Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bananas on Toast and Chocolate Slice

After a day out with a wonderful lunch, who can be bothered cooking for dinner?! So if you're like me ... just head straight for dessert!!!

Bananas drizzled with honey and cinnamon - heated up with a blow torch ... mmmm!!

And dessert for my dessert dinner ... caramel slice (or millionaires slice) ... a gift from a friend that was supposed to last more than one day ... not my fault she makes it so tasty I had to eat it all!

Lunch was at Annie Smither's in Kyneton. My friend and I had been previously for dinner (after waiting ages to actually get a reservation on a date that was convenient!) and were rather disappointed given the rave reviews. So we gave them a second chance and had lunch there. A wonderful goat's cheese souffle that I could have licked the bowl it came in, a slightly average pumpkin tart, a really delicious pear/walnut/roquefort salad ... and dessert was some of the best brownies I've ever had! They were black, solid, fudgey things!!! They have redeemed themselves and will be back on the possible dining list!
.... and just to add to the photo count ... one of the loves of my life ... my horse!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pan au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissants) and Ugly Danishes

My colleague’s baking request this week was danishes. These are the most ridiculously easy thing to make and get the most impressive results (no one can believe these are homemade!). You just whiz the ingredients in a food processor, leave them overnight, then roll and fold them a bit, leave again, then roll out for baking!! The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess” ... interestingly enough, the first time my friend and I made these we used someone else’s version of Nigella’s recipe from their blog, I’ve recently bought a copy of the book and found that the amount of flour differed (which would explain why we had had to add extra flour to stop it being lumpy butter soup the first time!). Just goes to show you can’t believe everything you read on the internet :-) !!!

I do have to admit ... that my vision of how the danishes would turn out ... didn’t quite eventuate!! They looked gorgeous in their pre-risen/baked form ... but then they expanded as they baked ... oops ... luckily I firmly believe (unlike the pastry chef I took a French pastry class with) that how things taste is so much more important than how they look!! The most perfect looking Danish in the world would be awful if it tasted horrid!!! Might as well eat a Japanese plastic window version!!! Mine had vanilla bean duck egg crème patisserie in them with yummy fruit ... good ingredients that just looked a bit ugly!!
Before: After:

Danish Dough (I made double the original recipe from Nigella’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess”)
120ml water
250ml milk
2 large egg
700g flour
14g instant yeast (2 sachets)
50g sugar
1/2 tspn salt
500g salt reduced butter (note: I couldn’t get unsalted, so I reduced the salt in the original recipe)

Place milk and water in jug, warm for a minute in microwave. Whisk in eggs.
In food processor, place flour (I actually only added half because it wouldn’t all fit in my food processor), yeast and sugar. Pulse once to just mix. Add salt and butter (which you’ve of course chopped into chunks that FIT in your food processor!). Pulse a couple of times until the butter is in lumps – these can be pretty big ... think about 1cm in size.

Tip contents of food processor into large bowl (add rest of flour if yours didn’t fit like mine!), add in milk/egg and stir to combine. Will look like a pebbled mess about now! Place in refrigerator overnight (or for 4 days).

Take bowl out of fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. Roll dough out into large square ... now comes the folding bit ... I’m not sure if there really are any hard and fast rules with this! I just keep folding in up and rolling it out a couple of times. I usually fold thirds like a business letter, then sometimes I fold each side into the middle then in half again, then maybe I’ll do another fold version again. I just try to keep it neat and get quite a few layers into it!! (Of course Mr-Perfect-Pastry-Chef-Teach had rules about this ... good luck to him, I couldn’t be bothered!). Place in refrigerator for 30 mins (or for 4 days if you haven’t already done this!).

Prepare Egg Glaze
Mix 1 egg with 1 tbspn milk

Crème Patisserie
I made a half quantity of the recipe I’ve made previously for eclairs from Stephanie Alexander’s “Cooks Companion”. For the pan au chocolats I took 3 tablespoons of the warm crème patisserie and put it over 100g of 70% Lindt dark chocolate and stirred until the chocolate was completed melted (next time I’d add more crème patisserie to less chocolate ... maybe 4 tbspns to 80g chocolate).

Roll out half quantity of the dough until less than 1/4” thick. Cut into squares (I got 4 x 4 = 16 squares – I was aiming for small ones, but could have gone even smaller as they rose lots). Place a small amount of crème patisserie (about 1 tspn full) diagonally on dough, pinch two diagonal corners together (anyone know how to actually make these stick together so they don’t part as they rise/bake?!??!!?!?). Place on lined baking tray and add fruit (next time I think I’ll try raspberries – but I do love the apricots, I also used mandarin slices). Brush over with egg glaze. Rise for approximately 1 hour.

Pan au Chocolate - Chocolate Croissants
Roll out half quantity of dough to less than 1/4” thick. Divide in half lengthways, then cut on diagonal to create triangles with a wide base (I got 16 triangles – once again, I could have made them smaller). Place a small amount of the chocolate/crème patisserie mix on each base and roll up. Place on lined baking tray with the point tucked underneath (otherwise they unroll as they rise). Brush over with egg glaze. Rise for approximately 1 hour.

Make Sugar Glaze
Heat 80g castor sugar and 20ml of water in microwave until just boiling.

Baked in 180degC oven for 15 minutes until quite brown. Whilst still hot from the oven, brush liberally with sugar glaze. When they are cool apply icing glaze.

Make Icing Glaze
Add just enough hot water to 100g icing sugar to just make it drizzleable (is that a word?!). For chocolate version add 2 tblspn Valrhona cocoa (or other dutch cocoa).

Try to stop with just one!!!

The crème patisserie / chocolate mix is an experiment of mine ... I don’t like regular pan au chocolats that you normally buy ... they often have a tiny piece of icky chocolate in the middle. My love of chocolate is as much about flavour as texture/mouth feel. I like the warm sticky melt in your mouth experience – so a little baton of over cooked chocolate just doesn’t do it for me (in French pastry class we used the Callebut batons ... still ... not nice!). So far the winning pan au chocolat was in a chain bakery store in the UK (of all places!!) ... Pret Manger or something like that ... I remember spending my last pennies in Heathrow airport before flying home to Australia – and wishing I had more coins for another.

So I’m trying to create something in the middle that is soft at room temperature, still retains full chocolate flavour – and does not splurge out whilst baking. Next time I’ll increase the crème patisserie ... as this version was close – nearly soft at room temperature, didn’t spill out when baked, and a lovely rich chocolate flavour. Instead of using chocolate for the drizzle I decided the pastry wasn’t quite sweet enough so used an icing/confectioners sugar mix with Valrhona cocoa ... also as a bit of a nod to my colleagues dislike of lots of high cocoa chocolate (I still haven’t given in and made milk chocolate things yet ... but it is coming!).

The tasting outcome: deliciously ugly danishes and wonderful pan au chocolats!! Not too sweet, not too buttery and oily – just gorgeous! Other than the chocolate filling and the actual presentation – not much to fix here!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Goose Egg Custard and Meringue

I had absolutely no plans for cooking this week ... a couple of days at a conference venue eating delicious desserts was going to blow my “diet” enough ... but a friend turning up with an unusual egg for me to cook destroyed that plan ... and what an egg!!!

A goose egg!!! HUUUUUUUGE!!!!

I just had to take photos of it next to normal sized eggs to give an idea of how big it really was!! It weighed in at 230g (normal eggs for us are about 50-60g!). The photo showing the yolk has a regular sized egg next to it ... the yolk was bigger!!! What to do with such an amazing treat?! How to prepare it to be able to taste the flavour – but use the entire thing up at one time!!!

I had another friend visiting ... and we decided that custard was a perfect medium to taste goose egg (ok, so others might have considered an omelette ... but given it was me cooking it had to be a dessert!), and I’ve been craving meringue (like the top of a lemon meringue pie – not dried out icky ones!) so that used the whites.

I’ve put the revised recipe as I would cook it (if done again) rather than the actual recipe I used ... I put too much sugar in the custard and it was too sweet. Also – I like thick custard, not the traditional English very thin custard – so I’ve added cornflour to make it firmer. Oh ... another note: in Australia we don’t have to worry about cooking eggs etc – so the meringue recipe contains uncooked egg whites and may not be suitable for your area if you decided to cook with a goose egg!!

Goose Egg Custard and Meringue (based on egg weighing 230g)

Goose Egg Custard
1 1/2 cups of milk
1 vanilla bean (or vanilla bean paste)
Yolk of goose egg
70g castor sugar
1 tbspn cornflour

Heat milk and vanilla until nearly boiling in microwave. In saucepan whisk egg yolk, sugar and cornflour – slowly pour over warm milk, mixing the entire time. Put saucepan on low heat and cook until it thickens (should not boil).

Goose Meringue
White of goose egg
120g castor sugar

Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form, add castor sugar by sprinkling over whites in batches and mixing well in between.

I served it up (and I really do need to improve my plating skills!) by putting the custard in a bowl, then a dollop of the meringue on top – then using a blow torch to brown the outside, then drizzled over melted chocolate (I used 70% Kennedy and Wilson Chocolate – which is an Australian chocolate).

I also tried another bowlful (what? Me stop with one bowl?!) with raspberry jam (made by my mother) in addition to the chocolate ... don’t know which I liked better ... the very simple custard combination, or a touch of tart fruit!!

As for the conference desserts ... I tried (of course all in miniature form!): Lemon tart, flourless chocolate cake, tiramisu, crème brulee tart (the best!), lavender molten chocolate pudding (which was awful – I don’t like lavender and I can make better molten puddings myself!), rhubarb and black pepper cheesecake (which didn’t look anything like a cheesecake, and really another name would have been more appropriate), chocolate tart, pear frangipane and a cheese platter .... which I consider a pretty good variation given we were only there for 3 days!!!!!! (and I didn’t even try all the options!!)... and yes ... the diet is blown!! *sigh* back to reality and boring food!!