Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gordon Ramsey's Perfect Creme Brulee

The girls are back at school after the two week school break, the apartment is so quiet you could hear a pin drop. I suddenly feel very tired. Despite this, I have a lot of housework to catch up on, so there’s no time to sit down and feel sorry for myself. These two weeks have been great, I tried my best to keep up with my 13 and 11 year olds during the day, and when they finally get to bed at 9pm, I relax on my couch and ‘attempt’ to catch up with my Hong Kong and Korean serials, I am told however, that 10 minutes later, I am snoring, mouth wide open, and salivating. Hardly adorable looking and much less, sexy.

Ming and I have been married for 15 years this April, so, in case you’re wondering.. I’ve gone past being ‘worried’ about being caught in unattractive situations. There are much worse situations, let me tell you, but we shall not delve into them just yet, after all, I’ve only known you guys for barely six months!

On the 12th of this month, I celebrated my 39th birthday with family and a handful of close friends – it was nice, we had a ten-course banquet dinner at Golden Century, an up-market Chinese restaurant in Northbridge. My favourite dish was the ‘Lobster Noodles in Superior Stock’. Sorry, I had intended to post some photos; unfortunately half of them were blurred for some reason. Maybe it was the bad lighting, or it could be that my hands were shaky from being too hungry!

After the dinner, we came back to my place and had coffee and Birthday cake, a chocolate truffle cake from Francois’- the ONLY cake I ever bother to buy. My Birthday present from Ming and the girls will be arriving shortly, the Nikon SLR- don’t ask me the model, I’m really bad at remembering these things.
Today, I’m posting Gordon Ramsey’s ‘Perfect Crème Brulee’- I made this a couple or so weeks back for dessert when we had some friends visiting from Bali. The only thing I would add is that the dessert needed half an hour in the oven instead of the 10-15 minutes specified. A ‘misprint’ maybe? You be the judge.

Serves 4

300ml double cream
130ml milk
40g vanilla sugar
4 egg yolks
Vanilla sugar to sprinkle for caramel topping

Heat the milk and cream until just about to boil, stirring in I dessertspoon of vanilla sugar and allow to cool. Lightly whisk together the remaining sugar and the yolks. Reheat the cream until about to boil then pour into the egg and sugar and whisk. Strain into a jug and pour into the ramekin dishes.

Fill a large roasting tin half full of boiling water, put the ramekins in and bake at 180C for 10-15 minutes until just set. Allow to cool and place in the fridge until required. Dust the top of the crème brulee with a little vanilla sugar and then use a blowtorch to caramelise the sugar.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mary's Butterballs

We’re into the second and last week of the school holidays, and the girls and I have been making the most of the time we’ve got left to do all the things that we want to do. I have hardly had any blogging time whatsoever this week and the last, but that’s ok, as there’s always next week to catch up. Chloe and I made ‘Mary’s Butterballs’ on Tuesday (Paige is more interested in the eating bit) and we were so happy with the way they turned out that I had to put up a post on it this week, the other posts lined up will just have to wait.

We were at Borders two Sundays ago when I flicked through a copy of Gale Gand’s Chocolate Vanilla. The pictures were oh so yummy, but I was especially mesmerized by ‘Mary’s Butterballs’. I was oogling over them when the girls and Ming declared that it was time to go. A couple of days later, I was on Ivonne's Gorgeous Blog when I thought the picture looked familiar the moment her post appeared on my screen. It was ‘Mary’s Butterballs’! Ivonne had posted a review on Gale Gand’s Chocolate and Vanilla. This was a definitive sign that I should get the book.

I must confess that I did not follow ALL the instructions on the recipe, I of course used Salted Butter for starters and being the impatient baker that I am, I did not chill the dough for “3 hours”, instead, I thought that they were firm enough to handle after an hour and 15 minutes. After rolling the dough into balls, I popped them into the freezer for no longer than 10 minutes instead of the 30 minutes specified.

I encountered one problem though; I couldn’t get the floured mixture to form a dough even after approximately ½ an hour of mixing on medium speed with my Kitchen Aid. I don’t know what went wrong there but the problem was fixed the moment I added 50g of melted butter to the mixture – It transformed the crumb like texture of the mix into a ball of dough!

See how you go with the recipe, and if the flour mixture doesn’t form a dough, you know what to do. These lovely little cookies were very popular, and like Ivonne, I used nutella to sandwich them together. I had a lot of comments from the family about what the cookies looked like though, my loving husband Ming, not the most refined man I know, thought that the cookies looked like little ‘buttocks’ and decided to call them “Carol’s Love Lumps”. Poor Gale, I’m sure she would be absolutely mortified!

Adapted from Gale Gand’s Chocolate and Vanilla
Makes about 40 to 50 cookies

1 cup salted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup raspberry jam or chocolate ganache
2 cups vanilla sugar, for rolling

Chocolate Ganache
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate melted with 1/3 cup heavy cream. (refrigerate until consistency becomes spreadable)

Vanilla Sugar
1 vanilla bean (can be one that was previously used)
2 cups sugar (In an airtight container, bury the vanilla bean in the sugar and let it sit overnight. I did not have any vanilla sugar on hand, I just rolled the cookies in caster sugar)

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Mix in the granulated sugar and when the mixture is well blended add the flour and mix until it forms a dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 3 hours to make it easier to handle. This also helps prevent the balls from flattening out too much when they’re baked.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Taking off pieces of dough with your hands, roll small (3/4 –inch) balls of dough. Chill them for 30 minutes in the freezer, then place them 2 inches apart on cookie sheets to allow for some spreading. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or just until the cookies are firm but not browned. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pans.

Spread the flat face of half of the cooled cookies with the jam or ganache and top with a second cookie to form a little sandwiched ball. The filling will not show very much. Once you’ve sandwiched them all together, bury them in vanilla sugar to coat the entire outside.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Almond Lemon Cake

Does anyone remember watching ‘ Love Actually’? It’s a 2003 production with an all (English)- star cast including Hugh Grant (my favourite actor of all time!) Colin Firth and Emma Thompson. I watched it for the 100th (ok, I exaggerate) time last weekend. It was hilarious! It’s a blockbuster film that explores the ups and downs of relationships in the weeks building up to Christmas.

Boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, fathers and sons and rock stars and managers all combine to make ‘ Love Actually’ not just one story but ten very different ones. I enjoyed it tremendously with my family, even though there were bits where I had to ask the kids to shut their eyes. It was one of the few movies we brought home to watch over the school holidays. Yes, School Holidays are here, YAY!! I just love it when I can spend days on end with my children, it’s a luxury that I indulge in, even though it means putting blogging, housework, and everything else aside for a while.

Oh, if you haven’t watched ‘Love Actually’, watch it, it’s a really worthwhile film. Why, any film with Hugh Grant is a worthwhile film. We watched ‘Music and Lyrics’ ( Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, my favourite actress) recently and it was so funny, at least I thought it was funny even though the reviews weren’t that fab. Well, the girls and I have a heap of activities that we’ve planned for the next two weeks, so if I am a little slow coming by to say hello or answering any questions or e-mails that you might send me, please excuse me.

Today’s recipe of ‘Almond Lemon Cake’ is adapted from the April 2007 issue of Gourmet Traveller,and is inspired by London’s River Café. I love this Golden fragrant Lemon cake with its sandy texture from the addition of Polenta. Ricotta cheese and honey also add interest to the beautiful flavour. This cake is originally served with roasted Plums, and since I’ve never been big on cooked fruit, I have omitted it from the recipe.

Serves 10 (this recipe may be halved)

450g salted butter
450g caster sugar
6 eggs
450g almond meal
225g fine polenta
Finely grated rind of 4 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
400g ricotta
2tbsp honey
Icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 160C. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, and then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the almond meal, and then add polenta, lemon rind and juice. Add the ricotta ad honey and stir until just combined, trying to keep walnut size lumps of ricotta throughout the mixture.

Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased and baking-paper lined 26cm-diameter cake pan. Bake for 1 hour or until golden and a skewer withdraws clean when inserted. Cool completely in the pan before turning out and serving, dusted with icing sugar.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Christmas in July

Do you celebrate Christmas in July? In some parts of Australia and New Zealand where Christmas falls in the summer, and July is one of the coldest months, ‘ Christmas in July’ parties are held to mimic the traditional northern Christmas. Some traditional Christmas activities are difficult to have in the December summertime (such as heavy meals with roasted meats and heavy sweets like Sticky Date pudding) so these may be held in July instead.

In the Unites States, ‘Christmas in July’ is known as ‘Holiday in July’ and is an unofficial holiday exploited as a marketing opportunity. Stores have ‘Christmas in July’ sales. Still, some individuals do choose to celebrate the time themselves typically as an intentionally transparent excuse to have a party. Whether you celebrate Christmas in July or in December is not the important issue, what is important is if you actually know the true meaning of Christmas and it’s significance. See here for answers to these questions.

I personally celebrate Christmas in December, but if you were like me, you wouldn’t wait for Christmas to enjoy ‘Christmassy’ desserts! Warm saucy puddings are the way to go especially when you’re experiencing the height (or what feels like..) of winter. My favourite pudding of all time happens to be Stephanie Alexander’s ‘Sticky Date Pudding’ adapted from this book.

I found that baking the pudding in paper muffin cases were less fiddly when it came to serving and it also used less baking time, 15 minutes to be exact. To be on the safe side, though, do the skewer test as oven temperatures vary. For first timers on this blog, I always use Salted Butter in Baking, if this idea seems too strange to comprehend, go ahead and use the unsalted kind, it WILL matter to me, just make sure I don’t find out about it! HA!HA! (I can almost hear my daughters say, “not funny, mom’” as they look at each other, shifting their eyes from side to side) I reduced the sugar content from 170g to 150g for the pudding, as the toffee sauce will make up for it and more. One very important tip is this: leave the chopped dates to soak in the bicarbonate soda and boiling water for at least twenty minutes, this will guarantee a moist pudding. Good Luck!


170g pitted dates, chopped
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
300 ml boiling water
60g salted butter
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
170g Self- Raising Flour
½ tsp pure vanilla extract


400g brown sugar
1 cup thickened cream
250g salted butter
1 vanilla bean, split

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and line an 18cm square cake tin. Mix the dates and bicarbonate soda; pour the boiling water over and leave to stand. Cream the butter and sugar till light and pale, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold the flour in gently, and then stir in the date mixture and vanilla. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked.

To make the Toffee sauce, bring all the ingredients to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean. Pour a little sauce over the warm pudding and return to the oven for 2-3 minutes for the sauce to soak in. Serve warm with extra sauce and double cream or vanilla ice cream.