Tag Archives: rose petals

A Sicilian cocktail party, a lost recipe, the triumph of gluttony

gluttony-01 This week, Liz and I are gatecrashing a Sicilian cocktail party! What is a Sicilian party without drinks and food? Liz brings Clam Casino (below left) and a gorgeous coloured negroni (below right); I went for sweets from Sicilian convents with the Triumph of Gluttony. liz-clams-casinoliz-negroni

To read about our partying hijinks and get the clam and cocktail recipes, please head over to Liz’s blog (where you will also find the Dr Who cocktail (squee), bread on a stick, N2O gas-leavened cakes, and more fun than you can poke a pogo stick at).

{Interlude … }

{ I’ll be here sipping a negroni when you come back }

gluttony-06gluttony-07gluttony-08 A triumphal idea As for the Triumph of Gluttony, this is not so much a recipe as a tumble of ideas, an attempt to turn words on a page into something real, sans star trek replicator. The moment I read about the Triumph of Gluttony in Mary Simeti Taylor’s book, Sicilian Food, a love affair was born. It was an unrequited love affair, because Ms Simeti Taylor said each convent had its secret recipes that were, or are likely to become, forgotten with the last generation of nuns. So, I did what any mildly obsessive home cook would do, and made my own. For anyone who’s had the real Triumph of Gluttony from Palermo convents, this ain’t it. But if you didn’t make it before the convent stopped selling them to the public, this is for you.

PS, it’s also for everyone at Angie’s Fiesta Friday bash, you should also visit my co-gatecrasher Liz’s blog for the full story!!

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Rash promises and kitchen derring-do: turkish coffee brownie layer cake

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This is a cake of two tales. And the tale of two cakes.

Story the first.

Once upon a Saturday night, there was a Pimms cocktail-addled promise to make a layered birthday cake. Which I promptly forgot about until Sunday evening (the birthday was on Monday).

It was the prettiest Pimms cocktail I had ever seen, with three different types of citrus, strawberries, mint, a dash of this and a splash of that. An English-summer-meets-tropical sunset mash of colours and flavours.

But if I have to bake a cake every time I have that cocktail, I may just switch to a martini.

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Story the second.

Once upon a Sunday evening. With a sense of wild, reckless adventure, and no little trepidation, I poured cake batter into teacups and put it into the oven.

Wild recklessness, because I picked up the teacups from an op shop, with no knowledge of whether they were oven safe. Trepidation, because We could have had a Turkish coffee brownie flavoured explosion in the oven.

(But, looking on the bright side of life, a Turkish coffee brownie flavoured explosion might have led to a new oven. One with an accurate temperature gauge, a working oven light, and a steam function for baking bread.)

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Cakes I & II

We didn’t get a new oven.

Instead, we got brownie cakes. I inverted the teacup cakes so they became domed-shaped single-serve mini layer cakes. With just enough space for one candle on top.

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Dinner with friends, orange blossom water, saffron, mouhammara

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We had twelve people around our dinner table on Saturday night, with a menu – below – built around Paula Wolfert recipes. It was all about orange blossom water, cinnamon, saffron, mysterious peppers, and sugar. For one evening, we were in Northern Africa. Morocco.

There were dips scented with orange blossom water and cinnamon/thyme, hovering between dessert, salad and dips. Then, soup with gruyere and rye, home made stock, baked in a whole pumpkin, lightened with a touch of cinnamon.

The tagine was laden with cinnamon, saffron and turmeric. Slow-cooked lamb, onions slowly braised in the same liquid (Wolfert described the onion sauce as ‘unctuous’, so it was), finished under the grill with more cinnamon and sugar. It was aromatic, inviting, looked laden with history, and was magical.

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The mouhammara and a Berber bread stole the show.

Mouhammara, with the assertive flavours of pomegranate molasses, roasted capsicum (peppers), roasted chilli, thickened with walnuts, rounded out by the warmth of cumin. Everyone tasted, wondered, and asked for more. (Recipe at the end of the post)

And the Berber bread – made over 3 days, starting with a pungent garlic starter and ending with rounds of crusty, chewy-dense, savoury bread from the skillet – no oven! We kept tearing off chunks, burning our fingers and marvel that so much flavour could come from so few ingredients.

As for dessert? I made profiteroles, but all attention was on that cake – made by a friend’s mum who is a professional chef. It was the ultimate centrepiece – bigger than anything from a domestic cake pan, dense with liqueur and hazelnuts, covered with swirls of buttercream and chocolate.

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Deconstructed rosewater savarin, black star pastry style

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Usually, I don’t blog about the cafes and patisseries that we visit. In part because there are so many food bloggers in Sydney who discover and review each new place, often months before I make my fashionably late way there.

But Black Stars Pastry’s strawberry watermelon cake is really something special.

The cake has almost a cult following among BSP fans. It’s made of two pieces of almond dacquoise, layered with rose scented cream, rose scented watermelon slices, and topped with an artful jumble of red grapes, strawberries, dried rose petals, and bright green flashes of pistachio slivers.

For me, it’s the taste of Sydney summer in every mouthful.

I served a variation of this cake for a dinner party, where the seven courses alternated between the colours red and white. Dessert was the watermelon cake turned into a trifle, with an extra sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. It was one of the hottest, most humid days in living memory. As guests began to eat the trifle, conversation around the table came to a standstill. There was only the sound of dessert forks clinking against dewy, chilled wineglasses that doubled as trifle bowls.

And tonight, the same flavour combination – rosewater, cream, watermelon and strawberries – worked their magic on savarins, for a weeknight dinner party.

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From German chocolate cake to truffle

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A couple of weeks ago, I made a gf Germany chocolate layer cake for a good friend.

I had a few bits of the cake left over, including bits trimmed off to make the layer cake prettier. I don’t know enough about baking and desserts to invent a Christina Tosi-like Germany chocolate birthday crumbs (German chocolate cake birthday crumbs. Now there’s an idea. It might be good in a chocolate-chip-german-chocolate-cake-crumbs cookie…) But I did come across a recipe for truffles made of chocolate cake and other things that make your dentist happy and are possibly not good for you.

Problem solved.

If having too much chocolate cake can ever be a problem.

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The chocolate cake was crumbled up into a large mixing bowl, mixed with extra butter, cocoa powder, chocolate ganache, and the coconut-custard mix that was used for the layer cake filling. The mixture was thick, dark, dark brown, buttery-cocoa-y smelling. This mixture is rolled into balls, which are covered in a thick, dark chocolate ganache and topped with multi-coloured silvery cachous and dried rose petals.

Not every truffle was a perfect round or perfectly decorated, but together, they made a pretty plate and exuded the most enticing chocolate-y smell.

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Layered birthday cake (gf)

David Lebovitz.

A name that acts like a comfort blanket in the kitchen. When I use one of David’s recipes, I relax and let my hands get into the rhythm of measuring, sifting, creaming, folding. Because I know it’s going to work, so well, and so easily.

Don’t get me wrong. I love reading and discovering new food blogs. I would be that much more productive and better informed about non-food news* if WordPress, Blogger and Google didn’t point me to all those food blogs and websites.

* Though I had to smile at twitter messages this week asking “Who was Margaret Thatcher?”. Or, maybe I’m just showing my age, and the company I keep?

But. When I am baking for a friend and it’s her birthday, and it’s a gluten free cake (and I have no idea about the chemistry behind gf baking), and I’m taking this cake into work, and there is no time to make a second cake when the first one goes wrong, the recipe just. has. to. work.

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That’s when I saw a recipe for a layered German chocolate cake on Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, which was adapted from David Lebovitz. Shauna Ahern + David Lebovitz = phew.

This is not the first time I’ve baked a gluten free cake, though my last proper gf cake was at Christmas, where the batter was more or less something to hold the brandy-drunken fruit together. This time, the cake will stand or fall by the taste and texture of the chocolate cake batter. What’s more, we all have our own idea of the perfect chocolate cake, our palates are honed since childhood to pick up the nuances of a chocolate cake that differ from our ideal.

So, attempting a gf chocolate cake? That was scary. But I muttered David and Shauna’s names like a mantra and boldly went where no saucy gander has gone before.

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Belated Valentine: Boca Negra

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What did you do on Valentines Day?

I went home to give Mr Gander plain yoghurt for dinner.

You see, Mr Gander had two wisdom teeth removed on 14 Feb, so ‘real food’ was out of the question. Diddums. Instead, I drew a heart on his yoghurt with pomegranate molasses as an ironic V-day gift.

On Saturday, he could eat food again. To celebrate this milestone, we had momofuku pork belly buns (another post coming soon) and boca negra.

Boca negra: a spoon-able, custard-fudgy, intensely decadent, dark chocolate concoction that leaves traces of itself every step of the way. Dessert forks, plates, cake knife, the mixing bowl, whisk, spatula, all had a slick of rich, soft chocolate that whispered ‘lick me’ – no wonder the cake is called ‘boca negra’ or ‘black mouth’ in Spanish.

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The texture was similar to the Orbit Cake from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert (a version of the Orbit cake recipe is on his blog). The main differences are boca negra is not flourless, but uses 1.5 tablespoons of flour, and the baking time is much shorter at 30 minutes rather than 1.5 hours. I also saw a version of boca negra with chipotle chiles on Epicurious It adds a throat warming heat to the chocolatey-ness, which I imagine would be great for those hibernating winter months.

But back to Julia Child / Lora Brody’s version of boca negra.

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