Tag Archives: dessert

Easy Creme Brulee

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I’m a bit of a creme brûlée fanatic. I can’t resist ordering them off any menu. My sister is the same. So when she and I are out together our husbands have no choice but to comply.

While in Seattle, while my sister and her husband were visiting from New York, we decided to do a bit of wine tasting. After an hour or two of drinking we headed to a local fine-dining eatery. It was lovely. Amazing food, and amazing wine, as you’d expect. By the time the waiter asked if we wanted dessert, we were sufficiently lubricated such that all dessert prospects seemed amazing. My brother-in-law, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup fan, ordered a chocolate peanut butter treat. My sister and I ordered the creme brûlée du jour (of the day). Since we were celebrating her wedding anniversary I let her do the customary cracking of the caramel. She grabbed her teaspoon, smashed it with a satisfying clink and dug into the custard. So excited was she that she popped it straight into her mouth and I waited patiently for my turn. However, her face suddenly contorted and I saw the strain of trying not to spit out her food in a fancy dining establishment. She swallowed with great difficulty and mouthed “banana”.

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That’s all I needed to hear. I was horrified. Banana custard is the stuff my nightmares are made of. It’s my least favourite fruit, by far my least favourite flavour. Why would anyone put it in a creme brûlée?

Suffice it to say the dessert went largely untouched, even the boys tried it and passed. It was truly awful.

What it has taught me is to not jump at every brûlée on the menu. To ask the chef what the flavour is and to take that first bite with caution. I still love creme brûlées though.

I wanted to put this recipe together to convince you that creme brulee need not be on the “too hard” or “fancy restaurant” list. They are simple to make and the skill it takes is really the ability to watch an oven carefully. By cooking in a bain marie or water bath you cook gently and slowly to avoid the dreaded scrambled eggs. Don’t be afraid to open the oven door and check with a gentle wobble of the cup.

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Ingredients

Makes 2

  • 200ml pure cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 tsp caster sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar for the brûlées

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 150C and put 2 small ovenproof ramekins (I used 2 tea cups*)  in a baking tin/dish.

Heat the cream and vanilla bean paste over a medium-low heat and heat until the milk is just coming to the boil. Take off the heat.

In the mean-time mix the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl and stir until just combined.

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When the cream begins to boil, pour the cream on to the yolk and sugar mix, stirring constantly to mix.

Divide the mixture between the ramekins through a strainer . Place the baking tin in the oven and pour cold water into the baking tin until it comes two-thirds of the way up the ramekins.

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Bake for about 40 minutes or until the custard is just set – it should only wobble faintly when shaken. Cool and then chill in the fridge until cold, at least 1 hour.

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To  brûlée

With a blowtorch

Remove custards in ramekins from the refrigerator. Dab the tops with a paper towel to remove any water or condensed liquid.

Scatter the tops of the cold brûlées with the remaining sugar, and use a blowtorch or hot grill to caramelise the tops.

Now the best trick I’ve learnt when blowtorching the brûlées is to do it in layers. I’ve allocated 1 tablespoon per ramekin, so scatter half this quantity and brûlée with the blowtorch. Cool slightly then scatter with more sugar and brûlée again. I find this creates a nice thick crispy brûlée top and stops the burning.

Without a blowtorch

Remove custards in ramekins from the refrigerator. Dab the tops with a paper towel to remove any water or condensed liquid.

Evenly sprinkle caster sugar over the top of each custard.

Heat up a large cooking spoon, being careful to protect your hand from a handle that could get hot.

Place the heated spoon over the sugared top of custard and listen for the sizzle, smell the caramel and watch burnt sugar being made.

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*Please check whether your mugs are oven-safe before you put them in the oven!

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Filed under Puddings, Sweet Treats, Uncategorized

Sticky-Date Puddings

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A few years ago, while I was still actively caking I decided that the world needed a sticky date cupcake. It was easy, I basically baked the mix instead of steaming it and turned the butterscotch sauce into a buttercream.  Then I tasted it and I couldn’t stop. I think I had it for dinner one night. Really, the only thing better than butterscotch sauce is butterscotch butter cream.  I decided to stop making it, for the sake of my own health.

I think it was only a few years ago that I realized that what us Aussies call “Sticky date pudding” is what the English refer to as “Sticky toffee pudding”. Thanks Rick Stein for setting me straight on that one. Whatever name it goes by, this is truly one of the best desserts in the world! The kind of dish that I can’t pass up on a menu, that makes me want to lick the plate in fancy restaurants…you know that sort of thing?

A lot of pudding these days are baked, giving them a more “cakelike” texture. Adding water to the baking dish here gives it a nice sponginess that makes it more like the traditional pudding.

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Ingredients
  • 180g dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 cup  firmly packed brown sugar
  • 60g butter, softened chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup self-raising flour

Butterscotch sauce

  • 50g butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (160 degrees C fan-forced) and grease either an 8 inch cake tin or a set of moulds. I used a set of greased silicon baking cups for mine.

Place dates and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat.

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Take the dates off the heat and add the bicarb (baking) soda. Set aside to cool and stir occasionally. The dates will break down as you do this. If you like a really smooth pudding, place the dates in a food processor. I like little chunks of date throughout my pudding so I skip the processor.

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Broken down dates

Beat the butter and sugar using a mixer. Gradually add the eggs one at a time. The mixture will become light and fluffy. Add the cooled dates to the egg mixture and stir. Add the flour and give it one last mix.

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Pour the mixture into the tin or divide between the baking cups you are using.  You want the cups about 2/3rds full. Place the puddings in a large baking dish and pour enough water to come half way up the cups.

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Bake for 40 minutes until the puddings are golden on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

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The butterscotch sauce is simple. Simply place all the ingredients to boil in the saucepan over medium heat. Watch for the sugar to dissolve and then reduce the sauce for a few minutes until it thickens slightly.

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Filed under Desserts, Sri Lankan Food, Sweet Treats

Mini Baked Cheesecakes (Gluten Free)

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I want to talk a little less about the cheesecake here and more about the gorgeous cake stand that my girlfriends got me for my birthday. Isn’t it darling? It sits on our buffet and generally looks beautiful but today it was put to real use!

I’m strictly in the baked cheesecake family when it comes to cheesecake and this is my favourite recipe. I’ve changed and tweaked it a little but the best thing about it is that it is super flexible. Serve it wherever and with whatever and it’s a fabulous make-ahead dessert that can be frozen or refrigerated before you guests arrive.

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Makes 12

  • 250g cream cheese, softened
  • 75g (1/3 cup) caster sugar (superfine sugar)
  • 1 large egg (we use eggs with a minimum weight of 59g)
  • 20ml (1 tablespoon) lemon juice
  • 100ml (5 tablespoons) thickened cream (about 35 percent fat)
  •  1/2 cup  gluten free flour (simply use plain flour to make these non gluten free). 
  • 2 tbsp.  firmly packed light brown sugar
  • pinch tsp salt
  • 20g pecans (1.2 oz.)
  • pinch ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup cold butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon cold water

Fruits, sauce, topping to serve

Based on two recipes, the cream cheese mixture is from exclusively food and inspiration for the base goes to Sprinkle Bakes

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C degrees. Place foiled line wrappers in the holes of a muffin/cupcake tin.

Place flour, sugar, salt, pecans and ginger in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the pecans are finely ground.

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 Add cold butter and process until crumbs form.  Add water and process in bursts until the dough starts to come together in clumps.  Press dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pans. About 1 tablespoon per cup seemed about right.

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Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden. Cool completely.

Beat cream cheese and caster sugar in an electric mixer or food processor. Stop the machine a couple of times to scrape down the sides and base of the bowl. When the mixture is completely smooth and creamy, add egg and beat until combined. Add lemon juice and cream and beat until well combined. Divide mixture evenly among cases.

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Bake cheesecakes for 20 minutes. Remove from  the oven and allow to cool in pan for 30 minutes.

Remove cheesecakes from pan, place in an airtight container and refrigerate. Cheesecakes are ready to serve when they are cold and set. Remove cases before serving. Top with your favourite berries and sauces. I love these with lightly stewed frozen berries or passionfruit….fresh is best but even canned works brilliantly.

Cheesecakes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. They are suitable to freeze.

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Filed under "Something" Free Cooking, Cake, Soups, Sweet Treats

Salted Caramel Sauce

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When I first arrived in the States and was looking for something to do, I joined a volunteer group that worked in schools during Summer and helped out teachers. This was pretty soon after we’d moved here. Everything was just new and we were just learning how to speak American. During a lesson about their favourite chocolate sundaes a students asked me how to spell “caramel” but pronounced in the typical American way of “car-mel”. So I asked to her to “sound” it out, she did, and wrote “karmel”. This left me in quite a pickle. For the life of me I couldn’t explain to her why carmel, was spelt “caramel”. I’m still waiting to figure that one out, and simply provide this poor girl with an explanation better than; that’s just the way it is.

Salted caramel is my flavour of choice for macarons and one of my absolute favourite cupcake flavours, if done well. Unfortunately, it often isn’t. I’ve had caramels with far too much salt, with not enough salt. With caramel and salt separate and then big hunks of salt sprinkled on top. There have been caramels that weren’t caramelised enough and others that were far too caramelly. Here’s my version. You can omit the salt if you’re after just a caramel sauce. The key is to add salt to your taste and only if you want.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup  cream
  •  1 tsp. salt (or to taste)

Preparation

Place the sugar in a medium saucepan and place on medium heat. As the sugar melts stir, don’t worry about the lumps, just keep stirring.

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Once all the sugar has melted, you’ll see the sugar syrup becoming a dark brown/amber colour.

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Add the butter to the sugar and it will bubble, keep stirring. Take the bubbling sugar off the heat and add the cream. Keep stirring. The mixture will bubble, please take care.

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Once the mixture is smooth  add the salt, taste and leave to cool. I tend to add my salt bit by bit, tasting and every point. Refrigerate any excess.


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This sauce is fabulous to spice up some buttercream, amazing warm over ice cream or on top of cheesecake.

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Kiri (Milk) Toffee

On occasion, at unreasonable times during the night (FYI 9pm is unreasonable when you have a baby) I get the urge to cook or bake. When I was pregnant I would make caramel popcorn at 10pm and then refuse to go to bed till it was all finished. Then I’d complain all night about feeling so sick. Nowadays I’m a little more responsible, but the urge to concoct late at night still strikes. These toffees were the result of a late night cooking session.
If you’re afriad of sugar, look away. This recipe has A LOT! It’s definitely a sometimes food,in fact I made these, kept a few for Mr Firehouse and myself and sent the rest off to work with him to make his workmates fat.
This is a Sri Lankan classic. Cloyingly sweet but quite simple to make with only a few ingredients and a little love and patience. Have everything ready to go before you start this recipe.
Ingredients
  • I tin of sweetened condensed mik
  • 250g of sugar
  • 4 tbsp. water
  • 2 cardomon pods seeds removed and group
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. cashew nuts (optional)

Preparation

Lay a piece of baking paper on a tray, ready to pour the hot toffee onto.

In a non-stick saucepan place the sugar and water and place on a medium heat. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the cardamon seeds, condensed milk and vanilla and stir.

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Heres the hard part, keep stirring. The whole mixture will keep changing from beige to brown to dark brown.

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Getting darker

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Starting to come away from the sides

Eventually it will begin to form a ball and come away from the sides. At this point add the nuts (if you’re using) and pour onto the prepared dish. HP1B8767

You can use an oiled, heat proof spatula to flatten and shape this toffee. Sometimes though, the rustic-ness is nice.

As soon as it’s cool enough to touch, use an oiled knife to cut into squares!If it gets too hard, use a serrated knife to cut it up.

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Filed under Sri Lankan Sweets, Sweet Treats

Mango Tart

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Pastry can be a beast. It was a beast that I waited a long time to conquer. The first time I baked a chocolate ganache tart, 2 hours before the guests arrived it broke! I hadn’t quite mastered the removable base on the tin and the very short, crumbly pastry. I hated it! I hated the rolling, the sticking, the pie weights and the blind baking. The results never looked right and it was hours of work for one measly, shrunk, broken tart. But alas, my favourite dessert is a lemon tart and I had two options….make lemon tart or live without lemon tart. It wasn’t really a choice.

A few months ago I was perusing Pinterest and I came across the amazing unshrinkable pastry shell from Smitten Kitchen. It’s not perfect (that probably has something to do with my pastry skills) but it’s pretty close. It’s crisp, it’s short and it’s the perfect accompaniment to any tart filling. Unfortunately I can no longer whinge and moan to Mr Firehouse about my tarts shrinking and thus I have no excuse to not make them any more.

This tart can be made gluten free as well and for that I’m going to send you over to my lovely friend Nat at Not From a Packet Mix, who has wonderful pictures and instructions for a GF sour cream pastry.

Mango filling

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup mango puree
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 2.5 tablespoons of butter
  • 2/3 cup of cream
  • ¾ cup of sugar

Instructions

With this recipe it’s best to bake the tart shell all the way through, so blind bake for 10 minutes, remove the weights and then bake until brown and cooked through.
I normally pour the mango puree into a jug and add the lemon juice a little at a time and taste. Mangoes fluctuate so much in tartness that 1/3 cup lemon juice might be way too much. I normally add lemon juice till I’m happy with the sourness and then make up 2/3 cup with water. Or if you’re a mango fiend, go all mango.
In a medium saucepan place all the ingredients for the filling and place on a low heat. Using a whisk stir continuously until the mix thickens to the consistency of a lemon curd. You will get eggy bits, don’t panic, just strain the mixture into the tart shell and bake for another 20 minutes in the oven at 180 celsius (350 fahrenheit).
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The filling should wobble a little in the middle when shaken. Now cool and eat with lots of ice cream.
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Chocolate Biscuit Pudding

 
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Chocolate biscuit pudding is one of those childhood dishes that make me truly happy. Can you imagine my excitement when my cousin informed me that Latin American grocery stores stocked Marie biscuits, made by Goya brand.
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I was thrilled! I couldn’t wait to make it and when I spied a grocery at Pike Place I couldn’t resist trying to find Marie biscuits. Word to the wise, taking a wriggly baby into a densely packed store is asking for trouble. There was a loud crash at one point that sent the sales assistant running after us,  fortunately it was just noise and no damage was done, but I swear the sales assistant was really excited to see the back of Callum and I. Chocolate biscuit pudding really is magic, chocolatey, buttery and just the right amount of sweet. However, I’m not terribly comfortable with eating raw eggs and have always wanted a “raw egg free” version. Here it is, just as chocolatey, just as buttery but minus the uncooked eggs…woot!
 
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 3/4 cup of cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 packet of Marie biscuits
  • 1/2 cup of milk

Preparation

In the bowl of your mixer whip the butter until fluffy. Turn it off, add the icing sugar and cocoa powder and keep beating until incorporated. Add vanilla and the pinch of salt and keep mixing. Finally add the cream and whip until the chocolate icing is nice and fluffy.

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Pour the milk into a bowl (big enough to dip the biscuits in).

Dip the biscuits a few at a time into the milk and lay them into your serving dish. I used a small pyrex dish 10 cm x 15 cm and I needed 6 biscuits to make a single layer.

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After the layer of biscuits add a third of the icing mixture, followed by biscuits etc until you finish up with the icing on top.

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Place the whole concoction in the fridge for at least 4 hours, this gives the biscuits enough time to soften.

When ready to serve sprinkle with some nuts (for crunch) and serve with vanilla ice cream or cream.

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9 Comments

September 13, 2013 · 9:56 pm