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Roasted Figs


(serves 4)
The consumption of fresh figs has diminished from ancient times because of their short shelf life. Neverthelsss they are a prize to be treasured in the kitchen because of their unique natural sweetness. This simple recipe cooks figs just enough to soften them slightly while allowing them to retain their natural flavour. You will find this light dessert perfect as a pre-dessert, or even as a palate cleanser when served cold.

Ingredients

  1. Fresh Figs (4)
  2. Marscapone (80g)
  3. Honey (4t)
  4. Cinnamon powder

Preparation

  1. Almost quarter your figs, leaving just a little at the base to hold the fuit together.
  2. Using a tissue, lubricate the tray of your toaster oven with 1t of oil to prevent sticking. Then arrange your quatered figs on the tray (you may use a regular oven with grill as well if you don’t have a toaster oven, or if you are making multiples of 4).
  3. Drizzle 1t of honey onto each fig.
  4. Arrange a dollop of marscapone onto the centre of each fig using two teaspoons and sprinkle a generous amount of cinnamon on the marscapone.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Before it hardens, spoon the caramelized honey over each of your figs as soon as you take it out of the toatser oven.
  7. Serve either hot or cold.

Notes

  • Even if your figs fall apart, do not dispair, you can reassemble them as the joint is covered by the marscapone.
  • If you are using the figs as a side to another dessert, you can bake them as halves instead of quarters for easier handling.
  • Did you know the fig is actually a flower and not a fruit?
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Posted by on June 16, 2010 in Desserts, Recipe

 

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Chocolate Mousse


(serves 4)
Chocolate Mousse was one of the first desserts I learnt to make. It is a perrenial favourite that also happens to be fairly easy to prepare, especially if you skip the eggs like me. If you only want to know how to make one dessert, this should be the one. Serve this chocoholic’s delight by itself, with some dried or fresh fruits mixed in, or as part of a more complex dessert.
 
Ingredients
  1. Whipping Cream (300ml)
  2. High cocao content Chocolate (100g)
  3. Sugar (3T)
  4. Rum (1T)

Preparation

  1. Put 80ml of the cream in a small bowl and heat this up in a microwave until it is hot but not boiling (30 seconds?). You can also heat manually in a saucepan if you don’t have a microwave.
  2. Break your chocolate into small blocks and place these in the hot cream. Arrange it such that every piece is covered by the cream. Leave to soften without intervention for about 10 minutes.
  3. In the meanwhile, whip the remaining (it must be cold) cream in a mixing bowl until it forms stiff peaks.
  4. When all the chocolate has softened, add 1T of the whipped cream to help keep it liquid. Sprinkle in 2T of sugar, 1T rum and a pinch of salt (or few drops of soya sauce) and mix well with a spoon until you get an even soft paste.
  5. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate paste in stages. Do not beat as this will cause some of the air in the mousse to escape, reducing is stiffness.
  6. Refrigerate uncovered for a few hours after spooning into the appropriate serving containers. If you plan to keep it ovenight, you’ll have to cover the tops with cling film.
  7. I prefer to use wine glasses as they are transparent, and one way to spoon it in without dirtying the sides of the glass is to use 2 tea spoons like a clamp to move the mousse in past the mouth. Then using one spoon, push the dollop of mousse off the other spoon into the bottom of the glass.

Notes

  • It is best to buy baking chocolate bars which contains 70-80% cocoa solids. This will be marked in big numbers on the package if it’s the right type of chocolate. These bars also typically subdivide into individual blocks of 10g each for easy scaling.
  • A number of different things can be added to your chocolate mousse for variety, for example; raisins soaked in rum, berries, chocolate chips. Granola or crushed kit-kat can be used as a base. Some people also like to sprinkle cocao powder, chocolate shavings or rice, or sesame seeds over the surface for a better finish.
  • Some European chef will inevitably say, Sacré bleu he skipped the eggs! Well I like my chocolate mousse simple and heavy. If it were savoury mousse, then eggs would be in order.  But if you really insist, replace half the cream with 2 eggs, add the yolks to the chocolate mix, whip the whites and fold these into the mousse in the same way as for the whipped cream.
 
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Posted by on June 6, 2010 in Desserts, French, Recipe

 

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Red Bean and Tofu Pudding


(serves 6)
This pudding it is somewhat exotic as compared to its jello and milk pudding cousins, but is nevertheless a very simple to make dessert. The problem with using tofu for a dessert is….. well, it has no taste. But when you use tofu together with some red beans that have been stewed in syrup to form azuki paste, the result is a splendid marbled oriental style pudding.
 
Ingredients
  1. Soft Tofu (400g)
  2. Canned Azuki Bean Paste (400g)
  3. Gelatine Powder (3t)
  4. Cream (0.5 cup)

Preparation

  1. Put to boil 1 cup of water in a pot.
  2. Pour away the water the tofu is soaked in and place the tofu into the boiling water. Stir till the tofu is broken up.
  3. Turn off the heat and sprinkle in 3t of gelatine powder (which is just a type of jello powder which has no flavour) while stirring. Also add half of your azuki beans and half of your cream.
  4. Blend the whole thing lightly with a hand blender in the pot itself. I’m assuming it has an anti-splash cowl, or else do the blending in a food processor.
  5. Refrigerate uncovered for a few hours after pouring into the appropriate moulding container. If you are refrigerating overnight, after the puding has solidified, cover with plastic film pushed right down to touch the pudding.
  6. You have 3 options for containers. One way is to use a single big casserole after which you dice the pudding into cubes. Or you can choose single person-sized containers which you can serve as is, or with the pudding flipped onto a plate. To get them out of a container, suspend the container in warm water for half a minute and the pudding should plop right out.
  7. Serve topped with the remaining half of the azuki beans. Spoon on the leftover(unwhipped) cream as a final touch.  

Notes

  • Do you have no idea what Azuki Bean Paste is? Look here.
  • Please note, there are two types of plain tofu. The soft type (sometimes labled silken tofu) is what you want for this recipe. It breaks up smoothly. The hard type (which is a misnomer since it is still soft) is suitable for things like stir fry, but not this.
  • You can try replacing the cream at the end with ice cream, but retain the bean paste. Have the pudding cubed for best results in this case.
 
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Posted by on May 10, 2010 in Desserts, Japanese, Recipe

 

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Tarte Tartin


(serves 6)
Tarte tartin (as far as I am able to discern, its pronounced ‘tartan’ like in scottish kilts ) is a perrenial favourite for home dining parties. This is a way of making an open fruit tart where miraculously the fruit doesn’t get dried out in the baking process. It stays moist and juicy from the market, to the kitchen, to the dining table.

Ingredients

  1. Pears (3)
  2. Puff Pastry Sheet (1)
  3. Sugar (3/4 cup)
  4. Cinnamon

Preparation

  1. You can make your tarts in individual portions or in one large pyrex but the first step is always to assemble ovenware of the right surface area to match the puff pastry sheet.
  2. Put 3/4 cup of plain sugar in a pan and under slow heat, stir until the sugar caramelizes. At first, the sugar will yellow a bit and start clumping together, and after about fifteen minutes, you’ll get a deep golden brown molasses. I wouldn’t use a non-stick pan as the sugar gets really hot.
  3. At the point where most of the sugar has turned into molasses (the remainder will caramelize by itself), drizzle it with a large spoon to layer the bottom of your baking container(s). You have to work fast as a bitter taste will set in if you continue to heat the molasses too long but if you turn off the fire, the molasses will quickly thicken to the point where you won’t be able to work it. The molasses will harden immediately as it touches your cold bakeware so don’t harbour any thoughts about adjusting it later. Control the distribution as the caramel leaves the spoon.
  4. Allow the caramel to cool. Take out the puff pastry pack for defrosting and preheat the oven to 180oC (350oF). 
  5. Peel your pears and cut each into symmerical halves. Decore and then proceed to cut the pear into 1/5 inch slices. The slices will seem thick, but they will flatten out when the fruit is cooked. Arrange these over the caramel with about 50% ovelap, like fallen dominoes. Dust with cinamon powder.
  6. Cut your puff pastry such that it is slightly oversized compared to your baking container(s) as there is a bit of shrinkage after baking. Position the puff pastry over the pear and poke a hole in the pastry with a toothpick every 3 square inches so steam can escape.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry has risen and begins to brown. The caramel will also be bubbling  at this time, this is normal. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  8. Next you need to flip your tartes onto the serving dish(es).  First, using a butter knife, make sure the edges are not sticking to the container. Then cover the container(s) with a plate(s) and flip both together. 
  9. If you wish, you can serve you tarte flambe style. Place the finished tarte on the dinning table first. Then heat 1/4 cup of rum in a metal ladel and when the rum is hot tilt the ladle such that a drop spills over the open flame (use a lighter for electric stoves). The entire ladle of rum should come alight. Quickly pour the flaming mixture over the tarte where it will continue to burn for a bit. Voila, you got flambe.

Notes

  • The TT was invented by the Tartin sisters of France when one of them dropped an unbaked pie. They decided to bake the broken pie anyway. It had no crust left so it had to be baked upside down but it turned out better than the other whole pies. And the TT was born…
  • The puff pastry sheet in this recipe is square with each side measuring 9.5 inch (24cm). Remember to adjust accordingly if the sheets you buy are of a different size.
  • You can use apples or bananas instead of pears without any change to the recipe. For bananas, if you want you can cut them a bit thicker and skip the overlap since banana pieces are smaller.
  • There will be some caramel left in the pan at the end and you might wonder how you are going to clean it. Don’t worry, its basically still sugar and melts in plain water after cooling.
 
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Posted by on April 3, 2010 in Desserts, French, Recipe

 

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Tiramisu II, 4 New Flavours


So you already make a killer tiramisu, but as wonderful as it is, its getting a bit monotonous eating the same tiramisu time and again. What can you do? Give your tiramisu new life by making new variations. And so thanks to popular demand from my friends, I give you four new exotic tiramisu flavours: green tea, red bean, sesame and chestnut.

Normally one would consider tiramisu a coffee flavoured dessert. So how can you modify the taste of coffee? Well leave the coffee as a given and think of tiramisu as chocolate flavoured. Once you leave out the chocolate powder, you get room to try something else. What I did is mentally go through the flavours from Japanese ice cream, which tend to be milder, to discover what doesn’t clash with the primary taste of tiramisu. That’s how I ended up with these 4 new  tiramisu dimensions.

Before you move on to the variations, you first need to know how to make the standard tiramisu. Please refer to my Tiramisu Recipe if you haven’t already. Also keep in mind that all quantities stated below assume a 8 serving size, consistant with my ‘base’ recipe. In general, the extra ingredients are added to the mascarpone cream mixture, while various amounts of sugar, honey and cocao powder and left out from the original recipe.

Sesame Flavour
Sesame imparts a nice nutty flavour. As it is a tinge bitter, it goes hand in hand with the taste of coffee. To make a sesame tiramisu, you need about 250g of sesame paste (i.e. sandwhich spread).  You should be able to find this in the peanut butter and jam section of a good supermarket. Its black. Don’t confuse this with the brownish chinese sesame paste, which is used for savoury dishes. Sesame paste is somewhat dry and what you need to do to make it more malleable is mix a quarter cup of expresso into the paste before folding it into your mascarpone cream mixture. The paste is also a bit sweet, so skip the honey, and also skip the two layers of cocao powder. As a final touch, sprinkle the top of your tiramisu with 2 healped T of black sesame seeds (for a bit of finese, grind the seeds using a motar and pestle first). Sesame paste is also used in my Sesame Swirl Puffs recipe.

Red Bean Flavour 
Red Bean paste, also known as Azuki bean paste, is the archetypal Japanese dessert ingredient. It is made by stewing red beans in a sugar syrup. Don’t confuse these with other beans which just happen to be red in colour. Azuki usually comes in small flat cans like the one pictured here. There are two types, the mashed version, which is what you want, and the smooth version that has been sieved to remove the husks. You can tell which type it is by looking at the picture on the can. To flavour your tiramisu, you add about 300g of the paste to your mascarpone cream mixture. The paste is quite sweet, so reduce the sugar by 1T and also skip the honey completely. You should retain the top layer of cocao powder to keep you tiramisu moist, but leave out the inside layer of cocao powder.

Green Tea Flavour
Green tea is a type of tea where the leaves are steamed so that chlorophyl is not oxidized away. Consequently, green tea is less bitter than ‘normal’ tea and gives a light milky minty flavour when used in desserts. For this recipe, you need to use green tea powder, which comes in metallic pouches as shown in the photo. Green tea bags or leaves are not suitable. This flavour is probably the simplest version of the 4 given here, as you need simply add 2T of tea powder to your mascarpone cream mixture to impart the green tea flavour. Also, wherever you are supposed to sprinkle cocao powder, spinkle green tea powder instead.

Chestnut Flavour
Chestnut is another nice ingredient which goes well with tiramisu. The most convenient form of chestnut to use is processed (butter, sugar and sometimes kirsch added) chestnut puree, which is known in culinary circles as Vermicelles after the Swiss/Austrian dessert. It often comes in a toothpaste like tube as pictured here. For a serving size of 8, you’ll need about 200g of chestnut puree, which is the whole tube shown here. Like sesame paste, the chestnut puree is somewhat dry and you need mix some expresso into your puree to make it more liquid before folding it into your mascarpone cream mixture. You may want to skip the honey to reduce sweetness, but otherwise the rest of the standard tiramisu recipe applies.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2010 in Desserts, Italian, Japanese, Recipe

 

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Caramel Custard


(serves 8)
Caramel Custard is a perennial English favourite at the dining table, undeservedly supplanted by its French cousin the creme brulee in recent years. The creamy custard soaked in a bath of liquid caramel is a delectable combination. And the beauty of it… because sugar is melted twice, the resulting caramel syrup maintains its runny consistency at all temperatures, even when the Caramel Custard is served chilled.

Ingredients

  1. Eggs (6)
  2. Milk (800 ml)
  3. Sugar (about 1 cup)
  4. Vanilla essence
  5. Nutmeg 

Preparation

  1. You can make caramel custard in individual portions or in one large pyrex / corningware container but the first step is always to assemble ovenware of the right volume (for the purposes of this recipe, I’ll be assuming you are using individual ramekins). As a guide, your ovenware should be able to hold 1 litre of water.
  2. Put 3/4 cup of plain sugar in a pan. Under slow heat, stir until the sugar caramelizes. At first, the sugar will yellow a bit and start clumping together, and after a while it’ll deepen in colour. I wouldn’t use a non-stick pan as the sugar gets really hot.
  3. At the point where the sugar has turned to medium golden brown, drizzle it with a large spoon to layer the bottom of your ramekins. You have to work fast as a bitter taste (some people including myself prefer this) will set in if you continue to heat the melted sugar too long, but if you turn off the fire, the caramel will cool and quickly thicken to the point where you won’t be able to work it. The caramel will harden immediately as it touches your cold bakeware so don’t harbour any thoughts about adjusting it later. Control the distribution as the caramel leaves the spoon.
  4. There will be some caramel left in the pan at the end and you might wonder how you are going to clean it. Don’t worry, its basically still sugar and melts in plain water after cooling.
  5. Preheat your oven to 140oC (290oF).
  6. Now for the custard, this is comparatively easy. Gently heat 800ml of milk with a sprinkle of nutmeg in a saucepan until there are some small bubbles around the edges. Turn the heat off.
  7. In a mixing bowl, beat 4 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks with 3T of sugar and then stir in the milk slowly to avoid cooking the eggs. Add 2t of vanilla essence. Put the whole mixture through a strainer to remove the strands of albumin from the egg white.
  8. Break off and dispose of any of the hardened caramel on the sides of the ramekins and pour in your custard. Skim off any bubbles.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes or until the custard has just a slight tinge of brown, and then leave in the oven with the heat off for a further 10 minutes (without opening the oven door).
  10. Place in the fridge overnight for the custard to mature to a pudding texture and the flavour of the caramel to work its way into the custard.

Notes

  • If you want to go the extra mile, bake your ramekins in a baking tray with some boiling water and leave the heat on for the last ten minutes where its supposed to be off according to the recipe. This is more troublesome but it’s the classic way of doing it and it will get you the perfect ‘pudding’ look that you see in some cookbooks.    
  • It is customary to serve caramel custard inverted so the smooth caramel stained portion appears on top. Use a butter knife to separate the custard from the sides of the bakeware, place a plate over the ramekin and flip both over.  

 

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2009 in Desserts, English, Recipe

 

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Tiramisu


(serves 8 )
This is your achetypal Italian dessert, made of sinful layers of sponge cake and custard cream. The authentic tiramisu is made with sabayon, which is a light custard made by double boiling egg yolks with
Marsala wine. My version does away with that, allowing you to make your tiramisu trouble free, without a double boiler. In fact there isn’t any cooking involved at all.

 

Ingredients 

  1. Eggs (3)
  2. Expresso (4/5 cup)
  3. Sugar (2T)
  4. Mascarpone (250g)
  5. Whipping Cream (300ml)
  6. Sponge Fingers (18)
  7. Honey (2t)
  8. Dark Rum (6T)
  9. Cocoa powder (4t)

 Preparation

  1. Take the mascarpone out of the fridge a few hours beforehand, so it can warm up and soften.
  2. Ideally you should have on hand a large (8 cup) rectangular Gladware

    Your container should be able to hold a CD with the cover on.

    plastic container, as its breadth matches the length of a sponge finger and besides, this recipe is designed to match its volume. They are deep enough for you to have three layers of sponge, so you save space. They are also air tight, making it easier for you to keep the tiramisu in the fridge without drying it out.

  3. The first thing to make is your cup of expresso. You should make sure that the coffee being used is of the bitter (i.e. not sour) variety. If you don’t have an expresso machine, just use instant coffee, at double the normal concentration. Add 3T of rum to the coffee and allow it to cool.
  4. In a mixing bowl, mix 3 egg yolks (you won’t be using the egg whites), the sugar and anohter 3T of rum. Then mix in the mascarpone and mash all lumps with a large spoon. Mix in 2t honey to complete the mascarpone mix.
  5. Separately beat the cream until it holds stiff peaks and

    You should be able to rest a tablespoon on the cream without it sinking.

    then fold into the mascarpone mix. 

  6. Now to assemble the tiramisu. Line the bottom of your container with a thin layer of the cheese cream. Position expresso soaked sponge fingers atop the cheese cream. You do this by spooning 3t of expresso evenly onto each finger (cover both sides) before positioning it. Put them in immediately as they become too soft to handle very soon after being wet. You should be able to fit in 6 fingers per layer. Spread one third of remaining cheese mixture over the layer of sponge fingers and sift half the cocoa powder over that.

    The best way to sprinkle cocao powder evenly

  7. Add another layer of sponge fingers, again soaked with coffee and top with a second layer of cheese cream but without cocoa. Repeat a third time, ending with a final layer cheese cream on topfollowed by the remaining cocoa powder sifted over the top.
  8. Refrigerate covered overnight before serving. If you need the tiramisu faster, use more coffee and spoon 4t on each sponge finger instead of 3 – this will still require two hours in the fridge before serving. The 2 hour version should not be kept overnight as it will get very wet the next day.  

Notes

  • The easiest way to serve tiramisu is to scoop it into small bowls and redust cocao powder – as shown here.
  • Purists would insist on using Savoiardi brand sponge fingers. I have Tiramisu 600found that while there is a quality difference when the sponge fingers are eaten by themselves, after being soaked in coffee and cream, it no longer matters what brand of fingers you use.
  • Impress your guests with new tiramisu flavours on their second tasting. I have four exciting flavours in my Tiramisu II post.
  •  

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2009 in Desserts, Italian, Recipe

 

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