Category Archives: desserts

Raspberry Almond And Buttermilk Cake

 

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It doesn’t come naturally for me to share my personal life here on my blog, this has always been a space to share recipes, post my photographs, and write about food. But there are some things, and some events, that change everything. These are the ones that must be shared. So it seems as good a time as any to spill the beans that I’m six months pregnant. In just under 3 months time our lives here will be far from quiet!

This will be my third baby (yikes!). I have no illusions of grandeur, of getting any sleep for the first six months, or of having any time to my self really. I daydream about sleepily rolling out my yoga mat with baby by my side as I try to establish back my post baby yoga-body. I console and remind myself that my ten and seven year olds will be excellent helpers and of course my husband too, who this being his first baby can’t wait to experience every moment of it.

Then, as I have always done over the years, to settle my nerves, or calm my mind, I turn to my kitchen, and I cook.

 

 

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And what better thing for a pregnant woman to cook than cake! Cake has been my saving grace, my shining knight, my obsession.

The golden hue to this – I’d almost say wholesome – cake is largely due to the whole wheat flour and brown, rather than white, sugar, with the added benefit of almond meal and sliced almonds for protein. This more wholesome style of baking is becoming my preference.

I like less sugar in my cake. I feel happier about eating it if there’s fibre, and whole grains, and now that I’m eating for two there’s a satisfaction and fullness that comes from altering white flours, and white sugars, for their less processed cousin.

 

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The first slices of this raspberry, almond and buttermilk cake, served still warm from the oven, are the best. The days that follow, I like to lightly warm the cake through, and always find the excuse to serve it with cream.

Frozen raspberries are perfectly fine for baking, yet if you can get some fresh ones to garnish the cake with you’ll be all the more happier for the effort.

 

Raspberry, almond and buttermilk cake 

150g softened butter

100g brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

2 free range eggs

200g plain whole meal flour

50g almond meal

1/2 tsp bi carb soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup frozen raspberries

40g sliced almonds

To serve

Cream

Fresh raspberries

Pre heat oven to 175C Line a 23cm spring form cake tin with baking paper.

Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and whisk on a medium high speed for 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time beating between additions, and scraping down the sides of the bowl till fully incorporated.

Sift the bi carb and baking powder onto the butter mixture, add the whole meal flour, almond meal and buttermilk and beat till well combined.

Add the frozen raspberries and fold gently to combine. Spread the cake evenly into the lined tin, sprinkle the top with the sliced almonds and bake for 50 minutes, or till an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Remove the spring form tin and cool the cake on a wire rack. For best results, serve slices of warm cake with cream and fresh raspberries.

 

 

 

 

Baked Rhubarb With Orange And Cloves

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Although rhubarb is readily available through autumn it’s often not till early winter that I get round to baking my first tray.

I keep it on hand in the fridge mainly to eat with breakfast, be it with porridge, yoghurt, or muesli. But it would be a crime against rhubarb to stop there. It’s such an interesting fruit to use in baking, that when I do have cooked rhubarb in the fridge, I often feel compelled to bake.

Sometimes I arrange batons of rhubarb across a butter milk cake – before it goes in the oven – or I fold it through and on top of muffins, and have even been known to layer it in the bottom of creme brûlées.

 

 

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The tartness of rhubarb is its defining appeal. And that tartness requires a certain amount of sweetness to tame its sour taste and soften its flavour. I use orange juice, brown sugar and cloves to do this.

As the rhubarb slowly cooks, covered in the oven, it half steams half poaches itself to tender pieces. When cooked just right rhubarb should hold its shape easily, yet still fall apart at the touch of a spoon.

So next time you’re out shopping and you see rhubarbs bright red stalks staring back at you, reach out, grab a bunch, come home, flick the oven on, and you too can discover the many possibilities with baked rhubarb.

 

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Baked rhubarb with orange and cloves

Ingredients 

1 bunch thick stemmed rhubarb

zest 1/2 an orange

1 orange juiced

1/4 cup brown sugar

8 cloves

Pre heat oven to 160C.

Trim the rhubarb of all its leaves, wash and cut into 6 cm lengths.

Lay the rhubarb neatly in a small baking tray.

Place the orange juice, orange zest, brown sugar and cloves in a small pan, stir over a medium heat till sugar dissolves, then pour the liquid over the rhubarb. Cover the tray tightly with foil and bake in the oven for about 35 minutes for thicker stalked rhubarb, less for thinner rhubarb.

Cool completely in the tray before transferring the rhubarb to a container, cover and store the rhubarb in the cooking syrup in the fridge for up to five days.

Upside Down Blueberry, Hazelnut And Ricotta Cake

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Cake has a wonderful way of making everything seem good and bright and cheery.

This upside down blueberry cake is light and fruity and not-too-sweet.

Why is it an upside down cake? The blueberries sink to the bottom of the cake during baking so flipping it over onto a plate lets the dark purple colours shine through. It’s far prettier served upside down. The crumbled chunks of ricotta create little pockets of soft cheese that surprise and excite when you spoon into the cake and find them there nestled next to the tangy blueberries.

Although i’d usually make this cake with almond meal, today I’ve used ground hazelnuts. But to be honest I think the almond is the way to go. You can be your own judge, and try either or both.

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Upside down blueberry, hazelnut and ricotta cake 

4 free range eggs separated

150g caster sugar

65g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

50g hazelnut meal

Zest of 1 lemon

100g melted butter

150g ricotta

125g punnet fresh blueberries 

To serve

Icing sugar

Thickened cream 

Pre heat oven to 175C. Line a 22cm spring form cake tin with baking paper.

Place the egg yolks and caster sugar in a medium bowl and whisk for 1 minute till light and creamy.

Sift the flour and baking powder onto the eggs, add the hazelnut meal, zest of lemon, and melted butter, and whisk to combine.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites to a soft peak.

Add half the egg whites to the cake mixture and fold gently, add remaining egg whites and fold till combined. Finally, crumble to ricotta in large chunks into the cake, add the blueberries fold gently and pour into lined cake tin.

Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack (don’t serve it warm, it’s better cold).

To serve, place an upside down plate over the cake, flip it over and remove the base. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with thickened cream.

 

(C) Copy right 2016 – Upside down blueberry, hazelnut and ricotta cake

Nectarine and Coconut Bread

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Nectarines have become a favourite summer fruit and when they are this good and plentiful I buy nothing short of a kilo at a time. With these sweet beauties I decided to make a simple nectarine and coconut bread. Well, it’s more like a loaf really. I call it a bread as after enjoying it fresh on the day, the following day I toast it much the same as you would banana bread. It’s delicious with a lathering of butter and I find it hard to resist when served with a cup of hot tea.

This is getting a little personal. Do you ever store your fruit in the fridge? Please tell me you don’t. Please tell me you buy small amounts of in-season fruit, placing the pieces in a bowl on the bench or kitchen table so that you may enjoy the sweeter flavours of the natural sugars when the fruit is eaten at room temperature. Please, can you tell me that? Refrigerators are not meant for fruit. Especially stone fruit.

 

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This loaf, or sweet bread, has a method similar to making muffins. All the dry ingredients are placed in a bowl, the diced fruit is added, followed by the whisked eggs, milk and melted butter. The stirring is minimal, just as with muffins. This is important to keep the softness to the loaf, over stirring will give a tougher finish. I’ve used white nectarines but yellow ones are just as good. Smell the fruit before you buy it and pick the variety with the sweetest smell. When summer is over, and autumn begins, you can make this same loaf with pears instead of nectarines, for this 2 medium sized pears would be sufficient.

 

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Often what I do with this loaf is slice a few portions and freeze then individually so the following week when I fancy something for morning tea it’s on hand, and goes straight in the toaster and gets served with organic butter and raspberry jam.

 

Nectarine and coconut bread

Ingredients 

260g (2cups) wholemeal self raising flour

35g (1/3 cup) hazelnut or almond meal

50g (3/4 cup) shredded coconut

100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar

1/2 tsp bi carb soda (sifted if lumps are present)

3 white or yellow nectarines diced into 1cm pieces

100g butter, melted

2 free range eggs

1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract

125ml milk

 

Pre heat oven to 175C, or 165C fan forced. Lightly grease a loaf tin with butter then line the tin with baking paper.

Place the flour, hazelnut meal, coconut, sugar, and sifted bi carb soda in a large bowl, stir to combine. Make a well in the centre and add the diced nectarines.

In a medium sized jug, melt the butter, add the eggs, vanilla and milk, and whisk till well combined.

Pour the egg mixture onto the flour and stir briefly till the batter just comes together (remember not to over stir). Pour the batter into the lined tin, and spread lightly till surface is even. Bake in the oven for 60 minutes, or till an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool slightly in tin then remove from tin and cool completely on a cake rack.

Once cooled, slice the nectarine bread and serve with butter and your favourite jam.

 

Chocolate, Avocado and Macadamia Nut Brownie

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When I first started out as an apprentice chef (all those years ago) I would of never considered combing avocado and chocolate. No Way! I would of screwed my nose up and shouted “don’t be ridiculous”. But these days, I’m excited by the idea.

Last year I experimented with chocolate and beetroot and found this combination to be earthy and tasty, and right. I feel much the same about combing avocado with chocolate; there’s an earthiness, and richness, and a depth to the taste; it’s perfect baked into a brownie. It’s fun.

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A pinch of sea salt can do marvellous things when used with chocolate. I added some to the avocado, which was then folded through the melted chocolate and this gives the chocolate that salted kick. It takes the edge away from the sugar and balances the chocolate in a most alluring way.

Macadamia nuts are native to Australia and I find myself using them in everything. I love them in this brownie. You might consider hazelnuts or walnuts, but macadamias have a creamy nuttiness that work so humbly beside the avocado.

Generally speaking, I like my brownie pretty fudge like, you know, almost under cooked. The brownie I’ve photographed needed five minutes less – damn phone ringing – 18-minutes would be perfect for fudge-like brownie, 22-25 minutes for those who like it cooked through.

 

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Because I’m mad about bitter chocolate, when the brownie came out of the oven, I grated some Venezuelan 100% cocoa chocolate on top. I also dusted it with cocoa, this was probably an over kill.

My five year old can longer tell me she doesn’t like avocado because, ha, she ate it in this brownie and never knew the difference! I will forever use this an an example that she REALLY DOES like avocado.

Chocolate, Avocado and Macadamia Nut Brownie – makes 15 pieces

Ingredients 

200g 70% cocoa chocolate

125g butter

2 eggs

150g ( 2/3 cup) caster sugar

150g (1 cup) plain flour

1 large avocado

1/4 cup milk

pinch sea salt

80g (1/2 cup) macadamia nuts

To serve – optional

Dutch cocoa for dusting

 

Pre heat oven to 170C. Line a 30cm by 20cm tray with baking paper.

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium bowl with the butter. Place the bowl over a shallow pot of simmering water and allow the chocolate to melt. Remove from the heat, stir till smooth and well combined. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes till light and fluffy.

Place the avocado flesh, milk and sea salt in a food processor and blitz till smooth (if you don’t have a food processor you could mash the avocado with a fork, add the milk after it’s mashed and try to get it as smooth as possible).

Add the pureed avocado to the warm melted chocolate and stir to combine. Add the chocolate and avocado to the eggs and sugar and fold gently. Sift the flour onto the chocolate mix, add the chopped macadamias and fold till just combined. Pour into the lined tray, and evenly smooth out the batter, Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes – if you like it soft and gooey, or 22-25 minutes – if you like it a little firmer.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes. It’s optional at this point to grate some extra chocolate on top (whilst it’s still warm). Remove brownie from tin and cool on a wire rack. Cut into desired pieces, and dust with cocoa, or sprinkle with sea salt, if you wish. Store in an air tight container for 3 days.

Blueberry and ricotta, buttermilk hotcakes

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There was a period there, about 10 (or more) years ago, where I spent entire weekends cooking ricotta hotcakes. I guess that’s to be expected when you’re working in a cafe, but there’s a limit to how many hotcakes one can make and still think of them as a food one might want to eat. I could possibly blame Bill Granger for introducing Sydney siders to hotcakes. His tiny Darlinghurst cafe, Bills popularised this weekend breakfast dish so every other cafe, including the one I worked in, followed suit and had a version on their menu. Mind you, he was obviously on to something, as 20 years on, hotcakes still feature on Bill’s menus across his now SEVEN cafes! Cafe work certainly offered a more social life style, even if we did cook hundreds upon hundreds of hotcakes each week. The bonus was obvious, the work hours were during the day (nights off) and we only worked 9 hours as opposed to the 16 i’d been doing in restaurants.

 

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It’s been six or seven years since I’ve made ricotta hotcakes. Seriously! You think I’m joking? I’m not!

Last weekend, I suddenly and whole heartedly knew I was ready to cook them again. Making a small batch of ricotta hotcakes at home was enjoyable. It was not stressful, sweaty, or tiring as it had been in the past. They deserved a second chance and they have redeemed themselves. Ricotta hotcakes have returned to my repertoire – yippee! I hope they find a place in yours too.

Adding fruit to a hotcake mix adds a level of sophistication that is amiss from the plain variety.

The cafe I worked at had several ways of serving hotcakes depending on the season. There was caramalised banana – every bodies favourite, sour cherries made an appearance, poached rhubarb was popular, and when in season raspberries always made a show.

But blueberries work a treat with ricotta. And that’s how I made them last weekend. I’ve tweaked my old recipe and replaced the white flour with wholemeal, and added almond meal to the mix too. This makes them a little healthier and these days that’s preferred.

 

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These blueberry and ricotta buttermilk hotcakes will have weekend brunch taken care of. Smother them in pure maple syrup, and serve them with double cream or yoghurt.

 

Blueberry and ricotta buttermilk hotcakes 

Ingredients

150g (1 cup) wholemeal self raising flour

25g (3 tbsp) almond meal

1 tsp bi carb soda

2 tbsp brown sugar

25g melted butter, plus extra for cooking

2 eggs, yolks and whites separated

190ml (3/4 cup) buttermilk – see note

150g fresh ricotta

1 punnet blueberries

Olive oil for cooking

 

Place the flour and almond meal in a medium bowl, sift in the bi carb, add brown sugar and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre of the flour.

In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, egg yolks and buttermilk, whisk till combined and pour this in the middle of the flour. Stir lightly, add the ricotta and fold and stir till well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Add to the hotcake mix and fold gently till combined. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a non stick fry pan with oil and butter (about 1 tbsp of each), when the butter sizzles spoon 4 or 5 hotcakes into the pan, immediately scatter each hotcake with 4-5 blueberries, cook on a medium to low heat till golden on both sides. Continue to cook hotcakes using more oil and more butter till the mix is used up.

Serve blueberry hotcakes with maple syrup, and double cream or yoghurt.

Note – you can make buttermilk by adding 1 tbsp lemon juice to regular milk.

 

 

 

 

 

Lime and coconut cheesecake slice

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You might mistake me for being obsessed with sugar if you were to know I have SEVEN different types of it in my pantry at home! How this has come to be, I’m not entirely sure.

I obviously do a lot of baking and need caster sugar, and brown sugar as a standard. My husband buys coffee sugar, though it’s so similar to the demerara sugar we also have in the cupboard, I wonder why he bothers. Then there’s the cane sugar, I think that was given to me as a gift. I use raw sugar in my tea, and just recently, I bought some coconut sugar, because, there’s obviously a shortage here!

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Coconut sugar is different. It’s not as sweet as processed white sugars and it has a lower GI, 35 compared with white sugars 60 something.  It’s extracted from the sap of blossom buds from the coconut palm.

You’d expect the flavour to taste of coconut but it doesn’t! It has hints of caramel that are subtle and earthy and it’s dark colouring adds a soft brown tinge to any thing it’s baked in. It’s in the base for this coconut and lime cheesecake and in the cream cheese filling too. Although I’m a sucker for dessert, I hate overly sweet ones. What I liked about using the coconut sugar was it didn’t make the cheesecake too sweet. You could still taste the lime AND the cream cheese.

For those who can’t get their hands on coconut sugar you can substitute it in both parts of the recipe with brown sugar (a favourite of mine in baking). But if you like to experiment, I highly suggest giving the coconut sugar a try.

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The zest and juice of any citrus fruit will serve you well when flavouring a baked cheesecake.  I’ve used lime in this one but you could just as easily use lemons, or tangellos, mandarins, or grapefruit. Just recently, I wrote a recipe for the magazine that used tangellos in the cheesecake filling and it was a huge success.

Success also comes with not over cooking your cheesecake. Any cheesecake I bake generally gets 45 minutes in the oven at 150C. You get perfect cheesecake every time – with no cracks! A slight wobble to a cheesecake is a good sign – remember it will firm up as it’s left to cool.

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 Lime and coconut cheesecake 

Ingredients 

For the base

1/4 cup coconut sugar

3/4 cup self raising flour

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup almond meal

100g butter, melted

For the filling

500g cream cheese

1/3 cup coconut sugar, plus 1 tbsp for garnish

2 limes – zest and juice

1/2 cup Greek style yoghurt

4 eggs

To garnish 

3 tbsp toasted coconut

 

Pre heat oven to 150C. Line a 23cm square tin with baking paper. Place all the dry  ingredients for the base in a medium sized bowl, add the melted butter and stir till well combined. Press the mixture into the lined tin. Use your hand to press the base and make an even surface. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove base and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, chop the cream cheese into pieces, place in a food processor with coconut sugar, lime zest and juice and yoghurt, blitz till mix is smooth. Add one egg at a time and blitz between additions till all eggs are incorporated.  Pour the cheesecake mix onto the baked base, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tbsp coconut sugar and bake for 45 minutes.

Set cheese cake aside to cool completely. To garnish, sprinkle cheesecake with 3tbsp toasted shredded coconut (optional). Slice cheesecake into squares. Serve as is or with double cream.