Tag Archives: sweet

Scorched almond and chocolate brownies (wheat or gluten free)

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So here I am again, posting a random recipe after a long time away. I’ve been thinking about this blog a lot recently, trying to work out what I would do about it. Then yesterday I made these awesome brownies and I really didn’t want to lose the recipe, so the obvious thing was to post it here. I’ve found this site a really useful archive generally, and so I’ve decided that I’m going to continue breaking all the rules – I won’t post daily, or weekly, or even regularly. I won’t focus on a particular topic or theme and I won’t make any promises about keeping this up! In short I’ve decided that I want to keep this blog around, but as I really don’t have the time to do much blogging, I’ll just be happy with doing the little bits that I can and keeping the site going as a personal archive. If no one reads it, well, I don’t care!

So, I started with this recipe for these brownies, but I took it in a different direction by adding roasted almonds and my favourite Amaretto liqueur. They ended up tasting like a cake version of scorched almonds (not sure if that is going to translate out of Australia, but essentially scorched almonds are just chocolate coated roasted almonds). In other words, delicious!

I made these with 1/2 cup rice flour and 1/2 cup rye flour, making them wheat free. If you want gluten free replace the rye flour with a gluten-free flour and make sure your other ingredients (especially the cocoa and baking powder) are also gluten free.

Almond and Chocolate Brownies

handful whole almonds (how precise am I!)
150g butter
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
scant 1/4 teaspoon vanilla concentrate (or equivalent of vanilla essence)
2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
To make
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Put the almonds on a baking tray and add to the oven while it is heating, roast until they are slightly fragrant and the skins have turned a deeper brown. If you’re not sure if they are done eat one! The inside should have become slightly darker. Once they are done remove from oven and allow to cool a bit, then chop roughly (so each kernel is in thirds-ish).
Butter a 20 x 30cm tin and line with baking paper.
Melt the butter and leave to cool.
Sift the flours, baking powder and cocoa into a large bowl. Add the sugars and mix gently. Make a well in the centre. Add the eggs, vanilla and Amaretto to the cooled melted butter and mix so the eggs are lightly beaten. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix with a metal spoon until just combined. Add the chopped almonds and stir through.
Pour the batter into the tray, spread out evenly and then bake for 15-20 minutes (until a skewer comes out clean).
J

Zesty Almond Biscuits and Zabaglione

When I googled ‘almond biscuits’ yesterday the second item that turned up (after the obligatory wikipedia page) was from the website of the Producers of McLaren Vale, with a recipe from my Mum! Freaky but true – I guess Google have really worked out who I am now.

So clearly this was the recipe I was after. I’ve followed it fairly exactly, but have added some orange zest and a dash of amaretto liqueur. These are honestly the easiest biscuits to make. There are very few ingredients, and no complicated processes – just mix, form and bake.

For the italophiles out there, these are also known as amaretti. The biscuits are crisp on the outside, but wonderfully chewy in the middle. They also happen to be the best accompaniment to an espresso in the world.

But the thing about this recipe is it only uses egg whites, so you have three egg yolks left over. This is your chance to make an unbelievably good Italian dessert – zabaglione with amaretti.

Zabaglione is kind of  like a custard, but very thick, almost like a mousse. It’s traditionally made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet marsala wine, but I like to make it with amaretto liqueur (are you sensing a trend). Amaretti biscuits dipped into hot zabaglione is, well, heavenly.

Three yolks makes just the right amount for two people, so if you’re feeding more just make more biscuits and you’ll have more egg yolks!

Before I get into that though, a quick note on blanching almonds. This is really easy, particularly when you have the beautiful Johnston almonds grown by my parents. This variety is typified by large kernels with thick, wrinkly skins.

To remove the skins you just need to soak the almonds in boiling water for a few minutes. After draining you’ll be able to pinch the skin off of the kernels in a trice.

Almond biscuits (Amaretti)

200g almond meal (I used ‘brown meal’ which is made from skin-on kernels)
1 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup plain flour
zest of 1/2 an orange
1-2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
3 egg whites at room temperature
24ish whole blanched almonds

to make

Pre-heat your oven to 160°C and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

In a large bowl, mix the almond meal, sugar, flour, orange zest and Amaretto liqueur. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until they are stiff, then mix the egg whites into the other ingredients. You should end up with a thick paste.

Form the mixture into balls, one tablespoonful at a time and place on the baking trays. Press one blanched almond into the centre of each biscuit and flatten the ball slightly.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the biscuits are just blushing with golden colour. When cooked, remove the biscuits immediately to wire racks to cool.

Zabaglione

3 egg yolks, at room temperature
50g castor sugar
1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur

to make

Get a few centimeters of water boiling in a pot. Pick a bowl that will sit well on top of your pot, then add all of the ingredients. Turn the pot down to a simmer then sit the bowl on top and whisk like crazy. Depending on how fit you are this may be a job for two people.

Your zabaglione is done when it is a lighter colour, fluffy and doesn’t have any raw yolk taste. This should only take a few minutes.

Pour the zabaglione into glasses (martini glasses are perfect because they are easy to dip the biscuits into), serve with some of your amaretti biscuits, and ascend instantly to a sugary heaven.

J

pancakes!

This is a recipe for my gorgeous cousins, who are back in Italy with most of a bottle of maple syrup that needs an accompaniment (because lets face it, pancakes are just an excuse for eating maple syrup right?). I promised to teach them how to make pancakes before I left, but unfortunately that was among the long list of things that didn’t get squeezed into our last few weeks in the northern hemisphere.

So, pancakes have been done before: But this is the recipe that I cooked every Sunday morning from as soon as I could see over the top of the stove. The proportions and preparation are incredibly simple, the result delicious. Oh, and I should mention that these are large flat pancakes, not the smaller risen ones.

The basic recipe below has had one minor adjustment in recent years, as I’ve started substituting half of the plain flour for oat flour. This improves the taste and texture of the pancakes, although I wouldn’t promise anything about healthiness, remember the maple syrup!

The amounts below can be multiplied to infinity. Remember, you can always put leftover pancakes in the fridge and eat them the next day.

to make

(serves 2–3 people)

1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup plain flour

Butter for cooking

Mix the egg, milk and flour together until there are no lumps. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.

Set up a heavy bottomed frying pan, two large plates, the pancake batter with a ladle, butter and an egg flip.

Heat the frying pan on a medium heat. Add a teaspoon of butter, swirl it around the pan to coat the bottom and wait for it to start sizzling. Then, add a small ladle full of batter and swirl the pan to form a circle of the mixture.

Leave the pan alone! Wait for the pancake to be almost totally set on top (you can test it by gently touching the top of the pancake with the egg flip). Once it’s set, flip the pancake over to cook the other side. The second side won’t take quite so long.

Remove the pancake to a plate and then cover with the second plate (this will keep the cooked pancakes warm while you cook the others).

Repeat, repeat, repeat. Keep adding more butter in between each pancake and make sure the butter is sizzling before you add the batter.

Serve the pancakes with your favourite toppings and enjoy!

Buon appetite ragazze, spero che ci vediamo fra poco!

pavlova: by popular demand

I love Pavlova. It’s probably my favourite dessert and is one of those things that turns a few simple ingredients into something magical.

Despite the few ingredients, there are about as many Pavlova recipes out there as there are philosophies for living. In fact they cover a similar spectrum: those which place beauty over substance; those which favour total indulgence in the form of chocolate, caramel or coffee flavourings; those which attempt to strip out all of the fat by removing or replacing the cream; or those show-off recipes involving complicated rolling or stacking.

The recipe my Mum gave me many years ago is in a different category. This Pavlova is beautiful, but in a rustic kind of a way. It’s luxurious, but uses just as much sugar as needed (more sugar will mean less collapse, but who cares about a bit of collapsing, right?) Best of all it is incredibly simple, but it has to be done right. The basic recipe is scribbled into my diary and travels with me everywhere.

For those who haven’t done a Pavlova before I thought I’d expand on that a little.

But first, a word about eggs. This dessert is fundamentally all about eggs. Use lovely free-range eggs from happy chickens as the basis of your Pavlova and it will be a treat to make and to eat. Don’t skimp on the ingredients, it’s not worth it. Lecture over.

You can scale this recipe up as you like, although I tend to keep to multiples of three egg whites so the measurements are simple. The Pav I did for these photos (for my birthday!) had nine egg whites to serve 10 hungry people, but we had a little left over.  Beyond that I’m not offering any serving advice because it really depends on how indulgent you want to be.

to make

6 egg whites (at room temperature)
1 cup fine white sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon corn flour

freshly whipped cream and fruit to decorate.

The pavlova base needs to be cooked at least 4 hours before you intend to eat it to allow for the slow cooling time. You also need to consider your oven schedule as this will monopolise the oven for several hours.

Pre-heat oven to 150°C and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper ready for the mixture. Wait until the oven is hot before you start beating the eggs.

Beat the egg whites until they are white and foamy (see the photo below left). Add the sugar a little at a time, beating constantly until the mix is firm and very shiny. Add the vinegar and cornflour and beat for another 15 seconds or so (photo below right).

Transfer the mix to the tray, all piled up. Smooth the mix out to a round disk around 7cm high.

Put in the oven and bake for 1 hour or until the meringue is just starting to colour. While the Pavlova is baking it should rise a little. Try not to open the door of the oven too much and don’t touch the tray.

After 1 hour turn the oven off but leave the Pavlova in the oven to cool. This is the MOST IMPORTANT part of making a Pavlova. The very slow cooling time finishes the cooking process and prevents collapse on an apocalyptic scale.

That said, don’t get too attached to your amazing, solid, statuesque Pavlova. As it cools there will be some collapse on the top and sides as the crunchy outer meringue settles on the soft and chewy inner part. This is normal, don’t panic.

After the oven is completely cool take the Pavlova out, but try and decorate it just before serving.

To serve, take full advantage of the crater left after the top has collapsed by filling it with whipped cream (I never add sugar to the cream). Then top the Pavlova with plenty of fresh fruit. My favourite is mixed berries with a little bit of chopped mint mixed through.

Bliss.

J