Every so often I’ll invite Cameron’s parents over to my place for dinner, wherein I unleash a three coarse feat upon them. Aside from just enjoying their company, it’s also a little way of saying thanks for everything they do for me in the best way I know how. I also just love cooking for Cam’s immediate family in general because they love such a wide variety of cuisine and will try just about everything, quite unlike my family. This time we moved the dinner to lunch time, as it’s the middle of winter here and the long drive between my place and theirs is less appealing of a night time. So when it came to planning the dessert portion, I started hunting for something that would feel more on the refreshing side. Dessert-induced food comas are just less fun at lunch time.
I immediately decided on something citrus-ey. The rest of the dessert followed from there and focussed largely on taking quite sweet things and balancing them to make them feel much less so.
It’s been quite a long time since I’ve played around with a joconde. I have a terrible habit of getting stuck on one idea: I’ll bake almost nothing but that for weeks, and then forget it ever existed for a year. So when my birthday rolled around and I had the opportunity to make whatever I wanted with no restrictions, I decided it was time to return to this awesome cakey medium.
So far I’ve mostly used decorating combs for making patterns in the joconde paste. I’ve been wanting to use the sponge as more of a canvas for unusual designs. You always see them with uniform designs on the sides, but I wanted something a bit more picturesque. I had a number of food stencils, but all were a bit bland for what I was thinking. I hit up my favourite cake decorating store and started rummaging through the stencils until I finally found something that was more ‘me’.
Earlier this month it was my boyfriend’s 31st birthday. As the recipient of practically all the goodies I bake, it can be hard to come up with something special for his birthday dinner and dessert and/or cake. This is exacerbated by the fact that his idea of special and mine exist on opposite sides of the planet. I like busy and complex multi-layered cakes of ridiculousness with fancy decorations, he likes chessecake. I started quizzing him on things he’d like me to make for him and got nothing except requests to make cakes I’d made for previous birthdays. Unsatisfied with that answer I sent him to rummage through my recipe books for ideas.
He returned with an A4 list of cakes. He’s about as decisive as I am.
They were almost all cheesecakes and tea cakes, save for the bread and butter pudding he’d very subtly circled. I resigned to banishing any idea of spectacular gateaux from my mind and baking him a cheesecake instead (whose birthday is it anyway, right?).
I took a basic baked cheesecake recipe and decided to load it with a few of his favourite things.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
One of the very first things I ever made for Cameron was a peanut butter slice. It was mostly born of a couple of chocolate failures in my early baking days. The chocolate I was working with seized and I didn’t want to waste it, so I whipped it up into some sort of icing. I raided the cupboards for whatever else I had on hand and made a peanut butter slice to go beneath the icing. I thought it was a bit rubbish, but he loved it and regularly nags me for another.
This weekend just gone was Father’s Day in Australia, and we’d planned a gathering with Cam’s immediate family. We had a gorgeous lunch at an Indian restaurant and went to his brother’s place for dessert and chatter. All the ladies usually bring some dessert or munchies along. I was making a mudcake for his dad and figured I should also bring something vegan so his brother and sister-in-law could eat it too. Veganising a basic peanut butter slice seemed an easy way to finally give Cameron the slice he wanted while creating something everyone could enjoy.