Sunday, April 26, 2015

Recipe: Kingston Cheesecake

If you spent your childhood in Australia, you will recall the excitement of the opening of a packet of Arnotts Assorted Creams. Everyone had their favourite, I was (and still am) very fond of a shortbread cream but my first pick was always a kingston.

A few years ago someone introduced me to the idea of a super kingston - formed by sandwiching two Anzac biscuits together with Nutella. It is pretty darn delicious and as I made a batch of Anzac biscuits this week I remembered it and it inspired me to create this cheesecake.

This isn't so much an invention as a combination of existing recipes. The base is a standard Anzac biscuit which I got from a Woman's Weekly cookbook and the Nutella cheesecake is a Valli Little recipe from the April Delicious Magazine. However I will take credit for combining them into one decedent dessert.

A couple of tips. To make getting your cheesecake out of the pan and off the baking paper easier, I put the base of the tin in upside down and rather than cutting the paper to size, do a square of paper (so the the edges stick out of the tin). You will need someone to give you a hand as you have to lift the base up a bit to get it to lock into place but it forms a flat base rather than the little dip.

When you take it out of the tin, you can then use the corners of the baking paper to lift the cake onto your serving plate, then you just roll the paper up underneath the cake and it comes out smoothly as shown in the picture. Hopefully that makes sense, let me know in the comments if it doesn't.

Finally, I got a great tip from the cream cheese packet that I've included in the recipe below which is to have a bowl of hot water in the base of the oven as you cook. It stops the crust from burning by keeping the oven a bit more moist.

Kingston Cheesecake

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
125g butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tbs plain flour
500g cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
300ml thickened cream
200g Nutella

Preheat oven to 140oC. Grease a 23cm springform tin and line with baking paper.

Combine oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a large bowl.

Combine butter, golden syrup and water in a small saucepan, stir over a low heat until smooth, stir in bicarb soda.  Mix into the dry ingredients.

Press the mix evenly into the base of the tin and up the sides leaving about a 1cm gap to the top of the tin (it will puff up to the top of the tin as it bakes). Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Using an electric mixer, beat sugar, flour and cream cheese for 3-4 minutes until smooth. Add the vanilla, eggs and cream and beat for 1-2 minutes or until combined. Add the Nutella and beat for 2-3 minutes until smooth.

Pour the mix into the tin, it should fill to near the top of the biscuit mix.

Place into the center of the oven and put a bowl of hot water on the bottom of the oven. Bake for 1 hour or until almost set in the centre. Turn off the oven and leave with the door slightly ajar for 2 hours or until cooled completely.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or preferably overnight.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Recipe: Quince and Hazelnut Rolls

One of the many things I love about living in Canberra is our four seasons. Each one has its own feel, its own scent, its own tastes. To me, there is nothing quite like the distinct scent of a pot of poaching quince to make it feel like Autumn has arrived.

Quince are available for just a few weeks, so this year I've been super busy poaching up multiple pots and freezing them. I think they are rather magical in the way they go from hard, white unappitising lumps to tender, ruby red deliciousness after a few hours in the oven. Quince on porridge is one of my favourite breakfasts and this plan will have me enjoying them for months to come. But having such a bounty has also inspired me to make use of my quince in some baking.

These quince and hazelnut rolls are my take on the traditional American cinnamon roll with a bread base instead of puff pastry like a french scroll. In this case I've used a brioche type bread, sweet, dense and best of all you make it the night before, let it rest in the fridge overnight and just bung it in the oven in the morning. It means you can arrive at the office with a tray of fresh rolls looking like a champion or have a morning tea without stress or fuss.

A couple of notes, if you don't love cinnamon, you might want to halve the amount, these are definitely VERY cinnamony. The dough is very soft, so be gentle with it and use plenty of extra flour on the bench, your hands and roller when rolling it out. If your quince like mine live in the fridge in their poaching liquid, drain them well and dry them off as best you can with paper towel. Finally I've used vanilla paste in the glaze. It is awesome stuff but if you don't have it a teaspoon vanilla extract will give you the flavour.

Quince and Hazelnut Rolls

¼ cup warm water
3 teaspoons yeast
3 tablespoon sugar
½ cup warm milk
3 eggs lightly beaten
170g butter, melted
3 ½  + ½ cup plain flour

80g butter, softened almost to melting
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup hazelnut meal
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
About half a poached quince, drained and finely diced

1 ½ cups icing sugar
3-4 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla paste
50g hazelnuts, roasted, skins removed and roughly chopped

Combine warm water, yeast and sugar in a large mixer bowl and let sit for a few minutes or until frothy.

Add the warm milk, eggs and melted butter and mix until combined. Gradually mix in 3 ½ cups of flour until the dough comes together.  Sprinkle the remaining half cup of flour on the bench, add the dough and kneed into a smooth ball. Grease a large bowl and and place the dough in it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm location for 1-2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

Mix the brown sugar, hazelnut meal and cinnamon together.

Lightly dust a surface with flour. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and roll into a large rectangle (about 20x60cm). Spread the very soft butter evenly over the dough. Spread the brown sugar mix evenly over the butter leaving a 2cm boarder on one long edge and dot all over with the diced quince. Starting with the other long edge carefully roll the dough into a log, keeping it fairly tight as you go. When you reach the edge, pinch along the edge to seal.

Place the log seam side down, cut off the ends so that the roll is even and cut the log into 12 even slices. Place in a buttered 25x32cm (or similar) baking dish – they should fill the dish and be touching. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, brush the tops with melted butter and bake at 180oC 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile mix together the icing sugar, vanilla paste and milk a tablespoon at a time until it forms a thick but spoonable paste. Drizzle half the mix over the hot rolls, then sprinkle over the hazelnuts and drizzle the remaining mix over to glue them on.

Allow to cool in the dish and serve just warm or at room temperature.

Best on the day they are baked.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Recipe: Armenian Cake

One of the great things about being an adult is earning money that you get to spend as you please. One of the downsides of being an adult is that you realise you need to spend said money on totally useful, unexciting things like bills. And you get excited about spending money on things that your child self would consider the most boring thing in the world.

A few months ago we spent the equivalent of a flight to Europe and back putting insulation in our ceiling. I was so excited I took pictures of the guys on the roof.

Before and After

This week I paid for my oven to be professionally cleaned. Again I took photos and told everyone around it. Even more mortifyingly adult, I keep finding myself wandering into the kitchen to gaze adoringly at it.

It is funny how your priorities change over time. As teenagers my friends and I used to always meet at Sportsgirl. These were the days before everyone had mobile phones so picking a popular shop meant we had plenty to look at while we waited for the one person who was inevitably late. Over time we moved our meeting place to Portmans and then to Cue. Then one day someone suggested we meet in the home-wares section of David Jones. I mark that as the tipping point. The day we all realised that as adults we would prefer to spend money kitting out our kitchens than our wardrobes.

These days I have a pretty fantastically equipped kitchen, although it is only lack of storage that stops me buying more. In fact to reach the square cake tin I use to make this recipe requires taking about 10 other things out of the cupboard first.

But onto the cake. After admiring my clean oven for awhile the urge to bake in it took over. This cake has been a favourite for many years. I love the crumbly base and the toasted almonds on top. And I really like that it cuts neatly into little squares that I don't feel too guilty at eating. I have no idea what makes it Armenian, this recipe has been a handwritten entry in my mother's cookbook for as long as I can remember so if anyone knows where it comes from let me know!

Armenian Cake

2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
2 cups brown sugar
125g butter
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 egg beaten
200g natural (unpolished) almonds

Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees. Grease and line a 8" square cake tin.

Mix the dry ingredients together and rub in butter. Halve mixture and press ½ into the base of the cake tin.

Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the milk. Add it and the beaten egg to the remaining half of the dry ingredient mix and beat until well combined.

Gently pour on top of the dry ingredients already in the tin. Top with nuts - I tend to put them in neat rows but you can arrange as you like, just place them gently so that they don't sink too much.

Bake for 1 hour. The top will end up a dark golden brown colour.

Cool, cut into squares and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

White Shirt Day

Those of you who have read this blog for awhile will know that I am an ambassador for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF). I fundraise for them every year and speak on their behalf at various events around Canberra.

Today marks the launch of the largest fundraising activity of the year - the White Shirt Day Campaign. Each year Witchery creates a special collection of white shirts with 100% of gross proceeds raised by the sale of the shirts going to the OCRF. This year there are 9 women's shirts and 1 men's shirt in the collection. You can view (and purchase) them in store or on the Witchery website.

Friday 1 May is White Shirt Day. To mark the day, I will be hosting a cocktail party. If you are Canberra based I'd love you to join me for an evening of networking with some great prizes on offer.

Registration details are below, please spread the word because currently 1 woman dies every 10 hours of ovarian cancer in Australia and we need to find an early detection test to smash that statistic.

White Shirt Day Cocktail Party
Friday 1 May
5:30pm - 7:30pm
Rydges Capital Hill

Monday, April 6, 2015

Restaurant Review: The River Moruya

The NSW South Coast is known for its gorgeous beaches and stunning bush land, however it is also home to a great foodie scene. There are farmers markets and gourmet food producers along with a host of fantastic restaurants.

The River is located in Moruya. As the name implies, the smallish restaurant looks out over the Moruya River which gives it a gorgeous view for lunches or to watch the sun set. They offer relaxed fine dining with some great lunch specials if you are there during the week. But the real treat is the first Friday of each month when they hold their local produce dinner. This 4 course set menu is built around the local produce and offers the very best of the very freshest at any point in time.

As luck would have it, the first Friday in April was Good Friday, so we got to enjoy a delicious seafood themed dinner.

The meal kicked off with a celeriac and saffron veloute with a crispy oyster. The veloute was really delicious, light and frothy but full flavoured. We had a few non-oyster lovers at the table but with its batter it became more a textural sensation of crisp against creamy with only a hint of oyster flavour.

The second course was our pick of the night. Cured tuna with pickled carrots, beetroot puree and smoked Blue Eye beignets. The tuna was absolutely melt in the mouth delicious and contrasted fantastically with the acidic picked carrots and beetroot puree. The blue eye beignets added a slightly more fishy note again which just added a perfectly complimentary layer to the dish.

Main was pan fried Blue Eye with garlic mashed potatoes, burre cafe de paris and a champagne veloute. I'm super glad we ordered a side of fries, not because we needed them but because they tasted amazing dipped in the sauce. The cod itself was perfectly cooked, the mash delectable and the whole dish super rich and creamy. In fact it was ever so slightly too rich and creamy as it defeated the ladies at the table, none of us quite managed to finish although that may be because we had dessert in mind.

Dessert was a vanilla cream, pear sorbet, salted caramel, brioche crumbs and fresh pear. The salted caramel let this dish down. It appeared like a sauce but had set into an extremely chewy toffee that was both difficult to spoon up and eat. It was also over salted, although that may just have been from how long it was in your mouth as you chewed and chewed it. But the sorbet was fresh and refreshing, the pear and brioche added great texture and the vanilla cream silky and indulgent so we mostly just left the caramel and enjoyed the rest.

As some of you know, S does not eat seafood. The River coped beautifully substituting the oyster in the first dish with crumbed deep fried goats cheese, the second dish based around a stuffed zucchini flower and he had some truly delicious lamb for his main. I had a mouthful and truthfully despite how much I loved the fish, I had a bit of food envy.

I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending a visit to The River. Try it for a lazy lunch or a delicious dinner and I'm sure you will not be disappointed.

The River
16b Church Street

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Review: Hot Cross Bun Roundup

And so it is a wrap. It has been a great few weeks of fruity, spiced bun goodness with a major flurry at the end to try as many as we possibly could. There have been some disappointments, many middle of the road buns and there have been some standouts.

It was a hard fought battle. Honourable mentions must go to Flute Bakery and Whisk Bakery and Patisserie for standout buns but there can be only one winner. Drum roll please ... the winner is Silo Bakery!

They may not be the prettiest buns (top middle), but they sure are delicious. Full of fruit, dense and spicy. They were close to perfection. And if you don't like a small bun, they make them in loaf size as well!

But in case you can't get to Kingston (and in case they are sold out when you get there) here is the wrap including a last few reviews:

Aldi Fruit Indulgence Hot Cross Buns: These hot cross buns have great flavour, good spice, really nice fruit and no peel however the texture is a bit doughy and gluggy.
S: 7/10
L: 7/10

Baker's Delight Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns: Another tasty hot cross bun. We thought they were very similar to the Aldi ones, they had a good level of fruit, but again it was limited to just sultanas and currents. The texture was good, light and fluffy but I felt they were lacking in the spices, the overarching taste was the fruit. We did particularly like the sweet, sticky glaze. It is yummy if finger coating.
S: 7/10
L: 7/10

Brother's Oven: Good texture, not quite enough fruit, huge size.
S: 6.5/10
L: 7/10

Coles Fruit Hot Cross Buns: a nice light fluffy texture and really juicy fruit but while they smelt really good, on tasting I thought there was something off about the balance of spices with a slight bitter note.
S: 7/10
L: 6/10

Erindale Cakery Bakery: These buns were seriously lacking in fruit. I thought they had good spice but S didn't agree and he also thought the glaze was pretty hit and miss. The texture is good, light and fluffy but they really needed more fruit.
S: 5/10
L: 7/10

Flute Hot Cross Buns: Truly delicious. A brioche bun with a citrus flavours but packed with fruit and a very yummy glaze.
S: 8/10
L: 8.5/10

Knead Patisserie: Disappointing. While they do had a light and fluffy texture and the apricot glaze is delicious, there was no where near enough fruit and it was totally lacking in spice.
S: 6/10
L: 5/10

Silo Bakery: This was close to perfection. Packed with fruit including peel (!!) great spice, dense but with a nice crumb. What an amazing hot cross bun. The only thing we could fault was that it wasn't the greatest glaze and the cross was a bit haphazard.
S; 9/10
L 9/10

Wanniassa Bakery: A great hot cross buns. Loads of fruit (sultanas, raisins, currants) and great spice. I quite liked the dense texture but agreed it got a bit doughy at the base.
S: 7/10
L: 7.5/10

Whisk Bakery and Patisserie: Excellent fruit, loads of it and really juicy plus super spices. We liked the glaze and even really liked the cross!
S: 7.5/10
L: 8/10

We hope you have a very happy Easter and get to enjoy a few hot cross buns yourself.