On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place


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I love blueberries!

Oooh la la

Oooh la la

It’s no secret that I love blueberries. Sadly they’re expensive to buy and I moan about the price. The first time I saw them for sale this spring they were $15.99 for a 125gm punnet. I couldn’t believe my eyes. But who spends that much? I suspected the blueberries would slowly rot on the shelves while others shunned them for the price.

While we’ve been holidaying on the Sunshine Coast I bought blueberries. The first fresh berries for this summer. They were going for A$5 at the time. I hadn’t even noticed that one of the growers was in fact a New Zealand grower, and it happened to be the punnet I’d scrutinised (for freshness/damage) and bought. So at the time NZ blueberries that had made their way to Australia were on the market for less than you pay for them in NZ.

Preparing the fruit and mascarpone filling

Preparing the fruit and mascarpone filling

When we got back Mr Fussy pointed out that you could buy two punnets for $4.  The limit was 6 punnets. I wasted no time, 6 made it to the trolley (the same price remains this week at Countdown, but I’ve been told they’re $1.85 a punnet at Pak ‘n Save).

I used one of the new tart rings I bought while in Paris. I was suitably happy with the outcome.

I used one of the new tart rings I bought while in Paris. I was suitably happy with the outcome.

Not wanting to waste precious fruit I searched out a new recipe that would be worthy. There’s nothing wrong with the previous Lemon Blueberry Tart I made, in fact I really wanted to make it again I enjoyed it so much, but I went for something new, hoping it would live up to enjoyment I remembered eating the other tart.

On goes the mascarpone filling and we're destined for the oven.

On goes the mascarpone filling and we’re destined for the oven.

I made this recipe. And of course I made some small changes, as I do.

I used my favourite Pastry. According to my handwriting, this pastry has been tucked away in the freezer since April 2014. I can confirm it baked up just as good as it always does, it was light and crips.

Left over mascarpone filling went into little ramekin pots.

Left over mascarpone filling went into little ramekin pots.

The changes I made:

  • Added the zest of a lemon to the prepared blueberry filling
  • Used 150gm Mascarpone cheese
  • Added to the cheese filling the juice of one half lemon
An escapee blueberry. I'll have it!

An escapee blueberry. I’ll have it!

All in all the tart was pleasant. Just enough Lemon to know it was there, but not as punchy as I like. I was mindful that adding too much juice may cause the mascarpone filling to become too thin and therefore may not bake up the same. But it did fall short of what I remembered of the Lemon Blueberry Tart. So this week when we buy more blueberries, I might just whip up that recipe.

And enough left over for dessert Monday night.

And enough left over for dessert Monday night.


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Room for dessert?

Hello hello. I’m back from Auckland and thinking about what I have to pack tomorrow for my week-long trip to Sydney. Phew. Talk about a quick turn around at home.

Despite that I still found time today to make dessert. A dessert that involved white chocolate AND caramel. Two of my weaknesses.

White Chocolate Caramel Mousse Tart anyone?

White Chocolate Caramel Mousse Tart anyone?

During the week I’d made the Salted Caramel Sauce primarily for our Australian Practice Manager. I’d met Donna a few weeks ago when I was working out of the Melbourne office. This time it was her turn to visit us. Donna had mentioned her plans to make an apple pie this coming week and I immediately followed that up by saying it needed to be served with salted caramel sauce (and send her this link as suggestion for Apple Pie. The caramel sauce recipe is in there too). Making a dry caramel isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and my first two times were a flop. So I decided to make the caramel sauce making the full recipe and keeping half for us. Well Mr Fussy was keen that we have some too, so a full recipe it was.

Donna has two smaller jars of salted caramel sauce tucked under her arm, and we put our lot to use in a White Chocolate Caramel Mousse individual tarts. That’s a long title.

I had 3 individual tart cases left over from when I made another carmel tart recipe. The pasty is my favourite and the recipe is here. The caramel sauce is the one I always use, but I change the method somewhat.

Ready to make something wonderful happen

Ready to make something wonderful happen

Heat the cream so it’s just warm. Add the cream in 3 batches whisking between additions and making sure any clumps have re-melted. Return the caramel/cream mix to the heat and add in the butter and sea salt.  And Bob’s your uncle. In actual fact I whisk the castor sugar while it’s clumping and melting and yes I get some splashed up the side of the pot. But it all seems to melt back in once the cream is added. The cream makes the mix bubble up and at this point it seems to collect the little bits of melted sugar. At least for me it makes caramel a less fussy task and it doesn’t seem to make an ounce of difference to the caramel.

So the tart cases and the caramel had been pre-prepared. I just had to make the white chocolate mousse. I used this recipe again. It’s the same I used when making this year’s Valentine’s Dessert.

Glorious!

Glorious!

I added 3 egg yolks instead of the 2 in the recipe. I added an extra only because our eggs are smaller in New Zealand than in America. Three is a little more than 2 in America, but I don’t mind extra richness. To the white chocolate mousse (yet to have the whipped cream added) I spooned two very generous dessert spoons of caramel sauce. Once this had been mixed through, and loosened the white chocolate mix, I then added the whipped cream in two batches.

A slathering of Whittaker's 70% dark chocolate

A slathering of Whittaker’s 70% dark chocolate. Which made it impossible to cut into and necessary to pick up and eat by hand.

Then to up the ante, I added a layer of dark chocolate to the base of the tart cases before spooning in the mousse. It didn’t take much to fill up the 3 cases, especially when I had a generous layer of chocolate. I ended up filling 4, almost 5 ramekins with White Chocolate Caramel Mousse. Two of those went to Dad and Ruth (it was Dad’s birthday yesterday. No time to make anything for a nice afternoon tea this year), two for Mr Fussy and my MIL during my absence, and Natalie has the “almost” enough to call it dessert. I don’t think she has any plans to share the salted caramel sauce. I think that’s being snuck home without the inhabitants being any the wiser.

Mr Fussy's little tart. And proof cutting into the tart was an impossible task (notice the cut mark?)

Mr Fussy’s little tart. And proof cutting into the tart was an impossible task (notice the cut mark?)

There was a bit of chocolate left over so I put that into a piping bag while it was still melted. Then I warmed it back up tonight to flick around the plate (along with a little more caramel sauce). Then decided I’d be creative, or silly, depending on how you look at it, and pipe little messages on the plates.

Love the collection of colours and aromas from these spices and ingredients.

Love the collection of colours and aromas from these spices and ingredients.

Before dessert came a Moroccan casserole. Thanks for Alison providing me the recipe many months ago. I think this was the 3rd time I’ve made this. Each time it’s with beef. Tonight I decided to use white pepper, which is what the recipe calls for, but I’ve never had it, instead using cracked pepper. Boy oh boy. What a massive difference that one change in ingredients made. I liked it, but it sure added more heat to the meal.

Unlike usual, this time I served it with mashed spud. Mr Fussy often makes mashed spud but it tends to have a few lumps here and there (sometimes more than a few). I’d read a trick recently about how to make sure the mash is creamy. A quick Google and I found what I had remembered. The milk needed to be warmed up. I incorporated a few changes. I drained the potato and left the pot on the element so that the could dry out and the steam could escape. While that was happening I warmed up the milk and then added the butter to it. The warmth from the milk melted the butter. I used the stick whiz thingee with the mash attachment and mashed the potato as is and then began adding in the milk/butter mixture. The milk/butter mixture was added in 3 batches. Then the taste test and a bit more salt and cracked pepper was added. And we had the perfect creamy mash, just like that.

Ok, that’s the end of my little tid bits. And here’s hoping that all future mashed spud in this household will be just as creamy.

There’s enough spud and casserole left over that Mr Fussy and my MIL have a meal ready to go. In the meantime I’ll be making doing in an apartment and counting down until I return home. It’s another little milestone. Once I’m home it’ll be one more day of work and holiday time for 6 weeks. Excited much?!

First up is brunch at The Old Vicarage tomorrow morning. I wanted to do something nice with Mr Fussy before heading way and leaving him to manage everything at home alone. I’ll miss him.

The chocolate and white chocolate caramel mousse was just the right balance to make sure the mousse wasn't too sweet.

The hidden chocolate layer with the white chocolate caramel mousse was just the right balance.


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Valentine’s Day dessert – early

Chocolate Hearts

Chocolate Transfer sheets used to fancy up the decorations

I’ll be travelling from Hamilton on Valentine’s Day. We’re going out for dinner on Saturday, but I wanted to make something nice for Mr Fussy.

Mr Fussy and his “resolution” didn’t want cake. I found a compromise. There’s cake, but it’s not covered in fondant and dressed up prim and proper. Instead this is a dessert, which has cake, and is similar to the Devils Dream Cake, Mr Fussy’s dessert of choice from Strawberry Fare (where we’re dining on Saturday).

This is my Valentine’s Day special dessert, made and served yesterday for some of my favourite people, Mum, Yvonne and my MIL, and of course, my wonderful husband, the love of my life.

For my Valentine

Layered dessert, all but the chocolate sauce.

For a few weeks now I’ve wanted to make a really really chocolate cake. And when we’d decided on a dessert rather than a cake I went to Rosie’s blog, Sweetapolita, to re-read a few of her recipes where she’d made cake for her and her husband. What I decided on was the cake from this recipe and then I went searching for recipes for a dark and white chocolate mousse.

I grabbed the dark chocolate mousse from another of my favourite blogs, David Lebovitz and picked at random another blog for the white chocolate mousse. I really didn’t want to add gelatine to the mousse, but I wanted something a bit more robust than the thickening from whipped cream. This recipe used both egg yolks (to give a more custard type consistency) and cream, but it was the only recipe I found that didn’t use gelatine.

Dark Choc Mousse

Folding the whipped up egg yolks and sugar into the melted and cooled chocolate.

I made the cake on Friday and measured the different round cookie cutters to the inside of the food rings. I had 3 good rings and wanted to get 3 more. I only managed to buy one more food ring. Sadly the kitchen warehouse place I shop had run out. My two sets of round cookie cutters are like a half size between them. I’ve used the cutter before for the Black Forest Dessert I made and it was fine, but the cake seemed to have shrunk a bit after I cut the rings out. I only realised this after having measured out the acetate and cellotaping them to size of the inside of the food rings. When I put the first round of cake into the bottom the acetate was too wide so I had to resize them all. I also had to shimmy them up the cake base so that I could get a little more height for all the mousse.

I made both the dark chocolate and white chocolate mousse Saturday morning and set them into the fridge while I fluffed about with preparing the food rings.

I wanted to make 6 desserts with 3 layers of cake with mousse between the layers, and a thin spread of raspberry puree between the middle layer of cake.

Raspberry Layer

Raspberry puree beneath and above the middle cake layer.

I baked the cake in a 9 x 13” cake pan and only managed 15 cake layers. Eeek, I need 18. I took some of the bigger scraps so I could piece together a middle layer for what would be my dessert and thought I would cut a few layers in half. What I found as I was layering the dessert was the cake layer was too thick. The cake baked 2.5cm which I was thrilled about. In the end I used the 2.5cm thickness for the base, then cut circles of cake through the middle for the middle and top layer of the dessert. I had plenty of cake left.

Thankfully I had left over cake (but no left over raspberry puree) because one of those desserts toppled over. I guess I shimmied the acetate sleeve a little too high and the weight of the mousse and cake caused the dessert to lean and then it was all over. I quickly noticed two others going the same way. There was a shriek and yell for more hands. Mr Fussy came to my rescue and we used the 4 food rings I had to guard some of the desserts that threatened to lean.

White Chocolate Mousse

Rich white chocolate mousse.

We ate that toppled dessert after lunch, it was very rich.

I bumped up the coolness in the spare fridge and left those desserts to firm up over the next 6 hours.

Mr Fussy cooked a lovely leg of lamb on the rotisserie BBQ, add some new spuds, spring (?) carrots and a fresh green salad and we had a really lovely dinner.

Food rings

Layered and ready for the fridge after a protective layer of Gladwrap.

Mr Fussy doesn’t know how I managed to eat my dessert minus the raspberry since he thought it would be too rich without the tartness of the raspberry puree. Yvonne even mentioned how it was a good balance with the chocolate.

The last touch I added to the dessert were the chocolate transfer hearts. I made them on Friday. It was my first time using chocolate transfer sheets and it was a bit of a learning experience. The white chocolate took forever to set enough that I could press out the hearts using my small heart cookie cutter. And when I thought it was set and went to nudge a heart out of the way, it melted. My hands aren’t that hot, but the few minutes sitting on the bench and it was enough to distort it.

Chocolate Transfer Sheets

Easy to use. Compound “chocolate” would be best for white, or be prepared to wait a loooong time for it to set up.

The dark chocolate was fine, it set up nicely and it cut nicely. And on that basis I decided to use the dark chocolate as the “glue” to hold two hearts together on a tiny straw.

I also made the chocolate sauce Rosie used in her Double Chocolate Cake recipe. It’s the first time I’ve made a chocolate sauce that didn’t include water or cream. My recommendation is to take it off the heat (sitting over a pot of simmering water) several minutes before serving, when it’s too hot the sauce is thin. I wondered if I’d need to double the recipe, expecting to completely drown the dessert, but I was the only one that was heavy-handed with the sauce and there’s plenty of sauce left. As there is of each mousse. For this dessert you would get away with halving each mousse recipe.

Add sauce

Smothered in chocolate. Now we’re talking.

We have enough that I’ve made 6 more desserts. I’m going to need to diet after all this chocolate overload.

2014-02-09 14.00.25

More chocolate mousse desserts. Mixing it up with dark then white, and white then dark mousse. Using up all the left over shards of chocolate. Nothing is wasted.

I just want to add a note about the dark chocolate mousse, the rum flavour is very prominent. I would have liked to swap rum for Cointreau but that wouldn’t go with the raspberry puree. I think you can probably omit any alcohol. I also used Bushells Coffee & Chicory essence instead of brewed coffee. I don’t drink coffee (or tea) so I have no idea on what a rich or dark coffee is. I find using the coffee & chicory to be easier to get a handle on.

Like the Double Chocolate cake that called for ¼ cup, so did the mousse. For both recipes that was 40ml of the coffee & chicory essence with the balance made of water. Mr Fussy said the coffee was what he found more obvious than the rum.

Also with the cake, I didn’t have enough dark muscovado sugar, I had 130gm and made the balance up with brown sugar.

Those are the only changes I made and I have to say that cake is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted. I love the little chocolate chips through the batter. I can’t wait to make it again!

Yvonne & Mum

Blurry photo aside, great company and a rich dessert with Mr Fussy’s Moa Pale Ale front and centre.


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Individual Cheesecakes – 4 variations

Almost immediately after Christmas I got stuck into trialling different recipes and flavour variations for cheesecake.

Randall and Kade thought it would be nice for my sisters and I to help in this way toward their wedding. First we had to decide what to make as part of the dessert table. After a few suggestions we agreed on cheesecake and Randall and Kade were all for it.

Kade had wanted something fruity and fresh, there would be the infamous Denheath Custard Squares and their wedding cake (they wanted to make sure it was eaten), which was a chocolate cake, I suggested a few flavours:

  • Lemon (or Lime)
  • Caramel
  • Passionfruit
  • Raspberry

I have a great recipe for Lemon cheesecake, it was given to me by an ex-work colleague and I tinkered with it a bit. Cheesecake is not something  I make often, under normal circumstances. Mr Fussy doesn’t like cheesecake, but apparently this recipe he’s all for. The base is made with crushed up Gingernut biscuits. I knew this recipe would work. Just don’t use vanilla bean paste in the sour cream topping, it makes it look like you’ve got dirt in it!

Original Lemon cheesecake

Vanilla bean paste in the topping doesn’t make it look all that appealing, even though it tastes fab.

Next up was caramel. I started out with one recipe but felt it was quite bland and after the cheesecake was cold the caramel flavour seemed to have disappeared. I decided to forgo that recipe and not waste good caramel sauce as an ingredient.

raspberry - the works

Could we finally be onto a winner? Trial number 4.

The raspberry version has been tweaked several time (4 to be exact). First the base in the original recipe wasn’t to anyone’s liking. Then we had the dilemma of what if we couldn’t source fresh raspberries in February. I tweaked the recipe several times trying to get a raspberry flavour without the raspberries. It was proving to be quite difficult. The best I could do was to add some Lorann Raspberry Emulsion to the cheesecake mixture. Up until this point I’d incorporated some raspberry puree in the mixture but that didn’t do much, I tried adding some to the top and swirling it in, but again it wasn’t strong enough to be detectable. So the raspberry emulsion was what we agreed to, with the use of Macadamia and White Chocolate biscuits as the base. As luck would have it I managed to get 3 punnets of fresh raspberries from Raeward Fresh Thursday night. We were in luck! Not that I had one on the night, but it had fresh raspberries on the base, the raspberry emulsion and the puree dotted on the top which I used a toothpick through to get a heart shape.

Early caramel trial

The salted caramel sauce finally made the caramel cheesecake taste like caramel.

Lastly it was the passionfruit, this one didn’t really require any tweaking from the original trial. In the trial I took some of the mixture and used the passionfruit freeze dried powder to then spoon on a layer to the top. Mum said initially she couldn’t tell what flavour it was, but then it all came together. The only change I made was to use the powder in all the mixture, not just as a topping to the cheesecake.

We served the caramel with a dollop of salted caramel sauce and the passionfruit had a splash of passionfruit pulp.

I had a taste of the caramel and passionfruit on the night, but I scored (two) lemon cheesecake for myself and Mr Fussy. Hopefully others enjoyed the selection too.

Original raspberry cheesecake

First variation with fresh raspberries in the mix and served with berries lightly dusted with icing sugar. We just didn’t want so much fuss on the night.

Funnily enough I’ve just browsed the Denheath website and looked at the cheesecakes they offer. We had the same sort of flavours. We must be thinking on the same lines, or just know what seems to appeal to the masses when it comes to flavour combinations.

The lemon cheesecake is one that I’ve had on my mind to share on the blog for some months now.

The recipes below will make 20 individual cheesecakes in a standard cupcake liner.

2014-01-02 14.35.33-1

Gingernut, chocolate wheaten and the shortbread base none of us liked

All recipes have a baked base using various crushed biscuit combinations.

Gingernut base:

  • 200gm Griffins Gingernut biscuits
  • 50gm melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoon white sugar

Chocolate Wheaten base:

  • 200gm Griffins Chocolate Wheaten biscuits
  • 50gm melted butter

White Chocolate and Macadamia base:

  • 200gm Select brand White Chocolate & Macadamia biscuits
  • 50gm melted butter

Heat the oven to 180degrees Celsius

Crush the biscuits in a food processor, or bash the living daylights out of the biscuits using a rolling pin.

Mix the melted butter (and sugar if you’re using gingernuts) with the crushed biscuits until all the biscuits have been moistened by the butter.

Line a muffin tin with cupcake cases.

Take 1 tablespoon of base per cupcake liner

Gently tap the mound of crushed biscuits to help them spread to the edge of the cupcake liner. Use the lid of a milk bottle or a tart press or a coffee tamper to flatten the biscuits into a uniformed disc.

Bake the bases for 5 minutes and then leave in the tin to cool while you make the cheesecake mixture.

Lemon Gingernut Cheesecake

(20 cupcakes is 2/3 of this recipe, or use this full recipe in a 10” springform round tin)

Ingredients:

Base –

  • 1 packet of Griffins Gingernuts
  • 75gm butter – cooled
  • ¼ cup sugar

Cheesecake –

  • 750gm cream cheese (3 packets) – room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs (size 8)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon

Topping –

  • 1 cup Sour cream (250gm tub) – room temperature
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • zest of 1 lemon

Instructions:

Base –

  • Heat the oven to 180deg C.
  • Melt the butter and allow it to cool.
  • Crush gingernuts.
  • In a bowl mix together gingernuts, butter and sugar.
  • Line the base of a 10” loose bottom tin with tinfoil and spread the mixture into the base.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes until the base is lightly brown.

Cheesecake –

  • Turn down the oven to 140deg C.
  • Mix the sugar and zest together to get the lemon oils for added flavour.
  • In a medium bowl beat the cream cheese for about 30 seconds to loosen it.
  • Add the vanilla then gradually beat in the sugar (3 additions) scraping the bowl as needed. During the last addition of sugar mix in the lemon juice.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time scraping the bowl after each addition.
  • Pour/spread the cheesecake mixture on the cooled base and bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until the centre is just jiggly when the tin is tapped.
  • Cool for an hour before adding the topping.

Topping –

  • Combine the sugar and lemon zest together.
  • Mix the sugar with the sour cream, vanilla and salt.
  • Pour the topping over the cooled cheesecake and leave the cheesecake in the pan, on a rack, to cool completely before unmoulding onto a plate.
  • Cover and refrigerate the cheesecake for a minimum 3 hours, preferably overnight.
Creamy velvety cheesecake

Beautiful and creamy. The perfect amount of zing from the lemon juice and zest.

Basic Cheesecake recipe

(makes 20 individual cheesecakes)

Ingredients

  • 500gm Cream cheese – room temperature
  • 130gm Sour cream – room temperature
  • 135gm castor sugar (see notes on variation for Caramel)
  • 1 scant teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs – size 7, room temperature
  • Zest of 1 lemon – optional

Method

  • Heat the oven to 140deg Celsius.
  • Cut the cream cheese blocks into cubes.
  • Place the cream cheese into a bowl and using an electric hand mixer beat the cream cheese so that it’s softened.
  • Add the sour cream and beat to incorporate it.
  • Add the castor sugar, or brown sugar for a caramel flavour, and vanilla extract, and zest if using, and beat until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.  ** Add the passionfruit powder **
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beat only until incorporated – do not over mix.
  • Spoon mixture into the prepared (with bases) cupcake cases. The mixture should fill the cupcake papers leaving a gap about 5-7mm from the top.
  • Gently jiggle the cake pan to help smooth the cheesecake, then give a couple of gentle taps to help release any air bubbles.
  • Place the tin into the centre of the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. The cheesecakes are baked when the middle still jiggles when you lightly tap the side of the tin.
  • Remove the tin from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature before removing the cheesecakes. The cheesecakes will firm up while cooling.
  • Refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.

Variations:

  • Passionfruit – add freeze dried passionfruit powder – begin with 2 tablespoons and taste. Add more depending on taste.
  • Caramel, replace the castor sugar for 110gm brown sugar  * Make sure there’s no lumps in the brown sugar, squash them with the back of a spoon before adding to the mixture
puree hearts

Third attempt. Using freeze dried raspberries in half the batch. First attempt at the raspberry puree “hearts”.

I used the same basic cheesecake mixture for the raspberry variation, with the zest of 1/2 lemon and the addition of 3 teaspoons of Lorann raspberry emulsion, and as I mentioned I put some fresh raspberries on the base and piped small dots of raspberry puree on the top more for decorative purposes since the flavour seems to lessen during baking.

I was a bit over raspberry, so when it came to the 3rd attempt to perfect the raspberry variation I decided to mix things up and make some lime and roast strawberries and add a drop or two of balsamic vinegar. They weren’t to be serious contenders, just to add a bit of spice to life (give me a break from raspberry – a berry I don’t like).

2014-01-04 14.22.46

Lime and roasted strawberry with balsamic vinegar for fun.

Thanks Natalie and her family for being good sports and taking lots and lots of cheesecakes off me, Mum too for being a taste tester, and Mr Fussy who is a fan of raspberries and a very honest judge of flavour, for steering things in the right direction. My MIL also obliged helping us eat the many cheesecakes that were served up and took a keen interest in what was developing.

I think I’ve had my fill of cheesecake for the year, however I’ve got lots of left over base ingredients. Thank goodness for that new fridge/freezer. I’ll make Mr Fussy the Lemon Cheesecake again, before June which is the best by date on the two packages of cream cheese I have left. Thank goodness cream cheese has a long shelf life.


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Lemon Meringue Cake

When my December 2013/January 2014 dish magazine arrived I had no time to flick through the pages. It was some weeks later that I browsed the recipes and came across the Lemon Meringue Cake. I was sold. This was going to be my suggestion for lunch, given we were having a more casual meal for Christmas Lunch.

Ready for chilling

The recipe itself was dead simple. You toss all the cake ingredients into the cake mixer at the same time, so obviously the better has to be soft, very soft, but not melted (it explains in the recipe).

I converted the recipe from an 8” cake to a 9” cake. There would be 13 of us for lunch and I thought the 8” cake wouldn’t go the distance.

Baking the cakeI cooked the cakes on fan forced with the temperature reduced because a fan oven is hotter. I had the cakes on two racks. While they looked to be baking beautifully, in the final 10 minutes they caved, one was worse than the other. I posted photos on my Facebook page but I didn’t take any photos using the dSLR camera.

I continued preparing food for Christmas day all the time being really uncomfortable with the cakes. I had to torte both of them to get a 4 layer cake, and I could see that I’d end up with donuts because the cakes sunk so much that if I torted them in half (based on the outside height) then the middle would be hollow.

Eventually I did what I wanted to do, I made another cake. This time on bake and in the middle of the oven. And you know what? It still dipped, but not as bad, but still enough that on the day once I’d cut a slice you could see the middle of the cake was caving in.

Lemon curd

Assembling the cake was easy. The lemon syrup was lovely and it soaks through nicely, but keep the cut side up as it soaks much quicker that way rather than with the bottom of the cake up (as I did for one layer).

I weighed the filling and then placed the cake onto the scales and scooped an equal third on each of the 3 layers. I like them to be even and the same thickness. Applying the meringue was simple. It was sort of like crumb coating a cake. With one HUGE difference. This time I had to deliberately make peaks and an uneven texture. I didn’t want smooth. And I think I might have spent a fair amount of time trying to get nice peaks all the way around and on top. Baking the meringue worked nicely on the top but the sides were a bit faint, or had no browning at all. My guess is the photo of the cake in dish was having used one of those torches, or they have a way better oven with even heating all around.

Assembling the cakeDid the cake taste good? Yes.

Was the cake easy to make? Yes.

And will I make it again? I’m not sure. If I do, I’ll change the method for making the cake batter. I think the “throw the lot in” was probably a way to speed things up and simplify the recipe, but I think it was also setting it up to fail/flop.

I’ve never had Ricotta cheese in a sweet thing before, only with the Lasagne roll ups, so I was a little apprehensive but it worked well, and I expected it would.

Ricotta Lemon Curd fillingThere ended up being loads of cake left over. Enough even on Boxing Day to have more left over. Though we were slicing the slice in half, that is having just 2 of the 4 layers per person. The cake was a monster!

The meringue was still looking quite good on Boxing Day, but it had begun to seep a little around the base.

MeringueI also think that I’d make an Italian Meringue. Given there’s very little baking of the meringue, and using raw egg whites, the Italian Meringue would be safest.

This is one cake that bugs me (the caving) so I suspect I’ll make it again just to see if I can resolve that problem. Some things I have trouble letting go of 🙂

If you like lemon, then definitely give this cake a crack, but you’ll have to buy the magazine (or ask nicely ontotheplate@gmail.com) to get the recipe.

I’ve just found a photo I took from my phone’s camera after we cut a few slices. This demonstrates the problem of having a softer filling when a layer of cake doesn’t have the same thickness all the way through (where the cake caved in those last minutes of baking and cooling).

2013-12-25 13.56.38


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Austrian Shortbread, not quite traditional Christmas shortbread

I was all set to make my Scottish Shortbread this morning until I read an email from Alison and found myself on Deb’s blog (Smitten Kitchen) and wound my way to the Austrian Shortbread.

Stacked shortbreadAll prior plans were put on hold and I was now gathering the ingredients for the Austrian Shortbread.

Deb’s photos made the shortbread dough looked really yellow but mine wasn’t quite so yellow, which I was thankful for.

I dumped all the dough out and then had to gather it together which it kept sort of crumbling a bit and took a little bit of kneading to get it to stick enough so I could plonk it on the scales to weigh and then divide equally. It was just over 700gm each piece. I made a fairly thick disk and then when I put the disk onto the gladwrap I squashed it flatter ready for freezing. The freezing time was anywhere from 2 hours to leave it in the freezer for days, or even months.

Shortbread doughWhen I got home this afternoon I got the Cusinart out ready to grate the frozen disks. Naturally I had to cut the disks so that the pieces would fit down the shoot of the food processor. It was properly frozen and I was quite concerned it was too solid for the food processor, given I was having a little difficulty getting a knife through it. Once I had the disk in half it was much easier to cut the rest up.

I began with the sandwich slice tin but quickly realised there was too much dough from the 1 disk for the size of the tin (8 x 12”) so I quickly grabbed the jelly roll tin (9 x 14”) and lined it with another piece of baking paper to cover the rest of the tin and tipped the rest of the grated dough out and evened it out.

Preparing the shortbreadWith the raspberry jam (we have Roses) I thinned it a little with a ½ lemon which was almost 2 tablespoons (I measured). It was still reasonably thick, it was taking a few seconds before it would fall from the spoon.  I used a piping bag and a number 10 Wilton nozzle. Next came the other half of the dough. At this point I was crossing my fingers that it didn’t spill over the sides. Despite having a slightly bigger pan I had plenty of dough and I reckon you could even go a bit larger.

The recipe says to bake for 50-60 minutes or until the middle is no longer wobbly, and the colour should be light brown. At 30 minutes I was starting to worry since the colour was already light brown. At 38 minutes I took the pan out. It was done. On went the icing sugar, it gives it a bit of a crisp top when you bit into it. The photo makes me think of falling snow. Not that it’s snowed here at all this year, and not that we get snow in summer 😉

Snow fallingI’ve got so much of this recipe I should have only made a half. I said to Mr Fussy that I’d get some to Natalie. They moved back to their home after being away 7 months while their house was being repaired, following the earthquakes. I suspect Natalie’s not even had time to think about baking. I’m pretty sure the girls (16 and 19 are hardly girls!) have all finished studies, but Cameron just returned home today so I’m sure a bit of baking would be welcome.

Crisp texture a little crumblyThe small changes I made to this recipe are:

  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of Lemon extract
  • Add juice of 1/2 lemon (scant 2 tablespoons) to the raspberry jam
  • Flour by weight is 650 gm

Later this evening as Mr Fussy was getting his lunch organised for work, he popped his head around the corner and said in a bit of a concerned voice “you’re not giving it all away are you”. He said he really quite liked it. But he loves raspberries so I’m not surprised he likes it.

Austrian ShortbreadThis is not like a shortbread that I’d call shortbread, it’s a little bit crumbly and light in texture, and despite the extra kick of lemon, I couldn’t detect it. Mr Fussy said it did look like what he saw when he travelled through Austria. So that’s something.


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Caramel Fudge Brownies “best by”

This weekend, well today, Saturday, has been about using ingredients that has a best by date that’s just passed.


Slice of caramel fudge brownie

A few weeks ago I came across this recipe for Caramel Fudge Brownies. I’m not even sure why I spotted it. But I posted it to my Facebook page and I wasn’t the only one ooh’ing and ahh’ing over the picture.

I couldn’t make it the coming weekend as I was out at Cake & Sugar Art learning how to make the Magnolia and double blossom sugar flowers. Then last weekend I had the Halloween Cake. But here we are. And using a packet of Jersey Caramels that had a date of 2 October 2013. Ahh, what’s a couple of weeks between friends? It’s just a best by, not an expiry date.

My plan had been to make these last night, yeah I know, what’s one more day. I’ve caught Mr Fussy’s “man flu”. A flu that’s confused about gender. Anyway I just couldn’t bring myself to bake anything. Not even when it contained caramel. Yes, the flu really had a grip on me. Although I had a shocking night (awake from 11:30pm – 2am – don’t worry, I put in an online order to a NZ Cake Decorating store, it wasn’t a complete waste) I woke feeling not too bad, my face didn’t hurt and my headache had subsided. I was very thankful because Mum and I were off to She Chocolat for a Chocoalte Tour. It was an education in the history of Chocolate, with a good number of tastings. I never would have thought I’d enjoy a pretzel dipped in a chocolate fondue. I don’t like pretzels.

Anyhoo, I got home this afternoon after a nice morning followed by lunch with Mum, then a quick (and expensive) stop at Mercato who were holding their annual sale, to get stuck into catching up on my baking agenda.

Brownie batter

The recipe says to put the brownie mixture into a Jelly Roll tin. Do you know what that is? It’s not a common term we use (unless my head is in the clouds) in New Zealand. I had to Google what the dimensions are. And what do you know? There’s a variety of different sizes. Yeah, not very helpful when the recipe doesn’t state the size of the pan. My pan, which I think might have been called a Jelly Roll tin at Stevens, is 24 x 36cm, give or take a few mm.

The ingredients filled the pan to the top which was a problem for adding a layer of gooey caramel and chocolate.

Once the brownie had baked I then cut the brownie into a size that fit into my expandable square tin (with higher sides) and a loaf pan. It also left me with about 7mm of Brownie the entire length of the Jelly Roll tin and enough at the end to slice 6 square of brownie which is now in the freezer waiting for another occasion to make an appearance and be dressed up with vanilla ice cream, chocolate fudge sauce and berries.

1310_Caramel and Chocolate layers-2-2

Now it was safe to add the caramel.

We don’t get Kraft Caramels here in New Zealand, but we can buy Jersey Caramels. This morning before heading out I melted them down in the microwave. I had full power for 30 seconds and then mixed, not that there was much melting going on. Then a further 20 seconds and they were nicely melted and with a bit of mixing because one organised lump. When I got home they had hardened into the lump. At least it gave me confidence that the caramel would set once it had cooled.

To the tin of condensed milk, with the Jersey Caramels I added the last of the caramel sauce I’d made some weeks ago. The caramel had a distinct Jersey Caramel flavour to it. Mr Fussy said it was like a MacIntosh Toffee lolly, specifically an Egg and Cream flavour.

Because I had packed some of the brownie up for the freezer, and we’d gobbled up the little narrow slither from the edge, I decided to cut back on the chocolate layer ingredients. I made only 2/3rds of the chocolate.

I had worried that the chocolate would be too hard to smooth over the caramel with the caramel layer and brownie having been cold from sitting in the fridge, but it was fine. I was able to pick up the loaf pan and tilt it to move the chocolate into the corners. I used an offset pallet knife for the expandable square tin.

After about 15 or so minutes I tested to see if the chocolate had set. You can actually see my print in the corner. It had set but it wasn’t solid hard.

I cut the loaf pan caramel fudge brownie up into 6 pieces. Really it could have been cut a bit smaller because it was becoming difficult to eat with 3 mouthfuls to go.

1310_Caramel Fudge Brownie-2-2

I used Whittaker’s 62% chocolate for the chocolate layer, it wasn’t bitter, but I think it overshadowed the caramel. Still my preference would have been to use a homemade caramel. The brownie base was also not a rich intense chocolate flavour since it only used cocoa powder, but it has a nice soft texture, I guess it is fudgy.

I’ve got a whole expandable tin of this left, and I’m pretty sure I know some family members only too happy to give this recipe the taste test. And I’ll be glad not to have any temptation left in the house. I’ve already spent the day sampling a lot of chocolate in different forms.  I’m pretty much done now, and very satisfied with my lot.

As for Mr Fussy, as I was allocating portions of the caramel fudge brownie, he was scraping the gooey caramel from the baking paper and happily licking his fingers. But he too found the last few mouthfuls were too much. So smaller pieces would be my advice.

Dessert