Monthly Archives: January 2011

Mango Semifreddo with Chocolate Chilli Ganache

You thought I was kidding, didn’t you?  Chocolate.  Chilli.  Mango.  Together.  The stuff of legend.  I kid you not.

It was my birthday last weekend and so I made something to serve with my birthday cake.  Remember I had that lovely Perbellini Pandoro tucked away since just before Christmas?  What better to go with it on a hot summer night than a rich luscious mango ice cream, smothered in dark chocolate ganache, and a little surprise kick to the taste buds?  Of course, you don’t need the pandoro.  That was my birthday cake.  Awesome birthday cake.  But I bought that.  Made by lovely gentlemen in the town of Bovolone near Verona.  I really want to meet them to say thank you and maybe learn how they make it … 🙂  Maybe if I get to Italy this year, here’s hoping.

The semifreddo and ganache makes a beautiful dessert on its own.  Come to think of it, you could do the Italian thing of hollowing out a pandoro and filling it with the semifreddo.  Spectacular.

I’ve included the chilli as optional in the ganache.  My personal preference is to use finely ground dried Habaneros but that’s not to everyone’s taste.  They are seriously hot.  I’ve indicated cayenne in the recipe as this is what I used in deference to my family not having the resilience to face the Habs.   Start with a little of the chilli and add a little more if you like.  We’re not making a vindaloo here so the idea is to create a pleasant warmth at the end that complements the cool semifreddo.

I like to think of it as my signature ice cream.  Of course.  *shrug*  Happy Birthday to me 😉

Serves 8

Mango Semifreddo
120 grams sugar
60 millilitres water
4 egg yolks
500 millilitres heavy cream, chilled
1 large or 2 small mangoes, flesh only

Chocolate Chilli Ganache
100 grams dark chocolate
pinch sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
200 millilitres cream (35% milk fat, not thickened)

cayenne powder or dried chilli flakes to decorate (optional)

Mango Semifreddo
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over a low-medium heat.  Let the sugar dissolve and bring to the boil.  Do not stir.  Place the egg yolks in a bowl nearby.  (Retain the egg whites to use for another purpose).  When the syrup has begun to boil watch it carefully.  Insert the candy thermometer in the syrup and wait until it reaches 100℃ (30° Baumé).   Beat the egg yolks until light and keep beating as you pour the syrup into the egg yolks in a thin and steady stream.  Beat the yolk and syrup mixture until light and doubled and it has the consistency to form a ribbon.  Cover and let cool in the refrigerator.

Make sure to use a sweet and fibre free mango for this.  If the flavour is a bit off, it will be noticeable and ruin the semifreddo.  Likewise, stringy mangoes need to be sieved and the resulting puree can have a watery consistency.  Avoid stringy mangoes.  Puree the mango flesh and set aside.

Using a hand-held whisk, gently whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks.  Add the mango puree, and whisk until smooth and lightly thickened.  Fold in the egg yolk mixture until fully incorporated.

At this point you can pour the semifreddo into a large lined mould or individual (silicone) moulds for serving.  Alternatively, if you intend to serve the semifreddo in scoops, just pour into an airtight container.  Place in the freezer to set.  It’s best to make the semifreddo at least 6 hours ahead or the day before.  It will keep for several days in the freezer, if you have leftovers.

Chocolate Chilli Ganache
Grate or chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl.  Add the sea salt and the cayenne powder.  Normally, I’d use a 70% – 85% cacao couverture for the ganache.  This time, I used Willie’s Cacao 100% Venezuelan Black.  Because I used 100% cacao, I added 1 tablespoon of maple syrup to the ganache, before adding the cream to the chocolate.  That was just to offset the intensity without making it sweet per se.  It was perfect.  There is no need for the maple syrup if you use anything less than 100% cacao chocolate.

Heat the cream in a saucepan over a low-medium heat until it reaches the boil.  Immediately pour the cream over the chocolate.  Let it sit for 30 seconds and then stir until the ganache is smooth.  Let it cool and then taste it to check if you have enough chilli for your taste.  Always start with less than you think you need. 

You can always add more but you cannot remove it once it’s in!

If making ahead of time, you can store the ganache in the refrigerator.  To serve, gently melt it in the microwave at 30% power for about 5 – 10 seconds.

To serve, simply scoop or unmold the semifreddo and surround it with, or pour over, the ganache.  If you’re like me and love your chilli, sprinkle a few dried chilli flakes or cayenne powder on top for a little added heat and presentation.


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Chocolate, Fruit, Ice cream & Sorbet, Special Diet

Chocolate Freckle Pops … Australia Day 2011

This isn’t really a recipe post.  I was just thinking about typical Australian sweets as it will be Australia Day on the 26th January.  For some reason, chocolate freckles kept popping into my head.  I had some milk chocolate at home and some leftover hundreds and thousands.  Tonight I was too tired to bake, I couldn’t be bothered ironing, couldn’t sit in front of the TV to watch the tennis … so I made chocolate freckles.  Sure that only took about 10 minutes all up 🙂

There’s always a lot of debate about Australia Day at this time of year – what it symbolises and whether we should even be celebrating at all.  I’ll leave the debating to others.   Yes, the historical significance of this day gives us pause.  Ultimately, though, it’s great to have a day to celebrate what it means to be Australian, how lucky we are to live here – despite our harsh climate and the toll it takes (as in the recent flood disasters in QLD and VIC).  There’s good and bad everywhere you go, but I think we’re fortunate to live in a society that has more than it’s fair share of good.

It’s heartening to see all the wonderful efforts Australians all over the country are making to aid those in dire need now.  A few of these include Victorians in areas themselves devastated by bushfires and a tragic loss of life only two years ago; neighbours, friends and strangers getting out to help each other in flood affected areas, despite their own personal hardship.  Kudos also to our local hospitality industry in Victoria, holding fund-raising events on Australia Day.  If you’re interested and want to see which restaurants are participating, check out Victorian Restaurants Unite.   And how about Melbourne’s café scene raising money through the donation of proceeds from coffees and, in some cases, all sales on specific days over recent weeks.

And sometimes it helps to think of the simple things we treasure to bring a smile to our faces.  Like chocolate freckles (or Vegemite, lamingtons, pavlova, whatever … ).  To bring out the big kid in all of us.  Nostalgia is good.  They’re also kind of funky retro …

You know what you need to make them.  Just melt some milk chocolate in a microwave for a few minutes at 50% power.  Stir it until it’s smooth.  Pipe or spoon it in rounds on a lined baking sheet.  Tap to let the chocolate spread and flatten.

Sprinkle on some hundreds and thousands and allow it set at room temperature or in the refrigerator.  If you want to make the pops, place a toothpick in each chocolate round so that it sets on the toothpick.

Happy Australia Day.

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Filed under All Recipe Posts, Chocolate, Confectionery

Berries & Cream Brownies

They look pretty innocuous with the swirl of cream cheese icing and berries on top.   Ah, but underneath that light summery exterior lurks a heart of darkness, full of rich, luscious chocolate brownie.

The brownie recipe below is my basic brownie recipe that I’ve used for years.   After mucho tiempo experimenting in the brownie lab (aka my kitchen), these brownies came out on top for the serious chocaholic.   I don’t put nuts in my brownies.  Okay, occasionally, but only if making them for someone else.  Me, I like them unadulterated.  And chocolatey (yes, it’s a word.  Would I lie?).   These will always be extra special to me as they got me a gig writing a baking column in the Epicure section of The Age a while back.  That was cool and a lot of fun while it lasted.   I got lucky and had it published (Kamikaze Brownies, page 46, Epicure Chocolate: Recipes from 20 Years of Indulgent Ideas).  That felt pretty awesome too.  And bizarre.  Point is though, I won’t make any outlandish claims to them being the best ever but they are seriously good.  You tell me.  Try ’em.  Rate ’em :-).

To make the brownies, I used my favourite couverture, Valrhona Araguani (72%).  I do a happy dance when I say the word Araguani … uh, there I go again.  Use whatever dark chocolate you like, but do choose a good quality chocolate.   Beware of inferior chocolate.  I hear it causes biblical plagues and maybe even the apocalypse.  It’s just bad ;-).   The Manjari would be good too as it goes really well with fruit, particularly berries.  But for something smooth, rich, warm and nutty … Araguani.  It will leave a lingering taste that’s heavenly.  I digress …

If frosting the brownies at all, I tend to top them with a whipped ganache.   They are very rich though so this is a great alternative in summer.  Two versions we like at home, both of which are lovely, it just depends on your preference.  This time I made cream cheese and lime frosting.  Sometimes I like to use sweetened whipped cream with lemon or lime.  I’ve used lime here as lime with chocolate is quite a subtle but beautiful combination.  Lemon works too, if you prefer it.

They are small, but trust me, they are rich.  Enjoy!

Makes 20 brownies

Brownies (adapted from Epicure Chocolate: Recipes from 20 Years of Indulgent Ideas)
300 grams dark chocolate/couverture
125 grams unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons Créme de Cassis (optional)
1/2 cup plain flour, sifted

Cream Cheese & Lime Icing*
125 grams icing sugar
250 grams cream cheese
110 grams unsalted butter, melted & cooled
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

20 each raspberries and blueberries
5 strawberries, quartered and stems removed
40 small mint or lemon balm leaves

*see below for Lime Cream variation.

Preheat oven to 175°C.   If using a fan-forced oven, lower the temperature to 165°C.

You will need 20 x 4cm (mini) cupcake liners.  Place the cupcake liners on a baking tray.
Melt the chocolate and butter together, in a bowl over simmering water, until smooth.  Remove from the heat and let cool.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar and liqueur.  I use a hand-held whisk to do this.  The idea is to not incorporate too much air into the mixture or the brownies will rise unevenly, create internal air pockets, causing the top to crack.

Stir in the melted chocolate-butter mixture with the whisk, until incorporated.  Sift the flour and stir into the batter until smooth.  Tap the bowl on the bench to make sure there are no large air bubbles in the mixture.

Carefully fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full with the brownie batter.  Tap the tray on the bench to even out the batter in the liners and remove any remaining air bubbles.

Bake the brownies for about 18 – 20 minutes.   It is better to under-bake these so keep an eye on them after about 15 minutes.  Cool the brownies on a wire rack.  When cool, they are ready to decorate.

Make the Cream Cheese Icing: Using a hand-held whisk, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.  Sift the icing sugar and add to the cream cheese.  Whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is light and creamy.

Whisk the cooled butter until slightly thickened and add it to the cream cheese mixture along with the lime juice.  Whisk the frosting until light.  If making ahead, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Place the cream cheese icing into a disposable piping bag fitted with a small decorative tip.  You can use whatever you like, even a plain round tip.  Pipe the frosting on to each brownie and decorate each with a mixture of berries.  I used one each of the raspberries and blueberries and one-quarter of a strawberry for each brownie.  Finally, add two small leaves of mint or lemon balm.  My preference is for the lemon balm to match the subtle citrus flavour in the icing.  I’m all for matching …

They’ll keep for a few days, stored in an airtight container, in the refrigerator.  If they last that long.

Variation – Lime Cream
400 millilitres double cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice

Place the cream in a bowl.  Sift in the icing sugar and add the lime juice.  Using a hand-held whisk, whisk the cream lightly until slightly thickened.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to decorate the brownies.  Decorate as per the directions above.



Filed under All Recipe Posts, Bars & Slices, Chocolate, Cupcakes, Fruit

Blueberry Almond Muffins (protein)

I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions.  I never keep them.  So I don’t make them.  I’m not much for setting myself a list of goals either.  But occasionally I decide to commit to something for a while.  Lately, I’ve committed myself to eating healthy and clean for at least 80 – 90% of the time.   I want to cut my body fat percentage.  Do I need to?  Not really.  But, hey, it’s something to obsess about.  OCD?  Moi? :-D.  That’s a tough ask for someone who loves to bake, and especially who loves to make sweets of all shapes, sizes and denominations.   I like to do things the hard way … so now I taste sweets rather than help myself to a decent portion, unless I’m having an allowed cheat treat.  But it does mean that for most of the time, if I want treats, they have to comply with being healthy and nutritious.  That means good fats, good carbs, and quality protein.

Fanfare … these flourless muffins were an experiment that turned out brilliantly.  Phew!  They contain no nasty refined flour so are both wheat and gluten-free (make sure you use gluten-free baking powder).  Make them with skim milk and get lots of protein and calcium but without the saturated fat.  Almonds provide the good fats, more protein and some fibre.  The blueberries, well … chock full of good stuff, aren’t they?  And yum.  Look at all that goodness …

I only use 1/2 cup sugar as I don’t like my muffins too sweet.  They are so full of fruit, it just isn’t necessary.   And I don’t pack in the brown sugar.  That’s less than 100 grams of brown sugar, which is less than 10 grams per muffin.  You might prefer them sweeter than that.  So, I’ve included a range for the sugar, depending on your sweet tooth.

They don’t rise as much as flour based muffins but they are super moist, fall-apart fruity, and very light.

I’ve included some variations as well as a nutritional profile below.  Hopefully you find it as helpful as I do.  You get a great protein kick from a muffin and the fats are overwhelmingly heart healthy fats.  Not a trans fat to be found.

Better than the low-fat, no-taste, no-nutrition muffins you find on the way to work in the morning.  Plus the ingredient list doesn’t contain strange substances that belong in a lab … bonus for the clean eating brigade.  Hooray!

Now I can get back to obsessing over a new camera 😉

Makes 10 – 12 muffins

250 grams almond meal
1/2 – 2/3 cup brown sugar (unpacked)*
3 teaspoons baking powder
300 grams blueberries
200 millilitres buttermilk or low-fat/skim milk
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or extract

*If you prefer to make these sugar free, substitute your sweetener of choice, to taste.  This will lower the carbohydrate and sugar count in the macros below.  These work beautifully also with coconut or rapadura sugar.  Use 1/2 cup unless you have a really sweet tooth.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC (190ºC if using a fan forced oven).
Mix together the almond meal, brown sugar, and baking powder in a bowl.  Make sure you break up any
sugar or almond meal lumps.  Toss in the blueberries.

Whisk together the buttermilk or low-fat milk, egg, and vanilla bean paste.  Add the wet ingredients to the almond meal mixture and mix lightly.  It’s okay if the mixture is a little lumpy as these are muffins.  Do not overbeat or mix the batter.
Pour the batter into 10 to 12 lined muffin tins or moulds (how many depends on the size).
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack before turning out.

They can be frozen, stored in an airtight container, and reheated for 20 seconds in a microwave.  They’re just as good as if they were baked fresh that day 🙂

Replace the blueberries with the same quantity of other types of fruit.  Good combinations are:
• Raspberry
• Raspberry or blackberry and peach
• Pear and passionfruit
• Mixed berries
• Peach and orange
• Cherries
• Apricot (replace vanilla with almond essence)

Replace half the almond meal with finely ground pistachios, hazelnuts or walnuts and add your own flavourings.

If you prefer citrus to vanilla, replace the vanilla with the grated zest of one lemon or orange.

Peach and Blackberry variation:

Nutritional Profile
I’ve provided profiles based on using skim milk and only 1/2 cup of sugar.  All data is sourced from the Calorie King Australia website.

Want to increase the protein hit?  Add one scoop of your favourite 100% whey protein supplement, but stick with vanilla to get the best flavour in these muffins.  You’ll be adding around another 2g of protein to each muffin.


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Breakfast, Fruit, Muffins, Nuts, Protein, Protein Muffins, Special Diet

Peach Raspberry & Hazelnut Tart … perfectly summer

My mum doesn’t like chocolate.  Stop. WHAT?  Yep, I used to think there was something wrong with her too.  Well, frankly, I still do.  I can’t imagine not loving chocolate.  Now, though, I mostly think it’s a bonus.  More chocolate for me (sly grin).  I tend to use chocolate A LOT when making desserts for special occasions.  So I have to put on the chocky blinkers when making something for my fabulous Mamma.  It’s all I can do to stop myself from adding it as a decoration.  So, this recipe is a chocolate free zone.  Not that it wouldn’t add a certain …

This week my mum celebrated 60 years since her arrival, by ship, to Australia (from northern Italy).  That’s some serious migrant mileage, both to get here (it took 40 days and she was seasick every minute), as well as clocking up time here in her adopted home.   Her anniversary is on the 6th January and this year she started mentioning it well before the New Year chimed in.  Definitely an occasion worth celebrating.  I know she’d choose a tart over the most elaborate gateaux any day.  Given the beautiful summer berries and stone fruit we have in abundance now, it just seemed right to make something light and fruity.  Plus I know she loves praline.  She does indeed like her praline.

The fruit and nuts in this tart are a sublime combination.  Fresh, sweet and tart, with a hazelnut praline crunch, and a smooth creamy filling.  Ricotta and crème frâiche are a revelation.  The raspberry coulis strip in the centre gives an extra fresh burst of fruit.  Perfect for a summer evening dessert.

The instructions are long, but it’s very easy to make.  Yes, it really is.

Plus we got bonus treats from the extra pastry.  Little hazelnut sablés topped with chocolate pastry cream and leftover hazelnut praline.  Oh dear, it seems I worked the chocolate in without realising it.  See?  Can’t help it.

Serves 6 – 8

Hazelnut Pastry
115 grams hazelnuts*
50 grams sugar
200 grams plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
125 grams unsalted butter
1 egg yolk

* You will need 50 grams hazelnuts to make the pastry; the rest is used for the praline below.

Praline Hazelnuts
65 grams roasted hazelnuts (from pastry recipe above)
65 grams sugar
10 grams glucose syrup (optional)
15 millilitres water

Raspberry Coulis Gelés
5 grams leaf gelatine (2 ½ leaves)
200 grams raspberries
25 grams icing sugar
20 millilitres Framboise liqueur

Ricotta Cream Filling
130 grams fresh ricotta
275 millilitres crème frâiche
30 grams sugar
20 millilitres Frangelico liqueur OR Le Sirop de Monin – Noisette**

2 yellow peaches
extra raspberries

**Hazelnut syrup available at specialty stores

Hazelnut Pastry
Preheat the oven to 150ºC.
Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 – 10 minutes until starting to colour.
Remove from the oven and tip on to a clean tea towel.  Rub the skins off using the towel while the nuts are still hot.  Pick out the skinned hazelnuts and set aside to cool.

Place 50 grams of the hazelnuts into the bowl of a food processor with the sugar.  Pulse until the nuts are finely ground and no nut pieces remain.   Add the flour, salt, and baking powder, and pulse to combine.
Cut the butter into cubes and add to the food processor bowl.  Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Add the egg yolk and process only until the dough comes together in a ball.
This dough is quite soft, almost like cookie dough.   Wrap the dough in cling film and rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
Line the base of the tart tin with non-stick baking paper if required.  I used an oblong tart tin measuring 35cm x 12.5cm.  This was enough to serve 6 – 8 people.
Roll the dough out to a thickness of about 2mm.  Line the tart tin with the pastry, patching if necessary.

There is enough dough in the recipe to allow for a lattice crust.  I use this for other tarts as well.  This time I used the extra pastry to make little hazelnut sables (see below).  It’s always nice to have an extra surprise treat and the pastry is so delicious, it’s worth doing.  Form the remaining dough into a disk, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
Line the pastry case with non-stick baking paper and baking weights.  Bake blind at 190ºC for about 20 minutes, until the edges are golden.   Remove from the oven.  Carefully remove the weights and baking paper.
Return the pastry case to the oven and bake a further 10 – 12 minutes until the pastry is golden.
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack until ready to fill.

Praline Hazelnuts
Use the reserved 65 grams of hazelnuts from the pastry recipe above.  You can chop the hazelnuts, as this will make it easier to spread the praline on the baking sheet.  I left them whole for this recipe, as I wanted to decorate the tart with whole praline hazelnuts.  Do it whichever way you prefer.  I think the hazelnuts look pretty left whole :-).

Make the praline as per the instructions in the Pistachio Praline Paste recipe.  When you tip out the praline on to the lined baking sheet, work quickly to spread the praline in a single layer as much as possible.  It’s not critical, but makes it a little easier to break off single hazelnuts later.  Set aside to cool and harden completely.  No grinding to a paste this time.

Raspberry Coulis Gelés
You will need a frame or tin that measures about 30cm x 7cm to make the strip.  Don’t have one?  Neither do I, but I am looking for one :-).  If you have one that measures about 7cm in width but is a few centimetres shy of 30cm, don’t worry.  It will do fine!  If not, use individual loaf tins that are at least 6cm – 7cm wide and about 10cm long.  You’ll need three.  You can then line them up to make one long strip.  Crisis over.
If using silicon, you won’t need to line it (or them).  If not, line with cling film.  This will allow you to remove the strip easily as well as easing it into the pastry case if making one large strip.

Puree the raspberries with the sugar and sieve to remove the seeds.  Stir the Framboise through the coulis.
Soften the gelatine leaves in cold water.  Drain off all the water.  Melt the gelatine completely in a bain-marie (a bowl placed into another bowl of hot water).  Stir until the gelatine liquefies.  Pour the raspberry coulis into the gelatine and stir to dissolve the gelatine completely.  Pour the coulis into the mould(s), cover and refrigerate until set and ready to use.  You can also place it in the freezer (great in summer).

Ricotta Cream Filling
Whisk together the ricotta and sugar until smooth.  Add the crème frâiche and the Frangelico or Noisette syrup and whisk until combined and lightly thickened.  Set aside.  Cover and refrigerate, if making the filling ahead of time.

Spread half the ricotta filling into the pastry case and smooth the top.  Carefully place the raspberry coulis strip in the centre of the filling.  If using several strips, line them up in the centre.  Add the remaining half of the ricotta filling and smooth the top of the tart with an offset spatula or flat knife.

Cut the peaches into thin wedges, about 1cm at the widest point.  You will need about 20 – 24 wedges (I got about 14 per peach so a few extra for me!).  Arrange the peach slices in the centre in an overlapping strip, as shown in the photo.

Break off whole hazelnuts from the praline so that you have individual toffee covered hazelnuts.  You will need about 12 – 16 for the sides and as many as you like to place on top of the peaches.  Arrange the raspberries and praline hazelnuts in an alternating strip along each edge of the peaches.  Pop extra hazelnut praline on top of the peaches along the top of the tart.

I purposefully did not glaze the fruit.  It was so perfect, it would have been a shame to gild the lily.  I also think it tastes and looks better without it.

So, what did I do for those little extra treats?

Bacio Sablés (hazelnut + chocolate = bacio!)
Leftover Hazelnut Pastry
Leftover Praline Hazelnuts
Chocolate pastry cream flavoured with Frangelico or Noisette Syrup

Roll out the remaining hazelnut pastry to a thickness of about 2.5mm and cut out into rounds with a cookie cutter.  You could even make miniature tartlet cases that can be filled.  I made them as plain sablés as I thought they’d look lovely and a bit different.

You could also use ganache instead of the pastry cream.  I felt like making pastry cream.  I used Valrhona Araguani couverture as it has a lingering taste that is nutty and warm so goes really well with the hazelnut.  And the pastry cream was really rich without being heavy.

Pipe the pastry cream in swirls on to each sablé and top with a praline hazelnut.  Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.  Fabulous with an espresso as a petit four.  Fanfare … 😉


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