Monthly Archives: November 2010

Prune & Orange Bread

It’s about time I posted something healthy because I just know I will go nuts over BAD FOR YOU recipes as the silly season descends.   This is my version of a wonderful prune bread recipe by James Beard.  I remember finding his book Beard On Bread in my local library as a teenager.   I loved this book.  The prune bread recipe was my favourite as it’s moist and full of flavour but low in fat.  Seems like disrespect to change it.  But, could it be made even better?  You betcha!  Years ago, I adapted the recipe to make it more healthy but mostly it’s the addition of orange and brandy that makes it fantastic.  OK, let’s be clear here … the alcohol evaporates during baking so it’s a little boozy in flavour but has no alcohol.  It’s the (now) not-so-secret ingredient that makes this bread special … and prunes and brandy just demand some togetherness.  And let’s not forget the orange.  This is my humble tribute to Mr. Beard, some of whose recipes I painstakingly copied out by hand because I couldn’t find the book on sale anywhere back then.  Hard to imagine now … I hope he’d approve.

The prunes in this bread make it really moist, despite being very low in fat.  It keeps well wrapped in foil and stored in a plastic bag or airtight container.  Store airtight at room temperature.  It will keep for up to a week.  You can even store it wrapped in foil, in a freezer bag or airtight container, in the refrigerator in warmer weather.

We love this for breakfast at home, on its own or spread with ricotta or quark.   It makes a beautiful change from banana bread.  You can make breakfast fancy schmancy and serve it with a dollop of ricotta cream (mix ricotta with low-fat yoghurt and add a little honey or maple syrup to sweeten), drizzled with honey and sprinkled with orange zest and walnuts or a few macerated prunes.   It’s also really good with cheese though so it makes a great addition to a cheese board instead of crackers.  It goes especially well with sharp cheeses that have bite – aged cheddar or grana padano, that kind of thing.

It’s really important that the prunes macerate in the orange juice and brandy for at least 8 hours (overnight) and up to 24 hours, if possible.  Got that?  IMPORTANT.  It really helps the prunes absorb and intensify the flavours and it makes the world of difference to both the flavour and texture of the bread.  I highly recommend planning ahead and macerating the prunes for the full 24 hours to get the best flavour.  Enjoy!  Pretty much guilt-free!

Makes 1 x 23cm loaf

375  grams pitted prunes
1 large orange
1/4 cup brandy
2 large eggs
250 ml skim milk or buttermilk *
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups plain flour (white or wholemeal)**
1/2 cup walnut pieces (optional)

* You can substitute yoghurt if you like or half yoghurt and half milk.  If you are lactose intolerant, use a lactose free milk or almond or coconut milk.  These all produce great results.

** If you are gluten sensitive, use a good gluten free flour mix or a gluten-free oat flour.

Chop the prunes and place them in a bowl with the grated zest and juice of the orange, and the brandy.  Mix well.  Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place for at least 8 hours (overnight) and up to 24 hours until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Line the base and sides of a 23cm loaf tin with baking paper (unless using the non-stick variety).

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and milk in a bowl.  Stir through the prunes and the remaining juice and brandy.
Sift together the flour and baking powder.  If including the walnuts, add these as well.  Fold the dry ingredients through the egg and prune mixture with a spatula.  Mix until well combined.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake at 180°C for 45 to 50 minutes. Test with a skewer – it should come out clean and the loaf golden brown on top.
Remove the loaf from the oven and cool in the tin for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.

Note: Instead of baking in a loaf tin, it’s also great baked as individual muffins.  Reduce the baking time to around 20 to 25 minutes and check to see they don’t over bake.

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Filed under All Recipe Posts, Breads & Quickbreads, Breakfast, Fruit

Lemon Curd & Salted Ganache Tartlets

These mini tarts are easy to make.  You just need a little patience to make lots of them.  This post also comes courtesy of last week’s baking extravaganza and is still on theme … bold flavours for these tarts because they are tiny and it’s great to have little mouthfuls that pack a wallop of flavour.   No?  Yes?  Yesss.  Plus you get two recipes in one!  I took the photo of the finished tarts before the fillings were fully set so they are still extra shiny.  The ganache will have a slightly smoother matte finish as it sets completely.

The salted ganache filling is extremely rich and smooth with a salty tang that really intensifies the chocolate flavour.  For the salt, I used pink Himalayan rock salt.  It was amazing with the ganache.  I just got it last week so was going a bit nuts with it.  Any good quality sea salt would be fabulous.  I also used Meander Valley double cream which has 56% milk fat.  Technically, that’s almost triple cream!  The ganache was velvety though so worth it.  I finished off my stash of Valrhona Gran Couva with these tarts too.  The lemon curd filling is also not too sweet and has a puckery lemon tang.  I was lucky enough to get a bag of fresh Meyer lemons from my aunt’s tree so I used those.  Lots of juice and fragrant zest.

You will need roughly 30 fluted tart moulds that are about 5 cm in diameter.

The lemon curd could be made a day ahead and kept, tightly covered in the refrigerator, until you fill the tarts.  Alternatively, both the curd and ganache fillings could be made before making the pastry or as the pastry chills before baking.   The quantities for each filling are enough for about 15 tartlets.  If you have any leftover, the curd will keep, refrigerated, for a couple of weeks.  It’s fantastic on toast, muffins, or pancakes.  In fact, this is a great curd recipe to make and use anytime.  The ganache will also keep for a few days.  When thickened and set, it can also be used to make truffles.  If you make truffles, do not refrigerate them unless the weather is very warm or humid.  Instead, store airtight in a cool, dry place at or below 17°C.  They keep extremely well and the flavour is awesome.  Refrigeration usually leads to humidity and condensation which isn’t great for truffles.  There is another option of course – I just ate the small amount of leftover ganache I had 🙂

Makes: about 30 tartlets

Small sugar flowers for decoration

Pasta Frolla
265 grams plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
185 grams unsalted butter, chilled
75 grams castor sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

Lemon Curd
4 large egg yolks
grated zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice (strained)
145 grams sugar
150 grams unsalted butter, cubed

Salted Ganache
150 grams chocolate couverture (min. 68% cocoa solids)
1/4 teaspoon (scant) rock salt
200 grams double cream (min. 45% butterfat)

For the pasta frolla:
Pre heat the oven to 190°C/375°F.

Make the pasta frolla dough as per the instructions in Torta di Ricotta Siciliana, up until the point where you are ready to roll out the dough.  You could roll out the dough in one large sheet to line the tartlet moulds, but I find it’s easier to roll them out separately.  It is easier then to make sure that each shell is properly and evenly lined.  Don’t worry if the dough tears, it’s very forgiving, and is easily patched.

Cut the dough into 10 equal pieces, then each of those into 3 pieces.  Place the first piece of pastry dough on to a clean surface sprinkled liberally with flour.  Flatten the pastry slightly and roll it out to a circle a little larger than the tartlet moulds, about 7 cm in diameter.

Press the pastry into the tartlet mould, patching if there are any tears.  Roll the rolling-pin over the top of the mould to remove any excess pastry.  Repeat with the remaining pastry.  If the weather is warm, you can cover the pieces with cling film and store in the refrigerator as you go to prevent the dough from heating.  When completed, cover and chill in the freezer for 30 mins or in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

When ready to bake, prick the base of  the pastry shells with a fork.  Bake the shells for about 15 – 18 minutes, or until light golden.  When ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  When cooled, gently remove the pastry shells from the moulds.  They are now ready for filling.

Make the Lemon Curd:
Place the egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and juice into a saucepan and mix well.  Stir the mixture over a low to medium heat, until it starts to thicken.  Don’t let the mixture boil.  Reduce the heat if necessary.  When thickened so it coats the back of a spoon, remove from the heat.  It should take about 6 – 8 minutes. Gradually whisk in the butter in three or four batches until the mixture is smooth and shiny, as shown below.  Pour into a bowl.  Cover with a layer of cling film on the surface of the lemon curd and refrigerate until required.

Make the Salted Ganache:
Chop the chocolate into small, even pieces and place into a bowl with the salt, as shown.  This ensures that the chocolate melts evenly and quickly.

Heat the cream in a saucepan, over a low heat, until it just starts to bubble around the edges and reaches a boil.  Remove from the heat immediately and pour evenly over the chopped chocolate.  Allow to sit for about 30 seconds and then slowly stir the ganache until the chocolate melts completely and the ganache is smooth.  Don’t be tempted to whisk it as this will introduce air bubbles into the ganache which will spoil the look of the tarts as the ganache sets.  Allow to cool slightly, and cover the bowl with cling film.  Set aside to cool and thicken until ready to use, about one to two hours.  Do not refrigerate.

Assemble the tartlets:
Before filling the tart shells, stir each of the fillings as they will have thickened as they cooled and partly set.  Fill half the tartlet shells with the lemon curd and the remaining half with the salted ganache filling.   Place the tartlets on to a serving dish or tray.  Decorate each one with a sugar flower, as I’ve done.  (They are also pretty if you sprinkle some crushed pistachios around the rim of the ganache tarts and decorate the lemon curd tarts with some candied lemon zest strips).

Serve immediately or keep at room temperature for up to an hour before serving.  If making ahead, you can cover the tartlets and store in the refrigerator but remove at least 30 minutes before serving to allow them to come back to room temperature.  They are best eaten the day they are made, at room temperature.  However, they will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for about 3 – 4 days.  I topped leftovers with berries for a quick dessert the next day.  Whawrr….


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Chocolate, Fillings, Fruit, Tarts & Patisserie

Financiers à la Pistache et Rose

A few weeks in and I’ve already failed to post at least one recipe per week. Not auspicious, is it? So I’m making up for producing absolutely nada last week with two postings this week. In the words of Jake Blues “there was an earthquake, a terrible flood … it wasn’t my fault!”. Long story short, more chaos and mayhem than usual. But hey, I did manage to fit in some baking, thanks to a promise to bake treats for an afternoon tea with a few lovely gal pals last weekend. What to bake? All I knew was that it must be small and have very distinctive standout flavours. Cos you don’t want all your afternoon sweet treats to taste blaah the same.

These financiers are dense and moist but incredibly light, just as a good financier should be. Pistachio and rose is such a divine and elegant combination, it just seemed right for afternoon tea. My tip: they’d be very pretty decorated with a little Persian Fairy Floss or Rose Buds on top. I didn’t have any to hand when the idea struck so I just dusted them with icing sugar instead. C’est la vie. They still looked lovely and more importantly, they taste great.

Newsflash for anyone who would like a gluten-free, wheat-free and/or low-fructan/fructose version: these little cakes are just as wonderful made with cornflour instead of the plain wheat flour. Crisis over 😉

Makes: 15 financiers

125 grams unsalted pistachios, shelled weight
6 egg whites
200 grams icing sugar
85 grams plain flour OR cornflour
150 grams unsalted butter
1 tablespoon rosewater
icing sugar, for dusting

Ok troops, assemble your ingredients! Ha, it looks like I may have missed a few eggs in the pursuit of photographic harmony but at least they’re organic free range. Ditto the flour despite the container. But, what’s with the Coles pistachios? Quelle surprise, they were really good! Fresh and full of flavour … go figure, home brand. 🙂

Preheat the oven to 170°C.
I used silicon friand moulds from Essential Ingredient so had no need to grease and line the moulds.
If not using non-stick moulds, you will need to grease the moulds with a little extra melted butter and dust out the moulds with flour (or cornflour if wheat or gluten intolerant).

Grind the pistachios in a nut grinder or food processor until ground to a fine meal. Check to make sure there are no nut pieces remaining and set aside.
Whisk the egg whites until foamy. We’re not making meringue here. You just need to whisk until you get a nice foam, as in the photo:

Sift together the ground pistachio meal, icing sugar and flour.
Melt the butter gently and cook until it starts to brown and the aroma is nutty.  Set aside to cool slightly.
Fold the nut, sugar, and flour mixture into the whisked egg whites. Drizzle over the melted and cooled butter and the rosewater. Fold into the mixture until incorporated.
Fill the financier (or friand) moulds.
Bake at 170°C for about 30 – 35 minutes until slightly golden on top.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool, in their moulds, on a wire rack.
When cooled, gently remove from the moulds, and place on a serving platter. If not using silicon moulds, gently run a flat knife around the inside edge before easing out the financiers.
Dust liberally with icing sugar to serve.
If you do have some persian fairy floss (I’d mix a bit of the pistachio and rose flavours), place a little on each financier directly before serving. Alternatively, decorate with a rose bud, or do both! Wow.


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Cupcakes, Nuts, Special Diet

Bountilicious Babycakes

Coconut is one of those foods that seems to polarise people.  We either love it or hate it.  Personally, I prefer my coconut applied topically – coconut oil shampoos, body butters, scrubs etc.  As a food, though, I’m a little ambivalent.  Its flavour and texture can be too dominant in a dish, especially desiccated coconut.  Enter red fruits and chocolate, to the rescue.  Two names for you: Bounty Bar and Cherry Ripe.  Now, I never eat chocolate candy bars but the flavour combinations of these two are pretty convincing.  Somehow chocolate succeeds in making the coconut much more subtle and not overpowering. Red fruits add the right amount of sweetness or tartness as a bonus.  There is also something to be said for buying organic desiccated coconut.  I’ve found it to have a superior flavour but maybe I’ve just been lucky.

A little while ago, I made some cherry ripe muffins.  So I had some leftover desiccated coconut that I did not know what to do with.  Bounty bars kept popping into my head as I deliberated and hey presto! bountilicious babycakes were born.  They are intensely chocolately, subtly coconutty, moist and not too sweet.  Very moreish!  Since the original cherry ripe muffin recipe was published, I’ve taken to whizzing the coconut in a grinder or food processor until it’s fine.  The final result is much more moist and delicious.  I’d highly recommend doing it, as it makes a huge difference.  I also used silicon standard sized friand moulds for the babycakes just because they look like cute little souffles but you could easily substitute cupcake liners.  If so, make sure you place the cupcake liners in muffin moulds.  This ensures they will hold their shape during baking.  The number of cakes will depend on the size and shape you choose.  I managed to get a baker’s dozen (i.e. lucky 13) from the recipe below.

The chocolate I used for this recipe is Valrhona’s Gran Couva.  It’s really smooth and rich and is perfect with the coconut.  Try to use any good quality dark chocolate or couverture you like, with at least 64% cocoa for this recipe, as the result will truly be worth it.

Yield: 12 – 15 cakes

120 grams desiccated coconut (unsweetened, preferably organic)
3 eggs, separated
125 grams sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla bean paste or extract
250 grams good quality dark chocolate couverture (min. 64% cocoa)
200 grams pure cream

Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Grind the coconut in a grinder or food processor until fine.
Whisk the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks and set aside.  Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla paste until thick and light.
Roughly chop the chocolate couverture in small pieces and melt in a bowl over hot, but not boiling, water.  Stir until melted and remove from the heat, setting it aside to cool slightly.  Alternatively, melt the chocolate in a microwave at 50% power only until three-quarters melted.  Remove from the oven and stir until fully melted and allow to cool.  Whisk the coconut and cream into the egg yolk mixture until combined, then fold in the melted chocolate.  Finally, gently fold in the egg whites until few or no streaks remain.
Fill friand or cupcake liners with the mixture and bake at 160°C for about 30 – 35 minutes.  They will still be soft in the middle but firm up as they cool.   Switch off the oven and leave the cakes inside with the door ajar for about 10 minutes.  They will rise like miniature souffles but will fall again as they start to cool.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the moulds.
You could gild them with a ganache frosting or coconut buttercream, but they are at their best served simply with a dusting of icing sugar.  For a decadent dessert, serve with a dollop of double cream, ice cream, or thick vanilla yoghurt and cherries.   They will keep for a few days stored in an airtight container, in the fridge.  If they last that long!


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Chocolate, Cupcakes, Special Diet