Monday, July 30, 2007

A Daring Bake - Stawberry Mirror Cake

'A Handful of Jelly'

"Holy strawberries Batman! Are we in a jam!"
by Robin

This quote pretty much sums up my thoughts when I spotted the newest Daring Bakers' challenge - strawberry mirror cake. The cake itself sounded fabulous, both interesting and delicious.

Rather it was the thought of buying 3 baskets (which I presume is the American term for a tray, rather than a punnet) of strawberries in the middle of a Canberra winter. This would require a mortgage and for all that they would be hard, tasteless and generally horrid.

Fortunately, the interrogation of hapless friends and work colleagues led me to a frozen strawberry source - my local Coles supermarket. I realise this doesn't exactly make them hens teeth, but I am a loyal Woolworths shopper. What their stocking agents have against frozen strawberries I don't know.

Anyway, with the essential ingredient in my hot little hands I could get going.

Day 1 - I make cake.

A plain vanilla sponge cake to be exact. The cake is supposed to be baked in a large jelly roll tin and then cut into circles.

I do not have a jelly roll tin. I'm not even sure what a jelly roll is. I do, however, have a smaller sized lamington tin. So I made the cake twice over using 2/3 of the cake batter each time. The left over cake would go into the freezer to be used in a future trifle.

It all started out really well. I beat and sifted and folded and turned out one lovely light cake.

As for the second cake - well there were issues. About halfway through the phone rang - my Mum reminding me about my nephew's birthday. Then the doorbell rang - the neighbour wanting to borrow a phillip's head screwdriver (I don't have one). Then the phone rang again - friends arranging Harry Potter tickets. I got back to the cake and merrily folded the egg whites into the yolk mixture - without first adding the flour! Aackkkkkk!!!!!!

There was hair clutching and a few non-child friendly words. What to do!!! All I could do was continue on by very carefully folding in the flour and hoping for the best. And it turned out surpisingly well. The crumb of the cake was coarser and a bit tougher than cake number one. But it was perfectly acceptable. It had to be really, I did not have the stamina or the eggs for a third cake.

Day 2 - Time to get stuck into the strawberries. I make juice, puree and syrup.

First the juice. Strawberries and sugar went into a saucepan and simmered away. Then I was supposed to strain it through a jelly bag. I don't have one of those either. The piece of muslin I use for this kind of thing seems to have moved out of home, it was nowhere to be found. So I improvised using a fine mesh strainer. I was quite pleased with my little setup. It worked perfectly.

The strawberry juice was absolutely delicious. It was all I could do not to keep, you know, 'accidently' dropping teaspoons into it. As you do.

Next came the puree. Strawberries into the food processer, mulch and push through a strainer. Easy peasy.

Finally, the soaking syrup for the cake. Sugar went into a saucepan of water and duly dissolved itself. Done.

Day 3a - I make bavarian cream.

I whipped up the bavarian cream with no real problems. The custard thickened nicely. The gelatine dissolved smoothly. The whipped cream folded in beautifully. It was all good.

Nevertheless, I have to say, I was a bit disappointed with the result. The basic strawberry custard tasted fantastic. Adding in the whipped cream diluted the taste quite a lot and it ended up being a wee bit bland I thought.

I pressed on. Everything was going so well, too well. It was at this point that things started going south.

After ages of just hanging around not doing much, the bavarian cream decided to thicken and set at a moment's notice. I didn't so much it pour over the cake as dollop it in in large globs (sounds delicious, no?).

Only then did I realise that I had made the cake layers too thick, meaning that I didn't have enough cream to cover them over and fill up the area between the sides of the cake and the tin. I ended up with a kind of a burial mound effect. A high rise circle in the middle with a depressed rim around the outside.

What's more I knew that, given the thickness of the mix and the hasty way I had thrown it in, there would be big airpockets in the cream down the side of the cake. But I didn't want to push the mixture down to fill them because then the level of cream woudn't be high enough to get a proper mirror across the top. All the jelly would just run off and sit in the runnel around the edge.

So I tried to create a smooth layer of cream over the very top, doing my best to form a tight seal with the tin all around the edge. It looked good and I thought it would be fine.

Yeah right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Day 3b - I make a mess and then VOILA.

I made up the strawberry jelly and waited for it to thicken to a syrup. And waited. And waited. I got more and more worried that it would decide to set instantly like the bavarian cream. So I went ahead and poured it over the cake.

Then I stood and watched it ooze out the bottom of the cake tin. It had found it's way down the side, through the air pockets and out.

After a moment of jigging on the spot and flapping my hands in panic I grabbed it, shoved it holus bolus into the fridge, and slammed the door. My only hope was that the jelly would set before it all just drained away.

I spent the next hour and a half glancing anxiously at the fridge door. What horrors lay within? I couldn't bring myself to look. In the end I was overcome by hunger pangs and had to open it up for survival purposes. And I pulled out................ a not too bad cake. I was amazed. Sure the fridge looked like a crime scene, but I actually had a cake with a mirror on it. Of sorts.

If you got the right angle it looked really good (apart from the air pockets).

From other angles, errrr.......not so much.

But still, given what I thought I would end up with, I was quite chuffed. Once cut into slices, I think it looked quite nice.

In these photos, you can really see the difference in the cakes. The first perfect cake is on the bottom, the second screw up cake is on the top. I also let the second cake brown a bit too much. I wish I had either sliced off the bottom of the cake or used it as the first layer.

So there you have it - a strawberry mirror cake.

As for the taste. Well, the strawberry jelly was far and away the star of the show. It had a lovely intense strawberry flavour which really sparkled against the rest of the cake, which I found to be a bit bland.

Overall, I enjoyed it and I'm really glad I made it. But I don't think I will be making it again. What I have been doing is dreaming up all kinds of other uses for the divinely delicious strawberry juice and strawberry jelly.

Thanks to Peabody choosing such a great task. I can't wait to see what's next.

The full recipe is posted here on Peabody's site (if it's not there yet it soon will be). I also encourage you to check out the efforts of my fellow Daring Bakers, links here. They will be posting their results throughout the next day or so.

'Self Portrait in Strawberry Jelly'


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Chocolate almond buttercrunch toffee

It seems that where ever you look on the blogosphere these days you see a recipe by David Lebovitz. Usually an incredibly yummy ice cream recipe accompanied by rave reviews.

Naturally, I felt like I was really missing out so went along to his blog for a look see. And I found this.

Chocolate almond buttercrunch toffee to be exact. It looked way too good to resist. I love toffee, I love almonds and I love chocolate.

I whipped this up for a picnic with a group of friends. It was a big hit. The toffee was brittle and crispy providing a great contrast with the smooth chocolate. The almonds added a great nutty edge to the whole thing.

It was quick and easy to make. The only problem I had was in overcooking the toffee a little. It began to burn just as I got it to 300F that the recipe requires. I will cook with a lower heat next time. But it was fine tastewise. I also didn't have enough almonds to add the second layer on top of the chocolate. Again, I don't think it mattered much.

The recipe can be found here.

This is what I love about foodie blogs. They have opened up a whole new world of books and writers and recipes. Fantastic.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lentil Soup

Behold the humble lentil, a very worthy legume. It's full of fibre and protein and all kinds of good things. But let's face it, lentils are never gonna make it big in the foodie world.

Take lentil soup for instance. It's unremittingly brown, it's kinda gloopy looking and it's made of lentils - the food of hippies and vegetarians (not that there's anything wrong with that).

This is a bit of a shame. Sure it's not caviar encrusted lobster, but lentil soup is hearty, tasty and comforting. It's exactly the sort of dish I crave at the end of a long cold day. And there are plenty of those at the moment, with the temperature struggling to get into double figures.

What's more it's easy to make. The recipe I use is Italian and is traditionally served in a hollowed out bread roll. I usually don't bother to do this and just serve it in a bowl with bread on the side. Either way it's really enjoyable, I promise.

Lentil Soup
(adapted from Delicious Magazine May 2005)

Rinse 250gm of brown or green lentils. Place lentils, 2 smashed garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves and 6 cups of cold water in a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes or untl the lentils are almost tender.

At the same time, heat 2 tbs of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add 100gm of chopped bacon, one chopped onion and 2 chopped carrots and fry for 10 minutes. Add 400gm of chopped tinned tomatoes. Add to the lentils. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Drain 400gm of canned chickpeas and add. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for a further 10 minutes or until thick and soupy. Serve.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Me and a Recipe

I have been tagged for a meme by Tara at Should You Eat That. I have to post 8 random facts about myself. I've never been tagged for anything before. So it's quite exciting. Thanks Tara.

On the other hand, given the amount of time it's taken me to think of eight 'interesting' facts (I use the term advisedly) I'm not convinced that anyone else will find it all that fascinating. So to entice you to read and keep reading I have laid a trail of photos, Hansel and Gretel like, to a delicious and highly recommended recipe at the end.

So here we go.

1. I am a bit of a fussy eater. Probably not what you expect from someone with a food blog. I flat out do not like seafood, olives, walnuts, capsicum, brussel sprouts, fruit cake, honey or celery. It’s all my Dad’s fault. He refuses to even allow beetroot in the house. My sister is even pickier than both of us. My poor Mum will eat anything. Every Christmas she makes a fruit cake and folornly begs all my aunts and uncles to help her eat it.

2. I have never won a raffle prize in my life. I must have bought a million tickets.

3. I once almost walked into an elephant because I didn’t know it was there. I was walking along a path by the Zambezi River at Victoria Falls. I was on my own and got more and more freaked out by all the warning signs for crocodiles. I stopped, thought for a few minutes and turned around to go back when there was all this rustling off to my right. I spun around and there was an elephant standing only about 2 metres away. My eyes had been pinned on the river and I had been totally oblivious to everything else. Once I stopped hyperventilating I beat it out of there.

4. I always wanted to call our family pets Narelle. My Dad always voted for Fred. My Mum usually won.

5. In my travels I have found myself sleeping in some odd places. I once spent a night on a remote part of the Great Wall of China. We set off at dusk and walked along the wall until we found a nice flat spot. We woke up to watch the sunrise over hills and vallies with the wall looping around in front of us. It was magical. I once spent the night in an ancient roman amphitheatre in Bosra in Syria. You pay a fee and at 11pm the doors are locked and you can settle down to sleep anywhere you want. I chose the middle of the stage. The best place though was in an ancient fort in the middle of the desert in northern Syria. The walls of the fort were made out of a kind of pink quartz stone. At sunset the stones began to sparkle and looked like they were made of pink glitter. I slept on the floor of a ruined tenth centry church in amongst all these broken pillars staring up at a million stars.

6. Mosquitos do not like me. At barbecues I sit perfectly immune while all my friends get eaten alive.

7. I have never owned a mobile phone.

8. My favourite TV shows are British comedies. I love One Foot in the Grave, Red Dwarf, The Royle Family, Only Fools and Horses, Porridge, Allo Allo. I could go on.

Congratulations you made it!!!!

Sticky Pineapple Coconut Cake
(adapted from Marie Clare Kitchen)

Put 350g of caster sugar, 250ml of coconut milk, 175g of dessicated coconut that has been toasted, 280g of diced fresh pineapple and 4 eggs into a large bowl. Stir together. Fold in 250g of sifted plain flour and 2 tspn of baking powder.

Spoon into greased and lined 24cm springform tin. Bake in 180C oven for 1 hour. Turn out to cool.

Work 1 tbspn of butter into 125g of sifted icing sugar. Slowly add 2 tbspn of lime juice. The icing should be smooth and runny. Drizzle over the cooled cake.

I'm supposed to tag other people. I've only managed five so far. I will update.

Pinky at The Poison Doughnut
Lydia at My Kitchen
Cherrie Pie at Sweet Cherrie Pie
Dharm at Dad-Baker&Chef
Steph at A Whisk and a Spoon

Friday, July 06, 2007

HHDD#13 - Raspberry and Banana Sorbet

I think that my genetic code is rebelling against its puritan ancestry. When it comes to food I have strong leaning towards decadence. A couple of hundred years of gruel is enough for my DNA.

Would you like huge swirl of whipped cream on top of that ridiculously rich glass of iced chocolate? Oh yes please.

Would you like a large glug of hot chocolate fudge sauce all over that sinful piece of chocolate cake and that ultra creamy scoop of vanilla ice cream? Naturally.

The only thing that stops my waistline expanding to the size of a hula hoop is a healthy metabolism and an inbuilt preference for small portions. I am by nature a small eater. So ironically enough, I have to thank my genetic code for saving me from myself.

It should therefore come as no surprise to you that I have never really gone in much for sorbets. I mean, why eat juiced up fruit when you can have lusciously creamy ice cream instead. It just goes against the grain.

But two things have happened to make me change tack, at least a little bit. First, this month's theme for Hay Hay It's Donna Day, hosted by Laura at Eat Drink Live, is sorbet. Second, I stumbled across this recipe in the UK Daily Telegraph. Web surfing will get you to some odd places.

Raspberry and banana is my kind of sorbet. I love raspberries, a decadent berry if ever there was one. And the article promises that the banana would add a rich creaminess. It set my taste buds a-tingling.

The first thing I learned about sorbets is that they are really easy to make. This recipe was no trouble at all. I simply made a sugar syrup and blended it with the raspberries, a banana and some lime juice. I had no lemons. I then whipped an egg white and carefully mixed it in. It was all over in a flash.

As for the taste, well it is delicious. The banana flavour ended up being quite strong. The recipe called for a very ripe banana. The one I used had been frozen. Any overripe bananas that I can't use straight away go in the freezer for a later date. I think that this actually intensifies the flavour. I have no scientific proof of this. I just think it.

One of the best things about this sorbet is the colour - a rich vibrant red (more so than the photos show). You cannot get colour like that with ice cream. The weather here in Canberra has been bleak and miserable. (Hence the rather poor photographs in this and recent posts.) It has been a joy just to pull this burst of radiance out of the freezer and sit down with it in front of me.

I will never look down my nose at sorbets again.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Coca Cola Marshmallow Ice Cream



You are not mistaken. Yes, I have used coca cola and marshmallows to make ice cream. Now before you start gagging or click away thinking I am mad, I just want to say 1) it's actually quite nice and 2) it wasn't my idea.

A month or so ago I saw this recipe in the Canberra Times newspaper. It's the recipe of a lady called Lee Miller, a famous American model, war photographer and cordon bleu cook from the early part of the last century. I admit I had never heard of her, but anyone who wins a Norweigan sandwich competition sounds alright to me. Apparently, she came up with this recipe after guest criticised the American taste for coke and marshmallows.

I simply had to try this. I love trying odd things. And it seemed perfect for this month's Monthly Mingle challenge posed by Meeta - 'Scream for Ice Cream'.

On the first attempt I followed the printed recipe exactly. The taste was good. The excellent thing about it is that you can taste the different ingredients - the spikiness of the coke, the fruitiness of the lemon and the smoothness of the rum. The marshmallows didn't make much of an impression though.

I was not, however, happy with the texture. The final product was very icy. And adding cream to a frozen mixture was a disaster as the cream curdled into little frozen lumps. It was less than appetising.

So I set about trying to make the most of this recipe's potential. I increased the amount of coke and the number of marshmallows. I then simmered this mix over a low heat until it was reduced by a bit more than half. I then allowed it to cool to room temperature and then added cream.

After a number of attempts I am approaching success!!!! I can now produce a smooth, creamy ice cream with a distinct coke/lemon/rum flavour. It still needs some tweaking to ramp up the coke taste some more, but it's pretty good I think.

So here it is.

Coca Cola Marshmallow Ice Cream
(adapted from The Canberra Times and The Age Newspaper)

Place 500ml of full strength coca cola and 32 mashmallows (flavour doesn't matter) into a saucepan with a small pinch of salt. Heat gently and whisk until marshmallows are incorporated. Simmer until the mix has reduced by a bit more than half, it should be turning quite syrupy.

Remove from heat and add the juice of one large lemon and 21/2 tbspn of rum (or more to taste). Cool to room temperature. Add two cups of thickened cream and stir in.

Refrigerate, churn in an ice cream maker and freeze.

Subscribe to A Cracking Good Egg by Email
Australian Food Bloggers Ring
list >> random >> join
Site Ring from Bravenet