Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Iced VoVo Cake

January 26th is Australia Day, and here is the easiest, yummiest and very Australian cake for you to make. The Arnott's Iced VoVo biscuit has been around for a long time in Australia, a pretty little plain biscuit topped with pink fondant, a strip of jam down the middle and dessicated coconut. You can read more about its history here. I've always thought it was one of the prettiest biscuits around, although personally I always go for the Tim Tams instead. I was sitting around thinking about what to bake for Australia Day, and the idea for an Iced VoVo cake came to me. A giant, cake version of this iconic biscuit? So simple, yet all those flavours were certain to work well on a cake. And I had all the ingredients in my house.
Sorry these aren't the best photos I've ever taken, it was 7 in the morning before work and a very awkward size and shape for me to shoot! It doesn't really do the cake justice. The cake took me about an hour to make, which is freakin awesome by my standards. And it tastes just like an iced vovo biscuit according to my trusty taste-testers. I still can't get over how easy it was, and the fact that I never thought about making this before! Though I did squirm a bit when I realised that this is something like the fourth pink recipe that I've posted in a row. That's just way too much pink for me.
The cake is a super simple butter cake which requires you to dump everything in a mixing bowl and beat it together until it's smooth then bake it until it's a beautiful, buttery cake. The pink icing was something I improvised with a little, since I didn't think a plain butter icing was close enough to the icing you get on the real biscuits. So I added some melted marshmallows which made the icing a little stiffer and slightly lighter. A stream of jam down the middle and topped off with a ton of coconut. I kinda love the result. Perfect for an Australia Day picnic or barbeque, or for any occasion. The kids will love it. And the adults will too...unless they have issues with coconut...or jam. How can you not love jam??
Iced VoVo Cake
(cake adapted from a simple butter cake recipe, serves 10)
Melted butter, to grease
1 1/2 cups (275g) self-raising flour
1/2 cup (75g) plain flour
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
150g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
2/3 cup (155ml) milk
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

For the topping:
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
125g unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups white or pink marshmallows
Pink food colouring
1/2 cup raspberry or strawberry jam, whisked until smooth
1/2 cup dessicated coconut

Preheat oven to 140°C (285°F). Position a rack on the second lowest shelf of the oven. Brush a 17x27cm rectangular slice/brownie tin with the melted butter to lightly grease. Line base and sides with non-stick baking paper.

Place the self-raising flour, plain flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs and vanilla essence in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric beater to beat on low speed for 30 seconds or until just combined. Increase the speed to high and beat for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is thick and all the butter is incorporated. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack for 30 minutes or until completely cool.
To prepare the icing, remove butter from the fridge 30 mins before starting (i.e. while you are waiting for the cake to cool). Place butter and sifted icing sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add pink food colouring to lightly tint pink. Place marshmallows in a large microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave for about 30 seconds to a minute, enough to cause it to expand and melt the whole way through. (This can also be done in a pan over low heat) Using a spatula, transfer melted marshmallows to the mixing bowl and beat until smooth.

Spread the mixture over the top of the cooled cake in two large strips, leaving a gap in the middle for the jam. Smooth surface of icing with a spatula. Carefully dollop jam along the middle strip of the cake, taking care not to let it overflow down the sides. Sprinkle dessicated coconut over the icing and jam. Can be served immediately or stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Have a Happy Australia Day everyone!
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Raspberry Mini Churros with White Chocolate

These look like very, very burnt churros. They're not. I swear!

They are actually churros that have been tinged a dark pink colour with the addition of raspberry puree. In my head these Spanish doughnuts were going to turn out beautifully golden with a hint of pink. Instead they turned out kinda brown and burnt looking. The raspberry just made them so DARK. But they taste delicious.
I'm not going to lie, I HATE deep-frying. That's why you hardly ever see it on this blog. I have an old electric cooktop which makes it impossible to hold the oil at a constant temperature. I have a useless exhaust so my entire house stinks of oil for a few days. And I am so uncoordinated I usually end up with some wicked blisters from oil spatter. But I've always wanted to try making churros. I LOVE churros. I fell in love with them for the first time at the Queen Victoria Markets in Melbourne. They were piping hot, golden and crunchy with a dusting of icing sugar. But most places where I've had churros since then have been pretty disappointing, very heavy and stodgy. So I finally decided to try making my own.
I tried to make it easier on myself by using a narrow piping tip to make mini churros. After a few tests, I realised that the colour of the batter was going to make any straight-shaped churros look like skinny poos. Not appetising. So I came up with a rather cute idea, I cut out some small squares of baking paper and piped heart-shapes with the batter. Then these were carefully slid into the hot oil and voilà! Heart-shaped churros! Perfect for Valentine's Day. And even though the raspberry puree might make the colour of the churros a bit ugly, you can really taste that lovely raspberry flavour in these doughnuts. And it's perfect paired with a big bowl of melted white chocolate.

If you are weirded out by the flavour/colour, feel free to adapt it to plain churros (replace the puree with 1 cup of water) with melted dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is so sexy after all. I'm not sure if I would ever make this recipe again, though I found it intriguing that it was essentially a recipe for choux pastry, which is then deep fried. My issues were more with getting the oil temperature right, and I'm sure someone out there can make these better than me.
Raspberry Mini-Churros with White Chocolate
(adapted from this recipe, serves 8-10)
1 punnet (150g) raspberries, fresh or frozen (and thawed)
1/4 cup icing sugar
100g unsalted butter
150g (1 cup) plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, lightly whisked
Vegetable oil, to deep-fry
80g (1/2 cup) icing sugar mixture, sifted
200g good-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
250ml (1 cup) milk

Blend raspberries and icing sugar in a food processor or blender until smooth. Strain mixture to remove seeds. Top up puree with water so that there is 1 cup of liquid. Combine liquid and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until butter melts. Remove from heat.

Add the flour and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined and the dough comes away from the side of the saucepan. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes or until cool. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, until well combined. Spoon dough into a piping bag fitted with a 0.5cm-diameter fluted nozzle.
Add enough oil to a large saucepan to reach a depth of 6cm. Heat to 180°C over medium heat (when oil is ready a cube of bread will turn golden brown in 15 seconds). Cut small squares of baking paper, around 5cm x 5cm. Pipe heart shapes of batter on these small squares. Carefully peel back the baking paper while holding it over the oil so that the piped batter gently drops into the hot oil. Take care to not drop it from too high a height and to pull hands back quickly to avoid splashing hot oil on yourself. Deep-fry for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown, four at a time. Use a slotted spoon to transfer churros to a plate lined with paper towel. Dust with icing sugar. Repeat with the remaining dough, reheating oil between batches.

Meanwhile, combine the chocolate and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Arrange churros on a platter and serve while still warm, with chocolate dipping sauce.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lavender & Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream

I've been feeling very girly recently, and that seems to be showing in the recipes I've been coming up with. It's probably no surprise that with the goings-on that I've got lots of smushy happy feelings, and somehow that is translating into lots of pink and shiny baking. So I'm just going to go with it. After all, Valentine's Day isn't too far away! (Although A hates Valentine's Day more than any other day and we never do anything for it)
This recipe came about because I really, really wanted to test out my shiny new ice cream attachment that I was so lucky to receive as a birthday present from my most awesome girlfriends. I also had a bunch of fresh lavender that was kindly hand-picked by my fiancé (which led to an increase in the smushy happy feelings), and a few punnets of very nice looking fresh raspberries which were begging to be used. Surprisingly, all these things came together very well.
For anyone who is wondering, the ice cream attachment for the KitchenAid works great. It's just like any of those low-range ice cream churners, you have to freeze the bowl the day before you use it, and then it just had a churning paddle that you attach to the head. After about 30 minutes on low speed my mixture was like soft-serve, and then I just transferred it to an airtight container and froze it overnight. The result was a creamy, smooth ice-cream, and a lot less effort than having to haul the mixture out of the fridge every few hours to spin it through my food processor, which is what I had to do before I had this. Another reason to hug my KitchenAid.
Now I know that a lot of people are apprehensive about floral flavours in desserts, and I totally understand that. I've had a few lavender desserts which were way too floral, to the point where it felt like you were eating a bucket of potpourri. But if you were looking for a recipe that might change your mind about floral desserts, this might be it. While I find lavender essence and dried lavender way too concentrated in flavour, the fresh lavender flowers work great. Also, you can control the number of flowers you use depending on how subtle you want the flavour to be. It infuses the ice cream with a light hint of lavender, which only hits you right as you put it in your mouth, and the tang of the raspberry swirls helps to cut off the aftertaste. Not everyone who tried this was a big fan, but I thought it was a unique flavour and I can imagine it tasting great with a lemon curd tart or a rhubarb pie. You could replace the raspberry swirls with strawberry, but I thought the raspberry worked great.
Lavender & Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream
(Adapted from this Gourmet Traveller recipe, serves 6-8)
8 egg yolks
140g caster sugar
340ml milk
340ml pouring cream
1/4 bunch fresh lavender (I used about 6-8 flowers)
1 punnet (150g) fresh raspberries, or frozen & thawed
1/4 cup icing sugar

Using an electric mixer, whisk egg yolks and sugar for 2-3 minutes on high speed until pale. Meanwhile, combine milk, cream and lavender in a heavy-based saucepan, bring to the boil over medium heat, then pour over egg yolk mixture, whisking to combine. Transfer to a clean saucepan, then cook over low heat, stirring continuously until mixture coats the back of a spoon. Strain into a bowl placed over ice, then stir occasionally until chilled. Freeze in an ice-cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Prepare the raspberry sauce, puree raspberries in a food processor or blender with icing sugar and then strain to remove the seeds. Chill in the refrigerator and then swirl mixture into the ice cream mixture in a freezer-safe container before freezing the entire mixture. Makes about 1 litre.
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rockpool, The Rocks

It's been very quiet this year on the blog, for many reasons. I've been crazy busy because of the return of family from overseas, the insanity of work deadlines and...a proposal. A very romantic, perfect weekend which involved the re-creation of a first date, before being whisked away to a hotel with a stunning view of the harbour bridge.
And the cherry on top of the weekend; a surprise dinner at Rockpool, a restaurant I have wanted to go to since I was in high school. I kid you not, I remember hearing about the food at Rockpool from my brother and watching Neil Perry talking about food on the Lifestyle channel, and decided back then that I would have to go there whenever I graduated from university. Things didn't quite work out that way and I ended up at Bécasse, and A knows me better than anyone else in the world and knows that I've still always wanted to try Rockpool. And to prove just how well he knows me, he even remembered to bring along my DSLR in case I wanted to take food photos. I think fellow food bloggers will appreciate this part the most :)
Sterling caviar on prawn toast
We start off with something quintessentially decadent; caviar and champagne. I was obviously still in total shock from the entire evening (I had been tricked into thinking I was just having chicken rice at Ginger and Spice with my brother and his wife, and an hour later I was sitting at Rockpool in a fancy dress), so it was only when I was sinking my teeth into the thin layer of crunchy toast covered with silky, salty caviar that I started to really comprehend what was going on and how incredibly lucky I was right in that moment. So much happiness! The toast was served on these adorable measuring spoons which I really wanted for myself. I thought it was rather ironic that Ginger and Spice was where I was told we were going, since they serve traditional prawn toast, and the Rockpool version took it to a whole other level.
Queensland spanner crab with heirloom tomatoes, avocado, celery and lemon verbena
Unfortunately my photographs don't do the food justice at all, but I was too busy enjoying the meal to spend too long getting a good shot of each dish and only took a quick shot of everything. The spanner crab dish was fresh and light, the cool and subtle flavours of the other components of the dish really let the intense flavour of the crab shine through.
Chirashi zushi of kingfish, bonito, prawn and squid
Ugh, I love sashimi so much. Just looking at the dish above had me smiling like a lunatic. There were tiny little cubes of cucumber jelly and a small dollop of kimchi that you can see at the front. You didn't need more than that tiny amount of kimchi because it was packed with spice and flavour. The slivers of fresh seafood were delicate and I wish I could have had more.
Green lip abalone, red braised thirlmere goose, chicken crisp and fine noodles with xo dressing
I totally fell in love with this dish from the first taste. The chicken crisp on top was a perfect, super thin disk on top of everything else, and made a mouth-watering cracking noise as soon as my knife hit it. The noodles were the perfect texture, and the best way to soak up the delicious dressing.
Pan-fried whiting with crisp melanda pork belly, swiss brown and nameko mushrooms, saffron potato fondant
I'm a little devastated that I didn't get a clear shot of this dish, because the consensus on the whole meal from both of us was that this was the highlight. This dish was AMAZING. Every component of the dish was gorgeous on it's own, but they all worked so well together with the perfect contrast of textures and flavours. There were multiple food orgasms. I will never forget how perfectly cooked the whiting was, with a melty piece of pork bellow. Any dish with mushrooms immediately makes it a favourite, and when you cut into the potato fondant the centre was oozing with a creamy saffron sauce. Amazing.
Macleay valley rabbit and sweetbread pie with “laphroaig” whisky sauce
The previous dish was tough act to follow, so I don't think I appreciated this dish as much as I should have. The flavours really packed a punch, though I found the sauce was really rich and quite salty, so I had to get A to help me finish my portion because I could feel myself getting full and I had to make sure I had plenty of room for dessert.
O’Conners angus beef fillet with old skin stir fry, snake beans, soy milk skin and hakka nam yee sauce
The final savoury dish of the night was really interesting. The staff explained that this dish was cooked with old skin (chun pei) which is citrus peel that has been preserved for a really long time. The peel is so strong in flavour that it is sliced super thing and only used sparingly. Trying a bit of the peel on its own was a little too intense, but when you had it with a mouthful of the beef it was great. There was a lovely chunk of angus beef fillet, but I was loving the strips of beef around it that were battered and stir fried until crisp. The nam yee (fermented red bean) sauce was fantastic. I thought this dish was a great marriage between Chinese and Australian cuisine.
Coconut sorbet with coconut jelly and raspberries
Dessert time! I was a little bummed that the famous date tart wasn't on the degustation menu, but I've tried the date tart at Yellow and I could live without it. The first dessert was so pretty, and I could tell straight away I was going to like it. The coconut sorbet was delicate and topped with crystallised kaffir lime (which I LOVED), and the smooth coconut jelly tasted just like young coconut flesh. The raspberries were a great match for all the coconut flavours, giving it a bit of tang. The biscuit crumbs added texture and a lovely toasty flavour.
Baked alaska; pear sorbet and spiced mousse
The final dish, a pear baked alaska, with a layer of spiced mousse and a layer of pear sorbet. There were small chunks of nashi pear and the dish arrived at our table with a small pot of flaming brandy, which the waiter spooned around the rim of our dishes, so the whole thing was surrounded with blue flames for a few seconds. I'm not usually a big fan of baked alaska, since I find the cake on the base is usually way too hard since it has to be frozen. But this one was really enjoyable, the base wasn't too hard and the both the sorbet and spiced mouse were so delicious, we couldn't decide which of the two we preferred. The meal ended with some petit fours and a great cup of coffee as the restaurant emptied out (A got us the latest booking possible for the night). It was the perfect end to a perfect night. The only unpleasant point were the two snooty men who ate next to us for the first half of the meal, who were acting like they were too important to be there and criticising everything. I don't really understand why people go to these amazing restaurants and act like that, because I go there and sit in total awe.

So this was the most expensive meal A and I have ever had together, especially since A got the matching wines. But it was totally worth it, and we were both so satisfied without being ridiculously full (unlike the degustation at Bistro Ortolan where my stomach nearly exploded from the enormous portion sizes). Best weekend ever.

P.S. I will be back with a recipe post in a few days, I PROMISE!

(02) 9252 1888
107 George Street
The Rocks NSW 2000

Dinner Tuesday to Saturday
8 Course Grand Tasting Menu ($195)
Rockpool on Urbanspoon
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