Saturday, 29 March 2014

A fig-related mission

“YOU buy figs?! You want? You buy?”
I distinctly recall the calls of broken English bellowing down my driveway, coming from the tiny Italian woman who lived down the street.
This was many years ago now, I was only 18, new to city living and I was quite frightened of the little woman bearing bags of fruit I had no interest in and had never really tasted.
Nowadays I’ve tasted enough figs, both alone and in sweet and savoury dishes, to regret not taking that little old lady up on her offer.
Instead, I find myself pushing the two lads in my road-train-esk pram down the street to knock on the door of the Italian couple down the road who I’ve heard have got the goods.
I’m informed they’re all out. Sigh.
Dejected, I call my dear old Nan and get her on the case.
After a quick dash to the Manning Farmers Market, Nan’s got the gold. I pick up my non-descript brown paper bag and dash home to finally start on the recipe I’ve been dreaming about for the last few weeks (I’ve stalked many fruit and veggie shops and markets during that time).

As suspected, the result was well worth the effort of tracking down some figs! So if you’re lucky enough to have a bountiful fruiting fig tree then do try this recipe and perhaps send some my way...

Fig Frangipane Tart
1 ¼ cups plain flour
120g butter
2 ¼ tablespoons icing sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cold water

2 tablespoons fig jam
115g butter
½ cup raw caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 ¼ cups almond meal
3 tablespoons plain flour
6-8 fresh figs
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Place butter, flour and icing sugar in a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly add water while the food processor is going, stopping when a dough starts to form (you may not need all the water).
Take out the dough and roll on a floured surface, or place baking paper on the bench as I do, and carefully place into a flan or pie dish. Prick with a fork and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
Bake at 160C (180C if not fan forced) for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and brush the pastry case evenly with fig jam. Allow to cool.
For the filling, mix butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time and the vanilla. Add the almond meal and flour and mix until just combined. Spread onto the pastry case and smooth the top.
Cut the figs in half and dip the flesh side in brown sugar and push them (flesh side up) into the tart filling as desired.
Bake tart at 160C (fan forced) for about 40 minutes until lightly golden, then switch the oven off and allow the tart to rest for 10-15 minutes before removing.
Serve with a generous dollop of fresh cream.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

If I said it was difficult, I'd be lion...

Baddum-cha! My attempt at a little joke there, hope you enjoyed it folks.
Now, back on topic to celebrating the big lad's third birthday! He's at the age now where I can simply ask him what he would like his birthday cake to look like. He said a dinosaur. I said, oooh look at this picture of a lion, how about that?! Ooooh yes please Mum!
Yup, I'll admit it - I absolutely showed him a cool picture to change his mind because a dinosaur cake just sounded too fricken hard. The boy got an awesome cake, isn't that all that matters?!
I'm slowly refining my birthday cake and icing recipes, so by the time the lads are teenagers we should have it down to a fine art. Though I think this buttercream icing recipe is a winner, so that's what I'm sharing today.

With regards to creating the lion, it's actually not too hard if you've got a piping bag and a star nozzle. Just work outwards to create the mane. The whiskers are just streaks of white chocolate that I made onto a piece of baking paper and put in the freezer. The eyes are white chocolate buttons with buttercream blobs and the ears were offcuts of cake failure number one...ahem I mean afternoon tea the previous day.

Thanks to The Kitchen Magpie for her awesome recipe, which I've just adjusted slightly.

Buttercream Icing
1 cup of salted butter
3 teaspoons of vanilla
4 cups icing sugar (I use the cane sugar variety)
4-5 tablespoons of cream or whole fat milk

For brown icing:
Add 40-50g dark chocolate (I'm talking the good stuff, at least 70-80%)

For whiter icing:
Add 40-50g white chocolate

In the trust ol' Kitchenaid (or whatever you've got, hopefully for your sake it's something more than elbow grease), whip the butter until it's well and truly whipped. Add the vanilla and whip some more.
Then add your icing sugar and mix on low at first, otherwise it makes a heck of a mess, and whip until beautifully light and fluffy.

If you're making chocolate icing, melt the chocolate and whisk into the buttercream (I did this by hand) until well mixed.

*If you need to put it in the fridge while you duck out to get some more dark chocolate, it's okay, just whisk it by hand to loosen it back up.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Mr Everyday Baker steps up to the plate...

As much as I love cooking up a storm, sometimes I just run out of steam and cannot be bothered. Thankfully, the wonderful Mr Everyday Baker fancies himself as a bit of a gourmand so doesn't mind getting in the kitchen. We have totally different cooking styles. I am messy and the kitchen looks like a bomb when I'm done. He cleans as he goes and is very organised and calculated. Come to think of it, these differences don't just apply to the kitchen...

Anywho, last time I was feeling lacklustre the Mr. stepped up to make a mouth-watering main of Asian-style pork belly and a dessert of chocolate mint mousse. Ya-ha-ha-hum. I'm not sharing the pork belly recipe as we ate it before taking any photos (sorry, but it was delish and I was hangry*), but the dessert really hit the spot and we've since made it again so I managed to get some snaps to share. This is so light and airy, it's perfect to finish a rich meal like pork belly. 

Chocolate Mint Mousse

2 blocks dark mint flavoured chocolate (Lindt is the way to go here)
2/3 cup thickened cream
2 eggs, separated 
2 tablespoons caster sugar

Melt chocolate in microwave in 30 second bursts to avoid burning (there is no coming back from burnt chocolate). Beat the cream to soft peaks, before adding half to the chocolate mix with the egg yolks and stirring. Fold in the remaining cream.
Beat egg whites to soft peaks and add sugar, beating until glossy. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture in two lots, being careful not to lose too much volume.
Spoon into four glasses and refrigerate for three hours or until set.

*Hangry - the best way to describe how I get when I'm ravenous. It's not pretty. Best to keep me well-fed to avoid a scene.