Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mocha Mousse & Caramelized Oranges

When I was younger I’d take the cut half of an orange and dip it straight into the sugar bowl. I assume mum wasn’t watching at the time although, given my sweet tooth, it may have been something she encouraged.

I was tempted to do a similar thing with our latest crop of oranges just to sweeten them up a little.  They are just a tiny bit tart to eat au naturel.   

A quick flick through an old cookbook and I came up with these retro caramelized oranges – a little sticky syrup to sugarcoat the citrus.

From there it wasn’t too hard to think of a chocolate match – or in this case chocolate and coffee – for a winning combination.  Oh, and did I mention there’s also lemon liqueur, for a little extra citrus kick?  This mousse really has a lot going for it. 

The caramel sauce turned out less sticky than it was originally.  I am going to suggest that this was the result of it mingling overnight with the juice from the oranges and not another unsuccessful attempt at a toffee sauce by me.  It didn't matter, the rich, dark mocha mousse was heaven.

This will be my entry to
Sweet New Zealand hosted this month by the talented Nicola who has a wonderful blog at Homegrown Kitchen.

Mocha mousse & caramelized oranges

Makes about 6-8 serves

175g (6oz) dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa
2 tbsp strong black coffee
4 eggs, separated
1 tbsp Limoncello or Cointreau liqueur

Mocha Mousse

Break chocolate into pieces and place the chocolate and coffee in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Do not let the water touch the base of the bowl.  Heat gently until the chocolate melts, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.

Beat the egg yolks and gradually stir into the chocolate mixture.  Add the liqueur and stir to combine.

In a clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff with an electric mixer. Now, using a metal spoon, fold a tablespoon of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen it.  Gently fold in the rest of the chocolate mix into the egg whites until thoroughly combined. Be patient, it needs gentle folding and cutting movements to retain all the air, which makes the mousse light.

Spoon into individual ramekins or glasses and chill in the fridge for several hours, preferably overnight.

Serve with the sticky oranges on the side or on top and some whipped cream.

Caramelized oranges

4 oranges
115g sugar
150ml water

Using a sharp knife, peel and remove the pith of the orange, keeping the shape intact.  Slice into rounds, remove the pips and set aside.

Place the sugar and half the water in a saucepan and dissolve the sugar slowly over a gentle heat.  Once dissolved, increase the heat and boil until it turns a rich, caramel colour.

Remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour in the remaining water being careful not to splash any of the hot caramel. 

Return the pan to a gentle heat and dissolve the caramel.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool before pouring over the oranges.

Chill in the fridge before serving.

If you don’t want to serve the mousse with the oranges, a chocolate coated coffee bean or two on top finishes it off nicely.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pistachio & Ginger Slice

The kitchen hand is in danger of being fired for failing to follow instructions. He was given precise directions on size when he offered to cut this slice into pieces. I even showed him a photo from a recipe book of the desired shape and size (I’m not being anal, he’s very visual, you know).  Some time later, a baking tin arrived in front of me with a completely different take on what I’d imagined.  Hmmm.  Fortunately for him I was not in possession of a sharp knife.  His reasoning was that they'd been made (by me, I might add) for a group meeting of his camera club and the smaller size would go further and be easier to handle. And because this slice, irresistible as it is, is not for the faint-hearted and should be made for sharing, I’ll let him off – just this once.

Pistachio & Ginger Slice

Makes 20-30 
(depending on who’s cutting)
2 ½ cups standard flour, sifted 

1 cup caster sugar 

2 tsp ground ginger 

1 tsp baking powder 

250g cold butter, chopped

Ginger icing:

150g butter 

¼ cup golden syrup 

1½ tbsp ground ginger 

1½ cups icing sugar, sifted

Pistachio topping:

About ½ cup pistachios, shelled & toasted (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 180C.
Put the flour, sugar, ground ginger and baking powder in a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add the chopped butter and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Press into a 20cm x 30cm tin lined with baking paper.  It will look quite crumbly at this stage but as the butter heats it comes together.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch.

Pistachio topping

While the slice is cooking, toast the pistachios in a dry pan over a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly browned.  Be careful not to let them burn.  Chop into smaller, but not too small, pieces and leave some whole.

Ginger icing

Put the butter, golden syrup and ginger in a saucepan over medium heat and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the butter is melted.
Stir through the sifted icing sugar and pour immediately over the slice. Refrigerate for about half an hour, then sprinkle over the pistachio topping.  Place back in the fridge and leave for about an hour or until the icing is set.
Cut into squares or slices – whatever size you want, I won’t be watching.

Slightly adapted from a basic ginger crunch recipe from Donna Hay

Friday, July 5, 2013

Pear & Walnut Gingerbread Cakes

When someone asked me for a recommendation for a dessert recently this one tripped off my tongue with no hesitation.  Spicy gingerbread, pears and warm butterscotch sauce are just the perfect combination for a winter pudding. I’ve been making this one since I first discovered it in Cuisine magazine seven years ago. 

After passing the recipe on to said friend, I then hankered to bake it myself.  That said, there was no foreseeable need for a large cake in our mini-household of two.  So I fell back on my tried and trusty Plan B – make smaller cakes!  The beauty of this was that those not consumed immediately are ready in the freezer for those days when I can’t resist something sweet with coffee (every day, then?).

The recipe given is for the entire cake and I urge you to make it whole.  The finished cake looks amazing with a circle of halved pears drizzled with butterscotch sauce.

However, if you want to make the smaller cakes, use lightly greased friand or cupcake tins.  I halved the recipe (and used one pear instead of three) and instead of creaming the first portion of butter and sugar to line the tin, I creamed all the butter and sugar (without adding any extra ingredients at this first stage) and dropped in about a teaspoon to line each friand mould. Into each tin, I placed two slices of pear. I omitted the walnut halves completely.  I then added the remaining ingredients (including the walnut pieces) to the creamed butter and sugar and continued as per the recipe stated.  I cooked the cakes for about 20 minutes.  Just test them by pressing lightly on top with your fingertips or inserting a cake skewer in the centre.  The halved recipe made about seven little cakes.

And as for the butterscotch sauce - who could resist it?  Well apparently I could after I failed to make it properly on this occasion.  I think I may have overcooked it as it hardened immediately when it was poured over the pudding.  Resembling wax drips from a candle I was then able to lift it off completely, looking like a toffee-coloured, plastic mould.  Oh well, fortunately the cakes were just divine even without the sauce.

Pear & Walnut Gingerbread Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce

Serves 6-8

210g butter
250g muscovado sugar
3 ripe pears, peeled, halved & cores removed (with a melon baller if you have one)
6 walnut halves
2 eggs
2 tablespoons treacle
250g flour
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp each ground cinnamon and cloves
150ml warm milk

Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Cream 60g of the butter and 90g of the sugar and spread over the base of a 24cm-diameter cake tin.

Place the pear halves, core side down, on top of the creamed butter and sugar. Dot the walnut halves in between the pear halves.

Cream the remaining butter and sugar then beat in the eggs and treacle. Stir in remaining ingredients until well mixed but do not beat. Pour the mixture over the pears and walnuts.

Place in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes or until you can tell the pears are tender when a skewer slides easily through a pear half to the bottom of the tin and the middle of the pudding batter is cooked.

Serve with the hot butterscotch sauce and a dusting of icing sugar.

Butterscotch sauce
240g caster sugar
240g brown sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
250ml cold water
1½ tbsp butter
½ tsp vanilla essence

Put the sugars, golden syrup and 150ml of the cold water into a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugars and syrup.

Once boiling, stop stirring and boil until a little dropped into a glass of cold water forms a soft ball (5 minutes).

Remove from the heat, add the butter, the remaining water and vanilla and mix well, but do not beat.

Cool. It will become quite hard and crystallize once cold.

Just before serving, bring to the boil to melt and dissolve any sugar crystals.

Recipe from Ray McVinnie
Cuisine magazine Issue 111, July 2005