Monthly Archives: January 2012

Amaretto Darkness Protein Truffles

They say you shouldn’t mix water with chocolate.  They are usually correct.  But not always 🙂

Last week, I decided I would spend seven days … a whole week … abstaining from all things chocolate.  No chocolate, no cacao, not even in my post-workout protein shake.  I would not even work with chocolate in the kitchen.  No melting, tempering, dipping, or coating of any kind.  Just to see what would happen.  You see, I can’t imagine a life without cacao.  The stars would dim and die.  The air would grow thin.  My universe would implode.  Totally.   I love it that much.

But what does that mean?  What is the source of this passion?  Food cravings or a genuine love of the bean?

I’m currently eating and training to gain quite a lot of lean tissue, without gaining fat.  Big ask.  A seriously big ask for me.  Honestly, it would be a lot easier if I just popped down to my local butcher and bought kilos of trimmed eye fillet steak and made a skirt to wear.  Except that this would be insane.  In a Lady Gaga kind of insanity I’m just not prepared for now 😀  So, I literally force feed myself because training is, by comparison, the easy part.  I’ll always turn up for a workout unless I’m seriously incapacitated.   Eat eat eat it is then.  But I love to experiment with my diet.  Going sugar-free isn’t so hard.  Despite my love of baking, I don’t have the sweet tooth I once had, and limiting or eliminating refined sugars isn’t that big a deal for me.  I feel great.  Forget all the hyperbole about going sugar-free.  The best part?  You start to appreciate the natural sweetness in foods you may not initially think of as being sweet.  But chocolate?  If you follow this blog, you know I love the good stuff … and I like it really dark.  It’s clear I’m not addicted to the sugar.  So what am I addicted to?  The magnesium?  Maybe. 

What did I discover during that week?

I’m not actually addicted to eating chocolate.  I didn’t have any cravings to eat chocolate at all.  In the first few days I found myself reaching for it, but thinking “I don’t actually want to eat it, I just need to know it’s there”.

Ahhh.  Reassurance.

Let me give you some context.  I have over ten kilograms of chocolate and cacao in my house at any given time, spread across three rooms, often in full view.  Yes, I really really really love my chocolate.  Yet, I was able to abstain from consuming it, without a hitch.  Yes.  Even I’m impressed.  But I missed it’s company.  I felt like I’d betrayed my best friend.  Like I was giving it the cold shoulder.  I was despondent.  We were such a good team.  I even apologised to a bag of Valrhona couverture (the Araguani, my fave).  Yes, that’s pathetic, and yes, I did do that.   But I survived the week intact.  With the knowledge that I’m more emotionally attached to cacao than is probably normal, and I do appreciate it’s aromas and flavours and subtlety, but it’s not a food craving of mine.

So now?  I’m happy to have my chocolate and appreciate it even more, but I find I’m eating much less of it.  Since getting back on the cacao choo-choo train, I’ve only had two squares of chocolate (the divine Michel Cluizel Vila Gracinda … it’s like warm buttered toast).   But I feel good about being around it again and playing with it in the kitchen.  The aroma of melted chocolate, of fresh cacao when you toss truffles into it, to coat them … I’m a happy camper again.

With a genuine, passionate love of the cacao bean.  Validated.  I don’t care if it’s weird.  There are worse things one could do … like make clothing out of steak, for instance 😉

Truffles.  That’s my mission this week.  Because I’m on my health kick and need to cram in some more protein when my appetite isn’t looking, protein truffles sound like a damn fine idea.  Low in saturated fat and low carb … almost no carb one might say.   So I can scoff them any day.

I wanted them to be as creamy as possible without adding anything creamy to them.   A blend of micellar casein and rice protein isolate gives you a sweet creaminess and soft texture.  I love Amaretto so I added a little almond and natural almond extract.  OK I added quite a bit of almond extract … and water.  You can use almond milk or dairy milk if you like.  But water works really well and doesn’t distract from the flavour.  The casein adds a nice creamy flavour anyway.   The addition of a little cacao butter doesn’t add a lot of fat but it does add a little depth to the chocolatey-ness, flavour, and texture.  You can adapt these to any flavour you like using other nuts, adding pure peppermint oil instead of the almond extract, or a little coffee, spices, chilli, anything.  You could also dip these in some dark chocolate but that would impact on the macros.

They’re very intensely chocolate and amaretto flavoured and, considering the lack of any sweetener, they are sweet enough.  Delish.  The sea salt is enough to intensify the chocolate and bring out the sweetness of the nuts and protein powders.  If you are a slave to your sweet tooth and need more, add a little sweetener of your choice.

Proper truffles coming up soon.

Macros are provided at the end of the recipe.  A serving of three truffles provides 113 kCals, 9.3g protein, 7.8g fat (1.2g sat), 1.8g carbs (0.6g sugars), and 2.4g dietary fibre.

Makes 24 standard truffles (or make large ones)

Ingredients
30 grams unsweetened cacao (raw or good quality)
30 grams unflavoured micellar casein* (I use Professional Whey Micellar Casein)
30 grams unflavoured brown rice protein* (I use SunWarrior)
40 grams almond meal
55 grams 100% almond butter
12 grams cacao butter**
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, bean paste, or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1/2 – 1 teaspoon natural almond extract/essence (I use two!)
a pinch of sea salt
water (or almond milk)

*If using a flavoured casein, I’d recommend chocolate or vanilla.  The same is true for the brown rice protein.

** Cacao butter is the fat in the cacao bean.  It is much more widely available now, particularly in health food and organic stores.  Brands selling raw cacao and cacao beans and nibs usually sell the cacao butter too.  If you really cannot find it (yes, you can!), then substitute a little coconut oil or organic butter.

Instructions
Melt the cacao butter in a heatproof bowl in a microwave for about 1 minute, or set the bowl in a larger container of boiling water, until it melts.

Place all ingredients, except the water, into a mixing bowl.  Mix on a low to medium speed until it starts to form clumps – a bit like dough before adding moisture.  As you mix, add water (or milk) a little at a time, until the mixture forms a thick paste, like a set ganache.  By a little, I really mean about a tablespoon or so at a time.  Don’t overdo it or you’ll end up with batter 🙂

Refrigerate the mixture for about 15 minutes.  Roll into truffle sized balls and toss in a little extra cacao.

Store the truffles in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  They are at their best if you let them sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours or overnight before eating.  Sometimes it’s just too hard to wait that long though 😀

Macronutrient Profile
Macros for protein powders are based on the ones I have used.  There might be slight variations between brands, but if using unflavoured casein and rice protein isolate, the differences will be very slight.

If you use milk instead of water, or add any sweetener, you will have to factor that into the macronutrient count.

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Filed under All Recipe Posts, Chocolate, Nuts, Protein, Protein Chocolates, Special Diet

Sweet Potato & Cinnamon Protein Pancakes

mmm Chocolate Chilli Sweet Potato … OK that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?  Actually, it’s not so bad … No way I would dethrone the mighty mango though.  But I do buy and cook a lot of sweet potato … and despite the fact I eat a lot of sweet potato, I always cook enough for leftovers for later and more leftovers to use in pancakes.  I love sweet potato.  As much as chocolate?  Nooooo but ooooh sweet potato and chocolate … yum.

I’ve relegated protein pancakes to my weekends as I’ve got the family hooked on them too.   I love experimenting with different combinations of ingredients – fruits, flours, protein powders, cool stuff like lucuma, maca, and mesquite powders, non-dairy milks, spices and flavour extracts.  They’re all great.  I usually top them with yoghurt and fruit.  Sometimes a little drizzle of maple syrup.  Not the sugar-free, chemical warfare stuff … just pure 100% organic maple syrup.  My guess is a little zucker won’t kill me as much as the biohazards in the other stuff will.  But that’s just my choice.

Sweet potato pancakes are a slightly different beast though.   They don’t need fancy toppings, gilding with blobs of creamy stuff, random chunks of fruitage and floral arrangements.  All they really need is a little maple syrup (the real stuff or napalm, whatever you prefer) and an extra sprinkling of cinnamon.  Dutch cinnamon.  Cassia bark.    A couple of these in your belly and you’re pretty much set to fight off anything with which your body gets assaulted.  Cinnamon alone has near magical powers.  It’s like having your own personal patronus charm.

There’s no law against drizzling a little dark chocolate over the top either … for the antioxidants of course.  mmmm chocolate antioxidants.  YUM.

I’ve made these many ways, always searching for that delicate balance of fluffiness, and a moist but light texture.    Found it, with variations.  Bingo.

Macros are included below the recipe (excluding topping).   It provides over 28 grams of protein per serve and has almost no saturated fat.  Not that there’s anything wrong with saturated fat.  But it’s good to know you’re mostly getting the other stuff.

This recipe is also suitable for anyone following a low FODMAP diet and is gluten-free.  🙂

To the Bat Pancake Cave for the recipe, without further ado.

Makes 6 pancakes / Serves 2 (or maybe 1 come to think of it)

Ingredients
100 grams cooked sweet potato (boiled, steamed, or baked)
125 grams liquid egg whites
40 grams unflavoured pea protein isolate (or vanilla)*
30 grams almond meal
185 millilitres (3/4 cup) almond milk (or dairy, coconut, soy or your preferred milk)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, bean paste, or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon cinnamon (cassia bark)
a pinch of sea salt

extra cinnamon and maple syrup for serving

*If you don’t have pea protein powder, brown rice protein powder works reasonably well as well as a substitute

Instructions
Blend together all ingredients.  I use a stick blender for convenience (go Bamix!).

Pancake away … it helps to use a little oil spray or whatever you prefer to use (butter, coconut oil, etc).

I get 6 pancakes from using about two tablespoons of batter per pancake.

Stack them up … don’t they look cool?  There are only four in the stack because clearly the other two were sitting pretty on a plate with their maple syrup and cinnamon buddies. 😀

Then top with maple, cinnamon, napalm elixir of choice, or anything you like on your pancakes.

If you’re not going to polish them off immediately, they also keep really well in the refrigerator, covered.  Nice to have as a snack later.  Maybe with that drizzle of chocolate.  Or a square or two of chocolate with the pancake folded over.  Voice of experience 😉

Variations
I make variations of this recipe, using different ingredients, depending on what I happen to have in the fridge and pantry.  What works?

If I don’t have any almond milk on hand, I’ve used other milks but also coconut water, and occasionally just water.  They still turn out fabulous.

If I remember, I might add a tablespoon of orange flavoured liquid fish oil.  Imparts a nice orange flavour and hey, omega-3s.

Other variations I use when I don’t have ground almonds or pea protein lying around (the horror, the horror) include:

Mk I (makes 4 – 6 pancakes)

120 grams cooked sweet potato
115 grams egg whites or 2 eggs (about 1/2 cup)
25 grams whey protein (I use WPC)*
12 grams (1 heaped tablespoon) quinoa flour OR coconut flour OR ground almonds
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch sea salt
1 tablespoon orange fish oil (optional)
water or milk/almond milk/coconut milk (enough to achieve a pancake batter consistency)

*Just remember that whey will dry out the pancakes a lot more so the texture of these is not as fluffy as the others.

Mk II (makes 4 – 6 pancakes)

120 grams cooked sweet potato
115 grams egg whites or 2 eggs (about 1/2 cup)
20 grams (1 scoop) rice protein powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 grams (1 tablespoon) psyllium
1 tablespoon orange fish oil (optional)
water or milk/coconut milk/almond milk (enough to achieve a pancake batter consistency)

Look at that.  Not one, but TWO bonus recipes.  I’m in a giving mood 🙂

Macronutrient Profile
I use Vital Protein Pea Protein Isolate but all other macros are based on average values for fresh ingredients.

It’s not always easy to get unsweetened almond milk (Almond Breeze is not available everywhere and unless you make your own) so I have factored in the macros for the average sweetened almond milk.  If you use unsweetened, the carb and sugar counts will be slightly lower.

Macros are for the pancakes only.  You should factor in the macros for the toppings you use.

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Filed under All Recipe Posts, Breakfast, Protein, Protein Pancakes, Special Diet

Omega-3 Protein Bread

I’ve not yet posted a protein bread recipe, have I?  NOOOOOOO.   Well, I have now, and I’m excited.  I hardly ever post any savoury recipes, despite the fact that I love to cook, not just bake treats and patisserie.  OK, this is technically either sweet or savoury … I mean, it’s bread, isn’t it?

I don’t eat much bread these days.  Am I avoiding carbs?  Nope, clearly not, they are an essential part of my diet.  I am avoiding evildoer carbs of the refined and sugary nature, yes.  Most of the time anyway.  Partly because it fits with my health and fitness way of life but also because I have an intolerance to fructose and fructans.  Feeling sick, lethargic, and unable to function properly really takes the fun out of working, socialising, and working out.  So I gave up wheat and rye and barley and then proceeded to cut down on other grains as well.  Don’t ask me to use gluten-free flours because I’m likely to give you the look of withering disdain 😉   I like my not-so-daily bread to be nutritionally sound thanks.  Surprisingly, I found the transition increasingly easier as time went on.

But there are times when I’d love a slice of bread … for a sandwich, if that’s what I crave, or with cheese, that sort of thing.  I have been known to use lettuce leaves as my “proxy bread” for sandwiches.  Delicious, but it can be a little messy 😀

I love this bread because it has a tender crumb, and reminds me a little of focaccia (might be the olive oil).  It is high in mono-unsaturated and omega-3 fats so it counts towards your fat macros for the day.  But it’s full of the good stuff, right?

Oooh la la, top it with cheese, salad, smoked salmon or gravlax and a little mustard, or anything you like.  It’s fabulous with both savoury and sweet toppings.  The flavour is very nutty from the flaxseed and quinoa.  It’s simply amaaazing.  Yes, it’s THAT good.  I do a happy dance when the family freaks out over just how delicious this bread is.   Sneaking in protein powder to their food makes me feel like I’m sneaking veggies into a kid’s meal 🙂

It’s high in protein, grain-free (quinoa is a SEED, ok?), yeast, and gluten-free as well.  Great for anyone with food intolerances.  If all the noise about healthy fats is even half-true, they should be helping you to lose a few kilos too and this bread also has the bonus of having its carbohydrates firmly in the laudable category.

I’ll be posting a lower fat, seed free loaf next time but for now, I hope you enjoy this one.

Food for growing muscles (wow, I hope so) … enjoy!

Makes 1 loaf  (I baked it in a 23cm x 10cm loaf tin for a longer loaf with less height).

Best sizes:  23cm x 10cm, or 21cm x 10cm for a shorter, taller loaf, or form the dough freeform like a focaccia.

Ingredients
73 grams (2/3 cup) quinoa flour*
80 grams (2/3 cup) ground flaxseed meal
50 grams (2/3 cup) un-flavoured pea protein isolate (I use Vital Protein)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
265 grams (1 cup) liquid egg whites
55 grams (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil OR 27 grams (1/8 cup) for a lower fat loaf
75 grams (1/3 cup) water

*If you cannot find quinoa flour, you can substitute soy, oat, or buckwheat flour or any gluten-free flour such as teff, amaranth, coconut, whatever.  You can also replace it with another 2/3 cup of flaxseed meal.  Please note that these changes will impact the macros for the loaf.

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 180℃.

Grease a loaf tin lightly with olive oil spray or line the tin with silicone paper, if not using a silicon mould.  If baking freeform, line the tray with silicon baking paper.

Place the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Whisk together the egg whites, oil, and water.  Add the liquid ingredients to the dry mixture and mix until you get a sticky batter.  If using the lower quantity of extra-virgin olive oil, you might need to add a little extra water.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin.  Even the top, if you’d like a square loaf.

If baking freeform, let the dough sit for 5 minutes before turning it out on to the baking tray.  It will thicken up slightly and be easier to manage.

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden and risen.  Remove and cool on a wire rack before turning out.

This loaf keeps, wrapped in foil or a freezer bag, in the fridge for several days at least.  You can also freeze it.  If freezing, it’s easier to slice the loaf before freezing.

Macronutrient Information
I have based the macronutrient information on average values for all ingredients, except the pea protein, where I have used the values for the one I used.  If you use another unflavoured pea protein, it’s likely the macros will be very similar.

You can make your own quinoa flour by grinding whole quinoa until very fine or even grind up quinoa flakes.

Macros are for the entire loaf.   Macros per serve depend on how you slice the loaf but you can work that out from the total amounts.

Macros using 1/4 cup EVOO

Macros using 1/8 cup EVOO

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Filed under All Recipe Posts, Protein, Protein Bread, Savouries, Special Diet

Berry Protein Coppa Gelato

Well, it’s time to bring some ying to the yang, balance to The Force … let’s get some PROTEIN on the DESSERT TABLE.  It’s summer here and we should all be able to have gelato.   No fear, no favour, no guilt.  Just plenty of protein and fruity goodness.  Heck, even if it isn’t summer …

There are lots of protein ice-cream recipes around.  Really really good ones!  But I prefer Italian gelato to creamy ice-cream.  Must be in my genes.  Frankly, whey and casein just don’t taste so right for ice-cream, as they have very dominant flavours.   In my humblest opinion.  The texture is never quite right for gelato, either.  I don’t want to have to use an ice-cream scoop to make round balls of ice-cream.  I want to have to use  a flat spatula like a proper gelateria.  So it has to have that soft-serve gelato texture.

I may forego the waffle cone, but nobody can deny me a coppa gelato, maybe topped with some fruit … an umbrella?  OK, I left out the umbrella.  Too tacky.  I added frangipane blossoms instead.  On the side.  Sure you don’t care, but it’s summer and my frangipane tree is in full bloom and I’m proud 😀

Egg white protein powder just doesn’t get enough air time and accolades.  It is perfect for making protein gelato and so it’s also great if you have this for dessert as your last meal of the evening.  Slow digesting protein and yada yada … you know the drill.  You could make it with casein, but I swear it’s better with the egg white powder.  Hands down.

I’ve been making this repeatedly over the last couple of weeks, mostly with berries.  It’s also fabulous with mango, but I’ve been on a red theme for the last few posts so why stop now?  My personal favourite is raspberry (but yes, I love mango).  I love the tartness of raspberries in a cool gelato.  You can add some stevia or sweetener of your choice, if you like.  I only add a little if I’m making it to share.

Whatever fruits you use, make sure they are ripe and full of flavour.  Delicate fruits won’t necessarily work as well as the flavour can be bland.  Berries, cherries, mango, banana, passionfruit, yellow peaches are all good examples of fruit that would work.  I tend to use berries mostly in summer.  Lighter in sugar and other carbs and full of amazing goodness.  There is no berry badness.

This gelato is so easy to prepare.  You don’t need any mad kitchen skills, candy thermometers (no added sugar), fancy appliances (unless you have them and like to wield them), or qualifications from culinary academies.

It’s light but punches above its weight on protein, has only good carbs from the fruit, and you’ll need a scanning electron microscope to find the fat molecules cos there’s hardly any.   You’re also getting the bonus of some serious fibre.  Just check out the macros below the recipe.  Whoaa.

Importantly, this?  This is GELATO.  It makes you feel like you’re in Italy in the summer.  Where’s my Vespa?

Power to lift, energy to move … enjoy!

Serves 1 – 2  (recipe can be doubled or scaled for multiple servings)

Ingredients
100 grams low-fat cottage cheese (I use Elgaar Farm Organic, 1% fat)
60 grams non-fat plain/Greek yoghurt (I use Elgaar Farm Organic, 0.1% fat)
25 grams egg white protein powder (I use Professional Whey Egg White Protein)
150 grams fresh or frozen berries (raspberries, blackberries, cherries, mixed berries, snozzberries* :-D), or other fruit
stevia to taste (optional)

*OK snozzberries are a Willy Wonka reference.  I’ve been sans chocolate and cacao for 5 days and it’s taking its toll :-/

Instructions
Blend together all ingredients using a stick blender or in a food processor.  That was hard, wasn’t it?  Maximum points for saving effort.

If you have an ice-cream maker, you can churn the gelato according to the instructions before serving.

Otherwise, place the gelato into an airtight container and place in the freezer for about an hour.  Remove and blend the gelato again.  Use a stick blender or a hand-held whisk or even a fork.  Make sure you mix it well so the ice crystals disperse evenly.  Repeat this once or twice before scooping out to serve.

Bonus, you got a bit of an arm workout and lowered your carbon footprint in the process if you opted for a whisk or fork.

If you use frozen berries or fruit, you could even serve it immediately.

How hard was that?  😀

Macronutrient Profile
I have provided macros based on the ingredients I’ve used.  If you use different cheeses or yoghurt, there will be some variation.  I would suggest you use a high protein yoghurt (Greek yoghurt in some countries has a higher protein content but not here in Australia necessarily).

I’ve also based it on using raspberries as the fruit.  It’s the one I’ve made most often and they are great in having fewer carbohydrates/sugars but are really high in fibre.  They also taste amazing.

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

Amarena Caramel Tart

I like a little ambiguity in life.   Maybe that’s why I love the darkest, most bittersweet chocolates.

Warm chocolate ganache over cold gelato.  Zesty, pucker-up citrus with smooth, warm, nutty chocolate.   Hot, spicy chilli with silky, luscious mango.

I must confess I do particularly love tart and sweet together.   Like tart cherries in a sweet syrup.   Bitterness and sweetness vying for my attention in a sticky caramel with just a hint of burnt sugar to make it edgy.  It works.  Oh, my,  how orgasmically it works.    So that’s what I’ve put together here for you.

Tart morello cherries preserved in a sweet, spiced syrup.

A rich, dark, and buttery caramel, with just a hint of burnt sugar bitterness.

A light, flaky almond crust to encase it all in a subtle nuttiness.

This is a lovely, refreshing take on a caramel tart for summer, although it would be amazing at any time of year.  There’s no chocolate.  Nope.  Not a gram, not a shaving.  Tempted was I, but like a great outfit, less is often more.

Mmmm, you see how amarenata adds awesomeness well beyond the realm of gelato?

It stands up alone, the contrasting flavours and textures playing a symphony with every mouthful.   With this tart, you can choose how to compose that symphony.    Do you want the cherries immersed in the caramel to experience an explosion of tart acidity throughout the gooey caramel?  Or do you prefer to keep the layers separate to experience a burst of tart freshness before sinking your teeth into the sticky soft sweetness?

I’ve made this tart two ways.  The first with the cherries layered over the caramel for which I made individual-sized tarts.  The second, a single large tart, with the cherries arranged in the caramel and a sprinkling of extra cherries on top.    I love them both but maybe, just maybe, I love it best with the cherries in the caramel.

I hope you enjoy this one.  Whichever version you choose.

I’ll be reverting to some healthy recipes next but more buttery, sugary goodness is on its way too.    A big welcome and thank you to readers who’ve recently joined the blog and who follow the Facebook page.  So nice to meet you all and thank you for the comments and feedback!

Makes 1 x 23-24cm tart or about 6 – 8 individual tarts

Ingredients
Almond Pasta Frolla
125 grams plain flour
50 grams almond meal
40 grams caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
125 grams unsalted butter, chilled
1 egg yolk

Caramel
250 grams sugar
220 grams cream (35% fat)
pinch of fleur de sel
120 grams unsalted butter, cubed and softened at room temperature

500 – 600 grams Amarenata cherries, drained weight*

*You can either make your own amarenata or buy it from specialty food shops.  If at a loss, don’t despair!  Buy some preserved morello cherries, drain them and reserve the liquid (it should be just water or a light syrup).  Place the liquid in a saucepan with a dash of vanilla and cinnamon and about a tablespoon or two of sugar.  You can omit the sugar if the cherries are preserved in syrup.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Add the cherries and bring to the boil.  Remove from the heat and drain the cherries before using.  In all cases, reserve the syrup to use in desserts, over ice-cream, to flavour milk-shakes, anything.  It is delightfully cherrylicious.  If you feel lazy, just add drained morello cherries, as they are!

Instructions
Almond Pasta Frolla
Preheat the oven to 190℃.

Have ready your large or small tart pan(s) on a tray and line them, if required.   I find I get the best results if I line the base of a large tart pan as it makse for easy removal of the base.  I generally don’t line the smaller ones.  I never grease my tart pans.  The sides of your pastry will keep their shape better if you do not grease the pans.

Make the pastry as per the instructions in the recipe for Torta di Ricotta Siciliana.    Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 3mm – 4mm and line the prepared tart pan(s).  Chill in the freezer for at least an hour before baking.  You can make the pastry ahead of time and chill in the freezer on the day you plan to bake it.  This is great if making small tarts you’d like to serve over several days, with various fillings 🙂

Line with baking paper and baking weights and bake blind for about 15 – 20 minutes until the edges start to colour.  Remove the weights and paper and return to the oven to bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes, until the crust is golden and cooked through.  Set on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Caramel
Place the sugar into a large saucepan.  I prefer stainless steel as this allows me to see the colour of the caramel as it cooks.  Avoid non-stick pans for making caramel.  Just don’t go there.

Place the pan over a low heat and gently stir the sugar as it dissolves.  The best action is to gently move the sugar toward the middle of the pan and back, checking the edges of the pan for any sugar that is dissolving and colouring too quickly and mix it in.    Don’t take your eyes off it for a second and have patience.  When it is all dissolved, stop stirring and let it cook until the colour deepens.  You can gently swirl the caramel on the base of the pan to make sure the caramel darkens evenly.  I like my caramel fairly dark but, for this recipe, do as you wish.  If you like your caramel blonde and sweet, that’s all good.  If you like it darker with a bittersweet edge to it, you’re a kindred spirit. 🙂  Just be careful to not overcook and burn the sugar.

When it’s ready, carefully pour in the cream, stirring as you go.  It may bubble and splatter as the cool cream hits the hot sugar.  The sugar may form crystals and a few lumps of toffee, but don’t fret.  Keep stirring over a low heat until the mixture is smooth.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter in two batches.  Stir until the caramel is smooth and silky.  Set aside to cool.  When cool, pour the caramel into the tart crust(s).

As you can see, I like my caramel nice and dark 😀

At this point, if you wish to have your cherries immersed in the caramel, add them in concentric circles to the tart filling and add any extras on top, randomly.  Place in a covered dish and refrigerate until the caramel sets.

If you prefer to arrange the cherries on top, refrigerate the tart with only the caramel until the caramel sets.  Once set, you can arrange the cherries on top of the tart.

Serve on its own or with a dollop of cream spiked with a little Amaretto liqueur or the syrup from the amarena preserves.

Any leftovers will keep for a day or two, covered, in the refrigerator.

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Filed under All Recipe Posts, Desserts, Fruit, Jams & Preserves, Tarts & Patisserie