Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sticky star anise beef short ribs

I created this recipe as an ode to a delicious meal I enjoyed recently in a little hole in the wall called South China Dim Sum Bar with a special friend (click here to read about the experience in the words of my crazy BFF - I simply cannot compete with the description of the dinner we had!). Tucked into a tiny space on seedy Long Street in the Cape Town CBD, the dim sum bar is one of those dodgy-looking restaurants that you shrug off as the last place you’d expect to find yumminess. But I found it in the form of sticky beef short ribs, which fell off the bone and were soaked in a rich, lick-your-fingers kind of sauce. It was heaven straight out of a disposable cardboard cup, with steamed rice to soak up the sweet sauce. The best part of this recipe is that it uses short ribs, which are so affordable. It’s a cut that few have the patience to fuss with, but simmer it slow and steady and it’ll make you weak at the knees.

Sticky star anise beef short ribs
Serves 4-6

2kg beef short ribs
6 sticks cinnamon
6 whole star anise
5cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced
¼ cup brown sugar
¾ cup oyster sauce
¾ cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup water
juice of 1 lemon
Rice and fresh coriander, to serve

Place the beef, cinnamon, star anise, ginger, garlic, sugar, oyster sauce, vinegar and water in a baking dish and cover tightly with aluminium foil. Roast for 2 hours at 180 degrees celcius. Remove foil and roast for a further 30 minutes or until tender and sticky. Squeeze the lemon juice over and serve with a mixture of brown and wild rice and fresh coriander on the side.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

How to crack the cronut recipe

If you're in any way as obsessed with baking and desserts as I am, you will have already heard about all the fuss that's being made over a trendy new confection that's tipped to kick the cupcake off it's pretty little throne (although, let's be honest, the same thing was said about macarons, cake pops and whoopie pies and yet we still adore the good ol' cupcake). Dubbed the 'cronut' (it's already trademarked by the way) this hybrid dessert sensation has caused quite a stir. Half-croissant and half-doughnut, it sure does have a bit of an identity crisis but the New Yorkers queuing around the block at Dominique Ansel Bakery don't seem to care as these deep-fried delicacies sell-out in minutes each day. There is even a limit as to how many you can buy! French pastry chef, Dominique apparently had to try 10 different recipes before getting the creation spot-on and his perseverance is clearly paying off. But since I draw the line at flying half way round the world to taste a dessert, I attempted to create my own cronuts. You know, so I could see what all the fuss was about. 


If you've made croissants from scratch before, you'll know that it takes an incredible amount of love, patience and muscle. And butter. Lots and lots of butter. But the problem with all that butter (incase you didn't know, half the weight of a croissant is made up of it - eeeek!) is that if you were to deep-fry the dough just like that, as Dominique's recipe (and name) suggests, it's low melting point means it would just seep out into your oil when frying and you'd land up with a flat mess. So, I used margarine. First problem solved. 

The second problem was the fact that, although the cronuts claim to be made from croissant dough, the texture in all the pictures resembles that of danish dough instead. Croissant dough, as I experienced, contains way too much fat, which makes it incredibly oily, as I discovered. So, that meant reducing the amount of fat in the dough. 

There were a few more problems I encountered but I won't go in to detail as by now I'm pretty sure you just want to see the recipe don't you? Well, here it is, the recipe for Kronuts (my version of Cronuts).

P.S. My verdict? Personally, I think these things are not for the faint-hearted. Essentially it's fat deep-fried in more fat and after just one my arteries were screaming. I baked a few rather than frying them (yes, I know that doesn't really make them a 'doughnut') and they were delicious (and far more healthy!). 

Kronuts with vanilla cream and orange blossom glaze
(makes 50)

350g baking margarine (I used Stork Bake)
40g cake flour (or pastry flour)
15g cornstarch/cornflour

50g fresh yeast
400g lukewarm water
100g granulated sugar
100g margarine
20g salt
1kg cake flour

Oil, for deep-frying (I used vegetable oil but Dominique uses grapeseed oil)

Vanilla pastry cream
500ml milk
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped
4 egg yolks
80g castor sugar
40g cornflour
500ml cream, whipped

1 egg white
2 cups icing sugar, sifted (plus more, if necessary)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp orange blossom water

Start by making the roll-in. Mix the margarine and flours well then spread out onto a sheet of cling wrap. Spread out roughly then top with another sheet of cling wrap. Using a rolling pin, roll the fat out until 1/2cm thick to make 30 x 20cm rectangle. Close the ends of the cling wrap and place in the freezer until hard. 
In the meantime, prepare the dough by mixing the yeast and water in a mixing bowl. Cover and place in a warm place until frothy. Then add the rest of the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer using the dough hook attachment. Add the flour gradually to form a stiff dough (depending on the gluten content of your flour, you may use more or less, so adding it gradually is important.) Knead for about 4 minutes then allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. 
Roll the dough out on a floured surface to 1cm thick then place the chilled butter roll-in on top. Do a simple 3-fold (like folding a business letter) and roll out again to 1cm thick. Cover and place in the freezer to rest for 20 minutes. Roll the dough out once again to 1cm thick then do another 3-fold. Rest again in the freezer for 20 minutes before doing the last fold and rest. 
Roll the dough out again to 1cm thick and cut out with a round cookie cutter and a smaller one, to create the hole in the centre. Place the pastry circles onto a lined and floured baking sheet, cover lightly and allow to proof in a warm place until doubled in size. 
Preheat the oil to 165C and deep-fry the cronuts in batches until golden and puffed. Drain on paper towel and allow to cool completely. If you would like to dredge them in sugar, do so while hot. 
If, like me, you would like to bake them, bake in a preheated oven at 200C for 10-15 minutes or until golden and puffed.

To make the pastry cream, heat the milk and vanilla until just below boiling point. Cream yolks, sugar and flour then gradually pour in the hot milk while whisking. Return the mixture to the pot and cook, while stirring until thick. Place in a bowl, cover the surface with clingwrap and allow to cool completely before folding in the whipped cream. Place the cream in a piping bag with a small plain nozzle. 

To make the glaze, whisk the egg white slightly then add enough icing sugar to form a stiff paste. Add the lemon juice and orange blossom water. 

To assemble, poke 3 holes in the bottom of each cronut with a chopstick or knife then pipe pastry cream into the bottom of each. Dip the tops in the glaze and allow to set. Serve immediately. 

UPDATE: Here's a little insert I did for the television show I work for, Expresso Breakfast Show on the Cronut phenomenon. 

*A special thank you to my baking partner in crime and pastry extraordinaire, Nino from CocoaFair, for helping to develop this recipe with me (and for doing all the muscle-work!)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Eric Lanlard's deliciously gooey chocolate brownies

At Expresso we have big local and international celebs in our studio on a daily basis, just this morning PJ Powers was tasting my lime meringue pie, so I don't really get to phased about famous faces, but one guest had myself and the Expresso chefs putting on lipstick and heels for his arrival. 

Eric Lanlard swept into our studio looking bright and breezy for a 6.30 call time and after a quick tour of our studio kitchen, got stuck into baking a beautiful chocolate cake and decadent chocolate brownies from his new book Chocolat. And good grief were these brownies GOOD! I had some for breakfast.. and then again for lunch.. and again for tea time. They were so incredibly delicious and moist but since his book is not yet in South African book stores, here is the recipe: (you can't say I don't love you!)

Photo and recipe extracted from Chocolat by Eric Lanlard
with photography by Kate Whitaker
Devilish chocolate brownies
Recipe by Eric Lanlard 

200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

150g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
2 tsp vanilla paste or extract
150g castor sugar
3 eggs, beaten
75g plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
100g dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a 20cm square baking tin and line the base with baking paper.

Melt the chopped chocolate, butter and vanilla together in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the surface of the water does not touch the bowl. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, then leave to cool for a few minutes. Beat in the eggs, then sift in the flour, cocoa and salt and fold in until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the top starts to crack but the centre remains gooey. Turn off the oven and leave the brownies inside for a further 5 minutes before removing. Leave to cool completely in the tin. Cut into squares and serve.

And here's the clip if you missed his interview on Expresso Breakfast Show:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

World Baking Day Challenge: Milk tart cake

It isn't every day that two men in black suits with aviators and ear pieces arrive at your office carrying a locked box. It also isn't every day that you hear the words, 'Katelyn, do you accept the challenge to bake brave?' Erm, hells yes I do! Even though I had no idea what that meant! What kind of an awesome/stupid question is THAT?! After tweeting my answer (I had to resist the urge to just type 'duh') I received the secret code that unlocked the padlock. 'What was in the box?!' I hear you screaming, well, in it was everything I needed to make a ridiculously beautiful-looking milk tart cake. This cake.

It was created by gateau queen Katrien van Zyl for the World Baking Day website and is ranked at level 45/100. Those chocolate curls?! That intricate collar?! Oh my, this was going to be quite a challenge! So the box sat on my counter for a week in the run up to World Baking Day on 19 May in the hope that it would  psyche me up and drum up my bravery. Instead it haunted me until that fateful Sunday morning... 

First up, I sussed out my ingredients (brace yourself, it's quite a list!):

‘Milk tart’ Filling Ingredients
500 ml (2 cups) full fat milk
30 ml (2 tbsp) butter or margarine
1x 385 g can of sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg
45 ml (3 tbsp) cornflour
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla essence
Powdered cinnamon, to taste

Cake Ingredients:
360 g (3 cups) self-raising flour
350 g (1¾ cup) white sugar
350 g (1½ cups) butter or margarine, softened (or at room temperature)
6 large eggs
80 ml (⅓ cup) milk
15 ml (1 tbsp) vanilla essence

Ganache Coating Ingredients:
125 ml (½ cup) whipping cream
15 ml (1 tbsp) butter or margarine
1 cinnamon stick
375 g white chocolate, chopped into small pieces

50 g dark chocolate, melted
500 ml (2 cups) full fat milk
30 ml (2 tbsp) butter or margarine
1x 385 g can of sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg
45 ml (3 tbsp) cornflour
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla essence
Powdered cinnamon, to taste

1 x Chocolatier (optional, but definitely advised), preferably Italian, and hot 

Although the original recipe started with the cake, I made the milk tart filling first so it could cool. The filling  is basically a creme patisserie made with condensed milk, because in South Africa, everything is made better by adding condensed milk. Fact. I wanted mine a little lighter, so I folded in some whipped cream once it has cooled. More whipped cream is never a bad thing - ever.

Heat together the milk, margarine and condensed milk in a pot on the stove at medium heat until the margarine has melted. Whisk the egg, cornflour and vanilla essence in a bowl and while whisking, pour some of the heated milk mixture onto the egg mixture. Pour the milk and egg mixture back into the pot and heat it on medium heat on the stove while stirring continuously for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. As soon as the mixture starts to boil, remove from the heat. Pour the thickened mixture into a bowl, place cling wrap over the surface to prevent a skin forming and place it in the refrigerator until cool, preferably overnight.

That wasn't SO hard! I felt quite chuffed with myself. 

Next, I tackled the cake. I've never actually prepared a cake using this method before - the ingredients list hints at it being a pound cake but the process is somewhat different. Chocolatier then informed me that it is actually a German 'Sandkuchen' or sand cake (you will notice that Chocolatier comes in handy quite often in this post). 

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, softened margarine and eggs. Mix for 30 seconds with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the milk and vanilla essence and beat for another 1 minute and 30 seconds or until the mixture looks light and fluffy. Spoon equal amounts of batter into two 20cm lined cake tins and bake for about 50 minutes at 160C or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Cakes done, filling done - now for my favourite part, the chocolate! Chop the white chocolate finely so it melts properly - or get a chocolatier to do it for you. I just happened to have one lying around so...


Gently heat the cream with the cinnamon stick in a pot on the stove. Bring the cream to just below boiling point. Remove the pot from the heat and leave the cream to cool for the cinnamon stick to infuse the cream with its subtle flavour. Place the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Remove the cinnamon stick from the cream and pour the cream over the chopped chocolate. Heat the chocolate and cream mixture in a microwave oven at 20% power or at the Defrost setting. Stir at 2-minute intervals until the mixture is melted and smooth. Leave the ganache in the refrigerator to set for a few hours or overnight.

The next part of the recipe made me shake in my apron. Chocolate curls? Ask me to eat them, I can totally do that. Make them? Ain't nobody got time for that! So, again, having a Chocolatier lying around I put him to work and watched him melt his magic while I sat and enjoyed a glass of wine. This is advisable. No wait, actually it is a must.

Chocolatier warmed the slab of chocolate with his hands (although I strongly suspect the chocolate actually melted because he was standing near it... If you know what I mean!) and then used a knife and a round cookie cutter to make beautiful chocolate curls for the top of the cake. 

Spread three of the layers with ‘milk tart’ filling; sprinkle powdered cinnamon between the layers and stack the layers on top of one another. (It's advisable to assemble the cake back in the springform tin to stop everything squishing out!) Spread some of the ganache over the cake to cover completely then refrigerate until set. Melt the remaining ganache and pour over to make a thin coating. 

Oh be still my beating heart! I got hot Chocolatier to put 2 layers of ganache on the cake, mainly so I could watch him do it twice. Oh yes. 

Measure the height and circumference of the cake and cut a piece of greaseproof paper to this size. Pour 50 g melted chocolate into a zip-lock bag, snip off a small piece at one corner of the bag to make a piping bag and pipe swirls on the greaseproof paper. Before the chocolate sets, lift the paper off your workbench and fold it around the cake with the decorations on the inside. Peel the paper off the chocolate to reveal a lace pattern on the cake.Decorate the top of the cake with powdered cinnamon, cinnamon sticks or chocolate curls.

And then it should look like this... ta-da! NAILED IT! 

This cake really was delicious and not just a pretty face! The challenge here is the chocolate work, leave that out and it's actually a pretty straight-forward, simple and yummy cake! So give it a go!

Now, to come up with another excuse to get hot Chocolatier back in my kitchen...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Things my mom taught me

I am very lucky to have inherited my grandmother and mother's old, tattered and worn cook books with pages splattered with flour, sauces and goodness knows what! But with Mother's Day this Sunday, it got me thinking about the things that I was taught that weren't written down in a book... Here are my top 5:

ECards created by The Photoshop Queen, Farah Barry of The Fan Girl Diaries
My grandmother used to love yacking away on the phone for hours and it was the absolute end of the world if the telephone rang and she missed it. I mean, it could've been The Queen or an important invitation to a tea party. So, she taught my mother and myself that no matter what, if you're rubbing butter into flour or kneading dough, always make sure you have one hand free to answer the telephone. 


My mother always tells the story of a lady at my grandmother's church who used to be well-known for her outstanding bakes at the annual bazaar. She would willingly hand out her 'secret' recipes with a smile to anyone who asked. But the product of her 'secret' recipes never seemed to emerge from other's ovens quite as perfectly as it did from hers! You can only imagine the scandal and sordidness of it all when it was discovered that she would leave out an ingredient when passing on the recipe. It's a funny story but not so funny when you're the one being duped! Something I learnt but never took to heart - I love sharing recipes so rest assured that all mine are featured in their original glory.  


Occasionally, you can follow a recipe to the letter (or milliletre) but sometimes it will just flop for no reason. Enter number 3. When my mom is cooking a big important dinner or baking something tricky, I swear I can see her pause and have a little moment before she slips that cake into the oven, and say a little prayer. Just incase.


My grandfather was an avid gardener with a beautiful veggie garden and I remember a year when the beetroot had flourished and in an effort to spare us all from eating beetroot every day for a week, my grandmother decided to try her hand at pickling. She spent a good part of the day slashing the cheery purple vegetables into chunks. With the pressure cooker (which probably dated back to the year 1652) doing the rest of the labour, my grandmother got to work scrubbing the bright pink ink from her wrinkly fingers. But with a hiss and a pop, the old pressure cooker abruptly exploded, flinging vinegary purple liquid on the ceiling, the walls, the floor... Everywhere! Her stained fingers were the least of her worries! Obvious to some, but I'll pass it on to my kids nonetheless.


There is some sort of saying about an apple and a tree but I often forget, as I am usually on a constant sugar high. But I definitely get my sweet tooth from my mother. After dinner, she usually offers something sweet to end off the meal, and while you may think brownies, cookies or chocolate would be a perfectly suitable post-dinner delight, my mother will come into the room holding only an opened tin of condensed milk and a spoon. Forget about wasting it by adding it to a recipe. There is simply no other reason we keep it in our cupboard.

Which kitchen secrets did your mom pass on to you? Let me know!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mother's Day Breakfast brûlée

This pretty teacup is filled with layers of yoghurt, granola and rose water-marinated raspberries, which is nothing special until you have to crack the crisp, golden caramelised sugar topping with the back of your spoon a la crème brûlée to delve into the layers! It’s a healthy, fat-free breakfast that not only looks beautiful but is disguised as something utterly decadent.  In other words, it’s the best kind of breakfast! It’s simple enough for the kids to make and delicious enough for mom to enjoy (without the hazard of having to crunch through omelettes with egg shells in them!) So get creative and experiment with all kinds of fruits, nuts and yoghurt flavours. And if you’re opting to cook mom dinner instead? A dash or two of liqueur is all that seperates this breakfast brûlée from becoming a healthy after-dinner dessert. Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day breakfast brûlée
Serves 1

¼ cup raspberries
pomegranate rubies
1 tsp rose water (optional)
¼ cup toasted muesli
1 small pot fat-free plain yoghurt
1 tbsp light brown sugar

Place the raspberries and a few pomegranate rubies in a small bowl and sprinkle with rose water. Spoon some of the muesli into the bottom of a pretty teacup then top with a layer of yoghurt. Next, sprinkle the marinated fruit over the yoghurt and repeat until the cup is full, ending with a layer of yoghurt. Just before serving, sprinkle the brown sugar on top and caramelize with a blowtorch or under a preheated hot grill until golden, melted and crisp. Garnish with extra berries and serve.

  • ·     Greek yoghurt & honey – alternate layers of thick Greek yoghurt, drizzles of honey and toasted almonds
  • ·     Pineapple & coconut – roast chunks of pineapple in the oven with a little butter and brown sugar then alternate with vanilla yoghurt and layers of toasted coconut mixed into granola. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Lemon ginger tarts with meringue ice cream

Did you know that there are 55 uses for a lemon? Well, 56 if you count eating it, which is obviously, my favourite use of all. But turn the lemon into these good-looking tarts and now we’re talking! Along with the zesty zing of our over-achieving citrus friend, I've added a generous dash of ginger lemongrass cordial to this tart (because it was sitting around in my cupboard and I had to use it up), which I thought was a rather clever way of using this it - if I do say so myself. This recipe is a bit of a challenge so if you’re of the school of thought that believe life is too short to make your own pastry or ice cream, then by all means go the store-bought route (I won’t judge you, promise.)

Lemon ginger lemongrass tarts with meringue ice cream
Serves 8-10

Meringue ice cream
250ml double cream
150ml cream
3-4T castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 meringues, crumbled

Shortcrust pastry
225g cake flour
125g cold butter, chopped
½ cup icing sugar, sifted
3 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp ice cold water

Lemon filling
1 cup cream
2 eggs
3 yolks
½ cup ginger lemongrass cordial, plus extra for serving
¼ cup castor sugar
¼ cup lemon juice

Begin by making the ice cream, whisk the creams together with the sugar until just combined and the mixture just holds its shape (careful not to over mix or the ice cream will be grainy and buttery). 

Stir in the crushed meringues and freeze until firm.

For the pastry, place the flour, butter and icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process in short bursts until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. While the motor is running, add the egg yolk and vanilla. Add the iced water and process until the dough just comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together to form a ball. Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Roll the pastry out to 3mm thick. Line 8-10 lightly greased loose-bottomed small tart tins with the pastry. Trim the edges and prick the base with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Bake the pastry blind: line the pastry case with non-stick baking paper, fill with baking weights or beans and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and the weights and bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool.

To make the filling, whisk all the ingredients together until combined. 

Pour into the blind-baked pastry cases and bake at 140ºC for 30 minutes or until the filling is just set. 

Allow to cool completely then refrigerate until chilled. Serve the tarts drizzled with cordial and with a scoop of ice cream.

TIP I topped the tarts with fancy-looking candied orange twirls that you can buy at a tuisnywerhuid (local baking shop) but orange and lemon slices simmered in the ginger lemongrass cordial until soft and syrupy would also work like a charm.