My parents and I have been fairly reliable members of the Masterchef audience right from the start. I’m keen on the dessert challenges, the episodes shot overseas and, perhaps most of all, the comments that my dad and I text each other whilst watching from the comfort of our respective couches across Canberra.
Consequently, you can imagine my delight when I was offered a copy of The Sweet Life: The Basics and Beyond by Kate Bracks, the winner of Masterchef Season Three. A gorgeous dessert cookbook by a woman who loves sweets almost as much as she loves her family? Sounds just about perfect to me.
Image courtesy of Random House
As I curled up in bed one night to read through The Sweet Life, I found myself making note of more recipes than I have fingers. I was thrilled not only by the calibre and inventiveness of Kate’s recipes, but also by how many of them are allergy-friendly. Kate even has a page at the back listing which recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free. Woot!
I can’t wait to make the Baked Honey and Rosemary Apples, the Watermelon and Mint Granita with Lime Syrup, and the White Chocolate and Rose Tartlets, just for a start. The first recipe I made, however, was the Amaretti and, by golly, they were delicious. Kate’s trick of toasting slivered almonds first and then processing them with sugar added a beautiful complexity to the flavour.
E.Moonbeams: That was spine tinglingly good.
Grandma: In one word, Hannah dear – deeelishus.
The second dessert I made, and which the publishers have generously allowed me to share with you, was the Warm Chocolate Pots. Silky and rich, these were equally wonderful warm out of the oven as they were served from the fridge, firmed into thick rich chocolatey intensity. I was also invited to interview Kate, and leapt at the chance to quiz her on all things dessert. Thank you, Kate, for the interview and for writing such a lovely cookbook!
Image courtesy of Random House
Hannah: Congratulations on your Masterchef victory and the gorgeous cookbook you’ve created, Kate! As someone with an indefatigable sweet tooth myself, I was thrilled to discover you’d written a dessert cookbook. What is your favourite dessert ingredient?
Kate: Tough question as there are so many wonderful dessert ingredients! One of my favourites would have to be vincotto as it brings a sticky, sweet/sour loveliness to so many other ingredients. And it’s so easy to use! But it is still difficult to go past chocolate!
H: What are your top three tips for the home cook who wants to create a great dessert in a short amount of time?
K: 1. Remember to get a good balance of sweet/sour/salt flavours. 2. Ensure there is something creamy and something crunchy for good texture differentiation. 3. Keep it simple: a warm poaching liquid poured on soft fruit (such as berries) and topped with ice cream and macadamias can be just as delicious as something you slave over for hours!
H: Your love of family shone through your time on Masterchef, and this love is just as clear in your cookbook. What do you think is the best multigenerational dessert?
K: Yes, my family are my favourite people to cook for! I think ice cream is the ultimate multigenerational dessert – for the kids you can keep it simple; for the adults you can jazz it up with liqueurs, pralines or salt flakes!
H: Have you ever had a kitchen flop that turned into a great dessert? Do you have any tips for rescuing a failed dessert?
K: I think you’d be hard pressed to find a cook who hasn’t had a kitchen flop … or two! One time I overcooked chocolate brownies – not to the point of burning but I love brownies to be squidgy in the middle and these had gone well past that stage. But I couldn’t bear to throw out it out so I stirred small pieces of it into softened vanilla ice cream and ended up with what has become a staple in my family’s dessert repertoire! I now trim the edges of the brownie pan whenever I make brownies and stir them into ice cream!
H: I can hardly pass up this chance to talk to a famous Masterchef champion without asking about your time on the show. What were some of your favourite moments? (Apart from winning, of course…)
K: I had so many! The highlights were a trip to Pheasant Farm to cook with Maggie Beer, travelling to Malaysia and New York to experience their culinary delights, having the opportunity to cook with Peter Glimore in his kitchen at Quay and, my personal favourite, having my family on for one episode!
H: Throughout filming, what did you and the other contestants eat for breakfast? Did you cook up extravagant meals, or was there a lot of vegemite toast and cereal going on?
K: Well … it all depended on the call time! 5am call times generally called for vegemite on toast but days off or later call times meant breakfast indulgence – sometimes even multiple courses for breakfast!
H: Last but not least… peanut butter. Smooth or crunchy?
K: Definitely crunchy!
(H: Thank heavens. That question is the ultimate deal-breaker.)
Warm Chocolate Pots
Excerpted from The Sweet Life by Kate Bracks
This is a decadent dessert – perfect for the chocoholic!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 40-45 minutes
Makes: 6 serves
- 375 ml (1 ½ cups) milk
- 250ml (1 cup) thickened cream
- 2 tbs dark cocoa powder
- 200g good-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 tbs caster sugar
- Preheat the oven to 130°C, and lightly grease six 150ml ovenproof ramekins. Place them into a large baking dish.
- Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Heat until the mixture is steaming and then take it off the heat. Add the cocoa powder and dark chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Place the egg yolks and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth. With the beaters on slow speed, add a little of the chocolate mixture and mix until well combined. Add the remainder of the chocolate mixture and mix until well combined.
- Pour the mixture through a sieve into a jug. Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins. Pour enough boiling water into the baking dish to come hallway up the side of the ramekins. Cover the baking dish with aluminium foil.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the surface is set and there is a slight wobble beneath it. Removed the ramekins from the baking dish and stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Note: Dark cocoa powder is also known as Dutch o Dutch-processed cocoa. It as a rich, deep colour and flavour, and is available from delis and specialty food shops. These pots can be refrigerated for up to a week and served cold at a later time, like a chocolate crème brûlée. If you would like White Chocolate Pots, simply omit the cocoa powder and swap the dark chocolate for the same amount of white chocolate.
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