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Sweet Baking Recipes

02 November 2009

Berry & Ricotta Danishes


There’s something magical and fascinating about puff pastry and the way the buttery dough rises up to form crisp, golden layers of which there are anywhere between 513 up to 1459.

This week I’ll be learning for a second time in my life how to make puff pastry from scratch.

I first made it at the Pacific Culinary Institute in Vancouver. It was time-consuming work requiring what seemed like endless rolling combined with deft handling of the dough. And, then there was the butter. Oh so much of it, carefully and methodically rolled in between each layer.

It is thought that early puff pastry found its origins in Rome but was then re-introduced and perfected in the 17th Century by legendary French chef Marie Antoine Carême.

Carême, who likened the art of pastry to architecture, is credited with developing the ‘six turn’ method that resulted in unparalleled layers of light, flaky pastry.

Well that’s all well and good if you’re a master pastry chef. I’m most certainly am not. Yet. 

For now I'll just stick to the store-bought kind, which for my purposes, is fantastic. While I’m not creating the kind of otherworldly delights found in Paris’ Poilane, I am winning friends nonetheless thanks to Careme pastry

Unlike other ready-made pastry Careme is actually handmade using natural ingredients. Based in South Australia's Barossa Valley, Careme sells four types of artisan pastry including sour cream shortcrust and all-butter puff pastry which I used to make these berry and ricotta danishes. 

Continue reading "Berry & Ricotta Danishes" »

14 May 2009

Passionfruit Sponge Roll


The sponge cake roll goes by many names. In France it’s known as a ‘roulade’ and can be seen at Christmas time as the elaborate Bûche de Noël or ‘yule log’ covered in thick chocolate icing and miniature meringue mushrooms.

Also known as the Swiss or jelly roll, the sponge cake roll is a thin layer of sponge baked in a sheet pan. Cooled on a kitchen towel, the sponge cake is then spread with a filling such as freshly whipped cream or in this case, cream and passionfruit butter, and then rolled and sprinkled with icing sugar. When sliced, the sponge cake has a beautiful pinwheel pattern.


Most of my experiences with sponge rolls have been with the packaged variety. This translates to preservative-laden cake filled with fake cream, and pales in comparison to the real thing.

Continue reading "Passionfruit Sponge Roll" »

25 March 2009

Blueberry Cornbread


It's been a while since my last post and as each day passes I feel a nagging guilt for not having written anything. My life is upside down right now and mostly packed away in cardboard boxes. We are leaving our home in Vancouver and heading back to Sydney. It's been four happy years and it's very hard to leave.

Posting over the next few weeks, and perhaps even months, will be sporadic. But I look forward to getting back into a rhythm and sharing my love of food with you. 

Thank you for your comments and your emails. I'm sorry I've been so lax in my responses. I hope to be back to normal soon.

In the meantime, I give you a 'rush recipe' favourite of mine: blueberry cornbread. Enjoy.

Continue reading "Blueberry Cornbread" »

19 February 2009

Cardamom Custard with Caramelized Oranges


Cardamom, the second most expensive spice next to saffron, is one of the world's oldest spices. Originating from the forests of India's Western Ghats mountain range, the little green pod has traveled far and wide.

Over the centuries cardamom has been used as a tooth cleaner, a perfume and even as a cure to obesity. Today the spice is used more commonly in cooking to flavour both sweet and savory dishes and drinks such as coffee, mulled wines and some liqueurs. 

I often cook with the aromatic spice but mostly in curries (although I do use it in rice puddings too). This week I went a step further and used cardamom in a sweet custard with oranges caramelized in palm sugar. The sweet, subtle scent of the cardamom pairs wonderfully with the smooth egg custard. The caramelized orange imparts a hint of citrus sweetness however its main contribution to the dish is  aesthetic rather than flavour.

I recommend giving the custard time (overnight) to develop its heady flavour. It's well worth the wait.

Continue reading "Cardamom Custard with Caramelized Oranges" »

20 January 2009

Dark Chocolate Souffle


The soufflé, once the bane of my existence, is now something I enjoy cooking and relish eating. The chemistry of this dish is one that fascinates me and I often think about the trials and errors of the first chefs who invented and perfected it.

The soufflé, a French invention, is dated back to late 18th century and translates to “breath of air”. Soufflés can be served hot or cold and sweet or savory.

The technique of preparing a hot soufflé begins with the making of a roux – a combination of melted butter and flour – which acts as a base and thickening agent, like that of a Béchamel sauce. The next steps are pretty simple and are laid out in my recipe below.

In my experience, the trick to soufflés is not to over-mix. Have a steady, yet gentle hand when combining the egg whites to the roux sauce. The second, and probably most important point, is to not open the oven door when the soufflés are cooking.

I usually press my nose against the oven window in anticipation of the majestic rising until it gets too hot. It's a wonderful thing to watch a soufflé rise. The joy is fleeting, however, because once you open the door, you have about 40 seconds of wonderful puff followed by rapid deflation. As you can imagine, taking photos of a soufflé happens at Formula-1-pit-stop-pace.

Whenever I'm making one, I always wonder how restaurants can serve soufflés when they're so briefly at their perfection.

This is my fifth time making a souffle and my third successful attempt. My first two attempts were abysmal failures - they tasted great, they just didn't rise. I called them "shriveled toads" at the time.

Soufflé number 3 was also successful but had a slightly heavier texture as I used coconut milk in a Thai-inspired Pandan souffle .

Souffle number 4 was also successful and punctuated with hints of passionfruit.


Continue reading "Dark Chocolate Souffle" »

22 December 2008

Currant Melting Moment Shortbread Cookies


I've stumbled upon what I believe to be the world's greatest cookie recipe. Melting moment shortbread peppered with Grand Marnier soaked currants and infused with orange zest. How can anything be this good?

Butter. And loads of it. One and a half cups to be exact. Each time I pop one in my mouth, my subliminal cholesterol counter sends a little zap to my brain. The melt-in-your-mouth texture of the cookies is also due to the use of not only flour but also of cornstarch, sometimes known as 'cornflour'.

The cookies are incredibly easy to make and store for up to two weeks in an airtight container. If any cookies make it through the first week then you're more restrained then I am.

Tomorrow I'm going to take the cookies to work and give them away. There is nothing generous in this gesture at all. It's just the only way I can stop myself from eating all forty of them.

I want to wish all my readers a happy and safe holiday season. Thank you so much for all your comments and encouragement in 2008. See you in the New Year.

Continue reading "Currant Melting Moment Shortbread Cookies" »

03 December 2008

Making Madeleines


There is much debate over the origin of the little French sponge cake, the Madeleine, however there are two things that are certain; that the small French town of Commercy in the Lorraine region, proudly stake their claim over the shell-shaped cakes; and, that Madeleines have earned their timeless place in literature in Marcel Proust’s The Remembrance of Things. In the beginning of his autobiography, Proust is overwhelmed by a stream of childhood memories after he tastes the citrus-infused Madeleine with a drop of tea.

“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the [Madeleine] crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me...But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.

Today the Madeleine remains loved for its simplicity and delicate citrus flavour as if kissed by a lemon tree.


This is my second attempt at making Madeleines. The first time was miserable. What should have been an airy, soft cake with a slightly crisp exterior was dense and dry. After my first attempt I shied away from trying again and hid my Madeleine tin in the back of the cupboard. This was about a year ago.

It wasn't until recently that I was browsing on the Quince Handcrafted Cuisine website in Vancouver when I saw a Saturday afternoon class promising to teach students how to make the best hot chocolate and Madeleines ever. I enrolled immediately and headed off for an hour of tasteful education.

From Quince owner and chef, Andrea Jefferson, I learned how to make perfect Madeleines. It's all about finding the right balance between the whisking and folding of the batter while keeping it aerated with millions of tiny bubbles. Chef Andrea has a straight forward, no-nonsense approach to cooking. She is only particular about those things which require precision; baking measurements is one of those things.

On her recommendation during the class, I have only included the ingredient measurements in grams. While 130 grams of eggs was approximately 3 medium eggs, the size of eggs may vary from country to country, so my advice? Buy some scales and they don't have to be expensive. Mine were $16.

I've put together 10 step-by-step instructions to Madeleines you'd be mad to miss. Enjoy!

For more inspirational cooking classes check out Quince at:

Quince - www.quince.ca
1780 W3rd Ave Vancouver
Tel: 604.731.4645

Continue reading "Making Madeleines" »

30 October 2008

Vegan Cupcakes -- a revelation


Some may think the words 'vegan' and 'cupcake' should never meet in a sentence. Unfortunately, the word 'vegan' still has some rather drab connotations. It conjures up images of tofu-like textures and pale imitations. Cupcakes, on the other hand, inspire child-like delight and sinful decadence. The idea of a dairy-free cupcake certainly didn't do anything for me.

That was until I tried a cupcake from the cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

They're quite spectacular. Light, moist and decadent -- all perfect cupcake prerequisites.

In the recipe, milk is substituted with plain soy milk and apple cider vinegar. It's rather ingenious really. The cider curdles the soy milk and turns it into the consistency of buttermilk. Eggs are substituted with a little canola oil which gives the cupcake its moist, fluffy texture.

The icing is a combination of non-hydrogenated margarine, vegan shortening, soy milk, icing sugar and cocoa powder.

I made the cupcakes for the Thanksgiving party I recently catered for. My reason for choosing a vegan recipe was purely out of practicality - not to cater to anyone's dietary restrictions. I know these cupcakes to be reliable and their 'veganess' takes nothing away from their 'cupcakeness'.

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World is the brainchild of punk rocker Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Romero. Moskowitz has authored several vegan cookbooks all of which have won critical claim amongst the vegan community.

These cupcakes are a great way for the uninitiated to venture into the ever-more-popular world of veganism.

Continue reading "Vegan Cupcakes -- a revelation" »

25 September 2008

Plum Clafoutis


Over the past few weeks the farmer's markets have been bursting with tiny black plums. Sweet, succulent and even a little tangy, the plums are ripe for eating, stewing, poaching and in this case, baking...in a clafoutis.

It was only until I attempted to make this baked dessert, that I discovered that it is actually French, specifically from the Limousin region. I have always thought it was Greek. The word 'clafoutis' just sounds so Greek to me but then again 'tiramisu' sounds Japanese!

My clafoutis differs from the Limoges' version which traditionally uses un-pitted black cherries. It is thought that the kernel (pip) imparts an almond-like flavour into the batter when baked. Instead, I used the small black plums, with the stone left in.


While the plums I used were sweet to the point of being over-ripe, the cooking process seemed to reawaken their tart bite.

A clafoutis is somewhere between a cake, a custard, a sweet omelette and a souffle. But really, I shouldn't grope for a category: it is what it is. It's a clafoutis. And it's delicious.

Continue reading "Plum Clafoutis" »

13 June 2008

Profiteroles with Dark Chocolate Orange Ice Cream


I made profiteroles for the first time a few days ago and here they are! The orange chocolate ice cream filling was actually an afterthought when I realised that the crème patisserie (pastry cream) was going to need three hours to chill.

I simply couldn't wait that long and luckily I had the ice cream sitting in my freezer. It was meant to be and it was perfect match. I've been meaning to make mini ice-cream sandwiches for a while using brioche and vanilla ice cream but these profiteroles were an excellent substitute.

The recipe I used for the choux pastry was from epicurious and like the reviews said, it was easy and they turned out perfectly. However, I wasn't so sure at the start if things were going well as the choux looked too runny and I wasn't sure how they were going to puff up, if at all. I used a pastry bag to squeeze out 'tall rounds' and as soon as I squeezed them out they promptly deflated and spread out. Not a good start.

Round two. I grumpily scooped all the miserable little chouxs back into a metal bowl and then put the bowl by the window to cool down. Incidentally, I'm in Vancouver where it's meant to be the start of summer and it's 10 degrees. So I cooled the choux  for about 15 minutes and let it firm up a bit and then spooned it back into the pastry bag and gave it another go.

The 'tall rounds' weren't exactly skyscrapers but they were keeping their tallish roundish shapes so I whisked them into the oven and then magically before my eager eyes, they rose.

Continue reading "Profiteroles with Dark Chocolate Orange Ice Cream" »

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