There are times when you want a fancier dessert for a special occasion. Think entremets but no time to make mousse, sponge, crispy layer and mirror glaze?
This is where you need joint forces of best quality products.
Make a delicious chocolate tart with handmade pastry (Paneton Bakery) and ganache with good quality chocolate. Dress it up simply but elegantly with a big scoop of good quality ice cream or sorbet on top. Decorate with chocolate pearls, chocolate shards, cocoa nibs and cornflake crumble for extra crunch and texture. Voilá!
Here I’ve paired it with Kohu Road‘s Cassis sorbet, simply delicious!
See my earlier post Chocolate Tarts for the recipe for an easy chocolate tart.
(I’m not paid to write these articles – all opinion based on my honest love for artisan products!)
After years of trial and error, I’ve finally got a fail proof chocolate brownie that appears to satisfy the fussiest and hardest-to-please of all critics (aka Miss 8). These brownies are fudgey and chewy, just how we like it. Best served warm with cold milk or ice cream!
- 125g unsalted butter, chopped
- 150g good quality 70% dark chocolate, chopped
- 3 eggs, whisked
- 290g caster sugar
- 115g plain flour, sifted
- 35g Valrhona cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste (not essence)
- Pinch of salt
- Cocoa nibs, hazelnut praline, extra chocolate chips (optional)
- Preheat oven to 180C fan forced. Grease a 20cm square cake pan and line with baking paper.
- Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
- Stir with a heatproof spatula until melted.
- Remove from heat and quickly stir in all your ingredients, except the toppings, until just combined. Pour into the lined pan.
- Sprinkle in your choice of cocoa nibs, hazelnut praline or extra chocolate chips.
- Bake for 28 to 30 minutes or until the toothpick test comes out with moist crumbs on the stick.
- Set aside to cool completely before removing from pan.
The secret here is the combined use of dark chocolate and cocoa powder, and with less sugar than normal brownies. This makes it distinctively brownie, not cake.
I hope you will love this as much as we do. These are perfect for school bake sales or bases of entremets. You can easily make more and freeze whole slices in two layers of foil and an air-sealed bag.
On our recent trip to Melbourne, Australia, we came across many bakeries and stores selling traditional Vietnamese sandwiches – Bánh Mì. These are the result of French and Vietnamese cuisines coming together, and boy, what a glorious effort.
Bánh mì sandwiches are different to the normal western sandwiches. The bread is crunchy on the outside and pillowy inside, serving as a light encasement for the delicious fillings inside. More on that later.
While watching our sandwiches being made, I duly noted what was included – the ingredients all play a part in achieving the balance of sweet, sour, savoury, spicy, umami, warm, cold, softness and crunch. That’s a lot achieved in one sandwich.
Here are the list of ingredients for you to create your very own bánh mì!
- Bread – choose a light bread with pillowy centre and light crusty crumb. (J’s wanted to make sure I mention not to get bread that is so crunchy that it scrapes the roof of your mouth. Coz that will hurt. Noted, darling 😊) Baguettes or Ficelle from Paneton French Bakery would be my choice (in New Zealand).
- Mayo – adds a creamy flavour to the sandwich.
- Pate – this is essential to any good Bánh Mì, giving it the umami flavour.
- Cucumber – Cucumber adds freshness and crunch, juxtaposing the other soft elements of the sandwich. Slice them lengthwise for even layering.
- Herbs – for freshness and an earthiness, coriander leaves and sliced spring onions are added. I would also suggest Thai basil as well, if you wish.
- Pickles – this is a must! Easy to make: 1:1.5 ratio of white or apple cider vinegar to caster sugar to fill to just over half of a glass jar. Warm jar and sugar slightly in microwave to dissolve the sugar. While it is cooling, sprinkle a bit of salt over thin batons of carrots/daikon/rings of onions. Massage and squeeze the carrots the diakon (no need for the onions) to get rid of their juices. Pat dry and add to the cooled jar of pickling liquid. Ready to use in just an hour.
- Protein – you have lots of choices here: vietnamese ham, lemongrass pork or beef, grilled pork, chinese BBQ pork, chinese roast pork or even grilled tofu. Champagne ham works too if there is nothing else!
- Sauce – You can add squirts of hoisin sauce or Maggi Seasoning for extra flavour. For me, a good grind of black pepper was enough.
- Fresh Red Chillies – a spicy element is a must and thinly sliced red chillies are commonly added to taste.
- Fried shallots for extra crunch.
- Add more meat if you wish.
- Close the sandwich and enjoy!
Unlike the more premium Gran Cru line, the Valrhona Satilia range of chocolate is made from a blend of cocoa beans from different regions. Nonetheless, it is as delicious as ever: strong chocolate flavour with 35% cocoa, slightly sweet and a little biscuity. Kinder to the wallet so why not!
Here I’ve paired it with blackcurrants and chestnut, to simulate a Mont Blanc-esque flavour.
Macarons shell ingredients
(makes about 40 macarons)
- 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
- daffodil yellow gel colouring
Follow my basic recipe to make the shells.
- 120g Valrhona Satilia Lactée fèves
- 80ml pure (heavy) cream
- 3-4 tsp Cassis paste or blackcurrant jelly
- a few whole cooked chestnut, broken into pieces
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. Let it cool and thicken in the fridge.
Spread cassis paste on half of your shells. Add two pieces of broken up chestnut and pipe a teaspoon of ganache on top. Top 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 (up to 3 months).
Here’s my cone of macarons!