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! 

Bonkers for Banoffee

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A friend of mine is moving to Singapore later this week so naturally I wanted to make her something special for her farewell dinner. I’ve always wanted to make a Banoffee pie but I’ve never really mastered the whole home-made caramel thing, so I was always a bit worried to try a dessert where the main component was caramel. Here in Australia, Banoffee isn’t a very popular dessert so the first time I tried it was on holidays in Malta and I absolutely loved it! My sister is also a huge fan of it (probably a bit more then me) and to be honest I can’t blame her, I mean who could resist crumbly, buttery pastry filled with rich caramel, fresh banana and topped with meringue! I knew this was the perfect dessert to try out, especially after I read about a very interesting way to make caramel (involving condensed milk and boiling water!)

I decided to use the same pastry recipe that I used in my fruit mince pies but this time I halved the quantities. Alternatively you could also use crushed granita biscuits mixed with melted butter but I really like the texture and crumbly-ness of this recipe. If you’ve got the time then I’d recommend it. You’ll need to start the process early though as you’ll need 3 hours plus to make the caramel (trust me its so worth it! the caramel is a thick, rich, sweet consistency that I’ve never achieved before). I also decided to change the shape from a regular round pie shape to a tart shape, either way will still be delicious! Give this a go and enjoy, you wont be disappointed!!

What you’ll need:

Pastry:

1 1/4 cups plain flour

1/4 cup icing sugar

1/4 cup almond meal

1tsp baking powder

80g cold butter

1 egg

1/2tsp vanilla essence

1TBS cold water

Caramel:

1 tin condensed milk

Meringue:

2 Egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

Extra:

1 large banana

2 tsp cocoa powder

 

What I did:

1. Fill a large pot with water and place your tin of condensed milk inside (IMPORTANT: Make sure that the pot is deep enough for the tin to be completely submerged in water the entire time. If it comes uncovered, the tin will explode. You will need to keep checking on it and top up the water as it needs). Bring it to the boil and leave to boil for 3 hours

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 (yes thats right 3 hours). Once its done leave it to cool completely before you open it. It will look like this >

2. In a processor, combine the flour, icing sugar, almond meal, baking powder and butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add your vanilla, egg and water and process until it forms a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed lightly before wrapping in cling wrap and pop it into the fridge for 20mins.Image

3.  Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pastry on a well floured surface (to about 0.5cm thick) and lay into your prepared baking dish. Cover it with a piece of baking powder and fill with baking beans/rice. Bake for 15mins or until slightly golden in colour. Remove from the oven and cool completely. 

4. Once cooled, remove the beans from the tart shell and fill with the caramel. Sprinkle cocoa powder over the top and top with sliced banana.

5. Using an electric beater, beat your egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gradually add your sugar until it no longer feels grainy and makes stiff peaks when you lift the beaters out of it. Spread the meringue mixture over the top of your tart and then pop it back into the oven. Bake for about 10minutes but be sure to keep an eye on it as the meringue can colour quite quickly. If it starts to burn on top then turn the heat down to about 150 degrees.

6. Refrigerate for about 30mins before serving and enjoy!!

So rich, so yummy! You might want to cut it into slightly smaller pieces then you would normally as it is very sweet!!

Enjoy! 

Death by Croquembouche

ImageI have a slightly unhealthy obsession with conquering the Croquembouche. I think it all started about a year ago when I first saw the challenge set on one of my favourite cooking shows, Masterchef. Since that time I’ve had about four attempts at the French Wedding Cake, each with varying levels of success and often resulting in burnt fingers and a few tears (this is probably one of the only recipes that angers/frustrates/delights me to the point of crying!). I’ve always used the same recipe (Adriano Zumbo’s Masterchef challenge recipe, which has now “officially” been removed from their website but a similar one exists here http://tvnz.co.nz/masterchef-australia/croquembouche-3069656) and every single time I always promise myself never ever to attempt it again…and yet here we are!

So about a month ago I received a Croquembouche cone for my birthday, which undoubtably was a sign that I would just have to attempt to make it one final time (as if!) and I of course decided that the most perfect occasion would be Christmas Dinner. On the four previous occasions that I’ve made it, I had progressively gotten better. The very first attempt resulted in very large choux buns of all different sizes served on a plate (I was too exhausted after the process of making the buns that I couldn’t be bothered to make the toffee or put them together). The next two attempts did have more consistency in bun size and shape and even included the toffee. The tower however, was still slightly unattainable without the proper cone, collapsing into a heap on my second attempt and leaning like the tower of Pisa in the third. My fourth attempt (made for my boyfriends birthday) was my best so far where I came up with the genius idea of using a bowl lined in cling wrap as my mould. Unfortunately I forgot that hot toffee melts plastic but after a few disasters I managed to get a tower shape, slightly uneven but with spun toffee. It was all very impressive! For this attempt though I was very determined. Success would finally be mine, I could just feel it!

So on Christmas eve I set about baking my choux buns. In previous attempts I’ve noticed that once filled and refrigerated, the buns go soggy quite quickly so to counteract this I planned to bake the buns a day ahead, and construct the tower the day of. I really took my time making sure that each batch were evenly cooked through, and completely dried out. I’ve previously had issues where the buns didn’t dry out completely, but read somewhere that you should cook for 10mins at a higher temperature, before turning your oven down for the remaining time. This seemed to work very well, and I managed to turn out perfectly cooked, coloured choux buns that had a nice hollow sound when tapped on the base (thats a sign that they are cooked through). I also saw, on another cooking show, that once removed from the oven, the buns should have a small “x” cut into the base. ImageThis has two purposes; the first is to allow the heat/steam to escape from each bun, preventing them from going soggy and secondly to provide a hole to pipe the custard into later. Once this process was complete and the buns were cool I put them into an airtight container, readying myself for the great build the next day!

So I must admit that on this occasion I cheated on the custard (or creme patissiere if you want to be technically correct) and bought an extra thick store bought one, which worked really well for a time pressed and egg-short me! I also enlisted my sister to help me build the great structure, which was probably wise as she kept me sane throughout the process. Now this was the first time that I had ever used the actual cone to help me build it and if I’ve learnt one thing its INVEST IN A CONE!! It was so much faster and easier and less stressful then I’d ever envisaged. I really don’t know why I didn’t do it the first time. After some research though, I’ve read a few websites that make their own cone shape using baking paper and also use chocolate instead of toffee for a bit of a modern twist. While I’ve never personally tried either of these options they both sound worthwhile with much less risk of being burnt. ImageAfter about 15mins though, we had our tower and now for the moment of truth, turning it out! With all my fingers crossed I prayed to the gods of baking and did the magic flip, hearing the beautiful “clunck” sound of the croquembouche detaching itself from the mould! As I lifted it away I was presented with a perfectly shaped Croquembouche and about time too!! It was possibly, one of my proudest baking moments.

Now this dessert wasn’t to be eaten for a few hours so I turned it back into the cone and transported it to my Aunties house where I made one of my most amateur decisions ever….not to refrigerate the Croquembouche. So here’s another lesson I learnt on Christmas day, you must refrigerate the Croquembouche!!! Sadly for me it was all too little, too late. When it finally came time to serve up, I turned out what was once my perfectly formed Croquembouche only to have it all collapse before my eyes! To say I was devastated was an understatement. In the end though I was consoled with two thoughts; one that it would still taste just as good and two that I had already taken a picture of its success. I must say though, that it still did taste really good. So with all that said and done, here are the things that I’ve learnt when it comes to making a Croquembouche. Hopefully someone out there will learn something from my mistakes and create a beautiful, flawless Croquembouche, first time around!Image

The Do’s and Don’ts:

1. If you’re not confident with a piping bag then make a template of circles on a sheet that you place underneath your baking paper so that all of your buns are the same size

2. Do cook your buns at 200 degrees C for the first 10 mins then turn your oven down to 180 degrees C

3. Do cook your buns all the way through, even if this is longer then the recommended cooking time. They should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom and will be quite coloured. This is a good sign!

4. Do cut an “x” in the base of each bun with a sharp knife and cool completely

5. It’s ok to use store bought custard, just make sure you use one thats “extra thick”

6. Do invest in a Cone or make your own using baking paper. Spray the cone lightly with cooking spray and DO NOT use cling wrap

7. Make and serve your Croquembouche at or around the same time and in the interval REFRIGERATE!! Even if its a cool day!

And finally,

8. Do try again if it doesn’t work the first time. It’s a challenge after all!!

Happy Baking xx

Festive Fruit Mince Pies

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Merry Christmas everyone!! I hope your day was filled with family, giving, joy and what else…FOOD!! I should probably add that I’m speaking in the past tense here because it’s currently Boxing Day morning where I live. Yesterday was a great day and at my place, we have leftovers coming out of our ears but I couldn’t resist sharing one more Christmas recipe with you all, especially when I was so surprised at how well this one came out!

One of my most favourite things to eat at Christmas (aside from a baked Turkey lunch) are Fruit Mince Pies and this year I think I’ve finally got the recipe right. Nothing beats the soft, crumbly blonde pastry filled with caramelly fruit mince. I thought they would be a lot more fiddly to make but I managed to wrangle my sister into helping me, so we had a little production line going on. So here is what I did (this makes about 14-16 tarts)

You’ll Need:

Fruit Mince:

1 Cup dried mixed fruit

Rum/Orange Flavoured liquor/Orange Juice

1/2 cup Brown Sugar

75g Butter

1TBS Cinnamon

1Tsp Mixed Spice

1Tsp Nutmeg

Half an Orange, Juiced

1 Apple, cored and diced into small pieces

1/3 Cup Slithered Almonds

Pastry:

2 1/4 cups plain flour

1/3 cup icing sugar

1/4 cup almond meal

1tsp baking powder

160g cold butter

1 egg

1tsp vanilla essence

2TBS cold water

What I did:

1. The day before: Place your mixed dried fruit into a bowl and add a splash of alcohol or orange juice for a kid friendly mince. Ensure you cover it with cling wrap so the alcohol doesn’t evaporate. 

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2. Put your fruit mixture into a saucepan and add all the other ingredients and cook on a low heat (about 10 minutes) until a caramel has formed and the apple has softened. Set aside to cool completely. It looks a bit like this (look right!)

3. Put your flour, icing sugar, almond meal, baking powder and butter into a food processor and blend until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add your egg, vanilla and water and mix until it forms a dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead lightly until it all comes together. Split the mix into two halves and wrap in cling film. Pop into the fridge for 30mins. (now go have some eggnog!)

4. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a muffin tin lightly with cooking spray. Roll out one half of your pastry onto a floured surface (use a rolling pin or tinned cans if you don’t have one) until it is abut 0.5cm thick (or however thick you like. I love pastry so mine might be a bit thick for some people). I like to use a coffee mug but a round cookie cutter does the same thing, so using your chosen utensil cut out the round shape for the base of the tart and place into the muffin tin. Add about a tablespoon of the cooled fruit mince. Roll out the other half of the pastry as you did before and use a slightly smaller cutter to make the lids. Place onto and prick the centre with a fork. Lightly egg wash (1 beaten egg) the tops of the tarts for a golden colour and pop into the oven. Cook for about 20mins. Leave to cool and serve!Image

I hope you all enjoy this Christmas classic as much as I do. And, if you’re like me, this one doesn’t have to be restricted to Christmas time, now that I’m happy with the recipe I might have to make these more often!

Merry Christmas x