apple & blueberry jalousies

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This is the stuff of dreams. Well, my dreams anyway, when I do dream about pleasant things like food and not running around naked and being unaware of it. The thought of apple pies has been latched onto me ever since my mum and sister brought back more apples than we could consume from the farmers’ market. I began reminiscing about, no, lusting after the best apple pies one could wish for. Not from McD, not even homemade, but the famous pie shop in North Yatala just off the motorway.

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Made too much mascarpone filling so the apple jalousie got some too

It’s become a tradition of ours to stop at the pie shop on every journey home from the Gold Coast. Inside the little and always crowded shop, there’s a picture depicting something like a WW2 soldier thinking about Yatala’s pies. It’s become a household joke that when something tastes so good, not even war could distract you from it.

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Unfortunately, I’m still very much neck-deep in SWOTVAC hell where I simply can’t afford to take time out of study to do normal things. To maintain my sanity, I’ve been trying to wrap up the day’s study at about 10:30pm then indulge myself in recreational activities, like baking and reading crack fanfiction.

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Baking in the dead of the night is nothing new for me. It requires the near-ninja skill of keeping noise to an absolute minimum, which means no mixers, no clanging of metal against metal etc. The use of portable LED book lights is also necessary in an otherwise dark kitchen (not recommended as I had to taste jar to jar to find sugar). Naturally that greatly reduces the number of recipes one is able to carry out, but it does have the advantage of coolness in the atmosphere, perfect when one is working with butter.

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Yatala’s apple pies have the signature mound of whipped cream with a pastry lid on top. But while I was searching for ways to prevent the excess juices from the apples from seeping into the pastry, I came across jalousies, and my mind was set. The name of the dessert translates to jealousy in French, and while I try to reserve judgement about things I make, I think the result would’ve inspired jealousy in the 7-year-old me who was very much in a relationship with blueberry danishes, and the blueberry version of this is very close to that.

I’ll do a separate post on the pastry, which is a quick rough puff. Despite the name, it’s really quite similar to the straight laminated puff pastry but is much faster and less technique sensitive.

The BA article talks about how poaching the juicier fruits (apples, pears) helps enhance flavour, draw the moisture out and avoid the pastry being done before the fruit is tender. The results were as promised – the bottom pastry was buttery and flaky, untouched by moisture and the poached apples had an intense fruity flavour without being mushy.

I poached the apples in apple juice instead of alcohol to accommodate for the major consumer of my goods, but feel free to use wine or apple cider instead. Experimenting with different fruits, savoury fillings and nuts would be fun as well


Apple & blueberry jalousies
(makes 2 10x20cm jalousies)
(inspired by Ba Bar’s Jalousie)

For the puff pastry:
1/2 recipe of rough puff pastry

For the poached apples:
2 medium cooking apples
250g apple juice
20g sugar~10 pieces of citrus peel (optional)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
1/2 vanilla pod, cut lengthwise (optional)

For the blueberry filling:
80g mascarpone
zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp vanilla
1tsp icing sugar
1tsp flour
100g blueberries (fresh or defrosted)

To poach the apples, peel, core and cut into quarters. Further cut each quarter into thirds so you end up with 24 slices in all. In a pot, put in everything but the apples and heat until the sugar’s dissolved. Add the apples and cook on medium heat until tender but not mushy, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and leave to cool. If you wish, you could reduce the liquid to a syrup and use in other desserts.

For the mascarpone filling, whisk together the mascarpone, lemon zest and juice, vanilla and icing sugar until combined, then mix in the flour.

Preheat the oven to 205C/400F. Roll and cut the (defrosted) puff pastry into 4 equal rectangles approx. 3mm thick, I cut mine 10x20cm. Place two of the rectangles on a lined baking sheet at least 2cm apart.

For the apple jalousie, arrange the poached slices closely and 1cm away from the edges. A sprinkle of chopped walnuts here would be nice. For the blueberry jalousie, spread the mascarpone filling evenly and 1cm away from the edges then place a layer of blueberries on top. Sprinkle blueberries with some demerara sugar if you like.

Egg wash the 1cm margin all around the 2 base rectangles, and gently place the other 2 top pieces on top of the fruit. Press the top and bottom pastry together and make some cuts in the top pastry for aesthetic (I don’t have a lattice roller so fugly slats will have to do) and functional (to let out the steam) reasons. Egg wash the top too, being careful not to let it drip down the sides as it may stick the layers together and hinder maximum puffage.

Bake in 205C/400F hot oven until the pastry has started to rise, about 10 minutes in. Reduce the temperature down to 190C/375F until golden on top, about 20 more minutes. Check that the bottom is crispy, not soggy. If the bottom is still soft, move the tray to the bottom of the oven and let cook in residual heat.

Best served hot with dollop of cream/crème fraîche/ice cream.

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chocolate raspberry mascarpone cheesecake

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It’s been raining the last few days. From the tiniest drizzle to a full-blown hail storm, subsiding to the occasional light showers today – preferable when one needs to concentrate on studying. Even amid the most frantic and chaotic revision, I am by no means immune to procrastination, this afternoon in the form of baking (what else?).

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My mum requested a cheesecake. And how could I refuse? I haven’t made a baked cheesecake that’s not of the Japanese soufflé variety longer than I can remember. A light, fluffy, moist Japanese cheesecake is always the cheesecake of choice in this household. Even so, there’s a certain portion of my taste buds that’s conditioned to appreciate a good dense custardy New York style cheesecake. For me, the ideal baked cheesecake fits the following profile in order of importance:

  1. Creamy smooth consistency (no flour in the batter pls)
  2. Not too sweet, slightly tangy
  3. Dense and substantial without sticking to the palate, yet light

I remain undecided on the necessity of a crust. Why do cheesecakes have crusts anyway? On the one hand, I like a smooth creamy mouthful without the interruption of crunch. On the other hand, introducing a second texture and/or flavour contributes to variety and a more exciting experience. On this occasion, I decided at the last minute that I would pair the raspberry swirls with a chocolate base.

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A lot of recipes call for sour cream or yogurt in addition to lemon, for me that would be overdoing the tangy – subtlety is more fitting for the humble cheesecake. So instead, the creaminess in this recipe is derived largely from the mascarpone. Yes, I admit I’m going through a mascarpone craze phase at the moment, but not without reason, as thanks to it, this cake satisfied all the criteria and more. We enjoyed it with as much enthusiasm as we could garner after a particularly filling meal.

A note on preventing cracks: in my experience with water baths, I feel they’re secondary to a lowered oven temperature when it comes to a smooth top. I’ve had horrible crevices with water baths and perfectly smooth tops without, and vice versa. However I do think steam helps preserve moisture and avoid a crumbly cheesecake, as well as a low placement in the oven. It was so effective there wasn’t a single crack even with semi-intense beating.

Chocolate raspberry mascarpone cheesecake (5″ round cake or equivalent)

For the chocolate biscuit base:
100g chocolate biscuits
~2 tbsp chocolate spread*
1tsp unused coffee grounds

*or whatever you have on hand, e.g. Nutella, nut butter, melted butter, even ganache

For the cheese filling:
250g cream cheese
100g mascarpone
70g sugar
1 extra large egg or 70g whole eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
25g heavy cream
raspberry preserves/jam/coulis, optional

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To prepare the biscuit base, crush up the biscuits with the coffee grounds in a food processor. Or if you’re broke like me, a rolling pin and a ziplock bag. Mix in as much of your preferred binding agent as it takes for the mixture to stick together when pressed.

Preheat the oven to 170C/340F. Prepare your tin by lining the bottom and greasing the sides, and press the biscuit crumbs compactly and evenly onto the bottom. I didn’t bake the crust but you do whatever you’re comfortable with.

Before starting on the filling, bring all the ingredients to room temperature. Beat the cream cheese and mascarpone together until smooth, about a minute on medium speed. Beat in sugar and vanilla, then beaten eggs bit by bit until glossy and evenly incorporated. Add in the cream, scrape the bowl if necessary and whip on high speed for about 10 seconds to aerate the mixture some.

Poor the mixture from a height into the tin to eliminate air bubbles, and smooth out the top. Place the tin near the bottom of the oven. Below it, place a pan of hot water so that it steams the bottom of the cheesecake tin. Bake for ~25 minutes or until the centre wobbles slightly when you gently shake the pan.

Cool to room temp. in the pan, then move to the fridge to chill completely (at least 1-2hrs) so the filling can set up (still in the tin). Remove from tin and decorate as you wish if you wish. In case you admire my marbled cream (I blush), I just painted the inside of my pastry bag with streaks of ganache (2 parts chocolate to 1 part heavy cream) and filled it with whipped cream.

apple cinnamon layer cake w/ pear compote

I made a nice cake today.

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It’s the time of year where our favourite fruit – mangoes are starting to come in, other fruits will have to make do while we impatiently await its peak when we can buy them by the tray. In fact, we’re so obsessed that one year my sister requested sliced mangoes on a plate instead of cake; and one time we used the power cut as an excuse to scarf down 5+ refrigerated mangoes before they would supposedly go bad: electricity was back in a mere hour. I imagine there’ll be plenty of opportunity to profess my love for the amazing goodness that is mangoes, but today belongs to the classic apple.

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The idea of apple crisps came from the ever-inspiring Poires au Chocolat. Slow-baked apple thins sprinkled with raw sugar and cinnamon – Emma brushed hers with sugar water but I a) was too lazy and b) thought the larger crystals of raw sugar would add crunch. The sugar, of course, dissolved into the apples – the slightly more complex flavour was the consolation prize.

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I wasn’t too keen on the frosting masking the brown-buttery fruitiness, but still wanted to balance the sweet compote with creaminess in the form of the last of the homemade mascarpone. Speaking of compote, the tender chunks of vanilla-infused pear add a layer of depth texture-wise, contrasted with the grated apple in the cake.

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I don’t know if there’s a discernible difference in the pictures today ̶c̶o̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶y̶ ̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶l̶o̶o̶k̶ ̶s̶h̶i̶t̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶m̶e̶ , but I did actually use a real camera today. A 10+ y.o. Olympus, but still.

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More than often I’m struck with sonder – the realisation that every passerby has a life as complicated, full and real as mine, revolving around countless people and memories special to themselves. It’s the kind of deep stuff I think to myself when stuck in traffic on the bus for 40+ mins – that happened on Thursday.

One of my favourite people who I’m lucky enough to be friends with has commissioned me to make their birthday cake. I was completely ecstatic and honoured, and I still am, but still have a very hazy idea of what it’s going to be. The specifications were only: vanilla, chocolate and caramel with no frosting on the sides. Good thing I still have a month to brainstorm, but any ideas would be really appreciated.


Apple cinnamon layer cake w/ pear compote
(makes a teeny 5″ 3-layer cake)

For the brown butter apple cake:
60g unsalted butter
20g coconut oil (or other lightly flavoured vegetable oil)
80g brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
78g whole eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
75g plain flour
35g cake flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
50g buttermilk (or 25g milk + 25g plain yogurt)
120g grated apple (~1 huge apple or 2 small)

For the cinnamon mascarpone frosting:
100g mascarpone
1 tsp lemon juice
10g icing sugar
1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon, to taste

For the caramel pear compote:
1 heaped tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 medium/large pear, cut into small 1cm chunks
pinch of cardamom
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Prepare the apple crisps so they can bake while they oven’s preheating and the batter is being mixed. Place slice of apple (no more than 3mm) on a baking tray and lightly sprinkle with raw sugar and cinnamon on top. Put in the oven at 130C/265F and bake until dry and crisp, about 30 mins. Flip the crisps halfway and sprinkle the other half with cinnamon too. Pull the tray out and turn up to 180C/350F.

As with any great cake, start by browning the butter in a pot large enough for the entire batter. Melt butter over medium heat, cover with lid and let it turn brown on medium heat. It’s ready when it’s turned a deep golden colour and stopped splattering. Add the oil, sugar and salt while still hot. Let cool down and add the eggs (to weigh partial eggs, crack and beat 2 eggs until homogenous first) and vanilla. Sift in the flour, baking powder and soda, stir just until no more flour is visible. Stir in the buttermilk, and lastly the grated apple (with most of the juice squeezed out).

Pour batter into a lined 5″ tin and bake in the preheated oven for about 25 mins or until done. Cool completely before assembling.

To make the frosting, stir the mascarpone with lemon juice until smooth, then sift in the icing sugar and cinnamon and stir until combined. Keep in the fridge until assembly.

For the compote, heat the butter on medium heat until melted and bubbly. Add the pear and let caramelise slightly, then stir and add the sugar and vanilla and cardamom. Let the pear soften (only one way to test it) until tender but not falling apart, about 8 mins. Let it cool completely.

To assemble, slice the cake into however many layers you like (2 to 4 for my pan size). Spread on 1/2, 1/3 or 1/4 of the frosting on the bottom layer, depending on the number of cake layers. Distribute the frosting so that it forms a rim on the outside so that the inside can contain the pear compote. Repeat up to the top layer, where instead of compote, arrange apple crisps prettily.

pumpkin mascarpone tart

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Yesterday I had my first stab (get it) at carving a pumpkin. I kept the design simple, mostly because I was literally getting blisters from scooping out the flesh with a spoon that was becoming increasingly bent. Not bad for a first attempt, I think, though the lid got roasted on top of the tea candle. This is probably what happens when Australians try and celebrate Halloween.

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With over 1kg of pumpkin flesh harvested from Mr Orangehead, I knew it was my calling and fate to make my first ever pumpkin pie. Like all first attempts, I wanted it to be special and made personal, thus the mascarpone. If like me, you can’t afford storebought mascarpone, I strongly recommend you make your own, especially in a recipe where its flavour takes a back seat to a more predominant pumpkin flavour. It mainly lends an amazing melt-in-your-mouth smooth texture and mellows the spices.

Right now, an hour after baking, the whole house still smells like a pumpkin spice crack den – insanely addicting. I can hardly imagine improving upon it with added alcohol, but of course I had to make it kid-friendly so I used orange sugar (sugar stored with charred orange peel – it’s even more powerful than zest) to amp up the flavour.

A post about comfort food couldn’t go without ranting about why I need to be comforted in the first place. It had been a most stressful morning. Like diarrhea-inducing, knee-shaking, pee-in-my-pants kind of anxiety, the extreme kind you get (well, I get) during and in anticipation of an oral exam. The last time I came close to feeling sick from nerves was, surprisingly enough, the English impromptu commentary in year 12. Long story short, it finished with me calling my examiners ‘guys’, as if feigning familiarity would save me. The worst part, though, was me saying I’d restore an abfraction lesion with ‘GIC or something like that’, to which one of the examiners responded ‘and what exactly would that something or other be?’ Yeah, me and spoken exams don’t go well together. At least it’s not must pass, and more importantly, it’s finally over so that I can study for the end of semester.

Eating sweets should be a mandatory de-stressor to all whose future job is to tell people off for eating sweets.

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Back to Mr Orangehead, I’m so proud and pleased about his face not being blemished by huge scars/cracks. Precautions like pouring the filling from a height to eliminate air bubbles and baking at a lower temperature helped. Don’t get hung up on it though, if cracking does happen – you’ll just have a more badass-looking pumpkin head.

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Pumpkin mascarpone tart
(makes one ~9″/23cm tart)

For the tart shell/pâte sucrée:
1 recipe of pâte sucrée

For the pumpkin mascarpone filling:
2 eggs
80g brown sugar*
1/2 tsp orange zest*
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger (I used freshly grated)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
268g mascarpone
300g pumpkin puree**

*Or 80g orange sugar + 1/2 tbsp molasses

**If where you live hasn’t been taken over by pumpkin revolutionists neither and no one bothers stocking canned puree, make your own! Roast or steam your pumpkin until puree-able, pass it through a sieve and drain excess liquid e.g. with cheesecloth.

Make the tart shell, and if you like, use any scraps to make decorative pieces. Put decorations in freezer to firm up until last 10 mins of baking the whole tart with the filling. Bake the shell by itself for about 15 mins or until crisp and lightly coloured.

Pull the tart shell out and turn the oven down to 170C/340F.

To make the filling, first rub the zest and spices in with the sugar until fragrant and well distributed (no lumps). Add the eggs and whisk briefly without incorporating too much air. Whisk in the mascarpone and salt, then the pumpkin puree until just mixed and lump-free.

Either bang the mixing bowl on the counter a few times to release bubbles or pour the filling into the tart shell from a height (~30cm). Pour right up to the top edge of the shell (with the tart ring on), and put on the bottom shelf of the oven to bake approximately 33 minutes. When the centre is jiggly and not completely liquid (refer to gif, about 23 minutes in), you can put on the decorative pieces at this stage. Then bake for a further 10 minutes until the pieces are cooked and the centre is still jiggly.

Turn the oven off but keep the tart in to cool gradually by leaving the door halfway ajar. After 5-10 minutes, take out the whole tray to cool completely, leaving the tart ring/pie mold on until completely chilled. Transfer to refrigerator to chill completely for a few hours before serving/cutting/removing from pan.