Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dark Chocolate Ganache, Roast Almond, Candied Orange Tart

It was Greek Easter last week and what better way to finish the feast than with a rick chocolatey tart to cap of a day full of eating where it is inevitable that you will feel stuffed to the brim by nightfall.

I love chocolate, but it has to be rich, dark and good quality. The darker for this particular recipe, the better, as the bitterness of the chocolate will be offset by the candied orange. Therefore I would say minimum 70%.

I did make this the previous week with a friend for his easter celebrations, but as I was fasting I was unable to even try the ganache, but I was told it was smooth, dark and delicious......and as I said in my brownies post, it is times like this which are the biggest tease for my fast, but I did not give in.

I prepared the tart base the night before and assembled it the morning of the feast. It was amazingly easy and looks so much harder than it actually is, which is always a bonus!!! I do warn youm it is soo hard not to roast a few extra almonds, nibble on some candied orange, or leave a few spoonfuls of ganache to nibble on while you are doing it, and once you assemble it you have to wait for it to set over a couple of hours so it cannot even be enjoyed straight away BUT it is sooo worth it as it is amazingly decadent and I enjoyed every single bite.

It is best served at room temperature so the intensity of the ganache can really shine.

So what was the feedback from my family? Well most enjoyed it, a few thought it was too bitter and Mum thought the pastry shouldn't also be chocolate, and maybe a hazelnut meal would work better to add another dimension on it. Well I was lucky that there were a few slices left I shared them with friends at work who I think enjoyed it a bit more than the family (but that could be due to our incredible fullness already by dessert on Easter Sunday).

The tart is rick, it is dark and it is addictive, but that is why I love it and want to play with the recipe a bit more and maybe go for some different combinations........any requests??? I'm thinking maybe going in a totally different direction and somehow incorporating salt, but if I tried to do this, the ganache would have to be much sweeter.....

Dark Chocolate Ganache, Roast Almond, Candied Orange Tart


Tart Shell

125g unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsps cocoa
1 1/4 cups plain flour

Candied Orange peel

1 orange
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water


2 cups almonds, roasted then chopped
2 tsps sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup pure cream
300g dark chocolate, at least 70%, but better if it was higher in cocoa
1/4 cup Galliano


For base:

1) Beat together the butter, sugar, cinnamon and salt until well combined then add cocoa.
2)Add flour and mix until it forms clumps which are still quite moist (don't be afraid if you think it is too moist as it will harden in the fridge). Roll the dough into a ball and cover with cling wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1hr.

For candied orange:

1) Skin the oranges with a knife and cut into very thin strips then place into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then cook for another minute and drain.
2) Rinse the saucepan and add the sugar, 1/2 cup of water and peel. Cook on medium heat until the sugar dissolves and then simmer until the sugar starts to caramelize and the peel is soft.
3) Transfer onto baking paper until you require them. They can be made ahead of time and stored in an air tight container.

Prepare the dough:

1) I would then take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out. Then put it over the base of the tart tin and press into walls so evenly distributed.
2) Pierce the dough all over with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
4) Bake dough for about 15 minutes until the edges are slightly dry and the bottom is bubbly.
5) Cool completely.

Prepare the ganache:

1) Put cream into a saucepan, bring to a simmer then remove from heat.
2) Add chocolate in small pieces to cream and pix until it melts and the mixture is smooth and silky.
3) Add the Galliano and stir well.

Assemble the tart:

1) Roast the almonds in a grill or oven until golden brown. Then once cooled crush with a mortar and pestle in large chunks.

2) Toss almonds with sugar and cinnamon.
3) Line the base of the tart with the candied orange, then sprinkle the almond mixture over the top.

4) Pour the ganache and cover the almonds well (but save some for garnish).
5) Refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.
6) Once ready to serve take it out of the fridge and garnish with extra peel and nuts.
7) Cut the tart then let it stand for at least half an hour so it softens slightly as the chocolate flavour intensifies if you do this.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rich Dark Chocolate Brownies

I wanted to bake something for a dear friend of mine who is leaving Sydney and moving back to New Caledonia. It had to be something chocolaty, something rich and something that does not require refrigeration. So I am left with slices, cookies, cake or brownies.

I was going to make my nutella slice which I usually do for such special occasions as I can spell out words with mnm's on top, but I did not have an nutella OR mnm's at home, and I think I wanted to try something different. Cookies......well I am yet to find a recipe that blows me away, and cake (or tarts) can be very impressive but I didn't have enough time after work, otherwise I would have.

SO brownies it is. Last time I baked brownies I was told they were nice, but as I was also fasting could not try them......however this time I had to be a bit more careful as I knocked a glass of water over the last lot as soon as they came out of the oven ans was only able to salvage half. It was quite a disappointment, so I had to try hard to not be clumsy like I always am.

So rich dark chocolate brownies it is, nuts were an option, but I opted against as I wanted a simple flavour which hits you with chocolaty goodness.

Epicure, which is the VIC version of Good Living, tested many brownie recipes in 2005 so I thought to base my recipe off one of these would be half decent. The recipe is from marie claire Flavours. I wanted to be greedy and make them richer and add even more chocolate.

See article here

You all know I enjoy baking and it wasn't really hard to resist eating some of the things I made whilst I was fasting, it its times like this when it is that much harder to say no...

.....licking the bowl clean :(


185g butter

250g dark chocolate (I used 76% Dark Chocolate)

50g very dark chocolate (85% Lindt or equivalent)

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups caster sugar

2/3 cup plain flour

1 1/2 cups dark chocolate bits (or chopped chocolate)


1) Melt butter and both dark chocolates together.

2) Beat eggs with sugar until pale and thick.

3) Fold chocolate mixture into egg mixture.

4) Add flour and chocolate bits to mixture and stir until combined.

5) Bake in a lined square tin and cook for 35 minutes on 170 degrees.

6) Allow to cool for at least 2hrs (preferably overnight) then cut with a heated sharp knife and serve *

* If you cut it while it is warm it will crumble and break, you will not achieve straight smooth lines.

Brownies on Foodista

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Family's Flaounes

I posted two weeks ago a story I wrote about my family's tradition of making Flaounes.

See story here

So this our recipe, one which has developed over man years and constantly changes depending on what combination of cheeses we use. You need to start preparation the night before as the cheese mixture needs to rise, then we generally wake at 6am to start the pastry so we can finish the 150 flaounes this recipe makes by mid afternoon.

So here is it......

Cheese Mixture

5 kg grated cheese
- Flaouna Cheese from Paphos Cheese, Annandale (0.5kg)
- Romano (1.5kg)
- Parmesan (1kg)
- Haloumi (1.5kg)
- Cheddar (0.5kg)

1 ½ kg self raising flour
40 eggs
1 packet Mustika ground
1/2 packet Mahelebi
12 tsps baking powder
9 tsps yeast dissolved in lukewarm water which contains 4 tsps sugar
3 Cups fresh mint finely chopped mint
750g Sultanas (optional)


4 kg plain flower
2 cups melted butter
2 ½ cups oil (vegetable)
2 ½ cups of cinnamon stick flavour water
6 cups or warm milk
10tsps yeast + 5 tsps sugar dissolved in ½ cup of warm water
1 packet Mustika ground
1/4 packet Mahelebi

Sesame to coat pastry


1) Mix all the cheeses together. In a separate bowl mix the rest of the cheese mixture ingredients, except the sultanas.
2) Add the wet mixture to the cheeses and combine well. Place in blankets overnight and let it rise.

The bowls need to be in a warm place as it is extremely important they rise. If this means putting them in front of little heaters, then so be it.

We usually mix the cheeses in two bowl to start as there is so much mixture, and then combine them once done, just so they are mixed well and evenly.

The finished cheese before being covered in blankets for the night

THE NEXT MORNING.....for the dough

1) Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and let it stand for at least 15 minutes so it really froths up.

2) Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. (I mix all the wet ingredients in one bowl and all the dry in another then I combine them slowly)

3) Knead until dough springs back, then place baking paper over the top and leave it in a warm place, like near an oven, or in a warm room, until it doubles in size. (Our kitchen was not warm enough to make the dough rise so we put it in bags then filled a bath with hot water and left the bowls there for at least an hour)

4) Let to rise so it has doubled in size. Approx 2hrs.

5) While rising, add 4 eggs to the cheese mixture and combine then let it rise for the same amount of time as the dough.

(If you want to add sultanas, we only add it to half the mixture, coat them in flour then spread through the cheese mixture once it has risen again)

6) Place sesame in a saucepan and bring to boil. Drain and place sesame in a mound on teatowels.
7) Once the dough is risen, knead it again and then roll out balls of pastry to ½ cm thickness.

8) Cut into squares with 15cm sides then slide over sesame to coat the bottom.
10) Place 1 heaped tbsp of cheese mixture into centre of square and fold in corners.

11) Place on pre-greased baking trays and coat in egg wash then fork to make sure edges are pinned down.
12) Bake in a preheated fan forced oven at 175 degrees for approx 25 minutes, or until nice and golden brown (You just need to make sure they cook through and the centre is not raw).

13) Cool on wire racks and serve warm.

Can be frozen and warmed up for later dates.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


My whole family is absolutely obsessed with my Yiayia's Taramousalata. No longer can we eat it from the supermarket, and many restaurants and cafe's just buy it in bulk from Attiki, which is thick, gluttonous and very strong in the fishy flavour.

My Yiayia's, on the other hand, is light, fluffy, filled with the burst of lemon juice and has a much better balance of the fish roe flavour with all the other ingredients. Unlike many other recipes, she only uses potatoes to make the dip instead of bread, and I think the key to the lightness of the dip comes from her shredding the potatoes once cooked so they look like noodles, then folds them through the dip. It is a similar concept to stiffening egg whites and folding through a cake mixture, to achieve a lightness.

Well I am so glad I took the time to learn from her, although I still cannot manage to get it just like she does it, so we will continue to request it from her and demolish the whole bowl in about 3 days.

This is her recipe.

Yiayia's Taramousalata


200g Tarama Paste (available from middle eastern or European delis)
3 large potatoes
1 medium brown onion
1 cup olive oil (not extra virgin as it is too strong and will overpower the taste)
150mL lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil


1. Peel 3 large potatoes and cut into quarters. Boil until cooked through but not mushy.

2. Grate 1 medium onion into a bowl on the smallest grate.

3. Add the tarama paste to the onion and mix together with a hand beater until combined.

4. Once the potatoes are cooked, mash or shred them, if you have the equipment.

5. Add the shredded potato to the tarama mix little by little with a hand blender.

6. Add the oil in ¼ cup increments and blend until combined.

7. Add the lemon juice gradually and then add the second type of olive oil. Be careful not to add too much liquid to make it runny.

8. Blend until smooth and creamy in texture.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Family's Easter Tradition.....our annual Flaounes baking day

I was lucky enough to have an article I wrote published as the feature article in last week's SMH "Good Living" magazine.

View article here

It was a story I really wanted to capture as it is a tradition that is very close to my heart and something my family have been doing ever since I can remember. Now especially I will cherish these photos as this Friday would actually be our annual baking day......however, it all depends on my Yiayia's health who sadly is in hospital at the moment and will be unable to help us this year. I hope her health is steady so we can bake the flaounes for her and take some to her, I am sure this will bring a smile to her face.

I hope you all enjoy the story and visualize what it is like in that kitchen every year, and what our Easter celebrations are like the following week.


Vegan Banana Bread

I know I haven't cooked in a while......well posted any of my recipes.....I could never not cook for a week but I have just been so busy I was not able to take properly document those recipes.!!!

Last night I had some time to set up some nice photos of a banana bread I made, but as I am fasting, it is vegan. No eggs, no milk and no other animal products.

I was going to make my normal, incredibly indulgent banana bread.......well cake, but I realised I did not have any sour cream, a critical ingredient in my recipe, and since I couldn't be bothered to go to the store, I decided to scrap that idea and make something that did not require sour cream, or in the end, dairy. I also wanted to cook for my friend Sylvia who is also fasting as she just moved into her new house, as a home welcoming present.

Although it is a bit denser than normal banana bread (also since I did not have any soy milk in the house), it is still very nice and enjoyable, especially with the nut crust on top.

Vegan Banana Bread


3 cups plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt

4 ripe bananas
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla essence
2tsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp water
2 tsps baking powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 cups almonds

1 cup almonds
1 cup brown sugar
drizzle of honey


. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.
2. In a seperate bowl mash the bananas and add the brown sugar, honey, vanilla and oil and mix together.

3. In a seperate cup mix together the water, baking powder and oil until foamy, then add to dry mix and stir through.
4. Add the banana mixture to the dry mixture and combine.

5. In an oven or under the grill, roast the almonds until nice and browned and then leave to cool. Once cool crush slightly in a mortar and pestle then add to banana mixture and stir through.

6. Pour mixture into two loaf tins and then make nut crust by mixing together crushed raw almonds and the brown sugar. Sprinkle the mixture over evenly over the top of the mixture and then bake in a 180 degrees pre-heated oven for 45 mins, or until just cooked through.

7. Leave to cool once cooked and then slice and serve with butter. (The bread needs to cool slightly otherwise it will just crumble when you try to cut through the be patient)