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macadamia nut brittle

27 Jan 2014

It's the Australia Day holiday here today and I thought about bringing you something very Australian like lamingtons or pavlova. Instead I've gone a little lateral to bring you macadamia nut brittle. This was on my list of Christmas candies but I just ran out of time so here it is, better late than never.

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Did you know the macadamia nut is native to Australia? Growing up in Brisbane we had a macadamia nut tree in our back yard. I don't ever remember using them in cooking but I used to love cracking the nuts open with a brick. Thankfully these days they're available at my local shops already shelled and good to go.

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The recipe is based on this one I found with a few tweaks. 

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Macadamia Nut Brittle
150 g coarsely chopped unroasted macadamia nuts
pinch salt
heaped ½ teaspoon bicarb soda
½ teaspoon water
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup water
½ cup light corn syrup
25 g butter

Heat the oven to 180°C. Place the nuts on an oven tray and cook for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Lightly sprinkle the nuts with salt and set to one side.

Line a 7 x 11 inch tin with baking paper; spread the nuts evenly over the paper and keep warm in the oven.

In a small bowl, mix the bicarbonate of soda with the ½ teaspoon water, the ½ teaspoon vanilla and set to one side.

Mix the sugar, the ¼ cup water and the corn syrup in a large saucepan. Cook over a medium heat stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Continue cooking until the mixture turns a light golden brown. 

Immediately remove from the heat and quickly add the bicarb mixture and the butter. The mixture will foam up.Tilt the saucepan from side to side about 10 times to incorporate the butter then pour the toffee mixture over the nuts; quickly spread about 1/4 inch thick. 

Cool completely, at least 1 hour before breaking into pieces. Store in an airtight container.



The brittle was easy to make and even easier to eat. Once again I managed to polish off most of the brittle without much help at all.


I hope you all enjoyed your weekends. 

See you all again next week,

Jillian
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summer berry jam

20 Jan 2014

We're in the height of summer here in Sydney with very hot days. That means berries have made their way into my local fruit shop. Now summer berries like raspberries and blackberries are never cheap in Sydney but when a punnet costs less than the GDP of a small African nation, I'll buy a few.

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I have no idea why, but I suddenly decided it was time to make some jamI think it has something to do with me now owning a digital thermometer which has made me brave. I like making jam but I do tend to over cook it terribly. I remember the time I made plum jam which was closer to plum toffee by the time it was bottled. It was completely inedible and I had to throw it out. 

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When I looked through my freezer I found a few packets of frozen berries lurking so I made this jam using fresh blackberries and raspberries combined with frozen, defrosted blueberries and raspberries. I used this recipe but halved the quantities, added a vanilla pod and slightly modified the technique. It made a lovely runny, flavoursome jam which I served with some freshly baked scones.

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Here's the recipe for you. It made two 400 mls pots of jam.

Summer Berry Jam
2 cups white sugar
1 lemon
375g strawberries, washed, dried, hulled and quartered if large
100g blackberries, washed, dried
1 vanilla pod
100g raspberries, washed, dried
100g blueberries, washed, dried

To sterilize jars, wash in hot soapy water and rinse. Place the jars and lids in a deep saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring water to the boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium and boil for 10 minutes. Line a baking tray with paper towel. Remove the jars using metal tongs and allow to air dry or dry with a clean paper towel.

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Place the sugar on an oven tray and warm the sugar for 15 minutes. Meanwhile place a saucer in the freezer to test the jam’s setting point.

Juice the lemon and reserve the seeds. Place the seeds in a small piece of muslin and tie with kitchen string to secure. Combine the strawberries, blackberries, lemon juice, lemon seeds, the vanilla pod and sugar in a shallow saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until jam is reduced by one-quarter.

Remove the lemon seeds and vanilla pod from the jam then add the raspberries and blueberries. Cook, stirring occasionally for a further 5 minutes or until jam has reached it’s setting point (105°C). To check when jam is set, remove the jam from the heat and place a spoonful of hot jam onto the chilled saucer. Return to the freezer for 1 minute. Run your finger through the jam to test if it wrinkles and jells. If it doesn't, return to the heat for a further 5 minutes then repeat the test.

Take the jam from the heat and allow to cool for a minute or 2 before spooning the hot jam evenly among the sterilized jars. Seal immediately then turn the jars upside down for 2 minutes before turning upright. Set the jam aside to cool completely before labelling and dating.



It's Australia Day next weekend and I'll be on pavlova duty. I'm making a pavlova to take with me to dinner so if I get a chance I'll take a few snaps to share with you.


See you all again next week,

Jillian 
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crème caramel

13 Jan 2014

Do you have a recipe you no longer make but you can't think of a good reason why you ever stopped? Well you can put crème caramel into that category. I had Flan Casero, the Spanish version of crème caramel, while I was in Tasmania and it reminded me just how much I love caramel and custard. Making crème caramel has been on my to-do list ever since. 

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To make a good crème caramel you need just a few key ingredients - milk, cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Traditionally I think the custard was made using milk alone but I like a little bit of cream to add some luxury to the dish.

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The custard is easy to make so the only thing slightly tricky about this dish is the caramel. Too pale and there isn't much flavour in the caramel, too dark and it will taste burnt.

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You'll need to bake the custard gently in a water bath cos you don't want to end up with bubbles in the custard. Some recipes use hot water but I used cold water in mine.

Here's the recipe for you -

Jillian’s Crème Caramel Recipe - serves 4

Custard
250 ml (1 cup) milk
150ml (⅔ cup) cream
1 egg
2 egg yolks, extra
2 - 3 tbl caster sugar
1 vanilla bean

Caramel
½ cup caster sugar
⅔ cup water

Place the milk and cream in a saucepan and add the vanilla pod, split in half lengthways. Bring the mixture to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave the milk to infuse with the vanilla for 1 hour. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk mixture.

To make the caramel, place the sugar and water in a saucepan over high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook until the mixture is dark golden. Pour into 4 x ¾ cup-capacity (180ml) greased ovenproof dishes and rotate to cover the base and sides. Set aside for 5 minutes or until the caramel is set.

Preheat oven to 170°C (325°F). Place the egg, extra yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Gradually add the milk mixture to the eggs, whisking to combine. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a jug then pour into the prepared dishes. Carefully place the custards into a shallow baking tray, before pouring enough water into the tin to come half way up the sides of the dishes. Cover the dish with foil then bake the custards for 35 - 40 minutes or until just set. They will firm up as they cool. Remove the foil and the custards from the dish and allow the custards to cool completely before covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove the crème caramels from the fridge 30 minutes before serving. To unmould the crème caramel, run a palette knife around the edge and gently ease the custard away from the side of the dish with your fingers. I also found dipping the ramekin in hot water for 1 minute to loosen the caramel really helped with the unmoulding process. Carefully turn out on to a plate to serve.



I hope you give this recipe a try because these little
crème caramels were delicious.

P.S. if you're looking for more of my recipes, my latest Delicious Bites post is on decor8. You can find the recipe for the apple and cranberry yeast cake here.

Bye for now,

Jillian

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happy 2014 and a plum crumble cheesecake

6 Jan 2014

Well hello every-one and Happy New Year. It was lovely having a break but boy, did those 2 weeks fly past. In that time I've driven to Brisbane and back; done lots of baking and lots of eating; spent New Year's Eve on the beach at Manly; done a bit of shopping at the sales and I've been hard at work putting together a travel album from my trip to Tasmania.

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Just before my Christmas break, I put together this cheesecake for a work mate's 50th birthday celebration. 

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I literally threw this together one Sunday and as it was for a birthday, I couldn't cut a sneaky slice to photograph. I did manage to snaffle a sliver to try though.

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There's something magical about the combination of tart plums, the smooth texture of the cheesecake filling and the surprise crunch of the walnuts in the crumble topping.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 16cm cake. To make a 23 cm cake you'll need to double all ingredients. The cooking time stays the same.

Base
2 tbl caster sugar
¼ cup pecans or walnuts
½ cup Plain Flour
60 gm (2 oz) unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon vanilla essence

Crumble Topping
Additional ¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180⁰C/350⁰F. Grease and line the base and sides of a 16 cm spring-form tin with baking paper.

In a food processor, combine the sugar and the nuts and whiz until the nuts are finely ground. Add the remaining ingredients and process until combined and a soft dough forms around the blade. Press about ⅔ of the mixture into the base of the prepared spring-form tin, bringing it slightly up the sides. 

Combine the remaining shortbread with the coarsely chopped walnuts to make a crumble topping and place in the fridge.

Bake the shortbread base in the preheated 180⁰C oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden. Set to one side and allow the base to cool.

Topping
4 ripe plums
1 tbs caster sugar
½ tsp cinnamon

Increase the oven temperature to 200⁰C/400⁰F. Halve the plums, remove the seeds and slice thinly. Place the sliced plums into a small bowl. Sprinkle the plums with 1 tbs caster sugar and ½ tsp cinnamon. Set to one side.

Filling
1 x 250 gm (8 oz) packet of cream cheese, softened
1 egg
Scant ¼ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 tbl yoghurt or cream

Put the remaining ingredients into the food processor and whiz until smooth. Pour the filling over the cooked base and then layer the plums over the filling. Scatter the crumble topping over the plums. 

Bake the cheesecake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes before lowering the temperature to 170⁰C/325⁰F. Bake the cheesecake for about 45 minutes or until the filling is almost set. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool in the turned off oven. Remove the cake from the oven after another hour. When cool, the cheesecake can be stored in the fridge.




I hope you enjoy the recipe.


See you all again next week,

Jillian

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