Peanut butter Macarons


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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.
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Filling Ingredients:
100g whittaker’s dark chocolate
100ml full cream
4 tbsp good quality peanut butter

Instructions:
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).

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Beef, mushrooms and truffle penne pasta


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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.

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Ingredients:

  • 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

Instructions:

  1. Season beef with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in the pan to brown the beef in several batches.
  3. Brown onion until it softens. Add anchovy fillets, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves.
  4. Add wine to deglaze the pan.
  5. 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!)
  6. When cooked, remove beef and flake meat off with a fork.
  7. Thicken the stock with cornflour liquid.
  8. Mix the truffle paste (or tomato paste) in with the thickened stock.
  9. Cook the pasta till it’s al dente. Reserve one cup of pasta water. 
  10. 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!!

Little Molten Lava Chocolate Fondants


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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!!

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Makes 8

5 eggs
5 yolks
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

Method

  1. Using an electric beater, whisk the eggs and yolks with the sugar until thick and pale.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.

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Salted caramel Tim Tams chocolate cheesecake


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How do you make Tim Tams last longer? Ask any fan and they will tell you how hard it is to stop at one, let alone make it last longer.

Especially when we are talking about a collaboration between Arnott’s and Adriano Zumbo to create salted caramel tim tams! It’s been a while since I last rushed to buy newly released confectionary and also that I don’t think I’m ever fast enough, I had resigned to defeat. Such was my mindset when I walked past the biscuit aisle at the supermarket to find stacks of them just staring at me. I could not believe my eyes. Trying to recover from the victory dance in my head, I grabbed a couple of packs and started imagining what I could do with them. (No, eating them straight from the packet was never an option).

I knew I had salted caramel in the fridge dying to be eaten and I wanted to prolong the enjoyment of the biscuits. Immediately I knew these are destined for a cheesecake. I also decided to use my small tart tins to make mini one-serving desserts. This recipe is enough to make 10 small desserts with cream cheese filling to spare.

FOR THE BASE:

  • 18 Salted Caramel Tim Tam biscuits,  2 packets
  • 80g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Butter the tins lightly. I did this wearing a disposable glove, to make sure butter goes all the way into the groves.

Line the base with a disc of baking paper. 

Whiz the Salted Caramel Tim Tam biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine crumbs.

Melt chocolate and add to biscuit crumbs with sea salt and mix until combined. Spoon into prepared tins and press into base firmly to even it out. Reserve 4-5 tablespoons for decoration.

Chill in the fridge while making the filling.

FOR THE CARAMEL:

  • 200g castor sugar
  • 125ml fresh cream 
  • 50g butter, cubed 
  • 5g good quality salt flakes 
  • A few drops of vanilla essence 

Instructions: Heat the sugar in a wide saucepan until it is melted. Be really careful and wait for it to turn amber/ golden and slightly smoke. Carefully add the cream in slowly, continuing to whisk but be aware of the resulting vigorous bubbling. Add the butter in gradually until it is melted and combined. Add in salt flakes and vanilla essence. Cool in the fridge for a few hours.

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 450g cream cheese, chopped into chunks, at room temperature
  • 1 tin caramel sweetened condensed milk 
  • 8g (2.5 sheets) silver strength gelatin 
  • 1⁄2 cup caramel (as above)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt

Put gelatin sheets in a dish of cold water and soak to soften for five minutes.

While they are softening, heat caramel gently then squeeze extra water from gelatin and whisk into caramel until smooth. Set aside.

Put cream cheese in a mixer with caramel condensed milk and mix until smooth. 

Add caramel to cream cheese mixture with salt and mix until smooth. 

Pour into prepared base and smooth the top. Chill for six hours or overnight. Sprinkle with reserved Tim Tam crumbs.

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and the left over cream cheese? I made layered cheesecake desserts in cute mason jugs and decorated with a chocolate Easter egg.

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Creme brûlée macarons


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Thinking about creme brûlée desserts, what comes to your mind right away? For me it is the scent of caramel and vanilla, the beautiful golden colour of the brittle on top, the cracking sound of it breaking as you lightly but assertively knock it with your spoon and then the velvety creamy custard as you taste. Every spoonful is a delight. This is one dessert that occupies all of my senses and it sends shivers down my spine every time I find a good one.

I’ve been thinking about this and did a bit of research. Turns out this is just how food science researchers are describing the current trends and developments in the food industry. More and more chefs are recognising the importance of flavor science or neurogastronomy in improving the overall dining experience. Think Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal. Inventive chefs making food so much more than it ever was by engaging all of our senses and enhancing our dining experience. This a great interview with Charles Spencer, a researcher in the study of how we experience our meals.

I wanted to recreate some of that multi-sensory experience in my macarons by making a vanilla bean chocolate and caramel filling. I also added salt flakes to my filling, essentially making a salted caramel filling, to punctuate the sweetness overall. The result: small morsels that reminds me of the joys and excitement of each creme brûlée which I can easily transport to my lucky tasters. After all you can’t readily carry around wobbly little pots and have a blow torch on hand all the time!

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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 brown and white gel colouring
Follow my basic recipe to make the shells. I paired these with a salted caramel filling.

Filling Ingredients:
200g castor sugar
125ml fresh cream
50g butter, cubed
5g good quality salt flakes
A few drops of vanilla essence
100g white chocolate
50ml cream

Instructions:
Heat the sugar in a wide saucepan until it is melted. Be really careful and wait for it to turn amber/ golden and slightly smoke. Carefully add the cream in slowly, continuing to whisk but be aware of the resulting vigorous bubbling. Add the butter in gradually until it is melted and combined. Add in salt flakes and vanilla essence. Cool in the fridge for a few hours.
Make white chocolate ganache by heating cream and pouring over pieces of white chocolate. Let it sit and then stir till it thickens. Mix ganache with a few tablespoons of salted caramel. Return to the fridge for it to thicken. Fill 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 really well (up to 3 months).

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A blog about my kitchen adventures, photography, family and experiences

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