Berries andPie

baking, cooking, recipes, eating, and obsessing over food

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eating in Jindabyne and Perisher, NSW's Snowy Mountains

Eating At the Snow by sazbah, on Flickr

One of the (many, poor) excuses I have for my extended absence here is this: almost every spare moment of my winter has been spent sliding down a mountain.

While the skiing itself isn't cheap, the food available is another thing altogether. If you want to eat on the mountain, in the resort, while skiing, you have to dig deep into your purse. And you don't get much for it. Second rate pies, soggy pizza, and nasty looking fast food is mostly the go, and yet, when there's no other option, folks are willing to pay.

Having said that, it's not all bad news. Especially once you get off the mountain.

I've previously blogge about the fabulous Wild Brumby Schnapps Distillery, and my ongoing love affair with Crackenback Cottage near Jindabyne, in NSW's Snowies.

More recently, I've had the opportunity to eat at Journey Food & Wine Bar in Jindabyne. It's a newer, trendy looking place with really rich, modern, food, making it a stand out for a special meal in the area (our wedding anniversary was spent there this year).

Family and casual meals aren't hard either. The Sundance Bakery in Nugget's Crossing, Jindabyne, is my absolute favourite bakery in the world. I have a lifetime of memories spent here, and even if I am (maybe just a little) biased, their pies and quiches are the best I've ever tasted. Even better? There's a smaller Sundance Bakery in the Perisher Centre--my pick for the single best value place to feed anyone when skiing or boarding for the day.

Every time we visit the snowies, we eat at Mario's Mineshaft, situated just behind Nugget's Crossing in Jindabyne. Woodfired pizza, and an enormous open fire place, make Mario's a great family restaurant. The service is always friendly, and very fast, especially given how busy the place is.

The Sydney Morning Herald's Miss Snow It All wrote about eating at the snow, which got me thinking. There are so many great value places to eat out in the area, and so much to do, but like everything--sometimes you have to look around.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hold the Meat, Please

For the last year--much to my father's horror, and my poor husband's patient tolerance--I've been eating vegetarian. I've nothing against the meat eaters out there, I just went off meat a bit.

Cooking at home is easy, if sometimes a little dull. Of course, like anything, you get into a rut, and end up repeating yourself (eating the same meals over and over), but it's harder with restaurants. I could wind myself up into a tizz about the lack of vegetarian options at restaurants, but truly, most folks are very accomodating. Most restaurants we go to have a couple of very good options for the difficult people like myself, and to be honest, I always had trouble making up my mind when eating out. Two options, rather than twenty? Oh, it's bliss. Makes my lovely hubby happier, too.

I just enjoyed an article in SMH about restaurants and vegetarians. I really cannot fathom either extremes of this argument: passionately anti-vegetarian chefs, and vegetarians with a sense of entitlement. Like one chef said: "A lot of the time, we bend over backwards... we have a tiny kitchen and, when we're busy, we can give them one choice."

I thought the different opinions and experiences of the folks in this article were interesting. I've never had a problem in a restaurant, but then again I'm pretty relaxed. I don't understand people who would deliberately cause a fuss over themselves, or deliberately upset a customer, but each his or her own, eh?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fruit Mince Pies

Fruit Mince Pies

Last year I posted on making your own fruit mince, but spirit of Christmas and all, I thought it a timely occasion to elaborate.

I love my fruit mince pies as much as the next gal/guy/tentacled snow-lizard, but the store-bought ones have nothing on the home-made brandy-rich variety you baked in your kitchen.

You can make your fruit mince to taste: don't like nuts? don't add them; candied fruit peel not your thing? good--I applaud you--out it goes! I personally like to add extra spice and more brandy to mine, and they go down a treat in our household. They also make great little Christmas gifts for co-workers!

The fruit mince is one of those things that gets better after a week or so. I read the fabulous Maggie Beer starts making hers as early as 6 months ahead. I, for one, am not that brave. I've made mine a month ahead and the flavour is fabulous.

My major gripe with store-bought variety is the pastry. It's often so crumbly it can't be removed from the casing. The pastry used in this recipe is essentially a shortbread and the result is brilliant.

Give it a try!

Fruit Mince Pies

(Makes 12)

Shortbread Pastry:
250g Plain Flour
150g Butter
85g Icing (Confectioners Sugar)
2-3 tbspn Iced Water

Approx. 1 cup fruit mince (see recipe)


1. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar

2. Using a knife, add the cold water in, a small amount at a time till the mixture starts to come together. Bring together with your hands.

3. Wrap in cling wrap, and place in fridge.


Pulse the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor until completely combined.

4. Preheat oven to 180C fan-forced, 200C conventional.

5. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry between two sheets of baking paper until 4mm thick. Cut out 3" rounds and press into a cupcake tray.

6. Fill each case with fruit mince (about 1 tbspn).

7. Roll out the remaining pastry, and cut 1.5 inch rounds for your pie lids, and cover each pie. I don't seal the edges; just leave the edges of the lid sitting snuggly inside the case, just touch the sides (as you can see pictured).

8. Place in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until pastry is golden and dry.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

So... We Need to Talk.

Balsamic Roasted Beetroot, Spanish Onion, Basil & Linguine

Hiya Blog, and blogadiers. It's been a while, and I've, well... I've been seeing other people.

It's not you--really it's not. It's me.

That spark and passion that makes me want to post here; to cook, and photograph it; to seek out new life and new... Wait, no, that's Star Trek.

Basically, the passion's been gone for awhile. I rediscovered my love of reading recently, and in-between 20+ novels in 2 and a half months, NaNoWriMo, work, and life, I’ve been neglecting you.

I'm sorry. You deserve better.

BUT, I decided this: I still love you. Really I do. But I don't want to post here for the sake of posting. When I do, I post half-bottomedly, and you deserve better than that. So I'm going to post because I have something to say. Not because I feel obliged.

So here I am. With Christmas practically upon us I'm gearing up for cookies and puddings, and family, and fruit mince pies. I'll be seeing you around soon!

And Merry Impending Christmas!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dobos Torte - Daring Bakers August '09!

Dobos Torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonfulof Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular DobosTorte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: ExquisiteDesserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

When I saw this month's challenge I took a deep breath and gulped. It sure looked challenging, and I had never attempted a cake this ambitious before.

And what a challenge it was! I've been a fan of Lorraine's blog for a while now, and I would expect nothing less than such a exciting choice!

This cake is spectacular. With a recipe handed down since 1906 in Hungary, I thought there was hardly room for 'improvement'! I was originally planning a variation (along the lines of coffee or mocha buttercream), but given I'd not attempted anything like this before, I wanted do the recipe justice, and leave as is (though I'm looking forward to other DB's variations!).

This spectacular torte (which the photos do no justice at all) is not tricky; just a bit time consuming, but it more than pays off on completion. Everyone keeps talking about the texture of this cake: it is light as a cloud, belying the amount of butter involved! The torte almost seems like a mousse cake with the light, airy buttercream, and honestly cannot rave about it enough. Everyone who tried this cake LOVED it!

Thanks Angela and Lorraine for a spectacular challenge!

Dobos Torte

Dobos Torte


Sponge cake layers

- 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g
cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
- pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream

- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
- 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping

- 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
- 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
- 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches

- 12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
- 1/2 cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:

(You can prepare the sponge layers the night before in advance and stored interleaved with parchment [baking paper] and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.)

1.Position your oven racks in the top 2/3 of the oven, and preheat your oven to 200C.

2.Cut six pieces of baking paper to fit baking sheets/tray. Use the bottom of a 9″ (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, and trace a circle on each of the papers. Turn the parchment upside down so the marker doesn’t come into contact with the sponge.

3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner’s (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes.

4. In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner’s (icing) sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.

5.Line one of the baking sheets with the prepared circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. I added an additional sheet of baking paper over the top and smoothed to ensure I had flat layers (I’m not going into as much detail, here, but thanks, Audax, for this tip!)

6. Place the tray in the oven, and bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this layer is baking, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8″ springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated, sharp, knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

You can prepare the buttercream in advance and kept chilled until required – it will last a few of days.

1. Prepare a double-boiler – a small saucepan of water, with a medium sized bowl that fits snugly over the top. Quarter fill the saucepan with water and bring to a simmer.

2. Add the egg and sugar to the bowl, and whisk until thick and pale, this will take a few minutes. A hand beater will make this much easier!

3. Place the bowl with the egg and sugar mixture over the saucepan, and continue to beat until you see the mixture start to thicken further, for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate, and continue to whisk over heat for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

4. Once cooled, beat in the butter a couple of tablespoons at a time, until it is all incorporated. You will be left with a thick, rich buttercream. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Select the best-looking sponge layer – this will become the caramel top.

2. Line a jellyroll pan with baking paper and butter the paper (this will stop the toffee sticking). Place the reserved cake layer on the paper, and cut the cake into 12 equal wedges (I actually only cut mine into 8 – but 12 is much better. These wedges will really form the lines where you cut the cake, and it is RICH. One person seriously cannot eat a 1/8 slice of this cake!).

3.Place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan and stir to dissolve. Bring to boil, and once the sugar crystals are dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high boil, and do not stir. Swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and wash down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush. Boil until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.

4. Make sure you have a oiled spatula ready for this – the toffee can set quickly. Pour your toffee over your cake layer. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), move the wedges of the cake apart and divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, Use the knife to move the excess toffee away from the covered wedges.

Angela’s note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8" silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos

Dobos Torte

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.

2. On the tray/plate you will present the torte on, place your first sponge layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with the remaining cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.

3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.

4.Propping a hazelnut (and optionally, a small piped rosette buttercream) under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour (though they’re lovely straight out of the fridge!)

Dobos Torte


This cake kept very well for a few days refridgerated. It was as good on day 2 as the day it was made.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

News Round-up: Giving up Coffeine, Cooking IN a Car, and Some Egg-cellent news!

I was going to say that it's not often I do this, but in fact, I've never done this! I've read a few excellent news articles and blogs recently that I just felt the need to share. I hope you enjoy as much as I did!


Diary of Caffeine Addict!
Read the diary of a caffeine addict going cold-turkey for a week; I'm not sure I would have made it that far! (Now pass my latte!)

Sydney's Best Eggs
What makes a good egg, and can you taste the difference between free-range and caged? I'm not going to start buying caged-eggs, regardless of the outcome, but it's an interesting article!

Leader of the Soup Pack
3 of Sydney's top chefs interpret a basic soup pack with 3 very different meals! There's so much you can do with just some of the basics.

I'm sure we've all (well I have, anyway) made the excuse that we don't have the time to cook, but Katie Bills from The Independent proves it wrong. Some quick, tasty, cheap recipes!

Food on the go
This is one of my favourites! Lorraine over at Not Quite Nigella cooks up an environmentally friendly, vegetarian, meal... IN a car... a car ENGINE.

Anyhow, happy reading, and I hope you enjoy!


Friday, August 21, 2009

Chocolate Macarons with Chocolate Buttercream

Chocolate Macarons

The first time I attempted macarons they broke me. There were literally tears. Tears, and a stack of leftover rosewater buttercream.

It was awhile before I felt ready to talk about it, but I think I'm there now. 2 batches of macarons that actually look like macarons later, and I'm feeling a lot better.

Oh, when I pulled these out of the oven I nearly fell over from shock. I called my mother in a daze, speechless. I could only manage "Macarons... ACTUAL macarons... WORKED".

Now, they were not perfect by any means, but they were macarons, and these sweet, dense, chewy pillows of almond meringue are well worth the HEARTACHE they had previously caused.

The actual process of making the macarons isn't overly complicated, they're just temperamental. I think a large part is knowing your oven. My oven runs cold, and whilst it seems like overkill, I had to cook my shells for an extra 10 minutes more than instructed before the innards of the macarons stopped being liquid (it once took me 2 hours more than prescribed to cook a cake!).

The below recipe is originally from the fabulous Queen of Macarons, Helen of Tartelette, and with further instruction from incredible Audax of Audax Artifax. The extra detail he goes into (in everything!) is unbelievable.

As far as I understand, you need a kitchen scale. These are temperamental at the best of times, and the recipe really is done by weight.

Chocolate Macarons

Makes: this should make about 20-25 sandwiched macarons, you just need to get the hang of piping them out consistently.



For the Macarons:

90g eggwhites, aged for 2 days (this is about 3 eggs) *
60g of castor (superfine) sugar
110g almond meal (ground almonds)
200g icing sugar
1/2 tspn cornflour (optional)
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

* if you don't want, or don't have time, to age the eggwhites 2 days, put them in your microwave on lo-mid setting, for about 15 seconds. Audax instructs that this simulates the aging effect. I did mine in two 10 second bursts on power setting 3.

For the Chocolate Buttercream:

This buttercream recipe has been adapted from a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

1 egg
50g white sugar
30g dark chocolate, finely chopped
65g unsalted butter, at room temperature
(I normally don’t worry too much about using salted butter, but you NEED unsalted for this. It does need to be soft – a knife should run through it with very little resistance.)


For the Macarons:

1. Line an upturned cookie sheet with baking paper/parchment. I've had great success using double stacked trays (2 cookies sheets stacked on top of each other). It allows the bottoms to cook slower, so you get a better result.

2. In a food processor, pulse the almond meal, icing sugar, cocoa powder and cornflour to combine, and get out any lumps. Put the mixture aside. If you don't have a food processor, you could sift the ingredients.

3. In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggwhites till they start to foam, and become bubbly. This doesn't mean till they start to turn white, just bubbly.

4. Gradually add in the castor sugar, beating constantly. Continue to beat until the meringue becomes thick and glossy. Stop beating as soon as the meringue reaches the point where you can upturn the bowl without the mixture falling out. I started beating in 10 second pulses and checking as it approached this point.

5. Add the almond mixture to the meringue, and fold to combine, using no more than 50 strokes. You can work quickly at first, and be a little less careful, to get rid of excess air, but you do not want to deflate the mixture.

Helen says to stop when the mixture "flows like lava", which I love! You are done when any peaks in the mixture flatten out in 30 seconds.

To test this, you can spoon a teaspoon of the mix onto a saucer, and watch. If not quite there, give a couple more strokes and yet again. It is better to have a few too few strokes than too many. Remember that you will be piping the mixture, which will lose a little more air.

6. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a plain tip, and, holding the bag about half an inch above the baking tray, pipe 1.5" (3cm) rounds onto the tray, about 1.5" apart.

Piped out Macarons

7. Preheat the oven to 175C (conventional), and put the macarons aside for30-60 minutes to harden their shells (this is somewhat optional. As I understand, it will yield better results, but I have put mine straight in the oven with no problems whatsoever).

8. Turn the oven down to 160C and bake the macarons for 15 minutes. Once done, remove from the oven and allow to cool. To remove from the sheets, I gently peel back the paper. If you have difficulty, you can run some water under the sheet and quickly remove (so they do not go soggy).

Stack of Macarons

For the Chocolate Buttercream:

1. Prepare a double-boiler – a small saucepan of water, with a medium sized bowl that fits snugly over the top. Quarter fill the saucepan with water and bring to a simmer.

2. Add the egg and sugar to the bowl, and whisk until thick and pale, this will take a few minutes. A hand beater will make this much easier!

3. Place the bowl with the egg and sugar mixture over the saucepan, and continue to beat until you see the mixture start to thicken further, for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate, and continue to whisk over heat for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

4. Once cooled, beat in the butter a couple of tablespoons at a time, until it is all incorporated. You will be left with a thick, rich buttercream. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

To assemble:

Either pipe, or spoon, a teaspoon of buttercream between two evenly shaped/sized macaron shells, and gently press together. And voila, macarons!