Call it a hiatus or call it indolence, call it whatever you want but all I know is that it has been far too long. 5 weeks in fact. It escapes me how I managed to fall off the blogosphere for so long, but I did. And although I'd love to say that I have been trekking on camel-back through the sub-Saharan desert, or navigating icy waters with Greenpeace thwarting harpoon attacks on orcas, there's no such story to tell.
I have been able to do a few photo shoots for publications that will be out later this year (more on that closer to the release date), and taking on a few other things bigger than my plate will allow, but other than that I haven't been doing much at all, well nothing noteworthy or blog-worthy that is. There are a few developments that I will be announcing in a couple of weeks but aside from the ordinary shenanigans that occur in daily life, it's been business as usual, minus the fact that I have managed to circumvent any chronicling of my eating and baking activities on the blog.
I have to say that I haven't been in the groove lately, my mojo for baking hasn't dried up but it seems to have gone astray, or at least into a narcoleptic state. I guess the past few weeks the blog has been going through it's own existential crisis, asking the why am I here, and what am I doing with myself questions. Especially, in light of the world's current state, it's becoming harder and harder to find the real relevance of food blogging. With over half of the world unable to meet peoples' basic nutritional needs, is it really pertinent to be writing about food in such banal and trifling tones?
And this by no means is intended to condemn anyone who loves to eat and eat well, hey, I'm in that group of people too. And although I haven't had the urge to bake and write about food for a few weeks, it's safe to say that my appetite for eating remains insatiable. I guess speaking sincerely, this is what has been going on the blog for a few weeks now, just a quiet reflection on the reason why I blog. And it's naive to think that any one thing is going to solve world hunger, and this post is nothing about that.
Like many of you reading, I love eating, I love food, I love taking photos of my food and I love blogging about it, and I don't think we should stop this discourse on account of those who cannot engage in it. No one should feel remorse for the pursuit of their passions, but I guess my point is that after a little self-reflection, I don't consider this passion mere trite, but I have come to realise that this space we have to write and share about food is a privilege.
So I'm sorry to get all metaphysical on you.
It happens sometimes, when I have too much time on my hands. But if you came here for a recipe, then a recipe you shall get. This is definitely one for those who have some time on their hands as it takes a whopping 3 days to complete.
I've been cooking a heap of recipes from the Australian Gourmet Traveller website lately. I'm obsessed with poring through their archives, gazing with green-eyed envy at the spectacular food photography and styling, wishing I could only emulate their splendidness. I came across this recipe for parfait, and was enamoured by the photograph. I didn't even know what exactly a parfait was, except for what I had learned about it from Donkey on Shrek- which was that parfaits had layers and you'd be a fool not to love one.
So armed with that knowledge I decided it was high time I find out why this dessert was so perfect. If the French couldn't find a better way to describe the dish than to just call it perfect, then I don't know what else could be better. Now 3 days is a long time to find out why a dessert is exceptionally good. I was tempted to just go find a patisserie and get one just so I didn't have to wait so long. And I guess if you are really the impatient kind and cannot bear 3 days of torture, then you can probably just wait overnight. Nonetheless, this isn't your quickie dessert.
"You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits. Have you ever met a person, you say, "Let's get some parfait," they say, "Hell no, I don't like no parfait"? Parfaits are delicious."
But, if your patience can endure the stretch long enough to wait for this dessert to come into perfection then you won't be sorry. The reward is a the velvety rich texture of white chocolate espresso cream sandwiched between a crunchy hazelnut meringue, dripping in a topping of espresso caramel sauce. If that's not how you describe perfection then I stand corrected, but I'm pretty sure this is as close to perfection as you can get.
The recipe can be a little fiddly, and with all the steps of having to leave mixtures in the refrigerator and freezer overnight, it can test your patience. But the pay-off far exceeds the trouble you have to go. My parfait isn't as pretty as the one on the Gourmet Traveller website, but I bet it tastes just as good. And I must warn, this dessert only lasts as long as your appetite will allow, and in our case, we polished off the whole thing in less time it took to write this post.
White chocolate-espresso parfait sandwiches
Adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller
NOTE: You will need to begin this recipe 2 days ahead.
600ml pouring cream
25ml espresso coffee
3 pieces of lemon peel
330g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
FOR THE HAZELNUT MERINGUE
4 egg whites
110g (½ cup) caster sugar
110g (2/3 cup) icing sugar, sieved
50g ground hazelnuts
20g Dutch-process cocoa, sieved
FOR THE ESPRESSO CARAMEL
150g caster sugar
75g maple syrup
1 tbsp espresso coffee
40g butter, coarsely chopped
Combine cream, coffee and peel in a saucepan, bring just to the boil over medium-high heat, strain over chocolate in a bowl and whisk until smooth.
Cool, whisking occasionally so chocolate doesn’t separate from cream, to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.
The next day, whisk chocolate mixture until soft peaks form.
MAKING THE MERINGUES
Preheat oven to 100ºC.
Using an electric mixer, whisk eggwhites and a pinch of salt until soft peaks form.
With motor running, gradually add caster sugar; whisk until glossy.
Using a metal spoon, fold in icing sugar, hazelnut and cocoa.
Trace 2 rectangles using a 20cm x 30cm cake pan as a template onto baking paper-lined oven trays. Spread meringue evenly onto rectangles; bake for 40 minutes or until crisp. Cool on trays.
MAKING THE CARAMEL
For caramel, combine sugar, maple syrup and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
Increase heat to medium-high and cook for 3-5minutes or until syrup thickens.
Remove from heat, add espresso, swirl to combine.
Add butter, swirl to incorporate, then cool.
Place a meringue rectangle, trimming edges to fit, into a 20cm x 30cm baking paper-lined cake pan.
Drizzle with half the espresso caramel, top with white chocolate mixture and drizzle with remaining espresso caramel.
Top with remaining meringue and freeze overnight.
Remove, cut into squares using a wet sharp knife and serve immediately.