Saturday, October 22, 2005

Simply Delightful!



There are a few simple joys in my life, one of which is something i look forward to in the mail, my bi-monthly issue of Cuisine. I love that magazine! I enjoy the gorgeous pictures, articles that i find both deliciously written and informative at the same time. This issue of Cuisine, they presented one of my favourite desserts while i was living in college at University in Australia, Pavlovas!!!

A pavlova is a meringue dessert named after a Russion Ballet dancer called Anna Pavlova. The true origin of Pavlova is not known but between the Aussies and the Kiwis, both claim their country as the true origin of this lovely dessert.

I remembered how i could never get enough of Pavlovas everytime its on the dinner menu at college! Looking at the menu within Cuisine, i knew i HAD to bake it and start indulging and reminiscing together with my preggy kitchen angel, koko.

Strawberry Pavlovas

Ingredients:

Pavlovas
5 large egg whites
350g castor sugar
1 tsp cornflour
2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla essence

Strawberries
500g strawberries, hulled and halved
juice and zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 cup castor sugar

500ml cream, whipped

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 130 degrees C.
Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Place all ingredients above into an electric mixer bowl and beat on full power for about 8min until very thick and white.
Place 8 large spoonfuls, well spaced on the baking paper.
Bake for 40min. Take out of the oven and cool. Carefully take off the paper. Store in an air-tight container.

Strawberries to serve

Put strawberries, lemon juice and zest and sugar into a bowl and mix well. Reserve for 30min. Spoon whipped cream over the top of each pavlova and pile the strawberries on top.

I made a strawberry compote as an alternative topping . The recipe as follows:

1/2 cup raisins
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 cup medium sherry
3 tbsp castor sugar
500g strawberries, hulled and halved

Method:
Put raisins, zest, juice, sherry and sugar and bring to boil, mixing well to dissolve the sugar.
Simmer for 15min, then remove from heat and cool completely.

As you can see from my picture, i loaded the pavlova with fatty whipped cream...forget about the calories, that's the proper way to enjoy a pavlova!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Another Chocolate Affair

Just when i thought i was officially off the hook from chocolate, my dearest friend koko who is now 10 weeks pregnant, has the biggest cravings for chocolate. We were planning to have an afternoon of baking fun together at my place and she specifically wanted chocolate. Part of the pleasures of being pregnant is that everyone around you crowns you the queen and allows you to make the decision especially when it is anything related to food.

So after much "erms" and "ahhs", we decided on Truffle Brownies and White Chocolate Creme Citron Tart both from Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow. Baking is so much more fun when you have someone else to join in as well!

I remember baking brownies out of a Betty Crocker pre-mix box.....as a student then, it was satisfying as its a easy 1-2 steps and viola you got brownies! But after tasting these brownies from Fran's recipe, i can assure you will never ever buy another packet of Brownies mix from Betty Crocker!


Truffle Brownies

Ingredients:

8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 pound (unsalted butter, room Temp)
(1 pound = 453.6g)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup castor sugar
6 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup flour, seived

Method:

Position rack in the middle of oven and pre-heat oven to 170 degrees C. Lightly butter a 9 x 13 inch sheet pan
In a double boiler over simmering water combine chocolate. Remove when nearly melted and continue stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool.
In a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and both sugars at a medium speed until light. 5-6min.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and continue beating until the mixture is smooth and light, 2-3min.
Pour in cooled chocolate and mix well. If butter begins to melt when the chocolate is added, stop pouring and let the chocolate cool further. The finished mixture should be glossy and smooth.
With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour until all traces of white have disappeared. Be careful not to overmix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and back 30min or until the crust is dull on top and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with dark wet crumbs on it.
Let cool in the pan for 1 hour. Cut into squares and remove with a spatula. Store brownies in a sealed pleastic container for as long as a week.
Best served with your favourite ice cream!


White Chocolate Creme Citron Tart
and
Pure Chocolate Tart

Ingredients:

Sugar Tart Crust
6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup cake flour
extra flour for dusting

White Chocolate Creme Citron filling
8 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
4 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
8 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp, cut into 16 pieces

Pure Chocolate filling
17 oz dark milk chocolate plus 3 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 strips lemon peel, cut with a veggie peeler, 1 x 3 inch

Method:

Sugar Tart Crusts

In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed, about 2 min. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the egg yolk. Continue mixing on medium high speed for 1-2min until pale yellow in colour and completely smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the cake flour spoonfuls at a time. Mix on low speed just until blended, being careful not to overmix. Transfer to a sheet of plastic wrap and gently pat into a ball. Wrap well and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Lightly butter 12 3-inch round tart pans.
Remove the chilled dough from the fridge. Let dough warm for 20min until its pliable but still cool to the touch.
On a lightly floured board gently knead the dough a few times. Pat into a ball then with your palms, flatten then start rolling from the center with a floured rolling pin until its about 1/8 inch thick. Keep dusting the board and pin with flour as needed.
With a 4 inch round cutter (what i used was a glass with a 4inch diameter) cut out circles. Transfer the circles of dough to the butter tart pans, pressing into the bottom and sides. Using a fork, pierce the bottom several times. Using a paring knife, trim off excess dough along the edges. Chill for at least 30min before baking.
To bake, pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Place chilled tart shells on a baking sheet. Bake for 20-25min until the top is blistered and dry and lightly brown.

White Chocolate Creme Citron Tart

Place egg yolks and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Immediately whisk together until smooth. Add lemon juice and whisk again.
Place saucepan over low heat. Cook the egg yolk mixture stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula until the mixture thicken and you notice the first bubble of a boil. Immediately remove from the heat.
Add the white chocolate and stir until smooth. Add the butter, a piece at a time, stirring until completely incorporated.
Pour into the baked tart shells and chill to set for about 4 hours.

Pure Chocolate Tart

In a double boiler melt chocolate over low heat. Remove when chocolate is nearly melted and stir till smooth.
In a saucepan, heat the cream and lemon peel over medium heat until it begins to boil. Remove from the heat and let it sit for 5min.
Pour cream through a seive into the melted chocolate, stirring gently. Pour filling into the tart shells, smoothing the top. Place in fridge to set for 4 hours.

Allow tarts to warm to room temp before serving.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

White Chocolate Coconut Cream Bars


After getting my hands on Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow, I now have more bars of chocolate in my fridge than ever before. One of the few recipes I am very attracted to within the book is the White Chocolate Coconut Cream bars. It doesnt look easy but i thought it wouldnt hurt to give it a try. As some of you might already know from my earlier attempt to making Chocolate Truffles I have incorporated coconut as one of my desired toppings. I have always loved the fragrance and taste of coconut. Coconut macaroons are one of my favourite coconut sweets. I was rather happy with the outcome of the bars but i thought the shortbread was a little too hard. Many more practice needed.

White-Chocolate Coconut Cream Bars

Ingredients:

Coconut Cream Filling
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 oz unsweetened finely shredded dried coconut

White Chocolate Shortbread Layer
4 oz semi sweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup sugar
8 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp (approx 160g)
2 cups cake flour, sifted

Dark Ganache topping
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 oz semi sweet chocolate, finely chopped

Method:

To make coconut filling
In a saucepan heat cream over medium high heat just until it begins to simmer. Remove from the heat add the white chocolate and stir until smooth and melted. Stir in the coconut. Pout into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap touching the top. Let sit in room temp at least 3 hours but no longer than 24 hours.

To make shortbread layer
Lightly butter a 9 x 13 inch sheet pan. Fan suggested to use a food processor to pulse the chocolate but i decided to just use my knife and chop them up. Place cut chocolate into a small bowl, they should all be about 1/16 to 1/8 inch. Set aside.

In a double-boiler melt white chocolate. Remove from heat when chocolate is almost melted and continue stirring until its glossy and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. Return to the double boiler only briefly if chocolate begins to set up.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar and butter on medium-high speed until light in colour and fluffy. 3-5min. Add the melted white chocolate and blend throughly on medium-high speed. Add sifted flour and procedded dark chocolate. Mix on low speed until dough begins to hold together. Remove from the mixing bowl and gently knead a few times to throughly mix. Press dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Refridgerate or freeze until firm.

To bake the bars
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat at 170 degrees C. Bake the chilled shortbread crust until lightly golden and slightly puffed. 25min. Cool completely in the pan. If the base settles a bit in the center, do not worry. It will be perfect for holding the filling.

The assemble the bars
Place coconut cream filling in a bowl of a heavy duty mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or use a hand mixer. Beat on medium speed, scraping the sides of the bowl several times until the filling is lighter in both colour and texture, about 1min. Spread the filling evenly and smoothly over the baked cooled shortbread layer.

To make the ganache and finish the bars
In a pot heat the cream over medium-high heat until it begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the finely chopped chocolate until smooth. Let cool until about 80-85 degrees F. Slowly pour over the coconut filling, spreading it evenly to the edges.
Let set at room temp about 1 hours or place in refridgerator to cool quickly, about 20min. To cut, score the filling with a sharp knife where you wish to cut. Then slice through the base with a long, sharp blade. Remove the bars with a spatula. Store in a sealed container in the refridgerator as long as a week.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I was speechless.....

With such a big week I am now glad is over, i knew i have been neglecting a few "To Dos"...apart from the usual deadlines for bills, hiring a cleaner for my house, hunting down more cookbooks...something was still amis....what is it?? I know the memory is the first thing to go but damn, not that fast??!!

After i stumbled upon a blog that mentioned lobster, i suddenly remembered.....i was supposed to post about my wonderful dinner I had at San Marco Restaurant at the Fullerton Hotel (previously was occupied by The Lighthouse restaurant).

The latest addition to the group, the dynamic duo (whom i have a lot of respect for), Emmanuel Stroobant and Edina Hong , San Marco is another alternative for Saint Pierre fans who prefer a more italian menu. This visit marks only my 2nd time there and i ordered from their new menu, the Pan fried foie gras with shredded duck confit poached apricot in clear duck consommé and organic autumn vegetable parisienne as Entrees and the Roasted whole lobster with caramelised rock melon, haricot beans, barolo vinegar, fava beans and barley scented roe reduction as my Main.

I love Foie gras (despite the calories but we only live once...heck!) and i was nicely surprised by the way they prepared it....in a consommé. Because the foie gras is on its own very rich and creamy in texture (thus some people dont eat them), the consommé actually lightens the flavour of the foie gras when it gently melts in your mouth while still maintaining the honest taste of foie gras. In terms of creativity in preparation, i was in awe and it will leave you and your palate wanting more, which i thought was unusual after 1 serving of foie gras!

After a refreshing pear sorbet, the highly recommended lobster was served and being a seafood lover, i couldnt wait to dig in and find out what is so good about the lobster that the server was strongly recommending. I took one bite into the crunchy white flesh and it is the most amazing taste that exploded in my mouth.....i let out a gentle "orgasmic" sigh and for a minute, i ignored everything/everyone around me, closed my eyes and savoured the taste and allow my taste buds to indulge me! The combination of caramelised melons and borolo vinegar reduction was simply marvellous! I have never tasted lobster cooked this way and from that point forward, i must admit that i was trying to eat as slow as i can to prolong my pleasure with every bite! I was also guilty of cleaning up every drop of the reduction with my bread....!

I was so satisfied by the lobster that i didnt need or want any desserts....which allowed the taste of my last bite of the lobster to linger on a little further.

I give credit to the awesome job by Emmanuel and his young protégé (only 27 yrs of age i heard), Kelvin Lee who heads the kitchen at San Marco. I had the chance to meet Emmanuel recently and told him how much i enjoyed the lobster and he humbly acknowledged the compliment. He is currently busy filming for a new cooking show that will be aired on Arts Central in December. So, fans out there, watch out for the new 20-part series coming soon!