A grand total of three summery Christmas desserts

I think we exceeded all expectation this year… not only did we have THREE desserts on Christmas day, they were all totally gorgeous!

trifle, mousse, pavlova

 

First up was a Summery Berry Trifle: made with layers of homemade Lemon Sponge, homemade custard flavored with brandy, orange and cinnamon, and plenty of berries sloshing around in Cointreau.

trifle, berries

 

Next were the individual chocolate mousse: two separate layers of mousse, the first flavored with Frangelico (the hazelnut liqueur), the second flavored with espresso coffee.

chocolate mousse

 

 

And last, but not least, the quintessential New Zealand dessert, the Pavlova! I’m not really a fan myself, but with so many egg whites left over from making the custard it seemed like the logical choice… and a popular one too.

pavlova

 

 

What did you enjoy eating most on Christmas Day at your place?

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Christmas chocolate truffles – two ways

I just love Christmas. Basically, it’s a great big excuse to bake and make all the things I love to eat, but don’t normally allow myself to have. But when Christmas rolls around there is NO holding me back – I am going to indulge!!

Normally I make the Christmas Pudding truffles that Nigella Lawson calls Puddini Bonbons, and they are lovely, in fact they are just about the only way you are ever going to get me eating Christmas pudding (I despise dried fruit… but don’t get me started on that!).

This year however, I’m kindly giving Gordon Ramsey a turn. I took his Chocolate Mint Truffle recipe and divided it up into two basic recipes – a mint version, and an orange, brandy and pecan version.

chocolate mint truffles
My truffle tin runeth over… thanks Gordon!

 

The truffles get their flavour from steeping fresh mint in gently heated cream. I did the same for the orange version by adding orange zest to the cream and gently heating it. Once the flavoured cream was hot (but nowhere near boiling) I poured it over chopped chocolate, butter and honey. For the orange version I also added brandy and chopped pecans.

Once the chocolate, butter and honey have melted into the cream, the whole lovely smooth dark mess goes into the fridge to firm up. It took about two hours before the mixture was firm enough to roll into little balls. Then I rolled the balls in good quality dutch-processed cocoa, and voila – these little balls of deliciousness are ready for eating!

Helpful Mr Ramsey suggests keeping the truffles in the fridge and warns they won’t keep longer than a few days… but with me around, slyly popping one into my mouth each time I pass by the fridge, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.

Christmas peppermint brownie

I wanted to try baking something a little festive today, and had seen some really lovely pictures on Pinterest of Peppermint Brownie. So after a bit of searching, I came across this lovely recipe from The Galley Gourmet that had three layers: the brownie (flavoured with peppermint), as well as the white peppermint icing, AND the chocolate peppermint topping decorated with crushed candy canes. Some recipes I saw left out the white peppermint icing – but what’s the point?! You might as well go all out if you’re going to bother.

Peppermint brownie
It turned out pretty well. It’s nice and easy to slice, and the soft fudgy texture of the brownie combined with the crunchy chocolate topping is totally delicious. It would be great for children’s Christmas parties, or any one’s party for that matter!

That awkward moment when someone asks you for your recipe…

Today a friend asked me outright for my recipe for chocolate brownies. No big deal, right?

WRONG!!

That awkward moment when...
You want my WHAT???

I can’t help but feel a little protective of my recipes. Afterall, I’ve put in the hard yards, making them time after time, tweaking them ever so slightly with each baking to eventually reach near total perfection. So of course I’m going to be a little resentful if you want to come along and claim all my hard work as your own.

Does that sound mean? Spiteful even? Or worse… petty! Whatever happened to the collaborative community approach to baking… where everyone willingly swaps and shares recipes for the greater good of bakers everywhere. Oh HANG ON – maybe that’s what the sticking point is. I was asked for a recipe, but I wasn’t given one in return. If I was receiving some real gem of a recipe I wouldn’t feel quite so bad about giving up my own baking intellectual property for you pass off as your own.

So, now I’m really interested to know – do you share recipes willingly, or keep them just for yourself? Are you one of those audacious people that ask others for THEIR own recipes? If so, do people give those precious recipes to you, or do you think they give you a slightly different version (not the carefully tweaked one that took years to perfect) so when you make it, it just isn’t quite the same? Now, that really would be petty!

 

What fondue do you do?

I’ve been thinking about fondue lately… you know, that crazy thing they used to do in the 70s where people dipped bits of food into hot, cheesy sauce, then ate it?

So I have a couple of fondue sets sitting in the back of my cupboard, gathering dust, and I can’t for the life of me think of what to make with them. Cheese and chocolate are the obvious choices, but I’m after something a bit different… but WHAT?!

I thought of a pesto… could work. Or a wine/cream sauce… a bit too much like cheese sauce. A tomato sauce… maybe, not all that exciting though. What about caramel? Or butterscotch… now that’s a bit Christmassy.

What fondue sauce would you like to try? All suggestions gratefully received!

Chocolate cheesecake brownies anyone?

I love chocolate, I love cheesecake, I love brownies… so considering that, there is a high probability that I would adore chocolate cheesecake brownies, right? But actually, I’m a bit of a brownie purist – I like chocolate brownies and that’s it, no nuts, no fruit… just good quality chocolate! To me, that’s what a brownie should be. And I like them fudgey (to the point of almost not being cooked in the middle), I really don’t like them when they get a hard, crackly crust on the top – but I digress…

I’ve had a recipe for chocolate cheesecake brownie for ages, but maybe my purist tendencies have caused me to take so long before trying to make them. But the planets aligned today and I just happened to look in my fridge and see an abundance of exactly the right ingredients – fantastic!! (It may also have been the inspiration gained after reading the fantastic sounding recipe for Cappuccino Brownies that I saw on the Amandeleine blog).

In the past I’ve had my issues with Donna Hay recipes, but I’ll give her another chance… this one is bound to work (I can feel it) plus it’s not one of those highly-technical baking recipes where everything has to be exactly right in order to work. I figure any recipe where you just throw everything in a blender at once and whizz the ingredients together can’t be all that technical.

To make Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies you will need:

Straight from the oven - ignore the unorthodox round tin...!

185gm melted butter
1/4 cup cocoa (best quality dutch process of course!)
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain flour

For the cheesecake:
285 gm cream cheese
4 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 160 c (325 F). Place butter, cocoa, sugar, eggs and flour in a food processer and whizz till smooth. Pour into a greased 20cm slice tin or similar. To make the cheesecake, whizz the cream cheese, sugar and eggs together in a food processor. Place large spoonfuls of the cheesecake mixture on top of the chocolate mixture and gently swirl with a knife to get a ‘marbled look’. Bake for around 40 mins until set. Cool in the tin then cut into slices.

The verdict:

The odd texture didn't stop me from eating it, of course...!

I probably wouldn’t bother making this again to be honest. The texture of the cheesecake part was nice and light, but with a touch of egginess (not so good) and it contrasted strangely with the heavy, greasy texture of the brownie… and the two components didn’t really stay together well – they kept separating whenever I cut a piece of the brownie. Donna Hay be damned – I was right to be a brownie purist after all!!

Out of My Comfort Zone Cooking

My collection of cookbooks is taking over the book shelf

I am most definitely stuck in a rut… a cooking rut. I make the same things over and over again, and my family eats those same things I make over and over again, and apart from the odd meal out, nothing changes!! Those meals are good of course, in fact some of them are favourites – but how am I ever going to discover a new favourite if I don’t try totally new things from time to time?

So I have decided to challenge myself to make a new dish once a week. It may not sound like a lot to some people, but in between part-time work, small children, housework, wrangling household pets, and everything else – I figure I might as well be easy on myself and set a goal which is actually going to be achievable.

I have a large stack of cookbooks (as you can see from the picture above), and the internet, plus all the fantastic blogs I follow so I won’t be lacking inspiration. And once I week I will ‘trial’ a new recipe, sweet or savoury, and document the success/failure here. I’ll call it ‘Out of My Comfort Zone Cooking’.

What sounds like quite a simple task will be made rather more complicated by the fussy eaters that reside in my house. Husband – is a vegetarian who doesn’t like mushrooms…?! (Go figure – what’s WITH that??) And two small children who’s tastes seem to be governed by the moon, or tide, or a complex combination of the two – I haven’t quite worked it out yet – but they eat something with gusto one day, only to turn their snooty little noses up at the exact same thing a week later, declaring “I don’t like [insert any food here], it’s disgusting!” I’m sure the majority of parents can sympathise, and have similar ‘picky eaters’ residing in their houses.

Chewy choc chip cookies

Anyway… tomorrow’s the weekend so it’s probably a good time to try out a new recipe. I’ll post the results, and pictures.

In the meantime… I’ve been baking Chewy Choc Chip Cookies, which are totally delicious (and ever so slightly undercooked), not remotely hard and crunchy – which to me is a great thing, but of course it’s a matter of personal taste!