Monday, January 28, 2008

Daring Bakers - (Limey) Lemon Meringue Pie

pastry - love it

lemon curd- to die for

meringue - let me at it

lemon meringue pie - .............meh

Why is this? It confounds me that I do not love lemon meringue pie. Somehow it's just too sweet and sticky and overpowering for my delicate little senses. A mystery for the ages.

So you will understand why I didn't fizz with excitement when I saw this month's Daring Baker challenge. But no way was I going to bail. I mean, who knows, this might be the manna recipe that turns me into a lemon meringue freak. You gotta give things a go.

So I got stuck in.

First up, pastry. This was a fairly standard shortcrust recipe. No problems there.

Next came the curd. I found this to be quite an usual and unusually fun way of making it. Basically, you boil some water, mix in some sugar and cornflour and allow to thicken. You end up with what looks for all the world like clear vicks vaporub. Channelling my childhood, it was all I could do not to rub it into my chest and have a good lie down with a hot water bottle, a hanky and a eucalyptus snifter.

Anyway, this gloop (sorry, only word for it) is mixed into egg yolks and thickened again over the heat. Butter, juice, zest and vanilla finish it off. In this case I used a mixture of lime juice and lemon zest. It's then left to cool in the pastry shell, like so.

Then came the meringue. I love making meringue. Egg whites, sugar and a touch of cream of tartar, salt and vanilla are whipped into glossy peaky perfection (and yes I have been watching Nigella).

This is piled on top of the curd and baked to a golden crisp. Like so and so.

I have to say, I was thrilled with the way the pie came out appearance wise. It was quite stunning, if I do say so myself.

Now for the key question - taste. How did it taste?

Well, I think I can honestly say that I enjoyed this lemon meringue pie more than any other I have ever tried. But was I converted? Well, no. No I wasn't. But if any pie could have done it, it would be this one. It's a cracker. Lemon meringue pies are just not for me. So sad, too bad.

All that was left to do was the washing up. Any volunteers.........please...... pretty please?

This month's challenge was hosted by Jen The Canadian Baker. You can find this recipe on lots of other terrific foodie treats on her lovely blog. If the recipe is not there yet it soon will be. I also encourage you to check out the efforts of my fellow Daring Bakers who can be found on the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Orange and Passionfruit Pound Cake

I have a huge soft spot for Maggie Beer. I love her style of cooking - homey rustic food based on fantastic local produce. Which means I love her TV show, her cookbooks and her little pots of fig paste with a hint of fennel. If I ever met her I'm not sure I could resist begging for an invite to a family dinner at her gorgeous home. No doubt she would think me quite mad and quietly escape my presence. Sigh!!!!

In the extreme unlikelihood of dinner at Maggie's, I have done the next best thing and made her orange and passionfruit pound cake. Does anything scream good old fashioned home cooking louder than a pound cake?

And this one is delicious. Maggie would never let me down. It's dense and moist and buttery and satisfying. The orange provides a nice subtle undertone and the passionfruit icing gives a welcome tang.

The recipe is for two loaves. I made it successfully in one large 15 x 27cm loaf tin.

Orange and Passionfruit Pound Cake
(adapted from Maggie's Table by Maggie Beer)


Cream together 230gm of softened cream cheese, 230gm of soft unsalted butter, 330gm of castor sugar and finely grated zest from 2 oranges.

Slowly add 4 (61gm) eggs, beating well.

Gently beat in 350gm of sifted plain flour, 2 tspn baking powder and 1/4 tspn salt.

Add 2 tbspn sour cream and 2 tspn vanilla extract. Continue to beat gently until incorporated.

Spoon into two large greased and lined loaf tins. (Or do as I did and use one 15 x 27cm loaf tin).

Bake in a 180C oven for 35-45 minutes. For the larger cake bake until a skewer comes out clean. Turn out and cool.


Melt 50gm of unsalted butter. Stir in pulp from 2 passionfruit and 180gm of icing sugar. Leave to thicken slightly and then pour over the cooled cakes and allow to set.

Note - Maggie says that this cake can also be made with 2.5 turkey eggs or 3 duck eggs. I would love to try a turkey egg!!!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

La Pizza Rossa

One of my absolute all time favourite wouldn't be without cookbooks is 'Apples for Jam' by Tessa Kiros. If you look back though the archives you will see that it already features heavily on this blog (like oat biscuits, chocolate bread, raspberry ripple ice cream, jam shortbread, chocolate hazelnut balls, yoghurt ice cream). I have bookmarked almost every page with a must try sticker.

So when I saw that the theme for this month's Hay Hay it's Donna Day was pizza (hosted this month by 80 breakfasts) my mind immediately jumped to page 53. La Pizza Rossa to be exact. I have been wanting to try this like forever.

I am ever so glad I did, because it was fabulous.

The base is a thick, very soft pillow of bread. It is dead simple to make. As you can see here, the hardest part is getting the dough to separate from your fingers as it is very soft and sticky.

I used fresh yeast and next time I will use slightly less. The bread did have a yeasty taste. This wasn't noticeable with the tomato and cheese. But I think it would be an improvement. I generally have this issue with all European recipes. Australian yeast must just be stronger or something.

If it is has a downside, it's that it takes a fair bit of time. Not work time, but sitting around rising time. The dough has to rise three times all together. I actually wondered if I could just cut the first one out. I might try it next time.

There is nothing easier than the tomato sauce. Tessa's recipe is for just plain tomato pizza.

But she does suggest some optional extras. Really, this pizza is quite big so you can have a variety of flavourings in one tray. I added some chopped bacon and meltingly soft fontina cheese to half and left the other half plain. Both were delicious, but I just can't go past cheese and bacon. So, so good.

La Pizza Rossa
(adapted from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros)


1 3/4 cups warm water
20gm of fresh yeast or 10gm of dry yeast
1 tspn honey
1 tbspn olive oil
600 gm of plain flour
1 1/2 tspn salt

Put the water, yeast, honey, oil and 3 handfuls of flour in a bowl and mix. Cover and leave for 20 minutes or until it is foamy. Mix in the rest of the flour and the salt. Knead with a dough hook for 4-5 minutes.

Cover and leave for 1 1/2 hours or until the dough is well risen.

Lighly oil a 28x38x4cm tin. Punch down the dough and spread evenly over the base of the tin. Cover and leave to rise for 45 minutes or until puffy. Carefully dimple the dough with your fingers and gently spread the tomato sauce over the top.

Feel free to add whatever other toppings you want. I think pretty much anything would work.

Bake in a 180C oven for about 20 minutes.


800gm of tinned diced tomatoes
4 tbspn olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tspn salt
handful of basil leaves

Heat the oil and garlic, add the tomatoes, torn up basil leaves and the salt. Cook for about 15 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Best Ever Chocolate Cake

I think that there are two ways a return from holidays can go.

A) You are determined to got through your life with a broom. No more sitting in front of the TV, no more eating the same old meals over and over, no more same old same old. You are going to get out there explore, experience and do things.

You hang on to these good intentions in ever decreasing increments for about a month. And then there you are in front of a CSI Miami repeat eating spaghetti bolognese.

B) You are determined to make the most of all those wonderful things in your life that you've missed out on while you've been away.

You savour each and every one with new found gratitude in ever decreasing increments for about a week. And then there you are wishing your Mum would hurry up and get off the phone because dinner is late and a saucepan is about to boil over.

I tend to cover both bases, but mostly it's B. So one of the first things I had to bake when I got home was this chocolate cake. It is so soft and moist and chocolatey. I have made it a hundred times over and I still love it.

I made it for a picnic with my family. No family picnic I have been on has gone without a big gooey chocolate cake.

We sat in the long grass under the shade of a big tree. Heat hung in the air, cicadas were buzzing, magpies were warbling, colourful parrots flashed past, some kangaroos lazed under a nearby tree and one person was assigned full time to swatting the flies. I am truly blessed.

Best Ever Chocolate Cake
(adapted from Family Circle Classic Essential Chocolate)

Cream 125gm of butter, 1/2 cup caster sugar and 1/3 cup sifted icing sugar. Gradually add 2 lightly beaten eggs. Beat thoroughly.

Add 1/4 cup seedless blackberry jam and 1 tspn of vanilla extract. Beat until combined. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Sift together 11/4 cup self raising flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder and 1 tspn bicarbonate soda. Fold into batter with a metal spoon, alternately with 1 cup of milk. Stir until the mixture is just combined.

Pour into a greased and lined 20cm square tin. Bake for 45 minutes in a 180C oven. Be careful not to overcook. Leave for a few minutes in the tin and then cool on a wire rack.

Butter Cream

Combine 50gm of dark chopped chocolate, 25gm of butter, 1/4 cup sifted icing sugar and 3 tspn cream in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until smooth and glossy. Spread over the top of the cooled cake.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Proper Chicken Ceaser Salad

How happy am I to be back in my kitchen!!! As much as I enjoyed the food in India, I have been longing for simple plain meals. No oil, no spices, just fresh lightly cooked ingredients.

Add to that soaring temperatures of 35C plus, and it all adds up to salads. And lots of them. Just the sight of a few bright, crisp green leaves makes me happy at the moment.

One recipe I have been dying to try is Jamie Oliver's ceaser salad. I saw him cook this on his latest TV show ages ago and it looked so fantastic. Chicken legs are roasted over the top of the bread croutons so that they soak up all the juices adding an additional depth of flavour.

I have to say that it did not disappoint. It was so, so good.

One of the best things I found about this recipe is the idea of mixing the parmesan cheese into the dressing. I know that sounds like a totally silly thing to say.

But really, ceaser salads are hard to eat!! The croutons and bacon bits are hard to get your fork into and are impossible to balance all the way to your mouth. Same with the cheese, it all just falls off and you end up with a big pile of it at the bottom of the bowl. Then it's always served in deep round bowls, which makes it all so hard to get at and even more impossible. No wonder so many of them are drowned in dressing, it glues everything together.

Anyway, enough of my whining. To make this salad extra special I threw in some roasted mushrooms and added some roasted garlic to the dressing. A light drizzle was more than enough. It added great flavour to the salad without a lot of oiliness.

I ate this for lunch for three days in a row. Yum.

Proper Chicken Ceaser Salad
(adapted from Jamie at Home)

Tear a loaf of ciabatta bread into thumb size pieces. Place in a roasting try with four chicken legs. Sprinkle with 3 sprigs of chopped up rosemary, drizzle with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix to ensure that everything is well coated. Move the chicken on top of the bread and roast in a 200C oven for about 45 minutes.

Drape 12 pancetta slices or some thin slices of bacon over the top of the bread and chicken and roast for a further 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Grind garlic (or roasted garlic) to taste with 4 anchovy fillets. Whisk in 75gm of grated parmesan and 1 tbspn of cream or creme fraiche. Add lemon juice and olive oil at a ratio of 1 tbspn lemon = 3 tbspn oil to taste. I added only 1 tbspn lemon and 3 tbspn oil to get maximum taste from only a small amount of dressing. Season if needed.

Place lettuce leaves, bacon, chicken and croutons on a plate and drizzle with the dressing.

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