Monday, July 25, 2011

Pear and Panettone Pudding

So, more on my Christmas in July dinner. Obviously I'm still talking about dessert. At some point I may mention the main course. Then again, maybe not. This dessert has it all going on. I might make just this in the future. Who needs real food anyway?

So, this is obviously an adaption from bread and butter pudding, that stalwart of British dining. I won't lie, bread and butter pudding is not up there on my hit list of desserts. It's a dessert that was born out of rations and need in post-war Britain and I really don't envy those who had to eat this at the time. (Although many of my British friends rave about this, I remain skeptical. Like I am about rhubarb. And summer pudding. I mean honestly, how much bread do you need to eat for dessert people? Seriously.) I digress. This is the Italian version of the dessert. I've made a French version too, using day old croissants and some cinnamon sugar. It worked wonderfully so I had high hopes for this dessert.

Now, I won't lie, I didn't come up with this all by my ownsome. I owe credit to Annie Bell, this comes from her Gorgeous Christmas book. (If you're obsessed with Christmas only half as much as me, I'd suggest you buy this book.) It looks spectacular, all glossy and caramel coloured and works wonderfully with my ice cream so a winner all round. I did make some changes to the recipe (temptation is too much) and so I poached the pears before adding them to the dish. She also only makes one layer and scatters the pears on the top. I made 2 layers and put pears in the in-between layer too. Feel free to make it either way. I was cooking for a crowd but I also like at least 2 layers of panettone. It gives the dish some oomph and makes it filling, in a good way. This is the kind of dessert that will keep you going for days in the depths of winter.

Pear and Panettone Pudding
Adapted from Annie Bell’s Gorgeous Christmas
Feeds 21, easily with some leftovers for breakfast

1 panettone, sliced
Butter, for spreading
9 eggs
450g caster sugar
1250ml double cream
1250ml full cream milk
Splash of vanilla paste
8 pears
1L stock syrup
Apricot jam, for glazing

You’ll need to rather large, rectangular dishes for this, greased lightly. First things first, peel and core the pears. Heat the stock syrup (1L of water, 250g caster sugar, 3 slices of lemon) until simmering. Place the pears in the syrup, cover with some baking paper (for those technical minds this is called a cartouche) and simmer until the pears are tender and slightly translucent. The time this takes depends on how ripe your pears are. The riper the pears, the quicker they’ll cook. Mine were ridiculously ripe so this took less than 10 minutes when I did it but can take up to 45 minutes if your pears are like rocks. Don’t skip this step. The pears will discolour in the soaking process if you don’t cook them. Once the pears are tender, remove from the syrup and place on a chopping board. Slice the pears in half and then into thirds. Allow to cool.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until combined. Then whisk in the vanilla, milk and cream. Strain into a jug and set aside. Butter the slices of panettone and line the baking dishes. The aim is to completely cover the base of the dish. Scatter half the pears over the slices. Repeat again with slices and pears. Pour the egg mixture over the slices until they are completely covered. Wrap the dishes in cling film and refrigerate overnight. This allows the bread/panettone to soak up all the egg mixture and become soft and gooey which results in a smoother end pudding.

The next day, heat the oven to 160C and take the puds out of the fridge about an hour before baking to allow them to come to room temperature. This speeds up the whole cooking process. When you’re serving your main course, place the puddings in roasting dishes (or deep sided oven racks) and fill the roasting dish with water so that the water comes at least half way up the side of the pudding dish. Place these in the oven and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the puddings are set, golden and puffed at the sides.

Heat the apricot jam (about 4 tablespoons worth) with some water until it bubbles at the sides and is smooth. Brush this over the tops of the pudding. Serve with ice cream, custard or cream.

Unfortunately there are no photos of this lovely dish. I was distracted with the whole entertaining process and forgot about them. Apologies.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Christmas Ice Cream

We're having a Christmas in July dinner this weekend. It's the kind of thing those of us living in the Southern Hemisphere take joy in doing because it's a legitimate time to eat excessive amounts of food with a fire burning in the background. December just doesn't allow for that here. Christmas in July is a very broad term for what I'll be serving on Saturday but I've made up for it with dessert. I'm making pear and panettone pudding and serving it with this Christmas ice cream. I know that many of you are fans of the traditional Christmas cake. I am not. It is my worst type of cake and I only make it every year because it makes the house smell so fabulously of Christmas. I then give it away. As fast as I can.

So the choice of Christmas ice cream is a little unusual for me. I'm not a fan of raisins, except when accompanied by salty peanuts, but this ice cream is such a winner I may have to rethink my stance on the subject. It has all the flavours of Christmas, plus the soaked raisins, that lift my mood the way only Christmas can. The recipe comes from a Delicious magazine, Christmas issue (2009) (I seem to have a few Christmas editions, Christmas being my favourite time of year and all) but I've adapted it in some ways. I cooked the raisins in the brandy and orange juice and zest for 10 minutes before allowing it to cool and sit overnight. I think this just gives the raisins an edge and moistness that would be lacking if you just soaked them. I also added the mixed spice to this mix to infuse before adding it to the ice cream. (The original recipe says to add the mixed spice to the almost perfectly churned custard.) Finally I added the raisins in at the beginning of the churning process. This is probably not the best idea if you ice cream machine is electric and violent but mine is ancient and requires me to turn it in the frozen cylinder so no harm done. I recommend just adding the raisin mix in at the end (as suggested in the magazine) to avoid any of the stress caused by early addition.

This would make a great addition to your Christmas menu if you're in the Southern Hemisphere. Perfect for Christmas Day lunch, after a braai...

Christmas Ice Cream
Adapted from Delicious Magazine (December 2009)
150g cake mix (raisins, sultanas)
100ml brandy
juice and zest of one orange
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
500g single cream (also known as 'fresh cream')
250ml full cream milk
1 vanilla pod
2 cinnamon sticks
6 large egg yolks
110g caster sugar
300ml double cream

So, first thing, put the cake mix, brandy, orange juice and zest into a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add in the mixed spice and set aside to cool.
In a pan, heat the single cream, milk, vanilla and cinnamon til scalding point. In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Once the milk is scalding, pour some of it into the egg mixture. Whisk this to incorporate and then pour this back into the pan with the rest of the milk. Cook to 72C, the stage where the custard has thickened and can coat the back of a spoon.
Strain into a clean bowl, cover the top with cling film and allow to cool to room temperature.
Unfortunately you have to wait until tomorrow to continue with your ice-cream making. Once the custard has cooled to room temperature, refrigerate overnight. When the raisin/brandy mix is cool, cover with clingfilm and leave to develop flavour overnight too. This doesn't need to be refrigerated but you can if you're so inclined.
The next day, remove the custard from the fridge. Lightly whip the double cream to soft peak stage. Fold the double cream into the custard in two stages making sure it is thoroughly mixed. At this point you can add in the raisin mix or you can wait until it's almost fully churned to do so.
Churn according to your ice-cream machines instructions.* Freeze until firm (about 4 hours or so).
Eat in large quantities, either on it's own or with pear and panettone pudding.

*If you don't have an ice cream machine I've heard you can freeze such ice creams in plastic tubs, putting clingfilm over the top to prevent a skin from forming and removing from the freezer to beat every 2-3 hours (so as to break down the ice crystals). Make sure to remove the clingfilm before beating and you'll need to beat about 3 times or so before allowing the ice cream to freeze thoroughly. I haven't tried this method so I can't comment on it's effectiveness... If you have, let me know how it works!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Breakfast In Jozi

Seeking a good breakfast in this city is surprisingly difficult. There are many places where the eggs are overcooked, the bacon a horrible sort of grey shade and the toast hard enough to break your teeth. Fortunately there are a few places where this is not the case. The Park's Cafe in The Parks Centre on Jan Smuts is my perfect breakfast. The eggs are poached to perfection, the bacon is crispy and the tomatoes have just a hint of chilli. You can finish it all off with a really good cappuccino. Bliss.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pecan Chocolate Tart

This is the sort of thing you should serve at Thanksgiving. It's all decadence and overindulgence which I imagine Thanksgiving is all about. Sadly we don't have Thanksgiving here so I need to find other excuses to make stuff like this. I'll be frank, I'm quite good at making such excuses. Like tonight for example. Ordinary family dinner. Now it's ordinary family dinner with chocolate pecan tart. It just has that edge.

I also wanted to trial run this tart because I've been thinking of making it for the Christmas in July dinner I'm organizing in a few weeks. I'm not sure I'll be serving it then yet but it is pretty awesome. And it's easy. You just need a pastry case (possibly the most difficult part) and you're set.

Chocolate Pecan Tart
For the Pastry
250g butter, unsalted, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
1 egg
375g plain flour
Cream the butter and the sugar together until white and fluffy. Add in the egg and beat to combine. Lastly add in the flour. Beat until the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough out of the machine and knead lightly into a disc. Wrap this in clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour. While you're waiting grease a 20cm tart tin. After 30 minutes, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out until thin enough to see the table below. Press this into the lined tin and trim the edges. Refrigerate again for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C.
Line the pastry with baking paper and rice/clingfilm and baking beans (don't do this if you're in South Africa, our clingfilm melts spectacularly in the oven and you'll end up with a plasticy/ricy/pastry mess.)
Blind bake the tart. Basically, bake with the beans in for 20 minutes. Then remove the beans/rice and the baking paper/clingfilm. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes, until the pastry is dry. Set aside.

For the Filling
150g caster sugar
250g honey
400ml double cream
350g pecans
handful of dark chocolate

Boil the honey, double cream and sugar until dark. This takes approximately 10 minutes (116C) and by dark I mean caramel dark not black burnt dark.

Remove from the heat and add in the pecans followed by the chocolate.

Pour this into the pastry case, turn the oven down to 160C and place the tart in the oven for 5 minutes. (The oven should be preheated from your blindbaking at 180C). Allow to cool before consuming.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Ah, the elusive scone. Good ones are so hard to find that these days I don't even bother to order them, such are the disappointments of the past. But these happen to be Ngonu's recipe and they are truly fabulous. They are best eaten hot, just out of the oven with excessive amounts of jam and cream. And cheese if you're that way inclined. I've also been known to eat them with butter and Marmite.They're good at breakfast, tea, lunch, tea and supper.

Ngonu's Scones
Makes about 12

2 cups plain flour
2 rounded teaspoons of baking powder
a pinch of salt (apparently Ngonu put a pinch of salt in everything, including her coffee)
3 tablespoons sugar
60-80g butter, unsalted, cold (roughly 3 tablespoons)
1/2 c double cream/buttermilk
1 egg cracked into a 250ml cup and then filled up with milk

Preheat the oven to 220C. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl. Rub in the butter with your hands. Add in almost all the egg/milk mixture, reserving a small amount to paint the tops. (About a tablespoons worth). Mix until it starts to come together. At this point, if it looks a little dry, add in the double cream. Once you have a dough turn out onto a floured surface and pat down. Don't roll it out. The mixture should be worked only minimally otherwise you'll end up with stodgy, chewy scones not light, flaky ones. Use a scone cutter to cut out the scones and place them on a lined baking tray. Cut efficiently so that there's only a small piece left which you can roll into a sort-of-scone-like-ball.

Now, using the left over milk mix, brush the top of the scones.

Turn the oven down to 200C and place the scones in the middle rack. Bake for 8 minutes, then turn them and bake for another 7 minutes. Allow them to cool slightly before eating.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes

These cupcakes are actually muffins in disguise. They work super well un-iced for breakfast. I like to keep a collection in my freezer to reheat at a moment's notice.

Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes

1/4c poppy seeds
1/2c milk
250g butter, unsalted and soft
275g caster sugar
grated zest of 2 small lemons
4 eggs
335g self-raising flour
100g plain flour
1c buttermilk

250g butter, unsalted, soft
2c icing sugar
juice of 2 small lemons

Preheat the oven. Grease and line 2 cupcake trays (this makes 24). Put the poppyseeds in a bowl and stir in the milk.
In a standing mixer, cream the butter, sugar and zest until white and fluffy. Add in the eggs, beating well. Add in the flours, buttermilk and poppyseed mix in 2 goes, alternating each.
Beat for a minute so the mixture is super smooth.

Divide the mixture between the cupcake tins. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back when touched and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

For the icing, mix the lemon juice with the icing sugar. Whisk until smooth. If you like, you can dip the cupcakes in this mixture and make do. (Illustrated in the photo below.) However, if you're a fan of buttercream, cream the butter in the standing mixture until white. Add in the icing sugar/lemon mixture and mix until white and evenly distributed. You can also leave the cupcakes plain, for breakfast snacks.