Many (good) gluten-free recipes require expensive almond meal, quality gluten-free flour, or a myriad of ingredients like brown rice flour, sorghum flour, xanthan gum, potato starch … not ingredients found in your average kitchen pantry!
So when the request came to make a gluten-free treat, I turned to this peanut butter cookie recipe from Joy the Baker’s blog. With my own addition of dark chocolate chunks, this recipe uses only six ingredients: peanut butter, brown sugar, white sugar, an egg, baking soda, and chocolate.
They taste delicious – and you can’t even tell they’re gluten-free!
So it was my friend Nicole’s birthday last weekend. And it was an honour to make her a cake. The requested flavour? Chocolate. And Caramel. “Intense” was my first thought. Nevertheless, I fossicked through a few different recipes – sans the ones with creamy fillings (I’m not really a fan), and looked for a cake robust enough to survive a few modes of public transport. (Is there a limit to love??). I finally settled on this recipe from Astoria in Lambton Quay, Wellington.
With three glorious layers (chocolate cake, caramel, and chocolate ganache) this cake is semi-high maintenance. Production requires good ingredients, time, and patience. There’s nothing instant about this cake (the only things store-bought are the raw ingredients).
However, if you use quality ingredients from the start, you’ll taste that quality in every bite of your final masterpiece. So of course the chocolate I used was 70 percent cocoa (not compound) and the eggs were free range.
The result is a rich cake that goes the distance. This cake served 10 guests, with a quarter remaining. The recipe says it serves 16, but I guess it depends on who you’ve invited to dinner …
A short while ago, we hosted round three of the dinner ‘competition’ that I’ve been invited to join.
The theme for the night was Mexican-fusion. Not so much a ‘formal’ theme, but definitely fun. We decided on the following menu items: spicy black bean tostadas; pumpkin, feta, and pine nut quesadillas; and chocolate coconut molten lava cakes.
The menu was shaped in part by our guests’ dietary requirements: vegetarian; and also onion, coriander, and chilli free. A common juggle amongst today’s dinner hosts! To cater to our party’s needs we also made variations of a few of the menu items, or omitted some of the original ingredients altogether.
I think we fared well and I was particularly pleased with our entrée and dessert dishes. The tostadas were a novel introduction to the night, and the molten lava cakes were too inviting to refuse. Our guests seemed happy!
On a recent trip back home we dropped into La Cigale’s French Market. It’s been a past favourite weekend rendezvous, so I was pleased to see business was going as well as ever. Yep, Auckland sure does hold its own.
My choice of morsel for the morning was a pomegranate and lemon curd éclair. Made with fresh pomegranate seeds, lemons, and pure New Zealand dairy. Divine!
‘Window-shopping’ for the remainder of our visit, I noticed the tarts also looked particularly appealing: apple, calvados, and cider; tamarillo and crème; and rhubarb, pistachio, and raspberry. Tempting, but we had the rest of the weekend to eat through. Save some for later Augustus!
69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Auckland
Zumbo has finally arrived in Melbourne! In South Yarra specifically. In the past, Zumbo’s gateaux, tartes, and Zumbarons have been a Sydney highlight for me: flavour-forward, stunning, and affordable.
Arriving a few days after the grand opening, I was greeted by a queue – which snaked out the door. (Note: it was also late on a Saturday morning). Surrounded by electric pink and silver interiors and flanked by candy floss couches I waited patiently for 30 minutes for a Melbourne taste of Zumbo.
As with the Sydney store, the stock was stunning. I did miss the individual mini displays showcasing Zumbo’s fancy fare, which always made queuing in Sydney a little more cheerful. However, I’m pleased just to have Zumbo stock in Melbourne – available seven days a week, 7am-7pm “or until sold out”.
12-14 Claremont Street, South Yarra, Melbourne, VIC 3141
Liquid nitrogen. Picnicing in a shop window. Bad-ass signage. The folk at N2 seem to know how to grab attention, but I think there’s more to this new kid than just smoke ‘n mirrors.
My first order at N2 was the Black Lava Salted Caramel – silky smooth and topped with black salt. My second was the TEAramisu: a “mild tea custard gelato with earl grey and marsala soaked sponge folded through, topped with an earl grey royale whipped mascarpone”. And both were more than enough for one.
Depending on the time, day, or just plain bad luck, you may have to queue for your N2 treats. But if you’re going to eat gelato anywhere in Melbourne, N2 is definitely worth the wait.
329 Brunswick Street, Melbourne, VIC 3065
For a change, I took the scenic route to last weekend’s party. Through the bush, like Little Red Riding Hood.
Given the journey ahead, my dinner contribution needed to be roadworthy. I took this opportunity to create hazelnut meringue /pavlova cakes: cake bases with crispy cloud toppings.
Despite the brilliance of this concept, I’ve only seen meringue /pavlova cakes at a couple of cafes – and they’ve been of a macaroon texture, rather than a cake texture. What’s more, the recipes I’ve seen have only been for large chocolate hazelnut cakes.
Hence, “the plan” for my own hazelnut meringue cakes:
- A cake base mixture split into 12 muffin tins, using the hazelnut cake recipe from pastrystudio.blogspot.
- A pavolva /meringue topping, based on the chocolate meringue recipe from taste.com.au.
For the cake bases, I omitted the orange zest and substituted the milk for a latte. And for the toppings I omitted the chocolate. (Although chocolate and hazelnut is a favourite Italian pairing, I left out the chocolate to reveal the subtle flavour of the hazelnuts).
Of importance to note, is the optimum baking time of fifteen minutes (approx), when using silicon heart-shaped moulds. A helpful point to remember: the meringue toppings obscure the cake bases, so it’s difficult to check the cakes for ‘done-ness’ with the usual touch or prick test!
Barely a few moments out of the oven and into the mouths of my tasting panel, feedback emerged: “Amazing texture” … “You could sell these in a café”.
Phew. A safe journey completed. With no wolves in sight.