Saturday, May 12, 2012

Flourless Almond and Coconut Cake (Gluten Free) - Simple, Yummy and Great for all occasion!

To be honest, am not usually a great big fan of non chocolate and cheesy cake, but while going through all my magazine stacks during a house cleaning session a couple of years ago, I bump into this recipe!  It looked quite attractive, furthermore it had lots of almonds in it which is my all time favourite nut!  I decided to give it a try and I must say I didnt regret trying it.  It is sooooo simple to make, and most importantly, it taste really good:)  I also made it for one of the morning tea at work and had many request for the recipe after that.  All that was about 2 years ago, which also means I havent made this for a while and had actually forgottten about it admist all the happenings surrounding my life of late!  With a friend's birthday coming up and wanting to make a cake for her but didnt have too much time to spare as it was weekday night, this cake once again pop on my mind.  Also thought at the same time, was a good excuse to do a blog write up on it and share this lovely recipe of Belinda Jeffery's with everyone out there:)  Enjoy!

Recipe Source (Australian Womens Weekly April 2007).  Original Recipe from Belinda Jeffery's book, Mix and Bake.
Serves 8.  Preparation 20 mins.  Cooking 40 mins.
1 1/2 cups (180g) ground almonds
3/4 cup (60g) desiccated coconut
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups (250g) caster sugar (note:  I thought this amount is too sweet for me, hence only used a a little less than 1 cup or 1 cup and I think that amount is just nice!)
4 free range eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almomd essence
200g cultured unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp flaked almonds
rich cream, for serving, optional

1) Preheat the oven to moderate (180C/160C Fan Forced).  Butter a 23cm-24cm shallow springform tin, line the base and sides with buttered baking paper.  Dust the tin lightly with flour, or rice flour if you're avoiding wheat, and set it aside.
2) Put the ground almonds, coconut, salt and sugar into a medium bowl, whisk for 40 seconds.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and almond essence until they're mixed thoroughly, then mix in the cooled butter until it disappears.  Tip the butter mixture into the almond mixture and stir them together.  Scrape this into the prepared tin and spread it out evenly, then scatter the flaked almonds over the top.
3) Bake the cake for about 40 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back slowly when you press it gently.  When the cake is ready, transfer it to a wire rack and leave it to cool in the tin.  Once its cool, remove from tin.  Serve with cream, if desired.
(Suitable to freeze.  Butter suitable to microwave.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Ultimate Banana Bread!

Honestly I was never a big fan of banana bread or I would say never quite craved for it.  However, since the drop of banana prices from over AUD$9/kg to less than AUD$3/kg, we have been buying bananas quite a bit and with just the 2 of us at home, was hard to finish it before it goes black! Hence, I decided instead of letting it rot and throwing it away, I decided to make banana bread!  I didnt quite have a recipe on hand hence went searching for it on the internet, one which looks simple and calls for all the ingredients I already have at home.  The outcome of that recipe was very disappointing, the bread was dry, the taste of banana wasnt strong enough and the colour wasnt appealing!  Really gives one an incomplete feeling and at that moment I really craved for a good banana bread.  My partner was kind enough and got me a good banana bread from somewhere in the CBD area of Sydney the next day!  The satisfaction was temporary and furthermore banana bread is not cheap as a piece is sold at around $3-$3.50 at most places and most of the time, it is not that good!  Hence, I started my quest to search for an ultimate banana bread recipe.  Lucky me, this didnt take too long as all I had to do was asked one of my collegue at work who was a former pastry chef and she immediately emailed me the recipe (Thanks heaps Christina P!).  The source of the recipe was from a 5 star hotel where she did her apprenticeship there many years back.  After trying the recipe, I must say this is definitely an ultimate banana bread recipe!  It is so simple to make and people that tasted it (even the pickiest of the lot as far as food is concern) loved it!  Since getting the recipe, I have experimented it many times and coming up with my own portioning of ingredients but still maintaining the majority of the base recipe.  Anyways, for those banana bread lovers out there, do give the recipe below a try and let me know how it goes!

(Yield 2 medium size loaf pan)
600g very ripe bananas, mashed
300g brown sugar (add more if you like, the original recipe called for 500g but for me 300g is just nice)
450g plain flour
25g baking soda
6 eggs
250ml milk
250ml canola oil
2 tbsp honey
8 handful of chopped roasted walnuts (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 170C
2) Line 2 medium size loaf pan with baking paper
3) Place all dry ingredients in a mixer bowl with a paddle attachment and mix ingredients until combined
4) Add in all the liquid ingredients and mixed until lump free
5) Pour into loaf pan and bake for about 1 hr 10 mins or until done.  Use the toothpick method to check for doneness.
6) Let cool in pan about 25 mins.  Remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
a) This recipe is pretty flexible hence if you do not have a mixer, dont despair, as it could all be mixed up in a big bowl, the outcome will just be as good!
b) If you do not have a fan force oven, its important to turn the pan around every 20-25 minutes to ensure the sides do not burn or brown too quickly.
c) To freeze, slice them and wrap them in a plastic wrap.  Before serving, heat up in the microwave for approximately 30 seconds.

Monday, April 2, 2012

It has been a while...celebrating my come back with a passionfruit pavlova!!!

I can't quite believe time has flew quickly and I havent touched or updated my blog for a little over a year! No...I havent been lazy!!! In the last 13 months, I did a couple of french macaron sale at the monthly Wagga Wagga local farmers market (if you have done macarons before, you can imagine how labour intensive this can be especially if one is running it at the side of a full time job and spending all weekends on a one man show just making and packaging the macarons!! I do enjoy it though and the end result is very rewarding!!), embarked on a new relationship, moved to a bigger city and started a new job!!! the last 13 months, lots has happened both in my personal and work life!  Am a little more settled in to my new life and routine and ready to get back on to experimenting and sharing on my blog...!!!  Moving to a new place also means adapting to new kitchen appliances especially the oven.  I must say I really really miss my oven back in Wagga Wagga and wished I could have move it here!  The oven at this new place is kind of old, not fan force and heats up way too quickly which also means one needs to constantly watch or reduce cooking time in order to avoid burning and creating a disastrous end result! 

Anyways, so much for my babling...although I had done a number of experiments in the last couple of months, I cant think of what better than a Pavlova to kick start my come back!:)  For those unfamiliar with Pavlova, it is an Australian celebration dessert and commonly serve during Birthdays, Christmas, Australia Day etc.  A typical pavlova is in a round or square cake form which base is entirely meringue and is topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits.  However, instead of a typical pavlova, I decided to do a lighter version which is a pavlova roll.  I have meant to experiment this recipe when I first saw it on the Australian Good Food magazine in Oct 2010 but somehow havent got a chance to do this until now!!  The whole process is fairly simple, however, the rolling bit can be a bit messy and somewhat fiddly.  Quite happy with the end result but in all my excitement on wanting to taste it, I forgot to sprinkle the icing sugar which would look nice as presentation but can be eliminated as the end result is already sweet enough:)  Anyways, below is the recipe, hope you enjoy experimenting it as much as I do:)

Passionfruit Pavlova Roll
(Adapted from October 2010 Australian Good Food Magazine)
Serves 6 Prep 20 mins plus cooling and chilling
Cook 20 mins
Special Occasion and Kid Friendly

4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar plus 1 tbsp extra
1 tsp cornflour, sifted
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
200ml pure cream
pulp of 8 passionfruit
1 tbsp pure icing sugar, sifted

1) Preheat oven to 140C non fan.  Grease a 32cm x 26cm swiss roll pan.  Line base and ensure that baking paper extends 5cm above rim on long sides of pan.
2) Using an electric mixer, beat eggwhites until soft peaks form.  Add half of caster sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, beating constantly until thick and glossy.  Using a large metal spoon, gently fold through cornflour, vinegar and vanilla, until just combined.  Using a silicone spatula, spread mixture evenly into prepared pan.
3) Bake for 15-20 mins, until just firm and lightly coloured.  Cool in pan for 5 mins.  Line a wire rack with baking paper and dust with extra 1 tbsp caster sugar.  Turn meringue out onto prepared rack.  Gently peel away and discard baking paper from meringue.  Cool.
4) Using an electric mixer, whip cream until firm peaks form.  Fold through half of passionfruit pulp.  Spread cream over meringue, leaving a 1cm border around edge.  Using baking paper as a guide, and starting from long side, tightly roll meringue, keeping it wrapped in baking paper.  Refrigerate for 30 mins.
5) Place remaining passionfruit pulp and remaining caster sugar in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat and simmer for 2-3 mins, until thickened slightly.  Cool.
6) Unwrap roulade and dust with icing sugar.  Drizzle with syrup and serve.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Daring Bakers Challenge Feb 2011 - Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

The February 2011 Daring Bakers'challenge was hosted  by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen.  She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

I was pretty happy when I saw this challenge as it looked easy and I reckon it should not take too long to complete.  February has been a busy month for me on a personal level as I was away a couple of weeks celebrating Chinese New Year with my family abroad:)  Hence, I only had time to complete this challenge yesterday (on the other hand, do not want to miss this challenge as well) as I must say it was a cool and breezy one and thanks to Mallory.   I have made panna cotta before (as per my previous postings) but not the florentine cookies.  We were given several recipe choices which included layering the panna cotta with jelly (which I intend to give it a try one of these days as it is something I have not attempted before) but due to the time factor I opted to make something simpler.  The end result was a chocolatey heaven - chocolate panna cotta with chocolate filling florentine cookies - yummy!  Recipe as below - enjoy trying...

Chocolate Panna Cotta
(Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)
1 cup (240ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7gm) (1/4 oz) unflavoured powdered gelatin
2 cups (480 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1/2 cup (115gm) (4oz) sugar
3/4 cup (145gm) (5oz) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon (2 1/2 ml) vanilla extract

1) Pour milk into a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the top, set aside for 2-5 minutes.
2) Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir in cream, sugar and vanilla.  Bring to a low boil.
3) Add chocolate and whisk until melted.  Whisk the milk/gelatin mixture into chocolate cream mixture.  Whisk until gelatin has dissolved.
4) Transfer to ramekins, or nice glasses for serving.
5) Cover and chill at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Nestle Florentine Cookies
Recipe from the cookbook "Nestle Classic Recipes", and their website
2/3 cup (160ml) (150gm) (5.3 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (480ml) (160gm) (5 2/3 oz) quick oats
1 cup (240ml) (230gm) (8oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160ml) (95gm) (3 1/3oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk
1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups (360ml) (250gm) (9oz) dark or milk chocolate

Preheat oven to moderately hot 375F (190C) (gas mark 5).  Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper

1) Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.
2) To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt.  Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75mm) apart, on to your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.
3) Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown.  Cool completely on the baking sheets.
4) While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stove top (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl).
5) Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).
6) Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.

This recipe will make about 2 1/2 - 3 dozen sandwiched Florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Daring Bakers Challenge Jan 2011:Biscuit Jaconde Imprime/Entrement with Chocolate Chantilly Cream and Sour Cherry Jelly filling!

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

Happy New Year once again and what a challenge to start the year off with!  I must say, this is by far the hardest challenge since I started joining Daring Bakers' challenges.  This challenge does takes some organization and planning before executing it.  Although I was somewhat disappointed with the turnout of my biscuit imprime, I still had a good time working on this challenge and thought my filling turned out really good.  I had a filling similar to a black forest cake and got this idea from a recipe book I bought not too long ago.  Hence the finish product was a chocolate sponge outer layer filled with dark chocolate chantilly cream and a sour cherry jelly middle and topped with whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate.   Recipe as per below, do give it a try:)

Joconde Sponge
YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13" x 18" (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan
¾ cup/ 180 ml/ 3oz/ 85g almond flour/meal - *You can also use hazelnut flour, just omit the butter
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 ml/ 2⅔ oz/ 75g confectioners' (icing) sugar
¼ cup/ 60 ml/ 1 oz/ 25g cake flour *See note below 3 large eggs - about 5⅓ oz/ 150g
3 large egg whites - about 3 oz/ 90g
2½ teaspoons/ 12½ ml/ ⅓ oz/ 10g white granulated sugar or superfine (caster) sugar
2 tablespoons/ 30 ml/ 1oz / 30g unsalted butter, melted
1. In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.
2. Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour. (This can be done into your dirty egg white bowl)
3. On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light. (If using a stand mixer use blade attachment. If hand held a whisk attachment is fine, or by hand. )
4. Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.
5. Fold in melted butter.
6. Reserve batter to be used later.

Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste
YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13" x 18" (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan
14 tablespoons/ 210ml/ 7oz/ 200g unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups plus1½ tablespoons/ 385ml/ 7oz/ 200g Confectioners' (icing) sugar
7 large egg whites - about 7 oz / 200g
1¾ cup/ 420ml/ 7¾ oz/ 220g cake flour
Food coloring gel, paste or liquid
COCOA Décor Paste Variation: Reduce cake flour to 6 oz / 170g. Add 2 oz/ 60 g cocoa powder. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together before adding to creamed mixtureDirections:
1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (use stand mixer with blade, hand held mixer, or by hand)
2. Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously.
3. Fold in sifted flour.
4. Tint batter with coloring to desired color, if not making cocoa variation.

Preparing the Joconde- How to make the pattern:
1. Spread a thin even layer of décor paste approximately 1/4 inch (5 millimeter) thick onto silicone baking mat with a spatula, or flat knife. Place mat on an upside down baking sheet. The upside down sheet makes spreading easier with no lip from the pan.
2. Pattern the décor paste – Here is where you can be creative. Make horizontal /vertical lines (you can use a knife, spatula, cake/pastry comb). Squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grains. Be creative whatever you have at home to make a design can be used. OR use a piping bag. Pipe letters, or polka dots, or a piped design. If you do not have a piping bag. Fill a ziplock bag and snip off corner for a homemade version of one.
3. Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes.
4. Remove from freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.
5. Bake at 475ºF /250ºC until the joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approx. 15 minutes. You can bake it as is on the upside down pan. Yes, it is a very quick bake, so watch carefully.
6. Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat.
7. Flip cooled cake on to a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove silpat. Cake should be right side up, and pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)

Preparing the MOLD for entremets You can use any type of mold. I would suggest:
1. Start with a large piece of parchment paper laid on a very flat baking sheet. Then a large piece of cling wrap over the parchment paper. Place a spring form pan ring, with the base removed, over the cling wrap and pull the cling wrap tightly up on the outside of the mold. Line the inside of the ring with a curled piece of parchment paper overlapping top edge by ½ inch. CUT the parchment paper to the TOP OF THE MOLD. It will be easier to smooth the top of the cake.
2. A biscuit cutter/ cookie cutter- using cling wrap pulled tightly as the base and the cling covering the outside of the mold, placed on a parchment lined very flat baking sheet. Line the inside with a curled piece of parchment paper overlapping.
3. Cut PVC pipe from your local hardware store. Very cheap! These can be cut into any height you wish to make a mold. 2 to 3 inches is good. My store will cut them for me, ask an employee at your store. You can get several for matching individual desserts. Cling wrap and parchment line, as outlined above.  
4. Glass Trifle bowl. You will not have a free standing dessert, but you will have a nice pattern to see your joconde for this layered dessert.

Preparing the Jaconde for Molding:
Video: MUST WATCH THIS. This is a very good demo of the joconde and filling the entremets:
1. Trim the cake of any dark crispy edges. You should have a nice rectangle shape.
2. Decide how thick you want your "Joconde wrapper". Traditionally, it is ½ the height of your mold. This is done so more layers of the plated dessert can be shown. However, you can make it the full height.
3. Once your height is measured, then you can cut the cake into equal strips, of height and length. (Use a very sharp paring knife and ruler.)
4. Make sure your strips are cut cleanly and ends are cut perfectly straight. Press the cake strips inside of the mold, decorative side facing out. Once wrapped inside the mold, overlap your ends slightly. You want your Joconde to fit very tightly pressed up to the sides of the mold. Then gently push and press the ends to meet together to make a seamless cake. The cake is very flexible so you can push it into place. You can use more than one piece to "wrap "your mold, if one cut piece is not long enough.
5. The mold is done, and ready to fill.
*Note:  If not ready to use. Lay cake kept whole or already cut into strips, on a flat surface, wrap in parchment and several layers of cling wrap and freeze.
Entremet- Filling Options:
It is nice to have a completed dessert so you can unmold and see the Joconde working. Fill with anything you desire. Layers of different flavors and textures! However, it needs to be something cold that will not fall apart when unmolded.
Suggestions: Mousses, pastry creams, Bavarian creams, cheesecakes, puddings, curds, jams, cookie bases, more cake (bake off the remaining sponge and cut to layer inside), nuts, Dacquoise, fresh fruit, chocolates, gelee.

Below is the filling that I have use - enjoy!
Sour Cherry Filling (adapted from Not Quitting Sweets recipe book by Kin)

250g canned black cherry with syrup
40g water
10g sugar
4g gelatine leaf (soaked in cold water until soft, drained)

1) Bring water and sugar to the boil.  Add soaked gelatine leaf and stir until gelatine dissolves
2) Stir in cherry and syrup.  Mix well.  Pour into the mould and freeze it.

Chocolate Chantilly Cream (adapted from Not Quitting Sweets recipe book by Kin)
200g dark chocolate (over 50% cocoa)
500g whipped cream

1) Melt the chocolate over a hot water bath or in a microwave up to 55C to 60C.
2) Quickly stir in whipped cream.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Brioche french bread - so soft and moist!

A couple of years back, I really thought that one need a bread machine to make bread at home, but after trying to make it without one, I find that it is actually quite an effortless process especially when using a basic mixer with a dough hook.  Only thing is one needs to be really patient as there is lots of waiting time in between when the dough is being proof.  Since making bread for the first time last year, I have been making it at home quite often and really do enjoy the process.  I have been meaning to try making Brioche, which is a french bread for quite a while after bumping into this recipe in June 2010 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.  Finally I have a chance to try making it and OMG, it is the simplest bread to make as compared to my other bread making experiences.  It was a fairly quick process and the outcome was really good.  The bread has this really light feel and tasted so soft and moist even after a couple of days!  Anyways, recipe as per below, do give it a try. 

Brioche (adapted from June 2010 Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine)
(makes 1 loaf)
160ml milk
1 1/2tsp dried yeast
5 egg yolks at room temperature, lighly beaten
375gm plain flour, plus extra for dusting
30gm caster sugar plus extra for dusting
150gm butter, diced and softened, plus extra for greasing
Eggwash, for brushing

1) Warm milk in a small saucepan over low heat until lukewarm,  Combine yeast and half the milk in a bowl, stirring to dissolve.  Stand in a warm place until foamy (8-10 minutes)
2) Whisk remaining milk with egg yolks in a bowl and set aside
3) Mix flour, sugar and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with dough hook, until combined.  Make a well in the centre, add yeast mixture and yolk mixture.  Beat on medium speed until a smooth dough forms (4-5 minutes)
4) While mixing, gradually add one-third of butter at a time, beat until dough is elastic and pulls away from sides of bowl (8-10 minutes).
5) Transfer to a lightly buttered bowl, cover and stand until doubled in size (1 1/2-2 hours).
6) Knock back dough, knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, shape into a loaf and place in a 11cm x 24cm loaf tin buttered and lined with baking paper.  Cover, stand until doubled in size (30 minutes-1 hour).  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180C.)
7) Brush top with eggwash, dust with sugar, bake until golden and risen (25-30 minutes).
8) Remove from tin, place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, return to oven until sides are golden (8-10 minutes), cool on a wire rack.