Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

It's that time of the month again - and the DB task this time is a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream cake by Carol Walter.

Other than the slight panicky moment when the buttercream would not come together (this was fixed with a little bit of heat), the cake was relatively easy to whip up, having had some experience with Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. And yes, it did involve a fair bit of creamin' and whippin' and my arm's still aching! I know I know, the call to get an electric mixer is getting ever stronger and resistance could be futile if I continue baking at this rate?

Anyway, shall keep this post short and sweet. Thanks to Chris of Mele Cotte for picking July's DB challenge! :) The recipe can be found at her blog!

PS: My darling boy got me a cookbook by Natalie Beauvais on Bretonne cuisine. I've already dog-earred several recettes! Trop Mad!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pear Hazelnut Torte

When it comes to cooking, I love to do things the good old fashioned way. That means even if I have to cream the life out of butter and sugar to make it 'light and fluffy', I'll roll up my sleeves and put that hand whisk to work. Kneading dough? Nah, put away the dough hook, all you need to enlist is just a pair of strong, soft hands. Coming into such intimate contact with your food also makes you appreciate and understand the different smells and textures of the produce you are using. It is truly a labour of love, and that's a romantic notion I'll gladly stick to.

This hazelnut pear torte however, almost made me cave in to the idea of getting an electric mixer. Yep, almost. I shall stand firm. At a friend's request, I agreed to whip up a birthday cake for a surprise party tonight. Since the birthday boy's Dutch, I wanted to do something almond based, but the curious cat in me couldn't help but be enticed by the little bag of hazelnutnut meal on the shelves. I've never tried cooking with this nut meal before, and if the success of Nutella and Ferro Rocher is anything to go by, I'm sure the humble hazelnut is as much loved as almond, right? Right. Wanting to work with something in season as well, pears were the natural pick.

Alas, my camera decided to play out on me right after taking these few photos, so I couldn't take any at the Spanish tapas resto we ended up at. We had a pretty awesome night - the food was aplenty, the liquids flowed freely and we even had a live flamenco performance! When the cake arrived, I swore I felt a tad jittery - after all this was something I never baked before! (Yes I wonder why I keep doing that) Turned out the last minute decision to put a good scattering of freshly pounded cardamom was a very good call. I am very much partial to cardamom these days and the fragrance was simply lovely. The cake was dense and had a slightly mealy texture interspersed with chunks of soft pears soaked in a little rum. I was told it's reminiscent of a Dutch cake called spekkoek, probably better known as kueh lapis, an Indonesian multilayer spice cake which I happen to be very fond of as well. I'm just happy that everyone liked the cake and am glad to say there were no leftovers!

For the recipe, I left out almost an entire half to three-quarter cup of flour/meal mixture which seemed way too much to me (it might be due to the eggs I used which were smaller). Which is just as well - I've already got plans to whip up another batch of these - juste pour moi! :)

Pear Hazelnut Torte
2 small pears (I used Packham)
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup hazelnut meal
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice or Chinese five spice (use whatever you have)
3/4 cup salted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tsps rum
5 cardamom pods (this is quite a lot - reduce if you don't like it too strong)
Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

Coarsely chop half of pears and in a bowl toss with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tsp rum. In another bowl, finely slice remaining pears and combine with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tsp of rum.

In a bowl whisk together hazelnuts, flour, baking powder, salt, and allspice. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat butter and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition, and beat in vanilla and flour mixture until batter is just combined.

Drain chopped pears and stir into batter and spread evenly in pan.

Drain sliced pears and arrange in a concentric pattern over batter. Crush the cardamom pods slightly, remove the skins and pound the seeds to a fine powder. Scatter liberally over the pears. Bake torte in middle of oven 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Cool torte in pan on a rack 30 minutes. Remove side of pan and cool completely. Dust with icing sugar if you wish.

Adapted from Gourmet.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


There's nothing I love more than discovering a new resto that serves up great food with reasonable prices. And boy did I find a little gem, tucked away on Anzac Parade in Kensington.

Aptly named Tengoku or 'Heaven' in Japanese, this little unassuming shop serves up some of the most generous pieces of sushi I've ever had. Three pieces of fat, juicy scallops on a little knob of rice? Oh oui, j'adore j'adore! The meaty, freshly fried softshell crab rolls are such a welcome treat on a cold winter's night, and my eyes almost glaze over with pure pleasure as it crunches between my teeth. Though not featured in the photos, the irresistibly sweet scampi sushi and miso soup are another must-try.

I've already been there a second time in a week. Trust me, I'll be back pretty soon!

121 Anzac Parade, Kensington
(Make sure you call ahead to make reservations)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Rain, rain, go away

What could be more heartwarming than a bowl of warm cassoulet on a rainy, working weekday?

Mmm. I am so lucky to have a generous frenchie-french neighbour. :)