Monday, 5 October 2009

Here in NSW, Australia, yesterday was Rugby League Grandfinal Day.  Sorry, but that's about as excited as I get about it.  Sub intelligence blokes with chunky thighs running forwards down a paddock, but throwing the ball backwards???? Go figure!

Anyway, my friend over the road is a mad keen fan and decided to put on a barbie late lunch/early dinner to celebrate and suggested I join her and her kids with my kids as her hubby was away and mine was at work.  Sounded like a good idea to me, so I asked what I could bring along in the way of food.  It was pretty much all organised, but I always like to take something along (plus any chance to have a play in the kitchen of course!), so I decided to try out something that had caught my eye a while ago made by Helene of Tartelette fame.  I highly suggest you check out her blog.  To call it awesome is a MASSIVE understatement!  She is my culinary idol!  My gastronomic hero!  Now I do have one small favour to ask.  Please don't look at her magnificent masterpiece and my pitiful, meagre attempt on the same day.  Please???

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Chopped Berries"]Chopped Berries[/caption]

Anyway, back to lunch at Liz's.  I had a few mulberries left over that my friend Tomoko gave me the other day when we went to scab some wood from their fire pile to use as garden borders for my new herb patch, along with some strawberries I had bought for the girls.  My stash of sweet tartlette cases are still surviving in the freezer, so all I needed was some fresh cream.  A quick trip to the general store (didn't have time to go into town for more complex ingredients) sorted that out and I was well on my way.

As the mulberries were a little tart, I decided on Chantilly cream rather than just plain cream, especially as vanilla goes so well with fresh fruit, so I whipped that up, pulled some tart cases out of the freezer, chopped the berries roughly and put it all in a box to take over the road.  Now for the fun part!!  The stained glass toffee - or rainbow toffee as my girls dubbed it.

It is actually a really easy process.  Line a baking tray with baking paper (I

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Tray with drops of food colouring"]Tray with drops of food colouring[/caption]

also sprayed it lightly with oil first to make the paper stick to the tray and in case any toffee spread off the paper on to the tray).  Put a few drops of food colouring around the place.  I used gel colours as they are much more intense than the liquid ones from the supermarket.  Then you make the toffee.  It is really easy.  Just 1 part water to 4 parts sugar,

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Toffee"]Toffee[/caption]

heat it gently till all the sugar is dissolved, then let it boil away WITHOUT STIRRING ONCE IT IS ON THE BOIL.  Brush the sides down with a pastry brush dipped in water every now and then to prevent crystals forming on the sides of the pan as they will ruin the toffee.  After a while, (the actual time will depend on how much you are making and how fast you are boiling it down), the syrup will have thickened and look a bit plasticy.  If you have a sugar thermometer, use it.  You want the syrup to reach soft crack stage which is around 140 celcius.  If you don't have a thermometer, just drop a teaspoonful of syrup into a glass of cold water and it should immediately form a hard solid ball.  I try to take my time bringing the temperature up because I have found in the past that boiling it too rapidly makes bigger boiling bubbles which then pop and splatter syrup up the sides of the pan which then crystallise, fall in to the syrup and make the whole lot crystallise before it's ready.  Ruined.  Here is a video of how fast I like to boil it and the consistency when it is ready:

Once it has reached temperature and before it begins to colour, take it off the heat and let the bubbles subside.  Then, VERY carefully, pour the syrup onto the prepared pan.  Tilt the pan around to spread the toffee across all the dollops of colouring and voila!

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="800" caption="Stained Glass Toffee"]Stained Glass Toffee[/caption]

Aint it purty!!  When it is completely cold, you can snap it into shards of whatever size you like.

After dinner, all I had to do was fold the berries into the cream, dollop it into the cases and top with a shard of toffee.  Quick.  Easy.  Delicious.  Oh yeah, and I added a couple of borage flowers because they are running rampant in my veggie garden at the moment!

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="800" caption="Strawberry and Mulberry Tartlettes with Rainbow Toffee and Borage Blossoms"]Strawberry and Mulberry Tartlettes with Rainbow Toffee and Borage Blossoms[/caption]

Just quickly while I'm here, I want to share 2 more photos of things I've made in the past week or two.  One is Ange's new favourite dessert....Chiffon Cheesecake (Printable Recipe here).  It is heavenly.  It is a baked cheesecake, but with a texture half way between cheesecake and sponge cake.  It is lovely and light and luscious and just wonderful with chocolate, cream and fresh strawberries.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Chiffon Cheesecake "]Chiffon Cheesecake [/caption]

and finally, here is what we had for brekkie the other day:

Bacon and Eggs Nana Glen Style.

The eggs had only been laid by our chooks that morning (in fact they were still warm from the chook's bum!), the salad greens had been out of the ground for minutes only, the beetroot was from our garden and home pickled, and the tomatoes had been collected from the farm gate down the road only half an hour before.  Seriously people, can you think of a better way to start the day?

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="800" caption="Bacon and Eggs Nana Glen Style"]Bacon and Eggs Nana Glen Style[/caption]

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