Peppermint Crisp Pavlova

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Pavlova is one of those recipes that some people are known for – we all have a Great Aunt Gertrude whose pav is a thing of family myth and legend – and others are terrified of. Truth is, pavlovas are a really, really easy to make as long as you don’t rush things. There’s no great secret to getting a perfectly crispy shell and a soft, marshmallowy centre – just patience and a few simple rules.

Peppermint Crisp pav_5

Fresh Eggs

I made this one for my Beloved’s birthday earlier in the week:

What You Need:

160ml of eggwhites (Best from room temperature eggs)

1 ¼ cup of caster (aka superfine) sugar

2 teaspoons of white vinegar

2 ½ tablespoons of sifted cornflour

For Decoration: 250ml cream, a teaspoon of vanilla essence, a tablespoon of icing mixture and 3 Peppermint Crisp chocolate bars.

Peppermint Crisp pav_4

Egg whites whipped

How it’s Done:

Pre heat oven to 130 degrees C.

160ml of eggwhite is what you’ll get from about 5 standard sized eggs. But as you can see from the photo – eggs at my place don’t exactly come in standard sizes! We keep our own backyard chickens in a couple of different breeds. So I find it’s much easier to measure the eggwhite instead of assuming 4 or 5 eggs will do it. Also, if you’re like me and useless at separating the whites from the yolk, check out this groovy little gadget that does the job for you. Easy!

Okay, so into a large mixing bowl, add your 160ml of eggwhite and, using an electric beater, mix on medium speed until the whites turn…well…white, with soft, foamy peaks. This will take about 4 or 5 minutes. Slowly add the caster sugar, a little at a time. Keep beating on medium to high in between sugar additions. Before adding the next lot of sugar, make sure the grains from the previous addition are completely dissolved.

(Hint: An easy way to do this is to rub a little between your forefinger and thumb. If it’s gritty, keep whisking.)

As you whisk, you’ll find the mixture growing and changing texture to a firm, glossy meringue. I find I’m usually whisking for at least 20 minutes.

(Hint: When you think it’s finally ready, take a spoonful and turn the spoon upside down – if it stays put and doesn’t drip, it’s done.)

Add the vinegar and cornflour and mix gently until combined.

Peppermint Crisp pav_3

The pav!

On a round baking tray lined with baking paper, begin to pile up the mixture. Again, don’t rush this bit, make sure there’s no air left underneath, the sides are fairly straight and bear in mind that the meringue will spread a little as it bakes, so it’s better to pile it high. Add to the pre-heated oven, and turn the temperature down to 120 degrees C. Bake for 1 hour, 30 minutes. Turn the oven off, and open the door a little. This allows the pavlova to cool down slowly and there’s less chance of it crashing!
While the pav cools completely, head back to the electric beaters and whip up the cream. I find adding icing mixture helps to stabilise it a bit, and gives a thicker result (that one’s a hint from my Mum). Add vanilla, too. Crush the Peppermint Crisps by whacking them on the edge of the bench-top while they’re still in their packets. No mess!

Peppermint Crisp pav

Decorated with peppermint crisp

Once your pav is cool, very, very carefully transfer it with a spatula to your serving plate. Break up the meringue on top, pile on the cream and sprinkle loads of the crushed up Peppermint Crisp, and you’re ready to go.

See? No great mystery there – but that’s not to say you have to admit there isn’t! Shhh…

Peppermint Crisp pav_2

The topping!

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Wild Things Hedgehog

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There are four Wild Things living at my house. And that’s not counting my dogs. My Wild Things are all two-legged males, and all have bottomless pits for stomachs. They each eat around five meals a day and that’s not including snacks. Or dessert. Yes, they could easily be mistaken for Hobbits, except they’re bigger and their feet aren’t quite as hairy. So what keeps my Wild Things happy and satisfied? Hedgehog. It’s cheap, quick, chocolatey (and therefore yummy) and very, very easy.

Hedgehog

Hedgehog for Wild Things

125 grams of butter

½ cup caster sugar

1 packet of Marie biscuits

100 grams of walnuts, chopped

½ cup cocoa

1 egg, beaten with a fork.

How It’s Done:

Crush biscuits in a blender, leaving some chunky bits. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Combine butter and sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. You might need to pause the microwave and stir the mix a couple of times. Pour butter mixture over biscuits, cocoa and about half the walnut pieces. Mix, cool for five minutes and then add the beaten egg and mix.

Press into a greased slice tin and refrigerate for an hour.

For the icing, add 2 tablespoons of butter and 200 grams of dark chocolate to a heavy-based saucepan. Melt over low heat, and then add 2 cups of sifted icing sugar. If the icing gets too thick, add a dash of hot water. Smooth over hedgehog and sprinkle with remaining walnuts. Refrigerate and then slice into pieces. Store in the fridge.

**Note: the hedgehog slice in this photo was made with double the recipe amounts shown here, as well as two different brands of cocoa, which is what gives it the striped appearance.

Big Cheat’s Chocolate Box

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It’s no secret I love baking. The satisfaction of making a cake from scratch is awesome. But, let’s face it, sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day, or ingredients in the pantry to do that. This week, a very special member of my family turned 13, and I needed a cake big enough to feed at least fifteen people – plus leftovers, because chocolate cake is even better the next day. I was also seriously stuck for time and inspiration. So, I cheated and here’s how:


CCBox_ingredientsWhat you need:

*3 packets of ‘White Wings’ brand Rich Chocolate Cake (or similar – but not mud cake because melting chocolate over a saucepan of water etc is not for cheats). These packets required adding softened butter and 2 eggs each – so 6 eggs all together.

*1 Betty Crocker brand Milk Chocolate Frosting. I love this stuff, and use it even when I’m not cheating.

*Aprox 40 miniature Kit Kat chocolates (buy the multi packs)

*Various packets of chocolates. I used: Freckles, Ferrero Rochers, Jaffas, Miniature Oreo Cookies (again, cheaper in the multi packs), Smarties or M&M’s, Maltesers and Chocolate Finger buscuits.

*Ribbon.


How it’s done:

I used a rectangular cake tin 22cm x 28cm and 7cm deep. Grease and line the tin with baking paper, set your oven to the instructions on your cake mix. Make and bake cake as directed – allowing for extra baking time because you’re using 3 cake mixes. Mine took almost 2 hours to bake.

CCBAllow cake to cool COMPLETELY on wire rack. Seriously, give it an hour or two or you’ll regret it later when all your chocolate decorations fall off. Trim the top of your cake so it’s perfectly flat.

Smother the whole thing with the chocolate frosting. Using a little extra frosting for glue, surround the outside of your cake with Kit Kats as a border. Use the ribbon to tie around the Kit Kats, not only does this give the cake a little bit of extra wow, but it helps keeps those suckers from falling off! Use the chocolate finger biscuits to divide up sections – making sure each section is wide enough for whatever you decide to put in them eg: I measured using the Ferrero Rochers and the Oreos. Fill your sections with plenty of yummy chocolate goodness, bearing in mind contrasting colours etc.

That’s it. Done. So easy, so quick (except for baking time). And such a show-stopper!

3 Ingredient Chocolate Fudge Cake

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I made this wicked chocolate fudge for the first time over the weekend. To be honest, I’m almost wishing it wasn’t so easy – because it’s seriously smooth, creamy and very, very decadent.

3 ingred. fudge cake

Chocolate Fudge Cake

A 385ml can of condensed milk.

50 grams of butter, chopped into cubes

400 grams of dark chocolate, cut finely.

How it’s done:

Grease and line a slice tin – I used an 18cm x 18cm square tin. Over a LOW heat, combine butter and condensed milk in a medium saucepan. Stir continuously to stop it burning and sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. Once the butter has melted, add your chocolate and keep stirring until it’s melted. It does get quite thick at this point, so bring your muscles!

Pour into the prepared tin, smooth the top, refrigerate for one to two hours and cut into serving size squares. And THAT’S IT! It will keep for up to 5 days in an airtight container – if it doesn’t get eaten before then.

** I did find this recipe to be a little on the rich side (but it could be just perfect for you!) so next time I might try using milk chocolate. Or white chocolate. Or maybe using one of those fancy flavoured chocolates, like salt or chilli. I might try mixing in some nuts and marshmallows for rocky road, or some jelly lollies or, or…

Let me know if you come up with any more ideas!

Chocolate Lasagne

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(aka The Lasagne Saga)

 

Mandy Wrangles_2_tnSo, one thing I’ve learned since writing up these recipes for Escape Club is that you guys tend to like the super rich and decadent chocolately ones the best. So when a friend suggested over Facebook (*waves to Deb*) that I give Chocolate Lasagne a go – who was I to refuse? There’s heaps of recipes out there online, but I decided to go with my own invention. The only tip I stole was to use instant pudding for some of the layers… read on and you’ll see how that went!

So hopefully, with all my trial and error, I’ve saved you the drama, and even though this is a time consuming dessert to make (that time is chilling between layers, not actual work), it’s really simple when broken down into steps.

Choc Lasagne_1Preparation:

Grease and line a tin with baking paper. Be careful with this step, and make sure you’ve lined the tin well. I used a cake tin measuring 22cm x 28cm and 7cm deep. You don’t need to make yours as mammoth as mine, but do make sure your tin is deep enough for all the different layers.

1st Layer is Dark Chocolate Fudge:

Melt 50g of butter with a 395g tin of condensed milk. Stir constantly over a low heat – you can’t leave it or you’ll burn the pot. Once the butter and condensed milk are combined, add 400g of finely chopped dark chocolate. Continue stirring until all combined and thick. Then carefully spoon the mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan, making it as level as possible. I added sliced ‘Chomp’ chocolate bars sprinkled on top for texture. Chill in fridge while you prepare the next layer.

Choc lasagne_22nd Layer:

Is marshmallow! Add 2 tablespoons of gelatine to 1 ½ cups of boiling water. Stir until combined. Place 3 cups of sugar in a large mixing bowl, and add the dissolved gelatine mix. Mix with an electric beater for at least 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add a couple of drops of vanilla essence, and mix for another couple of seconds. If you wanted to add some colour, now is the time to do that, too. Spread carefully over the top of your chilled chocolate fudge and chill again. You’ll most likely have waaay too much marshmallow, so use your leftovers by spooning into a greased cake tin (you’ll use it another layer).

choc lasagne_33rd  Layer:

Is caramel. Now, I’d planned to cheat here and use the tinned version, but didn’t have enough. So I made my own like this: Add 200g of butter to 200g of brown sugar in a small saucepan. Heat slowly and stir constantly until they combine to a smooth paste. Then, add a 395g tin of condensed milk and keep stirring for about 5 minutes, but don’t allow the mix to bubble. Cool at room temperature for about half an hour (or if you’re impatient like, me – 10 mins in the fridge). It’s important your caramel is cool so it doesn’t melt the marshmallow when you spread it over the top.

4th Layer:

So, this is where my problems started. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I tried using instant chocolate pudding. It was a disaster and I had to scrape it off the caramel (which I’d allowed to set well, thank goodness) and start again. I started with about a cup and a half of leftover marshmallow, to 2 tablespoons of butter. Melt together in a medium saucepan over low heat. Once combined, add 2 tablespoons of cocoa and continue stirring. Pour mixture over 4 cups of Coco-pops, and mix really well until the Coco-pops are covered. Press firmly into your tin with the back of a spoon, over the top of the caramel layer. Then, just because too much chocolate is never enough, I sprinkled white chocolate buds over the top.


choc lasagne5th Layer:

Now, when I make this again, I’ll probably leave this layer out, but it’s up to you how much is enough, or how rich you like your decadent desserts. I added a thin layer ofmilk chocolate ganache by mixing 250g of milk chocolate with 3 tablespoons of cream and heating over a low heat until the chocolate is melted and combined.

6th and Final Layer:

Is the same as the first! Yes, more dark chocolate fudge, and more sliced Chomp Bars for decoration. Allow your finished Chocolate Lasagne to set for a couple of hours before turning out of the tin (VERY carefully – and this is where you thank me for reminding you to line that tin well). You might need to give it a bit of a tap on the bottom, to coax it out, but be patient. Slice with a very sharp knife. You could serve this with whipped cream – but honestly, you probably won’t need it!

Now… time to go for a run. Or do some sit-ups. Or something.

Eat In by Anna Gare

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praline_1You probably already know Anna Gare as judge of Australian Junior Masterchef, and also as the host of Great Australian Bake-Off. She’s also the author of two cookbooks – in 2011 she released Homemade and the brand new Eat in – the best food is made at home. I have to agree with her on the title!

I love Anna’s theory that “…cooking, like love, does not have to be rocket science. It is a way of thinking, tasting and feeling that allows you to draw pleasure out of what could otherwise be ordinary. It turns a chore into a little party, or, sometimes, a big one…”

Eat in is a simple cookbook to navigate. Beautiful colour photographs accompany each recipe, which are listed under the headings: good morning!, lovely lunches, feeding family & friends, salads, what’s for dinner mum? and sweet things.

praline_2Included is a handy conversion chart – something I wish every cookbook had (I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted trying to convert American recipes to Australian measurements).

Recipes vary from the more exotic-sounding, such as theQuail with pistachio, orange and sage butter and Whole poached trout with celeriac rémoulade to one of my Nanna’s old favourites – Butterfly cupcakes. All the recipes are written in an easy to follow manner; there’s nothing too difficult or out of reach for the everyday home-cook.

I decided to give Anna’s Tealight chocolate mousse with pistachio praline a go as my test recipe. Now, you’ll need to read the book to get the actual recipe… but I can tell you as the first time I’ve ever made praline – it was a success.

Praline is one of those things I’ve always been a bit wary of in the kitchen; too much can go wrong (think burned toffee, burned skin, a big old messy pot to scrub…) but this was simple, everything I needed was already in my pantry and fridge, I escaped without burning anything, and the clean up was immediate with hot water. Too easy!

I didn’t have any tealight glasses handy to serve, so instead used my favourite glass tumblers that are reserved especially for desserts. And the verdict from my family? More please…

‘Anna Gare – Eat In – The Best Food is Made at Home’

207 pages

Text by Anna Gare

Photography by Ian Wallace

Published by Murdoch Books 2013

ISBN – 978-1742663890