Tasting Tasmania

I love travelling overseas, but living in Australia, it can be a very timely and costly exercise. Sometimes, when all you’ve got is a few days and you’re just desperate for an escape, it’s better just to go interstate.

With lovely summer days gone and winter setting in, I was heading for a little bit of a lull and wanted to mix things up. As one of my friends recently made Hobart her home for the next 12 months, I thought the time was right for a trip down down under.  I got a group together and we went adventuring and boy did we find some tasty Tasmanian treats!

Below are a few photos of some of the best our largest island has to offer. Chocolate, cheese and salmon galore!!

Smoked trout pate – Wicked Cheese Company


Toasted cheese from Bruny island cheese company


Bruny Island oysters


Salmon dish from Mexican restaurant Pancho Villa


Tasmanian apples


Grilled fish salad at Battery Point

The perfect cake 

Don’t you just love it when your hard work pays off with a pretty result!
I think this cake might be the prettiest cake I have ever made. Is it on par with a professional’s? Of course not but it rose evenly, it’s the right colour, there are no holes in the ganache and all the decorations stayed exactly where I put them – definitely a win!
  
It was made in honour of one of my colleagues who turned 21 over the weekend. She is a lovely girl who always arranges the purchase and delivery of everyone else’s cakes so I thought she deserved something special. 

Of course, as per all my creations, this one wasn’t without problems. It was meant to be a two tier cake separated by a layer of ganache but when the new tin I bought started leaking batter all over the inside of my oven, I thought it was time to switch tactics and poured the entire lot into one tin and made one giant cake. Transport was also an issue. I ended up wrapping it in foil and taking taxi into work – holding it gently on my lap while whispering sweet nothings to it encouraging it to stay in one piece. 

  
Thank goodness it worked. It was just perfect. The inside was the right balance between light and fudgy, the ganache a coffee/ chocolate delight and the whole thing was decorated with the birthday girl’s favourite sweet treats -maltesers, chocolate melts and mint bb balls. There was an extra surprise in the form of an m&m well inside too. 

I used this recipe as the base and then just went from there.

  
My masterpiece – I don’t think I could have been more proud if I’d given birth to the thing. Yes I’m crazy… I know… 😀. 

  

The Choc Pot, Chatswood

Its always good to visit somewhere new and exciting. On Friday night, just like Aladdin and Jasmin, my parents and I experienced a “whole new world” at Vivid festival in Chatswood. 

 

Held for The first time on the Lower North Shore, visitors get to experience an underwater world constructed from beautifully sequenced lights and dynamic sculptures. While this was held at the Concourse and downstairs at the train station, it was the amazing new world that now exists above the train station that captured me.

I don’t know exactly when it happened (potentially through genie involvement) but a delicious place called The Interchange now magically exists in a space that was empty for far too long. 

Set out like an Asian street marketplace, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding what to have for lunch or dinner. It’s a culinary tour of Asia- food court style.  Want to cook your own teppen? Visit Pepper Lunch for a massive plate of food from $9.90. How about a hearty soup? Then give 1ton a go. The Interchange has everything from Michelin star dumplings at Tim Ho Wan to an upmarket sushi train and these places will soon be joined by even more including the ever popular ramen Mecca, Ippudo.  

 

Having had dinner already at the newly opened Ribs and Burgers down the other end of Victoria street (dad the typical Saffer was craving a red meat hit), we decided to investigate the previously unexplored upper level in search of a cosy cafe and a sugar hit or two.

We found all of the above at The Choc Pot, a chocolate lovers paradise. It takes the Max Brenner and San Churro chocolate cafe concept and does it so much better. The menu is unique and extensive, the dishes are light and packed with flavor and the hot chocolates are creamy and frothed to perfection. They have also introduced to my tastebuds the most delicious teeny tiny chewy caramel fudge pieces which they call cranky pants caramel  – I could seriously murder a 1kg bag of those things in about 5 minutes flat. Ok … Maybe 10.  

 

To avoid family arguments, we ordered a couple of things and shared. Of course we got two of the largest items – Lord of the Crepes, a beautiful lattice creation filled with a light whipped cream, topped with strawberries and drizzled with a really yummy milk chocolate; and Super Terrific Time, a gorgeous and apt name for a giant, freshly made, pillowy soft waffle topped with those incredible caramel fudge pieces, caramel sauce and the chocolate drizzle. Both plates were massive but so light and fresh that you could eat the whole thing without feeling fat, ashamed or sick after. 
  

Dad even managed to fit in TCP’s signature Belgian hot chocolate in milk chocolate. It was warm, frothy and the perfect level of sweetness.

Funnily enough, we ran into an old friend who was also experiencing the chocolatey goodness for the first time. Given that the place has been open for a month, it’s incredible so many people have found it. But found it they have – the place was packed – even with the extended Vivid opening hours.

Before we left we were already talking about coming back and what else we have to try. I think I have found my new happy place and I didn’t even have to fall down a rabbit’s hole- just climb some stairs above Chatswood train station. It’s so Harry Potteresque – It makes me love it even more!  


 

Chocolate Almond Torte, a gluten free delight

It’s cake baking time again folks but this time it’s for a very special friend who is gluten intolerant, well not so much intolerant (or trend following) but seriously and very uncomfortably allergic.

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Rather than look up a specifically designated ‘gluten free’ recipe, I want to do something that came from a normal book, that wouldn’t have to fight against the ‘special diet’ stigma and that was just yummy in its own right. So I turned to my trusty women’s weekly cook book and sure enough, I found the below recipe for an awesome chocolate and almond cake – beautiful and nutty… Just like my friend 🙂

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Oh and word to the wise- just because it’s gluten free, it’s definitely not calorie free! Mmmm chocolatey goodness……

Ingredients
160g dark chocolate
160g unsalted butter
5 eggs separated
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup almond meal
2/3 cup flaked almonds + extra for decorating
35g dark chocolate chopped coarsely

Chocolate ganache
125g dark chocolate
1/3 cup thickened cream

Directions
1. preheat oven to 180 degrees. Spray and line a 22cm cake tin.
2. Melt the 160g chocolate and butter together (I used a microwave) and stir till smooth. Cool to room temp.
3. Beat egg yokes and sugar until thick and creamy. Fold in the chocolate mixture, almond meal, flaked almonds and chopped chocolate.
4. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold them into the chocolate mixture gently in two batches.
5. Pour mixture into pan and bake for 35 – 40 minutes.
6. Melt the last batch of dark chocolate and cream together to make the ganache. Once both the cake and ganache are cool, pour the ganache over the cake and spread it using a palette knife. Put in the fridge to set.
7. Toast the extra slivered almonds in a small pan on the stove. Sprinkle in an even layer on top of the cake.

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I finished the whole thing off with some almond bark – whole almonds sprinkled on baking paper and covered in a light toffee.

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The Great Debate

Lately I’ve been struggling with one of life’s deepest, darkest most profound questions… Chocolate or cheese? I’m loosing precious sleep.

When I was younger, I firmly sat on the chocolate side of the fence, cheese aka that yellow often weirdly smelling stuff didn’t even register on my radar. But since going on a bit of a health kick a few years back and gaining an awareness, alright an obsession, with nuts and dried fruit of all forms, an avid interest in cheese sort of snuck on into my psyche, riding on the back of its dessert platter sidekick’s coat tails.

Now, I’m rather partial to a creamy hunk of Camembert, a gooey Washed-rind, some home baked cheesy bread and cheesecake of all forms. Ordering dessert has now become a deliberation on par in magnitude with the decision to create a second SITC movie.

The solution to my problem

The solution to my problem

The other day, just an average week night, I was watching a Better Homes and Gardens episode when one of my favourite Aussie chefs, Fast Ed’s segment came on. Despite his unfortunate nickname, I love his recipes because yes, they are quick and easy and generally use ingredients you already have or would tend to buy anyway. In this particular segment though, Fast Ed solved my problem… Chocolate cheesecake!!!! When you are going to do something, you might as well do it properly. Ed evidently also believes this. As such, his cake wasn’t just chocolate, it was triple chocolate: cocoa powder in the cookie base, white chocolate in the cream cheese and a milk chocolate and cream icing layer to finish. Genius isn’t it!?

Check out those layers

Check out those layers

I made it for my work mates aka my guinea pigs. The ones with serious sweet teeth loved it. The others enjoyed the cheesecake part and the base but found the top layer a bit hectic. Let’s be honest here, this isn’t a light dessert designed for the sugar uninitiated. It’s for people like me.

Check out the recipe I used below. The only amendment was using dark chocolate instead of milk. My conundrum is solved. With the situation sorted, I could do with a nap…. I’ve got some catching up to do!

Fast Ed’s Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

Ingredients

375g butternut cookies (1½ pkts)
60g dark cocoa powder
125g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg white
500g cream cheese
100g caster sugar
3 eggs
20g (2 Tbsp) cornflour
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
300g sour cream
200g white chocolate, melted and cooled
140g dark chocolate, chopped
250ml cream

Method

1 Preheat oven to 150°C. Combine the biscuits and cocoa powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until a coarse crumb forms. Add the butter and egg white and pulse until well-mixed.
2 Press the biscuit mixture into the ides and base of a lined 22cm springform cake tin to an even depth of 2mm. Freeze for 10 minutes to firm up.
3 Put the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, cornflour and vanilla in the bowl of the food processor and purée until smooth, scraping down the sides several times. Add the sour cream and purée for 30 seconds, then add the white chocolate and purée for 2 minutes.
4 Pour the white chocolate mixture into the prepared base and bake for 45 minutes with a water tray in the oven for humidity. Set aside to cool slowly on a ire rack.
5 Once cooled, combine the milk chocolate and cream in a small saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, until smooth. Pour over the cake and refrigerate until set, then slice and serve.

 

Finished product

Finished product

Boon Chocolate Cafe, Darlinghurst

It was such a cold day that I had the most massive craving for something comforting like tea and chocolate. Good thing I organised an after work catch up at Boon – The Chocolate Experience in Darlinghurst.

Just down the road from the Victoria Street dessert Mecca Messina and Strawberry Cream, Boon is the perfect place to treat yourself to something delicious and chocolatey. Owned by a brother and sister team, the range of constantly changing gourmet chocolates are made in house and feature quality ingredients. An additional bonus, they’re kosher and halal certified too.

You can choose a selection to take away with you, or to gift to a very special friend. Alternatively, you can do as we did today and venture to the upper level of the shop, set up as an intimate lounge style cafe, and order something to have in house.

There are four different types of drinking sets. Each comes with a hot beverage as well as your choice of Boon praline, and a chocolate mousse shot. They are the Connoisseur hot chocolate drink set; the Belgian Style hot chocolate drink set; the Coffee set, and the Boon tea set. Soy milk is available for those who need or prefer, and all hot chocolates have a minimum of 65% cocoa. There are a couple of cold drinks listed too.

My friend ordered the Belgian style milk hot chocolate ($8.50), while I went for the pot of peppermint tea ($9); a tame option but a good one. Since they were out of chocolate mousse, we got the choice of two chocolates each. My friend chose the peppermint and ginger, while I picked the peppermint and the coffee chocolates.

Everything was delicious. Finally, for the first time that day I was warm and cosy. I can’t wait to try more of their range. I just need to find someone to buy me a box, or a reason to buy them for myself!

Rating: 9/10

Where: 251 Victoria Street Darlinghurst NSW.
Why: A great gourmet chocolate experience in a friendly and intimate environment.
Cost: $7.50-$10
When: Tuesday to Friday, 10am-7pm; Saturday, 10am-8pm; Sunday, 11am-6pm.

Good for kids: Yes
Take away: Yes

A celebration of chocolate fit for an addict

Have you ever had that dream where you are living in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory? I have but funnily enough it was actually more of a nightmare- one minute I was swimming in a pool of chocolate, the next I’m being sucked up that giant tube where I get stuck and suffocate to death. Damn you Augustus Gloop! (Goop?)

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It hasn’t put me off chocolate though. As many of my friends know, give me a family sized block of Cadbury dairy milk and an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and I’m a happy little piggy.

Strangely I don’t like chocolate cake, but surrounded by chocolate in any other form: melted, as a fondant. Whipped to mousse, frozen into icecream, crumbled, drizzled, drenched- and I’m in heaven! As such it will surprise no one that when the chocolate festival was on in the rocks, I was there faster than you can say ‘a chocoholic’s paradise’.

It was a sweltering hot day, not the most ideal conditions when you are trying to over indulge in gooey, warm melty things but we did our best. After lining our stomaches with some savoury items- happily provided to us by the Korean bbq stall – we dove in.

We began with the chocolate covered fruit. They had the traditional strawberries and bananas which were great but what was really special were the mango and peach options. We then moved on to a snickers flavoured caramel apple from love dem apples, a relatively new dessert establishment on Cleveland street. It would have been better out of the sun but it was still fresh and delicious and came with some free candy corn which was very generous.

With the rising heat, we moved on to colder options, mint chocolate frozen yoghurt from Orange and an Italian dessert comprising of espresso granita covered by whipped heavy cream. We did also gaze longingly at Messina’s chocolate gelato offerings but the lines were so long and my pants were getting tight.

After bumping into a friend at about 3, and stealing a bite of her gluten free chocolate brownie, I was done. My chocolate partner in crime left to walk off her tasty treats while I waddled onto the bus to dream sweet and chocolatey day dreams all the way home. That should keep me satisfied…until next time.

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