2-minute Banana Ice Cream

There’s this thing people at my fruit shop seem to do in abundance that I’ve never understood. Maybe they do it at yours too, or maybe you are even one of these people and can explain it to me? When buying a bunch of bananas, these people become dissatisfied with the number of bananas on the bunch. Maybe there’s 5, but they wanted 4. So instead of just buying the whole bunch of bananas and eating an extra banana, they’ll tear one or two off until it’s the number they want. Nobody else wants the solo rejected bananas, so they sit there, ripening until they’re too ripe to sell.

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Fortunately my fruit shop is one of those that has a whole section devoted to the less desirable fruit sold for a large discount, and here’s where these rejected bananas finally find a home. You can usually get a bag of a dozen assorted over-ripe bananas for $2. They’re perfect for baking banana cakes and bread, or for mashing up and adding to a pancake flour mixture for something a little different. If I’m not using them straight away, I’ll pop them in the freezer for when the opportunity to bake arises. But since we’re in the middle of such a hot summer, baking is a no go at the moment. But there was an idea I was introduced to by one of my deviantART watchers during the winter that I’ve been dying to try out: making ice cream using only frozen bananas.

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Lemon Meringue Petit Tarts

I love making tiny desserts. No matter what it is, making it into tiny, single serves always makes it better in my opinion. I also love making lots of desserts, so making them tiny means more people can have more variety. Whenever I have people around for a party or just for dinner I usually crack out as many teeny desserts as I can.

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Recently, I bought a set of teeny tart pans and just could not wait for the chance to use them. So when I invited Cam’s parents around for dinner one night I leapt at the chance to bake these.

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Butternut Pumpkin Pie

This was the post I was going to bring to you last week, but then I got really sick and haven’t been anywhere near my computer since the last post. So if you need a pumpkin puree recipe for the pumpkin cupcakes, you’ll find the follow up to that here.

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While I making mountains of pumpkin puree and throwing them in desserts for the first time ever, I knew I couldn’t escape the pumpkin fest without baking pumpkin pie. This seemingly staple American dessert is practically non-existent here. Any time I’ve told an American friend I’ve never eaten pumpkin pie, I’ve received a reaction more akin to what I’d expect if I’d just confessed to being a centaur. Cam tried one on holiday in Canada some 8 years ago, loved it, and occasionally asks me to make one for him. I suppose it was about time I finally jumped in to see what all the fuss was about.

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Apple Confit

I’m the kind of person who never read recipes first. I’ll be flicking through a cook book, see a picture of something that looks good, quickly browse the ingredients and if I have most of them get started straight away. If it’s a standard thing I’ll have trouble even following the recipe, I’ll just use the quantities and the general order of ingredients as a guide.

About three years ago I saw this recipe for apple confit and needed to make it. After dinner was done and people were washing up I started on this recipe. It obviously wasn’t a standard thing so I followed the recipe as I went along. I put the confit in the oven and referred to the next step to see what I had to do once it was out of the oven. Then I saw it: “Refrigerate overnight until firm”.

Oops.

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I announced we were eating it warm, unfinished and accompanied and resolved to return to it properly prepared one day. One day took quite a while to come around again. But when it did, I was prepared this time.

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Jelly Slice

When we’re doing the grocery shopping, we’ll inevitable turn down the aisle with all the jellies. Next to all the various types of jellies is a shelf full of box-mix chilled desserts, amongst them a packet for jelly slice. Without fail, every single time Cameron will ‘notice it’ and mumble some variation of ‘mmm, jelly slice’. This is always a not-so-subtle hint towards me that next time I’m thinking of making a dessert, I should make jelly slice. Or even if I’m not thinking of making dessert, I should make jelly slice. Or basically that jelly slice should spontaneously happen pronto. So I decided to surprise him with a batch one weekend.

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Jelly slice isn’t something that was a part of my childhood, or even adulthood, but it was very much a part of Cam’s. It was a dessert his Oma used to make for them all, and has continued on to be one of his favourite things. I was yet to try it for myself, so it seemed like as good a time as any to see what all the fuss was about.

Jelly slice is a tri-layered Australian dessert. It consists of a biscuit base, a cream, custard or cheesecake centre, and a layer of jelly on top. It’s delicious and incredibly simple to make.

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Lolly Bag Cake

I often get told from friends and family, and sometimes even people I don’t know, that I should go on MasterChef. I kind of imagine that this is how people with voices like tortured cats end up on Australian Idol or X-Factor and end up embarrassing the hell out of themselves: well meaning people want you to follow your hobby to wonderful goals, but it takes more than a passion for singing or food to make the grade. I’m okay at baking, but I don’t have the skills in a lot of mediums necessary to avoid total annihilation. I’m also insanely indecisive, slow, messy and I always think I know better than the recipe. Knowing me, I’d be an hour into the challenge and still standing in the pantry trying to work out what to cook.

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But there is one thing that makes me entertain the idea for a moment: pressure tests. These contestants get to not only meet, but be mentored by the most accomplished pastry chefs in the world. They then get to attempt these wonderful recipes with every ingredient and tool right there at their disposal in a professional kitchen. I always watch those episodes with the deepest sense of longing. I’d jump at the chance to get to create all those stunning desserts that are practically impossible to make at home.

This year, one of the first such pressure tests was provided by Bernard Chu, an accomplished Melbournian pastry chef of LuxBite. It was Kids Week on MasterChef, and he bought in a cake that perfectly fit this bill: his Lolly Bag cake. This layered beauty was the perfect nostalgia trip of many of the lollies we grew up with as kids. As soon as I saw it, I knew I just had to make it.

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I’ve had moments like this after many Pressure Tests or other dessert challenges. The recipe goes up on the MasterChef website, I go to look at it and quickly become dismayed by the ingredient list. Or the required equipment. Or the cost. Or all three at once. I almost had that same moment while reading through this recipe and doing the maths. But no, I finally decided, I was not going to be defeated by it. I was going to save it up for a special occasion and tackle this beast of sugary goodness.

I don’t know if I wanted to bake it or taste it more. Mostly I was skeptical that all those flavours could go together and not confuse the palatte, so I had to try it. I suppose I could have made the trip to LuxBite and just paid $7.50 for a slice, but that’s just not my style.

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The post that is going to follow is going to be enormous, I should warn you. As you may have guessed from all those layers, it’s a long and involved multi-step process. It will look intimidating, but when you break it down you’ll find it’s really quite easy. It’s a relatively technical cake, though not the worst. Having experience with things like making sugar syrups, whipping meringue to perfect soft peak, making ganache and baking sponges will help a lot. If you’ve never done any of these things you may want to have a play around with individual components in easier desserts before taking on the whole lolly bag cake.

I made a number of changes to the recipe to make it home-kitchen friendly, as well as a few other preference changes. This is as specialty-equipment free as possible, but you will want a candy thermometer and a stick blender at the very least. You will also need enough freezer space to freeze at least one layer at a time, preferably enough for the whole cake to sit in later. I’ve documented every step along the way to give you a visual guide of what bits and pieces are supposed to look like and will be providing plenty of anecdotes in the hope of guiding even the most beginner of bakers through this challenge. So hit the jump to read all about it!

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Crêpes Dentelles [Pailleté Feuilletine]

Pailleté feuilletine is a common ingredient in a lot of chef-ey recipes. All it is is crushed up pieces of crêpes dentelles, or lacey crêpes. The crêpes themselves are more like a tuile or a biscuit than the pancake-type dessert I imagine when I hear ‘crêpes’. These incredibly thin layers of sweet, caremelised crêpe are rolled up into a cigar shape, either with an opening large enough for a filling or no.

Cakecrumbs' Crepes Dentelles

I needed pailleté feuilletine for a cake I’m making soon, a cake with a massive list of obscure ingredients. I’ve resorted to making as many of the ingredients on my list as I can, both to cut costs and because it’s good fun.

In many places, crêpes dentelles, or the crushed form of them, are not difficult to find. But here in Australia, they are fairly obscure. It’s an item found almost exclusively in specialty food shops and is certainly not cheap for what you get. Making it at home was not only preferable for my hip pocket, but it produces a beautiful dessert along the way.

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