Chocolate baked ricotta

The second of my attempts at cheese making was fresh ricotta. Just like mascarpone before it, ricotta is dead simple to get right. The only question is what to do with it once you've made it. Baking it makes for a delicious dessert or very special afternoon tea. Adding cinnamon and vanilla to the mix gives the chocolate flavour greater depth. For a mocha version, substitute instant coffee for the cinnamon.

Chocolate baked ricotta

2 cups fresh ricotta
1/4 cup pure cream
1/4 cup Greek yoghurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup caster sugar

Method

Preheat oven to 180 Celsius. Lightly grease a loaf pan. Combine all ingredients and mix until smooth. Pour into prepared pan and bake until set - around 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with whipped cream and dusted with extra cocoa. 

Citrus mascarpone pots

Mascarpone has to be the easiest of cheeses to make at home. Granted, it takes a bit longer than heading to the supermarket to pick up a carton, but it certainly works out cheaper to whip up a batch overnight. If you happen to give it a shot, then these little dessert pots will put your mascarpone to good use. 


Citrus mascarpone pots

300g mascarpone
1 cup caster sugar
Finely grated rind of 2 lemons
1/3 cup lime juice
6 eggs, lightly beaten

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 Celsius. Lightly grease 8 small ramekins or custard pots. 
Whisk together the mascarpone, sugar, and lemon juice. Add the lime juice and eggs and beat until smooth. Pour into ramekins and bake until set - around 30 - 35 minutes. Allow to cool before serving with whipped cream or extra mascarpone. 
Note that baking the pots gives a texture similar to flan. For a smoother, more custard-like texture, place the ramekins in to a baking tray half-filled with hot water before baking. 

Very berry citrus slice


Very berry citrus slice

Makes 24 squares

Biscuit base

150g butter, melted
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup shredded coconut
2/3 cup rolled oats
1 1/3 cup flour

Topping

4 eggs
zest of one orange
1 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup cornflour
2/3 cup fruit juice
1 cup mixed berries

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a slice pan with baking paper, leaving overhang along the long edges.

Stir the sugar and coconut in to the melted butter. Add the oats, then the flour, stirring until the mixture creates a soft dough. Press into the prepared pan and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the base has browned.

Meanwhile, mix the eggs, zest, sugar and cornflour until smooth. Stir through the juice and add the berries. Pour over the base and bake for a further 15 minutes or until just set.

Allow to cool completely in the pan. Dust with icing sugar before serving. 

Not quite angel food cake


I recently had need of twelve egg yolks, which left me with quite the dilemma. What on earth do you do with twelve egg whites when meringue isn't an option? I'm not much of an omelette fan, and just wasn't in the mood for macaroons. After a little searching of the interwebs, two things stood out. First of all, meringue is pretty much the number one suggestion when it comes to cooking with egg whites, and secondly, angel food cake uses a lot of egg whites while simultaneously being one of those things that can either go very right or very, very wrong. 

Armed with the knowledge that my cake could end up tasting like sweet polystyrene, I set out to give it a shot. I used gluten-free flour, because I have loads of it after making the chocolate cupcakes last week. If you want to use regular flour, substitute 2 tablespoons of cornflour for part of your flour. I also used a bundt pan instead of an angel food cake tin, as realistically, 12 spare egg whites is not a situation I normally find myself in. Plus the cake tin cupboard is already bursting at the seams! Hence the "not quite".



The verdict? I think it would be much improved by serving it with whipped cream instead of the vanilla glaze I added. The kidlets would disagree, they devoured it in an afternoon.

Angel-food cake

12 egg whites
1 cup smart sugar
1 cup gluten-free flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/2 tsp lemon extract

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Beat the eggs until they reach soft peak stage. Gradually add the sugar, beating until it is fully dissolved. Add the vanilla bean paste and lemon extract. Sift the flour and add around a third to the egg mixture. Fold through carefully, making sure not to lose too much volume. Add the remaining flour in batches, folding through the egg mix. Place in a tube tin or bundt pan, and cook until the cake springs back when touched, around 50 minutes. If the cake browns too quickly, reduce the temperature to 160 degrees. Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan before turning out and serving. 



Gluten-free goodness

I really enjoy cooking for people who have diets a little bit different to the every day. It's just a little bit more challenging than whipping up any of my regular recipes. My most recent challenge was to make a dessert that was both gluten and dairy-free. Since baking is my thing, I decided to try my hand at gluten-free chocolate cupcakes with dairy-free ganache.
The recipe is both easy and delicious. You can't ask for more than that!

Dairy-free chocolate ganache - good enough to eat by itself
Perfect as a dessert topping

Chocolate cupcakes

4 eggs
1/2 cup "smart" sugar
2 tsp golden syrup
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup gluten-free flour
1 1/2 tbs cocoa

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Line a 12 cake muffin tin with cupcake cases.
Beat the eggs, sugar and golden syrup together at high speed until light and fluffy. 
Sift together the baking powder, flour and cocoa. Gently fold in to the egg mixture, being careful not to lose too much volume.
Place the mix in the cupcake cases and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until the cakes spring back.
Cool before icing or topping with ganache.

Dairy-free ganache

400g can coconut cream
1 tsp gelatine
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate melts

Method

Separate the solids from the liquid coconut cream. Heat a little of the liquid with a small amount of water. Add the gelatine and stir until completely dissolved. Add the remaining coconut cream and heat until hot enough to melt chocolate. Add the chocolate and stir until smooth. Set aside until slightly thickened before pouring over cakes. 



Basic biscuits

The biscuit aisle at the supermarket is full of many marvellous things. But no matter how much you love Tim Tams, or Mint Slices, they still don't compare to home made. The taste, texture and aroma of biscuits fresh out of the oven is something you just can't get at the shops. The comparatively low cost is just a bonus!
I have a cookbook just for biscuits, but this week, I wanted to try something a little bit different, so hunted around a little before finding the easiest biscuit recipe ever.


Basic biscuit dough

2 cups butter
1 cup sugar
400g sweetened condensed milk (1 can)
5 cups self raising flour

Method

Preheat oven to 190 Celsius. Cream the butter and sugar. Gradually beat in the sweetened condensed milk, then add the flour and mix to a stiff dough. Drop spoonfuls of mixture on to a lined baking sheet. Press with the back of a fork to flatten.  Cook for 15 - 20 minutes until golden. Cool on trays for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack.

Variations

The recipe makes between 100 and 120 biscuits, so is just perfect for fetes or Christmas gifts, but gets a bit boring if you only make one flavour. I made the following four flavours from my dough, and got around 115 biscuits all up. 

Cranberry and cornflake

Add 1 cup of cornflakes and 3/4 cup of dried cranberries to the mix. 

Apricot muesli

Add 1 cup of rolled oats, 1 cup of shredded coconut and 1 cup of chopped dried apricots.

Peanut butter choc chip

Add 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and 3/4 cup chocolate chips to the mixture. Try to find peanut butter with no added salt or sugar. 

Vanilla coffee pinwheels

Split the remaining dough in half. Add a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste to half. Add a teaspoon of coffee essence to the remaining dough. Roll both pieces of dough into long rectangles, placing the coffee on top of the vanila. Starting from the long edge, roll into a fat sausage. Wrap in cling film or baking paper and allow to chill. Slice thinly then bake. 


Coffee scrolls

After a few weeks on the croissant bandwagon, including a failed attempt at pain au chocolat, I was looking for something different for afternoon tea. Turns out coffee scrolls are pretty easy to get right; this recipe makes scrolls that taste exactly like something you would get from a cake shop. Not doughy, not heavy, not cake-y. Just right.


Cinnamon and walnut scrolls with coffee icing

1/2 cup warm milk
3 tsp dried yeast
3 1/2 tbs sugar
2 1/2 tbs butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp bread improver
2 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

For the filling:

1 tsp butter, melted
1 1/2 tbs cinnamon sugar*

For the icing:

1 cup icing sugar
1 tbs strong coffee

Method

Combine the milk, yeast and half of the sugar. Set aside until the mixture is foamy. Combine the remaining sugar, cinnamon, bread improver  and flour. Make a well and add the yeast mixture, butter, egg and water. Knead until smooth and elastic. Sprinkle over the walnuts and continue kneading until incorporated. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap, and set aside to rise until doubled in size. Give the dough a quick knead, then return to the bowl and allow to double again. When doubled, roll the dough out to a large rectangle - use a chopping board as an indication of the size. Spread the melted butter over the dough, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Roll in to a long scroll, starting from the long side. Slice into pieces around 2 cm wide. You should be able to get around 15 or 16 scrolls from your roll. Place on a lined baking tray, cover with a tea towel and allow to prove for 30 - 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190 Celsius. Brush the scrolls with an egg wash or sugar glaze, then bake 30 - 40 minutes until golden. Allow to cool before icing. To ice, combine the coffee and sugar and stir until smooth. Spread over the scrolls, allow to set, then enjoy. 

Croissants

I've finally got these right, and let me assure you, they're well worth the effort.

Breakfast of champions, photography of someone who hasn't charged the camera batteries
Before getting started, its well worth noting that a batch of croissants takes a long time from start to finish. You're not going to be able to whip up a batch before breakfast. Think afternoon tea instead. That said, I have read that the dough can be frozen after the last turn, so perhaps consider making a double batch.

The recipe is that followed by Julia Childs, and makes 12 rather dainty croissants.

Croissants

1/4 cup warm water
2 tspn sugar
1 tspn dried yeast
2 cups plain flour
1 tspn salt
4 tspn sugar
1/2 cup warm milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup butter

Method

Combine the water, sugar and yeast in a bowl and set aside until foamy. 
Sift the flour, and combine with the remaining dry ingredients. Make a well and mix together  with the milk, oil and yeast mixture. Knead until smooth and elastic - around 3 to 5 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl and place somewhere warm to rise until the dough has doubled in size. 

Knead the dough again, wrap in cling film and chill for around 20 minutes.

Use a rolling pin to flatten the butter. Roll out the dough, then place the butter on top. Fold the dough over the butter. Then roll out in to a rectangle. If any butter pokes through, pinch the dough up and over it. After rolling, fold in to thirds then wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer.

Repeat the rolling, folding and refrigerating until no streaks of butter are visible. This may take as few as 3 turns, but is more likely to take 5 or 6. 

After the final turn, cut the dough in half. Return half to the fridge, and cut the remaining dough into thirds. Wrap 2 and return them to the fridge. Using a floured rolling pin and work surface, roll out in to a square, then cut in half to form 2 triangles. Carefully roll each in to a croissant and place on a lined baking tray. 

Repeat with the remaining dough.

Cover with a clean tea towel, place somewhere warm and allow to prove for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 220 C. Brush each croissant with an egg wash mixture (1 egg beaten with around a tbsp water). Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until golden brown. 

Chocolate and strawberry slice

A rather pointless little contraption from Tupperware recently made its way in to my kitchen, courtesy of my sister. The T-bar maker is basically a mould for making melt and mix snack bars. Up until two weeks ago, I had been more than happy doing the same job with a slice pan and a knife, but have to say, the plastic fantastic has gotten a bit of a workout.

The maker comes with around 15 recipes to get you started. I gave one, "Breakfast bars" a whirl, mixing things up a bit to cater to the non-sultana eaters in the family. Despite a hefty serve of cranberries in each bar, the amount of maple syrup needed to get the things to hang together makes for a very sweet breakfast. I'm somewhat hesitant to eat them on a normal day; these babies are strictly for fueling heavy exercise.

Next up, I decided to try something from outside the recipe booklet. The following makes eight bars so rich that they each serve two. If you're a traditionalist and stick with a slice pan, it should yield 15 - 20 squares of slice.




200 g Marie biscuits
3 tbsp cocoa
1 cup dessiccated coconut
220 g dried strawberries, finely chopped
125 ml sweetened condensed milk
100 g butter, melted

Method
Crush the biscuits to a fine crumb. Stir through the cocoa, then add the fruit. Combine the condensed milk and butter. Add to the biscuit mix and mix well. Press in to the slice pan and refrigerate until set.

If desired, top with melted dark chocolate or your favoutie chocolate icing.

Sour cherry slice

Aldi can be a surprising place. I don't tend to go there for my groceries, but their weekly specials are often fantastic. Just last week I picked up a rectangular springform pan, which is just brilliant for making slices.




Sour cherry slice

Base

2 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tspn vanilla bean paste
1 1/3 cups plain flour
1/3 cup cornflour
1 heaped tspn baking powder

Topping

700g jar morello cherries
3 eggs
2/3 cup butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
4 tspn vanilla bean paste
3 cups ricotta
3/4 cup cornflour
2 tspn baking powder

Method

Grease and line a large rectangular pan. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

For the base:
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla essence and beat well. Sift together the flours and baking powder and fold in to the butter mix. Spread over the base of the pan and bake for 10 - 15 minutes.

For the topping:
Separate the eggs. Beat the whites with half the sugar - 1/4 cup - until stiff. Beat the yolks, remaining sugar, butter and vanilla together until foamy. Stir in the ricotta. Sift together the baking powder and cornflour. Fold through the ricotta mix. Add the cherries and egg whites and fold through. Spread over the base and return to the oven. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes until golden brown.

Makes 30 serves.
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