Monday, October 08, 2007

Signed, Sealed, Delivered. Finally, It's here.

Vanilla-Scented Mascarpone Cheesecake with Spiced Red Currants and Pashmak

I feel like one of those bad parents, like a deadbeat dad who says he's going to take you to the circus but never gets around to it and next thing you know, the circus has packed up and left town. Why, because I made a promise that I still haven't delivered on. Perhaps that makes me the perfect politician, I don't know, but I feel guilt-ridden for making everyone wait so long for the
surprise I was teasing you all with months ago.

I don't know what the retribution is for undelivered promises, but hopefully this little offering will prove a worthy penance. And no, the offering isn't that injured Bichon Frise I was talking about earlier, but it's actually this little saccharine opus, a vanilla-scented mascarpone cheesecake with spiced redcurrants and pashmak.

Now that's a mouthful in more ways than one.

Vanilla-Scented Mascarpone Cheesecake with Spiced Red Currants and Pashmak

And, I guess it's safe to make the big reveal and divulge what the secret ingredient I was so excited about is. They are, *virtual drum roll*... red currants! Some of you might be taking a collective gasp of air, thinking, cool. While some of you are thinking, so what?

Well, redcurrants aren't something I usually come across in the shopping aisles in my neck of the woods. I have never seen them sold fresh here in Australia; not in any grocery or farmer's market, so you have to understand the thrill of such an exotic find. They didn't come fresh, rather snap frozen, although this was good enough for me as they still bore the plump juicy redness that made them look as is they were just picked right off the bush. I couldn't resist and bought two punnets worth, which isn't a complete splurge if you ask me, but in saying that, you will definitely be
seeing more of these babies in the future.

Red Currants

Redcurrants, a member of the gooseberry family are typically more sour than the gooseberry and blackcurrant varieties, however they are excellent cooked down in sauces, syrups, jellies and preserves. High in potassium, vitamin C and fibre, this fruit may be little but it packs a big punch.

Now it took quite some time to muster up the inspiration to do something that would prove a worth compeer to the unintended hype that it was given. How could any fruit live up to such grandiose expectations. When people were emailing me and leaving comments about how they were waiting with bated breath as to what this surprise was, I found myself pressured to live up to all the ballyhoo it generated.

Vanilla-Scented Mascarpone Cheesecake with Spiced Red Currants and Pashmak

The only choice I had was to do something spectacular and the only thing I could think of was a mascarpone cheesecake. Now the only thing I needed was a recipe. That's when a visit to West Ryde library became a serendipitous event.

I was waiting for my car to be serviced and needed somewhere to park myself for the next couple of hours, I was already spending a fortune on this car, so a trip to the shopping mall wouldn't have been the wisest move. I needed somewhere where I wouldn't have to spend any money and I could wile away the hours undisturbed. Where else but a library.

Star Anise and Cinnamon Scrolls

So off I went into the magazine section and perused the different options, trashy, fashion, home and garden, architecture, business, but wait there was a food section. So off I go digging through the back issues of Australian Gourmet Traveller and I stumble across the 2006 March issue. And I guess the rest of the story explains itself.

I also found recipes for grapefruit soufflé and Amaretti parfait which you might see later on, but this was the one I was most excited about. The original recipe had spiced blueberries but I figured redcurrants would do just as well.

Vanilla-Scented Mascarpone Cheesecake with Spiced Red Currants and Pashmak

So just imagine a luscious cheesecake with spiced red currants topped with a little cloud of Persian fairy floss, it's seductive. It's almost sickening to call the dish seductive. Just in the same way you don't want to but can't help calling a fig or a fresh summer salad one of those "sexy" foods, this one was truly up there in its inherent sensuality.

Just look at it, with it's come-hither mien. From it's pretty primrose complexion to it's velvety centre, the splash of blood red syrup oozing down the sides and the billowing tuft of spun sugar, its gastronomic allure at its most persuasive. And forgive me for turning this dish into something that sounds more like a trashy Mills & Boon novel but I just can't help it. I promise I'll stop with the sychophantic prose but I cannot help but be a an adoring fan.

Making the spice red wine syrup

If you are wondering what that white puff is on top of the cheesecakes, it is Pashmak- Persian fairy floss. I guess the thing that sets pashmak apart from the typical fairy floss you find at the carnival is that the recipe uses sesame oil and flour. The texture feels a little like wool and it doesn't dissolve as easily on your tongue as normal fairy floss. The packaging doesn't really tell much about how pashmak is made, although this is the little blurb on the back of the pack:

" pashmak is a persian recipe for candy floss or cotton candy. much effort has gone into making this product by hand. traditionally it is served plain with tea or coffee and makes for an exotic accompaniment to a variety of modern desserts. may be used as a garnish or served on petit fours plates."

Vanilla Pashmak

So there it is, the secret has been revealed and I can now sleep at night knowing that I didn't let you down. Next time I make a promise I hope it doesn't take this long for me to fulfil it. I guess this is where you can insert the adage better late than never.

Vanilla Scented Mascarpone Cheesecakes with Spiced Redcurrants and Pashmak

Adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller March 2006
Serves 8

Vanilla-Scented Mascarpone Cheesecake with Spiced Red Currants and Pashmak Vanilla-Scented Mascarpone Cheesecake with Spiced Red Currants and Pashmak

75g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
100g mascarpone
150g cream cheese
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp plain flour
1 tbsp pouring cream
Persian fairy floss

90g unsalted butter, chilled
50g icing sugar
125g plain all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
25ml ice water

125ml fruity red wine
100g granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
5 strips of lemon/orange rind
150g red currants

Combine the butter, icing sugar and flour in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for 1 minute or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add the egg yolk and pulse for 30 seconds, then add the ice water and pulse until the mixture comes together to form a dough.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Combine the caster sugar, lemon zest, vanilla beans, mascarpone, cream cheese, egg and egg yolk in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.
Pour the mixture into a medium bowl and whisk in the flour and cream.
Whisk until just combined.

Preheat oven to 180ºC.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 3mm thickness and live tart tins.
Trim the edges. Line tart cases with parchment paper and fill with pie weights.
Bake for 10 minutes then remove pie weights and bake for a further 5-10 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool. When cooled, remove from tins.
Fill tart cases all the way with mascarpone mixture.
Place tarts on a baking tray and bake at 220ºC for 8 minutes then reduce heat to 100ºC and bake for 15-20 minutes.

While the tarts are baking, make the syrup.
In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine the wine, sugar, vanilla beans, stick of cinnamon, star anise and orange rind and stir until all the sugar has been dissolved.
Bring to the boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
Remove cinnamon stick, star anise and orange from syrup and discard.
Add the redcurrants and simmer for another 5 minutes.

To serve, place tart on a plate and spoon over some redcurrants and top with a tuft of pashmak (Persian fairy floss).


Linda said...

Oh. My. God.

That looks absolutely delish!

Anonymous said... guess was totally wrong :). On the upside, it turns out they look even more amazing than I could have imagined!

Cara said...

Absolutly beautiful!

Hilda said...

I do like Pashmak although I don't eat it very much. Your little cakes look great, and I can totally appreciate getting excited about an ingredient that you never get in its proper form (in this case fresh).

browniegirl said...

You might sleep well at night knowing that you have thrown this out into cyberspace, but rest assured I NEVER WILL AGAIN....not until me, myself and I have made and eaten this exotic looking wonderful sounding cheesecake. But I have never seen Pashmak in my country so will have to forego that pleasure :( But thanks for a wonderful looking recipe and such gorgeous pix!

Anonymous said...

That looks so elaborate and gorgeous, it is unbelievable. Thank you for stretching my culinary imagination!

Brilynn said...

Those are so pretty, and out of the ordinary, and wonderful, all rolled into one.

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

wow, wow, WOW!!! I never knew that much about redcurrants - thank you so much for sharing all about it; and for creating such a GORGEOUS dessert with them!! another lovely presentation of one of your culinary masterpieces :0)

Renee said...

The pashmak looks really cool! At first I thought it was cat hair or something ;) I like that you liken it to "fairy floss", which is a way cuter term than the "cotton candy" I'm used to. The cheesecake looks fantastic, too. Red currants are beautiful and delicious...I wish we had them here (even frozen)!

Mallow said...

Finally! It is beautiful - definitely worth the wait!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Those are very beautiful pictures and that looks like an incredibly tasty dessert!!

Beth G. @SweetLifeKitchen said...

WOW! That is stunning!! Looks delicious & makes me want to experiment with red currants! :)

Katie said...

They look adorable. Redcurrants always give such a nice glossy red colour. I ahve never seen that type of fairy, or candy floss before. It looks like feathers!

Anonymous said...

holy wow!! that is so unusual and just stunning!

Anonymous said...

i am a totally stranger here so i don't know about your career or personal history. but i am so sure to tell you. you can work as a food cameraman!!!!!!! amazing shots!!!!!! if you already have such experience, please forgive me....

btw, thanks a million to accept my first comment on honeycomb pankcaks.

ilingc said...

Hi Jen,
I love red currant. I actually found some fresh ones around christmas last year in Prahran market. I've never came across the frozen ones but now that you've mentioned it, I might start looking out for them.

As for the waiting, well... it was well worth waiting for! :) Mascarpone cheese is like my all time favourite cheese, next to buffalo mozzarellas anyway. This sounds delicious, I must try it!

Cabriola said...

great recipe!!!!

thanks a lot it seems delicious!!!

charlotte s said...

these are absolutely gorgeous!!! thanks for the inspiration!

Gloria Baker said...

Jen Jen, what' so beauty!!!! You are a master really. I love the pictures, looks so delicious and nice. Gloria

Anita said...

It looks like something out of a fairy tale - no wonder you were so excited to get the red currants! bravo!

Tammy said...

jen, that looks fabulous! How do you get such wonderfully clear close up photos? I am trying hard but mine are so unfocussed! Do yuo take them a bit further away and then just crop them?

Cheryl said...

You make the most stunning looking desserts. I really do have you up on my high list of the most amazing bakers.

Helene said...

That was worth the wait! Gorgeous! If only you knew what I would give for a bowl of redcurrants...impossible to find here in my state.

Myrtille said...

Simply stunning!!!

Eva said...

I would have never thought that you could transform redcurrants into something so sophisticated! I didn't cherish them too much during my childhood (probably because they just grew in our garden so no room for any mystification here).

Usually I would use them for a very quick dessert for Sunday lunches: folded into a mix of Quark, whipped cream, orange-scented sugar, and cointreau. And now I feel bad for never appreciating redcurrants the way they deserve..;-) The strawberry always was the queen of the show and this one I can get in Sydney almost everyday...

Truffle said...

It was absolutely worth the wait. What a fantastic creation!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

As much as I'm taken with the cheesecake and the pashmak, I am overwhelmed by your photo of the star anise. Put these all together and I'm in awe! Never worry about taking your time with this creation.

Amy said...

Wow I've never seen this floss before. Beautiful dessert!

Curt McAdams said...

This is my first time on the blog, and I was thinking how great everything looked, until I hit this post. Man, I don't know if I can come back! This is out of this world, drool-inducingly gorgeous!

9876511 said...

i'm sure it tastes great, but it looks like nothing so much as a puck of yellow industrial foam topped with some wispy strands of asbestos.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

WOW! This looks great. Delicious flavors.

Anonymous said...

OH MY WORD. That is beautiful! I was a little concerned by what was on top of it (did she put a pile of white yarn on her cheesecake) but your explanation made total sense! YUMMMY

Anonymous said...

Jen! That dessert is GORGEOUS! Will you send one to Chicago? :)

Unknown said...

Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous!
I cannot wait to try it!