Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kissing Ball Birthday Cake

Cake by Debbie Skelton, Photos by Steve Shanahan. Cake topper by Rebecca Yit from Urban Weddings Brisbane. 

Happy 30th Birthday Em!

The design of this cake is based around the concept of the Victorian Kissing Ball. In the Victorian era, when it was usual to only bathe infrequently, flowers were pierced into pieces of round fruit to mask the strong body odours of the great unwashed. The flower covered ball of fruit would then be placed around the house. Over the years, the floral ball custom then morphed into a traditional Christmas decoration and later was also endowed with notions of romance.

This Kissing Ball cake is a lemon and coconut madeira cake for the top half and an orange madeira on the bottom half, torted with home made lemon curd, covered with white chocolate and coconut ganache and covered with orange fondant and a 50/50 mixture of fondant and gumpaste flowers in orange, red, pink and yellow. The flowers are daisies, pansies, peonies and sunflowers and rice paper butterflies. The cake tin was a Wilton half sphere and was baked in two halves. The inspiration for this design came from Lindy Smith.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cane Sugar free for Fourth of July

Photos by Steve Shanahan

First published Canberra Times 2 July 2014. 

As a nod to the good ol’ stars and stripes Fourth of July celebrations, it seems fitting to celebrate the day with a yanky doodle nosh up. In the States, backyard barbies and shared food with family and friends accompanied by the patriotic glitter of red, white and blue flags and fireworks is the traditional thing to do on the day. But for us Aussies, deep in winter’s grip, it’s an indoor event with an Aussie twist - family and friends gettin’ down in our onesies and ugg boots.  

While I’ve stuck with the basic elements of a typical Independence Day menu, I’ve removed the “traditional” from these All-American pork, pumpkin and slaw recipes by deleting the cane sugar content and replacing it with Rice Malt Syrup. Rice Malt Syrup is a fructose and (mostly) glucose free sugar alternative. This conversion is not without its controversy, and may be considered as unpatriotic, given the Americans love of all things sweet. However, at the risk of water-boarding for my un-American activities, I plough on.

On a recent and gradual campaign to better health, I have actively reduced our family’s sugar intake. For a few years now, I have found that halving the quantity of sugar in recipes rarely makes any difference to the result and allows other flavours to shine through. In recipes where cane sugar is completely deleted, it is replaced with a healthier alternative such as natural Rice Malt Syrup or stevia powder. There’s enough hype and publicity floating around about our ever-expanding waistlines, so I won’t bang on about the merits of fructose and glucose free food. If you still prefer to use the white stuff, the quantities are included in the following recipes.

To obtain the equivalent sweetness in foods, the approximate ratio of Rice Malt Syrup to sugar is about half, and look for brands that contain no added sugars. Alert: stevia is a few hundred times sweeter than sugar, so use it sparingly.

Rice Malt Syrup and stevia powder are available from supermarkets and health food stores.

The pumpkin puree needed for the Pumpkin Pie Slice can be made ahead of time by placing a whole pumpkin on a tray in a 180C oven for one and half hours or until a knife can be inserted easily through the skin. When done remove the pumpkin from the oven and allow to cool a little before slicing and discarding the mushy core and seeds. Scrape out the cooked pumpkin flesh and place into a food processor bowl or use a stick blender and puree until smooth. Pumpkin puree can be frozen for a month or so in useable quantities sealed in ziplock bags.

Almond butter can be made at home by processing whole almonds to a paste in a food processor or Thermomix. Alternatively, you can buy it ready made from the supermarket or health food store, but it can be a little expensive.

Caramel Pork Ribs
2 kg pork ribs, cut into 3 rib portions
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup rice malt syrup (or 1 cup sugar)
1 cup dark beer
¼ cup bourbon (substitute with whiskey)
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tomato, diced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 heaped tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C. Pour the rice malt syrup into a large lidded stovetop and oven-proof casserole or dutch oven. Cook on the stovetop over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the syrup is bubbling and toffee like. This will take about five minutes.

Take off the heat and stir the beer in slowly. The mixture will bubble up, so do this at the sink.

Allowing the mixture to cool down a little stir in all the remaining ingredients, adding the ribs in last.

Return to the heat until the sauce starts to bubble.  Turn the ribs over a couple of times in the sauce to coat.

Place the lid on and bake in the oven for one and half hours, until the ribs are falling-off-the-bone tender. Stir a couple of times during baking to ensure that the sauce is not burning. If there is a lot of liquid remaining, and you prefer a drier consistency, remove the lid from the pot and bake for another fifteen to twenty minutes or so to reduce the liquid. Skim any visible fat from the surface and serve with crunchy cabbage slaw.

Crunchy cabbage slaw with peanuts
2 cups savoy cabbage, chopped
1 cup red cabbage, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 cup snow peas, chopped
¼ cup basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup coriander, chopped
¼ cup mint leaves, chopped
1 avocado, diced
¼ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
2 tbsp black sesame seeds

2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice malt syrup (or 1 tbsp sugar)
¼ tsp chilli powder
1 clove garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
2 tbsp water

Combine the cabbages, carrots, avocado, snow peas and half of the herbs in a large bowl.

Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing in a small jug, adding more water to thin if needed.

Toss the cabbage mixture with the peanut sauce and top with the reserved herbs, the peanuts and sesame seeds.

Spiced pumpkin pie slice with cream cheese frosting

200g almond butter
200g pumpkin puree
4 eggs
160g rice malt syrup (or ¾ cup sugar)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt flakes
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a slice tin approximately 30cm by 20cm. Place all slice ingredients in an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until combined, approximately two to three minutes. Pour into prepared tin and bake for twenty minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. When cool top with cream cheese frosting, and slice with a wet knife.

250g cream cheese
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup rice malt syrup (or ½ cup sugar)
grated zest of 1 lemon

In a food processor or stick blender, blend the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend. The frosting will set a little harder in the fridge if needed.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Caneles - Bordelaise beauties

Photo by Steve Shanahan

First published Canberra Times 4 June 2014.

Despite their size, these little pastries are surrounded by much tradition, myth and misconception. This mystery not only relates to their provenance but the mistaken believe that these are difficult to make and great patisserie skills are needed to produce a perfect pastry confection.  Seriously, if you can cook pancakes, you can cook Caneles.

As far as their provenance goes, holding Google up as your reference source, they hail from somewhere in France, particularly around the Bordeaux region.  Although, this information is highly dependent on which page of research you stumble upon. However, if you are wandering around the Bordeaux area of France, you cannot miss the plentiful supply of these cakes sold everywhere.

The other controversy surrounding the Canele, is which cooking receptacle provides the best result. Canele traditionalists, and there is such a group,  claim the little French copper moulds produce perfection, and I would agree with this. If you are going to go to the trouble of sourcing and using the copper Canele moulds, then you would probably go to the extent of coating each mould with organic edible beeswax prior to baking. I agree this sounds a bit extreme, but it is fully traditional and gives the Canele its crispy exterior.

However, the much more economically priced silicone moulds still produce an excellent Canele with the mandatory crispy exterior and molten interior without the need to use beeswax or copper. The Canele moulds are easily purchased on Ebay or Amazon for well under fifteen aussie dollars. The result is a little more rustic, but not discernibly different.

If you plug “Canele” into Google, you will see there is a significant amount of discourse about the difficulties of making these pastries and they are the subject of numerous blogs that wax lyrical about methods and equipment.  I have made these gorgeous little cakes a number of times and haven’t experienced any failures using the silicone moulds and the following recipe.

Caneles are delicious warm or cold and keep for a few days in an airtight container in the fridge. They are usually quickly eaten, but if you have any left, they can be warmed for ten seconds in the microwave oven to freshen up.

They can be eaten warm or cool, and keep for a few days in an airtight container in the fridge. My favourite is warm, where the outside is crispy and the inside is soft and a little molten.
This mixture produces about 20 Caneles and the mixture should be left at least 24 hours in the fridge before baking.  If baking for kids, leave out the rum in the recipe below.

2 cups whole milk
30g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla paste
100g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp sea salt
180g sugar
3 eggs
80 ml good quality rum

Combine the milk, butter and vanilla in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer. In the meantime, combine the sifted flour, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat gently without incorporating any air. When the milk mixture stars to simmer, remove from the heat and set it aside.

Pour the eggs all at once into the flour, then immediately after, also pour the milk mixture into the flour, stirring until well combined  with a wooden spoon or spatula. Do not whisk as you do not want to incorporate air. Add the rum and stir. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least twenty-four hours or up to three days. The longer this mixture is left the better the flavour.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to a very hot 250C. Lightly grease the  canele moulds with melted butter. Remove the batter from the fridge and stir to incorporate the liquids that may have separated. Do not whisk.

If using a silicon mould, place the mould onto an oven tray for ease of handling. Fill each mould almost to the top with the batter and put into the oven to bake for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, reduce the temperature to 200C and place a piece of silicon baking paper on top of the Caneles to stop them from burning.  Bake for a further twenty minutes. The tops of the Caneles should be a dark golden colour.

Remove from the oven and leave for about fifteen minutes before unmoulding the Caneles onto a cooling rack. They should drop out easily from their moulds and as they cool further, and will collapse only very slightly.