Chestnuts have a special place in my memories. From the great – chestnut cream layered sponge cake that was to be found at most birthday celebrations (mango is also a very popular option) – to the not so great – braised chicken with chestnuts. Well at least I remember not liking it so much because I felt that the dish was too singular in texture with everything soft tasting and lacking contrast. I do have to mention though that my favourite way of having chestnuts is having them almost raw. Just blanched, peeled, popped into an airtight bag and away you go. I remember having these as snacks on my hikes across the hills.
Chestnut purée is, however, a totally different matter. When made with the proper balance of chestnut, water, sugar and cream, it becomes one of the tastiest element in any dessert. Take the classic Mont Blanc chestnut tart. Fine strands of piped chestnut cream perched on top of a dome of silky mousse, who can resist! Take it up another notch by tempering this smooth delicate entremet with the intense flavour and sweetness of a candied chestnut. Simply divine.
Ever since I tried Joel Robuchon’s chestnut tart at Le Salon De The de Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong, I have had my heart set on making chestnut macarons. This week I finally had time and oh boy what an amazing flavour. I think it is close to knocking salted caramel off its place and claim the top seat of my all time favourite macaron.
Macarons shell ingredients
(makes about 40 macarons)
150g icing sugar
150g almond meal
110g egg whites, split into 2 bowls of 55g each
150g caster sugar
1g meringue powder
2 drops of gel colouring, I used brown for half my shells and white for the other half.
Chocolate Chestnut purée
120g 28% cocoa White chocolate
120g chestnut purée
Follow my basic recipe to make the shells.
You can add some cocoa powder to the shells (as I have done here) to add depth to the shells.
Heat cream till it just begins to boil and pour over white chocolate that has been broken up in small pieces in a bowl. Wait for a minute before stiring. Leave in the fridge for 10 minutes for it to set a bit and mix in chestnut purée.
Spread or pipe a teaspoon of chocolate chestnut purée on half of your shells and top them with the remaining half of your shells.
The filled macarons need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the filling to soften the shells and also for the flavour to fully develop.
The beauty of this treat lies in the speed and output – minimal time and effort with a large number of serves. This is great for parties or any ‘bring-a-plate’ situations. Instead of bashing biscuits for the base, a single Oreo biscuit is used. The mixer does most of the job for you and it doesn’t take long to bake at all. Since I almost always have a jar of salted caramel in the fridge, it didn’t require any extra time to make. You can leave out the caramel and use whipped cream by itself if you wish.
The mini Oreo is the cherry on the top – you can leave it out if you feel the mini dessert is rich enough. However it does provide a crunchy element as the bottom Oreo would be soft to the bite as you eat it. Since it is already portioned as individual serves, there’s no fussing about with cutting or slicing. Sit back and enjoy!
Mini cookies and cream cheesecake with salted caramel cream
Makes 32 plus
Ingredients for the cheesecake:
- 3 blocks of cream cheese (750g) softened at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup cream, lightly whipped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 2 eggs, size 8
- 32 paper muffin cups
- 40 standard size Oreo cookies (reserving 8 to be blitzed)
- 32 mini Oreo Cookies
For the salted caramel cream
- 1 cup cream
- 1/4 cup icing sugar
- 2 tbsp salted caramel
- Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
- Prepare your 12 cup muffin tins with paper lining. Place a standard sized Oreo on the bottom of each one and set aside. I only have one of this pan, so to prepare I lined up the filled cases on a cookie tray to let them hold each other up. Prepare 32 of these.
- Lightly whip the cream.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix cream cheese and sugar together on low speed.
- Mix in sour cream, your whipped cream and vanilla paste until smooth.
- Mix eggs in, one at a time.
- Blitz the remaining 8 standard size Oreo cookies till it breaks up, but not powdery, and then add them to the cream cheese batter and mix to incorporate.
- Fill each case with the mixture. I find it easiest to use an ice cream scoop with a spring mechanism that pushes the mixture out. Fill each right up to the brim of the case.
- Bake for 23-25 minutes, aiming for a slightly wobbly center. Remove from the oven and let cool for 1 hour at room temperature. Then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, best overnight. (You can also do up to the piping of the salted caramel cream step below and then refrigerate.)
For the salted caramel cream
- Whip cream and icing sugar until it is combined.
- Add the salted caramel and whip till you have stiff peaks.
- Fill it in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (I used the Wilton 2A tip) and pipe the cream onto the top of each cheesecake.
- Press a mini Oreo on top just before you serve (or else the cookie will go soggy.)
This one has been a long time coming. I have been saving my best peanut butter for these and finally it was time to open the jar of Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter. These are made in Nelson, New Zealand with only two ingredients: Peanuts, salt. Yes no added sugar! The nuttiness of the peanut butter matched nicely with the dark chocolate.
You can pair them with any colour shells of your choosing, but I’m particularly drawn to the purple and blue combination.
Macarons shell ingredients
150 g icing sugar
150 g almond meal
110 g egg whites, split into 2 bowls of 55g each
150 g caster sugar
38 ml water
1 g meringue powder
a few drops of violet and blue gel colouring, separately.
Follow my basic recipe to make the shells.
I paired these with a peanut butter flavoured dark chocolate ganache.
100g whittaker’s dark chocolate
100ml full cream
4 tbsp good quality peanut butter
Break up chocolate into small chunks. Bring cream up to a boil in a pan, and pour over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute before stirring. Stir until you have a thickish ganache and add peanut butter in. Stir and let it cool and thicken in the fridge. Spread or pipe a teaspoon of ganache on half of your shells and top them with the remaining half of your shells.
The filled macarons need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the filling to flavour the shells. These freeze well too (up to 3 months).
A while ago I made a Beef and Cheddar pie.
Then I made 3 more.
They were all slightly different – one with a truffle cream sauce and one with tomatoes and vegetables. The constant is the tender beef – it proved to be very versatile. I added creamy mashed potatoes to mini puff pastry-lined beef pies to make potato top pies, and then as ragu served with penne with a touch of tomato paste, as shown here.
- 1kg beef, cross-cut blade, cut into 5cm strips
- 2 onions, sliced
- 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns
- 2 bay leaf
- 4 Tbsp Truffle paste if you wanted to make the truffle version, or 4 Tbsp tomato paste if you prefer
- 4 anchovy fillets
- 250ml white or red wine
- 500ml beef stock (Simon Gault’s)
- 3 tbsp cornflour + 1/4 cup water
- Season beef with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in the pan to brown the beef in several batches.
- Brown onion until it softens. Add anchovy fillets, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves.
- Add wine to deglaze the pan.
- Return all the beef to the pan and bring to the boil. Cover and bake in the preheated oven for 2 hours (or you can use a pressure cooker like I did and it’s all done in 45 minutes!)
- When cooked, remove beef and flake meat off with a fork.
- Thicken the stock with cornflour liquid.
- Mix the truffle paste (or tomato paste) in with the thickened stock.
- Cook the pasta till it’s al dente. Reserve one cup of pasta water.
- Mix with ragu and add a bit of the pasta water to loosen the sauce.
Note: I prefer to cook with cross-cut blade when making stews, casseroles and curries as the texture of the meat cut helps create this irresistible gelatinous goo that binds everything together. Yum!!
J didn’t believe me when I said “Come see gooey chocolate oozing out of these cakes”. Although only six years old, she’d seen a fair few chocolate cakes being cut into and was fairly certain that nothing normally oozes out. Not even from an ice cream cake.
I insisted and together we gathered around the little wobbly bobs of chocolate fondants, with a sharp knife and steady hands I sliced into the centre of the dainty little cakes.
“ooooOOOUUUUU” was the reaction I wanted, and got (phew!!) :)
“It’s coming out! Just like lava!” J looked at me, incredulously.
Yes dear, that’s why they are called Molten Lava Cakes!
I love how these turned out, the beautifully rustic looking cakes held its class. What is the secret, you may ask? Well when a chef shares his tip with you, listen up… Baked bean tins! Simon Gault shared his recipe and I’ve been collecting tins over the last few weeks in order to put this to the test…and so glad I did.
The following is my version with slight tweaks e.g. Oven temperature and time. I also tested with a small 3″ Fat Daddio’s pan but that did not turn out as nice. If you have to make it right now and have not collected tins, you can use small ramekins or dariole moulds with the bottom lined with baking paper. Cooking time will need to be adjusted for a further 3 minutes. Now stop gawking and go make some!!
1/3 cup sugar
250g dark chocolate (at least 72% cocoa solids)
250g butter, plus extra for buttering the moulds
3 tbsp ﬂour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
icing sugar for dusting
- Using an electric beater, whisk the eggs and yolks with the sugar until thick and pale.
- Melt the chocolate and butter in a double-boiler or in a stainless steel bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Fold the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until combined and of an even consistency.
- Sift the ﬂour over the mix and fold in until completely incorporated with no lumps. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag and place in the refrigerator until ﬁrm.
- Butter 8 baked bean cans, lightly dust with cocoa powder and place on a baking tray with a square of baking paper under each can. Once the mixture is ﬁrm, pipe into the moulds, then refrigerate until set. (Make sure you have cleared some fridge space beforehand to accomodate your baking tray).
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bake the chocolate puddings for 14 minutes (wooden skewer test will show it is wet). Remove from the oven and, very importantly, allow them to stand for 3 minutes before removing from tins, to avoid cracking. Turn out the puddings onto individual plates by using a sharp knife and go around the sides of the tin. Dust with icing sugar.