Friday, August 30, 2013

Fudgy Dulce de Leche Brownies

If there's any food I'll ever call wicked, it's probably this super fudgy dulce de leche brownie. Oozing with South American style caramel, and packed full of chocolate, this brownie is bound to satisfy any sugar or chocolate cravings within seconds. Thankfully for the waistline, it's a super rich brownie that can't be eaten in huge quantities at a time, but makes a large batch for sharing or freezing for future desserts--it's particularly delicious warmed up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Absolute decadence!

FUDGY DULCE DE LECHE BROWNIES (Adapted from Delicious. More Please by Valli Little)

400g can sweetened condensed milk
200g dark chocolate, chopped
250g butter, chopped
1 3/4 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
4 eggs
1 1/3 cups plain flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa powder

To make the dulce de leche, remove the paper label from the side of the sweetened condensed milk can. Immerse the can into the saucepan of water so that the water covers the top of the can. Place over a high heat on the stove and set the stove timer. Boil for three hours, checking frequently to top up the water to cover the can if it has evaporated. (It is important to keep the can covered, as failure to do so may result in the can exploding). Turn off the heat and allow the can to cool before removing and opening.Set aside to completely cool.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 22cm square cake pan with baking paper. Set aside.
Place the chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Stir until the contents have melted and are well combined. In a bowl place the brown sugar and the eggs. Whisk until the eggs have broken down, then add the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Stir in the flour, baking powder and cocoa until well incorporated.
Pour half of this batter into the base of the lined baking tin, and smooth to evenly cover the bottom. A teaspoon at a time, scoop half the cooled dulce de leche from the can onto this batter in random areas. Cover with the remaining brownie batter, and repeat again with the rest of the dulce de leche. Gently swirl the caramel on the top layer  with the end of a spoon (do not break through the brownie batter though as this can spoil the brownie.)
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until set. The dulce de leche will be molten, so allow to cool in the pan before removing to cut into squares.

NOTES: You can buy prepared and authentic dulce de leche from some gourmet food stores.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ultimate Meringue

Meringue. There's something nostalgic about meringue and it makes me think of white, fluffy fairy castles. I used to watch my mum piling that sticky, sweet goodness up into high mounds before baking it and turning it into a most impressive pavlova. "Pav" was always a favourite around our house when I was a child, and sinking my teeth into it makes me a little bit proud too, being a particularly Australian dessert.
Unfortunately when this little girl grew up into a woman and tried piling meringue fairy castles up for her own children, I was hit was huge waves of dissapointment.
Flat. Sticky. Weeping. Gooey inside.
The meringue, not me.
Although I felt a little how it all looked, sagging there on the kitchen bench in delicious disarray. (Good thing you can still put failed meringue to good use with an Eton Mess Dessert)
I blamed it on the humid, tropical climate I moved up to. Then my sister in law Liz told me her mum, who long resided in the same climate as I do, made the best pavlovas despite the humidity. That made me feel a million dollars. It was official--I was a failure at meringue.
So as you may well guess, I went crazy trouble shooting meringue and all the possible mistakes I could be making that made my meringues so temperamental. To my joy I found I was correct about the humidity and rain playing a roll in its failure, so be sure that if you want to succeed, chose a dryer day if you can to get baking. Having said that, it's winter here and still 70% humidity and my meringues, using the below recipe for the ultimate meringue, formed glorious, crisp on the outside, slightly chewy on the inside, non-weepy, non-gooey, non-sinky, gorgeous meringues. I think it might be fail proof. Finally.
I now have two favourite meringue recipes that have never failed me to this day. One I use for making Meringue Swans, and it does brown a bit, and has the most delicious crunchy outer and caramelly inner. But this recipe keeps its whiteness and I (almost) promise, you won't have any issues with it. Bon appetit!


4 large egg whites
115g caster sugar
115g icing sugar
a few drops of food colouring if desired

Preheat the oven to 100C (110C for a fan forced oven).
Line two or three trays with baking paper and set aside. In a medium to large, clean and dry glass bowl, add the egg whites. Beat on medium speed until the whites stand up in stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted and they resemble fluffy clouds.
Turn up the speed to high and begin to add the caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time with 5 seconds in between each addition. (If you add the sugar too quickly, the meringue may weep at a later stage) You may add some food colouring at this stage if desired.
The mixture should look thick and glossy when it is ready--do not over beat.
Divide the icing sugar into three parts. Add the first part, and fold it into the mixture with a rubber spatula or big metal spoon. Repeat with the two remaining parts. Don't over-mix at this stage, just fold until the mixture looks smooth and billowy, like a snow drift.
Y0ou can place the meringue mixture in a ziplock bag fitted with a piping nozel and pipe the mixture as desired, or simply spoon the mixture onto the tray, using another spoon to help ease it off.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours to 1 3/4 hours in a fan oven, or 1 1/4 hours in a conventional oven. Meringues are ready when they feel dry to touch and sound hollow when tapped underneath. Leave to cool on the trays for a few minutes, then remove to cooling racks. Meringues will store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, and can be frozen for a month.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dulce de Leche /Condensed Milk Caramel


1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 saucepan of water

Remove the paper label from the side of the can. Immerse the can into the saucepan of water so that the water covers the top of the can. Place over a high heat on the stove and set the stove timer. Boil for three hours, checking frequently to top up the water to cover the can if it has evaporated. (It is important to keep the can covered, as failure to do so may result in the can exploding). Turn off the heat and allow the can to cool before removing and opening. You can boil the can for a further hour if you wish the dulce de leche to be thicker and darker and more intense in flavour. 3 hours is a good amount of time if you wish to add this dulce de leche to cooking or baking, such as brownies. (images show sweetened condensed milk that has been boiled in the can for 4 hours.)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Christening Cake and a New Lick the Spooner

I don't usually like to spill too many household beans here on the blog. But we have some exciting news! And I have been rambling on for a long time about expecting a new little bubba, so here we go, the beans are being spilled.
It's a girl! And all that test tasting in the kitchen went towards creating a beautiful pudding, weighing in at 4.4kg! Don't ask.
Needless to say I can see my toes again and am enjoying not having heart burn....and loving fat, warm baby cuddles!

Cecelia at 5 days old--not looking so newborn!

We had our Cecelia Marie baptised one week after she was born, and I somehow still made a Christening cake.

I made most of the decorations in advance--well, the fiddly time consuming bits like the roses. All the icing work was done with store bought rolled fondant (Orchard brand White Icing) and I dabbled in a little draped icing work which I can see being highly addictive in the future. This draped icing was coloured with a little pink liquid food colouring (no need to buy the powdered stuff, and the liquid is less expensive).
I didn't have the confidence or patience at the time to mold the baby myself (remembering melting figures in the past turning into fat blobs), so I used one of my daughters little dolls to top the cake. Of course she wanted it off immediately. Even now as she stands by me looking at the picture, she wants it off.
Overall, it was a very easy christening cake to make and I feel most people would be able to put something like this together even without experience. Give it a go! You may surprise yourself. It's amazing what a little icing and some rolling can do.

One week old. One more person to Lick The Spoon!