Dark Chocolate and Plum Clafoutis…

 

I’ve been completely addicted to stone fruit recently… not just because they are naturally sweet and succulent.. but they are also very much seasonal which equals very much affordable… something that has been especially important since the move down to Sydney where grocery prices are exorbitant to say the least… luckily I had an excellent excuse to bake this week… worship ministry meeting!

 

 

 

Worship ministry is a ministry in our church that is responsible for the inspiring church services every week… and as corny as it sounds work a little bit like this tasty clafoutis… separately all the ingredients are pretty bland (except maybe the plums and chocolate)… but by bringing them all together using the right processes and finesse… equal a truly remarkable experience!

 

 

Clafoutis is originally a french dish from the Limousin region… traditionally made with dark, sweet cherries (pips left in for added flavour) this twist on a classic takes these beautiful ruby blood plums and transforms them into a concentrated little gem perched in a moussy and rich chocolate pillow… this recipe is so simple to make and yet the results are truly incredible… I expected a light sponge style cake but was surprised to cut into a spongey, thick and warm dessert with the consistency of thick double cream… this ones a keeper so get in quick while the plums are fresh and frugle…

 

Dark Chocolate and Plum Clafoutis
Adapted from: Donna Hay’s Seasons
Serves: 8

Ingredients
1/3 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/3 cup castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup cream
175g dark chocolate, chopped
20g butter
5 blood plums

Method

  1. Place dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix wet ingredients in a jug.
  2. Whisk the wet ingredients in the dry and stir in the dark chocolate.
  3. Melt the butter in an oven proof fry pan then fill with the batter.
  4. Slice the plums in half and top with the plums.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes or until puffed up and cooked through.

Happy Baking!

Daring Bakers Challenger December 2010

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Ok… so maybe I’m a little late with this challenge but I’ve been very busy socializing and enjoying the company of my extended family :D… I’m sure you’ll forgive me for that! I was very excited about this challenge because I very much enjoy baking bread.. and when Adrian’s mum asked if I could make something for the neighbour I was very happy too! So my stollen has gone to a good home and I’m very proud of it!

The idea for the challenge was to make a traditional german Christmas bread a.k.a stollen (pronounced: schto-llen cool huh) and instead of the traditional loaf to make it into this delightful wreath shape… luckily Martha Stewart has a video of how to shape Stollen bread into a festive wreath… and it was incredibly helpful at turning my hideous lump of dough into a delightfully fashioned and famously festive wreath… it’s quite simple really… roll the dough out into a big rectangle… then roll up like a sponge roll.. grab the ends and moosh them together (in a fair more delicate manner than I did please)… then after its left to rise use some kitchen scissors to cut little snips all around and gently tug them out to create an unusual ring shape that will come out of the oven smelling and looking like Christmas!!

Dust with icing sugar and a festive bow and voila… a perfect (post) Christmas gift… Unfortunately, I didn’t get to taste the finished product because I think it would have been slightly uncouth to pass on a half scoffed stollen… but it doesn’t matter! That’s what Christmas is about! Sharing! I hope you shared a wonderful Christmas and some wonderful or not so wonderful (it doesn’t really matter) food… with you family and friends and those who are important to you! I just wish Christmas came more than once a year so I could see my family a whole lot more…

Happy Baking!

Ingredients:

¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) (22 ml) (14 grams) (1/2 oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) milk
10 tablespoons (150 ml) (140 grams) unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
5½ cups (1320 ml) (27 ozs) (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour (Measure flour first – then sift- plus extra for dusting)
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gms) sugar
¾ teaspoon (3 ¾ ml) (4 ½ grams) salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 grams) cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (very good) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract or orange extract
1¾ cup mixed fruit
3 tablespoons (45ml) rum or 1 tsp rum extract
12 red glacé cherries (roughly chopped) for the color and the taste. (optional)
1 cup (240 ml) (3 ½ ozs) (100 grams) flaked almonds
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath

Method:

1. Soak the mixed fruit: In a small bowl, soak the mixed fruit in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside.
2. Pour ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.
3. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) butter over medium – low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.
4. Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.
5. In a large mixing bowl (4 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.
6. Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.
7. Add in the soaked mixed fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red!
8. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn’t enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.
9. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
10. Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

Shaping the dough and Baking:
1. Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.
2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
4. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.
5. Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder.
6. Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape.
7. Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough.
8. Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
9. Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.
10. Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

Christmas treats…

 

My favourite thing about Christmas is obviously going to be the food… but I’m not talking about the roast turkey and vegies or even the Christmas pud… I’m talking about all the Christmas themed treats that come into season and into the kitchen generally when the calender ticks over to December… Unfortunately the first part of my December was spent packing boxes… which also meant packing away all my baking trays, rolling pins, mixing bowls and cookie cutters… all essential items for christmas themed treats… as my husband and I sat down amidst the piles of boxes and packing tape at the end of the first day of packing an overwhelming cloud settled over my head at the huge task of moving related logistics ahead… Adrian took one look at my downcast expression and being able to physically see the tension in my shoulders promptly trekked out to the mass of boxes in the storage shed and brought back one of the kitchen boxes… “I think you should bake something..”

 

 

I didn’t need to be told twice! So I unpacked my baking things and decided to get into the festive spirit with this adorable little Christmas cookie trees… that seem week I had bought the star shaped cookie cutters with the intention of making these little treats for our last small group meeting for the year… but as a result of the aforementioned packing stresses they became travel treats instead! I’ve only in the last couple of days had a chance to put them together properly! Aren’t they cute? and super easy… I can’t quite remember the recipe I use but grab your mum or nans typical Christmas cookie recipe or gingerbread recipe (or try this one) and some assorted sized star cutters and you’re good to go…

 

all you need to do is grab a skewer and using the blunt end poke two wholes next to each other in the centre of each sized cookie… stack them up and using a crochet needle or just any large needle that you can thread the ribbon into pull the ribbon through both wholes and tie at the top…. I used a thin ribbon to hold them all together and then made a festive bow with the red and white ribbon and pinned it on top…. but you can make any festive combination you like!

 

Happy Baking!

The Dairy-Free Dinner Party That Was

Just over two weeks ago a friend and myself decided to throw a small dinner party a.k.a gastronomical feast, for our friends. There was however, one tinsy tiny teeny little catch… My friend is dairy intolerant… poor thing… so this three course extravaganza needed to be completely and utterly dairy-free down to the tiniest last morsel or my friend (who shall remain nameless) would have an upset…. digestive system… to put it nicely… So what do you serve at a dairy free dinner party? Good question… we decided to stick to recipes that were ‘naturally’ dairy-free, that is they didn’t contain any dairy substitutes… which proved even more difficult and quite unavoidable, especially when it came to dessert… aaaahhh dessert… now that was an interesting story…

Finishing touches ready for our guests...

A few posts back Bakerella had made these dainty little.. oh so simple… chocolate dessert cups which looked adorable and would be the perfect little holsters for our delicate and dairy-free poached pears… The concept was profound really… you take a whole lot of water balloons and blow them up, dip them in melted chocolate (the very dark 85% stuff with as little dairy as possible), let them cool and then “simply” pop the water balloons and ta-dah a dainty little chocolate cup that just screams stuff me with a poached pear and call me a delightful dairy -free dessert…

So of we went, blowing up our tiny little water balloons and melting our very expensive, good quality chocolate… getting ourselves all set to make our dainty little cups…. maybe we were just too eager or just a little giddy over the cuteness of these little chocolate sweeties… either way neither of us were thinking straight… you see instead of reading the instructions on the Bakerella site we just looked at the pictures (as all good cooks do…) and failed to see the very important step of letting the chocolate cool before popping our teeny little balloons into the chocolate…

…my husband tells me that for some strange and stupid reason, unbeknownst to me… when you take a little ball of air and pop it in some hot melted chocolate… the air expands and our teeny tiny little balloons explode and shower melted chocolate all over the kitchen… all over us.. a heavily cherished John Mayer t-shirt (had to put that one in)… the floor… the walls.. the oven.. the cupboards and even more hilarious… our faces…

Needless to say it was a disaster… you would think then we would step back… have a little think… maybe go back to the website and read the instructions… but no.. “hmmm” we though to ourselves, “I wonder why it did that” (between fits of giggles) “maybe we should try another one?” (let me just add a little side note: at this stage we had already thoroughly cleaned the kitchen of all remnants of chocolate as well as the John Mayer t-shirt)..

..so as the baking pioneers that we were, undefeated we attempted to smother another little balloon in chocolate… this one made it to the baking tray! Success!

Or so we thought…. an explosion of chocolate and yet again my kitchen… face… entire body.. walls, floor, cupboards… and the John Mayer t-shirt… were smothered in itty bitty splashes of very expensive dark chocolate…. this time we didn’t clean up… 6 more explosions later we decided to give it a rest and get on with the rest of the food prep….

It wasn’t until husband came home about 1hr before dinner party begins and suggests maybe.. just maybe.. the water balloons were meant to be filled with water… not air.. and continued to melt the rest of the chocolate and managed to muster up some dainty little chocolate cups for our dinner party (how he got the water out of those balloons and all over the kitchen floor is another story)..

To this day I am still encountering tiny little flecks of chocolate all over my kitchen…

RECIPES:

For starters we got some packet mini crostini bread things…. from the supermarket and topped them with a little tofutti cream cheese (a tasty little tofu based cream cheese), sliced tomato and a basil leaf.. they went down a treat.

Our first course was a roasted red onion tart with a little rocket salad on top… The pastry was just a simple shortcrust pastry substituting the butter with some nuttelex (another nut based spread)… I found the pastry came out a little grainy and flakey.. not sure what went wrong but I’d recommend the butter next time. The onions we roasted with a little oil and some salt and rosemary and leave them for longer than you think so they are nice and caramelised. We popped them in the tart cases and tossed a little rocket with balsamic and oil and piled it on top… for the dairy eaters a bit of shaved parmesan finished it off nicely…

The pasta was a bit of an experiment.. we roasted a little pumpkin and mashed in some salt, goats cheese, and cooked spinach until the flavour and consistency was good..

Pasta is simple… 6 people = 6 eggs + 600g flour… stir it up with your fingers till you have a nice smooth dough and let it rest…

…put through a pasta machine till nice and thin, then shape into ravioli… fill them nice and full and don’t let any air in… if you’re interested I’ll do a longer post on the delightfulness that is fresh pasta making!

We cheated and put a bottle sauce.. but we tossed through a few cherry tomatoes before spooning it over the pasta…

Finally for the pears.. we made a sugar syrup and through in a few cinnamon quills, orange juice and vanilla extract.. we peeled and pulled the core out of the base of the pear and I think they were poaching for about 2 hrs… really yummy! I think next time I might try to do them in a grape juice to get that nice burgundy colour…

Things I Learnt:

– If you heat up air it expands… and if that air is inside a tiny little water balloon.. it pops.

– Dairy free pastry is not impossible… though I wouldn’t recommend it.

– Goats cheese is dairy free and not as goaty as one might think :D..

– There is nothing better than fresh pasta made and shared with friends… and dairy free..

– Baking is for sharing and sharing creates memories…

Bake, share, love.