Profiteroles with Vanilla Crème Pâtissière and Chocolate Sauce

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there! Today I celebrated with one side of my family for a delicious brunch and then had dinner with the other side of the family, and I served these profiteroles for dessert.

Choux pastry has a nasty reputation as being very difficult to make, but Mum has been making this recipe for over 20 years and it has never failed for her. I was surprised by how easy it was to make and using this simple base recipe you can make profiteroles, eclairs or Paris-Brest. If you’re pressed for time you could easily swap the crème pâtissière for sweetened whipped cream, or for a different flavour, you could add a liquor such as Bailey’s Irish cream or Grand Marnier to the filling (although to me, nothing beats a homemade vanilla crème pat). The chocolate sauce could also be changed to berry, lemon, or caramel, or you could dip the profiteroles in toffee à la croquembouche. Basically, the options are endless!

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Choux Pastry (makes ~35 profiteroles or 20 eclairs)
1 cup water
60g butter
120g plain flour, sifted
4 eggs
1 extra egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water

Crème Pâtissière
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
140g white sugar
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
2 heaped dessertspoons flour
2 heaped dessertspoons cornflour
500ml milk
70g butter

Chocolate Sauce
300g dark chocolate melts
400ml pouring cream

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Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper and add a 1cm nozzle to a piping bag. Preheat oven to 205°C.

In a medium saucepan, bring water and butter to the boil. Lower the heat and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a smooth, sticky mass. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 3 minutes.

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Stirring with a wooden spoon, add eggs one at a time, ensuring your mixture is smooth and fully combined.

Fill a piping bag with the mixture and pipe mounds of pastry about 2cm in diameter, 2cm apart. Sprinkle lightly with water (the humidity helps the pastry rise) and then bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 150°C and cook for a further 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave to dry in the oven for approximately an hour.

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The odd misshapen profiterole is inevitable!

To make the crème pâtissière, mix together the eggs, yolks, sugar and flours. Bring the milk to the boil. Carefully pour it into the egg mixture, whisking well together. Add in the vanilla bean.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. After a time, the mixture will thicken quickly – make sure you keep stirring so the mixture on the bottom of the pan doesn’t burn. Beat in the butter a little at a time.

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Pour into a bowl, top with cling film and allow to cool.

Once profiteroles and crème pâtissière are fully cool, cut almost in half and fill with crème pâtissière.

Just before serving, make the chocolate sauce by combining the chocolate and cream in a medium saucepan and stirring on a low heat until melted and smooth. Add more cream or chocolate as required until desired consistency is reached.

Serve profiteroles drizzled with chocolate sauce and berries. Enjoy!

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Phew, 10 servings with 4 profiteroles each is quite exhausting!

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Choux pastry recipe adapted from Gabriel Gaté’s ‘Sweet Treats’ (1995).
Crème pâtissière recipe adapted from Vogue’s ‘Grand Finales’ (1988).

Coffee & Walnut Torte

While the ingredients for this torte look a little odd (particularly the Jatz biscuits!) the end result is absolutely delicious – the torte is crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside with a subtle coffee flavour. It’s a firm family favourite that always disappears far too quickly.

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Ingredients (serves 6-8)
3 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
½ teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
20 Jatz biscuits, crushed
⅔ cup walnuts

1 tablespoon icing sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee (dissolved in a small amount of water)
1 cup cream
Chocolate shavings (to decorate)
Walnuts (to decorate)

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Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Line a 9″ pie plate with baking paper.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add caster sugar, vinegar and vanilla and beat until very stiff. Fold in Jatz biscuits and walnuts. Spread in prepared pie plate and smooth the top.

Bake for 35 minutes. Prop open the oven door and allow to cool in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Trim the baking paper so it can no longer be seen.

To make the coffee cream, add icing sugar, vanilla, coffee and cream to a medium bowl and bit until thickened and stiff.

Spread generously over the cooled torte and, if desired, decorate with chocolate shavings and extra walnuts. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve. Enjoy!

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Recipe from Kaye Potter.

Apple Pie

This year, in honour of Pi Day tomorrow (14th March, 3.14 – nerdy I know!), I made my first latticed apple pie. Heading into Autumn, apples are particularly sweet and delicious and they really shine in this pie. I’ve kept flavouring simple and traditional with just a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon to enhance the flavour of the apples. I used red apples because that’s what we had in the house, but it would work well with granny smith apples as well (but you may want to add in a little more sugar). Happy baking!

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Ingredients (serves 8)
Pastry
1⅔ cups plain flour
1 tblspn caster sugar
¼ tspn baking powder
180g cold butter, chopped
⅓ cup iced water
1 tspn vanilla extract

5 apples peeled, cored and chopped
1 ½ tblspns lemon juice
⅓ cup caster sugar
4 tspns cinnamon
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 tblspns almond meal
1 egg, lightly beaten
Caster sugar, extra

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Method
To make the pastry, place the flour, sugar, baking powder and butter in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the motor still running, add the water and vanilla and process until it comes together and forms a smooth dough. Wrap in Gladwrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While your pastry is chilling, peel, core and chop your apples and grease a 22cm pie tin.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place the apple pieces and lemon juice in a large, deep frypan and cook over a medium heat for 8 minutes or until tender. Carefully pour out approximately half of the liquid from the pan and then add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to the remaining mixture. Set aside to cool.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out half of it with a rolling pin until it is 3mm thick. Carefully line the base of the pie tin with the pastry, trimming off any excess. Prick the bottom with a fork, then line with baking paper and top with pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 15 minutes and then remove the baking paper and pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes or until pastry is browned lightly.

Allow the pie base to cool slightly (around 5 minutes). Sprinkle the base of the pie with almond meal and then top with the apple mixture. Try to make the top as flat as possible to help with your pastry (you may have some apple mixture left over).

To make a lattice pie lid, roll out the remaining pastry until 3mm thick and cut strips of your desired width (I made 6 thick strips and 4 thin). Place strips evenly spaced on top of the pie, and weave them in a lattice design (see here for instructions). Cut off any excess and press down the edges of each strip so it links to the sides. Alternatively, roll out the remaining pastry into a large 3mm circle and drape it over the pie. Cut slits in the top of the pastry.

Brush your pie lid with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until pastry is golden and crisp. Serve with cream or ice-cream and enjoy!

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Adapted from ‘High-Top Apple and Sultana Pie’ from Donna Hay’s Seasons.

Nutella “Freakshake”

Ever since the cafe Pâtissez opened in June 2015 in my home town of Canberra, I have been desperate to try one of their famous FreakShakes. Clearly I’m not alone, because their FreakShakes garnered media attention from Toowoomba to Tokyo to Timbuktu, and copycat versions have cropped up all over the world.

I feel a particularly strong urge to go there, not only because their food and drinks look almost illegally delicious, but also because we have known one of the owners, Gina, for years as she previously owned a school uniform shop and worked with my Mum to develop a uniform for Jerrabomberra Public School (which Mum helped start) in 2001. It has been awe-inspiring to see her success.

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A selection of Pâtissez’s world-famous FreakShakes. Image: pattisez.com.au
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How flipping amazing do these doughnuts look?!?! Image: @pattisez Instagram

While I’m still hopeful I’ll get to visit Pâtissez in the not too distant future, for the time being I’ll make do with some homemade versions, starting with this easy Nutella and pretzel shake.

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Ingredients (serves 1 very hungry person)
2½ tablespoons Nutella
400ml milk
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
1 scoop good-quality vanilla ice-cream

To decorate: 
8-12 pretzels
Whipped cream
Nutella (extra)

Method
To make the milkshake, combine chocolate syrup, Nutella, ice-cream and milk in milkshake shaker and shake until bubbly and combined.

Using a metal spatula or butter knife, spread Nutella generously on the inside of a mason jar and around the outside of the rim. Stick pretzels on using extra Nutella so they line the rim. Pour the milkshake into the prepared mason jar. Top with a generous amount of whipped cream, a drizzle of Nutella and 4 extra pretzels. Enjoy!

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Inspired by Pâtissez’s ‘Pretzella’ FreakShake

Tropical Ice Cream

This delicious, easy dessert has all the tastes of summer and is perfect served with fresh fruit on a balmy evening. thumb_img_3009_1024Ingredients (serves 6-8)
1 litre good quality vanilla ice cream
100g unsalted pistachio nuts
¾ cup desiccated coconut
Pulp of 2 passionfruit
2 tablespoons honey
Fresh fruit, to serve

Method
Allow ice cream to soften at room temperature until just soft.

Remove pistachio nuts from shells. Cover nuts with boiling water and remove their dark skins. Dry thoroughly.

Place coconut in a dry pan and cook over a gentle heat until golden, stirring constantly. Remove from pan.

Combine ice-cream, nuts, ½ cup of the coconut, passionfruit pulp and honey. Place in a glad-wrap lined container (I use a log tin), cover and freeze for at least 2 hours

Serve topped with the remaining toasted coconut and fresh fruit. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Sydney Market Authority

Pavlova

The pavlova is a quintessential Aussie dessert that is said to have been inspired by the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova after a chef saw her perform on her world tour in 1926. A good pavlova has a beautiful high, crisp crust and a soft, pillowy marshmallow inside. It is one of my favourite summer desserts, especially when topped with seasonal fruit.

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Ingredients (Serves 6-8)
1 large cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon cornflour
2 egg whites (at room temperature)
4 tablespoons boiling water
300ml cream, thickened
Fresh fruit (this time I used a mango, strawberries and blueberries)

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Method
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a large tray with baking paper and trace a circle around the bottom of an 18cm cake tin (or other round object of the desired size). Turn the baking paper over (so it is pencil side down).

Add eggs whites to a large bowl. Put cornflour and caster sugar to one side of the bowl.  Add boiling water to egg whites, pour in vanilla and white vinegar, and beat on high for 10-20 minutes until thick, glossy and the sugar has dissolved (you can test this by putting a small amount of mixture on your index finger and rubbing it with your thumb, if you can feel the sugar, keep beating). **It is hugely important that you have the sugar dissolved, otherwise the pavlova may crack and weep during cooking**

Using the circle on the baking paper as your guide, spoon the pavlova mixture onto the tray and shape.

Cook at 180°C for about 8 minutes and then reduce heat to 90°C and cook for another 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the pavlova to cool in the oven for at least an hour, to prevent collapsing.

When fully cool and you’re ready to serve it (keep the meringue free of toppings until right before serving), gently spread the thickened cream over the top and decorate with fruit.

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Recipe from my lovely Grandmother, Margaret Payne.

Pumpkin Pies with a Brûlée Topping

Thanksgiving is almost upon us and while my family doesn’t celebrate it, we have developed a fondness for pumpkin pie since the first pumpkin pie I made for “Chrisgiving” in 2014. To change things up this year, I decided to make individual pies for everyone and for crunch, added a brûlée topping. Yum!

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It was my first time using a blowtorch so some bits got a little darker than anticipated – lots of fun though! 

Ingredients (makes 8)
Pastry
1 ⅔ cups plain flour, sifted
110g butter, chilled
110g pure icing sugar
1 egg yolk

Filling
2 cups pumpkin puree (made by roasting 1 whole butternut pumpkin (skinless), blitzing it into a smooth paste in a blender and then putting it in a sieve for an hour to remove the excess juice)
3 large eggs
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup brown sugar
¾ cup cream
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
A pinch of salt
1 quick grind of pepper

Brûlée Topping
Caster sugar

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Method
For the pastry, place flour, butter and icing sugar in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add egg yolk and 2 tblspns cold water and process until the mixture comes together in a smooth ball. Enclose in a plastic wrap and chill for 30mins.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease 8 10cm loose-bottomed tart pans well with margarine and canola oil spray.

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface and lift pastry into a tin, easing into the sides & trimming the excess. Repeat with the remaining tins. Chill the pastry in the tins for 15mins. Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with pastry weights. Blind-bake for 10mins, then remove paper and weights and return to the oven for 5mins or until crisp and lightly golden. Allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the pumpkin puree, cream, vanilla and spices and stir until all incorporated.

Remove the baking paper and pie weights and pour mixture into pastry cases. Bake pies in the oven for 10 minutes before reducing the heat to 160°C fan-forced and baking for a further 20-25 minutes, or until the filling has set.

Allow to cool completely before gently removing pies from the tins. These can be served without the brûlée topping as mini pumpkin pies.

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To create the brûlée topping, sprinkle the tops of the pies liberally with caster sugar and then heat with a blowtorch until the sugar has melted and formed a crisp coating. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. Enjoy!

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Pastry recipe adapted from the delicious. ‘Sweet’ cookbook and pumpkin pie filling recipe from Inspired Taste.net

 

Honeycomb

This is an old family recipe for delicious honeycomb – perfect enjoyed by itself, dipped in chocolate to make home-made ‘crunchies’, or as decorations on cakes.

Note: best consumed on the day it is made and stored immediately in an airtight container so it doesn’t go sticky.

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Ingredients
6 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons honey
½ tablespoon water
1 teaspoon bicarb soda

Method

Place a sheet of non-stick baking paper on a tray.

Place sugar, honey and water in a medium saucepan over high heat.

Bring to the boil. Boil for 3 minutes or until deep golden in colour.

Take off the heat and lightly sprinkle over bicarb soda, stirring any lumps if required (but otherwise leaving it to froth and bubble).

Pour mixture onto prepared tray (don’t spread it too much or you will lose aeration), and allow it to set at room temperature.

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Once set, break it into desired size pieces. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from my Great Grandmother, Doreen James.

Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

I love this cake, it’s so quick and effortless to put together and is absolutely delicious (also, because it contains carrot it’s basically a salad, right?!). It’s great at any time of year but is particularly good as a treat around Easter for someone who doesn’t like chocolate or for people who are chocolated out!

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Ingredients (serves 8-10)
1 ½ cups grated carrot (lightly packed)
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup plain flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¾ cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:
40g (1 tablespoon) softened butter
60g cream cheese (e.g. Philadelphia)
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1 ½ cups icing sugar, sifted

To decorate (if desired):
Extra chopped walnuts
The thin end of a small carrot cut into 2 halves
4 sprigs of coriander

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Method
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced).

Grease an 8″ round cake pan with margarine and line the base with baking paper.

Combine eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla & sifted dry ingredients  in a large bowl & beat on low speed.

Stir in carrots & walnuts. Mix well.

Pour mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for approx. 40 – 45mins or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes, before placing it on a wire rack to cool completely.

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To make the cream cheese frosting, beat butter & cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add in the lemon rind and icing sugar and beat until smooth. Spread evenly over the top and sides of the cake.

If desired, decorate by placing the finely chopped walnuts around the edge of the cake and the carrot pieces in the centre of the cake with two coriander sprigs above each carrot. Enjoy!

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Recipe from Aunty Cynth

Chocolate Berry Meringue Nests

These meringue nests are the perfect conclusion to a summer dinner party or BBQ. They are light, flavoursome and not too sweet when paired with fresh berries and whipped cream. I especially love that they look like you’ve gone to a lot of effort (when they’re really very simple to make) and they don’t heat up the house too much while baking!

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Ingredients (makes 4)
3 egg whites
¾ cup (165g) caster sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla essence
1 tablespoon dark dutch cocoa powder
300ml thickened cream, whipped
Fresh berries, to decorate (I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries)

Method
Preheat oven to 120 degrees C (~100 degrees C fan-forced). Line a large oven tray with baking paper.

Beat egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer or mixmaster until soft peaks form. Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating until the sugar dissolves between each addition. Add in vanilla essence and cocoa powder.

Divide the meringue mixture into 4 roughly equal sized dollops on the baking tray, and spread into circles approximately 11cm in diameter.

Bake in the oven for approximately 45 minutes or until meringues are firm. Turn off the oven and let meringues cool for 5 minutes, before letting them cool completely with the door ajar.

Top meringues with whipped cream and berries. Enjoy!

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Adapted from ‘Chocolate Berry Meringues’ in The Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook ‘Best Food’, 2005 reprint.