Gluten free Self-Saucing Chocolate Puddings

IMG_3932I had a craving the other day for both a chocolate brownie and a chocolate lava cake (what a dilemma I hear you say!) and I just could not decide what to make! Then suddenly I remembered a recipe that I haven’t baked in ages that fits both those bills and is slightly (only slightly) healthier then your average cake! My Gluten free Self-Saucing Chocolate Puddings! Now don’t be fooled, these cakes are not your ordinary gluten free dessert. I have fed this to a Coeliac before, watched them eat the whole thing and then remember their intolerance before asking “wait but this isn’t gluten free, I’m going to get sick”. It was seriously that good that they didn’t even realise that it was ok for them! Additionally, the recipe is so easy you could make it with your eyes closed!!!

So if your after a warm, rich gooey chocolate pudding that literally oozes yumminess then be sure to give this a go! Great for those with a wheat intolerance AND those who enjoy a yummy dessert!!

What you’ll need:
1 cup gluten-free self-raising flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 cup almond meal
65g melted dark chocolate
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
30g butter, melted
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 3/4 cups boiling water
Double-thick cream/ice cream to serve

What I did:
1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C and lightly spray 4 large ramekins (or a large baking dish) with some non-stick spray.
2. Combine flour, caster sugar, almond meal and 2 tablespoons cocoa in a bowl. Add milk, vanilla, chocolate and butter and stir to combine. Pour mixture into prepared ramekins/dish.

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3.Combine brown sugar and remaining cocoa in a small bowl and then sprinkle the mixture over the top of each of the ramekins (this will make your sauce). Pour boiling water to cover sugar mixture and then pop into the oven.

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4. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted around the edge of pudding comes out clean. Remember not to cook the pudding too much or you will loose that beautiful rich sauce!

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5. Let them cool slightly (I know that part is hard!) and then serve with cream or ice cream!!

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Happy Baking and Enjoy!!

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 (My bowl after I was done!!)

Macarons with the Master…Adriano Zumbo

ImageIf you’re a resident of Sydney (or maybe even Australia) then you’ve probably heard of Adriano Zumbo. For those of you that haven’t though, Zumbo is like Australia’s answer to Heston Blumenthal. Essentially, he made the humble French Macaron a household name here in Australia, opening several cafes throughout both Sydney and more recently Melbourne. His specialties include desserts and pastries, but not just your humble croissant or mousse cake, no Zumbo is famous for his experimental flavours and whacky combinations! He has always been a great favourite of mine as a chef, I think mostly because his recipes are quite complex but always look spectacular and as a result, I always want to conquer the challenge. Recently, he started a cooking school at his Rozelle premises and I was lucky to receive a class for Christmas!!  

So off I went, feeling slightly nervous at the prospect of meeting a culinary icon but also at the thought of having to successfully cook macarons in front of him! Now to be honest I have made macarons many many times before and each time to a varying level of success. I have come close to perfection quite a few times, but when attempted with the same recipe a second time, I sadly fail. Whether its French meringue or Italian, these things have a mind of their own! As a result I couldn’t successfully tell you which recipe is best or even how to make them properly to guarantee success. Despite that though I (of course) keep on trying (even though every time it ends in disaster I promise myself Never Again!)  

When I arrived I was directed to a room above the Rozelle Cafe (where you can watch the chefs at work while you fill your belly with delicious sweets) where I met the rest of my class. Altogether there were 12 of us, all women except for one brave man and I was quite surprised to hear that some of the group had travelled from inter-state just to take the class! There’s dedication! We received our recipe book and an apron before heading into Zumbo’s test kitchen, where the class would take place.

 

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The room itself was quite large (particularly considering it was sort of like one mans office) and filled with all kinds of equipment. Four moveable benches were set up down the centre of the room and the ingredients were placed on a side bench. We all washed our hands before finding a place at a bench with two others who we would be working with. Co-incidentally I found my way to a bench with two lovely ladies who were also school teachers! Needless to say team teacher worked very well together throughout the day! Then it was time to meet Adriano, who I must say is very very lovely and slightly shy. But a master none-the-less. He explained that each bench would make two flavours of macarons (about 60 macarons of each flavour) and then at the end we would split them all up amongst us. We would start with each group making their fillings, requiring us to measure out the specific ingredients that we needed. It was very much like being in a real kitchen. Everything was available to us but it was up to each group to collect their specific ingredients, in the right quantities as well as with the right equipment. I really liked that actually, as it felt more independant. It wasn’t like someone had measured it all and set it all out in front of me, but more similar to a real cooking environment at home. It seemed more realistic in the end, although I think some people were a little shocked that we got free range. 

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Adriano instructed each group as to what flavours they would be making, with all the recipes included in our cookbooks. My group would be making Lavender Macarons and also Chocolate which excited me greatly as I have never made either of those flavours! And then it was all systems go! The kitchen tentatively started moving into a whirring pace, with everyone moving about collecting what they needed. Our group didn’t have too much to collect incidentally, as our fillings were quite simple (that and we were an excellent group if I do say so myself!) so we finished quite quickly.

Adriano then explained that whilst there were instructions in our cook books, he also wanted to show us different ways/processes to achieve the same filling so he wouldn’t necessarily be going off the written recipe. At this point I got my pen ready, I didn’t want to miss a second. He then worked with each group individually to demonstrate how to create the fillings. This part was really fun as we got to be involved but also learn how to create wonderful flavours with relative ease. Most of the recipes involved a ganache base, with additional things incorporated for variation. My favourite was the rice pudding, which (believe it or not) required the group to make a beautiful creamy rice pudding and mix it with a white chocolate ganache. All the while we also received little tips and tricks, my favourite being to keep the vanilla bean pod once the seeds are scraped, the dry it out in the oven and grind it up to a fine powder. This can then be used in recipes for a more intense flavour with hints of coffee! Adriano also reminded us that its the filling that makes a difference!

Once all the groups fillings were made we moved onto the shells. This was the bit I was most interested to see as this is where I always feel most uncertain. Adriano demonstrated how to make a beautiful vanilla shell which was actually so simple to make. I was really surprised! It was fantastic because I was able to iron out some of the uncertainties that I had about it and also see the consistency of a correct mixture (which is a lot more fluid then I have always thought). Overall I feel that what I am missing is the use of an electric thermometer for precise measure and also the non-stick mat that we used when piping it out.

ImageAgain it was time for us to take the reigns and move onto the making! We broke off into our groups and set about following our recipes. Everyone was working away in their teams, adding egg whites here and heating sugar there, it was so much fun! And then within a matter of moments we were all done and they looked great! I really couldn’t believe that we had done what we did so successfully. Sadly they still had to cook and form the foot so the proof of success was still yet to come. We left them to rest and form a skin while we sat down to lunch!

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Whenever I go to these cooking classes I am always surprised at the fact that we get lunch, not to mention the beautiful food that was on offer. We had two salads (a Greek salad and a chicken pesto pasta salad) and then a choice of two Quiches. Mmm yum!! it was fantastic! I would of had more but I didn’t want to look like a piggy. There was also a beautiful coffee machine inside the kitchen which we were able to use at any stage throughout the day!

ImageAfter lunch we re-entered the room to find our benches covered with beautifully cooked macarons! Everyone was so surprised by the level of success! Not one group had any dodgy ones! Fantastic! We paired the shapes up and then started to fill them all and wow, it was such a feeling of excitement for me! I finally succeeded in making proper macarons! Yes! 

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Each group then plated up 6 of their best for a photo opportunity and they all looked spectacular. I loved the range of colours and flavours! One of the ladies asked for a photo with Adriano, which was possibly a mistake as then we all wanted one. I was clever enough to remember my cookbook which he very nicely signed. Seriously, he was so lovely and nothing was ever a trouble!

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The last part of the day was the best! We each received a box and then were let loose to collect whatever we liked and wow did we all take home a lot of macarons! Check out my box, I couldn’t close the lid!

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Overall, I had the most wonderful day and would gladly do another class! I highly recommend this class to anyone who has a love for baking, trust me, you won’t be disappointed!!

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Chocolate Ganache Tart with salted Peanut Brittle

ImageTonight I’ve got a family dinner to celebrate my cousins return from Canada, so what better opportunity to make a tasty, rich dessert! After my deliberation I finally decided to go with a chocolate ganache tart, because, lets face it, who doesn’t love chocolate. But in the back of my mind I just kept replaying something that I heard on my favourite cooking show (my kitchen rules), a ganache tart is far too rich on its own, dark chocolate or otherwise it needs something else to break the chocolate-ness! Now for some of you I am sure this seems like a travesty, when can chocolate be too chocolate but the more I thought about it, the more I tended to agree. So what breaks through chocolate like nothing else, why salted Peanut Brittle of course! It also adds a level of crunch to the dish, which I am started to learn is important when considering and planning a menu, all the senses need to be engaged. If all this thinking was enough for you, I also need to make a dessert that is gluten free! Yikes! Gluten free shortcrust pastry, now there is an added level of stress! But to my surprise it worked out really well for both the regular recipe and the gluten free.

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To make the whole process easier, I made my tart one long rectangular shape (using a spring form tin which I feel is a must for thissort of thing) as opposed to making small individual tart shells. If you were pressed for time you could of course buy a store bought pastry shell, but I feel try to steer away from store bought shortcrust pastry if you can, I don’t feel it will work as well with this recipe. If you’re really pressed try and use crushed up biscuits with melted butter and coconut through instead! The other issue I had (and shhh don’t tell anyone) is that when I lay my pastry into the tart case, the side walls broke off due to the sharp edge of the tin. I simply pressed them back on and hoped for the best, and for the most part this worked. In some places though I did have cracks so I simply re-rolled a small piece and baked it individually, using this to cover the hole! Not my finest work but hey a bakers got to do what a bakers got to do! Another tip is to let your ganache firm up slightly in the fridge before pouring it into your tart shells. This ensures that if there are any leaks, the ganache is thick enough not to seep out, leaving you with a half full shell. Finally, make sure you make this the morning of or day before you want to eat it as it needs some time to set. And now for the hardest part…. resisting the temptation to eat it all before tonight! Wish me luck! 

You’ll Need:

Shortcrust Pastry:

100g Plain flour (GF Plain flour to substitute)

50g Diced cold Butter

1 pinch baking powder

1 pinch salt

1 Egg

30g Caster Sugar

1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence

*NB If making Gluten free 2 TBS of Almond meal also required

Ganache:

50g Milk Chocolate

100g Dark Chocolate

160g Cream

25g Butter

Peanut Brittle:

80g Sugar

20g Water

60g Glucose

90g Peanuts (Raw and unsalted)

Pinch Salt

1tsp Butter

1/2tsp Bicarb Soda

What I did:

Pastry:

1. Put plain flour, butter, sugar, salt, baking powder and vanilla in bowl (GF add almond meal) and mix through with your fingers to create a sand-like texture. Add your egg and continue to mix lightly together until just combined in a dough (DONT OVERMIX/OVERWORK IT). Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for 15mins to rest.

2. Kneed lightly once or twice on a well floured surface then roll out to desired thickness. Lay into a well-oiled tray and prick the base of the tart with a fork. Fill with baking beads and put into a preheated oven of 200 degrees Celsius (you may have to turn this down later for the last 10 mins). Bake for 15mins and if required, lower the temp to 180 degrees and bake for a further 10.

3. Leave to cool before removing from pastry case.

Ganache:

1. Put your cream and chocolate into a double boiler (bowl on top of a saucepan with water in) on a medium heat. Stir untill chocolate is melted.

2. Remove from heat and add your butter. Pop it in the fridge for an hour or so until cool and thickened slightly

3. Pour into the tart shell to fill and then pop the whole thing into the fridge to set completely.Image

Peanut Brittle:

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1. Put water, sugar and glucose into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Continue to boil for 30seconds before adding peanuts. Cook to a medium caramel colour, stirring continuously. Don’t let it get too dark as it will continue to cook once you take it off the heat. This is very important!

2. Remove from heat and stir in your butter and salt. Add the bicarb soda and continue to mix well before pouring into a lined baking dish. Put into the fridge to set and cool.

3. Once hard, break up using a rolling pin or hard cooking utensil and sprinkle generously over the top of your tart (nows a good time to have a “taste test”.

4. Serve and enjoy!

A beautiful rich chocolate tart, with a salted peanut brittle to break through the sweetness! Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

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Patisse Cooking Class

Last weekend I finally got to go and take a cooking class with one of my favourite Sydney Patisserie schools, Patisse (located in Chippendale)! I have ALWAYS wanted to do more cooking classes, especially those for the sweeter things in life, so I was so excited when I was given this as a gift for Christmas. My class was called “High Tea Treats” which I selected specifically because I love high tea and also because I felt that this class would allow me to learn a wide variety of new techniques. That being said I am already planning another class, the only problem being that I can not decide which one! Prior to arriving, I felt a little nervous; I was going to a class, alone, where I had no idea really what would be expected of me or what the other members of my class may already know. To be honest, I was afraid of making some monumental mistake, to which my peers would probably think “gosh, what’s she doing here” but I could not have been more far from the truth!!

When I arrived I was greeted warmly by Aren (our teacher) and the other members. We sat down at a set table and were offered fresh coffee and beautiful teas, accompanied by delicious mini chocolate Eclair (a hint of whats to come perhaps!). Once we had all introduced ourselves to eat other, donned our aprons and washed our hands we got straight into the good bit..cooking! I was really surprised because I had anticipated that we would be broken into smaller groups to complete sections of recipes that would be combined at the end of the class. However, Aren explained that each of us would make every component to every recipe that we would then each get to take home with us at the end of the day! In front of us then was a booklet (a very fat booklet I might add) of the day’s recipes, a small portable stove (which was shared with the person standing opposite you) and the measured out ingredients for the first recipe (if only cooking was this easy all the time!). Our recipes included Gougeres a la bechamel (bechamel filled profiteroles), peanut brittle chocolate tartlet, lemon meringue tartlet and mini chocolate eclair. By this stage, I was bursting with excitement!Image

First up we needed to tackle our pastries which included a sweet shortcrust dough and a choux pastry. Aren first demonstrated the recipes, one at a time before allowing us to have a try. It was also helpful because there were two additional pastry chefs who would wander around to give you tips and check on your progress. Honestly, I haven’t felt that relaxed in a kitchen in a long time! Despite the fact that I have made both types of pastry before, I picked up so many fantastic tips and techniques! The choux recipe that we were given was also slightly different from the one I used to make my Croquembouche at Christmas time (where the buns went soggy), however this recipe produced beautiful, firm buns that were cooked completely through! I can’t believe I’m going to say this (let alone write it on the internet!) but I really cant wait to give that Croquembouche another go! Aren also explained that overcrowding the oven can cause the buns to go soggy and debunked the old myth that the pastry needs to cool down before beating in your eggs. Fantastic! Once our pastries were finished, piped, placed into tart cases and in the oven we moved onto the chocolate creme patissiere (chocolate custard). Again, Aren demonstrated first before allowing us to make the recipe with our partner. Again, I’ve tried this one before at home but I was so pleased to see and produce a beautiful, shiny, thick, chocolatey patissiere! So yummy I actually can not describe it!Image

After this it was time to stop for lunch, which I did not realise was also provided for us. Aren and his team had cooked us a beautiful ham, spinach and gruyere cheese quiche, served with a green salad and a glass of wine! Yum yum yum! best quiche I have ever eaten in my life, hands down (sorry mum!). For dessert, Aren used the leftover choux pastry to make us donuts which were light and fluffy and just plain yummy! And then it was straight back to the kitchen to finish off!

We moved onto lemon curd next, which I have always wanted to try at home but was too afraid to waste all those eggs! The beauty of this class I think was that it really showed me just how simple baking can be, when you use a logical and methodical approach. Within about 5 minutes I had made a rich, glossy lemon curd, and not one person in the class curdled theirs either! This went into the fridge to chill and it was onto bechamel. Aren made a large batch of peanut brittle (the best brittle I’ve ever sampled) and chocolate ganache for us all to use as well as the italian meringue for our lemon meringue tarts.

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The final stage of the class was assembly time! We received all of the bits and bobs that we had created throughout the 4 hour class (yep we made all that in under 4 hours!) and were instructed on how to put it all together to get a beautiful finished product. Aren and his assistants were really fantastic, putting all the mixtures into piping bags for us and assisting wherever needed. They tempered chocolate for us to then dip our chocolate eclairs into which we later topped with crushed pistachios and freeze dried raspberries. I had a few extra choux buns which I made into chocolate profiteroles! And finally, when I looked down, I was done! I actually can not believe the end result that I saw on my bench in front of me. It was like something out of a Patisserie, most definitely not something that I had made by myself! We each received a box to put all our goodies into and then sadly we were off!Image

Overall, I had such a fantastic day and I can not wait to go back again and try out some more courses! Would highly recommend giving it a go. A fantastic, friendly approach to baking that is suitable for all skill levels. On top of that I met some lovely fellow bakers who all had a passion for food, cooking and eating! Totally exceeded my expectations and I had a wonderful day! 

Marathon Bake

ImageThis past weekend signalled a marathon baking session for me! It was my little sisters 21st Birthday Party (here in Australia your 21st birthday is quite a milestone so often involves a large party/celebration) and I, being the genius that I am volunteered myself to bake all the cakes! The Party itself had a pink and white theme so my sister and I decided to make a two-teir round cake for the centre-piece followed by 70 cupcakes for the guests. The first step for me began about two days before the party, when I baked the three round cakes that I needed. Now I should probably mention that for this event I decided to use packet mixes (shock and horror!) mainly because I had to bake on such a large scale I didn’t want to waste time measuring things out. I also worried that a home-made mix might have room for error, which i really didn’t have time to accommodate as I also had to decorate all the cakes. Either way, I was very happy with the flavours of all the cakes (I used WhiteWings mixes). So, about two days before the party I started baking, first up was two separate red velvet cakes about 30cm in diameter, followed by a raspberry swirl cake about 20cm in diameter. All in all this part was very easy, follow the instructions and out comes a lovely moist cake that smelt delicious in the oven!  I then flattened them out on top using a serrated knife (the off-cuts then became the taste tests for my family). So far so good! I particularly wanted to bake these cakes in advance as I’ve read somewhere that its easier to cover them in ganache and fondant a day or so after they’ve been baked as the crumbs are a bit firmer once you’ve cut the tops off them. Once they were cooled, I popped them into airtight containers and left them in a cool place.

The next day I was onto the cupcakes. Again, I used WhiteWings Vanilla and Raspberry Swirl mixes for the cupcakes. The trickiest part of this stage was not overfilling the cupcakes, so that once baked, the tops would sit just flush with the top of the paper case. Normally I would fill them up quite a bit so that the top of the cupcake was a dome shape but not this time. I used a measuring cup and meticulously measured out 1/4cup per cake! It was all very precise! Now while they were baking I began exercising my multitasking skills by covering and assembling my round cakes. First up were the two red velvet cakes, which I covered in the cream cheese frosting that I was included in the packet. I was a bit disappointed though as the consistency was not very nice (I had planned to use the packet frosting to ice the cupcakes also) but continued the best that I could. Once I’d stuck the two layers together and covered the whole thing I got onto the fondant icing. What.A.Workout!! Wow, I didn’t even need to go to the gym that morning!! Truly it was really hard, especially as I was working alone. One thing that I would really recommend doing though is rolling it out between grease-proof paper. That way it doesn’t stick to anything and it’s very easy to pick up and roll out over the cake. Finally, after about half an hour (and with very sore arms) I could stand back and admire my cake..until I realised I had to repeat the entire process on tier two!! I must say though that I was quite happy with the finished result, especially considering I have only worked with fondant once before (at which time I got my nice strong boyfriend to help me with the rolling part!) Once it was all done I then inserted my dowels. So to do this I pushed one directly into the centre of my bottom tier, marking where it was flush with the top of the cake. I pulled it out and cut it using a hand saw, repeating the process so I had 6 small pieces, one in the centre and the rest in a star around it. Dowels are completely necessary in a layered cake as they ensure the whole thing won’t collapse (my worst nightmare) and can be purchased from your baking supply store. I used wooden ones but I have read that you can get them in plastic too. I also learnt that I needed a small wooden board underneath the top tier to give further support and luckily my cousin, who is an avid baker herself had a spare one which I could borrow! The other final thing I should add is that I didn’t assemble the cake until it was time to serve it, preventing a possible collapse!

So, once all of this was said and done I moved onto icing my cupcakes on the morning of the party! Again I used a store bought buttercream frosting mixture which you add milk and vanilla to. To keep with the theme, I also added some colouring to make them pink and a dash of rosewater to give a hint of flavour! Using my piping bag I attended to each cupcake, topping it off with a little popping candy. And finally, after 3 days of baking and flour and sugar and frosting I was done!!Image

I must say the whole process was totally worth it! Everyone loved the cakes and most people were asking where we had bought them from! Since the party I’ve also been asked to make cakes for a few upcoming birthdays although, I’m not sure if thats a good thing just yet!! Anyway, some tips for baking en mass!

1. Using a packet cake mix is totally fine, this will ensure your cakes come out of the oven perfectly meaning one less thing to worry about!

2. Start in advance and allow yourself plenty of time! Theres nothing worse then having to rush on something like this

3. Use a measuring cup to ensure your cupcakes are all even sizes

4. Cut the top of your round cakes off so that your left with a flat surface

5. Roll your fondant between two pieces of grease proof paper to avoid it sticking to the bench or tearing

6. Have a helper on standby to lift it onto your cake

7. Use dowels, they’re not very expensive or hard to put it and will prevent all your hard work collapsing…literally

8. Refrigerate your cakes once they are done, especially if its hot!

9. Place a round cardboard piece underneath your tiers for further support

10. Remember to enjoy…even in moments of stress!!