Saturday, February 27, 2010

Daring Baker's Challenge: Tiramisu

When I first read this month's challenge was tiramusu I thought, easy, not even a challenge. Then I continued reading and discovered that it would involve making everything from scratch including the savoiardi biscuits and mascarpone cheese, plus zabaglione and pastry cream.

I should never have doubted the challenging nature of this recipe. I am sure that this doubt came back as a karmic bite in the arse when my first lot of mascarpone cheese failed dismally. I've never made a recipe that relies to heavily on getting a liquid to a certain temperature, and I learned the hard way what when a recipe says 190 degrees, heat it to 190 degrees. 170 degrees isn't the same as 190. I had to watch half a kilo of mascarpone drain through a muslin covered strainer and straight down the drain.

I also ended up making two batches of savoiardi, one to dip in espresso and layer in the tiramisu, and one to decorate the tiramisu cake I made. The second round of biscuits were better than the first, I had a better idea of the ideal texture and baking size of the biscuits.


3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,

Method: Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

The first batch of savoiardi


474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Method:Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

Mascarpone before it set overnight

Mascarpone after it set, lovely and thick


For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:

Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

All the ingredients ready to go

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined.

Pastry cream, zabaglione and mascarpone

Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

I made two individual servings of tiramisu in glass bowls, a very traditional way of serving them. These were topped with grated chocolate and consumed on Valentine's Day as a romantic and calorific dessert!

I decided to try and make a tiramisu 'cake' which involved layering the tiramisu into a 7 inch cake tin lined with glad wrap. I put it in the freezer and then a week later removed it in the morning, placed it in the fridge to defrost for the day, and in the afternoon set to decorating it. It was a bit challenging to plate neatly as the cream was back to it's usual consistency, but with the help of a spatula I got it centred on the plate. I used batch two of the savoiardi to border the cake and then tied a ribbon around it. It still didn't look quite complete. I think this might have been because of the awkward height difference between the biscuits and the top of the cake! See:

I had some leftover cream in the fridge so I whipped it up with a bit of sugar and vanilla and put it on top. Then I added some grated chocolate and voila! Very satisfying (emotionally and taste-bud-ically!)

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Why Rahul loves me

I made him sour cream chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate peanut butter glaze for his birthday.

I first read about this cake over at Smitten Kitchen where Deb baked it for her chocolate mad husband's birthday with rave reviews. The recipe comes from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne, and after a few google searches relating to this book I knew I had to buy it.

My God, is this cake rich. It took five of us to eat just a quarter of it, so it would easily serve twenty people despite the recipe's instructions that it could do 12 or 16. Having said that, Rahul loved it and took about a quarter of the remains to work today.

If you love Reese's peanut butter cups this is the cake of your dreams.

I can't decide what to bake next. Peach Melba Cake with Raspberry Cream? Key West Cake with Mango Mousse and Ginger Lime Cream? Pina Colada Cake?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I will be on Masterchef yet...

Playing in the interweb lately I have noticed a few bloggers attempting to recreate Adriano Zumbo's now infamous Masterchef Chocolate Mousse Cake, and doing damn fine jobs of it. After a raging success with my latest Daring Baker's Challenge (to be revealed later this week) I was feeling buoyed with confidence and decided to give it a go.

According to my Masterchef Cookbook (and the other bloggers who've attempted the cake!) the recipe is challenging, Zumbo scored it 10/10 on the hard to make scale.

It's true. It felt like I spent all day on Saturday making the layers, although it was probably only about four hours. My feet hurt. Chocolate was everywhere. I had caramel in my hair. So tired.

The pate sable, the mousse and the jaconde were relatively easy to make however the caramel apple layer and salted caramel not so. The caramel apple layer didn't end up all creamy and oozy like in Zumbo's dessert but it did taste good, like a runny tarte tatin. The salted caramel layer was a total disaster, it didn't really turn a rich caramel colour and even after twenty four hours in the freezer it wouldn't firm up and I ended up throwing it in the bin.

Still, the cake looked pretty special once it was assembled, and the layers looked pretty. It tasted pretty special too, although I imagine it would have been different and better with the addition of the salted caramel, much more golden and oozy. Ah well...

The cake was also pretty enormous! The feeling of satisfaction upon completion of the cake was enormous, but I can't say I'm prepared to make it again. I value my sanity. To feel my pain, or to feel proud of me, have a look at the recipe below.


1. Pate sable cinnamon (This is the biscuit base of the cake)

285g cold butter cubed (frozen after reading the advice of Tasted by Two)
185g caster sugar
375g plain flour
1 egg
2g ground cinnamon
1/4 scraped vanilla bean

2. Texture apple tatin insert
4 granny smith apples, peeled & diced
350g caster sugar
175g butter

3 granny smith apples, peeled & diced
10g butter
1 orange zest
6g fresh ginger (leave in large bits)
50g caster sugar
15ml calvados (I substituted Grand Marnier)

3. Salted caramel layer

300g caster sugar
60g glucose
120g water
220g cream
5g gelatine leaves
125g butter unsalted
2g sea salt flakes

4. Biscuit decor jaconde

Cigarette decor paste
50ml cream
50g egg white
50g icing sugar
30g plain flour
20g cocoa

Biscuit jaconde
60g plain flour
40g butter melted
200g almond meal
200g icing sugar
6 eggs
180g egg whites
90g caster sugar

5. Chocolate blackberry sabayon mousse
Blackberry ganache
125g blackberry pulp (Used raspberry)
12g inverted sugar
50g caster sugar
6g caster sugar
3g pectin nh
200g 64% dark chocolate
35g butter

Sabayon mousse
60ml liquid strained black tea
50g sugar
50g egg
145g blackberry ganache (see recipe above)
60g 64% chocolate
400g whipped cream soft peaks

6. Chocolate spray (I didn't make the chocolate spray, I did not own a food spray gun!!)
500g dark chocolate
350g cocoa butter
colour as directed

7. Tempered chocolate (Didn't do this either, who needs more chocolate when cherries are in season)

500g white chocolate


1. Pate sable cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 160°c.
2. Add butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon and vanilla to a food processor and process to fine crumb. Add egg, mix till it comes together. Tip mixture onto bench and knead lightly. Roll out on a sheet of baking paper until 7 – 8 mm thick. Place ring mould over pastry and cut around outside edge, remove excess outer pastry.
3. Transfer pastry and ring mould on baking paper to an oven tray and bake until lightly golden.

2. Texture apple tatin insert


Dry caramelise the sugar, emulsify the caramel with the butter. Add the apples, cook until the apples are translucent and caramel in colour. Cool mixture.

1. Peel & dice the apples. Add butter, orange zest, & ginger to a pan and cook until aromatic. Add sugar & apples. Cook over high heat for 1 minute, add calvados & flambé. Cool mixture.
2. Mix the 2 apple mixtures together. Place in a silicon mould. Place in blast freezer until set.

3. Salted caramel layer

1. Heat cream. Place sugar, glucose, water in a saucepan, cook to caramel colour. Deglaze sugar with cream. Add gelatine. Cool to 50°c. Add butter and blitz.
2. Place in a silicon mould and place in blast freezer.

4. Biscuit decor jaconde
5. Cigarette decor paste

Mix all ingredients together.

Biscuit jaconde
1. Melt butter. Whip eggs, icing sugar, and almond meal together. Whip egg whites and sugar together to form stiff peaks. Fold egg whites into egg almond mixture alternating with butter & flour.
2. Preheat oven to 160°c.
3. Place cigarette paste on tray, swirl pattern with fingers. Place in freezer. Using a pastry scrape or palette knife spread cigarette paste with a thin layer about 3mm thick of jaconde. Bake until lightly golden. Cool.

6. Chocolate blackberry sabayon mousse

Blackberry ganache

1. Heat blackberry pulp in a saucepan, add sugar and inverted sugar, bring to the boil. Add extra sugar and pectin.
2. Pour mixture over chocolate in a bowl, stir until smooth. Cool to 40°c, add butter and blend with a stick blender.

Sabayon mousse

1. Place tea, sugar & eggs in a bowl over simmering water (bain marie) and whip to form a sabayon. Melt chocolate, mix in cream. Fold in blackberry ganache, gently fold in sabayon.

7. Chocolate spray

1. Temper chocolate see method below. Cool to 40°c. Add cocoa.
2. Place in spray gun.

8. Tempered chocolate

Melt the chocolate in a bowl. Add more chocolate stirring until melted, until the temperature of the chocolate reaches approximately 32°c (dark chocolate), approximately 30°c for milk or white chocolate. The chocolate should be tempered. To test, use a small square of silicon paper & dip in chocolate, place on bench (cool place), the chocolate should set at room temperature.
To temper the cocoa butter melt in pot on stove, then pour onto a clean work surface to cool rapidly (around 32°c), add colour as soon as you pour the cocoa butter on table and work with the palette knife. When cool, brush on clear plastic provided working left to right, and keep brushing until cool in same direction to obtain brush strokes. Cover in tempered white chocolate, and cut and shape to desired finish. Place on top of cake as desired.

9. Assembly
Layer of mousse in bottom of mould
Layer of salted caramel from silicon mould
Layer of jaconde
Layer of mousse
Layer of apple tatin from silicon mould
Layer of jaconde
Layer of mousse

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I finally attempt macarons

Hell yes, my macaron has feet!! I am pretty proud of my effort given that I've been reading all over the blogosphere about big disasters (the descriptions of which gave me some helpful ideas about what not to do!) I used Canelle et Vanille's recipe for chocolate macarons, and as a filling I tried whipped cream and strawberries, as well as a bittersweet Lindt chocolate ganache. I did intend to make peanut butter filling but I didn't have any PB in the house and I couldn't wait to try the macarons. Peanut butter is DEFINITELY on the agenda for next time, as is a raspberry mascarpone filling... mmmm...

I bought yellow and pink powdered food colourings today from the Essential Ingredient which has just opened up the street, so some coloured macarons could be in order.

Everything I've read about macarons talks about keeping the batter light, some recipes say no more than 40 strokes of the spoon when folding the eggs into the flour/almond meal/icing sugar dry mixture. My mixture looked like this:

It took a while to get the hang of piping macarons into even sized circles, but most of them matched up in the end.
You have to let the macarons sit for half an hour or so before putting them in the oven, according to my recipe it dries them out.

After 16 minutes in the oven I was overjoyed to pull these out, feet and all! Feet are the little ruffly looking bits around the base of the macaron. And feet are apparently good.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I am cross

Why don't Anthropologie ship to Australia? Why?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Further forays into blog land

If you're interested in the trials and tribulations of purchasing a 'renovator's delight' and then actually renovating the damn thing you might like to read my new blog.

Anybody can make soup

I have never understood why people buy soup. It's the easiest thing in the world to make, a big batch can be dinner for two plus plenty to freeze for another day. And it's good for you (unlike the usual content of this blog!)

It's simple. You need some garlic and onion roughly chopped, some olive oil, some chicken stock, chopped up vegetables of your choice and a few herbs. Cook and blend.

The ingredients pictured above made a delicious spiced capsicum, tomato and pumpkin soup. I chose these flavours based on what was left in the fridge after a few chaotic weeks - three punnets of cherry tomatoes heading quickly towards their used by date, a carrot, half a butternut pumpkin, some baby capsicums and one lonely potato. It's good to have a mix of starchy heavy vegetables (potato and pumpkin) as well as some lighter higher water content veggies so that once you blend the soup it will be lovely and thick.

Simple Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
Spices of your choice (in my recipe I used cumin, paprika and ground coriander)
1.5 kg mixed vegetables* chopped into 5cm x 5cm pieces
1.5 litres of stock (I prefer chicken)
Fresh herbs and cream** to serve

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over low to medium heat
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft
  3. Add spices and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant
  4. Add vegetables and stock, bring to the boil and then simmer covered for 30 -4o minutes until the vegetables are softened
  5. Cool and then blend in food processor or with hand held blender
  6. Reheat to serve and serve with fresh herbs and/or cream

* Good (and classic) combinations are potato and leek, potato and spinach, carrot and parsnip, sweet potato, tomato and capsicum. I've also made a great pear and leek soup using very under-ripe pears.

** You can use cream, milk or coconut milk to add richness to your soup. Choose according to your vegetable combination, for example potato and leek is a classic soup that would suit cream, however a spicy sweet potato, tomato and capsicum would be delicious with coconut milk or cream.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oaty hotcakes with caramel bananas

As you are no doubt aware, today is Valentine's Day. I thought I was prepared. Knowing Rahul's passion for anything made by Adriano Zumbo I decided to beat the crowds and go to his chocolate cafe midweek to buy a selection of chocolates. The range was hilarious, he'd even done some condom-in-wrapper shaped chocolates. I chose about twenty different things, mainly salted caramels, something hilariously called a 'camel-toe' and chocolate lamingtons and fairy breads. Advised to keep the chocolates cool I hid them in the back of my wardrobe.

Yesterday morning Rahul announced that their were an army of ants marching through our bedroom. Sadly despite a Mortein defense operation it was too late. Chocolates gone.

In an effort to compensate for the disaster as a special Valentine's Day breakfast I made some hotcakes with caramel bananas. Caramel is Rahul's favourite thing in the world. And caramel with bananas is a winning combination. I like to include fruit in breakfasts that have questionable nutritional value, and this recipe also called for oats (admittedly only 25 grams but that's better than nothing.)

Bill Granger's Oaty Hotcakes with Caramel Bananas
(from Feed Me Now)


185g plain flour
1.5 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon caster sugar
25g rolled oats
275 ml buttermilk (I used 1/2 cup natural yogurt and 3/4 cup milk instead)
1 egg lightly beaten
35 g butter melted

To make the batter sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together in a bowl. Stir the sugar and oats through, then make a well in the centre. Pour in the buttermilk and egg, stirring until just mixed. Add the melted butter and stir to combine.

To cook the hotcakes heat a large non stick frying pan over medium head and butter. Pour in two or three small ladlefuls being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes until bubbles start to appear, and then flip and cook the other side for a further 2-3 minutes.

Serve with caramel bananas (and ice cream if you're naughty.)

Caramel Bananas

3 bananas
60g butter
90g brown sugar
2 tablespoons of water

Halve the bananas lengthways and slice each piece into three. Put the butter, sugar and water into a large frying pan over medium heat and cook until the mixture forms a caramel and darkens. Add the bananas and toss through until well coated.

My caramel was lighter than it should have been because I substituted golden caster sugar for brown sugar.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How I manage to bake in my dodgy kitchen

When Joanna asked what kitchen equipment I have I thought it was time to show you a picture of my kitchen. It's pretty basic, just what you can see above plus another little bench with a gas stove and an oven on wheels underneath. It is very very temporary. Although we've had it for 6 months now! A new kitchen depends on the success or failure of the development application that is currently lodged with Leichhardt Council.

I've found that despite it's flaws cooking and baking delicious things is quite possible in my kitchen, with the exception of decorating with fondant which requires smooth cool surfaces and a lot of them. An electric oven, a gas stove and a sink are kitchen elements that I consider critical for good cooking. And for baking there are several items that I couldn't live without.

Electric Beaters

I use electric beaters for everything. Creaming butter and sugar, making seven minute frosting, beating pancake mix, beating egg whites into submission to make perfect pavlovas. The beaters I have at the moment are four speed, and while there are newer and prettier 8 speed beaters around I find that four speeds are plenty.


On Christmas morning I opened up an oddly shaped gift from R and at first had no idea what it was. I still have no idea what the technical name of this thing is, or if there even is a technical name. What it does is glue a mixing bowl to the bench which sounds simple but has solved so many baking issues. Recipes constantly call for you to 'pour milk in a steady stream into the large bowl whilst beating' which really requires (a) three hands or (b) a helper, so I would end up turning off the beaters and then letting go of the bowl, pouring milk, holding bowl again, turning on beaters again... Now the bowl just grips the bench and I can pour and beat to my heart's content without meeting disaster.

I should add that I have 6 stainless steel mixing bowls of various sized and I couldn't live without those either!

A Set of Round Cookie Cutters

These are useful for everything. Cookies and shortbread, cutting sponge to form the base of little cakes, cutting fondant into spots for decorating.

Assorted Bits and Pieces

From left to right:
1. A big spatula perfect for icing cakes
2. A whisk for eggs, custard, anything that needs a gentler action than the electric beaters provide
3. A silicone spatula which gets every bit of the cake mix out of the bowl and into the tin (not recommended if you like scoffing the 'leftover' raw cake mixture
4. An offset spatula for working with ganache
5. A silicone pastry brush which is very handy for pies and pastries, so much easier to clean and hygienic than the bristle variety