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Falling in Love

>> Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Do you believe in love at first bite?

I do!

I fell in love with this typical cheesecake a long time ago. And it’s perhaps the best cake I have ever baked. It’s not the dense and creamy cheesecake we normally see. This cake is light and feathery, somewhere near the lightness of soufflé. Its richness shines through but not overwhelming…

It’s funny how I waited for a long time to make this cake again. My first time was about a year ago, and it was a real challenge. At the time, I was so new to baking; whipping egg white to the right consistency was frightening. I read and nervously tried this recipe, and all the miseries were gone at my bite! Yet, I have waited until now to make it again. Why? Partly because I want to keep this cake as something truly special, something I would crave for and want to share with loved ones. It’s like a long-waited reward I look for. Does it sound a little childish? But, don’t we all behave like a child when it comes to craving?

I made this cake again with some minor changes. This version is richer with the use of heavy cream. It’s also more fragrant since I add some black sesame powder after seeing the lovely sesame bread from my pal, Angie. The cake turns out lovely, just as I want it to be. I even develop the best way to enjoy the cake – you have to eat it at room temperature to truly appreciate the fluffiness in texture. Stored in the fridge, the cake normally becomes dense. The solution is to gently re-heat each slice in the microwave for 20 secs. After that, just sit back and satisfy the craving with a small cup of coffee. I would be a good girl after this treat, I promise!

BLACK SESAME COTTONY CHEESECAKE

Adapted from this blog (I still have trouble locating the link to the actual recipe). Thanks Edith for sharing it with me. *Hug*

Ingredients

250g cream cheese
50g unsalted butter
100ml cream (35% milk fat)

60g cake flour*
20g cornflour*
6 egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt

1tbp black sesame powder*

6 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
140g castor sugar

2-3 tbsp of fresh milk

Method

  1. Melt cream cheese and butter over a double boiler. Whisk to combine. Set aside to cool. Add the cream and whisk to combine.
  2. Meanwhile, line and grease the base and side of a 8-inch spring form cake pan. Preheat oven to 160C (fan-forced)
  3. Sift the cake flour and corn flour to the cheese mixture. Add in egg yolk, lemon juice, sesame powder and salt. Gently whisk to thoroughly combine all the ingredients. At this stage, if your mixture is a bit too stiff, add in 1-2 tbsp of milk. The mixture should be similar to your normal cake mixture.
  4. Whisk egg white with cream of tartar until foamy. Add sugar, tablespoon by tablespoon. Whisk until soft peak forms (don’t whip the egg white too stiff, the cake will be likely to crack).
  5. Add 1/3 of the eggwhite to the cheese mixture to lighten it. Then, gently but thoroughly fold the eggwhite to the cheese mixture. Be careful not to destroy all the air bubbles in the eggwhite.
  6. Gently pour into the prepared pan. Using foil, wrap the outside of the pan. Put the cake pan into a roasting pan. Add boiling water to half-way of the cake pan.
  7. Bake in the oven for 1 hour 10 min or until the cake is set.
  8. Take out, leave in the pan to cool. Serve at room temperature. I serve my cake with some cherries in heavy syrup.

Note:

(*) I used cake flour imported from Indonesia, with the protein content of 9%. The Australian plain flour has 10% protein content, which potentially yields a ‘harder’ cake.
(*) White-whing cornflour yields the best result.
(*) Black sesame powder can be found at Asian Shops.



This post is my entry to Sugar Hugh Friday hosted by the Domestic Goddess. The theme for this month is 'Your Most Craved Dessert".

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A Vibrant Tart

>> Tuesday, June 19, 2007

After a little sunshine yesterday and early this morning, the weather turns grey again. A typical winter day I suppose. To combat the dull and cold weather, I decided to make something vibrant to cheer myself up. And this time, it's an orange tart!

The crust is made of butter and almond meal, which yields an incredibly rich and buttery result. But that’s not all. Underneath orange slices is a layer of soft and rich custard. And of course, there are lovely homemade candied orange slices over the top, which are sweet and zesty. Combined together, it’s a tart to dream for and a perfect way to escape the winter blue…

However, I wish I handled the tart a bit better. It might be my skills or the recipe was not 100% practical. I had hard time handling the dough free-form style. It would have been much better and easier for this type of rich crust to be baked in a tart tin. Sure, it wouldn’t look as rustic, but the dough would be less likely to get cracked in the end (the tart was rather versatile when I transferred it to a serving plate). Another note, it was quite hard to cut through the candied orange slices. So, if I bake this again, I will use individual-sized removable bottom tart tins instead. I also love candied orange slices dipped in chocolate, so perhaps the modified tart will have some exotic chocolate flavour added in!

I ended up with a kinda messy looking tart, but to the very least, it tasted delicious. I truly enjoyed its rich and sweet flavor… If only it looked better in the end!

I have included here the recipe, which I adapted from the Australian Gourmet Traveller (I follow the pastry recipe though). Please read my note above and any further suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Candied Orange Tart

For the pastry

185g plain flour

100g ground almond

55g castor sugar

55g old unsalted butter, coarsely chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

For the candied oranges

2 oranges, end trimmed and discarded. Cut into 5mm-thick slices

325g castor sugar

2 tbsp honey

1/3 cup water

For the custard filling

160ml milk

3 pieces orange rind

1 tbsp lemon juice

110g castor sugar

1½ tsp plain flour

50g soft unsalted butter

40g almond meal

Egg glaze 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk

Method

  1. For the pastry: Process flour, almond and sugar in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Transfer mixture to a bowl, add egg. Mix to combined. Turn to a floured surface and knead until smooth (do not over-knead). Wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  2. For the candied oranges: Place orange slices in a saucepan, add water just to cover and bring to the boil. Drain and repeat 7 times to softened the peel and remove bitterness. Combine sugar, 1/3 cup water and bring to the boil. Add honey, and orange slices. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to low; simmer for 1 hour or until the oranges are translucent and the syrup is thick. Remove the oranges and place in single layer on a metal rack to drain & cool. Reserve the syrup.
  3. For the custard: Combine milk, orange rind and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat. Whisk egg yolk and half of the sugar in a bowl until thick and pale, then add flour and whisk to combine. Pour milk mixture onto the egg mixture, whisk to combine, bring to the boil. Remove from the heat when the mixture thickens. Leave to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, beat butter and the remaining sugar until pale, and add the cooled custard. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
  5. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 30cm round. Transfer to a baking paper-lined tray, refrigerate for at least 30 mins. Spread the almond filling all over the pastry, leaving 4cm border. Arrange the oranges slices on filling. Fold over the border, pleating as you go. Brush the pastry with egg glaze. Then brush the orange slices with the reserved syrup. (*)
  6. Bake at 180C for 35-40 mins or until golden. Cool on tray for 10 mins then transfer to a rack. Serve drizzle with the remaining syrup.

(*) Please read my note above about pastry handling.

***

I made this tart to participate in my good blog friend Sharmi’s blogging event. She is the host of this month’s A Fruit A Month. Sharmi has chosen orange as the theme, which I think is a fantastic choice. Please head to her lovely blog for the round up at the end of this month.

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An Easy Lunch

>> Sunday, June 17, 2007

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For the last few days I have waked up to a wet, cloudy and gray weather. Perhaps my memories are not so accurate, but I do feel that this year winter is colder and wetter. This results in more soups and stews, and less jogging. I’m still struggling to wake up early and go jogging in the cold and wet weather. Perhaps it’s time for me to substitute some outdoor activities with some indoor actions like going to the gym again for example…

Anyway, back to food. I made these tarts a few days back when the holiday mood was in the air, and I didn’t feel like cooking much. It was incredibly quick and easy to assemble, and tasted nice, too. The ingredients are something you can always find in my pantry – puff pastry, fresh ricotta cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes and some herbs. I am always a big fan of tomatoes, and thanks for the availability of the vine-ripened varieties in the market; I can still enjoy their lovely tastes even in the midst of winter.

And using herb of course is a special bonus. I normally use basil to pair up with tomatoes, but this time I have opted for something different – chives. I generally do not use much chive in my cooking except for garnish, but its mild onion flavors does go well with ricotta and tomatoes in these individual tarts.

A pretty, delicious and rather healthy tart for lunch, what can I ask more for lazy lunch?

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Individual Tomato Tarts with Chive Ricotta

Inspired by recipe from Delicious Magazine

Ingredients (for 4 serves)

5 vine-ripened tomatoes

200g fresh ricotta (buy from your deli, not the packaged one)

1/4 cup finely chopped chive

2 sheets puff pastry, cut into four 12cm circles

A little sugar (optional)

White truffle oil, to drizzle

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 190C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Cut a small cross in the base of the tomatoes. Blanch in boiling water and peel. Quarter and remove seeds. Toss the tomatoes with a little sugar, if your tomatoes are not at their best.
  3. Combine ricotta and chive, season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Place pastry rounds onto the baking tray, prick with a fork. Divide ricotta mixture among the tarts round, spread to the edges.
  5. Place 5 tomatoes ‘petals’ on each tart.
  6. Bake for 18-20 mins or until the pastry is puffed and golden.
  7. Drizzle with white truffle oil and serve immediately.

***

I would like to submit this post to Weekend Herb Blogging. Created by Kalyn, the host of this week is Rachel's Bite.

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The Art of Slow Cooking

>> Thursday, June 14, 2007


As much as I love vegetables and fruits, I do enjoy well-cooked meat. This means occasional medium steak or some lamb chops here or there. But I much prefer slow-cook meat, the type of dish that requires long hours of braising. I love tender and flavorsome meat, and that’s why I own a pressure cooker. With it, my meat stew can be done in a breeze without any fuss. However, I do know the price of convenience is the loss of depth of flavors that can only be developed through long hours of cooking.

Thus, back to basic. I decided to embrace in slow cooking as much as I can. With my time schedule and working commitments, it’s not always possible. But it’s not an excuse to deny myself the pleasure of cooking and enjoying something truly good. After all, I do love experimenting new dishes and flavors. Of course I don’t say quick and simple dishes are no good. Each cooking method, quick or slow, will depend on the ingredients and the dish itself. Life is a balanced of all things, so are cooking techniques...

My very first challenge in the kitchen is a recipe from a truly good and inspiring book – Artisanal Cooking - by Terrance Brennan. It utilizes a cut of beef that is often ignored in fine dining restaurants – shot ribs. The slow, very slow cooking, transfers this cheap cut into something hearty, deep and marvelous. It’s not like anything I have cooked before. It feels like you can bite through different layers of flavors – from the meat to the sauce, and also the lovely orange carrots. A very complete dish for a winter night…

So how did I tackle this dish? Note that it requires at least 1 day of marinate, then 5-6 hours of cooking. I think it all comes down with preparation. Read the recipe carefully and plan ahead, it won’t go wrong. Furthermore, most of the cooking process is done slowly, so we can always do something around the house. (Cleaning and reading was what I did!).

Here’s the recipe that I slightly adapted. I have reduced the amount of alcohol. I know the amount of alcohol seems quite a lot still, but the alcohol contents will be boiled off during the cooking process. So, the kids will love this, too.

Daube of Beef Short Ribs with Olives and Orange-Cumin Carrots

Adapted from this book

Ingredients (for 6 serves as a main course)

Olive oil, as needed

½ cup celery, large diced

½ cup peeled carrots, large diced

Salt

2 bottles red wines

4 head garlic, halved crosswise, excess skins removed

4 pieces boned-in beef short ribs. Trimmed of excess fat

2 sprigs fresh thyme

3 bay leaves

6 flat-leaf parsley, stems attached

1 medium leek, white and green part only, rinsed

Flour, as needed

About 5 cups of beef stock

Orange peel from 1/2 orange, white pith removed

6 anchovies fillets

1/3 cup green olives, halved

2 tbsp unsalted butter

Method

  1. Heat some oil in a pan. Add in onion, celery & carrot. Stir for 10 mins or until softened but not browned. Add in red wine and garlic. Bring to the boil then simmer over low heat for 5 mins to cook out the alcohol content. Cool.
  2. Pour the above mixture over the beef in a large pan. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 days.
  3. Tie the thyme, parsley, bay leaves and leek together. Remove the ribs from the marinade and pat dry. Pour the marinade mixture into a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to the boil. Lower and simmer until the liquid reduces by two-third, about 1 hours.
  4. Heat some oil on a separate pan. Dredge the ribs in flour and sear them. Transfer to the pot with the reduced liquid.
  5. Add enough stock to just cover the ribs. Add orange peel, leek bundles and anchovies. Bring to the boil and simmer over low heat for about 2-3 hours, until the beef is tender and pulling of the bone. Remove from the pot and set aside. (*)
  6. Strain the liquid to another pot. Set the sauce over medium heat, add olives and simmer for 1 hours, skimming any foam and oil. Simmer until the sauce can coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the butter.
  7. Remove the bones from the ribs. To heat it up, dip it into the warm sauce for a little while. Take out and place on serving plates. Laddle the sauce on top (1/4 cup per plate). Serve with orange cumin carrots (recipe below) and some potato mash or creamy baked pasta.

Orange-Cumin Carrots

Ingredients

1 tsp whole cumin seeds

4 tbsp unsalted butter

2 cups carrots, peeled and cut diagonally. About ¼ inch thick

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Some honey (optional)

Salt and pepper

Method

Melt butter, add in cumin seeds & stir until fragrant. Add in carrot & orange juice. Simmer & cover until the carrots are tender. Season with honey, salt & pepper.

(*) Note: The meat can be cooked in an oven using a Dutch oven. Set the oven to 325F and cook the beef for 2-3 hours.

***

Hearty and flavorsome, this dish can be added to your family menu for a change. I would like to submit this post to Cook and Eat Meat Event hosted by Arfi. If you are looking for a new way to cook meat for your family, please head to her blog for the round up after 16th June. Please remember red meat is a good source of iron, and eating it in a moderate amount is beneficial for health.

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A touch of rosemary

>> Sunday, June 10, 2007

Rosemary is my only plant that survived the attack of Mr. Pat the Possum some time back. It has grown well, and I do hope it will endure the long winter ahead. Rosemary is one of my favourite herbs. And I am sure a lot of you love it, too. But do you know rosemary is an ancient symbol of remembrance and fidelity? A little search on the internet yields quite a number of interesting articles about this. It’s pleasant to know that rosemary has always been a favourite through time.

Rosemary is most used in savoury dishes and bakes. But today I will use this herb in a sweet bread. Originated from Tuscany, the bread pairs rosemary with raisin, and it proves to be a wonderful combination. It has the right level of sweetness from the raisin and the aroma of the rosemary is just fantastic. Enriched with eggs and olive oil, the bread remains soft and nice for at least three days.

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Serve this with butter or mild cheese, you will find yourself coming back for another slice. This is one of the best recipes I have come across, and I will surely make it again and again. Highly recommended for everyone! Don't worry if you are not a raisin fan like me. The flavour of raisin is pretty mild in this bread, making it much more enjoyable.

I would like to submit this post to Weekend Herb Blogging. Created by Kalyn, it is currently hosted by Ulrike from Kuchenlatein this week. Please check out the round up later.

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Rosemary Raisin Bread

Recipe from this book

Ingredients (yield 2 round loaves)

2 tsp dried yeast

100ml warm water

450g strong white flour*

½ tsp salt

2 tbsp milk powder

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

225g raisin

4 tbsp olive oil

4 eggs, lightly beaten

Method

Sprinkle the yeast into the water in a bowl. Leave for 5 mins then stir to dissolve.

Mix flour, salt, milk powder in a large bowl. Add the yeast liquid and the remaining ingredients. Mix to form a dough (adjust water or flour if needed). Knead until the dough is silky, springy and elastic. (This takes about 10 mins by hand).

Put the dough in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover and let rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Gently turn the dough into an oiled surface. Rotate the dough in a circle, applying downward pressure to the side, cupping the dough with the inside of your hand. Do this gently until the dough is smooth and round. Cover and leave for 10 mins.

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Shape into a round loaf. Put on the oiled baking tray. Cover and leave for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 200C. Cut a slash 1cm deep across the top of each loaf, then another in the opposite direction to make an ‘X’.

Bake each loaf for 45 mins, until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

(*): If you are in Australia, I recommend using Wallaby Bakers Flour for your white bread. I have used quite a few brands, and this bread flour provides the best result. Recently, my local Coles supermarket has started to stock it. It normally comes in 5kg package and you can use it for varieties of bread and pizza. My local grocery also carries the organic range, but it comes in 10kg package so I haven't tried it out yet.

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Coffee Break Biscuits

>> Thursday, June 07, 2007

Eversince I made the wonderful polenta dough for empanadas, I have started to appreciate polenta a lot more. Before that, I only had it as a side dish which seemed rather bland. With the success, I was pleased to discover the lovely texture polenta has in baked goods – something strangely gritty, ‘sandy’ and satisfying. Having discovered that new dimension, I have started to look for more polenta recipes to try out.

In my search, one thing kinda confused me are the two terms – ground cornmeal and polenta. Are they the same thing? After ‘consulting’ with the gorgeous and knowledgeable Haalo, I finally have the answer. They are basically the same thing and can be used interchangeable. The small difference is in the grind – cornmeal normally has smaller grind. Having said that, I think the Greek groceries in my area carry all three grades of polenta (coarse, medium and fine), which is a good thing since different recipes do call for different grades.

Today I have used polenta again in one sweet biscuit recipe, which appears in this wonderfully sweet cookbook. The biscuits capture perfectly the gritty and crisp texture of polenta and their sweetness is just enough to lighten up the day. These are the types that pair beautifully with coffee or tea. I just love to dip them in my cuppa during the coffee break at uni, hence the name ‘coffee break biscuit’!

The recipe for the biscuits is easy. I have added orange zest and cardamom to lift up the aroma, but simple vanilla will work well, too. One key thing to remember is to chill the dough well since it is rather sticky. I have also modified the method of preparation a little to make dough handling easier.

I would like to submit this post to Weekend Cookbook Challenge #17. The theme for this month is polenta and it is hosted by Ani from FoodieChickie.

Orange & Cardamom Polenta Biscuits

Adapted from this book

Ingredients

115g unsalted butter, melted

200g plain flour

300 fine polenta (not the instant type)

115g castor sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

100ml milk

1 tsp ground cardamom

Zest of two large orange

Method

Combine flour, polenta, and sugar in a large bowl. Pour in egg, milk, melted butter, cardamom & orange zest and mix well. Knead the dough to thoroughly combine all the ingredients. Wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Grease several baking tray.

On a lightly oiled surface, roll out the dough to 2cm thick. Lightly grease your hands, the rolling pins and dough cutter to prevent sticking to the dough. Use a biscuit cutter to cut out the desired biscuit shape. Place onto the prepared tray.

Bake for 15 mins or until crisp and yellow. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an air-tight jar.

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The Native Seeds

>> Sunday, June 03, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging comes back to Kalyn this week. And for this edition, I have chosen something Australian to feature – wattle seeds.

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Wattle seeds may be new to some of us, but they have been used by the Australian Aboriginal communities for a long time. Wattle seeds come from a range of acacia tree species. According to this link, out of 900 plus species of Acacia, only 100 species are suitable for human consumption.

Roasted and ground, wattle seeds have a wonderful light nutty, chocolaty and coffee aroma. I have read that these seeds are useful in baking. However, I don’t recall seeing a lot of products contain wattle seeds here in Australia. Furthermore, these seeds are generally not available at normal supermarkets. I bought mine as a native speciality from a gourmet shop .

My first experiment with wattle seeds is in this flourless apple and almond cake which comes from Nigella Lawson’s Feast. To my surprise, the original recipe does not contain any flavouring ingredients, i.e. no cinnamon or even vanilla. Having made it once, I found that although the cake had wonderful texture and taste, it still had an unpleasant ‘eggy’ aroma. To fix this, wattle seeds were added to lend some aromatic coffee fragrance to the product. The new combination proved to be wonderful. The cake turned out moist, buttery (even though no butter is used) and aromatic. Great with a cup of coffee or tea.

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Wattle Seed, Apple and Almond Cake

Adapted from this book

Ingredients

3 tart apples (I used Granny Smith)

2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided

2 teaspoons castor sugar

8 eggs

325g ground almonds

275g castor sugar

50g slivered or sliced almonds

1 tsp wattle seed

Icing sugar, to serve

Method

For the apple puree: Peel, core and roughly chop apples. Place in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 2 tsp sugar, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until you can mash apple into a rough puree with a wooden spoon or fork. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease 10-inch springform pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a food processor, add eggs, ground almonds, sugar, wattle seeds, cooled apple mixture and remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, and whiz until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan, sprinkle with almonds and bake for about 45 minutes. Check after 35 minutes and test doneness with a toothpick inserted in center (should be nearly clean).

Cool. Lightly dust with icing sugar before serving.

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