Feeling Uneasy and Chocolate Cake Comfort

It is without doubt a very strange time.  That Flight MH 370 could make a couple of unusual manoeuvres, turn the plane around from its  course, and then just DISAPPEAR, has been weighing heavily upon our family.

Meanwhile, we also watched helplessly while a group of artists slated to participate in the 19th Sydney Biennale, began to make so much protest about a sponsor, the Biennale’s well loved Chair had no choice but to resign. It threatened to leave arts agencies and galleries, (the very champions of such artists ) hamstrung and in jeopardy of losing state funding. Short sighted and acting on so little information, damaging years of goodwill.

Preparations for the opening under Nike Savvas' installation "Rally".

Preparations for the opening under Nike Savvas’ installation “Rally”.

 

 

 

So much good art to see all over Sydney!

So much good art to see all over Sydney!

Alice: never far

Alice: never far

Yes, we’ve had quite a few discussions about it all over long telephone calls and numerous texts. I know how upset you and Little C are Izzy, about the Malaysian plane. We’ve been on countless MH flights ever since you were born. I’ve thought hard about this unease; it has felt quite familiar. And then it struck me: it is the limbo our family was in, a quiet unease which later turned to helpless horror when news unfolded about 9/11. You girls were both at school on a clear sunny day in an idyllic American city not far from New York. I was at the gym with two school mums. We were on treadmills and watched astounded, on CNN as the first plane crashed into the Twin Towers. Then sickeningly, we watched live as the second plane crashed.

I jumped off the treadmill, raced to the car and called dad. We wondered in panic what was happening. I stopped at a drive in-bank on Libby Avenue on the way home and shared this news with the teller; many people had not heard the news yet it seemed. She shut her window right after I left to find her manager. I could see we were heading in American terms to ‘lock down’.

That early fall in Virginia was a surreal period. We watched the news round the clock. Your school was sometimes closed, based on the safety rating of the day. Low flying drones circled our city; it felt war-like and eery. The days were clear and bright, with a slight evening chill to remind us winter was on its way.  It wasn’t easy explaining the situation to you dear little girls aged just 6 and 9. I felt like we were planets away from our simple life in New Farm where you went to the tiny school on the hill, Little C just a baby in a pram,  and we lived amongst good friends.

I just hope there is some end to the search for this plane. It is awful to think of the poor families waiting, waiting.

Well darlings…………. I just cooked ‘the’ chocolate cake. What else is there to do while in such doldrums? It is a very FINE cake, this one. Almost macaroon- like with the crushed almonds, almond meal and whipped egg whites. After being throughly satisfied with a lovely chocolate buttermilk cake I found on Taste.com, and then Anna Gare’s crazy good recipe, I thought the search was over, and we were good for amazing choc cake recipes. But no! Enter The Cake Mistress. I came across this blog quite by chance, and her entry for this recipe is quite hilarious as she likens her feeling for this cake to her passion for Johnny Depp.  It just seemed like at this very moment with so many momentous things happening in the world, I had to cook a momentous cake. So here with my love and hugs, is the Cake Mistress’s recipe for her Flourless Chocolate Cake

Preparations for the opening under Nike Savvas' installation "Rally".

Preparations for the opening under Nike Savvas’ installation “Rally”.

.

Please try not to worry too much about everything going on; focus on your wonderful lives. The troubles of the world are sometimes unfathomable. Count your blessings, hug your friends, and keep those telephone calls home coming.  Dad and I miss you! xoxo

 

The melted chocolate and crushed almonds mixture

The melted chocolate and crushed almonds mixture

 

 

Whipping egg whites

Whipping egg whites

 

 

Folding egg whites into the chic mix

Folding egg whites into the chocolate mixture

 

 

So much good art to see all over Sydney!

So much good art to see all over Sydney!

 

Whipping egg whites

Whipping egg whites

 

 

Folding egg whites into the choc mix

Folding egg whites into the choc mix

Just dee-lish

Just dee-lish

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Ingredients
•    200g Dark Chocolate, chopped
•    125g Unsalted Butter, chopped
•    225g Brown Sugar
•    100g Almond meal (can use hazelnut meal if you prefer)
•    100g Almonds, coarsely chopped (optional)
•    5 large Eggs, separated
•    1 pinch of Cream of Tartar
•    1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
Directions
1.    Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line the base and sides of a 20cm round cake tin with non-stick baking paper.
2.    Make a “double-boiler” to melt the chocolate and butter: Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Place the chopped chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl and place the bowl over the hot saucepan to allow the ingredients to melt. Stir occasionally.
3.    Once all is melted, stir in the brown sugar, almond meal and almonds until the mixture is smooth. Allow to cool slightly, then add the egg yolks gradually, stirring each time.
4.    Meanwhile, place the five egg whites into a clean dry bowl with a pinch of cream of tartar. The egg whites will form the structure of the cake, so it’s important they’re well beaten. Using a hand whisk, electric beater or stand mixer, beat the eggs slowly at first until they are foamy and then gradually increase the speed every few minutes. (If you go straight to high speed, you increase the chance of your cake collapsing). Continue beating until firm peaks form. Don’t worry if you overbeat the eggs because you’ll beat some of the air out next.
5.    Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. The chocolate mix is quite heavy, so don’t worry if you need to stir quite a bit at this stage. Stop when the eggs are just incorporated with the chocolate.
6.    Pour the cake batter into the tin and bake for 45-50 minutes until a firm crust forms on the top. A skewer test is not necessary. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin before attempting to remove. Once cool, sift cocoa powder over the top.

Also, you’ll be glad to know the doggie are keeping me good company.

Alice : always close-by!

Advertisements

Gluten Free Guest for the Week-End

How excited Little C was to have her Melbourne bestie come up to us in Sydney for the week-end. Excitement throughout our household as we adore this special person.  We were all feeling very lucky to have her, as she has just found out through a series of not pleasant tests (not to mention dreadful symptoms) that she is Celiac, or gluten intolerant.

I promised her mother we’d take good care of her, but none of us wanted to make a big deal about the new discovery.

We had a lot of fun this week-end, and as Little C and I have been quite curious about gluten intolerance for a while now, having Miss P around did not change the way we ate much at all. The times we found it a little tricky were if we were in other homes, when we had not informed them of the situation. We are quite interested to see that Australian restaurants are most accommodating to Celiacs, and many have menus with clear symbols indicating which of their meals are gluten free.

One meal out in the city with stunning views proudly claimed they were very happy to accommodate, but I was rather miffed that the portions were also quite reduced. Why would a Celiac want to eat LESS than anyone?  I was determined to cook P a healthy, hearty, breakfast the next morning to make up for the previous night’s slim pickings.

Hearty gluten free breakfast: wilted spinach with bacon chips, baked beans, poached eggs and avocado!

Today we all wandered around Cockatoo Island, looking at art installations which are part of the Biennale of Sydney. If we weren’t looking at the art, we were being gob-smacked at the amazing views around the island in bright, mild, winter sunshine. And how civilized to come across a (temporary) noodle bar serving Asahi beer, pad thai, glass noodles with beef and black bean or dumpling soup. P and we happily tucked into gluten free pad thai while occasionally shoo-ing off a strident seagull or two.

Yum! Check post on February 19 for my recipe.

Getting home this evening, we sat around drinking cups of tea and nibbling on the chocolate cake I made for the week-end. Almond meal substituted for flour meant P could eat it too! Hooray. Come again soon!

Chocolate cake with almond meal: check June 1 post for recipe.

Exam Time Comfort : Chocolate, Perhaps ?

Even though you live in different hemispheres ( but not for much longer!!), crunch time for you and your sister coincide. You are in the throes of many long essays due one after another, and here, after a week of tests, your sister goes into her final week of EXAMS. Stress levels high all round.

With so much distraction here as we pack up, I am infinitely grateful to a couple of ‘aunties’ who have come to your rescue when you needed a change of scene from Grouse while you wrote essays. You stayed last week in Middle Park, by the Bay in a household of people you have known virtually all your life. They cooked and fussed and teased, and chatted, and left you alone to write, write,write. D’s chief form of showing her love is to cook, and I’m sure you got your fair share of it!

This week-end, you are in Albert Park, in another comfortingand familiar household, with a newly installed desk in your girl friend’s bedroom to accommodate your studies. How kind of JC. Somehow the distant hum of a household in motion ( dogs mooching from room to room, washing machines whirring, and the occasional telephone ring) is a comforting backdrop to an intense moment of research and writing. I know that feeling. Both you and you sister never wanted to study at your desks, always preferring the kitchen table.

Well no matter where you girls are, one things is for certain: there are always a few snacks handy to munch on while you work.  You like halved avocados with balsamic dressing, or hummus and pita chips. Claudia likes almonds, rice paper rolls and…..CHOCOLATE.  Izzy, you almost never eat anything sweet at all, but if you do, it is chocolate too. And neither of you gals ever say no to a milky Milo drink when you are deep in work. Haha! Good old Milo! I’m usually whipping one up for you at some unearthly hour as you burn the midnight candle.

The chocolate brownie recipe is one I have had for a very long time.  The recipe comes from a gorgeous little deli I used to frequent in Manuka. Dad and I had bought lovely crunchy bread and cheese and baby quiches to take on our first picnic (at Lillypilly on the South Coast)……I am sure one of their delicious brownies was tucked into the basket too.

Last Christmas the Newly Weds in our family gave me a gorgeous cook book by Anna Gare. I must have spent the whole first half of this year cooking constantly from her book ‘Homemade‘. The book and I just clicked, you know?  Gare has a great choc cake recipe she calls ‘Neverfail’ which is pretty much what it is: I have made it a few times, and it is TRUSTY!  I have even experimented with it, and substituted the flour with almond meal: excellent too! You won’t have a bad result with it, Izzy. So go ahead and try it!

I am thinking of you in Albert Park, in that lovely airy family home of our good friends, and I hope you are inspired to work hard and write well: you are in the finally stretch, darling. Hang in there!

And since you said when we were texting yesterday, that you missed the dogs, I have added a picture of Alice.  She was out in the front garden recently sniffing gently at a newly bloomed peony. I always said she looked like a chocolate brownie dusted with icing sugar! And if you really don’t have  the time to make anything yourself right now, a good slab of chocolate from the milk bar down the road will do the trick!

Chocolate Brownies

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 cups castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 500 g. chocolate
  • 200g butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup toasted and roughly chopped walnuts
  • icing sugar for dusting

Method:

  1. Beat the eggs, castor sugar and vanilla together.
  2. Melt over a very low heat and in a heavy based saucepan, the chocolate and butter, and leave to cool.
  3. Mix 1 and 2 together.
  4. Add the flour gradually, finally add the walnuts.
  5. Pour into a shallow greased and floured baking pan.
  6. Bake on a moderate heat for about 25 minutes.
  7. Cool and dust with icing sugar.

Anna Gare’s Neverfail Chocolate Cake

  • 400g dark chocolate
  • 360g unsalted butter
  • 360g caster sugar
  • 6 heaped tablespoons plain flour (or I’ve used almond meal)
  • 6 eggs
  • icing sugar for serving

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200degrees C
  2. Melt the chocolate, butter and sugar in a heavy pan over a gentle heat, stirring often until the mixture is smooth, and then remove from heat.
  3. Add the flour and stir until smooth.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture well with a whisk or an electric beater.
  5. Pour the mixture into a lined, 20 cm square cake tin.
  6. Bake the cake for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 150 degrees C, and bake further for 40 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat, leave oven door closed and allow the cake to cook slowly.
  8. Turn the cake out of the tin when completely cooled and dust with icing sugar.

She’s here!

Your oldest buddy in the whole wide world arrived yesterday! It is so great to see Jemma and to have her here with us, such a long long way from home. It must be good to have a stop along the way when you are off on extended adventurous travels, where it is all sane and quiet for a moment, and there’s a washing machine, a computer, and a big comfy BED .

She’s exploring the vintage stores on Queen Street on a very drippy day today. What a shock it must be to strike this weather after Mexico!

If the girl was home right now, she’d be deep into some serious Lunar New Year celebrations: we all know how her momma can cook ( and party!). We thought we’d have our own celebrations tonight and head off to Lai Wah Heen ( YOUR go to Chinese extravaganza dinner out when visiting us) . We hope Jemma will love it too! Emily is here too, so add Claudia to the mix, and Dad will be in his usual mode of single male with a posse of pretty girls. (when did he ever mind that!).

I made a chocolate cake in honor of Jem’s visit, and in keeping with our trial ‘gluten free’ phase, it is made with almond flour. Quite decadent! I will post a no fail choc cake for you sometime soon, but just wanted to update you on your pal’s visit, and to say we’ll be thinking of you while in Chinatown tonight. Kong Hee Fatt Choy!! Hope you are celebrating too!