La Reine de Saba or The Queen of Sheba is a beautiful chocolate cake. It is great for many occasions: morning and afternoon tea, accompaniment of a dessert cream, lunch box or parties birthday cake. I have also used it as a basis for a birthday cake (a crocodile chocolate cake).
You will find some versions of this cake which have almond meal instead of flour. It is also delicious, not as light though. I liked this one from the goodfood magasine.
150 g of white or caster sugar
100 g of plain flour
2/3 sachet of raising powder or 2/3 teaspoon if using it from the box
150 g of dark cooking chocolate (if you are using a 70% cocoa chocolate, decrease the chocolate quantity to 120 g, it would be too strong for children).
120 g of butter
4 egg yolks and 4 egg white beaten to snow.
Heat the oven to 180 °Celsius.
Butter and flour a tin, or butter and line.
Melt the butter and chocolate together.
Mix in the sugar, then the egg yolks one at the time.
Add the flour and raising powder together, being careful not to create any lumps.
Fold in the egg whites (in snow) gently.
Transfer to the baking tin and insert in the oven.
Cook until dry in the center (20 to 30 min depending on ovens and thickness of the cake in the tin)
Shortbread cookies use the sweet short crust pastry as a base. After it is just a matter of having a few cookie cutters at home. Children can decorate them with coloured sugar balls, sultanas, nuts or fondant.
250 g plain flour
125 g softened butter
125 g white sugar
In a large bowl, mix all ingredient together and form a ball. Over a few movements, knead it on the kitchen bench to ensure cohesion (20 seconds max). Rest for 15-20 minutes.
Dust the kitchen bench with flour to prevent sticking. Place the dough on the kitchen bench. Dust the top similarly. Roll with the rolling-pin to 6 to 8 mm thick. Ensure the bottom is not stuck by lifting the pastry gently. Add more flour underneath of necessary.
Using cookie cutters make the shapes and transfer them onto a baking sheet covered with baking paper.
If the children want to decorate, use sultanas or pieces of nuts or sugar balls. Smarties work well too.
Bake 10-15 minutes on 160 degrees Celsius until light blonde. Remove from the oven and slide the base on a cooling rack using the baking paper. Allow to cool.
This is pretty much as guilt free as chocolate cake go: no butter and pretty low sugar. What I like with this butter-free chocolate cake is that it is also much easier to digest than a traditional chocolate cake. Why? How? Simply by replacing the butter by very (like very) thinly grated zucchini (a.k.a. courgette). And if you are on a gluten-free diet, you could also replace the little flour in there by GF flour.
Before you start:
You need a good quality cooking chocolate (in Australia, the 70% cocoa Nestle Plaistowe is suitable)
The zucchini: 200 g of zucchini and no more (a bit less is fine). I have now done the cake a few times, trialing a few variations. The last one used 180 g of zucchini and was fine! However, if you add more (which I also did), the cake loses some of its moisture from a denser texture. Two hundred grammes zucchini is one average size piece of vegetable. You need to peel it and remove the ends. Then weight it. Grate it over a bowl and make sure to keep all the juice. I was asked the question: can you use the blender. I tried, it works, just a bit much more washing-up than the grater for little saving, your choice.
The flour: the flour weight is only 50 g. If you go for a gluten-free option, you can either use cornflour but then you need to reduce it to 35 g as corn flour absorbs more moisture than wheat flour, or use one of the GL flour mix.
200 g dark cooking chocolate
80 g caster sugar
200 g thinly grated zucchini (see note above)
50 g plain flour (see note above)
100 mL milk (of your choice)
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Butter and flour well a 20 cm round cake tin.
Break the chocolate in pieces and melt with half of the milk. You can either use the microwave on one minutes settings full power, repeat if not fully melted either with 30 second or another minutes (it depends on the power of your microwave). Once the chocolate is melted, stir until smooth and silky, add the remaining milk.
In a clean bowl, separate the egg yolks from the whites. Beat the yolks with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the zucchini (juice included). Add the chocolate to the mix.
Finally, mix in the flour.
Beat the egg white to snow and carefully fold into the chocolate mix.
Pour into the prepared tin. Place in the oven, reduce the heat to 160°C after 10 minutes. The cake should cook in 20-30 mn depending on ovens. Remove when the centre is no longer wobbly when gently pressed with a couple fingers. Allow to cool down in the tin for five minutes before transferring to the serving dish: turn over a metal rack and then over the serving dish.
Tip: if you have a child helping you tell them to mix in the flour and cocoa starting from the centre, always touching the bottom of the bowl , let them enlarge the circle as the centre gets darker. This technique will avoid lumps.
Tip: wondering what happens if you don’t reduce the oven? The cake will cook quicker and can lose a little moisture but not that much, it will still be quite moist.
And if you are wondering about the taste brought by the zucchini, I will tell that if people don’t know about it, they are unlikely to guess. Once you know, you will possibly note a taste a little more “earthy”, but, to be honest, nothing preventing the cake disappearing in minutes and for zucchini-advert kids to take a second or third helping!
This black and white cookies recipe is taken from the Williams-Sonoma Baking Book. It is a recipe my eight year old daughter decided to do on her own. As the recipe provides measurement in both the imperial american systems and universal metric system, there was a little confusion for her upfront on the different values. Once that was sorted out, she ended up doing the cookies pretty much on her own (I was downstairs working). With or without help from adults, this recipe is a great one to teach children some basic aspects of baking: making a shortcrust, measuring, diving, measuring, using egg yolk as a “glue”.
Makes about 40 cookies. Below is the recipe taken from Williams and Somona. The tips are my addition.
This type of cookie is made by forming dough into a log or rectangular block and chilling it thoroughly. You can also use different types of dough together (vanilla and chocolate, peanut butter and chocolate) to make patterned cookies. Cookies are then sliced off the log or block and baked. When slicing the dough, give the log or block a quarter turn after every half dozen or so slices to keep the cookies perfectly square or round.
2 cups all-purpose flour (315 g)
1/2 cup sugar (125 g)
Pinch of salt – Tip: remove if using salted butter
250 g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbs unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
Tip: for the butter, you can use soft butter or half melted butter. When you rest the dough the first time, either leve it longer or use the freezer.
Tip: I am not using a food processor here as in the original recipe. I find that best learning is achieved by doing by hand and also the mixing is not really hard, so does not warrant the use of a food processor.
In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Then, add the butter, vanilla and egg yolks until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs and eventually holds together. Divide the dough in half. Transfer one-half to a lightly floured work surface and knead in the cocoa until incorporated. If the dough is very soft, wrap in cell-wrap and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Lightly dust the work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out each dough half into a 8 by 21 centimetre about one centimetre thick. Trim the edges to even out.
Tip: instead of trimming the edges, you can use a dough scrapper to push and distribute the dough in a rectangle.
Place each rectangle on a large baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes (Tip: or 10 minutes if using the freezer). Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat the whole egg until blended. Set aside.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Using a sharp knife, cut each rectangle into 4 strips about 2 cm wide (you should have 4 strips of each color). Arrange 2 chocolate strips and 2 plain strips in a checkerboard pattern, brushing the beaten egg between the strips and gently pressing them together. Repeat with the remaining dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and use a knife to square off the edges of each block. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes or 10 minutes if using the freezer.
Preheat an oven to 180°C. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or line them with parchment paper. Remove the blocks from the refrigerator, unwrap and cut each crosswise into slices 6-8 mm thick. Place them 4 cm apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies feel firm when lightly pressed, about 15 minutes. Let the cookies sit on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.
There is such a large variation of breakfasts available, especially in Australia where the options between savoury and sweet breakfasts are many. Oats were not (and still are not) a popular choice of breakfast in France. Here is how I ended up recently trialing homemade toasted muesli.
A few years ago, I would not have considered a savoury breakfast before the clock showed at least 10 am. Now, I don’t mind a fresh piece of bread with avocado and ham early in the morning, yum!
I grew up on bread and butter, or rather bread and jam or bread and honey, as I was not a big fan of butter when growing up. Forget Nutella. Nutella didn’t make its way into my mother’s kitchen until many years later. We used to make a chocolate spreadable out of a can of condensed milk and a tablet of chocolate. If you ask me now, I would not put that recipe on this blog. Back to now, most mornings I leave the house quite early – to avoid some traffic knots – and have breakfast a bit later. I have been trying out a few brands of muesli and toasted muesli. Of course, curiosity obliging, I gave a try doing toasted muesli.
How to make your own toasted muesli?
The key is to define upfront the flavour(s) you want as dominant and the “medium” you are after.
Do you want nuts as the dominant flavour? Or is it dry fruits? Is it berries? Keep one dominant flavour and then build round it.
Each main flavour will dictate the rest of the ingredients. For example, if you want dry fruits such as cranberries and apricots, you would not add more than two types of nuts as it will become a very “busy” muesli and will lack the simplicity of good simple things. With cranberries and apricots, you may consider adding shredded coconuts, maybe some almonds and possibly some chia seeds.
Typically muesli uses rolled oats. Commercial mueslis are composed of between 60% (for the gluten free ones) to 80% (more often) of rolled oats and other cereals flours (by weight). If you are gluten intolerant, you could choose to use buckwheat based cereals or a mix of corn flakes or puffed rice.
My first toasted muesli mix were quite heavy on nuts and seeds. I would now aim at 60% oats.
Some recipes do not add anything else than the medium, nuts, seeds, fruits. I like to add a little oil and honey (not much) and a pinch of salt. It adds a lot to the flavour and to the colour!
So, how to go about it?
Well, this is pretty simple, get a big baking tray out. Cut large nuts (almond, hazelnuts and up size-wise) to smaller chunks. Cut dry fruits similarly. Place all dry ingredients in the tray. Warm up a little the honey and oil, pour over and with your hands “massage” it through. Then, all you have left to do is bake the muesli in the oven while keeping an eye on it and mixing from time to time.
Note: you can add the dry fruits after the baking if you don’t like them too hard.
A few ideas of combinations
Combinations for toasted muesli are endless. Here are a few I tried or some which jump to my mind.
Go nuts muesli! Oats (50%), hazelnuts, walnuts, chia seeds, coconut, macadamia nuts. You can use almond there too, almonds and I don’t agree well, so I would only put very little or avoid them. That muesli was quite nutritious.
Chocoholic muesli: oats (70%), hazelnuts, almond or walnut, cocoa powder, chopped dark chocolate (to add at the end).
And the price bit?
On my last muesli, I calculated that to come to the same price as a box at the supermarket, I would need to have 40% oats and plenty nuts (hazelnuts and macadamia are quite expensive). And that was using supermarket based ingredients i.e. no bulk price considerations!
I also calculated that is you use 60%, your cost become half of the commercial cost. So definitely worth it!
If you want to control what goes into your toasted muesli (and also half the price of the supermarket box), you can make your own. It does not require specific equipment: an oven and a small food processor, a chopping board and a knife. You can even do without the food processor.
This recipe uses some dry fruits and nuts. Feel free to adapt the ingredients, for example you may want more nuts of various kinds and no dry fruits, or you may substitute the apricots with shredded coconut. I did not write down my first attempt to toasted muesli, it was a lot of nuts, chia seeds and coconut. One guiding rule: use (based on weight) round 60% weight of rolled oats. Commercial toasted muesli are most often 80% rolled oats.
750 g rolled oats
150 g dry apricots
150 g dry figs
150 g pepitas
150 g hazelnuts
150 g raw macadamia
1/4 cup olive oil (use any good vegetable oil of your choice)
1/4 cup of liquid honey
1/2 tsp salt
With a large knife, cut the figs in strips and the apricots in small pieces up to 5 mm long
Place the nuts (macadamia and hazelnuts) in a small food processor and blend to reach small to medium size. For example, you want each hazelnut cut at least in two and each macadamia at least in four. I find that there will be some full nuts left and I will cut those with the knife on the chopping board. There may be a few full nuts left, that’s all right.
In a large baking tray, place all dry ingredients, roughly mix.
Put the honey and oil in a small ball, heat up 15 seconds in the microwave and pour over the mix. Using your hands, coat all the ingredients as much as you can.
The, bake on 180-200°C. After 10 minutes, use a fork to move the muesli around. Repeat every 10 minutes until toasted.
There are two options when you make creme patissiere, use cornflour or “normal” flour. The amounts are not purely interchangeable, the quantities vary. In the end, it is a matter of taste. I like the cornflour one for choux pastry, I prefer the flour one for the portuguese custard tartlets.
Want to add flavours? Sure:
Coffee: add cup of very strong coffee
Chocolate: add 50 g dark cooking chocolate (or 1/2 cup cocoa)
Vanilla, nutmeg and pistachio: add 1/2 tsp good vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg and 1/3 cup chopped pistachios then toasted before adding (make sure they are small enough to fit through a piping tip if you are piping the creme patissiere.
This makes one quantity which is your starting point.
1/2 L of milk
4 eggs yolk (keep the white in a box for another usage)
60 g white sugar
40 g corn flour or 60 g plain flour
flavour, by default some ground vanilla bean or a few drops vanilla extract
15 g of butter
In a saucepan, heat up the sugar, milk and vanilla (if using). If using chocolate insert it at this stage.
In a bowl whisk the egg yolks with the corn flour or flour adding half a ladle of the milk to dilute slightly. If using coffee, use the coffee extract at this stage.
When the milk is about to boil, pour over the egg mix while whisking. Transfer back to the saucepan and return over a low heat continuously whisking until the cream thickens.
Add the butter and mix through, the butter is not essential but gives a nice finish to the cream.
Complete the flavours if required (nuts, spices)
Transfer to a clean bowl or plastic box. Cover the surface with cling wrap. Make sure it is the plastic wrap is in direct contact with the creme patissiere. This will avoid the formation of a thick skin. Allow to cool down before using.
Sunday night diner is the wrap up of the weekend and the last step before the start of the new week. It has this homy comfortable feeling. Yes, but…
We, or rather my daughters started a silk rope class on Sunday afternoon. They love it! I find it great too. By the time we come home it is often after 6 pm , sometimes after 7 pm. So, not willing to cook much at this stage of the day, I devise a quick meal. One that came back a few times recently is a bean and sausages bake. Dessert tonight – yes, there is always dessert – was a flan patissier.
The bean and sausage bake
You can rarely do easier and it require strictly no cooking skills. All you need are cans of beans, tomato sauce and sausages! Pretty simple! Still need the recipe? Click HERE.
A flan patissier for dessert
Flans patissiers need to be made in advance preferably as they taste better warm or cold. I made mine this morning before heading across Scotland Island through bushland on gorgeous little tracks. Flan patissier are a typical French dessert, it is like a (homemade) baked custard. Quite nice.
This dish recently made it on our menu in our household, often for a sunday night. It is a great dish for many reasons:
It is a real no stress dinner, super mega easy to do;
Everyone likes it;
It makes use of pantry items (all these cans of bans my husband likes to buy when he does a grocery top up), in other words, all you need from the fridge is sausages!
Depending on the numbers to feed, I serve it with or without soft polenta.
2 cans of beans of your choice: red kidney, mixed beans, chick peas, white beans, ….although no breakfast ready baked beans please
1 can of crushed tomatoes (or whole, you can cut them roughly)
If the beans are in brine, i.e. not in brine (our were mexican salsa recently), one jar of past sauce of your choice
1 to 2 sausages per person (I also like to use lamb forequarter chops)
2 small zucchini if available
rosemary or thyme from the garden
Open the tins of beans, rinse under water except if in tomato sauce.
Place in a large roasting dish, the beans, the sliced onion, the can of tomatoes, the sliced zucchini and the jar of pasta sauce (if using).
Place the meat thoughout.
Season with salt and pepper
Bake on oven 200°C for 30 to 45 minutes (until the meat is cooked)
For the soft polenta
Boil one cup of milk with three cups of water and 1 tsp of salt. When it is boiling, add in rain, one cup of polenta (corn semolina). Stir with a whisk or wooden spoon, reduce the heat to half and cook for fie minutes. If the mix dries out too much, add a little water. Set aside. Add 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Stir. Serve.
If you have been to France, you would have seen the Flan Patissier in bakeries or maybe had a serve in a bistro. The flan patissier is a classic french dessert, it is alike a baked custard. Some versions of the flan patissier include a shortcrust pastry. My version does not have it. I grew up with that version, I prefer it as such. The pastry makes unmoulding easier, otherwise I do not find it adds much to the dessert as a whole.
To make it quite thick – I find it looks amazing like that! – you will need either a narrow baking dish (17 cm diameter) or you need to double the recipe like I did for the photo session!
1/2 vanilla bean (you can also use some of the vanilla powder you find in gourmet spice shops)
80 g white sugar
700 mL of milk
75 g of corn flour
300 mL of cream
Heat up the oven on 180°C, butter and flour the tin (use a spring form one if you have one).
Note: if you are making the single proportions above, you can use a ceramic tart dish to bake it it and serve it directly as such (my Mum always did that!).
Scrap the vamilla beans and place in th milk. Heat up the sugar, milk and cream.
In the meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and corn flour. Once the milk is hot, pour the equivalent of a laddle in the egg mi and mix well, add the rest. Mix well before returning to the saucepan and, using a whisk, keep stiring. The custard will thicken. Once it becomes thicker remove from the heat an transfer to the prepared tin. Flatten the top with a spatula.
Bake for 45 minutes or until browned to dark on the top. It may look a little burnt, don’t worry this is normal.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before unmoulding.
Serve warm or completely cooled down at room temperature. If unmoulding, first use a sharp knive to make sure the flan does not stick to the edges of the tin.
Tip: you can add soaked sultanas, a couple spoons of rhum or chocolate chips to make it a little different.
We have been getting these beautiful barramundi fillets from the Sydney fish market. They are really big and one is enough for a family of up to six people. When I go to the fish market, I bring a big esky bag and choose fish to freeze and stock for a month. The choice is not completely out of random but neither is it a planned thing. It is the second time that I buy those large barramundi fillets, they are a treat really, but what a nice one!
Today, I am sharing a dinner menu and fish recipe from the last couple days.
The Menu (dinner)
Entree – Soft goat cheese and grana padano souffle
Main – Barramundi fillets on a bed of soft onions and brussels sprouts, served with green asparagus and hollandaise sauce and side salad
Dessert – Fruit (mandarin)
The souffles were beautiful, they rose so high! And of course collapsed afterwards! The barramundi was delicious and with the Brussel sprouts and other greens a great combination.
Cooking the barramundi
Did I have a recipe? No. I don’t for those types of last minute dinner challenge. This time I somehow managed to get a semi-passable photo of the dish before my plate become cold and the dish got eaten, so finally a recipe of a savoury dish!
Barramundi marries very well with lemon flavours and either on of the following: four spices, coriander ground, nutmeg.
Underneath the fish, I placed seven brussels sprouts cut very thinly, half of an onion cut very thinly, 2 garlic cloves cut thinly, 15 g of butter and a cup of water. I salted the fish on both sides and when the butter was melted, placed the fish on top, added the juice of one lemon, a few small heads of parsley, a dusting of all spices mix and reduced the heat and covered to let cook slowly.
It took about 20 minutes to cook. In the meanwhile, I was frantically getting the asparagus steamed and the hollandaise sauce (also quite lemony) prepared.
A perfect light dessert with a little chocolate treat! A poire belle Helene is a poached pear, covered in dark chocolate sauce. There is nothing very technical in it. This recipe includes a small crumble, if you have some biscuits, you can omit the crumble and serve with a biscuit.
Serves 6 people
For the poached pears
1 beurre-bosc pear per person, not too ripe
Juice of 3 oranges
2 cups of dry white wine
1 roll of cinnamon
½ vanilla bean seeds scrapped
3 star anises
2 cups white sugar
1 lemon juice
5 grains all spice – whole (can omit if you don’t have any)
1 to 2 cups of water
For the crumble
½ cup of shelled pistachios
1 cup of plain flour
½ cup of brown sugar
½ cup of soft (not melted) butter
For the chocolate sauce:
100 g of 70% cooking chocolate in pellets or cut into small pieces
2/3 up of the poaching sauce
Peel the pears being careful to keep the stem. Once peeled, extrude with the the end of a pointy knife the bottom end to remove the seeds.
In a saucepan, place all the poaching ingredients. Only put one cup of water at this stage. Bring to a simmer. Once the sugar is dissolved, place the pears in the saucepan. Add just enough of the last cup of water to cover (there may be little parts sticking out, don’t worry).
Simmer for about 30 minutes or until soft when inserting a skewer in a pear. For those pears slightly sticking out, roll them from time to time.
Leave to cool in the saucepan away from the heat until needed.
For the crumble, place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until combined. Spread on a baking sheet, and bake for about 10-15 minutes in an oven on 180°C. Make sure to stir through every few minutes to ensure the crumble pieces do not stick to each other. When it comes close to 10 minutes, it tends to cook very quickly, so watch out to avoid burning it.
When the crumble is ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
For the chocolate sauce, pour 2/3 cup of the hot poaching juice on top of the chocolate, stir until melted.
To serve: place a pear in the middle of a place, standing up. Use a ladles to pour the chocolate sauce right over the stem of the pear until fully covered. Place 2 tablespoons of the crumble on one side of the pear. Serve.