Friday, May 04, 2007

A Taste Of The Good Life

I'm "spitting chips" here. I wrote a lengthy post to accompany the recipes below...and lost the damn thing! I really am going to stop trusting blogger by writing my posts in Word first, and then, copy and paste them over. I do this on some occasions but not all! Grrr...and of course, I didn't do it on this one!

I'm restraining and refraining from entertaining for a while! The decision is made. My time is going to be spent in my own company, within my own space. During my "sabbatical" I might urge myself to pick up my paint brushes. Every time I walk past my easel, upon which stands an unfinished painting, waves of guilt flow over and through me.

My interest in cooking first came into being, I guess, when I was a little girl watching my Nana prepare our meals. Our mother went out to work, therefore Nana was "the chief cook and bottle-washer" in our small household. However, on celebratory occasions such as birthdays, Guy Fawkes' Night etc., our mother displayed a deft hand in preparing tasty, savoury tid-bits and snacks.

With my eyes barely seeing over the top of the kitchen table or bench, I followed closely everything my grandmother prepared, up until the age I could look down upon the table! I listened to her advices on the art of cooking. The food was simple, yet tasty and lovingly created.

I've worn a cloak of many colours in my working life, commencing as a legal secretary; then I worked in the fashion industry for fourteen years (stories of which I shall relate soon); I've been involved in the real estate industry as a property manager; and, of course, I've spent a number of years in the hospitality industry, starting off many years ago, working part-time in the evenings, to earn extra money, waiting on tables at various establishments and then progressing into other aspect of the industry, about which some of you already have read. Throughout my time working in restaurants, I spent a lot of time watching the chefs at work, gleaning as much knowledge and information as I could. I'm a self-taught "chef". I wanted to take on the challenge cheffing had to offer. So, I did! Challenging it was, frequently, and almost ninety-nine point nine-nine percent of the time satisfying. Cheffing certainly causes an adrenalin-rush!

Anyway, the above is a brief history of my life. I'll save you the pain of more at this time and shall cut what could turn into a long story, short. When I was cooking in the restaurant/function house in Gympie prior to my moving here to the mountain, one of my regular diners was a lass/woman I had known many years earlier. Jan came to me one day when booking a special dinner for one of her sons to celebrate his engagement and his posting to further his studies at Oxford University. She left all the dinner courses up to my choosing and imagination, but she asked me for a special favour. Would I make her "Croquembouche" in celebration of her son's future? How could I say "No"? The evening was a huge success and so, thankfully, was my Croquembouche!

(All of the above is a shortened version of what I had originally thankful for that, also!)

Oh...before I continue with the recipes...wandering around in the kaleidoscope that I call my "mind", the NEXT time I do entertain, I'm thinking I might make a "Sacher Torte"...just thinking about it, mind you!

Croquembouche: (Means "crunch in the mouth")

Pastry Puffs:
12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks each) unsalted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
7 lg. eggs

Pastry Cream:
6 lg. egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 oz. semisweet chocolate
2 tsp. instant espresso powder mixed with 2 teaspoons hot water

2 cups sugar
2 tbsp. corn syrup

Directions: Heat oven to 218C (425F). To make the puffs: In a medium saucepan, melt butter in 1-1/2 cups water with salt and sugar. Remove pan from heat, and add flour. Return pan to heat and, using a wooden spoon, beat vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes. (A film should form on the bottom of the pan.) Cool slightly, and add 6 eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously. Make a glaze by beating the remaining egg with 1 teaspoon water, and set aside. Using a pastry bag fitted with a coupler and a 1/2-inch-wide plain tip, pipe out mounds that are 1 inch high and 3/4 inch in diameter on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg glaze, and smooth the tops. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on racks. (The puffs can be made ahead and frozen until ready to assemble.) Make the pastry cream: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks, gradually adding sugar, until mixture is thick and pale yellow. Beat in flour. Scald milk, and add in dribbles to egg mixture, reserving 1/2 cup. Place mixture in a clean pot over high heat, and stir vigorously until mixture boils and thickens. If it seems too thick to pipe, add reserved milk. Remove from heat. Using a hand whisk, beat butter into egg mixture, one tablespoon at a time. In a double boiler or heat-proof bowl set over simmering water, melt chocolate and espresso together until smooth. Add chocolate mixture to the pastry cream; let cool completely. Just before assembling croquembouche, fill a pastry tube fitted with a 1/4-inch-wide tip with pastry cream, insert tip into puffs, and pipe in cream to fill. To make the caramel: In a medium saucepan, combine 2/3 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup, and bring to a boil over high heat. Do not stir. Cover pan, and boil until steam dissolves any crystals. Uncover, and boil 5 more minutes, or until syrup is amber in color. Remove from heat. Dip the bottom of each puff into the caramel, and arrange puffs in a pyramid.
To make a spun-sugar web to wrap around the croquembouche: Cut the looped ends of a wire whisk with wire cutters, or use two forks held side by side, and dip the ends into caramel. Wave the caramel back and forth over the croquembouche, allowing the strands to fall in long, thin threads around it. Wrap any stray strands up and around the croquembouche. Serve.

Sacher Torte:
130 grams (4.59 ounces) butter
130 grams (4.59 ounces) dark chocolate
100 grams (3.53 ounces) powdered sugar
6 eggs
80 grams (2.82 ounces) white sugar
130 grams (4.59 ounces) flour
apricot marmalade


150 grams (5.29 ounces) chocolate
75 grams (2.65 ounces) coconut shortening

Recipe: Batter: Preheat the oven to 180-200°C (350-370F). Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler over hot water (Bain Marie). If you do not have a double boiler you can also use a normal pan filled with water and with a smaller pan in it. Remove from heat and let the mass cool. Add the powdered sugar (pure icing sugar) and the egg yolks little by little while carefully stirring. Beat the egg whites and add the white sugar. Mix into the batter and add the flour gradually while constantly stirring. Pour batter into a greased spring form pan. Bake at 165°C (around 325F) for 50 to 60 minutes. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing from pan and before icing. Once cool remove the cake from pan then slice horizontally. Insert a filling of pureed jam between the layers. Icing: Melt chocolate and coconut shortening (copha) in a double boiler over hot water and cover the top and sides of the cake with the warm (not hot) icing.

The history of the world famous Sacher Torte dates back to 1832, when the still omnipotent "Coachman of Europe," Wenzel Clemens Prince Metternich, gave the order to create a particularly delicious dessert for his pampered aristocratic guests. "And don't disgrace me tonight!" he told sixteen-year-old apprentice Franz Sacher, who created this delicacy while covering forthe chef who was on his sickbed. His efforts proved a huge success, the beginning of what is perhaps the world’s most famous cake.

SacherTorte is at its best when served with whipped cream, sweetened or unsweetened according to taste and a short black brewed coffee.

Another Incredibly Delicious Chocolate Cake

250g dark, bitter cooking chocolate
150g castor sugar
150g butter
100g ground almonds
5 free-range eggs, separated
icing sugar

Now the fun bit! Heat oven to 180C. Melt chocolate, sugar and butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Remove from heat, stir thoroughly to combine, mix in ground almonds, then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Beat egg whites until stiff and peaked, and stir a couple of spoonfuls into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, before gently folding in the rest. Turn into a buttered and floured 20cm round tin and bake for 40 to 50 minutes.Leave to cool before removing from tin. Dust with icing sugar to serve.(or cream together 1/2-cup icing sugar and 1-1/2 tablespoons butter. Add about 3 drops vanilla and 150g good quality cooking chocolate, melted, mixing well together until completely blended. Pour over cake.

As for the other tasty treats pictured above, I'll leave those to your imagination and topping preferences. Make square croutons out of thick slices of Italian bread or a sour-dough, or any of your favourite breads, for that matter. Throw a couple or more crushed garlic cloves into a mixture of extra-virgin olive oil and sunflower oil. Let that rest for a while to let the flavour of the garlic permeate the oils. Heat and toss in the croutons, turning them so both sides are golden. Remove, drain and top with whatever you like. These can be "finished" under a grill/broiler, particularly yummy if using cheese in your toppings!

Okay....I've not lost this that's a good sign...I won't have to type it all out an even more shortened version!

Enjoy...bon apetito!


  1. they have the National Heart Foundation tick?

  2. Of course, Sir Cosmo...would you expect anything less from me? You could always go to the spa for another weekend thereafter, if you are so fearful! ;)

  3. Well I do love those photos and I sure would enjoy eating them, but I'm not likely to go to all that effort any more. Maybe the chocolate cake, mmm.

  4. I'm sure I can tempt you, jmb! ;)

  5. Hi Lee,

    You have a great Idea using Word to pre-write your blog.

    I use WordPad, the real simple text editor that comes with Windows. It is plain text and has enough functionality to do what I need. It is quicker to load also. Might give it a spin Lass.

    I am really enjoying the new camera. I need to re-think my blog and blog name, since after a review of my past pictures, and what has taken my fancy recently, it needs a new theme.

    It is 11:45 here...TTFN

  6. I use Word all the time, Marc...I do quite a lot of word-processing, not only for myself and it works very well for me. But thanks for your suggestion. :)

    I knew you meant "pm"...I'm sure you think I can't tell the time!!! lol

  7. Wonderful pictures. Blogger is buggy. I do all my posts in word first and then copy and paste.

  8. Hi Corn Dog...I do with most of mine, but I was in a "hurry" to post this morning and it all backfired on me and ended up taking about four times the time I expected! Serves me right! ;)

  9. Short posts only direct to blogger is the only safe way Lee, as you already know.

  10. I hate it that you lost the long text as I do so love your writings. I also paint and feel your pain. I have to leave the house to recharge my batteries.

  11. Anonymous10:57 AM

    First word, then copy to blog. I have to catch those spelling errors somehow. The treats look super.

  12. Hi Lee, beautiful food... as always... and some really good posts too... I had quite a few to read, haven't been around for a while.

    I used to put a sign on my telephone warning me not to ring friends for a 'chat' late at night, when I lived alone with a quite impressive wine collection.

    Red, definitely... and the drier the better... aah, those were the days... the collection did not move with me from SA to Queensland...

    Busy with the family lately, learning to be a 'granny', it's a new world, or perhaps an old one come back to haunt me - I don't think I am really nana material, somehow, but I'll keep trying.

    We had her 3rd birthday party in the park at Currumbin Creek, I have photos and probably should post them, but - I am not back there yet.

    Thanks for being here Lee... loved your poems, and the way you describe the food sensations (I had to go and make some toast)...

    My daughter and her partner (the chefs from Adelaide) have been here for a week - I think I held my end up - we seemed to do nothing but eat and eat, no gourmet, just home-cooked, but, like you, my daughter tells everybody she learned to cook from her mother! So does my son, actually, and he does most of the cooking in his house...

    Thanks again Lee, nice visit.

  13. That I do, Peter. :) I wasted time that I shouldn't have and I do know better...oh well...I go via Word next time, as I usually do.

    G'day, Lady Di...good to see you again. Painting is great and I do love it...I just have to get myself into gear...I allow other things to get in the way!

    I hear you, Steve. :) great to see you...sounds like the family is settling in, which is good.
    I'm glad there's someone else who rings up "the world" after a taste of the grape. I, too, am a red wine lover. I much prefer it to white, though I don't mind a nice, dry champers.

    I hope you're soon back with us, Della...we all miss you. :)

  14. Oh, Lee, my mouth is watering! What wonderful food and photos! I sympsthise re "losing" posts - blogger again! Well, if you are going to have a break from entertaining, using your enviable artistic skills would seem to be a great way to pass that time! Do show us what you come up with, my friend. What a varied work life you have had - all of which makes you the understanding, perceptive person you are. I can't wait for your fashion industry stories! I, too, am a self-taught chef so I know exactly where you are coming from there. The sachertorte looks sublime! Auguri

  15. Hi Welsh...I learned a lot from watching the chefs in establishments I worked in as a waitress...and eventually used what I'd gleaned from them, from books and experimentation and then stepped into the "kitchen" with my knives in hand...nothing like stepping into the's do or die! lol

  16. Now see what you have done, :) I go and have a few beers with some friends after work Friday, and you go and post these beautiful recipes. I hope my granddaughter has memories like you have. Reminds me of the other night when her and I made chocolate chip cookies. Her and I love pecans in our cookies but my daughter doesn't like cookies with nuts. One of the many memories I hope to make with my granddaughter.

  17. And I hope you make many more, Sandra. They are very important and a child's mind is so make sure all her memories are good ones. :)

  18. I'm inviting myself to dinner... And then I will have go to the gym forever, work for twice as hard and be really abstemious with chocolate for the next five years. Don'tcha hate that??

  19. That sounds g-o-o-d!

  20. Some how I can't see that happening, Robyn! ;)

    They do look good, don't they, Janice! :)

  21. I would agree with Nana, simple is always the best. Quality is the key to that. But you know that.
    Now, for those of us who are 40# down with 100 and some to go, your pictures are evil. Having looked at those photo's I'm now so hungry I must go find some powdered sugar to ingest with an IV. You should be ashamed. Devil woman from down under.
    I'm okay now. As you were.

  22. Hahahaha, are a character! Thanks for the laugh. :)

    Sorry to tempt your taste buds that way, but perhaps you should fill up your pockets with powdered sugar, just in case. ;)

  23. OMG, Lee, those photos are making my mouth water. MMMmmmmmmmm, the Sacher Torte sounds amazing. Yummy.
    Hope all is well.
    Take care, Meow

  24. Yep...Sacher Tortes are quite amazing, Meow...yummy, yum!