamy and pale and doubled in volume.
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of sea salt until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold the whites into the yolks, using a large metal spoon to keep the mixture as light as possible.
Beat a large spoonful of the egg mixture into the cream cheese mixture to loosen it, then carefully fold through the remaining.
Marble in half the puréed cherries and crumble in most of the biscuit mixture in large and small pieces, then fold through most of the whole cooked cherries. Spoon the semifreddo into a 1.5 litre ceramic bowl, then crumble over the remaining biscuit and ripple through most of the remaining purée. Put the dish into the freezer for at least 6 hours.
When you are ready to serve, dip the bowl 2/3 of the way into a large bowl or pan of just-boiled water, being careful not to submerge completely. Hold until you start to see the semifreddo loosen from the sides of the bowl. Place an upside down cake stand or plate on top of the bowl, and quickly turn over, holding one hand on the bowl and one hand on the cake stand.
The semifreddo should come out in a beautiful dome. Serve garnished with the remaining puree, cooked cherries, shavings of dark chocolate and a handful of fresh cherries or mixed berries.

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