Autumn! And a Persimmon Creme Brulee.

Of dry leaf piles, of cracklings underfoot, of receding daylight, of longer nights, of cooler winds, of Fall, of harvest, of mellowness, of Shelly, of Keats, of red, of gold, of maple, of figs, of chestnuts, of pumkins, of sparseness, of loss, of change, of seasons, of bright endings to make for new beginnings.

Does that remind you…Of Autumn?

 
 
 

I almost thought I could write poetry when I recently connected with Mother Nature. In fact, the more I explore in and around Sydney, the deeper I fall in love with the place. I often think if its time I should have a travel blog to record my experiences. But then everything I see inspires me to create with food…somehow its all related. Isn’t it? Beauty inspires art and art inspires beauty!

Our visit to Mount Wilson and Mount Irvine during the Easter weekend was one which I will always remember. The 3 hour drive from Sydney was so scenic with rapidly changing landscapes and beautiful views that at one point I wondered if we would be able to make it to our destination, for the number of times we pulled over to take pictures. The trees were a riot of colors, a spectrum of shades. Crimson,fiery reds,browns, yellows, gold. And the ground was covered with the fallen leaves as if setting the road ablaze. Occasionally a puffing wind came by and made them dance around and fall back to the ground.

We stopped at the Cathedral of Ferns, a large picnic spot which we was crowded as expected considering the season and the long weekend. We had lunch (prepacked) on a rustic wooden table under a bright red tree. I could eat there all my life.

After an hour or so when I thought I had enough pictures to record every little detail of the journey we drove on to the next intended spot …the Kookootonga Nut farms. This my friends, I shall write about in my next post. There’s too much to share . And then when you bring back ‘PYO’ , you make something out of it which deserves a post by itself.

Persimmons were unfamiliar to me until recently. But now I can never have enough of them. I generally add them to salad or eat them by themselves but this time the temptation to add them to dessert was too all too powerful.

Mousse was the first thought that came to my mind. And then my eyes fell on my favourite little gadget sitting in one corner of the kitchen -the blowtorch. So, Creme Brule it is! I have to admit however, things didn’t go how I planned the first time around. The pureed version of the fruit resulted in a curdled custard. For a person who has made creme brulee over a hundred times, this was the first of such a disaster. I made a second batch and this time I placed small pieces of fruit in the ramekins instead of adding Persimmon puree to the custard. The second time it was great!

 
Persimmon Creme Brulee
Serves 4

13/4 cups heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 3 tsp castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
pinch of salt
1 Persimmon chopped into small cubes

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C.
Divide the chopped Persimmons between 4 ramekins/oven proof serving bowls and place them on the base of the ramekin.
Pour the cream in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over low-medium heat. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar and salt. Pour 2 tsps of the cream into the egg yolk mixture to temper the yolks and then the remaining cream, whisking gently but constantly (do not whisk too hard or it will result in a frothy texture). Add the vanilla extract and stir.
Strain the egg-cream mixture equally into the ramekins and place them on a rimmed baking tray.
Pour boiling water carefully in the tray so that it comes up to 2/3rd the level of the custard in the ramekin. Transfer the tray into the centre of the oven.
Bake till the edges of the custard are set but the centre is still jiggly. This could take anywhere between 30-45 mins depending on the bakeware. To check for doneness, insert a pair of tongs into the oven and give the ramekins a genle shake. (The custard should not brown or rise).
Once done, carefully remove the tray from the oven and take out the ramekins using a slotted spoon. Let them cool to room temparature on a wire rack and then refrigerate to cool completely. (They can be stored upto 3 days in the refrigerator)
Just before serving, sprinkle with the remaining castor sugar and caramelise the top with a blowtorch, moving it back and forth till a crust forms ( more the sugar, thicker will be the crust). Allow the sugar to cool and harden. Serve immediately.

 

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Strawberry Melting Moments. Not a moment too soon!

I am so looking forward to the weekend. 4 days off…a much needed break. We have been longing for some family time. And it has been long due. First it was the boy’s health, one following the other and then my husband travelling on work. Now all we want is to slow down and huddle together in a few peaceful corners of the world and do nothing of substance.

I have a few things planned but most of it is going to be driven by how adventurous we feel every morning. If we are not too late to catch the Autumnal red gold trees , I may be able to get a few scenic pictures for you. A few guests who I love having over are also on the agenda. And plenty of food, of course. I hope to keep my pantry well stocked with sweet treats.

My little men love Melting moments. And I love watching them grab the cookies hard that crumble under the slightest pressure. It melts my heart to see them despair over the broken cookies. These are a joy to make too. They are egg less and ready in minutes. With or without frosting they always taste great!

 

The Easter bunnies are on their way, their baskets loaded with treasure. I am basking in the excitement of letting them uncover.

Bounty is in the air! Not a moment too soon.

 Strawberry Melting Moments (adapted with variation from Taste.com)

Yields 10

125g unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup pure icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup flour
2 tbsp custard powder
icing sugar to serve

For filling
60g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp strawberry essence
3/4 cup pure icing sugar, sifted
2 drops pink food colouring

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Using a electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Sift flour and custard powder over butter mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined and a soft dough forms.
Using 1 heaped tbsp of dough per ball, make balls. Place on prepared trays leaving room for spreading. Using a fork dipped in flour, lightly flatten each biscuit until 1 cm thick.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden. Cool on tray for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile make strawberry filling: Using a whisk, beat butter in a bowl till light and creamy. Add strawberry essence. Whisk to combine. Add icing sugar. Whisk until well combined. Tint the frosting with food colour.
Spread or pipe the filling on the flat side of a cookie. Sandwich with another cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. Serve dusted with icing sugar.

If its a Sticky Date Pudding it has to be sticky!

This morning as I was cleaning my refrigerator I found myself conflicted. There were bits of this and that everywhere. Egg whites, egg yolks, a cup of lemon curd, some ganache, dates, nuts, shortcrust pastry and a lot of others. I gave my brains a workout and it came up with a world of possibilities all of which were cold. Not surprising! Normally I wouldn’t want to waste a second once i make a decision especially if the outcome excites me. But today was different. The younger twin contracted an infection 3 days ago and has been down with fever and cold ever since.
 
Naturally, i had to make a warm dessert. Something I myself would enjoy during minimal taste sensations. No chocolate this time though.

Before I come to the dessert, there is something else I wanted to convey. Since I write so often about my boys, for the sake of blog identity henceforth I will refer to them as Twin 1 and Twin 2. I don’t feel I am justified in calling them older and younger. And incidentally that is how they were addressed after birth for hospital and immunisation records before they had a name.
Lets talk pudding now. There are two parts to my association with Sticky Date Pudding. Before Australia and after Australia. There were a few recipes I followed before moving to Australia which were alright back then. After I ate it at a cafe in Sydney slathered with sauce and downright delicious, I realised that my puddings were not sticky enough. What! It was a Sticky Date Pudding after all. It had to be sticky. 
That one was stuck in my head for a fact.

I kept looking for the perfect recipe that would be close to the one I had till i found till one. The butterscotch sauce is what makes the difference. I have made this on a number of occasions and I love the simplicity of the recipe. Make it for your guests and try to stop them from licking the plates. At least don’t risk inviting me over.

The boys joined me in the kitchen. Twin 1 counted the dates while Twin 2 whisked the batter with utmost care. Before we realised the puddings were happily rising in the oven as we waited impatiently trying to save some of the butterscotch sauce. Most of it disappeared before the puddings came out. It was a lot of fun.
A day that started with coughs, sneezes, gloomy faces ended on a delicious note between snuggles, cuddles, mischievous grins and a good deal of spoon licking. Such is the magic of food when made and shared together.
 
 The puddings were for my little boys and the praline for the blog.
I did tell you that I am mothering a new responsibility lately…didn’t I?
 
Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch sauce and Almond Praline (Adapted from the Masterchef Australia Cookbook)
Makes 8
180g dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 1/4 cups (310ml) water
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 cup (165g) firmly packed brown sugar
60g butter, softened chopped
2 eggs
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour               
Almond praline
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1/4 cup (35g) slivered almonds               
Butterscotch sauce
50g butter
1 cup (220g) brown sugar
1 cup (250ml) cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (160 degrees C fan-forced). Lightly grease eight (1/2 cup capacity) metal dariole moulds. Place dates and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Remove from the heat. Add bicarbonate of soda, stir until dates start to break down, set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.               
Beat butter and sugar in a bowl using a hand beater, gradually add eggs one at a time, beat until light and fluffy. Add date mixture, stir to combine. Carefully fold through sifted flour, divide mixture evenly between the eight moulds, until 2/3 full.
Place moulds in a baking tray, carefully pour water in tray until it comes up 1/3 of the sides of the mould. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until golden and skewer comes out clean.
Meanwhile for the almond praline, combine sugar and 2 tbsp water in a saucepan and cook caramel over medium heat without stirring, swirling pan until deep golden. Scatter almonds onto a baking paper lined tray. Pour caramel and cool until set. Break praline into pieces.
For the butterscotch sauce combine butter, sugar, cream and vanilla extract in a saucepan over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 5-6 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.  
To serve, invert the hot pudding onto a serving plate, top with butterscotch sauce and shards of praline.