Archive for the 'recipes' Category

The perfect creme brulee

For a very long time now I’ve been on a mission to make the perfect creme brulee. Keren and I shared a serving of this iconic treat at a Salon de Thea on one of our edible adventures. It was (as I told Tony later) like eating pleasure itself. I made an inward resolution to master the art of Creme Brulee. With such a short and humble list of ingredients (eggs, cream, sugar, vanilla), how hard could it be?

Research uncovered a minefield of issues; cream, double cream, milk, anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes in the oven, some calling for a water bath and others not. Still more omit the baking step completely, thickening the custard on the stove. Nigella says it best; “If it starts to split, plunge the saucepan in a sink of cold water and whisk like crazy”. Sans blowtorch, a minute or two under a hot grill is the proffered suggestion for burning the sugar, though some have you make a separate caramel and pour it on.

My creme brulee in Paris had a texture somewhere between yoghurt and Nutella; a thick, delectable smoothness. In pursuit of this I’ve made recipes by Julia Childs, Delia Smith, various food bloggers and Clotilde herself. All have been delicious but never produced the texture I coveted.

But this time I succeeded. I made the perfect creme brulee. I abandoned the recipes and followed my heart. I took the bold step of withholding the cream from the custard and adding it (whipped) at the end. Tony’s new Hot Devil blowtorch added the final touch. What resulted was a marriage of texture and taste that brought on a lengthy period of self-congratulation. Fortunately, Angie and Steve did not seem to mind.

Perfect Creme Brulee

5 egg yolks
80g sugar
200ml milk
1 vanilla pod, split and scraped
400ml cream (I used pure cream by Barambah Organics, the most incredible cream ever tasted)
Demerara sugar

Warm the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla seeds and pod. Remove from the heat before it boils and allow to cool a little. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale, or as Julia says “until it forms the ribbon”. Remove the pod and slowly whisk in the warm milk. Pour the custard into a saucepan and place over a low heat, stirring constantly. Once thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, set aside to cool completely and then chill in the fridge. Beat the cream until it’s soft enough to dollop, but not stiff. When the custard is chilled, fold in the cream. The trick is to get a perfect ratio of custard to cream, largely a matter of personal taste though I have given you roughly 50/50. Spoon the mixture into your ramekins and chill until ready to serve. The blow torching should be done well in advance so the caramel has time to harden. However, it becomes a little crowd pleaser to do it with friends. We made Angie and Steve do theirs when they arrived, more fun that way.


Apricot Fro Yo

Long before Jamie Oliver set out to expose the hideous truths of British school dinners, Camden Public School had a “healthy canteen” policy. Bless you, Mrs Meek. No chips, no nuggets, no double-choc muffins to be had. Whenever Mum did slip us a few coins towards recess, rounds of bread topped with cheese or Vegemite, pieces of fruit and any number of coconut apricot balls were the order of the day. There was one special treat that our canteen permitted: frozen yoghurt. Oh the sheer bliss of that creamy, tangy little tub and that novelty-sized spoon. May I suggest you drop everything and try the following? It’s quite possibly one of the easiest and most delicious things I’ve ever made. Perfect if you’re trying to pretend it’s really summer, when it just isn’t.                           

Apricot Frozen Yoghurt

A tip: don’t reach for your Jalna, your Vaalia and definitely not your Ski. Use plain old unsweetened yoghurt.

2x 1kg tubs of plain yoghurt
1 cup sugar + 2 tbs
1 kg fresh apricots

Strain the yoghurt through a muslin cloth for several hours or overnight. Halve your apricots and poach them in simmering water with 2tbs of sugar. Three to five minutes should do it. Strain and leave them to cool completely. Whisk together the yoghurt, apricots and sugar, reserving some apricots to swirl in later. Refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour or two. Break out your ice cream maker, or do as I do and beat it every hour for three hours as it freezes. I love checking its progress and watching the creaminess increase with each successive beating. Stir in your reserved apricots after the final whiz and leave it to get nice and firm. Unbelievable, really.

#8 Lebkuchen

Thanks to Anne for sharing with us her special recipe for lebkuchen, an essential part of Christmas in Germany. This recipe originally comes from Nürnberg – the home of all good lebkuchen.

5 eggs
600g sugar
5g lebkuchengewürz
cardamom (“one scrape of the knife tip”)
ground cloves (as above)
nutmeg (as above)
cinnamon (as above)
50g candied orange peel
50g mixed candied peel
500g ground hazelnuts (or 400g plus 100g almond meal)
4 or 5 stale croissants
250g plain flour
200g bitter dark chocolate
7g hirschhornsaltz

Preheat the oven to 150-170 c without using the fan. Grate the croissants into a bowl and add 500ml of “hand warm” water. Finely chop the candied peel. Combine all dry ingredients minus the hirschhornsaltz. Add the eggs and croissant crumbs, mix thoroughly to form a thick batter. Add the hirsch-hornsatlz at the last minute. Place spoonfuls onto 7-10cm round back-oblaten, on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20mins. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or saucepan over simmering water. When the lebkuchen have cooled slightly, smooth the chocolate over to coat.

* Readers should be warned that “hirschhornsaltz” could be translated as “ground up deers’ horns”. No need to worry, it’s merely ammonium carbonate, a very fast acting raising agent. Substitute with baking powder if necessary, though I’m told the effect is not quite the same.

* Back-oblaten might best be described as thin sheets of edible paper. I’m confident success is possible without them, placing the mixture directly onto baking paper. Readers are welcome to contradict this.

* If lebkuchengewürz is hard to come by in your part of the world, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s made up of household spices any Masterfoods shelf might hold. Here’s a link with a recipe.





Donna Hay and Käsekuchen

There are many reasons why a girl decides to make a cheesecake. A beloved sister flies home to Australia, the weather turns decidedly chilly, or perhaps one’s church is hosting a Pudding Club. Though my recipe collection now languishes back in Australia, I have one from its number committed firmly to memory – a Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake. Donna Hay is not my favourite celebrity chef. How many times can one wrap a chicken breast in prosciutto and call it a recipe? Her team of stylists and photographers do make every page a wonder; I’m not above enjoying my mother’s copies even as she tries indignantly to protect them from the scathe of a cynical daughter. And I’d have to admit that if ever there’s a need to be a little impressive in the kitchen, the Blueberry Swirl is pretty hard to beat. Here are my tips for making it look (almost) as impossible as Donna’s:

Don’t even consider making this without a springform baking tin. Nope.

When drizzling your fruit use a piping bag or something with a narrow pouring lip. Drizzle in thin parallel lines. Less is more – you want plenty of white space. I’ve been known to “bury” half the fruit mixture in the cake before adding the drizzles.

Keep your knife at a ninety degree angle to the cake (very important). Drag it slowly through the lines  in a perpendicular direction. You’ll be having lots of fun, but stop before you go overboard.

Don’t be tempted to exceed the 50-60 minute oven time. The cake should should still wobble when it comes out. Overbaking produces an unglamorous brown colour and grainy texture. Covering the tin with foil helps.

Leave it in the fridge for as long as you can, overnight if possible. Your wobbly cake will become firm and solid. Slice it carefully with a chilled knife. Oh, and if Martha Stewart drops in for a chat, give her my number.

Cheeks and Chilled Almond Soup

An update on the toothache situation for those who may have been concerned: it turned out to be a problem with a gland in my cheek, rather than with my teeth. The worst of the pain is over, but alas my face has swollen to the size and shape of half a watermelon; I look much like I’ve swallowed a whole grapefruit and pushed it to one side. Only when one loses the power of facial expressions does one realise how important they are, especially when faced with a language barrier, or a toddler. Of course, the only thing left to do is eat soup. Inspired by the low price of nuts in Germany (when compared to Australia), I had a go at Skye Gyngell’s Chilled Almond Soup, based on the classic Andalusian dish. I even managed to find the “perfectly ripe fig” – a sure sign that autumn has arrived. It’s not exactly comfort food, better suited to a balmy summer evening. Still, it gave my mouth a well deserved rest.

From A Year in My Kitchen

Zwetschgen time

I know it must seem as though I do nothing but eat over here, so often do my posts run along these lines. Thing is, Germany and I seem to get on well as long as we stick to topics of mutual interest, such as food. A week ago in the backerei I noticed that my favourite pflaumenkuchen had been replaced by something called zwetschgendaschi. Then I noticed the word zwetschgen had cropped up all over the place; zwetschgenplunder, zwetschgenschnitten and so on. Was this some ploy to make my already bad pronunciation of “plum cake” even worse? Well, no. As it turns out, zwetschgens are a treasured part of the late German summer. Many a tree can be seen around Botnang laden with these dark coloured beauties. Ever the German wannabe, I filled my market basket with these eggs of powdery purple and put google to work for a recipe. What ensued was one of those heavenly meetings between tart, jammy fruit and buttery, sweet cake. Ordinary pflaumenkuchen just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.

Gooseberry Fool

Living thousands of miles from home (in a different hemisphere no less), does have its compensations. Consider the strange pleasure of eating foods one cannot eat back home. Fresh berries are one of those things that defy the insane distances traveled by much of our food. Until I arrived in Europe, I had never tasted a gooseberry. For a long time I’d had a strange obsession with the idea of gooseberry fool from reading the following:

The Bennets do a lot of eating in the film, so Ron [Sutcliffe] the standby props man, asked me what I liked to eat. I told him gooseberry fool was my favorite pudding and he kindly provided it for me. It was so delicious that during the first two takes of the scene I gorged myself. At the other end of the table Alison Steadman [Mrs Bennet] cannily toyed with a couple of grapes. It took two days to shoot this and I shall never be able to eat gooseberry fool again!

Benjamin Law (Mr Bennet), The Making of Pride and Prejudice.

Well, today I ate gooseberry fool. The markets in Stuttgart are fairly flooded, and alongside the glassy green variety I found these plump, wine-coloured gems. There seems to be some debate about the inclusion of custard in gooseberry fool, along with the fruit and cream. I opted for a recipe using only the latter, and claiming to be Elizabethan in origin. The meeting of tartness, sweetness and cream exceeded all my expectations. I could almost imagine myself on the set of Pride and Prejudice, seated at the Bennets’ dinner table. I wonder if they had high chairs?

About Me

A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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