Panna Cotta

On a fairly regular basis I’ll ask my partner for ideas of things to make for him. I tend to ask hoping for some super complex brilliant idea of a dessert he’s wanted for ages but has been some unattainable challenge of epic proportions. But usually, he just wants custard. So I tend to ignore that and make something else anyway. I guess what I’m really asking is, “What do you want that I want you to want?”

Ever since we started going out and I started cooking for him and asking him for ideas he’s asked me for panna cotta. I usually put it off due to its perceived ease. 6 years later, I thought it was about time I finally obliged.

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 One morning before we headed off to the football I decided to whip up a quick batch of it. I kept it a surprise and wouldn’t tell him what I was making when he asked me. I was almost finished. I strained the mixture into a jug, left it to rest on the sink and turned away to find a safe place to rest the still hot pot it had cooked in. That’s when I heard it. The thud of the unattended jug falling into my sink. I turned in time to see almost the entirety of the mixture swirl down the drain.

Maybe it was trying to tell me something.

There was enough left for a small serving, so I dejectedly poured it into a mould and gave it to him for dessert. He reported that it was the best panna cotta he’d ever tasted. I don’t know if that made it better or worse.

Take two happened a couple of weeks ago. Delicious, but it didn’t end up perfect and pretty like I wanted. So this weekend I embarked on take three. That’s what I get for sneering at this simple dessert. And I suppose the triple batch of panna cotta in the last month is exactly what Cam deserved for waiting so long.

But don’t be fooled by my dose of karma. This is an incredibly simple dessert, and the result is ever so rewarding.

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Strawberry and Nutella Mini-Calzones

There was this one restaurant in the city my boyfriend and I used to frequent. They had gorgeous meals for cheap prices and we always had a positive experience there. Amongst our favourite meals were these delicious calzones, and enormous ones at that. They were the size of half a dinner plate and choc full of filling. The savoury calzones were delicious, but the dessert ones even more so. We'd often order the strawberry and chocolate calzone to share, because imagining we could get through one alone was madness.

Some time ago we had an event in the city so decided to go back to this place for dinner and were devastated to find it was no longer there. They have other branches around, but our experiences there were… well, we'll just say they were nothing like their city counterpart. We've missed their meals like crazy, and their strawberry calzone was definitely one on the most pined after list.

Last week, while planning the meal for the night, I had a craving for it when it finally occurred to me: It's just a calzone. How hard could it be to replicate?

The answer is not very hard at all…

Checkered Berry Parfait

And the berry madness continued. 8.25 kg of strawberries required active searching for uses for them. A nice change, considering I'm usually I'm trying to hold back from devouring a whole punnet at once. The first thing that came to mind was this dessert. It's extremely berry hungry so it fit the bill nicely. It's something I've made a few times before, and posted the first time I tried it, but I've since been playing and perfecting this recipe so it was time to revisit it.

The beauty of this recipe is that it works with any berry you like. If the effort involved seems too much, you don't even have to make it chequered. You could marble it, or only make one flavour and freeze it inside a bar tin. It's completely open to interpretation.

I chose strawberries and blackberries…

Home-made Strawberry Jam

I have to admit to not having had a desire to make jam before. It requires a lot more fresh fruit than my heart, or my budget, can take. I kinda feel like I'd rather just eat the fruit. Perhaps this has got to do with the fact that I'm not a great fan of jam. We never had it in the house growing up. It's only my boyfriend's love of this breakfast condiment that has me trying and slowly acquiring a taste for it. But with all that said, I'd never had home made jam before.

This growing season, Australian farmers had a great yield. But due to all the supermarkets refusing to lower their prices to meet increased supply, they left them as normal and demand remained the same [and many farmers ended up having to throw away perfectly good fruit they couldn't sell]. It's one good reason why I don't get my fruit at the supermarket, instead I prefer to support local fruit shops. My local fruit shop was happy to adjust their prices, and in return we had a summer of budget fruit. They were constantly having sales to move large amounts of stock, but my jaw almost hit the floor when I saw them selling trays of 15 x 250g punnets of strawberries for $8. When I returned two weeks later and found 18 punnets for $5 I almost fainted. A far cry from the $3 a punnet the supermarkets were still selling them for.

Strawberries are one of my absolute favourite fruits, so I had no qualms using up over 8 kilos of them over the month. They featured in desserts and on them. We ate them with a fruit platter or with chocolate sauce for a bit of a treat. We had weeks of fresh strawberry smoothies or an occasional thick shake.

It also gave me chance to finally see what all this fuss over home made jam was about.

I have to admit to being a convert…

Pavlova Wreath

In my last blog, I mentioned the profound effect the deviantART community has had on my culinary art. One of the most significant impacts has been on the photography of it. Photos were always just snapshots of my food meant to illustrate my blog and my recipes therein. The amazing food photographers over on dA, especially those submitting their work to the same groups as myself, inspired me to want to make the photography art in of itself.

Some time ago, I bought a book on food photography. It soon became obvious to me how little of what I learned I could put into practise with my point and shoot camera. So, right after Christmas, I decided to invest in a DSLR. I'm absolutely loving it and it is definitely one of my greatest investments. Every time I take it with me on a bushwalk, or on a bike ride with my dog, or take photographs of food with it, I am learning something new.

This pavlova wreath was essentially the first photographs I took with my new camera, aside from a few random ones prior when trying to work out how to make the shutter work. These photographs are mostly me not understanding how to work my camera ("how do you photo?"). It's such a steep learning curve, but one I am excited about experiencing.

As a baker, I get asked a lot what my favourite dessert is. Because I enjoy making the complex, most people seem to expect an interesting answer. Some intricate dessert, something complex feat of skill and beauty that is the epitome of perfection on a plate.

It's much more simple than that.

Pavlova

A crisp meringue with a soft, marshmallowy interior. Topped with fresh cream and fruit, I would eat it every day without ever getting sick of it. Most of my favourite desserts, in fact, include fresh fruit. You just can't beat the perfection created by nature in the form of fruit.

Pavlova is a staple at many celebrations in Australia and New Zealand. Such a staple, in fact, that most of us near faint from shock when those from other countries declare they've never heard of it!

If you’re one of these people, it’s time to amend that…

12 Days of Christmas :: 12 Pudding Truffles

This final instalment of the 12 Days blog series is another creation I make most years. I usually make many different kinds of truffles for Christmas and put a few aside to dress up as mini puddings. This year I'm not making a truffle tree, so rather than grabbing a few choice spares, I chose a cake recipe especially for the occasion. 

We don't really like the traditional steamed puddings in our household. One we do like, however, is the untraditional chocolate and raspberry version. These truffles are made from chocolate and strawberry cupcakes to represent our ideal steamed pudding. 

Lots more under the cut…

12 Days of Christmas :: 8 Santa Hat Caramel Cups

Santa hats are one of the most iconic scenes at Christmas time. Whether it's from a Christmas graphic in a shop wiondow or your cousin's choice of head gear at the family feast, we see them everywhere throughout December. Here in Australia, we celebrate Christmas in summer, so Christmas feasts typically involve lots of summer fruit. Strawberries are amongst my favourite and they will always adorn the pavlova and anything else I can justify adding them on to. Along with strawberries, white chocolate is another familiar flavour amongst the desserts. So I figured, why not combine all three?

This dessert is a new take on an old favourite. 
Santa Claus is coming to town…