Latte Panna Cottas with Chocolate Hazelnut Chews

The recipe for these little coffee desserts was given to me by the wife of a British diplomat. By the time we met, Mary and her husband had had several postings, including one to a remote African country where entertaining was something of a challenge. Finding the ingredients for a Western-style dinner party and explaining to the local staff exactly what she wanted had not been easy for Mary. Sometimes things were simply lost in translation.

Every time they entertained the food was inevitably served cold or at best lukewarm. Mary’s house boy Robert said that the cook was not to blame. The distance to the dining room was the problem. By the time the food had made that long journey along the hall from the kitchen, of course it was cold.

Mary persuaded the Embassy to fund the installation of a serving hatch, so the food could be passed directly from the kitchen to the dining room and hopefully arrive on everyone’s plates before it got cold.

In due course the hatch was installed. When the next dinner party was arranged Mary instructed Robert that from now on everything was to come through the new hatch. He seemed somewhat reluctant, but Mary said that it had cost a lot of money and her husband would be very cross if he didn’t use it. Robert was a likeable fellow in his twenties who tried hard to please.

When the guests sat down the cold starters were already on the table. Mary sat with her back to the serving hatch, while her husband sat at the other end of the long table. In due course the plates from the starter were cleared away. Polite diplomatic conversation continued as they waited for the main course.

Some of the guests began to giggle. Mary wondered if there was some joke that she had missed. People seemed to be looking at something behind her. She turned around to see Robert climbing through the hatch, a large serving dish balanced precariously in his free hand.

Mary wanted everything to come through the hatch and so it did.
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Panna Cottas:
250ml milk
300ml cream
¼ to ½ cup sugar (to taste)
2 shots Espresso coffee (see note below)
1 Tbs gelatine
4 Tbs water
Chocolate Hazelnut Chews:
4 large egg whites
3 pinches salt
1½ cups icing sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
150g blanched hazelnuts, roughly chopped in food processor
Extra whole blanched hazelnuts
To serve:
Grated dark chocolate
Pouring cream (optional)

Place milk, cream, sugar and coffee in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Meanwhile place gelatine and water in a small bowl then zap in the microwave briefly to dissolve. Mix gelatine mixture into coffee mixture then divide among 6 small ramekins, coffee cups or glasses. Chill for several hours or overnight.

For the Hazelnut Chews, preheat oven to 180°C. With electric beaters whip egg whites and salt until soft peaks, then gradually beat in the sugar until you have a thick, glossy meringue. Beat in the cocoa then fold in the chopped nuts. Line a biscuit tray with baking paper and place tablespoons of mixture onto the tray with a little space for spreading, though they won’t spread much. Top each biscuit with a whole hazelnut then bake for 15-20 mins. Mine were done in 15 mins and to be chewy you don’t want them overcooked. Makes about 15.

Serve panna cottas sprinkled with a little grated chocolate, with the hazelnut chews and pouring cream in a jug.

Serves 6

Note: if preferred use 125ml hot water and 1 Tbs instant coffee granules

Florentines

Florentines are a delicious treat to serve with coffee after dinner.

Actually they’re delicious any time of day. I swear they talk to me from the tin, sending out “Eat me” messages. They’re quite big, so if it makes you feel better cut them in half, or make smaller ones. But you’ve seen Florentines in cake shops – they’re always big!

Use any combination of dried fruit and nuts you have on hand. I used some dried sour cherries from Costco and craisins (dried cranberries). I left out the candied peel because I’m the only one in our family who likes it.

Woolworths sell non-stick egg rings in two packs for about two dollars, so I bought five packs. I could have made the Florentines slightly thinner and got 12 from the recipe, but I had only bought 10 egg rings, so that was that! If preferred make them free-form by placing heaped tablespoonsful onto the paper – they will spread as they cook.

½ cup creamFlorentines
½ cup sugar
1 Tbs honey
½ cup dried cherries (glacé or sour cherries)
½ cup dried fruit (I used cranberries)
½ cup candied peel (or more dried fruit)
1 cup flaked or slivered almonds (I used almonds & cashews)
½ cup flour
100g dark chocolate, melted
1 tsp vegetable oil, coconut oil or Copha

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with non-stick paper and arrange the egg rings on top. In a medium sized saucepan heat cream, sugar and honey till boiling. Remove from the heat and add fruit, nuts and flour. Cool for a few minutes so it thickens up.

Divide among the rings spreading evenly then bake for 10-15 mins or until light caramel coloured. Don’t overcook as the fruit easily burns. Leave to cool on the tray.

Melt chocolate and oil or Copha in microwave or in a bowl over boiling water. Dip each Florentine into chocolate on the flat side, shake off excess then cool on non-stick paper, chocolate side up. If you’re in a hurry stick them in the fridge or freezer. And if you have any chocolate left, drizzle a bit on the bumpy side, but let the chocolate set on the first side before you do this. They actually look better on the drizzly/bumpy side.

Makes 10-12

Pom’s Crunchy Biscuits

My Thai friend Pom makes these delicious crunchy biscuits. She gave me some as a gift recently, but they were so good I ate them all as I was driving home, so Matthew didn’t get any. I asked her for the recipe and decided to double the quantities because I knew that 16 biscuits wouldn’t last long.

They’re like muesli in a biscuit – healthy, satisfying, good for lunch boxes or to go with a cuppa. An Australian cup measure is 250ml or a quarter of a litre.

Pom's Crunch Biscuits4 cups cornflakes
2/3 cup sugar or honey
250g butter at room temp
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup sultanas
2 cups SR flour
½ cup sesame seeds (white or black or a mixture)
½ cup shredded or dessicated coconut
½ cup sunflower or pumpkin kernels
1 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Place cornflakes in food processor and process briefly to break them up a bit, but not much. If you need to chop the chocolate do it now and add it to the cornflakes. Place sugar or honey and butter in food processor and mix until smooth and creamy. Add eggs and mix well, then flour and vanilla. When smooth, scrape into the bowl with the cornflakes, add remaining ingredients and mix well. Line two or three baking trays with baking paper. Form mixture into 3cm balls and arrange on trays with spaces in between. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden – don’t overcook or they will be dry. Cool then store in a tin with a lid.

Makes about 32

Note: the recipe is easy to halve and you can vary the ingredients to suit you taste. Add more coconut and less sultanas, use chopped nuts instead of the kernels, or leave out the chocolate and substitute something else

Dream Bars

This recipe first appeared in the Australian Women’s Weekly Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits when it was published in 1982. I’ve been making it ever since and it’s always popular.

The original recipe uses 2 cups fruit mince (mincemeat) but I use a cup of dried fruit and a cup of jam instead. It’s great for using up all those bits of jam and marmalade at the bottom of jars – something my family say I’m famous for. It’s always a great achievement when you can find things in the fridge which need using up and turn them into something finger lickin’ good.

When I returned to take the photo someone, who shall remain nameless and blamed the dog, had already eaten a piece.

photo

Base:
180g butter at room temp
2/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 cups plain flour
Topping:
4 eggs
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 Tbs Plain flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
3 cups dessicated coconut
1 cup jam (any flavour)
1 cup dried fruit

Preheat oven to 180°C. Process butter and sugar in food processor until creamy. Add sifted flour and mix until you have crumbs which are starting to stick together. Press mixture into a greased Swiss Roll tin or slice tin (mine is 35x25cm) lined with baking paper. It doesn’t have to look very smooth but it does need to be evenly spread to cover the base. Bake for 10 mins or until golden.

Process eggs, sugar and vanilla in food processor. Add coconut, jam and fruit and process just enough to mix. Spread topping over the cooked base, bake for 25-30 mins or until firm and golden brown. Cool, dust with sifted icing sugar and cut into squares.

Variation: Frangipane Bars: make the base as above. When cooked, spread with about a cup or so of raspberry jam or lemon curd. For the filling mix 125g butter, softened, with 1 cup caster sugar in food processor until light and fluffy. Add 4 eggs, ¼ cup plain flour, 3 cups almond meal (or another ground nut) and a tsp of vanilla or almond essence. Spread evenly over the base, sprinkle with flaked almonds and bake for 25-30 mins or until firm and golden brown.

Anzac Biscuits

On the 25th of April Australians and New Zealanders remember those who have lost their lives in military conflict. The date of Anzac day marks the anniversary of the landing in Gallipoli (Turkey) during the First World War, when many lives were lost. The acronym Anzac stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Dawn services are held on this day in many countries including in France and Turkey.

Anzac biscuits were apparently sent by wives to soldiers abroad because they kept well during naval transportation. Nowadays they are made commercially, but many people make their own. There are some variations in the recipes so here is mine.

1 cup porridge oats
½ cup plain flourphoto
½ cup SR flour
1 cup sugar
¾ cup dessicated coconut (I prefer the coarse shred)
125g butter
2 Tbs golden syrup (see note below)
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 Tbs boiling water

Preheat oven to 170°C. In a large bowl mix oats, flour, sugar and coconut. Place butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan and stir over gentle heat until melted. Mix soda with boiling water and add to the butter mixture, then mix into the dry ingredients.

Place balls of one tablespoonful of mixture on lightly greased oven trays, or trays lined with non-stick baking paper – 12 per sheet, not too close together as they will spread. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a nice honey-brown colour. If you prefer them more chewy and less crunchy, remove from the oven when they are lighter in colour than those shown in the photo. If on tins without paper, loosen while still warm, then cool on the trays. Store in an airtight tin.

Makes about 2 dozen

Note: unless you live in Australia, New Zealand or the UK you may have difficulty finding golden syrup. There are some online sites which sell British ingredients. I have tried substituting honey but it’s not the same.

Sesame Cheese Biscuits

These delicious biscuits are family favourites to serve with drinks.  They’re a traditional Aussie recipe and were made by all the ladies of a certain age – my mother in law, her sister and my dear friend Joan Tyrrel who passed away last year. While the recipe says to use cheddar, you can use any hard cheeses, including a mixture of leftover bits and pieces! At their best when fresh, they will keep in a tin with a lid for up to a week, if they last that long.

Sesame Cheese Biscuits
200g plain flour
200g butter
200g cheddar cheese, grated
1-2 tsp dry English mustard or cayenne pepper (optional)
Sesame seeds to coat

Preheat oven to 180C.  Place flour and butter in food processor and process until fine crumbs.  If liked add some English mustard powder or cayenne pepper at this stage.  Add grated cheddar and continue to process until mixture forms a ball.  Tip out then pinch off pieces the size of a large walnut and roll into balls.  Roll balls in sesame seeds to coat them all over, then arrange on baking trays lined with baking paper.  Press each biscuit lightly with a fork and leave a space between each one as they will spread while cooking.  On a hot day it’s a good idea to refrigerate the biscuits for about half an hour before cooking.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden.  Cool on cake racks.

Makes about 45 biscuits

Note: you can make this recipe with less or more ingredients, just keep the weights of flour, butter and cheese equal