Good eye might: An Australian education

Shameful admission time: until this week, I had never made a pavlova before.

I can only put it down to mum not being a fan of them, and as such, I never thought to make them either. The pavlova can be a tired, worked cliche, however a well made one is still a thing to marvel.

With Eat Drink Blog being such a big event, there were plenty of other duties to partake in. First of all, was welcoming our fantastic international blogger Adam Roberts from Amateur Gourmet, all the way over from LA. We arranged a BBQ beach dinner for him, in conjunction with the brilliant team from Tourism WA, Experience Perth and Rich Keam, WA’s Taste Master. You can check out Adam’s post on our dinner here – and yes, it was me who taught Ads to ruin the English language, in true blue, ocker style.

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I told our international guests to be kind with their evaluations of my first pavlova; that if I failed at making one, then I’d be sent to Tasmania as penance. Yes, if you do badly in this life, you get shipped to the penal colony, and if you do bad in the penal colony, you get shipped to Tassie. I’m not sure they realised I was kidding.

I used this fool-proof recipe from SBS Food – it was gorgeously crisp on the outside, and chewy on the inside. I split the mix in half and made two pavs, then stacked one on top of the other, but whichever way you do it, it’s all good!

Mixed Berry Pavlova

Adapted from SBS Food

6 egg whites
330 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp cornflour, sifted
600 ml thickened cream
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 handful strawberries, sliced
1 handful blueberries
Handful of mint leaves, shredded
Strawberry syrup, recipe here

Preheat oven to 130°C.

On some baking paper, draw around a large plate or cake pan as a template for the size of your pav. Turn the baking paper over, then line a baking tray.

Using a mixer, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Continue mixing, adding a tablespoon of sugar at a time, until the mixture is glossy and thick. Gently fold in the vanilla paste and cornflour until combined.

Pour the mixture onto the baking paper, and smooth to the edges of the circle you’ve drawn. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour 45 minutes. Turn off the oven, and leave to cool with the door closed. I left mine overnight.

Whip the cream and sugar together until soft peaks form. Spread the cream over the pavlova, then decorate with berries, syrup and mint leaves.
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If God was a Cheesecake…

I’m sure I’ve said it before. Baked treats are all kinds of delicious and amazing.
But this. This may just be my greatest work to date. No, seriously. It’s rich, decadent, glorious-ness in cheesecake form.

I think I found my heaven…

On the first day, God created Oreos (and a cricket stump to crush them with, as he couldn’t find his rolling-pin).
On the second day, God created butter. A LOT of butter.
On the third day, God created white chocolate, and said ‘let it be melted into cream cheese’. And it was so.
On the fourth day, God created dark chocolate, and felt that it could only be improved by double cream.
On the fifth day, God created raspberry coulis, because he felt guilty, and figured including fruit made it less ‘bad’.
On the sixth day, God baked, and saw that it was good.
On the seventh day, God rested. And ate. And was pleased. Then felt a little ill.
(I’m going to hell for that. I’m ok with this.)

I’ve been obsessing over this recipe for months. I just didn’t have an event worthy of such a magnificent cheesecake. But then, along came Christmas. And well, if you can’t make something at Christmas, when can you?
This is not something to make on the day. I made it over two, to allow proper setting time. Plus, cheesecake flavours enrich and develop over time, so its best to make it the day before. Also, don’t let the size of the recipe scare you, it’s detailed so you’re more likely to get it right.

It took 6 of us to get through half, and even then, it was a struggle.
This being said, the next day my two housemates ate the second half by themselves. Though, they did feel very sick after. I did not tell them I told you so (I totally said I told you so. There’s a dance that goes with it, it’s awesome).

If you’re sugar intolerant, a diabetic, on a diet… We can’t be friends. Seriously, you can leave.
No, I kid, just give this bad boy a wide berth, nothing about this can end well for you.

White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake

Adapted from SweetAnnas

Ingredients:

1 package frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
1/2 cup water
25 Oreos, crushed (just shy of two packets)
1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups chopped white chocolate
1/2 cup thin cream
3 packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
150g chopped dark chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate

1. Make the raspberry sauce: Stir together the raspberries, sugar, cornflour and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and boil 5 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl and store in the fridge until you are ready to make the cheesecake. (This step can be done a few days in advance to save time)

2. Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 180ºc. Stir together the finely crushed oreos and melted butter in a medium bowl until well mixed. Press into the bottom of a Springform pan and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is set. Remove from the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 160ºc and let the crust cool while you prepare the filling.

3. Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, heat the thin cream to almost simmering. Remove from the heat and stir in the white chocolate until melted and smooth. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, making sure to blend completely after each one. Beat in the vanilla, salt and the melted white chocolate mixture.

6. Wrap the pan with the cooled crust in it tightly with foil. Place the foil-wrapped pan in a roasting pan, and put a pot of water on the stove to boil (you will be making a water-bath for the cheesecake to bake in).

7. Pour half of the filling over the crust. Sprinkle with the chopped dark chocolate. Drizzle 4-5 tablespoons of raspberry sauce over the filling and chocolate bits and swirl with the tip of a knife. Pour the rest of the filling on top of that, drizzle with another 4-5 tablespoons of the raspberry sauce and swirl again with the knife.

8. Place the roasting pan into the oven and pour water into the roasting pan to reach about halfway up the sides of the Springform pan. Bake the cheesecake at 160ºc for 60-70 minutes, until the center is almost set (but still jiggles if you shake the pan).

9. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, let the cheesecake sit in the hot water for another 30 minutes or so, and then remove the Springform pan from the water onto a cooling rack to cool. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature and then place in the fridge to chill at least 3 hours.

10. Make the ganache: In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream just to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until smooth. Pour the ganache over the top of the cooled cheesecake, smoothing with a spoon and allowing some of the ganache to drip over the sides of the cheesecake. Return to the fridge to chill an additional 3 hours or until the ganache is shiny and set.

I don’t have a nicer picture for the finished product for you, I’m sorry. We were so keen to get into it that I kind of forgot… Oopsies. But it is pretty, promise!

Christmas time calls for elves to make kitchen magic happen. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to Nic, my taste tester, BFF extraordinaire and guinea pig. Don’t worry, she’s only friends with me because I feed her.

I’m eating my feelings; they taste delicious.

You know those days where you kind of get knocked for six?
Well, it’s been one of those weeks.
A break-up, missing some friends, and a new role at work (which is great, it’s just new, and you know how that is). All this crazy happening around me takes up a lot of energy. Which makes me hungry.
You know in movies where you see those delicate girls who are to upset to eat? I don’t have that problem. As I was inhaling ice cream while Skyping with a friend, he looked at me incredulously and asked “You’re not going to eat the whole tub, are you?”. Well, I’m not going to, now that you’ve said it like that.
Don’t judge me. I do what I want.

Eating habits aside, I’ve been in a new role at work this week. And believe it or not, when first introduced to a new group of people, I’m a little shy (stop laughing. No, seriously). My fail-safe in life has always been to bribe people into liking me with food. It’s easy, people like food, I bring food, people like me for bringing food, equals people like me.  My logic is sound, don’t ruin this for me.
So combining my desire to eat my feelings with a baking challenge, I was struck with inspiration.

Chocolate Obsession.

I’m not talking about my chocolate obsession. That’s a whole other post.
I’m talking about Chocolate Obsession ice cream. You know the one, chocolate ice cream, with cherry brandy sauce, with chocolate bits running through it? It’s like my kryptonite.
Ice cream isn’t terribly practical in the workplace (I’ve tried), but brownies are. So I decided brownies, chocolate chips, with a raspberry coulis swirled through might just do the trick.

I’m always searching for The Best Brownie Recipe. I personally think I’ve found it. That one will stay with me until I die. Or I find a better one. This one, however, is pretty damn good. Easy, too.

Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Donna Hay

200g dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips, roughly chopped
250g butter, chopped
1¾ cups (310g) brown sugar
4 eggs
⅓ cup (35g) cocoa powder, sifted
1¼ cups (185g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
¼ teaspoon baking powder

Raspberry Coulis
Adapted from myrecipes.com

2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 cup sugar Preheat oven to 160°C (325ºF).

Place the 200g chocolate (not the chips) and butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

To make the coulis; in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring raspberries and 1/2 cup sugar to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture starts to thicken, about 15 minutes.

Press mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, using a spatula to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard seeds and skins. Place the sugar, eggs, cocoa, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and mix until combined.

Mix though the chopped chocolate chips until they are evenly distributed.

Line a 20cm-square slice tin with non-stick baking paper.
Pour in half the brownie mix. Spoon half the coulis over the brownie mix, and swirl through with a knife. Pour the rest of the brownie into the pan. Repeat with remaining coulis.
Bake for 50 minutes or until an inserted skewer withdraws clean.
Allow to cool slightly in the tin before slicing. Serve warm or cold.  

Hey, they don’t call it winning brownie points for nuthin’.
P.S. If you have nothing to do on Saturday, you should check out the Beaufort St Festival. It’s going to be amazeballs.

Pizza. The Swiss Army Knife of food.

Pizza is one of those funny things.

We all know it in its simplest form. Dominoes, deep pan, enough oil to call for George W Bush to send in the Marines. You never know, pizza might have WMDs. It’s totally possible. Right..? Guys..?
Nothing fancy, right?

No.

Pizza, when done well, is nothing like this.

Luckily for us, we live among pizza genius. Some might say that it’s a slight overstatement, but to them, I say, to hell with it.
Haaaaaave you met Ted Theo?
Theo Kalogeracos owns a place called Little Caesar’s, you may have heard of it (is it weird that one of the reasons I moved to Leederville is to be closer to pizza? Wait, don’t answer that.). He’s also the 2010 World Pizza Champion. Not bad for a Perth boy, huh?

When it comes to making pizza in our house, his book is our bible. Everything from making your own dough and sauces, to the toppings featured in his own businesses is featured. You’ll quickly discover that pizza’s range can be extended from simple ham and cheese, to an entire meal.

Making your own dough is a fairly simple, fun-for-the-whole-family affair. Because, let’s be honest, if I can do it, anyone can.

Basic Pizza Dough
From Theo & Co

1kg of “00” flour (you can pick it up in supermarkets)
10g salt
10g sugar
20g dry yeast or 40g of fresh yeast
660ml cold water (really important that it’s cold)

Start by mixing all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Gradually incorporate wet and dry ingredients by slowly pouring in cold water, gently moving the water into flour mix.

It may take a couple of minutes for the dough to come together. You may not require all the water, and it’s always better to add more water, than to have it too sticky (though you can rectify this by adding more flour).

Mix

The kneading process involved consistent movement of the palms and heels of the hands, pressing down and away from the body, and turning clockwise after every pass.

Dough

If 1kg is too much, cut it in half and do it in batches. We’re aiming for a smooth ball of dough. It should be able to stretched quite thinly.

A roughly 200g ball of dough will can be made into a 25cm pizza .
Shape the dough into a round shape, and cover with a tea towel to keep from drying out. Leave to rest for 10 minutes or so (magical food science is happening to help it keep its shape), if it doesn’t take this time to rest, the dough with shrink once rolled out.

To get it round, dust your bench top and a rolling-pin with plain flour to prevent sticking.
Ooooor, you also get to practice Everyone’s favourite pizza dream. Throwing. God speed.

Yeah... Pizza making means you get to do this

After that, comes the fun part. Because just about anything can be put on a pizza (Theo’s famous for his lasagna pizza), and experimentation is how we learn, right?

So, wanting to get our vegetables, we made a Greek style pizza, consisting of kalamata olives, onion, roasted capsicum and bocconcini.

Greek Vege

We also made pizza Bianca (with additional potato), which is thinly sliced potatoes with rosemary, and once it has come out of the oven, sprinkled with salt. For the sauce, we used some carbonara pasta sauce.

Pizza Bianca

To finish it off, we had a chorizo, cherry tomato, onion and bocconcini laden delight.

Chorizo & Tomato

If you make pizza with any kind of frequency, do yourself a favour, and buy a pizza stone. It gets the base all crispy and awesome like nothing else. Otherwise, cooking on a wire rack is fine. If you’re going to use a stone/baking tray, sprinkle a bit of semolina on it first to stop the pizza from sticking.

Heat your oven to 250*c, and pizzas should probably only take between 5 and 10 minutes to cook, so keep an eye on them!

Then, came my time to throw one together.

After a trip to the Fremantle Markets over the weekend, where I couldn’t pass up the rows of fragrant, ripe berries, I knew dessert pizza was their destiny.

We just used the same base, however, you could sweeten the dough with some honey.

Melting a block of dark chocolate, I spread it thickly across the base of the pizza (nutella would also work well), and simply scattered the finely chopped strawberries and whole blue berries across the chocolate.

Dericious.

Once it came out of the oven, the pizza was dusted with a little bit of icing sugar, or could be drizzled with honey/more chocolate in you prefer.

Tadaaaaaaa!

How easy is that?

I shouldn’t need to warn you that it comes out of the oven piping hot. However, when you consider how quickly it got snatched up, and the cries of “Ow. Ow. Owowowowowowowow. That’s bloody hot” that followed, apparently, I do.
CHECK YA TEMPS.
It’s a problem, guys. A tasty, delicious problem.

*Sidenote:
Having capsicum fall off said pizza onto oven elements? This happens.

Bad, with a side of smoke inhalation. And hilarity.


How to get ahead in business. Hint: It’s with snacks!

Turns out, office morning teas are absolutely nothing like high tea with Queen Victoria.

When I first started out in the working world and received an invitation to my first morning tea, I was delighted. I had images of little sandwiches, petite fours and quiche, with witty conversation over cups of tea.

Erm… That was not the case. At all.

The reality was very different. People were snatching tidbits from platters before I’d had the chance to put them down, spilling coffee, and quickly retreating back to their desks. Don’t even get me started on the absence of quiche…

My current workplace however, is much better, and we love any excuse to get together and have a chat over snacks.

Its also a great test environment for whatever baking challenge I’ve set for myself, because as far as the work crew are concerned, hey, free treats! Everybody wins, huzzah!

These are perfect for morning teas or bake sales, as it’s not too tricky, doesn’t need complicated ingredients and appeals to just about everyone.
The original recipe calls for blackberries, however they are sometimes hard to come by in Perth, so I swapped them for blueberries.
The end result was a gorgeous crumble on top, and the filling was almost like custard, and with a lemony tang that wasn’t overpowering.

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Blueberry & Lemon Pie Bars

adapted from Pink Parsley

Crust and Topping

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (around 340g) unsalted butter, chilled

Fruit Filling

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • pinch salt
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 400g frozen blueberries, thawed and drained

To make the crust and topping, preheat the oven to 180 degrees.  Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse a few times to mix.  Cut the butter into little bits, and add to the flour mixture.  Process until the butter is evenly distributed but the mixture is still crumbly, 30-60 seconds. You can also smush it with your hands, which I did, just make sure it’s well combined.

Base & Crumble

Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the mixture to use as the topping.  Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the pan, and bake 12-15 minutes.  Cool for at least 10 minutes.

To make the filling, whisk the eggs in a large bowl, then add the sugar, sour cream, flour, salt, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.  Gently fold in the berries and spoon the mixture over the crust.  Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture evenly over the filling, and bake 45 to 55 minutes.

In stupid tiny pan

Cool for at least 1 hour before cutting into bars.

Delicious.

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At the moment, I’ve only got one baking pan (note to self: buy another), and it’s smaller than the one used in the recipe. When mine all came together, the pan was very, very full. Ooopsies. I put it in the oven, and hoped for the best. It needed more cooking than called for, but I think that was just me and my stupid tiny pan.
My guinea pigs housemates, weren’t home while I was cutting it up, so it went into the office un-pre-taste tested, which made me really nervous. Luckily, it was a winner (thanks Kate and Tracey for the love), so as spring rolls on, I’ll certainly make it again. Possibly with mixed berries. Definitely with a bigger pan.