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Sunday, December 22, 2013
Black Forest Cake

It's almost Christmas! Christmas is definitely my favourite time of the year, with all festivities of red and green decorating everything you can possibly think of. Last year, I created a cute Black Forest cake for our annual Christmas party, and it was super successful according to the many wonderful comments I received from the party guests.
2013 Christmas Black Forest cake! There's been a lot of change in this one compared to the 2012 version..
2012 Christmas Black Forest cake! The little wafers are a cute addition, aren't they? And the tempered chocolate is an old favourite.
So as requested by my family, I have recreated the Black Forest cake this year to celebrate Christmas with, and hopefully it will be loved by everyone as much as last year's version! I've played around with the designs on the cake, and decided to leave this cake a bit plainer than last years; instead of tempering little christmas trees, arty designs and 'Merry Christmas' for the cake top, I've simply just coated the top with cocoa and an edge of sweet cream!

Second layer of cream over the cherries..
Sandwiched all the layers of the cake with the cream oozing out the sides! Doesn't this make you crave some cake? It sure does for me..
Looks a bit like a tiramisu in this one! Perhaps that should be my next recipe.. What do you think?!
Ahh.. Cocoa!
Added the signature Black Forest cake cream lining! I've never seen a Black Forest cake without the piped rosettes..

The finished cake! Looks cute, don't you agree? I'm quite a fan of simplicity, and a simple, modern cake with slight traditional features is ideal!
I really love the contrasted tempered dark and white chocolate shards for the sides! I've used tempered chocolate shards for many of my cakes, but never have I blended white chocolate into my dark chocolate! It looks really good, but there are the downsides; the shards are much less sturdy and have a lower melting point, which was extremely hazardous for the boiling Christmas season here in Australia!


  • 470g packet chocolate cake mix (I used White Wings Classics Moist Chocolate Cake box mix)
  • 670g jar of morello cherries
  • 2 tbs caster sugar
  • 1 tbs cornflour
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 600ml thickened cream
  • 200g good quality dark cooking chocolate
  • 100g good quality white cooking chocolate
  • 1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder 

Prepare and bake the chocolate cake mix following packet directions. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely. Use a large serrated knife to cut the cake horizontally into 3 even layers.

Drain the cherries, reserving 160ml (2/3 cup) of the juice. Place the cherries and the reserved juice in a saucepan with the sugar and cornflour. Stir over medium-low heat until the mixture boils and thickens. Transfer to a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill.

Use an electric beater to beat cream and icing sugar in a medium bowl until firm peaks form.
Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate and spread with half of the cherry mixture and a thin layer of the cream. Repeat with the remaining cake, cherry mixture and cream, finishing with a layer of cake.
Spread some of the remaining cream over the top and side of the cake. Using a sieve, cover the top of the cake with Dutch cocoa powder. Place the remaining cream in a piping bag fitted with a 1cm fluted nozzle and carefully pipe rosettes around the edge of the cake. (Note: piping slowly will minimise the moving of rosettes on the cocoa powder).

Chop the chocolate into small pieces, and set aside 25% of both white and dark chocolates. Place the remaining chocolate in separate bowls and microwave on half power. Stir the mixture every half minute until it is almost completely melted (approximately 2-3 minutes).

Remove the bowls of chocolate from the microwave and stir to cool slightly. Add the reserved chocolate into their respective bowls and stir the chocolate until everything is melted. The dark chocolate should reach approximately 46C - 48C and white chocolate 36C - 43C.

Spread the tempered dark chocolate onto a large sheet of baking paper, shaping it until it reaches approximately 50cm x 10cm x 3mm. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then spread the white chocolate on top. 
Using a butter knife, split the chocolate into even strips for easy removal when solid. Place the sheets of chocolate in the fridge to solidify. 

Remove the chocolate pieces from the baking paper and press onto the sides of the cake, making sure to alternate the heights of the pieces for a more contrasting effect. Cut and serve the cake.

- Rachel

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Monday, December 9, 2013
Weekend Haul and Gifts!

I've finally gotten to doing some shopping since my trip to America half a year ago! Although I did not purchase any clothes, I've gotten some things that can help me pamper up on those nights which really need it. My friends have been extra kind and given me some early Christmas/farewell presents, which have really made me look forward to the whole festive season!

Over the weekend, I was able to get my hands on the amazing Body Shop Body Butters! They're absolutely amazing; they smell sensational and are so moisturising for my skin, especially because my skin is often way too dry. Also, a little goes a long way with those body butters, and I find that even a walnut-sized amount can cover your whole body. Although this product is a bit on the pricey side, they're definitely worth it!

 My friends had told me alot about this sea spray, and it really is a fabulous product. I had never really used texturising sprays before, and this one is super easy to use. I tried it on as soon as I got home on a ponytail, and my hair was instantly thicker and more volumised! It smells so amazing as well, you should definitely try this one out.

 My bestie Jo got this Dusk candle for me! I specifically requested for this flavour after the one and only Chloe recommended it to me. I can't believe I didn't purchase this candle sooner; it smells absolutely divine, and I've been burning this candle as much as I can since I got it! I'm not kidding you, the two scents come together so nicely and are distinctive as well. Surely I can't wait to have a nice relaxing bath with this aroma floating around soon..

 Jo also got me these cute TOPSHOP snowmen socks! I can add them to my new collection of funky socks, and I can't wait to wear them. The pale blue is so adorable paired with the snowmen, don't you think?

 Chloe and Joyce gifted me with these spectacular earrings for a Christmas and farewell gift! They are such kind people, and I almost cried when they gave me this present! The earrings are pink cherry blossoms, and they are so so so cute! It also came with some heart-warming cards which made me tear up a little too..

 I got to purchase a new shoulder bag too, because my canvas one was all blotchy and dirty, and needed a replacement. This Sportsgirl bag is so cute and simple but fits all the essentials I take when I leave the house; I love it! A bit pricey though ($40), but definitely worth it! I'll probably be wearing this alot, and it feels very sturdy and comfortable.

 On a different note, I gave Rosie a huge haircut! She looks like an entirely different dog.. Which isn't really that bad because she's officially matt-free for now, yay! She's into the Christmas spirit too- I switched her normal black collar for a jingly red and white Christmas one. I'm so excited for Christmas; it's the best time of year, don't you think?

-  Rachel

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Friday, December 6, 2013
Outfit of the Day! (More like Outfit I've Been Wearing Everyday Since Forever)

Australia has been having some pretty strange weather patterns this year, including severe bushfires in spring, and 31 degree days in winter. Nonetheless, I've become attached to a few items of clothing throughout the season. Yesterday, at the YouTube meetup (read more about it here), I wore my comfortable, but fashionable clothing out, hoping to get a photo with the famous YouTubers. Unfortunately, I did not, but on with the topic!

What I'm wearing:

  • BCKO Black Mesh Knit (Purchased in China, so you'll most likely not be able to find this exact item
    This mesh knit is a really nice asset to my wardrobe and is perfect for those weather occasions when it's too hot for a jacket but too cold for a t-shirt. I have absolutely started loving this knit this season, because Australia's weather is always so unpredictable!

  • Boxer Navy Mid-Calf Cardigan (Handed down from Mum)
    I remember digging around for new clothes in my mum's wardrobe and coming across this! This cardi is the best thing in my clothes collection right now; I wear it even if it's boiling hot! It's a bit thick for summer now, but it's a great look and I absolutely love the collar and the baggy style!

  • Levi's Hi Rise Faded Skinny Jeans
    I purchased these jeans in America, and they were so cheap compared to the jeans in Australia. At almost half price, I could not believe how comfortable and practical these jeans are! They're stylish and can be cuffed above the ankles or worn normally according to whatever look you're going for. I've become a huge fan of high-waisted shorts and jeans recently and these look so so so good!

  • TOPSHOP Orange Cream Lace Trim Socks
    These cute socks are the newest things in my wardrobe; I only got them last week! While at Schools Spectacular, I took my chance of being in the city to shop in
    TOPSHOP, where they had a great sale on socks of 3 for $18 instead of $8 each! They're so cute, aren't they? My outfits are instantly better with these little treasures.

  • Converse All Star Optical White Low Top Shoes
    Of course, I have the Converses that everybody has. They're so beautiful though, I love the white on white, and how they changed the rubber lining to a bright red! I pair these shoes usually with ankle socks and cuffed jeans, but I've discovered that frilly socks work too!

- Rachel
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013
When You Have Nothing in the Fridge: Simple Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls!

I've gotten a sudden spark of motivation to shape up again, so whilst I've been exercising my butt off, the ideas of healthy food came popping into my mind. Gourmet salads, wraps and sandwiches all made my mouth drool, but the only problem was.. I didn't have the ingredients to make any fancy healthy food in my pantry or fridge! I remembered that I had rice paper roll sheets hidden in a back cupboard somewhere, and luckily, these cute little inventions are easily modified while still maintaining its flavour! All you need is 5 ingredients, and you'll be full and satisfied for a long time!

 My dog really wanted some too.. look at her jealous expression!

This recipe is made according to what I had handy in my fridge, but pretty much any vegetable can be substituted into the recipe, so if you're a bit iffy about meat, then vegetables are completely fine!


Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls:
  • 10 rice paper roll sheets
  • 2 avocados, halved and sliced lengthwise
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 400g beef stroganoff
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 400g bean sprouts
  • 300g rice vermicelli, cooked and drained
  • 10 prawns, cooked and peeled
Dipping Sauce:
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 3 tbsp water
Cook beef stroganoff pieces in a large pan on medium heat until cooked. Transfer to a heatproof bowl.

Fill a large shallow bowl with water. Place rice paper sheet into water until soft, approximately 30-60 seconds. Lay sheet on a place or bench, and assemble roll with a small amount of mint, carrot, vermicelli, bean sprouts. Add 1 prawn, 1 slice of beef and 2 slices of avocado in a row across the top middle, leaving about 4cm of the sheet uncovered on each side.
Fold in two sides of wrapper to centre, and tightly roll to enclose the filling. Repeat with remaining rolls.

In a small bowl, combine fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce and water until combined. Serve rice paper rolls with dipping sauce.

- Rachel
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013
More Baking: Birthday Cake for a Doppleganger and a Carvable Cake!

Hi guys! I've done more baking since last time I wrote, which I guess is a good thing apart from the part that included lots of procrastinating on assignments that were due.. 
So last week, which was that first week back to school, I bumped into my friend Meggie, who apparently is my doppleganger from two years above! I still remember when I was a new to my high school and her friends introduced me to her.. it was very awkward. Anyways, she ever so gracefully reminded me of her birthday which was on 10th October. I had totally forgotten about it, but I made a cake nonetheless! It's quite a simple cake; strawberries and cream with fondant on top! It only took me about 5 hours to make altogether, which is ultra quick compared to the amount of time/effort I put into my other cakes.. 
I thought the idea was quite cute, with the moose and other forest animals. It creates a really relaxing feeling for me somehow..

Amidst all that, I am being bogged down with so many assignments and assessments! I have a maths test tomorrow, and a huge history essay due next week, an English assignment due in just over a week, and I just finished a PDHPE assignment where I made another cake. This cake was really fun to make, because it was my first time shaping it into a 3D cake. The recipe I used is incredibly easy, but I thought I would share it with you anyways. The cake that came out of the oven was completely flat, and was amazing to carve with!

Vanilla Cake for Carving

Makes an absolutely delicious cake that has a 'crumb' similar to a pound cake, ideal for decorating and stacking/tiering.

The behind-the-scenes of making my bikini cake for PDHPE. She even had a heart buried inside her if you can spot it! Try and cover all the cracks in the cake with more bits of cake.. or frosting!

The most hilarious part is shaping the boobs and making them all nice and round.. My brother walked in on me doing this part and he left with the worst judgemental face ever!
 Frost it up! You can see all the little bits of coloured fondant I have prepared for the next part.
 Just a little close up of the frosted finish. Make sure you get all the cracks and fill in all the bumps otherwise you'll end up with a really lumpy bumpy cake!
And here's the finished product! She's meant to represent the body image society places upon us, and I'm very proud of her. Mainly because she has a more fabulous body than I do..



  • 1 Cake Mix Box (Duncan Heines®, Betty Crocker®, Pillsbury® etc.)
  • 1 cup All purpose flour
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 generous dash of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup Sour Cream
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 160°C. Spray and line a loaf or 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.
Mix flour, sugar, cake mix, and salt together with fork, set aside.
Put eggs, water, sour cream, vanilla and butter into a mixing bowl.
Add dry ingredients and mix well on (about 2 minutes on low speed). Pour mixture into a loaf or 20cm square pan.
Bake at 160°C for 30 -60 minutes depending on pan size and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Lift cake out of tin and place onto a cooling rack to cool.
For the best intricate carvings, freeze the cake for a few hours and then defrost a little to soften it out again. Divide into layers if desired, and add any icing, jam or cream in between layers to glue them together. Try a Roasted Chocolate Mousse, Orange Pastry Cream, or Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting!

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Monday, October 7, 2013
Louros Chocolate Entremet

Only last Sunday did my beautiful mother turn 45! She's still so young and happy and radiant, and even though she dresses way too young for her age and listens to Macklemore, Katy Perry and P!nk, her love for food beats all. I remember the one day that we were eating dinner as a family and Masterchef was making this cake. It looked very exquisite and complicated, and the competitors were given 3.5 hours to complete this masterpiece in the Pressure Test. Although, the original cake looks much different from mine, and is much smaller. Nonetheless, my mum, being as extravagant as she is, demanded that that cake was to be made for her birthday, and let's say I couldn't say no.

Altogether, the making of the cake took almost three weeks! It would not have taken this long if I had the correct kitchen utensils and gadgets, but unfortunately I wasn't equipped with such luxuries. 

Here is the inside of the cake! I forgot to wipe the knife off everytime I sliced into the cake, because I was so amazed at how amazing the cake turned out! You can see almost all the layers perfectly.

I took a picture of my slice! Here you can see all the layers of the cake, but you're missing out on the best bit.. which is, of course, eating it! After the first bite, I came to accept that the three weeks of hard work really had paid off.

White chocolate cremeux
·         6g gold gelatine leaves
·         690g good quality white chocolate
·         180g cocoa butter
·         840g thickened cream
·         6vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped
·         150g egg yolks
·         30g caster sugar
Roasted milk chocolate mousse
·         400g 39% milk couverture
·         20g milk powder
·         1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
·         6g gold gelatine sheets
·         70g caster sugar
·         50g water
·         76g egg yolks
·         70g milk
·         450g thickened cream
Chocolate mirror glaze
·         10g gold gelatine leaves
·         196g water
·         196g caster sugar
·         76g glucose
·         2g sea salt
·         450g neutral glaze
·         76g Dutch cocoa powder (22-24%)
·         2g black oil-based food colouring (optional)
Chocolate pain de gene
·         540g almond paste
·         90g caster sugar
·         300g eggs
·         60g egg yolks
·         2g salt
·         70g Dutch cocoa powder (22-24%), sifted
·         1/4 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
·         110g clarified butter, warm
Walnut black sesame florentine
·         120g caster sugar
·         6g NH pectin (found in jam setters
·         40g unsalted butter
·         70g thickened cream
·         40g honey
·         40g liquid glucose
·         70g white sesame seeds
·         60g black sesame seeds
·         70g walnuts, roasted, chopped
·         30g cocoa butter
Crispy rice base
·         30g roasted skinless hazelnuts, roughly chopped
·         20g dark crispearls
·         60g praline
·         100g Nutella
·         24g dark couverture (70%)

Chocolate spheres (optional)
·         6 tempered domes, various sizes
·         Reserved white chocolate cremeux

To assemble
·         Oil spray, to grease
·         Large 20cm round pan with removable bottom

To serve
·         Chocolate glaze
·         Cardboard base
·         Pink hearts, to garnish (optional)

Note: You will need to start the recipe a day ahead.

White chocolate cremeux
For the white chocolate cremeux, soak gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes or until softened. Drain, squeezing out any excess water.
Place white chocolate and cocoa butter in a bowl.
Meanwhile, place cream, vanilla beans and seeds in a medium saucepan, and bring to the boil over medium heat. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a bowl to combine. Slowly pour cream mixture into yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Transfer mixture to a clean saucepan and bring to 80˚C, stirring constantly to make an anglaise. Remove from heat. Immediately add softened gelatine and stir until dissolved.
Strain anglaise through a fine sieve into bowl with white chocolate and cocoa butter, whisking until melted and well combined, then transfer to a disposable piping bag.
Place a 36-hole x 2.5cm half-sphere fleximat sheet on a flat tray. Cut 2mm from the tip of the piping bag and fill holes with cremeux. Place in freezer for at least 4 hours until frozen solid. Repeat for remaining batter.
Cool remaining chocolate cremeux to 30°C, then fill chocolate domes, if using.
Once half spheres are frozen, working quickly in batches, press two halves together to create 36 full spheres, gently rubbing together on the sides. Return to freezer until needed.
*You will have some remaining cremeux that can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. It can be served with desserts or used in cakes.

Roasted milk chocolate mousse
For the roasted milk chocolate mousse, preheat oven to 125°C.
Place arriba milk couverture, milk powder, vanilla bean and seeds in a bowl and toss to combine to avoid milk powder from clumping. Transfer to a silicone mat and bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven every 20 minutes to stir, and to ensure the mixture roasts evenly. Spread out before returning to oven. You can refrigerate mixture overnight.
Meanwhile, make glaze.
Make chocolate pain de gene.
Make walnut black sesame florentine.
Make crispy rice base.
Make chocolate spheres, if using.
To finish mousse, soak gelatine leaves in a heatproof bowl of cold water for 5 minutes or until softened. Drain, squeezing out any excess water.
Place sugar and water in a small saucepan set over medium heat, and bring to 121°C, taking care not to allow the temperature to increase any further.
Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, continually whisk egg yolks until thick, pale and the sugar syrup is added. Gradually whisk hot sugar syrup into egg yolks. Continue to whisk until mixture reaches room temperature to create a pâté à bombe.
Meanwhile, bring milk to the boil in a small saucepan.
Remove and discard vanilla beans from roasted chocolate, then transfer mixture to a food processor. With the motor running, gradually add heated milk, then strain through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl. Set roasted chocolate ganache aside.
Pour cream into the bowl of an electric mixer, whip until slightly thickened. Set aside in the fridge until needed.
Return softened gelatine to bowl and heat in the microwave in 10 seconds increments to melt. Note carefully, do not heat the gelatine above 80°C because it will lose its setting ability. It will heat very quickly in the microwave.
Fold a small amount of the pâté à bombe into heated gelatine to combine. Using a spatula, fold gelatine mixture into bowl with remaining pâté à bombe to combine.
If necessary, gently reheat roasted chocolate ganache in 20-second increments in a microwave. Bring mixture to 34˚C, then fold in one-fifth of the whipped cream to loosen. Using a spatula, gently fold ganache into the pâté à bombe until combined, then fold through the remaining cream.
Spoon into a disposable piping bag fitted with a 1cm round nozzle and set aside on the bench until needed.

Chocolate mirror glaze
Soak gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes or until softened. Drain, squeezing out any excess water.
Meanwhile, place 14g of the water, sugar, glucose and salt into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat, whisking constantly. Whisk in neutral glaze, maintaining the mixture at a simmer.
Combine remaining 162g of water and cocoa powder in a bowl, then pour into pan with syrup, whisking to combine. Sift black food colouring into pan, and simmer for a further 5 minutes, whisking continuously. Remove from heat, add softened gelatine, and emulsify mixture using a stick blender, keeping the blade at the base of the bowl to avoid incorporating any air. Strain through a fine sieve into a shallow tray, then place plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the glaze to avoid a skin forming. Refrigerate until needed.

Chocolate pain de gene
Preheat oven to 170
Place almond paste and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and beat well on low speed to combine.
With the motor running, slowly add eggs and yolks, followed by the salt, regularly scraping down the sides. Please note, if the eggs and yolks are added too quickly, lumps will develop and cannot be removed.
Using a spatula, gently fold in cocoa and baking powder by hand until just combined. Add a small amount of the almond paste mixture to a bowl with clarified butter and mix until well combined, then fold into remaining almond paste mixture to combine.
Spread mixture evenly into two 25cm-wide x 35cm-long x 1cm-deep flexipan, and bake for 12-15 minutes until cooked. Place in freezer to cool completely. Cut into 2 x 20cm circles, then set aside on the bench until needed. You can use a 20cm round mould to do this.

Walnut black sesame florentine
Preheat oven to 170°C.
Combine sugar and pectin in a saucepan. Add butter, cream, honey and glucose, and stir to combine. Place over medium-high heat and cook for about 5 minutes or until golden.
Add sesame seeds and walnuts and stir to combine.
Roll mixture between two sheets of baking paper to 2-3mm thick. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Sprinkle with Copha as soon as it is removed from the oven. Working quickly, using an 20cm round pan as a guide, cut florentine into 20cm circles.

Crispy rice base
Place roasted hazelnuts in a bowl along with crispearls and paillete feuilletine, and stir to combine.
Place gianduja and couverture in a heatproof bowl and heat in a microwave in 20-second increments to 36
°C, then pour into bowl with hazelnut mixture and mix well to combine.
Spread a 3mm layer onto one 20cm pain de gene circle.

Chocolate spheres (optional)
Fill each chocolate dome with white chocolate cremeux and level off the base. Place in freezer until needed.

To assemble
Spray a 
20cm round pan and place pan onto a silicone mat set on a tray for assembly.
Place a circle of pain de gene, topped with crispy rice layer into the base of the cube. Cover with a layer of milk chocolate mousse to a maximum of 1cm-thick, piping an extra 1cm layer around the edges to spread up the sides of the mould, using a palette knife.
Using tweezers, place 16 white cremeux spheres into the mousse in a 4 x 4 pattern. Pipe in another layer of mousse, surrounding and covering the spheres with a 1cm-thick layer above the spheres.
Using a bamboo skewer, gently insert into a black sesame florentine square, then carefully place into mould. Cover with another layer of mousse at 8mm-thick.
Carefully insert a pain de gene layer and cover with 8mm of mousse, filling the gaps between the mould and the pain de gene, and spreading the mousse slightly up the sides. Layer with remaining 16 spheres, then add another layer of mousse, covering the spheres with a 1cm-thick layer.
Insert a second piece of florentine into mould.
Cover with a final layer of mousse to fill mould and place in freezer to firm up slightly.
Remove from freezer. Using a palette knife, level off the top of the mousse, adding an additional thin layer of mousse. Place chocolate filled spheres on top, if using, gently pushing into soft layer of mousse. Return to freezer for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight until frozen solid.

To serve
Gently reheat glaze in the microwave in 20-second increments to bring it up to a pouring consistency of 25C in temperature.
Place 20cm round pan onto a stand smaller than the diameter of the cake pan to allow mirror glaze to drip off cake. This can be achieved by standing cake on top of mugs or cups. Release mould from cake by pulling downwards, gently heating with a blowtorch, if necessary. Glaze frozen cake with chocolate glaze. Carefully transfer to a serving plate.
Louros needs to be at room temperature for about 20 minutes before slicing. 

- Rachel
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Sunday, August 25, 2013
Roasted Strawberry Napoleon with Orange Pastry Cream

Happy Saturday, my beauties! The weekend is the best part of the week, don't you agree? Well quite a while back last year, travelled to Paris, and came back with these enchanting ideas for little desserts. My mum still had a craving for the delicious nibbles from France, so she told me to make something with strawberry and pastry. So here I present the Roasted Strawberry Napoleon with Orange Pastry Cream, which surprisingly did not take too much of my time. Personally, I loved this petite dessert, and how all the flavours infuse together. 

  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, from standard package (17 1/4 ounces), thawed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 14 medium strawberries (about 1 pint), stems trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped pistachios
Orange Pastry Cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 strips (1 or 2 inches) orange zest, from 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Orange Pastry Cream:
In a small saucepan, combine milk, orange zest, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Scrape in vanilla seeds, and add the pod. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and cover. Set aside 10 minutes; discard orange zest and vanilla pod.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with cornstarch. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg and egg yolk; add the sugar mixture, and continue whisking until pale yellow.

Return milk mixture to heat. Bring to a boil, scraping vanilla seeds from sides of pan.
Slowly ladle half of boiling milk mixture into egg-yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer this new mixture back to saucepan.

Set pan over medium heat, whisking constantly and scraping sides and edges of pan. Once mixture comes to a boil, whisk vigorously until very thick, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Remove pan from heat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape pastry cream into a medium bowl; set over ice bath. Whisk butter, piece by piece, into the pastry cream while still warm. Let cool completely. Lay plastic wrap on surface of pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming; wrap tightly. Store pastry cream, refrigerated, up to 1 day.

Strawberry Napoleon: 
Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). Line a baking pan with parchment paper, and set aside. Have another baking pan, unlined, ready. In a small bowl, combine corn syrup with 1 teaspoon warm water; set aside.

Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Roll puff-pastry sheet into a 12-inch square; trim edges. Cut sheet on the fold lines, making three 4-by-12-inch rectangles. Place rectangles on lined pan. Top with another piece of parchment. Place the unlined pan on top of the filled pan. Bake puff pastry 8 minutes.

Remove the empty pan and top parchment, and return pan to oven. Bake until pastry starts to puff and is light-golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven; lightly brush with reserved corn-syrup mixture. Using a long metal spatula, gently flip rectangles. Brush again with corn-syrup mixture. Bake until shiny and golden brown, about 9 minutes more. With the spatula, transfer puff pastry to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Increase oven temperature to 232°C (450°F). Using a pastry brush, coat the bottom of a medium oven-proof saute pan with 1 tablespoon butter; scrape vanilla seeds into butter. Place strawberries, cut sides down, in pan. Sprinkle with granulated sugar, and lay vanilla pod on top. Roast until strawberries start to "slump" and feel soft when squeezed, 10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer all but 2 of the berries and vanilla pod to a plate to cool. Reserve juices in pan.

Set pan over high heat. If using Grand Marnier, add to pan, and light a match, carefully igniting liqueur; allow flame to burn out, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium. Using a fork, mash 2 remaining strawberries; add orange juice. (If not using liqueur, add 2 tablespoons more orange juice). Cook until thick and syrupy, 30 to 40 seconds; discard vanilla pod. Remove from heat. Swirl in the remaining tablespoon butter, and set aside.

Combine cream and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, and whip until stiff peaks form.

Without using a tip, close off the end of a pastry bag with a paper clip or clothespin; fill with whipped cream. Repeat, filling a second pastry bag with orange pastry cream. (Alternatively, use two resealable plastic bags, and cut off a corner on each; an offset spatula can also be used to spread both whipped and pastry creams.)

Pipe a tablespoon of pastry cream onto the middle of a serving plate. Center a rectangle of puff pastry on top. Leaving a 1/2-inch border, pipe orange pastry cream onto puff pastry. Arrange roasted strawberries on top of pastry cream; scrape any remaining juices from plate into reserved sauce. Place a second rectangle of puff pastry on top of strawberries. Leaving a 1/2-inch border, pipe whipped cream onto second rectangle of puff pastry. Sprinkle with pistachios. Place a third rectangle of puff pastry on top.

Using a serrated knife, slice assembled napoleon into 4 pieces. Drizzle with the reserved sauce, and serve.

- Rachel

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