Valentine’s Day Brownies

The last time I celebrated Valentine’s Day was the year that my high-school boyfriend broke up with me. He didn’t break up with me on Valentine’s day; it was a bit before. I was suitably devastated. His Valentine’s Day present–two tickets to Ross Nobel–would go to waste and I would spend the day as any lovestruck 16-year-old would–heartbroken.

On Valentine’s Day my best friend gave me a stuffed toy puppy dog holding a love heart. Another friend had bought me a teddy bear. Another friend made me a Valentine’s Day card. They were all just trying to make me feel better.  It was my best Valentine’s Day ever.

brownies with a gold background

I’ve been itching to bake ever since I moved back into this rental house. The kitchen is puny and there’s barely room to butter your toast let alone bake something. When my housemate asked me if I felt like baking I was all over it. She went to the shops and stocked up on unsalted butter and chocolate, and I started thinking about brownies.

I prefer my brownies packed with chocolate, so I don’t ever use any nuts. I also mixed icing sugar with red food colouring to give these a Valentine’s Day twist–you can obviously just use normal icing sugar.

Valentine’s Day Brownies:

180g butter
180g dark chocolate, chopped
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
250g caster sugar
110g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
At least 200g mixed chocolate (white, milk & dark)

  • Preheat oven to 180*C.
  • Melt butter and dark chocolate in a bain marie.
  • Whisk eggs, vanilla bean paste, and caster sugar.
  • Sift flour and salt into the butter and chocolate; add egg mixture and the 200g chocolate.
  • Stir all ingredients together until well combined.
  • Add to a greased and lined brownie pan, and bake for 25 minutes.
  • When the brownies are cool, cut them up as you like. To make coloured icing sugar just blitz some icing sugar with red food colouring in your food processor. Dust over the brownies and serve.

For a slightly fancier approach to Valentine’s Day check out The Hungry Australian’s possible Valentine’s Day menus .

Mangoes, Mangoes, Mangoes

jar of mangoesI went a little mango crazy the other day and bought a whole crate of mangoes. Despite knowing that I really don’t have much need for 15 mangoes all in one go, I’m a sucker for fruit discounts.

Summer is my favourite time of year when it comes to fruit. All of my favourites come out in full force; specifically juicy, sticky mangoes, peaches and nectarines. I feel like I need to carry around a wash cloth with me half the time because I end up with so much of them oozing down my face and all over my hands.

So now I have 15 mangoes–well I’m probably down to about 11 now–and I’m not sure what to do with them.

mangoesWhat are your favourite mango desserts? Mine has always been mango with coconut sticky rice. I had it for the first time when we were travelling somewhere through Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos. The first and only time I’ve ever cooked with sticky rice was during my mochi catastrophe, so I’ve never recreated this recipe at home.

I’m contemplating smoothies or ice blocks, or maybe even a cheesecake. For now I’m just enjoying devouring them one by one.

If you’ve got any ideas for mango-centric desserts, let me know! I’m very keen for some inspiration.

cut open mango

 

 

Steven Ter Horst Chocolatier – Rundle Street Launch

media launch steven ter horst

chocolates steven ter horst

cake display at steven ter horstLast night I went along to the launch of Steven ter Horst’s new Rundle Street store. The old Unley store was great, but it was really limited by its size. I think the Rundle Street store will help introduce the chocolates, cakes and pastries to a much wider audience.

One of my favourite things from Steven ter Horst is their salted caramel–whether in tart or chocolate form. I still remember one night after I’d just eaten dinner at Apothecary 1878 with the lovely Champagne Duchess. I noticed the salted caramel chocolates were on the menu, so I ordered one as an after dinner treat. After watching my face as I ate mine, Catherine promptly ordered her own.

salted caramel at steven ter horst

Luckily there was an entire tower of salted caramel chocolates last night. We also got a chance to try miniature versions of some of the other cakes and pastries available. It was great spending the evening with my fellow dessert lover, Berny from I Only Eat Desserts, as well as some lovely ladies from Glam Adelaide and Style Story. It was also great seeing Dan & Rob from Burger Theory, Aurélie from La Waffle and The Naughty Spot–where I also had lunch yesterday–and one of my old TAFE lecturers.

I talked a bit too much about how people are technically correct regardless of whether they say ‘macaron’ or ‘macaroon’ and we all a lot of chocolate.

palet d'or chocolate

media launch steven ter horst

cakes steven ter horst

mousse ball steven ter horst

gateau steven ter horst

cheeseburger macaron steven ter horst

cheeseburger macaron steven ter horstFor a bonus bit of knowledge: the Rundle Street store also stocks croissants and danishes from Goodwood Road’s Boulangerie 113. In my opinion they’re the best in Adelaide. Stop in at Steven ter Horst and you can enjoy one with a delicious hot chocolate as well.

I was invited to the Rundle Street store as a guest for their VIP launch party. 

Getting Tarty

Last year I got some great books and baking supplies for my birthday and Christmas. One of them was The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts. I judge this book by its cover every time I see it; by this I mean my heart gets all fluttery with excitement every time I imagine myself putting together the cover image. As a result this is one of my favourite cookbooks. I love it for the moment of glee I get every time I pull it out of the shelf. Thankfully I’ve finally started cooking from it and it’s actually a pretty great book.

It’s like having a TAFE lecturer patiently sitting with me in the kitchen while I bake. Sure it’s not as friendly and it doesn’t have as many stories, but it’s filled with great advice. It’s laid out in roughly the same order as the Cert III Patisserie course, so it’s a great refresher as I start psyching myself up to return to the kitchens in a couple of years.

My first foray into the books has come in the form of tarts. Chocolate tarts, apple tarts, lemon tarts (or pie, depending on how you’re classing them), and fruit tarts.

It started off with a cake ring from Ecotel–a store that gives me similarly fluttery feelings. I had a few friends and family round for my birthday last month and decided to make some tarts. A chocolate Bavarian tart and an apple tart. I made my own sweet pastry and then managed to get it stuck to the board–yes I forgot to lift it–and I couldn’t roll it thin enough. Dodgy rolling pins and tiny chopping boards do not make for happy pastry. Thankfully the fillings turned out brilliant.

dessert table

I couldn’t work out why my Bavarian was so lumpy, then I remembered that I didn’t pass the mixture through a sieve. I topped it with shaved chocolate and fresh berries. The apple tart was the crowning glory. I used pink lady apples rather than the golden delicious apples that were recommended. Pink ladies are already a deliciously sweet eating apple, so when added to butter and brown sugar they just sung. It was such a delicious homely apple pie.

We served them all with a bowl of whipped cream, fresh berries, and little meringue kisses so that my nieces who weren’t so tart-inclined could make up their own eton messes for dessert.

chocolate bavarian tart

apple pie

meringue kissesI was left with enough pastry to make about two or three more tarts, because the book can be a little clear on how much of one recipe to use for another. Thankfully pastry can be frozen for a month or so, and still turns out great results.

I’ve just moved house, so I had to make the trip back down to Moana to roll out my pastry and get to work on some new tarts for our Food Blogger’s Christmas picnic. I decided on a lemon meringue pie and a fresh fruit custard tart. I spent the train ride studying all of the recipes. Making note of which things I needed; when I was supposed to have which things on the stove and what things in the oven. Thankfully a lot of these amazing tarts come down to really simple ingredients. They take time, a bit of patience, and sometimes tears, but if you’ve got flour, sugar, eggs, and butter at the home you’re half way towards making some pretty spectacular tarts.

I made all my fillings with no trouble at all, so I was doing a little happy dance around the kitchen. My pastry was still a bit thick, and I can never get it to colour evenly. I ended up with a bowl of crème pâtissière and lemon curd left over; mum and dad and their friends happily finished them off for me.

In the morning I had to ride down to the fruit and veg shop and at home I had to whip up the Swiss meringue.

picnic blankets with lots of food

lemon meringue pie

fresh fruit custard tart

 

I went a little overboard with the fruit surrounding my fresh fruit tart, but I was worried it would look a bit silly on such a large serving platter. I am a little bit in love with this new platter. I picked it up at IKEA after spotting it on Love Swah’s Sweet Swap post–she had the smaller version. They’re really cheap, but their such nice serving dishes.

It was a great afternoon with lovely people from Hungry Australian, She Cooks, She Gardens, Furikake Me, Liz Bakes Cakes, Louis Fameli, Cooking with Lucy, Sliced Food Insights, G’day Souffle, and What’s on the List.

Things I learnt: Lemon meringue pie is not a good picnic dish–or at least my sloppy lemon meringue would have you thinking so–and I need to work on my forearm strength for all my whisking needs.

What are your favourite tarts?

Raspberry Fool: A Fine Dessert

Sophie Blackall is one of my favourite illustrators. I came across her thanks to her Missed Connections blog; illustrations to accompany people’s missed connections posts. Recently I’ve become interested in another one of her projects: a book she’s illustrating called A Fine Dessert. The book is about four families, throughout different time periods, as they each make and share a blackberry fool. According to Sophie’s blog, and in the words of the books’ author, “it is about the universality of the pleasure in cooking and eating dessert — how it goes through time and across cultures.”

Basically it’s the type of thing that makes me scrunch up my face and wave about my arms in the way that you do when so many of the things you love all come together in one big happy moment–kind of like when you introduce two friends from completely different groups and they get on so well and then you get so excited that all your worlds are coming together. Yep. That’s what it’s like. Desserts, food history, and Sophie Blackall’s illustrations. Three things I’m pretty fond of.

So today I decided to make a fool. Not a blackberry fool like in the book, but a raspberry fool because I’m lazy and found it easier to pick up a bag of frozen raspberries from the shops.

raspberries in a sieveApparently gooseberries are actually one of the most traditional fruits to use. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a gooseberry before, so I’m not familiar with the taste. You mash the fruit with a fork, and then pass it through a sieve. Some recipes call for you to cook the fruit, others forgo the sieve. I find sieving fruit puree strangely satisfying, so I put mine to good use.

raspberry fool

 

You whip up the cream, and then fold it through the fruit puree. I read there there should still be streaks of white showing through. I found the cream to raspberry ratio was a little off. Perhaps it’s my fault for buying subpar raspberries, or maybe I should have just used more of them. It’s funny that the fool is actually quite similar to the Eton mess, but the addition of meringue and actual fruit pieces make the Eton mess a winner in my eyes.

raspberry fool

raspberry foolI topped the fool with some fresh strawberries because I knew all the little people eating would enjoy them.

It wasn’t a wild success, but there’s still something that captivates me. It might just be the name, but there’s something very whimsical about a fool. A few recipes use custard instead of cream and others include a lot more fruit. Perhaps with a little more experimentation I’ll end up with something we all love. I’d love to hear if you’ve got a favourite fool recipe.

 

 

Strawberry Eton Mess

If there’s one dessert that my whole family loves, it’s the Eton Mess. My youngest niece gobbles it up greedily, the oldest tries to steal the meringues before they’re crushed in, Primrose begs me for it any chance she gets (she doesn’t quite get the seasonality of strawberries); even Daphne will have a bowl–she just makes sure she eats only the strawberries that are stirred through. It’s an almost impossible task to keep all four happy with any one dish, but the Eton Mess does it.

So when mum and dad game back from the shops with two big punnets of strawberries, I knew I had to make an Eton Mess for an upcoming sleepover. Safe to say it was eaten up pretty quickly.

picture steps for making eton mess

The Sweet Swap: Mix-Ups, Moustaches, and Mail

I’ve always wanted to make confectionary. There’s just something about sweets; childhood boiled up in sugar and wrapped in plastic. I remember I was always trying to make fudge. It just never worked. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory made me fall in love with old lolly shops and I still get excited when I pass one. Sweets have so many colours, flavours, textures, and sizes. Ultimately it all boils down to one thing: sugar. Nutritionally we get nothing from refined sugar but I don’t think another food product can cause so much joy.

On to the Sweet Swap. I knew I wanted aboard as soon as it was announced. A chance to make sweets and get packages in the mail? Sounds like a dream come true. I was almost as eager waiting for my matches as I was waiting for my packages.

Like I true food studies student, I got started in the library. Tim Richardson’s ‘Sweets’ seduced me with his descriptions like this: “The aftertaste of liquorice is stronger, if anything, than that first taste–a scirocco of sweet flavour that whirls into being as if from nowhere and hotly lingers in the mouth.Swoon.

Then I moved to the kitchen and made fudge, honeycomb, and chocolate freckles. I even tried my hand (slightly unsuccessfully) and recreating the lollipops we saw when we were in Chengdu.

In the end I decided I’d go with something I knew all too well: chocolate moustaches.

trio of chocolate moustaches

Of course, things weren’t that easy.

I first made chocolate moustaches for a Movember party about 3 or 4 years ago. They weren’t quite a success. Adelaide was going through a heatwave at the time so after about an hour my sad looking moustaches dripped and dropped off of their wooden spikes.

When I started selling cupcakes at markets the chocolate moustaches were an accompaniment to my choc Guinness cupcakes. Moustaches & beer were an obvious pair. Of course I only sold during the Summer, so there were still the days where they drooped off their sticks regardless of how high we had the air conditioner in the car. That first market was when I decided that I could make food a real part of my life. Now I’m part way through becoming a pastry chef and I’m at university studying my Master of Food Studies. These chocolate mo’s helped make it happen.

They join the long tradition of sweets that masquerade as something they’re not. Like boxes of the dubious fads (once called fags), hard candy dummies, and lollipops that double as whistles; sweets are the one time you’re supposed to play with your food. So as I packaged off my chocolate moustaches I hoped their recipients would have a bit of fun too. 

photo boxes with moustaches

Unfortunately my moustache moulds were missing and I’d run out of time to order any online. So I was inspired by a chair I passed while walking to the beach. This chair had lemons for $2 a bag. Inspired by my good friend Albus Dumbledore, I decided to make sherbet lemons. Why stop at one flavour when you can have two? I popped up to our local fruit and veg shop and bought some apples too. After some juicing it was time to start boiling sugar and juice.

I boiled and scraped, and pulled, and rolled. Then I packaged the first lot of apple lollies into their little jars. An hour later two things occurred.

  1. I managed to find my moustache moulds.
  2. My apple lollies had squished themselves down to half their size to make  a solid lump at the bottom of the jars.

sweet swap apple lollies

On to round two.

I decided to fill the chocolate moustaches. One with the peanut butter mix I use for my homemade peanut butter cups, one with a raspberry ganache, and one with regular chocolate ganache. I scrapped the chocolate ganache idea in favour of dark chocolate freckles. University can do that to you.

What You’ll Need:
1 bag Nestle milk chocolate melts
1 bag Nestle dark chocolate melts
1 bag Nestle white chocolate melts
Chocolate Moustache Moulds

Raspberry Ganache
Handful of frozen raspberries
1 part cream
2 parts white chocolate

Peanut Butter Filling
Smooth peanut butter
Icing sugar

Start by preparing your fillings. For the ganache heat cream and raspberries on the stove, stirring. Add in more raspberries to suit your tastes. Once the cream begins to bubble, remove it from the stove and strain the mixture. Add the white chocolate to the hot mixture and stir until combined. Place the white chocolate in the fridge to cool.

To make the peanut butter filling scoop peanut butter filling into a bowl. Add enough icing sugar so that the mix is a little bit crumbly but can be rolled into small balls. Adjust with icing sugar or peanut butter to suit your tastes.

For Freckles

Heat dark chocolate in a microwave safe container. Start at 30 seconds and then repeat at 20 second intervals, stirring in between.
Add a lollipop stick to each of the moulds, and sprinkle them with 100s and 1000s.
Use a teaspoon to fill the moulds. Make sure the stick is covered. Leave to set.

For Choc Peanut Butter Moustaches

Heat the milk chocolate, following the instructions for dark chocolate. Use a paint brush to cover the entire mould with a layer of chocolate. Make sure there are no gaps.
Add lollipop sticks to the moulds.
Leave the chocolate to set completely. You can do this in the fridge or freezer to speed things up.
Roll a portion of the peanut butter mixture into two halves and then flatten them into each side of the moustache. Try and leave a small gap around the outside so that the moustache can seal.
Cover with milk chocolate and leave to set.

For White Chocolate Moustaches with Raspberry Ganache

Make sure the ganache has cooled down, it should not be completely set.
Melt the white chocolate as above, following instructions for covering the mould.
Use a spoon or pipping bag to fill the moulds with the raspberry ganache.
Cover with white chocolate and leave to set.

They’re not the most amazing sweets you’ll come across and they’re unlikely to impress a gourmand, but they’re loads fun. What more do you need? The lovely ladies who received a box of moustaches are Jen from Jenius, Cath from Confessions of a Glutton, and Prue from the Culinary Library. Hope you all enjoyed them!

Now for the mail!

My first package arrived nice and early. I was actually down at my parents place for the week–about 2 hours from my apartment thanks to the trains not running. I came back into town to grab them and was greeted by some very moist and delicious brownies from Hold the Peas.

sweet swap brownies

Next were the raw vegan truffle balls from Jenius. My favourite was the cashew, lime and coconut. It was nutty and just a little bit sour. Plus, I didn’t have to feel bad scoffing them all down because they’re healthy!

present raw vegan truffle balls

My final package was from Diamond Interiors. I got some lovely little rich mocha fudge. I couldn’t gobble these up quick enough! I’m a bit of a fudge addict, and these were a great end to the swap.

chocolate fudge

Lessons Learned

I loved being part of the Sweet Swap, and thank you so much to Sara and Amanda for organising it! It was lots of fun, but there are still a couple of lessons I learned.

  • Trust your gut. When I was making the apple candies the recipe I got my inspiration from said to boil the sugar to a hard ball. I was pretty sure that if I wanted hard candies I needed to go to a hard crack. But I blindly followed instructions and messed things up.
  • Plan ahead. This doesn’t just come to sweets, but sending them off too. I was really happy with the packages I sent, but I’ll admit that I spend a little bit too much on postage.
  • Snap, snap, snap. I wish I got some better photos of my sweets. I was in a messy kitchen and I was running out of time, so these three lonesome moustaches were all I could get.

So that’s the end of my Sweet Swap post of epic proportions. I’ve loved delving into the world of candy. I’m also heading along to a confectionary course at TAFE in November so this sweet journey is far from over.

Have you ever attempted candy in the kitchen?