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Sour Cherry, Orange and Chocolate Fruit (Christmas) Cake

Sour Cherry, Orange and Chocolate Fruit (Christmas) Cake

200g dried Cranberries
200g dried Sour Cherries
150g Candied Orange slices (finely diced)
200g Currants
75ml Brandy
3 teaspoons Vanilla extract
200g Butter
200g dark brown Sugar
150g dark Chocolate (70%) broken into pieces

200g self-raising Flour
100g ground Almonds
3 Tablespoons Cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon of Ground Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of Ground Allspice
1/4 teaspoon of Ground Ginger

3 Eggs, lightly whisked to combine

- The day prior put the Cranberries, Sour Cherries candied Orange pieces and Currants into a bowl with the Brandy and Vanilla, cover and leave overnight.
- In a large saucepan add the butter, dark brown Sugar, Chocolate pieces and add the Brandy and Vanilla soaked fruit to it. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until everything has melted together. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Heat oven to 150 degrees C (130C fan forced).
- Line a 20cm round or 18cm square deep loose bottomed cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment. Allow the paper lining the sides to extend above the cake tin rim by 5cms.
- Fold a double of layer of newspaper into a strip long and high enough to go around the outside of the Cake tin, then wrap the strip of newspaper in foil and fold it to enclose so that you end up with a long strip of foil enclosed paper and wrap it around the outside and secure with string or Paper clips. (The foil wrapped newspaper and the paper lining extending well above the cake will assist in it making it cook evenly, reducing drying/catching on the cake edge and helping the cake to rise evenly.)
- In a separate bowl mix together the Flour, Cocoa, Almonds, and Spices.
- Fold the whisked eggs into the slightly cooled chocolate mixture (it should be below 45 degrees C) in the saucepan, then add the flour mixture and mix, folding until all of the flour is combined.
- Pour, and scrape the batter into your prepared tin, then with wet hands pat the top of the batter to make it even.
- Bake for 1 1/2 hrs- 1 3/4 hrs or until a skewer inserted into the cake centre comes out clean.
- Cool in the tin, and then decorate if/when required.

If the cake is wrapped in Greaseproof/Baking paper it will keep and mature for 2 months in an airtight container.

Chocolate and Custard Torte

© Julie
Photo by Julie O’Malley

Chocolate and Custard Torte

70g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthways
1 x 600ml ctn thickened cream
4 egg yolks
200g good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
100ml thin cream
4 bought hot cross buns, thinly sliced vertically
2 Tbsp warm water
2 1/2 tsp gelatine powder
2 tsp cocoa powder

1. Place the sugar, vanilla bean and half the thickened cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a gentle boil. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium heatproof jug. Discard the vanilla bean.
2. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the cream mixture. Return to the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Transfer to a heatproof bowl. Place in the fridge for 1 hour to chill.
3. Meanwhile, combine the chocolate and thin cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Use a metal spoon to stir until the chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.
4. Line the base of a round 24cm (base measurement) springform pan with non-stick baking paper. Arrange half the hot cross bun slices, in a single layer, over the base of the pan. Spread half the chocolate mixture evenly over the base to cover completely. Repeat with the remaining hot cross bun and chocolate mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour or until set.
5. Whisk the remaining thickened cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. Use a large metal spoon to gently fold the cream into the custard mixture.
6. Place the warm water in a small heatproof jug. Sprinkle with gelatine and whisk with a fork until the gelatine dissolves. Gently fold the gelatine mixture into the custard mixture. Pour over the chocolate base. Cover and place in fridge for 3 hours or overnight to set. Dust with the cocoa powder to serve.

Chocolate Hazelnut Self-Saucing Puddings

© Julie
Photo by Julie O’Malley

Chocolate Hazelnut Self-Saucing Puddings

1/2 cup (125ml) milk
50g dark chocolate, chopped
50g butter, chopped
1/4 cup (60g) chocolate-hazelnut spread
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup (75g) self-raising flour
1/4 cup (30g) hazelnut meal
1/3 cup (70g) caster sugar
1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar
1 egg, lightly whisked
1/3 cup (35g) cocoa powder, extra
1 1/2 cups (375ml) boiling water
Vanilla ice-cream or double cream, to serve

Chocolate Sauce:
50g butter
50g dark chocolate
1/4 cup (60g) chocolate-hazelnut spread
1/4 cup (60ml) thin cream

1. Preheat oven to 160C. Lightly grease six 2/3 cup (160ml) ovenproof dishes and place on an oven tray.
2. Combine the milk, chocolate, butter, chocolate-hazelnut spread and cocoa powder in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
3. Place the flour, hazelnut meal, caster sugar and 2 tbs of the brown sugar in a large bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and egg and stir to combine. Pour mixture evenly among the prepared dishes.
4. Combine the extra cocoa powder and remaining brown sugar in jug. Add the boiling water and stir to combine. Pour evenly among the dishes, over the batter. Cook in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until puddings rise and are just cooked though. Remove from heat. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
5. Meanwhile, to make the chocolate sauce, combine the butter, chocolate, chocolate-hazelnut spread and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until chocolate and butter melt, and mixture is smooth.
6. Top the warm puddings with ice-cream or thickened cream and drizzle with hot chocolate sauce. Serve immediately.

Chicken Salad with Spiced Figs and Buffalo Mozzarella

© Julie
Photo by Julie O’Malley

Chicken Salad with Spiced Figs and Buffalo Mozzarella

4 x 200g chicken breast fillets (skin on) *
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 buffalo mozzarella balls ** or 6 bocconcini, torn into bite-sized pieces
4 prosciutto slices, torn
2 cups rocket leaves

Spiced Figs:
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1 1/2 cups (375ml) dry red wine
1/2 cup (125ml) balsamic vinegar
1 cinnamon quill
6 cardamom pods
6 peppercorns
2 star anise
2cm piece ginger, thinly sliced
4 lemon slices
8 fresh figs

1. For the figs, place all ingredients except figs in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add figs and simmer for a further 3 minutes or until figs soften slightly. Remove figs with a slotted spoon and set aside. Return pan to the heat and simmer liquid for 4-5 minutes until reduced to 1 cup. Remove from heat, return figs to pan, then allow to cool. (The figs can be made up to 2 days in advance.)
2. Preheat oven to 180°C. Season chicken. Heat oil in an ovenproof pan over medium heat. Cook chicken for 3-4 minutes each side until golden. Transfer to the oven for 5 minutes or until cooked through. Rest while you prepare the salad ingredients.
3. Remove figs from syrup and halve. Slice the chicken into strips. Arrange chicken, figs, mozzarella, prosciutto and rocket on a serving platter. Drizzle with some of the spiced fig syrup, then season and serve.

* Chicken breasts with skin on are available from butchers and poultry shops.

** Buffalo mozzarella is from delis and gourmet food shops.