Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pumpkin Seed Toffee

Dearest Sticky Chewy Salty Sweet, you had me at Hello.

Celestial caramelly goodness? Check.

Very buttery awesomeness? Check.

Sly salty savour? Check.

Fabulous crunch of toasted nuts. Can't stop at one. Worth contributing to my enthodondist's kid's ivy league college fund for. Check, check, check.

Nut toffee/brittle type candy, in the immortal words of the inimitable Elizabeth Barrett Browning, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

For sure, Pumpkin Seed Toffee, you were originally created as the perfect finishing touch for the already-dishy Pumpkin Cheesecake seen here.

But the peerlessly perfect likes of you, how dare I mere mortal pretend to comprehend the true breadth and depth of your myriad special talents?

As much as I adore shards of you atop said cheesecake, a literal and metaphorical crowning glory, all jade green teardrop gorgeousness embedded in amber, I truly fail to see how any other mere mortal, unless he/she be of an unspeakable churlishness, could possibly fail to be thrilled to be in receipt of you and you alone, unadorned and unadorning, as homemade holiday gift.

More-ish quotient aside, there's that aforementioned stunning jade green-plus-amber comeliness and many fetching talents, chief amongst which I must profess a particular fondness for coarsely crushing and sprinkling fairy dust-like over all manner of ice creams, mousses, parfaits, custards and even just plain ripe fruit plus clouds of whipped cream for elegant textural contrast. Or boring old me, simply eating as candy.

Anyways, any which way, you rock.

P.S: Pumpkin Seed Toffee is part of the bonus section of the recipe pack for Holiday Desserts 2009, a demo class at Shermay's Cooking School held on 7 November (Saturday), 8 November(Sunday), 21 November (Saturday) and 22 November(Sunday). For all inquiries, please call the school at +65 6479 8442 or email

P.P.S: Last 2 sessions for Holiday Cookies 2009 are round the corner on 24 October (Saturday) and 25 October (Sunday) .

P.P.P.S: After my third glass - on this particular balmy evening, it's an Antinori Tignanello 2005, a yummy supertuscan soon to be washing down bistecca alla fiorentina...can't wait, haven't had a real hunk of memorable real beef recently! - I really do start to channel my inner thwarted Eng Lit major, so please do excuse me...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Holiday Desserts 2009 - Classes

As I won't be teaching in December, the four November sessions of Holiday Desserts 2009, a demo class, are my final ones for this year at Shermay's Cooking School. The dates are 7 November 2009 (Saturday), 8 November 2009 (Sunday), 21 November 2009 (Saturday) and 22 November 2009 (Sunday) - the November schedule has all the necessary details. For all inquiries, please call the school at +65 6479 8442 or email

Between the Holiday Cookie Class and this, I sincerely hope there're ideas aplenty to inspire a happy bout of holiday entertaining and/or a hamperful of homebaked gifts and treats!

On the menu:

Panforte di Siena
If unstinting in one's use of only the very choicest of ingredients, this traditional Italian Christmas confection can be as sublime to savour as it is to behold, a bejewelled medieval mosaic of a sweetmeat gleaming with the vivid emerald of pistachios, the mystical amethyst depths of sun-ripened mission figs, the perspicuous citrine of candied orange zest...

A little taste of this, alongside a glass of good sticky - I am partial to vin santo here - and perhaps a chunk of well-aged parmesan, is my idea of the perfect note on which to conclude a special meal of the festive variety, a feast so to speak. I absolutely adore panforte, and while many recipes and variations abound, this particular page from my files is one that I've tinkered with and tweaked and tricked out over quite a few Christmases past, adjusting the type and ratio of dried fruit and nuts used, as well as the style and level of spicing, until a balance was struck which I found pleasing.

I could honestly go on all day about this, it's one of my favourite things, so before I get carried away, suffice to say the recipe is chock-full of dried fruit (figs, dates and raisins), nuts (pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds) and candied citrus peel, and fragrant with honey, cocoa (using Valrhona cocoa) and spices.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with A Gingered Pecan Crust
A lush, creamy and cinnamon-scented pumpkin cheesecake sits atop a crisp ginger biscuit crust flavoured with pecans and crystallized ginger. This luxurious dessert appeals equally to lovers of pumpkin pie or cheesecake. I've provided 2 sets of instructions; for baking the recipe as a whole large cheesecake, and for baking individual cheesecake cups.

Applesauce Cake with Tea-Plumped Golden Raisins and Walnuts
Moist, tender, subtly spiced and festive, this is a wonderful, much lighter alternative to fruitcake, in case you're baking for folks who either aren't fond of fruitcake period or have simply had one too many a fruitcake slice over the course of the season.

The batter can also be baked as Applesauce Cupcakes instead of loaves; I'll provide the additional how-to instructions in the recipe pack.

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Tart
And last but not least - for those of us all too gleefull to live on chocolate alone if only conventional nutritional wisdom didn't demand the inclusion of other food groups - no holiday dessert lineup could possibly be considered complete without a show stealing dark horse! A decadent chocolate tart is the answer, with a filling based on Valrhona Manjari 64% dark chocolate in a crunchy, buttery shortbread tart shell. It's a baked filling with an interior as smooth as silk - all tremulous and aquiver when served warm, rich and dense and voluptuous if served cold.

I'll put up more details on the Bonus Section with Extra Recipes, Ideas & Serving Suggestions soon in a separate post. This includes:

Pumpkin Seed Toffee Buttery caramel candy shards studded with pumpkin seeds – the ideal finishing touch for Pumpkin Cheesecake or simply to enjoy alone as candy

Spiced Rum & Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Crème Anglaise Luxurious custard perfumed with dark rum, Christmas spices, and vanilla bean – a lovely accompaniment for Pumpkin Cheesecake or Applesauce Cake

Salted Caramel & Dark Chocolate Tart Rich, buttery caramel spiked with artisanal sea salt layered with dark chocolate ganache (using Valrhona Manjari 64% Dark Chocolate)

Raspberry &White Chocolate Tart White chocolate ganache (using Valrhona Ivoire 35% White Chocolate) layered with raspberry preserves and fresh raspberries

Malted Milk Chocolate Tart Malted milk chocolate ganache (using Valrhona Jivara Lactée 40% Milk Chocolate) in a shortbread tart shell