Chocolate Mousse Concorde Cake

It’s been a while but I promise I have been cooking and taking pictures. Here’s hoping I find time to write one up now and again. I baked this cake as the special request for a colleague who was leaving MPOW, which meant it was a new one for me (and hence the glamorous background of my work tearoom for the photos!). The result is a silky chocolaty concoction that makes a rich and satisfying dessert.

I found this cake easy to make ahead of time. I made the mousse 2 days before I planned to build the cake and stored it in a container in the fridge. The meringue can also be made in advance and be stored in a dry sealed container (don’t let it get moist), no need to refrigerate. Then just build the night before you need it.

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Ingredients:

For the Meringue:

  • 10 egg whites, at room temperature
  • a pinch salt
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2½ cups caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp corn flour
  • ⅓ cup Dutch cocoa

For the Mousse:

  • 2 cups dark chocolate
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 2 cups cream – whipped

Preheat oven to 100°C

Beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add the caster sugar, a little at a time, until stiff peaks form and sugar has dissolved.

Using a spatula, gently fold the sifted corn flour and cocoa through the egg whites until just combined. Be gentle at this stage as the cocoa is fairly heavy and can deflate your egg whites. If they do deflate, start again as you can’t resurrect them.

Draw 3 x 20 cm circles on baking paper to fit on to your oven trays.

Fill a large piping bag fitted with a 1.5 cm plain nozzle (what you are told to do) or put your meringue into zip lock bags and snip the corner off  (what I actually did) and starting in the center pipe outwards in a spiral, repeat 2 more times to create your 3 discs. They should look glossy and be about 1.5cm thick. Pipe the remaining meringue into as many lines as possible.

Bake the discs and lines for 2 hours. Turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool in the oven. Don’t be tempted to turn up the oven to hurry it along. Meringue just takes time. Ensure the meringues are completely cold before you try to build the cake.

Meanwhile make your mousse. Melt the chocolate and salt together. Using an electrip mixer, whip together the eggs and egg yolk until frothy.
In a small saucepan, make a sugar syrup by heating the sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved and it starts to bubble ( a bit over 100°C). Pour about a third of the sugar syrup into the eggs and whip rapidly until combined. Repeat two more times, stopping to add the sugar syrup each time so you don’t scald yourself with boiling sugar. Once all the sugar syrup has been added whip the mixture on high up until the mixture is very thick and frothy, this will take several minutes.

Fold the eggs into the melted chocolate and then fold the whipped cream into the mixture gently to finish your mousse. Chill in the fridge.

To build the cake, place a disc of meringue as your base and cover with about 1/4 of the mousse. Add another disc and repeat. Add the final disk and then cover the top and sides with the remaining mousse. Chill in the fridge over night.

An hour before serving take out of the fridge to warm gently as room temperature and top with your lines of meringue which you can chop or break to your desired size. Dust with icing sugar just before serving (optional).

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Tasty cheats: Homemade Sausage Rolls

 
So here’s the trick to being a domestic goddess as they call it, cheat. Nigella Lawson knows it and I do too. I love to cook and garden and work on my house but I also work full time, study part time and do a million other little things in between. So I usually want food that tastes amazing, looks great and shows the people I’m serving it to that it was made with care just for them but also is deceptively impressive and actually quick and easy. These sausage rolls are one of those recipes.

I’d read about this principle for making cheat sausage rolls before and decided to experiment myself for a friends wedding I was catering. We wanted something a bit ‘meaty’ as several of the other finger foods were vegetarian and we wanted something approachable for the the guests who were less adventurous with food. Since then I’ve made these for a few parties  I’ve been to recently and a batch for a friend who’s recently had a baby and the plate always empties in record time. Best of all I can keep all the necessary elements in the freezer so can whip up a batch at any time.

You’ll need:

  • Packet of good quality frozen puff pasty (you’ll use 1/2  square sheet for each sausage)
  • Packet of good quality sausages (so far I’ve used Veal and Chive but I’m thinking of trying a spicy sausage next)
  • 1 egg
  • Sesame or Poppy seeds (optional)

If your sausages are frozen make sure to defrost them before you start. Take a sheet of frozen puff pastry and if it is the standard size we get here in Australia it will be about 25cm square. Cut it in half with a sharp knife but leave the plastic backing on. Using a pair of kitchen scissors or a sharp knife gently slit the sausage skin and remove it. Stretch out the sausage filling to the length of the pastry (the longest edge) and place it in the middle of your pastry piece. By now the pastry should be soft enough to roll.

Crack the egg in a bowl and whisk lightly with a fork. Brush a bit of the egg onto on long edge of your pastry and then roll the other long edge of the pastry over the top of the sausage mixture until all the pastry is rolled up around the meat peeling them off as you go. Trim any loose bits of pastry at the end and then slice into pieces at your preferred width. I get about 8 pieces from each roll for the size in the picture which I find just right for two little bites. Place on a tray lined with baking paper and brush the top with a little more egg. Sprinkle on the sesame or poppy seeds in you are using them. Repeat for as many as you need.

At this point you can either bake in a 180C oven for approximately 20-30 minutes or until puffy and golden or you can freeze them on the trays and then pack into containers and store them in your freezer until needed.

Homemade Veal and Chive Mini Sausage Rolls

 

 

Broccoli, Potato and Leek Soup

 

Inspired by a cold day and a special at my green grocer on local broccoli I decided the time had come to make Broccoli, Potato and Leek Soup again. I’m not a huge fan of plain potato and leek soup as it can be a little bland but I love to add in some broccoli for depth of flavour and textural interest. It’s also a lovely warming soup that seems creamy but isn’t and is very budget friendly.

You’ll Need:

  • a couple of medium sized heads of broccoli
  • 3 medium sized potatoes
  • 2 medium leeks
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1L of vegetable stock
  • 1-1.5 L of water
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • Salt and Pepper

Chop the white part of the leeks in two semi circular halves and then finely slice. Finely chop the garlic and thyme. Peel and chop the potatoes into small chunks. Chop the florets of broccoli and put to one side and then slice the stems. If you broccoli is quite large try peeling the stems before slicing. Saute the leeks, garlic and thyme until soft. Add in the potato and broccoli stems and sauce for a couple more minutes. Add in the vegetable stock and 1 L of water and leave to simmer until vegetables are tender. Add in the broccoli florets and simmer for a minute or two longer, top up with extra water at the point if needed (remember this soup should be fairly thick). Pulse with a stick blender until only slight chunky and season with salt and pepper to taste. This is lovely served with some crunchy croutons or toast and a spoonful of creme fraiche.

 

This makes about 2.5 L of soup and it freezes really well. I actually made this batch to go straight into the freezer for mid-week vegie rich lunches. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

Aussie Afternoon Tea: Pavlovas and Iced Vovo Cake

This week my place of work fare-welled one of my colleagues K who is moving back to the US. Librarians know how to put on an afternoon tea and this one had an Australiana twist to show her what she would be missing (other than us). As you can see it was a plentiful spread but my contributions were mini pavlovas and an Iced Vovo cake.

The Iced Vovo Cake looked and tasted terrific – really like a giant Iced Vovo. It was also super easy and you can find the recipe over at the terrific baking blog: Raspberri Cupcakes. Her recipes are really inspiring – there’s also a Tim Tam cake that I’m looking forward to making sometime.

The pavlovas were my own recipe adapted from others I’ve used before. I’ve found this is the easiest way to get silky smooth meringue that turn out crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. If the rate the pavlovas disappeared and the compliments received were anything to go by they are pretty terrific. Best of all you can make the meringues ahead of time and keep them in an airtight container for a few days and then just dress them with cream and fruit when you are ready to serve. Oh and they are gluten free.

You’ll need:

  • 6 egg whites at room temperature (the freshest you can get)
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 300g whipped cream
  • Sliced fruit (I used Strawberries, green and gold kiwi fruit and passionfruit)

Pour the sugar into a small baking dish and place into a hot oven until the sugar is hot to touch (about 10 minutes). Place the egg whites  and salt into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until frothy. Pour in the sugar in one go and beat on high speed for about 10 minutes until the meringue mixture is stiff, glossy, pale and cold.

Cover two baking sheets with non-stick paper and spoon the meringue onto the sheets into domes about 5cm in diameter. The mixture should make 18-20 meringues. Bake them in a very slow oven (about 110 celcius) for 1-1.5 hours until dry and crisp. Remove from the oven and cool throughly before putting into an airtight container.

When ready to serve, dollop each meringue with whipped cream and top with fresh fruit.

 

 

Celebratory Carrot Cake

It was my lovely friend A’s birthday this week and so I offered to bake her a birthday cake for her party. When I asked what type of cake she wanted she was torn between a carrot cake with lots of walnuts and a cheesecake. So I split the difference to create a 4 layer carrot cake with lashing of cream-cheese frosting (so you feel like you are eating cheesecake) with walnut pralines. It was beautifully soft and fluffy, gloriously tall and glamourous and went down a treat at last night’s party.

You’ll need:

  • 175g dark brown sugar
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 350ml vegetable oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 300g grated carrot
  • 100g sultanas
  • 190g toasted walnuts (chopped)
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
Mix sugars, oil and eggs until well combined. Add carrots, raisins, walnuts, orange zest and mix. Sift in flour, bicarb soda and spices and stir gently to just combine. Divide mixture between two non-stick springform cake tins (line bases first). Bake at 180 degrees celsius for approx. 45 min until golden and springy when you touch the centre. Set aside until cold.
For icing and pralines:
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 500g light cream cheese
  • 350g golden caster sugar
  • 50g walnuts

Beat the cream cheese and 175g of caster sugar until soft and fluffy. Add half the orange juice and beat until smooth. Add extra orange juice if it needs thinning. Spread out walnuts on non-stick baking paper. Meanwhile add a splash of water to a saucepan and add remaining caster sugar and stir until dissolved. Simmer until golden brown. Spoon hot caramel over the walnuts and set aside to cool.

To construct your cake. Cut your two cold cakes in half and sandwich together using some of the icing. Smooth remaining icing over the cake. Cover and refrigerate.  Top the cake the pralines just before serving.

What a Feast: Pecan and Cinnamon Sticky Buns

In Australia there is a tv station called SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) which is Australia’s multicultural and multilingual broadcaster. About a year ago they launched a food magazine called Feast which recipes and food stories that span the breadth of multicultural Australia. I love this magazine not only for the interesting recipes but also the storytelling as food is such a valuable gateway into a culture.

I subcribe and was very excited last week when the July edition arrived and included a recipe for sticky buns. They seemed like the perfect dessert for last night’s spiced roast lamb and were so delicious I wanted to share the recipe with you. I’ve adapted it slightly to allow you to make it by hand (I don’t have a mixer that can handle dough as suggested in the recipe) and removing the glace icing which seemed superfluous in this already indulgent treat.

You’ll need:

  • 7g sachet of dried yeast
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 125ml milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 375g plain flour (plus extra)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 385g butter (softened)
  • 240g dark brown sugar
  • 125ml thickened cream
  • 60ml maple sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 180g pecans (toasted and chopped)
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated)

To make the dough: warm the milk to blood temperature and add yeast and 1 tbs of the caster sugar and mix until smooth. Place in a warm place for 5-10 minutes until bubbly. Meanwhile sift the flour, remaining caster sugar, salt  into a large bowl. Rub 125g of butter into the flour mixture until complete combined. Lightly beat 2 eggs and mix into the yeast mixture. Pour yeast mixture into the flour mixture and mix with a spoon until combined. The mixture will be very sticky at this point but get your hand in there, kneading and stretching the dough for about 10 mins until the dough is silky. Rub the dough with a little oil and place in a clean bowl, cover with cling wrap and place in a warm spot until it is doubled in size.

Make the caramel by adding 125g butter, cream, 75g brown sugar, maple syrup and vanilla into a small pan over a high heat and stir until melted and combined. Turn down the heat and simmer until glossy and slightly reduced, about 8-10 minutes. Pour half of the caramel into the bottom of two 20 x 20 cm pans (1/4 each), swirl to cover the base and sides of the pan and scatter 1/6 of the pecans into each pan. Reserve remaining caramel and pecans.

Make the filling by beating the remaining butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until creamy and fluffy and adding 1/3 of the pecans.

Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Dust a rolling pin with flour and roll out into a 30 x 40 cm rectangle about 1/2 cm thick. Spread filling over the dough and roll up along the shorter length like a swiss roll. Trim edges and cut into 12 slices. Place the slices cut side up into the baking pans you’ve already lined with caramel, 6 per pan. Cover with cling wrap again and place in a warm place to rise again.

Beat the remaining egg and brush the rolls with egg wash. Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees celsius)  for about 45 minutes or until fluffy and golden. If they are browning too quickly (mine did) cover with foil for the remaining baking period. Take out of the oven and pour the remaining caramel over the rolls (you may need to re-warm it a little) and sprinkle with remaining pecans. Allow to cool a little before serving.

 

Green Cucumber Cups

Photo by Leisha Clancy

Continuing the recipes from the What’s that tea? launch, the collection includes a smooth Chinese Green Tea. Generally I find that plain green teas can have a harsh after taste but the Chinese Green is really refreshing so I wanted a refreshing green appetizer to complement this lovely tea.  I can’t urge you enough to try this recipe, it is SO tasty and refreshing. You can also make it in a deconstructed salad by finely slicing the cucumber and tossing it with the noodles with some grilled meat or fish for dinner. I found the noodles keep well so you can make the filling up the day before and then make them up on the day.

You’ll need:

  • a telegraph cucumber
  • 1 cm diameter of soba noodles
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 spring onions
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Cook the soba noodles. The brand I use takes 3-4 minutes in boiling water but follow the directions on the packet. Mix together the vinegar, soy sauce and oil. Finely slice the spring onions and toast the sesame seeds. Add 3/4 of the sauce, spring onions and sesame seeds to the noodles and mix well and chill. Reserve the other quarter of these ingredients.

Peel the cucumber and slice into 2 cm pieces. Use a melon baller to scoop out the middle leaving a little base in each cup.

Twist the noodles into each cup and sprinkle with extra sauce, spring onions and sesame seeds and serve.

The recipe for these cucumber cups was adapted from one I read over on the kitchn.