24 July 2010

Scrumdiddlyumptious Fudgemallow Pie

Blame it on Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights, a cookbook by the gorgeous, curvaceous former model Sophie Dahl.  I chanced upon her book while browsing at the library last week. It is a pretty cool cookbook/food memoir,  full of charming little anecdotes and  homely recipes which I thought I might get round to trying someday.  

Problem was, once the book was back on the shelf, (and this is revealing of my hopelessly distracted thought process) all I could think of was the word "Scrumdiddlyumptious".  A word ingeniously coined, of course, by none other than Miss Dahl's famous writer grandfather Roald Dahl.*  

I believe it is difficult, if not impossible, to find another word  in the English language which so singularly and immediately conveys a sense of supreme, lip-smacking yummaliciousness (see, I needed to use 3 words, told ya).   Once planted in my head, it simply refused to leave me alone. On and on, like a chorus of inebriated Oompa Loompas, the refrain  of "Scrumdiddlyumptious scrumdiddlyumptious scrumdiddlyumptious" played on my mind for the rest of the week.  

You can understand of course, that it was only a matter of time before I was seized with the  irresistable urge to make, and consume in large quantities, something truly and marvellously scrumdiddlyums.  

It wasn't hard to decide what would fit the bill.    

It had to be Fudgey. Creamy. Buttery. Sweet.  There would have to be Chocolate. Peanut Butter. And Marshmallows.  And most importantly, it would not be healthy.  The last being not so much a requirement as it is a matter of fact. For scrummy and healthy never the twain shall meet.

And that's how the Fudgemallow Pie was born. 

A fudgey chocolate brownie pie, spread generously with the smoothest, butter-creamed peanut butter, topped with coconut flakes and big fluffy marshmallows.  And then smothered all over with warm chocolate sauce.  The sensation of melty, chocolate-coated marshmallows against the salty-sweetness of creamy peanut and coconut on fudge, is out of this world. 

When you take your first bite, your brain will exclaim in sugar-induced ebullience, "By golly, this IS Scrumdiddlyumptious!!".  And then scarcely after recovering from the shock of its intense, chocolatey, fluffernutterish deliciousness, it might scream "MORE!!!". Or in my case, "This needs ice-cream!" Which of course it does.  Cold creamy, vanilla bean ice-cream melting atop its warm, oozey, chocolatey, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth fudgey goodness. You cut yourself another slice.

And then after 5 minutes, you realise this was indeed rich. Very rich. And that it might be wise to stop. Now. As you perhaps recall gluttonous Augustus Gloop's ignoble end in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But then your tastebuds override your better sense and you launch yourself into another serving. SCRUMDIDDLYUMPTIOUS!!!

16 July 2010

Limoncello Spritzer Glaciers with Summer Fruit

There are times when I crave a simple dessert.  A dessert with a 'light touch' that will be the perfect, sweet ending to a rich, heavy meal.  Not a sugar-laden, creamy, chocolatey dessert that will make me sick like "Lardass" Hogan in a pie-eating contest.

That's where these jelly glaciers come in. I call them glaciers, because that's what they look like, with those gorgeous red, black and blue berries in beautiful, suspended animation.  Like little pieces of a wild berry summer frozen in liquid crystal.  Calling to mind the sensuous summer fruits peddled in Christina Rosetti's Goblin Market, of which goblin men call enticingly to lure fair maidens "Come buy, come buy!"

Rosetti's description of forbidden fairie fruits is certainly one to whet the appetite, but the inspiration for this dessert was taken from Jamie Oliver's Prosecco Jellies.

The beauty of these jellies, apart from the fact that they are "sound to tongue and sweet to eye" (not to mention alcoholic), is that they contain fizz. Yes, when done right, they fizz delightfully in your mouth as you are eating them.  However, making sure that there is enough fizz in the jellies takes a fair bit of skill and effort. Out of the 2 batches I made, only 2 jellies turned out fizzy, because I was interrupted halfway and didn't chill them fast enough. (I have to add though, that there was also a cup of 7-Up jelly I made for Sugababe 2 that fizzed ever so beautifully, and which she devoured in 3 seconds flat, but you don't need the recipe for that ...)

So if you need a light, fresh, palate-cleansing dessert; or want another way to showcase berries on your dinner table; or if the following lines from the Goblin Market give you a thirst for the lush sensations of summer-ripened, ambrosial fruit juices; then give this recipe a try.

Goblin Market
by Christina Rosetti
(Read full version here)

Morning and evening

Maids heard the goblins cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,

Come buy, come buy:

Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,

Plump unpecked cherries-
Melons and raspberries,

Bloom-down-cheeked peaches,

Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,

Crab-apples, dewberries,

Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries--

All ripe together
In summer weather--
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;

Come buy, come buy;
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,

Sweet to tongue and sound to eye,

Come buy, come buy."

11 July 2010

Oh Luscious Lemon

How do I love thee, let me count the ways ...

... juiced and cooked, into a jar of homemade Lemon Curd:

... squeezed and drizzled, in a Strawberry Lemon Trifle:

... chilled and whipped, into a cup of lovely Lemon Mousse:

A sweet revenge for every lemon that I have been given lately.

Specifically, in this World Cup Season.

U.S., Portugal, Brazil, Germany.  Refereeing lemons, own-goal lemons, and the lemon that is Cristiano Ronaldo. I don't mind you saying, I'm a sour loser.

Well you know what they say, when life gives you lemons, make a lemon ... treat? No? Doesn't work for you?

Yeah I know. There's nothing more I'd like right now than a vigorously lemoned deep-fried octopus.  This Octopus, in particular.

But for now we'll just have to behave and stick to the Lemon Mousse, okay?

Recipe for Luscious Lemon Mousse Cups
A deliciously smooth and uplifting dessert.  Full of fresh, tangy, lemony zing, this is a joy in hot weather, and refreshingly light after a heavy meal. 

Makes 10 - 12 cups

1.5 cups shortbread cookie/digestives crumbs
40 grams unsalted butter, melted

Mix cookie crumbs with melted butter and spread evenly on base of cups. Chill in refrigerator until firm.

(adapted from Bon Appetit, Apr 2005) 
1 recipe Lemon Curd 
2.5 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
3 large egg whites
3/8 tsp cream of tartar
85g sugar
3/4 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
Lemon slices (garnish)

Pour 2.5 tablespoons of water into small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place 7/8 cup of lemon curd in large bowl. Stir 3/8 cup curd in another small saucepan over medium-low heat until very warm. 

Microwave gelatin mixture on medium-high setting until dissolved and liquid is clear (do not let boil). Whisk warm gelatin mixture into 3/8 cup of warm curd. Gradually whisk gelatin-curd mixture into curd in large bowl. 

Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in medium bowl until frothy, then add cream of tartar. Continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until whites are stiff, thick and glossy, and swish very slightly in the bowl. Fold whites into curd mixture in 3 additions. Whip cream in another medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into egg white-curd mixture in 3 additions. Pour enough mousse over cooled crust in each cup.  Cover and chill mousse cups for at least 2 hours. Top with reserved curd and chill for at least another 3 hours. Garnish with lemon slices and serve. 

08 July 2010

Summer Berries and Lemon Curd Pavlova

What can I say, I love berries. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, boysenberries ... hit me with any berry you can think of - there's a high chance I will like it. 

What does this have to do with Pavlova? Well, my friend, Pavlova is simply one of the best ways to deliver some berry love. 

But that is just the berry mad part of me talking. Because, of course, Pavlova is more, much more, than just a delivery system for berries.   

Named in honour of the famous Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova, this meringue-based dessert is a delight in its own right.  Sweet, light and delicate, there could not have been another dessert more aptly named after the ethereal Russian beauty.  

What distinguishes the pavlova from normal meringues, is that beneath its thin, crisp shell, lies a soft, marshmallow-like center that literally melts in your mouth.  Yes, you heard right, MARSHMALLOW. Another one of those things in life you can't ever get too much of. 

If you want to get into the technical side of things, what makes a pavlova different from a normal meringue is the addition of cornstarch.  This keeps the insides of the pavlova soft and moist, whereas the usual meringue has a sticky, chewy interior.  

One issue, however, that I have with the otherwise perfect pavlova, is that it often tends to be too sweet. Unfortunately, this can't be solved by simply reducing the amount of sugar in the recipe willy-nilly.  Even a tinkerer like me is wary of messing with the sugar proportions of a pavlova, because the high sugar content is necessary for its internal structure to hold.

The pavlova is therefore often paired with tart fruits like berries, kiwis and passionfruit, which goes some way towards mitigating its sugary-sweetness.  However, nothing quite works the charm for me as having my pavlova with some deliciously sour lemon curd. Besides, since pavlova requires egg whites, and lemon curd requires egg yolks, the marriage of the two is not just gastronomically perfect but also happily convenient in not generating leftovers for my already over-burdened fridge.

There are some desserts that are just better home-made, and a Pavlova would fall in this category. You would not likely find an equal version in a bakery or restaurant, because a home-made pavlova is so delicate that its fragile crust will yield under the slightest pressure.  It will simply not take to too much handling. You will also discover that once it is assembled, it will not hold together for more than a few hours, and is therefore best served immediately, and finished on the same day.  

As SugahDaddy so wisely observed, the Pavlova is like a ballet performance, delicate and fleeting, to be enjoyed, and savoured, in the moment. 

Recipe for Summer Berries and Lemon Curd Pavlova

(copyright A Spoonful of Sugah)


4 egg whites (120 grams)
1 cup castor sugar (200grams)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons cornstarch/cornflour
1/4 teaspoon grated ginger*
1 teaspoon lemon zest*
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 130C. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 18cm circle on the paper. (Alternatively, you can bake the pavlova in a oven-proof plate that can also be used for serving, so that you won't have to transfer it to another plate after baking. This prevents its crust from cracking from too much handling.) 

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until frothy, then add cream of tartar.  Beat until fully incorporated then begin to add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat to soft peaks, then once that happens, add vanilla extract and beat until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.  You know that the right consistency has been reached, when the egg white mixture does not fall out when the bowl is overturned.   

Using a spatula, gently fold in the cornflour, zest, grated ginger, and lemon juice, taking care to distribute evenly but not overfold the mixture.   

With a palette knife, spread the meringue over the circle drawn on the baking parchment, into the shape of a cake.  (The sides should be slightly higher than the middle so that there will be a slight indentation in which to fill with cream and fruits.) Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the outside of is dry and turns a pale cream colour.  

Turn the oven off and leave door very slightly ajar, to let the meringue cool completely in the oven (about 3 hours).  The pavlova may sink and crack a little on cooling. **

Lemon Curd
(from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Ultimate Lemon Butter Bar)

4 large egg yolks  (74 grams)
3/4 cup sugar  (150 grams)
3 fl oz lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 2 1/2 large lemons=94 grams)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened) (57 grams)
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest (finely grated) (4 grams)

Have a strainer, suspended over a bowl, ready near the range.

In a heavy noncorrodible saucepan, beat the egg yolks and sugar with a wooden spoon until well blended. Stir in the lemon juice, butter, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes, until thickened and resembling hollandaise sauce, which thickly coats a wooden spoon but is still liquid enough to pour. (A candy thermometer will read 196°F.) The mixture will change from translucent to opaque and begin to take on a yellow color on the back of a wooden spoon. It must not be allowed to boil or it will curdle. (It will steam above 140°F. Whenever steaming occurs, remove the pan briefly from the heat, stirring constantly to prevent boiling.) 

When the curd has thickened, pour it at once into the strainer. Press it with the back of a spoon until only the coarse residue remains. Discard the residue. Stir in the lemon zest. Let cool complely to room temperature.

Whipped Lemon Cream  
1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 tablespoons lemon curd 

Using an electric mixer, whip whipping cream into soft peaks, then add icing sugar and vanilla extract, and continue whipping to stiff peaks. Fold in lemon curd gently. 

Top meringue base with lemon whipped cream, spoon over some lemon curd, and top decoratively with 1 to 1.5 cups of mixed berries.  Serve immediately, with remaining lemon curd. 

*Another issue with meringue-based desserts, is that they can sometimes have a slight eggy taste and smell that can be a little off-putting.  After all, meringues are nothing more than beaten egg whites. I find however that the addition of lemon zest and grated ginger is quite effective in preventing it from developing this eggy aftertaste, besides giving it a refreshing 'lift' on the palate. 

**I have been asked by a friend, A, how to prevent a pavlova from sinking upon cooling.  Letting the pavlova cool slowly in the oven is commonly done to prevent the pavlova from shrinking too much from the sudden drop in temperature. However, despite this being done, there might still be a slight deflation particularly in the center of the pavlova. From what I have read, this is normal, and not a bad thing since the cracks can be disguised with cream and fruit.  The crack-free and sturdier 'pavlovas' which are sold at bakeries, are commonly not true pavlovas as such, but traditional meringues (without cornflour) which, because of its completely different texture, does not suffer from similar problems of shrinking/cracking. 

02 July 2010

Burnt Caramel Cake with Coffee Cream

Do you like caramel?

I ADORE caramel, in any manner, shape or form.  Hot caramel sauce, sticky toffee puddings, butterscotch candies ... I haven't yet met a caramel I haven't liked. And don't even get me started on Garrett's phenomenal Caramel Popcorn, otherwise known as Heart-Attack in a Bag.  Have you tried it? You should. Just have a defibrillator ready. Because I assure you, you will finish the whole bag yourself. 

I guess it is no surprise then, that I was smitten the moment I saw Rose Levy Beranbaum's Karmel Cake recipe.  I mean, it's made from a WHOLE CUP of caramel.  It had me at "Hello".

When making caramel, I like to take it to the limit  - from honey to amber to dark amber-brown - the the point where it is almost burnt, or you could say, scorched.  I find that makes the best, full-bodied and complex-flavoured caramel.  Undercooked caramel is just sweet in a one-toned, supermarket-confection, kids' candy sort of way.  And nowhere as exciting on the palate as scorched caramel.  Of course accidents can happen when you try to make burnt caramel.  It's important to note that when chefs say burnt caramel, they really mean almost-burnt caramel, not burnt-black-as-coal burnt caramel.  The latter is what happens when you play Angry Birds on your iPhone while waiting for your caramel to darken.  And is good for nothing except giving your arms a good workout when you scour the pot.  

Beranbaum's Karmel Cake recipe is really quite perfect on its own.  But of course, being the meddler that I am, I had to tinker with it. And so, instead of using light caramel (softball stage), I used burnt caramel.  This produced a beautifully fragrant cake, but also a cake with a darker brown crust, which admittedly did not look as pretty as Beranbaum's unadorned honey golden Karmel cake.  Not that it really mattered, because I had already decided that it would become a layer cake.  The result? Two layers of coffee-moistened burnt caramel cake, filled with Kahlua-flavoured coffee whipped cream and whipped chocolate frosting.  The burnt caramel cake is good enough to eat on its own, but the coffee cream complements it so beautifully you would probably not want to leave that out.


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