In Sydney, Christmas falls in the middle of summer; this also happens to be when cherries are at their best. My recipe this week uses dried cherries, which I managed to track down at a local health food store, and pistachios, for their green christmasy colour. This recipe makes a lot of fudge, so it is perfect for sharing and / or giving as home-made gifts to friends and family. I ended up making a double batch so that I would have plenty to go around. I wrapped squares of fudge in clear cello gift wrap then placed them in gift bags and boxes as presents.
With the salt quantity specified below, this is specifically for salt flakes, if you are using regular table salt proceed with caution and only use 1/4 of a teaspoon or less.
What I was cooking this time last year: Raspberry, Goat Cheese and Pistachio Salad
Chocolate Fudge with Cherries and Pistachios
- 75g butter
- 395g tin condensed milk
- 250g brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt flakes
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 220g dark chocolate
- 100g pistachios
- 125g dried cherries
- Cooking oil spray to grease your tin
- Pre-heat the oven on to 180°C.
- Transfer the pistachios to an oven proof dish and roast in the oven for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.
- Line a tray with grease-proof paper and spray with cooking oil.
- Add the butter, condensed milk, vanilla, salt and brown sugar to a saucepan.
- Stir the saucepan of fudge mixture over a medium heat until the butter is melted and the fudge starts to thicken.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir to combine.
- Add the cherries and pistachios to the chocolate fudge and stir to combine.
- Pour the fudge into the lined tray and refrigerate until cool.
- Remove the fudge from the tray and peel off the grease-proof paper.
- Cut the fudge into serving size pieces. Your fudge is ready to serve or wrap for gifts. Enjoy.
What are your favourite christmas flavours? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Some of the first recipes I learnt to perfect were from my mum’s Australian Women’s Weekly recipe card collection. It seems many Aussies have a soft spot for the Australian Women’s Weekly recipe card collection, and many of the recipes have stood the test of time. This caramel slice is always popular.
To create a gluten free version of the slice and ensure none of my guests had to miss out, I used a biscuit crumb base instead of the details prescribed in the original recipe. I blitzed a 200g packet of gluten free biscuits with 100g of softened butter in a food processor, pressed this into the bottom of the lined baking tray and put in the fridge to chill before adding the caramel and chocolate layers.
In Australia, condensed milk currently comes in 400ml cans, I’ve included the 440ml can below as specified in the original recipe, but when I make the slice I just use the readily available 400ml can. Following the current trend for salted caramel, I added a generous pinch of salt to my caramel as it was cooking. The coconut specified refers to desiccated coconut. I also added extra chocolate, increasing to 200g of dark chocolate and 2 tablespoons of cooking oil instead of vegetable shortening for the topping. If you are using cooking oil, I recommend you select a neutral flavoured oil, I used rice bran oil. If you feel so inclined, you could scatter crumbled salt fakes over the top of the chocolate topping as extra decoration.
I recommend you bring your finished slice to room temperature before slicing if you have refrigerated it, otherwise the chocolate topping will be prone to cracking as you chop. The slice is quite rich, I suggest you cut into dainty portions – you can always go back for seconds or thirds if you still have room.
What I was cooking this time last year: Choc Malt Brownies
Carmel Chocolate Slice
* This recipe is the original Caramel Chocolate Slice recipe published by The Australian Women’s Weekly recipe cards.
- 125g butter
- 1 cup coconut
- 1 cup self-raising flour
- 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- Sift flour into bowl, add sugar and coconut, stir until combined.
- Melt butter in pan, add to dry ingredients; mix well.
- Press into greased 28cm x 18cm (11 in x 7 in) lamington tin.
- Bake in moderate oven 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven, spread with prepared Caramel.
- Return to oven for further 10 minutes.
- When cold, spread with Topping.
- Cut into squares when set.
- 440g (14 oz) can condensed milk
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- 30g (1 oz) butter
- Place all ingredients into saucepan, stir over low heat until caramel has thickened, bringing slowly to boil, remove from heat.
- Place 125g (4 oz) chopped dark chocolate and 30g (1 oz) solid white vegetable shortening in saucepan over hot water, stir until melted.
What is your favourite retro recipe? Has this post inspired any new (or old) ideas?
It is Autumn in Sydney still, with a lovely sunny day today but a crisp and cool evening as the sun sets. Apples are in abundance and my inspiration for this post.
One of my favourite cosy, comforting desserts as the temperature drops is apple crumble. I used beautiful green granny smith apples, which are perfect for cooking because they retain some of their texture when cooked. I cook my crumble topping separately because I like the contrast in textures between the soft apples and crunchy crumble topping and want to exaggerate that contrast.
If you happen to have any left-over crumble topping, store in an airtight container and use again next time (or sprinkle on whatever takes your fancy).
Cloves and apples are a classic combination, but because I didn’t want to have to go fishing whole cloves out at the end of the cooking process, and I didn’t have any ground cloves on hand, I used mixed spice instead.
What I was cooking this time last year: Spinach Dal
- 1/2 cup plain flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
- 50g butter
- 125g walnuts
- 4 large granny smith apples
- 50g butter
- 50g brown sugar
- To make the crumble topping, add the oats, flour, brown sugar, butter and mixed spice to your food processor bowl.
- Process until everything is combined.
- Transfer crumble mix to an oven proof dish and add the walnuts. Stir to combine.
- To prepare your baked apples, add the butter, brown sugar and mixed spice to a saucepan.
- Heat oven to 180°C.
- Heat the butter and sugar mixture, stirring, until the butter is melted.
- Take the saucepan off the heat and prepare your apples.
- Peel and core the apples, and slice.
- Add sliced apples to the saucepan and stir to coat in the butter and sugar mixture.
- Spoon the coated apples into 6 individual oven-proof serving dishes or 1 large oven-proof serving dish.
- Add the crumble mixture to a medium shelf in your pre-heated oven, and your apples to a bottom shelf.
- Cook the apples and crumble for 30 minutes, stirring the crumble mixture occasionally to ensure it cooks evenly.
- Remove your apples and crumble mix from the oven.
- Spoon crumble mix on top of your baked apples. Serve with cream, ice-cream, custard or natural yoghurt. Enjoy.
What is your favourite warming dessert? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
I recently consulted a herbalist to help improve my overall health. The recommendations included staying away from chocolate, coca and coffee, and increasing the amount of root vegetables I eat. I must have a real stubborn streak, because as soon as somebody tells me I shouldn’t have something I crave it so much more, so skipping my morning flat white and avoiding chocolate has been hard.
Tracking down carob buttons to take the place of my chocolate consumption has also been hard, even a couple of the health food stores and co-ops I tried don’t stock them. I did eventually manage to track down some carob powder and carob buttons, I think the last time I ate carob buttons was in primary school when they came in a packet of 10 in a twist of grease-proof paper.
To try and satisfy my chocolate cravings and increase my root vegetable intake (it still counts if it is in a cake doesn’t it?), I made a carob and beetroot cake. In the recipe below I’ve included details for a chocolate option for those of you that aren’t being deprived. The cake turned out to be deliciously moist with an extra depth of flavor thanks to the beetroot. When you are checking to see if it is cooked it may still feel a little squidgy, as long as the middle of the cake springs back when you touch it and / or a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean it is cooked. Carob powder is not as strong as coca powder so you need to use a bit more if you are substituting in recipes. You may want to wear plastic gloves when grating the beetroot so that you don’t end up with stained hands. You can use any vegetable oil you like, I used rice bran oil which had a neutral taste and is good for baking. I used edible red glitter to decorate my cake, but feel free to get creative with your decorating.
Chocolate beetroot cake
* This recipe was adapted from a carrot cake recipe in Leiths Baking Bible by Susan Spaull and Fiona Burrell. I have modified and adapted it to come up with the below reincarnation.
- 250ml vegetable oil
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 225g brown sugar
- 200g raw beetroot, grated
- 225g self-raising flour
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 50g coca powder or 80g carob powder
- 200g dark chocolate or carob buttons
- 50g coca powder or 80g carob powder
- 200g icing sugar
- 50g butter
- Heat oven to 180°C.
- Grease 2 x cake tins (I used 20cm round tins).
- In a large bowl, stir together the oil, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and beetroot.
- Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and coca or carob powder into the bowl.
- Mix the dry and wet ingredients until combined.
- Divide the mixture between the 2 tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes or until cooked.
- Remove cakes from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
- To make the icing, sift the icing sugar and coca or carob powder into a heat proof bowl. Add the chocolate or carob buttons and butter to the bowl.
- Place the bowl over a saucepan of hot water so that the bowl is not touching the hot water but is suspended above it.
- Stir the icing mixture occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted and everything is incorporated.
- Remove the icing from the hot water.
- Once the cake is cool, place one cake on your serving plate, add half of the icing to the top of the cake, spreading until almost to the edge and place the other cake on top.
- Use the rest of the icing to ice the top and sides of your double-decker cake.
- Allow the icing to set. Your cake is ready to serve. Enjoy.
What is your favourite chocolate recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Filed under Baking, Beetroot, Cake, Caramel, Carob, Chocolate, Custard, Orange, Recipes, Sweet, Vegetarian
Thanks largely to the Olympics, the world seems to be fascinated with all things British at the moment. In keeping with British mania, I wanted to share with you a British dessert I discovered when I was living in London – let me introduce you to the wonders of Banoffee Pie. Banoffee pie refers to banana toffee or banana caramel pie.
I know that the sound of caramel out of a can is extremely unrefined, but using the pre-made caramel does away with the need to boil a tin of condensed milk for hours to end up with the same result. If you wanted to take even further shortcuts, you could use pre-prepared pastry cases or a biscuit crumb base.
I have added an Australian twist to the recipe by including ground wattle seed, a native Australian spice. Wattle seed provides a flavour profile similar to chocolate and / or coffee and is available from Herbie’s Spices. I’d been looking for an excuse to use my ground wattle seed for a little while and this recipe created the perfect opportunity. If you don’t have ground wattle seed you could substitute 1/2 a teaspoon of ground nutmeg in the pastry.
How many pies you get out of this recipe depends on how big your pie tin(s) are, or you could use a muffin or cupcake pan to create mini pie cases. Any leftover uncooked pastry can be frozen for use at a later date. You may want to prepare the individual components and leave assembly until the last minute to prevent your pastry cases from going soggy.
- 125g butter, softened
- 50g raw sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 teaspoons ground wattle seed
- 1 egg, beaten
- 250g plain flour
- 2 x generous pinch of salt
- 380g can Nestle top’n’fill caramel
- 300ml Cream
- 50g Dark chocolate
- In a food processor mix the butter, flour, a pinch of salt, ground wattle seed and sugar until it resembles fine breadcrumbs [or you could do this by hand by rubbing small cubes of cold butter into the dry ingredients]. Add vanilla and mix to combine.
- Add the beaten egg a little at a time and combine until the mixture just comes together as soft dough. If the mixture is still a little dry after adding the egg, add a little cold water until the mixture just comes together.
- Wrap the pastry in cling film and place in the fridge to rest and chill.
- Once the pastry is chilled, roll batches of it out, and line your greased pastry tin(s).
- Bake pastry in a 180°C oven until crisp. The time will vary depending on what sort of pie tin you are using, but as a guide allow approximately 20 minutes. Allow your pastry cases to cool.
- Transfer the caramel to a bowl. Add 25mls or 1 tablespoon of the cream and a generous pinch of salt. Whip until the caramel is smooth with no lumps.
- Whip the remaining cream in a separate bowl until thick.
- Grate chocolate and add the extra teaspoon of ground wattle seed. Mix to combine the two ingredients.
- Fill your pastry case with slices of banana, add caramel, then whipped cream – sprinkle with the chocolate wattle seed mix. Your pie is ready to serve. Enjoy!
What is your favourite British recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
I might have mentioned this previously, but I have fierce sweet tooth and love desserts. Custard-based desserts rank highly in my favourites.
It is important to cook any baked custard gently at a low temperature or you will end up with something that resembles the texture of scrambled eggs.
If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, you can test what stage your toffee or sauce is up to by placing a small drop of the mixture on a plate, coming in contact with the plate it cools quickly and you can then tell if your mix is going to be a hard toffee or how thick your sauce is going to be. Don’t be tempted to stick a finger into the saucepan to taste or you will end up with a nasty burn.
This recipe idea is a twist on a classic. I have been quite generous with the orange flavour, if you prefer things more subtle, adjust the recipe and only use one orange for the zest and juice, instead of the two listed below.
Orange Crème Caramel
Orange Caramel Sauce
- 150mls of water
- 175g sugar
- juice of 2 oranges
- Generous pinch of salt
- zest of 2 oranges
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 100g sugar
- 600mls cream
- 6 egg yolks
- To infuse the custard mixture, add the cream, orange zest and sugar to a saucepan.
- Split the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds contained inside, and add the pod and seeds to the cream [or add the vanilla essence].
- Gently heat the cream, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot. Don’t allow the mixture to boil.
- Once you start to see some steam coming of the cream turn the heat off and leave it to the side to allow the flavours to infuse.
- Heat oven to 150°C and boil a full kettle.
- To make the sauce add the water, salt and sugar to a saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally.
- Once the sugar has dissolved, continue to cook without stirring until the sugar carmalises and turns a golden colour. If you have a sugar thermometer this is around the soft crack stage or 140°C.
- Add the orange juice to the hot toffee, it will and spit and bubble and the toffee will become quite solid. Stirring, continue to cook until the toffee is dissolved in the orange juice, then let the sauce cook without stirring until it thickens slightly. If you have a sugar thermometer this is around the soft ball stage, or 120°C. Allow the caramel to cool slightly.
- Add the egg yolks to the cooled cream mixture. Mix well.
- Add the caramel sauce to the bottom of 6 ramekin dishes. Swirl the sauce to coat the sides slightly. Place the ramekin in a deep dish that will later become their water bath or bain-marie.
- Strain the custard mixture to remove the zest and vanilla bean, then pour into the ramekin dishes. The custard will float above the caramel sauce, but try to pour gently.
- Place the deep dish with its ramekins in the oven. Pour in the water from the kettle – the water should be hot but not freshly boiled if you are using glass ramekins, because the sudden change in temperature may cause the glass to crack.
- Cook in the oven for approximately 45 minutes or until set. You still want a slight wobble to your custards. Test by giving a ramekins a little shake to see if it does wobble, or you could insert a butter knife slightly into the custard and see if the custard pulls away, if it is too runny it won’t part.
- Remove dish from oven and remove ramekins from the hot water to cool, refrigerate until cold or you are ready to serve.
- To serve, run a knife around the edge of the ramekin to break the seal and make sure the custard doesn’t stick. Place a plate on top of the ramekin then flip the plate & ramekin over. Gently remove the ramekin to unmold the custard with its citrus caramel sauce. Enjoy.
What is your favourite custard recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
I have a fierce sweet-tooth, and in winter a warm pudding is the perfect way to end a meal, especially one drowned in sticky caramel sauce. This is a twist on Sticky Date Pudding, or Sticky Toffee Pudding as it is known in the UK.
It is better to make this pudding using electric beaters or a mix-master rather than a food processor to retain the texture of the apricots and walnuts. If you are lucky enough to have any leftover caramel sauce, it can be used drizzled over ice-cream or other desserts.
Date, Apricot and Walnut Pudding with Caramel Sauce
* This recipe was inspired by a recipe by Jill Dupleix that appeared in a Sydney newspaper many years ago. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.
- 100g dates, pitted and chopped
- 100g dried apricots, chopped
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 250mls water
- 75g butter, softened
- 100g raw sugar
- 2 eggs
- 200g self-raising flour
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 100g crumbled walnuts
- 200g brown sugar
- 300mls cream
- 50g butter
- A generous pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
- Ice-cream or whipped cream, to serve
- Heat oven to 180°C.
- Spray a cupcake / muffin pan thoroughly with cooking oil spray.
- Mix dates, apricots, bicarbonate of soda and water in a small saucepan, heat over low heat, stirring occasionally until the ingredients are heated through – the mix will froth due to bicarbonate of soda.
- Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined. Add the flour and mixed spice and mix until combined.
- Add the date and apricot mixture and approximately 75g of the walnuts [reserving some of the walnuts to sprinkle on the top]. Gently stir to combine.
- Put spoonfuls of the mixture into the muffin pan – the mix should make 12 puddings, depending how large you want them. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining walnuts.
- Place muffins in the oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the puddings spring back when touched in the middle.
- Combine the brown sugar, cream butter, salt, vanilla extract and mixed spice in a pan [I use the pan that had the dates & apricots in it to impart extra flavour into the sauce and save on washing up].
- Bring the sauce ingredients to the boil, stirring, then simmer for 5 minutes.
- Place a warm pudding in a bowl [or zap briefly in the microwave to reheat], add caramel sauce to taste. Accompany with whipped cream or ice-cream. Enjoy.
What is your favourite winter dessert recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?