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Even though I’m taking a break, I couldn’t not have an Easter chocolate post! This is the second of the two we wrote in 2012 (the first is here). If you’d like to try your hand at making chocolates this year, you might find our Chocolate #101: Tempering at Home post useful. Have a fabulous Easter!

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We made a batch of experimental Easter chocolates this year, using Callebaut white and a blend of Callebaut 811 (54%) and 70% dark.

The white chocolate was tempered first, drizzled into the moulds, then allowed to set up in the fridge.  The tempered dark chocolate was then ladled over the white.  We made two large eggs – I particularly love how the white and dark mingled in the bottom one to form a lighter shade of brown…

Two-toned lollipops were made by highlighting the design features in white chocolate first, using a small paintbrush…

The bows on these eggs took several coats of white chocolate…

And with all the leftover bits and pieces…

…I made a new cake!  Recipe to follow soon…

Wishing you all a joyous, chocolate-filled Easter!

lemon-curd1

Here it is, from March 2009, our original microwave lemon curd post. It’s outrageously easy, and even more special these days, as we now make it with our homegrown lemons and backyard eggs. Over the years, we’ve adapted this microwave technique to both custard and pastry cream.

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I’ve just been on the phone to Christina, and I’ve promised her I’d post my lemon curd recipe.  Actually, it’s not really my recipe at all – I discovered it  here – and unbelievable as this sounds, it makes brilliant lemon curd in the microwave.

The first time I tried it, I made five batches, one after the other, because I simply couldn’t believe it was working.  I thought it was a fluke and kept waiting for it to fail, but it didn’t and I ended up with fifteen jars of lemon curd in the fridge, all of which had to be eaten within a few weeks.  Ah well, the neighbours were happy.

Microwave lemon curd

1. Zest two big lemons into a large pyrex bowl. Juice both lemons, and strain the juice into the bowl (you want about 150ml of lemon juice). Add 50g unsalted butter and 150g caster (superfine) sugar. Microwave on high for 2 minutes (my machine is 1100 watts). Take it out and give it a good stir to make sure the sugar is dissolved and butter melted. Allow to cool just slightly.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together 3 large free range eggs and one egg yolk. Whisk well – you want it to be an homogenous yellow with no white stringy bits. Pour the eggs through a sieve into the butter mixture, whisking as you go (having an extra set of hands helps). Once it’s all combined, pop the pyrex bowl back into microwave.

3. Microwave for 30 seconds on high, then stir. Another 30 seconds on high, stir again. Then 1 minute on high, take it out, and give it a really good whisking until it becomes smooth and lemon curd like. You might need a little bit more time, but in my microwave, that’s it. You can then pour it into sterilised jars and stick it in the fridge, or pour it into a pre-baked tart shell and let it set in the fridge (which is how I made my tart), or you can freeze it.

You can also make passionfruit curd by adding 1/3 cup of passionfruit pulp when you add the eggs.  If you’re doing that, you might want to cut the lemon zest back a little bit.  Enjoy!

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More on making microwave lime curd here… A Bowl of Sunshine..

This post was originally published in July 2010, and it’s been our most popular brownie recipe ever. The gluten-free chestnut flour version comes a close second.

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This wickedly good recipe from David Lebovitz’ new book, Room for Dessert, is a cross between a brownie and fudge.

It’s made in an interesting way – part of the process involves beating the mix by hand, until it “snaps”, in much the same way as fudge does.  This slight change in state gives it a delicious texture – though if you don’t beat it enough, the brownie will be grainy.

The recipe is easy to make, using only one saucepan and mere minutes of preparation time.  Ensure you have everything measured out before you begin, as the process is very quick once you get started.  Also, use the very best chocolate you can afford, as it’s the main ingredient in this recipe.

On the topic of chocolate – it’s important to note that this won’t work (at least not in my experience) if you use high cocoa chocolate in in the initial melting part of the recipe.  The brownies are perfect when butter and 54% Callebaut callets are melted together, and passable with 64% cacao chocolate, but the 70% resulted in an oily mass that cooked up hard with a film of grease over the top. I think that’s because the quantities in this recipe are so small that if you alter the fat balance (which is what increasing the cocoa mass does) without adjusting the other ingredients, the balance goes completely out of whack.

I’ve now made this dish a dozen times and offer two variations – one with nuts as specified in the original recipe (photo above) and the other with extra chocolate.   No prizes for guessing which one my boys prefer!

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Fudge Brownies
(based on Robert’s Absolute Best Brownies in David Lebovitz’ Room for Dessert)

  • 90g (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 225g (8oz) 50 – 60% cacao semisweet chocolate (I used Callebaut 54%)
  • 150g (¾ cup) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large (59g) eggs, at room temperature
  • 40g (¼ cup) plain (AP) flour
  • 135g (1 cup) toasted and chopped nuts, OR 150g (1 cup) chocolate bits (Note: for the all chocolate version, I used 100g Callebaut 44% bake stable sticks, broken up AND 50g Callebaut 70% callets)

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1. Preheat oven to 175C/350F or 160C/320F with fan.

2. Measure out all your ingredients and have them ready to go.  Line a 20cm (8″) baking pan with parchment paper.

3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, then add the chocolate and stir over low heat until melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined.

4. Stir in the eggs one at a time.  Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously until you can feel the batter “snap”.  I’ve taken some photos to try and show you what happens – please excuse the slightly blurry one below.

The batter starts out grainy and fairly loose.  As you beat it by hand, it will initially feel like nothing is happening, and then it will suddenly feel a bit stiffer – that’s when you’ll know a state change has occurred.  This might take one minute, or it might take several.  Stop occasionally to check how it’s going. Unlike true fudge, it’s not a huge “snap”, but the texture will definitely change noticeably – it will feel stiffer, look smoother, and pull away from the sides and bottom of the pan.

5. Gently stir in the inclusions.

6. Scrape the batter into the lined tin and smooth out the top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until just firm.   Do not overbake. Allow the brownies to cool completely before lifting them out of the pan and slicing.

These are very easy to make and incredibly moreish.  Pete recently announced (proclaimed?) the all chocolate version below to be his new favourite brownie!

This first post was written in January 2010. The Somerville Collection remains one of the most impressive museum displays that we’ve ever had the privilege of viewing.

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The Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum, in Bathurst NSW, is home to the Somerville Collection. We made the three hour trip from Sydney last week  with high expectations, and we certainly weren’t disappointed. The quality of specimens on display was absolutely astounding.

As Pete astutely commented, “there was no padding”.  Every single piece was magnificent, and the small museum took quite a while to view,  because each display was totally captivating.  We spent the better part of a morning exploring the two main exhibitions – the Minerals Gallery and the Masterfoods Fossil Gallery.

The collection represents the life’s work of Warren Somerville, an extraordinary Australian with an incomparable passion for minerals and fossils.  Story has it that when the full sized Tyrannosaurus rex cast (the only complete specimen in Australia) was delivered to his home, his wife decided it was time for either a museum or a divorce.

Many of the mineral specimens on display are the finest examples of their type in the world. I felt like we’d been to the rock equivalent of the Louvre, all for a tiny entry fee of $21 per family.  To understand the scale of this collection, it’s worth mentioning that Professor Somerville was offered $15 million to move it to Japan, but chose instead to donate it to a regional museum in New South Wales.

Here are the highlights from the ninety-odd photos I took, all handheld, without flash and mostly through glass cabinets – and all taken with my little Lumix camera. Clicking on the items will open up a higher resolution photo.

The specimens included a football-sized Tasmanian Crocoite…

…this magnificent Scolecite, which reminded me of a large sea anemone..

…a huge (as in boulder-sized) Amethyst Quartz from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, in a formation known as an oyster…

…Natrolite in Vugh…

…and several examples of my favourite mineral, Malachite.

The fossil section of the museum was equally as impressive, and while it was hard to top the T-Rex, this large petrified crab from Monte Bolca in Italy came close.  It’s exquisitely detailed – astonishing given that it’s more than 34 million years old.

There was an outstanding collection of Amber – these photos were taken through a magnifying glass which slid over the cabinet.  The Madagascan gecko is a very rare specimen -  over 43 million years old and one of only six in the world.  This display made me blissfully happy, as I’ve wanted to see true Amber with inclusions for a very long time…

This shoal of herring-like fish were trapped and fossilised 50 million years ago in freshwater lakes in the US.  Known as Green River Shale,  the rocks from these lakes in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado have unearthed a wide selection of aquatic fossils, including the rare garpike in the bottom photo.

A collection of crinoids from Western Australia – these “sea  lilies” were related to starfish and were the most abundant marine creatures  490 – 250 million years ago.  Modern varieties still exist today.

Outside the museum lies the trunk of a petrified gum tree, uncovered in Molong, less than a 100kms west of Bathurst.  Weighing over a tonne, the organic material in the tree has been replaced with agate over the past 20 million years.

Professor Somerville, thank you for your enormous generosity in sharing  these amazing specimens with us.  We feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to view them, and our lives are all the richer for having visited your museum!

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The Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum
224 Howick St
Bathurst  NSW  2795
Phone: (02) 6331 5511

www.somervillecollection.com.au

Dear friends,

I’m taking a short blogging break to recharge my batteries.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be uploading some of my favourite archive posts from the last five years – hope you enjoy them!

See you all soon! x

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