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Category Archives: Sweet Food

Tropical Pavlova

Pavlova has to be one of my favourite desserts. I love any meringue concoction – light and fluffy pavs, meringues layered with cream, chocolate, berries or nuts like vacherin or dacquoise, or little meringues sandwiched together with cream in the form of meringue kisses. They are all delightful!

I was making a pavlova for friends recently. Everyone loves a pavlova filled with cream and strawberries, but this time I wanted to fill the pav with some seasonal flavours. There is an abundance of tropical fruit available in farmers’ markets and supermarkets at the moment, which is wonderful as we swelter through a hot, late summer in Sydney.

Pineapple, mango and passionfruit were the obvious choices. Pineapples in particular are fantastic – ripe, sweet and juicy.

I also love lemon curd as a filler for pavlova, and this time I made a passionfruit/lemon curd to top the cream and provide a base for the tropical fruit. Toasted coconut added the finishing touch!

I made the pavlova as a tranche – a long rectangle. It’s great for serving a crowd. The quantities here would also make a two layer round pavlova, or a very large round one for a party.

Ingredients

Pavlova
8 egg whites
450g caster sugar
1 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons cornflour, sifted

Passionfruit/Lemon Curd
You need one whole quantity of the curd, plus most of second quantity. I suggest making the curd in 2 lots, as I think it’s a bit tricky to make a really big amount. These are the ingredients to make 1 quantity.

Juice of 2 lemons
Juice and seeds of 2 passionfruit
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 egg yolks, beaten lightly

1 small pineapple
2 mangoes
2 passionfruit
A handful of coconut shavings

600mls cream
½ teaspoon vanilla paste

Method

Pavlova
Preheat oven to 120 degrees C. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. You will need a tray large enough for a rectangle (roughly) 35cm x 20cms or 14in x 8in.

Place egg whites in the clean, dry bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high speed for 3-4 minutes to soft peaks.

Add caster sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each to be incorporated before adding the next, whisking until mixture is glossy. The meringue will be shiny and will hold stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. 

Reduce speed to low, then add vinegar and cornflour, beating for about 30 seconds to combine.

Spread ¾ of the mixture over the baking paper in a rectangle, smoothing the top. Place the remaining mixture in a large plastic piping bag and snip 1cm/½in off the end. Pipe the meringue onto the rectangle, in little blobs along all the sides, to make a rim.

Bake for about 1½ hours or until the meringue can be lifted easily off the paper without sticking. Turn off the oven, and leave in the oven for several hours, or even overnight, until the meringue is cold.

Passionfruit/Lemon Curd
Place all the ingredients except the passionfruit seeds in a double boiler or bain marie. Cook over a medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat, and stir through the passionfruit seeds, and set aside to cool. When cool, refrigerate until ready to use.

Cut the pineapple and mangoes into small chunks. You can, if you like, cook the pineapple in a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar and a couple of tablespoons of dark rum in a frying pan, until the pineapple is slightly softened. I think the pineapple is fine, though, without cooking.

You will need to lightly dry roast the coconut shavings in a hot frying pan for a few minutes until the coconut has some colour.

Whip the cream to soft peaks, with the vanilla paste.

To assemble, place the pavlova tranche on a large serving plate or board. Spoon the cream onto the pavlova, then top with the passionfruit/lemon curd. Place the fruit pieces on top of the curd, scattering the seeds of the other passionfruit. Finally scatter the toasted coconut over the pavlova.

The pavlova should be left for a couple of hours before serving. I think a pavlova is nicest the next day, when the flavours have had a chance to mature. A little bit messy, a little bit gooey, but definitely yummy!

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Cinnamon Puffins (Buns)

So these delicious pastries are actually cinnamon buns, a recipe straight from the wonderful Claire Ptak from her book The Violet Bakery Cookbook. I have renamed them “puffins” as they are pastry cooked in muffin molds, just like cruffins are croissant dough baked in muffin molds. Not sure that it will take off, but I like the name!

I am really enjoying reading Claire’s book, as the recipes are really tempting but not overly complicated. It’s their simplicity which makes them so elegant and visually pleasing.

Here is the recipe from the Violet Bakery Cookbook with a couple of tweaks from me. These “puffins” work for me as the pastry doesn’t involve yeast, so is quick to make. They’re not difficult to make, with the hardest part cutting the dough into equal sized segments and depositing into the muffin molds. But even this step is not too tricky, as the puffins are pretty forgiving and will take the shape of the muffin cavities on baking.

Ingredients

For the filling
75g unsalted butter
250g brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

For the buns
560g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp ground cardamom
240g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
300g cold milk
Caster sugar, for dipping
Butter, for greasing the muffin tray

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Grease a 12-cup muffin mold. I used a silicone muffin mold, as muffins come out really easily with nice clean sides, but any muffin tray will be fine.

To prepare the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan or melt very carefully in the microwave. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon until no lumps remain, then set aside.

To make the dough, combine all the dry ingredients with the cubes of butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until you have a coarse meal. Slowly pour in the cold milk while the mixer is running, until the dough forms a ball and comes away from the bowl.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and leave to rest for a few minutes. Gently fold the dough over itself once or twice to pull it all together. Let it rest a second time, for 10 minutes.

Dust a benchtop or large surface lightly with flour, and roll out the dough into a large rectangle about 5mm thick. Brush the dough with melted butter, and before the butter hardens, sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar, in a thick layer.

Roll up the dough, starting at a long side, keeping it neat and tight. In order to get a taut roll, gently tug the dough towards you while rolling away from you into a spiral. Gently squeeze the finished roll to ensure the roll is the same thickness throughout. Use a sharp knife to cut it crossways into 12 even slices. Take a slice, peel back about 5cm of the loose end of the pastry and fold it in back under the roll to loosely cover the bottom.

Place in the muffin cavities, flap-side down. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Bake the puffin/buns for 25 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and immediately flip them on to a wire cooling rack, to stop them sticking to the cavities.

Dip each puffin/bun into caster sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature. They are delish!

 

Passionfruit and Lemon Ricotta Cake

This cake is pretty easy to make, looks good and keeps really well. It’s quite dense because of the ricotta, and this helps with its keeping properties. It has both self raising flour and baking powder to help with the rise as it’s heavy.

You don’t need huge slices of this cake, either, as it’s very satisfying. Great for an afternoon tea!

Oh, and it freezes beautifully, which is good to know as you can freeze left over cake to enjoy later – much better then eating it all at the one time!

Ingredients

Cake

140g softened butter 

140g caster sugar

2 free-range eggs

200g full fat ricotta

Juice of 1 medium lemon

140g self-raising flour

1 level tsp baking powder

Buttercream Icing

400g icing sugar

200g unsalted butter

2 passionfruit

75g white chocolate (optional)

Method 

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan forced. Grease and line with baking paper a medium sized cake tin – 18cm or 20cm works well. 

Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor. You can use a stand mixer if you like – but I find the food processor does the job just fine! Add the eggs and process well, then add the ricotta and the lemon juice. Add the flour and the baking powder and pulse a few times to just incorporate the flour. Don’t worry if the cakes looks curdled either after adding the eggs or adding the ricotta – it will come together after you mix in the flour. 

Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and bake for 30 – 40minutes, or until golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Leave the cake in the tin until quite cool, then turn the cake out and remove the baking paper.

For the buttercream icing, I do use my KitchenAid mixer, as I think it helps to get a really light buttercream. But I have made buttercream quite successfully in the food processor too. 

Beat the butter and icing sugar in a stand mixer until light and creamy. Add the passionfruit, seeds and all. I melted white chocolate and added this to the buttercream to give the buttercream extra stability for piping, but you can easily not include the white chocolate.

You can ice the cake however you like. First of all I covered the whole cake in a load of buttercream. I went for the “naked” look on the sides by scraping back the icing with a palette knife to achieve the exposed effect. Then I decided to practise my piping skills by piping rosettes all over the cake. I liked the effect of the passionfruit seeds in each rosette. But a simply iced cake with buttercream is always a thing of beauty! And tastes just as good as cake with more fancy icing!

Blueberry Oat Cakes

These oat cakes are a cross between cakes, biscuits and scones. They are quite dense, with ground rolled oats and blueberries.

I developed the recipe because I am currently reading “The Violet Bakery Cookbook” by the wonderful Claire Ptak. As well as being a great baker in London, she made the famous wedding cake for Harry and Meghan in 2018. She has several rather rustic scones recipes, often with wholemeal or spelt flour, often featuring fruit, in her book. She is so imaginative in her recipes and I love her presentation too!

The mixture is very crumbly and will be difficult to bring together into a dough, particularly with the frozen blueberries. But don’t worry, just pat the mixture into shape and by resting it, you can cut the rounds from the mixture.

Here’s my recipe. This makes 12 smallish oat cakes. You could double the quantities for larger, more substantial oat cakes.

Ingredients
100g rolled oats
150g plain flour
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
50g raw sugar or brown sugar
Zest of half an orange
125g cold unsalted butter cut into 1 cm chunks
150g creme fraiche
125g frozen blueberries

Method
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Blitz the rolled oats in a food processor until finely ground. Mix all the dry ingredients plus the orange zest in a bowl or in a food processor. Cut in the cold butter by hand until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs, or you can continue to use a food processor on pulse, but be careful not to overwork the dough.

Quickly stir in the creme fraiche until just mixed in. Stir in the frozen blueberries.

Turn the mixture out onto a floured board, and pat into a square about 3 or 4cms thick. Rest for 5 minutes at least, even 10 minutes.

Using a 6cm cutter, cut out rounds and place onto the baking sheet. You will probably get 8 or 9 from the dough, then you will need to gather up the remains of the dough and pat together (don’t re-roll) before cutting out the last few rounds.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the rounds are brown on top. You could check after 20 minutes to see how they are coming along. Take out of the oven and wait until the oat cakes are cool before serving.

Serve on their own – they are sweet enough – or with homemade berry jam and Greek yoghurt.

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.

 

 

Christmas Pudding Cake

I made this cake/pudding last Christmas, a fabulous Nigella recipe, for one of those celebration meals sometime after the big day and before New Year. I’m posting again for anyone who is looking for a relatively simple cake to make for Christmas or Boxing Day. There’s no baking required, more an assembly of different luscious elements.

It’s a kind of “tiramisu meets trifle”! Layers of liqueur soaked panettone are interspersed with a mascarpone/ cream/egg/sugar/liqueur mixture with glacé fruit, chocolate and pistachios added.

I made a couple of alterations to the original recipe. I soaked the panettone in Cointreau as the specified Tuaca liqueur is hard to obtain.  As I was unable to source marrons glacés (candied chestnuts), I used glacé ginger instead.

The other recipe alteration was entirely accidental – the recipe asks for Marsala to flavour the mascarpone mixture. I inadvertently grabbed a bottle of coffee liqueur and used this instead. A happy accident as it turned out as the cake now had a real tiramisu flavour!

The link to Nigella’s recipe is here for the original version.

A couple of points. I think finely chopped chocolate is preferable to chocolate chips as these are a little too crunchy in the cake. The other thing to take note of, is not to overbeat the mixture when you add the mascarpone as mascarpone can easily curdle as I found out to my cost!

Here is the recipe as I made it.

Ingredients

625 grams panettone (approximately)
6 tablespoons Cointreau or other orange liqueur
2 large free-range eggs at room temperature
75 gms caster sugar
500 gms mascarpone cheese
250 mls cream
125 mls coffee liqueur
75 gms glacé ginger
125 gms chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate
100 gms pistachios chopped
Pomegranate seeds from half a pomegranate

Method

Using a serrated knife, cut the panettone roughly into 1cm slices, then use about a third of these to line the bottom of a 22cm springform cake tin. Tear off pieces to fit so that there are no gaps.

Drizzle 2 tablespoons of  the orange liqueur over the panettone.

Whisk the eggs and sugar until very frothy and increased in volume and lightness.

Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and double cream, then gradually whisk in the coffee liqueur and whisk until the mixture is thick and spreadable. If you stop every so often you can gauge how thick the mixture is and whether you are in danger of overbeating.

Remove 250ml or a cup of the mixture to a bowl, cover and put in the fridge, for the top layer of the cake.

Chop the glacé ginger into small pieces and then add to the rest of the mascarpone cream mixture.  Then add 100gms of the chocolate chips and 75gms of the chopped pistachios, and fold both into the mixture.

Spoon half of the mixture on top of the panettone layer in the cake tin. Put another third of the panettone slices over the cream filling, again making sure there are no gaps. Sprinkle with another 2 tablespoons of liqueur.

Spoon the other half of the cream mixture onto to the panettone. Top with the final layer of panettone, leaving no gaps and sprinkle over the last 2 tablespoons of liqueur.

Cover the cake tightly with clingfilm, pressing down on the top a little, and put in the fridge for at least overnight.

To serve, take the cake out of the fridge, unmould it and sit it on a flat plate or cake stand, then spread with the reserved mascarpone mixture. Definitely don’t try to lift the cake off the base, as the cake is too soft and moist to remove.

Scatter the top of the cake with the remaining chocolate chips and chopped pistachios and the pomegranate seeds. The cake will look a little rustic around the sides but this is part of its charm!

Blueberry and Raspberry Mini Cakes

I’m still working on mini cake recipes, little cakes which are full of flavour and fruit, not too big, not too small. Ottolenghi has lots of recipes in his fabulous book Sweet, for little cakes he calls tea cakes, perfect served with a cup of tea! These have inspired me to keep on developing my mini cake recipes.

One of the issues I have experienced with my little cakes is the problem of cakes sticking and coming out in pieces.  I have lots of fancy molds, and I am slowly working out which molds are the best for turning out perfect cakes and also, the best way to prepare the molds beforehand.

So, I have come to the conclusion that mini bundt molds are tricky to turn out, so I am avoiding them for the moment. I also picked up some advice somewhere, I think from Ottolenghi, or maybe from Nigella, that buttering the molds and flouring them, freezing for half an hour then buttering again, gives you a pretty good chance of the cakes coming out whole.

Here are two recipes, both based on the same basic cake mixture, one for blueberry, lemon and almond cakes, and one for raspberry and almond cakes.

Blueberry, Lemon and Almond Cakes

Ingredients

65g self-raising flour

60 ground almonds

125g caster sugar

125g butter

2 large free-range eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tblsp milk

125g fresh blueberries

Lemon Icing

2 tbsp lemon juice

Enough sifted icing sugar to make a thick but spreadable icing

3 blueberries for little cake for decorating

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Butter, flour, freeze and butter again your chosen molds. I used popover molds, but muffin molds would be fine. You will get 6 cakes from the popover molds, probably 8 from the muffin molds.

Put all the ingredients except the milk  and the blueberries in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Add the milk while pulsing the food processor to get a mixture that is not to stiff and of dropping consistency.

Carefully fold the blueberries into the mixture with a spoon.

Spoon the mixture into the molds, making sure you don’t fill more than  3/4 of the mold.

Place the molds in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cakes are cooked and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Once the cakes have cooled for about 15 minutes, carefully up end the molds and ease the cakes out of the molds.  Cool on a wire rack.

For the icing, mix the lemon juice with enough icing sugar to make an icing that will drip over the cakes. Ice the little cakes, adding 3 blueberries on the top of each cake for decoration.

Raspberry and Almond Cakes

Ingredients

65g self-raising flour

60 ground almonds

125g caster sugar

125g butter

2 large free-range eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tblsp milk

3 raspberries for each cake mold

Lemon Icing

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 or 3 pureed raspberries

Enough sifted icing sugar to make a thick but spreadable icing

1 raspberry for little cake for decorating

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Butter, flour, freeze and butter again your chosen molds as for blueberry cakes.

Put all the ingredients except the milk  and the raspberries in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Add the milk while pulsing the food processor to get a mixture that is not to stiff and of dropping consistency.

Spoon the mixture into the molds, making sure you don’t fill more than  3/4 of the mold. Carefully pop 3 raspberries into each cake mold.

Place the molds in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cakes are cooked and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Once the cakes have cooled for about 15 minutes, carefully up end the molds and ease the cakes out of the molds.  Cool on a wire rack.

For the icing, mix the lemon juice and pureed raspberries with enough icing sugar to make an icing that will drip over the cakes. Ice the little cakes, adding 1 raspberry on the top of each cake for decoration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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