Friday 29 June 2012

Reine de Saba - Julia Child's 'Queen of Sheba' Cake

Most accounts of the Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon speak of their interaction as strictly platonic - a matter of state and trade agreements, not seduction. I don't see how that's possible if this rich, dense, chocolate cake named in her honour was amongst the gifts she brought to him. It remains a mystery how this cake is actually connected to its namesake, but it's so delicious you too would give the Queen "whatsoever she desired" (1 Kings 10:13) once you had a bite.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Cherry Almond Focaccia & Nudo Olive Oil Ice Cream

Nudo, in Italian, means 'naked.' Nudo olive oil - in any language - means making what is naked taste amazing: pasta, bread, grilled vegetables, your lover... even your dessert! This past week I had the opportunity to meet Jason Gibb, the co-founder of Nudo:  a unique olive oil company where the olive trees are adopted and the yield of each tree is delivered to the adoptive 'parent's' doorstep. I was invited to attend a tasting hosted by the lovely ladies at The Siren Group at All the Best Fine Foods - a welcoming pantry of a store, stocked with the kind of fresh food, baked goods and delightful foodstuffs that satisfy any culinary fantasy. I thoroughly enjoyed bonding over food with the owner, Jane Rodmell, whom I was delighted to find is a true culinary kindred spirit.  Everything about the event was inspiring:  the atmosphere, the people, the food! There were small bites highlighting each oil (it comes in natural, lemon, basil, garlic, and Sicilian chili versions) prepared expertly and with love by Executive Chef Nicole Rumball. The oil was delicious on its own, too, seducing my bread into lingering a little longer with each dip.

Friday 15 June 2012

Coconut Cloud Cake with Pineapple Flowers

There is something rather sensual about working with eggs. As a testament to the yolk, there has been a parade of custards, curds, ice cream, pound cakes and pâte sablée in my kitchen boudoir lately that all successfully elicited moans of pleasure. I was not anticipating the extent of my attraction, however, to the dessert that came from all the whites that were left over. This light yet sumptuous 'cloud' cake, with its layers of sponge and abundance of coconut-y meringue, won my heart and the hearts of those who tried it. It prompted the licking clean of plates, adamant promises to not share with a significant other, and the comment: "This is the cake I didn't know I wanted, but I wanted it - so badly!"

Friday 8 June 2012

Almond Tart with Homemade Vanilla Mascarpone and Fresh Strawberries

Lately I've been keen to channel my inner milkmaid, for which my kitchen (and my curves) are well equipped. Having truly enjoyed the experience of making fresh ricotta, I decided to try making homemade mascarpone cheese. Mascarpone is the naughtier, creamier cousin to ricotta. Where ricotta is the cheese you'd introduce to your parents, mascarpone is the cheese you'd cheat on ricotta with. It's a rich, smooth, spreadable cheese with a light flavour that is best known for its longstanding affair with the beloved Italian dessert - tiramisu. As much as I enjoy anything creamy and coffee-flavoured, I wanted to prepare something fresh to accompany this season's local strawberries. I decided to introduce yet another tart to my imaginary patisserie. This tart has an almond crust, filled with the creamy combination of fresh homemade mascarpone, cream cheese and sour cream, speckled with flecks of vanilla bean and lemon zest. The tart is topped with macerated strawberries, which taste best au naturel with just the finest sprinkling of sugar to get their juices flowing.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Key Lime Bundt Cake with Key Lime Caramel Glaze

The longer days and shorter hemlines of the warmer weather invite time spent outdoors, and light meals prepared simply with the produce the season has to offer. In pursuing a craving for a distinctly summery dessert to accompany the unseasonably hot weather we've been having lately, I ambitiously went outside of season and inside my kitchen to bake a delicious key lime bundt cake in 30 degree heat! This cake is worth its weight in clothing removed - its dense and buttery crumb are lightly perfumed with key lime and topped with a zesty citrus and caramel glaze that is happily licked off any exposed skin it just 'happens' to land on.