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When I travelled to New Zealand in August of 2006, I came across the amazing dessert Pavlova. It was everywhere I went. Curiously, it is New Zealand’s national dessert, and can be found at all manner of cultural events, in bakeries, and in many homes. And it’s no wonder why; it’s a very light, slightly sweet dessert that takes full advantage of seasonal fruits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every year on my birthday, I make a Pavlova as my “birthday cake”. The recipe is simple and easy to follow, and doesn’t take much time. The flavours remind me of every amazing experience I had in New Zealand: the bungee jumps, the skydiving, the beaches, the glaciers, and especially, my first foray into kayaking.

To this day, my trip to New Zealand is consistently my favourite experience. It was a great country to visit, I met so many fascinating and fun people, and had the best time of my life. I miss it everyday, and find myself fantasising about the countryside constantly. So it’s no wonder that I try my best to remember all these good times through my sense of taste!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The basic recipe is a meringue base, with whipped cream and fruit on top. I’ve altered the whipped cream to make a White Chocolate Orange Chantilly Cream, using orange flavoured white chocolate. The best (and most affordable) orange flavoured white chocolate is only available around Christmas time. It is Terry’s White Chocolate Orange.

Pavlova

4 egg whites

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sliced strawberries

2 kiwis

2 passion fruits

1 cup whipped cream

6 oz orange flavoured white chocolate

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle the cream of tartar over the egg whites and beat until stiff. Whisk together the cornstarch and powdered sugar. Add the mixture to the egg whites a tablesppon at a time, while beating on medium speed, until all is combined. The meringue should be shiny, white, and stiff. Fold in the vanilla extract.

Reduce the oven to 200 F, and mound the meringue on the pan so it is between 6-8″ in diameter. Bake for one hour. Turn off the oven, and leave the meringue to cool overnight.

Whip the cream until soft peaks. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, and pour into the whipped cream while beating on medium speed. Add the whipped cream on top of the meringue, then arrange the fruit (either artistically, or haphazardly, as I have done).

Now on to the photography:

I had some considerable difficulty with lighting. It was a cloudy day (on my birthday!), so I couldn’t get the best shots. I don’t know what the little blue flowers are, but I enjoy the contrast they bring. Any thoughts or suggestions?! I welcome your feedback! =)

I woke up to a windy, cold, rainy, and otherwise nasty weekend. The only motivation for me to get out of bed was to bake something warm, full of fruit, and, for a change, with minimal sugar. Blueberry and peach galettes with a multi-grain pate brisee was perfect!

 

Multi-grain Pate Brisee

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oats
2 tsp sugar (only 2!)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup milk

Combine all ingredients except the oats and milk in a food processor. Pulse to blend. Add milk, just until the mixture comes together. On a clean surface, spread out the oats. Quickly and gently knead the oats into the tart dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

Blueberry filling
1 1/4 cup blueberries (I used frozen, because it’s winter here)
1 tbsp corn starch
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tsp lemon juice

Peach filling
1 1/4 cup peaches, chopped (again, I used frozen fruit)
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon

Split the tart dough in half, and roll each into a circle, roughly 1/4″ thick. Place fruit mixture into the center of the dough (you can mix the fruits, if you want!) and fold up the tart dough. It will not cover the fruit, but will have many folds.
Brush with an egg wash (one egg plus one yolk with a pinch of salt), dust with cinnamon and sugar, and bake at 350 F until golden and crisp. Eat warm, or wrap in plastic wrap and save for later. The galettes will be good for 2-3 days only.

I’m pretty happy with these photos! I think they are my best food photography yet. Any thoughts or comments? Anything I should change? Is it obvious that I boosted the saturation and contrast a bit? Probably… but I think it looks tasty! Anything to make (frozen) peaches brighter and juicier can’t be bad, right? =)

Natural lighting ROCKS! Except for some of the shadows caused by the huge freakin’ pine tree in front of my window… it might become a problem when it fills out and blocks all the sunlight!

Still on my homemade pudding kick. It’s so simple to do, I just have to experiment with flavours. Obviously, chocolate and peanut butter isn’t much of an experiment. It’s well-established fact that the two go together. But since I’ve never had peanut butter pudding (not even from a box mix!) I thought I’d give it a go.

Nothing says “peanut butter” like a crocus…. right? Ok, not really. But I’m still trying to figure out some food photography stuff, and introducing some “props.” Your thoughts on the flower? The colour scheme?

 

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Layered Puddings

Peanut butter pudding:

1/2 cup sugar

5 tsp cornstarch

1/8 tsp salt

1 3/4 cups whole milk (don’t use anythign other than whole milk!)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup smooth, natural peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

In a saucepan, mix all the dry ingredients. Add milk and heavy whipping cream, and stir until the mixture boils. Let boil one minute, then add peanut butter. Return to a boil, and let boil one minute more. Remove from heat, and add vanilla extract. Let cool slightly.

Chocolate pudding:

6 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp cornstarch

2 tbsp cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups whole milk (again, only use whole milk)

1/2 cup whipping cream

4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

1 tsp vanilla extract

Again, combine the dry ingredients in a saucepan. Add milk and heavy cream, and stir to a boil. Let boil one minute, then add chopped chocolate. Return to a boil, and boil for one minute. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Let cool slightly.

Whipping cream

1 cup cold whipping cream

1 tbsp sugar (optional)

Whip the cream with the sugar until soft peaks form.

In a wine glass (or other glass container), fill 1/3 of the way with peanut butter pudding, 1/3 with chocolate pudding, and 1/3 with whipping cream. Or alternate this in any way you see fit for dramatic effect.

The peanut butter pudding can be overpowering, so try to use a little more chocolate pudding to the peanut butter pudding.

I promise the next post will not be about pudding. Enjoy!

I’ve been on a pudding kick lately. I’m not sure why. But ever since I learned how to make home-made pudding (which is so easy, I can’t believe I grew up on the boxed stuff), I’ve been experimenting with flavours. So far, butterscotch pudding with salted cashews has been my favourite. And to make it look a bit fancier, I put the pudding in sweet tartlette shells. Here’s the recipe for the tartlette shells, adapted from Johnny Iuzzini’s Dessert Fourplay.

Tart Dough

3 cups flour

Pinch of coarse salt

3/4 cup sugar

10 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg

1 egg white

Beat the butter, sugar, and salt together in a stand mixer until pale. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and egg white together, and slowly add to the butter mixture while the beater is on slow. Whisk the flour and baking soda together, then carefully pour into the butter/egg mixture. Mix only until blended. Wrap the dough in plastic, and let chill at least 1 hour.

Mold into tart pans or ring molds. Place parchment paper or foil into the ring molds and fill with beans, rice, or pie weights, and bake at 350 F until just golden, but not any longer, or the tart dough will be too stiff.

Salted Cashews

1 cup cashews

~1 tbsp corn syrup

~1/4 cup coarse salt.

Toss the cashews in the corn syrup (heat the sryup if necessary), and when they are all coated, toss in the salt. In a small pan or cookie sheet, bake at 350 F for approximately 15 minutes, stirring every three minutes.

Butterscotch Pudding

6 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp cornstarch

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

6 ounces butterscotch chips

Mix the dry ingredients in a saucepan, but reserve the buterscotch chips. Add the milk and cream and bring to a boil. Let boil for approximately one minute. The mixture will thicken, so whisk constantly. Add butterscotch chips, and return to the boil. Let boil one minute more, then remove from heat and let cool, stirring occasionally. Pour mixture into the tartlette shells, cover with plastic wrap so the wrap touches the surface of the pudding, then chill for 2 hours. Top with whipped cream and salted cashews before serving.

Salt Lake City is slowly making it’s climb out of the deadly grip of winter. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of winter; the poor air quality, the freezing cold, the harsh driving conditions, and the grey sky all conspire to make me feel depressed and down. Lately, the Salt Lake valley has made the gradual change to warmer weather, and slowly, ever so slowly, buds are forming on the bare trees, with promises of warm weather and a nice, pleasant summer. To celebrate this semi-frozen awakening in nature, I thought I’d make some semifreddo, which literally means “semi-frozen.” Totally appropriate!!

Unfortunately, the weather is terribly unpredictable, and I couldn’t get any proper light in my living room, so these are the best photos I could manage. I will make this dessert again, and will have better photos next time. Until then…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made the semifreddos in a 3-inch ring mold, layering different flavours to give the dessert a different effect, and to make them look a bit fancier. Because I wanted them to have some stability, it seemed easiest to put the creamy mixture on top of something, so I made some pate sucree, and cut the dough into 3-inch round discs. As a result, there are quite a few recipes, steps, and processes for this dessert, but they are all listed below!

Pate Sucree

1 1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup butter

1 egg

Place all ingredients (except egg) in a food processor. Pulse until fine crumbs form. Add egg and process just until the dough comes together. Be careful not to process more. Gather the dough into a ball, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Roll into a thin disk, about 1/4″ thick, then cut about six 3-inch circles. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, and baking in a pre-heated oven (350 F) for approximately 10 minutes. Do not let the dough turn golden, or it will be too hard. Let cool completely, then place inside 3-inch round ring molds.

Chocolate Hazelnut semifreddo

1/4 tsp gelatin

3 tbsp water

3/4 cup heavy cream

3 tbsp honey

2 tbsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt

3 large egg yolks

1/2 cup Nutella or chocolate hazelnut spread (or ganache, if you have it).

Sprinkle gelatin over 1 tbsp water. Beat the cream until soft peaks form. Stir together honey, sugar, salt, and remaining water in saucepan, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil without stirring until 238 F. Meanwhile, beat the yolks until they are thick and pale, about the entire time it takes for the sugar mixture to reach 238 F. Reduce the speed to medium, and SLOWLY pour in the hot sugar mixture. Add the gelatin to the hot pan so it warms, then beat it into the yolk mixture. Fold in the whipped cream, and split the mixture in half. Melt about 1 tbsp of the chocolate hazelnut spread until it is pourable (but not hot), and gently fold into one of the egg/cream mixtures until combined thoroughly. Let chill.

With remaining chocolate hazelnut spread, cover three of the pate sucree discs with a thick layer, using more if necessary. Add the chocolate semifreddo mixture on top, about halfway up the ring mold. Top with the plain semifreddo mixture, and smooth until flat. Add a small dollop of chocolate hazelnut spread, or some sifted cocoa powder for a garnish. Freeze for at least two hours.

Blueberry lemon semifreddo

Use the same semifreddo directions as above. Instead of separating the egg/cream mixture in half, leave the mixture together, and gently fold in the lemon curd (recipe below), but don’t combine completely. Leave some streaks of lemon.

For the blueberry layer, process 1/2 cups blueberries with 1 tbsp sugar. Soften 1 tsp gelatin with 1 tbsp water. When the gelatin is thick, gently warm the gelatin in the microwave, then add to the blueberry mixture. Fill each pate sucree-lined ring mold halfway with lemon curd semifreddo mixture, then add the blueberry layer, then top with the remaining semifreddo mixture, and top with whole blueberries as a garnish. Freeze for at least two hours before serving.

Lemon Curd

6 tbsp butter

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

2/3 cup lemon juice

Zest of one lemon

Cream the sugar and butter in a mixer, then add the lemon juice and eggs. mix as well as you can. Put in a saucepan and cook until the temperature reaches 170 F. Remove from heat and add the lemon zest. Chill the entire pan in an ice bath, and then strain (though this wasn’t necessary when I made it). Refrigerate for at least a day, with plastic wrap resting ON TOP of the lemon curd to prevent a skin from forming.

Since Spring is… er… springing, I thought it would be nice to show some cakes I’ve done with a variety of flowers. Now, these photos are old… maybe two years ago, when I was first learning to decorate cakes. That’s my disclaimer for anything wrong imperfect.

This lovely little pink cake, with indiscernible white flowers and a pearl border, was biscotti cake. No, the cake wasn’t hard and tough, it was just flavoured like traditional biscotti: a little bit of cocoa and some anise seeds. Surprisingly, it was pretty good!

This was my first attempt at a tiered cake. Obviously. I donated this to Equality Utah a long time ago. Each tier was a chocolate cake, but each tier had a different ffilling between the layers. The fillings were coconut cream, strawberries, and caramel. The multi-coloured daisies took FOREVER to make, so I’m glad I had help from two of my friends.

This was a quick little heart-shaped chocolate cake with white chocolate ganache and gumpaste flowers (not sure what kind!) that I made for Valentine’s Day (years ago).

Tiger lilies are some of the most interesting flowers. A friend of mine was turning 23, and she said her favourite colour was blue and she liked tiger lilies. I made 24 lilies out of royal icing, and all but 8 broke. They were an utter, dismal failure, and are the reason for my hatred of royal icing. The cake is blue vanilla buttercream, with a fondant bow. I really like the colour scheme of this cake, I just wish I could remember the flavours of cake!

Hopefully spring is… springing in your area, and you’re able to see some flowers soon! =)

I had a HUGE hankering for some good ol’ fashioned wheat bread. Unfortunately, I don’t have any wheat bread recipes, so I made a quick trip to the (best ever) library. I snagged a copy of Country Breads of the World by Linda Collister and Anthony Blake. WHAT A BOOK!

What I ended up making was Pain d’epices, or Spiced Bread. Not really realising how much honey is in the recipe, it was MUCH sweeter than I wanted, but the result was beautiful. I added some seed mixture I thought would be interesting, and have been snacking on it, bit by bit, ever since. I’ve also given out a few loaves to friends, since I baked them in ramekins and flower pots.

Just look at the quality of that crumb! The end result is a spicy, delicate crumb with a lot of natural clover sweetness. No need for butter or any kind of spread, the bread is perfect all on its own! And the seed mixture adds just the right amount of crunch…… here’s the recipe, adapted from the above-mentioned book:

 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used bleached… shame on me!)

1 cup rye flour (I didn’t have rye, so I used unbleached whole wheat flour)

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon, cloves, and quatre epices (a mixture of seven parts ground black pepper to one part each cloves, ginger, and nutmeg)

2 tsp baking powder

2/3 cup blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

1 cup honey, slightly warmed

2 egg yolks

5 tbsp milk

Glaze:

2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons milk

Seed Mixture:

1/4 cup each: poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, blanched almond slivers, pumpkin seeds, oats, and flax seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Sift the flour, salt, spices, and baking powder into a powl. Stir in the almonds. In a separate bowl, mix the honey, milk, and egg yolks, then add to the flour mixture to make a sticky cake batter. Spoon into the prepared pan (or flower pots, or ramekins) and bake until gold brown, roughly 45 minutes (about 30 minutes for the ramekins/flower pots). Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

Heat the sugar in the milk until dissolved, then simmer for 1-2 minutes to make a sticky glaze. Brush this over the hot loaf, and let the bread cool until you can handle it comfortably, then ENJOY!

This just wouldn’t be a food blog unless I posted something sweet and Valentine’s-themed. Though I’m not really doing anything for V-Day (besides indulging in my love affair with Super Mario 64), I made these cookies in advance to mail out to my Meem, who just had a(nother) nasty ankle surgery…

These are some simple chocolate cookies, cut in various shapes and sizes, then sandwiched with a layer of hazelnut chocolate spread, strawberry jam, or apricot preserves. Here’s the recipe for the cookies, loosely adapted from the Confetti Cakes book:

2 1/3 cups flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

6 oz chocolate morsels

1 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add egg and vanilla extract. Slowly melt the chocolate in a microwave or double boiler, and add to the butter mixture in a steady stream while mixing. Sift remaining dry ingredients together, and slowly add to butter mixture. Roll into a log, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour or so. Roll the dough out to be about 1/2″ thick. Using a circle cutter (about 1.5″ in diameter), cut circles and bake on prepared pan at 350 F for approximately 8 minutes. When the cookies have finished baking, quickly take them out of the oven and cut the desired shapes. Using a small round cutter, flower cutter, or heart cutter, cut a small window in half of the cookies  you make, so that each cookie (comprised of two cookies) has one cookie that does not have the window, and one cookie that has the window.

Let the cookies cool, and then spread the window-less cookie with store-bought hazelnut spread, strawberry jam, apricot jam, or any other filling of your choosing. Sandwich with a windowed cookie of the same shape, then eat and enjoy!

I made some more macarons recently. In my efforts to try out a few more flavours, I decided to go for lemon basil macarons and cardamom vanilla macarons. Both macarons were filled with a simple Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I flavoured the buttercream vanilla (for the cardamom vanilla, duh!) and lemon basil (for the lemon basil macarons, double duh).

The cardamom vanilla macarons:

These were ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! Moist, slightly crunchy, and full of flavour. And I only added 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom to the macaron recipe. What a result! I could probably add a bit more for some extra oomph, but I’m happy with 1 teaspoon.

The lemon basil macarons:

These were just OK. I’m not a huge fan, really, but they’re good. I used a handful of fresh basil leaves for the meringue cookies, and also mixed some dried basil and fresh lemon juice into the buttercream. Unfortunately, the lemon juice overpowered the basil almost completely, so you can’t really discern the basil. Better luck next time.

Also, you’ll note that both macarons are pretty much the same colour. I should probably revise that in the future to make it a bit more obvious which is which. I’ll work on it. After all, it’s all about the learning experience!

I think I’ve most definitely decided that once the bakery opens a storefront, I’ll be serving a variety of macarons. Now I just need to come up with more flavours. Suggestions welcomed! =)

I’m easily annoyed when things aren’t spelled properly. Unfortunately, I’ve no idea how to spell macarons/macaroons. When I see the word “macaroons” I immediately think of the somewhat dense and overly sweet coconut cookies that are often half-dipped in chocolate. That’s not what this post is about…

After reading a number of blogs that talk about les macarons, and learning about Laduree while reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (my new favourite book!), I just had to try out a recipe for macarons…

Every blog/website/etc I looked at espoused a variety of techniques, tricks, and claimed the macaron to be the most difficult of all things to bake!

I felt challenged. Seriously. My bakery masculinity was put into question. Turns out, macarons are no serious threat. Check ’em out:

YUM! This has to be my favouritest photo ever. I just really like it!

The macarons (from left to right) are:

Rasbperry, with ganache and raspberry filling, and

Chocolate, with ganache and caramel filling.

 The recipe I used was:

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup ground almonds

3 tbsp cocoa powder (or 3 additional tbsp of ground almonds, if you’re not making the chocolate macarons)

2 egg whites

5 tbsp granulated sugar

Blend the cocoa, powdered sugar, and ground almonds together so they are very fine. Beat the eggs whites to medium stiff consistency, then slowly add the granulated sugar, while beating, until stiff consistency. VERY CAREFULLY fold in the cocoa mixture, being careful not to overfold. Scoop the entire mixture into a piping bag with a #12 tip. Spray two baking sheets with water, then line with parchment paper. Carefully trace 1.5″ diameter circles all over the paper, and pipe the mixture until it fills each circle. Bake at 375 F for 15-18 minutes, then let them cool completely before removing from baking sheet.

Sandwich the cookies with jam, caramel, or ganache, and let them sit for a day (covered), if at all possible. The flavours really mature after a day, and the texture is much better if they sit and rest!

Trust me, they were very, very good. And for the lucky few who got to taste them, well they keep telling me they want more! I’m hoping to create some new flavours in the future; cardamom vanilla, basil lemon, orange, pistachio, green tea, etc…. help me out by giving me some flavour ideas!