Category Archives: Dessert

Christmas ice-cream

Christmas ice-cream

The first post I put on this blog was a recipe for panna cotta that I made last Christmas, so this post for another Christmas dessert seems to be a milestone of sorts. I guess more than anything I’m surprised I’ve managed to actually blog as much as I have (and I know it’s not a lot), given that my food blogging talents lie more in lurking on other blogs than actually writing my on my own.

I had the idea for this recipe ridiculously early, like in about July or something. I worried that I would forget it for some reason so I wrote it on a post-it note and stuck it on my wall. Next to the notes for the important things I need to do, like write a thesis… It came to me when, strangely enough, I was drinking the key ingredient for this ice cream – Pedro Ximénez sherry. I’ve never been a fan of sherry, but Pedro Ximénez is different – it’s thick and sweet and tastes like Christmas pudding. Because I’m a crazy genius, I came up with the idea of putting something that tastes like Christmas pudding into ice-cream and calling it Christmas ice-cream.

This isn’t the most practical recipe to share on the blog because you really need an ice cream maker, which isn’t exactly a common piece of kitchen equipment. I don’t own one either (and I own other single-use appliances such as a pasta maker and a yoghurt maker), but luckily I could borrow my brother’s. Actually, I borrowed from all over the place for this recipe. I wasn’t sure of the best way to get the sherry into the ice-cream, and what other flavours to put with it, so this recipe is very much an amalgamation of many other ideas. For example, the ice-cream itself is the vanilla ice-cream recipe from David Herbert’s The Really Useful Cookbook (it really is, really useful). Then, I searched the internets for dessert recipes with Pedro Ximénez. I thought about adding some chocolate to the mix, but decided that was too complicated or something, and also thought about caramel and raisins, until I remembered that raisins are rubbish. Finally, I decided the best way to incorporate the sherry was to soak dried cherries (even though dried cherries are stupidly expensive) in it for a day or two, based on Joy the Baker’s recipe for cherry bourbon ice cream. Somewhere along the line, flaked almonds also got thrown in the mix.

I think for Christmas day we’ll have this with fresh berries and chocolate truffles. The best thing about it as my contribution to Christmas day lunch is that it’s already done. The worst thing about it is that I made four batches, well, five including the test one, and as a result I have a stupid number of egg whites in the freezer. And I refuse to eat egg white omelettes because the thought of them makes me depressed. First world problems can be such a drag.

Pedro Ximénez, sour cherry, almond and vanilla ice-cream
This recipe makes about a litre of ice-cream.

1/3 cup dried sour cherries
about 1 cup Pedro Ximénez
500 ml full-cream milk
1 vanilla bean
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 1 tbs caster sugar
250 ml thin cream
1/3 cup flaked almonds

Put the cherries in a jar with a lid and cover with sherry. Put the lid on and leave for a day or two. I left mine for a day, because I’m impatient, but I think two would have been better.

On the same day you cover the cherries with sherry, you can make the custard base for the ice-cream (it needs to cool completely before you can churn it in the ice-cream maker). Place the milk in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half and scrap the seeds out into the milk. Put the pod in the milk too. Heat over a low heat until it almost simmers and then remove from the heat.

Whisk the eggs yolks and caster sugar for 4-5 minutes until thick and pale. I used a food processor with a whisk attachment to do this. Add the milk and vanilla mixture in and whisk until combined.

Put the combined mixture back in the saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it thickens slightly. It’s done when it covers the spoon (you should be able to run your finger down the back of the spoon and leave a path for a few seconds). Be careful not to overcook the custard, or let it boil, as it will curdle. It will take about 20-25 minutes, and you really can’t leave the kitchen in this time.

Strain the custard into a bowl, let it cool to room temperature and then put it in the fridge overnight. Discard the vanilla pods.

When you are ready to churn the ice-cream, lightly whisk the cream and then whisk it in to the custard. Churn it in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (these are different for different machines so not worth noting here). While the ice-cream is churning, lightly toast the flaked almonds and let them cool. Strain the cherries (reserving the sherry), and chop roughly. When the ice-cream is almost set, add the almonds, cherries, and 2 tbs of the sherry.

The ice-cream will still be quite soft after it’s churned, so you will need to freeze it for a while before serving. Homemade ice-cream can be a bit hard and need to be warmed slightly before serving, but the alcohol in this keeps it soft and you can serve it straight from the freezer.

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Nobody knows the truffles I’ve seen

Chocolate truffles

I’ve been doing a lot of reading of food blogs for my masters (speaking of which, if you want to help me out by completing my survey of food blog readers, that would be most excellent), and one of the things I’ve noticed is how food bloggers like to talk about being food bloggers. There are numerous posts on food blogs across the world that start with statements like ‘you know you’re a food blogger when…’ or end with ‘…because I’m a food blogger’. To be honest, I think it’s endearing, but I guess I have a bias.

I didn’t really think I was a proper blogger until I went to the Eat. Drink. Blog. conference and Tammi, the MC, opened the conference by saying it was a ‘caveat free zone’ – we were (are) all, one way or another, food bloggers.

Since the conference, I’ve thought about the things that make me a food blogger. Other than, obviously, having a food blog. For example, most of the photos on my camera are of food. It seems I don’t take photos of people anymore. Maybe cannibal food bloggers have cameras full of pictures of people? It certainly would be a niche audience. The other thing that makes me think that perhaps I’m a real food blogger after all is how often I rate things to cook in terms of their blogability (totally a word). For instance, the other week when my friend asked if I would make 120 chocolate truffles for her mum’s wedding, I thought, ‘that would make a good blog post’, rather than ‘no’. What’s more, I didn’t just think it, I went ahead and made them.

Chocolate truffles have been on my list of things to blog about for a while anyway, and the blog really did need a new post. Also, buying 3kg of chocolate is kind of fun. See:

chocolate, 3kg

And here’s how it looks melted:

melted chocolate, lots of

Orange chocolate truffles
I’ve based this recipe on Luke Mangan’s recipe for white chocolate truffles in the October 2002 issue of delicious. I guess that means I’ve been making them for nine years. I used to make them for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Easter and any other reason. National holidays. Flag days. Tuesdays. Now I just make them for Christmas. And the occasional wedding. You’d think I’d be able to make them neater by now, but I’ve always had a problem with getting them nice and round. These were no different, which is why I tarted them up with some gold foil. I kind of hoped people would be so impressed/distracted by the pretty, shiny gold leaf that they wouldn’t notice how amateur the truffles looked.

For the wedding I quadrupled this recipe, so this should make 30 or so, depending on how big you want to make them. These ones have orange liqueur in them, but I’ve made them in the past with coffee, amaretto, rum and ginger, cherry liqueur – you can really put any flavour in you want.

900g dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa), chopped
60g unsalted butter, chopped
110ml thick cream
70ml orange liqueur (I used Cointreau)

Place 500g of the chocolate and butter in a bowl, and melt over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water).

Heat the cream and liqueur in a small saucepan until almost boiling. If it does boil it will likely spill over, so be careful. If it does spill over, get the person who asked you to make the truffles in the first place to clean it up.

Combine the melted chocolate and butter mixture with the cream and liqueur mixture. Pour this mixture, which, incidentally, is a ganache, into a dish and freeze for a few hours.

When the ganache is firm, scoop small balls out and place them on a tray covered in foil. Freeze for several hours or overnight – you want them to be really hard so they don’t melt when you coat them in chocolate.

Take the frozen balls out of the freezer and, if they’re particularly misshapen, you can roll them between your hands until they’re smooth(er) and round(er). You might then need to freeze them again.

Melt the remaining chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Using a fork, dunk the balls in the chocolate until covered. I sort of rest the ball on a fork, rather than pierce it, and dip it in the chocolate and then wait until the excess chocolate drips off. Then I carefully place the ball on a foil covered tray. Repeat until all the balls are covered and refrigerate until the chocolate is hard. You can dust them with cocoa powder, or sometimes, just before the chocolate is set, I top them with candied orange peel. Or, if you’re feeling fancy, gold leaf.

Apple crumble cheesecake

Apple crumble cheesecake

This cake is basically the best thing I make. I made it as a birthday present for my boyfriend, back when he was just a friend. It was possibly a turning point in our relationship… His favourite desserts were apple crumble and cheesecake (this cake is now the favourite), so I decided to combine them. To be honest, I expected it to be a novelty dish more than anything, so I was surprised when it turned out really well. The apples cut through the rich creamy-ness of the cream cheese, and with the base and the crumble topping the whole thing is encased by crunchy-ness.

This year he was at Burning Man for his birthday, so I made it before he left. The night before he left, actually, and I didn’t take any pictures of it. Ostensibly, I forgot. In reality, I figured it would give me a good excuse to make it again. He was already disappointed in how little of it he got to eat before he left (BTW, he did manage to get through about a third of it, and I did pack him some to eat for breakfast on way to the airport). My housemate Bec and I were left to eat the rest of the cake, and we were happy when it was gone because it wasn’t hanging over our heads any more. It was like some terrible chore – we knew, each night, that we’d have to eat some… First world problems are the WORST.

In an attempt to curb my depression resulting from not being able to go to Burning Man (read: to try and stop being a sook), I decided that I would make the cheesecake again for when he got back, but this time I’d make it from scratch. Well, scratch-ish because I didn’t make the sour cream, or mill the flour, or grow the apples… But, I did make something that approximates cream cheese and the biscuits for the base. While I think this went some way towards distracting me from not being on a crazy adventure in the desert, I don’t think it’s really necessary. The cake is better with store-bought cream cheese, although admittedly I didn’t make proper cream cheese, which would have probably been better but more work. The biscuits were good, but again, it doesn’t make much difference. The only reason you’d really bother is so you can say you did. I’ve included the recipes anyway, but don’t feel like you need to do this much work.

For the cream cheese: strained yoghurt

Upon some internet investigation, I discovered that a sort of cream cheese could be made by simply draining yoghurt. I wrapped a litre of yoghurt in some canvas and hung it over a bowl for about 12 hours:

Straining yoghurt

Yep, sophisticated. The end result is really just a thick yoghurt. It works fine in the cheesecake, but it’s lighter and not as creamy as cream cheese, and I don’t think it’s quite as good. But you can also use strained yoghurt in dips and as a spread, and turn it into labna if you want to marinate scoops of it in oil and junk.

For the base: digestive biscuits

I thought I’d make graham crackers (who calls a cracker Graham? Was he white? Is that racist?) for the base, just because I have a book with a recipe for them in it, but then I realised that while I’ve seen them used in recipes, I’ve never eaten them – they seem to be one of those American foods that I know about but for some reason has never reached our shores. So instead I decided to find a recipe for digestive biscuits, my biscuit of choice for cheesecake bases. I love digestive biscuits, in no small part because of their humble name. They don’t claim to be anything other than digestible, which one would hope all biscuits are. Good for them I say, you don’t want people to start expecting too much from a biscuit, that’s bound to end in disappointment. I based my recipe loosely on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for River cottage spelt digestive biscuits. I say loosely because I didn’t have spelt flour or the inclination to source some, and I used half as much butter because I read the recipe incorrectly (I was tired – earlier that day I read ‘Optus’ as ‘Octopus’, making for a very confusing news headline).

But they came out pretty well. See if you can pick which one is homemade:


Mine is the one on the right. Don’t feel bad if you got it wrong, I am pretty awesome. Anyway, here’s the recipe:

2 2/3 cup wholemeal flour
2 cups of oat bran
125 g butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk

Heat oven to 150°C. Combine flour, oats, butter, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor and blend until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the milk a bit at a time until the mixture comes together. Roll the mixture out between two sheets of baking paper. Cut into large circles, about 8cm in diameter, and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Bake for around 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Apple crumble cheesecake

250g digestive biscuits, homemade or otherwise (or other sweet plain biscuits)
100g unsalted butter, melted
3 granny smith apples
Juice of half a lemon
3/4 cup caster sugar
500g softened cream cheese, or strained yoghurt
2 eggs
250g sour cream
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed firmly
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
60g unsalted butter, chopped
2/3 cup plain flour

Lightly grease a 23cm diameter, round, springform tin, and line the base with baking paper. Sprinkle the base and inside sides with flour. Dust off excess.

Finely crush the biscuits in a food processor. Mix in the melted butter. Spoon mixture into tin and press firmly to cover the base and sides evenly. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes, or until ready to assemble the cake.

Peel and core apples. Cut roughly into 2cm pieces. Put in a heavy-based frying pan with 1/4 cup of the caster sugar and the lemon juice. Cover and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Strain and set aside, allowing to cool slightly.

Mix the cream cheese and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in food processor until light and smooth. Scrape down sides to ensure all is combined evenly. Add eggs and mix until combined. Add sour cream and mix until combined. The mixture will be runny and smooth.

To make the crumble, mix brown sugar, baking powder, and ground ginger in a small bowl. In a large bowl, rub butter into flour with your fingers to form pea-sized pieces that resemble bread crumbs (they don’t need to all be the same size). Add sugar mixture to flour and butter mixture and toss gently with your hands to combine

Preheat oven to 150°C.

Remove the base from the fridge to assemble the cake. Spread apples evenly over the base. Pour cream cheese mixture over the apples. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top of the cream cheese – gently so that the crumble doesn’t sink too much into the cheese. Cover the cream cheese evenly to the edges.

Bake the cheesecake for an hour or until set (feels firm, with only a slight wobble when you take it out of the oven). Cool in tin, and refrigerate overnight.

Pear tarts

Pear tarts

Check out my fancy pear tarts! I made them for my grandmother’s birthday a couple of weeks ago. I think they’re the most impressive looking things I’ve ever made. They look a bit tricky, but they’re not really, so when you make them everyone thinks you’re cleverer than you are…

The recipe is from the June 2010 issue of delicious. and it’s also available on Spanish pear tarts with Pedro Ximénez syrup. It says to use Pedro Ximénez (Spanish sweet sherry), but I just used the cheap McWilliams sweet cooking sherry and it was fine.

A royal feast

This post is a bit late (blasted uni assignments), but here it is anyway.

The wedding the other week seemed like a good reason to put together a theme dinner. Realistically, I’m a republican, and I’m not the kind of girl who dreams about fairytale weddings and being a princess, but I do have an interest in cultural events, especially ones on this scale. I did perhaps also want to see the dress – I’m only human.

I’m pretty sure this is what it looked like on the Queen’s kitchen bench when she was deciding what to serve guests at her lunchtime reception:

Preparing for the royal feast

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Christmas panna cotta

White chocolate panna cotta

Christmas pudding is lovely, but it can be a bit heavy on a hot day, especially after a big lunch. What you really want is something cool and light – just a taste of something sweet rather than another meal. So this Christmas I made my family this white chocolate panna cotta with berries (and gold leaf, just cause I could!). It’s actually pretty similar to the dessert I made the previous Christmas, which was a rosewater cream dish with lychees and berries, so I wasn’t really over extending myself. It’s too hard to refrigerate and transport 15-odd individual panna cottas (not to mention the fact that I don’t have 15 matching glasses and it would make it awkward for people who wanted seconds), so I just made a giant one. I think it looks more impressive anyway, and it involves less washing, which is always a plus.

I modified this recipe from Ben O’Donoghue’s recipe in the December 2010/January 2011 edition of delicious. magazine. I made one and a half of the recipe, which hurt my brain a bit, but it was all eaten, which is always good for my self esteem. Last year I made a giant dessert rather than individual ones and learned that I needed to use more gelatine to get it to set (duh, obvious now I think about it), so I added extra this year. I also cut out some of the cream and replaced it with milk, and it was meant to have lemon zest in it but I forgot to buy one so I used orange. I think the orange was actually better, so perhaps my inner genius chef instinctively knew that and decided not to buy a lemon on purpose…

Because I was worried some people didn’t like white chocolate (they did, so I didn’t need to worry), I served it with dark (like, REALLY dark) chocolate truffles. I also had some beautiful cherries, so I put them out too. Why not – it was Christmas after all. My mum said it was ‘divine’. I think she meant it, because she said it about four times on the day and then told me again a few days later. The photo is from my aunt – in all the excitement, I forgot to take one myself.

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