Donna Hay's Sticky Date Meringue Cake

Donna Hay magazine is such a treat to read and recently I went through some back Christmas issues and marked a couple recipes to make for the holidays. The first is this awesome sticky date cake. The cake part is moist and somewhat sticky (not as much as a sticky date pudding though) and the orange zest shines through...just the right amount. It's a delicious cake all on its own, but Donna Hay has taken it over the top by adding a fluffy meringue. I've made one other cake with a baked meringue and it's always been a favorite of mine, but this one seems perfectly suited for Christmas dessert. Yum.

Notes: Be sure to follow the meringue directions exactly. And remember to dip your knife in hot water before slicing into the cake so you'll have a nice smooth edge on the meringue.

Sticky Date Meringue Cake
Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 78

1/2 cup pitted fresh dates, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup boiling water
50g unsalted butter, softened (slightly less than 1/2 a stick)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
2 eggs (room temperature)
2/3 cup self-raising flour, sifted
1/4 cup almond meal
1 1/2 tablespoons golden syrup (I used Karo)
1/4 cup slivered pistachios

4 large egg whites
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

confectioners sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 325 F. Lightly grease a 9 inch round springform pan, line the base with non-stick baking paper and set aside.  Place the dates, soda and water in a bowl and set aside for 10-15 minutes to soak. Using a hand-held blender, process until smooth and set aside.

Place the butter, vanilla, sugar and orange rind in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 10-12 minutes or until pale and creamy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour, date mixture, almond meal, golden syrup and pistachios and beat until well combined. Spoon into the prepared tin and spread evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to 350 F. Place the extra egg whites in the clean bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking for 30 seconds before adding more. Once all the sugar has been added, whisk for a further 6 minutes or until stiff and glossy. Scrape down the side of the bowl, add the vinegar and cornflour and whisk for a further 2 minutes or until glossy and combined.

Spread the meringue evenly over the top of the cake and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the meringue is just golden and dry to the touch. Allow the cake to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before gently running a knife around the edge of the tin and removing the ring. Allow the cake to cool and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Dust with icing sugar to serve.


Whipped Cranberry Porridge

Got some leftover cranberries? Try this whipped porridge.  I confess I was surprised I liked this as well as I did. Not that I don't like porridge, I do and even like Cream of Wheat, though I haven't had it since my kids were little. Like my mother, I used to put chocolate chips on the bottom of the bowl so they'd eat every bite. Sometimes, raisins. Which didn't go over nearly as well.

I didn't use a whisk in the last step, I used my hand mixer. Adjust the sugar to your taste and serve it with milk...almond milk, coconut milk, whatever. For toppings try berries, toasted coconut flakes ( I was lazy and didn't toast mine, but you should toast yours.), toasted nuts or bee pollen.  I'd rather have it a little warm, but it's not necessary. Very unusual, pretty in pink, easy and good for you!

Whipped Cranberry Porridge
From Cup of Jo

3 1/4 cups water
2 cups fresh cranberries
pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar, depending on your taste
2/3 cup cream of wheat
milk of your choice, for serving
optional toppings of your choice

In a medium pot, combine the water and cranberries. Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the salt and sugar. Gradually whisk in the Cream of Wheat. Depending on what the directions say on the box, let simmer for 5 (I used the 2 1/2 minute type, so did 5 minutes) to 10 minutes stirring constantly. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Remove the pot from the heat and let the porridge cool to room temperature.

When the porridge has cooled to room temperature, whisk until light and fluffy. The color will turn from magenta to light pink.
Serve either at room temperature or cold, with milk and toppings of your choice.
The porridge can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days. For the perfect texture, whisk it again before serving.


Gingerbread Shortcake with Pears

Oh my....Thanksgiving is nearly here and Christmas not far behind. Are you ready? I'm not!

The flavors and spices of the season always make me happy and they also make me think of gingerbread, which I almost always make at least once each holiday season. 

Instead, this year I made a cross between a scone and shortbread, but with the flavor of gingerbread. Sort of a holiday, wintery, strawberry (without the berries) shortcake if you like. Pears were used in this recipe, but you could use apples or any seasonal fruit you wish. This was a great success and I'll make it again; it's a lovely dessert for the holidays. 

Gingerbread Shortcake with Pears
From :pastry studio, who 
adapted it from The Art and Soul of Baking by Sur La Table with Cindy Mushet

Ingredients for the Poached Pears:
3 ripe but firm pears
2 1/2 C water
1 C sugar
1 t fresh lemon juice
1/4 vanilla bean, split and seeded

Ingredients for the Gingerbread Shortcakes:
2 cups flour 
2 1/2  teaspoons ground ginger 
1 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
1/3 cups brown sugar, firmly packed 
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
4 oz (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” cubes 
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons  buttermilk 
2 tablespoons molasses 

1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoon water
3 tablespoons turbinado or Hawaiian washed raw sugar

1 cup cold heavy cream 
2 teaspoon sugar, to taste 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To poach the pears:
Bring the water, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean to a low simmer. Peel and core the pears. Cut them into 1/4" slices, placing in the poaching liquid as you go. Simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes until tender. Remove from heat and cool completely. Save the poaching syrup.

For the shortcakes:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Place the flour, spices, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process for 10 seconds to blend. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse about 5 times or until the butter is cut into smaller pieces. Combine the buttermilk with the molasses, add and pulse just until the dough starts to hold together in large, thick clumps. The mixture will look a bit like dark lumpy cottage cheese. Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gather the dough and gently pat together into a circle about 7” in diameter and about 1” thick. Cut the dough into 8 equal wedges (or any shape you like) and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2” apart.

Beat the egg with 2 teaspoons of water. Brush the tops only of the shortcakes with the egg wash. Sprinkle generously with turbinado or raw sugar and press it gently to secure. 

Bake for 14 to 15 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack.

Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla just until very soft peaks form. Don't overbeat.

To serve: 
Gently slice the shortcakes in half. Place a dollop of whipped cream on the bottom half and layer some pears. Drizzle with the poaching liquid and top with the other shortcake half. Serve immediately.


Thomas Keller's Ciabatta and Sausage Stuffing

We all have our favorite stuffings for turkey, but it's fun to try out different recipes. My dad never wanted me to vary from my chestnut stuffing, but he's been gone for nearly 15 years, so I have tried some new ones the past few years. I always picture him carving the turkey at the end of the table and saving that slice above the breast near the neck just for me. Crisp skin and stuffing was all it amounted to, but I loved that. I prefer to stuff my turkeys rather than make the dressing separately, but it's not set in stone. 
Keller's recipe is made in a casserole and I think you'll love it.

Thomas Keller's Ciabatta and Sausage Stuffing
From Saveur, a recipe from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bistro

3 tbsp. unsalted butter
10 oz. bulk sweet or hot breakfast sausage, casing removed
1 carrot, cut into 1/4" dice
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/4" dice
1 stalk celery, cut into 1/4" dice
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. roughly chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
2 tbsp. roughly chopped rosemary
2 tbsp. roughly chopped sage
1 (12-oz.) loaf ciabatta bread, cut into 1" pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 375°. 
Melt 1 tbsp. butter in a 12" skillet over medium-high. Cook sausage, stirring and breaking up meat into medium pieces, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Transfer sausage to a large bowl; set aside. Add remaining butter to skillet; cook carrot, onion, and celery until soft, 5–7 minutes, and transfer to bowl with sausage. Add stock, oil, parsley, rosemary, sage, bread, salt, and pepper to bowl; toss to combine. Spread evenly in a 9" x 13" baking dish. Bake until golden brown and bread is slightly crisp on top, 30–35 minutes. Garnish with more parsley, if you like.


Apple Cream Cheese Rose Tarts

I couldn't resist trying these. Any of you who are regulars on Facebook no doubt saw the video; if you haven't, be sure to follow the link under the title as it shows in detail how to make these little cuties. You'll want to take a look at it again to remind yourself how to go about it. I did, anyway. Such a clever idea too. It only makes four rose tarts with one puff pastry sheet, so if you want more, increase the ingredients. It took one apple to make four. Using the cream cheese was an interesting twist too.
Fun fall food to make, adorable to look at, yummy to eat.

Apple Cream Cheese Rose Tarts
From Tastemade

1 sheet puff pastry
1/4 cup cream cheese
3 tablespoons sugar
1 apple
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons water

Take out the core and thinly slice the apple. (Leave the peel on)
Combine the apple slices with lemon juice and water in a bowl and microwave 3 minutes. Cool the bowl in some ice water. Pat dry the apple slices of excess moisture and set aside. (I put them on some paper towels.)

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Roll out the puff pastry and cut into 4 even strips. 
Spread cream cheese and sprinkle sugar on the puff pastry strips.
Arrange the apple slices (overlapping) lengthwise on half the pastry with apple skin side out and sprinkle cinnamon on top. (This is where you should take a look at the video.)
Fold the other half of the pastry over the apples and roll them up. Place in greased muffin tins.
Bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees F.


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