January 2009


tuiles1This month’s challenge is brought to us by Karen of Baking Soda  and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf .  They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

As explained by our hosts, traditionally, tuiles are thin, crisp almond cookies that are gently moulded over a rolling pin or arched form while they are still warm. Once set, their shape resembles the curved French roofing tiles for which they are named.

I was excited by the challenge, being my first with Daring Bakers.  These little tuiles are the perfect accompaniment to sherbet, ice cream and fruit desserts.  I elected to shape my tuiles over the back of a muffin tin to form little cups, and found that was the perfect shape for the strawberry sorbet I wanted to fill them with.  (Strawberries are certainly featuring strongly this month!)

{ Tuiles }

tuiles21Following is a recipe taken from a book called “The Chocolate Book”, written by female Dutch Master chef Angélique Schmeinck.

Yields: 20. Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

* Ingredients *

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

* Directions *

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not over mix.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week; take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes – this will help spread the batter more easily. Use an off set spatula to spread batter on the baking sheet. Leave some room in between your shapes.

Bake in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from baking sheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. Or place a baking sheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

{ Strawberry Sorbet }

I selected a Philippe Rochat recipe for my Strawberry Sorbet.  With strawberries in season there was really no other fruit choice to pair with my tuiles.  Philippe Rochat is famous for his sorbet, and the emphasis on this recipe is high quality, sweet strawberries.  The strawberries provide the beautifully sweet taste, not mountains of sugar.

* Ingredients *

1kg/2lbs strawberries
100gr/3oz sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
An ice cream machine

* Directions *

Wash the strawberries and individually stem them.  Pass the strawberries through a food mill until you get strawberry puree.  Add the sugar and lemon juice and mix so that the sugar dissolves in the purée.  Chill mixture overnight.  Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine (I used my KitchenAid with attachment) and follow the instructions for making sorbet.

pumpkin-scones4Scones are the quintessential afternoon tea.  They are the perfect level of sweetness for an afternoon (or morning!) pick-me-up.  Scones come in a variety of flavours – plain, sweet or savoury – and all are delicious.  You will find many recipes for sultana/raisin scones, cheese scones, herb scones and plain scones.  But if you come across a recipe for pumpkin scones, it is likely to be courtesy of one lady.  Lady Flo.

Scones originated in Scotland and are pronounced “Skoan” in southern parts of England, and “Skon” in northern part of Britain (northern England and Scotland).  I think the latter pronunciation is more popular in Australia, though I buck the trend learning the pronunciation from parents who heralded from London.

Even though Australia cannot lay claim to the scone, the pumpkin variant is firmly cemented in our culinary repertoire.  Pumpkin scones were popularised by Florence Bjelke-Petersen – wife of former Queensland Premier and later Queenslander Senator. 

Scones are a very quick baked treat to make.  They are light, flaky and creamy, and if not over-handled, will melt in your mouth!  So in honour of Australia Day, I bring you pumpkin scones. 

{  Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen’s Famous Pumpkin Scones  }

* Ingredients *

1 Tblsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup mashed pumpkin (cold)
2 cups Self raising flour

* Directions *

pumpkin-scones-on-board

pumpkin-scones-transferpumpkin-scones-on-tray

 

 

                    

 

Beat together butter, sugar and salt with electric mixer.  Add egg, then pumpkin and stir in the flour.  Turn on to floured board.  (Use a marble pastry board if possible to keep the dough cool.)  Gently pat the dough into a mound and cut out desired shapes (e.g. circles or squares).  Place on a baking tray in a very hot oven 225-250c (435-480F) for 15-20 minutes.

{ A few tips … }

1. Australian celebrity cooks such as Belinda Alexander also pay tribute to the scone.  Belinda has a variation of the pumpkin scone with the addition of sweet dates – it is a delicious combination.
2. Consider a pumpkin scone variation with spices such as ginger or cinnamon – they beautifully enhance the pumpkin flavour. 
3. Flo’s secret – cook the pumpkin the night before and chill it in the fridge.

lamingtons6The lamington is probably the most authentic Australian baked good.  Its origin is not challenged (unlike the Pavlova) and it is firmly established as one of our nation’s treasures – a bit of a culinary icon, in fact.  You cannot attend a school fete without seeing stalls and tables piled up with these coconut covered gems.  It is also not uncommon for fundraising to be supported by ‘lamington drives’.

I have not met an Australian yet who does not like the lamington – Vegemite, yes, lamington no.  It is probably not a surprise though that most people enjoy a fluffy sponge cake coated in chocolate.  But more of a surprise that most people also like that chocolate coated sponge cake encrusted with coconut.  Seems most Australians are partial to the coconut.

They say the Lamington was named after Lord Lamington who was the elected Governor of Queensland in 1986 through to 1901.  Evidently, the lamington was created purely by accident – like the brownie – with a stale sponge cake coated with melted chocolate and then dipped into coconut to create a make-shift dessert.

Lamingtons are incredibly easy to make, and the recipe I use for Lamingtons is so very simple.  Just bake a basic sponge, cut into squares, coat with a layer of chocolate and then a layer of coconut.

Enjoy these to celebrate Australia Day or any other time of year.  If you are in the Northern Hemisphere (and experiencing a bitter winter), hopefully the coconut brings you a little sunshine with every bite.  Enjoy!

{ Lamingtons } (recipe by the Australian Women’s Weekly)

* Ingredients *

6 eggs
¾ cup castor sugar
1 cup self raising flour (all purpose + 2 tsp of baking powder)
1/3 cup cornflour (cornstarch)
1/3 cup hot water
15g (about ½ oz) butter, melted

4 cups (500g / 16 oz) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
1/3 cup cocoa
15g (about ½ oz) butter, melted
½ cup milk

3 cups (250g / 8 oz) desiccated coconut

* Directions *

1. Preheat oven to 190 C / 375 F.
2. Grease a 23cm (about 9 inch) square slab pan.
3. Beat eggs in medium bowl with electric mixer until thick and creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beat until dissolved between each addition.
4. Transfer mixture to large bowl.  Fold in sifted flours, then combined water and butter.
5. Pour into prepared pan, bake for about 30-35 minutes.   Stand 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.
6. Trim crusts from cake, cut into 25 squares.  Dip each piece in icing toss in coconut, and stand on wire rack to set.
7. For the chocolate icing, sift icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl.  Stir in butter and milk, stir over hot water until icing is smooth.

{ A few tips … }

1. It is best to make the sponge the day before and refrigerate.  It will be easier to cut and handle during the coating process.
2. When you are ready to coat the lamingtons, line a baking tray with parchment and then top with a cooling rack.  This will be perfect for your little coated cakes to rest.
3. For variation, you can split the sponge and fill with jam before coating.  You also do not have to stick with a plain sponge.  Chocolate or even strawberry is a nice variation – like the sponge layers of my Rainbow Cake.   Some lovely examples of variation are pretty pink lamingtons and berry ripple lamingtons.

mornington-3I was recently reminded of my love for strawberries when I made Pavlova a few days ago.  I am blessed to live in a climate that is favourable to the harvest of many fruits and vegetables.  Growing up there were many farms close by, in particular strawberry farms.  I was heralded back to my strawberry youth during a recent visit to Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.  Sunnyridge strawberry farm, is one of a handful “pick-your-own-strawberries” farms in the area.  I picked some beautifully fragrant and sweet berries, and was able to reminisce my childhood for a short time. 

mornington-11Strawberries are one of my favourite fruits, and when I taste them this fresh and untainted, I want to eat them all day every day.  They are so versatile in baking.  Top a Pavlova, sandwich between a sponge, use as a cheesecake filling, serve with shortcakes, use as a garnish to a chocolate tart, feature in an elegant fruit tart, as a filling of a humble pie, or as the flavour of focus in a sorbet. 

Whichever way, strawberries are a beautiful hint of summer.  If you are in the Victoria area, treat yourself to how strawberries should taste.

pavlovaAustralia Day is just around the corner.  I always enjoy celebrating a holiday with baking, so for this holiday nothing would be more appropriate than to whip up some national goodies.  Unfortunately, there are only a small handful of baked treats that Australia can claim (and some really are ‘owned’ by our friendly neighbours to the east).  Nonetheless, when I think of Australia, I think of:

1. Pavlova
2. Lamingtons
3. Pumpkin Scones

These will adorn any of my national holiday celebrations.

{ Pavlova }

It is said that the Pavlova was invented to commemorate visiting Russian Ballerina, Anna Pavlova, to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s.

While Australia often lays claim to this marshmallow-ey light dessert, recipes for Pavlova can be found in New Zealand a few years ahead of Australia.  Whichever way, this light meringue base, topped with fresh tropical fruit and cream, is a wonderful dessert and perfect end to any meal – in particular, an Australia Day BBQ! 

{ Pavlova ‘how to’ }

The key to the right consistency of the Pavlova meringue is vinegar and cornflour.  This ensures that the outside is lovely and crisp, while the centre has a creamy marshmallow texture.  The meringue base is made by beating egg whites to firm, stiff peaks then adding sugar very gradually to create a glossy texture.  Vinegar and cornflour is then added as the final step.  The mixture is piled high and baked in a slow oven. 

* Ingredients *

4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons corn flour
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

* Directions *

Preheat oven to 150 C (300 F).  Line a baking tray with parchment paper.  Trace out a circle around 20cm (8 inches) in diameter.  Turn the paper over so the pencil mark is on the underside.  Set aside.

Whip the egg whites together with cream of tartar and salt until foamy.  Gradually add the sugar and whip until mixture reaches stiff peaks.  Then add the cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla and continue whipping until smooth and glossy.  This should take about 10 minutes in total.

Mound the meringue into the centre of the prepared circle.  Using a silicon spatula, smooth out the mixture to fill the circle.  Leave a slight dent in the centre so the cream and fruit can be piled up.

Bake for around 1 hour 30 to 1 hour 40 minutes. Turn off oven and leave the meringue to cool.  You can leave overnight.

When ready to serve the Pavlova, top with whipped cream and fresh fruit as desired.  Enjoy!

{ A few tips … }

1. Whenever working with egg whites, ensure all your equipment is completely spotless – bowls, beaters, silicon scrapers etc.  Any fat or yolk trace will inhibit the egg whites reaching full volume and impact the outcome of the recipe – trust me, I have been there before!
2. Pavlova is traditionally served as a single serving.  This is perfect to end an informal meal. However, consider creating smaller, individual sized portions are ideal to finish a more elegant dinner party.  Or you can create multiple layers of Pavlova and fill each layer with fruit and cream to make a multi-layer cake.
3. Also consider flavours other than the traditional vanilla for your Pavlova.  For example, add cocoa to the finished meringue for a chocolate Pavlova.  You do not have to limit your toppings to cream and fresh fruit.  Play around with flavours such as chocolate and caramel as well as crushed nuts for a totally different dessert experience.

As a child, the cupcake was a humble afternoon treat.  Often a basic vanilla cake, iced simply with a buttercream frosting.  Or a plain fairy cake, with the top hollowed out, cut in half, then sandwiched back on (on top of a drop of cream!) like two little wings.

Then there was a bit of a revolution a few years back and a new cupcake was born.  Popularised in part by Sex and the City exposure, the cupcake took on a new life.  In Australia, a country quick to jump on any new trend, we have been speedy to take this new generation of cupcake on board.  Weddings now often exhibit an array of tastefully decorated individual cake treats in favour of the traditional tiered cake.  Bakeries and markets have an abundance of flavourful selections.  And cupcake baking and decorating classes have also sprung up around the country.

For me though, the trend has been perfectly pioneered and executed in America with a handful of entrepreneurs honing their craft to establish themselves – and their cupcakes – as artful and unique offerings.  Here are 5 of my favourite cupcake store concepts in America.

sprinkles1 :: { Sprinkles }
The name of this store puts a smile on my face.  The treats that await you are modern, and include their signature ‘dot’ on top of every cupcake letting you know the flavour.  This modern style fits well with the city in which the flagship store is located – Beverly Hills.  The ability of Sprinkles to create a new cupcake for each event or season keeps their concept fresh.

magnolia12 :: { Magnolia }
Thrust into the spotlight by Sex and the City fame, this New York based bakery serves up traditional baked goods.  New Yorkers are blessed (but also inundated) by the choice of food available in their city.  When in NYC most recently a few months ago, I was surprised by the number of new stores, shops and eateries since last there.  But the cupcake trend seems to be persisting, and even perhaps, growing.

buttercup13 :: { Buttercup }
I cannot mention Magnolia without mentioning Buttercup – the bakery that is.  Buttercup is a well-known bread brand in Australia (think Wonder bread!), but with this company’s expansion plans, it one day could be associated with a Buttercup bakery franchise instead.  This ambitious (and rival!) store also heavily features classic cupcake treats.

cupcake-shoppe4 :: { The Cupcake Shoppe }
Further north is the Cupcake Shoppe.   When in Toronto a few years ago, I do remember seeing the British influence in food selection as well as that from their neighbours down south.  The influence of this store is firmly cemented in the latter (no Bakewell tart in sight!).  The cupcakes are simple and neat with a range of flavours (including maple, eh?) to satisfy Canadian tastes.

sweet5 :: { Sweet }
I will finish this list with probably a lesser-known name to those outside the Boston area, but as tribute to my former residence.  In a recent visit to Boston a few months ago, this adorable store on Mass Ave was very sweet indeed.  For a city obsessed with ice-cream, however, it will be interesting to see how the locals take to indulging in a sweet treat out of a cupcake wrapper instead of a waffle cone!

hit-hats-openMy 8-year-old niece B. was chatting to me last night about toasting marshmallows on a recent camping trip with her family.   Now, I must confess, I do have a weakness for the toasted marshmallow.  Crispy on the outside and soft, warm and gooey on the inside.  Just perfect.

Once we started talking about marshmallows, it was not long until I had visions of rich s’more treats.  Now that is a mouth-watering combination!

With this camping inspiration in mind, it seemed only fitting to bake Hi-hat cupcakes with my niece, B.   So this morning we whipped up a batch.

The result?  A deliciously moist chocolate cupcake covered with fluffy meringue then dipped in glistening chocolate.  There was no Graham cracker in sight but a perfect blend of chocolatey and marshmallowy goodness!

hit-hats-closed

We found the Hi-hats cupcake recipe on the Martha Stewart website – which has been actually taken from the book, Cupcakes.

However, for the cake, we substituted the One-bowl cupcake recipe from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook.  This recipe really is so versatile.  It is perfect for cupcakes (1/2 recipe made 1 dozen regular sized cupcakes plus ½ dozen mini cupcakes), and works beautifully for layer cakes as well as sheet cakes.  I have used this recipe a multitude of times – it is a great backup.