Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ruh-roh! It's another Zumbo-fication!

I know, I know. If you read lots of Sydney food blogs you've already read something like this a million times. I don't blame you if you close the window right now! I wasn't even sure if I would bother posting about this, since all the other wonderful food bloggers have already done such a fabulous job reviewing Adriano Zumbo's new collection, 40 Days & Nights in Paris. But I feel compelled to gush about it, just a little. I had yet to experienced anything Zumbo-related until I joined a travelling party of bloggers (organised by the fantastic Reem, thank you so much!) to check out the new collection. All I can say is: I am converted.

Where's Zumbo?

We arrive at the cafe to find a ridiculous amount of desserts laid out just for us. Ohhh it's days like these that I want to give my little blog a hug! Thanks to Reem's organising with the lovely Rachael, they have very kindly given us free reign of the inside seating area of the small cafe and provided us with 4 of every dessert from the new collection for us to photograph, pick, purchase and polish off as we please.

Hello pretties!

I am pleased to realise I tried a lot of the things in the above photo! I was very nervous about what I would/wouldn't be able to eat because of my nut allergy, but I decided to be a little risky and try some things that may have had almond meal in them. I didn't have any sort of reaction at all, so either I was very lucky or I'm not really that allergic! Anyway I will spare you the gory details. Here is a quick summary.

What I got to taste:
I sampled the first three desserts shown below in the cafe. The first, '6/11/81', was mind-blowingly good. The combination of all those different flavours. It was intense but it worked so well. And OMG the crunchy coconut bits. The man knows what he's doing.

'6/11/81' - Milk passion caramel mousse, lime crème, passionfruit marshmallow, coconut crunch & brownie
The rice brulee tart was so pretty, it even tasted pretty. Perfect pastry with a smoky rice pudding interior balanced beautifully with the violet and zesty fruit.

'!'- Smoked rice brulée, violet curd, pate sable with mandarin & ruby grapefruit segments
People seemed scared of the olive oil dessert. I'm never scared of food, though I was a tiny bit apprehensive of the actual olive pieces, not being a huge fan of olives. I am a big fan of olive oil, and this dessert was like an olive oil party in my mouth. I found it intriguing and quite lovely.

'Z' - Olive oil biscuit, olive oil ganache, vanilla candied Kalamata olives, lemon & olive oil crème, vanilla lemon crème legere, jumbo gumbo jelly

The one I that had me at hello was the coke can. One look at it and you start to understand why he turns all the food bloggers into gushing groupies. I mean, look at it! I took this one home with me to enjoy privately hehe, though it barely survived the trip (see below). Yes I did try slurping up the gooey innards and made some very offense gloopy noises, the fizzy disc was really fizzy, and the whole thing was just sensational! I also purchased two others, though I only tasted the 'M' while A snuck off with the cheesecake in the middle of the night. The lemon curd and sable sand of the 'M' were lovely but I think the baked meringue was a touch too crunchy for me. I also enjoyed a mint hot chocolate while I was eating the goodies in the cafe. It was rich and thick, the right amount of sweetness with just a hint of mint.

'Escape from a Columbia Rainforest' - Flourless chocolate sponge, dark chocolate fizzy disc, cherry cola jelly, cherry cola slurp, chocolate sabayon mousse

‘M’ - Baked meringue, crème citron and sable sand

‘Ed Rock the Cradle’ - Milk coffee cheesecake with chocolate cheesecake base, coffee scented caramel crème and Italian meringue

Mint hot chocolate
What I wish I had tasted:
These two looked so yummy and they didn't seem to have nuts in them...and Belle looked like she was in heaven while consuming the 'S'!

‘S’-Tea and passionfruit soaked pears and savarin, lavender saffron mascarpone crème, crumble, raspberry jelly, coconut rehydration pipette

‘X' - Pine nut gianduja mousse, dark chocolate crème, pate feulletage caramelise, sacher sponge

Chocolate counter

What I definitely wasn't allowed to taste :(
Nuts nuts nuts...

‘.....’ - Hazelnut meringue, anzac moisture, mint chocolate disc, vanilla apple tatin chantilly, apple tatin compote, isomalt caramel

Also very nutty - 'P', 'V' & 'W'

Several bumps by some not so polite Balmainians on the trek home led to some chaos in my poor little Zumbo box :( I was almost too scared to open it to look when I got home. Noooooooo....


The desserts are all at a such a high level of gorgeousness that it is almost too painful to damage them by eating them. But you usually forget this initial hesistation once it gets to your tastebuds. So I've been Zumbo-fied and I will definitely be back for more. It was fantastic to meet or catch up with all the lovely bloggers (Reem, Trina, Anita, Lili, Simon, Karen, Belle, Susan, Chris and Tim) and a huge huge thank you to Adriano, Rachael and all the other staff at the cafe for spending the time and effort accommodating us and keeping us company! It was so sweet and truly awesome.

More carnage!

Adriano Zumbo Cafe Chocolate & Patisserie
Shop 5, 308 Darling Street Balmain

(02) 9555 1199

Monday-Friday: 8am to 4pm

Saturday: 8am-5pm

Sunday: 9am-5pm

296 Darling Street Balmain

(02) 9810 7318

Monday-Saturday: 8am to 6pm

Sunday: 8am-4pm
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Saturday, May 30, 2009

CWA Scones for National Scone Day!

EDIT: Go HERE to see a new, improved CWA recipe post!

I didn't mean to inundate this blog with consecutive scone-related posts. But it seems I am going to have to for today. I had other posts scheduled, but then yesterday morning a friend on the bus giggled and showed me an article in the local paper announcing that Saturday 30 May was apparently National Scone Day and the CWA in Eastwood would be celebrating by selling devonshire tea or coffee for $3. I will use any excuse to whip up a batch of scones, and what better excuse than a national day of scone celebration!

It only seemed appropriate that I try a CWA recipe for my scones today. I came across this CWA recipe (though I have no proof this is the real CWA recipe) and I have gotta say, these were the BEST scones I have ever made. The best. I have been trying a whole range of scone recipes from all over the place (which I haven't had a chance to blog about) but I am pretty certain I will be sticking to this recipe from now on.

There were a few worries. The mixture seemed too dry when I added the lower measurement of milk required, so I added the extra half a cup and although it was pretty sticky, it was easy to handle with floured hands. But after the suggested baking time of 12 minutes, I poked into one of the cuts I had made in the dough and it still looked raw and sticky. I had to turn the oven off and leave the scones in there for another 5 minutes. When I took them out after that they were perfection. Before I knew it, I had snarfed down two of them with some raspberry jam.

CWA Scones
(recipe from Epicure)

3 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup cream
1 - 1 & 1/2 cups milk

Go HERE to see a new, improved CWA recipe post!

Sift dry ingredients. Cut in cream and milk with a knife. Work quickly into a dough on a floured bench.
Flatten into about a 1.5cm-high rectangle on a lightly floured or greased scone tray.

Cut into squares with knife or pizza cutter and place on top shelf of very hot oven (220-230 degreesC) for about 10-12 minutes.*

*Times and temperatures may vary according to your oven.
Fluffy fluffy scones!
Don't be scared off by the slightly moist and sticky dough that this recipe makes, as long as you cook it for long enough, these scones are the most wonderfully moist, crumbly and light scones you can make. The use of cream instead of butter gives it richness without it being at all greasy. And its so darn easy! Using a floured pizza cutter to cut the dough rather than making separate scones with a scone cutter seems to help the dough stay light. I barely worked the dough at all and it was very easy to pat out and cut.

The only type of scone I have yet to try is lemonade scones, but the ones I have eaten in the past seem too light and sweet. These are the scones for me. CWA ladies, I bow down to you. I will be enjoying more of these with raspberry jam and cream, Happy National Scone Day everyone!

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tara Tea Room & Other Goodies From the Rocks

I'd just left the MCA and I was in the mood for scones. I am an odd creature. I realise now that my favourite meals are not even proper meals, but the in-between ones. I love brunch, afternoon tea and supper. So after a lovely brunch at La Renaissance, I dragged Asian Gaga to the Tara Tea Room for afternoon tea.
I nearly walk straight past the Tara Tea Room, it is easy to miss in the hustle and bustle of the Rocks Markets. The only thing that I do recognise is the super cute scone clock that they have posted out the front advertising 'the Best Scones in Sydney'. Now that's a big call to make for such a little sign!
Specialty Scones with tea $9.00
We share some speciality scones, which turn out to be date scones and I choose the Irish tea to go with it. The scones smell a little bit of raw flour but they don't taste raw at all. In fact they are wonderfully moist and crumbly. I'm a little bit envious after just having made a batch of date scones which were far drier than these. At $9 these are pretty great.

Date Scones with Raspberry Jam and Cream
You can choose strawberry or raspberry jam and cream or butter to go with your scones. I have to go with the usual raspberry jam and cream. I'm a little unimpressed with the raspberry jam, but it's only a minor complaint. The Irish tea is a great match with the scones, dark and strong.

Cutest. Tea cosy. Ever!
Arghhhh I die a little bit from the cuteness everytime I look at these tea cosies. They are so adorable with the little ladybugs all over them! It makes me want to start knitting just so I can make myself some. I'm surprised no one has run off with one of these.

We have a wander around the Rocks on this beautifully sunny Sydney day, and I manage to pick up a vintage scarf as well as some lovely things from the markets. We are instantly drawn to the window display at the Bakers Oven Cafe because it is piled sky high with all kinds of cakes, cookies and slices.

Even Asian Gaga can't resist, getting herself an Anzac biscuit while I grab a coconut and jam slice for a later snack!

Giant anzac biscuit

Jam & Coconut Slice
I picked up the cutest postcards to stick up in my kitchen from one of the stalls at the Rocks Markets and also a series of prints of a little cartoon couple who fall in love and get old. I love getting things to make my new place feel more like home!

*Note: Tara Tea Room is now known as The Tea Cosy

Tara Tea Room The Tea Cosy
33 George St, The Rocks,
Sydney 2000
Thursdays and Fridays 10am – 4pm
Saturdays and Sundays 9.30am – 5pm
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mandarin & Ginger Cheesecake

What the hell was I thinking doing an upside-down cheesecake? There's absolutely nothing wrong with a right-way-around cheesecake. That is what I was thinking to myself as I was staring at this. The only motivation I had in the beginning was that I was too lazy to make a full size cheesecake and I wanted more biscuit in my cheesecake without having to stab my fork through a hard brick crust at the bottom of a pan.
I adapted this recipe from a plain mandarin cheesecake recipe. I've been dying to use ginger nut biscuits as a cheesecake base and I thought mandarin and ginger would make a nice combination. The actual cheesecake filling is wonderful and matches really well with the ginger nut biscuit case. I just don't think I'd make it upside down again haha. It did make it easier to get a good amount of biscuit with each mouthful of cheesecake, but boy was it messy to eat! I also tried to turn one out of its mould and that was okaayy, but definitely not as good-looking as it was in its cup. So while it was quite pretty to look at, it all seemed kind of pointless in the end!

Ginger & Mandarin Cheesecake
(adapted from Gordon Ramsay's Mandarin Cheesecake)
I'll describe all the components separately and you can choose how to construct it yourself :)

For the cheesecake:
300g mandarin segments (tinned or fresh, peeled and deseeded)
1 tbsp candied ginger, finely chopped
400g cream cheese
2 vanilla pods
100g icing sugar
1 orange, zest only
300ml heavy cream
Drain the mandarin segments and mix together with candied ginger. Set aside (or place at the bottom of your moulds).
Beat the cream cheese in a large bowl. Split the vanilla pods open, scrape out the seeds and mix them into the cream cheese. Sift in the icing sugar and grate in the orange zest. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until you reach soft peaks, then fold it into the cream cheese mixture to combine.
Spread the mixture on top of the biscuit base (or in the individual moulds) and use a palette knife, or the back of a spoon, to level it out. Chill in the freezer for a minimum 5 minutes.* When ready to serve arrange the mandarin segments on top and carefully remove the cheesecake from the tin.
*Note: if you don’t wish to eat the cheesecake immediately you can allow the cream mixture to set in the fridge for half an hour rather than using the freezer.

For the crust:
175g ginger nut biscuits (store bought, or you can make them from scratch like I did)
Approx 1 tbsp melted butter
Lightly grease a 20cm/8" spring-form cake tin with butter if you are constructing a traditional single cheesecake. To make the base, place the biscuits into a food processor and blend to form fine crumbs. Add butter 1 tsp at a time and stir to combine. Take care when adding the butter, the ginger nut biscuits (especially the ones you bake yourself) do not need much butter before they become too oily. I only ended up using about 1/2 a tablespoon. Transfer the mixture into the cake tin (or individual moulds) and press over the tin base, to spread evenly. Place in the freezer for 5 minutes to set.
Whether you construct the normal cheesecake or decide to be a nutbag like me and do an upside down one in individual serves, this cake is really yummy. A has always insisted that mandarins are the most perfect cheesecake fruit. I think I've had enough mandarin cheesecakes to agree with him.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

La Renaissance Patisserie, The Rocks

It was a surprisingly sunny Saturday afternoon and Asian Gaga and I had plans to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. I have been dying to visit the Yayoi Kusama exhibit ever since it opened and Asian Gaga was more than happy to keep me company. Before heading to the MCA we decided to stop for brunch at La Renaissance. I had ham & cheese croissants on the brain!

We are overwhelmed by the myriad of cakes and pastries in the glass display cabinet. Everything looks so pretty and colourful! Eventually we settle on a couple sweet and savoury options.

Cappuccino & mocha
The coffees are pretty and very nice. But I am more interested in tucking into the food first!
Align CenterHam & Cheese Croissant with Creamy Bechamel Sauce
Ohhhhhhhhhhhh my. The ham and cheese croissant was just divine. Both Asian Gaga and I are surprised by how light and moreish the croissant is, we expected it to be so much heavier and richer by the looks of it. There is a perfect amount of creamy sauce, cheese and ham for the flaky and buttery pastry and I could have had a whole one to myself!

Vegetable Provençale Pie
We order this pie in an attempt to balance out the rich cheesiness of the croissant (even though it wasn't really needed in the end) and Asian Gaga also pays the extra 3 dollars for the side of salad. It's one of those instinctual choices that you make when you are trying to trick yourself into thinking you're being healthy ;) The pie is lovely though, the pastry is as light and crispy as the croissant pastry and the vegetable filling is rich and tomatoey with plenty of zucchini and eggplant. The perfect winter brunch pie!

Zulu - Chocolate mousse dome with chocolate sponge and chocolate sauce and chocolate chocolate chocolate!
We are sold on this cake before we even ask what is in it because it looks so darn pretty! The girl at the counter says there is a macaron inside it but all we find inside is chocolate mousse and a rather hard and rich piece of chocolate ganache (I think). There is probably a fair amount of almond meal in most of their cakes but I am starting to get the feeling my allergies are not so bad when it comes to almond meal. The mousse, sponge and sauce are all nice but in combination with the hard chocolate inside it becomes a bit heavy for us.

Larme de Gaugin - Tear-drop shaped cake; light creamy mixed berry mousse, encased in a decorative almond sponge, and topped with glazed mixed berries

I am so mad at myself that I didn't take the plastic wrap off this cake before taking photos of it! The cake was surrounded by the prettiest marbled sponge, which wrapped itself around the yummiest berry mousse. A true celebration of berries! I definitely prefer this light cake to the chocolate one. Interesting that the sponge was almond sponge (obviously I didn't know at the time)...this adds to my doubts about my almond allergies...*gasp* does this mean I might be able to eat macarons one day?!

After all that food we are happy to wander slowly around the MCA and enjoy the installations while burning off our yummy meal. The Yayoi Kusama exhibit was so fantastic, if you haven't seen it yet you must go before it finishes! I particularly enjoyed the Fireflies on the Water installation, even though there was a snarky gallery staff member who wouldn't let us close the door behind us and enjoy the full experience. I was a bit naughty and snuck a photo in the Infinity Mirror Room because we were able to go in there by ourselves :)

The exhibit ends on June 8, go check it out.

La Renaissance Patisserie Française
47 Argyle Street
The Rocks, Sydney
NSW 2000
(02)9241 4878
Seven days: 8am-6pm
La Renaissance Cafe Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Museum of Contemporary Art
140 George Street

The Rocks
Sydney, Australia
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