Christmas parfait

Looking for something a little different from the traditional Christmas pudding this year? How about a Christmas parfait.

The quintessential flavours of Christmas with spiced fruit mince, cherries and toasted almonds in a rich, custard-based ice cream cake, without the heaviness of a pudding.

Christmas parfait

You can serve this alongside a slice of pandoro, a pile of chouquettes or just on its own.

I used golden syrup, but maple would work as well, and if you don’t have fruit mince to hand, toss some dried fruits with cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and cloves, then soak them in rum or brandy.

Makes about 12 servings
Preparation about 30 minutes
Chilling about 2 hours
Freezing overnight


3 large eggs, separated, room temperature
300ml (1 1/4 cups) whole cream
90ml (6 Tbsp) golden (or maple) syrup, divided
seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
35g (4 Tbsp) slivered almonds
50g (1/4 cup, lightly packed) light brown (demerara) sugar
200g (4/5 cup) fruit mince
75g (1/2 cup) glacé cherries, diced


Whisk together the egg yolks with the cream, 45ml (3 Tbsp) of the golden syrup, and the vanilla seeds/paste/extract in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil slowly over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. When the mixture thickens sufficiently that it coats the bottom of the pan when you tilt it (a few minutes, depending on heat), remove from heat and pour into a stainless steel or ceramic bowl, cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface and set aside until cool. Refrigerate until chilled, about an hour.

Heat a small skillet over a medium-low flame and lightly toast the almonds, stirring constantly to avoid scorching, until golden. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool completely, then roughly chop.

Completely line an 18cm (7″) round cake tin or 25cm (10″) loaf tin with plastic wrap, with plenty overhang to cover the top.

Using an electric whisk and a large bowl or a stand mixer, beat the egg whites to firm peaks.

Combine the sugar and remaining golden syrup in a small saucepan and heat to boiling, ideally to 112°C (234°F or soft ball stage). Slowly pour into egg whites while beating on low speed, then increase the speed to high and beat for 5 minutes until the mixture is cool and thick.

Fold the fruit mince, cherries and almonds through the chilled egg yolk custard in a large bowl.

Add the meringue and fold together until there are no obvious traces of meringue.

Pour into the tin, smooth the top, cover tightly with the plastic wrap overhang and freeze for at least eight hours, preferably overnight.

Open the top of the plastic wrap, turn out of the tin onto a plate, remove the plastic wrap and cut into wedges or slices to serve.

The parfait will keep for at least a month in the freezer.

Posted in dessert, cake, sweet, preserves, pudding, ice cream | 1 Comment

Triple chocolate pinwheel cookies

Of the 3 young people who live with us, there is one who prefers dark chocolate, one who prefers milk chocolate and one who prefers white chocolate. I try to alternate my baking a bit, in an attempt to keep them all happy, but this time I decided to try a new approach and use all three!

Triple chocolate pinwheel cookies

Three chocolate cookie doughs – dark, milk and white – rolled out and layered then rolled up into a log, sliced and baked for three-toned chocolate pinwheel cookies. As the song goes… Is everybody happy? You bet your life we are!

The dough or the log stages can be done ahead. The dough will keep for three days in the fridge or a month in the freezer. If freezing, wrap well in several layers of plastic. Thaw before rolling if at dough stage; cookies can be cut directly from frozen log but they will take a few minutes longer to bake.

Makes up to 36, depending on how thick you cut them
Preparation time about an hour all together
Chilling time at least an hour all together
Baking time about 40 minutes all together


170g (1 1/2 sticks, 3/4 cup) butter, room temperature
150g (1/2 cup) granulated (white) sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
420g (3 1/3 cups, spooned and scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 tsp fine salt
2 tsp baking powder

100g (3 1/2 oz) dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
100g (3 1/2 oz) milk chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
100g (3 1/2 oz) white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly


In a bowl or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat to combine well.

Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder and add to the butter mixture. Stir just to combine.

Divide the mixture in three equal portions, place in separate bowls and add one melted chocolate to each portion, stirring and kneading in each until well combined.

Form each dough into a slightly flattened ball, wrap each in plastic or place in ziploc bags and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, overnight if desired.

If the dough has chilled for more than an hour, it will need to be removed from the fridge for about half an hour before rolling.

Roll the three doughs out between sheets of parchment to about 28 x 38cm (11 x 15″). It doesn’t mater too much if they aren’t perfect.

Leave your bottom layer on a piece of parchment, then, removing the other sheets of parchment as you go, layer the three doughs one on top of the other (I went dark on the bottom, then milk, then white) and, using the bottom sheet of parchment to help, roll up from the long edge into a tight log. Trim the ends as needed and roll the log back and forth to smooth it out.

Wrap the log in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes, overnight if desired.

Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Slice the log into cookies about 1cm (2/5″) thick. Some of mine were a little thicker, so I got 32.

Arrange cookies a few centimetres (about 1″) apart on the baking sheets.

Bake one sheet at a time in centre of oven for about 18 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Posted in biscuit, cookie, snack, sweet | 7 Comments

Baked brie with fruit mince

Here’s the first of my fruit mince series, as promised when I made that delicious concoction last week!

Baked brie with fruit mince

Just two ingredients and twenty minutes for an absolutely sensational appetiser of sweet, rich, luxurious and ever so creamy indulgence.


1 small brie (about 125g or 4 1/2 oz) per person
1 big heaped tablespoon fruit mince per person


Preheat oven to 180°C (360°F) with the rack in the centre position, and bring the brie to room temperature.

Unwrap the brie put them into wide, shallow ramekins. Use a potato masher to squash them just until they have split around the sides in a few spots and the top has become concave. You can use your fingers to press into the top a bit more, if necessary. You want it at least 1/2cm (1/5″) deep.

Spoon a generous heaped tablespoon of fruit mince into the hollow on top of each brie.

Arrange the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until desired degree of meltiness. I let mine go for about 15 minutes, until fully melted and with a couple of little brown spots at the edge.

Serve the ramekins on plates (warn your guests that the ramekins will be hot!) with water crackers or slices of fresh baguette and a bunch of red grapes, paired with a glass of prosecco.

Posted in cheese, dip, starter | Leave a comment

Fruit mince

homemade fruit mince

Fruit mince (sorry, I just can’t bring myself to call it mincemeat) always reminds me of my paternal grandmother. She lived in Tasmania, in a big house on a suburban block which sloped sharply uphill. The whole thing was terraced, the front garden full of rose bushes with a patch of closely tended lawn, but it was in the back garden that the real magic happened. Every bit of space in that garden was devoted to growing all manner of fruit and vegetables. We would routinely be corralled into shelling peas, pulling carrots, collecting raspberries… And she made everything from scratch. Ooooh, you should have tasted her rosehip jam!

Christmas was a very traditional affair, a big British-style roast dinner, despite the often scorching heat of the Australian summer. But the best part as far as I was concerned were the sweet treats that a trip to Nana’s meant. Desserts as far the eye could see! Well, it seemed like that through a child’s eye, at any rate. And Christmas meant fruitcakes, pudding, custard and mince tarts. After all these years and half a world away, it’s my turn to carry the fruit-mince-making torch. I’m pretty sure she’d say I was doing it wrong by not using suet, but at least I’m making it, right?!

You can vary the dried fruits – I used what I had in the pantry – and you can add slivered almonds if you choose. Some recipes have you cook the fruit mince in a slow oven for a few hours, but my oven didn’t have time to spare so I did it on the stovetop. Actually, there are plenty of recipes out there that don’t cook it at all, but I find the fruit plumps and the flavours mingle better with a bit of heat.

The texture is perfectly soft without being mushy, and the taste… oh, the taste. Sweet, warmly spiced, rich… This is the real deal, even without suet.

Makes about 6 cups // 1.5 litres (3 US pints) // 1.2 kg (2 1/2 lb).
Preparation about 15 minutes
Cooking about 30 minutes
Resting about 12 hours
Bottling about an hour (including sterilising and water bath)
Leave it a week before using


100g (3/4 cup) currants
100g (3/4 cup) dried cranberries
150g (1 cup) golden sultanas
150g (1 cup) raisins
100g (3/4 cup) candied mixed peel
2 apples (about 450g, 1 lb), (e.g. Granny Smith, I used Jazz), peeled, cored and grated
juice and finely grated zest of 1 orange
juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
200g (1 cup, packed) brown (demerara) sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of ground mace
small pinch ground cloves
115g (1 stick or 1/2 cup) butter, diced
60ml (1/4 cup) brandy


Combine all ingredients except the brandy in a medium, heavy-based saucepan, and cook, covered, over very low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely, stirring occasionally. Don’t worry if it looks to have a lot of liquid – it will thicken considerably as it cools.

Add the brandy and stir well, cover and let rest at room temperature overnight – about 12 hours.

Prepare your jars by sterilising according to your preferred method – I boil the jars and lids for 20 minutes. Spoon the fruit mince into the jars and seal tightly. You can either pop them straight into the pantry to rest, or you can process them further – I do a water bath, submerging the jars completely and boiling for 20 minutes.

Either way, leave them at least a week (up to a year!) before use, so the flavour gets a chance to mature.

Stay tuned for recipes using this batch to come!

Posted in preserves | 1 Comment


The November Daring Bakers challenge was that most luscious of pastries, the Paris-Brest. This isn’t authentic because it has no praline in the pastry cream, but I had to make a nut-free version, so… you can find a link to the praline version at the end of this post. In the meantime, here’s my nut-free version! I made a double batch of the pastry to make 12 Paris-Brests, filling half with dark chocolate pastry cream and half with vanilla pastry cream. Both were utterly divine! thank you for a brilliant challenge, Lou!


Makes 12
1 hour for pastries, plus cooling
10 minutes for each pastry cream, plus chilling

Pâte à choux

240ml (1 cup) water
115g (1/2 cup or 1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp granulated (white) sugar
pinch salt
125g (1 cup, spooned and levelled) all purpose (plain) flour
4 large eggs, room temperature


Preheat oven 220°C (430°F) (bottom-only heat) and line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a medium, heavy based saucepan, bring the water, butter and sugar to a simmer on medium heat. Whisk the salt into the flour, add to the pot all at once and with a wooden spoon or spatula, stir very quickly in one direction until a dough forms. Keep stirring to cook off some of the moisture for another minute or two.

Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Add the eggs one at a time mixing on medium-high speed until each is combined into the dough. Keep beating until it is glossy, smooth, and somewhat thick, about 3 minutes.

Spoon dough into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (you may need to do this in 2 batches) and pipe 12 rings, each about 9cm (3 1/2″) across, going around three times, onto the baking sheets. Use a damp fingertip to smooth any pointed tops.

Bake in centre and lower third of oven for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 200°C (390°F) and bake a further 40 minutes, until puffed, crisp and deep golden. Reduce the heat to 180°C (360°F), swap the trays and and bake for a further 5 – 10 minutes if there are any yellow patches around the inside or bottom edge. Remember that ovens vary, so be watchful.

When done, turn the oven off and leave door ajar for 30 minutes.

Remove the pastries to a cooling rack, and allow to cool completely before assembling.

Chocolate Crème Pâtissière (enough for 6 pastries)

240ml (1 cup) whole milk
65g (1/3 cup) granulated (white) sugar
100g (7 oz) good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
2 Tbsp all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature


Combine the milk, sugar and chocolate in a saucepan, bring to boil stirring constantly until the chocolate has melted, then remove from heat.

Whisk the whole egg and the yolks together until pale and fluffy, then whisk in the flour until smooth.

Pour about 1/4 of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.

Bring the remaining milk back to the boil and pour in the hot egg mixture in a slow stream while continuously whisking.

Continue whisking until the cream thickens, just a few minutes. Remove from heat.

Transfer cream to a stainless steel or ceramic bowl, press plastic wrap snugly against the surface, and chill until ready to use.

Vanilla Crème Pâtissière (enough for 6 pastries)

240ml (1 cup) whole milk
75g (6 Tbsp) granulated (white) sugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
115g butter (1/2 cup or 1 stick)) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract


Combine milk with the sugar in a small to medium heavy based saucepan on medium-low heat, bring to the boil, whisking occasionally so it doesn’t form a skin on top or scald on the bottom, and remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg and egg yolks together with the flour. Pour 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly (this tempers the eggs so they don’t cook before they are mixed into the custard).

Return saucepan to low heat and pour the hot egg mixture back into the milk in a stream while continuously whisking.

Continue whisking until the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Pour into a stainless steel, glass or ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until ready to use.


Transfer the crème pâtissière to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Slice each pastry in half crosswise and pipe a generous ring of pastry cream into it, then replace the top.

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.


Daring Kitchen blog-checking lines: The November Daring Baker’s challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest, a beautiful pastry celebrating the Paris-Brest bicycle race.

You can find the original Daring Kitchen challenge recipe (with pdf) here.

Posted in cake, daring bakers, dessert, french, pastry, pudding, sweet | 7 Comments

Chocolate and vanilla swirl mini panettoni

I am completely enamoured with festive breads. So much Pandoro and Panettone get devoured round here every year that I can barely keep up supply. This year, I picked up a pack of gorgeous little pandoro basso molds and my thoughts immediately went to chocolate! Then I decided swirls would be fun.

Just the right size to share with a friend :)

Chocolate and vanilla swirl mini panettoni

Because it is made in so many stages, I’d recommend reading through the whole recipe first, then dividing it up to suit your schedule. The sponge and the first and second dough stages are easily done in one day, then if you don’t want to cram the whole thing in to one very long day, you can rest the dough overnight and pick it up the next morning. If the night is getting down to around 4°C (40°F), I usually just pop it out on the balcony.

Makes 1 large panettone, 6 mini panettoni or 12 muffin-sized panettoni
Active time about 2 hours
Resting time about 8 hours, but up to 12, depending on ambient temperature
Baking time 40 – 60 minutes, depending on size


1 x 7g sachet (2 1/4 tsp) instant dry yeast
60g (1/4 cup) warm water
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten, room temperature
15g (1 rounded Tbsp) granulated (white) sugar
50g (6 1/2 Tbsp) all-purpose (plain) flour

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast into the water.

Add egg yolk, sugar and flour and mix until smooth.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

First dough

155g (1 1/4 cups) all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
25g (2 Tbsp) sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten, room temperature
28g (2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature

Add the flour, yeast, sugar and egg to sponge and mix with a wooden spoon or paddle beater. Add butter and beat until fully incorporated and the dough is smooth and stringy, about 5 minutes.

Scrape down the bowl and bring the dough together in the bottom of it, then cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate for the second dough in a double boiler or heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan with a little simmering water. When completely melted, remove from heat and allow to cool, stirring occasionally.

Second dough

2 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
100g (1/2 cup) sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
145g (1 1/4 sticks or scant 2/3 cup) unsalted butter, diced, room temperature
250g (2 cups) all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 tsp fine salt
85g (3 oz) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

extra all-purpose (plain) flour as needed for dusting surface for shaping before second rise
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp milk, for egg wash
2 – 3 Tbsp pearl sugar for sprinkling

Whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, sugar and vanilla extract, add to dough and mix with a wooden spoon or dough hook on medium speed until completely combined, about 5 minutes.

Whisk together flour and salt and, with the mixer running on low, add a bit at a time, scraping down the bowl as necessary and mixing well.

Add butter by teaspoons, scraping down the bowl and dough hook as necessary, mixing well, about 10 minutes.

Knead at low speed for 10 minutes, until dough is soft and light and comes away from the side of the bowl.

Turn dough out onto a buttered surface and divide in two, roughly 2/3 and 1/3.

Form the smaller dough into a ball, place seam-side down in a buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.

Return the larger dough to the mixer and knead in the cooled melted chocolate and the cocoa powder, about 3 minutes. Form into a ball, place seam-side down in a clean buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.

First rise

Let both doughs rise in a warm place until doubled – anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on the ambient temperature. The chocolate dough will take longer than the plain dough, as it is much denser.

After this rise, you can refrigerate the doughs overnight then proceed the next morning, if desired.

Shaping and second rise

If refrigerated, bring the doughs to room temperature for about 2 hours.

Scrape plain dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using floured hands, gently press out to as large a rectangle as you can manage.

Turn the chocolate dough out and press out in the same manner to as close to the same size as you can manage.

Place the plain dough on top of the chocolate dough, press out more as you can manage (the two layers don’t need to be perfect) and roll up from the long edge into a log.

For one large panettone, you can join the ends and form a ring and use a buttered bundt pan, or roll the log into a snail, shape into a ball and place in a buttered round mold or cake pan. If making small panettoni, cut with a bench scraper into the desired number of pieces, gently shape into balls and press into the molds.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled – anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on the ambient temperature.


Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F).

Brush panettoni with egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar.

Bake small panettoni 20 minutes or large panettone 30 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 150°C (300°F) and bake another 20 – 30 minutes, depending on size, until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Cool completely before cutting.

Posted in bread, breakfast, cake, dessert, italian, muffin, snack, sweet | 4 Comments

Sourdough adventures – brioche dinner rolls

I’m a day late for this month’s Sourdough Surprises challenge post, but it is worth the wait!

 photo briocherollsfinal_zpse17f75f2.jpg

A little lighter than their traditional counterpart, with fewer eggs and less butter, these sourdough brioche dinner rolls have a thin, crisp crust, a cloud-soft interior and a rich, buttery taste. They pair perfectly with a bowl of homemade tomato soup.

Makes 12 dinner rolls
Preparation – 40 minutes active time and about 7 hours resting
Baking – 30 minutes


50ml (10 tsp) tepid milk
100g (just under 1/2 cup) 100% hydration mature starter
250g (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose (plain) flour
12g (1 tbsp) granulated (white) sugar
3g (1/2 tsp) fine salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
115g (1 stick) butter, room temperature

1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash


Heat the milk in a small bowl, add the starter and stir to combine.

Put the flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and pour in the starter mixture and beaten eggs. Mix on low speed for five minutes, until completely combined.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula,increase to kneading speed and mix for about 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth.

Scrape down the bowl again and, with the mixer running at low speed, add the butter a teaspoon at a time. It will look very buttery at first, and will take about ten minutes for the butter to be completely incorporated.

When the butter is all incorporated, increase the speed and knead for about ten minutes, until the dough is very smooth and comes away from the bowl.

Remove the dough hook, cover the bowl with a damp towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about five hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

Knock the dough back by folding it over two or three times with a bowl scraper.

Heavily butter a 12 hole muffin tin.

Scrape dough out onto work surface, knead gently together and cut into 12 equal sized pieces. Roll the dough pieces into balls, arrange seam side down in muffin tin and brush lightly with egg wash.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 2 hours, until doubled in sized.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Brush the rolls lightly again with egg wash. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 180°C (360°F) and bake for a further 20 minutes.

Turn rolls out onto a wire rack and allow to cool a little before serving warm.


Check out the other lovely dinner rolls baked by my fellow sourdoughers this month…

Posted in bread, french, muffin, side, soup, sourdough surprises | 9 Comments