Acts of Kitchen: Cherry Cakes

AoK_logo_v2In which I talk about waffles and I get to talk to Cherry, of Cherry Cakes, and marvel at her baking prowess.

We’re sitting at John Gorilla Cafe, which is why it’s a bit noisy; if you want to try Cherry’s products for yourself that’s an easy way to do it!

Cherry Cakes – for your dessert catering needs

Cherry on Instagram: I just… these cakes are amazing

Caroline Khoo’s I’m Just Here for Dessert: the book, and the food9781743368824

 

I’m Just Here for Dessert

9781743368824I received this from Murdoch Books at no cost. RRP $39.99; out now. Today, I’ll discuss the book itself; tomorrow, the recipes.

I love dessert. I called my 30th birthday party “my just desserts” and served only dessert.

This is probably the most beautiful cookbook I have ever held in my hands. I mean, look at that cover. The edges of the pages are all gold. Inside, there are exquisite pictures of food and baking utensils and some of the inspiration for Khoo’s own creations – buildings, flowers, and so on. This is a delightful book to browse through.

Khoo opens the book with a discussion of why she started Nectar and Stone, some of the places she finds inspiration for her designs – florists and bookstores! – and a recommendation that you play with colour. I think this section is meant to be more inspiration than anything else, and that later chapters give a little more detail. She also discusses key ingredients – including, intriguingly, that she prefers to use Nuttelex rather than butter because of dairy intolerance. She also includes suggestions for how to dress a table, and some ideas about how to photograph your creations if you want to take instagram by storm.

The cooking chapters are the eleven ‘layers’ to the book – yes, like an epic cake that you’d be terrified of trying to cut. It covers meringues, cupcakes, (baked) donuts, macarons, ice cream, tarts, small and large cakes, waffles, cocktails, and popsicles. Each chapter has a basic recipe, a few suggestions for flavour variations, and then ideas about how to style them. Also a whole pile of pictures to either inspire you, or make you feel like you’ll never achieve their perfection!

One thing I like about the way she presents the recipes is that there’s a list of ingredients… and then a list of equipment. This, I appreciate a lot. The recipes themselves are presented clearly and the method is explained in a straightforward manner. She includes tips on things like what to do with buttercream if you’re making it in advance, while the entire section on macarons (which is only layer four!) has a whole pile of advice and reassurance. I haven’t tried them yet…

Although this is a hefty cookbook, there’s not that much recipe-substance to it; a lot of it is the pictures, both of food and Khoo’s inspiration – pots of paint, buildings, trees, and so on. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s worth knowing that this is not intended as an ‘everything you need to know about making dessert’ book. If you really want suggestions for how to experiment with flavours in ice cream, cupcakes, or cake, this is not the book for you. But if you want a gorgeous book to browse through, as a springboard for your own work – well, that’s what Khoo has written this book to be: she says she wants to “provide… the skills and tools you’ll need to shape your personal style of dessert design” (14). So it’s light on specific direction and heavy on general advice to ‘let your creative juices flow’.

Acts of Kitchen: Hilary McNevin

AoK_logo_v2In which I talk to Hilary McNevin about writing about food and making food and promoting food, and I also talk about two books I got to review.

Hilary’s website

(and 1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die)

Cookbooks: Luke Mangan’s Sharing Plates and Caroline Khoo’s I’m Just Here For DessertUnknown9781743368824.jpg

Bread and butter

mmccthefeastI don’t have the opportunity to cook epic desserts all that often, so I quite like grabbing them when they pop up. A crowd of thirteen is exactly that, so I went to The Feast Goes On (two of the editors of which I got to talk to  a few months back) because I knew there were some desserts in there that I’d tagged as Must Try. And because I have a pile of oranges from my veg box, I went with the Orange Bread and Butter Pudding. (If I’d had more energy and thought about it ahead of time, I would have made the cake featured on the cover because WOAH.)

IMG_1398.JPGThis bread and butter pudding is to your classic version as chocolate mud cake is to your average cocoa-only cake. For a start, it uses brioche. Yes. And then you segment three oranges (having zested two of them). Then you pour over warm marmalade – I used Kate’s De Milo marmalade which has oranges and blood plums and bits of crystallised ginger (and you can hear my interview with her here). Then it’s all about the cream and the eggs and not drooling over it.

It was magnificent. And dead easy, for something that looks and tastes so very epic. I’ll be making this again… when I need to make something to impress folks…

IMG_1399.JPG

 

Feasting

mmccthefeast.jpgI received a copy of the Monday Morning Cooking Club’s book The Feast Goes On from the awesome Alisa for my birthday, and I’ve got a plethora of tags sticking out already because there’s a heap of things I want to cook. (For starters, look at the cake on the front.) This weekend I took the opportunity to cook three of them.

Mains was slow-cooked beef with ras el hanout. I went with chuck steak, and I used the slow cooker, which was awesome. It’s got onion and garlic, I did grate the tomatoes although I’m not convinced it was necessary, and I chucked in all the right spices for the ras el hanout. I used the cured lemon that I made courtesy of Palomar and I think it really was better than preserved lemon. It was… smoother, somehow (I mean yes it is a smooth paste, but even the taste seemed smoother). It cooked in about 6 hours, I think, and it has gone straight to the top few recipes of How To Impress Without Too Much Effort. I served it with yoghurt and some more cured lemon.

(I can’t find a recipe online for cured lemons like in Palomar. At any rate, it’s layer the lemons with salt and canola + olive oil; leave for three days then strain out the oil, blitz the lemons with some chilli and add some oil until it’s smooth.)

On the side I did a potato and onion gratin, with a big bunch of thyme and rosemary (the recipe called for one or the other, but why not have both?). I layered this too densely so I IMG_1301.JPGended up having to cook it for longer. Which was fine but I felt stupid. I will make this again and I will use a bigger dish.

For dessert I kinda committed sacrilege. In my family, Mum’s lemon delicious is almost holy. So to make mandarine delicious, and to make it in individual ramekins, and to follow someone else’s recipe – ! They were quite lovely. They had quite a different texture from the lemon delicious I have made in the past; not sure if that’s the recipe or the individual ramekin or if I made some mistake. But they weren’t as sponge-y; they were a bit more gelatinous, and they didn’t have much syrup underneath – it was more on the inside. Nonetheless I will be making these again, too… even though it did mean I had to blitz a mandarine in the wee processor and then strain the juice through a tea strainer.

 

Sweet treats

IMG_1241.JPG1. A friend came home from France with a madeleine pan for me. I had never had the urge to make madeleines before, but now I have a madeleine pan.

From France.

So I’ve made madeleines. I followed Stephanie Alexander’s honey madeleines recipe, and… they’re ok. They’re definitely not as crispy as they should be, although the second batch was a bit better (her mixture is for 24, and my pan is for 12, although it only made 18 I think) – I’d put a bit more butter in the pans I think. So that’s something to experiment with. I’m also not sure whether madeleines come in different flavours, so I guess I’ll do some hunting around to find out.

2. Our fruit n veg box this week came with a large number of bananas, so my mother IMG_1242.JPGreminded me that caramelised bananas are excellent. These are not as she suggested, though, because she was reminiscing about making them with rum or brandy ‘or whatever you’ve got handy’ – and I had nothing like that handy (not using Frangelico, or Pimms). I did use some of the cardamom-pistachio sugar mix I have from Gewurzhaus, which I think added a little to the experience, as well as a whack of butter and some additional brown sugar. Very tasty with ice cream.

Acts of Kitchen episode 4: gingerbread houses

AoK_logo_v2In which Karlee talks GINGERBREAD HOUSES and I’m living a Katering Show episode. You can listen here or subscribe at iTunes.

Recipes:

Gingerbread (a biscuit recipe). Sugar glass.

How do you store new recipes?

A scrapbook; iPad apps have never stuck.

Feedback gratefully received: you can email actsofkitchen at gmail dot com