Archive for the 'Cakes, breads and baking' Category

Let’s get ready to rum baba!

Rum baba, aka baba au rhum, is a sticky-sweet dessert made from a yeast-based cake soaked in, you guessed it, rum – after first being soused in a simple sugar syrup.

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We first tried rum baba in Montreal at a restaurant called L’Express when we were Crash Testing our way across Canada. After that we tracked it down in a few other restaurants in different parts of the world, but none of them were quite the same as that first baba, so we decided that one day we’d have to try making it ourselves. Continue reading ‘Let’s get ready to rum baba!’

Pavlova recipe from the end of the oeuf


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We’ve moved back to Australia and thought the first effort in our dowdy but spacious new kitchen should be pavlova. This is an Australian, New Zealand and, oddly, Norwegian dessert favourite that we prepare using a simple recipe that has a few special touches.

A pavlova is basically a giant meringue, but rather than being crunchy or chewy right through it’s meant to be crisp on the outside, with a soft and fluffy interior. A while back I was making ile flottante and encountered what Lenny and I have dubbed the ‘warm method’ of heating the egg whites before beating. We reckon it makes the pavlova mixture more stable and less likely to collapse when shaping and baking, and the inside more marshmallowy when you come to devour it. Continue reading ‘Pavlova recipe from the end of the oeuf’

Panettone pudding recipe – a twist on bread and butter pudding


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Go to the recipe for Bread and butter pudding

Our friend Anthony brought round one of those panettone things on Christmas Day. In the end not a lot of it got eaten – we had a decent spread lined up already, and the panettone was kind of a last-minute whim on Anthony’s part.

For those not familiar, panettone is a kind of domed bready cake, often containing dried fruit and other goodies. It’s usually risen with yeast as opposed to baking powder. Panettone is a centrepiece at Italian Christmas tables and seems to be becoming more popular in other countries.

So Christmas came and went, as did Boxing Day, New Year’s, and the thing was still sitting there in its box, with only a few slices taken off. Continue reading ‘Panettone pudding recipe – a twist on bread and butter pudding’

How to make rum balls: two ways, humble and posh


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Go to the recipe for Humble rum balls
Go to the recipe for Lenny’s faff-tastic wonder balls

It’s a good idea to have a few snack-like goodies prepared for the Christmas period and rum balls always do the trick. Our friend Angie mentioned she’d made a batch to her Nana’s recipe so Waz thought he’d follow suit.

They are based on Weetbix or Weetabix, a cereal bar made out of wheat flakes, and include condensed milk for sweetening. Instead of Weetbix, if there’s no such thing where you live, you can use a plain graham cracker, digestive biscuit or similar cookie. Continue reading ‘How to make rum balls: two ways, humble and posh’

How to cook with truffles

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Go to the recipe for Pasta with white truffle
Go to the recipe for Eggs in cocotte with white truffle

On “schoolnights”, when everything happens at helter-skelter pace, it’s always a rush to get home from work, throw a meal together and do the day’s housekeeping before crashing into bed. If I’m lucky Waz has been on an early shift and we can share the evening duties.

So on the weekends we really like to give a lot more time and attention to creating lovely meals that we can enjoy eating at a slower pace.

I thoroughly respect the ideology of the Slow Food Movement – begun in 1986 to celebrate and enjoy local and regional cuisines. So when time permits I love to create meals that embody the Slow Food philosophy of creating the simplest of dishes, with the highest quality ingredients.

Chef Michelle and I recently treated ourselves with a whirlwind weekend trip to the centre of the white truffle universe – the Alba truffle festival in Piemonte near Turin, Italy. We ate a fantastic truffle meal at a Slow Food restaurant with some luscious local Barolo wine. We couldn’t believe our luck the following day when, while roaming the Alba hills, we ran into a local truffle hunter who sold us some white truffles that his little dog had just dug out of the ground. Continue reading ‘How to cook with truffles’

Let the jelly roll: Swiss roll recipe from Waz’s Nana

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Go to the recipe for Swiss roll, aka jelly roll

Swiss roll – or jelly roll to the Americans and Canadians – is what Lenny likes to call a store cupboard cake. Like my Mum’s teacake, this is baking at its easiest. You’ve probably got most of the ingredients already, and the results are sure to win you a disproportionate amount of praise from your guests. Continue reading ‘Let the jelly roll: Swiss roll recipe from Waz’s Nana’

Uncle Kev’s sausage rolls

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This is my Uncle Kev’s sausage roll recipe, and it’s fantastic for parties. Or you can even make a double or triple batch before Christmas, Thanksgiving or local festive holiday and freeze them, then heat them up in the oven for a really quick finger-food for a big group of people. Continue reading ‘Uncle Kev’s sausage rolls’

Crème caramel: from one flan to another

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If you want a dessert that combines simplicity and wow factor, this has got to be it – crème caramel or flan, either vanilla or au café (the latter, “with coffee”, tends to be preferred in France).

Sure you’ve got to make caramel and custard. But neither could be easier. While a careful eye is needed to get the caramel just right, if you cut and run a bit early it will probably just mean that it’s a lighter colour.

And the custard is not your fraught stove-hovering kind, where you’ve got to heat and whisk over the burner for ages while engaging in some minor bacteriological warfare until the consistency and temperature hit their alchemy point. Nope, as far as custard goes this is really a straightforward heat-and-mix job. Continue reading ‘Crème caramel: from one flan to another’

Blackberry crumble with short ramble


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Although we haven’t had a brilliant summer here in the UK, and it looks like what we did have is pretty much over for the year, we did manage to bid a sad farewell to the summer by taking a lovely walk in the Kent countryside.

I love the public footpaths here in the UK: there is a network crossing public and private property that anyone can walk along and enjoy what the countryside has to offer. We often take a day-trip down to Kent to wander across the rolling green dales, through the fields, woodlands and orchards, taking in the fresh air.

On this particular sunny Saturday our route took us through numerous apple orchards where crisp, pink apples shone on the trees and the hedges were thick with fat, juicy blackberries.

Continue reading ‘Blackberry crumble with short ramble’

Portuguese custard tarts recipe (pasteis de nata)


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I’m not much of a sweet tooth, and unlike Waz I’m not much of a coffee drinker. But when I do indulge in a proper espresso it’s always lovely to complement it with a sweet little morsel. Just like nata – or proper Portuguese custard tarts. These delicacies are made with a puff pastry base and a vanilla egg custard filling with a hint of orange zest.

They are by no means the only custard tart around. Waz and I are also huge fans of Chinese dan ta – those lovely little glossy-topped, flaky-based tarts you get when you have good yum cha (also known as dim sum). Continue reading ‘Portuguese custard tarts recipe (pasteis de nata)’