Friday, 26 December 2014

Chocolate Swirl Pavlova with Baked Cherries

What is Bat Man's guilty pleasure? Hard to choose from a selection of hilariously depraved answers like 50,000 volts to the nipples, mason jars, Daniel Radcliffe or Lady Gaga's special bits. Perhaps it might be this pav, if the caped one has a sweet tooth?

These and other non-pressing questions were pondered late into the afternoon on Christmas Day when the decks of Cards Against Humanity hit the table. The red wine flowed, everyone had thirds and fourths of dessert, and it was all down hill from there.

Ahhhh family. They know the best and worst of us, which probably makes them the most fun to laugh with. All of that shared history and the collections of stories, repeated so many times and just as funny with each telling.

Gosh it felt good to be silly. To wrap myself up in my children's excitement and splash around with them in the pool for three hot days in a row. To make plans and dream a little. To allow myself to be distracted from the sadness of this past week in Sydney, which, for a mother's reasons, I have been unable to shake.

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. 

I hope your Christmas was just as joyous and full of laughter, surrounded by family, friends and loved ones. 

We served this pavlova for dessert on Christmas Eve, but the cherry/chocolate/vanilla combination will work all summer long. It is light and marshmallowy inside with chocolatey hits of cocoa and the cherries baked with cinnamon are so delicious. Make all the elements a day ahead so all you need to do is assemble and serve. It takes the stress out of entertaining - my gift to you.

Larissa x

Chocolate Swirl Pavlova with Vanilla Bean Cream and Baked Cherries
(Serves 10-12)

300g caster sugar
5 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons quality cocoa
1 small carton single pouring cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 teaspoon caster sugar

Baked cherries:
600g cherries, pitted
50g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup of Pedro Ximinez Sherry or port

Preheat oven to 170C. 
Mix the cherries, sugar and cinnamon together. Place in a baking dish and bake for 20-30 mins until the cherries are soft. Cool slightly and mix in the sherry or port. Place in a container and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the pavlova, preheat oven to 200C. Trace a 22cm circle on a piece of baking paper and place on a large flat baking sheet. Set aside.
Spread sugar in an even layer over a baking tray lined with baking paper. 
Bake for 8 minutes until sugar is hot and beginning to melt at the edges.
Place egg whites in bowl of an electric mixer and, when the sugar has been in the oven for 7 minutes, begin whisking on high speed for one minute.
Take sugar out of the oven and turn mixer to slow speed. Add sugar gradually and when all added, turn mixer to high and whisk for 15-20 minutes until the meringue has cooled.
Add the vanilla extract and cocoa, stirring by hand only a few gentle turns, so that a swirl effect is created and you preserve as much air in the mixture as possible.
Place large spoonfuls of meringue in the centre of the circle on your baking paper and ease out to the edges, creating a large free-form meringue. Using a spoon or spatula, make a shallow basin or well in the centre and tease up the outer rim to make pretty peaks.
Turn the oven down to 110C.
Bake pavlova shell for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Turn the oven off, place a wooden spoon in the door to hold it ajar and leave the pavlova in the oven to cool completely (overnight is ideal).
When cool, take it out of the oven and carefully move it from the baking paper to an airtight container or serving plate covered with a glass cloche.
To assemble, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. 
Spoon whipped cream into the shell of the pavlova and gently top with the cherries and sauce, letting them drizzle over the sides.
Serve immediately. 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Butterscotch Brownie Truffles

Someone has played a bad joke on me and it is already December. Deep into Christmas time. Suddenly it is hot and stormy every night, there is a tree in our lounge room and I am baking like a mad woman with barely enough time to scoff a mince pie for lunch.

The past few months have been a bit of a blur so here are some numbers, Bridget style, to fill in the blanks:

Number of months my toddler has been going to daycare: 3
Chest infections he has bought home: 86
Bouts of gastro: 2
Bouts of pneumonia: 1
Hospital stays: 1 
Nights in: 5 !!
Solo parenting stints while husband globe trots for, ahem, work: 10 long days' worth
Emergency escapes North to the beach: 1
Barossa Valley weddings: 1
Read, flights with two kids under five: 4
New cafes stocking LP cakes: 2 (welcome Wild Basket Neutral Bay and Two Penny on Park)
All of which amounts to blog posts: 0 
Grey hairs: 367 and 
Red wine needed: pass me the bottle and a straw...

Given my slightly panicked, reindeer in the headlights (how is there only two weeks until Christmas??) variety of festive cheer, this recipe is perfect. It takes no time, it has a kick of schnapps and the result is quite fancy. I'm going to box them up pretty for my client gifts this year but they'd be an impressive take-along thingy for any party or Christmas do you have coming up. 

L xxx

Butterscotch Brownie Truffles
(Makes about 30)

4 cups of crumbled brownie
100g quality dark chocolate 
100g quality milk chocolate
1/2 to 3/4 cup Butterscotch Schnapps
200g quality dark chocolate extra
200g quality milk chocolate extra
Gold leaf *

Place crumbled brownie in a large bowl.
Melt dark and milk chocolate together gently over a saucepan of simmering water.
When melted, add to the brownie with the schnapps and mix it all together.
Roll generous teaspoonfuls into balls and place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.
Place in the fridge for several hours or overnight to firm up.
Melt the remaining chocolates over a saucepan of simmering water. Dip truffles into the melted chocolate and place on baking tray lined with a fresh sheet of baking paper. 
Place back into fridge for at least an hour or until set.
Using food tweezers and a small food paintbrush, place a small fleck of gold leaf onto each truffle and paint into place to secure.
Store truffles in the fridge until ready to serve.

*Gold leaf available from specialty food stores. In Sydney, I source mine from The Essential Ingredient, Rozelle