Gypsy and the Botanist

Month: October, 2014

Chocolate, rose and blackberry torte.

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I’m currently experimenting with tortes for an upcoming project.  This flavour was what I was working on last weekend when my old mixer died on me, mid-icing.  I resumed, with my new partner in crime, this weekend.  Chocolate is always a hit, but coming into the warmer weather, I wanted to lighten it.  The cake is a dark chocolate yoghurt and rosewater sponge.  Inside, there is a layer of blackberry jam for some juicy tartness to break up the richness and creaminess of the chocolate, a layer of rose petal jam to highlight the rose, and an extra layer of the icing.  The icing is a white chocolate and rose swiss meringue buttercream.  To decorate, I used some roses from the markets, coconut chips, dried rose petals, as well as some fruit blossoms from the park across from me.

After this baking session, I think the KitchenAid can stay.

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Back in business.

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I’d like to introduce to the world, my new baby, a KitchenAid.  Squeeeeeeee!  So I’m officially back in business.  She’s my pride and joy, and purrrs like a dream.   Admittedly, she’s pretty much all I’ve been talking about today (and no doubt in the days that follow).

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R.I.P. Mixer

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So today was a sad day. I was beginning the adventures of #testingforalice. I was trying to justify to my mum how I needed a Kitchen Aid, that it would change my baking life. I was chatting to her about the cake I was planning to finish today. I’d baked it yesterday, and was going to do the icing today.  And we walked past a florist who was selling these beautiful blue cornflowers. My mum introduced me to these beauties back in the house she grew up in, in the Polish countryside. We’d pick cornflowers in the farm fields, and make chains for our hair, sitting under a green apple tree. So my mum treated me to a bouquet, knowing that I’d decorate my planned cake with some of these beautiful buds. On the way home, I also found some hibiscus flowers on the roadside, and these beautiful big green leaves from a tree out the front of my place. All for this cake I was making.

Putting the flowers aside, I get to making the icing for my cake. About 15 minutes into it, my mixer started making a horrible noise. I look, and the paddles had stopped beating, and it was burning hot to touch. It died. Midway through. The cake sit there naked, and lonely. Was this in retaliation to my dreams for a Kitchen Aid? Quite possibly. Is this ample justification? Again, quite possibly.

I’ll be forging ahead with a borrowed old mixer stat. And keep on dreaming on. In the mean time, these beautiful flowers, given and found, decorate my shelves and tables instead.

To be continued….

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Lavender honey ricotta torte with rhubarb.

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It is my friend Emily’s graduation tomorrow, and I wanted to make a cake fit the newly crowned Doctor to mark this occasion. Emily loves ricotta cheesecakes, and both of us share a love of lavender. I wanted to bring these two together, for the delicate floral taste of lavender to dance in the light creaminess of the ricotta. Given that ricotta cheesecakes don’t typically contain any liquids, this required some thought. But honey provided the perfect thick gooey liquid to carry the lavender through this cake. I wanted a touch of some tart and sour to balance the rich, creamy, sweet flavours, and spotted the most beautiful ruby coloured rhubarb, which I love using with lavender, so it was settled. The lavender in this dish is from my garden, and the thyme I used to decorate it was from my mama’s garden.

 

Ingredients

1kg firm ricotta

250g mascarpone

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

1 lemon, finely grated rind

60g icing sugar

3 eggs

1tsp cinnamon

150g honey

1 generous handful of lavender buds

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Hazelnut pastry

50g hazelnuts

200g plain flour

60g icing sugar

120g cold butter, cubed

1 egg, lightly beaten

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Rhubarb

2 stems of rhubarb

Some caster sugar

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For the hazelnut pastry, coarsely chop the hazelnuts in a food processor, followed by the flour and icing sugar. Once combined, add the butter, and then the egg. Allow this mixture to rest, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, to make the lavender honey, simmer the honey and lavender in a saucepan for about 5-10 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the honey doesn’t burn. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180C. In a round, lined baking tin, line the base with the hazelnut pastry, about 4mm thick. Prick the pastry with a fork, and bake for approximately 10 minutes, until lightly golden.

In a mixer, on a light to medium speed, mix the ricotta and mascarpone for approximately 5 minutes until combined and smooth. Add the icing sugar, and mix until combined. Then add the vanilla bean, lemon rind, cinnamon, followed by the eggs. On a low speed, mix for another 5 minutes until well combined and creamy. Finally, add the honey, and mix for another 3-5 minutes.

Pour the mixture over the hazelnut pastry. Bake for approximately 1-1.5 hours, until golden and set. Once the tort has cooled, refrigerate for at least a few hours.

For the rhubarb, on a lined oven tin, place the rhubarb, and sprinkle with some caster sugar. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, keeping a close watch to make sure the rhubarb doesn’t overcook. It should be soft, but hold it’s shape.

To serve, spoon the remaining honey over the top, and arrange the rhubarb. Sprinkle some extra lavender buds and hazelnuts over the top, and some fresh thyme.

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